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Raptor – Chapter 6

Written by shadar :: [Wednesday, 14 October 2015 04:33] Last updated by :: [Wednesday, 18 November 2015 10:59]

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Chapter 6

I turned to see the oldest man I’d ever witnessed. He was impossibly wrinkled and hairless, his limbs skeletal, his skin so thin that I could see every purplish vein in his arms. How long had these men been trapped here, kept alive by the bugs?

"I haven't fully checked her out yet, Frank," the guard said. "You know the rules. Cavity checks required.”

“Well, you don't get to perform those checks with your dick this time," the ancient man growled. “Find Hazel. Have her check the girl out.”

The guard cursed as I saw Hazel smirking at him. this wasn't helping whatever bad blood those two shared.

Frank ignored them as he shuffled across the floor while removing his well-worn leather jacket, which he gallantly wrapped around Danya’s shoulders. “Or maybe we just forget that completely. She’s far too much of a sweet young thing for the likes of you two.”

Danya pulled the jacket closed with one hand while smiling thankfully at him.

The guard sputtered with indignation before saying: “She just moved freaky fast, Frank. Gold ain’t working on her.”

Frank looked at the drawn weapons. “So you want to shoot her for that? What the hell good is that supposed to do, you idiots? Put the weapons away.” He turned to Danya. “Explain please.”

She shrugged. “Doon know. Nev wun gold fore.” Her cotton mouth was getting worse.

“Jesus, Joe, get the poor girl something to drink,” Frank hollered. “She just survived a fucking annihilation chamber in the nude for Christ’s sake.”

One of the guards opened a container of something and leaned over with his arm outstretched to hand it to Danya. When she took it, he jumped back like she was about to explode.

She downed it in one draft, and then scrunched the plastic container up to toss it back. Turning, she smiled at Frank. “Dansk.”

“I asked you why the gold isn’t dampening you,” Frank said again, voice lowering.

Danya opened her mouth to reply, but I spoke up before she could. This might not be best moment for total truth. “It’s a rare genetic defect,” I said quickly, making up a story that I hoped would calm things down. “She has really fast reflexes when gold inhibited, but everything else is dampened as per normal. Trust me, she can’t hurt anyone.”

“So what the hell are you doing here, child?” Frank asked her as he ignored me.

“She came looking for me for reasons that have nothing to do with your world,” I added.

“She came for you?” Frank asked, eyebrow lifting as he sized me up. “Exactly who the fuck are you, anyway?”

“I did come,” Danya added firmly. “I owe him Kiraling. He saved my life.”

“Bullshit,” the guard said. “Not in no way could a fucking wimp like him save a Supremis.”

“Yet I claim it,” Danya said loudly, standing tall to glare at him. “Are you calling me a liar?”

For the first time, I saw tension in her body. The guard did too, and backed down, mumbling something to himself. I knew his type. He'd back away from a confrontation only to stab you in the back when you weren’t looking. I had to defuse this before it got ugly.

“Gentlemen,” I said with a wave toward the nearest tunnel entrance, “if you will kindly guide us to the bar, I’m sure the lady would like to buy everyone drinks. She is very wealthy, don’t you know?”

The guards murmured, shaking their heads, not happy, but free drinks were enough to placate them. Their mood lifted as several of them led the way down the second tunnel to my right. I’m guessing it wasn’t often that visitors offered free drinks here. Not to mention beautiful, naked, rich female visitors.

I also suspected that as long as she wore Frank’s jacket, Danya would be safe. He was clearly a man who everyone respected.

Danya pulled free of the guard who was trying to take her with him and walked back to help me take off my gear. The guard glared at her before telling two of the other men to keep an eye on her, and then limped down the corridor after the others, moving with surprising speed. Free drinks were calling.

Moments later a steward from the hotel showed up to collect the Sulpter and my other borrowed gear. I asked him if he could find some suitable clothing for Danya and deliver it to the bar. He gave her a close look to size her up, maybe a bit too close, then grinned wildly as he sprinted off down a different tunnel. He was up to something.

My legs were still a little numb, but Danya seemed recovered now. She wrapped her arm around my waist to support me. Her body felt supple and soft and so very human, yet seemingly with a steel core. I wondered how she would feel when she was empowered?

