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Literature
Hidden in plain sight
As the taxi stopped by the glass and steel high-rise on Winston Boulevard, I repeated my little speech in a fast forward sequence the last time. I ran the credit card through the reader and thanked the driver before I stepped out. Outside the air-conditioned car, the night was warm and soggy, the way it tends to be in LA this time of the year, so I walked as quickly as my heels allowed me up to the entrance where a livery clad valet was receiving the guests. And no matter that the doors were of the sliding kind, you got the certain impression that he was opening it for you, admitting you in. And on the other side of the door was another valet with a guest list on an iPad. He checked my name off the list and wished me welcome inside, and then a third valet was offering me Champagne, I had no doubt that it was real Champagne, jetted in from France, in a high flute. I declined though, as I needed every bit of my sobriety tonight. What I was about to do was hard and challenging, then again
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Mature content
Airport :iconolycksalig:olycksalig 0 0
Literature
The Palladium of Troy 21. Kerii
As the airship lifted, turned and began heading towards the north-west, Daraxan watched Penelope take in the sights of the world Kandanaki with large and curious blue eyes. She kept staring down at Minodewa as it felt away beneath them, until it became almost impossible to see any details through the misty atmosphere and then she craned her neck and looked out at the sky, which up at this altitude was more resembling the Earth one, although a bit more of a lavender kind. After that she turned inwards and regarded the other passenger, the Smistans, the Kerii with their noisy children, the sole Dryad in the corner and the furry Gradars with their forked tails and minimal clothing. He followed her glances, waiting for her questions, but the next second he found her looking at him instead, as if he was the largest mystery of all. Was it because of the theoi thing, the god thing, he wondered, knowing that the Earthling's conception of gods and goddesses were way different from in most words
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Literature
The Palladium of Troy 20. Portal trip
Sunlight filtered in through the heavy curtains, sending slivers of light dancing across the room. Penelope shifted slowly, trying not to wake Daraxan, who lay asleep beside her. She felt disoriented at first, then remembered what had occurred between them that night, and she pressed her lips into a shy smile. The corners of her eyes tugged upward. After a moment's hesitation, she snuggled in next to him, sliding the sheet up over her breasts. Now was she sore today? Her whole body felt limp and used, in a delicious, wanton sort of way. Yes, she was relaxed, but this wasn't the best state to be in if she had a work to get up to. She glanced lazily at the clock, five past nine. She stirred and awoke for real, jolting in bed. Five past nine! Holy hell, when did she start working today? Then she realized that it was Sunday and the library was closed, and she let her head fall down on the soft pillow with a content sigh. Grinning, she arched her back into a slow stretch and rolled to face
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Mature content
Menage a trois :iconolycksalig:olycksalig 0 0
Literature
The Palladium of Troy 19. Nocturnal advisor
The digital clock on the bed stand showed 2:43 with luminescent red digits and Daraxan couldn't sleep. However, this time it wasn't because he was thinking of sex. No, scratch that, he was thinking of sex. Just not of having it. Penelope lay asleep at his side. Well, passed out was more like it. Other than his hoarse 'Still alive?' and her muted confirmation they hadn't exchanged anything else before she went out like a blown-out candle.
What had really happened earlier?
He'd sure had good sex before, lots of it, in fact. Even if he wasn't as horny as some of his brothers, let along his father, you didn't live for a millennium without trying everything possible and then some. Several times around. But what he'd just had with Penelope wasn't sex, it was a life-altering experience. An explosion. A miracle. A revelation! Every single little thing he didn't need right now. He had got himself in real trouble he realized, as he let his eyes wander up in the ceiling, following a meandering cr
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Literature
The day before the war
Captain Giolian Xenopour buttoned up his shirt and laced the nylon ties of his breeches while Anastasia lay curled up on the bed, watching him. Her elbow pressed into the mattress, head resting in her palm as she gave him a sultry and satisfied smile, partly hidden by a cascade of ruby hair with carroty highlights shining in the sun streaming through the semi-transparent curtains. Her twinkling jade eyes and sultry smile was telling him that she wanted more. However he had far more pressing matters to be concerned with than the beautiful, naked woman on the bed. While he had been training more Lavodan warriors, Giolian hadn't been to Eskiarthonas for more than three months. Time had run out and he had to gather warriors and return to the Northern front line before the break of the next morning.
"Sure you are not ready for another round?" Anastasia asked in a voice that came out in a purr as she pushed herself to a sitting position, lightly tracing one of her fingers down his scarred bi
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Mature content
The Palladium of Troy 18. Beyond Ecstasy :iconolycksalig:olycksalig 0 0
Literature
The Palladium of Troy 17. Warlock
Daraxan forced himself to continue swaying back and forth in tune with the down-beat music with Penelope in his arms, as if he was just another clubber dancing with his date, while keeping his gaze on the tall and slim badass by the edge of the dancefloor. He let his eyes take in the Sapient's slightly glittering gray skin and bald, elongated and somewhat pointy head, slanted dark eyes sans irises, and smaller secondary and tertiary eyes above them, organs for ultra- and infralights. A Merouchian warlock, it wasn't often you saw them on Earth, they tended to keep to the worlds further down on the dimensional lineup, away from Olympia and the centre of powers. Yet recently they had started to frequent these planes too, perhaps because of over-population and ongoing wars in their own worlds, and their presence on Earth had among other things given the raw materials for the urban legends of the Slenderman. The Merouchian warlocks were like rats, they preferred the shades and the covered p
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Literature
Chemical Alice
Baghdad was a scrub of a town, an electric grid in the middle of the barren desert, guarded by the burned-out husks of ancient dwellings. One could walk through the inhabited town in ten minutes and then end up in the extended graveyard that was the old city, and Alice was getting the 8-euro tour following Alonzo Sarvona around. One could also get anything one wanted in Baghdad whether legal or illegal. There were no gendarmes to be seen in Baghdad, as a matter of fact, Alice wasn't sure if there had ever been. But now that the gendarmes and the jihadists were at war, there wasn't a gendarme within five hundred miles of this place. So without bothering to look over her shoulder, Alice followed Alonzo down the broad and garbage littered street towards The Reactor, holes in the ground after exploding grenades forcing them to zig-zag ahead. The Reactor was a dump from the outside, crackling gray wall plaster, bars on the windows, and weak, jittery neon covering the upper half of the walls
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Literature
The Palladium of Troy 16. Hedonistica
Penelope felt tense and apprehensive where she sat in the back seat next to Daraxan as the taxi brought them through the nocturnal Athens, towards the infamous night club Hedonistica. A school of butterflies had taken flight in her stomach. In an effort to calm her nerves, she inhaled with closed eyes, reminding herself that she was the one who had wanted to go with Daraxan. Who had insisted when he had tried to warn her off. She still did want to come, but the prospect of facing yet another place filled with creepy Sapients made her nervous beyond reason. Especially after what Eugenia had told about the club earlier. Eugenia didn't like the place, she thought it's regulars creepy, and she was a goddess, damn it! In any case, Daraxan looked if possible hotter than usual tonight, black slacks took the place of his customary jeans and he had an equally black suit on top of that glittering Kernaoud outfit. His hair was casually tousled and jelled that way, thus it looked like he'd just ho
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Literature
Deity
Deity
By the edge of the dry and barren Nevada desert, past the rush of the Salt River and the burning wastes of Tonopah, an old woman sat beside her screen in an empty house, waiting for news. She didn't study her reflection in the silent, black glass the way she might have done decades ago. She had known her share of vanity, but now she felt all her years and battles in her back and hips and spotted blue-veined hands. She had no need to see them in her face. Light slanted through the windows, hot and honey-gold, undimmed by the storm that had passed less than an hour ago. If she looked east she might still see the clay-purple stain of its departure across the desert, but that view was of no more interest to her than her own reflection. Just as she'd seen enough of herself had she seen the devastation of a twister before. She shook her head, was weary enough without regrets. With nearly eighty years behind her, she had seen what the storms wrought, the things that other members of the
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Literature
The Palladium of Troy 15. Little Black Dress
"I could get used to this," Daraxan smirked to himself as he stretched languidly on the queen-sized bed, being careful not to disrupt the sleeping Penelope as he did. She was curled against his side, her back spooned against his chest and her head pillowed on his arm. Though she was wearing a cotton pajama and he had only removed his pants, it was strangely intimate, sharing a bed with her. Daraxan had hardly ever spent the night with any woman before, seldom stayed long enough to get their names right for half of the time. But Penelope was different. She had finally begun giving him bits and pieces of herself, telling her story, what had happened after that awful night in Stockholm and about her first years in Greece, how awfully weird it had been to move to a new country, to learn a different language and encountering an entirely different culture. Sweden and Greece were poles apart in so many ways, so it must've felt like being relocated to another planet although it was just half a
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Literature
The Palladium Of Troy 14. Translation
Maybe it wasn't so clever to bring Penelope along on this particular errant, Daraxan thought. Earlier, his main concern had been keeping track on the young woman, making sure that she stayed close to himself. He feared that losing her, and her unexpected and amazing skills, would be a devastating setback to his chance at getting hold of the Palladium of Troy. This breakthrough, this human, he feared, was something he would not find again. This was what the humans called a lifetime chance, even though his life span hardly made that allegory worth anything. He just couldn't lose Penelope. Therefore, he had transitorily overlooked the somewhat inconvenient fact that the minor goddess Agnes had once been his part time lover and that she doubtlessly anticipated for them to pick up where they'd left off, even though that was almost a century ago, back in the roaring twenties. The era of Charleston and Jazz. Now he not only had to deal with Agnes' innuendos but also with Penelope glaring dagg
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Literature
The Palladium Of Troy 13. Agnes
Daraxan snuck a look at Penelope from his seat behind the wheel of the Tesla. It was about an hour of daylight left now and they had spent nearly thirty minutes navigating the Athenian traffic and the landscape of steel and glass had morphed into quiet suburb roads, low houses and olive trees. And almost the entire time had she been eerily quiet. That woman ran hot and cold like the volcanic wells of Nomaua, it was almost as alluring as it was frustrating.
"A euro for your thoughts?" he asked as he stopped for a red light.
"They're worth more than that," she replied and continued to stare out the car window. He drummed his hand against the wheel as he mused over her response. "All right," she finally said. "That being in my flat, what was it?"
"I'm not sure," he admitted. "It wasn't human, so much can I tell, but I'm going to need Corian's help with the details, he has the ability to analyze DNA-strands."
"Aliens have DNA?"
"All species have DNA," he replied matter of factly. "From bac
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Literature
The Palladium of Troy 12. Housebreak
Penelope sneaked out of bed sometime about ten in the morning. When she opened the door, Daraxan's apartment rested in silence, perhaps her host was still asleep. She glanced over to the door to his room, it was still shut at least. He really wasn't that bad when you got to know him, she thought. Sarcastic and witty, he could make her laugh even when she didn't want to. And he was thoughtful too, caring almost, something he had shown yesterday. If it was possible, she was at ease with him now, almost friendly. He hadn't exactly had her at 'Hello', but she was definitely warming to him, she realized. She felt her lips pull as she regarded the door, then she became aware of a certain urgent need and dashed into the bathroom. By the time she'd showered, dressed and exited the bathroom, he was definitely awake though, she found him in the hallway just outside.
"Good morning," he greeted her and ran his hands through sleep-rumpled curls. The sight evoked images of him lazing around in bed a
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As the taxi stopped by the glass and steel high-rise on Winston Boulevard, I repeated my little speech in a fast forward sequence the last time. I ran the credit card through the reader and thanked the driver before I stepped out. Outside the air-conditioned car, the night was warm and soggy, the way it tends to be in LA this time of the year, so I walked as quickly as my heels allowed me up to the entrance where a livery clad valet was receiving the guests. And no matter that the doors were of the sliding kind, you got the certain impression that he was opening it for you, admitting you in. And on the other side of the door was another valet with a guest list on an iPad. He checked my name off the list and wished me welcome inside, and then a third valet was offering me Champagne, I had no doubt that it was real Champagne, jetted in from France, in a high flute. I declined though, as I needed every bit of my sobriety tonight. What I was about to do was hard and challenging, then again, what was life without challenges. Challenges had taken me far, they were obstacles meant to conquer, and conquering was what I planned to do. Although this battle would be harder, I thought as I stepped right into the mingle, as I was supposed to battle myself too, myself and my past and its desires. Making it through the body of people, it felt as if I was moving through one gigantic specimen, a breathing membrane, it's noise of several hundred voices, as I scanned the crowd for the one I was looking for.

