The Timswe people - for they were people in all but details of body, and though they occupied four worlds, not just that of Timswe - had known how to travel to other stars for many generations, yet had never done to.
The barrier of light-speed had discouraged them, and the fact that no one could survive such a journey except in hibernation kept them from spending the resources needed. They had sent probes which showed other inhabitable (and some inhabited) worlds and far more which could be made so, as they had made three others circling their own sun. But for colonies so far away they had never seen a need.
Until, that is, the discovery that their sun was going to explode in about six generations.
The population of their four worlds could not possible be sent out, but that remaining after a systematic reduction through birth control could be, six generations hence. In the meantime, large ships with small crews could be; each would have many livestock embryos and stocks of seeds, as well as the machinery needed to adapt the worlds to which they went.
The small crews would use only small amounts of unrecovered supplies, and the problems of inbreeding and genetic drift were avoided by seeing that the crew who arrived were the same as those who left - genetically. Parthenogenesis was simple and long-known, though more traditional reproduction was pretty near universal before the ships.
Each adult woman of the crew past a certain age had a daughter, identical in all but age, coming up. And many had a mother living in retirement, so that the original crew of thirty eventually became something like fifty-five in number.
The Polla, sixteenth of the colony ships, had been three generations out from Tinswe when the mechanical malfunction was discovered.
"That does not sound like so much of a problem. We have frozen semen and frozen ova just as backups for the embryos we have in storage. We probably won't need that semen at all, and if we do lose one species it will be more of a nuisance than a catastrophe," said Master Engineer Matoti.
"I would agree," replied the biologist Erria. "But it was of the one species we didn't bring embryos of. Us.
"They were unsure about doing that, since the experiments had never been done on how well we came through freezing. It may be that a lot of the semen is still good, but we can't find that out until we land."
"Surely we can," said Settema, the machinist. "It's supposed to be pretty simple to do."
Erria gave her a dark look. "That's the only simple part of it. The medical unit is not set up to handle birth, specifically to keep us from having them. I don't want to think about creating an embryo in the lab, since we can't store it now -- and destroying it is a mess ties in to things it took a century to settle.
"We can't really know the semen is good unless we bring the child to term and what if it is male? Once he reached adolescence we would start getting tempted, and contraceptives are not available until we land. It would be one problem after another."
"Well, they are problems I wish I had the chance to live with," said Sofoni the cook. "Being loved by a male and raising children sounds so wonderful in what I have read."
"Raising children is not all that great," said Willeti, who did that. "And I suspect the other is overrated."
"That's academic for now," said Erria, "though some of us may find out about the one, and our daughters about the other. But there is a possible solution to the problem."
Thirty heads turned to her.
"The ship tells me that there is an inhabited world that we will pass near, near enough that we will add only a few years to our trip. They are technological enough to have broadcast communication, and while medical information is much harder to find than an external view -- and even that is recent - they seem compatible to us. We can try to ask them to donate semen."
* * * * * * *
Some years later, a small mountain spat forth a rock and let it fall. The outer covering burnt away, then that below, until the reduced weight and increasing density of air combined to slow the descent. At close to sea level, the polyethelene capsule, originally a foot long, split open and gave birth to a finger-length flying machine.
That machine found a man dozing on a park bench in the summer heat, and bit him. The man swatted blindly - and might have been grateful for not seeing what he swatted at - and missed.
The machine rose straight up as fast as it could, and when its beating wings were almost useless began to beam a homing signal. A second probe quickly scooped it up and returned to the ship.
"This species is much closer to us than we expected," Erria announced when the analysis was finished. "while it appears from the video transmissions that just appearing and asking for donations would cause problems - these people are wary of the idea of contact with an alien species - we should have no trouble with gathering some informally.
"While monogamous mating is theoretically the norm, there is a lot of outside activity depicted among the younger ones. We can make use of that."
"That would mean we can carry the seed in us until we get back to the ship," said Sattema. "Won't we be in danger of, what's it called, pregnancy?"
"No," Erria said. "Fertility will require some modification of the germ plasm. We will be quite safe in that matter. In any case, we will not be carrying the semen."
Many eyebrows went up.
