The dark sky was a vast array of moons and long trails of colored space-ether. They striped the sky over the backwater planet with their pale hues, contrasting just enough with color in the blackness to be distinguished. This was a crowded sky and a dangerous place to fly, with all the near planet asteroids, or, even do business as Arra was running for his life. The Follen, the local civilization, hadn't liked him this time or had liked his trade goods too well, having turned on him, even though he'd been here before and leaving with everyone happy. They had been getting greedier on subsequent stops and on this of Arra's sixth visit to the place. Through some sixth sense, he'd acquired from years of trading and selling, he learned they were after his head as a trophy and all his trade goods, this time.
Barely on the top of the last ridge of several he'd been fleeing over, he shouted down at Beverly, his synthetic, just outside the interplanetary ship resting in the canyon below. She was faithfully standing guard at the entrance ramp, waiting for his return.
"Beverly! Get the ship ready," he yelled down to her.
She looked up and stared dumbly at him.
"Right now," he said, and she disappeared into the ship, raising an arm to acknowledge his commands.
Arra looked behind him, again. The tribe was half way up the slope, already. Crimony, they were fast, he thought. If it wasn't for this planet being a low gravity world, I'd be in a heck of a bind.
Arra turned away and began running down slope, now. Huge ten meter strides gobbled up the distance between him and the ship and on reaching the dark space scared hot rod, he hopped up the open bay's ramp and slammed the button to close the clamshell doors. He was safe now. This ship was made of thick, heavy, Black-Space-Iron and was nearly impregnable once the ship was fired up due to the internal drive and speaker voice that protected the whole craft.
Rushing to the cockpit, Arra touched Beverly on the back of her bare neck as he sat down next to her, feeling the softness of her skin and its pleasant warmth. It always felt good to have her close by. Even though she was a mere pleasure unit, having won Beverly in a game of chance, at cards, and knowing she had been designed for only sex and minor other duties, Arra had still grown very found of her. She was a darn good pilot, these days, as well as being a sweet companion. He'd been training her for several years.
"Bringing up speaker volume," she said, "Dark drive active and ready for hover."
"Let's take it up," he told her, strapping in.
The ship tilted coming off the landing sight and viewing the screens as he snapped the heavy aluminum buckles in place, Arra saw why. Beverly had purposely done it to push the natives away from the searing blast point, knocking them all off their feet and back so they wouldn't get hurt too badly. She laughed while doing it and then Arra had the controls.
He focused on the readouts and as soon as the nav'-computer gave its green go ahead, he touched the red launch button and roared deafeningly into the atmosphere until they were screaming through the various thinning layers of upper planet-side gases. And then the sky suddenly went black and the distant colored ethers merged into one shade of darkness. They were safely away.
He stayed attentive as he arced around one of the distant moons and flowed into his directional path, ready for the acceleration that would take them to their next world. The destination had been pre-set.
"You had trouble, I take it?" Her voice soothed him. All the time.
"Yes. I lost the trade goods. They got greedy. We won't be coming back here, again. It was a good source for gold, but I guess we still have other sources. That asteroid we passed coming in should be a good stash for some back up if we need it, next time we pass this way. Damn it, though, I really wanted some gold before we hit Amith 5, this time."
"Then why don't we go get it?" she asked. "The asteroid. It's small enough to fit in the cargo bay and if not, we can probably trim the edges to make it fit. I know you want to get moving, but it won't take long."
Arra thought for a second and then smiled, looking at her. He always got hyper after a death defeating event and she could always recognize it and calm him down. And she was right. He knew he was in love with Beverly and it was probably unhealthy to be, with a synthetic, but it was at times like this he really appreciated her and didn't care what other people thought.
"We won't get as good a price with gold in raw form," Beverly continued, "but that thing's a good sized chunk of money. Anyone would be impressed with it."
"Yes, you're right, as usual, Bev'," he said and popped off his restraints and reached over to her head, drawing her lips to his. Arra kissed her gently on her perfect mouth and let them linger momentarily. "Get us over there, then; I'll get suited up."
She reached out to him, smiling seductively, and touched his chest. It was always sensuous when she touched him in any way. She kissed him back and he got lost in her beautiful dark brown eyes and the way her warm lips felt.
