Skin Walkers, Part One
Written by shadar :: [Monday, 21 January 2013 20:18] Last updated by :: [Tuesday, 22 January 2013 08:30]
Skin Walkers, Part One
Nova stared out at interstellar space from the observation deck, her bare legs crossed lotus-style as she floated in mid-air in front of the huge oval windows. Her long, blonde hair spread across her shoulders as she easily resisted the G forces from the ship’s deceleration as they approached her drop-off point. She was the only one in the ship’s company who wasn’t safely ensconced in their environmental pods. Well, other than the Fraul’isets, if you considered them to be someones.
Her large blue eyes and tall, slender body signaled that she was Homo Supremis, and her shimmering blonde hair and golden skin color pegged her as a citizen of Velor, the founding planet of the Enlightenment. Velorians moved with a mesmerizing fluidness and grace thanks to their extreme strength and flexibility, even to the extent of floating on air as Nova was now doing. It was often said that the Velorian standard of beauty started where the human scale left off, and indeed, the most beautiful humans looked pale and uninteresting while standing in a room with a Velorian.
Objectively however, as measured by electronic images, the two races overlapped at the upper end of human. But that wasn’t what people remembered after meeting a Velorian, thanks to their delicate pheromone-laden natural perfume. Their scent would work its way directly into the core of people’s minds, amplifying both their perceptions and their feelings. Meeting a Velorian was an all-encompassing and awe-inspiring experience for any human, to the point that men later claimed they’d been unable to think and speak, not to mention being embarrassingly and very obviously aroused. If that meeting progressed to true intimacy, then those same pheromones briefly turned a man in a sexual superman, which accounted for a large part of their universal appeal.
Nova knew all this, but she was anything but comfortable with it.
It was made all the more confusing given it was impossible for people to judge a Velorian’s age by appearance alone. They matured more quickly than humans at first, both in appearance and behavior, but then after their Coming of Age on their sixteenth birthday they aged extremely slowly and were very nearly immortal, at least when living off their home planet. The result was that young Velorians appeared to be several years older than they actually were, and older Velorians, even centurions well their second, third or even fourth century of life still appeared to be young to human eyes.
Given that age is such a strong determiner of both behavior and relationships for the short-lived humans, the accelerated and then suspended aging of Velorians created many seemingly inappropriate relationships. As some wag had said, “They start too early and last forever.” That was true for both their endurance and their behavior.
It was not only confusing to humans, but also to Nova. It didn’t help that her body tingled in all the wrong ways most of the time now. It was now clear enough why Velorians were infamous for their hyper-sexual nature — they were always, ALWAYS turned on. Yet despite being sexually promiscuous by human standards, they still behaved according to a strict set of ethical rules that forbid them from deliberately hurting their lover’s feelings. Yet given they were raised to be brutally honest in all regards, many male egos failed to survive an encounter with a Vel.
As wonderful as it was to have an insanely gorgeous and always willing and adventurous lover, but it was exhausting when they never got tired. They never lost their enthusiasm. They never ran out of orgasms. A dozen men couldn’t exhaust a Velorian, even when she was wearing gold.
Beyond that, they couldn’t catch or pass on any disease, nor get pregnant from a human. They were mentally hardy, so they rarely suffered any emotional ills from their infamous promiscuity. They never made promises or pledges they didn’t truly believe, so they never promised to be faithful. Tellingly, the Velorian language didn’t even have a word for sexual infidelity. Married or single, the concept simply didn’t exist.
Most remarkable of all, they responded to each new lover with the breathless intensity that many humans fondly remembered their first love. Always and forever. Their enthusiasm was unbounded when it came to new love, and many a human man had despaired seeing his Velorian girlfriend falling head over heels for another man, at which point she was lost to him.
This was, of course, due to to their amazing pheromones, which ensured their chemistry was literally off the map. Yet they were generally serially monogamous. The problem was that the length of their love affairs usually ranged from days to weeks. Just long enough for a man to lose his heart forever. And then their chemistry would connect her to another man and she’d fall head-over-heels for him and it started over.
It would have been totally exhausting except for the fact that Vels never got exhausted. So they always left a wave of male wreckage in their wake, yet never through meanness or anger. They were just built differently. They were superwomen.
Nova wasn’t ready to deal with any of that insanity during this trip, so in an attempt to avoid it she’d listed her age with the ship’s purser as fifteen ESY (Earth Standard Years). She also tried to make herself look as young as she could. Yet in reality she was rapidly approaching her second century of life.
That presented a new problem — specifically that of interacting with humans who really were her stated age. Shockingly, the human teenagers she met all seemed to be deeply psychotic. Human behavior during the early to mid-teen years was incomprehensibly strange to someone who hadn’t been raised in a human culture.
It didn’t help that the normally raucous young adult lounge on the ship became as quiet as a church sanctuary the moment she walked in. The teenage boys stared at her dumfounded, jaws hanging, and the girls’ eyes flashed green with naked jealousy. Even worse, the room came alive with youthful hormones raging as her pheromones spread. It was tantamount to pouring gasoline on a fire.