Matoti now spoke. "The ship will be within the practical limit for teleportation devices. Those sent will be implanted with nanodevices which will operate when triggered by the arrival of ejaculate - which we found the composition of on a medical broadcast. If we miss a little, it will dry up harmlessly. These males produce a lot!"
"But we are going to be able to attract them into a casual sex act?" asked Sofoni. "We don't exactly look like them."
"Two answers," said Erria. "There is a big difference between how these people look on their news broadcasts and how they look on the entertainment. We are still not sure what to make of that, but we are going to use the entertainment model, especially the ones represented there as young and engaged in informal mating.
"The second answer - I'm afraid that we will need extensive cosmetic changes. The skin tones do not match ours. No violet-"
There were groans.
"Or robin's egg."
"And while they have people that they call yellow-skinned, it is not a bright yellow at all.:
"These people use a number of different languages," said Willeta, "but they are segregated in such a way that you will only need to learn one each. We will only be using seven small ships, each to a different city, and three of the cities use the same language. It is a good thing that we have had a few years to study these people, since we have had to piece together information on reproductive matters, and I'm not sure we have it all yet; there is a cultural taboo in some places and of course some things are too obvious to them to be mentioned."
So twenty of the crew members were changed by nanites to almost duplicate some actress seen on television - the variation was intentional - with the genital area constructed to match medical drawings.
Wagira, Matoti, and Lugia were sent to Buenos Aires in the first of the three passenger ships.
Pargey, Farona, and Duki went to Peking.
Sared, Willeta, and Febra went to Moscow.
Imin, Valia, and Marran went to Paris.
Secu, Appar, and Rossi went to San Francisco.
Toewen, Jannua, and Settema went to Chicago.
And Erria and Sofoni landed near Washington.
The older Toewen and Febra (for the names were passed down along with the genetic patterns) were called from retirement to help handle emergencies and maintain contact with the ships expeditions.
Pargey walked up to a man at noon in Peking and asked if he were interested in sexual intercourse, and was immediately arrested for prostitution. On the other hand, she bought her freedom by offering herself to three guards in succession, one of whom was startled to see what a naked woman looked like, while for the other two it had been so long that they did not trust their memories. The one-child policy had affected their lives considerably. (Farona and Duki avoided arrest, but had trouble finding men who trusted them enough to negotiate the intended activity.)
Sared and Febra and Willeta all eventually reported back that the only men in Moscow with a private place to accomplish the mating were tourists and foreign businessmen with hotel rooms, who insisted on paying them. The pounds and dollars later rested in a museum on Polla.
The three sent to San Francisco reported great difficulty in finding anyone who was interested in them.
Valia was quickly and repeatedly successful in Paris, but Imin and Marran were puzzled by the men who did not seem to know the correct opening to use.
The three in Buenos Aires made contact of the right sort early and often but never left the city park they had landed in.
Those in Chicago only encountered one donor each, but repeated donations from them, and had to invent elaborate stories to be allowed to leave before dawn.
Erria and Sofoni landed their vehicle on the lawn of Montgomery Blair High School a little before nine in the evening on a Saturday night in June, turned on the visual projector so that the ship appeared to be a large rock, and walked obto the street together.
Erria wore a lime-green sheath (the color of her natural skin) on a body copied from that of Joan Severance. Sofoni wore a lacy violet dress (the color chosen for the same reason) on a body from Brigette Bardot's about 1959.
"How direct do you think we should be?" asked Erria.
"I'm not sure there is an answer," replied Sofoni. "The broadcasts that take a while to even hint at mating activity indicate that one falls into it after some time has passed. But the ones that show it clearly indicate that everyone is always read. Since we want to finish this tonight, I suggest the latter assumption."
"Yes. Those entertainment broadcasts indicate these bars as frequent rendezvous places for mating. Let's try this one." And they entered.
They saw two men sitting together. A quick glance showed that there were also women present talking to men, so this might not reflect the sort of problem relayed to them from San Francisco. But the crew members were unsure of the protocol with either or both of them spproaching the men together.
Fortunately, one of them got up then.
Sofoni walked up to the remaining one and whispered into his ear.
"You WHAT?" cane the reaction.
