Toward the Brightest Star
By Vic James
Copyright 2013 by Vic James
All Rights Reserved
Revised and Expanded
They walked to the city and Ali pointed out different places to them. "One street over is a shop that sells a lot of my company's product. Dishes, mostly."
Ali pointed out a restaurant and they went inside. They sat on a bench with Ardin on one side of Tren and Ali on the other.
"What would you like to eat?" Ardin asked him.
Tren laughed and so did Ali and Ardin.
"I should have been a little more specific. What would you like to eat for lunch?"
"I want a hamburger."
"That sounds good. I will have one, too."
A waiter robot took their order and then Ali scooted a little closer to Tren.
"I was wondering why you were sitting so far away."
"Is this better?"
"It's a little better."
Ali moved until he was touching Tren.
Tren fished Ardin's cock out of his shorts and then wrapped his other hand around Ali's. He began stroking them.
"I love this restaurant!" Tren said.
"Ali, you didn't tell me about this part!"
Ali felt genuinely happy. He was wanted and he had friends.
They ate and Ali tried a little hamburger. He didn't like it. He thought it was too greasy.
They walked back to the port and decided to go to Ardin and Tren's room.
Ali sat and Tren knelt between his legs. Ardin handed Tren a damp towel and he wiped Ali's prick. Then he licked it for several minutes, making Ali groan and squirm. Ali's juice was running down it and Tren lapped it up. Then he licked Ali's balls for just as long.
"Ardin, I have never had anyone as devoted to my prick as your mate. I truly thank both of you. I am happier than I have been for many years."
"You don't need to thank us, Ali. We are enjoying it, too."
He returned to licking it as Ali moaned. Tren took that as his cue to take the head in his mouth and begin sucking it. He stroked the shaft with one hand while he tugged on Ali's balls with the other. After a little while, Ali shouted as he came. Tren was amazed that he could produce so much come for his tenth orgasm. Tren looked up at Ali. Ali had a look of bliss on his face and it made Tren laugh. He wiped his mouth and stood.
"My jaw needs a rest. Who wants to fuck me?"
"Let me see your cunt," Ardin said.
Tren turned around and Ardin pushed a finger into it.
"You are tight enough now."
Ardin stood and placed his prick at Tren's hole.
"Remember the shower at Etira's sale?" Ardin asked him.
"Oh, yeah. You just barely got your cock inside me before you had to stop. I wanted your cock so badly! I still want it just as much."
"I love you, baby."
"I love you, Ardin."
Ali got tears in his eyes. He wished his relationship with his spouse was like that.
Ardin pushed suddenly into Tren and they both groaned. Ardin began fucking him. Ali's cock was very hard again and he began stroking it as he watched. Ardin fucked him for quite a while and he was sweating by the time he came inside Tren. He sat on a chair and Tren sat on his lap.
"I'm all sweaty, baby."
"I know. Do you want me to lick the sweat off?"
Ali moaned and Ardin and Tren laughed.
"Let me cool off. Then we can cuddle."
Tren got up.
"Can I fuck you now?"
Ali pulled a tube of relaxant out of his shorts.
"You planned ahead!"
"I plan to carry it all the time now."
Ali stood and applied some to Tren's hole. Then he placed his prick at Tren's hole and slowly slid into him. He began slowly fucking him for a few minutes before speeding up. Ali's balls were slapping against Tren's and it was a little painful. Before Tren said anything, Ali pulled Tren tightly against him and shouted as he came.
After he pulled out, Tren looked at Ali's prick. It softened!
"It does this sometimes."
"Not very often!"
"Oh, there it goes!"
Ali's cock got hard again.
Tren wrapped his hand around it and kissed it.
"Hello, baby! I'm glad you are feeling better."
"You may not believe this, but I may only be able to come one more time."
Tren pretended to sob. Ali and Ardin laughed.
"Is your jaw still sore?"
"Yes, a little."
"Ali, why don't you stroke yourself until you come on my mate's face."
"I want to cover his face."
"Go for it!"
Tren sat and Ali stood between his legs. He stroked himself while he looked at Tren's eager face. Ardin got behind Ali and pulled his furry cheeks apart. He began eating Ali's ass.
"So good! So good!" Ali moaned.
Tren took Ali's balls in his hands and rubbed them.
After several minutes, Ali said, "I am close."
"I want it, Ali. Give it to me."
Ali shouted as his come shot out and hit Tren's face. A ribbon of white connected his prick to Tren's face for over a second. Ardin had pulled away to watch. Tren opened his mouth and Ali aimed for it. Three spurts went directly in. Two more hit his chin. Several more hit his nose and chin. Then the remainder didn't his his face. Ali collapsed in a chair. He watched Ardin lick his come off his mate's face and then push his tongue into Tren's mouth. It was incredibly hot and Ali's poor tired prick stiffened in response.
Finally it was over.
"I thank you, both. I will remember this day for the rest of my life," Ali said. "It was about a hundred times more exciting than my wedding day."
"Good bye, Tren. Thank you."
"See you later, Ali."
"Good bye, Ardin.
"Did you have fun?"
"Yes, I enjoyed it a lot, but I'm not sure I want him fucking me anymore. Why would I want my hole to be too loose to give you pleasure? I don't want to have to wait until the relaxant wears off. Plus his come just runs down my legs and onto the floor when he pulls out and that is..."
Tren laughed. "Exactly!"
"I understand, baby."
The next four weeks passed smoothly. Tren sucked Ali two or three times each day. Ali's work only took him outside the port for about two hours, so he was usually available. Sometimes Tren went to Ali's room and sometimes Ali came to theirs. Ardin would often fuck or suck Tren while Tren sucked Ali. They were having less sex than the day after they met, but they spent much more time socializing. Ali missed having as much sex as the first two days, but he had good friends and he was very happy. And after all, two times a day was more than he ever got from his wife. They usually ate at least one meal a day together and they laughed a lot.
Ali's business was selling Driaskin porcelain dishes and decorative items. He gave Ardin and Tren several very nice ones and they decorated their room with them. Once he told them how much he dreaded going back to Gorga.
"Why?" Tren asked.
"My spouse is completely indifferent to me. The marriage was arranged. He father is influential, and my father wanted me to benefit from that. I work for her father."
"Do you love her?"
"That sucks!" Ardin said.
"Is the sex good, at least?" Tren asked.
"What sex? If you mean with my hand, then I would say it is boring. She thinks once on each holiday is plenty."
"Is it just her, or is that common for females Gorgs?"
"It's common. It's why almost all males have sex with other males. We expend our lust on each other."
"Oh, Ali! I am sorry! Do you have to go back?"
"If I quit and divorced her, her father would ruin me."
"Do you like the work you do?"
"No. I despise it. That is why I spend so little time doing it."
"What would you rather do?"
