| Geographic: Terminal
Journal Entry 052 / 00101
Noren, Sulim 03, 00101
March 06, 1985
Wolf waited at the terminal for the rest of his party to appear. He was
enjoying the feeling of weightlessness and appreciated the opportunity
to be alone. He had found it a rare and surprising feeling, being alone.
Pendorians were rarely lonely and rarely had to be alone. He had found
the attention too much at times, and had thanked Ember profusely for
giving him a few places he could get away to. Pandora was a beautiful
world, and Monastery Island, with its impressive SDisk system, had been
just the place to go. The idea that one could leap between two worlds
by taking a single step still made him shake his head.
"Christiane!" He smiled wide as his competition for the attention of
the editors, and the ladies, floated into the view. "How are you doing?"
"Could be better. You heard about Lisanne?"
He nodded. "Who hasn't heard about Lisanne's decision? Even the local
popular press is talking about it, although I'm really surprised about
how muted it is."
"Do Pendorians ever make a big deal about anything?" she asked.
"I imagine they do, but what that would be, exactly, I have no idea." He
grinned. "I hear we're a hit back home."
"Fame is good," she said. "Although I had a complaint from Cath that
they don't know what to do with the pictures we're sending them. We've
sent them thousands of images and, it would seem, we've all strayed out
of our usual fields of photography. Except for Xing. You shot vistas,
I shot families. That's backwards, isn't it?"
Wolf grinned. "Couldn't be helped. How's your chest?"
She touched herself on the side thoughtfully. "Fine, really. The
Pendorians healed me completely."
"No chance of relapse?"
"Not relapse, no. Recurrence, yes. The disorder that causes the cancer
is genetic. The Pendorians aren't able to fix that." She shrugged. "It
means it could happen again. That's okay. I've survived lung cancer
twice now. I can do it again, right?"
"If you say so," Wolf said with a sigh. "I would just think that of the
two of you, you would be more likely to go for the perfect body that the
Pendorian are offering, not Lisanne, who seems so strong and lively and
doesn't have pre-cancer."
Christiane shook her head. "I may be happy here, but I'm not attached
to it the way I am to Earth. I love Earth way too much. It's the world
I've spent my life documenting, in all its glory and ugliness. I'm not
ready to retire to this place, which reminds me a little too much of
a nursing home. Everything's taken care of; it's time to do arts and
crafts to fill the void." She grinned.
"I never thought of it that way." He looked out the window. "Some arts
and crafts. They build starships."
"I did think of it that way. I mean, sure, they're doing amazing things
with all that spare time they've got, but don't you find it a little
depressing that when humanity gets this, gets the kind of thing they've
always wanted, a lifetime of leisure, this is what we'll be left with?"
She gestured around. "Where is the meaning in the Pendorian life?"
Wolf held his tongue. He had never believed that there was a meaning
to Earthly life, either; no religion had ever come across to him as
coherent enough to convey to him that there was a meaning to life,
much less what that meaning might be.
Christiane continued, "Anyway, I'm glad to be going home. I'd rather be
there, among the striving and the fighting and the loving with meaning
than here, stuck in the biggest nursing home in the galaxy."
Wolf laughed. "You sound like you're an interstellar traveler with a
thousand voyages under your belt, not just one trip to a world that
hasn't had contact with anyone else, either. How do you know this is
the biggest one?"
Christiane grinned. "I guess I wouldn't. But it's still not the kind of
place I want to live. I miss Africa."
Wolf nodded. His time on Pendor had been fun, and he had loved the views
and the people he had met, he had even had a good time personally, but
there were people to go back to, he had realized. His letter from is
sister had struck him particularly hard, with its descriptions of her
children and the good times they were having back on Earth.
"Anyway," she said, "I'm going on board. I'll see you there."
"Right," Wolf replied.
