by Matsu Kasumi
illustrated by beili
Lax System, November 2036
Lewis was in the firing turret, observing Del, the gigantic space station that was getting smaller in the distance. The turret was Lewis’ favourite place because it was the only part of the Queen Zahr’s Revenge that had actual windows instead of the more practical, but less personal, screens that were everywhere else.
During assault, the turret was occupied by Mihr, Captain Gohr’s cyborg daughter. She was by far the best shot on board, even without the cameras at the back of her head, so the turret was naturally hers during space battles. The rest of the time though, she was usually in the command station with her father, so the turret was empty and no one minded if Lewis spent his free time there.
Lewis had been in space for almost three years now, but he was still in awe every time he looked out the windows of the ship.
“Are you not getting tired of watching the stars?” asked the familiar voice of McLeod.
“As tired as you get of discovering new technologies,” Lewis said, shifting to make some room for his best friend.
The turret was not made for two humans, so they had to sit very close to each other. They were used to it, since the Queen Zahr’s Revenge was a ship and the Magahris were both taller and thinner than humans, which meant that every sitting space on board was too tight. They had converted their living quarters and working stations to better fit their frames, but the rest of the ship was made to best accommodate the most represented species on board.
McLeod huffed but did not comment any further.
“Any news from Earth?” Lewis asked, knowing that McLeod had spent a few hours in one of Del’s long range communication rooms.
“Your sister’s pregnant again,” said McLeod. “She says that if it’s a boy she’ll name him Keith in memory of her lost brother.”
Lewis sighed. His sister, Tara, had not forgiven him for leaving Earth suddenly, especially to join a pirate ship, live a dangerous life, wear his hair long and never send more than a Christmas card back home. She refused to speak to him despite their mother’s best efforts. The worst part for Lewis was that she kept sending messages to McLeod; apparently, she had forgiven him, even though he was the one who got them both on board.
Knowing that Tara was not Lewis’ favorite topic, McLeod added: “Also, I got in touch with my nephew Riley, I think I told you about him. He’s the one that’s a member of a band called Nerida?”
Lewis nodded and McLeod continued.
“Their new song is number one in twenty-eight countries.”
“That’s great. He must be proud.”
“Yeah, he’s overjoyed. He sent me the song. It’s called ‘Summer Storm’ and even someone as musically close-minded as you might like it.”
Lewis lifted an eyebrow in answer. McLeod knew his tastes in music, and it was very unlikely that he’d enjoy a pop-chart number one song. But the title was somewhat appealing, so Lewis accepted the earphones that McLeod handed him.
The song started with a guitar solo, then a male voice was singing and Lewis couldn’t help but cringe a little. The song was easy to listen to, sure. It was probably easy to like if you were into cheesy lyrics and overused pop-rock rhythms. But since none of those were Lewis’ thing, ‘Summer Storm’ was definitely not for him. And, judging by the smirk on McLeod’s face, the engineer knew it.
Lewis threw the headphones at McLeod while making an exaggerated face and McLeod laughed.
“Your sense of humour is ridiculous,” Lewis informed him. Then he decided to change the topic before McLeod tried to make another joke. “Do you know where we’re going this time?”
“Didn’t you read the memo?”
Lewis shrugged. McLeod was the brainy one, he read the memos and thought too much while Lewis did the heavy lifting and enjoyed the view. That’s how their duo worked best.
McLeod looked up and shook his head, but he was more amused than annoyed. He knew that their dynamic also included him summarizing the orders.
“We’re going to smuggle cargo through the Glath blockade.”
“Cool,” said Lewis while scratching his head. He tried to remember who was involved in this blockade thing, but the names escaped him. All he could recall was that Glath was a big planet with a lot of resources that was under siege and the negotiations had been failing for twenty years or so. “So, what’s our cargo? Weapons?”
“No. We’re on a diplomatic mission this time.”
“We’re on a what?!”
McLeod laughed briefly before explaining: “Prince Zlyn of Lorp thinks he can singlehandedly end the siege by talking Glath’s hyperminister into an agreement.”
Lewis didn’t know who that prince was. In fact, he had never seen someone from Lorp before. What he knew was that it was unlikely for anyone, prince or not, to end a two-decades-long crisis so easily.