"When I was in the army, I was a guard. I enjoyed that. I was the personal bodyguard of the second highest person in the army, a general named Luregos. I am an excellent shot and I won awards for it."
"Why did you leave the army, if you enjoyed it?"
"Luregos was convicted of raping another officer's young daughter. She wasn't a child, but she was still unmarried."
"He said she had consented, but she denied it. Even I believed he was guilty. He was always talking about her, what he wanted to do to her, and she seemed to despise him. His talk made me very nervous. Because of the seriousness of the accusation, I was forced to testify against him at his trial. Guards are expected to be discrete about the behavior of the person they are guarding. No one wants a guard who reveals personal secrets. My career as a guard was finished and I left the army."
"What happened to him?"
"He was convicted and faced a long prison term, but escaped it on a technicality."
"Ali, for what it's worth, I'm glad you are here."
Tren looked at Ardin who nodded.
"We both are."
"Thank you, my friends. Knowing you has made my life much more enjoyable. I didn't have any friends here in the port before you. I was very lonely. Now I wake each morning happy, knowing I will probably see the two of you."
"And get your cock sucked."
"Yes. Usually more than once! It's odd, but I have had sex more often with the two of you than with my spouse. And that is the other reason I do not wish to return to Gorga. I will miss the two of you terribly."
They were silent for a few minutes. Tren thought maybe they could visit him of Gorga, but he had no idea what was involved. How much did a ticket to Gorga cost? He didn't have the slightest idea.
"Ali, did you have a uniform in the army?" Tren asked.
"I think he wants to see you in it. Maybe with your cock in his mouth while you are wearing it," Ardin said.
"I wish I had it!"
That evening, Ali decided he wanted to see what effect Humasem had on him. He sucked Tren and swallowed his juice. They waited a while.
"Do you feel horny?" Ardin asked.
Ali looked at him. Ardin laughed.
"I meant hornier than usual."
"No. I feel the same. Extremely horny."
They all laughed.
An hour later, he sucked Ardin and waited. Humasem had no effect on him.
"I don't know if I'm happy or sad," Ali said.
"To tell you the truth, I'm relieved," Tren said. "The idea of you being able to come two or three times more than usual makes me want to run far, far away!"
They all laughed and they all agreed Ali did not need to be hornier.
The three of them explored the town. Ali showed them a couple of museums. He showed them a bar than no Aransans would enter called The Bloody Bar. It was frequented by offworlders, but it was empty when they stopped there.
As time passed, they got to know many of the port employees and were finally able to tell most of them apart. The Aransans inflexible faces made it difficult for them to tell what they were thinking, but Ardin discovered that a beak held open was the equivalent of a smile. All the port employees were enthusiastic about Humasem and were proud that only Prime Port offered it. Ardin once overheard an Aransan speaking to a visitor of a race he didn't recognize, about the Aransas Humans.
"Yes. They live here at the Port. Aransas is a lovely planet. I am amazed we have so few other immigrants."
Ardin told Tren and they decided they agreed with him.
They had seventeen Humasem customers and for each of them, Ardin fucked Tren and customers ate Tren's Humasem. Tren worried that this would make Ardin unhappy. He asked him.
"Does it bother me that you can't stand having anyone else touch me? No. It makes me happy! You care more about me than anyone else ever has. This is perfect, baby. I get paid money to fuck the person I love! I have no desire to give strangers something that you want."
"I didn't think about it that way. I'm glad. I do hate it when others touch you. Except Ali. I don't mind that. I feel I ought to be willing to share you with others."
"You don't have to share me and I will never make you."
One evening, they had dinner with Leta and his mate, Shista. They were both males, too. Ardin and Tren both laughed when Leta described how he kept sliding off Shista's shell the first time they tried to have sex. They were both very young.
One afternoon, Ardin was studying and Tren was on the floor between his legs, sucking him. Eranta spoke.
"Visitors wish to come inside."
Tren stood up and wiped his mouth. He pulled on a pair of shorts and handed Ardin's to him.
Ara, his mate, Esta, and two other Aransans they didn't know walked into their room. They had ordered furniture for Aransan guests. One was the Aransan version of a sofa. It was a padded surface angled about thirty degrees from the floor. The Aransans pulled their legs under them and rested their shells on the padded surface with their heads extending over the top, resting on a padded edge. Tren asked them to sit.
"Do you remember Tegilf said we could expect an important visitor for Humasem?"
"Barely," Tren said.
"Well, we know who that is now. The ruler of the Eosophin, whose name is Targen Beyn'La, is coming here for Humasem. Eosophin is one of the wealthiest worlds in the Alliance. His personal wealth is unimaginable, at least for us. The monarchy on Eosophin is at stake. He has a limited time to produce an heir.
"I remember hearing about him on Odd Times," Ardin said.
"Yes, they did do a story about his situation. They thought it was funny. He does not."
"He wants exclusive use of Prime Port for five days. We named an astronomical figure as the price for closing the port for five days. We assumed he would haggle. The price we named was one hundred times the annual income of the port. We hoped for ten percent of that, but didn't expect to get it. The king's representative said he thought that was very fair and thanked us for not trying to overcharge them. At first we thought he was being sarcastic, but he wasn't. The reason for all this? Humasem. He wants an heir and is willing to do anything to do it."
"With all that money, I would think he could have a clone or something from a test tube," Tren said.
"Yes. That is what everyone else would do. Unfortunately, on Eosophin, fertility is considered a gift from their god and if the king isn't able to have a child, Eosophins think it's because their god wants his family to end. It has to be natural. Humasem is not considered a drug, and in fact, many Eosophin males drink animal semen to increase their virility. Thus, drinking yours is considered natural."
"I pointed out that you two would be losing much business because of the port closing. I was asked to name a price, and since one hundred times was on my mind, I gave them that price for each of you. That is five hundred thousand credits each, with four hundred thousand each going to you."
"And they agreed to that?" Ardin asked.
"Oh, yes. I was told that if an Eosophin heir was conceived at Prime Port, both the port and the two of you would receive substantial bonuses. Because I'm greedy, I asked what was considered substantial. They told me. I'm not going to repeat it. The amount makes us all very nervous, and frankly, I think you are better off not knowing. You might not be able to...well...function."
"When does he arrive?"
"I think you mean `When will the Eosophin royal family and their personal army arrive?' Tomorrow. We are evacuating the port right now. All ships are moving to Secundus Port. The port is not large enough to allow all the army transport ships to land. We were told not to worry. They will hover over us."
"Right! Don't worry! Just don't look up!" Tren said.
Esta said, "We don't want either of you to feel pressured about this. The port and probably the two of you will be happy with the fees we will be paid if there is no pregnancy. As a matter of fact, you two are now extremely popular on Aransas. Everyone who is working at any Aransan port will be getting a salary increase because of this."
"Wow!" Tren said, again.
