LOCAL Girls, Guys - Looking for Sex Near You Right NOW! - CLICK HERE
"Starry Starry Night" touches more on "sci-fi" than "interracial." As far as "explicit action" is concerned, the reader is warned that in this particuar story, sex plays but a small (though defining) role. Not recommended for those seeking a "hard-core" read.
Travelling through space at close to six hundred miles per second for most people, would constitute living in the fast lane. For Yalgon it was merely another stretch at the viewing port of a star freighter long since passed its scheduled operational life-span.
Having slowed the craft at the outer edges of what the company referred to as the "Origin World Cluster," Yalgon depressed the far left of eight crystalline protuberances on that which a layman might have incorrectly termed the 'control panel' in front of him. The slightest humming could be detected throughout the walls of the craft.
Just why the company insisted crew members engage the ship's cloaking device when passing through this particular tract of space he could never fully understand. Inarguably the entire Valarian race owed their very existence to those intrepid explorers who hailed from the blue planet so many time-phases in the past. Since that period though, 'humanity' as they were collectively known, had curiously been plunged into epochs of technological redundancy and appeared to have now, neither the knowledge nor the skills of their own descendants. There had been concern during Yalgon's childhood, when it was reported that an object of admittedly inconsequential size, had actually landed on the small moon which orbited the blue planet and that in fact two humanoids had emerged from the craft briefly. Exactly why they had chosen to visit so barren a location was not immediately evident to the Valarian scientific council. Initially thought to be a rekindled interest in interplanetary travel - though seemingly of a crude and indeterminate nature - no further exploratories appear to have been made since that time. Perhaps then he had pondered, it was simply a case of wishing to avoid detection and thereby unwanted interest, that craft were instructed to use their cloaking capability in the vicinity.
Barely had the red planet exited the portside viewing window when a discernible vibration became evident towards the rear of the cavernous interior. With practiced dexterity, Yalgon passed his hand across the transparent shield immediately to the right of the cloaking-crystal, his thumb and sixth finger spanning their normal one-eighty degree coverage. Almost immediately the skeletal structure of the craft in technical cross-section, appeared on-screen in sharp image, white outline against blue background. A second pass of Yalgon's hand displayed what may have been a lower deck. Towards the rear, surrounded by an intricacy of fabricated structural-metal framework, a circular disc appeared to be glowing a blood red color.
"The fusion reactor," Yalgon mused, running swiftly a diagnostic on the ship's power-source. This merely served to confirm his worst fear. The port-side reactor, as it had threatened on an earlier star-passage, was now crippled and at this point in deep space, fully beyond repair. It was of little consolation now that having earlier raised concerns about the age of the craft, the flight council had examined the ship and deemed it worthy of extended certification. Whether or not a salvage team could even rescue him was in doubt, which meant he would be stranded in this quadrant pending the next allocated star-freighter...a possible ninety "day" wait (as they measured time in this realm of the galaxy)
Evaluating his options, only the blue planet itself was within accessible reach of his damaged ship. On low power even, it would be able to remain in cloaked-orbit indefinitely while the space council decided its immediate fate. His subsequent transmission contained all the relevant data-scans and star-log details. Even on reduced power, the blue planet's aspect was monopolizing the frontal viewing-port in moments. It was he decided far more beautiful than even his own planet, far away as it was now in the Andromeda cluster.
It would be necessary he realized, to acquaint himself with updated local planetary customs and recent history and thus he sat fully relaxed in the audio-pod as the ship's compuserve oversaw the uplink that transferred all current data to the bio-implant chip located slightly to the left of his gills. Long since unused, he realized it would take a while to familiarize himself once more with the use of his lungs – an aspect they had emphasized as high priority during space-training.
Slowing appreciably, the craft entered its calculated upper-orbit silently and efficiently. Assigning all on-board systems to the care of the ship's compuserve, Yalgon entered the molecular-dissociator, calmly awaiting transfer to the Blue Planet's surface. He felt little more than a tingling sensation followed by a period of total black-out.
Even as the blue-tinged beam made contact with the scrubland a short distance from a semi-deserted section of Interstate 80 in Wyoming, the vague outlines of a life-form assumed a shimmering reality. Slowly, awareness returned to him. "So this is "Earth" he muttered, looking across at the darkened highway upon which some primitive vehicle was travelling.
