Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Bark: Elite: Dangerous - Requiem - Chapter Two

Toolfa: Crook Hub

With the ship undergoing repairs, Karina and I had decamped to the luxury suite that had been offered to us by the local authority in gratitude for spending so much money in their ship outfitters. With Zemina's reward successfully transferred to my credit account, I had no qualms about taking Karina on a shopping expedition for some new clothes that would allow her to pass for a rich native throughout independent space. While her normal ship clothes, a hard-wearing grey jumpsuit with matching lightweight leather boots, were perfectly presentable under most circumstances, I wanted to treat Karina to something special, as gratitude for saving my life in the disastrous aftermath of the Groombridge mission. Before we entered the Coriolis station's commercial sector, I handed Karina a ceramic stick as long as my middle finger, but only a centimetre wide and three millimetres thick.

“What's this, master?” Karina asked, turning the stick over in her hands and inspecting it curiously.

“Something you won't want to lose. It's the master key to your credit account.” I said, cupping a hand on her shoulder and walking us from the elevator to the nearest couturier. “I set one up in your name this morning. After what happened at Groombridge, I figured you'd need one if-”

“Don't say it, master.” Karina interrupted me, putting a finger across my lips. “Don't say it.”

“Well, anyway. You're a free woman now, so you need a bank account. And since I never would have been able to claim the reward from our last mission if you hadn't flown us here, I think you're entitled to have a share of it.” I tapped the OLED screen inlaid on the side of the chip to show Karina her credit balance.

Acct# 478937611298 - Karina Svetlana Dementyeva: 5,000,000Cr 

Karina drew a sharp breath in shock. Spent wisely, it was enough money to live three lifetimes in complete luxury on almost any civilised system, barring perhaps the overcrowded and overpriced capitals of the Federation, Empire and Alliance. Or it was enough money to buy a top of the line starter ship with a large enough surplus that could buy a full partner's share in a trading co-op. How Karina would spend the money was up to her – as far as I was concerned, she could blow it all on shoes if she wanted – but first I was going to buy her a new outfit.

 “Master... I-” Tears appeared in the corners of Karina's eyes. Unable to find the words to express her gratitude, she settled for embracing me instead.

“You earned every credit, Karina. It's yours.” I said, my own arms enveloping her slim form.  

Karina spent the rest of the day buoyed by a cloud of euphoria, and by the time we returned to our suite looking out over the surface of the station, Karina had spent her first thousand credits on a made-to-measure tailored jumpsuit to wear on the ship, an elegant full-length gown for formal occasions, a jacket, tunic and skirt for casual excursions onto stations or temperate planets, plus no less than six pairs of shoes, ranging from the tiresomely practical to the wildly flamboyant. I had bought her a second gown she had vacillated over buying herself, claiming it was too provocative and expensive, along with a new nightshirt of the sheerest silk. The material was a synthetic reproduction of the most expensive silk from Sol, that of the golden orb spider, a material so finely spun that you couldn't feel its touch on the skin. 

“If I couldn't see it, I wouldn't think I had anything on at all.” Karina said in wonder, as she modelled it for me, the almost transparent silk clinging to her body as she pirouetted across the floor of the bed chamber, her bare feet leaving short-lived dents in the deep pile of the carpet, laughing as she looked up out of the windows in the ceiling, watching the stars as they wheeled by. The colour of the silk matched her hair, which was the main reason why I had chosen it. I had given ASTRA an expensive outfit in gold, so it seemed only fair that I should do the same for Karina. “It's like wearing air, master!”

“I'm glad you like it.” I said as Karina climbed next to me on the bed.

“I love it, master! I'm never taking it off!” Karina collapsed on top of me, slightly dizzy, inviting me to hold her. My hands defied the evidence from my eyes – it really was impossible to feel the presence of the silk beneath my fingertips. I winced as she draped herself suggestively over my chest. My new ribs were still very sore and caused referred pain across the whole of my torso if pressure was put on them. I'd have to avoid high-g combat manoeuvres for a few weeks. “Are you alright, master?”

“Sorry.” I said, nudging her gently over onto my left side and tenderly checking that none of my ribs had become displaced. “Everything's still feeling rather fragile, I'm afraid.”

“Poor master.” Karina kissed the bright pink patch of new skin in the centre of my ribcage delicately. 

“Hey, that tickles!” I protested, prompting Karina to explore the sunken pit in my chest with her tongue, setting the nerve endings aflame. I gasped and lifted her up away from me by her shoulders, turning over to lie on my belly. “If you want to make yourself useful, my back feels like it's made of knotted rope.”

