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Journal Entry 00110 161 000 Gravity



Journal Entry 161 / 00110

Anar, Cerim 14, 00110

July 20, 1994

Z'Razzi tried not to look nervous as he boarded the Terran shuttlecraft.
He had volunteered for this mission. It shouldn't have bothered him.
Nobody yet had been hurt aboard the Freedom, but that didn't mean it
wasn't a leaky, noisy, dangerous place to visit, much less live in for
the next couple of months. He had expected to be nervous, but as the
airlock closed he found himself gripping the chair with knuckles tighter
than he would have liked to admit.

"Sir?" The voice came from Specialist Hunter, a physician and the person
he would be seeing the most during his six-month rotation. "Are you okay?"

He turned his head to see her. "I think so, Specialist Hunter. I am not
accustomed to your transportation."

"You can call me Doctor Hunter, Sir. Or just Doctor. Or Doc. How about
just Shashi? 'Specialist Hunter' is way too formal, Specialist Zajhar."

He was impressed by her pronunciation of his name. "Then you must call me
Raz, Shashi." He immediately felt better using her chosen name. It would
reduce the impossible formality that would exist between him and this
person with whom he would be living, and from whom he would be enduring
endless pokes, needles, and probes. On the other hand, it meant that he
would be on more intimate terms with her. He was not prepared for that
at all. "I am sorry."

"For what?" she asked. "Being nervous? I'm scared to death, Raz. I've
never been in space before, and now I'm about to do a six-month rotation
on the Space Station as its chief medical officer. And I don't need to
remind you that the Station is a million parts all built by the lowest

Raz nodded, understanding perfectly what she meant. He understood that
"the lowest bidder" still had to meet certain safety requirements,
and that the lowest bidder in each and every case had run over budget
anyway, but that didn't make him any more comfortable. "I believe we
will survive."

"I'm sure we will," she said. "The Russians did. Spacelab did, even
if nobody wants to talk about it. I never did understand why we gave
Mir the benefit of the doubt as the first manned space station. What
was Spacelab?"

"An experiment?" Raz offered.

"They're all experimental," Shashi replied. "And they will be until
people are born, and die of old age, in them. And probably not until a
few generations after that will we get used to the idea that some people
will live out their whole lives never visiting the Earth." She smiled. "I
can't wait."

"Nor can I," he admitted. "I wonder what will happen after that, though.
What would be humanity's next evolutionary stage? Do you have one planned
out? I don't think we do, on Pendor."

"I don't think you can plan one out."

"No? That strikes me as odd. We plan many things out-- our agricultural
expectations, our educational plans, our construction schedules."

"We can't plan those things out at the top levels," Shashi replied. "It
just isn't in the nature of our governments to plan that far ahead,
unless maybe for war. Planning for peace isn't something countries
do. They just live with it when it happens."

"I have come to understand that," Raz replied with a smile. "I can
understand why your species hasn't yet begun to plan its future as a
whole. Maybe it is because there are many futures available to you and
you will choose more than one of them."

"What about Pendor, then? Does it have a future?"

Raz found himself surprised that he would be engaged in such a
conversation so readily, but he was happy for the distraction. And it
meant that at least one member of the crew accepted him as a fellow, if
only for now, if only conditionally. He tried to answer the question as
best he could. "It has a future, certainly. But if there is a plan for
that future, I don't know of it. I haven't even seen the matter debated
in the media and you would think that it would show up there."

"Huh," Shashi commented. She tapped on the thin-screen monitor by her
arm rest. "Hey, do you play chess?"

"I do. Not very well."

"Then we're even," she said. "Pull up a game. It's 'xboard' on the menu."


They were thirty-one moves into the game when the shuttle docked with the
station. Raz had actually found Shashi a formidable opponent, although
the computer judged both of them only as fair players.

Raz thanked the pilot, whose name he could not recall, and wriggled his
way through the airlock and into the ISS Freedom. "Permission to come
aboard?" he asked.

"Permission granted, Specialist Zajhar," said a large block of a human
mel. He held out his hand. "Commander York Lutz. This is my second,
Brad Burien. It is an honor to have you."

Zajhar seized the human's meaty paw in his own and shook with familiarity.
He had gotten used to this interim ritual between privacy and intimacy.
"I'm happy to be aboard."

"And we're very honored to have you with us." Raz knew what he meant. The
tensions between Pendor and Terra had become serious since the death of
Donna Lewis Shardik. 'Death' wasn't the right word. 'Murder' was closer
to the truth. Raz understood; he was here to help mend fences.

