Kiraling – Part 28 (Chapter 216-239)
Written by anonxyzus :: [Thursday, 27 October 2022 03:30] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 29 October 2022 19:46]
Kiraling – Part 28 (Chapter 216-239)
Gloria and Mona would be staying at the house while we were away. Bri-an, Juliet and Mona worked out an information sharing deal with Major Moore. Mona would be handling my liaison duties.
I don’t know what the hell was going on with Dempsey. He was supposed to be out of the loop on all things Velorian, but somehow, he found out about my trip and in the two days before we left, he was lighting up my phone. Constantly. At first, I didn’t answer. But then Kara told me he was calling her company trying to get hold of her too, and he even called Western trying to find Xara.
Kara asked me to call him back and tell him she wanted to speak with both him and me, and to set up a time for a conference call.
So I called him, and as soon as he knew it was me he launched into an angry tirade about how he should be going to Velor, not me, and that Senior Diplomat Folk will be very displeased if I show up on Velor instead of him.
Finally, he wound down and I told him Kara wanted to discuss this with him. But her schedule was very busy, and she wanted to schedule a call between him, me and her. He suggested a couple of times, and since Kara was right there, on her phone to Major Moore, she picked one that the Major said would work, just a few hours later that day.
When we got on the call and Reggie started into his speech about how it should be him, not me going to Velor, Kara asked him, “Reggie, what makes you think we’re going to Velor?”
He was still riled up and said, “I’m not an idiot, Kara. Where else would you be going? Several of us at the State Department know. We have our own sources of information.”
We weren’t going to Velor of course.
Then Major Moore jumped in and read him the riot act and told him to show up at the Pentagon bright and early the next morning to explain to her what his sources were, and who he has been talking to about Velorians.
“Major Moore, this is a diplomatic issue. The DoD has no authority here.”
And then the SecDef came on, which was a total surprise to Reggie, and to me and Kara too. We didn’t know Major Moore was inviting him to listen in. Turned out to be a good call on her part.
“Mr. Dempsey,” he began, “the DoD has been designated the primary government agency dealing with Ms. Banks and her operations, which are being carried out in cooperation with the DoD. So when we tell you to get your ass over here, you damn well better get your ass over here. If you need any more encouragement to do so, I have SecState on speed dial.”
That shut Reggie up. He got off the phone and SecDef apologized to Kara and assured her he would make sure she never heard from Dempsey again.
“Thank you,” Kara said. “Please, if it is possible, just give him a good scare. Don’t take his job away from him.”
SecDef said that decision would be up to State, but he would pass on her request and assured her it would carry a lot of weight.
A cloaked shuttle landed at my dock. A crewman, I suppose he was a crewman, came out and collected our luggage and brought it onboard, then we boarded. Sharon insisted that she load the wine herself. I couldn’t tell how big it was from the outside, because I couldn’t see it from the outside, except through the hatch that opened up. But once inside it looked to be about the length of a Class A motor home and about double the width. I wondered if it would be able to take off with all the wine Sharon brought. I mean, seriously, the inside was crowded, and there wasn’t a rack on top that you’d expect to see on a motor home.
The pilot showed us to our seats and asked Kara to make sure I was buckled in. He didn’t know I understood him, so I reached for the harness and strapped myself in. The ladies took seats, they didn’t buckle up.
The shuttle began moving up, and I didn’t feel a thing. The only way I knew we were moving is that I could see out the windows. The sky went from blue to black very quickly, and soon I could see stars. And then, suddenly, a large ship appeared in front of us. It startled me, and the crewman who loaded our luggage giggled a bit and said, “We get that reaction a lot when we pass through the cloaking field that surrounds the ship.”
He looked at the ladies as if expecting one of them to translate for him. When they didn’t, I said, in Velorian, “I’ve had this experience before, but it was so long ago I forgot.” That surprised him.
“This is my husband,” said Xara, “and he has been studying Velorian.”
The crewman smiled at that. He obviously approved.
The pilot maneuvered us towards a large door that opened, and we went into what Star Trek fans would call a shuttle bay. It even had a force field that kept the atmosphere in.
We disembarked when the shuttle landed and while the crewman was handling our luggage, a man came to meet us and introduced us to himself as the Captain. Capital C. Because that’s the way the Velorians do it.
The ladies were in their flight suits, and the captain addressed Kara and Xara as Protectors and Sharon as Scribe. He either had been briefed, or assumed that Kara was in charge, and he addressed his formal comments to her.
“Welcome to the Golden Cathunk,” he said. “Your cabins are ready, as is the stasis chamber for our Terran passenger. I am Captain Zunk. If there is anything you need, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Thank you, Captain,” said Kara.
“Then he turned to Xara and said, “You must be Xara. We’ve heard a lot about you on Velor. All good, I assure you.
“And you must be Shara. We’ve heard good things about you too.” Sharon’s Velorian name is Shara’Lynn. I don’t know why some Velorian names are hyphenated and others have a apostrophe.
Then Kara said, “Captain, Zunk, this is my son-in-law, my daughter’s husband, Joseph Ricci. He is Kiraling to all three of us.”
“Joseph Ricci,” he said, “It is an honor to meet you.”
I held out my hand and said, “Thank you, Captain Zunk. Please, call me Joe.”
He looked at my hand, not knowing what to do. Kara said, “The extended hand is a Terran greeting. It is a symbol of good will. You grasp his hand, and then move once or twice in an up and down motion.”
He reached out and took my hand, very gently, like he was afraid he was going to hurt me, then let me move it up and down, as Kara described.
“Kiraling to two Protectors and a Scribe, and you speak our language. I am very impressed, Joe.”
“He’s also Kiraling to a Messenger, Captain,” said Kara.
“Perhaps, Joe, you will tell me how you became Kiraling to so many powerful Velorians.”
“The details of that are classified, Captain. But be assured, if it wasn’t for the actions of this Terran, the three of us, and the Messenger, would be dead.”
“Those actions,” the Captain asked, “are they the reason you have your wounds?”
“A couple of them, yes,” I answered, “I had the others before I met the ladies.”
“Are you a warrior, Joe?” He asked me.
“I am sir.”
“The term they use is soldier,” said Kara, “he is a member of his political entity’s armed forces.” Soldier came out in English.
“I see,” said Captain Zunk. I’m not sure he did.
“Joe, you’ve made a very good first impression. I am so proud of you!”
Johnson just had to be a smart ass. “Zunk is very easily impressed,” he said.
“Tell that asshole to shut up!”
He shut up.
The Captain invited us to the bridge to witness the ship breaking orbit. When we arrived, I looked around, and didn’t recognize anything. I’ve seen all the Star Wars and Star Trek movies. And TV shows. There was nothing I could recognize. The bridge was as big as the bridge of the cruise ship we were on during our honeymoon, and there were displays everywhere.
The Captain gave the order to break orbit and someone’s hands moved, and that’s it. But I could look out the windows and see that we were turning away from the earth and pointing out into space.
There were no windowpanes. It was just a large transparent panel. And then the panel disappeared, and I was looking at a wall of displays.
“What just happened?” I asked.
The Captain chuckled and said, “The ships outer sensors transmit the image of the energy they are receiving onto the panel. We only use the display for this purpose when we are either in a strong gold field, or we have a non-Supremis species on the bridge. Otherwise, we just look through the hull of the ship to see our surroundings.”
Captain Zunk summoned a crewman, or crewwoman? I don’t know what they call them in Velorian, to show us to our cabins.
This ship was big. Okay. I mean fucking big.
“Normally we’d fly,” said the crewman, “but out of courtesy to our Terran passenger we will walk. Unless you want me to carry him.”
“That won’t be necessary,” said Kara.
“He speaks our language,” said Xara, “you should address your questions about him, to him.”
She turned to me and said, “Of course. Joe Ricci, I meant no offense.”
“I didn’t take offense,” I replied. “Please call me Joe.”
We got to a vertical tube.
“I’m afraid someone will have to fly you up the tube, Joe.”
“I’ll do it,” said Xara.
We went up at least a dozen decks.
“This thing is huge, Xara.”
We arrived at a hatch in a hallway, that opened into a large suite. Living room, dining room, bedroom, shower in the bathroom but no toilet.
“Protector Kara, this is your suite. Protector Xara and Scribe Shara, you have adjoining suites on either side.
“I’ll let you settle in, then we need to feed Joe before he goes into stasis. Did you bring appropriate food for a Terran?”
“Yes,” answered Xara.
“Good,” said the crewman. “Captain wants to begin acceleration as soon as possible.”
I followed Xara into her cabin and helped her unpack. After that we looked in on Kara and Sharon.
About 20 minutes later another crewman, an officer, arrived.
“It is my job to observe the Terran eating enough food to make coming out of stasis as small a traumatic event as possible.”
Xara brought out two cheeseburgers and fries and heated them up.
“Will this do?”
“Yes,” said the officer.
The officer stood over me while I ate. When I was finished, she made a note in some kind of electronic log and asked us to follow her to the stasis chamber.
The stasis chamber was a white room with drains in the floor. And hoses hung from the bulkheads. In the center was a bed, or gurney, situated in something that was the general shape of a coffin.
“I don’t know about this,” said Johnson.
“Me neither,” said Dixon.
“You’ll all be okay,” said Xara, in the connection.
That startled Dixon and Johnson and they didn’t say anymore.
“Joe Ricci …”, began the officer, “please disrobe and lay down on the table.”
I did what she told me to do.
She taped sensors to my body, just like you would expect on earth for a medical procedure.
“Joe Ricci, I’m going to close the cover of the stasis device. Just relax, you will feel no discomfort.”
She closed the cover. It was transparent so I could see Kara, Sharon and Xara looking down on me.
And then, the officer opened the cover, and told me to sit up. And I looked around and saw that she, and Xara, Kara and Sharon were naked, which didn’t make sense because I’d been looking at them and they were clothed.
The officer took the sensors off me.
“I don’t understand,” I said, “why are we stopping?”
“What do you mean?” asked Xara.
“I thought I was going into stasis until we arrived at our destination. Why aren’t I going into stasis?”
Xara smiled and said, “Joe, you’re coming out of stasis; we arrived in the system three days ago and the acceleration just dropped down to an acceptable level for you. You went into stasis three months ago.”
I got off the stasis gurney thing and was about to say that it wasn’t bad at all when suddenly my stomach cramped up; I bent over and lost the cheeseburger and fries. I was heaving, and heaving, and my legs went wobbly, and I was going down in a pool of my vomit when Sharon and Xara were at my sides, holding me up.
I emptied my stomach several times, and then got the dry heaves. And oh my God, it was terrible. And then came something they hadn’t warned me about: explosive diarrhea.
There was vomit and shit everywhere. I did notice that I was the only one with feet on the deck. Everyone else was hovering above it.
About an hour in, the officer hooked me up to an IV.
“This will replenish the fluids your body is expelling,” she said.
My stomach was cramping and trying to expel anything it could. My intestines were cramping and doing the same. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t stand on my own. The officer, three other crewmen, Xara, Kara and Sharon took shifts with me, keeping the IV bags fresh and holding me up off the floor.
Now I knew what the hoses and drains were for.
I don’t know how long this went on. Hours, I think. When it finally stopped, the officer said, “Now it is important that you eat and drink. To avoid damage, your stomach and intestines need something to expel.”
I didn’t understand, but I ate and drank the food and water I was offered.
Two hours later I did understand, as I started throwing up again. Two hours after that the diarrhea was back.
Four hours later it was time to eat and drink again.
“No more, Xara, please. Just kill me, okay?”
She was shocked, so I smiled to indicate I was kidding. Though I honestly think that death was looking like a very appealing option to me.
At the end of a week the vomiting and diarrhea stopped. Xara carried me to her suite and put me in her bed and fed me soup. It was good. She also kept an eye on my IV.
While I was there a crewman came in with the galactic version of a porta-potty. I needed it because the quarters we had been assigned did not have a toilet. I had to use it, and that was torture, because my rectum was raw from the diarrhea. Xara was in the connection with me and knew what I was going through and was quite distressed by it.
After a week I was recovered enough to get out of bed and dress. The Captain very graciously offered me a tour of the ship, which I accepted.
Miguel was late. But he was never late. Janelle wasn’t worried, it was probably something to do with the girls, or possibly Juanita wanted him to run an errand for her.
And then her phone rang, and it was Juanita, and she was hysterical. Janelle tried to calm her down but couldn’t. All she could say was, “They took him! They took him!”
“I’m on my way, Juanita.” she said.
The Betas were at the playroom complex, and there was no phone service there. So Janelle got into her car and drove to Miguel’s home.
When she got there, she knocked on the door. One of the girls answered, and Janelle could see she was crying.
“Where is your mommy?” she asked.
The little girl pointed to the kitchen. Janelle went to the kitchen and found Juanita there, in tears. She asked Juanita what happened, but she was so upset she could barely get the words out.
Janelle went back out to her car and got her bag. She always traveled around the city with her doctor’s bag, she never knew when she would need it.
She gave Juanita a light sedative. Nothing strong, she was with child after all. But a few minutes later Juanita was calm enough to talk.
“Miguel was leaving for work, to take you to your clinic. Three men met him at the sidewalk and pointed guns at him and forced him into a car and drove off. I found this note.”
Janelle took the offered note and read it. It said they would call Juanita at noon. Make sure the doctor was there when the call came.
Noon. She had enough time.
“Juanita, pack clothes and necessities for at least three days. I’m taking you and the girls to a safe place.”
“But when the men call …”
“They want to talk to me, Juanita. I will be here to take the call.”
Juanita packed quickly and she and Janelle got the girls into the car and Janelle drove them to the playroom.
They were met by the Beta First. Janelle quickly filled her in on what was happening.
“Keep Juanita and the girls here. If you need anything take money from the safe for it.”
Janelle took four Betas with her, and she instructed them to each arm themselves with a handheld GAR. Then they drove back to Miguel and Juanita’s home, let themselves in and waited for the phone call.
The phone rang precisely at noon.
“This is Janelle. Who am I talking to.”
“If you had accepted my prior invitation you wouldn’t need to ask who this is. You’d know. Now listen and listen carefully. The City Council Candidates forum is in five days. If you ever want to see Miguel again, you will attend the forum and announce you are dropping out of the race. If you do this, Miguel will be released. If you do not, his wife and daughters will never see him again.”
“How do I know you haven’t killed him?”
“Do you have your mobile with you?”
She did, and a few seconds later she received a video. It showed Miguel, beaten and bloody, tied and gagged in a chair. The person taking the video moved closer to Miguel and she saw a hand holding a hose strike him, hard.
“Did you see it?”
The caller hung up.
Janelle had to sit down and think about this for a few minutes. Could these frails be that stupid?
The phone she was called from was likely a burner phone, so no help there.
But the reference to the “prior invitation” could only mean that the caller was the same person the gang had attempted to take her to just a few weeks ago.
And to wrap it up with a bow and give it to her, or was it to put the icing on the cake? She could never keep Terran metaphors and similes straight. Regardless, the video came with metadata. She had the exact GPS coordinates of where Miguel was being held.
It was almost like they wanted to die by her hand. And she was happy to oblige. But first she was going to make them suffer. The pain they inflicted on Miguel would be repaid ten times over.
The Terrans on this planet knew nothing about security. She could call up a common app on her mobile phone and see a satellite photo of the location where Miguel was being held.
The approach to the what the locals called a palace, others would call it a mansion, was easy to secure. There was only one road from the main highway that wound around into the hills and ended at the palace. She wouldn’t take that route.
She could easily approach from the hills behind the palace. It would be a much easier climb, for the Betas, than the climb to reach the last facility they raided. She would be able to observe the palace from behind and above it, see through the walls and find Miguel, and make a diagram for the Betas as to where the occupants were.
She explained her plan to the Betas.
She looked at the video again to ascertain as best she could the extent of Miguel’s injuries. She could go in and kill everyone quickly, then take one of the gang’s vehicles and drive Miguel back to her clinic, but she wanted to take her time. So she gathered everything she thought she would need to treat Miguel at the palace, then added a number of items she hoped she didn’t need, and put them into a backpack.
She had the Betas bring gags and zip ties. And handheld radios for each of them, including herself.
She put a mattress in the back of the van with several IV bags and had one of the Betas drive it along the main road to the palace with orders to hide it and wait for her to call him to the house. She and the other three Betas drove along a road that would bring them to within ten miles of the palace, parked their car out of sight, and then began their hike and climb. It took them two hours to reach an observation point above the palace that provided them with good cover. The Betas didn’t even break a sweat.
She had printed and blown up the satellite image of the palace and its grounds. She closely examined the building, looking through each wall, one at a time, from the attic above the third floor and down, until she located Miguel in a room in the basement. He was breathing, she could see that, so he was still alive.
There were eight men in and around the building. All of them outside were armed with semiautomatic rifles. All but two of them inside carried sidearms.
There were several women of various ages from early 20s to 70, possibly older. There were no children, which was curious, because two rooms on the top floor were clearly children’s bedrooms. None of the women were armed. She assumed the older woman was the mother or mother-in-law of the palace owner, and one of the others was likely his wife. The other women, she wasn’t sure why they were there until she saw one of the guards leave his post and take one of the younger women into a room on the ground level and have sexual relations with her.
When Janelle was on Hypha-Red-6 she had killed many women. Cheerfully and brutally. Killing them was fun, the entertainment value very high, because she got the best begging and screaming from them. But now that she was on Terra, and had a mission to win the population over, she decided that she had to divide the population into combatants and non-combatants.
This society she was in was patriarchal. Especially the gangs. None of the gangs had women soldiers, or leaders. They were all run by the men. Much the way the Arion Empire was run before the war of conquest forced the Empire to put women in leadership positions and draft them into the military.
Everyone here would die; she couldn’t have witnesses. The women would get quick deaths, painless if possible, and she would attempt to minimize their physical and psychological trauma. If she could. If not, well, no one would ever know it was she who had killed them.
At about three in the morning everyone in the house was in bed and asleep. There were four guards active outside the house, the others inside were asleep.
Janelle gave the Betas their instructions. “I want everyone taken alive, bound and gagged. If you must injure them, so be it, but I want them all alert when they are brought to me.”
They all crept down to the bottom of the hill. There, Janelle undressed and put her clothes into her backpack. There was only one guard in back. One of the Betas ran up behind him when his back was turned, put one hand over his mouth, disarmed him with the other hand and was joined by the other Betas who bound and gagged him.
Leaving the guard there, the four of them worked their way around the palace. Looking through walls, Janelle located each guard and sent the Betas after them when their backs were turned. It was over in minutes. Four men taken alive, bound, gagged, and none of them injured. Janelle was very proud of her Betas.
Everyone in the house was asleep. The front door was unlocked, not that it would have made any difference. Janelle assigned one Beta to stand post outside in case there were any visitors. Any other visitors. The other two Betas accompanied Janelle into the house. There was a middle aged man with a young woman in the master bedroom on the top floor. The other men and women were paired up in bedrooms on the first floor.
Most people, earth people, Terrans, wouldn’t think, looking at a Beta, especially a male Beta, that they could move both quickly and silently. But they did. Some might say they were reminiscent of the Ninjas of mid-16th century Japan, only bigger, stronger, faster and more deadly.
With Janelle directing them, they made their way from bedroom to bedroom, silently subduing, gagging and binding the occupants of each room without allowing them to raise an alarm.
When they were done on the first floor, Janelle sent them up to the master bedroom, where they were equally successful, though at that point it wouldn’t matter if those two raised an alarm, they were the only two left.
With everyone bound and gagged, Janelle sent one of the Betas outside to get her backpack while she made her way to the basement to find Miguel.
The basement was quite large. Miguel was in a room with soundproofing and a strong steel door with multiple latches and locks. Janelle merely sunk the fingers of her left hand into the door and pulled it open, breaking all the locks.
Once inside she saw Miguel, held by leather straps, in a chair. One wide strap went around his chest. His arms were strapped to the arms of the chair, his legs strapped to the legs of the chair. His chin was on his chest, and he was slumped over as much as his bindings would allow. He was unconscious.
There was blood on the floor, his blood. His nose was broken and swollen. His face was swollen with bruises. All his fingers had been broken. Someone had taken a hammer to his feet. She looked through his clothes, through his skin and saw three broken ribs.
When the Beta arrived with her backpack, she told him to summon the van.
Janelle evaluated Miguel’s injuries and decided that he would live, would even heal and recover. Left another day like this, neither would be true.
He was out, and she wanted him to stay that way. Miguel was a loyal employee, kindhearted, and brave in his own way. He was also empathetic. And he was definitely not a warrior. She didn’t want him to see what she was about to do to his captors. Later, she would tell him about it, sparing him the gruesome details.
She first gave Miguel a shot of morphine and a sedative to make sure he would stay asleep and not be awakened by pain. Then she ripped off the straps that held him in the chair and carried him to one of the Betas.
She told the Beta to take Miguel up to the van. Then, when that was done, she wanted all the men brought to this room, and the women to a room on the other side of the basement.
When this was done, she went to the room holding the women to execute them with a technique she developed on Hypha-Red-6 when it was time to euthanize a house frail who had come to the end of its useful life.
They were afraid. The Betas who brought them into the basement carried them two at a time, and the women were clearly afraid of them. Some were trying to scream, but their gags only allowed a muffled mmph sound to come out.
When they saw her, tall and naked and beautiful, they tried to plead with her. That’s what Janelle assumed they were doing. She couldn’t exactly tell, because of the gags, but in her experience that’s what they did.
She went behind each of them, one at a time, and raised them into a kneeling position, then put her hands on each side of their heads and twisted them around 180° as quickly as she could. If any of them felt any pain, and she didn’t want them to, but if any of them did, they didn’t show it. Though they did show their panic when they saw what was happening. It was comical, the way they tried to wriggle and squirm away from her. But the point was to kill them, not prolong their suffering, so Janelle moved through them quickly and efficiently. She’d have her fun with the men.
She went back to the room with the men, the room Miguel had been held and beaten in. She ordered the Betas to strip the clothes off her prisoners. Then she pointed to the oldest frail, the one who had been in the master bedroom, and told them to put it in the chair Miguel had been in.
“Remove the zip ties and refasten its arms and legs to the chair”.
One of the Betas did so.
“Remove its gag.”
As soon as the gag came off, it started yelling at Janelle, threatening her. The Betas all laughed. Janelle waited for it to stop.
“Are you the boss here? Are you the head of your gang?”
“Yes!” it spat at her.
“Do you know who I am?”
“You are the doctor running for City Council.”
“Do you know why I am here?”
“To free your boy.” He meant Miguel.
“Yes,” she said, “I’ve freed him. What did he tell you about me?”
“He said nothing, the idiot, much to his regret I suspect.”
“It will be much to your regret,” she said. “I did come here to free him, but I also want to send a message to the gangs.”
“What message is that?”
“I think it will be more fun to show you than tell you.”
She grabbed one of the frails at random and pulled it towards the chair, perpendicular to it and far enough away that the frail in the chair would be able to see everything she did.
The frail she selected was on its stomach with its hands zip tied behind it. Janelle pointed to one of the Betas and said, “Hold its feet.”
Then she walked up to the frail, removed its gag, leaned over and grasped its wrists where they were tied together, and pulled them over its head and down to the floor in front of it. Slowly, so everyone could hear the tissues pop and tear and joints break. And could hear the frail’s screams.
When this was done, she put a hand under its chest, and lifted up and bent it backwards until its head touched the floor behind its ass. This brought about more pops and tears and screams.
“You should have worked on your flexibility,” she told it.
She told the Beta, “Hold it down.”
And then she twisted off each of its limbs, one at a time. By this time everyone in the room, at least every one of the Terrans, was crying and screaming. Or trying to scream. Those who were gagged could only make strained muffled noises.
“They call you el jefe, do they not?” Janelle asked the frail in the chair.
It was screaming and crying to. She waited for it to calm down.
“You are el jefe to these men?”
“Yes,” it answered.
“What do you think of my torture technique, el jefe?”
It let out a string of invectives. She couldn’t quite catch it all, it was basically blubbering. But she understood the gist of it.
“You should be more polite to me, el jefe,” she said, “after all, when these men are dead, you will be next.”
“No! No! Tell me what you want! I’ll give you anything! Money! Boats! I can give you your own airplane! I can make sure you get elected! Tell me what you want, and it is yours!”
“Why, how generous of you, el jefe. Yes, there is something you can give me.”
“Tell me! Tell me and it’s yours!”
“I want your screams.”
And with that she picked up the next frail, removed its gag, wrapped her arms around it, and slowly crushed it against her. This one could only get out one scream before the air was crushed from its lungs, but the sound of ribs and cartilage tearing and breaking made up for it. She held it close until it almost stopped struggling, then pulled it to her tightly enough to snap its spine. When its guts started coming up through its mouth, she dropped it.
And she got el jefe’s screams.
She went through the rest of the frails this way. Crushing some, ripping others apart. Then, when they were all dead, except el jefe, she told the Betas to release it.
It was a psychological mess, but it sprang to its feet and ran towards the door. Janelle stepped in front of it, and it would have bounced off her if she hadn’t put her arms around it.
“You’re lucky, el jefe. I’m getting tired of this game, and Miguel needs my attention.”
She put a hand on its shoulder and squeezed to get a good grip, which crushed bone and cartilage and mangled tendons and ligaments, then with her other hand she got a crushing grip on its hip, lifted it up, and pulled her hands apart, which pulled it partially apart, she stopped before the pieces of its body separated. She dropped it and it was surprisingly still alive, screaming and flopping about.
She sent two of the Betas to find flammable liquids and spread them all over the house, or as much as they could, and had them bring some to her which she poured onto el jefe.
In exploring the house, she discovered a safe in the basement not far from the room she was in. She went to the safe, tore the door off it and instructed the Betas to take the money out to the van. There were even gold bars, which Janelle wanted nothing to do with.
After all that was done, she ordered the three Betas who had accompanied her in the car to climb back over the hills, get the car and drive back to the playroom.
She went back to check on el jefe and found it was still alive and conscious. She estimated it had about ten minutes left if she left it to bleed out and die from its injuries. She wasn’t going to do that. She used her heat vision to ignite the liquid that had been poured on it and listened as its scream went up an octave. Then she went back through the basement, and upstairs into the house, using her heat vision to make sure the place would burn down.
When she got to the van, she told the Beta driver to head to the playroom. She got on the radio and contacted the Beta First and told her to let Juanita and the girls know she was coming back with Miguel. “Tell her he is injured but will recover.
“I want a hospital bed brought to the playroom. Get crutches, a portable toilet and bandages.”
She then did a more thorough examination of Miguel and connected him to a saline IV bag to address his dehydration.
Under torture he refused to give the gang any information about her. It took courage and loyalty to stay silent, that was to be rewarded and cultivated. She was going to nurse him back to health. When she got him back to the playroom, she told First that Miguel and his family’s safety were now priorities for her team.
Miguel was in pain, and it surprised Janelle how much sympathy she had for him. She experienced as much anguish for Miguel as his wife and daughters. She had her medical practice and her campaign for City Council that demanded her time. She let both suffer so she could stay close to Miguel and monitor his progress.
When the time came that he had recovered enough to go home, she practically moved in with him and his family. She put together a physical therapy program for him and taught Juanita the exercises, so she could supervise Miguel when she, Janelle, had to be elsewhere. The day Miguel was fit enough to come back to work, she threw a lavish party for him. She invited the entire neighborhood. People who were there talked about it for months afterward.
I don’t have anything in my experience to compare the Golden Cathunk to. The Captain explained to me that the extra-large engines required a large superstructure to contain them, and the Kelsorians, who built the Golden Cathunk, finished the ship to Velorian specifications. The ship did carry weapons, but seldom used them. Its primary function was as a transport. It was faster than anything the Arions had, and it usually carried a complement of at least two Protectors, sometimes more.
“I believe your traveling companions are planning to introduce you to them at supper.”
If the Golden Cathunk ran into Arion war ships, it could run. If the positioning of the Arions made running impossible, or impractical, they had the on board weapons. But they seldom used them because as soon as the Arions detected two Protectors coming at them, they usually beat a hasty retreat. The Protector’s standing orders were not to engage unless necessary, so SOP for them was to break off pursuit as soon as the Arions fled. Which was all the time.
The Golden Cathunk had at least 20 very large cargo bays and a number of smaller ones. It carried a crew of twenty. I observed that twenty seemed to be a very small crew for such a large vessel. The Captain answered that he heard that a lot from non-Supremis species. But given that Velorians are faster and stronger and required less rest than other species, they did not require a large crew to maintain and service the ship. In case of damage, say an Arion ship managed to penetrate the hull with one of their weapons, repairs could be put off until the ship reached port, since Velorians can live indefinitely in the vacuum of space.
“If our engines were damaged the crew could get out and push.”
When I heard that, I felt very small and weak.
At supper we dined at the Captain’s table and I met the two protectors currently assigned to the Golden Cathunk. I asked how they liked their posting and they said, right in front of the Captain, that it was boring. They were designed and trained to kill Arions, and every time the ship came across them, the Arions would run.
“We have both taken down Arion battle cruisers,” said one of them, “that is a better use of our abilities than babysitting transports.”
The Captain didn’t protest. Apparently, Protectors can get away with saying anything.
“Joe Ricci,” said one of them, “we have heard that you are better at sex than most other Terrans. We would like the opportunity to judge this for ourselves.”
I was sitting across the table from Xara. She was beaming. Just beaming. I already knew where this was going, so I just surrendered to the inevitable and said yes. So that night two Protectors, who I had never met, had their way with me. They both told Kara, Sharon and Xara that I was no Velorian, but was much better than any Terran they had ever had.
“Joe Ricci,” said one, “we enjoyed our time with you and look forward to having sex with you again if we are still assigned to this transport for your return voyage.”
After they left, I asked Xara. Oh. I almost forgot. They invited Xara to stay and watch. Anyway, after they left, I asked her why they didn’t just call me Joe.
“It’s always ‘Joe Ricci’ with Velorians. Why is that?”
“It’s cultural, Joe.”
“Should I be doing it, with them?”
“No. They don’t expect it.”
Oh, did I mention the ship had artificial gravity? One of the crew tried to explain to me how it worked. I tried but couldn’t follow. Xara told me I’d have to take a lot of advanced physics before I could understand it.
Okay, now this is one of the reasons I think I’m in a coma in a hospital in Germany. The planet’s name that I was visiting is Xanadu. Can you believe that? Xara, Kara and Sharon didn’t see anything strange about it.
“Are we going to meet Gene Kelly and Olivia Newton John down there?”
“What do you mean, Joe?”
“You haven’t seen it? We’ll rent Xanadu when we get home.”
We’d been orbiting the planet since shortly after I came out of stasis. During my recovery time the ship had offloaded cargo for the Velorian Embassy. But that didn’t take long, mostly they were waiting on me to finish puking and shitting and get my strength back. Once I was out of bed, I asked Xara what she could tell me about Xanadu.
“The Arions hurt them, badly, before Velor stepped in.”
“Joe, it’s … it’s hard to put into words. While you were recovering from stasis, mom, Sharon and I met with the planetary Protector. Her name is Lia, I think you’ll like her.
“She took us on a tour of the planet. Joe, what the Arions did to these people …”
She was tearing up.
“I’m going to show you. Lay down, and I’ll show you what I saw.”
I laid down on my bed and closed my eyes.
I felt Xara lay down next to me. Then I was seeing through her eyes as she went out a shuttle bay with her mom, Sharon and Lia and went into a lower orbit above the planet.
Xanadu has five large continents, separated by oceans. I thought it looked like it might be the same size as earth.
“Just slightly smaller, you won’t notice the gravitational difference,” said Xara.
The first continent they flew over had been absolutely ravaged. There was large scale destruction everywhere. Bridges, buildings, even several dams had been destroyed and flooded what looked like farmland. It was night over this section of the planet, and there was light from smoldering fires in one section of the continent.
“With Velor’s help they’ve extinguished all but a few fires, Joe. These are being left to burn themselves out, there is nothing left to save.”
They flew over cities and towns that were in ruins, but I could see signs of rebuilding. Scaffolding, some heavy equipment, some roads that looked like they had been freshly repaired.
“I don’t see any lights, anything that indicates there are people down there.”
“They are trying to conserve their resources. This planet’s development was roughly equivalent to where Terra was in the late 19th century. Right now, expending energy on lighting after dark is not a priority.”
They flew lower, and I could see, through Xara’s eyes, light coming from windows, candlelight.
They flew away from the continent, gained altitude, and flew over the next continent.
Here there were fires burning. The same destruction that I’d seen before, but no sign of life.
“This continent, and the other three, were completely depopulated. The people who lived there were either killed or taken by the Arions.”
“The Arions use slave labor all over the Empire.”
And then the tour ended.
“What happened? Did the Arions leave, or were they expelled.”
“We traveled through four wormholes to get here from Terra, Joe. But this planet is much farther from Velor, and Aria too. The Scalantrans had been observing Xanadu for several centuries watching for the time when the Xanadusians would be advanced enough to produce anything the Scalantrans could find a market for. One of their ships came across a small Arion force approaching the planet. They left and got the word out to Velor, and Velor sent Protectors.
“By the time the Protectors arrived four continents were depopulated and the Arions were in the process of destroying the fifth continent. They had one battle cruiser and a dozen smaller ships in orbit and Primes and Betas on the ground.
