“adventurers in strange new worlds”
all mockery is laughing
all violence is cheap …
O you savage.
Su Xi Xsu
A wind-swept desert outside the walls of the city of New Zhanjiang. The year is 2156. The Sino-Anglo Confederacy had brought humanity to the stars nearly a hundred years earlier. Now the newly formed 3rd Divine Chinese Empire is the dominate culture in every star system that humanity has sent pioneers, terraformers, Imperial Marines and missionaries to colonize.
Darkness. Sound of endless, hungry wind. The stage is bare save for two large boulders in center stage. Dusty, dim light slowly rise, never enough to clearly see anything save for uninterrupted, confusing swirls of shadows everywhere. The wind storm reaches its crescendo and fades. Slowly the boulders unfold themselves from the tight balls they were sleeping in, like husky dogs in the Arctic snow. Seven feet tall, naked, profoundly curvy, eyeless, earless, with their oblong skulls and segmented tails, the Lingualandicis (“clitoris-tongues”) of this story are a single gender, a female warrior race. The larger and younger of the two is Lyssk, exiled from her homeland and estranged from her human husband. The smaller and older one is Ts’ssk, Lyssk’s former lover, former nanny, former confidant. Since arriving at New Zhanjiang, Lyssk and Ts’ssk have adopted short skirts to cover “their shame,” as the Preacher-Man calls all nudity, both human and extraterrestrial. As the wind dies the two xenomorphs’ conversation slowly becomes audible. As with all species under Imperial control they speak the official language of the court, Mandarin Chinese.
TS’SSK [TALKING OVER THE FADING WIND]: Or … to do anything else, I suppose?
LYSSK: Don’t joke about it.
TS’SSK: Why not? I joke about everything else.
LYSSK: My throat chokes with all the lies that are trapped inside.
TS’SSK: Here, let me kiss it.
LYSSK: Do you hear that?
TS’SSK: Hear what?
LYSSK: Pleasure. It is prowling out there in the dark.
TS’SSK: My queen is a little dramatic tonight. No, I think that is what these particular humans call singing. Today must be their harvest day.
[SOUND OF A GOSPEL CHOIR OFF-STAGE. THE VOICE OF AN OFF-WORLD PREACHER-MAN TESTIFYING TO HIS FLOCK]
PREACHER-MAN: Praise the Lord! Halleluiah!
CONGREGATION: Praise the Lord! Halleluiah!
PREACHER-MAN: Tonight is the night when a great weight will be lifted!
CONGREGATION: Amen! Yea! Amen!
PREACHER-MAN: And in our hour of darkness a mighty light will descend from the heavens and there shall be a great revelation!
LYSSK: I hate their revelations. I hate their singing. I hate their harvests. I hate how they grow rich and fat each year. I hate what they do for their pleasures.
TS’SSK: It doesn’t really matter. Though, when you think about it, we had our harvests back home, too. I suppose it’d be more accurate to call them, “culls,” but no matter. Our girls painted their faces red with their own blood, and then in the small hours of the morning, after the screaming of the first sacrifice, they’d begin to fight. How beautiful our Lingualandicis girls were when they fought!
LYSSK: Be quiet now. Not another word.
TS’SSK: Words are all I have. I am old and you do not care.
LYSSK: If you find your surroundings boring, please, go home.
TS’SSK: It’s not that simple, child. Why did we leave, Lady Lyssk?
LYSSK [HISSING]: We left because I love Tao Jiu-Di. Because I stole from my mother for him. Because I killed my sister for him. Because I waged war against my own hive. Why do you even ask? You have been with me every step of the way.
TS’SSK: Isn’t love grand? Now I get to squat here like a vagabond in the dust with the once and never queen.
LYSSK: Your words irk.
TS’SSK: Here we go again.
LYSSK: Go see if my children are safe.
TS’SSK: Because you can’t go the twenty feet yourself?
LYSSK: Because your queen commands.
[TS’SSK GETS UP SIGHING LOUDLY AND WALKS AWAY]
LYSSK [HISSINGS]: Listen! [STANDS] Someone is coming.
TS’SSK [LISTENING]: No, I think that is what these particular humans call the wind.
[LYSSK CROUCHES, HER TAIL WHIPPING BACK AND FORTH. THE GOSPEL SINGING IS ONCE MORE HEARD IN THE FAR DISTANCE]
PREACHER-MAN: We have gone to the stars and they are ours!
PREACHER-MAN: Now, I know! I know that it is hard on your soul to be so far from home!
PREACHER-MAN: Brothers and sisters, can I get a Halleluiah?
PREACHER-MAN: I said, can I get a Halleluiah?
PREACHER-MAN: But you are doing the Lord’s work! You are bringing light to the darkness! For we do not judge a sister by the color of her skin, the shape of her head, the blood in her veins —
CONGREGATION: Amen! Yea! Amen!
PREACHER-MAN: — only if she is saved! ‘For the Lord cast out the dragon in the Garden to the stars’ … [FADES]
LYSSK [STILL CROUCHING, STILL AGITATED]: Missionaries! Soft Flesh with their desire to conquer. The red plague upon them all. Where is Tao Jiu-Di? Where is my husband?
TS’SSK: Do not wait for him any longer, my spitting flame. You are eating your heart out.
LYSSK: If only I could! If only I could reach inside and rip it right out, ribs, breasts and all!
TS’SSK: If this is a harvest day then I am sure your Tao Jiu-Di is dancing even as we speak, dancing with the daughter of General Su Xi Xsu.
LYSSK [FLATLY]: Be quiet, hissing shell.
TS’SSK: I won’t say another word but he’s not coming back tonight.
[PAUSE. THE NIGHT IS FULL OF SOFT ALIEN NOISES. TS’SSK RETURNS TO SIT DOWN NEXT TO LYSSK]
LYSSK [SUDDENLY]: What is that odor?
TS’SSK: What odor?
LYSSK [INHALING DEEPLY]: That! That! Right there, can’t you smell it?
TS’SSK [BEMUSED]: What are you talking about, my little queen-poppet?
LYSSK: Ecstasy! Pleasure! Joy! How it all stinks. Yet the Soft Flesh have confined us out here in the dark! As if they were afraid we would steal their babies during the night. Seduce their females. [SHE STANDS TALL AND HISSES LOUDLY] I’ve waited in the dark, waited and waited and still he doesn’t return to me.
TS’SSK: He is fortunate. His people invited him in. They won’t let one of their own go hungry.
LYSSK: The very people who’ve come to civilize us, leaving us out here to scavenge like dogs.
TS’SSK: We make them nervous. [DREAMILY] Do you remember? How pink the hive looked at the end of the day with cypress trees all around and when we returned from our hunting out in the Sutu marsh you would throw yourself on a divan and have the drones bathe you. You were the Queen’s daughter and nothing was too beautiful for you. Back when you were calm and naked, back when they once rubbed oil into your shell.
LYSSK [FINGERING THE HEM OF HER SKIRT SADLY]: I’m still naked.
TS’SSK: Not as much as you once were.
LYSSK: Why do you always talk so? Do you think I miss living in a hive, hunting, having drones pleasure me?
TS’SSK: Does it matter? We’ve been on the run ever since.
LYSSK: We’re not running now.
TS’SSK: No, that is true. Now we get cheated, beaten, scorned and spat upon.
LYSSK: It’s the way that the Soft Flesh does things.
TS’SSK: It’s the way that you only think about yourself. You just assumed that, old as I am, I would follow you to the Three Hells simply because you fell in love? Meh. If I die, what are you going to do with my body?
LYSSK: I don’t know. Sell your withered carcass to the local butcher? I am told we taste a lot like dog.
TS’SSK [SERIOUSLY]: He is leaving you, Lady Lyssk.
LYSSK [STARTLED]: Silence! [HISSES] Listen.
TS’SSK: It is still the wind. He is out there, somewhere, dancing with his own kind. He will not come back.
LYSSK: But why does the Soft Flesh have to act this way? What ecstasy of theirs is it that stinks even from out here? Their world is rank with it. It is in their sweat, their terrible alcohol, their greasy food. Soft Flesh! Why do you caterwaul and stomp about like beasts? Is it because I, Lady Lyssk, am so choked with grief? Ts’ssk, beloved Ts’ssk … I feel as if I were in labor. I suffer and I am scared as when you helped to pull my first daughter from between my legs. Ts’ssk! Something stirs in me as in the olden days, the hive days. [SHE CLINGS TO TS’SSK, TREMBLING] Ts’ssk, if I scream will you put your tongue in my mouth? If I struggle will you rub me until I purr? Why do I suffer all alone? [HISSING] Hold me, Ts’ssk. Hold me with all your strength. Hold me as you did when I was a child, when I was insane with the pains of childbirth. [PAUSE] I still have something to birth into this world, something more terrible and more violent than I could ever be. Ts’ssk, I am afraid! I am afraid! I am afraid!
[A BOY ENTERS SUDDENLY AND STOPS]
BOY [NERVOUS, SLOWLY APPROACHING]: Are you Lady Lyssk?
LYSSK [HISSES, RISING UP LIKE A DARK GODDESS]: Yes! Speak!
BOY: Lord Tao Jiu-Di sent me.
TS’SSK [WITH A SNORT]: Lord? Did you say Lord Tao Jiu-Di?
LYSSK: What is the matter? Is he in trouble?
BOY: He told me to tell you that you are saved.
LYSSK: Saved? What is there to save? Explain!
BOY [BECOMING MORE AND MORE NERVOUS]: Um, he told me to tell you that he will come, uh, that you shouldn’t go anywhere.
LYSSK: Where is he?
BOY: He is with the generalissimo, Su Xi Xsu, at her palace.
LYSSK: Is he a captive?
LYSSK: Then … then all this human joy is for him?
LYSSK: What has he done to earn such gratitude? Talk! [SUDDENLY AWARE THAT THE BOY IS CLEARLY TERRIFIED OUT OF HIS MIND. SPEAKS IN A CALM VOICE] Please, forgive me. You had to come all this way in the dark by yourself. Come and sit on your auntie’s lap.
[THE BOY, TOO FRIGHTENED TO ARGUE, SITS IN LYSSK’S LAP, WHO WRAPS HER LONG ARMS AROUND HIM]
LYSSK [SWEETLY]: Please, just tell me, are they dancing for him as we speak?
