Thursday, May 31, 2012

Help me write a better story for you!

Okay, so there are a few things I want to have happen in Lucky 13,  I have the ending all scripted out and a few other key scenes, but I need help getting there.  I don't want to rush their relationship, but also don't want to do a play-by-play of all of their dates.  Besides it's been nearly a decade since I've gone on an "early in the relationship" date and I hardly remember how they go.

So my question for you all - what do you want to see from James and Emma?

I can't promise to incorporate it all, but I'd love some direction.  I guess I'm just a little blocked right now and need some inspiration.  Help!

And THANKS!

Aurora - Part 17


Are you going to ask him to stay? The question was ricocheting like a boomerang around Aurra’s mind. Why was this a question at all? The facts were still all the same. Garran had no official identity, no relatives or friends he trusted, potentially no access to his money though most of it was in numbered accounts and should not have been seized at his ‘death’. And she still wanted him. She still very much wanted to pick up where they had been so rudely interrupted. So why the doubt?

Was it because if he stayed it would now likely be for an indefinite period? Because if they carried on from their encouraging start, was it likely they would become permanent partners? Was she ready and prepared to be a wife again? Or what if in two years or three or four Doc found a way to undo Garran’s paralysis, would he then leave her behind because she had always only been the second best alternative?

From what Garran had told her, it didn’t sound like settling down with a woman had ever been part of his life plans. Especially if settling down meant a nomadic existence like hers? If he stayed, would he come to resent her for the circumstances that trapped him even though they were completely beyond her control?

She heaved herself out of the pilot chair after checking the auto-pilot. Leaden tiredness was spreading through her limbs once again. She had been up for nearly thirty hours now, twelve since Garran had sped away from her in front of the medical bay and disappeared into his cabin.

She walked into the crew lounge, grabbed a prepared meal out of the cold store and stuck it into the micro to heat it up. DF would have done it for her, but he wasn’t around and Aurra was not one to sit idle and wait for him to return to be waited on. He didn’t work regular shifts anyway, just prepared meals for them to pick up whenever they felt like it, but as she had come to know he spent most of his waking time in the galley or with Jason, sometimes both combined. They two of them had become fast friends and Aurra suspected they were on their way to becoming more. Quiet and geeky Jason and the older, but almost painfully inexperienced DF seemed to complement each other perfectly.

The micro dinged and Aurra pulled out the food. She settled at the table just as DF walked into the lounge carrying a tray.

“Hi Aurra.”

Aurra nodded in acknowledgement through a mouthful of food.

He sat the tray on the table. It had several uneaten items of food on it. “I wanted to bring Garran some food. He hasn’t eaten anything in over twenty hours, but he sent me away.”

Aurra couldn’t help but smile. “Are you keeping taps on all our eating habits, DF?”

“I … I, no …, I don’t, I mean…” A blush was creeping over his cheeks.

“DF, you are not doing anything wrong. I think it’s amazing you are taking such good care of all of us. It’s just not something we are used to.”

DF shoulders slumped in relief. Aurra knew he still felt terribly unsure of his place within the crew and was afraid to be sent away or worse to be sold into slavery again.

“I think you have all of us wrapped around your little finger with your cooking. Don’t worry; we will never make you go.”

“Thank you Aurra.” He mumbled, now clearly embarrassed about the praise.

Aurra focused on her food again, but DF still hovered.

“Can I ask you something?”

Aurra nodded.

“Garran shouted at me—through the door—do you know what I did to upset him?”

Aurra put down her fork. “Have a seat, DF.” Once he had pulled out a chair and sat she continued. “You didn’t do anything to him. He’s had some very bad news from Doc. He’s just upset about that. He’s not angry with you.”

“Oh.” A frown appeared on his face. “I also had some bad news from Doc, but I didn’t shout at anyone.”

“Really? Do you mind telling me?”

“My failsafe—it can’t be removed.”

“Hmm. I imagine that must be discouraging, but I assure you we would never ever use it against you.”

DF smiled sadly. “I believe you, but it just means that I will never be truly free. Jason has promised to find a way to deactivate it though, so that it cannot be set off remotely like the one that almost went off inside Garran’s body.”

“That is great, DF. Jason is very good at what he does. If there is a way, I am sure he can figure it out.” She picked up her fork again and put another bite of the delicious meal into her mouth. 

“So what bad news did Doc have for Garran?”

She chewed while considering whether to answer the question. Doc had said that Garran had given permission to inform the crew. Obviously Doc hadn’t shared the news yet; neither had she.

“Doc can’t treat Garran’s paralysis. He won’t be able to walk again.”

DF was quiet for a moment, a thoughtful expression on his face. “Has Garran been doing a good job so far?”

Aurra was perplexed. “Yes, he has. Why do you ask?”

“So he doesn’t need to be able to walk to do his job?”

“Not his current job, no.”

“Do you want him to be able to walk?”

Aurra swallowed hard at the question. How could she answer that? If she was really totally honest with herself, then no, she didn’t want him to walk. She wanted him just like he was. But what would DF or Doc or the rest of the crew think if she ever expressed that sentiment? Suddenly she realized what her earlier hesitation and uncertainty had been about. If Garran stayed she would have to tell him how she felt about him and how his physical impairments added to the attraction instead of detracting from it.

She contemplated answering with a politically correct I don’t mind if he can’t walk, but she couldn’t form the words. Finally she just shook her head, her gaze lowered.

“You like him, don’t you?”

Aurra sighed. Had she been that obvious? “Yes. I like him, but why are you asking me all these questions?”

“He likes you, too, you know. I think he’s scared now you won’t like him anymore. Maybe you should tell him that he doesn’t have to be able to walk to live up to your expectations.” DF pushed away from the table and took the tray into the galley, leaving a stunned Aurra behind.

***

Garran sat up in his bed. Damn he really needed to use the bathroom. He had eventually taken the sleeping pill that Doc had given him when for hours he had not being able to quieten the thoughts racing through his mind.

DF’s persistent knocking had woken him and he hadn’t meant to be rude to DF, but he was neither hungry nor in the mood for company. But now he wished he had just let DF come in, leave the food and fetch the wheelchair from the opposite wall. Garran reached for his phone contemplating to call Doc to ask him for help. Yeah, sure. Commander Garran Raulsten, decorated for bravery a few times over, was too scared to work his way across the room to retrieve his own damn wheelchair.

He could feel the anger about his situation starting to churn in the pit of his stomach again. He put the phone away before the urge to throw it after the wheelchair grew too strong to suppress. He pulled the blanket away from his legs and once again the sight of a stump in place of his lower left leg caught him off guard. It surprised him how he could forget about the amputation. But would he ever be able to come to accept the paralysis? Get beyond the gut-churning anger and feeling of unfairness?

He lifted his right leg over the side of the bed and pushed himself all the way to the edge. He reached for the floor and then let himself slip down. Stretching himself out flat, he reached for the chair but it was still just beyond his grasp. His flat hand hit the floor in annoyance then he elbow crawled the two paces to cover the distance. He levered himself into the chair, relief temporarily replacing fury.

What would Aurra have thought of this pathetic little spectacle? The thought struck him cold. What a sorry, pitiful sight he must have been. All of his six foot five stretched out flat on the floor, dragging a paralyzed leg and a half behind. He would die of embarrassment if she ever caught him in a situation like this. 

Would she ever kiss him again? Would she even consider asking him to stay? And would he have the courage to stay if she asked him to?






Aurora - Part 18

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Aurora - Part 18


Tyr followed Rag and Baldr back into that weird torture chamber they had been in the day before. No one else was around. A square of tatami mats had been set up, demarcating the area on which his sparring match would take place. Rag and Baldr knelt down on opposite corners while Tyr walked around the room exploring.

