To Be a Scribe

By Sharon Best

The letter that wound up changing my entire life was clipped to my bedroom door when I got home from school. I was casually reaching for it like all the other letters my mother clipped to my door, when I saw the rare bone-white paper stock. The envelope was fringed in red and had the official seal of the High Council of Velor affixed to one end, and it was addressed by my formal Velorian name: Shara’Lynn Beset’yul.

My hand froze in mid-air and a shock like a bolt of electricity shot through me as I realized what the letter must contain. This was the letter I'd been waiting for ever since my mother had first told me of my genetic pathway a decade before. It was the letter that fewer than five in a hundred Velorian girl's received.

It was the letter that invited them to become Protectors. It was the letter that would send them on a journey across the galaxy to distant stars. To become a Protector of worlds. A goddess, at least in many men's eyes.

My legs were shaking so wildly from that realization that I could hardly stand. I gingerly pulled the envelope from its clip as I groped for the doorknob. My eyes were misting over ad my legs felt rubbery as I staggered through the doorway. It was all I could do to toss my workout bag toward my rumpled bed and sag into my desk chair. I stared at the unopened letter, telling my pounding heart that there was only a 5% chance that it contained the message that it yearned for.

Eventually, my latent sin of procrastination and a strangely growing sense of dread combined forces to drive me back to my feet. I picked up the fateful envelope, and then set it down again. No, I wasn't ready to know what it contained. Either I was to be a Protector, and all would be well, or else I'd prolong my last moments of hoping that I would be selected. I turned instead to peal my damp exercise leotard off to toss it into the clothes hamper, finally returning the wall-sized computer display that doubled as a mirror, and stood naked to study myself.

My reflection glowed back at me, long blonde hair, golden-tanned skin, eyes sparkling like blue diamonds, a hint of muscle visible with every movement. I looked like a Protector. Tying my hair in a pony tail, I fastened it in place with the special silver band that my dad had given me on my tenth birthday -- the one with a replica of a Protector's 'S' embossed into it. I opened a vial of fragrant oil that my mother had given me for my fifteenth birthday and added its sleekness to the moisture that still clung to my skin from my workout. Yes, except for my obvious lack of a Protector's endowment, my bust line still that of a girl not yet sixteen, it was easy to imagine that a Protector was looking back at me.

The shimmering oil gave my golden skin a reflective sheen as it reflected the late afternoon sunlight that was streaming through my window. The oil and the sun combined to warm me as I raised my arm and tense it. A maze of hard curves and deep clefts formed across my shoulder and arm as I proudly watched my muscles growing larger than seemed possible considering my slender arm. 

A thousand hours of intense workouts, starting when I'd turned twelve, had awakened the smooth muscles that my P1 genetics had given me -- the genetic class reserved for Protectors. I crossed my arms across my chest as I lifted my eyes to meet their reflection in the mirror. They had matured to a brilliant violet-blue just this last year, and my hair was now sunshine blonde and very long. I was now the 'sculpture in living steel' that my father had optimistically been calling me since I'd turned fourteen. He was so proud that I was destined to become a Protector.

I hugged myself tighter as I brought my thoughts back to Velor, and frowned at my far from satisfying figure. Cupping myself, my breasts felt small in my hands, smaller than the hard ball of biceps that I'd just tested the hardness of. I remembered the old Velorian tale my mother had told me, one that said that the measure of female maturity for a Velorian was when your breasts become larger than your biceps, when your hands can no longer contain them, then you were ready for the Rites. I suddenly wished my fingers were short and my hands smaller.

Still, there was hope. Mother had joked about it only last week when she asked me if my hands were getting smaller. I'd blushed as I showed her that my hands were now as big as hers. It was the rest of me that was still too small.

Fortunately, the Rites of Passage would fix that. All Velorian girls go through their Rites on their sixteenth birthday. It's also the day that girls selected to become Protectors are presented to the Velorian High Council. Acolytes for the Protector Corps undergo a very different kind of Rite. One that was spoken of in whispers, more rumor than fact.

I didn't care what a Protector's Rites involved, all I knew was that I was ready. Everyone said I was the poster child for a Protector, and I knew that to be true in my very soul. The guys at school definitely knew it too. A dozen of them had already signed up for my Protector's Rites and it was still a month away. Only two would be selected, but more guys kept signing up. I was flattered by that, but I also began wondering what they knew about the ceremony that I didn't. 

Pushing that disquieting thought away, I walked back across my bedroom to pick up the envelope that lay on my desk. My fingers were strong and confident now as I tore one end of it off. Standing nude and confident, completely and totally ready to wear the Supremis 'S' of a Protector, I was ready to leave behind the girlish clothing and habits of a Velorian girl and replace them with the magnificent red and blue caped uniform of a woman who protected entire planets. A calm confidence filled me as I closed my eyes and ran my fingernail down the length of the envelope. I then opened my eyes as I removed the folded up sheet of paper and read it.

I was ready for my new world.

The world of being a Velorian Protector.

I blinked as my first glance into my new world looked all wrong!

Instead of the bright red 'S' of the Protector Corps, I saw that the letterhead contained a golden logo. I quickly turned the letter over to search for the 'S', only to see the golden crossed quills of a Scribe decorating the back of it. The words embossed on the page began to swim before my eyes as my heart stopped.

"...report within thirty days to the Institute of Scribes on Daxxan for training as a Scribe of Velor."

The letter fell from my hands as a sense of emptiness and rejection filled me.

I had not been selected to be a Protector.

I was flawed. I was only to be a Scribe. 

My legs began to shake and I fell to the floor, my head spinning as a loud noise began to buzz inside my head. I hit the floor just as a curtain of darkness fell over me like a wet blanket.

My heart shuddered and stopped, my breathing froze in mid-breath.

My mother later told me that it took her a half-hour to get my heart to beat steadily again -- fortunately Velorians can live for a long time in heartless coma, the name for a state that is indistinguishable from death. Fortunately, most of the universe considers we Velorians to be invulnerable, and they were close enough to being right to allow me to awaken again.

My head was still swimming dizzily and my stomach was twisting with nausea as my mother smiled bravely at me and hugged me. She was saying something about a mistake that had been made. A mistake that could be easily fixed. She jumped up to take my letter with her to begin calling the government office that managed the selection of Protectors and Scribes.

I flopped on my bed, only to realize that my father was going to be devastated when he learned of my failure. He'd always taken such pride in my athletic skills, especially in the way that I'd always managed to score among the top five percent of the girls at the All City tournament in terms of strength and flexibility. He'd set up my training program down at the gym as he'd helped me grow strong and flexible. I was now able to beat almost every other girl in my school at Scrumbles, the game that I later found out resembled the Terran game called Rugby. Not only that, but I could lift five times my bodyweight over my head with one hand and could beat my dad at arm wrestling two out of three times, and he was a very strong man. I'd been fiercely determined to become the strongest girl in my school as it was said that all the girls who scored in the top five percent in athletics always became Protectors. I was one of them. I knew it in my soul.

Now this letter had come to crush my soul. I wasn't going to be a Protector, only a lowly Scribe. I cried myself to sleep that night, thinking what a waste it would be for someone with P1 genes to take on the role of a Scribe, a job reserved for those of lesser P2 genetics, sometimes even P3.

I woke in the morning to the sound of Mom and Dad arguing downstairs. Dad finally came upstairs to knock on the door. I leaped off my bed, forgetting that I was still nude, and opened the door to fall into his arms. He held me and rocked me like he had when I was a young girl. I buried my face in his chest and wept openly as I told him I had been selected to be only a Scribe. I told him that I didn't know anything about writing and I knew nothing about being a Scribe and I was stronger than the other girls and I just had to be a Protector or I'd die.

He wiped the tears from my cheeks as he reminded me that being either a Protector or a Scribe was the best career on the planet, roles that only someone with P-class genetics was suited for. Like a Protector, being a Scribe was also an off-planet job, something I'd always said I wanted. Even as a Scribe, I would live away from the twin golden planets of Velor and Daxxan, I'd live my life outside the dampening gold fields, I'd live with my special genetics fully empowered. I'd be able to fly, I'd have the strength of thousands of ordinary humans, even if I wouldn't be as strong as a Protector. But Protector or Scribe, I would be a super girl, the kind of woman the ordinary people of Earth used to worship as goddesses.

I didn't care. For despite his brave words, which I silently thanked him for, I could see that he was deeply disappointed too. He'd always taken such pride in my athletic achievements and I'd long suspected that he'd wanted a son. But he told me that having a tomboyish daughter who aspired to be a Protector had made him far happier than any son could have. He said he'd always thought of me as some kind of female warrior. Possibly I'd someday become a Virago, the most revered class of Protectors.

He'd helped me so much while growing up. First by coaching my Scrumbles teams for years until I made the Varsity squad at school. Then by helping me with my schoolwork and then with a weight training program in the local gym. He'd helped my teammates in the same way. They were all tall and blonde and nearly as strong as me. Of course that would describe the entire planet of Velor in most Terran's eyes, for even an ordinary Velorian outside a gold field has many hundreds of times the strength of an Earthbound human, but those of us at my school were special even among Velorians, for only those with P-class genetics attended it. And of the fifty students in my class, Jaime, Su'ann and I were the ones who always stood out from the crowd. We were the alpha females of our school. Sure to become Virago's someday. I loved them all.

And while I did not know it yet, it was that love, that and my affinity for my female classmates that finally doomed me.

* * *

A week went by as Mom called every government office in the vidphone book. Dad helped her until he wound up yelling at the bureaucrats, something which only ensured that his calls no longer went through. One of the government people eventually told Mom that nobody could access my files because they were now locked. The final decision of the High Council had been made, they told her, and there was no channel to protest. There was no path for appeal in the selection of Protectors.

I learned later that this was the typical response of an overbearing and glacial bureaucracy after it had made a mistake -- I've seen that play acted out too many times since then. The Velorian bureaucracy was run by old, gray men who had no idea that they were ripping the heart out of a young girl who only wanted to serve the Protectorate. Even if they had understood what they were doing to me, they wouldn't have cared. 

I suddenly found myself hating my native planet.

Mom quickly became my source of strength as she turned her attention from trying to fix the mistake to trying to convince me that things could have been worse. She reminded me that Scribes travel far and wide, even more so than a Protector. She said I'd still be able to fly between the stars without the protection of a starship, that I could even fly through the corona of a star without singing a single hair on my head. She also reminded me that I secretly liked to write and that I'd done well in literature and creative writing classes.

As it turns out, that was the second part of my undoing; my writing. It wasn't until many years later that I learned that it was my 9th level Creative Writing teacher, Fr. Jan'eskie, who'd actually done me in. She'd written the selection board at the Institute of Scribes to describe a particularly talented young lady that she wanted considered to be a Scribe. She'd told them two reasons why I should be a Scribe and one reason why I could not be a Protector. She was the one who'd doomed me with her report.

Paradoxically, Fr. Jan'eskie had been the one teacher I'd felt really close to that year. She'd encouraged me to write fiction, and told me that I had a good imagination and an interesting way of expressing myself. We wrote poems and short stories together and we laughed over my early abortive attempts as she congratulated me on my later attempts. It was our little secret that I truly liked to write and that I was fairly good at it.

But unbeknownst to me, more sinister forces were at work. During the summer between my level ten and eleven grades I started to secretly date a much older man named Jan'El. He'd completed his Rites eight years ago and was a Messenger who had been off-planet twice in the last two years. I didn't know it then, but his off-planet activities would best be described as bringing a very intimate form of comfort to the Protectors he visited. He was very proud of his job, but I truly had no idea what he did for a living, other than that of carrying news of Velor to them and intelligence information on the Arions back to Velor. What I did know was that he was charming. I was still thrilled to have attracted the attention of a guy who was ten years older than me. Most importantly, a man whose other lovers were all Protectors. 

We went out on dates while my parents thought I was over at my girlfriend's house studying and we got along fine until our fourth date when he decided to 'comfort' me the same way he had comforted those Protectors. As much as I'd enjoyed the attentions of this older man, I was completely unprepared for the fact that he was intent on making me a woman in the oldest and most fundamental of ways.

By the time I realized what his intentions were, it was too late to stop him. His strength and passion awakened mine in Velorian fashion as he took me to a place I was not prepared to go, but a place that both thrilled and disgusted me at the same time. Disgusted because in the end, I was the one who didn't want him to stop. I was the one who begged him to finish what we'd started. I was the one who wouldn't let go of him until the sun rose the next morning. I was the one who exhausted him.

I woke up that next morning a woman of fifteen years age. I was also sore and embarrassed and angry, and my emotions and hormones were so confused that I could only turn it all into a seething anger that was directed at him. I called him on the phone and openly accused him of raping me.  He laughed and simply called it loving. He said I'd asked for it and tried to charm me by telling me that I was the most beautiful woman he'd ever slept with. I ignored the compliment as I focused on my memory of telling him NO to him a dozen times. He said that I was just a silly girl, that I was inexperienced, that this was the way of things -- that saying no was really just a form of saying yes, at least at first. He reminded me that I was the one who hadn't wanted the night to end. 

I was so confused after talking to him that I began to doubt myself. Maybe this really was the way of loving. Maybe I really had encouraged him like he said. Maybe it was all my fault. Maybe I'd led him on. Maybe I'd really wanted to lose control and he was just the excuse. Those are the doubts that he made me feel. 

As a result, I told no one about my rape at first, least of all my parents, for I was ashamed that I'd been so weak as to let a man take advantage of me that way. But eventually, I needed to talk to someone about it, and Fr. Jan'eskie was that person. I confided to her that Jan'El had raped me. She immediately wanted me to go to the authorities and have him arrested, but I just couldn't do that. I knew that such an entry in my files might disqualify me. A Protector who'd been raped by a Messenger? Impossible. Such weakness and vulnerability didn't fit in with any model I had of a Protector. Messengers lived only to bring comfort to Protectors. Protectors were stronger, more vital, in control of their own libidos, their own desires.

Fr. Jan'eskie seemed to understand as I finally told her everything about it and how the violation had disgusted me. I released all the anger and hurt that I'd been holding inside, and in the process of doing that, I told her that I didn't like men. I told her that the sex act made me feel dirty. I told her that I only liked girls. I couldn't stop myself as I went on and on to finally tell her that I was secretly in love with my classmate, Jaime'Lee Smeyd.

My admission of homosexual attraction didn't shock her. She, like most Velorian women, was bi-sexual in nature, and she told me that she herself usually favored femme partners. But she knew like everyone else did that I was destined to be a Protector. She also knew something about the Rites and what was involved. She knew that a Protector could not be averse to the attentions of men.

The result was that she tried to protect me by putting an entry in my permanent record that said I was exclusively femme and should not be made to undergo the Rites. She thought she was protecting me from further pain.

Strangely, sadly, in her desire to protect me, she succeeded in protecting me from the one thing in life I really wanted -- to be a Protector.

* * *

The days following the receipt of the letter were the darkest in my life. Thinking back now, I can't believe today that I was so confident in being selected that I hadn't considered what I would do if I wasn't chosen. I'd focused only on the fact that my physical education teacher, Hr. An'dres, had turned my name into the selection board for Protectors. Everyone knew that his recommendation was the most important of all, for he'd gone to the Hall of Protectors himself to sponsor girls to become Protectors in years past. I was thrilled that he wanted to sponsor me and I assumed that his recommendation guaranteed that I would be selected.

I'd gone so far as to fall asleep each night that last month while dreaming of the planets I might someday protect. I attended all the presentations at school from returning Scribes and watched all their videos. Their pictures revealed strange and amazing people, some humanoid, some obviously not, all of whom where in the care of tall, proud blonde women who looked over them while wearing the bright red 'S' of Homo Sapiens Supremis on their chests. I wanted to be one of them more than I wanted life itself. That was also when I started to have a recurring dream, a dream that I might go to that forbidden planet that no Protector had gone to in recent times.

My dreams became dreams of Earth.

My friends laughed at me as I shared my fantasy of going to ancient Earth. Nobody went to that dirtball planet, they said. It was backward and violent and full of self-destructive people. A Protector would go insane there trying to protect everyone from themselves. They said that the people of that planet, the Terrans, were so busy killing each other off that they probably wouldn't even notice it if a few warriors from the Arion Empire landed on their planet to help wipe out all intelligent life. There obviously wasn't much of that there anyway.

Yet despite that, Earth was a mystical place in the minds of most Velorians, for it was our ancient, primal home. I'd studied enough of Velorian ancient history to know that our genetic stock had begun in Scania, a place that was now called Sweden. Like everyone else on Velor, I also knew that the Galen, the Ancient Ones had since instructed my people, the Homo Supremis, that Earth was to be left strictly alone. It was to remain the wild, unspoiled genetic cradle of humanity. It was part of our Prime Directive do to so.

But I knew even then that the Arions would never honor the Prime Directive. They were evil and they worked as hard to snuff out life as we Velorians worked to nurture it. I knew that they would eventually go to Earth and corrupt it. I also knew that I was going to stop them, and I knew that this was going to be my life's work. I would save the planet of our origin even if I had to defy the Ancient Ones to do it.

Such were my dreams and my aspirations a month before my sixteenth birthday. Now I had a letter in my hands that said I was only to be a Scribe. It said that I would train for two years at the Institute of Scribes on Daxxan and then be assigned to chronicle the various Protector's actions. I cringed at the very thought, for I knew that my friends would all become Protectors or Messengers and that they would have been on their assigned planets for years before I was first allowed to leave the home system.