There followed a brief conversation with repeated assurances from Sofonithat no money was involved, and the man left for the restroom to prepare to leave with Sofoni.
"Well, Denny" he said to his friend there, "I don't know if I got lucky or not, but I'm sure planning to find out. This woman just came up to me and said she wanted to brain my screws out!"
"Sounds a bit confused but worth looking into. Maybe getting into as well," said Daniel. "Has she got a friend, Marty?"
"She didn't mention one."
They walked back out together. Marty had already paid for his drink so he left the rest of it and walked out with Sofoni.
When they got to the car, Sofoni walked around it with obvious curiosity. Martin was unsure if he should apologize for its age and ordinariness, but decided not to say anything if she didn't.
But when they got in the car, she did speak when he started it. "Oh, that's how it works! I had wondered."
Martin glanced over at her but remained silent.
When they entered the apartment he shared, he cautioned her that the other tenant might be home in a few hours and therefore she should not be surprised to see him. Sofoni nodded.
In the middle of the living room, Martin stopped her and said, "You know, I don't even know your name."
"Well, Stephanie,"-he had not listened carefully, being too nervous - "I hope you like a slow buildup, because I want to give you one. I;ve never been alone with a woman as beautiful as you before."
"That sounds all right," she said, "as long as we don't take more than a few hours to get to the real screwing. I do want very much to feel your sperm shooting into me."
Martin practically fainted at that. He steadied himself by putting his hands on Sofoni's shoulders and leaning down for a kiss.
"No, that would not be appropriate," she said, pushing him away.
He was shocked that she might just be teasing and that he had brought her here for nothing. But when he took her hand and walked into his bedroom, she did not hesitate at all. She stood by the bed and stretched her arms up to him, leaned her head back, and said, "Now it would be proper."
A second after his lips met hers, her mouth opened for his tongue to enter. When his hand felt for the spot where he expected the zipper on her dress to be, he found the tang and pulled it down. What happened next he had not expected.
It had been observed that some of the entertainments involved display of female undergarments with the ensuing actions only implied, while others had little or no display but simulated (occasionally real) mating actions with the bodies nude. The question of which was considered usual was never settled, and it was suggested that the difference might reflect a social change. Some of those sent to gather semen were equipped one way, some another.
So when Martin's hand touched to back of Sofoni's dress the fastening opened completely and the dress became a violet puddle on the floor. She had nothing under it.
He did not know what to make of this but could not object. He held her body against his, then lifted her and placed her on his bed. She lay back with a smile, arched her hips up and spread her legs open while she waited for him to undress.
He joined her there and went through the moves he had read of and seen in films, but had never had much chance to practice. He was very pleased by the sounds that she made.
"I like the feel of your hands on me, but I should tell you that it is not needed. I am ready for you, and have been since we entered this room. I am very wet," she said.
He continued and in fact increased his motions until he felt she was about to climax, then moved between her legs and positioned himself to take her.
The researchers on the Polla had studied the human body and decided to duplicate every part that might possibly be seen from the outside, even in the most unlikely situations, as it might be from birth on. Therefore when Martin touched Sofoni's labia and slid in, he met and broke the hymen.
The shock he felt at that would have made him withdraw if Sofoni's hands had not held his rear and drawn him in at that instant. Then he felt her orgasm under him and build towards another. Martin tried his best to make this one bigger for her and to meet her when she did.
The nanites recognized that the ejaculations of semen was about to take place and therefore sent a signal to the Polla. As soon as some was delivered, it was transferred instantly, under pressure.
Which is to say, a tiny but prolonged vacuum was created to gather all the seed that could be gathered, and Martin felt it being sucked out of his body, for the most explosive orgasm of his life.
Back in the bar, Erria had approached Daniel, with whom Martin shared the apartment. The sequence of events was the same except that Daniel and Erria took a cab to the apartment, since Daniel had come to the bar in Martin's car. The most important and significant simi9larity, though, was that Erria received enough foreplay to experience multiple orgasms, unlike any of the Tinswe (except of course Sofoni) sent out that night.
At dawn, Sofoni went to find the bathroom. Erria was awakened by the sound of footsteps on the floor and did likewise. They met outside the bathroom, and by the time they went in opposite directions again, a plan had been set in motion.