By the time we made it to Granite Bar, the place was packed. Word had spread fast. Everyone turned to stare at her as we entered, the room falling quiet. I tried to zip up her borrowed jacket, but she curtsied and then stood there smiling at everyone, letting it hang open, which drew a few whistles of appreciation. She smiled even brighter.

I grabbed her arm and dragged her over to the only empty booth I could see. She was acting like a damned celebrity. I quickly sat down beside her, pushing her further into the booth as I easing her jacket closed. She clearly had no experience dealing with obnoxious Spacers. Flashing them while smiling invitingly was like pouring rocket juice on a fire.

The rest of the crew from my ship were staring at me as much as at Danya, looking surprised. I didn’t have to read their minds to know they were wondering what their fake Life Support Tech doing with a girl like her. I heard people whispering "Supremis" as word began to spread.

My chest swelled as I bristled like an old bear, hackles rising, adrenaline mixing with surging testosterone — a bad combination. I stared down a couple of young men who were whispering together as they watched us, their lustful eyes on Danya. Two more men their same age squeezed in from the sides to join them. I suddenly knew exactly how this was going to go down. One of the men would get me into a fight, and the others would make off with Danya. Happens all the time in backwater bars.

I had no idea how tough Danya was while she was wearing gold, and I couldn’t count on any help from my shipmates. In their eyes, I was a fake passenger. A fraud.

Danya, of course, wasn’t picking up on the subtleties of what was going on around her. She was too busy sniffing the air. “What is world is that?!” she cried. “This whole place smells awesomely wonderful!”

I took a careful sniff, but all I got was stale beer and cheap bar food. I waved for the bartender, and he quickly arrived up with the usual tray of Glocknast. I’ve never known anyone who could eat more than a few bites of that ultra-spicy slop without downing a half dozen beers to put the fire out — which was why it’s a freebie in every Spacer bar.

Danya dug into it like it was manna from Heaven, eating messily with her fingers as she quickly polished off the entire tray. Eating that much spice without drinking would burn the throat out of anyone human. Yet watching Danya eat was like watching a young child eating their first ice cream — she was totally lost in sensual ecstasy, her eyes rolling as she smacked her lips.

Even better, the group of young men backed away. They weren’t worried about me, but rather her incredible consumption of spice.

I was so impressed that I ordered another tray of that slop, and then sat back to nurse my foul-tasting beer. She polished that one off as well, oohing and aahing with every bite. So I ordered her another tray. Then another. I swore she was going to have an orgasm just from eating.

First the annihilation chamber. Now eating glocknast. How many other normally lethal things turned her on?

I began to seriously wonder about the wisdom of sealing our deal with “a far more intimate gesture”. She was such an innocent.

My potential challengers melted into the crowd when Captain Janeway arrived. Standing two meters tall and carved out of sinew and muscle, he looked very much like the dangerous pirate he was. He sat down slowly, his left eyebrow slowly lifting as he watched Danya finish off yet another tray of spice. He turned to give me a quizzical look, and then back at Danya, wondering what I was doing with the hottest woman he’d ever seen. Especially on this backwater rock.

This was starting to become fun.

“Captain Janeway, I’d like to introduce my very good friend Danya Even’star,” I said proudly. I turned to face Danya, who had paused her eating. “And Danya, Captain Janeway is the illustrious captain of the very fine ship I'm traveling on.”

“Cut the bullshit about my ship,” Janeway growled. "She may not be pretty, but she’s got feelings. Might spit you out into vacuum if she hears."

I looked at him like he was insane, talking about his ship like it was alive, but Danya laughed as she leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. “Glad’ta meet ya, Cap’n,” she said, mouth still full of that toxic hot sauce. “We’re gone ta be good friends too. Your ship and me.”

Janeway looked at me, confused, then back at Danya as she sat back down to resume eating. “You know,” he said slowly. “I’ve seen a few Supremis in my travels. Even did a little trading, but we never went drinking or anything. Light years out of my league. So how did this fine member of my crew manage to capture you?”

He could shovel the bullshit too. What with my scarface and fake credentials and empty wallet, I was anything but fine.

