| Planetfall: Around and Around The Mulberry Bush
Journal Entry 291 / 01024
Elenya, Ring 24, 01024
"Are you going to hum that song all day? If so, I'm going to put in
"Huh?" I hadn't even been aware that I'd been humming. I stopped for
a moment and hummed a few more bars of what had been left in my head,
then blushed with embarrassment. "Oops."
She smiled at me with those glittering eyes of a Mustel. "That song is
I shrugged. "It's not like I meant to make that something of a
species-wide anthem, you know."
"It still is in a lot of way," she giggled, trotting out into the tall
There are few things sillier than watching a Mustel running through a
field with a butterfly net. Sometimes the grasses grew over her head
and all I could see what the wave of the net as she sampled the flying
insects found on this corner of the planet. Every once in a while as I
followed her I would hear an "oof!" or a "hey!" and once a "Come back
here, dammit!" I tried not to laugh... too much. Still, I had picked a
beautiful day to choose chaperone duty, with an alien sun illuminating
lovely waves of grass and wildflowers running over hill and vale and
disappearing into the horizon. And to my pleasure my companion was equally
lovely, a female Mustel named Olivia who managed to put out a
playful and energetic personality despite her four centuries of age. We
clicked well on the 'cycle trip over, and although she seemed to be a
little obsessive at collecting and filling her kill jars, I was enjoying
spending my morning following her about these apparently infinite meadows.
Hours rolled by rapidly and she finally stopped and retraced her path
back to me. "You're not helping, Ken."
"I'm supposed to help?" I asked. "I'm supposed to make sure that if you
get hurt, someone's here to call for assistance. You're the one who said
you'd rather have a 'ganic come along than use a seccor, and you got me.
Besides, I know next to nothing about bugs."
She didn't correct me. I guess it shows my ignorance that I found that
surprising. I asked her about it.
She shrugged. "'Bugs' is a convenient and accurate description. We don't
even have a name for the planet yet, never mind how we're going to break
up the kingdoms, phylum, ect. You know, 'insect' isn't even a subphylum,
it's a superclass under the subphylum Uniramia to include the Myriapodia.
Spiders are part of a different subphylum, Chelicerata. About the best
we could agree is that these are by physiognomy some sort of local Phylum
Arthropoda-- You're not really interested in this, are you?"
"Do you see anything in Class Mammilia I can examine up close?" I gestured
over the meadow.
"Well, there's me," she pointed out.
"I'm sure I could examine you up close," I laughed. Was that a come-on? I
took a drink from my canteen and said "Are you ready to continue onwards?"
"Yep." She took her net in hand.
"Good luck, great furred huntress."
"Very funny." She stood up and struck a mock-heroic pose. "What, Ho! On
guard ye six-legged beasts of meadow! The terror of entomology, Olivia
Larandi, is a'comin' for you!" She bounded off into the grasses again,
leaving me to sputter with laughter into my canteen. I wiped the water
off with my hand and gave chase. Although she was jogging through the
grasses and I merely chose to walk, I managed to keep up with her,
mostly because I would simply walk towards her while she would take a
winding, hunt-and-seek path through the grasses, and because sometimes
she stopped to put something into one of the hundreds of little jars
she carried with her.
"It takes centuries to unravel the mystery of one world in all its depth,"
she said as she dropped a hard-shelled brown beetle into a jar. "Even
now we don't know nearly one percent of what Pendor has to offer and
here we are, thousands of light years away from the world of our birth,
trying to figure out another." She looked up under her wide-brimmed
safari hat. "I think it's going to be dark soon."
"That happens when the day is only seven hours long," I sighed. "It
drives me crazy."
"You and me both," she complained . "Listen, I want to stay the night."
"How come?" I asked, curiously.
"Ken, a two-day cycle on this world is less than the length of a Pendorian
day. We've both put in thirty-hour days back home, and I'd like to stay
up all night and collect samples of nighttime bug life as well."
I pulled my uPADD and called Lance, advising him of our intentions. He
said that was fine and would call back if there were any conflicts. "So,"
I said, "we're going to spend the night together."
She gave me a curious look, then nodded. "We have to head back to the
'cycles. I've got night traps in a couple of formats."
"Then let's head back." I walked in the direction the uPADD indicated.
Climbing over one particularly tall hill we looked down on a misshapen
hemisphere of a gnarled tree that was the only outstanding clump of
vegetation in the whole world of unending yellow-green grasses. Sitting
at the base of the tree, apparently unmolested but for a buzz of incurious
insects, were our two 'cycles, one with a large trailer behind it. Olivia
dove into the trailer and pulled out a couple of plastic cylinders
each about the size of an average liter canteen. "How do you feel about
climbing this tree?" she asked.
