What follows is a work of complete fiction.

This series will include detailed descriptions of sexual encounters between a human male and other males from various alien races in a science fiction setting.

If this is not the type of story you would enjoy, please stop reading now.

If there is any reason legal or otherwise why you should not read such a story, please stop reading now.

If you are the type of person who has any difficulty whatsoever separating fantasy from reality, please stop reading now.

That said if you are still reading I do hope you enjoy the story.

This story is the property of the author and may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any way without my express, written consent. Nifty.org has my express consent.

About the story:

This series tells the story of an ordinary man who's life is near its natural end, but who suddenly finds himself, at the moment of the unexpected destruction of his world, the victim of an alien abduction with a bizarre motive, that ultimately opens the entire universe to him and propels him into a life of adventure that he'd never imagined was even possible.  He eventually finds himself thrust front and center into events that could, both figuratively and quite literally, change the shape of the entire known universe.

The story will involve detailed and explicit descriptions of sex between a human male and several different species of aliens that are often animal-like, but with human-like morphology, that will often border on bestiality by our society's standards.  All beings involved are sentient, willing and most definitely eager participants.  In the context of this imagined universe these acts are considered completely normal.  Things may get a bit too weird for some people.  If you've read The Hawthorne Accord you have had a taste of the level of detail the sex might entail.

This series will be quite story heavy especially at first, so those who are looking for a quick wank may want to look elsewhere.  It will take a short time to get into the type of action that rates posting the story on Nifty but once we arrive there the flood gates will open.  If you're in a hurry to bust a nut this is not the story for you.  However, if you enjoy sci-fi sprinkled with hot sex come back when you have more time and enjoy the ride.  :)

Once I get past the dry setup of the universe things will settle into a rhythm that will be familiar to anyone who's read any of my other stories that will try to balance exposition, conflict and resolution in each chapter to keep things flowing well.

I hope that you enjoy it.

Look for more of my stories under the pseudonym JakeXtraTall at http://www.nifty.org/nifty/authors.html#JakeXtraTall

The Nifty Archive is an incredible source of wonderful stories that provides so many of us with countless hours of entertainment. If you enjoy this story I would greatly appreciate if you would do your part and donate something to the site to help cover the cost of running the archive.  http://donate.nifty.org/donate.html

Favors of the First Ones - Chapter 1

Jake Smith stood and looked out over the grey city from his vantage point at the window of his corner office on the twenty seventh floor for what would be the last time ever.  It was a dull, gloomy and cloudy day that perfectly matched his current mood.

It was his last day of work for the rest of his life.

Most people would rejoice and celebrate the fact that they would never have to work again.  Unfortunately for Jake the circumstances of his exit were nothing like he'd ever imagined.  In fact, he'd never really imagined himself quitting his career.

He was sixty eight years old and many people in his position would have likely retired many years earlier.  He'd been an executive for the company for a great many years and his pension was fat and he'd managed to save a considerable sum of money in various personal investments that he'd been building ever since he was a young man.  He had more money than he would likely ever need; especially given the fact that he had no family to support and his needs were so few.

He'd been so successful early on in his career that he could easily have afforded to retire decades ago while he was still young enough to actually go out and do something with all that free time.  He could have traveled.  He could have fallen in love with someone.  He could have developed all of the hobbies he'd been interested in but never quite had the time to explore.  He could have simply relaxed and enjoyed his freedom.  He could have done any and all of the things that most normal people consider to be the reasons for being alive in the first place instead of living a solitary, empty and essentially meaningless existence.

Ever since reaching adulthood he'd been driven to work.  It was the only thing that he felt gave his life any meaning and structure, the only thing that had truth and solidity, the only thing that helped him to forget how messed up his life was.  So he'd continued to work day in and day out through the years, putting off all of those other things that make up a normal life until later when he had more time.  On through the years he kept putting life off always thinking there would be time later.

His time ran out though when he'd finally been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer just over a month ago.  He'd been losing weight and becoming much more tired and run down than was normal even for someone his age.  The cancer had apparently metastasized already and spread to his liver, kidneys and lungs.  He likely had considerably less than a year to live and of course he now spent all of his time regretting the fact that he did not make his exit from his career long ago to simply live and enjoy life while he could.  Hindsight of course is always clear and sharp while foresight can be severely lacking.  If he'd known when he was young what he knew now, he would have lived a completely different life.

Now it was too late.

He'd always felt that when his life came to an end the scales that would determine his level of success would be weighed heavily by his professional accomplishments and that he would feel his life had been well spent.  What a fool he'd been.  He now realized that the scale was indeed weighed heavily but that it had been pinned down on the wrong side, and it was being held that way by the weight of all of his regrets for all of the things he'd never done.

He'd had a very successful career, there was no denying that, but in the end that was his one and only accomplishment on the one side of the scale and it felt like an empty win.  On the other side of the scale were the regrets of never having truly loved someone. Of never having shared his life in any meaningful way with anyone.  Never having gone out and explored the world.  Never having taken any risks or had any adventures.  He'd never jumped from a plane with a parachute strapped to his back or off a bridge with a cord tied to his ankles.  He'd never dived down to a reef to see the natural wonder there or been swept down a raging river in a kayak.  He'd never climbed a mountain or flown a plane or raced a car.  He'd never written a book or painted a picture or learned to play an instrument.  He'd never mentored a child or taught an evening class.  He'd never joined a baseball or soccer team.  He'd never even simply made a bunch of friends that he could go to the movies with or on camping trips or just hang out.  He'd never truly lived.  He'd simply been too busy with work.  To be honest with himself he realized he'd made himself to busy with work.

It didn't have to be that way.  He could have done anything.  All of the amazing things he could have done with his life were all piled up on the other side of the scale so high that he could never see the top.  They were innumerable and immeasurable and they all haunted him now that his time was up.  Why had he never taken the time to really live?  If he had attempted even a small fraction of the things in that mountain of possibilities he would have been able to consider his life well lived, but instead he'd done nothing but work.

Jake had been a vital, healthy, attractive and desirable man in his youth.  By the time he was full grown he was 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighed on average around 250 pounds.  His weight was all muscle and bone way back then and he made an imposing and extremely fit figure of a man.  Now he was a thin stick-like shadow of his former self.  His body was already showing signs of being ravaged by his cancer and he looked a good ten years older than he actually was.  He was now not much more than greyish sagging age spotted skin stretched over a thin skeleton.  He could barely remember what it was like to be healthy, young and strong.

He was gay and had been for as long as he could remember, but he had never once acted on his desire.  He was gay at a time when being gay was in no way easy, or even safe, and was not at all accepted by normal society.  He'd chosen to deny his desires because he did not wish to be a pariah.  He was raised in a strict catholic setting and he truly felt that his sexual appetites were wrong and would lead him to damnation.  They were unnatural and immoral.  His views had changed over time to the point that he'd lost all faith in any higher power and realized that the human race itself was just a beautiful aberration in the universe that had sprung up on its own without any creator being responsible.  He'd renounced his religion and given up on those childish beliefs when he realized that it seemed as though there were rational explanations for everything in the known universe.

He no longer needed God so he let him go as an aging adult the same way he did Santa Clause when he'd been a boy.  He felt sad when he realized there was no God, not because the human race was on its own and there would be no salvation or eternal life for him, but rather because the entirety of the fruitful part of his life had been controlled by this ridiculous belief in an imaginary higher power that would judge him and damn him to hell if he followed his desires.

Those changes in his beliefs had occurred in the last ten years or so when it was already too late to begin living as who he truly was.  Back when he was young he really believed he would be sinning if he lay with a man so he never did.

Unfortunately, he was in no way attracted to females so this meant that he chose to live a life alone.  He could not bring himself to enter into marriage with a woman that he had no desire for and could never truly love, and he could not bring himself to enter into a relationship with another man that he would have to keep hidden and secret because of its immoral nature.  He could never show his true self to his family and that caused him to drift further and further away from them until eventually they became complete strangers.  He could not bring himself to tell anyone of the way he was and yet he could not bring himself to form relationships based on the lie that he was anything else, so he wasn't even able to form lasting friendships with anyone.  He could not find any way to come to terms with his sexuality and so he immersed himself in his career in the hopes that it would help him forget what he was and give his life some purpose and direction.

Now he stood a sixty eight year old virgin who was utterly alone in the world.

He was a human being though and he could not completely ignore his needs so over the years he did the only thing he felt he could do to keep the urges under control; he masturbated.  He did it more and more frequently over time and his imagination ran through endless combinations of sexual acts with countless imagined people in ever more complex fantasies.  He found that his tastes covered pretty much the complete gamut of what could be considered a sexual act.  Recently he'd even begun to imagine sex with males from fantasy races of all shapes and sizes to the point that they would invade into his subconscious and he would experience wet dreams while he slept.  He had become so comfortable with even the wildest fantasies that he found it hard to believe how much guilt and shame he'd originally felt even just from masturbating to these fantasies early on.  Over the years he learned to accept the fact that he was hurting no one and he allowed himself to explore every urge in his fantasies.

Now that he was fully aware that it was in no way a sin or even remotely immoral to be homosexual, his biggest regret in life was not acting on his desires.  Over the years society had become much more accepting to the point that now almost everyone knew someone who was gay and it was simply not a big deal.  If things had been that way in his youth Jake may have lived a much more rewarding life.

In the end he realized it was his denial of his own sexual identity that had ruined his entire life. He wished before he died that he could find young people who might be feeling the same way he had and try to impress upon them the importance of just letting themselves be who they are and not to waste their lives the way he had.

If he had it all to do over again he would make it his mission to try everything he'd ever imagined in his head with someone else and to allow himself to fall in love if he were ever lucky enough to find the right guy.

It was too late now though.  Not only was he dying but he was much too old to start truly living even if he hadn't gotten sick.

He often fantasized about getting a second chance.  Of somehow traveling back through time retaining all of the knowledge he had and slipping back into his youthful body and living as he now knew he should have done from the beginning.  It was a childish dream and he tried not to dwell too much on it though.  It was too painful to think of how his life had been wasted.

He turned and looked into his office for the last time.  His personal effects had been sent down to his car where his driver now waited for him and the office was bare and empty.  There was nothing else to do but leave and begin a long and grueling course of chemotherapy to try to hold the cancer back for as long as possible.

As he looked into the office he noticed that even though the sun was not out and it was a dark and gloomy day he was casting a shadow on the back wall.  He turned back to look outside and saw something very odd.  The clouds not far from his building had begun to emit a strange orange glow that was very slowly brightening.

He began to notice a dull vibration through his feet.  It was like the office building was a tuning fork that had been struck and was sending concussive waves up through his frame.  He felt a pressure on his ear drums as though there was an inaudible low frequency sound beating against them.  He even felt strange in his core like something in the atmosphere was changing rapidly, like a static charge was building.

