Chatenni fought off the boredom for as long as he could, but he always found atmospheric travel like this boring and sometimes nauseating. He hated flying. He wanted to talk to someone, but the only person on the team he knew well enough to talk to was someone he had spent more than enough time talking to already. He decided to go up front.
The pilot was a Satryl like himself, a centauroid feline. She had leopard-like rosettes coloring her back and a blue jacket over her torso. Chatenni noticed a cold-weather skirt and taurid boots hung carefully in the pilot's stow behind her chair. She lay on a bench, her hands holding the controls loosely, her eyes fixated out the windows. She had a cord running into the back of her head. It descended in a coil to a plug in the front panel. "Hi," she said, turning to look at him, her eyes coming back from a long way away. "You're the team lead, right?"
"Mmm-hmm," he agreed. "Chatenni."
"Rima Godoroff. Rima is better than G'Rima." She looked back out the window. "It doesn't bother you, does it?" She pointed to the cord. "It bothers some people that I've still got a fybop but it works for me."
"It doesn't bother me," Chatenni lied. In truth, he knew lots of people with cerebral modifications. It was thought of as just another part of the evolution of the species. But few had wire connections; most people used radio or the gravitic radio systems that were now available. While fiber optic systems were old those that had them swore that they were better than the radio systems, but the apparent intimacy of mind and machine bothered many people. It was a strange reaction; it was okay to be a cyborg, so long as you didn't look like one. "So, you like this kind of flying?"
"Beats doing shuttle work on one of the colonies. Or, worse, Earth." She seemed to shiver. "So you guys like this groundbreaking stuff, huh? Must be quite the thrill to get to dig up something techie like this."
"It beats interstellar space." He looked out the window. From this high up, he could almost imagine that the world below all that cloud cover was clean and ready for him to walk on without protective gear. But he knew that underneath it was still a frozen hellhole.
"Hey, if we ever found anything in interstellar space, like a ruined starship from some earlier civilization, would you guys be the ones to get the call?"
"I don't know," Chatenni replied. "I don't think so. I think we'd just get the artifacts and logs and we'd be expected to write papers on it until the stars go out."
She laughed. "You guys have such great jobs."
"What about you? This isn't a great job?"
"It's what I like to do and do well enough. But your job's got so much, y'know, flow. So, what are you doing at the site?"
"Well, it's a medium-sized city with both a school and a military base nearby. That makes it an ideal study subject for this kind of situation. We wouldn't want their largest city because large cities tend to have special characteristics. This city that we're going to has little industrial area, but it apparently has some food distribution centers. So we'll learn a lot from it, about its advanced education, it's military, and its population management."
"You sound like you enjoy that kind of stuff."
"That's why I do this," he said quietly. "You're staying with us, right?"
She nodded. "On this kind of thing we always supply a backup. We don't trust the Sdisk system as much as we used to. Not after llerkin. That's also why I have this." She pointed to the cable. "Less possibility of interference."
Chatenni took the bench opposite her and watched the sky slide by. "So," she said, "Are you seeing anyone?"
"No." Even as he said it he wondered why she had asked.
"Got a roommate already?"
"You're being very forward."
"It's very cold down there," she said. "All I want is a warm body, not a boyfriend."
"I suppose I can do that." He grinned. Sharing a room was second nature to a college student. If they couldn't get along, they'd know soon enough and find other arrangements,
"Great. I don't snore."
"Vaqi, T'roal, you take the military base. This is prelim only, take two seccors. Joan, Tytka, you get the school. Same measures. Aalis, you and Styx take the warehouses. Os and I will be hitting the bureaucracy."
"What can I do?" asked the one person who was not a member of his team.
"Not a whole lot. If the day is clear it would be useful if you could do a low magnetometer sweep of the area."
"You mean, a grid pattern search?"
"Are you up for it?"
She nodded. "I got nothing better to do," she sighed. "Besides, being in the air means that I'll get to one of you guys quicker if you get yourself into the pudding."
"I like her," Tytka said. "Can we keep her?"
"You're stuck with me as long as you guys decide to stay here." She grinned.
"Can you give our guys a ride to the military base? It's a bit out of town."
"Then let's get going."
