By Sharon Best
First posted, Feb. 12, 2003 at the old Aurora Universe. Revised for The Bright Empire. Last updated Oct 26, 2010.
The Ambassador's Residence
"Nikki, I need you down here now!" Naomi called as she leaned her head into the living room. "You too Alisa. And James, I need you to get the pool ready. Right now." The circular drop shaft she was shouting up was fifteen feet across and ran vertically from the living room floor to the top of the six story house. No stairs were necessary in Velorian expat's home.
The lower floor and walls were made of native granite, but the upper five stories appeared to be made of clear glass -- the floors, the walls and ceilings. It was actually a nearly indestructible polymer. A control in each room allowed the occupant to alter the polymer's opacity. The walls were full transparent now, so Naomi needed only her normal vision to see her two daughters in Nikki's room. James was lying on his bed talking on the phone as usual.
Nikki was busy trying to fasten the two large earrings that a friend had given her. One of the drawbacks to being Velorian was the lack of pierced ears.
"Mom is going to bust you so big if she catches you wearing those," Alisa said as she looked up from her PersComp. She was dressed in the least Velorian outfit imaginable. A pair of brown pants and a white blouse with a very modest blue buttoned jacket. Her blonde hair was tucked behind her ears, and despite her perfect genetics, she wore a pair of black reading glasses , an affectation to play down her Velorian nature around her Terran friends.
Nikki was a study in contrast as she carefully tightened the tiny clamp around her un-pierced earlobes, only to feel a rush of tingles racing outward. She took a deep breath and continued. The earrings were made of solid gold. The enticing glow spread down one side of her neck to send a flurry of hot/cold pinpricks down her back. She quickly fastened the other earring, and the second trail of tingles found there way to her nipples this time. She rubbed the pleasant itch away, finding that her nipples were almost too sensitive to touch. She lowered her hands to her hips and shook her head to make sure the earrings were secure. Microscopic blue sparkles lit her reddish-blonde hair whenever the long earrings brushed against her neck. The look was entrancing.
"And what would you know about gold, little one?" she asked her younger sister.
"I'm not little, Nikki. And quit acting like you're going on thirty. You're only seventeen."
"Better than being fifteen going on twelve like you," Nikki replied cattily as she adjusted the spaghetti straps of her top. The shimmering aquamarine blue straps were barely visible across her strong shoulders. The back of her top revealed an expanse of tightly toned skin to below her waist, and the front plunged daringly to a sash of red silk that wrapped snuggly around her body just below her ribs. The only thing her top truly covered were her breasts, yet even then, the semi-sheer Galantian silk left her darkly engorged nipples clearly visible. That combined with the forbidden gold made her feel so deliciously sexy.
"You'll learn about gold when you go back to Velor, sister dear. I bet you'll be climbing the walls when you first get there, hoping for some guy, any guy, to put you out of your misery. That's about all you'll want to do for the first week."
"I will not. And who says I'm going to Velor?"
"Ah, like everybody? I mean, your precious little Rites are due in six months."
"Assuming I take them."
Nikki turned to stare at her little sister. "I've never heard of a P1 who didn't go. Hell, if you don't want the honor, give me your ticket. I'd love to be a Protector."
"You'd never get the Great Door open, sister dear. It takes more muscle than you'll ever have."
"You won't get it open either if you don't get your head out of your PersComp and start working out."
"I'm strong enough already, Nikki. But unlike you, I don't flaunt it in front of the Terrans."
"You can call them Normals, Alisa. Even Frails. We don't have to use Mom's words when we're home."
"Not if she hears us."
"Especially if she does. It drives her crazy."
"Driving her crazy is your job. Me, I'm thinking of going to Kelsor Seven to study astrophysics. They've got the best university in the universe, and one of their department chairmen is a visiting professor right here in--"
"Kintzishit, You aren't..." Nikki started to say, only to pause as she saw the serious look on Alisa's face. "I mean, you're kidding, right?"
Alisa just stared at her sister. "What do you think will happen, Nikki? To me, I mean. You know, if I refuse to go back to Velor?"
"Besides Mom killing you? She's been telling everyone within ten parsecs that you're going to be a Protector. Like the rest of us were just a warm-up for you."
"That's not true. Mom loves us all. We're all different, that's all."
"Especially our famous older sister, Sara the Holo star, and you, the youngest, destined to be a mighty Protector. I've heard her talk about you two a hundred times, Alisa. But rarely any mention of the two misfits in the middle."
"You and James always getting into trouble," Alisa shrugged. "What's she supposed to say? There goes my Nikki, she fucks every guy in school, even the teachers. And how about James, Skietra's gift to women. But only Terrans need apply."
"You little bitch!" Nikki hissed. She stared so hard at her sister that Alisa had to spin around to save her PersComp. The lethal blast of heat vision vaporized the back of her jacket and blouse, finally splashing harmlessly against her bare skin.
Alisa glanced back over her shoulder when she felt the heat fade. A faint cloud of smoke from her burned clothing floated across the ceiling. "Damn it, Nikki, you ruined my outfit!"
"Like you can't go back to that second hand clothing store and buy more," Nikki sneered, her eyes still glowing dangerously."
Alisa tossed the rest of her charred clothing into the trash. At least her pants had survived. She suddenly felt very self-conscious of her recent development. Her figure was better than her sister's now. Nikki, fortunately, was too busy staring at herself in the mirror to notice. "Look, Nikki, just try to stay out of trouble for a bit, and Mom will start talking about how proud she is of you too. O.K?"
"Hah. I wouldn't give her the pleasure."
"Well, it's your funeral," Alisa shrugged as she started to walk toward the door. "Thanks to you, I gotta get dressed for Mom's so-called 'party of the year'. How boring."
Nikki ignored her sister as she began to search under the pile of clothes on her bed for her newest skirt. Finding it, she wiggled her hips into it, and was pleased to find that it didn't cover one more millimeter than was absolutely necessary. Her top bared her midriff in the usual Velorian style, exposing Velorian tight abs, her flawless body visible from the bottom of the red sash to the low waistband of her skirt. The skirt itself was a bare eight inches long from its hip-hugging waistband to clingy hemline, and it clung to her like a second skin.
She floated across the room to admire her appearance in the full-length mirror.
"Nikki!" her mother called again.
"Chill out, Mom. I'm coming, I'm coming." Nikki's voice held all the exasperation and impatience that a seventeen year old girl could muster. She knew her sister was right about her behavior, but she didn't care. She and James had always done their own thing. Alisa could go study for decades in some dusty University if that's what she wanted, and Sara could pose boringly in front of holo cameras, that plastic smile on her face, but Nikki was determined that she wasn't going to be tied down. She was going to leave Reigel Five and see the universe. Any day now.
But first, there was a party to enjoy. A spectacle to create. All she needed was to be in the right mood. That would come courtesy of her Mom's wardrobe. The piece de la resistance of her outfit was a pair of golden four-inch heels. Nikki eagerly lifted both feet from the floor to slip them on.