Lutz continued, "Your equipment is being offloaded from the shuttle
right now. I understand that the reactor you will be installing has a
lifespan of thirty years, right?"

"That is correct."

"And is that based on usage patterns, or is that just the lifespan of
a typical Pendorian fusion reactor?"

"That's the lifespan regardless of usage. It has a maximum output that
cannot be exceeded, and whether you use it or not, it will shut down in
thirty years. You're free to disassemble it after that, if you wish. It
will be somewhat radioactive, however; we recommend dropping it into
the sun."

Commander Lutz stroked at his chin. "Well, we'll get you settled in
in just a moment." He turned his attention to the next person, Shashi,
and performed much the same ritual. "Now that both of you on are board,
Brad will show you to your bunk."

"If you'll follow me?" said the other mel, a slightly more compact version
of the commander. As they were led down the tube, the second pointed to
various facilities-- communications stations, water stations, the hygiene
closet, rescue facilities, emergency centers, and the like. Raz took
careful note of the placards set in many places indicating where to go
and what to do if there was an emergency. He had trained in Houston, of
course, but there was a difference now that he was free of gravity. They
left Shashi behind at her own quarters in a different module. He would
have to find his way around with a reference to 'up' or 'down.' He felt
that it presented a greater challenge than he had anticipated. And every
time he thought about the thin metal shell that protected him from the
hard vacuum of space his heart sped up with alarm.

"This is your living space," Lt. Commander Burien said to Raz as they
glided into a room near the center of the space station. "This is the
US Habitation Module, your home for the next six months." He pointed to
a dark, red flap of canvas over a scaffold-like frame. "You're there,
next to Specialist Chang. He's in Research 3 right now."

A grunt came from the curtained box besides the one Burien had indicated
for Raz. "No I'm not. I'm trying to sleep!" A hand reached out under
the curtain, undoing a few spaced snaps, and a head peaked out. "Hey,
you're Specialist Zahjar!"

"And you must be Specialist Chang," he observed.

"Yossi," the man replied. "Please, call me Yossi."

"I'm Raz, then."

"I'm going back to sleep," Yossi replied, as if nothing interesting were
happening outside.

Burien, however, took a moment to rap on the metal of the frame. "Yoss,
were you up all last night again?"

A deep sigh came from behind the curtain. "Yes. I needed to stay up and
watch the iridium metallurgic process myself."

"That's what cameras and computers are for, Yoss. What if there's an
emergency? Command needs you to be at full capacity when you're awake."

Yossi stuck his head out of his compartment. "Yeah, I know. But I have
an obligation..."

"Which you can meet and still get enough sleep." Brad pushed Yossi's head
back into the compartment in what Raz hoped was a playful gesture. Yossi
grumbled something in a language Raz didn't recognize and rebuttoned
his compartment.

He found his own box, a compartment little larger than a coffin, with
netted bags for his personal equipment, not that he had any other than
the clothes on his back, the spare set, and the fusion system being
unloaded from the Atlantis. The only consideration he had was his uPadd,
this one custom-built with an incredible amount of memory, a rarity on
Pendor where constant contact with AIs made such extravagance unnecessary.

"Hygiene facilities?" he asked Burien.

The officer indicated a small closet at the end of the cylindrical space
with both a hose and a fan. "It keeps the water flowing in one direction.
The same is true of the heads, which use airflow to keep everything in
one place after you've gone. Everything is quite well-sealed here."

As he spoke, a red ball about fifteen centimeters in diameter floated
into the room. It hummed very gently as it slid by. In the front of it
were three small glass ports, one of them clearly a light of some sort
not now illuminated. "Ah, one of the maintenance robots," he said. "I
was told about these, but they don't work on Earth so I didn't get to
see one in operation."

"Right," Burien said. "Drone, attention." The red ball stopped in
midair. "Illuminate the exit." The light on the ball came on, and it
sailed towards the hatchway Raz and Burien had come through. "Cease
illumination. Resume previous task. End command." The light went
off and the ball floated back into the sleeping chamber intent on
something. "They'll respond to your orders if you need them. They make
very useful flashlights, for one thing. And with their vacuum cleaner
port keep the place dust-free."

Raz nodded. He didn't need the tour right now; it had been a long flight
from the Pendorian vessel to this one, and right now what he wanted most
of all was sleep. "If you don't mind, Sir, I'd much rather just head to
bed right now."

