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.

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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.

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

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Favors of the First Ones - Chapter 16

As Jake knelt with his eyes closed, thinking of the ones he loved and waiting for his end while the two armed bulls ran towards him, he suddenly felt a powerful inward tugging like he was being sucked into himself.  Then he felt as though he was going to explode, but then immediately felt himself sort of being compressed while air blasted in at him in a deafening rush all around him that felt as though the source was right at the surface of his skin, and then there was silence.

He was still on his knees, but the smell and temperature of the air had changed, and the sounds of birds and insects and animals and wind that had surrounded him had all vanished in the wake of whatever had just happened.

He opened his eyes and saw that he was inside a tall and wide, vertically cylindrical chamber with a thick, clear wall that had several tubes and hoses attached to the side of it and large vents in the floor.

To his utter shock and immense relief, standing outside the curved glass wall he could see Mak and Rhokki smiling in at him.  He also saw the zeth, who was still holding his disrupter rifle, and two other black lions who stood behind a wide bank of controls on a pedestal.

Mak was grinning at him through the glass and Jake smiled back, wondering what the hell had just happened.

There was a slight hiss and a door opened at the front of the cylinder and rose upward and he stood and walked out into the large room to join the others.

"What the hell is going on?" Jake asked Rhokki, "Where are we?"

The big cat grinned and said, "Welcome aboard the Shadow's Claw, Jake.  We are on my people's ship.  They tracked my location and yanked us up.  It turns out my friend the zeth here decided the risk to me was too great to ignore.  He discovered our escape the night before last when his link to me faded to such a weak state that he couldn't reach me and he immediately contacted his counterparts on this ship and asked them to instruct the captain to accelerate at maximum rate to reach us as quickly as possible just in case we got into trouble.  I am quite certain I'll be hearing from the captain concerning the stress on the antimatter generators and the engines and reaction ports, as well as the exorbitant cost of fuel to push the ship so hard, but she is quite reasonable and we get along well most of the time.  She will understand when I explain it all to her."

Jake looked over at the zeth and smiled and said, "So we have the zeth to thank for our rescue then."

"Yes, his message to this ship is what allowed it reach us in time.  Even beyond that, when Troska returned to the camp in a rage and quickly took control and rushed off to track us down, the zeth realized they might reach us and kill us before we could be yanked from the planet, so he armed himself with one of his people's weapons and came after us on foot to try to help.  He could not communicate with me from such a range through our link, but he could feel it and it allowed him to use me as a sort of living tracking beacon so he was able to reach us quickly."

"What did you mean when you said they 'yanked us up'?  Do your people have some sort of matter transporter on this ship?  Is that how I ended up in the chamber?  I wasn't aware that any such technology existed."

"Yes, I suppose you could call it matter transportation, though I'm not sure why you would give it such a ridiculous name.  We call it 'yanking'.  The technology allows us to move people or objects across a wide distance almost instantaneously," Rhokki replied.

"But that's impossible!  There's something like that in some fiction from back on my world, but the idea is beyond ridiculous.  They scan every molecule of your body and magically change it into energy and then 'beam' it up and magically change it back to its original state while reassembling everything exactly right and somehow making your heart start beating and your brain start functioning again.  You can't convert matter into energy without destroying it, and you can't turn raw energy into matter without it going through all the middle phases.  You can't make helium without fusing hydrogen, or lithium without fusing helium, and so on.  It's impossible to jump from raw energy straight to lithium, never mind carbon, calcium, iron, or even heavier elements.  It takes the power of a supernova to go beyond iron, yet our bodies contain elements that are far heavier!  A ship could never hope to have enough energy to produce even one atom of anything as heavy as calcium, never mind all the other elements you'd need," Jake explained.

"Yes, that would be ridiculous indeed," Rhokki said, "It couldn't possibly work in any way, shape or form.  Higher elements can only be formed in the great fusion engines that are the stars."

"So how do you do it?" Jake asked.

"With an already well established technology that we bent to our needs.  Our best scientists joined our bogus religion and purged their nanos long ago if you recall.  They have been working to advance several technologies and this is just one of them.  They became quite adept at manipulating wormholes.  I don't know how much you know about them, but they are used to jump across gaps when space has been bent by a warp generator.  While the wormhole link ignores distance and can stretch to infinity, the range across which they can be initially generated by our technology is extremely limited.  It turns out the range is based on the size of the wormhole being generated.  Normally we generate wormholes that are several miles to hundreds of miles across in order to bring our massive ark ships through.  They are so large that we can only create the two ends no more than a few miles apart.  The amount of energy consumed in creating the hole is based on its size as well.  It takes a massive amount of energy to generate holes that are many miles in diameter.

"Our scientists found that if the size of the wormhole was dramatically reduced to a nearly microscopic size, the range between the two ends could be increased, ultimately from several miles to several hundred miles, and it would take very little energy to produce such a small hole.  The other thing they discovered was that the inherent danger of opening a wormhole between two unequally charged areas shrinks away to nothing as the hole itself shrinks because the potential difference shrinks down to microscopic levels, so it is quite safe in the case of a very tiny wormhole.  Despite the fact that on the surface of it, a microscopic wormhole would seem completely useless, they saw this as a possible way to move things through space quickly, from the surface of a planet to a ship in orbit for example.

"They devised a system of scanning an object or a living being, sort of like you suggested your fictional transporter does, but they are not able to scan every single molecule and identify its makeup, nor do they need to.  They merely scan the outline and volume of the person or object of interest even including anything they are wearing or carrying.  The outline is all that is needed.  Once they have a three dimensional volume with the precise shape, they can fill it with millions of overlapping, very small wormholes with the other end of the wormholes generated here in the chamber in exactly the same shape.  The holes overlap completely such that the end effect is to generate what is for all intents and purposes a single wormhole with the exact shape of the person or object being moved.  It is the same as how a three dimensional projection of a hologram appears to be one solid object, but is in fact made up of millions of overlapping pixels.  We generate a three dimensional pattern matching the shape and fill it with wormhole 'pixels'.  It can all be done by our computers inside of a fraction of a microsecond.

"Normally, if a wormhole were generated that filled your space and connected you to another, your body would have no preference as to which side it should occupy so it would simply stay right were it is.  It would still not come across the link without a 'push' of sorts.  The chamber is used to provide that push, or in this case a pull.  The air is pumped out of the chamber to form a vacuum and then the person or object to be yanked is scanned, and the wormholes are plotted to fill their shape and outline, and they are all opened at once.  As I said, the scanning and generation process occur within a microsecond so even slight movement of the person being yanked won't have any effect.  The moment the link between the space in the chamber is formed with the volume of space the person occupies down on the planet, they are exposed through the link to the vacuum of the chamber and they are sucked into it.  A great deal of atmosphere is allowed to rush in behind you to repressurize the chamber so that you are never fully exposed to vacuum and any additional pressure is added at the same time from tanks below the chamber to completely repressurize it to perfectly match the pressure you came from, and the wormholes are collapsed.

"The process is still somewhat experimental but has so far proved to work well.  No one else knows we have this technology yet.  We call the process 'yanking' because that is what it feels like.  The wormholes are opened and you are yanked through by the vacuum on this side.  We can also use it to send things out into the vacuum of space by simply keeping the chamber pressurized normally.  When the wormhole opens, the object is yanked out into space along with the air from the chamber that rushes into the wormhole behind it before it is collapsed.  Objects can also be sent down to the surface of the planet despite the fact that the target location is under atmospheric pressure.  In that case we simply pressurize the chamber to a much higher level and once again the object is yanked down to the planet's surface by the lower pressure there.  We can send a person through in that way as well, but they must be wearing a pressure suit in order to withstand the high pressure of the chamber and the sudden shift to normal pressure when they are yanked down to the surface, or the sudden vacuum if they are sent out into space."

"It's an amazingly clever design," Jake said, "but I'm glad you didn't tell me in advance what was going to be happening to me.  I'd be in fear of some of the holes not overlapping properly or some not forming properly and bits of me being left behind."

"It is a fear we all have.  Our scientists assure us it is highly unlikely though."

Jake shrugged and said, "The phrase 'highly unlikely' doesn't exactly instill a great deal of confidence when your life is on the line.  In any case, they can assure all they want.  I don't think I'll ever be comfortable with the idea."

