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Journal Entry 00100 062 000 Embassy Tales Flags


Embassy Tales: Flags

Journal Entry 062 / 00100

Seren, Sulim 13, 00100

March 18, 1984

"Can I ask you a question?" Becky asked.

R'Dam grinned. "That is all you ever do of me. I understand that part
of your job is to find out all you can about me but sometimes..."

She kissed his cheek. "I can be a bit too much, can't I?" She smiled at
him. "I'm sorry, sweetheart."

He touched her cheek with his fingertips. She opened her mouth as they
kissed, lingering a little longer than was seemly. The spectacle caught
the attention of the surrounding diners attempting to enjoy their lunch
in the unseasonably warm end-of-March weather. She enjoyed the attention.
"And I'm truly sorry about your job," he said.

"I'll live. The chance to work with you is a bit too much to pass up,

He nodded. "What was your question?"

"There isn't a hint of wind." She pointed across the street to the
Pendorian embassy. "But your flag is flying clearly and calmly. Every
other flag is limp as a rag. Is it just an illusion?"

"No, I don't think so. I never noticed that before. It must be made of
Starkcloth." He glanced over at her, and she was looking at him with open,
curious eyes. "It's a cloth built of microscopic cells. They use magnetism
and the interatomic strong force to deform the cells internally, just
like muscle cells. But they're much stronger. Pressed into two-dimensional
sheets like that, we can stiffen and flex the cloth at will."

"Is that all?" she asked.

"Starkcloth is one of our miracles," he said. "It isn't a fashion
statement, it's a weapon. Shaped to the body, it can magnify strength
manifold, and when attached to a predictive sensory package can protect
you against bullets, bombs, and some energy weapons. It's the standard
material of our soldiers and bodyguards."

"Oh," she said. "So it's one of those things I don't suppose you'd be
willing to sell to us?"

"Not readily," he agreed with a grin. "I thought negotiating trade deals
was no longer on your list of tasks."

She shrugged. "As much as I enjoy your company, Dam, I'm still thinking
of my world's best interests."

He nodded, eating wholeheartedly from his salad as if it were the finest
in the world. She envied his innocence, his expression of openness,
his lack of inhibitions when it came to, well, anything. He loved Earth
almost as much as he loved Pendor and everything he did revealed that.

And it confounded her more that, with only a few exceptions, the
Pendorians seemed willing to give away the store. Their access to raw
mineral commodities was astounding to anyone familiar with the commodities
market; Dam had revealed that they could dump on the Earth as much gold,
platinum, palladium, uranium, and other industrially precious metals as
were currently available.

That bothered her. Her speciality in college had been political economics.
The Pendorians had basically said that the ships they had come in had
been the local equivalent of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria;
there was a crash research program underway on Pendor to make ships
that were bigger, faster, and more efficient. If their program was
as succesful as the model they had chosen to emulate on Earth, the
development of the diesel engine under wartime conditions, then in less
than ten years they would be sailing between Earth and Pendor ships that
could cross the distance in less than three months, haul a hundred times
the capacity of their current ships, and do so with a minimal crew or,
perhaps, even no crew at all.

It had been a good day so far. They had met in the morning and visited yet
another part of the Smithsonian, this time the Museum of Natural History.
Dam had been fascinated by the dinosaurs, but he said that little was
known about more than 1% of Pendor's surface. He said he hoped that he
would never meet something quite so monstrous on his world, but that it
was also entirely possible that they existed.

That Pendor was an artifical world, one so incredibly massive that its
effective landmass was three hundred thousand times that of Earth's,
had shocked everyone. Given Pendor's population, at this time every
ten people could have their own Earth all to themselves. When Dam had
admitted that they were broken up into four occupied territories, the
largest barely the size of Massachusetts, she had given up trying to
wrap her mind around the idea.

Now they were dining in the little French cafe in the Embassy District
within view of the Pendorian Embassy. It had become a hangout of sorts
for the local alien watchers who spent their days waiting for a glimpse
of someone from another planet. It had also become a favorite stop for
some of the Pendorians, who seemingly enjoyed the attention. It drove
the Secret Service out of their minds. There were also the feline-like
bodyguards, the tall, powerful Uncia who accompanied certain members
of the Embassy staff. There was a rumor that some of them were actually
robots, and the Pendorian admission that they could manufacture robots
that were indistinguishable from living creatures, at least on the
surface, only helped to inflame the rumor. Becky was convinced that
there were no robots among the Pendorian staff.

