Strangers in Strange Lands: Episode 4

Cristal stops by his transient-Donor cubicle, showers, changes, and goes down to the relaxation lounge to see what's what -- or who's who.

Cristal sees that unfortunately he seems to have hit an awkward point in the work schedule: there are no interesting channels around at all. He settles down on an easy chair to wait and see.

Afrit is sitting in another easy chair in the lounge, flipping through some back issues of Donor Monthly and feeling sorry for himself. He arrived at this Sime Center a few days ago, knows almost nobody, and is very post after a good transfer.

Cristal is starting to get bored with doing nothing, and looks around to see if there's anyone to talk to. Even if he has to end up waiting out the postsyndrome, he's damned if he's going to be more bored here in the big city than he ever was back at Hannard's Ford.

Afrit hoped that getting transferred to the city would give him a chance to find someone compatible to share his post reactions, but he's been busy looking after a channel in need ever since he arrived. He's young and impatient.

Cristal notes the twitchy irritability of the young Gen diagonally across from him, and wishes he'd calm down. He finds the thwip-thwip-thwip of the magazine pages annoying.

Cristal: [with suppressed indignation] Could you please stop that? Or do it more quietly?

Afrit looks up, looks down, and tosses the magazine back onto the stack. Sheesh.

Cristal: [ironic] Thanks.

Cristal hopes the guy will leave soon and some more congenial people will arrive.

Cristal: [more politely] Are you expecting anyone?

Afrit: Shen, no. I just got here a few days ago and don't know anybody yet.

Cristal's interest is captured, at least momentarily. It's better than doing nothing.

Cristal: Same here. I had to be an emergency substitute and they brought me in with no notice.

Cristal belatedly remembers his manners.

Cristal: Sosu Cristal Voynich, Second Order Donor in the Tecton.

Afrit: Afrit, TN-3.

Cristal starts to be offended by this, but figures a TN-3 can't be expected to have better manners.

Afrit doesn't bother to offer to brush fingers with the irritable TN-2

Cristal then remembers Seruffin's lesson and extends his own fingers.

Afrit brushes fingers since Cristal offered.

Cristal is startled by the zizz he feels at Afrit's touch, but decides it's probably because his system is still in some strange state after the transfer.

Cristal: Have you got an assignment here yet?

Afrit: Same guy as I just served, for the next month. He's off with his wife now. She's a TN-2.

Afrit is annoyed that he doesn't have a woman to go off with, although he wouldn't want one as old as his channel's wife. Well, maybe he would. He wonders if a person can go crazy from celibacy.

Cristal: My channel just zipped off to meet a friend of his, too. I thought I'd be glad for assignment back in-T for a while, but now, well, I don't know.

Afrit: You've been out-T? With all those Wild Gens who shoot Simes?

Afrit wonders whether Wild Gen women are different from the in-T ones. Like, they call them wild, don't they?

Cristal: Well, some of them can quite surprise you, as it turns out.

Afrit: Yeah?

Cristal: Any town that gets itself a Sime Center by arguing the Tecton into it has some pretty impressive people in it, all things considered.

Afrit: So you weren't in one of their cities like Cago or New Washington then.

Cristal: Oh no. Your basic small town in the sticks, except it's the Gen sticks.

Afrit has had a year in a small town to appreciate what he took for granted when he grew up in Capital.

Cristal: One channel, one Donor, a professor and his students, and a staff of locals.

Afrit: Gee, that is small.

Cristal: Are you coming from Capital?

Cristal can't remember the last time he had a casual conversation with anyone outside the Ford.

Afrit: I grew up in Capital, and worked there for a few years, but then they transferred me to this shendi-fleckin village in the middle of nowhere. Nothing but maize and soybeans as far as a Farris can zlin. Boring boring boring.

Cristal: I remember a few assignments like that. Pretty depressing places. You get sick of seeing the same faces over and over again, eh?

Afrit: Yeah. And people never have anything interesting to say. It's always the weather, and the crops, and who's going to marry who, and who's going to have a baby next, and, well, you know what it's like.

Cristal: I sure do.

Afrit: I mean, the big event of the year is the green maize festival, and everybody stands around and the Gens eat lots of maize on the cob and tofu, and everybody talks about the weather, and the crops, and who's going to marry who...