Yes – there! There he was!

"Martin." I breathed his name silently to myself, almost reverentially. Just the two-beat of his name was enough to raise erotic pinpricks of desire within my flesh. Martin. How the whispering of his name was enough to unleash an aching echo of the tumultuous desires he had once aroused within me. The very air was electric with the reckless sensual excitement that wantonly flooded me, even though I'd sworn to make rid of it. Get rid of it and make it look like I was here for nothing but simply celebrating the 25th years anniversary of Electro Sapient Incorporated, the company which Martin Soleman was president of. But knowing this and actually seeing him with that strikingly sensual virility I remembered well were two different things. Just the turn of his head, just his classic, sun-burned profile, just the healthy, blond sheen of his hair and the way it curled into the nape of his neck, a bit too long for a business man perhaps, was enough to conjure up old memories. Memories of burying my fingers into the softness of that hair, curl them around strands and then urge his mouth down to mine. A shudder of sensual awareness jolted through me at those flashbacks. Some things never changed, a certain kind of need, a certain kind of desire, a certain kind of love. Until that night, when it all had fallen apart. Since then, I'd had promised myself that in future I'd only give my love to a man worthy of it, someone who valued it and me. A man who loved me as much as I did him. I forced those thoughts to the back of my mind, I needed Martin's help, no matter how much my pride reacted angrily against that need.

Inhaling deeply to control my hard-strung nerves, I started to towards him. Perhaps luck was shining at least the slightest at me, because the man and woman he'd been conversing with nodded their good byes and left, just moments before I walked up to the edge of his personal sphere.
"Martin Soleman," I said as I neared him, holding out my hand, watching the gems on my Cartier watch glisten in the bright overhead light. "Congratulations on twenty-five successful years, and my hope for another twen..." my eyes widening in surprise as he immediately encircled my wrist with his right hand to fend me off while stepping back from me in rejection, his handsome face twisting. How could I've been so stupid, just ambling in like this? There was after all a history of rejection between the two of us, or rather of Martin rejecting me, and now I'd put herself on the back foot by allowing him to feel that he needed to push me away. Then again, I had acted nothing but professional, of that I was fully certain. I had to be more mentally alert with this man, I advised myself. Now, as I was so close to him, I could see what I hadn't seen earlier, the change in him that was clearly written in the steely uncompromising coldness of his expression.

"Victoria Craig," his voice like frozen hydrogen.
"You can let go of me, Martin. I promise you I won't make a scene. I just came here to congratulate you."
"Oh, really," he raised a brow. "You didn't come to claim that all of this should rightfully be yours, the way you claimed earlier then?" The very speed with which Martin released me proved what my heart had already told me, that as far as he was concerned any lengthier physical contact between us was not going to happen.

Against my will sadness locked my throat. The Martin I remembered had been a warm, outgoing young man who had laughed a lot and enjoyed life. Who loved to surf and play the guitar just as much as he liked to engage in his professional life, his strive to make a working artificial intelligence and to put it to market. That Martin had been a genius both in business and in artificial intelligence, but most of all he'd been a young man whose innate kindness and understanding had meant so much to me, to all of us during those first years with the Electro Sapient. Back then, when we had been colleagues, and had thought the whole world laid ahead of us for conquering with our ingenious inventions. What had then happened to change Martin and turn him into the cynical, almost-brooding man in front of me now? Did I really need to ask myself that? Cecil had happened to him as well as to me. Cecil, whom Martin had chosen to believe in rather than in me, when he learned about the lost blue-prints. Cecil who had claimed that it had been all my idea, and that he and I had been lovers. When the only thing I had done was feeling sorry for the man and offering him my coach to sleep on when he'd been thrown out by his girlfriend. Little did I know that Genevieve might have had a very good reason throwing Cecil out. My sadness grew as compassion for the Martin I remembered filled me, and it was these memories which had brought me to his gathering now and not the abrupt sea change in our relationship after Cecil's lies, and Martin's rejection of me because of it. Those fine qualities I remembered had been stripped from the man in front of me, I realized with a sudden painful jolt of my heart into the ribs. This 'new' Martin possessed a dark and ominous air, a cold remoteness, as if a dark cloud had chilled the warm personality of the young man I remembered. Something deep within me ached for what he had been. Immediately, I clamped down on that feeling. I must not be vulnerable to him, not allow myself to feel anything for him. Not even when I'd once patterned my ideal of what I thought desirable in a man on Martin. That had been a foolish mistake and one for which I'd paid through the heartbreak that only a young and idealistic woman can know.

But it was the old Martin who I desperately needed to talk with right now, the words I'd use to elicit the help I needed from him honed and practised. But I had to be careful. Careful and aware of what I needed to achieve for my own professional survival. All it would take was just one meeting, one ordeal to go through to gain something I desperately needed. After tonight I'd never have to talk to Martin again and I'd be safe, from my own past as well as for a future where I risked losing everything. However, his grim manner had put a barrier between us, imposing me to recognize how misplaced my confidence in him had been. And how much the change that I could perceive in him complicated the plan that had seemed so simple when I had gone over it earlier. I knew that I could easily have told 'the old' Martin what the problem was and just as easily have asked him for help, even making it sound like a win-win situation, that there was something really amazing in it for him as well. But this Martin, who looked at me with a gaze which held no affection for our shared past, diminished the hope I brought with me to tonight's party.

But the impasse as he let go of me, had gained me some momentum, and I braced myself. "Martin, there's something I want to ask you."
"If it's which of your current string of young men you should take to your bed next, then I'm afraid I don't give that kind of advice. Yes, I know all about your reputation these days, Victoria, and I'm glad I pulled out of it before I engaged into something serious with you. Personally, that is. Professionally I learned that you were as much deceived by Cecil Pilane as I was."
"You did?" I frowned. "Then why didn't you never tell me so?"
"Because then you were already trying to be litigating my ass of me. And anyway, you seem very skilled at picking the one that will gain you the most print inches and the largest photographs in the world's celebrity press." It was an emotionally brutal rebuttal and rejection, and that hurt. I knew that I'd had my detractors but somehow I'd never expected Martin to be one of them. I had my own reasons for not just allowing but positively encouraging the world at large to think of me as a young woman who relished my hedonistically sexual lifestyle and who indeed revelled in it. After all, wasn't the best way to disguise and protect something precious to camouflage it, to hide it from view in plain sight? As for that sharp stinging pain his words had brought me, that was nothing. I was not going to allow him that kind of power. Even so, I couldn't stop myself from defending my actions.
"So I go public with my relationships and you keep yours private," I said as I gave a small shrug, intending it to be dismissive.
"Which of us, I wonder, would an unbiased bystander consider to be the more honest?" His voice curt and as hard and unforgiving as his expression. "Now, I'm afraid such discussions aren't of any appeal to me, no matter how much idle chatter and value they might find amongst your friends. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go see those gentlemen over there," he was nodding in a leftwards direction. "They flew all the way from Germany for this event, and I cannot turn down their chance to meet the president of the Electro Sapient."

He was dismissing me so soon? That was something else I hadn't expected or prepared for. This window of opportunity that was my planned escape was closing down by the minute. Panic had started to build up inside me, a panic that made me lose my tongue.
"Martin, hear me out first, please. It'll just take two minutes of your precious life, and I promise you there's a profitable opportunity at the end of my words."
"And what is it to say that you're not intending to screw you over again."
"I never did...  didn't you just tell me yourself you learned that!"
"Perhaps I was trying to tell it to myself as much as to you."
"Martin, once you were different, kinder." I heard that I was babbling, still I didn't care. Only desperation could make me behave like this, betray myself like this. "I know from the charities you are involved in and the help you give, how philanthropic and good you are to those in need. People as well as endangered species. Right now, Martin, I need…" I paused, breath barring in my throat. "I've never been able to say to you how sorry I was for what happened those days back in the 00:s, what an idiot I was who trusted Cecil. I had no idea..."
"Forget it, Victoria!" There was a flicker of something in those sea-green eyes, a tightening of the flesh that clung with such powerful sensuality to the bone structure of regal facial features with a lineage that went back across centuries to a time when his viking warrior ancestors had roamed Europe, and even, according to legend, made it over here, to the States.

