AU - Early Worlds


First Protector - Part Two


GAR Fire



By Shadar



Chapter Eight

It was still dark when I awoke to the sound of someone pounding on my door. I felt Vespyr’s slender body spooned against my back and smiled — it hadn’t all been a dream.

She rose from the bed to float above me like an angel, looking toward the front door despite the intervening wall. I imagined that the entire house looked like an exploded drawing to her eyes.

She was even more beautiful than I remembered, if that was possible. I reached up to hold her slender calf, finding her skin so warm and soft and her muscles so hard. She wasn’t wearing any gold.

“You mind if I answer your door? Seems our visitor is most insistent.”

“As long as you come back to bed, baby.”

She lowered her long legs to settle gently to the floor, and kissed me gently before disappearing out the bedroom door.

I closed my eyes, finding that I was so exhausted. I felt myself drifting,lost in my half-awake reverie. I smiled as I remembered how Vespyr had looked as she left my bed. Someone was about to face a naked Velorian in my doorway, her body exuding the musky scent of our lovemaking along with the strong, floral perfume of her arousal.

Then reality crashed in as I heard Vespyr explaining that it was “just sex. Nothing to worry about. I already told the police that Gazrall would pay for all the damages.”

That got my attention. I remembered that it had been dark when the first knock on the door came.

My neighbors are mostly professionals. Some university people too. A few of them had connections to Gazrall. It suddenly occurred to me that the old man might not appreciate my boffing his precious Companion.

I heard Vespyr say something about a threesome and another woman laughing, saying something about "he's exhausted." That really got my attention. Then I heard the front door close and two women's voices heading toward the kitchen. Vespyr and... Jana!

Shit! Jana was the last person I wanted here.

I started to get out of bed, but a sudden wave of weakness washed over me as I tried to stand. I grabbed for the bed and fell back into it as a wave of blackness blotted out the faint light of the room.


The next time I woke, the room was brightly lit. It was seemingly moments later, yet based on the sun, hours had passe   

What the hell time was it anyway?

I started to sit up, only to find the wonderful aroma of bacon and eggs cooking wafting through the open bedroom door.

Breakfast instead of sex? Vespyr wasn’t living up to her exotic billing.

I rolled reluctantly out of bed and hopped around the bedroom, pulling on some shorts and a t-shirt. Other than a dull ache low in my pelvis and a slightly sore penis, I seemed to be OK. Given what I remembered of last night, that was pretty amazing.

The smells from the kitchen were getting better every minute.

I paused at the window to look up, only to find that the sun was high in the sky. What the hell? Had I spent all that time sleeping?

Not good.

I headed toward the kitchen to find Jana standing in front of my stove. She was wearing a white tennis outfit and running shoes that showed off the backs of her strong legs. Standing 6’3”, her pumped up calves made it clear she'd just finished a good run.

She turned around to look at me in the doorway, her head tilting to the side as was her custom. “So, our lover finally awakes?”

 “Our lover…?” I mumbled, suddenly wondering about that blank spot in my memories. Had Jana been here long? 

Confused, I turned to see Vespyr standing at the other end of my long kitchen, her head buried in one of my cabinets searching for something. My heart leaped... she seemed to grow more beautiful every time I saw her. She was dressed in a white knit dress now, her golden necklace gone, which said she was fully empowered. Yet instead of looking powerful, she looked soft and beautiful and so very feminine.

"He doesn't have any," she said, obviously to Jana. Stepping back, she turned her head my way, one arm folded across her body to hold her other arm. She looked curiously at me, her eyes sparkling as they traced up and down my body. The Velorian equivalent of an x-ray tomoscan, or so I assumed. She smiled softly while turning to walk toward me, revealing that the front of her knit dress was decorated with an elaborate embroidery of silver and gold threads forming a starburst across her chest. I couldn't imagine how much work that must have involved. Clearly, the dress was both exorbitantly expensive and very fashionable.

“Good morning sleepy head,” she said.

Confused by finding both women in my kitchen, especially the way Vespyr had just undressed me with her eyes, I reached down to hold myself. “Don’t worry. It’s still firmly attached.”

“But a little black and blue. Poor baby," Jana chuckled from over by the stove.

Vespyr gave me a wink as she walked past me to rejoin Jana. They made quite the contrast standing there: Jana’s broad shoulders and well-developed muscles next to Vespyr’s sleek, slender, sexiness. From her narrow shoulders down to her tiny waist and across that tightly rounded backside to the short hem of her knit dress, Vespyr’s figure was nothing short of perfection. And below that, the diamond shape of ultimate fitness dimpled the top of her calves, her legs so slender yet so impossibly strong at the same time. She was a vision of loveliness.

 “I really like that look, Vespyr. Elegant, expensive and very proper. That embroidery is dazzling."

She smiled as she glanced back over her shoulder. “It's my own design.”

"Inspired by Velorian fashion?" The starburst was unusual and dazzling.

She nodded.

“Then you have yet another undiscovered talent,” I quipped. "But what's the occasion?"

“I had an early morning meeting with one of Gazrall’s charity foundations. Not everyone gets to sleep until noon, you know.”

“Jesus; it’s already noon?”

“Jana kept an eye on you while I was gone.”

Now I was really confused, but I wasn’t going to show it. “So, how was the meeting?”

“They stared at my legs for a while. Then worked their way up to the starburst. About like you are now.”

“OK… I’ll be good.” I walked across the room to slump into a chair at the table.

Vespyr smiled at Jana again, and they both giggled. I’d assumed Jana would be pissed that I’d dumped her at the club, but she didn’t look angry at all. And what was this about her taking care of me?

“Morning, tiger,” Jana said cheerfully. “So everything really is still attached, huh?”

“What the hell does she…?” I started to ask. “I mean, did all that… you know, happen last night? It wasn’t a dream?”

“You mean, did you seriously try to fuck my brains out?”

I glanced at Jana, who gave me a weird look as she lifted one eyebrow. “You were a very bad boy, Kev,” she scolded. “Leaving me like that. I had to take care of those lovely coeds all by myself.”

I wasn’t sure what to say to that, so I looked back at Vespyr. As much as I’d always enjoyed Jana’s sexy, irreverent attitude toward just about everything in life, I didn’t want her here. Not now.

"Don't worry, Jana. I didn't neglect him. Did you know that he wrecks taxi cabs?"

Screw this, I thought. I can play this game too. “Yeah, Vespyr, it was all great right up to the point where you suddenly turned into super girl. And… ah, is this going to be awkward? You know… with both of you here?”

“Didn’t work,” Vespyr said, ignoring my new question as she answered her earlier one. “I’ve still got a few brain cells left.”

“And I’m not even blonde,” Jana added. “So I'm invulnerable in that way at least.”

I slumped further in my chair. All hope was lost. They were going to gang up on me.

“We’ve been talking about your talents,” Jana declared, confirming my worst fears. “Actually, talent. Singular. Vespyr has decided that you are definitely more Arion than human. In one way, at least.”

I gasped and stared at Vespyr, then at Jana. “What are you talking…?”

“No secrets this morning,” Vespyr said.

“I always wondered about you, Kev,” Jana added. “No other guy could get me going the way you used to. You never got tired. But apparently Vespyr found a few buttons to push that I missed.”

I wasn’t ready for this. It was one thing for Vespyr to know, but not Jana. And my body was my own business.

“Tell me, Vespyr," Jana asked, "did you guys really do it while you were… you know, super?”

Vespyr laughed. “Amazingly, yes.”

“Ok. That’s definitely one for the record books,” Jana added, glancing back at me to wink. “I didn’t think that was remotely possible?”

Vespyr shrugged. “Well, Kev wasn’t doing much of anything as we fell. He frightens easily when it comes to heights.”

 I hate to be talked about in the third-person, so I decided to toss my nickels worth in.

“That was relaxed, Vespyr? Your body felt like it was carved out of steel. Definitely unfuckable.” That came across a bit harsh, but I was getting pissed.

“Thankfully he’s only half human or it would have gone badly,” Vespyr said to Jana, completely ignoring me.

“He's just a halfling,” Jana shrugged.

“Who’d have guessed.”

I waved my hand. "Hey, I'm sitting right here. And this isn't a joke. If anyone else finds out, anyone, I'm doomed. And what are you doing here, anyway, Jana?"

She took a last sip of her coffee as she gave Vespyr a meaningful look. Vespyr nodded slightly toward the door.

“OK," Jana sighed. "I know when I’m being demoted from potential threesome partner to third wheel. Give me a call sometime, Vespyr.”

She paused as Vespyr held out a key. I recognized it as my door key.

Jana turned to look at me. “What do you suppose I should do with this, Kev?”

I started to hold out my hand, but Vespyr placed it firmly in Jana's hand instead. “As we discussed,Jana, there are side-effects to last night, especially given his Arion blood. You and Kev have a little history. You’re a big, strong girl. You’ll be needed.”

Jana winked at me as she closed her sinewy fingers around the key and spun around to walk out the front door. “She you later, big boy.”

Then she was gone.

“What was all that about?” I angrily asked Vespyr. “Talking about me as if I wasn’t here? Side effects?”

“We’ll talk later. Right now, I’m trying to cook a soufflé the way she just showed me. Did you know she trained under a world-class chef for nearly a year?”

“I don’t care about Jana. Or any soufflé. All I know is that last night was incredible, Vespyr. And scary. One moment I’m making love to you, the best sex of my life, and the next moment I think I’m going to die. Then we're having the best sex of my life in a rat-infested alley.”

She laughed. “Serves you right for picking me up. We Velorians are dangerous.”

“I picked you up? Hah. I distinctly remember the way you danced, pure seduction, and then you dragged me into that taxi. My feet never touched the ground!”

 Vespyr chuckled. “Guilty as charged. But if that cabbie had known how to fly properly, it would have really been fun."

