He came, releasing a deep, ecstatic howl. The prince buried his cock into the maiden’s pussy, holding it in place as he unloaded. It was his turn to shudder, pressing himself against his lover, as his orgasm swept him along in its relentless path. His body jerked through a series of aftershocks which only reluctantly subsided.

A pair of voices cried out from the alcove on the left, a couple united in orgasm. From the alcove to the right, a woman’s voice gasped in bliss, with the lower tones of a man groaning along just seconds later. Everyone was cumming except Sparr and Aine.

On stage, the act was coming to a close. The prince, at last released by the orgasmic wave, pulled free and sat back, catching his breath. Moaning before him, the maiden, too, slowly recovered her composure, looking about at the spectators as if finally seeing them. Both were still bathed in the post-coital glow, smiling a bit sheepishly. Both now looked directly at Sparr and Aine, a new hunger finding their eyes.

Aine spoke, trailing a strand of hair across her lips. “I might have sacrificed a few more tokens than the other guests.”

The prince rose first, stepping from the stage, his cock lying lazily against his thigh. He wasn’t as tall, or as endowed, as Sparr, but his physique was admirable. With eyes only for Aine, he approached the alcove and knelt. As the caramel beauty slipped open her gown he kissed first her knee, then her thigh.

A knot of jealousy began to grow in Sparr’s gut. He had expected to be left alone with Aine, or to hurry back to her house for an afternoon of loveplay. But before he could mouth an objection, the maiden rose. She stood lithe and gleaming with oil, her eyes fixed on Sparr, her hip bones and breasts throwing enticing shadows across her pale skin. She stepped toward him.

“I told you to trust me.” Aine hadn’t released her grip on his hand, even as the prince steadily kissed up her thigh. “This is Lorada. She’s quite skilled.”

The maiden stood before him, legs slightly spread. Pressing her hands against her thighs, she drew them up her body, the pressure creating a fleeting contrast between pink and white, blood and alabaster. Delicate fingers brushed past her bare slit before continuing on to her belly, ribs, and breasts. Here she lingered, letting each finger slip across a perky nipple. She moaned.

“He filled me,” Lorada said, eyes glancing toward a trickle of cum dripping down her leg. “But,” she said, affecting a pout, “I didn’t get to taste it.” She knelt. “I’m going to taste you.”

The scent of sweet oil was closer than ever, teasing Sparr’s senses. He settled deep into the lounger as the maiden first loosened, then removed, his trousers. They fell away with a whisper.

“Oooh,” she said, voice sharp with surprise. “Thick, and freshly shaved.”

“Enjoy it,” Aine said before turning her attention back to the prince.

Like her counterpart, the maiden kissed her way up Sparr’s thigh. He slid his eyes shut, but when the maiden reached his balls, she spoke. “Watch.”

Sparr did, not surprised to find her staring back with dark, vulnerable eyes. Lorada’s pert tongue darted forward, jolting him with a spark of hot pleasure. She repeated, then with her eyes still locked on his, began to circle his sack with her tongue. He groaned, narrowing his eyes to slits. After half a minute the maiden parted her full lips and gently drew in one ball. Sparr was lost to delight. The scented oil, the rhythmic music, the flickering light, the maiden’s beauty, and the almost impossible pleasure of his balls being sweetly caressed with her hot, wet tongue, were overwhelming.

Lorada now drew his other ball into her mouth, a promising sign of what she later would do to his cock. Within her warm mouth, the maiden’s tongue danced and swirled around both balls before she slowly pulled back to release them. She repeated the motion, this time circling long, delicate fingers around the base of his shaft while she sucked his balls. Again she pulled free.

“I could make you cum like this,” she said, dark eyes still locked on Sparr’s. Lorada flicked her tongue against his sack. “You’d cum so hard they’d hear you in the street.”

Sparr released a soft, “fuck”.

“But I’m not going to,” the maiden continued. “I’m going to lick you, I’m going to suck you, and you’re going to cum in my mouth. They’ll still hear you in the street.” She returned to her work, popping the head of his cock past her lips.

To his right, Aine sighed and cooed. She had by now opened her gown entirely, giving the prince access to her slit, and allowing her to fondle and tug at her breasts. The prince attended to her with the same skill and patience as he had Lorada. Sparr’s head swam with conflicting emotions, but the pang of jealousy largely had subsided. Not for the first time he had to remind himself that Kaybe was not Earth, that its occupants didn’t follow the same social norms. In Santi, not only could a wealthy couple enjoy the company of a pair of sex workers, they would be admired for it.

