Logo by L Mundy Undercurrents
By James I. Ide
Chapter 16 Index Page Chapter 18



Going to check on the what?" Vila asked blankly, turning to Tarrant and Dayna.

Only moments ago Cally had excused herself from their company saying she felt a bit tired and now Avon had excused himself. But his excuse as he left the flight deck was--

"Ridiculous." Tarrant had heard Avon's excuse very clearly-- and understood it. "How stupid does he-- that is undoubtedly the-- the most brazen, transparent-- " Words failed him and he could only glare.

"Jealous?" asked Dayna.

"Certainly not," said Tarrant indignantly.

"Oh," said Vila catching on at last.

"It's unbelievable the way they can go from joking to arguing to-- and in the twinkling of an eye. If the Ultra wanted to record mating rituals they should have kept that pair," said Tarrant.

"I'm sure they would have found it instructive," said Dayna, laughing.

Vila's interest was caught. "What's all this about mating rituals?" he asked.

"Nothing," said Dayna quickly, not daring to look at Tarrant. "It's just that the Ultra dabbled in anthropology."


"That's the study of humankind," said Tarrant.

"I know that. So what would they want with Avon?"

"Now there's a riddle," Tarrant said. "I've got another riddle for you, Vila: why do the biggest bastards have all the luck?"

"I don't know. Why?"

"I don't know either."

Vila nodded and they were silent. For the first time ever he and Tarrant were in complete sympathy with each other. "You don't suppose the biggest bastards also have the biggest-- "

"No," said Tarrant sharply.

Dayna laughed and both Tarrant and Vila, reminded of her presence, glanced uncomfortably her way. Vila had the grace to blush, but Tarrant only glared.

"I think it's time I excused myself," she said. She was slightly uncomfortable but amused, too. "And I think I'll take a little exercise myself before I turn in. May I suggest cold showers for you, gentlemen? Good night."

Dayna left and Tarrant and Vila exchanged dark looks.

"And there you have it," said Vila.

"There you have it."

"Only neither one of us is going to get it. The bastards have all the luck."

Tarrant stared at Vila for a long moment, weighing up the situation, and he decided that he didn't like the way the scales seemed always to be tipping in Avon's favor. It was all very well to mind one's p's and q's when everyone else was doing so, but now-- well, things had changed. "Don't bet on it, Vila. Don't bet on it."

* * * * *

Dayna © 1999 Leslie Mundy

Dayna wanted exercise. She missed it. She missed home, but mostly she missed having miles of open country to range through, missed the dangerous games of hunting and being hunted-- aboard ship there never would be enough physical activity for her. And now the whole of her exercise area was only a clearing in one of the cargo bays: a long, narrow, high, space that gave her room to run and turn backflips and cartwheels and handsprings. It wasn't enough. It wasn't satisfying. But it was all she had.

As she began her warm-up routine she thought about Cally and Avon. It was easy to understand why Tarrant and Vila were so affronted-- truth to tell, she felt a bit put out herself-- or perhaps "left out" was closer to the mark. It wasn't that she grudged them any small comfort they might find together, but, their pairing made everyone feel... awkward.

As she stretched she thought and she wondered. She was still curious about men, wanted to know what it would be like to be with a man, especially now that Cally and-- she couldn't help thinking about it: she had once thought about Avon, too.

At home, living in isolation, with only her father and foster sister, there had never been any opportunity to learn about men. She and Lauren had discussed the creatures endlessly, poured over anatomy lessons, speculated and giggled, but, there had been no opportunity to satisfy curiosity, not until that fateful day when an eligible man had fallen out of the sky.

Dayna laughed as she remembered. She had stolen a kiss from that man when she found him: out of curiosity she had stolen a kiss from Avon, lately fallen from out of the sky. She had stolen a kiss, to satisfy curiosity--

She felt herself blush as she remembered that there were other things she would have "stolen" from him if events had happened differently, if--

Things had not happened differently-- even if they had, the attractive and intriguing stranger she would have unashamedly plundered in her search for knowledge had become the irritating, obnoxious and all too familiar Avon. Cally was welcome to him.

