Stuffed into his own cramped berth, Sparr fell quickly into a dreamless sleep.


As Jance had promised, favorable winds blessed the Shai on her journey south. He and Sparr walked the deck at dawn, the captain to inspect his ship, while Sparr shook off the stiffness of sleep.

“She has to be loaded carefully,” Jance explained. “Heavier cargo aft, or she’ll drive too deep into the waves. And balanced port to starboard. She’s already fickle enough to steer!”

“The tiller is massive,” Sparr observed.

“Oh, yes.” Jance motioned Sparr aft, where two of the crew were stationed. “It can be locked into place at any of these points,” Jance said, indicating a rail cut every half meter or so with notches. “But like I said, she’s fickle. Watch.”

Almost on cue, the wind shifted. The two crewmen lifted the tiller handle, and with considerable effort, moved it one notch to port. The ship lurched, and only reluctantly resumed its previous course. Behind them, the tiller kicked up a heavy wake. Sparr was struck by how inefficient the ship’s design was. To maintain a steady course the helmsmen had to constantly fight against the sea. Although it was impossible to estimate exactly, he guessed that at least twenty percent of the ship’s power was wasted just keeping it on course.

“How long have you been at sea?” Sparr asked.

“Aboard the Shai, five years. Before her, I captained the Veen for seven. And before that,” Jance smiled and shook his head, “more years as a mate than I care to recall.”

“Was the Veen of the same design?”

“Mmmm? Oh, no. She was shorter, and deeper in the center to hold the mast. Had to fill her half with rocks just so she wouldn’t tip.” Jance smiled at the memory, before excusing himself to continue his inspection.

Sparr passed a restless day aboard the Shai. Although making good speed, he felt idle. The crew was kept busy, and the other passengers had come prepared to pass the hours. Ost carved figures with a tiny knife, while Sylva stitched. Aine practiced music on a double flute. Sparr himself had little to do but brood over his situation.

Exercising Bogg provided a welcome break. The animal quite happily accompanied Sparr on circuits of the deck, pausing periodically to sniff or rub against the bulkhead and fittings. No one seemed the least bit worried about his presence onboard the ship. In fact, the crew were taken by the animal, more than once discreetly slipping him bones or scraps of fish.

Later Sparr exercised, hoping to stay as limber and strong as possible. Sweating and shirtless, he lifted coils of rope, ran laps, and stretched. When Aine and Sylva moved their chairs for a better view he almost laughed. Women on Kaybe, he observed, rarely exhibited shyness.

For dinner he again joined Ost, Aine, and Sylva. Captain Jance joined them as well.

“You’re in one of the lower berths?” Aine asked. “Must be cramped for a big boy like you.” The brunette fixed her eyes on him, twirling a strand of hair with her fingers. She wasn’t wrong. The tiny room was barely large enough to hold his hammock.

“I’m conserving my tokens,” he said.

“A shame, still,” she said. “You don’t have any room for entertaining.”

Sparr didn’t need to ask what sort of entertaining the brunette was interested in. Her sultry expression and frequent innuendo were enough. Aine had once again opened her bodice, providing Sparr with an enticing view of her heavy cleavage and caramel skin. It was frustrating. He had no doubt that he could take the woman to bed, but had no proper bed to take her to.

“How are you finding the passage?” Jance asked the group.

All agreed that the journey so far had been pleasant, except Sylva. “The pitching of the ship makes my needlework difficult,” she observed.

“Ahhhh,” Jance said. “I’ll tell my helmsmen to take particular care when you’re sewing.” He winked, then added, “But there’ll be nothing to do for it once we round Cape Reedo.”

“Cape Reedo?” Sparr asked.

“An area with difficult winds,” Jance explained. “We’ll reach it the last day before Santi. It’s rarely pleasant, but lately, worse.”

“Spooky,” Sylva added. “All of the lights.”

Ost sensed Sparr’s confusion. “It’s been noticeable the last two crossings. To round the cape you must sail near Horn Island. The winds make it difficult enough, but last time through we passed during the evening hours.”

“It was spooky,” Sylva repeated. “There were lights and odd noises on the island. Everyone onboard noticed.”

“Yes,” Jance sighed. “The crew are beginning to talk. I may have to start paying a bonus for night passages.”

Wine arrived, and for a time the conversation turned to more prosaic topics. Aine ribbed Sylva about her infatuation with Wyl, Ost griped about the difficulty of finding distributors for his timber, and Jance spoke hopefully about building a new ship. The five were served a stew of game, redolent with what Sparr would have sworn was ginger.

“Who are they?” During a lull in the conversation Sparr prodded Sylva. Trying not to draw attention, he tilted his head toward a group of three passengers in grey robes.

