The Journey
Chapter 1

Copyright© 2007 by The Old Guy

Science Fiction Sex Story: Chapter 1 - The world of Ain was a place where life had to struggle to survive. Most of the population existed as their ancestors had for thousands of years, wandering herdsmen following the grazing herds of cattle and goats. Over time the people of Ain had learned to exist and had developed a civilization that the land would support. This had remained essentially unchanged for thousands of years until

Caution: This Science Fiction Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Consensual   Romantic   Reluctant   Heterosexual   Science Fiction   MaleDom   Polygamy/Polyamory  

Tony shook his head in an attempt to get the sweat out of his eyes. He had been cutting lodge pole pine logs into D shaped timbers for his log cabin. Giving up the effort to avoid wiping his face, he pulled out the already wet neckerchief and wiped the sweat out of his eyes again. Tony gave a look of resigned disgust at the pile of logs finished today. Only twenty logs for the cabin had been finished despite spending over 6 hours on the chore.

Going to the hand-made hoist Tony lifted the timber from the jig and managed to turn it over and back into the jig once more. Picking up his mallet he struck the end to make sure it was in the right position. Grabbing the jack handle, he pushed the log snug against the support of the cutout pattern. He wished that he had chosen a different pattern of joining the logs other than dovetail joints. Tony snorted, thinking, 'The guy who said you couldn't cut the dovetails with a jig didn't know what he was talking about.' He had spent a summer cutting the timbers to a uniform D-shaped size with a portable saw mill and then had crafted a jig to hold the logs securely while the joins were cut. This was Tony's third year working on the cabin during the summers and it was finally beginning to look like a real building. He just wished for some more help once in a while.

Tony was a schoolteacher from the Oregon bay area and had been coming to what his sister called "the hideout" for the last five years. His sister had always told him "Tony you need to be around new people when you aren't teaching. Go back and take new courses or a trip. You're going to be an old grumpy bachelor living by yourself otherwise!" Tony knew she worried about him but he had never been popular with women in a romantic way and had finally given up looking. He had always been a 'good friend' rather than a romantic possibility. He had been teaching close to twenty years and was looking forward to getting away from the noise and congestion of the city when he retired. Tony had never been married and had few close friends but lots of acquaintances.

Tony had purchased the property after a search to ensure that it was away from other people. He wanted complete isolation from people to rejuvenate from his teaching duties at middle school he told everyone and made sure that his cell phone was left behind. Actually Tony sometimes wished he could have lived back in the nineteenth century when looks weren't as important as the ability to protect and provide for a family was. He knew that there were other people around the area, but other than the occasional lost hunter, Tony rarely saw anyone. Tony had gone for over two months without seeing anyone this year. He was about out of food and gas and would have to make a trip to the nearest town soon to restock.

Tony drove in a small travel trailer and set up a solar energy array for the little power he needed while he built his cabin. For emergencies he had a small generator that he used during stormy days. This provided enough power to run his water pump and a low power light at night. His solar water heater provided enough warm water for his needs. A propane stove, a small refrigerator and his heating ran off the same tank. For entertainment Tony read or just enjoyed the view from the semi-completed porch of the cabin he was building.

Using the backsaw Tony began sawing out the dovetail joint. For the time, everything was golden, and the smooth sound of the saw was like balm to his nerves, jangled from dealing with 45 six graders for most of the year. The sounds of nature, with the exception of the saw's rasp as it cut through the log, were all he heard. Finished with the joints, he released the jacks and used the hoist to move the timber to the stack of completed ones.

Stretching out his arms, he contemplated starting another timber without enthusiasm, finally deciding to take a bath in his swimming hole instead. Looking around he gave a loud whistle. A head popped up and the dirty nose of his beagle, Josh, popped out of the large hole he had been digging.

"Haven't you found that critter yet? You've been digging there for the last two years!"

Tony had filled in the hole the first year, every time Josh finished for the day. This year he had given up and just let Josh dig it deeper every day. Tony didn't know what he was going to do once it was time to leave for the next school year, but figured that if nothing else it would serve as a place to bury the garbage.

Tony grabbed a rifle and started on his favorite route by the stream that ran through the property and over to the swimming hole. As Tony walked, he kept an eye out for bears and mountain lions. There wasn't much danger if they saw each other in time, but it didn't make any sense to take unnecessary chances.

Reaching the swimming hole, Tony laid down the rifle and undressed. Picking up Josh, he jumped into the water, releasing him when they hit the water. Josh quickly swam back to the bank and gave Tony a reproachful look. Climbing onto the sun drenched rocks he shook himself, spraying water over everything nearby. Turning around several times Josh settled himself on the warm rocks and looked at the crazy person in the cold water.

Tony snorted at Josh's antics and reached for the soap on the rope hanging from a branch dangling over the water. The only thing Tony missed while working on the cabin was a decent bathtub. The small trailer had a shower but Tony missed soaking in warm water. Idly he thought, 'When I finish my twenty years I might want to buy a propane heated hot tub. It would be nice to have something like that on a cold day'.

Finished removing the sweat and sawdust, Tony got out and lay down next to Josh. Tony idly stroked Josh's wet back as he let the sun dry him. Josh promptly squirmed over onto his back and presented his belly to rub. "You silly dog! What do you think about going into town for a meal tonight?"

Tony contemplated getting dressed again but decided to just put on his shoes and pants. Leisurely he walked back to the trailer and dressed in cleaner clothing. Calling Josh, he waited for the dog to jump in; started the truck and headed to the town of Beatty. This was about thirty miles away, on forest roads for the most part. That was the biggest doubt that Tony had about living here anytime other than the summer. Tony had made trips to his land during the fall and spring months and remembered the experience without any fondness. "Mile long mud hole", was the kindest description he could think of to describe the roads in wet weather.

