Sep 032012
 

Colorful painting of female figures dancing, with red, green, yellow, and flesh tones predominating.“Wow. That was nice, Jamed.” Yalet stretched, luxuriously, a ripple of motion down a body whose loveliness owed almost nothing to bio-sculp. “Thank you.”

“Thank you, my dear. It’s nice to know that my youth isn’t entirely a thing of the past.” Jamed Ursek chuckled gently, and caressed the abundant soft hair spread on the pillow beside him.

Yalet blinked up into his face, blue eyes wide. “You’re not very old! And anyway, the young ones are…” her nose wrinkled a little. “Well, they’re energetic, but they don’t have much style, if you know what I mean.”

Jamed laughed. She probably said the same thing to a hundred men a year, but she certainly managed to deliver the line with sincerity. He groaned a little, involuntarily, as he turned and swung his legs out of bed. He was in decent shape, worked out regularly, but he’d used muscles that didn’t come into his regular regimen.

The heavy lirasilk robe was tossed over a chair beside the nightstand; he reached for it and swung it over his shoulders.

“No, no, stay where you are, my dear. I’m just going to get us a drink. I could certainly use one, anyway. You?”

She turned, and raised herself on an elbow. “One of those jet-propelled fruit things? Sure! I never had anything like that before, those are good.” It had been one of several pleasant surprises that, while he’d welcomed her with a glass of very expensive brandy, he’d then switched to the amazing tangy-sweet fruit concoction from a real crystal decanter in the room chiller. She’d not had to worry about palming more booze, just enjoyed the light glow of the one brandy and then really liked the tart, sweet thing he’d called a “rembek tootie” or something like that.

“Ah. I’m glad you approve. The rembek comes all the way from Surimaka Delta, shipped intact, since they don’t deconstitute well. A very expensive vice, but I developed a taste for it when I was stationed at Raliki.” He poured the sparkling, pale-green concoction into two tall, narrow, footed goblets.

Her eyes widened again, as she reached for the goblet he extended. “You’re not a Homie, then? I didn’t think so!”

“Certainly not. Klaros Legion, retired General-Hartman.” He set his goblet on the nightstand and slid back in next to her, reaching to dial the canopy lights to a marginally brighter golden glow that gave her skin a warm luster. His eyes dwelt appreciatively on the exquisite curve of shoulder and breast for a moment, then he picked up his goblet and held it out.

Her eyes sparkled as she tapped it with her own glass. Yalet wasn’t too sure of the higher military ranks, but she knew that any kind of General was pretty far up there. “I always kind of envied military women,” she confessed. “It must be wonderful to travel, and see how people live on other worlds. Even if they are all benighted heretics,” she added hastily, her gaze becoming suddenly wary.

Retired General-Hartman Jamed Ursek suppressed a cynical grin. “A very proper sentiment. Yes, it’s interesting,” he gazed into the middle distance for a moment, remembering a few things, then pulled his attention back to the amazingly lovely woman beside him. “Oh, well, they also serve who only help retired old officers ease a little biological back pressure,” he smiled.

She laughed. “I guess it’s the least I can do, as a patriotic citizen.” She sensed he was drifting a little, and lay quietly beside him, sipping the delicious drink occasionally. His gaze had returned to the middle distance, and his face was hard to read. She wondered if she should make a gesture toward going, decided to leave it for a bit. When he came out of his brown study, she’d be able to get a better read on it.

He’d pleasantly surprised her, and she’d been glad to deliver with real sincerity the conventional thanks she delivered so often with carefully calculated coquetry. Older men sometimes, especially if the ‘biological back pressure’—she grinned a little at the phrase—had been building up for a long time, were a little too abrupt for her to really hit her stride. Jamed had been one of the lingering kind, and also one of the confident ones, neither intimidated by her looks nor anxious about their own capabilities. It had been nice. Very nice. Why, she wondered for the billionth time, did the Church have such a down on it?

