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Thread: VOYAGER

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Location
    Alabama
    Posts
    1,830

    VOYAGER

    by Strelnikov
    Copyright 2017 by the author


    Part 1

    Well, there she is, thought Megan Owen – my new home. Megan was slender and attractive, a little taller than medium height – she had shoulder-length wavy dark brown hair, gray eyes, and the sort of fair skin that freckles on the way to a suntan. At age 18, Megan was a work in progress, pretty enough but with features a little too strong for conventional beauty and a serious and somewhat reserved demeanor. In a few more years, she would be absolutely stunning. She was dressed in a blue-and-gray shipsuit, a sort of close-fitting coverall, and black slipper-like shipshoes.

    The little motorized cart purred over the tarmac of the planet Thanet IV’s Port Manston landing field. Megan could see her destination at the far end of the field, in an area used by unscheduled shippers – tramps, in other words. Either the ship was a long way off, or it was very small.

    It had drive capability for atmospheric and interplanetary flight, but those were just auxiliaries. The real Drive, Capital-D, was the Jump drive, that allowed the ship to evade Einstein’s Law and travel faster-than-light through hyperspace. Megan’s job – her first real job – was to provide the power for the drive.

    Starship systems were straight-forward engineering; the problem, as always, was power. Power plants aboard naval vessels, Blue Riband liners and planetoid-size freighters used cantafordium cores. Smaller ships had to make do with lafyurassium, a compound that collected, transformed and amplified the energy released by laughing.

    Starships need compact, high-intensity laughter-power sources that could be turned on and off at will. Tickling was the best way to create them, so Tickler and Ticklee – Ler and Lee – were job titles. Modern misconceptions to the contrary, the oarsmen on ancient merchant rowing galleys were free mariners, well paid for their strength and endurance. So it was with the Lees who powered the ships. The paths of interstellar commerce were made by the well-tickled feet of young women.

    Picture a right angle Cartesian axis. The vertical axis is tickle-power output. The horizontal axis is age. Power output is essentially zero throughout early childhood. It rises slowly to the age of puberty, rises steeply through the teen years, and levels off at its peak level at physical maturity. Power output stays constant at peak level until somewhere around age 35. It begins a gradual decline afterward, then falls off sharply before leveling off at zero again by age 45.

    There were a few male Lers – very few, because the usual progression was from Lee to Ler. Lees were always young women, because no one would hire a male Lee.

    Why? Call the power output at puberty P1, and the peak output at maturity P2. P1 is about the same for everybody, regardless of gender. P2 is the number of X chromosomes, plus the same number raised to the same power, times P1. Males have just one X chromosome – the multiplier is 2. Females have two – the multiplier is 6.

    Megan had already passed a number of bigger ships close to the administration complex, each in its landing bay. Some were loading or discharging cargo, swarming with workers and automated machinery. Others sat with their boarding ramps down, portals open, waiting for passengers. Now, approaching her own ship, she was able to take a closer look.

    Like all of its class, it had the appearance of a cone, far shorter than it was wide, with the top sliced off and a squat cylindrical section placed horizontally between the pieces. A row of round sensors circled the cylindrical section. The conical skirt was perhaps 50 meters in diameter, and the ship was some 25 meters tall from base of skirt to the top. The ship had a dull gray coating above – chameleon-like, the coating mimicked the ship’s surroundings – and was painted an off-white color underneath. The drive nodes were visible under the skirt, three big white bulges spaced 120 degrees apart. It sat on three landing legs about 5 meters high, offset 60 degrees from the drive nodes. The portal was open, boarding ramp extended.

    A sign with an electronic display declared that this was T/S Amanda Jennings F-0859-040. Megan turned off the marked path and stopped. She got out and was just reaching into the back for her bag when–

    “Help you?”

    Megan looked up. A pretty blonde emerged from under the ship, where she had been concealed by one of the landing legs. She was a little shorter than medium height, with an athletic figure, blue eyes, and shoulder-length wavy hair. She wore a silvery pale blue pullover shirt and shorts, and a pair of close-fitting silver bracelets. The shirt was something like a jersey, but close-fitting, with a v-neck and three-quarter length sleeves. The shorts were like gym shorts, with a self-adjusting waistband. She was barefoot – fingernails and toenails were painted a silvery blue that matched her clothing. She looked to be in her mid 20’s.

    “I’m Megan Owen,” she said, and extended her hand. “Reporting for work. This is the Amanda Jennings, isn’t it?”

    “This is the Mandy J, sure enough,” the blonde said. She started to take Megan’s hand, then realized that hers were full. She had a bottle of nail polish in one hand, the brush in the other. “Oops! Sorry! I was sitting in the shade, enjoying the air and painting my toenails. We didn’t expect you until later.” She capped the bottle, put it in a pocket and shook hands. “I’m Melissa Hollis – power room. We’ll be seeing a lot of each other. Get your gear – I’ll take you aboard.”

    Megan unloaded her bag and sent the little cart on its way back to the terminal. They climbed the ramp and passed through the outer and inner portals to a circular passageway. “The skirt is in six segments,” Melissa said. “We’ve just gone through the first. It’s the ship’s boat bay, and it has the arms locker and a work station for cargo operations. The other five are cargo holds. Each of those has an outside escape hatch.”

    Directly opposite the inner portal was an elevator. An emergency ladder ran up the wall next to it, closed at the top with a circular hatch.

    “Engineering spaces are in the core,” Melissa said as they boarded the elevator. “You’ll see those after you’ve signed the ship’s articles. We have two crew levels. Top level is the bridge, ship’s office, power room and the Captain’s and Chief Officer’s cabins.”

    The elevator stopped. “Here’s the second level,” Melissa said. This time the corridor was straight, with the elevator about in the middle. The ladder continued upward to another ceiling hatch.

    “Common room on that side,” she continued. “Combination dining room, day room, exercise room, you name it. The galley is automated. Bathrooms on both ends of the hall. There’s four crew cabins and two staterooms for passengers. We can carry up to four passengers, but they’d better be real friendly.”

    Melissa tapped a keypad next to a door. “Home sweet home,” she said as it opened. “You get first dibs on the bunks – take either one. Have a seat on the bottom bunk. Oh, and lose the shoes,” she added. “We don’t bother with ‘em on board. Floor covering stays cleaner that way.”

    Megan toed off her shoes and sat. There was no place else to sit – the cabin was tiny, no longer than the bunks and maybe three times as wide. There were cabinets or lockers on the end wall, drawers underneath the bottom bunk. That was the extent of the furnishings.

    By now, Megan had formed a general impression of the Amanda Jennings: meticulously clean and well maintained, but with a few rough edges. The atmosphere plant was adequate, but the air smelled faintly of machinery and lubricants, of the ghosts of dinners past, and of female bodies too close together. The glowing ceiling illumination was uneven, a little darker in some places. The paint on the walls was burnished from people brushing past, and worn to bright metal at door frames and corners. Worn-out sections of the resilient gray deck covering had been replaced at high traffic locations like doorways, but the colors didn’t match very well. Mandy J looked like what she was – a working merchant ship whose small crew did what was important, and let the rough end drag.

    Melissa sat next to Megan. “This is a small ship, our maximum output is six girlpower,” she said. “We can run our life support and other onboard systems with one girlpower, keep station and maneuver with two, cruise with three, boost with four. We orbit and de-orbit with five. But to Jump into hyperspace, we need a single, mammoth burst of energy to be sustained until the process is completed. That takes six girlpower, and we all laugh our asses off for as long as it takes.

    “So I’m asking you now. Are you sure this is what you want to do? I do it because I love to have my feet tickled – I’ve been at it 8 years, ever since I was 18. If you can’t stand tickling, leave and find other work. Because once we lift, you’re committed until we get back home.”

    Megan had already thought that one over. “I’m sure,” she said.

    Melissa lunged downward, scooped up Megan’s ankles in an arm lock and stood up – suddenly Megan was sprawled backward on the bunk, feet up, gravity working against her.

    “Hey!” Megan said. “Eep!” she squealed as Melissa flicked her nails across a sole. “Hehe! HAHAHA! AH-HAHA-HAHA!” as Melissa dug in, well manicured nails dancing on ticklish flesh. Megan’s tickle laugh was a musical contralto, clear and not the least bit scratchy.

    Melissa spider-walked her nails side to side across both soles – Megan’s toes twitched and curled as she laughed like mad. Melissa tickled an arch just behind the sole, getting a great reaction, then worked her way toward the heels, drawing figure-eight’s, spirals and other tickling shapes. Megan’s helpless laughter streamed out as Melissa flicked both heels like chording a guitar. Tickling a zig-zag path back up the arches came next – more laughter. Then Melissa made a Peace sign and scratched the balls of both feet at once, just behind the big toes. That was the sweet spot, where Megan’s feet were unbearably ticklish – she arched her back and laughed at the top of her lungs.

    Melissa quit and released the arm lock. Megan laid there, breathing hard, tears running down her cheeks. It had tickled so much!

    “Still want to come along?” Melissa asked.

    “Yah... Is that... all... you’ve got?” Megan gasped out.

    Melissa laughed. “I like your spirit. OK, stow your gear,” she said. “You’ve got Lee working clothes like these, don’t you? Get ‘em on. I’ll meet you in the common room as soon as you’re changed, and I’ll take you to see the Chief Officer.”

    Megan did as she was told. Megan’s jersey was blue, the shorts gray – she had worn them at school. She looked down at herself, made a few experimental movements. The outfit was well adapted for its purpose – it moved with her without binding at all. She was barely aware she had it on.

    Megan padded barefoot to the common room. The resilient gray floor covering under her feet didn’t seem to have a temperature, either warm or cool. There was a sign posted on the common room wall – ILLEGITIMII NON CARBORUNDUM, it said in an antique font.

    “What language is that, and what does it mean?” Megan asked, pointing at the sign.

    “That’s the ship’s motto,” Melissa answered. “It’s in some ancient pre-Diaspora language, I forget which. It means, Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

    Megan laughed. “Sounds good to me.”

    “It was the Captain’s idea,” Melissa said. “Now come with me.”

    Melissa guided Megan to the bridge level. They found another crew member at work in an office. The other was an attractive hazel-eyed woman with long, straight blonde hair, a little taller than medium height – she looked to be about 25. Like Melissa, she wore a pale blue jersey and shorts, silvery blue nail polish and silver bracelets. She was dictating a letter, bare feet propped up on the edge of the work surface, ankles crossed.

    “Lori, this is Megan Owen, our new Lee,” Melissa said. “Megan, meet Lori Cowan, our Chief Officer.”

    “Command – delete Melissa and save,” Lori told the computer. “Welcome aboard, Megan.” She saw Megan’s questioning look. “In case you’re wondering, we all dress like this while we’re aboard – Lee work clothes are a lot more comfortable.”

    “Ship’s custom,” Melissa said. “Convenient, too.” Melissa gave Lori’s feet a quick tickle.

    “Hehehe! Quit!” Lori said, and put her feet flat on the deck. “Melissa’s the senior Lee aboard. She’s incorrigible, but we like her anyway. Ready to sign the ship’s articles?”

    Megan signed – she was an official member of the crew now.

    “Take Megan to see Adrienne,” Lori said. “She’ll meet you in the common room.”

    “Will do, Chief,” Melissa said. “Come on, Megan.”

    “Lori’s our business manager,” Melissa said as they made their way to the common room. “She can squeeze a shilling so hard that Her Majesty screams. The bills get paid on time, the debts are being paid down, and most times there’s a little left over. She’s a sharp negotiator – her motto is “let’s make a deal”. We’re lucky to have her – she could be captain of her own ship, she has a Master’s Certificate.”

    Engineer Adrienne Stuart was waiting in the common room. She was in her mid-20s, a tall, well-built brunette with fair skin and blue eyes. People spoke Anglish in the Thanet System; in Adrienne’s native Lochlann System, they spoke Scottic. But the languages were closely related – anyone who spoke one could easily learn the other. Adrienne had done so, though she still had a bit of a brogue.

    “Welcome aboard, Megan,” Adrienne said. “Your school reports say you’re a better-than-average Ler. I’d like to see if that’s true.”

    That suited Megan just fine. She had been a gifted amateur when she started school, the winner of numerous pick-up tickle fights. Even better, she had discovered long ago that she liked tickling other girls – it was great fun to make them giggle and laugh. With help from her instructors at school, she had used those things as a foundation to develop a high level of skill.

    “Who’s the Lee?” Megan asked.

    “Me,” Adrienne said. She had an engineer’s directness and no-nonsense attitude, but she obviously wasn’t the dour Scots engineer of legend.

    “Why not me?” Melissa asked. “I love it – you don’t.”

    “I want to see for myself, from the inside.” She crossed her wrists behind her back, silver bracelets touching. Melissa walked behind her and tapped the bracelets with a stylus. The material fused, binding Adrienne’s hands behind her back.

    “Adrienne’s a shipboard rarity – a woman who doesen’t like to have her feet tickled,” Melissa explained. “But if that’s what the task demands, well... I guess it’s the Scot in her coming out.”

    “Melissa could’ve had my job if she wanted it,” Adrienne said. “She has an Engineer’s Certificate, just like me.”

    Melissa grinned. “I’d rather be a Lee. No worries, and all the tickling I can stand.”

    “Which is plenty,” Adrienne said. “Have a seat, Megan, and let’s see what you can do.” She sat in a chair facing Megan’s and put her feet in Megan’s lap. “Melissa, stick around – you’re our Safety person.”

    Megan trapped Adrienne’s ankles in a leg lock. “Any preference?”

    “Find the sweet spots, then tickle me sil– eep! HA-HAHA-HAHAHA!” as Megan drew circles on both heels. The ticklish laughter went up a notch as she traced circles in Adrienne’s arches. Megan worked her way up both arches, then scratched a sole in the exact center, along the crease – Adrienne laughed like mad, tears of laughter running down her cheeks. Megan switched to the other sole crease, tickling with a single nail. Adrienne laughed helplessly, squirming and struggling.