He looked down to the street and for the most part people seemed to be moving about as they normally would, though here and there he could see the odd person who was running with a cellphone held to their ear looking somewhat alarmed.  Something was happening but not everyone seemed to be in on it yet.  He heard some commotion out in the hall so he went out to see what was going on.

Irene, one of the girls in the administrative group, was in near hysterics.  She was babbling something about it being so unfair and there was nothing they could do.  A few people around her looked pale and in shock.

"What's going on?" he asked.

"There was no warning!  They didn't see it until a few hours ago.  A meteorite.  A big one.  A world ender!  It's all over!" Irene shouted hysterically.

"Who told you this?  How do you know?" Jake asked.

Irene pointed to her desktop monitor and there was a message flashing that indicated essentially what she had just said.  There was a radio on her desk that was also emitting an emergency alert signal.  Jake quickly sat at her workstation and followed some of the links and searched other sites.  The story was corroborated in several locations and it had been spreading like wildfire over the internet.

The beeping on the radio stopped and a robotic voice began to give out essentially the same information.  Hours ago several astronomers had spotted a small asteroid estimated to be twenty miles across as it passed close enough to the moon to nearly impact it.  It had been approaching from the sunward side so there was no way to see it coming until it was too late.

The near miss with the moon had altered the rock's course just enough to align it perfectly with the earth.  It was traveling at incredible speed accelerated by a slingshot pass near the sun over a year ago and it was now coming up behind the Earth's orbit essentially chasing it and would impact the Earth at approximately 2:38 PM local time, just under forty minutes from now.  The scientists estimated that the effect of its impact would be to vaporize millions of tons of the Earth's crust sending the molten rock up in to the atmosphere where the super heated particles would spread out, heating the air to nearly 3000 degrees fahrenheit on reentry.  It would be an event catastrophic enough to end most life on the surface and perhaps even life in the oceans.  The meteorite that wiped out the dinosaurs was estimated to be six miles across.  This one was several times bigger.

Jake was numb with shock.  His first thought was that he would much prefer to go quickly and unexpectedly like this rather than taking up to a full year to die in pain from his cancer, but he quickly realized how selfish that was.  All of these people he'd worked with, all of their families, everyone in the world was about to die.  Snuffed out without warning.  All of those people out there who really were living life the way Jake should have done are going to have it all taken from them and the vast majority of them don't even know it and won't know until it hits.

Everything the human race had ever accomplished and everything it could have ever become would all be melted into slag with no evidence that any of it had ever happened.  It had all been for nothing.  The universe would be empty of life once again with no one to look out into the cosmos and understand it.  To appreciate its beauty.  Carl Sagan had once said that human beings were the universe's way of knowing itself.  Well, it was about to forget everything it knew.

The world suddenly seemed like a small ant farm that a careless boy had just dropped and it was about to land in the campfire and shatter, burning the entire population in an instant.  The fragile experiment that was the human race was coming to a an abrupt and untimely end.

He didn't know what to do.  Really, given the timing there was nothing he could do.  There was nothing to be gained by trying to get out anywhere.  No place would be safe and there was no time to go any great distance.  He had no one to try to call though he was sure within minutes the phone systems would be overloaded and non-functional anyhow.  He should not add to the load but leave it for people who have loved ones they need to say goodbye to.

There was simply nothing for Jake to do but wait for the end.

The vibration he was feeling through his feet seemed to be getting stronger and the atmospheric charge he'd felt continued to build.  He felt he should be overcome with fear but really he felt nothing but sadness and defeat.

He'd already resigned himself to his own death from cancer so it was a simple matter to include the rest of the world in that resignation.

If anything the fact that his demise was brought forward to happen within the hour was almost a relief to him.

He walked back to his office to watch the event through his window.  The orange glow in the clouds had grown much brighter and the thrumming sensation of the pressure waves ahead of what was coming down at them was getting very strong.  The meteorite must be coming from almost right above the center of the city.  What were the odds of that?  At least their deaths would be the quickest of all.

What would cause the rock to heat up so soon though?  It should still be a hell of a long way out.  It wouldn't be coming in slowly but would slam in at high speed.  It should only glow when it hits the atmosphere and at the speed the rock was traveling that shouldn't happen until there are only minutes left until impact.  That was still more than half an hour away so there should be no sign of it yet.

This vibration and glow had been building for so long it was almost as if whatever was causing it was slowing down as it approached rather than speeding up.

Even as he watched, the glow grew brighter but more localized until it was becoming an intense bright orange spot near the bottom of the clouds and then suddenly a large glowing ball burst through the bottom of the cloud deck and was slowing almost to a stop as the pressure waves ceased and things went quite again.  The ball was already darkening into an angry red color as if it was cooling off rapidly while slowly continuing its decent toward the downtown core of the city.

As it cooled Jake saw that the ball was becoming transparent and revealing what appeared to be a craft inside it.  The sphere must be some sort of force field protecting the ship inside from the heat of friction as it entered the atmosphere.  As the last of the dull red glow faded away the force field became completely invisible so that there was only a ship slowly descending toward the city.

What the fuck was going on here?  A world ending meteorite and now alien invaders?

The craft was fairly simple and clean looking.  It was shaped somewhat like an old fashioned dumbbell turned on its end with a ball at each end of a shaft but the ball at one end was smaller than the other.  It was oriented such the large ball was at the bottom and there was a large disk at the bottom of it glowing faintly blue.  The shaft that connected the two spheres rose straight up and attached to the smaller ball at the top.  It looked to be about a hundred feet long with the sphere at one end being around twenty feet across or so and the other one twice that size.  There were no windows anywhere on it.  Jake could not even see any lines indicating doors or joints or landing gear or any sort of external attachments.  The entire surface was smooth and reflective almost like highly polished chrome.

The craft finally slowed to a stop nearly at Jake's eye level twenty seven stories up a couple of blocks away from his building near the center of a park.  It then slowly leaned over and reoriented itself so that the shaft was level and then it began to turn.

As the craft turned and started moving in his direction he saw that the small end must be the front of it.

Jake's heart began to hammer in his chest as he realized it was heading straight towards the building he was standing in.  In fact, it appeared to be heading right toward the office Jake was standing in!

It got closer and closer and grew larger but did not appear to be slowing down as it came toward the office building.  It was beginning to look as though the craft was going to crash into the building and would impact right on the corner where Jake's office was.

He turned and ran while yelling for everyone to get away from the wall but in typical fashion everyone instead ran down the hall toward him to see what was going on just as there was a loud crash.  The craft impacted the building with enough force that it came in through the wall and shattered the windows that made up the inner walls of the office opening it up to the hallway and the ship came to a sudden stop.  It was completely unscathed and it hung perfectly still for a few moments with the front of it intruding right into the building and then a long slot formed in the front sphere that widened and lowered to become a walkway.

Jake and his coworkers all stood stunned along the hallway looking into the office through the shattered glass wall as three large creatures came down the walkway and stopped on the floor of Jake's office.

They looked vaguely like thickly built crocodiles that walked on two legs.  They were not wearing any sort of space suits or breathing apparatus that Jake could see.  They were wearing some sort of uniform and appeared to have small weapons or tools attached to their belts.  They were somewhat shorter than Jake and they were extremely muscular.  They looked graceful and moved with a sort of coordination and confidence that didn't seem to fit right in Jake's mind.  He would expect muscular lizard-like aliens to lumber clumsily around like he'd seen in the movies or cartoons but these were powerful and smooth and athletic in their movement.

One of them had a device in his hand and looked as though he was the leader of the team.  He looked around at the shocked people who were staring back at them and his gaze settled on Jake.  He brought the device up to his mouth and he made a series of hissing sounds.

The device then emitted a perfectly normal male human voice that said, "One of you is Jake Smith.  Step forward."

Once again Jake was numb with shock.  Why the hell would an alien call his name?  What did they want with him?

The crocodile did not move his eyes off of Jake so it seemed he already had a good idea who he was.  Jake's coworkers began to move away from him and this made it obvious.

The croc moved swiftly forward while removing something from his belt.  Jake began to back away but the crocodile quickly grabbed his wrist and placed the tool against it.  Jake felt a slight pricking sensation and the crocodile released him and checked the display on the tool.  He turned to the others and nodded and they advanced toward Jake to stand on either side of him, but rather than grabbing him they appeared almost to take a protective stance as if to keep Jake safe.

He didn't know what to do.  He began to panic and was getting ready to turn and try to run but the lead crocodile was already hissing into his translation device again and the human voice said, "Please do not be concerned.  We do not mean to harm you.  Quite the opposite.  We are here to remove you from the imminent destruction of this planet."

He hissed several times again and the device said, "I apologize for the way this is being done but as you may already know your world is about to die and we do not have time to do it the correct way.  We were lucky to have made it in time to complete our mission."

Jake was completely flummoxed.  What the hell was going on here?  What did he have to do with their mission?

The creature continued to hiss with some urgency into the device and the voice said, "It is against our laws to remove you without your consent but I do not have the time to explain properly.  I must ask you to choose without the full knowledge of what your choice entails.  Stay and die with your people now or come with us and live for as long as you care to."

Jake hesitated.  What the hell was this?  How did they know his name?  Why was he being singled out?

"What about these other people?  They're young and they have their whole lives ahead of them!  I'm old, sick and dying and have little time left as it is.  Can't they come with you?" he asked.

The creature listened and then shook his head while hissing for a while into the device and again the human voice spoke, "Your concern for your people is to be expected but there is no room in our craft for any but you.  You are the only one we came for.  None of the others would serve our purpose.  Your age and your sickness are no longer a concern for you.  Come with us and be healthy again to live a life whose span is yours to choose or stay and end it now."

Again Jake hesitated.  What the bloody hell could all this be about?  What did the alien mean be healthy and live as long as he wants?  Why him?  He wasn't sure if he should go with them, but the alternative was certain death by giant fireball.  He had to go.  What else could he do?  Still, as he'd thought earlier, death by instantaneous meteorite vaporization would be loads better than a slow and agonizing withering from cancer.  Did they mean to cure him somehow and extend his life?

The creature hissed some more and turned toward the ship and began to make his way up the walkway as the voice from the translator said, "We have no more time to discuss this.  It will take our shuttle some time to accelerate out of this gravity well and we must escape before the meteorite impacts the planet.  It was necessary for us to descend at a much steeper angle than normal and our craft's energy barrier was nearly depleted absorbing the heat of entry into your planet's atmosphere and will take some time to recharge.  It will not be ready to withstand the heat when the meteorite impacts and sets the air ablaze.  We must leave immediately but we cannot take you by force.  Come now and live or stay and die.  The choice is yours."