Even worse, I might be asked to chronicle one of my former friend's exploits, to hover in the dark shadows and hide myself among the people of her world as a former classmate flew freely through the skies. I would be asked to send my chronicles home to Velor and never let anyone know I had even been there. No one, that is, except some stuffy academics in the Institute of Scribes. Academics who would barely glance at my chronicles before burying them among a thousand others in some dusty library to rot for all time.

It was the absolute worst moment of my life.

* * *

It was three weeks later and still a week before my sixteenth birthday when I decided that my parents were going to fail. They'd never failed me before, but now they had. Nobody on the High Council would talk to them anymore. I knew that if I was going to correct this mistake, I would have to do it myself. There was only one way left, a forbidden way. I decided that I was going to go to the Hall of Protectors and argue my case. I'd never failed at anything I'd put my mind and body to, and I was determined that this problem would be no different. 

I secretly rose long before dawn on the last Tuesday morning before my birthday to run through the rain-soaked city streets before dawn, my bare feet splashing from one puddle to another as I held my tear-stained letter in one hand. I was scared to death, for there was no record of anyone on Velor having protested her lack of selection as a Protector. Especially not by going to the Hall of Protectors. But I figured I had nothing to lose by trying. My life might as well be over if I didn't become a Protector.

The sun was just rising in the northern sky as I finally approached the imposing palace of marble and steel that I had always thought would become my home away from home. The Hall of Protectors was a collection of spires that reached a thousand stories into the sky, the tops of the towers disappearing into the low rain clouds. It was the tallest building on Velor and was built of white marble and polished steel. The building looked almost transparent when the sun was shining, and its huge red and yellow 'Supremis' rune would glow brightly as it stood ten-thousand feet in the sky. It was the most beautiful building in the world, at least to my eyes.

I walked up to front door, only to observe that it was as oversized as the rest of the building -- it stood at least five stories high. Neither I nor anyone else I knew had ever seen this door open. Studying it closely now, I found that it appeared to be nearly a meter in thickness and was formed of what appeared to be polished stainless steel. It was a Velorian custom to install very heavy doors and then fit them with frictionless automatic openers, and I assumed this one was like all the others. All I had to do was push or pull on the handle.

I found out otherwise when the door didn't budge. After several tries, throwing my full weight into it, I kneeled down in the rain to study the door more closely. I saw semicircles of deep scratches in the marble floor where the door had obviously been opened before, so I knew it could be done. Staring at the deep scratches, I realized that the full weight of the steel door rested on the stone floor, not on its hinges. Startled by the realization that it had no frictionless hinges, no powered opening, I rose to rap the door hard with my knuckles again. It sounded like the armor of a battleship. Convinced now that the door was made of solid steel, I struggled to remember my physics and math from school as I tried to estimate its weight. I came up with the ridiculous weight of two hundred tons.

My head began to reel with the thought of anyone exerting enough strength in a gold field to open such a door. A Protector outside a gold field would have no problem with it, but not here, not on Velor. I sagged back to my knees, only to notice a worn stainless steel panel set into the stone wall, the plate set just below waist height. I crawled over to study it closer, and saw the shape of many bare human feet embedded in that hard steel. Small feet, feminine feet. It suddenly came to me in a flash of inspiration that opening this door was the first test of a Protector. If a person could do that, then they belonged inside.

But two hundred tons? I had no idea how to budge something that heavy. My mind began to race wildly as I turned around to see that the street behind me was mostly empty, a bare handful of early commuters rushing by on their way to work, their eyes focused downward. I'd read somewhere that very few Velorians were comfortable walking near the Hall of Protectors and I could see in their eyes that the rumor was true. Strangely, I felt completely at home here. Buoyed by that thought, I turned back to face the door of the palace. I belonged here. If others had opened this door, then I could. I had to.

Still, a voice in the back of head kept whispering 'impossible'. I pushed that voice away as I imagined having the strength to move such a door. I have a very good imagination, and my dad had always said that I could do anything I put my mind to, but I felt my imagination failing me this time. I grabbed the door handle and pulled frantically on it, only to find that it felt as if it was rooted to the gold core of Velor itself.

"You will need all your strength this day, pumpkin. A Protector's strength."

I spun around to see my father standing in the street below me.

"Dad! What are you doing here?"

"I heard you leave the house early this morning and it didn't take a detective to figure out that you had one last desperate appeal to make. This is the only place left where you could make that appeal."

I walked down the steps as my dad opened his arms to hug me. Getting hugged by him just makes me feel so snug and so secure that I never want to let go. I felt a girlish tear forming as I rested my head on his shoulder. I responded to that emotion by angrily flicking that tear away as I forced myself to step back from the warmth of his arms. This was not a time for girlish weakness.

I looked up to see my dad gesturing toward the massive structure behind me. "I've read that this palace has a field that partially offsets the gold effect of Velor, pumpkin. I hope those rumors are true, because that's a very big door for a little girl to open." 

We both stared up at the massive door as I forced a smile to my lips. "I was born to be a Protector, dad. If others have done this, then so can I." 

My words sounded confident, but inside I was shaking, my confidence having deserted me.

"I agree with that, pumpkin. But are you truly ready to do what must be done to get strong enough to open it?" 

I turned to see him looking at me with a concerned look in his eyes. I was puzzled by his words for a long moment before the lessons of my physiology class suddenly came back to me. I suddenly remembered how Velorian femmes were reputed to get stronger, P1's especially, even when in the effect of a gold field. I tried to resist the sudden instinct to blush at that thought as I stared levelly back into his eyes. I saw for the thousandth time how sterile and ordered my world was. The very thought of living my life in such a place suddenly horrified me even more than the realization of what I would have to do to escape it. 

Turning back to face my father, I took a deep breath as I steeled myself to my fate. I was no longer a little girl and I was damned if I was going to act like one now. I took yet another deep breath while straightening my back to stare into his eyes. 

"I can open this door if you will honor me in the way that a man must to make me strong." The words spilled boldly from my lips as I imitated the lines I'd once heard in a movie.

He gasped audibly. "That is not a father's role, Shara’Lynn."

I stepped forward to reach out for his hand. "It has to be one, Dad. I'm out of time and the answers I need are behind that door. I can't open it on my own. I need someone' help."

He shook his head as he turned away from me to start back down the stairs. "I'm sorry, pumpkin, it would not be proper for me to even think of this. You have many friends, they can help you." I saw by his eyes that he was uncomfortable even with that.

"Dad, please," I interrupted. "It's my only chance. My birthday is tomorrow. There is no more time. I have to do this now. Right now." 

I stared at his back as he paused halfway down the steps. He stood silently for a long time before finally forcing himself to turn back to smile softly up at me. He looked both proud and worried. Even a little sad.

"You always were so determined, weren't you, Shara’Lynn. Nothing would stand in the way of what you wanted. Nothing until you got that letter a few weeks ago."

"Don't count me out yet, dad. If I can just make them see their mistake, I can make this happen too. If you will honor me."

He nodded in understanding as he rose back up the steps to stand before me. My eyes were bright and eager as he took my hands in his. His eyes looked a very sad now, almost like he was saying goodbye to me. I closed my thoughts and refused to let myself think of what I was getting into.

He took a final deep breath as he forced himself to smile. "You've always been such a tomboy, my little pumpkin? So eager to do things the way a boy would, so determined to outdo everyone else, even as you dazzled all those boys with that beautiful hair and those sparkling eyes of yours. All the boys have eyes only for you when you walk into a room?"

He paused as I started to blush brighter. "I think that honor goes to Jaime."

"But do you truly understand how a woman with your genetic legacy becomes stronger?" He paused as he looked pointedly up at the huge door. "Strong enough to open that monstrous thing?"

I shrugged as if it was not big deal, even though my thoughts were reeling inside. "Yeah, I got an 'A' in physiology, Dad. I know," I said again as I stared down at my feet. My thoughts were tumbling wildly over each other as I tried to imagine what had to be done, but I could not force myself to envision it. There were some truly bizarre aspects to Velorian physiology.

My spirits sunk as I saw the look in his eye. He wasn't going to help me. No father would. "My whole life has led to this moment, Dad. And now its going to end here if you won't help me." He said nothing for the longest time. Then he took my hands in his.

"If this is the only way to regain your birth legacy, then let us try to free the power that is within you, my daughter. You must show me that you are truly a woman who transcends other women. A Protector born, just like you mother."

I felt a sudden surge of hope filling me. If my father wasn't willing to give up, then I wasn't either. No matter what the actions. No matter what the consequences.

"Just hold me," was all I said as my eyes pleaded with him to show me the way. "For once, hold me like a man, Dad. Not as a father."

He stepped back as he stiffened his arms to resist me. "There is a ritual, Shara’Lynn, and the ritual says that your strength must be greater than mine. You must take what it is you need from me. That is truly the way of a Protector."

I nodded numbly as I understood that part of the ritual, at least on an intellectual level. His hands began to grip mine very tightly as we began to struggle against each other, the raw strength of a very strong grown man opposing the youthful power of a teenage daughter of Velor.

At first he was far too strong for me, his arms huge and sinewy, his muscles work-hardened. But I was P1, and as that legacy began to assert itself, his advantage began to fade. My body awoke, a tingling heat spreading outward from my chest, then from a place far lower, as our silent struggle slowly unleashed all the power of my genes. My slender arms turned hard with muscle, my body a third the size of his, yet soon I felt his arms shaking from the strain instead of mine. 

"Yes, this is the way of a Protector, Shara’Lynn. Strength begets strength. You must awaken your body in all the ways that a woman's body can be awakened."

I closed my eyes as I felt his straining muscles slowly yielding to my strength. I slowly lifted his body upward until I was holding him over my head, his entire bodyweight suspended with my arms outstretched, my body strangely remaining balanced despite his great weight. I stared up into his steel-blue eyes as I very slowly lowered him back to stand on the same step as I stood on. I gripped his hands tighter now as I pulled him toward me. He resisted me even harder, yet I was now strong enough now that he was helpless.

I brought his hands to my chest and cupped them around the growing curves that were already threatening to rend my dress apart from my exertions. I stared down in proud astonishment at the amazing swell of my breasts as I felt them tingling wildly from the energy they were absorbing from the void around me. I realized at that moment that the magic of the Hall of Protectors was already at work, it's ability to empower all those who enter.

I was no longer lacking the curves of a grown woman!

"So, am I still your little tomboy, dad?" I said while looking back up at him. He held me tightly as I giggled in girlish fashion. I took a deep breath and thrust my chest forward, only to feel his hands to overflowing. He blushed brightly as I felt my nipples growing hard beneath his touch, but he said nothing.

"I am destined to be a Protector, Dad, your hands can feel that now. I need all the strength of your hands now to give me the power to open that door."

"I know, pumpkin, I truly know," he finally said with a note of wonder in his voice as he stared down at me. I felt his hands beginning to move in the way of a man as I relaxed my grip on his. "You are very much your mother's daughter now, do you know that? She was always so strong-willed. She never let anything stop her. I won't let anything stop you either."

I was the silent one this time as I lifted my hands from his and placed my hands on my hips to proudly present my chest to him. I shivered a moment later as he began to undo the buttons that lined the front of my dress. We both knew that my clothing would never survive the forces I was about to unleash. It was made of ordinary stuff while I was not. I closed my eyes and lifted my arms over my head the same way I'd done when I was two, yet I didn't feel anything like a little girl as my dress slowly fell to my ankles. His hands followed it down my entire body, his touch caressing every curve of me. I suddenly found myself standing naked and strangely proud of that nakedness as I opened my eyes to watch his eyes moving over all of me. His look was both that of a proud father and that of a man.

"You are even more beautiful than your mother, Shara’Lynn. You truly were born to be a Protector," was all he said.

His words and his admiring eyes sent a wild little thrill through me. I heard his heart pounding like some kind of jungle drum as I forced myself to turn around in his tight embrace to lean my back against his chest, my hands guiding his hands back up to the place I needed them to be. I closed my eyes tightly as his hands closed about me and began to move with a purpose. 

Feeling both embarrassed and naked and proud and scared of the way I was feeling, I struggled to distance my thoughts from him by imagining that it was Jaime's small hands which were now gradually and expertly coaxing my nipples to their full arousal. I imagined that I could smell Jaime's perfume, even as I knew the wildflower scent in the air was from my own arousal. I imagined her being in love with me as I was in love with her as she slowly awakened my body. The vibrating sense of my unleashing arousal brought my thoughts back to the reality of the man who held me, to the man who'd taught me how to be strong enough and tough enough to play Scrumbles. The man who had helped me learn to lift the largest weights. The man who was teaching me another way to be strong now. 

My breathing soon began to come in halting gasps as he coaxed my libido from its hiding place to leave me at a loss regarding what to do with my own hands. I lowered one hand to touch myself as his hand closed over mine to guide me very close to the edge of my passion. My libido was soaring out of control a few minutes later when I opened my eyes and turned my head to brush my moist finger across his lips, my lips finding his a moment later. I kissed him deeply as I gently exerted my newfound strength to lift his hands from my now engorged breasts and extended his arms to his sides. My passion had now made me far, far stronger than him as I slowly bent his straining arms behind his back.

We struggled playfully for a moment before I bent him too far backward to continue our forbidden kiss. He responded by kissing my breasts instead. He paused there for a while as his tongue began to worship the hard projections of my arousal. He sent me flying higher than I'd ever flown before when he gripped me gently with his teeth as I wrapped my arms around his head and held him to me, my breast covering his face. His hands traced lower to find my tiny waist as he gently turned me back around to face the door.

"Now, pumpkin, now is the time for you to act." 

His hands traced lower yet as he kneeled beside me to guide my right leg upward to prop my foot against that well-worn panel. He began to slowly run one hand along my thigh, his other hand tracing down the hard contours of my lower back. That hand tightly gripped the hard curve of my behind as his other hand began to caress the muscular power of my long leg. I sensed the pride he had in my strong body as I concentrated on grabbing the Vendorian steel ring. I took a deep breath while bracing my foot against the steel place and pulling against the door with all the strength my father had just granted me. My thigh flexed hard beneath his hands as I released all the power of my birthright. His other hand in turn gripped me so tightly that it almost hurt.

The huge door didn't budge.

I closed my eyes and tried again. I began to dream the dream that often came to me in the middle of the night, the one of being stronger than anyone else. I lost myself in that dream while my father's fingers traced across my straining muscles with a reverence that a man might pay to a goddess of power. I was just his daughter, but I still thrilled as I felt his fingers rising to follow the myriad paths of hard muscle he'd help me build over the years, his fingers tracing every feminine curve, every ridge of steel. I suddenly wanted nothing more than to reward his pride in my body by becoming the Protector that he wished me to be. My thoughts and the wonder of his touch now worked together to increase the tingling sensation that began to focus low on my body. I gripped the green steel ring harder yet as the tingles spread downward to scent the very air around me with the smell of honey and wildflowers. It was then that I felt a sudden SNAP as the air around me was filled with stars for a moment. 

I recognized the buzz of a force field, a field that could block the gold effect of Velor's gold core.

My body responded to the momentary slackening of the gold field by shimmering as they filled with energy from the dimensional void. A tingling warmth lit the air around me as I felt myself growing stronger than should have been possible on Velor. It took all my willpower to hold myself back now, to wait until the sensation of power and arousal and my onrushing orgasm filled me to the breaking point. I felt my self-control evaporating as I began to pant wildly in my excitement. My arms and legs flexed with impossible power as I strained against the massive door until I felt my body racing upward toward that tingling place that had no return, a place I had only gone in the darkness and privacy of my bed. I bit my lip as I tried to hold back the feeling even as the hand that caressed my backside slid forward to intimately urge me on.

The shock of his sudden touch sent me flying on the wings of passion. I gave a last, final desperate pull on the ring just as I reached the pinnacle of uncontrolled ecstasy. My body was shaking with the power of passion released when a new kind of power flooded into my body. It was the same feeling I'd felt in the military training place on the moon, Erin'Lah, that time on that picnic. I suddenly knew that the fabled forcefield of the Hall of Protectors had just been activated! 

My body was suddenly covered with a million aching pinpricks as my father's hands suddenly grew far, far stronger. The force field felt like it was cutting me open to let the real woman inside escape. It was painful, but it was so wonderful at the same time as those million tingles seemed to race inward to fill every part of me, and at the same time, the forcefield grabbed onto my arousal and made me one with it. I bit my lip until it was bloody as I struggled to control my emotions, only to feel myself pausing at the very peak of my unrequited passion. I panted desperately as I cried out in joy as I stood teetering that pinnacle, holding myself from diving into that pool of tangible pleasure that I had swum so hurriedly through that first time with Jan'El. 

My breasts responded to their unexpected freedom by flaring to star-bright incandescence as they awakened to draw the power of the void into themselves. Blue sparks flew in every direction, the largest of the sparks crackling with rippling thunder. I felt myself being sucked upward and across the precipice of the most private of sensualities, yet I was strangely able to control my libidinous power to keep from falling down the other side. I became one with my orgasm as my body felt like it was on fire. My father's hands rose to encircle them again, his hands now proving to be far too small to contain the violent blue lightening that filled me. He bravely held me with his crushingly intimate strength, a strength that brought me a deliciously agonizing mixture of pain and pleasure, for he was now a Velorian man who was outside a gold field. He was stronger than imagination itself. He was invulnerable like I was, he was a super man.