Cristal: And here we are in Okmed City, which sure isn't Capital, and somehow we're in exactly the same fix. Nothing to do but sit around here and tell strangers our troubles.

Cristal is attempting to make light of it, but it isn't quite working.

Afrit laughs.

Afrit: Yeah, I guess so.

Cristal laughs too.

Cristal notes the repetition of the references to marriage.

Cristal: You didn't leave anyone behind there, then?

Afrit: Shidoni no. All the Sime Center staff were old enough to be my parents, and the locals don't trust "city slickers". The girls wouldn't even talk to me, hardly. They all want to marry somebody with lots of good land so they can raise more maize and soybeans.

Cristal grins ruefully.

Cristal: In my case, well, I'm usually attracted to channels. Female channels. And there is exactly one channel in Hannard's Ford, my channel, and she is not interested one bit.

Cristal doesn't really realize that the conversation is no longer so casual.

Afrit: I'm not so particular. I should be able to find somebody around here, but not for a while I guess.

Afrit squirms a little. He's post now.

Afrit: I guess if you're going back out-T, you're screwed, though. Or not screwed, I guess.

Cristal: "Not screwed" would definitely be the word.

Cristal: Hannard's Ford is considered a hardship posting, though, so they aren't likely to send me back against my will. The trouble is, I'm not quite sure what I want in that respect. The work itself is excellent, and I'm really making a difference there. But it is frustrating in other ways.

Afrit isn't all that interested in Cristal's professional quandaries.

Afrit: You gotta watch out for yourself in the Tecton. Nobody else is gonna do it for you. I sure found that out the hard way.

Cristal decides to practice one of Seruffin's techniques.

Cristal: It sounds like you wound up getting the shaft somewhere.

Afrit: Well, they said I had to work the full year out there and if I did a good job they'd rotate me somewhere bigger, and they did, so I can't complain too much.

Cristal: I hear a "But" in there somewhere.

Afrit: I mean Okmed isn't Capital, but it's not soybeanland either. You know the drill "Somebody's gotta do it, so be a Hero of Unity and go out into the hinterland for the greater glory of the Tecton". I bet it's worse when they send you out-T.

Cristal: I sure thought so at first. But I'm pretty well open to going back after all, if ...

Cristal trails off.

Cristal: Well, let's just say the transfer I just served was pretty overwhelming.

Afrit: I think you should stick around civilization until you get laid, at least. They say it's just channels that need it to function, but a young guy like me....

Cristal laughs.

Cristal: I'm not as old as all that.

Afrit: I mean, I get so tired of doing myself...

Cristal: Great minds think alike, obviously.

Afrit: Like, when we were kids back home, us boys would do each other. Even that's better.

Cristal's smile fades away slowly.

Cristal: Hmm. That's something I don't have any experience with, myself. But... hmm. I have to tell you, if the transfer was overwhelming, the postsyndrome is, too.

Cristal is trying to be clinical and failing completely.

Afrit: We used to close our eyes and pretend the other guy was a girl.

Cristal finds that his breathing is getting more than a little ragged.

Afrit: Like girls have hands and mouths the same as guys, so...

Cristal: [hastily] I get the picture, I get the picture.

Afrit is finding the idea surprisingly attractive himself. He didn't realize he was desperate enough to go back to doing kids' stuff like that again.

Cristal examines himself for the second time today, looking for the negative reaction he expects to find. Somehow, it isn't there.

Afrit: I had a real good transfer myself. About two hours ago.

Cristal: In my case, about fifteen minutes ago.

Cristal: I guess there's an advantage to being a grown-up: you have a better idea what you like to do .. and to have done to you?

Cristal: [hastily] If you know what I mean.

Afrit: Mostly, you figure you can get what you want, instead of your own right hand!

Cristal thinks this is naive, but attractively so.

Afrit thinks Cristal looks like a reasonable guy, not weird or anything. Maybe two desperate guys can help each other out.

Cristal: You know? I've noticed about Donors, when they're not working, they come in one of two flavors: neat and messy. I'm guessing you don't mind a little mess?

