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Dinner was just as generous as lunch had been. Vegetables, beans, eggs, cheese, potatoes, and butter—not a teabulb or vedgepack in sight. At the end of the line, I waved my implanted hand over the sensor and a screen popped up with, “Recommendation: Two squares chocolate.” Shirley explained that while I had a lot of leeway in what foods I ate, the computers would make sure I got everything I needed “for best performance.”

I added two squares of chocolate to my plate from the dispenser. Who was I to argue? The stuff was delicious. If it would help with “performance,” that was fine with me.

The four of us sat together in the mostly empty mess hall. I kissed Valka on the cheek. “I missed you.”

She turned and kissed me on the lips. “I missed you too.” She took my hand in hers. It felt wonderful. I squeezed. It was good to see her smile.

I dug into the food. Even after the huge lunch, I still felt ravenous.

“So, how was your afternoon?” asked Valka.

“Uh.” What was I going to say? “Pretty, uh, good. And yours?”

“Masters and I just sat and talked.”

“About what?”

“Oh, stuff about being a Scout—the things he’s seen, the places he’s gone. Challers, I can’t wait to get out there and do things. What did you do?”

“Shirley and I, ah, talked.” I nodded to Shirley, trying to act nonchalant.

She nodded back. “And then I gave him an orgasm with my hand.”

I sputtered, trying to think of what to say to salvage the situation. I couldn’t believe Shirley had done that to me—just said it, just like that. How could she just blurt it out like it was nothing? We had practically had sex, and she was waving it around under Valka’s nose!

But Valka just giggled. “Ooh, lucky you! I haven’t had one since the ship.”

“I didn’t know you were in any need,” said Masters. “You should have said something.”

“Oh, no, I’m good,” said Valka with a nod.

“Okay, well, just speak up if you get uncomfortable.”

I looked from face to face around the table. I couldn’t believe what was happening.

Shirley reached across the table and took my hand. “It’s all right, Challers. Scouts talk about this kind of thing all the time. It’s our business. You understand? If you panic whenever anyone talks about sex, you’re going to have a very difficult time.”

I shook my head. “It doesn’t bother you?” I asked Valka.

“No, why should it? In another year, you’ll be having sex with her—full-on real sex—all the time. It’d be pretty silly for me to get upset about that now.” She squeezed my hand again. “It’s okay. Shirley’s a good person. And besides. It’s not like you love me any less, right?”

“I think I love you even more.” It was a big relief for me that Valka was being so mature about this, but it made me feel even more childish for my earlier outburst. I kissed her again.



After dinner, we set up our curriculum, matching what we already had against the requirements for graduation. The topics were diverse, but all understandable as must-haves for Scouts. There was Astronavigation, Technology, First Aid and Basic Medical Care, History, and a subject called “Physicality.” Shirley explained that it was the general study of how to use one’s body effectively, for a variety of purposes. We would be training in meditation, exercise, sexual stimulation and arousal, orgasm control, and self-defense. This was a significant part of our studies; we’d have Physicality sessions three times a day, once before each meal. Valka and I were able to skip the data-handling course because we had gotten most of it in our education at Stakroya Station. What little we were missing we could pick up on the job.

On the way back to our quarters, Shirley and I encountered a pair of cadets speaking in hushed tones. They stopped when they caught sight of us and quickly went their separate ways.

Shirley chuckled.

“What’s funny?”

She shook her head. “Oh, just the things cadets will get up to. Come on. You’re probably getting pretty tired. There’s a busy day ahead, and you’re going to need to get used to sleeping in the chamber.”

While I cleaned my teeth, Shirley stripped out of her shirt and pants. The sight of her naked body set my heart thudding again, and I had to adjust my cock.

Looking up, she caught me and smiled. I looked away. She stepped over to the door of the fresher, put her finger under my chin, and moved my head to face her.

“You’re allowed to look,” she said. “I like it that you appreciate my body. I’m proud of it.”

“I just didn’t want to need another orgasm, that’s all.”

“Ah, I see.” Her hand drifted slowly down my chest. “Why is that?”

“I’m supposed to be learning control?”

“Just because you have an erection, doesn’t mean you have to have an orgasm, but I understand if you’d rather not get worked up before bed. So I’ll give you the choice.” Her hand reached my crotch and she squeezed my cock through the thin material. “An orgasm before bed, or I just get dressed now.”

“It’s a little late to keep from getting worked up now,” I said, my voice already husky. My cock swelled in her hand.

She chuckled low in her throat. “I thought you’d see it my way.” She pulled my shorts down, turning them inside out on my thighs. My cock bounced out into her hand. Shirley squirted some lotion onto it and spread it around. Her hot breath played over my ear. “Do it for me. Real quick. Just let it go; don’t hold back even the slightest bit. You’re young. So strong. I bet you splatter all over the sink.” Her arm snaked around my back, holding me.

No one had ever talked to me like that. My hips jerked. I put my hands out against the mirror-bright wall in front of me. Her hand made slick, wet sounds against my cock. I watched in the mirror, watching her hand move, watching her smiling into my ear. She saw me watching and looked into my eyes.

“Do it,” she said. “Do it now.”

Spasms ran through me, closing my eyes involuntarily. A sharp breath blew out through my gritted teeth.

“Yes,” she whispered. “Yes. More.”

My body tensed under her skilled caress, ecstasy thundering in my ears. White and black warred behind my eyelids. My knees trembled, but with her shoulder behind me, supporting me, I didn’t collapse.