"Be my guest. Orientation is in nine hours. You know the rest."

Raz nodded as he hauled himself into the cubicle next to Yossi's. He
was grateful Yossi didn't snore. Then he was out.


Over the next four weeks he learned that the Space Station crew got along
well because they wanted to as much as because they had to. These were
people much like the crew of the Pendorian starships that had brought
him here; they wanted to be in space and any personal difficulties would
be put aside to make that happen. The two fems on board were treated
like members of the crew, although it was obvious to anyone who cared
to observe that Cosmonaut Helenka was engaging in some serious off-duty
recreation with Astronaut Burien. Shashi, on the other hand, fended off
the attentions of the others in the station.

"You're always so quiet," she said to him. "You never say a word. Not even

"Do the others say ouch?"

"Some do, some don't. Doesn't the daily draw hurt?" she asked.

"It does, of course." He rubbed his arm where she had withdrawn the
needle. "And shaving that patch is not something I would prefer to do."

"And you have to do it every day."

He nodded. She smiled and patted him on the muzzle. "I'm grateful that you
decided to come on this mission, Raz. You make the mission more exciting.
And it's rewarding to consider that very soon we will be able to ditch
the solar panels."

"Are they that troublesome?" he asked. "It seems to me like an excellent
alternative power supply. It is the one used on Pendor."

"Solar?" she asked. "I thought you guys used fusion."

He shook his head. "All non-mobile power comes off a regionwide power
grid. The grid is fed by solar panels in orbit around the sun."

"How does the power get to the ground?"

"Microwave beams aimed at several isolated reception stations along the
rim wall of the outer ring."

"I see..." she said, letting her thoughts trail off. "A defensive weapon?"

"I can see that it could be used for that, although I would not have
thought of it if you hadn't mentioned it. Thus far there is nothing to
defend ourselves from, but that may change in the future. No, it will
change. You will get into space, and when it is a commodity, there will
be those among you who will make it dangerous."

She sighed. "You're probably right. I can't help but wonder if Burien and
Helenka will make a kind of detente' in their own right." She looked into
his eyes. "You're so much better than that, Raz. You're not a walking
bundle of testosterone."

"No, but I am a walking bundle of a closely related molecule that serves
the same purpose in my species." He grinned to cover up the nervousness
he felt. He did not really want this conversation going in its current
direction. "It just would not be proper to express it here. We must live
with each other for another one hundred and fifty days. I would not want
to jeopardize the smooth functioning of this station."

"It would not jeopardize anything," she said, her voice dropping down
below where microphones would probably pick it up. "It would just be
another way to exercise, let off some steam, and relax."

"I do not get that impression from the briefing. It was very clear on
our responsibilities towards one another. And it was very clear that
NASA is not interested in experiments of that nature." And although he
was reluctant to admit it and show a kind of ignorance in front of a
Terran, he was not familiar with such experiments himself. Although,
he admitted to himself, if he had to schedule such experiments, Shashi
would surely be the person to do them with. He was less inclined towards
the other members of the crew. Yossi was the only other one to whom he
was attracted, but even there he would not know how to proceed. Not that
Yossi showed the slightest interest in males.

"No, what it said was that NASA is not prepared to delve deeply into the
private lives of the very professional and very human people it puts
into space." Her hand touched his arm gently, in a manner completely
other than the one she used when she was drawing blood. This time,
it started his blood pumping faster. "Would you, could you, with a human?"

His mind raced with the possible consequences of such a decision. He
didn't know if he wanted to get this involved. He didn't know what would
happen if he proved to be a failure.

He found himself caught between the Pendorian reputation for sensuality
and his own history of reluctance, between the Pendorian character of
honesty and openness, and the developing rivalry between Terra and Pendor.
He decided one last dodge. A simple one. "What if it doesn't work?" he

"If it doesn't work I won't have any hard feelings. Come on, Raz, you
can't tell me that in the month you've been here you haven't learned how
to jag off in complete silence?" He nodded, feeling the tips of his ears
warm with the suggestion. "If you think that's hard," she said, "consider
that I didn't get to bring a vibrator with me, I'm no good with my hands,
and I haven't got a boyfriend up here." She floated closer to him. "I hope
I'm not presuming too much when I hope that you're good with that tongue."

"I would not know."

She looked at him with a curious glance. "You've never gone down on a
woman?" She quickly corrected herself. "Or any female?"

Caught, he admitted, "I have never done anything with any fem, Shashi. Or
any mel."