"I don't think they get combat training, Vespyr. But after the crash... wow!" The sex in that alleyway had been mind-boggling good. If there was one thing Vespyr was brilliant at, it was orgasms. She had an endless supply of them.

"Your welcome, kind sir. But it does require two to tango."

“So, do you have any other skills I don’t know about, Vespyr. Besides death defying mayhem cleverly disguised as sex?”

“Well, you can tell me in a few minutes when this soufflé is done.”

She walked over to straddle me, sitting in my lap while giving me a deep, lingering kiss. Her gorgeous curves seemed to be carved out of solid steel once again, but she was incredibly flexible and light at the same time. It didn’t make sense. I cupped one breast and found some give there. Her nipple was really hard, but the rest of her boob felt pretty damn good.

“I’ve never had such an interesting night, Kev. Or been with a guy who had so much... I don't know, oomph? So to thank you, I figured I’d come back and cook you breakfast.”


"You know... strength and endless endurance at fucking. You're the one who kept me going. Oomph."

"And Jana?”

“I think my pheromones did a number on the people in the club, Jana and those coeds especially.”

“Great," I said sourly. "Your pheromones work on women too?”

“If they’re bisexual like Jana, for sure.”

“She’s been faithful to her husband. She doesn’t want to break her vows.”

“You guys…” Vespyr said with a shake of her head. “Let me clue you in. She didn’t just come and dig you out of your office to save you from yourself. She and her husband have separated.”

“That doesn't make sense. She kept talking about her marriage vows.”

Vespyr shrugged. "Whatever. Human sexuality is complicated."

"And Velorian isn't? Last night sure seemed complicated to me."

"Not emotionally, it wasn't."

She had a point. She saw what she wanted and went for it. No subterfuge. Almost like a guy.

“And as far as Jana goes, it was all I could do to convince her that she didn’t need to wake you up the way she planned. I figured you’d had enough experience finding your penis in unexpected places for one night.”

“Unexpected places…?” I laughed. “Yeah... Velorian pussy. I definitely didn't see that one coming."

Vespyr smiled. "I'll let you know in advance the next time. Don't want to scare you off."

"I'm not scared."

"You should be. But then, you are half Arion. No accounting for that."

"Yeah, whatever, as if I know what that means. You're the first Supremis I've met."

"Hopefully, I'll be the last."


"No. Survival. Yours."

"Thanks for keeping Jana away from me and my bruises. My protector.”

“You're on your own with her now.”

I shrugged. “I will say one thing, I’ve never known a woman who went so crazy during sex as you do, Vespyr. Machine-gun O’s. I lost count. I really like what gold does to you.”

“It’s goddess to you,” she winked as she floated from my lap to return to the stove. "And you aren't supposed to count them."

"I'm an experimental physicist."

"Let me clue you in, Kev - an orgasm isn't physics. It's biology."

"Yeah, but I'm really good at higher math."

She giggled. “Hope I wasn't too much for you. Gold or not.”

“Too much? Isn’t that the definition of a Velorian?”

“Funny boy. And as far as Jana goes, it’s been complicated for her. Her husband is a bit...” her words trailed off.

“Lacking for one particular muscle?” I finished.

She nodded. ”We seem to share a common complaint with the guys we’re supposed to be attached to.”

I found my pride surging. “You were so damn sensitive when you had that necklace on. I figured that being invulnerable and all that you’d be insensitive.”

“Try super sensitive.”

She paused as if trying to make up her mind to say more. Then continued. “Try to imagine for a moment the kind of extreme nerve density of a normal woman’s clitoris. Like Jana.”

“OK. I’m imagining.” I was definitely getting turned on again by this discussion, although the comparison to Jana was a bit weird.

 “Now try to imagine spreading that same sensitivity, that same intensity, around the full width of my vagina, except with greatly increasing nerve density the deeper you go.”

“Wow. That was engineered into you guys? Why?”

“You can guess as well as I can.”

“Well, it obviously puts a premium on deep penetration, which is the opposite of Terran physiology, what with the clitoris on the outside.”

“I think the Galen were just fixing what they saw as a human defect, at least from the perspective of procreation sex. You want a lot of deep penetration if pregnancy is your goal. So they engineered it into our genes.”

“Speaking for us human guys, that’s not something you have to encourage. Comes kind of naturally. Anytime I get in your jeans that is.”

She smiled faintly. It wasn't much of a joke.

“So that explains why my tonsils are still tickling?”

I recognized outrageous flattery when I heard it, but I still grinned. “So what the hell is your deal with Gazrall?”

Her smiled vanished. “He’s impotent.”

I just stared at her, not believing what I'd just heard. “What?”

“You heard me. Can’t get it up. Even with me.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “After paying untold millions for the company of a Companion?”

Vespyr shrugged. “Just shows you that there is some balance in the universe. He's got his billions, and you've got a great dick. I'm sure there are days when he'd gladly trade places with you.”

“Not me."

"I figured as much."

"So, there is justice in the universe, after all,” I chortled. "And hope for poor halfling Professsors."

“Don’t get your hopes too high, Kev. I’ve still got 70 years to go on my contract. Technically, you’d have to ask him before we sleep together again. Not that I would. Ask that is. That kind of charity seldom begins at home. Especially with Gazrall.”

My expanding balloon burst. I didn’t want to even think about that. Besides, Vespyr’s relationship with Gazrall was really none of my business, no matter how funny it was. "So who says your can't have an affair like everyone else?"

"My contract. My loyalty must be uncompromised."

"Bullshit. You have the rights of any human."

"Except I'm not human."

I didn't like where this was going.

“So, what happened to the gold necklace?” I asked, trying to change the subject. “That thing must have been worth a hundred grand or more, what with that Vendorian steel thread in it. Is that something they issue to Companions?”

She nodded as she rose to walk over and open the oven door and took out a hot pan with her bare hands. She walked back to transfer the wondrous smelling soufflé to my plate. “It’s in my purse. Comes in handy from time to time.”

“Oh, so I’m not the only lucky guy, huh?”

“Actually, you are. But even though Gazrall can’t do it, he has his... thing. Robotic. Very lifelike. Gold came in handy there, at least until they made it strong enough.”

I stared at her, aghast, my stomach cramping up as my mind tried to envision such a thing. My brain shut down before it got there. “I really don’t need to hear about any of that.”

“Good, because I’m not telling you.”

I really had to change the subject now.

“So, that was some ride last night, huh? The taxi, I mean.”

“Imagine the stories the cabbie is telling everyone today.”

“Whatever. All I know is that one moment you’re all soft and cuddly and the next you’re the lady of steel.”

”Lady, huh? I don’t get that a lot.”

“My Lady of Flight from the Golden Planet.”

She smiled as she filled her plate and then sat down across the table from me. “There’s more going on here than you know, Kev. Gold that's in contact with my skin changes the nature of my pheromones -- that perfume you noticed. Its a kind of intoxication for me that results in my intoxicating you. Instead of just turning you on like it did initially, once I put on the gold, the pheromones changed to work on your whole endocrine system. Made you stronger and gave you incredible sexual endurance too. Over the top really. I think we released a few dormant Arion genes or something.”

“I noticed. So that’s why Jana was camped at my doorstep this morning?”

“She only had a brief exposure to my pheromones, but you were giving off something as well, but I'm not sure if that started after we got in the taxi or before. I didn't know about that part of you until I tasted your blood."

"You're saying there is something in my scent that attracts the opposite sex?"

She nodded. "I think so."

"Well, that might explain a few things." I remembered my days of dancing competitively. I usually went home with the hottest chick, no matter who she came with. I'd assumed it was just the dancing.

"All I know for sure is that Jana indulged those coeds all night and then ran twenty miles this morning to try to work the rest of the frustration out of her system. Didn’t work. She needed you.”

This conversation was getting weirder and weirder. Was she pushing Jana on me?

“But for some reason, the effect of my pheromones peaked and then faded very fast in your system, Kev. After some legendary exertion, you slept for a solid eight hours.”

“My loss. But I was so tired I couldn't keep my eyes open.”

"I think you started to metabolize a bit of orgone, some Betans can do that in a limited way, and I mistakenly drew it all from you. That's probably why you felt so drained."

"Orgone? You're kidding? In my body? That's incredibly powerful stuff."

"Tell me about it. And you probably just had a trace of it."

"So, you left me while I was sleeping and did your thing with Gazrall, huh?"

"If you mean the publicity thing, then yeah. After last night, he's decided to kick me out of the closet and have me make public appearances. Promoting his softer side or something like that." She shrugged. "It's all contrived, but at least I get out."

"So when did Jana show up?"

"About 5:30am. I had to be home by seven to get ready for that meeting, so I didn't have much time to help her."

“Help her?” I asked, jaw dropping. "The two of you were getting it on in my apartment while I slept?"

"We tried to wake you. Jana really wanted to, but you were dead to the world." She shrugged. "No biggy. We Vels are pretty much equal opportunity types.”

“I so don’t want to know.”

“Good, because I’m not telling you.”

 “So...” I asked after a long pause, waving my fork in the air, my mouth full of soufflé, “how long before I’m... you know, ready to go like that again?”

“Not for a while. Otherwise you’d be risking permanent injury. Arion blood or not. I’m surprised you didn’t burst or tear something as it is.”

I sagged slightly in my chair. I definitely felt sore, but I had no idea that she’d been that worried about me. “So, no super pokey for me, huh? And you’re a girl of steel again.”

Vespyr nodded as she took a sip of the espresso she’d made. “I think you’d better ease back into the saddle with someone a bit gentler.”

I just stared at her. The Jana thing again? My burgeoning pride suddenly deflated. Was she dumping me?

“Besides, I’ve got other plans for us today. Ones that don’t involve gold or sex. Want to hear?”

“Sounds pretty dull in comparison.”

“Trust me. It won’t be.”

The pain in my groin started throbbing stronger, feeling as if some painkilling drugs were wearing off. I tried to ignore the pain as I took another bite of Vespyr’s marvelous soufflé; Jana’s in reality. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said with my mouth half full. “But this is damn good.”

