The Journal Entries

Elenya, Narrin 18, 00113

Floating Point

Emily looked up at the imposing, spherical shape of the spacecraft landed on the ground before her. The entire situation carried with it an air of unreality, of something that could not have happened and did not happen, and yet it had happened and it soon would happen to her. She shook her head violently again to try to shake out the thoughts that threatened to overwhelm her.

I'm not afraid. She looked around at her students, some like her stilled with fear, others talking animatedly among themselves. I'm not afraid. Who am I kidding? I'm terrified.

"I'm looking for Emily Broderbundtee?"

"Broderbundt," Emily said hurriedly, identifying herself to the speaker. "The 't' hardens the 'd'; it isn't pronounced separately." The figure descending the ramp was called a Mephit, she recalled. Many of the Pendorian species had characteristics similar to those of familiar Terran animals. Mephit meant 'skunk' in Latin, and the Mephit species had many skunk-like characteristics, including a stubby, pyramidal snout, long, black fur with a white stripe down the back, and a long, bushy tail. This one fit the description perfectly. He wore a ship's uniform of light beige that lacked shoes of any sort, but otherwise covered a handsome physique. An insignia plate on his shirt probably identified his role, but she didn't recognize it.

"I'm very sorry, Miss Broderbundt. In my language, where you have two syllables the one without any associated vowels is voiced with its full name, or its full sound when it's a natural nasal." He smiled and held out his hand, palm up. She had heard that that position meant he deferred to her. He was telling her he carried nothing about or against her. "I'm Eriin."

"Sounds like urine," a voice from behind said. She turned around just long enough to give the speaker, a larger boy given to bullying already, as withering a glance as she could spare.

Eriin just grinned. "My son was like that. Still is, although he's not as bad now. Fortunately in my tongue it just means 'a flower.'" She saw his eyes dart among some of the students as if daring them to say something about his name or its meaning. "We have a long trip ahead of us. You're the last of eight, and we've managed to sit all the rest. Your visit to our ship should be a pleasant one but there will be some rough spots. If you would please bring your students on board? And let's get out of this cold!"

She nodded and turned back to the class. Thirty-two fresh faces stared back at her, waiting. "Eriin here is going to show you to your seats. Everyone up the ramp, two rows." She sighed as they formed a large mob and began trudging up the steps. A loud whistle startled her. She turned to see where it had come from.

Eriin lowered his fingers from his muzzle. "Your teacher said two rows. You don't get in until you listen to her." He looked at her. "Sorry, don't mean to undermine your authority."

"It's not as if I have any," Emily replied. "This is one of the more troublesome classes I've ever had."

"They're just children." He led them up the stairs and into a round cabin with a central spire. Chairs were arranged facing clockwise around the circle, four chairs to a row, all the way around. Another class was already seated in about half the seats.

"As if children are ever 'just' anything." She smiled. "You know where we're sitting, Eriin."

Eriin held some sort of electronic clipboard in his left hand and scratched at the back of his head with the right. "My manifest says that your class consists of fifty-one students. You're missing nineteen? And, pardon me, but isn't that quite a large number of children for one person to be handling?"

"Yes, and yes."

"Where are the missing ones?" he asked as he passed his hand over a control panel. The hatchway closed behind him with a loud clang. Several of her students jumped. A wave of trepidation rolled through her as she watched a second door close over the first, to be followed by six large bolts sinking into the door's frame.

"Their parents kept them at home." She waited for him to ask. He waited for her to finish. She did. "A couple mentioned the Pendorian reputation for... " She paused, looking for the delicate phrasing.

Eriin apparently knew already. "Sex."

She nodded. "A few thought their children would be brainwashed by the whole affair." Some of her students comments on the bus came back to her and made her laugh. "Maybe one or two thought their children were going to be replaced with robots."

"We can't do that."

"Do what?"

"Replace people with robots. Well, we can, but it shows up very obviously under an X-ray." He watched her shiver. "You're going to meet a couple of our silicon sentients and mixed-realm sentients while you're on board the Synergy. Try not to prejudge anyone."

One or two of her students had had the foresight to bring plastic straws and paper. A spitball firefight raged in the cabin. She raised her voice. "Hey!"

