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Journal Entry 00100 200 000 Embassy Tales Stabilities


Embassy Tales: Stabilities

Journal Entry 200 / 00100

Erwer, Yavar 05, 00100

September 07, 1984

Nervously, Karen dialed a number. The phone rang once. "Pendorian Embassy,
this is Athena. How may I help you?"

"Hi, Athena. This is Karen Turrow. I'm calling for Reff Ng. Is she there?"

"Karen! Hi! Reff is out, but she's listed as available. I could forward
your call."

Karen felt herself blush. "Yes, please. Thank you."

"You're very welcome. Are you in town?"

"Yes, on business, but I have some free time."

"Wonderful! Reff will be very happy to see you." There was a click,
and then the ringing of a phone in the distance. But when a familiar
voice answered the quality was perfectly clear. "Hello?"

"Mellon, Reff! Karen nai!"

"Karen? Melmet! It's good to hear from you. I was afraid that you had
given up on me. You didn't call me after the first few times!"

Karen experienced a twinge of guilt. "I had run out of things to tell
you over the phone."

"Well I hadn't!" Reff's voice was full of mirth even as she growled her
response. "To what do I owe the pleasure of this call?"

"I'm in town. US Geological Services conference at the red Lion,
Northside. Are you available for dinner tonight?"

There was a pause. "I can't, not tonight. There's a group from Britannica
here and I'm supposed to meet with him tonight. We won't be done until
nearly midnight. We could get together after that, or tomorrow. Would
those be good?"

"There's a reception tomorrow night, but I could be free by nine. Do
you want to go to dinner after that? I'll be dressed a little formally."

"I'm sure Athena can find me something to wear that will be appropriate,"
Reff said. "Should I pick you up around 9:30, then?"

"I'll meet you at the front door."

"I'll meet you there."


Karen stood outside the hotel, watching as cars rolled past one by one.
She felt self-conscious in her elegant blue dress and expensive hairstyle.
A van pulled up, unmarked, with darkened windows. "Karen Turrow?" the
driver asked.

"Yes?" Karen said, startled that she should be recognized. The driver
was a blond woman wearing a uniform that was slightly more professional
than one would expect of a driver. It looked almost militaristic. She
had exited the van and was holding the door open for Karen.

"Pendorian Embassy professional services, Ma'am. I'm here to pick you up."

"I thought Reff would be picking me up."

"She asked me to drive you to a restaurant. I hope that's not a problem?"

Karen shook her head and stepped in, looking around. She wondered what
she was looking for. It was just a van inside. The central bench was
missing and the front one lower and moved back slightly, providing for
much more head and leg room, which made sense given that it was probably
used by people as large as Ng'Reff. The materials on the inside were
what one would expect from something "official."

She took a seat as the driver hopped back in. "How did you get this job?"
she asked as they pulled out into Washington traffic.

The driver shrugged. "I worked for a pretty sleazy limousine company for
a while. Rock stars, dignitaries, things like that, people who paid extra
for 'extra,' if you get my meaning. The Pendorians offered me better pay,
a steadier gig, and people who would keep their paws off of me." She
laughed at her own joke; Karen gave her a smile. "It wasn't something
I could pass up. A friend of mine from the service also tried to get
a job, but they passed her up. I don't know why; she's a better driver
than I am."

Karen nodded. "So you like working for them?"

"Are you kidding? If I ever have kids some day, I'll be able to recite
the names of all fifty-one Pendorian nationals by heart! And some of
them are pretty cool people in their own right. There's something about
working for them. They respect me. It's hard to explain." She pointed
out the front window. "There's your restaurant. Who would name their
restaurant The Book Store?"

She let Karen out of the van at the front door. "Reff will call when
you need me." With that, she disappeared.

Karen walked inside. "Can I help you, Miss?" the maitre'd asked.

"I'm here for... the Pendorian."

He smiled. "Of course. Follow me." He led her into a dark room, laden
with dim yellow lights, candles, and curtains of the darkest red. The
tables were small circular affairs that in this much lighting may as well
have been black. Karen immediately picked Reff out of the crowd. She sat
towards the back, her face illuminated by the single candle at her table.

When she spotted Karen, her eyes lit up in immediate delight, and as
Karen slid into the table, Reff took her hand and squeezed hard. "I'm
so happy to see you!" she said. "Come, sit. What are you in town for?"

Karen's own pleasure at seeing Reff again kept her from talking for
a moment. When she finally did she said, "The US Geological Survey
convention. It's not very exciting. I'm spending most of my time on the
oceanographic oils and natural gas seminars, because that's what I'm
doing right now for a contract, but I should also spend some time on
the careers track because I don't think this contract will last."

"Where are you working now?"

"Fecofi Drilling. He's one of those geniuses who sometimes finds oil
where people say there is none. He thinks there's evidence of a huge
oil deposit off the coast of Mexico in the Pacific. There are some,
but not where he's having the team I'm working with look."