“He has not specified his entire plan,” McLeod continued. “But I think he wants to start a rebellion on Glath and have them name a new hyperminister.”
Lewis nodded. It seemed like a plausible scheme, but a question remained. “So, if we’re not bringing weapons, what does he need to start this rebellion?”
“To get on the planet would be a good start, I guess.”
So they would be smuggling someone instead of something. That was new, but it could be fun. Lewis smiled and McLeod shook his head.
“Quit smiling, you don’t want this in your bed. He’s really not as appealing as those cat-people on Choxei IV.”
“More like the lizard-men of Dojdaaq?” Lewis asked, laughing at McLeod’s disgusted face. “Or that one cyborg on Phi-Axut… Or the Keezi priest on Decri.”
“Okay, I get it; you like to let anything vaguely masculine touch your junk. I don’t need to be reminded of all your exploits. Specially not the Keezi priest; I was the one who had to untie you.”
“It was worth it.”
Lewis shrugged. It was not his fault if McLeod was not as adventurous as he.
“So what does this prince look like?” he asked.
“Lorp is an aquatic planet, so Prince Zlyn is…”
“You wish. He’s more like a kraken, I guess. Except with more tentacles. He has a mouth somewhere, because he can eat, but he looks like an eight-foot-long ball of tentacles.”
Lewis felt his blood rushing to his groin almost immediately. Tentacles… He had once experienced them, and, even though he had been enclosed in a diving suit that had made skin contact impossible, that was still one of his best memories as far as sex was concerned.
“How does he…?” Lewis started after a few seconds, hoping the conversation would clear his mind a little.
“Survive on board? We’ve turned a cargo bay into a fishtank. It’s immersed, save for something like twenty inches of air at the top,” McLeod explained. “If you were more interested in knowing how he’ll deal with the Glathans… Well they are mermaids, so it shouldn’t be much trouble, I guess.”
McLeod paused to cast a dubious look at his best friend. Seeing the slight blush on his face was all the confirmation he needed that Lewis didn’t care about the politics of Glath at all. Resigned, McLeod added, “And if you want to know how Lorpics reproduce, I have no idea.”
“Guess I’ll have to find out, then…”
The next two days, they were busy fighting off an Even’k space patrol. It was not the first time the Queen Zahr’s Revenge had encountered one,and the crew had a well-practiced way of getting rid of them without alerting their factory-planet, Even’karsh. The method was to lure the patrol into a non-communication area, like an asteroid field or a nebula, and then get rid of it. The problem was that nebulas and asteroid fields were not that common, and sometimes they had to fly for days before finding one.
The good thing was that Even’k space patrols constituted of only androids, and they had stricts protocols about when to engage, when to follow and when to send a distress call to Even’karsh. The bad thing was that a signal was automatically sent when a patrol was destroyed and a dozen others could arrive within minutes. Hence the need of a non-communication zone.
During this search for a safe zone, Lewis and McLeod usually slept little, if they slept at all, and spent most of their time keeping the Queen Zahr’s Revenge in one piece. The Even’k would fire regularly and repairs had to be made quickly to keep the ship functioning so Lewis was outside, making the reparations that McLeod guided him through.
Captain Gohr let Lewis and McLeod do their thing. They were in charge of the emergency repairs; if it wasn’t done they would be thrown through an airlock, but if it was done nobody had any right to comment on it. Lewis liked not having to refer to the chain of command every time they wanted to replace a screw.
At first, the crew had been surprised by their way of working, since the Magahris were so not into teamwork that usually, each one of them was in charge of something and that was it. They didn’t do shifts, either, because their sleeping time had to be synchronized for some religious reasons that Lewis had not tried to understand.
Lewis and McLeod had proven their worth, though, and with the support of Oithar, the Keiristani cook – who was in fact twelve separate beings with a hive mind and therefore thought teamwork was the only way to do something – had gained their place amongst the crew.
The other thing that spoke in their favor was human adaptability. The Magahris needed their six hours of sleep after every twelve hours of being awake; otherwise they quickly died of exhaustion. And since they all slept at the same time, the perfectly timed four-hours-apart blasts of the Even’k would easily stop a Magahrian ship, even if it had to chase them for a while. But with a pair of humans on board, who could stay up for a few days if need be, the Even’k strategy was far less effective.
