I stood at the edge of the desert. Before me the white sands extended to the horizon, towering dunes and wavering haze breaking up the harsh alien landscape. I shielded my eyes, the dark goggles I was wearing doing little to ease the blinding glare. I had been stranded, one of my engines was hit by orbital debris on approach and the freighter I had been piloting to the refueling station had ditched on the surface of this planet. The landing hadn't been too hard, most of the surface was just desert and sand. I hadn't paid enough attention to my course chart to remember its name, but the AI co-pilot had reported that the atmosphere was breathable, and that if I had tried to launch an escape pod I would have been caught by the gravity well anyway.

I had recovered everything of use from the wrecked ship and headed out in the direction of a space elevator used to transport goods to and from the surface, mostly ores and minerals. Unfortunately that elevator was a hundred miles away across a strip of especially harsh desert. The gear I had salvaged didn't really equip me for this trek, I had a pair of pilot's goggles that would darken when exposed to sunlight, a crude survival poncho lined with insulation intended more for ice planets than deserts, the ship's first-aid kit, some basic ration bars and a canteen that would siphon water vapor from the air and refill over time.

I unscrewed the cap on the silver canteen and took a quick drink. As I wiped my mouth I turned behind me and took another look at the scuttled freighter a few miles back, my footprints trailing away in the sand. It extended into the air like a black skyscraper made of broken pipes, its freight had spilled across the dunes like the innards of a gutted fish. Billions of credits of goods that now would never make it to their intended destinations, if I survived this there was no way I'd be keeping my job.

I had tied my leather flight jacket over my head to protect from the sun, and as I tightened the sleeves under my chin, I braced myself for the journey.

"Come on O'Brian, you can do this!" I said aloud.

"Are you crossing?"

I started, and looked to my left. There was a creature standing right next to me, the leather jacket had obscured my peripheral vision and it had just walked right up to me.

"FUCK!" I exclaimed and fell on my ass, shuffling backwards to get away.

The thing was large, at least eight or nine feet tall, it was bipedal, basically humanoid, and was draped in some kind of brown shawl from head to toe that obscured its features.

"Oh, did I startle you?" It was speaking Galactic Standard, heavily accented with some odd clicking vocalizations, but well enough that I could understand. I stood up and brushed sand off my clothes, embarrassed. I wracked my brain trying to remember GS grammar I had learned in flight school.

"Yes, sorry about that." I replied, I was rusty but it seemed to understand me. The thing eyed me up and down, its head obscured by the ragged shawl blowing in the wind that swept in from the dunes.

"Are you crossing?"

"Yes" I replied, still wary of the large thing.

"I saw your ship crash," it clicked, "I came to find survivors."

"It wasn't too hard a landing," I bragged, looking back over my shoulder at the new landscape I had created, "I'm the only crew member, most of the ship's functions were automated."

The alien seemed melancholy, it looked out over the desert, pensive.

"You have no cooling unit, you can't cross without one, the desert heat will drive you to madness then kill you."

"Hardly matters," I replied, "If I don't get to that space elevator I'll die anyway, might as well chance it rather than starve here." The alien paused for a moment, then spoke again.

"I have a cooling unit, I too wish to reach the spire, but it will take several days to cross that desert and my kind cannot survive the cold nights, you are a mammal, I can sense your warm blood, you have an insulating blanket, you could keep us both alive."

I relaxed somewhat, was this alien stranded here like me? Would circumstance make allies of us?

"I propose a trade for the common good." It said, gesturing at me with a long, three-fingered arm tipped with shiny black claws that protruded from under the shawl, its skin a deep purple in color.

"I will keep you alive during the day with my cooling unit, you will keep me alive at night with your insulator, we will cross together."

Clearly someone was watching out for old O'Brian, I didn't know anything about this creature or its species, but it seemed to need me as much as I needed it.

"If you think you can make the trip, I'll go wth you."

The alien paused again, surprised.

"Then it is settled, the bargain is made."

I gestured ahead, "Lead on!"

I labored to keep pace with the loping alien, its long legged strides let it scale dunes with relative ease, as my boots sank into the sand and I struggled up them practically on all-fours. Occasionally it would reach out a clawed hand to steady me or lift me over a crest. It was too exhausting to keep a conversation going and the alien showed far less curiosity where I was concerned than I had expected. It might have met humans before, as it knew Galactic Standard fairly well.