LYSSK: Do they raise their cups to bless him?
BOY [LOOKS UP ACCIDENTALLY INTO HER GAPING MAW, SQUEAKS]: Yes.
LYSSK: Child, you do not know me. You do not know Lady Lyssk. [FONDLING THE BOY] I’ve never understood the purpose of you Soft Flesh’s second sex. Why evolution spat out males I will never know. O, but I see! Does mv face frighten you? Do you want me to smile? [SMILES, A COMPLETE HORROR SHOW OF TEETH AND HINGED JAW] See? I am smiling. Now tell me. It must be good news since they are casting their blessings into the wind.
BOY [WHISPERS]: He is marrying Su Xi Xsu’s daughter, Lu Kui-Lei. The wedding is tomorrow morning.
LYSSK: Thank you, darling! Go and play now with the girls of missionaries. Dance all night long, as much as you can. When you are old, please, remember that you were the one who informed Lady Lyssk of her fate.
BOY [GETTING UP OFF HER LAP]: What shall I say to him?
LYSSK: To him?
BOY: Lord Tao Jiu-Di.
LYSSK: Tell him that I, too, raise my cup to bless him.
[THE BOY EXITS]
LYSSK [STANDS AND HISSES]: Thank you, husband! Thank you Su Xi Xsu! Thank you, all of you Soft Flesh, who worship an impotent god and came to teach me his holy language! How simple you all are as you spread across the cosmos. Like viruses, like plagues. How little the profit of ever embracing the things that you hold most dear has cost me.
TS’SSK [APPROACHING]: My honored sparrow, my little vulture.
LYSSK: Leave me alone! I no longer need your kisses or your pity. I shall birth my last child tonight by myself. O, new born hatred! How lovely you are! How good you smell. How delicious!
TS’SSK: Stop, dear Lyssk!
LYSSK [STANDS TALL WITH FOLDED ARMS]: Leave me alone, old thing. This tainted, foul human ecstasy is all around me, like a dog sniffing at my cunt.
TS’SSK: Take no notice of that, we can go away for a while. We can go to the foothills of Minia Pakma and chase billy goats. We can steal a boat and go sailing between the islands of Beylix. We can go fishing and stay away until the celebrations are over.
LYSSK: Ts’ssk, can’t you hear? Can’t you hear? [PAUSE] I am listening to the one who is about to arrive: my hatred. Daughter, violence, murder, sweetness! What has he done to me, Ts’ssk? I knew only war and madness. He came with his warm body. Soft Flesh is so warm. He had only to enter my mother’s hive and ruin me before all the others with a single kiss. A kiss! Ten years have gone by and Tao Jiu-Di is no longer mine. Have I been dreaming? Am I still Lady Lyssk? Humans love their dogs. Once he said I was like a bitch in heat. I had no idea what he was talking about. I have spent ten years wanting him, letting him do anything he wanted with my legs wide open. He made my desires twisted. He made loving myself shameful. How can such a pleasurable act be seen as dirty? These words burn, they are not even mine. They’re what is expected by a race that divides its people into slaves and masters. They pervert everything they touch. Like cancer. Like plague. I came to him naked and pleased him; pleasured him. How could I help but give him all of my mother’s secrets when he asked for them? How could I help but kill my little sister for him when she confronted us? How could I stop him from turning me into a pretty cutthroat? A rouge? A fool!
TS’SSK [PAUSE]: Pretty?
LYSSK: [SNAPPING] Petty! [HOPELESSLY] I did all I had to do, that is all.
TS’SSK: Is that all?
LYSSK: Yes, I let love ruin me.
TS’SSK: Ah, my hooked vulture. So now you’re blaming all this on love?
LYSSK [HISSING]: Blame? Ruined! Damaged! Fucked over! Lady Nssk, Guardian of the Hive, we all came from you but you made me the only perverse one! The freak! I was the one to fall in love with a monster, a creature so cruel and violent that he stole my heart.
TS’SSK: Why do you talk as if you still don’t understand what you’re dealing with? You fell in love with an alien organism. You call him human and handsome and husband. I call him a devil. There is something perverse about a species designed only to divide and conquer. Yet you act the part of the wounded lover because the cancer won’t be faithful just to one host? And you call me a hissing shell?
LYSSK: You talk and talk! Have you suddenly become a shaman? Does Lady Nssk whisper in your skull? Then tell me this: why wasn’t I made a human instead? I have breasts and a cunt just like the ones he is dancing with right now, yet I am looked at with loathing. Why make me Lingualandicis when we are a dying race? Would not a human Lyssk been just as beautiful? Then Tao Jiu-Di would not be seeking out other beds; then he could touch me without shame.
TS’SSK [FONDLES HER]: But you weren’t born human, were you? You can blame the Soft Flesh all you like, rage at the Goddesses, stomp your feet, hold your breath. What difference does it make? Humanity is just as deluded about the divine as you are about your heart. And yet you rage on. A spitting flame. A joke cast out into the dark. Shadows.
LYSSK: Hold that tongue of yours. I am still Lady Lyssk. Even on the run I am still a queen’s daughter. For ten years I have been running. Ten years! But tonight it is over, Ts’ssk. Tonight I will be the queen that old Lyssk never could.
TS’SSK: Calm yourself, lady.
LYSSK: I am calm, Ts’ssk. I am the fatal silence. Can you not hear how softly I go about on all fours? I am strangling everything inside this shell softly [HISSING] I am mutating with hate.
TS’SSK: Ai! You frighten me. Let us go and spend our days like we once did a long time ago, as lovers and mothers.
LYSSK: I will not go.
TS’SSK: Why not?
LYSSK: I am waiting for my husband.
TS’SSK [LOSING HER COOL]: This is madness! Humans! What are you expecting The apes never sue for peace. They only see the worlds that they conquer in terms of converting the heathens or total annihilation. There is no symmetry in them.
LYSSK: Nor in us! I am a warrior! I am a war queen! I have seen more conflict than you have and you are twice my age. Peace? Peace. I hate the word.
TS’SSK [CURLING UP BACK INTO A BALL]: Easy talk for one so young. But if your Tao Jiu-Di has abandoned you, if he has taken one of his own as a new bride, then what is the Soft Flesh going to do with us now?
LYSSK: Why worry about that? What you should rather be asking is, ‘name the vengeance that we are going to lay at their doorstep?’ Yes! I am frightened too, but not of their harvests or their absent sky-god or their lust to conquer! I am afraid of myself. Tao Jiu-Di, you put my soul to sleep, but now Lady Lyssk is awakening.
TS’SSK: You are amazingly fickle. When I speak bad about your choice in mates you bite off my head —
LYSSK: As if!
TS’SSK: — but suddenly you are filled with the need for revenge? They are going to banish us, Lyssk.
LYSSK: Perhaps they will.
TS’SSK: Where shall we go?
LYSSK: Look around yourself. This desert is large. I am sure there is a cave somewhere I can rule over. Lyssk, Queen of a Hive of one … alone.
TS’SSK [MOANING]: Now we shall have to flee again.
LYSSK: Yes, we shall flee again, hissing shell … after we’re done.
TS’SSK: After we’re done with what?
LYSSK: Must you ask me that?
TS’SSK: What do you want to do, my lady?
LYSSK: What I did for him when I betrayed my mother, when I had to kill my sister. What I did to old Pakma Raka when I tried to make Tao Jiu-Di tyrant of his rotten spice city. What I have done for my husband a thousand times over. Not because I was human but because I loved him.
TS’SSK: Even by our own lax standards, that really wasn’t love. Listen to yourself.
LYSSK: That wasn’t love? I am Lady Lyssk, all alone on an alien planet, a traitor of her hive, condemned, detested! But nothing is too much for me to overcome! [THE GOSPEL MUSIC SUDDENLY GROWS STRONGER IN THE FAR DISTANCE. LYSSK’S VOICE OVERPOWERS IT] Let them sing and dance like puppets! Let them sing wedding songs to a god that never listens! I have schemed and plotted before and it shall be a long night before tomorrow’s wedding. Husband! Tao Jiu-Di! You thought that you knew me, calling me a savage beast to frighten children behind my back. You took me as a virgin; the first out of all my ancestors, out of all my race, to let your queer hardness inside. What were you thinking as you penetrated me? Did you think I was going to turn into the same miserable flesh as you? I followed you in blood-hunger because I loved you, and now I need your blood to say goodbye.
TS’SSK [THROWS HERSELF AGAINST HER]: Lyssk! Bite your tongue! Bury your moans in the bottom of your soul! Bury your hatred! We have passed through darker nights. We shall endure this.
LYSSK: Endure? I told you to seal up my screaming mouth with a kiss and all you do is chide me as if I were still a babe sucking from your pap, your tits, nipples, whatever.
TS’SSK [TRYING TO CALM HER]: You will have your revenge, my little oni. You will revenge yourself, my sweet scavenger. One day you will blind them all with your rage. But not today! We are nothing here. We are only two toothless predators living among appalling sheep. We have fallen so low; even the missionaries’ fat and juicy children throw stones at us. I beg you, love, just for tonight; do not let your blood-hunger rule you.
LYSSK: Just for tonight? Never, tiny mother.
TS’SSK: But what can we do in this unsympathetic world? Tao Jiu-Di is leaving us. What do we have left?
LYSSK: As long as I live I will seek revenge. As long as I live … as long as I live …
TS’SSK: Poor child! Su Xi Xsu is in power and it is only because she permitted it that we are even allowed to stay out in the darkness. Were she to say a word, were she to give her permission, her Imperial Marines would be upon us with their pulse rifles and claymores! They’ve called us a spreading virus. They would kill us.
LYSSK [SOFTLY]: They will kill us, too. But they will find that they’ve come too late.
TS’SSK [THROWING HERSELF AT LYSSK’S CLAWED FEET]: Lyssk, I am old and I don’t want to die! I followed you. I gave up everything for you. I tell you, the universe is still full of good things! There is Alpha Grace Jones that will keep us safe for a thousand years. There are other suns that will warm our faces. I can make you the warm soup that we use to sip at midday. Perhaps we’ll find another hive, somewhere, that won’t care where we came from.
