Exploration

by Juli

April 2009


Captain Mac Taylor was used to waking up quickly and in complete knowledge of his surroundings. Before he opened his eyes, he knew that the warmth beneath him was Danny, just as he knew that the hot length poking him was the young ELF's erection. Even so, Mac couldn't help but look in wonder at the sleeping face of the other man as Danny sheltered underneath him. It had really happened; Mac was bonded to an Engineered Life Form who was only a few weeks old.

Mac reached out and gently cupped Danny's face. Still mostly asleep, Danny murmured and nuzzled into Mac's hand, causing Mac to chuckle fondly. Mac didn't even bother to resist the temptation to bend down and steal a kiss. He could feel Danny wake as the young man's lips opened to invite Mac's tongue in. Danny might be young, but he'd been engineered to be responsive.

The thought cooled Mac's ardor and he backed off. Danny sighed and opened his eyes slowly, looking like a cat who'd just eaten the cream. The ELF wasn't wearing his glasses, but Mac was close enough that he could recognize the older man easily.

"That's a nice way to wake up," Danny smile sweetly. Mac's answering smile was a little bittersweet. Danny didn't know enough to flirt; his comment had been straight from the heart.

"Yes, it is," Mac answered him, a little surprised at how true the statement was.

Danny shifted underneath Mac and frowned as his physical state made itself known. "It's swollen again. Is it gonna do that all the time now?"

"I suspect that it'll settle down." Mac kissed Danny quickly on the nose and reached for him. "Let me take care of that for you."

Mac took the ELF's rigid cock in his hand carefully started working it. After two orgasms a little while early, Danny was bound to be sensitive. There was no sign of discomfort, however, as Danny sighed in satisfaction and canted his hips up, pressing his erection firmly into Mac's grasp.

It didn't take long to bring Danny to orgasm. Mac watched the ELF's face as brought the young man to release, memorizing the touches that brought the most pleasure. Afterwards, he held Danny while the ELF's body came down from orgasm.

"What am I gonna do with you?" Mac murmured softly.

"You could try more kissing," Danny suggested helpfully. "I like that."

Before Mac could reply, Danny's stomach grumbled loudly. Danny looked down at it in dismay and Mac chuckled at the expression of betrayal on the ELF's face.

"Now what's goin' on?" Danny directed the question to his belly. "It ain't ever made that noise before. First my penis and now this, everything's messed up."

The last bit was said with such genuine confusion that Mac couldn't help but react. He scooped Danny closer into his arms and pressed a kiss against Danny's forehead. "It's called being hungry and it's perfectly natural. I just bet your teachers never let you reach that state before."

Therefore leaving the young ELF less able to deal with it.

Mac stifled a growl when he thought of all the ways that Danny's naïveté and deliberate ignorance could be used against him. Thankfully, Danny was distracted by something else that Mac had said and didn't pick up on the older man's displeasure.

"You said I could talk to my teachers," Danny left the subject of being hungry behind. "Can we do that now?"

Up until the arrival of Mac's team, Danny's teachers had probably been the only other human contact the ELF could remember. It was no wonder that he was anxious about seeing them. Mac hadn't forgotten his promise to the ELF and planned on honoring if he could, but he had some arrangements to take care of first. Promise or no promise, the teachers were among the worst criminals that humanity spawned; he'd have to be very sure of them before Danny was allowed near them again, even supervised.

"How about we do something about that belly first?" Mac suggested. "Then we both have some things to take care of. You can see your teachers tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?" Danny protested, immediately becoming agitated. "But, Mac, I'm supposed to be learning stuff. I'll get behind."

Mac rubbed Danny's back. The ELF's reaction wasn't unexpected, but difficult to witness. The grace period was key in making sure an ELF was well prepared to take on the function it had been designed for; it was ingrained in them to learn as much as they could as fast as they could.

"You'll be learning things," Mac assured the young man. "Just not from your teachers. In fact, from here on out, you're going to have a whole new set of teachers."

"I am?" Danny sounded forlorn and Mac hoped it wasn't too much too soon. Danny had seen more change in the last several of hours than he had experienced in his entire existence.

"And I'll be one of them," Mac stated. As he hoped, the comment relit the brightness in Danny's eyes. "Will that be okay?"

"Oh, yeah," Danny responded enthusiastically. "I like our kissing lessons. That's the best thing I've learned so far."

Mac's groin twitched at Danny's innocent comment, but he held himself in check. "Well, there's a couple of lessons ahead that you're really going to like, but most of it's pretty mundane."

Danny shrugged. "That's okay too. Teacher Roy said that all learning is useful." Danny's stomach growled again and he glared at it. "That's annoying."

"Well, then, I guess we better fix it," Mac laughed.

"Yeah, I guess," Danny was definitely less enthusiastic about eating that he was sex.

While they slept, someone had entered the small quarters and dropped off a few supplies. Mac didn't like the idea that he'd been so out of it that he hadn't awakened at an intrusion, even a friendly one, but he couldn't deny that having provisions at the ready was handy.

After giving Danny a last kiss on the forehead, Mac untangled himself from the young man and reached for the food tray. It contained two packages of rations and Mac forced himself not to show his disappointment. Danny had most likely been fed subsistence nutrition to date and Peyton was erring on the side of caution. More interesting food would have to be introduced slowly.

Mac handed Danny one of the rations and Danny dutifully ate it. There was no expression of either enthusiasm or distaste on the ELF's face; he was clearly used to eating such bland meals. Mac stifled a sigh and did the same. Many more of these meals and introducing Danny to 'real' food might be a bigger priority than teaching him about sex.

They made short work of the food and it was only afterwards that Mac saw any sign of displeasure in the ELF. Danny wrinkled his nose and brushed at his skin.

"What's the matter?" Mac asked.

"I'm sticky," Danny complained.

Mac grinned, thinking of all the sexual activity the ELF had been engaged in during the last few hours. "I bet you are." He stood and held out a hand to Danny. "Come on."

The quarters that they were in were pretty basic and designed for all sorts of ELF needs. It only had a sink area, no shower, but there were plenty of towels. Mac was frugal with the water as he wetted some down and proceeded to wipe them both off.

"I know it's not as good as a shower," Mac apologized. Danny hadn't said anything, but Mac felt guilty for not having better accommodations. "We'll see about a proper shower later."

"It's okay," Danny leaned into Mac's touch. "I like having your hands on me."

Mac believed him; Danny's cock was firming up once again.

"Man, I'm gonna get sticky all over again," Danny complained.

"Maybe not," Mac disagreed. He used the wettest of the towels and wrapped it around Danny's penis. Danny hissed as the nubby fabric rubbed against his sensitive skin. "Too much?"

"No," Danny clutched Mac's hips. "Don't you dare stop."

"I won't," Mac assured him. He kissed Danny deeply as he quickly brought the younger man to completion. Like earlier, it didn't take long.

Danny collapsed against Mac, breathing hard. "How come you don't get swollen all the time?"

"It's because I'm older," Mac told him. He stole another kiss. "Don't worry, when we have more time, I'll be more than ready."

"When will that be?" Danny asked.

"Soon, I promise. For now, though, get dressed," Mac slapped Danny slightly on the hip and got him moving towards the change of clothing that had been left along with the food. "We've got work to do."

Danny gave the garments Mac handed him the stink eye. "I'm not sure that's going to feel too good on my penis."

Mac sympathized; Danny had to be a little raw from all the hand jobs. Even so, the ELF would need to learn what the social norms were. "I'll talk to Dr. Driscoll, to see if there's something we can do about that. In the meantime, though, you need to put on clothing. I have some things to attend to and you're going to have a visitor."

"One of my teachers?" Danny asked, his tone full of hope.

"Not exactly," Mac grinned at the younger man's tenacity on the teacher subject. "Do you remember Adam from earlier?"

