[short story] Castles In The Air

TypewriterBHey! Eye’s down here!”, she said sternly, pointing down at her lithe, hourglass body.

Yes Mistress!”, nodding joyously, the little man lowered his gaze from her face and proceeded to pay homage to her amazing beauty.

For her part, Tilottama laid back on the chaise-love-bed in her room. She didn’t have much choice in her profession, but she did like to control how the encounters went and the fact that most of her clients would do just about anything for her helped keep that to her liking. Or at least it kept the experience bearable. Like this past weekend which had been very, very profitable indeed, but it had been money she felt well-earned given that they were all dealing with a flood of clients from a diplomatic delegation aptly named Gremlin Nebula, on its way to the Central Planets.

Short minutes later, another satisfied but heartbroken customer done with and she signalled the burly android that kept the riff-raff out of her quarters and he immediately turned and stepped out declaring that business was closed in this boudoir for the night, a proclamation unquestioned but one much bemoaned by those who had waited long.

A long, deep-cleansing sonic shower later found Tilo feeling more refreshed and herself again as she got into the mag-lift secreted behind a tapestry in her room and headed down to the private deck. Once there, she strolled through the central lounging area toward the massage room to unload some of her stress. She got waves and hails from several of the loungers and more than a few jealous stares and visual daggers zipping by, an unavoidable by-product of being the star-attraction and most popular inhabitant of this castle. And what a castle it was.

The former Pirate Brethren who had pillaged the space-ways in its earliest days had shrewdly given up their thieving ways and reached an accord with the powers-that-be, setting up dens of gambling and other merriments, all outside the reach and scope of interstellar laws – neutral ground for anyone within their premises. It was this, however, the Treasured Derelict, that was the jewel of the Brethren’s crown, an actual castle of stone from a long-fallen kingdom of old, retrofitted and literally ripped from the planet it had been built upon and raised up through the skies into the void beyond. Now it floated in it’s protective bubble on the outer edges of the Central Planetary System, the most powerful of the dominions that tussled over known space, but should the balance shift enough, there was nothing to stop the Brethren from simply warp-jumping the whole castle to a new location.

Though cold and stone from outside, the inside was as modern and filled with any and every kind of technology to be had and even some that no one should have yet – it was a pleasure paradise and home to the most beautiful of amorous companions in addition to it’s many entertainments.

As she enjoyed her deep-tissue massage, Tilo started to drift off, the false-flesh covered robotic hands doing a fantastic job easing her every sinew. Sleep had just about taken hold when a series of hearty cries brought her back from the edge, it was the few who she called friends, coming to give her company and share war-stories.

My Queen! You look as radiant as ever! Clearly not even gremlins could dare marr your loveliness!” said Teresa with exaggerated reverence, her tiny frame hopping and flopping around and she danced and bowed before eventually sinking into a nearby Ai-sofa.

Behind her had came Bjorn, a towering magnificent mass of muscle, who simply nodded and made his way to the empty massage slot on her left. He was followed by the twins Roll and Dahl who though of opposite sex, would be hard to tell apart if they didn’t take pains to differentiate their appearance.

How went your day Tilo? How many fell in love with you today?”, asked Roll as he sprawled out on the remainder of the Ai-sofa and plopped his head onto Teresa’s lap, drawing a startled grumble from both.

Teresa flicked his nose playfully as she caressed the arm of the sofa, making it purr as it proceeded to snuggle itself around it’s two occupants bodies for optimal comfort.

Same old shtak, different day. But don’t be so mean. these little fugly creatures, I pity them a little. What do they have in life? The mines and quarry’s on their disgusting planets?” replied Tilo.

Don’t tell me you’re getting a soft spot for them!” said Dahl, turning his head with exaggerated shock on his face.

Don’t be dopey Dahl, I said a little pity, not enough to actually care!”

Just checking!”

Did you get any good pickpocket change?” asked Teresa, “I managed to snag me a very nice uncut diamond from a pouch and I think it’ll look dead-fabulous once I get it put on a pendant. Or sell it to help pay my way off this floating rock.”

Just some snippets of information that I’m sure I can barter back to Management for some credits to my freedom-account.” Tilo replied. Somewhere deep down though a part of her feared that while her success might gain her freedoms price sooner, it might also cause her “employers” to renege and not want to lose such a profitable commodity as she was to them.