At the end of the chase, when they had lured the patrol into a nice non-communication zone, it was Mihr’s time to shine. The cyborg would get in her turret and fire back.
Lewis found if fun to watch the enemy ship exploding. Since the Even’k were androids, there were technically no lives lost and none home to mourn them, which made it even better. Lewis didn’t mind killing people, per se — after all, if they attacked a pirate ship they knew the risks — but he always had a thought for the ones left at home. With Even’k there were no regrets, and better yet, little risk, because the androids did their best to capture ships as intact as possible to bring them back home to be upgraded and integrated to their fleet. Thus, Lewis could simply enjoy the show without worrying.
McLeod seemed to prefer watching Mihr, though… Maybe something was going on there. Lewis promised himself he would look into it and push them in the right direction. It was clearly not sanitary for a human being to stay alone for too long, and the only action McLeod had seen since they’d left Earth had been that cat-maiden on Choxei IV a bit more than a year ago.
After destroying the Even’k space patrol, McLeod had sent Lewis outside to salvage parts of their ship. McLeod was now trying to pierce the androids’ coding so he could hack the next patrol.
With his best friend busy, and a few hours of free time before him, since the repairs that were now going on were non-emergency ones, Lewis had slept for thirteen solid hours and had then decided it was time to pay Prince Zlyn a visit.
The Prince was in cargo bay 6, the smallest of the ship. It was still far bigger than Lewis and McLeod’s shared cabin.
Lewis stopped in front of the door and typed “Hello” on the computer. To speak with other species on board, they used computers to translate, but it only worked if the messages were written.
Soon an answer appeared on the screen. It simply said “Greetings”, so Lewis would probably have to be the one making conversation.
“I’m Keith Lewis,” he typed. “One of the two human crewmembers. And I’ve never seen a Lorpic. So, pardon me if I’m being too bold, but I’d like to meet you.”
There was a long moment before an answer arrived and Lewis thought that perhaps he had been too direct. Eventually, the Prince said: “I’ve never met a Human either and I have to admit to being a bit curious. I have heard so many rumors about your kind…”
Before Lewis finished reading, he heard the depressurisation starting. And, before he could think of a witty retort, the first door opened.
Abandoning the keyboard, Lewis stepped in the airlock, and after the back door closed, water started to fill the small space. He couldn’t help the anticipation. Tentacles… He really hoped the Prince would be interested in him. He did his best to look appealing, wearing a white t-shirt that clung to his muscled frame and sweatpants that, once wet, would not let much to the imagination. He had left his shoes outside the Prince’s cabin, to help the eventual undressing.
Lewis, who had been a diver in the Royal Navy before going to space, was used to water, and so he didn’t flinch when the airlock completely filled with it, even though he had to keep his breath while the second door opened.
Soon, he swam in the room and took a moment to look around. The arrangement was Spartan, to say the least, especially for a prince. Then again, maybe it was normal on Lorp to have nothing but a waterproof computer and a few crates in one’s room.
Lewis’ eyes immediately fixed on Prince Zlyn himself. He was indeed a heap of dark blue tentacles, and was at the moment staying close to the computer.
Lewis swam to a crate and stood on it. This way he had his head and shoulders out of the water and could breathe easily. The ship’s computer knew he was there, so it would adapt the oxygen level to his liking without his even having to ask.
Not having to worry about how to stay alive, Lewis could focus his entire attention on the Prince, who was now slowly uncurling and coming slightly closer.
Lewis waved amicably and eyed the Prince, who stopped moving. Frowning, Lewis took a deep breath and dived to the computer.
“Don’t be shy,” he typed. “I’m not easily offended. And I want to know more about you.”
Lewis swam back up to take a deep breath and saw the Prince quickly typing an answer, using at least a dozen tentacles. He had to take a few deep breathes to stay calm before diving back to read.
“I am Zlyn Arlf Tiferyannis Daf’Sighiagay, third Prince of Lorp, Lord Marshal of the Lorpic Armies and Coordinator of the Three-Star Fleet. But you probably knew that much, Crewmember Keith Lewis from Earth. What exactly do you want from me?”