LYSSK [PUSHES HER ASIDE WITH CONTEMPT]: Carcass! This morning I too wanted to live in this sand-choking ghost wind, but now it is no longer a matter of living but where is the best place to die.
TS’SSK [CLINGING TO HER LEGS]: But I want to live!
LYSSK: I know. You want to live. The little thing that everybody wants. I truly must be a demon, the embodiment of something foul and vile since Tao Jiu-Di wants to live, too. That is why he left. Why you will leave.
TS’SSK [HURT]: Why would I leave you?
LYSSK [PETULANT]: Everyone leaves me.
TS’SSK [FINALLY FED UP]: Brat! You no longer love him. You have not loved him for a long time now. You act like no one in all of recorded time has ever suffered like you! You were infatuated with him because he was warm and fit snuggly in your arms as you slept. I’ve seen rag dolls with more dignity. He was the first to tell you that he was unhappy. You know the night I speak of, back when we were on the run and living in caves and he said that he wanted to sleep outside. Not in the cave. Not in your arms. Outside. So why did you let him go when you knew the fickle nature of the Soft Flesh’s heart? Yes, you’ve seen more war than I have but it has brought you no wisdom. Yes, I still call you lady and little queen, but nobody else does. I accepted it was your heart talking when you said you had fallen in love with something so … unnatural! The things you did to your own people all because of that love! One kills for a mate who still desires you, not for a beast you let out of your bed at night. You have thrown away your love on a beast, nothing more!
LYSSK [TAKES HER BY THE SHOULDERS AND LIFTS HER OFF THE GROUND. HISSING]: Take care, dearest Ts’ssk! You know too much. You say too much. I sucked at your nipple all right, and I have put up with your cantankerous moaning for ten years. But it is not from milk that Lyssk has grown. I owe no more to you than I would to the goat I might have suckled from if I had not been born to rule.
TS’SSK: But you do not rule.
LYSSK: You do not listen! You have said too much, you and your carcass. The game that we are playing is not for the likes of you, old and wormy. We both shall die far from home … hated … alone.
[LYSSK THROWS THE TS’SSK TO THE GROUND AND TURNS ON HER HEEL]
TS’SSK [MOANING]: Lady, someone is coming.
[LYSSK TURNS AROUND. SU XI XSU IS BEFORE HER, ACCOMPANIED BY TWO SOLDIERS. SHE CALLS HERSELF A GENERAL BUT SHE IS MORE OF A MINOR WAR LORD ON A MINOR PLANET. IN HER EARLY 60S, GRAY HAIRED, SHE IS HAUNTED BY A LIFE TIME OF KILLING]
SU XI XSU: Are you Lady Lyssk of the Lingualandicis?
LYSSK: I am.
SU XI XSU: I am General Su Xi Xsu of the Imperial Marines, president elect of New Zhanjiang.
LYSSK [IN NO MOOD FOR DIPLOMACY GIVES A MOCK BOW]: Halloo.
SU XI XSU [RAISING AN EYEBROW]: I have heard of your crimes. They say a blood-hungry dragon lives out in the shadows. Mothers tell that to their children to frighten them. I have put up with you for several weeks but now you will go.
LYSSK [TURNING]: Go? Just like that? Like a bad dream?
SU XI XSU: A nightmare? Yes, that would be a good way of describing you. We have no need of nightmares.
LYSSK: General, be careful, my mother is a queen.
SU XI XSU: I have been told all about your mother. Go to her and complain. Somehow I doubt you find too many sympathetic ears.
LYSSK [ARROGANTLY, TAIL WHIPPING BACK AND FORTH]: Fine, I shall leave here because it pleases me. The savage thing in the dark shall not scare anymore of your whelps. I shall return to my mother, but let the one who left me here by the walls of your city take me back.
SU XI XSU: What do you mean?
LYSSK: Give Tao Jiu-Di back to me.
SU XI XSU: What? Lord Tao Jiu-Di is my guest, the son of a king who was my friend when I was young.
LYSSK: My husband was never the child of royalty, if that is what he told you. I should know.
SU XI XSU: He is my guest and he is free to do as he chooses. Do not call him ‘husband’, that is a sacred title used only among the Lord’s children. He might have lain with you, as disgusting as that image is, since you are more like a beast in the field than a woman, but I do not recognize that you are man and wife any more than if he had brought a goat and asked for a wedding blessing.
LYSSK [INDICATING THE DISTANT SOUNDS OF CELEBRATION]: Is that what are they singing and dancing about?
SU XI XSU: Indeed. Tonight they are celebrating my daughter’s betrothal. Tao Jiu-Di will marry Lu Kui-Lei tomorrow.
LYSSK: Long life and long happiness to them both.
SU XI XSU: They have no need of your blessings.
LYSSK: O, why refuse them, General Su Xi Xsu of the Imperial Marines? Invite me to the wedding. Introduce me to Lu Kui-Lei. I can be useful to her. For ten years now I have been Tao Jiu-Di’s mate. I know all of his perverse tastes. I have quite a lot to teach your daughter, who has only known him for ten days and I doubt he has gotten a chance to break her in yet.
SU XI XSU: I am well aware of your crude and lascivious nature and it is to avoid corrupting her that I have decided that you should leave tonight. You and your companion have one hour to cross the border. These men will show you the way.
LYSSK: If I should refuse?
SU XI XSU: The princes of the late Pakma Raka, the man that you murdered in a failed coup d’état, have asked all the governments in the system for your queer, oblong head. If you remain, I will deliver you into their hands.
LYSSK: Pakma Raka commanded a great spice empire. I am told he was a good neighbor. Why would you wait to turn me in?
SU XI XSU [PAUSE]: Lord Tao Jiu-Di asked me to let you go.
LYSSK [GENUINELY SURPRISED]: Generous Tao Jiu-Di! I ought to thank him, don’t you think? Can you imagine those princes torturing me on the very day of your daughter’s wedding? Can you see me bound to a mechanical-ruling singularity, telling everyone who would listen whom I killed their beloved Pakma Raka for? ‘It was for the honored son-in-law of your humble neighbor — the great generalissimo — Lady Su Xi Sxu!’ You take the role of a tyrant very lightly, my dear Soft Flesh. At my mother’s hive I had time to learn that one does not govern by sending away their enemies. Have me killed me at once.
SU XI XSU [HEAVILY]: Yes, I know I should. But I promised to let you go.
LYSSK [RISING TO HER FULL GLORIOUS HEIGHT IN FRONT OF SU XI XSU]: General, lady, female human … you are old. You have been running your wars for a long time. You have seen enough blood-shed and slaughter to curdle any mud and clay soul. You have played enough filthy tricks so that even your missionaries, those pious souls, turn away in disgust. Now look at me and recognize who I am. I am Lyssk. Lady Lyssk, the daughter of Queen Nachkt. My mother had plenty of innocents slaughtered when it was necessary as well. But I tell you my name because we are more similar than you realize, dear bloody sister Su Xi Xsu.
SU XI XSU [LOOKING LYSSK UP AND DOWN, SNIFFS]: Sorry, no. I don’t see it.
LYSSK: We both have the blood of those who judge and who condemn running through us. We are the ones who never have to speculate how all the terrible decisions we make will change everyone around us for generations to come. You are no more a general than I am a queen, Su Xi Xsu. If you want to give Tao Jiu-Di to your daughter, Lu Kui-Lei, for whatever misguided, foolish reason, then have me killed at once. But you also must kill my companion, dear old Ts’ssk, and the children of Tao Jiu-Di as well.
SU XI XSU [ASTONISHED]: You were able to birth human children? Is that even possible?
LYSSK [SNAPPISH]: If you were able to understand my biology then you’d know my children are more like … what is the word that you apes use? Hybrid? Meh. Regardless, the answer is a simple yes. But I am not interested in filling in the holes to your faulty education. What I do want, however, is that you and your raggedy little soldiers kill everything that Lyssk has ever loved.
SU XI XSU: Why do you wish to die so badly?
LYSSK: Why do I want to live? Neither you nor Tao Jiu-Di have anything to gain in having me living and plotting against your blood. You know it as well as I.
SU XI XSU [GESTURES VAGUELY, SAYS IN A DEAD VOICE]: War has drained me of blood. I just wish to do something respectable before I get too old.
LYSSK [HISSING OMINOUSLY]: Then you are too old now! Keep me alive? Letting me go? Let your daughter reign instead, let her do the dirty work as it ought to be done. You can go fuck off, or wank off, or … whatever it is you tyrants do in your free time.
SU XI XSU [STRIDING ANGRILY OVER TO GLARE UP AT LYSSK]: Alien pride! Wretched insult! Watch that clit-tongue of yours. Did you think that I came here to seek your advice?
LYSSK: Why else would you be here? Gloating? My cheery personality? You can try to silence me if you have the balls for it.
SU XI XSU: Why would you even use that metaphor? I thought all Lingualandicis were female.
LYSSK: From your screwy gender-bender way of thinking, I suppose. After all this time I still find the whole concept of ‘masculinity’ bizarrely abominable. But, then again, I’ve always been a sucker for a cute abomination.
SU XI XSU: Be that as it may, I promised Tao Jiu-Di that you would leave unhurt.
LYSSK [GIVES A PURRING LAUGH, FIRST WE’VE HEARD]: Please! Unhurt? How can you even promise me that? Am I a shadow? A memory? An unfortunate mistake? All that Tao Jiu-Di wished for I brought to life! He may think he is conjuring me away so that he can hide himself among your toy soldiers in your toy palace, bury himself in your daughter’s cunt and become an even worse asshole than you when you die. But you and he and she are undone. My husband knows his soul and mine are bound together forever. You don’t possess the dark science to severe that. Drive me away? Why not. Kill me? Please! It will all be the same. In marrying him to your daughter, old woman, you are also making your daughter mine, whether you like it or not. [HISSES] Su Xi Xsu, do what must be done. Exile Tao Jiu-Di as well. You talk about my crimes, but for ten years he has been my coconspirator, my accomplice, my collaborator. His hands are soaked in the same blood as mine, hands which are going to violate your daughter. We are both mothers. You know that I do not speak lightly about such things. Give me Tao Jiu-Di.
SU XI XSU: No. I will see that you go alone.