They all stopped and looked up. Eriin looked down at his clipboard again, consulting the display screen. "Now that you're here, we're going to get moving. Welcome aboard the shuttlecraft Dragon, of the Pendorian Interstellar Fleet, such as it is." He seemed to chuckle under his breath, and Emily found herself liking Eriin. Behind her, other Pendorians entered the cabin by coming down a ladder leading through the roof of the spire. As they passed her, she identified them by species name. Felinzi, she thought, and Tindal. "My name is Eriin, and I'm your guide for the next four days. I'm guessing that most of you already know where we're going?"

"The Moon!" a few said in loud and disjoint chorus.

"Your moon, to be exact. Pendor already has a moon in its system." He smiled. "It's going to take six hours to get there, most of which will be spent right here in this room. So I hope some of you brought stuff to do. Other than toss spitwads at one another." He looked at two of the older boys, who gestured back with classic 'Who me?' expressions. "Hey, I did it too when I was younger. But you guys are not going to make a mess of this spaceship."

A chime sounded on his clipboard again. "Ea?" he said. Emily recognized the word for 'Yes.'

Another voice spoke to him in a Pendorian tongue. "Ea, inath." He looked up. "Everyone in your seats and with your belts fastened. They're six-point harnesses, so they're a little tricky." He proceeded to explain the seatbelts, the spacesickness bags, and the emergency procedures. Emily took a seat he indicated as he spoke and followed his instructions carefully. Hers was mounted directly next to one wall and in such a position that she could watch the rest of the class. The Pendorians had thought carefully before building this room.

As Eriin spoke, a deep vibration began to hum under her feet. The hum grew louder and increased in pitch, although it seemed as if it would never crawl out of the deep bass rumble it held now. "We were expecting more," Eriin said as he sat down and buckled himself in. "I'm sorry some of your students couldn't make it. It still seems like a lot of people." The other two Pendorians buckled themselves in next to her and Eriin.

"Budgets. They don't want to spend any more money on the school system."

"Do they, whoever they are, expect your students to succeed?" He shook his head sadly. "I'm sure you're an excellent and qualified teacher, but do you really have the energy to teach fifty students at a time?"

She returned the gesture. "No, not really."

Eriin touched her hand, startling her. She withdrew it. "Well, for the next five days consider me an adequate assistant." He looked down at her hand. "I'm sorry. A good habit among Pendorians, but not so rewarding with Terrans."

She nodded. "Just not used to being touched. At least not by adults."

He smiled. "You're unpartnered?"

"Divorced," she said. "About a year ago."


"Legally separated from David, my husband," she tried to explain.

"Oh, I remember. The state recognition and enforcement of a contractual obligation between love partners. It probably sounds awful the way I say it."

"No, it sounds about right, if a little technical." The rumble increased to a whine.

Eriin lifted his clipboard to his mouth. "We're going to be taking off in less than a minute," his voice boomed out of overhead speakers. "Hold on tight."

The ship lurched slightly, and then tilted upwards. To Emily, facing her students, however, it felt more like downwards, although she knew from the sensations that the ship was ascending into the sky. Her students screeched, some frightened and some thrilled and all of them surprised.

The roaring continued for several minutes before slowly dying away. "Everyone remain in your seats," he said once again through the intercom. "We are now heading towards Luna, your moon, and a rendezvous with our mothership, the Synergy. We will spend four days and three nights on the Synergy, coming home this Friday afternoon. As I said, it'll take a while to get there. In the meantime, it is now safe to open the windows." At each seat mounted closest to the wall, the window shields came open, allowing the children a good look out. There wasn't much to see; the Earth was behind them, after all.

"That ought to keep them busy for at least five minutes," the Felinzi said, her voice a deep purring sound. "Eriin has been bad at introductions again."

"Zoot!" Eriin said. "I'm sorry. M'Leja and Fahr, meet Emily. Emily, M'Leja and Fahr. Together, the three of us are going to be your student guides. I'm glad you two could make it."

"Me, too," M'Leja said. "Although I'm really surprised at how few people they have teaching in those schools." She looked at Emily carefully. 'If there were more than eight people in a class I ever took, I can't remember it."

