(Standard Year 2241)
originally published as "Those Shoes"

Go to Part Two

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum

“What the hell was that?!” Jeremy Paget, also known as Cobra exclaimed as a streak of incredible speed raced across the Clave’s sensors.

“That’s a fraction less than warp!” Barak gasped. “Where did it come from?”

Cobra ran his fingers over the controls and got a resolution reading. He turned slowly. “It’s a needle,” he replied, his voice numb with awe, “and it came from around Sol.”

“Shit!” Barak breathed reverently. “Who?”

A twisted grin found its way to Cobra’s face. The dark eyes started shining in secret joy and admiration. “Kamikaze isn’t here,” he suggested.

Barak looked skeptical, though reluctantly so. “Could even he manage that trick?”

“If anybody,” Cobra returned. Barak shrugged, nodding. “It’s turning,” Cobra went on, glancing back at the screen. “Jesus, he was just past the Belt!”

Barak jumped up abruptly. “Let’s go meet him!”

“Meet who?” Ruth Valley’s melodic voice said as she strolled into the control center of the Clave. She was in her environ suit, her helmet still in her hand. She had obviously just some in from a race.

Shalom, Mensch,” her cousin, David Maxwell, returned. “Kamikaze.”

Her violet eyes widened, an action one would’ve thought impossible as they already dominated her face. “I’m finally going to meet Le Roi?” she said. Then she turned to Cobra. “I though you said he’d retired!”

“He did, about a year ago,” the tall black man replied. “Academy, you know.” Ruth made a face, to which Cobra grinned. “So will I.”

“You’re going into Fleet too?” she gasped in amazement.

“Next fall. Sorry, Mensch.”

“Everybody’s leaving me,” Ruth pouted. “What’s the big attraction at the Academy anyway? Fleet is a big, structured, military pain and I certainly don’t see why intelligent people…”

“Enough, Mensch,” Barak interrupted her petulant grumbling.

“Well, damn it…”

“Are you coming?” Cobra broke in. Ruth grinned and all three raced to their needles.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

“No answer on any safe frequency,” Cobra’s voice said over the com of the Mensch. Ruth frowned, her fingers deftly working her needle’s controls. She could see the blip ahead of her, and the blips that were the Cobra and the Barak flanking her and her scowl deepened. Protecting the female again. David should know I can take care of myself. I’ll bet I could outfly Le Roi if they’d let me.

“Maybe his headset’s out,” Barak’s voice returned.

“Shit, what if sensors are out, too?” Cobra again, sounding worried.

“You ever know Kamikaze not to be able to fly blind?” Barak’s tone was half disdain, half deference.

“You just want him to know he’s got an escort,” Ruth broke in. She could hear Cobra’s smile.

“Yeah. So?”

There was a short burst on her screen, the flare-effect sensors displayed to signify a surge of energy. Ruth grit her teeth against the sudden pounding of her heart. It’s not fire, idiot! she told herself harshly.

“It’s gotta be Kam!” Cobra’s jubilant voice declared. “That’s his signaling trick! We’re with you, babe!”

The adrenaline rush caused by her momentary fear reaction received a sudden boost. If is really is Kamikaze… Every racer had heard of him, everyone who’d never flown with him envied those who had – and everyone who’d ever slept with him… At least that was the rumor. She glanced at the screen and had a momentary premonition – he was going to accelerate. She grinned. Flashy entrance, huh? I’m with you, Kam! Bye Barak, so long, Cobra! She hit her own accelerator, following exactly the curve of the needle ahead of her.

It was exhilarating, exciting, beautiful – and she’d never been so scared in all her life. She matched twists and curls and rollovers as well as she could, which was pretty damn well. When he went into a spinning dive she screamed “Zehara help me!” and followed. Faster and deeper they dove together and she opened her eyes long enough to see the cluster of ships gathering around them on the console display. Closer to the Clave’s entrance, closer to the landing bays, the dive still faster, steeper and she was about to say to hell with dying and pull out – when he did.

Blessing every deity every conceived, she hit the decelerator, her fingers dancing on the navigation controls. Her set-down wasn’t quite as perfect as his, but she got Mensch down without fainting. She leapt out of her needle to raucous applause. There was a crowd already around Kamikaze and she pushed her way through it, tossing her helmet away. She shook out her hair, ready to greet the legendary Le Roi with the legendary Ruth Valley.

