| Travellogue, Day 8
Journal Entry 190 / 00916
Seren, Urim 19, 00916
The next day Nickolai awoke to find Furry already up and out. He showered
alone, dressed and asked Dave where he could find her. "She is up on
the roof talking to Ken," the AI replied.
Nickolai thanked the computer and made his way upfloors by the grav tube,
carefully this time. He passed a femFelinzi in the tube he hadn't met
yet; he thought she was attractive, but her chaotic black-and-white fur
made his eyes hurt. She waved as she went by.
Up on the roof he found Furry, Shardik, and P'nyssa Traken eating
breakfast together. "Nickolai," Shardik said cheerfully, "Come, join us.
Steak and eggs. Come, satisfy your carnivore heart." He laughed as if to
say "I have a secret" (which, Nickolai was sure, he did), and motioned
Nickolai into a chair, which he accepted.
Nickolai dug into the dubious slab of meat, tasting it carefully before
deciding he could live with it. "So, have you two kids been enjoying
yourselves? I've already asked your date, but how about you?"
"It's been interesting," Nickolai asked, not feeling the 'sir' quite so
much. "And we've been finding way to occupy ourselves."
"I'm sure," Shardik commented, smiling. "Listen, I don't want to pressure
you into anything, so take your time, take the day easy."
Furry leaned back in her chair and stretched, making Nickolai's heart
jump a little faster as she did so. He noticed Shardik give a small
chuckle at his discomfort and try to cover it.
Shardik noticed that as well. "Don't bother, Nickolai. Trust a who's
approaching his millenial year... It's hard to imagine a better-looking
woman than one who's taking her morning stretch. Muscles defined, chest
out, shoulders back, eyes closed. Truly one of the most appealing sights
in the universe."
Furry visibly blushed at the compliment, then picked up her glass. Before
taking a drink, she did manage to say "Thank you, sir."
"Nonsense... You're a fine looking femMark, Furry. Your mel here
is very lucky."
P'nyssa leaned over and whispered something into Shardik's ear. He
looked uncomfortable for a moment, then nodded. "I have to apologize,"
he said to Furry. "I have this sometimes annoying habit of being too
convincing. I've been told it's very seductive, and I have no intention
of seducing either of you. Forgive me."
Furry seemed to take the information calmly. "My warned me
"Did he?" Ken said, taken aback. "That's odd... I don't particularly
remember attempting to seduce him."
"You did," a new voice said. Aaden came around the corner and sat down,
a small sandwich on his tray. "You made the attempt. It was my turn to
correct you then."
"That was different. He was alone."
"Still, Ken... I don't think you really wanted to seduce Furry's father.
It's just your circuitry is wired that way."
"I know, I know." Shardik leaned over and kissed Aaden on the muzzle,
softly, with a long pause. "See you later, lover."
"You're leaving, and I just got here?" the Mephit asked, chidingly.
"Aw, I've got work. And so do you. See you both in bed," he said
cheerfully as he disappeared down the catwalk.
"I assume he meant you and me, and not those two," Aaden said, talking
"I hope that's what he meant. G'morning, torren."
As Aaden sat down, he leaned over and kissed P'nyssa. Nickolai was
fascinated by the gesture; as far as he knew, Aaden was a with no driving interest in females whatsoever.
"So," the big Mephit said, "What have you got planned for today?"
Nickolai shrugged. "I don't know. Have anything to suggest?"
"We could try it this way," P'nyssa said. "Nickolai, why did you come
"That's a good question," Nickolai admitted. "I'm here because my thought that 'getting a good look at Pendor was a good idea.'" He smiled.
"I bet she's eating those words right now."
"What do you mean?" P'nyssa inquired.
"My is one of those people who views Pendor as 'the enemy.' I
didn't tell you this," he said, turning to Furry, "because I didn't
understand it until you explained it to me. But now I see." He returned
his expression to P'nyssa. "Mom's one of those people who hates Pendor
because every time Terra gets something Pendor has, Terrans give up
something that makes them... Terran, I guess."