"Warehouses," Fahr said. "That's what they are, really. Warehouses for the children, warehouses for the elderly, and all the people in between do the mechanical crap necessary to keep their antiquated culture alive." He smiled apologetically. "I won't say that to your students, Emily."

"Sometimes, I think you're right... "

"Fahr," he reminded her.


"Miss Broderbundt?" one of her students called. "I don't feel so good."

Eriin sprinted to the boy's side. "Motion sickness," he said, looking up at Emily. "It'll keep happening as the gravitational shifts start tossing their stomachs around. Right now, the interior cabin is perpendicular to the axis of travel, which means that as along as we maintain some kind of acceleration, their stomachs will stay in the right direction. But for about two hours, we'll be at no acceleration, and your students will have a couple of upset stomachs."

She nodded. He had been right. It would be a long flight.

The doorbell chimed softly. At least, she hoped it was the doorbell. "Is someone at the door?" she asked aloud. She listened for a moment. "Gabriel, is someone at the door?"

"Yes. It is Eriin."

She rose painfully to her feet and made her way to the door. She turned the doorknob and opened it. "Hello?"

"I came to see how you were doing, Emily. You looked very tired when we finally closed all the doors on your students. It would look bad on my record if you were to collapse. My job is to be your second hand." He looked down at the tables. "May I sit?"

"What? Oh, yes, please. You've been wonderful, Eriin."

He collapsed into a chair. She followed his example. "Sorry, don't mean to be rude. I'm just tired."

"And well you should be. It probably hasn't even occurred to you that you're 380 thousand miles from your planet."

Emily froze. "Space... " She inhaled the word. "I'm in outer space."

"The final frontier, the undiscovered country, the last great adventure, yadda yadda yadda." He chuckled.

She looked at him with surprise. "How can you be so cavalier?"

He looked puzzled for a second, then smiled. "How can I not be? I've been here before. I've been stuck in this can for nearly six months."

She laughed. "I guess you have. I didn't think of it that way."

"Our ships are just now breaking twenty times the speed of light. Even at that speed, it's two and a half months to get here."

"And that much to get home again." She sighed. "Are your family with you?"

"No, I'm afraid not. My son is growing with his mother. We didn't get along, his mother and I, really."

"I'm sorry."

"Me, too." Eriin sighed and closed his eyes.

"How old are you, Eriin?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Because, well, because Pendorians are supposed to live a long time," she said. "I just wanted to know."

"How old are you, Emily?"

"I'm thirty-six years old."

He laughed. "I'm eleven."

"What?" she asked. "That's impossible. You're full grown!"

"You must remember, about a decade ago, the Tleils of the Mephits? I was one of those. I'm one of the oldest Mephits there are, and I'm just eleven years old. I was born into an adult body and with a full set of memories, but no experiences to bring them up. I've just been learning for the past decade what it means to be me. We call that incorporation shock. One of the things I did to learn about me was to mate with a lot of the wrong people. My son came from one of those."

She felt the sadness inside him as he spoke. She wanted to say something to ease his pain. "I'm sorry. You still haven't found anyone right for you?"

"Not really. I don't expect to, either. Not for a long time. I've had a couple of friends who were also lovemates, and they're still friends. But nothing really clicked." He put his hands over his eyes, resting his hand on his muzzle. "Oh, Fah, listen to what I've done now. I'm not supposed to be telling you this stuff."

"Why not?" Emily asked. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"A glass of chocolate milk," he said with a grin.

"I thought chocolate was poisonous to you."

"It's a mild poison to Felinzi, much the same way as alcohol is to you. But they drink it anyway for the flavor and the taste, they're just more careful about it than you or I have to be."

She nodded, rising from her table to the food dispenser, requesting what he had asked for and brought it back. "You still didn't answer my question."

"Which one?"

"Why aren't you supposed to be telling me 'all that stuff?'" She tilted her head from side to side as she quoted him, smiling.

He grinned back. "Because... because it's personal stuff, and I'm not supposed to be getting personal. I'm a professional ambassador training to work with children here. Besides, I talked about sex. I'm not supposed to talk about that, remember? It'll give you the wrong impression."

"I've already got the wrong impression," she said. He gave her a quick glance, and she gave him a reassuring smile in return, followed by a fierce blush. Followed yet further by a wide yawn. "Sorry."