Christiane looked around the tiny cabin, already starting to feel the
itch of wide open spaces a day even before the starship left the dock for
interstellar space. She shivered when she thought of that, the allure of
being an interstellar adventurer. If there were vistas like Africa out
there, she would visit them. But they would have to have people on them.
They would have to be part of a universe that was striving for something.
She loathed the idea that anyone would ever get to the point where
striving was passe'.
As she packed her clothes into the closet, a twinge in her chest reminded
her of the cancer that the Pendorians had stopped. That was another thing
she was glad for; the limits of life. She was glad that she was human,
and mortal, and destined to die, even though she had no desire to get
there too quickly and certainly had no intention of hurrying it along. The
Pendorian idea of going on and on and on, and committing suicide when
going on became unendurable anymore, struck her as sick and decadent.
Which she thought was funny. When she had first gotten to Pendor, she
had envied her guide, Trellin, the free choice she had to start or end
her life at a time of her own choosing.
She whirled around and found Trellin standing in the doorway. She took a
few seconds to find her voice, finally managing to croak out a, "Hi... Hi.
I was just thinking about you."
Trellin smiled at her. "The second you got to Pendor you disappeared. I
asked the AIs where you were, and they always told me that you were busy,
or that you weren't taking calls, or that you were in the field and away
from access." She let the tentacles she used for arms slump at her side.
"I just wanted to make sure that I hadn't done anything wrong."
Christiane shook her head. "No, not... really."
"Not really, or no?"
"No," Christiane said. She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Trellin,
but when we became lovers on the trip in I couldn't... I couldn't really
handle it anymore. I liked you. I couldn't stand to be around you."
Trellin looked confused. Christiane could understand why. The last two
had been completely contradictory. A Terran might understand how they
"That's ridiculous, Christiane."
"I suppose you would think so." She took a deep breath. "Trellin,
I have to tell you something. I hate Pendor. I hate everything about
it. I hate the fact that you're going to live forever. I hate the fact
that you have all this time to do what you want to do, instead of what
you have to do. I hate the fact that your lives have no meaning, but you
seem to live them meaningfully all the same. Your people have such an
attitude, like you've figured out how to do everything right that Earth
does wrong. I don't want to be around you when I like you so much but
I hate everything that you represent.
"I want to go home."
Trellin closed her eyes for a moment and Christiane wondered if she was
just thinking or if she was talking with the Pendorian AIs that seemed to
be silently and constantly directing the flow of events. She sighed. "I
take it you would rather I not be on this voyage, then?"
Christiane paused. She hadn't wanted another complication, but it was
only one complication; all the rest were over and done with. "We're
leaving Pendor. That might make it more tolerable."
"Have dinner with me then?" Trellin asked. "There's a little restaurant
on Parma that I want to take you to."
"This. Here," Christiane said, pointing out the window to the rotating
station to which they were attached. "Parma. The space station."
"Oh. I didn't know it had a name." She thought for a second. "Yeah, okay.
Dinner it is."
Christiane had grown used to the Pendorian time system. "Sure."
Trellin smiled. "Thank you, Christiane. See you there."
The "restaurant" was small and intimate, quiet, with green, silver, and
ferns the overriding motifs. The decorations were simple silver curls
stretching the length of the soft green wallpaper. There was no music. It
was one of the things Christiane had missed from Earth. The Pendorians
were short on music, and they tended not to play it to death the way
people on Earth did, probably because they knew that if they heard it
too much it would spoil it for their lives, which would be much longer.
It was also in about half the gravity she was used to, which meant that
eating anything liquid would be something of a challenge. The only person
in view, a human dressed in black pants, a white shirt, and a spotless
black pocketed apron, approached her. "Melli! Guareth ti?"
"I, um, I don't speak Quen."
"Oh, you're the Terran I'm expecting! Wonderful! Come this way, please."
He led her into the long, narrow room and sat her down in a booth with
tall-backed chairs. "Please stay here. Trellin will be along shortly.
There's no menu; Daneel and I will just whip something up for you both.