    Megan flicked her well-manicured nails on the balls of Adrienne’s feet, just behind the big toes – Adrienne arched her back and laughed at the top of her lungs. Gratified by the response, Megan made a Peace sign and circled the nails on the balls of both feet, getting great reactions and a flood of laughter.

    Megan held Adrienne’s toes back and scratched lightly under them, tickling the soft skin, and Adrienne laughed with wild abandon. Megan released the toes and tickled both soles two-handed, watching the toes twitch and curl, then down the arches to the ticklish heels. Adrienne bucked and squirmed and laughed her head off. Her feet were sensitized by the tickling – she didn’t have a sweet spot any more, so everything Megan did drove her wild.

    Megan tickled Adrienne’s heels and arches, getting great reactions and wave after wave of helpless laughter. She tickled up the arches to the soles, making the toes twitch again, then held the toes back and tickled the stretched out soles. Adrienne laughed and laughed, musically, helplessly, face red, tears streaming – she was losing it, right on the edge. Megan shifted one hand under the right toes, the other to the left heel, and countermarched both hands, tickling from toes to heels and back. Then holding Adrienne’s toes back again, Megan attacked the soft skin underneath, tickling mercilessly. Adrienne laughed herself breathless.

    “Good one!” Melissa said – she recognized art when she saw it.

    “You’ll… do… fine… ” Adrienne gasped. She took a deep breath. “Turn me loose, Melissa, I’ll take her from here.”

    “Don’t make the mistake of underestimating Melissa,” Adrienne said after the blonde left. “She’s a lot sharper than she chooses to appear – we respect her judgement and take advantage of it. Now come with me,” she continued. “Some of the places we’re going, you’ll need non-standard clothes. Let’s scan you into the database so the ship can make them for you.”

    The room was on the lower level, in the engineering space at the ship’s core. It appeared to be a combination of a workshop and a nail salon set up to do pedicures for two customers.

    Pedicures were a weekly feature of shipboard life. Unlike similar treatments ashore, the shipboard variety were deliberately done in a way that tickled like crazy – it was good Ler practice. Mainly, though, it kept the girls’ feet soft and made them more ticklish. That would pay off when they powered the drive.

    On the bulkhead facing the chairs was a tool rack and work bench – some of the tools were the sort one might see in an electronics repair shop, others looked like pedicure stuff. Beside the rack was a shelf – it held two black spheres the size of bowling balls with yellow nodes on opposite sides. The spheres were the ship’s spare jenerators, Megan knew – automated ticklers. They were named for Jen Edmonds, the long-ago junior engineer who volunteered to test the prototype, and was almost tickled to death in the process.

    “Two chairs?” Megan asked. “The training ship at school only had one.”

    “You probably didn’t spend much time in the training ship,” Adrienne said. “I know I didn’t – we did most of our pedicures as class exercises. A trading ship has to be self sufficient, and it saves time to do two at once. Now strip to the buff, and we’ll get you scanned.”

    In one corner of the room was a booth the size of a small closet, with a bench along the bulkhead beside it and hooks above the bench to hang clothing. Megan stripped and stepped inside the booth, closing the door behind her. There were two red footprint shapes on the deck. She stepped onto them and stood easy, head up and eyes closed. “Ready scan!” she called out.

    “Hold still, starting now!” Adrienne called back.

    As always, Megan felt nothing as the booth did a full body scan, though her mind suggested a line creeping down her body. It was purely psychological, she didn’t even really need to close her eyes. Nor did it take long – about 15 seconds maybe.

    “OK, come on out,” Adrienne said. Megan dressed and went back to her cabin with Adrienne. Adrienne showed her how to access the ship’s technical manuals. Megan lit off her reader and settled in to read.

    Shipboard modifications are like barnacles – they begin to accrete as soon as a ship enters service. This ship was considerably older than Megan. The electronic files were heavily annotated by everyone who had ever tweaked the ship’s systems. Even so, it could have been worse – pre-Diaspora bound-paper manuals would have been ragged and dog-eared, pencil-marked and grubby, verging on illegibility.

    The rest of the crew drifted back over the next few hours. They assembled in the common room at lunchtime. As was typical of this ship class, the crew was young – Melissa was 26, Adrienne and Lori were only 25. They were short one Lee, so there were just five others. The atmosphere was egalitarian – all wore pale blue jerseys and shorts, silvery blue nail polish and silver bracelets, and all were barefoot.

    Robin Sewell was the Captain. She was the only married crew member – a shapely brunette, 27 yrs old, about medium height, with bright blue eyes. Crack-the-whip discipline wouldn’t work on a ship this small, even if Robin had been so inclined. Here, she was first among equals, a colleague with more experience and greater responsibility. She was always willing to undertake any necessary task, no matter how menial, for the good of the venture. Still, there was never any doubt that she was the boss.

    Pilot Amanda Grayson was 24, petite, with a cute shape, curly dark hair and brown eyes. She had a mischievous streak. She was all business on watch, but in her free time she was likely to instigate pick-up tickle fights with anyone. She enjoyed being tickled and tickling others. She especially liked tickling sobersides like Robin, Adrienne and Lori – she figured it did them good to let go a little.

    Julie Ferguson was 23, small and trim, with great curves, dark brown hair and soft brown eyes. She was everybody’s friend – she could get along with anyone. She was a restless one. Her mother had married and taken a desk job after 12 yrs as a tramp trader – young Julie had loved the stories, had always known that this was what she wanted to do. Someday she might become a Captain or a ship’s Engineer. For now, she was happy to be a Lee. She had the most ticklish feet aboard.

    Anne and Bethany Long were identical twins, 21 yrs old – they were little beauties, with manes of fiery red hair, jade green eyes and skin so fair that it seemed almost translucent. They were playful and fun-loving, impossible not to like. They made a habit of standing about an arm’s length apart, and sharing their half of a conversation with others between them, relay style. It was uncanny, as though they were telepathic, and disorienting – Megan found that she had to shift her eyes back and forth as they spoke.

    “Welcome aboard,” Robin told Megan. “We’ve had some turnover lately. Amanda just moved up before our last trip – our former Pilot got married and quit. And two of our Lees jumped ship when we got back. We’re looking for another – know anybody who’d be interested?”

    “No, ma’am,” Megan answered. “My classmates all found other jobs.”

    “This isn’t the Navy,” Robin said. “We’re pretty informal here. Call me Robin, or Skipper, or Boss, or…” She grinned. “Well, just don’t call me late for lunch. Now let’s eat.”

    “OK… Robin,” Megan said. “Thanks.”

    ***

    Robin changed into a shipsuit after lunch, and left the ship to interview a prospective Lee in town. The others had various duties on board – even Megan, as she soon found out.

    “Let’s get you pedicured and calibrated,” Adrienne said.

    “I could use a touch-up,” Bethany said, grinning. “Anne too, probably. We’ll join you.”

    “You two are as bad as Melissa,” Adrienne said. “Don’t you ever get enough?”

    “Nope,” Anne said cheerfully. “I call dibs on first round.”

    They went to the nail salon room on the lower level. Inside, Adrienne handed two silver hoops to Megan. “Put these bracelets on,” she said. “Safety equipment – that’s why we all wear ‘em.”

    Megan had worn bracelets like these before, at school. She slipped one over her left wrist. Suddenly the bracelet shifted and shrunk. Even though she had expected it, Megan still felt an odd crawling sensation as it adjusted.

    “One size fits all,” Anne said. “Put the other one on too. It’s for your own protection – you’ve got to be immobilized, or you could get hurt.”

    “All right, then,” Adrienne said. She walked behind Megan, crossed the girl’s wrists behind her back, touched the bracelets together and tapped them with a stylus. The material fused, binding Megan’s hands behind her back.

    Adrienne repeated the process with Anne. “OK, in the chairs, ladies,” she said cheerfully.

    Megan sat. The chair contoured itself to her body – even her bound wrists. Adrienne touched a control on the back of Megan’s chair while Bethany dealt with Anne. Tentacles extruded from their chairs, binding them to it at shoulders and waist.

    Adrienne touched another control on Megan’s chair, Bethany on Anne’s. The deck irised open and basins full of steaming warm water rose from the holes. They placed the girls’ feet in the basins, and two more tentacles wrapped themselves around the girls’ ankles, immobilizing their feet.

    Adrienne sat on the stool at Megan’s feet. “Let’s let your calluses soak for a few minutes,” she said. “Anything we can tell you while we’re waiting?”

    “Yah, what’s this trip gonna be like?”

    “As you know, we’re pretty far out on the Spiral Arm,” Adrienne said. “The Diaspora didn’t go much farther, and not all of the colonies made it through the Troubles after the Collapse. Some of ‘em that did, lost most of their tech. The most advanced systems we trade with are Lochlann and Far Samarkand – that’s where we get some of our most profitable items. The others are a good bit more primitive.

    “This is a small ship, we trade in high value, low volume items only. We’ll probably tweak our route after we load our final cargo, but we’ve got a consignment for a new resort on Santiago III. From Santiago, we Jump to Colony-1112 , then double-Jump to Lochlann. We’ll stop at Lindisfarne on the way back, then Brabant, then Far Samarkand and return.

    “What’s Colony-1112?” Megan asked. “I’ve never heard of it.”

    “It was rediscovered a year or so ago,” Adrienne said. “It got hit hard during the Troubles – it’s pretty primitive, the locals just call it “the World”. We trade for hand-crafted art objects and so forth.”

    “How long will we be in port at each stop?”

    “Depends. I think what you’re asking is, will you get a chance to get off the ship? Yes – but with a chaperone the first few times, so you don’t get in trouble by accident.”

    Bethany checked her watch. “I think they’re ready, Boss,” she said.

    Adrienne and Bethany released the others’ ankles and disposed of the water. Bethany dialed up another basin and put her own feet in it. “Might as well – saves time later,” she said.

    Megan had been through this before, and knew well enough that pedicures tickle like mischief. But this was torture, just like it had been at school. Both women went out of their way to tickle. It took twice as long as it should have, while Megan and Anne laughed and laughed. Not everything the two did tickled – but almost everything. It was horrible!

    Finally it was over. Megan’s throat was dry, her ribs and abs were a little sore from laughing. But she wasn’t sweaty – the jersey had wicked the sweat away, as it had been designed to do.

    The girls were released from the chairs. “OK, Megan, you ought to be extra-ticklish now,” Adrienne said. “So let’s get a jenerator calibrated to you.” Megan followed Adrienne out of the room – Bethany was already in a chair, laughing her head off, before the door closed behind them.

    They took the elevator to the bridge level, The power room was aft of the bridge – it was a standard arrangement, Megan saw, familiar from school. The room was separated from the bridge by a movable bulkhead, now closed. On the opposite bulkhead was a row of six identical chairs that looked like armless recliners with narrow foot rests. In front of each was a circular deck opening with an iris-type closure.

    Just aft of the partition was a control panel, with a swivel chair behind it. Over the panel were two diagrams. One was a vertical graph like a thermometer, labeled with a lightning bolt below. The vertical axis was graduated on the left from zero to 1.0, in increments of 0.1, with a horizontal red line at 0.8. It was flagged on the right with stylized laughing female faces – one at 0.2, three at 0.5, five at 0.8 and six at 1.0. The other graph looked like a less-detailed reflexology chart, with annotations and demarcations made on a schematic of the soles of two feet.

    “We’re on shore utilities right now,” Adrienne said. “We don’t need the gravity compensator, and life support is circulating outside air. You’ll just be lowering our power bill a little.” She pointed. “Sit in the first chair.”

    Megan obeyed. This chair was as comfortable as the one in the nail salon had been. It reclined, and tentacles extruded, binding her to it around shoulders, waist, knees and ankles. The foot rest – an ankle rest, actually – was narrow, just wide enough for her ankles. Another sub-tentacle rose from the ankle bonds and bound her big toes together, immobilizing her feet. She checked them out and wiggled her toes.

    “It’ll be a few minutes,” Adrienne said. “I’ve got some setup work to do.” She came over to Megan when she finished what she was doing. She grinned again and said, “This is the fun part.”

    Adrienne scrabbled long polished nails on Megan’s soft, freshly-pedicured soles. Megan threw her head back and laughed uncontrollably, ticklish laughter streaming out of her, straining desperately against her bonds.

    Megan’s feet were extremely ticklish all over, but the soles and balls of her feet were the worst. Adrienne figured that out right away – she tickled Megan’s soles, watching the toes twitch and curl while Megan laughed with wild abandon. She drew figure-eight’s, circles, squares, and other tickling shapes in the arches. She scratched and scrabbled on the heels. Megan laughed and laughed, wildly, helplessly. She was no longer capable of resistance, or even coherent thought – it had been tickled completely away.

    Adrienne kept it up, tickling fiendishly and inventively. She scratched Megan’s heels, then flicked her fingernails in Megan’s arches, fast as she could. Then the soft skin under the toes while Megan laughed her head off. Adrienne scratched between two toes, producing more helpless laughter, repeated it on the other toes, tickling between each pair. Then finally held Megan’s toes back and tickled the stretched-out soles, side to side across both feet, up and down the creases in the middle, around the balls. Megan laughed herself breathless.

    Megan blinked away tears of laughter, trying to get her breathing and heart rate normal again, while Adrienne did something at the control panel. The deck opening in front of her chair irised open, and a jenerator rose from it on a telescoping stalk. Some other Lee had added a personal touch – a mirror on the top, so that she could watch her own soles being tickled.

    “You’re not like the twins and Melissa, are you?” Adrienne asked. “Well, neither am I. Don’t try to watch. Just go with it, let it carry you away. Try to enjoy it if you can.”

