Lost Colonies: The ZeeGees

by Shakes Peer2B

Caution: This Science Fiction Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Fa/Fa, Science Fiction, Anal Sex, Slow, .

Desc: Science Fiction Sex Story: The Golden Hind discovers one of the colonization missions that didn't make it to its destination. (Like most of these stories, there's sex here, but it's deep in the story and msy not be the stroke material you're looking for. You may, however, enjoy the story anyway.)

Copyright© 2004

This is a story about a sexual FANTASY written for consenting adults. If you're not both of those, don't read it. Characters in a FANTASY don't get sick or die unless I want them to. In real life, people who don't use condoms and other safe-sex techniques do get sick and die. You don't live in a FANTASY so be safe. The fictional characters in my stories are trained and experienced in acts of FANTASY - don't try to do what they do - someone could get hurt.

If you think you know somebody who resembles any of the characters here, congratulations, but you're wrong - any similarity between the characters in this story and any real person is purely coincidental, since all of these characters are figments of my dirty little imagination.

This is my story, not yours. Don't sell it or put it on a pay site. You can keep it and/or give it away with all of this information intact, but if you make money off of it without my permission, you're breaking the law and pissing me off.

As soon as the Folder dumped us into real space-time, Mary and Bill began searching for the tell-tale signal Mary had picked up once before in this region of space. No more than an hour had passed when Bill knocked on my cabin door and came charging in, portable terminal in hand.

"Mary wanted to... Oh!" he turned red when he saw that Gail and I were engaged in a little extra-curricular activity, "Sorry, Captain! I just sort of assumed... Uh, shall I come back later?"

"I have a better idea, Bill," Gail answered on my behalf, "Why don't you take off that shipsuit and join us?"

Said shipsuit suddenly tented just below its equator, but Bill was too intent on his quest to falter now.

"That's very tempting, Doc." he said, "but we've picked up that signal again and it's definitely CM20951212-2! As near as our on-board directional equipment can determine, it originates somewhere along this vector."

He activated the terminal's holosphere and an orange line appeared crossing the sparse field of stars at an upward angle from the center, which represented our current location.

"Well," I observed, not bothering to cover myself. Bill had been in my bed as often as my other senior officers, and I wasn't about to get shy this late in the game. "there don't appear to be any systems for hundreds of light years in that direction. What's your take on it?"

He touched the controls and a green line appeared, cutting a chord across the holosphere and intersecting the orange line.

"This was the planned course of the CM20951212-2." he said, "but to still be in that region of space, she would have had to stop accelerating before she left the solar system! As you know, the mission profile called for acceleration at about a quarter gee to the halfway point of the journey, then reverse thrust for the remaining half of the first leg."

"Do we know that she's still on course?" I asked

"Well, no." he replied.

"Then let's make a jump to a point out here..." I took his terminal's stylus and touched it's tip to the region of the display I was interested in. "That will give us an idea if she's still on course and add another vector to locate her precisely. If you're right, that point should be closer to her current location and we should get a stronger signal."

"Mary's already working on it." Bill said, "Shall I notify you before we jump?"

"No, Mary takes care of that as a matter of routine," I replied, eyeing Gail's lush, naked figure on my bed, "and even if she neglected to, I'd feel the Folder engage."

As it turned out, Bill was almost right. Readings from the second location told us the CM20951212-2 had drifted off-course by about half a degree, which put her several light weeks off the original course. It took two more jumps to pinpoint her location and guage her speed, before we felt confident that our next jump would put us in her vicinity. With no gravity well to worry about, we simply homed in on the CM's signal and depended on round-off error to ensure that we didn't emerge from sidereal space-time right on top of the colony ship.

When you travel for tens to hundreds of light years by folding space and slipping through to your destination, even with the unfathomable precision of the AI's processors working on the calculation, there is still a point where there are just too many decimal places to deal with, and numbers get rounded off. On a short jump, that error is minimal - say a few hundred miles. On jumps longer than, say, fifty light-years, the error can be anywhere from several light-minutes to a couple of light-hours.