She heard the gasp as he climbed out of his needle, but didn’t take the time to wonder at it. She flew into his arms, kissing him with wild abandon.

The return kiss was as ardent and as full of hunger as anyone coming off a race like that should be. She pulled away, preparing a seductive, none-too-subtle invitation to one of the back rooms – and blinked in amazement. He wasn’t Terran!

“You’re Indiian!” she said, and felt immediately idiotic.

His voice was deep and rich and teasing, his smile night and sunshine at the same time. “Yeah, well, just short of half, you know,” he said as if he really expected her to know.

Panic gripped her. Does he know about keheils? Goddamn, I hope not! “Not Kamikaze?” she queried skeptically to cover her reaction, and was more than surprised to see him growing wary.

“Not exactly,” he said.

She stared at him. He was a few inches taller than her, his age about twenty. He had the silvery, shiny-pale skin of all Indiians, but with silky black hair instead of the usual dark red. His mouth was large, a pouting, sensual dark gray. His eyes seemed slightly narrow, but bright and wickedly delighted, and as black as his hair. He seemed to be all gray and black except for the glint and sparkle of a dylithium earring in one ear. She shook off her reverie. “Well, who are you then?” she demanded in a strident tone.

His eyes traveled over her, then over the Clave as though looking for someone or something. Back to her, a long, thoughtful gaze. It took forever for him to answer, and she couldn’t help but wonder why.

“Katana,” he said finally, and she realized she’d been afraid he’d say something else, though she hadn’t the faintest idea what. She pushed that away.

“Katana,” she repeated, and let her voice caress every syllable. She smiled at him. “You’re one hell of a racer.”

“Then you must be too….?”

“Mensch,” she answered, making it a very sexual sound. His smile returned, more sensual than before.

“Mensch.” His arms came around her again, pulling her hips hard against him. She shivered, wanting him with furious intensity. “Any place we can go in a hurry?”

His directness increased her longing. “You don’t waste any time, do you?” she breathed.

His reply was arrogant, but she didn’t mind it. “Should I?”

She glanced at him, a quick once-over as she realized that, since he was Indiian, he had to be feeding off her hunger as well as his own. That, she thought decisively, I’ve got to taste! “Come on,” she said, and grabbed his hand.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

“If there were words, I’d tell you.”

Nice line, she thought only half cynically, and found herself grinning appreciatively at his version of Indiian romanticism. They’d gone quickly to one of the small rooms the Clave kept for just such emergencies, and he’d stared at her naked body so long it was almost embarrassing. She’d prompted him - “Well?” – and he’d come back with…

It’s a line. Why are my toes melting?

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

He was silver or darker pewter all over. She hadn’t expected otherwise, but to see it still filled her with a very child-like wonder. She’d never made love to anybody that wasn’t Terran-colored and she found herself marveling at the dark tongue and nipples, and the way his skin glowed instead of reddened with arousal. She marveled at his power, at the urgency he sparked in her – even more at the fact that he made her feel other than urgent. Tender, languid, almost lazy passion, and it didn’t frighten her. How about that? she thought, sighing softly to herself. The feeling had echoed between them, spurring them on long past the need of the race. It had changed, slowly, subtly, from furious hunger to joyously sexual revel, to a deeper, warmer exchange. She lay in his arms, resting on top of him. The feel of his fingers on her back and shoulders made her want to stay for a very long time. With sudden delight, she identified the taste of his skin. It was something from years ago, a vegetable…fresh, slightly bitter…

“I never liked the taste of cucumbers when I was a kid,” she mused at him. “Isn’t that odd?” She chuckled sensually and glanced at his face. “Maybe I didn’t use enough salt,” she added, making obvious reference to the other dominant taste of his body.

He laughed softly, kissing her temple, and her toes started melting again. “I’m glad you like it, zilama.”

Zilama?” she asked. She’d never heard the word, but it sounded pleasant – and his lips caressed it nicely. She felt a sudden start from him, but all he said, and casually, was,

“Indiian. A term of affection.”

Maybe he thought it would bother her. Too much, too soon – and why didn’t it? She tried the word out again, stopping the uncomfortable thought. “Zilama. I think I like it.”

“Good,” he murmured, but it was still uneasy. She changed the subject.

“I didn’t know they had racers on Indi.”