Reff smiled. "I can't get over how happy I am to see you!"

"I didn't know how I would feel," Karen said. "But it is good to see you.
How did your meeting with the Britannica people go."

"Terrible," Reff said, grinning. "At least the Geographic people were
sensible, but now it seems that because of the deal we made with them
a lot of other people have their knives out for us." Reff picked up a
menu and handed it to Karen. "Here, order. Eat whatever you like. I'm
on an expense account."

"So am I," Karen replied. They summoned the waiter who, as efficiently
as possible, memorized their orders and then disappeared again.

Karen looked across the room. The other patrons were stealing glances at
the two of them, as discretely as is possible in a city where the most
politically powerful people on Earth congregate. Karen enjoyed their
looks, enjoyed that they didn't know who she was.

But that made her think. "Reff? Am I in any danger being near you? In
San Diego nobody knew you were at my house, at least I doubt anyone
did, and nobody ever asked me about it except for my friends. But here,
everyone knows you're in Washington and they know where you live. Would
they use me to get to you?"

"Yes, probably," Reff said, looking uncomfortable. "You're actually not in
danger from sane people, but we have noticed that the number of insane
people on Terra is alarmingly high and poorly monitored. We're also
concerned that you're going to be approached by agents of one or more
government agencies, either from the US or other countries, who would
want to pay you for any information you would have about us. Economic
espionage is yet another possibility, although it's one that we aren't
concentrating on since at the moment we don't have much to trade other
than a few commodities and our access to space." She squeezed Karen's
hand again. "Do these scare you enough to scare you away from me?"

"I don't think so," Karen said. The waiter brought their drinks. Karen
noticed with amusement that they had both ordered red wine. She tasted
hers and found it passable, enjoying the tart spice of it.

Reff seemed to enjoy hers. "This is something we're going to have to
trade for," Reff said. "There are no wines quite like this on Pendor. We
haven't figured out how to make them the way you have, and we don't
have the right kinds of grapes." She sighed. "So much to trade for,
and I want it all now."

Their meals came. Reff ate with a cautious gusto at first, then with
apparent enjoyment. Karen enjoyed watching her eat. She had obviously
come to enjoy what Earth had to offer and didn't let anything inhibit
her from the pleasures she had access to.

"I envy you, Reff. You get to enjoy all of these new pleasures from
an adult perspective. So many things we're exposed to as a child don't
register quite so much when we've grown up. I think I'd enjoy fish more
if my parents hadn't lived in a fishing town and made it so often. It
probably doesn't help that I've been stuck on a boat with a crew that
thinks that fending for itself with rod and reel is a great way to pass
the time."

"But, surely you have a greater appreciation for these things as an
adult," Reff said.

"Intellectually, yes. But emotionally? No. Not really."

Reff nodded. "I wish I understood better. But Pendor doesn't have a rich
cultural life. We have only a few institutions, most of them organized
around getting the colony going. Art, writing, music have all been
neglected, although not forgotten. With Earth to draw on, there will
be more in the future. Hopefully someday we'll begin to make our own

"You will," Karen said. "I know you will, at any rate."

Reff grinned.

The check came, and Reff grabbed it. "I'm far more capable than you
are. I don't think my boss will get upset at the total. And she likes
you. I don't know how your boss would feel about me. I don't represent
access to oil. Far from it. We intend to reduce Terra's oil needs by
two-thirds within the next fifty years."

Karen looked up. "How do you intend to do that?"

"That's still a secret." Reff grinned. "Actually, I don't know the
details myself. That's Trade Ambassador R'Dam's territory. Shall we go?"

Karen nodded. They grabbed their stuff and stood up. For the first time
Karen got a good look at what Reff wore, and she did not disappoint. An
eight-foot-tall felinoid alien with a bulky, powerful body did not seem
built for tradition, and Reff, or whoever had advised her, had realized
that. She wore black silk pants with flared bell bottoms, a style that
Karen had seen before on many of the feline Pendorians on TV. On top she
wore a masculine cut white shirt with a white, circular collar decorated
by a black stud over the throat. Over that Reff wore a black jacket,
feminine but not much so. She did not wear heels.

"You look wonderful," Karen commented.

Reff grinned. "I'm glad you like it, Karen. I wanted to appear appropriate
next to someone as beautiful as you are. I hope I did well."

Karen blushed. She was not used to being called "beautiful" by anyone.

They walked out onto the sidewalk. The van was waiting for them. They
climbed in. "Where to now?" Karen asked.

"The Embassy. I have someone I want you to meet. If that's okay with you."
Reff struggled out of her jacket and tossed it onto front passenger's

Karen nodded, curious. She reached out with one hand and touched Reff's
now exposed arm. "I missed you, Reff." The other fem didn't respond for
so long that Karen was afraid she hadn't heard. "Reff?"