Although very much identifiable as humanoid still, evolution had overseen some significant changes to the Valarian race in the millennia since the arrival of Earth's earliest – and hitherto forgotten – cosmic explorers. Generations of offspring, having by necessity to adapt to less of a gravitational influence and spending a far greater proportion of their lives in water than once did their ancestors, had resulted in the re-development of upper thoracic gills and the dark webbing between their six fingers. They stood taller also at an average height of six-foot six. Having consequently something of an ichthyic appearance, Yalgon concluded that his external frame required at the very least, some cosmetic attention in order that he pass unchallenged among the local populace – as and when he might locate such.
Pondering then his options, he depressed the touch-screen of his small wristpack, entering various parameters. Although unable to alter his height. quite obviously, Yalgon's skin lightened considerably, the webbing appeared to retract between his fingers and his hairline to assume a normalcy no-one would commit to a second glance. The skin rippled around his neck, delicately covering the gill area, a physical characteristic he knew he would not be requiring for quite an extended period of time.
Breathing now pure oxygen instead of the methane he was more used to and which constituted ninety-five percent of the spacecraft's on-board pressurization, he felt almost light-headed. This gravity however was definitely going to take a while to get used to – not half a dozen steps and he was feeling the weight of his body already.
Crunching gravel underfoot, he reached the shoulder of the Interstate, while in the distance could be seen the approaching lights of a second vehicle. Waiting there motionless, he raised his arm as the car approached. The vehicle's driver braked hard, screeching to a halt almost alongside him.
"Jesus man," he called out through the lowered window, "What the fuck happened They took your clothes too"
Yalgon's eyes studied the man for a moment. Maybe not six-six, but tall enough!
Piloting a 1986 Oldsmobile Delta 88 following several months in deep space at the helm of a mile-long nuclear-powered space-freighter was for Yalgon, an object lesson in humility. "Just how primitive are these people" he pondered, watching the needle struggle to its graded zenith of ninety miles per hour.
An exit for Green River flashed by on his right followed by an overpass, upfront of which was a sign Cheyenne 271 miles. It was to this co-ordinate he was navigating, the compuserve having indicated a higher concentration of humans clustered there than in the surrounding areas. Given the maximum speed of his present conveyance however, he calculated this to be probably three and a quarter Earth hours distant.
A short time later, a strange sound could be heard in the background. Yalgon concentrated on it for a few moments. He was unable to immediately identify the source but it appeared to be gaining in volume. A mechanical whining of sorts he decided. Just then he noticed in the mirrored reflection, twin beams of light sweep around the bend he had just negotiated. Evidently the newcomer's conveyance was possessed of a higher speed capability than his own. Colored lights additionally were now flashing on the roof of the vehicle. Slowing to allow the whining object to pass, he was fully surprised when the conveyance slewed dangerously into his own path, forcing him to brake and skid almost off the roadway. He brought the vehicle to a stop as two quite large humans exited their vehicle and began striding towards his open window. One of them flashed a light-beam through the passenger's side.
"May I see your license and registration please sir" uttered the larger of the two "men" (as he knew the male of the species to be called) who was now standing alongside his window.
"What is that" Yalgon replied, in a voice bordering on the robotic. He would need time to perfect the human tongue he realized, it being quite unlike his natural oral tone and resonance.
The man looked at his partner who, having checked the vehicle from front to back was now standing beside him "Are you saying Sir, you do not have a license to drive in this State" he asked, acting in what Yalgon interpreted as a threatening manner.
"I do not understand what a "license" and "registration" is," he replied. "How then might I show you either"
The men conferred for a moment. "Please get out of the vehicle sir," said the man's partner. Even as he spoke, he was pulling something that may have been a weapon from the belt he was wearing.
"I have no wish to do that," Yalgon replied, losing patience with these humans. "I must leave." He re-started the engine.
"I said, get out of the vehicle Sir – right now." screamed the weapon-holder, aiming his 'tube' at the driver's head and standing there in a fully confrontational attitude.
"As I was led to believe - aggressive creatures," Yalgon thought briefly. He then gestured towards the men. Both were flung backwards some twenty feet into the scrubland, the 'weapon' dropping harmlessly by the roadside. Glancing towards their vehicle that was partially blocking his way, he momentarily inclined his head, closing his eyes. Any observer would have found it incredible watching what happens to a large metallic object when simply the neutrons are fused together, the space between them evaporating. One might only describe it as total molecular anarchy in fact.