When he got to Beatty, Tony went into the beer hall/restaurant that dominated the small town. Beatty was one of the forgotten towns that dotted the far west parts of the high desert Oregon country. It consisted of a single row of buildings that served the passing traffic of seasonal hunters and people who were lost, together with the sparse population of ranchers and older hippies that lived here year around. A gas station where you could get propane, the restaurant, a very small store that sold the basics and a meat processor that was open during hunting season made up most of the town. On the other side of the road were the houses of the few people who worked in the businesses.

Ambling over to the counter Tony greeted the woman behind it, "Hello Marge. What you got cooking today?"

Marge, a fifty-ish woman who must have weighed 250 pounds or more, gave Tony a wave and continued talking to the younger woman who was trying to find out how to get to a parcel of land that lay along one of the forest roads. Finally she turned to Tony, "Tony, could you explain how to get to forest road 43? She", pointing with her thumb at the woman she had been speaking with, "wants to take pictures of old man Michael's property. Her agency is selling the place for his heirs."

"I can take her out there if she'll wait until I get something to eat and buy some more supplies for my place." Turning to the stranger he introduced himself, "I'm Tony and this is Josh. If you can wait for half an hour while I shop for supplies and would join me for a cup of coffee while I eat, I can show you the place. Otherwise I can show you on the map, but there are a lot of self-made roads out there that can confuse someone not familiar with the area."

The woman looked upset but then reluctantly shrugged her shoulders, "I guess I better have someone show me how to get there. I've already wasted most of the day trying to find it on my own."

Tony turned to Marge again, "Like I said, what you got cooking?"

"If you want something fast I have chili or if you want to wait for 20 minutes I can make you a steak and baked potato."

Tony's mouth began to water when she mentioned steak and quickly asked for one to be made while he got his propane tank filled and bought supplies. Tony left the woman talking to Marge and headed toward the small store. Quickly Tony went through the meager selection picking out flour, beans, bacon, and several other items he was low on or out of. Since many of the permanent residents were off the grid, the meat packer sold space in their walk-in freezer to store a limited amount of frozen food. He checked his freezer section and pulled out some of the frozen meat he had placed there at the beginning of the summer.

Driving to the service station, Tony had the propane tank filled and headed back to the restaurant for his steak dinner. When he got there he found the woman sitting down to a steak dinner. Marge was bringing in another plate as he came in. "Saw you were finishing up."

The stranger offered her hand to Tony, "Sorry about earlier. I've been looking for this place for the last three hours and I was about to give up. I'm Terry, from the Farm and Country real estate office out of Burns."

Tony shook her hand and sat down. "I can understand how you got lost. It took me two years before I could be sure of finding my place after dark."

"How is it living out here?"

"I'm only living here in the summer right now. I'm building a log cabin and staying in a trailer while I build it. I retire in three years and then I plan on living here year round." He paused for a minute to swallow a piece of steak. "It's a lonely place, but I like it. It reminds me of how the land used to be a hundred years ago. There are times I've been out there for months without seeing anyone else."

Terry shuddered, "I don't know how you can stand it. I need to be around people. I'd go insane if I didn't see anyone for that long."

Tony had been eating steadily while listening and looked down at his plate. He had finished everything on it while she talked about her work for the agency. She lived at home with her mother following a messy divorce, while she restarted her life. Tony was used to people telling him about their lives. For some reason people just naturally confided some of their most intimate moments to him. Tony figured that his balding hair and somewhat stout figure gave him a grandfatherly look. He held up his glass for a refill of ice tea and waited for Terry to finish. She dug into her meal and soon the only thing left on the table was tableware. Terry insisted on paying for both meals and with a shrug, Tony let her. Tony snagged both steak bones for Josh before they left, with a wink at Marge as she handed him a bag to hold them. "I swear Tony, I don't know why that dog is able to walk, the way you spoil him."

"Josh is my family, Marge. He's just like a kid, every so often he deserves a treat."

When he went outside Tony saw Terry's car and wondered how she had gotten over the forest roads without getting stuck. It was a Buick Regal that must have had every gadget ever made on it. He turned to Terry, "Have you got a cell phone?"

"Yes, I do. Why?"

"I'm amazed you managed to drive over the forest roads with that without getting stuck or breaking something. You might want to get a four wheel vehicle before you try and find this place."

"I've wasted enough time trying to find this place already. I'll chance it."

Tony shrugged. No skin off his nose if she wanted to have a tow truck pick up the car. Tony got in the truck and started off, keeping an eye on the car behind in the rear view mirror. Reaching into the bag, he gave Josh the steak bones. Driving more slowly than his normal speed Tony listened to Josh contentedly chewing on the bones. They had gotten over two miles on to forest road 43, some 25 miles away from Beatty, when it happened.

Smoke began coming from under the hood of the Buick and it shuddered to a stop. Grabbing the extinguisher from its bracket, Tony parked his truck and hurried back. Cautiously he felt the hood and felt heat. Terry had gotten out of the car and was holding her hands in distress. "Pop the hood", Tony told her. When she did Tony began spraying the engine compartment with the extinguisher. Smoke and flames came from under the hood until Tony managed to extinguish the fire. When it appeared to be out Tony opened the hood completely and checked to see what damage had been caused. The oil cap had come off at some time and allowed the oil to splash out onto the hot block, igniting it. The resulting fire had melted the plastic pipes and the insulation off the spark plug wires. There was no way she would be driving the car out of here.

When she had seen the damage Terry had used her cell phone to call her office and Tony caught her end of the conversation, "What do you mean no one can get out here until tomorrow at the earliest? What am I supposed to do, sleep in the car? Damn it Bill! I came out here as a favor for you in the first place so you could go to your kid's game." She paused and finally listened to whatever the person on the other end was saying. Terry's shoulder's slumped and she seemed resigned to the situation, "If that's the best you can do, I guess I'll be here. It's not like there's a lot of places I could go."

She turned to Tony, "Is there a motel around here I could stay in tonight?"

"The nearest place like that is over a hundred miles away."

