Ritacha on Terra

Erwer, Lothess 23, 1030

The sky overhead was a brilliant, beautiful blue, the color of ancient television tuned to a quiet channel. The beach lay out ahead of us, equally spectacular in diamond white purity, stretching toward a bend where it disappeared. "Lovely, yes?" I asked.

"Magnificent," K'Novarra agreed. The bright sunlight of the island of Kekira' agreed with the dark-brown of her long fur. She had a stripe of lighter-brown fur that ran down her chin and merged with a triangle that pointed between her breasts; a classic seal-point fur pattern. She wore all white, bell-bottomed long pants of some light cotton and a bikini top, and that was about it. I decided not to ask where she kept her gun; it was in all likelihood halfway around the planet and available at a moment's notice, just as mine might be.

"So you're getting to see them up close and personal. What do you think of them?"

"They aren't what I expected," she said. I reached out and offered my hand. She accepted it. "The two you said were the survivors seem to still be in shock from the whole experience. I probably would be like that if I were them. But the tliel, though, they're weird. They seem so... serene. Curious about everything but not frantic at all. Maybe it's just this group."

"Maybe," I chuckled. "There are a few who are energetic and 'frantic,' but you're right. I don't know; maybe it's just that at Rocchodain we've gotten so good at welcoming new species into our midst that they come out of the first stage of incorporation shock feeling like the world is as ready for them as they are for the world."

She nodded. "Has it always been like that?"

"How old are you?"

"Ken! Asking a girl a question like that!" She covered her laugh with her hand. "I'm 124, if you must know."

"So you've never been through a decant before?" She shook her head. "Then no, it hasn't always been like that. The first time was confusing, the next were both parties and battles. We were both so grateful to have new friends and so confused as to what to do with them since they were so new and differently shaped. By the time we'd done the Dolphins, Dragons, Mephits, and Ssphynxes we thought we knew what we were doing, but I really screwed up planning with the Pamthreats. That's why development was so slow after that. Sure, I got the Mustel out soon afterward but they were already well through development when the Pamthreats happened. I'm not sure why the Vulpins happened at all." I took a deep breath. "But in many cases, when I think about a new species, I think, remember what happened to Kei and Yuri, and I lose all my nerve."

"Kei and Yuri?"

"The first two Pamthreats. The ones I really fucked up on." I kicked idly at a shell that had washed up on the sand.

"Oh." She recognized that I didn't want to talk about it, and I was grateful for that.

"You make a great bodyguard, you know?"

"Just because I took a bullet for you?"

"You took half-a-dozen, as I recall. No, because you want to talk to your clients. Or do you?"

"It depends," Nova said. "Some want to talk, some don't. You're obviously one of those that does, and I don't object to getting close to a client. Especially not you."

"We got very close last time."

I looked down the beach, where the five Ritans who had come with us, including Darch and Nori, were frolicking playfully in the surf. Nori was frolicking. Darch was being pensive, as Darch was inclined to be. I shook my head. How could we have screwed up his programming so badly when we had gotten Lindsay so right? Maybe the original Darch had been as morose and introspective. Maybe not.

"Yeah, we did, didn't we?" She grinned at me. "I don't imagine that it takes getting shot at to make you care for someone, though."

"No," I said, with a grin, "it doesn't."

"So, does that mean you'll let a girl buy you dinner?"

I looked up at her, amused. "You can't buy me dinner, remember? You need to look after your charges through an interminable, small, well-secured state dinner tonight in Geneva."

She sighed. "Don't remind me. Okay, can I buy you breakfast then?"

"That you certainly can," I said with a grin.


It was an interminable state dinner, of course. President Zapata made a long and impassioned speech about how she welcomed these newcomers to our universe and hoped that their future would be happier than their progenitor's past. There wasn't that much humor in her speech, which surprised me, but things were going so well that there was little material to play off of. Humor is a response to stress. An unstressed human doesn't have much to laugh off.

Nova made a comfortable enough dinner companion, and Nori peppered me with more questions than I was prepared to answer if I was going to get a bite into my mouth. Darch only picked at his food. I worried that he was going to starve if he didn't start to eat more. I made a note in Hera to make sure that Brieanna and Ember reviewed his files to make sure that he was actually healthy mentally and physically.

I finally had my own turn to ask questions. "So, Sandahl, what do you think of Earth?"