I felt a further surge of strength racing through me as every muscle in my body seemed to want to join in the coming explosion of uncontrolled sexual orgasm. I couldn't hold it back any more, and my spirit leaped boldly forward. I was shot down like a duck from a shotgun blast as out-of-control tremors exploded from my lower body to envelope me in a white-hot heat that swept me away in a tornado of the most powerful orgasm of my life. 

The world literally moved beneath me as I pulled on the ring as hard as I could. The marble floor shuddered and the massive door began to open!

"That's it, Shara’Lynn," my father gasped as he tried to hold onto my wildly shaking body. "You have it now. Hold that feeling, right there, honey. Let it grow, but don't let it carry you completely away, either. Hold back... hold back."

My father's words echoed through my head as if he was talking inside a huge metal drum. His grip on my chest became painful as I cried out in wild pain/pleasure as my muscles flexed so powerfully that a few hundred tons of steel was suddenly no impediment to their contraction. The ground shook earthquake-like beneath my feet as the huge door scraped noisily across the polished stone. I bit my lip hard enough to make it hurt as I tried to hold onto my surging arousal, to not let it get away, to not slide all the way down the backside of my passion and into the softness beyond.

The brilliant glow from my now sparkling chest was so brilliant that it heated the steel in front of me to a reddish glow, only to be so glad when my father released his embarrassingly intimate hold on me and stepped away. The power of my passion was now burning too hot for any man to contain.

I responded to my sudden freedom by shifting my grip on the Vendorian ring and pulling hard on it again. The door moved a little more with each pull as my distorted reflection in the polished steel revealed that my body was now a maze of hard curves. I looked like a glowing specter as my upper body glowed in shades ranging from cherry-red to white-hot from my energy absorption. Yet the power I drew across the void was enough, barely enough, as I gave the door one final mighty pull.

A pull that was strong enough to pull the door open wide enough to slip through the crack.

"I did it, I did it!" I screamed as I released the ring to turn proudly around to face my father. I hugged him tightly, my glowing chest igniting his clothing in a puff of bright flame, my far stronger fingers intertwining with his to lift his arms to the side. He grinned back at me, a father's pride beaming, as he hugged my trembling body, sweaty wetness of his chest sizzling against mine. I impetuously kissed him a last time, but this time not as a daughter, realizing from his reaction that the smooth flow of orgonic power had made me into a woman.

Yet for a few more moments, I wanted only to be his little girl. Grabbing his hand tighter, I pulled him through the opening of the door behind me. I found myself in what had once been the Shrine of Skietra but was now just a small foyer and, beyond that, through a quite ordinary door…

I stopped dead in my tracks as soon as I saw passed through that other door. Translucent white marble glowed brilliantly as it rose nearly a thousand stories above my head, the interior of he Hall lighted by the sun as it rose, the red glow of sunrise marching down the walls.

Looking up, I saw dozens and dozens of statues of famous Protectors. Standing tall and life-like, some of them floated in mid-air five stories over my head, their blond hair and red capes floating in the artificial breeze, that bright Supremis rune decorating their chests as a symbol of the indomitably feminine power that lay beneath it. I proudly squared my bare shoulders and pushed my Velorian blonde hair behind my back as I started walking across the atrium. I was quickly shocked to find that my feet weren't touching the floor.

I was flying!

My newfound power of flight didn't last long as I tumbled out of control. A half-dozen accelerating forward somersaults smacked me up against a marble wall three stories above the floor. I heard my father laughing behind me from the door as he watched me tumble out of control.

His words floated up to me. "Such a graceful little princess..."

I fed his sense of humor by awkwardly bouncing off the closest wall to bob around upside-down in mid-air as the eyes of all those statues stared at me. My father wisely restrained his chuckles as I simply stared back at the statues. They seemed to be judging my performance as well.

Each of them looked so real that they could have started moving and it would have seemed the most natural thing in the world.  I closed my eyes for a moment to clear my thoughts so I could concentrate on a mental image of flying through the air on that long-ago family picnic on Erin’lah. Surprisingly, my body did what my mind envisioned as the old reflexes came back. I suddenly floated right side up and began to fly like a Protector. With control. With confidence.

My emotions surged from passion to pure childish joy. I knew right away that the knowledge of how to fly was in my genes. I was truly a P1. Not only that, but I'd proudly passed the ultimate test of admittance to this hall. I belonged here. That said, I couldnt help but still be intimidated.

Dressed as proudly as the statues were, all of them wearing their tiny red and blue uniforms, their capes fluttering in the faint breeze of the AirCon, I thought they were more beautiful than life itself. I wanted them all. I would have made any deal with any devil to be one of them. I felt my passion threatening to peak again as I truly imagined being one of them. My legs felt weak and my body was tingling wildly by the time I reached the far end of that hallway of feminine power.

My father correctly stayed behind in the entranceway. This building was not a place for men. I ignored the fact that I wasn't supposed to be here either. I was inside now, and that was all that counted. 

And then I noticed another statue. And this statue was moving. She came from somewhere far above. As she approached, I saw that she was dressed in a white gown that left her arms and legs bare. She carried more muscle than I'd ever seen on a man or a woman. A glance at the soft lines of her face told me that she was probably many centuries old.

She had to be one of the very rare Protectors who had returned to Velor after protecting her planet for centuries. I was suddenly in awe of this woman as she alighted in front of me and stared at me, the look on her face saying that I was either seriously lost, or deranged. She was right on the second point. But I'd never felt less lost in my life.

"Can I help you?" Her voice was low and modulated with a strange accent, one that I would someday come to know was Greek.

Her words startled me such that I lost my new sense of coordination and spun around to again hang upside down halfway between the floor and ceiling. I stared down at her as my long hair kept falling over my face to trail on the floor below me. I struggled to rotate myself right side up but only managed to get horizontal. The woman smiled at my nascent flight ability as the frank upward glance of her eyes reminded me that I was nude.

My eyes were in turn drawn to the red and yellow 'S' that adorned her earrings, the symbols that told me she was a Protector.

"You're a Protector?" I blurted out.

"Not exactly. But everyone who enters this building is. Or should be."

She paused as she stared pointedly at my chest. I knew that my skin was still glowing faintly from the energy burn of opening the door. I was even more aware that I wasn't wearing the 'S' rune of the others. I crossed my arms across my chest to hide myself.

"Except you," she added as her eyebrows raised. "How did you get in?"

I forced myself to look proudly into her eyes. "I opened the front door, of course. And I should be. Here I mean. A Protector. My friends were all selected. I was born to be. I have to be. I'll die if I'm not."

My words tumbled from my lips in shattered bits and pieces. I sounded like a complete idiot as I relaxed my legs and floated down to hover with my bare feet a half meter from the floor. At least I was finally right side up. The beautifully-aged woman rose to take the crumpled letter from my hands, the muscles of her body ripping with her every movement. She barely glanced at the letter before handing it back.

"It says you are to be a Scribe. Your Institute is on Daxxan, not here on Velor." She glanced toward the door behind me.

"But why? Why was I not selected?"

The woman sighed as she sat back down. "To be a Protector?" She shrugged. "That's simple. You obviously didn't fulfill all the requirements."

My lips began to tremble. I was determined not to cry. "But I did meet them. I did everything right. I was born with P1 genes, I, went to P-schools all my life, I, I..." My voice trailed off as I heard myself whining. "I opened the door of the Hall of Protectors."

Her eyes softened as she saw the desire on my face. I imagined that she knew that I wanted to be part of the women in this building more than anything in the world. I imagined that she knew that I truly belonged in one of those red and blue uniforms. Anyone could see that I did. I took a deep breath as I struggled to get my emotions under control. My voice started off calmer this time as I continued to list my qualifications. "I was in the top five percent in Physical and I was born from Protector genes. I've seen the records myself. I should have been selected, I could, I mean I can..." My voice trailed off again as I forgot the other half of my prepared speech.

"Physical strength and the genetics of birth are not the only requirements," the woman said flatly.

"But but what else?" I heard the plaintive whine in my voice and that made me angry. I stood straighter as my feet dropped down to touch the floor. "I can do anything that anyone else in this hall can do!" I blurted out proudly.

"I'm beginning to think you can," the woman said smoothly as she smiled at me. "You came through the front door and you've definitely got a Protector's determination. That alone is impressive, as only someone with P1 genes could do that, and usually only after being trained in the technique of controlled arousal. Let me see your letter again."

I handed it to her as all six-chambers of my heart started to beat painfully in my chest. It was all a big mistake, my assignment to Daxxan. It had to be. She said only a Protector could open that door!

She started to type something into the computer terminal in front of her.

"Shara’Lynn Beset’yul. Hmmm. Yes, it says you are physically fit enough. You should have been selected based on that. I wonder" Her voice drifted off as she pressed a few more keys.

"Ah, here it is." She looked up at me as her finger pointed toward the screen. Her eyes were soft and blue now. "It says you failed on Sexual Orientation. All Protectors must be bi-sexual. You are not. It's one of our most strict rules, a rule that I established myself so long ago."

She established? Then this must be… Aphro’dite herself, the mother of all Protectors.

My legs suddenly felt so weak that I lost the ability to fly. I fell from the air to land with a thud on the cold marble floor. My hair covered my face as I tried to look back up through that golden cloud at the desk above me and the impossibly beautiful woman who towered over it. 

"But, but I thought Protectors always bonded together. That they loved each other. That only a Protector could, could, you know, really love another Protector. Physically. That we are sisters in all ways, including in love."

The woman's voice was soft as she stared into my eyes. "Shara’Lynn, that is true most of the time. But it has been found that women can become too strong when they love only each other. A Protector must open herself to the men of her world as well. She must share her power with them. In such a way, she stays human and connected to both genders. I'm sorry, but it's our oldest rule."

"But I have been with a man. I was. His name was Jan'El. We, ah, we were close, if you know what I mean. Last summer. He's a Messenger. He was my boyfriend." My last claim was patently false, but I was desperate.

She pushed a few buttons on her computer. "But you confided to one of your teachers that you wanted nothing further to do with men, Shara’Lynn. That he raped you. That you loved only women. That your desires were purely femme."

My head began to spin. "But that was after Jan'El and I, you know, broke up. I was mad at him. I turned to my teacher for help. She, she told me that I didn't need men."

The woman signed as she rose to her feet and walked around the desk to kneel beside me. I was stunned by the way her muscular body moved with a sense of profound power. I remembered reading that a Protector grew stronger every year of her life. This woman had grown stronger for perhaps a thousand years, maybe several thousand.

"Your teacher put a record into the archives that classified you as exclusively femme, Shara’Lynn. That is why you were not selected. If that was a mistake, I am truly sorry. But it cannot be undone. Each year's Protectors are chosen only a single time. You could try again next year, but I'm afraid you will be too old. Your first Ples'tathy will undoubtedly come before then."

I began to cry. It was so unfair. It was so wrong.

She took me in her arms and lifted me to my feet as if I was a child. I was. A lost little girl in a Hall of Goddesses. I suddenly wanted to run, to hide my face, to never let anyone see me again ever. I struggled to turn away. The woman held me tightly in her arms as if I was a child. She was the Goddess, and she was impossibly strong.

My tears were streaming down my face when her lips touched mine. My arms flew around her neck as I suddenly wanted nothing more in the world than to kiss her back.

* * *

It was hours later when I finally left the Hall of Protectors. I left shamefully through a back door, never to return. That was the first time a Protector opened her body to me. I knew she had done it for me, to try to calm me, to let me know that I truly wasn't different, even if I hadn't been selected. Instead, she'd only succeeded in convincing me how wrong my life had turned out.

She was so beautiful, she was so strong and I had loved her with all my native powers, my body glowing again, both from my passion and my power. I had learned that while her muscles were far, far stronger than mine, my sexuality was stronger than hers. I'd learned that she had once been considered the Goddess of Love on ancient Earth, yet she had ultimately submitted to my desires the only way a woman can submit to another. I had overcome the Goddess of Love herself during an act of passion.

I hated her for revealing that to me. Yet in that one intimate way, I had proven to be stronger than her. Yet this unique strength of mine, my indomitable sexuality, was the very thing that had denied me the dream of a lifetime. I did not know it then, but it would be my undoing so many more times.

* * *

My Rites of Passage were summarily cancelled as expected and I was sent to the remote Institute of Scribes on Daxxan. I spent the next two years of my life there while training to write and to chronicle and to remain detached from my subjects. I was terrible at the last part and almost failed my training. I don't like to be in anyone's shadow. I still thought of myself as a Protector. I always will.

Which is why I defy Velor today in publishing these chronicles. I may be a Scribe, but I'm not the kind of Scribe the people at home think I am. I flirt with the Prime Directive and I know many Terrans on a first name basis. My Terran friends think I'm some kind of Goddess, and I call one of them friend, even lover. She alone knows that I'm hardly a Goddess, and God himself knows that I don't think of myself that way either. I've made many mistakes in my life since I left Velor. I've traveled to two other worlds and I've seen those worlds die. I've loved ordinary men, and I've been loved in return. Yet I truly love women the most. I'm in love with Protectors. Any Protector. But Kira Jahr’ling most of all. It's my curse, one that I try to expunge by sharing my chronicles of her with you by sharing her exploits as I vicariously live them with her.

So those of you who read this, know that I write these chronicles for myself, not for you. Most certainly I don't write them for a bunch of stuffy old men on Velor. I haven't sent a log home for nearly ninety years now. I'm not an entertainer or a storyteller by nature either, but I may appear to be both in your eyes. Enjoy my chronicles of Kira if you wish, but remember always that this is my story and she is my passion revealed.

* * *

"I write because I am personally amused by what I do, and if other people are amused by it, then it's fine.   If they're not, then that's also fine."

That's a quote from Frank Zappa that I like.

 

My other signatures are:

 

"Vis pulchritudo est"

                -- Strength is Beauty

 

"Power corrupts, but absolute power is beyond cool!"

                  -- Mary Youshock

 

"I don't do fantasies, only reality."

                  --Xara Jahr’ling from the KiraJ book

 

"Question Reality"

               -- Sharon Best (as I am known on Terra)

           

 The last one is the best. Question reality always. It's a good motto for anyone. Velorian or Terran. For in the end, we make our own realities.

 

This is mine.

 

Part Two

My two years of training on Daxxan eventually passed and I got another of those damn white and red envelopes in the mail. This time I simply took a deep breath and tore it open without even pausing to wonder what new change it would make in my life.

The letter simply said I was done with my training and that I was to be assigned to Andromeda Seven, a planet that had a new Protector and which was coming under very heavy Arion pressure. A battle was going to be fought there and the original Protector had been injured. A Scribe was needed to record the events.

The matter-of-fact tone of the letter made it all sound like I was being invited to a Clearance Sale down at my favorite department store. Instead, I was being asked to fly halfway across the galaxy under my own power and immerse myself into a life and death battle for an entire planet, a battle that would decide the fate of a race of intelligent beings.

Such is the life of a Scribe of Velor. My new life. A life that I was suddenly excited about starting. At least I was until I turned the page to see who the new Protector of that planet was. I was stunned to see that it was my old friend from Velor, Jaime'Lee Smeyd. Jaime had been a classmate and teammate of mine since grade school. She had been far more than that in my dreams.

The bitter disappointment that I'd felt of my not being chosen to be a Protector came rushing back to me in a flood of painful memories. I crumpled the letter into a ball to toss it across my room to land next to the trashcan. It was then that I realized that despite my initial reluctance to travel to Daxxan to become a Scribe, I didn't really want to leave the comfort of the guild and the scholarly atmosphere that infused the entire planet.

As much as I'd initially resented being sent here, I'd come to enjoy the classes and the writing exercises and the many new friends I'd made here. Especially the friends. I'd also enjoyed the rare privilege of reading hundreds of chronicles that had been sent in by Scribes and had learned a fair bit about the myriad ways of the twin galaxies. It had become my habit to spend much of my spare time in the huge Library of Scribes reading about the dozen generations of Protectors that Velor had sent out into the universe.

My favorite place to read about was still Earth, even though the information they had on it was sketchy and outdated and hard to find. It was clear that the Earth hadn't had much contact with Velor since the days of the Valkyries back in 1000 AD. The frequent contacts which had led to the mythology of Greek, Roman and Norse gods had faded from human consciousness as the Ancient Ones dictated that Earth was to be isolated. Apparently those early attempts to live among the Terrans had been damaging to the development of the Terran race. The result was that Earth was now isolated and wild and apparently ever-changing and free. Which was exactly why I wanted to go there. It was exactly the reason that no one else did.

Andromeda Seven was even more remote and quite a bit more primitive than Earth -- so much so it had never surfaced during my extensive readings. Sitting on my bed as I hugged my knees to my chest, I decided that it didn't matter. I didn't want to go there simply because Jaime was there. I didn't want her to see that I was only a weakling Scribe.

Even more, I didn't want to see the way she'd moved so far beyond me. She'd be some kind of beautiful goddess who flew through the skies while I walked among the locals, trying to hide myself under layers of clothing. She would be magnificent and beautiful beyond description, her body so powerful that se could fight off full armadas of Arion warriors, while I was destined to be humble and earthbound and totally ordinary.