"Yeah," Danny replied. "He was nice."

"He's going to come in and do some assessment tests with you," Mac told Danny. "Being nude is okay when it's just me and you, but when you're around other people, you need to be dressed."

"Okay," Danny agreed readily enough, at least, about the clothing. "But can I come with you?"

"Not this time," Mac said firmly. To distract Danny from his disappointment, he handed the ELF the last thing that had been left for him. "This padd has some preliminary tests on it. I want you to see how far you can get before Adam arrives."

The padd was a standard one, filled with information that would help discover what sort of knowledge had been imparted to an ELF. Mac had the padds specially programmed for his ship, to leave out any information about biology and the difference between birthed humans and genetically engineered ones. He preferred to handle that task himself.

"This is baby stuff," Danny complained as he took a look at the first level.

"That's what an assessment is all about," Mac explained. "To find out how much you know, we have to start from the beginning. It's the same for everybody."

"All right," Danny sat on the edge of the bed, looking at the padd with distaste. "But after you figure out what I already know, then I get to learn new stuff."

"Absolutely," Mac assured him. Danny looked a little lost, so he gave him a final goodbye kiss, making sure it was particularly chaste.

"You'll be back soon?" Danny asked.

"I promise," Mac vowed. "And in the meantime, if you need anything, ask Adam when he gets here or hit that button," he pointed to the comm control. "Whoever answers will get you connected to me right away."

Danny didn't look entirely convinced. "Okay."

"Okay," Mac forced an expression of confidence that he didn't entirely feel. "I'll be back before you know it."

And he left, before he could change his mind.

It was harder than Mac ever expected to leave Danny behind. Mac had too much responsibility on his shoulders, though, to justify lazing in around with the younger man. With every step it got marginally better to walk away; Mac counted that as a victory.

The bridge was his first stop. Stella raised an eyebrow at Mac's appearance, but willingly stepped aside to his greater rank.

"No pursuit through the gate," she informed him. It was rare that another ship could match gate coordinates and frequencies to pursue, but it had happened and Mac had drilled it into his people to keep an eye out.

He nodded in acknowledgement of her thoroughness, although with Stella, he expected no less. "Good. Any progress on getting an answer on why we walked into a gun fight?"

"No," her lips thinned. "Although the commodore has indicated that he wants to see you as soon as we dock."

"Of course he does," Mac murmured. He rubbed his eyebrow, feeling a headache coming on.

"You didn't do anything wrong, Mac," Stella reassured him. "I'll testify to that and so will the others."

Mac mustered a small smile for her loyalty. "Thank you, but you're hardly an objective observer. Any of you."

If anything, Stella looked even more determined. "The commodore is a reasonable man; he knows you too well to believe that you arranged imprinting to a sniffer. If anything, he knows you well enough to know how you'd abhor the idea."

"'Abhor' is a bit strong, Stella," Mac corrected her. He couldn't stop the tender smile that tugged at his lips at the thought of Danny.

Stella chuckled. "Already has you wrapped around his little finger, does he?"

Mac blushed and laughed, but didn't directly answer, afraid that he'd incriminate himself. "I'm going to need to you to stay in command of the bridge until we leave subspace. We can't afford a distracted captain right now."

His words reminded both of them of how serious their situation had been and that a threat still loomed. Both of their smiles dropped and Stella nodded in acknowledgement of the reminder. "Will do."

"Where's Flack?" Mac asked. He had a feeling he knew the answer and Stella's reply showed that he'd been correct.

"He's still with his pilots," Stella told him. "Morale's a bit low right now."

Mac sighed. They didn't often lose seven ships in an altercation, but then, they usually didn't enter a firefight blindly. "I'll leave him to it, then."

There would be a time later to talk to Don and his staff, but right now, the pilots would benefit more with interaction from their direct superior. Mac was worried about Don, but then, the squadron head had Aiden and Adam to help console him. It would have to be enough.

"I have some other arrangements to make, but if you need me, don't hesitate to contact me," Mac instructed. "If I don't answer, check with Dr. Driscoll; I'll likely be under her supervision."

Stella winced at hearing Peyton's name. "I'm sorry about that, Mac. I know you care for her."

Mac inclined his head slightly, but didn't otherwise acknowledge the comment. Stella knew him well enough not to be offended. "Has Lindsay started interrogations yet?"

"With her usual efficiency, yes," Stella responded. Her expression included a faint look of exasperation. Mac didn't blame her. Lindsay took dedication to the job to a whole new level.

"Let her know I'll be down shortly," Mac instructed Stella as he started to leave. "I have one more thing to take care of before I join them."

Mac wanted Aiden there too and he knew where to find her. Aiden didn't shirk her duties in order to hang out with Adam, but with the close call they'd all had, she probably felt the need to be near the husband currently available to her. Not necessarily for her own sake, but for Adam's.

Sure enough, when Mac walked into Adam's area, Aiden was off to the side, working diligently on her computer. Both of them looked up when Mac walked in, Aiden immediately standing at attention next to the desk she'd been working at.

"Captain Taylor," Adam gulped nervously, his glance darting at Aiden.

"How are you doing, Adam?" Mac signaled to Aiden to stand at ease and put a hand on the ELF's shoulder. "It was pretty hairy there for a while."

"I'm okay," Adam smiled shyly at his wife. "Aiden's been taking good care of me."

Mac nodded at Aiden, showing his approval for her actions and her posture relaxed fractionally. "Good. You're a civilian; you shouldn't find yourself in the middle of a fight like that."

Adam shrugged. "It happens, right? And if it means helping another ELF, then I'm happy to do it." He looked dismayed at his own words. "I mean, not happy, exactly, but not unhappy either. How's Danny?"

It took a minute for Mac to catch up to Adam's garbled words. When he did, he grinned. "He's doing well. In fact, he's the reason I'm here. I'd like for you to start the assessment process with him."

"Me?" Adam gulped.

Mac frowned, not really sure why Adam seemed surprised. "Yes, of course, you. Aren't you our specialist on ELF behavior?" In fact, it was routine for Adam to work with any ELF that was recovered, at least until they could get to a more appropriate facility. In fact, Adam would probably be assisting with the five ELFs that Lindsay said had been working at the crèche.

Adam blushed. "I just thought, since Danny was your ELF and all, maybe you'd want someone better."

"As far as I'm concerned, there is no one better," Mac assured him. Even not looking directly at her, Mac could sense Aiden's wide smile. "But I would appreciate it if you'd be particularly careful not to introduce any concepts about biology or how engineered life forms differ from birthed humans."

Already in the process of gathering his stuff, Adam stopped to look Mac in the eyes. "I won't, I promise."

"Good man," Mac praised him. He turned his gaze to Aiden. "I'd like you to join me in interrogation; Lindsay's been busy."

Aiden's eyes glinted. "My pleasure, sir."

Mac steeled himself as they walked to the area of the ship where prisoners were held. Being caught working in a crèche facility was an automatic death sentence. Mac happened to agree with the policy, but it was still wrenching having to process those facing their execution. He just had to remind himself that the people he would be dealing with had known full well what the consequences of their actions would be if they were caught. Besides, now that he had Danny, what little sympathy Mac might have felt had vanished.

The holding area was in the bowels of the ship, well away from both the crew quarters and the engineering section. It always felt decidedly different than the rest of the ship, but that was deliberate. There was no reason to keep the criminals comfortable.

Mac found Lindsay in the hub, where she could overlook a number of individual holding cells.

"Sir," Lindsay snapped to parade-like attention upon seeing Mac.

"At ease," Mac nodded to her and she adopted a marginally more relaxed posture. New crew sometimes thought that Lindsay was an ELF, her socialization was so stiff. She wasn't, but her parents were. "What can you tell me?"