I tried to explain about Apex Prime, but Janeway didn’t want to hear from me. Danya jumped in, launching into her pitch about the zoos. Janeway tried to follow, but given his lack of background on the raptors, he was lost from the start. It didn’t help that she was still eating Glocknast.

I pushed the tray out of Danya’s reach, and then grabbed her arm as she reached over for it. She glared at me.

“So how about we start from scratch with the Captain,” I told her. “Let me begin, please.”

She slumped back in the booth, acting like a sullen teenager now.

I took Janeway through my experiences on the raptor planet fifteen years ago, telling a tale in five minutes that usually took me an hour when seated next to a lovely in a bar.

Janeway never took his eyes off Danya. “Yeah,” he said, “very amusing. Jaspar overheard part of your little tale in the bar last night. But this sure doesn’t look like the muscle-bound blonde he described.”

"No, that was Darcy. She was on a ship that actually knows how to refuel. Zetan farmers mostly.”

“You told all these people about meeting me when I was little?” Danya gasped, nearly rising out of the seat.

“Nobody takes bar stories seriously,” I shrugged.

“Is this the part where you teach me to be a bullshiter too?” she demanded. “I think that’s the word.”

I opened my mouth and then closed it, not sure what to say to that. She took advantage of my silence to launch into her prepared pitch again, this time slowly explaining her zoo concept to Janeway, emphasizing her key points in a surprisingly professional way -- now that she wasn’t stuffing her face.

Janeway’s eyes narrowed when she described how she’d provide free propulsion for his broken ship if he’d set a course to Riegel 5 for retrofitting the cargo hold. Then over to Riegel 3 to check the construction of the viewing areas and then back to Apex Prime to load up the big game.

Listening to her, it sounded like a casual jaunt around the park with a basket of puppies.

“First of all,” Janeway growled, glaring at me, “no member of my crew needs to be talking to anyone else about my ship or its goings on. I should kick you off right here, Scanton.” He turned to Danya. “And what makes you think you can even lift my ship?” he asked incredulously. “You sure don’t look as mighty as the Protectors I’ve seen.”

“Take the gold off and she does. Plus she knows your ship, Captain. As I was going to explain, she followed us into the wormhole and hitched a ride on our hull as we went through. Got knocked off in the vortex.”

Janeway blinked, looking confused. “Inside a wormhole? Dressed like that?”

Danya opened her jacket wide. “Actually, more like this. Too hot for clothing. But I had a Singleton, and later a borrowed space suit, if that matters.”

Janeway stared until she closed her jacket. I could see the pulse pounding in his neck, his blood surging.

This was really starting to be fun. We held all the cards, Danya and me. Better yet, Janeway was inhaling her scent, along with everyone seated near us. The mood of the bar began to shift, moving from disgruntled drunkenness toward warm and liquid friendliness. The drinkers who’d earlier been on the edge of passing out were now laughing as they tried to walk to the bar for more free drinks. The sexbots were getting busy with the young men who'd earlier been gunning for me. Pheromones can cut through a drunken stupor any day.

Janeway handled it better than I expected. He looked at Danya with increasing respect, but maintained his composure. My estimation of Janeway crept up a notch.

“Can’t do it,” he said, shaking his head after a long moment. “Navigating inside the Riegel system that is. Illegal as hell to bring a ship inside the heliosphere of a Core system with a compromised anti-matter pod, powered-up or not. They’d lock me up for a very long time.”

“That’s a detail we can work on,” I offered. “We know some people there, and we’ll be navigating under power. No reason for anyone to suspect us.”

“Except for Operations here on Monk’s, who will be obligated to send word to our next port if we depart under unusual circumstances.”

“A message that can’t get there before us,” I said. “Not if we’re the next ship out, that is. Operations won’t waste an expensive hole-probe for this kind of info. Safer for them to just pretend they don’t know anything.”

Janeway stared at me for a long moment, and then back at Danya. “Fair enough. But you want me to trust you to navigate us through two wormholes without an engine? Not to mention taking my ship out of service for months. Who’s going to pay for all that?”

Danya sat back and glared at him. “Captain, if you and your crew can’t handle this, I’m sure I can find some other captain who is interested in refined xintanite ore.”