Chatenni wandered through what was apparently not the city's ritualistic main hall but the actual heart of bureaucratic power. He was finding the place as typically bewildering as any he had ever found, and those others had been working examples, not archaeological ruins. One thing that puzzled him was the apparent lack of a city library. He had looked for references and found none. They had found libraries in many of the towns near Besnial, but none so far here.
He heard a beep and picked up his gradio. "Chatenni." Os looked up at the start of the conversation.
"It's Rima. Did you guys do a deep magnetometer scan of this place before you arrived?"
"No, but there's a preliminary one from the satellite data."
"I know. I checked it. It doesn't match what I found."
That made Chatenni look up. "What?"
"I think you've got working machinery down here."
"Looks like a farm about halfway between the military complex and the school."
Chatenni felt a chill run down his spine. It could be nothing. Or it could mean a project as big as digging out the Forcassa bunker. "When the teams reconvene at the tent tonight, I want the data ready for in-depth analysis. Could you do me a deep mass analysis as well? Just that farmgrid."
"Will do, sexy. Bye."
Chatenni looked querulously at the communicator even as it made an audible click to signify the end of a connection. Os stifled a mustelid grin. "I think she likes you."
"She's nice enough," Chatenni said. "Let's get back to work."
That evening they assembled in the main chamber of the heated tent. Chatenni looked at the maps displayed on the big screen set up in one corner and wondered what they had found. It didn't look good. The mass analysis chart showed that there was something artificial buried under the farm. Something large and Ritan-made. He smiled even as he realized that he had instantly though "Ritan" rather than the colloquial "man made," a term used even by many Pendorians. He had wanted a mainstream, ordinary project with mainstream, ordinary tasks. Instead, he had just stumbled on a facility that was still operating after all these centuries. The world that had looked like a barren wasteland without distinguishing features on the initial reports had become a massive undertaking without an end in sight.
"Well," he sighed. "I have bad news. We're going to have the military investigation team from Heeram dropped on our heads. I'm still in charge, but there's going to be a safety crew from Command looking over our shoulders at every second."
"Is that necessary?" Vaqi asked.
Chatenni laughed. "It's preferable to the alternative. I don't want to do this myself."
"I can't believe how big it is. It must be their main military facility." Rima looked closely at the images she had rendered just a few hours ago.
"You wouldn't know it from the airbase. It's got such a small runway." Tytka pointed to the map. Chatenni could see that her enthusiasm was growing even as his slowly ebbed away. He had no stomach for this kind of complexity. He liked the slow, careful disassembly of ancient ruins; the patient cataloguing, the delicate handling. This was going to be more the kind of operation done with bulldozers and sonar.
Chatenni sighed. "Okay. Co and his people are going to be here tomorrow. Let's all try to got a decent night's sleep." He turned off the main monitor. "Okay?"
Without grumbling, his collection of mainly new students headed to their individual rooms.
"You handle them pretty well," his new roommate said as he collapsed onto the inflated floor mattress back in his own assigned room.
"Thanks," he said. "I never wanted to be a leader. That's just what happens when you became a professor's favorite student. You did pretty well yourself," he commented. "Congratulations on your discovery."
"The machines did all the work." She stripped off the tight, grey, military-style t-shirt she wore and tossed it aside and joined him on the mattress. She stretched out her full length, her legs high in the air as she groaned aloud with relief. "I love flying, but I'm not too sure about being confined in an aerodyne for the whole day."
He chuckled and tried not to look too closely. He found himself wondering if being a "warm body" meant anything more than just that; it was actually rather cold in the tent even with the heating. He would have much preferred to rehabilitate a standing building than use one of these thin-skinned tents, but they hadn't had time to locate one sturdy enough for that job.
Still, he liked looking at her. She was quite a lovely creature in her own way. He found the small plug on the back of her head not that disturbing after all, now that it was covered with a protective shield the color of her fur. She was a little heavy, one of the two common syndromes of those who spent too much time hooked to their machine directly, but he actually found it pleasant to look at. Not at all the prototypical solid body Pendorians, even he, managed to have. "Hey, Rima?"
"When you said you needed a roommate, did you want anything else?"
She rolled over. "Did you want me to want something else?"
"No, not really," he said. "Just curious."
"Me too. About you."
He leaned forward a little bit. "This curious?"