"Nor will I, but it has been done many times already with no failures whatsoever.  It has proved to be a safe way to travel so far," Rhokki said.

"The term 'yanking' seems a bit odd.  Couldn't they come up with a more technical name for it?" Jake asked.

Rhokki chuckled and said, "There is a technical name for it that is so long I can never remember what it is.  The technology is still quite new and a proper name has not yet been created for it so we started calling it 'yanking'.  Some actually argued that it should be called 'squirting', since you could easily say you are squeezed into the wormhole by the weight of the pressure of the atmosphere and squirted out here.  We've settled on calling it 'yanking' when we bring someone up, and 'squirting' when we send them down.  I'm sure some day our scientists will come up with an official name that we can remember but it may be too late by then and the current terms will stick."

Jake laughed and then he looked around at the equipment in the room.  There were hoses and bundles of electrical cables running all over the floor connecting to the control panel, the large chamber, and some sort of massive device above the chamber that must generate the wormholes.  It reminded him of a scene from the lab in the remake of 'The Fly'.  It really did look like an experiment of some mad scientist.  He hoped he wouldn't have to use the process again any time soon and that it wouldn't have to be used on anyone he cared about.

He looked back and smiled at his lovers again and felt relief that they were both still with him.

He walked up to Rhokki and hugged him and then moved to Mak and wrapped his arms around him and held him tightly.

"I thought I'd lost both of you," Jake said, "You disappeared with a bang and I thought you'd been vaporized by the zeth, until he disappeared too."

He pulled back and Rhokki said, "Yes, the bang is caused when the high pressure of the atmosphere rushes in and slaps together in the void left behind by you.  The air surrounding you is rushing in at high speed and flowing through the link into the chamber to pressurize it, and the moment the wormholes collapse and breaks the link, a vacuum in the shape of you is left behind down on the planet.  The intense pressure of the atmosphere smacks together to fill the void and generates a 'bang' that is essentially a miniature version of what happens when a bolt of lightning superheats the air, causing it to expand rapidly outward, then the pressure of the atmosphere causes it to crash back in causing a clap of thunder.  It was likely as much of a surprise to the zeth as it was to you when we started popping, until he realized what was happening."

The zeth suddenly approached Jake.

His head was shaped vaguely like that of a mantis, though narrower and longer, and his eyes were black and lidless and had the odd property of almost looking shiny, yet not reflecting anything back off their surface.

He was slightly taller than Jake and much more slender to the point of being almost stick-like.  His legs and arms looked disproportionately long for his torso.  Up close he was so utterly alien that he looked insect-like.  Jake found him more than a little creepy looking.

The zeth put one hand on Jake's shoulder and stood quietly.

Suddenly Jake felt a presence in his mind.  It was like something was shouldering his own personality aside slightly to make room for itself.  He felt a strange sort of communion with the presence like he could feel what it was feeling while it could sense his feelings as well.

He knew immediately it was the zeth trying to communicate with him.  He tried hard to focus on the presence and the act of it seemed almost to squeeze it right out of his head.

He tried relaxing instead and letting his mind look elsewhere, almost like trying to see someone out of the corner of your eye while looking straight ahead so they can't tell you're looking at them.  Now the presence grew stronger and he could actually feel its pleasure at his quick recognition of what he needed to do.

He sensed a sort of happiness and at the same time a sort of slight regret.  Out of context the feelings didn't make much sense.  He wasn't sure what the creature was trying to tell him but the one thing he could see above all was that the zeth was indeed a kind and gentle soul.  Jake could sense no ill intent or any sort of secrecy behind the presence in his mind.  It was bared to him and he was almost soothed by its gentle aura.

Suddenly, as he stopped trying to focus too hard on it and allowed the presence to wash through him, an image formed in his mind of a hand shake from back on Earth while he felt the creature's pleasure.  Was the zeth trying to tell him it was pleased to meet him?  How did it summon the image from his memory of how greetings are done among humans?  The gesture isn't even used by any of the other races he'd encountered yet.  The zeth must somehow be able to push his mind to go and find the best fit for what is being presented to it without knowing what that image might actually be.  It was fascinating.  He wondered how difficult it must be to communicate more sophisticated ideas.  It must take years of practice.

He thought about his own pleasure at meeting the zeth and his gratitude that he had come to their aid.  He wasn't sure how to communicate that back but he simply focused hard on his emotions and then shifted his thoughts back to the zeth again.

The presence in his mind seemed almost to smile at him and then it pulled away and vanished.

The zeth turned to face Rhokki and stood silently.

Rhokki's eyes went wide and he said, "Amazing!  He tells me you understood when he communicated that he is pleased to make your acquaintance.  He says he recognizes your gratitude towards him and that he was more than happy to do what he could to help us.  There must be something about your race that makes you a good candidate for communication with the zeths, Jake.  It is unusual for anyone to get that far on their first attempt unless they are rhuxus."

"I'm not sure if I could ever get much further.  It must be hard to have a real conversation with him.  I can't even imagine how he could ever tell me anything more complex than even that simple greeting.  What else does he say?" Jake asked.

Rhokki waited while the zeth communicated with him again, then he said, "He says he has learned much about you already from what he has sensed through my emotions for you and he feels you are to be trusted as a friend.  He says that he recognized the love I feel for you and realized he had to act to help us both.  He apologizes if he caused you fear when he appeared out of nowhere armed with a weapon."

Jake realized that must have been the source of the slight regret he'd sensed in the zeth's presence in his mind earlier.

He smiled at the odd looking creature and said, "Tell him I owe him my life.  The giant predator would have had me in another second or two if he hadn't vaporized it."

The zeth raised his hand with the palm facing out and nodded his head as if to say it was nothing.

"There is no need for me to tell him, Jake.  He can understand you.  They have managed to modify the First Ones' translators and interfaced them to their own auditory systems.  Whatever anyone says is translated into the rhuxus language which they have learned, and that is what they hear."

Jake nodded and turned to the zeth and said, "Thank you for saving my life, and for risking your own life to come out to help Rhokki and me.  I'm in your debt."

The zeth bowed slightly.  He did not appear to have any sort of facial muscles with which to show expression.  Jake supposed facial expression would be completely unnecessary for a race that evolved to communicate through electric fields and emotional links to begin with.

"What happened down there, Jake?" Mak asked, "Is Troska still alive?"

"No.  That giant bird-thing cut him right in half before it got vaporized.  He's dead.  Two more of his men came out from the trees with plasma rifles and I was probably seconds away from being filled with holes if it weren't for getting yanked up here."

"Yes, they will have to work on how long it takes to bring multiple people up.  As I said before, the technology is still fairly new.  They will be installing multiple chambers and multiple scanners in future but for the time being they can only move one at a time and then they must rebuild the vacuum in the chamber between each.  It doesn't take very long but it adds a delay.  Also, the scanning technology needs to be improved.  It is somewhat slow to acquire the next target if its proximity is far from the previous one.  They were able to bring Mak up as soon as the air was evacuated from the chamber because he'd been right next to me and they quickly acquired a lock on him.  The zeth was their next priority so they scanned for him and it took quite a while longer to get a fix.  I was quite anxious as we waited for them to finally get a fix on you and pull you through," Rhokki said.

"Well, we all made it.  We're safe at last," Jake said.

Rhokki smiled and said, "Yes, indeed.  I told you we would have no problem getting off the planet once this ship arrived.  I have been sworn to secrecy about the technology and that is why I couldn't tell you why it would be easy to get us up.  Even the men from Troska's group don't know about it.  I imagine the two you say were gunning for you are quite puzzled right about now by your sudden disappearance right before their eyes.  With the destruction of their only other transportation, all of the rest of them are trapped on the sacred planet for now.  I'll have to have a word with the captain about their disposition.  I am quite certain she will be more than a bit enraged at their treatment of you.

"Which reminds me, the captain contacted me while we waited for you and the zeth to be yanked up.  I must leave you for a while as she would like to debrief me, and no doubt chew me out for forcing her to stress her precious ship so hard to reach us in time.  She will need to decide on the next course of action now that Troska's group is out of the picture and she'll want my input as well as the zeth's.  Someone will be along shortly to escort you and Mak to quarters that are being set up for us.  I have asked that the three of us be allowed to share one space.  We are all exhausted after our long flight and it will be good to get a thorough night's sleep.  I will come and join you both there as soon as I can."

Jake smiled and said, "Perfect.  I'm nearly dead on my feet.  We'll see you soon."

