The Mission

By Rob Nagle and Brantley Thompson Elkins

Chapter 4

 

         "Colonel Kim'Vallara," Binkley's World Chancellor, Howard Jolie, addressed the head of Binkley's World Velorian force in the contrived manner of an overly-tired school master addressing an overly-truant school boy.

         The battle hardened, highly decorated and universally respected Colonel James Kim'Vallara, sat rigidly before the chancellor, his joined hands pressed tightly between his knees. He sought escape from the topic he knew the chancellor was about to broach in a section of carpet fibers on the floor between them, but he also knew that there was no escape.

         "We of Binkley's World find ourselves," the chancellor continued in his tired, school master vein, " - once more I might add - in the - not - uncostly position of having to replace a - lot - of windows - "

         Yes, it was -- that topic . . . again.

         " -- as you know," the tired school master - or, rather - the chancellor concluded.

         Yes, the colonel did know, all too well. Aside from two Supremis in particular he could think of, the deprived women of Binkley's World's Auxiliary Protector Corps in general had taken matters into their own hands in relieving the ever intensifying state of their . . . personal tension. That wasn't so bad in, and of, itself, but the extraordinary level of vocalized decibel output, along with the particular sound wave pitch, that inevitably resulted from their various - and often, remarkably inventive - personal tension releasing activities was having its now usual, and devastating, impact.

         "I might beg to remind the colonel," Binkley's World Chancellor continued, "that the error of not including a sufficient number of messengers - let alone any messengers at all - to, uh . . . service - shall we say - your Protectors, was an omission on your side, not ours."

         Solving that glitch had taken work far more work than is should have. The colonel had been assured by his home world contacts that a "remedy" to his problem had been given top priority - complete with the code-name: Operation Hot-tail. Confirmation of Velor's sending a "glow worm" (code name) to Binkley's World, however, had yet to be received.

         "And yet," the tired chancellor went on at tiresome length, "we of Binkley's World seem consigned to perpetually endure the consequences of what is clearly Velor's omission."

         The process had taken weeks the paperwork, alone, was surreal beyond belief. Velor's production of Protectors had far outstripped that of Messengers of late, and the imbalance after the fact, of course was now being keenly felt. There'd been an attempt to 'quick-fix' the mistake by pressing clearly underage males into messenger service. When that effort went limp, a follow-up plan to recall retired messengers to active duty was initiated. That effort, so far, was showing similar results.

         "We are every bit as concerned as you are, colonel, that Binkleyan society be allowed to recover from the recent Aurean occupation," Chancellor Jolie noted, "with a preferential eye toward getting steel production back up to the pace Velor is accustomed to, as has been previously negotiated."

         Until such time as a "glow worm" actually arrived on Binkley's World, Kim'Vallara had been instructed to order his staff to cease, and desist, from all personal tension releasing activities.

         "However, in order for us to properly recover from the conditions our oppressors formerly imposed on us," the chancellor further noted, "we must be free from the necessity of having to constantly recover from the conditions our liberators currently impose on us."

         But then, telling a Velorian Protector to not release personal tension was like telling her to - well, like telling her to not exist.

         "Wouldn't you agree, colonel?"

         The battle hardened, highly decorated, universally respected and now, sorely tried, Colonel, James Kim'Vallara, still sat rigidly in his chair before the chancellor.

         Fighting a battalion of Primes to the death by myself is something I can handle, he mused to himself, but this . . . ?

         He'd never before appreciated how carpet fibers could so fascinate.

 

* * *

         "B'T, it's impossible!"

         "I can't stand her!"

         "He's like a child!"

         "I can't take this anymore!"

         "I thought you were my friend!"

         "He's driving me crazy!"

         "I wanna kill 'im!"

         "How could you do this to me!"

         The head of Resident Aurean Integration sat calmly at her desk, her uniform clad body leaning back in her chair with her arms loosely folded under her breasts. Her cramped office was packed to overflowing with angry Primes. Xanthra stood behind Oon'ah, her protective hands resting on her shoulders.

         To alleviate the growing tension their original pairings of the two Supremis warrior factions had caused before a personal war of acrimony broke out between the Aurean Primes and the Velorian Protectors, Oon'ah, and Xanthra, had executed a simple switch. The Primes were matched with members of the Velorian civil staff, and each Protector now had an Aurean Beta to look after.

         "Glory that I'd actually earned by my own merit would be preferable to this!" one severely decorated former Aurean officer declared.

         At first the Protectors grumbled at the change of pairing. Gripe as they did - and they did gripe too much as matters turned out - when it got down to it, they were genuinely incensed at the inference that they couldn't 'take it' being coupled with the Primes. Emotions ran high when the pairing exchange took place. There were even some tears shed as Protectors bid their Prime assignees good riddance, and the Primes took leave of their Protectors with a farewell, "Fuck you!"

         "I'm gonna miss hating that asshole," Protector L'yn had said.

         The Primes, pretty much, took the new arrangement in stride at first, fully intending to take full advantage of their positions with the physically weaker "B" Class Velorians.

         "I'm mad as Velor!" a beefy Prime declared to the placid features of Oon'ah's face. "And I'm not gonna take it anymore!"

         But the advantage was turning out to be not what they'd intended.

         "B'T," a former general addressed Oon'ah.

         Oon'ah's expressionless eyes took their sweet time rolling up to the one time Aurean officer who stood before her desk.

         "This idea of yours of coupling us with the Vel(orian) Civ(ilian)s has brought about the most intolerable state of affairs," he announced.

         There was vociferous agreement in the room to this statement among his own.