He grinned. "It's amazing. It's like Ritacha was before the war, with all the bombed-out buildings I used to see as a child, but intact."

"Earth always seems crowded to me," offered Kashkah.

"That is something," Nori said. "How do they stand it, being so tightly packed like this?"

"It's something they're used to," I said. "Humans, like all of us, are social animals, and we're adapted to settings like this one, if need be. Just think; there used to be three times as many people on Terra."

"What happened to them?" Nori asked.

I smiled my best evil smile, not that I have one. "They were made wealthy."

"Would you care to expand upon that, Ken?" Ebele' Zapata asked. "After all, you were there. That gives you an advantage over, I believe, everyone else in this room."

"Sure," I said. "It's simple. It was even seen in NorAmerica in the late 20th Century before I arrived. Rich people don't have children. They have one, maybe two, but not enough. The United States, even before Landing Day, was only growing in population because of immigration. Immigrants by themselves didn't even reproduce enough. There's something about 3800 calories a day in food that satiates the human animal so well that the need to reproduce, combined with birth control, is almost completely quashed. The Feed The Stars program did that for all of Terra, giving everyone tons of food. There was no reason to fight anymore."

A dignified man of Indian decent protested. "But... but, the dignity and pleasure of generating such wealth for yourself..."

"Is a myth," I said. "Or rather, it exists in such a small segment of the population, and it is not an impetus by itself to reproduce.

"It's long been known that the instinct to 'have sex' and the instinct to 'love your children' are separate. They worked so well before the invention of birth control that an impulse to 'have children' barely exists and arguably doesn't exist at all in men. Give people control of their reproductive futures and give them the food they need and there will be much fewer children. Instead of a reproduction rate of 150 per 100, which is what we had, after FTS started flowing the Terran birth rate as a whole dropped to 65 per 100. It was a seriously powerful balancing act on the part of the Terran government to prevent only those who were inclined to reproduce like rabbits actually reproduce; hence the Lottery systems of the 21st and 22nd centuries. They weren't really necessary from a resource point of view; they were there to make sure that the 'let's not breed' genes survived, given that you guys were going to crack immortality eventually.

"Given enough food, Homo sapiens was like any primate species. They sleep 10 and a half hours a day and spend the rest of the day looking for sex-- not reproduction, mind you-- and other forms of recreation.

"Feed the Stars was a genuine humanitarian effort with a known and expected side-effect. Governments terrified by the spectre of a population threat because their citizens were no longer starving to death or dying young of malnutrition-related disease made reproducing an nontransferable, licensed activity that, much to their surprise, fewer people than licensed actually exercised. Within a few generations, Terra was back down to two billion people, with the hundred million most courageous living off-world."

The room was dead silent for a minute. And then Ebele' Zapata spoke. "You know, there are historians who have been arguing about that for centuries. And now you have cleared up the mystery for us. You knew it would happen."

"Do you disagree with the results?"

"The geriatric dead..." someone began.

"Are not feeling any pain today, and lived life no differently, indeed better than, their ancestors. Retrofitting the stock human being to immortality was not within the capability of Pendorian medicine until you had it anyway. The politics of a generation built the Pendorian way did not sell, then, to Humanity."

I seemed to have cast a pall over the room, but it soon picked up again as the subject changed to something much more innocuous, like the ongoing attempt by one of the Terran colonies to claim that it was an 'Empire of Humanity' and was not going to go in for all the silly uplifting and modification of human beings.

"It'll never last. They'll have a hard time defining human," Ebele said.

"It's fascism. Like the German state in the 1940s, or the Israeli state at the turn of the second millenium, trying to define who was a citizen by heritage claims that couldn't be proved anyway," a petite young Katckin across the table said. "I don't believe it will last either."

"They're going insular in a big way," I said as I cut at my too-dry chicken.

"But the circumstances of interdependence..."

"Don't matter," Kashkah, a soldier and historian, offered. "It is the ego of the Rangsey family that fuels that endeavor. He simply wants to be Ruler of The World, any world. As Shardik might say, it is the last gasp of atavism."

"Hardly the last gasp," I growled. "Merely the latest. Unfortunately, the Rangsey Empire qualifies as a fully sovereign state, so we here in the Corridor are not legally permitted to intervene." I shook my head. "It's maddening to me that we allow the Rangseys to create a state of insufficiency and mortality just to give them a backdrop against which they can appear heroic."