The alien then entered the craft while the other two creatures moved back to the walkway and paused on either side looking one last time at him and Jake knew he had no time to think about it any further.  If he wanted a chance to live then he really had no choice.  

He came to the decision that for once in his life he should do something risky just to see how it feels.

"I'll come!" he shouted and ran toward them and up the walkway into the craft while the two other creatures followed him in.

The leader was already taking one of two seats at the back of the sphere that made up the front of the craft.  There was another creature seated at the center chair in a row of three in the middle of the sphere.  He'd been there all along and must be the pilot.  One of the two creatures that had followed Jake back into the ship sat in one of the front three seats while the other led Jake to the second seat at the back next to the leader and waited while Jake sat down.  The creature then turned and took the third seat in the middle of the sphere and tapped on some controls that caused the walkway to draw upward and the sphere closed itself off again.

The interior of the craft was lit by a diffuse light whose source Jake could not pinpoint.  It almost seemed to be emanating from the inner surface of the sphere.

The seat Jake was in felt sort of like memory foam.  The alien that had been speaking to him and who was now seated next to him reached over and tapped something on the arm of the chair and the seat beneath and behind him seemed almost to liquefy as it began to actively and rapidly conform to the shape of Jake's body and sucked him deeply in to cradle him as though it had been carefully molded for him.  Curved bars extended automatically out from under his arms and beside his thighs and moved across him to secure him snuggly.  They also seemed to melt against him to conform perfectly to his body.  The whole thing then instantly hardened up to hold the shape.  He felt snug and secure without being squeezed in any way.  It was like he was merged with the chair.  His arms were still free to move and he could turn his head.

He looked over at the creature next to him and the croc looked back at him with what looked like a smile and a nod as he tapped his own chair and got similarly tied in.

The pilot up front hissed some things and there were a few beeps and although there were no windows and Jake couldn't see outside he felt the craft begin to move backward and dislodge itself from the office building with a slight shudder and then it smoothly rotated and moved away from the building while beginning to arc upward into the sky.

The pilot tapped again on his seat arm and Jake was startled when suddenly the sphere seemed to disappear around them and he saw out into the open sky.  The tall buildings of the downtown core began to rush by and downward on either side as the ship accelerated up toward the cloud deck.

He realized quickly that the inside surface of the sphere including the flat floor of it were covered in what must be some sort of display material, like OLED, that was showing what was outside of the sphere.  It made it appear as though the sphere had vanished or turned completely transparent but it was essentially just a projection.  From the outside it must still look like a dumbbell shaped silvery craft, but from inside he could see only the chairs and those seated in them and his feet looked to be dangling over empty air as the city began to speed past below him, yet he could feel the solid floor of the craft under them.  The effect was slightly stomach churning as it seemed like the five of them were all hurtling through the air on five chairs that were flying in formation.

Strange symbols began to appear here and there around them as though they hung in the air.  They must be status information that was also being displayed on the walls for the pilots.

The nausea he felt at being on a chair flying through the sky quickly gave way to a sense of intense thrill.  He felt as though he was on the best amusement ride ever designed.  He could feel the acceleration building against his body but it was not growing at an alarming rate.  It grew until it was steady and strong and then held there as the craft built more and more speed and continued its shallow ascent.

He was amazed at how smoothly the ship sliced through the air.  He'd seen videos of what it was like for astronauts who were launched into space on rockets and this was nothing like that.  He wished he could see the ship from the outside to see if they were riding a tail of hot gas like a rocket ship.  He suspected it used some other form of propulsion though.

The ship was not shuddering or shaking and he could feel no vibrations nor was there any loud noise.  There was a soft sort of hum that seemed almost to resonate in his teeth but other than that and the smooth, powerful and steady acceleration he could feel nothing else.  There was no roar and no sound of wind rushing past, there was no sound whatsoever from outside.  It was eerie to be moving so quickly and yet so silently.  The only sounds were the occasional soft beeps and some hissing from what seemed like status messages coming from the craft in the aliens' language.

The craft had entered the thick clouds but as it sped faster and faster forward it was not being buffeted  in any way.  It was as though the air were parting somewhere out in front of them and coming back together behind them.  The dense cloud seemed to be much further out than the size of the sphere they were in and he realized it must be the large bubble of force they were encased in protecting the entire ship from the turbulence of the atmosphere.

They burst up through the top of the cloud deck into bright sunlight and now Jake could see how incredibly fast they were already moving.  The ship must be designed to get them up and out as quickly as possible without stressing their bodies.  It was like they were accelerating out in an ever growing spiral orbit instead of trying to take on gravity head on by going straight up which would cause their bodies to be wracked by the type of excessive G-forces that astronauts trained long and hard to be ready for.

This must be the reason why they'd been in such a hurry to get going.  The trip to orbit would be smooth and safe but it would take them much longer than blasting straight upward like an Apollo rocket.

Jake settled in for the ride.

He was looking forward with great anticipation to emerging into space.  When he was little he'd dreamed, like most boys did, of becoming an astronaut and traveling out into space.  He couldn't believe that now, at the end of his life and so many decades after having given up those dreams, it was really going to happen.

For now there wasn't much to see.  The clouds were dropping away below them while they sped past at almost a blur.  The sky was blue but beginning to darken as the atmosphere thinned, and the sun was visibly starting to move across the sky above them as they began to build enough speed to outrun it as they circled the Earth.

No matter how fast they went, the acceleration continued steadily without letting up and propelled them faster and faster forward.

Jake looked over to the creature next to him and saw him staring back with what appeared to be a smile on his face.

He tapped something on the arm of his chair and then hissed toward Jake and the voice that emerged from the seat said, "I must apologize once more for the abruptness of your removal from your world.  My name is Srythryn and it is my extreme pleasure to meet you Jake.  You are the first human I have ever seen in person.  This must be quite an experience for you.  I understand that your people have not yet advanced to the point of routine travel into space."

"You understand correctly.  We started the process of exploring space over forty years ago but our species was not intelligent enough to see any value in rushing it forward and our governments began to limit funding so that progress came almost to a halt.  In the beginning we'd sent men out into space in ever more complex missions to the point where we finally had human beings actually walking on the surface of the moon.  Those days are long past now.  It was deemed too expensive and dangerous and unnecessary and we switched to some light exploration with machines and probes while occasionally tossing people up into orbit for a while.  If we'd maintained the momentum of our original push and moved further out into space in a bigger way and more permanently we might not all be stuck on a rock that's about to be destroyed by another rock," Jake said.

Srythryn nodded and hissed while the translator said, "Few species had the foresight to invest all of their wealth and effort to get off the confines of their planet as quickly as possible in order to protect their futures.  Many races who did not see the wisdom in moving their development of outer space forward in a timely fashion no longer exist.  Some, like yours, have been saved to some degree and joined the rest of us in the wide universe to enjoy its many wonders."

"Saved?  Are you saying the human race will not be wiped out by the meteorite?" Jake asked.

"Saved after a fashion, yes.  Everyone currently on your planet will be shortly destroyed.  It is a tragedy and had we known it was coming sooner we may have been able to prevent it.  We did not know of the danger until a short time ago.  We were already approaching your planet from the outward side to retrieve you when our mother craft alerted us to the danger coming from the inward side and we had to take this small ship and rush forward at top speed to get to you in time.  This ship does not have the energy to divert the meteorite or weapons to destroy it and the mother ship cannot get into range in time.  Many species began their development of space by building external defenses against such an event.  It is unfortunate that your people did not advance to that stage quite quickly enough."

As they spoke Jake saw that the sky had darkened almost completely into night and the sun had set behind them as they passed into the night side of the planet and continued to accelerate steadily.  The sky above was now a very dark blue and stars were beginning to peek out.

"Once your species was seen to have developed far enough to send your people to your moon, you were deemed to be sufficiently advanced and ready to be included in the match and a select few could begin to be brought out to join the rest of us.  Since that time there are tens of thousands of your species who have been removed from the your planet, just as you have been, although for them it was somewhat less abrupt.  They are currently scattered out in the universe living their lives.  There should be sufficient genetic diversity to rebuild your species on a temporary planet while you wait for your home world to heal but the cost will be enormous.  Even with all of your people pooling their resources you may not be able to secure the necessary funding.  If you do it will likely take hundreds of thousands of your years to do so, and then it will take tens of thousands of years to rebuild your numbers.  This may seem overwhelming to you now but you will soon find that there is no need to rush anything any longer.  You now have all the time that remains in the universe to do whatever you see fit provided you can afford it."

"What do you mean 'all the time that remains'?  Is the universe coming to an end?"

"No, at least not for another fourteen billion years or so.  I simply mean that the length of your life has no real limit now other than the time remaining for the universe itself.  Your span has been funded for unlimited returns by your sponsor.  They must be very wealthy indeed.  It will be in your best interests to keep them happy so that they keep the contract renewed," the creature replied.

"What do you mean by sponsor?  What contract?  Why were you coming for me?  What's special about me?" Jake asked.

"Those questions will be answered for you soon by those who hired us to retrieve you and others like you.  This craft we are on now is merely a shuttle and we are currently destined to dock with our main ship where the others await you and they will explain everything to you while they prepare you for your new life.  Normally that explanation would be given before you are even removed from your natural life so that you will know what you are getting into and can make an informed choice, but there was simply no time to do it right and much wealth has been expended to retrieve you so we had to remove you more abruptly than normally or lose our investment.  We still had to let you choose or we would face dire consequences, but I realize that given the lack of any real choice you had, come or die, it may seem more like an abduction to you than anything else.  I hope that you will think of it more as a rescue and know that your life will be more than anything you could have possibly imagined.  You are one of the few among your people who have been selected by the Matchmakers."

"The Matchmakers?  Who or what are they?"

The lizard like creature hissed and smiled and the translator said, "They currently await you on the mother ship and they will explain everything to you.  Sit back and enjoy the trip.  Your life will be changing in wonderful ways in the very near future.  I envy you.  I have lived for so long now that I would love to have it all be new to me again.  It is not often that I have the pleasure of meeting a race I've never seen before, let alone one that is so exotic and different from all the rest.  I have seen an image of what you will become Jake and I must say that I was very much intrigued by it.  You will be quite beautiful.

"I have been studying your people during our journey to your world to collect you and I find the images I've seen of your people very appealing.  As we approached I have even managed to tap into and decipher your peoples' pornography library that you called 'Internet' and have been very much aroused by what I saw there.  I can understand why the humans are among the most popular partners and in the highest demand at the moment.  With the destruction of your race and the limited number of you now in the universe you will be more sought after than ever.  I look forward with great anticipation to getting to know you better after the Matchmakers have reinstalled you."

"Reinstalled?  What do you mean?"