“Velor sent three combat wings, that’s fifteen Protectors, which is a lot to send to one battle, but given the distance, Velor didn’t want to take a chance of the Protectors arriving and finding themselves outgunned.
“The battle in space lasted a few hours. It took three more days to defeat the troops on the ground, they were using Xanadusians as human shields, and then two weeks to track down and kill the Primes and Betas who went into hiding. By the time the Protectors arrived, there weren’t many places left to hide, so finding them wasn’t difficult and the population helped.
“Joe, the Xanadusians didn’t stand a chance. But they are brave and fierce and organized, and they launched mass attacks against the Arions. And the Arions cut them down. But the Xanadusians didn’t give up. They lost millions.”
And then she had to stop, it was too painful for her to go on. I put my arms around her and drew her into me and she rested her head on my shoulder and sobbed, softly, until she fell asleep.
We got into the same shuttle that took us from Earth to the Golden Cathunk. We left the ship and as the shuttle maneuvered for entry into the Xanadusian atmosphere I could see that the Cathunk wasn’t cloaked. It was truly massive.
We entered the atmosphere and descended in a spiral, towards a city, and I could see firsthand the devastation wrought by the Arions. There were toppled structures and impact craters everywhere I looked. And then, unexpectedly, we came upon an area that looked completely untouched. It was only the size of a few city blocks, but it was remarkably clean and intact, with a ten story tower at its center. And as we set down on what was obviously a landing pad, I saw several people outside who had come to greet the shuttle, they were Velorians.
We were in a connection and Xara caught my surprise.
“This is the Velorian Embassy, Joe, built after the Arions were defeated.”
The blondes were wearing their flight suits. I was wearing one of my suits. As we left the shuttle a Velorian entered and began removing our luggage. We were approached by three women, one wearing a Protector’s flight suit, the others wearing what appeared to me would be the Velorian equivalent of a business suit: low cut top showing plenty of cleavage, skirt showing plenty of leg, and sandals with laces up to about mid-calf.
Kara stepped forward and one of the women in a business suit greeted her, by grasping her right breast. Kara grabbed hers.
“It’s a formal Velorian greeting between two women of status.”
“I am Kara Zor’El, Protector of Terra.”
“I am Mari’On, Velorian Ambassador to Xanadu.
“This is Lia-Spa, Protector of Xanadu, who I believe you have already met.” Lia and Kara grasped each other’s right breasts.
“And this is Kasa’An, the Velorian Embassy Security Officer.” They also grasped breasts.
Kara then began introductions.
“This is Shara’Lynn, Scribe of Terra.”
They all took turns grabbing and squeezing each other’s right breasts.
“This is Xara Zor’El, my daughter.” Breast grabbing.
“And this is Joseph Ricci, my daughter’s husband and Kiraling to the three of us.”
Nobody reached for my breast. I did extend my hand, and they each shook hands with me. The first Velorians, outside of the Rack Pack, I’d met who knew what a handshake was.
“This is interesting,” said the Ambassador while she shook my hand. “The Terrans of Xanadu also greet each other this way.”
“Xara, the Xanadusians are called Terrans?”
“All humans whose ancestors originated on Earth are Terrans.”
“Joseph Ricci, will you tell us how you became Kiraling to three Velorians?” Asked Kasa’An.
“Kasa,” said Kara, “That story is classified. I believe you will be part of the briefing we give Senator ‘Mit when he arrives. And he is Kiraling to four Velorians, not three. The fourth one, a Messenger, is not here.”
“May I ask,” I asked, “that you all call me Joe? Joseph Ricci is what my mother called me when I was in trouble.”
Kara, Sharon and Xara smiled. The others looked at me blankly.
“That is a Terran joke,” said Kara, “he is asking you to use a diminutive form to address him, rather than a formal one.”
They all nodded and said, “ah”, like oh, now we know what the stupid Terran means.
“Joseph Ricci … Joe, your Velorian is very good.”
“Thank you, Ambassador. I have three very good teachers.”
Xara was beaming.
“Your luggage has been taken to the quarters assigned to you,” said the Ambassador. “The tallest structure here houses our residential apartments and guest accommodations. The Embassy is the building on the right.”
“Will Joseph be able to come and go without escort?” Asked Kara.
“Yes,” replied the Ambassador, “we also host non-flyers, such as Senator ‘Mit from time to time. There are lifts in the building that Jose … Joe may use. Kara, you call him Joseph. May I inquire why?”
Kara smiled and said, “Joseph lost his parents. I have tried to be a mother to him, from time to time.”
When we got to the building entrance, we were greeted by another Velorian, this one wearing a Scribe flight suit.
“I apologize for my tardiness,” she said, “my name is Ba-nu, Scribe of Xanadu.”
There was another round of introductions with breast grabbing. As she shook my hand I said, “Please, call me Joe.”
“Joe,” she asked me, “Are you a warrior?”
“I am,” I said.
“Ah. Perhaps at dinner you will tell us of your exploits.”
“Xara, I don’t want to tell war stories.”
Xara looked at her mother and Sharon, and Sharon said, “Joe is a very modest man, Ba, but I have researched him and his, uh, exploits extensively. I will be happy to share my archives with you.”
Ba looked at her quizzically for a moment, then nodded and said, “Joe, I apologize. I did not mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“Thank you, Ba,” I said. “My exploits, as you call them, are difficult for me to talk about.”
“A modest Kiraling,” said Kasa, “Joe, you are someone I definitely want to get to know.”
We walked into the building, and I looked around. On the bottom floor there were store fronts. Most of them were closed up, and many appeared to be unfinished. There were workers in some of them, they were Xanadusians.
“This planet is well off the beaten path,” said Mari. “There are other inhabited worlds out here and our intention is to make Xanadu our hub of operations for this sector, which will mean a large permanent Velorian Mission here.
“We have completed negotiations with the Terrans of Xanadu and gotten their consent to put a small space port here and an orbiting space dock.”
We walked by a storefront that had workers in it. Carpenters and what I would call drywallers if we were on Earth. As we passed all work stopped and the men came to the front of the shop they were working in, removed their hats and bowed their heads.
“They seem to be very deferential towards you,” said Kara.
“Yes,” said Mari, “they are. It slows the work down. And it isn’t just me they are deferential towards. Any Velorian, especially our women, get the same treatment.”
“I don’t understand,” said Xara, “do you expect this from them?”
“Expect it from them? Yes, not because we require it, because it is what they always do. I’ve tried many, many times to tell them it isn’t necessary. They just … Xara, the man on the left is the foreman, he speaks some basic Velorian. Please, to satisfy your curiosity, and to make it easier to explain, go to him and explain to him that he does not need to do that.”
“Sure!” And Xara, with a friendly smile on her face, walked over to the foreman. And as soon as it was obvious she was coming to them, they all prostrated themselves.
“Please,” she said, “please don’t do that. Stand up.”
And they jumped to their feet as fast as they could.
She walked over to the foreman, held out her hand and said, “My name is Xara, what’s yours?”
He took her hand in his, dropped to his knees and kissed it.
Xara knelt down in front of him, put the index finger of her free hand under his chin and lifted so he was looking at her face.
“Forgive me, Goddess. My name is Henry.”
“Please stand up, Henry.”
“Yes, my Goddess.”
“Henry, I’m not a Goddess.”
Henry smiled and said, “You all say that, but you are. You came and saved us from the Arion demons.”
“Yes, Henry, but we aren’t Goddesses.”
“Yes, my Goddess.”
“Joe, come here please.”
I walked over to her, and she said, “Henry, I’d like you to meet Joe, my husband. Joe isn’t a Velorian, he’s like you, except that he comes from another planet.”
Henry was gobsmacked. He was speechless. Then he turned to the others and said something in his language, I think he was telling them what Xara said, and they were utterly amazed.
Henry looked at me, then ran his hand, gently and lightly over my face and head, and asked, “Did you displease your Goddess wife? Is this how she punished you?”
“No, Henry. She has never hurt me,” Dixon guffawed, “and she never would.”
“My Goddess, do you wish that we serve your husband?”
“No, Henry, that won’t be necessary. Please, go back to work. I apologize for interrupting you.”
“No Goddess, you never need to apologize.”
He wouldn’t leave until Xara turned and we went back to our group. Then he turned and yelled at the workers, and they went back to work.
“Is it like this everywhere?” Xara asked.
“Sometimes it’s worse,” answered Mari. “These Terrans can barely feed themselves, yet they are constantly showering us with gifts, especially gifts of food. And if we turn it down, they destroy it, rather than eat it, because it wasn’t a worthy enough a sacrifice.
“You will see at dinner this evening, we let them serve us. We always make sure there is an abundance of leftover Terran food stuffs, and we instruct the servers to take it for themselves and their families.”
“That’s very kind of you,” I said.
“They call it ‘Gifts from the Goddess’, that’s me. I do it because they desperately need the food. But it only reinforces their behavior.
“And they will not accept payment from us for anything. Those Terran workers you met are paid by their government. I have a team of three who are constantly looking for ways to funnel resources to the population anonymously.
“We discovered that, to them, gold is a precious metal. Who would have ever thought that? So we order rocks from Velor and drop them randomly near settlements all over the continent.”
The building was built around a central courtyard that went from floor to ceiling, with glass at the top. We saw several Velorians floating up and down the building. Mori led us to a bank of three lifts. There was no door. We walked onto one of the lifts and Mori punched a button on the back wall and we went up until we reached our floor.
Each of the ladies had her own apartment. The door had a biometric reader. Mori entered a code on a pad before each door and had us put our palms on our respective doors. Our palm prints were registered which gave us access to our apartments.
Xara and I, of course, shared an apartment. It was … lavish. Beautiful furniture, a stocked kitchen, it was nice.
“We had an elimination device installed in one of the bathrooms for you,” Mori said to me. She led me to the right bathroom, (there were two) and showed me a porta-potty thing not unlike the one they had for me on the Cathunk.
There was a knock at the door. Xara looked through it and said, “It’s mom and Sharon.”
She opened the door. Sharon ran to the kitchen; Kara came over to me.
“Have you eaten anything, Joseph?”
“No … “
“Nothing’s been touched,” said Sharon.
“What’s going on mom?”
“These apartments have been stocked with Velorian food,” said Kara, “it is poisonous to Terrans.”
“Yes, of course,” said Mori. “We put the Terran food in blue containers for that very reason.”
“Thank you, Mori,” said Kara. “My daughter has never been to Velor, and we seldom get Velorian food shipments to Terra. She doesn’t know her favorite childhood treats would kill Joseph.”
Xara was slightly shaken by this news. She went to the kitchen and started examining all the food.
“I had no idea,” she said. “Joe, only eat food from these blue containers. If in doubt, ask me.”
She showed me the containers, then turned to Kara and asked, “Mom, why didn’t this come up on the Golden Cathunk?”
“Out of courtesy to Joseph,” Kara answered, “the Captain made sure that only Terran foods would be served at meals with him present.”
Mori said, “Joe, I apologize. We didn’t know Xara was unfamiliar with this. But of course, she grew up on Terra, how would she know?”
“I’m glad we caught it in time,” I said. “No need to apologize.”
“Well, I’ll see you at dinner,” said Mori, “I’ll send an aid to fetch you at the proper time. Your maid should arrive soon to introduce herself. Please be kind to her.”
And without explaining her request, she left.
Sharon said, “Why don’t we all have lunch here. I can show Xara how to prepare Velorian food.”
“Good idea,” said Kara, “test the kitchen fans first.”
“Right,” said Sharon, “we don’t want to poison Joe his first day on another planet.”
She went into the kitchen and turned on the fans. “They work,” she said.
“I can be killed by the fumes from cooking?”
“Probably not killed,” said Sharon, “but it could make you sick.”
“Joe,” said Xara, “I’m going to stay connected to you at a high level. If you need me, or have any questions, call and I’ll hear you.”
“Okay,” I replied. “That’s a good idea.”
At the highest level of connection, Xara couldn’t hear my thoughts, or Johnson and Dixon, but she would be aware if I intentionally called out to her. It was a way for us to stay in touch while still allowing me to have privacy.
Sharon and Xara went into the kitchen and started preparing lunch. They told me the names of the Velorian foods. I’m not going to repeat them here, that would be tedious. Suffice it to say that Xara was very pleased with the way the foods tasted.
The “Terran” foods were Xanadusian fruits and vegetables, breads, fish and meats. I recognized chicken and beef.
“Chicken and beef … did these come from Earth?”
“In a way,” said Kara. “When the seeders brought Terrans to a new planet they brought along Terran fruits, vegetables, and food animals. I think that beef is actually American Bison.”
“Buffalo meat,” I said. “It’s pretty good.”
“So is this,” said Xara, “I wish you could have a bite of it.”
“That would be a very bad thing to do,” said Kara.
After lunch we all helped clean up. They didn’t have any Kelsorian cleaning units. They did have a dishwasher which wasn’t all that different from ours. We’d just finished when there was a knock at the door.
The ladies looked through it and Kara said, “I think she’s a maid.”
Xara opened the door and a Xanadusian woman with what would pass for a cleaning cart in any hotel in the USA immediately dropped to her knees and said, “I am here to make sure your rooms are clean, Goddesses.”
“Please stand up,” said Xara.
She immediately did, but kept her head bowed.
Xara invited her in.
“Please, come in.”
She took two steps into the apartment and stopped.
Sharon said, “Won’t you please come in and sit down?”
She glanced up, nervously, and hurried to the chair Sharon pointed to, while saying, “Yes, Goddess.”
The ladies and I all sat down.
“What is your name?” Asked Xara.
“I am Anna, Goddess. I will be cleaning your rooms while you are here.”
“Anna,” said Xara, “My name is Xara, and this is my husband, Joe.”
Her eyes got huge when she heard that.
“And this is my mother, Kara, and my aunt, Sharon. They are in the other two apartments assigned to us.”
Okay, Sharon is not Xara’s aunt, but that is the relationship they’ve had since her birth.
“Welcome to Xanadu, Goddess Xara, Goddess Kara, and Goddess Sharon. Welcome to Xanadu Goddess husband Joe.”
“It’s just Joe,” I said.
She apparently didn’t know how to respond to that.
“Anna,” said Xara, “Please, just use our names. You don’t need to call us Goddess.”
“Yes, Goddess Xara.”
“Anna, let’s try that again.”
“Yes … Xara.”
“Godde … Xara, I will clean your rooms daily. There is a symbol on your door, turn it so it shows an orange disk when it is an acceptable time for me to clean.”
“Can you enter our apartments when we are out?” asked Kara. “That would be convenient for us.”
“Yes … Kara. The palm reader will let me in when the disk is orange. You don’t have to be here.
“Do you need anything now?”
“No, Anna, we don’t. We just had lunch and cleaned up after ourselves …”
“Goddess, please, cleaning is beneath you. You can leave your dishes on the table, and I will clean them and put them away.”
“Xara, not Goddess.”
“Anna, may I ask you some questions?”
“Yes, husband Joe.”
“Joe,” I said, “it’s just Joe.
“Anna, do the Velorians here expect you to call them Goddess?”
“No,” she replied, “Like you, they tell us not to call them God or Goddess.”
“Then why do you?”
“They saved us from the cruel Arion demons who came to kill us or take us away. They have been nothing but kind to us, and we have nothing to give them in return. This is how Gods and Goddesses act towards mortals.”
“Anna, do you have a family, a husband or children?” I asked.
She fidgeted with her hands and looked down at them.
“I did, before the Arion demons came. My husband and sons died in the Great Battle fighting against them.”
And then she lifted her head and said, proudly, “Those who survived the battle said my husband and sons, with the rest of their battalion, killed two Arion demons before they were all killed.
“My parents, and my sister and her family were either killed by the Arion demons or were taken by them. I don’t know which.”
“I’m so very sorry for your loss, Anna,” I said.
“The day after my husband and sons were killed the Goddesses came. At night we could see lights in the sky where they were killing the Arion demons. And then they came down to Xanadu and joined our fight and defeated the Arion demons.
“And because of that, Goddess Kara, Goddess Sharon, Goddess Xara and Goddess Husband Joe, we will always be grateful, and we will willingly serve you in any way you ask of us.”
We were all silent after that, and Anna didn’t know what to make of it.
“I apologize if I offended …”
“No,” said Xara, softly, “you haven’t offended. We are all saddened to hear of the loss of your family.”
“Thank you, Goddess Xara. If you have no other questions for me, I have other apartments to clean. Please, turn the orange symbol out when you wish me to return and clean your apartments. There are bags for your laundry in the bedrooms.”
“We have no more questions for you, Anna,” said Xara, “You may go.”
Anna got up and left us.
We all sat there for a moment, thinking. And then Xara said, “Joe needs a nap.”
“Yes, you aren’t completely recovered from your stasis ordeal.”
“She’s right,” said Sharon, “you are tired.”
“I just landed on an alien planet! How in the world am I supposed to go to sleep?”
“Leave that to me,” said Xara. And the ladies all laughed.
Fifteen minutes later I was making love to my wife. Five minutes after we finished, I was fast asleep.
Xara woke me when it was time to get ready for dinner.
“How did you sleep?”
“Very well, thank you. Did you have something to do with that, other than the sex?”
“How are we dressing for dinner?”
“Put on your suit and tie. We’re going to meet a lot of people tonight.”
She was right. An aide, a Velorian man, came to bring us to dinner. He was incredibly built and good looking, like all Velorian men. The ladies looked him over, and he looked them over.
“This sucks,” said Johnson.
“Ricci, she’s gonna forget all about you.”
“Not a chance.”
I nearly jumped. I didn’t know Xara was listening. Dixon and Johnson disappeared.
We left the residential building and went to the Embassy next door. We walked up a beautiful staircase to the second floor and went into a large ballroom. There we were met by the Mari, the Ambassador, and Lia, the Protector.
Mari introduced us to the room, then we stood in a reception line while the entire Velorian contingent, or at least those that didn’t have pressing duties, came through and introduced themselves to us.
There was no breast grabbing. Xara picked up on my curiosity and said, “It isn’t done for general introductions like this.”
“Do the men do it to?”
“Men don’t have breasts to grasp.”
“Do they squeeze each other’s dicks?”
She mentally rolled her eyes at me. It’s a unique experience.
Besides the Embassy staff, we were also introduced to spouses and families.
Kara told several people that I am a quadruple Kiraling. My term, not hers, and that the circumstances were classified.
“It establishes your status with us, Joe. And guarantees no one here will try to fuck with you.”
“Would I really have to worry about that?”
“You shouldn’t, but you never know when there might be a bad apple who wants to show the Terran where his place in the universe is. That won’t happen if they know your Kiraling mates could snap their necks.
“We’re going to stay in an active connection tonight. If we get separated, I want to make sure I know where you are.”
“Are you worried?”
“No. But being prepared is better than being smart.”
At dinner it was as Mari had told us. We were served by Xanadusians, or, as the Velorians saw it, Terrans. There was both Velorian and Terran food available, and Xara, Kara and Sharon all watched my plate carefully to make sure I only got Terran food.
As you would expect with any Velorian meal function, there were mountains of food available, both Terran and Velorian. And the Velorians, while they did eat some Terran food, consumed mostly Velorian dishes.
“Skietra, Joe, this food is wonderful. Swallow what you’re chewing, and I’ll share the experience with you.”
I did. Then she did.
“Xara, no! That’s really sharp and spicey!”
The sensation immediately went away.
“Not to your liking, darling?”
Kara and Sharon were obviously enjoying their dinners.
“Joe,” said Sharon, “you don’t know what you’re missing!”
“I’m not missing anything, Sharon.”
“It doesn’t agree with him,” said Xara.
“You used the connection?”
“Yes,” Xara and I said, in unison.
I was watching the Xanadusians. They were very deferential to everyone, even me. They were especially attentive to the Velorian women. And I saw that the Velorians were all very polite to them.
One young woman was trying to juggle too many plates, and she had an accident. The plates went tumbling to the floor, it made a quite a noise. As the Xanadusians rushed to clean up the mess, a Velorian man, at the table nearest the accident, bent his head over and whispered something in the young lady’s ear. It seemed to help.
“Did you hear what he said?”
“He told her not to worry about it, he probably would have dropped them too.”
“Would he have?”
“He’s a Vel, Joe, what do you think?”
After dinner, when the Velorians had finished their desserts, and Xara loved her desserts, the tables were cleared, and wine was brought out and the Ambassador toasted her guests from Terra. The wine was not Velorian. It wasn’t local either, Kara said it was probably supplied by either the Scalantrans or Kelsorians.
After dinner there was a social hour, which is reverse from the way we earthlings would do it. Everyone mingled and, of course, everyone wanted to talk to the newcomers from Terra.
I was surprised, I thought I’d be the shortest person in the room. Well, I was taller than some of the Xanadusians, but I was also taller than some of the Velorians.
“Xara, I’ve never seen Velorians shorter than me.”
“Neither have I. There were a few on the ship, you weren’t awake long enough to meet the entire crew. There is more variation in size among the lower genetic castes.”
The shortest I saw was probably about 5’8”. Just 2 inches shorter than me, but still, I never expected to see that. Despite that, the men were handsome and built and the women were beautiful. And all of them were blondes, with not a single blemish on them.
Everyone was curious about my appearance. Up until now, they hadn’t asked about it. The Velorians who met us at the shuttle didn’t ask. The ambassador’s aide didn’t ask. No one at our table asked during dinner. But during the social time there were questions. At first directed to Xara.
“Xara, my name is such and such, how did your husband get his injuries.”
“Nice to meet you such and such. My husband speaks Velorian, you should direct questions about him to him.”
The first time this happened, the Velorian apologized to me and asked me how I got my injuries. I told her I got them fighting in a war. She nodded and said she understood. And I thought, right, asshole, you’re invulnerable. You can’t possibly understand. And then she surprised me by telling me about what the Arions had done to the Terrans of Xanadu, and how many wounded and maimed people she came across every day and how inadequate she felt because she didn’t have any medical skills and didn’t know how to help them.
She pulled an electronic pad out of her cloak and showed me a picture of a family. A mom, dad and little boy. The dad was a double amputee, he’d lost both legs. The little boy was on crutches, his left leg had been amputated just above the knee.
“The woman is my housekeeper. I try to help her with money, but she is so reluctant to accept help from me, they are all like that; if you spend any time with them, you’ll see. So I sneak money and food into her bag when she isn’t looking. She knows I’m doing it, but sneaking it lets her accept it without feeling like she is somehow taking something she doesn’t deserve from her ‘savior’.”
“I have seen that attitude,” I said, “I don’t really understand it.”
“None of us quite understand either. If you ask them, they tell us that we saved them from the demons, that’s what they call Arions, demons, and they should be doing for us, giving to us, because of that.”
“Hmm, sounds like what I hear from the people who call me their Kiraling.”
“Don’t be a smartass, Joe.”
Not all questions about me were directed to me. Several the ladies asked Xara how I was as a sexual partner.
“Oh geez, Xara, am I always going to hear these questions?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t you?”
She’d tell them what other Velorians, including other Protectors have said about me. And they were all impressed.
Something else went on, that reminded me of our honeymoon cruise, and not in a good way.
The ladies, Sharon, Kara, and Xara were all attracting sexual interest from the men. It wasn’t overt, no one came up to them and said, “Hey chick, I like your looks! Wanna fuck?” But they let it be known in a subtle way, but not so subtle that I didn’t notice, that they were available anytime. They did it with their wives right there, and their wives didn’t have any problem with it at all!
Kara and Sharon encouraged it, with a very subtle release of their pheromones. It was enough that I noticed it, not enough to make me hard, but definitely put me in the mood, but also leave me in a mental state where I knew what was going on.
“Xara, are the men releasing pheromones?”
“Yes. How did you know?”
“Your mom and Sharon are releasing theirs, I just thought it might be mutual.”
“I’d forgotten that you can recognize and identify which of us is releasing pheromones. We never did figure out how you do that.”
Up to now, Xara wasn’t releasing hers. And she got some very curious looks from the men who came to talk to us.
“You’re thinking about the cruise.”
“I know it looks the same, Joe, but it isn’t. No one here disrespects you.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“If I find out someone is, I’ll fix it.”
And then something happened that changed the dynamic. Lia, the Xanadu Protector, and Kasa, the embassy Security Officer, came to talk to us, talk to me, and I detected pheromones I didn’t recognize.
“Are Lia and Kasa doing that?”
“They’re only looking at me.”
“They’re only interested in you.”
“Joe,” asked Lia, “I’m fascinated by Terra, can you answer some questions for me?”
“I’d like to be part of this discussion too,” said Kasa.
Lia turned to Xara and asked, “Xara, may we borrow your husband for a few minutes?”
“Of course,” answered Xara.
“Let’s go over here and sit down and talk,” said Lia as she and Kasa each took an arm and led me to an empty table.
And then, other women in the room who hadn’t shown any interest in me at all took note, and several of them came over.
“Xara, what’s going on?”
“You’re Kiraling to Protectors, a Messenger and a Scribe. That attracts the attention of the upper castes. Once they indicate their interest the lower castes go along.”
“How do you know all this? You didn’t grow up on Velor.”
“Velorian Mother-daughter talks about sex are very explicit, Joe. I’ve never been to Velor, but mom took me to Enlightenment planets when I was younger to expose me to Velorian culture.”
“Someday you’ll have to tell me about that.”
Kasa and Lia were asking me open ended questions about my life growing up on Terra, and they and the other women around me hung on every word I said. The most mundane parts of my childhood were interesting to them. Or at least they made me feel like they were interesting.
The questions went beyond my upbringing to more general questions about the planet I am from.
“We understand Terra is divided into separate geographical and political entities, is that right?” Lia asked.
“Yes,” I answered, “we call them countries. Each country is a sovereign nation that rules itself.”
They all tried out those words, country and countries.
“How many countries are there?” asked Kasa.
Off the top of my head, I didn’t know. But I did remember watching a World Cup qualifier and the announcer pointed out that there were 211 countries in FIFA, more than were in the United Nations, so I went with that.
“There are 211 countries on Terra,” I answered.
Then Lia steered the conversation in a different direction.
“We observe here on Xanadu, and on other Terran planets, that Terran sexual mores are different from ours. Is that also true on Terra?”
Holy Shit! I’m sure this is just my impression, but it seemed to me that the entire room shifted its attention to me. Velorian hearing. Sharon had explained to me how they can filter out noise, but still pick up on something that piques their interest.
“It is different,” I answered. “Some people have casual sexual relationships with multiple partners. Others form commitments that, ideally, are exclusive. For example, married partners are universally expected to be faithful to each other in all things, including sex. That is an ideal, many of us do not live up to it.”
“Do you live up to it?” asked a woman I had met, but I didn’t remember her name.
“Well … Xara and I have an arrangement.”
“What kind of arrangement?”
I must have started blushing because I heard giggles. Because of my burns, most people, Terrans, couldn’t tell when I blushed. Velorians could.
Xara came to my rescue.
“Joe is a very … Terran kind of Terran. He has strict rules about what is proper and what is not. His rules mirror those of the society he comes from, but he is more serious about following them than some others are.”
“What are those rules?” a Velorian woman asked.
“Well, a good example is something they call the age of consent. They don’t believe a person is mature enough to consent to sex until they reach the age of 18.”
“That long?” Asked the same woman.
“Yes. I started making sexual overtures to Joe when I was 15. He did not respond to them. When I was 16 I was very explicit with him, and he refused. We didn’t have sex until after I turned 18 and he had made a marriage proposal to me.”
The same woman came back with, “He’s a Terran. If you wanted him, why didn’t you just take him?”
“Because he is Kiraling, and I respect his wishes, and because I love him, and I never want him to think that his beliefs are unimportant or subordinate to my whims.”
At this point, Kasa’An, the Security Officer chimed in.
“Keep in mind that Terra is an undisclosed planet. The Velorians there are isolated and must live in secret. Taking a Terran for sex there, even to go so far as to have a Terran lover or husband, is acceptable, because there are no other options.
“I know that you are all aware, but it bears repeating that on a disclosed planet with a significant Velorian presence, such as here on Xanadu, the rules are very different. Having a sexual relationship with a Terran must be undertaken with great care, and all such relationships must be disclosed.”
She looked at the woman who asked the question and said, “We don’t ‘just take’ a Terran on Xanadu because it suits us.”
This is different from what I’d been led to believe, so I asked, “Velorians on Xanadu are allowed to have an intimate relationship with the Xanadusians?”
“It is discouraged,” replied Kasa, “but not unheard of.”
“That’s a non-answer.”
“Just let it go, Joe. No one likes having their inconsistency shoved in their face.”
“You mean hypocrisy.”
“I’m always nice.”
That same woman who asked Xara why she didn’t take me, asked another question: “You said you and your wife have an arrangement. What is that arrangement?”
“I’ll let my wife explain.”
“When I first desired Joe, I didn’t think he’d be able to … resist. And, as you heard him say earlier, faithfulness is important to him, and that includes sexual exclusivity, something many Terrans value and expect. So I told him that, until we were intimate, we were both free to pursue sexual liaisons with Terrans and Supremis. But, once we were intimate, we would restrict ourselves to Supremis sex partners.”
“Where would he find Supremis sex partners who would want him?” she asked.
Kara spoke up.
“He is Kiraling to me, Shara’Lynn and Xara.”
“And being Kiraling entitles him to have sex with you?”
This question really surprised me. The way the Rack Pack talked about it, sex was one of the great benefits of the Kiraling relationship, and I wondered why this Velorian woman didn’t know that.
Lia-Spa, the Protector of Xanadu, took this one.
“Suz, have you spent your entire life either on Velor or a disclosed planet?” Suz was, apparently, the name of the woman who had been asking the questions.
“Yes, I have.”
“Have you ever felt that your life was threatened?”
“No, of course not! Who or what could possibly threaten my life?”
“Those of us,” replied Lia, “who have spent our lives fighting the Arions have lived with the threat of violent death. If the Arions decide they want this planet back, your life could very well be threatened.
“There are very few ways for a Terran to become Kiraling. Kiraling is a lifelong debt.”
Suz replied, “I understand that. What did this Terran do to become Kiraling?”
Kara answered, “The details are classified. I will tell you what I have told everyone else who has asked. The three of us, and a Messenger, would not be alive today were it not for this Terran.
“If he wants money, or sex, or anything else in our power to give him, he will receive it.”
“He asks you for sex, then,” said Suz.
“He has never asked us for anything,” said Xara, “which is one of the reasons we love him.”
“Joe Ricci,” asked Suz, “you do not expect your wife to be exclusive to you? You do not object to her having sex with Supremis?”
“These Supremis women, Xara, Kara and Sharon, have let me into their lives in a way that rivals my own family, or the brotherhood of the soldiers I’ve served with. I understand that they need more than I can give them. I understand that my wife needs more than I can give her, and I do not begrudge her that.”
“So you recognize her need for a real man.” This came from the man standing next to Suz, and he had a shit eating grin on his face. No sooner were the words out of his mouth than he was wilting under the combined glare of Xara, Sharon, Kara, Lia and Kasa.
We were in the connection. Usually, I don’t feel what Xara is feeling unless she intentionally shares it with me. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, I never asked her, but I could feel her anger, in a way that frightened me.
“Jon,” said Mari, the ambassador, “I’m sure you meant no offense, but what you just said is an insult to our Terran guest.”
I could see the emotional conflict play out in his expressions. On the one hand, he didn’t want to lose face in front of his colleagues. On the other hand, he was looking at Xara, and he was afraid. In the end fear won out over pride.
“I apologize, Joe Ricci. I meant no disrespect.”
“I accept your apology, Jon.”
“I want to shove his head up his ass!”
“Down girl. Let’s not get into a fight with the locals our first night here.”
After that, the blondes sat down for a conversation with Mari, the ambassador.
“I thought pre-space flight civilizations were not offered membership in the Enlightenment,” said Kara, “is that policy changing?”
“No, that is still the policy,” answered Mari.
“Then why,” asked Sharon, “does this planet have an embassy? Shouldn’t they have a Protector, and nothing more?”
“Usually,” explained Mari, “we only put embassies on Enlightenment planets. This planet is an exception. They have diplomatic relations with us, with Velor, not any of the other Enlightenment civilizations.”
“For what reason?” Asked Sharon.
“The Arions came close to wiping out the population of Xanadu. Those that are left are in a very bad way and would regress 500 or more years in their development without assistance.
“The members of the Combat Wings that destroyed the Arion invasion force pleaded with the Senate to intervene and help. Several Senators traveled here to see for themselves and were persuaded to do so, and they persuaded the rest of the Senate to assist the Xanadusians in recovering from the attack.”
“How are the other Enlightenment planets reacting to this?” asked Kara, “Are they assisting in the rebuilding?”
“Not directly,” replied Mari. “They won’t send ships and technicians here, or cargo. But they will sell us food, tools and raw materials. And we turn around and send them here. The Kelsorians have shown themselves adept at manufacturing tools that match the Xanadusians level of development.”
“So this rebuild is mostly on Velor,” said Sharon.
“Yes,” answered Mari.
“I count 12 Guardians here,” said Kara, “13 including the Chief.”
“We’re out here by ourselves,” said Mari. “Normally, this planet would only have a Protector. But we are way out in the sticks and if the Arions wanted to try again, and bring Primes, the embassy would be vulnerable. And since Xanadu is not a member of the Enlightenment, there is no treaty obligation to defend this planet, or our embassy.”
“I’m a bit lost here,” I said. “What are Guardians?”