Rhokki nodded and turned and went through a door that slid open automatically and he disappeared down the hall and around a corner followed closely by the zeth.

Jake turned to the two big cats who were standing behind the control board and said, "Thanks for bringing us up in one piece."

They smiled and nodded.

The door swished open and a lioness came through and said, "Hello, I am Elliki.  Follow me please; I will escort you to your quarters."

Jake and Mak followed her out and down the hall.  They went into an elevator that rose up for a while and then sideways for a bit and then finally stopped.  They emerged into a hallway that looked much the same as the previous one and she led them past several doors that all looked alike, other than a different symbol above each, and then she stopped and indicated one.

"These will be your quarters while you stay aboard.  If you require anything or need an escort please tap the communicator panel next to the door and ask for me.  If I am unavailable someone else will be sent in my place."

Jake smiled and said, "Thank you, Elliki."

She smiled and nodded and went back down the hall toward the elevator while Jake and Mak entered the room.

Their quarters were quite small and obviously designed for nothing more than resting.

There was a large and thick memory foam mat in the center of it against one wall for sleeping.  The three of them would have plenty of room on it.

There were large, comfortable looking chairs in two of the corners that must have been added just for Mak and Jake.  The lions seemed more comfortable sitting on the floor so they wouldn't need them.

There was a door to the side of the back wall next to the sleeping mat and Jake approached it to look in.  The door opened and he saw that it was a bathroom with a large shower.

He hadn't had a proper shower in so long that he decided he would make that his current priority.

He turned to Mak and said, "I'm gonna take a nice hot shower.  Rhokki's been washing me for so long now I hope I can still remember how to do it for myself."

Mak chuckled and said, "Mind if I join you?"

Jake smiled back and said, "I'd love it."

He untied his shorts and slid them down his legs and stepped out of them while Mak sat in one of the chairs to untie his big hiking boots and pulled them off.

Jake went into the bathroom and reached into the shower and turned on the spray to let it heat up while Mak continued to undress.

When the temperature of the water was comfortably hot Jake stepped in and went under the spray to wet himself all over.  He lathered up with soap that came for a dispenser built into the wall.  He took a luffa-like sponge from a small shelf on the wall of the shower and scrubbed himself from head to toe.  He was already rinsing off when Mak stepped in to join him.

Jake smiled and moved out of the spray to let the massive young bull move under it.

Jake took more of the liquid soap into his hand and began to lather up the bull.  Mak turned to face him and smiled and waited to be cleaned by his man.

Jake leaned in and kissed him and then went to his knees to begin washing the bull from the bottom up.

He lathered Mak's big feet and the bull lifted one, then the other to allow Jake to clean them thoroughly with the sponge.  Jake then moved up the massive legs and lathered them thoroughly then rubbed at them with the luffa.

He stood and began working at the young bull's torso and lathered him all over and under his arms and then scrubbed him clean.

At last he went back to his knees to work on Mak's crotch.  The bull turned around so Jake could lather his butt crack and then clean it thoroughly while Mak playfully slapped at Jake's face with his tail, then the young bull turned with a smile on his face as his growing cock smacked against Jake's cheek.

Jake smiled and slowly lathered up the young bull's massive balls and he gently caressed them, rubbing the soap all over them as Mak's huge, thick penis continued to extend out from it's sheath-like base to stand proud and straight and oozing right in front of Jake's face.

He got a bit more soap and then, with both hands, he began to lather up the rock hard tool.  He ran his hands up and down the shaft, twisting and squeezing as Mak began to moan at the sensation.

Precum began to ooze steadily from the piss slit in the middle of the blunt end of the massive penis and Jake licked up the treat as he began to jack at the bull's long rod more vigorously.

Mak moaned as Jake squeezed both hands tightly and pulled and pushed harder and faster, his tightly gripping hands sliding up and down along the full length of the bull's throbbing cock.

The young bull's knees bent a little and his hips began to buck slightly as his huge ball sack began to tighten up, lifting and squeezing his balls to send his sperm rushing up the shaft of his long cock as he gasped, tensed and shot a massive jet of semen right at Jake's face.  It never ceased to amaze the man how much power was behind the bull's ejaculate.  He could actually hear an audible squirting sound when the thick spurt of semen shot out.

Jake moaned and opened his mouth slightly and put his lips against the fat, blunt end of the bull's penis and continued to jack his thick cock as Mak pumped jet after jet of his thick cum into the man's mouth.

Jake reached down with his right hand and began to jack his own straining cock furiously while he continued to pull at Mak's cock with his left hand and sucked out every drop he could from the thick, hot tool at his lips.

Mak moaned and lightly bucked out the last of his orgasm while Jake's rapidly built up and he tensed and shot his cum out onto the floor of the shower.

Jake's mouth was full of warm, thick bull semen and he relished it while he slowly swallowed it all down and continued to work his own cock, shooting spurt after spurt of his seed until finally his orgasm began to fade and he released his grip on his tool.

Mak sighed as his thick cock began to quickly soften and drip out the last of his cum while it quickly retracted back into its thick, leathery base.

Jake gently cleaned it once more and then washed and rinsed his own face and then his crotch.

He stood as the young bull wrapped his arms around his man and pulled him in to a tight hug.

The two stood together under the soothing hot spray for quite a while and then Mak whispered, "Let's go lie down for a bit.  I could use some sleep."

Jake nodded and they rinsed off one last time and then got out and dried themselves.

They went onto the comfortable, memory foam sleeping mat and Jake got into position on his side and Mak lay behind him and spooned against him, wrapping his massive muscular arm over Jake and pulling him in tight.

Still under the effects of their post-orgasmic glow, they drifted off to sleep quickly.


Jake woke much later to find himself in the middle of a sandwich.  Mak was still behind him and snoring lightly and Rhokki was now in front of Jake with his back pressed up against his man.  Jake had draped his arm over the warm, soft fur of the big cat automatically while he slept and that was how he found himself now.

The room was nearly completely dark.  Rhokki must have dimmed the lights when he'd come in and joined them on the mat.  Jake must have been sleeping like a rock because he had no memory of waking at all when the big cat had come in.

He felt fully rested and refreshed, but he was in no rush to get up.

He began to stroke the soft fur of the big lion in front of him and he felt Rhokki stir under his hand.

The cat softly said, "Computer...lights, time," and the lights began to brighten and Jake heard a sort of growling sound come from the walls.  The computer must be telling Rhokki something in the rhuxus' language that was not being translated for Jake.

Jake was struck by how odd it seemed that they used the exact same method of instructing their ship's computer as they did on Star Trek.  He couldn't really think of any other way it could be done so he supposed it shouldn't seem so strange.  Then he thought about how he couldn't understand what the computer had said and it suddenly occurred to him that the computer on the Slirkstrith worked exactly the same way when it had spoken to Srythryn in the zero gravity sex room.  Somehow the translators must have to be given a signal that would allow the computer's speech to be translated for him and since he was not a crew member and the speech was not being directed at him, he wasn't getting a translation.

"Good morning, my sweet man," Rhokki whispered as he rolled away from Jake onto his belly and then turned his head in to kiss him on the forehead.

Jake smiled and said, "Is it morning?  How long did we sleep?"

"It is late in the morning by the ship's time.  I joined you here over ten hours ago.  We have been sleeping that long."

Jake chuckled and said, "Wow.  I guess we needed it."

He felt Mak begin to stir behind him and the young bull said, "'Morning, boys.  I'm starving.  Who do we call for room service in this hotel?"

Rhokki said, "This establishment is not quite of that caliber.  We'll have to get off our lazy rumps and go get our breakfasts in the mess hall like everyone else."

The cat stood and with his forepaws out in front of him he had a long and powerful stretch, and then he moved toward the door.

"You two are free to roam the ship naked if you wish.  The rhuxus do not wear clothes of any sort.  I took the liberty of placing your clothes in the cleaning hamper in the bathroom if you prefer to get dressed.  The ship is fully equipped with the First Ones' favors, though of course their command link has been broken.  Your clothes will be clean and fresh," Rhokki said.

"I can't stand the feeling of my dick swinging around all the time.  I'll put on my shorts," Jake said.

"I'll put my shorts on too," Mak said, "I don't want to intimidate anyone with my massive balls."

Rhokki laughed and Jake chuckled.