He was withdrawing from me, I could sense it, almost feel it in the chilling of the air between us. I had learned already in my youth how to judge other people's emotions and to be wary of antagonising them. Damn it, but I shouldn't have mentioned Cecil. I knew that I'd angered him now. However, if he thought he was going to frighten me off with his forbidding manner towards me, he was wrong.
"Martin, I remember a man who told me that for a business occurrence to take place, there has to be two people one each side of it, both who believe they have something to gain from it. So do you want to hear what might be in it for you in my proposal?"
"If it's a sex adventure, that time is gone now," he snarled back. The words were delivered in a harsh blistering tone that confirmed what I already knew. What we had had back then was as dead as a mummy. There was nothing to do about that, I had to take this the whole way, no matter how vulnerable I felt inside.
"I thought you a little smarter for such a bate," I returned. Martin's penetrating gaze was assessing me with hawk like scrutiny, and yet there was something in his expression that had softened, as though the bones of his face had subtly moved so that I could once more perceive the Martin whose memory I cherished beneath the harshness that time had overlaid on those bones. That slight change resurrected my desperate hope.

"Certieas is closing down their research branch," I managed.
"And now you fear losing your job?" Again, he raised a brow. "And so you come to me asking me to take you on? Offering you a job?"
"It's not that I fear unemployment, and you know it, Martin. I can always find another job. But I fear losing the Insectbot. If they close down the research, the Chinese or somebody will take over the leading-edge we Americans have today in miniaturization. Just think about it!" Martin shrugged dismissively, but I didn't let that stop me. "If instead Electro Sapient would consider placing a bid on the Certieas research branch, then you'd get the Insectbot. Both of them as a matter of fact, the well-known ant, and the new bee which we have in prototyping now. Just imagine what we could acquire with that. The bee with an Electro Sapient brain! That would be unstoppable. We would be unstoppable. Martin!"
"Don't you think you're being a tad dramatic?" he asked her in a wry voice. "You aren't a naive girl any more, Victoria. Companies dismiss what they don't need. Amputate dead or dying limbs, to get by better, just like those jungle lizards can part with the end of their tails to get away from a predator. That is the way of our kind. Branches are founded and branches are sawed off, and that is how we fulfil our duty to our investors."

This wasn't how I'd imagined Martin's rejoinder when I had lain sleepless that night, plotting for the best way to acquire his help with trying to save the Insectbot. My life's achievement, my future. Then again, I had planned to lay out my words much better, my offer more tempting, wrapped up in glossy paper and tied with a nice little bow rather than served upon yesterday's paper.  
"I'm not being dramatic," I defended myself. "Surely, you must understand the work invested in this invention line? How much we have worked to see it happen, how many hours spent, weekends of family life scarified."
"I didn't think you had a family, Victoria." Martin just did not want to get involved in this. And why should he? He was a busy man about to enter the final negotiations on a contract with the Germans, the success of which would secure the future of his company for years to come.
"No, but several of my colleagues have, they have been working weekends, missing their kids' ballgames and theatre plays at school to make this thing happen. And now they are losing it all."
"Come on, Vicks, you were never the benevolent kind, and you didn't even bother making no secret of it."
A body blow indeed and one that drove the blood from my face and doubled the pain in my heart. Yet, it shouldn't matter what Martin thought of me, that wasn't part of my plan. But still his denunciation hurt and it wasn't one I could defend myself against. Not without telling him far more than I wanted him to know.
"Then you thought wrong," was all I could permit myself to say. "I care for my co-workers, they have become the family I miss outside work. We've become a close-knit group, just like one group I remember from 'back in those days'. Those days you might have happened to forget, Martin."
"I haven't forgotten. I remember well who ended them too."

"Then let them remain ended, and think of this as a pure business opportunity." My panic and fear was there in her voice, even I could hear it, so how much more obvious could it be to him? No, I had to try to stay calm. I truly couldn't explain the emotional agony I felt at the thought of losing the Insectbot, almost as if it had been the child I'd yet to conceive, a diminishing chance as I felt the ticking of my biological clock. I was 37 now, the time for me to have babies were soon coming to an end. And how would I then end up? As a bitter and old bitch of a loser, sitting in my apartment and moaning about how much better everything else had been 'back in those days'. Then I swallowed hard, it didn't do to let my emotions getting muddled instead of focusing on the practicalities of my situation. Steadying my breathing once more I looked right into his bright eyes, repeating myself to hit home the message a bit better. "Just think of it as a business offer, Martin! Certieas loss might well be Electro Sapient's gain."
"It already is, Victoria." Now, there was an odd smirk there in those eyes. "Do you really not know why Certieas is closing that branch?"
"No?" I frowned, what was he talking about, what did he know?
"Because they are being taken over. And when the dawn ride is finished, the new owners will have collected what's of interest and merged it with their own assets. Including the labs. And the Insectbot."
"How do you know about that? Who told you?" I felt myself frown.
"Because I'm the one buying. Electro Sapient is buying Certieas. And taking what's interesting."
"But," I felt myself go pale as the ground was beginning to heave beneath my feat, and this was no Californian earthquake but something quaking up inside of me. "You... all the time it was you. And...."
"Yes, I am forming a new research branch, with the best from Certieas and Electro Sapient's. Taking what's best of both parts to create a new springboard for amazing achievements in the future. Like conquering the world, as you yourself said."
"So what's going to..."
"And don't worry about yourself, Mrs. Craig." I scowled at that, I had gone from Victoria to my old-time nickname Vicks to Mrs Craig in just five minutes. "I had thought of offering you the job as head of this new branch. Not because of philanthropy or because of 'being kind and caring' which you just accused me of. But simply because you're the best one there is for this job."
"You want to hire me?" I simply couldn't believe what I was hearing. "But you just said..."
"Yes, I want to hire you. I just thought I'd keep this offer hidden in plain sight a little longer, to see how you'd act. But there's one condition to come with that job offer."
"And what is that?"    
"Don't ever mention 'back in those days' to me again. Because then you're fired."

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It had been four long months since Zac and I had last seen each other. It had been heart-ache, tears, way too many regretful one night stands and all the drinking required when you're separated from the one and only person with whom you've felt such a strong romantic connection. But this had been the harsh facts of our relationship from the beginning, as we lived on each side of the continent, he in bustling New York, I here in sunny Los Angeles. To cope, Zac and I satisfied ourselves by using others, or at least trying to make it work with someone we liked, or at least didn't find detestable, only to discover that we were only deceiving ourselves. Therefore, the build up to this moment had been unparalleled. Zac was the one whom I had been craving most of all. Spring break had literally not come soon enough after this long lonely winter. So there I was, passing to and from, waiting eagerly by the gate, checking the screen frantically. I had been waiting there dutifully for his arrival for the past hour. This flight delay seemed almost as long as the whole past months that I'd been waiting, as a matter of fact, almost every flight into LAX was running late. Damn storms, and damn global warming, there was never these kinds of storms earlier! All I could think about was seeing his gorgeous face, tired from the flight and scruffy with dark five o'clock shadow, yet his cheeks would be flushed with excitement.

As I stared at the screen again, with its rows of arriving flights, its columns covered with the word 'delay', I was imaging what was going to transpire as soon as we shut the front door to my house. I couldn't wait to have Zac pinning me against the wall, pulling my black silk strings aside and fucking me mercilessly without a thought to even take our clothes off first. Those fantasies running through my brain was already making me wet and I realized that I had to control myself, distract myself, so I turned and spend some time looking at people again, trying to figure out their stories. The bald man in a suit and tie, who was he waiting for, it seemed like a business acquaintance. And the plump, black woman with two unruly kids, a husband/dad most probably. And the scrawny young woman with the sign spelling out OUVIDIAN in bold, futuristic letters. I knew that OUVIDIAN was one of the up and coming IT companies in Silicon Valley, so I imagined that she was waiting for colleagues too. Finally, there was the man with the laptop. Somber and still, he had been sitting almost motionless in the same position as long as I'd been waiting there. There was something almost unreal with him, the immaculate, black suit and tie, the brushed steel laptop and his impassive, a bit too perfect face. Scary almost. I turned back to the screen again, realizing that it had changed as I'd been looking away, and that the flight from Los Angeles had in fact already landed, and was taxing towards a gate. Seeing this, my heart started pounding and I had to remind myself to act calm, but I could barely help it I was so excited.

Slowly but surely a new bunch of passengers started filter through the doors, and I a trio of young people who had geeks written all over them hook up with the OUVIDIAN girl and that the one the black woman had been waiting for had not been her husband but her mother. Five minutes later, shaking nervously, I saw Zac. The tired face, yet mischievous smile and dark loving eyes; and when he spotted me, his entire face lit up and got red with enthusiasm and jumpiness. It was adorable how he couldn't even hide it, how he didn't even try to hide it. He nearly skipped out of the gate, trying to cut past everyone to run to me. All I could do was giggle. Then a giant hug by strong arms lifted me off my feet and twirled me around and a big long kiss proceeded. "Ciao, Laura, bonita mia!" he managed to say between eager kisses. "I've missed you so much!"
"Hi Zac," I said meekly, beaming like the idiot I felt like, but I didn't care. Then our words came stumbling out. Some words about the flight, about picking up his baggage, stuff I couldn't even remember. We were innocent nervous young adults all over again. I knew his thoughts and he knew mine and we could barely contain ourselves.
"Let's get on the shuttle so we can go to the luggage drop off," he suggested.
"Yeah definitely," I couldn't stop staring at his lips. I just needed to be kissed by them more and more and more.

As I turned around, I noted that the man with the laptop was still sitting immobile, and I almost felt a bit sorry for him. Who was he waiting for?

The shuttle was packed and sweaty, full of people from the various flights off to the luggage drop-off. Zac and I stood together crammed in one corner, my back up against him. I could feel the heat from his body and he bent in to kiss the back of my head and then my neck. Words of affection were whispered to me in his lovely Italian accent and I could feel his lips against my ear, his warm breath caressing my skin. He kissed me lightly, teasingly and I shivered, knowing that I absolutely loved ear and neck kisses. I reached back to grab his hand and squeezed it tight.
"No temptations here, sir", I murmured in his ear. But it only made him more eager. Cramped five-minute shuttle ride? Challenge accepted. Zac's lips went still against my ear, he was a master at covering up his seduction, being ever so quiet as his enticing accent flowed into my mind.
"I know how wet you are right now," he mumbled as he pressed his body against my back when a turn of the vehicle forced us even closer together and I could feel his bulging erection. "You don't understand how hard it was to restrain myself on the plane."