Vespyr smiled nervously as she leaned back in her chair and took a deep breath before speaking again.

“Here’s the bottom line, Kev. I've been trying to find a way to say this, so I'll just say it. You have a GAR and I’d like to experience it.”

I started to choke as my soufflé went down the wrong way. I stared at Vespyr in shock, my weariness and pain suddenly replaced by fear.

“What… what did you say?”

“I said I want to test your GAR.”

“That impossible… besides, it’s classified Top Secret, and it’s hardly my GAR… and how did you…?”

I stopped talking as it suddenly hit me.

“So, Gazrall has hooks that deeply into the government, huh?”

“He finances the election campaigns of a lot of people. His armaments companies are tightly connected to the Armory.”

It was as if a veil had suddenly been removed from my eyes to be replaced with perfect vision. And I didn’t like what I saw at all.

“So he owns them all,” I blurted out. My left temple started to throb and my head felt as if it was going to explode. “Just like he fucking owns you.”

“He hardly owns me,” Vespyr started to say, seemingly taken aback by my sudden burst of anger. “Indentured servitude is the closest thing to our arrangement, and that isn’t technically slav…”

 “So… was last night just payment in advance?” I interrupted her, getting angrier by the moment. “Gazrall’s way of getting me on his payroll, too? With his little whore as the currency?”

Vespyr stood up abruptly to carry her half empty plate to the sink and dump it. She leaned over the sink, sagging as if tired. “Last night was wonderful, Kev. You have no idea what it’s like living with a much older and… lesser man.”

“You made that choice long ago. And you aren’t answering my question.”

Vespyr’s eyes were welling up with tears as she spun around to face me. “You can’t possibly understand how important the Companion program is to my world. It’s a service to all Velorians.”

“Technically, it makes you a fucking whore.”

Vespyr angrily crushed the thick drinking glass she was holding, glass shards falling across the floor. “Why are you talking to me this way, Kev?”

I felt my face turning red as the anger built inside me. My one real weakness is my temper. “I’m just calling a spade a fucking spade. You approached me to make a trade. Your body for access to the GAR. I just wish you’d respected me enough to tell me the fucking rules up front.”

She shook her head. “No, Kev. Last night wasn’t like that.”

“Then what was it? You choosing me for my dancing ability?”

“No,” she said softly.

“Or the size of my cock?”

“Not really. I didn't even know... you know, about the Arion thing. Not at first.”

“Right. And here I was dumb enough to think we were starting to mean something to each other. Now I realize you were just working me over. Softening me up for this morning. Very professional, Vespyr. You’re living up to the highest standards of your profession.”

“Fuck you!” she said angrily.

“You already did!”

Vespyr sagged backward against the sink. “Look… none of this is as simple as you think, Kev.”

“Does Gazrall know an Arion half-breed has been fucking his super girlfriend. Is he going to award me a gold star or line me up and shoot me?”

“He probably knows by now. The cabbie and his stories,” Vespyr said softly. “In any case, I am not allowed any secrets from him.”

“And you say you aren’t a slave? I bet he’ll want a blow by blow,” I said angrily. "Maybe name his fuck robot after me."

Vespyr turned her back again, quietly saying, “I’m not his girlfriend. It’s both more and less than that.”

I took a few deep breaths, trying to control my anger. It wasn’t working. “But that isn’t even the point, Vespyr. You chose me last night simply because of the GAR.”

Her blonde head bobbed. “Truth.”

I cursed under my breath. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it still hurt to hear her confirm it. But what did I expect? I was a professor living on a modest salary and she lived in a billion dollar mansion. The suit she was wearing alone would cost me two year’s pay. She was a Companion, a million dollar professional escort, for Christ’s sake.

“This has nothing to do with Gazrall,” Vespyr explained. “Other than learning about the GAR from him. He didn’t send me to you. I came on my own free will.”

I clenched my teeth, wishing that was true, but doubting it. “Nothing you do can be divorced from Gazrall. You don't have free will. He’s just playing you like he does everyone else.”

She shook her head. “No. Last night was my decision, Kev. You were really great. And not just the sex. You’re a good man. I really like being around you.”

I rose to noisily dump my dishes in the sink beside hers. As incredible as it was to hear a Velorian say such words, I was so angry that they didn’t register.

“Get out of here, Vespyr. Go back to your limp master and his robotic dick.”

She grabbed my arm to twist me around to face her, her grip painfully tight. “I could hardly discuss the most highly classified secret on Tazzi with you in a nightclub, Kev. I was acting in the best interests of Velor and Tazzi. Gazrall be damned.”

“You’re rationalizing now,” I shouted as I tried to pull away, but couldn’t break her grip. I felt strangely violated. “You met me at the club to make it easier to seduce me. Didn’t you?”

 She hung head. “True. My intentions were clear before I ever came to that club. But I did my homework on you, Kev.”


“I learned that you are the most innovative high energy physicist on Tazzi. And that you weren’t married or attached. That was important. I don’t destroy relationships or steal hearts.”

“But it was Gazrall who told you I had access to the GAR. Right?”

Vespyr started to shake her head, and then nodded. “I suspected that you did, but he confirmed it.”

“Why didn’t you just ask me about it?”

“Because you’d deny it. It’s top secret.”

I cursed under my breath. A less honorable part of me was secretly glad she’d decided to seduce me. How many guys got to make it with a Vel? At the same time, the better half of me realized she was right. I would have refused to help her get anywhere near the GAR. Or even acknowledge that I knew what it was.

“I’ve read somewhere that you Velorians always tell the truth when asked a direct question. You don’t even indulge in the white lies we Terrans love so much.”

Vespyr shrugged. “Frankness is one of the foundations of our culture.”

“Then tell me what you want with my GAR.”

“I already told you… to experience it.”

“I have plenty of videos of the tests. You can see that it melted anything it touched. Even diamond. Nothing can resist the particle beam.”

“There is something that’s possibly powerful enough to withstand it. Probably.”

I jerked my eyes up to meet hers. “What? We tried everything?”

She reached up to place my hands back on her breasts. “These.”

I just stared at her, confused. I tried to pull my hands away, but she held them too tightly.  “What are you…?”

“I store orgone in my breasts. The most powerful energy in the universe.”

That shocked me. I'd always wanted to work with orgone in the lab, but it was harder to get than Vendorian steel. “Vespyr, you have no idea what that weap…”

Vespyr jerked away to reach into the drawer to her right. She pulled out the powerful 15mm pistol I kept there, and pointed it at me.

I backed away. “Now wait a minute. I’m not bulletproof or anything.”

“But I am.”

She stuck the barrel into her mouth and pulled the trigger. A muffled bang filled the room and smoke puffed out her nose and ears. She coughed up more smoke and spit the crushed bullet out on the counter. Then, before I could react, she crushed the gun in her grip, wringing it out like a wet sponge while glaring at me. Then she tossed the mangled, smoking remains of the gun on the counter.

“Nothing can hurt me, Kev. Please let me test that GAR with you. I have to know if it can hurt a Velorian.”

My mouth fell open. “That’s… that’s insane. It would vapor…”

“What is insane is to let the Arions get away with deploying a weapon like that.”

I couldn’t process what she’d just done; eating a bullet, then crushing my gun, finally claiming she wanted to “experience” the GAR. My head was spinning. It was one thing to read about Supremis invulnerability, but something else to see it. Especially in my kitchen.

I closed my eyes, desperately trying to remember how soft her skin had felt against mine, her hair so silky. Sure, she was fabulously fit, even steely hard when empowered, but she was still intensely feminine even then.

“This is too ridiculous to even consider,” I finally said, my words slow and deliberate. “We included a cow’s carcass inside a container made out of three feet thick high carbon steel. It was instantly vaporized. Not a wisp of smoke escaped the annihilation by the charged particles.”

She pulled my hands back to her firm breasts. “I’m not a cow, Kev. And don’t confuse beauty and femininity with weakness. A classic mistake with us Vels.”

I opened my eyes to look down at her, trying not to enjoy the soft rise of her breasts against my hands. “Still, you can’t be serious!”

“You know I am.”

“I can’t… I won’t…” I sputtered. “The concept alone is insane.”

She sighed. “I realize that after last night you think of me in more romantic terms, Kev. Infatuation amplified by pheromones. That’s normal. Also that you’re angry with me for not leveling with you at first. That’s normal too. But you’ve read about Velorians before. We’re unhurtable. Invincible. Inviolate. Invulnerable. Pick your word. You just saw that.”

“I was inside you when you took off that gold, Vespyr. You certainly weren’t inviolate then.”

“I damn near removed your manhood, Kev, and I was working very hard to be gentle. I won’t be during our test.”

“Test? You mean suicide? Or homicide if I’m shooting that damn weapon. This is pure insanity!”

“That’s what we need to find out. No Velorian has ever encountered a GAR. Word reached me from Velor months ago to be on the lookout for new Arion weapons. To test them.”

“On yourself? They said to test it on yourself?”

“Not exactly.”

“Its destructive power is beyond belief, Vespyr. That particle beam eats all forms of matter. And the laser tunneling beam melts anything that isn’t vaporized by the particle beam.”

“My training program involved handling high amounts of energy, Kev. Lasers, projectiles, rail guns… you name it. Particle beams shouldn’t hurt me.”

“Why? Aren’t you made of matter? Because that’s what particle beams eat for breakfast. All forms of it.”

“The binding between the atoms of my body work differently than yours. Highly non-linear bonding. Fifth order.”

“So what’s with the orgone then? That’s the stuff that energizes you, right? You store it in your body, mostly your breasts. Well, my kisses were all over them last night, and I didn’t glow in the dark.”

“My people were made to channel energy and to store it there. Once I store it, it doesn’t… leak or anything. If it did, I’d have woken up in a blast crater. And you wouldn’t have...” she paused looking for the right words, “you and half this city wouldn’t have even existed any more.”