She'd barely started lacing the long straps around her ankles when a nearly irresistible flurry of tingles traced upward between her legs. She closed her legs tightly and bit her lip. The heat found her center, and then spread inward, there to finally fade into a warm glow. Nikki wrapped the straps of the other shoe around her ankle and nearly lost it when it happened again. Gritting her teeth, she managed to lower her feet to the floor and stood on shaky legs. Her chest was heaving. She took a step, and another flurry of urgent tingles found their way to her center again. She gasped, struggling to maintain control of the wildly erotic sensations.
For once she was impressed with her mother. She'd watched her walk out the front door wearing these shoes a few months ago, acting completely normal. Even more impressive, she was still wearing them when she got home at midnight. A very early end to a date, especially for a Velorian. How had she resisted the desires that came with these golden shoes?
Determined that she could do anything her mother could, Nikki pushed through the urgent needs that continued to rise between her legs, and reached shakily for a vial of perfume. Carefully placing a few dabs of the exotic scent between her breasts, the warmth of her skin filled the air with honey and wildflower.
The vial was a gift from an older man, an admirer. He'd said it was the synthetic equivalent of the Velorian scent of arousal, and it would exaggerate her natural scent. Nikki smiled as she realized that the gold would ensure that her body added whatever active ingredients might be missing.
She turned back to study her reflection a final time. Some quick work with her brush arranged the blonde swath through the middle of her red-dyed hair, and made sure that her earrings were temporarily covered. Her mother had never understood why she hid her blonde hair this way. Which, of course, was exactly why Nikki did it.
Basking in the glow of being very turned on yet still in control, she practiced her most seductive smile in the mirror. She was determined to make sure that nobody forgot this party. And since everyone who was anyone was coming tonight, there would enough gossip to last for months. And even though many of the guests would be Velorians, all dressed in the exotic way of her people, Nikki fully intended to be the center of everyone's attention. Most importantly, she wasn't going to let that new Protector upstage her, whoever she was.
Finally satisfied with her look, Nikki turned and walked across to the central open space, stepping off into thin air. Instead of floating like usual, she fell like a rock, barely unable to tense her legs enough to slow her descent before she reached the floor five stories below. She hit hard, stumbling forward a few steps, and nearly falling. The unexpected effect of the dual application of gold was interfering with her ability to fly more than she'd expected. She tried to get airborne again so she could air walk in her usual style, but found it took a lot more muscle than she felt like exerting. She resorted to merely walking.
"Alisa," Naomi called again, this time from the dining room. "I want you to help Maris'sa in the kitchen. And James, come on, get the pools uncovered. People are due here any moment."
"Yeah, yeah," James said as he hung up the holo-phone. The face of a Terran woman twice his age faded from the air over his bed. Unlike his casual sleeveless t-shirt and white jeans, she was dressed in a formal business suit.
He rose to dive head-first down the drop shaft. He pulled out a foot above the floor to flash past earth-bound Nikki, his slipstream sending her carefully arranged hair flying.
"Damn it, James!" she called after him.
Combing her hair back down with her fingers, Nikki walked across the rough rock floor of the living room and into the marbled floor of the dining room.
"So, Mom, I'm the official greeter tonight, right?" she asked hopefully.
"If you wish, honey," Naomi replied distractedly, her back turned. She was studying a half dozen placeholders in her hand. "I just wish I Aur'ana was here. I don't know what Minister Nazillah and his wife are interested in. He can be such a bore.
"Don't put him near me."
"You're the last person I'd sit him next to, Nikki. He's a member of Jellutong, the most conservative religious movement on Reigel Five. The women of his sect still cover their hair and wear those long robes."
"And you invited him to our party?"
"A formality. I didn't think he'd accept."
"He's going to have to say a lot of extra prayers after tonight."
"Don't be cruel, Nikki. He just has strong beliefs."
"Yes. In keeping his women under wraps. Do you know that they allow men to have more than one wife at the same time? They treat them like slaves."
"They treat their wives very well, Nikki. They just don't expect women to have the freedoms we're used to."
"I think it's demented. Stupid."
"I'm sure he'd have some less than glowing comments on your life style as well, Nikki."
"At least I know who's in charge."
"The problem is that you think it's you."
Nikki stuck out her tongue at her Mom's back.
"Speaking of such, let me see how you look."
Nikki tensed her legs tightly enough to lift off the floor and spin around as Naomi turned to face her. "So, what do you think, Mom? It's one of your tops. You know, the ones you bought back on Velor."
Naomi's eyes paused on her legs. "You look beautiful honey. Although I would have wished for a bit more of a skirt than that. I hope you're wearing something under it."
"It's local. I had it made special down a Keslels." She didn't say a word about what she wasn't wearing underneath.
"You have nice legs, honey, but you don't have to show every inch of them. The locals don't ever wear skirts that short."
"It's a Velorian party, mom. Time for us to sparkle like the pretty birds the Frails think we are."
"The word is Terrans," Naomi said darkly.
"Whatever," Nikki shrugged.
That's when Naomi caught a glint of her gold earrings. She glanced quickly down at her shoes, and blushed as she remembered that night she'd worn them. It had been her first date with the President of Reigel, and it had taken all her willpower to resist pushing their relationship forward faster than he wanted. He'd still been mourning his wife's passing, and had asked her to wait. The shoes had so clouded her judgment that she'd used her pheromones to try to change his mind. If it wasn't for his half Diabloli background, he wouldn't have been able to resist her. She'd come home embarrassed that she'd lost control. But impressed that he hadn't.
"You are not going to wear that much gold in my house, young lady," Naomi said firmly. "You go upstairs and take both of those off right now."
"Mom! They're just earrings, they hardly encircle anything. And the heels are yours. They've only got a trace of gold in them."
"Nikki, I know exactly what's in them. I also know very well how we feel when we wear gold around our ankles that way."
"So, I'm handling it aren't I?"
"Except that you can hardly fly."
"So. Like I need to tonight."
"Do you know what's going to happen the first time you get close to a man?"
"It's just a party, mom. You know, like in fun? I know you don't remember what that is, but trust me, you'll like it."
"I know what fun is, Nikki. I also know that you're going to take the gold off or you can spend the party in your..." The huge chime of the front door interrupt her.
"Gotta go, Mom. First blood at the front door and all that."
Naomi sighed as her daughter flashed out of sight. She wasn't going to have this fight now. Not over gold. Not over Nikki's promiscuous ways. She was still discovering what it meant to be a Velorian living among Normals. Among Terrans, Naomi reminded herself, angry that she'd used one of Nikki's labels.
She took a deep breath to calm herself, forcing herself to smile like she'd been trained to do. Mind over emotion. A quiet peace amidst a storm. The two skills of an Ambassador. When she was back in control of her thoughts again, she turned back to continue arranging the name cards. She had to ensure that the right people sat beside each other. She'd have words with Aur'ana later for not showing up in time to help her.
Nikki's feet flew across the rock floor as she dashed the length of the house to arrive at the front entrance. She opened the massive oak door as if it was weightless. The first to arrive was the Minister of Education, a Terran. His wife, a rapidly aging woman in her fifties, was holding his arm.
"Minister Tofflan, Mrs. Tofflan, so glad you could come. Please, come in and make yourself comfortable." Nikki leaned down to gently hug Mrs. Tofflan as she entered, touching each of her cheeks to hers. She straightened up to give the Minister a much more intimate embrace.