Reff looked away. "I missed you more than you can imagine, Karen. It was
more than just missing you. It was like needing you. I was so upset when
you stopped calling, I didn't know what to do. Athena said I should call
you, but I didn't think that would be fair. I'd already called you twice.
Any more and I would have felt like I was harassing you. You had your
right to privacy. Athena was just making guesses. It's not like being on
Pendor." She paused. "But I so missed you. You were the connection I had
wanted, the person who made Earth feel like a place I could call home.
When you rejected me..."

Karen's heart felt cold in her chest. Is that what had happened? "I didn't
reject you, Reff. I... I became afraid that I was bothering you. You
were a Pendorian. There are only fifty or so of you on the whole world,
you must be so busy doing your negotiations, public appearances, and
television shows. I don't have the right to ask you for any of your
time... do I?"

"You do if I say you do!" Reff suddenly leaned in, making Karen feel
small and threatened. "You stopped talking to me and you didn't even
have the decency to tell me why!"

Karen's fear made her snap back just as hard. "You're from another world!
What more reason do I need than that? You don't think like us, you don't
act like us, you don't feel like us. Our common basis is that we're both
humanoidal carbon-based life forms! Maybe not even that. I have more in
common with my cat than I do with you, Reff!"

"You can't talk to your cat. It doesn't talk back."

"That's where you're wrong. My cat speaks to me in words you just can't
hear. She talks about love, trust, affection..." Karen's voice caught
in her throat. She looked away.

They pulled up to a gate. Reff opened the door and extracted herself
from the van. Karen followed her to a small gate, which opened as they
approached it. Reff stepped through, her back to Karen, expecting Karen
to follow her. "Reff, wait. Wait!"

Reff stopped and turned. "You scare me, Reff," she said. "I have a lot to
be scared about. It's not your size, or your teeth, or even that you're
from another world. It's that you, you're..." She sighed. "I don't want
my life to change, Reff. I like the stable little life I've worked so
hard to create. I don't want that to go away."

Reff sighed, then looked up. "It's going to rain. Let's go inside."

She followed Reff into the Embassy. The foyer would not have looked
out of place in any major office building, complete with a circular
station in the middle occupied by a generically pretty brunette. "Hi,
Karen!" the receptionist said, looking up.

Reff walked over to the receptionist and said, "Karen, meet Athena."

"I'm pleased to meet you, Karen." She glanced over at Reff. "Poppy will
be down in a minute."

Reff nodded, and Karen thought she saw something else pass between them.
"Who's Poppy?"

"Poppy is..." Reff didn't finish the sentence as the bell on the elevator
announced someone's arrival. Karen looked up to see a blue-furred
Pendorian walk out into the reception area. This one was obviously female
from the small but visible breasts, something Reff's species lacked. She
also had strange arms; it took Karen a moment to realize that she was not
wearing shoulder pads but instead really had very muscular shoulders from
which extended not arms but something much more flexible, like a pair of
powerful boa constrictors. Her eyes were solid green with no discernible
iris, and her ears were large, pointed affairs that started where ears
should start and ascended until they were even with the top of her head.
Unlike other Pendorians Karen had seen, this one had hair, a shocking
mass of white, curly hair that tumbled down her back. Her lips were thin
and black.

Those tentacles ended in a single mitten with a thumb, which she held out.
"You must be Karen." Karen took the mitten in her hand and found it warm
and dry to the touch, the inner surface feeling much like bare skin. "I'm
Poppy. Reff and Athena have told me all they can about you."

Karen glanced over at Reff and the receptionist. "What's going on here?"

"Poppy is our team therapist, threat profiler, and interviewer," Reff
said. "I was curious to know how she felt about you. You said you would
be looking for work soon."

Karen was stunned. They were offering her a job? "What would I be doing?"

"Distance teaching," Poppy said. "Right now we're looking for all kinds
of teachers in a number of disciplines. I've reviewed your file from
Berkeley, very impressive. You made an excellent PhD. candidate and were
consistent as a student lecturer." She looked at Karen, her eyes probing
with a depth that made Karen uncomfortable. "You're reasonably stable
and you've demonstrated an ability to keep your head on when surrounded
by strange creatures from outer space.

"You see, Karen, we know much about physics, chemistry, and biology. We
know nothing about real planetary geology, solar system astronomy,
and other sciences directly related to living on a planet. We also
know almost nothing about the humanities, arts and letters, music,
and so on. We're recruiting people like you to teach." She smiled. "The
geologic stack and Shakespeare are both in the public domain."

Karen looked up at Reff, then back at Poppy. "I don't know. I mean,
that's a big jump. Will I ever get to meet my students? How will I know
if I'm doing the right job?"

"Oh, you'll get to meet them. Right now our communications has about a
sixty-hour delay time, so you'll be meeting with your students twice a
week. We'd like to make the class sessions about three hours, so you'll
only have the most dedicated students."