“So what’s all that got to do with a GAR?”

“Simple. The GAR is powered by a form of orgone. Nothing else is remotely powerful enough to fuel it.”

I was shocked by her deduction. Our tests had never confirmed that, but it was a supposition on the part of one of my students.

“But so what if it is true?”

“Then my body will absorb some of energy instead of being injured by it.”

 “Bullshit…” I burst out. “You haven’t seen it work.”

“I think I can convert the high-frequency GAR energy back to low-frequency orgone, Kev. The kind I can store.”

I stared at her marvelous breasts, sitting so high and firm on her chest. She was talking about transferring energy from that ugly weapon to their beauty? A preposterous concept.

“And this is what Velor said to do?” I asked again, dumfounded.

She shook her head. “They weren’t specific. They never are. But I have an undergraduate degree in physics, Kev. I’ve been thinking about this ever since I heard rumors of the GAR.”

 I was genuinely surprised she had a scientific degree. Physics was the last thing I’d expected they’d teach a Companion.

“But why all this stealth stuff? I’m sure Gazrall can get the brass to sanction a public demonstration for you guys. All he has to do is finance the research.”

 “We need to keep this private. Even from Gazrall.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Its simple, Kev. Few people know very much about Velorians. Rumors mostly, like you. And even if they think they know, they always envision us in human terms, assuming we’re just a stronger and tougher kind of human.”

“So what. Obviously, Gazrall knows better.” I couldn’t help but think of his fuck robots or whatever they were.

She shook her head. “No. Despite his familiarity with me, and his initial research before spending all that money to secure a Companion, I’m sure he’s fallen into that trap. If he… hell, if anyone saw me do what I plan to do, then it would frighten and intimidate them forever.”

“Oh. So it’s OK to intimidate and terrify me?”

“You’re a physicist. A scientist. You’re rational.” She paused before adding: “And if I’m wrong about all this, I’m not bound to you for a hundred years like I am Gazrall.”

“You really are serious about this?” I asked.

“Serious enough to find someone else to help me if you won’t.”

I hated the mere thought of anyone else working with Vespyr. I thought of Hendrickson, and started grinding my teeth. I started to get pissed again. Between Mitchel’s threats and now hers… I pulled my hands away form her, clenching my fists.

“What makes you even imagine you can possibly survive a GAR blast?”

“I can fly through the photosphere of the sun, Kev. In fact, I sometimes go up there to absorb its heat.”

“A GAR is ten times hotter than the photosphere. Not to mention the ionizing effects. It’s basically an annihilation beam.”

Vespyr rose to her feet. “I’ve read that we Velorians can withstand being inside the fireball of small nukes.”

“This isn’t just heat, Vespyr. Or even radiation. Its particle dissociation. The beam disrupts matter… tears it apart at the atomic level.”

She suddenly paled. “Then that’s even worse than I imagined.”

“Right. So let’s just forget about it. OK?”

She closed her eyes for a long moment, thinking. “Actually,” she said, “if that’s truly the case, then I’d assume most of the heat comes from the particles being ripped apart, not from the beam itself.”

“Most, but not all. It has a very powerful laser beam that creates a conduction tube for the charged particles to travel down.”

“Kev, my cells won’t dissociate.”

“You know that?”

 Vespyr shrugged. “Fifth order atomic bonding. Normal matter is third order. But still, I am prepared to suffer a bit of discomfort.”

“Discomfort…!!” I choked. “Vespyr, there is no possible way I’m helping you with this! That… that weapon is obscene. It’s pure death. It doesn’t belong in a civilized universe.”

“Then maybe I don’t either, because I’m energized by the same fucking obscene stuff as that weapon.”

She spun around on her heel and marched angrily toward the door. Once there, she paused with her hand on the doorknob, looking back at me.

“Oh… and you were powered by that same “obscene stuff” last night, Kev. Just so you know.”

Before I could open my mouth, she tore my door off its hinges and exited, tossing the door across my living room to slam into the bedroom wall.


Chapter Nine

I pounded on Jana’s door a half hour later. She answered it with a frown.

“Kev, what are you…?”

“Where is she? Vespyr. You guys talked this morning. Whatever. What were her plans for this afternoon?”

Jana smiled as she leaned against the doorframe. “So, you already had a fight with Miss Supersex herself. That was dumb.”

“Look, Jana, this is no time to be catty. I need to talk to her.”

“Call her boss. Or boyfriend. Husband. Her John. Whatever he is.”

“This has nothing to do with Gazrall. Any more than what we do has anything to do with your husband.”

“Ooh… he takes it downtown and scores,” Jana cooed.

She hesitated for a moment and then opened the door wider to invite me in.

I was shocked to see that her apartment was not only four times the size of mine, half of it a huge sunroom, but that it was furnished with very expensive taste. I followed Jana over to sit in the sunlight that was streaming in through the roof of the sunroom.

“So, are you looking to just talk to her or sleep with her again?”


“Does that mean we have a chance?” she asked.

“This isn’t about sex, Jana. It’s about…” I caught myself as I saw her eyes narrow, and stopped talking. “I… I can’t tell you what it’s about. But it’s really important.”

She shook her head. “Not good enough, Kev.”

I clenched my fists. “What are you talking about?”

“You know what I want.”

I frowned as I remembered Vespyr’s advice about “easing back into it”. “Fine. OK. As soon as I’m better. Now where is she?”

“You were always good to me, baby,” she smiled. “So when do you get better?”

“Tell me where Vespyr is first.”

She glared angrily at me. “Miss Supersexy is at a new shelter for battered women and children. Down on 3rd street.” She glanced at her watch. “In about thirty-five minutes.”

I leaped to my feet and headed for the door.

“Hey… what about your recovery plan?”

“I’ll email you.”

“You bastard…” she shouted as I headed through the door at a run.


Chapter Ten

I raced my flitter across the express airway to descend on the Lower East Side, looking for 3rd street. The neighborhood looked a bit rundown. I found the intersection and turned right, only to see a huge banner promoting the new shelter.

I parked in front of a group of buildings that looked like prefab school houses, and walked over to wait near the door. Soon a line of black limo-flitters arrived. The looked completely out-of-place on the Lower East Side.

A dozen of Gazrall’s subordinates stepped out first, and then the old man himself. Vespyr was hanging on his arm, looking radiant. She wore the same black outfit she’d worn in my kitchen, but had added a scarf and braided her hair to project a more conservative look.

I couldn’t help but feel a sharp pang of jealousy at the way the older and shorter Gazrall wrapped one arm lecherously around her waist. Gazrall’s eyes narrowed as we passed, sharing a glance, and then he held Vespyr even closer.

Obviously, Vespyr had already told him something about us.

Vespyr didn’t give me as much as a glance. Clearly she was Gazrall’s Companion again.

I felt hollow and lost as they disappeared inside. Turning to walk away, I kicked despondently at one of the flyers that lay on the pavement, only to have it flip over to proudly proclaim that “Vespyr Tal’esta-Gazrall of Velor was giving the keynote address: A Celebration of Female Empowerment.”

As much as I wanted to hear that speech, I couldn’t bear seeing that old fart with his hands all over her again.

I was also troubled by her legal name. How could it include Gazrall’s surname? The old man was already married. Was a Companion legally bound to carry even her patron’s name?

My hollowness was gradually replaced by a sick, empty feeling as I flew back to my apartment. I fervently wished I’d handled things better this morning. Instead of getting angry and insulting her, claiming she’d prostituted herself, I should have found a way to help her. After all, she was clearly going out of her way to help others at the shelter. And she’d claimed her interest in the GAR was solely that of preparing Velor and defending Tazzi.

But could she ethically keep secrets from Gazrall? She’d as much as said she had to tell him everything.

I was still worrying about that when I arrived back at my apartment, only to find Jana stepping out of a cab. She started to wave to me, only to jerk her eyes upward to stare at something in the sky.

Before I could follow her gaze, something slammed down hard on the hood of my flitter, tilting the vehicle forward and tossing me face-first into the windscreen. My nose was crushed against the glass as I looked out to see a pair of very long and shapely legs decorating my crushed hood now. I recognized those perfect legs. Who wouldn’t?

Stunned, I found myself looking up under the hem of Vespyr’s tiny, blue skirt, finding that she didn’t wear anything beneath. Strangely, instead of feeling I was violating her with my gaze, I felt that I belonged between those legs.

Yeah, so much for feelings.

I started to power down my damaged flitter, only to have Vespyr lean down to look at me through the windshield.

“Are you ready to have a civilized discussion now, Kev. Now that you’ve seen what a hell my other life is?”

I shut off the antigrav and got out, my heart leaping. “Other life?”

Vespyr reached down to grab her shoes and tear them free of my hood: her heels had pierced the steel. Then she did a slow somersault over my head as she put them back on, settling gracefully on the sidewalk beside me as she reached down to fasten the last strap.

I glanced nervously around, only to see my worst fear confirmed: everyone on the busy street was staring at Vespyr, and then at me, then back at her, seemingly wondering what I was doing with Gazrall’s Companion. Her picture was all over the news today, given that Gazrall had finally taken her public.

To complicate things even further, Jana was walking our way.

“What’s the matter, Kev? You can’t even say hello now?” Vespyr asked.

That pissed me off. “You completely ignored me at the shelter, Vespyr, and now you’re all warm and fuzzy again? What the hell is that all about?”

“Simple. I was with Gazrall then. He demands my complete loyalty and focus when I’m with him.”

“So you just turn it on and off like that?” I snapped my fingers.

“Yes, I do, Kev. And what I do with Gazrall is none of your business.”

“That old fart parades you around like his prize mare, Vespyr. And I think he knew who I was when he walked past me. Did you talk to him about us?”

“He can do with me as he wishes. That’s his legal privilege. And yes, I had to tell him about you. He asked.”


Jana arrived in time to hear that. “You told that old fart that you and Kev were doing the dirty? Damn… you got guts girl!”