He rose unconsciously to his tiptoes as she wrapped her long arms around him, his hands hesitated for a brief moment before finding their way to her bare back. He thrilled to the touch of the silkiest and tightest skin he'd ever felt, his fingertips unconsciously tracing over the hard curves of legendary Velorian muscle. He felt very awkward by the way she embraced him in return, especially the way she towered over him on her heels, bringing her open cleavage so close to his face. He stared down in awe at the tenting shape of nipples that were larger than merely human. He took a deep shuddering breath, only to inhale her sweet perfume and, unknowingly, the subliminal hint of pheromone that rose from the very curves he was trying futilely not to stare down between. She was so impossibly firm and so dangerous young.
Nikki heard his heart leap, and teased him further by hugging him tighter, her magnificent cleavage flattening only slightly before the unyielding steel of her nipples pressed deeply into his flesh just below his collar bones. His body awakened in the way of a man, his unconscious arousal pressing hard against her lower abs. Nikki held him just a bit longer than was merely social, feeling his heart racing wildly against hers, enjoying the growing hardness that her sensual power was creating. She brushed his cheeks with her lips as she listened to the increasingly powerful swish of blood in his arteries. She finished by gently exhaling her fragrant breath as her lips touched his in a gentle kiss.
Stepping back now, she floated upward while sweeping her arm toward the inside of the house. She placed her hand on her breast and bowed gently, her long hair falling across her eyes to hide their startling blue.
It was an archaic Velorian gesture that meant 'my home is your home, my breast to yours, my eyes dimmed for your pleasure'. Nikki had practiced it just the week before.
Her Greeting worked beautifully. If not for the help of his wife, the Minister would have been too stunned and aroused to walk. His wife glared up angry astonishment at Nikki, who in turn looked merely amused. The angelic look on her husband's face told them both that he would carry the Velorian'esque memory of her welcoming embrace for a long time. And unbeknownst to both of them, the two new bruises on his chest would ache pleasantly until morning, making him think of her every time he moved.
So would every other Terran man who entered their home that night, for she planned to greet them all the same way.
The exotic Greeting, different from one party to the next, was just one of the reasons that an invitation to the Velorian Ambassador's residence was the most sought after privilege on Reigel Five. Even more exciting, it was just the opening scene of what would prove to be the wildest party of the year.
Aur'ana, Naomi's executive secretary, was the next to arrive. Wearing a simple white halter and a burnt-orange skirt with a colorful native sash around her waist, she looked like the B-class Vel that she was. Very efficient, organized and trim. She was the one who kept the Ambassador's office working.
"You didn't bring a date?" was all that Nikki asked her before waving her through the door.
"He wimped out on me. Which is why I'm late."
Aur'ana quickly went to work helping Naomi make sure the dinner seating was perfect.
The Velorians started to arrive next. Floating down out of the snowy night sky like angels, couples holding hands in Velorian style, many of them brought their older children. Nikki's greeting was mostly the same as she gave the Terrans. The only difference was that her embrace would have crushed any normal human. Nikki was amused to find that nearly all the adults were wearing at least a little gold, and her hugs went on a little longer than polite in the case of some of the men she knew.
The Velorian wives took Nikki in stride, knowing her game and caring little if she entertained their husbands for a night or two. Sexual openness was a Velorian tradition. She was a teenage girl from Velor, so of course she was adventurous. Even predatory. She would prove a momentary distraction for their husbands. Something to laugh about in bed later. But nothing to worry about.
Her Velorian classmates from school slipped by her sans the archaic and totally uncool greeting. None of them were wearing gold.
Nikki wound up focusing most of her attention on the Terrans. She dazzled the men, and they in turn angered their wives by walking through the door staring wide-eyed at every Velorian in the house. The sexy outfits, designed to show off perfect bodies, were too much for ordinary men to resist, especially the way the Vels floated around in mid-air, skirts micro short, long legs tensing sexily to levitate them. Their silky blonde hair floated about their heads as they enthusiastically chatted in their native language. Sounding like a cross between Swedish and French, a few of the younger Terran couples joined them, struggling with the language that they were still learning. It was a great opportunity to practice speaking it outside the classroom.
Nikki remained outside in the minus 60C snow, working to keep herself cool. A few of the Velorian men had responded to her embrace from fond memory, and it had been all she could do to refrain from scratching the itch that grew stronger with everyone she greeted. Public orgasms were frowned on even in a Velorian gathering.
Her hair was white with snow by the time a long black aircar glided silently to a stop in front of their house. Two serious looking men in suits got out to escort a tall man in his early fifties to the door. Security was tight due to the two recent assassination attempts by Tigra rebels. He looked very fit for his age, only his temples graying, his startlingly green eyes bright and clear. He smiled when Nikki opened the door for him, his eyes traveling slowly down and then up her body. His practiced eye caught a glimpse of gold earrings, and he recognized the top and shoes instantly.
"Ah, Nikki, my dear, so nice to see you again. You flatter your mother by wearing her clothes. Mother and daughter, both such glowing images of perfection." His voice was smooth as honey.
Way too smooth, Nikki thought. And what was the point of his comment about wearing her mother's clothes? "Ah, Hi, Mr. President. Mom's in the dining room," was all she said. She turned to the side without touching him, barely remembering to give him an abbreviated version of the wave and bow. While her mother found his Diaboli green eyes attractive, and laughed at his jokes, Nikki found him creepy, especially the way he stared at her legs whenever her mom wasn't looking.
A loud swishing sound pulled her attention back outside. She turned to see someone descending from the low snow clouds at nearly the Mach, sending spiraling shock waves outward to whip the fallen snow into a near white-out. A nearly naked woman stepped out of the swirling cloud a moment later, her strong legs flexing powerfully even by Velorian standards. A riot of blonde hair tumbled over bare shoulders to cover her upper body as she dropped a few final inches to land on the snow-covered walkway. Seeing Nikki staring at her, she tossed her head to reveal that she was not only nude from the waist up, but very engorged with Orgone. She wore only a tiny bottom, a few bare square inches of fabric that covered front and back with strings tied over her hips.
No doubt this was the Protector her mom had talked about, Nikki thought at first. Yet something wasn't right. The woman was much shorter than a Protector, nearly half a foot shorter than Nikki herself. Barely 5'8". And her face -- well, it definitely wasn't the face of a teenage girl. To the contrary, she looked older than her mom. Puzzled, Nikki stared at her as she marched up the walkway like she was the guest of honor, muscles flexing dramatically with every step, her bare feet leaving deep footprints in the gathering snow. She wore no jewelry. Only a Protector would come dressed this way. Or carry this much energy.
"Hi, I'm Nikki. I don't think we've met, ah, Miss..."
"Major Terri Raul'lan at your service. You're my boss's kid, right?" Her voice was brusque and low, a breathless quality to it.
Nikki held out her hand. "I am the Ambassador's daughter. Are you are visiting us from..."
The Major looked disdainfully down at her hand. "You do know the proper greeting between femmes, don't you?"
"Sure. I mean, yeah." Nikki shrugged as she lifted her arms to hug the woman, preparing to kiss her cheeks. She was shocked when the Major's hands instead slipped under the edges of her top to cup both her breasts. "Hey!"