    Adrienne engaged Megan’s jenerator – the two nodes each extruded a tentacle tipped with a five sub-tentacles like a cartoonish hand. The right “hand” circled its “fingernails” on the ball of Megan’s foot. So much for warm-up – Megan threw her head back and laughed at the top of her lungs. The shell of the black sphere was lafyurassium – it lit up with a red glow, collecting the ticklish energy.

    “Looks good so far,” Megan heard Adrienne say through her helpless laughter. “I’ll start with a one-tentacle series.”

    The jenerator eased off. Megan blinked away tears, looked at the mirrored image of her soles, watching them being tickled. The jenerator spread the toes on Megan’s right foot, tickling between each pair, each time getting a burst of laughter. It tickled side to side on the soft skin under her toes – Megan’s laughter was continuous. Her sole was next, starting under the little toe and working its way across – no more watching, she couldn’t muster the concentration. Megan laughed her head off as it got on the crease in the middle of her sole. Each finger-tentacle sprouted sub-tentacles, like brush bristles – they got on the ball of her foot, and her laughter went off the scale.

    The tickling tentacles moved down onto Megan’s arch, and she dropped back to normal-rated laughter. There was a spot in her arch, just behind the sole crease, where it tickled horribly – as good as the ball of the foot. The rest of the arch and the heel were a little less ticklish, but her foot was sensitized by now. Megan laughed wildly, eyes closed, tears of laughter running down her cheeks. The tentacle shifted onto Megan’s left heel and repeated the process in reverse. It wasn’t so bad now – she was in the zone, riding a tickle high.

    The jenerator finished between her toes and stopped. Megan blinked away tears and took long deep breaths.

    “Doing OK, Megan?”Adrienne asked.

    Megan took a deep breath, “I’m fine,” she replied, and oddly enough, that was true. She checked out her bare soles in the mirror – odd that they were the source of so much sensation. “C’mon, give me more.”

    This time, one tentacle tickled under Megan’s toes and down onto the soles. The other tickled her arches and heels. The jenerator was at its lowest setting, forcing a continuous stream of giggles. Megan watched the mirrored tickling – it was fun to watch, even with herself as the ticklee.

    “Increasing power,” Adrienne said. The jenerator speeded up, and Megan’s giggles morphed into laughter. It was harder to watch now, she was losing concentration from the tickling. More speed – Megan lost it and laughed her head off.

    The jenerator tickled relentlessly, kept her laughing without tickling her out – time expanded as the tickling filled her universe. Megan was in the zone now, completely overcome by the tickling, unable to form a coherent thought. She laughed and laughed – she was red faced, eyes closed, tears streaming down her cheeks.

    The fingers sprouted sub-tentacles again, and the jenerator went to its highest setting, covering Megan’s feet with unbearable tickling. That brought her back from the zone, and her laughter went off the scale. She ran out of air and laughed herself breathless. The jenerator stopped, its hands and tentacles retracted, the shell fading again to black.

    “That was 9 minutes, 17 seconds,” Adrienne said. “Not bad at all.” She did something, and the jenerator retracted back into the deck. “Well, we’re through for now. “I’ll take you back as soon as you catch your breath.”

    “That… really… tickled,” Megan gasped.

    “It’s supposed to,” Adrienne said. “You know that. These are almost new – they’re pretty reliable. It’s more fun doing it by hand, but this is a lot more uniform. It won’t tickle you out unless it’s programmed to do it, and that keeps you laughing for a lot longer than manual tickling.”

    Megan showered afterward – she needed it. She recycled her blue-and-gray outfit and dressed in pale blue like the others. She borrowed a bottle of the silver-blue polish from Melissa and repainted her nails. She ate with her shipmates, who made every effort to make her feel at home.

    Robin left after supper to spend a last night with her husband, leaving Lori in charge. Megan stayed in the common room with the others for a decent interval. Then she excused herself and settled down on her bunk to read through some more of the ship’s tech manuals.

    Anne and Bethany stuck their heads in the door a few hours later. “Time for us to introduce you to a Mandy J tradition,” Anne said.

    “We’re gonna put a top-off charge on the power banks before lights-out,” Bethany added.

    Megan’s eyes were burning by then anyway. She marked her place and shut down her reader. “How do we do that?”

    The twins shared a glance. “Tickle us pink, of course,” they said together.

    They joined the rest of the crew in the common room, and Megan bound Anne’s hands behind her. They sat in a pair of chairs, and Megan swung Anne’s feet into her lap and trapped Anne’s ankles in a leg lock. The others knew what was coming, so they found good vantage points and settled in to watch.

    “Ready for a dose of misery?” Megan asked, and started in on Anne’s feet. She tickled lightly, flicking the sensitive soles, bringing out a stream of little giggles.

    “Surely– hehe! you can – haha-hehehe! do better– haha! than that– hehe-haha!”

    “Don’t call me Shirley,” Megan said, and dug in, her manicured nails flicking and scrabbling Anne’s arches. Anne’s giggles morphed into all-out laughter. Her fair skin colored – tickled pink.

    Megan tickled both heels, up the arches and onto the sensitive soles. Anne’s toes twitched and curled and her ticklish laughter filled the room. Megan tickled the tips of Anne’s toes, between them, held them back and tickled the soft skin underneath. Still holding the toes back, she tickled the stretched-out soles. Anne thrashed and squirmed, laughing her head off at the top of her lungs. Megan had found her sweet spot – her soles and the balls of her feet.

    Anne arched her back and laughed her head off as the tickling fingernails flew over her soles. Megan scratched her right sole in the exact center, along the crease. She tickled straight across to the crease in the left sole, then drew fast, looping figure-eight’s around the balls of both feet. The loops got tighter, faster, covering every square inch of ticklish flesh. Anne went wild, laughing helplessly, red faced, tears leaking out of her closed eyes. She laughed herself breathless.

    Megan paused to give Anne some air. “How was that?” she asked.

    “Is that… the best… you can do?” Anne replied breathlessly. She took a deep breath. “You need more practice.”

    “Practice on me,” Bethany said. “Tickle spots are exactly the same,” she added helpfully.

    Megan released Anne and bound Bethany. She started slower, prolonging the tickle torture, holding Bethany on the edge without letting her zone out. She started on the heels, and Bethany laughed with wild abandon. Megan’s tickling fingernails danced on Bethany’s heels, up the arches, onto the soles. Bethany laughed and laughed while the tickling fingers lingered there, drawing figure-eights around the balls of Bethany’s feet and scrabbling the sensitive soles.

    Megan tickled Bethany’s arches just in front of the heels, with both hands, then down onto the ticklish heels. Bethany laughed uncontrollably as Megan tickled her heels, drawing circles and other random tickling shapes. Then back up the arches and onto the the soles again – Bethany laughed like a madwoman. Megan held Bethany’s toes back and tickled the sweet spots, fingernails flying as fast as she could. She tickled Bethany breathless too.

    Lori stood up. “Fun’s over,” she said. “We’ve got a full day tomorrow. Get some rest, all of you.”

    “Were we really charging the power banks?” Megan asked.

    “Nah, ” the twins said, grinning.

    “You should know– ” Anne started.

    “ –it doesen’t work that way,” Bethany continued.

    “It’s just for– ”

    “–the fun of it!”

    “Good night, shipmate!” they finished in chorus.

    Megan was asleep as soon as her head touched the pillow.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Location
    Alabama
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    1,830

    (continued)

    Part 2

    The crew breakfasted together. Robin hadn’t returned yet from her overnighter. Lori was wearing a shipsuit – she had a last load of cargo to arrange, and then another prospective Lee to interview. The others were barefoot, in jerseys and shorts – they would be working on board today.

    This was a small crew, fewer to share the rewards but more work for everyone. That made cross-training a necessity. Some tasks, everyone had to master.

    “I’m gonna let you calibrate a jenerator,” Adrienne said. “Think you can handle it?”

    “I think so,” Megan replied. “Who’s the Lee?”

    “Me,” Julie said. “Just tickle me like you did Anne and Bethany last night, and you’ll do OK.”

    The first stop was the nail salon. It wasn’t a terribly difficult task – Julie had just had a pedicure a few days before – but Megan did it by the numbers and was rewarded with streams of wild laughter. She checked carefully for calluses afterward, lightly flicking her nails on Julie’s right heel. She flicked and scratched her way up the arch, held the toes back and tickled the soles. She tickled the soft skin under Julie’s toes, spread the toes and tickled between each pair, and finished by scratching the tip of each toe. Julie was incredibly ticklish – Megan got great reactions with everything she did. She repeated the process on the left foot. Julie laughed like a crazy woman through it all, tears of laughter rolling down her cheeks.

    Satisfied, Megan quit and released Julie. “Woo!” Julie said. “That really tickled! Not too shabby, shipmate!”

    The power room was next. Megan put Julie in the first chair and tentacled her in. She turned to Adrienne. “How do you want to go about this?”

    “Start from the beginning, like she was a new Lee,” Adrienne replied. “Call her Amy.”

    That was to prevent this calibration from overwriting the existing data. Megan set the system up in “Calibrate-Amy” mode at the control panel. Manual tickling would start the process – the jenerator had to start off “do-as-I-do”. Since this was an intelligent system, it would learn by doing, but it required that the initial setup be competently done. Beyond that, the real test of a good tickler was how fast the machine locked in.

    Megan walked over to Julie’s bound feet. “Brace yourself, “Amy”, here it comes!” she said.

    “Do your worst,” Julie said.

    Megan started off flicking the tips of Julie’s toes. The girl burst into laughter – the ticklish pedicure had sensitized her feet. Megan made a Peace sign and scratched both big toes, and Julie’s laughter went up a notch. She spread the toes and tickled in between, bringing forth stream after stream of ticklish laughter. She held them back and tickled the soft skin underneath, side to side, and Julie’s laughter went off the scale.

    This was more like it! Megan tickled onto the stretched out soles and gave each one some serious tickle torture, gauging ticklishness by the sound of Julie’s ticklish laughter. She tickled the crease in the exact center of the right foot, across the balls of both feet, and onto the crease on the left sole. Her well-manicured nails flicked and scratched – Julie laughed like a madwoman.

    Julie’s arches were next. Megan tickled two-handed, drawing various tickling shapes. Then the heels – she covered them with tiny nail flicks. Julie was in the zone now, laughing wildly, tears running down her cheeks.

    Megan tickled Julie’s heels while she evaluated her tickling exploration. Julie’s feet were insanely ticklish everywhere – she didn’t seem to have a sweet spot. That made tickling her easier in one way – anything Megan did would get a great reaction. The downside was that a deft touch was needed to keep from tickling her out. Hmm… It would be like the way she had tickle-tortured a school friend. She had won a wager by tickling Courtney’s feet for 20 minutes – the girl was so ticklish that everybody else had tickled her out in under ten, despite the care they took not to do so.

    Julie was laughing her head off, but didn’t seem to be in any distress. Megan picked up the pace, covering the girl’s heels with tiny tickling nail flicks. Julie laughed and laughed as Megan tickled up her arches and onto her soles, her toes twitching and wiggling. Megan tickled between the toes while Julie’s wild laughter filled the air. She held Julie’s toes back and tickled under them, then covered both soles with fast nail flicks, not making much contact but tickling like crazy. She released the toes and tickled both feet two-handed, toes to heels and back, over and over. Finally she speeded up and tickled Julie into gasping silent laughter.

    Julie sat with her head down, gasping for air, trying to get her breathing and heart rate normal again. She was sweaty, hair messed up, cheeks streaked with tears. But she had amazing stamina – she grinned at Megan.

    “You’re… pretty good… at this…” Julie gasped.

    Megan grinned back. “Natural talent.” She left Julie and got busy at the control console. Adrienne watched wordlessly, not missing a thing.

    “Ready for some more?” Megan asked.

    Julie nodded. Megan started the jenerator – it rose smoothly on its stalk from its well in the deck . One more fast instrument check, and she enabled the tickle function. It sprouted hands and started tickling. Julie threw her head back and laughed at the top of her lungs – the jenerator glowed cherry red, absorbing the ticklish energy.

    Megan monitored the jenerator while Julie laughed and laughed. It settled down quickly, getting great reactions as it tickled both feet. In just a few minutes, it was tickling efficiently and relentlessly. Julie zoned out, laughing like a madwoman.

    Megan monitored the jenerator for another five minutes. Julie was red faced, eyes closed, tears running down her cheeks as she laughed her head off. Good enough – Megan engaged the maximum power override. The jenerator speeded up and tickled Julie’s breath away, then shut down and turned dark, its tickling hands retracted.

    Megan retracted the jenerator into its deck well and released Julie. Julie gulped down a glass of water and brushed her hair back out of her face. “Outstanding!” she said. “Looks like you’re gonna give Melissa and Amanda some competition for Best Tickler.”

    “You’re good, but you enjoyed it too much,” Adrienne said. “You need to guard against that, because it colors your judgement. This isn’t recreational tickling, it’s a serious business. Now let’s look at the data.”

    The console printed out two diagrams of Julie’s feet, like reflexology charts, one labeled “Julie” and the other “Amy”. They were nearly identical, and the jenerator’s lock-in time was only one minute longer than the previous calibration.

    “You did well, Megan,” Adrienne said. “And now, it’s time for the Grand Tour.”

    “You’ll be bilge-crawling by the time you’re finished,” Julie said. “Not afraid to get dirty, are you?”

    “Not at all,” Megan said. “I’ve never been so dirty that soap and water wouldn’t take it off.”

    “Manuals are all well and good,” Adrienne said. “But you can’t really learn a system until you see the pieces and put your hands on them. That’s what you’ll be doing next.”

    “So we’re going bilge-crawling, like Julie said,” Megan said.

    “Yep. Come on.”

    Megan hadn’t had a chance to explore the ship the day before. Now, Adrienne led Megan on a top-to-bottom tour.

