"I don't feel any different," Tylia said, poking at her forearms, kneading and exploring the flesh under her fur, looking for any sign of the implants.
"You're not supposed to feel any different." P'nyssa put away the implant gun and unclipped the nullifier from around Tylia's neck. "That's the point. These are for emergency use. Like the gorget." She ran her hand along the underside of Tylia's chin where the protective layer of interwoven fabric and flesh covered the otherwise vulnerable veins and arteries that fed the brain. "Installing these is now a standard practice for anyone going off-world."
"Now I feel really weird. This place doesn't feel like it's off-world. Pindam's not 'off-world'; it's the house right next door. If I can SDisk to it, it can't be off-world, can it?"
I chuckled. "Guess not. Still, there is a vacuum right out those windows, and even though we've never had a blowout here in over a thousand years, there have been some disturbing cases of people getting blown out into space." I shivered to remember my own such incident, and was grateful for the latest innovation from Dick's mad scientist laboratories- an hour or so of internalized life-support, complete with force field. The nanochine projectors were installed in small subdermal patches, most no larger than my thumbnail and all powered by the same SDisk grid that sucked energy from our star and fed it out in ways that, no doubt, were less entropic than merely blasting it into interstellar space.
Installation, although painless, was nothing if not boring, sitting two hours in a Gessler nullification couch while the doctor installed the projectors at set sites all along the length of the body. Total, the system added less than a quarter kilogram to one's mass, but still-- the line between body and machine become more and more blurred every time something like this came along.
I though about my own anatomy, laced as it was with artificial support heart, artificial blood clotting agents, artificial senses, artificial inputs and outputs in my brain, artificial dermis in places-- and now, an entire artificial environment in an easy-to-carry package. I still felt like me, though, and that was perhaps the most peculiar aspect of all. I was still Ken Shardik, despite all the changes. I wondered if the day would ever come when I felt differently about that subject.
"So," P'nyssa said, now that she had finished with the two of us, "What's new with the Project?" She stretched. Installing them can't be any more exciting for the physician than for the patient, I guess.
"Same old stuff. Mapping is going forward as anticipated, without much slowing us down at all. We should be done on schedule, and decant is going to happen on time. How's the medical status on our two survivors?"
P'nyssa sighed, collecting her thoughts. "Okay. Physically, Sandahl is back to normal. Psychologically, he still hasn't processed what the loss means to him, and I'm starting to wonder if he's ever going to. I hope he does not think he's in some wonderland."
"Better that than he wants to follow Erroll," I muttered.
"I don't understand that," Tylia interrupted. "He had so much to live for."
"I guess we think differently. I mean you and me, Tylia, not Pendorians in general. If we woke up and things were different, then things would be different. We might mourn our loss, but for us the main goal in life is to go forward, explore, take in."
"I wish..." Tylia began, then let the thought float away.
"Me too," I said. I leaned over and kissed P'nyssa hard. "Thank you again, lover, for your expert medical treatment of my staff. I'll be home tomorrow night."
"You'd better be," she said, mock-grousing. "You need the rest!" I smiled as Tylia and I left P'nyssa's shout behind us and a closed door. We headed through the upper floors of Alpha, walking back to the cabin we were sharing together. (Isn't that odd? We're on a stable platform-- a moon-- yet because the station is surrounded in vacuum, living quarters are still called 'cabins.' I've never been able to figure that one out.) In the one-fifth gravity, we walked lightly and carefully, slowing a lot earlier before we reached a turn in the hallways than we would on Pendor.
We walked past a lab complex that I knew had something interesting in it, given our new condition. "Tylia," I whispered.
"How... how daring are you? I mean, really?"
"I don't know what you mean."
"Are you willing to take a seriously dangerous risk?"
She smiled, half-excited, half-nervous. "I suppose so. Why?"
"Come here." I backtracked to the lab and led her inside. "Hal, deactivate emergency alarms and go to personal judgment." I walked across to the suit locker and the airlock. Through the tiny window in the door I could see the outer door, through the window of which I could further see the lunar landscape of Pindam, currently away from the sun but well-illuminated by the reflected light of Pendor.
"Done," the AI replied calmly.
"Activate external airlock containment field."
"Open outer airlock door."
Through the window, I watched the door open slowly. "Done."
"Open inner airlock door."
"Please confirm." I glanced at Tylia, who was staring at me, nervously, her feline eyes wide with fear.
"Containment field holding?"
"Confirm, then," I said, firmly. "Open inner airlock door."
A warning buzzer went off overhead as the inner airlock door slid open, silently, on perfect gears. "Ready?" I asked her.
"You're not serious!"
I grinned. "I am serious. Very. You can come if you want." I stripped off my clothing, dropping the uniform jumpsuit of Team Alpha on the floor and tossing my underclothes on top of it.
"Ken, are you really going to... ?"