“Guardians,” said Mari, “are P1s who were not suitable for enhancement to Protector, for whatever reason. They act as embassy guards. 13 is more than usual, and as there hasn’t been any sign of a renewed threat from Aria, in addition to their usual duties, they are also training the population in defense. And they help with the rebuilding effort, though we try to keep that to a minimum. The Terrans here are very quick to fall to their knees in the presence of a tall Velorian woman. We don’t want to start a new religion here.”
“How are they training the Xanadusians in defense?” I asked.
“These Terrans are very peaceful. Though they were spread across five continents, they maintained a single identity. No divisive political divisions formed. They never developed militaries, of any kind. Law enforcement, yes, but not an army. When the Arions attacked, they had no idea how to form units, or set up command and control.
“They knew nothing of fighting wars, so they would try to fight in small groups, and when that failed, they massed against the Arions and attacked them, and were slaughtered. If you get to know these Terrans, you will find that they are gentle, kind, generous and hospitable. What you may not see, because it lies just below the surface, is that they are also brave and fierce.
“They didn’t have armies, but given the state of their development, they did have hunters with good, though primitive, hunting weapons. Every family owns one or more devices that use an explosive to accelerate a projectile down a metal pipe towards its target. The Xanadusians are very proficient with them. We believe that if they can learn small and large unit tactics and coordination, they could use these weapons to overwhelm individual Betas.”
“Fire and maneuver,” I said.
“Yes,” said Mari, “exactly. Are you familiar with those tactics.”
“Yes,” I said, “very familiar.”
“More familiar than you want to be,” said Dixon.
“Fucking A,” I replied.
“Would you be willing to talk to our Guardians about it?” Mari asked.
“Besides being my son-in-law and Kiraling, Joseph is also my employee,” Kara said. “This would require my permission.”
I didn’t say anything to that. Mari just nodded.
“Mom doesn’t want you put in a position that would cause you to relive past experiences,” said Xara, in the connection.
“I appreciate that Xara,” I said. “But I helped train soldiers for deployment, back when I was at JBLM, and it wasn’t a problem for me.”
“You had lots of problems then,” she said, “you just don’t remember them.”
We returned to our apartments after the ‘social hour’. Kara and Sharon had men with them. I noted that all the disks on our doors had been rotated from orange to blue. Sure enough, when we went inside and looked around, we could see that the apartment had been cleaned.
The dishwasher was empty, the dishes put away and the bed had been made.
We showered together and got into bed. Xara was just starting to release pheromones and straddle me when I held my hand up and asked, “Can we talk about something first?”
“How do you want to handle the … sex situation? Do you want me to find a place to stay some nights, or are you going to go home with a guy or …?”
She rolled over onto her back and looked up at the ceiling.
“I never thought I would say this, but tonight, that man, Jon, turned me off from Velorian men.”
“Yes. I thought about putting on gold tonight because he pissed me off.”
The ladies would put on gold from time to time when they wanted to do something different. For example, when they wanted to let me feel like I was in control. Another reason would be because they needed to work off frustration or anger and didn’t want to hurt me.
“Xara, that’s pretty serious.”
“Joe, I told you I would never belittle you. I’d never make you feel like you were less of a man because you are Terran. I think I’ve kept that promise.”
“I agree, you have.”
“I don’t like it when someone else, when another Supremis puts you down.”
“I could tell. Your mom and Sharon weren’t too happy about it either.”
“Lia, Kasa and Mari didn’t like it. Just thinking about it pisses me off.”
She got out of bed.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m getting my choker.”
She put on her gold choker, and we had angry sex. Angry Velorian sex, as in the Velorian was angry, not me. I was really glad she wasn’t angry with me.
Afterwards I asked her, “Feel better?”
“I do, thank you. How do you feel?”
“That was a pretty good ride! I’m going to sleep well tonight.”
And I did.
In the morning, bright and early … I have no idea what time, but the sun wasn’t that far above the horizon, there was a knock on our door.
“It’s mom and Sharon,” said Xara. “You sleep in.”
Sleep in. My first morning on a new planet. Not happening. I got up and used the “elimination” device in the bathroom, shaved and went out to the dining area. Sharon was fixing breakfast.
“Eggs and something that looks like bacon, Joe?”
There was a blue container on the table with some kind of citrus juice in it. That was for me. Kara and Xara were sipping something Velorian.
“Joe, this is delicious. I know you didn’t like what I had last night; would you like to try this? You might like it.”
I said, “Sure, I’m game,” as I was sitting down. She sent me the taste through the connection, and then I was gagging. “Holy shit, Xara!”
“Is it really that bad, Joe? What did it taste like to you?”
“I just told you. Shit!”
Kara took a sip of her drink. “It tastes fine to me. Is there a problem with the connection?”
“I don’t know, mom, maybe there is. Joe, I want to try this again, connecting mom to you so she can taste the same thing you do.”
I was skeptical, but I said okay.
“I’m skeptical, but okay.”
“Let’s make sure it’s the best connection possible,” Xara said as she reached for my hand. Kara put her hand on the same arm Xara was using to touch me.
“Oh! I want to get in on this,” said Sharon.
There we were all in a connection together. Xara took a sip of her juice, sent the taste to me, and shared my perception of it with Kara and Sharon.
“Oh, my goodness Joseph. That was interesting.”
“It was awful,” said Sharon.
“I see what you mean,” said Xara.
“If you could ‘see what I mean’ why did you need to do it again?”
“Joe, I don’t always monitor your feedback when we’re in the connection. Last night and this morning I just sent you what I tasted. I didn’t read back your sensation.”
“I think,” said Kara, “that our tastebuds are different from his.”
“Okay, Joe, now you take a sip of your juice.”
I did, and it tasted good. Like apple juice with a touch of cinnamon. Then the ladies each took a sip.
Everyone looked at Xara.
“It tasted the same to me as it did to him.”
“So it must have tasted the same to us, me and your mother,” said Sharon.
Xara can share with others what she is getting from me in the connection, but it’s only one way. Not two way like it is between me and her. And she can only perceive what I am feeling and pass that on. She can’t perceive what others are feeling, and she can’t pass on to others, except for myself, what she is feeling. Confused? Welcome to the party.
“Well, I’m sure Gloria will want to explore this,” said Kara.
Breakfast was ready and we all filled our plates and began eating.
“How was your night?” Xara asked Sharon and Kara.
“About the same as it was on the ship,” Kara replied.
“Same here,” said Sharon.
I didn’t know what they meant.
“I don’t know what you mean,” I said.
“Ordinary Velorian men are not as … good as Messengers,” Sharon said.
“I don’t understand,” I said. “What in the world is an ‘ordinary’ Velorian? All the Velorians I’ve ever met have been extraordinary.”
“By your standards, Terran standards, yes,” said Kara.
“Protectors, Scribes and Messengers all have superior genetics,” said Xara. “We’re better, in every way, than the general Velorian population.”
“On a scale of 1 to 1,000,” said Sharon, “if a Terran is at the bottom of the scale at 1, and a Messenger is at the top of the scale, at 1,000, an ordinary Velorian male’s sexual performance is about 700.”
I was stunned into silence. A Messenger is 1,000 times better than me? An ordinary, run-of-the mill Velorian is 700 times better than me? Why would Xara spend even a second in bed with me on a planet with scores of Velorian men who were all, from what I observed, eager to be with her?
Xara, of course, picked up on that, as we were in the connection.
“Well, maybe the scale isn’t from 1 to 1,000,” said Xara, “but the point is, a Messenger is a lot better than men from the lower castes.”
It must have sunk into Sharon’s head how her comparison sounded to me. “Oh! Joe! No, I don’t mean to imply … oh, Joe, I’m so sorry.”
“I guess now I know what Jon meant by a ‘real man’.”
“Joseph,” said Kara, “this is only about sex. Don’t let it bother you. And in my experience, and I’ve had a lot of experience, you are more of a man than any Velorian I’ve ever met.”
“I agree with that,” said Sharon.
“I haven’t met anyone yet who makes me question mom and Sharon’s opinion of you,” said Xara.
“And about Jon,” said Sharon, “the man I was with last night told me he has a reputation as a jerk, and his job performance is sub-par.”
“The man I was with said he is skating on thin ice and may be sent back to Velor,” said Kara.
“Imagine that,” said Sharon.
“What am I imagining?”
“Joseph, we may not be gods and goddesses, but outside of a gold field, we are as close to it as it gets without being Skietra herself. On Velor, we aren’t as strong. We’re invulnerable, but we can’t fly, we don’t have heat vision, and we don’t live as long.”
“And the beauty you take for granted on Terra, the mountains and forests and rivers, the changing of the seasons, we have none of that on Velor,” added Sharon.
Kara said, “No one who is recalled to Velor, for cause, ever gets off the planet again.
“Candidates for off planet vocations, like the crew of the Golden Cathunk, or the embassy personnel here undergo intense scrutiny and evaluation. It wouldn’t do to let a Supremis of poor character loose in the galaxy.”
Were they deflecting, to change the subject from sex to Velorian personnel practices? I didn’t know. I didn’t want to know.
“Well, ladies, what’s on the agenda for today?”
“We have a few days before the Senator arrives,” said Kara. “Why don’t we do some exploring. The three of us did a quick tour of the planet, I’d like to spend a little more time getting a closer look at it.”
We left the breakfast dishes for our maid to do. Mari gave Kara some of the local currency, which she shared with the rest of us so we could leave tips for Anna. We didn’t know what the custom was, so we agreed to put the tips on our pillows.
Kara and Sharon left to change into their flight suits. Xara put on hers and helped me into my space suit. We had brought air tanks with it, which Xara filled the old fashioned way, she blew into them until they were fully charged. Velorians are powered by Orgone, not oxygen, so the air that came out of her lungs was pretty much the same as the air that went into them.
“Joe, we’re going to get a closer look at what the Arions did here. If it gets to be too much for you, let me know and we’ll do something else.”
“Is it that bad, Xara?”
“It might be.”
We started out by flying straight up. Kara and Sharon stayed with us at what for them, I’m sure, was a slow pace. The suit protected me from the air stream, so Xara could fly fast, but my lower tolerance for G forces meant that it took her longer to get up to her cruising speed than it would if she didn’t have me.
My suit had internal instrumentation that showed me the outside air pressure. It was calibrated for Earth, but this planet was similar enough that I thought I could trust the calibration. At 60,000 feet the ladies stopped their ascent. Sharon looked at me and smiled, and then moved off a ways and held out her arms.
Kara smiled and did the same thing.
“If this is no fun for you, just say so.”
Before I could ask her what she was talking about, I was sailing up in a gentle arc and came down in Sharon’s arms. Then she tossed me to Kara. Kara caught me and turned me so I was vertical and tossed me to Xara, putting some spin on me.
Xara caught me and tossed me back to Sharon, adding a little bit to the spin. Then it was back to Kara.
“Xara, let me fall a little bit. I want to try something.”
Kara threw me back to Xara, with some spin, and Xara backed off and let me fall, staying right with me the entire time. I spread out my arms, like I’d seen skaters do, and my rate of spin slowed down. Then I brought my arms in and it sped up.
Then Xara came into me and put her arms around me and gently slowed our fall, then tossed me up, with the spin again. I did the same thing. Arms out, spin slows. Arms in, spin speeds up.
After a few minutes of this the ladies stopped, I think they were getting bored.
“You weren’t afraid?”
“No, I knew you guys wouldn’t let anything happen to me. Besides, at this altitude it’s hard to get a reference point. I may have been hurtling towards the ground, but it didn’t appear to be getting any closer.”
“That’s interesting. But it makes sense. Your perspective is relative to your surroundings, and if you don’t perceive yourself to be falling, there is no fear.”
“Well, I think trusting you guys had a lot to do with it too.”
“I love you Mr. Ricci!”
“And I love you, Mrs. Ricci!”
“I wonder if we can modify this suit so we can have sex in space.”
I had no comment.
We went higher up, the sky went from blue to black, and then we started coming down. We were heading for one of the other continents. The ladies picked out a city, or what once was a city, and we landed on what once was a wide boulevard.
“Stay on internal air,” said Kara. “There is a stench; it might overcome you.”
The suit had filters that would scrub incoming air, but I followed her advice and used the air tanks.
We walked around, sometimes one of the ladies would pick me up and we’d fly to another nearby location. All the streets were blocked with debris. Very few buildings were intact. There were burned and decomposing bodies and body parts everywhere. We saw the bodies of adults wrapped around children, trying to shield them, to no avail. I’d seen some bad shit during my deployments, but nothing on a scale like this.
We came across a school. The bodies of the children and adults, teachers I think, were still at their desks, or sprawled on the floor. There was some damage to the building, but not enough to account for what we saw. And the faces of the victims … it wasn’t a painless death.
It brought back some bad memories for me. Xara was near to tears. Sharon had a look of shock on her face. Kara … her face was set in stone. She was angry, very angry.
“Gas,” said Sharon. “The fucking bastards gassed these children.”
We saw three Velorians flying over the city. They landed and asked us what we were doing there.
“We wanted a closer look at what the Arions did to this planet,” said Kara.
“We’re doing a survey for the Terran government,” said one of the Velorians, a man. By Terran government he meant the Xanadusian government.
“They don’t have any way of getting here. Their shipping system was destroyed by the Arions. The ambassador volunteered our assistance in surveying the planet until they can get some ships built.”
He paused for a moment and then said, “Their shipyards were destroyed by the Arions. It will be a while before they will have anything that can set sail.”
“Is it like this everywhere?” I asked.
“Yes. Like this or worse. The Arions filled their holds with captives for the slave labor camps, killed the rest, and took anything they thought had any value.”
Their curiosity about us satisfied, they took off and headed away to continue their survey.
“Kara, is this what the Arions do everywhere?” I asked.
“No, Joseph. Not everywhere. At first, when they began expanding the empire, they would destroy the entire population and loot the planet’s resources.
“Then they recognized that Terrans could be used as slave labor, and they would keep enough of them alive on the planet to extract resources and take the others to other planets and put them to work.
“This is speculation, but I think this planet is either poor in resources the Arions value, or extracting them would not be cost effective, so they took as many captives as they could and killed the rest.”
We went back into the air to scout out other locations and came across a battlefield. This is a planet that wasn’t as far along as Earth is when the Arions arrived. They had weapons not much different from what you would have found on earth in the last 30 or so years of the 19th century. I picked up a couple of rifles and examined them. They were breach-loading, single shot, with a lever action. We found a lot of them. I found ammunition for them and fired one a couple of times. It was accurate. The ammunition was large caliber, like you would expect for hunting rifles, and had quite a recoil.
But not everyone who fought here had a rifle. We found revolvers, swords, and farm implements. Lots of farm implements. Sickles, hoes that had been sharpened, wooden spears made from, I assume, the handles of rakes and shovels. Iron spears made from I don’t know what.
Most of the rifles were found with men. Some of the women had rifles. Most of the women, and there were a lot of them, had the other weapons I mentioned. There were even children, teens and younger, with slings.
The bodies were burned and mutilated from GAR fire, that’s what Sharon said the Arions used. I didn’t see any bodies with wounds in the back, at least not on the intact or relatively intact bodies.
From the looks of it, the Xanadusians had executed a mass attack. Imagine Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. Or maybe a Japanese human wave attack, a banzai charge, from World War 2. You could see that as they fell, the survivors closed ranks, so that as they advanced, and were killed, the width of their front narrowed.
There were thousands of bodies. Sharon flew up high to get a full view of the carnage, and she found the bodies of four Arion Betas spread around the field. I examined them. They died from bullet wounds. A lot of bullet wounds. There were some dead Xanadusians around them who were armed only with the farming tools, more that had rifles. I couldn’t see any wounds on the Betas that I could definitely say came from the farm implements, or clubs, or swords. But they had a lot of bullet wounds, dozens of them, front and back, and none of them went all the way through. They must have bled out, and they took a lot of Xanadusians with them.
I had to stop and take deep breaths a couple of times. Bad memories were coming back.
“Do the Arions leave their dead on the field, where they fell?” I asked Kara.
“No, Joseph, they don’t. Not usually. Maybe they left in a hurry, maybe because they discovered Velor was coming. I don’t know. But no, Joseph, they do not usually leave their dead behind.”
I turned to Xara; her cheeks were streaked with tears.
“Can we go back now?”
I put my arms around her and held her close, which wasn’t very close, because I was in my spacesuit.
“Yes, we can go back.”
“It’s okay honey, take Joseph back to your apartment. Sharon and I are going to look around a little more. We’ll catch up with you later.”
We got back to the Velorian complex, and I retracted my helmet. The stench from the city and the battlefield was on the suit.
“Xara, I have to clean this before we take it inside.”
“Wait here, Joe, I’ll ask if there is somewhere we can do that.”
She came back a few minutes later with a Velorian man, someone I met the night before, but I didn’t remember his name.
“We have this problem too,” he said. “Initially, we just burned our clothes, but that was too wasteful. Follow me and I’ll show you where you can clean them.”
Xara picked me up and we followed him into the sky a short distance. We landed at something that reminded me of an outdoor car wash.
He pointed at a tank and said to Xara, “Heat it, and you can use these hoses to steam clean his suit. Protector, Scribe and Messenger flight suits don’t need it.”
And he was right. I could smell the odor on my suit, but it wasn’t on Xara’s flight suit.
I took off the suit and stood there in my underwear while Xara heated the tank up. Then she had me stand back while she took a hose and steam cleaned my spacesuit. After about five minutes it was clean, the odor was gone. We waited for it to cool, then I put it back on and we went back to our apartment.
When we got there, it had been cleaned. The tip we left was on the bedside table.
I said to Xara, “We’ll have to figure out how to get her to take it.”
She agreed, then said, “You need a shower. I’ll take one with you.”
We got into the shower and cleaned each other off. Xara did not release her pheromones; she seemed distracted. And after what we saw, I couldn’t blame her. After we got out of the shower and were dressing, she looked at me and said, “I need to talk to you.”
“You’ve seen horrible things in war.” It was a statement, not a question.
“I have,” I replied, “but nothing on this scale.”
“How do you deal with it? How do you get it out of your mind?”
I took a deep breath and said, “When I figure that out, I’ll let you know.”
She nodded, and then said, “You know, PTSD isn’t something the higher genetic castes have to worry about. I don’t think it affects the lower castes either. I won’t have nightmares, or flashbacks, or any of the … difficulties you’ve had to deal with. But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get what we saw today completely out of my mind.”
“Xara, have you ever known hunger, or thirst, or deprivation, or pain, ever?”
“When the Arions captured us and put gold on us they beat us. That hurt. But it wasn’t anything that lasted. In less than an hour after the gold came off, I was completely healed. I barely even remember the pain.”
“So you have never known extended suffering. Except for that one time, have you ever felt real fear?”
“And yet you were moved to tears over the human suffering you witnessed today. You sometimes worry about thinking you’re a goddess. Here you are on a planet where the natives call you one. But you don’t act like you are superior to them, I mean morally superior to them. Xara, if you are a goddess, you are a kind and merciful one. You approach the human condition with empathy and compassion. Honey, you are a very good person.”
She put her arms around me and hugged me and said, “Thank you, Joe.
“After today, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to show any kind of mercy to Arions. You know we give Betas who surrender and cooperate honorable, painless deaths, or as painless as we can make them.”
“I don’t see myself ever doing that again.”
“I know that feeling, Xara. I’ve been there. I’ve wanted to kill my enemy in a rage, make him suffer. You can’t let your emotions make your decisions for you.”
“You’ve been able to overcome that?”
“Yes. More often than not.”
“I hope you can teach me how to do that.”
We sat down and she leaned into me, and I put my arms around her and rocked her back and forth and told her I love her while she told me how she couldn’t believe even the Arions would do the things we saw today.
Kara and Sharon arrived half an hour later. They came to our apartment, they’d changed out of their flight suits, and Sharon asked if anyone wanted lunch.
“I could eat,” said Xara.
“So could I,” said Kara.
“I’m going to pass,” I said.
“Are you sure, Joseph?”
“Mom, ever since we got back, Joe has been taking care of me. He needs some time to process what we saw today, and instead of doing that he’s been helping me process it.
“Joe, if you want, I can wait and eat with you.”
“No, Xara, if you want to eat, go ahead. I’ll be fine in a bit, I’m sure.”
“Are you sure?”
Kara, Xara and Sharon went into the kitchen to fix lunch.
“That was some real shit we saw today,” said Dixon.
“What do you mean, ‘we’? I didn’t see either of you there.”
“We were there,” said Johnson.
Dixon said, “These Xanadu folks must have some real balls to run into fire like that.”
“Never seen anything like it,” said Johnson.
“They were fighting for their very existence,” I said, “Existential stuff. They could either fight or die.”
“They did both,” said Dixon.
I noticed it was quiet in the kitchen, so I turned around to look. All three of the ladies were staring at me.
“Joe, what are you doing?” asked Sharon.
“He’s processing,” said Xara. “Let’s leave him alone to do that.”
“Joseph, do you need to talk about it?” asked Kara.
“He is mom. In his way.”
Kara looked at her quizzically, then nodded and they went back to preparing and eating lunch. Xara brought me something to drink.
“You guys go ahead and talk. I’ll make sure we leave you alone.”
And with that Johnson, Dixon and I went back to talking about what we saw, for another half an hour or so.
“Ricci,” said Johnson, “maybe we should help train these people.”
“Who’s we?” I asked.
“You can’t do shit without us,” said Dixon. “We should at least see what the Guardians are up to. Make sure they know what they’re doing.”
The guys had a point. I knew tactics. I lived them. They saved my life and allowed me to take a lot more.
“And you used them to get us back,” said Johnson.
About that time, I started noticing I was getting hungry, and next thing I knew Xara was putting a sandwich in front of me. Kara and Sharon came out to the living room with Xara, and they all sat down.
Sharon was staring at me while I ate my sandwich, it was a really good sandwich by the way, and I finally looked back at her and said, “What?!”
“Before Xara brought you the sandwich, you were gesticulating, like you were talking with your hands.”
Xara rolled her eyes at Sharon.
“Well, yeah, I’ve always done that Sharon. You’re just now noticing?”
Sharon opened her mouth to answer but stopped. Xara had gotten up and stood between us. I think I saw her make the ‘shut up’ sign, fingers across the throat, but I was looking at her from behind, so I’m not sure.
“Oh, yes, okay Joe, I have seen that before,” said Sharon.
“Are you alright, Joseph?” asked Kara.
Before I could answer, Xara jumped in and said, “He’s better now mom. He just needed some time to deal with what he saw today.”
And then to me, “If you need any help with that Joe, we’re all here for you.”
“Are you okay now, Xara?” I asked her.
“Yes, I’m fine.” She pointed to her head and said, “Protector resiliency.”
Then she sat down next to me and took my hands in hers and said, “Look at me Joe.”
I looked at her, right into those beautiful blue eyes. And then my mind spaced. It was like I couldn’t think of anything except getting lost in those eyes. I don’t know how long it lasted. Maybe a minute. And then I was back to normal.
“What just happened, Xara?”
“I did a deep dive,” she said. “Let’s explore the embassy grounds and buildings until dinner. Then I think we should go to bed early.”
“What we saw today … was traumatic for you. I’m going to try to help you with that.”
“Do your mom and Sharon know?”
They were right there in the room with us, and were looking at us, wondering what was going on. Xara and I were conversing in the connection. Very handy for privacy when you’re in a room with people who have superhuman hearing.
“They have a good idea. You were a little animated during your conversation with Johnson and Dixon.”
“Did you listen to all of that?”
“No,” she answered, “just enough to know what you were talking about.”
She had recovered from what we saw today, or so she said. And I was triggered by it, or so she said. Well, on that one, I believed her. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had an extended conversation with Dixon and Johnson when someone else was in the room. And I must have talked to them for 45 minutes with the blondes right there, watching me. And Xara jumped in and talked to all three of us, and even listened in for a bit, and neither Dixon or Johnson freaked out about it and disappeared.
So was I triggered? Yes. I was. And this 19 year old young woman saw it and was going to take care of me; or try to take care of me.
That’s what I was thinking, and then it suddenly dawned on me that I’d missed her 19th birthday while I was in stasis.
“Xara, we didn’t celebrate your birthday!”
“No, what made you think of that all of a sudden?”
“It just occurred to me.”
Kara said, “You two go exploring. Sharon and I will see if we can come up with a cake, or something appropriate and we’ll have a little birthday party this evening.”
That sounded good to both of us, so we headed out the door and down to the bottom floor and went outside to look around the embassy grounds.
I had seen the embassy grounds from the air as our shuttle descended from the Golden Cathunk, but it was brief, and I was so absorbed in trying to take everything in that I didn’t take much of anything in.
There was a lot of work going on. I saw people, Xanadusians, putting in plants in some areas, others planting seeds, and others putting in benches. There were several gazebos under construction. I don’t know what the final product would be, but in my mind, I thought it would be something similar, in concept, to the Butchart Gardens near Victoria B.C.
All the work was being supervised by Velorians. Supervised. The Velorians would occasionally jump in and help with some heavy lifting, but for the most part they were letting the Xanadusians do the work. I decided to ask about this.
We approached one of the Velorians and introduced ourselves. He said he met us at the reception. I didn’t remember him, but Xara did.
“Wouldn’t the work go faster if it was being done by the Velorians? It looks like there are enough of you here to do it yourselves.”
“Yes,” he answered, “on another planet we would be doing the lion’s share of the work. But the ambassador has ordered that we source as much of the work as possible to the Terrans.
“Their economy is in a shambles. So we are paying them to do the work.”
“How are they paid,” I asked.
“Ah, now, that is an interesting story,” he answered. “They won’t take payment directly from us. They all think they owe us for pushing out the Arions. The ambassador has a team of Matras who work with the Terran government to identify who is working for us on any given day and making sure some kind of payment is made, usually food or clothing. It depends on what they need. It is all very complicated.”
Xara and I were in the connection.
“What’s a Matra?”
“It’s the genetic class the diplomats come from.”
“Is this guy a Matra?”
“No, he’s a Brava. Most Velorian skilled and unskilled workers are Bravas.”
I made a mental note to ask Xara later what the difference was between a Matra and a Brava. She heard or sensed or whatever me doing that and said, “I’ll explain it tonight.”
“So, as far as these Xanadusians are concerned, they don’t think the embassy is paying them? Then why do they come here to work? Are they being coerced?”
“On the contrary,” he said. “When we first started working on the grounds they just showed up and said they would do the work, that it was beneath us to do it.”
“Geez,” I said, “they must be very grateful.”
“Spend any time with these Terrans,” he replied, “and you’ll see that gratitude and hospitality are two of their most esteemed virtues.”
“Where do you get the food you give them?”
“We import it from other Terran planets. Our scientists have discovered that the nutritional needs of Terrans varies very little from planet to planet. Occasionally there are issues with allergens, but the Matras stay on top of that.”
We thanked him and were going to continue our exploration when he said to Xara, “Protector, if any of the Terrans approach you, please be kind to them. They see us as their saviors, especially Protectors.”
“I understand,” said Xara.
We continued to walk around the grounds, and we came upon a group of Xanadusians who were trying to remove a large rock they were digging up. From the outline it looked like they were working on a pool or pond. There were four of them in the ‘pond’, about four feet below grade. We had been watching them for a few minutes, they hadn’t seen us yet, when Xara said, “I’ve got to help them. They’ll never get that rock out by themselves. It’s bigger than they think it is, it extends several feet below them.”
Looking at the portion of the rock that extended above the surface, you wouldn’t think it was that big. But appearances can be deceiving. Xara jumped down into the pond and approached the men. The moment they saw her they dropped their tools, took off their hats and went down on their knees.
“Please, don’t kneel. Do any of you speak Velorian?”
“Speak Velorian,” must be a phrase they’d heard before. Makes sense really, because they all shook their heads.
“Okay then,” said Xara, “we’ll do this the hard way.”
She started pantomiming, trying to get them to understand that she wanted to help. Xara may be pretty good at charades back on earth (no, she isn’t, but I don’t tell her that), but she was very bad at it here (as bad as she is on earth).
I could have either gone looking for a Velorian worker, or I could jump in and try to help Xara. I jumped in. Yes, I know, it would have been easier to get someone who could talk to these guys, but I wanted more contact with the locals.
I went to the rock and motioned for Xara to get on the other side. Then I pointed to her, put my arms around the rock as far as I could, and pretended to try to lift it. They looked at each other and started talking, they understood.
One of them walked on his knees to Xara and pantomimed picking up the rock. Xara smiled at him and grasped him by his arms and lifted him onto his feet, then she motioned to the rest of the workers to stand up. They all did, and they gathered around her.
I pantomimed picking up the rock, then looking for a place to put it. They got that too, and they pointed at a place outside of the pond where they wanted her to put it.
Xara motioned for everyone to get out of the pond. They didn’t quite get that until I got out and motioned for them to follow. After we were all out, Xara shoved her arms, nearly up to her shoulders, into the dirt around the rock, with her arms as wide apart as they would go, and then lifted and flew the rock up and out of the pond to the place the workers indicated they wanted it.
That was one big rock. And it wasn’t kind to Xara’s wardrobe. I was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt. Xara was in shorts and a tank top. In the battle of Xara vs. the rock, Xara won. In the battle of tank top vs. the rock, the rock won. The tank top wasn’t completely destroyed, but all the really interesting parts of the top half of Xara’s anatomy were exposed.
The workers all gathered around Xara and went to their knees again. She lifted them onto their feet, one by one, smiling. The workers said something to her, I think they were thanking her, then went to a large cart full of tools and took out sledgehammers and went to work trying to break up the rock.
Xara interrupted them again and tried to ask why they were doing it. I stepped in and pantomimed the question, at least that is what I tried to do, and after going back and forth for a bit it became clear (as mud) that they wanted to break up the rock to use the pieces for lining the pond.
Xara motioned for everyone to step back. I did, and the workers followed. Then she started on the rock using her fists to break it up. Her fists were a blur, and they were loud, which caught the attention of the Brava we had been talking to before who flew over to see what was going on. He joined Xara and in a few minutes the rock was broken up into smaller pieces that the workmen could handle.
“You were both impressive, Xara, but he didn’t seem to be as strong as you.”
“How difficult was it for you to lift that rock?”
“It wasn’t difficult at all.”
The Brava talked to the workmen, in their language, then came back to us and said, “Protector, you didn’t have to do that. They would have figured out the rock was too big for them to handle and would have let me know.”
Xara just shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, you said I should be kind to them.”
The Brava smiled at her and thanked her for her help.
The Embassy building itself was just one of several on the grounds. I’ve already talked about the residential building, where we were staying. The ambassador had her own private residence, as did each of the senior members of the embassy staff. There was also a school for the children of the staff. And there were more building sites that had been laid out, I have no idea what those buildings were going to be. Neither did Xara.
The buildings were spaced apart, each with their own grounds. There were several wide boulevards that ran through the embassy complex, connecting all the buildings. Or maybe I should say will run through it. Most of the buildings hadn’t progressed any farther than laying out the outlines for their foundations. And the boulevards were, or were going to be, lined with trees.
“Why does the embassy need wide streets, Xara? Most of the Velorians we see are flying from place to place.”
“I think it’s to impress the Terrans,” she answered. “Sharon told me Velor likes to project an image with its embassies, kind of a shining city on a hill kind of thing.”
“This one isn’t on a hill,” I joked.
“Don’t be a smartass. You know what I mean.”
“Well, I don’t know how shiny it will be, but it is pretty big.”
“Yes,” she said, “I’d say at least 50 acres.”
I looked around and said, “With room to expand if they want to.”
As we walked along, we passed a number of Velorian and Xanadusians. The Velorians didn’t pay any attention to Xara’s more or less (with emphasis on the more) exposed breasts. The Xanadusians would see, and then quickly avert their eyes.
We asked one Velorian, who was supervising Xanadusians, where the space port would be.
She pointed towards a small rise and said, “Just on the other side of that small hill. It won’t be very large; we aren’t expecting a lot of activity.”
By this time, it was starting to get dark, and we headed back to the residential building. As the sky darkened, I looked up into a moonless sky.
“Xara, yesterday between getting to that other continent and back, did we travel more than halfway around the planet?”
“I don’t remember seeing a moon. Does this planet have a moon?”
“No,” she said, “and that makes this planet very odd. It’s tilted, like the earth, so it has seasons, but the tilt is stable.”
“It wouldn’t be stable without the moon?”
“Well, earth’s tilt wouldn’t be. And the day here is almost as long as earth’s.”
“You have to wonder why that is, Joe. Earth’s day would be much shorter if the moon hadn’t slowed its rotation down.”
“So why isn’t this planet’s day shorter?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the Seeders somehow arranged it to be this way.”
It got dark very quickly, and our path wasn’t lit. It didn’t bother Xara at all, and she projected to me what she was seeing. It helped, but distraction and disorientation worked against us, so she told me to close my eyes. And then I was just fine. Except she had to guide me past rocks that looked like they were to my left but were right in front of me; they were to her left. And I had to get into step with her, otherwise I’d feel my left foot moving forward while seeing her right foot doing so.
We got back to our apartment and Sharon and Kara had a dinner ready for us, including, believe it or not, a cake for Xara. Or sort of a cake. It tasted good.
“Where did you find the ingredients?” I asked.
“We didn’t,” said Sharon.
“Anna came by and we told her what we wanted to do,” explained Kara, “and she talked to the other housekeepers and found the ingredients in other apartments.”