"Hugs and kisses are a degenerate Terran tradition, Nikki Kim'Vallara. This is our proud tradition." Her hands closed tightly enough to make Nikki's gasp in pain. The Major sneered as she sensed the tingling effect of Nikki's gold. "Does your mother know you're wearing that yellow crap?"
"Of course," Nikki said defiantly, her thoughts racing. "It's hers." The Major's unwelcome touch had thrown her off balance. She started to reach for the woman's wrists to pull her hands away, only to feel the Major's thumbs vibrate wildly as they traced across her hard nipples. "Oh, Skietra..." she moaned. Her eyes fluttered and her legs grew so weak she could barely stand. The Major's hands held her up. "I... I thought that this... embrace... was only between, you know, Protectors."
"Unfortunately, even that's hardly true anymore," the Major said with a nod. "But we must not forget our proud traditions at times like these. Hold me."
Nikki hesitated, staring down at the woman's huge breasts. She'd read about this kind of greeting, but never expected to experience it. And she's never touched another woman's breasts. "Isn't this, like, very archaic or something?"
"So is the greeting you've been using. We should remember our own."
"Now hold me. Like this." The Major's hands closed tighter yet.
Nikki gasped in pain as the muscles on the Major's arms flexed huge. A pressure like she'd never felt before turned her breasts into aching agony and then... then it suddenly felt good. Then better than good as the Major's thumbs vibrated even faster. Strangely, impossibly, the harder the Major held her the more she felt her body soaring into... bliss! Nikki cried out softly, nearly orgasmic now, and lifted her hands, desperately trying to return the pleasure. She was shocked to find that she was so weak from the gold that she could barely make an impression in the Major's firmness.
"You should never wear gold, Nikki. It makes you weak. Vulnerable. Velorians are never weak."
Nikki was about to nod when a flash of light exploded beneath her hands. Her fingers began to burn as a spider web of blue lightning raced up her arms to crackle across her own chest. She stared down at herself in fascination, having only read about Orgone sharing before this.
The Major relaxed her grip, and firmly pulled Nikki's top wide open to expose her. She then extended her index finger to touch Nikki's proud nipples. Two thick bolts of blue lightning flashed from fingertip to nipple with a loud CRACK.
Nikki's body began to shake as an incredible wave of heat filled her, and a stretching sensation made her chest ache. At the same time, she felt the Major's fullness shrink marginally beneath her hands. Shocked and barely in control of her body now, she jerked her hands back to cup herself, finding that her breasts felt noticeably larger than they'd been only moments before. She closed the top of her dress over her new fullness and wrapped her arms around herself, biting her lip as she tried to keep control of her emotions. When she looked down, she saw two shocking plumes of smoke rising from the scorched fabric.
"Don't ever hide what you are, Nikki Kim'Vallara. Be proud that you were born Velorian. Even more, that you were born female." With that, the Major turned and walked through the door, leaving Nikki standing in the snow, too stunned and intimidated to say a word.
Nikki just stared out into the snow, realizing that the Major had just completely dominated her Greeting. "What the fuck was that all about..." she muttered to herself.
The words had barely left her lips when another arrival showed up on the walk way. A very tall girl dressed in the formal red and blues of a Protector held an older man in her arms, her cape fluttering in the cold wind. She set her passenger gently down, and then steadied him as she unwrapped the heavy thermals enough for him to walk. Even then, she had to wrap her arm around his waist to help him walk.
Nikki stared once again, realizing that this was the young Protector her mom had talked about. She felt a wave of electricity flow through her. First there was the encounter with the Major, a Protector's greeting and all, and now a real Protector had shown up. She'd never met a Protector. Like most everyone who lived their lives on a human world, she had a mental image of a Protector as tall, muscle-bound goddesses. But this girl wasn't nearly as impressive as she'd expected, other than the uniform that is. Barely six feet tall, her figure was good but not extraordinary. She wasn't as muscular or nearly as well built as the Major. Nikki glanced at the old man beside her, and recognized him. He was the Professor from the University who'd spoken at her school. Cher'el somebody.
She forced herself to speak. "Hi, I'm Nikki. My Mom told me you guys were coming. Guests of honor and all."
"I'm Cher'ee. This is my Grandfather, Cher'el Belan'gan." Cher'ee came to a pause on the doorstep. Nikki found herself staring down at the bright 'S' on her chest. The symbol of ultimate power.
"Ah, yeah," Nikki said, blinking the dazed look from her eyes. She remembered the Major's words, and forced herself to reach out and place her hands on that glowing 'S'. The silky fabric and the firm rise of the girl's breasts filled her hands.
Cher'ee looked down at Nikki's hands and then back up at her. "Ah, excuse me?"
"Sorry." Nikki squeezed her as hard as she could. Impossibly, she was even firmer than the Major.
"Just exactly what are you doing?" Cher'ee asked, both startled and amused by Nikki's touch.
Cher'el started to laugh. "It's an archaic greeting, my dear, one Protectors used to give to each other when I was young, although I think rarely even back then. " He chuckled again. "You are supposed to return the favor."
"No way," Cher'ee said as she tried to shrug Nikki's hands away. Nikki held on determinedly. "Are you like, gay or something?"
Nikki was devastated. First the Major had intimidated her, and now this Protector was embarrassing her in front of this old man. Thinking of her as a lesbian? Angered by that, she stubbornly held on tighter yet.
"It is considered proper, Cher'ee to return the honor," Cher'el repeated.
Cher'ee sighed, and reached out to gently cup Nikki. The warmth of her softly bare skin contrasted wildly with the -60C wind that blew across them.
"It's supposed to be a test of strength and invulnerability," Cher'el offered.
Cher'ee angrily squeezed very hard, only to hear Nikki gasp in pain. She quickly let her go.
Nikki grabbed her aching chest. "Damn it, that really hurt." Cher'ee's grip had been far stronger than the Major's.
"You shouldn't be wearing gold when sharing this greeting," Cher'el told Nikki unnecessarily.
"You're the second person to tell me that tonight," Nikki groaned. "Please, just go inside."
"Someone else shared this embrace with you?"
"Yeah. Some Major who works for my mom," Nikki said as she massaged herself. "You can't miss her. Look for the bitch with the naked tits and the Nazi attitude."
Cher'el laughed. "Ah, another fond Velorian custom we see too little of these days. Social nudity."
"I'm feeling better already, Cher'ee my dear. And since this is my last party, let's make it a good one."
The cocktail hour before dinner proved interesting. Cher'el made it clear he needed constant infusions of energy, and the Major proudly made it a point to take him under her wings, so to speak. She had the energy to spare and she made sure everyone knew it.
Yet it was Cher'ee who was the true center of attention, what with her bright uniform and flowing cape. Everyone crowded around to ask her a thousand questions about what it was like to be a Protector of worlds. They soon figured out she didn't know any more about that than they did.
She eventually found a break in the attention to slip away. Strolling around the far side of the larger of the two pools, hiding in the darkness of the snow storm, she found James sitting on a stone chair under some low trees.
"You can't handle all the bullshit either, I see."
Cher'ee shrugged and brushed the snow off one side of the bench to sit down beside him, the frozen granite felt merely cool against her bare legs. "I'm not used to being the center of attention like that."
"Then you shouldn't have worn that uniform."