    The bridge was pretty basic – a room with two work stations for the pilot and co-pilot, a master station that was used to configure the controls, numerous instrument readouts and auxiliary controls. As Megan expected, there were no view-screens – that function was done by Virtual Reality.

    The passenger staterooms and the crew’s cabins were all the same. Robin’s and Lori’s cabins on the bridge level differed only in having just a top bunk, with a desk in place of the lower bunk – they used the space underneath as private offices. On the main accomodation level, Adrienne bunked with Amanda, Anne with Bethany, Melissa with Julie. The new Lee would be Megan’s bunkmate. The other two cabins were for passengers, if or when they got any.

    The tour included not just the habitable spaces, but the cargo holds, the service passageways and the utility trunks too. Both girls were rumpled and grubby by the time they finished, and Megan felt like she was about to burst from information overload. But it was all starting to come together – she felt like she was really getting to know the ship.

    “Let’s break for lunch,”Adrienne said. “Hungry?”

    Megan was ravenous.

    They cleaned themselves up and took their lunch with the rest of the crew in the common room. Robin was back aboard by then. “Megan, have you ever handled a ship’s boat?” she asked.

    “We learned at the trade school,” Megan said.

    “I want to see how you do as a boat pilot,” Robin said. “What you’re wearing is OK. Bring shoes in case we have to walk back. Meet me in the boat bay.”

    Megan found Robin and Melissa in the boat bay. “Melissa’s your Lee,” Robin said. “Start from the beginning, by the numbers.”

    Like the ship, the boats was powered by lafyurassium – that made them independent of fuel supply. This one didn’t look very boat-like. It was about 3 meters wide and 10 meters long, with an open cockpit in front and an open cargo compartment behind. The hull was designed for water landings, not navigation – it was flat-bottomed, with a bluff bow, square stern and rudimentary keel. It sat on three self-leveling jacks, one at the front and two behind. A door on the right side opened downward to provide a step. An identical boat hung suspended in cradles overhead with landing jacks retracted – shipboard space was always at a premium. Both had the same sort of chameleon coating as the ship – they were dull beige, like the paint on the boat bay bulkheads.

    The pilot sat in the front right-hand seat. The Lee sat in the front left seat, another armless recliner like the ones in the power room. It faced inboard – in operating position, the Lee’s bare soles were toward the pilot. On the front panel next to the ankle rest was a rack that held a mini-jenerator, a dull-black sphere the size of a cantaloupe. A forward-facing bench seat was behind the others, wide enough for four people.

    Even just one girlpower was far in excess of a boat’s power requirements, so boat drives ran off an onboard accumulator. The jenerator tickled the Lee’s feet to charge the accumulator, then tickled her as needed to maintain a minimum 75% charge.

    Megan sat in the pilot’s bucket seat, found the ear bug and throat mike and put them on – the devices allowed hands-free communication. The seat had armrests, with a control lever on each.

    The neutral direction of the drive thrust vector was straight up. The lever on the right armrest tilted the thrust vector, allowing for forward, backward or sideways movement. The head of the lever had three buttons – the left and right ones turned the running and landing lights on and off, the guarded middle button raised and lowered the landing jacks.

    The lever on the left had a twist grip throttle. The lever varied the thrust – as it was moved backward, thrust increased. The controls were interactive – with the lever all the way back, the throttle automatically advanced to full power. The lever head had a start/stop button on the left. The right button was a selector – forward for jenerator power, rear for external broadcast power.

    The controls were completed by a pair of torque pedals at floor level, connected by a pivoted bar. They rotated the boat around its thrust axis. Megan slipped off her shoes and stowed them under the seat – she liked the extra tactile feedback she got through her bare soles. Melissa hadn’t bothered with shoes – she sat in the tickle seat. Robin sat on the bench seat to observe.

    Megan took her time and pre-flighted the boat. She engaged the start button and moved the selector forward, and the Heads-Up-Display over the dashboard lit up. The mini-jenerator positioned itself at Melissa’s feet – a glowing legend in the lower right corner of the HUD said JENERATOR.

    Megan advanced the throttle a few degrees. The jenerator tickled Melissa’s soles – the blonde burst into ticklish laughter. Megan bumped the throttle upward – Melissa laughed harder, and the accumulator charging rate increased. When the jenerator stopped tickling, Megan checked her HUD. The accumulator was fully charged, the drive was hot and idling. She took a deep breath – please, don’t let me screw up, she thought.

    Megan lifted off the deck, eased forward and out, then allowed the boat to settle, hovering a few inches above the concrete landing pad. The surface coating obligingly shifted color to mottled gray. She engaged another control, and the landing legs retracted with a thump.

    Port Manston was on a west-facing seashore, south of an industrial and seaport city of the same name. They had plenty of nearby destinations to choose from. “Where to?” Megan asked.

    “Take the port service road west to the seashore,” Robin said. “Stay low and slow until you’re across the shoreline. Then rise to 5 meters and hover.”

    Megan eased the left lever backward, tilted the right lever forward and moved onto the road. She centered the right lever, rotated the boat, then moved forward again. Across the shoreline, she centered the right lever again and added a little more throttle. Melissa laughed like mad as the jenerator re-started.

    “Flying over water is deceptive,” Robin said over Melissa’s laughter. “It’s hard to judge your altitude just by looking. If you keep at least 5 meters under the keel, that gets you above the wave action. And if you screw up, a 5-meter fall isn’t much fun, but it’s survivable.”

    Melissa’s jenerator quit – the blonde saw Megan’s apprehensive look. “You’re… doing fine… so far… ” she said breathlessly.

    “You are,” Robin agreed. “There’s a surface ship bearing southwest. Intercept her, then come around on her port side. Set a parallel course at 100 meters distance and match her speed.”

    Megan did as she was told. With the boat essentially unloaded, the jenerator tickled Melissa about a minute out of every four or five. “This is hardly worth the effort,” Melissa grumbled as they loafed along at 15 knots. “I can stand lots more.”

    “Now make a water landing,” Robin said. Megan centered the right lever and backed off on the throttle. The boat settled onto the sea and started to rock in time with the waves.

    Megan’s stomach rolled with the waves. “Can I… take off again?” she asked.

    “Seasick?” Melissa asked with an evil grin. “There’s a cure for that. A nice, greasy fried fish sandwich, some cold soggy fries with lots of ketchup, and a warm beer to wash it down.”

    “Ulp! Please!” Megan said, trying desperately to keep her breakfast down.

    “Hey Boss, all this was kid stuff,” Melissa said. “Let’s see what Megan can do.”

    “You mean– ” Robin started.

    “Yep,” Melissa said, grinning.

    “OK, Megan, take off again,” Robin said. “Make a fast climb to 300 meters, and make your speed 100 knots on a course due west.”

    “That’s more like it– WAH-HAHAHA!” Melissa said and laughed as the drive engaged.

    “Give it a little more throttle,” Robin said. “That’ll keep her laughing for a while.” Melissa’s laughter went up a notch, stayed there a while, then dropped back to giggles as Megan leveled off at her new altitude and speed.

    “Hehehe! Gimme– haheha! –more– hahaha!” Melissa said and giggled. “Shit!” she added as the jenerator quit.

    Megan reached over, gave Melissa’s feet a quick tickle and was rewarded with a burst of laughter. The boat surged and rocked.

    “Pay attention!” Robin said sharply.

    “Sorry,” Megan said contritely. “I guess I got carried away. What next?”

    “Visibility is practically nonexistent below and behind you,” Robin said. “If someone’s following you with bad intentions, that’s where they’ll be. Show me what you’d do to find out.”

    Megan executed a maneuver called, for reasons lost in the mists of time, a “Crazy Ivan”. She kicked the left rotation pedal, shoved the right lever forward and pulled the left lever back against its stop. Melissa threw back her head and howled with forced mirth. The boat heeled hard over, came around sharply and accelerated on a reciprocal course, nose angled downward.

    “Whoa!” Robin said, frowning. “Slow down! Good thing we have plenty of air space. Who taught you the Crazy Ivan?”

    “I… I heard about it at school,” Megan said apprehensively. She backed off – Melissa’s jenerator quit and left her gasping for air.

    “Ever do it before?” Robin asked.

    “Once– ”

    “–and got a bunch of demerits for doing it,” Robin completed the thought.

    “I was a full-time ticklee until I worked ‘em all off,” Megan said. “Spent a week laughing my head off.”

    “Your instructors went easy on you,” Melissa said – she had her breath back. “Two weeks for me. I thought my toes were gonna fall off, and I loved it! Let’s do that again! AH-HAHAHAHA!”

    “No, I’ve seen all I need to see,” Robin said. “You’re a little heavy-handed, but practice will fix that. Take us back.”

    Relief flooded over Megan – she hadn’t screwed up after all! “Thanks, Robin,” she said. “On our way.”

    Lori was waiting in the boat bay with Amanda when they got back aboard. They were dressed in shore clothes – summer tops, short skirts, sandals. “Megan, change into clothes like these,” Lori said. “You’ll need shoes too, sandals preferably. Meet me back here in the boat bay.”

    Megan went to change, and Melissa came along. “That last part was a test, you know,” Melissa said as they headed up to the crew level.

    “I thought the whole thing– ” Megan started.

    “Nope,” Melissa interrupted. “Robin already knew by then that you could fly the boat. She wanted to find out who you really are.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    “Looks like we had you figured all wrong,” Melissa said. “You come across as serious and reserved, like Lori or Adrienne, or Robin too, for that matter. But that’s not who you are. Underneath, I think you’re more like me.

    “If someone’s following you close, a Crazy Ivan puts you at risk of a mid-air collision,” Melissa continued. “Someone steady and cautious like Robin would fly in a tight circle and evaluate what she saw before doing anything else. Instead, you swapped ends and came right at ‘em. Just like I would.”

    “Why parry and riposte if you can counter?” Megan said.

    “Fencing, eh?” Melissa said. “That fits too. Some of the places we go, it may even come in handy. We’ll have to do some sparring.”

    “I’d like that.”

    “Meanwhile, Megan has work to do,” Robin said from behind them.

    “The boss is always right,” Melissa said. “Se ya, shipmate!”

    Wonder what this is all about, Megan thought as she re-entered the boat bay. They were all dressed for pub-crawling. Unless you knew what to look for, they didn’t look like a ship’s crew. A casual observer might think they were friends on an outing.

    Amanda took the pilot’s seat, Lori sat behind. Megan automatically stepped out of her sandals and headed for the tickle seat.

    Amanda stopped her. “We’ve got broadcast power available,” she said. “Just have a seat – no sense working any harder than you need to.”

    Megan retrieved her shoes and did as she was told. Amanda powered up – the HUD over the dashboard lit up. A glowing legend in the lower right corner said BROADCAST POWER. Amanda lifted off and eased out of the boat bay. She retracted the landing legs, headed seaward and crossed the shoreline. A kilometer offshore, she turned north and accelerated smoothly.

    The land hereabouts was flat, ancient sea bottom from the time of this planet’s last interglacial period. It was marshy between the spaceport and Manston City, where Lympne Creek meandered through on its way to the sea – no one had ever tried to build here. But just north of the spaceport was a hill, formerly an island, now joined to the mainland. There, storms and the prevailing westerly winds had built up a beach and a system of dunes – enough area for a few cottages and such.

    The place was called Biggin Hill. It was a little run down, the beach wasn’t as nice as the beaches further south. But it was accessible by public transportation, so the beach bars and other attractions had plenty of customers. Megan had been there many times. Amanda turned inland and set the boat down in a corner of an empty lot.

    “Now we walk,” Lori said. “Everybody out.”

    They walked a kilometer or so to a beach bar, one that had a view of the sea beyond. Megan knew the place – it would be jumping on a Friday or Saturday night, but on a weekday late afternoon, it wasn’t busy. There was no one inside – a sign propped up on the bar directed them to the outside terrace facing the beach.

    “Why are we here?” Megan asked.

    “I like the food,” Lori answered in a tone that invited no dissent. “Come on.”

    They passed through. Only a few drinkers sat at the outside bar and tables. The rest of the patrons were presumably on the beach. A bartender and a waitress, both in summer clothes, stood talking with each other and looking bored to death.

    The girls took a table and ordered. The menu was about what Megan expected, heavy on fried food, but the fish was actually pretty good. They washed it down with mugs of a local brew that wasn’t bad either.

    Lori paid and left a middling tip, one that would be completely unmemorable. “Let’s take a walk on the beach,” she said, and took off her sandals.

    Mystified, Megan did the same. The early evening was clear but breezy, starting to get just a little chilly. The girls ambled along the high tide line, making small talk. After a while, Amanda grinned and said, “Hey Megan, it’s Monday!”

    “What’s special about Monday?” Megan asked.

    “Another ship’s custom,” Amanda answered. “The weekly foot-tickling fight.”

    Lori sighed. “I guess I’m the referee,” she said. “There’s a tickle fight every week,” she explained to Megan. “Winner gets a prize.”

    “What’s the– ” Megan started.

    “You’ll see,” Lori interrupted. “Assume the position – you know the drill.”

    Megan and Amanda sat close on the sandy beach, facing each other. They extended their right legs and drew up their left. Each girl got a firm grip on her opponent’s right foot with her left hand.

    “Count with me, and start on three,” Lori said.

    The girls counted in chorus. “One, two, THREE!”

    Megan and Amanda flicked the nails of their right hands on the bottom of their opponent’s trapped foot, fast as they could. Both burst into ticklish laughter, each trying to tickle the other out and avoid the same fate herself. Their fingernails flicked and scratched, each covering the other’s foot with fiendish and well-techniqued tickling. They seemed evenly matched – both laughed like mad, red faced, tears of laughter streaming down their faces.

    Megan concentrated on the ball of Amanda’s foot, behind the big toe – Amanda, on the exact center of Megan’s sole. Megan’s toes twitched and curled as she laughed and laughed – it was an added challenge for Amanda, laughing wildly herself, trying desperately to hang on. They both laughed like madwomen, tickling as fast as they could, as time expanded and the tickling filled their consciousness.