"The facility was largely empty in terms of staff, we only captured a total of two dozen individuals." Lindsay reported. "There were five ELFs, but they appear to have diminished mental capacity and were being used for menial work."

Mac growled. It was often hard to determine if the ELFs had been designed to be of lesser intelligence or if they'd been damaged due to abuse. Neither was acceptable to Mac or to most birthed humans.

Lindsay continued. "The majority of the rest are common guards. They were hired by low-level administrators and they don't know anything about the operation."

"And the administrators?" Mac asked, futile as the question was.

"Suicides," Lindsay supplied, confirming Mac's suspicions. "Fingerprints burned off, of course. We took some DNA samples, but had to abandon the crèche before we could get very far. I doubt we'll be able to track any useful information about their identities."

Mac nodded, not happy about the situation, but understanding what had happened. "And these three?" Mac gestured to the three men in the cells on the left.

A frown marred Lindsay's face. "We think they're teachers."

"What is it, Lindsay?" Mac asked. Finding teachers in a crèche was hardly unexpected. "What's bothering you?"

"Three teachers to one decanted ELF?" Lindsay stated. "That student/teacher ratio is way off."

"Have they said anything?" Mac asked. The staff that indoctrinated newly decanted ELFs were more likely to have been in direct contact with both splicers and their clients than the guards.

Lindsay shook her head. "Not a word. They're not at all cooperative. The guards at least wanted to talk, but didn't have any useful information."

"It'll be up to a judge to decide what to do with the guards then," Mac was glad it wasn't his decision. He was authorized to conduct field executions when the situation required it, but it wasn't a task he relished. "The teachers, on the other hand, we have more leeway with. Patch me through."

It didn't take long for Lindsay to make some adjustments to her communication board, enabling Mac's voice to be piped in to the individual cells. He would be able to hear their responses, but they couldn't hear one another. When she was ready, Lindsay nodded to Mac.

"This is Captain Mac Taylor of the United Earth Domain vessel, the Brooklyn," Mac stated. He watched with satisfaction as the three men in the cells startled at the sudden sound. "You know why you're here and what the consequences for your actions will be. The only mercy you can expect is the mercy that you earn."

Mac made a chopping motion at his throat and Lindsay cut the sound off.

"Bring out the first one," Mac said. He walked to the nearby interrogation room, Aiden his silent shadow. It didn't take long for Lindsay and a guard to escort the first prisoner in.

Mac eyed the man as he was brought inside the room. Lindsay had already been questioning him for hours; this was his last chance to save his life and the man knew it Mac learned a lot about a prisoner by their reaction. In this case, the man's expression didn't change. He was either well trained or just fatalistic.

It also drove home what Mac had noticed when first inspecting the three men that Lindsay had identified as teachers. All three were about Mac's age and now that Mac was in the same room as one, he could feel an almost palatable sense of authority wafting from him. If this was one of Danny's teachers, no wonder the young ELF responded so strongly to an older male authority figure.

"I want to know who you worked for," Mac stated as the man was encouraged to sit in the chair across from him. "If not the name, then as much as you can tell me about the operation."

The man's answering smile was not pleasant. "In exchange for what, my life? Believe me, Captain, you can't protect me in prison from splicer-funded revenge and they can be quite inventive when it comes to punishing those who talk. I'll take a nice, tidy UED execution, thank you very much."

Leaning forward, Mac looked the prisoner in the eye. "I have a UED physician on board, willing to certify that Danny is the physical equivalent of 17 years old."

It was a bluff, but a powerful one. Those involved in the creation or sale of engineered life forms could expect the death penalty if caught, exceptions being given only to those who could provide the UED with useful information. Execution was a given, but the way it was conducted could vary. Those involved in the decanting of child ELFs, particularly for the sex trade, were particularly loathed and sometimes were dealt a more painful death.

"He's not that young," the teacher's composure cracked for the first time.

Mac feigned a nonchalance he didn't feel. "My doctor will certify it and who will question us? We're in the middle of a gate; no one's going to protest if I throw you out of the airlock."

The man gulped. Gates warped time and space. It was theorized that anything alive that entered a gate without the protection of a ship would be pulled apart, molecule by molecule - and the process might take centuries. While Mac did have the authority to execute prisoners at his discretion, he'd never gated one before and the threat was mostly an empty one. The teacher, however, didn't know that.

The prisoner took a shaky breath. "You might be bluffing and, even if you're not, no one knows what death by gating is really like. I'm still not talking. I know what they'll do to me if I do and I'll take a theoretical death over that any day."

Aiden leaned forward. "Let me do it, Captain," she pleaded, a look of glee on her face.

Mac knew he could be scary if he wanted to be, but he was an honorable man and that tended to show, even to criminals. Lindsay was far colder, but that wasn't very intimidating. Aiden, on the other hand, was passionate about punishing criminals who were involved in any way with child sex ELFs - and it showed. Mac had yet to unleash her on a criminal, but she hadn't given up hope yet and her honest zealousness could be unnerving.

Unfortunately, in this case, it wasn't unnerving enough.

When the man didn't waver, Mac waved Aiden off. "We'll give him some time to think about it. We don't reach base for another two days. Check again an hour out and see if he's changed his mind."

"I won't," the prisoner promised as the guard moved to his side to escort him out.

We'll see," Mac commented. "Bring in the next one."

The second prisoner was even less cooperative than the first. Through Mac's threats and Aiden's plea to gate him, he remained impassive and utterly silent. Mac had the guard remove him and bring in the third prisoner, not expecting any better luck.

Finally, though, Mac was wrong.

Unlike the first two prisoners, this one was visibly nervous from the moment he was brought in. Mac wasn't very far into his gating threat before the man caved.

"Look, I don't know much, but I'll tell you what I can," the prisoner pleaded. "Just don't throw me out the airlock."

Mac raised one eyebrow as he traded a brief glance with Aiden. This teacher was a little younger than the first two and obviously more physically fit. He would have been the one Mac would have considered least likely to break.

"What can you tell us?" Mac didn't make any promises.

"The client was rich and the splicer was too," the prisoner said. "I never came close to meeting either one of them and no one dropped any names, but it was obvious they had a lot of funds and power."

"You're going to have to do better," Mac coolly responded. "Anyone who can afford a custom ELF, especially a sniffer, would have to be wealthy. As for the splicer, the crèche was state of the art. It stands to reason that the genetic engineer would have to be very good or very well connected to achieve something like that."

"You don't know the half of it," the prisoner told him. "I'm usually not brought in until an ELF is through the rudimentary training stage, but they had me here while this one was still in the can. Why waste all that money for a teacher you can't utilize for a couple of weeks?"

"What did they have you doing in the meantime?" Mac asked. The prisoner was right, that was unusual behavior.

"Developing an accent," the prisoner changed the way he spoke, sounding a lot like Danny. "They wanted to make sure I sounded like this when I was teaching. Never had that requirement before."

Mac was puzzled. "Did they say why?"

"No and I wasn't asking, believe me," the teacher. "I didn't go anywhere without a guard escort, either. One time, we passed an observation deck that overlooked an airlock. There was a UED ship docked. One of those scout ships."

"You're sure about that?" Mac leaned forward. This was not good news.

"Very sure," the prisoner didn't break eye contact. "I never saw that guard again and I'm guessing they spaced him. I kept my mouth shut, that's for sure."

Mac filed the information away for later contemplation. "And what were you teaching Danny?"

"Sports," the prisoner replied. "All the training I do is physical."

"Gladiators?" Mac asked with distaste. Danny didn't have the build for the more violent illegal games, but sometimes that was deliberate.

"Hell no," the man scoffed. "There's some things I won't do, blood sport is one of them. No, I teach sports and basic physical training. They wanted Danny to be almost as good as a professional baseball player and a better than average basketball player."

