Bird in Paradise

By Brantley Thompson Elkins

with Velvet Belle Tree

A sequel to Shadar's McCloud's Daughters

I: Ben

"You had a Velorian living next door, and nobody even noticed?"

"She was incognito, but even if she hadn't been, my folks wouldn't have paid any attention. There was a lot going on in Llanview just then. Carlo Hessler was making a lot of headlines -- they were trying to get the goods on him."

"Carlo who?"

"Local crime lord. And then there was Todd Manning, returning from the dead to discover that his true love Blair had seduced Pat Thornhart, and kidnapping their daughter Starr in revenge and--"

"What are you talking about?"

"Our local opera bouffe. Llanview was a pretty jumping place, everybody thought. Made the worst stuff in Philly look like a snoozefest. Anyway, that's why nobody noticed."

She still looked confused, so I tried to further explain the ins and outs of the bizarre denizens of the seemingly average Pennsylvania community where I was born and raised.

"Why are you telling me this?" she finally asked. "Why do you think I have the slightest interest in it?"

I knew it was time to quit. Homeworlders might be fascinated by Terran trivia, but Nikki wasn’t a Homeworlder. Besides, I’d already turned her off once, talking about my experience with that couple on Atlantea – not the sort of thing to bring up to a woman whose sister had fled the Rites.

But this time I thought I'd found the right approach to my quarry.

"Nikki, the thing is, I didn't give a shit about these people any more than you do. I don’t know what happened to them after I left, and I don't want to. I wanted to get out of Llanview in the worst way. I wanted to get to Velor in an even worster way. I'd had two years to think about it, remember?"

"I'm trying to forget. Can you get to the point?"

"I'm getting there. You’re like me, before I left Llanview and came to Velor. Only for you, Velor might as well be Llanview. You're bored out of your gourd, you have nothing to do with yourself -- nothing that's allowed to you by your station. And the things you do want to do are… forbidden."

I realized too late that I'd hit a raw nerve -- one I wasn't supposed to know about.

"What things? Did Mother tell you that? Did she send you to mind me again? She doesn't trust Sara, is that it? Or is this sort of scam? Like, you’re going to enhance me? Make me a P1?"

I saw through the sarcasm. She must have thought I was a pretty poor excuse for a supremis, even an M-class supremis like herself. She was just being testy. And paranoid. She had a right to on both counts, so I just ignored her bitter words.

"Hear me out. You might be surprised."

"You're just desperate to get laid. Big surprise."

 

II: Nikki

I'd known he was a freak from Day One, when we'd been stuck with him as Minder. I just hadn't wanted to know the whys and wherefores. Back then, back there, when I was totally wasting myself.

Wasting myself on him, among other things. Sneaking into his room at night, trying to play head games while giving him head. Somehow, he always managed to kick me out of bed when he woke up to find his dick in my mouth. That pissed me off. I was a true Vel. I was supposed to be irresistible.

And where did he get off, anyway? With that chubby build and the tufts of yellow hair in all the wrong places besides his head, and the terrible freckles, and the pale green eyes – he was damned lucky a Vel would pay any attention to him. And he couldn’t make it with the frails, any more than James could – not make it for real, I mean.

I still thought Ben was a freak. But then, I was kind of a freak myself -- a mere M with P-1 cravings. God, how could I have told Alisa about that? Had she gone and told Mom? Alisa the bitch, who'd fucked up everything for the family when she'd fled the Rites. Who'd broken up the family…..

Sara was the only one left now. Mom had somehow gotten a new diplomatic posting way the hell out on Bering's World. James was fighting in that stupid war on Reigel 5, defending what he called the family honor -- lucky he hadn't been taken out by that rogue Protector who'd sided with the Enemy -- the people the newsnets said were the enemy, although the Aryans (Why did they have to call themselves that?) seemed to think they were Skietra's gift to the planet.

Ben Shaffer was right about one thing: I was bored silly. Sara had me working as a glorified gofer for NFN. She couldn't understand, but it was worse than boring; it drove me up the wall.

They were working on a new version of the Lillith saga, all about her defending those cute spiders on Tetra from the Aureans. She was so powerful and so brave, and she had a man who loved her like crazy. When they weren't fighting the enemy, they'd just fuck and fuck… it made me wet between the legs just to think about it.

Skietra, I so wanted to be Lillith, to be a Protector, to fight the good fight, to save the innocent, to have men reward me for my heroism by worshipping my body.

Not that I wasn't getting any action -- there were some nice guys at the studio, and I could pick up others at encounter clubs. They could scratch my itch, but they couldn't understand my wilder fantasies, let alone fulfill them…

Right now I was fantasizing about granting Koral'ing to some lucky Terran, imagining the look on his face as he realized he was about to fuck a goddess. He'd be so excited he'd come right away, but I'd have him up again in no time, and he'd be hugging and kissing me, licking and sucking and biting my breasts and clit like a starving man, and finally plunging his dick into me -- pounding me into the bed and crying out my name or, better yet, calling me his Supergirl….

 I remembered being with Ari'jis. I'd shared that kind of fantasy with him -- and he'd called me Alisa when he came. Remembering that kind of brought me back to the ground. And it was Ben's story that had made me think about Koral'ing. Now that was a bummer.

He'd better have something really interesting to say now, or I was out of here.

 

III: Ben

She was going to be surprised, all right.

I’d been away from Velor for years. There'd been my unexpected journey to Sanctuary, a world I'd never heard of, and my happy exile there. Then there was that other world, Rostran, which I hadn't heard of, either, and sometimes wish I never had. And now it was allied with Sanctuary, and Klara McCloud was their joint chancellor.

Except for the Kelsorian explorers, nobody beyond Rostran and Sanctuary had found out about the whole thing, and I later heard that The Powers That Be on Kelsor had filed their report in the equivalent of a black hole. Can't say I blame them; all that stuff about the Galen and the Old Galactics can be pretty scary for people who aren't comfortable dealing with ordinary Velorians or Aureans. It had even scared me at first.

Still, I'd gotten used to Sanctuary. I'd settled in. But there was still the mission that Ann McCloud had given me there. The mission that had begun to bear fruit before – all that other stuff came down.

"Brewster?" Myra asked me when I ventured a suggestion for the name of my -- our -- first child.

"Family relation back on Earth," I said. "Sentimental thing."

Need I say that I never had any McCloud relations back on Earth? Let alone any named Brewster?

We ended up naming him Todd, despite what I later told Nikki about my disinterest in that name and anything to do with Llanview. But now one mission was belatedly leading to another. It wasn't too soon to start planning for the future -- the future of little Todd and any male siblings and half-siblings to come. There was one woman in particular I thought could make a good match for my superboy when he grew up.

Now I know what you're thinking. Nikki was 23 years old, and Todd just a baby. But you have to remember that Velorians have long life spans, especially if they’re living offworld -- unless they're Protectors and run afoul of the Aureans. They don't age the way Ordinaries do: just take a gander at Ann. Or that century-plus old major Nikki's brother James was screwing back on Reigel 5.

I didn’t have any qualms about my recruiting mission. I knew Nikki well enough to know she’d get a kick out of breaking in the boys, once they were old enough. Not that I was going to tell her that part, at least not right away. But it would help to have another Protector, especially with Klara spending most of her time on Rostran, while Myra and hopefully the others would be taking time out for motherhood – and we weren’t going to get any through regular channels, that was for sure.

Now getting from Velor to Sanctuary isn’t that hard, if you can find the uncharted wormhole and then manage to make your way through it. Returning is just as tricky. Ann hadn't had any choice in the matter, all those years ago, but then she'd never have chosen to come back. She was an Illegal Person, after all, as far as the authorities here were concerned, and that was that.

Getting from Sanctuary to Velor without leaving a trail was very roundabout. It involved going through a series of wormholes, transferring from an unregistered vessel to a Scalantran transport along the way. There weren't any commercial ships calling at Sanctuary in those days, and the only ones that officially call now are from Rostran. But when I voiced my intentions, the McClouds had helped arrange something unofficial.

So here I was, sitting at a sidewalk café near the NFN Studio in Vest'athy, chatting up Nikki Kim'Vallara. Her sister Sara had gotten her a job there in the produiction department, working on videos and sometimes even appearing in them as a diplomat or even a Protector. But she didn't seem very happy with it. She didn't seem very happy with anything.

That was good, from my point of view.

Nikki was still trying to take it all in. Me, Ben Shaffer, the guy who'd been their Minder back on Reigel 5, showing up out of nowhere, acting like he was an old friend instead of a pain in the ass, which is what I'd always been.

When I called at her studio office, she'd agreed to have lunch with me only because she had nothing better to do. So she'd listened to the story of my life, which she had to admit was pretty interesting, until I backtracked into that stuff about Llanview.

Granted Koral'ing by no less than Xara herself, after being so foolhardy as to try to trade myself for two women being held hostage by terrorists? Xara showing up on my 16th birthday, offering me anything -- anything -- I wanted of her? Only, instead of sex, I'd wanted to go to school on Velor. I thought I’d blown it when she left in a huff after the party, but she’d come back six months later and… wow!