"Why would someone like that come to Pendor?" P'nyssa asked, confused.
"To get a good look at the enemy," Aaden replied.
"The enemy now has her child," P'nyssa said, darkly. "She must be going
out of her mind with worry. I mean, not only are you actually enjoying
Pendor, not only are you friends with Pendorians, but it's pretty clear
you're in love with Jofuran here." Her eyes widened. "Not only that,
but you're a guest of the Shardiks. What was Ken thinking of when he
brought you here?"
There was a pause, and Furry said "Does it matter?"
"I think it does," P'nyssa replied.
"No, I mean, does it matter? The point is, Nickolai is here. Other
than coming to Shardik Castle, everything that's happened, happened of
Nickolai's free will. In fact, coming here did too."
"Does my know that?" Nickolai asked.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Furry replied.
"My also feels that Pendorians have such an advanced science that
if you had wanted to, you could have convinced me to come here and made me
believe it was of my own free will, even if I had never wanted to in the
first place. I know how I feel. I want to be with Furry. I love her. Or,
at least, I think I do."
"That's youthful idealism for you," P'nyssa said, smiling.
"Whatever. She convinced me to try this silly trek, to come out here
and see what happened. I got a wonderful walk in the woods with her. I
found a lively, happy home. I've had great walks on the beach, swum
in your pool, gone flying out to the Rowan tree. The sheer honor at
being one of the few Terrans ever to actually touch the Rowan... and
the stone... is incredible.
"But that's how I feel. I mean, I love this trip, more than I can possibly
describe. But would there be any way to possibly explain it all to my
mother, other than having her say you all did something to my mind?"
"Do you really think she'll feel that way?"
"I don't know," Nickolai admitted. "I'm sure she thinks it's a big deal,
me being here and all. And I'm sure she doesn't think it's an honor."
"I think it's an honor, your being here," Furry said. "I'm honored to
be with you."
Nickolai blushed. "Thanks, sweetheart."
Furry sighed, her eyes fluttering. "I love when he calls me that."
"I can tell," Aaden replied smiling. "If you two would like, we have
a pair of Jialani's you can use. They're not skyspeeders like the type
you went flying in yesterday- they're ground effect gravitics. But from
here you could drive to Rocchodain or Carraraug... both are easily within
two hours of here by bike.
"Carraraug... isn't that where the dancing is that Shardik- I mean,
"There is a place there that Skii's really fond of. In fact, if you two
wouldn't mind waiting until about five, I think I could talk Skii into
showing you two around."
"Do you want to?" Nickolai asked Furry.
"Sounds like fun."
"Dave, could you?" Aaden asked.
"Tell Skii? Of course. Excuse me, Aaden?"
"I should alert you that Carraraug is also on the Pendor Tours route,
and Nickolai's tourgroup will be in Carraraug tonight."
"Small universe," Aaden said.
"Not at all," Dave said. "It's Skii's favorite place for precisely that
reason. Lonely Terran males looking for companionship."
"I didn't know that," Aaden said thoughtfully. "I wonder how long it'll
take him to outgrow that."
"Probably as long as you and Ken did," P'nyssa growled.
"It only took Ken four years."
"It took you four centuries."
"Mea culpa," Aaden said. "Did I say that right?"
"I have no idea," P'nyssa replied, throwing her mitts into the air.
"You pronounced the phrase correctly," Dave informed him. "However,
it's use in this particular instance is questionable, since there is
nothing to blame you for."
"Oh, well," Aaden said. "Win some, lose some. I'm not the linguist in
"That's funny," P'nyssa replied. "You know more languages than I do at
"Hi, guys," N'Skii said as he came down the grilled walkway. "What can
I do for you?"
"Going to Carraraug tonight?" Aaden asked
"I was thinking about it. Why?"
"Like to take our guests with you?"
Skii looked over Nickolai and Furry and said, "Sure. What's the catch?"
"You go by Jialani."
"You'll let me take one of the Jialani's?" Skii asked, his voice full
of wonder. "That's a catch?"