Karen thought about it, although she was somewhat off-balance by the
suddenness of the offer. "What does it pay?"

"Total? We find you an apartment and pay for a one year lease, renewable
along with your contract to us. Aside from that, 28K a year and health

The pay was slightly less than what she was making, but if they were
going to cover her rent and provide insurance, she would be coming out
far ahead. Besides, it was only six hours a week dedicated time plus
whatever time it would take to put the material together.

What would she fill the rest of the time with? She couldn't imagine living
in Washington D.C. But she also couldn't imagine giving the position up.
What would she put on her future resumes? "Consultant on Terrestrial
and Planetary Geology to the Pendorian Consulate," she imagined. She
wondered how that would go over with future employers.

Finally, she let out a breath she hadn't been aware that she'd been
holding. "I need to think about it."

"Of course," Poppy replied. "I just wanted to give you that chance. It's
an offer. We'd need more, of course, about your skills and your employment
record. People are usually hired more on how we feel about you rather
than on your establishing any sort of bona fides. We understand that
you know your science."

Poppy held out one of her mittens again. "It was nice to finally get to
meet you, Karen."

Karen took it. "And you," she said. Athena had mentioned that Poppy was
the team therapist. Did that mean that Reff had talked to Poppy about her?
Karen wondered.

"I'll see you around. Reff, why don't you show her the classroom? Let her
get a feel for the place." With that, the Tindal turned on a soft-shoed
heel and disappeared into an elevator.

Reff nodded. "That sounds like a good idea. We can talk down there." She
turned to Athena. "I don't think she needs a pass at this hour, do you?"

Athena shook her head. "It would be a shame to muck up that lovely outfit
with a big, ugly hall pass. I'll alert the staff that there's a legitimate
visitor without a hall pass in the area. Your description shouldn't be
too hard. 'Stunning, willowy redhead in sexy, blue semi-formal dress.'"

Karen blushed. "Thanks."

"Good. Then let's go." Reff led her to the elevator, and in minutes
they were up a floor, down a hall, and through a door. The classroom was
in the classical amphitheater design, a third of a circle in the round
centering on an average sized desk with a black plastic top, complete with
sink. It could have been any lecture hall in the world. The floor was
a rug of institutional yellow, the walls a commonplace brown wood. The
only thing about the room that stood out was its cleanliness. She had
never been in a room like this when it was brand new.

Reff sat down in a front-row seat that seemed to fit her fine. Karen found
that mysterious; all the other seats were obviously sized for humans;
was there just one chair for Uncia, or did the chairs resize themselves
for whomever sat in them? "I'm sorry about springing that on you like
that. I didn't know how you'd take it, but I knew that we were looking
for people like you to teach our classes and when the subject came up
at a staff meeting I put your name into the candidate list. If you want,
I'll ask Athena to remove it."

Karen shook her head. She took a seat in the same row, two chairs away
from Reff. "No, don't. I just haven't had a lot of time to think about it.
I wonder what my friends will think."

"I expect that most of them will think it's the most wonderful thing that
could happen to any of you and they'll be envious of your access to us."
Reff grinned. "But you'll miss them. We can provide for regular flights
out there, once a month if you really like, so you can visit them."

Karen shook her head. "No, the party was breaking up already. Space had
found a job in San Francisco, so that particular game that you came in
on was shutting down. I wasn't able to play much anyway because my job
kept me out to sea a lot. The lease on Mos Eisley ends soon. It'll be
hard to keep the group together. These things happen. I guess my time
just happened to come up now. Damn."


"I didn't realize how hard it would all hit me. I hate when things start
to get crazy."

"Think of us as a soft landing pad now that everything is up in the air
for you." Reff grinned. "I like English. Your people have a wonderful
collection of expressions." She reached out with one hand and let her
fingers trace over the back of Karen's hand softly. "You said you were
afraid of me. Why?"

"You may have realized that, well, I'm not exactly straight." Reff nodded.
"I'm in the closet to most people, although Mos Eisley knows and doesn't
care. I don't try to advertise it. There's this disease out there killing
gay men and people are using it as an excuse. It's like it's open season
on gays and lesbians, Reff.

"I guess... I've decided to make a life for myself that's harder
than usual. I didn't choose to be a lesbian, but I did choose to be
an oceanographic geologist. I don't know if I chose to be a science-
fiction fan, but... there I am. Have you ever read that most men find
smart women difficult? So do lesbians."

"I don't think you're difficult. I think you're fascinating. And I'm
not exactly straight, either."

"It's different for you. Your planet is sane. You didn't seem to care at
all. The last time we were together you acted as if our being together
was a problem because Terrans thought that my being friends with an alien
was a problem. That we're both women didn't matter to you." She glanced
down at her arm, where Reff's hand was absently tracing invisible paths
on her skin. "That feels good."