After a brief visit with the doctor this morning, he had spent most of the day in the gym located on the same level as the bedroom he shared with Rag and Baldr. The two had turned out to be congenial though not very talkative. They seemed as curious about him as he was about them, but something—fear maybe—seemed to hold them back. Tyr had a hunch that Flavia had ordered communication be kept to a minimum and sanctions, as he knew, could be severe.

The trip to the doctor had brought no surprising revelations except that, as Flavia had predicted, the amputation wound was already completely healed. The scar was red and raised, but the pain was gone. The mirror held up for him also revealed the scars on his head and when Tyr had asked about the amnesia the doctor had only said that this wasn’t unusual after a traumatic brain injury. But since his brain had healed so nicely, the doctor had added, his memory would surely soon return. Somehow the doctor’s words hadn’t rung true.

First thing back upstairs Tyr had asked Rag to cut his hair—not that Baldr, blind though he was, could have made the situation any worse, but it almost physically hurt him to have the rest of his long hair cut short. But half of it was already gone anyway—and with only one hand he couldn’t braid it to keep it out of his face. Surprisingly, Rag had called someone else. The man, similarly tall and well-built as the others, had introduced himself as Vali. He hadn’t done a half bad job; and even though he hadn’t cut it brutally short, it didn’t look quite as lopsided as before. Tyr checked his reflection in the broad, gleaming blade of a halberd. Not too bad at all.

He stopped behind a rack containing a large number of short weapons. Combat knives, throwing knives and stars, kunai and sai, daggers, dirks, switchblades and straight razors, an overall impressive collection. 

Toward the bottom of the rack several sets of throwing blades were stored in strap-on holsters. He picked up one and holding it in his teeth he pulled the velcro apart. Surprisingly, neither Rag nor Baldr seemed to be disturbed by the noise. Hidden from Rag’s view as he currently was, Tyr pulled up the leg of the hakama he wore and strapped the holster around his lower left leg. Fortunately velcro was something he could manage fairly easily with his one hand. If his luck held he might be able to spirit them away. Tyr was sure that there were surveillance cameras everywhere. The question was, however, would someone be looking at what he was doing?

He didn’t need the blades for the upcoming fight, but he wanted to have a weapon he could conceal easily, one that gave him a degree of range and could double as a tool when necessary. The throwing blades were ideal.

He continued his circuit around the room. Together with the hakama, he wore a top that was styled similar to a traditional kataginu with its wing-like, overcut shoulders over long tight sleeves—well, one long and one short sleeve. Flavia truly had a flair for the dramatic, having him dress up like an ancient samurai warrior. But the top was in fact more than just decorum. With its soft, padded leather with integrated guards and cinches it was comfortable and would provide him with a good amount of protection from his opponent’s attacks. Like every other piece of clothing he’d been given, it had been tailored to fit him perfectly and enclosed his right arm snugly without being constricting.

Tyr rotated his shoulders. From what he’d figured out so far, today’s fight was more a gauge of his abilities than a true contest of dominance. Having been given the choice of weapon, he had opted for the hanbo, a medium length staff, just under a meter long. At a double disadvantage because he had lost his dominant hand, he needed a weapon that he could also manipulate with his remaining upper arm.

After trying out several different weapons, he had decided that the hanbo worked best; mostly because it wasn’t too heavy. At his suggestion, Vali, who seemed to double as the resident tailor, had added a leather loop to the inside of the shortened right sleeve through which Tyr could slip the hanbo while holding it under his armpit which gave him a reasonable degree of control over the weapon. Some more time to practice would have been good though.

Training in the gym earlier in the day had brought back some of his lost memory. He had remembered many, many other gym sessions; weights and machines, but mostly hand-to-hand combat and long weapons’ training. He also remembered sparring with several other men, but all their faces remained blank in his memory, he couldn’t identify anyone of them. Though he did know that they were somehow professionally connected—so by his best guess he was either a professional trainer, a police officer or, and that somehow resonated most, a soldier. And if that—where was he from, how had he come to be here and was this Garran one of his faceless training partners?

Tyr stepped in front of the podium. The empty chair was lit up again and the bird was perched in the same spot as the day before. It sat unnaturally still, its eyes closed. Since it didn’t seem to be tied to the perch it sat on, Tyr would have expected at least some kind of reaction to his proximity. He turned toward Baldr and Rag who still knelt where they had dropped onto the mat. “What’s up with that bird? Is it asleep?”

“It’s a robot.” Baldr answered. “It activates automatically when Flavia is close by.”

Tyr walked closer and inspected the motionless bird. “It looks so real.” He reached out his hand and touched it. It felt soft, like velvet. He plucked out one of those velvety things, the name of which he couldn’t remember and twirling it in his hand, carried on his exploration.

Behind him the bird’s eyes opened, blinked once and closed again.

Finally Tyr arrived back where he had started and still nobody else had arrived. He knelt down halfway between Rag and Baldr, looking in Rag’s direction. Baldr wouldn’t know the difference anyway. He held out his hand toward Rag. ”What is this white thing called?”

“What? The feather?”

“Ragnarok!” Baldr barked, but it was too late. Memories were cascading like an avalanche through Tyr’s mind. White. Feather. Whitefeather. His name. Soul Whitefeather. He closed his eyes against the flood of information released inside his brain. He fought for composure, feeling instinctively that if he gave the tiniest indication of what had just occurred, he wouldn’t leave the room alive. The bird had been a tease; an attempt to determine how well he had forgotten. He quickly stuffed the feather behind the neckline of his top, hiding it from view. He hadn’t been sure if his presence here was accounted for because he knew something that they were waiting for him to remember or because they were counting on him to stay amnesic. Now he knew. Every ounce of memory he regained made him more dangerous and more vulnerable at the same time.

The bird started to move and Tyr took a deep breath, shutting the door on his memory just as a door next to the podium opened and Flavia stepped into the room. Behind her entered another towering, heavily muscled man whose arms, legs and chest where covered with unusually dense body hair—like a boxer he only wore a pair of black shorts and combat boots. Flavia, wearing another elaborate robe, this time in pale green with a high, semicircular collar and overlong trumpet sleeves climbed the stairs and stood in front of her ornately carved chair.

“Tyr, please meet Fenrir.” Her deliberate, seductive voice floated through the room once again, followed by the giggling that had made Tyr shiver before. He could feel the undercurrent of malice in the room.

The tall man, Fenrir, walked towards the mat, stopped at the edge and bowed; first in Flavia’s direction, then towards Tyr. Tyr stood up, but stayed on the far side, not bowing in return.

“Which weapon have you chosen?” Flavia asked.

“Hanbo.” Tyr replied. He turned and picked up the staff he had brought from downstairs, while Fenrir went and picked another from a rack. Then Fenrir stepped to one side of the mat and motioned for Tyr to take opposite position, so they were standing side-on to Flavia. When they bowed at each other, Tyr thought he heard a low, guttural growl. Hanbo in his hand, Tyr stepped in for his first attack.

***

Garran was lying on his bed again, fully dressed this time, but he still hadn’t been able to summon up the courage to leave his cabin. How would the crew see him now? Word had surely spread that he would remain paralyzed, forever dependent on some kind of mobility device, wheelchair or other, to get around. Hell, he couldn’t even make it from his bed to the bathroom and back without it being a major production.
Would they feel sorry for him? By Horlus, he felt sorry enough for himself all on his own, but the thought of being the object of someone else’s pity sat like a rock in his stomach.

The door opened unannounced and Doc strolled into his room.

“You can still knock, you know. I’m not deaf.” Garran complained.

“I could have, but you would have sent me away—probably with some choice words, which I would have ignored—so what’s the point of knocking in the first place?”

“Just saying.” Garran grumbled, silently acknowledging that Doc had a point since that’s exactly what would have happened.

“I brought you something.” Doc lifted a bottle he was carrying in his hand.