Lorada, meanwhile, was devouring his cock. The same soft, wide mouth that had encased his balls now opened to swallow his organ. She took the head with ease, circling it briefly with her tongue before slipping it past her lips. The thickest part of his shaft, where most women had difficulty, seemed hardly to bother the maiden. Sparr watched in amazement, the sensation of her soft lips sliding down his shaft no less erotic than the sight of it.

At last she pulled back, gasping. A string of saliva swung from her lower lip, looking for a place to land. “Fuck, you’re thick.

“That’s so good.”

“Here,” Lorada said, returning to her work. Again she popped him into her mouth, coating his shaft with her saliva. The maiden pumped, taking him less than halfway, but building to a steady rhythm.

Falling back against the cushioned lounger, Sparr let pleasure wash over him. Lorada curled her delicate fingers around his balls, tugging gently as she sucked him. Spikes and swirls of ecstasy reached ever deeper into his being, owning him, altering his consciousness. Sparr was slipping not just toward release, but away from all other thoughts but that of the warm, accommodating mouth dedicated to his pleasure. He had no worries, cares, or thoughts but to savor and welcome the sensations, and give into them once ready. A long slow moan from Aine told her own story of bliss. Idly, he wandered which of the two would cum first.

Quite unexpectedly, it was Aine. With little warning, the brunette’s hand tightened on his, her nails digging into his flesh. She shuddered, then came. “Huh, hahhh,” she gasped. Sparr turned in time to see his lover arch her back, pressing the prince’s face against her slit. “Hahh, fuuuck!” For a long moment she was frozen in profile, candlelight playing along her caramel skin, her unruly brunette locks spilling across her face and neck. Aine clung to the orgasmic wave as long as she could, soaking up every second of ecstasy before at last it slipped away. She collapsed with a sigh.

“He’s good.” Lorada had taken a break from swallowing Sparr’s shaft, and was smiling toward a depleted Aine.

“Mmm.” Sparr was forced to admit the plain truth, but chose not to voice it.

“But what about you, huh?” Lorada was addressing Sparr from the other side of his raised cock, playfully, as if hiding behind a too-narrow tree. “Wouldn’t you like to finish?”

“Yeah, do it,” he groaned. “I want it in your mouth.”

Lorada giggled. “Yes, my lord.” The maiden wasted no time, extending her pink tongue to slide first against his sack, then slowly up the shaft, carefully gauging Sparr’s reaction. After teasing him for a moment, she popped the head past her soft lips. As before, she worked her mouth over the thickest part of his shaft, and held it.

“I told you she was skilled.” Without releasing his hand, Aine had rolled to face Sparr, her expression warm and content.

“Yeah,” Sparr said, his breath ragged.

Lorada was no longer teasing him, instead pumping Sparr’s cock rhythmically. Each stroke started shallow, caressing the head before sliding down to engulf more than half of him. She was skilled. Few women could take him that deep, fewer still could maintain it. The maiden’s sole purpose was to extract his load. His only desire was to allow it. Sparr’s orgasm wasn’t far away.

“You’ll pop soon,” Aine mused. “I want to know the exact second,” she drew his hand to her mouth and began to lick and suck his fingers, “When you fill her mouth.”

“Fuuuck,” Sparr moaned. The growing bliss pushed all other sensations away. The music, scented oil, and candlelight all faded, overpowered by the lips and tongue consuming him. His eyes closed to near slits, his hips ground involuntarily against the cushions, his breath grew ragged. Sparr ran his fingers through Lorada’s short-cropped hair, as if she needed encouragement. She didn’t. The maiden took him to the edge, then into the abyss.

“Oh, I’m so close,” he gasped, remembering Aine’s request. “Her mouth, her sweet, perfect mouth on my cock.”

“Her mouth is so sweet,” Aine echoed, her voice a near whisper. She licked his palm. “Shoot into it.”

“I’m going to, I’m going, I’m… now, oh fuck!” Sparr ejected a blast of cum into Lorada’s welcoming mouth as ecstasy gripped him. His entire body swam with warmth, with bliss, as he howled in delight. Another shot of cum found a home in the maiden’s throat.