That brought a smile to his lips. “Not many, and I’m the best.” Arrogance again, but it was so charming she couldn’t mind.

“No complaints so far,” she told him as seductively as she could manage, which was quite a bit. After all, she was Antari.

He kissed her. “Or from me, Mensch.” It was so warm, so caring, so deeply giving…

“How long can you stay?”

“I don’t know.”

Abruptly, what she’d said came into focus. God damn it all to hell, don’t give it away! she screamed at herself in furious panic. Don’t trust him, anyone! Don’t get attached! No commitments, no romantic fool’s hope, don’t do it again, don’t love… not again, never again!

“I want to study the Katana,” she said quickly to salvage the hateful weakness, to cover the aching fear. “She’s beautiful, and she’s got some features I’m not…”

“You’re beautiful,” he said, and she shuddered.

“I know that,” she told him airily, praying his damned sensitivity would leave her alone. He was quiet for a while, then took a casual breath.

“You want to get a suite somewhere? I’ve got to have a place to stay while I’m here.” He grinned at her, but his words cut her like knives. “Unless you’re planning on inviting me home.”

No, god no, he felt it. Damn him, damn the way he made her feel! Still, she wasn’t about to give away any more than she already had. “I don’t think my grandmother would approve,” she said blithely.

Soft words, warm words, quiet deep understanding that he had no right to. “It’s okay, Mensch. I do.”

She was off the bed and across the small room before he finished speaking. She quickly turned her back on him to hide any expression and stretched languidly, hoping to distract him from noticing that she was shivering. Don’t go around touching nerves, Katana, she thought angrily, or what could be a very good time ends right here. She knew she wasn’t really angry with him. It wasn’t him she was afraid of. At least, she didn’t think so. His concern, whether real or feigned touched her – only she wasn’t sure how. She knew, knew it was just a racer’s line, but part of her knew equally strongly that it wasn’t. Or maybe, you just want to believe it isn’t. She shuddered again. Relax, Valley, she ordered herself. Be calm. The boy asked you a question. Answer him.

“There’s Cal’s place,” she said. “He’s always willing to take in racers. He’ll give you a suite after he hears about your entrance to the Clave.”

Arms slid around her waist, startling her as she hadn’t heard him get off the bed. His lips touched her temple. “Calm down, it’s all right,” he whispered. “My mistake. Come back to bed.”

“Sure,” she agreed amiably, glad to keep it a game she knew.

He sighed. “Zilama, please try and remember I’m Indiian. It is all right.” There was a pause. “Whether you think so or not.”

She turned swiftly to face him, defiant, flippant, caustic – and it all faded at the depth in his dark eyes. There was a silent promise in them; privacy, confidentiality, knowing secrecy. No game. No lines. Honesty. And yet, there was no demand for her to be honest, only a request that she remember he was.

“Katana, I…” she began

“Terry. My name’s Terry.”

It was a severe breach of Clave security. No one knew names, or used the ones they happened to know from other places. Clavists were all anonymous, it was safer. Yet somehow… somehow….

“Ruth,” she said in return. His smile was gentle.

“Only if you want to, Ruth,” he said softly.

She closed her eyes, throwing herself again into his arms, too afraid to do any more than entice him back to bed. He took it, gave to her with caring and fervor and passion – and asked for nothing more. It was only that which enabled her to give more.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Ruth waited until she was sure he was asleep before she slipped out of bed and silently got dressed. At the door she turned to watch him for a few seconds before leaving – the room, the Clave – until…


I don’t know, until he goes back to where he came from.


I don’t need the aggravation, that’s why! You can’t put an empath and a sensitive in the same room, it just doesn’t work. Their toes melt and it’s very messy.

Look at him.

Okay, he’s beautiful, but I don’t have the time for…

He’s really good in bed.

I can get that…

Yeah, right.

So, maybe I can spare a few more hours.

“I’m going to regret this,” she whispered as she re-crossed the room to the nightstand. She left a note, not a quick farewell but a message that she’d gone to find food and where he could find her. Swearing at herself, and not sure of the spelling, she signed it ‘Zilama.’

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

As she half-expected, Ruth found David loitering in the hangar, too near the Mensch to be doing anything but waiting for her. She sighed and walked up to him. “Shalom, Barak.”

He nodded. “Where’s your friend?”