Because of their enhancements, freed ELFs weren't allowed into professional sports. There was, however, an underground sport system, where splicers and their clients competed to display the most genetically enhanced athletes. It wasn't as brutal as the death sport games, but the contests were far from friendly.

"And the other teachers, what were their specialties?" Mac pressed.

The prisoner shrugged. "Damned if I know. The baby teacher was only around for a week or so. Danny's a smart one, catches on real fast. He flew through the baby stuff."

'Baby' stuff for an ELF usually meant things like walking, talking and reading. It took a birthed human years to learn those things; an ELF in its grace period could master all of them in less than two weeks.

Mac didn't like to hear Danny's name coming from a scumbag who earned his living indoctrinating engineered life forms. It did, however, serve as a reminder that he'd been away from Danny for over an hour.

"I think you've earned yourself a reprieve," Mac told the prisoner. "But there's one condition."

The prisoner looked torn between relief and concern. "What's that?"

"Danny wants to talk his teachers again. Given the attitudes of your colleagues, there's no way I'm letting him near either of them, but you might be a different story," Mac told the other man. "I can promise you that you'll be placed in a secure prison once we reach our base of operations, but only if you behave yourself when you see him."

"Yeah, I can do that," the teacher sagged in his chair. "I got no reason to undermine his trust in the UED now. I'm just a liability to the splicers from here on out; I need you guys to protect me."

Mac stood and looked down on the prisoner with distain. "Was the money worth it?"

The prisoner shrugged. "Seemed like it at the time."

"It's not going to do you much good where you're going," Mac said with some satisfaction. He turned to Lindsay. "You can continue with the questioning, but I want him guarded by your most trusted personnel. I'll be bringing Danny by in the morning."

"Will do, sir," Lindsay assured him.

Aiden followed Mac out of the room, taking a deep breath of air as they walked away. Mac smiled in sympathy. He always had a pressing need to feel clean after talking for any length of time with anyone associated with creating or training ELFs.

"You okay?" He asked the younger woman.

"I can't help thinking of Adam," Aiden admitted. "And the kind of things he was taught when he was so young."

In Adam's case, he'd been decanted at a child age, so was even more vulnerable than Danny. What made it even worse that he'd been engineered for the sex trade. Luckily, Adam had been rescued relatively young,

"You can't change the past," Mac advised her. "You can only insure that his life from here on out is good. I think it's safe to say that you and Don do just that for Adam."

Aiden blushed. "We try." She gave him a hesitant smile. "And you're doing the same for Danny."

"I hope so," Mac wasn't so sure. "If I can do half the job for him that you two do, I'll be satisfied."

"You'll be just fine, sir," Aiden advised. "Just follow your instincts."

Mac took her advice immediately, since his instincts were telling him he'd been away from Danny for too long. He headed back towards the area of the ship where the quarters he'd shared with Danny were housed. Just short of his destination, though, Mac was detained.

"Captain Taylor, a moment of your time, please."

The voice was a familiar one and, despite his hurry, Mac stopped. "Peyton, is there something wrong with Danny?"

"Not that I'm aware of," she replied. Peyton looked every bit as uncomfortable as Mac felt. "I am surprised, however, to see you away from him."

"I have responsibilities to the ship too," Mac pointed out.

Peyton frowned. "I know, but Danny is extremely vulnerable right now."

"We can't spend every minute having sex," Mac was a little exasperated. "Even his body needs time to recover and, while it does, I have other lives that depend on me."

"Take him with you," Peyton suggested. "The ship is a small space, compared to a planet. It will acclimate him to environments other than the tight quarters that have been all that he's experienced so far."

"Isn't that a little extreme?" Mac asked.

"Absolutely not; you're not fully bonded," Peyton insisted. "You have to be careful and stay together as much as possible." When Mac opened his mouth to protest, she cut him off. "What you did earlier was a stop gap measure, Mac, and you know it. Until the full coital act takes place, the bond is unstable. Danny could become ill or worse."

Mac rubbed his forehead. "I know, that's why I'm on my way back to him now. I'd like to move him to my quarters as soon as possible."

"Not just yet," Peyton shook her head. "I want Danny under observation until he is stable. That means until you penetrate him, he stays where I can keep an eye on him."

He contemplated protesting, but Mac ultimately backed down. Peyton was the authority on this subject and Mac knew it. "All right, but we'll be docked in two days."

Peyton nodded. "And then it will be the base physician's responsibility to make sure Danny is adequately cared for. Until then, that duty is mine."

There were a lot of things Mac could have said to that; none of them were wise. Instead, he nodded. "Understood."

She smiled, relenting a little. "Food, on the other hand, is something you can experiment with. Just go slowly and return to the basic nutrient rations if he seems to be getting overwhelmed."

"That's a relief," Mac admitted. "One of the benefits of being posted to a starship is not having to eat field rations anymore."

The conversation was getting less stilted, but it was still a relief when Mac's communicator chimed. "Captain Taylor."

"Sir?" Adam's voice sounded strained. "Danny's becoming very anxious. I think you might want to get back here, like right away."

"I'm on my way," Mac put action to words, striding down the corridor at a fast clip. He was only marginally aware of Peyton struggling to keep up with him.

Mac had a sinking feeling that he'd been gone too long and guilt dogged his heels even closer than Peyton did. Whatever the problem was, Mac had an overwhelming need to fix it. He only hoped that whatever was wrong wasn't already beyond repair.

* * *

It didn't take Danny long to figure out that he didn't like it when Mac was gone. Sure, he'd wondered about his teachers since being separated from them, but not having Mac in the room with him hurt. It was like when he'd cut his foot; the sensation was every bit as sharp.

Danny ignored the discomfort as best he could, making himself concentrate on the padd that Mac had left. He was already over half finished. Like he told Mac, there was a lot of easy information to go through and he'd been breezing right along. Just about the time he was getting into the more challenging questions, the door opened.

Lifting his head at the noise, Danny was disappointed that Mac wasn't the one entering. At least he recognized who it was. "Hey, Adam."

"Hey," the other man grinned at him. "You don't sound very happy to see me."

Danny's cheeks suddenly felt warm. "I was hoping it was Mac. You didn't see him out there, did you?"

Adam patted his shoulder. "No, I didn't, but don't worry. He won't be gone long. Besides, we're on a ship. There's nowhere for him to go."

"Oh," Danny couldn't help but sag a little.

"But Mac did stop by and talk to me," Adam continued. "He told me to go over some things with you, that way we'll be able to pick up where your teachers left off."

"Mac said I was gonna have new teachers," Danny stated. "But he promised I could talk to the first ones too."

"I think he was off to make arrangements for that after he talked to me," Adam told him. "Now, let's get to work. We don't want Mac to think we've been slacking off."

The idea of disappointing Mac motivated Danny, even if the material Adam wanted to go over didn't. At least it was less boring with Adam there. Adam used the readings on the padd to see that Danny had mastered the baby stuff, which was a relief. They didn't have to start at the beginning and were able to delve into the more interesting questions.

For a time, the familiar pattern of study distracted Danny. Adam seemed particularly interested in chemistry, which was fine with Danny. It was his favorite subject. Slowly, though, Danny started to get restless. His skin felt itchy and he simply could no longer sit still. With a groan, he launched himself off the bed and started pacing in the small open space.

"Danny?" Adam asked. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm just not used to sitting for so long," Danny claimed. He didn't want to admit to how uncomfortable he was.

"That's right, there was all that exercise equipment in your chamber in the crèche," Adam stated.

Danny picked up on the unfamiliar word. "What's a crèche?"

Adam's eyes widened. "It's just a word that we use to describe the kind of place you were in before." He changed the subject before Danny could ask any more questions. "What kind of exercises did your teachers have you do?"

"Teacher Roy had me run an hour on the treadmill and lift weights," Danny answered, but in a distracted way. His thoughts were still on the word that Adam obviously didn't want to discuss. "Was the place I was before different than here?"