"How old are you?" she asked, surprised.

"Forty-two years, Terran."

"And you've never done anything with anyone?" She floated close to him,
looking him over. "Why? Or, I mean, why not?"

"The opportunity never really presented itself. I was an engineer, a...
what do you call it? A 'geek.'" He paused. "And while that is no stigma
where I am from, it meant to me that I spent most of my time on my
interests. Having a relationship never moved up in my priorities."

"Can I make it move up now?" she asked.

He felt a tension across his shoulders. "Do I dare?"

"Like I said, no hard feelings if we don't have fun. I'm trusting you
not to be some crazed rapist, not that that's possible after all the head
shrinkage they did at Houston." She smiled at him in a distinctly new way.
"What do you say?"

He reached out and touched her cheek with the furred back of his hand. She
reacted with surprising warmth, tilting her head to make the contact
more solid, closing her eyes as she did so. "I would like to try."

She glanced down at her watch, then reached for a small pouch in one of
the storage boxes. "Then come with me. I'd like to show you something."
She floated up towards the hub, and then back towards Connective Node 1,
then down to Pressurized Mating Adapter 3. "Remember the other part of
your cargo? It was more living space." Where PMA3 had been was now a
standard hatch, through which he could see a relatively huge open space
that the two of them glided into. "This is the pressure-maintained tent
that we got. The walls are made of the same stuff as our suits, only in
more layers. Nobody's using it yet and it's meant as a rec-room of sorts,
so let's recreate."

She turned to him. "Now, while everybody else is asleep..." She pulled
him close. "Have you ever kissed anyone, Raz?"

"Just my mother," he admitted with a grin.

"Oh, boy," she said with gentle exasperation, then kissed him lightly on
the muzzle. His body reacted strangely to the touch, with impulses both
wanting and scared, and he supposed that that was normal. He kissed her
back; he seemed to know what to do, if only by applying what he had seen
in Terran movies.

He didn't know quite what to do when he felt her tongue against his mouth.
He tried to return the favor as best he could, touching her tongue and
lips delicately with his own. That worked, if her reaction was anything
to judge.

They floated together in the vast and empty recreation room. Her hands
found the zipper of his jumpsuit. With an efficient zzip! she peeled his
clothes off of him with the expediency of a starving person peeling a
banana. He was left with just a pair of shorts covering his erection. "I
appear to have let the cat out of the bag," she said, her hand reaching
for his shorts.

"Wait," he said. "I would like to see you naked, too."

"Take those off, then. And hold my hand." She held out her hand and he
took it. She unzipped her own suit and shrugged her way out of it until
it hung on the one wrist that he held clasped in his own. "Take the other
hand," she said. He reached for it and she broke the grip on the first.
With her one free hand, she grabbed the small mysterious pouch out of
the pocket, then pushed her clothes away from the two of them.

She was a small woman of dark skin and black hair, what there was of it.
Like most spacers, she had chosen to wear a close-crop skullcap up
top and little more. She was blessed with a fine, full figure and
surprisingly large breasts for her size. Raz wondered where she had
hid them; he would have never suspected such bounty from the clothes
he had seen her in. Her face was average, with a sharp nose and wide,
curious eyes. Only the relative bulkiness of her jaw and chin kept him
from thinking her a truly beautiful woman.

But his detached observations didn't prevent his cock from standing
straight up. He could feel desire starting to burn in his chest, desire
for this human woman with plans of her own.

She pulled on the zipper of the pouch with her teeth and a length of
rope emerged, three meters of thin cord. "Tie it about your ankle,"
she directed. "I'll do mine, and we won't have to worry about drifting
too far apart."

He grinned as the two of them both set to the task at the same time,
drifting apart as they did so. But she had been right; once done they
couldn't have drifted too far away from one another. She pulled herself
to him and in a moment Raz had his hands full of naked Earthwoman. She
grinned up at him. "I intend to turn you into the best lover I've
ever had."

He thought about that. "Will that make me a good lover to others in
the future?"

"Trust me. The skills are transferable," she said, kissing his chest. "You
smell good. And your fur reminds me of a cat I once lived with."

"I like the way you say that," he whispered, getting hotter as he thought
about it. "Most people say they own a cat or have a cat."

"No, most cats own their humans," she said. Her hands were at his sides,
touching him in ways he had never experienced before. She seemed to know
exactly where to touch him, how to arouse him. They eased down his hips
and across his skin to close about his cock. She had his shaft firmly in
one hand while she steadied the two of them with the other. He groaned
quietly as she stroked him. His hands were on her breasts, touching them,
squeezing them softly with just his fingertips. She moaned herself as
he drew a light touch across one nipple.