He finished off the glass. "I should go. Most of your students are asleep, and I should be too." He stood up. "Just wanted to check in and make sure you're okay."

"I'm okay," she replied. "Goodnight, Eriin. Thanks for talking with me."

"It's my job," he replied with a wave. The door closed behind him.

After assuring Eriin that she had slept well ("Like a log." "How do logs sleep?"), Emily found herself herding an even smaller group of sixteen students through the zero-gravity recreation section of the starship. Buried deep within the rotating craft, the cylindrical spaces near the ship's nominal 'front' were sectioned off for a variety of purposes, one of which was sheer exercise. And goofing off.

"How can he run in here?" one of her students asked, pointing to a tall human who was effectively running around inside the space.

"He's creating his own gravity," Eriin said. "Each time he takes a step forward, he pushes himself this way." Eriin demonstrated with his hand, showing a straight line. "But the floor does this." With his other hand under the first, he showed the curving wall coming. "As they move this way, they come together, his feet and the wall. As long as he's careful to correct his tilt, he can keep doing that all day. Or until he gets tired."

"That's how everything on the ship works," one of the younger girls explained.

"That's right," Eriin said. "Very good. Now, you're free to fly around in here for an hour or so. We have a lifeguard on duty watching you, so no roughhousing. There will be other students along in a short while."

Emily took a few tentative pulls along the walls, then finally decided to take a deep breath. She pushed away from the wall. Her mind interpreted the enormous distance between her and the far bulkhead as height, and she was more than a little surprised when she did not immediately fall down and die. She closed her eyes. Her body felt still, comfortable. The children were making noise nearby, but it was all laughter. There were no shouts of anger and recrimination-- yet. They would come eventually. They always did. But for now she could enjoy the sensation-- the first time in her life-- of being completely and totally free. She floated. She felt peaceful.

"Miss Broderbundt!" The voice pulled her out of her reverie. "He's pulling on my hair."

"I did not! I mean, I'm sorry! I was just trying to get to the wall."

She sighed and uncurled herself from her thoughts. Back to duty.

"Checking up on me again?" she asked.

"Just want to know how your day went," Eriin said. "Fahr mentioned that one of your students got sick all over you at dinner."

She grunted. "They do that. Each floor of this ship is at a different gravity. How does anyone ever get used to that?"

"You do, eventually," he said. "You seemed to enjoy the zero-gravity room this afternoon."

She smiled tiredly. "Actually, I did. I'd like to do that again sometime."

"We could go now," he suggested. He took out his ubiquitous clipboard and examined it. "Number six is empty right now. I could reserve it. Doesn't look like anyone else wants it for at least a couple of hours."

She looked at him, hard. "The children?"

"M'Leja has the current shift. We can go without anyone knowing."

She was sure it was just an innocent offer. That didn't still her uneasiness, or her desire to go again to the zero- gravity room. She nodded. "Okay. Let's go."

"Just a second. There. Room reserved for two hours."

"We're not going to be there that long," she objected.

"You could fall asleep. Your eyes look pretty heavy, Emily." She closed her eyes and found they didn't want to open again. When she did open her eyes, she saw him smiling. "Come on. I'll make sure you get back to your cabin for a good night's sleep."

She nodded. He opened the door and led her through the ship to an elevator. A voice told her in English that she should be aware of the lowering gravity as the elevator ascended.

The elevator stopped deep in the core of the ship where the gravity seemed to be the lowest. A loud, deep metallic sound rang in the elevator as it had early that morning, and with a lurch she felt herself suddenly free from the pull of gravity. "We're here," Eriin said. The door opened onto a curved hallway that seemed to stretch forward for a great distance. "Two doors ahead," he said.

She floated upwards to the door he pointed. The symbol on the door looked a lot like a letter 'p' with two rounded tops side-by-side. "Six?"

He nodded, sliding his hand over the control. The door slid open. She pulled herself into the room. "It's darker than it was this morning."

"It's night," Eriin explained. "It's also warmer. Since we can't carry enough water to really afford hot tubs, this is the local equivalent. It's about as peaceful, at any rate."

"Mmmm," Emily sighed as she floated into the middle of the room. Reaching the far wall, she bounced off and came to a halt. "You're not like my cat. She hates water."