"Hey, R'Dam," she said, "What's the inside of the Embassy like?"

"Are you just curious?" he asked, teasingly.

She returned his grin. "Of course I'm curious. I'm always curious. I'll
probably get grilled about what I see, where they can put microphones,
that sort of thing." That her role' as a "spy" had always been out in
the open hadn't stopped either one of them from enjoying the time they
had together.

"Well, I can show you around the public portions, if you like. It's not
very impressive. We like to do things traditionally."

"I still want to see it."

He flagged down the waiter. "Come on, then. I will show you around." He
paid the bill and they left. She gleefully held his hand as he took her
through the front gate of the Pendorian Embassy, a single, cubical box of
silvered windows. Unlike many of the other embassies in the area this one
lacked the forest of antennas on the roof. Instead, there was a simple
quad of white boxes, each on an independent gimble mount, that tracked
unseen and undetectable objects in the sky. There was consensus among the
Pendor watchers, professional and otherwise, that the boxes were lasers,
bouncing signals off stealthy satellites that kept the Pendorians in
touch with their teams planetwide. The most common number cited for
the satellites was twelve, given that there were four lasers and line
of sight could only provide coverage of at most a third of the world
at any given time. That the U.S. Air Force said they couldn't find any
such satellites, while at the same time they were tracking a lost glove
still in orbit from the Gemini missions, did nothing to lift the rumors.

Inside the walls, there was the usual courtyard, this one with some
sort of modern sculpture in the front, an unrecognizable mass of marble
that reflected the Springtime sun. "I don't understand it either," he
confessed to her as she puzzled over it. What was striking about the
front yard was the lack of guards. It was something much-commented on
by the pundits, but the Pendorians had thus far steadfastly refused to
comment on it. Every nation had representatives of its military within
the grounds of its embassy. Every nation except Pendor.

Did Pendor qualify as a "nation?" The most common description of it, even
from the Pendorians, was "a well-run anarchy supported by an automated
industrial base that satisfies the basic needs of the individual. Luxury
goods are hand-made goods." When asked how Pendorians organized to do
things like research projects and starships to Earth, Dam had said,
"The way the human body knows to fix an injury. It's not hierarchal. An
idea is proposed, argued about, and so on. If it's good enough to get
the industrial attention needed, it's started. We work on it until
we're done."

"That doesn't make sense," she argued. "How is it paid for?"

"It just is," Dam said.

"How are the people paid for?"

"They pay themselves. Or they wouldn't be there."

Becky had given up.

They entered the embassy, only to encounter a human woman sitting behind
a circular desk. To Becky's eye, something was distinctly amiss with the
desk and the receptionist. It took her a few seconds to realize that
there were no telephones, keyboards, typewriters, displays, monitors,
or intercomms. The desk was bare except for a nameplaque loose on top
of the dark blue marble ring in which she sat. The nameplaque was in
both English and the delicate Pendorian script, and the English read
"A.I. Athena."

Becky looked up, startled. The woman behind the desk smiled, but her
appearance could best be described as a generic receptionist, unremarkable
and only averagely attractive. Her age was somewhere in the late 30's
to early 40's. "I thought..."


"I thought you were a computer."

Athena grinned. "It's nice to meet you too, Rebecca. Lean over the desk
and look closely."

Becky stood up on her toes and did as Athena suggested. She saw a human
torso emerging from a platform mounted to the floor; there was nothing
below the waist but machinery. "You're a robot?"

"No, this is just an animatronic interface. I'm actually down in the
basement. If you want, Dam might even be able to show you what I really
look like. Not that I'm much to look at even there." She grinned and
handed up from somewhere behind the desk a very commonplace pass on
a necklace, a thick white card with her photograph, name, and a green
stripe along the bottom. "This is only necessary for other people in
the Embassy. We have a small staff here, less than twenty Pendorians
and about a hundred Terrans right now, and everybody knows everybody
else. You should get some interested looks, but the fact that I'm here
letting you wander around without a couple of hulking security robots
will reassure the Pendorians. The Terrans, however, feel more comfortable
with something more visible than my tacit permission."