Lewis read the titles with a smile, thinking of an appropriate response. Finally he settled for going straight to the point: “I want to get to know you. Also, I bought you a gift…”
He swam back up to get some air and took one of the two Oxaq crystals he had around his neck, extending his right hand under water so the Prince would take it.
Oxaq crystals were a Taexoolian relic that created an empathic field. The Queen Zahr’s Revenge had once gotten her hands on a large quantity of them, and the crew had been allowed to keep around a gallon of crystals each as bounty. Most of the crewmembers, especially the Magahris (who were not very sensitive to the emphatic effects), had sold their share, but Lewis kept his preciously.
Having an Oxaq crystal around his neck was the best way he had found to communicate with his sexual partners; the empathic field let him know if what he was doing gave them pleasure or not. Of course it worked better with some species than others, and Lewis sometimes had to give them a crystal too in order to make a stronger field and allow better non-verbal communication. With a being as far from human as Prince Zlyn, Lewis thought that a second crystal wouldn’t hurt.
The Prince extended a tentacle to take the crystal, wrapping it around the cord and tugging rather than touching Lewis’ hand. Tentacle and crystal both disappeared into the ever-shifting blue mass that was the Prince, and soon he typed something else.
Lewis dived and read: “This is a fine gift, I am most grateful.”
“It should help us understand each other,” Lewis quickly typed back. “It would work better if we were touching, tough.”
He swam up and waited while the Prince read. Then a tentative tentacle wrapped around his calf and Lewis couldn’t help but shiver in anticipation.
The tentacle was slightly warmer than the water and Lewis welcomed its touch. He concentrated on positive and simple feelings, trying to reach for the Prince’s mind with his own. Warm, nice, happy, he thought.
Usually, it was difficult to really exchange feelings like that, which was why Lewis normally used more conventional flirting and simply kept the crystal’s effect as a secret weapon to make sure his partners had an unforgettable moment. But with Prince Zlyn, who had a body language completely different from Lewis’, the crystals seemed like a good idea… And Lewis soon realised that his intuition had been right.
The tentacle tightened around Lewis’ calf, grounding him as the Prince’s own emotions started to flood his mind. There was surprise at first, then some nice, warm echoes to his own thoughts, but the main feeling was curiosity.
Lewis thought of the crystals, of what they were and how they worked. He concentrated on the memory of McLeod’s speech about these things, hoping the Prince would understand the concept. There was a feeling of understanding coming from the Prince; then they started a small sort of conversation, mostly made of images of places they’d been.
Lorpics were apparently naturally good with mind-melding, because soon the Prince was only sending Lewis what he wanted. There was no invasion of privacy there, just a few shared thoughts. After a while, though, the curiosity was back at the front of the Prince’s mind, and he pushed it toward Lewis.
Deciding that hiding his true motives would be both difficult and a waste of time, Lewis answered by sending his own aroused feelings about tentacles towards Prince Zlyn. The Prince was first taken aback by his straightforwardness, Lewis could feel. But he soon recovered and, with an amused mind-wave that was like the first nice, warm but somehow with a strong innuendo in it, wrapped a few tentacles around Lewis’ legs and lower body.
Lewis let himself be caressed and the Prince came closer, wrapping more snugly around him. Lewis closed his eyes and simply enjoyed the tentacles roaming on his body, the warmth of the Prince and the sound of the tiny waves they made with every move that swished softly against the walls.
Encouraged by Lewis’ enjoyment, some of the Prince’s tentacles ventured under his t-shirt, pushing it up to directly caress the soft skin of his abdomen. Lewis moaned in answer and a few more tentacles went enthusiastically under the fabric, ripping it away from his body.
Not really wanting to have to travel back to his cabin completely naked, Lewis tried to take off his pants. He conjured up an explicit thought and the Prince understood, his tentacles unwrapping from Lewis’ legs to gently tug on the fabric of his sweatpants. Since Lewis had been going commando, he was soon naked at the mercy of the tentacled Prince.
Lewis spread his arms and legs, letting himself be surrounded by the tentacles. This situation was a dream come true for him and, as soon as this fact came to his mind, he felt Prince Zlyn’s smugness in answer. The Prince was very happy with the effect he had on Lewis, and he seconded his thoughts with a few deliberate strokes on Lewis’s erection.