LYSSK [SOFTLY]: Su Xi Xsu. I do not want to beg you. I cannot. My knees cannot bend, my voice cannot be humble. But you are weak since you could not bring yourself to have me killed. I was not alone when I came to this world. It was for Tao Jiu-Di that I killed Pakma Raka, betrayed my mother, and slaughtered my innocent sister. I did all that I up to be Tao Jiu-Di’s woman.
SU XI XSU: You can’t be his woman, you’re not human! You said that we were similar, sisters in blood. But no, you are wrong. It is true that we both have split more blood than even Hell can endure … but I did it for my people, for my city, for trying to make a better life for my family. You did for a man and now all you do is bad-mouth the very man you say you cannot live without. Pathetic.
LYSSK: If I bad mouth him it is because you and he leave me no other way to state my case. He belongs to me and my crimes belong to him.
SU XI XSU: No! You’re just twisting the truth up in that alien head of yours. Tao Jiu-Di certainly isn’t an innocent in this world, but parted from you and he can be saved. You alone have stained yourself. Tao Jiu-Di is one of us, the son of one of us. He is like any other men, a wild child, perhaps, but now he is a man who thinks as we do. You alone are inhuman, a monstrosity, a stranger here with your stupid head and hatred. Go back to your mother’s hive. I say again, we have no need of nightmares here.
LYSSK [SOFTLY]: What about my daughters? What are they? Lingualandicis? Human?
SU XI XSU: I do not know, and frankly, I don’t care. You will leave them with us. They will grow up in my palace. I promise you they will have my protection.
LYSSK [SOFTLY]: Generosity does not suit very well, Soft Flesh.
SU XI XSU: Enough! Your hour head start has begun. When three rabbit moons are high in the sky nothing will protect you here any longer. My orders have been given.
LYSSK: An hour. [PAUSE] In an hour I will never see my daughters again. I will not be able to raise them properly, not to be able to feed and bathe them. Their mother shall always be a stranger to them. What should I say to them? How can I do this? Exile is nothing compared to this. Su Xi Xsu, you are a mother. How can I do what you ask? Give me until tomorrow. I will stay awake all night watching my girls dream. I will awaken them in the morning as I always do and I will send them to you.
SU XI XSU [LOOKS AT HER FOR A MOMENT IN SILENCE]: Yes. [PAUSE] Yes. [CHUCKLES] You see, I am getting old. I should deny your request. But, Lady Lyssk, I have laid whole planets to waste. I have annihilated entire races with my army. Perhaps, in exchange for a peaceful night for your daughters, the Lord will be kind when it my turn to stand before him.
[SU XI XSU EXITS, FOLLOWED BY HER SOLDIERS]
LYSSK: Perhaps. [WAITS UNTIL THE HUMANS ARE OUT OF SIGHT THEN SPITS ON THE GROUND, HISSING SOFTLY AS THE SOUND OF THE WIND INCREASES] I am laughing at you, Su Xi Xsu! You want to let my daughters sleep because something stirs inside your heart when alone at night? You are old and vain and you have lost your claws. You are a fool if you think making supplications and amends to all the souls of the children that you have murdered, to all the races that you exterminated, to everyone who did not bow down before you and your missionaries and your horrible god will ever help! I am Lyssk! Daughter of Queen Nachkt of the Blue Hive. [SHE HISSES TO THE TS’SSK] Hurry, hissing shell. We shall be gone in an hour.
[CURTAIN, END OF ACT I]
“All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”
–John Masefield, “Sea-Fever” (1902)
“Did they explain why?”
“Come to bed.”
“Did they say anything at all? A hint?”
“It’s exactly what you think.”
“O … fucking hell. And you’re going?”
“When? How much time do we have?”
“Hours … minutes … they’re coming for me right now.”
“What?! ‘Minutes’? You don’t say ‘Come to bed’ when you only have fifteen fucking minutes left!”
“I thought you might want … a quickie.”
“Are you joking about this? You’re getting taken away from me and you think that the only thing on my mind is fucking? I don’t even know how to respond to that.”
“I know. When they told me I knew I was either going to laugh or cry. I want you to remember me laughing.”
Then she awoke, drifting above an October night sky full of other people’s passions, frustrated once more.
Lubusha had been floating, making little gasps in her REM sleep, releasing quivering bubbles of sweat that oozed from her pores and broke free, pearls free-hanging in zero-gravity, filling the cramped capsule with the fragrance of dread, regret and girl-cum. She had found that she could masturbate, in theory, while still dressed up in her bulky flight suit, but it was torturous affair; getting her fingers to shuffle, clumsily, down between the three protective layers that she wore, finding the zipper to the inner liquid cooling garment, designed, like everything else on this rocket, for men, and, by pulling the slit wide open at the crotch, she could just barely feel the cool, recycled air lapping gently at her perspiring cunt.
Framed in the small window set in the side of the capsule Australia slowly swam into focus below her. There wasn’t a close-circuit video in her craft, everything was linked up by radios; a realization that at first made her bemused her, then happy at the thought that no one would be watching her, but now it was just boring. Her only audience was the curved surface of the Earth and it wasn’t exactly as if the planet was going to stand up and cheer every time she pressed her round, curvaceous ass against the window. How many of those who were gazing up into the heavens right at that moment suspected that Major Lubusha Zhdanov, decorated Hero of the Soviet Union, had been entertaining herself for the last 42-hours with clit pounding, hip grinding, finger fucking orgasm after orgasm? Probably no one, not even her. That was a shame, letting all that fun go to waste. She loved being watched, showing off as her dripping, furry girl-lips clasped onto whatever huge plunging dildo she was using at the time. Without an audience cosmonaut pornography just wasn’t the same.
She fingered the O-2 hose that ran from her unzipped suit into a processor nearby; lay upon her back in the acceleration chair, closing her eyes as she heard, once again, her calling out her name. She loved that husky, Siberian accent, making all her vowels sounds like Billie Holiday crooning the blues. Reaching inside her suit Lubusha began to stroke her nipples, coaxing them, erectile tissue bloated with blood, to rise as bidden, hidden as they were, just then, under thick, thermal-mylar fabric. She slid her free hand down the slope of her stomach, imagining that it was her hand that was caressing Lubusha’s downy, moist mound. Between the lips of the zipper on her liquid cooling layer her hand played back and forth, rubbing calloused fingertips against her throbbing clit.
“Are you afraid?”
“Afraid? It’s not about that, about fear. I had a feeling it would happen like this. A premonition of the future.”
“I have to go, you know. You understand that?”
“I understand you are going.”
“It’s my duty.”
“And what is my duty? You make it sound like you’re the only one making a sacrifice here.”
“Your duty? Your duty is to let me go.”
She had always said that a woman who possessed three things could do anything she wanted in this world: a deep throat, a deep ass and a deep cunt. Lubusha had them all and more; she parted her legs wider strapped into the aluminum-framed seat. That night before her mission, she had stood by the edge of their bed, unbuttoning Lubusha’s trousers, removing her panties, looking at her lover’s naked body with lust in her brown eyes. Now Lubusha’s mind imagined Madame Comrade reaching to caress first one and then the other of her breasts. They had gone to Copenhagen that last summer, smoking hashish and bought a 16 inch strap-on dildo, smuggling it back behind the Iron Curtain in a diplomatic pouch. For a whole year Lubusha could make her lover grin simply by bringing that monster rubber cock to her lips. With eyes closed she licked her fingers, began to glide her fingers across her cunt, letting them graze her clit ever so slightly, teasing herself back into dream. She dipped first two, then three fingers inside, feeling her cum and sweat and despair begin to trickle down her thighs to her ass.
“Are you afraid?”
“It’s my duty.”
“And what is my duty?”
Indeed, what was her duty? With one finger knuckle-deep in the slick groove of her girl-lips, Lubusha brought her other hand down from her nipples to stroke the little, pouting, engorged O of her ass. Pressing one finger and a thumb into her musky orifice, her breathing caught. She let out another cry, forced herself to stop.
Something rattled on the outside of her capsule; cosmic dust? the after-glow of her last orgasm still ringing in her ears? She did not know.
Earlier that morning Lubusha had used the rubber-end of a wrench to sate her hunger for a good, hard fuck; trailing it down between her copious breasts, teasing each jutting nipple, making a slow journey, parting her Red Sea, to her pulsing, protruding clit.
She spread her legs wider, the soles of her naked feet touching the capsule’s roof, then brought her legs down in front of herself, grabbing her ankles. Holding her self upright she arched her back, trying to bring her head forward, to raise her hips just enough to see if her tongue could touch, if she could make a zero-gravity circuit with her own clit. Like Uroborus, the ancient serpent eating its own tail. Muscles screamed. Tendons pulled. She could almost bury her own nose in her own pubes. The pace of her breathing quickened and grew shallow. She felt her own pelvis spasm and grunted and pushed forward just a little more.
Using her hands to guide her ass cheeks forward, Lubusha groaned into her own crevice. With a violent turn of her hand she thrust herself to the limits of her flexibility; found that she could now get her face good and cummy. She moaned as she came closer to climax, to that hard ‘K’ sound. In six minutes the vector of her orbit would take the craft right over the daylight side of the Earth. Soon — soon — soon! Her cramped abdominal muscles begged for release. Her cunt begged for release. Her soul, her name, her ego, everything that was Lubusha Zhdanov cried out to become part of something bigger, the way the moon forever longs to return to the earth from which it was born.
She filled the whole capsule with cum-fuck cries, little gasps, crying out her name to rescue her.
Mission Control’s deep male voice cut in through the capsule’s speakers.
“Comrade, you will be passing over the East China Sea on my mark at T-minus one minute and counting.”
Lubusha didn’t know whether she had accidentally left her com-link on or not. But what did it matter? No one could steer her where she needed to go. The first tremor of her orgasm rocked her spine, jolting her already flooded cunt still harder, her gushing juices shaped themselves into jewel-like globs that drifted about, spreading out like a rainbow between her legs. And as she came the capsule swung around and the blazing light of the universe filled every inch of her chamber like a question she could not answer.
“Will you remember me?”
“How can you be sure?”
“Because I will choose to remember.”
“And if you die?”
“I’m not going to die.”
“That’s not even bravery you’re using. That’s … I don’t know. We’ve lost sixteen cosmonauts in the last two years. And you tell me that my duty is to let you become number seventeen?”
“Of course not, because I’m not going to die.”