         "The arrangement goes against the grain - against the very essence of what an Aurean Prime is," he continued.

         Again, there was boisterous agreement.

         "In order for a Prime to be all he - or she - can be," the former general went on, "they must have a victim they can dominate, bully and lord over."

         The vocal agreement affirming the unimpeachable logic of this basic tenant was even louder.

         "But in order for our overbearing ways to carry weight," he took care to point out, "there has to be a certain receptiveness on the part of the victim."

         Low murmurs of agreement greeted this.

         "And your Vel Civs fail - miserably - when it comes to being victims!"

         This statement received loud acclaim, and even some shouts of "here-here".

         "It cannot stressed enough how attitude on the part of the victim is of utmost importance," the former officer continued to inform Oon'ah, "and, in every category, the Vel Civs fall short - far short.

         "They won't take offense when they've been insulted, they won't shrink away from the threat of physical abuse, they seem totally oblivious to the concepts of unkindness, deceit, malice, intimidation, dishonor - all the practices of which we Aureans have worked so hard to raise to the level of high art.

         "This is not to say that we have not done our part. We have tried - Oh, have we tried! - on numerous occasions, to bring them up to snuff, but it's hopeless, because your stupid V[el](orian) C[iv](ilian)s are just too dumb! The best of our worst has been utterly wasted on them, because they won't take us seriously!"

         Near pandemonium broke out at the conclusion of the former general's address. Another former high ranking Aurean rushed forward to lean over Oon'ah's desk.

         "You don't know what it's like!" he declared to the Supremis responsible for integration. "I threaten to kill my V(el) C(iv) the other day, and you know what he said?"

         Oon'ah calmly shifted her gaze to the new arrival in her proximity.

         "No, I don't know," she answered . . . calmly. Out of politeness, her eyebrows pricked in an effort to fain interest. "What did he say?"

         "He said," the former officer told her, his voice strained with emotions that were foreign to him, "he said . . . 'Make my day'!"

         Every Aurean in the room expressed outrage at, and sympathy for, the unfortunate man's plight.

         "It's not fair!" another ex-officer cried.

         The poor man was beside himself with tears.

         "It . . . just . . . isn't fair . . . "

         Being overcome with existential grief, his brethren quietly led him away.

         "Do you see how serious this is, Protector B'T?" the former general asked Oon'ah most solemnly.

         Again, there was a low chorus of grumbling murmurs. It took some moments for the emotionally charged atmosphere in Oon'ah's cramped office to subside, but, eventually, things quieted down. The Primes seemed to have gotten what they'd wanted to off of their chests. The air became still with most of them posed in defiant attitudes. All of them looked to Oon'ah; waiting for her to speak, waiting for her to explain, to apologize, to make things right.

         At length, Oon'ah slowly rose to her feet - checking to make sure she wouldn't bump into anything above her as she stood up.

         She took a moment to straighten her carriage, and smooth the skirt of her uniform over her upper thighs. She looked at those she could comfortably see.

         "I could stand here, and merely say, 'That's tough', and there would be nothing any of you would be able to either say, or do, about it. I could do that, yes, but that would be yielding to the pull of the past, and our old ways of relating to one another. For the good of all, for the sake of all, we Supremis must leave the past where it is, and look toward the future. To this end, you - have been selected for the most momentous task any of you have ever faced: Assimilation with a people other than your own.

         "We understand that this is an adjustment for you - that it is difficult for you, and that it may well be nigh impossible for you to leave behind the ways you were brought up with: To never again feel the security of doing whatever your told so long as its cruel, to forgo the killing of anyone, and everyone, who disagrees with you, never again to experience the simple joy of wrecking wanton mayhem, destruction and death.

         "Well you might have reason to suspect that we Velorians have - 'set you up'. That we have deliberately given you a task that can-not be accomplished. That we expect you to fail.

         "This is not the case, for that would, once again, be paying undue homage to the past.

         "We have every confidence that you can, and will, become vital members of Binkleyan society. You are, after all, our Supremis cousins. We believe in you, and we have faith in you."

         Vacuous silence prevailed at the conclusion of Oon'ah's speech. Every Aurean in the room looked on her alone. As a body then, all of them blinked. After another few moments, they blinked again.

         "Wha'd she say?" whispered one Prime to his neighbor.

         "She said, 'That's tough'," the other Prime whispered back. "I didn't get the rest of what she said."

         "So, Oon'ah B'T," the former general said to Oon'ah, "your Velorian plot against us had been revealed."

         Oon'ah looked mildly surprised at him. His tone was confident, his manner assured.

         "You expect us to succeed," he reasoned, "so that we can fail, so we can succeed . . . so - that - we - can - fail!" he concluded to proclaim in triumph.

         Oon'ah's look of surprise intensified.

         "No," she hastened to explain to the ex Aurean officer, "that's not the way it is . . . not at all. We want you to succeed to fail so that you can succeed."

         "You want us to fail!" the former general declared. "That's why you expect us to succeed at failing to succeed!"

         "We wish you success at succeeding to fail, guaranteeing success without fail," Oon'ah stubbornly asserted.

         "But you really want us to succeed to fail to succeed, thereby assuring failure!" the ex-general asserted back.

         Dumb looks abounded in the room. Xanthra placed her hands on Oon'ah's shoulders to calm her. She was trembling as she struggled to maintain eye contact with the former Aurean officer. Finally, the Velorian Protector broke down completely. Oon'ah buried her face in her hands, and cried.

         "Yes! Yes!" she wailed pathetically. "It's true! We want you to fail! We so want you to fail! Whatever made me think that I could hide something so obvious from you!"