She lasted fifteen minutes the first day before some boys began embarrassing themselves, a half an hour the next, but after a week she actually managed to join in some of their games, although not exactly as one of them. That was perhaps expecting too much of such an insanely beautiful girl. It was very hard for any human male to get past thinking of her as a pagan goddess, especially after they boys went to the ship’s library and researched Velorian sexual customs. Every boy was certain he was going to get lucky with Nova before she left the ship, and every girl was looking for ways to stop her from monopolizing the boys.
Nova understood all that, and she carefully tuned any boy out if he tried to be too sexy or too suggestive. That puzzled them after everything they’d read about Velorian free-love, but the girls were delighted, and over the following days, their green eyes faded and the claws gradually retracted.
Of course, boys will be boys, especially when they are frustrated, their bodies nearly betraying them every time they looked at Nova. Soon one of them came up with a way that he claimed would help break the ice. He suggested a party where everyone came dressed as they would for a formal party back on their home-world.
The other girls grew excited, and within minutes they had a new and glorious project. Anything to break the boredom of this long trip.
From the start, however, Nova knew this was going to be trouble. Unlike the ship’s coveralls that she had started wearing, the typical party outfit for women on Velor consisted of a tiny skirt and a white ribbon around their neck and nothing more. That exotic style of dress went back to ancient times when parents had infamously dressed their daughters this way before proudly offering them to the Galen as Procreators.
Obviously, it would be wildly inappropriate to walk around bare-breasted among humans, but based on the twinkle in that boy’s eye, she realized that was the intent of his challenge. He’d done his homework, but had cleverly described it as a way to see each other without the leveling influence of Empire or Enlightenment or even shipboard customs. The girls, who were now excited about it all, had no idea what Velorian formal wear looked like.
Nova talked herself out of attending the party at first, but she finally gave in when the other girls refused to attend without her. They had no idea what they were asking of her and she didn’t know how to explain it without sounding crass. Unfortunately, she was starting to think like a Velorian now, and she’d put far more effort into building her body than someone who had just been born into it.
The real issue was that the required style of dress involved her removing the gold choker she’d worn since arriving on the ship. The Scalantrans had made it clear that the gold choker was a requirement for passage — they’d had their troubles with empowered Supremis breaking their ships long ago and didn’t want to repeat those unfortunate incidents. Nova wasn’t sure how they would react to her removing the choker just for the party, but hopefully they’d never know.
To avoid setting off any alarms, she stood in a blasting shower of ice cold water as she removed the choker, hoping the water would suppress the surge of Orgone energy that would radiate from her body as her metabolism shifted into high gear. As it was, her skin briefly grew hot enough to turn the ice water into steam, but that moment thankfully passed before any fire alarms were triggered.
Once her body had settled comfortably into Orgonic metabolism, she floated out the shower door to bounce a long blast of heat vision off the mirror to dry herself off, head to toe. She fed the replicator data from the ship’s library on native Velorian dress, and the white skirt that popped out of the machine was embarrassingly tiny. More of a suggestion of a skirt than anything you’d consider to be true clothing. That and that little white ribbon. She pulled on the skirt, correctly wearing nothing beneath it, and stood in front of the mirror while trying to tie the bow around her neck. Her overly-large blue eyes and rounded face made her look innocent and, at least by human standards, far too young to be dressed in such a way.
She had to remind herself that she was actually older than any human who had ever lived, appearances be damned.
She just prayed that the boys wouldn’t know what it would mean if they pulled on the end of the ribbon and undid it. That had been the way the Galen had selected their young Procreators, and such a pull not the ribbon would trigger ancient emotions that she could not control.
In a repeat of the first time she’d entered, the room fell deathly quiet when she appeared in the doorway. At the last moment, she’d added a lacy pair of white gloves to the outfit. She figured she was going to have to cover her chest all night, and the gloves would help cover her.
She finally took a deep breath and stepped into the doorway, hands on her chest.
The shocked looks she received told her that no one had done any research into Velorian formal wear. None that is except the boy who’d suggested it. He had a crooked smile on his face as his eyes traced up and down her, drinking in the expanse of golden skin and blonde hair. It didn’t help that her bare feet were floating inches off the floor, accenting her ultra-short hemline.
The dozen male hearts pounded like drums in her ears. She could even hear the squeak of blood racing in their veins as their blood pressure rose precipitously, and she didn’t need to look through their clothing to see their bodies rising with desire. Strangely, she felt both embarrassed and proud of the reaction she was creating. Clearly, she was convincingly a Velorian now, at least in appearance. And Skietra help her, she’d been wearing a Velorian’s DNA long enough now that she was starting to think and feel like one.
The last thought galvanized her to quickly work her way toward the adult chaperone, instinctively seeking someone closer to her mental maturity. The insane mix of hormones that was radiating from the boys made it hard for her to breathe. Like all Vels, the scent of human arousal worked as a reverse pheromone for her.
Fortunately, the chaperone was the father of one of the other girls. He was safe. He was also a decent man. Something Nova sensed from the first moment she saw him. He saw her confusion and discomfort and interpreted it as shyness, so he opened his arms to hug her in a very human gesture of support. The same as he’d do for his daughter if she’d needed him.