Lorada kept up her rhythm, drawing out Sparr’s orgasm as his cock jerked in her mouth. The maiden was masterful, neither stopping early, nor working his flesh too hard. She didn’t retch at the cum flooding her mouth. Only when he sagged back into the lounger, depleted, did she allow his cock to slide from her lips. Tears sparkled at the corner of her eyes, but Lorada was smiling.

She swallowed.


Progress on the air car was fitful. For several days after his trip to the temple with Aine, Sparr discovered no new parts at all. Then, on a day when a gaggle of sailors from the same visiting ship all bought bottles of the brown liquor at his stall, he harvested three new parts in one night.

He figured out other tricks to maximize his return. As often as possible, after feeding a new batch of tokens into the fabricator, he would then exchange them with one of his fellow merchants. Like Sparr, most dealt with low-cost goods, and needed the silver tokens to make change. As long as Sparr periodically traded some of his silvers for a bronze, they indulged his curious habit. With proper timing, he could scan one set of tokens, trade them with a vendor, scan those, then trade and scan once more, either with a second vendor, or with Ost.

One evening, after a carefully negotiated series of trades with both the butcher and vegetable vendor that resulted in the discovery of two new parts for the air car, Sparr found himself with a single new token. Valued at twenty-five of the silver tokens, the nearly black one he held was the first he had seen. With little optimism, he fed it into the fabricator.

Fab blank: EMP resistant

“What the fuck?” Every token Sparr had scanned so far had been for a more or less obvious part to a piece of machinery, building, furniture, or system. Not only was the new part not for an air car, it didn’t sound like a part at all. Curious, he tried to fabricate it.

Select from list: the screen read, displaying the list of all of the parts stored in its memory. Confusion settled on him. Why couldn’t he simply fabricate the part he had just fed in? Shrugging, Sparr selected an air car chassis rail that he had only that day discovered.

Insufficient resources

Sparr cursed, then navigated back to the screen’s main menu. He found the chassis rail, selected fabricate now, and was rewarded with the hum of machinery. Seconds later, the panel opened to reveal the glowing hot rail. The facility had the resources necessary to build what he had asked. What was different about the Fab blank?

It wasn’t until later, walking Bogg, that the answer came to him. Sparr stopped dead in his tracks as others cursed and walked around him. A Fab blank was the code for replicating a token. That’s why it had asked him to select a part. If the facility had the necessary resources, it would have fabbed a duplicate of the chassis rail token.

Sparr could think of no reason to duplicate a token, even if the facility had the necessary resources. But there was another clue in the name of the design: EMP resistant. With Bogg impatient to resume their walk, Sparr shuffled forward, but his mind swam with the implications.

Even with no military training and average technical acumen, Sparr knew what an EMP was. An electromagnetic pulse was the side effect of a nuclear detonation, capable of destroying electronics, or at the very least temporarily disrupting their operation. An EMP could destroy electronic records of almost any sort provided they were stored on conventional computers. Newer computers used different underlying technologies that were not susceptible to EMPs, but at the time of the Ark mission they had been a significant threat.

Another piece of the puzzle fell into place. Ever since Sparr had connected the tokens to their use as storage devices for parts, he had wondered why. There was no reason for the Ark colonists to bring part diagrams along in bulky physical form. A single digital storage card could hold hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of designs. And if they didn’t bring them, then why would the colonists produce them once on Kaybe?

Fear of an EMP would explain it. If the colonists had believed that someone would explode an EMP, or similar weapon, then the only way to protect their ability to fabricate parts would be to produce them in physical form. The Ark colonists hadn’t brought nuclear weapons. What threat, then, could have prompted the colonists to mass-produce the tokens?

“Rwrrf.” Bogg nudged his leg. Without realizing it, Sparr had once again come to a halt, his mind turning the question around. Like so many Kaybe mysteries, solving one turned up another.

“Okay, boy.” Sparr scratched Bogg’s muzzle. Once again the two set off into the night, carrying with them more questions than answers.


“It’s starting to look like an air car.”

Sparr stood at the door of Jance’s shed, admiring his progress, and talking to himself. Though still half skeleton, the car had grown from a pile of random parts to the unmistakable outline of a vehicle. The base of the vehicle was complete, as were the outer chassis rails, and the struts that connected them to the base. He had discovered and fabricated the front and side panels which formed the undercarriage, but not the curved corner panels. The thruster housings, lift control plates, and stability couplers had all been attached. In the corner of the shed were dozens of smaller components, some partially assembled, some still waiting for yet-to-be-discovered parts. The car was looking less like a fantasy born of desperation and more of a reality.

