Ruvane hated working Flistikkan worlds. The species liked worlds that were too hot, too dry and where the gravity was just a little too strong. On top of all that, the big reptiloids thought they were better than humans in every respect. Yet, they’d never developed space travel and lacked a necessary part of the brain to do the navigating themselves. The Flistikkans had spread through three systems as passengers and colonists, paying well for others to do their spacing. They had to, since their attitudes drove most pilots off after a couple runs.
Ruvane didn’t mind the attitude so much as the physical discomforts. He’d been sneered at by better than the big gray lizard who was looking down at him right now across the restaurant table. He unzipped his flight-suit a little, sweating. Flistikkan public buildings, even the ones that grudgingly accommodated off-worlders, were never air-conditioned. It made the local residents sluggish.
“Very fast, very good. Your pay.” The Flistikkan handed over a credit-chip with the amount they had agreed to before Ruvane left. He double-checked it just to be sure the lizard hadn’t skimped on his payment. Reassured, Ruvane stuck it in a zippered pocket with his own credit-disk. “I have cargo. Call in day to discuss.” The lizard left, without paying the bill.
Ruvane paid the tab, deposited the credit-chip at the local branch of his bank and went back to his ship to think. Yeah, he could take another run. He spent the evening going over his baby girl, making sure her engines were in good shape and everything was ready to lift. The next day, he called Skrit.
The Flistikkan invited him out to the estate outside the city. Ruvane, were he another sort of man, would have left the place with pockets bulging full of ill-gotten booty. An honest streak a parsec wide saved all the myriad little treasures belonging to his employer. He looked at the rich hangings, the sculptures, the paintings, any one of which would have paid half again the cost of his ship. The place was done in alien stonework, with wood paneling. Flistik boasted no trees higher than Ruvane’s waist.
He had an uncomfortable evening of it, aside from the general physical aspects. He was the only human not in a slave collar. The only human seated at the table, before Flistikkan food he knew he could not digest. The rest of the humans brought the food, and cleared it away, subject to the kicks and jeers of the lizards. Then the entertainment began.
A beautiful dancer in a long blue robe came out and began. As the music started, the dancer dropped the robe to reveal a male body clad in a deep blue loincloth. Ruvane couldn’t stop watching, couldn’t have stopped if the world had exploded around him. The youth was the most beautiful he’d ever seen, all long black hair and liquid dark eyes. His skin was sallow under the lights but Ruvane suspected it would be almost golden with some sun. His movements were lithe and sensual, not frankly sexual, just teasing enough that Ruvane wanted to find out how an overtly sexual move would look. He wanted to know how the dancer would look gyrating to the newest, filthiest pop music from his homeworld.
The Flistikkans let him get through one song. As he began the second, they began their own form of entertainment, pelting him with refuse from the table and trying to make him miss a beat or a step so he could be punished for their amusement. He gave them no satisfaction and completed the second song. During the third, Ruvane’s employer pulled him aside to negotiate his next job.
Ruvane was grateful for the interruption. Although the dancer’s perfection seemed almost scornful of the lizards’ harassment, he couldn’t help worrying he would have to watch that beautiful boy being beaten or worse. All he wanted was to know what the dancer’s mouth tasted like, how his skin felt.
The deal—not Ruvane’s best, because of his distraction—was struck that he would go to Carmathi and pick up several tons of foodstuffs. He didn’t tell the Flistikkan he was charging triple rates.
“You do fine work. As reward, stay tonight and choose from toys.”
Ruvane’s mouth was dry. He tried to feign disinterest and choose carelessly. “Oh, he’ll do,” he said with a half stifled yawn, pointing, seemingly at random, at the dancer.
The Flistikkan gestured for the dancer to come closer. “Take good care of guest, boy.”
The short youth bowed to his master and then looked up at the big, blond, bearded pilot with curiosity. “Yes, Master,” he said in a high, sweet voice.
“Take him to blue bedroom. He leave in morning.”
