The creature across from me was Diraki, he had to be a good thirty centimeters taller than me and outweighed me by at least forty to fifty kilos, all of it muscle. His fur, a beautiful burnt umber, danced in the light breeze. The lavishly decorated horns on the sides of his head curled in a massive arc, making two full circles before ending in sharp points capped with decorative metal coverings; even for a Diraki, he was impressive.

Olan crossed one hoof in front of the other, holding the talif lightly in his right hand, spinning the battle staff slowly as we circled the arena, gauging each other as opponents, both trying to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a challenger we had never faced before. He reminded me of a Satyr from ancient Greek mythology.

I was tossing my talif, a wooden staff about one hundred centimeters long with one end shaped into a ‘U,’ from hand to hand, spinning it in lazy circles, trying to get a feel for the weight and agility of the weapon as I matched Olan’s pace around the ring. I had used a quarterstaff before, and this was not too different.

This was a fight for dominance, not to the death, but serious bodily injury was not uncommon. It was a version of the combat the Diraki used to resolve challenges for positions on the Tribunal and ultimately for Kilar, the leader of the clan tribunal.

In keeping with tradition, Olan and I were both completely naked, that meant a little more to me since I didn’t have twenty centimeter long fur covering my body, but not enough to cause me to lose my focus. I could still see his ample package between his legs, and if my limited experience with alien species told me anything, it was that it was probably as good a point of attack here as it was on earth, if it came to that. His fur also provided plenty of hand holds and his horns, while extremely dangerous, also probably meant he was a little top-heavy.

The purpose of the challenge today was to determine the fate of my entire crew; should I dominate Olan, we would be freed, if Olan dominated me, we would be sold into slavery. We moved around the circle in silence, the only noise was the crowd of Diraki watching from the seats around the arena, they were expecting a quick victory, their barbs and jeers directed exclusively at me. While I was hoping for the same thing, I was going to do everything I could to ensure it was not the one they wanted.

Dirak, as the locals called it, was about a third of the way to the gate Drell had been launched through. It had taken us three jumps to get here, being careful to keep them small, since none of us knew exactly what was out here. While Jazz and Drell had connected the dots and we knew where we were going, the Earth data was not what the Trellians would have considered navigation quality and we had no idea what was really in our way, so baby steps.

Once we were away from Earth, Drell opened up a little more on some things he had intentionally kept secret; he explained the dynamics of his family and gave us an idea of what we were walking into, thanking Granger for stocking the armory in the process. His uncle Curish, had held a grudge since Drell’s father had taken the throne, believing it should have been his. Drell’s grandfather had been very specific in his instructions and it had only made matters worse. There was speculation that Curish had played a part in the accident that had caused Drell’s parent’s death, but nothing could be proved. It was certain that he had sent Drell into exile through the gate; it was not going to be a happy reunion when we got there.

He also let us in on a little physics lesson. Space is full of waves, things like light and gravity, all impacting the fabric of space time. When you get into FTL, a lot of the equations change, and you can do some interesting things, for example, at about 2.0 FTL, it is possible to tune the frequency of your FTL engine to create resonant frequencies, much like harmonics in music when a chord is perfectly in tune. The effect of this is, it is then possible to latch onto one of those frequencies. If you choose the right one, you can increase your effective speed almost exponentially, and effectively jump massive distances through space seemingly instantaneously.

The gates Drell had mentioned were nothing more than huge FTL tuning forks, The Phoenix’s top speed of 2.5 FTL, made it possible for us to do the same thing, as long as we took our time and didn’t try to go too far in one jump, even in FTL, going through a star of or a planet would seriously ruin your day. We had covered to 4 lightyears to Alpha Centauri in as many hours.

The second jump was just as impressive but the third had been a challenge to tune and the same 4 lightyears had taken four days, Our plan was to use our next stop to analyze the engines and see what had caused the degradation. We had spent two months at the ship yard in San Francisco for a technical exchange; Drell had given the engineers there the schematics for the biomass replicator on the ship and done a deep dive into the theory and function of FTL drives with a group of physicists in exchange for some upgrades to The Phoenix.

