Three hours later they were half way to Scalice’s command. The marines had recovered but were grumpy that they didn’t even get to fight and Jorja was relieved to be walking upright. The marines told Jorja they didn’t want their unceremonious escape on record and since there was no planet monitoring she was happy to oblige. Besides, she was going to need a massage when she got back on board and not endless, boring meetings and computer work that came hand in hand with minor conflicts. As a bonus they discovered some regions rich in a mineral known as terz. Perhaps she could get out of her disciplinary action with this little find. Zeft carried the samples for her. Jorja couldn’t remember at what point he had started calling her ‘Babe’ but it was reassuring that for all his alien appearance these terms of endearment were natural to him. Jorja was determined to visit the breeding grounds before they left because aside from their views on war, appearance and breeding they were very much like humans. She wondered about her sudden interest in the orux. The marines had been right; the orux looked very much like orcs but more human. Most stood straight, they smelt as warriors did when there was limited food and water, they behaved in a society and had a hierarchical structure. Whatever her interest in Zeft she was sure it was reciprocated. She wondered if that would change once they got on board the ship and he was exposed to many women. Mary had indicated to her, after a quick apology for her earlier behaviour, that Zeft, while unwilling to leave the planet, was interested in the ‘females’. When Jorja had mentioned wanting to see the breeding grounds, after their request to bring some of their women, she’d overheard some comments about Zeft’s prowess. To her irritation she felt more than a little curious.
Mary joined Jorja and six others in the inspection of the breeding grounds which were located a hundred orux halios to the south of Scalice’s command centre. Surprisingly it smelt…nice. Mary exchanged a look with Jorja as they entered the catacombs. One of the orux was explaining to them that only one hundred and fifty women were willing to board the metallic ship but that they would be sufficient to keep the growing numbers of the warriors happy. A horny orux wasn’t a happy, quiet or efficient orux. Jorja could see a problem. When she learned that the women would only do their ‘relieving’ duties but would then be required to return to breed here she knew there would be reservations.
‘How many times do you need to have sex in a month?’
Mary cringed at Jorja’s straight forward question. Even some of the marines looked uncomfortable. Jorja was too old to be bothered by such things. Besides she’d once relocated warrior women who were even blunter than the orux. She wondered if they might find the orux acceptable mates. She jotted it down.
The orux didn’t seem to mind. But Zeft joined them and took position next to her. He grinned, ‘If a month is roughly thirty days then, three times for full efficiency.’
She punched the figure in her handcomputer (HCP).
‘Do you make permanent relationships?’
‘We can,’ Zeft waited till she met his gaze, ‘But it’s rare and when it happens it’s for life. Orux are loyal partners in bed and war.’
There was a snigger at that from an orux. Zeft ignored him.
Jorja was almost going to ask if he was in a relationship but stopped herself in time and focused back on her HCP. The dark lighting hid her sudden blush.
The orux began pointing out facilities. There were common rooms and then they stopped at the bathing rooms where several naked orux females of varying stages of pregnancies lounged. Zeft had tried to manoeuvre them past this one but Mary led the way. The women seemed unperturbed by their presence and one waved to Zeft.
Zeft waved and managed to give the orux guide a dirty look. Would these humans really understand their culture and would Jorja? He had a number of offspring but had no attachment to them or their mothers. He felt Jorja’s gaze on him, he said quietly, ‘Twenty three.’
He continued to stare at her and she shook her head, ‘I can’t bear children. Those of the Aeon are barren but long-lived, and those of the Naskin are fertile and short-lived.’
‘But you are all humans?’
‘Yes, there is some resentment because of the differences but we try to survive.’
‘How old are you?’
She hesitated for just a moment, ‘Seven hundred and sixty two.’
Mary added, ‘She’s an original too. Mutated from the toxin that changed our entire planet.’
Zeft now understood where some of her sense of authority came from. Mary had told them a little about what had happened to their home world. Out of the billions of sentient life forms there had only been a million or so original humans left. From them over half had transformed into Naskins. Three quarters of the other half, the Aeons, had been destroyed in the Sentient Wars because the Naskins determined that because the Aeons were barren they had to be the ones to go to war while they remained safe repopulating the Sanctioned Planets. And since Naskins gave birth to both Naskins and Aeons it was hard to dispute the necessity. There were very few original mutated humans left and they were scattered throughout the galaxies.
It had been unfortunate that with first contact, when an alien race contacted the humans, it had ended in tragedy. For many years the aliens, humoids, had shared their knowledge and imposed their ways only to discover they carried a disease that decimated the populations on Earth. It was a strange toxin secreted from the pores of the alien race’s skin. Humans had thought it was simply perspiration.
Staring into the baths Mary muttered under her breath at Jorja, ‘I wonder if they see us as ugly or incredibly beautiful?’
Jorja stifled a laugh. In human terms the women were, well, female versions of the males but with large breasts and without a penis. There was little body hair on either sex.