“Circle of the Precipice,” she said.

The comment drew Sparr’s attention. He’d only heard bits and pieces about the religion. Unlike the Origin, which was thoroughly woven into Kaybe life, the Precipice seemed secretive and remote. “Were they in Caibo spreading the word of their religion?”

Sylva shot him a curious glance. “No,” she said, “they mostly keep to themselves. I don’t know what they were doing in Caibo.”

Sparr took another look. Two men of middle years spoke in low, deferential tones to a child who Sparr guessed to be around age ten. The three were dressed in heavy grey robes which seemed more practical than fashionable, with no sign of ornamentation, symbols, or jewelry. Whether the child was a boy or a girl, he couldn’t tell.

Apart from the distraction of the Precipice followers, the evening progressed much as had the one prior. Ost ordered more wine, drinking half the pitcher himself. He quizzed Sparr about his youth, reminisced about his own, and bragged about his daughters. Jance came and went, sometimes pulled away by the ship’s business, but always returning to the company of his passengers. Sparr soaked up the evening like a warm bath, relaxing into the comforting embrace of friendship and laughter. He didn’t want the night to end.

Regardless, just as he had the night before, Sparr excused himself, checked on Bogg, and returned to his berth to prepare for bed.

“Excuse me, sir. Excuse me, mister Alain.”

Sparr turned. “What?”

It was one of the crew, a wiry youth who ran all manner of errands on the ship. He was standing just outside the little door, rocking on his feet uneasily. “I’ve been sent for you.”

“Why?” Sparr asked. “Who sent you?”

Again, the youth looked uncomfortable. “I’m afraid I can’t say, sir. Can you bring your things?”

Warily, Sparr followed the boy to the upper deck. His escort opened a door to one of the cabins. “Here, sir. I was told to say,” he hesitated, “that a room became available.” The boy fled.

The cabin was definitely an upgrade. In place of the hammock, it had a sizable bed, and instead of a filthy nook to stash his pack, he found a small dresser. There was even a window.

“This had better be worth eighty tokens.”

Unsurprised, Sparr turned to find Aine slouching against the door frame. Her eyes swept over his body, grinning with approval.

“Jance would have charged me one hundred fifty more,” Sparr said. Like his new friend, he approved of what he saw. Aine had unbuttoned her bodice completely. It hung loose from her shoulders, barely concealing her breasts. A pair of loose pants tied below the knee showcased shapely calves.

“You already spent one night below decks,” the brunette said. She stepped inside, closing the door behind her. “And Jance likes me.” In the lamplight her skin practically glowed.

“I like you.” Sparr tugged his shirt over his head.

Aine bit her lip suggestively. “You’re a strong man, Alain.” She took a step toward him.

“I went to gladiator camp this year.”

Aine laughed. “A strong man, and an odd one. But, why are you still wearing trousers?”

Something in Aine’s hand caught his eye, a glass tube filled with green and blue liquid. “What’s that?” he asked.

In response, Aine only placed the object on the cabin’s tiny table. “You’ll see,” she said. “Trousers off.”

Sparr complied, pulling off his plain trousers.

“My my,” Aine said softly, as if to herself. She reached out a hand to brush Sparr’s cock. “This will be a challenge.”

“You’re still wearing your bodice,” Sparr observed.

“Barely,” Aine said. She slipped the garment off, revealing a set of full breasts topped by brown nipples. Sparr reached to fondle them, and in the blink of an eye, they were kissing.

Aine was responsive and eager, pressing herself against him while her hand again found his cock. “Yessss,” Sparr groaned. He drank in her scent, her touch.

“Mmm, yes,” Aine echoed. Her tongue sought his, wetly teasing and exploring. Her hand circled and squeezed his shaft. “Fuuuuuck,” she whispered.

Sparr steered her toward the bed. How long had it been since he’d made love? Weeks earlier he’d taken Phia on stage at the Origin Departure ceremony. His orgasm had been explosive, but his awareness twisted by the mind-altering red draught. Prior to that he had done little more than play a role in Liette’s fantasies. He longed for the warmth, the mutual longing of two equal partners. Sparr kissed Aine almost frantically.

At the edge of the bed Aine suddenly twisted free. She shoved Sparr playfully, grinning as he fell back on the mattress. “Back,” she said, urging him toward the center of the bed. Aine picked up the glass tube. “I like men who can last,” she said. “This tube counts twenty minutes.” Aine turned the tube upside down, returning it to the table. The blue liquid, which previously had settled to the bottom of the tube, was now on top. As Sparr watched, a single drop of the blue liquid separated lethargically from its kin to slip through the green liquid to the bottom of the tube. Another soon joined it.

“Just twenty minutes?” Sparr said, grinning.