    Megan was a tickle-fight champion at school, and should have been able to hold her own. But Amanda got lucky, and found just the right rhythm. Megan was losing it, coordination failing – Amanda was just giggling while her red-faced opponent laughed her head off. It was only a matter of time now–

    Megan lost it and quit tickling, swaying and laughing at the top of her lungs.

    Amanda giggled as the tickling sensation faded, then tickled faster as fine motor control returned. “Gotcha!” she said triumphantly. “Now you’re really gonna laugh!” And Megan did just that – the ticklish laughter poured out in a solid stream. But she summoned up some reserve of strength – she grabbed Amanda’s foot again. She shifted her grip, still laughing helplessly, and held Amanda’s toes back. Her nails danced across the stretched out sole, tickling the sweet spot mercilessly, and now Amanda laughed again, wave after wave of ticklish laughter pouring out. Both girls laughed at the top of their lungs, tickling the sweet spots furiously. The contest was one of endurance now – who would lose it first?

    Amanda’s laughter went off the scale. She collapsed onto her back – her strength was gone, tickled away. Megan eased off a little, flicking and scratching from sole to heel, producing a steady stream of giggles. “Give up?” she asked.

    “Haha! Yes, I give! Hehe! You– hehe-haha! –win! Haha-hehe-hahaha!” Amanda said and giggled.

    “I can’t hear you!” Megan said. She scooped up Amanda’s ankles in an arm lock and dug in, tickling the balls of both feet. Amanda arched her back and laughed at the top of her lungs.

    The tickle fight had attracted onlookers. Megan saw money changing hands – some of the lookers must have made bets on the outcome. “We’re attracting a lot of attention,” she said to Lori over Amanda’s ticklish laughter.

    “Not a problem – lots of bizarre shit happens here.” There was probably more to it, but Megan let it ride – if the others weren’t concerned, she wasn’t either. And anyway, tickling Amanda’s feet was fun!

    Amanda’s feet were sensitized, and Megan took full advantage.. She tickled Amanda’s soles, making the toes twitch and curl. She tickled down into the arches, drawing circles, squares, figure-eight’s and other tickling shapes. There was a spot in the arch, just behind the middle of the sole, that gave especially good results. Megan circled a single nail there on one foot, and Amanda went crazy, laughing like mad and trying desperately to escape. She tapped out – slapped the ground twice, hard, with an open hand.

    “Enough, Megan!” Lori said. “She tapped out. You won.”

    “Oops! Sorry!” Megan said. “I was enjoying myself too much, I guess.” She gave Amanda’s feet one more burst of nail flicks, enjoying the laughter, then quit and released her. “You’re gonna have to do better than that,” she said.

    Amanda drew her knees up and laid there gasping. “No kidding!” she said, and drew a deep breath. “That tickled so much!” She shuffled her feet in the sand to get the tickle off, then sat up. “OK, you win the prize.”

    “I’m the prize,” Lori explained. “Winner gets to tickle the referee silly.”

    “You’re gonna enjoy tickling Lori,” Amanda said cheerfully. “She’s such a sobersides, it’s lots of fun to make her let go and laugh.”

    “You’re OK with this?” Megan asked.

    “Sure,” Lori said. “Like she said, it’s ship’s custom.”

    Megan bound Lori’s hands behind her. Both girls sat, and Megan trapped Lori’s ankles in a leg lock. “OK, let’s get it over with,” Lori said.

    “You’re no fun,” Megan said. She gently circled a single nail around the ball of a trapped foot, forcing a cheerful stream of girlish giggles. “You’re just giggling. I want to hear you laugh.” She flicked her nail-tips in the arch with a guitar-chording motion – Lori’s giggles morphed into solid laughter. Megan spider-walked her nails along a sole crease. Lori bucked and squirmed and laughed like a madwoman.

    Megan held back Lori’s toes and tickled the stretched out soles. Lori laughed like mad as Megan scratched the crease in the center of the right sole. She made a Peace sign and scratched the balls of both feet, just behind the big toes where it tickled horribly. She tickled the soft skin under the toes, then released the toes and tickled the soles two-handed. Lori laughed wildly, toes twitching and curling, tears of laughter running down her cheeks.

    Lori laughed helplessly as Megan spider walked her nails in both arches, not making much contact but tickling like crazy. Megan flicked and scratched with both hands, four nail strokes in succession, three times a second – Lori laughed her head off, red-faced and sweaty, tears streaming. Megan made a claw of her right hand and raked the nails down one foot, drawing four fast parallel zig-zag lines and using just enough pressure to tickle unbearably. She repeated the foot rake, left-right-and-repeat, over and over – Lori’s laughter went off the scale.

    Megan flicked the arches, faster now, nail tips dancing on ticklish flesh – Lori was losing it, laughing her head off, lost in ticklish delirium. Then Megan tickled at the back of the arches and onto the heels, fast as she could, and tickled Lori into gasping, red faced silent laughter.

    “Hey, aint’cha gonna tickle Slim too?” one of the spectators asked, pointing at a slender brunette girl nearby.

    “Nah, she’s not with us,” Amanda said.

    “Show’s over, folks,” Lori added.

    The onlookers drifted away, all but the young brunette. She was about 19 or 20, petite and pretty, with wavy shoulder-length hair, green-flecked hazel eyes, and a perky smile that dimpled her cheeks. Even though it was summer, she had no discernible tan. She was barefoot, wearing ragged cutoff shorts and a t-shirt that had once been white. She looked like she had spent the last few nights sleeping on the beach.

    The girl approached them. “I’m out of work,” she said, smiling ingratiatingly. “Could you spare me some cash for a meal?”

    Lori’s hand came out of her side pocket and pressed something into the girl’s hand. “Here – go away and stop bothering us,” Lori said brusquely. “Get a job.”

    “Thank you!” the girl said. “I’ve been trying, really I have!”

    “OK, OK, beat it!” Amanda said. “C’mon, Chief, let’s get back to the ship.”

    What was that all about, wondered Megan. She turned to Lori, but saw the look on the Chief Officer’s face and held her tongue.

    Back aboard, Megan changed back into her Lee clothes, got her reader and brought it back to the common room to do more studying. She had been a good student, but she realized now that she was working harder than she ever had at school. Incentive had a lot to do with it – this was for real.

    Robin and Lori went elsewhere to do paperwork (odd how that archaic term still hung on!) Adrienne and Amanda were going over a list of spare parts at the other end of the common room. Anne and Bethany played a game of chess, Melissa and Julie were reading.

    Megan marked her place and quit after three hours. “Seems to me it’s about time to charge the power banks,” she announced to the room. “Anybody want to tickle my feet?”

    Melissa grinned an evil grin. “Sure you’re up to it, shipmate?” she asked.

    Megan didn’t love to be tickled, but she desperately wanted to fit in. She nodded, and noticed that the others were grinning too. Oh shit, she thought. I’m in for it now!

    “Let’s do it here,” Melissa said. “Hogtie OK?”

    Megan laid down on the resilient deck and submitted to the hogtie. Melissa kneeled at Megan’s bound feet and placed a knee on either side of Megan’s to prevent a rollover. She cracked her knuckles and traced a fingernail in a circle around the ball of Megan’s left foot.

    “Hey! Hehehe! Don’t te– hehehaha! tease! Hehe! Tic– hahaha! tickle me– hehehe!” Megan said through the giggles.

    “You asked for it,” Melissa said, and dug in. Megan arched her back and laughed her head off. “D’you like that better?”

    But Megan wasn’t capable of speech – she was laughing too hard.

    Melissa tickled between Megan’s toes, held them back and tickled under them, circled a nail on and around the balls of both feet in a big figure-eight. Those were the sweet spots – the exact center of Megan’s soles, along the creases, and the balls of her feet. It really, really tickled – Megan’s laughter went off the chart.

    Melissa tickled down Megan’s arches, onto the heels, and back up to the soles, watching the toes twitch and curl as streams of laughter poured out of Megan. Then holding Megan’s toes back, tickling the sweet spots on one foot, across to the other, back onto the balls of the feet again. Megan laughed and laughed as Melissa tickled from the left to the right and back again, over and over. Melissa speeded up, fingernails flying – Megan lost it and laughed herself breathless.

    “You’re pretty ticklish, aren’t you?” Melissa asked. “I’ll have to be more careful next time. Doing OK so far?”

    “Yah… I’m… fine…” Megan gasped out.

    “Her feet are dirty,” Julie said. “I’ll have to do something about that.”

    “Brush and soapy water?” Melissa asked.

    “Nah – I’ll use my nails,” Julie said. “Prepare yourself, Megan – I’m gonna tickle ‘em clean! You’re really gonna get it!”

    “Oh shit! HA-HAHA-HAHAHAHA!” Megan laughed as Julie went to work on her sensitive soles. Julie covered both feet with tiny tickling nail flicks. Megan squirmed, laughing at the top of her lungs, trying desperately to pull her feet away. But she couldn’t escape – all she could do was lay there and laugh like mad as Julie’s tickling fingernails scratched and flicked.

    Julie tickled skillfully and inventively. Megan laughed and laughed – she bucked violently, laughing wildly, trying desperately to escape the tickling. Julie tickled Megan’s soles mercilessly. She held the girl’s toes back and tickled side to side across both stretched out soles, giving the creases in the center a few extra nail flicks each time, her helpless laughter filling the air. Julie speeded up, tickling at warp speed, and tickled Megan into red-faced silent laughter.

    Megan laid there, breathing hard, trying desperately to get her heart rate normal again. The tickling was horrible – it was driving her crazy!

    “Hey Megan, did that tickle?” Julie asked.

    No answer – Megan was still too breathless.

    “Guess she’s not sure,” Anne said. “Move over, Julie.” She took Julie’s place and circled a nail around the ball of Megan’s left foot. “Maybe this’ll help her make up her mind.”

    “Hehehe!” Megan giggled. “NOOOO! Sta– haha! –ap! HAHAHA! No more! Hehe! Please, no– haha! –more! HAHAHA-HA-HAHAHA!” Megan laughed and begged as Anne’s fingernails roamed over her ticklish feet.

    “Hey!” Julie said. “Take it easy – she’s not like us.”

    “She’ll be OK,” Melissa said. “She’s tough. Get her good, Anne.”

    “Hear that? Comin’ at ya, Megan!” Anne said. She tickled Megan’s soles – Megan’s toes twitched and curled as she laughed like mad.

    Anne held Megan’s toes apart two by two, tickling between each pair. She held the toes back and tickled under them. Megan laughed at the top of her lungs as Anne drew circles around the balls of her feet, then scratched and scrabbled the soles in the exact center, along the crease.

    The tickling went into overload as Bethany joined her twin. They flicked their nails in Megan’s arches, drew circles, squares and other tickling shapes on her heels – Megan laughed harder, tears of laughter rolling down her cheeks. And then Anne quit and left Megan to Bethany – she tickled up Megan’s arches onto the soles. Bethany flicked and scratched the soles and balls of Megan’s feet, tickling at warp speed, and Megan’s laughter went off the chart. She laughed and laughed until she ran out of air.

    Bethany turned Megan loose. Megan was sweaty, cheeks tear-streaked, gasping for air. Her ribs and abs hurt from laughing.

    “I hope you enjoyed that as much as we did,” Melissa said, and gave Megan a hand up.

    To her surprise, Megan discovered that she had. The actual tickling had driven her wild. Now, though, she felt exhilirated – the aerobic exercise and the laughing had released a flood of endorphins. Was that why some women loved to be tickled? Was she like them?

    “Fun’s over – let’s get some rest,” Adrienne said. “We’ll need you all tomorrow – we’re gonna lift ship as soon as we pick up the new Lee and load the last of the cargo.”

    Megan showered and put on clean clothes – she needed it after the day’s work and the ticklish workout. That meant that she was going to be the last one to bed… or so she thought… She heard laughter from the common room and went to investigate.

    Melissa was in a chair with her hands bound behind her, laughing her head off. Robin’s nails danced on the ticklish soles – she had Melissa’s ankles trapped in a simple leg lock. Melissa’s ankles were resting on Robin’s right thigh, with the left thigh over and the left foot tucked behind the right calf to anchor it. But it seemed superfluous, because Melissa wasn’t struggling at all.

    “Captain?” Megan said. “I heard… ”

    Robin stopped tickling. “Come in, Megan, and have a seat,” she said quietly. “And call me Robin – we’re all friends here.”

    Melissa took a deep breath, then looked over at Megan. “This isn’t… what you think,” she said. “Robin isn’t exercising a captain’s perogative, she doesen’t do that.”

    “Then what…?” Megan started, confused.

    “Robin’s my oldest and best friend,” Melissa said. “We’ve been shipmates since my first trip out.”

    “My third,” Robin said. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a Lee anymore. One more trip, and I was going to look for other work when we got back. We roomed together, and the first thing she did was jump me and tickle me silly. Pissed me off.”

    “Did it so you’d get even,” Melissa said. “She did, and more besides. We made an agreement. She got to tickle my feet as much as she wanted. In return, I could tickle hers any time I asked.”

    “But… ” Megan started.

    “I know what you’re thinking,” Robin said. “Think again about what she just said. I enjoyed tickling her, so I tickled her a lot. She was always ready for more. But if she didn’t think I was doing it enough… ”

    “I tickled the shit out of her to encourage her,” Melissa finished the thought. “She’s not like me, so… ”

    “No, Megan, I never really minded Melissa tickling me,” Robin said. “She enjoyed making me laugh, so I played along. Kinda fun, really. I even got to like it, at least a little.”

    Megan understood that. The four-on-one tickle torture earlier that night had been an example.

    “We’ve been at it ever since that trip,” Melissa said. “It’s a lot of fun for both of us.” She wiggled her toes. “Sometimes more than others. If you don’t start tickling me again, I’m gonna ask you to untie me so I can tickle you.”