Can I get you something to drink? We don't have any wines."
"Coming right up." He disappeared from view. Christiane couldn't help but
wonder how much of the waiter act was affected; it didn't seem like the
kind of task that would earn a lot of respect, yet it was clear that the
waiter had gathered enough with his partner to put together quite a lovely
little establishment on what had to be an expensive piece of real estate.
She sighed. That was part of the problem. She was a good photographer. She
was, she thought, one of the best war correspondents Geographic had ever
had. She had awards and accolades and even museum shows to prove it. The
fact that someone in a job as mundane as a waiter could get as much or
even more attention than she, she admitted to herself, bothered her.
Pendorians, she thought, had a skewed view of priorities.
Trellin slid into the bench opposite her, startling her with the silence
of her approach. "I wondered where you were."
"I see you've Apollonaria," Trellin said with a grin. "That's
the waiter. Don't ever shorten it. He'll just ignore you if call him
Apollo or something like that. You're obviously talking about someone
else." She grinned.
Christiane smiled back, trying to feel the amusement that Trellin clearly
felt. Instead, she felt awkward. She didn't want to tell Trellin to go
away, and her body ached with an uncomfortable loneliness that she had
learned Trellin could easily fill. But she still wasn't sure that she
wanted this beautiful fem around.
"You're not happy."
Christiane looked up. "Huh?"
"You're not happy. I can see it in you face, feel it coming off of you.
And you said so, this afternoon. You said that you hated it here."
Christiane tried to balance what her body, her emotions, and her common
sense were all telling her, and failed. Her body wanted Trellin; her
emotions wanted to get as far away from Pendor and Pendorians as she
could, and her sense told her that the former was a bad idea and the
latter, for the next few months at least, was quite impossible.
"I just don't like Pendor," she sighed finally, looking up as a glass
of water was placed in front of her. "It's so... I've been everywhere on
Earth, done reporting from and Africa and Europe and South America,
done war reporting, peace reporting, I've even done helicopter traffic
reporting in the United States. I thought I would like it here."
"But you don't."
Christiane was pleased to see that the woman of naivete she had known on
the voyage here had grown in sophistication. She no longer asked 'Why' or
tried to explain the Pendorian Way, whatever that was, in defense. "No.
And I don't know why. It's an emotional reaction to a lot of things--
your peace, your prosperity, your beauty. This isn't the kind of place
humans were meant to live in."
She sighed. "Maybe I'm homesick. I can't believe that I would be homesick.
I mean, I don't really have a home. I've traveled all my life, from
assignment to assignment, and my tiny apartment in Virginia is just a
place to stow my gear, including my body, between assignments."
"But has as assignment ever gone on for two years?" Trellin asked.
"Not without leave. Oh, Hell, I don't know, Trellin. The whole thing is
very weird." She looked up into those green, featureless eyes. "I want
to say I'm sorry for dumping you when I got here. That must have been
a terrible blow to your career."
Trellin shrugged. "I'll survive, I'm sure. I miscalculated and became
too intimate with someone who was not prepared to accept the way we do
things and the intimacy with which we often do them. It's not as if I
had planned on being a Terran contact ambassador my entire life, although
it seemed like a good career choice and everyone I knew was telling me I
would be good at it. It's a learning experience. I'm sorry if I you,
though, or did anything that would affect the way you view Pendorians."
Dinner was placed in front of them. It was fish, of a sort, a flat,
white fish, breaded, with a vegetable relish and what looked like rice.
Christiane wondered where it came from and how hard it was to get it onto
the space station. Then she remembered that an SDisk had taken her here;
it had probably brought the fish here as well. Christiane ate for a while;
the fish was quite delicious, but she had gotten used to the idea that
the Pendorian who performed a given task was doing so because he wanted
to see it done right.