Nova fell into his arms, only to be overwhelmed by the maleness of his scent as he held her tightly. She felt her head swim as she returned his embrace, only to hear the man gasp in pain. Chagrined, she quickly pushed him away, which send him flying to smash against the wall. He staggered and nearly stumbled as he held his side, grimacing in pain. Nova forgot all about her bare chest as she focused her vision through his skin to see that he’d cracked several of his ribs. His face turned white from the pain and he looked like he was going to faint.
She was was deathly afraid to touch him further, but fortunately one of the older boys, Jaren was his name, rushed forward to wrap his arm around the injured chaperone and ease him down into a chair.
“What did you do to him?” Jaren demanded, eyes flashing angrily.
“I’m… I’m not used to being this strong,” Nova said as she suddenly remember to cover herself with her hands again. “I didn’t try to hurt him.”
“Its… its OK,” the chaperone waved to them as he whispered, his words barely audible over the music. He was having trouble taking a deep breath. “My mistake.”
“No, its not your mistake,” Nova insisted. “Its all mine. I need to go and put my choker back on. I’m not safe without it.” She turned and started to walk away only to have Jaren reach out to grab her arm.
“No. The challenge tonight was to be who we really are, Nova. No disguises.”
She twisted her shoulder to pull her arm from his grasp, the softness of her body disappearing as her arm briefly turned to steel. She shook her head. “Not if people are going to be hurt.”
“Then stay close to me.” He lowered his voice as he leaned closer to her. “Dance with me. Nobody else here knows this, but I’m Halfen.”
Nova looked at him in surprise. Halfen was the derisive term the Arions used for people who were half human and half Prime, a very rare hybrid, and one that for centuries had been believed to be impossible. After all, a human male could hardly impregnate an invulnerable Primal female, and male Primes were so powerful that supposedly no human woman could survive their lovemaking, let alone carry a super-powered baby to term. But a number of Halfen had surfaced during the last century, and some had displayed strength and toughness that matched the lowest genetic class of Velorians, the Bravas.
Nova held out her gloved hand. “Prove it.”
Jaren took her small, warm hand in his large mitt, and began to squeeze hard enough to have shattered every bone in a human’s hand. He tried to stay focused on her eyes, but when her strength met his, he couldn’t help but look down at the most perfectly-formed breast he’d ever seen, so round and so immune to the forces of gravity. Unlike her face, she didn’t look as young as she claimed she was.
Nova saw the look in his eyes and gripped his hand tightly enough to make him wince, which pulled his eyes back to hers. Strangely, she wanted to hurt him. At least a little.
“Ok. OK. You’re the real thing!” he gasped as his knees buckled in pain.
Nova couldn’t help but smile proudly as she relaxed her grip. She’d used less than half her strength to overpower him, and he was likely hundreds of times stronger than any human and very hard to injure.
She suddenly felt incredibly drawn to him. So much so that her head began to swim. She wanted nothing more than to fall into his arms, even fantasizing that he’d pull on the end of her ribbon to release her.
Given Jaren’s red face, that might very well have happened, and the resulting lovemaking would likely have damaged the ship and blown his cover, given that Velorian sex is extremely athletic. But thankfully for all concerned, the other boys gathered around at that moment to interrupt them. They’d snapped out of their initial daze and were suddenly jealous of Jaren. They completely ignored the girls of their own race as they were drawn to the blonde, glowing Velorian beauty like moths to the light.
The chaperone saw it differently as held his injured side, trying to breathe shallowly enough not to send stabs of sharp pain through his body. He related later that it looked more like flies drawn to fly paper — the boys hearts were in danger of being forever bound and consumed. Humans don’t fall in and out of love as effortlessly and painlessly as a Velorian. Yet none of the boys could resist her siren song.
Soberly, he realized there were none who could.
But these were boys, not men. They had no real sexual experience. They were literally panting as they circled Nova, eyes wide, each of them wanting her more than anything they’d wanted in their short lives. But they had no idea how to have her. To even talk to her.
The situation was spinning out of control, so the chaperone did his job and quickly separated Nova from her mesmerized wannabe lovers. It wasn’t easy, but he managed to get the the star-struck boys to move off in a group. Other than Jaren, who observed Nova carefully from a different corner of the room. The girls were all gathered in yet another corner, not sure if they were more angry at Nova for dressing this way or the boys for ignoring them. This wasn’t the kind of party they’d planned.
Partially freed from her pheromones, the boys mostly fell back into juvenile behavior. The boy who’d suggested the party theme winked at the others as he produced an exotic Vendorian steel bar that he’d talked the ship’s Engineer out of. It was only a slender 5mm thick, but it had the strength of more than a half meter of the best ferrous steel. The Engineer claimed it was completely unbendable by any force that could be generated on the ship. So naturally, he walked over and challenged Nova to bend it.
She refused to take the bar from him. She was very aware that humans greatly desire strength and power despite having so little of it. This was hardly the place to show off her physical abilities, especially given she’d have to take her gloved hands from her chest to bend the bar. But the boys all insisted and to her surprise, the chaperone said nothing — he seemed happy enough that they weren’t trying to grab her. Obviously he was curious at some level as well.
