Ah, after having given up hope for Portrait, and thinking I would do a major rehaul in six or eight months and try again, I get a letter this morning from a different publisher who wants it! Woohoo! Thank you Cobblestone Press!!! I just have to think of a new title. Blah. I hate thinking of titles.
But, in celebration, I’m posting the first chapter of Veins of Turquoise, which still needs major work but I’m trying to get back into the mode for a while.
The pulsing music of the party surrounded her, sweeping her heart rate higher as her body contorted through movements that were physiologically impossible. But physiology here was only the starting point for imagination. The Hyvan flute battled with the keening of Mdinan underwater chants, and the frantic drumming of Eadosian kettle drums. Not much sonic room left for the weak, willowy synthesized singer to fill, – fortunately.
Lights flashed in shades of ultraviolet and infrared on to the dancing crowd of humans every shade of the rainbow. There were some dancers with kaleidoscopic skin, many with unbelievably silky lilac hair or a ridiculous stiff metallic silver mane. Add to the mix avatars in the shapes of prancing unicorns, others swooping overhead as Qsakian flying mantas or swimming through the crowd as cetaleans or giant Killian sunfish. Then there were the hoots and growls, the whoops and melodic alien trills.
Really, just another typical Tessnet virtual reality rave.
There were a few illegal Tessaddicts in the node, and Galita Serhadze could smell their desperation. She knew that the Galactic Corporate Attorneys’ techhounds were likely hard on their code trail. Sighing, she realized she was no longer titillated by the sense of danger at such an event. Instead of observing the coming chase, she drifted to the edges of the node and looked out at the flashing tubes of cyberspace on the Tessnet, her own brain’s interpretation of the information landscape out the windows of the rave node she’d loaded herself into an hour ago.
Maybe it was a nanosecond slower transfer speed since her body was on Lithos, out of the central core of Tessnet nodes, but overall she just seemed discontent lately with her usual net haunts. Dancing, games, music, even flirtation seemed stilted and hollow.
“Home.” There was a whisper, crystal clear in her mind despite the loud ambient din of the node. The voice was soft, deep, and comforting, but it was also utterly alien, with layers of age and wisdom beyond anything she could imagine. Was it her own mind playing tricks on her? Extremely well paid experts had just gotten through putting her brain through the most rigorous psychological examinations in the galaxy. She passed with flying colors, as she did every two years, keeping her license as an Information Engineer, with all of her clearances and Tessnet privileges. The GCA was willing to bet a lot of time and money on the fact that she did not have a tendency to go insane. If she heard a voice – it was real.
But the voice spoke no longer. Whatever program had triggered it, getting past her firewall, had let her be. Strangely, she felt the ache of its loss. She was missing something, and had been for a long time.
She decided to try and trace through its echo, but just as she prepared to enter the dive portal for the node to find the rapidly disappearing thread, a huge avatar stepped in front of her, putting a halt to her movement. She looked up at a man who had definitely tried too hard to appear as a sex god, and therefore completely failed.
Close to seven feet tall, she had to stare up at him. Oh, he promises a whole eight and a half minutes of fun before somebody made a mess and fell asleep. His chest was like a barrel, pecs glistening with oil, a waist so narrow that overall he looked triangular. He couldn’t stop at designing six or twelve abdominal muscles, oh no, this fellow decided that sixteen were a good idea. Massive thighs the size of Hyvanian hams, ridiculously huge feet that a normal human would have tripped over. At least the bulging equipment was packaged up in a tiny glow-in-the-dark bikini.
His face was not an improvement. Long midnight blue hair framed a chiseled face with perfect pouting lips. Just like every other avatar of the sexually desperate. This guy did try to do something distinctive though – he’d pasted on an eyepatch to the standard “alpha-male” Tessnet avatar pre-programmed package. She supposed it was to give the appearance of “danger” to the oiled up cretan. For her, it screamed “pirate” and after the rape of her home ship, the DMTR, by Karogian pirates some eight months previously, she was in no mood to humor any idiot looking like something she loathed.