I looked back and forth between the two women, angered by Jana’s continued interference.

“He insisted on knowing everything,” Vespyr shrugged. “He just said he was happy I’d found someone who had your… endurance.”

“Good for you,” Jana beamed. “But I bet he didn’t exactly say it that way.”

“That’s really sick,” I said disgustedly.

Despite myself, part of me was wickedly proud. Gazrall had his billions, and he’d spent part of his fortune to get a bedmate who would inspire him. Yet the old fart was still a limp dick. His girlfriend had come on to poor little me just to get laid.

Vespyr reinforced my pride when she said: “And remember that it was you who I chose to sleep with last night, Kev, not him. Despite the risks of violating my contract.”

“And tonight?” I knew I was feeding the dark side of this, but I couldn’t help it.

“Depends on you,” she said challengingly.

Jana raised her hand. “Hey… can I volunteer?”

I had eyes only for Vespyr as she undid the clasp of her braids and tossed her head to loosen her hair. The long strands fell silkily across her shoulders.

My heart swelled. God, she was gorgeous.

Jana saw where I was looking and reached up to comb her fingers through Vespyr’s hair, making it fall over her shoulders as if she’d just brushed it. “We could make it a threesome if you want. Kev and I have done that before.”

“Stop it, Jana. Quit acting like we have anything between us. That was long ago. Before you chose Mr. Right.”

“Look, if this is going to be…” Vespyr started to say.

“And we never had a relationship, Vespyr. It’s just the fucking GAR thing. That’s all.”

“That’s what all this is about?” Jana asked. “What’s a GAR?”

Vespyr ignored her. “It’s all we really had in common before last night, Kev.”

“And now? What, you’re in love with me?” I asked skeptically.

“Obviously not if Gazrall doesn’t approve,” Jana said with a giggle.

We both turned to glare at Jana. She closed her mouth and took a step back.

“Like I said earlier,” Vespyr continued. “Gazrall has agreed to allow me some discretion. Velorian business, I told him. And yes, this is still mostly about the GAR, no matter how much I enjoyed being with you.”

My hopes fell again even as my ego rose. This honesty thing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. “So much for celebrating your own empowerment today, Vespyr. Did those people back there actually buy into a speech given by a virtual slave?”

“So… are you in or out?” Vespyr demanded between clenched teeth.

I took a deep breath and then exhaled slowly. She had me. Not just by the dick, but I couldn’t let go of the GAR. Not after I’d failed to find a defense for it. “If you need me, then of course I’m in, Vespyr. We’re saving lives, right? Tazzian and Velorian.”

She broke into a dazzling smile as she hooked her arm through mine. “OK. Good.”

Jana took his other arm. “Can I join too?”

I cursed silently. Vespyr was blatantly leading me around by my dick, and Jana was trying to get on board that bus at any cost.

But I just couldn’t stay made at Vespyr. Her perfume was in the air again. She was too beautiful, too desirable, too intoxicating. “You aren’t playing fair, you know that?”

Vespyr gave me an innocent look. “Who? Me?”

Jana hooked her arm through Vespyr’s.

“Either of you.”

“Nothing is fair in love and war,” Jana replied.

“And which is this?”

“A bit of both I’m beginning to think,” Vespyr added.

“Definitely,” Jana smiled as she hooked her arm through mine.

That did it.


 Chapter Eleven

I sent a very angry Jana away in a taxi, and then ushered Vespyr inside my apartment and away from the crowd that had gathered to gawk at her.

She pulled two large fur coats from the pack she was carrying. They were hooded and long enough to reach the floor.

“This is the best clothing I’ve got for keeping you warm while flying. Cheraz furs are very aerodynamic. The hairs are hollow and shaped like little airfoils.”

“Furs?” I said sourly. “Why can’t we just take my flitter?”

“Two reasons: it’s slow and it’s trackable. I’m not either.”

I felt repulsed as she handed me the dead skins. I’d always been opposed to killing animals for their fur, especially the rare, indigenous Cheraz. It could best be characterized as a blend of a wolf and a flying squirrel, as insane as that sounded. They weighed more than a hundred pounds but could leap off thousand foot cliffs and soar down to land on sheep-sized prey. Their coat and the loose skin it covered would form into a huge airfoil as they fell, giving them the ability to glide for long distances.

I was just starting to consider the strangeness of the two of us soaring around in a flying wolf’s skin when Vespyr took my hand to lead the way to the roof. Soon we were standing at the edge, our toes dangling ten stories over the streets below. People started to point at us and I heard a siren approaching. So much for keeping a low profile.

Strangely, my acrophobia seemed to have disappeared again – presumably because Vespyr was empowered. Flying with her was like dancing.

“So, how’s this work?” I asked. “Do I hold onto you or do you carry me in your arms or what?”

“I do the holding, but not the way you think. We need to mold our bodies together to stay streamlined. It works like this.”

She stepped behind me to wrap her arms around my chest, and then wrapped one long, bare leg around my hips. Her body felt steely hard again, her nipples boring into my back as she held me tightly.

I felt her body tense slightly, and we were suddenly floating on air. Just like that.

 I looked down at the street far below as she held me from above, her body molded to mine. The view and the sensation of flying were so familiar – this was truly like my dreams!

Vespyr wrapped her other leg around me and fastened the furs around both of us as she began to spiral upward at tremendous speed. I reached down to slip my hand through the opening in her fur to hold her bare thigh -- her leg felt like warm steel. That both excited and scared me: what with her legs wrapped around me now, it would take only a twinge of those powerful muscles to crush me.

I quickly pushed that dark thought away. What was it about Velorians and crushing? Instead, I discovered that I was having trouble breathing in the violent slipstream. Unlike my dream, where the air was always silent, the air friction from Vespyr’s flight was very real. And very loud.

I made some adjustments with my hood and found a way to angle my head just right to keep a low velocity bubble of air in front of my mouth. It wasn’t easy, but I could breathe again.

Meanwhile, Vespyr kept climbing until the farms and fields of Tazzi spread outward for dozens of miles in every direction. The air was thin up here, but the view was breathtaking. Even better, the thinner air reduced the force of the slipstream so she could fly faster.

“You OK?” she asked, her lips touching the fur over my ear to overcome the roar of the slipstream.

I nodded vigorously.

“Then I’m going to go faster. Squeeze my leg if you can’t breathe.”

Between the unfettered view below and the way her body was wrapped so warmly around mine, I felt as if I was looking down on the world from heaven itself. I’d just spent the night with an angel and now I was flying with her. I never wanted to set foot back on the ground.

And then the reality of our mission crashed back in on me when I saw an ugly, box-like military complex appear on the horizon. The Armory.

I tried to put my brain in gear, remembering what I could of their defense systems, when Vespyr said something about “going tactical.”

Before her words registered, she tilted downward to dive straight for the ground, accelerating even faster. I gave up even trying to breathe as I stared wide-eyed at the up-rushing ground. My heart was leaping out of my chest when the terrifying ground rush started. Then, just before we hit, Vespyr snap rolled on her back, cradling my neck between her breasts as she started to pull out, her body molding itself to support mine. The crushing G’s made my vision go dim as I grunted for air as she pulled what had to be 15 G’s.

Then the G’s magically disappeared as she snap rolled 180 degrees again. I was startled to find my face skimming along less than two feet from the ground, everything a blur except a small spot directly in front of our travel. We were racing across the landscape at more than 300 KPH, the slipstream still roaring in my ears.

Vespyr swerved left and right to pass between trees and buildings, ducked under power lines, and then rose just enough to miss cars and trucks on a busy road we crossed. My heart was in my throat as she skimmed only inches above the cruel barbed wire of the outer security fence of the Armory compound.

I saw red beams lance outward from just above me as her eyes flashed as brightly as arc welders, and a dozen surveillance cameras and sensors all along one side of the complex exploded into molten metal and glass. Then she spun around again and braked to another high-G stop, my back crushing against her hard body again.

When I could breathe again, I found we were floating just in front of the rear security door of the complex.

“So what do we do now?” she asked.

“I thought you knew how to get in?”

“Nope. Not without setting off every alarm in the place.”

My thoughts raced. “OK… based on my earlier trips, they don’t keep any live guards here. Just surveillance devices. Visual plus vibration. They can have an armed response here in five minutes.”

“And the GAR?”

“Inside that door.”

I pointed to a heavily armored entranceway.

“Don’t worry. We’ll be gone before they can get here. No footprints. Don’t touch anything.”

I swallowed hard, my stomach in my throat now.

“Jesus… that was some pretty fancy flying there… you know, for a…” he paused, not sure how to describe her now.

“…fucking whore?” She added sourly.

“I was going to say physicist,” suddenly feeling sorry I’d called her a prostitute earlier. “That was obviously combat flying. I can only imagine how you’d move if you weren’t carrying me.”

“100G’s instead of a dozen or so,” she shrugged. “Still, I wanted to reduce the chances of our being picked up by the security system before I took out the sensors.”

“You really have combat training?” I was having trouble digesting that she had a triple major: physics, sex and now combat?

“Nearly a quarter of my training days back on Erin’lah involved combat skills.”

“Then why don’t you guys become full-time warriors?”

“It’s been discussed. But we’re not about to hire ourselves out as mercenaries -- not with our abilities. The Companion program earns coin without the risk of our being viewed as hired guns. We just keep waving the concubine flag in front of everyone’s face to keep them distracted.”

“A great disguise,” I said brightly. “Who’d expect. But still, you guys should think about it. You and a few of your sisters could probably protect an entire planet.”

“Assuming this new Arion weapon doesn’t level the playing field first.”

I nodded as I pointed at entranceway. “Just so you know, that door is supposed to be impossible to force open. Even with explosives.”

“Fortunately, I brought a key. Ten of them to be exact.” She wiggled her fingers.

“Right…” I breathed, knowing this was going to be interesting.