“Hey, that’s what I call a true friend. You’re gonna help me drown my misery?”

“No. I thought I’d give you my one and only bottle of single-malt so that you can drown yourself in misery and then tomorrow when you go back on duty as the co-pilot of this vessel and apologize to Aurra for letting her down, you at least have a reason to feel sorry for yourself.”

Garran didn’t answer. He did feel guilty for having skipped several shifts by now, but didn’t a man in his position deserve some consideration? Who was Doc to lecture him? The anger he had just started to bring under control flared up again. “I’m a fucking paralyzed, amputee cripple, so what does Aurra want with me anyway?”

"You were a paralyzed, amputee cripple already when you came on board. That didn’t prevent you from entering into an agreement with Aurra to be her co for the next six months, nor did it seem to feature in that hot and heavy make-out session I interrupted. And now all of a sudden because things are not going your way Aurra’s needs and reasons are no longer worth considering?”

Aurra’s needs. That just conjured up all kinds of images and feelings Garran momentarily wished to forget. If only he could. He extended his hand for the bottle, beckoning with his fingers.

Doc extended his arm, too, but held the half full bottle just beyond Garran’s reach. Garran lunged for it, but Doc pulled it back. “You need your attitude fixed, not your body. You are no less of a pilot than you were two days ago. Aurra still thinks very highly of you, so don’t screw it up. You're a better man than this.” Then he turned and carried the bottle to the sideboard on the far side of the cabin before he turned on his heels and left.

Garran glared at the bottle and the bottle glared back. 


Aurora - Part 19

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Devoted -- it's here!

Ever wondered how Jules and Jeff felt that first spark in Swimming to the Surface? Looking forward to reading Diary of an Ugly Girl on your Kindle or iPhone? How about some BRAND SPANKING NEW stories from talented writers like Ruth Madison?

Devoted is finally available! Check it out on Amazon (paperback coming soon) or Smashwords (downloadable in nearly any e-format, including HTML and PDF).

Important note for Smashwords: unless you're logged in and have turned this feature off, their "adult filter" will be automatically in the ON position and you won't be able to find it using the search.

A HUGE thanks to Lee and Ruth for getting this together -- it looks great so far, and I am beyond tickled at reading my own work in this form for the first time :)

Aurora - Part 19


Despite Doc’s well-meant intervention of the day before, Garran still hadn’t shown his face. Aurra was back on one of her inspection rounds, contemplating what to do about the situation. Somehow she needed to get him out of this funk. Apart from the fact that she was back to stolen naps here and there while piloting the craft on her own, she just simply missed his company—while right now he was probably still sleeping off the effects of half a bottle of single-malt on an empty stomach.

What a frustrating situation—but she did have an idea what was keeping him trapped in his cabin. His whole world hat tilted on its axis and he didn’t know how to right it again. What a strange thing hope was. Before Doc’s last prognosis, he had dealt with his inability to walk well enough. He had been frustrated by it for sure, but he hadn’t let himself be held back by it. Was there a way to help him find something new, some new strength inside himself that would make him hope again?

Hope for what? That was really the crux of the matter. DF’s words came back to her. Would it really be enough to tell him that he didn’t need two whole legs and the ability to walk to meet her muster? Would he think her condescending if she told him? “Arrgh.” Aurra banged her fist on the wall next to the porthole she had been staring out of. She really had to break this recent habit of staring into space—literally. 

Mila stuck her head out of a service crawlspace nearby. “Hi Captain. Is everything okay?”

“Mila” Aurra acknowledged her environmental engineer. “Yes—no—yes. It’s complicated.”

The younger woman pulled herself out of the narrow crawlspace and smiled shyly. “So it seems. Well, I need to go find a spare seal—since I have pulled one of the auxiliary air scrubbers apart in there.” She pointed her thumb back over her shoulder at the open hatch. “But, if you ever want to talk—you know—girl talk, let me know.” She blushed, seemingly embarrassed for having made the offer to her Captain, turned and walked away from Aurra without waiting for a response.

Mila was relatively new to the crew, too. Brent had brought her along four months earlier after a whirlwind romance and shotgun wedding and Aurra realized that trapped by her own depression over Bryn’s death she hadn’t really made an effort to get to know Mila.

To rectify the situation, she decided to make a point of engaging more with the quiet and shy young woman in the future. Engaging more—like with Garran. If nothing else, the man needed to talk. With her! Now!

With new resolve she set out along the corridor, to the lift which she took up to the crew deck. When she arrived in front of Garran’s door, her fist raised to knock, her resolve faltered again. Dammit. She wasn’t usually this indecisive. But her feelings for Garran, his disability included, was not something she found easy to talk about.

Furiously she balled both hands into fists and stomped off into the direction of her own cabin. What was this man doing to her? No man had ever thrown her so completely off balance. Tired and upset now with her own lack of willpower she opened her cabin door and threw herself onto her bed giving her pillow a good punch.

Doc had said that Garran usually faced situations head-on, always finding opportunities, bringing the best out in people, excelling where other were bound to fail. Why not now? She understood grief and depression, but it had gotten her exactly nowhere. And she missed Garran’s company, his smirk, and most of all the sizzling sexual tension between them. It made her feel alive in ways she hadn’t felt in months. She would show him! She would show him that hiding was not the answer. She would show him right now how desirable he was.

She jumped up and stormed out of her cabin and straight into Garran’s before her courage left her again. “Garran…”

He was naked. He came wheeling out of the bathroom and came to a dead stop when Aurra burst into his room. With only a towel around his neck, Aurra had a prime view of his marvelous physique. His handsome face framed by the dark, spiky wet hair, broad shoulders and defined chest and stomach, still glistening from a recent shower—Aurra’s heart skipped in her chest. A line of dark hair trailed down from his navel to widen into a dark patch of pubic hair framing his cock which even in its relaxed state was nothing short of impressive. His thighs were still strongly muscled, but she knew that would change over time. The stump of his left leg was also bare and the sight of all these things together made Aurra’s insides go all fluttery and needy, her pelvic muscles tensing, starting the exquisite feeling of growing sexual arousal. She couldn’t remember having ever seen an image as beautiful, erotic and enticing.

Obviously Garran didn’t share her assessment.

“What the …” He caught himself before voicing the expletive out loud. “Turn around!” It was a command, not a request.

Aurra complied, unsure of how to proceed at this point; her momentary hesitation had cost her the advantage. She heard a few noises including the bed creaking and she concluded that Garran had transferred into the bed and pulled up a sheet. Certain that it was ‘safe’, she turned around and faced him.

His head propped against the bulkhead wall he stared at her, the sheet covering his legs and pulled up to his chest under his crossed arms. “I thought this cabin was private.”

“It would be if you would leave it every once in a few days. I have a responsibility to ensure that my crew is all right.”

“And that entails breaking and entering?”

“I didn’t break anything, but this is my ship and you are in breach of our agreement.” This was so not where Aurra wanted the discussion to be going. She took a deep breath to steady herself and steer the conversation into the right direction.

“So fire me.”

“Hell no.” Thank you for that opening.

“Hell no? What the fuck do you want from me? There won’t be any treatment over the next six months. I’m fucking stuck in his fucking chair for the rest of my life.” He shouted at her, storm clouds of emotion passing over his face.

Aurra turned away from him and her gaze caught the bottle of single-malt still standing half-full on the sideboard across from the bed. So he had withstood the temptation. Taking it as a good sign, she turned back to face him, resisting the temptation to cross her arms, too. Instead she extended her arms forward, palms up in a questioning gesture “So what?”

His mouth dropped open. Before he had the chance to gather his thoughts and demand she leave him alone, Aurra pressed ahead. “You really need to get out of this bed, Garran. Lying around sulking isn’t going to change your situation one bit.”