She yelled in her phone, "Bill, did you hear that! What the hell am I supposed to do, cook my dinner over a fire in a hubcap? You get that tow truck out here first thing in the morning!" She closed the phone up fuming.

"Look, you can stay in my trailer tonight and I'll stay in the cabin. Tomorrow morning I'll bring you back to your car and we can wait for the tow truck."

She looked at Tony considering his appearance. Tony wasn't young but he wasn't an aging hippie either. Tony looked like what he was, a somewhat middle aged schoolteacher. "Let me call my mother to let her know where I am and then I'll be happy to accept." She dialed a number and spoke on the phone, explaining what had happened, "I'm going to be staying with some guy named Tony tonight. No Mom, it's nothing like that. My car broke down and I'm staying at his cabin until a tow truck can pick up my car tomorrow morning. Could you let Bill know and have him call me when he can get someone out here? Thanks, Mom."

"Tony, could you show me the property I'm supposed to photograph? I may as well take care of that as long as I'm here."

When she finally saw the place she was supposed to photograph she shook her head, "It'll probably cost more to repair my car than we'll make selling this place. " She shot several pictures of the place trying to find views that didn't look too bad.

They stopped back at her car and Terry picked up a bag from the trunk. She saw Tony looking at the bag, "It's my workout clothes. I go to the gym after work or I'd never be able to fit in a car after a while."

When they got to Tony's place he got out a sleeping bag and air mattress for the cabin and gave Terry the key to the trailer. She took in the groceries while he hooked up the new propane tank. Tony went to the small kitchen garden and picked out the ingredients for a salad. Tony knocked on the door and asked Terry to hand out two steaks and his barbecue tools. He handed Terry the salad ingredients and turned to start the barbecue. While he waited for the coals to get white Tony drank ice tea and relaxed on the front porch of his cabin. He could see Terry wandering around inside the trailer doing something in the small kitchen. Tony put the steaks on the barbecue and called out, "How do you like your steaks?"

"Medium well done." Terry answered as she came out of the trailer. In her hands she carried a large salad bowl and a bottle of wine he had kept under the sink. She placed the items on the porch and returned to the trailer to fetch plates and glasses. "I couldn't find any wineglasses", she apologized.

"Don't have any around here. I don't normally drink anything but coffee and ice tea."

Terry blushed and began to take the bottle back to the trailer. Tony held up his hand, "Don't worry about it. I don't have anything against drinking in moderation; I just don't drink too much when I'm by myself."

Tony took the steaks off the barbecue and placed them on the plates. Together they ate and Tony made sure that he saved the bones for Josh. Finishing up Terry took the plates back to the trailer. "Josh!" Tony called. Josh didn't come. Tony whistled. Still Josh didn't show up. Now Tony was beginning to worry. Josh never went far away when there was food around. He began calling more loudly and Terry came out of the trailer drying her hair while wrapped up in his robe.

"What's wrong?"

"Josh isn't coming when I call him. He never goes very far from me when there's food around."

"Do you want help looking for him?"

"Could you get the flashlight by the stove and bring it to me? I'm going to check his hole."

Terry looked confused at the mention of a hole but brought the flashlight after getting dressed in her gym suit. Tony took off for the cabin with Terry following. As he went he continued to call, "Josh! Josh where are you?"

When he got to the hole he looked into it. He didn't remember Josh having dug so far down last year. It looked like it was at least five feet deep from what he could see in the light from the flashlight. He thought he saw a flash of white at the bottom of the hole. "Josh, come here!" The white spot never moved. Tony's heart skipped, fearing that Josh was hurt. Tony began to climb into the hole. He started to slip and Terry rushed forward to grab his arm, colliding with him as he lurched up trying to gain his balance. This caused both of them to stumble and together they rolled into the hole.

Time stopped.

The AI became aware of more specimens arriving at the seldom-used portal. "A breeding pair!" he thought with a mechanical equivalent of delight. As he examined the specimens his delight dampened. "They need a lot of repair but I might be able to manage to get them into shape for transplantation in to the biota." For a time measured in an interval that was either too small to measure or almost forever the AI debated if it was worth the repair time needed. It had been a long time since he had seen a breeding pair from this location though. He began.

Tony woke up laying on something flat. His head hurt and the bright lights made it hard to see. He tried to move and found that his arms and legs were fastened to the surface of whatever he was laying on. He felt a cool sensation on his neck and everything went black again.

"Interesting. I need to increase the dosage. The specimen shouldn't have woken up."

When Tony next became aware he was lying on the ground. The first thing he noticed was how clear everything was. Tony had been wearing glasses since he was eight years old and it had become second nature to find his glasses before he did anything else. Next he became aware of someone next to him and a cold nose that was trying to press itself between his arm and his body.

The cold nose won and he found that Josh was standing next to him. Josh licked his nose and Tony grabbed him in his arms. "Josh! I don't know whether to kill you or pet you! Why didn't you come when you were called?"

He suddenly noticed that his arms were pale white and cuts he had gotten while building the cabin were gone. A noise from the other side brought his attention to that side. An attractive young woman who looked somewhat familiar was about to wake up. That's when he realized that both of them were naked and the surroundings looked nothing like the high desert woodlands he had been in before falling into Josh's hole.

The area had what looked like tropical vegetation but it didn't feel as warm as it should have been if it was in the topics. That was all he had time to notice because then the woman next to him woke up and screamed in his ear. She crab-walked away from him and acted like she was looking for something to defend herself with. Quickly before she could find anything Tony spoke up, "Miss, I'm not going to hurt you. I just woke up here like this too. I don't know where we are, do you?"

"Tony?" she stopped moving and stared at him.

"I'm sorry, do I know you?"

"I'm Terry, from the real estate agency. Remember I was staying in your trailer while we waited for the tow truck to pick up my car. Where are we and why do you look like that. She looked down at herself, "Why are we naked?"

Suddenly a burning bush appeared before them and a voice came from the surrounding area, "I am your God!"