Ara nodded. "The way things are set up, almost all port revenue over operating expenses is distributed to the port employees."
"I didn't know that."
"So for every sale of Humasem, each port employee receives money?"
"Exactly. Not a lot, because the port is only getting twenty percent of the take, but still, it is something. And now, it is a lot!"
"Why do they need an army here?" Ardin asked.
"Because the Eosophin opposition could find out what is planned and might try to prevent it from happening. As a result, the port is now out of communication with the rest of Aransas. I know this will probably not concern you, but you will not be able to contact anyone outside the port until the king leaves."
"That isn't a problem."
"None of us have any idea if these precautions they are taking are necessary. It seems hard to believe that a civilized race would attack their ruler, but they are paying extraordinarily well, and we plan to cooperate completely."
Tren and Ardin nodded.
"I wonder what's happening to Ali." Tren said to Ardin.
"He has already left for Secundus," Esta answered. "I spoke to him and told him what was happening."
"Oh, I found out why Tegilf used Humasem to get his females pregnant instead of seeing a doctor. He mentioned in his last communication that it was vanity on his part. He wanted to prove he wasn't too old to do it naturally. Evidently he was irritated at being told so often he was too old to be a father. He said that for the king, it is not vanity, it is necessity."
One of the other Aransans spoke.
"You told Ara the two of you wanted to become legal spouses. Is that still your wish?"
Tren looked at Ardin who nodded.
"I forgot all about that!" Tren said. "I still want to marry you, Ardin."
"Yes, we still want to marry."
"The king's representative asked if the two of you were married. Apparently that is important to them."
"Can we get married quickly?"
"Yes. That is why I am here. My name is Artila and I perform marriage ceremonies. If you are certain..."
"We will perform the marriage here, if that is acceptable."
"I suppose we should dress first."
"You told Ara you needed haircuts. This is Istin, the port groomer. She can trim your hair and beards if you like."
That was the other Aransan they hadn't met.
Tren turned to Ardin.
"Do you want to get your hair cut?"
"Definitely. I don't like it this long."
Istin showed them pictures of styles.
"That one," Ardin said.
"I will have that one, too."
"Why don't we do it in the washroom?"
"Will one of you bring a chair?"
Tren got one of the chairs from around the table and took it in the washroom.
"Do you like your beard, Tren?"
"Yes, I suppose. Do you want me to shave?"
"I think so. You can always grow it back."
"Are you going to keep yours?"
"I think I will shave it for this. If you want, I can grow it back later. Let's both look nice and neat for the wedding and the king."
"Shave us both, please." Tren said.
"I'll go first, in case there's a problem." Ardin said, sitting.
She placed a small robot that looked a little like the Cuspic they had met on Ardin's head. It cut rapidly, first his hair, then his beard. When it stopped moving, she lifted it off his head. Ardin stood and brushed the loose hair off him.
"How do I look?"
"Fantastic! So fantastic, I hope they leave soon!"
Ardin grinned at him.
Then Tren sat and got his cut and shave. When it was done, Ardin brushed off Tren's head and kissed him. He stroked his smooth cheek.
They each put on nice clothes and they were ready.
The Aransans stood up.
"Is there anyone you would like to invite?"
Tren looked at Ardin.
"How about Leta and Shista? I wish Ali could be here."
"Yes. Let's invite Leta and Shista, anyway."
"Erant, will you ask whether they would like to attend?" Tren asked.
"Yes...They are on their way."
Artila asked, "Do you have a Human ceremony?"
"I don't know of one. What is the Aransan ceremony?"
"It would be difficult for you with only two legs."
Leta and Shista arrived and stood with the other Aransans.
"How about the absolute minimum that would still get us married?" Ardin asked.
"Very well. Do you wish to marry Tren, Ardin?"
"Yes, I do."
"Do you wish to marry Ardin, Tren?"
"Yes, I do."
"Are you doing this of your own free will, Ardin?"
"Are you doing this of your own free will, Tren."
"On Aransas, marriages are both a legal and a personal contract. Before you can have the marriage nullified, you must undergo a two week period where you live together and see no other persons in a romantic or sexual way. This does not apply if your physical or psychological safety is at risk. Do you accept that?"
"By Aransan law, when a legal spouse dies, the remaining spouse inherits one hundred percent of the deceased spouse's possessions. Do you accept that?"
Tren thought about that. He might want his mother to get some of his money.
"Yes, but can I make allowance for others in a will? I might want to leave my mother something."
"Yes, of course."
"I will make sure your mother gets your money if you die, Tren."
"I want you to get two thirds and my mother to get one third."
Erant said, "I have recorded that before witnesses."
"I want Tren to get one hundred percent of mine."
"I have recorded that before witnesses.
"Do you both accept?"
"You are now married by Aransan as well as Alliance law."
Ardin took Tren in his arms and kissed him. The Aransans all whistled. They pulled apart and smiled at each other.
"I love you, Tren, with my whole heart and soul."
"I love you, too. Completely."
Ardin wrapped an arm around his legal spouse.
"The king's security team will come to your room in the morning before the king lands to search for weapons. We find that very amusing, but we aren't kings! I think we can all expect this to be tedious, but we are being well paid for it. I know you two are respectable, but please watch your language for profanity. We have been told to avoid ribald humor. I'm not sure what that is to an Eosophin, so we are going to avoid humor all together. If you are not sure whether you should say something, do not say it to the king. You can motion to one of his assistants or security team and ask them. They will tell you whether it is appropriate," Ara said.
"I guess the safest way is to say as little as possible, when we don't know what will offend them," Esta said.
Tren and Ardin nodded.
"We will contact you if we get any more instructions. Meanwhile, congratulations on your marriage."
"Thanks," Ardin said.
They left and Ardin kissed Tren again. He stroked his cheek. "I can't believe you married me, Tren."
"Of course I did! I'm not stupid! Do you think I would turn down a wonderful opportunity like that? I mean I will get one hundred percent!"
"Oh. It's the money. I really hoped you were marrying me for my looks."
"Well, that too. You did shave."
Ardin kissed him again.
"Ardin, I am very glad things didn't work out with Relf. I really don't think he could ever make me half as happy as you do. If the two of you were side-by-side, I don't think I would notice him. I mean, how could I? I would be kneeling, sucking your prick!"
Tren gazed into his husband's beautiful eyes.
"I love you so much, baby!"
Ardin realized his one worry, that Relf would come back and take Tren from him, would no longer haunt him. Tren preferred him to Relf. And it wasn't even a close contest. That made him even happier. Tren chose him, an ex-slave, over a star ship captain!
He picked Tren up and carried him to their bed. They made slow, wonderful love for several hours. They both fell asleep very happy.