“They just take ingredients from other people’s apartments?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Kara, “she explained that the housekeepers do it all the time, with the knowledge and permission of the Velorians who live in this building.”
“She said that most of the residents here eat Velorian food and share the Terran food with each other.”
“There’s a lot of Terran food here. With all this Velorian food, you don’t expect me to eat all of it, do you?”
“No,” said Sharon. “What Kara didn’t tell you is that Anna’s story sounded suspicious to us, so while she was out gathering ingredients, I found someone on the Velorian staff and asked about it.
“The common practice here is to prepare meals with both Velorian and Terran dishes, then give the leftover Terran food to the Xanadusians.”
“So Anna will be getting our leftovers?” I asked.
“Only if you don’t eat all of it,” Kara joked.
“What happened to your top,” asked Sharon.
“I was helping some Xanadusians move a very large rock. Between it and my tits the top didn’t have much of a chance.”
Sharon and Kara thought that was hilarious. I haven’t talked about it much, but if you spend any significant amount of time with Velorian women, you’ll find out that they are very proud of their breasts. Xara once demonstrated for me how hard her nipples are by carving a little trench into a stone with them. The amazing thing is that when we are being amorous, Xara, and Kara and Sharon too, are able to soften their bodies so I am not carved up by their nipples.
We had dinner, had some cake. I sang “Happy Birthday” to Xara, and then Kara and Sharon packed up the leftovers for Anna and left.
“Time for bed, Joe.”
“I don’t feel all that tired, Xara.”
“I know, darling, but you need the rest. This morning was quite stressful for you.”
We went into the bedroom, and she pushed me down, into a sitting position, on the bed. Then she slowly undressed, smiling at me. When she was naked, she knelt in front of me and unlaced and took off my shoes and socks. Then she unbuttoned my shirt and took it off, then she stood me up, unbuckled my belt and pulled my pants and underwear down.
She picked me up and floated over the bed and laid me down on it, then floated down and straddled me, bent over and kissed me and released just a tiny bit of her pheromones. Not much, I was already hard. Then she whispered in my ear, “Close your eyes,” and I did.
She put me inside her, and for the next hour she held me in her loving place, and then I was asleep. In the morning I woke up and rolled over to her and put my hand on a breast, and she smiled, and we made love again.
Did that help? Did it ease the PTSD that I had begun experiencing the day before? All I know is this: if PTSD brings on her prescription for sexual healing, then I’m all for having PTSD. Well, no, I’m not, but I’m sure you get the idea.
While we were eating breakfast there was a knock at the door.
“It’s Anna,” said Xara.
Xara opened the door, and Anna dropped to her knees and held up a package to Xara.
“Please, Anna, stand up.”
“Yes, Goddess Xara,” she said.
“Anna, what have I asked you to call me?”
“Yes, Xara, I apologize.”
“You don’t need to apologize, Anna.”
“Xara, please take this.”
Xara took the package, it was wrapped in plain brown paper, and opened it. Inside was a woman’s top, with V neck and ¾ length sleeves, in turquoise, green and white, with inlaid beads.
“Anna, it’s beautiful! This is for me?”
“Yes … Xara. The men you worked with yesterday told their wives that you tore your top, so we made you this, to thank you for your help.”
“Anna, you made that overnight?” I asked.
“Yes,” she answered. “We make many of our own clothes. All since the Arions came. We are very good at it.”
“Yes, you certainly are!” Said Xara. “Thank you so much Anna, I love it!”
Xara took off the top she was wearing and pulled the new one over her head and went into the bathroom to look in the mirror.
“Anna, please thank the other women for me.”
Then Xara took Anna by the hand and led her to a couch in the living room and had her sit down and tell her how they make clothing.
“Do you think I could come and see?”
“Xara, we would be honored to show you.”
And they made plans for Xara to meet with the women who made the top.
Anna excused herself, she had work to do, and shortly after she left Kara and Sharon knocked on our door.
“Mom, look what the women made me?”
“It’s beautiful, Xara! What women?”
So Xara told Sharon and Kara about the women getting together after the learned that her top had been torn helping the Xanadusian men, and decided to make a replacement for her.
“Kara,” said Sharon, “Let’s put on our flimsiest clothes and go look for some men to help!”
“I’m sure they’d deserve our help more than the Velorian men around here,” replied Kara.
“Ooh, gossip!” Said Xara. “What brought that on?”
“We miss the Messengers,” answered Kara.
Ahh. So this is about sex, which is the favorite subject of every Velorian I’ve ever gotten to know. Granted, it’s a small sample, but I think it is representative.
“The men here are a disappointment?” Asked Xara.
“Matras and Bravas don’t have the strength of Messengers,” said Kara.
“It’s like looking forward to a night of fine wine tasting only to find boxed wine is all they have on the menu,” said Sharon.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yes, Joseph, really.”
“But on Earth …”
“On earth, Joseph, we know what to expect and who to expect it from.”
“And their attitude doesn’t help,” said Sharon.
“What attitude?” I asked. “Everyone here, except for Jon, seems nice to me.”
“They know we’ve been on an undisclosed planet,” said Sharon. “And they think they are a real treat for us.”
“But … aren’t they? You said they are hundreds of times better than me.”
“And I’ve regretted saying that ever since it came out of my mouth,” said Sharon. “Yes, they can give us more than you can. A hell of a lot more. But they act like they’re doing us a favor, and they act like they deserve us.”
“Are you swearing off Velorian men mom?”
“No,” replied Kara.
“Not no,” said Sharon, “hell no. They are hard and they are strong, and they can last. Not as hard or strong or long lasting as a Messenger, but if you can ignore their attitude the orgasms are worth it. But I wouldn’t trade a good romp with a Messenger for any ten Matras or Bravas.”
“I am so confused,” I said.
“Joseph,” said Kara, “have you had sex with Terran women?”
“How does sex with us compare with sex with them?”
“There is no comparison,” I said. “You’re better in every aspect.”
“Good answer,” said Xara. “We’ll talk about the Terran women you’ve had sex with later.” She said that with a smile.
“And Joseph, do you think you’re Skietra’s gift to women?”
“God’s gift is the way we Terrans put it,” I answered, “and no, I don’t.”
“No, you don’t,” said Kara. “You treat sex with us like it is a gift from us to you. You don’t look at is as something that is due you, and you don’t act like you’ve done us a favor.”
“But, I’m Terran, Kara. There is a huge power difference, and I recognize that. These men here, the power difference isn’t near as great.”
“Kara,” said Sharon, “I don’t think this is something a Terran can understand.” And then to me, “Joe, after we’re done having sex with you, we aren’t done with you. We want to stay with you. I’ve had many Terran men who would be considered accomplished lovers, by your standards. But I don’t stay in bed with them, I don’t sleep with them. I get up and leave.”
“You’ve never done that with me,” I said.
“Exactly, Joseph,” said Kara. “After we have sex with these Matras and Bravas, we just want them to leave. We haven’t been spending the entire night with them.”
“Okay. Maybe I’m starting to understand this. The Matras and Bravas are better at sex than I am.”
“Yes,” said Kara.
“Absolutely,” said Sharon.
“And you get more pleasure from them than you get from me.”
“Yes,” said Kara.
“A lot more,” said Sharon.
“So, if Xara wasn’t here, you could see yourselves having sex with one of these Velorians, and then knock on my door and ask to spend the rest of the night with me.”
“He understands!” Said Sharon.
“Not at all,” I said.
“Xara, are you going to have sex with these guys and then come back to bed with me?”
Sharon said, “Don’t answer that, it’s a trap!”
And then all three ladies were laughing. But I wasn’t.
“But that is what happens, isn’t it? You have sex with a married Velorian, and when he is done, he goes back to his apartment and gets in bed with his wife.”
“Unless she’s having sex with someone else,” Sharon said.
“Honey,” said Xara, “we should stop talking about this before your head explodes.”
And then they went back to talking about Xara’s new top.
Sharon and Kara had been asked to meet with the ambassador. They hadn’t been given a reason, they thought it might be a social occasion, or perhaps information sharing. About what, they didn’t know.
Xara asked me what I wanted to do.
“Yesterday we surveyed the devastation the Arions wrought on this planet. That was depressing for both of us,” I said. “Why don’t we spend some time among the living, see how the Xanadusians are doing in their rebuilding effort.”
“Okay, Joe. I see Anna with her cleaning cart going into Mom’s apartment. I’ll ask her for some ideas.”
Xara left and came back five minutes later.
“Anna told me there’s a mining town two days walk from here.”
“What do they mine?”
“She said, ‘a black rock used for producing iron,’ it must be coal.”
“Oh, okay. Do you know which way to go?”
“She gave me directions. We can get there in a few minutes by air.”
She changed into her flying suit, and I put on my space suit. We left the residential building, she picked me up, and we were off.
We found the town, which was nearly deserted. From the air we could see where the townspeople had gone. They were at the mine.
We landed into a scene of organized chaos. The entrance to the mine was blocked, it had caved in. There were men, women and children there with picks and shovels trying to get it open.
One of the women turned around and saw us and started yelling. That got the attention of everyone else, and a man came running from near the mine entrance to Xara. He fell on his knees and started talking to her. The words were coming fast, and we didn’t understand them.
Xara called out, “Does anyone here speak Velorian?”
That started the crowd talking amongst themselves, and then we saw a woman running to us. She fell on her knees and said, in Velorian, “Goddess. Mine boom boom. Men in mine boom boom.”
Xara floated above the crowd, to the mine entrance, then above and beyond it, then came back to me.
“There are trapped miners about a mile in. Fifteen of them.”
“Can you get to them?”
“I don’t know. If I try to come down from directly above them, I don’t think the roof will hold, it will come down on them before I get there.
“I think the best way to get to them is to clear the entrance and go down through the existing tunnel.”
“I’m wearing my watch. I’ll signal your mom.”
“That won’t work here, Joe, the watch uses satellites for communication.”
“Okay, it’s up to us,” I said.
I retracted my helmet and yelled to the crowd, “Goddess will open mine. Make way.”
The woman who spoke Velorian translated, and the crowd parted, and Xara flew to the entrance. I ran after her.
“Get back!” she yelled.
“Joe, get them over there,” she pointed off to her left, “I’m going to throw the debris that way,” she pointed to her right.
“Go there!” I pointed and yelled. The woman translated and I went with the townspeople to the area Xara pointed to.
Xara went to the mine entrance and sized it up, then started tearing into the rock and debris and throwing it to the area she had indicated before.
It wasn’t long before she had made an opening large enough for her to get through. She disappeared into it and came out five minutes later and flew over to where I was with the translator and the rest of the crowd. She was filthy, covered in dirt and coal dust.
She said to the women, “Tell the man in charge we need to repair the roof.”
She told him, and he said something to her, and she said to Xara, “He needs to see.”
“Right,” said Xara. “Tell him I’ll take him, and not to be afraid. And bring a lantern.”
She told him, he got a lantern, then Xara picked him up and they went into the mine.
They came back about 10 minutes later and started talking excitedly to the people, then he said something to the translator.
“Boss asks can you make opening bigger.”
Xara didn’t answer, she just flew off and started working on the opening she’d made. She increased its size to about twelve feet wide and eight feet high.
Meanwhile, men started gathering up equipment, hammers, and jacks and other tools I didn’t recognize.
They met Xara at the opening she had made. I joined them. I turned my suit lights on and we followed Xara in. Walking, it took us about 25 minutes to get to the section where the roof had collapsed. I don’t know anything about mining, but the entrance had collapsed, Xara cleared, that, and further in the roof had collapsed. That’s where we were now.
“Xara,” I asked, “can’t you just move this debris and head in?”
“No,” she answered. “I started to, but if this roof isn’t braced it’s going to come down.”
The men were setting up the jacks and struggling to get a timber in place. Xara motioned for them to stand back, and she lifted the timber into place. The men extended the jacks and put them on blocks to brace the roof, then Xara started moving rocks out of the way to clear the tunnel. We heard a rumbling and felt a vibration. Xara looked up and dropped the rock she was holding and flew to the timber and braced it herself. The timber had begun to crack. She had one hand on each side of the crack holding the timber in place.
“These jacks won’t hold, Joe. I’m going to have to hold the roof up.”
I didn’t have to explain anything. The miners knew their stuff, they recognized that Xara would have to hold the roof up. They started removing debris that blocked the tunnel.
It was slow going, but after an hour there was enough room for two men to go through side by side. On the other side the tunnel opened up and seemed to be intact.
“The miners are about half a mile in Joe.”
“Is there anything keeping them there, Xara? Why did they stay there instead of working their way back to here?”
“I don’t know, but they are staying put.”
The mystery was solved soon enough. Ever hear the expression, “canary in a coal mine?” The miners we were with had a bird in a cage and they started down the tunnel, then returned, in a hurry. The bird in the cage was dead.
“Gas,” said Xara.
By this time the miners had called for the translator, and she said to us, “Gas in mine. Not safe. Have one breather.”
Almost on cue, a man ran up to us and showed us a primitive, by modern earth standards, respirator.
“No air in breather,” said the woman.
Xara examined it from where she was holding up the roof and said, “It has an air tank. I can blow it up.”
I told the woman I needed a ladder to get up to Xara. In no time at all one was produced, but I couldn’t lean it against the wall and still reach Xara.
Xara said, “Lean it against my legs.”
I motioned to the men where to set up the ladder and Xara positioned her legs so her feet went through one of the higher rungs. It was rock steady.
I climbed up and held the nozzle of the tank up to Xara’s lips. She took a deep breath, then exhaled into the tank. She inhaled through her nose, then exhaled through her mouth again, then, through the connection, told me the tank was full.
I closed off the nozzle and brought it down to the miners.
I told the translator, “I have air in my suit. I’ll take this to the men and bring them out one at a time.”
In the connection, Xara said, “Be careful Joe. I’ll guide you as well as I can from here.”
“Got it Xara. Wish me luck.”
“Good luck. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
I checked my air supply, it was good. So I started down the tunnel. Not too far down the suit started telling me that the outside air was toxic, and I saw a dead bird in a cage. Then the tunnel started going up, then down again and the air was good. So the gas was trapped in a low spot between two high spots. Good to know. I could lead all the trapped miners to this point then take them out one at a time.
I came to a fork in the tunnel. “Stay to the right,” said Xara.
I followed it to the right and after a few minutes I came to the miners. They were surprised to see me, and backed away, they were afraid.
“Retract your helmet!”
Oh. Right. I retracted my helmet. They were shining their lights on my face; saw I was human and came surging forward.
I motioned for them to follow me. I left the helmet retracted, I didn’t want them to think I was leading them into the gas, until it was time to lead them into the gas.
We got to the section of tunnel above the gas, and I motioned for one of them to put on the respirator. One of them did and I put my helmet back in place and we started out.
We got past the gas, and I retracted my helmet and motioned for him to go on ahead. I took the respirator and headed back and repeated the process 14 more times.
When I brought the last man out, Xara told the translator to have everyone leave the tunnel and get back a safe distance. So we all did.
“Everyone’s out, honey.”
“Okay. I’m coming out.”
I swear, less than a second later Xara came flying out of the mine, followed by a ball of dust and a rumbling sound.
She landed next to me, and then suddenly the crowd was around us, cheering for us, slapping us on the back. They literally picked us up, held us up, and started back to the town. They carried us up the steps of what I think was their town hall and set us down, and a man met us there, with the translator.
He fell to his knees in front of Kara, and everyone else who was there followed his lead.
The man started speaking to us, and the woman translated.
“I mayor. We thank Goddess and Goddess’s man. We celebrate tonight. You stay.”
Xara said, “Please, ask everyone to stand up.”
She translated and everyone stood up.”
“I’m going to accept their invitation and tell them we’ll be back after we get clean clothes. I that okay with you?”
“Yes, that works for me. But before you clean up I want to get a picture of you.”
“Not a chance in hell.”
“My name is Xara. This is my husband, Joe. We would love to celebrate with you, but our clothes are dirty. We’ll go back to the embassy and clean up, then join you.”
The translator said that, then the crowd got quiet. Then the mayor said something, and the crowd became very animated.
The translator said, “No need go. We have clothes. We have bath. You stay.”
“I’m good with that, are you Xara?”
“Yes.” Then she said to the translator, “Tell them we accept their hospitality and will stay.”
She translated and the crowd exploded in cheers. Then there were hands on us, bringing us down the steps. Xara was taken in one direction; I was taken in another.
“I can’t see you Xara. There are only men around me.”
“There are only women with me,” she replied.
I was taken into a building where a couple of men took over from the crowd. They pantomimed me taking off my suit. I did and they called someone in who took it away. Then these guys, who must have been tailors, started taking my measurements. Then they pantomimed sitting down, so I sat down in a chair, and they left the room.
“Are you seeing this Xara?”
“Yes. The same thing is happening to me.”
I had been sitting there for about twenty minutes when a man came in and motioned for me to follow him. He brought me into a room with a large tub of water and pantomimed me taking off my underwear and getting in. So I did. And this guy gave me a brush and soap and pantomimed me using it to get clean. So I did. Then he reached into the tub and pulled the plug and motioned for me to standup. I did and he had me step out of the tub and gave me a towel. I dried off and then he uncorked a bottle and started rubbing me down with some kind of oil.
“It’s lavender, Joe. They put it in my hair too. Oh, it smells so good!”
“Great. I’m going to smell like a girl.”
She laughed. In my head. It’s a unique experience.
“They’re quite impressed by my breasts.”
“So am I.”
She giggled. In my head. It’s a unique experience.
“They’re painting my nails now.”
“I’ll draw the line at that if they try to do mine.”
“Joe, the translator, her name is Lil, says the clothing they are giving us is traditional formal wear for a married couple.”
They brought me a pair of pants, pleated, with inlaid beads in the seams. The shirt they gave me was long sleeves, with the same color beads on as on the pants. Then they gave me socks and shoes that reminded me of moccasins, then a pair of overshoes.
“Did they give you overshoes?”
“Yes. The translator says they are taken off inside. Their purpose is to protect the shoes underneath them from dirt and mud.”
“Makes sense in a mining town.”
“They’re putting flowers and ribbon in my hair. Oh, Joe, it’s beautiful. Close your eyes and I’ll show you.”
I closed my eyes and saw Xara looking at herself in a mirror. She was beautiful. Just … beautiful.
“What do you think?”
“Wow. I mean … wow.”
She giggled in my head again and said, “You really know how to sweet talk a girl, mister.”
By the time we were cleaned up and dressed the sun had gone down. Dressed in the finest clothes the town had to offer, and they were very fine, we were escorted back to the city hall building and into a large hall where tables and chairs had been set up. Xara and I were reunited and led to a table on a dais where we sat down with the mayor and what turned out to be the town’s dignitaries.
The whole town must have turned out. There were people sitting on rugs on the floor. Children were running around everywhere I looked. Bottles of alcoholic beverages were brought out and glasses were filled. Then the mayor stood up and got everyone’s attention. He made a short speech, I have no idea what he said, and then toasted us. Then another man stood up and made a speech and he toasted us.
Then each of the miners we had saved stood up and toasted us.
“Xara! I haven’t had this much to drink in a long time. Please don’t let me do anything rude or stupid.”
“Joe, these are pretty weak drinks. Are you feeling like you’re getting drunk?”
“No, not really.”
Then dinner was served. Servers came up to the dais and put food on every plate.
“They put a lot more food on our plates than anyone else’s,” Xara said to me.
“I see that.”
The mayor pantomimed eating. He was urging us to eat, so we dug in. When we did, everyone else started eating.
No one in this town was fat or overweight. The children were all skinny little waifs. I mentioned that the children were running around everywhere, and that included up on the dais. So I ate enough to satisfy my hunger, then invited a little boy who was standing next to me into my lap and I started feeding him from my plate.
Xara saw that and she did the same thing. It was easy, we were something new and so the children were right there.
The adults in the room saw this and started toasting us again. Then they’d pile more food onto our plates, and we’d feed it to kids.
“Why don’t they just feed the kids?” I asked Xara.
“I think it must have to do with that hospitality thing we’ve been hearing about.”
Finally, we ran out of food and the dishes were cleared away, more alcohol was brought out, and music started playing. The towns people cleared out the tables below the dais, lined up all the chairs along the walls, and then a group of six musicians started playing music, and everyone started dancing.
The mayor asked Xara to dance with him and the mayor’s wife asked me to dance with her. All the men wanted to dance with Xara and all the women wanted to dance with me.
After about five dances in walked Kara, Sharon and the ambassador, all carrying cases of Sharon’s wine. Everyone stopped dancing. The music stopped, and they all went down onto their knees. The three ladies started motioning to everyone to stand up, then Xara shouted out the words, ‘stand up’, in the Xanadusian language. We didn’t learn of lot of Xanadusian while we were there, but that phrase turned out to be very handy.
Everyone stood up. Then Sharon opened a case of wine, pulled out a bottle, grabbed a guy at random who had a cup in his hand and filled it and motioned for him to drink it. He downed it in one gulp, which I’m sure shocked Sharon’s sensibilities, but she didn’t show it. And then he said something, which I translated as, “Holy shit! This stuff is great!” Well, that’s what I thought he was saying, and then everyone lined up for a cup or glass of wine. Even the children, who got tiny sips.
Kara, Sharon and Mari all kept busy serving wine.
Xara flew down to them, we were in the connection, and she let me hear the conversation.
“How did you guys know we were here, mom?”
“Mari told us.”
Mari said, “Anna told us where you were, and then the Xanadusians at the embassy got the news of the rescue you pulled off. News travels fast on Xanadu. Rumors even faster. So we flew over the town and saw what was going on.”
“Then I suggested we bring the wine,” added Sharon.
And the Vels had to turn over the wine serving duties to the Xanadusians because the men were all lining up to dance with them.
“The town is two days walk from the embassy,” I said. How did word get back there so fast?”
“They have wires that carry a current strung between their towns, and they have a code they use to send messages. They messaged the town nearest the embassy and then the towns people spread the news,” said Mari.
“Telegraph,” I said. “On earth we call that a telegraph.”
The party was just winding down at sunrise. Most of the townspeople were asleep on the floor of the hall, families together, parents cradling their children. I woke up the translator, then we woke up the mayor and we thanked him for the hospitality and asked where our clothes were so we could change before we left. He told the translator where Xara’s flight suit was, and where my space suit was, then said the clothes we were wearing were ours to keep, and then thanked us again for the rescue of the miners.
As we walked outside the building to retrieve our suits, my space suit and Xara’s flight suit, Mari, Kara and Sharon all gathered around us.
“Xara, you shouldn’t have let Joseph go into the mine. It was much too dangerous. You should have flown back to the embassy and gotten Velorian help,” said Kara.
“Kara, it wasn’t that dangerous,” I said. “And according to the readings on my suit, those men didn’t have a lot of oxygen left. Xara made the right call.”
“You sound very confident about that,” said Sharon.
“I am confident. I trust Xara. If she thought it was too dangerous for me, she wouldn’t have let me go in.”
Xara stopped me right there in the street and gave me a kiss on the lips.
“Thank you for standing up for me.”
Like Xara needed someone to stand up for her. It made me feel good that she appreciated my effort, though.
“Actions on this planet have consequences,” said Mari.
“What consequences?” I asked.
“It will be more fun to let you find out for yourselves,” she replied. “I think you may have made some progress here for Velor, though.”
“Oh?” Said Xara.
“Those Xanadusians all lining up to dance with us. That’s unusual. Usually, they are too intimidated by us to do that.”
Xara went one way to get her flight suit, I went the other way to get my space suit. The other three Velorians took off and flew back to the embassy. When I walked back into the street to meet Xara, she took my Xanadusian clothes and put them into her magic pouch in her flight suit. Hers were already there, I guess. The shoes and overshoes went into a backpack the translator gave us.
We flew back to the embassy and ran my space suit through the steam cleaner again. Then we went into the residential building and up to our apartment. We opened the door and stepped in, and then stopped in our tracks.
“Well,” said Xara, “I guess we know what Mari meant by consequences.”
The Xanadusians had filled our apartment with gifts. There was clothing, for both of us. Baskets of fruit. Hand carved wooden boxes of various sizes. Cookies. Pastries. Carved wooden serving spoons. Napkins. Hand carved wooden figurines. Figurines carved from stone. Wooden bowls.
The items made of wood weren’t something you’d find at Bed Bath and Beyond, or Trader Vicks. The craftsmanship was extraordinary. These were works of art.
The door to our apartment was still open and Kara and Sharon walked in with Mari. Kara and Sharon’s jaws dropped. Mari saw that and giggled.
“This isn’t the end of it,” said Mari. “You saved fifteen lives. The Xanadusians are grateful, and you are going to feel the full force of their collective gratitude.”
“Would it be rude if we shared this food with them?” Xara asked.
“It wouldn’t go over well,” said Mari. “It would look to them like you were refusing their thanks. Keep everything. In fact, it would be good if the Xanadusians saw you wearing this clothing.”
“Not a problem,” said Xara.
“Well, we didn’t get breakfast, so I think I’ll try some of the fruit and pastries,” I said.
“Will you share?” Asked Kara.
“Of course, mom, you are all welcome to join us,” said Xara.
We ate, and then I excused myself to take a shower and get a nap. Between the rescue and the all-night party, I was getting pretty tired.
The moment my head hit the pillow I was out.
I woke up three hours later when I heard our apartment door slam. Then I heard our bedroom door open and close, and Xara opened one of the drawers in the dresser, put on her gold choker, got into bed with me and said, “Good. You’re awake. I don’t have to wake you.”
Then she flooded the room, and my senses, with her pheromones, threw the blanket off the bed, rolled me over onto my back, forcefully, and mounted me.
“Try to keep up,” she said. “Thrust with me, match my movements.”
I could barely think, the pheromones were so concentrated, but I could figure out what she wanted, and I was motivated. Chemically motivated but motivated none the less.
“Do better Joe!” She almost shouted at me.
And then she put one hand under my butt, the other under my neck, and started whipping me in and out of her to match her rhythm. When she’d go up, she’d let me fall to the bed. When she went down, she pushed me up, from my butt, hard, and used her other hand to keep my back more or less straight.
Except that I couldn’t go back down as fast as she wanted me to, because gravity wasn’t pulling me down as fast as she moved up. It was like I was a rag doll in the hands of a child having a tantrum.
She was angry. I could tell that, but I didn’t know what she was angry about, and my state of mind didn’t let me care.
I don’t know how many orgasms I had. I don’t know how many she had either. A lot, but they didn’t seem to satisfy her.
And then she stopped. She just stopped. She made a connection, and in the back of my mind I realized that sometime while I was asleep, she had broken it. But she made it again and then my mind was being overwhelmed and she was commanding me to go to sleep. But the pheromones were still in my system, and I kept trying to get back inside her.
In the end she was holding me down on the bed by my wrists and moved far enough down so that I couldn’t reach her to penetrate her. I felt this relentless command in my head to fall asleep and this relentless command from my cock to get back inside her.
And then I fell asleep. I think the pheromones must have cleared out, and her command through the connection won out.
When I woke up, she was sitting next to me in bed crying. I tried to sit up, and that is when I noticed that everything hurt. So I fell back onto my back.
“Xara, what happened?”
“Does it hurt, Joe?”
“Only when I move. Or breathe.”
“Do you remember?”
“I do. Sort of.”
“I considered taking the memory away, but that would have been as bad as what I did.”
“What did you do?”
“I used you Joe, as a sex toy. I used you hard, and I hurt you. Joe, I am so, so sorry. I won’t blame you if you never want me to touch you again.”
Right. Like that would happen.
“Xara, I think I need more of an explanation.”
“Okay,” she said, very meekly. “But first I want to get you into a warm bath to help your muscles relax and your bruises come down.”
“I have bruises?”
“Bad ones. Can’t you tell?”
“I can tell.”
She got out of bed and went into the bathroom and filled the bathtub.
“Do you need to pee, Joe?”
“Let me help you.”
She helped me out of bed and walked me to the “elimination device”. I felt every one of those bruises. The ones on my thighs were large and a dark purple.”
“Pee sitting down Joe, it will be easier.”
She helped me sit down, and then I emptied my bladder. Then she picked me up and carried me to the tub, and lowered me in. Every movement hurt.
“Okay, so tell me what happened.”
“While you were in the shower mom, Sharon and Mari left. I waited until you were asleep and then went out looking for a Velorian sex partner. I remembered what mom and Sharon said about their inadequacy, so I picked three. I thought quantity could make up for quality. I was wrong. It couldn’t.
“I became very frustrated. And angry. But it wasn’t their fault, they did the best they could. They just aren’t as strong as a Messenger.”
“But, didn’t you climax with them?”
“Wasn’t it a better climax than you get with me?”
She nodded again.
“I don’t understand.”
“There are stages to arousal and satisfaction. Think about it as a slope. You have a ball, and you roll it up a slope until it gets to the edge, and then it falls off the edge.
“When I have sex with you, it’s a low slope, and between the two of us, but mostly through my efforts, I get to the top of the slope and then fall off. Falling off is my orgasm.”
“With a Messenger, it is a much steeper slope, that goes much higher, and between the Messenger and me, I get to the top of the slope and then fall off the end, having a wonderful, glorious orgasm.”
“Okay. What happened with these guys?”
“They were working with me to get to the top of the slope, but they couldn’t push me over. It’s like I slid back down.”
“But you had an orgasm.”
“Yes, but it wasn’t enough.”
“You don’t complain about that with me.”
“Because it’s a lower slope, Joe. I’m able to get over the end and fall off, I have as big an orgasm as I can with you. But with these Velorian men, I knew I should be having something better. My body kept telling me there should be more. I kept working towards it, but then I’d have an orgasm before I was ready, and it wasn’t as good as what my body was expecting.
“It frustrated me and made me angry. So after I left them I flew to a deserted area and masturbated. But I was so angry and frustrated that it didn’t help. So I came home to you. And I abused you.” And then she started crying again.
“I remember how mad I got at mom in Switzerland when she did this to you. And I did it so much worse.”
She ran out of the bathroom crying.
I sat in the tub for another twenty minutes and then tried to get out. It hurt.
“Xara? Xara honey? Xara, I need help getting out of the tub!”
She came back into the bathroom with two big buckets of ice.
“What are you going to do with the ice, Xara?”
“The warm water loosened you up and increased the blood flow through your bruises. Now we have to cool you down to further promote healing.”
“Xara, no, don’t; I don’t want an ice bath.”
“You need it Joe.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, darling, you do.”
Okay, my rational mind knew what was going on. She was releasing trust pheromones. And I knew it. I can detect them, and I can feel my trust in her growing. And you know what? It doesn’t make any difference. I knew she was using trust pheromones on me, and my reaction was to trust her. Totally.
She poured the ice into the tub and I screamed.”
“Jesus Christ! That is cold!”
“Just stay there for a few minutes darling.”
I said, “Okay” through chattering teeth.
She kept me in the tub for twenty minutes. Twenty freezing minutes. Then she lifted me out, sat me down on a chair and dried me off with her heat vision. She didn’t use enough heat to make me feel warm, only enough to dry me off. And of course, that makes me feel colder. Don’t believe it? Get out of a warm shower and let yourself air dry. You’ll feel cold.
Then she carried me back to bed and examined me.
“You’re going to hurt for a few days, but tomorrow you’ll be able to get up and around as normal.”
And then she got into bed with me and held me and told me how sorry she was that she hurt me.
“What about using your trust pheromones to freeze me?”
“Oh, I’m not sorry about that. You needed that.”
After a few minutes I heard, “Knock knock” in my head.
“There’s one more thing I didn’t tell you.”
“Jon was one of the three men.”
“What? That jerk?” I spoke out loud, not using the connection.
“When I found three men, he was there, he was one of them.”
“Great. How was he?.”
“Like we’ve told you. He’s a Velorian man who isn’t a Messenger. Oh, but he is cocky. And a jerk. He thought he “did me” really good.”
“Am I going to be hearing about it from him?”
“If you do I’m going to make a point of letting every woman here know how disappointing he was.”
“Does he know it?”
“I was a real bitch, Joe. I made sure they all knew that I expected better from them.”
And then she started crying again and said, through her tears, “And then I came home and made you suffer for it!”
I should have been angry with her. But she was beating herself up so bad that I didn’t think I needed to pile on. Besides, when Sharon and Kara came to the door to talk to us about going to dinner, and Xara told them what she’d done, they piled on her. Hard. They had her crying again.
Sharon and Kara came into the bedroom and pulled the covers off me. They got onto the bed, one on each side of me and examined me. Xara stepped into the doorway and stood there with her head down.
“What the hell?” Said Sharon. Then to Kara, “Help me keep him stable while I roll him onto his side.”
“Tell us if this hurts, Joseph.”
They rolled me back onto my back.
Sharon looked at Xara and asked, “Why does he have a bruise the size of your hand across his butt?”
That explained why my backside was sore.
“I needed him to thrust harder,” Xara said, almost in a whisper.
“We can’t let this slide,” said Kara.
“I know,” said Sharon. “We have to do something about this.”
“No, you don’t,” I said.
“Joseph, you are Kiraling. This is a grave violation of that relationship. We must make sure it doesn’t happen again. We …”
I cut her off.
“You don’t have to do anything,” I said. “This is between husband and wife.”
That shut them up, so I continued.
“You act like Xara is a fully grown adult. She isn’t. She’s 19 years old and has a lot of growing up to do. She’s still learning. About herself, about life, about how to live as a sexual giantess among Lilliputians.