She looked up at the half-dome canopy that covered the upper third of the bed, lights gleaming subtly from artful recesses. A sideways glance at him reassured her that the customer was still off in his own thoughts. Sometimes they wanted to talk, and sometimes not. Sort of a shame Jamed wasn’t the talking kind, he had interesting stories, she’d bet. The little he had told her, that he was a widower, retired, treating his two daughters and their families to a family holiday at Birval before taking up a lectureship at the Altyne Orbital educational facility, was intriguing enough. Altyne Orbital was that big satellite cluster, riding out beyond Revielle D, where all the famous scientists and writers were. EduTel had run a vid program on it last year.

Yalet always watched EduTel when she had a chance. Her own education had ended at Eight-level, which was better than most in Reschek, the small Fard Karachik community she’d grown up in, but she always wished she’d been eligible for the extra two levels that the better-class cit kids could request.

One more sip, and the lovely fruit stuff was gone. She glanced sideways at Jamed, who was, she thought, smiling faintly now, and set her glass on the nightstand beside her. The tiny chink seemed to recall him, and he turned his head to look at her, and smiled. “Sorry, my dear—Yalet. How discourteous of me to leave a lady unaccompanied.”

Her eyes crinkled at the corners with her smile. “Not at all, if you were enjoying yourself. I like seeing people enjoy themselves.”

He chuckled then. “You do, don’t you. How admirably suitable.”

She had the read on him now, something in the tone of voice told her the evening was over. She slid out of bed, and came round to his side, and leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. “You’re a great gentleman.”

“Well, thank you. You must go?” It was a polite enquiry, but he was already elsewhere.

“Indeed, I have to get some beauty sleep, Citi… er, General. I have three shows tomorrow.” She let a saucy lilt come into her smile. “’But all you have to do is…whistle!’” She quoted the classic line from Evening at the Tower.

“‘Ahh… and I do know how to whistle!’” he smiled, capping the quote.

She went to the chair beside the table where she’d left the wrap and low-cut gown and provocative underthings she’d been wearing. “Shall I take these in the ’fresher?” Some men, she knew, loved to watch a woman undress but didn’t care for the reverse process.

“You needn’t, unless you’d like to.” She was pleased by his attention as she drew the garments on, carefully, one by one, then went to stand before the vast mirror by the console between the windows, and tidied her hair and face.

Jamed wasn’t conscious of how much he enjoyed watching her dress at first, but then he realized it had been, what…–nine years?—since he’d been both intimate and relaxed enough with a woman to watch the little smoothings and pattings and attentions she gave to herself during the dressing process. He thought of Liret, but it was a warm nostalgia, not the painful ache that often came with such memories. As Yalet gathered the tiny gilt bag and scarf, he slid from the bed himself, took a folder from his dressing-gown pocket, abstracted a credit slip, and walked her to the door.

“I hope you’ll allow me to express a little extra appreciation, Yalet. I very much enjoyed myself… and you.” And he bowed over her hand just as though she were a real exec-class type lady.

He was a real gentleman, to be sure. She gave him her warmest smile and most appreciative wink, as the door closed behind her.

Sep 032012
 

Tubular space with reddish light and reflections, with pipes and round stanchion running down the center.

Three days before nearly half a billion people were wiped out in a few hours, and the priorities of the eight hundred thousand or so surviving Klarosians changed drastically, priorities were the last thing on the mind of Yalet Redal, civilian (class S) and about-to-be-former occupant of cubage K4-8G-1422 in the Six Under district of Pykalt. Although listed as Q/K4-8G-1422 in the records of the Insystem Office of Cubage, it was known as Ma Keller’s to its occupants, since Ma held the permlease on the premises.

Yalet decided she wouldn’t be sorry to bid farewell to the two cramped little rooms. They had once been dosses for employees of Pyvart Engineering, the company that had excavated the original habitat here on Reveille C’s larger moon, and consequently possessed environmental control facilities appropriate to temporary habitations—and dating from a bygone era, at that. In other words, they were stuffy, overheated, and both the lighting tubes and ‘fresher facilities were inadequate. The one mandatory “view” panel was a simple day/night relay from the Pykalt Municipal Park that was out of order half the time.