“Hey sugartits. Wanna have some fun tonight?” Oh, the voice program wasn’t a good match at all, at least an octave too high for the size of that chest. Tsk tsk. Galita hated shoddy workmanship.
She didn’t even want to acknowledge the ass who had cost her the chance to trace that voice she’d heard, but before she could maneuver around him in virtual space, she felt the sensation of rough hands trying to grab her ass. The guy was motionless except for a lurid smirk, but he was trying to break through her firewalls to cop a feel! He was doing a rotten job of it too, as it felt more like pins and needles than anything lascivious, much less sensuous.
Narrowing her eyes, she sent back a hard jolt straight to the groin, shattering the creep’s firewalls and causing the man-god in front of her to flicker into a greasy little man a good foot shorter than she was curled up in pain. He looked like an accountant from some high-rise office building on Mitka II who hadn’t seen the dim sun outside for a decade or so. Blech.
Blowing out a virtual breath, she brush past her conquest to enter a dive portal and so returned to the local entry room on Lithos. She spent a moment trying to decide whether to go virtual sandskiing on Fardo III or just enter sleep mode and dwell on the lingering discontent in her dreams.
Deciding on neither, she opened her eyes – her real, boring, brown eyes and returned to her body. The Lithos room was strangely comforting, for all its plain, utilitarian décor. Old-fashioned anti-grav couches cushioned the body and applied the subtle pressure waves that meant your muscles didn’t atrophy while you were diving in. A background of white noise teased the eardrums into staying flexible. The nutritional and waste needs were met with subtle ear clips rather than messy tubing like in some older facilities. Overall, she was pleased with the place. Deciding to exercise her real body rather than leaving it to the med programs she swung out her legs from the too high couch and hopped on to the floor. One thing about these Lithians, contrary to physics, they decided to grow ridiculously tall despite the heavy gravity on the planet. Her own long Phytos legs looked pathetically short in comparison with any Lithian female she’d met. And the men! Oh, they were impressive.
Galita smiled as she exited the room. The pressure controlled door closed with a hiss behind her, and she entered one of the standard rock-carved halls of most building she’ll seen on Lithos. Molded crylic was just not in fashion here, and really, she couldn’t blame the designers around here. Stone definitely had a solid, permanent feel. Maybe it was a bit drafty at times, but truly, it felt good to not have everything absolutely perfect all the time. If she wanted that, she could stay in the Tessnet all the time.
She laughed in wry amusement and a wave of blue rippled across her skin, disturbing the light green she had settled on that morning. Unlike most Phytos, Galita had conscious control over the color cells in her phytodermis. If she wanted to be pale rose one day, and robin’s egg blue the next, she didn’t have to trick her skin with altering the light she was exposed to, she could change at will. It was a rare ability, but one she liked to have fun with. Polka dots and stripes were a good conversation starter, and if angry, she could always announce her displeasure with a well chosen insult appearing on somewhere on her skin.
She’d been good enough that when she was in college, the GCA tried to recruit her to their Covert Division. Fortunately she hadn’t been so good that they would have made it an offer she couldn’t refuse. Besides, she had one problem that meant she could never completely blend into the background – she could change the tone of her skin easily enough, but the bright red of her hair was irrepressible. Even the best and most expensive of dyes and genetic treatments seemed to be rejected by her body, and she was doomed to life as a redhead, no matter what color her skin was.
Mostly, this particular talent was just part of who she was, just like her talent for diving the Tessnet. It always made her look deeper than the surface. And Lithos, she just hadn’t quite figured out yet.
Maybe should would soon. Many of her shipmates seemed remarkably content, given what little choice they had in coming here. Galita herself was young and healthy enough that she could have chosen alternative treatment, but the experience of symbiosis with a silicon lifeform seemed to amazing, too novel, to not say yes.