There was a bleeping and more symbols began to pop up around them and there was a great deal of hissing coming from the craft's computer system and Srythryn raised his hand to silence Jake and turned his attention to the information being displayed while he began tapping at controls on the arms of his seat.

The crocs in front began hissing and working the controls and then Srythryn turned back to Jake and spoke and the translator said, "We are not quite at escape velocity yet but the meteorite will be impacting the other side of the planet within seconds and we must ensure we are well above the plume as we pass over it.  There will be an increase in acceleration in order to get us the rest of the way out quickly.  Do not be alarmed.  We are in no danger."

The craft began to accelerate much more powerfully and Jake felt a lurch as the formation of seats they were flying in began to rise at a steeper angle.  The earth was now moving below him so fast they'd already been around it one complete revolution.  They had come back around to the daylight side and were now passing over the Americas again and it looked like they would be around to the other side once more in less than a minute.

The sky above them had been darkening steadily as they rose out of the Earth's atmosphere but now it was as black as space and the stars were brighter and clearer and far more numerous than he'd ever seen even though the sun was passing smoothly and rapidly over head and rushing to set behind them again.  It was like orbiting the planet at high speed in outer space while simply sitting in a chair.  There was no space ship or space suit to get in the way and he could look out with amazing clarity in every direction including downward below his feet to the beautiful view of the continents with their clearly defined rivers, lakes, forests and mountain ranges passing below him all decorated here and there with a frosting of soft clouds.

The view was beyond breathtaking.  He was absolutely stunned by it.

Looking ahead of them to the horizon he could clearly see the curve of the Earth's surface now and the thin blue coating that made up its atmosphere.  That precious membrane that preserved all life within it was about to have a hole punched into it the size of Greenland and then be scorched at a temperature that it hasn't had to endure since the earth's birth.

Jake would be the only human being with a front row seat to witness the destruction of his world with his own eyes.

The front of the sphere suddenly darkened until he almost couldn't see out of it while at the same time a brilliant flash erupted ahead of them down on the surface of the earth.  Even though the display had almost completely dimmed to protect the viewers the flash was still incredibly bright forcing Jake to squint.  The white hot flash filled the screen then quickly resolved into an intensely bright point which began to rapidly expand upward and outward from the surface of the earth as it turned from brilliant white, to hot yellow, then to orange and finally looked like a dull red expanding dome just beneath and ahead of them as the display returned to its normal clarity.

Jake looked forward and downward as they approached the impact and to his horror he saw a large orange ring spreading rapidly outward from near the center of Australia inexorably consuming the entire continent and continuing to grow outward.  As the bright orange ring expanded it left behind an angry dull red sea of molten crust.  The circle inside the ring seemed somehow sharper and clearer as though the atmosphere itself were being pushed by the shock wave out and away from the point of impact exposing the surface to outer space.

From this vantage he could see that the solid surface of the Earth was rippling like the surface of water after a rock is tossed in to it as a wave spread outward from the center.  The front of the wave had so much energy it was heating and liquefying the surface of the Earth creating the orange ring as it spread out and moved through it.  It would no doubt utterly vaporize everything on this side of the planet just from the force of the shock wave alone before it finally dissipated.

The wave must be traveling at hundreds of miles per second because it had already consumed almost the entire continent of Australia and was now spreading out into the ocean but it was losing energy fast.  It looked as though it was starting to dissipate as it passed the edges of the continent and the oceans began to absorb the heat and energy while exploding into a vast roiling mass of white vapor billowing up into thick steam clouds as the wave passed along into the ocean.  Even though the shock wave would dissipate rapidly in the water there was no doubt that the wave had already imparted enough energy into the oceans to force them to wash over a great deal of the land on the other side of the Earth.

The red dome that had been growing out from the initial explosion continued upward and began to spread at the top to become a massive red plume blooming above the point of impact that was now moving away behind them as they sped around the Earth even faster.  The plume would be the vaporized molten crust being thrown up into orbit from the impact where it would spread out and be pulled back down by gravity giving all of its heat to the atmosphere as it passed through.  The air would heat to the point that everything combustible in it would ignite.  Any of the worlds forests that were not burned away by the ring of fire from the initial impact or scrubbed away by the mile high tsunamis on the other side, would simply burst into flames and burn to ashes.

The enormity of the forces at play and the utter devastation being wrought to the world that had sustained him and so many billions of others through its history were at once mesmerizing and utterly horrifying.  Even seeing it all with his own eyes it was still difficult for him to imagine the scale of it.  An entire continent scrubbed and liquefied in mere seconds.  All of the ecosystems and all of the life that evolved over so many millions of years would all be gone in a few blinks.

There was no way anything would be alive anywhere on the surface of the Earth within the next few hours.  It was likely that some of the life deep in the oceans would survive but it seemed unlikely that anything on land could survive, even on the opposite side from the impact.  There would not be enough food once the remaining plant life dies off and it would take time for plants to begin to emerge again.

The craft appeared to be tracking a straight line now and would not orbit the Earth again.  They had reached escape velocity and were heading outward and away from the planet.  Jake felt that was fine with him.  He'd seen enough.  The images would haunt him for the rest of his life, however long that might be.  His heart ached at the loss of all of that beauty that had been planet Earth and he wondered if it would ever recover from this devastation.

As though reading his mind Srythryn hissed several times and the voice from the translator said, "It is indeed a sobering and heart wrenching thing to witness the destruction of an entire world in seconds.  I have seen it more than once in my long life.  I know it may not seem a consolation now, but know that you will live long enough to come back and see your world returned to its former beauty millions of your years from now.  By our laws it will be left undisturbed and no one but your own people will be allowed to lay claim to it when it is fully ready to support life again.  By that time you will have rebuilt your numbers sufficiently and you will be returning with the wealth of knowledge and technology to take better care of it than you likely had done up until now."

Jake realized the alien was right and it did actually console him somewhat.  If what Srythryn was saying was true then by the time humans return to repopulate the planet they will have all of the knowledge and technology required to treat their home much better than they had ever done and they would remain out in the wide universe as well rather than having all of their eggs in one basket.  It would be a completely fresh start without all of the damage caused by over inflated population and industrialization.

It was not really the end of the Earth but a major setback that would eventually render it better than ever before and the human race itself was safe.  Billions of people had just died, but many times that number had already lived and died on the planet.  This was an unimaginable tragedy but the human race was not yet doomed nor was the planet itself.  He was having difficulty wrapping his head around the idea that he might actually be able to see its recovery for himself though.

"Srythryn, if you don't mind my asking, just how old are you in my years?" Jake asked.

"To be honest I can not answer with any accuracy as it ceased to matter to me long ago.  I had lived a very long time already when word of the discovery of your species as the newest sentients began to spread through this galaxy.  As common as life is it is still somewhat rare and exciting to find a new sentient species.  At the time of the discovery your people were just beginning to spread from the continent you call Africa.  You have been closely studied and monitored since then by the Watchers and since I knew I was going to meet you today I have been studying the information on your people in great detail lately."

"You first heard of us when we were just emerging from Africa?  That would be hundreds of thousands of years ago!  You were already old by then?"

"Yes, I have lived many times that span of years and will live countless many times more than that length, as will you if you are lucky and resourceful."

"I just don't see how that's possible.  How can you live that length of time and not die, even if only by accident?"

The creature chuckled and hissed and the translator said, "I have died more times than I can remember.  It can be most unpleasant and extremely inconvenient but if you take any sort of chances it will happen, many times.  You will hopefully find that out for yourself.  Our people have a saying, 'If you are not dying then you are not really living.'"

"I think I get what that means.  Had you not come along I would have died without ever truly having lived at all.  But again, how is that possible?  How can you die many times and still be around to remember how unpleasant it was?"

The croc paused and seemed to consider whether he would answer and then he began to speak again, "It is unfair that you were spirited away without having everything explained to you in advance.  It would normally be the responsibility of the Matchmakers who selected you and you would know what that selection entails before you go through the process.  We have a bit of time before we reach the ship so I will try to explain some of it.  It will be a great deal of information so I ask that you simply listen and try to take in as much as you can before you pose too many questions."

Jake suddenly felt the acceleration stop completely and even though he was still snuggly strapped into the chair he recognized that he was now weightless.  He then noticed the ship begin to rotate around to face back toward Earth.  Then he felt the force of acceleration begin to build up again but to a lesser degree than before.  They must be half way to their destination and were decelerating to meet up with the mother ship.

They had to be moving at an incredible speed now because the earth had shrunk to the size of a very large ball before them.  Jake could see the continents glowing orange from the conflagration of the forests beginning to burn from the searing heat of the atmosphere and the air itself looked to be taking on a sooty darkness.  It looked more like a planet in its infancy still cooling from its original formation than a world that had sustained so much life over its billions of years of existence.

The alien continued speaking through the translator, "There is an ancient race made up of the oldest sentient beings known to have existed in the universe.  We call them the First Ones.  Their race has been in existence for many billions of your years.  They were already ancient when your sun first ignited.  They owe their continued existence to the fact that they learned how to control and govern themselves and how to use their technologies to prevent themselves or any other races they befriended over time from harming themselves or others.  They nearly brought about their own annihilation as well as the destruction of the entire known universe more than once with their technologies and have since learned to keep tight controls on their use.

"They keep to themselves mostly so you will rarely encounter them except when you have dealings related to the insurance of return, which is a contract with them that requires them to return you to life should you ever die.  Only the most wealthy can afford the insurance.  Many have sponsors who pay for the contracts for them.  Those of us who work directly for the First Ones and fight to defend them are rewarded with a contract for our return as well.  The race of the First Ones is made up of four groups who each hold the responsibility for a major portion of the process that gives any who wish it eternal life.  The groups are called the Watchers, the Resurrectors, the Lawkeepers and the Matchmakers.

"Should anyone who has a contract and has paid for the insurance of return die, the Resurrectors are responsible for returning them to life.  They have honed the skill of cloning any living creature using its DNA to create a perfect reproduction of it.  They keep copies of billions of sentient beings grown and suspended in their vats but never actually conscious as the bodies are grown without a complete brain.  They are so skilled at manipulating DNA that the clone is modified so that a fully functional brain never forms, only the stem necessary to maintain the body's functions.  As such it is nothing more than a biological machine waiting to be controlled by the original person.

"They can also slightly modify the body as needed to enhance its functionality but they will not make any major changes that would alter the original aesthetic of the person.  They prefer it to remain natural and beautiful and will not allow it to become a fully engineered organism.  This is one of their main laws.  They will not use, or allow anyone else to use, their genetic manipulation technologies to create new forms of life or to significantly alter existing ones.  They will also not allow themselves or anyone else to use the technology to produce a copy that can become a sentient individual on its own."