The next morning, they were awakened when the security team arrived. The door opened unannounced and they walked in. Tren thought the Eosophins looked very similar to Aldovorans, except their ears extended higher than than the tops of their heads and they had very little fur on their faces. Their eyes angled up and were yellowish-brown. They had the same snout as Aldovorans. These were wearing loose, dark blue and gray, one-piece jumpers and had several weapons attached around their waists.
They waved a bunch of machines over them and around the room. Several went into the washroom. One Eosophin took small blood samples from each of them and put them in a machine.
They saw an Eosophin give their tooth cleaner to another who placed it inside a machine. Several of them looked at the display on the machine. Then they took the tooth cleaner back into the washroom.
"Why do you need blood?" Tren asked.
"To make sure we don't poison the king," Ardin told him. "I saw it on a video."
"You must each consent to a brain scan before meeting the king. Do you consent?"
"Why do you need a brain scan?" Tren asked.
"To determine intent. It reveals your intentions."
Tren looked at Ardin and shrugged.
"Sure. We have nothing to hide," Ardin said.
They wheeled in a padded cart with machinery. "Please lie on the bed and put this over the top half of your body." Tren thought it looked like a sack made of metal mesh. Ardin got on the cart and put the thing over his head. Then he lay down. A metal cover was pulled over the cart. Tren watched nervously as nothing seemed to happen.
An Eosophin spoke to Tren.
"He is being questioned now. It takes about five minutes."
After what seemed longer than five minutes to Tren, an Eosophin raised the cover and Ardin sat up. He pulled the metal sack off his head and handed it to an Eosophin. Then he got off the cart.
"What happened?" Tren asked Ardin.
"Nothing at all!"
"Will you please get on the bed now?" Tren got on and was handed the sack. He put it on and lay down. He could see nothing and he felt nothing. He lay there waiting, but nothing happened. Ardin was right, it was nothing. He was starting to get bored when the cover opened. Tren got off the bed.
"We will take you now to the room where you will wait. Do you need to use the washroom?"
Ardin said, "We were hoping to bathe before we see the king. We can do it quickly."
The Eosophin stared at them for a moment.
Tren and Ardin washed quickly in front of an Eosophin and cleaned their teeth. They each put on shorts and they followed some of the Eosophins out of their room. Others walked behind them. They stopped in front of a room they had never entered. The door opened and more Eosophins waited inside. The room was completely empty of furniture. Tren assumed it was for security reasons. Or maybe the king would bring his own bed!
They walked in and one of the Eosophins said, "Chairs are being brought from one of the ships."
Ardin and Tren stood there. They noticed several Eosophins were watching them closely. One of them spoke to them.
"I have never seen a Human in person before, only photos."
"You are both more attractive than the ones I saw."
"Well, my spouse here is gorgeous. I think I am kind of plain," Tren said.
Several Eosophins smiled. Tren hoped it was a smile. They showed their teeth.
One of them asked, "How do you feel about what you will do today?"
"I hope we are able to help. I enjoy it when we are doing it for a good reason, like having a baby. Like when we helped Tegilf."
One of the Eosophins nodded.
"You are legal spouses?"
Another one asked, "Are you doing this for the money?"
Ardin didn't want to blurt out 'of course' but he didn't know what to say.
"We do it for a living. I would be willing to help the king for free, considering how important it is."
"I agree," Ardin said.
Ardin thought they were very pleased by Tren's answer.
"But the port would still need to be paid! I mean they closed completely!" he said.
"Don't worry. I was just curious. The arrangements have all been made and contracts signed. I assure you, the king has no desire to see the port suffer, even if this does not work."
Several Eosophins came in carrying plain fold-up chairs. They set them up and several Eosophins sat. More were carried into the room and Tren and Ardin were allowed to sit. Once they were seated, Ardin put his arm around Tren and Tren leaned against him.
Nothing more was said. They all sat and waited.
About an hour later, the door opened and an Eosophin with an enormous gun entered the room. Tren was startled. The Eosophin looked around and left. About a minute later, another Eosophin walked in. He bowed to them and they bowed back. Tren looked around and the Eosophins were on their knees. Tren grabbed Ardin's arm and then the two of them knelt down. A very nice chair was carried into the room and the king sat.
"I am Targen. Which one of you is Ardin?"
"I am, sir."
"Very good. So you are Tren?" he asked Tren.
"How shall we do this?"
Tren looked at Ardin.
"We can either give you the Humasem directly into your mouth or into a bowl or other container," Ardin said.
"Which do you prefer?"
Ardin didn't say anything. Tren said, "I prefer whichever way you prefer."
Several Eosophins laughed.
"I see you have spent some time with my advisers!"
Tren looked down. He had no idea what to say. Silence seemed best.
"I will be frank. This is so very different than anything I have ever done, that I don't have a clue how to proceed."
"Are we allowed to touch you?" Ardin asked.
"No," another Eosophin said.
"Then it will have to be a bowl, I think," Ardin said.
"Very well. Krient, please get one."
An Eosophin left.
"Your majesty. Someone told us they thought it was possibly a gas or a chemical which breaks down very quickly," Ardin said. "He believed that was the reason it hasn't been synthesized."
Tren looked at Ardin. He took his hand and Ardin squeezed his.
"I will keep that in mind. If this is unsuccessful, we will investigate other options."
There was silence for a few moments.
"I suppose you saw that horrible story on Odd Times."
Neither Ardin nor Tren said anything.
"Everyone in the galaxy saw it. They have repeated it twelve times."
The king shook his head.
"I can't get the Nestors out of my mind," Tren blurted out.
Several Eosophins nodded.
"I had read that they practiced ritual cannibalism, but I figured they ate dead people or maybe criminals, not live kids! What kind of people think it is traditional to eat their kids? I wish I had never seen that show. I can't watch it anymore. What if they show something else like that?"
"Yes. It is terrible. Sadly, I have seen worse," the king said.
Tren frowned and shook his head.
An Eosophin walked in with a bowl. Ardin took it. Tren pulled down Ardin's shorts and stroked Ardin's cock.
Ardin leaned over and whispered, "Eat my ass, will you?"
Tren grinned and did just that. He licked and poked at it with his tongue while he stroked Ardin's cock with one hand and his balls with the other. When his tongue slipped inside Ardin, he moaned and ejaculated into the bowl. Ardin was pleased to see that there was quite a bit there. Ardin handed the bowl to an Eosophin who handed it to the king. The king tilted his head back and poured the contents into his mouth and drank it. He swallowed it.
"It's better than Giagrit."
"Really?" another asked.
An Eosophin handed the bowl to Ardin. He was still hard. He spit on his cock and pushed it into Tren. He took the bowl in one hand and stroked Tren's cock with the other. Tren leaned back against him. Tren made small thrusts into Tren. Soon Tren moaned and shot into the bowl. Ardin milked the last drops out and handed the bowl to an Eosophin. The king took the bowl and drank it down.
"Very tasty," he pronounced it. "We will see whether it does anything."