It was irregular, of course. Very irregular. But Koral'ing was Koral'ing. Only, I hadn't fully appreciated what I'd have to go through to get my wish. And if it hadn't been a few Latent genes, despite my decidedly un-Velorian looks, I might not have made it. But I had, even if I came out of it as the goofiest-looking enhancee in the universe.

Even the stealth enhancements by Klara and Aayla hadn't changed that.

Nikki had good reason to think I was desperate to get laid. Myra was up at the Hotel Cosmos; Ivira and Benteli, the duo who’d befriended me in bed while I was stationed at the Protectors’ training grounds on Atlantea just before I was assigned to the Vauld, were out of reach. I didn’t have any valid purpose to visit Atlantea, and I couldn't even get word to them -- some sort of security alert: maybe they were afraid of another Protector going rogue.

That's what I thought at first. Only then I heard talk about a couple of Velorians emigrating illegally. It was easy enough for me to put two and two together. Ivira and Benteli had been planning to escape for years, maybe head for some mining colony way off the charts.

Good luck, I thought. But it wasn't good luck for me.

 

IV: Nikki

“So do we finally get to fuck, or what?”

I’m not one to mince words. Anyway, it looked to like Ben had been mincing enough for both of us.

Ben hadn’t mentioned where he’d gone after Reigel 5, and it hadn’t occurred to me until now that there was anything strange about that. If I’d thought about it all, I’d have figured that he’d just been working someplace else as a Minder for embassy brats. It probably wouldn’t have occurred to me that with the track record he’d had with us, he’d have had trouble finding a job walking dogs.

Anyway, he started talking about this planet I never heard of, where he lived with a fugitive from Velor and her half-breed daughters.

“Like Alisa?”

“Nothing like Alisa. An experiment. An Aurean waif adopted by a Velorian scientist, given the Rites just so see what would happen. It was the Science Ministry’s idea. And when it worked, it was the Science Ministry’s idea to get rid of her. She was only 14, a total innocent. So her father helped her get away. He never knew what happened to her. All records in the case were erased. But she ended up on Sanctuary. She had four daughters, by means most irregular.”

“Why haven’t I ever heard of this?”

“As I said, the records were erased. And Sanctuary doesn’t want to be heard of. It’s very far away from anywhere else, and yet not that hard to get to from Velor. The nearest approach is through a one-way wormhole. That’s how we’ll be going.”

“We’ll be going? Are you crazy? Why in the name of Skietra would I want to go to a backwater like Sanctuary?”

“To be a Protector. Like Ann and Myra and Aayla and Klara and Paris.”

A Protector? My secret fantasy?

He must have seen the look in my eyes.

“And the men there will want you because you’re a heroine, not because they think you’re just a nympho.”

“But these women – they’re Aureans. Or part Aureans.”

“Ann fought the Aureans to defend her world. A world that had welcomed her when none other would have. Her daughters would do the same. Sanctuary treasures its independence, and treasures its Protectors. It will treasure you.”

My head was spinning. Oh Skietra, could it be true?

He gave me a deadly serious look.

“Nikki, this is your chance, maybe your last chance to make something of your life. I know you. I know that you’re more than just a wild kid. I know you want to do something with your life, but you can’t do that on Velor. On Velor, you’re just an ordinary M-class drudge and you can’t do the things you yearn to do.”

“And on Sanctuary?” I asked.

“You can start fresh. No one has to know about the trouble you’ve gotten into … the addictions, the times in rehab, all your wildness and flouting of authority. You’ll be needed there and you can prove yourself.”

I didn’t know what to say to him. No one had ever talked to me that way before. None of my usual glib retorts came to my tongue. All I could say was: “Let me think about what you’ve said.”

We agreed to meet again after work. Same place.

I went back to my office and started to think. Maybe he’s right, maybe it’s now or never. My life was going nowhere and if I didn’t do something drastic, maybe it never would. His proposition was worth thinking about. But I wasn’t really sure how I felt about him or how he felt about me. I had to find out.

I called him on my comlink, the contact code he’d given. Asked him to pick me up at my place, after I’d changed clothes, before we went to dinner.

I left the front door ajar. When he entered and found me naked on the bed he got very angry.

“Up to your old tricks, Nikki?”

“No more tricks Ben. No one has every spoken to me as you did … spoken as if they really cared about me. If you don’t want me … if you want to leave… you can and I won’t make a fuss.”

He didn’t say anything but just started to undress, and I could see that he wanted me. He dropped his clothes on the floor and came over to the bed. He took me in his arms and kissed me, first on the lips and then on each breast, caressing me all over. Then he took me, gently at first and then with passion, which I happily returned.

When we lay quietly together, I said to him: “I think you’re the first man who’s ever really cared for me.”

“That’s hard to believe, Nikki. There must have been many men in your life.”

“Oh, there’ve been countless men in my life. But they probably forgot about me as soon as they left my bed. I was just the most convenient Velorian woman, nothing more.“

We spent the rest of the night exploring each other as two adults, no longer brat and Minder, and near dawn we fell asleep in each other’s arms.

I awoke before him and felt his hardness against me. Remembering the old days, I took him in my mouth and started sucking gently. He had a peaceful look on his face, as if he was having a wonderful dream. Then he opened his eyes, saw me and grinned: “This time Nikki, I won’t make you stop.” He closed his eyes again and lay back, his hand stroking my back and ass. I took his full length into my mouth and sucked hungrily until I could swallow the geyser of his cum. I looked up at him, smiled and said: “I’ve always wondered what you’d taste like … excellent flavor.”

I surprised him by making him breakfast. I asked him more about Sanctuary as we ate. And then I said to him: “You’re right Ben. There’s nothing on Velor for me. I have to take a chance … you may be giving me my last one. I’ll go with you. Maybe it’s not the best place in the universe, but it’s got to be better than here. For me.”

"You've got the makings of a good woman," he told me. "I can't believe how nice you've been -- last night and this morning."

"Nice? Am I going to have to be nice on Sanctuary? Are the McCloud girls all nice?"

"Not exactly," he said, but didn't seem to want to pursue that any further.

 

V: Ben

I hadn’t known how to prepare her for Myra. As it turned out, I didn’t have to.

She’d traveled with me under an assumed name, of course, and remained in orbit at the Hotel Cosmos. She’d had to very careful not to give herself away as a supremis, because with her dark hair that could mean only one thing as far as the Velorian authorities were concerned.

Just in case the walls here had ears, I told Nikki we’d be meeting my private secretary on the Concourse. It didn’t take long to spot her; she really stood out from the crowd.

“Evelyn West. From Kellog 2,” Myra introduced herself.

That was what it said on her chip, all legal and proper.

“Right,” said Nikki, in a tone that indicated she didn’t believe it for a minute. “Ben’s told me so much about you.”

It wasn’t until we got to our room, which I swept again for bugs, that she went any further.

“You and Ben must have fucked up a storm on the way here. He’s a really good fuck.”

“Terrans and Supremis can’t—“

“You’re no more Terran than I am.”

Myra’s mouth was open, but nothing came out.

“Do I look like I’m complaining?” Nikki continued. “I’m sure no one-man woman, so why should I care if Ben isn’t a one-woman man? Just as long as I get in on the action. He really is good. And once I get to Sanctuary, I hear, I can take my pick of all the frails, right?”

I’d told Nikki all about how the four sisters shared me back on Sanctuary, but somehow I hadn’t expected her to take meeting one of them so casually. Of course, she might have reacted differently if she’d known what we ultimately had in mind for her….

I had a chip ready for Nikki; she’d be Abby Faith, another Kellog 2 native, on the way home from Varig. For that matter, I was Ben Smith, same planet. I’d made it worthwhile for the Scalantrans to create the false documentation. They didn’t use to go in for that sort of thing, but now they were getting a bad rep. Maybe it was from taking in Adopts, or maybe they’d gotten too close to the warring powers, learned all the wrong things.

I mentioned this to Nikki, and she was suddenly upset. Turned out she’d seduced an Adopt here, and Alisa had caught her. She had been humiliated, but her humiliation was even worse when she learned that her sister had been using her to abet her escape.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Really.”

We weren’t due to board the Bountiful Treasure until the next day, so we went out to eat and do a bit of shopping. When we got back to the room, Myra wanted to get comfortable, which meant getting naked, except for some silly hat she'd picked up at a Homeworlder shop on the concourse.

Nikki ignored her at first, broaching a subject that she had avoided on the way up.

“I guess I should leave some kind of message for Sara. To be delivered after we clear the system. Only….”

“What?”

“That’s just what Alisa did. People will think it runs in the family.”

“Do we have any choice?”

“No, I guess not. Does that make me a bad girl?”

I shook my head.

“Sometimes we just do what we have to do,” I said.

Including me. She’d learn that, after we reached Sanctuary.

Nikki looked at me, and then at Myra. Her expression changed again.

“Want to make it a threesome?” she asked.

 

VI: Nikki

Guess I kind of shocked them. I thought it was no big deal. I’d done it before. What hadn’t I done?

Ben kept looking from Myra to me, an expectant look on his face.

