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"Why did we ever come to this godforsaken planet, Carl?"

The questioner was a blonde, striking woman, perhaps thirty-five or -six. She was dressed in slacks, an opaque blouse and a light working jacket - not native garb. The man of whom she asked her unanswerable question sighed and looked up from the papers he was trying to proof.

"We-the team-came to learn and to teach, Mal. You came because you're an excellent linguist and my wife, and you asked the Director that we not be separated for as long as we may be here. This is not too bad a place, this seaport in Kostanz, nor is the planet, Urmi. Good ambience.

"I know, the peoples - there may be more than one race - are strange, and some of the customs we've heard about are revolting. But...that's what scientists are for, Mal, to investigate. Particularly if the League of Worlds-the Hegemony-wants to know for certain whether to introduce Urmi to interstellar travel, in order to integrate the planet into the Hegemony."

Carl, dressed as was Mal, turned immediately back to his papers, having given this lecture several times to her, once one of his better students. He wondered briefly why he had married her, then regretted the thought, for he knew. She was reputed to be "hot," as the students had it.

They'd not had a particularly exciting sex life, but he loved Mal and she said she loved him; she seemed to be happy and had always insisted that she accompany, "as I should," Carl on all field trips. He wondered, briefly (he was really rather involved in this proposition put forth by one of his colleagues), exactly why she insisted. She knew she'd be uncomfortable, perhaps sometimes in dangerous situations, yet she still made it clear that she would be "by his side" at all times. Could she be jealous of other women, to none of whom would he give the time of day while he was involved in his anthropological investigations - including Mal?

He decided that this time he had better show more interest in her. Mal's reaction to the well-remembered lecture was to go to the wall, sit down and begin to don her native dress and her protective boots. Why she did so she did not know, there was nothing in Urmi's air, water, earth or food that could possibly affect the people from Sulpane and it was now the season which she and Carl called "Summer," although the natives had no word for it other than "the Warm" that she had discovered.

Despite her surface familiarity with the language, Mal did not, as she was constantly assured that Carl did, understand how the natives thought, how they worshipped, what they did for amusement. She had learned the local language, Kosti quickly, as she did most languages, at least superficially. The few other linguists were still arguing about its status: dialect or separate tongue. She had also been able to make casual acquaintance with a few of the natives, or Kossor, as they called themselves, in this seaside city of Dozzu.

Mal knew little of Earth's history, save what she had gleaned from elec-tapes, but she did know and appreciate that the native ships, although to her eyes primitive, were closely related to ships of earth's distant past. Most ships were square-rigged, although there were even steam-powered boats, which Carl called "tugs," and the "side-wheelers" fascinated her. She had always wanted to travel on sea, as much as she detested traveling on land. One ship-captain, she caught his name as "Marney," had in fact propositioned her to take a short voyage with him on his ship, or failing that, a trip around the harbor on one of the "steam-kettles,:" as she understood him to call them. She knew what he wanted and refused.

She wished she could persuade Carl to take a break from his studies and come with her. Perhaps a trip - voyage - on the sea would enliven their lives together.

"Mal," came Carl's unexpectedly tender voice. "Mal, can we...maybe...take a break...together?"

She turned and saw a look in his eyes that she didn't remember seeing much since they'd landed here. "Why, Carl...yes, surely. Do you want to take a walk?"

"Yup. Just as far as our quarter, love."

When they got there, Carl was already out of his outer coat, and was helping her off with hers. He ran a finger along the back of her neck, making her shiver with anticipation. When his hands cradled her breasts she tingled all over. Turning in his suddenly enclosing arms to raise her face to his, her mouth opened slightly, and his closed over hers, his tongue softly caressing her lips. She flicked her tongue into his mouth, teasing, wanting. Her vulva felt damp, her

labia swelling with desire, and she could feel the stiffening of his penis against her.

Mal moaned and felt oddly weak for a moment. Carl's strong arms supported her as they moved slowly into their bedroom, still kissing more and more fervently. Carl broke the kiss only to tenderly unbutton her blouse, moving his hands softly over her shoulders as he slid the cloth over them. His hands felt so good!

Mal reached down while he was doing this and stroked the bulge in his trousers. "Oh, Carl, you're so big, so nice, so nice."