Janeway sat up straight at the mention of xintanite. “X Ore? How much?”

“We can negotiate your portion after we work out the details,” Danya said, sounding like a lawyer now. “But I’ve got about five tons of it.”

Janeway’s jaw fell, his eyes growing wide as he tried to comprehend that. Then they narrowed suspiciously. “That, young lady, is ridiculous. Who has that kind of ore?”

“Tell him the rest about Apex Prime, Peter.”

“Right," I began. "So here’s the deal Captain. Danya’s planet has the highest concentration of xintanite ore ever found. Almost pure veins of the stuff, and less than twenty miles underground. If not for the population of raptors, we’d already have mines and ore refineries all over her planet.”

Janeway’s face blanched a little. “That’s the last place I’d want to put my ship down. But high grade xintanite, huh?”

“Yes, very, and she’s mined and refined some for herself. Using her eyes to smelt it.”

I had no idea if she’d really done it like that, what with melting temps of 10,000C, but she nodded. There hadn’t been any tech on Apex Prime when I visited and I’d gotten the distinct impression that her mother liked it that way.

Janeway’s eyes hardened. Pheromones or not, he was all business now. “You didn’t say what purity. Five percent? Ten?”

Danya leaned across the table, her blonde hair falling into the greasy tray of Glocknast as she whispered: “Try 99.9%”

Janeway’s eyes narrowed as he shook his head. “That’s impossible. The Vendorians are the only ones who can achieve that purity.”

“I’ll show you the assay once I get the ore onboard your ship. I presume your ship can handle another five tons of cargo?”

I could see the wheels turning in Janeway’s head as he tried to calculate the staggering sum. He suddenly held out his hand. “Then it’s a deal, Miss Danya. But the ore must all be stored in the ship’s maximum security hold.”

I tried to keep a straight face. That was the hold that he had exclusive access to. But likely Danya could open any safe ever made — with her bare hands.

That was followed by a real worry. Was she going to seal her deal with Janeway the same way I was still hoping she was going to seal mine?

I pushed that jealous thought away. It was a wasted emotion when you’re dealing with a Supremis. They shared their intimacies freely with anyone they wished. Still, I was greatly relieved when she ran her fingers through her hair to dislodge a piece of Glocknast, and then held out her hand to shake his. I wondered what happened to her earlier claim of disliking handshakes.

That’s when I remembered something I’d read about tactile pheromones. How they were stronger than the airborne ones. Also that Supremis pheromone glands were in their scalp, and she’d just coated her hand with those oils.

Janeway’s face grew red as soon as their hands touched, and he started breathing deeply. I’ve never heard of anyone losing it from a simple handshake, but he appeared to be on the verge by the time she slipped her hand from his.

For a girl who’d been locked up on a remote planet all her life, never having seen a man, she sure knew how to work it. Her mother had apparently taught her well.

“Just don’t forget that I’m paying the bills, Captain,” she added as he stared longingly at her. “Which says I make the final call when it comes to my raptors. And my ore. OK?”

She didn’t sound like an innocent girl now. She knew exactly how to deal with an old pirate like Janeway.

“Yeah, sure,” he grinned as he slumped back on his side of the booth, trying to catch his breath. Not only were his wildest dreams of avarice finally realized, but he was going to ship out with a Supremis on board. Every spacer’s dream.

“So, you want a drink or something, Miss Danya?" he offered. "You know, to celebrate our joint venture?”

“Peter already promised drinks for the whole bar,” she said, standing up. “At my expense. I’ll take care of it.”

Before I could stop her, she started walking toward the bar. We both watched as her long legs flexed so gorgeously, hips swaying, her long, wavy blonde hair floating around her as she moved with the practiced smoothness of a dancer. Once at the bar, she rose on her tiptoes to lean over the bar to whisper to the bartender. Her borrowed jacket rose just enough to reveal the lower curves of a superhumanly tight backside.

The bar went silent again, every conversation pausing as all eyes turned toward Danya. There was a collective sigh when she finally straightened up, the back of her borrowed jacket falling back in place.