"Oh, I love hot tubs. But these are fun, too. I'm going to turn the drifters on. If you're off the walls, they'll keep you from drifting into them, unless you want to. They're just small air jets. You'll probably never notice them." She nodded. "You'll be fine in here. I'll look in on you in a little bit. If you need me, just call Gabriel and I'll be here as fast as I can."

She turned to look at him, putting her body into a slow spin as she did so. "Whoops."

"Careful," he said. "Rotation is what really upsets your stomach if you're not prepared for it. Anyway, see you in a little bit." He closed the door and left her without giving her a chance to thank him.

Alone, she stretched out this time, putting every muscle under tension momentarily before letting it all come back with a great sigh. Drifting unsupported in the center of the cylindrical room, no more than twelve feet wide and maybe twenty long, she felt the warmth finally penetrate her body and her face. The room felt almost too warm for her. She wanted to be free of her clothes.

The very idea bothered her. Eriin could come back at any moment. The idea of taking her clothes off in a room this large likewise disturbed her. She had never taken her clothes off anyplace larger than her bedroom and this place was huge. It felt like a public space, even if she did have it all to herself at the moment. Yet the idea did have its appeal. If someone caught her naked he would probably be a Pendorian, people who as far as she could tell weren't in the habit of making a great fuss about naked bodies.

She made her decision, tossing off her shoes and socks, pants and blouse, finally bra and panty. She bundled them all into the seat of her pants and pulled her belt tight, hoping that would keep them all in one place for the rest of the day. She tossed the bundle away from her gently, hoping that she wouldn't create too much opposite reaction that would push her towards the wall.

She closed her eyes and let her body drift out. Her limbs stretched out to their most comfortable position, the muscles reaching the point of least tension, the least pull of one against the other in her arms and her legs. Finally, she just drifted in the low light.

Eriin seemed to be awfully nice to her. She knew that part of that resulted from his sense of duty; he had come here to learn about humans-- Terrans, she corrected herself-- and his apparent specialty, Terran children. In that regard, he did very well, but then she couldn't imagine Pendorian children differing that much from their Terran counterparts.

She liked him. Part of her hoped she could stay in touch with him after this whole experience had ended and she had returned to her duties as a grade school teacher in a Pittsburgh suburb. And part of her realized that she still did not know what he felt like. Every once in a while over the course of the past two days she had caught herself staring at him, wondering if his fur felt anything like her last cat's. He always wore long-sleeve shirts and full-length pants, which covered up everything except his head and hands.

She drifted, thinking of Eriin.


The voice reached her through a hazy wall of fatigue and relaxation. "Emily?" she heard again, and finally blinked, opening her eyes.


He smiled at her. "You fell asleep. You've been in here for nearly an hour and a half."

"It was so... " She looked at him and realized she could see his bare chest of black, black fur shot through with the random, single white strand here and there. "You're naked."

"Correction. You're naked. I have shorts on. Although if there weren't Terrans on board, I probably wouldn't be wearing them, either."

She glanced downward at her brown skin and his lanky, furred body. He was right; he wore shorts, blue ones with green triangles, but her clothes had drifted away to a far corner of the room. She quickly covered her body with her hands, trying to hide what he had clearly already seen. He chuckled, guileless. "Should I get your clothes?"

"If you would."

He took her by the shoulders and turned her around towards her clothes. His touch burned against her skin; it aroused memories of David, the good memories of him. It made her want more, but with a gentle shove to the middle of her back, he sent her sailing away from him. When she reached them, she stopped up against one of the handholds set into the wall and turned to see him in the opposite side of the room. "Newton's law of opposites," he called as he launched himself off the wall. She watched as he soared through the room, completely at ease in his environment, and came to a graceful halt on the wall less than a yard away from her. "Fortunately, the ship's a closed system."

She looked at the bundle in her hands and tugged at the belt to get it open. "You are very pretty, Emily." She tugged harder, blushing. He didn't notice and continued speaking. "It's a shame you Terrans try to hide your loveliness and your variety. Even when you dress, you all dress the same. Men are worse than women. They like seeing that every other man is dressed like them, everyone else's advantages and disadvantages hidden."