“Asleep.” She smiled slyly and, to annoy him, added, “He must have set a few new records.”

“Don’t be trite, Mensch,” he scolded. “Nor add with nauseating innocence that you were talking about racing.”

At least she had succeeded in annoying him. It was what they both expected from their relationship. “You wanted to see me about something?”

He scowled. “Be careful with this Katana. He’s not a Clavist, we don’t know how much we can trust him.”

“You’re paranoid, Barak,” she accused. “Maybe a little jealous because he’s as good as your legendary Kamikaze?”

“Maybe a little worried that you’re going to get involved -"

“With a fresh face,” she interrupted angrily. “Don’t try to protect me. You’re my cousin, not my mother. Since when are you so provincial you don’t trust a out-system Clavist?”

“Mensch, Indi doesn’t have a Clave!”


“So where did he come from?”

“Out of the sun. He’s here, I’m not concerned with the details.”

“Don’t try to protect you when you talk like that?” David demanded almost triumphantly.

Oy god,” she snorted in disgust. “He’s from Indi, he never said he was a Clavist. And he’s only half Indiian, so – “

“And half what?”

“Barracuda,” she snarled prettily. “I’m a big girl, Barak.”

“Mensch, no one’s ever heard of any racers from – “

“I said I don’t care! Or are you deaf? Leave me alone!”

“And what do I tell Uncle Ephraim when this week’s obsession leads you into something you can’t handle?”

“That I’m responsible for my own actions. I’m not falling for that line this time, Barak. I haven’t got any reason for not trusting Terry. None.”

“Terry, huh?” Barak repeated pointedly. “What reason do you have to trust him?”

“Maybe the fact that I know his name.” She turned, walking away from him. “It’s my business, isn’t it?” She didn’t listen for an answer.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

She felt him before she saw him, and it disturbed her so she didn’t look up. Still, she could tell he was sauntering as he approached the table.

He’d gotten some clothes other than an environ suit from somewhere, and she promised herself she wouldn’t ask. The soft, dove-gray tunic and black slacks looked good on him, following the theme of his hair and skin. He smiled down at her full plate of roast beef. “Anything left in the galley?” he asked.

“Not much protein,” she answered lightly, still not looking up. “I tend to clean out the stores.”

“Guess I’ll just have some coffee, then.”

“Yuck.” He laughed and she didn’t understand what was so funny. “Something I said?”

“No. Just that sensible beings exist mostly on good, black coffee. ‘Yuck’ isn’t in the vocabulary.”

She made a face at him. He grinned affectionately and casually brushed his fingers across her temple. The gesture was so familiar that she jerked away as if she’d been struck. “My father used to…” was out of her mouth before she could stop it. “Go get your coffee.”

“Your father used to what?” he called over his shoulder.

“Make similar noises about coffee,” she called after him.

“That’s funny, so does mine.” He sat down next to her. “Maybe it’s hereditary.”

“I don’t…”

“Not yet.” His gaze was far away for a moment, then he shook his head, as if clearing it. “I really don’t want to crash at Cal’s,” he continued as though their earlier conversation had never been interrupted. “Do you know where I could get an apartment – a month-to-month kind of thing?” He smiled a little ruefully. “I don’t know how long I’ll be – on Terra.”

The hesitation was slight, so Ruth pretended not to notice it. “I don’t know. I hang out at Berkeley at lot. That’s in California, on the west coast of North America.”

“I know. My father’s family is from California.”

“Then why don’t you go home?”

There was a far more noticeable pause that Ruth was sure wasn’t comfortable. Did he have problems with his family, too? "I’m not the most popular guest there,” he said at last. “Too much ninja in me.”

“What’s ninja?”

“A very bad thing to accuse a Japanese person of,” he answered solemnly, then winked at her. “I’m half Japanese.”

“Not barracuda?” she teased.


She laughed, suddenly feeling much better. “Never mind. I think I can find you something. Finish that awful liquid and let’s go.”

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

She didn’t tell him that it was her house. She’d won it on a bet. She’d seen it just sitting on a hill above the beach, empty and sort of Antari-looking and had mentioned it to Cal. He’d bet her the price of it that she couldn’t make it through the Belt without sensors. She’d told him she could find her way out of a black hole, he said the Belt would be proof enough – so she did it. She’d bought the place and left it pretty much to itself. She slept in the garden when she wanted to be alone.