"Yeah, it was," Adam sighed. "But that's something you need to talk to Mac about. There are some things he wanted to teach you himself."

"Oh, okay," Danny was relieved. He'd liked the idea of Mac being one of his teachers and it was good to know what he would be teaching him. "I like Mac's lessons, especially the ones about kissing and my penis."

Adam's cheeks turned a bright red, but before Danny could ask the other man about it, a horrible thought occurred to him.

"Adam, you aren't gonna give me kissing lessons, are you?" Danny asked. The very idea made his stomach roll and not in the way that Mac said meant hunger either.

If anything, Adam's cheeks turned redder. "No, absolutely not." He ran both hands through his hair. "No, no, no, no, no. Don't even suggest that."

The vehemence of Adam's response made Danny's stomach settle down. "Good."

"Look, if you're getting restless and are used to doing a lot of physical training, we should find something you can do in here," Adam suggested. "We'll talk to Mac later about getting you access to the ship's gym."

Danny was fine with that plan, but the quarters were really small and there wasn't a lot of room. Danny ended up doing push-ups and crunches while Adam sat cross-legged on the bed and watched him.

At first, the physical activity felt really good and Danny had a respite from the growing discomfort in his body. Even as his shirt became damp from the sweat of his exertions, though, Danny gave up on using the exercise to distract him. Frustrated, he stopped, sitting up against the wall and pulling his knees to his chest.

"Getting tired?" Adam asked.

Danny shrugged. "A little."

Adam unfolded his legs and perched on the edge of the bed. "Is something wrong?"

"Yes. No. I don't know," Danny had no idea what was really going on with him, but he realized that he could sum it up in three words. "I want Mac."

To Danny's immense relief, Adam nodded "Okay, we can take care of that."

While Danny watched from the floor, Adam walked over to the wall and pushed a series of buttons. Mac's voice came over the speaker almost immediately.

"Captain Taylor."

Hearing Mac's voice did all sorts of funny things to Danny's insides. All the discomfort and pain he'd been feeling since Mac left seemed to consolidate in his penis, which suddenly became very swollen and hard. Danny was beyond complaining, though. He couldn't articulate anything more than a thin whine.

"Sir?" Adam's voice sounded strange, like when Danny had first met him and Adam was trying to get him to put his breathing apparatus on. "Danny's becoming very anxious. I think you might want to get back here, like right away."

"I'm on my way."

Hearing Mac's voice a second time brought Danny to his feet. He moved towards the door, only to have Adam block him.

"Mac wants you to wait here for him," Adam explained. "Just try to stay calm, Danny. Take some deep breaths."

"I want Mac," Danny couldn't have cared less about breathing.

"I know, I know," Adam brought his hands up, but Danny flinched away from his touch.

"Don't touch me," Danny moved back from Adam, despite his desire to get around the other man and get to Mac.

"I won't, I promise," Adam again shifted to block Danny from leaving. "You've got to wait here, Danny. You don't know where Mac is. If you get lost trying to find him, then it's just going to take longer to reach him."

It was the one argument that Danny couldn't ignore. He went back to pacing, darting anxious look at the door. Finally, it opened and suddenly Mac was there. Adam wisely moved out of the way, because Danny launched himself at Mac from halfway across the room.

Mac caught him easily enough and being in his arms brought instant relief. He rubbed his swollen penis against Mac's leg, causing the enlarged organ to erupt, easing his pain even further.

Danny was keenly aware of Mac's hands on him, holding him close, and buried his face into Mac's neck, desperate for the scent of him. He was more vaguely aware of voices in conversation around him, but the only one he cared about was Mac. Even then, he didn't really hear the words, only the tone. He tried to climb Mac and was rewarded by feeling his clothing removed. He pressed closer, pleased to feel bare flesh against his. If he could have, Danny would have fused his skin into Mac's, making them one being.

The other voices stopped and Danny felt Mac pick him up. They ended up on a horizontal surface and Danny murmured softly as he felt the weight of Mac's bulk cover his body. There was the sensation of a hot length sliding against his own and clutched Mac tightly to him. Danny keened sharply and lifted his hips, desperate for more.

Mac's voice was soft against Danny's ear, but his hands were implacable as he held Danny down. Thankfully, Mac's body was moving on top of his, providing the friction that Danny so desperately craved.

It didn't last long. Just as Danny felt his body explode in pleasure, he felt Mac's mouth cover his own. He slipped down into darkness, accompanied by the welcome sensation of Mac's kiss.

* * *

Mac had fully intended to demand an explanation as soon as he arrived at the quarters he shared with Danny. As it turned out, he didn't need to. Almost the moment the door opened, he had an armful of ELF.

Danny was smaller than Mac, but he had momentum behind him. Mac didn't have a problem catching him, but did end up pressed against the wall. Danny was shaking and making a strange whining sound that Mac found deeply disturbing. Mac's hands instinctively came up to cradle the distraught young man closer.

"Shhh, I'm here," Mac crooned. "It's okay now."

To his consternation, Danny started humping his leg. Mac wasn't quite sure what to do, but before he could offer to help Danny, the young man stiffened against him. As Danny went limp in his arms, Mac felt a distinctive splotch of warmth making his leg damp.

"How long has he been like this?" Peyton demanded.

Adam looked mortified. "Just a couple of minutes. He said he was fine and was working out, then all of a sudden he said he wanted Mac. I commed for Captain Taylor right away."

"I'm sure you did," Mac replied in a soothing tone. Not only was Danny trying to bury himself inside of Mac's arms, but Adam looked ready to cry. "This isn't your fault, Adam."

Peyton rounded on Mac. "Of course it's not his fault, it's yours, Mac. What were you thinking, leaving a partially bonded sniffer alone for so long?"

Danny made a soft noise and shifted in Mac's arms, trying to get closer. He hid his face in Mac's neck and Mac felt an even stronger urge to protect wash over him. He ran his hands up Danny's back, under the ELF's shirt. Danny's heart was pounding so hard that Mac could feel the thrum of it even near Danny's spine. "Easy, Danny. Easy."

Mac turned his gaze onto the person interfering with his ability to comfort Danny the way the ELF needed.

"You can give me the tongue lashing I deserve later," Mac spoke to Peyton in a tone far rougher than he'd used with Danny. "Right now, I need the two of you to leave so I can take care of this."

Adam fled, not needing to be told twice. Peyton, on the other hand, didn't budge.

"I think I should monitor. . . .-" she got out before Mac interrupted her.

"Fine, do what you have to do," Mac snapped at her. "But from the observation room, not in here."

Peyton seemed likely to protest again, but Mac ignored her. He instead concentrated on prying Danny loose enough to get his shirt off him. The ELF's skin seemed overheated and Mac ran his hands down Danny's sides. The touch caused Danny to moan and thrust his even hips closer. The proximity made it easy to feel that the young ELF was already getting hard again.

Apparently Peyton had witnessed enough, because she left without saying another word. Mac barely noticed. Danny whimpered and the sound of it drove Mac to even more speed. He didn't bother with using any care in removing Danny's pants. They were lightweight and Mac just ripped them off Danny's slender hips.

Danny continued pressing close, almost as though he was trying to climb him. Mac let him, using the opportunity of Danny's distraction to strip his own shirt off. Once his chest was bare, he pulled Danny close again, picking him up and gently depositing him on the bed. Danny mewled softly, but Mac took the time to strip off the rest of his clothes before joining him.

Mac wasted no time, crawling over the mattress until he was covering Danny. To his relief, Danny murmured happily instead of making one of those devastating whines. It wasn't just Danny's need driving the coupling, either. Mac was as hard as he'd ever been. Danny made a sharp sound as their cocks brushed against one another and pulled Mac even tighter down on top of him.