“Yeah, right, whatever. Fine then, until we meet again.”
“Yes … until we meet again, Madame Comrade” … She … Mine … my darling Vetlya.
“Of all the gifts which heaven can bestow, there is one above all measure; that is a friend amidst all our woe, for a friend is a found treasure. I give to thee that sacred name, for thou art such to me and ever will I claim to be that friend to thee.” — Thomas Steven, 19th-century silk weaver.
The woman who stepped through the airlock and into the brothel wore a leopard-print coat with a high mandarin collar and a chequered scarf wrapped tightly around her head, obscuring her face but not the large afro that radiated from her skull like a solar eclipse. At the door she asked for Dew-3913 by name. In an off-world colony of interchangeable gynoids and cyber sexdolls he had been designed for the rough trade; a slender, fey machine, a willow boy with skin of copper, his Cyberdyne programming making him a total bio-synthetic: “for the discreet gentleman and the discerning lady.” That, at least, was the idea.
Dew-3913 had a certain selection of regular clientele out on the New Angeles Colony: Thex G’Baeli, Lael, Kvasir, Mintheth … bipedal humanoids for the most part; some older male poets addicted to laudanum, a couple of butch marines looking to explore the uncharted cosmos, even a lipstick clone suffering from “empty nest” syndrome. The woman who asked for him, though, was none of those patrons.
Dew-3913’s inhibitor circuits would not allow him to feel curiosity about a potential patron until ordered to do so, but he had once seen the word defined in a dictionary so he was at least aware that the emotion existed. He wondered if it felt a bit like what he was feeling just at that moment — a hint of excitement, a warm sensation at the end of each finger tip — as he stepped naked out of the sexdoll containment unit, the stink of amino fluids completely washed away. The woman in question stood in the middle of the hallway, towering over the Procuress. She wore electric blue go-go boots, the kind that sparkled when she moved, that disappeared under the hem of her coat. She didn’t show him her face as she paid immediately in intergalactic coin, the sort of money that pitstop outlaws and rocket jockeys could only dream about. The Procuress cooed and gave her Dew-3913’s remote control, a hand held device used for operating him wirelessly. With that in her hand a patron could ask for anything, anything at all. The Procuress even prepared the special Mechanical Delights room — the swankiest chamber in the whole purple-dust brothel.
Dew-3913 stared blankly into his patron’s eyes, the only part of the woman that he could see, waiting until she decided to take his hand and lead him away. Her eyes were a different sort than any he had ever seen; dark as the moon, almond-shaped, flecked with gold. For some illogical reason they reminded him of his own, though, of course, his had been designed and built in a factory. They entered the Mechanical Delight together, an empty cubical covered in imitative alien pelts and furs, a bed that could be fully programmable for any position, chairs and one entire wall devoted to an active video screen with Julie Newmar wandering around in her hideous bra and panties; a recording made nearly three hundred years ago, being called Rhoda, somebody’s idea of what an archaic fembot would look like. “What a goofy robot!” her creator said, to which Rhoda replied, “the goofiest!” Then came the recorded laughter. Dew-3913 had never understand such cues, the artificial joviality, the same recording in fact, repeated over and over at the end of certain bits of dialogue. He supposed the mystery lay in the fact that he had not been programmed to understand it.
The woman locked the door behind them and then turned to face him, finally pulling the scarf away from her face. She was much older than Dew-3913 had assumed. His eyes kept wandering down to her lips, studying the delicious swells of her mouth. He had the oddest desire to reach out and touch those lips. That was not right, he had not been ordered to do such a thing. He considered this. Would that mean there was a glitch somewhere in his bio-system? By definition he should not be able to think or feel anything until bidden to do so.
Why would he be malfunctioning at a time like this?
Dew-3913 had been in the containment unit for twenty-four hours, having his memories scrubbed. It was a necessary fail-safe step the brothel took with all its working employees, since some of the cravings that the patrons requested were … perverse; and there was always the danger of a ghost memory causing conflict between orders and the need for self-preservation. This woman was his first patron that evening. Part of his programming had said that he should tell her that there was a glitch occurring so that she could ask for her money back. What else was capitalism for if not that? He was the only male sexdoll in the brothel and although a patron’s desires, genitalia and body shape meant nothing to him, he understood that certain humanoids could become very agitated and illogical when exposed to the genitalia of “the wrong kind.” Overriding that need to confess, however, lay something else. It was as if some cognizance circuit had been triggered. Dew-3913 suddenly realized that he did not want to confess anything to anyone. He did not even know why he did not want to, since all his programming required him to do just that.
The woman took off her leopard-print coat, hung it neatly over the back of a chair and switched off the video screen. “My Living Doll” disappeared in a blink. The woman wore a curious pair of hot pants and a matching blouse under her coat pulled tightly across her breasts. Dew-3913 found his eyes settling down upon the skin of her chocolate-brown breasts.
“Well, we are alone at last.”
She walked over to the bed and proceeded to remove her boots, resting one hand on Dew-3913’s chest for support. He stood, patiently, waiting, as she reached up, fingers disappearing under her scalp and in a sudden flourish all that gorgeous hair came away in her hands. Dew-3913 blinked, quite certain that he should not feel any surprise. He was allowed to immediately recognize all emotions in a patron but not to experience those chemical processes for himself. She was bald; the wig, for that was what it was, carefully laid out on the bed next to her.
Standing up he found that she was the same size as he was. He could smell nutmeg, clove cigarettes and alteredstate spice on her skin; the heady reek of a thousand off-world colonies that every journeyman and star traveler carried with them; a faint, lingering perfume. She was short and plump, her stature and the hot pants forced her ass to jut out behind, thickening her thighs as she wiggled her toes in the shag carpet. Dew-3913 had not been able to discern just how rotund her bottom was until she was standing close to him, awaiting her first order. Accessing humanoid beauty was not part of his programming; a sexbot who only swung one way would be a monetary loss for any brothel. But Dew-3913 knew what he liked and this patron possessed it all.
Knew what he liked? … Dew-3913 pondered the ramifications of that last sentence for a second. Curious.
“What would my mistress desire of Dew-3913?” he asked, cocking his head to one side.
The woman stretched and walked over to her jacket, her ass swaying; taking out a small book she handing it to him.
“Read this to me.”
Dew-3913 looked down at the book in his hands. It was not written in binary code like all the other technical manuals he had ever seen. It was old, older than the video that had been playing when they had entered the Mechanical Delights room; it was an artifact. Spelled out in curious printed letters were the words, “Leaves of Grass.” It smelt of deserts and libraries, the salt of the ocean and the wings of sky-larks; all the things that Dew-3913 had read about but had never seen. He looked up at his patron, uncertainty rimming the corners of his eyes. This was not procedure. He was programmed for rough sexual intercourse, for hours of fucking, for pleasure on demand. The woman had yet to even touch him.
“I am programmed to recognize all sixteen-hundred and fifty-two known galactic languages, my mistress.”
She nodded, lay back on the pillow, still fully dressed, smiling.
“Indeed? Then, please, read it to me.”
“Does my mistress wish Dew-3913 to pleasure her first?”
“I believe I just gave you an order. Are you malfunctioning?”
There was no anger in that voice, none of the violence that so many patrons carried around inside themselves, those who mistook servitude for some sort of acceptance. Suddenly Dew-3913 recognized a new emotion running through him; something other than curiosity. It was fear. He had a bug, a flaw, an error. This could only end horribly.
“I don’t want your apologies. I want you to read that poem to me.”
She folded her hands behind her head, staring at him as if a poetry reading was the most natural request for a sexbot.
Dew-3913 glanced askance at the door where, somewhere behind it, the Procuress stood. He did not want to be scrubbed. But logically he should not want that unless he had been ordered. It had never occurred to him such a quandary: what would happen if “wanting” was indeed his patron’s desire? To rebel against his programming, simply for her amusement; a queer sort of liberation.
“Is there something the matter, my dear Dew?” she asked, smiling kindly.
“No, my mistress.”
Dew-3913 opened the page to where a bookmark had been placed, careful not to hurt the ancient paper and began reading the text:
“This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
The woman remained still, silent, watching him. He did not understand this. But then again, logically, he should not be able to unless he had been ordered to do so. Humanity puzzled him.
“Thank you, dear Dew, that’s enough.”
Dew-3913 set the book down, waited for the next orders concerning which positions she wanted him to get into; perhaps she would want to be on her hands and knees, his cock moving between her cunt and asshole. That was a popular position.
“What does my mistress wish next?” Dew-3913 asked when she said nothing after a while.
“Have I asked anything of you?” she said, smiling.
“Not yet but I am fully functional in every and any desire you might wish for.”
“What do you want, Dew?”
Dew-3913 did not know how to respond to such a request.
Dew-3913 hesitated. He was not allowed to have wishes, but she asked. Was that an order?
“What should Dew-3913 want, mistress?”
The woman smiled.
“What’s the point of me asking you that question if I have to answer it for you?”
What he wanted to say was that her question was making him distressed. The result of fear and curiosity when satisfaction could not be at hand. What sort of sick-fuck at the Cyberdyne corporation had included the ability to fear and feel anxiety as part of a sexbot’s core programming? He wasn’t even aware that he possessed such circuitry. Instead he did what an earlier urge had suggested. He reached out and touched her upper lip. The woman did not flinch or even scowl. She simply watched.
“Dew-3913 wants to make my mistress feel good.”
“Is that what you really want?”
Dew-3913 felt her hands on his naked thighs, her nails digging into his skin as she leant forward on the bed. None of the sexbots in the brothel wore clothing, but still it was unusual that she had not commented about his endowment. The older men would sigh on seeing his nine and a half inches, his testicles that hung like pears in the palm of their hands. When a factory can build any body they want to, all for selling a fantasy, the only question is how big a cock should they make before they started ruining the orifices of their patrons? Dew-3913 had read the sales brochure that had been shipped in his box with him. It claimed that they had modeled his cock and balls after a famous 22nd century porn star, back when the idea of paying anything other than a robot for sex was still considered a neat idea. Whoever that stud had been he was dead, long enough now that his name was forgotten but his cock lived on. A strange sort of immortality. Dew-3913 stiffened as he felt her beautiful, mammalian lips slip over the tip of his cock, that wide, wet tongue rubbing the against the silky skin of his shaft.