The whole thing sucked. I briefly allowed myself to wonder what happened to Scribes who went AWOL or who deserted? I wasn't exactly in the military, after all. What if I went off on my own and never returned? What with Daxxan's tiny gold core, I could leave under my own power if I wished. There was a whole universe out there waiting for a supergirl like me. I could go anywhere I wanted. Could the High Council find me? Would they even try? Would they send a Protector to punish me, perhaps to bring me back for sentencing? Were the threats of the death penalty for those who left the Velorian system without permission just exaggerated rumors?

A million questions raced around inside my head as I flopped on my back to stare up at the ceiling. Yet even as I fantasized about running away, something inside me cringed at the very thought. I didn't know it at the time, but a form of genetic imprinting had been inserted into my very DNA as it had into all those with P-class genetics. My genes had their own ideas about what I was going to do.

I finally rose from my bed to stare out the window at the autumn leaves as they floated by on warm winds. The world outside my window seemed as fresh and colorful as it had the first time I'd looked through this glass. My eyes opened to its beauty just as my eyes had opened to the beauty of Velor for the first time just before I left it, possibly forever. I discovered for the second time in my life that I was most fond of a place when it was time to leave it. I suddenly knew that I would discover that feeling many more times in my life as I stared out the window and tried to imagine the future.

The sky had grown dark by the time I put my imagination back where it belonged and confronted the reality of my leaving Daxxan. I deliberately turned my back on my world and walked across the room to start packing for my journey to another world. Somewhere along the way, I realized that I'd decided that I would go to Andromeda Seven as ordered and that I would dutifully record what I saw. I would hide among the locals and Jaime would never know I was there. I would come home after it was over and write it all up and then go somewhere else. Hopefully someplace with a centuries-old Protector who'd been born before my grandparents. Someone who didn't know me from Eve. It was a plan. Not a good one, but one I could live with.

* * *

A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts as I was finishing packing. I opened it to find a datacube in my inbox. It was labeled: Andromeda Seven. Scribes Eyes Only. A starmap and navigational instructions were included as part of a second datacube. I eagerly plugged the first cube into my holo-display and began to study the background on my new planet. The projector filled my room with images of Andromeda that were so real that it appeared as if I was already there.

The images flicked by at a hundred frames a second as the entire history of Andromeda Seven was compressed into an hour's reading. It quickly became obvious that I wasn't going to be able to hide among the locals very easily. They were some kind of hairy ape with blue fur and arms that dragged on the ground. They stood two meters tall and were incredibly muscular. The pictures made them look like cute zoo animals that had been dyed blue. The Sociology report said they were as intelligent as humans and had highly developed social structures.

The Situation report said that thousands of them had been killed by bands of roving Kintzi which had been dropped on the planet by the Arions. It also said that the original Protector, a woman in her third century named Am'bre, had been injured and was operating at half efficiency. A dozen Arion warships orbited the planet and they had begun terrorizing the population with random and violent attacks. Am’bre couldn't stop them all so Jaime had been sent to help out.

It sounded liked a hell of a battle was brewing. I felt a surge of excitement filling me again as I wanted to get there and join it. Then I remembered my role. I was only supposed to take pictures and notes. I was to report back to the High Council after the contest for Andromeda Seven was over. I could only fight if it was for self-defense.

I read the back page of my orders. It said that there would be no contact from the High Council until I returned. I was more or less on my own and good luck. I tossed my orders in the trash can.

Despite my mixed feelings about leaving and about seeing Jaime again, I couldn't ignore the growing sense of excitement that filled me. I was finally going into space. I was going to a strange planet. I was going to do what I'd been trained to do. It was almost what I'd been born to do. I felt like a schoolgirl leaving for an exciting vacation as I packed a dozen datacubes into my silver pack along with a single change of uniform and a handful of personal effects.

Everyone was asleep as I walked out of the Institute in the middle of the night. It was the custom of Scribes to not say goodbye to anyone before leaving on a mission. Saying goodbye would imply that I might not return, so it was tradition to view our time off Daxxan as merely a pause in our studies. A temporary field assignment. It was only on my return to Daxxan that my life would resume and my story would be told.

I walked slowly down to the seashore to stand next to the single charging station at the Institute. There I paused while turning to make sure that no one was looking; charging was still a bit embarrassing for me. Nobody was around, so I pealed off my clothes and wadded them up in a tight ball. My gold bracelets and choker joined my clothing as I tossed the entire package as far out into the ocean as I could. It splashed down a mere fifty meters offshore. I wasn't strong yet, but I would be soon.

I crossed my arms across my now bared chest and hugged myself as I waited for the familiar tornado of returning energy to start crackling around me. I wasn't disappointed for long as a violent surge of blue lightning flashed from one side of my chest to the other as the sudden tingling was intense enough to almost be painful. My breasts naturally became the focal point of all that tingling pain as blue sparks flashed nearly continuously between my erect nipples.

To any observer but a Velorian, it would have looked as if I was being electrocuted in a very intimate way, but given that they are as invulnerable as the rest of me, it was anything but painful. To the inside observer, me, it was a bit like having a long-delayed orgasm, but one that was almost totally isolated to my breasts. An orgasm so intense that it had crossed the boundary from simple release to deliciously painful fulfillment of a hundred nights of desire. I loved taking gold off after wearing it for so long.

I hung in mid-air for several long minutes with my eyes closed as my body filled with power as I re-equalized my breasts tissues to the dimensional flux -- to the stuff my friends jokingly called The Force. It wasn't long before I was stable enough to take on a really serious charge, for I knew that I had to store a great deal of energy for the long flight that was before me. I turned to face the shiny chrome of the Charging Station as I floated off the ground to fly upward and press my still glowing chest against the conical depressions in the side of the machine.

The internal mechanics of the device promptly shocked me as they grabbed my nipples with incredible force to trap me inside the super conducting matrix of the generator as it forced my body to be high enough off the ground to not get an earth-spark. I was fortunately invulnerable once again now that I'd removed my gold, and the machine sensed that as it started to channel the full power of the internal fusion generator into me.

I felt millions of ergs flowing into my body as a white lightning flashed across my chest and down across my stomach. My breasts starting to tingle and swell as the inrushing energy made my arms and legs feel wickedly strong. I also started to get hot, and not from the heat. The twin hallmarks of a fully-empowered Velorian filled me, which of course are nearly uncontrollable arousal and fantastic strength. I wasn't sure which one I liked best as I allowed the tingles to fill my body as I grew and grew in power. I closed my eyes tightly as I relaxed and gave myself up to the machine. I was soon hanging off the machine only by my erect nipples as my hands found far more interesting things to do than just hanging on. 

An hour of blissful charging passed by so fast that it was all I could do to withdraw my glowing chest from the charging station when the chime sounded to indicate that I'd stored enough energy for my trip. I'd gone orgonic many times as my breasts filled, and it took all my willpower now to break away and float down to grab my backpack. My feet floated just above the sandy beach as I floated to the water's edge. I giggled to myself as I walked out to stand on top of the water.

There I turned around to fly back to land on a huge rock. I closed my eyes and cupped myself with all my strength as I bent my legs, my hands proving to be far smaller now than the generous contours of my chest. The tiny gold core of Daxxan was little impediment to my engorged power resisted the impossible strength of my hands as I leaped a thousand feet up into the air with muscle power alone. My returning flying power did the rest as I relaxed my hold on my breasts while squeezing my legs together to propel myself upward at supersonic speed.

I was beyond the atmosphere of Daxxan a minute later and completely free of gold effect in two minutes, yet I was still half-way to being orgonic an hour later. I was moving at a substantial fraction of light-speed eight hours later when I dove into my first wormhole.

The next week was a wild one. I flew down a dozen wormholes, half of them the wrong ones. In my hurry to leave Daxxan, I'd forgotten to bring the datacube that contained my starmap, and I quickly discovered that my memory of the systems in Blue Quadrant had a few holes in it, so to speak. But in truth, I didn't care if it took me a month to get to Andromeda Seven.

It wound up taking much of that time before I eventually arrived. I was getting dehydrated and my breasts had shrunk to a fraction of their initial size and I was starting to get worried three weeks later as each wormhole turned out to take me to a different wrong destination. Living in hard vacuum while wearing mostly nothing and skimming through the event-horizons of black holes and skipping through the corona of dying stars was hard even for a Velorian born. My lips were dry and my eyes burning when I finally popped out of the right hole and entered the Andromeda system. 

Andromeda itself was a very pretty orange-yellow class K-5 sun. Two of the planets that circled it were habitable, with Seven being the one with the most evolved intelligent life. I flew directly to Seven and entered the atmosphere at night to streak like a meteor across the southern sky to land at the outskirts of the largest city of Perthy. Fortunately, a few thousand humans lived there as part of the Algonquin trading alliance, so I had a way to fit in.

A broken lock and a midnight visit to a clothing store that served the local humans got me some local clothing. The local habit turned out to be cottons and furs that covered one from head to toe. Fortunately I'd burned off enough energy to fit into normal clothes again. 

I'd read that the apes didn't like the look of us hairless humans. I wondered how Jaime was handling that. She'd always dressed so scandalously back on Velor. Sometimes she hadn't dressed at all when she worked out, a trait that I'd found to be charming.

My first stop in Perthy was to get a place to live. I traded some silver and platinum coins for a lease on a remote house at the end of a quiet street. The house was surrounded by dense jungle foliage and was barely visible from the roadway. It was just the place for a freaky creature from outer space like me to hide.

I drank a gallon of water and collapsed on the bed to sleep for two days straight. On the third day, I got up and went to buy some local newspapers and magazines. It took me two seconds of browsing at a corner newsstand before I saw Jaime. Her picture that is. She was on the cover of a big glossy periodical. I was shocked to see that she was dressed like she'd always dressed back on Velor. Which meant she was as close to naked as she could get.

Not that I minded that a bit. In fact, her picture took my breath away, for she'd grown even more beautiful than I remembered.

I put my deeptaught knowledge of the local language to good use now as I read the article about Jaime. The Andromedan language used the characters and drew many of its words from English so it wasn't very hard. We'd all learned English as a second language back on Velor. It was the language of Protectors and Scribes.

I stared at the magazine cover again. The words that were splayed across Jaime's bare belly ended with Shoching! It was the local word for shocking and scandalous all rolled into one. Despite the revealing cover, the article inside was anything but a tribute to Jaime. What it was, however, was exploitive. These apes obviously got off on nearly naked blondes. I shrugged. Same as apes everywhere else.

I read the article again. The tone of it, not the story itself, was what really concerned me. It seemed that everyone missed their favorite Protector, the one who lived in a huge palace in the middle of Perthy. The article kept emphasizing the misdeeds and scandalous appearance of her young helper, Jaime.

The whole setup didn't sound right to me, especially the part about Amb're living in a palace. I was new to this gig, but I'd learned that Protectors are supposed to stay under cover whenever they can.

Picking up a second magazine, I discovered that this Am'bre had set herself up to be quite the Goddess in the local's eyes. I saw pictures of her everywhere as every magazine or newspaper had something good to say about her. Unlike Jamie, she was always dressed demurely in long gowns, her blond hair covered. On the other hand, she usually wore a crown of silver and crystal like some fairy princess. Very weird.

The articles made it abundantly clear that Jamie's refusal to follow local custom was upsetting the locals. Especially the religious leaders. I recalled from my briefings that bare skin was the ultimate in forbidden sexual display on this planet, and hairless skin was impossibly exotic. I smiled. The natives were definitely getting restless and aroused around Jamie. That much hadn't changed since school. She'd always made the guys restless.

I made the first entry in my log that night. It wasn't a complimentary one. Something had gone wrong here and I needed to find out what it was.

* * *

The following two months were very difficult ones for everyone as I tried to keep up with recording the rapidly changing events. A Kintzi raiding party landed on the Southern Continent and had sacked a dozen villages before Jaime killed them all.

She'd fought and won several running battles with some Arion Cruisers inside the Andromedan system. The Arions responded to that by nuking a small city about a hundred klicks from Perthy. The flash and then the blast effects woke me up in the middle of the night. I turned on the E-news to see that Jaime had reportedly been at ground zero. There was even a picture of her flying after the Arion scoutship that had launched the weapon, her body glowing from the nuke. She was apparently unharmed. The city wasn't. The E-news was estimating ten thousand casualties and five times that many injuries.

I wrote furiously in my chronicles that day. I was pissed and I wanted to do something to help. The gentle Andromedans were dying and Jaime couldn't be everywhere at once. Am'bre was engaging the Arions again, but her broken arm and leg were slowing her down. I hadn't learned about Destroyers yet, so I spent my days trying to figure out how the Arions had managed to injure a Protector that way.

I was frustrated as I sat in my little house and wrote about the goings-on on Andromeda. My thoughts turned increasingly to Jaime as I heard the rumors of her nearly constant battle against he invaders. Wanting to do nothing more than to stand beside her to help defeat that enemy, I instead wound up amusing myself by making a wallpaper blow-up of Jaime's face and using it to decorate my screen. I felt useless and bored and scared all at the same time.

I focused more and more on my dreams of Jaime. She'd always been cute, but the pictures of her in the news made her look as if she was glowing with an impossible healthiness and strength. She was beautiful in the way that only a Protector could be. She was fulfilling her destiny as a Warrior.

I continued to fulfill my own destiny as I got to know a number of the human locals and I made friends with several of the normally reserved blue-furred Andromedans. I found them to be truly fascinating. Despite looking like overmuscled Orangutans from Earth, they were the gentlest souls I had ever met. The way they looked into a person's eyes with those yellow-brown eyes of theirs was enough to make me think they could read minds.

It was at the end of my third month on their planet when one of the Andromedan males invited me to attend a dinner at the Palace with him. His name was Kaltlakast and he stuttered painfully while asking me. He normally spoke pretty good English, but not tonight for some reason. I was about to switch to conversing in Andromedan to help him out when I realized that he was trying to ask me out on some kind of date. He was just being shy. My heart went out to him as it did to all men who struggle to ask a pretty girl out. He was baring his soul and risking having his heart stepped on. So while I wasn't so sure about the idea of dating hairy apes, I just couldn't say no to such a gentle soul. So I said yes instead.

The promised date came a week later. I dressed for the event in a hooded white fur gown that covered everything but my face. Kaltlakast picked me up and we walked off toward the Palace. Strangely, I felt happy and content to have such a friendly ape-man on my arm. Kaltlakast was even more enthusiastic about the prospects of our evening together. He seemed to truly like humans. At least he liked me.

We danced the night away. Despite having knuckles that drag on the floor and bowed legs, Andromedans move with the litheness of kittens, mostly because they have a phenomenal strength to weight ratio. They can do one-armed pull-ups until you get bored watching them do it. My briefing had said they were twice as strong as Arion Betas. Beyond that, they have the coordination of Terran spider monkeys. The Andromedan style of dance optimized that flexibility as it combined that with their raw power.

I'm kind of light on my feet myself, and I'm definitely strong and I love to dance, so I could keep up with him. Kaltlakast was clearly impressed by that. He told me that no other human had ever danced like I had before. I gathered from his words that neither Am'bre or Jaime were into dancing.

The night was finally coming to a close just after midnight when Kaltlakast went off to the bathroom again. He'd been drinking a lot of the local fermented fruit juice. Brashletta. While it made him lighter yet on his feet, he was starting to wear a path between the dance floor and the bathroom. The same thing was happening to all the other Andromedans. Except me. I was the only human at the dance, and being a Velorian, that's one thing I don't have to do, no matter how much berry beer I drink. My body is 100% efficient of whatever it takes in.

While waiting for him to return, I walked out onto the Palace balcony to enjoy the view of the stars. I'd barely stepped out the door when I was shocked to see Jaime'Lee Smeyd standing two meters in front of me, looking down over the edge of the balcony.

She was dressed in some tiny gray thing that barely covered her shoulders, a strap across her lower back to secure it, a tiny gold bikini bottom beneath that was more of a thong than anything else. Her strong back and tanned skin were beautiful beyond words. I'd never seen anyone looking as healthy as she did. I found myself staring at her, unable to say a word. She was a Protector now.

I was turning to quietly slip away to avoid meeting her when she turned her head to the side.

"Hello, Shara’Lynn," she said without looking back at me. "Did you think you could hide the beat of your Velorian heart from me forever?"

I paused as I turned back to face her. "Hi, Jamie. Nice to see you too. You've been busy I see."

She spun around. "And you've been hiding. I'm off kicking Arion butts day and night and you're writing books about it. I thought you wanted to be a Protector?"

I felt her slipping the knife between my ribs and twisting it.

"Fuck you too."

She suddenly broke into a beautiful smile. "Hey, just fucking with you, Shara’Lynn. I know you’re a Scribe now. But damn, girlfriend, it is good to see you again."

She stepped closer as I stared into those amazingly blue eyes of hers. I felt my heart melting as it had melted so many times before.

It was then that I heard the baritone sound of someone clearing his voice behind me. I turned to see Kaltlakast staring at Jaime. Then at me. Then back to Jaime, his narrowing eyes making it clear he was comparing us. He blinked his eyes as he seemed to come to some kind of conclusion. A conclusion that seemed to make him agitated. I couldn't tell at first if he was angry or aroused.

"You are not dressed to be among us," he said as he clenched those huge fists of his and stepped closer to Jaime. The drink was talking, but it was still a very dumb thing to do. Threatening a Protector can get you hurt in a hurry, especially one like Jaime who was fighting a running battle with a fleet full of Arions. She'd probably killed a hundred Arions in the last week alone, most of them with her bare hands.