"That's you, Mallie, you..." His voice dwindled as he kissed her bare back, making her shiver again. "You're all goose-flesh, Mallie."

"You...hurry, Carl, I'm so...hot, I need you."

Her slacks were soon off, her shoes and socks left alone as Carl shucked his own clothing and came to her. Their bodies pressed against each other and again Mal felt that rigid penis pressing into her belly. She wanted it inside.

Instead, Carl bent and kissed slowly along her neck, feeling her flesh crawl in passion as he slid his mouth to her upper breasts. Even that made her hump her hips forward and back. She could feel liquid sliding down her inner cheeks and the wonderful, urgent burning sensation in her quim. She moaned as her hips jerked and twitched and Carl's tongue reached and engulfed one of her nipples. Her hand reached almost involuntarily for his penis, and she stroked the throbbing member softly and very, very lovingly. As her fingers slipped over the tip, she felt the oozing pre-cum and that made her more excited, if that were possible. She raised her fingers to her mouth and tasted him.

"Oh, Ca-arl! Now, please, lover, now!"

His kisses and tongue licks had reached her belly, which she pushed hard against his mouth, needing the pressure to keep from going absolutely berserk with frustration.

His mouth and tongue swiftly descended to her thighs, then her labia. Mal spread her legs wide to give him access and her body some relief. His questing tongue opened her labia and penetrated her. She bent her knees slightly to take full advantage of his licks, but she could no longer stand it.

She pulled away from Carl and lay on the bed, her legs wide spread, waiting his assault. He obliged carefully, suddenly realising just how long it had been. His penis slid in easily, though, with the squirming Mal's juices lubricating his penis; his balls and upper thighs soon also covered.

"In, Carl, in hard, love, fuck me, lover, fu-u-uck me!" Her voice was high, almost a scream as Carl slid in.

Mal climaxed then with a spasmodic, fierce grasping at every part of Carl's muscular back and thighs that her arms and legs could reach. She pulled and pulled, Carl holding himself as far within her throbbing quim as he could, his penis firm against her cervix. Her vagina clasped and released his penis, milking him of every drop of semen he could inject into her, for he had come just as she orgasmed for the second time.

"Oh, lightning striking! Thunder rolling! Mal, wo...wonder...fu...ful. Oh, Mallie!"

"Oh, Carl. Oh Carl. Oh, Carl! Oh. Oh. Oh, you...lovely...man, you!"

Mal slowly recovered, although Carl was slightly more exhausted. He got his breath back after several minutes to find Mal smiling at him as she had not for many months.

"We'd better do this more often, dear lover."

"Yes, Mal. I am a boor and a hog not to have thought of your needs. We shall, we shall. Oh, I love you."

Mal was not mischievous, but she knew a prize when it passed by. Seizing the brass ring, she murmured, "Well, it'll probably be better on a sea trip, won't it? We're due for a leave, it's been over a year."

Carl grinned back. "O K, love. I'll ask the Director. Today!"

He smiled as his strength returned. He could think of little better than a leave with Mal in their present mood. Regrettably, the Director refused instant leave, as a crisis in Kostanz "politics" made it necessary for the team to stay sequestered in Dozzu. One member of the support group disappeared during this period, adding to their worries.

The political crisis, or the desultory war with neighboring Alatno either ceased to worry the locals, or ended, Mal could not be sure which. Mal's real opportunity came soon thereafter with Carl's unexpected breakdown when the expedition had been sixteen months on Urmi. Despite his promise, Carl had been working far too hard on extremely difficult interpretation of what some of the Urmi nations called "law." First of all, the Urmi ( or Kosti) word "nations" was not akin to what the term meant on Sulpane, the local polities were essentially alliances of city-states. Each polity had its own definition of "law," even as a city-state, and the "moro" (alliance? - not even that translated well) had its own laws, which were not imposed in those city-states that did not enforce them. Certain things a person could do in Eskalar, he could not do in Gosyodi, yet "alliance law" said he was free to do so, for instance. Most of the laws were religious in origin, these days religious laws were honored widely in their breach, but some customs had the force of law - sometimes, in certain places, at certain times!

As a consequence, Carl fainted in the middle of a presentation to the entire team, and the medical staff examined and tested him, then prescribed absolute rest "at a distance from the team's work."