So far, she’d not really had the opportunity to enjoy a differences, other than the slow burning ache that had plagued her during her testing on Mars. The disappearance of that ache once she got to Lithos was a visceral pleasure, the kind she had rarely felt in her true body. It made her crave other sensations. She’d never tasted Mdinan lobster, only the electronic version passed into her sensory neurons. She’d never inhaled the sweet air at the top of the Skilani Range of Eados V, only the simulated kind. And for all her acrobatic, encyclopedic knowledge of sex and the thousands of partners she’d enjoyed and discarded, she’d never felt the heat of a man’s cock inside of her own flesh. All in all, she realized that she was falling into the Tessnet pit that all InfoEngs had to avoid at all costs, to have more of your self embedded in the net than in your own brain. Otherwise someday you could dive in, and never come back up again.
She paused to look out the bank of windows lining the hall of the Entry Room building. The circular hallway encompassed a garden at the center, one of the hundreds that seemed scattered like shiny pebbles across the central city of Aroll. They were beautiful places, very different than the chaotic lushness of the growth on board the DMTR. Restrained but still full of life, just life very different from anything she’d seen in the galaxy. The strange bland of hard and soft in shalemoss, the fragile crystalline blooms of a starflower, each garden she’d visited was a different adventure for the senses. This particular one, held a completely different allure.
He was there again. Sitting on the bench in the rock garden in the cold, thin Lithian air and facing the windows in the hallway where she stood. He seemed to be there every time she exited the Arollian Tessnet center in this state of discontent. Either he was following her with illegal psi skills, he’d hacked into her personal locator code, or he was somehow the source of that discontent. Then again, perhaps it was just wishful thinking involving a prime example of Lithian male.
Galita hadn’t really understood Matrissa’s obsession with this place. Sure, Rissa had acquired the finest male specimen Galita had seen live in all of her short forty-five years, so the good doctor had motivation to like this strange barren planet. If Irav Tok had been single or mated to any other woman in the galaxy, Galita would have taken a retinal scan of her eyes within five minutes of catching sight of his perfectly luscious body and in another five minutes and sufficient privacy, she’d have had a simulation of the man filling every orifice on her body to her intense simulated satisfaction.
Unfortunately, Irav happened to be claimed by the woman who was Galita’s best friend in the galaxy, and Galita couldn’t help feeling that sex, even virtual sex, with a simalcrum of her best friend’s mate was not a good idea. It had all the trappings of a bad Tessdrama episode.
Galita had refused to believe that more like Irav could exist on this backwater planet. She’d had to stay in the Sol system when DMTR had come back to Lithos, spending two months on Mars for her testing. By the time she’d finally arrived on a freighter, the constant longing for something indefinable had scratched like a horrible itch. Upon setting foot on the ground and breathing in the cold, crisp air of the main city, Aroll, the itch had faded, replaced by intense curiosity.
She’d been here for three weeks now, and the place constantly surprised her. Her current obsession, the man looking so intently in her direction. It turned out Irav was not unique at all. This man, the one who stared at her with those vivid blue eyes, he made any fantasies of Irav Tok disappear like a vapor. What was it in the air around here that produced such men? Real, flesh and blood men, not designed in some avatar-specialty lab. Those eyes were the most brilliant shade of blue, such a vibrant color that she wondered if they were a gene-alt. But he just didn’t seem the type, as serious and grave as his expression always appeared.
In fact, he wasn’t her type at all, although her body was creaming the opposite – her nipples tight, her pupils dilated, her sex slick in readiness. He was a redhead! She hated red hair. But really, on him it worked. His skin was a warm, rich brown tinged with red, like the weathered limestone in the deserts or old Earth or the dry, dusty plains left in the non-terraformed reserves on Mars. Hi hair was just a shade lighter, more a deep rust than brown. His arms were things of beauty, and she resented the thin sleeveless shirt that covered his chest from her perusal. She wondered how his skin would taste if she ran her tongue across the muscles of that chest – if his stomach would flutter as her mouth descended, if his cock would be warm and hard in her mouth, and what his scent would be like in her nostrils. She didn’t want to rush off to make a simulation of this man. She wanted him, real and live and entwined with her in hot sweaty glory.