It was slowly dawning on me that I was in way, WAY over my head. Farm girls are my speed, and even then, I usually needed my vial of pheromones. Everyone knows the Supremis are the absolute experts in the ways of love. And that they didn’t cling to any man. In fact, it was said there wasn’t even a word for “fidelity” in their native language. No matter how attached you might be a Supremis, or her to you, she’d entertain other lovers if they sparked her fancy. Gender was not an issue. Or age. Only feelings.

I recalled something my great-grandfather once said about my very first steady girlfriend, back when I was sixteen — the hottest girl in my school. “She’s a thoroughbred without a saddle who never stops prancing. And who are you? A rider lucky to get out of the barn twice in a year. She’ll throw you before you know it.”

He had a farmer’s knack for making things seem so clear. And so depressing. But he was right. She dumped me a week later for some jock. But this was different. I shared a Kiraling with Danya. That was the highest honor in their culture. If there was any kind of fidelity a Supremis believed in, it was a Kiraling.

I watched suspiciously as a man approached her at the bar, leaning close to whisper in her ear. She tossed her hair over her shoulder as she turned to face him, laughing. Then another man came to her other side and she did the same with him. She seemed to be truly enjoying herself.

I felt abandoned as I sat in the darkened corner with Janeway, watching as several other men did their best to hit on Danya. What say did I have in that? A Kiraling isn’t like a romantic relationship. I had no power over her. Hell, I’d barely known her for an hour, and half of that time was back when she was five years old. Yet I felt the twisting of black jealousy deep inside. It’s not one of my better traits.

A half dozen men were gathered around Danya now. Someone handed her one of the shots she was buying for everyone, and she downed it. Her eyes opened wide in wonder. Another new experience. So of course she downed a second. Then a third. I’d seen that same gleam in her eyes while she devoured those platters of Glocknast.

Did alcohol affect her when she wasn’t in Orgone metabolism? Probably. Her underlying biology was still human. And if this was her first time wearing gold, these might also be her first drinks.

I started to rise to go to her rescue, even as part of my brain reminded me of the words on my divorce decree: “insanely jealous and possessive, prone to violence.” Traits that had accelerated my wife’s departure for her gentler lover.

I wasn’t listening to that or anything else. Instead, I walked over and grabbed the man feeding her drinks and spun him around as I threw the first punch. My fist never reached his face before Danya grabbed my arm in mid-flight.

“What are you doing?” she demanded.

“He’s bothering you. Trying to get you drunk.”

She just laughed, suddenly looking wise beyond her experience. “I rather think he’s bothering you. We’re just going dancing. Come on, join us.” She wrapped one arm around me, the other around the big man. He didn’t look any happier than I felt.

That’s when I panicked. I’ve never been able to dance, and I wasn’t going to learn in this God-forsaken bar. Not in front of her. Thankfully, just as she was about to learn that I was a spastic at heart, the hotel concierge arrived with an armful of packages: the clothing I’d requested for Danya. I escaped disaster on the dance floor by motioning the concierge toward our booth, and then quickly caught up with him. Looking back, I saw everyone trying to dance with Danya now.

If the Glocknast had reminded me of a child's first taste of ice cream, I was now watching a pretty girl at her first dance, drinking in all the male attention. She wasn’t trying to blow me off, or even show off for that matter, she simply wasn’t bound to any rules. She’d also given up trying to keep her jacket closed as she danced wildly across the lighted floor, her pheromones lighting up the mood in that half of the room.

I needed to get her out of here before this got ugly. First step was to get her dressed. I opened the smallest package to find a spidery bit of black fabric that looked impossible small. Stretchy, like some kind of costume, but designed to cover as little as possible and still technically be clothing. “What the hell?”

“It’s a flight suit,” the concierge explained.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I laughed, thinking of the head-to-toe flight suits we wore on board. “What kind of scam are you trying to pull here?”

“I’m serious. It’s very old and essentially indestructible,” the concierge replied, sounding confident. “Look at the label.”

I turned the tiny bit of nothing inside out to find a holographic starburst symbol surrounded by a ring of planets, each of those in turn surrounded by very fine characters. I couldn’t make out the words in the dim light, but the design of the label was without a doubt Vendorian.