    Robin sighed. “The things I do for you!” she said, and circled a nail on the ball of Melissa’s foot. “How’s that?”

    “Hehehe! Not good– haha! –enough,” Melissa giggled out. “Haha-hehe! Untie– hehehe!”

    “Nope, not this time,” Robin said. She tickled a sole with one hand, a heel with the other, then countermarched her hands the length of both feet. Melissa arched her back and laughed like mad, loving every bit of it.

    Robin knew every tickle spot, and tickled them all. Melissa howled with forced mirth as Robin spider-walked her fingernails all over the bottoms of both feet, heels to toes and back again. Robin tickled both heels, scratching in circles and figure-eight’s. She danced her nails lightly up the arches to the balls of Melissa’s feet, not making much contact but tickling like crazy. She spread Melissa’s toes apart to tickle between them, held them back and scratched the tender skin underneath. Still holding the toes back, she flicked her fingernails up and down the crease in the exact middle of the right sole, and Melissa’s laughter went off the chart.

    Megan slipped away, and went to bed in a thoughtful frame of mind. Maybe there’s more to this than I knew, she thought.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Location
    Alabama
    Posts
    1,830

    (continued)

    Part 3

    After breakfast the next day, Lori and Robin changed into shipsuits and debarked. Lori went to the terminal and returned with the flatbed carrying their cargo. She had hired casual laborers to assist.

    Robin checked the various items off on a pocket comp. Lori stood by, watching, with her hand resting on a long wand clipped to her belt. The entry portal stayed locked – so did the hatches from the hold to the inner ring corridor.

    “Is that what I think it is?” Megan whispered to Melissa.

    “The wand? Yah, it’s a snare field wand. Law enforcement grade. You need to know how to use one – I’ll teach you after we land on Santiago III.”

    The snare field was kind of a neat trick, Megan thought. It was non-lethal and defensive in nature. It didn’t affect reflexes or the body’s automatic internal functions, but someone under the field’s influence was frozen, unable to move a single voluntary muscle. It had an anti-gravity feature too, handy for moving frozen subjects around.

    “I thought those were for police use only,” Megan said.

    “We go to some rough places,” Melissa replied. “This is one of them – no telling who some of those lowlife are that Lori hired.”

    Robin paid the workers in cash and sent them on their way. The loading hatch was still open, the ramp extended. A last minute check?

    “OK, you can come out now,” Robin called.

    One of the laborers came down the ramp. She wore a grimy coverall of indeterminate color that was too big for her, as if she had lost a lot of weight. No – the coverall had been made for someone bigger and taller – the cuffs and sleeves were rolled up at least two turns. She shuffled a little – the shoes were a little too big as well.

    “This is Diana Baldwin,” Robin told the others. “She’s our new Lee. There’s some problems with her papers, so we decided to avoid unnecessary formalities.”

    “Hi, everybody!” Diana called out.

    The hazel-eyed brunette from the beach! Megan looked over at Lori – Lori looked back, expressionless, and shook her head.

    Robin clicked the portal open. “Let’s get aboard. Adrienne, take Diana straight to the power room – calibrate her jenerator right now. Megan, Julie, go with them. Let’s go, people!”

    Megan and Julie powered the ship for the last-minute ground checks. Adrienne monitored them closely – each got a three-minute break between three-minute jenerator cycles. Meanwhile, she tickled Diana’s feet, setting up another jenerator. Diana was an active Lee, squirming and struggling as she laughed and laughed. She had a great tickle laugh too, a clear soprano, and bigger than Megan would have expected from someone her size.

    Diana’s jenerator started, and the girl howled with forced mirth. Adrienne cycled it on and off, made a few adjustments. Satisfied, she added it to the automatic sequence – six minutes of tickling, three minutes off. Megan’s jenerator stopped, leaving just Julie and Diana laughing. She blinked away tears and looked over at her new shipmate. Diana was red faced, eyes closed, laughing helplessly – her feet were really ticklish!

    The other Lees took their stations and were tentacled down. Adrienne put the jenerators through two complete cycles before they lifted. Megan watched the tickling in the mirror on top of her jenerator – she had always enjoyed seeing jenerators in operation, even as a little girl. Diana laughed for six minutes, then Julie, then Bethany. Her turn was next – she howled with forced mirth as the lafyurassium sphere flicked and brushed her ticklish feet. Anne laughed next, and finally Melissa. When Melissa’s jenerator timed out the second time, there was a short pause, and then the other five started at once. The Lees laughed like maniacs, tears of laughter running down their cheeks.

    “On our way to orbital insertion,” Adrienne said. “Might as well relax and enjoy it.”

    Megan laughed like a madwoman as the tickling tentacles flicked her sensitive soles. One set of tentacles tickled the sensitive skin under her toes and onto her soles. The other set tickled her arches and onto her heels. Each time the balls of her feet got it, Megan’s laughter went off the scale.

    The jenerators were delivering five girlpower, short-cycling – each Lee got a one minute break every five minutes. It was a short term measure – it couldn’t be sustained for long. The tentacles roamed the bottoms of Megan’s feet in roughly oval paths. They weren’t quite in phase, Megan realized – the left-foot tentacle lagged the right and seemed to be dropping slightly further behind on each cycle. They got the job done anyway – Megan laughed at the top of her lungs.

    Melissa laughed again, and Megan’s jenerator quit. She blinked away tears of laughter and drew long, deep breaths, just like she had been taught. Her jenerator started back, and once again Megan laughed her head off. The cycle repeated, five minutes on, one minute off, over and over. Megan never managed to zone out – she laughed and laughed in ticklish agony.

    Amanda’s voice came over the PA: “Commencing orbital insertion.” Diana’s jenerator dropped out first, then Megan’s – Adrienne was giving the new kids a break. Then Julie, Bethany and Anne, leaving just Melissa laughing.

    “In stable 90-minute orbit,” Amanda said.

    “All systems nominal at one girlpower,” Adrienne responded. She turned to the Lees. “You new girls, listen up!” she said. “We’ll make one orbit for final checkout, then we slingshot outbound and boost toward the Jump limit.”

    “Hanging in there, Megan?” Anne asked.

    “I can stand it,” Megan said resolutely. “It’s not so bad once I’m in the zone, and afterward... ”

    “It grows on you,” Anne said. “You’ll see– Eep! HA-HAHA-HAHAHA!” she laughed as Melissa’s jenerator timed out.

    Melissa took long deep breaths. “Could’ve gone another five minutes,” she said after she had her breath back again. “I’m tough.”

    Anne laughed for two minutes, then her jenerator quit and Megan’s started. Megan laughed helplessly as the jenerator’s tentacles drew figure-eight’s on the balls of both feet. It switched to brushing her soles – she threw her head back and laughed at the top of her lungs.

    The tickling stopped. Bethany laughed again beside her. It would be Megan’s turn in 10 more minutes. She concentrated on getting her breathing and heart rate normal again.

    They continued at one girlpower for almost two hours. “We’ve missed our orbital slingshot,” Bethany told Megan. “Hey Adrienne, what’s going on?”

    “Dunno. Bridge won’t answer my signal, and I don’t want to use the emergency override – I don’t know enough. I’ll let you know when I find out.”

    They went through one complete cycle, and started on another before the PA spoke again. It happened that Megan was up just then. Megan didn’t hear the conversation with the bridge because she was laughing too hard. But when her jenerator dropped out and Diana’s started, what she heard disturbed her.

    Adrienne and Melissa had a low-voiced conversation going between bouts of the blonde’s laughter, but only when Diana was laughing her head off. The general thrust was this.

    An Orbital Guard vessel had stopped them, looking for someone and threatening to send a boarding party. Thanet IV planetary law applied while in orbit – Robin had demanded a search warrant, and that had dissuaded them. Adrienne was worried. This ship was her livelihood and her home. She didn’t want a criminal, or even worse, a pirate, aboard.

    Melissa called it an acceptable risk. Every minute they delayed their trip was a minute they were losing money. There were eight of them – nine maybe, she thought Megan would turn out OK – so how much trouble could Diana cause, even if she was a crook? Besides, the shipping business was booming. Lees were almost impossible for a tramp to find – the prospect of high wages and a steady job lured them to the big shipping lines.

    The ship continued under one girlpower for another half hour, long enough to bring them back into their slingshot window. Then Amanda’s voice came over the PA again: “Prepare for boost.”

    “Acknowledged,” Adrienne replied, and got busy at her console while the jenerators cycled on one girlpower.

    “Initiating Boost sequence on my mark,” Amanda said. “Five, four, three, two, one, MARK.”

    Melissa was already laughing. Anne’s jenerator picked up, then Megan’s started a minute later – she threw back her head and howled with forced mirth. Through tears of laughter, she saw Bethany start laughing beside her. Another minute later, Julie and Diana started laughing and Melissa and Anne stopped. The jenerators were delivering four girlpower – each Lee laughed for four minutes, with a two-minute break until her turn came again.

    Melissa and Anne laughed again, and Megan’s and Bethany’s jenerators quit. Her jenerator started back, and once again Megan laughed her head off. The cycle repeated, four minutes on, two minutes off, over and over. The jenerators shone a brilliant, fiery red.

    Anne’s and Megan’s jenerators dropped out. They were outward bound on two girlpower.

    “Secure from Boost stations,” Amanda announced. “Cruising routine.”

    “Acknowledged,” Adrienne answered.

    Diana and Julie were laughing now. “How are you holding up?” Bethany asked from the seat beside Megan.

    “I’m… fine,” Megan answered. “Oh ghod how that tickled!”

    “This is your first trip,” Bethany said. “The others’ll carry you for a while if need be. Especially the Iron Lady over there.”

    “Blow it out your ass,” Melissa said cheerfully. “Megan’s tough – she’ll do fine.”

    Robin showed up while the two girls were still laughing. “I need to borrow Diana for a while, get her papers straightened out,” she said.

    “I guess I’m up,” Bethany said, then suddenly burst into ticklish laughter as her jenerator got to work.

    “The rest of ‘em can handle it for now,” Adrienne said. “Ready for more, Megan?” But Megan’s jenerator had started by then, and she was laughing too hard to answer.

    Lori brought Diana back after a while, and they settled down into a routine. Their trip outbound to the Jump limit took five days.

    Diana roomed with Megan. The girl’s accent was foreign – she said she had been kidnapped from an agrarian planet of a star system outside the local cluster. Her abductors had put her to work as a captive Lee – a “galley slave”. She was about 20, but couldn’t say exactly, because she had lost track while she was a slave.

    The ship’s “day” was divided into Day, Middle and Night Watch, each of 8 hours. The work schedule was watch-on/watch-off. The two watch teams were Adrienne with Melissa, Julie and Diana, and Lori with Megan and the twins. The girls used their off-watch time to eat, rest, bathe, sleep or whatever. It also provided an opportunity to integrate the newcomers into the crew.

    There wasn’t much for the Pilot to do on this part of the trip, and in any case all of the ship’s watchstanders were Pilot-qualified. So Amanda was the relief person, watchstander or Lee as circumstances required. Robin didn’t stand a watch – as Captain, she was always on call.

    The schedule allowed the ship to cruise at two girlpower continuously – one to run the onboard systems, the second to provide maneuvering capability. Each Lee’s feet were tickled for six minutes, then a three-minute rest and repeat. The Lees overlapped – the drive ran smoother that way. Sometimes Megan watched her mirror, enjoying the view of the jenerator tickling her feet – at least until the tickling robbed her of concentration.

    And as her first watch progressed, Megan found herself settling in as a Lee. Half-way through, she found she was beginning to enjoy the tickling. She watched the mirror, saw the tentacles tickling her soles. She was helpless to do anything but laugh, but she felt… euphoric? No, powerful came closest to describing it. Was that how it was for Melissa?

    Anne and Bethany laughed together, and Megan took a long deep breath. She wanted more! She blinked away tears of laughter and saw Adrienne watching her.

    Adrienne nodded her head knowingly. “You’re gonna do just fine here,” she said. “Just don’t overdo it ‘til you build up your endurance.”

    The shift ended all too soon. Megan’s ribs and abs hurt from laughing, but it was the good hurt that comes from hard work well done. She tumbled into her bunk and slept dreamlessly.

    ***

    On the second day out, Adrienne rearranged the watch teams. Melissa was the strongest Lee – an ancient oarsman in her position might have been nick-named “Ox”. She laughed with Megan and Julie, alternating with Diana and the twins.

    Melissa loved to have her feet tickled – she might even be getting off on it, Megan thought. Megan figured that Julie and the twins were like herself – being tickled silly was hard but satisfying work. For Diana, it was just a job.

    Too bad for her, thought Megan. She’s missing out on some good fun. Still, that would make it more enjoyable to tickle her feet – lots of squirming and struggling, all the while laughing at the top of her lungs. Maybe it was mean, but she looked forward to tickling her roomie.

    Meanwhile, she had work to do. She laughed and laughed, over and over. While she did, she watched her shipmates laughing beside her, or watched her jenerator tickling her own feet. Toward the end, she just went with the flow – eyes closed, tears streaming, ticklish laughter pouring out in a flood.

    The Watch ended. Megan had the next 8 hours off until her own shift. She showered, dressed and headed to the common room for something to eat. As she approached, she heard unfamiliar ticklish laughter.

    Robin and Melissa were sitting in two chairs. Robin’s hands were bound behind her, with her feet in Melissa’s lap, ankles bound together and tied off to Melissa’s thigh. Melissa was flicking and scratching Robin’s soles, making little contact but tickling like crazy.

    “What’s going on?” Megan asked.

    “Guess,” Adrienne said.

    “Robin gets to tickle my feet as much as she wants,” Melissa said. She eased off and drew her nails along the bottoms of both feet, toes to heels, producing stream after stream of girlish giggles. “This is the other half of our agreement – in return, I can tickle hers any time I ask.”