"I didn't want to," she said while nervously playing with the hem of her skirt. "But my Grandfather said it was one of his last wishes that I appear among his friends as what I am."
"He's proud of you, huh?"
"Aren't all Grandfathers?"
"I don't know. I never knew mine."
"They're like fathers, but easier to talk to."
"I never had a father either. My Mom raised us alone."
Cher'ee laughed. "Maybe I should just shut up before I swallow both my feet."
James smiled at her. "A humble Protector. With a sense of humor to boot. Who would have guessed?"
"I'm not really one yet. I have a half a year of training to go before I get the title that goes with this uniform."
"But you've got the power?"
"Yeah. That part I got."
"Cute uniform too." He traced his finger just above the 'S' on her chest. "The ultimate Supremis."
"So they keep telling me," she smirked.
James' eyebrow lifted. "Something you want to talk about?"
The two of them hid out in the darkness of the snowstorm for the next hour. Cher'ee managed to get him to open up and talk about himself, and he gave her chapter and verse about the trials and tribulations of living as a Velorian on Reigel Five. They switched to talking about what it was like to train to be a Protector, most of which wasn't all that flattering. He wound up asking her how it felt to be a warrior. Cher'ee didn't have much to add, other than some more funny stories from her training. She didn't want to talk about her real fear. That of someday being isolated on a world with no science and no technology.
Inside the warm house, the Terrans seemed more than merely impressed with sharing a room with two dozen Velorians. After Cher'ee escaped to find James, they switched their attention to Alisa, who soon escaped also, leaving Nikki and a couple of her classmates to flirt with the enamored men. The older Velorians floated near the tall ceiling, chatting happily in their language. The view from beneath those tiny skirts caused more than one Terran man to spill his drink.
To her credit, Nikki tried a couple of times to draw both Velorian and Terran together, and she soon had two of the younger Terran wives practicing the Velorian embrace, mostly with the Major. She concentrated on teaching the men as well, conveniently forgetting that this was strictly a female thing. Every adventurous Terran in the room soon knew exactly what a young Velorian's breasts felt like.
The only Terran youth who'd been unwisely allowed to attend, a Freshman boy who attended the Velorian School, soon glued himself to Nikki's side. She was a Senior and a Velorian and he as a Freshman and a Terran. Predictably, his world shrank down to include only her, blocking everything else out in the way only a boy his age could do. He embarrassed his parents by practicing the Greeting more times that was appropriate.
Few of the Terran wives were amused. Not that they hadn't been prepared for a wild night -- many of them had been to a Velorian party before. But they felt the young Velorian Studies teacher in the High School, Kat'arina Alas, finally went too far when she shed her skirt and invited everyone to go for a swim with her. She'd too recently arrived from Velor to realize that this wasn't an appropriate way to act around her students. Not on a Terran world.
The teacher made it worse by pulling her top off while winking at one of the Velorian students in her class, encouraging him to shed his clothes and join her in the deep pool. Their laughter soon enticed most of the other Vels to join them, and soon two dozen blonde men and women were skinny dipping, their clothing scattered all over the pool furniture. One overly enthusiastic Terran man jumped in, but had to be rescued. The otherwise inviting-looking water was only barely above freezing.
The rest of the Terran men and a few of their wives were content to watch the impromptu diving contest that ensued. Flying up to a height of fifty meters, nearly out of sight in the snowstorm, the contest became one of seeing who could enter the water the cleanest.
The contest ended when the ten-year-old daughter of the Communications Officer used her flying power to stop herself with her feet still sticking out of the water, thus reducing the final splashing plume of a perfect entry. That set off a vigorous debate on the rules, which of course were non-existent. Velorian athletic contests were always won by the cleverest, not the most physically gifted. They eventually declared the girl the winner in the usual way, with everyone piling on top of her in the big pool, pinning her to the bottom. Just to ensure her humility.
She proved to be inventive once again my burrowing through the bottom of the concrete pool to emerge from the side of the hill a hundred meters down. More than one laughing contestant was sucked down the man-sized drain to be flushed out the hillside.
James just groaned, knowing he'd have to spend part of tomorrow fixing and refilling the pool. Velorians took to water like river otters, but they were very hard on the pool equipment.
The older and more sensible Terran wives gravitated into a corner of the living room with the Ambassador and talked shop, for most of them were either in the government, or married to men who were. Naomi called Alisa over long enough to wax proudly about her coming Rites, and to enjoy the oohing and ahhing of the other mothers. Fortunately dinner was served before Alisa could ruin it all by blurting out that she wasn't going to Velor.
The President wound up in another corner talking to his Ministers. Naomi finally broke away to join him, slipping her arm through his to make sure everyone knew they were still a couple.
The subsequent call to sit for dinner resulted in a riot of wet bodies milling around the now empty big pool, trying to find the bits of clothing that belonged to them. Flashes of heat vision lit the night as they dried each other off before dressing. A few of them wound up losing bits and pieces of clothing, which was significant given how little they'd initially worn to the party.
Dinner turned out to be an elegant affair, made all that more memorable by a sea of blonde hair, all puffed up from being rapidly dried with heat vision. The meal was Chon'dese, a specialty from the Northern Province of Velor, the food hot and spicy. Despite their not needing food for the same reasons as their Terran compatriots, Velorians loved to eat. It was a topic of great jealousy among the Terrans that they couldn't gain a gram of weight no matter how much they indulged.
The Ambassador sat at one end of the table, with the Major sitting proudly bare-breasted on her right. Cher'ee, still dressed in her bright uniform, sat on her left. The Major's dramatic profile made her look as if she was the one who should be wearing the red and blues. The Velorian couples took them both in stride, more intent on the food, but it took all the Terran men's willpower not to stare at the head of the long table. The young Velorian wife of the Facilities Manager, sitting at the opposite end of the table, gave them something else to stare at as she discarded her top as well. But by this time, the Terran wives were back in the control of their husbands and they didn't dare lift their eyes from their food.
After dinner was another matter. Now the serious partying began. While the serving staff cleared the table, everyone scrambled or flew downstairs to the Pub that James and Nikki had decorated. It consisted of a couple of pool tables and a bar stocked with a variety of intoxicants, including a secretly stashed bottle of the Gold liquor that affected even Velorians. Most importantly, the ceiling was twenty meters above the huge dance floor.
Half the men, Terran and Velorian, gathered around the pool tables or bar, while the other half joined the Velorian women in their favorite pastime -- air dancing.
Jenna, the wife of the Embassy Cultural Affairs officers started it off with a traditional dance, one symbolizing the ascent to flight of the Velorian race. It started on the floor with some of the Terran guests, the room lit with a soft pinkish light, and then moved higher and higher into the four story high basement. The other Velorians floated off the floor one by one, rising to join in. They swirled and dove through the air, gently holding hands as they spun dizzily through the air, leaving the Terrans gasping below, watching the spectacle.
Alisa joined them, losing herself in the sheer joy of movement and flight. Behaving momentarily like the acolyte she was, she danced with everyone, even dropping back down to floor level to be a proper hostess to the Terrans. The two dimensional dancing, half the crowd on the floor, half flying over their heads, turned surreal when James turned on the lighting effects. A brilliant gold-colored laser began flashing through the now darkened room, the computer carefully aiming it to ensure that it touched only Velorian skin and hair. The dancers soon looked like glowing angels as they floated so freely, their blonde hair a golden cloud as the laser lit the glowing strands.