From a belt around its waist hung the cooling unit, an unwieldy, blocky device of alien design that projected a four meter bubble of cool air around us. While it didn't block out the burning sun, it protected from wind and sand, and cooled the air to a tolerable temperature as we struggled on. It was right of course, the exertion and heat would have driven me to delirium long ago were it not for this magical device.

It knew a fair bit about me, but I knew nothing of it. It had called me a "mammal", implying that it was something different, an insect or a reptile? I couldn't see past the shawl it wore, save for glimpses of dark purple skin, like bruising, covering its forearms and ankles.

The desert was featureless besides the dunes and the elevator in the distance extending into the azure, cloudless sky. There were no plants, no animals, no oasis, no rocks protruding from the ground, just sand as far as the eye could see.

"I need to rest." I gasped, doubling over to take a breath, sweat pouring from my face and stinging my eyes. The alien came to a halt, and turned to look at me.

"The less time we spend resting, the better." It chided, seemingly unsympathetic.

I raised a hand, gesturing it to stop.

"You're bigger than me, I have to walk twice as far as you with those beanstalk legs, I won't be long, I just need a drink and a breather."

I pulled the canteen from my pack and took a refreshing swig.

"Is that water?" The alien asked, eyeing the silver canteen. "May I have some?"

I tossed the canteen to it, it caught it and unscrewed the cap. From beneath the tattered fabric snaked a ropey tube, like a tongue or a proboscis. It slipped inside the rim of the canteen, and I assumed it drank. After a few moments it handed the canteen back to me, I wiped some viscous saliva from the top and screwed the lid back on.

"So what's your name?" I inquired. "Mine's O'Brian."

It looked me up and down, at least that's what I assumed it was doing as its face was hidden.

"You couldn't pronounce my name."

I stood with my hands on my hips, and gave it a sarcastic look.

"Well then what do I call you, beanstalk?"

"Beanstalk will do."

I laughed at it, what an antisocial companion I had landed. I didn't think it even knew what beanstalk meant.

"Alright Beanstalk, where are you from? How did you come to be here?"

It began to move away from me again, and I hurried to keep up, my feet sinking into the sand.

"Walk as you talk." It replied, although I noticed its gait was a little slower now, allowing me to keep up at an undignified power-walk. "I was born here, I am native to this planet. I came from a region further East."

"Why do you need me to keep you alive if you're native to this climate?" I asked, perplexed.

It extended a clawed hand to help me over the crest of a dune.

"My people retreat to burrows when the cold comes," it said. "In this white desert the ground is hard, and the cold is harsh, noone lives here."

"So you need my poncho." I huffed, as I attempted to descend a steep incline, my feet sliding.

"And your body heat, you are a mammal, you have warm blood, my people are reptiles, our blood is cold and we get our heat from the sun."

I nodded, it made sense. As I started to climb another dune, I asked the alien why it wanted to reach the space elevator, and it told me the story of how human miners had collapsed tunnels during mining operations, killing several of its species.

It was a simple mistake, albeit a deadly one, but the natives had no way to cross the "dead band" deserts that separated many disparate tribes from eachother, which the miners simply flew over. This alien had been tasked with finding a way across and delivering detailed maps of the tunnels so that the miners could avoid them when drilling.

As we chatted and walked I learned that Beanstalk was a female, hailing from a nearby tribe, and that her species spent the majority of their time underground in complex warrens and tunnels. In the mornings before the sun rose fully they would bask on rocks and warm themselves, when they ventured to the surface for longer periods of time they wore cooling units. Staying underground seemed like a sensible evolutionary strategy in a climate as harsh and variable as this one.

Her people had advanced technology, but were largely sedentary and had no desire to move over large distances or communicate outside the tribe in most circumstances, their warrens requiring a lot of investment to build and maintain.

There were no disputes over territory among different tribes because the dead bands clearly outlined borders which people could not cross without great difficulty.

"Do you dislike humans, because they collapsed one of your warrens?" I asked hesitantly.