When Daniel awoke, it was to the question: "What we did last night, would you like to do that all the time? As often as you want, anyway?"
He laughed. "Yes, I would. Are you thinking of moving in with me? This place is probably large enough for three people to live in, but I am not sure how my friend Martin would feel."
"My, my friend Sofoni is with him right now, asking him the same question. But I don't want to live here. We want you, both of you if we can, to come live with us."
"Are you serious? I hope you don't live too far away from here, because commuting to work is a nuisance already."
"We would have to go a long way. But you won't go to work. Your work would be giving me and the other women orgasms," Erria said.
"Now you are going too far. Other women?"
"I am not offending you, I hope. Do you have a moral objection of sex with other women? We had thought you would be willing."
"To be honest, I would be willing, but I cannot believe you are saying this."
"I am serious. Perhaps I could show you something to convince you. Come with me." And she got up and dressed herself, almost as quickly as the clothes had come off. Dennis took a little longer.
They left the bedroom to find Martin and Sofoni waiting for them. The two men went to a fast-food place to buy breakfast for all four. The women conversed in an unfamiliar language before eating.
Martin drove to the high school by Sofoni's directions, where Erria pressed an apparent decoration on her dress and the large rock became a larger mass of metal.
"There are only three seats, but we easily have room to carry four people,"Sofoni said.
When he recovered from the shock of what he had seen, Martin replied, "You could sit on my lap, assuming the g-force is not too much."
"Yes, that would work. We won't use g-force." She settled onto his lap, but one Martin was reminded by the dampness that she was not wearing underwear, she felt something that provoked comment.
"Do you want to screw me again? I feel that you are ready, but it would be better to wait until we are back on the Polla. We can set up a weightless area there, and I am sure that would feel better."
His mouth came open. "Yes, I imagine it would be better," And he relaxed.
The small ship was the last of the seven to return to the Polla. Erria had called ahead to say what she and Sofoni had done, so there was a delegation of the curious when they emerged. The men were surrounded by women with purple, blue, green and bright yellow faces and white undyed gowns.
There were cries from a couple of places, which Secu, who had been sent to San Francisco, translated"
"They would like the men to take their clothes off. They want to see what
The men glanced at each other and complied. The relayed question came tick and fast. "Is That what goes in?" "How big does it get?" "How long does it stay in?" (Those were actually answered before the questions were translated.)
Dennis gathered his thoughts enough to ask a question of his own. "You mean these women have never seen a man before?"
"A little over half of them have never interacted with one, if that's what you mean. Twenty of the fifty-five went down to gather seed."
"Never interacted... You mean Martin and I have thirty-five virgins left to go?"
"Well, no. Probably none much beyond puberty are virgins. We are active with each other, of course. And we hope you are willing to have intercourse with a woman more than once," said Sofoni.
"Uh, yes, we are," said Martin. "How have you been, uh, breeding?"
"Parthenogenesis. And you will no ber able to make us pregnant. Our genes are not compatible enough for that."
"Are you similar enough, uh, inside for things to work with us otherwise? I see that you changed your skin color for us."
"And eighteen of the twenty who went down have been changed back. The internal differences that you would encounter are minor and would not be inherited by us if we eliminate them. I hope that our different varieties of skin colors will not be a problem. We have heard that sometimes..."
"No problem," said Dennis. "Colored people are fine with me, though these colors are not ones I expected."
The abandoned car at Montgomery Blair High School was traced to a man whose apartment was also abandoned and whose co-tenant was also missing. The shelves of groceries only added to the puzzle, which was never solved.
Dennis and Martin settled to their new life easily, though from time to time they had to take pills for vitamin deficiency. The medical knowledge of the Tinswe kept hem alive and active in all ways until they were a hundred years old, more or less - though they had long lost track of the years by then.
It is questionable whether Martin realized that the last Sofoni he took into his arms was the grand-daughter of the first.
What they had not lost track of, because they had never been told, was that some of their sperm had been saved unaltered, and some Tinswe ova had been altered to human genetic characteristics. There had been prolonged debate over whether it violated the spirit of the mission, but several more or less human males had been produced to ease the load on the fading powers of Martin and Dennis, and in time replace them.