“Yes, Master.” The boy tucked a long delicate hand into Ruvane’s own broad and calloused one and led him out of the room. Ruvane felt the softness of it, unlike his own calloused and scarred paw, and the firmness of the grip. The boy was strong. He smelled faintly of exotic wood, and Ruvane couldn’t wait to bury his face in that hair, and taste that golden skin.
In the blue bedroom, Ruvane sat on the bed and started taking off his boots. The boy came closer and dropped to one knee. He grasped Ruvane’s boot and tugged it off. A naughty smile crossed his face as he ran one light finger over the bare arch. Ruvane bit his lip to avoid laughing. The dancer removed the other boot, and rose as gracefully as he had gone down.
Ruvane lounged back and looked at his bonus for a few minutes. “Come here.” As the youth drew nearer to him, Ruvane looked him over even more. “You are the prettiest thing I’ve seen in a long time. What do they call you?”
“Etarin,” the dancer said, “or boy.”
“Etarin. That’s pretty.” Ruvane drew him to sit to his side of the bed. “It suits you.” He ran a slow hand through the black curls that tumbled over Etarin’s back, and stroked his long face. Very gently, he leaned in for a kiss.
The little dancer returned it with enthusiasm, his mouth open and sweet. Ruvane tasted him for a very long time, enjoying the soft slickness of his cheeks and the tongue that danced almost as gracefully as the rest of the man.
“So beautiful,” Ruvane said softly, pulling Etarin into his lap and wrapping his arms around the dancer. “So sweet.” He held Etarin and kissed him, getting harder by the minute, unwilling to let the delicious tease end too soon. He rubbed his beard over Etarin’s neck and cheeks, and grinned when the dancer shivered. He stopped playing with Etarin’s hair and started opening his own shirt.
Etarin broke the kiss and stared at Ruvane’s thick blond chest hair. Ruvane realized that he hadn’t seen body hair on any of the human slaves, and Flistikkans weren’t mammalian. Etarin petted it gently, seeming unsure if his action was wise. Ruvane merely smiled and took his shirt off. He kissed Etarin on the temple.
“You furry as a kitkin,” Etarin ventured. “Is nice. Better than scales.” He touched Ruvane once again and found one of Ruvane’s nipples in the hair. Ruvane hissed as he stroked it. “I not break,” he smiled when Ruvane ran a gentle hand over his shoulder.
“Come on, pretty thing. On the bed. It’s been a while. Tell me if I hurt you.” Ruvane stood up, setting Etarin on his feet. He unfastened his pants, then sat back down to pull them off.
The dancer was on the bed in an instant, face down, ass high. Ruvane pulled a small tube of barrier lubricant from his belt-pouch. It would make his entrance easier as well as protect him from any diseases or alien parasites Etarin might have. He tried to be gentle, but the curvy golden ass, slim strong legs and fall of gorgeous black hair had him too aroused to take any more time for foreplay.
Ruvane managed to enter Etarin with something more dignified than a lunge, but he set a selfish, fast pace, just wanting the edge off his hunger. He’d savor the next round, playing with the dancer and making it slow and sweet. He came quickly, after less than ten strokes, placed a kiss between the boy’s shoulders and pulled out to clean up.
He came back to where Etarin hadn’t moved on the bed. He lay down beside the dancer and kissed him slowly. “You okay?”
Etarin nodded, saying nothing. Ruvane kissed him again, touching him gently. He didn’t like Etarin’s sudden silence. It spoke of pain or shame or something unpleasant. Ruvane needed to reassure him, to see the sexy, naughty smile Etarin had given him earlier.
“Eunuch, huh?” Ruvane ran a large hand down Etarin’s body, his green eyes unreadable. “Damn shame. One as pretty as you should be having lots of kids.” He pulled Etarin in for a long, slow kiss. “I’m always better the second time.”
“Just not hurt.” Etarin turned his face into Ruvane’s shoulder and kissed his neck. He clearly didn’t like talking about his alterations. Ruvane knew such things were sometimes done by slave holders to preserve a slave’s early adolescent beauty well past its time.
“No, I won’t.” Ruvane nuzzled his neck in return, tasting the sweet skin, the smoothness, the lovely shoulders. “I can’t. Not a sweet thing like you.”