Naomi and the President danced down on the hardwood floor while his bodyguards stoically observed from the sidelines.. Ironically, half the people in this room had the power to take the President's life with a flick of their finger, yet he was safer here from the Tigra rebels and their terrorists than anywhere else on his planet.
Naomi's assistant, Aur'ana, now freed from her duties, quickly struck up a friendship with the one Terran man who'd arrived unaccompanied. He was a Lieutenant in the local Army who was on liaison duty to the Major's staff. It was a highly coveted assignment, not the least because of the invitation to parties like these. She held his hands and took him flying, somehow making it look like he had the power to levitate on his own. Her flight skills, courtesy of her five years on Reigel Five, were legendary.
Alisa enjoyed dancing until her mother tugged her back to Earth to help her prepare the final toast of the night. She floated down the rickety steps to the old sub-basement to get a case of the chilled bubbly. The sparkling wine had been imported from Velor itself. She spotted the case, only to hear rapid breathing coming from behind the canvas frame that Nikki used from some of her larger paintings. She looked through it to see Aur'ana and the Terran Lieutenant working to further their 'diplomatic relations'. They were engaged in a most intimate negotiation.
Aur'ana startled as Alisa lifted the case of long-aged champagne, bottles tinkling. She quickly rose to her feet to appear at the edge of the canvas frame, her skirt missing as she covered herself with her hand.
"I didn't think anyone would be coming down here," Aur'ana said, stating the obvious.
Alisa glanced around, but didn't see any gold. She had no idea what Aur'ana was trying to do. For despite being only a B-class, she was still hundreds of times stronger than the man who was with her. Then Alisa saw the thick bar of steel that Aur'ana was trying to hide under her foot, and she realized that more party tricks were afoot. She'd seen the obscene rumors about Velorian intimate powers on the Holo-Net.
Alisa looked back at Aur'ana, and lifted one eyebrow questioningly.
"Do you mind?" Aur'ana asked impatiently.
Alisa looked at the fascinated glint in the Terran officer's eye and shrugged, muttering to herself about 'all the myriad ways'. She floated back up the stairs to drop off the wine, and then left the part, rising vertically through the drop shaft to her room. She was sick of the way Velorians acted around Terrans. Aur'ana could dazzle the locals with her innermost power if that turned her on. She had far more interesting things to do. Like reading the latest technical papers on wormhole event horizons on her PersComp.
The Ambassador's Residence
Of all the attendees at the party, Major Terri Raul'lan seemed to be enjoying herself the most. She'd given up on using her heat vision to keep Cher'el warm, and instead had resorted to sharing energy in the most primal of ways. She allowed the curious onlookers to cluster around her as she made a spectacle of herself. Massaging her breasts tightly enough to force herself into an Orgone burn, her arousal flirted visibly with the edge of passion, her scent nearly drove everyone insane despite being outside under the canopy. Her upper body was soon shining from the inner glow of an Orgone burn, her nipples flared like twin stars when she finally managed to express a drop of that powerful hormone. Cher'el shocked the onlookers by trapping that drop in his mouth. A riot of wild sparks enveloped his body until he looked flushed and warm. He leaned against her chest, his broad smile saying he was having the time of his life.
Whatever was left of it.
All eyes remained on the Major when she rose to wade into the smaller pool to cool off after Cher'el's 'recharging'. The screeching sizzle of her chest when the water closed over it sounded like the quenching of hot steel.
She emerged a few minutes later and gave Cher'el another dose, to his grinning delight. She was clearly enjoying putting on a show for the Terrans. They in turn kept her ego fed by remarking that she looked more like a Protector than Cher'ee, which only encouraged her further. Her libido soared as she used it like a drug, enhancing her strength, setting off a fire storm of Orgone metabolism.
Continuing her energetic display, she gripped a three kilogram steel block in her hands and squeezed it so hard that it began to heat visibly from the friction. She let the Terrans touch her arms and shoulders as she worked the steel with both hands, trapping the steel, squeezing it and shaping it like a snowball. When it was finally hot enough, she pressed it against the center of her chest and mounded herself up against the metal with incredible force. The softly-firm curves that so many had enjoyed now turned harder than the steel as she poured her strength into her hands. Velorian flesh was only so compressible after which it became unyielding.
A riot of hard curves covered her body from her exertions, only to force her admirers to stand back when a few drops of white-hot liquid steel dripped onto her thigh. Two twisting rivulets began to flow from her cleavage and then down her flat stomach to disappear under the tiny patch of fabric that formed her bottom. It quickly went up in flames.
Her erotic feat of strength was one that the Major proudly knew only a Protector should have been able to perform. She was a master of using orgonic power to increase her strength. The air was full of her scent now, and her nipples were standing out like two small thumbs. The Terran men were fawning embarrassingly over her, which strangely seemed to entice the Major further.
The Velorians wisely moved upwind from what they considered an inappropriate and excessive display. A mere party trick for the easily impressed Terrans.
Cher'ee and James watched her from the shadows, giggling insanely as the Major went orgonic, and then nearly orgasmic, holding herself at that very edge of shuddering release. It was called Espar'ee, and it was the hormonal state where a Velorian woman was the strongest, her Orgone metabolism at its highest. The fact that the Major appeared to be well accomplished at it surprised Cher'ee, as Espar'ee was as much art form as it was a combat technique. Only Protectors were trained to do it, although some Velorian femmes had nascent abilities to maintain Espar'ee for a few minutes. The Major, on the other hand, had been going at it for hours.
They both decided that it was kind of sad. Not for the men -- they were enjoying a thoroughly Velorian moment, freely touching the living steel of an orgasmic Velorian who was showing off her physical powers. It was just sad that the Major had to get her kicks this way. Clearly she would have been better off being born P1, or so Cher'ee thought.
James was even less charitable. He thought it was disgusting that she was twelve decades old and acting like a girl who'd just discovered herself. She was old as Cher'ee's grandfather! The fact that the Major had lived all her life outside a gold field had prevented her from aging physically, but mentally was a different matter. She clearly needed the affirmation of younger men.
Cher'ee and James leaned against each other, whispering into each others ears, often laughing outrageously. James was especially funny as he speculated about how the Major was going to finally put an end to her Orgone burn. His bet was on an arrogant display of self-eroticism with most of the Terrans standing around her, glassy-eyed drunk on her pheromones. Cher'ee thought otherwise. Despite the Major's otherwise outrageous behavior, she hadn't crossed any lines that would be considered unprofessional for a Velorian. But to share an orgasm so publicly? That would tear it. It would also be very dangerous.
James placed his hand Cher'ee's thigh and suggested she go deal with it. Everyone knew that Protectors were bi-sexual. She placed her hand on top of his to signal her consent of his affectionate touch, something that never would have happened with a P1 and B-class back home. She was suddenly very aware that she'd never made love while fully empowered. All but one of her half-dozen nights with Jaz'la had all been on Velor. Her one night on low-gold Erin'dor had been a life-changing experience.