‘However, Zeft certainly seems interested in you. He’s been asking quite a few questions and keeps studying you.’ Mary confided in Jorja with a sly look. ‘Just when you thought life was getting boring.’ She eyed off the muscular and handsome orux.
Zeft interrupted them.
‘Mazt, take everyone to the main reception and I’ll take Jorja to the Sacred Temple.’
With some surprise the group parted ways, Mary gave her an encouraging look and Jorja felt a firm hand under her arm. As way of an explanation he added, ‘I had to get permission to show you the Temple. Only couplings or birthing attendants are allowed in the Temple but they wanted you to see it and gave me special leave.’
She said nervously, ‘You come here a lot?’ It didn’t come out the way she wanted it to. What she had wanted to ask was if that was why he had been given special leave.
‘Let’s just say I’ve done my duty here, Babe.’
‘Duty.’ She then added, ‘Did you say ‘couplings’?’
He laughed softly, ‘For virgins a coupling takes place in the Temple. To make sure it is satisfactory for the initiate, I’ve cared for the needs of four virgins. For the more experienced, coupling takes place in private quarters. Jorja began to see her own flaws in her assumption of their similarities.
After passing several tunnels all leading downwards, it grew warmer. She noted there were many guards along the passages, some male and some female.
They made it to a set of doors which led to another set which didn’t open till the first set was closed. In the brighter light she saw intricate carvings in the dark wood. Sexual and birthing scenes were displayed on both sides. Inside the massive temple were bowl-like structures. Zeft led her down several stone steps and they sat above and near three bowls. In two, couplings were in progress. The other was empty. Each bowl had a ring of candles, soft furnishing and a centre of lush bedding. With what she’d seen outside these catacombs she now understood why the orux looked to this for a treat.
Zeft took her to the birthing area first where some viewed her with unreadable expressions. They were dressed in soft robes. It was the only time she’d seen orux dressed in anything except leather, straps, swords, daggers and boots. It was very quiet which surprised Jorja. Zeft caught her expression.
She responded, ‘Don’t they feel pain?’ Jorja had seen several species give birth but none simply broke out into a sweat.
He chuckled, ‘They do, but suppress it out of respect for the coupling.’
‘Why don’t they have it in a separate cavern?’
‘It represents the cycle of life.’
Jorja was beginning to appreciate that the orux were more complex than what was assumed. The cultural buffs would definitely want to know about this. Zeft assured her that passing this knowledge on was acceptable. He moved her to another area.
Zeft leaned in close, his body pressing against hers speaking softly, ‘The couple closest to us are both virgins. It doesn’t happen often but both the male and female were shy. It was decided that they should be together until comfortable with experimentation. The other couple is an experienced male with a virgin female. Sometimes when a couple experience Unir they may request a coupling in a bowl to legalize their bond.’
‘A permanent relationship.’
He nodded, ‘In a coupling for conception, a female is the one to decide when she wants to give birth. She also is the one to decide who to mate with. She must make the first move.’
Jorja felt torn between avoiding his gaze or avoiding what was happening in the bowls. If it hadn’t been for others sitting around watching she would have felt like an intruder. As it was she wasn’t that much of a stranger to public sex. Another thing she had yet to tell her therapist about. Even still, she found her eyes moving to the empty bowl. Was Zeft waiting for her to make a suggestion? Surely he didn’t think she was a virgin or ready for Unir? The thought almost made her laugh!
‘However, when Unir is suspected a male can take a female.’
Jorja found her eyes drawn to his. ‘Take?’
He smiled, ‘A male can smell when a female wants sex.’
Suddenly Jorja felt the urge to move to a safe distance. She cleared her throat, ‘And Unir?’
‘It’s during sex when it’s usually clear but it can happen at any point.’
‘Oh.’ It wasn’t an intelligent response but she wasn’t feeling intelligent.
They fell quiet and Jorja felt decidedly distracted by Zeft’s body next to hers. Sex for her had become a need that could be met or ignored. It was rare that someone affected her the way he had done and she wondered if it had something to do with his strength and confidence. Her dear friend Sal, and sometimes lover, had once commented on it.
‘How old are you?’
‘Six hundred and thirty three.’
She leaned back a little, ‘And you’ve only had twenty three children?’
Zeft pressed his mouth near her ear and she almost moaned. She was sure he could tell and the anticipation was mounting. ‘Yes, I’ve had more lovers but never any attachment.’
To her surprise he nuzzled her neck, ‘I’ll show you the private chambers now.’
He led her out and neither saw the looks that followed them through the wooden doors. They moved up and to the left and Jorja noticed smaller doors or curtained entrances. He glanced back at her and seemed to make a decision. He was rushing now and Jorja was pulled along behind. She would have burst out laughing if her own need hadn’t been so great.