Etarin shifted under his hands. He giggled a little as Ruvane’s beard rubbed against his nipples. “Sorry. Ticklish.”
“It’s all right.” Ruvane did it again just to make him giggle and then rewarded the giggling with a light suck at each nipple.
Ruvane took his time, letting himself rise to the occasion. He kissed and touched, learning all the shapes of Etarin—the strong arms, the flat stomach, the firm curves of his calves. “So very beautiful. Just want to kiss and taste you all over. Want to touch you, see what you feel like,” he said, kissing at Etarin’s knees, running his tongue behind them, and listening to Etarin giggle, then dropping a kiss on the delicate ovals of his kneecaps.
“I yours?” The dancer sounded heartbreakingly hopeful. Ruvane shook his head.
“Oh. I wish.” Ruvane took a lick of the slim, circumcised penis that slept between Etarin’s legs. He’d never seen a cut one on a live man. He’d seen pictures and holos of course, and he’d heard of some systems that required it of whores, but he’d never encountered one. “Just for tonight, beautiful boy.” He sucked at Etarin’s cock, trying to see if he could wake it, enjoying the naked feeling of it.
“All that matter,” Etarin sighed. “You handle me like treasure.”
“Your master thinks you are. And so do I.” Ruvane kept his big hands very careful as they spread Etarin’s strong thighs. He kissed the old scars where the boy had been cut, then moved back up to kiss the slowly hardening cock. He sucked at it for a while, until it was hard, and then moved down to kiss the scars once more. He worked down, aiming for the black kiss. Etarin shuddered at the first touch of his tongue on the opening.
Ruvane knew many men did not like doing this, a thing he’d never understood. Ruvane liked doing it, and he loved the way he always felt like he was melting—as if all his bones had gone soft and his skin was taking mild shocks that made it tingle—when it was done to him. He just hoped Etarin was enjoying it like he always did.
Ruvane’s tongue teased light and quick. He licked a bit, then thrust in, tasting his own residue as he penetrated Etarin’s tight ring of muscle. A low moan told him Etarin was enjoying it. He licked one finger and brought it in with his tongue.
“More, please. That wonderful,” came the gasp from above him. Etarin squirmed, unable to stay still under the pleasure. Ruvane smiled and pressed the finger and his tongue in farther. Etarin tasted of clean skin and sweat and the barrier cream and him. When he moved away, he licked a second finger and slipped it in to join the first.
He returned to long, slow licks of the dancer’s cock, matching them with thrusts of his fingers. “What will bring you off, beautiful boy?”
“Hand? And mouth? And patience?” Etarin’s sweet voice was tremulous and unsure. He’d obviously never been asked this before.
Ruvane smiled up at him. “I got plenty of that.” He returned his attention to Etarin’s cock, sucking and licking, nibbling and taking it deeply into his mouth. He added a third finger and stretched, trying to find the sweet spot common to humans.
Etarin twitched and gave a low cry when Ruvane found it. The cock in Ruvane’s mouth hardened even more and he took it to the root, sucking hard. He stroked at Etarin’s prostate, small and hard to find from lack of stimulation, and pressed with his tongue over the whole length of Etarin’s shaft.
At last, Etarin came with a soft groan, and stretched like a sleepy kitkin with more moans. Ruvane swallowed the small issue of seminal fluid and moved up to kiss him. He stroked the lithe body that arched beside him, smiling.
“So beautiful, little love. May I have you again?” His hands and smile were still gentle. This time he would not be rough.
“Whenever you want. I yours.” Etarin smiled.
“I’m sorry about being rude the first time. It’s been a while.” Ruvane kissed him again, unable to get enough of that mouth. Something about the dancer’s taste made his head spin, made him hungry for more kisses. “Would you like to be on top for this one?” He played with Etarin’s lovely dark nipples, feeling them peak under his fingers before lowering his mouth to suck at one again, teasing with his tongue. “I like being ridden.”