Karina straddled my legs and went to work with her hands, massaging away the tension and stiffness in my back muscles. The muscles on my left hand side were continually tensing up, trying to compensate for the weakness in the newly grown muscles surrounding my injury, the cloned cells still knitting with the original tissues. There was a brief pause and I heard a soft rustle of cloth. I closed my eyes, moaning in satisfaction as I felt the firm, warm pads of Karina's thumbs press down to break up the taut clusters in the band of muscle to the left of my spine. “How does that feel, master?”

“Divine.” I replied, sighing with total relaxation, sagging against the mattress. 

“You have your own scars now, master.” Karina kissed the larger exit wound on my back, a jagged patch of flesh larger than my hand. I felt her tongue, hot and wet against the smooth, sensitive skin, her long hair tantalising the nerve receptors all across my back. Aroused, I turned over again, Karina's hand reaching down to caress me below the waist.

I felt my cheeks flush as her fingertips gripped hard, kneading slowly as she sat up across my thighs, letting me take in every nuance of her naked form. It was only now that I noticed how, in the months since I had freed her, she had become not only more assertive about acting on her wants and her needs, but that another side effect of her freedom was that she had physically changed as well. While she was still slender, her ribs were less pronounced at her sides, the curve from her waist to her hips was smoother, more feminine, and her breasts were noticeably rounder and heavier. The smile of her broad, full lips no longer stretched the skin of her face quite so severely over her high cheekbones. She looked softer, happier - less like a frightened girl and more like a young woman. When I had rescued her, Karina had already been pretty. Now she was a genuine beauty. 

“I thought you weren't going to take that off.” I nodded towards her nightshirt, which she had tossed over the back of the nearest couch.

“I changed my mind, master. It's so delicate and beautiful. I wouldn't want to damage it.” 

The tips of her nipples brushed my chest as she leant down to kiss me. I responded to her touch automatically, genetically pre-programmed to mirror her passion, still enjoying the novelty of just how different she felt against me compared Laure. I caressed her back and neck as she licked the depression in my ribcage again, her lips wandering lower and lower in an expert provocation of desire. My hands explored her sleek curves urgently, grasping hungrily at her shoulders as I felt her take me into her mouth, her long thin fingers gripping my hips to stop me from moving, her tongue curling around the shaft. Karina turned around, shifting her legs, her knees astride my shoulders. I moved my hands down her back to her narrow waist, pulling her down to my lips.

“Yes...” Karina groaned as I tasted her arousal, exploring her sex with my tongue. “Kiss me, master.”

It was now a race to see who could find the best ways to pleasure the other quickest; lips, tongues and fingers moving instinctively, faster and more decisively as our excitement overtook us. Karina's orgasm arrived first, with a long moan of pure exultation as I teased her with rapid flicks of the end of my tongue. She arched her back and pressed her hips downwards as she cried out, my fingers moving up to caress her nipples as I continued to stimulate her with my lips. I held her in that state of utter rapture for minutes until she finally gasped for breath, the arch of her spine collapsing and her head falling forwards, cascading her hair over my waist. Already near orgasm simply from the taste, smell and feel of her, it took only the slightest of contacts with her lips to trigger my climax, my hips jumping involuntarily. I came across her throat into her soft curtain of hair, holding her breasts tightly as the sense of relief and release spasmed through me.

Karina screamed when she felt it, her ecstasy transforming instantly to terror, wrenching herself away from me and scurrying away on her hands and knees to the far corner of the bed, whimpering. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no...”

“Karina, what's wrong?” I sat up, confused and worried. In the times we had made love before, she had never reacted like this.

She turned to me trembling, her green eyes wide with a mix of rage and fear, her voice shaking. “Not like that, master. Never like that!”

“I'm sorry.” I said, apologising without really understanding what I had done wrong.

“It's bad. Very bad.” Karina muttered, her hands and arms fluttering with indecision as she looked down at the viscous white liquid oozing down her neck, hair and chest. She looked like she wanted to wipe it away, but was too terrified to touch it. Her eyes darted nervously around the room, reliving memories from her time in captivity. “Unclean... unclean!”

“Karina, I'm sorry. I couldn't help it.” I started to move towards her, wanting to take her into my arms and tell her everything was alright, but she recoiled away from me violently in fright, fleeing to the bathroom. I debated following her, but decided it probably do more harm than good. I heard her turn on the shower and she didn't emerge again for over two hours, the water running for the whole time to wash not just her body but the memory from her mind, too.