Becky nodded and pulled the pass over her head. The admission that there
were robots inside the embassy, and that they were used for security,
she quitely filed away. She adjusted the pass under her hair and let it
fall over her blouse. "There."

"You look just like another member of the staff. The green is for 'guest,'
of course."

Becky took a good look at the foyer. "Dam? Where did you get all this
darkened hardwood? I thought your people had been insistent about not
using woods that came from threatened forests, which I think one of your
people said was the entire planet."

Dam grinned. "Not quite, but close. Actually, the wood you're seeing came
from a building in Detroit that was scheduled to be demolished. Two of
the people on our staff are master carpenters and we encouraged them to
recycle anything they might find from demolition projects. We're expert
recyclers. We have you as an example of what happens when we fail."

Becky frowned. She didn't like the sound of that. "So Earth serves only
as a bad example to you?"

"No, no, nothing of the sort. You have a wonderful, dynamic cultural
basis here, Becky, the likes of which we on Pendor have never seen. We've
never known the privations that your people have suffered, and so we
don't really have that mother of invention, necessity. We have only it's
stepparent, curiousity."

She grinned. "Still, it sounds to me like you'd rather avoid what we
go through."

"I think we would."

She nodded. "Where to?"

"What do you wish to see? There isn't much to see, actually. There are a
few rooms I could show you, like the astrogation room, or Athena's home."

"Then show me those."

He led her to an elevator. The doors closed behind them and without the
press of a button or the speaking of a command the elevator dropped
downwards. The doors opened. "Left," Athena's voice said as they
walked out.

"Blueline, please," Dam said. A line of blue lit up on the featureless
beige carpet, leading them away from the elevator. They followed it around
two corners and through a door. Another door stood before them, a sign on
it in in six different languages: "WARNING. AI Repository. Tampering with
the effects herein constitutes assault and attempted homicide or actual
homicide of a Pendorian Citizen, and persons guilty of such will be shot."

Becky gulped. "That's serious."

"Athena is a person in her own right. We mean to keep her as safe as
we keep ourselves. Safer, perhaps; she is the glue that keeps us all
together." He opened the door.

Becky wasn't sure what she had expected. It turned out to be more mundane
than she had thought. It was a very clean room, the walls done in the
kind of white usually reserved for the insides of microchip manufacturing
facilities, which should not have surprised her. In the center was a grey
workstation, complete with video screens and a keyboard marked in symbols
she didn't recognize. There was also an outlet of sorts, massive compared
to the parallel ports she had seen on her office computers. Next to it
was a tall cylinder of a milky-grey color, and it appeared to be moving.

"That's me, in the flesh, so to speak."

"What are you?"

"I'm a radical design in modern Pendorian artificial intelligence. I'm
made up of billions of almost microscopic units working in parallel that
change in accordance with outside data, resulting in massively parallel
computing. It's a design that works at room temperature, making it useful
in environments where power and cost would make systems that need to be
cooled prohibitive. The system works with nearly 100% efficiency. The
tiny failures are due to indeterminate events at the quantumn level and
interference from high-energy cosmic rays that prevent the molecules that
make up my thinking from interacting completely deterministically. Whether
or not this gives rise to a consciousness, as some people claim it does,
is a matter of philosophy. In real terms, I'm indistinguishable from
you as a conscious being." There was a distinct sense of pride coming
from Athena's voice.

"Wow. You said 'radical design?'"

"Yeah. Most Pendorian systems are based on interatomic interactions.
Harder to track, but easier to initialize and can be compressed to much
smaller sizes. Liquid intermolecular systems like myself are easier to
design up front and we can be scaled to incredible sizes without much
loss of parallel processing efficiency. And the cryooptical systems,
which are the original Pendorian AIs, tend to be less introspective, more
mechanistic. We're still trying to figure out why. Anyway, thanks for
visiting. I hope this information is useful to the guys at the Agency."

Dam laughed, and Becky managed a smile. They were so casual about her
being coopted by her own government to report on people she liked, and yet
she found herself resenting those very people that she was reporting to.
The whole project stank, she thought, and she wanted to get out of it.

Dam interrupted her thoughts. "Come on, I'll show you the astrogation
chamber." He led her into another room. This one was an eggshell white
in color, with rounded corners. "Okay, Athena, give us the tour."