The Eosophins filed out of the room until only Tren and Ardin were left. They waited a few minutes and then went to the door.
Ara was walking towards them.
"The king was smiling, I think," Ara said. "Although it is much easier to tell with Aransans. With us, the mouth is open or closed."
"Let's hope it helps. We get paid anyway, so that is good. We have the use of the port for the rest of the day. The Eosophins have all gone back to their ships until tomorrow."
They left the room and followed Ara. Esta joined them.
"Can I see the king's ship?" Tren asked.
"Probably not. They would assume you wanted to kill him. They are obsessed with security. They asked us about our security. I said we have AIs watching everything. No guns? they asked. I think they were shocked. They will not even allow us to contact them. They said they would contact us if they had anything to say! None of us can leave the port. They have soldiers with guns outside to make sure no one enters and no one leaves."
Ardin took Tren's hand and they walked back to their room.
"This is our first full day of being married and a king ate our come," Tren said. "I wonder if most married people do that. I haven't known any. No, that's not true. My mother is married. But her husband is a robot, so there was no come, ever!"
"No. Most robots have hollow balls."
"Is that how you pictured your marriage when you were younger?" Ardin asked him.
"Not quite. There weren't any kings. What about you? Did you ever think about marriage?"
"No. I was an ISS. Who would I marry?"
"You didn't imagine meeting someone like me, marrying him, and selling our spunk to royalty?"
"I never once thought my life would turn out as wonderfully as it has. And I owe every bit of it to you."
Once they were in their room, Tren jumped on the bed.
"Oh, I do wish I knew a nice man who would slide his pretty cock into me."
"We are stuck here. The port is closed. I'm afraid you will have to settle for me."
"You do have a pretty cock."
"I'm glad you think so."
Ardin climbed over him and lay on top of him. They kissed for a while. Then Ardin pulled Tren's shorts off and took off his own. He straddled Tren and pulled his head to his cock. Tren swallowed him and Ardin sighed happily. Tren, marriage, and money. And sex. Wonderful sex, as much as he wanted with the handsomest most desirable person he had ever seen. He had never dreamed his life would turn out like this. His father had always said that the good in life balanced the bad. Ardin didn't know if that was true, but he was sure this was the good part.
"Turn around, will you? I want to eat your ass." Ardin lowered his butt to Ardin's face and while Tren ate his ass, he sucked Tren. A few minutes later, Tren groaned as his come spurted into Ardin's mouth. Ardin turned around and started beating his meat.
"You know you haven't come on my face since we've been married. And I got shaved especially for that."
"Is that why? I plan to correct that very soon."
Tren reached up and pulled on his nipples. Ardin let Tren suck on the head of his cock while he stroked the shaft. Tren looked up at his spouse's hairy torso and ran his hands over it.
Ardin shouted as he shot all over Tren's face.
"Yes, please," Tren said and they both laughed.
They stayed in their room the rest of the day. Tren spent much of the day on Ardin's lap and they kissed and cuddled frequently.
That evening before bed, Ardin started to feel strange. At first he felt dizzy and then he had trouble catching his breath. He had a sense of something bad about to happen. Before they went to sleep, Ardin stroked the side of Tren's head.
"Tren, if anything happens to me, Ali will help you. He confessed to me that he loves you."
Tren got angry.
"What are you talking about? Are you planning to leave me?"
"Not voluntarily, no."
"Then don't talk that way!"
"All right. I love you, Tren."
He kissed his husband and they went to sleep.
Arifala woke in the night. "Targen. Targen!"
"Yes, my love," the king answered, sleepily.
"We have been granted our babies, but at a price."
"What do you mean?"
"I had a dream."
The king sat up in bed.
"My mother appeared carrying the Golden Flower and told me I am pregnant with our son. He will have a sister by Trialda and the two of them will be close friends. Our son will be a good king and will be beloved by all Eosophins. My mother laughed and said he would have an heir before he is twenty, not wishing to repeat this crisis."
Arifala was psychic and had a history of prophetic dreams. Targen hadn't believed at first, but he had been convinced.
"What is the cost?"
"The life of one of the Humans."
"Oh. Oh, no! Can anything be done to prevent it?"
"No. It is too late already."
"Do you know which one?"
"The one named Argin."
"Ardin. The older one. I suppose that is a small blessing, although I seriously doubt the other would consider it one. They seemed devoted to each other. Is Trialda already pregnant?"
"Yes. Grenelle is not."
The king thought for a moment.
"How do you repay something like this? The Humans have saved the Eosophin empire."
"Did they seem interested in money?"
"No. They didn't seem the type. Tren reminded me of you. He barely noticed I was in the room. He was very focused on his spouse. Yet he went out of his way to comfort me on the subject of the Odd Times broadcast."
"We could name the baby after him. That would comfort me a great deal if I were in that situation."
"Our son's first name must be Argen. I can't control that."
"He could be Argen Ardin, and called Ardin."
"But the names are so similar. Argen Ardin is even hard to say."
"It was just an idea."
"It isn't a bad idea, it just may not be practical."
Targen decided to think about it for a while. It would be breaking a tradition and setting a precedent and neither of those should be done without a great deal of thought. Arifala was right, though. He thought it be a great comfort to Tren to have a king named after his husband. Maybe not appropriate, though. He put his face in his hands as he thought what Odd Times would say if they found out why their son was named Ardin. It was so incredibly odd. They wouldn't be able to resist! He supposed he could name another damn planet after her. Maybe she would keep quiet. He knew exactly how she had acquired her wealth and it wasn't just journalism.
Arifala was extremely grateful that what happened to Tren would never happen to her. She would never wake to find Targen had died. She would not live past Targen's death. Her mother had already told her how she would die. It surprised her how comforting the knowledge was. Maybe that was because it was so far in the future.
"My heart aches for him. He should not be alone, Targen, in an empty port," Arifala said.
"No. I know exactly what that is like. Strangers are no comfort. They aren't even his species."
Arifala sighed. She knew Targen was reliving the death of his first wife. She died in the night from a complication during a pregnancy.
Targen got out of bed and asked for his advisors to meet him in his conference room. He put on a robe and walked to the room to wait for them.
Ellaragil appeared first. "Your majesty. Is there news?"
"Yes. Both good and bad. We will wait for the others."
Targen's cousin, Jerallen arrived next. He was quickly followed by Estallen.
"My wife and Trialda are both pregnant. A boy and a girl. My wife will have a son."
His advisors smiled and then started cheering. It was the best possible scenario.
"Are you certain, you majesty?"
"Yes. I had a feeling. It is difficult to describe. A sort of surge of power when I shot my bolt. Then my wife had a dream with specifics.
"Sadly, according to the dream, one of the Humans responsible has died. The older Human, Ardin. Arifala believes there is a connection. When we confirm the Human has died, we will know the truth of the dream."