Tony and Terry looked at each other in confusion. They weren't sure of what was going on but neither was inclined to believe that God had picked them out for some reason. Tony reached toward the bush and his hand went through it. Terry was looking around for speakers at the same time.

The specimens weren't supposed to react this way. The last time he had seen specimens from that planet's portal they had reacted with fear and tried to get away from the hologram. Quickly, and for an AI of his power this was quick indeed, he scanned the recordings he had made from the minds of the specimens. He reacted with astonishment. "These are not the same type of specimens I obtained last time. These are almost rational."

In a time too short for Tony or Terry to react to, the AI had changed his entire plan for the specimen placement. The burning bush disappeared and an elderly figure from the scanned memories appeared. This time the voice came from the figure. This was not the real shape of the AI but he had used similar shapes for communicating with other specimens of this type. "My apologies. I had accessed your cultural sophistication from old data. I hope this figure meets your comfort level better." He observed the specimens relaxing when they saw the figure. He was pleased that he had more closely identified the cultural level this time.

Tony looked at the hologram and tried to keep from laughing. The figure was a dead ringer for Yoda from Star Wars. He glanced at Terry and saw her fighting a giggle. Somehow it was hard to feel threatened by a two-foot high doll. He cleared his throat, "Who are you and why are we here?"

The figure appeared to stop for a moment almost too briefly to notice, then answered, "I cannot answer that question. Your memories have no term for the location we are at. We are in a biota that you were to be part of for educational purposes. Unfortunately I can see that you are not suitable for this location and I'll have to look elsewhere for new specimens to complete the exhibit."

"I have no name as you know it. I am an artificial intelligence charged with maintaining biota for the education of a species that you don't know about."

"What happens to us now?" Terry asked.

"You will be transported to another location more suitable."

"Can't you send us home?"

"Your return would cause a disruption with the natural evolution of your species: either toward rationality or destruction."

Terry began to cry, "What gives you the right to play God! How can you just take people away from everything they know? What about my family?"

The figure shrugged its shoulders; "I have no need or reason to justify myself to you. Do you ask permission to transport animals from one location to another?"

"We're not animals! We're people!"

"You are not rational and according to my programming that means you are not "people" by definition. You can to remain a part of the exhibit with modifications to adjust your mind to fit into the biota or I can send you to a new place where you will be able to survive. This will require you to provide your own subsistence and protection instead of it being provided to you. I will give you one of your time periods called an hour to decide."

Tony glared at the figure, "Send us back, damn you!"

"That is not possible. Your return would destroy the present culture that now exists by providing knowledge it is not ready to accept. Your cultures have almost become rational and that my programming does not allow me to chance the destruction of societies that may become rational."

With that the figure of Yoda disappeared. The AI focused a small part of his attention on the figures and turned the remainder on the maintenance of the biota under his control. A chlorine biota was showing signs of stress and needed adjustment.

Tony sat next to Terry while Josh tried to climb between them. He was stunned at what had happened. Things like this didn't happen. From what he could gather there was no chance of going home, so the only decision they had to make was to remain part of an exhibit or take the chance that they could survive in an unknown location. Neither had any desire to have their minds 'adjusted' so the only decision they had to make was what they could do now. Finally they decided that they could only accept the choice of a new world.

"Look, Tony, I'd rather die than become some zombie for the amusement of some damned voyeurs." Tony couldn't argue too much as he felt much the same way. Together they talked about what they needed to do to be able to survive.

The portion of the AI observing them was struggling itself. This was in one of the gray areas of his basic programming. If the specimens had been rational, they would receive any assistance they asked for and sent onward to his creators. Specimens who were clearly not rational would have been placed where needed regardless of what they wanted. The few times that the specimens were on the cusp of being rational they required special handling. They could receive assistance if they asked for it, but only what they had asked for. The AI was required to ensure that they were placed in a momentarily safe location but was prohibited from interfering after they left that location. They could be used to kick start species that had reached a plateau or regressed to unacceptable levels. However, they would have to do so with whatever aid he was able to provide before they left. At the end of an hour the figure of Yoda reappeared in front of Tony and Terry.

"Have you decided on your placement?"

Terry spoke up, "We're damned if you'll 'adjust' our minds. We'd rather be dead. We'll take the place you offered where we can survive. We need to look like the other people around and be able to communicate with them."

Tony added, "You need to give us some sort of weapons with the ability to use them if we need to, knowledge of how to survive in the environment and supplies that will let us do so. Otherwise you may as well just kill us now."

In a period of time that was too short to measure to the humans and almost endless to the AI, it considered the options for transplanting the specimens. It considered the various portals available to him and ran simulations of what would happen to the specimens. In most they survived only days before dying from either natural hazards or the irrational inhabitants. Only a few remained where the specimens had a chance at survival for long periods. Next it considered where they could be best used to kick start the inhabitants toward rationality. Finally the AI decided. The figures of Tony, Josh and Terry vanished from the biota. The attention of the part that was monitoring them returned to the consideration of what to do to return the chlorine biota to perfect health.

Another part of the AI considered the bodies of Tony, Josh and Terry and determined the best method of giving them a chance to survive in the place they were to be sent. Changes would have to be made and additional items added. A plug from their skull was removed and a small computer installed in their brain. Into this computer the complete range of knowledge known to the AI for the place they were going was added. Knowledge of the immediate area where they were to be placed was imprinted onto the memory of the specimens and motor memory installed to allow the use of the weapons and tools provided. Finally all the changes were made and the specimens were placed at the portal leading to the place determined to be where they would be most useful. A pulse of energy and they were gone. A small portion of the AI set up a sub-routine to periodically query the computers installed in the specimens to see how they affected the evolution of the native species. After that the AI returned its attention to more important matters.