Jake went into the bathroom, relieved himself, washed his hands, then took his shorts out of the hamper and put them on.

Mak went in to the bathroom after him and emerged shortly afterward dressed and the three of them stepped out into the hallway.

"I have asked the captain for permission to give the two of you command links to the computer.  She has agreed and it will be done shortly.  You will be able to command the computer to direct you back to this room or to any area that is not off-limits to non-crew members.  I would be lost on this ship myself without it.  All of the hallways look the same to me," Rhokki said.

Jake smiled and said, "How do we follow the directions it gives?  I can't read the symbols on the doors or anything.  I'm not even sure which doors are other rooms and which are elevators."

"All surfaces in the ship are coated with the standard transparent display technology that is used everywhere.  Computer...mess hall," Rhokki said.

There was a 'bong' sound and a green line suddenly appeared on the floor of the hallway that started at their feet and ran down a ways and suddenly jogged to the right and ended at a door that was pulsing green.

"Wow, that's pretty cool," Jake said.

"It is much the same on any ship in the collective.  The computer will use whatever means makes the most sense to show information to you.  Once you've been given command links it will understand who you are when you speak and will know what areas you should have access to and what information you are allowed to receive," Rhokki explained.

"Cool," Jake said.

They got in to the elevator and it whisked them along and came to a stop and opened.  Once again there was a green line on the floor that led down a long hallway to a large set of doors at the end of it.  They walked to the doors, which slid open as they approached, and they walked into a very large room full of tables that looked just like a normal cafeteria with a long counter at the back where the food was being served.

"This looks so much different than the Slirkstrith," Jake said as he looked around at the low-ceilinged room crowded with various sized cats of various shades of black and grey who were sitting, talking and eating, or lined up to get food.

"The Slirkstrith?  You've been on it?" Rhokki asked excitedly.

"Yes, it was my resurrection site.  You know it?"

"Everyone knows it!  It is only the single most powerful vessel in the known universe and one of the largest ark ships!" Rhokki exclaimed, "It could easily fit a half dozen of my people's ark ships inside of it end to end and there would still be room left over.  You never said you'd been on it.  What is it like?"

"It's massive.  You would absolutely love the living space there.  It's sixty miles long.  Half of it is steamy jungle and the other half is ocean and there's a giant water park at the back.  The mess area is wide open and you can see all the way around even to the upside down tables and people a mile over your head.  A lot of the spaces are wide open and you can see right across the cylinder."

"Astounding!  I would love to see it myself someday.  I suppose that will not be possible, since you would never be able to return to it yourself," Rhokki said.

They walked toward the back of the room to get in line at the counter.

"Why wouldn't he be able to go back there?" Mak asked.

Rhokki quickly explained the duplication issue and the fact that there was going to be another Jake popping out on board that ship in two and a half months or so.

"Holy crap!  I never even thought of that!" Mak exclaimed, "There's gonna be another you!"

Jake smiled and nodded, "Yeah.  It's a weird feeling and I still can't really wrap my head around it.  I suppose it's not really a big deal.  We'll never run into each other."

Mak suddenly smiled and said, "I can't help but wonder what it would be like for me to get to have the two of you with me at once.  The possibilities in bed would be intriguing."

Rhokki grinned and said, "Indeed.  I'm afraid it will remain nothing but a fantasy though.  We cannot allow our Jake to be seen by anyone with functioning favors, especially his other self or anyone close to him."

Jake's shoulders slumped as he was suddenly reminded of a depressing fact.

"I'll never get to see Srythryn again.  He's the captain of the Slirkstrith and we fell in love during my time there.  You guys would love him.  He's an incredible sweetheart."

Rhokki put a paw on Jake's shoulder and said, "I am sorry, my love.  It is unavoidable.  Perhaps someday if we are successful and the threat of the Lawkeepers is removed from the universe you can be reunited with him.  It will not matter at that time if you are seen by anyone."

Jake realized he was right.  It gave him all the more reason to do whatever he possibly could for the cause, to try to make it happen.  He smiled at the cat and nodded.

Their turn came at the serving counter and they got their breakfasts, and then walked back to a table to sit and eat.  All three were famished and went back for more as soon as they'd finished their first helping.

When they were finally satisfied they talked some more.

"So, what now?" Mak asked, "Now that Troska's gone, is there still a miquanowan movement?"

Rhokki said, "I suppose for the time being, you are it.  You are the entire movement, and its leader."

Mak said, "Oh no you don't.  I'm no leader.  I refuse.  Technically, I'm not a man for another thirty-nine days so I can't be a leader anyhow."

Jake chuckled and said, "You have to be.  There's no one else now."

"Fine, my first command as leader is to make you a member of our group, and appoint you its leader," Mak said, "All hail Jake, leader of the miquanowan resistance!"

Jake laughed and said, "If that's the way you want it.  Just remember, as leader I can make you do anything I want so I expect you to jump when I say jump."

"We'll see about that," Mak said, and he smiled.

"I think the most logical man for the job is really your dad.  After your fake ascendance is done and he goes to pick you up on the planet and takes you back home, you can bring him up to speed and get him on board.  I don't mind holding the leadership position until then, since it won't mean a whole hell of a lot in any case," Jake said, smiling.

Rhokki chuckled and said, "It's done then.  You are the leader of the miquanowan movement, Jake.  I like that because if I tell our captain that is your position, you will be included in our strategy meetings from this time forward.  I would like you to be there."

Jake nodded and said, "Sure.  I don't know what I could do but I wouldn't mind being included."

"So, what about my ascendance?" Mak asked, "Is the ship going to stay here so I can be taken back down to the surface at the end of it to keep up the charade?"

Rhokki nodded and said, "Yes, for the time being we have no other pressing engagement and the zeth has stated his interest in getting the miquanowan involvement back on track as quickly as possible so it is our current priority.  It was our hope to set up this planet as a base of operations, as well as a manufacturing facility for the satellite warheads that are used to cut off the favors for an entire planet.  The fact that this whole world is off limits makes it the ideal location, and that is the primary reason we want the miquanowans to play a major role in our resistance."

"It seems so weird to go through all of this crap.  Can't we just approach my father directly?  Do we really have to continue with the fake ascendance?" Mak asked.

"It is important for you to realize how critical secrecy is at this stage," Rhokki said, "We cannot risk doing anything out of the ordinary.  At least until your father is purged of his favors and we can communicate freely and openly with him.  Right now your father truly believes he is joining your religion to be closer to you and he knows that having his favors purged is part of that process.  Even his physiological parameters would indicate to the First Ones that everything is normal with him and no alarms will be raised.  Once he's done the purging we can bring him up here and speak to him directly.  Until such time, anyone could be watching and your entire race would be at risk if the First Ones caught wind of what we are doing.  Our need for secrecy is the driving force behind our construction of this ship, and the selection of this uninhabited and even off-limits planet as our base.  The miquanowan movement was going to help us develop our manufacturing facility here.  We will need a great many satellites in order to prepare to free more worlds."

"Where are the satellite warheads being manufactured now?" Jake asked.

"The first facility was on my home world.  We had three warheads aboard the Shadow's Claw that were built there and they were ramping up to build a great many more.  That facility no longer exists as it was liquefied along with the rest of the world.  We lost one of our warheads in our failed attempt to block the Lawkeepers from sending the command to the favors on the planet.  We have only two left.  Another facility is close to being brought online at another world.  It's the planet I mentioned to you before, Jake.  The one populated by the other race that is able to communicate with the zeths.  They are a bear-like people who are black and white in color.  Their movement is growing to the point of being almost too large.  It is becoming more of a challenge to hide their activities.

"During my debriefing I was informed of another of the duplication incidents happing there.  It occurred not long after your duplication.  A meeting was being set up between zeths and some of the bear people in a remote location on their planet to try to get them to bring their resistance movement under control so as not to alert the First Ones of the possible threat to them.  It is standard practice to put up one of their devices to cut off QECH comms in case anyone should stumble onto the meeting site so that nobody's favors could alert the First Ones to the presence of zeths on the planet.  It's a much shorter range version that essentially would only come into play in the unlikely event that someone actually came right to their meeting location.  A pair of bears who were out on a camping excursion in the remote location happened to stumble onto the site and their favors were cut off.  They were caught and taken off planet immediately to mitigate the risks.  They are currently being shipped out of the heliosphere of that system and they will be brought here and taken aboard this ship for their own protection, and to protect the secrecy of our operations."