Becky gasped as she found herself plunged into darkness. "This is the
universe that we know," Athena said as stars appeared all around Becky,
even in the space between her and Dam. "Here is Earth, and here, Pendor."
Small arrows appeared to float in midair, pointing at two stars. "We
have sent several small, automated probes out to the more promising
looking stars, but there isn't much to go on and many of the systems
we've explored have had only a few gas giants and airless rocks. To date,
nothing like the Earth or Pendor has been found within the eight light
year sphere that Pendor has explored.

"The pace of our exploration is slowed by the need for manned ships. AIs,
it seems, do not do well alone, although there are a few exceptions and
there is now a crash course in discovering what it is about interstellar
travel that makes AIs susceptible to erratic behavior. Pendor does not
as yet have many manned vessels, but we're building new and better ones
even today."

The world seemed to tilt and whirl as she watched the approach of the
Pendorian vessels to Earth. She saw them slow down as they approached
the Earth, shedding their velocity with incredible efficiency, dropping
off parts of their ships that would make a six-month run around the sun,
collecting as much energy as they could and using it to make tritium
before they came back to Earth, fully refueled, ready to take the
Pendorians home.

The lights came back up slowly, as they would in a planetarium. Becky had
found it all fascinating. "It's not really meant for this," Dam said. "Our
intention when we installed it was to make this a useful navigation tool
fifty years from now when we need to go places other than the Earth. But
for now, it's a good projector. And we miscalculated its utility. Athena,
please load Arctangent One."

The lights brightened momentarily, and suddenly Becky found herself
standing... outdoors? She looked around. There was no wind, nor was
there any sound. "Athena surprised us when she showed us that she could
produce this scene so accurately. One of our carpenters is considering
installing speakers to add to the effect so that will probably happen
soon. Wind machines might be a bit much."

Becky looked around. Overhead the sun (the sun? A sun, she decided)
blazed down upon... she was standing on what must have been the roof of
an incredibly large building. A glance behind her told that it might be
some kind of aircraft carrier. There were two white, gleaming aircraft,
military by their look although they had no obvious missiles installed.
They were handsome looking machines, rakish in profile. She watched as
the rear nozzles on one extended back, then rotated to almost 45 degrees,
then executed a perfect circle. In concert, they promised a craft that
could perform almost any maneuver.

She looked past the planes and realized that this must be an image from
Pendor itself. The land shot out in front of her, straight on forever
until it curved upwards into a milky haze where the clouds blocked her
view of the land. Looking even further up she saw the land clearly again,
now with a good view of the clouds soaring over that landscape as if she
were above it. She realized that her eyes were looking at the land across
millions of miles. The implications staggered her. "Turn it off, Dam."

The vision went away. "Are you okay?"

"It was... too much to take in. How... how much of Pendor could I
see there?"

"About a third. A hundred thousand terrs, or Terran surface areas. A
lot of it."

Becky gasped. "A hundred thousand times the surface area of the Earth?"
Dam nodded. "And you have less than three million people?" Dam nodded
again. "My God, no wonder you people are so different. You have the
playground to yourself and the power to defend it."

"That's what we're afraid of," Dam said. "Complaceny. Jealousy.
Misunderstanding. We want to be more like you, Becky, not less, but we
don't want all the other things that come with being like you."

"I know, Dam, but... God. You people. I can't help it."

Dam smiled. "Come on. It's been a busy day. I'll show you to my office."

They spent a short time in Dam's office. Becky enjoyed the view, looking
out across the Embassy District, and enjoyed talking to Dam as he plowed
through paperwork without a hint of holding back. Not that he told her
anything at all about what he was working on. It was all in a squarish
form of the Pendorian script anyway, which she couldn't read. She had
the strangest feeling, though, watching him, that he was somehow doing
more than merely shuffling paper. There was something else going on,
something in the way he seemed to be grinding his teeth as he worked.

"Done," he finally announced. "Nothing terribly important, although I
have to go to France next week. Would you like to come?"

Becky was flattered. "I'd like to, Dam, but you know I can't afford
something like that."

"I can. I'm permitted one companion on my budget. You could be that
person. Better you than someone from the staff, someone whose very air
I shared for six months while trapped in a spinning steel ball."