How does she do that? he wondered, tearing himself away and went down into the bay's outer suit-room and got ready for the EVA.
"We're there," the voice in the helmet came over clear and crisp. That sure didn't take long, he felt, wishing she would say something else.
Her voice was a distraction but he liked to listen to it. He knew what he wanted to do right then, but it would have to wait. Work, work, work.
Suited up, Arra picked up the heavy-duty mining blaster and said, "Okay, take the artificial gravity off line and open the bay doors when we're right up to it.
He floated up off the surface of the bay and waited. The ship was backing up against the asteroid, he knew. He trusted Beverly implicitly. She was that good of a pilot.
"Object stabilized," she said. The relatively weak towing beam easily slowed and kept the rock outside from tumbling as it had been for untold billions of years.
"Bay opening," Arra heard her say, all business and concentration, then the clamshell doors opened like some huge maw of a gas giant's whale, and there was the asteroid. The gold mixture of the black and red rock, and expensive raw metal, gleamed under the outer flood lamps of the ship. Sparkles of pure gold reflected light and Arra thrilled at the prospect of how much it would be worth. Possibly more than what he could have traded for. At least he could hope for as much.
This system of planets within the influence of this sun and, as yet, undiscovered solar system was rich with the stuff, and he would have preferred to trade for it with those natives of the forth world, but this would do just as well for what he required of it. His ship needed an update on the drive and that wasn't cheap. He had to stay competitive or loads would go to other ships and he and Beverly would starve, so to speak, in local deliveries. Arra had done that once and never wanted to repeat that kind of duty, again. His ship was relatively small, for a cargo vessel, and he needed high end business. Cargo that paid well. He was ahead of the game these days, doing well, and wanted to keep it that way.
"All right," he began to guide Beverly, "Bring it a bit starboard. Yes, like that, keep it coming. Okay. Stop. Now let it drop a little. Yes. That's it. Okay. Good. I'm going to do a little trimming so hang on a few minutes.
Arra used his blaster and cut the edges of the asteroid, here and there, maneuvering easily though the airless space in and around the floating rock outside and within the bay itself with his eye and voice controls. His EVA suit took care of directions all too easily. After nine minutes had passed, Arra directed Beverly backward, capturing the now motionless asteroid in the ships cargo hold.
"Okay, Bev, turn the gravity back on, slowly. This sucker has got to be really heavy."
The asteroid settled on to the scratched deck plates and bits and pieces of the rock broke off, pinging off into the bay as chunks of it fractured and was jettisoned. The plates didn't creak or buckle, crackle or grown, they were that strong. And then it was fully settled and his suit felt heavy.
"Okay seal it up. Wait for me before we get underway. I'll meet you in the cockpit."
"I'll be waiting," Beverly said, not unsexually, he noticed, as the bay hissed anew with the return of air. Or was it only his imagination? The way she spoke to him.
Removing his helmet, Arra asked himself, again, "How does she do that?" He knew, of course. It was scientifically rendered voice modulation, but it was more fun to wonder. The pleasure units were the masters of making you like them.
They got underway, again, accelerating up to speed, set and double checked all the safe guards so they wouldn't strike some far off tumbling bit of rock. With the speakers on full and in combination with the drive warble, there was no way any asteroid could penetrate the force field, in theory. If there was something too big for the ship to avoid on it's own, it would warn them well in advance.
Funny name for a force field, Arra had often thought. Speakers? Probably because it blasts things out of the way with pulse tech, and forms a barrier with 'M' waves, huh?
Beverly was leaning against the far bulkhead when he got up out of his cockpit chair. She was watching and waiting for him. Hands behind her buttocks, her open mouth barely open but her lips were quivering with unspoken thoughts, brows and coloring saying she wanted him, for she too was in love with him, he felt. It was artificial love, but Arra didn't care. All he sensed, then, was her eyes that glowed with attentive emotions and Arra let himself fall into those earthy depths. Those dark depths that only he knew and appreciated. And she his, he hoped. Beverly had often told him how she loved Arra for taking her away from that old life of being passed around by her pimp on that now very distant pleasure planet where real life and love didn't have a chance to exist.