"And wash it when you get home," Aaden said, lacing his fingers. "This
"It's a deal!"
"They're all yours. Will you two be staying here, or in Carraraug
tonight?" Aaden asked.
"Uhm, if it's all right with you, I think we'd like to stay the night
in Rocchodain again."
"It's all right with me," Aaden replied gracefully. "Just make sure to
make reservations ahead of time. Something wrong, Skii?"
"Huh? No, no, just trying to figure something out."
"May I ask what?"
Skii looked embarrassed for a moment. "Well, if I find someone there,
and I get separated..."
"I'm sure Nickolai and Jofuran can find their own way home," Aaden said
calmly. Nickolai was impressed with Aaden's... presence was the only
word he could find to describe it.
"Guess they can. Okay, guys, let's go see your Jialani's."
Nickolai and Furry excused themselves and followed Skii out. "What's the
big deal about your being allowed to drive a Jialani?" Furry asked. Skii
looked embarrassed for a second, then pointed out over the railing on
the edge of the Castle. "See that dark spot in the ocean over there?"
"About two hundred meters from shore. Sorta triangular?"
"Dad's fusion-drive F1Ja. I put it there."
"Accident. I was trying to get the engines into a ground-effect mode
and then roll her. I didn't make it."
"Wow. Glad to see your okay. So what's the deal with the bike?"
"I'm grounded. No vehicles for a year. It's SDisks and my own two feet."
"I thought you were 'of age' on Pendor."
Skii shot Nickolai a scowl. "Technically, I am. But that doesn't stop
Granfa from telling Dave I can't use anything in the house."
"You could move out."
"No... I don't think so."
"How long ago did the accident happen?"
"It's been about nine months now." The Felinzi looked a little
uncomfortable; his tail lay on the ground and his ears matted. "So this
is a little surprising. I'm glad you are here."
"We are too," Furry said, squeezing Nickolai's hand gently as they fell
down the long tractor to the sands of the lagoon.
Skii led them down the long tunnel they had originally walked to get
to the castle. "Vehicle bay number two for Shardik Castle," Skii said.
"Ground based stuff. Well, there they are. Five Jialanis."
"What's that?" Furry asked, pointing at a conglomeration of steel in
one corner. Two wheeled, it looked a bit like a Jialani or a skybike,
only much cruder.
"That's P'raine's internal combustion engined Harley Davidson. It's
supposed to be nearly eight hundred years and still in prime
"It looks like it would be difficult to ride."
"It's complicated. And riding it hurts."
"Hurts?" Furry asked, confused.
"It's an ICE," Skii replied. "It's power comes from exploding fuel in
control chambers. The thing rumbles and rattles and basically hurts. It
has no ergonomics at all."
"Then why does she ride it?" Furry asked.
"Because she likes it," Skii replied. "She doesn't need another reason.
Now these," he said, pointing to the brightly-colored Jialani's, "are much
nicer. They're Jialani sixes. Full gravitics, including personnel support.
You can do nearly three hundred kph in these things."
"I think we'll stay below a hundred," Furry said.
"Of course," Skii said, smiling to indicate he didn't think he would be
doing any such thing. "Wish I had a Jialani seven, though."
"What's better about a seven?"
"You can carry one in your pocket. Well, if you've got big pockets."
"They're fully virtual vehicles. It's just a pair of handlegrips. That
and a PFusion microcell. Lasts about six months."
"How does that work?"
"Well, here, let me show you." He walked through the bay to a set of
shelves in the back, coming back with three cylinders, two with handgrips
set into them. "You take this cylinder," indicating the smooth one, "And
clip these onto either end." He attached the two handlegripped cylinders
to the sides of the larger one, rotating them to lock them together. "And
that's it. The center here is the microcell and projectors." He flipped
open a small panel in the center. "When you activate it, one of those
appears. It's all forcefields and illusions, but it looks and feels just
like one of those," he said, pointing to the Jialani bikes. "This one
doesn't have any power, so I can't show you."