Targen knew only Jerallen would believe the dream without proof.
"We need to decide how to reward the surviving Human."
"What can we do, except give him money?" Jerallen asked.
"A title, perhaps?" Ellaragil asked.
"I don't think an Eosophin title will mean much to him," the king said. He decided not to mention naming or calling the baby Ardin until he was certain what he wanted to do.
"Still, it is appropriate for one who has done so much for the empire."
"Yes, that is so."
"Ten billion and Duke of Sintara," Estallen suggested.
"Would making him a duke, make him a target?" Targen asked.
"Yes, I suppose he would be a target of the opposition, and possibly others. Perhaps we should show our gratitude as discreetly as possible."
"Let us ask him. If he wishes to be a duke, we can do it," Jerallen said.
"Yes, Jerallen. We will offer it and mention the implications. I feel fairly sure he will refuse it, but we should offer it," the king said.
"Ellaragil, please contact the port."
"Astil, will you contact Ara?"
The AI said, "Yes,"
They waited several minutes. Then they heard Ara.
"This is Ara. Is there a problem?"
"Yes," the king said. "Does Tren have close friends at the port?"
"Do you mean besides his spouse?"
"Yes, he is closest with a vendor who lives at the port named Aligaron. He was evacuated and is currently at Secundus Port."
"We will be sending for him," the king said.
"Jerallen, take care of that immediately, will you?"
"Of course. I will handle it personally." He got up and left the room. His personal ship was in the cargo bay of the king's ship, the Siestra.
"Ara, I believe there have been pregnancies. I also believe one of the Humans died."
"Oh, no. I hope you are wrong!"
"A little later in the morning, my wife and I will be visiting Tren."
"We are at your service." Ara said. He wondered how they could know Ardin was dead. Had they killed him? But that didn't make sense. Why kill only one? Or either, for that matter?
"Erant, will you check Ardin. The king believes he has died," Ara said. He certainly hoped the king was wrong.
"His body temperature has dropped. I detect no signs of respiration. This is terrible," Erant said.
"It is. Poor Tren."
"Should I wake Tren?" Erant asked.
"I have no idea. I will ask Esta."
Ara contacted one of the king's security men and asked him to tell the king that Ardin had died.
Jerallen and two security agents walked to his ship. It was a small but fully capable starship.
"We just received confirmation from the port. Ardin is dead."
Jerallen sighed. He knew exactly how the other Human felt. He had lost his wife. Of course, she refused to stay dead!
Once he was onboard, he said, "Kerra, we need to go to Secundus Port."
"What has happened?"
"One of the Humans died. We are picking someone up at Secundus."
Jerellan's ship lifted off and headed for the other port.
"Was it natural causes?" Kerra asked.
"You heard me."
"Are you implying he was murdered?"
"I think if a king does it, it's called an execution."
"How can you ask such a thing? You know Targen as well as I do!"
"I also know what is at stake. It occurred to me that if something was discovered during the security scans of their minds, that the king's men might act after the Humans provided what Targen needs. What the Eosophin empire needs. When the stakes are this high, normal rules don't apply. Let's not forget the artificial wormhole Targen created to get here faster. Neither of us knew that was even possible. It was an Eosophin army secret weapon. Your cousin knew and he used it. Now it unlikely to remain a secret. Everyone in the fleet probably knows by now."
"They knew when we got here. It only took two days."
"You see my point, though."
"Get me the king," Jerallen said.
"Your majesty, did anything show up on the security mind scan of the Humans?"
"Your majesty? No. Of course not. Not only would I have told you, but I wouldn't have been allowed to meet them. Why do you ask?"
Then Targen understood the question.
"I promise you, Jerallen that I feel only affection for both Humans. They both seemed like fine individuals. I would never use someone and then discard him. I will admit that the stakes are very, very high, but if I did something like that to someone after they helped us, I deserve to lose the throne. And I will tell you one more thing. Both of us know what it is like to lose a spouse. We know exactly how much pain the other Human will feel. Do you think I would do that to him, when he had done nothing but help us?"
"Thank you, Targen."
Targen put his face in his hands. If Jerallen was wondering that, would everyone?
"Since a brain scan of the Human is available, you could embed his mind in an AI like me." Kerra said.
"Yes. I was just thinking of that. An awful lot of research, not to mention money, went into making your transformation from a brain scan into an AI. It seems a pity for it to only benefit the two of us. And we have the hardware with us."
"I agree. I love being a ship. I would have preferred not to die, but it is much better than nothing."
"What would we do with him?" Jerallen asked.
"Give him this ship. We need a bigger one. This thing is tiny. We could have guests on a bigger ship," Kerra said. "You only used this ship because it already had the hardware to support an AI."
"And because your father can never find out what we did. He is not likely to ever come on board."
Jerallen thought for a moment.
"This is a good plan."
"I am glad you agree. I have contacted the medics and told them our plan."
"Get Arifala please."
"Good morning, your highness."
"Good morning, your highness," she said in reply. "Enough of that!"
"Arifala, Kerra suggested embedding the scan of the Human into my ship. I will get Kerra a new ship. Do you think that would comfort the Human?"
"Hmm. You would know better than anyone."
"I hesitate at making assumptions about another race. And after all, there are some Eosophins who would be horrified if they knew about Kerra."
"Yes, I understand. I will ask for guidance and let you know. I will contact you when I know.
"Thank you, Arifala. End."
Arifala took some herbs from a case on her dresser and put them in a brazier. She lit them and breathed the smoke. Then she lay on the bed and closed her eyes. She saw water. An ocean. She was standing on a beach. There were shapes on the horizon. She waited. The shapes rose slowly up into the air. Closer to shore, a wave rose up out of the water and coalesced into the image of a person. The water image walked up to her, shimmering and apparently struggling to retain its shape. She posed the question to it and looked up at shapes in the sky. The water image exploded, getting water in her mouth and lungs. She woke coughing.
Ali was asleep in his temporary room when the AI announced a comm message. He had been lonely and depressed at Secundus. He didn't even have work to distract him. He hadn't left his room since he got there.
"Is this Aligaron?"
"Umh. Yes, it is."
"There has been a death at Prime Port. One of the Humans has died. I understand you are a friend. Are you willing to return to Prime Port?"
"Who died? What happened?"
"All I know is that the older Human died."
"Ardin! Yes, I will get my things."
Ali got out of bed. His eyes started to tear up. Poor Tren!
"Security will scan you and bring you to my ship, if that is agreeable."
"Yes, it is."
Two Eosophins with scanners walked into his room.
"Are you Aligaron?"
Ali placed his palm on the scanner the officer held.
One scanned the room and the other scanned Ali. When they finished, Ali quickly gathered up his things and threw them in a case. One of them scanned the case. Then Ali picked it up.
"I am ready."