Since we had moved closer to the CM20951212-2's projected position with each jump, the final jump was very short, but even a volume of space only a few hundred miles across leaves plenty of room to miss a ship the size of a CM. Someone did a calculation once that showed the chances of jumping directly onto a target for which you're aiming are smaller than the odds of hitting it if you try to jump to one side.

We expected, of course, to find a drifting hulk of a ghost-ship. The CM's were built to last and to take hundreds of years to deliver their cargo, but this one had apparently been drifting for almost two thousand years, and if nothing else, just the radiation should have done in her crew. It was always possible, of course that everyone was still frozen solid in their SA chambers, but I doubted that they'd still be operational after that much time.

I was on the bridge for the final jump, and saw the sensor blip in the battle plot at the same time the rest of them did. It was less than two hundred miles away, but even at maximum magnification, looked nothing like the CM's we had already seen on this trip. I didn't have much time to study it because our velocity vector was almost perpendicular to the CM's and it took some tricky maneuvering to swing us around parallel to her course without wasting too much of our impulse mass. Within a couple of days, however, we were hot on her trail, and I gave Bill the go-ahead to hail her.

Much to my surprise, a wizened, brown face appeared in the viewscreen almost immediately.

"Who the hell is that?" it said, the accent stronger than the Galadrians, but not nearly as distorted as that of the Edenites.

"This is the Golden Hind." I replied, making sure my face was visible in the view screen, "We have been sent by the Federation of Earth Aligned Planets to seek out the colonization missions sent out from Earth in the twenty-first and twenty-second centuries. Your transponder identifies you as CM20951212-2, but I don't recognize the configuration of your ship."

The face had drifted around the view screen to a different angle.

"Yeah, I guess we started out as one'a them Colo-whatsits missions, but if the history programs is right, somepin went wrong, so our ancestors set up shop out here, and here we be!" the brown gnome of a man didn't seem too disturbed about that.

"How many of you are there?" I asked. If they were in distress, we could take a few to somewhere more hospitable, but not very many.

"Oh, reckon we're prolly holdin' steady at about three thousand." the gnome responded. "Now, if you're driftin' too, we cain't take nobody else aboard, but we'd be happy to swap DNA with ya an show ya how we make out. Don't look like you're doin' too bad though."

"No, we're not drifting." I replied, having flashbacks to Eden, "Since your ancestors left Earth, we've invented a drive that lets us traverse space much more quickly. We only left Earth about a year ago, real time. Is there anything you need?"

The wizened face screwed up in thought for a moment, and replied, "Naw, just some fresh DNA. If y'all don't mind swapping, that is."

"Why don't a few of my crew and I shuttle over and discuss it with your leaders?"

"Sure!" the gnome's face broke into a grin, "I'll let the cap'n an' the gov'nor know. Shoot, I reckon y'all are 'bout the most exciting thing that's happened since we passed through that gas cloud back 'fore I'uz born!"

"Um, is there a place to dock our shuttle? Or do we need to come across in suits?"

"Oh, yeah!" he replied, "go on around neat th' back end yonder, just under that big mast, an' you'll see kind of a tunnel through the plastifoam. Just hang off 'til you're lined up so's not to get fouled in th' sails. Keep about a hunnert klicks out 'til then. Them sails can be tricky to see."

That was why the vessel looked nothing like a CM! The original module was buried somewhere within an enormous cocoon of plastifoam! Apparently, the colonists had simply colonized their ship, using the plastifoam intended for building planetary habitats to expand its hull. For many kilometers beyond the bloated plastifoam cloud that surrounded the original module, a fine spiderweb of titanium spars and cables stretched an even finer network of something as yet unidentified. Closer inspection revealed a number of suited figures darting about the network. What they were doing wasn't readily apparent.

There were protrusions and satellites attached to the main body of the ship in various places. A couple of the satellites were rotating slowly, and I briefly wondered why they didn't rotate the entire ship to simulate gravity.