Lucky day for you all either way!” said Dahl, “No ladies this time around for me to please and fleece, then again not sure how much I’d relish having to service a female gremlin!” he snorted sarcastically. “And there’s no way I’m getting shwingy with males, my mother didn’t raise any shit-shovellers! Not that she raised me much any which way.”

A growl killed all extraneous sounds in the massage room and four startled pairs of eyes turned to the powerful Bjorn who had been silently listening all this time as he lay on the massage-table.

Heeeey big guy!” Dahl quickly blurted, “I was just kidding!”

Those of us who aren’t bigoted and anal-retentive piles, don’t appreciate that kind of talk. The next time you feel like ‘kidding’, make sure it’s somewhere far away from me.” rumbled the big man, shooting flaming daggers at his brash friend, before turning his head away and dozing off.

Whoa...” was all Dahl could manage and then sheepishly turned his attention to picking at his nails.

Tilo’s massage was done by now and she got up and stretched her now relaxed muscles like a cat and gathering her flowing robe, she stepped to the nearby ambrosia dispenser and got herself a glass of the cool, golden rejuvenating elixir that her employers provided to all of the harem aboard the castle. She kept her consumption to a minimum, there was a certain… dependance, that came with consuming it with any regularity. But she couldn’t not have it because it allowed her to keep her physique and she wanted nothing more than to buy her way to freedom as fast as possible.

What do you think Tilo?” asked Teresa asked from behind her, “how much d’you think I could get knocked off my debt for this bauble? Month? Maybe two?”

Maybe,” came the reply, “But if I were you, I’d hang on to it, try and see if you can sneak some time with the equipment they use for the androids and cyborgs and shape and polish that thing – a clean, faceted diamond would probably be a better bargaining chip, maybe even six months if you’re lucky. Plus the diamond dust that comes off would be great for trading with some of the others around here.”

Really?! Wow, woulda never thought of that… but won’t it be hard? I’ve never shaped no diamond or any stone before!”

I’m sure our sweet little Roll here could help you.” Tilo said, indicating the shy young woman who had cutely curled up into a little ball on an Ai-bag that held her close in its comforting embrace.

Roll? You’re joking!”

No she’s not.” Piped Dahl, making his way into the conversation, “Before our parents screwed things up enough to land us here, my sister was a trained sculptors apprentice.”

Well alright then!” said Teresa, a big grin on her face.

Bjorn has finished up with his massage soon and everyone started to chatter and there was an air of comfort and friendliness in the small room, they even shooed away a few of their peers who had clearly been hoping to unwind themselves and left grumbling. But for Tilo, though she smiled and was ever cordial and charming, there was little to lift her spirits right now. She walked toward the far wall of the room and reaching out, activated the nigh-invisible switch that created a transparent picture window in the wall before her. As she stood and looked out at the vastness of the void, she couldn’t help but feel a tear well up in her eye. The world outside, worlds of all kinds, just outside – so close but yet so very, very far away. There had been times in years past when she had stood as she did now and almost wished she could just shoot out into the void – true, she would die in no time, but for those brief moments, she would be utterly free and be amongst the worlds out there.

But she had never made such a choice. Life was precious. Too precious to simply throw away. It gave people darkness aplenty. It shook them, rattled them and tried to break them. But she believed that if one hung on, life would find a way to make things better, or it would end your suffering of its own accord. Either way, nothing lasted forever, good or bad. For now, her world was this small, dark place, but as she turned to return to her friends she knew that even in that dark there were small pockets of light to keep her going. Tilo walked over and hugged the tiny Roll from behind who was now awake and silently watching the chatter between the other three and smiled the warmest smile at her in return.

This was not perfect. Nothing ever is. But it would do for now.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Whoa. What a way to use the prompt “eyes down here.” Rather heartbreaking. I admire her perseverence in optimism.

    1. A-Ku says:

      Hey Stephanie, yeah I have to admit, I didn’t see it coming either! 😀
      Glad you liked it, probably the story I’ve been LEAST confident of ever in my short career.

  2. Tessa says:

    I am not much on science fiction pieces, but I liked this one. It makes me want to see more.

    1. A-Ku says:

      Thank you so much!
      It was not MEANT to be a sci-fi piece, just went that way 😀 Mostly if one see’s my stories, the genre/base shifts because I mainly like to focus on the people in the situations and don’t like being confined to a genre to do it.
      Does that make sense?
      All the same! Glad it was able to help you enjoy a type of story you generally may not. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      1. Tessa says:

        Yes it makes sense. I never quite know where I am going, but science fiction is usually not a choice, neither is fantasy.

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