When Karina finally returned, she sat on the couch, putting her nightshirt back on, drawing her knees up to her chest and holding onto her legs, looking across the room at me suspiciously, her damp hair coiled around her neck and over her shoulders like a golden snake.

“Are you okay now?” I asked, lying beneath the bed covers, propped up on my elbows, trying to appear non-threatening. Karina closed her green eyes, but gave me a short nod. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Karina shook her head silently, hiding her face behind her knees, a quiet, fearful moan escaping her taut  lips.

"That's okay." I said reassuringly. "Do you want to come back to bed?"

She gave me another negative moan and I saw the top of her head shake.

“That's okay, too. Try and get some sleep. You'll feel better in the morning.” I told her, worried by her withdrawal, but turning off the lights.

I must have slept better than I had anticipated, because I woke the next day to find Karina in bed with me, her breasts pressed into my back, one arm over my chest and her legs intertwined with mine – her fear of loneliness overriding the terror of the memory she had relived the previous night. She stirred, only half awake, burying her chin into my shoulder, with a soft cry of distress. I overlaid my hand over hers' and was relieved when she didn't shy away from my touch.

“Hold me, master.” she whispered behind my ear. I turned over to face her, seeing that she looked as if she felt foolish and guilty.

“Hey, what's up?” I said soothingly, gently caressing her cheek with the back of my hand.

Karina lowered her head, her voice full of remorse. “I'm sorry, master.”


“I couldn't see that it was you. I only like it when you finish inside me. When I can see you.”

I nodded to show that I understood, pausing to phrase my question sensitively. “The bad men never... finished like that? Inside you?”

“No, it-it wasn't allowed. S-so th-they...” Karina stopped abruptly, not wanting to go through the trauma of remembering it again. I caressed her neck and back gently to stop her from shaking.

“I didn't know, Karina. I'm sorry.” I smoothed her hair down her back, stroking her like a cat to align the long blonde strands. “You know I'd never want to hurt you.”

“I know, master.” Karina tried to meet my eyes before looking away again. “Do you forgive me?”

“There's nothing to forgive, Karina. I just wish I'd known earlier.” I replied, kissing her cheek and turning her head back to face mine.

“Do you still love me, master?” Karina asked, her face etched with fear.

This time the answer came without me thinking about it. “Of course I do.”

Overcome with relief, Karina kissed my lips long and hard, drawing up the short hem of her silk nightshirt so that she could mount me. She made love to me slowly, her eyes always on my face. I kept my hands on her hips and waist, amazed again at how considerate a lover she could be, her every motion and breath responding to my own sense of excitement with exquisite sensuality. When I considered the abusive nature of all her previous contacts with men, for her to even want such intimate contact, let alone be so sensitive to my desires, was astounding. I called out her name as she drove me to climax and I came deep inside her, making her groan in delight as her own orgasm gripped her body and senses. Our eyes communicated everything that needed to be said as Karina lay back down on me, taking care not to put her weight on my weakened right hand side. The cadence and sound of our breathing provided non-verbal confirmation of the happiness we had shared with each other - gradually slowing and becoming quieter - soothing and calming us, before we fell asleep in a tranquil, mutual embrace.

We woke again in the early afternoon, looking up and out of the ceiling windows as the eternal night of the cosmos rolled by with the rotation of the station. We watched the stars, arrayed in unfamiliar constellations, disappear and reappear once every minute, grateful for the pseudo-gravity that the periodic rotation provided us. My fingertips randomly traced a line along the interweaved maze of scars between Karina's shoulder blades. She reciprocated the sentiment, her short nails gently circling repetitively around the red and raw outline marking where the stem cell graft had plugged the hole torn through my body by the multi-cannon round, occasionally exploring the depression where the ribs and muscle tissue hadn't yet fully re-grown. As we lay together in a blissful silence, I reflected that we were both orphaned, damaged and scarred: a perfectly matched couple. The thought gave me a fresh pang of guilt – Laure had explicitly warned me not to sleep with Karina, but here I was, not just sharing a bed, but falling irrationally in love with her. Logically, it made no sense at all - I was married to a gorgeous, rich, powerful woman who I adored, and who I was starting a family with - but it was impossible now to deny that my attraction to Karina was far beyond the simply physical or driven by sympathy. Laure would no doubt dismiss the idea that you could be in love with two people at the same time, but every time I thought about my wife, my feelings for her matched or surpassed the intensity of my attachment to Karina. I had no doubt that if Zemina ever reconsidered her determination to keep us apart and I had the opportunity to see Laure again, I would love her more than ever before. It seemed excessively cruel of Zemina to keep us separated when our child was due to be born in a few months, but staying alive long enough for Zemina to relent would probably be the most difficult part. The severity of my injury at Groombridge had reminded me just how unforgiving an environment space is and how fine a line there was between life and death when things start to go awry. I was not looking forward to my next ship-to-ship combat. The near disaster caused by my momentary lapse in concentration had me questioning my judgement and had severely dented the confidence I had in my piloting ability, and in the capabilities of my ship. The only consolation was that my injury had brought Karina and I closer together, but I recognised that our relationship would not be able to stay like this for much longer.