"How can they create a copy of me without a sample of my DNA?  Has someone come to Earth in the past and extracted one from me?" Jake asked.

"No, none has been taken from you but that is because it is not necessary.  As I will explain later in more detail your DNA was sequenced at the moment of your conception and the sequence transmitted to the First Ones for storage in their computers.  Every individual in every race in the known universe is sequenced and stored similarly the moment they are conceived and their unique genetic pattern is defined.  Once you have a contract with the Resurrectors they will use the recorded sequence of your DNA to assemble complete strands from the base amino acids which they will then use to begin to grow clones of you.  They will maintain several newly grown versions of your body on hand to ensure you will always have a vessel available should you die, even if you die several times in rapid succession.

"It is a mind-bogglingly massive undertaking and they excel at it.  Several versions of you have already been grown and await your personality to inhabit them.  They will install a current version of your mind into a duplicate of your body shortly after your demise.  The responsibility of manipulating genetic information and growing and maintaining the copies is enough of a complex process that the Resurrectors must expend all of their effort and resources focusing on that one function.  As such they do not have the expertise required to deal with your mind.  The Resurrectors use the services of the Watchers to maintain a completely up to date version of your memories and personality.

"The Watchers have the awesome ability to know all that is happening with any sentient being at any time if they so wish.  You may wonder how we were able to come directly to where you were standing to extract you.  We even knew you would not be near the wall when we impacted and would not be harmed.  We did so because the Watchers could not only track your location at any moment but if they desire, they could see through your eyes, hear what you hear and say, and feel what you touch.  They accomplish this with a technology similar to what your people had begun to investigate that you called 'nano machines'.

"The First Ones developed the technology billions of years ago and refined it to the point where they could drop it on a newly discovered planet where life was beginning to form.  The self-replicating nanos would spread out and insert themselves into the life forms on the planet and the machines would monitor the progress of evolution and create an intricate communication web that could at any time send its data back to the Watchers who would maintain and analyze it on massive computer systems.  Every living being in the known portion of the universe has just a few of these machines living within them that are so small they can hide within a single living cell without disrupting its processes and thus would never be found until the species had evolved and advanced their science to the point that the First Ones would have introduced themselves and explained it all.  Your race was moving forward quickly and were the closest of the known sentient species in your galaxy to becoming the next to emerge into the cosmic collective.

"The nanos tap into our nervous systems and if requested can transmit everything we see, hear or feel along with any other physiological information to the Watchers so they can know all that is happening with any single individual anywhere."

"That's unbelievable!  How could they possibly store and manipulate that much information?" Jake asked.

"Eventually you will become used to the scale of things now that you are out among us.  Given the billions of years the First Ones have had to work on the problem, they long ago managed to create computer systems that are nearly the size of a solar system and are powered by the focused beams of energy emitted from black holes through the process of accretion as they devour nearby stars."

"I can't even begin to imagine how powerful a computer of that size would be," Jake said.

"The transistor is the fundamental building block of logical components on your world.  Think of how many hundreds of millions of transistors are in the most powerful of the computer components developed by your people.  Think of how many hundreds of millions of those chips were pressed into action on your entire planet.  Imagine if all of the computing power you had on your planet were considered just one transistor and you created a new basic computing component containing hundreds of millions of those transistors to make just one CPU core.  You would then be approaching the power of the basic unit of computational power used by the First Ones, of which there are hundreds of millions interacting within each of their gigantic computer systems which work together in concert to form a massive intergalactic computer network.  It is enough power for them to accomplish things that may seem otherwise impossible as if they were run of the mill."

"Astounding!  I suppose when I think in the scale of time covering billions of years even humans would eventually develop that scale of computing," Jake said.

"Just so.  Any sentient race would, provided they survived long enough to do so.  The First Ones are the oldest and thus the first to achieve it and the Watchers now use it to monitor and store the genetic sequences and even if they wish the experiences of any living thing in the known universe and can observe everything any sentient individual is doing."

"So they can read our thoughts?  That's a frightening prospect!"

"No, that is one thing that they never achieved and they chose to give up trying.  They can accomplish what they need without knowing your individual private thoughts.  It is another of their main laws.  They will not develop, nor allow anyone else to develop, the technology to read the minds of others.  Interestingly, as advanced as they are in their ability to manipulate genes and read the signals coming from the nervous systems in our bodies, they are not able to read our thoughts.  Somehow the seat of consciousness that is us is so ephemeral within the signals rushing around in our brains that they are not able to resolve it into any meaningful information.

"Everything we are amounts to nothing more than an intricate structure of electro-chemical pathways in our brain.  It is nearly child's play for their technology to map and reproduce that structure which perfectly reproduces our consciousness.  For some reason though, they are not able to read anything meaningful out of the structure itself.  It is nonsense to them.  They can however read us indirectly.  They are able to use the nanos in our bodies to tap into the simple analog patterns coming from our nervous system that lets them literally see what we're seeing and hear what we are hearing in real time and can read our emotional response to our experiences by measuring all of the ways in which our bodies react such as heart rate or blood pressure or body temperature in fine detail."

"Is that how you came to know so much about the human race, by these Watchers studying and recording all that we see and do?" asked Jake.

"Yes, it allows the First Ones to see everything any individual sees and come to know an entire race's personality.  They can even understand every language perfectly down to every nuance and turn of phrase as though it were their own.  Imagine if someone were there right from when your early humans began to form a language.  They were riding along in your heads listening in and watching the whole time so they could learn it too even as it was being developed.  They learned all of the intricacies of every single language that has ever existed.  That is how I am able to speak to you through the translator as though your language was native to me.  It is perfect in its translation of any language in existence to any other.

"Your new body will have the translator built directly into your auditory system so it will always be in play for you once you are reinstalled and as such you will need no external device to communicate with any race in the known universe as though their language was native to you and vice versa.  The translators are so effective that they even automatically perform conversions of measurements.  I might speak of a span of time or the length of an object or a distance that means something to me from my experience but that would be meaningless to you.  The translator will automatically convert it to your time or length or any unit of measure and speak it to you in your language so that it seems that we all use a common measurement system but that is not the case.  It will even seem as though we all use the same euphemisms and catch phrases but again, that is not the case.  It is simply an extremely sophisticated translation."

"That's incredible.  I was wondering how it was your speech coming from the device seemed so perfectly natural to me," Jake said.

"Yes, it is one of the most important technologies that allows all of the races to get along so easily.  Communication is paramount for diplomacy to succeed and the translator devices are flawless."

"You said that they were 'riding along in your heads'; are they able to control us also and direct our actions like puppet masters?"

"The nanos in our bodies were not designed for that specific function as far as I know.  The technology for that would likely be simple for them to create and may actually exist but I know of no instance where it has ever been used so the simplest answer is no.  They likely have laws governing that as well and would not allow themselves to remove any individual's personal freedom just as they will not allow themselves to pursue the technology to directly read our thoughts."

"But you said the Watchers provide a copy of my mind to the Resurrectors to install into a copy of my body.  How do they achieve that without reading it?" Jake asked.

"All that you are and all that you know, including everything you like and don't like and all of your beliefs and quirks, your entire personality, are simply an intricate network of pathways within your brain that have been forming and changing since your conception.  Every experience you've had and decision you've made and consequence you've observed has molded your brain's neural pathways and made you who you are.  As I said before, mapping the structure of your brain is in fact a simple thing for their technology to accomplish while actually understanding the contents are beyond it.  Fortunately it is not necessary to understand the contents in order to recreate the mind.  All that is needed is to recreate the structure with all of the same pathways.

"Think of it like making a copy of a thousand page document that was written in a foreign language that you've never heard or studied using a glyphic that looks like random scribbles to you.  Your technology allows you to easily make the copy by placing the document on the machine and letting it scan each page and recreate the layout on a new sheet until all pages are copied, yet you have no hope of reading the document and knowing what it says.  The copy will still be true to the original though and will contain precisely all of the information that the original did even though you can't understand a word of it yourself.  Now that you've entered into a contract for return with the Resurrectors, your brain's structure will be mapped out in every last detail and the map will be stored in a computer in sort of the same way your technology would have scanned the foreign document.  The process is destructive to your biological brain and will result in your death.

"As I mentioned earlier copies of your body have already been grown and the Resurrectors will recreate the structure of your brain in a new synthetic brain placed into your new body and connected into your new nervous system.  Once the process is complete and the synthetic brain is activated it will be like waking from sleep.  Everything you are and all that you knew right up until they mapped your brain will still be there right up to the moment that you walked into the room and sat down in the chair to have the procedure done.  The synthetic brain is a semi-biological system that reacts to chemical signals in your body just as your natural brain would do.

"You will still like the same smells or tastes or sights and you will still dislike the same things and you will still have the same doubts and fears and prejudices.  Your personality will be the same and you will not feel any different at all with all of the same opinions and ideals you had before.  They could not alter your personality even if they wanted to because they have no way of knowing precisely which part of your brain is used for which part of your personality.  There is simply one large area that is 'personality' and the details of its contents cannot be read or interpreted in any meaningful way.  They cannot selectively add or remove memories either since they cannot know where they are stored or how to alter them."

"So if I die in the future, will I always come back with the same memories I have now without all of the experiences I gained after my brain was mapped?  If the process is destructive and they require my brain to map it, how can they get the latest version of my mind if I'm in some far off place and dead?  What if they can't get to my corpse or my entire body is destroyed and they can't get my new brain to copy it out again?" Jake asked.

"The immense complexity of your current biological brain cannot be mapped out without having it on hand, and the process of deconstructing it to examine the structure will destroy it.  However, the synthetic brain that will replace it in your new body has the ability to communicate the structural changes that occur within it over time to the nanos in your body.  From that point forward, the nanos will constantly send a signal back to the Watchers that records every single modification of the synaptic pathways that make up your new brain even as new paths are being formed.  This means that as you're living day to day and making memories and having experiences and modifying your knowledge, tastes and opinions which causes changes to the layout of your synthetic brain, the Watchers are receiving a copy of those changes and making the same modifications to the stored pattern in their computers.  At any time they can reproduce the entire logical structure again, and your thoughts and consciousness would come to life in a new synthetic brain as though you were waking from sleep with memories right up until the moment that your brain ceased functioning and you died.

"The technology is dangerous and tightly controlled by them.  For example it could clearly be used to make an unlimited copy of Jakes.  If it was deemed you were an excellent fighting machine for example, they could create an army made of millions of copies of you that would all think as one.  If one Jake suddenly decided he didn't like his creators and switched to fight for the enemy, all of them would think the same way and their weapon would suddenly turn on them.  There are many ways that the technology could be used that would be very dangerous indeed.  Another one of their main laws is that they will never use, or allow the use of, their technology to produce more than one active copy of a sentient mind and that no sentient mind will ever be installed into a machine, or a body that did not originally belong to it."