The maneuvering was delicate, but my pilot was good and got the gig landed in the standard CM shuttle bay without incident. The two shuttles assigned to the mission were still parked there as well, and seemed to be in good working order.

The pilot warned us about the null gravity, and as we came through the bio-shield in hazard suits, our mag-boots automatically activated, but had little effect since the CM's were made primarily of a titanium alloy to optimize fuel effectiveness. They were never intended to be used as space platforms, though. The Edenites had put some axial spin on their CM module to simulate gravity for those aboard the orbiter, but there was nothing of the kind here.

I grabbed the handrail of the ramp as my boots floated above my head. We still train in Zero G, but most of us never get a chance to practice, so it took me a while to get straightened out. The others were having similar difficulties. Two even drifted away from the shuttle, and I was wondering how we were going to retrieve them and get across the shuttle bay, when a number of suited figures shot like arrows from the vicinity of one of the hatches.

One of them deftly grabbed the two of my people who were drifting away, and used their mass to change directions, swooping to the ramp and handing them down to grab the rails.

"Not used to ZeeGee, I see!" one of them said.

"Trained a little in it, but with artificial gravity, we don't get much chance to practice!" I replied.

"The secret," the same voice said, "is once ya git movin', don't stop 'til ya git somewhere, pref'bly where yer goin'!"

That sounded wise until I realized that in the vacuum of the shuttle bay, with no air resistance, it would be harder to stop before 'getting somewhere', than to keep going.

"That's cute!" I said, "But we have had some training and aren't THAT wet behind the ears!"

Like me, once the rest of them got used to the idea of not being in a gravity field, their training took over.

I launched myself at the hatchway from which the others had come, and was gratified to see, in my suit's display, that the others followed in reasonably controlled fashion. Since our group was blocking the straight path to the hatch, our welcoming committee took off like a shot toward the 'roof' of the bay, and caromed, almost as one, at precisely the right angle to bring them to the hatchway. There they waited and snagged us as we drifted in.

Once through the airlock, the colonists immediately skimmed out of their suits - NOT, I noted, the clumsy design originally shipped with these missions. These vacuum suits were supple, and even easier to get into and out of than ours.

The people were uniformly brown, possibly from long exposure to cosmic radiation, and had short, powerful legs with long supple toes. If their legs were disproportionately short, their arms were as disproportionately long, yet muscular. Forearms, biceps, triceps, chest and shoulders all bulged with muscle, even on the women. Their torsos looked long in contrast to their legs, but were probably about normal. The only clothing in evidence consisted of pouches strapped to their bodies in various ways, presumably to allow carrying things while leaving hands free for maneuvering in zero gee. The men also appeared to be wearing some sort of harness around their gonads.

Once free of the suits, they casually gripped one of the ubiquitous handles that lined the corridors with a long-fingered hand or a long-toed foot. It was a little disconcerting to see them clustered about the airlock exit at all angles and orientations. This was a people who truly had no concept of 'up' or 'down'!

We got through the Med-screen without too much difficulty. Seems we had nothing that would come close to harming these people, but they carried some really nasty strains of viruses that had been virtually eliminated on Earth. Docs med-kit synthesized the proper antigens as we waited, but the leathery-skinned doctor from the CM suggested a few changes to keep up with the mutation rate. Apparently everything mutated much more quickly in this environment than on most planets.

Once inoculated and declared safe by Gail, we too removed our suits.

"Whoa!" one voice said, on seeing our relatively pale bodies, short arms, and long legs.

"Damn!" said another, "You folks really ain't been in space long!"

"Compared to you," I said, "perhaps not. I'm Cecilia Barnes, Captain of the Golden Hind!"

Each of them, in turn, extended a hand or foot, whichever was most available, to be shaken. I thought I was going to have to have Gail put my hand through the regenerator by the time I finished the rounds of those bone-crushing grips.

"I am Farley Hines, Governor of the Ark." He smiled engagingly.

"Captain Lucille Davenport, in command of the Ark's crew," she had a lovely brown face and the grip of a stevedore, "at your service!"

