Authors: Megan Hart
He slipped a finger inside me, and I opened for him. He slipped in two. His tongue worked the bundle of nerves while he slid his fingers in and out. It wasn’t enough. It was too much. I was going to come again, and I wanted it. I wanted him.
He pulled away and slid up the length of my body. His thick cock stretched me, filled me. He bent his head to kiss my throat. His fingers gripped my shoulders.
“You feel so good,” he whispered. “Gemma.”
It was the way he said my name. Tender but rough at the same time, and filled with longing. He said my name like the taste of it pleased him.
I cried out and buried my face in his shoulder to muffle the sound. My hands clutched his back. We rocked against the fountain, the spray of it hitting us but leaving us dry. His thrusts became ragged as he neared his climax, and I was right there with him.
I saw fireworks behind my closed eyes as the pleasure of my orgasm ripped through me. Red, blue, gold, the colors filled my vision until I opened my eyes and stared into Declan’s face.
His gaze didn’t waver from mine. He said my name again, lower this time, harsher, as though speaking had become some near impossible task. I shuddered as another orgasm rippled through me.
He never closed his eyes, not even when his own climax made him buck and shudder against me. He kept his gaze fixed on mine the entire time, and all the while he whispered my name.
It’s funny how after orgasm the senses become so heightened. The garden’s silence, unbroken but for the fountain’s splashing, seemed as loud as a hovertrain when my heart’s pounding faded from my ears. Declan rested his forehead briefly against mine. He could’ve kissed me had he tried, but I guess the split lip made him reconsider.
After-sex awkwardness isn’t something I generally have to deal with. Pleasurebots don’t care about conversation. They get off, they get you off, they consider themselves as having done their job.
People, on the other hand, insist on talking.
“Wait.” I put a hand to his mouth when he started to speak. With the other, I pushed him gently off me. With efficient movements, I buttoned myself up again. The warmth of his seed coated me down there.
He tucked himself away, then ran a hand through his hair. “Are you all right?”
The simple consideration in his words made me pause. “I’m fine.”
He frowned. “Just…fine?”
“What would you like me to say, Declan?”
Now his expression shuttered, his gaze clouded. “Something more than fine.”
I’d been stupid to bring him here, and stupider to fuck him again. I pretended to fix my hair to disguise the sudden trembling of my fingers. I turned my head so I wouldn’t have to see him.
“Okay, you got your jollies. Now you can go.”
“Is that what you think?” His words had a thin edge of anger to them.
I needed to distance myself from him. There could be no future with Declan for me. The way we met and what I was precluded that.
“You got what you wanted from me. Now go.”
“If you think that’s all I wanted…” He paused, broke off, started again. “Gemma, I meant what I said when I haven’t stopped thinking about you all day.”
The sincerity in his tone wormed its way beneath the wall I was rapidly trying to build. “We shouldn’t see each other. You know that. Not when it could mean…”
“You’re not on-duty now. We didn’t do anything wrong.”
“But last night I was on duty, and we committed a crime.” I swallowed heavily. “Today can’t change that.”
“Last night is over.” He gave me that damned cocky grin. “Today didn’t bring it back. It’s gone. I screwed up, made a mistake. But…I couldn’t help myself.”
“No?” I gave him a hard look. “You could’ve stopped the inspection at any time.”
He ran a hand through his hair again. “I didn’t want to.”
“Yeah, I know.” My heart twisted.
“I couldn’t resist you, don’t you get it?” He put his hands in his pockets and rocked on his heels. “No man could. And then today, I just wanted to see you again. Touch you again. Gemma, you might not believe this…”
“I’m sure I won’t.”
“But I haven’t felt this way about anyone in a really long time.” He took a deep breath. “In fact, before last night, I hadn’t even slept with anyone in over a year.”
This revelation stunned me into silence. It’s unheard of for men and women past the age of sexual initiation to remain abstinent for such a length of time. Sex is indulged in as generously and casually as eating. It’s the reason I have a job.
I didn’t know what to say. “You must be joking.”
He shook his head, then gave me just a ghost of a grin. “Not until I met you.”
Our eyes met and our gazes locked. Who was this man? He’d fooled me into thinking he was something he was not, he’d made my body sing and my heart leap. Could I admit he’d also given me hope?
“I wasn’t out at the hut last night looking to get laid,” Declan said. “But then you swaggered up to me and flashed me your badge. Hell. I’ve been dreaming about something like that since my first wet dream. Fucking a cop? I couldn’t refuse.”