We now had a photon cannon mounted on a swivel below the ship and twin rail guns on the bow. Adding in the time we spent surveying the star systems we had targeted for the first two jumps. Counting the two months in San Francisco, we had been on the ship for over six months, had become a very tight team, and had discovered serious options for Earth’s expansion out of their solar system. My confidence in my piloting skills was close to matching what Drell was convinced I could do, Granger knew the ship as well as Drell did, and Jazz had mastered the nav and communications systems, both were becoming fluent in Galactic Standard in the process as well as picking up a lot of Old Trellian; most of which was not suited for mixed company.

Drell also took it upon himself to expand our knowledge of Trellian culture; I believe what really happened is he finally saw Granger completely hard. Trellians don’t have a concept of sexuality, there is no straight, or gay, or lesbian, or bi-sexual; sharing pleasure is just something you do with someone you like, or think are hot, or well, is hung like Granger.

While humans had become much more liberal in their views on sex over time, there were a few taboos that draw surprise when mentioned.

“Granger,” Drell’s face took a serious tone. I had experienced his directness when it came to asking for sex, but Jazz and Granger had not, “I noticed yesterday when you were with Jazz how large you are, I believe I would enjoy having you inside me, if you’re agreeable.”

Granger dropped his coffee, the look on his face was priceless, his eyes darting back and forth between me and Drell and Jazz, Drell had inadvertently hit on one of those taboos and it had surprised the hell out of Granger.

Drell’s expression changed to confusion, “Case, was that improper?”

I was trying not to laugh, “Humans have become very open about sex but there are some things that our society still has issues with. For some reason, while we readily accept two women together, a lot of people have reservations about two men. I think you just caught Granger off guard, is all. To be honest, I was a little surprised myself.”

“He’s just,” Drell blushed, “well, so big, and I am the only one who has not enjoyed his…,” he didn’t finish the thought, but we all knew what he meant. You could have cut the awkwardness in the room with a knife.

“Sounds fair to me,” Jazz chimed in doubling over in laughter as Granger tried to maintain his composure, “but that would mean I would be the only one that had not been with Drell.”

Her joke slowly became reality as furtive glances flew around the table, we were all very aware of where this was going, all just waiting for someone to object; no one did.

Jazz smiled a huge smile, “perhaps we should all just share,” she opened a bottle of pheromones, dabbing her neck and wrist, wrapping her arms around me, kissing my neck and caressing my breast as she handed me the bottle. I looked at Drell as the pheromones filled my head, he smiled, and I dabbed my neck and wrist, sliding the bottle across the table to Granger.

Drell grabbed it, “he won’t need them.”

“Well, fuck me,” Granger blushed bright red when he realized what he had said.

I turned in Jazz’s arms and kissed her.

Clothes flew everywhere, Jazz pinned me to the floor, dangling her breasts in front of my face as she ground her thigh into my crotch. I arched my neck, taking one nipple into my mouth, sucking hard, eliciting a moan for my efforts as I slid my hands down her side and grabbed her ass.

She took her time exploring my body, refusing to let me take any kind of dominant role. Her tender lips kissed and caressed my neck and shoulders, her tongue danced across my nipples before she sucked them, one and then the other, deep into her mouth while her hands explored my stomach and outer thighs. By the time she had left a gentle trail of kisses across my abdomen and her mouth had found my treasure, I had had one orgasm, when she sucked my clit hard and shoved two fingers inside me, I screamed in rapture as the second ripped through my body.

Jazz smiled at me as she slowly crawled up my body, burying her tongue in my mouth, sharing my own warm juices with me, I knew the taste on her lips, but it was subtly different sharing it with Jazz than it had been with Drell.

We collapsed together, both looking over as Granger moaned loudly, it hadn’t taken long for him to get comfortable with Drell, Drell’s pheromones had that effect, and I had an idea that Granger had secretly wanted to find out how powerful they were first hand.