“I’m going to hang you over there.”

She tore some metal strips off a parked flitter and tied them around me, then hung me on a light pole. I felt like a turkey, trussed up and waiting for the oven.

Vespyr flexed her fingers as she approached the door, and then stiffened them into two blades. She slowly practiced her aim at the crack around the doorframe a couple of times, and then smashed her fingertips into the gap at tremendous speed.

The shockwave of her impact hit my chest like a steel hammer, despite being thirty feet away.

She slammed her fingers into the doorframe a second time, then a third, the shockwaves so strong that they almost stopped my heart.

Startlingly, I heard a ringing sound each time her fingers struck, almost as if she truly was made of steel.

“Damn it…” I heard her curse. “This really is tough stuff.”

She shrugged off her fur to reveal that blue and black business suit, and threw herself at the door again. She was greeted this time by a military grade laser beam that struck the middle of her chest, sparks flying as it burned the entire front of her outfit away. She waved her arms and let the laser fire again. And again, each shot hitting her square.

“Are you OK?”

“Fine… just letting it fire long enough to deplete its energy banks. Safer for you.”

The laser fired into her body another three times and then sputtered out. Vespyr’s chest was glowing as if from inside, her clothing burned away down to the waistband of her skirt, which was smoldering.

She again jammed both hands into the cracks she’d already made, and then pressed her fingers inward. Her back was a maze of hard muscle as she started to work the thick steel, the door bending as if high-carbon steel had just turned into wet clay. She squeezed her arms inward, chest muscles turning to steel to lift her breasts high, and the three-foot thick door slowly bent, buckled and finally flattened like an accordion. Then she reached behind the door and wrenched it free of its hinges, bits and pieces of steel exploding outward to clatter across the concrete behind her. She rose off the ground, holding the multi-ton door at arms length, and then gave it a heave that carried it completely out of the courtyard. It hit with earthquake force a few seconds later.

Before I could digest the display of extreme strength I’d just seen, she leaped up to grab me and carried me through the doorway. Her eyes flashed arc-welder bright as she vaporize the additional cameras and sensors inside, the brilliance of her heat vision filling my eyes with spots.

 “Down the hallway to the right,” I pointed over her shoulder, unable to see through the spots. “Look for the High Energy Lab.”

We flew down a couple of hallways until she found the lab. She repeated the same trick with the thinner lab door, this time with me clinging to her back, feeling all those marvelous muscles at work.

Then we were inside. I showed her the GAR and she clutched it to one side, me on the other. I grabbed the protective suit and small shield generator.

“OK, got it. Let’s get out of here.”

The doorway to the lab and then the hallways flashed past us as Vespyr rocketed down the dark corridors to blast back into the bright daylight. She accelerated so hard now that her fingers dug painfully into my flesh. I tried to hold on, but I was trying to grip smooth skin that was stretched over spring steel, or so it felt like.

She sensed me slipping and bent her leg up behind her to brace me as we flew inches off the ground, traveling even faster than we had on the way in. Breathing was hopeless in that slipstream. Fortunately, we cleared the area in seconds and ducked behind a low hill to slow down.

“Over to right,” I gasped. “Test range… is on the shore… Varan Sea.”

She turned and slowed further to let me to breathe, then maneuvered me onto her back, bending her legs up behind her to keep me from slipping back, hugging the GAR to her chest.

Fifteen mostly breathless minutes later, we were over the shoreline, but I didn’t see anything that looked like a test range. Vespyr flew to the north just inside the surf line. After five minutes, she reversed course. The range finally came into view just to the south of our original flight path.

She promptly swooped down and tore open the rather flimsy door of the control building, then searched the area with her tachyon vision, looking for sensors or mines or any other kind of security device. There were none, so she set me down and went off to explore the rest of the area. She flew so fast now that that she blurred, leaving small vortexes in the air to signal her mostly invisible passage. That and little sonic booms.

While she searched, I took the GAR through its self-test, which it thankfully passed. There was no way we were going to fix it if it malfunctioned.

Satisfied, I turned around to find Vespyr standing against the concrete wall on the ocean side of the range, scanning the beach a final time. My heart skipped a beat as I stared at those long legs.

Strangely, despite what she’d done to those doors and the flying, she suddenly looked so fragile and so young. A wave of disgust came over me. What the hell was Velor doing selling off girls this young? Or selling them at all!

“This backstop looks to be only three feet thick,” she said over her shoulder, interrupting my mental rant. “But the lower part is ablative. Biggest problem is likely to be the floor. It’s just reinforced concrete and granite.”


“It’ll melt.”

 “God, I still can’t believe we’re going to do this,” I blurted out.

“Don’t try to think,” she said. “Your instincts and logic and all tied up in human reality and they’re all wrong. I know what I’m doing.”

“Do you? You’ve never even seen a GAR before. You couldn’t even operate it if I wasn’t here.”

She walked back over to stand beside me. “Then show me.”

I was very aware of the warmth of her skin against mine. I closed my eyes for a moment to focus my thoughts, and then started to show her what the various buttons on the GAR did. All the while, the disturbing juxtaposition of her nude femininity and the lethal, obscenity of the energy weapon kept me off balance.

I finally stopped to look at her. “I still find it incomprehensible that you are really powered by the same energy as this abomination.”

She abruptly set the weapon down. “More or less,” she said crisply. “Please make it ready.”

I noted the change in her demeanor, and realized she was actually afraid. I tried to push my own fears away by busying myself with charging up the GAR and then the shield suit. Still, I felt as if I was caught in one of those slow-motion dreams that you can’t get out of.

I finished preparing the weapon and then looked up, and my heart melted as I saw Vespyr standing at the end of the range. She’d removed the burned remains of her skirt.

“Ah… just for the record, Vespyr, you don’t look much like target material. Too skinny.”

She didn’t reply to my weak attempt at humor, so I glanced down at the gauges. The charging meter was edging toward 100%.

“So, are beauty and a great figure requirements for becoming a Companion?”

Vespyr rested her hands on her hips. “Obviously not, given these freckles. Imperfections. But human men like me just the same.”

I just gawked at her. I’d never seen a woman with half her beauty. Or anyone wrapped in muscles that tight. The freckles were merely cute. But what was that reference to “human men”. Me?

She saw the look on my face and continued. “Beauty isn’t a criterion or I’d never have gotten in. I’m actually considered below average back home. Instead, my brothers taught me to fight, so I maxed out that part of the test program.”

“You kick ass? That’s your ace in the hole?”

 “That’s about it, Kev. It certainly wasn’t my looks.”

My mouth went dry as I stared at the way her skin glowed so golden in the sunlight.

“Then I gotta visit Velor some day,” I quipped. “Although I’m not sure my heart could handle the sight of anyone prettier than you.”

She smiled nervously. “No problem. Your heart wouldn’t beat long enough in a 5G gravity field to get yourself in trouble anyway.”

“Damn… so much for that fantasy.”

“Are you ready?” she asked.

I nodded.

She shifted her feet nervously as she leaned her back against the wall, seemingly undecided about what to do with her hands. She finally spread her legs slightly and placed her fists on her hips.

“A truly heroic pose,” I quipped under my breath.

The feeling of unreality I’d been struggling against grew stronger as I powered up my protective shield suit. I wasn’t really doing this, was I? The horrific imagery of my earlier test shots kept coming back to haunt me.

 “Don’t worry,” she said, trying to smile. “Everyone confuses my looks with a lack of strength or toughness. Cute, slender, female and blonde doesn’t equal indestructible, hardcore fighting machine. Especially with a job like mine… you know.”

“I hear the words,” I said with a shake of my head, “but I can’t process it.”

“Don’t try to. You’ve already seen my strength. And that laser didn’t hurt me, did it?”

“Still… that was nothing compared to…”

“This is my decision, Kev. Nobody will even know you were here.”

“I’ll hate myself forever if I hurt you.”

“Start with a standard two-second burst,” she said, ignoring my comment.


“If that doesn’t hurt too much, we’ll keep going until it does.”

“You’ve got to be fucking insane!” I screamed.

“Saner than you at the moment.”

I felt the blood rushing to my head, and confusing emotions hit me from every side. She had one thing right: I had to be insane to shoot this thing at her. Not to mention for stealing a Top Secret weapon in the first place. But what could I do. She said she’d find someone else. She was determined.

The disgusting thought of her working with Hendrickson was enough to give me purpose. Would she seduce him too?

I raised the heavy weapon while working to steady my arm, calling on all my willpower to keep from shaking – if I fucked this up, if I missed her, that backstop wasn’t going to slow the beam down. It might hit people on the beach ten miles from here.

I shifted my body sideways to minimize my exposure to the heat while keeping my gloved arm as far from my body as I could. Even with the GAR suspended from the ceiling, it was difficult to get the sight picture to settle down. Nerves.

“Aim at my chest, Kev,” she reminded me.

I did, one perfect boob filling my sight picture as I pulled the trigger to the first position. That engaged the antigrav stability system, freezing the weapon on target.

The weapon supported its own weight now. It was also locked on its target until after it fired, crosshairs intersecting the areola of her left breast. It would follow Vespyr even if she moved.

I gritted my teeth and counted down, trying not to think. Not to feel anything. I was a scientist. “OK… I’m firing in 5,4,3,2…”

The numbers rolled off my tongue, leaving me feeling as if I was lost in a dream – a nightmare.

The kind you can’t escape.

I clenched my teeth so tightly I nearly broke them.

“1… zero!”


Chapter Twelve

The painful electric shock of the firing impulse raced through me like it had back on the Armory’s range, and the forcefield flared brightly around me. Sparks flew from my hands to the weapon and then back to my suit, each one sending a needle of pain through my body.

 But that was nothing compared to the nuclear-bright burst of coherent light that crossed the room to envelop Vespyr. The surface oils and moisture from her skin exploded into a firework of sparks as the beam tried to bore through her like it had with everything else we’d tried it on.