Lewis moaned louder as he felt the Prince’ pleasure echoing his own. He grabbed whichever tentacle was closest to his hands and held on to it as others settled around his body and suckers clung to his flesh, surely leaving their mark.
Lewis suddenly reopened his eyes, realising that, while this was extremely good for him, he had no idea how to give pleasure back to the Prince. He felt the Prince’s amusement in answer, soon followed by a reassuring feeling and an image of Lewis himself spent and satisfied, floating aimlessly accompanied by a feeling of satiety. Lewis got the idea that the Prince would somehow feed on his pleasure. He didn’t really need to understand exactly how that would work; all that mattered right now was that they were both enjoying this.
The Prince seemed to agree, moving his tentacles on Lewis’ body to make him stop thinking coherently. The caresses were very effective in that aspect, especially since the Prince seemed able to control each of his sukers individually, making them roam like a thousand mouths kissing him everywhere at once.
Soon, Lewis started wanting more and he heard himself say out loud, “Please”. The Prince understood without him having to voice anything more, or even think it, and a tentacle slowly started to tease his ass.
It was nothing like what Lewis had experienced so far. The tentacle was far more flexible than any cock he’d encountered. Yet it felt appropriately filling when the tip of it entered him. Lewis groaned as the Prince pushed slowly into him and another tentacle went to tease Lewis’ rim.
The Prince was clearly enjoying himself, pushing in just slower than what he had to know Lewis wanted; making him squirm for more. Lewis’ breath was getting shorter as the Prince went deeper in him, and he was only vaguely aware of the rest of the room. It took him a while to realise that Prince Zlyn was spreading; the mass of blue tentacles was less compact and now filled up most of the room.
Soon, the tentacle started to move slowly in and out of him, and Lewis stopped thinking of anything that wasn’t it. But it was moving so slowly, and Lewis needed more…
“Please,” he said again. “Faster…”
In answer, the Prince wrapped a tentacle around his neck, choking him slightly while he kept moving in and out of him at that just too slow pace. Startled, Lewis tried to take a deep breath but couldn’t. The tentacle around his throat was just too tight for that and all he could achieve were small ragged breaths.
Lewis tugged on the tentacles in his hands, digging his nails in them when the one around his neck tightened some more. The Prince sent a trust me wave and pushed deeper inside him than he had before. Lewis’ whole body tensed at that, quivering in the Prince’s strong hold.
Breathing was becoming difficult and Lewis was starting to feel dizzy. At the same time, though, it was like his senses were heightened. He could hear the water and his own labored breath getting louder, taste and smell the salt and iodine of the water, and, above all, feel the Prince’s touch. It was as if his skin were a canvas and every stroke of every tentacle was leaving a trace of blazing ink.
His vision was getting blurred to the point of darkness when Lewis felt yet another tentacle tugging vigorously on his cock. He let out a helpless cry and, just as the tentacle around his neck let go, the one in his ass went even deeper than it had so far.
The fullness in him, the relief of the air rushing back to his lungs and the pleasure that was echoing his own from the Prince’s mind were enough to drive Lewis off the edge. He came hard and fast and felt the tentacles tighten around him in response.
When Lewis came back to the cabin he shared with McLeod a few hours later, he was exhausted, bare-chested, covered in hickeys, and smiling like a maniac. He found the engineer working on the Even’k’s code, while absently humming Summer Storm.
Lewis went straight to the shower, and when he came out of the bathroom, McLeod was playing with a data-key.
“What’s that? The android’s code?” asked Lewis.
“Not at all… It’s a bribe.”
“It’s Wigburg Hyperion’s latest album,” McLeod said, appreciating the shine of envy in Lewis eyes. “And really, it was made for you. It’s barbarically metal and called ‘Space Vikings’…”
Lewis was tempted to simply take the data-key and run with it. If McLeod had gone through the trouble of getting the album from a few galaxies away, probably hacking through a dozen space stations to get the datas here, clearly it was meant to be listened to.
“So what are you bribing me for, exactly?”
McLeod looked him straight in the eyes and said: “It’s yours only if you don’t tell me a single detail of your encounter with the Prince. Ever.”
Lewis smiled and extended his open hand.
“Your loss,” he said as McLeod gave him the data-key.