"Yeah, I think I am." Naked, I stepped into the doubly-open airlock and looked, curiously, at the containment field barrier. It was visible only as a slight haze, barely perceptible, in the space between myself and the airless surface of the moon. I reached forward to touch it; it was there. I pressed forward against it, and I felt my fingers slide through it. I fully expected to feel a wrenching sensation as the jealous vacuum of space tried to pull my fingers apart, first bursting the blood vessels in my cuticles and then pulling the blood out from between them. Instead I felt nothing unusual. No war ensued between my blood pressure and the zero pressure of space. No coldness sucked the heat from my hand and bit at my fingertips with frost.
Inside was a completely different story. I'd been to space many times and each and every time I had gotten the lecture about the dangers of space in general and vacuums in particular. I'd been sucked out into space once before in an accident and I remembered every painful moment of being exposed. Every alarm built in my head out of habit was screaming that what I was about to do was sure death, guaranteed pain, and absolutely the dumbest thing I could have done short of Stardiving. Perhaps even including Stardiving.
I took a deep breath. "I know the technology..." I said aloud, and thrust my arm further. Nothing happened. I took a step--
And naked, stood on the barren surface of Pindam, looking up at the undimmed glory of Pendor. The ring slid by silently, and it looked like I could just reach out and-- touch it. I smiled. I laughed. A shocking, transcendent joy gripped my heart. "Tylia! Come! Join me!"
Hal carried my words to her, and she shook her head. "I'm afraid!"
"And you should be!" I laughed again. "This is the most amazing, most terrifying thing anyone could ever do! This is wilder than stardiving!" I looked right at her. "It's okay to be afraid. You don't have to come out if you don't want to. Seriously, though, look at me. I'm alive!"
She shook her head, not believing. "You really are crazy!"
"Mad as a hatter," I agreed, knowing she would have no idea what that phrase meant, not that it mattered. "Only madmen build worlds and create peoples, Tylia. You have cast your die with a madman, and I ask you-- are you willing to face the responsibilities of that decision?"
She was standing in the airlock now, trusting the containment field that stretched across the doorway-- a containment field that was probably no stronger than the one that wrapped itself around my body and protected me from the stark coldness of space. She said, "Stepping naked into a vacuum isn't one of those responsibilities."
"No," I agreed. "It isn't. But... " I smiled at her, crookedly. "It is a thrill." I started to walk back towards her. "You're right, this is too much."
She looked at me again, not sure if I was out of my mind. Then she reached out with a hand to touch the field, as I had, then closed her eyes as she pushed one finger through. As with me, nothing happened. More of her followed, until finally all of her had come through the field and, like me, she stood naked to the stars.
Her eyes popped open. "It's-- It's-- It's... amazing. My heart is going a million beats a second! I... I'm standing outside... "
"Yes, you are. Outside of all protection but those fields P'nyssa installed in your body just an hour ago. Nothing between you and the infinite vastness of space but a trusted flow of electricity."
She shivered. "Still, you're right... It's amazing."
"You said that already," I laughed. Gods, we were insane to be doing this. On the thin line between mind-bogglingly dangerous and mind-bogglingly stupid, it was impossible to tell where we stood. "Everything has taught you to fear this, and now we stand in it." I shuddered, my brain still reeling. I reached down for her shoulder. "Give me your hand."
"Give me your right hand," I said. She held it out to me. I took it, and pulled her close, into a tight embrace that, more than usual, gave away the differences in our heights. I felt her warm body next to mine, her soft fur playing against my skin. The fields were designed to permit medical care-- and apparently that extended far enough to permit other things, as well. "Hal, play me a waltz. Mozart, if you please."
Music played in my ears, and Tylia's too. She smiled. "You're silly."
"I thought you said I was crazy. One-- two-- one-- two--."
"That too!" she insisted. "I love you."
"I love you too," I replied, meaning it. We danced there, ten meters from the protective door, kicking up the lunar dust with our bare feet as we swept to and fro to music we heard only in our ears and that no-one else could hear at all. Her lovely feline form, so full of youth and that craving for knowledge that I hoped she never loses, pressed itself to me. Parts of me knew what to do with that pressure.
"You're getting a hard-on." She giggled.
I looked down. "Aw, that always happens when I'm thrilled and with a beautiful, naked woman and I'm risking my life!"
Since Tylia's head barely came up to my chest, she was much closer to my cock than I was, and with a single bend of the head she licked at it. I was surprised at how intense it felt. "Hey!"
"No, come to think of it, none at all. P'nyssa claims that, to her, dancing is sex with music, so this should be perfect-- sex with music. Let it play, gasp..." I took in a deep breath of air as she swabbed the sensitive head of my cock with her rough and sweet tongue. "Oh, Tylia..."
Her mouth surrounded my cock as her tongue probed for the sensitive spots. Standing became difficult. Slowly I dropped away from her to sit down on the dusty floor. She followed apace and managed to keep at least the head in her mouth the whole time. The sensations were distracting from the terrifying notion that I was still naked to space. Her fingers probed about my testicles and gently scratched at them, tugging on the skin and pulling on the flesh, making me squirm. "Tylia... Gods!"
She looked up at me and smiled, one paw still wrapped firmly about the root of my cock and pumping up and down slowly. Without a proper volume of air, her fur didn't move right, but stayed in place as she moved. She crawled up the length of my body, knocking me to the grey-colored ground. "I love you," she gasped. "I love you so much."