         Looks of confident arrogance began to replace blank stares. Whatever the former general had said had had its desired effect. Watching the vanquished Protector, the Primes sensed victory. They were satisfied.

         "You will not succeed in your goal to make us fail," the ex-officer calmly stated.

         Oon'ah struggled to regain her composure as he spoke, but she could not. Xanthra did her best to comfort her.

         "We will not succeed to fail to succeed to fail," he went on to inform her, "but we will succeed to fail to succeed to fail . . . to succeed!"

         Stung by his words - utterly defeated, Oon'ah wept bitterly.

         The dumb looks were making a comeback.

         "We will prove to you that we can be assimilated with these Binkleyans," the former general promised. "And our success," he further assured, "will be your failure."

         Oon'ah was helpless. Xanthra took her into her arms.

         "Please go, can't you," she urged the heartless horde of Primes. "Haven't you done enough?"

         None of the Aureans were quite sure of what had happened, but they sure felt good about it - whatever it was. They left, not so much because Xanthra wished them to, but because the wimp of a Protector afforded them no more challenge.

         When the room was empty, and the door was closed, and it was just the two of them, Xanthra nuzzled her cheek in Oon'ah's hair.

         "Pus-pus," she whispered softly.

         Oon'ah took a breath, and let out a sigh. Xanthra thrilled to feel her warm, wet lips on the nape of her neck, then she smiled when she felt her teeth.

         *THWACK!*

         She was confident that the sting in her hand nicely matched the sting she'd visited on Oon'ah's butt cheek.

         "No biting," she softly warned.

         Oon'ah raised her head from Xanthra's shoulder. She looked fully recovered from her 'breakdown'. She took a leisurely moment to shake back her hair.

         "Aren't you afraid they might have heard that?" she casually inquired with regard to the departing Aureans, and Xanthra's love tap.

         "For all they know," Xanthra said, "you just slugged me out of frustration over your . . . crushing failure."

         She began to kiss, and lick at, the tears on Oon'ah's face. Oon'ah pecked, and bussed, her back, trying to catch her lover's mouth. They held each other tighter - crushing their warming breasts together.

         "Would that every failure could meet with such success," Oon'ah noted.

         At last their mouths found one another. Their lips touched, lingered, then spoke to each, of each, a gnawing hunger.

         "I don't know about you," said Xanthra when they could tear themselves apart, "but that failure made me feel pretty successful."

         Her strong hands clutched her lover's buttocks, and pulled her in!

         "You, uh . . . ," she whispered sexily to Oon'ah's ear, "wanna hit the mountains for a quickie?"

         Her skillful tongue lashed out, and found its mark. Oon'ah shuddered, then released a tremulous sigh of fervent yearning.

         It had been so long . . . almost four hours.

 

* * *

         "Bidu!" James Kim'Vallara hailed, vainly waving his arms high over his head.

         The sight of his wife on the raised debarking platform of the passenger shuttle made him realize just how long the many months away from her had been. The area was heavily congested with arriving passengers as well as the friends, and loved ones, who'd come to meet them. He wore the headband she'd given him when they'd last parted so long ago, but there such a crowd that it didn't help him to stand out.

         "Bidu!" he tried calling out over the noise.

         He'd arrived late, and was stuck at the back of the pack. He could see his beautiful Bidu looking for him, her expression becoming more anxious as she searched.

         Aw, to Aurea with it! he thought.

         He summoned the power of his volatai, and rose above the field of heads.

         "Bidu!"

         She saw him, and, for the first time in months, Bidu Braga felt as though she was alive again.

         "James!" she screamed, waving a hand.

         There was such a distance between them - the crowd was so thick, but the former guerrilla fighter knew how to solve that problem. Eyeing her husband, Bidu tightened her legs, and then she sprang.

         I don't believe she did that, Kim'Vallara beamed with pride as he watched his young wife sail over the crowd toward him.

         In a further display of how she felt, Bidu opened herself in mid flight, and boldly announced her arrival by slamming into her hubby's chest, crotch first.

         Luckily, Kim'Vallara had fixed his position in the air - or did he just know his woman? The moment she landed against him, he gathered her in his arms, and pressed his face into her taut, warm belly. After the merest buss of greeting, he stabbed his vibrating tongue deep into her navel.

         Bidu gasped as her eyes bulged. Instantly she felt a volcanic gathering inside her - threatening to explode. She'd never fully adjusted to the sexual aspect of her enhancement, and she was alternately thrilled, and scandalized, at how her true love could 'surprise' her.

         "James, please!" she scolded, clutching his head in a vein attempt to still his ravishing tongue. "You promised you wouldn't make me cum in public! Damn you! Stop it!"

         Her mate too pity on her, and left her with a lingering nuzzle that expressed the depth of his longing.

         "I am going to fuck you so hard for that," she threatened down at his beaming face as she struggled to catch her breath.

         "You're getting better at leaping," Jim happily remarked.

         "No, I'm not," she groused, wriggling herself against him. "I missed your face."

         She had a sudden thought.

         "Best two out of three?"

         "We can work on that when we're alone," he laughingly admonished, gripping her pelvis harder.

         They looked on one another.

         "I can't tell you how I've burned for you," he said.

         Her tears fell on his cheek.

         "Let me kiss you," she begged.

         He lowered her, and their mouths spoke the volumes of their love for one another. By the time Jim was ready for a breather, however, Bidu had discovered yet another volume.

         "It's a good thing I'm wearing a Vendorian steel jock strap!" he exclaimed to her alone.