Not being a student, Terry couldn’t use the transport station, so he had asked her to rent an air car.

“Me? Why me? You want it,” she protested.

“I don’t want my name – “ he began, then abruptly dropped the sentence. She scowled at him.

“Why? You wanted for some – “ He whirled from her so suddenly it frightened her. “ – thing?” she finished softly.

“Let’s just say it’s life or death that I remain – discreet,” he muttered tightly.

She didn’t pressure him after that. “All right, but you’re driving it,” she declared firmly. “Those things aren’t safe.”

“She races needles but she doesn’t trust air cars,” he laughed. “Zilama, you’re crazy.”

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

He had to do some shopping and Ruth was a little disconcerted that he bought several days worth of food – and a coffee machine – on her card. Planning on moving in, are we? she thought acidly, then recalled that she hadn’t told him it was her house.

She stared at his back as he stood at the window watching the sunset, a cup of coffee in his hand that she feared would become permanent. Something was bothering him, she knew that much, but she told herself that she didn’t care to know.

“Golden,” he said at last, and turned toward her, the sun lighting his profile. “The light,” he explained, though she hadn’t asked. “I’m used to artificial – or Indiian.” He grinned. “That’s sort of pink. Rose, I guess.” She found herself staring at the plane of his face, wondering why he was telling her. He faced her fully. “What’s Antari light like?”

She closed her eyes, remembering. “Kind of pale green, I guess. More blue at dawn and sunset. It’s a very green world.” She opened her eyes. “I’m used to artificial too,” she added, wondering why she was telling him.

“The bed’s too small,” he said in an abrupt change of subject, then grinned wickedly. “We’ll have to stay very close.” He set the cup on the windowsill and held out a hand. “Come to me, Ruth.”

His kiss tasted as bitter as the coffee, but somehow, she didn’t mind.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

She kept waiting for him to fall asleep. He kept finding something to talk about, or was hungry, or drank more coffee, or thought of a new position. She was getting sleepy and finally realized that unless she told him so, he was going to be stubborn and stay awake as long as she could. She sat up.

He lifted his head from the pillow questioningly.

“Okay, you win,” she said. “I’m tired. “Good night, Terry.”

He smiled, grabbing her and pulling her down into his arms. “Finally! ‘Night, zilama.”

They stared at each other. “So go to sleep,” Ruth said.

“You first.”

“No, I…”

“Together, then.”


He sat up. “Okay, let me get some more coffee.”

She grasped his wrist. “Will you just stop it?”

Me?!” he stated incredulously.

She closed her eyes, sighing. “Listen, I asleep alone.” He was silent. She finally opened her eyes – directly into his. There was an aching there, some sorrow she couldn’t name, and, as always, understanding. Damn him!

“You got some cards?” he asked blithely.

“Uh, yeah… somewhere…I think…” she replied, too distracted to think clearly. “Um, Terry…”

“Do you play poker?”

“Yes, but… Terry…”

“We can play for - ” His eyes glinted. “- intimate services.”

“Terry!” she shouted.

“Yes?” he replied calmly. She stared at him – again – then decided she wasn’t about to explain herself to him and she could stay awake all night if she had to, to get out of it.

“You wanted more coffee.” She got up to look for the cards.

“Nice place you have,” he said softly. She both bristled and flushed, but ignored the comment.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

They didn’t play long. She could keep from using her telepathy, but he couldn’t stop being a sensitive so he of course kept winning. After a while, she suggested chess, with the same stakes. After a couple of games they both decided to collect their winnings.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

It was after sunrise when she talked him into a shower before ‘giving up and going to sleep.’ She begged off taking it with him explaining that she liked cold showers as a matter of course. He’d made a face, said “yuck”, then laughed with her and went to the bathroom. While he was in it she grabbed some clothes and ran from the house, throwing them on as she went, much to the appreciation of the few people she ran past.

She slept in Haifa until mid-afternoon, then got her guitar and headed back to Berkeley to teach her music classes. When the sun was setting she finally talked herself into going back to the house, telling herself she had to make sure he hadn’t set it on fire or anything.

He was gone. She ignored the unexpected pang of loss and decided to spend the evening. The weather was nice, she could sit on the sundeck and play her guitar and sing to the waves.

Maybe he went back to the Clave, she mused at about the same time her fingers started getting tired.