He went to Beverly and let his body melt into her form, her near exaggerated figure thrilling him as he let his hunger press hungrily against hers. Their lips met and the almost hot temperature of them made him gasp, coming up for air. He never wanted to leave her embrace, she was that alluring. He took her hand and rushed back to their cabin, with Beverly in tow, and without words the two quickly removed their black leathers and under clothes. The lovers became one and all things but they blurred as their voices rose and fell in the soft warmth of each other's caresses and cries of ecstasy.
Amith 5 was a beautiful world and though he and Beverly had never seen it, people had often compared this place, that was a regular for them, to old earth. Yet if this was like earth, Arra often thought, how much more refined that ancient birthplace of man must be. Amith 5 was almost incomparable to most other space ports. Earth, if it was still around, must be amazing.
They got a good price for their gold filled asteroid, at one of the planet refineries, of which there were several reputable ones known to them.
After securing the funds to his account, and leaving the ship in dry dock for its drive update, that would take almost a week to complete, Arra and Beverly took off for the town's high life to experience some of it's more dignified offerings for tourists and space weary travelers.
They went to live shows of the theater, movies and holograms, saw and bet on elegantly showcased horse races, ate at exquisite restaurants, danced, exercised together, and made love in their luxurious hotel suite until Arra could no longer move, even though he never seemed to get his fill of Beverly, or vice versa. She always rocked him to sleep, caressing him into blissful slumbers, watching over him, covering his naked form while he slept and kissing his eyes and face, his entire body, at times, while he rested. She worshiped all that he was, for he was her deity, especially in her own mind.
A warm morning sunrise awoke Arra with Beverly close at hand. After engaging their libido, twice, Arra and she left their temporary rooms freshly showered and found a most wonderful restaurant. Breakfast was new and wonderful and for some time, the two of them walked through an awesome park, sitting on green benches, watching the local oil painters, chess players, rowed a boat themselves along a river, and spoke in low personal tones to one another, feeling the warmth of the distant twin sun's on their faces, the wind in their hair. It was a paradise to both of them.
As mid afternoon approached, they left the park and looked for a place to eat. They found a local bohemian sea-food eatery and stuffed themselves with a kind of domestic lobster that was probably four times as big as served in other ports. Beverly ate along side him. She used the food energy to supplement her power systems and it kept them both in unison, doing all things as one, even though she never actually needed to eat.
They went shopping in one of the high brow districts catering to the upper crust and bought a few things they didn't need, like dresses and accessories, but liked just the same, having them shipped to their temporary locker for all purchases in port, back at the ship yard.
They were still window shopping when they discovered an exclusive reader of futures in one very beautiful business station. Beverly thought it would be fun for Arra to have his fantasy future explored and so Arra went along with it. The place was named for it's somewhat mysterious owner, 'Zooma's Perceptions', and having inquired after the obvious woman who did the readings, discovered that she was Terran, from old earth, supposedly.
"I am Armenian," she claimed, once introduced by her almost as lovely companion who had led them to the quaint back room, though having taken their money first. "I am Zooma," not that both statements meant a great deal to either Beverly or Arra.
The woman was shorter than them, quite a bit shorter, not even two meters, which was the average size of a woman in the planets, these days. Zooma was a beauty though, Arra thought, privately. Her figure was exquisitely formed and the darkness of her hair, eyes, and red lips were quite exotic. For a little woman from earth, if that's where she truly was from; the hair, make upped eyes, figure, all of it was unusually lovely.
That sensuous red mouth made Arra take notice. That and her mesmerizing eyes. He was attracted to her in some odd way, in subtleties that were deeper, too, a curiosity, possibly, that or he felt a twinge of lust for her. But it was definitely her eyes that drew him in. They were entrancing when she looked directly at him and were beyond mysterious, shaped like perfect almonds, too boot, and long lashed. She was quite a bit like Beverly, he realized, but real, and that fact of knowing she was flesh and blood, only made him want to lay with her all the more. These barely checked emotions were enough to stir something inside of him. Making Arra feel ashamed, vaguely, for he cared more for Beverly than any known female.
Having sat down, now, in the distant room, Arra was struck with how quiet it had become. The woman and his breathing could clearly be discerned. Beverly didn't usually breathe unless she was speaking.
There was something on the table separating them, covered by dark velvet chartreuse cloth. A crystal ball. Really?
"Give me your hands, Arra," she said, and took them firmly into her tiny ones.