It was almost more than he could bear, this women giving herself to him in
this manner. She pulled with one arm, pressing her body against his. The
warm smell of her hair reminded him of home, but where he couldn't begin
to think. "Raz," she whispered. "I want you to..." She giggled. "I don't
suppose you'd know what I meant if I said 'eat me,' would you?"

"I've read enough to know," he grinned. With both hands he pushed her
upwards until a thick patch of pubic hair lay before his eyes. With a
gentle kiss he probed inwards. She spread her legs for him. The smell
was rich and wonderful, and the taste had an undeniably sweet tang to
it. It wasn't until he'd already located her clitoris that he realized
he was actually kissing a fem's sex; it hadn't occurred to him that this
intimacy was actually his.

"Oh, yes. Just lick me there," she whispered. "Just like that." He
opened his mouth further and pressed against her flesh, against that tiny
nub that rolled like an appleseed over the tip of his tongue with every
flicker. Her legs tensed and he felt them press against his shoulders. He
needed his hands to keep her in place. The string holding them together
floated just within his visual range. Her pubic hair was wet with fluids
from both of them. Her body tensed, and her back arched against a gravity
that was not there. She came with a moan that she suppressed by pressing
her mouth against her forearm.

"Oh, Raz. You're a natural! But then, I'm sensitive now. It's been too
long since I had a lover." She descended to be eye-to- eye with him,
hugged him, and kissed him, not at all reluctant to taste her own wetness
on his muzzle and fur. "You feel so... good. The fur is wonderful. I
wish I could sleep with you."

"I talk in my sleep," he said. "I'm glad you liked that. I didn't know if
I would do it right." He wanted to touch her, and her skin invited him to
do so. He pressed his hands to her ass. She moaned, "Put yourself inside
me." She lifted her legs as she did so, wrapping them around his thighs.

With his free hand he guided his cock into her. His fingers brushed
against the warmth and wetness, a prelude to the enveloping feel of her
body as he entered her. "That's it," she whispered.

"Yes," he gasped. He knew this was supposed to feel good; he hadn't been
prepared for how good. His heart pounded in his chest, his whole body
yearned to merge with hers as they slid together.

He would thrust his hips towards her, and with her legs she would draw
them back together. It took effort, but it was worth it! Shashi came
again, this time muffling a cry against his shoulder. Her soft breasts crushed against his chest. His cock was close to bursting but for some
reason his body was not ready to come. It was the effort of it, the
strength it took. He finally came with his own, silent gasp of pleasure,
his semen streaming into her willing body.

They floated together then, unmoving. He noticed that they had drifted
close to the wall but hadn't quite yet touched it. He closed his eyes
and luxuriated in the warm feel of her against him, her hands on his
shoulders, her buttocks against the thin fur of his palms. He listened
to her breathing, slowing down as she came back to reality.

He felt something touch his leg. At first he thought it might be her,
or their clothes that had been floating around, or maybe it was just the
string. But then he heard a sound, a distinctly mechanical whine. And
then another near his back, and a third near his head. He opened his
eyes to see one of those red maintenance drones closing in on him,
the custodial port open. The whine he heard was the vacuum cleaner.

He let go of Shashi. "Huh?" she murmured softly.

"Shashi! Help!" He was being attacked by six of the things! They were all
around him, attaching themselves to him in all manner of places. "Shoo! Go

Shashi looked at him, the look in her eyes halfway between concern and
outright laughter. She recovered enough to order, "Drone! Attention!
Self-maintenance. Return to your cubicles."

The drones stopped and slowly jetted towards the maintenance egress. "I
guess they've never seen you naked. They must have been programmed to
recognize you dressed or something. All this loose fur must need to be
cleaned up." She giggled. "They didn't hurt you, did they?"

"No, just embarrassed me." He brushed his fur down where the vacuum
cleaners had pulled it up.

"Next time we close the maintenance egress." She pulled on the string,
and after a second of fumbling they were again embracing. "If you want
a next time."

He warmed to her suggestion readily. This was an experiment worth
repeating. "Do you want a next time?"

"I'd like one."

He smiled. He realized that she was going to complicate his life in ways
he had definitely not planned and wasn't sure he wanted to encourage. But,
he supposed, that was what made life exciting. "I would too."


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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