Myra looked dubious, but then said: “Why not? There’s two of us and one of him and it’s going to be a long, boring trip. Might as well have as much fun as we can.”

Ben now looked even goofier than usual. I could almost see the drool coming out of his mouth. Myra, being practical, made sure the door was locked.

Ben started to take his clothes off, but he was having so much trouble unbuttoning his shirt that Myra and I had to undress him. Then he was like a kid in a candy shop – he didn’t know what to do first. Groping both of us with both hands and his mouth – he was all over us. It was a good thing that we can’t get hurt – he was flailing about with his elbows and knees, poking here and there. After a while, I decided to take things in hand – or in mouth as it turned out. While he had Myra’s right nipple in his mouth, I disengaged his hand from my left breast and slid down. I started sucking his cock, and I mean I just started. He was so excited that he came almost instantly.

Then I got him to slow down and we figured out who should do what to whom. It turned out to be a real fun evening.

We boarded the Bountiful Treasure the next day without incident, our forged documents having no trouble passing scrutiny. I could tell that the security guards would have loved to strip search me, but they couldn’t find a good reason.

Our rooms had the minimal furnishings and no decoration but were comfortable enough. Each had two single beds which could be pushed together when needed. We joined our fellow passengers for lunch in the dining room. We had decided that we should sit together and keep apart from the other passengers. It would be difficult to keep up our pretense at being Ordinaries from planets we knew nothing about if we had any real conversations with them. It was a shame, because some of the men looked interesting and gave me encouraging looks. It took all my will power not to smile back at them. Ben, of course, couldn’t make it with a frail, but with his looks, there was no concern that a frail female would come on to him.

There really wasn’t much to do on the ship, especially since we had to avoid the other passengers. Luckily, you could pursue solitary activities in the multi-media library.

When we were alone and not engaging in sexual activities, we talked a lot. We recounted incidents from our lives – I tried to pick stories I thought might shock them. They didn’t. But they did kind of shock me with the details of the travel arrangements.

“They’re going to dump us,” Ben explained.

“Dump? I asked.”

“The Scalantrans. We’ll go through the same wormhole Ann did, centuries ago. Only we’ll have a lifepod. Captain Leonim agreed to it.”

“Why would he do that?”

“Because he was the one who abandoned me near Sanctuary."

"What was his ship doing there in the first place?"

"Taking a detour. Scalantrans wouldn't normally have entered that system, but they had to avoid a nova on the regular route. That was when they spotted Ann trying to fight off an Aurean detachment. Leonim actually stopped to help -- or rather, dispatch me to help.

"He thought I was Velorian military. Guess he couldn't tell that I looked like anything but. Only I wasn't about to own up to that. Anyway, I was out the airlock, pretending to be something I wasn't to impress him -- and a certain Lady I'd been traveling with.

"But it was pretty obvious pretty soon that I was getting the worst of it with the Aureans, and when Leonim saw what was going down, he couldn’t wait to head for the exit wormhole. Even though that was breaking the Compact with the Enlightenment.”

“I’ve heard only a little about the Compact.”

“And that’s all you’re likely to hear. A lot of it’s secret, I think. But protection of passengers, that’s one of the open parts, Leonim could get in big trouble if I reported him to the nearest Factor General, which is exactly what I threatened to do when I caught up with the bastard.”

“’How can you do this?’ he pleaded. ‘My entire mate-group will be sanctioned.’

“’Tough,’ I told him, and explained what he had to do.

“’But how will I account for the loss of the lifepod? Or yourselves?’

“’Ask your Adopts. I’m sure they’ll have some ideas.’”

Terrans on passenger ships saw mostly the Adopts; they were the housekeepers and waiters and even the entertainers – most people don’t think those huge red creatures are very entertaining. The travel crew stays pretty much out of sight. It’s not like the old days, when the Scalantrans had only merchant ships, crewed entirely by their own kind. And now Adopts are serving even on the trade ships and probe ships – they’re actually better on probe ships because they don’t have to bring along their mate groups or whatever.

At night, Ben spent time with Myra or me, but mostly the three of us got it on together. One night, I thought it unfair that Myra or I had some nights alone, but Ben was always entertained. So I went into Myra’s room early, before Ben could, and surreptitiously locked the door.

“You know Myra, we don’t really need Ben,” I suggested.

She made a face at me. “I only like men.”

“Are you sure? We’ve made quite a lot of body contact when we’re together with Ben and you never seemed to mind.”

“Now that you mention it … Well, why not. I’ve already done more on this trip than ever before.” And she wound up enjoying the initiation into these new activities.

The next night, Ben figured out what we’d been up to and he said that to make up for leaving him alone last night we should demonstrate what we’d been doing. We put on a good show for him and it drove him wild. From then on our threesomes were more inventive and even more satisfying than before.

But Ben advised against telling Ann and the others when we reached Sanctuary.

“They wouldn’t understand.”

 

VII: Ben

"Klara's a bank robber, and she gets to be Chancellor of two worlds?"

I hadn't clued Nikki in on any of this stuff until we were in the lifepod and headed for a soft landing -- or a hard one, depending on how well the controls worked after we passed through the wormhole of no return.

“Youthful indiscretions,” I ventured, "She's really evolved over the past few years.” 

It sounded kind of lame, and yet it was true. Only I realized that it would take a lot of explaining -- and a lot of experience -- for it to make sense to her.

God forbid Nikki ever found out about those monks… Even now, she didn't like what she was hearing. I'd been afraid of that, but then I didn't have anyone but myself to blame. I'd painted a picture of Sanctuary as a sort of paradise where everyone was free and happy, knowing that they had a whole family of Protectors to defend their freedom and happiness.

If only they'd all been like Ann and Myra, or even Paris…. But I had to tell her about Aayla and Klara. She was bound to find out after we landed.

“Aayla was playing goddess on Rostran before Klara,” I continued, trying to steer the conversation away from the Robin Hood business. “She wasn’t very good at it, which is why Ann insisted on sending Klara to replace her.”

“What do you mean, she wasn’t very good at it?”

Boy, I was getting in deep here. I had to go into the recent history of Rostran, and how Aayla’s arrogance had brought that planet to the brink of disaster. I tried to put her in the best light, insisting the oldest McCloud daughter had redeeming qualities.

“You mean she’s the best fuck?” Nikki asked.

My face went red. So did Myra’s.

“She does her job,” I countered. “The first time I saw her she was carrying this reinforced concrete bridge span that could have killed a hundred people if she'd dropped it. But she just snapped it into place on the viaduct. Saved the Ministry of Public Works a bundle."

"What else?"

"She’s a terrific astronomical artist – it was her renderings of other worlds that made me realize how well traveled she was."

"So, is she also the best fuck."

With an energy sword, I thought. But I wasn't going to mention that yet.

"All the McClouds are terrific fucks," I said diplomatically.

“They must be some family. Nothing like the Kim'Vallaras."

"Nothing like."

Well, I was telling the truth there. Just not enough of it.

It’s hard to recruit somebody and not level with them. I hadn’t exactly leveled with Nikki about threesomes. I'd had some marvelous times with Ivira and Benteli, but that had been ages ago. And now they were gone; most likely I'd never see them again. But the memories…..

And then Nikki and Myra had gone for it. I must have looked pretty silly to them, like I’d never done it before.

Secret missions make strange bedfellows.

 

VIII: Nikki

We came through the wormhole okay; all the pod readouts were nominal. That's what Ben said. I wouldn't know about readouts. Or controls, which he set to land us in the wilderness. Safest that way, he said.

It would have been a hard landing for frails; the pod cracked right open. But it was a soft landing for us. We just walked away. Ben knew where we were, and where we had to get to; the only problem was that we had to carry Myra. Well, Ben did – I wasn’t really used to flying. Too much time under gold on Reigel 5. Talk about missed opportunities!

Most Sanctuarians lived in or near the capital, Ben explained on the way. That accounted for the soaring buildings and elevated highways we saw as we approached. The rest of the planet was sparsely populated, but the farms and ranches and fisheries there were owned mostly by the First Families – the people who also controlled the banks and the major businesses and industries. If you weren’t part of the First Families, you were pretty much out if it. Unless you were one of the McClouds.

Maybe Klara had something going for her, I thought, and then said as much.

But Ben insisted that her bank robberies hadn’t really accomplished much. Anyway, he added, she was too busy with Rostran now to go in for that kind of thing,

Rostran. A world of Primes, unknown to the Aurean Empire. It sounded scary.

Ben had never been there himself, but Alisa had. I was thinking differently about her now. We were both deserters, for opposite reasons -- Alisa because she didn't want to be a Protector, myself because I did.

"Do you suppose she'll ever visit us? I asked"

"Not likely," Ben said. "She was with a Kelsorian survey mission, and left the Rostran system with them more than a year ago. That's all Klara knows. Except that she was enhanced. So was her captain, and one of her fellow physicists. I suppose they must have had a lot of explaining to do back home."

"Could I be enhanced?"

"Would you want to be? It might not take with an M."

"It took with you."

"Yes, it did. More than once. It's time you knew about that, too. I didn't know about it till after it happened, I swear. See, second enhancements don't bring the fever. It's the same for P1s when they become Protectors.