They were soft and warm and Arra grasped back at them. He liked the thought that her warmth was honest.
She stared into his eyes without smiling, concentrating, and he did the same, though he wasn't a believer in this kind of thing. Not really. But this seemed very serious to her and so it became to him. He wanted to get his money's worth. Beverly waited patiently off of Arra's elbow, watching attentively but silent, too, and unmoving.
Zooma finally closed her eyes, and something in her countenance darkened all the more. A shadow fell over all of them, whether it was a pallor trick, or not, it had an effect on him.
He felt a small warm wind flow over him, now, saw her clothing fluttering, and his Adonis curls trembled with anticipation and the calm mysterious effect it had.
"You have come far, son of Tamblin," his mother, Zooma began, "and suffered for your wandering heart." How did she know his mothers name? "Your rebellion was fierce. You carry it still, I fear. She is with you always, little one," a title his mother sometimes used, "but you are not now beloved of anyone. You have taken unto yours an emptiness, but you will never find happiness there. You are only delaying your comfort and excusing yourself in this weakness. You must leave her behind and return -- return to virtue and honors you have forgotten."
Was she speaking of his mother, there, and leaving Beverly for a real woman? Both were unthinkable. His mother was tyrannical. He hated her. That's why he'd ran away at fifteen. No. That would never happen. And Beverly was a better friend and companion than any female he'd ever known. The ideas were insane.
"You are wealthy, trained in the arts of commerce and war, building strength upon strength but you weary of living, I think. I feel it in your heart. And death follows you, still, in your wanderings. The war has not left you unscarred. Though violence is not sought, you always seem drawn to it. But it is there, nonetheless, in your wanderings. Yet -- there is no fear in your heart. You are not afraid to die. Your recklessness betrays you, and there is too much, too much anger, little one. You have come here to learn, so let all these heart aches go. Make peace with your family. It is time to forgive, Arra, son of Tamblin. I feel the time of killing and rebellion should be over for you, if you will but listen, now. I fear, though, you cleave to all these painful, still. And you have forsaken all your sisters for things unhealthy, for you, as for good and holy things, you know little of them. Virtue seeks you but your arms are absent. Your heart is weakened but you do not feel it. You must leave her or be destroyed. You must leave her, Arra."
There was a dramatic pause.
"I feel the soil of your homeland in these hands, the land that drove your father far away but who longs still to know you. He is in the world of Forem, very far from here. Your life will be richer if you find him but I fear your heart is polluted, still, with memories of frightened nights, and days filled with screams. Let them go. They are childhood traumas. You are now a man. Let them go.
Zooma grasped his hands harder. The gentle wind increased in force, her eyelids were eerily fluttering and then wide open, and all that could be seen now were the whites of their orbs. It was as if she were a witch, and she was, probably, but it frightened Arra.
She began to tremble and her fingernails dug into his palms. He grimaced at the pain. He was sure they were drawing blood. It looked as if she were trembling and then Zooma blinked fast and was instantly staring intently into his eyes, sadness in her brow and tear filled rims. Then as if someone had slapped at their hands, they flew upward into the air and Zooma cried out as if in pain by the sudden release. He hadn't done it, but she seemed surprised, too. And Zooma had seen something else, besides the things she'd told him, but she wasn't speaking of it.
They both sat there, breasts heaving, mouth's dry, looking across the table from each other. It had been quite the ordeal. At least for Arra it had.
With some kind of forced will, Zooma stood, regaining some composure.
"That is your reading, Son of Tamblin. Go in peace with it. It is all I can give you."
"You saw something else. What was it?"
"Some things are only for me," she said, but her eyes were hesitant. She looked at Beverly, briefly, and then away. Arra knew she felt uneasy.
Arra looked at her face, as she was, her profile almost as dramatically beautiful as Beverly's, even if she wasn't naked, he could tell. In spite of her appearance and his longing, he knew he wouldn't be getting anything else out of Zooma, whatever she knew, and they both took their leave.
Two days later Beverly came into the compartment aboard ship as they were restocking and preparing to leave, as soon as they got cargo. Arra was working on a hydraulic line he'd found oozing fluid. "I found us a job," she said, smiling and proud that she had gained yet another skill; Negotiating business.
"Really? Wonderful. What is it?"