She stopped tugging at the belt. "I didn't bring any clothing other than what I wear at work." She looked at him critically. He hung in the air only a few feet away, his long fur rolling in waves with every motion. Out of his clothing, she saw that he had an average physique, nothing particularly too muscular or too skinny. Handsome, really. His tail shook out behind him, waving with his motions too. He had big feet, though. Large hands as well.

"That's what I mean. You bring with you what you need to function, not what you need to really enjoy yourself. Of course, you don't need clothes to enjoy yourself sometimes."

She had half-expected a comment like that from him eventually. "Are you trying to seduce me?"

"No, not particularly. Oh, I see where I spoke wrong. I meant that you don't need any particular dress to enjoy many of the things life offers, even on a cramped spaceship like the Synergy." He looked her over as she floated along side him. She still held her bundled clothes. "I might ask if you're trying to make yourself... seducible? Seductable?"

"I don't know, either. And I teach English!" He laughed with her. "And no, I don't think I am. Why?"

He shook his head. "Nothing, really. You just seemed vulnerable a couple of times when we've talked. I felt that I wanted to hug you and tell you that you would make it through the day."

She found herself wanting to accept. And part of her wanted to flee, to run, to go back to her comfortable, lonely life 384,000 miles away. She pushed away from the wall and drifted towards him.

When her body ghosted against his, she felt him stiffen, then ease. His arms closed around her back. His wonderfully luxurious fur stroked against her skin in ways her brain failed to put description to. It caressed her body, like the flesh underneath it, yet the touch of his hands upon her back burned in promises she hadn't even asked for and didn't know if he'd extended. He sighed softly, the sound loud in her ears. "You humans are so unused to letting yourself go beyond relaxing."

She giggled. The sound rang peculiar to her hearing. She hadn't made a sound like that in nearly two years. "I know how to relax."

"Yes, but do you know how to loaf?" he replied. "Relaxing is what you do to rest and prepare for your efforts tomorrow. Loafing is doing something completely unproductive just because it feels good."

"I never thought of it that way."

"I have." He pushed her away so he could look at her. "This is just a friendship, Emily. I've been worried about you. You seem so stressed out."

She nodded. "I have been." Her fingers strayed through the fur on his chest and belly. "So soft."

"And your skin, so dark and smooth." His fingers stroked along her sides, tickling her gently. She made small noises. He pulled her closer once more until they were face to face. She recognized the moment and accepted it, pulling him close as well. She wondered for a brief moment what his mouth would feel like, what it would taste like. Then she found out.

He tasted as she would expect from any man, but his muzzle felt completely different from anything she had ever felt; a wide tip of a mouth but of the wrong shape to a man's. When she parted her lips he did as well. When their tongues met the similarities outweighed the differences once more. He kissed like a man, but gently, carefully, taking his time, letting her take her time.

As her body pressed against his, Emily couldn't ignore the hardness growing between his legs. She could feel his solid erection against her midriff. Curiosity took the better of her and she let her hand drift down. She found his cock waiting stiff against his belly, and when she touched it his body shuddered momentarily and he let out a soft moan. "Emily..."

"Let me see it," she asked. He didn't reply. She looked down, maneuvering carefully. It looked like a penis. Uncircumcised, with a furry sheathing near the base of the shaft, and with an odd, mottled coloration compared to its human counterparts, it still didn't look very alien.

Curiosity still running, she leaned closer until she eyed it from only a few inches away. Then she closed the distance, taking the head into her mouth. "Emily!" Eriin gasped.

Unless he actively tried to push her away, she didn't take his gasp as a warning sign. Quite the opposite. She knew what she was doing; David had more than once complimented her on this particular skill. The fact that Eriin was going to be the first lover she took since her divorce didn't bother her at all. As her decisions gave rise to abandoned inhibitions, she put everything she could into what she gave Eriin.

Her hands gripped his butt. She found herself gripping hard, her hands slipping on the fur. He put his hands on her shoulder, but only to keep her from drifting away on her withdrawal.

