My name is Sandahl Merit Ray, and I am, depending upon which calendar you consult, either thirty-six years old and therefore halfway through this life, or I am 997 years old and have as much time ahead of me as I please. I am, depending upon which collection of documents you consult, a member of the Forcassa project, dedicated to bringing the Ritan people back from the brink of extinction, or I am a member of the Alpha Ritacha project, dedicated to bringing the Ritan species back from extinction.
My species is extinct.
Yes, I am telling this story and yes I am very much alive. But my species is extinct. I am a male and there are no females alive. When I die, there will be no more Ritans. The Pendorians tell me there will be more Ritans but I do not know if I should believe them. They tell me that I am surrounded by peoples which were created in a laboratory and that the Alpha group can make any species in any shape they wish.
"Not any shape we wish," Kashkah said.
"Did I ask you to listen in?" I asked her.
"You decided to start your narration with me in the room," she said. "And that is more over-the-top than the music I like."
I smiled at her briefly. "What the Alpha group can do is really scary. It's like they want to play God. Who gave them that power?"
"Nobody," Kashkah said. "But if there is a god out there, he hasn't tried to stop them and after a thousand years you would think he would have noticed."
"I still don't like it."
She nodded but didn't say anything in response. I watched as took off her ship's uniform, enjoying in a strange way the sight of her white fur and lean body. I liked the way she looked. Military people should look like that, strong and powerful. "You're going naked?" I asked.
"Other than a bandoleer for equipment, most Uncia don't wear clothing at home. I wouldn't on board ship either except that I feel more comfortable fitting in and everyone else is wearing clothes. I don't think I need it to establish my authority."
"You're authoritative enough without it," I agreed. That got the pretty smile I like to see. "So, should I strip down to nothing or... what?"
"What would you be comfortable with? It's going to be hot at my home. It's late summer in a tropical zone. Muggy. Buggy."
"I'll leave what I've got on." What I was wearing was a modest working skirt and a shirt combination. The skirt came to just below my knees, making it easy to run in. I don't know what it was made of, but I had not found a way to tear it yet even though it was lighter than some of the silks I had seen back home.
"Whatever makes you comfortable," she agreed. "Ready?"
"I am," I said. She offered a hand and I took it. She led me down to the SDisk center. She said, "Lance, are we ready to go home?"
"I am ready to put you anywhere your heart desires. Within the nearest light-minute, of course."
"Then put me home," she said. The unfamiliar blink of teleportation went off around us and we were surrounded by night. After the bright lights of the ship I found myself unable to see anything at all for an entire minute. Kashkah's hand in mine was the only tether I had. I took a deep breath. The smell of a forest reached my nose-- sharp, crisp scents of tree sap, the odor of animal droppings, the light wind of a storm coming or going, and the overall smell of green.
The wind was barely there, and the outcry of an animal far away caught my attention. It was a painful sound, like someone finding a nail in a board of wood they were cutting with a power saw. I waited for my eyes to adjust as Kashkah looked around, trying to get her bearings. "Are we anywhere near your home?"
"It's just a short walk in that direction," she said, pointing. "Can you see yet?"
The night was not so dark after all, and in a few minutes I could see well enough to navigate without bumping into a tree. "Let's go," I said.
She led me down a path that was well-worn with history and feet, laid in with large, squared shafts of wood to mark the path in case someone needed to make it again someday. I had seen the technique back home, although I hadn't paid it much attention. Nobody on Ritacha had gone hiking for fun anymore by the time I was born.
I thought I heard a sound to my left, like the soft padding of bare feet on the dirt. Maybe it was my imagination. But then there was a growl from behind me. I turned. "Kash?" I asked.
She leaned down. "I bet it's my brother," she whispered.
"Dammit, Sis, how am I supposed to have any fun when you give it away?" said a voice from the bush immediately to my left. I was impressed; I wouldn't have thought he could get so close without my guss giving him away, but he had managed to sneak up to within touching distance of the two of us.
"You could manage a little more stealth," she said. "I'm pleased to see how close you got, but your approach gave you away. You're too anxious to try yourself out."
A head popped up from behind the bush and looked at us. "Hey, that's one of the Ritans? Is this your friend?" He came out and I got a clear look at him. Like Kashkah, he was taller than I but not as long, his white fur easy to see in the darkness. It made me wonder how I could have missed him when he was creeping around in the bushes. "Hi," he said. "I'm Kashkahleh."
"Sandahl Merit Ray," I said, holding out a hand as I had seen others do. He looked at it curiously as if not sure what to do next. "Oh, you've been with the spacers," he said, reaching out to shake it. "Yeah, they do seem to pick up those Terran habits."
"Terran habits," Kashkah snorted, cuffing him lightly. "So how's the little brother?"
"Fine," he said, suddenly yawning wide to reveal twin rows of sharp, white teeth and a mouth like a pit. I shivered just to look at it. "Did you have to come back in the middle of the night?" he asked.