I looked up. The tree was very densely laid out with branches going
everywhere. Plenty of handholds. "My ancestors were tree- dwellers. I
think I'll do okay."
"Good," she said. "I need to put these at five different points, far
away from each other, up in the tree. Could you do it while I set out
the field traps?"
Picking up the first one, I examined it closely. "Just turn the bottom
to activate it, right?"
She nodded. "And make sure you tie the top securely to the branch."
"I know my knots," I said.
She gave me that funny look again and said, "I'm sure you do, Shardik."
With that, she picked up a sixth cylinder, larger than any of the ones
she had assigned to me, and tromped off into the grasses again.
Climbing the tree was as easy as I had predicted, minus the annoying
inconvenience of having to brush so many branches out of the way. I
climbed out until I felt almost precarious, high in the branches of
the tree, and tied down the first one. Then I retrieved the second,
and found another spot.
On the fifth try, night had started falling with all the speed of a steel
curtain. Olivia had returned several times while I was up in the tree and
now was off again in the grasses somewhere, setting up another trap. I
tied the fifth one and began making my way down when I miscalculated my
footing. The branch I was using gave way and I pitched forward, landing
painfully on the branch in front of me. "Oof!" I scrambled for
control, but there was nothing to grab onto. I swung to left and slid
off the branch, falling with a shout. Thinner branches whipped past
me as I fell but they also slowed my descent. I landed with another
"Oof!" As I tried to clear my head and brush away the leaves, my ankle
throbbed painfully to get my attention. "Oh, Hell," I growled.
"Are you okay?" Olivia asked, bounding back through the grass.
"I twisted my ankle. It might be sprained." I pointed up. "I fell."
"I heard that." She looked up. "Still, you got the trap in place. The
only question now is, how do we get it down? How bad's the ankle?"
Typical scientist. I'm lying here maimed and the first thing she's
interested in is her work. "Get me the medkit from my bike, would you?"
She retrieved the instrument in question and handed it to me. A quick
look through the neutrino imager revealed that the ankle had momentarily
dislocated and returned, but nothing was torn. That didn't stop it from
hurting immensely. "Get me a splintcuff, would you?"
"It's in the box next to you. I figured you would need it either way."
"Smart fem," I said, opening the box and programming the cuff for an
ankle. It twisted itself into the proper shape and I eased it over my
foot and into place. Then, with a touch to the medkit, it solidified into
a functional restraint that would keep me from stressing the ankle. I
sighed and leaned back against the trunk of the tree. "Ouch."
"Oh, come on," she said. "I thought your kind liked pain."
"That joke is so old!" I said, getting back at her for earlier.
"I was only joking," she pointed out.
"I know. But I'm as tired of hearing it as you are of hearing that
She looked down at the bright blue cuff about my ankle. "Do you want to
head back and have a real doctor look at that?" She tapped the side of
her head thoughtfully. I felt warmed by her concern. "I mean, I can come
back and retrieve that traps. Or if they're too full I could reset them."
I reached up and took her hand. "Olivia, my lovely weasel, I am a real
doctor. I just don't advertise that much. I think my ankle will be
okay. I just shouldn't walk on it very much."
She nodded. "How are we going to get the traps down?"
"We'll shoot them."
"Trust me. I'm a really good shot, and none of them are more than five
meters away. I could easily shoot the line down with my pistol."
Her expression told me she still thought that was an at least dubious
proposition, but she didn't have anything better. As night fell we camped
out under the tree, trading self-warming packages of field rations and
cups of hot tea. "Sorry about your ankle," she said.
"Nothing to be sorry about," I said. "My stupid accident."
She sighed and looked down at her dinner. "Do you ever wonder," she began,
"Why we're here?"
I figured she wasn't asking about why were on the expedition. "A lot,"
I started. "I don't have any answers yet. Well, I have a few, but they're
all based on assumptions, not facts."
"I... I'm not really sure." For some reason, I felt very uncomfortable
talking about this subject with her. "I mean, I think I'm here to make
other people's lives worth living. And that very act makes my life worth
living. But that's just an assumption, you know?"
"Does making a new species make everyone else's life worth living?"
I smiled uneasily. "I think so. It makes my life more worthwhile, at
any rate. I want to bring beauty into the world. Beauty and intelligence
and diversity and caring. Something I try to give every individual in a
tliel, and even in the hrairs." I smiled and tried to change the subject.