---

“Getting out of this bed and not sulking isn’t going to change the situation either. That’s the problem.” Garran’s voice was heavy with sarcasm.

Aurra sat down at the end of the bed and pulled back the sheet exposing his foot.

Garran stared at her mutinously. “What the hell are you doing?”

Aurra was unperturbed. She pushed her hand under his heel, lifted his foot up and scooted closer, placing his foot in her lap. “I am massaging your foot. Your tendons are contracting. That’s not good.”

Garran watched as she started to massage the sole of his foot, stretched and flexed his toes then his ankle. “And your point is?” He grunted. Despite his misgivings he found that he was enthralled watching her massage his foot. He imagined he could feel her hands, warm and soft as they moved over his skin. He felt his blood rush to his groin, his libido once again asserting itself. And he could certainly feel that. Aurra’s hands moved up to his calf. For a moment he wished she would massage the stump of his other leg, too. That realization shocked him like he had been doused with cold water. He jerked up and pulled himself closer against the bulkhead wall, effectively pulling his leg out of her lap. “Enough!” He shouted hoarsely. “I don’t need a nurse!”

Aurra got up and stood in front of the bed, hands on her hips. “No, what you need is a proper ass-whipping.” Color was staining her cheeks, her big dark eyes boring into him.

“How lucky that my ass is only half-numb then. Otherwise your effort would be entirely wasted. Shall I roll over now?” Garran snarled, trying to stare her down. Damn the woman’s sass. Damn the fact that he had to look up at her. Torn between wanting her gone from his cabin and wanting her on top of him right this second he remained seated against the top of the bed, but uncrossed his arms and dropped his hands into his lap when in his peripheral vision caught the unmistakable movement of the sheet tenting. Damn his traitorous body for having a mind of its own.

He saw the brief flash of triumph in her eyes before she composed her features again, but a slow smile spread across her face. By Horlus, she was more beautiful in this state of controlled fury than ever before.

“Yes.”

“Yes, what?” Garran realized that he had completely lost his train of thought.

“Yes, roll over now.” Something else flashed in her eyes and if he weren’t so certain that he must be completely mistaken he would have said that it was unbridled desire.

Damn—damn—damn! He had never lost a staring-down contest before. This woman was something else. His brain scrambled to come up with the right course of action, but for some reason he was completely lost, unable to move.

She took a step towards him. Like in slow motion she reached out a hand to take hold of the sheet as his mouth went dry and still his brain could not form a single coherent thought.

She grabbed the sheet in her fist and yanked hard. It slid off him and onto the floor, exposing his paralyzed leg and stump while his manhood stood at glorious attention. His arms fell to his sides, leaving him completely exposed. Her gaze raked over him and he swore he could feel the trail of her gaze even on his legs. She took another step and sat sideways on the edge of his bed.

“Aurra…” A whisper was all his frazzled brain was able to produce.

Then she leaned across his legs and forward, sliding her tongue in a slow circle over her lips. Garran’s breath hitched. She opened her mouth slightly and placed it on top of his glans, slowly pushing down. She flicked her tongue across his slit before sliding it over the bottom edge and then pushing it against the underside of the glans while her lips opened around him and she took him deeper, blowing his testosterone-flooded mind. 


Aurora - Part 20

Monday, May 28, 2012

Aurora - Part 20


“Tyr! … Tyr!” The whispered name was followed by two hands on his shoulders shaking him awake.

Soul Whitefeather blinked open his eyes and looked up into Vali’s tense face. It was light in the room, but with Horlus I’s short day-night cycles he wasn’t sure how long he had slept. On the upside, he no longer felt the bone deep exhaustion he had experienced right after the fight, but his right shoulder and the stump of his arm—another word that had come back to him—was killing him. His shoulder and chest muscles screamed in protest from the unaccustomed exertion of wielding a weapon with less than a quarter of the leverage they were used to and although the weapon had helped to deflect Thor’s attacks, it has also attracted his opponent to target his stump directly; mostly glancing blows that the padded and reinforced leather vest had deflected well enough, but in one instance the tip of Thor’s hanbo had hit him squarely against the end of his stump, sending him to his knees in agony.

Flavia had called a timeout for him to recover, but the fight hadn’t been over until one of the opponents had been bested. It had been Soul’s good fortune that not too long after his near knockout, a faint with the hanbo and a close range punch against Thor’s temple, had dropped the bigger man out cold. And not too soon; Soul had been near collapse from exhaustion himself.

Soul knew that if he lost a few fights too many and the entertainment value of watching a one-armed man fight a bear had exhausted Flavia’s limited reservoir of patience, his lifespan would be measurable in days rather than years, if that. Was Vali here to drag him back into the ring already? Without a doubt, if he had to fight now, he wouldn’t stand a chance. He sat up cradling his aching stump. “What’s up?”

Vali put a finger to his lips, straightened up and motioned inconspicuously for Soul to follow him.

Curiosity won out. Soul glanced around, but neither Rag nor Baldr, his constant shadows so far, were around. He grabbed the black silk robe from the foot-end of his bed and followed Vali’s retreating form. The cool, soft silk felt soothing on his battered arm and sore chest and back and for a moment Soul allowed himself to revel in the luxury of the sensation.

He followed Vali through the gym into the adjacent spa area, where the other man shed his clothes and entered the steam room. After a moment’s hesitation, Soul did the same. It was a fairly large room and through the dense, swirling fog, Soul could just make out Vali sitting on the second level of the three tiers of dark, polished stone benches that ran the length of the back wall and one side of the room. Except for the sound of dripping water and faint grey noise it was eerily quiet. Vali patted the bench to his right. “Join me. Thought this might help you relax and recover.”

Soul hesitated for a moment then did as asked; intrigued by the other man’s behavior. Though attuned to emotional undercurrents, he hadn’t detected any sign of danger or malice and his instinct nudged him on.

He sat near Vali and when he looked at the bench between them he could read words the other had drawn in the dew on the stone: DONT SPEAK. BUGS EVERYWHERE

Soul smiled at the ingenuity. AND HERE? He wrote.

Vali waved a hand through the undulating, hot fog, a smirk on his face. Then he wrote over the previous text; Soul observing each letter as it was drawn in the same spot: EVEN IR CAMS USELESS, ONLY AUDIO

WHERE RAG + BALDR?

WITH FLAVIA WE HAVE AT LEAST 30 MIN

WHO R U?

FRIEND Soul watched as Vali drew a circle around a three-pointed star—the symbol of the Horlus III police force—followed by the letters SI. Special Investigator. He nodded in acknowledgement. Weighing up his options of how much to reveal at this point, Soul opted for caution: I DONT REMEMBER ANYTHING

U CAPT 1 SOUL WHITEFEATHER WITH H3 MIL RECON – UR TEAM AMBUSHED – ALL DEAD EX U + COMMANDER

Bits and pieces of memories where falling into place, some of them leaving him shaken. If Soul hadn’t already been sweating profusely from the steam, the emotional strain would have done just that. Again he admired Vali’s wits for taking him here where none of his reactions would give him away, as long as he kept his mouth shut. Garran—the name he hadn’t been able to place—Garran was the Commander. He asked to confirm: COMMANDER = GARRAN?

YES GARRAN RAULSTEN HE MAY NOT KNOW U ALIVE

HE WHERE?

INCOMPLETE INTEL – SOLD BEFORE FLAVIA COULD GET HIM

SOLD?

SLAVE LIKE US – BUT HE NO LONGER ON H1

A few more puzzle pieces added to the picture in Soul’s mind. So Garran had managed to escape somehow, but the best bet for Soul’s own rescue and survival would still be to get in touch with unit commader. His memory was still little more than patchy, but if he knew one thing, it was that he trusted Garran unconditionally—except he might not be in any condition to render assistance. GARRAN PARALYZED?