She pushed that strange thought away, only to have James offer the wise observation that distance made for strange bedfellows. He was talking about the Major and the Terran men who surrounded her, but Cher'ee took advantage of that opening to ask James why he was so sexually attracted to Terran women. And only to Terrans.
His mood quickly changed and he grew silent as he lifted his hand from her thigh. He started to get up, but she reached for his hand and drew him back down, holding his hand tightly between her legs. He tried to pull his hand back, but could not. Instead, he slumped down next to her.
"Because of this, damn it. Because I'm weak. The weakest of all Velorians."
Cher'ee quickly released his hand.
"I wasn't restraining you, James. I just didn't want you to know that you didn't have to leave. In fact, until I asked you this question, you seemed to enjoy being with me."
"At least you aren't like... her," he pointed to the Major. "She intimidates men for the fun of fit."
"Yet I've got ten times your strength. And several times hers. Do I intimidate you?"
" No, I mean, not really. It's about being in control. I want to be the one who is."
Cher'ee giggled. "Then you definitely don't want to hang with me. Our Protector thing is all about being in control. Of everything."
He said nothing for a long moment.
"You think that a stronger woman would make you less of a man?"
"How... I mean, how did you... know..." he stammered. How could she know his fears?
"It's a common misconception. What most men don't realize is that a stronger woman will draw out the man in you. She'll make you rise above yourself. And in her pleasures, ones you bring her, you will tame that strength, if only for a moment." She spoke from experience now. She and Jaz'la had discovered this that one night on Erin'dor. Intimidated by her new strength at first, he'd risen to her urgent demands, and become more of a man in the doing.
"I don't know, Cher'ee. I just love the way Terran women look at me. At the way they would give up their world for me." He spoke openly for the first time, finding it strangely cathartic.
"It's called infatuation, James. Lust. Chemically induced, some of it. No Terran man can match the beauty or power of your body."
"But you were not made to please them. Especially these older women -- you are taking advantage of them even as they think they are taking advantage of you."
He was silent again.
"It's not healthy, James. It will not lead to happiness. Certainly not to yours."
"I don't know. I'm happiest when I'm with them. And I can make them so very happy in return."
"And then the morning comes and you go home. They go back to their husbands, or to their boyfriends. What do you go back to?"
He closed his eyes and saw himself lying on the high rocks above the city, savoring the thrill of his latest conquest. As always, his gold now lay beside him, his hand finding himself to stroke away the frustrations that had built all night long. His habit was to turn at the last moment to bury himself in the granite, crying out in rage and loneliness as the unyielding bedrock of the planet itself contained his power. He said nothing of his shame to Cher'ee.
"See how the Velorian men are avoiding the Major. Yet all the Terran men find her irresistible, gathering around like drones. She draws her excitement from them."
"You see me doing the same? With their women?"
"It's not what I see that matters, but what you see."
"She and I. You think we're alike."
"Possibly," Cher'ee said softly. "But she's trapped in her ways. A dozen decades of living as a faux Protector. Few Velorian men are attracted to that. Few of them are truly attracted to a woman who acts like a man."
"But many Protectors do. Act that way."
"We try not to. Which is why we have Messengers. They come across as being so strong and sexually dominant, but they are submissive by nature. Something only a Protector would know."
James laughed nervously. "O.K, you've just managed to destroy my favorite fantasy."
"Of being a Messenger?"
"You're better than that."
"You can have a skill. You could have a useful profession and still be a lover. Maybe even a husband. A father. Messengers are sterile. They have no roots, only a list of Protectors whom they serve."
"I hadn't thought of it that way."
"You're only nineteen, James. You can change. Don't live your life as a 'Messenger' to the Terran women. Claim your own birthright."
"You sound like my mother. Yet you're younger than I am."
"Protectors grow up fast."
"Would... would you help me?" James asked daringly.
"I think the Major needs you more than me, James. She needs saving before she hurts someone. She can't stay on that edge forever. That tightrope dance between arousal and completion will end in satiation, one way or another."
He turned to look into her eyes as he held her hand so tightly.
"I would rather be with you."
"She needs you, James. She needs a Velorian man."
He nodded, the look in his eyes a mix of excitement and fear. "But she's so fucking... physical."
Cher'ee laughed. "And I'm way more physical than her. I just don't flaunt it." She gripped his hand tighter. "Trust me. You'll do fine." She felt him still hesitating. "Just forget everything you've ever learned about holding back." She rose to kiss him gently. "And I'll be watching. Make me proud of you."
"You sound like my mother," he chuckled.
"Sometimes I feel that old. Ever since my Rites."
"Well, fortunately you don't look it." He started to hold her closer.
Cher'ee giggled and slipped from his grasp. She turned him toward the pool. "The target is that way, tiger. Go get her."
James looked back longingly into Cher'ee eyes for a long moment before nodding. He squared his shoulders and pushed off with his toes to float slowly through the falling snow. He landed beside the Major to surprise her by placing his hands over the glowing brilliance of hers. Guiding her hands to his chest, he placing them against his bare skin, gasping as the steel ran in glowing rivulets down his muscled torso. the Major turned to clutch him hungrily to herself, her breasts flattening against his chest. They held each other for a long moment, and then he put his arm protectively around her to guide her into the house. A dozen disappointed and suddenly intimidated Terran men stared at her back. They hadn't been prepared for the Velorian teenager to end their fun.
More eyes followed them as they floated up the drop shaft to his bedroom. There James darkened the walls modestly, ensuring that if they were watched, it would only be by a Velorian.
The Major said nothing as she lay back on his unmade bed, holding herself, her hand still possessed of the strength that had worked that steel to molten. She turned to look at him with wide-eyed enthusiasm as he slipped from his clothes.
James was magnificently endowed, and so turned on that his body was trembling. For the first time, his gold chains remained safely on the dresser top.
She responded by flooding the room with pheromones that made him more of a man than he'd ever been before. His size, his power, were unequaled by any except a Messenger himself. A Messenger who would never give a P3 like the Major a second glance, focusing instead on the pretty birds called Protectors.
He came to her, straddling her, lifting her hands over her head as he replaced them with the strength of his own. Sitting on her waist as he leaned over her, his marvelous endowment resting on her stomach to ultimately nestle between her high breasts. Her hands returned to press those warm mounds tightly together, trapping him in the soft steel of her intimate embrace. A flash of blue sparks covered her chest as she poured her Orgone into him, empowering him for the loving to come, holding him even tighter than she had the steel.
Alisa was the first to feel the house sway. Startled, for this was not earthquake country, she looked around to see that the other buildings were stable. A glance into her mother's room showed it was empty. James' room was darkened. She squinted her eyes to look past the visible spectrum, and saw the source of the shaking. James and the Major were making love. She blushed and quickly blinked her eyes back to normal, wondering as she did why every other Velorian seemed to need so much sex in their lives.
She paused for a moment to wonder if there was something wrong with her. She was still a virgin at fifteen and a half. What she knew of the lives of P1's said that this was unheard of. By the time a P1 went to her Rites, she was supposed to know a great deal about men. Yet Alisa had little interest in learning. She'd seen enough sex to know that it could wait until someone special came along.
All of which convinced her further that she wasn't going to become a Protector.
No, she would find a way to Kelsor Seven. Somehow. The wormholes that led to it weren't on the public star maps, so she'd have to travel with someone who knew the way. Or stow away inside a transport ship. Either way, she was determined to get there.
