(Copyright) 1997 - 2006  G. Dallman
March 12, 1997 Version 3.0
Revision Date: 05/20/2006


The Imperative

After three days on board the Sennal ship, Howard's biological clock was still on Pacific Standard Time. He'd tried to sleep for the last two hours, but despite his exhaustion, both his watch and body insisted it was a little after one in the afternoon. Several times he felt ready to fade out, but his conversations with Aarrl kept replaying themselves.

'Who is she? Why did Aarrl develop such a pained, pitying look when he mentioned her? Was she ugly or something? What's a FoldSpace Portal?' On and on the questions went.

Finally, Howard surrendered to fatigue and drifted off. Immediately, The Dream began, but this time, it was different. The emotions were so intense! The longing was heart-wrenching. The feeling of lonely desolation was agonizing to the point of physical pain. Interwoven through the fabric of his misery, there was now a different feeling, something previously missing; a hunger, a desperate, howling, animal need, exceedingly physical in nature. Howard's soul cried out and the quantum echo of his cry traversed the light-years.

Slowly The Dream faded, but a singularly powerful physiologic after-effect lingered, carrying over into wakefulness. As consciousness gradually returned, Ripley became aware that his hormones were at flood tide! His body was on automatic control, moving frantically to the most primal of impulses! His entire nervous system blazed as his overloaded neurons soared toward critical mass. With great effort, Howard opened his tight-clenched eyes and looked up into a topaz-golden Dirhal visage, inches from his face, a long pink tongue lolled from tooth-studded jaws. Hot breath puffed by his ear in syncopated rhythm.  Four golden rings tinged to Krrfinn's motions above him.

Just then, any hope he may have had of gaining control of the situation fled as the most intense, wracking spasms imaginable nearly swept away his consciousness. A brief eternity later, as he regained his senses, Howard found himself sprawled, disoriented and breathless on his pallet, betrayed by autonomic reflexes and pinioned by Krrfinn's powerful hands still pressing on his shoulders. The Human made a feeble attempt to lever himself up onto his elbows, but the SubCaptain was far too strong. Even that small motion was too much for his over-stimulated neurons, and he was again inundated by paroxysms of release.

For what seemed forever, Ripley lay exhausted, not knowing whether to feel violated or relieved. On consideration, he felt both. Finally, Krrfinn growled something that probably translated as 'that wasn't so bad, was it?' and dismounted.

It wasn't until that instant that the enormity of his embarrassing predicament became evident. Not only had Krrfinn taken advantage of his situation, but she (they?) had an audience! When Howard rolled his eyes back to look above and behind him, the Human was greeted by an upside-down view of Aarrl and Raall standing at the head-end of his pallet, staring down at him! This in itself was mortifying enough, but the fact that they were both smiling was devastating! Not being able to abide eye contact with the two leering Sennal voyeurs, Howard averted his gaze toward his feet, only to be accosted by an unparalleled view of the root of his unendurable situation, still aimed treasonously at the ceiling.

It was Too Much! The multiple shocks to body and mind sent his wounded psyche catapulting down the dark tunnel to oblivion in a dead faint.

Howard didn't know how long he had been out, but when he open his eyes, he was greeted by the now horrific sight of Krrfinn's smiling muzzle staring down at him, filling his whole field of view.

"Get away from me, you… rapist!" he shouted.

Krrfinn obviously didn't understand a word, but the Human's intent was clear enough. With an arched brow, wounded-puppy expression, she withdrew.

A instant later, Aarrl's face floated into view. "You malign the SubCaptain."

"What else would you call it?" Howard shouted, as he lurched to a sitting position.

"She rendered a public service," Aarrl retorted, shrugging with a wave of his hand. "the ventilators could not keep up with your pheromone output, such was your distress. It was becoming quite… disturbing." By way of demonstration, the Ursine sniffed, twitching his nose. His expression of exaggerated distaste was rendered somewhat ineffectual by his persistent Gashka smile.

After adding his two cents worth, Aarrl turned and engaged in a brief conversation with Raall, who gestured at the Human in an off-handed manner, while indulging in a cough-like laugh.

"Raall says he has rarely witnessed any being having that much fun! He is skeptical of your protests and says if that is how you defend your honor, he wishes you to teach him your singularly ineffective method of combat!"

The PackCaptain couldn't resist a further dig at Howard's expense and growled another witticism, which Aarrl eagerly translated.

"If you were having such a fine time while asleep, just imagine the fun you could have had were you awake the whole time!"

Howard never suspected the perpetually dour Dirhal of having much of a sense of humor, and as far as he was concerned, this was a poor time to demonstrate it. He needed a shower, and was becoming more angry by the second with the furry gruesome-twosome standing over him, laughing their guts out!

"I don't have to sit here and take this shit!" he shouted.

Unsteadily Ripley levered himself up from his pallet and reached to strip the rest of his cloths off, only to discover that Krrfinn had beaten him to it. With a black cloud of scarcely suppressed anger firmly in tow, Howard headed for the showers.

Fortunately, it was between shifts so he had the ablutorium to himself. When the icy blast from the fire hose-like shower head hit him, there was only himself to hear his strangled scream, fueled by seething anger. Howard was so angry that after the initial shock, he had no difficulty ignoring the frigid torrent. The glacial deluge gushing over him slowly washed away much of his anger as well as the rank sweat that clung to him like the remnants of a bad dream.

Ripley shivered under the super-chilled flow as long as he could endure it, trying to reconcile the bits and pieces of his predicament. Was he doomed to be the unwilling slave of urges brought on by The Dream? If Aarrl was right, as he always seemed to be, the hormonal torment of S'trriff would continue to increase, driving him until he did whatever he must. How was he going to keep from humiliating himself again?

Thoughts more chilling than the water pouring over him surfaced and shouted for attention: What if he had no choice? Would he be able to go to Krrfinn, willingly? In which case, who would be using who? Perhaps he'd better not be too much of a Human chauvinist, there (literally) wasn't another human, female or otherwise, within two million kilometers.

If Krrfinn was genuinely trying to help, why was he so angry? Just before hypothermia set in, it occurred to Howard that much of his anger was, aside from a strong dislike of being used, again the result of trying to attach Human values to beings that were in no way Human.

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