“You say that now,” Aine said. She knelt at the end of the bed before leaning forward between Sparr’s legs. She was inches from his cock, her sultry eyes locked on his. “No one lasts ten.” She flicked her tongue.

“Mmmm,” Sparr groaned. Aine quickly got to work teasing his balls, the first few licks shooting jolts of pleasure through him. Her hair spilled across his thighs.

Aine kept her eyes focused on Sparr’s own, judging his reaction. “Your balls are full,” she said, pulling back only long enough to make her comment, then resuming.

“Mmm yeah, been a while,” Sparr said. He was already completely hard.

“I’ll empty them.” Aine’s tongue slid along the base of his sack then up one ball to his cock.

“Mhhh,” he groaned.

The brunette repeated the move, this time sliding her tongue firmly across his sack. She changed up her strokes, alternating between balls, and mixing in deliciously wet licks across the base and slides.

“Fuck, that’s nice,” Sparr gasped.

“I know,” Aine said, smiling. She curled her fingers around the base of his shaft, and as Sparr watched, began to both stroke and lick him.

“Fuh, huhhh.” Sparr closed his eyes.

Aine laughed, clearly pleased with his reaction. “I told you no one lasts ten minutes.”

Sparr slipped into a near trance, his hips subconsciously grinding his cock against Aine’s hand. Warmth slowly overtook his body, reaching from his balls, to his cock, and skin. Time lost meaning. He knew nothing but the potent swirl of wet delight delivered by Aine’s skilled tongue and lips. Secret pathways carried tendrils of bliss through and across him.

Without warning, Aine pulled back. “Damn,” she said, her eyes traveling over Sparr’s bulging shaft. She pressed her tongue flat against the side, licking upward to the head. “You’re so hard,” she said. “The way of the stone, for sure.”

Sparr sat half up, reaching for Aine’s billowy trousers. “Let’s see how wet you are,” he said.

“Nope,” Aine said, swatting his hand away. “No.”

Confused, but happy to let Aine continue, Sparr lay back. The brunette turned, coming at him from the side. She gave his shaft another long, wet lick, then slipped her mouth over the head. Aine was skilled, parting her lips to accommodate first the head, then the fattest portion of Sparr’s bulging cock. She wriggled her lips to wet his shaft, then pulled free.

“Ahh, that’s good,” Sparr said. “Do it again.”

She already was. Aine slid her lips to the same spot she had reached before, this time more swiftly. Again she withdrew, and before Sparr could encourage her, plunged down his shaft yet again. The brunette built toward a steady rhythm.

“Gaaaaawd,” he groaned. Aine’s hair spilled onto his stomach; her breasts brushed his side. Sparr reached for one.

“Yes,” Aine panted, pulling her lips clear of his cock long enough to offer her own encouragement. “Squeeze it.”

He did, first slipping his fingers along the fullest part, then curling them to squeeze and pinch the nipple. He fondled Aine’s tender flesh while she greedily sucked as much of his bursting cock as she could handle. There was no sensation of teeth, and little gagging. The woman knew exactly her limit and rarely tried to exceed it.

“Harder,” she said, again pulling free. Several strings of saliva swung from her full lips.

“Squeeze it harder.”

Sparr increased his grip, eliciting a muffled groan from Aine. He tightened his fingers, tugging hard.

“You like that,” he said, a bit surprised.

“Mmmmph.” Aine didn’t stop sucking.

Sparr was happy to oblige. Squeezing and groping her yielding flesh was wickedly arousing. Aine was taking his cock as deep as she could with every stroke, pleasuring him with her velvety lips and tongue. A tear ran from her eye. He settled back, content to accept her attention while groping and tugging her breasts.

As before, Sparr slipped into a near trance. Aine didn’t vary her technique. Most women would switch between strokes, ball sucking, and licking. Aine didn’t bother. There were no gaps, distractions, or transitions, just soft warm lips slipping up and down his shaft. Sparr had been taken deeper before, but not by much, and rarely by someone so focused. Slowly, he began to drift toward orgasm, his free hand clutching at the sheets.

“Not yet,” Aine said. She removed her mouth from his cock only long enough to caution him. “I told you I like men who can last.”

Sparr snuck a glance at the water clock. By now, roughly half of the blue liquid had trickled through the lighter green liquid. He had held on for perhaps ten minutes. “Slow down then,” he groaned.

“Nhhh, nhhh” she said, her words muffled by his cock, before managing, “show some control.”

“Don’t you want to fuck?” Sparr asked.

“Tomorrow night,” Aine said. She resumed her blissful work on his cock.

Sparr sat half up, propping himself on his elbow. He reached for Aine’s other breast, giving it a merciless squeeze.