“Karina.” I said, my voice barely louder than a whisper.

“Yes, master?” she replied, looking up at me with a beatific smile.

“You know we won't be able to do this forever, right?”

“Because of your wife. Yes, master.” Karina nodded, her tone accepting and matter-of-fact.

“It doesn't bother you?” 

“No, master.” Karina laid her head back down and continued to stroke my chest affectionately. “I don't worry about the future.”

“Why not? Most people are obsessed by what the future might hold for them.”

“The future isn't important, master. Neither is the past. Because you can only affect what's happening now. To make the 'now' as good as it can be.”

“Is that how you lived before I freed you?”

“Yes, master. Because then no matter how bad a particular 'now' was, it would pass and the next 'now' might be better. But I would never think about the future. I never wanted to know what would happen to me tomorrow. It was too painful to hope that things might change. I just tried to survive from moment to moment.”

“But what will you do in the future if you can't spend 'now' with me?” I asked, stroking her hair.

“I don't know.” Karina admitted with a resigned shrug. “It doesn't matter. I have you now, master. And when I'm with you my 'now' is so beautiful. That's all that's important.”

“Thank you, Karina.” I said, flattered. My smile widened when Karina repositioned her hips over mine and we made love again with the leisurely tenderness of a new couple coming to terms with an unexpected but growing emotional and physical bond - a deepening, reciprocated love for each other that reflected our desire to focus on making the 'now' we shared as perfect as possible. We didn't leave the bed again until a message informed us that the repairs to Fell From The Top(...) were complete.

Before leaving the suite, we availed ourselves of the decadent room service. After over a decade of captivity where she had to survive from one day to the next by stealing scraps of food from her abusers, now that she was free to eat whatever and whenever she liked, Karina found that she was developing a taste for refined cuisine, so I was determined to get her to experience the best food that the hotel suite had to offer. I ordered two bottles of 3281 vintage champagne, pomme frites with mustard-infused mayonnaise and a house special club sandwich each. The term 'sandwich' didn't seem nearly grand enough to do the dish justice: a triple-tier, toasted brioche bun filled with Witchhaul Kobe Beef, cooked so rare I was sure that a talented veterinarian could have brought it back to life, a poached duck egg (still molten in the centre, of course) and a wedge of brie steeped in Armagnac and stuffed with a generous layer of black truffles. It was the most expensive thing on the room service menu, but since the local authority was footing the bill, I didn't think twice about ordering it. The appreciative noises Karina made while eating hers were beyond sensual. Without doubt, it certainly justified the appellation 'special'.

With our hunger sated, we dressed and made sure we had accounted for everything we had brought with us before checking out of the suite. Somewhat buzzed from the effects of the champagne, I arranged for our shopping to be delivered to the ship, rather than risk carrying it ourselves. The concierge was only too eager to please, adding another few hundred credits to the bill I was relieved that I wouldn't have to settle myself. Karina and I took our time returning to the docking bay, walking arm-in-arm, simply enjoying being in each other's company. We were both stopped in our tracks, however, when we walked into the docking bay where Fell From The Top Of The Gravitas Tree But Missed Every Branch On The Way Down was berthed.

“Whoa.” Karina said, her jaw falling open in wonder.

The Imperial Clipper gleamed as if brand new, resplendent in pure, genuine gold from nose to tail. The ship glistered beneath the harsh white lights of the docking bay, a halo clearly visible from the thin, uniform layer of ultra-hard synthetic diamond that protected the gold plating. I tapped my wrist console to open a voice channel to ASTRA.

“You're really living up to the ship's name, all right. Classy, or what?” I said to the AI, aghast.

“I'm gorgeous. Thank you, my lord.” ASTRA replied, proud of her new look. “All systems are fully functional. Ready to launch at your command.”
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