“Kara, how old were you when you married Eric?”
“Much older than Xara,” she replied.
“You and Sharon have given her guidance and direction. You’ve shared your experience with her, but you can’t give her experience. She has to gain that on her own.
“This isn’t a habit she’s fallen into. It’s a first time thing. And she wasn’t completely irresponsible, she put on gold.
“And Xara, you need to recognize that you don’t have all the answers. You don’t even know all the questions.”
“Okay,” she answered.
“So Kara, Sharon, look at this as a teaching moment. What could you have done to prepare her for coming here so that this wouldn’t have happened?
“I’m not blaming you. This is on Xara, not you. But rather than jumping all over her when she’s made a mistake, I think I’d like you to try to be more proactive in keeping the mistake from happening in the first place.
“Xara, you really should have talked to your mother and Sharon about what you were planning to do. They might have been able to set your expectations.”
“But we did, Joe, we told her that the men weren’t up to the standards we’re used to,” said Sharon.
“If she’d asked you about taking three men, what would you have said?”
They were quiet for a moment, and then Sharon said, “That three times mediocrity is still mediocre.”
“Maybe that would have helped,” I said.
“If three Velorian men are mediocre, what does that make you?” Johnson asked.
I mentally told him to fuck off.
“So ladies, can you leave this between me and Xara?”
Sharon and Kara looked at each other.
“We will, Joseph, but we are still going to discuss this with Xara. You are right about her youth. We’ll take that into account.”
“Okay. Now, will one of you help me get to the bathroom? I have to poop.”
Kara and Sharon helped me up and supported me while I walked to the bathroom and put me on the “elimination” device. Then they stood there looking at me.
“Um, I’ll call you when I’m finished.”
They were still standing there.
“Can I have some privacy?”
“Oh, sorry, Joe.”
And they left the room.
“I’m done now!” I called out, when I was done.
All three of them came into the bathroom. Xara started filling the tub.
“Joseph, we’re going to have you soak in a warm tub for a while. It will help improve the blood flow through your bruises.”
“Yeah. We did that already,” I said.
“A second time wouldn’t hurt,” said Sharon.
“Okay, as long as I don’t have to follow it with an ice bath.”
The three of them just looked at each other. They didn’t say anything. Then Xara went back to heating the tub of water with her heat vision.
Kara picked me up and gently set me down in the water. It felt good. The heat, yes, but also the buoyancy taking pressure off my butt.
The three of them left the bathroom. Then, about twenty minutes later, in the connection, I heard, “You thought you were going to find out how old mom is.”
“It was worth a shot,” I replied.
“Can you forgive me, Joe?”
“Yes Xara, I’ll always forgive you.”
“Hold on to that thought.”
And then the blondes came into the bathroom, each carrying a bucket of ice that they poured into the tub.
We had plenty of food left over from the gifts the Xanadusians brought, so Xara fed me in bed. She was being very solicitous, reacting to every indication of discomfort I was feeling.
“Joe, I’m so sorry.”
“I know you are Xara; you’ve already said so many times and I believe you. Let’s move on from assigning blame and being angry and try to figure out what you could have done better.”
“I should have stayed away until I regained my composure and self-control.”
“Bingo. And I think, in the future, if you are going off for a sexual liaison, you should let me know.”
“Are you sure about that Joe?”
“No. Until now I’ve never had to confront it. I know what goes on when a Messenger comes to Earth, but you make it easy for me to ignore it. I’ve never really had to confront my feelings about that, and I think I’d like to keep it that way. Xara, I’m really conflicted.”
“Then maybe that should be a subject for future discussion.”
“Future discussion? Xara, when we’re back home, it won’t be an issue. You won’t be going off all that often, and when you do it will be with a Messenger, who knows how to take care of you.
“Right now, here, you’re on a planet with a lot of Velorian men who aren’t messengers, and this is where we’re having a problem.”
“I don’t think it will be a problem for the rest of our stay, Joe. You have no idea how frustrating it was with them.”
I pointed to one of my bruises and said, “I think I do.”
She laid down and cuddled up to me, being careful not to touch any of the sensitive areas.
“That ‘sexual giantess among Lilliputians’ line was pretty good. Did you come up with it on the spot?”
“I did, and I’m glad you like it, I’m feeling pretty proud of it myself!”
With that she laughed. Then said, “I think I should put you to sleep darling. The rest will help you heal.”
“Okay,” I said. And then I was asleep.
I woke up in the morning. And while I wasn’t completely healed, I was feeling much better. The bruises had really improved. They were just a bit yellow now, the purple was gone. Xara was still sleeping.
“Xara! Wake up!”
“What is it Joe?”
I pointed to my thigh and said, “Look at me!”
She gasped and said, “Oh, you’re much better!”
“I am! Those ice baths really worked!”
“I’m getting mom and Sharon.”
She ran out of the room naked. I got up and put on shorts and a t-shirt and went into the living room just when a naked Xara returned with Kara and Sharon. Who were dressed.”
“Strip Joe, show them!”
I took off my shorts and shirt and they examined me.
“Do you hurt anywhere, Joseph?”
“Yes, but not nearly as badly as I did last night.”
“Joe,” asked Sharon, “When was the last time you had a cold. Or a headache?”
“Coming out of stasis my head hurt.”
“Besides then, Joseph.”
I thought. And thought.
“I can’t remember.”
“He hasn’t been sick a day since we’ve been married,” said Xara.
“This is the Supremis-Terran-Effect,” said Kara. “But I’ve never known it to be this strong.”
“Do you think it’s being strengthened by Xara’s Galen side?” Asked Sharon.
“That could be it,” said Kara, “but I don’t know how we’d prove it.”
“I could get another husband,” said Xara. “Oh, a harem. And we could see if it happens to them?”
The blondes thought that was hilarious. None of them noticed that I wasn’t laughing. Dixon and Johnson were laughing too. Fuckers.
To be sure, I wasn’t completely healed. But I was in a lot less pain.
“Kara, so you think this could heal my other wounds. My scarring and burns?”
“No, Joseph, I’m sorry to say. Your wounds have healed, the scarring is what is left over from the healing process.”
Xara put an arm around me and pulled me close and said, “It’s okay Joe. I love you the way you are.”
Then there was a knock at the door and Xara answered it, still naked, and there was a Velorian, and aid to Mari, who said that a ship had arrived, and the blondes were needed in her office. They were asked to dress in their uniforms, which meant flight suits.
Kara and Sharon left for their rooms to change. Xara went into the bedroom and put on her flight suit. While she dressed, I asked her what was going on.
“I don’t know, Joe. I’ll keep you apprised through the connection.”
“Should I wait for you here?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. Why don’t you get dressed and explore the embassy area some more.”
There was still plenty of Xanadusian food left. Xara grabbed something that looked like an apple on the way out the door. I tried some of the pastries, they were excellent, then shaved and dressed and went downstairs to the first level of the building.
There were Xanadusian crews working in several shops, or what I assumed were going to be shops. They were putting in shelving. In another shop I saw only Velorians working. I was curious about that, so I asked one of them.
“We’re putting in power,” the Velorian said. “The Xanadusians don’t have any experience with Velorian power systems, so we are doing the work.”
Okay, that took up twenty minutes of my day. I started walking around the grounds, it was a nice morning, and was looking at the gardens, imagining what they would look like when they were finished, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to look, and it was Jon.
“Joe Ricci, how are you this fine morning?”
“Xara? Are you there?”
We’d been in a very high level connection; she’d only be aware of me if I called her.”
“I’m here Joe … What does that asshole want?!”
“I’m fine Jon, it is a beautiful morning.
“I saw your wife the other night, Joe Ricci. I took very good care of her. I’m sure she’ll be dreaming about me when she returns to Terra.”
“We should deck the fucker,” said Dixon.
“Punch him, Ricci,” said Johnson.
“Joe! Smile and walk away. Don’t do anything to provoke him!”
I may be an idiot some days, but not today. I said, “Enjoy the rest of your day, Jon,” and I turned and walked away.
Apparently, Jon wasn’t finished with the conversation. He flew over my head and came down in front of me, blocking my path.
“Did she tell you about me, Joe Ricci? Did she tell you how strong and hard I am? Did she tell you how many times I made her orgasm?”
I didn’t say anything.
“No? You should ask her. Next time your tiny little dick is inside her, ask her how she enjoyed having a real man.”
“He’s a dead man.”
“Stay calm, Xara. I am.”
“Dixon and Johnson aren’t. If they aren’t you aren’t.”
“Jon, I’m not looking for a hard time, I’m just trying to enjoy the day.”
“Interesting choice of words, Joe Ricci. I gave Xara a very hard time. Do you want to hear about it? I’d be happy to tell you.”
“Joe, look up.”
I did, and I saw Kasa’An, the Chief Guardian floating down flanked by two other Guardians.
Jon looked up too and he was startled. He turned around and started to fly off, but Kasa caught him and forced him to the ground.
The Guardians put gold on him and bound his wrists behind his back with a thin metal bar.
“What are you doing!” Jon shouted. “I have done nothing wrong. I was just having a pleasant conversation with the Terran.”
Kasa pointed to the embassy building. “See those three women watching? He is Kiraling to all three and they want to pull your limbs off.”
“They wouldn’t dare,” he said.
“They told the ambassador they were invoking their Kiraling privilege!”
“Over what? A simple conversation?”
“You were trying to provoke him into a fight.”
“Nonsense, I’d never do such a thing!”
“His wife has a psychic connection with him. She invited me and the ambassador into the connection. We know exactly what you were doing and if you don’t want to have three very powerful P1s down here, now, you will go with the Guardians.
“So make your choice, Jon. Them or us.”
He looked at me, he was angry, very angry. “I’ll go with the Guardians,” he said.
As the Guardians flew off with him, Kasa turned to me and said, “I apologize for his behavior on behalf of the entire embassy staff. He’ll be kept away from you until you leave. You have nothing to fear.”
“Thank you, Kasa.”
“Joe Ricci, will you please tell your Kiraling mates that you are satisfied with the way I resolved the problem? I’m afraid if you don’t, they will take action.”
“I will, Kasa. Again, thank you.”
“I’m not satisfied. Neither are mom and Sharon.”
“Let’s just forget it Xara. Please?”
“Yes darling, I’ll forget it. I’m going back to a high level connection now. Call me if you need me.”
“Love you too, Xara.”
“I don’t think she’s gonna to forget it,” said Johnson.
“I don’t either,” said Dixon.
Kasa flew off and I continued my walk. The embassy grounds are big, and I had been walking around for about an hour when Xara came into the connection.
“Joe! I’m going to take the Protector Qualification Test!”
Her excitement came across the connection very clearly.
“That’s great, Xara! What is the Protector Qualification Test?”
“It’s a test that all the Protector Cadets have to pass before they are assigned to a Combat Wing.”
“Okay. Is it an essay test, or multiple choice?”
She laughed, over the connection. It’s a unique experience.
“No, silly. I have to pass tests of my strength, intelligence, speed, invulnerability and fighting ability. I also have to have sex with a Terran without killing or injuring him. You’re going to help with that. You’ll be the Terran between my legs I don’t kill or injure.”
“I feel honored that you would choose me to be the Terran you won’t maim or kill.”
She laughed again, in the connection. It’s a unique experience.
“There’s more Joe! The Senator who is going to give you your award is here now, and they brought three Protector Cadet Combat Wings to be briefed by us.”
“Briefed on what and who is us?”
“We’re going to explain to them how the Arions managed to catch me, mom and Sharon.”
“Can I sit in on that? You’ve never explained it to me.
“Sorry, Joe. We can’t tell you about it. The team that captured us was killed, thanks to you, so the Arions don’t know that their tactics succeeded. If you knew how they did it, and were ever captured, they would get it out of you. They have ways to scan brains to force out memories. And it isn’t pleasant.”
We’d talked about that before, so I wasn’t disappointed.
“Will you be joining a Combat Wing after you pass the test?”
“No, when I pass the test, I’ll be considered a Planetary Protector. Like mom.”
“I thought you already were?”
“This is to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.”
“So strictly a formality.”
“Except that I have to pass the test.”
“What’s the intelligence test?”
Xara floated down in front of me, gave me a hug and a kiss, and said, “I have to solve some kind of puzzle. They didn’t give me any details.”
“Who is they?”
“The Chief Administrator of the Protector Corp and her head of testing.”
“Sounds like a lot of brass.”
“Mom says it is.”
“When do you start these tests?”
“Day after tomorrow. We’re all having dinner tonight, including you. Everyone wants to meet you.”
“Oh, let’s see, you saved four Velorians from the Arions, killing several, you exposed a traitorous cabal, and you married the most powerful Velorian in the galaxy.”
“A little presumptuous, don’t you think?”
“No. Mom and Sharon say they’ve never seen another Velorian like me. Like the me that I have become and am still becoming. You’ll see. I’ll ace those tests.”
“Are they going to test you for arrogance?”
“Nah, that’s assumed,” and then she laughed. She has a beautiful laugh.
“Joe, you weren’t afraid of Jon. Not at all.”
“Should I have been?”
“Honey, the things he could do to you, without any effort at all …”
“I had you in the connection. I’m not afraid of anything when you have my back.”
She pulled me in close and kissed me, then said, “I’ll always have your back.”
As we were walking along, hand in hand, two Velorian men descended in front of us. Xara stiffened. I could feel the tension in her body. The Velorian men didn’t miss it either.
“Peace, Xara Zor’El. We mean to cause no trouble.”
“Speak then,” Xara said.
“Joe Ricci, we heard about the unpleasantness with Jon this morning. We come to tell you that we wish you no ill will and are ashamed by his behavior.”
“Thank you, gentlemen, but why are you telling me this? I’ve passed many Velorians this morning and none of them approached me.”
“We were with your wife at the same time Jon was.”
“Joe Ricci, we would never harm a Terran. Please do not judge us together with Jon.”
“I won’t. Thank you for talking to me.”
“Thank you for listening to us, Joe Ricci.” And then they floated up and flew away.
“That was interesting,” I said.
“That was very decent of them,” Xara replied.
“Have you had lunch, Joe?”
“I haven’t. And I’m hungry.”
She scooped me up in her arms and we floated back to the residence building, then up to our floor. I saw a dozen or so Xanadusians watch us as we went up. When we got to our apartment, we opened the door and…
“I guess that wasn’t a onetime thank you,” said Xara.
The apartment had been cleaned. All the food we had eaten had been replaced, and there were several new suits of clothes for us.
“Tonight’s dinner isn’t formal, Joe. Let’s wear these new clothes. I bet the Xanadusians will be happy to see us in them.”
“Okay,” I said.
Xara took off her flight suit and looked at the clothes, then she looked at me and picked me up and floated us into the bedroom, onto the bed. Then she undressed me and released her pheromones and mounted me.
“This is for you, darling. Don’t move.”
I didn’t. I remained motionless, as did she, on the outside. But I could feel those internal muscles working on me. She smiled at me and took my hands and put them on her breasts.
“Play with my nipples,” she said.
“I’m softening myself for you,” she said.
Her nipples were hard, but pliant. Her breasts had more give than I’m used to.
She sighed and said, “That feels so good. Don’t stop.”
I was getting close to climaxing. The moment I thought it I felt her muscles tighten on me and she said, “Just a few seconds more.”
And then she threw her head back and her entire body started shaking. And then she released her grip on me and I climaxed with her.
“That’s enough for today, darling. You have to save your strength for the test.”
“Since when has it ever been a matter of my strength?”
She stretched out on me and kissed me while continuing to massage me inside her.
“The test is intended to push me to my limits. That will mean pushing you too. I don’t want a repeat of the other night, or the night we came home from our honeymoon.”
“I’m not worried. I trust you.”
“Even after the other night?”
“Yes. Even after the other night. You learn from your mistakes, Xara. I’ve never seen you make the same one twice.”
She kissed me again, then got off me and said, “Let’s eat.”
We started sampling the food, there was a lot of it and it was delicious. We were nibbling at everything and looking at the clothes when there was a knock at the door. Xara looked at it and said, “It’s the ambassador’s daughter, Ora.”
She got up to go to the door and I said, “Xara, we’re both naked.”
“I’m sure she knows that, Joe.”
Then she opened the door and let her in.
“I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” she said.
“No, not at all Ora. Please, sit down. Would you like anything to eat? We have more than we need.”
That was an understatement.
Ora’s eyes lit up when she saw the pastries.
“Oh! I just love the star shaped ones.” And she helped herself to two.
I was wracking my brain, trying to remember Ora. We’d met her at the embassy dinner the first night. I didn’t remember how old she was, but using the rule of thumb that all Velorian girls look older than they are … I still had no idea.
“Is there something we can help you with?” Xara asked her.
“There is. But I need you to promise you won’t tell my mother.”
“This sounds serious,” I said.
“Ora,” said Xara, “we can’t promise not to tell your mother about something that might be serious, or dangerous.”
She thought for a while, biting her lip and sighed deeply as she appeared to come to a decision.
“Did your mother let you have Terran boyfriends when you were younger?”
“The only boyfriends I could have had were Terrans,” said Xara. “There aren’t any Velorian boys on Terra.”
“How much younger are we talking about,” I asked Ora.
“I’m 16,” she answered.
Xara looked at me and said, “That would make her about 17 ½ on Earth.”
“Really? How long is a Velorian year?”
“400 Earth days,” she answered.
Ora looked confused.
“Earth is what the Terrans call their home world,” Xara explained. “Why are you asking, Ora. Is there a Terran boy here you’re interested in?”
“There is. His name is Voran. He lives in the nearest village.”
“Why are you interested in a Xanadusian boy,” I asked. “Aren’t there plenty of Velorian boys here to keep you interested?”
“There are, but they are so … shallow. They think only of themselves and act like they are Skietra’s gift to womankind.”
“I hear you sister,” said Xara.
“What?” She asked.
“It’s a Terran saying, from Terra, where Joe is from. It means that I have also experienced what you are referring to.”
“Why are you attracted to Voran,” I asked her. “Is he especially cute or good looking?”
“Oh no, he’s as ugly as all the other Terrans … oh, I’m sorry.”
“I’ve heard it before,” I said. “Don’t worry about it.”
“How did you meet Voran?” Xara asked her.
“When we got here and saw how the Arions made the Terrans suffer, mom got all the kids together, the teenagers, and assigned us to work parties. One day a week we go to Terran towns and help them rebuild.
“Voran’s family was trying to fix their chimney. They were hauling bricks up to the roof in buckets. Veron is the only boy in the family. His father was killed by the Arions. His two younger sisters were filling the bucket with bricks, and he would pull the bucket up with a rope. It was very difficult for him.
“I landed next to him and asked him why he was doing that work instead of his sisters. I had forgotten that Terran men are stronger than the women.
“He told me that if I didn’t like the way he was doing it, then I could. So I took the rope from him and pulled the bucket up. It was such a simple thing, but he fell to his knees and thanked me. He looked so vulnerable; my heart went out to him.
“I helped him finish the chimney and then we sat down on the roof, and he took a biscuit wrapped in a cloth out of his lunch box and offered it to me.
“It was all he had to eat, and he offered it to me. Mom said we have to be very careful about refusing gifts from the Terrans, so I took half his biscuit, and we ate together.
“It was all the food he had. His sisters each had three biscuits. I asked him why they had more than he did. He told me their mother had given them each two biscuits and given him three, because he had to do the hardest work. But his sisters would go to bed at night crying because they were hungry, so he gave each of them one of his biscuits.
“He was so selfless. None of us had ever suffered or gone without. I got back to the embassy and told my friends about him. None of my friends cared, they just shrugged their shoulders.
“The next week I went back to see how Voran and his family were doing. I saw him sharing food with his sisters. And I looked at him closely, he had lost weight since I first met him. Terrans do that if they don’t eat enough, and if it goes on too long, they can get sick, and even die. He was going hungry so his sisters wouldn’t. So I flew back here and took food from our Terran stores, the food we give the Terran government to distribute to their people. That night, when Voran’s family was asleep, I brought the food to their house and put it inside the door.
“I’ve been back every week helping Voran and his family. His sisters have started treating me like I was their older sister, and his mother is so nice to me. Voran is a very sweet boy, and I like him very much. I’d like him to be my boyfriend, but I don’t how I could have sex with him without hurting him. Then I heard you talking to the women about your husband the other night, and I thought I could ask you how a Velorian girl can have sex with a Terran boy without harming him.
“Ora,” Xara asked, “have you ever heard of safe sex?”
“I’ve heard Kasa’An telling the women that they shouldn’t have relationships with Terrans, but if they do, they have to practice safe sex. They all seem to know what that means. But I don’t. One of the boys said that if you put enough gold on a Terran, you can have sex with him or her and not hurt them. But he talks a lot about a lot of things he doesn’t know anything about.
“Did you have safe sex with Terran boys before you met Joe Ricci? Do you have safe sex with him now?”
“Ora, Protectors and Scribes are trained in how to have sex with a Terran without hurting him. It isn’t a skill that is easy to learn, and if you don’t know what you are doing you could kill or maim him.
“Safe sex is …”
I interrupted Xara and said, “… something you should talk to your mother about.”
“Joe, she’s coming to us for help!”
“I appreciate that, Xara, but she has a mother, who is the ambassador, and there are rules that have been put in place for good reason. She isn’t living on an undisclosed planet.
“I’m sorry, Ora, but this is really something you should discuss with your mother.”
“I bet Sharon would tell her.”
“Sharon’s not here.”
“She will be in a second.”
And … there was a knock at our door and Xara let Sharon and Kara in. And I thought, oh great. We’re about to create a diplomatic incident. But it didn’t happen. Kara and Sharon agreed with me. And it really hurt Ms. A Velorian Girl Can Have Sex With Anyone She Wants to agree with me, but she did. That would be Sharon if you didn’t know.
“Ora,” Sharon said, “this is really something you should ask your mother about. And if she tells you it’s okay, and she tells you how to have safe sex, we’ll be happy to answer any other questions you have.”
To which Kara replied, “If your mother approves.”
Ora nodded. Then she asked, “Can I take some of this food for Voran and his family?”
Among the Xanadusian gifts were several cloth bags. We helped Ora load a couple of them up and then she left.
“What do you guys think is going to happen if she goes to one of her friends for advice, and they give her the wrong answer?” Asked Xara.
“I can talk to the ambassador,” said Kara.
“And betray Ora’s trust?” replied Xara.
“Well,” said Sharon, “someone needs to let the ambassador know that the young people here need some Supremis-Terran sex education. If the ambassador’s daughter has found a Terran she likes, you can be sure others have too.”
Kara and Sharon suddenly looked at each other … with alarm.
“What if it’s a boy?” Asked Sharon.
“We’d better talk to the ambassador now,” said Kara.
And the two of them left in a hurry.
“Uh, Xara, what was that all about?”
“If Ora has sex with that boy without wearing gold, she may seriously injure him or possibly kill him, or maybe they will both get lucky, and he’ll come out of it unscathed. But if a Velorian boy has sex with a Terran girl, without wearing gold, she’ll die. If he doesn’t split her open with his thrusting, or crush her in his embrace, his ejaculation will blow her body apart.”
“I’m surprised you’ve never asked.”
“It never occurred to me. I’m putting my life in your hands every time we make love, aren’t I.”
“You are. Don’t you think it’s a little late to begin worrying about that now?” She said that as she laughed.
The dinner was an informal affair. Senator ‘Mit was there, he was the highest ranking Velorian in the room. Ambassador Mari’On, Lia-Spa, the Xanadusian Protector, Kasa‘An the Chief Guardian, Ba-nu, the Xanadu Scribe, the Chief Administrator of the Protector Corp, Jul’lie Tan’a and her Chief of Testing, Su-ta, and 15 Cadet Protectors who were each a member of one of three Cadet Combat wings were also in attendance. And Skar-El was there too.
Though it wasn’t formal, there was a lot of breast grabbing by the women as they introduced themselves. I brought my phone with me on the trip, but Xara said it would be rude to take pictures of all that breast squeezing, so I didn’t. I wish I had.
Skar-El greeted me with a huge bear hug. I’m sure he didn’t think he was squeezing me at all, but for a couple of seconds I couldn’t breathe.
“Skar-El, it’s good to see you! Why are you here?”
“I’m part of a briefing that is being given to Senator ‘Mit and the others,” he said, “and then I will participate in Xara’s Protector test.”
“Oh, what will you be doing for the test?”
“I’ll be warming her up for the sex test.”
I didn’t ask any more questions about that.
I got to meet everyone, everyone got to meet me. They had both Terran and Velorian food. I, of course, had all Terran food. The Velorians mostly ate Velorian food, but they all had a very small portion of Terran food to maintain the fiction that the food they gave to the Xanadusians after dinner was leftovers.
Sharon provided three cases of the wine she had brought with her. It was a big hit. I made a mental note to propose to the blondes that we buy wine and resell it to the Scalantrans. We might be able to make a tidy profit. Velorians love Terran wine, and they could pay in gold.
Xara and I had both dressed in the Xanadusian clothing that had been given to us, and the Xanadusians serving dinner were obviously pleased, we got a lot of smiles from them.
We were all seated at a long table, and everyone was involved in conversation with the people around them. I was seated next to Jul’lie Tan’a, who engaged me in pleasant conversation. And she answered some questions for me.
“What is the career path for Protectors?” I asked. “Up until this trip, I’d never heard of Combat Wings. I thought they were all assigned to planets.”
“When Velor first developed P1s, there weren’t many of them. The first two went into combat directly against the Arions. Later, when we had improved the technology to the point where we could birth several P1s a year, we began to assign them to planets.
“As time went on, and the needs of the war against Arion expansion grew greater, and our ability to produce more P1s improved, we started assigning them to Combat Wings. But we still have a need for Planetary Protectors, and the number of P1s we are able to produce lags the need.
“By necessity, we developed a progression for our P1s. Those who are not suitable to become Protectors for whatever reason can be Scribes, such as Shara’Lynn, or Guardians, such as Kasa’An. If they pass all the tests, they move into Combat Wings. Those who distinguish themselves in Combat Wings are eligible to be assigned as Planetary Protectors and of that group, those who show a marked ability to work on their own, without supervision or help can be sent to undisclosed planets.”
“I see,” I said. So Kara started out as a Cadet, then worked her way up to Protector of Earth, um, Terra.”
“No,” she said, “We’ve only had Combat Wings for a little over 100 years. Kara was assigned as a Planetary Protector before we started forming the Wings.
“Ask her sometime how it is she ended up on Terra. It’s an interesting story. And if she tells you, let me know, because how that came about is somewhat of a mystery.”
Interesting, I thought. Kara is older than I thought. Much older. I wondered if Kara would let me explore that with her. Dixon and Johnson both told me not to even think about going there.
“Is what is happening with Xara unusual?” I asked.
“Yes, very. But she is a special case. I’m sure you know that she has Galen genetics.”
“Yes, I know.”
“And the reports are that she is very powerful.”
“That’s what she tells me,” I said with a grin.
“Come in.” Xara had been keeping herself at a high level, she wasn’t listening into my conversation, at least not through the connection. She, like every Velorian in the room, could hear and process the details of every conversation in the room, simultaneously, if they wanted to.
“Are you having a good time?”
“I’m having a great time! “Did you know Skar-El will be taking part in your sex test?”
“No, I didn’t! Did he tell you what he’d be doing?”
“He said he’d be warming you up for it. What does that mean?”
“I have no idea.”
“Should I ask?”
“No, I don’t think I’m supposed to know the details.”
“Jul’lie Tan’a let slip a hint about your mother’s age. She said Kara became a protector before the first Combat Wings were formed a hundred years ago.”
“Oh really? Don’t let mom know she told you that, she’s very sensitive about her age. Let’s file that away for some time when we can use it.”
“Wait, you don’t know how old your mother is?”
“No. I’ve seen her birth certificate, but it’s a fake. She wasn’t born on Terra. She really doesn’t like speculation about her real age.”
“Hey, do you think some time you can explain to me how Velorian names work? There are hyphens, apostrophes, Jul’lie Tan’a sounds like four names.”
“It’s a family thing, Joe. I don’t understand it either. I don’t think there are any naming conventions.”
“I’m going back to a high level now.”
After dinner everyone was milling around, and the ambassador came up to me.
“Joe Ricci,” she said, “I had an interesting discussion with Shara and Kara this afternoon.” Sharon’s Velorian name is Shara’Lynn.
“Yes. I want to thank you for insisting that my daughter talk to me about her Terran friend.”
“So she talked to you about him?”
“No, she didn’t. That is a conversation she and I need to have. I assure you I will handle it delicately. She won’t know that your conversation with her got back to me.”
“What are you going to tell her?”
“That is … to be determined. May I speak to you in confidence?”
“Yes, but how will you do that? The room is filled with Velorians.”
She looked around and said, “Come with me,” and led me out of the room, down a corridor and into another room.
“This room is soundproofed to very high Velorian standards.
“The official Velorian Mission policy is that our people are not to become sexually or romantically involved with other species. On worlds where there are no human species it is never an issue. But Terrans are, genetically, closely related to the Supremis. I’m sure your Kiraling friends have told you that the Galen developed us from people taken from your world.
“We are very different from you, and yet very much like you. It isn’t uncommon for Supremis Terran relationships to develop. On undisclosed worlds it is almost a certainty. And on disclosed worlds it happens more often than the Diplomatic Corp would like to admit.
“At every Mission on Terran worlds we brief our people on the rules, but recognizing that Vels will be Vels, we are also taught how to use gold for safe sex.
“This is my first posting to a Terran world as an ambassador. I was very careful to make sure the adults were all briefed, but it never occurred to me to talk to the children. Our teens are sexually active, of course, it’s part of growing up. But unless their parents taught them about safe sex, they wouldn’t know what to do.”
“So, you’re going to teach them?”
“Yes. Shara’Lynn has volunteered to hold a class for them.”
Sharon. Of course.
“You know, she is rather … uninhibited?”
“What does that mean?”
“You heard how Xara and I approached our relationship. Sharon was very vocal that Xara had the right to take me anytime she wanted. She told Xara she should.”
“Ah, yes. Well, Terra is an undisclosed planet. So of course, a Velorian assigned there may take any Terran she chooses as long as she is careful not to cause the Terran distress, or unnecessarily disrupt his or her life.”
Huh. They’re all that way.
“Shara’Lynn is fully aware of the rules governing contact with Terrans on disclosed planets. And I will be present during the class. I will make sure the teenagers know it is unacceptable to force themselves on an unwilling Terran.”
“And pheromones …?”
“Are only to be used after the Terran has consented to sexual activity. But I doubt teenage Terrans looking at a naked Velorian teenager will need the help. At least for the first two orgasms.”
I didn’t doubt her.
“I don’t doubt you.”
I got back to the large room just as things were breaking up and joined Xara who was talking to one of the Cadet Protectors.
“I hope to be assigned to one of the Combat Wings facing off against the Arions in the Vendorian sector. There are quite a few Vendorians scattered around the galaxy. Getting their system back would be a real coup for them, and the Senate thinks they’d be able to get their manufacturing facilities up and running in less than 20 years, if the Arions left anything to salvage.”
Talking to the other Cadets, they all had an idea of where they wanted to be assigned. They all hoped to eventually become Planetary Protectors.
Xara asked several of them if they had any advice for her going into her qualification test. They all said that they were not allowed to reveal the details, but either she had what it takes, and would pass, or she didn’t and would fail.
As we walked back to our apartment I asked her, “Are you nervous about the test?”
“I am, a little.”
“If anyone can pass it, you can.”
“That’s sweet of you to say Joe. It really is, and I love you for it. But the truth is neither of us knows if I can pass it.”
I turned to her and asked, “Really? You don’t know if you can pass it?”
She broke down laughing and said, “Of course I can. I doubt anyone will ever be able to devise a Protector Test that I can’t pass.”
“That’s my girl.”
The next morning Xara was up early to attend her briefing, where she, Sharon, Kara and Skar-El would describe how the Arions captured them.
When we got back to our apartment the night before we discovered it had been cleaned and all the food had been restocked. In addition, there were more clothes and other gifts from the Xanadusians.
I ate breakfast, then showered and shaved and was about to go out for a walk when Xara contacted me.
“You’re wanted at the briefing. Everyone wants to hear how you rescued us from your perspective.”
“Joe, what you did is very unusual. You know that. Can’t you see how a room full of Velorians would want to hear about it?”
“Can’t you tell them about it?”
“We did, they want to hear it from you.”
“Okay. When do I need to be there?”
“The Ambassador is sending someone to fetch you now.”
“Okay if I wear Xanadusian clothes?”
“I don’t see why not.”
About five minutes later there was a knock at the door. One of the Ambassador’s aids walked me over to the Embassy, into the room where the briefing was taking place. All the Xanadusians we passed waved and smiled at me. I realized that I really liked these people.
The Cadets were there, as well as the Planetary Protector, the Senator, the Ambassador, the Chief Guardian, the ladies and Skar-El. There were also a couple of Guardians that I had met but didn’t remember much about them. Except that they were beautiful.
“Thank you for coming, Joe Ricci,” said Jul’lie, “your Kiraling mates have told us how you rescued them from the Arions. We’d like to hear about the events from you. Will you tell us about it, and answer questions?”
“Yes. But please, just call me Joe.” I looked at Kara and asked, “Where should I start?”
“Start with how you came to be in the area and found us, Joseph.”