    “So why– ” Megan started.

    Melissa grinned. “Lately, she hasn’t wanted to tickle me enough.”

    “Why don’t you pick up the pace again?” Amanda said.

    “My thoughts exactly.” Melissa speeded up, tickling faster, and the giggles turned to laughter. She traced a figure-eight around the balls of Robin’s feet with a single fingernail. The circles got smaller, faster, covering every square inch of ticklish flesh, and Robin laughed like a madwoman. Then larger circles again, scratching with two fingernails. Robin laughed her head off.

    Melissa tickled under Robin’s toes, and the laughter went off the scale. The laughter went down a little when she tickled down the sole and arch onto the heel. Robin laughed helplessly while the tickling fingernails flicked and scratched her heels, her ticklish laughter filling the room with wave after wave of forced mirth. Up the arches again, then the soles. Melissa held Robin’s toes back and tickled back and forth across both stretched out soles. She put on a burst of speed, tickling the soft skin under the toes, where Robin’s feet were off-the-scale ticklish. Robin threw her head back and laughed her head off at the top of her lungs.

    Melissa tickled Robin until she was red faced and sweaty. She held her victim on the edge, covering both feet with fiendish tickling. She kept it up for a long, long time while Robin laughed and laughed. She finished under Robin’s toes. It was more than Robin could bear – she laughed herself breathless.

    Robin sat limply, head down, eyes closed, gasping for air. She was a mess, hair tangled, face streaked with tears of laughter.

    “Gonna spend more time tickling my feet?” Melissa asked.

    “Yah. That tickled… so much!” Robin said breathlessly.

    Melissa released Robin and brought her a drink. Robin gulped it down, then belched – she must have swallowed some air while she was laughing. “Gah! I’m glad that’s over!” she said. “I was never a really enthusiastic Lee like you.”

    “I just need to tickle your feet more often,” Melissa said.

    “Nope, right now I feel encouraged.” She glanced down at Melissa’s bare feet. “And right now, I see feet that need tickling!”

    ***

    All too soon, Megan got a shipboard wakeup – tickling fingernails on her sensitive soles. “Hehehe!” she giggled. “I’m awake!”

    “Lash up and stow,” Melissa said. “We’re up in 10 minutes.”

    Adrienne had already relieved Lori when the girls got to the power room. She waited until Anne’s jenerator timed out, then replaced her with Megan while Bethany and Diana laughed. Megan’s jenerator picked up – she threw back her head and laughed like mad as the tentacled orb tickled her feet. Adrienne replaced Bethany with Melissa, then Diana with Julie. Back to work, thought Megan as her ticklish laughter poured out in a flood.

    Megan had already discovered that if the watch-stander or one Lee started an on-shift conversation, a single trifurcated conversation developed, with the watchstander at the junction. This time, all three Lees started separate conversations, and they eventually converged into one. The topic was the latest addition to the crew.

    Julie could get along with anyone, and Diana seemed friendly enough. But Julie said it almost seemed like a performance – there was something false and brittle about it. Melissa thought that Diana’s story didn’t quite ring true – the girl seemed to have more varied shipboard experience than a galley slave would get.

    “I set up this watch because I wanted to talk to all three of you,” Adrienne said. “You’re Diana’s roomie, and Julie and Melissa have more sense than most.”

    “I’m trying to give her the benefit of the doubt,” Megan said. “Maybe it’s just the chemistry, but I think I agree with Julie.”

    “And I share Melissa’s doubts,” Adrienne said. “I hope Diana will turn out OK, because we’re stuck with her, at least until we make planetfall on Santiago III. At the same time, it pays to be vigilant.”

    “That seems fair to– hee! AH-HAHA-HAHAHA!” Megan laughed as her jenerator picked up. It tickled maddeningly!

    “Hang… in there… Megan… ” Melissa said breathlessly. “Woo! I love this job!”

    ***

    Adrienne shook up the teams again. Now Megan laughed with Diana and Julie, alternating with Anne, Bethany and Melissa. Megan felt like she had passed a test, that the Engineer trusted her to carry her share of the load. The tickling got better too – the jenerator tickled her harder, and made her laugh to the limit of her endurance. But it felt good to laugh her head off, and sometimes better than just good. Megan got to know her roomie better, but no matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t warm up to the girl.

    On her next off-watch, Megan decided to have some fun with her roomie. Lori and her team had the watch, but the rest of the crew were all in the common room. Megan checked the clock – it was time to put the top-off charge on the power banks.

    “Hey Diana, has anybody explained the ship’s customs to you?” Megan asked.

    “Some,” Diana said cautiously. Julie snickered.

    “Well, we like to put a full charge on the power banks before we turn in,” Megan said. “All of us Lees take turns doing that.”

    “Megan did it the night before we lifted off, so you’re up next,” Julie added.

    “Ler or Lee?” Diana asked.

    Amanda laughed. “Lee, of course! Megan was the Lee last time, so she’s the Ler tonight.” That wasn’t quite how it went, but no one else said otherwise. Thanks, shipmate, Megan thought.

    They used a hogtie again – Diana ended up on her tummy on the resilient deck of the common room. Megan kneeled at her trapped feet. The others rearranged their chairs and settled in to watch.

    “You’re in for a treat,” Julie said. “She’s good!”

    “Just my luck,” Diana said. “Oh well, part of the job. Won’t be the first ti– eee! Hehe! HAHA-HAHAHA-HAHA!”

    Megan held back Diana’s toes and tickled side to side on the soft skin underneath. Diana bucked and squirmed, laughing like mad, as Megan flicked her nails on the stretched out soles. She drew fast, looping figure-eight’s around the balls of Diana’s feet, tickling like crazy. Then more wild laughter as she tickled a zig-zag path across the stretched out soles. Diana was an active ticklee, squirming and bucking as sweet soprano laughter poured out in a flood.

    Megan released Diana’s toes and kept up the sole tickling. Diana laughed her head off, her toes twitched and curled, her skin colored from laughing. Megan spread Diana’s right little toe apart from its neighbor and tickled in between. She tickled across between each pair, getting a loud burst of laughter each time. Then sole tickling again, down into the front of the arch, and Diana went wild – there was an especially good spot right behind the sole creases. Tears of laughter ran down Diana’s cheeks as Megan tickle tortured her arches and soles, left-right-and-repeat.

    Megan worked her way down Diana’s arches with both hands, using just the tips of her nails and covering the sensitive skin with fiendish tickling. Diana struggled, laughing like a crazy woman, trying desperately to escape the tickling. Megan put a knee on either side of Diana’s, then dug in again, tickling the back of both arches and onto the heels. Those were the sweet spots – Diana arched her back and laughed at the top of her lungs.

    Diana’s heels got it next, counter-rotating circles with a single nail each. Judging from Diana’s laughter, her heels weren’t as ticklish as the back of her arches. Well, that was easy to fix – Megan spider-walked her nails on the sweet spots on both feet, tickling unbearably. Diana laughed and laughed – she wasn’t struggling any more, all resistance had been tickled away.

    “That’s enough,” Robin said. “You’re enjoying it too much.”

    Megan nodded and redoubled her efforts, tickling the sweet spots as fast as she could. Diana’s laughter went off the scale – she laughed herself breathless.

    Megan stood and cracked her knuckles, grinning ear to ear. Diana was an especially enjoyable ticklee, even more fun than Julie. Looks like this trip is gonna be fun, thought Megan.

    Julie released Diana and helped her to stand up – she was pretty shaky. “Good one, Megan,” Julie said. “Looks like you’re gonna give Melissa and Amanda some competition.”

    Diana winced. “My abs feel like I just took a beating,” she said. “Give me a drink, somebody.”

    “Get some rest, you two,” Adrienne said. “Your Watch will be here before you know it.”

    Megan ate a quick meal and went to bed. Diana got accidental revenge on Megan – after all that ticklish laughter, she snored.

    ***

    Megan was alone in the common room when Robin approached her. “Mind if I join you?” she asked.

    Wordlessly, Megan waved at the seat beside her.

    “Thanks. I haven’t had much opportunity to talk with you, Megan,” Robin said. “How are things going for you?”

    “Fine so far,” Megan answered. “I’m getting to like having my feet tickled. It’s satisfying and enjoyable work, and I’m looking forward to seeing Santiago III and all of the other places we’re going.”

    “You’re like Julie then,” Robin said. “You have the urge to travel far and fast, to see and do things somewhere over the next horizon. And maybe make a big score doing it. Am I right?”

    “I never thought of it that way, but… well, I guess so.”

    “Tramping appeals to risk takers who dream of scoring big,” Robin said. “The reality, of course, is that the more likely outcome is unpaid bills and rising debt. Have you thought of that?”

    Megan considered. “I’m a lot like my older brother,” she said. “Michael heard the call of the wild geese – he’s off somewhere, soldiering with Korner’s Legion. That career path isn’t open to me, so I chose this one instead.”

    “Mmm… They’re based in the San Martin System, aren’t they?” Robin said.

    “Michael said they’re San Martin’s major export.”

    “I thought so,” Robin said. “I’m no fan of Free Companies. Some of them are no better than pirates.”

    “Michael’s no pirate!” Megan said hotly.

    “Never said he was,” Robin said. “And from what I’ve heard, Don Emilio is a man of honor.” Robin paused, then continued. “Look, your brother’s trade and ours attract the same type of people. Sometimes, our luck runs out. When that happens, some take up piracy out of desperation, or out of desire to pay the universe back for their problems. A few even become slavers.”

    Megan opened her mouth, but Robin stilled her with a raised hand. “No one in this ship would countenance either, any more than your brother would,” Robin said. “Even so, honest folk sometimes have to cut corners just to get by.” A pause. “How are you and Diana getting along?”

    It was a change of subject, but not really. “Ahh… ” Megan started, stalling for time.

    “Never mind – I know,” Robin said. “That happens sometimes. Usually, it works itself out. Give it some time, and we’ll talk again.”

    ***

    The last day before the Jump, Robin divided the three Watches into four-hour shifts. The movable bulkhead between bridge and power room was rolled back. Each shift, two Lees worked the power room, alternating to provide one girlpower. One of the ship’s watchstanders – Chief Officer, Engineer or Pilot – stood watch at the Pilot’s station. The work schedule was one shift on, two shifts off. The shift teams were Amanda with Megan and Diana, Adrienne with Anne and Bethany, Lori with Melissa and Julie.

    The twins chose a time when they were alone in the common room with Megan and Diana, and suggested a friendly competition. Bethany spoke for both. “Diana hasn’t had much chance to tickle anybody,” she said. “Megan, you could do with some practice too. We’re identical ticklees, so why don’t you have a tickle race?”

    “Now that’s more like it!” Diana said. “Winner tickles the loser?”

    “Fine with me,” Megan said – in a sense, either outcome was a win for her.

    They hogtied the twins side-by-side on the deck. Megan took Anne, Diana had Bethany. The twins weren’t the least bit apprehensive. “Come on, our feet need tickling!” they prompted in chorus.

    “Oh, hush,” Diana said, flexing her fingers. “All I want to hear out of you is laughing, and plenty of it!” She flicked her nails on Bethany’s arches and heels, tickling with both hands. Megan started half a beat later – she tickled along Anne’s sole creases and into the sweet spots just behind. Bethany arched her back and laughed her head off. Anne joined in, laughing helplessly – the twins’ stereo soprano laughter harmonized beautifully. Megan speeded up – Anne bucked and squirmed and laughed at the top of her lungs.

    Diana tickled up Bethany’s arches to the soles, then spread her toes apart two by two, tickling between each pair. Bethany laughed and laughed, tears of laughter running down her face. Megan held back Anne’s toes and scrabbled her nails on the soft skin underneath, then down on the stretched out sole, side to side, over and over. Bethany laughed wildly as Diana drew circles around and on the balls of her feet. Megan guitar-chorded Anne’s sole crease and into the arch, and Anne laughed like a madwoman, red-faced and sweaty, hair in tangles around her head.

    An especially loud burst of laughter came from Bethany, and Megan glanced over at the others. Diana was scratching between the little toe and its neighbor, grinning ear to ear, savoring Bethany’s wild helpless laughter. Megan held back Anne’s toes and spider walked her nails along the sole crease – Anne struggled and squirmed and laughed even harder. Diana tickled down Bethany’s arches to the ticklish heels, drawing circles and other shapes that tickled like crazy. Megan tickled Anne’s soles with one hand, the heels with the other – ticklish laughter flooded out, music to Megan’s ears.

    Concentrate! Megan’s tickling fingernails flew in Anne’s arches – she extended the strokes onto the ticklish heels behind. Diana copied her, and Bethany went crazy, bucking and squirming, laughing her head off. Her laughter went off the charts – she lost it and laughed herself breathless.

    “I win!” Diana called out.

    “Nuts!” Megan said. “Guess I might as well get my money’s worth!” She picked up the pace, tickling the back arches and heels mercilessly, and Anne’s laughter went off the scale. Megan tickled the heels, scratching in circles and figure-eight’s. Then she danced her nails lightly up into the arch, not making much contact but tickling horribly, and tickled Anne’s breath away.

    “Beat... ya... sis... ” Anne said breathlessly. “I... held out... longer... ” Already her color was better.

    Bethany made a rude noise. “I had a better tickler.” She seemed a little eager for more.

    So did Anne. “Best two out of three?” she asked hopefully.

    Diana grinned wickedly. “Nah, I owe Megan one for what she did to me. Assume the position, roomie!”

    They released the twins, and Megan submitted to a hogtie. Diana kneeled at Megan’s trapped feet. “Ready?” she asked.

    Megan grinned back. “Do your worst!”