They entered a dim, small chamber with furnishings and bed. He closed the door and pressed her up against it. It took seconds to get rid of the clothes and as he used the door as a vertical bed he nibbled on her neck. Every section of her body felt on fire and she wondered at their chemistry. It was unlike anything she’d experienced. Their eyes met frequently and she wondered at what he saw.
Part way through he whispered her name, ‘Jorja.’
She smiled as a new wave of pleasure mounted. He seemed intrigued with her curves and texture of her skin. The interest was likewise as he was hard in a way she hadn’t felt before.
He studied her eyes and reciprocated her need.
At that moment he didn’t hold back and neither did she.
A little later she wiggled around a little now lying horizontal, ‘I’m thinking I’m going to be a little sore.’
‘Babe, don’t worry. You’ll get used to it.’ At least he hoped she would. He had treated her more like a virgin and had held back. He didn’t think he could do it the next time though. It had taken the edge off but didn’t give him true release.
‘Where have you been?’ Grumped Scalice to Zeft.
‘Finishing the tour. We can’t take the females.’
‘They refuse to do any work aside from breeding and coupling. Ship policy says everyone must work even their own commissionary women.’
‘Women arranged for couplings, mostly for pay. Jorja assures me the women will tend to the men’s needs and if not she has another idea. She assures me it won’t be a problem.’
‘How come you’ve learnt more than I have and you haven’t attended one single meeting?’
Zeft grinned, ‘It’s my charm.’ He would need to speak to Jorja soon, the men would need to obtain true release to function and with things as they were, no sex would be better than attempted sex. This was his problem not Scalice’s. His intrepid leader had enough to worry about without worrying about the horny needs of his men.
‘We have to talk.’ Zeft approached Jorja days later who was conversing with Drax about his rat stew.
‘Ok.’ She looked at Drax who she had taken a liking to, ‘Save some for me.’
He grinned happily. They’d been working on his recipes.
She followed him to his rooms. She wasn’t sure what to expect but found a cave with door, bed and chest. There was a hole to the outside with shutters. Wind whistled through. She moved to the fire. The smoke drifted up through a ventilation shaft.
He wrapped his arm around her waist. Compared to the orux females it was small, but he had seen smaller women than Jorja. How was he going to make her realize. He could explain it to her and then show her but he knew it wouldn’t have the same effect. So he did the next best thing.
‘You know I’d never hurt you intentionally when we are intimate.’
Jorja was going to ask him to clarify about ‘intentionally’ and ‘when we are intimate’ but didn’t get the chance. ‘I trust you but…’
After a while it became evident to Jorja that Zeft had held back.
Luckily for her she had a wealth of experience to fall on and met his desires inflaming them with her own.
Afterwards Zeft felt relief on two counts. She had accepted the full brunt of his passion and while somewhat bruised she had a smile on her face and he knew his men would be alright.
She lay back staring at the ceiling. ‘Zeft, we have a problem.’
He frowned, ‘What?’
‘The commissionary women may not be willing to experience that…vigorous…kind of coupling if that is how the normal mating ritual goes. Or they may simply overcharge your men.’
He looked worried and ran a sharp nail through her long hair, ‘I sensed you enjoyed it.’
Jorja met his eyes and kissed his lips, something they hadn’t done as yet. Kissing didn’t seem to be an orux practice. He leaned forward to be kissed again.
‘I did enjoy it but I’m…a little unusual. Suffice to say, some women may enjoy it, some will endure it for money but I think I’ll invite some of the Wyang women to come aboard, they enjoy…er…rigorous couplings. The generals won’t argue with me…too much.’
‘How is it you give orders, without giving orders. I’ve never seen any command like yours.’
She smiled, ‘Our command is not so different. In time you’ll come to know what me being an Aeon means and my place within the system of things.’
He wondered at her bitter tone but turned to his worries. She kept speaking, ‘For now, rest assured you offer us more than what we offer you. Your men will have to endure training though, and that includes sex education.’
She waited for his reaction and he shrugged. ‘They’ll do what they are told. For now, we’ll make it a no sex policy.’
‘You catch on quick.’
‘Only when I have to, Babe.’
A general cry of approval went out to those who were motivated enough to yell but most simply prepared to leave. Most of the orux who had little to do with the visitors were surprised and happy that the humans allowed them to take all their weapons and belongings. Some grumbling developed when none of the orux females gave any indication of coming but Zeft clobbered those who gave any real trouble. This made some unhappy but they were told they could come back when off rotation, whenever that was.
In the end he gathered the men. There were finally over eight hundred orux and three hundred ‘others’ in total packed and ready. He spread the word, ‘If we don’t like it, we can come home.’
Some questioned the chain of command.
‘What about Scalice, he’s our leader.’ A voice yelled from his immediate group.
‘Not to worry you lazy sods, Scalice has become the orux general…’ there was a loud cheer, ‘…and you all get to learn ‘protocol’…’
Mutterings followed along with, ‘What’s protocol?’