I was getting a bit rattled about the way Ben kept springing things on me. Was he still holding anything back? Did he have some kind of hidden agenda? But I really didn't want to pursue the matter. After all, he'd gone to a lot of trouble to bring me here.

So we talked about Alisa and the rest of the family.

Until we got to town to meet the other family. The McClouds.

 

IX: Ben

Ann was in charge of things, pending the return of Klara.

The situation was confusing because, unlike Klara, she'd never sought or obtained any political office. Nobody was bound to even listen to her advice, let alone take it. In any case, Klara’s jurisdiction was limited to matters that affected both worlds – meaning the affairs of the supremis, of whom there were yet few on Sanctuary.

Apart from Nikki, the latest of these was my son Todd. He’d been only a few weeks old when we left, and Paris had been taking care of him, so of course our next priority was to fly over to her place. Carrying Myra, as usual, landing on the balcony of her penthouse suite on the 190th story suite in the McCloud skyscraper and letting ourselves in.

I’d always thought it strange that Myra would pick such a place to live, when she was the only one of the McClouds who couldn’t fly. I was a klutz at flying back then, like the guy on an old Terran TV show, The Greatest American Hero. I still remember the days at that hotel on Atlantea. Of course, I couldn’t fly at all then; it was really embarrassing hitching rides. Here, there were elevators, but I didn’t need them any more. And if the skyscraper wasn’t meant for Myra, it was ideal for Todd.

Handling a supremis infant is no picnic, even for a supremis, and it could be dangerous for Ordinaries. That meant Tommy and Rick, Paris’ lovers, had to keep their distance except when Ann could spare some time to mind the baby. They weren’t happy about that. Neither was Paris. But she had been kind of stuck with the job while we set off for Velor, because Klara was needed on Rostran and Aayla – forget about Aayla!

Paris had been forced to put up gold panels around the floor, walls and ceiling of Todd’s room. That was to keep him from smashing his crib and maybe then the rest of the house. Direct contact with gold could have stunted his development, but the molding was safe enough. We’d had to rip off part of the roof to put in a skylight; the sun was as important to Todd as food, and so we had to see that he got plenty of it.

“He’s cute,” Nikki said when she first saw Todd, now more than a year old, with a thatch of black hair above a cherubic face. He looked a little like me, but not enough to be goofy. Eyes blue instead of green.

Nikki didn’t get to see that much of him at first – Myra and I were too busy hugging him and cooing at him. Motherhood was a strange thing for Velorians. Velorian women could breast feed their infants with orgone, but Paris was usually too busy, so she’d decided it was more efficient to use the energy of the sun.

She’d even installed a focusing lens over the roof and if there’d been a run of cloudy days, she’d retract the skylight, take Todd out of the crib, and lay him on a pallet of Vendorian steel and bring the lens to bear -- targeting him with the concentrated force of solar radiation. It would have killed a Terran in seconds, but the boy just soaked it up like a sponge.

This happened to be one of those days, and Nikki would have to get into the act, stepping in front of the lens at one point to catch some rays. Paris and Myra had to shoo her away. If anyone needed the lens, it was Myra, because Todd was her son, after all, and she wanted to experience sharing orgone with him. She also wanted to take him out for walks, something Paris hadn’t wanted to do and Tommy and Rick obviously couldn’t.

So Paris flew Myra out to one of the volcanic pools to recharge her as quickly as possible, and they shared an acid shower when they got back to remove what was left of the clinging lava. But that was it as far as Paris was concerned.

“I’m out of here,” she told us, meaning that her surfer buddies would be into her as soon as she hooked up with them.

Ann and Nikki I stayed behind with Myra and watched her suckle Todd as she reveled in the delayed joys of mothering. Ann was impressed with how conservative Myra was, and I wasn’t about to challenge that. But we had a lot of other things to talk about, and Ann wanted Nikki and me back at her place to put our heads together. We hadn’t been counting on a fourth head…..

 

X. Nikki

Klara was back from Rostran!

She'd somehow managed to get here the day after our own arrival, even though Ben hadn’t been sure when we’d get here. Uncanny.

I wanted to meet her, of course. You don’t get to meet the Chancellor of two worlds every day. But even if she hadn’t been anybody important, I’d have made a beeline for her, just to get further news of Alisa.

She was busy with Ann and Ben at first. The better part of a day. But she was eager to meet me when she had whatever they’d been talking about out of the way, and she was willing to share all she knew. Which wasn’t all I’d hoped for.

“She came back,” Klara told me. “She needed our help, with a friend.”

The friend’s name was Andre Kalik, head of the physics section on the Anders Flame.

"He’d gotten caught in some sort of time warp at Cygnias 275 – come out of it looking years older, and out of his mind. We were able to heal his body, but his mind still wasn't there. Alisa was grief-stricken. Andre meant a lot to her, or had come to mean a lot to her. But it wasn’t only about Andre – there was something they’d discovered at the heart of the wormhole. She wouldn’t talk about that, even with me."

I already knew she’d been on Rostran, with the Kelsorians, during all the troubles there. Ben had told me about that. But he hadn’t mentioned Andre, although he had disparaging words for Peter Durgin, the captain of the ship, who’d made a bad situation worse by sending an assault team to retrieve Alisa after learning that Velorians were unwelcome, to say the least, on that Prime-dominated planet.

“She wanted us to see to Andre’s treatment, and promised to be back in a few months," Klara continued. "But we haven't seen her since.”

Something must have happened to Alisa. I was suddenly overwhelmed by sadness and even guilt. I realized now that the hatred I’d felt for her was only a projection of the hatred I had felt for myself – or, more precisely, for the self to which my genetic profile had condemned me on Velor. The self  I was trying to escape here.

I actually broke down and cried, and Klara reached out to console me. It was some time before I’d calmed down enough to hear the rest of her story,

There wasn't much more to tell. Just that Andre Kalik was back in good health, although the sisterhood hadn't been able to entirely restore his youth.

“Why is that?” I asked. “I thought the Rostrans could do anything.”.

“No, not everything,” Klara said. “That’s something we all need to learn.”

Conversation later turned to other things, including her son, who was being taken care of by the sisterhood while she was away from Rostran. Nikomedes was also Ben's son.

That came as a shock to me. It was only later that I realized it was a funny coincidence: Nik and Nikki.

"You mean he didn't tell you?"

"I saw him with Todd. He's crazy about that boy. But…."

"It's because he's crazy about Myra. He may not be a one-woman man, but she comes first in his life.  With me, it was a night of duty -- a very pleasurable night, but with a clear purpose in mind beyond the pleasure. Ben is a man of purpose, as is my mother. Call it serendipity.

“Nikomedes is one fulfillment of that purpose. I chose the name myself: ancient Greek for “to think of victory.” Ben can appreciate that, for Nikomedes will become an instrument of our victory over the dark forces that threaten us yet. But he doesn't feel the same attachment for him that he has for Todd. He's never even met my son, his other son. He's far too young yet to travel through a wormhole, and Ben's too….

"Frail?"

"There are degrees in these matters."

 

XI. Ben

It had to happen.

So I tried to explain.

"Myra and Todd -- they're my family. Nikomedes is… part of Ann's family, I guess. Or the beginning of an entirely different one, here or on the other planet, whatever Klara has in mind. I feel more like a sperm donor than a father. A distant uncle, maybe.”

Nikki had still been hanging around when I got away from Ann. Matters of state, mostly Ann’s reactions to Klara’s briefing on Rostran, and my reactions to her reactions. I found it all at once fascinating and repellant. And I didn’t know how to advise her, if advice – as opposed to reassurance – she truly wanted.

What I knew about our sister planet, second-hand, filtered through what I suspected was her over-optimistic reportage, made me nervous. Very nervous. I found it hard to believe that a stable constitutional monarchy could be built on the foundations of what had been a theocratic tyranny.  And if things got out of control there….

But I didn’t want to look nervous around Nikki. Ordinarily, I’d have clammed up about my families – here, on Velor and back on Earth -- but now the opportunity to revisit my life and hard times on the Golden Planet and the Blue Planet came as a relief.

Nikki already knew about all there was to know about the foster mother who took me in while I endured my studies on Velor. I should have shown her more appreciation, because she put up with a lot and helped me with a lot. And now I couldn't even contact her, let her know how I was or where I was. She'd never know what had become of me.

 Nikki knew about that, but I’d never shared anything about my birth family, my Earth family, my dearth family.

“I didn’t have any, really,” I told her.

“Come on. Everybody has a family.”

“Okay, so I had one. But my parents were both killed during a bank robbery when I was 10 years old. Dad was head cashier there. Mom was stopping by to take him out to lunch when it happened. The robbers didn’t think Dad was fast enough getting the cash, and Mom… just got in the way.

“I didn’t find out until an hour after I got home from school. It took that long for the cops to think of it. They’d arrived at the bank just as the robbers sauntered out, and blew them away. Blood all over the sidewalk. Reports to be filled out, media people to be pacified. I was pretty far down the list.”

“That’s terrible.”