Etarin nodded. “I be on top.” Ruvane settled onto his back and Etarin used the barrier cream before kneeling over his hips. He placed the tip of the big man’s large cock at his entrance and relaxed enough to let him in. He perched there for a moment and in a fit of daring leaned down to kiss Ruvane.
“Oh babe.” He kissed the dancer deeply and moaned as Etarin took him in completely. “Such a little thing like you to take all of me.” Ruvane ran his hands over the slim hips, powerful thighs and strong, slim arms as the dancer rode him. He played with Etarin’s nipples, making them crinkle up into hard points and ran light fingers over Etarin’s slim shaft, which did not wake again. He buried them in the black waterfall of Etarin’s hair and pulled him down for a long kiss as he finally came.
* * * * *
Ruvane made the next hop in record time. He might hate Flistik, but Etarin was waiting. Ruvane thought about Etarin all the way to Carmathi and back. He pushed his baby to the limit and as far as he safely could beyond it. She handled like a dream even at the red-bar, moving under his guidance as she would for no one else. He had to set a speed record. He wanted Skrit, the Flistikkan, in his debt enough to have the dancer again.
Etarin was so beautiful. During the course of his five-hour sleep shifts, the youth danced in Ruvane’s dreams, golden and black, all big eyes and a starless cascade of space-black curls. In his dreams, Etarin laughed above him, riding his cock, and moaned below him as he sucked and probed, his fingers buried deep. If it had been anyone else, he’d have laughed and said it was just lust. He tried telling himself that. And repeated it, unbelieving, when he found himself digging for an extra pillow in the storage crates or sizing someone’s abandoned clothing and imagining it on Etarin.
Etarin was a custom-made item, bred for beauty and talent, castrated to keep him young-looking and beautiful. No way Skrit would let him go. Not for what Ruvane could pay right now. But he was working steadily, saving money and he’d have the beautiful boy, one way or another. Somewhere in the long hop, he decided Etarin would be his, no matter what methods were needed.
Most of all, he wanted to make Etarin come and sigh and smile that naughty smile at him. He’d checked the databanks on Grania when he’d gotten back. He’d learned that the fluid was made in the prostate and seminal vesicles. Only the sperm were made in Etarin’s lost testicles. Ruvane did a little homework on whether mild testosterone treatments would help Etarin’s arousal level.
Finally he touched down on Flistik. He’d called ahead and Skrit’s men were waiting at the cargo bay. He opened the belly hatch for them to unload and took his baby through a nice, slow post-flight, checking everything twice. She deserved it after that run. He’d blown a powerfold housing.
While the lizards unloaded him, he tinkered, replacing the housing and trying to get Grania’s engines in perfect tune again. She was fine by the time they were done. Their leader approached.
“Skrit like you ride back with us. New job for you, yessss.”
“Sure. Just give me a second.” Ruvane threw his dentifrice and a spare pair of underwear into some of the many pockets on his jumpsuit and set the auto-response code on his ground-cycle, as he always did. If he had to make a getaway, he’d have transportation.
The lizards were silent on the ride out to the estate. Ruvane asked no questions, but watched the rocky scenery flash past the ground-car. Skrit was in a good mood when they arrived.
“You do well, little human. Fassst ship. I think I have you do more work. Your pay.” Again a credit chip on his bank. “You like my boy again? Or you like different one?”
Ruvane shrugged. “The boy will be fine. I think I got him taught what I like. Hate to go to all that work on another one.”
“Practical.” Skrit gave a hissing laugh, then had Etarin brought in. Ruvane was careful to show no need or desire for the dancer, but rather a pleased disinterest. “You have until tomorrow morning,” Skrit said.
Etarin led him to the blue bedroom again. Ruvane waited until the door was shut and locked before sweeping the youth into his arms and kissing him madly. Etarin clung to his neck, kissing back with a matching desire.
“I missed you. All I could think of was getting back to you.” He kissed the boy again and held him at arms’ length to look at him a while. “So gorgeous. I feel like I walked into some kind of temple and the idol came alive for wanting me.”
Etarin blushed, giving his golden skin a rosy glow. “Only boy.”