"Isn't technology wonderful?" Skii asked. Nickolai thought the tone of
his voice was vaguely sarcastic, but decided not to comment on it. "Okay,
now then. Sit in here. Where are we going first?"
"Rocchodain for lunch."
"Rocchodain it is, then," Skii agreed. "Come on." They mounted their
respective bikes and sped out of the bay, the doors closing behind them.
Skii immediately accelerated away from them, apparently at the limits
of the Jialani's capacity.
"We'll be there in eight minutes," Furry said gently.
"And he'll in three!" Nickolai commented over the intercom.
"So he'll wait five," Furry said. "It gives me a chance to be with
"You know, we could run into my tonight."
"I was kinda hoping we would."
"Call it curiosity. I want to see how she reacts to you, to me, to Skii."
"Are you sure?"
"Not really," Furry replied. "But I guess I want to make sure that I'm
not destroying any chance of you and her reconciling your differences."
"I know what you're going to say, Kolya, and if there's any chance of you
and your getting along, and me still being a part of your life,
I want to see it happen."
"I'd like to see it happen too. But I think I know my mother."
A few minutes later they slowed down as they entered the town limits of
Rocchodain. "What took you so long?" Skii asked.
"We wanted to talk. And we didn't go roaring off at three hundred kph."
"Fair enough. I'm not a patient Fel."
"I noticed," Furry replied. This time, Nickolai was sure he heard sarcasm
in her voice.
"Hey, come on. There's this great sandwich shop over here."
Skii's idea of a "sandwich" turned out to be meats and vegetables rolled
into a stretched slab of raw dough and then baked. Nickolai eyed his
carefully before taking a bite. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Who?" Furry asked.
"Either of you. Why do you all eat such rich, heavy food? I don't think
I've seen a really fat Pendorian yet."
"It would take a lot," Skii answered.
"What do you mean?"
"Nickolai, I'm going to let you in on a secret. A few Terrans know it,
but it's never been a widely advertised thing on Terra. Pendorians don't
have Saman transfer."
"Not impossible. What is the Saman transfer, anyway?"
"It's... well, as I understand it, it's a repeated reencoding of a
person's DNA. The viral mechanism examines sets of DNA in a grouping
of cells, and after a while it goes into a sort of predator mode, where
it causes cells with a given 'Failure to reproduce true' percentage to
self-destruct. The other parts are repair mechanisms, especially the
"That's not what happens in us. Our 'reproduce true' mechanism isn't
viral, it's mechanical. The... 'predators,' like you called them, talk
to each other, keeping a constant record of our DNA. They never have
a sampling period, and are encoded as an exocelluar process during
pregnancy by the mother's system. The ability of our brain cells to
reproduce is part of the primal encoding that went with our being
genetically engineered. We eat a lot because that mechanism, while it
functions like any other bodily function, and is in fact a part of the
blood system, is a heavy-load system, and it needs a lot of fuel."
"It's all... nanotech?"
"Every last drop of it."
"No wonder they don't talk a lot about it at home."
"The grey accident," Furry growled.
"Yeah. A lot of Bamenda had already disappeared before they dropped the
nukes on it."
"But if Terra learned to control nanotech the way we do, they wouldn't
have those problems."
"I know," Nickolai said. "But I guess we Terrans get to go on the way
we're going. As the saying goes, it works for us."
"I guess," Furry said.
After lunch, the three went shopping. Furry stopped at the town Inn and
reserved their room for the night. Tacha seemed honestly pleased to see
They loaded up their bikes, Nickolai particularily pleased with a leather
jacket he had picked up from a custom leatherworker who had an overstock.
"I like the way that jacket smells," Furry commented as they started
They arrived at Carraraug just before dusk. The first flash had just
passed over and night was falling quickly. Skii stopped his bike in
front of a building that was very obviously a hotel. Nickolai thought
it should have had the word "HILTON" sprayed across the front in big
letters. "All the comforts of home," he said under his breath.
"What was that?"