“Declan.” I rolled the name on my tongue like it was fine piece of chocolate. “I have to tell you. I’m—”
Then he reached out to tuck a strand of hair away behind my ear. The gesture, so simple, so insignificant, took my breath away. How long since someone had touched me like that? Without needing something from me? Without taking something from me? I was lost, and I knew it. Lost in a casual gesture from a man I barely knew.
I’d meant to tell him the truth. I’m not a metalgirl, and I’m not a fleshgirl. I’m mecho, something both and neither.
He cocked his head, waiting for me to speak, and I thought of how he’d whispered my name over and over. Like some sort of prayer. I thought of his lips pressed to mine, and I answered him.
“Nothing, Declan,” I said. “It doesn’t matter.”
We parted with the pledge to meet again the next night.
“I’ll come for you,” he promised, and left the garden before I’d had the chance to ask him for his address or how I could reach him.
Mysterious. I laughed softly to myself as I let myself into the dark apartment. In Newcity, the only people who have a private life are those wealthy enough to afford one. Everyone else’s vital information is stored in System, and readily available at a retscan’s notice. Everything from shoe size to favorite beverage can be found in those databanks. If I really wanted to find him, I was sure I could. For now, not knowing anything about him other than the taste of him was exciting.
I paused to peek in at Kaelyn, huddled in her closet. When I’d first brought her home, I’d made a bed for her in my room. I hadn’t known nights on Eloven are perfectly, seamlessly black. It had taken several sleepless weeks before Kaelyn could explain to me why the faintest glow of light from the viddy screen’s sleep setting made it impossible for her to sleep.
Even now, the faint glow let in when I opened the door made her stir. She blinked, slowly, and sighed.
“I’m home, Kaelyn. Go back to sleep.”
With a drowsy nod, she snuggled back into the nest of blankets she preferred over a mattress, and went back to sleep. I paused a moment longer to stare at the strange creature I’d brought into my home. An impulse I didn’t understand moved me to tuck the blankets around her more firmly, and to smooth the line of her folded wing as she dreamed. It wasn’t my right to own her, this alien child, but I couldn’t be sorry about it. She’d have died if I hadn’t bought her and taken her to live with me. I was sure of that.
I closed the closet door and went to my hygiene room. I tossed my drab gray outfit into the recycling chute, then opened the small key panel next to my mirror and punched in the codes for a new set of clothes, a couple chocobars, and some other supplies for the next day.
System’s smooth female voice reverberated in the small room. “Credit account charged. Items scheduled for delivery 05053005.”
Naked, I looked myself over in the mirror above the sink. Even in the bright light, all but one of my scars were nearly invisible. The only one still obvious was the snaking line from the back of my neck across my throat and down my left shoulder. Even that had faded to a simple, silver line against the ivory of my skin.
Declan hadn’t noticed the signs, and he’d have no other way of knowing for sure I am mecho, unless I told him. The thought did not appeal to me.
One day, I would be able to afford a real water shower. Until then, I had to settle for a regular artiwater shower. The synthetic H2O wrapped me in a shield of cleansing warmth when I stepped into the plazglass tube, but though it left me clean and refreshed, it lacked the sheer sensuality of natural water against the skin. I didn’t even have to dry off.
I did have a real water bed, though, on which I still owed monthly payments. It was a luxury I had never regretted buying. I couldn’t have imagined living without it.
Though I was still tired from my lack of sleep the previous night, the shower had refreshed me enough I couldn’t go to sleep right away. Experience had also taught me that forcing myself to extend my sleep beyond the hour or so my body absolutely had to have to function normally usually ended up in me feeling less rested than if I only gave myself the forty-five minutes. Being mecho had a lot of pluses and minuses, and I still couldn’t decide which this was.
“Viddy on,” I said as I lowered myself into the chair in my bedroom. “Something mindless.”
“Command not recognized.” System, for all it sounded like an attractive woman eager to complete your every command, was really just a computer program. Give her the right orders and you’d get what you want. Phrase something a little off, and forget it.
“Entertainment channel,” I said. “Restrict pornography, restrict sports, restrict politics.”
Apparently, that left only a chickvid fashion show. I had asked for something mindless. The show’s hostess, Zilize Pesnnirf, was a vapid, ass-kissing socialite with a shrill laugh like the sound of brakes screeching. She specialized in interviewing prominent Newcitizens and Offworld celebs. Tonight’s guest was Cyndira Adar, Howard Adar’s wife.