Granger moaned again as Drell slid him all the way down his throat, I was pretty sure no one had ever done that for Granger before, and when Drell rose up and lowered himself onto Grangers cock, he exploded almost immediately. Drell laughed a loud laugh, nestling himself on top of Grangers softening erection, I could tell from the look on Drell’s face, he wasn’t finished with Granger yet.

That gave me time to return the attention Jazz had given me, I had been with a few women before, but the sense of trust I had with Jazz, the closeness, made this time different, I made it my goal to make her beg me to stop, to elicit the same response I had gotten the first day of training when she had been the one to step forward and challenge me and I had forced her to say ‘yield.’

Jazz was already soaked, her juices rich and powerful, amplified by the pheromones, I dove into her valley, sucking and kissing, licking, and caressing her womanhood with everything I had. Her back arched and she let out a soft cry, I stopped for a moment to enjoy the look on her sweat covered face. Once again, I went to work, I felt the tension begin to build as her body tensed below me, I refused to relent as the tremors and spasms coursed through her body, driving her higher, pushing her from one orgasm to the next.

Her legs crossed behind me, pressing against my back as her hands found my hair, “my god Case,” she screamed as her body exploded once again. Jazz started laughing as I kept going,” fuck, fuck, fuck, ok, I yield” I finally relented, and she collapsed. Once again, our lips found each other, and we shared passionate, sloppy juice covered kisses.

We lay together for a few moments before I heard her giggle, “I want that,” she was admiring Drell’s cock as it bounced up and down over Grangers stomach, Granger was oblivious to anything but his own pleasure. Jazz crawled over to Granger, kissed him passionately and slid back into Drell, guiding him inside her, I just watched as my lover and my two closest friends melded into a carnal masterpiece.

Drell smiled at me, putting his hand out, beckoning me to join them. I walked over and let him guide me in front of him as his mouth found my still wet center, how he had the control to focus on all three of us was beyond me.

Jazz was first, Drell followed, exploding inside her, then Granger; Jazz and Granger collapsed into each other’s kisses as Drell slowly laid back, pulling me down on top of him, pulling himself from Jazz and releasing Granger from his ass. My orgasm was close behind; I was helpless against his lips and tongue, the orgasm ripped through my body and I melted into Drell’s arms. The four of us nestled together on the floor, sweat and sex and pheromones filled the air, but we were all too spent to care.

We lay there for a long time before Jazz and Granger got up and headed for the shower, Drell climbed on top of me, I opened myself to him eagerly, knowing that this was for just the two of us, him reclaiming what was his, I pulled his face to mine kissing him deeply, enjoying the significance of what we did as much as the orgasm it produced.

Once again, the smell of Drell’s pheromones had changed, the sweet apricot aroma was richer, fuller more complex,” Drell, what did you do,” I gazed into his eyes?

“I marked you as mine,” he leaned down and kissed me, “Now, no matter what happens, you and I will be together.”

“Don’t you think you should have asked me before doing something like that,” I wasn’t really complaining and would have readily said yes, but I wanted to see him squirm a little? His face turned that beautiful rose shade of purple I had seen the first time he had gotten embarrassed.

“I thought we had an agreement,” there was a confused look on his face?

“But then we had an orgy with Jazz and Granger; you shared your attentions with them,” I couldn’t do it, I laughed. His face turned a deeper shade of the rose purple. He explained a little more in the shower as we cleaned up.

Trellians had very complex reproductive organs, the males produced three different ejaculates, one was for casual sex, they had a seemingly unending supply of this, it had the sweet scent of apricots I knew so well and is what Jazz got and what I had gotten before. The second was richer and more complex, it was for claiming a mate and that is what Drell had just shared with me and would be what he shared with me going forward. The third was for children, with Trellian women, it is what caused the cervix to open allowing the male’s seed to impregnate the female. I found myself wondering if I would ever get to smell that one or it would even be possible.

Drell also explained that there were many different types of sex with context playing a very large role in the activity. What we had done with Jazz and Granger was fun, it was pure enjoyment with no bonds other than our friendship; as special as it had been, it was nothing more than that. I ran the Old Trellian through my brain as I got dressed, realizing that they had almost as many words for sex as Earth Eskimos had for snow. Go figure.