Of course he did, fool. He had to get the Katana and get back to whatever ship brought him from Indi.

If he went back to Indi.

And left me with a coffeepot and a week’s worth of food I can’t eat. Thanks a lot, Terry.

He could’ve left a note or a tape or something. Did you look?

Why should I? I don’t care.

She looked up. No moon tonight. The stars were faded from the lights of Berkeley, but the shipyards shone like tiny spiderwebs, the San Fran Fleet Complex their light-edged spider. Well, you can’t see Indi from this latitude anyway.

He could’ve said goodbye.

But then you weren’t here for him to, were you?

I don’t care.

Maybe he’s still at the Clave. I could go on up and –

Give him his damned coffeepot. Stop it, Valley. He’s gone. They always go. It’s the way it is, the way I want it…

So why do you feel like crying?

I don’t cry. Not for anything. Certainly not for anyone.

He cared.

So why is he gone?

Because you ran out on him.

Turnabout is fair play.

She got up and went into the house. She changed the sheets on the bed, took a long cold shower and listened to some music tapes. The coffeepot seemed to mock her and she went to throw it out but something stopped her.

She didn’t cry.

But she spent a lot of time in the shower.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

She made an experimental pot of coffee just before dawn. After all, the stuff was expensive and shouldn’t go to waste. And her father had sworn by it.

It was a beautiful pre-dawn, but the light was rosy and she didn’t want to be reminded. So she watched the coffeepot. When it looked done, she got a cup, filled it half full, and hesitantly brought it to her lips. She sniffed. It smelled okay, kind of rich and dark and alive. She took a deep breath and sipped.

It was an awful as she expected. “Yuck!” she spat.

“You have to get used to it.”

She dropped the cup, whirling around at the soft, deep voice. Terry’s eyes looked warm but weary, and deeply, painfully joyous.

“You came back!” she blurted out.

The sunshine smile. “So did you.”

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Her head was resting just below his heart and his voice vibrated in her ears.

“I got out of the shower, damned you a few hundred times, then went down to the beach.”

“I didn’t ask…” she began.

“I know.” He kissed her temple. “I got sunburned. You may have noticed.” She giggled, remembering that once she had stopped hugging him, she had asked him if she was embarrassing him because he was glowing. “Then I went to the top of that hill over there.” His hand pointed out the window, vaguely north. “I watched the clouds and fell asleep. I only came back for some coffee. I didn’t think you’d be here. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see you standing there.” He paused, and she could feel his chest tightening. “Don’t do that to me again, okay? Not just leave. I can handle goodbye.”

She flushed, and tried to think of something to say, but she couldn’t’ find evasive words and she refused to say the right ones. He sighed deeply, then gently pulled her face to his. “Okay?” he asked, his eyes searching hers. But he didn’t push, he didn’t demand. He waited patiently, openly.

“Okay,” she said at last – and it all came out. “I’m sorry, Terry, it’s just that I don’t sleep with anyone I mean sleep sleep-with not sex sleep-with ever and I’m not good at talking about myself and I don’t owe you anything anyway and I didn’t want to hurt you but you were being so stubborn and I couldn’t let on or let you win and I couldn’t fall asleep and…”

He laughed, but it wasn’t at her. “Okay, zilama,” he said, and sat up. He kissed her forehead. “Let’s get some breakfast and go up to the Clave. I’ve got to take a look at Katana.”

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

“What does ‘katana’ mean?” she asked as she climbed out of the cockpit of Terry’s needle. They’d put on the required environ suits for working in the hangar and Terry had let her look inside while he checked the engines. “Something Indiian?”

His eyes sparkled with silent laughter. “Not Indiian,” he replied. “Japanese. It’s a weapon, a very efficient, very deadly sword that’s also a work of art. Samurai carry them.”

“How’d you get named? Do you follow Clave customs where you come from?”

“We do. Her maker named her.” He paused as he pulled himself up into the small ship, checking equipment. “He’s very Japanese.”

She ran her eyes over the silver sleekness of Katana’s hull. “She’s beautiful. Inside and out.” She craned her neck to see into the cockpit. “I don’t recognize half your systems.”

“They’re the latest thing where I come from,” he said, with more than a touch of pride in his voice.

“He’s one hell of a maker.”

“Indiians are the best engineers in the Federation, you know.”