"It does, doesn't it?" Reff asked. "Karen, I'm sorry if I frightened you.
I don't mean to. It's just... as you may have guessed, I talked to
Poppy about you. A couple of times. I was worried that I was becoming
obsessed with you to an unhealthy degree." She leaned back. "You spoke
Quen. You kissed me. You showed me movies and fed me pizza. Your friends
are wonderful. I couldn't stop thinking about you."

Karen got up from her seat and stood in front of Reff. She reached with
both hands for the material of Reff's shirt and pulled the other alien
closer to her. They hesitated for one second, then Karen kissed Reff hard,
lips to muzzle. For Karen it was a moment of truth, a revelation. Warmth
filled her to the tips of her toes and all doubts were momentarily
wiped away.

When they parted, she whispered, "Then don't." She stepped back and
walked to the middle of the classroom, standing behind the large elevated
demonstration table. "I thought this was going to be distance learning.
Cameras and all that."

"Oh, this is better," Reff said. "We don't use cameras. We want this
to be as immediate as possible. We use holograms. Athena, do you have
any examples?"

"Right here." The door Karen and Reff had used opened up and a smaller
felinoid stepped through. Karen recognized it as a Felinzi, probably male.
"Hi," he said, walking right up to Karen as if he could see her. "I'm
Ch'Mrra. My interests are in geology and astronomy, and I understand
you're going to be my teacher in one of those fields. I hope to learn
a lot from you." He bowed low.

Karen, not sure how to react, said, "Thank you."

To her surprise, Ch'Mrra said, "You're welcome. Excuse me. This is not
class time, and I won't take up any more of your time right now." He
bowed again and walked out.

Karen watched, stunned, as Ch'Mrra left the room. "That was not a
projection!" she accused.

"Yes, actually, it was," Athena replied. "It was a collection of thing
Ch'Mrra has said and done over the past couple of weeks as we have been
assembling students, edited judiciously together into a seamless stream.
The objective is to make the students as real as possible. The first two
times you teach, they'll just sit there, passively, responding only to
mundane things like requests for their names and so on. But in the third
class, they'll start to ask you questions about what they heard in the
first class. It'll take some getting used to, but we hope that it will
make the classes more meaningful to you."

"Wow," Karen said. "Could I touch it?"

"We could make some tactile impressions, but it would not feel like real
fur or skin. And simulating some things, such as bad breath, are just
not in our capability. Yet."

"What?" Karen asked, catching a glimpse of Reff grinning.

"You're asking the sort of questions than would get asked by someone who
wants the job. Good." Karen felt her own face fell as old insecurities
arose within her. It was Reff's turn to say, "What?"

"Do you believe in love at first sight, Reff?"

"I have never experienced it," Reff said. "But if you want to know if
it happens to other people, other people have reported that it does and
I have no reason to doubt their experiences."

Karen sighed. "I don't think I can experience it, Reff. I... I'd like to.
I read about how good it feels, and something inside me understands what
they mean when they talk about it, but every time I have met a woman I
liked and wanted, something inside me told me that I would never love her.
I can never put aside that skeptical part of me, Reff, the part that
wonders why someone wants me, loves me. I had one lover who said she
loved the sex by itself; that made me feel like an exotic toy. I don't
want to feel that way. I want to feel like a person. But I also want to
lose myself in loving someone else. It's like being a junkie, but being
addicted to something that doesn't exist."

"And how do I make you feel?" Reff asked.

"Like nobody I've ever known before. If I close my eyes I hear someone
who's been open an honest and only a little screwed up, unlike my
former lovers who were a lot screwed up." She laughed. "When I open
them I see the impossible, a fantasy but not a sexual one, an eight-
foot-tall alien..."

"Who wants to hold you and snuggle you and get to know you better." Reff
stood up and walked until she faced Karen across the demonstration table.
"I don't know what to tell you, Karen. I just happen to like you,
a lot. I knew some of my initial reactions to you were too intense;
with help I worked them out. Now, I want to get to know you better."

"You see, that's it, Reff," Karen said. "You like me. You don't love me. I
think I like that. Love places too much of a burden on me to accept or
reject it. I don't want to reject you. I've rejected too much already."

Reff nodded. "And I've been rejected by too much on Terra, too. That's why
you're cutting me off hurt so much. I wanted to understand it, tell you
that I wasn't going to be too much to you. I just wanted to be friends."

Karen walked around the table and approached Reff, then hugged her close.
"And I wanted more than that."

"Do you still want more?"

"Yes," Karen said immediately. "Yes, I do. Because I like you, Reff. And
if I didn't take this opportunity, what would I tell my grandchildren?"

Reff laughed so hard it startled her. "That's why I like you! A human
strong enough to look forward to the day when Pendorians are just more
people, a lesbian in a culture like this brave enough to hope that she can
have children some day." Reff picked her up and cradled her in her arms.
Karen's body reacted to her friend's physical strength, warmth and fur
with surprising desire. She hadn't anticipated the feelings she was
experiencing. She couldn't put them into words.