"I am SO happy to finally meet someone from EARTH!" He wore a kind of goggles in place of spectacles, "I have studied our history and wondered what our ancestors were like! To finally meet an original human! It's just too much! Oh, uh, Henry Unger, by the way! Historian for the Ark!"

I introduced Bill and Gail and the other two crew members who had come aboard with us. The pilot stayed aboard the gig, just in case.

"How did you come to colonize your own ship?" I asked.

Farley smiled and said, "That's a VERY long story Captain, and if you don't mind accompanying us to a more comfortable meeting place, Henry will be more than happy to fill you in! We, of course, would like to know what's happened on earth since our ancestors left, as well. According to our history tapes, it was a planet on the edge of collapse at the time."

"Yes, of course!" I replied.

The Arkadians took off at a blistering pace down the corridor, and we had all we could do to keep them in sight as they launched themselves from handhold to handhold faster than the fastest sprinter on Earth.

They finally noticed our difficulty and slowed their pace, waiting impatiently at each turn for us to catch up. We tried to emulate their smooth, hand over hand sort of crawling/swimming motion, but it was tricky getting the force vectors right so that you went straight down the corridor and not at an angle that had you bouncing off the bulkheads. The legs, apparently, were used primarily for starting and stopping. A number of Arkadians stared in wonder as they zoomed past us in the corridor, or stopped to watch us go by. Kids - even smaller sprites than the adults - chased each other up and down the corridors, or played a ball passing game of some sort. All zipped and zoomed through the null gravity as naturally as you or I walk.

The intersections of the corridors were color-coded. A small placard at each intersection held a number of bands of color. The outermost band on one end was always white - apparently indicating the starting position for interpreting the other bands. One band of color apparently served as traffic control. I noticed that whenever the first band after the white one was green, we continued past the intersection without pause, but when it was red, we stopped to watch for oncoming traffic before proceeding. When we passed from the metal bulkheads of the CM module to the plastifoam outer shell, I noticed that the second band changed from blue to green, but the third band remained purple, while the fourth stayed orange.

As we travelled further along the ship's axis, the fourth band changed to yellow. The third band became blue as we moved further around the cylinder, and further out, the second band became yellow.

The bands were apparently coded such that the white band was the reference point for reading the others. The first band was traffic control, the second apparently designated cylindrical sections that moved outward from the original CM hull. The third band designated radial position, and the fourth, axial position. A neat, compact system, but it required that every person know the key by heart. Strangers like us could use it to find our way back to our shuttle, but not to anywhere new.

Finally, we found ourselves in a compartment that was criss-crossed by taut cords. The Arkadians each hooked a limb around one of these and we mimicked their action.

"Can we offer you something to eat or drink?" the Governor asked politely.

"Not just now," I answered, "we had a meal just before coming aboard."

That wasn't entirely true - it had been a couple of hours since our last meal, but I didn't want to be distracted by the intricacies of eating or drinking in Zero Gravity just now.

"As you wish!" Farley said, "We actually have livestock aboard. What once were sheep and cattle on earth have adapted quite nicely to space. We maintain just enough spin on the ranch module to allow them some purchase for their hooves and keep the grass under their feet, but we keep the simulated gravity very low, which makes for very tender meat. Oh and chickens just LOVE ZeeGee!"

"I would love to try all of it at some point. At the moment, though, I'm curious about how you have managed to survive in space for so long." I replied.

The be-goggled Henry spoke up excitedly. "Oh I've studied that at length! When the ship departed Earth, its trajectory was set to pass just outside the plane of the ecliptic, only a couple of degrees off plane, thereby missing most of the debris and bypassing the gravity fields within the system itself. We missed the asteroid belt by several thousand miles."

"For some as yet unexplained reason, there were several off-course asteroids, one of which," Henry continued, "unbeknownst to the crew, was on a collision course with us!"