The officers remained where they were, on their knees and staring wildly....at the six-inch "cube" of blackened metal there on the shoulder, that shortly they would find was so heavy they could not even pick it up.
It was as he had expected, more than three hours before he reached the Cheyenne interchange. Navigating the vehicle north on Interstate 25 now, the city outskirts were almost immediately encountered. He was he realized both hungry and in need of shelter for the night. Unfamiliar with local hospitality customs, he knew only that "Hotels" offered overnight accommodation. Having cruised up and down what appeared to be the city center, he had just turned into "Stillwater Avenue" when he noticed across the street, a large and brightly-lit building. The sign at the entrance proclaimed this to be "The Fairfield Inn."
Taking the next intersection on the near-deserted street, he turned the car around and headed south, pulling into the hotel's car-park alongside several other vehicles. Retrieving the keys, he walked towards what appeared to be the main entrance. Inside, he glanced around and noticed a female of the species standing behind a long desk over which hung a wooden plaque that read Hotel Reception.
Twenty-year old Kelly Stevens looked up as the man approached. "Boy, had she been rostered on the right night," she thought to herself. Tall dark and handsome barely covered it!
"Hello," he said, "Am I able to stay here overnight please."
His voice was strangely accented she determined, certainly not local if even American.
"Well of course," she replied. "What sort of room were you wanting sir"
"Room" he asked, fully unfamiliar with the word.
She looked up at him quizzically. "Well, we have rooms with single beds....double beds (she blushed momentarily)....it just depends what you prefer sir."
"I'd like a double bed please," he replied softly, finding the words easier to enunciate with each passing sentence.
"Certainly," she cooed. "That will be eighty-nine dollars sir – and that does include breakfast. Will you be staying long"
He rather liked the appearance and scent of this female, those of his own planet, though suitably equipped from a reproductive viewpoint, offered minimal variation outwardly from their male counterparts.
"I haven't decided yet," he replied, studying her features as he spoke. The girl lowered her eyes.
"You will have to sign-in please," she half-stammered, thrusting a card and pen towards him.
He looked at the items, unsure of what was expected of him.
"What are these" he asked, "I'm sorry but I have been away a long time and cannot remember..." he raised his right hand to the desk-top.
Fully unprepared for the girl's shocked cry, he hurriedly withdrew his hand. "Of course," he realized immediately "Humans do not have six fingers." He cursed his short-term thinking.
"Please forgive me," she was saying, in commendable control of her emotions now. "I didn't mean to be rude, I-I just wasn't expecting to see your er, hand....."
He managed a smile. "Just a birth defect I'm afraid. It has taken some getting used to....I'm really sorry for scaring you, it was thoughtless of me."
"Oh no," she gushed, "please, you have nothing to apologize for. Would you like me to fill in the registration card for you He allowed her to take back the items before him.
"Your name" she asked sweetly.
"Grant Davies," he answered, recalling the name on some of the papers he had found in the pockets of the man's jacket he had acquired a few hours earlier.
"Address" she added.
"1826 Rosenberg Boulevard, Phoenix, Arizona" he answered. "that's Zip code 85008," he told her, remembering distinctly the last of the address lines.
"Your car's registration number Mr. Davies" she looked up enquiringly.
"Exactly what those men in the whining vehicle had asked about," he reflected. Turning around, he glanced towards the conveyance that had brought him here – clearly visible through the double glass doors. He had no idea what she was talking about.
"Is that Oldsmobile yours" she enquired. He recalled that was the name he had noticed somewhere inside the car. He nodded. "It's a friend's actually," he lied effortlessly. He then watched as she walked to the far window and added information to the card. Something about her movements and that rear profile especially, anchored his attention – so much more curvy than his own people. He wondered momentarily what she might look like without those items of clothing
Seemingly happy with her investigative questioning and reaching beneath the desk to retrieve a plastic card that she placed in a small folder, the girl repeated her earlier request for the "eighty-nine dollars."
Realizing this must refer to a form of payment he pulled out the man's wallet and opened it up. Retrieving two rectangular pieces of paper, he handed them to the girl. She handed one of them back. "Just the one thanks," she giggled, delving into another drawer and handing him back another similar piece of paper and 4 silver pieces of engraved metal, that he felt obliged to return to the wallet. "Sorry," she muttered "I don't have any one-dollar notes here at the moment."