         Her legs fastened 'round his waist, Bidu stilled her tender ministrations. Jim could feel the change come over her. It was a part of her breeding which even Velorian enhancement had not been able to overcome. He could feel the difference in her - the way she looked - the way she breathed. She held his head for herself to see, and Jim could see. His wife had become another - a being altogether different from his loving Bidu. It was a predator of untold ferocity that looked on him - judging if he might suit her as a worthy prize, and he - a Velorian - was afraid.

         An awful peel of straining metal suddenly filled the terminal. Everyone paused in what they were doing, and saying, to look, and to wonder.

         "What the bejeez was that?" an arriving passenger demanded.

         "That's Vendorian steel," a Binkleyan volunteered. "I know that sound."

         "I won't argue the point," said another Binkleyan, "but there must be something terribly strong about to make it sound like that."

         The enhanced woman looked proud upon her mate.

         "'Terribly strong'," she whispered to him alone.

         The battle hardened, Velorian colonel could never get over what a powerful aphrodisiac fear could be.

         "Skietra, I want you!" he seethed.

         He so cherished her raw, animal ways. She lowered herself to the floor, and Bidu felt his steel encased appreciation press against her.

         "I know," she answered casually, though she thrilled at the command she alone enjoyed over him. "I must say; I've never gotten such a rise out of you so fast."

         "You don't know the half of it," he confided to her.

         Bidu studied his expression. James was smiling on her in a way she couldn't figure.

         "Are you keeping something from me?" she inquired, a conspicuous note of coy suspicion lacing her tone.

         Jim took his place at his woman's side, gathering her close under his arm, and began ushering her out of the terminal.

         "For the time being; yes, my wife, my love, my life, my all," he acknowledged to her between endearing kisses, and then he looked ahead along their way, and held her closer, "but not for long."

         Bidu opted not to press the subject. She would let him have his little secret.

         "So, how are things on Binkley's World?" she asked to change the topic.

         The groan her husband emitted at once made Bidu regret.

         "Forget I even mentioned it," she tactfully urged. "Let's talk of - "

          "No, it's . . . "

         James fell quiet for some moments then as they walked along. He was trying to think it right, so he could say it right. He still couldn't bring order to his cerebral house, however, so, finally, he just spoke.

         "It's complicated, Bi," he said with a resigned tone to his voice that gave his wife concern, "and it's taking longer than anyone expected."

         "Problems with the reconstruction?" Bidu wondered.

         "No," said Jim, "the reconstruction is proceeding nicely enough - in spite of a recurring shortage of glass - "

         "Glass?" his woman asked.

         Jim looked askance at her. The furrow in his brow told Bidu that she'd touched another sore spot.

         "I'll tell you about it later," Jim said before continuing. "There are . . . other complications. This integration policy has not been easy."

         "I don't understand this integration thing, James," Bidu freely admitted, "and, frankly, neither does anyone else. Velor isn't thrilled with what you're doing with the Aureans here. Why not just kill them all, and be done with it. You know it's what you'll wind up having to do anyway."

         "Then what the Aurea is this Theel'dara Initiative for I'd like to know," James countered heatedly. "They're the ones who came up with the idea in the first place. If it's going to work at all, it has to apply across the board, and you can't convert an enemy with love by executing them."

         "Then send them back to Aurea," Bidu urged.

         "That would be like putting the hornets back in the nest," replied James. "Besides, Aurea thinks there were no survivors here."

         Bidu was surprised at this. She stopped, and turned to him.

         "And just who authorized that piece of disinformation?" she wanted to know.

         "I did," was her husband's simple answer.

         Bidu searched his face for an explanation. What she saw disturbed her even more.

         "So you've stuck yourself with them," she surmised.

        "Bidu," James strove to elaborate, "given the right conditions, anyone can fall into a group think - that's what keeps this whole damned Supremis war going for Skietra's sake, but - what a person can fall into, they can also fall out of. Conquest is no longer an option for the Aureans here, and they are coming to realize that. Granted, 'acceptance' of the fact is another thing, but we are seeing encouraging behavioral changes. There's this one pairing; a Protector, and a most unusual  - "

         "What was that?" said Bidu, interrupting him.

         "What?" asked James.

        "That . . . tremor," she related curiously, "like an earthquake."

         "Oh, Binkley's World isn't subject to earthquakes," James lightly scoffed the merest instant before he remembered the couple of a certain pairing.

         "Oh, holy Galens . . . ," he moaned forlornly.

         The floor beneath them shook again. Several people in the terminal noticed that time. Being the only two blondes in the place, James, and Bidu, were subjected to a number of disapproving glares.

         "James, what is it?" a concerned Bidu wondered. "Why are people looking at us like that?"

        Not wanting to deal with possibly unpleasant confrontations from angry Binkleyans, Colonel Kim'Vallara took his wife under his arm, and hastened to the terminal's exit.

         "I'll tell you about it later," he said.

 

* * *

         "Looks like there's a storm coming over the mountains," Mon'ique observed from a window of the Protector's barracks.

         She turned to the other off-duty Vels in the room, all of whom were indulging themselves in rest, and relaxation.

         "We sure could use the rain."

         "That's not a storm," Char'lene pointed out to her.

         "Oh, yes," Ba'be corrected her Protector sister with a telling lilt to her voice, "it's a storm, alright."

         "I didn't mean the weather kind, dearie," rejoined Char.

         "What other kind is there?" Mon'ique wished to know.

         Every other Protector in the barracks simply looked at her . . . most significantly.

         "What!" a sincerely perplexed Mon'ique demanded.

         "The muff riders are at it again," L'yn informed her.