“Not half as terrible as having to move in with my aunt and uncle. I was an only child, and they had a passel of kids. I was like Cinderfella to them – had to do all the chores and wear hand-me-down clothes or stuff from Wal-Mart. It’s not like they didn’t have money to spend; they took all kinds of expensive vacations, them and their kids. I was left home alone.”

Nikki really looked shocked.

“It was illegal, of course. But I didn’t mind. In fact, I couldn’t wait for them to leave. It was only when Bob and Rae were away that I could have any fun – have my friends over, skip Bible study -- still had to go to church on Sunday, but that was only an hour.

"The best time was when they forgot all about my birthday because they were so eager to go to Aspen. I could never have had my party otherwise. And I’d have been stuck there in Llanview forever and ever.”

"Why did these people take you in if they didn't even like you?"

"They said it was Christian charity."

We had a different idea here– at least I did -- and it wasn’t Christian. As for charity, that depended on how you looked at it. I didn’t look at Nikki as a charity case. She was an investment in the future, an investment I was sure would pay off. But Ann, after we’d finished with Rostran, had made a point of reminding me of the other investment program, the one she wanted me to get back to.

“No deposit, no return,” she reminded me.

"I've made two deposits already," I pointed out.

"But Klara went back to Rostran to bear Nikomedes," Ann countered, as if that were somehow my fault. "She's raising him there. Or having him raised. We might never see him here."

“She’s thinking of both worlds. You can depend on that. And Nik is part of that. But I don’t think she wants to go through another pregnancy. Not while Rostran itself is in a delicate condition.”

Ann had two further words for me: “Paris. Aayla.”

If only it were that simple!

 

XII: Nikki

The first few weeks on Sanctuary, they wanted me to take a quick course in emergency medicine.

"You're dealing with Ordinaries here," Ben reminded me. "You won't always arrive in time to stop them from being hurt, so you'd better know what you're doing if you're going to be any help."

"Sounds boring."

"It'll sound worse if you try to help and end up making things worse. You don't want to crush people's ribs or blow up their lungs trying to resuscitate them. You've lived among Ordinaries; you've learned how to be careful with them."

"In bed, yeah…"

"Only you won't be under gold when you're on patrol. Trust me. You need the training."

So I took it. Ben was right. Fortunately, it was only practice dummies that suffered until I learned to control my strength better. But the course came in handy that day on the beach.

I was just wandering around naked, enjoying the sun. It was a mixed use beach, meaning nudists and people wearing swimsuits mingled freely. Some of them were really good looking; one man really caught my eye, enough to get my juices flowing, to imagine getting it on with him, when I suddenly heard shouts -- and shots.

Some crazy guy was shooting at a woman, and the other natives nearby were scattering every which way.

I was off like a shot myself, and before he knew it, I was standing between the gunman and his victim. She'd been wounded in the left arm, I noticed, but it didn't look immediately life threatening.

When the guy began shooting at me, I didn’t waste any time disarming him. The bullets felt good tickling my chest, but Ben had warned me that the ricochets could endanger bystanders, so I grabbed the gun from the guy's hand and crushed it before he could get off more than a few rounds.

He stood there clutching his hand.

"Stay!" I ordered, before turning to assist his victim.

She was squeezing her left arm with her right hand, but blood was coming out in spurts. Must be an artery, I figured, so I got a nearby woman to volunteer her halter and turned that into a tourniquet.

The volunteer had nice breasts. After a moment of embarrassment, she seemed to be enjoying showing them off. But most people were looking at the victim and me.

The cops and the paramedics showed up a few minutes later.

The gunman was still standing there like a dork. Guess he was stunned at his encounter with a supremis. Anyway, the cops took him in hand -- turned out the victim was his former girlfriend. It figures.

As for the former girlfriend, the paramedics gave her a shot, and then a ride to the clinic. That was the last I ever saw of her, though the court called me in a few months later to testify against the shooter, so I did see him again. He didn't look too happy. He’s serving hard time now.

A lot of people were talking about me, and pointing me out to others who'd gathered to see what all the commotion was about. The cops and the medics had already thanked me, and now the bystanders too were shaking my hand and praising me with great praise and singing my praises to one and all.

Oh wow, this is really cool, I thought.

A crew from the newsnets showed up to interview me. I hadn't officially gone public yet, so they wanted to know my life story as well as what I'd done that afternoon. I gave them a highly edited version, but there was enough of the real me in it to make for a good legend.

Right, I thought. I'm going to be a legend, a living legend, just like Ann and her daughters. And Ben, of course.

***

The guy I'd been eyeing in the first place -- had he noticed me before, or only after? -- was still standing near me after the newsnets had packed it in and the crowd had mostly dispersed.

He was staring at my breasts, or maybe at the smudges the bullets had left on them.

"They're…. I mean, you're… really--"

"Velorian."

Just in case he still had any doubts, I levitated a few feet off the ground -- just enough so that my pussy was even with his face.

He stared at that, too, and soon I was getting wet. I looked down, and saw that his dick was tenting his shorts.

"Come fly with me!" I invited.

He wanted me to take him to his place, but I wanted to take him to mine. He seemed a bit frustrated about that.

"Do you have any gold at your place?" I asked.

I’d been worried about the gold, that I might suffer a relapse. So I’d tried it a few times here. I still felt the pull, but it wasn’t that strong. I could deal with it. And I knew I wouldn’t need it today to get high – I was getting high on myself. No, this time it would be for his sake.

You'd think he'd know the drill on that. Or maybe he'd just forgotten.

"Do you have a gun at your place?" he countered.

Oh, so that was it. Did frails have the same fantasy everywhere?

We ended up at his place, because mine didn’t have anything that could serve as a firing range. And it really was fun, using bullets in foreplay. But he got kind of carried away; I practically had to drag him away to bed before he finally put down the gun and started using his dick.

He used it well, I have to grant him that. Along with his hands and his lips. But the look the look on his face, the gaze of admiration -- that was what really did it for me. Knowing that I was the object of worship. My cunt began to spasm, and I felt him shudder and then explode inside me.

"Protresk'e!" he shouted as he came. "Protresk'e."

The guy actually knew the Velorian word for Protector. That alone would have earned him another round.

We went for several.

 

XIII: Ben

Nikki seemed to be settling in pretty well.

So well, in fact, that I was having dangerous thoughts. Like recruiting more ordinary Velorians to settle here. Risky business, I knew; Ivira and Benteli must have planned their escape for years, and I still didn’t know whether they'd made it, let alone where they'd gone.

They'd talked about losing themselves on a mining colony somewhere. That was the right choice for them, I guess. I don't think they'd have fitted in here -- certainly wouldn't have wanted to be part of Ann's breeding program. Anyway, we needed more men for that; this wasn't just a playground for myself.

But there must be lots of others like them -- stuck with menial jobs, not even allowed to go back to Velor to look for something better – security plus genetic class discrimination. Not that they’d be eager to move to Velor, or even Daxxan. Life on a gold-free satellite had obvious advantages, but….

There must be a lot of people like them, people who were second or third-class citizens on Velor or Daxxan, but who’d be first-class citizens here. Ann’s breeding project was all very well, and I was glad to be a part of it. But producing grandchildren for her and finding mates for those grandchildren was thinking small. I wanted to think big, think of the future of Sanctuary. Here we were, allied to a planet full of Primes and Kella Primes and Skietra knows what else, and all we had to bring to the table was half a dozen supremis.

Sure, the Rostrans were our friends. Klara kept telling us that. But what was she telling them to justify what was inescapably a confederacy of unequals? Did any of them wonder why they were discouraged from coming here? Why nobody from Sanctuary besides Klara had visited there?

Sanctuary needed supremis. The more the better.

I’d been spending most of my sack time with Myra; she was still my favorite -- she was so sweet. I’d felt close to her from the at first because she seemed to be -- well, more like me than the others, more down-to-earth. But even after my added enhancements…. Nikki was picking up guys as only Nikki could, and Paris had her surfers. And Aayla -- she just rubbed me the wrong way.

Somehow Ann must have figured it all out, because she called me over for a meeting one day. She was relaxing in a hot spring, completely naked. God, she was hundreds of years old and didn't look a day over 30! I couldn't take my eyes off her magnificent body, and pretty soon I couldn't keep my hands or lips off it, either.

I remembered how we had first met, when I had found Sanctuary -- more like, Sanctuary had found me. Ann had been single-handedly defending herself and her world against an Aurean attack and, against all odds, I had saved her -- me the freak who couldn't even fly properly. And so she had taken me home, and then taken me to heaven in her arms -- the same arms that now embraced me once more.

She deep-kissed me now as I ran my hands through her raven tresses, as I felt her awesome breasts, their nipples fully erect, pressing against me. Her flesh, like that of any supremis, was an alloy of silk and steel, but somehow her years and her experience were an even greater turn-on.

There was a saying back on Earth: "If only youth knew. If only age could." Ann McCloud knew, and she could. She'd been making love for centuries, she must know every trick in the encyclopedia, and she'd shared a number of those delicious tricks with me. I learned a few more this day.