When Tony woke up this time he was laying in some sort of tent. His skin was a burnt amber color and the woman next to him was the same color. Both bodies seemed human to him, although the bodies that resembled those of body builders. Josh was the most changed. Instead of Josh being only 14 inches tall, he now stood over three feet and must have weighed over a hundred and fifty pounds. He opened his eyes and yawned revealing that his teeth had changed as well. They were at least two inches long and looked like they could crush a bone with a casual bite. He still tried his best to stick his nose between Tony's arm and body, and acted like he was till the same size as before.

When he looked around he found stacked next to him was leather clothing consisting of loose fitting pants and a tunic that came down to his hips when he put it on. Terry woke up and wordlessly donned a loose fitting tunic that came down to below her knees. He tried to speak to her but she wouldn't talk. He worried about her mental health. 'Was she going catatonic?' Without thinking about it, his hands automatically picked up a bow, quiver and short sword or long dagger by the entrance. Pushing the covering of the door aside, he exited. Terry grabbed a smaller blade and followed him.

They found themselves in a small valley with a stream running through it with a small meadow containing several horses with hobbles. Around the hattl, a peaked hide tent similar to the ones used by the plains Indians of the Midwest, there were several packs filled with what appeared to be trade goods and tack for the horses. Tony suddenly realized that he knew exactly what was in each pack and what they were worth compared to what his mind told him were hino hides, falo leaves and coins. Terry must have had something similar enter her mind because she looked at Tony and finally spoke.

"Tony, are you remembering things? I'm remembering that we are supposed to have come from a town called Menachla. We are on our way to a new place that is being built on the coast as part of our matrimonial journey to see where we wish to raise a family. I remember buying the hattl when we left Menachla and deciding to purchase which items and why."

As soon as Terry spoke, Tony remembered what she was talking about. He realized that he was a trader and a blade smith, while Terry specialized in making bows and fletching arrows. He looked at the horses and knew their characteristics and foibles. They were small horses to his eyes with big heads with shorter manes and rather shaggy looking coats. The bay was a good pack animal but woes betide anyone who tried to mount him. The buckskin was his horse and Terry rode the roan. These thoughts seemed to enter his head without any conscious thought; they were just there. Terry had spoken something besides English and he had understood perfectly.

He sat down and Josh wandered over to get into his lap, as he was accustomed to. He seemed surprised when he didn't fit and settled for placing his head in Tony's lap to be rubbed. Tony was hit by two sets of memories, one of a life on a planet called Earth and one of his life on the planet of Ain. He held his head as the memories surfaced and his mind tottered between madness and rationality. Vaguely he heard a voice talking, although the words meant nothing to him at the time.

"TONY! Are you all right? Answer me!"

He managed to open his mouth but all that came out was a strangled wordless cry. The last thing he was aware of was Terry helping him back into the tent and Josh lying next to him whining in distress.

When Tony woke up this time he found himself alone in the tent. The smell of something cooking filled the air and his stomach growled to remind him that a lot of things had happened since his last meal. Tony's mind was filled with new memories of a life that he had never lived, side by side with memories of Earth. He remembered the AI and his demand that they be given the knowledge they needed to survive. For a moment he almost slipped back into fugue but his hunger won out over the conflict in his mind. When he got out of the tent he found Terry cooking some meat from what his mind told him was an atta while Josh was eating the rest of the rather large animal. Terry told him, "Josh brought it back and my new memories tell me that this is good grilled with these", showing him large green leaves he suddenly recognized as edible.

Tony selected a leaf and Terry cut him a strip of meat, which he expertly rolled in the leaf. Squatting on his heels like he had been doing so his entire life, he ate while drinking what resembled kvass, an un-carbonated beer-like drink. Only after he was finished did Terry begin to eat. Tony realized that this felt natural, like it couldn't have been any other way. He remembered that women never ate with the men, only after they were finished. He mentioned that to Terry and saw the startled recognition of what had just happened.

They began to talk about what they remembered and a picture emerged of the society they found themselves in. The society bore a resemblance to the Mongol tribal structure but had towns instead of being purely nomadic herdsmen. The land was good for sheep and cattle but the climate prohibited farming for the most part. Iron while known, was not being widely used due to the difficulty of working it into useful forms. Steel was unknown. Most metal items were made of bronze, copper or tin. There was a thriving trade in spices and goods from other cultures as well as luxuries from various areas within the culture. Deep fiords that required travelers to go around them divided the continent. There was no trade across the fiords, as watercraft seemed to be unknown.

Status was shown by the number of horses and wives, with a man's position depending on the number of each he had. Fights were common as a strict sense of honor required that insults be answered. Their people had contact with other cultures, but these were primarily trade contacts. Due to the difficulty of travel, few people had contact with anyone not a member of his culture. Legends of miraculous things that happened 'somewhere' were the extent of the knowledge most people had of other lands.

Tony sat back on his heels after they finished, "So we are stuck in a society with no rights for women, with people who would just as soon stab you with a knife as shake your hand. We have no means of getting back to Earth and once we leave here we will have to feed and protect ourselves. Hell, we don't even have toilet paper!"

"Don't forget, no tampons, birth control, or air conditioning either," Terry reminded him.

Together they talked about what they were going to miss from their old life. Somehow just talking about the things they were not going to see again made it easier to concentrate on the new life they would have to lead. It seemed as if talking made them realize that those things were gone for good.

Terry looked at Tony, "What now? Do we continue on the journey to the coast or go somewhere else?"

"Do you have anywhere else you want to go?" He questioned.

Terry shook her head, "As long as I'm with you I'm fine. You better not get in a fight and lose though or I'll never forgive you. I don't want to be in someone's harem as a second or third wife. Damn it! It would have been better if it had killed us, instead of sending us here!"

Tony looked at her in question, then more memories surfaced:

The husband would negotiate for first wives from different houses for his sons but the first wife decided on the son who would be married into them. This was the only wife given each young man. All wives after the first one were obtained through duels during the matrimonial journey during formalized duals where the fighters wagered half their goods and their wives. These were face-to-face fights, as it was considered not honorable to use distance weapons in fights except during war or against outlaws. Those who broke this code were considered outlaws and every man's hand was raised against them.