When she refused to rise to their bait, several of the boys started taunting Nova, claiming Velorians weren’t nearly as strong as “those silly, impossible rumors.”
Standing in the far corner, Jaren simply looked amused as he slowly shook his head.
That pricked Nova’s pride. She’d always been a sucker for challenges of any kind. More than a hundred years ago, she’d visited Earth and had taken on the form of a female Olympic athlete. She’d dominated the swimming pool at one Olympics by mixing just a little bit of alien DNA into an otherwise human body. No one was sequencing DNA to identify people. Not back then.
More significantly, she also created a huge controversy by sleeping with dozens of athletes in the Olympic Village. She’d not only won several golds for swimming, but she set a new record for the most sexual conquests at the Olympics. That proved to be an even harder record to break given the traditional celebrations that took place among the athletes after they were done competing. The Olympic Villages had always been the closest thing to Velor on Earth, given that everyone was incredibly healthy and strong and uninhibited.
But this was different. She was now thousands of times stronger than any Olympic athlete, but she still loved challenges as much as ever, and everything she knew about Vendorian steel said this would be a tremendous challenge.
Squaring her shoulders, she bravely tossed her blonde hair behind her back as she lowered her hands to take the bar from the stunned boy’s hands. She began to exert herself, and her smooth, slender body slowly transformed into an array of very tight muscles as she struggled to bend the bar. Given her low body fat and a Velorian’s greater-than-human muscular expansion, she began to look incredibly cut. Not bulky, but impossibly defined.
An Olympic athlete might have appreciated her muscles, but that wasn’t what these boys were staring at. Like most young men their age, naked boobs were still a fantastic attraction.
She ignored their staring eyes as she struggled with the bar, but as her challenger had expected, she couldn’t bend it in the least. Frustrated, she lifted her knee and braced it against the bar as she put her leg and back muscles into the effort. She pushed down with her knee while pulling the ends of the bar upward with both hands using every ounce of her strength, and this time the tortured super-metal gave off an ear-splitting scream. Encouraged, she gritted her teeth and kept pulling. The scream of the alien metal rose to levels that made everyone’s bones vibrate painfully. Then, to their astonishment, the supposedly unbendable bar began to bend, degree by degree.
Nova was gasping for air by the time she managed to bend it about twenty degrees from straight. Her arms were shaking from the strain as she paused, chest heaving as she took a dozen breaths, but there was a fire burning inside her now. She stood up straight to to finish bending it with just her upper body strength. Pressing inward as she anchored the most sharply bent portion of the bar between her breasts, she enjoyed the glow of the bar as heating to a bright cherry-red from its own internal friction. More impressive to the boys, her large breasts were lifted by hard plates of pectoral muscle until her pronounced nipples were pointing at the ceiling.
She gritted her teeth and kept pressing inward until her fingers touched, the glow from the steel buried between her breasts now white-hot. Lost in the moment, she hugged the glowing steel to her chest with both arms as her amazing muscular definition faded back into smooth, slender curves, sucking the heat back inside herself and converting it back to Orgone. Happy with herself, she reached out to hand the coolest end of the bar to the boy who’d challenged her, and after he took it she proudly placed her hands on her hips as he smiled back at the staring eyes, no longer feeling shy about her lack of attire. It felt incredible to behave like a Velorian for once.
Fortunately for all concerned, the chaperone began to act like one again. He saw the pride on Nova’s face as she gave the boys a come-hither look. He saw the way her skin was glowing and her nipples were engorged. He knew enough about Velorian sexual habits to know what was going to happen if he didn’t intervene. That galvanized him into action, and he quickly announce to a chorus of boos that the party was over. Like right now.
After much grumbling and complaining, he managed to push all the boys out the door. The girls followed. He followed them stiffly out the door without saying a word to Nova. He didn’t trust himself to even look at her again, and instead hurried back to his quarters to find his wife, knowing he’d come so very close to embarrassing himself.
Nova remained in the lounge, thrilled that everyone had fully accepted that she was a Velorian but also feeling lonely. Her lie was now perfect. She’d even convinced the Halfen. It was also now clear that the stolen vile of blood she’d used to make herself had come from a Prima-1, the same genetic class that all Protectors were born into. Until that moment, she’d had no idea who her donor was.
The last thing any of the people at the party would have believed was that she wasn’t technically even a girl and she certainly wasn’t the age she appeared. In reality, she was a blob of protoplasm that had organized itself to become a Velorian. Nova had been born into the rare and very elusive Kecklavian race, a people who had no stable physical form of their own. They existed by borrowing the shape of other beings.
Her people had been called many things on many worlds, including skin walkers by some aboriginals on Earth. Infamously, whenever they took on the form of another being, they could not help but see the world through the eyes and to think the thoughts of the creature they emulated. That had led to some serious breaches when it came to the infamous werewolves of Earth. While the Kecklavian core of their intellect was usually dominate, the full moon on Earth had made it impossible to control their wolfish nature.
Nova required only a few drops of blood to decipher the DNA of the person or animal she wanted to mimic, and she’d frequently masqueraded as a human given they were so numerous and widespread. But she’d also become Scalantran and even Vendorian when it suited her needs. But this was completely different. The DNA in that precious vial of Velorian blood wasn’t like any other being, despite being structured the same as human. The difference was that many of the individual genes in the human DNA helix had been replaced by Galen equivalents. Those genes had proven to be extraordinarily complex and difficult for her to synthesize.