"I want you inside me now," she gasped, when we could stand it no longer, and I felt her cunt surround me. She took top position and pounded me into the ground as she bathed my cock in her juices and caressed it with the vaginal muscles and pleasure receptors known only to supremis. We came and came and came, fucking with complete abandon, and that hot spring came to a boil from our exertions.

But it turned out that, much as she'd enjoyed our romp, Ann had an agenda behind her passion.

"You're a terrific fuck," she said. "And I can tell you're not shooting blanks. Shouldn't you be getting back to your job?"

Right.

 

XIV: Nikki

After my first rescue, they gave me this really nifty outfit.

Nothing like the Protectors' uniforms the McClouds wore.

Better.

Something blue? No way! Just red and black. Red cape, a black halter top with a red V cut in front, and a black bottom piece -- just enough to cover my pussy, and held in place by diagonal straps.

I knew the frails would be creaming in their pants. It was better than being naked, because they'd know those were super breasts under that top, and that I had a super cunt under that bottom they'd love to rip off. Not that they could; it was pure vitamatrix -- could stand up to anything.

Sure enough, I got the expected reactions the first time I went on patrol. I was supposed to fly high, get the lay of the land. I'd studied up on geography, so I knew where all the seas and continents and major islands were, but they wanted me to stick close to the capital at first.

Only, when I heard over my comlink about a fishing boat in distress in a storm several degrees down the coast and about a degree out, I just couldn’t resist. I remembered from the atlas that there was an island nearby; carrying the fishermen to shore should be a cinch.

The sky was still calm around the capital, but it was really raging by the time I approached the scene. The first lightning bolt knocked out my comlink, but I didn't even notice at the time because it gave me such a buzz, the energy going straight to my breasts and pussy. Other bolts followed, and I was in Heaven -- but I didn't let that distract me too much. I had a mission. Coming through the storm, knowing that I was going to save lives – that was a real high. Almost as good as sex, and I was hoping for more of that afterwards.

It wasn't hard to spot the boat with my tachyon vision. It was listing heavily. There were supposed to be six crewmen, the distress call had said. I figured I could handle two at a time, fly them to the island.

Only as I made my final approach, I heard a voice next to me, loud enough to carry over the wind and even the thunder.

"What the hell are you doing here?"

It was Aayla. I was speechless. But she must have read my thoughts.

"Oh, right. You thought you were going to save these people. Two at a time, huh? Never mind what happens if a bolt strikes while you're carrying those poor frails. They're safer in the boat, and I can carry that. I'm the one who does the heavy lifting here!"

She was right, damn it. I mumbled as much, but she wouldn’t let up.

"You think you're pretty hot stuff. Ben's latest pet. He's had them before. All of us. Even Klara the Replacement Goddess. Some goddess she is. Yeah, just ask Ben about him and her and the crispy-fried monks."

I just hung there in the air.

"Get the hell back home, I've got a job to do."

I got. The last I saw of Aayla, she was diving for the boat. I heard later about how she'd brought it in, saved the whole crew. Nobody knew I'd been anywhere near there. Which was just as well.

I wondered if Aayla were going to tell Ben about my little outing. And of course I wondered about the monks. But I knew she didn’t like Ben, so I wasn’t inclined to believe anything she said about him. In fact, she didn’t seem to like anybody very much. I couldn’t understand why she bothered rescuing frails, when she never seemed to miss a chance to express her contempt for them.

Me, I’d love to have had a chance with those fishermen. After they’d cleaned up, at least. It didn’t make sense to have that sexy uniform if I couldn’t show it off and then take it off for frails when I rescued them.

Well, I’d have other chances. There were plenty of guys in the capital….

 

XV-Ben

Klara had left, duty calling her back to Rostran. She said she didn’t know just when she’d be back. She was vague about just what was going on there, and if she wasn’t going to tell me, it was no use asking Ann. Myra was on patrol and had left Todd with Paris again.

Paris was getting antsy about that, despite or perhaps because I was trying to help out, and wanted me to make other arrangements. Meaning she wanted more quality time with Tommy and Rick.

She sure wasn't eager to become a mother herself. At least not with me for the father. She'd told Ann she was cooperating, but I could tell she was holding back. Not with her body, but with her mind. Vel women could control ovulation and conception, and Paris just wasn’t letting it happen.

Ann wouldn’t be happy. I was out of sorts, And then Nikki stopped by, A friendly face!

Well, not so friendly, as it turned out. She didn’t even want to fuck. She wanted to know about me and Klara. At first, I thought it was just jealousy, even though I knew she didn’t have a jealous bone in her body: she was a free-range chick, always out for free-range cocks. No, what she wanted to know – what Aayla wanted her to know – was what I least wanted to share.

But Nikki was persistent. Relentless. She got it out of me, damn it, she got it out of me. About how Klara and I had made love on her island, so caught up in the fire of our passion that we melted the very rock beneath us, oblivious to the immolation of her acolytes

"How could you do that?" she cried. "How could you? I was fucked up when you knew me before, fucked up big time -- but never that fucked up."

I tried to explain that it was an accident, that we'd never meant it to happen, but she wasn't having it.

"You light a fire, frails burn, Frails get killed. Anybody knows that. You think Terri Raul'lan would have let frails anywhere near her when she was melting steel against her chest at that party back on Reigel 5?"

"I wasn't there," I pointed out.

Only Nikki must have guessed that I wished I had been: to see the rivulets of white-hot metal run from between Terri's breasts, down her rock-hard stomach, her thong bursting into flames as….

"You're sick, Ben. How you ever got a job as a Minder, I'll never know. You need minding yourself."

Sick? It wasn't fair. And yet I felt ashamed. I was suddenly reminded of that day I had gotten sick. Really sick. The day Aayla had shapeshifted. Supermen aren't supposed to get sick, but I'd actually vomited.

But why then, and not back on Klara's island?

I tried to make sense of it, and I'm not sure I did. It had to have something to do with me -- the frail who had once worshipped supremis from afar, and then been given a chance to become one. I wanted the fantasy to be inviolate, now that I was living it. 

Klara and I had been reveling in our invulnerability. I had reveled at the thought that her body was inviolate, that nothing could mar her perfect beauty -- nor alter it, still less improve it. But for Aayla to change her shape, to become… unrecognizable. Somehow, that seemed unnatural, obscene -- a violation of all I held sacred.

Only, there wasn't any use trying to explain that to Nikki. She wouldn't understand. I'd look even worse in her eyes.

I sought solace the only place I could, in Myra’s arms, as soon as she came back from patrol. She knew Ann, she knew her sisters. She could understand, in a way that Nikki might never be able to. And unlike Paris, she held nothing back. Nothing.

“It’s happening again,” she whispered in my ear after we shared a night of passion.

I was happy and sad at the same time. To become a father once again was exhilarating. But only with Myra? We decided to hold off telling Ann, in hopes I might still have a chance with Paris – or even Aayla. Yes, it might actually work with Aayla – she was such a control freak, and she’d see it as having control over me.

The thing was, I wanted Ann’s project to succeed. I wanted even more than that, more than I dared tell. If only Sanctuary could become a haven for other misfits, as it had for me.  It was the misfits that were needed here, the people who could leave their unwanted selves behind and invent new selves. Like Nikki, a caterpillar emerging from her chrysalis to become a beautiful moth.

 

XVI. Nikki

Was that man sane?

I was feeling nauseous when I left Ben’s, and Vels aren’t supposed to feel nauseous.

If it'd been me on that island with the monks, I think I’d have puked my guts out. But to him, it was no big deal. He said it was a big deal, said he felt bad about it and all that, but it didn’t ring true.

Vels are supposed to protect frails. Everybody knew that. The frails didn’t even have to be human; they could be Tetrites and maybe even stranger things. Vels are supposed to feel bad if they fail to protect the innocent. Well, sure Ben wasn’t born a Vel, but he’d become one. He had a responsibility. And here he’d caused a dozen guys to die just because he and Klara wanted to get it on.

The McClouds weren’t Vels, either. But Ann and Myra, at least, acted like Vels. Maybe the others had their excuses. Even Klara. But Ben had none. He came from a planet where murder was murder, and even if the laws weren’t strictly enforced, nobody there would have gotten away with what he did.

I was supposed to go on patrol that afternoon, but I didn’t feel like it. I almost skipped out, but then I told myself, hey, you’re a Vel, so act like one already.

It was a dull afternoon, though. There didn’t even seem to be any pets to rescue. So I did my duty, then headed for a nearby watering hole. Not for the alcohol, but to pick up a flitter jockey. Flitter jockeys were supposed to be pretty hot stuff. Back on Velor, they were kinda rough, but there was no way a frail could get rough with me.

Not for want of trying. When I got him back to my place, he actually tried to rape me, I guess he hadn’t believed my story, thought it was just some kind of fantasy. But when he found out I was for real – that was when things got really strange. He wanted me to wear gold all over, or paint myself with gold, so I’d be really weak and helpless and he could have his way with me.

“You can have your way with me now,” I said. “Don’t you want to fuck?”