“Jul’lie looked at Kara, then me, and asked, “Should we call you Joe, or Joseph?”
“Joe is fine, I said. Joe is short for Joseph. Kara calls me that because she thinks she’s my mother.”
Puzzled looks. Just, puzzled looks. Kara rescued me.
“He’s making a joke,” she said.
Nods. Oh, the stupid Terran was making a joke.
I took a deep breath and started telling my story, about how I was camping and hiking when I saw someone coming out of what I later was told was a cloaked ship, carrying a naked woman. And then I saw him carrying another naked woman, and I decided to investigate.
As I talked, Kara encouraged me to fill in as many details I could remember, so I told them about puking before I entered the cave the ladies and Skar-El were in.
I left out Dixon and Johnson. They weren’t too happy about it, but I didn’t want to explain that I was talking to people who weren’t there because I was off my meds.
I told them about killing the first Beta with his own weapon, and then engaging the Prime, and then killing two more Betas.
I included as many details as I could remember, and my ‘Kiraling mates’ filled in the details I had forgotten. And then it was Q&A time. One of the cadets raised her hand and asked, “What is puking, and why did you do that?”
“Puking is a slang term for regurgitating the contents of a stomach,” explained Kara.
“It’s a fear response,” I said.
“You were afraid?”
“Then why did you enter the cave? Why didn’t you turn around and leave?”
“Fear helps to inform my decisions,” I said, “but it doesn’t make my decisions for me.”
Another question. “How did you know the Beta carried a GAR? And how did you know how to use it?”
“He was crushing my ribs and I was flailing around. I felt something that felt like a sidearm to me. It had a trigger. I held the weapon against him and pulled the trigger. I didn’t know what a GAR was and I had no idea if it would work. I got lucky.”
“Did you get your wounds while fighting the Betas?”
“No. I already had most of my wounds.”
“How did you get your wounds?”
“As I said, I’m a soldier. The wounds and scars you see on me are from the battles I fought in.”
And then they wanted to hear about my battles and how I got my wounds. I didn’t want to go there.
“Joe, are you okay?”
“I don’t want to talk about my war experiences, Xara.”
I thought she was about to say something when Kara did.
“Joseph’s war experiences and memories are very difficult for him to talk about. Joseph, with your consent, I’d like to invite the Cadets and others to examine your body while I tell them how you were wounded.”
“Joe, you don’t have to do this. You can leave if you want to.”
Everyone was looking at me. I made a decision and said, “Yes, Kara, you can do that.”
“Joseph, may I ask you to remove your shirt and pants?”
I did as she asked. Then she invited everyone to the front of the room, and she started pointing out scars and burns and told the audience how I had gotten them.
“Xara, how does she know all this detail? She’s bringing up engagements I’d forgotten about.”
“Mom did a lot of research on you Joe. She’s seen all your medical records, all the after action reports that mention you or your unit.”
Some of the cadets reached out and traced my scars. Several of them were beginning to cry. And then I detected pheromones.
“Xara, how many of them are doing that, emitting pheromones?”
“All of them.”
“Ladies,” said Kara, “he’s Terran. Please do not get carried away.”
The pheromones didn’t stop, but they didn’t get any worse.
When Kara was finished, Xara told them about my Bronze and Silver Stars, my Purple Heart and Oak Leaf Clusters, which she said they would see at my award ceremony. Then she told them about the shooter incident.
After that, Jul’lie posed a question to the Cadets: “Why do you think this Terran was able to kill three Betas and hold off a Prime long enough to free the Protectors? Why is he alive today instead of decomposing on the floor of a cave on Terra?”
Blank faces. Then Jul’lie turned to me.
“Joe Ricci, what is your explanation for this?”
“They didn’t see me as a threat,” I answered.
“Exactly right, Joe Ricci. They didn’t see him as a threat, Cadets. What lesson do you draw from this?”
One of the Cadets spoke up. “Never underestimate your foe,” she said.
“Yes!” Jul’lie shouted. “That is the lesson! Never underestimate your foe! A Prime is dead because he underestimated a Terran! Can you believe it? If it can happen to a Prime, it can happen to you. Do not make the mistake the Arions made with Joe Ricci. It could cost you your life.”
When Jul’lie was finished, and when I’d answered all the questions, it was time to break for lunch. The embassy building had a cafeteria, and while most of the food it served was Velorian, there was still some Terran food there that could be shared as ‘leftovers’ with the Xanadusians who staffed it.
There were a lot of Velorians waiting for us as we entered the cafeteria, most of them men.
“Xara, what is this?”
“The men are trying to catch the eye of the Cadets. They are all emitting pheromones. They’re hoping to bed a Protector tonight.”
I figured I’d be seeing the Cadets pick the men they liked and eat lunch with them. Nope. I sat down at a table, and the Cadets filled the empty chairs at that table, and the rest of them moved tables and chairs to be closer to me.
And they all wanted to talk to me. Xara, who was at a different table with Kara, Sharon, the Senator and the Ambassador was beaming. Just beaming.
“What are you so happy about?”
“All these women want you, Joe. My husband is desired by the most powerful women in the galaxy. Pick one or two of them to keep you company tonight.”
“I’d rather spend the night with you.”
“Skar-El is here, Joe.”
“Are you okay with it?”
“Yes, I am. This is what I signed up for.”
“Are you sure?”
“Liar,” said Dixon.
“Fuck off Dixon. You too Johnson.”
“The men don’t share my enthusiasm for the situation, Joe. I’ll keep the connection at a high level. Call me if you need me.”
“And try to make some new friends. Every one of those Cadets would love to spend the night with you.”
I spent the rest of lunch talking to the Cadets and answering their questions about me, my life with four Kiraling mates, and life on Terra.
When the Senator got up and left his table all the others who had been in the briefing took that as a cue and got up and headed back to the briefing room. I finished lunch and headed back to our apartment.
“You’re about to get a visitor. Please say yes.”
“Yes to what?”
Before I got an answer, one of the Cadets landed beside me.
“Joe Ricci, your wife says you are free tonight. Will you consent to spending your evening with me?”
“You’re asking my permission?”
“No. I would never ask a Terran’s permission for anything. That would be beneath me. I am asking for your consent.”
Was she insulting me?
“Joe, agree to it. I know we’ve used the word permission with you before, but what we really mean is consent. They are different. Don’t argue the point with her. Just say yes or no. Umm, just say yes.”
“Good. I will arrive at your apartment when the briefing is over.”
“Okay. The Xanadusians have provided me and Xara with food. We can eat together and talk.”
“Yes, that sounds very good. I look forward to being with you Joe Ricci.”
As she floated up I called out, “Joe. Just call me Joe.”
“I’m so proud of you!”
“For agreeing to sex with a goddess?”
“No. For being desired by a goddess.”
“Why is it beneath her to ask permission to use my body for her pleasure?”
I heard her sigh in my head. It’s a unique experience.
“Joe, permission implies approval from a superior. Consent implies mutual agreement. Supremis do not ask Terrans for permission because they are not our superiors. We use the term permission with you because we want to be polite and because your Kiraling status grants you … special considerations, with us, your Kiraling mates. It doesn’t extend to other Supremis.”
“We’ll talk more about this later, Xara.
“And why her? There are 15 of them. Why was she the one to come to me?”
“I picked her.”
“Because of your hangups.”
“P1’s are bread to be warriors, and they aspire to that. But sometimes one comes along that wants to look at other vocations. Mar’ni did that and then decided the Protector’s life is what she wanted. She started her training later than the others and, in Terran years, is the same age as me.”
“The others are underage?”
“No. None of them are underage. They are younger than the line you’ve drawn in the sand. Mar’ni is on the side of that line you consider acceptable. I have to go now, going back to high level. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
I got back to the apartment to find it had been cleaned and all the eaten food replaced. The perishable items were in the refrigerator. All the clothes we had been given were folded neatly and placed on the couch. There were a couple of new items that hadn’t been there this morning.
I started going through the food putting together a buffet for later in the evening when Mar’ni would arrive. While I was getting everything ready, I heard a sound outside in the hallway, a cart rolling along. I opened the door and saw Anna and asked her to come in.
“Is anything wrong, Goddess Husband Joe?”
“Anna, please, just call me Joe. There is nothing wrong, you have been taking very good care of us. And please tell the people who have provided us with food, clothing and other gifts that we are deeply grateful and appreciate them very much.”
“It is our honor to give you these gifts, Goddes… Joe. Fifteen wives and their children see their husbands and fathers every day because of what you and Goddess Xara did.”
“It’s Xara, Anna, just Xara. She may look like a Goddess, but she isn’t.”
“Anna, I called you in here for a reason. Where I come from, we have a custom, it is called tipping. We leave a small gift of money every day for the people who clean our rooms. It is our way of expressing our appreciation for how well we are taken care of. Anna, it would please us very much, especially Xara, Kara and Sharon, if you would accept our gifts.”
She thought about it for a moment, and then said, “If it will please the Goddesses, then I will accept their gifts.”
“Thank you, Anna.”
“Is there anything else, Joe?”
“No, Anna. Thank you for taking such good care of us. And please express our thanks and appreciations to the Xanadusians who gave us these wonderful gifts.”
With that, Anna left.
Just after sunset Mar’ni knocked on my door. I let her in and asked her to sit down. She was wearing her flight suit and, when she sat down, I noticed she had a gold choker in her hand that she was fidgeting with. I wasn’t going to say anything about it. The only Supremis I’ve been with were on earth, and I didn’t know if the blondes had established ground rules with the Cadets or not.
“How was the briefing?” I asked.
“It was very informative. To hear Kara, Xara and Shara describe their experiences on Terra was very interesting. Xara related how her carelessness nearly cost you your life when a Prime saw you listening into his conversation.”
“Well, fortunately for me, I had five P1s watching over me. I had barely started running when Xara got there.”
“She told me that you helped to lure a Prime to his doom in a place called Switzerland. Joe Ricci, I don’t know many Terrans, but none of them are as brave as you.”
How do I tell her I’m not as brave as she thinks I am? I didn’t have to worry about that, she changed the subject.
“Joe Ricci, I brought gold with me. I am certified to have unsafe sex with a Terran, but if it makes you more comfortable, we can have safe sex.”
“Did Xara ask you to bring gold?”
I didn’t say anything. Sometimes that is the best way to draw someone out. She looked about nervously and said, “The only Terrans I’ve had sex with were the ones used for our training. They were picked for physical strength and stamina and went through a rigorous training regimen to build up and maintain their strength. I haven’t had sex with any other Terrans.”
“Are you nervous?”
“I am. I want to have unprotected sex with you, I want to be able to say that I shared a bed with the Terran who stood up to the Arions and defeated them. But I am afraid I will hurt you.”
“Did you hurt the Terrans you trained with?”
“At first, yes. I injured the first two Terrans I had unprotected sex with. They weren’t serious injuries, but I felt bad about hurting them. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Did you hurt any Terrans after those first two?”
“No. I was the first in my Training Wing to earn the sex certification.”
“Are you proud of that?”
“Yes! We compete over everything.”
“Xara didn’t ask you to bring gold. She must trust you; if she thought I might get hurt she wouldn’t let you anywhere near me. If Xara trusts you, then I trust you.”
That seemed to help her.
“Very well Joe Ricci! I will take you without using protection!”
“I’m glad we could settle that,” I said, smiling.
“But you will tell me if I am hurting you.”
“Of course, I will.”
She pointed to the food I put out on the dining room table and asked, “Is that the food we are going to eat, Joe Ricci?”
“Yes, under one condition.”
“She raised an eyebrow.”
“You stop calling me Joe Ricci. Just call me Joe, please.”
The Xanadusians had given us plenty of food, enough to feed a Velorian! She wasn’t shy about having seconds and thirds and fourths of her favorite dishes.
“What are these called, Joe? They are delicious!”
“I don’t know. The Xanadusians deliver the food and other gifts while we are out. I just know that all of it tastes good.”
While we ate … no, that’s not right. When I was finished eating, she was barely getting started. It never ceases to amaze me how much food these Velorians can pack away. While she was eating, we talked about the places where we each grew up. Me on Earth, or Terra as she put it, and her on Velor. She wanted to know about our wars, how I became what she called a warrior, and how our civilization manages to stay together with all the different countries and languages and monetary systems.
I was interested to hear that Velorians who have been off planet consider Velor to be a very boring place to live.
“There is so much variety in the galaxy, but very little on Velor. We come in one color, with one color eyes and one color hair. I’ve only been on this planet for two days and already I have seen brown hair and red hair, green eyes and brown eyes, and hazel eyes. Terrans have hair all over their bodies, in various amounts and thickness. We only have hair on our head. Some Terrans I’ve seen don’t have any hair on their head but have it all over their chests and backs.”
“From my perspective, Mar’ni, Velorians are the most beautiful people in the galaxy. Your hair, your eyes, your figures and physiques, are all very attractive.”
“Yes. In training they told us that Terrans would view us that way. That we would be very desirable. I have seen that here, by the way the Terran males look at me. Their heartbeats speed up in our presence.”
“I think some Velorian heartbeats may have been speeding up when they saw you in the cafeteria this afternoon.”
“Yes, they were. They were all emitting pheromones, trying to attract our attention.”
“Mar’ni, why do you want to be here with me, instead of with Velorian men who are much more capable of meeting your needs than I am?”
“We have a custom on Velor, of making love to those we respect, in the hope that some of those characteristics we respect will find a home in us. It is based on an old superstition, but it has meaning for us. I want to be with you because your courage is very attractive.
“And the other Cadets are envious of me. It is a great honor to be chosen by your wife to be with you tonight.”
“Is it? I feel like there was a contest and I am first prize.”
“Yes, Joe Ricci, that is a very good comparison! We competed for you and your wife awarded you to me!”
“If you were competing for me, shouldn’t I have chosen the winner?”
“The winner chooses the prize. The prize does not choose the winner.”
Huh. I wanted to say something about that, but I didn’t know what I could say. Dixon and Johnson told me to drop it, to give up.
After she finished eating, she offered to help me clean up.
“No, we let the Xanadusians clean up after us. They are insistent about it.”
“I’ve seen that, Joe Ricci. They are very deferential towards the Cadets. And they have told us that you and Xara saved some of them that were trapped in a mine. They say you walked through poison gas to get them out.”
“I have a Kelsorian space suit with air tanks. I was never in any danger. Xara did the hard work of clearing debris out of the tunnel.”
“It was hard work for her?”
“Not physically hard. But she had to be careful how she went about it to prevent a further collapse.”
“Oh, I see, Joe Ricci.”
I was about to tell her to call me Joe, again, when Johnson said to just leave it. I was never going to win that battle.
After discussing the mine collapse, Mar’ni stood up and, without telling me she was going to do it, picked me up and carried me into the bedroom.
“I can walk, Mar’ni.”
“Do not speak anymore, Joe Ricci. I am the one in control now. Not you.”
She took me into the bedroom, stood me up and undressed me. Then she undressed herself, picked me up and put me on my back on the bed, then leaned over me and kissed me. Then she laid down beside me, and instead of dosing me with pheromones, she aroused me … the way a Terran woman would do it.
She mounted me and used her inner muscles to massage me and manipulated me in such a way as to give her pleasure, then clamped down on me to keep me from ejaculating until she was ready, then she released me and we orgasmed together.
At that point the pheromones came out, and she increased the … energy. That went on for two hours. When she had her last orgasm, and made sure I had one too, I don’t know how many I had, she rolled off me onto her side and asked, “Did I hurt you, Joe Ricci? Are you injured anywhere?”
“No, Mar’ni, nothing about that hurt. You did not injure me.”
Her smile lit up and she kissed me, and she rolled over on her back and thrust her fists into the air and shouted, “Yes!”
“What, are you surprised you didn’t hurt me?”
“I didn’t know if I would or wouldn’t. You are the first Terran I have taken in the wild. All the others were Training Terrans.
“And you were better than them! You have more stamina and are a little bit harder than them.”
“Really. But don’t read too much into that, Joe Ricci. Compared to the weakest Matra, you are very soft.”
“Well, don’t I feel put down.”
“Oh no, Joe Ricci! Do not feel put down. You did very well for a Terran. Do not compare yourself to Velorian men. There is no comparison. And I didn’t want you for your sexual prowess, I wanted you for your courage. You did not disappoint.
“The other Cadets will all want to know how you were. I will tell them you earned very high marks, for a Terran.”
“Well, thank you, Mar’ni.”
“No, I thank you, Joe Ricci. May I stay the night?”
“Yes, you may.”
In the morning we made love again. Or, as Mar’ni put it, she took me again.
“Are you unhurt, Joe Ricci?”
She gave me a huge smile and kissed me.
“If the other Cadets were envious before, they will be jealous after I tell them of our night together.”
We got up and showered together, and she took me, again, in the shower. Afterward we ate breakfast and she dressed and left.
“I’m sure we’ll see each other before I leave here Joe Ricci. After I tell the other Cadets about our night together, they will be pestering Xara to let them have you!”
Mar’ni had only been gone for ten minutes when Xara walked in the door. She came up to me and gave me a big kiss and said, “You are the best Terran husband a Velorian could ever have.”
“What brought that on?”
“Mar’ni is on cloud 9, Joe. You made her very happy, and that makes me very happy.”
“You don’t get it, do you.”
“What don’t I get?”
“That being desired by so many very powerful women for your courage and selflessness and humility speaks volumes about your heart and your soul.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. Turns out, I wouldn’t have gotten the chance anyway because Xara changed subjects.
“Today is my testing day. Get your space suit and meet mom and Sharon downstairs. To the extent it is possible, you get to watch.”
“To the extent it’s possible? What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. But if I’m doing something in a Terra unfriendly environment you might need your space suit to watch. I gotta go, wish me luck!”
“Good luck, Xara!”
“Ha! I don’t need no stinkin’ luck!”
And off she went.
I got dressed in some Xanadusian clothing and got my space suit. I checked the tanks, they were in pretty good shape but I decided to ask Kara or Sharon to top them off, just in case.
I went downstairs and met Kara and Sharon. I asked them about the tanks and they each took one and filled it. Then Kara picked me up and we took a sub-orbital path to one of the other Xanadusian continents.
“Her first test is invulnerability, Joseph. She has to face from one to five Heavy GARs to determine where her limits are. If she can withstand thirty seconds of continuous fire from three GARs she passes the test.”
We were up on a hill above a valley. Xara was in the valley, about a mile away. My space suit helmet has an image magnifier and stabilizer that allowed me to get a close up view. Think of a pair of 20x80 military spec binoculars.
There were five Heavy GARs set up about 100 yards from her. These things were big, much bigger than the GAR in Kara’s armory. The actual weapons themselves were bigger than the tube of a M3 howitzer. They were on mounts; each one was manned by one of the Cadets. The rest of the Cadets were standing back, watching. Kasa’An and several of her Guardians were also present.
“Why is Xara naked?”
“Her flight suit is tough, Joseph, but not tough enough to handle prolonged Heavy GAR fire.”
Jul’lie was with the GARs, Su-ta, who was in charge of Protector testing, was about 10 yards away from Xara.
Su-ta raised her arm, then dropped it, and the first GAR opened fire on Xara. After 30 seconds Su-ta raised her arm and the GAR fire ceased.
“Piece of cake.”
Su-ta asked Xara if she was willing to continue the test, Xara let me hear the conversation. She said yes.
Su-ta raised her arm again, and when she lowered it two GARs opened up on Xara. Xara stood there with her hands on her hips and didn’t budge an inch. After 30 seconds Su-ta raised her arm again and the GAR fire stopped.
Su-ta asked Xara again and Xara said she was willing to continue the test. This time with three GARs firing on her. This time was different, I saw Xara lean into the fire, but she wasn’t pushed back and if she was hurt at all she didn’t show any sign of it. Again, Xara let me hear the conversation.
“Xara Zor’El, you have passed the Protector Invulnerability Test. Do you wish to test your limits further? You can refuse, it will not reflect badly on you if you do.”
“I wish to continue,” Xara answered.
Su-ta raised her arm and dropped it, and four GARs opened up on her. This time she was nearly pushed back a step before she regained control and leaned into the fire. After 30 seconds Su-ta raised her arm again and the fire stopped.
“Xara Zor’El, you have met and exceeded the Invulnerability Requirements for a Protector. You can stop now if you wish, and no one will fault you for it. Do you wish to stop or continue?”
Xara’s reply had me laughing so hard I nearly wet my pants. Sharon and Kara must have been able to hear the conversation, from a mile away, because they had the same reaction.
“Stop whining and give me your best shot!”
Su-ta raised her hand and five Heavy GARs opened up on Xara. The fire lasted for 30 seconds, and for 30 seconds Xara fought the GARs and held her ground. At the end of 30 seconds Su-ta raised her arm again and the GAR fire stopped. And then everyone present was mobbing Xara. The Cadets, the Chief Administrator, the Chief of Testing, Sharon and Kara flew down, with me, and hugged Xara.
I retracted my helmet and started towards Xara, and then stopped, the heat radiating from her body was too much.
“I’ll be cooled down in a minute, darling. I’m still absorbing the energy.”
And she was. I could see that her breasts had gotten larger.
“My body is converting the GAR energy into Orgone energy.”
Su-ta said, “Chief Administrator Jul’lie Tan’a, Xara Zor’El has passed the Protector Invulnerability Test with Honors.”
Jul’lie said, “Zara Zor’El, you have earned your Protector Invulnerability Certification with Honors. Congratulations.”
Mar’ni came up to me and said, “Joe Ricci, most of us stopped at three GARs. Only two of us went to four and they did not pass. To go to five and pass … she is truly amazing.”
Xara cooled down in a very short time, shorter than she had before when she had been too hot for me to approach, and she came and gave me a hug.
“Congratulations Xara. I am so proud of you.”
“Thank you, Joe. And thank you for coming to my test. Seeing you on the hill and remembering how you faced down that Prime the day you saved us gave me the courage to continue to five GARS.”
“Did it hurt?”
“It did, but I handled it and there are no lasting effects, I’m not in any pain now.”
“I don’t know. They tell me where to go and what to do and I go there and do it.”
Well, Su-ta answered that question.
“Xara Zor’El, you will now demonstrate your fighting skills. To succeed, you must defeat two P1 Velorians. Kasa’An and Lil’Ad will engage you in unarmed combat.”
Everyone moved 400 yards away, to give them room.
“Kara, why is she fighting two P1’s at a time? Shouldn’t it be one on one?”
“The Guardians are not enhanced, Joseph. They are roughly the same strength as a Prime. It isn’t the same as facing two Protectors.”
Su-ta, using her heat vision, drew a perfect circle about 100 yards in diameter around the three combatants.
“The rules are simple,” said Su-ta. “This circle represents the base of a cylinder that is 100 yards in height above the ground. To win, Xara Zor’El, you must stay within the cylinder while either forcing your opponents out or forcing them to yield. Do you understand these rules?”
“I do,” said Xara.
Su-ta flew well outside the circle and stayed about 150 feet in the air.
“Begin!” She yelled.
Honestly, I can’t say much about this. The women were moving so fast all I could see was a blur inside a dust cloud. It was like how fights between cats and dogs are drawn in the comics. It didn’t even last a minute. First, one of the Velorians went flying up and out of the cylinder, it was Lil’Ad. And then the blur stopped, and I could see Xara tying up Kasa’An, on the ground, bending one arm behind her back her while wrapping the other around her throat. She had her legs wrapped around Kasa’s waist.
Kasa started beating her free arm against the ground. Either Xara didn’t see it or was too much into the moment to acknowledge it, so Su-ta flew in and tapped Xara on the shoulder and shouted, “Enough! Release her!”
Xara let go and jumped up.
“That was very fast,” said Mar’ni.
Xara was declared the winner and passed her fighting certification. Jul’lie and Su were quite impressed, as were all the cadets.
“They’ve never seen her in action,” said Sharon. “They had no idea what to expect.”
“And Gloria’s lessons weren’t wasted on her,” said Kara.
Next up was the strength test. For this we flew to another area of the continent. On a beach, out in the middle of nowhere, there was a huge metal ball. We landed near it.
“Where did this come from?” Xara asked Jul’lie. Xara looked angry.
“Xara,” said Kasa’An, “we took it from one of the shipyards. I promise you, we searched for bodies and gave them a proper burial, according to Xanadusian customs. A representative of the government observed and gave us permission to use wrecked ships to put this together. It was all done with respect.”
“The Xanadusians were okay with this?” Xara asked.
“They were,” said Kasa. “You can ask them yourself when you return to the embassy.”
Xara nodded and said, “Okay. Okay, I’m fine with this.”
Huh. They asked for ‘permission’ from the Xanadusians.
“Xara Zor’El,” said Su-ta,” for the strength test, you must raise this object to a height of two miles above this beach. You must then return and place it back here, in this exact location. Other than dents made by your body to support it, there must be no damage done to it. You have five minutes to complete this task from the moment you make contact with the object.”
Xara walked around, then flew around the ball checking it out, making whatever calculations she needed to make. Then she dived straight down, into the sand and under it, and a few moments later the ball began to shift, then it began to rise. When Xara came into view, she was against the ball, facing up, with her arms and legs spread as wide as they would go, lifting the ball up. Kara picked me up and we floated up into the air as Xara accelerated up.
Xara was accelerating, and all the Velorians following her were, so I put my helmet in place so Kara could also accelerate. At two miles altitude, Xara stopped her ascent, and began to bring the ball down. As she neared the surface, she slowed her descent, until she put the ball down, and she came out the same tunnel she had made to get underneath the ball. Her hair was covered in sand. She had sand in her flight suit, and she had a smile on her face.
Jul’lie and Su examined the ball carefully before declaring that Xara had passed the strength test.
“You made that look easy, Xara.”
“It was. This test didn’t challenge me at all.”
Su-ta said, “Xara Zor’El, your next test is the speed test. Jul’lie will fly out to a point in space with a rock. You must fly out to her, then back to here in under 20 minutes, with the rock. We will now give Jul’lie time to get to the end point of your flight.”
Just before Jul’lie took off she burned a circle with an X in it into the rock. Then we waited about twenty minutes for Jul’lie to get to where she was supposed to be. When that time was up, Su-ta told Xara to go.
“This test is a little harder than it looks, Joe.”
“Why is that Xara?”
“Between the time Jul’lie left and I left the planet has rotated on its axis. So I can’t just fly up in the same direction Jul’lie did, I have to compensate for the spin of the planet.”
“Is that hard?”
“Not for me!”
“I also have to time it correctly. I have to accelerate hard to get to Jul’lie, but I also have to remember that I have to decelerate before I can start coming back.”
“Is that hard?”
“Not for me!”
“Aren’t you full of yourself.”
“I told you arrogance is assumed,” she laughed. In my head. It’s a unique experience.
Ten minutes later, Xara was back. Everyone was surprised and concerned, except Kara and Sharon. And me, of course, since I didn’t know better. Then everyone was amazed, except Kara and Sharon, and me, because I didn’t know better, when Xara held up the rock she had gotten from Jul’lie.
Five minutes later Jul’lie landed and confirmed the rock Xara had was the one she had given her.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Jul’lie. “Her acceleration and deceleration are amazing!”
“Xara Zor’El,” said Su-ta,” you have passed the Protector Speed Certification Test with Honors. Your next test will be the intelligence test. You will be given a puzzle you must solve in under ten minutes.”
Okay, here’s another example of why I think I’m in a coma in a hospital in Germany, or maybe I’m unconscious on a battlefield in the Middle East. They handed her a Rubik’s cube.
Well, okay, it wasn’t exactly a Rubik’s cube. It had 12 sides, and it wasn’t a cube. She was told that she had ten minutes to solve it. She solved it in four. It didn’t look solved to me, and when I said that to Kara she told me it was solved, some of the colors were in parts of the spectrum Terran eyes can’t see. I took her word for it.
Su-ta said, “Xara Zor’El, you have passed the Protector Intelligence Test. The final test is to earn your Terran unsafe sex certification. Go with Skar-El.”
I hadn’t even seen him, he must have just arrived. Xara flew off with him.
“Kara, what are they doing?”
“Skar-El is going to get her worked up, then leave her hanging,” said Sharon.
“Then she has to come back here and satisfy herself, with you, without hurting you,” added Kara.
Then Su-ta approached me.
“Joe Ricci, you are the Terran Xara Zor’El has chosen to take when she returns. She will be in an over excited state and the possibility of injury or even death is very real. If we believe you are in danger of serious injury we will intervene, but you cannot depend on that. Xara has shown herself to be an exceptionally powerful Velorian and we may not be able to save you. We are granting you the option to refuse to be taken. There is no shame in backing out, no one will judge you for that.”
“Fuck that, Ricci, we trust her,” said Johnson.
“Fuckin’ right,” said Dixon.
“I trust Xara. I’ll do it.”
“Very well, Joe Ricci. Please move to the spot Jul’lie has prepared for you and remove all your clothing.”
I did as I was told. The spot Jul’lie had me move to was very rocky. It definitely wouldn’t be comfortable. And it was cold. The wind was blowing off the ocean and it was cold. Xara would definitely need to user her pheromones on me.
They were gone for half an hour. When they returned, Xara looked very worked up. She wasn’t wearing her flight suit, Skar-El had it.
“Xara Zor’El,” began Su, “you must take this Terran and have at least three orgasms without injuring or killing him. At the end of three orgasms, you must release him.”
“I trust you, Xara. You won’t hurt me.”
“Joe, I’m not sure.”
“I am. Take me.”
Xara came over to me, looked at the ground, and used her foot to clear away the rocks. Then she picked me up, put me on my back, and mounted me. She leaned over me, so the wind was blowing her hair into my face, and she released her pheromones. Now, I knew the state she was in. She was more frustrated than she was the night she had three Velorian men. But instead of giving me a huge dose of pheromones, she released just enough to do the job.
“I’ll not treat you like a living dildo, Joe.”
And she didn’t. She was gentle. It was amazing, I didn’t expect this. Dixon and Johnson were speechless.
“Xara, how are you doing this?”
“I love you, Joe Ricci. I want these Velorians to see that.”
She had her first orgasm, then let me have mine. When I started to go soft, she leaned over me and kissed me, then released more of her pheromones. Again, just enough to get me hard.
“Come to me, Joe Ricci.” And then I was in her loving place.
“You’re getting cold, Joe. I’m going to release some heat.”
She did this thing she did where she tenses her muscles and releases heat, and then she bent over me so most of her torso was in contact with my torso, while she continued to pleasure herself, and me, using her internal vaginal muscles. I felt her tense, and she orgasmed, then she increased the speed of those wonderful muscles and I orgasmed.
She kept me hard with her pheromones and ten minutes later, ten gentle minutes later, we orgasmed together. She immediately got off me, as was the requirement. She turned to Jul’lie and Su and said, “He’s cold. Warm him up and get him dressed.”
Then she jumped into the air and was gone, but she was still in the connection, in my head.
“Thank you, my darling, for trusting me. I’m going to find Skar-El and fuck him until he begs for mercy. And then I’m going to fuck him some more. I’ll see you back at the apartment.”
“Find him? I thought he was here.”
“He flew off with my flight suit as soon as I mounted you. He was frustrated too. Oh, I see him! See you later, honey.”
Before I could get dressed Jul’lie and Su examined me for injuries. While they were doing that Sharon and Kara warmed me with their heat vision. The Cadets saw that, and they formed a circle around me and did the same. It felt good.
“She passed the test,” said Jul’lie.
“Strange she didn’t stay around to find out,” said Su. And then all the women started giggling and laughing.
Su said to Kara and Sharon, “That was extraordinary. The test is designed to bring out the greatest need in a Protector, and Skar-El has prepared many Cadets. But watching her with Joe Ricci, you wouldn’t have known she was desperate.”
Sharon responded, saying, “I know! She wasn’t fucking Joe; she was making love to him.”
“Yes,” said Kara, “she was much gentler than I would have thought, given how frustrated Skar-El left her.”
“Kara, she took me into her loving place. She didn’t use any more of her pheromones than she had to, and when she realized I was cold, she did that muscle trick you guys can do to warm me up. It was like … it was about me, not her.”
Kara and Sharon took me back to the embassy grounds and had dinner with me that evening. I stayed up late waiting for her, but Xara didn’t come home before I went to bed. I fell asleep quickly and started dreaming. I mean, I know it was a dream, because of what happened.
I was walking through one of the cities the Arions destroyed. There were men and women and children everywhere, with terrible wounds and burns. They were crying out to me for help, and try as hard as I could, I couldn’t get to them to help them. In my dream, I was crying too.
And then, suddenly, I was in a field of wildflowers. I could smell the flowers, it was wonderful. And I could smell honey, not honey from a jar, honey from the comb. And I looked up, and there was Xara in the sky, descending towards me, dressed in white, and her hair was glowing, and her eyes, they could see right through me. And I thought to myself, I should be scared, but this is Xara. This is the woman I love. She landed in front of me and with her index finger tilted my chin up and kissed me. And it was a wonderful kiss. And then she was talking to me.
“Sleep my darling. Sleep in peace. I’m here and I’ll keep the bad dreams away.”
And then she took me in her arms and held me. And I tried to talk to her, to ask her where we were. But when I opened my mouth to speak, she put her finger against my lips and said, “There will be time to talk later, my love. You need your rest now. Go to sleep.”