In fact, mimicking them had taken so long that she’d not had time to practice her other racial skills before departing the jungle world of Vanya-ford. She could normally mimic another life-form in a matter of days, but it had taken her a month to synthesize the complex DNA of the Velorian. And then she had to learn to control the fantastic new powers that came with this form. Given that everyone knew that Velorians were extremely sexual beings, she’d hoped to avoid that whole area by making herself young enough to claim she was a virgin. To blend in with teenage humans and to learn their customs as she tried to mimic them emotionally without any physical involvement.
Unfortunately, her Velorian nature was getting seriously in the way. Not to mention the fact that even as a young Velorian, she looked older than her age. Up until this party, she’d worn both her gold choker and a borrowed pair of oversized workman’s coveralls whenever she left her cabin. More than that, she’d avoided getting too close to any of the men or even looking into their eyes. Her Velorian eyes had the ability to transfix them, and if that happened, all would be lost.
It had been enough. Barely. Until this party, that is. It wasn’t until this moment, standing alone in a room still reeking of hormones that she realized how much her Velorian nature had tricked her into bad decision making.
Now there was the matter of Jaren. A secret Halfen. A man who would be nearly as hard to injure as herself. A man with a significant portion of her strength. A young man with the remarkable attributes of an Arion male. His superhuman nature wouldn’t be confined to his muscles.
Turning, she couldn’t resist scanning through the ship, looking for his quarters. While the Scalantrans and humans looked like animated skeletons to Tachyon vision, Jaren’s denser body looked fairly solid when she found him in the ship’s gym. He wasn’t working out, but rather was staring back at her as if the walls between them didn’t exist. Clearly, he had the same ability to far-see as she did.
She wanted him more than anything she’d ever wanted before. The attraction was stronger than any thirst or hunger she’d ever felt. It was shaping all her thoughts, making her head spin as her body seemed to melt into a pink haze and all she could think about was making love. She had to close her eyes and concentrate with every fiber of her self-control to not go to him. Her long years of living in the skin of humans and other beings had not prepared her for this kind of raw, overwhelming, undeniable attraction.
Her hands were trembling wildly when she returned to her cabin and struggled to pick up her gold choker and put it back. As usual, it quickly inhibited her pituitary gland, which reduced the flow of Orgone in her body to a trickle. Her far-vision faded and the walls of her tiny compartment returned. She was still terribly turned on, but at least she could think again.
Two weeks had passed since then, with most of that time spent in her cabin. She’d managed to completely avoid Jaren, and fortunately he was now in the pods with the humans. He could handle the G forces, but he obviously wasn’t prepared to reveal his true nature to the others. Just as well. It was time for her to focus. Her jump-off point was rapidly approaching.
Like all Scalantran ships, the Boundless Opportunity normally accelerated or decelerated continuously during transit at a rate that matched the Scalantran home world. Three-quarters of Earth-normal. But the ship could also operate at up to 15 G’s when navigating through the crowded planets of a solar system or when they were trying to avoid Arion raiders. Usually the gravity stabilizer allowed the crew and passengers to continue to live fairly normally under those conditions, experiencing only minor glitches in the gravity field, but ever since the stabilizer had failed, both the Scalantrans and humans had been forced to retreat to their gel-filled environmental pods whenever maneuvering thrust was required.
The planet they were approaching was named Ennath, and it was a heavy-gravity planet that required visitors to wear bulky anti-grav suits. The humans who’d been seeded to Ennath had all been enhanced by the Seeders before arrival, with the children of the original travelers the only ones who gained sufficient physical robustness to make the descent to live on the planet. Galen genetic manipulation was most efficiently done at the time of conception, so the original passengers, parents of the new settlers, had to live out their lives in an orbiting habitat as they struggled to teach their hardier offspring to survive the brutal planet below.
Five generations had come and gone since that initial seeding, and the orbiting habitat had long ago burned up in the atmosphere. Their Ennathian descendants had short, heavily-muscled bodies and thick bones that allowed them to live unaided in gravity that was more than three times human-standard. They proudly called themselves Dwarvish, a word borrowed from the literature their parents had brought with them from Earth. Like the short, swarthy and immensely strong Dwarves of Earth-fiction, their speciality was mining and mineral extraction, the most significant being Xinitite ore which they smelted into the finest Vendorian steel in the universe.
The ship’s course adjustment burn built to greater than 13 G’s, but Nova’s hair and clothing were the only things that visibly responded to forces that would have made it impossible for a human to either breathe or circulate blood. Bits and pieces of lost jewelry and a few loose nuts and bolts streamed past her like bullets, with several pieces of debris bouncing off her impenetrable skin to tear her clothing before denting the internal walls down-gravity from her.
The Captain had explained that the crew of the Boundless Opportunity had lucrative business on the next planet on their trade route, so they didn’t want to waste time on this fly-by of Ennath. Given they had no other reason to orbit Ennath, the Captain had asked Nova to cycle out the airlock and enter the atmosphere under her own power, taking along the Fraul’isets that he was responsible to deliver.