“You’ve got to be kidding me…” I gasped as it dawned on me what I was holding.

The concierge grinned. “Yup. Vitamax. So rare today that it’s almost priceless.”

The only Vitamax outfit I’d seen had been in a museum behind armored glass. Supposedly the threads of Vitamax outfits were spun from a rare, naturally occurring alloy of xininite called Mithril that was flexible and stretchy — qualities that made no sense when you consider that Mithril is essentially indestructible. The name itself had come out of Old Earth mythology.

“But they ran out of Mithril many centuries ago,” I exclaimed.

“As I said,” the concierge nodded, his greed shining bright. “Very old. Priceless. Irreplaceable.”

“But how did you get this? Here of all places?”

“It came from my grandfather's time, and as I'm sure you know by now, we are very long lived here. It was taken from a refueling ship, or so my grandfather claimed. And not legitimately." The concierge shrugged. “Things were not so orderly during the early days of the colony. Thieves and privateers flourished here at first. Before the marshal came and brought the law.”

“Your grandfather was the marshal?”

“Nope. Just one of the thieves and proud of it, thank you very much. According to him, a damaged Scalantran ship stopped here for emergency fuel. A Companion was on board. Not the bot kind, but the originals. Flesh and blood. They called themselves Velorians back then. My grandfather liberated a few of her things.”

I opened the second box as he talked, only to find what looked like a frilly, white wedding gown. The detail was astounding, with silvery metallic threads that reflected a rainbow of colors, even in the dank light of the bar.

“She was apparently on her way to a wedding," the concierge continued. "As you may know, back when the Companion trade was ending and indentures were ruled illegal, the process was changed into arranged marriages. The wealthiest of men were marrying the young women of Velor, barely more than girls. The Scalantrans charged a fortune to facilitate the process and transport the bride, with half of the fee going to the Velorian government, which eagerly exchanged its young women for wealth.”

I chuckled. “So you’re a historian too?”

“My father and his father before him made it a point to remember the origin of this clothing and the culture of the time. They hoped these heirlooms would someday find their way to a suitable owner. They were far more valuable to us than some artifact in a museum.”

Meaning they figured they could hawk them someday. As the saying goes, especially way out here in the center of nowhere, "scratch a merchant and you'll find the pirate beneath". Clearly, rumor of Danya's cache of ore had spread quickly through the small settlement.

It was common enough to bug Spacer bars. Crews coming off ships were usually delighted to have someone new to talk to, and the locals encouraged long tales by keeping the drinks flowing. A certain amount of thievery still persisted. It didn’t help that I’d defused the situation down at the airlock by claiming she was rich. Buying drinks for everyone.

But Vitamax or not, neither of these were the style of clothing Danya needed right now. I hoped for better in the third box, and was rewarded with an exotically-styled evening gown.

I lifted it to show Danya, and her eyes lit up. She nodded vigorously while working her way out of her crowd of admirers to walk toward me. Her amazing fluidity of movement thrilled me as she approached, her tightly rounded hips swaying loosely yet with obvious athleticism. She gave me a dazzling look as she unselfconsciously took off her leather jacket and handled it to me. Before I could protest, she lifted the gown from my hand with one finger, and turned to head toward the unisex bathroom, seemingly enjoying the eyes of everyone in the bar as all conversation stopped again.

The stunned silence ended when she disappeared. Then everyone started talking louder and more boisterously than before. Drinks began to flow faster across the bar. Anticipation was high. They’d never seen a woman like this before, least of all walking around nude in the bar. The air was full of her natural pheromones. Danya was seducing the entire bar without even trying.

Another stunned silence fell over the crowd when she reappeared wearing the gown. No one was more impressed than me. The sky-blue color exactly matched her bright eyes, and the style was both exotic and antiquated, what with a long scarf the color of white gold, almost a cape. The blue gown descended tightly over her chest, clinging to her high, firm breasts, yet leaving her shoulders, arms and sides bare. The shimmering blue fabric subtlety changed color when she moved, ranging from pale blue to nearly purple, apparently activated by varying pressures or heat as it hugged her core like a second skin. Her short, filmy skirt lifted as she paused to spin around on one foot, the fabric the same white gold metallic color as her scarf. Her tightly-muscled back was bared all the way down to those cute dimples at the base of her spine. Standing there barefoot, with that scarf floating around her, her hair billowing from the ventilation fans, she looked impossibly beautifully and seductively feminine, yet with an innocence that belied her race.