Of all the things in her life, she was sure of that. And that only.
The clock soon struck midnight and the guests started to leave. Most of them had had the time of their lives, the Terrans especially, and they were now stocked with enough wild stories to keep their colleagues enthralled for the next year.
Kat'arina and her young student emerged from their intimate encounter in a snowdrift behind the house to say goodbye, seemingly unaware of the fact that they'd lost their clothing. Their skin was wet from melting snow. She seemed happy to have been able to teach a bit of Velorian culture to her student, who in turn was grinning infectiously. He'd learned a little more about the art of pleasing a woman. Far from being a scandal on Velor, such teacher/student sharing was part of the expected extra-curricular studies. Especially with a teacher only a few years older than her students.
Cher'ee made sure her Grandpa was comfortable. She helped him snuggle up inside the roaring flames in the living room fireplace, piling enough redwood on top of him to keep the fire burning for hours. She finally wandered into the kitchen to sit across the table from Naomi.
The house started to shake again and the dishes began rattling like crazy. James and the Major were at it again. Naomi quickly rose to hold onto her favorite tea pot as a crescendo of nearly seismic force shook the house. It was the third such time in the last hour.
"Those two were made for each other," Naomi said, glancing upward with flashing eyes to make sure her son was in good hands. "A born exhibitionist and a man who wants to be a god among women."
Cher'ee giggled. "She is a bit older than him, though."
"Only a hundred years or so," Naomi smirked.
"Well, whatever, they've turned their romance into a contest over who gets to be on top. The Major is winning."
"She's not gentle at all. I thought at first that would scare him. He's used to such.... soft women."
Cher'ee twirled a lock of her hair in her fingers. "What Velorian men want when they are rational, and what they need when they are impassioned are two different things. James let his use of gold cloud his judgment."
It was Naomi's turn to laugh. "How would you know such a thing at your tender age?"
"They teach us many things in my school. I remembered that from one of my lectures."
"I'm not going to even ask what the subject of the class was." Naomi paused for a long moment. "Sometimes I'm almost afraid to see Alisa go into that kind of training. She is such an innocent. So unaffected by her potential. She would much rather immerse herself in University studies."
"Then she and I share a common desire. But I'm halfway through my training, I've had my Rites and everything, and I'm still O.K. She will too."
"No," Naomi said with a shake of her head. "Two things are different. She's still a virgin. And you are on Reigel Five with a bunch of ordinary Velorians, wishing you didn't have to go back to Protector school. Neither of those are 'O.K'."
Cher'ee shrugged as if it was nothing. "There is a reason that most Protectors are born with strong emotions and a lust for physical encounters. On the other hand, when they make the mistake of giving us other talents, Alisa and I for instance, we take less pleasure in the endless physical training and combat practice." She lowered her voice. "I haven't told this to anyone else, but it's like totally boring back on Velor."
"You are talking to an official member of the Velorian government. Are you sure you should be sharing such... doubts?"
"I prefer to think that I'm talking to the mother of a girl who has second thoughts on following her genetic heritage. I wish I'd had someone to talk to before I took my Rites."
"Alisa and I don't talk about this."
"Then you should, Naomi. Soon."
Naomi smiled broadly. "You know, I've not had a real conversation with a Protector before. You make me feel like the child."
"Trust me, my sisters would not make you feel this way. They haven't learned to look past the trap of their perfect bodies. They laugh, they giggle, they make love endlessly, treating it like a team sport. Until they meet their first Aurean, they think it's all a big game."
"Speaking of which, I'd assumed your role with James was going to be more -- what should I say -- more central?" Naomi mused.
Cher'ee shrugged. "As you said earlier, those two deserve each other. And I don't know my own strength yet. Except for one time on the low-gold moon of Erin'dor, I've always been in a gold field when I, you know, had experiences."
"And you aren't curious? About what unrestrained loving might be like?"
Cher'ee shrugged. "Sure. Any Velorian girl is. Especially someone who's had their Rites. But I assume my needs would be more appropriately met by a Messenger."
"You assume. Yet you don't really know."
"I'm not exactly in any Messenger's little black book at the moment, Naomi. One has to have an assignment first."
"And you have to finish your training to get that."
"Yes," Cher'ee mused, staring through the wall at a Terran couple who were sitting by the pool. They were obviously married, and based on their ages, probably for many years. Yet they were holding each other and talking softly, focused on sharing their thoughts and emotions, not just their bodies. "But the world doesn't really revolve around physical prowess, does it?"
"Feelings are more important."
"But then, I'm just a soldier, Naomi. Training to be sent to faraway worlds. Alisa will be too. Sacrificing our lives to hold back an enemy who might in the end turn out to be unstoppable."
"And you want more than that?" Naomi asked softly.
"Then talk to Alisa about this. Share your thoughts. I think you will find you have a lot in common."
Cher'ee blinked and turned her focus back to Naomi's eyes. "I thought you wanted her to go? James told me about it. You've dreamed of this day since before you conceived her."
"I do. I want to strengthen Velor. To contribute in all the ways a woman can. The fruit of my womb." She paused to look down at her tea. "But not at Alisa's expense. If it's going to make her desperately unhappy, then I will not insist."
"Then the Council will, Naomi. You know that. This is not a choice that we P1's have. We can't just say, 'thanks but no thanks for the genes' and waltz away."
"Well, we'll cross that bridge if we need to, Cher'ee dear."
The house started to shake again, and Naomi rose to put her teapot safely in the sink. She paused there, leaning over the sink for a long moment. When she turned, she was wiping away a tear. "And thank you for helping James out of his fixation on the Normals." She glanced upward, trying to smile bravely. "I just hope our house survives until morning."
Cher'ee followed her gaze. "Seems as if he had some catching up to do. And that Major of yours, I can truly believe she used to train Protectors. I just hope I never start acting like that. Coming bare-breasted to a mixed party like this. That was so... elitist. So flamboyant. So arrogant."
"No doubt she'd swap places with you in a heartbeat, Cher'ee. It seems that the Maternity Engine is getting confused lately on what traits to give what class."
"Or the system is being influenced. In my case, by my Grandpa. He wanted to preserve the essence of our bloodline. Mathematical ability. Reasoning. Independent thinking."
Naomi suddenly blanched. "Oh, Skietra. I did the same. I used my influence to draw two additional genetic lines into Alisa's final edits. I was in a hurry, it was all very illegal you know, but now I wonder if one of them was your own. She was conceived only months after you were. They might still have had your pattern in their buffers."
"Well then," Cher'ee said calmly as she finished her tea., "I do need to talk further to her. I presume you noticed that she avoided being in the same room as me tonight."
"She spent most of the night in her own room."
"And I spent my night hiding in shadows."
"It's true then, isn't it? You are like sisters."
"I don't know about that," Cher'ee shrugged, rising. "All I know is that I need to get my Grandpa home. He seems to be far too comfortable in that huge fireplace of yours."
Naomi suddenly reached out to take her hand. "He'll be fine. The hardwood will burn until morning. I want to talk to you more about Alisa. About her future. And about yours." She held Cher'ee's hand tighter. "And I don't want to be alone tonight."