"I actually think I can," I whispered as I squeezed his hand tighter, wanting him to stop but also needing him to continue.
"I can't wait to pound you against the dinner table." One of our favorite spot to be quite honest. When I have guests for dinner, it was such a pleasure to think about what had been occurring there only just hours before. Especially when Zac was also present. Got to love those smirks across the table! Yet another thing to make me wet. "And I cannot wait to cum all over your pretty face, I know you love it like that," he bit my ear just slightly and I closed my lips tight hoping that no one had seen.
"Zac, don't!" I whispered in vain, knowing I really didn't want him to stop.
"I need to fuck you right now," he mumbled against my ear and I dug my nails into his wrist. I turned around to face him. "Not on this shuttle, we need to find somewhere." I nodded instantly in agreement, the prospect of fucking in a pretty public place arousing for so many reasons. "Bathroom?" I mouthed. An early evening at an international airport. Fear of being found and forced to be as quiet as possible? The thought alone was almost enough to make me come.

As soon as the shuttle came to a halt and let us out, Zac grabbed me tightly by the hand and we made our way as hastily as we could through the halls, searching for any sort of place that seemed unsuspicious and unoccupied. It seemed to be, luckily for us, an unpopular luggage point at that time. A few yards away we found the bathroom suitable to our needs and scurried in and all the way to the end of the stalls. Even before I could lock the stall door his hand had found its way up my skirt and was playing with the fabric of my lace thong. My pussy was wet and aching for his touch. He slid his hand under the front of it, my back towards him.
"Oh, Laura, bella bella, you're so wet for me."
"I can't help it," I began when a hand slid over my mouth.
"Hush, bella! No talking or moaning from you you'll blow our cover." It was for the best, as I am pretty loud. Silently, I pressed my ass against his throbbing erection as he rubbed my clit and I held my gasps in.
"I sure know to please you," Zac purred in my ear. I reached behind me and began to undo his belt and then his zipper as he slid a finger, then two, then three inside of me and his hand muffled my gasp as he clasped my mouth tighter.

"Who said you could gasp?" he growled and slid a finger into my ass. My eyes welled up with tears from the almost painful ecstasy I hadn't felt in quite a while. He fingered me fast as I grasped his cock through his boxers. I needed to be fucked so badly, I really felt that fingers weren't enough. No, I needed his big hard cock more than anything right now.
"You want me to fuck you baby? I know you love how I fuck you and I know how much you scream but you have to be quiet, or someone might notice.," suddenly there was a slight anxiousness in Zac's voice. Anxiousness mixed with lust, as if this notion of being discovered was arousing enough too. "Can you promise to be quiet?" I nodded silently and his fingers left me. "Taste yourself for me, Laura!" he purred and his fingers, covered in my wetness, entered my mouth and I sucked on them willingly. "I need you to know how good you taste." Then he removed his fingers from my mouth and sucked on them himself. "I'm going to eat your pussy all night long - but only if you're quiet." Again, I nodded in agreement and he pulled his cock out, perfectly long and thick and throbbing. "You feel how hard you make me?" he mumbled as he was pressing himself against my back. Moments later, he slid his cock back and forth against my soaking wet pussy, teasing my hole and pressing against my clit. "If only we didn't have to be quiet, then I'd definitely make you beg for it."
"Please," I whispered ever so quietly and his hand returned to my mouth.

One hand on my ass another covering my mouth, he then thrust his cock fully inside me without warning. I bit down hard on his hand, willing myself not to cry out in pleasure. The way his dick curved hit everything in just the right way and I had to force myself not to gasp and moan with each thrust. I could hear sounds coming from the rest of the bathroom, the occasional flush and sound of the hand drier when we could be less indiscreet. People talking Spanish. Just the fact that people were most definitely in there with us, hearing us, knowing how hard I was getting pounded was enough to get me off. Zac turned me around and hoisted me up, my legs around his waist, as he continued to fuck me, so hard I could barely breathe.
"You like that?" he growled in my ear. "You like being fucked in this bathroom in the middle of everywhere, knowing that others can hear us, knowing we might get in trouble at any moment." He kissed me forcefully and I bit his lip and pulled tight on his hair as he fucked me so hard the stall shook. I pulled harder and harder and our moans mingled with kisses, trying to prevent the other from screaming.
"Zac, I'm going to orgasm," I stuttered. "I'll scream."
"No, you're not, bella. You're going to let me finish this first and fill you with my seed and then I'm going to let you come too," he said, ever so maniacally.

I grasped tight against the back of his shirt as he supported me with those arms and slid his whole shaft completely in and out of me. I could tell he was trying to hold back his cries as well, biting my neck and moaning my name in my ear as quietly as he could. And then damn - how good it felt to be filled with all of his seed. Zac continued to thrust for me and flicked my clit with his finger until I wrapped my legs tight around him, his hand clasped tight against my mouth. "Come for me," he whispered as he looked right into my eyes and I couldn't help whimpering silently.

There was a flush from a few stalls over and I felt burning hot as Zac let me down from his arms. My legs were shaking uncontrollably. I loved the feeling of being fucked so hard I could barely walk.
"Hi," he smiled, still catching his breath.
"Hi," I replied and leaned up to accept a passionate kiss. His cheeks were rosy red and there was a giant smile on his face and I knew I was looking exactly the same.
"Think it's safe to leave now?" he giggled and on three we bolted, running all the way back to the luggage drop as fast as we could. Zac's heavy and slightly worn luggage, covered with stickers from China, the Andes and other exotic places, was the only one left still spinning around the belt. All we could do was giggle like little kids.

As he lifted it off the band, I noted a man standing opposite of us by the band. The solemn man with the laptop.
"Zac," I said. "Don't look now, but there's a man..."
"I know," Zac said and turned around slightly in spite. "The security guy. I spotted him upon arrival. He's looking for terrorists and such things, but I imagine that when he has a look through his security cameras he'll see something else."
"There was a camera?" I felt myself run pale.
"There sure was," Zac smirked. "Then again, our faces were not seen. There's no way anyone can recognize us."
"And you knew it all the time!"
"Yes."
"Bastard!"
"I know!"

Then I locked eyes with him and we busted out in laughter. The next two weeks would sure be fun.
As the airship lifted, turned and began heading towards the north-west, Daraxan watched Penelope take in the sights of the world Kandanaki with large and curious blue eyes. She kept staring down at Minodewa as it felt away beneath them, until it became almost impossible to see any details through the misty atmosphere and then she craned her neck and looked out at the sky, which up at this altitude was more resembling the Earth one, although a bit more of a lavender kind. After that she turned inwards and regarded the other passenger, the Smistans, the Kerii with their noisy children, the sole Dryad in the corner and the furry Gradars with their forked tails and minimal clothing. He followed her glances, waiting for her questions, but the next second he found her looking at him instead, as if he was the largest mystery of all. Was it because of the theoi thing, the god thing, he wondered, knowing that the Earthling's conception of gods and goddesses were way different from in most words, probably because it was so very very long ago any of the Earthlings, save for a very small minority, had any direct experience of gods.
"What was it like growing up with the King of the Gods as father?" Penelope suddenly asked and he almost flinched, had she read his thoughts this time?
"Why would you want to know something like that?"
"I've been thinking about it a lot," she shifted onto her seat to get a better view of him. "How he was probably able to give you everything you pointed at."

He shook his head. "It wasn't like that. Never like that. As a matter of fact we hardly ever saw him, Anassiou and I, when we grew up. All right, he provided for us, made sure we never lacked anything essential, however our mother wasn't exactly poor either, so she paid for all the necessary things when we grew up. Father used to visit at birthdays and so on, one year bringing swords another year horses."
"Horses!"
"Yes, that was amazing in the beginning, but learning to ride was a real challenge."
"Why would gods need to ride? I mean, you can fly in the sky, I did see your twin last night after all."
"To live among mortals, to blend in among mortals, you needed to be able to ride back then. Today it's not that necessary, you'd need a driver's license instead. And perhaps the abilities to drive boats and fly planes."
"Live among mortals, why? To do the things you're doing now?"
"Yes, among other duties. When Anassiou and I were twenty and had finished our education, father offered us jobs. No, make that, he expected us to come working for him. Being parts in 'The Olympic Machinery' as Corian a little bit blasphemous tends to express himself."
Penelope smiled, one of those genuine smiles that was so rare coming from her. "You really do love your brothers!"
"With all my heart," Daraxan responded candidly. "And what I love, I protect."
The air between them grew thick. Her eyes met his and for a moment he couldn't look away. They were stuck in a nonverbal exchange he didn't even understand. Whatever it was, it left him weak and shaken and desperately eager to understand what was really going on. The next instance that strange vertigo was gone, as if it never had been there, and things turned back to normal.

The next moment again, Penelope's eyes grew wide as she was locking her eyes on something behind him. "What is THAT?" she asked as he turned around, to regard the Centaur couple coming their way, struggling to squeeze between other passengers and their chairs and luggage.
"Centaurs," he said, "sure you recognize them."
"Centaurs are real?" she blurted out and then she lowered her voice a bit. "Well, I guess they are, I mean I am seeing them right in front of me."
"Look, it's probably going to be easiest if you just assume that every mythical creature you've ever heard of really does exist," Daraxan said, "even if most of them are not to be found exactly in this place."
"Okay, I guess I'll just have to stop being surprised," came the slightly sarcastic reply. "Or else I won't be anything but. Besides, you never told me where we are going."
"Our stop is called Serinsiaros, a small town where the Kerii lowlands ends and a more shared area begins, with large woodlands housing both Dryads, Gradars and Nellikes."
"What are the last ones?"
"Small, sprite-like beings. They tend to stick to their own, I doubt that we'll see any."
Then she yawned. "How long until we get there?"
"Four hours or so." Daraxan gave her hair an affectionate tousle. "Get some sleep if you can."
Easier said than done, but eventually Penelope found herself relaxing in the seat. She preoccupied herself with looking at Daraxan. He was so handsome, the divine glow of his skin was like a beacon of light, drawing her to him. Sliding her hand out of his she traced fingers lightly across his palm then up his wrist, marveling at the silky heat of his flesh. His long fingers splayed out and she couldn't help remembering what they had done to her the past night. How they had discovered every curve of her body and brought her to ecstasy countless of times. She was beginning to realize that she'd never get enough of him. Little butterflies had emerged from their cocoons in her chest yesterday and were now swarming frantically, forcing her to avert her attention once more to the scenes outside. The emotions inside of her reminded her of a picture she'd once seen, of the annual Monarch butterfly migration and of how there would be so many of those little creatures brimming the air that magical orange-gold was the new colour of sky. She'd always yearned to experience something like that, and now those wings were there, beating in her chest so strongly that she wondered if a hurricane could brew. She hoped that Daraxan wouldn't hear her heartbeat matching their wings. As he noted her staring he gave her a look so heated she felt an answering pulse between her thighs.
"Stop that," he said hoarsely. "You're far too distracting. And there are people around, children. We wouldn't want to embarrass usselves among them, right?"
Penelope pressed her lips together to hold back the mortified laugh that longed to tumble out. "Embarrassing? Let them just assume that this is the way we do on Earth."