“Dansk,” Danya smiled while bowing to the concierge. “You are a true credit to your profession, kind sir. This gown feels as if it was tailored just for me.”

He bowed in return. “That is truer than you know, my lady. It is a very old dress. Centuries old to be exact, and priceless. I’m told it was designed for a Companion back in the day.”

“I love it,” Danya cooed, “especially now that I know its history. Would an ounce of xintanite ore cover your costs?” she asked innocently.

“The 99.9 fine stuff?” he asked.

So there was a spybot in our booth, listening and watching and filtering everything we said. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about that now. Instead, I did the mental math on an ounce of ore she'd offered, and came up with about thirty thousand credits. Probably three years pay for a concierge on this wretched rock.

“No, but a kilo will,” he replied, the greediness bright in his eyes. “I have three outfits here, all of them very old, all made of Vitamax. This indestructible fabric is no longer obtainable from the Vendorians. Truly priceless.”

“Wait a minute…” I started to interject. “You want a million credits for…”

“Drocnas,” he quickly interrupted.

Even worse.

“Deal,” Danya quickly said before I could protest further. “It needs to be indestructible if its going to stay on me.”

Janeway and I looked at each other, eyes wide, both of us shocked by the price. The concierge had just made a hundred times his annual salary from some clothing his ancestor stole in the first place. But given what she’d promised Janeway and me, we could hardly complain about her largess with the concierge.

Danya saw the concern in my face, and sat down beside me in the booth to lean lightly against me, snuggling a little, almost cat-like in her flexibility. “I think we got a great bargain, Peter. My mother had one of these old Vitamax gowns, but I never, ever thought I’d actually have one. They quit making them over five hundred years ago. She said they are not available for any price.”

“It is magical,” I admitted, trying not to stare down at her legs, revealed as they were by her ultra-short skirt. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but it makes you look even sexier than you do naked. There is something about tiny skirts and legs like yours.”

She laughed. “I’m sure that would be a supreme compliment to the long-dead dress maker. And you like my legs, do you?”

“Like? Somehow I think you are above my likes or dislikes. More like an angel.” I blushed as I heard my own words. Angel? Why the hell did I keep thinking that?

“It’s not silly. I kind of like that you think of me as one. This is all totally new for me. Being around men. Especially you. It’s intoxicating.”

She might be an innocent, but I couldn’t help but smile. She had a way of making me feel wanted. Which is a big deal given I’ve been universally scorned by women unless I was using my vial of pheromones. Yet here Danya was, wearing a dress made back when the Supremis were the consorts of billionaires and heads of state. Eight digit sums of money changed hands to buy their contracts, or their hand in marriage. What the hell was I doing with a girl like her?

She saw the doubt in my face. “You are more important to me than you think, Peter.” She leaned over to whisper in my ear. “And don’t forget, there should be total openness between us. Always.”

I turned to find her eyes twinkling. Startlingly, she took my hand under the table and placed it on her bare thigh, surprising me yet again with her forwardness. I thrilled to the luxurious softness of her warm skin, stretched so tightly across those slender muscles of steel. Her body radiated a soft heat that reminded me that Supremis body temperature runs a couple degrees higher than human.

My hair felt as if it was standing on end as I closed my fingers and squeezed, testing her. Not just my hair. Her firm flesh gave only a little before I ran out of strength. She might be gold inhibited, but she was still a girl of steel beneath that silky skin. But did those slender legs have enough strength to lift a huge starship?

I lost myself in the delicate art of tracing my fingers very slowly up her thigh, my better half reminding me that she was less than half my age. But she’d invited me. She lowered her hand to cover mine just as my fingers found the hem of her tiny skirt, and those amazing muscles tensed slightly beneath my hand as she rose to wave enthusiastically for the bartender. She ordered one of everything on the menu.