Vali looked at him in surprise and nodded. YES – 1 OF FLAVIAS SICK JOKES He hesitated for a moment his hand still hovering over the bench and frowned. Then he carried on writing: LIKE UR ARM – AMP UNNECESSARY – U KNOW?

Soul nodded and exhaled a long breath. For a moment he watched the swirls of fog his breath propelled about then he raised his shortened arm towards his face and studied the deep purple bruising at its end for a moment, feeling the soreness, but at the same time a strange emotional numbness while looking at his truncated limb. Only the callousness Flavia had exhibited surprised him.

“Sore?” Vali asked.

Soul nodded again and blinked. Vali moved places to sit on his right and suddenly Soul felt Vali’s hands on his shoulder and digging into his traps. He closed his eyes, sighing at the comfort the large, strong hands offered. They moved down his arm, kneading first his deltoids and then with gentle, upward strokes his reconfigured bi- and triceps. Despite the bad bruising, the relief the massage provided was stronger than the pain and a feeling of gratitude swept through Soul. Amazed at the other man’s willingness to touch the stump, Soul dropped his head and relaxed his neck.

After a while, Vali returned to the other side and resumed his writing. BETTER?

Soul nodded again. THANX

ANY TIME

Soul brought the discussion back to the matter at hand: GARRAN LEFT WHEN?

ABOUT 1 WEEK

IN TRANSIT – NOTHING CLOSE Horlus II was currently on the opposite side of the sun while Horlus III was the closest; reachable within 10 to 20 days depending on the craft. Reasonable to assume he would be on his way there. WAY 2 SEND ENCRYPTED MESSAGE WITHOUT ANY1 NOTICING?

Vali didn’t respond for so long that Soul thought he had missed the question, but then, just as he was about to ask again, Vali wrote: IF THEY COME 2 GET U I WANT OUT 2

Soul frowned, unsure of how to respond. Despite the fact that he didn’t get a sense of duplicity, could he trust Vali enough to bring him along? Could it be a ploy to get to Garran? Soul played for time. WHAT?

I WANT 2 LEAVE WITH U – FLAVIA GROWING SUSPICIOUS – MATTER OF TIME UNTIL U + ME R DEAD – TRAITOR IN H3 GOVERNMENT – IM OFF RECORD – NO1 WILL COME 4 ME

Soul made up his mind and nodded. He had to take the risk. If Vali was telling the truth he was in as desperate a situation as he. If not, then he would have to improvise, but passing up this opportunity was not an option. OK – MESSAGE HOW?

HACK ENVIRONMENT CONTROL SERVER – AXESS THROUGH PANEL IN UTIL CLOSET NEXT 2 GYM DOOR – BEWARE CAMERAS/PRYING EYES – HAVE MESSAGE READY – WILL GET U ADMIN ID CHIP L8R TODAY + CRE8 DIVERSION – U FOLLOW?

YES – MEET HERE 4 CHIP?

A smirk appeared on Vali’s face even though he shook his head. NO – KISS ME 

Then he got up and walked to the door of the steam room. Before opening it he turned back to Soul. “I’m going for a swim, Tyr. You should give it a try.” 


Aurora - Part 21

Blue Skies Part 3

Hi,

I've just downloaded the third part to Blue Skies and hope to get started on the fourth soon. Tabby

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Aurora - Part 21


Garran, lying flat on his back with his head propped against a pillow, regarded the crown of Aurra’s head. She was lying on her side, her head on his chest, drawing swirling lines and lazy circles on his stomach. He felt calm—as calm as he hadn’t felt since before Doc’s devastating announcement. If it wasn’t for Aurra still lying here next to him, Garran would have thought the last hour had been a figment of his imagination. An impossible dream, like walking again, but this woman with her audacious behavior had erased some of his doubts, restored some of his self-confidence. Not that he was back to being his old self—far from it, but she had put a stop to his three day pity party. At least he was able to deal with the here and now. And the here and now was okay, not good, but okay. In the here and now missing and paralyzed legs didn’t matter, what they had just shared did. But he didn’t want to think ahead about what it could mean for the future neither. Stay in the here and now. Stay safe.

He moved his hand up from her back to the nape of her neck and felt the velvety softness of her short black hair. “Have you always had short hair?” He murmured.

Aurra turned her head to look at him and simultaneously shifted her hand up to his chest and circled his nipple instead. “No. I used to wear it long, like you. When Doc first told me of you, he showed me a picture of you with long hair. Why did you cut it?”

“I didn’t. It was the first thing they cut off after I was captured. Even before they took me into surgery and cut off my leg.”

Aurra shook her head almost imperceptibly “Why?”

“Why did they cut off my hair or why did they cut off my leg?” He watched as a slight redness crept over Aurra’s cheeks. He smiled. How endearing that she could still feel embarrassed, even after her aggressive sexual overture. “I guess they did both as a sign of disrespect and to show me that they were in control and I was at their mercy.”

Aurra’s eyes grew wide and her eyebrows crept up her forehead during his explanation. “They just amputated your leg for nothing?”

“Well, my ankle was bust, but the treatment didn’t have to be quite so drastic. Obviously it made it far less likely that I would attempt an escape.”

Aurra sat up and the sheet dropped to her waist, giving Garran another view of her firm, round, little breasts. He had never been overly excited by large breasts and in comparison he preferred Aurra’s to those artificially enhanced ones of many of his previous sexual encounters. Everything about Aurra was authentic he realized. She had no need for games and pretense. His gaze dropped down to her hands. Fascinated as he had been with her breasts he had missed that she had pulled the sheet away from his left leg and placed his stump in her lap. He flinched, wishing he could pull his leg away and hide it, but he couldn’t, so he flippantly said: “It’s not pretty.”

“It’s not ugly.” She admonished his attempt at self-effacement and sent him one of those heart-stopping smiles. “Really, it doesn’t bother me.” She smoothed her hands over it then lifted it almost reverently to her lips and placed a kiss on the rounded end. She lowered it gently back down to the bed and pulled the sheet over his leg before stretching out next to him again. “I don’t ever want you to feel like you need to hide your legs from me; either one of them.”

All Garran could do was nod. He couldn’t bring a sound across his lips; his throat had gone completely dry. He sat up and reached for the wheelchair. Aurra looked up at him questioningly. “Stay.” He croaked, “I need the bathroom.”

He transferred across and escaped into the bathroom. Closing the door quietly behind him he rolled to the sink and placed his hands on the edge and his forehead on top. If Aurra could accept his shortcomings why couldn’t he? He didn’t really have a life to return to anyway, why should it matter if he never had his leg replaced and never walked again? Could he stay here in this little safe haven, on this ship, with Aurra and Doc and the rest of the crew and be happy? Could he be happy without the anticipation and then the adrenaline rush of the next mission? Could he be happy despite the wheelchair? Could he be happy with Aurra? Could he be happy without her?

The question caught him by surprise. He had already acknowledged that Aurra intrigued him; that he wanted to be friends with her—well; they had already advanced to the friends with benefits stage—but he felt confused and intimidated by the unfamiliar surge of emotion at the thought of not having Aurra in is life. Were his feelings for her deepening? Was he ready for more or was she just the silver lining at the horizon of an otherwise hopeless situation?

He pushed himself up and filled a water bottle with water from the tap. He swallowed a few mouthfuls and feeling better, but not necessarily any wiser, he made his way back into the cabin where he found Aurra soundly asleep.

He grabbed his clothes and returned to the bathroom where he dressed as quietly as possible. When Aurra was still asleep when he emerged some time later, he left her to rest and left his cabin for the cockpit for the first time since his last unpleasant visit to the medical bay. Aurra deserved her sleep and he had job to do which he had neglected long enough already.