Reff carried her to the elevator, then put her down. "Don't want to
carry me over the threshold?" Karen asked with a grin.

"That must be it," Reff agreed as the doors opened on the thirteenth
floor. Karen found it curious that there was a thirteenth floor; the
Pendorians had occupied an older building, probably at an exorbitant
price, and there had been signs in the front lobby and in the hallway
of ongoing construction. They must have changed it to read thirteen,
one of those little things to defy superstition.

Reff led Karen to a door. "Here we are." She opened the door and let
Karen go first.

Karen had expected everything to be scaled to Reff's height but, to her
surprise, the opposite was true. There was one table of solid, wood
construction very low to the ground, surrounded by seating cushions,
all on a small square of off-white carpet. The floor was hardwood. The
kitchen was open to the rest of the studio and if there had been a bar
separating the two it had been removed by experts; there was no sign of
construction here. Pantries of beautiful, dark cherry wood lined the wall
next to the kitchen. A display case, bookshelves, and one large wardrobe
lined the opposite wall; in the display case Reff had a curious collection
of nicknacks, kitsch items from her travels around the world. Each had
a name. "Welcome to Hawaii!" "Seattle!" "Taiwan!" "Moscow!" There was a
rolled-up mat, a carefully folded blue comforter, and two pillows under
one of the two beautiful, large windows, and if this was the extent of
the room then that must have been the bed.

Karen looked up at Reff. "Bathroom?"

"That door, there," Reff said, pointing to the gap between the bookshelves
and her wardrobe. Karen nodded and made use of it. The bathroom was
likewise nothing spectacular, although the ceiling was high enough for
Reff and the shower stall big enough. The Pendorians well understood
the importance of achieving the right scale.

When she had returned, Reff had unrolled the mat and spread the
comforter over it. It was a beautiful piece of work, shining silk of
the deepest blue into which someone had stitched geometric patterns
in white and lighter greens and blues. Reff saw her admiring it. "Yes,
I like this. I found it at a small shop in Chinatown and fell in love
with it. I'm disappointed that I will never know who actually made it,
although I'm convinced that much of it is machine made."

Karen walked over to where she sat and giggled. "'The cat sat on the mat.'
I have no idea where that's from, but suddenly it's stuck in my brain. And
I know I've heard it before." She sat down next to Reff. "What next?" She
looked around. "It's warm in here."

"I like it," Reff said. "It reminds me of home." She turned to Karen. "How
do I take that off?"

"What? The dress?" Karen pointed over her shoulder, then realized what
Reff was asking for. "Reff... Oh, nevermind." She stood up again and
walked to where Reff was sitting. "Unzip me."

She felt Reff's fingers probe under her hair, find the zipper, and tug at
it. The warm air of the room wafted across her back and strong hands were
stroking her shoulders, pushing the dress down over her arms. She let Reff
pull the dress down over her waist, and then it fell to the floor. She
closed her eyes as Reff's fingers fumbled at her bra, finally opening the
latch. Karen helped her take it off. Then those same hands were on her
panties, tugging at them, pulling them down. She was trembling inside,
not wanting to stop Reff but not sure of what would happen next.

She felt something press against her butt, and giggled. "You have a cold
nose," she protested. She turned around. "It's time to undress you, too."
She went to work on the buttons of Reff's shirt. Reff kicked off her
shoes and pants, and then they were both naked, looking at each other.

"God, you are so huge," Karen sighed as she dropped herself again into
Reff's lap. "The first time I had no idea what to do with you. I still
don't. And sometimes I just want to curl up with you and sleep next
to you."

Reff smiled. "That's one of my favorite memories. The feel of your body
next to mine, listening to your breathing."

Karen grinned, then yawned. "Sorry."

"You're tired," Reff observed. "Close your eyes."

Karen did so. Reff's warmth closed around her naked body, her fur pressed
against her skin. It was so welcoming, so tempting. Karen's mind kept
taking stabs at thought, trying to think of the implications of Reff's
offers-- to be her lover, to teach Pendorians, to teach on another world.
It was beyond her imagination. Just last year she had been a student at
the University of California, a PhD. candidate who just couldn't afford
the program and went into industry instead, living under Ronald Reagan
and Pete Wilson, another human being who loathed Flock of Seagulls.

But she kept coming back to the sensual comforts of Reff's body. Reff
began to rumble softly and Karen recognized it as purring, scaled up to
someone Reff's size. It felt wonderful. It tempted her. She fell asleep
that way.

She woke with darkness still outside Reff's windows and wondered what time
it was. Reff slept beside her, unmoving, breathing slowly. It took her a
few seconds to recognize the rumbling that she heard as purring, scaled
up to someone the size of a large bear. She listened for a minute, again
remembering the feelings she had experienced when Reff had picked her up.
She wondered if that's what falling in love felt like, at some level,
and she was just too dense, or too cold, to recognize it for what it was.