Like their first coming together, what Mac really wanted to do was spread Danny's legs and drive himself inside. He retained enough control, though, to know that was a really bad idea. Instead, he carefully kept Danny's hips down while he moved slowly on top of the desperate young man.

"Easy, sweetheart," Mac crooned in time with his thrusts. "I'm going to take care of you."

Mac hadn't known Danny long, but thanks to the way the ELF had bonded to him, he'd already learned the signs of Danny's imminent orgasm. As Danny's hands grasped at Mac's shoulders, Mac brought his mouth down and kissed Danny deeply just as they both climaxed. By the time he'd gotten his tongue between Danny's lips, Mac could tell that Danny had blacked out.

Since Danny wasn't aware, Mac carefully moved off of him, even though Danny clearly enjoyed being underneath Mac. Mac kind of liked that position himself, but he was worried about crushing the smaller man. He shifted them until he was on his back, with Danny cradled partially next to him and partially on him. Danny murmured softly in contentment and settled into a true sleep.

Unfortunately for Mac, he couldn't do the same. Peyton hadn't really needed to lecture Mac on how badly he'd wronged Danny. From the moment that Mac had heard Adam's tense voice on the communicator, he'd known he'd screwed up and screwed up badly. He just didn't know what to do about it. Danny would have a lot of special needs for the next several weeks and it would be a delicate balancing act to see to Danny while captaining an UED cruiser.

Since Danny had no control over his condition and was unable to change, it meant that Mac would have to. For the short-term anyway.

The couple lay quietly, Mac absently stroking Danny's hair as his mind whirled with options. Mac wasn't sure how much time had passed when the door to their quarters opened. A young woman dressed in a medical uniform hesitantly came in. She had a tray with food items, which she set on the counter. Garments were draped over her arm and, she placed them at the end of the bed, moving carefully so that Danny wouldn't be awakened. Lastly, she had a padd, which she put next to the food tray.

All of her tasks were accomplished silently and without looking Mac in the face. The medical staff were all trained in ELF relations, even the intimacy of a sniffer bonding experience. No doubt had it been anyone else, she would have been much more relaxed about coming into the quarters. It was her captain, though, and Mac could see the blush that painted her cheeks. He took pity on the young woman and didn't speak to her, just let her do her job and beat a hasty retreat.

Mac was beginning to wonder if he'd ever be able to look any of his crew in the face again.

He kissed Danny on the top of the head and carefully extricated himself from the ELF. Danny muttered a protest, but didn't truly wake. Mac had a feeling, though, that it was only a matter of time. Sexual pressure, if nothing else, would make it hard for Danny to sleep for long.

The food and clothing only got a cursory glance, although Mac was relieved to see bowls of rice and cups of applesauce instead of the extremely bland rations. He was more interested in the padd. Not wanting to sit on the bed and wake Danny, Mac leaned against the counter and scanned Adam's preliminary report.

Adam's assessment showed that Danny had average math and reading skills. As anticipated, Danny had no knowledge of history or even of UED's existence. That was typical for an ELF still in its grace period. What was unusual was Danny's knowledge in chemistry, which Adam suspected was close to someone with an advanced university degree. His comprehension of biology was also high, although there were big gaps in his education as far as anything having to do with reproductive systems, either animal or human.

A more complete analysis on what Danny had been educated in would have to be conducted once they got to base, but Adam had a done enough work that Mac had an uneasy suspicion of what Danny had been designed to do.

Obviously, given Danny's heightened physical responses, part of his function had been intended to be a sex partner. With such focus being placed on a distinctive speaking accent, he'd probably been intended to be a personal sex slave. That was marginally better than having been designed as a prostitute, but the thought of it was still enough to make Mac's gut clench.

The chemistry and biology combination, though, hinted that Danny's design hadn't been all about sex. The person who commissioned him was already a criminal, simply by making the effort to purchase an ELF, but Mac had a feeling that it went deeper than that. Since splicers carefully kept any knowledge of genetic engineering away from the engineered life forms that they created, that left one likely possibility. A cooker.

Drugs were an ingrained criminal activity in the UED and were actually a more widespread problem than splicers, although illegal drug activity didn't carry the emotional impact for the populace that genetic engineering did. Mac suspected that Danny was probably being educated so that he could 'cook' illicit pharmaceuticals or maybe even create new ones. Since Danny was also a sniffer, he was incapable of being disloyal, meaning that he could never take his drug recipes to any other drug cartel.

It also meant that whoever had commissioned Danny was likely to be ruthless, have little regard for the law, and access to nearly unlimited funds.

A soft murmur from the bed drew Mac's attention back to Danny. The ELF was waking up and, for the moment anyway, Mac put concerns about the future on hold. No doubt they would have to watch their backs once Danny's intended owner realized that the ELF he'd had custom designed was bonded to someone else, but for the moment, Danny's needs came first.

Mac set down the padd and went back to the bed. He sat on the edge of the mattress and stroked Danny's back, smiling at the ELF when Danny's eyes blinked open.

"Mac," Danny's voice was rough with sleep. "You're still here."

The simple statement made Mac flinch internally. Bonded less than a day and Danny was already worried. Mac was honest with himself, though, and acknowledged that he'd given Danny reason to be. He'd only left the ELF for a short period, but it had been enough to lead to an almost frenzy on Danny's part.

"Yes, I'm still here," Mac assured him and then followed his words with a tender kiss. It had been almost chaste, but in Danny's condition, was enough to arouse him.

Danny sighed. "Here we go again."

Mac frowned. He didn't like the resignation in Danny's tone. "Don't you like what we do together?"

"Yeah, Mac, I do," Danny blushed. "I like it a lot. I just wish that I had a little more control over my penis. It's like it's got a mind of its own all of a sudden."

Danny's innocent exasperation made Mac laugh. He kissed Danny again. "I'll explain some things to you in a little bit that will help everything make more sense."

"Okay," Danny leaned towards Mac. "What are we going to do until then? More kissing?"

"You just lay there," Mac pushed gently at Danny's shoulders until the ELF lay back down against the pillows. "You had a rough time earlier, so I'm going to show you something that will make you feel better."

"Better than kissing?" Danny asked.

"Yeah, better than kissing," Mac assured him.

Danny looked at him in disbelief. "Dunno, Mac. Kissing's awful good."

Chuckling, Mac grinned at him. "Just you wait."

Mac started off with a gentle kiss to Danny's mouth, barely resisting the temptation to deepen it. There were other parts of Danny's body that needed kissing, though, so Mac managed. He separated their lips and trailed a short series of kisses down Danny's jaw, moving from there to the warm skin of Danny's neck. Danny giggled and writhed a little when Mac licked and nibbled there.

"That feels funny," Danny gasped.

"I guess you're ticklish," Mac told him, grinning.

"What's ticklish?" Danny, rather predictably, asked.

"It's when a part of the body feels pleasure when it's stimulated," Mac murmured, busy moving his mouth to Danny's chest.

Danny gasped. "Then my penis must be real ticklish."

Mac was too busy to correct him. He lapped at each nipple briefly, his hands keeping Danny's hips on the bed when the sensations caused him to writhe. "Easy, Danny."

"Mac," Danny moaned. "I need something, need it real bad."

The ELF was once again hard and Mac could feel how warm the enlarged organ was. Deciding that too much stimulation might be cruel, Mac went to the main event. He slid down on the mattress and took Danny's engorged cock into his mouth.

Danny cried out wordlessly and shoved his hips forward. Mac was ready for that reaction and held the ELF down, mostly to keep himself from being choked. He only had a time to slide his lips up and down Danny's shaft twice before Danny was coming again. There wasn't much fluid to it, but Mac swallowed it down.

When it was over, Danny went limp and Mac crawled up the younger man's body and kissed him deeply. Danny loved to kiss, so Mac wasn't surprised when the ELF responded to his mouth, even blissed out as he was post-orgasm.