         "And you just won the blonde of the year award, sweet lips," Dor'thy added.

         "Yer shittin' me," said an incredulous Mon'ique as the dawn of realization shown from her. She looked specifically at Bea'trice, their group leader. "In the face of the personal tension ban?"

         "Oon'ah insists that her Betan bitch is uncharacteristically rebellious," Bea related with a sly look, "and that she requires disciplinary action on a regular basis. She conducts these . . . sessions - in the mountains, because, she says, her methods can get rather . . . ugly."

         "Ugly, my ass," Mon'ique stated in righteous anger. "We all know what they're doing!"

         She turned, and leaned her indignant self far out the window.

         "Give it a rest, you sluts!" she shouted.

         "'ey!" yelled an angry man's voice. "Who you callin' a slut?"

         Mon'ique looked to where the voice had come from, and saw a young, Binkleyan couple in the barracks's shadow, their sharing of intimacy having been rudely interrupted.

         "Oh, uh . . . sorry," the red-faced Protector offered the couple awkwardly. "I, uh . . . wasn't talking to you."

         Unconvinced, the couple grabbed up their discarded bandanas, and hastily departed.

         "The nerve of her," the young man complained, "calling me a slut!"

         His equally young, female companion took regard of him.

         "What about me?" she very much wanted to know.

         "It's different for you," he stated.

         "And just what is that supposed to mean?"

         "I'm a guy," the young man clarified. "You don't call a guy a slut."

         At this point, the young woman stopped very firmly in her tracks with her hands planted very firmly on her hips.

         "Are you saying that I'm a slut?"

         The young man stopped, and looked back at his companion. He looked bewildered.

         " . . . of course not," he said.

         But it was a pause that would prove fatal.

         "Ooo," said Mon'ique through the grimace of a pained look.

         "What?" asked Tra'cy, joining her by the window.

         "The way she just cold-cocked that guy," Mon'ique observed, "she could be a candidate for Protector training."

         The thunder in the mountains drew their attention. Even in broad daylight the brilliant flashes could be seen. A thick cloud of dust, and smoke, rose up from the distant peaks. The floor of the building shook beneath their feet.

         "What must they be doing to each other?" Tra'cy wondered.

         "One can only imagine," said Mon'ique . . . imagining.

         The two of them imagined . . . watching the activity in the mountains all the while. Their minds ran riot with the ways of loving until their bodies glowed with sweat, and both of them were breathing heavily.

         "Aphrodite," Mon'ique proclaimed, "I can't take this anymore!"

         She flew to present her urgently needful self to Bea'trice.

         "Request permission to relieve personal tension!" she formally asked of the Protector's leader.

         Even as she floated at attention beyond the foot of her bed, Bea could feel the intense heat from Mon'ique's glowing genitals on her face. All of them were in bad shape. Their pent-up sexual tension had reached the point where every one of them glowed constantly . . . painfully. Not even their uniforms could conceal the visual evidence of their arousal anymore. The Binkleyans had taken to wearing sun block, and dark glasses, while relating to them.

         There were, certainly, worse things than being den mother to a bunch of frustrated Protectors, but, at the moment, Bea'tice couldn't think of any. She hated depriving them - her kindred, but orders were orders.

         "Request denied," she responded most reluctantly to Mon'ique.

         Mon'ique was mortified, and thoroughly indignant.

         "What about them!" she demanded with an angry sweep of her hand toward the window, and the thundering mountains beyond.

         "I'll deal with Oon'ah when she gets back," said Bea as evenly as she could. "This is really the first breach."

         "We should go after them!" Tra'cy suggested, taken with a sudden idea.

         "Yes, we should!" Char'lene chimed in, catching on to Tra'cy's inspiration. "As Protectors," she asserted, "we have to . . . put a stop to them."

         "Yes," Ba'be enthusiastically agreed, "by all means, they must be . . . stopped."

         "We'll have to separate them," Mon'ique surmised - still imagining, "by force if need be."

         "Screw the need part," said L'yn.

         "That's ex-actly what we need," declared Cha'rise, "a forceful screwing."

         She immediately sought to correct herself sheepishly.

         "I mean . . . what they need . . . "

         Well, at least she tried.

         "I'd really like to give that little Betan whore a piece of my . . . mind," said Mar'go.

         "And mine too," said Can'dy.

         "Count me in," said Brit'a.

         All of them now either stood, or floated, expectantly at the foot of their group leader's bed, waiting for the okay, anxious to . . . 'go in'. Bea lay before them, unperturbed with studied calm. She couldn't help but admire their moxie, but she knew all too well what they were up to.

         "None of you will do any such thing," she ordered them, but gently. "The condition we're in, it would just become a free-for-all, and this planet's structure won't withstand a full-out Protector orgy. Why do you think there's only been one Protector assigned per planet up 'til now? It's bad enough with those two going at it night, and day - day and night - day in, day out - night in, night out - day after day - "

         "Bea," L'yn called to her.

         " - night after - "

        "Bea, shuttup," L'yn told her. "You've made your point already."

         A faint, self-depreciating smile found its way on Bea's lips.

         "I know what you're going through, girls," she confided to them. "I'm suffering right along with you, but until - "

         "Hey everybody!"

         It was Fa'un. She'd just flown in in great haste, and was obviously very excited about something - albeit in a conventional sort of way. All of the Protectors in the barracks turned their attention to her, including Bea'trice.

         "Guess what I just found out?" she asked the group.

         She knew something. All of them could tell. Fa'un was fairly bursting to share her secret with them. As if she needed prompting, Brit'a cocked a hip, and threw out a stab at the most improbable guess she could think of.