"You said it was another duplication issue.  So they had resurrection contracts?" Jake asked.

"Yes, both of them did.  One is a female of the small, black and white race of bears and she is a member of the security force for their people and had a contract through her employment.  The other was her match.  He is a member of a race of large and impressive, pure white bears.  Their timing was most unfortunate as they came upon the site just as the zeths were setting up and activating the device.  There is a high chance that when they wake from their resurrection, they will have a recollection of seeing the zeths in the act of setting it up just before their memories go blank.  It will be assumed they were caught in the act of spying and vaporized from behind by other zeths with disrupters.  It will not tell the First Ones much of anything but it will certainly make them suspicious and they will no doubt closely investigate.  The site has been scrubbed and all activities of the resistance on their world have temporarily been shut down, at least those groups who could be convinced to disperse temporarily.  Still, it is not a good situation.  If the First Ones look too closely they may learn of the resistance movement that is building there and the entire world will be at risk of the same retribution by the Lawkeepers that was brought against my own world."

"The favors are really a pain in the ass," Jake said, "The First Ones have eyes and ears absolutely everywhere.  All this need for extreme secrecy is sure slowing things down for you."

"Indeed.  It is a painstaking process moving forward but we have come a long way and we are patient.  The loss of the rhuxus world was a major setback as well as a tragedy, and we cannot risk letting it happen again."

"Do you think my world will be at risk of something like that happening?" Mak asked.

"It is always a possibility, at least until the favors can be cut off.  That is why we must be extremely careful.  We will be keeping this ship here for that reason as well.  Should anything happen that would put your world at immediate risk we can launch a satellite warhead at it and cut off the favors.  Our ultimate goal down the road is to set up the satellites in secret around as many worlds as possible in advance.  They will act like networks of regular radio communications satellites to mask their real function.  When we are ready to move forward in earnest, all of the worlds that have been covered by the satellites will have their favors cut off at once.  We are many decades from that stage but we will continue to push onward towards it.  The large manufacturing facility we will be building on this world will aid us in getting there sooner."

"It seems like such a long, drawn out, and dangerous way to do things," Jake said, "When we talked about this a couple of weeks ago when we first met, didn't you mention a possible attack on the QECH hub that deals with communication with the favors?  It would make more sense to shut that down and cut off all of the worlds in the universe at once.  There would be no risk of any worlds falling if the First Ones catch on to what's happening, like there would be while doing it the slow way, one world at a time."

"Indeed.  They haven't given up on the possibility of a direct attack on the hub.  The zeths have an improved version of the spy technology that they used in the past that was purged by the First Ones.  If they can find a way to inject it into the First Ones' computer network they may be able to destroy the hub from the inside.  It would not be an easy task.  The only access to the network would be through a resurrection site.  The lackeys guard those connections closely and their resurrection sites are only found at extremely secure facilities to begin with.  Nobody who is free of favors would ever be allowed anywhere near one, which means we could never even attempt to work with anyone who is in a position to gain access.  Doing so would allow the First Ones to see what was happening through the favors in their heads.  It is a difficult problem."

"The way your 'yanking' system works with a scanner, I guess you couldn't just transport someone into one of those secured areas, right?" Mak asked.

"Correct.  The scanning technology we use to do the yanking cannot pass through active shields.  The First Ones always have active shields around their resurrection sites and another active shield around the room that contains their network links to secure it against physical attacks, scanning and targeting systems, and any sort of electromagnetic eavesdropping or interference.  Yanking is not an option," Rhokki replied, "We would have to find a way to work with someone who can gain access to the lackeys' section of a resurrection site by simply walking into it because they have permission to."

A thought suddenly occurred to Jake and he said, "The Slirkstrith is a resurrection site."

"Yes, it always has its shields raised as well.  All ark ships do.  We couldn't squirt anyone aboard it," Rhokki said.

"I know, but like you said, if someone could just walk in with the necessary access they could use the zeth technology to inject the program into their network.  I sort of know someone who is very close to the captain of that ship and he could possibly gain access," Jake said.

Rhokki thought for a moment and then his eyes went wide as he said, "You mean the alternate version of you?"

"Exactly.  Just after Mak crashed us on the planet..."

"Hey!" Mak exclaimed.

Jake chuckled and continued, "...we talked about how we could get resurrection contracts and be together by getting certified to fly the Slirkstrith's fighter ships and become members of Srythryn's crew.  I have a knack for working my way up to positions of control and authority.  That's how I became an executive for a major corporation though I had started right at the bottom.  I'm willing to bet, given my close relationship with the captain, that if I were a member of the crew I would move up through the ranks quite quickly.  I would likely rise right to the top levels eventually.  Wouldn't that give me access to the resurrection area of the ship?"

"Yes, in most cases high-ranking officers have access, or at the least have enough control over the systems to give themselves access.  It wouldn't help us as it wouldn't be you who gained that access, it would be a version of you that has functioning favors.  We couldn't approach that version of you without completely exposing ourselves to the First Ones," Rhokki said.

"Right, but how exactly is that access granted?" Jake asked.

"Through a collection of biometric controls such as voice, DNA, iris, retina, fingerprint, or any combination of those," Rhokki paused a moment as he realized what he was saying and said, "I see what you're getting at.  Your other self would have been printed up from precisely the same model as you were.  All of the biometrics would be perfect matches far beyond even what identical twins would have.  This sort of perfect duplication is unprecedented as the First Ones are the only ones with the technology and they would certainly never do it themselves, at least not knowingly.  The system would not be set up to handle the possibility.  If your other self were to gain that level of access, and if we were to somehow replace him with you, you would be able to get into the secure area.  The trick would be getting you on board the Slirkstrith.  It might somehow be made to work.  We could use the fact that we accidentally created a perfect genetic clone of you without the First Ones knowing about it as a way of gaining access to their systems.  It is a brilliant idea."

Jake said, "I don't know how we would arrange to replace my duplicate with me once he has the necessary access, but we should be able to figure something out.  At the very least, we should try to put the idea of becoming a member of Srythryn's crew in the other Jake's head.  His contract has already been canceled by Mogwo at Mak's insistence.  When that Jake wakes up in the resurrection chair he's going to be informed of that.  If we could somehow get the idea planted in his mind to join the Slirkstrith's crew, then I'm sure Srythryn will help him to achieve that goal as quickly as possible.  The captain won't want Jake walking around without a contract any longer than necessary.  Even if we don't know yet how we would go about getting me aboard to replace him, we should get the wheels in motion to get him certified and a member of the crew.  In time he'll be an officer, and we can try to figure out how to take advantage of that fact later on."

"Agreed," Rhokki said, "This is an important enough idea that I would like to approach the zeth and our captain with it immediately.  Excuse me a moment."

The big cat stepped away to a communicator on the wall and spoke into it for a quite a while.

He came back and said, "The captain is very impressed with you.  I mentioned that you are the new leader of the miquanowan movement and she said that was a wise choice.  She would like to meet with us right away.  The zeth will be in attendance as well.  Come with me."

They left the mess hall and Rhokki instructed the computer to guide them to a briefing room.  They followed the line on the floor to an elevator that whisked them further along the ship.

As they rode, Jake asked, "How big is this ship, Rhokki?"

"It is considered to be in the class of capital ships, but is right at the lowest end in size.  It is less than a mile long and has a crew of slightly over one thousand.  It must seem like a puddle jumper after having spent time on the Slirkstrith," Rhokki said.

Jake chuckled and said, "Anything would seem small after that.  Is it primarily a war ship?"

"Of sorts, though it is modeled after my race's style of stealth and efficiency over brute force.  Due to its small size coupled with an over sized propulsion system the Shadow's Claw can accelerate and a tremendous rate.  It has sensor masking technology of our design, as well as using enhanced and higher power versions of the display technology that is normally used on interior surfaces on its exterior.  They double as imaging sensors as well as displays and what is seen from one side of the ship is projected on the other so that there is no obvious visual sign that the ship is there.  We have an energy cannon at the front as most war ships do and since we cannot have the surface covered in turrets, which would compromise our stealth, we use a few small cannons hidden under the surface that are based on zeth designs.  They act as disrupters similar to the one the zeth used against your predator, but on a much larger scale.  They are used primarily for defensive suppression of fighter threats."