Afrit: My Ma always told me I was a slob. And some of the things farmers do to themselves with farm machinery takes a strong stomach to help a channel deal with.

Cristal doesn't want to think about that too much.

Cristal: [dryly] I'll bet.

Afrit: And delivering babies? Makes you never want to look at a woman's crotch again.

Afrit laughs.

Afrit: It didn't work on me I guess.

Cristal: Anyhow, suite 2715, where my channel and I were, is set to "needs cleaning", but no way the staff is going to get to it at that hour. We could go and ... help each other out.

Afrit: Let's go back to my room instead. I've got some maize liquor I brought from the last place. That might help us get in the mood.

Cristal: Do you have room in your room?

Afrit: More room than a transfer suite.

Cristal: My own room's about the size of the outhouse back in Hannard's Ford.

Cristal is exaggerating, but not too much.

Cristal: Still, a bit of moonshine sounds appealing. Let's go.

Afrit: Sure.

Cristal gets up and makes the Gen version of "after you".

Afrit leads the way to his room, ushers Cristal in, lights a lamp and locks the door behind them.

Cristal: Hey, this is a lot better than what I got. I guess they really do expect me to go back to the Ford, or at any rate somewhere beyond here.

Afrit rummages around in his chest of drawers and brings out a bottle of slightly cloudy amber liquid.

Cristal grins.

Cristal: You first.

Afrit: I don't have a glass -- we'll have to swig it straight.

Cristal: Naturally. What else?

Cristal doesn't want Afrit to think him effete enough to require a glass.

Afrit pulls the cork, nerves himself, takes a good swig and coughs for a while, carefully keeping the bottle from spilling.

Afrit: It's... fairly... powerful stuff.

Afrit offers Cristal the bottle.

Cristal has more respect for 'shine than Afrit seems to, and takes a carefully controlled sip, then another.

Cristal: Yeahhhhhhwooooo. There's a reason they call it sippin' liquor, y'know.

Cristal starts to wipe off the bottle, feels silly about it, takes another sip, and hands the bottle back.

Afrit: Might as well get comfortable.

Afrit kicks off his shoes and sits on the bed.

Cristal takes off his shoes and socks more carefully and sits on the bed, too.

Cristal: Well? Go ahead and take another one -- more carefully, this time.

Afrit takes another swig, without coughing, hands the bottle to Cristal and leans back on his elbows.

Cristal: Thaaaat's the way it goes.

Cristal reaches for the bedside lamp and turns it down to minimum. He's beginning to feel nicely warmed now, and the postsyndrome plus the alcohol is sending quicksilver through his nerves. He takes another sip and puts the bottle down beside the bed.

Afrit feels less like he's about to do something childish or stupid now that his inhibitions are beginning to fade.

Afrit: Powerful stuff, eh? Quite a kick....

Cristal: Oh yes. Ohhhhhh yes.

Afrit laughs, sounding happy and foolish.

Cristal is keeping control of his articulation so far, but he is getting a little bit slower.

Cristal finds Afrit's laugh infectious, and laughs himself. As the laugh fades, he finds himself grinning widely.

Cristal: You know what?

Afrit: Hmm?

Cristal: I thought this was gonna be difficult. But it isn't gonna. Is it?

Afrit: Naw, even kids can do it.

Afrit giggles.

Cristal: Oh really?

Afrit: So a couple of experienced men like us shouldn't have any trouble, right?

Cristal reaches for Afrit's tunic and pulls at it gently.

Cristal: [ironically] Right.

Afrit: When I was in Donor training, we had this one teacher... shuven, she was beautiful.

Cristal: Tell me about her.

Cristal gently works the tunic off Afrit's chest.

Afrit: Well, she was supposed to be teaching us how to fill out those stupid requisition and inventory forms and stuff, but I mostly just admired her tits.

Afrit giggles again.

Cristal: Big ones? Or the pointy type that stays up by itself?

Afrit: Great big round heavy tits.

Cristal: Ahhhhh.

Cristal is requiring all his control to keep his breathing even remotely steady.

Afrit: I used to think what it would be like to just hold one of them in each hand...

Afrit makes an appropriate gesture.

Cristal: Sounds hot.

Afrit giggles again.