Nova had never experienced hard vacuum without a suit, and she was very aware that Scalantran ships normally flew at the astounding speed of 20% of the speed of light. Thankfully, the Captain had agreed to program the ship’s Navigator to drop below 0.1c before she exited, which is why they were experiencing these heavy G forces. Slowing to that speed was still far better than the weeks it would have taken the ship to slow enough to enter orbit, shuttle down and up and then resume transit velocity.
Before leaving Vanya-ford, the Captain of the Boundless Opportunity had had a loud argument with the Port Authority regarding the cargo. The local agent had contracted for him to load two Fraul’isets bound for Ennath.
Frauls had an evil reputation. They’d originally been designed as weapons during the Arion/Vendorian war, and they’d killed many Arions, including some of their vaunted Primal warriors. They looked and acted like female Primes, and were more attractive than most of them, along with having the same abilities. With one addition: they were capable of locking up their arms and legs (as well as internal muscles) and crushing the life from any male Prime who they could entice into having sex with them. They targeted the Primal officer corps, and their lethality was reputedly 100%.
Unfortunately, there hadn’t been enough Frauls to infiltrate deeply enough into the Arion command structure to turn the tide of battle. They were both too few and too late, and once the Arions figured out what was going on, they discovered ways to detect the Frauls cybernetic brains.
After the inevitable destruction of Vendor and the end of hostilities, a number of Frauls wound up in the hands of criminals and warlords. They reprogrammed them and put them to work as private assassins. They were devastatingly effective and nearly impossible to capture. So much so that it had taken fifty years for the Enlightenment to find and destroy all of them.
Now, after the further refinement of their Ethical controls to prevent that kind of criminal abuse, a new generation of Frauls were once again being manufactured by the remaining Vendorian colonies, scattered as they were through half the galaxy. Built on a Vendorian steel chassis, they had more advanced cybernetic brains that exactly mimicked the structure of human brains. They could learn and adapt the same as humans, and were theoretically capable of the same emotions. Their artificially-grown flesh mimicked the Supremis, which made them nearly as strong as Nova. They were also as invulnerable as a natural-born Supremis and had significant flight abilities and similar eye beams. The one thing that remained similar to the original Frauls was that they hated Arions and could be easily commanded to kill them, but supposedly no other race. Given their home world had been destroyed by the Arion Empire, the Vendorians would forever be looking for their revenge.
It was this last trait that caused the Captain to refuse to transport them. The Scalantrans worked very hard to maintain their neutrality with both the Enlightenment and the Empire. If an Arion ship found Fraul’isets in his cargo, they’d execute every officer on the ship, starting with the Captain. Then they’d commandeer the ship and its cargo. All of which was very bad for business.
The agent who’d booked the transport argued that no Arion ships had been seen along the route to Ennath in more than a decade. The Enlightenment patrolled this sector of space. He further claimed that these Frauls had been trained exclusively for heavy mining and for working in highly radioactive or poisonous environments, and they were desperately needed on Ennath given they’d broken through into a highly toxic region of very pure ore.
The Scalantran Captain knew better than to believe that was the only reason. All Frauls were doxy trained. Always had been and always would be. Which is why they were created to look so beautiful despite their stated jobs of mining and hazardous material handling. That ensured their contract holder could make extra money in the rough and tough society of the male-dominated mining worlds. The Frauls were astronomically expensive, each costing as much as a small starship, and their owner had to have multiple ways to recover his investment.
This newest model, the Mark 21, was supposedly incapable of harming a human or Scalantran under any and all circumstances, or of letting harm come to them. They would willingly sacrifice themselves to save a life if that was required. They would protect the mining colonies from any Arion incursion.
The Captain remained unconvinced of their docility and despite being offered triple payment for transporting them, he refused to load them until Nova showed up. The ground agent was quick enough on his feet to convince the Captain that a Velorian would certainly be able to handle the Fraul’isets if they ran amok during the transit. The Captain finally agreed on one condition: the Frauls must be shipped with depleted energy banks. Like a flesh-and-blood Supremis, the Frauls ran on Orgone, and Nova was the only one on the ship who could generate and transfer Orgone to jump start the Frauls. More than that, she’d reluctantly agreed to deliver them to Ennath without the ship having to drop into orbit.
As Nova saw it, if she had to dive into the atmosphere over Ennath — a thought that terrified her — it would be nice to have a couple of Frauls to protect her. They were preloaded with a database of Supremis experiences and skills. They’d know how to limit the aero-braking temperatures to a tolerable level.
Now it was time for Nova to fulfill her part of the bargain. She began flying up-gravity toward the storage locker that held the two Frauls. They were lashed to the wall of the container, their eyes vacant, their bodies unpowered. The start-up procedure had been explained to her back on Vanya-ford — she was supposed to hold them tightly (the manufacturer’s representative had blushed while describing that her embrace had to be bare breasts to bare breasts because that’s where the Orgone was stored) while tapping a twelve-bit code into the Fraul’s teeth. If all went well, the first Fraul would draw enough Orgone from Nova’s body to begin manufacturing its own. Then the first machine would power up its identical sister.