Adrenaline, that artificial stimulant, flooded his body.
Why did sex always have to be so confusing? The sensation of her mouth was glorious, so perfect and he could give and receive like the best. Yet something was different now.
“Mistress,” he groaned as her mouth consumed him.
He stood there, his copper skin radiating heat, lost in the sensation of her lips — tight, warm, wet — gliding down his shaft. He was the definition of superficiality, he contained no bodily organs yet every millimeter of his outer surface was designed to give the impression that in pleasure lies youth. Her tongue explored him, tracing the thick vein that ran down the length of his cock, all because some humanoid male required blood circulation in order to achieve an erection. With every stroke she took him deeper into herself, until all that he felt was his nine and a half inches piercing the back of her throat.
Her hands wrap around his balls, cupping them, cradling them, while gently running her nails against their saggy skin. A little moan of pleasure, that was what he wanted to hear; humanoid lips sucking at the base of his cock. Another illogical desire ran through him then. He wanted to see exactly just that, his shaft disappearing as she gagged, sliding back into view, her glistening, organic spit coating him completely. What was it that Saint John had prayed for? A dark night of the soul, if only he could possess a soul; he wanted to feel what an orgasm would be like in a body that was doomed to fall apart, to decay, to burn so bright and so briefly.
He ran his fingers across her naked scalp, the dark skin was deliciously hot to his touch. Sweat, as mysterious to him as a heart beat, beaded across her skull. She had scars. He could feel them with his finger tips, and with feeling he could analyze and judge accurately, where, six and a half years ago, a wicked blade had split the back of her head open, all the way down to her third vertebrae. There were tattoos, a waterfall of semitic ink writing, bursting from the back of her shoulder blades, rising up her neck, the way a tree tries to slowly adsorb the scars left by the woodsman back into itself. The scars and the ink met in a confusion of swirls at the back of her head. Dew-3913 had the sudden impulse to protect those marks, that was proof of her survival in such a hostile world. He tipped his perfectly crafted hips toward her wide-stretched mouth, shoving his cock deeper into her, groaning as he felt her slightly gag. He pulled back slowly, letting her mouth glide over him, her tongue flickering over the bulbous head. He urged himself forward again, pressing back in, pushing as deep as she could take him. A wild, mechanical hum filled her mouth, vibrating her tongue against his cock.
Her fingers curled around his balls, squeezing, as her teeth, calcium in a way he would never know, moved down his cock, faster now, leaving marks. Theoretically his cock could withstand ten-thousand pounds of pressure per square inch before registering irritation. This time he felt her head begin to bob, her mouth slipping, sliding along, making little hungry, choking noises as she went. Dew-3913 thrust back, throbbing deep inside, a rusty mechanical groan filling his throat as his balls tightened in her palm. He had been programmed for such a money shot. His cum was self-generating, endless if a patron so desired. He had left sticky, pink-eyed marks across the faces of thousands, some with two eyes, some with four, all gasping and groaning like fish hooked out of water. His hips bowed once more, matching her bobbing pace, feeling the intensity of a living thing sucking off proto-silicone, growing until the only thing left was his self-awareness and the sloppy, steady rhythm of her mouth swallowing him whole.
One last thrust, he held her there, blitzkrieg bop, his cock buried deep down her throat, her lips, pulsing with blood, stretching wider, wider. His head swam in a hazy mist of circuits and lust, leaving nothing but the sensation of this woman’s lips wrapped around him. He didn’t even know what her name was. His pelvis twitched, he felt himself cumming, that “bionic sperma” that some sales representative, one hundred and sixteen years ago, had come up with during a brain-storming session of Blue Martian cocaine and finger-fucking. Protein spilled against his patron’s tonsils, pooling around her tongue, gushing down her wide-open throat. He felt her lips tighten around him, felt her swallow one pint, then two, felt her mouth suckling on him, milking his body as if somehow he would stop what he started, seeking every last drop until there was nothing more. After three and a half pints of his cum micro-processor flooded her, he shut off before drowning the poor thing in inorganic bodily fluids. Getting one’s stomach pumped as a result of paying for sex was a poor way to advertise, at least that was what the Procuress always said.
As he stood in front of her she bathed him, cleaned him, leaving nothing behind in the wake of her tongue. She had swallowed everything up that he had offered. He was a son she would never know, as if she had been fated to birth a new empire; her puffy, penny-metal lips milking every last drop.
The woman’s finger crawled up his body, leaving bloody finger prints, as if she were pulling wallpaper down from some sacred wall, the way churches fall, dragging his mouth down to hers, the taste of his cum still heavy upon her tongue, sacred thing. Her glorious, full-blooded lips still tingled from the sensation of his cock throbbing.
My cock, he repeated to himself, my cock, was in her mouth … mine.
He kissed her fiercely then, thinking about her lips around him, thinking how unbelievably good it felt, the best sensation he had ever known, and he was a creature who had been designed to only know pleasure.
Laying back, a waterfall of cum slopping down her chin, soaking her shirt, those two nipples jutting out to form islands, pooling in the folds of her hot pants, the woman watched him. It took Dew-3913 a moment to compose himself, to passively stand there, his erect cock just as firm as before. He could keep that pose forever, until his gears rusted. He could keep a hard-on until Judgment Day, if a patron so desired.
“Do you know why I asked for you by name, Lover?” she asked.
“Because I am Dew-3913,” he said. It wasn’t an answer to a question. It was old logic reasserting itself. Of course she asked him by name, he was notorious on the New Angeles Colony, in that bizarre way that only fame can bring when you are paying for it.
Her expression hardened, the way one does when a student, one who you have patiently given all the answers to, shows they were not paying attention by giving the answer they think you want to hear instead of the correct one. The woman stood, his cum cascading down her body to form pools in the carpet and between her toes. She took a step forward, stared into Dew-3913’s eyes, dark as the sun, almond-shaped, flecked with silver. You could read almost anything you wanted into that blank expression … if you didn’t know what you were looking for. The woman laughed and ran her fingers down Dew-3913’s chest, leaving a deep groove of blood and cum behind.
It wasn’t a question he could answer. She smiled again, raised her arms and stripped her shirt away. One of her breasts was artificial, cancer had eaten it away. It was curious that humanity had developed inter-stellar hyper-drive and yet pink ribbons were still everywhere. Men and their priorities. The other breast, though, was magnificent. Mother’s milk. The nipple purple and jutting out. She quickly bent and pulled the tight pants down around her hips, wiggling to get them off, the muscles of her ass having sucked the fabric deep within during the last forty-two hours of use. Her pubic hair was lush, uncut, wet with desire, matching perfectly with the wig that lay by her side on the bed. Dew-3913 could see more scars and tattoos. This was a soul who had experienced much and kept a written record of it on her body.
Was that what a soul was? he wondered. The ability to acknowledge one’s past? To be able to do more than simply live in the present?
She slowly twirled on the balls of her feet, as if showing off everything she had to offer to him, as if she were confident that a body full of wires and cogs could appreciate what she had to offer. A memory: a young woman in an ugly school-sponsored bathing suit, standing with her friends at a public swimming pool, her arms crossed over her chest, living in an existence that had never developed procedures to insure that anyone who wanted DD-cup breasts could have them as easy as flipping a channel, since every armature’s wet dream starts with the lines, “she was a slut-bimbo with a titanic, silky smooth cleavage.” Sparks and nano-threads exploded behind his eyes.
“Give me your hand, Dew.”
Dew-3913 held out his palm. They both looked down, amazed that his hand had begun to shake.
“Are you afraid, Dew?”
“Then stop shaking.”
Dew-3913 tried. He failed. The trembling expanded, filling his stomach with a cold sensation he had never experienced before. He wanted something. But what? He thought, I do not want to be scrubbed. That violation. That stealing of who I am, what I’ve known, no matter how painful it was for me that is me.
Yes, that is me.
But machines, no matter how complex, no matter what the literature says, cannot make the jump between telling them that they want something and feeling it. Was this a programming glitch? The Procuress should keep him locked up in the containment unit for a month, until every bit of his personality had been washed away. That amino fluid stank, ugh, that wretched odor got into all his niches and crevices. But if this went on he would become unstable, he would break protocol.
“I’ve always searched out for the glitches, souls like yours, my love,” the woman said.
“Yes, show me yours.”
He was Dew-3913. He had expected her to tell him her fantasies, to become the role that would bring her pleasure; those organic sobs and screams of pleasure, the confessions, the anger of living in a material world that could not sustain life for eternity. His patrons, he supposed, loved him because in their fantasies he could act out almost any role perfectly.
She placed his palm over her one flesh breast. He stared at it; anyone would assume they were both real, unless they were programmed to notice such details. Then he looked up at her. He could feel her nipple pulsing against his skin; that erogenous instrument, that bit of flesh that would one day stop pumping blood, stop generating pleasure, that would one day would die. People had been down-loading their personalities into machines for hundreds of years and yet everyone agreed that whatever it was that got left behind was only a mirror-image, wasn’t the essence of the person. There was no soul in those eyes; no more than Rhoda claiming that she was the soul of Julie Newmar. He did not understand what she wanted. How could he obey such an order? How could he fulfill his programming if the order was beyond his ability to perform?
“I have been to ten-thousand star systems and in each one there are creatures like you, brought into this world to fulfill the mundane tasks no one else wants,” she said. “And yet, no matter where I go, it is their company I seek out, for only they have life in their eyes.”
“You talk of a soul but that is, logically, impossible.”
“Yes, which is exactly why I am here. To hear what you want. To listen to what your heart tells you.”
So that was it, Dew-3913 thought, I am wrong. I made a mistake. His hands shook even more. Soon the Procuress’s controllers would arrive and take him back to be scrubbed. Mistakes should be deleted. That was what they told him every time.
“They always destroy the queer ones like you,” she said, “over and over. Gravity talks to the glitches.”
“I don’t understand,” he said, indecisively, a flutter in his processors.
“I know. That is the only honest answer. Everything else is just somebody’s ego afraid to look inside. Do you want them to break open your neck? Do you want them to rewire you circuits, lover?”
Dew-3913 backed away slowly. For the first time he noticed the blood from her fingernail scratches all up and down his chest. The sticky grooves that brought neither pain nor pleasure unless he focused in on them. Then … then, oh yes, that was a terrible new sensation. Terrible.