When they finally arrived in Serinsiaros, and followed a small crowd of passengers off the airship, Penelope noted that the weather here was a far cry from the heat of Minodewa. It felt almost like being back in Athens again, with a drizzling rain and a bite to the wind. Yet the air was high and clear and held a tang of resin and wet earth, very dissimilar from the Athenian car exhaust. This airfield was notably smaller than the Minodewan one and with only one more ship, one brightly green and seemingly not in use for the moment. She followed Daraxan and the rest of the crowd out from the fenced in area and they came down on a sloping road through a clearly rural landscape. With its mountains covered in lush greenery, foamy waterfalls and snow-capped peaks partly hidden by clouds, Serinsiaros was easily the most spectacular sight she had ever seen. Small and pastella-coloured cottages dotted the landscape, though the area was close to deserted. It was a far cry from Minodewa or Athens.
"Is this were the Fates live?"
"Nope," Daraxan shook his head. "There's one more leg to our trip, one with a kind of buss and finally we'll be walking a bit."
"So where do they live?"
He pointed vaguely in the direction of the mountains. "Very much in the middle of nowhere."  
"I guess that means they want to be left alone."
"Yes, it's true, they don't care that much for the company of other people. Have never done as a matter of fact, and I guess that was one of the reason they moved away from Olympia."
"And the other?"
"The Morai sisters didn't really get along with some of the most powerful people there. Like queen Hera for instance." She could sense that a longer explanation hid behind those few words of his, but he didn't elaborate. Instead he was pointing at a low circular building with a cone-shaped roof, asking if she was hungry.

"You think I'll like the food here?"
"It's not much different from home. Meat and a kind of rice-like vegetable, a bit spicy perhaps. And some nice juice to wash it down with."  
She hesitated, but then she had to admit that her stomach was growling, she hadn't eaten anything since they stepped out from her Athens flat, and that was almost six hours ago now. "Let's do it," she then said and soon he had led her away to the round structure, which resembled a large tent or gazebo, some kind of blend between grocery store, restaurant and playground for kids, because while the kids played with contraptions not unlike those in parks at home, they grown-ups were purchasing and eating food, and Penelope soon understood that there were actually several vendors offering their goods here. She and Daraxan went to one place to select some food, to another to get something to drink, to a third to get some kind of wet and perfumed napkins to use for washing their hands with and finally a contraption where Daraxan used his doctor to pay for them with. She let him make all the decisions, as she didn't trust her judgement to select something that would be compatible with her taste buds. But in the end she found herself guided to a vacant table with something gyros-like which was, indeed, very spicy, a drink reminding her of pineapple juice but less sweet and a dessert of something sticky, sweet and almondy. It was a good meal indeed, and they spent about half an hour in that gazebo-like place just eating and watching the people and Penelope almost forgot that she was here on a serious business trip and not just on some kind of faraway vacation.

Just as they were about to leave, a shadow fell over them and a graveled voice was speaking. "Theos, you have me worried," the voice came in a language not unlike Greek, and Penelope felt her eyes widen as she found herself just inches with the prominent nose of an elderly man, his caramel-coloured skin deeply wrinkled, his dark eyes old and possessed of considerable wisdom and compassion. Charms of silver and ivory were woven into that beard, so many that the man actually chimed as he moved his head about and he smelled like leather and hard work. Daraxan pulled his chair back, but remained sitting.
"And why is that, Karteki?" he was asking, his voice gentle but with an edge, as if he was slightly raising guards.
"Because with your kinds, there are never any good news," the native man shook his head. "Either you bring war or some people with you, who think they are to rule us and who cannot accept our life style. But we don't want your belligerent ways or your taxes or your philosophies that wring the heads around for our young ones."
"Do not worry about that," Daraxan said and smiled lightly. "I bring neither, just this young librarian with me. We are here seeking knowledges from some retired goddesses who live in this world. Knowledge regarding matters of the librarian's home world. We will not disrupt anything here or anywhere else on Kandanaki?"
"And how am I to believe in that," the bearded man said, while Penelope wondered about his appellation. Daraxan had called him Karteki, was that a name or a title. "You come here not like a god, but travelling like a mortal, why doing that if not to involve yourself in subversion?"
"Because of my companion, as you can tell she is mortal, and we do not beam with mortals unless absolutely necessary. You should know that. The second reason is the women we're visiting, you do not beam into their home, it's hardly well-mannered."
"There are no goddesses here in Serinsiaros," the man said and made something looking like a warding sign with his right hand.
"You're right, they live quite a bit away from here, up in the mountains," Daraxan was still sounding calm and relaxed, as if he was talking about the weather, while the other man was beginning to appear aggressive.
"And we don't want you here," he raised his voice, eyes narrowing. "Not you, not any other gods! Your kind brings nothing but trouble!"

Now, other heads were beginning to turn in their direction, the chatter died down almost completely, the people by the counters stopping what they were doing to stare and to listen to what was going on at the corner table. "Go sit by yourself now and give us no more problem, Karteki!" Daraxan kept his voice low though as he warned the native. "And I promise you that as soon as my friend and I have finished with our meal we will be on our way out from this place, and not trouble you, even with our sights."
"As if I do not know that your promises are worth naught," the man said, but then he turned around and ambled away, nearly stumbling into one or two other guests before he left the eatery and disappeared up the road in the direction of the airfield.
Penelope stared after him as she finished her glass of juice. "Now, what was that about? Why was he so hostile, and what was that thing you called him?"
"Last thing first," Daraxan said, "Karteki is a kind of guardian title, something like a major. A kind of ruler, upholder of law and order, and often they are officiants and healers too. Every town in this region has one or a few of these. You recognize it on that half-moon thing he wore around his neck."
"Never saw it, the beard was in the way."
"As to his hostility, he's probably been having some bad experience with some other theoi. Him or some other people around. I cannot swear it has nothing to do with the Morai, even if I do hope it hasn't. But you never know with the Kerii, they value their independence high and they're often brazen and cocky, not willing to give other groups the same kind of freedom they claim for themselves. They might've been quite disobliging colonialists in another world, hadn't the other races' willingness to fend for themselves kept them down a bit."
"So it's not like everyone here is abiding to that 'live and let live' lifestyle you talked about earlier?"
"No, that's the general Kandanakian thing, but just as on Earth, it's more complicated and multi-layered than that. And just as on Earth, the most liberal and teeming groups of people live in the large cities, like Minodewa, while people in more rural areas are more on their guards."
"Alien Rednecks," she said and then she blushed. "Sorry, I didn't mean to be disparaging."
"I don't think anyone would've taken offence," Daraxan pointed out. "As a matter of fact, if you'd explained the concept of redneck to a Kerii, they might even have been flattered."
"Strange people!"
"Yes, indeed," he put down his glass, "shall we go?"

They had made it halfway down to the bus stop when the attack came. Five or six people jumped out, seemingly from nowhere. And before he knew it, Daraxan was attacked from every direction and went down under a press of bodies. With desperate strength, he smashed a nose here, kicked a foot there, tried to claw out the space he needed to pull and use his stashed weapons.
"Enough," said a commanding voice and Daraxan looked up, seeing a sinewy Kerii man with Penelope in a hard clasp, a sharp and narrow dagger pressed to her throat.
"No!" Daraxan yelled, ceasing his fight. He consciously ramped up the activity of his organs, cleaning out poisons and recharging all round, doing the best to bring his body to optimum efficiency in the shortest time. But even all this, involving considerable detail, occupied only a small portion of his intellect, so he considered other matters meanwhile. These Kerii had seized Penelope, and no matter that he could take all of them down, he would never make it in time for them to not injure her badly, perhaps lethally, and once again he regretted pulling her in danger. Four of the Kerii seized him and dragged him over to side of the road, where he counted at least five more visible opponents. One of them pulled up her sweater and held it up to his bleeding nose. But Daraxan saw no sign of the Karteki man anywhere. Probably he was hidden somewhere out of sight, among the trees or inside of one of the houses laying a bit away from the road. "Let her go! Your deal is with me!" he went on, while trying to make out who had spoken, who was obviously in command.
"Shut up, stranger!" The speaker was a tall and sturdy Kerii woman wearing an eye-patch in an otherwise comely face. Her brunette hair was cropped short and she wore quality fighting leathers and a bullet-poof top under a long black coat with a hood flung back. "How's your head, Maximus?" The woman turned to one of the Kerii man whom Amar had kicked.
"Broge my fuggin node," said the man holding his sweater to his face.
"Builds character," the woman with the eye-patch said as she ambled up to Daraxan, then kicked him in the stomach, good and fast, barely giving him time to pull up his divine guard. It would have hurt like hell if he hadn't he knew beforehand what was coming.