“A very beautiful one.” Ruvane ran a calloused thumb across Etarin’s soft lips. Etarin’s tongue slipped out and licked at it. “Too pretty to be real. I keep thinking you’re going to vanish while my back is turned.” His stomach picked that moment to rumble.
Etarin smiled and patted it. “I serve you food now? Know it long trip.”
“You got anything off-world humans can eat?” Ruvane wasn’t sure if the humans here had developed a Flistikkan digestive tract. Humans were the most adaptable species in the galaxy, and his own body was proof of that. When his world had been settled, billennia before, his people had been human norm. Now, Cythorians had so many internal differences from main-stock humans, they were almost their own species.
Etarin’s smile broadened. “Many thing. I get best food.”
“That’d be nice. It was a long trip.” He didn’t let Etarin out of bed, or even out of his arms as the dancer rang for the other slaves and had a small feast delivered to them. He fed Etarin—managing to eat plenty himself—enjoying the way Etarin’s sharp white teeth closed on pieces of fruit or meat, the delicate swipes of his tongue as he licked Ruvane’s fingers clean.
Ruvane, full and in a merry mood, rolled a round berry down his fingers for Etarin to catch in his mouth. He followed the berry with a kiss, licking the sweet-tart juice from Etarin’s lips. Feeling silly, he rolled one from the bridge of his nose down to the tip, and Etarin caught it, giggling. Finally, Ruvane set the mostly empty trays aside, and drew the dancer close for more kisses, letting them turn lingering and heated.
“I wish you stay.” Etarin’s wistful voice tugged at Ruvane.
“Wish I could, Beautiful. You know, I’m gonna make this next run in record time again and ask for you again.”
Most spacers picked up their payment and left. Ruvane could see the hope in Etarin’s eyes that he would not be forgotten or cast aside for a different interest.
Ruvane made love to Etarin, long and slow, taking his pleasure, and making sure the dancer received his own enjoyment. It took time and patience, as well as a few tricks he’d picked up from a Travinkan whore in the art of sucking cock, but Ruvane had plenty of incentive where Etarin was concerned.
“I always remember this…” Etarin sighed as he drew near his climax. “No other ever take so much time.”
Between licks, Ruvane mumbled, “I’ll give you something better to remember next time. Come on, beautiful boy. Come for me.”
“Is no better,” Etarin protested. He arched up into Ruvane’s mouth with a loud cry as he came soon after.
Ruvane licked him clean of the few drops of fluid. “So very beautiful.” He began kissing his way up the slim body. “So sexy. Can you stay all night?”
“I yours until morning.” Etarin caught his breath with a shiver and snuggled close to the large spacer.
Ruvane kissed him. “Then sleep in my arms? I want to hold and stroke you all night.”
Etarin snuggled closer with a soft sigh of happiness that rippled the hair on Ruvane’s chest. He kissed Ruvane’s neck, and then gave himself over to the drowsy kisses from the spacer.
The next morning, Ruvane woke to a flower from the dinner trays on the pillow beside him and an empty room. He tucked the flower into his jacket and went back to Grania for the next run. This time it was even easier to fly fast, negotiate hard and be back to Flistik sooner than he’d planned.
Skrit paid up and offered the dancer again. Ruvane yawned and acted as if Etarin was of no great concern. He even made a show of looking at some of the other servants. The blue bedroom already had a human-style dinner for two laid when he came in, and Etarin was wearing a voluminous floor-length robe to match the room. But even the robe could not conceal the bruises on the dancer’s strong arms and throat.
Ruvane kissed him, then kissed each bruise, his lips barely grazing the damaged skin, and looked up, murder in his face. “Who banged you up, Beautiful?”
Etarin lowered his eyes. “I clumsy. Spill water on Master’s bed.”
Ruvane kissed him again, softly. Even in his wildest imaginings he couldn’t feature this man being clumsy. “Be careful, okay? I want you in good shape next time.”
Etarin gave a shy smile at the promise there would be more nights. He drew the robe over the bruises. “Not hurt me too bad.”
Ruvane drew him quietly into his arms. “If you were mine, I’d never hurt you.” He kissed the top of Etarin’s head. “Never hurt little ones, it’s the first rule where I come from.”