Being sure to cover the air car with the leather tarp, he exited the shed. Bogg ambled over, muzzle flecked with sand, foam, and bits of crab shell. Together, the two strolled along the beach and back toward the center of town. Sparr was pleased with his success discovering and fabricating parts for the air car, but, even with his tricks, was steadily draining his tokens. Barring a sudden burst of luck, he would go broke before finding all of the parts.

Distracted by the looming challenge of financing his project, Sparr almost didn’t notice the artist. Just past the foot of the docks, before the town began to rise toward the commercial areas, was a chaotic retail plaza. It was here that Cee operated her little liquor stall, where townspeople came to peer at the sea, and where certain finer crafts could be found.

“Portraits!” a young man bellowed to the crowd. “Charcoals! Make you a lovely drawing of your family.” He noticed Sparr. “You sir, how about a drawing of your magnificent beast?” Behind him an impromptu easel stood ready, layered with parchment. In front he had set up a table with a few sample works.

Sparr stopped to admire the drawings. The man was skilled, with a flair for capturing the essence of his subject with a few clear strokes, then merely suggesting the rest with softer marks. A full-body portrait of a young woman reclining was particularly captivating. In it, the subject’s eyes and small mouth were open, seemingly in surprise. Light-colored hair spilled around her neck and onto bare shoulders, while a sheet covered just enough of her voluptuous body to allow for modesty.

“I always wonder,” Sparr mused, “when I see something like this. It’s beautiful. Did the subject not care for it?”

“Quite the opposite,” the artist said, grinning. “This is a sort of copy, actually. The first was a nude. It now hangs on her lover’s wall, there in plain sight for her family and visitors to see. I asked if I could draw another.”

Sparr flipped gingerly through the stack of drawings. There were two or three landscapes and one of a ship, but most were portraits. He was about to thank the man and continue on his way, when a drawing near the bottom of the stack caught his eye. Sparr pulled it out and laid it on top of the others.

The illustration was unlike any other in the man’s portfolio. Whereas the others were bold and simple, this one was considerably more nuanced, both in composition and the application of charcoal. To one side, a cluster of delicate trees surrounded three simple structures, while to the other, the scene slowly faded to an impressionistic depiction. Trees, hills, and animals transformed to little more than suggestions. If the artist had drawn the others in an hour or less, the landscape must have taken days. But what really caught Sparr’s eye was the lower half of the image. Familiar, pastel swirls twisted, joined, and parted ways again, their paths dotted with grey, elongated shapes.

“This drawing-“

“One of my earlier works,” the man interrupted. He glanced nervously around the square. “I don’t draw in that style any more.”

Sparr was sure he recognized the style. “You learned at the Portal, didn’t you? You were with the Precipice.”

A spasm of discomfort flashed across the man’s face, his earlier humor gone. “Please,” he said, snatching up the drawing and returning it to the bottom of the stack. “I do portraits now.”

“What were those elongated grey things at the bottom?” Sparr had seen the same shapes in the illustrations that Ota had shown him weeks ago.

But the distressed artist simply shook his head. “I can’t!”

Frustrated, but not surprised, Sparr turned to go. The young man obviously had parted ways with the Precipice, but like his one-time brothers and sisters, couldn’t bring himself to reveal information that he no doubt had been indoctrinated with from an early age.

“Wait, wait,” the man called out behind him. “I need tokens!”

“Don’t we all, buddy.” Sparr walked away, shaking his head.

Almost immediately, someone reached out to him from behind the edge of another craftsman’s stall. Sparr jumped, reaching for his blade.

“Alain! Alain of Merrylun!” It was the liquor vendor Cee. She had a frantic look to her eye, gesturing wildly at him. “Here, please!”

Sparr approached cautiously, looking for any sign of a trap. As soon as he was close enough she reached out again, dragging him into the shadows.

“Alain!” she repeated. “They’re looking for you.” Her body was pressed against his, her ample flesh enticingly warm, but there was nothing suggestive about the desperate look in her eyes.

“What?” he asked, beginning to worry. “Who’s looking for me?”

“Two men, two women,” she whispered, peering past him nervously. “They arrived on the ship this morning. Foreigners!”

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