"You didn't miscalculate, Trellin. I did. I didn't know what my reactions
to Pendor would be, and you couldn't have guessed them anyway. I thought
that you would be another friend, another lover; I've had so many over
the years. I didn't want your career to be a victim of my insensitivity."
Trellin reached out a mitt and covered Christiane's with it. "I appreciate
that. And I'll survive. It's not like people will remember my failures
unless I keep repeating them. It's the successes we care about."
Christiane felt that ache in her belly again, the one that let her know
that there were some things she wanted Trellin for, even if guidance
wasn't one of them. But she held her tongue and said, "I know. I just
wanted you to have a success on this trip." She looked up and saw Trellin
staring right at her. Even with those vague, indescriptive eyes, she
could tell that Trellin was examining her face closely. "What?"
Trellin said simply, "I missed you."
Those words shot a thrill right through Christiane. They went into her
ears, completely bypassed her brain, and dove straight for her groin.
There was something in the way Trellin said it that suggested to her that
this alien woman didn't care much about intellectual conversation, that
it was the great sex they had had on the flight over that she had missed.
"It's a long flight back to Earth."
"Will my presence on the flight back to Earth be 'tolerable?' then?"
"It won't be Pendor."
"It's an all-Pendor crew."
"It won't be Pendor," Christiane insisted, emphasizing the last word.
"It'll be tolerable." She turned her hand over, clasped Trellin's mitten.
"It'll be more than tolerable." She smiled. Some deep corner of her mind
kept insisting that she stop and think about what she was about to do,
but the rest of her insisted that this was a woman who could deliver
pleasure to her consistently and that's what she wanted. She released
Trellin's hand. "Your food's getting cold."
Trellin grinned and the two of them wolfed down the rest of the meal.
Apollinario took the plates away as efficiently as he had brought them
and disappeared. "Do we just leave?"
"We just leave," Trellin said. "Although I doubt you'll be able to pay
the chef the proper compliment." She grinned.
"Oh," Christiane said. She had heard that before; she should have
recognized it earlier. As they walked up the narrow hallway between
tables, Apollinario and a human wearing distinct chef's clothing stood
at the doorway and bowed. "Thank you for visiting our restaurant,"
Apollinario said. "It has been an honor serving a Terran."
Christiane bowed back. She had done this several times in Japan and
understood the protocol on Pendor, or at least an analogy of it. "It
was wonderful, thank you. It has been an honor dining with you."
Both mels seemed pleased with the response as they rose, and then she and
Trellin were running for the door. "I don't suppose you have a room?" she
"I've got a family!" Trellin responded. In the low-g's of the spinning
station it was hard to maneuver, but Christiane managed until Trellin
led her to another SDisk. They hopped on.
Christiane grunted as the full force of acceleration (she had learned not
to call it gravity) hit her. When the science needed to do transportation
had been explained to her, she had become wary of the SDisks, but everyone
else used them and nobody ever got on one, so she had come to accept
them as another part of life. Trellin was shaking her head as well as
her metabolism adjusted to the full force suddenly pulling the blood
out of her head. "Ouch."
"Yeah," Christiane agreed, looking around. They were in a covered gazebo
at one end of a small park fenced with white pickets. Behind her was,
well, not exactly a forest. More like a jungle. Or a swamp. The trees
grew in almost every direction, most of them making only a half-hearted
attempt to go upwards. A blue-colored moss covered many of them in a
randomesque spiderweb pattern, adding to the jarring color scheme. Yellow
shoots headed down from parasitic flowers on many of the trees, dipping
into the ground. The space between the trees was barely enough to permit
a small dog.
But the weather was warm, and comforting, and Trellin's mitts pulled
her in the other direction.
It was like something out of a Western, Christiane thought, although
the setting didn't fit with the motif. The construction of the
buildings was wood frames and wood sides, long, wide porches with
overhangs, and a distinct lack of doorknobs. A large, white truck
passed them by, silently but for the road noise coming from its tires,
a Tindal in the driver's seat waving calmly at them. The back was heaped
high with black, loamy dirt. Other pedestrians walked calmly back and
forth, many in pairs, chatting. Christiane saw at least one parasol. A
Tindal with a tool belt hammered on a window frame of a building high
above. "Arif!" she shouted up.