He followed the agents out onto the landing field. They walked quite a distance. The port was full because of the closing of Prime Port. As they walked, Ali began crying softly. Ardin! He would never see him again!
They walked up to the ship. Despite his sadness, Ali was amazed. The ship was a sleek golden beauty. Its lines suggested a flying creature.
"Is this a starship?" he asked.
They walked into the ship.
An Eosophin stood when he entered.
"Aligaron, I am Jerallen."
"Hello. Can you tell me what happened?"
"No. I know one of the Humans died last night. That is all."
Jerallen pointed to a seat and Ali sat. He looked around at the ship. It was like an apartment. There was artwork on some of the walls. There were several chairs and a low table. To their right was the front of the ship with a viewer showing the port. There were not even any seats there.
"Where does the pilot sit?"
"The pilot is an AI."
"Oh. It's a lovely ship. I've never seen such a tiny starship."
Ali heard a cough and Jerallen closed his eyes. He opened them.
"Three of those doors lead to cabins. Each has its own washroom. The other is a room that can be used as a dining or entertainment room."
"I am amazed! I wish it was happening under happier circumstances."
"Yes. It is tragic."
"We are leaving now, Jerallen," Kerra said.
"Thank you, Kerra."
"Is that the AI?"
"Yes, it is also my wife."
"The AI is a copy of my wife's mind. She died, but lives on here."
"That is truly amazing!"
"I think so," Kerra said.
"How long have you known the Humans?" he asked Ali.
"A few weeks. The Aransans live very differently due to their anatomy. We can't even use the same furniture. Even though Tren and Ardin are not my race, we have a great deal in common. They are—were—good friends."
"Jerallen, this is Arifala. The answer was an emphatic yes. I will buy the two of you a new ship. I must go. End."
"She is so sweet," Kerra said.
"I am receiving his mind right now, Jerallen."
"What? Whose mind?" Ali asked.
Ali shook his head.
"I have no idea what is happening."
"We have a copy of Ardin's mind."
"One of the king's security measures involves scanning and copying a person's mind and questioning the personality in the computer. It is impossible for the copy to conceal anything. The Humans were both scanned and the copies questioned to ensure they had no intention of harming the king."
"It is a full copy?"
"Yes. It includes all memories at the time of the scan."
"That is unbelievable!"
"I plan to give the surviving Human this ship, with Ardin as his pilot. Do you think he will want that?"
Ali thought for a moment.
"I am not certain, but I would think he would."
"We are landing, Jerallen. Ardin's mind is here with me. I will teach him how to reproduce his voice over the comm. I will also train him on the ship's functions so he doesn't have to read manuals like I did! I have also ordered a storage cube for myself."
"Thank you, my dear."
They landed and security scanned Ali and checked his bags again.
"Do you wish to go to him now?"
"Yes, I think so. Can I tell him about the ship? It may help lessen the pain to be able to speak to Ardin again."
"Certainly. Keep in mind the two of you will be checked by the king's security each time you walk onto the landing field."
Ali walked to the port building. A guard was there by the door. He opened the door for Ali. The port was very quiet. It was not yet dawn and there was no one in sight. He walked to the lift and got off on the upper level. He walked slowly to Tren and Ardin's room. He dreaded this.
Tren woke to Erant's voice. "Ali would like to see you."
Tren blinked and his mind started working.
"He's back! That's great!"
Erant opened the door. Ali walked in and saw Tren and Ardin were still in bed.
Tren felt Ardin's hand. It was cold. He flipped over and touched his cheek. Ardin's eyes were closed.
"Ardin! Ardin! Ali, help me! Something is wrong with Ardin!"
Ali stared at the bed. It had never occurred to him that Tren would not know. Tears started running down Ali's face.
"I'm sorry, Tren. I am so very sorry."
"Ardin!" Tren shouted.
He shook him, but he knew he was dead. His arms were stiff and his hands were cold. He began sobbing. Ali put his bags down and sat on the bed next to Tren. He pulled Tren to him. They both cried. Tren clutched Ali tightly.
Tren realized Ardin had known. He had known he would die! He had told him! Had Ardin called Ali?
"What are you doing here, Ali?"
"The king sent someone to get me. They seemed to know. They told me Ardin had died and you needed me."
"What? That doesn't make any...oh, maybe the AI knew. Erant, did you know?"
"No, Tren. I found out from the king, too. I let you sleep. I wanted to delay your misery. I'm not sure it was the right thing to so. If I did the wrong thing by not waking you, I am truly sorry. I want to offer you my condolences. I liked Ardin very much."
Tren began sobbing again. Ali just held him tighter. Both of them cried.
Finally, Tren said, "Last night, he said if anything happened to him that you would help me." Ali nodded. "I guess he knew he would die. He tried to tell me and I got mad." Tren sighed. "What am I going to do, Ali? He was everything to me. I have nobody."
"You do not have nobody. You have me. I am somebody."
Tren looked in Ali's eyes.
"Ardin said you love me. Is that true?"
"Yes, it is. I love you very much."
"I am glad you are here. You are right. You are my closest friend."
Tren looked over at Ardin. He began crying again. Ali rubbed his back. Finally, he was out of tears, for the moment.
"Erant, what should I do?"
"I will have a robot take Ardin to the morgue, if that is acceptable."
Tren looked at his husband. It seemed so impossible. And yet, Ardin had talked about this many times. He had told Tren he would die first. He remembered telling Ardin he wanted to be happy with the time they had together. And they were. They had been very happy. He reached over and stroked the side of Ardin's head. Then he cried and held Ardin's hand until the robot came for him. Ali took Tren and held him while the robot put him on a cart. Then Ardin and the robot left.
Ali sat and took Tren's hand. Tren buried his face in Ali's chest. Ali's spicy scent calmed him a little.
"Do you want to sit on my lap?" Ali asked him.
"I suppose." Tren climbed on and Ali wrapped his arms tightly around him.
Tren cried until he was exhausted. He lay his head on Ali's shoulder.
"Tren, please never forget that I love you. I would happily spend the rest of my life with you, if you wanted it."
"I am so glad you are here with me, Ali. What do you mean about the rest of your life? You have a spouse and a home on Gorga."
"I would divorce and live with you, if you wanted that."
"Thank you, Ali. I don't know exactly how I feel, but if I decided I wanted a new spouse, I would pick you."
Ali hugged him.
Tren rested his head on Ali's shoulder and Ali rubbed his back. He started crying again.
Ara spoke over the comm.
"I am so sorry Tren. The king and his wife, and of course, their security people are on their way to speak to you."
"Really?" Tren sniffed. "I better put on clothes."
Tren looked at Ali's crotch. His stiff prick was extending out of his shorts. Tren shook his head.
"I'm sorry, Tren. That is the effect you have on me."
"It's fine, Ali. Being wanted is a good thing, now that—"
Tren's head was pounding. Then he remembered he was supposed to get dressed.