He couldn’t seem to make up his mind. His dick couldn’t seem to make up its mind, either. He could stay hard only when he was talking one of his sick fantasies: binding and gagging me, stuffing a gold dildo up…. It was crazy.

I did everything I could to seduce him, explained that the gold necklace was enough to keep him safe, that I wouldn’t crush his precious manhood. But he just seemed to wilt.

Skietra! Most guys on this planet would give their right arms for a chance to fuck me, and all this freak wanted to do was play stupid head games. Well, I could play my own head game. I told him he could head for the door.

I’d tried a few other locals and I tried a few more after giving up on that limp dick. They were okay, but not like the one from the beach, who’d actually seen me in action. I decided I really needed to get in more patrol time. Even if I didn’t catch rescue calls every day, people would get to know me better, at least. And if I did catch a major call, made it big on the newsnets, I’d get more action with men who’d seen me on the screen, who looked up to me with their eyes and their dicks.

 

XVII. Ben

Two months had passed, and Klara had returned. She looked happy. Things had gone well on Rostran. They’d agreed on a constitution, with a bicameral legislature – only with one chamber representing Ordinaries and the other the Supremis. She herself remained as Chancellor, but there was also a prime minister who had to be an Ordinary: another classic attempt at check-and-balance.

Would it really last? The Supremis on Rostran were used to domination, and there must still be resentment among them over the loss of that domination – even after the discrediting of the Gwyndylyn and the Church. The two factions still had their die-hard followers, but Klara was sure that most Supremis would listen to reason and vote accordingly. She must have really believed it, because she’d never before talked so openly about her work on Rostran. Not to me, at any rate.

I listened attentively, and murmured in agreement., because I wanted to talk with her about something more personal. Maybe I didn’t fool her; she could read minds when she had a mind to. Fortunately, she didn’t seem to have a mind to this evening. She was really surprised when I told her about why Nikki was on the outs with me.

“Haven’t you talked with Mom?” she asked.

I shook my head.

“She’s a tad disappointed with me. About the project.”

“I could help there. As soon as things are settled on Rostran. It would be good to have a daughter, too.”

“Would I ever see her?”

“When she’s old enough to take the dive. Like Nikomedes. Maybe sooner, if we have ships. That’s something the new parliament will have to decide. We haven’t had any contact with the Outside since the Kelsorians left, and there was none before that except for – you know. Both our worlds want to remain off the charts; that’s really the only thing they have it common. And a lot of people on Rostran are still nervous about being on Sanctuary’s chart. They aren’t sure they can trust us,”

“What could we do to them?”

“Bring the Aureans.”

“Suicide. They’d squash us like bugs.”

“But the Rostrans don’t know that. Not for sure. They’ve never been here.”

I dared give voice to my own thoughts. About recruiting other misfits from Velor, as many as possible, even enhancing some of the natives.

“We have a chance to do something new here,” I said. “Really new.”

Surprisingly, Klara didn’t dismiss the idea out of hand. But neither did she embrace it.

“You’ll have to be patient,” she said. “These things take time. I have to concentrate on Rostran for now, But if I can help make things work there, and I believe I can, Sanctuary should be a cinch.”

I wasn’t sure of that, so I said nothing.

“But about that other matter – would you let me talk to Mom?”

“I guess it can’t hurt.”

“And if it doesn’t help – well, time heals all wounds."

I wasn’t sure of that, either.

The only thing I was sure of was Myra. She was my compass. She forgave me my trespasses, because she knew there was still a wanton boy within the man I wanted to be, tried to be. And, like any Supremis, she had her own wanton streak, which she could show when nobody else was looking – like on the Bountiful Treasure coming here.

Klara would have had me stay, but I begged off. It wasn't just that I wanted to get back to Myra. It was that she'd want to share my most intimate thoughts as we made love, and that meant….

Myra and I still hadn’t told Ann, hadn’t told anyone. But in another month or two she’d begin to show. Somehow Myra sensed that it was a girl this time. We were going to call her Blair.

We’d have to figure a way to break the news.

 

XVIII. Nikki

Ann had taken to stopping by to see how I was doing. I kept telling her I was doing fine. I’d helped out at a couple of near drownings, one building collapse and half a dozen traffic accidents the last time she asked, and I hadn’t lost a frail yet.

I got the sense that there was something she wanted to ask, and that it had something to do with Ben. But I didn’t want to talk about Ben right now, and she must have known why. I was still trying to sort out my feelings about him. He was the reason I was here in the first place, and I knew I should feel grateful, but…..

Klara.

My thoughts were still running around in circles when the general alarm sounded. A triple blast from the main siren. It must be something really bad. I switched on the news. It was bad. A building collapse in the center of town, The LePenfat bank. Details were sketchy, but it was still business hours, and there must have been a lot of people inside.

It wasn’t my turn to patrol, but this was a top emergency. I’d have known that even if my comlink hadn’t buzzed red alert. I darted out the door and took flight, arriving at the scene within minutes. Ann was already there, and so was Klara.

“Paris is on her way,” Ann said. “Ben and Myra too.”

I didn’t see Aayla. Ann read my thought.

“She must be out of hearing and off the comweb,” Ann said. “Anyway, we can’t wait for the others. Klara’s the strongest here, so she’s got to do the heavy lifting. She’s more experienced at that in any case.”

Most of the customers had fled out the front entrance when they'd heard the building start to groan, but there were more than a dozen people, mostly bank officers and reportedly a few customers using the vault, trapped inside.

The beams that should have been holding up the roof were twisted every which way. I didn’t have a clue where to begin. But Klara did. She was familiar with this bank, if only from having robbed it during her Robin Hood days.

Klara moved in at once, clearing away debris near the front. Further inside, a huge concrete beam had somehow jackknifed. When Klara was through out front, she and Ann both moved in to lift the broken ends. Then Paris arrived, and Ann said for both of us to get busy in and rescue any survivors.

There weren’t many. The collapsing ends of the beam had crushed most of the bank officers at their desks; there was blood all over the place. There were half a dozen survivors, but most of them rest would have to be stabilized by the paramedics before they could be moved safely.

Ben and Myra arrived just then; Myra had advanced paramedic training, and the equipment, so she got right to work. Paris and Ben and stood watch to keep the path clear for the other paramedics; because the building itself wasn't too stable -- we could hear ominous groaning sounds.

Ann and Klara were still holding tons of concrete in place and Myra and the rest of the paramedics were just finishing up when it happened: the broken sections of the beam began to break again, huge chunks of concrete held in place only by the rebar.

"Out now!" Klara shouted.

The paramedics started scrambling backwards, dragging their immobilized patients on stretchers.  Paris and Ben lifted off, aiming to divert falling sections of the beam; I was too shocked to do anything. It seemed like everything was happening in slow motion. And then the rebar gave way, sending huge chunks crashing down.

The rumble of falling concrete faded into not-quite silence.

There were pathetic whimpers coming from somewhere in the cloud of dust inside, and screams from people outside. Paris’ and Ben and Myra had saved a few. But we lost a lot more.

And Klara McCloud? She was crying. Holding what remained of her end of the beam and crying, I’d never seen anything like it.

Ben talked to her a moment, got her to set down the concrete, then took her in his arms and hugged her tenderly. Ann looked on.

Myra seemed to take everything stolidly.

"I've been here before," she said. I didn't know what she meant, but later Ben told me the story of how he'd first met her, when she was involved in the same sort of thing with a bus.

I guess it must have given her a sense of perspective. She'd managed to save one victim this time by shielding him with her own body, but the chunk of concrete that carommed off her had hit another paramedic and his charge. Neither of them made it.

Like I said, she seemed to take in stolidly.

But Klara seemed inconsolable, as if what happened had been some sort of personal failure. She had been playing a goddess when Ben arrived here, but maybe she'd grown out of it, after all. Whatever she was doing on Rostran, I thought, she wasn't just trying to lord it over everybody the way Aayla would, Had, from what I'd heard.

The cause of the bank collapse remained a mystery.

"The concrete was rotten," the inspector said. "This was an accident waiting to happen."

"That's impossible," the acting bank president insisted. "Acme Products would never pour a bad load. Especially for us."

The police hauled in the people from Acme, who swore up and down that they'd supplied only the best concrete. They had all kinds of records to prove it.

They're still trying to figure out what happened. But I got something concrete out of the whole affair: Klara wasn't what I thought she was. And neither was Ben.

 

XVIX: Ben

I hadn’t thought that much about the mystery of the LePenfat bank affair when it happened.  I put it down to simple bribery and corruption. The only thing I cared about was that it had gotten Nikki on speaking terms with me again, Even with Klara.

But after Klara left for Rostran, Aayla started calling her a wuss, because of her emotional behavior there.  Some nerve, she had, having been a no-show herself – she’d claimed to have been on a mission half way around the world, but we never got any details.

Then there were these paranoid types who crawled out of the woodwork and hinted that Klara was responsible, that she'd done something with the concrete out of a grudge. Somebody sure had; the official report indicated that there must have been intense radiation involved, and Security was investigating. But nobody who knew Klara credited the paranoids, who’d never been heard from before, didn’t have any known political connections, and refused to speak with Security – which was their right.