I heard Vespyr scream, the sound tearing through my body as surely as the GAR could!

I struggled to turn the weapon away from her or stop the firing, but it was locked on target. I could see enough through my heavy goggles to see that Vespyr’s body was suddenly surrounded by that same angry, cherry-red glow of annihilation I’d seen during the other tests. Also like the other targets, the edges of her body began to blur as they pulsed with orange heat, and then her body appeared to melt into that horrific ball of white light. The fireball grew so bright that it nearly blinded me, forcing my eyes closed despite the goggles.

My fears quickly turned to horror – I remembered how that cow’s carcass had simply ceased to exist at this point, its very atoms dissociated into nothingness.

The same thing was happening to Vespyr!

The two-second burst seemed to last an eternity, and then the beam and the stabilizer turned off and the full weight of the weapon returned to swing on its overhead cable. The GAR began recharging, giving off an ear-splitting whine.

The heat shield in front of me had started to melt despite my being a hundred feet away from Vespyr, the heat growing so intense that I had to retreat to the far wall of the firing range. Unlike the previous tests where the target merely vanished, the glowing center of the burst was still there, intact. Vespyr! The extreme negative charge of the particles as they tried to disintegrate her was drawing current out of the walls and ground around Vespyr, bolts of blue-white electricity flashing continuously from all directions to strike the blinding glow that was her ionized remains. The thunder and overpressure was so deafening that it knocked me off my feet.

The first thing I saw as I got back to my feet was that the fireball was starting to fade. Around it, the walls looked polished, a sheen of molten concrete and fused rock. The central glow faded into a smaller space than Vespyr had occupied.

My heart sank – like before, I was going to find only empty space at the end of the range. I was certain that I’d just killed her.

And then I saw something I hadn’t seen in the earlier tests: a flicker at the top of the fireball. The flicker became a lock of hair, then more strands. Soon long hair was billowing upward from the fireball -- seemingly on fire and filled with sparks. And then, wonder of wonders, the glow started to fade to reveal the faint outline of a woman’s body.

She looked smaller only because she was kneeling in the molten concrete.

The glow kept shrinking inward to reveal that she was clutching her breasts, which were glowing the brightest of all, like two young stars.

Slowly, her hair fluttered back down to lay straight across her shoulders as her legs and then lower body returned to normal.

No, not normal – the skin at the impact point on her chest had taken on a shimmer, almost like liquid metal. The shimmer faded back to a flesh tone as I watched, and Vespyr lifted her head to look at me. Her eyes were glowing like blue searchlights. Startlingly, when she lowered her hands, blinding flashes of green energy started arcing between her nipples.

She opened her mouth to speak, but the air that came out was so hot and thin that her voice was an unintelligible scream.

She grimaced in pain, yet strangely, her nipples looked so engorged, she appeared to be sexually excited.


She glanced meaningfully toward the weapon and then held up three fingers.

“A three-second burst?” I shouted. My ears were still ringing from the blasts of thunder.

She nodded.

 I recoiled and shook my head violently.

God, if I killed her, I’d carry the shame and guilt for the rest of my life – assuming Gazrall didn’t have me executed as soon as he saw what had happened to his priceless Companion.

Vespyr stamped her foot impatiently, splashing molten concrete all over her legs, and waved those three fingers again.

I had no choice. She was determined, even if it killed her.

Damn her! Why was she making me do this?

I angrily aimed the weapon, grateful when the antigrav came on line. I set the firing time for three seconds and closed my eyes as I pulled the trigger, trying not to think.

The second firing was the same as the first, except for the longer duration. Like before, even with my darkened goggles I was unable to see through the glare at first.

When I could see again, I saw her kneeling in a pool of molten concrete that came up to mid-thigh. Her skin had an even more pronounced metallic sheen to it this time and the bolts of green electricity were sparking all around her body, enveloping her entirely in what had to be raw orgone.

Her eyes were like blue lasers as she looked up and held out five fingers. Yet she couldn’t even stand up and was obviously in extreme pain. Her hand was shaking. I could see the fear on her face.

She was literally swimming in molten concrete and steel by now, sinking to her waist as the heat spread outward and melted more of the rock. The entire end of the test range, ferro-concrete and rock, was slumping like an ice cream cone under a hot sun.

Yet this time the metallic sheen didn’t fade away. I had no idea what that meant, but I instinctively knew it was very bad when patches of black started to appear on her skin, looking much like third degree burns.

I couldn’t bear to look at those, yet I couldn’t bear to turn away. I wished I could be struck blind then and there.

And at that very thought -- my mind started playing tricks on me: Vespyr’s horrible burns seemed to fade as fast as they’d appeared, turning back to a normal skin tone while most of her body still had that metallic sheen. It couldn’t be true, of course, it was probably just an illusion born of my inner pain.

And yet it wasn’t an illusion. I could see her ravaged body healing before my very eyes.

I powered down the GAR. I was done with it. I didn’t care now if she went to Hendrickson or anyone else. There was no way I was going to grant her the five-second burst she’d just asked for. I knew it would kill her.

“I’m all right,” I imagined her saying, but she remained silent.

“Are you all right?” I imagined her asking after a few moments.

And then she rose unsteadily to her feet to approach me, still holding up those five fingers, her fear partially replaced by anger. The cleavage between her breasts was glowing an angry red as was the gap between her thighs.

I shook my head and stood in front of the GAR.

Her eyes flared like arc welders and the beams grazed my shoulder to melt the wall behind me, but I stood still.

“You can kill me if you want,” I shouted, “but I’m not going to risk your life further, no matter how urgent your cause.”

She saw the determination on my face, and her anger faded, replaced instead by relief and confusion. She sat down on the cooler concrete halfway down the range, dropping her head between her legs. The concrete started to melt around her.

Her hair was lighter now. Her skin was darker. Disturbingly, her breasts were far larger as well. Yet she was still radiating enough heat that I could only bear it behind my shield.

“Are you all right!” I shouted around the edge.

“Skietra… that thing….” she gasped while struggling to swallow. “I need… something… drink.”

Her voice was high and shrill as she stumbled over her words, her lips sticking together.

Still, I felt like laughing with joy as I heard her speak. I turned ran back into the building, ducking under the glazed portion of the wall that still glowed an angry red from her heat vision. There I filled an old cup with water from a rusted faucet, and then ran back to hand it to her -- very gingerly, at arm’s length from behind a portable shield. She was still too hot to touch.

She drank the water, which turned to steam as she swallowed it. I rushed to get another cup, thought better of it, and brought a bucket. She downed that quickly, but it all turned to steam as well. I brought another, and another. She drank some of it and dumped the rest over her head. Finally, after ten buckets, she’d cooled down enough to drink her fill, and was able to talk more.

“My blood was boiling in my veins for a while,” she whispered as she wet her dry lips, her voice still high and faint, “and my heart was racing when it couldn’t find anything to pump but steam. That made me so weak I couldn’t stand.”

I was astounded. “Blood boiling?”

“And then my skin turned to that metallic sheen. I was taught that’s how our skin looks when the binding matrix of our cells starts to break down. But usually only when we fly too deeply into a star’s photosphere.”

“I saw some black spots. Like third-degree burns.”

She blanched. “Then that was even worse. Another burst would have killed me.”

“But you’re OK now?”

She started to nod and then paused. “I think. Only I have to process the last bit… my orgone synthesis thingy is overloaded right now.”

She lifted her hands to massage her breasts, and the glow between them started to fade a few seconds later. Her skin quickly returned to its normal tone as I watched. The only difference was their size. She had to be at least two cup sizes larger.

She smiled as she saw where I was looking and cupped herself firmly.

“You like that, huh? The more orgone I carry, the larger they get. Wait until next time…”

“Stop it!” I shouted. “This isn’t a joke. There isn’t a next time.”

“But after what you’ve been through, I figured…”

“What I’ve been through? I could have killed you. You should be dead right now. Should be vaporized.”

“Do I look dead?”

Astoundingly, she looked even better than she had before. Obviously, orgone did her good.

“It was my idea, Kev. I was prepared for it. At least I thought I was. But you weren’t. And which is worse – to be dead, or to think of yourself as a murderer. And now you can only think that you might have been one. So think of something better. Think about how I look now. My hair this light. My figure.”

“I’m sure Gazrall will be impressed,” I snapped sarcastically.

She lowered her hands to rest her fists on her hips to glare at me, her nipples sticking out like bullets. “Gazrall doesn’t fucking matter any more. He never did, except in his own eyes, and in my vows as a Companion. I have a higher duty now. I must get to Velor as soon as possible. The High Council must hear of this. The Senate too.”

I sat down hard as the consequences of her words hit me.

“Velor? You’re leaving me to go to Velor?”


Chapter Thirteen

Vespyr was sitting in my living room the next morning, studying a piece of paper on which she’d copied the message the Scalantrans had delivered six months earlier.

I watched her read the messages again. She told me that the originals had arrived on two delicate pieces of foil encased inside an allotropic diamond crystal the size of a chicken’s egg -- a security system aimed at keeping anyone but Companions from accessing messages from the High Council. She apparently been briefed on that during her training, but unfortunately, she’d somehow missed the part where they told her how to open it. So much for dozing off during one’s studies.

Raw strength turned out to be the key – a key that only a Supremis had access to. She’d twisted both ends in opposite directions with every ounce of her strength while smacking the crystal very hard on her knee. The highly stressed crystal shattered into microscopic fragments while freeing the foils.

I couldn’t read Velorian, but she said the first message -- which carried the FlameBird seal -- was a general advisory from the High Council of an Exploratory Investigation: all Companions were to stand alert for any reports of new weapons being deployed by the Arions and inform the Council without delay. transcript of a meeting with another Companion, her name was Ju’lette, who had briefed the Council about events on Nova Iberia and Tanzrobi.