Becky smiled. "Merci', then," she said. "I accept."


"Got it," a voice said from out of nowhere. Athena had been listening
the whole time and Dam had never once mentioned it. That was what it was
like, living with the Pendorians. Becky thought she could get used to
it. She also thought that she would like to get out of there, get Dam
someplace a little more private, and have her way with him. Or let him
have his way with her. Something like that.

Becky took Dam's hand as he led her out of the Embassy. With eager
smiles they walked back to her aparment, keeping the late- afternoon
habit they had fallen into so very quickly and easily. Becky had come
to appreciate just how casual Dam was about sex. With her. He made it
seem easy, and for her that was a first.

Inside the door, he drew her into his arms and kissed her. She gave
a little sigh of pleasure at the touch of his arms around hers and the
press of his knee against her thigh. There was nothing at all threatening
about this half-man, half-cat. There was just strength. Becky surrendered
to it, betrayed her upbringing to it, allowed herself to be swept away
by R'Dam's welcome touch. There was nothing to stop her, now, not work,
not family, not even the pressures of her future. This would end someday
but she hoped in would not be ending too soon. She liked the priveleges
of it, the pleasure of him.

Dam took her hand and led her to her bed. What had been tentative two
months ago was now passionate. He kissed her throat, his fingers expertly
at work on the buttons of her blouse. In seconds he had her chest exposed.
The fur that covered his arms, usually hidden by the tailored suits he
wore, now stroked at her breasts.

And she was permitted by his very freedom to participate, to respond to
his needs with her own. His own moan greeted her as her hands slipped
inside the belt of his trousers, sliding along the fur of his belly until
she found his semi-erect cock and its furred, completely retractable

Releasing him, Becky lay back on the bed and let Dam do the work of
removing his clothes. She watched him as he stripped, warm assurance in
every gesture, an indescribable grin of anticipation on his lips. He had
never said he loved her and she didn't care. She didn't think she loved
him either. Instead, she liked him. They were immune to each other; he
couldn't impregnate her, they couldn't share diseases. There was nothing
to hold them back from giving one another pleasure, and so they did,
as much as they could.

As he removed his clothes and put them aside, he exposed his chest, furred
white with a ring of orange at the sides and across the shoulders. He
lowered his pants and then his undershorts-- boxers, of course-- revealing
his erection to her. She was always fascinated by it, almost completely
human in appearance, the thin fur at the base thickening as it deepend
into his belly and thighs.

Dam crawled onto the bed, covering her body with his as he stepped, hands
and knees, over the sheets, over her. She reached up to caress the fur on
his chest. It was like petting a cat, a cat with a hard-on, intelligence,
and desire for her. His face was human, though, and even his eyes were
rounded, although he had said that there were Satryls with slitted eyes.
He kissed her neck, her breasts. She liked the way he plastered her body
with kisses, covering her in little circles of coolness that faded with
the summer heat.

Her hands were on his body, stroking his cock. "Oh, yes," he moaned as
she wrapped her hands around it. "Yes, Becky, wow." She looked into his
eyes and felt connected to him. He was just warming up and already they
were getting into that groove.

He turned, peppering her belly with his kisses, his mouth lingering longer
below her navel, kissing his way into the thicket of hair she had around
her pussy. He kissed the mound at the top, then dipped his head between
her thighs and kissed at her lips. She felt a surge of warmth right
where his lips touched, and a tiny trickle of fluid between her legs.

Her hand stroked his cock and balls almost absently. She took her time
examining the lightly-furred scrotum and bare cock of pale skin. She
liked the way he looked, and although she had never had an uncircumsized
lover she had quickly come to love what he could do with his cock. She
stroked it, touched it, loved the loose skin around the head.

She shifted her shoulders to get underneath him, struggling to fit her
head under his legs, to reach that incredible cock with her mouth. The
smell of him-- musty, feline, not at all like a man-- was something she
had grown to love in the short time they had had together. She reached
up with her mouth and kissed the head of his cock. His moan, muffled
by her sex, told her that she was doing well. She licked at the head,
teased the underside. Her tounge played with the small stretch of skin
that seemed to anchor his foreskin.

She wrapped her lips around his cock, sucking him down. He responded
with a playful nip of her vulva. She squealed. "Cheater!"