His cock felt hot in her mouth. She paused with the solid head against her tongue and closed her eyes. She could feel his cock throbbing gently. She could take his pulse from her current position. The head of his cock felt smooth; it had almost a slick, oily sensation to it. The shaft likewise felt smooth, although more like delicate skin than the head. She couldn't get away from the comparisons; David's cock had had so many prominent veins she once described it as gnarled. As for size, she couldn't tell if any difference existed. Eriin's cock felt as large as she recalled her ex-husband's. David had probably been average.

She worked at Eriin's cock slowly, regaining the sensation and the skills that had lain dormant for so many months. The head of his cock slid into the back of her throat and she accepted it, worrying momentarily that she might not be able to take him without choking. She managed. With his hands on her shoulders, she felt safe freeing one hand from its grip on his butt to take a better grip on the base of his cock.

"Stop," he whispered. "I'd rather go longer than I will if you keep that up."

She smiled. He pulled her back up until they were again face-to-face. "My turn," he whispered, and kept sliding her upwards until his head rested between her legs. "So lovely," he whispered. "And such a bright contrast to your dark skin!" He leaned forward and kissed her mound. She shivered.

David had never done this. Well, almost never. He certainly hadn't enjoyed it all that much. Eriin, on the other hand, gently parted her pubic hair with his hands before pressing that triangular muzzle up against her cunt. He gently nuzzled his way from side to side, his tongue reaching out to caress her inner lips, pressing his way into her warming core. Her body responded. She felt her cunt flood almost instantly with wetness, more than she would have expected.

When Eriin's tongue found her clitoris she moaned a soft "Oh!" to let him know he'd done the right thing. His arms wrapped around her thighs and held him in place as his tongue flickered across her clitoris, making her feel things she hadn't felt in too, too long. Involuntary moans escaped her; shudders ran through her. His tongue would slide slowly, left and right and up and down, over her clit, never quite leaving it along, but never quite trying to lead her anywhere. Her body went where it wanted to, and right now it wanted to get to an orgasm.

The shudders ran through her stronger, making her hips jerk without her wishing. She worried about dislodging him. If he became separate from her in the zero gravity of this room they would have to reach a wall and join back up again and by that time the mood might have broken. She couldn't allow that. She needed him. Her hands gripped his arms to provide one more anchor. The muscles under his fur felt powerful under her palms.

His tongue pressed a little firmer and her body responded just a little stronger. Strong enough. The sounds reaching her ears came from her lips, but she hadn't heard them in so long she almost didn't know what they meant. The sounds thrilled her. Her body tightened, wound up by Eriin's kisses and licks. Her body wanted to curl up more and more, until finally it couldn't wait anymore. The winding inside her snapped and her climax went off with a loud moan, muffled only by her biting her lower lip hard.

Eriin's tongue took another careful swipe across her cunt. Pleasure so strong it screamed made her back tighten again. "No!" she gasped. "Too strong, Eriin. Please." He heard her and backed away. Her grip still tight on his arms, she pulled him up to her.

The fur around his muzzle was plastered with her juices. "You're wet," he said. "It tastes good."

She smiled and pulled him closer. "Ooh! You're good!"

He laughed softly in her arms. "So are you. So wonderful!"

She felt his erection once again pressed against her belly. She didn't speak a word, but instead pressed him down just enough to get him pointed in the right direction. He got the idea and, holding his cock, positioned it against her cunt. Together, they worked to complete their joining. She felt the head of his cock press against her lips and then make its way into her body. It slid within her until it could go no further. "You..." she gasped. "Wonderful."

"Hot," he agreed. "You know, though," he said, looking into her eyes, "This is supposed to be the hardest way to make love."

"Why?" she asked.

"Because we have to do all the work, both in and out." He chuckled and let her drift downwards until she was at a square angle to him. His hands felt firm on her thighs, but that strength was nothing compared to the firm thrust he gave to his already buried cock, pushing her away from him, and then his arms pulling her back, his cock thrusting into her again. His chest and bellyfur tickled the backs of her thighs; the fur on his hips pressed against her ass. And his cock, his wonderful cock, filled and emptied and filled her again. And again. She felt deliriously happy with this hard, thrusting man paying attention to her. Her body jolted with his every thrust. She could lift her head and see his face... just. His eyes were closed, his muzzle open. His thrusting became hard, demanding, hitting her cervix but in just the right way and just the right time, it felt so good. He had never looked more animal nor felt more wonderful than he did right then. Her body responded to his thrusting so well, so wonderfully. And when he came the shout of his joy was joined by her own growl of pleasure.