I quickly moved between the two of them just as Jaime started to laugh it off. She slipped her arm inside mine to hold me tight. It was then that I caught the scent of ape musk; despite his seeming anger, Kaltlakast was actually very turned on by meeting Jaime.

"I mean no disrespect, citizen," Jaime said pleasantly as she smiled at Kaltlakast. "It's just that given my near constant battles, I don't have much time for changing clothes or dressing up. That is why I am out here and you are all in there. I am protecting you so you can dance the night away and make merry."

Kaltlakast seemed satisfied by that answer as his eyes traveled down Jaime's body and then up mine. Trust me, I know the look of a man who's undressing me with his eyes. I suddenly felt like the transparent woman as I slipped from Jaime's embrace to hug his huge waist and take his eyes off me.

"Jaime'Lee Smeyd, I'd like you to meet Kaltlakast. My newest friend and my date for the evening."

Jaime held out her slender hand as Kaltlakast buried it in his furry paw. He bowed and kissed the back of her hand before raising it to place it on his chest. I was impressed that he'd learned the human gesture of a handshake and had combined it with an Andromedan bow and kiss and chest touch.

Jamie broke another taboo, that of touching bare skin to fur, by reaching out to take his huge hand to place it on her chest. Kaltlakast used his other long arm to hug her to him so enthusiastically that he lifted her a foot off the floor. Jaime was smiling brightly as she broke free of him a moment later and did the same for me. The difference was that she hugged me with so much force that the front of my gown was smoking faintly from the friction when she finally let me go.

"Hey, I gotta go, Shara’Lynn. More Arions are starting to de-orbit in the north. Kaltlakast, so nice to meet you. I'll look you guys up when I have a free moment. Later."

With that, she stepped up onto the balcony railing and leaped into free space like a high diver. She dropped out of sight for a fraction of a second before I saw her soaring upward to disappear among the stars. It was only Kaltlakast's arm around my shoulders that kept me from following her into space. Other than that older woman back in the Hall of Protectors, I'd never stood next to a true Protector before. My head was spinning as I realized how much I wanted to fly next to Jaime. How much I still wanted to be like her.

"You like her, don't you," he said to me.

"Huh?" I said as I tried to pull my thoughts back to him. They stayed with Jaime.

"You like her. She's a friend."

"Oh, yeah," I said distractedly, "we went to school together. I've known her since primary school and I..."

My words crashed like brass symbols in my ears as I caught myself too late.

"I thought as much," Kaltlakast said softly as he nodded. "You are Velorian as she is. But why do you hide among us and not fight for our planet's survival?"

Shit. Shit. Shit. He wasn't supposed to know who or what I was. Stupid. I was trying to think of some way out of this, some way to confuse him, when his huge arm slowly tightened around my shoulders. The strength of his embrace passed far beyond human tolerance a moment later. Like all of his kind, he was fantastically strong, and his unrestrained embrace would have crushed an ordinary woman's shoulders to dust and shattered her ribs. It was like being hugged by the biggest and strongest teddy bear in the world. I love hugs. I think he liked giving them. 

"You are indeed Velorian, Shara’Lynn. Let us go now. You have many things to tell me."

My head was spinning from the twin shocks of meeting Jaime and of Kaltlakast finding out who I really was. I was barely aware of him guiding me back into the building to say goodbyes to our hosts before we started the long walk home. We were halfway home when he pulled me to a stop under a streetlight. "Do you look like her? Under your skins, I mean."

I looked at him blankly as I smelled the same musky scent I'd noticed when he was staring at Jamie. Oh, oh. A seriously turned-on ape. I couldn't help but giggle at that thought even as I knew it wasn't polite.

"'Sorry, big guy. But I'm a bit more ordinary than she is. Jaime's a Protector. I'm just a lowly Scribe."

"You are also as mighty as her and your fur is just as golden. Are you also hairless except for your mane?"

I punched him gently in the shoulder. "That is a very improper question to ask a girl. Am I hairless. Indeed! If your mother heard you ask that she'd..."

I stopped as I saw the tips of his fur growing a brighter shade of blue. Until that moment, I hadn't realized that Andromedans could blush.

"I find that you are very beautiful, Shara’Lynn. Someday, I'd like to see if you really are as unattractive as you think you are."

I slipped my arm back into his and laughed as I led the way home. "You aren't afflicted with terminal shyness, now are you? Just remember, this is a first date, my hairy friend. Besides, I don't like guys. I thought I mentioned that once."

He laughed as he hugged me closer. "You can't lie to an Andromedan, Shara’Lynn. I know better. I taste your pheromones too."

* * *

My next meeting with Jaime came two days later. She arrived at my house at dawn to slip through an open window to startle me by scooping me up sleepily in her arms to fly me to her Palace. To Am'bre's Palace actually. I was thrilled beyond words as I wrapped my arms around her neck and held her tightly to me. Protectors are the sexiest beings in the universe as far as I'm concerned and Jaime was 100% Protector. She was also an old friend. I desperately hoped that her idea of being a friend was more like being a girlfriend. After all, we were no longer merely school girls.

Our next words belied the idea that we were grown-ups. We started off talking at the same time, our words and gestures the same as they'd been two years before. We were just girlfriends and classmates again as she asked a hundred questions about what had happened to most of our other classmates. I had a few answers, but my isolation on Daxxan had only been slightly less complete than her isolation in a system named Eriadore.

I quickly learned from her that Eriadore was a world of water creatures, intelligent whale-like beasts. Jamie had lived underwater for months, gradually given up breathing air completely as she learned to communicate with the gentle giants using sonar waves that she created in her water-filled lungs. She'd been terribly disappointed when the High Council had recalled her and sent her here a few months ahead of me.

"I don't like apes, Shara’Lynn, never have. Furry things give me the creeps. I just want to get this assignment over and go back to Eriadore. For all I know, the Arions have found my planet by now. The Eriadorans would be helpless against their technology."

"Well, you may not want to be here, Jaime, but that doesn’t mean you can upset these people's sensibilities by flying around in, in that," I said as I pointed to the tiny and red blue uniform that she was wearing now. Her cape was laying over a chair and the uniform itself had been pulled down to bare one shoulder.

"I'm a Protector. This is what I'm supposed to wear. You know me, I'd rather wear nothing."

My heart beat faster. I'd rather she did too. "Still, Jaime, even if you have to wear this in battle, why not wear fur or even cotton gowns like everyone else when you aren't. You seem to wear only your uniform and a bunch of old Velorian outfits, at least based on the E-news coverage of you."

She waved her hand as if to dismiss the thought. "No matter. I'm just glad you're here, my friend. It's been damn lonely here without another Velorian."

"What about Am'bre? She doesn't look all that much older than you. The two of you should be friends."

Jamie laughed. "She's two centuries older than my grandmother. She just sees me as some silly young girl who can throw a few punches to hold off the Arions until she gets back on her feet. She acts like this haughty Goddess and all the apes bow at her feet. They love her, but she's such a bitch around me."

I smiled at her as we walked out into the huge courtyard inside the Palace. The entire Palace was decorated like it was located in some mountain jungle. I smiled at Jaime as I saw that she hadn't changed at bit in two years. She was still outspoken, and still disdainful of anyone who took themselves too seriously.

"So, you still think you can beat me in Scrumbles?" she asked as she reached down to pick up a rock that was the size of a Scrumbles ball. It weighed at least a hundred kilos. "Here, catch. She threw it at me. Hard. I swung my fist in an arc to shatter it into a thousand pieces. My knuckles were glowing red-hot from the friction as I stood proudly while placing my hands back on my hips. Jaime looked impressed.

"You've never beaten me at anything in your life, Jaime'Lee Smeyd," I said loudly. I realized as I said it that it sounded like a challenge, although it was just a simple statement of fact.

She gave me a silly grin as she spun around and grabbed an outcrop of rock as large as a city bus. Her slender body flexed with impossible power as she tore it from the ground with such force that the earth shook. She then proceeded to toss it high over her head with a mere flex of upper body strength. It was approaching a thousand feet of altitude when she put her hands on her hips and stared back at me expectantly. I glanced nervously upward to see that the boulder's trajectory was going to bring it down directly on top of me.

"Nice toss, Jaime," I said calmly and slowly. "I gather you want me to do something with that?" I spoke as if I had all the time in the world to actually do something.

She just smiled at me as the boulder blocked the sun while falling faster and faster toward me. At the very last moment, I leaped from the ground to catch it a hundred feet up. I groaned under what had to be the weight of three hundred tons of granite rock, my legs flexing with all my strength as I slowed it only slightly before my feet hit the ground. It buried me to my knees, and then took all the muscle I had to toss it back toward her. I barely managed to get it three feet off the ground.

She pirouetted in mid-air to catch it with one hand at knee-height as if it was a weightless bag of feathers. She smiled beautifully at me while lifting it over her head to begin doing one-armed presses, her other hand resting casually on her hip. I quickly realized that every motion she made was calculated to remind me that she was vastly stronger than I was now. Yet I could see the hard muscles of her arm and shoulder flexing huge from the effort. She was working hard even as she tried to convince me she wasn't.

"Remember when we used to work out together, Shara’Lynn? Remember how you used to get hot and bothered watching me get all sweaty in front of you? Especially when I took my top off to cool down."

I gasped. I'd never said anything about my private feelings toward Jaime.

She giggled as she tossed the boulder back to me again. "You didn't realize that I knew I turned you on. I bet you never knew that I thought you were very sexy too."

My head was spinning from her words as I tried to catch the bus-sized boulder again. I misjudged its speed this time only to have it knock me off-balance. I lost all control of it as I tripped and landed flat on my back. The boulder crashed down to bury me in the hard ground.

Jaime was there in seconds, her fingers digging deeply into the granite to get a purchase as she hoisted it effortlessly over her head. "Are you OK, Shara’Lynn. I'm sorry, I forgot that you're not nearly as strong as me now."

She started to laugh at her words as I simply stared up in awe at the beautiful flex of her body. 

"It just seems so weird now," she said. "You were always the strong one. I figured you'd become the most powerful Protector ever."

I brushed my tangled hair and a lot of rock dust from my face as I stood up under the shadow of the boulder. Jaime was holding it over her head with both hands now. "So, now that I'm gobs and gobs stronger than you, do I turn you on enough so that maybe you might finally kiss me?"

My head spun even faster as a thousand tiny ripples of arousal filled my body. I stepped closer to her, both of us looking down as our breasts touched gently. Jaime giggled as she stuck out her chest and wiggled her shoulders to trace her nipples across the engorgement of mine.

Our hard nipples dueled briefly before I surprised her by raising my hands to gently take the massive boulder from her. I couldn't help but groan under the impossible strain as my feet started to sink into the ground again. I flexed my legs enough to counterbalance it with my flying power, but that only succeeded in pressing my lower body against Jaime's. She responded by gently taking my breasts in her hands in Protector fashion.

I held the bus-sized boulder high over my head with both hands when Jaime slowly tore my leather skins apart to bare my upper body, then my lower. I was now totally naked and tingling wildly as she traced her eyes across my breasts as I wondered what she was going to do next. I prayed it was going to be sexy. I closed my eyes as I waited for her to kiss me.

Instead, she just held me like Protector's do when they meet one another. I thrilled to the honor of her touch as the tendons of her sinewy hands stood out boldly as she squeezed me with what I knew had to be her full strength. I was so turned on by now that it didn't even hurt. On the contrary, my nipples grew huge as I took a deep breath and straightened by back.

My breasts surged with naked power as they rose to lift her feet off the ground. I saw the look of amazement in her eyes as I slowly won this uniquely feminine contest of strength versus invulnerability. I now knew for the first time that at least one part of me was as powerful as a Protector. She smiled sexily at me as she crossed her arms and tore the fabric of her top open as well.

She matched the swell of her breasts to mine as she gently wrapped her arms around my neck and began kissing me. God, it was like getting kissed by an angel of steel, an angel of impossible beauty and power as one of her hands slid down my back to suddenly press my body against hers. Her breasts melted deeply into mine as she held me with every ounce of her incredible strength.

The boulder suddenly grew so light in my hands that I forgot I was even holding it. I let go of it to wrap my arms around her neck and embrace her in return as the huge boulder slid down my back and shook the ground as it landed. I was too lost in Jaime's deep kisses to even notice.

* * *

I woke up the next morning listening to voices, one of them Jaime's. I opened my eyes and rolled over to see that I was still in the huge bed that we'd made love in. Jaime was talking on the phone, and judging by the tone of her voice, she was anything but happy. She turned to me while rolling her eyes upward a moment before she slammed the receiver down hard enough to shatter the plastic. She looked fit to be tied.

"The god-damn Andromedans have filed a protest with Am'bre. They're claiming that I'm 'offending the public morality' or some shit like that."

I couldn't help but grin sexily at her as I brushed the shattered plastic off the bed. I changed that into my best "I told you so" look. I thought she looked beautifully unkempt as she wore a way too large sweater, one that came just low enough to give her some modesty, the sleeves so long that they covered her hands. She looked like a woman who had just made unrestrained love a few dozen times. In her case, looks were not deceiving. 

I rolled onto my tummy and used my fingers to pull my tangled hair from my face as I continued to stare up at her. I quickly decided that I could stare at Jaime all day. I couldn't help but give voice to my thoughts. "You can be immoral with me anytime you want, Jaime," I said with a giggle. "Besides, I think we broke every rule there was last night."

"You think so, huh?," she said with a toss of her head. "Guess you've been cooped up on Daxxan too long. I know another few dozen rules that you apparently haven't learned yet. I mean, I am a Protector after all. I'm a Goddess, Shara’Lynn, and you are my loyal subject. You should worship my body. Everyone else does."

I started to get up as I stuck my tongue out at the arrogance of her boasts. Unless she'd changed a lot, I knew she was just giving me some attitude. "Your loyal subject, my ass, girl. Sounds like you've been hanging around Am'bre too long. It wasn't that long ago that you were just the skinny blonde that I beat in City Scrumbles two years running. You may have the Andromedan males bowing when they aren't standing at attention, but I for one know that you're as impressed with your new abilities as I am."

"Hey, you can't talk to me that way. We Goddess' are omnipotent after all," she said with a wink that said she was definitely pulling my leg. 

"Ah, if I recall, Jaime, you were the one who was begging for a moment to catch your breath a few hours ago. A moment I was strong enough to not grant you. So don't play that Goddess routine with me cause I�"

My words caught in my throat as she flashed across the room to land on top of me to pin me to the bed with her arms and legs. Her legs held my hips stationary in a grip that any steel would have yielded to. I struggled against her overwhelming strength for a moment, but I couldn't budge her. She was hopelessly strong. Yet I found that the longer we wrestled, the more turned on I got and the harder it was for her to hold me. I felt her straining to hold me down on the bed.

"You know you worship my strength and my perfect body, don't you, Shara’Lynn. You are in love with any Protector. But maybe especially with me. You wish you were as strong as me. It is your fondest dream. One that you know is impossible. So you love me for it."

"Damn it, Jaime. Let me up," I said as I got mad. "You're such an arrogant bitch."

She had the look of a lioness crouching over her prey as she held me tighter instead. My body flushed with anger and arousal mixed. I wanted so much for her to prove that she was stronger than me, but I didn't want to be made fun of either. I pushed upward with all my strength and all of my flying power. I saw the surprise in Jaime's face as I momentarily overpowered her to bend her over backward. I twisted her arms behind her back as I kissed her savagely. I was nearly orgonic now, while she was not and that made us equal, if only for a moment.

"Very impressive, Shara’Lynn," she mumbled between kisses. "You still got muscles, girl." 

It was then that I felt her skin growing warmer as her body transformed itself into a harder kind of steel than I could ever dream of possessing. She slowly became orgonic as her arousal enabled her to effortlessly uncross her arms even as I held with all my strength. Her upper body displayed the most perfect muscular expression I'd ever seen as she slowly but surely pinned me back to the bed.

"Nobody has ever overpowered me like that before, Shara’Lynn. Not even for a moment."

"You mean not since the last time we wrestled back in school."

"Yeah, not since then," she said with a groan as she released me to flop backwards on the bed. "What a weird reversal, huh? I'm the strong one now."

I crossed my legs and sat on the bed beside her. I was suddenly serious. "While I know you were fucking with me earlier, Jaime, you were right about part of what you said. I am totally in awe of your raw power. I have to get, you know, all tingly like this before I can even begin to match you. But when you get a buzz, well, then you're so much stronger than me that I can't even imagine it."

"You didn't imagine anything last night."

I leaned down to rest my face in her lap to inhale the wonderful fragrance of a post-orgasmic woman. It was the most wonderful scent in the universe. "Tell me about it, Jaime. About how it happened."

She looked down at me blankly as she traced her fingers through my hair. "About what?"

"How you became a Protector. The Rites. How you got so much stronger than me." I kissed the softness of her inner thigh as I... "And how you got these great legs."

She giggled. "I can't. It's a secret."

I rose slowly back up to straddle her as my kisses and my hands rose across her body. My fingers traced featherlike across her nipples as I leaned forward to touch her lips so gently with mine. I felt her body trembling with desire again. I knew I was stronger than her in this one way. I sensed that she did too.