“…truly tragic, some of them,” Mrs. Adar was saying when the viddy screen locked onto the show. “And it really is amazing what they can do nowadays. But still, where do we draw the line?”
Zilize nodded, her thin lips pursed into a frown. “Oh, Cyn, I agree. Absolutely. I’m not against enhancement, understand—”
Cyndira let out a cultivated cackle. “Oh, heavens no! Enhancements are the best thing that’s ever happened!”
Both women laughed together, their perfect coifs never moving. This sort of thing didn’t interest me. I knew what they were going to say. The arguments in Newcity were growing more and more heated, what with the Newcity Ruling Council’s latest push to legally classify mecho citizens as not human.
“But you have to draw the line somewhere,” Cyndira continued, smoothing her face into lines of seriousness. She turned to look straight into the camera. “I mean, really, a more attractive profile and firmer body are one thing. We all appreciate beauty in all its forms, don’t we? But when you talk about replacing actual organs and systems…”
She gave a delicate shudder, and Zilize picked up the conversation. “I completely agree, Cyndira. Looking good is one thing. Turning yourself into a bot is quite another!”
“Viddy off!” I barked the command and had to take a deep breath to control my anger.
I didn’t choose to become mecho, but if I had been given the chance to live or die, I’d have made the same choice. I could live without gargantuan breasts and a thin waist. I could even live without perfect vision and teeth. But without the organs and bones, sinews, veins and arteries the mechtechs in the hospital had given me, I wouldn’t live at all.
“Where is the line?” I asked aloud to the dark viddy screen. “If it has to be drawn somewhere, where is it?”
“Inquiry not recognized,” System replied. “Rephrase question.”
“Forget it,” I told the computer. “Inquiry retracted.”
I woke the next morning groggy and out of sorts, until I remembered my plans for the evening. Declan had asked me for an evening in District 87, the Arts District.
I didn’t think anything could destroy my good mood, until I got into the office. The tension was palpable when I got there, and the silly grin I’d been wearing faded as my fellow Ops stared at me when I came in.
“What’s going on?”
Lonnie jerked her chin toward the constantly scrolling viddy display on the far wall. “Ranking.”
I clenched my jaw and took a look at the tiny letters and numbers making their slow way down the display. “Again?”
“It’s not a big deal,” put in Frude.
“Easy for you to say,” Lonnie shot back. “You’re not—”
The two Ops glanced at me, then fell silent. I forced a small smile to my face.
“It’s okay,” I told them. “I’m not sensitive.”
“Orli is,” muttered Frude. He looked over to the tall, dark-haired Op watching the viddy display with folded arms and a scowling face.
“Orli’s a kid,” replied Lonnie. “This could mess up his future.”
I wasn’t flattered to no longer be considered young enough that a change in my Newcity rank couldn’t affect my future, but I knew what Lonnie meant. Orli was fresh out of the R.I.O. Academy, with only a couple of months’ service under his belt. Any privilege and rank advancement he could hope to gain through his career had just been reduced. Not by much, but by enough. He’d have to work harder, and longer, for the same benefit—and with the way things were going, even that might not help.
We had to stick together, us freaks. Though I didn’t know Orli very well, I had helped with some of his rookie training. He was a bright kid, good looking and smart. He had a lot going for him, and not just his innate sexuality that drew men, women and Pleasurebots to him like rats to a scrap of bread.
“Newcity Ruling Council.” He spat the words like they tasted bad. He looked at me. “They just announced a shift in the ranks. I’m bumped down three whole slots.”
I hadn’t bothered to check my own rank, but I could assume the same treatment. “What’s their reason this time?”
“They say—” and he emphasized the word to show he didn’t believe it, “—that a group of techtechs have perfected the next System upgrade.”
“How many of them?”
“Seven hundred and fifty.” Orli punched one fist into the other. “Like that many techtechs ever work together on anything at once!”
“So now there’s seven hundred and fifty Newcitizens who deserve a higher rank,” I said. “Which means seven hundred and fifty others have been demoted.”
“You want to know how many mechos are registered in Newcity?” Orli asked in a low voice filled with helpless anger. “Seven hundred and thirty-eight.”
I clasped his shoulder. “A three-slip isn’t anything to worry about, Orli. That won’t even affect your ration count or your salary.”