And then I woke up. The sun was up, and Xara’s arms were around me and she was looking at me with a beautiful smile on her face. I had a morning erection. Well, I’m a guy, so yeah, I did. She gently rolled me onto my back and mounted me, inserted me into her, then stretched out over my body and kissed me. And we stayed like that for at least half an hour, and she made us each orgasm twice, and then she rolled off me and said, “I think I’ve changed again Joe. Something about the tests making me exert myself made me change.”
“How did you change?”
“Well, for one, I broke the connection when I caught up with Skar-El. I didn’t reconnect. But I felt your distress last night, during your nightmare. So I reconnected and fixed your dream, I redirected it. Do you remember?”
“I do. And I smelled your pheromones, honey and wildflowers, and I knew it was you.”
“Yes, you did. But I wasn’t here Joe.”
“Well, it was a dream, so my mind probably manufactured it.”
“Have you ever smelled anything in your dreams before?”
I had to think about that. “If I did, I don’t remember it.”
“Okay, so that is something that changed. I felt your nightmare, and you smelled my pheromones.
“And I frightened Skar-El at one point, Joe. I’m stronger than I was before I took the test. Everywhere.”
“You mean, everywhere?”
“Xara, you’ve crushed rock with those muscles. How would you know if they were stronger?”
“That’s the part that frightened Skar-El. I squeezed him so hard that I hurt him. That’s never happened before.”
“Do I have to worry?”
“No, when he winced, I backed off. I can control it. It just means that when I let myself go with a Messenger, I’ll have to make sure I don’t let myself go too far.”
“Will that be a problem? Will it leave you frustrated?”
“It didn’t, so I don’t think it will.”
We talked a little bit more about it. She is going to have to do some experimentation to determine how much she has changed.
We got up and showered together, then had breakfast. The Xanadusians were making sure we never ran out of food. When we were finished eating there was a knock at our door and Xara let Sharon in.
“I’m teaching sex education to the Velorian kids today. Do you guys want to sit in? They might have questions you two can answer.”
Before I could say no, Xara said yes, we’d love to. Sharon left, we had an hour before the class started.
“Xara, do you really think it’s a good idea for me to be there? Wouldn’t I come off looking like a creepy old man?”
“Joe, your younger than Sharon, and she won’t feel like a creepy old woman. Don’t worry about it. And Sharon’s right, we may be able to answer some of their questions.”
“I can’t imagine any question anyone could ever ask about sex that Sharon couldn’t answer.”
“Oh, come on Joe, go with me. Please?”
“I can’t say no to you Xara.”
“Oh, thank you.”
“No, I mean it. I can’t say no to you, to your mom or to Sharon. You guys never let me say no.”
“Don’t be silly, Joe.”
I wasn’t being silly. Dixon and Johnson told me to give up.
We went over to the embassy and found the room Sharon’s sex ed class was in. We walked in and the room was full, we got the last seats left. I think all the kids parents came.
Mari’On, the ambassador was there with a man who I assumed was her husband. Her daughter, Ora was there. Kara was there too.
Mari got up and introduced Sharon. And stressed that this was meant to be an education session, that no questions were taboo, and that nothing said by anyone would go on the official record or used in any kind of disciplinary or other administrative procedure. Sharon thanked her and got up to speak.
“Before I start, how many of you in here, kids and adults, have ever had sex with a Terran. Raise your hands.” Sharon raised hers, Kara and Xara raised theirs and two or three adults raised theirs.
“Alright, a few of the adults, none of the teens. Well, sex with a Terran is not to be approached lightly. It isn’t like sex between Velorians. There are emotional pitfalls for the Terrans, and there are anatomical differences that have to be accounted for.
“For the ladies, Terran men are not as well endowed as Velorian men. They are not as long or thick, and they won’t be as hard as what you are used to with your Velorian boyfriends.
“For the gentlemen, Terran vaginas do not stretch as much as Velorian vaginas. They will stretch, but you have to make sure they are wet enough, slick enough. You can’t just thrust into them at the start. You need to use your pheromones to get them excited and then slowly work your way into them.
“And let’s get the subject of pheromones out of the way. For Velorians, our pheromones announce our intentions and prepare the opposite sex for us. They are a mild aphrodisiac. Use your pheromones on Terrans and they completely lose control. Under the influence of strong pheromones, they lose their ability to consent to sex.
“So here is our first rule, which you may never break: Do not use your pheromones until the Terran has consented to have sex with you.
“Breaking that rule is the quickest way to get Kasa’An’s attention, and not in a good way.
“Here is the second rule, which is more important than the first: Never have sex with a Terran without wearing gold.
“This is called safe sex. Unsafe sex, sex without wearing gold, will result in an injured Terran at best, and a dead Terran at worst. That’s for the ladies. For the gentlemen, if you have unsafe sex with a Terran female, you will kill her.”
Sharon went to a table and picked up a gold choker.
“Gold wrapped around us dampens our powers. But it must be wrapped all the way around us with no gaps. The most effective way to ensure this is to wear a gold choker. It goes on like this.”
Sharon put the choker on and lifted her hair and turned around so everyone could see it went all the way around her throat and neck.
“Ambassador Mari’On has made enough gold chokers available for everyone. Mari, will you please pass them out?”
Mari had four baskets of chokers that she passed around the room. When all the teenagers had one, Sharon continued.
“Now, watch me, again, as it put it on.”
She put hers on.
“Now, each of you put yours on.”
She waited until the kids all had their chokers on.
“Let’s make sure you put the chokers on correctly. The easiest way to determine this is to test it. Put your hands in front of you and warm them with your heat vision. If your heat vision works, you don’t have the choker on correctly.”
Apparently, a few kids didn’t have their chokers on correctly because they readjusted them. Some helped others do that. When everyone had their chokers on and their heat vision didn’t work, Sharon validated my initial decision not to attend.
“Okay, I need a boy and a girl to come up here and have sex. Do I have any volunteers?”
Every hand went up.
“Xara, I’m leaving.”
“No, Joe, stay.”
“Joseph,” said Kara, “why don’t you wait outside until the demonstrations are over. Your input may be valuable if there are questions.”
“I’ll be out in the hallway.”
I was out in the hallway for twenty minutes when my feet got tired, and I sat down and leaned against the wall. Forty minutes later Xara came out and said, with a smile on her face, “It’s safe for you to come back in, Joe.”
I followed her back in. All the kids were talking to each other, comparing their experiences, mostly about how it felt to be wearing gold while having sex.
Sharon asked for everyone’s attention.
“Let’s talk about how Terrans are different. I’ve been on more than a few Terran planets, and without exception, they have many rules around sex. One reason for this is that they have very little control over conception. They worry about this.
“Ladies, if your Terran objects because he is afraid you might get pregnant …” and here the girls started giggling, “ladies, this is no joking matter for Terrans. You must explain to them that it isn’t possible. Use discretion here. Many Terran men will become intimidated if you tell them their sperm will just bounce off your egg. It may be better to tell them that our species are not compatible for successful conception and leave it at that.
“Gentlemen, same answer. Only in your case it is true. Sperm ejaculated while under the influence of gold die immediately.”
Hands went up.
“I know what you’re thinking. If sperm can’t live under the influence of gold, how do women get pregnant on Velor. Velorian women secrete vaginal chemicals that protect the sperm. Now, back to Terrans …
“Many Terrans have rules around sex and age. Be aware of this, you may not get into trouble for breaking these rules, but the Terran might. We do not put Terrans in any danger. Make sure your Terran is protected from any repercussions that may result from your having sex with them.
“Are there any questions?”
One boy raised his hand and was recognized.
“Are they really that serious about their taboos?”
“Joe Ricci,” Sharon said, “please come up here. You too Xara.”
Oh shit. That’s what I thought. Oh shit. I was about to participate in the corruption of children.
I got out of my chair, actually Xara pulled me out, and we went up front.
“Xara, when did you become sexually interested in Joe?”
“When I was fifteen. He had become Kiraling, and I wanted him.”
There were nods, like they were thinking, ‘yeah, that makes sense.’
“Did you have an opportunity to take him?”
“I did. We were on Terra, and we went camping. I tried to tempt him, but he ran out of the tent and into a lake.”
Laughter. They thought that was hilarious.
“Joe, why didn’t you let Xara take you?”
“Because she was too young.”
“How old would she have to be before you would have sex with her?”
A hand went up. Sharon pointed to the teen who raised it.
“Why didn’t you use your pheromones?”
Xara said, “Well, I did, but he recognized it. I didn’t use enough to overwhelm him, he was Kiraling, and I loved him. I didn’t want to take him against his will.”
Then Sharon said, “What did we say about using pheromones?”
The teen answered, “Don’t use them until we have the Terran’s consent.”
“That’s right. And that is the decision Xara made, not to force the issue. Though her circumstances were different. She was on an undisclosed planet. We are allowed more latitude on undisclosed worlds. However, this is a disclosed world. So no ‘taking’ Terrans without their consent.”
Another hand went up and Sharon recognized the girl.
“Do you always wear gold with him? I’ve heard Protectors don’t always do that.”
Sharon answered this one too.
“P1s are trained in how to have unsafe sex without hurting the Terran. It takes a great deal of training and discipline to learn this.”
Then Xara answered, “When I first became sexually active, I tried to have unsafe sex with a Terran boy. I thought, if my mom could do it with her Terran husband, then I should be able to do it too. I didn’t know what I was doing and I badly injured that boy. I learned a valuable lesson, paid for by the pain I caused a Terran.
“Later, when I was more mature, mom and Shara trained me. They taught me how to have unsafe sex without hurting Joe. Before we were engaged, when I’d have sex with other Terrans, I always wore gold. I saved myself for Joe.”
“Ahh …” Seriously, that is how the girls reacted. They all thought that was very romantic.
And then she continued, “Since the day he proposed to me, I usually don’t wear gold. Sometimes I do, if I want to give him more control, or if I am feeling like I need to let myself go without hurting him.”
Another hand went up, and Sharon recognized a boy.
“Shara said Terrans are not any good at sex. Is that your experience with Joe Ricci?”
“Terrans are not as good at it as we are. That’s why Shara stressed, during the demonstrations, that the Velorian must be responsible for both his or her pleasure and the pleasure of their partner. Girls, this is more difficult for you than for the boys, for obvious reasons.”
Giggling from the girls.
One of the girls raised her hand and Sharon recognized her.
“I’ve heard that Terran men sometimes orgasm too soon. Is that true, and what do we do about it?”
“Terran men have very little stamina,” said Sharon, “so we have to help them with that. You can postpone their ejaculation by gripping their erections with your vaginal muscles, or you can let them ejaculate and then keep them hard with your pheromones. Be very attentive to their reaction if you do grip them; even with gold, we are strong enough to hurt them.”
I really wanted to leave the room.
Another hand went up, this time from a boy.
“Xara, are you satisfied with Joe Ricci’s sexual performance?”
“Joe is Kiraling to three P1 women. We have all been working on his performance and have gotten good results. It is true that I still need the strength of a Messenger, and I get it when one is available, but yes, I am satisfied with his performance.”
Another hand went up, from a girl.
“During the demonstration, Shara said Terrans get jealous if we have more than one partner. Joe Ricci, do you get jealous?”
“That isn’t an easy question for me to answer,” I said.
Xara jumped in.
“Joe has the same sexual hang ups that any Terran has. But he has done very well in that regard. I know that deep down, Joe would like me to be exclusive to him, but he never complains.
“And I make sure to keep him happy.”
Giggles and laughter after that. And then another girl raised her hand.
“Joe Ricci, does your eighteen year old rule extend to everyone?”
“Terran and Supremis?”
“Oh. I was just wondering if Xara would let us practice safe sex with you.”
There was a lot of murmuring after that question. The girl’s attention was all on Xara, who said, “Joe and I came to an arrangement about that. Until he had sex with me, either of us were free to have sex with any Terran or Supremis we wanted. After we began our sexual relationship, we would limit ourselves to Supremis partners. He doesn’t need my permission to have sex with other Supremis, that is up to him.”
Then everyone was looking at me.
“As I said before, eighteen is the minimum age. I don’t make any exceptions to that rule.”
The girl who asked the question looked at me, batted her eyes and smiled and said, “Are you sure, Joe Ricci?”
As she said that I detected pheromones, and I got hard. Then other girls joined in, and they all started giggling.
“Joe Ricci, I don’t think you are sure,” said the girl who started it all.
Mari’On had been sitting in the corner. She jumped up and flew to the front of the room and said, sternly, “Stop that, girls! We do not play with Terrans! They are people, like us, and we treat them with respect.”
One of the other mothers went to a panel on the wall and flipped on a switch and I heard ceiling fans in the background. Xara had gotten close to me and put an arm around me, and she was glaring at the girls.
“Joe Ricci,” said Mari, “this behavior by the girls is totally unacceptable and I apologize to you on behalf of these girls and the Velorian Embassy.”
And then Xara put the fear of God … fear of Skietra into them.
“I know who started this, and I know who joined in. Joe is Kiraling! Do you know what that means?”
The demeanor of everyone in the room changed. Xara wasn’t done.
“Didn’t you hear Shara tell you, at least twice, that you do not use pheromones on a Terran without their consent? Do you think you can get away with doing this to my husband, my Kiraling, without any consequences?”
Velorians don’t shit. If they did, every girl in the room would have been shitting their pants. They were really scared of Xara. And then Sharon piled on.
“He is my Kiraling too,” she said, “and I will not tolerate your abuse of him.”
And then Kara joined in.
“I expect every one of you to apologize. Now!”
I heard them all muttering one version or another of, “I’m sorry,” which didn’t fly with Kara.
“That’s not good enough! You will come up here, one at a time, and apologize, starting with you.” She was pointing to the girl who started it.
“Joe Ricci,” she said when she got to the front of the room, “I apologize. That was rude of me. Please forgive me.”
I said, “I accept your apology and I forgive you.”
Xara was glaring at her. I don’t think she accepted the apology or forgave her.
Every girl in the room came up and apologized and asked for my forgiveness. I accepted all the apologies and forgave them all. Xara … not so much. Sharon and Kara … I’m not sure. They certainly didn’t change their demeanor towards the girls.
After the apologies, there were more questions and answers. Mercifully, the questions were no longer about me and Xara’s sex life. After the class Xara and I were headed back to our apartment when we were intercepted by Kasa’An, the Velorian Security Officer and head of the Guardians.
“Joe Ricci, I heard we had some poor behavior from the girls in Shara’s class. I hope you can forgive the youthful indiscretions of teenage girls exploring their sexuality.”
“I can, and I do,” I lied.
“I’m still pissed off at them,” said Xara. “First Jon, and now this. I wanted Joe to see the best Velor can offer. Instead …”
“Xara, I’ve had a great experience here. Except for Jon, all the Velorians have treated me well. And those girls, they’re just girls, Xara, they have a lot to learn, and I think they are in good hands with Kasa and Mari to guide them.
“And the Xanadusians have treated us like royalty. Honey, I’ve had a very good trip.”
She kissed me and said, “You are such a good man, Joe Ricci.”
“And such a good liar,” Johnson added.
“I heard that!” Xara said in the connection. Dixon and Johnson immediately disappeared. That made Xara laugh, in the connection. It’s a unique experience.
I’ve got way too many people in my head.
Kasa said, “Joe Ricci, my Guardians and I would like to meet with you. May we come to your apartment in an hour? We want to discuss training a Terran militia to defend against a future Arion attack.”
“Sure, that would be fine. Xara?”
“Yes, that’s fine.”
When we got back to our apartment it had been cleaned and restocked. And our laundry had been done. Xara fixed us something to eat and, right on time, there was a knock on the door. Xara let Kasa and two Guardians in.
Kasa introduced the Guardians, and there was breast grabbing. I really thought that if I took a video of it with my phone and showed it to them, the Velorians would see how ridiculous it looked. But Xara said I couldn’t do that.
The Guardians started the conversation.
“We’re very far away from Velor, or any other Enlightenment planet. If the Arions attacked this planet again it would be up to the Guardians and the Protector to defend the planet.
“Any Velorian could defend against Betas. Even if they had Heavy GARs we could fly around them fast enough to attack the crews. But if the Arions sent Primes, that would be a different situation altogether.
“Against a large space force, with Primes, our Protector would concentrate first on the Arion ships, and secondly on any Primes that made it to the surface. The Guardians would help with that. If they sent sufficient forces, it may be up to the Terrans to fight against the Betas.
“When the Betas attacked before, the Terrans didn’t know how to fight. So they resorted to mass attacks, using the most primitive weapons, and were slaughtered. If the Protector Combat Wings hadn’t arrived, the planet would have been depopulated.
“We have all heard that you are an experienced leader of soldiers, would you be willing to help us with our training?”
“Joe, you don’t have to do this,” said Xara in the connection.
“Let me ask some questions. The Xanadusian weapons are not too much different from the weapons Terrans, on Terra used 130 years ago. I’ve fired one of those weapons. And if you’ll remember from the briefing, I used a similar weapon against a Beta myself. And it was ineffective.
“I’ve been on one of the battlefields here. I saw how many times a Beta had to be shot to kill him. Do you really think you can train a militia to be effective against Betas armed with GARS?”
“Joe Ricci, we understand your objection. You used a term, fire and maneuver, that we think would be helpful.”
“That requires two units. One to provide suppression fire to keep the enemy occupied while another one moves into position for an assault. Ideally the suppression fire would pin the Betas down and force them to stay behind cover.
“Are the Xanadusian’s weapons enough of a threat to Betas to accomplish that, or would the Betas take the hits and fire back? If you could mass fire against the Betas and force them to stay behind cover, would the assault force have a chance? That’s the question you have to answer.”
We went back and forth on it, and then I asked some questions and made a suggestion.
“Are Betas, with GARs, a threat to Guardians?”
One of them answered, “Enough Betas with enough GARs would be a threat, but not one we couldn’t overcome.”
“Suppose you organize Xanadusian units around Guardians? Use a large force of Xanadusians putting as much fire into the Betas as they can while a Guardian or two attack the Betas from behind, or from a flank, or from above?”
“That, Joe Ricci, would work if the Guardians were not occupied fighting Primes.”
“Then I think you are going to have to develop flexible strategies and tactics.”
“Can you help us develop those strategies and tactics, Joe Ricci?”
“He won’t be here long enough,” said Xara.
“And I think you need someone more experienced and knowledgeable,” I added.
“Where would we find someone like that,” one of the Guardian’s asked.
“Well,” I said, “we have them on Terra, but I don’t know how that would work, with Terra being an undisclosed planet. Surely there must be other civilizations that have military experience that might apply.”
“None that would help,” said Kasa. “If this planet were a member of the Enlightenment, we could get help.”
We talked a little more, without really getting anywhere, and then Kasa and her Guardians left. And then a minute later there was a knock on our door. It was Kara and Sharon. They wanted to have dinner with us. Because we had lots of Xanadusian food, and if the Xanadusians know how to do anything, it’s making meals that are a pleasure to eat.
While we were eating there was another knock on the door. It was Anna.
“Please, come in Anna,” said Xara.
She came in and smiled approvingly at the group of us eating the food her people had provided.
“Go.. Xara, my friends and I are meeting this evening to make clothing. Would you like to join us?”
“I’d love to!” Said Xara.
“Oh, is it alright if I come too?” Asked Kara.
“Me too?” asked Sharon.
Xara was quite impressed with Xanadusian clothing and had told Anna she’d like to see how it is done. Kara … it was a little surprising that she’d want to see it too, but she, like Xara and myself, had taken a strong liking to these people. But Sharon? If it didn’t have a designer tag on it, she wasn’t interested. And not just any old designer. I once heard her disparage clothing from Neiman Marcus.
Anna said they were all invited. Half an hour later, I was alone in the apartment. Half an hour after that I was hosting an impromptu party with Xanadusian sons, brothers and husbands who’d been told by their wives, sisters and daughters to keep the Goddess Husband Joe entertained while the women met with the Goddesses. None of them spoke Velorian. I’ve heard the Xanadusians use their words for goddess and husband enough to have an idea what they were talking about.
The people here were about where late 19th century Europe and North America were when the Arions invaded. So Velorian refrigerators and stoves were new to them, and I caught one of them flushing the ‘elimination device’, i.e. the Velorian concept of a toilet, over and over again. They were particularly fascinated by light switches.
And they brought even more food and drinks, alcohol. Stronger stuff than they had in that mining town, so I had to be very careful with it. I did, it wasn’t easy, they wanted me to drink.
Sharon, Kara, Xara and I all had our apartment door pads programmed to read each other’s palms. So I grabbed a couple of volunteer and we went down to Sharon’s apartment and brought back a couple of cases of wine. Oh, the Xanadusians loved it! They had just finished off the second case when the blondes returned. And BAM! Just like that! An apartment full of drunk Xanadusians fell to their knees.
“Joe, tell them to get up,” said Xara.
“I’m not sure they can. They’re pretty drunk.”
“I see they helped themselves to my wine,” said Sharon.
“Sharon, what the hell is that on your head?”
“It’s a hat.”
“A ten year old girl made it for her,” said Kara.
“And I like it!” Said Sharon.
“It looks like something died on her head,” I said to Xara in the connection.
“I know, right? The girl was very fond of Sharon, and it was mutual.”
“I can’t wait to see you go clubbing in it,” I said to Sharon.
She stuck her tongue out at me.
We were trying to get the Xanadusians on their feet and out the door when the calvary, in the form of their wives, girlfriends, sisters and daughters arrived. And they were mortified. There were a lot of people shouting, mostly women at men, and I couldn’t follow all of it. Something about the men embarrassing the women by trashing the apartment of one of the Goddesses.
The women divided themselves into two groups. The first group took charge of the men and got them out the door. The second group proceeded to clean the apartment. The blondes wanted to stop them, to tell them we’d clean up, but the Xanadusians wouldn’t have it. Or I think that’s what went on. I don’t know. Only Anna spoke Velorian, and she was part of the group that removed the men.
Many hands make light work, as the saying goes, and in no time the apartment was clean. You would have never known there was a party. They even took out the empty wine bottles.
Sharon wasn’t the only one of the blondes who came home with an article of clothing. She was the only one who came home with something that looked ridiculous. Kara and Xara each had a top they had made, under the tutelage of the women, and so did Sharon. It didn’t go with her hat.
“Did you ladies have a good time?”
“Joseph, we had a very good time,” answered Kara.
“Joe, it was sweet,” said Xara. “They are such good hostesses, and they taught us their sewing and weaving techniques.”
“I may take up weaving when we get home,” said Sharon.
I didn’t believe her. Neither did Dixon and Johnson.
“It makes me so angry to see what the Arions did to these kind, gentle people,” said Kara.
The other two ladies nodded their agreement.
We were about to split up for the night when there was a knock at the door. All three blondes looked that way and Xara said, “It’s Ora. She looks very happy.”
Sharon let her in, and Ora jumped at her and gave her a big hug. I mean a Velorian to Velorian hug, one that would have turned me into paste. When Sharon finally managed to peel the girl off her, she said with a big smile, “Voran will be my boyfriend!”
“Oh,” said Xara, “it went well with him?”
“Yes,” said Ora, “and we didn’t have sex! He likes me!”
“We’re happy for you,” said Kara. “Tell us what happened.”
“Well, after the class I flew to his home. They were just sitting down for dinner and didn’t see me, so I flew back here and got some Terran food. Then I flew back to Voran’s house and knocked on his door and his mother invited me for dinner. I gave her the food I brought and said my mother sent this because they had been so kind to me. That worked, they accepted the food out of hospitality.
“After dinner I asked Voran if he would like to go for a walk. I told him I liked him and asked him if he would be my boyfriend. He said yes! He held my hand and kissed me, and then we just walked and talked. He never asked me to have sex with him. I remembered what Sharon said about how Terran men want to be the ones who take the initiative, so I just waited, but he never asked me about sex.
“He was being so sweet; I didn’t think I should push it. After our walk he told me he had to be up early and asked me if I’d come again tomorrow evening. He wants to see me again!”
“It sounds like he may be in love with you,” I said.
“Do you think so? Oh, that would be wonderful!”
“Does your mother know about him?” I asked.
“She does. We had a long talk about him this afternoon.”
“Why don’t you ask her to invite his family to meet yours?” I suggested.
Ora frowned at that. “I don’t know. I don’t know if that would be breaking any rules.”
“Ask your mom,” I said, “she’d know.”
“Joseph’s suggestion is very good, Ora,” said Kara. “It would have made life so much simpler for me if Xara had introduced me to her Terran boyfriends before things got too far.”
Xara nodded her agreement.
“Ok, I’ll talk to her about it,” said Ora.
Then Ora just stood there, looking from one of us to the other.
“Is there something else?” Kara asked.
“Well, I know you made a point about this at the class today. But if it is just us, could I have safe sex with Joe Ricci? I want to practice with a Terran to make sure I don’t hurt Veron when the time comes.”
“But it would be okay to hurt me?” I asked.
“The answer is no, Ora. That is a hard and fast rule for me.”
“Believe him,” said Xara. “Joe stands by his principles. I know.”
“Okay, I’m sorry for asking, Joe Ricci.”
“It’s okay to ask, Ora,” I said. And please, call me Joe.”
“Okay Joe. Thank you all for talking to me. Have a good night.” And she left.
“She must think we just fell off the turnip truck,” said Sharon.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“There were at least ten girls watching us,” said Xara. “They wanted to see if Ora could talk you into having sex with her.”
“Shit, Ricci,” said Dixon, “I bet there are Velorians watching you and Xara all the time.”
Holy crap! I hadn’t thought of that.
“Xara, do you think the kids might be watching us, when we’re in bed?”
All three of them started laughing.
“That’s a good one, Joe,” said Sharon. “Of course, they are watching. A Kiraling married to a Protector, you’re quite the novelty.”
“Don’t worry about it Darling,” said Xara.
“That’s life around Velorians,” said Kara.
Sharon and Kara left, Xara and I went to bed. Xara wanted to make love. No surprise there, she always wants to make love. I was feeling self-conscious about being watched by who knows how many Velorians, many of them children.
“Joe, it’s no different from any other night here.”
“Xara, it just seems creepy to me.”
“You’re being unreasonable, darling. Don’t make me bring out the heavy artillery.”
“You mean your pheromones.”
“What happened to, ‘I’ll never take you against your will?’”
“That was before you proposed. Now I’ll take you anytime and anywhere I want.”
She didn’t. She used … conventional seduction techniques. No pheromones, just a beautiful naked woman doing things that women have known how to do since Adam met Eve. Then after a couple of orgasms she used her pheromones to keep me going. I didn’t object.
The next morning during breakfast there was yet another knock on our door. It was Ambassador Ora’An. She had Kara and Sharon with her.
“What’s up guys?” I asked.
Ora looked at me, smiling, and said, “You four have become quite the celebrities since you arrived. The Terran government wants to throw a community picnic in your honor.”
“Really,” I said, “why?”
“It should be obvious to you by now,” Ora said with a laugh. “Let’s see, you helped some workers move a large rock, you saved a group of miners, and last night one of you had a party for the local men while three of you joined their women’s sewing circle. They like you four, very much, and they want to show their appreciation.
“A delegation from their government will be here in an hour to officially invite you. Please accept, the more we can make these people feel like we are with them, the easier my job will be.”
“Do they make your job difficult, Ambassador?”
“It’s this whole goddess thing. You haven’t done anything to persuade them that we aren’t gods and goddesses, but you’ve gone a long way to making them feel that we are approachable.”
“We’d be happy to attend,” said Kara.
An hour later three men and two women, one of them Anna, our housekeeper, knocked on our door. The other woman looked older, much older, than the others. They all dropped to their knees when Xara answered and asked us to come to their picnic, which was being held in our honor.
The men spoke, Anna translated.
“Please, come in,” said Xara.
They all stood up and came in. I recognized one of the men from the party the night before. He looked like he was hung over.
Kara spoke for us. Anna translated.
“Thank you for your very kind invitation. We are honored to accept. Is there anything we can bring?”
Oh lord, that got them agitated. They were talking back and forth, and then Anna said, “No, Goddesses, you are our guests. You do not need to bring anything.”
“Anna,” I said, “your people have been so very kind to us. Can I ask you to do one more favor for us?”
“Yes, Goddess husband Joe, we’d be honored to do you a favor.”
“You have given us a great deal of beautiful clothing. Can you help us pick out the appropriate garments for this picnic?”
Anna translated, and that brought about more discussion among the Xanadusians. There were some sharp words, then there was laughter, then more sharp words, then more laughter. Finally, they stopped talking or arguing or joking or whatever the hell they were doing and Anna said, “Goddess husband Joe, if you ask three Xanadusians how to dress for a social event, you will get seven answers. The men here think they know what you should wear. They don’t. They are men. I will help you pick out appropriate clothing.”
And then Anna turned to the others and told them what she told us. And they started arguing and laughing again, and then, the other woman who was with them, said something, very loudly, and all the men shut up.
“Grandmother has told the men that I will do this, and they are not to interfere or complain,” said Anna.
“Is she your grandmother, or is that a title?” I asked.
“We refer to the elders among us as grandmother and grandfather,” said Anna. “Sadly, the Arion demons killed many of our elders.”
Then Anna turned to the others, then the woman she referred to as grandmother shooshed them away. She stayed with Anna.
Anna said, “Grandmother would like to see your box that keeps food cold without ice. And your indoor pit.”
“Indoor pit?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Anna. And she pantomimed a man taking a leak.
Xara showed her the refrigerator. I showed her the Velorian ‘toilet’. Grandmother said something to Anna, who turned to me and said, “We have noticed that the Velorians do not ever seem to empty their …” and then she switched to Xanadusian and said words that I assume meant bladder and bowels, because she was pointing to those places on her body.
“The Velorians have no need to empty … they don’t need to do that. But I’m like you. I need to do that.”
Anna translated and grandmother nodded her understanding. And then Anna went through all the clothing the Xanadusians had given us and put together outfits for us. Grandmother said something and Anna translated.
“Grandmother said if the men had done this you would have gone dressed as sheep herders who had been in the fields for a month.” And then she laughed. Apparently, that was some kind of inside joke among the Xanadusians.
We thanked grandmother and Anna for their help, and they left.
The next morning, we all had breakfast together in our apartment, because that’s where all the Xanadusian food was, and then went outside to enjoy the morning, dressed in our Xanadusian clothing. The workers in the building all stopped and smiled at us. They came up to talk to us and didn’t kneel down. Apparently, they were becoming very comfortable with us. Most of them didn’t speak Velorian, so there was a lot of pantomiming to get meaning across. We think they were all complementing us on our wardrobe.
Later, around noon, based on where the sun was in the sky, Xanadusians from the surrounding area began to arrive. They set up tents, more like what we on earth would consider pop-ups, canvas roofs supported by poles with no walls, and they brought in tables by horse and wagon and set up the tables under the tents.
Several tents were setup with portable kitchens in them, surprising because that wasn’t something I’d think was around on earth in the 19th century. Maybe I’m wrong. There was nothing high tech about them.
They set up a wooden stage.
Two hours after they started, everything was set up and Xanadusians were streaming into the area. The Velorians from the Embassy started to arrive to. We were approached by an official looking Xanadusian man who pantomimed that he wanted us to follow him onto the stage, and then had us sit down on chairs that were up there.
Then he picked up a megaphone and said something in it and all the Xanadusians gathered in front of the stage. The Velorians joined them.
Then he made a speech. It didn’t occur to the Xanadusians to provide us with a translator, so we didn’t know what he was saying. But he would say something, turn to us and clap, and the entire crowd would begin clapping. Then he had us stand up with him and he shook all our hands, and then he stood in front of the ladies and knelt down. All the Xanadusians knelt. He said a few more words, stood up, turned to the crowd and they all started applauding us again. Then he ended his speech, and everyone started heading to the tents.
As we made our way off the stage, we were joined by Mari’On, the ambassador, who told us we were just made honorary Xanadusians. The official who made the speech is the head of the government, she said, and he pointed out to the crowd that we were dressed as Xanadusians, and that they should consider it a great honor that the goddesses and the goddess husband would do that.
“Mari,” I said, “you’ve given us the impression that these people are starving. But I see a lot of food here.”
“Yes, Joe Ricci, there is a lot of food here. Their traditions teach them that they must always have food for visitors and strangers passing through, so each family keeps food for a special occasion. They would rather starve than be caught without food for a visitor.”
A woman approached us with a group of about twenty children. They were all young, maybe ten years old and younger, and many of them had wounds, or had been maimed by the Arions. The woman started speaking, and Mari translated for us.
“She runs an orphanage for children who lost their parents fighting the demons. She asks that the goddesses give them a blessing.”
The children were all looking up at us, and their innocence … thinking of what they had been through, it was tough.
I don’t know what kind of blessing they expected, but Sharon dropped down to one knee and beckoned a little boy to come to her. He was on crutches; he’d lost his left leg below the knee. He came to her, and she held him in her arms.
“Mari,” Sharon said, “ask him if he would like to go for a ride in the sky with me.”
Mari smiled and asked him, and his eyes got big, and he looked at Sharon and nodded. And then Sharon stood up, then started slowly rising up, and circled the area with the little boy in her arms. And he was laughing and waving at the people on the ground and was just having a wonderful time.
And then Kara and Xara knelt down and beckoned to the children and they all came forward, and Kara and Xara each took one and took them up into the sky. When Sharon landed, she pointed to another child and up they went.
Pretty soon Mari joined in. Then Kasa, then the teenage Velorians were doing it, and all the children were getting rides. Smaller children would be carried in the Velorians arms. Bigger children would ride piggyback.