Passing the small folder with the plastic card across the desk, she indicated a set of stairs away to the left of the front desk. "Just up there on the first floor" she smiled, "Room 104."
He hesitated for a moment, "Will I see you later" he asked.
The question delivered as it was with an almost child-like innocence, conveyed no semblance of either offense or disrespect. The girl stared at him open-mouthed, fully unsure how to answer.
"I s-suppose so," she managed eventually. "I mean, I will be working here at the front desk until almost midnight, so yeah, I guess you might see me." Again that delightful giggle.
Bequeathing her a smile of his own, he turned and ascended the stairs.
Finding suite 104 presented Yalgon with no problem, opening the door however stretched his patience. Used to portals that opened automatically in his own terrestrial environment, this archaic mode of entry was just too much. Aware eventually, that the piece of plastic he had been given must be instrumental in the overall design, he tried inserting the artifact into the only slot he could see might accommodate it. The door stubbornly refused his advances. At the point he was about to deconstruct its molecular framework in utter frustration, he noticed a very young male of the species, observing him from the adjacent doorway.
"You don't know how to use them do you the youngster muttered with resigned acceptance. "Here, let me show you."
Before he could mount any defense as to his apparent technological deficiencies, the boy had taken the card and reversed the face, before sliding it effortlessly back into the slot, whereupon a small red light flashed its acknowledgment of so simple a procedure. As if to humiliate him further, the boy then pushed the handle and the door swung inwards.
"Is it difficult having all those fingers" he asked with no trace of real surprise.
"Yes sometimes," Yalgon almost snapped. "But thank you for the assistance," he added, controlling his emotions commendably. The boy shrugged and walked back towards his own room.
In some ways, the interior of suite 104 reminded Yalgon of a museum. He had seen "beds" similar to this in his holographic history rings. He remembered as a child learning about "The Ancients' mode of living." Now here he was, holed-up like a virtual relic himself. He sat down on the coverlet - certainly it was comfortable enough. Removing his shoes, he stretched out full length, arriving at the conclusion he would have no problem sleeping on one of these for as long as it took to mount a rescue mission.
Earthly terrestrial or not, hunger is hunger and Yalgon realized suddenly he had need of sustenance. Aware that gastronomic options vary greatly from planet to planet, he wondered how best he might address the problem at hand. His eyes fell upon a colorful folder lying on the small wooden cabinet alongside his bed. He picked it up. Having exceptional knowledge of several of the Blue Planet's languages, he was able to comprehend the wording. A highlighted sub-section entitled "Room Service" secured his attention.
"A selection of sandwiches and hot-foods available until midnight" seemed to convey the message he sought. Further down the page, the many available items were listed. Salads, toasted sandwiches, grilled meats, pasta dishes etc. he didn't know what they all were, but he had a strong conviction it might be a pleasant experience finding out! How to obtain any was his next consideration.
"To order from this menu, please call reception using the zero on your handset," caught his eye.
"Reception" now that was a word whose meaning he did know. He looked around encouraged, wondering where he might find a "handset."
Whilst nothing immediately 'clicked' he did notice the small plastic device on top of the cabinet with various numbered buttons at the front – and one of them was a zero. He pushed it....several times in fact, yet nothing appeared to be happening. Momentarily frustrated, he shoved the thing back up against the wall and was surprised to see the upper section fall off. He could now hear a beeping sound. He realized it was some form of communications device and held it up to his ear. Again he pressed zero.
"Yes Mr Davies" came a fully recognizable young voice.
"Is that the Hotel Reception" he asked, needing to confirm his assumption.
"Yes," she answered, wondering at his strange formality. "It's me, Kelly Stevens."
"Kelly Stevens," he repeated, "May I call you that"
"Of course," she laughed..."Well just Kelly is fine thanks."
"Call me Grant then," he volunteered, "is that alright"
"Sure," she said. "Was there something I can do for you Grant"
"I wanted room service Kelly, just some food if that is possible."
"Well if you tell me what you'd like, I can arrange to have it brought up to you." she replied softly.
"Do you have fish" he asked her.