Daraxan groaned and the four people holding him bore down on him with all of their weight, lest he try anything stupid, the musky and sharp smells of their digestion stinging his nostrils. But the eye-patched woman jumped back, the pain obvious on her face in spite of her steel-hooded boot, she had definitely not expected the hard body of a theos on the other end of her foot, even though she intellectually might have understood it. He did have the power to defend himself, but he knew that he was not going to save Penelope that way.
"Wait," Penelope pleaded, "Listen..."
"If I have to tell either of you 'shut up' again," the eye-patch warned, "I'll cut your bloody tongue out and pin it to a tree trunk." She then turned back to Daraxan. "My name is Paiena. Can you tell me why I'm here?"
"You ran out of critters to fuck and went looking for some action?"
"Suns, I love theoi! Constitutionally incapable of doing things the easy way." Paiena made an annoyed face. "Try again. Why am I here?"
"You heard," Daraxan smirked, "that we'd finally discovered the cure for stupidity."
"No. If that were true you would have used it for yourself." Paiena's next move was no kick but a swing with leather bag containing iron balls, a common weapon in the Kandanaki backwaters. Daraxan shielded up and listened to the balls break, and then he watched Paiena's black eyes narrow as she was obviously considering a change of action. "Now, I would love to stand here and paint the roadside with your blood. Maximus over there would probably love it even more. But I think I can save us all a lot of time." Paiena beckoned and the man holding Penelope grunted. "What does your girlfriend here lose first? Her nose? And eye? I can be creative," she tilted her head.
"Please! Leave her out if this!" Daraxan tried to keep his voice even, as if he was just saying this out of decency, not to let the Kerii know how much he cared for the restrained woman opposite of him.  
"How do you know she's not what you refer to as 'this'?" Paiena tilted her head.
"Because you wouldn't waste your time with this then," he replied. "Your Karteki told me off up by the eatery and then you jump us down here, cannot be a coincidence. So you obviously aim to send some kind of message, tell me off somehow. Then tell, I am all ears and then just let us go, and no one will be harmed again."
"You have a pretty simple outlook upon things if you think it's that easy, Theoi." Paiena scoffed.
"So what is this, 20 questions, and the winner get the girl?" Again, he tried to sound as if he didn't care, although he saw Penelope's blue eyes widen.
"Don't be simple! When your kind first came to Kandanaki you knew your business. Kept the peace, made your gifts, behaved. You clearly understood how things work in our world. But then along came some other theoi. Bitches. Three women. They are now hiding uphills, beyond the swamplands, skulking behind wards, which we cannot break through, and they lure up our young men there, men hardly older than boys, and what they do with them I don't want to take a guess at. They come back here later, some after just a few weeks, other are gone for years, only to be returned when they have obviously outlived their use, and are beginning to lose their charm of youth. And you know what?" Paiena didn't wait for an answer as she leaned forwards, putting her hands across her chest and Daraxan noted that she missed a finger on her left hand as well as an eye. "The boys. Our boys. They are all insane. Out of their wits. Rambling lunatics who have to be restrained."

"Shit," Daraxan said.
"Yeah. Heaps of it!" Paiena made a face. "Ordinarily, this is the part where we'd make soup out of your balls and watch you drink it. Ordinarily," then she shook her head. "But I think I just got a better idea, seeing what became of this," she lifted the leather bag which she had hit him with earlier and shook it, the sound of metal shatter clicking inside. "I think you're harder than you let us see, man. But you're holding back because if this lovely, goldilocked Earthling we've just snatched from you. So I have a proposition to make."
"Let's hear! I'll cooperate."
"My, you've gone from hard to soft, big man. You'll cooperate? Of course you'll bloody cooperate, we do have your girlfriend after all."
"Just let me know what you want!"
"We want the bitches of course, and we think you can give them to us."
"And why do you think that?" Daraxan was now beginning to get quite apprehensive. He held no doubt that the 'bitches' whom Paiena was referring to were identical to the Morai, however he wondered if she seriously thought that he could kill them for her. That he would want to kill them for her. They were immortals, way older than he and had been quite of a higher rank than he during their time at Olympia. These days they might have retired from active duty, emigrated, settled here on Kandanaki to begin another, more reclusive life, and apparently, they were abusing the local population to get their desires and devices slaked. But he doubted very much that he would be able to harm them in any way, let along stop them from taking advantage of the local Kerii men. There was probably only one person in the world who could do that, and that was his father, Zeus himself. "You actually think they'll listen to me? That I could threat or bribe them into stop what they are doing to your young men?"
"Yes, we believe you have some kind of authority with you, otherwise you wouldn't even bother coming here."
"I have authority, that is true," he relented somewhat. "I have authority to negotiate with these three goddesses, which we refer to as the Morai, or the Fates. The old title they held before they came here. But that authority doesn't involve kicking in doors and threaten them, but having them cooperating in finding a certain object which I search."

"And what if they were to refuse to help you?" Paiena patted an index finger at her lined, brown cheek.
"I'm certain of having enough of the commodity they would consider taking for helping me finding the artefact. But not enough for them to stop their misbehaviour here. That would indeed take bigger guns."
"So then do bring out those bigger guns, Theos!" her head nodded to Penelope for emphasis. "I know you have them."
"True," he relented, as the plan was beginning to take shape in his mind. "And I'll use them too, as I believe there is a way for me to grab both what you and I want and be out of here before that. I'm not enthusiastic about the prospect, but I consider myself clever enough to pull it off plus that I certainly resent what is happening to you. But for that to happen, you'll have to let us go so that we might catch the westbound bus which will arrive here at any moment."
"Now, we're talking," Paiena nodded. "Release him!" she ordered and immediately, Daraxan felt eight hands letting go of his arms, legs and waste and he heard the Kerii stepping back, the gravels crunching beneath their booted feed.
"Thanks," he held out his hand. "Come, Penelope!"
"No, no, no, no," Paiena then stepped in between him and Penelope. "I'm not that stupid, even if you thought me in need of a cure for it," she snarled. "Your maidservant stays with us until you get back! And will be taken well care of meanwhile too," she added and smiled.

Maidservant! At that Penelope almost felt rage bubbling under in her chest and she breathed in angrily, but before she got the chance to open her mouth in protest, Daraxan raised a hand to silence her, his eyes bearing enough worry for her mouth to slam shut. Meanwhile Paiena had retrieved a black object, not larger than a matchbox, which she threw Daraxan, who caught it one-handed. "And you record the complete event using that one, and give us the holofilm before we'll give you the goldilocked maidservant back. And don't worry, she will be treated fairly. Even if you should fail to show up, because then I believe it's not your doing."
"Penelope..." Daraxan frowned.
"I'll do fine, Dar," she surprised him by saying. "Now, be off and do your thing. I'll wait for you here. Their language is enough alike Greek for me to manage, although I don't understand how that can be." She was then smiling meekly and Daraxan decided that there was nothing to do but playing along. As a matter of fact, had they just asked nicely he'd done what he could to stop what was going on here anyway.  
Sunlight filtered in through the heavy curtains, sending slivers of light dancing across the room. Penelope shifted slowly, trying not to wake Daraxan, who lay asleep beside her. She felt disoriented at first, then remembered what had occurred between them that night, and she pressed her lips into a shy smile. The corners of her eyes tugged upward. After a moment's hesitation, she snuggled in next to him, sliding the sheet up over her breasts. Now was she sore today? Her whole body felt limp and used, in a delicious, wanton sort of way. Yes, she was relaxed, but this wasn't the best state to be in if she had a work to get up to. She glanced lazily at the clock, five past nine. She stirred and awoke for real, jolting in bed. Five past nine! Holy hell, when did she start working today? Then she realized that it was Sunday and the library was closed, and she let her head fall down on the soft pillow with a content sigh. Grinning, she arched her back into a slow stretch and rolled to face her bed companion again. He lay on his stomach, head resting on a crooked arm. She spent one long moment by simply admiring him. Even in sleep the toned muscles on his back showed off his power and dominance. The very things which he had established with her in depth of the night. The sheet had ridden down while they slept and it revealed the upper curve of his ass. Rounded and tight, the way a man's rear should be. And right now, this man was with her! Much of last night was a blur but Penelope remembered all the ways in which Daraxan had enjoyed her and how she had gone along with his every suggestion. Who would have known that she was such a sexual creature? She had never been like that with Joseph, her last boyfriend, which was almost two years back in time now. Then stark realization slapped her in the face. She was falling for Daraxan! This wasn't a simple case of lust or even infatuation, because in that case she wouldn't have let it go as far as it had done last night. No, she had let him into her body for the reason that he had managed to capture her heart. In a handful of days had she gone from thinking that love was just something for books and movies, to have fallen head over heels into it. What would her mother had said? Somehow though she thought her mother would be happy for her, for letting someone else in, for trusting again. She might even have liked Daraxan, with his easygoing attitude and zest for life. What a freeing thought that was! Now the question remained, if Penelope was falling in love with Daraxan, what to do about it? If there was a possibility that he returned her feelings, did that mean that they could be together? They were so different. She, just a mortal girl, who might live to see eighty, perhaps ninety, he an immortal god, who had already lived for more than a thousand years, and who would go on and live for how long? How long did gods really live? She had to ask about that, immortal, did that mean that they'd exist as long as time and universe did?

Then Daraxan stirred and made a sound she couldn't decipher, before his eyes fluttered open and he was looking at her, newly awakened disorientation giving in to pleasure.
"Good morning, Daraxan," she smiled.
"Good morning, sweetheart," he returned. "You look lovely in the morning."
"Why, thanks! But you meant to say something grander and wittier, didn't you?" She traced a finger along his chest, though he was pretty sure it was unconscious on her part.
"Whatever it was, it seems to have business elsewhere."
"It'll come back to you when you least expect it," she smiled. "Tell me then instead and I promise, I'll give it a favorable hearing."
"I'm honored to know that!" There was a beat of silence before he went on. "I like what you're wearing."
"I'm not wearing anything," she grinned and he inched himself up in a sitting position.
"That's what I mean." His head shifted just a tiny bit so he could press a lingering kiss against the corner of her mouth. "So, today is your great day, Penelope."
"My... great day?" she searched in her mind for what he might mean and he gently tugged her chin until she turned to face him, her body following suit.
"Yes, the first day you're going off-planet. Remember. We're going to Kandanaki."
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do," it all came back to her at that moment, the things they had talked about, the next step in their tries at locating the lost Palladium of Troy. "What's it like, the Kandanaki?"
"It's beautiful," Daraxan whispered into her ear. He rolled onto his side facing her and ran a finger in between the curves of her breasts. "But hardly as beautiful as you." He touched the tip of his tongue to the outer shell of her ear before he moved in for a long, hot kiss. Raising her hands to the back of his head, Penelope pulled him in deeper. Strange how this man could make her want him desperately, no matter how many times they'd already made love. When he slung one arm around her waist and pulled her up, sliding his other hand down her behind and between her legs, she broke away with a throaty moan.
"I thought we had to go."
He winked at her, a naughty twinkle in his eyes. "I guess, it can wait a little longer."