The second message bore no seal. That was surprising. It was a transcript of the testimony of another Companion, Ju'lette, who'd apparently had her world shot out from under her, and a Tanzrobian named Zanele. The gist of it was that the Arions, in a ruse to cover their invasion of the seeded world Ju’lette had lived on, had attacked the Scalantran ship Far Wanderer in uncontested space and taken it over for a time. That alone had been enough to convince Ju’lette to carry a warning to Velor. But then she’d learned on Andros that the Arions had moved in on the Galen-seeded world of the Azizi.

The Arions would have undoubtedly destroyed the Spirit of Youth, another Scalantran ship, on its next visit to Tanzrobi, had not a party of Azizi escaped the planet aboard a stolen yacht in time to warn that ship. Two of the Azizi, it developed, had headed to Velor with Ju’lette on the Far Wanderer.

Together, the messages suggested the Arions were going on the offensive. It was also clear enough from Vespyr's translation that their report and that conclusion had not been well received by the majority of the Council. We discussed the possibility that some dissident or faction on the High Council had slipped the second message into the crystal — and perhaps those addressed to other Companions. There was no way to know.

The one thing that was clear was the Scalantrans were both alarmed and hungry for trade in the GARs. Nobody had ever attacked their ships before; they were traders and communicators who didn’t play favorites. Their neutrality was legendary. And they’d stayed out of the way of the Arions since the First Strike. Did the Arions simply have long memories or was this really a campaign to conquer nearby star systems?

The Scalantrans, while neutral, were not above playing the role of arms merchant, supplying weapons to anyone with money. Even the Arions if they needed more production capacity. They'd rather feed the hungry bear to pacify it than to try to match its teeth and claws. It was the only way to ensure their continued freedom of travel and trade, despite their obvious hard feelings at losing some of their people to the Arion attacks.

Vespyr was disgusted by the Scalantran approach, especially now that she’d tested the weapon. She saw herself and other Companions in the cross-hairs. She was even more alarmed at the Council's hesitation, especially the fac that they'd merely labeled this as “Exploratory Investigation”. They should have declared a Red Alert and had everyone scrambling to find a defense. Instead, they were putting out feelers to the Companions that would take a decade or more to return.

“My father always claimed the Council’s main job was to maintain the status quo,” she explained. “To prevent change. The idiots have their heads in the sand.”

“Agreed. I know now that this weapon was designed to kill Velorians. If I’d fired a third burst, Vespyr, or longer initial ones, I’m certain I’d have killed you.”

Vespyr nodded. “The Arions are preparing to hunt Companions like me, who stand in the way of their imperial ambitions -- perhaps even carry the fight to Velor. And nobody on Velor understands that!”

“A war between the Supremis? A lot of humans will get caught in the crossfire. It’s too horrible to believe.”

Vespyr nodded. “But nothing else makes sense.” She smiled faintly. “At least now you understand the urgency. If only Velor did.”

I tore my eyes away from her to continue studying the convoluted transit schedules for the nearby star systems. The Scalantrans were punctual, but the various trade ships didn’t publish a combined schedule. I had to pull data from each destination and piece it together.

“OK,” I finally declared. “I’ve found two Scalantran port calls scheduled soon near us… one is at Selene and the other at Madstop. The Selene stop is eight days from now. Luckily for us, both stops are for ships eventually bound for Velor.”

She rested her chin on her hand and looked at me with those baby blues, which were even brighter now for all the energy she’d absorbed. The golden tone of her skin had faded quite a bit from yesterday and now looked a bit blotchy in places, but her hair was still that ultrablonde shade; almost white at the ends. She’d obviously been through an ordeal.

Which was why she couldn’t go home to Gazrall just yet. He’d ask questions that she’d be obligated to answer.

I was uncomfortable with her staring at me. Was she looking through my clothes? And who was she really? A super girl and an indentured prostitute? There was no escaping that. But a physicist too? How strange. Now a sentinel, maybe even a warrior. Not to mention my lover, or so I hoped.

 “I knew you’d figure it out,” Vespyr smiled, suggesting she was aware that I was struggling with more than just the ship schedule.

“Madstop is a bit over a month from now,” I replied as I forced myself to look down.

“Then it has to be Selene,” Vespyr said determinedly, seemingly happy to finally have a direction.

“I don’t know. According to this, the wormhole between here and Selene is hairy, Vespyr. Class 3, which means small and unstable. Barely capable of navigation, and even then, it only stabilizes for 8.4 hours out of 24.”

I looked up worriedly at Vespyr.

“Even worse, we don’t have access to Scalantran data regarding the timing of stability events.”

Vespyr just shrugged. “I’ll know what a stable period looks like when I see it.”

“But it will take you days to get up to dive speed,” I argued, “and you’ll be committed then. Plus at 0.5c, you aren’t going to get any decent visual imagery from the hole due to relativistic effects. How are you going to know when to hit it?”

“Odds are only one in three.”

She shrugged again. “Far better odds than Velor will have if the Arions show up with a boatload of GARs.”

“What you are really saying, Vespyr, is that you have two out of three chances of dying or winding up in some other dimension or something. And even if you do hit it right, it still leaves you with the problem of getting this data cube through all that heat and gravity waves.”

“I’ll risk it,” she said confidently. “Besides, as Kev said, the GAR should have killed me. Perhaps I’m a bit tougher than the average Velorian. I always was growing up, anyway.”

“Won’t the data cube melt down in the wormhole? I’ve read something about the heat involved in wormhole transits – stellar grade.”

“I’ll memorize as much as I can. Encode it in mathematical algorithms that I can remember.”

I shook my head. “Anyone who is going to build a defense against this thing will need the gigabytes of parametric and analysis data we’ve gathered. Trust me, I’ve tried to make a shield, but we lack the basic technology. I’m not sure even Velor has the technology.”

“Then I’ll take the GAR with me… its shell is made from a quartz crystal lattice. It can take a lot of heat, especially if I wrap myself around it.”

“Sure, the casing and emitters may survive, Vespyr, but the control circuits of the GAR are made of optical trans-carbon chips, just like all of our other electronics. The carbon will burn well below the temperatures you’re going to encounter.”

Vespyr’s smile faded as she stood up to pace angrily back and forth across his living room.

“Don’t just recite all the ways for me to fail, Kev. Give me some ideas on how to succeed.”

“I see only one possible way. You have to remove the GAR’s control chips and carry them, and the data chips, internally.”

Vespyr stared at me and then laughed. “Something only a man would think of. But yeah, it might work. Presuming, of course, they aren’t much bigger than you are. We’ll have to measure to make sure.”

I refused to rise to her sexy come-on. This was life and death.

“Even that’s an uneducated guess, Vespyr,” I added, trying to keep my head on straight. “We have no idea how hot it gets inside those wormholes, and I don’t know anything about the thermal conductivity through your flesh.”

“I’ve been in the photosphere of the sun many times, and I never got even close to the heat I felt with the GAR. Broad spectrum heat doesn’t seem to get inside me very fast.”

“Even then, we’ve got one in three chances of you surviving the first hole. And how many wormholes do you have to jump to get to Velor?”

She shrugged. “Only the first one if I catch one of those ships.”

“You ever heard of a Velorian flying a hole naked? Outside a ship, I mean.”

“Doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I know the basics of hole diving, same as you: speed between 0.3c and 0.5c, then use the tachyon beacons to guide by. Just fly down them to hit the apex of the funnel. If I can survive a GAR, I can survive a wormhole.”

“You don’t know that.”

“You don’t know that I can’t.”

I waved the document at her. “It says here that the opening to the smaller wormholes is maybe a couple of hundred meters wide and you’ll be moving at half the speed of light. You think that’s easy?”

Vespyr shrugged and then gave me her famous grin. It was like the sun coming out from behind a cloud. “I’ll tell you when I get back.”

“Damn it,” I said, slumping in my chair. “I can’t decide if you are ridiculously brave or mentally impaired.”

Vespyr tossed her head back and combed her fingers through her newly platinum hair. “Obviously, the latter. Just a ditzy blonde whore. I mean, who cares about my degree in high-energy physics.”

I suddenly wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be a joke or not. I decided to play it straight. “Point taken. We go with brave and determined.” I gave her a wink. “And very smart.”

Vespyr flopped back on the couch. “Smart, huh? I haven’t been home for three nights now and I don’t want Gazrall to see me like this. I mean, he’s OK with me being gone for a few hours, but I’ve never been away overnight. Or out of reach. Or involved.”

 “Don’t you have any ways to… you know, persuade him?” I asked.

She laughed. “Oh, now the guy who called me a whore is trying to pimp me? You men are all the same.”

I suddenly felt embarrassed. “What I meant was that you and he have this legal thing. You have influence.”

“Yes, we do and I do,” Vespyr said as she floated weightlessly to her feet. “But what you and I have isn’t legal. But here is where I want to be. Hanging out with a half-Arion.”

“What isn’t legal about having an affair?” Jana asked.

“You mean besides the Arion-Velorian part?”

“I think it’s fascinating. You’re fascinating.”

“This is going to be difficult for you, Kev. You too, Jana. Gazrall isn’t known for his charity when it comes to his possessions. He’s going to blame you for my disappearance. You’re going to have to disappear after I leave.”

 “He won’t be able to prove anything.”

“He might have you killed just on principle. He makes the laws here.”

“Then I’ll try to be satisfied with the time we yet have together. And I’m a bit harder than the usual guy to kill.”

Despite my brave words, the ache in my heart was already beginning. I was going to miss Vespyr desperately.

“As I will miss you,” she smiled, sensing my feelings. She floated over to sit in my lap, enveloping me with her arms and the warmth of her hair. We shared a long passionate kiss before she lifted us both off the couch. We clung to each other as we upward through a large, open skylight in my apartment and into the blue sky above.

“This is too perfect of a day to spend doing anything less than making love under the bright sun,” she whispered in my ear. “Assuming you’re still interested in having me? Without the excitement of falling taxis, that is. You think you can handle that?”

My kiss was the only answer I had to give.