"It's when the ship got in," she said. "Our schedules are a little screwed up, you know."
"That's just because you're on Pendor Standard Time," Kashkahleh said. "Anyway, Guinness woke me up to tell me you guys were here. C'mon, I'll lead you back to the house. But after that I'm going to sleep."
Kashkah shrugged her shoulders. I followed them. We wandered down a path I could barely make out in the dark until the leaves parted and before us was a structure a hundred meters long, an elongated glass dome. Her brother led us to a panel that shifted out of the way as we approached, and we passed into Kashkah's family's ancestral home.
Inside was much the same as outside. A forest, with plants that grew to about the level of my eye, their leaves as broad as two hands. Smaller bushes crept along the walkways but dim lights traveled along stretches that kept us from falling into the brush. I followed Kashkah's shadowy form as we walked until we were almost in the center of the dome. Her brother said quietly, "I don't know if you were planning on sleeping in your old bed or not, but what are we going to do with the guest?"
"Sandahl?" Kashkah whispered. "Would you like to spend the night with me?"
"Would your family object?" I asked, expecting that I already knew the answer.
"Then there's no reason to put a halt to a good thing," I said softly. Even in the darkness I could see her smile, her white, dangerous, sexy teeth. There's something about sleeping with someone so thoughtful and yet bestial that kept me fascinated with her. I couldn't help but wonder what the Pendorians had done to me. They assured me that they had done nothing at all, but it was hard to accept that I was the same person as before the cryo.
I never thought I was the kind of person to have his heart written in snow ready to melt at the smile of a stranger. I was always paranoid on the project. Here, I'm beyond paranoid. I've gotten over it, I think.
"It's good to see you," Kashkahleh said softly, giving his sister a hug. "See more of you in the morning." He loped off quietly.
Kashkah took my hand and led me to where her own bedding waited for the two of us. "They set it up for me already," she said. "Oh, and they got me a big one!"
I had gotten used to her bed, her circle of cloth that was solid as a sandbag underneath. It was also warmed from inside, but in a way that I found comforting. She assured me that that was the bed's doing, that it measured how I was sleeping and made sure that I was comfortable. It experimented with ranges throughout the night and after a while recorded the pattern of temperatures and pressures that made me sleep best. If I moved to a new bed, the AIs made sure to pass the recordings on to the next bed so each wouldn't have to learn my habits over and over.
This one, though, was not like the one on the ship. There, we had been in a proper bedroom. Here, though, it was just a pad on the floor of the jungle. Having a roof overhead didn't diminish the sounds of insects or the unhurried trickle of a stream nearby. I looked around. The glass dome was clear enough that I could see the shadowy rectangle that provided night on their world, and to either side of it I could see the stars. "I hadn't expected to see stars."
"The sun doesn't take up that much of the sky," she said. "All you need is something with the right proportions to block it out."
"What if I... I need to find a toilet?" I asked.
"Guinness will guide you. Won't you, Guinness?"
"Indeed. Welcome home, dear heart. It is good to see you. And marvelous to meet your guest. Hello, Sandahl. I am Guinness." He had a heavy, strange accent, like nothing I had heard from any Pendorian.
I dropped my skirt and shirt combination on the floor along with my duffel bag. Kashkah took off her bandoleer and put it aside, leaving it on the ground. "You just... sleep like this?"
"Always have," she said. "It's part of the tradition. To sleep out in the open. Except that it never rains and there are no bugs and no animals crawl over you in the middle of the night because the azzies keep them away."
"Very small robots, the size of insects, that keep the bugs from getting to you and discourage wild animals from snuffling through your stuff," she whispered. "They're very effective."
"I believe you," I said, suddenly appreciating again just how weird the Pendorian landscape really was. I lay down in her bed, impressed once again by the hardness they slept on, but also surprised at how well I slept on it. Kashkah curled up beside me. Neither one of us ever used covers on the ship, and I had thought that was just an eccentricity we both shared. Now I saw that it was instead a natural part of the way her family lived. Covers would have been odd in so wild a place as this.
But sleeping out in the open like this was weird enough. It took me a long time to get to sleep.
I had awakened three months ago in a hospital bed on my home planet, only to be told by alien rescuers that the world I had know was no more, destroyed by my own kind in a fit of something between blood-hued rage and isguffid stupidity. The aliens, one of whom I slept beside (or did she sleep beside me?) took me on a spaceship that was little like the things of my childhood fantasies-- no glowing, mysterious, inexplicable dimensions but real steel, wood, ceramic, and even concrete in places. The aliens-- these Pendorians-- were what I thought my people should have been. The only challenges they had were those they took on themselves. I, my people, presented such a challenge.
They were out to bring us back from the dead.
I must have tossed and turned because I awoke Kashkah. "You okay?" she asked.