Nickolai repeated his statement, then said "I mean, It looks just like
any other Terran hotel. What's the point of coming to Pendor if you're
going to stay in places that look this... generic?"
"You're an adventurer, Kolya," Furry said. "And a romantic. Must be why
I love you." She pulled him close and kissed him. "You're like me... you
like sleeping in- " she smiled a mischievous smile, "and with- the real
thing. Most people don't... they want to see it, maybe get near it,
but they want to be as comfortable as possible while they're there."
"Sounds like an expensive version of video."
"Well," Skii said, "There are somethings they can't get on Earth. Not
easily, at any rate."
"Like what?" Nickolai asked.
"Like me," he smiled. "C'mon."
They followed him through the doors and lobby into a large nightclub. It
would have been exactly like any other danceclub anywhere on Earth,
except for the rather dense scattering of Pendorians in evidence.
Skii led them to a table in one corner, out of the direct line of the
speakers. "We can talk here," he shouted.
"Well, sort of," Furry said, leaning over to whisper into Nickolai's ear.
Skii departed to the dancefloor as the music changed. He was immediately
surrounded by a crowd of humans, mostly female but at least two males
in evidence. He took an apparent liking to one.
"There's a word for that, in any language," Furry said, smiling. "He's a
slut." She pressed a few buttons on the display inset to the table. "Hope
he has a good time."
Nickolai wondered what she meant by that, since on Terra the word 'slut'
was a considerable insult. "What do you mean?"
"His criteria for who he sleeps with is simple to fill."
"Isn't it mean to say that?"
"Not really. It just means he's acting immaturely... Oh, I see. No, it's
not a moral judgment. He isn't doing anything that risks his partner or
"Sounds like you don't approve," Furry said, thanking the waitress
who brought her drinks. She handed one to Nickolai, who looked at it
dubiously. "It's iced tea."
"I don't know. It's so hard to understand sometimes. Look, in that
book my gave me, there's a section that says that Pendorians are
'indiscriminate' about who they... sleep with."
"Kolya," Furry said, cuddling up close to him. He felt a little
uncomfortable with her this close, and that discomfort by itself bothered
him more. He had said "I love you," to this... woman... and now he was
discomfited by her presence? What kind of reaction was that?
She took his head in her hands and turned his face to her. "Before you,
I'd never slept with anyone," she smiled momentarily, "or made love with
anyone. But Skii is one of those people who's discrimination is apparently
limited to looks and enthusiasm. I agree... that's pretty indiscriminate.
But Pendorians are much quicker to face... reality, I guess. For us,
SANS was never a problem. For you, SANS is no longer a real problem,
but you don't use logic to arrive at that conclusion. My dad was
right... Terrans use guilt, shame- emotion- to control themselves."
He wrapped his arms around her awkwardly. She leaned up against him.
"I don't know," he said.
"You're bothered by something."
"Can we go sit somewhere?"
"Yeah." They rose together to walk out, filtering past the erratic
and enthusiastic dancers lining the floor. The entire room was packed
wall-to-wall with Terrans and Pendorians. Nickolai was stepping through a
particularly dense crowd of people when he felt a sudden, confusing pain
in his side, followed by an intense wave of nausea. He stumbled and fell.
"Nickolai?" he heard Furry call over the music. He reached behind
himself and felt something cold in his back. He tugged at it, and it
came out painfully.
"Kolya, are you okay?"
"Furry..." he gasped, looking up.
"Oh.mi.fa," she said slowly. She shouted something in Pendorian so fast
he couldn't make it out at all, but the music immediately stopped and
the room was floodlit with white. "Medical emergency, to the Carraraug
hotel, stat! Cutters authorized, I take responsibility."
Nickolai wondered what she was talking about. His cramps weren't bad
enough to warrant an emergency? He'd feel so much better if he'd just
The Journal Entries of Kennet R'yal Shardik, et. al., and Related Tales
are Copyright (c) 1989-2000 Elf Mathieu Sternberg. Distribution limited
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