“You not be happy if I spoil your bed either.” The words had no conviction. Etarin laid his head against Ruvane’s broad chest and listened to the odd three-count heartbeat. “You not human,” he said, drawing away.
“Not quite, darlin’. My folks used to be, way back when. We’re still close enough to be interfertile.” He realized what Etarin meant. “Six-chambered heart. Air’s kinda thin on my world and the high altitude tends to need more circulation.” He kissed Etarin again. “It’d take more than a spill to make me unhappy with you. Lots more. A little water never hurts anything. It dries.”
He looked over the food. “Looks good, baby. Join me?” As they ate, Ruvane told Etarin more of his species, Cythorians, who were from human stock a few billennia ago, but had adapted to life on a world of mostly mountains and sea. Etarin cleared their dinner away and shivered under Ruvane’s hungry gaze, one that had nothing to do with their food. “You want to see if I can make you feel as good as I did last time?”
Etarin nodded. “You different kind of human, but still human.” He kissed Ruvane with warm, soft lips as the spacer guided them to the bed.
A different kind of human, and maybe magic as well, Etarin decided as Ruvane remembered the exact motion and speed that were best for him. All thought was gone when the clever fingers stroked him, inside and out, to the most rapid climax of his life.
“You only one ever do that,” he said, between the kisses Ruvane showered over his face when he was finished.
“Damn shame. You’re so sweet when you’re coming.” Ruvane laid a long stripe with his tongue along the muscular shoulders.
“Always surprise me when I do.” Unused to pleasure, Etarin had no good way to realize when he was coming close to a climax.
“You’d get used to it with me. I’d make sure every time.” Ruvane nuzzled into the dark curls, kissing the soft skin of his neck, and sucking at his earlobe.
“You do more work for Master?” Etarin sounded very hopeful. He didn’t want to lose this man, this magic man who knew what he liked and always took care of him first.
“You bet.” Ruvane punctuated this with a long, deep kiss. “If it gets me you, I’ll work for him no matter how many insults he gives me. He doesn’t like humans much.” He stroked Etarin’s legs, licking at his nipples. “You’re better than Stardust, better than Windsmoke. Getting me higher faster than they ever did.”
“No, Master hate human. He kill last spacer who work for him.”
Ruvane scowled. “Why? Do you know?”
Etarin shrugged. “Wanted his ship?” He had no idea why the lizard had killed the cranky little bandy-legged man who’d flown for him before.
Swearwords in three languages worked their way across Etarin’s chest as Ruvane moved. “Why? He can’t fly it. Flistikkans can’t navigate for shit.”
“I not know. He just keep it. It in his hangar and just sit there.” Etarin pulled Ruvane down for another kiss, worried now himself.
“A few more runs and I’ll have enough money to buy what I really want.” He kissed Etarin, deeply this time, and Etarin sucked at his tongue until Ruvane moaned. “Then I can say yes or no more easily.”
Very softly, in his ear, Etarin whispered, “I hear his meetings. I always behind curtain. If he make bad plan, I tell you.”
“Two more runs. That’s all I need,” Ruvane said, reaching for the barrier gel. “But right now, I need you more, Beautiful.”
* * * * *
Finally, after a third run, it was time. Ruvane spoke up after Skrit had paid him. “I’d like to buy Etarin.”
Skrit looked at him as if he’d never seen the human before. “Really, human? How much you offer?”
Ruvane looked like he was thinking hard. “Twenty thousand is the going rate on human slaves. Because Etarin is a specialty item, one made at significant expense and to a specific design, the price should be much increased, say ten times that? And fifty thousand more for all of the special training. Yes, I think a quarter million is fair.”
Skrit was amused by the offer. “Why you offer so much, human? You love little toy?”
Ruvane shrugged. “Not really. Don’t have it in me. But he’s good company, smart and I figure he’ll earn the money back by dancing for me in taverns and spaceports.” He gave a slow, lecherous grin. “Besides, I got him all trained to what I like.”
Skrit considered the proposition for a few more minutes. “No. He mine. I not sell my things.”