She gasped again as he slid out, collecting her back into his arms. "Thank you," he gasped.

"Thank you," she replied. "That was incredible."

He smiled. "Yeah, it was. Come on. It's late. You have to take your students home tomorrow."

She felt dazed. "Can I sleep on the flight?"

He chuckled. "I'm sure we'll find time for you to do that."

With a soft roar, the Dragon lifted away from the Synergy and headed back for the Earth, for Pittsburgh in midwinter, and for a life of normality. After four days in space, and her experience with Eriin, Emily felt more than ready to return to her old life. As she wrapped her arms around herself and stared out the big window in the transport ship lounge, she couldn't help but stare out at the stars and wonder. "Specie for your thoughts."

She laughed softly, recognizing Eriin's voice. "I think there are maybe, maybe, a couple thousand people on Earth who speak English who know what a 'specie' is."

"It means 'coin,' doesn't it?"

She nodded. "But nobody I know ever uses it. It's an old word, falling out of our language." She could see his reflection in the glass behind her. He stood a little taller than she did, still, and he wore a long, flowing cloak over his form, closed with a clasp at his left shoulder. "Remember when you told me you were eleven?" He nodded. "I looked it up last night. The Mephit Tleiling was in 1987-- only ten years ago. January first, in fact. Not a date you'd be likely to forget. It was less than a month ago. You're one of those mixed-realm sentients, aren't you?"

"Does that bother you?" he asked.

She didn't turn around. "I don't know. I watched you all morning. I can't figure out if there's anything different about you, something that feels like-- like you're not a person."

"On Pendor, I am a person."

She looked at his image in the glass. He still had that same peaceful beauty she had seen at the beginning of this trip. He hadn't changed at all. "How did you happen? Where did you come from?"

Eriin paused for a second. "When Shardik makes a new species, there are a few test-runs, a few where the brain isn't quite right and doesn't function, or where the endocrine system isn't balanced right. It's an ugly job. I hope you're pro- choice." She nodded, briefly. "Of those, he took two whose bodies looked right and implanted special robotic minds into them. I'm one of those. I was supposed to help my species come to grips with itself. But I was decanted too closely to the real decanting, and I came out as screwed up as my brothers and sisters. There's no difference between them and me, except that my brain is made up of crystals and theirs is made up of... squishy grey stuff."

She shivered. "Do you really have a son?"

"Yes, I really have a son. We named him Gawain. Maybe someday you might get a chance to meet him." He sighed. "Then again, maybe not."

Now she turned to look at him. "Why last night, Eriin?"

He looked puzzled. "For all the reasons Pendorians always do that sort of thing, Emily. It was a nice thing to do for a friend who..." He looked around. "Who needed a hug."

"You gave me more than that."

"You seemed to want more than that." He paused. "Are you going to turn me in? Report me to my commander? Go on Geraldo?" She gave him a peculiar glance. "My memory is better than most. I've studied your popular media. Pretty frightening stuff sometimes. But, Emily, I'm not any different than you are. I'm just a person trying to figure out where he fits in the great scheme of things."

He stood before her, his hands open, his face trying to explain. She didn't know what to say, what she could express. She had felt betrayed that morning when she had figured out that he wasn't a Tleil at all, but something else. But her body had borne the warm memories of a night with a living, breathing man. Between those two she hadn't been able to reconcile truth. Now she could. And looking into his face she could see that he needed to know that she didn't resent his not telling her. Finally she just said, "I believe you."

He smiled. Then he nodded. "I believe you, too."

She laughed. "Thanks."

"What are you going to do, now?"

"I don't know. But I realized that I should probably get out more often when I'm back home." She bit her lower lip, reacting sharply when she felt the bite marks there from last night. "I'm going to have to give interviews to the local press when I get back." She closed her eyes. "I'm not sure I'm ready for that."

"The life of one of the chosen ones," he chuckled.

"My students are probably wondering where we are."

"Then you had better go join them. I'll come down in a little bit, when it won't appear... unseemly."

"Thanks." She reached the elevator, turned, and looked at him. "I mean it."

"I know you do. You're welcome."