I wasn’t sure if I should be disappointed or relieved as I returned my hand to my own lap. Her age and inexperience were weighing heavily on me. I looked up red-faced to see the bartender looking at her suspiciously — she looked too slender to eat a single dish let alone a dozen of them. And she’d already eaten enough Glocknast to supply the entire bar. He finally shrugged and sent the order to the kitchen. By now everyone on Monk’s knew about her wealth in ore. He probably figured she was going to feed everyone in the bar. Good business.

Soon the food started to arrive, all of it going to our table, plate after plate after plate. Danya’s mood changed to childish delight as she tore into those dishes as if she was tasting food for the first time. I moved away a little to give her room, watching her down a dozen trays of greasy bar food. Where was she putting it all? Her stomach looked as flat as ever.

I couldn’t help but look down at those marvelous legs again, still feeling her firm thigh under my hand. Nobody human could be that soft and that firm at the same time.

Janeway was studying me when I looked up, grinning a little. “You were just aced by the worst bar food ever, buddy boy,” he laughed. “That’s a story I bet you won’t tell.”

Danya didn’t understand what he was talking about, but it hit home with me. My mood sunk as i realized how impossible it was to consider having anything like a conventional relationship with her, not if she behaved like all the other Supremis I’ve heard about. No matter what our status might be, she’d slip into another man's arms if he caught her fancy, and come home days later wondering what I was angry about.

She wouldn't deliberately try to hurt me, but it was just Supremis nature to love freely. Another man, a woman, it didn't matter. Only the desire to share herself intimately with another soul. She truly would not understand what she’d done wrong.

Or so everyone I'd read said about encounters with the Supremis. They were described many ways: free spirits, liberated, promiscuous, wanton, whorish, fallen, loose -- none of those words were technically wrong, but they carried moral judgements on their backs. The Supremis didn't. They simply didn't acknowledge the validity of Terran sexual norms in any way.

Yet she’d stopped me while I was trying to explore further upward with my hand on her thigh. That didn't fit the image that all those words suggested.

 

Janeway seemed amused as he watched me struggling to figure it all out. For his part, he seemed happy to just get drunk while watching Danya eating. I ordered some Longbottom leaf from the bartender and shared it with him. Danya took a few hits as well, claiming to have never smoked weed before. She could hold one hell of a hit in those lungs, but I doubted it would have any effect on her.

Thankfully, the warm glow pulled my thoughts out of the dark hole of jealousy that I’d been falling into. Instead, I was overwhelmed now with a sense of worshipful desire for her. Her every movement became indescribably sexy, right down to the way she slowly licked her greasy fingers.

I’m sure we both could have watched her eat all night, but eventually I heard the bartender announce that the kitchen was shutting down — from exhaustion he claimed. He walked around the bar to hand me a monstrous credit slip. Way more than I could cover. Danya happily took the slip from me and signed it in a flowery script that was right out of elfdom. Then she slowly looked around the room, giggling as she leaned against me.

“You know, if I focus my eyes just right, everyone’s clothing disappears. I never knew penises came in so many sizes and shapes.”

OK, it was official. She was stoned.

“But somehow I thought they would be larger.”

Ouch. I was not only scarred and ugly but a bit on the less endowed side. Danya seemed to sense my thoughts as she snuggled closer to me, and my fears vanished as I lost myself in the mix of that lovely herbal buzz and her pheromones. There was one good thing about Monk’s — the Rastafarian weed was top shelf.

“So what’s the next step?” I asked Janeway. “Regarding Danya’s little plan, that is.”

He sighed as he struggled to pull his eyes from her. “I need to get the Chief involved. Rest of the crew tool. We need to figure out the technical aspects. I suppose no time’s better than now time. Let’s go.” He whispered instructions into his communicator, recalling everyone to the ship. Then he started to rise, only to quickly sit down hard, almost falling off the bench. The booze clearly had control of his legs.

My head was clear from the weed, but my legs didn’t do much better than his. Thankfully, Danya wrapped her arms around both of us to keep us on our feet as guided us toward the door. I started to protest, only to shut up when I felt the way her body moved against mine. Catlike. Sinuous. Powerful. Incredibly sexy.

Janeway was clearly digging it too. I almost forgave him.

Categories SWM Library | Raptor

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