Oh my lord, the Xanadusians loved it. Mari was very happy. She told me, “This is doing more to break down the barriers between our species than anything else I’ve tried since I’ve been here.”
And I think it was true. The Xanadusians were coming up to Velorians and talking to them, as best they could when they didn’t share a common language, and I didn’t see anyone kneeling after that.
“Joe, I love this! I can’t do anything like this on earth.”
“I’m not sure who’s having more fun, Xara, the kids or the Velorians.”
“Pretend you’re trying to get away from me. Run as fast as you can.”
I did, and as Xara got closer, I heard a child’s laughter, and then she buzzed me, passing just inches above my head, and the little boy she was holding in her arms was squealing in delight.
And then the Velorians who were giving children rides started passing low over the crowd, and for the life of me, I don’t know who enjoyed it more, the children or the adult Xanadusians.
I saw Kara make a low, slow pass over the crowd, she was flying on her back, with the child on her stomach, and she gently tossed the child a couple of feet in the air and then caught her. The child was laughing, Kara was laughing, the crowd was laughing, everyone was having a wonderful time enjoying the show.
“I think your mom is living dangerously.”
“If that little girl gets airsick while Kara is doing that, she’s going to get a face full of puke.”
Xara laughed, in the connection. It’s a unique experience. And then she flew towards her mother, I saw them exchange words, and Kara flipped over.
“Mom says thanks for the heads up.”
And then the Velorians started passing their passengers between them, and the kids just loved it.
The afternoon went on, and eventually every child had at least three rides, and the food began running out. Mari saw this and dispatched a couple of Velorians to bring out more Terran food. Sharon went back to her apartment and brought out most of the rest of her wine, and the party continued into the night.
I saw Ora walk up to her mother, Mari, with a boy in hand and introduce the young man. I couldn’t hear the conversation, but Mari smiled and talked to the boy, and then the three of them walked through the crowd to a woman who had two girls with her, and Ora made introductions. It looked like it was going well for Ora and Voran.
Eventually the Xanadusians began heading home, beginning with the kids from the orphanage, then families with young children, and then the rest. The grounds were a mess, and as Mari was looking over it the Xanadusian who is the head of the government came to her and told her not to worry about it, it would be cleaned up in the morning. And he did something I had not seen a Xanadusian do before. He hugged her. At first Mari was shocked, but then she put her arms around him and returned the hug, and when they broke it off, they both had tears in their eyes.
Back in our apartment, Xara was in a very good mood.
“Joe, that was so fun today! It felt so good to be able to show people who I am. I can’t be myself on Earth.”
“I could see that, Xara. You’ve made a good impression on the Xanadusians, and clearly, they’ve made a good impression on you.
“Xara, you are the most important person in my life. If it would make you happy to stay here, then let’s do it. Let’s stay.”
“Joe! Is that really what you want?”
“Xara, I want you to be happy. If you’re happy here, then this is where I want you to be, and I want to be here with you.”
“It is so tempting to stay here, Joe. It really is. But I’ve been thinking a lot about what the Arions did here, and I don’t want that to happen to Earth. Velor has Guardians here, a Protector, a Scribe, they have enough P1s to protect this planet.
“Earth needs my protection, Joe. Velor will never assign as many P1s there as they have here. I want to go back.”
“Okay Xara. If that’s what you want, then that’s what I want. Sounds like you want to go into the ‘family business’ with your mother.”
“I’ve always been in that business, Joe, but after seeing the other continents on this planet, I’m fully committed to it.”
“What about becoming a surgeon?”
“If I can make it work, and protect Earth, I’ll do it. If not, I’ll find some other career.”
In bed that night we talked about our future, what we wanted to get out of life. Eventually we fell asleep in each other’s arms.
The next morning, we learned that the dignitaries who were going to present me with my award had arrived. They asked to meet with us, Kara, Sharon, Xara, Skar-El and myself.
After breakfast, we all went over to the Embassy and met in one of the conference rooms over there. Velor had sent two senators, in addition to Mit, two diplomats, like Folk, but not Folk, and the head of the Scribe Corps. The Senators were part of something called the Subcommittee for Enlightenment Affairs.
The head of the Scribe Corps was a woman named Mar’ie Trata. The first thing they asked me to do was describe my interrogation by Alla’na. I was by myself with the Velorian committee, Skar-El, Xara, Sharon and Kara were elsewhere, apparently, we would all be questioned. They also asked me about that day in the cave. I had been asked about that so many times since I had gotten here that I figured at some point I should write it down, in Velorian, and ask Skar-El to have it published. Just kidding. Sharon and Kara would be very unhappy with me if I did that.
My questioning lasted for an hour. Then I was dismissed, and Skar-El, Xara, Sharon and Kara were, each in turn, interviewed.
At the end of the day, we were called together. I was told that I would be given the Velorian Meritorious Citizen Award, an award given by Velorians, to Velorians, for service to The Enlightenment for my actions that exposed a traitorous cabal within the Enlightenment. At first, this didn’t make sense. I didn’t take any action to expose a cabal. I didn’t know there was a cabal. And I said so.
“Joe Ricci,” said one of the senators, “on this you must read between the lines. Alla’na exposed herself, you were a victim. But she would not have exposed herself if you hadn’t, through your heroic efforts, saved four Velorians from the Arions. That is the true reason you are being recognized with this award. But that will not be the reason we give to the citizens of Velor or The Enlightenment, as that would put a target on your back as soon as the Arions learned of it. And they would learn of it.”
“I can understand and respect that. I have another question. You said this award is given to Velorians. Is that why I was granted Velorian citizenship?”
“Ah, you can read between the lines,” said the senator with a chuckle. Yes, Joe Ricci, that is why you were offered Velorian citizenship.”
This was on a Monday. Or what I called Monday. I have no idea what day the Xanadusians called it. The date and time for my award ceremony was set to the afternoon of Sunday, or what I called Sunday. This was done in consultation with the ambassador, and she talked the senators into allowing Xanadusian dignitaries to attend. She made the argument that they had made a breakthrough in their relations with the Xanadusians due in large part to the relationships I had built, along with Xara, Kara and Sharon, and she hoped to bury the god and goddess ‘nonsense’ once and for all. The senators agreed.
“Joe Ricci,” the senator said, “you speak Velorian very well. Your accent is also quite good.”
“Thank you, senator, I have three very good teachers.”
“He also has a Deep Teach device,” said Kara.
“Ahh, very good,” said the senator. “Now, if you will excuse me, the ambassador has offered to give us flying lessons.”
The senators and diplomats were all wearing gold, which I had learned was common practice for Velorians who spent most of their lives on Velor and only traveled off planet for special occasions or duties and were never away very long.
With a few days with no obligations, Xara and I were trying to think of what we could do with our time. We thought about exploring the beaches, or some of the small islands Xara had seen from orbit. We were discussing this when there was a knock at the door.
“It’s Anna and a man,” said Xara, as I opened the door.
“Anna, come in,” I said. She and the man came in, saw Xara, and didn’t kneel. I asked Xara later if she was disappointed that she had lost a couple of worshippers. She punched me in the shoulder. It left a bruise.
Anyway, Anna introduced the man to me, his name was Vaughn, and said he and some other men were going on a hunt and wanted to invite me to come along.
“I’d love to,” I said. Anna didn’t need to translate, the man picked up on my reaction.
“Yes, go ahead Joe. I’ll stay in a high level connection. Call me if you need me.”
“Great! Anna, what will we be hunting?”
“Any large game you can find,” said Anna.
“How long will the men be gone?” Asked Xara.
“Two or three days,” said Anna, “maybe four.”
The man said something.
“Vaughn asks that you meet him outside an hour before sunrise. He’ll provide you with a mount and a weapon.”
Then she walked past me, into our bedroom, opened the closet and picked out clothes.
“This clothing is appropriate. Subdued colors won’t attract attention. Vaughn and the men will provide everything else you need.”
“You said he’ll provide me with a mount, what will I be riding?”
“A firth,” she said.
“I don’t know what a firth is,” I replied.
“You’ll see tomorrow,” and then they left.
We’d been to a mining village, but we hadn’t been to any farms or seen domestic stock, so I had no idea what a ‘firth’ is.
“On earth a firth is an inlet to the sea,” said Xara.
“Doesn’t sound like something I’d ride.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
That evening we had dinner in Sharon’s apartment. Now that the wine was gone, she had more room. The Xanadusians were still giving me and Xara food every day, so we brought that. While we ate, I told them about my hunting trip the next day.
“Well, we know what I’m doing tomorrow. What will you ladies be doing?”
“Watching over you,” said Kara.
“What?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it, Joe, the Xanadusians will never know we’re there,” said Sharon.
“You won’t see us either,” said Xara.
“Why do you think you need to watch over me?”
“Because, Joseph, you’re with people you don’t really know, whose language you don’t speak, and everyone will be armed.”
“I’m still not seeing the problem,” I said.
“We want to be close in case anything goes wrong,” said Sharon.
“Xara will be in a high level connection. And she always knows where I am. If I need you guys, I can call her.
“And besides that, these people have been nothing but nice to me. To us. I don’t see any reason to distrust them.”
“He’s got a point, mom,” Xara said.
The three ladies looked at each other. Then Kara nodded.
“Alright, Joseph. But if you need anything at all, call Xara and all of us will be there.”
“You guys worry too much.”
“No, Joseph, we don’t.”
So, imagine a llama that’s as big as a horse, with shorter hair than a llama. That best describes what a firth is. It was saddled and harnessed. One of the men led it up to me and proceeded to instruct me on how to mount and ride one. I couldn’t understand a word he said.
He led me around it, pointing out various accoutrements. There were saddle bags with food and water. A couple of blankets, and a rifle in a scabbard. He pulled the rifle out of the scabbard and showed it to me, it had a telescopic scope, then put it back. When we walked back around to the front of the firth the man handed me the reins. I looked at the firth. The firth looked at me. And then it began nuzzling and licking me.
The men all laughed and clapped and smiled, apparently that was a good sign. Kara, Sharon and Xara got a laugh out of it too. Then the men gave commands and their firths knelt down, and the men got on. Their firths stood up and everyone, man, beast, Velorians, were looking at me. I gave the same command the men had given, and my firth knelt down and I climbed into the saddle. And it just stayed there. One of the men patted his firth on the neck. I did the same thing and it stood up.
There were stirrups, not too different from what one would use with a horse. I suppose. I’d never been on a horse either. The man in the lead gently kicked the sides of his firth and used the reins to point its head. The men behind did the kicking in the sides thing. I did it too, but didn’t do anything with the reins, the firth just got in line and followed the others. There were six of us, I was fourth in line. There were three more firths loaded with bags of … stuff.
We left the area of the embassy and rode through a village about a mile away. The people more or less ignored us, for the most part, except Ora’On was there with Voran and she waived at me. I waived back.
We rode through farmland for a couple of hours and then entered a forest. We rode on well-established trails for another hour or so and then the man in front raised his hand and everyone stopped, gave commands to their firths and the firths knelt down and the men got off. I did the same.
The men pantomimed to me that it was time to eat. Everyone took food out of there saddle bags, found a place on the forest floor to sit down, and began to eat. We had water to drink.
I pantomimed to the men that I had to take a leak, then went over to a tree maybe thirty feet away to do my business. Other men were doing the same. As I was emptying my bladder, I felt a big, long, thick tongue lick my right ear, and my firth stuck his nose over my shoulder to see what I was doing.
Oh, the men thought that was hilarious. I didn’t know what to do, so I finished up with the firth watching me. Then I went back to the circle where the men were getting ready to leave and my firth followed me.
We rode until it started to get dark, then dismounted and took the saddles and bags off the firths and they were set loose to graze. Just turned loose, no one went with them. They wandered off. I was looking after them and Vaughn came up to me and said something, and gestured with his hands, I have no idea what, exactly, he was saying, but I think he was telling me not to worry about the firths.
We built a fire and settled down for dinner. After eating the men started telling stories around the fire. They were acting them out, or pantomiming, mostly for my sake, I think. So I had a rough idea what was going on. Then they all looked at me expectantly. It was my turn.
I was trying to think of a story to tell them when they started repeating the word that I recognized as their word for goddess. They wanted me to tell a story that involved the blondes. So I pantomimed the story of the first time Xara took me flying. I think I did a good job because when I put a terrified expression on my face and acted like I was trying to hang on to someone for dear life, they laughed.
Eventually the stories stopped, and the men began putting down their bed rolls. I started to do the same, and the men near me stopped me, and pointed to an area several feet away. I looked around and saw that all the men were separated by more than a few feet. At first, I thought it had something to do with personal space, though up until now I hadn’t seen anything to make me think they were concerned about that. And then it became obvious.
The firths came back into camp, and one by one they found their rider and laid down next to him. I mean right next to them, so they were touching. My firth found me and did the same thing. The three pack firths picked men at random and laid down next to them, so the man they chose was lying between two firths. As the night went on I began to appreciate this, because it got cold. But the firths were warm, and they each kept their respective riders warm. At one point during the night my firth put his head across my chest. I saw the others doing the same with their riders.
I got a good night’s sleep, and right about sunrise I woke up because my firth was licking my face. While the men made breakfast and ate and prepared for the day, the firths went off to graze. When the men were ready to mount up and leave, one of them gave some kind of call, sounded like a cross between a crow and a racoon in heat, and the firths all came rambling back into camp.
“Just checking in with you. How’s it going?”
“So far so good. We haven’t done any hunting yet.”
“Oh! The fifths!”
“They’re pretty smart, Xara. Last night they all found their riders and laid down next to them. Mine kept me warm all night long.”
“Should I be jealous?”
“Nah. I prefer less body hair on my women.”
She laughed. In the connection. It’s a unique experience.
“Good answer! I’ll check in on you later, call me if you need me. Have fun! Love you!”
“Love you too!”
It occurred to me that I have no idea if she caught that last, love you too, or if she hung up before I got it out. I’ll have to ask her about that. Anyway …
I had to have some help saddling and harnessing my firth. It didn’t object, or make it hard, I just didn’t know what to do. Once everything was packed up and the firths saddled, we started on our way.
We climbed up out of the forest after about two miles and went down into a valley. It was gorgeous. There was a stream meandering through a field of flowers. It reminded me a little of Paradise Valley on Mt. Rainier. We were halfway down when the leader held up his hand, in a fist, and everyone stopped. The firths, they didn’t need to be told, they knew what was going on.
The men dismounted and pulled their rifles out of their scabbards, so I did the same thing. I also grabbed the ammo pouch. I’d fired one of these when we found the battlefield, so I was confident I wouldn’t make a fool of myself.
The men spread out, in a line, and everyone crouched down. I looked behind me and saw the firths were all gathered together watching us. Off in the distance we saw bison. American bison. You know, the buffalo of the plains. Kara had said the seeders, who spread Terrans throughout the galaxy, often brought animals to the planets they seeded. So that must have happened here.
“Maybe you’re in a coma in a hospital in Germany,” said Dixon.
“Or maybe passed out on a battlefield in Afghanistan,” said Johnson.
Yeah, I had to wonder.
As one, the men began crawling on their bellies down the hillside towards the herd. Crawling on my belly, with a weapon, I was good at that. We must have been crawling for two hours. Every time one of the bison looked our way, we would all freeze. Then start again. At one point I looked back at the firth. They were where we left them, grazing.
Finally, we were as close to the bison as the cover allowed and the men all began picking out targets. Then they loaded their rifles, and I did the same. I don’t know who fired first, but as soon as one did, we all did. And I hit my target. Didn’t kill it, but I hit it.
Then the men were up and one of them was calling the firths and they all ran down to us. We mounted up, and the firths just started hauling ass down the hill. The bison, of course, had taken off when they heard the first shot. A couple of bison were down, a few others were trying to keep up with the herd but couldn’t, they were wounded. The firth were faster than the bison and I was hanging on for dear life.
It's funny, you’d think in a herd of a couple of hundred bison they’d all look alike. But I recognized the one I shot. I hit it in its front left quarter, and it was having a hard time running. I directed my firth towards it, I barely had to direct it, it knew what it was doing better than I did.
The other men were shooting from their saddles, so when my firth got close to the bison, I put another bullet in it and it went down, dead.
Between the six of us we took down four bison. The men were hooting and shouting and feeling really good about themselves. And then they dismounted, grabbed knives and tools out of their saddle bags, and I learned how to skin and dress a buffalo.
“Xara, are you there?”
“I’m here Joe. Oh! Did you kill that one?”
“I did! The guys are teaching me how to prepare it to bring it back to the village. We got four and we have to dress them.”
“How will you get them back?”
“I don’t know. I suppose they’ll show me when the time comes.”
“Ask them if we can come and see.”
“Can’t you see well enough through my eyes?”
“We want to come and see.”
I wasn’t going to argue. So I found the head man and said their word for goddess and pantomimed three of them coming to visit. He said okay. I think he did. I have no idea what he said, but I told Xara to come and five minutes later three gorgeous blondes dropped out of the sky.
And oh my god, the men loved it. They all gathered around the ladies and started talking at once. Then they brought them to each of our kills and the men reenacted the hunt for them. They made a big deal about me getting my first kill. But they didn’t spend a lot of time doing that, the meat had to be preserved.
I’d never done this, so I was learning. The meat had to be cut up and then salt and pepper the men had brought with them was rubbed into the meat. While I was doing this with two of the other men, the other three put together a smoker, and began smoking the meat after it had been salted.
The ladies helped, and this surprised the hell out of me. Not that Xara and Kara would help, but Sharon got down and dirty. She helped with the meat, then lit the smoker with her heat vision for the men. They thought it was great. They thought she was great, and she seemed to be having the time of her life.
Some of the meat didn’t go into the smoker but was cooked immediately for our dinner. And it was very good. While we ate, I asked Sharon if she was having a good time.
“I am Joe. These people are delightful, and I can’t remember the last time I was around this many Terran men who weren’t trying to get into my pants. They enjoy my company and that’s good enough.”
“I’ve noticed that too,” said Kara. “Some of it may be due to their belief that we are goddesses. Maybe they think they aren’t good enough for us, or that we’d punish them if they made a move.”
Sharon looked them over and said, “If this was an undisclosed planet, I’d show them that they are good enough. I like these Terrans. I like this planet. The only thing I’d ask of them would be to take a bath first.”
“Too grubby for you, Sharon?” I asked.
“They all stink,” said Xara. “You do too. You aren’t getting any until you have a shower or a bath.”
The firths had been grazing, and as it got later they returned to our camp. They were all curious about the ladies and they sniffed and nuzzled them until their curiosity was satisfied, then they spread themselves out among our group.
“I’d like to take one of these home with us,” said Xara.
“I bet they’d let you, if you asked,” I said.
“Don’t ask,” said Kara. “It would be cruel to put one of these creatures into a stasis chamber.”
“I hear that,” I said.
The fire was getting low, and one of the men got up and took an axe to find more firewood. Sharon went with him. They were back in only a few minutes. He was carrying an armload of wood; Sharon was carrying much more. They set the wood down and the man started telling the story of Sharon getting the wood. They were all very impressed.
It got late. The ladies left and we settled down for the night. Each man was assigned a shift to watch the smoker. When it came my turn the man I was reliving woke me and another man, apparently they weren’t going to let the rookie watch the smoker by himself.
It must have been about three in the morning when first one, then all the firths pricked up their ears and stood up. They arranged themselves in a semi-circle around one side of the camp. The man who was tending the smoker with me pointed to them and pantomimed watching them, so I did. I couldn’t hear anything, but the firths could, you could tell by the way they all rotated their ears in the same direction. They might have smelled something too, I don’t know.
This went on for twenty minutes when suddenly two firths went charging off, and we heard a commotion, then the two firths returned. They rejoined the circle, then after another half an hour or so they all returned to where they had been sleeping.
We spent another day smoking the meat and packing it for transport, then left the valley and went back into the forest. We traveled that day and spent another night in the forest, then rode back to the village. All the people came out to greet the hunters and were thrilled with the amount of meat they brought back.
Anna was there, and she translated for me.
“Joe, they say you are a good hunter for a beginner. They want you to stay and feast with us tonight. Will you?”
Before I could answer someone interrupted us and made a request of Anna, and she turned to me and said, “They would also like the goddesses to come.”
“Okay, I’ll ask them,” I said.
“Xara, are you there?”
“I’m here honey. Oh, you’re back!”
“They’re celebrating a successful hunt tonight and are inviting you, Kara and Sharon to join the celebration.”
“Oh! I’ll get back to you in a few minutes.”
A few minutes later Xara came back and said they’d love to come.
“Anna, they said they will come.”
“Who said they will come?”
“Kara, Xara and Sharon. Didn’t you want me to invite them?”
“But you haven’t invited them yet.”
“No, you were right here with me.”
“Anna, Xara, my wife, is different from the other Velorians. She is able to talk to me with her thoughts.”
Anna looked at me, and I could see the wheels turning in her head.
“She is truly a goddess.”
“No, she isn’t, but she is special.”
Ten minutes later the entire village knew that Xara could talk to me in my head.
“I think you’re back to being a goddess again.”
I explained it to her. We decided not to tell the ambassador. Or Kara or Sharon.
One of the families offered to let me use their bathtub to clean up and while I was doing that they replaced my clothes so I’d have something clean to wear.
The blondes arrived a little later and the celebration started. There was drinking and dancing, and a group of men, women and children formed around Xara, asking her to read their mines and tell their fortunes. They were all disappointed to learn she could only read my mind and couldn’t see the future. That took some of the air out of the goddess balloon.
At one point in the evening the man who headed our hunt came and took me by the hand and led me to a dais. He got everyone’s attention and started talking about me. I knew he was talking about me because he kept using my name: Joe. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but I was happy that there was someone here who didn’t keep calling me ‘Joe Ricci.’
When he got to the end of his speech, someone from the crowd came up to the dais and handed him a rifle in a scabbard and an ammo pouch, and he then turned around and presented them to me. He said a few words and then everyone in the crowd applauded.
I pulled the rifle from the scabbard, it was the one I used on the hunt, and held it up for everyone to see, which elicited more applause and cheers.
Afterwards Anna told me the man was talking about how well I did on the hunt and the rifle and ammunition were their gift to me.
If the blondes weren’t treated like goddesses, then they were treated like royalty, and they just ate it up. Talking to people, though neither side understood the other, holding children, kissing babies, you would have thought they were running for election.
Sharon said she was going to visit this planet every few years. “I can get here faster than the Cathunk,” she said.
As the party wound down, I said my good-byes. And then Xara put her arms around me and slowly lifted us into the sky, and the crowd started waving and cheering. When we got back to our apartment she jumped in the shower with me, because I still smelled a little, and then we went to bed and made love.
The next morning, I woke up to breakfast in bed.
“You worked hard on your hunting trip,” Xara said, “you should rest today and regain your strength.”
“I feel fine, Xara.”
“I know your body better than you do, darling. Rest today. I’ll make it worth your while.”
“How will you do that?”
She just smiled at me. After I finished eating, she took the dishes away, then climbed into bed with me and showed me exactly how she would make it worth my while.
“No Kara and Sharon today?” I asked while we ate dinner.
“No. I told them today was just for us. I asked Anna to leave us alone today too.”
“Is this because you think I need to rebuild my strength?”
“No, this is because I know you need to rebuild your strength. Joe, you aren’t getting any younger.”
“No, I’m not, but I can still hold my own, physically, Xara. The hunting trip wasn’t anything compared to what I went through on my deployments.”
“I know that darling. And I also know how tired you got during your deployments. There is no reason to push yourself that hard anymore.”
“Xara, you’re treating me like an old man.”
“I’m treating you like a young man who has suffered a great deal of physical trauma.”
“Haven’t you been telling me how much stronger I’ve been getting through my exposure to you?”
“You have been getting stronger, and getting more stamina, but you still get worn down. What has changed the most is your recovery time. One day of downtime today gives you the same benefit of two or three days of rest before you met me. But you still need the downtime. And I want to pamper you.”
And then she proceeded to pamper me in a way that only a Velorian can.
“Xara, much more of that and I’ll be calling you a goddess!”
“You should,” she said with a smile.
On the day of the award ceremony, I put on my dress uniform. I had brought all my awards and ribbons with me and Xara helped me arrange everything in the proper order. Sharon, Kara, Xara and I went over to the Embassy and there the committee that had interviewed me a few days earlier, along with the ambassador, Kasa and most of her Guardians, the three Cadet Wings, Lia and Ba were gathered in a room. There were three Xanadusian dignitaries too. I was called to the front of the room and the Senator read my commendation, which I won’t go into detail about. It had to do with exposing a disloyal cabal, wink wink. Then he presented me with a plaque, which said I was the recipient of the Velorian Meritorious Citizen Award etc. It was kind of anticlimactic, you know, I traveled across the galaxy for a fifteen minute ceremony.
Then there was a small reception, and we were done. We were told the Golden Cathunk would arrive the next day and we should be ready to leave as soon as a shuttle landed.
We went back to our apartment and began packing. We summoned Anna and told her we would like to donate the leftover food and clothing to the Xanadusians. She wouldn’t hear of it. We insisted. She refused. Then she left and came back with a government official who told us it would dishonor them if we gave their gifts back. So we told them we’d keep them, thanked them, and they left.
Then Kara called the Ambassador and asked to give the food and clothing to the Embassy to be distributed to the Xanadusians. And she refused! She said they had made great strides with the Terrans of this world and would not do anything that could set them back. So we packed the food too.
The next day when the Cathunk shuttle arrived we explained to the pilot that we had to take extra luggage and food with us. He shrugged his shoulders and said the space and the weight was less than the wine Sharon brought on the outbound trip, so no big deal.
The embassy staff and our Xanadusians friends turned out to say goodbye to us, and while we were saying our goodbyes, I saw Jon being led into the shuttle, with gold around his neck and his arms bound behind him.
“What’s happening with Jon,” I asked.
Ora said, “He’s being sent back to Velor for insubordination, general laziness and a few other problems we’ve had with him. His wife and children are staying here, she divorced as soon as she learned he was being sent home.”
Geez, that is rough, losing his job and his family.
We went aboard the shuttle, I looked around and didn’t see Jon, then we were asked to be seated and the shuttle took of and headed to the Cathunk in orbit above the planet.
Besides us, the committee that had interviewed me and presented the award were passengers, and three Guardians who were rotating to another assignment came aboard too. The three Cadet Wings were leaving the planet too, but they were flying on their own power.
When we got there, the captain broke orbit and sent an officer to our quarters to make sure I ate before going into statis. Then I went to a room and got into the stasis device. Only it was different. It was larger than I remembered it, a lot larger.
“Joe,” said Xara, “the crew added two extra modules to the statis chamber so we can put all the Xanadusian food in with you. It will be perfectly preserved, and we can eat it when we get back home.”
“Cool,” I said.
We loaded all the Xanadusian food into one of the modules, and then, since there was room, put the clothing they gave us in too, so Xara wouldn’t have to make space for it in her cabin, and put the rest of my clothing in it too, for no good reason, Xara just wanted to do that. Then I stripped down and got into the chamber. The Velorian officer closed the lid. And then Xara opened it.
I sat up and looked around, I wasn’t on the Cathunk. I was in a cave. There were cables between the chamber I had been in and some devices. The area I was in had a sandy floor and partitions set up that looked like bulkhead panels from the Cathunk. There were things that looked like space heaters. The panels didn’t go all the way to the roof of the cave. There were lights that lit up the partitioned area, but the light was swallowed up in the darkness a few feet out. I could just make out the roof of the cave.
I stepped out of the chamber and turned to Xara to ask where we were, but I didn’t get any words out before I started puking.
Council Woman Janelle Gann sat at the table, listening to the mayor drone on. Or she tried to listen, she was distracted.
The election was held over the course of a week. By the time the polls opened on the third day of voting the opposition had been eliminated. Not the man she was running against. The gang enforcers who were going to make sure he won. Beginning on the first day the Betas identified the gang members who had been assigned to the polling places and followed them after the polls closed. None of them returned the next day. Their replacements disappeared after the polls closed on the second day. No one wanted to serve as replacements for them the third day. The bodies of the enforcers were deliberately mutilated to inspire as much fear as possible, and Janelle was very proud of the work the Betas did. They even brought a couple of live ones back to the playroom for her to, well, play with.
Everyone knew, without having to be told, that the killings were the work of the beautiful doctor and her team of advisors. That’s what she called her Betas, advisors, so they could be poll watchers. Who else could have done it? How was unknown, and the size of her organization was anybody’s guess.
Janelle easily won the popular vote. Once the gang poll watchers stopped showing up, people came out in droves to vote for her. The people of her district threw a huge party for her, to celebrate her win. The gangs stayed away.
But shortly after the party, there were new developments that troubled Janelle. The first development was the arrival gangs from a neighboring province. They had noted the demise of the local gangs, and being stupid frails, they had assumed they could negotiate a deal with the new council woman. They showed her a map of the city, with a circle around her district. They told her that if she left them alone, they would stay out of her district. Or if she was amenable, they would pay her to allow them to operate in her district.
They didn’t know how she enforced her will, they just knew that some very powerful gangs who opposed her were no longer in business. Janelle looked at the map they drew and took a marker and drew a circle around the entire city.
“I’m a district council woman today, but I intend to be mayor in the future. Stay out of the circle I drew.” And then she just walked away, ignoring their outburst.
Stupid frails. They never learned. She would have to deal with them. And she’d have to deal with them without the Betas. They had all been recalled. And not just hers. The pilot of the scout ship who came to pick them up told her all the Betas on Terra were being recalled, and the reason was no secret.
A large Arion invasion force was assembling outside a wormhole, their destination Kelsor. It was time to put the Kelsorians in their place. Arion High Command was confident they had put together a large enough fleet, with enough Primes, to overwhelm Kelsor’s considerable defenses and the two or three Protectors they expected to run into. And they were taking a very circuitous route to Kelsor, to throw off any speculation of where they were going in case the fleet was spotted.
While they were waiting for the order to move into the worm hole, a large ship, of Kelsorian design, came out of it, right into the midst of the invasion force. It was a surprise, but not one the fleet hadn’t planned for, as there was no way of knowing who or what would come out of wormhole at any given time.
The Admiral in charge of the fleet recognized the ship as being one that had been seen before but had never been engaged due to the speed advantage it gained from its oversized engines. He determined to capture it and bring it back to Aria as a prize. The ship was surrounded. It couldn’t possibly escape without being destroyed, so he transmitted an order to the ship to surrender, immediately.
He, and the entire fleet, were shocked when the ship disgorged over a dozen Velorians. He ordered every fighting ship to attack and ordered the troop transports to move into the wormhole.
Heavy GAR fire tore into the Kelsorian ship, but the Velorians that came out of it immediately targeted the ships firing on it. And because the ship came out of the worm hole, into the middle of the fleet, it was impossible for every ship to get a firing solution, which resulted in many Arion ships taking friendly fire.
And then more Velorian Protectors came pouring out of the worm hole. The entire fleet was destroyed. The Velorians disabled the engines of the troop ships. They vented some of them to space, killing all the Betas on board, then pushed all the troop ships into the worm hole where they fell into the blackhole at its center.
Only three fast scout ships escaped, and the survivors on those ships told a fantastic story of one of the battle cruisers exploding after a single Velorian Protector reduced it to an amorphous ball of molten Vendorian steel with her heat vision.
Ten days later a cloaked Arion ship made a run to the area of the battle to search for survivors. There were none. There was a huge debris field that was expanding. They recovered hundreds of corpses. The Betas had died from exposure to space, or from trauma when their ships exploded. The Primes though, every one of them had their hearts ripped out of their chest. Fifteen of the males had crushed chests and pelvises, and according to the autopsies, their penises had been crushed to paste.
Hearing that gave Janelle pause, because that was an accurate description of what was left of a frail when she was done playing with it. Did Velor have Protectors who could do that? And melt a battle cruiser? It made her shudder.
And in addition to this, the scout pilot told Janelle that Velor had attacked and destroyed a smaller invasion force that was in the process of taking over a remote Terran planet named Xanadu.
Between the defeat at Xanadu, and this latest defeat, the losses were staggering, which was why her Betas, and others, had been recalled; the Empire was consolidating and reorganizing its forces. After the first engagement between Arions and Protectors near the Grenin system many years ago, the Enlightenment inexplicably switched to a defensive strategy, protecting planets but not venturing out to attack Arion forces.
But now something had changed. It was obvious The Enlightenment had spies in the highest ranks of the Arion government and military who learned of the plans to invade Kelsor and the movement of ships and troops to carry out that invasion. The Velorians had lain in wait on the other side of the wormhole and sent their ship through to spring the trap. Curiously, all the weapons that had been aboard the fleet had been destroyed, communication equipment, engines, much valuable technology. It had been destroyed, not taken. Nothing was salvaged.
According to the pilot, Arion expansion had been effectively halted by The Enlightenment, and High Command was preparing for an Enlightenment onslaught. The Empire was in peril!
Janelle was now back to being a single, lone Prime, carrying out her mission to pacify one tiny section of Terra. To be sure, Near Earth Command was very pleased with her progress, but in light of the news from Aria, their attention was elsewhere; they were developing plans to defend NEC and, if it came to it, destroy it, because it represented a treasure trove of Arion intelligence. Codes, scanners, many other secrets that couldn’t be allowed to fall into the hands of The Enlightenment.