Upon being wed the new couple was given a drug that made them sterile for a year. Newlyweds immediately embarked on a ritual matrimonial journey that lasted a year or until the fiancée became pregnant. Sons received their inheritance at the beginning of their matrimonial journey and carried it on the journey. Sons who could not protect their fiancée and their goods during this time did not reproduce. The clothing Tony and Terry had found in their hattl was worn only during the matrimonial journey.

When the first wife was pregnant, or after a year, the people donned a corded belt that showed they were married and the matrimonial journey was over. Each wife had a uniquely designed cord that went into the belt the man wore, while the woman wore a belt with the cord of the husband. The first wife was the only exception. She wore a belt having both her and her husband's cord to show her status. Sons established their own household following the matrimonial journey. He was expected to honor his father after this but owed no other duties to him. New households formed larger family/tribes that began their own journey following the herds that kept them alive.

The husband ruled the household and his wives while he lived. Upon his death the estate was given to a daughter chosen by the first wife. The wives moved in with whichever sons they chose. All wives other than the first were similar in many ways to concubines, but all children were considered the children of the first wife.

The first wife ruled the harem and the house. She scheduled the rotation of the wives in the bedroom and handled all the finances of the family. She was responsible for the education of all the children and would decide which child would marry into the families chosen by her husband.

Tony thought about the pack's contents and cursed to himself. The value of the goods he was carrying would tempt bandits while Terry would lead to challenges from other men on their matrimonial journey. He could look forward to being challenged until they managed to get through the year. Tony was lucky in one way, as it was considered unethical as well as dangerous to challenge someone with a lot more goods than you had to a duel. Richer families made sure that the sons received the best of training and weapons before they were sent on their matrimonial journey. The amount of goods he had showed he was from a rich family while only one woman accompanying him told everyone in this society that he was just starting his matrimonial journey.

"Terry, I don't know how we're going to handle this society. I don't want one wife, let alone several!"

"I know what you mean," Terry replied. "I just got out of a bad marriage and really don't have any desire to be married again. We may not have any choice in the matter." She looked at Tony speculatively, "You look about twenty to me and that means we'll have a long time to live in this society, barring accidents. I have no intention of being at the bottom of society here. I intend to be the one making the rules here, not being forced to follow someone else's rules to live."

"I may look twenty, but I still feel like I'm over fifty."

"And I look like I'm still in my teens. Let's face it, we'll have to get used to being treated like we don't know anything until we manage to age somewhat here."

Tony nodded glumly. He had memories of being a young man and didn't feel any great desire to go through that again.

Terry remarked thoughtfully, "You have to admit it makes sense in a way to get wives like that though."

"How does getting killed or killing other men for wives make sense?" Tony asked.

"Herding can't support as dense a population as farming. Having the young men of breeding age kill each other for breeding rights maintains the population to a level the land can support. It also keeps the wealth from remaining concentrated within just a few families." Tony considered her comments and nodded doubtfully.

"I still don't like it that the women don't have any rights at all", Terry continued. "They seem to be just property to men and don't have much status except for the first wife."

"Not many primitive cultures give women rights because of the time it takes to maintain a home and how many die in childbirth. You'll just have to realize that many of the rights you've been used to having don't exist here, if we are going to fit in with this society."

Terry nodded unhappily. She hadn't remembered the fact that childbirth resulted in death for the woman much more than she was used to on Earth. She didn't like it, but as Tony had said they had to make adjustments if they were to survive.

'Maybe the AI expects me to die and Terry to be taken into a harem where there's no opportunity to affect the society', Tony thought. He began to get mad. 'I'm damned if I'm going to let some puffed up machine kill me', he thought.

It was almost dark and he could see Terry was tired. He helped her into the hattl and together they lay down. Josh crowded into the hattl and cuddled up next to Tony's back while Terry rested her head on his arm. They talked for a few minutes longer and then Terry began yawning. Soon soft snores rose from the furs, while Tony lay there thinking of the society, which was facing them for a while longer. Not long afterwards his snores joined the rest.

When they woke up the next morning it was obvious they couldn't stay here much longer. The horses had eaten most of the available browse and would have eaten it all by the end of the day. Tony began taking down the hattl with Terry. Knowledge of how to do so was suddenly there, although he had never seen one before yesterday. Abandoning the poles, the tent packed down into loads, which he placed on two of the pack animals. The other packs were soon loaded on the remaining animals and he and Terry mounted up. Tony was glad that this society had developed stirrups.

Terry led the leader for the pack animals while he rode in front. They did this automatically, as if they had always done so, only realizing afterwards that they had done it. When they left the valley Tony looked around and noticed a road, or rather a dirt track. It seemed natural when they turned right for some reason. For the rest of the day they traveled, passing several spots where other people had camped in the past.

Tony was surprised at how calm the horses were around Josh. He would have thought that a carnivore that size would frighten them, but they ignored him as he ignored them. He wandered around the path as they went, but remained nearby. Suddenly he stopped and his tail went up as he sniffed at one spot on the road. He began to bay and off he went. "Josh! Josh, get back here!" Tony's yelled commands went unheeded as Josh followed the scent he had found.

Tony cursed Josh as Terry laughed at him. They had just passed an area where people had camped before so they hobbled the horses and began to prepare a fire for the noon meal. Tony listened to Josh's bay as he followed whatever it was. He could hear the sound Doppler up and down as he went through the undulating landside. It began to come toward him and he notched an arrow just in case. He heard something running trying to escape from Josh before it suddenly burst out of an unnoticed draw.

It looked like an elk, but one with horns at least ten feet across. Without thinking Tony drew back the bow and released the arrow. It sped out and hit the elk behind the neck, slicing open the large artery there. It managed to run thirty feet further then fell. Josh broke through the draw behind it and ran over. He seemed disappointed that it wasn't playing any more.