"I am so glad you are here."
Tren got up and put on a pair of shorts and a shirt. He washed his face in the bathroom. He looked in the mirror and saw he looked awful, which was exactly how he felt. He could see Ardin's face in the mirror. Ardin was using their tooth cleaner. He spun around, saw no one, and began sobbing again. He wiped his face dry. He walked out of the washroom and sat next to Ali. He took Ali's hand and held it.
Ali wondered about whether to mention the possibility of Ardin being brought back in a computer. If there was any chance it would not be successful, it would be much better for Tren to never know. He decided not to say anything.
Tren looked over and saw Ali's cock was still sticking out.
"Ali, you can't wave that thing around the king."
Tren pointed at his prick. "The security men will think it is a gun! You don't know how they are! They checked our fingernails! They scanned our tooth cleaner twice."
Ali felt bad about it, but Tren was all Ali thought about while he was at Secundus. He stayed in his room and replayed all their encounters in his mind. If the most beautiful female Gorg and Tren were side-by-side, Ali would pick Tren. And how could he not? Tren would be the one looking at Ali's crotch and licking his lips. Ali pulled it up against his belly so that it was out of sight.
Tren leaned against him and Ali put his arm around him.
A few minutes later, Erant said, "The security men would like to scan the room."
"That's fine," Tren said.
They came in waving scanners over everything. They took blood samples from both of them. Ali started to understand what Tren meant. Then three Eosophins entered the room. One was the king. Tren knelt and he pulled Ali alongside him.
The king was wearing ordinary clothes, pants and a loose shirt. His wife wore a simple gown of blue with gemstones around her neck.
"Please sit," the king told them.
"Tren, this is my wife, the Lady Arifala, and my cousin, Jerallen."
"I am pleased to meet you."
"Let me get chairs for you," Tren told them.
"There is no need. We can't stay long.
"Tren, thanks to you and Ardin, there are two new members of the royal family. I think you have some idea how important this is to us. It is important to our entire species. There are interesting connections between our family and yours. My first wife died unexpectedly in her sleep. She was pregnant and a complication of the pregnancy caused a blood vessel in her brain to burst. I know exactly how you feel this morning. I wish I could take away your pain, but there is nothing I can do about death.
"Because of my deep love for my first wife, I couldn't bear the thought of replacing her. I postponed and postponed. I should have thought of the good of the empire and not my personal feelings, but I couldn't. I would have to take another wife and possibly lose her in pregnancy.
"I met Arifala at a social event. I don't recall seeing her before that. She walked up to me and told me we would soon be married. I thought she was pretty but insane."
"I was intrigued by her delusion, however and we began talking. I asked her why she thought we would be married. She told me she had dreams which revealed the future."
"My mother has dreams of the future!" Tren said.
"Do you believe them, Tren?" Arifala asked him.
She smiled and nodded at him.
Targen continued. "I found myself drawn to Arifala. I soon found myself hoping she would laugh again, smile at me, or even look at me. By the end of the evening, I realized that what she had said about marriage was very possibly true. I proposed to her two days later.
"Last night Arifala woke and told me she had a dream. She was told in the dream that she was pregnant and that Ardin had died."
Tren's eyes widened as he looked at the king and his wife.
"There is some connection. The same person told her both things at the same time.
"Tren, in gratitude for what you and Ardin did for the Eosophin empire and the Kugrall family, I am giving you ten billion credits."
Tren and Ali gasped.
"Did you say bbbillion?"
"Yes. I can't bring Ardin back. If I could, I would."
"You are officially named a Peer of the Realm, which entitles you to privileges in the Eosophin empire.
"I am also providing a robot which can function as a bodyguard, financial advisor, mechanic, and medic. Would you like a title? If you would, I would like to make you a Duke. Does that appeal to you?"
Tren had no interest in that at all.
"No, your majesty."
"I thought not."
Targen took a deep breath.
"We will also be calling our son Ardin."
Tren thought he must have misunderstood.
"Technically his name will be Argen, but he will be called Ardin."
"Oh, your majesty! That is incredible, but you do not have to do that!"
Tren didn't think that was appropriate. Ardin was a wonderful person—the best—but an ex-slave!
"I don't think you should do that."
"You don't?" Arifala asked.
"What would Odd Times say? They would ridicule both of us. I don't think I could bear it: to have people laughing at the memory of Ardin. I don't want them laughing at your son, either."
"I understand completely. How will it be if we both remember how similar the names Ardin and Argen are?"
"That is fine."
"Our son will know of Ardin. I promise you that," Arifala said.
Fresh tears started running down both Tren's and Ali's faces.
"Tren, this is my cousin Jerallen."
The king pointed to another Eosophin.
"He also has a gift for you."
"Aligaron, will you be staying by Tren's side?"
"Yes, your majesty. For as long as he will let me."
"In gratitude for assisting Tren at this very difficult time, we are giving you one million credits."
Ali stared at the king.
"Thank you, your majesty, but that is not necessary!"
"I know. But we appreciate it. By helping Tren, who is very important to us, you are helping us."
"Tren, believe me, I know money does nothing to erase the ache in your heart. Is there anything else we can do for you?"
"No, your majesty. I thank you for your generosity, but..."
Then he started crying again.
"Jerallen. Are you going to take them to the ship?"
"Yes, if they are willing."
"Good bye, Tren, and thank you."
"Thank you, Tren. We will never forget that we have a son because of Ardin."
The king and his wife left.
Jerallen asked Tren, "Has Aligaron told you of my wife?"
"I was afraid to mention it, in case it wasn't successful," Ali told him.
Jerallen nodded at Ali.
"Yes, it would be a double blow.
"Tren, one of the king's security measures is scanning a person's mind and having an AI question the personality in a computer. The personality has no defenses and no possibility of deliberate deception. The copy is complete and includes all memories. I was part of the team that developed this technique.
"My wife Kerra died in an accident four A-years ago. I had access to a copy of Kerra's mind. By design, these copies are not persistent. They don't last. Introducing a possibly hostile mind into the Eosophin computer network would not be wise. After two years of effort and over thirteen million credits, I was able to develop a technique for converting the volatile—meaning short-lived—copy into a permanent, standalone AI. I activated it and..."
He smiled at Tren who was clearly very confused.
"I had my Kerra back again."
"I converted the copy of Ardin that was made when the king arrived into another AI. He is in my ship. Or rather, your ship. I am giving it to you. Ardin or Ardin's copy, is the pilot."
"Yes, Tren. Complete. Every memory. It is not Ardin, but it is everything Ardin was, except for his body."
Tren stared at Jerallen. It was incredible.
"He doesn't know how to pilot a ship!"
"My wife is teaching him."
Tren chuckled, nervously.
"It's a good thing he learned to read!"
"Would you like to see the ship and speak to him?"