         "We're getting a messenger," she said as dryly as she could.

         Fa'un fastened her doe-like, blue eyes on Brit'a. In quick succession, she looked surprised, then perplexed, then chagrined, then hurt.

         "How did you know?' she then wanted to know.

         The passage of a single moment followed, then there was an ariel stampede of super femmes in Fa'un's direction that genuinely frightened her. The Protectors of Binkley's World formed a pressing sphere around her, and, after realizing that she wasn't about to be killed, Fa'un felt the ecstatic glee of their camaraderie.

         A constant stream of urgent questions flew at her from every direction: When had she heard? Where had she heard? How had she heard? Was it official - true - or just a rumor? Who was he? Did any of them know him? and, most importantly; WHEN - would he arrive?

         "In three days," Fa'un said at the conclusion of her frenetic answer session.

         "That doesn't give us much time," said Can'dy.

         "For what?" asked Cha'rise

         "To prepare, of course," Can'dy replied.

         "Any more prepared, and I'll be a candidate for a gold padded room," commented L'yn, giving her aching crotch a soothing stroke.

         "Just what preparations do messengers need anyway?" Char'lene wondered.

         "Well, let's see . . . ," said Tra'cy, thoughtfully enumerating on her fingers, "we're blonde, we're gorgeous, we're naked, we're, uh . . . what else is there?"

         "Eager for sex."

        "Eager for sex! Yes, that's right," Tra'cy acknowledged, the point dawning on her. "Duh . . . what'm I thinking of?"

         "Obviously not about sex," Ba'be noted wryly.

         "You wanna try me, slime-slit?" Tra'cy replied to challenge.

         "Something's not right about this," Bea'trice intoned darkly.

         "Aw c'mon, Bea," Cha'rise whined elaborately, "don't ruin it for us! We're getting a messenger!"

         "Say that again," said Bea in Cha's direction.

         "We're getting - "

        "A," Bea quickly interjected before Cha'rise could continue.

         The significance of linguistic tense in this particular context hit Cha'rise like the beam of a GAR cannon between the eyes.

         " . . . messenger," she barely whispered in conclusion.

         "'A' usually means singular," Mon'ique noted, her voice strangely distant, and hollow sounding.

         "Well now, hold on a moment here," Char'lene attempted to qualify. "It could mean 'A' group, or 'A' quantity, or 'A' number."

         Bea'trice turned a dangerously grim expression to, "Fa'un?"

         Her leader's tone sent an involuntary shiver coursing along Fa'un's spine.

         "The communiqu said, "a messenger"," she hastily reported.

         "It's a conspiracy!" a mentally overstrained Brit'a exclaimed. "This whole thing has been an Aurean plot! First; no messengers, then no mingling with the locals, then no wanking, now - this."

         She regarded her kin in the throes of a devastating realization.

         "They're trying to kill us all!"

         "Get a grip, Brit," Bea'trice warned her, then she regarded the others in her charge. "It'll take a lot more than abstinence to do us in."

         "You always were so morbid," cracked L'yn.

         Bea gave L'yn an appreciative, sidelong glance. She was always good at taking the 'edge' off a situation. This one was no different as her 'tough' humor let everyone relax, including Brit'a.

         "Alright," Bea announced for everyone to hear, "it looks like we - are getting a - messenger."

         "But," Can'dy noted, "there's more than fifty of us."

         "We'll have to ration - carefully," said Bea, "and share the wealth."

         "Some 'wealth'," Char'lene observed idly. "Somehow, I think 'one for all, and all for one' doesn't apply here. I mean; before it was always 'us' deciding who's going to be first, but now . . . "

         Char let her voice trail off. She couldn't bring herself to finish the sentence. Almost before any of them realized it, all of them found themselves taking unwonted, cautious regard of one another. Besides sister Protectors, and Velorians, they now saw threats to their own sexual ascendancy.

         "Who's going to be first?" Tra'cy asked tentatively into the open.

        "There's an easy enough solution to this," Mar'go proposed.

         A nod from Bea gave Mar'go leave to continue with her thought.

         "One messenger, for all of us," Mar'go stated rhetorically, taking the floor of the discussion, "not including our little disciplinarian," she noted in a wry reference to Oon'ah.

         Some of the Protectors in the room smiled. Others chuckled lightly. All of them listened closely to what Mar'go was saying.

         "But - what do we know about this . . . messenger?" she went on.

         She turned to, "Fa'un," to ask, "did the communiqu provide an information profile on the messenger we're getting?"

         "No," Fa'un answered, "not a thing. Not even a name."

         "There, you see," said Margo with an air of satisfaction. "We don't know who, or even what, we're getting. We know Velor is running low on supply. We also know that we - as Auxiliaries - enjoy a . . . distinctively low priority."

         There were some grumbles, and low murmurs of ascent at this.

         "Being fully empowered Protectors as we are, however," Mar'go continued, "with our singular needs, and enviable capabilities, we require a messenger who . . . knows his stuff."

         There were louder murmurs of agreement to this.

         "But," Mar'go then posed the question, "what if this one . . . doesn't?"

         Mar'go had excelled in oratory during her schooling on Velor.

         "We don't know his name, nor do we know anything of his background, training, or experience. So, there is a very real possibility that he could simply not - measure up - to our standards, so to say."

         She had mastered the numerous, and intricate, skills of debate.

         "It is always best - when dealing with an unknown - not to hurry in. Such haste - as we all know - often results in injury, or loss."

         She was peerless in the fine art of persuasion through learned discourse.