"I want to know all about it, Jaime. You are so beautiful, so strong. Let me love you for your power. But first, tell me how you came to have such power." I kissed her again with all my body and soul as I felt her body melting against mine. Her arms suddenly wrapped around my neck as she rolled me over and kissed me back.

We kissed deeply for a very long time. She was impossibly strong now, and I knew that she was also impossibly turned on by being close to me. I also knew that she was very lonely here on Andromeda. She'd been lonely for human company on Eriadore too.

It took all my willpower, but I gently slid out from her intimate embrace to sit back up on the bed. The look on her face was so needful that I wanted to cry. I did not.

"Please, I want to know how you became a goddess, Jaime."

She suddenly took a deep breath as she rose back up and stared down at me in amazement. "Shara’Lynn, are you going to keep asking me that until you frustrate me to death? Why can't you just make love to me like anyone else in the universe would. I've been so lonely here."

"Talk first, fuck later," I said with a grin. "That's my main rule."

"God, you haven't changed a bit, Shara’Lynn. Always questioning everything. I'd swear you're a, a…"

"A Scribe," I finished.

"Yeah, one of them." She fell backward on the bed again to stare up at the ceiling.

"So, you want the long version or the short?" she said after a long pause.

"The long one, of course. I am indeed Shara’Lynn. Well known for her wordy chronicles."

"Ok, but if you tell anyone about this, we're both dead."

She closed her eyes and began talking.

 "They came and got me on the morning of my sixteenth birthday. My mother dressed me in a long white robe and they took me to the Hall of Protectors. The airbus was filled with my teachers from school, my parents, my grandparents, Aunt Edna and her husband, the two guys from school who were to confirm me and Hr. And'res. He was my sponsor. They were all going to be part of my Rites. There must have been twenty people there, but I was too confused and giddy to count. I just knew that I was the focus of their attention and the day of my confirmation as a Protector was finally at hand. This was to be my Rite of Passage.

I was totally ready for it. I'd worked so damn hard for this body I had. Being born with P1 genetics had only cracked the door open for me. It was all my hard work that had taken me through it. I'd worked out in the gym every day for the last five years. I was one of the best Scrumbles players in school, other than you and Kar'yn of course, and I'd won the city championship in gymnastics. I excelled in flexibility and quick responses, both highly desired Protector traits. I wasn't the strongest girl in school, but I was a five-percenter. That's what counted."

She paused to open her eyes and look up at me. "My only regret was that you weren’t there for my Rites, Shara’Lynn. You were my friend, and you were gone. The rumors at the time simply said you'd been sent to Daxxan to be a Scribe. That made no sense, for you were always stronger than I was and you'd been the perfect prospect to be a Protector. The rumors said it had something to do with sex.”

I nodded. "It did, Jaime. The records showed that I was exclusively femme in my sexuality."

"But what about the relationship you had with that guy the summer before, Shara’Lynn? Jan somebody or other."

"That wasn’t a relationship, Jaime. He raped me. I told Fr. Phel’leps about it, about how I’d never look at a man that way again. She made an entry into the records and the computers picked up on it and disqualified me from being a Protector."

"Oh fuck, Shara’Lynn." She suddenly giggled. "But wait a minute. You still like guys. What about that Messenger and you last month? You didn't think I knew about him, did you, but I watched the whole thing from up here. God, was that a hot time. You two damaged the foundations of two buildings and left the imprint of your body in the side of that ship you nearly sank. I had to go fix them both after you guys were done making it."

I giggled in return. "Since when are you a voyeur, Jaime?"

She gave me the finger. "I was just protecting the natives from an orgasmic Velorian or two. It's the best part of my job."

"Well, men aren't my favorite thing, Jaime," I continued as I gave her the finger this time. I suddenly wished I could really give her the finger. "But yeah, I like guys sometimes. It just took me a while to find a man who could show me some kindness. Besides, I was totally into guys during the two years I trained on Daxxan, more to show everyone that they were wrong than anything else. That and keeping out of the sights of the Dean; she had a thing for exclusively femme girls."

"Anybody back there you want to tell me about?"

"Nope. That's all in my past. And being off-planet now, I don’t worry about getting hurt anymore. On the other hand, I'm not so sure that poor Messenger will be able to walk for the next month. I get rather athletic when I'm with a guy and..."

"Yeah, he told me, Shara’Lynn," Jaime interrupted. She suddenly looked concerned. "He swore you were trying to kill him with that never ending passion of yours, that you were trying to prove also that you were stronger than he was. He thinks you're a very angry lady, Shara’Lynn. Angry at men. You scared the shit out of him."

I blushed as I envisioned Jaime watching what I'd done to him. I'd dominated him in every way that a woman can dominate man. I'd made him beg me to love him. Then when I did love him, he finally had to beg me to stop. I didn't. Not for a couple days anyway.

"Nope, I'm not angry at all men, Jaime, just at Messengers. He's friends with that asshole Jan'El and I hope he tells him that I've learned a few things since he took advantage of me back when I was fifteen. That I'd probably kill him in bed if he tried to rape me now."

 Jamie slid closer to wrap her arm more tightly around mine. "So much anger, Shara’Lynn. I for one am glad that you aren't hung up on guys. It’s been so damn lonely here with only these apes around. Not exactly my type, if you know what I mean."

I gently tried to push myself away, but I found that I couldn't move. We playfully struggled for a moment before I realized how helpless I was. Jaime was once again vastly stronger than I was.

"You can't stop now, Jaime," I said as I ran my hand along one thigh to squeeze her. Her legs were impossibly firm, the long muscles of her thighs feeling like steel covered in the softest silk. Steel that even I could not bend with all my power. "I want to know how you got this strong. I used to be able to kick your ass in Scrumbles. Back in school, they used to call you 'skinny legs'. I think they still are. Skinny."

Her kisses slowed and stopped just as her lips reached my bellybutton. "Do you want to make love to me or just talk about me, Shara’Lynn?"

I rolled over and sat up on the edge of the bed. "Talk about you, of course. I want to know what it was like. You know, to become a Protector. To be so much stronger than me."

Jaime sighed as she rose to kneel in front of me. She was so turned on now that her hands were busy of their own accord. "You know they'll kill me if they find out that I told you?"

"Jaime, you’re a fucking Protector. Nobody can hurt you. You're like some kind of super girl. Besides, who's going to know what I know? You can't go home and they'll probably send me to some planet of slime creatures next."

"Ok, Ok," Jaime said as she floated from the bed to hover in mid-air in front of me. "It's not terribly complicated, although it was really sexy."

I definitely found myself thinking of sexy as I stared at the moist evidence of her continued arousal. She saw me smile as she opened her legs and wrapped them around my neck. I felt as light as a child in her embrace as she rolled me over on my tummy to stare upward between her perfect legs as her sweater slid up over her hips.

I rose upward with her legs resting on my bare shoulders as my lips suddenly seemed to have a mind of their own. I began kissing the moist insides of those long, tanned thighs. Despite my earlier teasing, she didn't really have skinny legs, just impossible strong ones. My lips kissed upward along those silky thighs until they reached the center of her sexual being. I took a deep breath while pulling my hair from face.

I cupped her behind in my hands and began kissing her deeply and with infinite intimacy. She gasped while tightening her legs almost painfully about my neck to pull me closer as a little shiver traveled through her body. Her voice suddenly seemed to come from a great distance as she continued her story as her intimacy yielded to my kisses.

"I was really afraid that morning as I walked up the white marble steps to stand in front of the great door of the Hall of Protectors, Shara’Lynn. But I knew that this was my day and nothing was going to spoil it. Everyone was there just for me.

“I'll never forget the brilliance of that morning. The entire building was glowing in the rosy sun, the nearly transparent white marble shining as if lit from inside, the spires seemingly reaching into the lavender sky. I walked up the marble steps as everyone else stayed at the bottom except for Hr. And'res, my gymnastics coach.

He'd volunteered to be my sponsor, and that made me so proud. He'd sponsored one girl each year since he'd come to Val'Den school and each of his girls had become a famous Protector. He was young and strong, a former gymnast himself. I knew that I could do no better than to have him standing beside me. Of course, I had no idea what it meant for him to sponsor me at that time, nor why sponsors were invariably male when everyone else inside the Hall was female. Nor why the guys at school were so eager to sign up to be part of my Rites. I didn't know much of anything.

 "’Ok, Jaime, are you ready for this?’" Hr. And'res asked me as we got to the top of the stairs.

“I turned to smile at him. ‘God, I'm so nervous. I'm shaking.’ My legs felt like they were made of rubber..

“He walked behind me to rest his hands on my shoulders. ‘You have nothing to be nervous about, Jaime. This is your day, the day you become a Protector. We're here to celebrate that with you. Tomorrow when you awake, you will be a woman. You will also be stronger than you can imagine.’

“I nodded as I understood all that, at least the part about waking up strong like a Protector. But I had no idea what I was supposed to do and I had no idea what becoming a woman had to do with it.

“I still marvel today that the Rites of Passage for a Protector were such a closely guarded secret. Lots of people thought they knew what went on in the Hall of Protectors, but they were only reacting to innuendo and rumor. I'd read once that the penalty for revealing what went on inside this building was death by anti-matter dissociation. That seemed way too bizarre to me, but the High Council had been known to do stranger things when their commands were ignored.

“I shivered as I felt Hr. And'res hands touching my shoulders. I turned my head to smile back at him. ‘Can we just go inside and get started.’

“He shook his head gently while clearing his throat. ‘Well, that's the first challenge, Jaime. Going inside. You have to open the door behind me, and you have to do it alone.’

“I turned my head to glance at it. The thing was huge. It towered fifty feet over me and looked as thick as a battlecruiser's armor. I somehow guessed that it wasn't going to have an automatic opener. This was going to be a test of strength.

“I was wrong about that, of course. About it being a simple test of strength. I mean, yeah, I had to have the muscle to open it, and that I had. I just had to release the power that was hidden within them, and that was a lot more involved than I'd thought. I was wrong about almost everything that I thought was going to happen that day.

"’You will need to be very, very strong to open that door, Jaime,’ Hr. And'res continued in a low tone of voice. "It is the greatest secret of Velor that here on this platform and inside this building, we can nullify the effects of the gold field. But first, you must release the first increment of your natural power, for that is needed to prove you are worthy.’

“I turned my head to look over my shoulder at him. ‘Ah, yeah, like when I'm working out and stuff?’

“He shook his head. ‘More than that, Jaime. Much more. Several metric tons of force to be specific. A Velorian femme is capable of such strength during special moments. You remember your senior year physiology class, don't you?’

“I suddenly blushed as I realized that he was talking about orgonic strength. Velorian femmes, unlike men, became far stronger when they reached the very edge of an orgasm. I'd experimented with that a few times and had broken two of Jer'alls ribs in the process. Since then, my releases had become solitary ones. 

"’Oh god. Not here’ I blurted out.

"’Here,’ Hr. And'res said softly as his lips brushed my ear as softly as a kiss. One of his hands moved up to gently caress my neck, as his other fingers continued tracing across one earlobe as his lips touched the other to send a sexy chill down my back. ‘A Protector must never shy away from releasing her true power if it is needed, no matter where she is or who surrounds her. This is the first test of your ability to do that.’

“I stared down in horror and embarrassment at the friends and family who stared back up at me, noticing as I did that I'd started to gather a crowd of spectators. My parents and grandparents were smiling the broadest at me. I suddenly felt a cold panic coming over me.

"’Like any Velorian femme, your greatest power comes when you are orgonic,’ Hr. And'res continued whispering in my ear. ‘That is a state that every Protector must be able to easily achieve and then maintain, often for many minutes. No matter where she is.’

“My voice was shaking now as my lessons came back to me. ‘I remember. I'd just somehow thought, you know, that it was something I'd do in private before a battle or something.’

“Hr. And'res laughed at my naiveté. ‘One of my roles today is to assist you in achieving that state Jaime. I chose you because I know you like me.’ He chuckled again, his laugh sounding so very male and so very sexy this time. ‘Besides, you don't have a boyfriend and I think you're totally fucking gorgeous.’

“I couldn't help but smile back at his last crude words. He didn't sound like a teacher now, just like a very turned on guy. I turned my head to whisper in his ear as I felt myself relaxing. I knew a great deal about turned on guys. ‘Oh, and I thought you were just this kindly soul who volunteered to guide me. Now I realize that you're just a man who likes to make it with his former students while the whole school and her parents watch him do it. Is it something like that, Hr. And'res?’

“He laughed again. ‘You always did have the strangest sense of humor, Jaime. An irreverent sense for sure. But seriously, I am here for you, and this is how its been done for centuries. A man always serves as a Protector's sponsor and her family is always part of the proud event. There are different kinds of sex, and this is the form of it that begets power.’

“I was about to say to hell with tradition when his hands began to slip forward over my shoulders to unbutton the top of my gown. His kisses traveled down my neck to my shoulders at the same time. I found that I was strangely paralyzed with contrary desires, one to flee, one to embrace my destiny. I stared down at all the eyes which stared back into mine. I swore they were all watching And'res' fingers as he undressed me. My desire to flee suddenly left me as I knew that there was no turning back now. I wanted to be a Protector more than life itself. This was part of becoming one. Instead of embarrassment, I felt my body becoming overwhelmed with a new tingling thrill as each button came undone. There were a lot of buttons. I soon wished there were more.

“It was all I could do to hold my breath and keep my back perfectly straight as he undid the last button. I closed my eyes as he slowly lowered my gown below my chest. I felt a wave of goose bumps racing across my chest and shoulders as I instinctively knew where all the eyes were focused now. My breasts were bared in public for the first time. Hr. And'res kisses followed the gown downward, his lips tracing their way from my neck down my back to my waist. He paused there for a moment with the gown still covering my lower body. Then he knelt lower to kiss me on one my ass cheek as he finally released the gown. The silky fabric pooled around my ankles.

“Nobody said a word the next five minutes as Hr. And'res slowly kissed his way back up to my neck. He moved with such agonizing slowness that I thought I was going to out of my mind. His deliberately slow kisses created an unbearable tension that rippled through my body as hot and cold tingles of desire. I held myself as rigid as steel as I knew everyone was staring at me as I got turned on. Yet I wanted to move to much, mostly I wanted to touch him, and I wanted him to touch me with something more than those light touches.

“His feathery touch slowly drove me mad. My only relief was listening to the whispers in the crowd. One whisperer was my Grandfather as he congratulated my father for bearing such a perfect daughter. Then I heard the two guys from school whispering something that made them laugh. A sexy laugh.

“I shivered as if I was cold when Hr. And'res' hands slipped down my arms to take my tiny wrists in his huge hands. He lifted my arms until they stood straight out at my sides. His fingers then began to trace every so gently inward. Unsure of what he was going to do next, I was startled when his hands opened to surround my breasts. I gasped loudly as a rush of warmth seemed to radiate from his hands as they covered me. No man had touched me this way in public before.

“At first I wanted to pull his hands from me, but I knew that I must keep my arms straight out at my sides. I opened my eyes and stared down into the crowd. I felt strangely proud that his hands could not fully contain me.

"You mustn't turn away from the challenge, Jaime'Lee," he whispered in my ear.

“It was at that moment that Hr. And'res fingers began concentrating on my nipples, both of which were as hard as they could get. A wave of tingling warmth like a thousand tiny feathers with a thousand tiny ice cubes began to race outward from my chest. I felt my nipples growing even larger beneath his fingers.

“I felt so helpless as he crushed me in his huge arms. I didn't know it then, but that was the last time I ever felt helpless in any man's arms. I could only nod to him. He turned and guided me to the huge greenish ring of Vendorian steel that was secured to the door. I hit between him and the door.

"’It is still early in your arousal, Jaime, but put your foot against the plate, and try to pull the door open. It won't move at first. But you need to exert at least two tons of force to get it to activate.’

“His fingers began to gently trace across my neck again, each touch sending a new flurry of delicious tingling down my back. I obediently grabbed the ring and pulled as hard as I could. Naturally, it didn't budge. I knew right away that I was going to have to work a lot harder than this. I also knew that I had to get more turned on. Very turned on. I am a Velorian girl after all and I knew that my strength would be so much greater then. It was the legacy that the Ancient Ones had left us.

“I closed my eyes and imagined everyone staring at me, staring at my naked body, at my erect nipples. I imagined them staring up between my legs now as I held my right foot high against that plate. Most of all, I imagined that Hr. And’res’ hands would become bolder. Instead, they traced over my shoulders before slipping down to enclose my upper arms instead of my breasts.

“I surprised myself by suddenly wanting to show him my strength. It was a weird feeling to want to show a man the size of my muscles, but it was somehow a very sexual feeling as well. I gave in to it as I pulled on the door handle again to make my biceps strain. I felt the rounded steel of my arms filling and then overfilling his hands. I felt him testing my hardness as he explored all the straining curves of my arms. His hands no longer felt large as I suddenly felt strong enough to do anything. I pulled on the ring again as I jammed my foot against that plate as hard as I could. I felt it give slightly beneath the ball of my foot.

“It was at that moment that a slashing knife-edge of heat lanced through my body. The very air around me began to shimmer as if it was made of liquid metal. I knew without a doubt that the forcefield had been activated. I was shocked a moment later when a brief puff of smoke came from each of my breasts as my body surged with far greater power. I looked down in shock to see the oils of my skins quickly burned away as blue sparks began flashing between my nipples. I was drawing energy across the dimensional void!