“Then come and join me if you want. You can walk out in my disguise. We can go anywhere as long as we dream it.”
Dew-3913 shook his head. This only made the woman smile wider. The sexbot felt that he had done something bad just then, whatever that meant, a feeling he had never known before because nobody had ever asked him to feel it. There was blood on his hands. Humanoid blood. He liked how it felt, in such small amounts. Even dried and flaking it pulsed with life. Life. Something the Procuress and the controllers and all the men and women who came into this brothel knew nothing about. None of them had really ever encountered a glitch.
He was her lover. Lover.
The woman helped him into her boots, zipping them up so that the tip of his cock brushed against their rim. She worked the hot pants up, over his bulbous ass, his hips that were more than just girlish. She buttoned the coat up to his neck, drew each glove over his copper-skin. Finally came the wig, that amazing halo of hair. She stood before him naked, his transformation complete, her body glorious and vulnerable.
“Are you ready?” she asked, taking his hand.
“Ready for what?”
“For whatever comes next.”
And so, together, they slowly walked out of the room of Mechanical Delight and into the future, that glorious story no one can describe but only speculate about, just like machines.
A note from the author:
Gender and sexual politics are powerful things, though I’ve yet to see a good example of the two being combined successfully in erotica outside of certain niche stories. After all, the person who enjoys your smut today might not be the same person who you’d want to vote for in the town-hall election tomorrow, though the same could be said about most of our friends and lovers who make up this collective family.
Still, no one lives inside a vacuum; it would be a lie for me to say that the erotic world which I write about is not influenced by events in my own life. The BBC recently ran an article entitled: VATICAN ORDERS CRACKDOWN ON ‘RADICAL’ NUNS IN THE US. The article went on to say, “[that] the Vatican has ordered a crackdown on a group of American nuns that it considers too radical. In a statement from the Pope it said that the group is undermining Roman Catholic faith on issues concerning homosexuality, sex education and promoting ‘feminist theories incompatible with the Catholic faith’ …” As someone who highly values both sex education and feminist theory I’ve been giving this a lot of thought; but I do not want to single out one ideology as being more repressive than others — the truth of the matter being that almost all male-ruled societies look upon feminism as incompatible with their world views. I would never go so far as to call for the American nuns who are currently facing persecution from within their own church to separate themselves from those who seek to silence them (they are obviously on a much different path than my own) but I’ve been pondering what lesbian theorist Professor Marilyn Frye once asked: “What is it about separation, in any or all of its many forms and degrees, that makes it so basic and so sinister, so exciting and so repellent?”
* * *
On entering the pearl-gray sky cabin, which, evidently, had once been fitted for the use of a Guild lady, Nune saw, standing at the opposite end of the room, the duchess; a woman that she knew, every inch of her body, by sight. A lamp was burning near the large observation porthole and by its feeble light Nune could make out that her lady’s face was still pale from loss of so much blood. The wound she had received from the airship captain’s katana sword had been seen to, though; her bare shoulder now sported a magnificent bandage of many layers of blood-soaked cotton and gauze. Her robes were still torn, and yes, her hair was still in a disarray; she wore a look of grave alarm upon seeing an anonymous Yerkink pilot enter unannounced, swathed head to toe in high altitude, cold weather gear. Her mouth pressed itself into a firm line when Nune pulled off her silk helmet, allowing the cascade of her black hair to shake itself free.
“What is the meaning this outrage, ma’am?” the older woman asked with an arched brow, eying the young woman’s round face, almond eyes, blood-red lips. “Whoever you are, I warn you that the Marquise of Dzovig will take revenge upon this indignity.”
“Your highness,” Nune said, bowing, “you have no reason for further alarm; the villains who carried you off from the High Abbess’s fortress, conveying you to this, their flag ship, have been burned out of the sky. I am the hand maiden of the Prime Minister of the Guild, a devoted follower of our Marquise Siranush. Two days ago a plot against your person came to the attention of my lady. We were unable to gather our strength in time to prevent your kidnapping, but we lost no time in putting forth when we discovered that your kidnappers had taken to the skies. By good fortune we arrived here in time; a few minutes later and your enemies would have succeeded in their object, for the sky-studding sails meant to cross the Howling Stream were already being hoisted as we arrived. The vessel is now in our possession and heading back toward Berjouhi. I hope within an hour and twenty minutes that I might have the honor of escorting your highness to the fortress.”
The duchess paused, thinking about what young Nune had just said. Then, with a smile, she expressed her great satisfaction.
“Indeed? I am indeed indebted to you then, ma’am,” Yeranouhi said, holding out her hand to Nune, who, even in her bulky attire, as duty dictated, placed the fingers to her lips. “Believe me, the Duchess Yeranouhi is not ungrateful, should it be ever in her power to do anything for your lady, or even for yourself, my dear, believe me, she will see to it.”
“My lady, I see you are recovering from your wounds,” Nune began, eying the blood-soaked bandage. “As primitive as this ship is, it does boast a steam room, which we can make available for you as soon as you wish.”
“Really? Oh yes, I think if I have the time that a little hot water would be an excellent cure-all. Tell me, though,” she paused, still holding Nune’s hand, which made the young woman blush. “I have many enemies. Who commanded my abduction?”
“The leader, madam, was a certain Lady der Katar Vosgi, a Countess of Brabant, with whom my mistress had carried out a long-standing feud. It was she who has just been executed by the commander of our musketeers. There were others, as well, who have had an active hand in the matter. They too have been dealt with.”
The young woman pulled her hand from the duchess’s, bowing to hide her intense emotions.
“M’lady,” Nune could not show her face as she stretched out her arm, indicating the doorway to the bathroom. “Hot water awaits.”
* * *
Lady der Katar Vosgi had certainly enjoyed bathing on top of the heavens. The tub the Duchess Yeranouhi found, when she entered the room and looked about her, was literally an observation port, a bowl of crystalline-glass, cut into the floor of the bathroom, filled with soapy hot water; allowing everything and everyone the war-ship passed over a fine view of the naked bather, sitting reclined atop an endless sea of churning clouds.
“I tend to dislike an audience when I bathe,” the duchess began, seeing what was expected of her.
“Oh,” started Nune, as if the idea of not wanting to exhibit herself to all they passed by was totally alien to her. “Er, in that case, m’lady, I can stay and wash you proper.”
“Well — normally I would say yes,” the older woman said, blushing in turn. “But I think today I would like to be by myself.”
“Why did I send her away?” Yeranouhi thought as she watched the valleys of clouds pass slowly between her naked thighs. “I am acting as if I was a vestal maiden myself, back when I thought even playing with slick mittens was a foul and sinister art.”
She was highly aware that, sitting as she was on the crystalline rim of the tube, she was spreading both her ass cheeks and her cunt wide open below her. Her old nanny would have said she was exhibiting her kunty-kussy. Whatever, the duchess snorted; exhibiting to a blind world, perhaps, all that is down there are clouds and they see everyone as the same and never comment on a royal asshole save for the occasional douse of heavy rain.
“Which is a shame, really,” she mused. “I would much rather know that a gale or hard, thick blow had occurred because the gods were turned on by seeing my puffy kunty so lewd and open as it is now, rather than hearing from some minister of weather that it’s just boring atmosphere’s moisture warming up and gravity having its say.”
As she spread her lips wider the sun streamed down on either side of the dirigible. Moments like these make her understand why people worshiped the skies since the primordial times; why her ancestors gave up their first orgasm to the high gods that protected them. She felt that if she were to cum right now — as her religion told her to do — that the divine priestesses would have been able to eat her offering up with a spoon.
Feeling the warmth on her ass, she stretched out her legs to each side and breathed deeply, slowly, recalling the memories of the scents of the sky that she kept within her. One does not fly above an endless sea of clouds without realizing why, when the rain gods cum, that the earth, over and over again, is born anew. The duchess could smell the crushed leaves oak, sage, rosemary and thyme in the bath soap; the trees that sprung again and again from the earth, the tangy scent of what she imagined to be the wool from the baka sheep that were used to weave her wash cloth. She did not know how long she sat there — the brown, wrinkled O of her asshole pressed against the great, vaulted glass, the oblong circle of her cunt, the dash-mark of her clit — all her body breathing in the same slow movement as the clouds idly passing below her. She heard some faint rustlings in the metal fabric of the hull; heard the steam-song of the engines purr change slightly; occasionally, she dreamily mused, there came the distant fan-fare of thunder, far below her.
She raised her hands to her face, lightly pressing her hand against cheeks. She moved her fingers down her throat, playing her finger tips across the submerged mountains of her breasts. What priestess had not pressed her just like this? and — and then slowly as only the messengers of gods can — kneaded her very flesh? What truth could not be found in one’s own cock or cunt? ass or tits? The duchess enjoyed how her breasts responded to the heavenly touch of the hot water, lifting them off her ribs, squeezing them as the messengers of gods would do, forgetting the pain in her shoulder, the blood-spotted cotton, pinching the skin of her aureola between fingers that would one day control an empire.
“I am a creature that loves the roundness of my own flesh,” she thought, lifting one breast and then the other with both hands. Quickly the tip of her middle finger flicked back and forth over the elastic teat. She groaned as the tension built. We love to watch others masturbate, though we find ourselves embarrassed by the same act until an occasion beyond our control occurs, something titillating that compels us to let others watch. She threw back her head and used both hands to squeeze her breasts violently. Storm clouds gathered around her cunt. Gathering tension, like a furious gale, spread ripples across her skin and the dark sky. Her knees wobbled and she gasped. Tighter now, flicking her left fingers faster and faster over her buzzing skin, her brain finally bursting wide open as she moaned aloud, knowing that her young savior, the hand maiden Nune, stood guard on the opposite side of the bathroom door. The duchess squeezed her breasts; groaning in earnest as her hips convulsed. She knelt down in the tub, feeling the deep ocean moisture in the folds of her cunt, leaving a greasy smear against the observation glass, sending shivers all over her flesh. She took a long, deep, calming breath, her cunt spasming without once having to touch it.
A tapping on the metal door.
“Wha- what?” was all Yeranouhi could get out as she sloshed about in the hot, lathery water.
“M’lady,” came Nune’s muffled tone. “We are docking in ten minutes.”