         "And so as to avoid loss, or injury, to the group as a whole, one of their number is put forth as a test to see if the waters are fair . . . or fowl."

         She was irrefutable in argument.

        "In keeping with this tried and true strategy of preservation, and survival, and out of deep concern for the integrity, and well-being, of this group, I put myself forward as a test of this unknown - this . . . messenger, who dares not even show his name."

         Her ways of manner were indisputable.

        "Who holds himself away from us as a . . . most - suspicious mystery."

         Her words . . . mesmerized.

         "Who refrains from bragging, because he may very well have nothing . . . to brag about."

         She could hold any audience spellbound.

         "I do not look forward to this task ahead of me," Mar'go solemnly said in conclusion with her head bowed low, "but, for the good of all . . . "

         None could resist her.

         "I'll go first."

         The passage of a single

         "My ass!"

         "Like Aurea you will!"

         "Nice try, bitch!

         "Over my dead body!"

         Angry Protectors hovered threateningly around Mar'go, who saw persistence in her oratorical frame of mind as her most expedient mode of survival.

         "Ingrates," she snarled at them, "all of you."

         "Girls!" Cha'rise called to everyone. "Girls!"

         Mar'go's imminent execution was put on hold as the Protectors gave Cha'rise their attention.

         "I have a confession to make," she told them.

         They settled in to give her a listen.

         "I know the timing is - I guess, kinda bad, and all," Cha'rise related, "and I hadn't intended to tell you this, but . . . I've recently been diagnosed with anasexia nervosa. It's an illness characterized by an extreme aversion to sex, and it's made me - y'know like . . . really frigid. I mean - I can't even think about sex, let alone think of . . . doing it - y'know. I mean, just the thought of a big, fat . . . juicy dick . . . coming at me . . . right on target - it makes me, y'know like . . . sick - I mean physically ill."

         Here, she gagged effectively.

         "It's so bad," Cha'rise went on, "that I can't even eat a hot dog any more (gag), or a sausage (gag), or even kielbasa (gag)."

         A number of other Protectors in the room were feeling queazy at this point.

         "But so dear are all, and every one, of you to me, that, in the face of my extreme, and debilitating, ailment, I'm willing to put my illness aside, and make the ultimate sacrifice for you, my sister Velorians."

         All of them marveled at her.

         "I'll go first."

         The immediate, and spontaneous, demise of Cha'rise suddenly took precedence over that of Mar'go. Bea'trice flew into the middle of the fray to restore order.

         "Nothing is going to be accomplished if we turn on one another!" she declared.

         She was right, of course. All of the Protectors conceded the point, and backed away from Cha'rise, many of them bowing their blonde heads from embarrassment over how they were behaving. Mar'go was welcomed back among them with some hugs. Char'lene posed herself on a hip, folded her arms under her breasts, and looked directly at Bea.

         "So what do we do?" she asked in all seriousness.

         Bea hesitated. She simply didn't know what to do in this situation. She was as much at a loss as any of them were.

         "As group leader," Ba'be noted, "you can exercise your prerogative."

         "No," Bea stated flatly.

         Her eyes took in the group of Protectors she was responsible for.

         "I wouldn't do that to you," she bequeathed to them. "There's got to be an equitable way of doing this."

         "There isn't," L'yn succinctly stated. "Someone's going to have to be first, and someone's going to have to be last."

         "At least until a system of rotation can be established," said Can'dy.

         "What about drawing straws?" Brit'a suggested.

         "Still," Ba'be pointed out, "with odds of more than fifty to one, the guy's gonna be exhausted before he gets halfway through us."

         "And that will leave most of us," Char'lene observed, "with the short end of the . . . "

         "Dick," said Mon'ique to conclude Char's thought.

         "Thank you, love," Char'lene commented sweetly to Mon'ique, "you put that . . . so well."

         Any attempt at levity was as needed as it was appreciated.

         "I was doing some reading recently," Tra'cy said reflectively.

         "You can read?" remarked L'yn.

         Tra'cy's blue eyes narrowed as she regarded her sister Protector.

         "You're next after I get through with boobsey here," she said with an aggressive jerk of her head toward Ba'be.

         "Lookin' forward to it," L'yn rejoined with an inviting smile, "clitless."

         "A-ny-way," said Bea to get the discussion back on a constructive path.

         Sometimes she wasn't sure if she was a Protector, or a parent.

         "There's a thing on old homeworld Earth called a 'beauty pageant'," Tra'cy related.

         "A beauty - what?" asked Can'dy.

         "'Pageant'," Tra'cy reiterated. "It's where a bunch of girls get together, and they compete for a prize."

         "And how do they go about . . . 'competing' for this - prize?" Fa'un wondered.

         "Basically by showing off their bodies," said Tra'cy.

         "Well, that narrows it down a whole Aurea of a lot," Mar'go announced to the room full of to-die-for, naked blondes.

         "Just what is this . . . 'prize' you mentioned?" Brit'a wished to know.

         "Oh, it can be any of a number of things," Tra'cy related.

         "Like a dick?" ventured Char'lene.

         "It can be a quantity of credits in the form of something called 'money'," said Tra'cy, determined to soldier on.

         "Or it could be a dick," said Mon'ique, sharing a sly look with Char'lene.

         "Or it could be an education scholarship," Tra'cy continued.

         "Or it could be a dick," said Can'dy, taking up the thread.

         "And you get to travel a lot."

         "Along the length of a dick," Brit'a added.

         "And you meet lots of people who are supposed to be interesting."

         "Dicks can be interesting," said Ba'be.