"Something I see I succeeded with in you."
She looked away, shaking her head. "You're an impossible man, Kennet
"I like you, Olivia," I said, waving my hand dismissively. "You don't
treat it as some sort of great honor that I'm your chaperone."
"It's nice to be liked, especially by you," she said. "But I know how
you want to be viewed, and I know enough about you to appreciate your
warts as well as your successes." Her eyes were thoughtful. "You've
changed the subject."
I snapped my fingers. "Damn, I was hoping you wouldn't notice. Okay,
Olivia, why do you think we're here?"
"I'm here... to find out what there is to life. I don't think there's an
answer, Ken." She touched her chest, looking down. "If it weren't me,
Olivia Larandi, saying these words to you, it would be someone else,
maybe of a different species, saying them. I can't imagine my... my
spirit is so unique that I'm the only one to ever have this privilege."
"No, you're not. Not now, not in the future either. I think you'll ask
it of other people--"
"Already have," she interrupted.
"Yah, see? And other people will ask it of me. All we can do is accept
each other's answers. I'm here to make the universe an interesting place
from the center. Other people want to go to the edges to see what makes
it interesting to them. I think, if there is a God, he wants his creation
to live fulfilled."
She nodded, sliding up beside me to lean against the tree trunk. I put
my arm around her and held her close. "Thanks," she said.
"What are you feeling, Olivia?"
"Awed." She pointed out under the canopy of the tree, out to the millions
of stars that dotted the unpolluted sky. "All those stars out there,
and every fiftieth or so has life. And every fiftieth or so that has
life has sentience on it, or so it seems. Or had, I suppose, since I'm
counting those four species that left us nothing but ruins. It's all
one big wonder. I... I want to know it all."
I petted the top of her head, my hand trailing down to the small of her
back, then back up to stroke again. "I do too."
"Ken?" she asked.
"Totally different subject, but... earlier you said that in me you saw
beauty and intelligence and caring. Do you really?"
"I really do. Does it mean more, coming from me?"
"Yeah," she sighed. "It does... a little."
"Then I'm glad I could tell it to you." I let my hand stray down her back
until I found her tail and followed that down as well. As I did so, I let
my fingers close down and paid some close attention to the bone structure.
"You're not a Nivali."
"No, a Frenata," she said. "It's not easy to tell the two apart."
"Apparently not, and to think I made you," I chuckled.
"That feels good." She looked up at me and said, "Would you be surprised
if I told you I would like to sleep with you... but I'm afraid to?"
I paused for a second, thinking about my answers. "Surprised? I'm not
sure. Some people do just because of who I am without knowing anything
about me. Other people have better reasons. I wonder if you have a good
reason or not. But why would you be afraid of me?"
"A couple of times today we... we made jokes about your being a
sadomasochist. I tried that once and I didn't like it. I know how you
folks are always talking about the difference between good pain and bad
pain, but, to me, it just hurt. You know? I didn't like it and I didn't
want it to hurt."
I tightened my arm around her to give her a reassuring squeeze. "Olivia,
I don't expect everybody to like SM; I don't even expect a lot of people."
"But the way you talk about it is so convincing. About the challenges of
the spirit and the journey of the flesh and all that. I mean, sometimes
I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn't want to
take that journey or face that challenge."
I leaned over and kissed the top of her head gently. "Olivia, everybody's
challenges are different, and your... path, to use another esoteric term,
is not the same as mine. Look at me." She raised her head slowly until
our eyes met. "I would love to make love to you, my little weasel. Just
plain lovemaking. Which I do like very much."
A smile tugged on the corners of her mouth as she wiped away a tear with
the back of one hand. She lunged and hugged me close, holding me tightly.
"Thank you," she sighed.
I kissed the top of her head again, and she tilted her face back to
reach her muzzle. Her tongue was narrow and soft, a little pointed thing
caressing my face as she playfully licked my cheeks until I was laughing.
"All right, already!" I giggled. She touched my chest with her hands,
undoing the buttons of my flannel and pushing it open. "Are you
sure the... the bugs won't stick me?"
"As far as I know, none of them know to use their stinger against you as
food; there are no animals, so they haven't evolved a way of extracting
sustenance from creatures like us. So unless we make one angry, we should
be perfectly fine."
"One stuck me when I first got here," I said.
"Coincidence. Very few bites have occurred since then. But they sure do
swarm a lot. Sometimes I feel like they're watching us."