The furnishings were all battered built-ins, except for the little plaswood table Yalet had brought with her, that held her scroller and a decorative jewelry box. She scooped box and scroller into the smaller of her two hold-alls, and made one more check of the underbed storage drawers. Empty. She traveled light; since her costumes, makeup, and stage jewelry were stored in her dressing locker at the Pleasuredome resort hotel. Her only acquisitive vices were jewelry and storychips, neither of which took up much space.

That was a good thing, since the residential cubicle that had just come vacant at the Pleasuredome’s Transient Workers’ Complex was even smaller than her space at Ma Keller’s. She’d miss Ma, and a few of her fellow-tenants, but not having to commute nearly an hour each way was more than worth it. And the upgrade in status from Casual Worker to Temporary Worker carried other advantages, too. She might even be able to angle an upgrade to Employee-Probationary Grade by the end of the year. If she continued to funnel the generous rakeoffs from her unofficial “tips” income to Ild Devet, the assistant maiter in charge of the Dastek Dining Room.

A final look around—and one more check in the tiny ‘fresher, where she caught a glimpse of her grinning mug in the mirror and stuck her tongue out at herself. Ridiculous to be so excited about it, really, though excitement did things for her natural-blue eyes and lent an additional glow to her creamy skin. She waved a hand over the sensor to douse the lights, and thumbed the lock for the last time without regret.

Ma was in her office, adjacent to the subwarren’s main entry. The office also served as her living cubage, and was a comfortable clutter of furniture, endless racks of mylar wisps, at least four comstations in various states of disrepair, three coffeemakers, ditto, racks of cleaning supplies and countless other artifacts of nameless origin and purpose.

“I’m off, Ma.” She set the holdalls down just inside the door.

“Good thing, too,” her erstwhile landlady growled. “I got a new tenant hot an’ runnin’ to get in.” She sniffed, which might have been an effort to suppress emotion, but was more likely the aftereffects of a joyjuice hangover. “Y’ll be sorry one of these days, y’know… lettin’ premium cubage like this go…”

Yalet grinned. “I’m sorry already, but not about the cubage, Ma. You take care of yourself, huh?”

“Sure, sure, kiddo. OK, I gotcher deposit forya. Thumb here,” she held out the reader in one skinny claw. Yalet noted the ‘TX-Ready’ indicator, and her cash account receipt code, and thumbprinted the transaction receipt. Ma clicked the verification button, and collected the wisp of mylar that extruded from the reader’s slot. “Well, that’s that. Gonna miss ya, kiddo… you gave the place a little class, y’know?” She heaved a sigh.

“Yeah, well, you gotta be careful, Ma… too much class and they’ll be wanting to raise your cubage rating, and who needs the extra taxes?”

The older woman’s wheezy chuckle followed her out the door.

Six Under main corridors were crowded, noisy, and none too clean. Yalet kept a tight grip on her holdalls as she made her way to the transfer tube.

Aug 272012
 

Painting, abstract, female form in motion with colors streaming around her as in a dance.As the music swelled and applause rippled through the dining room, Yalet tensed her muscles, poised on her toes, and gave a last tug at the sparkling molded silicate bustier that enhanced her mammary glands. On cue, she high-kicked out from behind the proscenium, perfectly synchronized with the other eleven women who made up Dastek’s Divine Dozen Dazzlers, working their way around the arched thrust that put the stage show “right at the side of your table!”

There. That one, maybe… though he had a woman sitting next to him. Or possibly that one, although he looked half-toasted already, maybe wouldn’t be able to go the distance. Barely breathing hard, she reached the end of her promenade, pirouetted, chausee’d back two steps, then forward three, then started back across the thrust. She gave more careful consideration to the older of the two men sitting at table eighteen as she passed, making him for exec-class, possibly a junior boardsman. And the woman with him, so much younger—wife, or daughter? Hard to tell.

On the third pass she gave him the eyeball, catching his gaze and giving him a just-for-you-honey smile. Daughter, certainly. He had not the slightest hesitation about smiling back, and there was a definite family resemblance. But maybe not an exec, after all. Something about the way he sat said mil, possibly retired. Hopefully not an undercover proctor’s nark, he looked too high-up for that.