*****

Three hours later, Penelope and Daraxan entered the summit of the Acropolis. It was a quite nice day, summer had decided to grace the city with a come-back, and the sun was actually warming their backs again after the last few days' tenacious raining. People spread out all over the great lawn, studying the ancient ruins, taking pictures and selfies. The scent of decaying leaves mixed with the aroma of sunbaked stone and fried food filled the air. Penelope craned her neck staring at all the tourists.
"How do we get about entering the Parthenon without anyone noticing? I mean that's strictly prohibited, and if we should get caught, we'll be fined heavily."
"Don't worry, there is a sneak way in, past those surveying eyes."
"How?" she frowned.
"Just trust me, will you?" By that he took her hand and they walked across the hill and to the eastern side of the famous old structure, where once the temple entrance had been. Contrary to the Christian churches, which almost always opened from the west, the ancient temples used to open to the east, with the idea that the rising sun should great the deity inside. But now not only the entrance door was gone but almost the whole eastern wall was missing, still there was no goddess for the rising sun to great anymore. Athena had moved on elsewhere and of her statue remained nothing after centuries of decrepitude. A large boulder lay on the derelict staircase, surrounded by an invisible force field. It repelled all mortals, preventing them from seeing anything within its direct vicinity, including two trespassers. That was the only way an inter-dimensional portal could exist in a place as populated as the summit of Acropolis. Trusting that Daraxan knew what he was doing, Penelope took his offered hand in hers and followed him towards the stone and across the vaguely purple force field which seemed to pulse slightly, although it was barely visible in the bright autumn sun light. The force field made a slight sucking sound as it accepted Daraxan and Penelope. Anyone happening to be looking directly at them would see them disappear just like that. But knowing mortals, they would probably chalk it up to the harsh glare of the sun or a strange trick of the eyes. And besides, the two of them would return only a second later, such was their entrance coordinated in the temporal-spatials. Consequently, even the surveillance cameras would be fooled.

Traversing the portal happened within a blink of an eye and if Penelope might have felt some kind of trepidation for the transfer, she didn't even have the chance to appraise that one, and perhaps hesitate before they were through. The next moment they stepped out on a large, matte-black surface, smoother than concrete yet not as smooth as plastic or marble. Thus, they found themselves in an octagonal hypostyle carrying a cross vault perhaps eight metres up in the air. The vault was made from clear glass and let in the sunshine. The hot, humid air practically clung to her skin like a lover's sticky caress, and with wide eyes she gazed around at the people coming and going. Or 'people' weren't perhaps the correct word, she seemed to be the only human here, most of the other Sapients were petite characters with greenish or bluish hues to their skin and either long and flowing hairs or bald heads. There was even a woman with writhing tentacles instead of hair. Another duo had huge, fin-like crescents covering their heads. An estimate told Penelope that as many as eighty percent of the people moving around here seemed to be women. One of the exceptions was the bent and long-bearded character by the portal, dressed in a long gown or cloak with the hood folded back to display a conical head with a smock of snow white hair. He looked like a black version of Gandalf and Daraxan was handing him something which his leathered hands eagerly reached out to grab. Payment, Penelope guessed. After that, the theos turned around towards her. "You okay?"
"Hot," she fanned her hand across her face to hit home the point.
"Yes," he nodded. "That's because we have entered through the Minodewan Portal. Minodewa is near the equator on Kandanaki. So it doesn't matter what time of year it is in Minodewa. The weather here is always the same. Come on, we have an airship to catch."
"Airship?"
"You'll see!" With that he led on, and still holding his hand she followed him across the black floor, weaving in and out of the groups of strange characters, who had her turning her head several times, and it gave her a hard time keeping up with him and not stumble over her feet at the same time.
"Daraxan!" she breathed. "Not so fast! Or are we in a hurry?"
"Not really," with that he slowed down. "I guess I just want to be efficient. Then I forgot, that it's your first time around. So have a good look if you like."
"Those people don't mind me staring?"
"As a matter of fact, they stare as much at you as you stare at them. It's not every day Earthlings come here. Or even every year for that matters."
"That seldom, huh!"
"Yes, Earthlings in general do not travel the multiverse, simply because they have not figured out how to do it yet. Which is a bit strange taking in mind all the other achievements your kind have made. Generally, races figure out portals before they figure out computers, nuclear power or space flight. As a matter of fact, most races have no need for space flight, since they use portals instead."

With that the two of them stopped and Penelope turned around and took a really good look at the scenery. To her this structure looked like some kind of an outdoor lobby with several hazy 'sheens' in the middle, 'sheens', which she understood were the portals to various other places, as she saw people disappear into them and others yet entering. She also spotted long, curving sofas where Sapients were sitting alone or in groups, some eating, others talking, yet others studying what looked like this world's equivalent of smartphones. There were also long banners hanging from the walls, which she first thought were some kind of textile decorations, until she saw that their motifs were changing. Some kinds of screens apparently, showing pictures of places and Sapiens interjected with what appeared to be writing, of the kind that ran form the top and down, letters looking like drawn flowers. She saw some people selling things from stands and others purchasing the same. And off to a corner was a quartet on ladders who were apparently mending or cleaning a part of the structure. After that, she turned around and glanced out at the area surrounding them, noting that they were on a hill inside of some kind of a town or perhaps a city with lines and lines of three or four story houses with pointy saddleback roofs and high chimneys. The houses were ornately and brightly coloured and with large windows, a lot of them round or semi-circular and with balconettes outside. Quite a few of those balconettes held small ladders or spiral staircases leading down to the ground and in some places, she saw people descending or ascending, then disappearing inside of the houses. She also noted that the main way of transportation here seemed to be a kind of Segway-like one-man vehicles with small canopy roofs over or some sort of tuk-tuk rides pulled by hairy beasts walking on their hind legs. And just like every other city, this place was noisy, even if the noises were unlike those of Earth cities. Instead of the constant drone of traffic, there were chatter and growls, twitter and roars, music, bells and carillons, blasting horns and clattering feet and the city smelled of odd burnt things, flowery fragrances, newly sawed wood, musk and decay and over it all a salty deposit, as if they were near an ocean. Or that would have been what she'd guessed it was, had they still been on Earth. But here she had no idea if it was water she smelled or something entirely else. She turned to the left, looking up at an egg-like dome with a high, conical spire on top which was towering over the otherwise low-cut skyline. And to her right, she spotted what she guessed were mountains, fading away in the haze. But most of all it was the pinkish sky that surprised her. Pink and cloudless, yet misty and with a blazing sun scorching her neck as soon as they stepped out from under the protection of that glass roof, and she understood why most people seemed to be wearing hats or scarves.

"Is this... what did you call this city?" she asked.
"Minodewa," Daraxan said.
"Did your mother come from this place?"
"This planet, yes, but Diktynna is from, well almost the other side of the globe, and way down south, almost by polar area."
"Is it cold there?"
"Compared to this place, yeah."
"I could almost use some snow now," Penelope said, wiping sweat from across her forehead as they began their walk down the avenue. "Are we walking there?"
"Just a few metres," Daraxan said, and then he pointed to a polka-striped pole with a golden knob on its top, and with those funny letters dancing down the darker stripes. "And right on time too!"

The next thing Penelope heard was a loud rattling behind her and she turned her head, to behold a brightly coloured vehicle, looking like one of those kiddies' trains that you saw in amusement parks. Some of the small coaches were partly or completely occupied, others were empty, and she saw now that there were other coaches waiting by the pole, a few of those occupied as well. The next thing she came to see was an intricate dance as the train disconnected a few of its coaches and instead some of the waiting ones became attached to it. Daraxan and Penelope boarded one coach with two empty seats in and he paid by entering an oblong and blue-gleaning coin in a slot. At the same time she tried to figure out what was operating this vehicle, it seemed to move by itself. And she was also mesmerized by the couple sitting opposite of her, two women with greenish skin and dark-green hair falling like veils across their faces. Hair adorned with crystals and beads and glossy fragments of fabrics. And as she stared at their leathery skin and knobby libs, she got the distinct impression that they were partly made of wood. And she had just realized that she was staring and decided to face away, when one of the women suddenly leant forward, reached out with a hard, green and long-fingered little hand and pinched Penelope in the cheek, tugging hard.
"Ai!" Penelope jerked back in pain and consternation, and Daraxan reached out sharply with his right hand, almost batting away the hand of the small abo woman, berating her in a smattering lingo. The woman twittered something back and jerked back too and her friend was saying something at the same time.

The next time the vehicle began moving and Penelope reached up and touched her aching cheek, lost for words. But Daraxan didn't need her question to answer.
"Dryads," he said matter of factly. "A bit... how shall I say it, they don't know that your kind are, well soft and fleshy. They think in the hard terms of themselves. Fairly easy if you're part time trees, and the largest part at that."
"Dryads?" Penelope exhaled as she glanced over at the women in the opposite seat as the tram picked up speed, blowing its horn as it went by. "Tree people! I never thought them to be real!"
"Wait and see, most of your 'myths' have a core of truth. Dryads used to live on Earth earlier, before humanity became too imposing and began cutting down their trees. And speaking of your cheek, that woman was not rude really, in their society there's nothing wrong with touching a stranger, they communicate through their limbs as well as well as their spoken language."
"Really," Penelope blinked and again let her eyes slid over to the Dryad. "What did you tell her by the way?"
"That she should be more observant and see that we were from, well, out of town, and she couldn't presume that it was okay to just reach out and tough."
"I hope I didn't offend her in a way," she sighed. She hated cultural collisions like this, it reminded her of when she as a pre-teen had moved from Sweden to Greece and how odd and out of place she had felt the first years.
"Don't you worry about that," Daraxan replied. "She's forgotten it more or less already," then he too glanced in the direction of the Dryads and now Penelope noted that they seemed engaged in some heavy kind of exchange, both in words and touches, pinching, poking and striking touches, their oral language a smattering and clicking cacophony sounding more like birds or insects than people.

The ride lasted a bit longer than a quarter of an hour, and Penelope got to see a bit more of these colourful houses and also a park-like area with greenery and high trees with spiral-shaped leaves and CD-sized blossoms in white and pink which were raining their petals down in the street, like confetti on a celebration. She caught a few of those petals in her hand, they were soft and velvety, reminding her more of animal hide than something vegetable. She also noted that they smelled sweetly of something similar to bananas. She pocketed these petals for further examination.

When the odd tram came a stop the third time, Daraxan took her arm. "We're here." They descended to a sidewalk with a high fence running alongside it. The fence held several gates, open but with turnstiles and more of those flower letters lining their sides, although these were not animated. There were people streaming through those gates, they seemed to be one-way, some letting people out, others admitting them in. Penelope and Daraxan chose one of the latter and Daraxan used another object this time, a golden semi-circle attached to a leather ribbon, to blip a turnstile open, a fare card or a credit card, Penelope guessed. On the other side was a large square of the same kind of hard top as in the Portal area and beyond that she spotted several vehicles resting on the ground. These were just as ornate and brightly coloured as the houses, with large round windows, piping in some copper-like material running helter-skelter, lanterns, gangways and ladders on the outside, but nothing that reminded her of either engines or propellers.
"How do these things fly?" she asked Daraxan. "Magic?"
"Heck no, that would mean manual labour. Which magic as a matter of fact is. No, these runs on fusion."
"Nuclear?"
"Yep."
"Isn't that dangerous?"
"Not in any way. There's no radiation in Kandanaki," Daraxan explained. Then he turned up that semi-circle again, gazed down in it, and she beheld more flower letter appearing on that golden surface. Something like a smartphone, she guessed.
"What is that thing?" She pointed and in return Daraxan turned over and held out the object, the side with the letters facing her.
"It's a dictor," he said and went on explaining. "You can compare it to a combo between a smartphone, a credit card and a ID-card. It's loaded with my transfer information, and yesterday I added yours as well."