         "Veeerry in-ter-es-ting," agreed L'yn.

         Concerned that she wasn't being taken seriously, Tra'cy perched her hands on her hips, and stomped her foot.

         "Are any of you getting what I'm saying?" she demanded.

         "Oh yeah," Bea'trice assured the ruffled Protector, "we're getting it."

         Ba'be lounged back in the air, and took to caressing herself.

         "We're just not getting it," she said.

         Tra'cy frowned at this.

         "Now I'm confused," she admitted.

         "You're not the only one," an overtaxed Cha'rise agreed.

         "You want a body rub, hon?" Mon'ique asked of Ba'be, offering her gentle touch.

         "Yeah, I'd like that," said Ba'be with a loving smile. "Thanks."

         She submitted herself to Mon'ique's experienced hands.

         "Don't get carried away, you two," Bea warned.

         They floated off amid soft giggles, and girlish squeals.

         "So what's your point with this . . . 'beauty pageant' thing?" Bea'trice asked of Tra'cy.

         "Well," Tra'cy surmised, "we're a bunch of girls competing for a prize."

         "And the 'prize' is . . . ?" Char'lene asked her Protector kin all too knowingly.

         At that point, it was all Tra'cy could do to huff a fatigued sigh.

         "The messenger," she most pointedly informed Char, "stupid."

         "That's funny," said L'yn, "I thought you were going to say 'dick'."

         Tra'cy cast a suspicious look in Fa'un's direction.

         "I thought you said he didn't give his name," she mildly accused.

         "I don't like this word - 'competing'," said Dor'thy thoughtfully. "It bothers me."

         "Why'?" Bea asked her caringly.

         "Well," Dor'thy went on to clarify, a look of troubled concern crossing her beautiful brow, "we're Velorians; the planet of the gorgeous, fairest of the fair, the vessels of gods, companions to the most elite in all the universe, protectors of worlds - "

         "And we fuck like crazed rabbits on speed," L'yn felt it best to interject here.

         "That's just my point," Dor'thy continued, "anyone would give their eye teeth to bed us."

         "And then some," Bea'trice added with a sly smile.

         Remembering some to their lovers brought back such memories.

         "I knew this one guy who wanted to give me his cookies," Cha'rise recalled.

         "You're kidding," said Tra'cy in disbelief.

         "Yeah," Cha'rise affirmed, "offered them to me right out of his computer."

         "I guess what I'm getting at," Dor'thy resumed sadly, "is that the whole idea of . . . Protectors . . . competing for lovers . . . "

         "'A' lover," Fa'un corrected her.

         "It's not right!" Dor'thy angrily asserted.

         She was near tears.

         "My dance card has always extended from here to the sun," she recollected fondly before an awful sadness overtook her, "but to be here . . . this place . . . this time . . . it's unnatural . . . it's wrong."

         So consumed by the unhappiness of her condition, she bowed herself forward, and quietly wept. All of them felt her pain. Char extended a hand, and gently stroked Dor'thy's back.

         "You're not in Kansas anymore," she counseled softly.

         "Competing for a man," Mar'go intoned soberly, "we don't deserve this."

         "Anybody wanna draw straws?" Brit'a suggested absently.

         "I saw an article once - " Can'dy began.

         "Oh joy," droned L'yn, "another reader."

         "She said she 'saw' the article," Brit'a clarified, "that doesn't mean she actually read it."

         "Thank you, Brit'a," Can'dy graciously offered her sister Protector.

         L'yn could be a bit much at times.

         "Any time, cutie," Brit'a granted Can'dy in return.

         Can'dy was about to return to her thought, but another thought suddenly jumped ahead of that one in her mind. It was a thought that made her frown, and turn a pair of narrowed eyes toward Brit'a.

         "Wait a minute - "

         "Don't trouble your head, dear," Bea'trice gently coaxed her. "Go on with your thought."

         It was an effort for her to give both Brit'a, and L'yn, a chastising look, though, without smiling.

         "Anyway," Can'dy resumed, "I was reading," she stated at L'yn, who raised her open palms in a gesture of submission - innocence - mockery - amazement . . . it was hard to tell with L'yn, "an article not long ago," Can'dy went on. "It said that the surest way for a woman to attract a man's attention is by concealing her most alluring attribute."

         "Concealing your most alluring attribute to peak a man's curiosity, and draw his attention?" Tra'cy pondered dubiously. "That sounds like fighting for peace."

         "Or fucking for virginity," said Cha'rise to the laughter of all.

         "So," Mar'go wondered, "why would you want to conceal your most alluring attribute?"

         "To leave something to the imagination," said Can'dy. "At least that's what the article said."

         "Why would you want to leave anything to the imagination?" asked L'yn.

         She looked about at her sister Protectors, and smiled knowingly.

         "All it does is waste time."

         "Precious time," Char'lene added.

         "And why do that?" Brit'a queried. "I mean, buck naked says it all: You - sex - NOW! What more could a man want?" she asked.

         "More sex," a recovered Dor'thy answered.

         All of them laughed at this - except Can'dy.

         "You can scoff if you want," she addressed the group forthrighteously. "All I know is that 'A' - Messenger is coming here."

         She floated purposefully in their midst.

         "Which means a party of one," she went on, looking about her kin, "for all of us."

         Her look became determined.

         "And I know," she continued, "that I am not going to get anyone's sloppy seconds, because, when he steps off that shuttle, he's going to see all of you with your altogether hanging out, and then he's going to see me, and his eyes will fasten on me alone, and he will see me alone, and he will want me alone, because I will have my most alluring attribute - concealed."

 

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Chapter 5