"That all sounds like a massive energy drain.  Does it have a big buffer?" Mak asked.

"The buffer is not large at all.  More than half of the ship's length is the engineering section with an antimatter generator of my race's design.  We use an antimatter buffer that is roughly the same volume as normal for a ship of this size, but we use a generator of our people's design that is vastly improved over the one initially designed by the First Ones that has never been advanced.  We can produce antimatter at a such a high rate that our buffer would empty only very slowly even if our shields, thrusters, and weapons systems were all fully engaged at once.  It allows us almost limitless capacity.  Anyone who takes this ship on would be quite surprised by the fact that we could keep our shields up at full power yet continue to fire our disrupters  repeatedly for an indefinite period all while thrusting under power.  The buffer is needed only to enable jumps, which use all of the stored power at once to bend space and open the large wormhole."

"How big is the ship across?" Jake asked, "Are there any open areas where you can see right across the cylinder?"

"It is not a spinning cylinder like most other ships are.  This ship was built with another zeth technology that no other race has had access to before.  They have provided us with artificial gravity generators that use directed graviton fields to induce gravity over short range.  The technology can also be focused externally to pull objects into the ship."

"No way!  At last, a real high-tech space ship!  I was sort of disappointed at the lack of some technologies out here in the universe compared to what's been imagined in our fiction back home.  This ship is closer to what would be in one of our stories.  It has a transporter of sorts, cloaking technology, disrupters, and now artificial gravity and tractor beams," Jake said.

Rhokki nodded, "The First Ones are responsible for most of the technology used in the collective, but they stagnated long ago and do not advance their technologies at all, nor do they allow any member races of the collective to advance beyond what is available.  It is another way of keeping the races under control.  The zeths have a few tricks that are not available to the collective.  Artificial gravity is one of the biggest.  The technology is expensive from an energy point of view, but it is enabled by our extremely efficient antimatter generators.  Artificial gravity makes much more effective use of space and allows a ship that is as small as this one to have a compliment of crew almost as large as a ship twice its size because no space is given up to zero gravity along an axis.  In other ships the only truly useful space for people performing regular duties requiring normal gravity would be around the inside of the outer wall of a cylinder.  We can use the entire volume of the ship.  The lowest floor of the ship contains a generator that produces gravity that is felt throughout all of the floors above it.  The generator does not extend all the way to the front and back to allow small gravity free regions at the extreme fore and aft sections for certain functions that are better served by such an environment.

"There are also generators facing inward near the front and back of the ship and at the top and the sides.  They are used to cancel out the effects of acceleration during all but the most extreme maneuvers.  We can be accelerating forward through a heliosphere at ten g's, a force that would render us all unconscious within seconds and kill us if sustained, but the gravity generator at the front of the ship will apply ten g's of artificial gravity to pull us forward within the ship at the same rate as we are being pushed backwards, the effect being to perfectly cancel out the effects of the acceleration for everyone inside the ship.  We can walk and work as though we were not accelerating through space at all.  The computers constantly adjust the generators to keep things perfectly steady inside.  Having generators on all sides means the computers can cancel out any acceleration even from sideways or end over end maneuvers so that the net effect for those of us inside is normal gravity pushing us downwards."

The elevator stopped and they disembarked and continued to follow a hallway.

"That's amazing.  Do you have anti-gravity?" Jake asked.

"No.  That technology has not been pursued as the existing anti-fermion technology is a much more energy efficient approach to 'hovering'."

They followed the line on the floor to the end and it stopped at a door with a pulsing green frame.  Rhokki touched it and the door slid open.

They entered the room and found only two other occupants, the zeth, and a beautiful jet black lioness who sat at the end of a long table and smiled as she watched them enter.

Rhokki approached her and the two rubbed cheeks affectionately.  Jake found it an odd way for a crew member to greet his captain.

Rhokki said, "Captain, I would like you to meet Jake and Komakwa."

The captain smiled at them and stood and said, "It is a pleasure to meet you both.  I am Sintas.  My brother has told me of your brilliant idea to make the best of the unfortunate situation of your duplication brought about by that maniac Troska.  Please, sit."

"Your brother?" Jake asked as he and the others sat down at the table.

Rhokki smiled and said, "Did I neglect to mention my relationship to the captain?  She is my sweet sister and she worships her older brother."

Sintas laughed and said, "I love you, dear brother, but I would not go so far as to suggest I worship you.  At least, I haven't since I grew up.  I have explained Jake's proposal to the zeth, would you be so kind as to tell us his response?"

Rhokki sat quietly for some time while looking at the zeth, then he smiled and said, "He is excited at the opportunity presented by this unique situation.  It is something they had not considered.  He would like us to proceed to put it in motion.  They will work on the technology needed to inject their programs into the First Ones' network so that it can be operated by Jake.  They will also develop a smaller version of the technology used to cut off the favors.  They want one small enough to be carried on board the Slirkstrith by Jake so that it can be set off if needed, to cut off all QECH communications from the lackeys back to the First Ones and to protect Srythryn's ship from possible retaliation by the Lawkeepers by cutting off the favors in it."

Sintas nodded and looked back at Jake and said, "My brother also told me earlier that you have all agreed, though somewhat in a joking manner, that you would be the acting leader of the miquanowan faction of our resistance movement.  I would like you to take that role more seriously.  In the brief time you've been here you've already showed the type of thinking we need to advance our cause dramatically.  If we can make this one idea of yours work we could reach our ultimate goal decades, or even centuries, sooner than otherwise possible, and at a minimal risk of life.  Doing so, however, would place the Slirkstrith and all aboard her at risk.  Rhokki told me you have a romantic interest in the captain of that ship.  Are you willing to put it all at risk in such a way?"

Jake thought about it and nodded and said, "Yes.  I think Srythryn himself would do exactly the same if he knew what was at stake.  What happened to your world could happen to others and billions more lives could be lost.  You can't free the worlds one by one without all of the others down the line being placed at risk.  The decades it would take you to put everything in place to try to cut off all of the planets at once using satellites would increase the chances of getting caught and bringing about the retaliation of the Lawkeepers.  The best approach by far is to cut them all off by destroying the QECH hub for the favors from within.  I would need assurances that we could mitigate the risk to the Slirkstrith by cutting off the favors just as the zeth suggested, and more importantly, I think we would need to position ourselves to launch satellites at the siskreth home world to cut the favors off there as well.  If the First Ones were to catch a whiff of what we were trying to do on the Slirkstrith they may see it as a siskreth conspiracy and retaliate by attacking their home world.  If we cut off their home world first then they will know we're up to something and will attack the Slirkstrith.  We need to cut off the favors of both the Slirkstrith and the siskreth home world at once, and the timing would have to be nearly perfect."

Sintas smiled broadly and looked at her brother, then back at Jake, and said, "Rhokki was right about you.  You have what it takes to make a great strategist.  We can position this ship anywhere we like and it would not be a problem to park ourselves in orbit at their home world to launch a satellite warhead when the time comes to make our play.  We would simply need to find a way to lure the Slirkstrith into orbit around it at the same time.  Right now our only concern would be to put the wheels in motion to get your alternate self on track to becoming an officer of the crew on the Slirkstrith.  Can you think of how we might ensure that your other self proceeds in the right direction without raising any alarms or giving any hints of what we're doing?"

"Yes, I was thinking about that earlier.  If I know Jake, and I think I do, he's gonna want to come after Mak to patch up their relationship.  We need to get rid of any reason he might have to do that.  We could have Komakwa kill any idea Jake might have of coming here, and also give him the push he needs to head in the right direction.  Mak could compose a message for him explaining how he never wants to see him again."

"Why would he think our relationship needs patching up?" Mak asked.

"The last thing he'll remember is you yelling at him on the ship just before we crashed.  You were so pissed off at me from what you thought was a betrayal that I was terrified I'd never be able to wipe out the damage Troska had done.  They cut off our favors within an hour of that so his memory would end before we got back together and cleared the air between us.  He would think you're still pissed off at him and he would want to make sure that you didn't end the contract just because of that.  You would need to let him know that everything is fine and that you know how much he loves you and that everything is absolutely fine between you two and nothing else needs to be resolved.  You would have to make him believe that you're happy where you are and that you really don't want him back in your life anymore.  You could smooth the hurt that would cause by reminding him how much Srythryn loves him and how much he loves the captain.  Let him know that the best thing for him would be to stay right there on the Slirkstrith.  Then you tell him how best to make that happen.  Give him the idea of getting certified on the fighters and becoming a member of the crew.  It's such an obviously good solution that he would jump right on it and tell Srythryn, who would also be all for it.  I know me and I know that would work on me."