Nova leaned close to look into the first Fraul’s vacant eyes, only to be shocked when a blue spark leaped from her body to the Fraul. She jerked back to rub away the tingling sensation from her nipple. She knew enough about Orgone to know that it flowed from high-potential to low-potential locations with much greater easy than even high-voltage electricity. Nova was definitely at a high potential, especially after two weeks of struggling to suppress her libido.
The bright warning labels all over the Fraul’s body explained that only a Supremis could safely power it up. Still, Nova stood far enough from the Fraul to prevent any more sparks as she opened the cyborg’s mouth and began tapping in the code she’d been given. As soon as she’d entered the last digit, the Fraul jerked a couple of times and its eyes began rolling around in its sockets. Moments later, its blue eyes stopped to focus on Nova’s eyes, scanning her retina and examining the iris of her eye to confirm her racial identity. Satisfied, the machine reached out to embrace Nova with both arms, pulling her close to hold her with enough strength to have crushed a human or any type of ordinary robot. A riot of sparks began flowing between them as it hungrily sucked Orgone from Nova’s body.
The Fraul’s eyelids fluttered before closing, and the look on its face was one of ecstasy. Moments later, the cyborg’s blue eyes opened wide and she smiled in a very seductive way. Before Nova could slip from her grasp and retreat, the Fraul raised one arm to pull Nova’s head toward itself, its full lips meeting Nova’s in a deeply passionate kiss.
Nova struggled to pull away, but the Fraul held on with incredible strength while it continued to suck Orgone from her, using the additional wetted contact of their lips to improve the connection. Nova was afraid she could damage the Fraul if she pushed it away with her full strength, and they were too expensive to risk. Besides, she’d been told the power-up procedure would last less than a minute and that she should allow the Fraul to perform as it wished during that time.
That long minute became several minutes as the Fraul’s kiss grew increasingly sexual. Nova felt the Fraul’s fingers vibrating as they slipped low on her body, teasing her nethers. It was challenge enough to be female now (Kecklavians aren’t a sexual species), but being passionately kissed by horny cyborg who was trying to diddle her was way over the line. Nova used a great deal of strength to push the Fraul away, only to have it smile seductively at her. Clearly, the Fraul’s had been programmed to wake up in doxy mode. Someone’s idea of a joke, no doubt.
Fortunately, the Fraul accepted Nova’s dismissal and began to speak, introducing itself as Jolie. It bowed low in respect before turning toward its sister so blast its eye-beams into the sleeping cyborg’s eyes. Moments later, blinding bolts of pure Orgone leaped from its chest to the second machine.
The second Fraul began to jerk as it awoke, and then the two of them fell into each other’s arms to kiss passionately. The air around them grew cold as they began sucking massive amounts of Orgone energy across the dimensional gap. They were self-sufficient now. The startup procedure was over.
Feeling a bit diminished from her loss of Orgone, Nova quickly commanded the Frauls to follow her to the airlock, wondering as she what kind of men paid for doxies like this.
Men with deep fantasies about making love to a superwoman?
Men who could revel in the Fraul’s power and inability to ever get tired or sore?
Men who wanted them to use their profound strength and invulnerability to excite them?
Maybe all those things. She’d read somewhere that Frauls were so good at loving that some men fell in love with them. After a few sessions, their minds refused to accept that that they were merely machines clothed in Supremis flesh.
Of course, calling them “merely machines” was wrong. The Fraul’s brains were electronic clones of a biological human brain, and they supposedly were capable of the same emotions, the same warmth, even a great sense of humor. That was combined with faster than normal thoughts and reaction times along with perfect recall of anything they’d ever seen, heard, tasted, touched or even thought about. And the strength to crush steel in their bare hands and fly at Mach 6 and shrug off being shot by just about any weapon made by man.
That made her think of the old argument about where the boundary of humanity truly was drawn. While the Frauls were considered machines by all but their most star-struck clients, she’d faced some of the same questions when she mimicked humans. She always kept her own cerebral cortex functions and memories when she assumed the form of a different animal, but the rest of her brain operated according to the norms of the creature she was mimicking. Which was why she was having such trouble with her arousal running away with her now that she was Supremis.
But if her DNA was now Supremis (and her body could pass any test to confirm that) did that make her human? Or were the only humans the ones who were born of human mothers? That raised the question of whether the Supremis themselves were human, a point that had long been argued.
The most convincing argument she’d heard was the one that said that if Supremis minds were structured and worked exactly the same as Homo Sapiens, other than being indestructible, then they were human. That the definition of human was about how you thought and felt, and not what you can physical do or what you are made of.
If that definition was accepted, then these Frauls might actually qualify. And if that was true, then Nova was technically transporting slaves for sale.
Interesting as those philosophic arguments were, Nova didn’t have time to reflect on them now. The Scalantran Navigator (itself a self-aware artificial intelligence) interrupted her thoughts by announcing in Velorian that it was time for them to enter the cargo airlock.
Nova began swimming up-gravity in the 12G field with the Frauls following her. Once they reached the shuttle deck, she stepped naked into the large airlock. The Frauls did the same as the heavy G-forces at the extremity of the ship pushed them this way and that.