"Trellin!" he replied, looking down. He descended the latter with
sure-footed steps and hopped down onto the ground. "So you recovered
your charge, huh?" he said, looking Christiane over. "Good!"
"Only for the afternoon. Maybe for the trip home. I just wanted to show
her my town for a few minutes." Trellin took her hand and led her down
the street to an unassuming home that might have been found anywhere
in southern Europe: pale color, gently sloped roof, massive front
porch made with timbers several inches square. The windows were larger
than she would have expected, an acknowledgment to the almost spiritual
Pendorian affection for sunlight.
Inside, the same theme applied. The floor was bare, the frontroom
occupied by only a few pieces of furniture, including a rocking chair,
all of which where upholstered in simple, unbleached colors. It had
the look of a that didn't know how to decorate and fortunately
did not have access to the empty kitsch with which such families often
filled their lives.
Trellin led her to a set of stairs, and Christiane couldn't help but be
impressed by the solid construction. Although she had gotten used to
it in the year she had been here, the excess of material, the broad,
impressive construction, still seemed to her as something between
wasteful and admirable. These people built things to last. She supposed
that made sense when one acknowledged that the builder, or somebody,
would be using the construction for centuries, and the builder would
still be around to hear about it if something went wrong.
But her desire for Trellin intervened with her musings as Trellin led
her into another room, a bedroom, with a bed that was more adult than
she would have supposed. A simple blue comforter covered a large bed,
a long bed, a bed that would easily sleep three if it had to, and as
Trellin's mittens guided her to the bed she stopped worrying about whether
or not this was a wrong decision. She could leave it behind at any time,
after the trip was over.
Trellin's mouth was on hers, snapping her to the here, the now, and her
own mouth was answering back, her own warming to the suggestion
that it might have its own attentions sometime soon this afternoon. She
pawed at Trellin's blue ship's jumpsuit, pressed her hands to the small
breasts through the material, felt the flat, strong belly of a youth
that would not, could not fade, although it could be abandoned.
Trellin's own enthusiasm flowed over her like warm summertime rain is
Africa. She had danced in that kind of rain, and she wanted to dance
in Trellin's desire as well. Trellin clearly agreed, and as her mitts
went to work on the fine details of opening Christiane's buttons,
Christiane fumbled with the simple blue zipper tab of provocative
shapes. The jumpsuit opened immediately and Trellin seemed to pour out
of it, soon to be standing in this sunlit room naked and glorious.
Christiane had often fumbled with Trellin in the quiet dark of a starship.
Here, though, Trellin was clearly a different sort of animal, and for the
first time Christiane got a good look at Trellin's body. The willowly
belly, the long, ideal legs, all wrapped in two shades bluer than a
perfect summer sky. The broadened, masculine shoulders that supported
her arms, her tens, her tentacles just a bit less than a meter long,
with the mittenlike ending that nonetheless was supple enough to undo
the buttons on her shirt.
Trellin's small, black nose and lips hovered in a face just this side of
animal, and as she closed the distance between them Christiane's heart
began racing. Trellin pulled off her and opened the buttons at
her waist. Christiane eased back onto the bed, shedding her pants like
the skin of a snake, bare but for a white that could not possibly
contain the smell of desire that steamed off of her.
Trellin kissed her again, her tongue against Christian's teeth, and
Christiane let her in, touched her own tongue to Trellin's and tasted the
texture of the alien girl's flesh against her own. A deep and satisfied
moan came from within Christiane, a needful moan, the moan of someone
who, truth be told, had been celibate for far too long. Christiane was
used to being able to get out of the country, get to the city, get to
the nightlife and enjoy it. Here, there was no city to go to, there was
only the Ring, an world with inhabitants few and far between,
and finding a in all that was harder than admitting that
she wanted to find one at all.