I nodded and pulled her close, crossing my legs to make a cradle of sorts
and pulling her into it, face-up. I buried my face in her bellyfur,
wiping my cheeks back and forth to get the feel of her fur against my
face, then slowly leaned over and licked under her chin. She whimpered
her pleasure, but at my touch or my compliance, I couldn't tell. Her
hands found my hard-on through the cloth of my denim pants and pulled
down on the zipper, seeking within. She found it pretty quickly, too.
She wiggled herself down to where she could get it into her mouth and
close her little muzzle around it. As I watched, she closed her eyes and
suckled on my cock like it was a new source of sustenance for her after
many days of starvation. She was in an awkward position and to get more
of it she literally lunged towards my crotch; I repositioned my legs to
make it easier for her.
I scratched at her body slowly as he mouth did obscene and wonderful
things to my erection. The wetness of her trailed down to the
base of my shaft and down my balls, and the tight stroking her tongue
sent surges of pleasure into my belly.
Then she stopped. "Lift up your hips for a second," she gasped as she
wiped her mouth. I lifted my hips as she asked and she pulled my pants
down to my knees. "You're not going to be going anywhere real soon,
so this is probably the best way."
She straddled my hips, spreading her short and stubby legs very wide
as she lowered herself over my cock. She reached down with one hand and
pulled my cock up until the head pressed against her lips and then slowly
slid down onto it.
I could feel her tight, tiny straining to keep me out and I could
feel the wetness of her juices and her saliva aiding in letting me in.
Slowly she pressed down until her cunny gave way and allowed me to slip
into her. "Yeah," she smiled. "Oh, that's good."
I grinned. "I'm glad you approve."
Her eyes reflected the soft light of our single lamp. "There are few
things I adore more than the feeling of a mel inside me. And you're an
"There are few things I adore more than the feelings of a sweet fem
surrounding me," I replied. We leaned forward and kissed as she rose
up off my cock, then slid back down again. Even she took as much of it
into her as she could, she quaked with her passing pleasure and let out
a muffled moan. "Did you just come?" I asked, surprised.
"Every time," she grinned, slowly sliding up again, then back down; again,
her body shook with ecstasy. I was amazed, but I wasn't about to stop her.
Her was going into contractions that got my attention.
As she speeded up, her hands reached up to grip my shoulders, but I
grabbed them with my hands and gave her more leverage. "I'll stop,"
she gasped, "when one of us can't go anymore."
"Either I'm going to come or you're going to pass out then," I said.
"That's... usually... what happens!" We made love faster, speeding faster
and faster. Her hips were pounding against mine and little whimpers of
pain came alongside the moans of pleasure; she was losing control of her
strokes, going too deep. I worried about her by figured she knew how to
take care of her own pleasure.
Our lovemaking reached frantic speeds and she was shouting with pleasure
almost continuously. I felt my cock tighten and bind; it felt like I was
being wrapped by my approaching climax. She was going into convulsions;
her eyes had rolled back into her head and she was waving back and forth
like an exotic dancer lost to the dance, and suddenly my screaming was
joining hers as I came, shooting into her sweet and ecstatic body until
my voice went hoarse from lack of breath and I just collapsed.
So did she. "My Gods," I whispered. I couldn't believe how tired I felt.
"I'm going to need a nap after that!"
"I... already... do," Olivia panted. "Ohh, that was, that was incredible."
"I'm glad you liked it. I certainly did!"
She nodded slowly in agreement. "Let's... let's get a nap, at least."
Dawn came too early for both of us, part of the painful cycle that we
had not yet adjusted to in the slightest. I groaned and rolled over,
being careful to make sure that I didn't roll over onto Olivia. She
raised her head and blinked. "Dawn, already."
"Yep. Damned short day schedule." I groaned and stretched and she did
the same. For all my years, I appreciated her body all the same in the
tight, tense pose she held at the end of her stretch.
A few minutes later she was peering over my shoulder. "Now, the spent
casing is going to go that way, so just watch out for it if it does." She
nodded. I aimed up into the tree, my pistol out at full arm's extension,
one hand out, one hand pulling in to steady the muzzle. I thought about
where I wanted the little yellow dot to go. There would be no drop on
the bullet at all at this range. Both eyes open. I breathed, aimed,
relaxed, and squeezed.
The bug trap fell to the ground, landing harmlessly in our pile of
bedding. The other four were just as easy. Olivia examined the contents
carefully, assured that they were in perfect condition, and packed them
away in the trailer. After a short check to make sure that everything
was stowed and stowed right, we took to the air and headed back to camp,
real food, real beds, and real sleep.
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.