And so curiosity was still not satisfied. In fact, curiosity was more intense than ever. And that was the fault of the Ultra.

Tarrant's kisses had been... He had seemed reluctant, at first, but...

What if she and Tarrant had been forced to provide the Ultra with an example of the human mating ritual? What if--

If they could have convinced themselves that it had been done only out of necessity, to buy time, save their lives and everyone else's--

Tarrant was very attractive-- and he had not seemed to be entirely indifferent to her-- Dayna could feel her face getting hot-- no! That way lay disaster. To satisfy curiosity, what one really needed, was an intriguing and attractive stranger who would be gone before the pretense wore thin. But she was aboard Liberator. And aboard Liberator, the choices available for a curious woman were-- choices didn't exist.

But, if a choice did exist--

She pushed the thought aside. Her warm-up was done and now she could begin to get some real exercise. Maybe that would clear her mind.

* * * * *

Tarrant © 1999 Leslie Mundy

Tarrant watched from the doorway as Dayna worked through her routine. Her concentration was remarkable and the lithe grace and beauty of her movement, accentuated by the leotard she wore, was a pleasure to see. More than a pleasure, really. In truth, there was nothing in the least repulsive about Dayna Mellanby--

She paused abruptly in her routine when she noticed him. "Did you want something?"

"No. Nothing. Please. Go on with what you were doing."

Dayna eyed him warily. The way he was looking at her made her feel very uncomfortable. "I'm finished," she lied, and then she walked towards the door, picking up her towel as she went.

"Do you work out every day?" Tarrant asked, as she approached.

"Every day." She smiled at him and made as if to go past, but he was leaning in the doorway and shifted blocking her exit.

"You must get very bored working out all alone."

"No. I enjoy it," she said, casually falling back a step, blotting at her face with the towel.


"Really. And I don't always work out alone. Sometimes Cally works out with me and then we practice hand-to-hand techniques."

"I think she's found another partner to practice with."

"Ha, ha."

Tarrant grinned. "But I'm available."

"Right," she said. "And so is Vila."

"Don't be ridiculous. Exercise would probably kill him."

This time Dayna grinned. "True."

Tarrant watched her for a moment. "Seriously, I could use the practice myself. And I'd give you a better workout than Cally ever could."

"Hmmm... maybe. How good are you?"

"First in my class at the Academy."

"First?" she asked skeptically.

"First," he insisted.

"Show me," she said, dropping the towel and moving to the center of the exercise area. "Come on. Take off your boots and show me."

"You're on," he said and he quickly pulled off his boots. When he took his position opposite her he noticed something. "There aren't any mats."

The challenge was making Dayna feel reckless. "Don't worry, I'll be gentle," she said. Tarrant stared at her and she laughed. Then she went and got the mats. He helped her position them and they took their places again. In earnest now, they circled each other warily.

With a loud whoop Dayna leapt at Tarrant, high, as if she were going to come down on top of him, but even as he moved to counter her she pulled herself up short of his reach and, quickly curling herself into a ball, she rolled into him, knocking him over like a skittle. She came up laughing.

Tarrant recovered quickly and they began circling again. Dayna was still grinning and that put Tarrant on his mettle. Her attack had been unorthodox to say the least, but now he was warned. He watched her, letting his concentration widen until he was aware of her as a whole, until he was aware of every part of her, ready for any slightest indication of her intent. This time she seemed to be waiting for him to take the initiative. He let her wait, let her awareness of him build until he knew she was ready...

He feinted; her response was quick-- and wrong. And though she was nearly quick enough to save herself, Tarrant was just as quick and he got behind her, knocking her to the mat. She fell on her face and he went down on top of her, pinning her. It was his turn to laugh.

"You see?" he whispered into her ear. "First in my class."

"I see," she said. And with surprising strength and a twist and a turn that would have been the envy of any eel, she was on top again, pinning his shoulders to the mat, laughing down into his face. "I was first in my class, too."

Tarrant laughed. "We're well matched, then."

Dayna looked at him for a moment, then said, slowly, "Yes, I think we are." And she kissed him.

In a while curiosity was satisfied.


Chapter 16 Index Chapter 18

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