"That curious," she replied as her muzzle met his. She kissed well and to Chatenni's surprise they spent a lot of time doing just that-- kissing. She seemed to enjoy just that little bit of touching, although she had one free hand and kept running it up and down his back as they made out. Her breath was sweet; she took care of her teeth. An uncommon event in an age of perfectly painless medical care.
The simple pleasure she gave him made him shiver. Her arms pulled their torsos closer together. Both struggled to move under the heavy blankets, but soon they were in a tighter embrace. She moaned softly as mouths nipped at cheeks, tongues licked at ears, and hands roamed over bodies that spent too much time recently trapped in environment suits. Chatenni fert his heart beating faster even as her lower paws, claws retracted, padded at his torso, suggesting play in such a way that he couldn't resist.
"Wow," he gasped.
"Yeah," she said. "Thanks for not being a stuck valve, Chatenni."
He had heard that phrase before. "Did you talk to Shera?"
"She says that. Stuck valve.'"
"She also said I shouldn't bother trying. Something about you being asexual."
Chatenni laughed. "Not asexual. Choosy. I just don't get excited by ordinary fems."
"So I'm not ordinary?" Rima asked.
"No," Chatenni said. "You're extraordinary. At least, that's my current assessment."
She grinned and resumed her assault on his senses, her hands rubbing against the grain of his fur, her mouth nuzzling his neck and shoulders. Her rear paws pressed against his belly and he felt her probing around. He opened his legs slightly to let her in and find what she was clearly looking for. Paws found his erection. She giggled. "My, is that what I think it is?"
"It might be."
"Let me see," she said, tossing aside the blankets to make maneuvering easier. The cool blast of air made Chatenni's fur rise. She turned over and looked down between his thighs, then closed in for a closer look. "Looks tasty."
"You could always find out for yourself if it is."
"I could, couldn't I?" she replied. She licked the length of his cock from base to tip. A warmth spread out from his groin throughout his body and he moaned. "It is tasty," she said with a grin.
"You don't have to stop!" Chatenni gasped.
"I didn't plan on it." She opened her mouth and took his cock into her mouth. She couldn't swallow all of it and he hadn't expected her to. But what she was doing was unbelievable. He could actually feel each individual swipe of her tongue across his cock, and he could feel her sucking. It was like she was actually trying to suck his cock into being bigger and harder. He thought it was as hard as it could possibly get. What she was doing was so good it actually almost hurt. But the pleasure arcing through his body was telling him to take more.
She stopped. He looked down to see if anything was wrong. "I tasted a little something," she said. "If you're getting close, I'd rather you got inside me, Chatenni."
"Okay," he replied, his head swimming with desire. She again rolled over, onto her belly, her body stretched out lengthwise until she was taking up a full three meters or more. Chatenni eased up beside her, then on top of her, his cock falling easily between her hindquarters. Their bodies lined up perfectly even as he slid into her without pause.
The slick grasp of her sex around his cock was almost enough to make him come right there. She had aroused him so much just with her sucking mouth and now the sweet tunnel of her cunt was almost more than he could bear. He stretched out atop her, his weight on hers, his muzzle nipping loftly at her ear.
"Fuck me, Chatenni. Oh, yes." He was already pumping his hips in and out of her, giving her what she asked for. Her moans increased in volume even as they found a comfortable rhythm.
He looked down at his hands, where they grasped her torso, held on. His hands were mauling her breasts without his trying to. She placed her hands over his not to discourage him but to hold him in place. Her growl of pleasure came hot and thick as he slid in and out of her, pounding her firmly into the bed.
But that solid rhythm proved their undoing; he came with a loud groan, shooting off inside her, filling her with at least a few day's worth of waiting.
He panted as he pulled out of her, taking deep breaths as his cock slowly shrank. The final pull out made him grimace. "Yum," she purred softly as they turned over in bed together and lay, side-by-side, panting out the heat they had created. "You are good."
"And you were the best," he sighed, reaching up to lick her cheeks. "Thank you."
"You wanted more than just a warm body, then," he pointed out.
She laughed. "I guess I did. I might even want more again. Are you available?"
"For the time being. But I have a job to perform."
"So do I," she pointed out. "Don't worry. I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to practice in the future."
They lay quiet for a time, recovering. "Sleep?" he suggested.
"That sounds like a good idea."
"Lights out, Nix," Chatenni said clearly. The lights dimmed rapidly to black. "Good night, Rima."