“Fuuuuck,” Aine gasped. “Yeah, like that,” she said, half sobbing.

For a moment, Sparr regained a measure of control. By pawing and squeezing Aine’s heavy breasts he interrupted her rhythm, and slightly delayed his own release. At the same time, her willing acceptance of his rough treatment was arousing. He had earned a brief reprieve, but couldn’t postpone the inevitable.

“Nhhhhhhhhh,” Aine groaned. She slipped a hand into her loose trousers. Her body shuddered. They would both cum.

“Oh goddammit,” Sparr gasped. He tried to resist, but Aine’s soft lips, expert tongue, and complete dedication to extracting his load were too much. Surely, he thought, few men could hold out as long. Somewhere he passed the point of no return. He was seconds from filling Aine’s mouth with seed.

“Mhhhhh,” Aine groaned again, unwilling to take her mouth away from its task. Her fingers were busy against her clit, her body trembling.

“Oh fuck!” Sparr cried. “Oh fuck, oh… oh shit. I’m… oh, goddammit!” He gave Aine’s breast a final, cruel squeeze. “I’m, fu, fuh, fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!” He came, blasting weeks worth of thick cum into Aine’s mouth.

“Nnnnnh,” the brunette groaned. Somehow she held onto his cum.

“Ahhhhhhh,” Sparr groaned. One hand scratched and clawed against the sheets while with the other he maintained his iron grip on Aine’s offered flesh. The orgasm roared through him, carrying him helplessly along.

Aine went stiff, holding her lips against his pulsing rod, while her own orgasm claimed her. “Mmmmph,” she said, voice muffled by cock and cum. Then, as the throes of ecstasy became too much to manage she lifted herself from his cock. “Fuuuuuuuuck,” she groaned, mouth agape. Globs of cum dripped free, some splattering against Sparr’s cock, some dripping to her heavy, tormented breasts. “Nhhhhh!”

Sparr collapsed, his grip on Aine easing. “Ahhhh,” he groaned, as the wave of ecstasy finally ebbed. “You emptied me.”

Aine trembled through the last of her own release, cum and saliva dripping from her panting mouth. “Fuuuuck.”

Sparr let his eyes slip from Aine’s voluptuous, heaving body, to the liquid timer. “Sixteen minutes?” he guessed.

Aine nodded mutely, still catching her breath.

“Is that good or bad?”

The brunette stared at him another moment. “It’s good,” she said, finally. She wiped away a glob of cum from her breast, before licking it from her finger. “Tomorrow night you’ll fuck me for at least that long.”

Aine dressed, and after giving Sparr a sweet kiss, departed for her own cabin. The boat pitched and rocked gently beneath him. He was drained and content. Sleep wasn’t far away.


“Once more, each of you. And this time under one minute. Longer is just unacceptable.”

Captain Fowler faced aft, looking as comfortable in the jumpseat as he did in an Alliance briefing room. There were other zero-gravity trainers on staff, but the veteran led the sessions himself more often than not. Sparr suspected Fowler simply enjoyed the flight.

“Two minutes,” the pilot announced. Aetos, the Alliance zero-gravity aircraft, first climbed to a dizzying altitude then plummeted, giving those aboard several minutes of weightlessness. Odysseus crew and passengers had already trained in massive pools, and in a sprawling hanger while wearing magnetic suits. Nothing mimicked the disorienting sensation of true weightlessness.

“Happner, you’re up,” Fowler said.

Kevin unbuckled, squaring himself to the mock airlock adjacent to Captain Fowler. Like the others, he would have to complete a set of tasks meant to simulate an emergency evacuation. The drill was difficult enough in the close fitting flight suits that they wore during other drills. Wearing the bulky pressure suits made the drill next to impossible.

Gravity slipped away as the Aetos dropped into its arcing descent. Sparr felt his stomach drop away.

“Go!” Fowler shouted.

Kevin kicked forward, propelling himself toward and through the airlock. The cabin remained pressurized during the flight, but contained a facsimile of a corridor, airlock, and escape pod like those carried aboard the Odysseus. Fowler, Sparr, and the others watched through the hatch and via a screen at each seat.

The mission to Kaybe wouldn’t be Kevin’s first, and it showed in his execution of the drill. Hooking his feet deftly just inside the hatch, he tugged loose the dummy meant to represent a disabled crewman. He pushed it forward, pausing to also grab an oversized medical kit from its storage bay. Double encumbered, his passage through the rest of the airlock was torturously slow.

Sparr glanced at both Calista and Tracee. The latter offered him an exaggerated, goofy wink, but Calista was intent on her screen, scrutinizing Kevin’s progress. During the first round, Calista had recorded the second best time, just a few seconds slower than Kevin. Without doubt, she was eager to improve.

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