Award Winning Short Story
The acid spew was worse this time. As the blistering geyser shoots into the melon-colored sky, I despair of ever being happy again. Another re-lo, another colony, another quadrant. What was the point? I can’t even conceive of a post-apocalyptic pop song that could cheer me up.
There were fifteen other humans in my tube and about six un-assigneds; maybe part-human, mostly synthetic, wrapped in digitized e-skin. The one nearest me is an interesting shade of blue and illuminates our tube with a pretty phosphorescence, stabbing through the usual blackness. I sidle closer, eager to keep my ocular perceptions acclimated so when we land, I won’t be blinded by light perception.
As we blast below the pocked surface of Evergreen, I contemplate a new reality. More strangers, more physical evolution and a pseudo environment probably more shockingly inhospitable. Though it would be hard to beat the toxic spew of H-I95-C.
“Breathing protocol initiated,” said the voice in my ear receptors. Along with the others, I switch out the oxygenated tube on the right for the fluting on the left and activate my prosthetic lung. Thank CEO mine inflates; you just never know.
Coughing and choking as my body adjusts to breathing radiation vapor, I manage to knock loose my new earring; a pearly cluster of moonstones that cost me a month’s worth of chits. I feel it slide down my vehicular mobility unit and lodge near my navel. Shit!
“Level II, Mach IV warp speed. Initiating stupor setting” drones the holo attendant in a gender-fluid synthetic voice.
I regain awareness at three moons Evergreen time, but since I didn’t know where we are now, I’m clueless as to how long I’ve been out.
We’d lost three humans if the sagging suits were anything to go by, and one of the un-defined looks like he’s in full rigor, so I suspect he got over-vapored or had a faulty suit. I’m glad my little blue friend is still glowing healthily at my side; means I’m not blind.
I wipe the drool from my lips by turning my head into the plush lining of my helmet and suddenly feel my earring drop into the nether regions of my VMU. Damn it!! Now I would probably crush it when I had to walk. That’ll teach me to spend e-coin on ancient symbols of beauty. But I do love a glittery bauble. Probably some vain, atavistic hold-over from when people had to attract partners instead of swapping-right on chemical e-match sites.
Blue guy sidles in close to me and initiates a message. I switch on Accept and Translate.
“You alright? No distress?” is what he sends. That was sweet, so I reply.
“Actually, lost an earring down my suit; it was new. Stupid.”
“Sorry. Can I help?”
Ok, that was creepy. “Unlikely, but thanks,” I send back.
“Does it have a metallic nature?”
What is it with this guy? He’s obsessed with my fucking jewelry. That makes two of us but at least my concern is justified.
“Titanium-core alloy, moonstones.”
“I can retrieve it for you.”
Yeah, sure, I bet he wants me to de-suit so he can retrieve my organic body parts, and I know how valuable a fresh harvest is on the market. After all, that’s where I got my new right arm after the bacterial leach on Surnia dissolved my old one. And it wasn’t cheap. We’re talking five million turbo chits. Plus, tax.
“That’s ok. Not de-suiting till arrival, but thanks.”
“Repeat.” Just my luck, I get packed next to a narcissistic, talkative perv during evac.
“I have a magnetic prosthesis. No need to de-suit.”
Well, that puts a different spin on things.
“Ok, go for it,” I say, closing my eyes and bracing for the burn.
There’s a little tingle near my left metatarsal and I feel the earring dislodge and begin to
rise. I open my eyes, surprised it doesn’t hurt.
What was a tingle, slowly manifests into a gentle caress. Blue man is crouched at my ankles, pointing his gloved magnet at my leg and staring up at me with almond- shaped eyes so green they have to be lensed. But they sure look great with his blue tinge.
It may be my distorted vision field, but I think he’s grinning at me and there’s something intimate about the way his gaze bores into mine.
As he rises, so does my earring and I can feel his finger gently pressing through my suit layers.
I look away to break his spell. Damn if he isn’t initiating a sexual response. I try desperately to distract myself with thoughts of sun shear and icicle storms, but I can’t seem to resist meeting his stare head on.
Traveling up the inside of my leg with his finger, painfully slowly, the pleasure sensation creeps towards my navel. I swear he pauses at the junction of my legs, but can’t be sure because now I’m shaky and worry I might tip over.
“Steady, there.” His voice whispers in my ear. His voice, real or not, is a delicious blend of smooth baritone and Marlboro Man rumble. Auditory communication seems more appropriate to the occasion so I switch off message mode and let his voice wash over me.
“What’s your name, beautiful?”
Practically incapable of speech, I force myself to croak out my name.
“I like it. I’m Maxwell, Samira. Whoa, are you doing ok?” he asks again as my legs crumple.
CEO knows what I reply, but this man is intuitive because just then his other arm shoots around my waist and he backs me up against the side of our shuttle, preventing an embarrassing fall and possibly a fatal suit-breach.
“Shall I stop, Samira? You can always get the earring once you’re domiciled again.”
Lord no! He cannot possibly stop now. “I’m ok; we’ve gone this far, might as well continue.”
Who’s the perv now?
We are eye-to-eye as the earring approaches my upper rib cage. The magnetic stimulation shoots little pulses through my nerve endings and I feel my every synapse on fire worse than a volcanic scorch. But much more pleasant.
Now Max looks serious, strangely intense, and I wonder if this turns him on too. Just how much sensation can be imbued in prosthetics these days, anyhow? If only I’d paid attention in BioPhysics 102, I wouldn’t be this physiologically ignorant.
Moonstones slither across my upper abdomen and towards my breasts, and I can’t believe we are in an evac car headed for a safe haven after narrowly escaping death by petrochemical spout.
I find myself looking forward to the next re-lo.
Max the blue guy’s helmet is touching mine and his eyes are closed. I follow suit so I can revel in pure tactile bliss. The earring glides over my breast, slipping past my shoulder and trailing up my neck.
My reverie is rudely interrupted by the arrival announcement.
“Oxygenated atmosphere detected. Commence disembarkation.”
The doors are released just as the errant clump of moonstone lands on the lobe of my ear, welcomed back by a crisp click of its auto-clasp.