“You said he was Japanese.”

He began to glow, his handsome face scowling. “He’s my older brother,” he explained irritably.

“Want me to change the subject?”

“Good idea.”

They were silent for a while, and Terry finally shook his head. “She checks out just fine,” he murmured.

“Care to race the Spike?”


“My new needle. A golden beauty.”

“Like her owner,” Terry grinned.

She grinned back. “Well, yes, actually. What do you say? Gold against silver? With a small wager to make it interesting?”

He studied her silently for a while. Then a mischievous look came over his features. “I like the ‘against part,” he said, “and I have a better idea. Let’s go for a ride.”


He reached down, pulling her up into the Katana’s cockpit. “Just the two of us,” he murmured.

She balked, staring wildly at him. “You can’t…”

“Come on, zilama,” he coaxed, “it’ll be a kick.”

“…fit two people into a needle!” she finished.

“It’ll just be very intimate.”

“You want intimate, we’ll find an empty room! Terry, are you crazy?!”

“Katana. There’s nothing to be afraid of, I promise.”

“Bets?! I take it you have no fear of death?”

“I won’t let anything happen to you, you know that.”

“Twitchy, completely…”

He was adjusting something as he settled back into the pilot’s seat, then grasped her waist, placing her onto his lap, facing him, her knees braced against the back panel.

“…twitchy, Terry…”

“Hush, ‘Katana,’” he scolded, and closed the cockpit, signaling to the Tower for clearance.

“We can’t do this!” she insisted.

“Well, not like this, you’re right.” With much twisting, cramped difficulty, he managed to open the lower part of her suit.

“Terry, what the – stop it!” she protested, to no avail.

“Now,” he crooned softly, “just sit down, nice and easy…”

She gasped at the smooth penetration as his very erect cock slid into her very wet pussy. Her eyes widened. “Terry…” she rasped.

“Hold on,” he murmured, and she could feel his hands moving on the controls behind her back. “We’ve got clearance.”

She buried her shriek in his neck as the Katana shot forward.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

The Katana called for landing clearance two hours later. Cobra gave the okay and cleared the hangar, then turned to Barak.

“I’m sure she’ll turn up somewhere,” he said, continuing their conversation.

“She was here, she checked an environ suit, but Spike and Mensch are both still down.”

“What are you worried about, Barak? Katana’s been out, she’s not with him.” Cobra grinned. “Though why you mind I’ll never know.”

“Cobra, you don’t understand…”

“You got that right. Go ask him.”

Both men went to the hangar, then stopped, frozen, as two figures climbed down from the Katana. “What the – how the – Jesus Christ, she was with him!” Cobra exclaimed.

“I’m going to kill that - ” Barak began at the same time Cobra asked in awe, “why didn’t I think of that?” They raced together to the two forms who were leaning breathlessly against each other. Cobra pulled the grinning Katana aside and demanded excitedly, “How’d you manage it?”

The grin widened, becoming sensual and suggestive. “One of the more usual ways, woman astride in a sitting position…” His voice trailed off into a deep, somewhat giddy chuckle. Cobra’s mouth fell open.

“You’re kidding!” he whispered. Katana laughed again.

“I should need after a race like that, right?” The dark eyes gleamed as he grasped Cobra’s hand, pulling it to his crotch. There was no erection. “But not after a ride like that.”

“Goddamn!” Cobra breathed reverently.

Barak stared, blinked, then began to flush. He grabbed Ruth’s shoulders and shook her angrily. “Fool! You’ve done some stupid things but this is the worst!” She didn’t answer; she just smiled lazily and moved closer to Katana. He was tempted to slap her. “Stay away from this lunatic!” he ordered.

“He wouldn’t let anything happen to me,” she murmured, her voice soft and almost sing-song.

“Are you on something or just out of your mind?” he hissed at her. Katana lightly grasped her arm.

“Come on, I’m starving,” the Indiian said.

“I’m talking to her, Katana,” Barak snapped. Katana shrugged.

“Okay. When you can, Mensch.”

Ruth smiled the same, lazy, satisfied smile. “I can now. See ya, Barak.”

“Mensch, damn it….!”

She waved languid fingers at him as her arm slid around Katana’s waist. “Bye.”

Barak fumed as they strolled off together.

“Goddamn!” Cobra repeated.

“Oh shut up.”

Continued in Part Two

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