Ruvane met the answer with a shrug as if it didn’t matter one way or another to him. “I’ll find another.”
“You have him tonight, human.” Skrit’s yellow eyes narrowed. He knew the spacer would be trouble. Humans always were when they wanted something. The human could pretend he didn’t care, but Skrit had watched the surveillance tapes, and knew what the humans did behind the closed doors. Etarin had never shown him that much desire or passion. “Then you not land on Flistik anymore.” He tapped a couple of buttons on the arm of his chair with his claws. Not only would Ruvane not land on Flistik, he would never leave.
“Whatever you say. You’re the boss. You don’t want the hottest pilot this side of the Galactic Corps doing your hops, it’s no slag off my hull.” Ruvane turned and headed to the blue bedroom.
Etarin came in, his usual feigned fear changing to instant delight when the door shut behind him. “You come back.” He flung himself into Ruvane’s arms and covered his face and beard with kisses. Ruvane allowed him to kiss for a moment and then looked him over. Etarin had chosen to wear only a pair of sheer, loose peach-colored pants. They hid nothing and Ruvane’s breathing sped up at the sight.
“For the last time, beautiful boy.” Ruvane sat on the edge of the bed and started opening his shirt.
The large dark eyes swam with tears that threatened to make his eyeliner run. “You tired of Etarin?” His lip quivered and Ruvane kissed it.
“Never. The boss says I can’t come back to Flistik. I offered to buy you. He turned down a quarter-mil. And the way he acted today, I’m thinking I better not stick too long this time.”
Etarin’s jaw fell at the offered price. “I not worth so much,” he squeaked. A quarter-million was more than most ships cost. It was more than any slave had ever cost.
Ruvane kissed him again, using the kiss to cover his motion as he shot the movement device on the surveillance camera with a tiny palm-gun that he pulled from inside his shirt, freezing the camera in place. “You are to me. Now do you want to come with me or you want to stay here?”
“I come. Not hard choice at all.” Etarin looked around, still clearly afraid of being overheard.
Ruvane tripped the switch on his remote-link for the cycle. It would take a few minutes for the ground-cycle to get there. He took twenty thousand in hard currency from his belt-pouch and set it on the nightstand in full view of the camera. “I’m no thief. I made a fair offer, and he said no. But I won’t just steal you.” Pausing a moment more just to look at Etarin, Ruvane kissed him again until he heard the whine of the cycle’s engine.
“Out the window. We’re going now. I got a twitchy feeling in my pelt that says your owner is up to something.” Ruvene closed up his shirt and grabbed his jacket.
“Master follow us, kill us.” Etarin wavered, staring at the door of the room and then at the window and the ground-cycle beyond it.
Ruvane nodded. “Gonna kill me anyway, I expect. That’s why we’re leaving. I paid for you. Now he’s gotta catch us before he can hurt either one of us. And nobody tracks my baby girl.”
Ruvane threw open the door-like windows and walked out over the sill. “Besides, better to die free than live in chains.” He shrugged. “But if you’d rather stay, I’ll take my money and go back to my ship and just remember you like any other whore in any other port, instead of taking you with me and making you my lover. Come if you’re coming.” He stretched a hand back to Etarin and beckoned.
Etarin swallowed very hard and took the proffered hand. “I coming.” He stepped out of the window into the courtyard, looking absolutely terrified at this new event. Ruvane suspected it the first decision Etarin had ever made on his own that was more important than what color of glitter or robe to wear.
The cycle purred away as Ruvane strapped a helmet onto Etarin and slipped his own on. He put his leather jacket on the boy to help protect him. Not that either would really survive a bad crash on the little cycle, but anything was better than bare skin. “Mount up,” he said, swinging a leg over. Etarin climbed aboard, not sure what came next, and wrapped his arms around Ruvane.
Ruvane tapped the throttle and the cycle roared into the night. “Hold tight,” he said over the helmet communicator links. “Hold on really tight.” He revved the cycle to a hundred and past, far too fast, completely unsafe. But Skrit would be finding the deserted bedroom any time now and Ruvane wanted to be long gone before the lizards caught up with them.