Sintas nodded and said, "That approach is sound.  I would appreciate if you would prepare that communication immediately so we will have it ready when the time comes to send it off through Komakwa's father.  I am most impressed with you, Jake.  I know that your own fortunes are now in question.  If you would be interested, I would like to take you on as a member of my crew.  We can always use more thinkers and I'm certain my brother would be happy to have you aboard and working closely with him.  I spoke with him privately after our debriefing earlier and he explained the situation between you two.  I can only say that I am thrilled with you for making him so happy.  I do love my brother and I know how lonely he's been.  I love you for what you've done for him and I would like to keep you here as part of our family.  Komakwa, you would be most welcome to stay aboard indefinitely as well of course."

The young bull smiled and said, "Call me Mak.  Would we be required to get certified to fly your fighters in order to be members of your crew?"

The captain smiled and said, "No, Mak, it wouldn't be a requirement."

Mak looked disappointed, then he said, "Could we do it anyway?"

Sintas chuckled and said, "Of course.  We have a bank of simulators at the back of the ship if you wish to pursue certification.  Once you have a command link established with the ship's computer simply have it direct you to the simulator section and speak with the trainers on duty there to get you started on the program.  I'll instruct them to give you priority.  It shouldn't take you very long to complete the program if you apply yourself, since you already have flight experience."

Mak grinned and nodded.

"Good," Sintas said, "Jake, I'll be calling on you occasionally to attend high level planning meetings.  I'll want you to get up to speed on all of the details of all aspects of the resistance's operations in the meantime.  You will be quite busy from now on and you will be working quite closely with the zeths through my brother.  Once Mak's father is brought into the resistance you will work with him to advance our plans for the construction of the satellite manufacturing facility here and to coordinate bringing the miquanowan military fleet back to their home world to protect it in the event that we cut off its favors.

"Mak, since you've expressed such a strong interest, I'll expect you to complete your certification for the fighters within forty days.  I've already made arrangements to have you and Jake recognized as guests for command of the ship's computer.  I'll have that upgraded to give you access as ensigns immediately.  As entry-level officers you'll have access to all of the main areas of the ship and you'll be able to contact me at any time.  I know it may seem odd for a ship's captain to take two complete strangers and make them junior officers aboard her ship, but I trust in my brother's judgment completely.  If he trusts you then so do I.  With the destruction of our world I find myself one of the three highest ranked rhuxus in the universe.  The only others that are equal to me are the captains of the two ark ships that are currently hiding in locations that are unknown even to me.  That means I get to make whatever rules I see fit as I have no one to answer to.  I have no doubt you will both give me reason to feel nothing but delight for having made this decision."

The captain then stood and said, "It's been an extreme pleasure meeting you both.  You are all dismissed."

They all rose to leave, but Sintas said, "Jake, if I could have just one last word please."

The others went to wait outside and Sintas walked up to Jake and gave him a tight hug, then she kissed him on the cheek and grinned at him and said, "I really am thrilled about you and my brother.  He's the only family I have in the universe and he means everything to me.  I worried that he'd be alone forever, but now I realize he was just waiting for the perfect mate to come along, and at last you've arrived.  You've made him so happy, and that makes me happy.  As a member of my crew you need to look at me as your captain, but just like Rhokki does, I want you to also think of me as your sister.  I will certainly be thinking of you as my brother from now on.  I'm happy to have you join my family and I look forward to getting to know you better."

Jake smiled and wrapped his arms around her neck and hugged her once more and said, "Rhokki's made me incredibly happy too.  I'm thrilled to think of you as a sister.  I've never had one before."

She squeezed him again and pulled back and smiled at him and said, "Having a sister can be a challenge at times as you may find out, but something tells me you're up to it.  I'll see you again soon."

She kissed him once more on the cheek and he smiled and then turned and joined the others out in the hall.

The zeth headed down one way and Rhokki led Jake and Mak back towards the elevator.

"Your sister's terrific," Jake said.

Rhokki smiled and said, "Yes, she is.  As I'm sure she's informed you, she will think of herself as your sister too now.  We lost our parents when she was still very young and I took care of her myself until she was old enough to take over and take care of me.  She is incredibly strong and very intelligent and has always been driven to take charge and lead others and has never shied away from any responsibility no matter how daunting.  We both joined the space academy the same year when she was old enough and she shot past me to become a commanding officer in no time while I trained to work in engineering.  She is the youngest ever of our people to captain her own ship and the Shadow's Claw is the most technologically advanced ship that has ever existed in the collective.  She makes me very proud, always."

"I guess we should look at making that recording right away as she requested," Jake said.

"She's the captain, Jake, despite the way she worded it it was an order, not a request," Rhokki said, and he smiled.

Jake chuckled and said, "Sure, OK.  It might take me a while to adopt a more military state of mind."

"There is a room a couple of floors up from here that is set up for holographic recording," Rhokki said, "We'll go there."

They took the elevator up and Rhokki led them to a small room with what looked like three cameras surrounding an empty area of the floor and aimed inward.

"Stand in the middle, Mak," Rhokki said, "I'll set up the equipment to record."

"What should I say?" Mak asked.

"Just say what Jake said earlier in the meeting.  Jake?  Can you help him?" Rhokki asked.

"Sure," Jake said, and he stood next to one of the cameras and just behind it.

Mak went into the center and turned to face Jake.

Jake said, "I don't want to give you a speech to follow.  It needs to sound natural, like you aren't being coerced or anything.  It needs to come from your heart.  Just tell him in your own words that you've given a lot of thought to what Troska told you on that night that he wrecked our relationship and you've realized he was full of shit.  You recognize that we were truly in love and that it was beautiful and natural.  That will make him feel better immediately.  Make sure he understands that there's nothing unresolved between you two and that you're happy and content right now.  Tell him that you intend to join the movement because what it stands for is important and you believe in it and you don't want him to get involved or get in the way of it.  As far as the First Ones know your movement is nothing more than a traditionalist push to bring your people back to their old ways so don't give him any more details about it.  Tell him you'll probably even disappear into the underground and you don't want him to come looking for you.  Once you've given him all of those assurances and convinced him you don't want him around and he won't be able to find you anyway, tell him that you know about him and Srythryn and how much they love each other.  Give him the idea of joining Srythryn's crew.  At that point I'd start to feel better if I were him and my excitement at the idea of joining Srythryn's crew would make all of this much easier to take.  His focus will instantly shift from trying to get back to you, to trying to get a permanent place on the Slirkstrith with his lovable captain.  I think it will work."

Mak nodded and said, "Got it.  I'm ready."

"Oh, and don't forget, he's not gonna see this for a couple of months yet, but make it seem like you sent it just before he woke up.  Let him know you got home safe and got through your ascendance and so on, but don't go into any details about how you got off the planet."

Mak nodded again.

"You may count to three and begin," Rhokki said as he touched some controls at a panel on the wall.

Mak looked at the camera in front of him and gathered his thoughts for a moment, then he began to speak while Jake stood just off to the side behind the camera, smiling at him.

"Hi, Jake.  I know your memory only goes as far as a short time after the crash and the last thing you probably remember about us is me yelling at you on the ship.  You died quite suddenly shortly after you started to make your way towards me and before we could meet up so we didn't get a chance to settle things.  I want you to know that I've been giving a lot of thought to what Troska said to me and the things you and I did in the creek bed that night.  I am not angry with you anymore, not at all.  I know that Troska twisted things around and made it seem worse than it was.  I know that you really loved me and I want you to know that I really loved you back.  I don't want you to think there's anything unresolved between us.  I know you're a terrific guy with a great heart and that everything that happened between us was natural and wonderful."

So far so good, Jake thought.  The young bull nailed it, and the Jake at the other end would start to feel a sense of relief already with his worst fear allayed right up front.  He would know Mak really loved him and knew that Jake loved him back.

"All of that is going to make the rest of what I have to say a bit hard to understand, but it's the truth and you'll have to accept it.  I don't want to ever see you again.  I know that may sound harsh but it's really not.  We only just met and spent only a few hours together so you should get over me pretty easily.  I am happy that we had the time together that we did and it taught me some important things about myself.  My life is going to be completely different than I ever imagined it might be and it's all because of you.  You gave me the confidence I need to do what I'm going to have to do.