"And I love you," I replied, reaching up with one hand to wipe away a trace of spittle that had collected on her chin from her brief sucking. My cock was nestled between her thighs, her hand still managing to stroke it gently.
"I want you," she sighed.
"Then have me," I replied. She slid backward slightly, pushing herself up with her arms against my chest. She positioned herself above my erection and with one hand pulled it to point straight up. Then, as we had done so few times before, she eased herself down onto my erection. I felt my cock touch her wetness, then delve slowly into her tight cunny. I still felt so amazed at her willfulness to take so much of me so soon. I'd almost be unwilling to admit that she'd been a virgin a month before, she had such... need... now.
Her thighs settled around mine. Her eyelids fluttered. She sighed, holding herself perfectly still impaled upon my cock, which by now was so hard it almost hurt. Then she smiled. "It's so dusty."
I grinned back, placing my hands on her strong thighs and running my hands over them gently, caressing the flesh and feeling the fur of them caress my hands in return. "Not much I can do about that."
"But... " She stopped for a second. "How about I get on my hands and knees? Keep everything off the ground?"
I looked around, and as I glanced back toward the protective shelter of the lab I saw a solution I liked. "I've got a better idea. Up?" She rose off my cock-- and it felt odd that it didn't feel chilled as it was exposed-- the field was trying to maintain the temperature it had encountered. I took her by the hand and led her back to the airlock. By the door was a small stepladder that engineers had used to check the upper seals on each other's suits, once upon a time. "Stand on that."
She did. I turned her around, facing the wall next to the airlock door. "Like this?" she asked, tilting her hips back toward me. She grabbed a strut where people usually stored tools, and I stood behind her.
I smiled. She looked so tempting, her tight, round ass seeming to pout at me, point at me, draw me in. "Are you ready?"
I took her by the hips and pressed my way between her thighs. Her hand reached down and led me in the right direction. My cock slid into her tight cunny and I buried myself inside her until my hips were pressed against her beautiful buttocks. "So good," she gasped. "So good!"
I smiled. Taking grip of her hips firmly, I started rocking back and forth. "Yes," she growled, sounding darkling, less like the kitten she was and more like some Uncia in heat. "Yes."
"Good!" she shouted as I fucked her harder, pressing her against the cool ceramic wall of the station and pounding her wet cunt. My cock was sawing back and forth, gripped and massaged by her tightness, and I knew I wasn't going to last very long at all. Still, I tried to hold off by slowing down, but her growling subsided as my speed did. She wanted it hard. Finally, I gave her what she wanted, if only before a few desperate strokes. "Tylia," I gasped. "Tyli.....A!" I screamed. I came buried deep inside her precious, lovely body.
My head was swimming and I was panting. The field must have been having a hard time scrounging oxygen for me. I felt dizzy. "Gods," I gasped between breaths. "You okay?"
She turned around, dazed, and leaned against the construction, the back of her hand pressed to her forehead. "I will be. You're not only crazy, you're an animal! That was great!"
I laughed and pulled her toward me. We gripped each other, arms wrapped around torsos and shoulders. My heart soared at the privilege, and the joy, of having someone as wonderful as her in my life. "Glad you think so." A strange spitting noise reached my ears, and I looked down.
"Now that's weird," she said. Our juices were flowing from her cunny and dripping to the floor. When they left the protective membrane of the personal containment field, they were subject to the usual laws of physics, freezing and boiling simultaneously in the night-side vacuum. As some of the almost exploding fluids struck her containment field, the sound carried to our ears.
"Let's get inside." We stepped two meters to our right and into the airlock. Once completely inside, I ordered Hal to close the Airlock doors and restore all alarms regarding Tylia and me to full status.
We dressed quickly, not bothering with any sort of sorting ourselves out. We had to get to bed fast, since tomorrow was another long day and we were out past our usual bedtimes. Again.
We tumbled into our cabin, our original destination, and undressed even faster than we had thrown together our clothes a minute before. But once in bed, as we snuggled together, Tylia whispered to me. "Ken?"
"Hmm?" I asked, dozing off rapidly.
"Let's not make a habit of that, okay? I'm going to have nightmares."
I opened my eyes, concerned that I had done something that would harm someone I cared about. "Remember your question last week?"
"Will I ever want to do... other things with you? Like flog you, if you asked for it?"
"Yeah?" she asked. I felt her ear flicker against my chest, straightening up in anticipation.
"I think I've decided that, if I can do what I did tonight, I can do anything you know you're ready for. And I'll trust you to tell me when that is."
Her arm gripped across my chest a little tighter. "Thank you. I'll try not to misuse that trust."
"I believe you won't." I hugged her back. "Goodnight, my love."
"G'nigh..." She was already dozing off. She had the right idea. And, after a little while, still weighing the causes and results of my actions, I finally drifted off as well.
In the morning, I found mail from P'nyssa on my terminal. It read, "You are two of the most insane people I know. Be careful. I want you around for a long time. I love you both." I showed it to Tylia.