I checked with Mary and she retrieved some historical data. The courses of most bodies in the solar system were well known, even in olden times, so it was strange to hear of an asteroid being off course. Mary dug up a report of a CM crash in the asteroid belt a few days before the CM20951212-2's passage. The crash had not been discovered until an orbiting observatory noticed several asteroids out of their usual orbits.

"Seems one of the ships preceding yours by a few days crashed in the asteroid belt." I told them, "This caused a chain reaction that sent a number of asteroids out of orbit or into different orbits."

"As it turned out, we almost got away with it." Henry said dramatically, "Had the CM been accelerating infinitesimally faster, or slower, or been a tenth of a degree off the course it was on, the asteroid would have missed altogether. As it was, the crew caught its image on radar and attempted to maneuver out of its path, but it clipped the main thrusters, tearing them from the module with very little other damage. The crew and the failsafes did their jobs admirably, got the fuel cut off quickly before an explosion could occur, and saved the lives of the crew and colonists."

He paused for effect, then continued, "So there was good ol' CM20951212-2 only slightly off-course, her journey completed almost before it began. The maneuvering thrusters stabilized the hull along its new trajectory well enough, but we had no way to accelerate. As you may know, the plan was for the main thrusters to burn continuously halfway to the destination, and only a tiny fraction of that acceleration was completed, so it would take practically forever to reach our destination, if we ever did. We had literally tons of fuel, but no way to use it.

"The captain and crew debated just blowing up the ship to end their misery, but finally decided that no decision should be made without the colonists inputs. Now, as you may remember, there were a number of scientists and engineers on most of these missions, and when they got wind of what was going on, they figured and calculated and calculated and figured, and decided that they could just colonize the ship!"

"They and the crew got out the few vacuum suits we had, and opened the cargo pods, hauling out the plastifoam and the constructors. They set up a solar collector several miles wide that provided energy for almost a generation. The plastifoam machinery worked even better in space than in atmosphere, and because of the greater pressure differentials, they used less water to make a stiffer mixture so the bubbles wouldn't just burst through the surface. The mission planners had supplied us with plenty of titanium alloy, not knowing what resources would be available at our destination, but they shipped it as reels of cable so it could be melted down easily for shaping into whatever we needed to make from it. We didn't bother. The cable was ideal as reinforcement for the plastifoam."

Henry was a storyteller, and he was in his element. Had he been in gravity, he would have been pacing. Here, he swung absentmindedly from cord to cord, using feet and hands, to expend the energy the telling of the story gave him.

"The CM encountered another wayward bit of space flotsam, apparently left behind by a comet, a few years later. It was in no danger of colliding with the ship, but spectrographic analysis revealed it to be made primarily of ice." the goggle-eyed gnome continued, "So they contrived to corral it with the shuttles, then encased it in plastifoam to ensure against the escape of any of its precious aitch-too-oh. They had invented recyclers that could recapture damn near anything, but water had not been included in the supplies in very great quantities because it was thought that it would be plentiful at our destination. Now, stranded in space, we had our own water supply. Mind you, the water from that little bit of a comet has long since been melted down, but the recyclers now reclaim it from the air, from the sewage, and from the bodies of the deceased. Still, we lose about a cup a decade, but not to worry - all that leftover fuel? Well it's rich in hydrogen and oxygen, and we make whatever water we need to make up for the loss. Any time we pass near a piece of space junk we mine it for whatever we can get. That's not often, but we don't need much. At our current rate of consumption, if we don't get anything more from the outside, we can probably survive for another three thousand years. That's thanks, in part, to the gas cloud we passed through a couple of generations ago. We built an enormous scoop to collect as much of it as we could - mostly hydrogen."

"But what about radiation?" I asked.

"We do get our share, and as the good doctor pointed out, things mutate faster here." Henry replied, "As you can see, we've adapted fairly rapidly to our environment. Of course, we have kind of 'helped' evolution along. We can't afford to allow mutants that can't contribute to our colony to survive, so we recycle 'em. I know it sounds callous, but we've got the whole colony to think about. Other mutants, we allow to survive and observe them. If their mutation seems useful, we allow 'em to have children. If not, they live out their lives, but don't leave any offspring. That's kind of how we got looking like this so quickly. Of course, the radiation itself weeded out those gene strains that weren't resistant to it. They usually got sterile or didn't survive long enough to have kids. Oh yeah! I forgot! The Plastifoam, with its high hydrogen content, actually shields out the few stray neutrons, as well as alpha and beta particles, but X and gamma rays still get through pretty much unchecked."