Again, Mak got it just right.  Now the other Jake would know that Mak is grateful for the time they had, but doesn't want him back.

"I know you must be wondering what happened to me after the crash but there's no point going into any detail about it.  Just know that I got back home safely.  I went through my ascendance and it all went well.  I've spent the rest of the time since then with the leader of the movement and have come to understand that what they are trying to achieve is important for everyone even though it will require some hard sacrifices.  The leader has explained everything to me in such a way that I see no other option but to stay with them and help them with their cause.  He's a great man and I admire him.  I've come to love him more than I thought was possible in fact."

Jake grinned, but made a cutting motion across his throat and shook his head.  There was no reason to say anything about loving the leader of the movement.  The other Jake would have no idea what he was talking about and it just might get him thinking something strange is going on.

The young bull paused and his eyes looked over at Jake uncertainly for a moment wondering if he should start over, but Jake just nodded and made a rolling motion with his hand for him to continue.  It would sound too rehearsed if they did multiple takes.

Mak realized he was starting to give away too much information and he should just let the other Jake know without doubt that he shouldn't even try to find him or communicate with him or his dad.

He looked straight ahead at the camera again and went on, "I can't tell you any details about our cause or its leader but it's important that you understand; I completely believe in what he is doing and I am jumping in with both eyes open.  In order to do my part I will be going underground.  You won't be able to find me so don't bother to try.  I have warned my father not to even accept any communication from you.  Do not try to reach any of us and don't think you need to save me.  I am exactly where I want to be and it's the only place I want to be.

The young bull thought back about how things had been when Jake first met him and he realized he should also let Jake know that Mak's relationship with his father had been healed.  That would help to keep him from trying to come back to try to fix anything.

He continued, "My father and I are really close again and it's because of you.  We talk together about everything now.  He's come to understand why I've joined the movement and he's planning on joining it as well and will be using his influence to help bring our entire race around to our side.  There's simply nothing you can do to change any of it so don't bother trying.

Jake sighed.  Mak didn't need to tell him anything about bringing the whole race aboard and all of that.  The rest was good though.  It would help cement the fact that the other Jake should just forget about coming back here to butt in.  He wasn't needed here anymore.  Everything was just fine.

Mak heard Jake's sigh and realized it was time to move on to something else.  He should move on to the idea of joining Srythryn's crew now.  He thought about how much of a jolt it would be for the other Jake to suddenly be told that he wasn't going to live forever anymore unless he could find another way to get a contract.  It was time to remind him of that and give him a way out.

"I know it has to be a shock to be told that you would be immortal and then suddenly have it taken away but I want to give you an idea that may help you by giving your life a new direction.  I've learned that the captain of the ship you will be resurrected on is called Srythryn and that he cares for you very much.  He loves you in fact.  He is the one you should focus on now.  I want to give you an option that might not have occurred to you yet.  If you train to become a certified pilot of one of their fighter craft you will be able to join his crew and get a resurrection contract.  I think it's the best way for you to go.  You can't go wrong being the most important person in the life of the captain of the most powerful ark ship in the universe.  The two of you should be immortal together.  I think that would make you happy and in the end that's what I want for you.

Jake smiled.  That was perfect.  The other Jake's heart is suddenly going to be pumping faster as he realizes he has a future after all, with Srythryn.

Mak thought about how much he loved Jake, and even though the one who would be getting this message was a duplicate, it was still the same Jake that Mak had made love to that first night in the creek bed.  Mak would probably never meet that version again due to the complications it would cause, but he wanted him to know that he really was a terrific guy and he'd really changed his life forever.

Mak continued, "I want to thank you for the great time we had that evening with the kwarrens.  Even though I'm now twenty four years old I sort of feel like my life really only just began there, with you.  That was the time you first showed me who I really am and how happy I can be.  It's something I will never forget until the day I die.  I suppose our paths might cross someday but I wouldn't count on it as it may create some serious complications."

Jake sliced at his throat again to try to cut Mak off of that train of thought.  There was no need to say anything like that as it would make no sense to the other Jake that there would be 'serious complications'.

The young bull's eyes flicked toward Jake again and he realized right away that he should just quit before he blurted out anything else he shouldn't.

He looked back toward the camera and said, "Be happy where you are and look there for your future.  Don't dwell on what might have happened between us.  I could not be happier than to be where I am now, so don't worry about me.  Goodbye, Jake."

Rhokki said, "Good.  That will work well I think."

Jake smiled at Mak and said, "It will work perfectly.  That last bit was the best way to end it.  Right after you fade away he'll run out into the hall and jump into Srythryn's arms full of excitement at the thought of their future together.  He's gonna feel regret that he can't come back here to see you and it will bug him, but it won't eat away at him so bad that he won't be able to resist it.  I think you got it just right."

Mak smiled and said, "It wasn't too hard.  I just spoke from the heart.  It was a bit weird telling you goodbye forever when you were standing right there next to the camera.  I'm sorry about slipping and saying how much I loved the leader of the movement.  I couldn't help it."

Jake chuckled and said, "It made me feel great, but the other Jake will be wondering what that was all about.  It's best if we don't cut the recording in any way or try to redo it though.  We can't have it look doctored or coerced or practiced so he doesn't get suspicious about anything.  I think it'll be fine just like it is.  I know me better than anyone else and I would buy it."

Mak nodded.

"I'll get the recording to the captain.  Perhaps we can have your father record his own once you get back to your world after the forty days are up, notifying the other Jake of the cancellation of his contract, and we can tack this on to that one and have him send it along.  We'll have him apply destructive quantum encryption so the other Jake will not get the opportunity to scrutinize it too closely through repeated viewings.  He'll see it once, and then it will be gone," Rhokki said.

"Sure, I'll have a talk with my dad when the time comes and explain what we need him to say to keep Jake satisfied that there's no reason for him to come back here," Mak said.

They all exited the room and walked back towards the elevator.

It was still too early for lunch and Jake was anxious to get started as a member of the crew.

He turned to Rhokki and asked, "Can we get started going over everything the captain wanted me to learn about the resistance?"

"Yes, of course.  We can use a small briefing room just down the hall.  Follow me," Rhokki said.

There was suddenly a 'bong' and a female voice came over the intercom and said, "Jake, Mak, this is Elliki.  I've just been informed that you've both been granted voice command access to the ship's computer as crew members.  You should be able to find your way around no problem now.  If you need anything else from me please let me know."

Mak grinned and said, "If you two don't mind.  I'd really like to go to the simulators and get started.  I'll meet you at the mess hall later on for supper."

Jake smiled and nodded.

"Computer...fighter simulators," Mak said.

There was a 'bong' and a green line ran along the floor from Mak's feet to the pulsing green door of an elevator.  Mak smiled and walked off down the hall.

As the young bull disappeared into the elevator Rhokki said, "Do you not wish to join him?  I have played in the simulators and it can be quite exhilarating.  I am not much of a flier as I said before, but pretending can be fun.  The simulator uses miniature gravity generators on the outside of a sphere that spins freely to apply acceleration forces on the subject inside from any direction with any range of intensity.  The inside of the sphere perfectly replicates the cockpit of one of our Stiletto fighters and the inner wall uses display technology to project an artificial universe for the pilot in training.  The effect is amazingly convincing."

Jake smiled and said, "I would just hold him back.  He can fly already so he'll be getting into the more advanced stuff right off while I would need to start with the absolute basics.  I might go and mess around if I have time later on just for fun.  From what Sintas was saying, I'm going to be very busy for the next while so I probably won't have much time for it."

Rhokki nodded and said, "You're right.  You will be very busy indeed.  We'll be working closely together from now on and I look forward to it immensely.  Follow me and we'll begin."

Jake nodded and followed the big cat.

As they walked into a small briefing room to begin the first of many busy days going over all of the information the captain wanted Jake to learn, it struck him how easily his fortunes had suddenly shifted once again.  He'd gone from being a corporate executive, to essentially a tourist on board the Slirkstrith, to a match for an elaborate dating service, to a prisoner on an uninhabited planet, and finally to a junior officer on the crew of an advanced stealth ship, all in a matter of what felt like weeks.

He briefly wondered what more the future had in store for him.


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...

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

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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,


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