The next day, Lewis had to drag McLeod away from his computers. As usual when he was working, McLeod had forgotten to eat and his stomach was making loud sounds of emptiness. So Lewis — who thought three meals, two snacks and a few hours of working out were the most basic parts of a day — threw his best friend over his shoulder and went to the mess.
The mess hall of the Queen Zahr’s Revenge was the place onboard most likely to find someone, since no two species on the crew had the same eating habits. When Lewis and McLeod arrived, though, it was quite calm. There were only two occupied tables: one with six Magahris playing an unpronunciable game from their home planet that Lewis simply called “Magahri poker”, and one with Mihr. The cyborg was working on a tablet that she put down when she saw Lewis and McLeod. She immediately gestured for them to join her.
As soon as they were seated, a one-twelfth of Oithar arrived with a tablet of his own to ask them what they wanted. Lewis asked for a protein shake for himself and a sandwich for McLeod, who just nodded.
“It’s good that you’re here, Craig,” said Mihr. “I’m planing our passage through the blockade and I need to know how advanced your decoding of the Even’k is.”
It was always a bit strange to hear Mihr speak English, because her lips were not moving. One of her most social cyborg-features was an implant that translated her thoughts to any known language and rendered them through speakers.
Lewis sat back and barely listened as McLeod and Mihr started talking technicalities. McLeod would explain him what he had to do later so he didn’t need to bother now.
Soon enough, two parts of Oithar arrived with their food. Lewis could not tell if one of them was the one from before and he didn’t even try. The Keristanis looked like red five-year-old humans with four arms, and all the parts of one of them looked the same.
“Thanks,” Lewis typed on the cook’s tablet. “Are you thirteen yet?”
“Next month!!! I can’t wait!!!!!” was the exited answer. The two present parts of Oithar clapped their hands in anticipation, making McLeod cast a look at Lewis, who frowned at him in answer. He hadn’t written anything outrageous; he’d simply asked news. It wasn’t his fault if Oithar was so happy about getting a new part of him.
Keristanis were hive-minded beings that could grow a new part of them through a form of mitosis when the previous part reached maturity. Their society was separated in castes and, depending on one’s rank in the social ladder, one was allowed — and expected — to have a certain number of parts. For example, the emperor would stay one while a member of the working class could grow up to sixty. Oithar, being born noble, was only allowed eight parts. But he had always wanted to be twenty-six, so he fled the planet and enlisted aboard a pirate ship where no one would blame him for breaking the law of his home planet.
After a little bit of small talk through the tablet, the two twelfths of Oithar happily bounced back to his kitchen, and Lewis refocused on Mihr and McLeod after hearing his name spoken.
“Hu?” he said eloquently.
“I was just telling Mihr that you wouldn’t mind explaining our plan to Prince Zlyn,” said McLeod.
Lewis couldn’t help but smile a bit stupidly at that. Of course he wouldn’t mind spending some more time with the Prince…
“Sure, I’ll tell him. What’s the plan?” he asked.
“Craig will send an Even’k distress signal and we will pretend to crash on the planet. Since the Even’k space ships are not inhabited, we shouldn’t be attacked by the blockading ships. Then we’ll drop the Prince where we can and we’ll wait for the Even’k’s rescue team to arrive…” Mihr started.
“According to their protocol, they should send a small corvette to drag us to a mother-ship that would be waiting outside the blockade, so as soon as we pass the blockade, I’ll fry their communications and we’ll get out of there,” finished McLeod.
Lewis nodded and choose not to tease them by implying that sending him to speak with the Prince was a way for the two of them to get some alone time. But he thought it very loudly and put a hand on McLeod’s shoulder as he did so. With the Oxaq crystal he was still wearing, that was far enough to make the engineer blush.
A few days and some private time with Prince Zlyn later, Lewis was back in the turret, smiling to himself. They had successfully delivered the Prince, who was now working on his political schemes. No doubt that they would hear some news about that change of hyperminister soon enough.
McLeod and Mihr were debriefing the mission, and it was a bit sad to know that wasn’t an euphemism, but it would come in due time.
For the moment, Lewis looked at Glath and its blockade that were getting smaller in the distance, while listening to the really good new album of his favorite band. Life was good, he thought. Life was really good.