As they raced back to the main port, Ruvane caught glimpses of transports behind them, coming from Skrit’s place. A siren sounded far back. He redlined the cycle, pushing it to the performance limits, dodging what traffic there was on the road. Ruvane tried not to swerve too much, not with this precious cargo who didn’t know how to lean into curves. He could feel Etarin’s arms tight around his waist and Etarin’s warm breath coming fast on the back of his neck, setting the small hairs there to stirring.
In the port, Ruvane reluctantly slowed to traffic speed, trusting he’d put enough distance between them and their pursuers, and punched a few more remote buttons. Grania would be all warmed up and ready when they got there. He paid the docking fee at the door, rode the cycle up the ramp into her cargo hatch and tossed his helmet aside.
A black kitkin mewed around his ankles then scrambled up his pants leg to take up residence on his shoulder. He winced a bit at the claws in his skin and scratched its ears.
“Fluffball, the kid’s got my jacket. How about you ride on him?” Ruvane gently lifted the feline to Etarin’s shoulder and headed for the cockpit. Etarin followed, stroking the kitkin who seemed perfectly content to dig in on the heavily padded left shoulder and purr loudly. “Buckle down, Etarin, we’re leaving, right now.”
He didn’t pause to see how Etarin figured out the buckles of the second cockpit seat on his own. Ruvane was very busy, too busy trying to get them off-world. Etarin clutched the back of Ruvane’s chair with one hand and held the kitkin with the other.
Ruvane ran a very fast preflight and made a highly illegal lift. He skirted the defense satellite and got clear of the system at ridiculous speeds. “What do you think, Fluff?” The kitkin mewed.
“Yeah, you’re right. Let’s go that way.” He flipped into D-space, the hyperdimensional area that let space-pilots traverse the cosmic distances.
Once Grania had settled into the D, he gave her console a pat, and let out a long, slow breath. Then, he turned and stroked the kitkin. “Nice navigating, Fluffball.” The kitkin purred at him. He kissed Etarin. “Fluffball says you stay.”
“Kitkin is navigator?” Etarin was very confused. “Never know kitkins talk. Back home, Master eat kitkins.”
Ruvane wrinkled his nose, angry now. “Fluffball’s better at flying than I am. Stupid lizards. Eating kitkins. That’s sacrilege. The Goddess don’t take well to people eating Her kitkins.” He corrected himself. “Doesn’t. Sorry, my accent slides down-port when I get mad.”
Etarin nodded. “Ate alive to make me cry. He catch us, he eat you alive and make me watch. Then he eat me, keep me alive as long as possible so I hurt every second.”
Ruvane didn’t show his horror at this suggestion. Instead, he shot a flip grin over his shoulder. “He’s gotta catch us first. And I’d disagree with him. Maybe even poison him just for spite.”
Etarin giggled then looked upset. Ruvane knew his emotions had to be on a real thrill-ride. His own adrenaline was making him feel all hot and cold and ready to run or fight or fuck. “He send bounty hunters,” Etarin fretted.
“Hang on a minute.” The boy had a legitimate concern. Ruvane got on the comm. “This is Ruvane Delkroy.” He gave his personal identification number, a lengthy alphanumeric code that encompassed his planet of birth, his species and his profession. “I just bought a slave, rather informally. I left payment and took him. You can check the records on cam 0375 at 2215 local Flistik time.”
He gave the full, almost unpronounceable name of his former employer and the official coordinates of the planet. “He may dispute my rights, but payment was left. Yes, thank you.” After a few minutes more of discussion, he closed that channel and opened a second. Ruvane saw Etarin listening intently as he haggled with the people at the central registry, and got his ownership changed.
Etarin stared, his confusion evident, still holding Fluffball and petting the kitkin to calm himself. He let Ruvane kiss him. “It could not be this easy. I yours now? Master never handle me again?”
Ruvane smiled. “All taken care of. And just that easy, Beautiful. No legitimate Guild-backed Hunter will come for us.” He patted his pistol. “And any others I can handle.”