Afrit: You'd never see tits like that on a Sime.

Cristal: Well, some Simes are more stacked than other Simes.

Cristal starts to talk about Bibi but represses this desire, at least, firmly.

Cristal thinks it's about time to break the ice. He reaches for Afrit and starts to tickle him unmercifully.

Afrit: Hey! Stop that.

Afrit leaps to his feet, rocks a bit unsteadily, and grabs the bottle before he knocks it over.

Cristal: Aw, c'mon. Bet you can dish it out, even if you can't take it. Here. Try and make me laugh.

Cristal strips off his own tunic and raises his arms challengingly.

Afrit: Aw, siddown, relax. Here, have another swig.

Afrit sits crosslegged on the bed facing Cristal and offers the bottle.

Cristal accepts the bottle, sips again, and puts his arms back down.

Afrit: Tell me about some women with good bodies you like.

Cristal crosses his legs as well.

Cristal: Well, of course, with Simes it's getting them to do what you want. There was this one channel when I was working in a First-Year Camp rotation....

Cristal: .... she would do anything. Anything. All I had to do was think about a position, or what I wanted her to do, and she'd pick right up on it. Of course, it's back to the five sisters the other half of the month.

Cristal: She had long arms and long legs and she was very, very ... stacked. For a Sime. Muscles on her muscles, too. She could do things standing on her head, even.

Afrit begins giggling again. Fortunately he has a non-irritating giggle.

Afrit: On.. her .... head....

Cristal: Yeah. Like one time, she was from out-T, you know, they have this supernaturalist stuff they believe in? Rituals, and all?

Afrit: Yeah?

Afrit has heard Wild Gen tales, but figured most of them were exaggerated.

Cristal: She was standing on her head, and she had her legs crossed, and she told me to "worship at her altar". Well, I couldn't say no to that, could I?

Afrit thinks this is the most hilarious dirty joke he's ever heard.

Cristal: Aha. You can't take being tickled, but tell you about my sordid past, and you're putty in my hands.

Afrit finds that last phrase stimulating, but he thinks he should be fair about this.

Afrit: Here, you've never tried this before so I guess I should do you first.

Cristal: Go for it. And before you ask... I never tried anything I didn't like.

Afrit laughs.

Afrit: Close your eyes and think of a female channel. A beautiful one, stacked.

Cristal closes his eyes, but keeps them open a tiny bit and hopes Afrit doesn't notice.

Cristal: I'm thinking about one.

Afrit is watching Cristal's crotch, to see how effective his patter is.

Cristal finds the patter modestly effective, but the reality much more so.

Afrit: The two of you have just had a great transfer and you're both post as anything.

Cristal: I am, I am!

Afrit: So you go back to her room or to yours, still holding hands, and you sit down on the bed together. You take off your tunics and run your hands over each other. She's got really great tits.

Afrit likes tits.

Cristal reaches out and runs his hands over Afrit's upper body.

Afrit figures his muscular male Gen body is just going to confuse the issue for Cristal, but it's up to him.

Cristal feels a much stronger zizz this time as he touches Afrit.

Afrit: Then she puts her hand on you, like this...

Afrit covers Cristal's bulging crotch with his hand.

Cristal: Yessss. That's it. That's it.

Afrit: And she....

Afrit lets his voice trail off as he unbuttons Cristal's fly, and gently takes matters into hand.

Cristal starts pushing down his slacks as quickly as he can, but fumbles it.

Cristal: Ahh. Ahhhhh. That's good. That's goooood.

Afrit does as he would be done by.

Cristal tries to reciprocate, but somehow he finds he can't concentrate on it.

Afrit: Just relax, this time is for you.

Afrit hopes Cristal will do as well for him as he was done by him.

Cristal, what with the long train trip and the intense sessions with Dillip, hasn't had a chance to take care of business for a while, so this isn't going to take long.

Cristal reaches the beginning of the end, tenses all his muscles, and lets go.

Cristal: [roaring] Aaaaaaayaaaaaaaaah!

Afrit gives Cristal a final squeeze and laughs.

Cristal begins to laugh too.

Cristal: Oh shen, did I need that.

Cristal gives Afrit a warm smile.