"We have Atlantic-Salmon," the girl told him. "It's really very nice, they cook it well here," she added as an afterthought.
"And that is fish"
"Of course Grant," she assured him. "You've never had Atlantic Salmon before'
"No," he replied "Unless they call it something different where I come from." He heard her giggle into her handset.
"And would you like a drink with that" she asked brightly.
"Some liquid you mean" he enquired.
This time she completely broke down in fits of laughter.
"You crack me up Grant," she barely managed, before recovering her composure somewhat. "Yes, what liquid would you like"
"I don't mind," he responded, "Bring me whatever you want"
"Well it won't be me bringing it Grant," She was still giggling.
"Yes, I want you to bring it Kelly – please!"
So stricken did he sound uttering that last word, there was no question but for her compliance.
"Alright, just this once Grant, but I have to be back at my desk quickly – it's my job OK"
"Thank you Kelly," he replied.
He had gotten himself particularly comfortable on the bed when his reverie was disturbed by a light knocking. Quite some time had passed. Opening the door, he towered over the incoming visitor.
"Where shall I put the tray" she asked him. He indicated the large table to the left of the bed.
"Thank you for bringing it Kelly, I had hoped to see you again." He allowed the door to close of its own volition.
The sound surprised the girl and momentarily her eyes flitted to the doorway. He sensed her active concern.
"You are quite safe," he told her.
For reasons she was fully unable to comprehend, his words had a cathartic effect on her. She knew them to be spoken in complete honesty and any trepidation she might have felt, melted into the ether.
Seated now at the table, he inclined his head towards the plate. It smelt remarkably like something his mother may have prepared. Retrieving then a corner of the filet, he placed it gingerly in his mouth. The "proof was certainly in the pudding." "Very nice," he muttered.
"What is this" he enquired, holding aloft the narrow bottle.
"Californian white wine Grant...the "liquid" you asked me to bring," she smiled. "Here let me pour you a little." So saying, she filled the small flute from the uncorked bottle.
Yalgon held up the glass, studying its contents for a moment.
"Have some with me Kelly," he asked her.
"I really have to go now," she replied, glancing at the watch on her wrist.
"Just a little...please," he implored.
Again, she was persuaded. Finding another glass in the wall unit, she allowed him to half-fill it, aware that so far as alcohol and Wyoming State Law were concerned, she was still technically under-age. No law however could prevent her from enjoying the experience and by the time he had seen off the last of the Atlantic Salmon, that glass had been re-filled twice.
Unfamiliar with the properties of alcohol, Yalgon was feeling quite at the peak of his physical powers. He couldn't readily explain his light-headedness but it appeared the girl was similarly affected. He made a mental note to stock-up on this Californian liquid.
Glancing once more at her watch, Kelly let out a cry of disbelief. "Oh Grant, I so have to go now, there is no-one on the front desk, I'm going to be in such trouble!"
Having little idea of her meaning, all he knew is that he desired her continued company.
"No, Kelly Stevens," he told her. "You will not be needed at the desk – I shall see to it." Unknown to her and with the least drain of his creative powers, he instantly set in place an impenetrable force-field around the hotel building. No-one in and no-one out.
Once again the girl felt it safe to place her trust in this huge man. He was holding his arms out to her. Even as she walked towards him, sitting there as he was on the edge of the bed, she knew it was ultimately her own wish to be doing this and no emotional over-ride on his part.
Standing before him now he encircled her waist with his arms. She felt deliciously alive and for some reason – eager! His hands smoothed their way south, caressing her bottom slowly. How wonderful those curves felt, he was thinking. Feeling his way right to the hem of that somewhat brief skirt, he became aware of just how warm-blooded she was.
Kelly's mouth opened in silent surprise as he continued to feel her up with what amounted to not the least disrespect – rather an appreciation of her feminine birthright. She steadied herself by placing her hands on his shoulders. Letting go of her waist and raising his hands to little more than face-height, he cupped both the girl's breasts which brought forth a seemingly curious reaction. Not only did she let out a soft cry, but she closed her eyes and clasped her own two hands over his. For several minutes he simply squeezed the softness beneath while the girl swayed there on her feet, quite obviously lost in some sort of dreamy contemplation.
Encircling her bottom once again, he drew her towards him, easing himself backwards on to the coverlet as he did so. So compliant was this delightful female, that she offered not the slightest resistance even as his hand began to tug her skirt upwards in its quest to discover what lay beneath.