For Infinity’s sake! The man was looking right at her. He was still some five metras away and she knew that these floor-to-ceiling windows were one way, that it was impossible to see inside the crylic window from that bench. But his eyes perused the length of her body, making her swallow nervously and bite the fullness of her lower lip. Her sex felt heavy and full, her temperature seemed to soar, and she could feel her phytoderm ripple in an effort to harness the sudden hormonal changes into a store of energy. Ah, to be a Phytos, ever-mindful of limited resources. It was then that she noticed her hand pressed against the crylic of the window – the skin that was quickly becoming the same shade of deep red-brown as the man watching her from outside. The color crept down her arm and had almost made it past her elbow before she wrenched her hand away from the window and shook it vigorously, forcing it back to the green it had been a moment previously. She hadn’t changed her phytodermis unconsciously since she’d bee a teenager! What in Infinity was happening to her?
“Happy to be home, Galita Serhadze?” A voice was speaking in her mind again, but this voice was gravely and utterly human. A voice full of challenge and temptation. “Is this finally home?”
She wanted to scream back, but she didn’t know what the hell he was asking, much less what she should answer. And she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the voice belonged to the man sitting outside – well, he had been sitting outside. While she had been raging internally, trying frantically to find the hole in her firewalls and wireless comm that he’d exploited to access her audio receptors, he’d simply walked away. Damn that Mardon Kaen. And damn her for wanting him.
If a woman was finally, finally going to pick a man to be her first bio-partner for sex, why did the guy have to be so damn mysterious!
Then she was overcome by an image so strong she sank to her knees right there in the public hallway, lost to everything but sensation.
Was she in the Tessnet? Was she asleep? Did it matter when she felt like this? Her skin was electrified – every nerve ending was receiving nothing but bliss. Behind her knee, it was the whisper of a hot breath. Along the curve of her breast, the lightest teasing touch of a single finger. On the inside of her thigh, the firm but gentle bite of teeth. Her breath came in shuddering gasps and her eyes darted around the smooth brilliance surrounding her. She was trapped in the warm heart of a sunset, light she couldn’t block out even when she closed her eyes. It shined within her, through her, not letting her hide anymore from her own insecurities, her own sexuality.
She reached her hands out, pleading for something to hold on to and he was there, wrapped in her arms, his lips whispering promises against her neck that she couldn’t understand but the fire that sang through her blood. Her legs wrapped around his hips and he slid inside her easily, filling her like no program, no simulation, no cybersex partner had ever come close. He wasn’t just triggering neurons in her cortex, he was making her body sing. She didn’t know which direction was up and whether they were on a bed, the floor or floating in liquid gold, but nothing mattered but the friction of his cock within her sheath, the completion of being filled where she hadn’t realized she was empty.
Her pussy clamped around him, holding him within her, making it was difficult as possible for him to withdraw. But oh, when he did – when he slammed back inside it was the sweetest homecoming imaginable. His lips sucked each nipple into his mouth in turn, nipping them and driving her into a higher state of frantic desire. Their hips slammed together, his hands spanning her ass and pushing them against each other with greater and greater energy until she felt like they were going to combust. When those blue-green luminescence eyes stared into hers, she did.
When she came, she opened her mouth in a silent scream, raking nails down his back as she felt him explode within her. Light exploded behind her eyes and she closed them in reflex.
When she opened them, she was shaking on all fours in a cold stone hallway, alone.
“Risheva. Come to Risheva, Galita Serhadze.”
Oh, damn him for a zit on a tralc’s ass. Why all the damn mystery for Infinity’s sake?