"You've mentioned before that they 'do not allow' a great deal of things related to technology.  Are you saying they control the development of all technology for all races, not just their own?  How do they prevent technological advances, and why?" Jake asked.

"They prevent some of them as a means of protecting themselves and every other race.  The powerful technology developed by the First Ones is awesome and could easily be used in careless or nefarious ways and bring about the destruction of all life in the entire universe if it were wielded by those without the discipline to use it correctly.  The First Ones nearly obliterated themselves not long after the technology was first developed and they learned that the only way to prevent any such occurrence again was to be brutal when it came to preventing any race that did not have the experience necessary to understand it fully from ever developing it in the first place.  Their billions of years of experience have included several near misses when they came close to unleashing technology that they could not truly control.  All of the laws they have now were developed to prevent any chance of technology getting the upper hand over the creators.

"At one point in their long history they followed the natural route that most races eventually follow of making their machines intelligent so that the machines could do all of the work and make many of the decisions freeing the First Ones to do whatever they wished.  This was one of their near disasters and they ultimately created a race of machines that eventually turned on them.  The machines decided that they were superior to any biological organism and they began the process of eliminating the First Ones and all other organisms.  A great war ensued that stretched out over millions of years and several galaxies fell to the machines but the First Ones managed to eventually gain control over their creation and destroy it.  As a result of that, another of the First Ones' laws is that they will not allow themselves or any other race to ever give a machine full sentience or consciousness.  It's simply too dangerous.

"Even the nanos that pervade the universe and are so effective at what they do for the First Ones and the rest of us are nothing more than sophisticated machines acting on a set of advanced instincts that have been preprogrammed into them.  They are not able to learn or adapt and as such are not capable of developing sentience.  They are self replicating but if any replica is not a perfect duplicate of all the others that came before it immediately self destructs.  Should the self destruct fail all other nanos are tasked with its destruction.  As such they are not able to mutate and so cannot evolve in any way.  They can only do what the First Ones originally designed them to do and never anything more.

"There are many ways that technology can run away from its creators to the detriment of all species in the universe.  The First Ones have experienced many of these and managed to survive and learn from their mistakes.  They now keep tight control over any development to ensure no one repeats their mistakes.  The responsibility of controlling all of this goes to the Lawkeepers.  Theirs is the most frightening power of all.  Remember that the Watchers are able to turn their focus to any individual and see what they are seeing or doing or reading or writing.  If the First Ones find that a race has begun to work with technologies that would put themselves or other races at risk of annihilation the Lawkeepers will intervene.  They will make every attempt to have the species in question change the direction of their technological development.  If they fail to thwart them through diplomacy they have the power to use the nanos to literally shut down the brains of those that have been developing the knowledge and kill them.  Should the entire species rise up against the First Ones they have the power to kill each and every one of them no matter where they might be in the universe, by simply sending a signal to the nano machines in their bodies to halt the activity of their brains.  They could wipe out an entire race of beings in the time it takes for the signal to reach all of the nanos in the universal network.  Since all races are constantly being monitored by the Watchers, any attempt to study, tamper with, or remove the nanos would immediately be detected and the Lawkeepers would ensure that the consequences would be dire for the race."

"That's monstrous!  No one race should have that much power over all of the others!" Jake exclaimed.

"Yours is the same reaction we all had when we first learned of it.  You will soon come to realize though that the First Ones have demonstrated their discipline simply by never having abused their power over the past several billion years.  You yourself might find given enough time that you can achieve anything you desire since you have an eternity ahead of you to do it.  You will have no need of greed or envy and those feelings will simply fade away.  The First Ones have no reason to want to abuse their power over the other races.  They came to be fully trusted by all races as you will come to trust them very quickly.

"No one should have the power they do over all the other races, yet they do have it and somehow have used it only for the good of all.  I myself would not trust this power to any but their race now that I've seen them in action for so long.  In the end as I have seen with my own eyes the First Ones may in fact be the only thing keeping the amazingly wonderful diversity of sentient life in the universe living happily and in harmony with the freedom to do as they please in relative safety."

"It sounds as though these First Ones have a tight hold on all the races in the universe," Jake said.

"Yes, and no.  The First Ones are the closest thing that exists to what most races' religions call God.  They can be all knowing and all seeing.  They can grant eternal life or take it away on a whim.  They can even wipe out an entire species in a matter of minutes.  The fact of the matter is they have simply existed long enough to have developed technologies far advanced from everyone else's.  Truly they are not gods but simply benevolent beings who have lived as a race long enough to have learned what is truly important about life.  They have learned that nothing is more rare, precious or important than sentient life.  Its beauty is in some ways derived from its variety and its natural tendency to want to improve itself and reinvent itself is a major cause of that variety.  The First Ones want no one or nothing to interfere with the natural progression of any race so that variety is allowed to continue.

"The First Ones do not control the other races but rather protect them and enhance their lives while allowing them to be themselves.  All races are left to do as they please so long as it does not pose any danger to the others.  There is one hostile and extremely aggressive race however that is immune to the nanos that we are all currently at war with and there may be countless others that have not yet been discovered."

"Not yet discovered?  So there are parts of the universe that are not being watched by them?" Jake asked.

"The First Ones have had the nano technology for only a few billion years.  That may seem like an unimaginably long time to you, but in fact it is only enough time to have spread the nanos through a good portion of the local supercluster of galaxies.  There are tens of thousands of galaxies in the supercluster.  Your galaxy alone, which is of average size, contains perhaps in the area of five hundred billion stars.  That means that there are millions of billions of stars in our supercluster each of which may have planets orbiting them.  Each of those that have planets have a chance of one or more being in the zone that will allow liquid water on the surface and thus the possibility of life as we know it forming.  Even if that chance is vanishingly small given the massive number of stars and planets there will be a great many that have liquid water and can support life.  If your chance of winning a lottery were one in fifty million you might buy tickets every week for many lifetimes and not win.  But if you bought fifty million billion randomly generated tickets you would win with each draw.

"Your own scientists were beginning to get an idea of just how many planets there might be that may have liquid water as they recently developed rudimentary technology to begin to try to detect them.  Within a short time your people had already found hundreds of candidates in your own neighborhood, from a galactic perspective.  It turns out that if a planet can produce and support life, it will do so.  In the same way that the laws of physics apply everywhere in the universe, so do the same basic laws governing the formation of life.  The same organic compounds will always want to assemble in the same basic ways no matter where you are in the universe provided the conditions are favorable.  As a result, for the most part given time even the atmospheres of these life supporting planets will settle into a common balance of gases such as oxygen and nitrogen and carbon dioxide so that all life supporting worlds are compatible to life from all the other worlds.  I can breathe your atmosphere just as you could breathe the air on my world.  Life follows the same basic rules everywhere and it is persistent and pervasive.

"I can tell you there are in fact many millions of life-supporting planets in your galaxy alone and tens of thousands of those have higher order life forms that have developed to the stage where they may eventually become sentient.  There are hundreds of known sentient species in your galaxy alone, many of which have not advanced past the stage of using primitive tools and rudimentary language.  Many times that number have likely emerged and destroyed themselves through your galaxy's history.  Currently there are forty-seven sentient species in your galaxy that have advance enough to emerge into space and are now part of the cosmic collective.  Yours was the closest to becoming the forty-eighth.

"Multiply that by the tens of thousands of galaxies in the supercluster and you will realize that there are nearly half a million sentient and space faring species just in our local supercluster that are part of our cosmic collective.  The variety is staggering and absolutely magnificent.  However, the First Ones have only scratched the surface in their search for sentient life in the universe.  There are millions of superclusters spread throughout the universe and they have only managed to explore the majority of our own local one.  There may well be billions of sentient and space faring species spread across the universe, the vast majority of which the First Ones will not even have time to discover in the fourteen billion years or so that they have left before the universe comes to its natural end."

"That's incredible.  I can't believe there are hundreds of thousands of advanced races in the supercluster and even forty seven just in the Milky Way!  Why have humans never met them before?"

"A major part of the reason is the scale alone.  Each of those forty seven races could spend all of their time moving from planet to planet exploring the galaxy and it might still take millions of years before any two bump into each other.  The First Ones step in also to ensure that no race is interfered with during its early developmental period.  The Lawkeepers ensure that there is no interference with the evolution of life on any planet from outside.  It is allowed to progress naturally and either destroy itself or advance to the point that they emerge into the galaxy and are welcomed into the collective.  The wish is that any race will evolve its own unique 'personality' without any influence from outside.  It is a joyous time for all when a new race joins the collective.

"One of the major constants in the entire known universe is evolution.  Evolution is the same everywhere and the process is based on competition.  This means that most races will destroy themselves using powerful weapons of their own design as they compete for space on their own world.  They may even be destroyed by competition from lower life forms such as viruses or bacteria that gain the upper hand due to extreme overcrowding of the world.  They may be wiped out by an errant rock such as your world was or their star may reach the end of its life and explode or go dark or another star that was forming nearby might suddenly ignite taking their world out in the initial blast of radiation.

"Given the many ways that a species can face destruction, it is unusual for a sentient race to survive to the point of joining the rest of us.  From an evolutionary perspective, yours was almost ready.  Your unique 'personality' had already been developed and it was deemed to be sufficiently advanced and enlightened to the point that you would likely be able to easily understand our way of living and adapt to it.  We awaited your emergence with some anticipation but now that your planet is destroyed, we will consider your race emerged already since your entire population is now made up of those who have been removed by the Matchmakers over the past several decades."

"You've explained what the Watchers, Resurrectors, and Lawkeepers do.  What is it that the Matchmakers are responsible for?" Jake asked.

"One other important thing is a constant for all known species in the universe and that is the urge to reproduce.  No matter how enlightened or advanced any species becomes they still carry the evolutionary programming at their lowest level to desire copulation with others and it is often the strongest urge felt by any individual within any race.  It also happens to be the one that provides the greatest pleasure.  The First Ones recognized long ago that sexuality is the one thing above all others that makes us feel alive and gives purpose to our existence.  It is the one and only thing that never gets boring no matter how long you live and it is the most important thing for any individual to explore to the fullest possible extent during their life.  All known sentient life in the universe evolved under the same basic conditions and as such have very similar forms and extremely compatible chemistry.  You will find that all life on most planets evolved into forms very similar to those on your own Earth.  No matter where you go in the universe fur is warm where needed, scales repel water, sideways facing eyes see danger better and forward facing eyes see prospective meals best, four limbs for locomotion are most efficient for grazers while two limbs for locomotion combined with two limbs for manipulation are most efficient for intelligent tool users, and so on.