Prostrate across his body now and quite without her normal inhibitions, her lips sought out her partner's. Unfamiliar with the art of kissing, Yalgon was a willing student – quick learner too. He soon discovered that this pleasurable pastime had much the same effect short-term as had the Californian Liquid. That is to say – he desired more of it. This of course facilitated also his up-skirt hunting instincts. Kelly in fact became one of the very few girls in hindsight, to benefit from the dexterous pleasures to be had at the behest of a five-fingered vaginal exploratory.
Wishing only to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" she surreptitiously unzipped the skirt herself, wriggling out of the flimsy little item and thereby leaving Yalgon to infiltrate her now excessively damp panties any which way he so chose. Feeling her was one thing he discovered, actually seeing her quite another. It was definitely all good news. That crippled reactor was for now, consigned to the absolute periphery of his alien thought-processes.
A whole new playing field was unleashed at the point he discovered the practicality of a front-loading bra. However inviting the softness between the girl's legs was proving, and he had nothing but praise for what appeared to be the ultimate in self-lubricating systems, the all round appeal of those soft exposed mounds and their dark-pigmented centers, erect as Kelly's appeared to be, was without equal in his experience. He discovered also the pleasures to be had in sucking those erect little centers. Not only was the sensation much to his liking, the girl was simply insatiable.
Kelly in fact was now naked and increasingly desirous of his attentions. The deeper his fingers penetrated her lower cavity or the more he nuzzled his face between her upper mounds, the greater her moaning noise. He guessed that this must be how females on the Blue Planet behaved when they wanted to be given children. So much more "involving" than his own race that performed a similar task but without either enjoyment or any of this "kissing" prelude.
Finding at last the zipper at the front of the trousers he was wearing, he managed to free-up his own sheath. Fortunately for the girl, she was too far out of it sexually, to notice the subtly different design between Earthly and Valarian sperm transfer vessels. The ultimate methodology however was comparable – well except for the delivery mechanism itself.
With but a couple of sexual partners in her recent past, and neither having been blessed with any great competence in the field as it were, Kelly was yet to experience unhinged procreative bliss. That which she suddenly felt intruding upon her lower maidenly charms, propelled her well up-town let's say. Filled to capacity, she gasped as whatever it was in her, began to throb, seemingly without any physical input from its owner. She found the sensation delightful and responded to her partner's renewed kissing with submissive compliance.
For his part, Yalgon had never experienced such pleasure. More a necessary "event" on his home planet, this girl was making him feel more alive than ever he had. He knew that "fluid transfer" was imminent and tightened his grip around her waist. She really was beautiful.
Kelly sensed the approaching finality. The throbbing inside her had increased greatly with the result she was now experiencing mini-orgasms that felt like they were radiating outwards in concentric circles. She spread her legs to their theoretical limit using her hips to maximize penetration. Yalgon kissed her one last time.
One might use several analogies. A dam bursting, magma being expelled from a long dormant volcano, a water cannon at twenty paces...whatever. The fact is though, Kelly was privy to something very warm and under great pressure, being squirted the length and breadth of her inner vaginal walls. It seemed to go on for thirty seconds or so during which time Yalgon clasped her to him. She had the impression that he was totally vulnerable for those few seconds and clung to him like a protective mother.
Withdrawing from the girl, his sheath retracted and he re-zipped his pants. Kelly simply lay there, exhausted and most likely impregnated. For some reason she didn't care. What had just happened was so far outside the realms of normality there was nothing for it but to see it through – whatever the outcome.
© Peter_Pan 2007Read more stories from our Interracial stories category
Comment on This Story
Provide feedback on this story for the author. All comments are moderated before appearing below. Please use courtesy and common sense when commenting.
Special! For Our Readers: Live Full Screen Genuine 100% FREE Webcam Shows - Girls, Guys, Straight, Gay, Lesbian.
- Story Details and Information
- Starry Starry Night
- Published: Jan 2, 2008
- Author: Peter_Pan
- Contact Author:
- Category: Interracial stories
- Email to Friend: Click Here.
About: "Starry Starry Night touches more on sci-fi than interracial. As far as explicit action the reader is warned that sex plays but a small role. Not recommended for those seeking a hard-core read."