Afrit: It's not as good as the real thing, but better than doing yourself again, eh?

Cristal thinks, "Brother, if that's not the real thing, I don't know what the real thing is", but decides that this remark might be poorly received.

Cristal: A lot. So you want me to tell you a story, then, hmm?

Afrit picks up the bottle, takes a small swig and offers it to Cristal.

Afrit: Well, when we did it as kids, we just made up our own stories in our heads. I guess none of us wanted to look stupid, since none of us had ever screwed a woman. But I figured since you'd never done this as a kid, I'd try to help you out.

Cristal: Fair enough. You remember that woman I was telling you about, wanted me to worship her?

Afrit: Uh-huh.

Cristal: She had this technique she used on me. I've never tried it myself, but she explained it to me, so I think I could try it. You think you can stand up for a while, or are you too sozzled?

Afrit recorks the bottle and puts it back on the floor.

Afrit: I guess I can try.

Afrit gets up somewhat unsteadily and faces Cristal.

Cristal: Go round to the foot of the bed and brace yourself.

Afrit: Brace myself?

Cristal crawls down to the foot of the bed as well, lies on his back, and hangs his head off the edge of the bed.

Cristal: You know, hang on to the bedposts. You don't wanna fall on the floor. Or on me.

Afrit: Bedposts, what bedposts?

Afrit starts to giggle.

Cristal: Well, okay, just try not to fall down, okay?

Afrit: Uh, okay.

Afrit hopes this won't be too weird, but he's fairly drunk and most things sound reasonable.

Cristal reaches out with both hands and pulls Afrit's slacks down to his knees, where they fall to the floor. He hopes he hasn't gotten involved with something that's, umm, more than he can handle.

Afrit, if he knew what Cristal had just tried on Dillip, would probably pull his pants back up.

Cristal: This is what Kolina used to do to me when she was really really post, I mean really post. And I was too.

Cristal carefully grasps Afrit's hips and maneuvers him into place. He moistens his lips, the way Kolina used to do at this point, and does his best to remember what she did next. He thinks, "No teeth, absolutely no teeth!"

Afrit sways and almost overbalances.

Cristal wants to say "Watch it!", but it's not practical, and has to hope for the best.

Afrit: Uh, Cristal, I think I better sit down.

Cristal lets go.

Cristal: Well, okay. Just trying to be helpful.

Cristal: Sit, sit. And cross your legs again, okay?

Cristal backs up, leaving room for Afrit to sit comfortably.

Afrit stumbles over his pants, then kicks them off entirely, almost overbalancing again. He carefully resumes his position on the bed, and smiles at Cristal, a little blearily.

Cristal: Okay. Now how about you think about that teacher you had in Donor training?

Afrit giggles.

Afrit: What a pair of knockers!

Cristal: Yeah, that's it. Remember what they were gonna feel like in your hands when you got your hands on them?

Afrit closes his eyes and leans back.

Afrit: Mm-hm.

Cristal: So you're in bed with her, and she's been rubbing her tits over your whole body ... so warm and friendly ....

Afrit squirms happily. He's glad that Cristal is getting into this.

Cristal: That's it .... and then you feel her hands on you, soft and gentle, like this ... and this ... and then this.

Cristal notices that Afrit's a bit more accepting now.

Cristal: And then she gets reaaaal close to you ... and does this.

Cristal finds he has considerably more control from this position, which is probably better for a novice like him.

Afrit is also very happy about the effects on himself. He twines his fingers in Cristal's hair and enjoys the enhanced feel of the rhythm.

Cristal finds it surprisingly quite satisfying, though in a completely different way, of course. He discovers connections between what he's feeling now and what he feels in transfer: in both cases, he's taking his pleasure entirely from how his partner is feeling.

Afrit is breathing hard and it doesn't take him long to finish either. He isn't as loud about it as Cristal, but he's just as satisfied.

Cristal knows what the etiquette is for this situation, and he is again surprised by how easy it is.

Afrit: Wow, that was great!

Cristal: We do our best ... Sosu.

Cristal laughs.

Afrit thinks that's the funniest thing he's heard in a long time and giggles uncontrollably.

Cristal lets himself go and laughs and laughs and laughs.

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