"What do you mean by 'useful' mutations?" I asked.

"Well, aside from the usual," the doctor answered, "you know, extra fingers, toes, etc. We occasionally get some really useful changes to our makeup. Most of the crew tending the sails is extremely resistant to radiation, and the emergency response teams now are almost entirely made up of individuals that can actually survive in vacuum for short periods of time, without a pressure suit!"

"Yeah," I grinned, "I can see where that would be useful! But that brings up another question: What ARE those sails?"

Henry fielded that one. "When the CM left the solar system, of course, the solar collector slowly lost its effectiveness until it was basically useless. We needed an alternative. Turns out, the void of space ain't so empty after all. Seems that besides radiation, there are ions, positive and negative, all over the place. That little network is basically a gigantic charge collector. Whenever a charged particle passes near, its charge is passed into one side or the other of the sail. Electrons from negatively charged ions are collected on one face, and donated to positively charged ions on the other. These build up electrical potential between them that's almost constant, and generates more electrical energy than you'd think! We're still adding to it, but it's already surpassed the capacity of the solar collector."

"Do you have some way to store the electricity it generates?" Leave it to Bill to focus on the technical aspect of it.

"Oh yes!" Henry replied excitedly, "Our forefathers thought of that too! When they built the plastifoam outer hull, they plated thin coats of metal on the inside and outside of it. The charge is stored on those plates like an enormous capacitor, and if we hit a 'dry spell', our electrical system feeds off the charge on those plates. It's really amazing how much they can store, but if you can imagine a capacitor with a charge surface of several hundred acres..."

"And what do the people tending the sails do?" the things these Arkadians had done to make life possible out here were amazing and intriguing, and I was excited just listening to them.

Captain Davenport chose to respond to that one.

"There's also a lot more tiny pieces of solid junk out here than you'd think," she said, "and part of the crew's job is to repair the damage they cause. The plastifoam just absorbs most of it and reseals itself, but the sails tear and have to be mended. The other part of their job is angling the sails just right to catch the 'breeze' as we pass through ion streams and such."

As I was searching for something else to ask, Gail came up with what probably should have been my FIRST question.

"Surely, after some eighteen centuries," she asked, "you must have shortages of something. Is there anything we can provide for you, or have shipped out?"

The Captain and the Governor looked at each other for a few moments, shrugged, and turned back to me.

"There are always little things we'd like to have," Farley answered for both, "but I can't think of anything specific at the moment. I think it's been mentioned that we could use some fresh DNA to strengthen our gene pool, but a night or two of debauchery between my people and yours will take care of that - if you don't mind, that is... Of course, we'll have to add to the hull to compensate for the baby boom, but we've still got plastifoam!"

I smiled, "I'm sure the crew would love a night or two of debauchery. They've proven themselves quite eager to try sex in different ways, and have been leaving DNA all over the damn galaxy!"

They laughed with us, but I sobered quickly.

"You know," I said, "we COULD arrange a tow or transport for your people to the planet of your choice..."

Again they exchanged glances and shrugs.

"That's very kind, Captain, but we've kind of gotten used to life out here," Farley replied, "and besides, we're no longer suited to life in a gravity well."

"That brings up another question:" I said, "Why didn't your ancestors just spin the hull with the maneuvering thrusters to simulate gravity?"

"Couldn't while the solar collector was being built and the hull expanded," Henry replied, "that took years, and when it was finally done, it was really too late. Even if they'd a spun it up gradually, letting folks get used to it a little at a time, they knew that within a generation they'd have to shut it down permanently when they built the sails, 'cause the crews'd just get flung off into space. Just decided that we were going to have to live in ZeeGee whether we liked it or not!"