She thought of the coldness as something that haunted her, something
she wanted to be rid of. Her friends down in San Diego disagreed that it
was there at all. Space was particularly adamant that she was one of the
warmest and friendliest people he'd ever known, and he'd insisted that
he would feel that way "long after I stop fantasizing about getting into
your pants." The memory made her giggle out loud. It didn't wake Reff.

What, she wondered, would be worse? To go on living her relatively
quiet existence, every day, for the rest of her life, or to go with the
Pendorians, live with them, be challenged by them. It should not have
been a hard decision. It was anyway.

She tried to picture it and realized that she couldn't. Years of Dungeons
and Dragons, Traveler, and Space Opera had not equipped her to actually
make the decision or envision her future. There were no stories like
this one. There was no alternative to experience.

That was the point, she mused as dawn began to break through the windows.
There was no experience to go on. It was time to move, she thought,
time to change again. Again? When had she changed before? It had always
been the same thing, night after night, repetitive. The only break she
had seen recently had been Reff's visit six months ago.

Athena had said she was everywhere in the building. Karen decided to
see for herself. "Athena?" she whispered.

"Yes?" came the response in her ear, equally quiet. "Don't worry. Reff
can't hear me."

"When do I start?"

There was a pause the length it takes someone to smile. "I can assemble
a class of students in twelve days on Pendor, if that's what you want. Or
I can wait longer for you to move."

"No, that's okay. If you'll spring for the moving costs, I can do it in
a couple of days. Just long enough to pack and say goodbye."

"Done," Athena said. "In case you couldn't guess, I also handle the
finances around here."

Reff stirred then, turning over. Karen looked over in her direction. "Good
morning," Reff said.

"I was just talking to Athena."

"I thought I heard whispering. What were you talking about?"

Karen smiled. "I'm taking the teaching job."

"I'm so happy you did," Reff replied with a smile. "I think you'll enjoy
yourself. What made you decide to do it?"

"I decided that I didn't want to do the same thing for the rest of my
life. I'm going to miss my friends, but there will never be a chance
like this."

"And me?" Reff asked.

"And you."

"You don't sound so sure."

Karen nodded. "I don't feel so sure."

Reff rolled on top of Karen, pinning her down. By God, she was heavy.
Karen felt not fear this time, but the unmistakable thrill of desire. Reff
smiled down at her. "I want you to feel sure," Reff said. "I want you
to stay."

Karen reached up with her hands and caressed Reff's chest. "If we were
friends, would we also have to be lovers?"

"No," Reff said, "But I would like it."

"How much?" Karen teased.

Reff kissed her cheek. The feel of that muzzle, the warm breath of
this speaking animal, this person, this lover, was more than Karen had
anticipated. Her body grew warm, her thighs wet. "Reff..." she breathed.

"Hmm?" Reff asked.

"Tell you afterward." She grabbed two handfuls of Reff's fur and pulled
the Uncia completely down onto her. She pressed her mouth to Reff's, her
sloppy tongue pressing up against the thin feline lips of the other fem.
Reff's growl would have to do for a moan for the time being.

Karen pressed for Reff to turn over and Reff readily complied, lying
on her back. From the window daylight poured over Reff's body as Karen
straddled her hips. She ran her hands through the luxurious fur of Reff's
belly. Reff sighed, but she also flexed her hips suggestively. "You're
anxious," Karen observed.

"I've been waiting months for this. I don't think it's fair for me to
wait much longer."

Karen laughed. "You won't have to," Karen said. "I saw this once
before," she said as she pushed her body back along Reff's hips, her sex
momentarily riding over the hump of Reff's mons veneris. "Ohh," Karen
sighed. "We'll have to do that again." She pushed her hips up against
the slight ridge and felt the thrill of that fur, flesh and bone as it
parted her own lips. Reff's paws were on her hips, helping her as she
moved over that slight ridge.

She was surprised at how readily she shed her inhibitions around Reff,
how quickly she was inspired to do anything she wanted. As Reff pushed
and pulled at her hips she found that her mind was willing to call up
any number of obscene ideas she could try with what her mind labeled as
"the big kitty."

She gasped softly, but pushed Reff's hands away and slid back. "I want
you to feel something else," she said. She pushed Reff's legs apart and
exposed Reff's inner lips to the air. She had seen this before, in her
apartment, in the dim light of her shower, but here in the open, under
the sunlight in this cheerfully painted and appointed room, she found
the pink sight shocking and lovely. It made her mouth water, literally,
and she licked her lips.