"They meant you no harm I'm sure, they were just careless."

"That's probably true." She replied, never breaking stride, but she did not answer the question.

The sun began to get low on the horizon, and I asked if we should make camp for the night, she agreed as I wondered what that might entail. She dropped a backpack from under her shawl, I hadn't even noticed it, assuming the bulge was part of her anatomy, and began to unpack what looked like a blanket. To my surprise she activated a switch, and it inflated into a squat tent, roughly as long as she was tall.

"Survival tent," She explained. "It will insulate us from the cold, to an extent."

I eyed the tent, a little worried that it would be too narrow to fit both of us, but she assured me that it would be fine. "With your mammalian body heat and that insulated poncho we should survive the night."

"Are these tents not enough to keep you alive under normal circumstances?" I asked.

"No, the nights in the dead bands are too cold."

Reluctantly I shed my gear outside the tent, leaving my canteen to refill itself, and crawled in first. Although the alien was taller than me I had to crouch to enter the tent. The surface was padded and had the almost metallic crackle of heavy insulation, it was not uncomfortable. The walls and ceiling were similarly lined with a silver insulation material, there were no openings besides the door.

I shuffled to the top of the tent as Beanstalk crawled through the opening.

It was then I noticed she had four arms, they supported her as she crawled on her knees, extending from beneath her shawl. I stared, wide-eyed as she shuffled closer then sat cross-legged, and began to remove her clothing. This was the first I had seen of her without the cowl, and I was apprehensive, I assumed she might have more tact than to reveal herself this close to me in such an enclosed space, it would make anyone nervous, but then again perhaps a subterranean creature might find these claustrophobic spaces comforting. She used the upper set of arms to pull off her hood and the rags covering her face, to reveal her bruise-purple complexion and large, dark eyes. She looked human enough, the facial structure was all human besides the conspicuous lack of a nose, she had two eyes spaced apart like a human would have, albeit larger and shiny black with no pupils, and a mouth where a mouth should be. Off-yellow canine teeth protruded over her oddly full lips, the color of which was a deeper purple than the surrounding skin, which was shiny, probably due to sweat or a secretion of some kind. To my surprise a mane of red hair fell about her shoulders as the hood came off, she reached behind her head in a weirdly human gesture and tied it into a rough ponytail.

While this was happening her lower set of arms were removing her shawl, which appeared to untie at the front, and slough off her body onto the floor, she rolled it up and placed it to one side.

Now all she was wearing was a loincloth of some kind wrapped around her lower body and what looked suspiciously like a tank top. Although it was surely rude to stare, my eyes played over her alien body, my gaze meeting the same curves and taught muscle one might expect from an athlete, maybe a runner or a swimmer. I was startled, and slightly aroused, the odd geometry of her four-armed torso gave way to what looked like pert breasts under her covering, and her exposed midriff was lined with bunches of abdominal muscle that faded into curved hips and strong thighs, the same slick mauve skin present everywhere. Despite her claim of reptile heritage I could see no visible scales, but who knew with aliens.

If she noticed I was looking, she wasn't concerned, as she rolled up clothing and packed it away in her rucksack. When she was done she watched me, expectantly. I made a "What?" gesture, and she sighed.

"Clothes off." She said.

"Excuse me?"

"Take off your clothes," she repeated, "Your body heat, that was the bargain we made."

"Why do I need to take them off for that?" I asked, incredulous.

"I need skin on skin contact in order to transfer the heat directly to my body or I will die, the insulation in this tent and your poncho will not trap enough heat, and if I die you will die shortly after."

I started to remove the jacket that was still tied around my head, and kicked off my shoes.

"Ok jeez hold your horses, I never said I wouldn't do it." I complained. She didn't bother asking what horses were and instead just observed me as I tried to pull my t-shirt over my head. She watched me as I disrobed, as I had watched her, a mutual curiosity of alien anatomy I assumed, since she had kept her loincloth, I kept my shorts on, already starting to feel cold.

"Wow you weren't joking," I said, wrapping my arms around myself. "This cold comes on fast, humans can live in cold climates but this is already uncomfortable for me." The sweat left over from the day's hike was sticking to me now, cold and clammy, I wiped some of it off with a discarded shirt but if we were going to get warm we had better do it fast.