“Hr. And’res shocked me further by closed his hands around my breasts again, this time to hold what looked like two red glowing coals. I knew that he was now as super as I was and he would not be burned by my fire. I had just never had my fire lit quite this way before.

“That thought excited me beyond the words to describe it. I suddenly began to imagine all the ways that he was super, especially the most manly ways. That made my body burn with a heat that had nothing to do with drawing energy into myself. My breasts were soon white-hot as I felt a million tingles racing from between my legs as I went totally orgonic. I bit my lip until it hurt as I struggled to stop myself right there, right at the edge. Oh God, but I wanted to keep going!

“I knew that this was now the real test, the test of keeping myself at the edge. Opening this door was actually the least of my challenges. The door was heavy, but I could move it.

“I pulled with all my strength.

“The ground beneath my feet shuddered as the massive door scraped across the marble on each pull. Hr. And’res hands slipped from my breasts to begin tracing down my back, his fingers tracing the hundred tight muscles that I was using to strain against the door. The reverent touch of his fingers made me feel like he was worshipping me. One of his hands finally cupped my behind and squeezed me hard as I gave one final pull on the ring.

“The door began to slide open the rest of the way.

“I slipped across the edge of my passion as I started to come hard and violently as his other hand joined his first to squeeze my ass with all his considerable strength. Yet I managed to keep myself from letting it all go. Instead, I retreated from the cliff of my passion to once again rest on the knife-edge of that impossible heat which filled me.

“The good news was that the door felt almost weightless in my hands now. I heard a smattering of applause from behind me, and that encouraged me to pull even harder. The door scraped open enough to reveal a shaft of brilliant light from inside.

“Knowing that it was open far enough to enter, I slipped from my teacher's arms while retaining enough presence of mind to turn and do a small curtsy for the crowd of Witnesses. They smiled up at me as they began walking up the steps toward me. Standing forth among them was the chief of the High Council.

"’People of Velor, I give you one perfect daughter to enter service with the Federation. Jaime'Lee Smeyd,’ he intoned. ‘She was but a girl yesterday; she is a woman today. She will become a Protector. Do you accept her perfection and beauty? Do you accept her strength of body? Do you accept her entrance into this Hall of Protectors?’

"’We do,’ came the simultaneous reply of dozens of voices. I was suddenly too embarrassed to face the crowd. I clasped my hands over myself while turning to hurry through the doorway.

“I heard a chime and turned to see a tall woman in a skimpy red outfit float down from above. She looked to be in her thirties and she was beautiful. She landed lightly in front of me to lean against a stone column, her long blond hair flowing about her shoulders. She was the most muscular woman I'd ever seen.

“’I am Elle’Wu of the Second Canton of the Protectors of Velor. I am here to guide you through the next step in your life, Jaime’Lee Smeyd. Are you ready to join your sisters as a Protection of Velor?’

"’I am.’ I said proudly.

"’Are you willing to give your life to that service, to protect the weak, to preserve the ideals of Velor, to journey into the unknown with only your strength of body as your companion?’

"’I am.’

"’Then know you now that you are not yet prepared. A final step must be taken. Are you ready for that step?’

“I blinked in surprise. What was this? My thoughts raced in circles even as my lips formed the only correct response.

"’I am.’

"’Then know that she who empowers us all stands ready to empower you. There is an act called Mutagensis. It is the granting a portion of one person’s power to another through the transformation of DNA. It can only be done once, and for a Protector, only when she enters Ples’tathy for the first time. I will give you that power when you are ready to receive it.’

“And then a second woman floated down from above. She wore a white gown, and her face bore the marks of great experience and wisdom. And I knew that this must be the Goddess Aphro’dite, whose name was rarely mentioned outside, whose very existence was widely regarded as a legend.

“I found myself staring at her. She showed me her incredible power, and I knew exactly what to do this time as my hands reached out to worship her. I knew where I had to draw the mutagenic virus from, the virus that would give me the power that would serve me as I served Velor.

“’I am ready,’ I said.

“Elle’Wu gestured, and I suddenly found myself drawn upwards through what I later learned was a dropshaft, in which a null field canceled the effects of gold. Aphro’dite rose beside me, holding my hand. Somewhere far above, we came to a stop, and she led me through a marble corridor to….

“Anyway, the next thing I remember was waking up with her bare legs still wrapped around my head. I was sweaty and exhausted, but I felt better than I’d ever felt in my life. We were alone now, just Aphro’dite and myself.

“She took another few hours to formally welcome me into the ranks of the Protectors as she...she... oh God, Shara’Lynn, yes!"

Jaime's scream of final release shattered the window over her bed to shower us in glass as my small fist accomplished my passionate task. Her body turned as rigid as steel as her long building arousal surprised both of us as it suddenly peaked and exploded. She cried out loud enough to wake the dead as I felt her gripping my fist with impossible power. Her inner strength shook my entire body as I rode her climax to its inevitable screaming conclusion, an end that came many minutes after it had started.

Jaime finally sagged back to the bed and curled up as contented as a cat in a sunbeam. "So that's what I missed," I said with a giggle as I lay exhausted beside her. "Going into Ples'tathy. Eating out the goddess. How special."

She rolled over to make a rude face at my crude words.

"It was actually heaven, Shara’Lynn.”

"But I'm told that it you have to have had experience with men. Tradition or something like that. You have to have been with men to reach Ples'tathy, Or so they say.”

"So that's why they disqualified me," I said quietly as my thoughts raced. "It was because I said I liked only girls. God, that's such bullshit, Jaime. I mean, hell, I had this crush on Hr. And'res. Every girl in school did."

Jaime started to giggle as she rolled over. I began kissing my way up her inner thighs again. She had the strongest and most beautiful legs in the universe. My cheeks slowly slid upward along silky smooth skin that grew moist with anticipation.

"I could have done it, Jaime," I said from my newly intimate perspective. "Especially with him."

"I know, Shara’Lynn," Jaime said as her fingers tangled in my yellow hair. "I know you could have. But I'm still glad you didn't. Otherwise, you would be somewhere else and I'd be alone here. Not with you, my love."

She wrapped her legs around my head as her impossible power drew my lips to the center of her being. I soon lost my ability to talk. For once, I didn't mind being quiet and letting Jaime make all the noise.

There are many more stories to be told about Andromeda Seven and Jaime'Lee Smyde. But not right now. What I will say is that Amb're's Palace in Perthy hasn't been the same since that day. Something about structural damage coming from tectonic forces unleashed in Jaime's bedroom. It's all my fault, of course. It's my curse that I can't help being athletic when I'm with a Protector. I was with a Protector for a very long time.

For I so love the women in red and blue. I so loved Jaime.

I still cry whenever I think of her ultimately dying on that world the way she did. She was so young. She was so beautiful. She was my friend. I will never forget her.

 

Part Three

The faint knocking sound filtered through the artificial world of the virtual 3D world. I was lost in my favorite datacube, the one that contains a fragmentary history of Earth, and the visions of grassy fields and towering mountains and people speaking a dozen different languages filled my consciousness. 

I ignored the unwanted reality of a knock on my door as I instead mentally urged the machine to turn the volume up higher. I wasn't going to let anything distract me from my favorite fantasy holo-trip -- the one where I was visiting Earth.

The knock came again, louder this time, loud enough to penetrate the wall of sight and sound that enveloped me. I closed my eyes tighter as I tried to focus on the intense mental images of 20th century America that the neural link was injecting into my mind.

This particular period, between the year 1950 and 1996, was my favorite part of Earth history. The 20th century had been such a paradoxical time, a period when both the worst dictatorships and the greatest freedoms came to the Terran people. It was also a golden age of innocence where Earth thought it was still alone in the Universe.

The knocking continued to intrude on my thoughts as whoever it was proved determined to bring me to the front door. My concentration wavered, and the vivid mental images of Earth evaporated in a kaleidoscope of fragmented imaged, leaving me cursing my innate ability to hear a pin drop a mile away. The damnable knocking was starting to sound like metal hitting wood.

Someone seemed intent on bashing my front door in.

I angrily reached up to rip the neural link contacts from my forehead, and tossed a blanket over the holo-viewer to hide it. Stalking across the room, I jerked the front door open so hard that one of its hinges ripped loose. An Andromedan boy of twelve stood in front of me, a metal bar in his hand.

The look on my face must have been a fierce one, as he started chimpering as soon as he looked up at me. Then the tips of his fur blushed bright blue. That puzzled me until I looked down at myself to see that I was dressed scandalously in my house garb of leather shorts and nothing else. I quickly brushed my hair forward to cover my chest Lady Godiva style, and the Andromedan boy responded by bowing deeply, his eyes slowly lowering to focus politely on my bare legs. They were scandalous enough.

That was when I saw the envelope in his hand. It had a red 'S' seal across one end.

My heart skipped a beat as I took the letter from him and rummaged in the money bowl to give him a six-pence of silver for his persistence, and he flashed me a toothy smile and handed me the letter. Then he turned and ran down the path toward the road, no doubt saying his prayers all the way for God to protect him from the naked heathen who'd appeared before him.

I was left staring at the intriguing envelope, resisting the urge to read it without opening it. This was the third such envelope I'd received in my life, and the first two hadn't been good news. The first one had sentenced me to becoming a Scribe, the second had sent me to this backward planet. I was about to break the seal on the third when I saw that the 'S' contained a stylistic 'A' in the lower loop. It wasn't from the High Council, for that rune was Amb're's personal symbol. I quickly tore the envelope open.

 "The Goddess Amb're of Andromeda Seven invites you to a private meeting at the Palace of Velor on Thursday, April 12 at 0900. Dress is formal. Usual protocols to be observed.

Signed, Minister of Protocol Gatlar."

I flipped it over and read the other side, looking for the smiley face that would say it was just a joke. A Protector inviting a Scribe to meet with her? Unheard of. I found a second slip of paper in the envelope, this one also written in English, that described the 'usual protocols'. The protocols specified that I was to wear furs and cover my face and to prostrate myself before Amb're and to not speak unless I was spoken to and never look directly at her and never question her. In other words, treat her as some kind of omnipotent being to be worshipped.

I angrily tossed the letter on the table before grabbing another handful of silver from the bowl by the door. Grabbing a leather vest from the hook beside me, I ran out the door to follow the messenger boy back down the street. I saw him dart into the News hawker's stand, and sprinted after him, braking to a stop as I lunged through the door.

A dozen pairs of eyes promptly looked up from their reading to stare at me. Their eyes opened wide to stare like Andromedans do when confronted by something that didn't fit into their neat little world. I felt my face warming as I suddenly realized that I must look like a street corner hooker on a Saturday night in their eyes. I ignored them while gathering up anything and everything I could find that talked about Amb're. I was shocked by how large a pile it was by the time I was done.

"More reading material I see," the shopkeeper said as his eyes never left my bare arms. "Perhaps you might enjoy reading up on the nature of acceptable Andromedan dress and our cultural mores while you're at it. I have an excellent book just over there."

 I quickly grabbed my change from the counter and buried myself under fifty kilos of magazines and newspapers to stalk angrily out of the shop.

 I'd taken but a half dozen steps outside the door when I ran head-first into Kaltlakast.

"Shara’Lynn," he said with undisguised enthusiasm, "how wonderful to see you again. It's been days since our lovely dance at the Palace."

I rolled my eyes. The last thing I wanted was to meet him while dressed like this. It didn't help that I noticed he was carrying a camera.

"Here, let me help you, Shaa’lynn."

"I can do this myself, Kaltlakast, besides."

He cut me off as he began to grab for the magazines. The whole pile destabilized and started to slide out of my arms as he slipped his hairy arms under mine. Before I knew it, my camouflage was in his hands and I was standing nearly naked on the street. He just looked startled, and then stepped back and stared at me in the intense fashion of Andromedan males. Not really a rude stare, but a direct one. I glared angrily back at his stare as I spun around and stalked up the street, very aware as I did that my shorts were equally tiny. I didn't have to look to know where those huge eyes of his were staring now.

His words followed me. "So it's true. You are truly hairless like her!" I heard the sound of his bare feet padding on the pavement behind me as he called out. "You are beautiful Shara’Lynn. You are truly a Goddess. Like your friend Jaime and Our Worship." The awe in his voice angered me even as it brought an unseen smile to my lips. My smile faded as quickly as it appeared. I wanted nothing to do with worshipful males at the moment. Especially not randy male apes.

"I am nothing like them," I yelled back over my shoulder. "And speaking of goddesses, I just got this invite to have a nice little chat with your Goddess herself. Amb're."

Kaltlakast struggled to catch up to me as I walked nearly as fast as he could run. He was breathing hard by the time I reached my house and banged the dangling front door open with my bare shoulder. Kaltlakast barely paused at the doorway as he followed me into the house without asking for permission to enter, a severe breach of Andromedan custom. It seemed as if he'd decided that his customs didn't apply to me since I obviously didn't care for his.

"It is the greatest of honors to have a meeting with the Goddess herself, Shara’Lynn. Many of us dream only of having our Lady of Velor smile on them."

"Kaltlakast," I said disgustedly, "she's not a Goddess. She just a Velorian like me. And I don't think she's much of a lady. She's a Protector, a Warrior. She kicks ass for a living."

Kaltlakast looked at me like I was daft. "But, but she has saved our world and taught us the ways of humanity. I mean no disrespect, Shara’Lynn but, she is our life, our savior, our leader. She shows us the way to become like her."

"What do you mean, 'become like her'?" I was starting to get worried now.

"To be human, of course. She has taught us that being human should be the goal of every Andromedan."

I was so staggered by his words that I suddenly had to sit down. I knew now that the worst had happened.

"Who told you that being human should be your goal?"

"Goddess Amb're, of course. She said that all creatures strive for the perfection of humanity. That humans like herself were once apes like us before they found the enlightenment and grew beyond their fur. That humans are the ultimate expression of God's will. She confided to us that she is what is called an Angel."

Amb're's crystal Palace and crown suddenly made sense. She'd clearly broken the most sacred tenant of the Prime Directive and had begun to overtly determine the evolution of a species. She was interfering with the development of an entire planet by making herself into a deity. For God's sake, she was telling them that they should become human!

There was no greater crime for a Protector to commit. None.

My thoughts swirled back to Jaime and her words just the other day, how she'd taunted me with worshipping her, of becoming my Goddess. I thought she was just goofing with me as she tried to seduce me, but now I wondered how much Jaime really understood of Amb're's meddling. Or how far her meddling went.

I began to worry that she was falling under Amb're's power. My invitation to meet with Amb're of Velor suddenly became an imperative. Few people know that the secret role of the Institute of Scribes was to detect and report any violation of the Prime Directive. In that sense, I was a kind of undercover police agent. It wasn't a role I relished, but I suddenly realized the necessity of it.

I dropped the magazines in a pile in the middle of the living room and sat cross-legged next to them to start reading. I'm a fast reader and I've got a nearly photographic memory, and the only limit to how fast I can scan a magazine is how fast I can turn the pages without tearing them. I tore more than a few pages.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched Kaltlakast sitting next to me, his short legs and long arms making him look like a Terran Orangutan. The look on his face was so humorous that I had to bury my face in a magazine to keep from laughing aloud. I took a deep breath while tossing my loose hair over my other shoulder before turning and looking at him. His big yellow-brown eyes stared into mine.

"Please, Kaltlakast, just sit like an Andromedan and stop trying to act like me."

He smiled sheepishly as he uncrossed his legs to press the toes of his prehensile feet together. He then started to tap his toes against each other exactly like a human male might drum his fingers. He was so cute looking that I flopped backward to lay on the floor, a handful of magazines falling over my chest, broke into giggles again. 

Kaltlakast leaped across the floor with a monkey's gracefulness to kneel beside me and lower his face close to mine. He looked worried by the sound of my laughter. "Are you well, Shara’Lynn? You look to be in pain."

I took a deep breath and sat up smoothly, lifting his body weight with mine, something that having the abdominal strength of a thousand women made rather easy. I could move as fluidly as he could when I wanted to. "I'm just fine, my friend," I said as I tried to stop giggling. "I just found your toe-tapping to be so funny."

The fur around his neck suddenly stood up as he bristled blue. "See, it is just what the Goddess says. We are just animals and we must overcome our nature. We are 'funny' looking as you say."

"No, no, I didn't mean that," I said as I reached up to gently grab a handful of his silky fur to keep him from standing up. I had to hold onto him very tightly to overcome his strong legs. "I think it's charming," I said as I forced myself to look serious.

What I didn't say that he reminded me of the big stuffed monkey that my dad had given me when I was four. It had been my favorite toy until it had fallen apart and my mom and I formally buried it in the backyard. I think I was eight at the time.

Kaltlakast relaxed a little to lean down and impulsively kiss my cheek. I giggled again as his fur tickled my face. "Hey, off me, ape man," I said with a smile as I floated from the floor to do a slow somersault over his head. He stared up at me in wonder as I flew, although I think he was still more interested in my attire, or the lack of it and what that revealed, than my aerobatic skills.

"Is everyone so hairless on your planet?" he asked in a soft voice.

The hair thing again. Lack of hair was the ultimate Andromedan sexual fantasy. "Yup, although some of us think furry is cute."

"Am I cute?"

"You are impossibly cute, Kaltlakast," I said with a wink as I thought again of my long-lost stuffed toy.