She rolled on the bed with Trellin in her arms. Trellin smiled up at
her and whispered, "Are you all here?" she asked.
"Sometimes," Christiane replied as Trellin's mouth began working a spell
of desire on her and nipples. Trellin slithered, furry snakes
upon her body, as she moved down, working her mittens over Christiane's
skin in a way that made electricity surge in her belly. Tension held
court within Christiane, passed judgment, dissolved into a party of
small, collected tensions all their own that whirled down into her
thighs and up into her brain. She moaned with desire, not for Trellin,
not for pleasure, but for a release from the incessant tightness that
had become her unwanted companion since setting foot on the Ring.
Christiane's body arched with need. Trellin, though, was taking her time.
Touches of tongue and lip streamed across her belly, and finally she
remembered to touch back, to run her fingers over the short, smooth
fur of her partner. A shoulder, a side, the dangling fruit of Trellin's
breasts were all is her reach, and she reached out to stroke one dark
exposed nipple. Trellin's welcoming sigh was a message from one woman
to the other, to be here, now.
Christiane put the tension behind her for a moment, let the pleasure of
touching and being touched wash over her, let the intimacy of Trellin's
kisses drive her stresses away for just a moment. As Trellin's mouth
dropped between her opened thighs her attention snapped into place. It
was impossible to daydream, not when a mouth was hot on her vulva,
a talented tongue probing between her lips, seeking out the soft,
vulnerable places where ecstasy lived.
Trellin's skills were honed on slow, attentive progress. Christiane
lay halfway between gentle appreciation and an impatient desire for
Trellin to get on with it. She felt herself growing wetter. A furry hand
slipped under Trellin's chin, against her intimate opening, Trellin's the
thumb entering her. Suddenly she knew that she had to have more, that
she couldn't wait for Trellin to shove that entire thing into her. But
Trellin took her time, still, and every lick seemed to hint at the end,
at the edge, at a climax that would be a relief.
Trellin's thumb rolled back and forth. Christiane felt the tip of her
mitten pressing against the opening of her cunt, pressing the thin tissue
there wide, opening her. Her body felt charged with need. Trellin's
moldable hand spread her further, opening her. Christiane was breathing
harder, her body relaxed but full of the power of impending pleasure, and
then Trellin's mitten was completely inside her, and all she had to do was
turn it just a little, lick just a little more, and Christiane exploded.
As she subsided, Trellin was already tugging at the opening to her in the other direction, sliding out, waiting for the different tension,
that of climax, to ease completely. Christiane lay back on the bed,
her eyes closed, and willed her body to let Trellin out. Soon, they
were cuddling again on the bed, Christiane's hand now between Trellin's
legs, her fingers intimate with the familiar details of this part of
her blue-furred lover's anatomy at least.
Trellin's responses were different. She became tense immediately, her
eyes glazing with desire. Christiane had learned from experience that for
Trellin, a mouth was okay, the twisting strength of finger were better.
She wanted to be watched, wanted Christiane to be there, body to body, as
she came. Christiane gave her what she wanted. Her fingers dug into the
soft flesh of Trellin's vulva, played with labia. Pinches on Trellin's
nether lips made her moan in ways that kisses to her mouth could not
control. Christiane let one finger between those lips find Trellin's
button, press on it, caress it gently. Trellin became a quivering
girl, gasps of acknowledgment filling the room as she came quietly,
in Christiane's arms.
Wordlessly, Christiane gathered Trellin up and the two of them lay
together, in Trellin's soft and wonderful bed. Christiane sighed and
thought that she could live with Trellin's presence for the trip home. For
a brief moment, at any rate, the stresses were quiet. She knew they'd
return, in lesser forms away from the Ring, but with Trellin there, she
might be able to hold them at bay until she finally set foot on Earth.
That was all she wanted.
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.