"I told you that what I had in mind was better than kissing," Mac laughed as he pulled his mouth away.

"What's that?" Danny moaned and tried to press their lips together again.

Mac held the ELF off. "What's what?"

"It doesn't taste like food," Danny fought to find the right words. "Your mouth, it tastes different."

Yet again, Mac was reminded of just how very sheltered Danny had been. The bland nutrient rations were the only thing that Danny had ever tasted. During their first coming together, Peyton had suggested that Danny should taste Mac's seminal fluid, but Danny had been pretty out of it and clearly didn't remember. For all practical purposes, the taste of his own come was the only other thing the ELF had tasted.

Danny wasn't aware of Mac's inner musings. With the recovery time of the young, coupled with genetic improvements, he was already recuperated from the sexual release.

"I want to try," Danny stated. "You're always making me feel better; it's my turn."

The ELF turned the tables on Mac and pressed him to the mattress. Mac hoped that Danny wouldn't be disappointed. Mac wasn't as young as he used to be and he'd come not too long ago.

Which, on second thought, might make it the perfect time to let Danny play.

"Have fun," Mac spread his arms wide, giving Danny silent permission to do what he wanted.

Danny started by kissing Mac again. For a minute, Mac thought that it would stop right there, given how much Danny loved kissing, but Danny managed to pull his lips from Mac's after a couple of sloppy, saliva-filled moments. He mimicked Mac's earlier technique and kissed along Mac's jaw and neck.

Mac lost sight of the ELF's face for a moment, but that changed when Danny reached his chest. Danny placed a kiss right in the center, in between his nipples. The ELF had a serious look on his face, like he was concentrating with every fiber of his being. It was downright adorable.

Then Danny licked Mac's nipple and adorable suddenly became sexy as hell.

"Hey, it wasn't that hard a minute ago," Danny said. He looked studiously from one nipple to the other. "Is it ticklish too?"

Mac's chuckle was breathless. "Something like that."

Danny spent a couple of minutes moving from one nipple to the other, lapping and sucking by turns. After each new attempt, he'd pause to look at Mac's face, as if gauging what Mac's reaction was. Mac, not too surprisingly, found his cock hardening again.

"I think I like this one better," Danny stated after several minutes of experimentation. He gave Mac's left nipple a fond lick.

"R-really?" Mac gasped. "Why?"

"It gives you more pleasure," Danny explained. "At least, you wiggle more."

While Danny was talking, he wasn't licking or sucking, giving Mac a chance to catch his breath enough to reply. "You're very observant."

"Nah," Danny disagreed. "You're just the best teacher I ever had."

Danny bent his head again and, continuing to mimic Mac's earlier actions, kissed his way down Mac's stomach. He skipped Mac's bellybutton, apparently not noticing the difference between it and the vertical slit leftover on his own body.

When the ELF's exploring lips got to Mac's cock, Mac stifled a groan. Danny was awkward and his technique was inexperienced, but it was already the best sex that Mac had ever had.

"Mmmmm. . . ." Danny murmured after he took his first lick. "This tastes even better."

The next few minutes were a lesson in patience for Mac. Danny seemed fascinated with how Mac tasted, but Mac knew that could just be the drive to bond fully. Knowing that he'd been unfair to the ELF, Mac let Danny lick and suck as much as he wanted. He'd gone from believing himself incapable of another orgasm to fisting his hands in the sheets, trying his best to fend one off long enough so that Danny could explore as much as he wanted.

Finally, though, Mac knew he was at his limit. "Danny, come back up here."

"Aw, Mac," Danny licked his lips even as he protested.

Mac held firm, knowing that Danny wasn't experienced enough to handle Mac coming in his mouth. "Up here, Danny."

Danny obeyed, albeit reluctantly. Once he'd slithered back up Mac's body, Mac took Danny's hand in his own and brought them both down to his erection. After the prolonged stimulation, it only took a few pumps and Mac spilled all over both of their hands. When his orgasm was over, Mac grayed out for a minute. When he opened his eyes again, Danny was curled up against him, licking his fingers.

"Thank you," Mac kissed him tenderly. "That was lovely."

"Did I make you feel good?" Danny's face lit up.

"Absolutely," Mac assured the ELF. "I've never felt better."

"Good," Danny murmured and laid his head against Mac's check.

It was good to see Danny less frenzied about sex, but neither did Mac want the ELF to fall asleep just yet. They had some things to talk about.

Mac slapped Danny lightly on the hip. "No going to sleep again."

"Aw, Mac-. . . ."

Mac grinned, but didn't give in. "After all that activity, you've got to be hungry."

Danny sat up, but didn't look very enthusiastic. "I suppose I could eat, but I'm sticky."

"That's easy to take care of," Mac chuckled, amused by the obvious ploy to divert his attention.

Mac stepped to the sink and wetted down a fresh cloth. He came back to the bed and tenderly used it to wipe Danny off. Danny seemed to enjoy the ministrations until Mac's touch came close to the genital area.

"Are you getting sore?" Mac asked as Danny started to squirm. After all the sex during the last 24 hours, it was a distinct possibility, even without anal penetration.

"No," Danny denied.

"All right," Mac accepted the answer, since he hadn't seen anything that made him think that Danny was hiding something from him. "Now you're not sticky so it's time to eat. Don't worry, I think you'll like this."

Leaning over as far as he could, Mac grabbed the food tray and lifted it to the bed. The bowls of rice were on a warmer and he handed one of them to Danny, along with a spoon. The rice was a lighter color than the rations the ELF was used to and Danny poked at it, an unsure look on his face.

"What is it?" He asked.

"Rice," Mac explained. "We're going to be introducing you to new things to eat, Danny. What you were eating before was a kind of baby food."

From Danny's earlier disparaging comments about the lower educational levels he was being tested at, Mac thought the comment would serve as a goad. He was right. As an isolated ELF, Danny had no idea what a real infant was, but he bristled at the comparison to an ELF barely out of the pod.

Danny dipped his spoon into the rice and brought a mouthful up to his face. Despite the determination in his expression, Danny was a little hesitant as he took his first bite. As he chewed, however, the worry wrinkles in his forehead smoothed out.

"Well?" Mac asked.

"Not bad," Danny looked at Mac through his eyelashes. "But I like the way you taste better."

Mac felt his groin tighten and told his cock to behave. "That's not really a nutritional substance, Danny. I think you're going to find foodstuffs that you like a lot better."

They ate the rest of their rice in silence and Mac gathered the dishes before going on to the other item. "This is applesauce."

Danny wrinkled his nose. "It's brown."

"Yes, it is," Mac huffed with amusement. "But not all food is gray or white, Danny. You'll find there's lots of different colors and textures." He pointed to the applesauce with his own spoon. "Go ahead, this is even better than rice."

This time when Danny took a cautious taste, his face lit up. "Wow."

Mac chuckled. "Like that, do you?"

"Mmm," Danny was too busy cleaning his cup out to make a proper response. When he finished, he licked his spoon. Mac had to swallow at the sight of it delicately lapping at the metal. "Can I have some more?"

"Later," Mac told him, taking the cup and adding it to the tray before returning the whole thing to the counter. "I want to see how it sets on your stomach first. Besides, I have something else to show you."

Danny perked up. "More kissing lessons?"

"No," Mac told him with a smile.

"Aw, Mac," Danny was close to pouting, which was unfortunate. It reminded Mac how very young the ELF was.

"There'll be time for that later," Mac stated gently, but with no room for compromise. "Now listen closely, because I have something to teach you."

The words were a ritual of sorts. An ELF's grace period was short and splicers like to make use of every moment. Obedience was important for a successful ELF indoctrination and UED personnel had learned that a consistent phrase was used to start training sessions. It served to put an ELF into the right frame of mind to take in new information. Mac hated using something that the splicers had devised, but had learned that using a technique an ELF was already familiar with was comforting for them.