***

Kiss me! Soul pondered the meaning of Vali’s words. He had spent the last few hours since his trip to the steam room in the common room that all the men—the slaves, he reminded himself—working for Flavia shared. Rag and Baldr had reappeared and had stayed close by, but didn’t seem to pay him any particular mind. They sat together with two other men to whom Soul hadn’t been introduced, yet. The four were sitting around a 3D display table, on the surface of which some sort of ball game—a variant of football as far as Soul could tell—was playing out. The sound was projected at the seats around the table so Soul couldn’t hear any of the reporting, but he could hear Rag’s mumbled words as he provided additional live commentary to his blind companion. Another slave named Heimdall whose acquaintance Soul had made the previous day in the gym was reading and occasionally glancing in his direction, but in fact no one seemed to pay Soul any particular attention. That suited him just fine while he observed the movements of everyone from below lowered eyelids.

Fenrir entered the room and Soul’s heart rate sped up in anxious anticipation of a summons to the next fight. But it didn’t come. Instead, as Fenrir’s gaze swept the room, his eyes held Soul's for a moment and then he nodded his head once in apparent acknowledgment of his opponent’s presence and dominance. Soul released a breath he hadn’t quite realized he’d been holding. Surprised at the gesture being made without any display of aggression or I’ll-get-back-at-you-attitude, he nodded back. Then driven by some impish impulse Soul lifted his stump towards his forehead and tipped his head slightly to the right until his head and the end of the stump touched together in a mock salute. A semblance of a grin relaxed Fenrir’s features momentarily before he turned and left.

From his vantage point on one of the deep, plush, circular recliners that molded itself around his body, Soul watched him disappear into the gym. If he hadn’t missed anyone, that brought the number of people in the gym to four.

Before returning to his bedroom, Soul had passed through all the rooms that made up the gym and spa area, seemingly exploring the still unfamiliar places at his leisure. In truth he had been scouting out the layout, the cameras, the people and what they were doing. He had watched Vali for a moment, slicing through the pool with languid strokes.

If anyone was following his movements through the hidden cameras, then the fact that he had explored every room, every nook and cranny, gave him the appropriate excuse to open the door to the utility closet by the gym door. He had taken note of the access panel Vali had mentioned. He would need a tool to open it and it looked like the blades he had spirited out of the dungeon might just be right for the job.

Soul had gotten dressed in the most loose-fitting clothes he had been provided with and had even put on the silk gown again. He wanted to give the impression of being sore and exhausted, so he had made a point of moving a bit more slowly and stiffly than really necessary. Before he had settled into the lounger that gave him the best vantage point of all the comings and goings he had even gone and collected a cryo-pack and a few loose scatter cushions and had propped up his stump. And—he conceded with a sigh as he settled himself deeper into the comfortable leather—though it didn’t feel quite as good as the massage that Vali had given him earlier, it did feel better this way.

Flavia’s flair for dramatic settings was clearly evident in the room. Stone cladding, dragons and other fantastic animals carved from the same roughly textured stone interspersed with wood paneling and windows much higher than wide topped by pointed arches. The ceiling was one big electronic display providing the optical illusion that the room was at least twice its physical height and that one was actually inside a roofless ruin, which currently gave way to a sunlit sky, traversed by an occasional cloud. The furniture matched the décor. It was all heavy, carved wood, thick, but soft leather and applications of forged iron bands and nails.

Vali had been conspicuously absent ever since their encounter in the morning. For all Soul knew he was still in the gym area. He wasn’t quite sure if this was a good or bad sign. All the while he had been waiting and observing, Soul had been busy crafting the message in his head which he would send out if all went according to plan. Since he had no way of knowing where exactly the ship he presumed Garran to be on was located or what kind of vessel it was, he would have to use a common frequency and hope for the best that Garran got the message. Even though he would program the message to repeat broadcast in regular intervals it would surely only be a matter of time before it was discovered and taken off the air. If he was lucky, no one would connect him to the message, but he doubted that he would get more than one chance.

He decided to disguise it as an emergency call—which ironically it was. By chance he had figured out his location: Fano Tower. Rag had told him earlier that he could go up to the roof to tan in the buff and that since he was in the highest building on the planet he needn’t be worried about onlookers. That had been a vital piece of information that would hopefully bring the cavalry right to his door. If Garran had been gone for a week it would be at least that long until he could expect anything to happen. Until then staying alive had to be his number one priority.

Another two men Soul hadn’t met before appeared in the lounge. They walked arm in arm and Soul noticed that none of the others seemed to mind their obvious amorous behavior. Soul watched them as they stopped at the game table and chatted with Baldr. Well, one was talking while the other was standing behind him, caressing him and placing playful kisses on the speaker’s neck and shoulders. Since they were facing away from him Soul couldn’t see the speaker’s lips and only caught fragments of the conversation, but it seemed they were inviting Baldr to a threesome. The two lovers left in the direction of the bedrooms and Baldr got up and followed soon after. Based on what he had just witnessed Soul assumed that kissing Vali wouldn’t raise anyone’s eyebrows.

Soul got up and went to the bar to get something to drink. He picked up a cooler and turned to return to his seat when Vali sauntered into the room. Soul acknowledged him by raising the bottle and Vali’s eyes lit up. A grin spread across his features and he closed the distance on Soul.

Soul put the bottle down and leaned back against the bar counter, beckoning Vali closer. Just the thought of what he was about to do stirred his manhood to life. Before embarrassment got the upper hand, Soul consoled himself with the fact that it added realism to the situation. When the taller man stood in front of him, Soul reached for the back of Vali’s head and pulled him in for a scorching kiss. Vali’s arms came around him and pulled Soul into his equally aroused body. Relief flooded through Soul while at the same time Vali’s tongue pushed a microchip into Soul’s mouth. After another moment Vali broke the kiss and his lips nuzzled Soul’s earlobe. “Powerfail in five. Get into position before main power returns.” Then he pushed back and said normally: “I have to go and run an errand for Flavia, but I’ll be back in half an hour. Come find me in my room.”

Soul nodded and watched Vali’s retreating form. With the chip under his tongue he picked up the cooler again and downed its contents, willing his heartbeat to come back under control. He headed for one of the toilets to be inconspicuously closer to the gym and waited for his opportunity to slip into the utility closet unnoticed. He wondered how Vali had engineered a power failure and what exactly would be switched off. Buildings like this had back up power and many devices had their own battery back-up, but maybe it would just take up everyone’s attention enough to give him the window of opportunity he needed.

Following his intuition, Soul left the toilet and walked slowly into the gym. He had just passed through the gym doors, feeling at least one set of eyes on his back—Heimdall he mused—when the lights flickered and then went out. Soul dove to his right and just closed the utility closet door behind him when the lights came back. He rested his back against the door and listened for any footsteps approaching outside. None came. Maybe the few seconds of darkness had deceived Heimdall into thinking that Soul had carried on straight into the gym.

Soul momentarily considered obstructing the door from the inside, but if someone came looking for him he would be trapped in here regardless. He moved over to the panel and drew a knife from the sheath strapped to his lower leg. He slid it into the gap and popped it loose. As he had expected the cover was held on by a number of magnets. He pushed and held against it with his stump until he could slip his fingers into the gap and lower it noiselessly to the floor.

With relief he saw a standard computing console apparently monitoring and controlling the gym’s environment settings. While he inserted the chip Vali had given him into the chip reader and waited for the console window to open, he noted the settings for the weights floor and spa, pool and steam room: temperatures, humidity, ambiance settings and such; gathering as much information as possible to be put to use later on. Finally the console window opened. Vali had made good on his word. He really hoped the other man had not put himself into any immediate danger, but then he pushed the thought away. No time to worry about this now.