She went into a series of gliding kicks, circling the warbler as the song reached a crescendo, then sinking slowly, with exquisite control, into a full split, her torso stretched back over the extended left leg, arms extended to meet those of the dancers to left and right. Behind the show, the holscreen showed the overhead view of the pattern they made, the warbler’s swirly dress coordinated with the glittering costumes of the dancers, and there was another spattering of applause.

The music paused, the warbler went into a brilliant cadenza of vocal flourishes, and then the FX flares went off as the playback crashed back in. Yalet let her arms drift to the floor, began drawing up her left knee slightly, found her balance and lifted the front leg into a full back walkover in slow motion. As she and the other dancers’ right legs reached full vertical extension, the bows perched on the front of their flirty high-heeled shoes shot fountains of rainbow-colored sparkles over the tableau for the blowoff. An old-fashioned number, but a crowd-pleaser.

Next number was a cracker, to give the Dozen a costume change. On the way back to the dressing room, she walked past Ild Devet, one of the assistant maiters, standing in the wings watching the show. As she passed, she murmured. “Eighteen. Senior,” and he inclined his chin a centimeter, without looking at her or giving any other sign he’d heard.

The Dozen’s next number was the climax of the early show, a bravura display of acrobatic dance, posing, and special effects. Billed as a “Celebration of Beauty,” there was nothing overtly erotic about it—they weren’t in that part of the resort; Treasuredome was billed as a “family” hotel—it nevertheless gave male customers so inclined a chance to assess the physique, limberness, and energy of twelve extremely attractive young women. For those in the know, that assessment could be turned into a more—personal—encounter later, if the right palms were greased, and the girl was willing. Most were. The income from such unofficial services generally exceeded official salaries, even for the most highly-paid of the Treasuredome’s entertainers, like the Dozen.

Yalet was an old hand at letting this or that audience member know that if he were so inclined, she wouldn’t turn him down. She liked the look of the older man at table eighteen. He wasn’t getting spliffed, but that was the second ninety-credit bottle of wine in the holder beside their table. The other couple, obviously married and pleased about it, and the younger woman who might be daughter or perhaps sister, were laughing and applauding openly, clearly enjoying themselves, and he was clearly enjoying their enjoyment even while he rather sedately appreciated the show.

During the number, she eyeballed number eighteen, awarding him just the right number and intensity of smiles, and once holding his gaze quite provocatively as she was posed, in the front row, in a position that was only just this side of doubtful for a family hotel’s floor show. She was pretty sure she saw interest there, and as the number ended he was watching her as he applauded.

“Oh, mother, gonna get me a rich senior exec tonight, I am,” Lispet gloated behind her as they made their way back to the Dozen’s dressing room. “Did you see table twenty-six? Four of them. Definitely off the chain, betcha the brides and kiddies are at the lightshow bally. Thank you, beautiful Bride!” She leaned over and lifted the icon that hung from the corner of her dressing mirror, kissed it.

Yalet chuckled amiably. “Y’think? Well, don’t let Ild shake him for too hawt a room.”

Lispet nodded. If a guest had to pay too much for an extra room for the unofficial visit, the tips were likely to be reduced. And with the rake-off from the hotel, the split to Ild, and the assorted expenses—Association fees, proctor’s bribes, extra tithes to the Church—a girl already saw less than a third of the outrageous “service fees” collected. You could make a lot more going official with the Association and staking a corridor beat (at least, if you didn’t have a pop to support or a joyjuice habit,) or working the illic shows at the “adult” resorts, but the risks were a lot higher. No one wanted to collect a thirdstrike, and end up doing penance in a warren reformatory, assembling microparts and getting old and fat on res-class rations.

Yalet wasn’t surprised when, as she waited in the wings for their first number in the late show, Ild walked past, and murmured “Forty-three twelve.” But she was pleased that it wasn’t one of the “Jenny” rooms on the sixtieth level, rented by the hour rather than the day. She’d guessed right, no wife for her nice (she hoped) number eighteen to escape. She’d see he had a really nice time.

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