The Ritans watched all this with quiet amusement, as if somewhere between not believing we could all care so much and not sure why we put so much energy into showing how little we really did care. In fact, there was jockeying going on at the table for whom would get to advise Zapata and the Congress on the matter of this 'Empire.'

And it was an atavistic endeavor that I thought deserved to die the slow and horrible death all atavism deserves. But that's just me. I worried more about the people who lived on the "Imperial Homeworld," who would have to live with the consequences.

I sighed. Heavy thoughts.

When it was finally over, we herded the Ritans back to their hotel, and then I went to the hallway and sighed. Nova leaned against the wall, looking sexy in a long, red dress with a slit skirt that showed off her lovely legs and her red, mid-heeled shoes that glittered, screaming, "There's no place like home." I smiled at her. "Back to the Embassy?" I asked.

"If that's where you want to go."

"I'm following you," I said.

She grinned and led me out to the front of the hotel. Her private car was there, reserved for just her and myself. On the back she had a bumper sticker. It read: "[]human []centaur []felinzi []uncia []tindal []dolphin []mephit []dragon []markal []vulpin []katckin []llerki []ssphynx []sendar []silicon []neorat" and hastily added with marker "[]han []ritan" They were all scratched out and in the lower corner was scrawled "{}conscious."

"Nice," I said, obviously looking at it.

"Thanks," she replied. "It's one of my favorites."

"I like the Ritan, especially. It's timely."

We took her car to the embassy, which looked much like it had a millenia ago. The Geneva embassy building was even smaller than the one in Washington, if that were possible, and it felt like it; cramped and silent. But the silent part was the nice part. It was one of the quietest buildings I had ever been in, and I enjoyed the sensation.

She led me up the whispering elevator to the fifth floor, and into her room with the cartoon cat and the pink monitor adorned with glossy stickers of daisies and marigolds. Once inside, we fell hungrily upon one another, mouth to muzzle, tongue to tongue, arms bend and entangled around one another. She felt warm through my tux. "I think you're a beautiful fem, Nova."

"Good. Take advantage of me?" she said, her voice surprisingly coy.

"If that's what you want." I slipped one hand up her back and found the tiny indentation that passed for a clasp on her dress. The invisible seam that ran down her back parted and soft fur puffed through the opening made. I scratched at her fur gently at first, but her purring led me on and I applied more vigor to my blunt fingernails. She shivered against me, whispering, "Fah, that feels good."

I brushed off her dress with the back of my hand, first one shoulder than the other. The only thing holding it up then was my own body pressed against her. I stepped back briefly and let it fall to the floor, taking a look at my sweet bodyguard. "How can I ever thank you for saving my life?" I whispered as I led her to the bed.

"You already are. I like making my own history."

I laughed gently as she tugged on the bow of my tie and pulled out the knot. It fluttered to the ground and then her hands were working their way down the buttons of my shirt. I surreptitiously dropped the cufflinks as well. "No strip tease?" I asked.

She grinned. "Neither one of us is built like that kind of performer," she said gently.

I touched her chin briefly. "I disagree, Nova. You have the body for it, you just hide it behind that bluff exterior that says 'I'm gonna take a bullet for you.'" She unzipped my pants and I felt her hand on my erection.

"No, I just like touch more than looking."

"I... um,... I feel."

She laughed as I pushed her onto the bed and fell on top of her. We were soon in a tight clench of lust and desire, hungry for one another, kissing, loving one another. Nova had saved my life, and I had comforted her after the incident. She wasn't just a professional lifesaver. She was something else. She was the woman who had stood between myself and an armed gunman and then become a vulnerable, beautiful fem afterward. Her hands were inside my shirt, my mouth was on her chin.

I kissed my way down past her small breasts, nipping at her through her soft, brown fur, finding her navel hidden through the fur until I reached her mound. She was breathing fast with the anticipation. The last time we had been together she had told me that she didn't get kissed down there often enough; I resolved to give her a year's worth of attention in one night.

She moaned as I kissed her mound and worked my way down to her sweetly parted lips. I find her smallish clit hiding in its close-fitting hood and licked around it. She groaned as I kissed my way around it, spiraling inward to my destination, my overly broad and indelicate tongue doing its best to be gentle with her. I found her clit precisely. "Yes-- Oh-- Ken-- fuck!" We had barely begun and already she was into obscenities.