Soul navigated his way to a program that would give him access to a satellite’s emergency channel. Scheduled broadcast listings scrolled down the screen. Soul picked an empty position and keyed in his cryptic message. Of all the times he had already cursed his lack of a right hand, this moment was the most infuriating, yet. He bit back the curse and concentrated, typing left-handedly as fast as he could. Finally the text was complete. He set the broadcast parameters to repeat five times an hour, hoping to attract Garran’s attention, but not those who would take his message offline again. He waited until the message had broadcast for the first time, retrieved the microchip but hid it inside the panel, replaced the cover and returned to the door. He listened for a while and when he couldn’t hear anything he opened the door a fraction. He could just see Heimdall once more engrossed in his reading.

About to take a chance and sneak out, Soul caught another lucky break. Someone spoke to Heimdall who looked up and put away his reader. Then he got up and disappeared from sight. Soul slipped through the door into the gym proper. Time to go for the swim Vali had recommended. 


Aurora - Part 22

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Aurora - Part 22


… Mayday-mayday-mayday. Taku Skan-Taku Skan-Taku Skan. 4 flights from the top of HI. 2 CR …

Garran stared at the message that had appeared and disappeared on the screen in front of him. The emergency frequency was always being received and any text contained was continuously scrolling along the bottom of the main monitor. There it was again:

… Mayday-mayday-mayday. Taku Skan-Taku Skan-Taku Skan. 4 flights from the top of HI. 2 CR …

Garran took the phone from his pocket and pressed Docs speed-dial. Doc answered so quickly it gave Garran the impression he had been waiting for the call. “Look who’s finally come out of his hole. What can I do for you?”

“Come to the cockpit. I want to show you something.”

“On my way.”

Less than two minutes later Doc walked in and took the copilot’s seat across from Garran. Garran steeled himself for Doc’s reproach or a question as to how he was feeling, but to his surprise the other man remained silent. So he picked up the conversation. “Look at this.” He pointed to the message he had singled out and positioned in the middle of the main screen.

Doc’s lips moved as he quietly read the emergency call. “What about it?”

“What do you think Aurra would say if I asked her to turn around and go back to Horlus I?”

“I suppose she would justifiably ask you if you’ve lost your mind.”

“I guess so and she might even have a point.”

“I assume you have a better reason than putting an end to your miserable existence to justify returning to the lion’s den. I would have thought you’d want to put as much distance between you and that place as possible.”

“Let’s say I have learned a few things in the last couple of hours. One of which is that my existence is not quite as miserable as I first thought and that running away is not the right solution. But no—this is not about me. This is about my men. It looks like two of them are still alive.”

Doc’s face betrayed his surprise, but then it turned into a frown. “Is it possible? Or could it be a ruse to get you to come back?”

Garran shrugged his shoulders. “I never had a chance to confirm their fate. I guess it could be a trap, but I will never find peace again if there is even the slightest chance that this message is real.” Garran waved a hand at his legs. “And they are in real danger. After what they did to me I don’t even want to consider what they might have done to them.

“Soul—Captain Whitefeather is not just my number two, he is also my best friend. We grew up together.”

“Hmm. So what makes you so convinced that this message is real?”

“The name. Taku Skan is one of Soul’s aliases. But it’s one he used to use when we were teenagers. He hasn’t used it in years. I don’t think anyone other than me knows it. How would they?”

“Maybe they tortured him?”

“Maybe they did, but why give up that piece of information? I don’t think he would have done that. Soul has this uncanny ability to draw into himself. He has the highest pain threshold of my entire team.”

“So let’s say this is real and two of your men are alive and in need of extraction. Then what? Provided we can find them are you just going to roll in there and say thank you for looking after my men and stroll out again?”

Garran grimaced and shot an annoyed look at Doc. “You know this game as well as I, Doc. What we need is a solid approach. Get your famous strategic thinking cap. I’m trying to enlist your help here.”

“Fair enough, but first things first. We need more intel, but before we draw on any resources or decide on any course changes, Aurra needs to give her approval.” He got up off the chair and turned into the passage.

Garran reached out his hand and grabbed Doc’s arm. “Aurra is sleeping—for the first time in days I think.”

“Yes and whose bull-headedness do we have to thank for that?” Doc turned toward Garran with a stern expression on his face.

Garran released Doc’s arm and lifted his hands in defense. “Guilty, but just cut me some slack here. It’s not every day that you learn that you’ll never walk again.”

“Well, you’ve had enough slack to last a lifetime. I think the situation justifies waking her.” He turned away again to make his way out of the cockpit.

“No. Wait. I’ll go.” Garran lifted the wheelchair over his lap and unfolded it, then transferred across. Doc stepped back to let Garran pass.

“I’ll be right back. Put your thinking cap on so long.”

Garran entered his cabin and found Aurra still asleep. He watched her for a moment, reaching for her with his hand. Then he thought better of it and transferred onto the bed. He rolled onto his side and kissed her temple. “Aurra?”

Aurra scooted closer, but didn’t open her eyes. “Hmm?”

“Aurra, I need you to come to the cockpit. Something has come up.”

Aurra’s eyes flipped open, immediately alert. “What’s up?”

“There was a message on the emergency channel. I think it is from one of my team.”

Aurra was already out of the bed and gathering up her clothes while Garran was still busy pushing himself back to the edge of the bed to get back into his wheelchair.

“Before you thought your team was all dead. Now you think someone is alive?” She stated matter-of-factly. “What if it’s a trap?” She pulled on her pants and shirt then sat back down and pulled on her socks and boots.

“That possibility has crossed my mind, but I think the message is real and considering what they did to me I think my men are in considerable danger.”

“You think it’s more than one?”

“The message implies two.”

“So what do you want to do?”

“First I want to sit down with you and Doc and think about the situation with a clear head—come up with options.”

“Okay. Let’s go.” Aurra strode to the door, but before she got there she stopped and turned. She looked at Garran for a moment, but then lowered her gaze, fidgeting with her sleeves for a bit then she took a deep breath. “I know this is the wrong time, but I have a question that has been going around my mind for some time and it has an impact on the decisions I will have to make.” She still wouldn’t look at him. “I don’t know where I stand with you—so even though it may be an uncomfortable question, please don’t lie to me.” She took another deep breath. “Do we have a future?”

As Aurra got to the point Garran psyched himself up to control the wave of panic he expected the question to provoke. Yet, it didn’t come. Instead he felt an unexpected sense of tenderness towards her, nonetheless combined with a solid dose of doubt and fear. How could he be what Aurra deserved? It was the doubt that stopped him from answering.

Seconds ticked by and Garran saw vulnerability, hope and pain in her face, before she shut down and turned away. Reaching for the door, Garran heard her whisper, “Okay.”

Garran’s heart nearly stopped. He didn’t know what to say, but if he didn’t say something he would lose her. He forced the first word across his lips.

“Aurra.” He’d stopped her before she had pulled open the door.

She held absolutely still, but didn’t turn to face him again.

“I would very much like for us to have a future, but I have nothing to offer.”

Finally she turned and a shy smile burst through her stoic façade that made Garran’s heart skip yet another beat. “You are enough.”


Aurora - Part 23

Friday, May 25, 2012

Aurora - Part 23


“Enough!” Flavia van der Riijn stood and walked to the edge of the podium on which her throne-like chair was situated, putting an end to the fight. Fenrir was regarding her wearily, balanced as he was on one leg, the other knee drawn up, expecting Flavia’s command to drop his entire weight onto the unconscious man below him, crushing his chest by driving his knee into the solar plexus. A maneuver that was almost certain to kill him.

He lowered his foot to the floor and stepped back as bidden. Flavia smiled her approval at Fenrir, particularly since she could feel his disappointment of being denied the killing blow. But Flavia had enjoyed the spirited fight way too much to let go of her latest source of entertainment, yet.