“Not until it becomes a ten-slip,” he replied grimly. “I was going to marry Natalie this year.”
“Don’t let this change your plans,” I told him. Envy flooded me, but only briefly. I refused to be jealous of this young man or the lovely young woman who’d agreed to bond with him.
The anger in his eyes shifted for one moment to bleakness. “She’s getting a lot of pressure from her family. Her father’s one of the undersecretaries for Ruling Council. He doesn’t want her to marry me.”
“That sucks donkey dicks, Orli.”
My declaration seemed to startle him into a smile. “Yeah, big ones.”
“Speaking of big ones,” Lonnie broke in. “I hate to interrupt, but Captain Rando wants us all in the conference room.”
“Hey, G,” Eddie greeted as the Ops on duty filed into the conference room. “What’s the happs?”
Despite the grim atmosphere, Eddie couldn’t fail to bring a grin back to my face. Now was not the time or place to tell him about my recent activities, so I kept quiet.
Eddie didn’t have time to ask me anything else, either, because Rando entered the conference room. Her hoverchair turned effortlessly on its cushion of air as she took her place at the front of the room.
Seeing Rando out from behind her desk was still worth a second glance, even after my many years with R.I.O. Her legs had been withered by an Offworld disease contracted during her service in the Earthen-Livannone War fifteen years ago. She’d opted for a hoverchair, increased rank and a desk job instead of cosmetic enhancement and repair. It was so unusual to see someone with flaws of such a grand nature, that even after all this time we all paused for a moment as she took her place in the front of the room.
“By now, you’ll all have heard,” she announced. Her plazglass lenses reflected the shimmering light of the viddy display still scrolling behind us. “This news affects the entire department. The physical requirements of employment with any of the Special Ops departments, including Recreational Intercourse, means it’s a natural choice for those citizens who’ve found themselves enhanced, whether through choice or chance.”
She glanced down at her legs, thin and twisted inside the navy artisilk uniform she wore. “For some, it’s more chance than choice. But for whatever reason, you all know we have a higher percentage of mecho employees than in any other department or trade guild in Newcity. Until the past year or so, that worked in our favor. Since the Ruling Council started its latest campaign, I’m ashamed to say that is no longer true.”
“You mean since Howard Adar started accusing mechos of not being human.” Orli’s strong voice echoed through the room.
I envied him his confidence, but shook my head a little at his brashness. I can kick ass from here to next year if I have to, but only if I have to. Spouting my mouth about things I can’t change has never been my method. It causes trouble, and I’ve had enough of that.
“When more than fifty percent of your body has been replaced with metal and optic fiber,” put in Frude, “what can you expect?”
There might have been a fight, but for Rando’s sharp snort. Nobody wanted to mess with her. She didn’t need her legs to kick anybody’s ass.
Orli backed down, glowering. Frude just shrugged and gave the rest of the assembled Ops an innocent look. Frude’s attitude hadn’t earned him many friends in R.I.O.—but it hadn’t exactly made him any enemies, either.
“Times are changing,” Rando continued. “Maybe not for the better. But we’re here to do a job the best we can. I will not let common bias and prejudice come between any members of this team, am I clear?”
“And when they take away our citizenship?” Orli asked, giving it one last try. “What then, Cap’n?”
Rando met his gaze without flinching. “Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, Orli.”
He didn’t say anything else. I felt the weight of a dozen pairs of eyes on me, but if I looked around I couldn’t seem to get anyone to meet my gaze. I’d never made a secret of my condition to anyone…except Declan.
Rando continued. “Along with the recent ranking changes, the Ruling Council has also implemented some new regs for the entire SpecOps department, including R.I.O.”
A low groan rippled through the group. New regs meant training time, at three quarters pay.
“Obviously, we can’t have all Ops tied up in training. Pleasurebot related incidents have risen .003 percent since last year. So half of you will hit the field while the rest participate in the new training. Then we’ll switch.”
Eddie nudged me. “I caught a glimpse of the new protocols. Hot stuff.”
Rando was reading off the list of partners. I rolled my eyes. “So some manufacturer puts out a new set of specs on its models, and we have to be updated. Why? When you come right down to it, even the Kama Sutra only has so many positions.”
“You’re awfully young to be so jaded,” Eddie told me, which was a laugh since he’s exactly my age.
“EDDE 08111977, GMMA 4121609.”
“That’s us, surprise.” I gave him a wink. “Let me go beat your butt.”
Eddie grinned. “I look forward to it.”