Nova is one of those women who smell like heaven and who taste even better. Her juices were sweet-- not just tolerable or musky, but honestly sweet. I kept dipping my tongue down to her opening, frustrating her own wants and needs as I satisfied my own between her thighs. I love cunnilingus like almost no other activity because of its intimacy and its promise of closeness. She groaned as I backed off, then hissed when I turned the speed back up. Her body bucked as she came with a tiny "oh!" of pleasure.

I kissed her full vulval lips, enjoying the feel of her softest fur against my freshly shaven face. I licked at her perineum briefly, lapping up the little drips that oozed from her aroused sex. She moaned as I refused to get up and kiss her mouth, instead staying where I was until I felt she had recovered enough for another round.

Her hands held my head this time, making me stay where I was, her claws just a touch threatening against my scalp as I licked her mound. She came again, this time just a bit louder than the last.

I rubbed my erection between her lips, not quite entering her. "Please," she whispered.

"Why?" I asked, with a grin.

"Because I want to see you come," she whispered.

I slid my cock inside her. There was little resistance but for the rapturous grip of her sex to mine. We slid together until hips met hips, legs raised in the air, legs splayed to the side, two bodies locked together in a union made romantic by our wishes, passionate by our traditions, and needful by our pasts. Last time we had fucked so hard and fast I barely had time to register it; this time, I slowed down to watch her, to touch her face with a free hand, to caress her breasts as I steadily pumped in and out of her. She was beautiful in this moment, and she whispered tender lies of "I love you."

"I love you, too," I whispered back, and for that one moment we agreed that we did love one another. I could feel her around my cock, and she responded to the motion of my body against hers with small whimpers of pleasure. She didn't ask anything more of me. We were here to connect.

When I came it was a calm and wonderful thing, a pleasure than rolled through me like a bright moment of sun sweeping past an otherwise cloudy day. It was a too-brief second we both basked in, wordless, passioned.

Over.

We lay side-by-side on the bed after that for long minutes, my eyes closed, trying to hold onto the moment, trying not to let it go and knowing that it was already a memory and would soon be a faded one. I felt her move against me and turned my head toward her. "Are you all right?" she asked with the concern of a lover.

"Yeah," I said. "Just... a lot on my mind. You made it all go away for the time we were here, but..."

"But you're Shardik," she said.

"No," I said. "It's not that. It's not about me. It's about... that conversation at the dinner table. Something is happening, Nova, something wonderful. Something frightening."

"What?" she asked.

I smiled. "If I say, 'The universe is about to end,' does it have more authority because it comes from me?"

She propped herself up on one elbow. "Of course it does."

"Then I won't say it. But a lot of the things you and I regard as important are... I don't know. They're going to get swept aside. The people of the twentieth century might have understood us. Not all of it, mind you, but a good bit of what we have today would have made sense to them. The people would be a bit bewildering... we're all walking libraries, our minds capable of accessing raw data without any noticeable delay at all, compared to them. But now we're starting to store not just data but knowledge, even personal knowledge." I grinned. "I guess it's that Empire business. The more we become as a people, the more petty that sort of thing seems to be."

She turned over and held me close. "But those twentieth-century people?"

"Oh, in two centuries they'll have as much of a chance of understanding our impulses and motives as mice have a chance of understanding us."

She sighed. "You're a heavy thinker sometimes."

"No, just an assembler. I know what I like and I put it together. This is just the unintended consequences of creating beautiful, creative people. See, if you make creative people, you've multiplied your creativity. If you make them so that they want to make more creative people, you've increased your creativity by exponents." I suddenly grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her hard. "I'm so glad I made you!"

She giggled. "You didn't make me. The closest you get is my great, great, great, great grandmother. And there was tinkering in between."

"See?" I said. "Multiplied creativity."

She laughed, then sighed. "It's late."

"Fucking dinner party," I growled.

"And good fucking afterward!" she agreed. "You're welcome to spend the night here, but if you'd like to head home..."

"I'd be honored to spend the night in your bed."

"My gallant knight."

"You're the one who saved my life," I pointed out. I took a deep breath and then relaxed. "Thank you, Nova. For being you."

"And thank you, Ken, for being, well, wonderful." We rolled over and kissed each other goodnight.

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Ritacha on Terra
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is copyright © September 10, 2003 Elf Mathieu Sternberg and is available under a Creative Commons License.