Nova thought of the hard vacuum on the other side of the airlock door, praying that she’d not made any mistakes while sequencing her Velorian blood sample. Once she was outside the ship and in hard vacuum, only her Galen-inspired genes would allow her to survive. Even worse, they were going to hit the dense atmosphere of Ennath at nearly ten million kilometers per hour — far faster than any ship could endure.
The trick to her survival (according to what she’d read!) was to keep bobbing up and down in the atmosphere to prevent her skin temperature from rising above 10,000C. She had to come in shallow, but not so shallow that she skipped off the atmosphere. She didn’t have enough Orgone reserves to slow from her 0.1c speed and return to the planet if she failed to aero-brake. In that case, she’d have to work her way close to the system’s star and recharge and then try again. That would take weeks and would likely be very uncomfortable.
But, assuming she did hit the atmo just right, she’d still orbit most of the way around the planet while inside the atmosphere before she slowed enough to allow herself to fall. Above that 10K degree limit, which was already five times hotter than the melting temperature of steel, even a Supremis’ cellular structure would begin to break down, starting with their hair.
The Frauls quickly proved they were empaths as Jolie reached out to caress Nova’s blonde hair. Jamie embraced her from behind, her hands cupping Nova’s slightly diminished breasts as she whispered that she’d take care of her. They claimed they had all the data preloaded for aero-braking. Jolie even apologized for taking so much Orgone during the start-up procedure and said she wanted to return it.
Given that a Supremis can only absorb Orgone from another Supremis during an orgasm, Nova pushed them both away. If she wasn’t having sex with humans, she sure as hell wasn’t going to with a machine. Instead, she handed the Frauls a pair of white gowns to don.
She remained comfortably naked herself as she took the FCN necklaces from a bag and prepared to snap the first around around Jolie’s neck. Some people called these “slave collars”.
Jolie’s hand flashed up to grab Nova’s wrist, challenging her right to place the FCN. Nova slowly ramped up her strength, only to have the other cyborg’s hand close around her wrist as well. She quickly found she was using as much strength as she’d used to bend that Vendorian steel bar at the party, but instead of bending, the Frauls remained motionless, their flight organs keeping them stationary inside the airlock. Nova was the one bouncing around as she tried to coordinate her flight power with her skeletal strength. She was still very new at this.
The contest of raw strength ended with the Frauls slowly relaxing and then bowing to her again, signaling their acceptance of her right to command them. It was an interesting challenge/response system. One that apparently only a Prima Velorian could pass. That left Nova wondering whether she truly understood the Fraul’s ultimate power. These necklaces didn’t weaken them like gold, but they did create a command-bond between her and Frauls. The cyborgs would now do whatever Nova commanded them to do (within their operational and ethical limits) until she transferred control to their eventual owners.
A sliver of fear ran stabbed Nova as red lights began to flash and the very loud “Critical Low Pressure” warning filled the air lock. Like everyone who’d traveled extensively in space, Nova had a pathological fear of vacuum. Whether she was pretending to be human, Scalantran, or whatever else, pressure had always meant life. It was only the Supremis, of all known races, who were capable of surviving in vacuum.
Her ears popped alarmingly as the pressure began rapidly falling. Her body bloated slightly as the contents of her stomach began to boil. She promptly vomited, which left a cloud of nasty droplets floating all around her. That was definitely unpleasant. If she had to do this again, she’d make sure her stomach was empty first.
The Frauls sensed her distress and hugged her tightly despite her earlier dismissal, with Jolie pressing her chest against Nova’s to try and channel some Orgone back into her. Her warm body felt reassuring.
Nova’s chest quickly grew tight, and it took her a moment to realize that she was holding her breath in the vacuum. She quickly began expelling air, which kept coming and coming until her lungs were collapsed. She then felt a brief moment of panic after discovering she was unable to take a breath. She felt faint for a moment, only to have that feeling hammered away by an incredible rush of warmth as a sense of well-being suddenly exploded inside her. This was the moment when the last of her human metabolism shut down and her Orgone metabolism kicked into high gear, pushing her body into overdrive.
It felt very different in hard vacuum than it had felt that last time in the shower in her quarters.
The Frauls smiled as the look of fear on Nova’s face turned to wonder. She’d made the transition, and all need to breathe had vanished now, leaving Nova totally at peace. The only sound was her racing heart and the rush of blood in her arteries. Yet even that faded away as her heart rate rapidly dropped to the very slow ten beats per minute of a Velorian who is running on pure Orgone.
She was just starting to enjoy the freedom of being naked in space when the ship’s engines shut down as planned, and the gravity in the airlock dropped to zero. Ultimate freedom. The Fraul’s released her and pushed off from the airlock to drift backward into the star field, rotating slowly as they did, their translucent gowns clinging to the charge of their body to look as if they were wet. Behind them, the ship’s incredible speed turned the stars into short streaks.
Nova found it remarkable that the two Frauls moved like mirror images of each other, to the point even of behaving like a single organism. They looked completely relaxed in the hard vacuum. They’d obviously done this before.
That was very comforting. She no longer worried about the terrible descent they were about to make to the surface of the planet.