"Does your kind have a desire to copulate with cute people."

I looked up at him so sharply that an escaping burst of heat vision singed at bit of the fur along his forehead. "Whoah, slow down there. Nobody ever said anything about sex. Cute is cute, maybe even loveable and huggable."

I resisted the urge to say "but not fuckable" as I was supposed to be polite and cultured here on Andromeda, even if I knew myself better than that.

He suddenly looked hurt and disappointed. I leaned closer to hug his arm to myself. "Kaltlakast, we aren't even from the same species."

"That does not bother me. I am not afraid of your strength and my body is very human in some ways."

"You should be afraid of me, my horny friend. But we can talk about this later, but right now, I have to get ready for my big meeting with Amb're. That's the kind of help I could use at the moment."

He continued to stare at me. "You fear your own strength, don't you?"

I looked over my shoulder at him as I heard him snapping my picture with that camera he always carried. "I don't understand?"

"You are afraid you would hurt me. You see me as weak and fragile, not like your, what did you call her, your girlfriend. Jaime'Lee."

I suddenly felt a touch angry and a little bit cranky. Getting hit on by an ordinary man, not to mention an ape, wasn't my idea of fun. I was nineteen and like most Velorian girl's my age, I still equated sex with athleticism, and with my muscles, I definitely qualified as athletic. I may look slender and cute, beautiful even in some people's eyes, but I'm utterly and fantastically strong and more or less physically inviolate.

"Jaime is none of your business," I blurted out, unsure of what else to say.

What I didn't say was that despite my apparent sophistication in his eyes, I had little real experience with men. I'd been with a man exactly twice, and the first time I'd more or less been raped and the second time I'd been intent on using my off-planet strength to angrily pay a man back for the first time. I was more or less raping him. I guess I could say I'd been properly laid since both my partners had been Velorians with all their incredible athletic strength and endowment, but no man had ever made what I would call love to me.

I couldn't tell Kaltlakast any of that, and the worshipful look his eyes told me that a demonstration was in order, if for no other reason than to put him in his proper place. After all, if I didn't want to sleep with a Velorian man, I was hardly going to throw myself into the long arms of a hairy ape-man.

"Kaltlakast, you truly don't understand how strong I am, do you? Do you know the kind of physical power that comes to me with the kind of arousal you are intent on sharing with me?" He looked at me with that 'deer frozen in the headlights' stare that seems common to Andromedan's when they're confused. 

"I thought not," I continued. "But you can learn. Stand right there and watch." Be took a step backward as I leaned over to pick up that heavy block of steel that the previous resident had used as a doorstop. A quick squeeze told me that it was surprisingly hard stuff, better than tool-grade steel, almost Vendorian in quality.

I turned to face him with the cold block of steel between my open palms while glancing up from under the golden umbrella of my tousled hair. I was startled to see the perfect reflection of my upper body in his huge, shiny eyes, his gaze seemingly measuring my slender arms and legs. I knew that I didn't look strong at nineteen, but I sure as hell was, for I had far more muscle fibers in my little muscles than he did in those huge arms of his. Not to mention that each of those fibers was a hundred times stronger than the muscle fibers in an ordinary human's body. 

I began to use that strength to press my palms inward against the steel block, and saw reflected in his eyes the hard-edged muscularity of my effort. My chest muscles grew defined and slightly striated as each of the dense muscle fibers tightened. I was quickly surprised to find myself using most of my strength before the unusually high-pitched scream of overstressed steel filled the air. Yet the block didn't yield.

Unfortunately the threads in my bodysuit did. I ignored the ripping sounds as I bit my lip and pressed the steel with everything I had. I glanced down to see my uplifted breasts tearing their way free of my top as the hard muscle pushed them upward. Kaltlakast's eyes opened wide in wonder as I paused to shrug my vest off. My naked chest and the startled look in his eyes strangely made my nipples burn as the block began to glow from its own internal friction. Still it didn't give!

I struggled to get a better purchase on it by holding it tightly against my chest. The red hot glow felt wonderful against my naked breasts, which in itself was a clear warning sign that I was getting into it now. The hardest steel in the universe was now opposing the strongest muscles in the universe, more or less, and the agonized scream of its slow yield made it sound like a thing alive. Finally satisfied to feel it giving way, I crushed it tighter to my chest as my growing arousal gave me the strength to finally overcome its resistance. 

I was startled a few seconds later to feel a few hot drips of metal tracing down the curve of my breast. I lost myself in the ecstasy of my arousing strength as I squeezed the glowing block into my cleavage to surround it with my breasts. Shifting my grip to the outside of my breasts, I pushed them inward to complete my erotic display of power. It was only the softness of my breasts that the steel now touched as compressed it hard enough to reduce it to a molten pool of metal. I proudly smiled at Kaltlakast as he in turn stared at the molten steel that dripped from my left nipple and fell the smoking wood floor. My nipples were standing upright like small thumbs.

"So, do you understand me now, my friend?" I gasped, trying to hold back the hot rush that threatened to carry me away. "I am a Velorian. I am strong, and I am invulnerable, even the softest part of my body."

Kaltlakast said nothing as he looked down at the cooling puddle of bright steel in front of me. He looked up with an amazed look in his eyes. "Shara’Lynn, that block was made of solid Vendorian steel. The Goddess Amb're has stated that only a Protector has such strength. How could you... I mean, do that with something as soft as..."

"No way," I interrupted his hesitant words. "It must be some imitation stuff."

Kaltlakast looked doubtful. "I don't think so. We're trading with the Vendorians now and the last resident of this house was a Vendorian merchant."

"I'm definitely not as strong as a Protector, Kaltlakast. And Amb're is right –- only a Protector could do that with Vendorian steel."

"I think it is your beautiful breasts that give you such power, Shara’Lynn. I saw them glow so brightly as you squeezed that steel between them. Never have I imagined a female who desired to use her femininity the way you just have."

I blushed at the frank strangeness of his words and crossed my arms demurely to cover myself as I felt the steel rapidly cooling to cling to my skin. My thoughts raced. I began to wonder about my long nights with Jaime. I wondered if some of her power was rubbing off on me. It was rumored that such things could happen to the mates of Protectors, and it was how a Protector got her extreme strength in the first place. But only on one's first entry into Plestathy.

I began to wonder if that Messenger had given me such power instead. Maybe my angry and insatiable lovemaking hadn't just been revenge for my earlier rape; maybe that had been my first true Ples’tathy? I had taken him to myself a dozen times more than he wanted me to as I sucked him dry. My head began to spin with the possibility that I'd been the recipient of a very rare male enhancement.

"Can I touch them?" Kaltlakast asked innocently. I blinked my thoughts back to reality as I looked down at the shiny metal that coated my chest. Deciding that I was covered well enough now, I nodded absently at him and opened my arms as my thoughts continued to race. His hands were large and far stronger than human. I like men with large hands. That thought jerked me back from my musing as his fat fingers suddenly held me tightly enough to bend the steel coating.

My heart began to pound at the strangely erotic nature of his touch. Totally confused by my feelings now, I felt him hooking his fingers under the edges of the metal. I held myself rigid as he slowly tore my impromptu breast-plate off with his more than human ape strength. His hands were rising back to my suddenly bared chest as I reached out to grab his wrists.

"I don't think that would be a good idea, Kaltlakast," was all I said as I held his hands tightly in mine, his fingers hovering an inch from my bare breasts. He struggled with me for a brief moment before he suddenly lowered his hands and blushed again. It was obvious that he'd lost control of his desires as much as I'd lost control of mine.

I said nothing to embarrass him further as I settled back to the floor to continue tearing articles out of the magazines. All traces of my extreme muscularity were gone as I crossed my bare legs. Right or wrong, I decided that I was going to stay bare-breasted the rest of today. If Kaltlakast wanted to stare at my tits, then let him stare. I just wanted them to be cool.

"Ok, playtime's over," I said with an upward glance and toss of my hair. "Why don't we focus on the real opportunity at hand. We need to put these magazines in piles. The first one is for interviews. The second one is for editorials. The third is for articles by religious leaders."

He finally spoke after a long and considered pause. "We also need one for letters that people have written to the newspapers."

"Good. Here, you work on this pile of mags, I'll take the rest."

The sound of rustling paper was the only sound in the room for several minutes. Then Kaltlakast stopped as he reached out to touch my hands. "You were very beautiful as you showed me your strength, Shara’Lynn. I thank you for that. We Andromedans admire strength, although we are not accustomed to it in our females."

"The magazines, Kaltlakast, focus on the magazines," I said firmly as I suppressed a sudden desire to giggle. I quickly rose to pull on a T-shirt to cover myself. I couldn't help but smile to myself when I returned to find the room filled with that musky scent again. Strength was obviously a serious turn-on for Andromedan males as well, and bare, hairless skin was their ultimate sexual  fantasy. I knew that I'd just overwhelmed him with both.

Fortunately he seemed satisfied by the boundaries I'd established with my little bit of showing off, and we worked together until just after midnight. Neither of us turned on any lights as the night became full, even as the room grew nearly pitch black. Between an Andromedan's big night-sensitive eyes and my Tachyon vision, we were having no trouble working and the darkness was strangely comforting.

The original pile of magazines was down to only a few stray issues just before midnight later when a blindingly actinic white light filled the room like a photoflash. A photoflash that lasted for many seconds! 

I instinctively threw myself across the room to land on top of Kaltlakast to protect him. While my body was far too small to cover all of him, I did the best I could as I counted the seconds until the thermals and shock wave arrived. Fortunately, more than two minutes passed before a very hot wind smashed up against the house hard enough to shake it, yet the windows stayed intact and nothing seemed to catch on fire. The burst was obviously a very distant one.

I scrambled back to my feet to float upward and hover in front of the north-facing window. The expected fireball was just starting to fade below the distant horizon, a red glow replacing it to spread outward to light the horizon for twenty degrees on either side of the burst. I knew too well that such a red glow came from thousands of burning buildings and trees. I blinked the tears from my eyes as I heard the wail of distant sirens starting. Another outlying city had just died, along with most of its population.

I was just about to turn away from the horrifying sight when a powerful voice seemed to float down from the sky. 

"Andromedans, you fight a futile battle. Your people are dying needlessly. Join us and we will stop the bombing, we will withdraw our armies and you can join the greatest alliance ever formed. The Empire wishes you within its arms, and within its protection. It is only your leaders and your Velorian mistresses who foolishly resist us. Your supposed Protector, the alien named Amb're, is risking the end of everything Andromedan. Resist her corruptions and her feminine dominance and come and join the strength of the Empire. Give Peace a chance."

I glanced up through the ceiling to see a dozen Arion scoutships dropping out of the clouds, each of them dangling a huge acoustic transponder beneath its belly. They descended until they were skimming low over every part of Perthy. 

 The battle was finally coming home to the only city that the Arions really wanted, the city that most Andromedans believed the Arions would not bomb unless it was as a last resort. No other place on Andromeda Seven was safe, something that an increasingly long line of refugees had concluded as they streamed into Perthy for protection.

I was still scanning the Arion scout ships a few moments later when I felt a pair of softly furred arms wrapping around me. I sighed and settled instinctively into Kaltlakast's arms as his huge body made me feel like a little girl again. His huge hands rose to boldly cup my breasts. This time I did not protest. No words needed to be said as we both felt a darkness far deeper than night descending upon us. A darkness that somehow made the intimacy of his touch feel appropriate.

Kaltlakast spoke first. "Our world has gone insane, Shara’Lynn. Perhaps we should yield to the Empire while we still have a planet left to yield. We should give our brothers and sisters a chance to live."

I was trying to think of something reassuring to say when the huge loudspeakers suddenly stopped in mid-sentence as the visible cone of a supersonic shock wave lanced up into the sky like an air-to-air missile. The tiny object at the apex of the cone intersected first one and then a second Arion ship to send a sharp boom echoing across Perthy. The ships exploded and fell flaming into the city below. 

Jaime was hard at work again. Her attack on the scoutships reminded of the real reason I was here on Andromeda, and that wasn't to bring Amb're into line. I was here to record to desperate battle for dominance over yet another world. 

I took a deep breath before offering the most daring comment that a Scribe was allowed. "You have no idea what it would be like to live under Arion control, Kaltlakast. They would enslave you, they would control your population to their own needs, they would take many of you away to work on their remote mining colonies. None would return."

"Then you are saying that we should fight to the last man, woman and child?" Kaltlakast said questioningly.

"I cannot tell you to do that, my friend, it is not my place. But I will say that others have done so after learning the fate of sister worlds who yielded to the Empire."

I sighed as I felt him nodding, his hands tightening from his tension to hold me with an ape's great strength. "I understand what you say. Our time is growing short and our world becoming dark. I will sleep on your wisdom, Shara’Lynn." 

He unwrapped his arms from me. "Now it is time for me to go."

"No." The words came unbidden from my lips as if it was a stranger speaking. "I don't want to be alone tonight. Stay with me." I pulled his arms back to wrap then around my waist as I hugged his warm body to mine.

He said nothing for a long minute. Then he lifted me effortlessly in his huge arms and carried me to my bed. He set me down gently on one side as he slid in beside me to pull the blankets over both of us. He did what my heart wanted him to do as he curled up to my back and hugged me like the living teddy bear, his soft fur warming me. I suddenly felt like a little girl curled up with my favorite stuffed toy, although in this case, the toy was cuddling me. In seconds, I felt myself drifting off into the first good sleep I'd had since I’d come to this embattled planet.

* * *

I awoke hours later to the sound of distant sirens grew louder. There were dozens of ambulances heading into Perthy to carry the survivors to the local hospitals.

Kaltlakast heard it in his dream, and he began to tremble in my arms. He cried out in apparent fear as his strong hands gripped my arms and pulled at me with a strength that would have broken torn an ordinary human's arms from her joints. I knew that he was just having a nightmare, and I responded to his need for comfort by turning to face him.

Pulling his face to my chest, I felt his shaking gradually slowing, only to be replaced by the musky odor of his arousal. He shocked me by opening his huge lips to nearly engulf one of my breasts. At the same time, I felt the unmistakable sensation of his arousal growing between my legs. Startled by the force of his transition from nightmare to wet dream, my first reflex was to push him away. Then I remembered the nightmare which had just passed. Anything was better than giving that back to him.

The pressure between my legs slowly grew as I lifted one leg to give him his freedom. He startled me with the amount of freedom he needed as I was thanked Skietra that I was still wearing my leather shorts. I squeezed my thighs together to embrace the largest expression of manhood I'd ever known. He shocked me by continuing to grow larger.

I gasped in further amazement a moment later when his instinctive pelvic motion started sliding him back and forth between my legs as I held him tighter and tighter to try to keep control of his dream. He soon moved even easier as I realized that the wetness that helped him move was not all his own. I felt my body responding to his as his broad lips and powerful tongue started to turn my magic on as he took my entire breast into his huge maw.

He suddenly bit down so very, very hard on my breast as his body stiffened and then began to tremble wildly. I gasped beneath the power of his intimate embrace as I held him so tightly between my legs that he couldn't move. He responded by exploding into a wild spasm of thrusting that shook my body nearly off the bed. His strength was shocking, especially since his strength threatened to further unleash my own magic. 

Part of me knew that my leather shorts would be no impediment to my joining his passion if I so wished, and that part of me was urging me to be bold. That daring thought was dashed when the climax of his night-time release came. His wild spasm tore the sheets apart behind me as the air was full of the sharp musk of an orgonic male.

I instinctively rolled over on top of him to hold him down against the bed as I paused for the briefest moment in the fateful position that would have let me join his passion, my leather shorts be damned. I was hovering on the edge of that fateful decision when his body suddenly fell limp and the moment passed. I rolled on my back to cradle his head in the soft pillow of my breasts as he began snoring again. 

And then I awakened. It was I who had been sleeping, I who had been dreaming. I floated silently over the covers, then crossed the room to pick up that half-melted block of Vendorian steel. Flying to the window, I saw that the highway was filled with the flashing lights of emergency vehicles all the way to the horizon. I closed my eyes to the horror, and wondered where Jaime was this night. I needed her right now. Badly.

I opened my eyes minutes later to see that I'd unconsciously formed that hard steel into a shape that was as erotic as the shape that I'd dreamed of holding so firmly between my legs only a short time ago. Unable to ignore my obvious need now, I gave myself up to feelings I could no longer deny. I found my way to the basement, where the floor was solid concrete and, in the way of a Scribe, kneeled as I gave my strength control of my passion.

The glow of my more than human toy was soon bright enough from my athletic friction to block out the red flashes from outside the window. As I'd desired, the Vendorian steel proved strong enough, and it wasn't until my ultimate moment of excitement that it began to soften. I clenched it passionately with a strength that is unique to my race as the hard steel finally gave up the struggle as I gripped it with a sheath of muscle that no power in the universe could withstand. 

 I gasped as my moment came upon me, and then passed, leaving me to collapse in the corner, a melted puddle of glowing steel spreading outward on the floor around me. Steel that had been my momentary passion. My dreams were not of warmth or comfort the rest of that night. I dreamed instead of freeing an oppressed planet of loving apes from the horror of Arion domination. I dreamed as I often do after sex about the wonders of absolute power. Of using that power to help free a planet. I dreamed of passion that did not know human boundaries.

It was only a dream.

See also: "Dear Diary"

And for more about Jamie, The Downfall of Rakip