Predictably, Danny sat up straighter and looked at Mac with a gaze that was intent and focused. "I'm ready."

"When Adam assessed the things you'd already learned, he found some gaps," Mac went on before Danny could say anything. "But don't worry, they were expected. We find almost the same gaps with everyone like you that we locate."

"Everyone like me?" Danny repeated. "What do you mean, Mac? Aren't you like me?"

"In most ways," Mac told him. "In the ways that really count, we're the same. But there are differences too and I'm going to explain those." He smiled ruefully at Danny. "And you expressed some frustration for your penis always being swollen. We'll be covering that topic too."

"Oh," Danny relaxed. "Okay."

Mac settled in for a long session. "The subject is biology. I know your teachers spent a lot of time on this subject and how bodies work, but they left out a pretty important part."

Danny frowned. "What's that?"

"Reproduction," Mac supplied the answer.

"Pfft," Danny was exasperated. "I know all about cells dividing."

"I'm sure you do," Mac was at once amused and saddened by Danny's innocence. "But what do you know about cells combining? Two very special types of cells that, when combined, unite into one DNA code?"

"Nobody ever mentioned anything about that.," Danny looked a little bit offended at the omission.

Mac grinned. "I know; that's why I'm telling you about it now."

Since the quarters they were currently inhabiting were designed for newly rescued ELFs, it had some unique features. Mac picked up the remote and pushed the necessary buttons to drop down a screen. A little navigating through the system and a video about the types of reproduction started playing.

"I know this stuff," Danny said. The vid had started with cellular division.

"Patience, Danny, we'll get to the new information."

When the presentation got to sexual reproduction, non-sentient animals were used as the examples. Even so, Danny leaned forward, his eyes locked onto the screen. Mac paused the presentation after a cat was shown delivering a litter of kittens. Danny looked over at him only when the screen stilled.

"You getting it so far?" Mac asked. "Any questions?"

Danny shook his head slowly. "I've seen vids of animals before, but never of them doin' anything like that."

"And you never wondered where they came from?" Mac asked gently.

"Noooo," Danny's eyes were wide.

Danny had obviously been trained to be inquisitive, but not about this subject. Few ELFs intended for sex weren't. Utter innocence was a highly valued trait in sex ELFs. Mac would like to think it was so the ultimate owners of the ELF in question could cherish that innocence and enjoy introducing the ELF to the pleasures of its body, but he knew from his work that the opposite was true. It wasn't the innocence that was valued as much as the experience of ripping it away.

"Well, animals aren't the only creatures that use sexual reproduction as a way of continuing their species," Mac explained as he pushed the button that would continue the vid. "But being sentient, we have a higher value placed on it too."

The next portion of the video went over human reproduction. It was factual, but gave some inklings of the psychological issues of sex. It also ended with the scene of a birth and, although it wasn't explicit to the point of exploitation, it left no doubt about where a human child came from.

At the point where the video was showing a newborn being placed on its mother's stomach, Mac stopped the it again. Even as the picture stilled, Danny's eyes never left the screen.

"Danny, you okay?" Mac asked. The ELF looked stunned.

"Yeah," Danny swallowed. "I just never seen anything like that."

"I bet not," Mac smiled and rubbed Danny's shoulder. "What did you think of it?"

"It's friggin' messy, Mac."

Mac had explained the human reproductive system to dozens of ELFs, but he'd never had one comment that it was untidy before. He couldn't help it, Mac started to laugh.

"What did I say that was so funny?" Danny seemed hurt by Mac's reaction.

Pulling the young ELF close, Mac kissed the top of his head. "Nothing, I just never thought of it that way before."

"Well, it is," Danny grumbled as he hid his face in Mac's chest. "From start to finish, there's fluids all over the place."

Mac put his hand under Danny's chin and gently forced the younger man's face up. "And what we did earlier wasn't messy? Or all the times I took care of your swollen penis for you?"

"It's called an erection, Mac," Danny corrected him, having just learned the term in the vid. "And that's different."

"Different, how?" Mac pressed. He thought it best to make people think, rather than just expecting them to learn everything by rote.

"Because you weren't planting a baby in me," Danny's expression became horrified. "You weren't, were you? You never put your penis inside me."

"Calm down," Mac pulled Danny onto his lap. "Men can't get men pregnant and, besides, like you said, I never penetrated you."

Danny curled up into Mac's arms. "Then why'd we do it? If it wasn't to reproduce?"

"Did it feel good?" Mac asked. They hadn't dressed again, so he had ready access to Danny's cock and took advantage of that by grasping it gently. He pumped slowly. "Does this feel good?"

"Yeah," Danny bit his lip. "Real good."

"Humans have evolved to the point where sex isn't just for reproduction," Mac explained as he gently worked Danny. "It brings a connection between two people and, like you said, it feels good."

Danny's orgasm was almost fluidless, understandable since he'd come so many times. Afterwards, Mac held him close, just waiting for Danny's breathing to slow down.

"It's a good thing we're not trying to make babies," Danny quipped. "We'd be hip deep in them by now."

Mac kissed him again. "Do you want to know why your penis is getting hard all of the time?"

"Yeah," Danny wiggled in Mac's arms. "Not that I'm complaining or anything."

"I know," Mac loosened his grip so that Danny could sit up and see the screen better. "There's one more method of reproduction that you need to learn about."

The video went on to explain genetic engineering, although it didn't go too much into the social connotations. Just learning about reproduction was enough for one lesson. Danny seemed much less tense, maybe because he'd lived such a sanitary life so far and coming from a test tube was far less messy.

"Now that's more like it," Danny said when Mac stopped the video.

Mac was genuinely curious. "Why?"

Danny looked at him, incredulous. "Because I'd rather get up out of a pod than crawl out from between a woman's legs, Mac. Women pee down there."

The answer was naïve, but Mac didn't blame Danny for that. "It's not that simple, Danny."

Danny had been busy looking at his torso, obviously comparing the slit left over from his pod days to Mac's belly button. At the sadness of Mac's tone, he lifted his face. "What do you mean?"

"Freedom of choice is very important, Danny," Mac explained. He wrapped his arms around Danny and leaned them back against the bedframe. "There's nothing wrong with genetic engineering in itself, but it's what people do with it that matters. They create people to serve certain functions and take away their choices. An engineered life form comes into the world a slave, Danny, and birthed humans think that's wrong."

"And that's what I am, an engineered life form," it was a statement, not a question.

"That's what you are," Mac replied. "And I'm a birthed life form."

Danny was quiet for a few moments, but Mac didn't say anything, wanting to give Danny a chance to process.

"Does that mean I'm defective?" The ELF finally asked.

"No!" Mac vehemently denied. "Why would you think that?"

"Because I get erections all the time," Danny explained. "Maybe I was engineered wrong."

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Mac said firmly. "You're a special kind of ELF, Danny. You were designed to bond to one person and one person only. The heightened sexual state you're in will settle down, once we're fully bonded. There's nothing wrong with you, I promise."

Danny lifted his head from Mac's chest. "Does that mean I belong only to you? You're the only one I'm gonna kiss."?

"Yes," Mac stated quietly. He was careful not to let his sadness show, worried that Danny would misunderstand the reason for it.

"Good," Danny grinned and put his head back down on Mac's chest. "Don't want to kiss anyone else."

Stroking his hand along Danny's back, Mac silently encouraged the ELF to fall asleep. It didn't take long for that to happen. Danny had one hell of a day and they'd barely scratched the tip of what it meant to be an ELF. So far, Danny seemed to be very pleased, but that would change. Once Danny knew more about the world at large and about ELFs specifically, his view was bound to change.

Mac only hoped, once that happened, that Danny wouldn't come to hate him.

 

~the end~

 

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