For a moment Tony just stood there astonished that he had hit it at all. Tony then remembered that he had requested the ability to use the weapons he would need to survive. Either he had been turned into a good archer or he was the luckiest SOB in this world.

Tony came over and taking the blade from the sheath he had on the saddle, he sliced out some cuts from the animal after removing the arrow. He turned the meat over to Terry to prepare for their afternoon meal. Returning to the animal he skinned it and then called Josh. Josh began feeding and soon all that was left of the animal were the horns, hooves and scattered bones.

As they were waiting for the meat to cook, Josh sat next to Tony and napped. Suddenly he began to growl while looking at the road. Around a low hill came an older man with two women behind him and several packhorses. The women were silent and seemed cowed but the man made up for it. He loudly ordered the women to enter the campsite where Tony and Terry were at and sat down watching Terry, which Tony could understand, but also paying close attention to the horses and the packs. The women with him began preparing a meal from items they removed from the horses.

Tony took an instant dislike to the man for some reason. Josh felt the same way because his hackles rose when he looked at him. When the man started to walk toward them Josh released a deep rumbling growl that made the man stop and talk to him from a distance.

"I am Donald Mackelson, a trader. I see you have several packs of goods. Would you be interested in a trade for some salt?"

Tony was short in his reply, hoping the man would go away, "We have everything we need."

"Surely there is something in my packs you would like to trade for?"

"We are only stopping for a meal and will be continuing on." For some reason Tony was getting a bad feeling about this man and his questions. Glancing around he saw that Terry must have felt uneasy as well because she kept near the packs where he had placed his bow. Josh made no bones about how he felt. Every time the man spoke he growled. "Be off! I need nothing from you!"

The man looked like his feelings had been hurt and returned to his own fire. Josh settled down but kept his eyes on the man emitting low growls every time he moved. Terry came back over to the fire and resumed cooking the meat. Tony began to roll the meat in the leaves she offered and kept an eye on the man as well. He had just begun to eat the second piece of meat when Josh whipped his head around and took off with a loud bark.

A scream came from behind him and he dropped the meat, turning to see Josh taking down a man from a group who had been sneaking up on the camp as he reached toward his sword. He heard a sound from the trader and looked over to see him running toward Josh and the man over whom he was standing with his sword in his hand. Tony placed his hand on his sword but didn't draw it, unsure of what the man was going to do. He got his answer when the man suddenly swerved and swung the sword at him.

The old Tony would have died at that point, because he couldn't believe that a man he had just met would kill him without warning. His body acted on it's own, springing back and pulling his blade out to block the sword. He felt like an observer in his own body as it reacted like he had been training to do this for his entire life. Behind him he could hear cries of pain and the twang of a bowstring releasing arrows between the growls and bays being given off by Josh. He wondered what was going on behind him but didn't dare let his attention wander. His eyes remained focused on the opponent in front of him as his body reacted without his volition.

The man may have appeared older, but there was nothing old about his swordplay. Tony didn't have time to think about what he was doing as his body reacted to his opponent. His body continued to block his opponent's blows without his mind knowing what he was doing. Suddenly his sword swung and a gash appeared in the neck of his opponent. He fell to the ground, dropping his sword and holding his neck.

Tony swung around to face the other way. He found Josh standing over the body of one man while behind him another lay with his face half torn off. Two others lay on the ground with arrows piercing their bodies. Altogether the fight might have lasted two minutes. Several other men were just going over a small hill with several holding shoulders or legs where arrows sprouted. Terry was looking behind him toward the women with an arrow notched. She was throwing up in reaction, but her eyes remained on the women. Tony felt like throwing up as well, but his body remained under the control of whatever had taken it over and remained on guard.

The women had remained sitting while the fight had been going on. Tony gestured for them to approach. Women never carried swords and he could not see any way they could be a danger to him. They stood and removed the belts they were wearing when he commanded them to do so. Terry told them to remove their clothing and turn around. When they removed the clothing, Tony and Terry could see bruising on large areas of their bodies that had been hidden. Slowly they approached the man lying on the ground and suddenly, with vicious speed, they began kicking the body.

"Stop!" Tony ordered. To his surprise they instantly obeyed. Suddenly the smallest of the pair began crying and ran into the arms of the larger. Terry glanced at Tony and then put down the bow and walked over to the pair. Tony stood there wondering what was going on as a soft conversation began between the women.

Tony shrugged mentally and began to search the bodies to see what they had on them and if any still were alive. All were dead with the exception of one young man, who looked about 16. He lay with an arrow through his upper chest and bloody foam on his lips. He looked at Tony with an appealing glance at his short knife. Tony fought with his new memories. They told him that he should use the knife to end the boy's suffering, as there was no way he could live with his injuries. This fought against his Earth impulse to do anything he could to save him. While he struggled with himself the boy gave a last gurgle and expired. When he turned around to look at the women he found they were sitting next to the fire while Terry was rummaging through her packs holding up clothes against the new women.

He turned back and returned to his search through the clothing of the bandits. He found some coins and jewelry in their pouches but none of them had a lot until he searched the man he had known as Donald. He had several pouches full of coins and jewels about his person. Catching Terry's eye, he tossed the pouches to her and headed toward the horses the self-named trader had with him.

He cursed when he saw the shape they were in. Several looked as if they had almost floundered, and the rest were in little better shape from carrying the heavy packs. They had been driven a long way with little rest. They would be going nowhere until they had been given two or three days of rest. Tony figured that the bandits needed new horses because they couldn't stop for some reason to let these rest, so they had attempted to rob him. This led him to believe that someone was following them closely. He returned to the bodies and dumped them in a nearby ravine far enough away that scavengers would be away from the camp.

When he returned to the fire he found both women sleeping in new clothes, while Terry was sitting and tending the meat. He gestured with his chin at the women.

"They were captured at Linnel when the bandits hit their caravan. The bandits split up to avoid capture and they were taken by this group as part of their share of the spoils. This is Yana," pointing at the smaller one, "and this is Lissil. They now belong to you" Terry spoke. She began to cry in reaction to the fight and her part in it.