She descended on Reff's vulva. Her lips touched Reff's labia. It was a
weird feeling, she thought, a little like kissing one's cat. The fur
was unlike human pubic hair; here it was dense and short, insulating
and padding Reff's cunt without being a huge tangle that had to be dug
through. Tentatively she reached out with her tongue and licked between
Reff's lips. The sweet liquid that had glistened at her a moment ago
hinted on her tongue. Karen rolled it into her mouth, tasting it, and
decided that she liked it.

Reff's body shook just slightly. Karen pressed her thumbs just a little
bit into Reff's lips, parting them further. Reff's inner labia were tiny
things; Karen wondered if that was standard on Uncia. Her clitoris was an
isolated little nub right at the top, a darker color than she was used
to seeing. But it would still perform the same way, as Karen had found
out a few months ago. She lowered her head again between Reff's legs,
her tongue taking in the full measure of Reff's cunt, tasting her flesh
and the fluids that protected it.

Reff breathed hard, "Nai, Karen. Oh, yes. Nai. Nai." Karen giggled,
distracting both of them, before she went back to kissing and licking
Reff's swollen, hot cunt. Reff's lips had become swamped with her juices;
neither of Karen's former lovers had ever been this wet. More for Karen
to wonder about.

She slipped a finger into Reff's cunt, and in response the big kitty
parted her legs further. Another finger followed. Karen was surprised
at just how tight Reff was and decided not to try for a third. Reff's
hands hovered on her belly, right before Karen's eyes, and she watched
as the claws at the tips seemed to emerge and sheathe over and over
as Karen's tongue danced on Reff's clit, her lips stroking Reff's
mound. Karen stopped just once, completely, to lick her fingers and
taste Reff's juices fully. Reff watched, her eyes wide with fascination
at what almost felt like a ritual to Karen.

She went back to Reff's cunt, a place where the very air seemed to have
grown moist and hot. Her tongue buried deep between Reff's labia, she
licked and pressed until Reff went completely silent, holding her breath,
and then came with a low, long, pleasure-filled groan. The very success
of it made Karen's head spin.

Reff breathed a sigh as she again relaxed. "Who taught you that?" she
asked Karen as the human girl slid up the length of her body to press
her head to her chest. "You were wonderful!"

"Thanks," Karen said, blushing.

Reff surprised her by rolling her over, laying on top of her again. "Oof!
I'm going to have to get used to this!"

Reff grinned down at her, showing teeth. A shiver crossed Karen's
shoulders as she looked at those large and dangerous teeth. She hadn't
realized it before, but Reff's head was even a little larger than was
suggested by the scale of her body. She wondered why. But Reff made the
wondering stop with an insistent and lustful kiss that made all of the
heat Karen had been generating a moment ago come back. She whimpered
against Reff's mouth.

Reff's smile was predatory. "Your turn," she whispered.

Karen managed a weak and silly, "Yay!" It made them both chuckle. Karen's
turned into a moan as Reff's thick fingers push down through her pubic
hair, pressing apart her lips. She felt the touch as a wonderful invasion,
one that hinted at pleasures to come. Reff made at most token passes at
Karen's breasts before plunging between Karen's legs.

The heat of her breath across Karen's nether lips made her shiver. Karen
felt like she would melt with the heat, especially after that
hotter-than-human tongue slipped across the hood of her clit, making
her gasp, "Ah! Reff!"

Reff's tongue was also larger than a human; Karen felt as if her
entire sex were being attacked by a friendly, wet, warm carpet. And
a talented one. She touched the top of Reff's head with her hands,
giggling momentarily as she tried to figure out where to put them in
relation to the Uncia's ears, only to be transported into heavenly
pleasures by Reff's earnest licking.

When she came, it wasn't a powerful, all-encompassing thing like the first
time. Instead, it was gentle, wonderful, a thoughtful orgasm, if such
a thing were possible. Karen felt it wash over her and delighted in it,
delighted in the feel of her gigantic lover, her friend. She surprised
herself by finding tears in her eyes even as Reff lifted her head from
between Karen's thighs.

Karen lifted her head. Reff lay down beside her and Karen rolled into
her waiting embrace. "Thank you," she said.

"Karen?" Reff said, concerned.

"I'm okay, Reff. I'm not sure why, but I feel like I'm about to cry. I've
never felt like this. You were wonderful."

"Then why... cry?"

"Because..." Karen felt a sob roll through her and let it go. "Because
I figured something out." She looked up at Reff. "Because I like you."

Reff embraced her tightly. "I like you too, Karen. But I'm not sure why
that should make you cry."

Karen smiled. "Because I'm human, Reff, and fucked up." She touched
Reff's nose. "And because I felt something different today. Something
unhurried, something calm, in what you were doing to me. Reff? We can
be friends but... I think I have to tell you something."

The Uncia's face fell slightly. "What?"

"For the first time, I think I know how to fall in love."

Reff's eyes lit up, and she nodded. "If you think so, Karen, I'm willing
to let you try."

"Give me time?"

"All you need," Reff said. "All you need."


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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