Mal seized upon the opportunity like a lioness clamping her teeth on a gazelle's neck. "Carl, we need the trip I've been asking you to make for the past three months. Let's take a sea-voyage. I know a captain who'll take Earth-people - I understand from the 'eye' team that Marney and his crew are far from xenophobic, like some on this place."

She had long stopped calling Urmi a "planet." She, like some of the other Sulpani, had been shocked to find that all Urmi did not welcome the investigative team, and had adjusted her attitude correspondingly. To her great surprise, Carl agreed, although somewhat listlessly. His "spell" while presenting had truly shaken him. His personality had changed from the take-charge to the dependent, and Mal managed to play on that to what she considered her great benefit. Despite his apparent listlessness, she had managed to reawaken his interest in her and their matings since his "illness" had been much more pleasurable, save for the earliest, which had been fantastic.

"Sfkipa" MarnP (not "Marney," as Mal supposed.) welcomed them aboard effusively. Mal had paid him with tiny bars of silver, an extremely precious metal on the planet, perhaps overpaying him, although she had not at first realised this. Nevertheless, Mal did not feel that she had been cheated, she having of course made the arrangements.

Their ship was what Carl called a "bastard rig," but what the captain called a "provenka." Carl answered Mal's questions about the safety of their vessel with the first signs of interest in anything beside herself she had seen since his breakdown.

He had been an avid sailor in his more youthful years on Earth and knew his boats and small ships well. "This ship looks sound, but, of course, Mal, I know nothing of the sailors and the skipper..."

"Eh? Carl, the word in Kosti is almost the same, then! Hm-m. Could Kosti - this island's dialect anyway - have an Earth origin?"

"How could it? Oh. 'Sfkipa'...skipper! Well, I'll be damned! Why haven't your team seen that. I wonder..."

Mal was just happy that she had Carl interested in something once again.


The Falkone, for which there was no etymology known to the couple, nor to Captain MarnP when Mal asked, was a small ship with a lateen foresail - "like a dhow" Carl said. Each of the three masts held a different rig, the middle one square rigged like an old fashioned clipper, thought Mal, who had seen pictures of two thousand year old ships once used to transport everything. They were beautiful in Mal's estimation, more beautiful than their successors, the hulking, smelly, dirty steam vessels, which in turn had eventually been succeeded by nuclear powered vessels as well as by air and space craft. Now, here on what had been a detested planet, she fell in love with a sailing vessel once again.

They had reached the Neik'ir on their cruise, which Mal now knew meant Neik Strait. Carl was apprehensive as to their course, for this was reputed to be a hunting ground for pirates, Kasmati, their name in Kosti. Both captain and crew appeared slightly nervous, a lookout constantly watching through a televa (telescope). Carl asked,

"What causes you this anger?" He knew that was the wrong word, but she was not as yet anywhere as fluent in Kosti as was Mal, who had gained considerable ability in the local dialect. Carl pointed up the mast, where the poor lookout was clinging.

"Oh sar, Kasmati have many ships, laucat here." Carl was a little surprised by his using other terms for what he thought was called Urmi.

MarnP spoke a poor but intelligible Galactic, to Carl and Mal's great surprise. Where he had learned that they did not enquire, for there had been rumors that several of the transcribers of the expedition had managed to acquire Kostanzi "admirers." In a way, Mal had once envied those girls, for she and Carl had until the time immediately before his breakdown not been together sexually very often, save that memorable time, since their arrival on Urmi. Just the way that MarnP looked at her stirred something within her that had been suppressed for too long.

"You think these pirati...," that's what she had heard them called by the crew - another analogue of a Galactic word, "...would take us?" Mal did not understand why they were speaking Galactic instead of Kosti.

"If they will they catch sight, yess."

"Of the ship?"

"Yess, and...you and man, duëno!"

"Oh? Why would we have any attraction?"

"What word? You good looks, duën, and you man handsome, too. You worth much. Good slaves for Mata, you. Better than Kostai."

"Hm-m. I'll tell Carl, then."

"I think he know."

Mal left it at that, but it gave her a great deal to think about as the large brig - Carl named it, pointing at the guns "run out" along the sides - swiftly approached. the provenka. The crew of the provenka remained oddly unafraid, while she and Carl were upset by this meeting.