The soft hum of the engines and the power core kept me company as I sat in the pilot’s seat watching the galaxy fly by, as I had told Granger than night so long ago, this never got old. My mind raced with thoughts of what we had left behind and what would lay ahead, the idea of being Drell’s mate was never far from my thoughts. Of all things, “would his mother have approved,” was what bothered me most.

I smelled Drell before I heard him,” tell me about your mother,” I asked without looking as he slid into the seat to my right?

“She was strong and brave and very wise, like you,” he started, “my father was the king, but she was his chief counsel; he never made a decision without consulting her first. She had a way of seeing things that few others did; always the big picture, never bothering with petty things, always thinking about what was best for the people, never herself.”

We sat in silence for a long time, “she would have liked you, if that is what you’re wondering.”

I smiled, “I’m afraid you would have scared my mother to death,” I reached for his hand and laughed.

“So, being your mate, what exactly does that mean? You’re going to be king and I’m not Trellian.”

“I honestly don’t know. It has never happened before, so I guess we’ll find out together. To be honest, it is one of the reasons I am glad Granger insisted on filling the armory; as much as I hope it won’t, it could get ugly.”

“Great, I fall of a cliff on-top of an alien, commit treason by helping him steal a bunch of stuff from my government only to help him get away, fly half way across the galaxy in his ship, fall in love with him, become his mate and possibly start a civil war in the process. It’s a good thing the sex is so good,” I laughed.

“You humans have the strangest sense of humor,” he laughed with me.

The com alarm brought us both back to our senses, we were arriving at our next stop. There were communication signals; we had found a populated system. Jazz and Granger had heard it too and were at their stations before I had a chance to yell.

“We should probably drop out of FTL here, boss,” it was Jazz, “any closer and they might detect us when we do, and I’d like to know what we’re getting into before we meet our new friends.”

“Cannon and rail guns charged, just in case, sarge,” Granger’s voice drifted over my shoulder.

I looked at Drell and he nodded, I flipped a few switches, overriding the nav computer and the blur of lights slowly came into focus, “what do you see, Jazz?”

“Binary sun, just like we expected. Six planets and I’m getting com traffic from three and four, as well as the asteroid belt. Almost like back home,” she joked.”

“Let the computer listen in, I want the languages in the database before we make contact.”

“I’m only hearing one, so it shouldn’t take long.”

We sat in the darkness wondering what we were going to find. Jazz put the comm traffic on speaker, isolating one or two very active channels, we all sat and listened as the words slowly started to make sense in our translators.

“Trellians have a protocol for first contact, or do we land in an isolated hole until someone jumps off a cliff on top of us,” everybody laughed?

“Well, you’re three steps ahead of me, but for now, we just listen until we have an idea of what we’re facing. Once we are certain we won’t be eaten, we ask if we can stop by,” he smiled at me.

It was amazing what we learned just by listening, they called their planet DIrak and themselves Diraki, the computer identified eight distinct dialects of their language, probably nationalities or clans.

“Check this out,” Jazz seemed excited, “I found some video,” the view screen in front of us came to life. It was an arena, two large Satyr looking beasts faced off with what looked like a cross between a quarterstaff and a sling shot. The larger one had large circular horns like a North American Big Horn Sheep and was obviously male. The smaller had small spikes for horns and nothing between its legs; probably female. We watched as they sparred, the smaller of the two seeming to have the advantage over the larger until he delivered a brutal strike with his staff, knocking his opponent to the ground, placing the forked end of the staff around her neck, shouting “I claim you,” and brutally taking her. When they got up, the crowd cheered and he picked her up, carrying her out of the arena. Three more such contests followed, from the audio, we had just witnessed four Diraki weddings.

Next, the announcer went into a rather long description of transgressions that one of their chieftains was claiming against another clan; that was one question answered, this was a tribal society. Two massive rams, for lack of a better term, walked into the arena; this would be a fight for the honor of the two clans. Nothing like what we had just seen, these were two trained warriors, they went at each other, dancing around looking for an advantage, striking with incredible force, countering each other’s strikes; it was a brutal dance.