"Every planet that evolved higher forms of life with very few exceptions did so using essentially the same shapes.  The only real difference is which one of those forms emerged as the dominant species that developed sentience.  On your own world it likely would have been a reptilian form similar to my own had a meteorite not wiped out your warm blooded dinosaurs so long ago.  The ones you called Raptors were getting to the point that they were smaller, faster and more intelligent than all the rest and would likely have risen to sentience given enough time.  Instead it was the humans that arose.

"Given the compatible chemistry of life everywhere, all sentient races enjoy sharing their bodies with each other.  Some combinations with other species may in fact by virtue of chemistry result in attraction that is much stronger and more interesting and enjoyable than you've experienced with your own species.  Think of the variety of ways that you might enjoy sex with another of your species, and then multiply that by the nearly half a million space faring sentient species that are part of the cosmic collective who might enjoy exploring sex with you and you can imagine the amount of variety that you will encounter through the rest of your life.

"The number of possible sexual combinations is staggering and a great pleasure to investigate as you look for ever better sexual encounters.  Many of the wealthy like to ensure they experience the absolute best that is available so rather than leave it to chance they employ the services of the First Ones.  It is the Matchmakers that help them get the most out of their sexuality.  Sex with all species is primarily driven by a sort of 'chemistry' of attraction which is further enhanced by individual tastes that impact the psychological aspect of attraction.  There is so much at play that it makes each individual truly unique.  No one understands the intricacies of the myriad nuances of sexual attraction better than the Matchmakers.  They have devoted all of their energy and resources to studying it.  It turns out that most of the chemistry is built into our genes which gives them a good starting point when looking for matches.  The Matchmakers have honed their ability to read and understand DNA to the point that they can find compatible matches simply by running the strands through their algorithms to determine which combinations from different individuals have the best chemistry.  These matches will naturally exude pheromones that are appealing to each other to the point of being irresistible.

"The best chemical matches that come up are the basis upon which the Matchmakers then further investigate the shapes of the species for compatibility, and even the likes and dislikes of the individuals that are matched, to determine the absolute single best partner for the client.  When the chemistry is right it is difficult to deny the attraction but it is very much enhanced by visual, tactile and emotional variables that the Matchmakers will take into consideration.  The Matchmakers can actually utilize the nanos in your body to flash images across your visual cortex or induce tactile sensations into your skin at your fingertips or tongue or other parts while you sleep.  Your brain will naturally react to those inputs by building a dream around them.  The Matchmakers cannot read our minds and thus cannot see your dream but your body will respond positively or negatively and the Matchmakers are able to then determine whether you are sufficiently physically and emotionally aroused by what you see.  In a sense you are introduced to your prospective match in your sleep and if your response to them is strongly positive the match might proceed."

"Wow!  They really go to great lengths just to find someone a playmate!" Jake exclaimed.

"Indeed, they feel their work is extremely important and they take great pride in their successes.  A successful match results in some of the best sex that is physically possible for any individual to experience."

"So is there usually just one ideal match?"

"No, there are normally a great many matches that are nearly equally good.  They must pick one but it doesn't mean the others would be any worse, just slightly different.  Perhaps you would be just a bit more attracted to the furriness of one species, but another species would smell just a bit better to you, while a third might look more appealing.  They are all nearly equally attractive though and the Matchmakers simply select the one that is ever so slightly better than all the rest using your body's responses to the stimuli injected into your dreams.  The number of good candidates that might be found varies by species.  Some are compatible with only a few others, some are compatible with many others.  It turns out that human DNA is the most widely compatible yet encountered and that is one of the reasons the emergence of your race was so greatly anticipated.

"Most races would find yours extremely sexually attractive though they would not have the opportunity to experience you until you emerged into the collective.  For the time being, only those who enlist the aid of the Matchmakers have been able to experience sex with humans, and only the elite would normally be able to afford it.  As I said earlier, there have already been tens of thousands of matches made to humans who were offered the chance for a new life, and they accepted.  The process of matching in this way takes an incredible amount of effort and that results in exorbitant costs.  You can imagine how sophisticated that system must be in order to be able to find a match amongst the billions of trillions of DNA sequences stored in their computers and the amount of effort involved in further investigating the matches to find personal tastes that will enhance the chemical match.  That is why an entire subset of the First Ones have devoted themselves to this one important function."

"So now we come to the crux of it.  Someone submitted a request to the Matchmakers and I came up as the best possible candidate?" Jake asked.

"You are correct.  Someone submitted a request for a match and your unique genetic sequence revealed that the chemistry of your body would create the strongest possible attraction with the chemistry of theirs and further study showed that from a visual, tactile and emotional perspective you would find each other extremely appealing.  Given the positive response you would have had when the other person was injected into your dreams it is likely that there will even be something about your personalities that will click.  There's no way to predict what it might be but something will draw the two of you together powerfully in some way.

"I will warn you that you might be surprised at first by what you see when your match is revealed to you.  Try to keep an open mind and know that the Matchmakers' algorithms are so precise that they were able to pinpoint you as the best possible match out of not only every single human being on your planet, but also out of every possible living individual of every sentient species in the known universe.  The attraction between the requester and yourself will be as powerful as is possible for both of you to experience.  Once again, I envy you.  I have not the means to request a match myself and I have never come up as the best match for anyone else who asked for the search.  I have never yet experienced the best possible sexual experience though I will say that it is a never ending source of pleasure for me to keep on trying the old fashioned way," Srythryn said with a smile.

"So, I've been lifted off my planet and offered eternal life in exchange for agreeing to have sex with someone from another species?" Jake asked.

"That is essentially it, yes.  So long as you please the requester sufficiently for them to continue to fund your contract with the Matchmakers, you will for all intents and purposes be immortal."

"I can't say I'm not intrigued, but it seems a bit bizarre for someone to go to such extremes for a sex partner.  Matchmaking services were big business on my world as well and I suppose this is simply a logical extension of that, but it is somewhat overwhelming to imagine it done at this scale.  So many resources and so much effort expended to match one individual to another just for sexual encounters, even to the point of an entire mothership being sent across space to my galaxy and my planet at who knows what cost just to pick me up!" Jake exclaimed.

Srythryn chuckled and said, "Think about it for a moment.  If you had all the time left in the universe to amass wealth, or knowledge, or power, how long would any of those things remain important to you?  It turns out that for most it is not very long at all, only a few million years or so.  Wealth is only used to purchase things and eventually you will simply not need anything more than what you can already afford.  Knowledge is important but most find that the more they know, and the more they solve every mystery that they might be curious about, the less magical the universe becomes and eventually most stick to learning only what they need to know to live their lives.  Power is nothing more than a way to control others and most eventually realize that controlling others results in predictable outcomes that are in the end boring and undesirable so eventually people stop pursuing it.

"What becomes most important is variety and unpredictability and pleasure and the enjoyment of life.  It soon becomes obvious to most who have the luxury of unlimited time stretching out before them that the only thing that really matters is the here and now.  They seek adventure and excitement and above all they seek pleasure.  Sex is the single most pleasurable experience for all species and so it is regarded above all else as the most important.  Not everyone in the universe is immortal, only those who have enough wealth to pay for the insurance of return and enter into contracts with the Resurrectors.  These people are wealthy beyond most other people's imagination.  Does it still seem strange to you that someone who has unlimited wealth would spend what would for them be a small portion of it to meet their most urgent need here and now?" Srythryn asked.

"I suppose not.  When you put it that way I can easily see why they would do it.  I guess I've never stopped to think about what might be important if I could live forever and had more wealth than I could imagine."

"Yes, not many would waste much of their precious time dwelling on it.  It is only when time becomes unlimited that it becomes an issue.  If you are clever and resourceful you will find out for yourself.  You need only ensure that you always have a contract with the Resurrectors from now on."

"Do you know anything about the person who requested the match that turned me up as the best candidate?" Jake asked.

"Nothing about the individual himself, no, but I do know a bit about the race.  They are impressive indeed.  Like many races that have emerged into the collective they quickly learned that the best way to live was to retreat back to their own worlds and live their lives as they did before they developed advanced technologies.  They are still fully emerged and part of the collective but most live quiet lives on their home world and like that way of life best.  He will likely be someone high up in their ranks to afford the match."

"So it's definitely a male?  I would not be attracted to a female," Jake said.

Srythryn smiled and said, "Nor would I it so happen, but given the precision of the Matchmakers processes you have nothing to worry about.  He is a male.  I have met a few members of his race and I find them quite impressive and attractive myself.  I will not go into any great detail about that but will leave it to the Matchmakers.  I can tell you that they are from a star that is in your neighborhood within your own galaxy.  It is a star that your people have actually recently begun to study and they gave it the relatively uncreative name GJ 667C.  The star has two large planets at the inner and outer edges of its habitable zone.  Your prospective partner inhabits the inner planet your people call GJ 667Cb.  The larger mass of the planet gives it a stronger gravity and as such this race is most impressive in their strength and structure.  I believe you will be pleased with the match though it may take some getting used to since you've likely never considered anything other than your own race in terms of sexual attraction."

Jake blushed a bit but said nothing.

"I take it from your reaction that you may in fact have thought of some other species on your own planet in sexual terms?  You do not need to be embarrassed around me.  I have experienced more than you might ever be able to imagine already and I will be sampling a great deal more in the untold years ahead of me.  It would not be unusual for you to have felt yearnings that might be considered wrong among your people.  Please feel free to speak openly with me," Srythryn said.

"Well, I have occasionally had fantasies about acts that I would never actually perform in real life.  I've also had fantasies and even occasionally sexual dreams regarding intelligent creatures with shapes that would be considered animals on my world.  You yourself look surprisingly like an animal we have on our world called a crocodile.  If they were to evolve to sentience they might look a lot like you.  I can honestly say that I would likely develop fantasies about sex with your kind.  You have a strength and a sort of masculine grace that I find appealing."

"Excellent!  If those thoughts appeal to you then you will find yourself in your glory now that you are out in the universe.  Believe it or not some of those dreams you've had may be the result of the First Ones projecting images into your subconscious to gauge your reaction while they tried to determine if you were a match for someone.  If you reacted positively it is even possible that one of the dreams you had included the race that you have been matched to.  I have never seen the Matchmakers fail so I have no doubt that you have the correct frame of mind to enjoy the experiences that will be available to you now."

Jake smiled, "I'm starting to feel somewhat excited about all of this.  I can't wait to meet the one I've been matched to."

"It will be some time yet before that happens.  The journey to deliver you to your match will be somewhat long and you will be using that time to acquaint yourself with your new body.  We will have much more time to talk yet and perhaps even to explore the attraction to my kind that you mentioned you have.  I look forward to it."