We spent several more hours in discussion of how they had survived. We gave a synopsis of the collapse of Earth's economy along with its ecology as a combined result of the tech and terrorist booms, the long, slow recovery, including mandatory population control and the 'green' laws, including the outlawed use of fossil fuels and fission reactors for energy production. We summarized the historical highlights up to the invention of the Folder drive and the subsequent explosion into space.

We also told about the recent accidental discovery of a couple of former CM colonies - one thriving, the other with no survivors - that had led to the discovery on Earth of the forgotten records, and the subsequent outfitting of the Golden Hind for this mission.

Slowly, over the course of the telling, the compartment had filled with Arkadians, all listening raptly to our story. By the time we were finished, we were famished as well, and eagerly took the Governor up on his offer of a meal. He pushed his way good naturedly through the crowd and led us to a smaller compartment down the corridor. There we found a spherical space lined with what appeared to be picnic tables.

Closer examination revealed that the surface of each table was a grate. There were squeeze pouches containing liquids, but solid and semi-solid food seemed to be sitting on a plate on the surface of the table. We 'seated' ourselves by slipping our feet into loops on the 'floor'. The 'plates' were actually wire mesh platforms, and the food stayed on the table because there was a constant flow of air into its 'top'. It was a good idea to eat quickly so that the airflow didn't cool the food too much before you got to it.

We observed how the Arkadians ate and tried to emulate them. There were no spoons, as liquids were served in pouches with varying sizes of elastic diaphragm closures. A delicious soup was served this way, and I soon got the hang of squeezing the tube to allow the pressure on the inside to force the diaphragm open, discharging liquid and bits of meat and vegetable into my mouth. Any spillage simply got sucked into the tabletop. Roast chicken - plump, tender, and delicious - was served on the 'plates' and eaten with the fingers. In fact, almost everything was roasted or grilled with radiant heat. Frying and boiling were pretty difficult to accomplish in free fall.

A cut of beef that I didn't recognize was also served. I have never tasted such tender, delicious beef in my life! The knife and fork, when not in use, were held on the table by the airflow, and any juices that escaped during cutting simply disappeared into the table. It was a novel way of eating, but one of the best meals I have had in a long time!

After the meal, I presented the Governor with a crystal reader and a set of crystals detailing the history of the FEAP all the way back to the inception of the CM project. It included some things about the colonization missions that none of the original crews or colonists had been told. To put a ribbon on it, Bill had rigged an interface that would allow the reader to be plugged into the old computer systems used at the time of the Ark's departure from earth.

With a promise to return later in the 'evening' (the Arkadians, like us, maintained a 24 hour light/dark cycle to simulate Earth's day/night cycle.) for a festival to celebrate their 're-discovery' by Earth.

I gave about half the crew liberty, cautioning them about the Zero Gee condition. Captain Davenport had been kind enough to provide us with a color-coded map of the colony, confirming my conjecture about the color-banded signs in the corridors.

Mary reproduced the map as a 3D image that she could feed directly to our implants, ensuring that we could find our way around the Ark with relative ease.

I had noticed that, despite the deliciousness of the meal, they had used very little salt in its preparation. On impulse, I had the crew synthesize about twenty kilos of good old NaCl with a touch of Iodine (for goiter prevention) from our chemical stores, and presented it to the Governor on our return to the festivities.

At first, he looked confused as I pushed the bag toward him. I poked a small hole in the bag and touched my finger to it, drawing out a few small, white crystals, and showing it to him.

His eyes grew large and round. "Is that what I think it is?"

"Depends on what you think it is!" I laughed.

"May I?" he gestured toward the hole where a few grains drifted slowly away from the bag.

"Be my guest!" I replied.

Moistening a finger, he carefully touched each of the escaped crystals, drawing back a fingertip lightly sprinkled with the white particles. I smiled encouragingly as he touched it to his tongue.

"It IS salt!" he said delightedly, as murmurs of wonder arose from the crowd. "How did you know?"