    Diana flicked her nails in Megan’s arches, two-handed. Megan squirmed, arched her back and laughed at the top of her lungs. Megan howled with forced mirth as Diana spider-walked her fingernails all over the bottoms of both feet, heels to toes and back again. Diana tickled both heels, scratching in circles and figure-eight’s. She danced her nails lightly up the arches to the balls of the feet, not making much contact but tickling like crazy. She spread Megan’s toes apart to tickle between them, held them back and scratched the tender skin underneath. Still holding the toes back, she flicked her fingernails up and down the crease in the middle of the right sole, and Megan’s laughter went off the chart.

    Diana tickled around and across the balls of both feet, where it tickled unbearably. She tickled both soles, watching the toes twitch and curl as Megan laughed and laughed. She tickled back down both arches, lingered on the heels, flicking and scratching, then back up the arches to the soles again. Megan laughed wildly, face red, tears of laughter streaming down her cheeks.

    By then, Megan was incapable of any resistance, lost in ticklish delirium. Diana held her in the zone, laughing her head off. All she could do was laugh, and laugh, and laugh some more. Then Diana held the toes back again. She tickled the center of the left sole, across the balls of both feet to the center of the right, and back again, over and over. Megan went crazy, squirming and straining, laughing like mad. She ran out of air, and mercifully the tickling stopped.

    Diana quit tickling – Megan giggled weakly as the tickling sensation faded. She was sweaty, red faced, cheeks tear-streaked. Bethany gently wiped her face with a towel, Anne held a glass of ice water to her lips. Megan downed the water in a few gulps. She felt great. “That tickled… so much… ” she said. A deep breath. “Good one!”

    “You’ll– ” Bethany said.

    “–have to– ” Anne continued.

    “–do us– ”

    “–that way– ”

    “–again!” they finished together.

    “Play later,” Robin said from the doorway. “All of you, get some rest. You have work to do later on.”

    And Megan had a sudden flash of insight. Anne and Bethany volunteered for this, but the setup was Robin’s doing.

    ***

    Robin scheduled the Jump through hyperspace early on a Daywatch. She assigned the second shift of the previous Middle Watch to Amanda’s team, and the first shift of the Night Watch to Adrienne’s – she wanted her Pilot and Engineer as well-rested as possible. Melissa and Julie were the most experienced Lees – they shared Night Watch second shift with Lori.

    Megan woke up early. Diana was still asleep. The Devil bit Megan on the butt – what the hell, she thought, I’ll wake Diana up too. She carefully slid an arm under Diana’s covers, then grabbed the girl’s ankles in an arm lock and tickled both feet. Diana woke up laughing her head off.

    “AH-HAHA! Sta– HAHA! –ap!” Diana laughed and begged. “HAHEHA! I’m– HAHA! –awake! HAHAHA!”

    Megan quit. “That was mean!” Diana said.

    “So pay me back sometime,” Megan said. “Meanwhile, let’s get some breakfast.”

    Lori, Melissa and Julie were already in the power room. The rest of the crew assembled in the common room for breakfast.

    “This is a big day for you, Megan,” Robin said afterward. “Your first Jump.”

    “You’re gonna get your cherry busted,” Amanda added.

    “What’s it like?” Megan asked. “The Jump, I mean.”

    “You’ll find out!” the twins answered together, grinning.

    “Seriously, it’s hard to describe,” Adrienne said. “The experience is pretty overwhelming.”

    “It isnt the same for me as the Pilot,” Amanda said. “I miss it. I enjoyed being a Lee.”

    “You’ll do fine, Megan,” Robin said. “Diana too – she’s been through it already. Now let’s go to work.”

    The girls took their stations. It wasn’t like a normal Day Watch – all six Lees were on duty, but Adrienne backed the jenerators off. Mandy J idled along on just one girlpower – for two hours, each Lee laughed for two minutes, followed by a 10-minute rest. They would need all of their endurance later when the Jump drive engaged.

    Melissa was laughing like mad when the time came. Amanda’s voice came over the PA: “Prepare for Jump.”

    “Acknowledged,” Adrienne said. “Transferring power control to Pilot’s station.” Megan’s jenerator picked up – she laughed with Melissa in two-part harmony, two girlpower now. Adrienne added the others in sequence – Julie, Anne, Bethany and finally Diana.

    “Initiating Jump on my mark,” Amanda said. “Five, four, three, two, one, MARK!” The air was full of female laughter. The jenerators flared brilliant red, absorbing six girlpower of ticklish energy.

    And Megan discovered that she was aroused. She was so ticklish that she didn’t have a sweet spot, so everything the jenerator did drove her wild. She laughed helplessly as the tickling tentacles drew circles, squares and other tickling shapes in her arches. It flicked and scratched her heels, four strokes in succession, three times a second. Megan howled with forced mirth, her face turning red from laughing. It was wonderful! Tickle my feet! she willed the jenerator. Make me laugh hard!

    The jenerator held Megan’s toes back and traced a figure-eight around the balls of both feet, tickling like crazy. The loops got smaller, faster, covering every square inch of ticklish flesh. It switched to fast flicks, covering the balls of both feet with fiendish tickling. Megan laughed her head off, tears of laughter streaming down her cheeks.

    The jenerator held Megan on the edge while she laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more. It tickled between Megan’s toes, under them, down the soles and arches onto the ticklish heels. She laughed helplessly while it flicked and scratched her heels. It guitar-chorded her arches, then the soles again, side to side – it really, really tickled, and she loved it!

    The jenerator tickled the balls of Megan’s feet, getting great reactions and a flood of laughter. It tickled her soles, then down the arches, faster now. Then heel tickling, blazing fast, and Megan’s laughter went off the charts. She was losing it, laughing her head off, flying high in Tickle Paradise. She was wound up tight – she struggled to hold on. Not now! she thought, laughing at the top of her lungs. Not yet!

    Megan’s senses were wide open, her crotch was wet, her nipples were so hard that they ached. She was completely overcome by the tickling – all she could do was laugh while the overpowering tension drove out all coherent thought. Then the jenerator went into overload, flicking and scratching from toes to heels. Megan felt the euphoria, the power and pride as her laughter powered the Jump into hyperspace. She laughed at the top of her lungs, and that put her over the edge. Her orgasm was almost painfully intense...

    ...and the Jump was complete. They were in the Santiago System, inbound for planetfall.

    Megan’s jenerator dropped out, then others. Mandy J idled along, with Melissa the Iron Lady laughing one girlpower. Megan was breathless and sweaty, limp and drained, and warm all over, and she felt wonderful.

    This is what I was meant to do, thought Megan. This is where I belong.


    *** THE END ***

  4. #4
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    VOYAGER – A Look Behind the Curtain

    My dad liked science fiction. He started me off with Heinlein and Asimov juveniles, back when I was a kid and dinosaurs roamed the earth. I’ve had a notion for a tickle-powered starship almost that long – ever since I realized I had this kink we share. But the idea lay fallow for more than 40 years.

    Then came the internet and the TMF. Munchausen posted his “Voyage Out” stories, featuring automated tickling machines and tickle-power storage crystals. Aha! said I – here it is! So I borrowed his idea (thanks, friend!) and wrote “Galley Slave”, and then “Women in Black” as an encore.

    But Munchausen’s concept was magical. I’m an engineer – things have to work for a reason. So I set out to design a star ship based on tickling energy technology.

    A story venue is like an iceberg – 90% of it isn’t visible. That’s not a problem with a contemporary setting, or a familiar one like, say, the Star Wars universe. Anything else needs to be built from the foundation up, otherwise the story won’t work.

    The external outline of the trading ship is a 1950s Hollywood flying saucer. Most of us are familiar with basic SF concepts, so I could just wave my hands to produce the Jump drive, life support, etc. A submarine is a similarly closed environment, so I based my description of the internal ambience of the ship on that. Anyone who has flown a helicopter will recognize the ship’s boat’s flight controls.

    Early in the 20th Century, warships and fast ocean liners used high-pressure boilers and geared steam turbines for propulsion. That kind of plant was expensive, so humble cargo ships used low-pressure boilers and direct-drive steam piston engines. My analog for the first is “cantafordium”, a term used in the aerospace industry, meaning “the perfect material for the job, except it costs too much.” I invented an analog for the second – “lafyurassium”, a material that collects, transforms and amplifies tickle power (the derivation of the name should be obvious.) I called the automatic tickling machine a “jenerator”, after a fictional junior engineer named Jen who got tickled silly during prototype testing.

    I wanted my ship-propelling ticklees to be young women, so I invented a graph of power versus age – zero for kids and older folks, peak output from 18 to about 30, with sigma growth and decay curves on both sides of the peak. I eliminated men by using a power-function equation that relates peak output to the number of the ticklee’s X chromosomes.

    Now for a crew. I cheat when I develop my characters – they’re all girls/women I’ve known, suitably disguised. That gives me a head start with a physical appearance, a personality, and often a set of tickle reactions ;-D Their personality dictates how they’ll react to plot situations. The tickle reactions help me when I’m writing tickling scenes.

    But even with a head start like that, fewer characters is better. Too many can make a story confusing and hard to follow (e.g. 19th Century Russian novels.) That’s especially so in a short story, so I had to make the crew as small as possible.

    Fatigue is an issue, just as it was when men shoveled coal into boilers, so I divided my ship’s working schedule into 8-hour Day, Mid and Night Watches. I figured that the ship’s internal systems would require 1 girlpower continuous output – minimum on-duty crew for that is one watch-standing officer and two alternating ticklees. I needed three 8-hour watches to cover the whole day, for a total of nine girls. Captains don’t stand watch because they’re always on call, so my crew became 10 young women. That gave me a Captain, a Chief Officer, a Pilot, an Engineer and six Lees.

    A merchant star ship probably would travel outbound and inbound from the Jump limit on a ballistic course, rather than constant boost. Two girlpower continuous output would provide basic maneuvering capability – that calls for three Lees per watch, tickled in overlapping rotation. Oops! Now my crew was 13, too many. So I changed the schedule to Watch-on/Watch-off, with three Lees and one watch-stander on each. That gave one extra watch-stander, so she became the relief watch-stander and/or Lee. The details of the working schedule and the internal arrangement of the ship fell out of that.

    And the last step was actually writing the story. Hope you enjoyed it!

    Strelnikov

  5. #5
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    Great story! Wonderful to see you back here again! Finest science fiction that I have read in a long time.
    <=== Goddess Shelly's sacred soles



    A link to my stories on the TMF.


    Buy my first novel "Sorority Sisters" here.

    Buy my nonfiction epic here.

    Buy my popular novel "Jennifer's Revenge" here.

    Order one of my collections of short stories from MTJ Publishing here:

    TRAPPED AND TICKLED series
    Order Today!


    עם ישראל חי
    אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל חי

  6. #6
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    I really enjoyed your setup, sooo much potential here, you mentioned pirates and slavers. But your tickling touchess on fingers to feet only...
    I know a tongue in between toes can be way worse then a finger nail between the same, or electric toothbrushes which I imagine is how the automated machines function...
    I imagine other worlds having ladies with 4 legs, or other species with more chromosome for more x power.
    And I've known Lee's that have insanely ticklish ribs that yawn when you touch their feet. This is authors choice here
    You touched on the sexual part which could be very interesting...
    The possibilities are endless here..
    Great setup and welcome back!!!

  7. #7
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    Nice ideas. Obviously you put some great thought into your story, and I love science fiction as well. Thanks for sharing your story here.

    I too would like to challenge you to develop beyond foot tickling. There are just so many ticklish parts to a deathly ticklish woman! It would make the tickling in your story more than "one-dimensional".
    Think about it...

  8. #8
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    VOYAGER

    Cool story!

  9. #9
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    Re. whole body tickling...

    To Nibblerinde and luckycub: Guys, I'm a foot tickler. Yes, I've used implements to tickle feet, including at least one you probably haven't thought of (see my story "Bar-20 Justice" on this Archive.) The "jenerators" in this story use them. But fingernails work great, and you always have them with you.

    Not much interested in whole body tickling. Furthermore, for this story, an auto-tickler would be much like a medieval iron maiden. Sorry, that's a little too rough for my taste.

    Hope you enjoyed the story anyway.

    Strelnikov

  10. #10
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    Oh certainly authors prerogative!
    I loved it as it is for sure,
    So many possibilities in this world

  11. #11
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    With Cute, Ticklish Feet, More is More

    Strel,

    Between you and Munch, I think you've convinced me (if not the regressive morons now leading our Federal Depts. of Energy and the Interior) that fossil fuels and atomic fission are so 19th and 20th Century, respectively, compared to giggling girlpower.

    But, THAT revelation ain't nothin' compared to Megan, whose very detailed and satisfying rookie challenges drew no less of your skill than your customary expert exploration of her (and her 'mates') ticklishness. I loved her character, the way you introduced the ship and its crew and technology through her eyes (and fingers and soles), and cheered her, ah, climactic rite (and right) of passage. I always find your protagonists admirable and delicious, but she's especially winning.


    I think you've got a weakness for tickling/ticklish twins. (Ya think?)

    Finally, a word to those readers who somehow think they can cajole you into significantly diverting the tickling of your beauties from their exquisite feet:

    After scores of TICKLE STREET entries and masterful exercises like this, do you REALLY expect this multiple Golden Feather winner to lavish less love on his rich cast's ticklish tootsies? Did anyone ask Leonardo to put some teeth in Mona Lisa's smile? Was Harpo Marx ever convinced he should yak it up sometimes in his movies? Would Beyoncé sell more albums if she played a kazoo occasionally? If this man wants his many fabulous femmes' feet tickled on every occasion, grant him that peccadillo. Please. (Deny him the armadillo, tho'.)

    As for you, Strel, this well-engineered gem merits a Golden Feather Comeback Award. (Myriads, I know you're peeking. How 'bout adding that category to the GFA roster next Spring, hm?

    Last edited by TeeHeeLawrence; 08-06-2017 at 10:45 PM. Reason: Not Fawning Enough
    Tee Hee

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