His laugh was light and as wonderful as always. She returned to his cock,
sucking him into her mouth, playing with the head. A pearl of precome
hovered at the tip of his cock and she licked it playfully. In was salty
and sweet. She sucked down hard on him, wanting more. The sounds coming
from between her legn told her she was doing well.

And reminded her that he was hard at play down there. Distracted for
a moment, she let herself be swept away by pleasures that must have
been building for quite a while. She wondered how she could not have
noticed them as they stormed into her, occupying her attention. She made
an half-hearted attempt to wrench her attention back to him but it was
too late; he had her, as he always had her by now, her orgasm coming on
strong, thundering through to her soul.

She was spent from that but stil she wanted even more from him. "Dam,
get inside me. Please?"

With a grin he turned around in bed, lifting her legs until her feet were
pressed against his shoulders, and in one swift motion thrust himself
completely inside her. Becky rolled her head from side to side, unable
to control herself as the thrill of his thrusting cock within her kept
sending wave after wave of pleasure through her.

Dam was a true cocksman. She had read stories about men who, by their
cocks alone, could give incredible pleasure, and she had never believed
it. Dam had proven it to her. His cock was an amazing instrument, backed
by a hard body that could go on without pause, and he liked it that way.
He could go fast, then slow, hard, and soft, that beatuiful smile on his
lips, his eyes glazed like someone in the throes of his own religious
ecstacy, communing with her lust. They pressed against each other,
each thrust forceful and loving.

"My God, Dam, you're... more..." She was whimpering, begging to feel
that shaft keep thrusting within her, in and out, in and out. "More,"
she whispered until her voice was gone and then, "more," her lips would
form without breath. Between gasps her body would act, her legs around
his hips, pulling him into her, tilting her hips to him.

She could tell when he got closer. His whole body would start to quiver
like a harpstring, holding back the energies that he had created with
his lovemaking. She could feel it inside him, feeding him, and feeding
her, as it built incontrollably towards his climax. He came with a shout
of joy in a language she didn't even know and didn't need to. She knew
"yes!" when she heard it.

Dam held himself up, a tiny bead of sweat just about to fall off the
tip of his nose. He looked down at her and smiled. She smiled back. He
let go a laugh of pure joy, and she joined him in a final celebration
of their adventure together. "Oh, Becky," he sighed. "And it is only
getting better."

"Yeah," she said. "You are getting better."

He chuckled gently. "Magnificent." He turned over and collapsed onto
the bed, his demeanor confessing that, for once, he was spent.

Becky sighed, profoundly content. This was one part of their relationship
that she had no questions or qualms about, although it was certainly the
part of her relationship that confounded her "handlers" the most. They
had agreed on that; she had told them that he was completely, and like
all Pendorian species deliberately, built to be compatible, and that it
was none of their business what she did with him in the privacy of her
bedroom. They had reluctantly agreed to take her word that she would
faithfully report anything he said that was of interest to national

"Mmmm..." she moaned. "What is it with you? I've never felt anything
like what you drive me to." She felt between her legs, running her
fingers over her pubic hair. It was sticky, predictably, but it also
felt warm, there. Fulfilled.

"I don't know," he answered, sounding honestly bewildered. "There's
something special about you, too, Becky. I can't put it into words but
when I'm making love with you I feel... content. Happy."

She turned over and rested her head on his shoulder. "I love the fact
that you don't hold back, Dam. When you want to make love, you do it
like it's the most important thing in the world."

He smiled. "It is."

"I know. Lots of people say that. But it's not. Not really. They're
afraid that the other person will think bad of them, think they're a
whore or something because they cut loose. The way you do."

"Is that why you're sometimes so quiet? Because you're afraid I will
think less of you? Or is it because of the people recording us?"


"Your people, they put microphones in this room. I assumed you knew."

Becky's outrage kept her from putting together a coherent sentence for
a moment. "They're listening? Right now?"

"Yes, right now. I assumed you knew."

"No, I did not know. In fact, I explicitly told them not to listen in
here, and I wanted my privacy respected!" She seethed angrily.

"Just a moment them." Dam went curiously quiet, his eyes losing their
focus for a moment. "There," he said as his eyes retrained on Becky. "The
listening devices have been disabled."

"What did you do?"