Nobody dared accuse Klara to her face when she returned a couple of months later to report to Ann about results of the first general election there, and the paranoids crawled back into the woodwork. Aayla rejoined the rest of us on patrols, and everything was seemingly normal.

Myra fulfilled her dream of taking Todd out for walks. Surely it can’t be good for a Supremis toddler to be cooped up within four walls on top of a skyscraper. Would anybody treat a Terran infant that way? But Myra had a good heart, and she was still the most level-headed of the daughters as far as I was concerned.

One day, we went out to a lake and I took charge of Todd while she fooled around with a new hobby: fishing. Of course, I kidded her about how the fish would jump right out of the water for the chance to see a body like hers. She had to use a pole, of course, but she caught a big one her first try. Can’t have weighed more than a minnow to her, but I could see how much fun she was having.

I thanked my lucky stars that I’d had the sense to choose her, and that she’d chosen me, as life companions; that she was the mother of my first child, and more to come – my true love children,

What would I do without her?

As for Nikki, she was…. Well, Nikki. She hadn’t changed and yet she’d changed. She was making something of herself, taking on responsibility as well as pleasure. And someday……

 

XX. Nikki

They’d set up a pump at the reservoir, and were running a line from there over a small ridge and down the other side to the advancing flames when it happened. The fire jumped through the dry branches on the trees behind them and they were trapped. All they could do was signal Top Emergency on their comlinks and hope help would come in time.

Help did. Me.

I could have landed right in the shrinking circle of unburned trees and brush around them, but I had a few moments so spare, so I decided to make a grand entrance by coming down in the midst of the inferno and walking out of it. That way, they could watch the flames lick my body as I approached, watch my cape billowing in the updraft.

I made eye contact with them as I stepped out of the inferno, held out my arms, and blew them a kiss.

It was a turn-on for me. I was sure it would be a turn-on for them.

Was it ever!

When Josip and Artyr knew they were saved, even before I gathered them in my arms to fly them out, I could tell from my tachyon vision that I had made the right impression on them. They’d sure made the right one on me. They were both really fit. They had to be, with the kind of work they did and the kind of gear they had to carry. Better still, these firemen had really big hoses -- and I could tell they were ready to put them in play.

Only, they actually wanted to go back and help finish fighting the fire. Middle class morality. That was what Ben called it. It wasn’t like that on Velor, where the classes were all genetic. You couldn’t change your status through your behavior, except for the worse. That was what I’d done, especially on Reigel 5.

Well, I wasn’t going to make that mistake again -- not here. So I did the smart thing: I helped them out.

 I flew back to fire command headquarters for a replacement section of hose and flew it back to the scene. But I let the firemen themselves run it out and hook it up. They’d been joined by reinforcements from another sector who came in by flitter. They figured they’d have the blaze licked within an hour, and they did.

It was only after things had wound down that I invited Joe and Art back to my place. They wanted to clean up first, and come under their own power.

 

XXI. Ben

"Can you hear her?"

Myra pressed my head to her chest. I could hear her heart beating, but that was all. Yet she insisted little Blair had begun to move.

She was another two months gone; we couldn't keep our secret much longer.

I was still hoping to have another go with Klara, now that she was back. It would make Ann happy if I could tell her Nikomedes was going to have a sibling before we sprang Blair on her.

Myra understood the situation, and even urged me to get in touch with Klara.

That was when Ann called. A spaceship had come down for a rough landing, out in the wild.

There was a survivor, the only passenger: one of the Diaboli.

I knew about the Diaboli from Reigel 5, but I’d never met any of the purebreds who had that enclave down in Southy. President Bergstrom had been only part Diaboli, but that had been enough to touch off a civil war after he staged a pre-emptive coup against the Aryans.

There had been mass slaughter of Aryans by the menschenjagers, and then the bombings and the biotoxins. It was said that rogue Velorians had sided with the Aryans, but apparently they hadn't prevented the genocide. They called it the High Cruel Years. Most of the Aryans had been wiped out. So had most of the Diaboli, and most of those who hadn’t died had fled. Could this be one of them? Ann had gotten a different story.

“He claims to have come here from Kelsor 7, but originally from New Atlantis. Says he’s a wanted man there, on account of having exposed some political scandal. He insists he covered his tracks well enough to avoid pursuit by the Diaboli, and the same with the Kelsorians. But who knows?”

“I know one thing,” I told her. “This could mean trouble. Big trouble, even if he doesn’t intend it.”

 

XXII. Nikki.

When they rang my bell, I could see through the door that they were ready to ring my bell in another way. If they'd been Vels, their cocks would have ripped right through their pants!

I invited them to sit down in a couple of comfy chairs facing the center of the main room, brought them drinks – they had to be thirsty after what they’d been through. I was still in uniform; I figured that would be an extra kick for them -- a reminder that they were getting lucky with a superheroine.

It was an extra kick for me. They must have seen me wearing that outfit on TV, even before I showed up to save them, but this was different. I could thrust out my chest, do bumps and grinds. Even better, they could see my nipples stiffen and press against the top, see my juices seep around the bottom and run down my legs. They could smell my pheromones, the scent of honey and wildflowers assailing them.

They must have noticed there was a bed on the other side of the room. A really big bed. I lay down on it now, blew them kisses, beckoned to them.

That did it! I never saw men get naked so fast before! I can still come again, just from the memory….

Oh, their hands are all over me, brushing against my skin, amazed at how silky soft it is, how flawless. Yes! They begin trying to pinch me and squeeze me and maul me, delighting in the feel of my steel-hard muscles beneath the softness.

Silk and steel, softness and invulnerability; they can't get enough of it, yes! And I can't get enough of it. Their hands feel so good, yes, and now their lips. Oh yes, kissing me all over from head to toe. My breasts are growing from the excitement, stretching the top of my uniform, the nipples poking out like little bullets -- the kind of bullets they know would bounce off them.

Joe’s peeling off my top, yes, and now he's sucking my nipples, biting them as hard as he can, knowing nothing can hurt them, oh yes. He's squeezing my breasts as hard as he can, marveling that they don't give a fraction of an inch, that they point proudly north, defying gravity as I lie back and watch him and Art ravish me.

Art's already between my legs, yes, peeling off my bottom, revealing the perfect slit of my hairless pussy, and now he's lapping my juices, biting my clit, biting it as hard as he can, yes, yes. He knows he can’t hurt it, yes, yes, yes! I thrust it into his mouth like a little cock, he bites even harder, and I come – he can feel me come, oh yes, yes, yes.

Now Joe's teasing my breasts with his cock, yes, and it’s so huge, yes, yes. I want to see him come, so I wriggle my breasts against it, yes, yes, yes, and he can’t stand it; his cum shoots out of his prick-tip in gobs, dappling my breasts, oh yes, yes, yes, yes. I gather some up with my hand and taste it, and then roll over on top of him and pull his head to mine so we can deep kiss and taste his delicious cum together. Oh yes!

 While I'm on top of Joe, Art makes his next move. I feel his cock plunge into my pussy; he's taking me from behind while Joe and I are still kissing. He's so hot and huge! And I can feel every delicious inch of him with those special nerve endings Vels are blessed with. I bathe him in my juices, and he fucks me hard, harder, harder, until I feel him explode! Oh yes, yes, yes!

He's still hard as a rock when he pops out, and so is Joe. So I invite Art to take his turn lying on his lie back while I impale myself on him. Joe stands by the bed, and I take his cock in my mouth, licking and sucking, but all the while being careful not to hurt him while I'm bouncing up and down on Art. That takes real control, but Vels are good at that, too. Yes.

I have to remind Joe not to play too hard with my golden tresses as he holds my head in his hands, wouldn't want him to scratch himself. Art's hands are going crazy, feeling my ass and squeezing my breasts, reveling again in the feel of silk and steel, yes, reveling in sight and sounds of the pleasure he is bringing my body -- the same body he saw walking totally unharmed through the forest fire. Yes!

Art's looking up at me, and Joe’s looking down at me, and I can see the wonder and the lust in their eyes, the incredible high they must feel as they worship me with their cocks. My eyes are shining like they were lit up, and if my mouth weren't so full of cock, I'd be moaning and screaming loud enough to wake up the planet, oh yes -- they can see what they're doing to me, and I can see and hear what I'm doing to them, they can't control themselves.

But I can. I can time it so they’ll come at the very same time, the very same second, in my mouth and in my pussy. It's such a rush, oh yes, and now I'm in a rush -- a few more licks, just so, a few more wriggles, just so, and there's an explosion of cum above and below, pouring into my cunt, pouring down my throat, yes, and I'm screaming, yes, yes, and they're screaming, oh yes, yes, YES!

Time for a break then, but only a short one. It won't take long to get them up again. I imagine how it must feel to them -- to be saved from certain death by a beautiful goddess, and then to be fucking that goddess, actually fucking her, doing anything they want with her body, knowing that she loves it as much as they do! I'm such a bad girl, and such a good girl! I get to be a heroine and get all the men I want, all the fucking I want.

This is my home. This is my heaven. Oh yes!

THE END

But see also Ultrasybarite's sequel Finding Sanctuary