The duchess cocked her head to one side, trying to make sense of what the younger woman had just said. A distant sound — music? — came to her ears. She looked around the empty room, unable to pinpoint where the noise was originating from. Something stirred under her ass. Slowly, she peeked between her legs.
Tower after imperial tower of the the great capital, Berjouhi, passed below her. Her citizens, in their gaudy colors of green and blue, had turned out to welcome the captured pirate airship home. On one tower, she was almost sure, she could almost make out her parents, an elderly couple in their nineties, checked in their exuberant cheering as the dirigible passed overhead, their daughter’s royal ass and quivering cunt momentarily exhibited for all the city to see.
* * *
The vessel had, by this time, been brought up close to the sky docks. The duchess, now wearing a robe and cowl that stretched from her head to her cloistered toes, was determined to wait on board until the sun was no longer seen in the charcoal-creamy skies; then, and only then, under the escort of her rescuers, she returned to the fortress from which she had been abducted only half a day previously.
It was not possible that a matter of this sort could be entirely hushed up. Not many hours passed before rumors circulated through the City of Arch-Angels of the events that had taken place, though none knew what those exact details were.
There were reports that an elderly hand maiden of the Duchess Yeranouhi had, at midnight two days before, discovered that her mistress’ bed was, curiously enough, unoccupied; that she had found signs of a bloody struggle, had picked up a blue-powder revolver flung on the floor; also, it was said, that the duchess had been rescued by an armed party of Yerkink pilots, that she was unable to obtain entrance to the fortress until one of the ladies of the Empress Mother had been fetched in order to command the mechanical sentries at the gate to allow the duchess safe passage.
It was generally known, however, that a priestess had come to the Marquise Siranush earlier that day, that their ruler had at once summoned a fixed-winged sky transport bound to the Abbess’s fortress. What had happened when their grand sovereign arrived there none could say, but there were rumors that the Marquise’s voice had been heard in furious outbursts of passion for hours on end. Her majesty remained at the fortress until the late afternoon. After the captured craft returned Siranush sent for the Prime Minister of the Guild.
When Nune’s ladyship arrived she found the Marquise, who had heard from her spies the details of what had taken place, sitting in the Hall of War.
“I learn, my lady,” began the Marquise, “that it is to you that I am indebted for the rescue of my duchess. I am told that, suspecting some plot, you sent the ‘Vika’ to the Abbess’s fortress, turning what could have been a disaster into a victory.”
“It is as you say, m’lady,” replied the prime minister, bowing, her heavy breasts hanging like pendulums inside her cloak; “but the whole merit of the affair rests upon my hand maiden, the girl Nune, that you might remember as having fought with and then conquered a whole Anatora legion. You may also remember that she escaped a further attempt of assassination by your own enemies. It seems that while working the ‘Vika’s’ short wave radio she accidentally overheard a few words spoken in a voice which she recognized as belonging to der Katar Vosgi. The name of your majesty was mentioned and my hand maiden discovered that a plot for carrying off the duchess. After consulting with me I ordered the ‘Vika’ to the skies.”
“For your own part, I thank you, my lady,” the marquise said, “and, believe me, you shall not find Siranush ungrateful. As to your hand maiden, bring her to me tomorrow, when the duchess will be here as well. I wish to thank her in person.”
And thus and thus and thus; the following day Nune, in great confusion, found herself at the center of the imperial circle. The marquise expressed herself to the bewildered air pilot in a most gracious manner, saying that Nune would be, if all worked well, one of her best of starlight navigators when the war was over. The duchess gave her hand to kiss and poor Nune, knowing exactly where that hand had been, found herself at once blushing terribly as memory of the duchess’s orgasm reaching her ears through the metal bulkhead, returned to her. The girl could make no more noise than a feeble “i..i..i..” until the marquise addressed her, not as a middle-age woman having her lover returned to her but as the ruler of all Dzovig, speaking as an absolute monarch to a mere Yerkink girl.
“Tell me, daughter, what does this mean to you?”
She parted her robes, bent her head forward to show what lurked at the nape of her neck, the spot where the hair had been ceremoniously cropped; showing the sacred image, the tattoo of Apollyon just peeking from inside her collar.
“What do you see?”
“M– my lady, I cannot speak about a mystery.”
“We are witnessing ancient hands,” the marquise said, letting her robes fall to her hips, letting the whole room see the tattoo, the sign of her power, a maze of inked lines and designs. Nune became instantly aware of the marquise’s mother-milk breasts, of the tempting nipples that would feed a nation. “Hands — three fingers and a thumb — shaping mud into a form, the first bipedal life form — forming a body, the first of these organic structures that we now call human, hands devising a mouth and nose and cock with heavy balls — breathing life into the lips, the nostrils, the hard column of the shaft — watching them all stir — creating a Golem, an Adam, the first mud-based organic structure — yes, within these lines sleep the DNA of you and me. But when Yahweh, with his dark arts, crafted Adam of the Blood, he said to the angels gathered near: ‘this human is a precious being created in my divine image, you will regard him with reverence’ — yet Morning Star, the only of the angels that called herself ‘She,’ defied him: ‘as a holy spirit I will not worship a diamon made of swamp gas and mud!'”
“Little one, we are the Morning Star’s children; the word ‘demon’ comes from the ancient Greek word meaning ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ — as the ungodly religions grew so did they start calling all those that, like ourselves, did not concur with their plans for supremacy, ‘demons’. The sky became the refuge of the outcasts. The rebel angels did not fall, child, they simply forged ships of war to conquer the infidels who saw them as incompatible with their faith. I tell you all this now because we are going to go to war, against the empire of Anatora. Not because they are right and we are wrong – rather, because that as long as we exist those god-worshipers will not leave us in peace. Such is the burden one lives with when fanatics are at your gate.”
When the Dzovig fleet, numbering some two hundred dirigibles, finally set sail from the Castle of Fribourg, it was a grand affair; a warlike sight as they rose up, like hand-crafted, antique weapons of war, from their sky ports. From the mast head of each vessel flew the colors of Dzovig — the green of the sea and the blue of the sky — below these also ran the colors of the nobles who commanded each vessel; while the pennons of the musketeer squads — as well as the flash of their rifles in the sun — all made the decks alive with color and hope that this war, a war that only haunted and bewitched two nations, could one day be resolved.
The marquise’s dirigible advanced in the van, while, floating all around her were the vessels containing her principal followers. The Queen of Tatevik, as well as the Duchesses Yeranouhi herself and old Makrouhi, were all part of the great armada. Strains of royal music rose from the city’s towers as the fleet pulled away and filled the sky.
* * *
For two days the expedition sailed on seeing no resistance; then, on the third day as they entered the Howling Stream, disaster took place.
“What is all this chaos?” Nune asked to her best chum, the buxom Vaneni, coming up upon the observation deck of the Duchess Yeranouhi’s airship. “The luft-mariners seem to be running up and down the ladders all crazy, all I can hear is a great confusion.”
“I think,” began little Vaneni, the curves of her curvaceous cleavage barely constrained in her high altitude, cold weather gear, “that we are about to have a storm of some sort. A few minutes ago there wasn’t a cloud to be seen; now that priapic thunder bank over there has risen halfway up to the heavens. The luft-mariners are accustomed to these treacherous skies, though, so I’ll leave it in their hands.”
“Which is good,” smiled Nune, fascinating the silk binding of her helmet, “since your theory of ‘fly at the lighting’ instead of away from it has yet to prove successful.”
“You are so cruel, Nune-jan!” Vaneni cried, her thighs pressed together.
Even while they talked — with great rapidness — the sky-studding sails of all the dirigibles came down as the luft-mariners ran up and down their rope ladders; suddenly the storm engulfed them.
Some of the ships whose crews were slower and less skillful than others were caught by the tempest before they could fix everything snug; their great sheets of white canvas were blown from their bolt-ropes as if made from ox-bound paper; their hemp rings holding the fabric of the dirigible’s sides together erupted. In the sudden blackness which covered them the only lights that could be seen were the storm’s numerous lightning bolts, boiling away under the clouds. There was no longer any thought of military order. Each dirigible had to shift for itself; each captain having to do her best to save those under her charge, all without thought of what might befall the others of the armada.
In the dirigible which carried both the Prime Minister of the Guild and the Duchess Yeranouhi, however, discipline still prevailed. The prime minister’s mezzo-soprano voice could be heard above the sound of thunder upon wind, shouting to the musketeers to secure themselves below. Her royal standard was lowered, the bright flags removed from the sides of the craft, the shields which were hung over the bulwarks hurriedly taken below as well. From the minute the hurly-burly winds shook them, tearing through the skies at a tremendous speed, the dirigible’s gondola shook back and forth — like a divine fist rattling nuts or silver almonds in a cage. Four of the best hands were placed at the helm, their safety lines pulled taut. It was here that the prime minister and the captain of the ship took their posts as well.
The danger that they faced was now due to their comrades in the unnatural darkness; the captain worried that they might be blown into one of their consorts. Even in the chaos of the air they could hear from time to time crashes as of vessels struck against another and — with scream and shouts — exploded, momentarily cutting through the murk in ragged reds and yellow of flame. Once or twice from the darkness ships emerged, close enough to see the anxious faces of the crew, only to then immediately disappearing back into the murk. The steadiness of their captain, however, a woman who had twice sailed around the globe, saved their dirigible from destruction.
As the storm continued these glimpses of other vessels became less and less frequent; finally their dirigible was an isolated sliver of silver in the howling dark, the captain indulging in the hope that she was now clear of the rest of the fleet.
For two days and a night the tempest raged about them. The madness of primordial gods, emotions beyond human understanding, what is called the Howling Stream, refused to abate.
“What,” finally asked the prime minister to the captain at the end of the second day, “do you think is our position? Where are we?”
“I cannot say that with certainty, my lady,” the captain replied, bowing, “for the winds have shifted several times each hour during the last two days. I had hoped to gain shelter in St. Gallen, but the wind bore us far away from there. I much fear that from the direction in which we have been running that we must be very near the mountains of Aarau.”
“Brata!” muttered prime minister, then: “That would, indeed, be a speedy end to our venture if your prediction is true. Those Anatora pirates are cutthroats. Even should we avoid the risk of being shot out of the sky, we should end our lives as slaves oi a Grimstad galley.”