"I asked Athena to turn on the masking devices our people put with the
listening devices. We wanted to make sure that we could turn them off
at any time. Although Pendorians are used to being part of a mutual
exchange environment all the time, Terrans are not part of our system
and we're not about to treat them the same way."

Becky felt a strange chill run up her back. She sat up straight. "What
is a mutual exchange system?"

"I thought I explained. From anywhere on Pendor you can find and read
any book, see any movie, hear any story being told. The AIs make this
possible. And they respond to our requests because they are listening
all the time. Athena is part of that."

"You mean to tell me that Athena is listening to us now?" she asked.

He nodded.

Becky shivered. "Big brother for real."

"You may look at it that way. Look at your own culture. What I imagine
is important to you-- what you read, what you wear, what you eat--
is all knowledge stored in the records of your credit cards, records
anyone with enough time and money has access to. Your neighbor could know
everything important about you, if he cared to dedicate time to finding
out-- whether you read pornography, or the Communist Manifesto, or the
Bible. But he would probably not know if someone were brandishing a knife
on you one night. This difference distinguishes the AIs on Pendor. They
keep private when it is not our business to inquire, and raise the alarm
when it is in our best interests to make knowledge public."

"So, how did you ask her?"

"I just spoke it quietly, subvocally." He pointed to his throat. "I have
small implants in my jaw and ear that make it posible for me to talk to
and hear her whenever I want to. She can also hear everything going on
around me."

Becky felt her mouth fall open. She hadn't realized that the man-- mel,
she habitually reminded herself-- who she had cuddled up to so often
in the past two months had been allowing his supercomputer to listen
in on their every word, every act, and recorded it all. And that the
radio itself was inside his body; it couldn't be taken out, couldn't be
turned off.

Growning colder by the moment, she got out of bed and grabbed her
clothes, pulling her pants on in a hurry. All of the wonders of the
past hour forgotten, she ignored his protests as she buttoned her shirt and, without her socks, stepped into her shoes and fled. In a fast but
controlled walk she left his residence, fled down the stairs and out
into the street. She continued walking until she saw a bus going by. She
boarded it and allowed it to take her away from R'Dam.


Becky groaned as she rolled over and stared up at the ceiling. "Another
day," she sighed. Another day to enjoy a healthy income without actually
doing anything and without anything to do. The CIA had agreed to pay her
through the year, and then she would be free to pursue whatever career
she wanted, although probably not one in government. Still, she had had a
good career in the State Departement; as long as her private life stayed
out of her resume' (as if that were possible) almost any company in the
world would want her as an international customer contact. Financially,
she was set for life as long as she found something to do.

But her body ached for R'Dam's patient hands. She couldn't help but close
her eyes and wish for his loving mouth against her lips. She dreamed of
his strong body against hers. Her fingers strayed down between her thighs
even as she thought of him. "Oh, Dam," she sighed. Finally, she knew that
nobody was listening to her, because there was no part of her life that
anyone cared about. Not anymore, not now. Her fingertips pressed against
the swell of her vulva, touching between her lips. Her body was already
rehearsing where it would go if Dam were to mysteriously show up on her
doorstep. It encouraged her, asked more of her. She bent her knees and
drew her feet up, allowing the flower of her vulva to open. Fingers,
her fingers, brushed her already liquifying pearl. Small and obscene
shudders flowed through her thighs.

R'Dam's phantom mouth touched her breasts, his hands upon the outsides of
her hips. As her own fingers began to circle in on her pearl she dreamed
of his cock, average in size but so talented in action, entering her,
knowing where it should go, knowing what inside her it should touch. Her
insides began to melt at the intensity of the memories, at the strength
of her own caresses of her inflamed pearl. A hard moan filled the room
with her climax.

Even before the tremors completely subsided, Becky sat up. Kneeling,
she turned around and lifted the venetian blinds over her bed. She
looked out onto the narrow, brownstown-lined street that had been her
home for the past six years. She would be leaving it all soon. She would
go someplace where nobody listened. She wanted it that way.

She turned away from the window and wept silently.


The Journal Entries of Kennet R'yal Shardik, et. al., and Related Tales
are Copyright (c) 1989-2000 Elf Mathieu Sternberg. Distribution limited
to electronic media not-for-profit use only. All other rights are reserved
to the author.


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