"I can't sleep," I said. "I'm a little weirded out. I never expected my first night on an alien world to be spent camping out." I laughed. "I guess if I were an explorer that's what I would be doing. But Pendor is supposed to be civilized."
"This is the height of civilization," Kashkah. "Oh, the others have their hovels and their homes, but this... this is living, Sandahl!" She gestured with an arm at the roof of the dome. "Think of it. Every night, under the stars, climate controlled, free of the dangers of the jungle, surrounded by layers of defenses that keep the wild at bay no matter where we are."
"Even in space?" I asked, maybe a bit sarcastically.
"People do go camping on asteroids and the like. I am told that camping out under Jupiter is popular with some people. And I heard that in a few years you will be able to do it naked, too."
"Naked?" I asked.
"Yes. Force-field technology is getting small and light enough that they can make it work with a couple of thousand implants. It will be a mainstream technology by the end of the decade. Hundreds of scientists and a google of CPU cycles are working on it. One of them will get it right." She edged closer to me. "But this is not helping you get to sleep, is it?"
"No, not really."
Her muzzle pressed against my nose, slid along my chin and down my neck. I felt that weird purring sound her species makes rumbling through the space between us she was making smaller with every gesture. "I can do things that will tire you out."
"Kashkah," I said, feeling my erection growing at her suggestive play, "Do you really feel like you want me, or is it just because I'm, well, me?"
She looked up at me and in the light of other sectors her face held a lopsided grin of frustration. "I am not a doxy for hire. I am a police officer. What I do in my off time is up to me. I do not have Shardik's lackeys following me around to make sure that I treat you well. I like you, Sandahl. You are alone and I want to ease that pain. But you are also sexy and interesting and I want to enjoy you while I can. I worry that when the next generation of Ritans is decanted you will have no more time for me."
"But... how can you find me... sexy?"
"Why do you find me sexy?"
"I don't know," I said. "I just do."
"I know why I find you sexy. You're big, and strong, and different, and handsome, and you care for yourself and you like me. On Pendor, we are not built with quite the same minds as our evolved forefathers. I like others who like me. Sentience is all that matters. A little familiarity helps but I have been familiar with all other Pendorian species since I was a cubling. You are much like a Ssphynx. You have green fur, of course, and your muzzle is narrower, and you have those guss. But those are... accessories. You are interesting, Sandahl. Enjoy it."
I smiled at her suggestion and nodded. "I'll try." I lunged forward slightly to kiss her and found myself in a tongue-tying, cheek-licking orgy of wetness. Her sweet tongue caressed my nose and sharp teeth nipped at my throat.
I felt her hand on my belly and soon it was between my thighs, her slim, strong hand wrapping itself indelicately around my erection. "So hard already," she said with a laugh.
"You're right, Kashkah. I don't know why you turn me on, but you do."
Her hand stroked my shaft. "It's because I give you what you want-- friction." The purring increased even as she slid her body down the lower half of my body, down over my taurid belly. She straddled my waist as I rolled over onto my back. "And you give me what I want. I want to be filled."
She placed her hands on my forepaws, leaving me to cross my arms behind my head and watch as she lowered herself over my cock. I felt the hot mouth of her cunt surround the tip and then that heat moved down the length of my cock until her lips were pressing against my sheath. We both groaned. "I don't want to wake your family."
"They cannot hear us," she assured me. "But they might be able to smell us. Not something we can do anything about."
I nodded, pushing back with my forepaws to give her something to hold onto as she raised and lowered herself. Her insides were tight about me. I knew how much she liked this position but it was one that I found frustrating. I wanted to do something, but other than curl my back up to meet her downthrusts there was little I could do except lie back and let her do all the work.
And what work! What strength! God, she could fuck forever when she wanted to. I watched her above me, fucking herself on me, my head spinning with lust, my heart bursting with need to come, but she just kept going at her own pace, making her own noises. She growled, and I answered her with a groan of my own. She snarled as we met in one hard thrust and I snarled back. She demanded more of me and I surrendered all all of my civilization to the need to come. My cock was so hard it felt as if the Pendorians had changed it for titanium. My mind was so gone I wondered if it would ever come back. I wanted to come. Kashkah had already come twice; I had heard the gasps, the moans, and I knew what they had meant. It was my turn, now! I came with a groan that made me buck under her, almost pushing her off of me until we reached out together to push her back down and keep her in, let my seed fill her until it dribbled out the space between us in little grayish rivulets.
God, she's amazing.
"Tired now?" she asked, gasping with her own recovery.
"Yes," I said. "Very." She slid off beside me and we once again curled up on her bed. "I hope you enjoyed that."
"I would do something else if I did not," she assured me. I felt her hand on my cheek. "I always like it. I feel so close to you. I wish sometimes we could come closer."
I touched my hand to hers. "Maybe someday," I said.
"Sleep," she whispered. "Heal. You have much to do."
"I'll try. Goodnight, Kashkah."