As I finally returned to my senses, I felt a warm, wet washcloth running over my skin. She cleaned me meticulously. Her reflection smiled back at me. “You are going to make one incredible Scout, Challers. I can tell.”

I smiled weakly, still breathless. I didn’t know what to say.

She went back out into the bedroom and tossed me a clean uniform. “Get dressed,” she said, “and come to bed. I still need to show you how to operate the controls.”

Still trembling, I changed into the clean uniform.

Using the circular Scout’s bed turned out to be a fairly simple matter. A set of controls at one end controlled firmness and temperature, and with the firmness set low, it could be pushed and spread to make little hills and valleys. I smoothed out a shallow depression—something vaguely shaped like my old sagging mattress.

“Do you move around much in your sleep?” asked Shirley.

She had changed into an outfit much like mine, except white instead of black. It left little to the imagination, but I managed not to let it get to me much.

“I don’t know. I suppose I don’t, because I would have fallen out of bed if I did. It wasn’t very big.”

“All right. Then we’ll deal with that if it comes up.” Shirley just made herself a soft pillow-like lump and a fairly firm sleeping area.

A white sheet came from a set of low shelves. I ran the fabric through my hands. As alien as everything else in this trip had been, the sheet felt familiar.

Shirley caught my thoughtful expression. “What’s on your mind, Challers?”

“Just remembering the way my mom tucked me in. The sheet felt just like this.” I pulled it to my nose. “Doesn’t smell like home, though.”

“In time, the chamber will come to be your home.” She touched a switch by the bed and the room lights went dark. Only a dim outline around the doorways remained illuminated.

I felt tears coming to my eyes. I didn’t want to cry, but I missed the familiar sounds of the station, the sounds and smells of people moving in the chambers around me. The academy felt empty and cold, no matter the air temperature. I swallowed hard, clamped my jaw shut, and lay down, wrapping myself in the sheet.

Shirley put a hand on my shoulder. “Feeling a little homesick?” She got up, retrieved a container from a cabinet near the bed, and pulled a tab on it as she handed it to me. Fragrant steam wafted from the open top. It smelled of milk and chocolate.

“More than a little. Am I ever going to see them again?”

“It’s possible. It happens. You might have an assignment that takes you back there, but I can’t make any promises.”

I sipped from the bottle and set it aside. “Have you ever gone back home?”

“Once. Things had changed. It wasn’t home anymore.” She patted my shoulder, then went back to her side of the circle.

“Will you just hold my hand? I feel alone.”

“Of course, Challers. I’m always here for you.”

I stretched out my hand and she took it gently in hers. She didn’t speak, didn’t touch more than just that. She wasn’t my mother, she’d never be my mother, but it did feel better just having her there. She threw the sheet over the both of us, and I closed my eyes.

After a time, I slept.



The melancholy stayed with me through the night, and into the morning. Shirley climbed to her feet and leaned down to offer me her hand. She pulled me up with surprising grace.

“You’re strong,” I said.

“It’s part of our regimen,” she said. “You’ll gain a lot of strength in the academy, too. Come on, we have Physicality before breakfast.”

For the morning routine, we met Masters and Valka in the gymnasium. We each had a workout routine created for us—a combination of stretching, resistance training, and something they called “partner movement.” This last part was something like a couple’s dance performed in slow motion with an emphasis on grace, fluidity, and harmony. After Masters and Shirley demonstrated, Valka and I tried it. It would have been easier with music. It also would have been easier if Valka could have kept a straight face. We kept breaking up giggling.

The whole time, I couldn’t help admiring her body. It was there, right in front of me, flexing and moving. Up close, her nipples stood out against her pale skin, clearly visible through the sheer black fabric of her uniform. Her stiff, curly pubic hair was similarly apparent. I tried to maintain my concentration and avoid an erection, but I could only manage somewhat.

After a while, we caught the gist of it and, at Masters’s instruction, we gradually sped up our movements. With sweat starting to soak into our uniforms, Shirley called a halt and told us to cool down with a walk around the gym.

Once we were a few steps away from our tutors, Valka turned to me. “How was your night?”

“It was rough,” I said. “Missed my bed back home.”

She nodded and made a small sound.

“You?” I asked.

“I slept pretty well, actually. That bed is a marvel, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. What do you think of Masters?” I tried not to let the feelings that still lurked in the pit of my stomach color my voice.

She shrugged, made a noncommittal sound, and leaned in and kissed my cheek. “Looking forward to Astronavigation class?”

I pulled her close and shuddered in anticipation. “I can’t tell you. I want to know everything. I want to know how the ships work, how those drives work, how far they can go and why. I want to crawl inside a ship and just look at the engines. I want to open the panels and see how the computers are wired up.”

Too soon, Shirley’s voice cut our moment short. “Hey, lovers! Come clean up. Breakfast in ten minutes.”

The showers off the gym were a collective system, a set of nozzles pointing into one waterproofed space. I expected the exercise to leave my libido at something of a lull. After all, back on the station, that was always the best way to work out my frustrations. Seeing Shirley and Valka stripped down, however, started getting me excited again. Valka noticed and smiled, blushing as I watched her wash her body. Too soon, she rinsed off and stepped into the warm air vent to blow herself dry.

“Are you going to be all right?” asked Shirley, coming up behind me as I had my turn under the vent.

“No, I’ll be fine,” I said. I was a little hard, but not enough to be painful. I stepped into the dressing area beyond and walked up behind Valka as she dressed. I put an arm around her belly and nuzzled her neck.

She laid a hand on my cheek, and then patted it gently. “Come on, I’m hungry.”

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Book Two of the Orgone Chronicles