"That ship, sfkipa, what moro?" called Mal.

"Kasmat. See cloth at masthead?"

Carl, with his arm around Mal, looked hard to see the cryptic symbol in an oblong on a green flag flying at the mizzen of the rapidly closing ship. As part of his investigations, he had acquired a working knowledge of the internal sea (Krony'arr), the types of ships which sailed it, as well as the flags of the various entities. Those ensigns were displayed seldom save on ships at sea. (Probably because it was too early in Kostanz maritime history for such subterfuges, no instance of false colors had been recorded.) A shudder ran down his body, and Mal felt it.

"What will they do to us, Carl?"

"I've heard . . . no, we have a different make-up...no, we don't, actually...but they cannot do that to us . . .I think."

"What, Carl? What is it that has you so...afraid...when these sailors aren't?"

"They...the people of 'Ermat'...I can't pronounce their real name...'Er'mati?'...are reputed...to enslave other people with drugs."

"Oh, God! Then...there is little escape?"

"There be none, duën!" came MarnP's voice. "You will see, I am shorten sail, now, so we do not be arrest."

Mal turned to look at MarnP, but her attention was drawn to that same flag at the Falkone's masthead! MarnP was a Kasmato! She had been startled by his sudden calling her "girl," instead of "honored lady."

The two ships, the brig looming over the smaller provenka, came abreast. Perhaps a dozen Aurmi jumped down into the provenka, three with ropes to bind the two ships together. The provenka's crew, the sails lowered, stood near the low forecastle. Carl now noticed that the sailors seemed to know each other, for they were patting each other on the back and laughing.

Carl turned to MarnP, raising his hands.

"MarnP, you've betrayed us!"

The captain shrugged. "No, . I betray no one. I am Aurmo."

Mal wondered briefly what an Aurmo might be? A kind of pirate?

Carl started to slug the captain but he was seized from behind by strong hands and subdued, his wrists chained close together in front, while an iron bar was run between his back and his elbows. Mal and Carl were examined and made to climb the looming freeboard of the brig as several Aurmi remained aboard the provenka talking with MarnP. Carl was taken forward as Mal was brought to stand before a tall, black-avised man.

Mal found herself being appraised by the Aurmi captain, or at least she assumed that was who he was.

"Yeano, carro mella jame."

"What you say?" she stammered in Kosti, shocked out of her fluency.

"Oh," he said in bad Kosti, "you spik Masmas. Yes, you will eat now."

"My...man?" She knew that the concept of "husband and wife" was not quite understood in some of the islands. The word "mate" was closer.

"You and man one?" Mal wasn't quite sure what he meant by that, his Kosti was pretty terrible, but she thought that she and Carl, despite their earlier differences, were indeed one.

"Yes, the man and I are mates."

"No more worry. You come with me."

"Where do you take me?"

"No matter, you."

He grabbed her arm and dragged her below decks. From the corner of her eye she saw the Aurmi sailors jump back aboard the brig, and the provenka hoist sail. She could not see Carl. Once in the captain's cabin, the man forced her into a rounded seat which seemed to have been made from half a barrel. The bands were of metal, she noticed. At Dozzu they had been wooden. With swift movements he wrapped three turns of thin but very strong rope around her waist, crossed the rope twice between her breasts and around her back, lower chest and arms, immobilizing her despite her kicking legs.

"No fight, not matter you soon."

Mal's heart was beating very fast - she was more frightened than she had ever been before in her life. The Aurmo captain left her to struggle against the too tight bonds, to no avail. He returned with Carl stumbling along behind him, Carl's arms now bound at the elbow with a web or rope behind his back.

"You, sit!" the man told Carl, who collapsed onto the floor and struggled back up enough to sit dumbly with his knees raised, looking at the deck.

"You eat when bring." The captain left them, and Mal saw that Carl, although she had not seen the captain do anything, was fastened to the deck somehow.

"Are you all right, Carl?" he looked groggy.

"Yes, so far," he muttered in a far away voice.

The door opened and a man whom they both recognized brought in a platter of food. He was wearing a kilt or kirtle, and to Mal who did not remember him well, he looked shorter than she recalled.

"Ronald!" Carl exclaimed in Galactic. Ron had been the expedition's second cook, but had disappeared perhaps four months before, during the riots.

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