"I figured if you didn't have enough salt to season the food you served your first guests in almost two thousand years," I laughed, "you must be running pretty low!"

"Low, hell! Today's meal is the first time I've tasted even a hint of salt in almost thirty years!" Farley said, "I think the cook pretty much had to wipe the meat around the inside of the salt bin to get any flavor at all!"

"But how do you avoid goiter?" I asked.

"Oh, we HAVE Iodine, and feed it into the drinking water supply," he replied, "but salt is one of those little shortages I couldn't think of when you asked earlier."

"Well, now you know at least one thing you can trade for." I said.

"Trade?" he looked puzzled.

"I guess I'm jumping the gun here a little bit," I smiled, "but once word gets out about your little Zero Gee resort, here, and the tasty meals you serve, you'll have rich folks from all over wanting to vacation here! Now, you don't HAVE to let them in, but with the money they pay you, you can buy all sorts of little things like salt or even a fusion power plant so you don't have to deal with those sails! You may even decide you need more plastifoam to expand the Ark to make room for your guests!"

A buzz started from the people near us as the idea took hold and flew around the room.

"You really think people would come all the way out here just to float around in ZeeGee?" Farley asked.

"Well, it'd depend on how you sell it." I said, "A couple of places have tried it, usually in-system somewhere, but they've all failed because they couldn't get enough staff that could handle null gravity, and nobody wanted to be on permanent staff. If you folks wanted to go into the resort business, you'd already be well staffed with trained personnel, and you serve some of the best meals I've ever tasted. Think up a few activities that rich people can do without gravity, and come up with some entertainment for them, and you're all set! But what do you say we talk business tomorrow? You invited us to a party, and we're ready for one!"

A cheer went up around us, and the Arkadians, almost as one, flowed down the corridor, taking us with them. Farley passed the bag of salt to another Arkadian with instructions to take it to the chef for tonight's feast.

We wound up in a spherical chamber with another sphere suspended inside it by numerous cables or rods. The inner sphere was composed of some sort of wire mesh, and had, at two diametrically opposed points, a pair of large basket-like devices sunken into its inner surface. Everyone found a hand- or foot-hold on one of the cables supporting the inner sphere, though some, apparently, were quite comfortable just being suspended in air.

"We thought you might enjoy a game of 3D soccer before the festival proper!" the Governor shouted in my ear.

I nodded, not bothering to try to speak over the hubbub of the crowd.

"We actually have eight teams!" he continued, "They are fielded by various 'neighborhoods' of the Ark, and their supporters can get quite passionate about their team! Tonight is really an exhibition put on between the two leading teams, though it doesn't really count in their standings. Because of that, you'll probably see more flashy play tonight than their coaches usually let them try!"

Two groups of Arkadians, male and female, entered the mesh sphere simultaneously from opposite sides. One group wore gold sashes, and nothing else. The other group wore green belts. They swung lazily around the inside of the sphere as introductions and opening comments were made over a PA system. Instead of positioning themselves within the volume of the sphere for the kickoff, as I half expected, each team of about ten players spaced itself out around the mesh wall of the enclosure. An Arkadian wearing a black belt positioned himself in the basket that represented the goal defended by green, while a woman wearing a red sash took position in the gold team's goal. A pair of Arkadians with old-fashioned whistles entered the sphere, closing the gates behind them. Each of the newcomers, presumably the officials, wore a black-and-white striped sash, and one carried what appeared to be a regulation soccer ball.

The official with the ball positioned himself at the midline painted around the inside of the sphere, and without a word, launched the ball slowly toward the center of the sphere. Nobody moved. When the ball was about ten feet from the center point, the official blew his whistle, and several players from each team shot toward the ball. One of the green players reached it first, and blasted it, with both feet, toward the gold team's goal. His effort sent him tumbling, slightly off-angle from his original trajectory. Almost without thought, he twisted around and landed on the side of the sphere, gripping the mesh with his toes.

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Ma/Fa / Fa/Fa / Science Fiction / Anal Sex / Slow /