She lay down, stretching out along the length of the tent. I felt tiny next to her giant frame. She motioned to the insulated poncho I had brought with me, and drew a rolled up insulated blanket from her bag.

"Combine these, layer them, then get as close to me as you can, I'm already starting to feel sluggish." I followed her instructions and lay the small poncho over her torso and the larger alien-sized blanket over her body, when that was done I hesitantly crawled under, only to feel her four arms reach out and grab me. For a moment I was alarmed, but then I regained my composure, and she drew me in close to her chest, pressing me against what were definitely breasts.

"Good, you're warm." She murmured.

There was nothing sexual about this, we were doing it to survive, and yet as she drew me in against her breast, I felt a new heat begin to rise in my loins. She was as sweaty as I was, it covered her strange skin in a slippery layer, and stained her tank top, making it almost transparent in some places. Her chest was pressed against mine, and my face was pushed against the nape of her neck by a gentle hand to the back of my head. She kept her clawed hand there, and sighed a little as I breathed warm air onto her.

I had gone from barely knowing this alien to spooning with her within the space of a few minutes, and while I was alarmed, the cold was creeping up my back, and I nudged forward trying to get closer. The insulated blankets were trapping my heat well enough but the closer we got the more efficient that process would be, or at least that's what I told myself, as I reached my left arm around her ribs and placed it against her back, drawing her in. Her skin was smooth and soft, coated in that layer of moisture that made my fingers slippery. We were fully sandwiched now, my reddening face pressing against her clavicle. I dared a glance and peeked down her top, on her exaggerated frame those boobs were understated, but squashed together against a human's chest they looked massive. Beads of sweat still trickled into the cleavage.

I was worried she would sense my growing erection and so I pulled my lower body back a little, bringing my legs up to my belly, but with her two free hands that were not wrapped around me she deftly pushed them back straight, then with one hand on my butt, pressed my pelvis up against hers, squashing my penis against her firm abdominal muscles.

"Stay straight, that part is warm." She mumbled , her breath tickling my ear. She couldn't know what it was, all she was interested in was the heat it was producing.

She smelled musky, and slightly sweet like fruit, it wasn't unpleasant but it overpowered my senses in such an enclosed space, I tried to pull my head away to catch a breath of fresher air but the hand on the back of my head did not allow it.

We stayed like that for a while, my excitement eventually receding into fatigue as the day's march took it's tole on my body. Her chest heaved rhythmically as she slept, and occasionally one of her hands would squeeze or caress me gently, she must have been dreaming of a pet perhaps, or a lover? Those thoughts rattled around my tired brain until I too was sleeping and dreaming.

The next day I awoke to heat, I scrambled to remove the stifling blankets and crawled out of the tent through the flap. Where was Beanstalk? I cursed as the sun blinded me and returned to the tent briefly to retrieve my flight goggles. That cursed fiery ball was just now peeking over the horizon, it was not hot enough to burn me yet but it was still a blinding glare. I stood and looked around. There was Beanstalk, spread across the sand on some kind of clear plastic tarp some distance away, as naked as the day she was born. She lay on her back, one hand shielding her dark eyes from the sun as she basked in the golden rays, her skin taking on a reflective sheen that served only to accentuate the bumps and curves of her uncomfortably feminine body.

What I had only glimpsed in the tent I now saw in full sunlight, her sinewy arms and chest upon which perched two (by human standards) large breasts that hung attractively, the deep purple skin that ran over her tight belly and her abs that would make any Olympic swimmer jealous. Her legs were svelte because of their length, but were no less toned. Their distinctly human shape gave way to a jointed heel and splayed claws that looked like they would stop her sinking in the sand. As I drank her in I imagined that life in the warrens must be very physically demanding, that or her species naturally had more muscle than humans, then she rolled over onto her front to bathe her back in warmth from the sun. I was graced with a view of her taut butt, large globes no doubt full of muscle, and a deep dimple than ran all the way down her spine. I noticed that the skin was not uniform, but had darker freckles scattered across her shoulders and haunches. The deep red hair that had so surprised me was only present on her head.

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bySnekguy© 24 comments/ 41742 views/ 163 favorites

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