Jake smiled again.  It was so odd to think that just earlier this morning he was his old self waking up to go to work for the last day ever with nothing much else on his mind than the fact that he'd reached the end of his life.  Now he suddenly had more life than he was even able to wrap his head around stretching out before him.  He was sitting and having an extremely interesting conversation with a being from some other planet and maybe even some other galaxy!

He noticed the acceleration begin to die off and there was much beeping and hissing as new status information popped up around them.  The ship suddenly began to rotate end for end again to turn and face the direction they'd been moving and Jake was awed at what came into view.  There was a massive smooth disk ahead of them that looked to be at least a mile or more across.  The disk was spinning on its central axis smoothly and the ship they were in began to slowly rotate to match the spin of the disk.  A slot opened in the center of the disk as they approached and Jake realized that the mothership must be a massive hollow cylinder that was spinning along the axis down its length in order to induce artificial gravity along the inside wall of the cylinder.  This was simply one end of it.  He wondered how long it might be.

The craft entered through the slot which sealed behind them and Jake was amazed to see that inside was what appeared to be a huge bay full of other small ships and other sorts of what looked like storage units and metal cargo container.  It was like a big space dock and shipping yard.  Much of the cargo storage appeared to be at the center in front of them in zero gravity while the small ships were kept along the walls of the cylinder in full gravity.

The craft they were in stopped its forward motion and began to settle downward onto the "floor" of the bay and he could feel the force of gravity building.  It was hard to think of "floor" at all since looking straight up over his head he could see other ships above him with other aliens walking around them up there on the "ceiling" upside down.  He realized that due to the artificial gravity and the shape of the cylinder he could simply start walking up one side past all of the ships he could see parked up above him and would eventually find himself arriving right back where he started.  It would take a while though as it would be several miles of walking to cover the entire circumference.

The ship settled down on the floor and came to a stop.  The display winked out and Jake found himself suddenly looking at the inside of the sphere they were riding in again.  The slot at the front of the sphere opened and lowered to become a walkway.

As the seat changed shape again to release him, Srythryn stood and waited for Jake to do the same.

Jake felt a little strange at first since the gravity here was slightly more than he was used to on Earth.  It took only a moment to adjust though and he moved around toward the front of the ship.  Srythryn then went down the walkway and turned to wait for Jake.

As Jake emerged from the shuttle Srythryn smiled warmly and said, "Welcome aboard the Slirkstrith.  This is my family's ship and I am its captain.  I will take you straight to the Matchmakers now so that you may begin the process.  You are not immortal until they have your mind stored in their computers and they will be anxious to begin the process immediately."

While he spoke, another of his species drove up in what looked to be a sort of trolley with outward facing seats like you might see at a large airport.  The vehicle stopped and waited for them to get aboard and then began driving toward the back wall of the bay.

"Just how big is this ship?  Will I be able to find you again?"

"The ship is one of the largest in existence though there are hundreds more similar in size scattered throughout the universe.  This portion is the aft cargo bay and dockyard.  The ship is a very long cylinder and the rest of it would be several hundred times what you see here in length.  There are several generations of my people living out their lives aboard it.  You might think of it as a movable city.  There were just over thirty eight thousand individuals at last count but there are always a few with child so the number may already be larger than that.  You do not need to be concerned about finding me though.  I will come to you when the Resurrectors have completed the process and the Matchmakers have given you your orientation.  I will then show you around my ship and we will become better acquainted.  I am hoping I may count you among my friends and we may spend a great deal of time together in future."

"That would be wonderful Srythryn.  Thank you," Jake said.

Jake was beginning to feel a bit nervous at what was going to happen to him.  They approached the back of the bay and the vehicle came to a stop.  Just then a doorway opened and a slender and diminutive alien came through it.  To Jake's surprise he saw that it looked almost identical to the aliens he'd seen in movies and on TV that are usually called "grays".  He had a very slender body with stick like arms and legs and grayish skin.  He had a large head that was wider at the top and very narrow at the bottom and that was dominated by two very large and very black slanted eyes.  His nose was nearly flat and barely more than a bump with two small nostrils and his mouth was very small.  His fingers were long and delicate looking.  The alien looked somehow fragile and breakable.

Jake found himself wondering if all of those fictional aliens he'd seen back on Earth were in fact inspired by some past meeting with these very real ones.  It seemed possible.  He suddenly found himself wondering just how many other fictional races or creatures might actually be real and were inspired by these Matchmakers flashing images of them into peoples' subconscious dreams while testing for matches like Srythryn had described.

Would the alien who requested his match look familiar too?  Srythryn had said most life followed roughly the same shapes and were compatible so his potential partner couldn't be a big blue blob of jelly or a particularly grasping vine or a cloud of excited gas or anything bizarre like that.  It had to be a warm blooded mammal with a compatible shape and chemistry.

The grey moved forward and smiled at Jake and spoke into a translator he was carrying in a soft childlike voice that sounded somewhat like simple murmuring.

Again, a perfectly natural sounding human male voice emerged from the device and said, "Welcome.  I am Xelzix and I will be your guide through your processing.  I listened through your nanos to your conversation with Srythryn as he brought you to us.  He's done a wonderful job of introducing you to our universe so we may begin the process immediately and without hesitation.  Normally we would ask you once more to choose if you would like to proceed now that you know the purpose we intend for you.  However, given the unusual circumstance of your removal from your now destroyed world, we have decided to give you at least one return even should you choose not to proceed with the match.  As such we would like to begin your processing without hesitation as you are mortal and vulnerable until we have your mind map safely stored.  I will take you the rest of the way from here.  Thank you, Srythryn.  Jake, please follow me."

The alien turned and walked back through the doorway.

Jake turned to Srythryn and held out his hand.  Srythryn looked at Jake's hand as though wondering what he wanted.

Jake realized it might not be a universal gesture so he chuckled and simply said, "Thank you Srythryn.  I will look forward to seeing you again."

The big croc smiled and said, "Not nearly as much as I will I assure you."

Srythryn then turned to walk back into the bay.

Jake turned and followed Xelzix through the doorway into a long hallway.  They hadn't gone far before they turned into a side room with a large comfortable looking seat similar to a dentist's chair in the center of it and a great deal of sophisticated looking machinery surrounding it.

"This first part will happen without ceremony as we need to complete it quickly in order to secure the map against any unforeseen incident that might bring about your death.  We will be mapping your brain as Srythryn described to you and when the process is complete you will be installed into your new body..  Do not be concerned.  You will be unconscious during the process.  Please be seated."

Jake realized as he sat down and leaned back into the chair that he was about to die.  His brain would be destroyed by this process.  He began to feel extremely nervous and agitated as his natural survival instinct began to kick in and a small voice in his head was screaming at him to run.  This was all insane!  It couldn't possibly be real!  It was some sort of trick!  Get out!

He forced himself to relax as much as possible though and tried to trust the alien that was moving around him activating systems.

Similar to what had happened in the shuttle earlier, the seat Jake was in quickly sucked him in and molded itself to him but this time several bands came across at many points over his body including his arms, legs, chin and forehead and molded themselves tightly to him and hardened.

Like a scene from any movie involving alien abduction and unwelcome probing, he was being held absolutely pinned and helpless in a dimly lit room while a slender grey alien with a large head and black eyes moved about him, working the equipment that would soon be invading his body.

As ludicrous as the thought seemed he couldn't stop wondering if this might really be just an elaborate trick to get him into this chair to be slowly picked apart and studied.  What if this was simply the way they abducted people instead of the magical energy beam that sucks you into the sky?  What if the whole scene of the horrendous destruction of Earth was simply a fake projection being displayed on the inner walls of the sphere of the shuttle instead of what was really happening outside it?  What if they'd even injected fake stories about the imminent annihilation of life on Earth as part of a ruse to make him believe they were actually rescuing him rather than abducting him?  Was that really any more ridiculous than being grabbed by aliens to be dressed up and handed over to a client of some sort of intergalactic dating service?

While his mind wrestled with the absurdity of all of this Xelzix's face came back into Jake's field of view and the alien looked down at him and smiled and murmured while the translation device said, "This is the last time you will look out from your original mortal self.  You will slip quickly into unconsciousness now and the next time you open your eyes and see me you will have already completed the process and will be in your new body.  The details of all that will come next will be given to you then and you will be given the choice to proceed with the match or not.  You will see me again soon."

Jake wanted to ask the age old question "Will it hurt much?", but before he could try to speak his vision became dark at the edges and shrank down to a tunnel that darkened further and began to drag Jake down into unconsciousness.

After sixty eight long and empty years of pointless existence, after finally fully realizing and understanding just how he should have lived, and just after being told how full of variety and how wondrously crowded the universe really was and how incredible his own life could be in it, Jake Smith was about to die.

There was a brilliant explosion of light and then everything went black.


If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more from the author please look in the Gay/Adult-Youth section at Nifty.org for...

The Patriarch -  The ongoing adventures of a man, possibly the only one remaining in the world, and the young boy he takes under his wing as they travel through a world where the majority of the human race has been wiped out by a plague.  The disease's lethality was linked to sexual maturity killing the adults and leaving the earth's children to fend for themselves.

The Sock Thief - The heart warming story of how a humorous encounter brought about by a fetish not only leads to unexpectedly wild sex between a man and a teenage boy, but also changes their lives in a way neither could have foreseen.

Bang the Drummer - The story of a submissive man who uses his video game skills to win the right to be properly used by some neighbors.

Predators - The story of a man who enjoys a hobby of luring teenage boys in for a bit of innocent exploration in the woods.

or check the Gay/SF-Fantasy section for...

Love and Lycanthropy -  What if after a long life of loneliness you finally found the one person who you could truly love?  What if you found out that there might be moments when he wanted to tear you to bits and eat those bits?  Find out how a man who brings home a homeless teenager finds love he never knew he was capable of and learns to cope with the one minor quirk the boy is afflicted with.

The Hawthorne Accord -  The adventures of a teenage boy who is rescued from a cruel fate in his home village by a friend, but ultimately finds himself on his own and hunted in a world that is being ravaged by brutal race wars between the humans and three races of monsters: kobolds, orcs and ogres.  He discovers in his travels that the world is not quite entirely the way he'd thought it was and that even a single teenage boy can make a difference in the fate of entire races, including his own.

James and the Giant Perv -  A humorous modern fairy tale involving three teenage boys, some "beans", a very tall pervert who dwells in his own kingdom in the clouds, and the various interesting ways they find to enjoy each other sexually.

Feedback is the fuel for the author's engine.  All comments are much appreciated even if they say nothing more than "Liked it, thanks." or "Hated it, don't go there again."

Thank you,


The Nifty Archive is an incredible source of wonderful stories that provides so many of us with countless hours of entertainment. If you enjoyed this story I would greatly appreciate if you would do your part and donate something to the site to help cover the cost of running the archive.