Her pleated, peach colored silk velvet cape billowed gently behind her as she stepped down to the level of the mat in the center of the dungeon. Walking towards the prone body, she considered her options. Tyr had fought valiantly, but this time she had refused him a weapon which had put him at a clear disadvantage. His style had become far less aggressive, waiting for Fenrir to attack and then turning the attack to his advantage by feinting and drawing the taller man in to overcommit himself.

Really, before she tired of him, Flavia made a mental note, she needed to have Tyr instruct the other fighters in the intricacies and nuances of close combat. Watching Tyr use his entire body and particularly his stump to deceive his taller, but slower opponent was truly inspirational. Most of the people Flavia had subjected to similar treatment over the years had succumbed to depression, unable to rise above their imposed limitation. But Tyr was one of the special few who rose to the occasion to explore new, creative ways in his fighting. She had watched him train and she had watched him fight. Standing at the edge of the tatami mat she regarded the man in the center and then the others in turn. Ragnarok, Baldr, and Fenrir.

No, undoubtedly she had made Tyr better. A warm feeling washed over Flavia. Wasn’t Baldr another perfect example? Not that she had caused his blindness, but by returning him to only minimal vision, he was able to function effectively, but at the same time fabulously attuned to every crick and kink in her own imperfect body.

Flavia advanced, bent down and felt Tyr’s pulse which was strong and steady. Straightening she waved Rag to her side. “He’s taken a liking to Vali, has he not?”

Rag shrugged his shoulders. Baldr spoke from behind him. “It would seem so. They kissed and Heimdall said they spent time in the gym together.”

Flavia didn’t see any reason to discourage the evolving relationship between the two men. If anything, it would bind him more strongly to her; particularly since the memory suppression seemed to be working well so far. Tyr had shown no inward or outward signs of distress that would indicate that he had remembered any significant information. His heart rate and stress levels were continuously monitored by his implanted failsafe, but correlations between his physical state and environmental conditions had shown nothing that would be of any concern so far. So she felt indulgent toward the man.

“Bring Tyr to him. It will raise his spirits when he wakes up.” She walked back up the stairs onto the dais. Sitting back down in her chair she stared at the white bird on its perch next to her. It sidled closer, the crest on its head raised, tilting and twisting its head to garner its mistress’ attention.

Flavia stared at it; the perfectly sized feathers, the equidistant spacing, the perfection in its programmed movements and mannerisms and a realization hit her—she hated perfection. Perfection made everything predictable, repeatable and boring. Flavia looked at Rag who was busy lifting the unconscious Tyr over his shoulder and at Balder who stood at ease on the side of the mat and realized just how much she preferred her imperfect slaves, Rag, Baldr and Tyr over the perfect ones. In comparison, Fenrir was insignificant; perfection made flesh, but his flawlessness left her cold.

Perfection, she reasoned, was the scourge of the world. Nearly everyone was striving for perfection and in turn was expecting perfection from, or worse, forcing perfection onto others. How she hated her father who for years had made her suffer in order to make her perfect. But she was perfect as she was—better than all of them—certainly smarter than her perfect father who, for all his blustering, nearly suffered a mental breakdown each time he found a new imperfection on his aging body.

It was time, Flavia decided, time to see if her father was made of the same stern stuff as she—or Rag, or Baldr or Tyr. Or even Garran. Though she had never personally met the man, she found it hard to believe that it would have been sheer luck that made him evade her. It seemed that his physical limitations had not held him down, but rather given him the edge he had needed to best her.

The sound of her giggles erupted from her throat. Time to test her theory, she decided. And who better to test it on than her father.

***

Soul took stock of his body without as much as moving a toe. Everything hurt. He concentrated on compartmentalizing the pain, to push it back in his mind so that after a while if faded into the background. He knew it wouldn’t last, but at least as long as he didn’t move he could keep the pain at bay.

Another fight. Fenrir had come to the pool where Soul had been busy exploring ways to adapt his swimming technique to make up for his missing arm. All in all it didn’t require a lot of adjustment; it just felt strange because his timing felt off. Soul had been summoned to the dungeon with just enough time to get changed. Not enough time to let Vali know what was happening.

Vali—a feeling of excited anticipation flooded Soul at the thought of the other man. Vali hadn’t been present during the fight, but maybe he was still in his room. Maybe he could wrestle up the energy—in a few minutes or so—and make his way there; he certainly could use another of Vali’s massages right now.

At least, it seemed, his defeat in today’s fight hadn’t been met with Flavia’s ire—yet. How many more defeats would she tolerate before she allowed Fenrir to finish him off? Soul barely opened one eye, but even the fairly dim light immediately caused the pounding to return to his temples. He groaned as he rolled onto his back and pulled his arm across his face to cover his eyes.

“How are you feeling?” A low voice questioned him from somewhere off to his right.

A tentative smile sneaked its way across Souls features when he recognized Vali’s voice. “Like I have been run over by a cargo transport.”

“Can I get you anything?”

“A new head?”

A low chuckling erupted. “One new head coming right up.”

Soul heard the noise of running water and then felt the matrass give under Vali’s weight. His arm was pushed up and a hot towel put in its place.

Soul sighed in relief.

“What else?”

“How about an entire new body? Rather ask me what’s not hurting.” His voice sounded muffled to his own ears under the towel.

“What’s not hurting?”

“My right hand.”

“But you have got no …”

“Exactly.” Soul pulled the towel off his face, squinting, but grinning at the baffled look on Vali’s face. “But I wouldn’t mind another massage if your offer still stands.”

“Sure. Let me grab some oil.” The matrass shifted again as Vali got up and walked to a cabinet built into the wall.

Soul rolled over onto his stomach, placing his cheek on the back of his hand. “Why am I here and where are Tim and Tam?”

“Who?”

“Rag and Baldr.”

“They brought you here for me to spruce you up again.” Vali’s grin gave away how pleased he was with this turn of events. He veered from his path and dialed up some music then he returned to the bed and after applying the aromatic oil started massaging Soul’s back and shoulders. Leaning in close he spoke softly directly into Soul’s ear. “Flavia is gone on a trip to Nifol Diepte. She’s taken Rag, Baldr, Heimdall and some of the others with her; apparently even Dr. Balkenhorn. Horlus only knows what she’s up to. It’s the first time in as long as I’ve been here that she’s left this building.”

“What’s Nifol … Whatever?” Soul whispered.

“An island off the coast of the Southern continent. It’s her father’s main residence.” Vali leaned even closer, his lips gently nuzzling Soul’s ear. “Whoever made you guys believe that the fortress outside Fanowar was the Eminence’s main residence sent you straight into that trap.”

Another few pieces connected inside Soul’s head. The Eminence was the man they had been sent to eliminate and …—but Vali’s lips on his ear lobe and his hands on his shoulders were entirely too distracting to think clearly. “You keep that up and you may have to take care of some other parts of my anatomy as well,” he murmured.

Vali placed a gentle kiss on Soul’s temple. “It would be my pleasure.” He nudged Soul to roll over onto his back. When he did, Vali started massaging Soul’s pecks then circled his nipples with each thumb. Soul groaned under the other man’s sensual touch. Vali’s right hand shifted downward, travelling slowly toward Soul’s groin.

Soul placed his hand on Vali’s and stopped its progression before he lost his train of thought entirely “Wait. Something doesn’t add up,” he mouthed. “What does Flavia’s trip have to do with our mission?”

Vali leaned forward again, this time letting his lips pay attention to the other earlobe. He whispered once more. “The Eminence is Flavia’s Father—Gideon van der Riijn, but let’s not worry about that right now.” His hand moved down further until it took hold of Soul’s erect cock, stroking it slowly, covering it with the oil from his hand, while his mouth moved in a slow arc along the line of Soul’s jaw toward the other man’s lips.

Another cog slipped into place, but Soul closed it down to reflect on some other time. “No, let’s not” he agreed and met Vali’s lips with his.


Aurora - Part 24