The statement took Tony aback, but again his mind brought up the knowledge he needed. Women who had been taken during a raid were considered property of whoever held them. They were used as servants in the major households or worked with the flocks of lesser families if they were lucky. They were often given to men who pledged allegiance to a head of household or became concubines. Those not given this chance were forced to live as prostitutes for what was often a short and brutal life.

At this time whatever had taken over his body left and he threw up. As he stood throwing up the contents of his stomach he saw Terry giving him a sympathetic glance. "Did something take over your body too?"

"Yeah! I've never killed anyone and I've certainly never been able to fight with a sword before. It was like something took over my body and used it while I just sat there watching."

"Me too! I haven't even been hunting before. Suddenly my body was shooting arrows and killing people while I was still trying to understand what was happening." She looked thoughtful for a moment, "Do you remember asking for weapons and the ability to use them from the AI?"

Tony nodded as he remembered; this must be part of what the AI had given them before they were sent here. He hadn't thought that this would mean something taking over their bodies to fight but he found it hard to resent, since it had undoubtedly saved their lives. He shuddered thinking about the feeling of helplessness he had felt as his body acted by itself. Looking at Terry he could see that she felt much the same. He felt violated by whatever it was. "I'm going to learn how to defend myself. I'm damned if I'll let something manipulate me like a marionette again!"

Josh nuzzled Tony in the back and he nearly jumped out of his skin. Tony turned around and saw that Josh had not escaped without injury. A knife or sword had cut him near the shoulder leaving a long shallow wound behind. Terry saw it at the same time. Giving a concerned look she hurried toward him with a clean cloth.

"Get some clean water!" she snapped at Tony. Tony headed toward the water bags and returned to find Terry cleaning the area around the wound. Josh jerked when she washed out the actual wound, but remained standing still. Tony looked at him in amazement. He had to hold Josh when he went to the vet, since he hated people he didn't know touching him. Tony had always thought Josh was a one-man dog. For a moment he felt a flash of jealousy. Josh was his dog! Then reality returned. The two of them were destined to be together until one of them died. There was literally no one who could understand the other when they talked about TV, computers, or any of the many things that they had left behind on Earth.

Terry finished cleaning the wound. Picking up a small bag by her, she began to mix a poultice made up from small packets of herbs and the clean water in a small bowl she removed. Tony noticed suddenly that the other women had poultices showing around the shoulders and legs where they had been beaten. She must have been treating them while he took care of the bandits. Tony sat watching her and wondered what he was going to do about the two women he had inadvertently rescued.

When Terry finished, she washed out the bowl and placed it in the bag then returned the bag to the pack where she had her cooking utensils. She squatted across from Tony by the fire and asked, "What will you do about the girls?"

"I don't know," Tony admitted. "We can't abandon them but I still don't have any desire to own someone. I wouldn't know what to do with servants."

"We have to take them. I won't let them become prostitutes, just because you don't want servants. Like it or not they're your responsibility."

Now Tony began getting annoyed at her orders. "Who said we have to take them? Who died and made you the boss? You want to help them so bad, you do it!"

Terry reacted like she had been slapped and glared at him, "Fine! I'll help them by myself! You can stay by yourself tonight, you old grouch!" With that Terry went over to the girls and woke them up. They moved back to the other campsite and began setting up the hattl.

Tony sat around watching them struggle with the heavy leather and waited for Terry to ask for help. One of the girls started to go toward Tony but then Terry called her back and spoke to her in a low voice. They continued to struggle and finally managed to get it set up. Terry walked over to the packs and picked up the one containing her clothing and most of the sleeping furs. The other girls looked at Tony nervously then were pulled into the tent by Terry.

Tony spoke to himself, 'Damn! She must have been more pissed off than I thought. I swear some of the ninth graders looked older that those two.' Somehow he felt that accepting they two girls would mark his acceptance of his fate. He continued to sit at the fire waiting for the people who had been following the bandits to show up. When it started to become dark he still hadn't seen Terry or the other two women come out of the hattl or anyone following the bandits. With a shrug, Tony settled himself next to the hattl and wrapped himself in his furs determined to keep watch out for any further attacks. Josh wandered back and forth between the door of the hattl and Tony before finally deciding to lay down between them. Tony fell asleep, despite his efforts to stay awake, exhausted mentally from the day's events.

Sometime later that night, Tony woke up. For a second he didn't know what had woken him; then he heard the sounds coming from the inside of the hattl. He could hear the soft murmuring of the women talking to each other. He wondered what they were talking about. Tony lay there listening for a few moments.

Tony suddenly realized that he was extremely horny. He hadn't felt like that for years and he was first surprised then pleased. 'At least I got one thing out of this' he thought. Finally he had to get up and walk away from the tent to take care of the problem he now had. Using his hand and a little grease, he soon began spurting on the ground.

Returning to his furs he lay down again but found it hard to go back to sleep. The sounds he continued to hear made him horny again and he eventually moved his furs away from the hattl far enough from that he couldn't hear anything. After taking care of himself again he managed to fall asleep.

When Tony woke up again it was daylight. Terry with the other two women was making flat bread on stones that had been heated in the fire and then pulled out after they were hot. He stretched and came over to the fire. Terry turned her back to him, but the other two shied away as he approached. Tony reached out to pick up a piece of bread when Terry turned around. He was shocked to see that her eyes were red. Without thinking he pulled her over to their horses. Yana and Lissil looked at him nervously.

"What's wrong? Why were you crying?"

Terry looked at him and then looked down. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have gotten so mad last night. I was talking to the girls last night when it suddenly hit me that I'll never see my family again, or be able to go where I want to, or so many other things I used to do. We're really going to be here for the rest of our lives aren't we?"

Tony nodded his agreement. He had wondered when the reality of their situation would hit Terry. His shock had been quick, while hers had taken awhile to occur.

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