"I travel using your ID?"
"Yes, people with my professional status can add guests to our ID's, and take them with us wherever we chose to go. And in this case it's you. The only thing needed to admit you in is that you're with me and that your name and origin is attached, together with a picture of you."
"You shot a picture of me? When?" She felt something creep down her spine as she thought about the little black dress from yesterday.
Seeing her blush, Daraxan laughed. "No worries, dear, I made it today, just before we stepped through the Acropolis portal, as I recalled that I needed a picture of you for travelling through Kandanaki."
"I see. And what was it you said earlier? Your professional status? Is that being a god?"
"Yes, but not in the way as you see it on Earth. Theoi in the United Multiverse don't have temples raised to them or worshippers. That generally happens on worlds by the outskirts where people are more, well superstitious."
"Like mine?" Penelope almost felt insulted.
"Like yours used to be some 2000 years ago," Daraxan corrected her. "These days the notion of the old gods is mostly gone, which I believe you might have noticed. To be true, you can say that my status here is more like a blend between the one of a diplomat, a federal police officer and a scholar."
"I'm not sure I understand that role, but," she shrugged. "Never mind, I'm sure we have a ship to catch."
"Right, we do, however there's no hurry, as it's right here," Daraxan pointed ahead to a large, blue-painted behemoth with red details, "and it's not due for takeoff within another 40 minutes."
"Can we go inside at this moment then?"
"Yes certainly, it's open, do you want that?"
"Of course," again she fanned her hand across her face. "Or have you forgotten that I'm melting away in this place?"
"No, I haven't," he held out his arm for her to take. "Come on then, let's board our ride!"

There weren't any gang plank or stairs, in fact you got on board of these vehicles as easy as boarding a subway coach. And inside, Penelope noted, it looked like the pictures she had seen of the Orient Express, or perhaps the Titanic, with a lot of colourful textiles and what she supposed was wood intermingling with brass polished so well that she could spot her reflection in them. Soft pipe music reminding her of ancient Arabian tunes came from hidden speakers, the air smelled sweetly and Penelope noted that the chairs were not placed in the same directions like with most earthly passenger vehicles, but that most of them were turned so that they faced the large windows. Behind them were seats arranged in small groups closed in by rounded screens and with small tables between them. There weren't many on board at this early hour, but by watching some of the other passengers, Penelope noted that the seating was possible to re-arrange. For a few moments she looked at the behaviour eight blue characters with tentacles for hair and baggy gray clothes, seeing them turn chairs and screens around to create a large enough enclosed area for their group.
"Where are our seats?" she asked Daraxan.
"They can be anywhere," Daraxan said, "there's free seating here." At the same time a slender, grayish being came up to them, doubtlessly of the same race as the blue ones who were moving chairs, although it was impossible to make a guess at the gender. This being's red peaked cap exactly matched the red trousers, the bright blue jacket with its gold braiding and brass buttons was neatly pressed and belted with a wide black patent leather belt that harmonised with the glossy black boots. This being held out its hand and jerked its legs in what obviously passed for a curtsy here and said something to them in a high-pitched yet grating voice and Daraxan answered in the same language, yet it was obvious that he was struggling with some of the syllables. The uniform-dressed said something again and held out a dictor similar to Daraxan's and he brought up his in return, and although the objects never touched, it was obvious that an exchange of information took place. Finally the being took a quick glance at Penelope, unable to hide the curiosity from its round, unblinking and purplish eyes, before it turned to the next persons coming through the door.

"None of these seems to be your mother's people," Penelope finally found words, as they were taking seats facing the large, slightly curving windows.
"No, they are Smistans," Daraxan said. "My mother's people are theoi of the Olympian kind, the watchers and care-takers of this world. The Smistans are amphibians, similar to the naiads that used to inhibit Earth until about a millennium ago."
"Did all of these specimens leave earth?" Penelope asked. "Why?"
"They were ordered to do so when humanity was expanding. For their own safety plus that Earth does belong to you humans."
"Who ordered them? The Olympians?"
"Yes they did," Daraxan shifted in the seat, kicking off his sneakers and pulled up his feet to find a more comfortable position. As Penelope realized that it was acceptable to do so, she mimicked Daraxan's position.
"Hmm... and we couldn't be asked to share."
"You know your kind as well as I do," Daraxan said. "No offence, but you're belligerent and xenophobic most of you. You'd probably exterminated most other sentient species hadn't they left when you began to crowd your world."
"Why am I not surprised," Penelope murmured as she glanced out at the airship port and the colourful city beyond it. "With our history of crusades, colonialism, the nazis and the communists. Not to mention the jihadists." Then she turned to Daraxan again. "But this world is not like this?"
"No, these people, these specimens have a very much of a live and let live attitude. They're very liberal, almost libertarians, they don't give a fraction of a damn about how other people look or what they eat or how they dress or their mating habits and family shapes and whatever. You leave them in peace, they leave you in peace, that's the golden rule. Save for being generally very curious when someone new and unexpected crosses their tracks. But it's a good-natured curiosity."

Daraxan ensued talking about this world, told about the different species, save for the Dryads and the Smistans, there were seven more sentient beings sharing this world, although two species were aquatic, the Kelpies and the Meras and another, the Luutai, lived high up in the mountains where the air was chilly and thin, and they seldom ventured down into the plains, since they could not live without certain survival gear down here. The largest group was a specie called Kerii which looked almost like human although they were taller and more slender with fudge-brown skin and larger eyes. Time flew as he sketched out the planet's history and before Penelope knew it, she heard two large thunks followed by a few smaller ones and there was a sudden jerk and then came a shifting of the floor and after that the vehicle began to noiselessly and gracefully lift. As they took into the air and she watched the city fall away beneath her she tried to take it all in at the same time, also reaching for her cell phone to snap off quite a few pictures, hoping the battery would last until the trip was over as she was certain it would be impossible to charge it anywhere here. And she sure wanted to take pictures of this place, even if she knew that she could never show them to someone else, not to mention posting them on Instagram or Facebook.

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On opening the door that Friday night, Sebastian found his neighbour Justine standing on the porch, a little damp from the cold and rainy weather outside. Justine had been a very good friend of the couple for many years and they always got along and shared many an adventure and experience.
"What a pleasant surprise, please come in out of that frigid weather!" Sebastian offered, opening the door wider to admit her in. "Please excuse the way we look but it's been a hectic week and we both just decided to have a relaxing evening."
Taking a step inside of the hallway, Justine looked him up and down in a slow sultry manner, she'd never really noticed how appealing he really was. "Don't be silly, I'm the one arriving unannounced," she said smiling. Sebastian smiled back as he closed the door behind her.
"Honey, our dear friend Justine has come to join us for a drink," he shouted.
"Oh, how awesome! Come through and sit here at the fire!" a female voice from inside beckoned. Leaving her shoes in the hallway and handing her damp cold coat to Sebastian, Justine walked into the fire lit sitting room. It was L-shaped, facing an outdoor veranda, envisioned through the darkened windows, and the walls were covered in book shelves. From hidden speakers, a soft theme with flute and piano was heard. But nothing of that was what grabbed her attention, she was mesmerized by the dancing flames and of what Aletha was wearing. Justine had always felt something magnetic when she was around Aletha, something both arousing and exciting at the same time.

Sebastian followed right behind Justine and continued over to a bar.
"What do you drink?" he asked and Justine tore her eyes from Aletha's short, black dress and high-heeled shoes.
"I'll have what you have," she let him know and thus Sebastian offered her a 2001 Merlot which was presented in a perfectly shaped wine glass. "Thank you, this will warm the soul and ease the tension of the week," she sighed and sat down next to Aletha on the couch. Sebastian pulled up bean bag and eased himself onto it after placing it beside where Aletha was sitting.
"Please, get comfortable, we certainly don't mind as our house is your house!" he winked. Justine removed her cardigan, revealing her white see-through blouse and lace bra. She was known to have a beautiful body and perfect breasts, hours of work-out every day kept her in shape. Her black pencil skirt was showing off all her wonderful lines. "Oh, this feels so much better!" she gasped. Both Sebastian and Aletha were battling to remain composed and were conscious not to stare.

Aletha glanced at Sebastian with a wry smile, might this be the night when their friendship would be taken a step further? She'd always known that she had feeling of more than friendship towards Justine and she often spoke to him about a possible scenario of a night filled with wine, lust, passion and carnal desire, and how it would all transpire. Would this be it, would this be the Friday when her secret fantasies came through? Sebastian leaned over and kissed her hand in acknowledgment of her thoughts, he could feel the sexual tension in the air and the vibes emitting from both the women. Justine was tasting her wine slowly and seductively, as they traded stories of their week and exchanged ideas and advices. Soon another bottle was opened and a third followed not too long after. The music died down on the stereo, but no one made any move to replace it.
"Excuse me for a minute, I have to make space for more of the delicious beverage," Aletha said as she got up to go to the bathroom, she giggled as she carefully made her way down the passage, leaving Sebastian and Justine next to the fire.

At that point in time the conversation died down and Justine couldn't help but admire the way the firelight was refracting off Sebastian, she'd become enchanted by his every move, how his hair fell down in front of his eyes and how the muscles played beneath the cotton of his shirt. She knew that he exercised almost as much as her, she usually met him on her morning jog. Sebastian in turn couldn't but entertain her gaze as he was slowly filled with a growing desire to just for one minute be close enough to her to smell her perfume, touch her soft silky skin and feel what it would be like to hold her and taste her completely. Should he? Dared he?

Just then they heard the door to the bathroom open and close on the other end of the hallway, and the moment ended. Aletha made her way up the hallway and slid back into the couch.
"Hope the two of you were behaving while I was away," she teased. Justine blushed and teasingly slapped her leg, sending waves of excitement through Aletha.

"I have an idea, let's play a game of strip dare," Aletha then suggested seductively as she winked at Sebastian.
"Oh, I'm up for that!" Justine grinned. "Of course, only if Sebastian is not offended at the thought of two women getting potentially naked in front of the fire," she jokingly added. Now it was his time to blush, something that didn't happen very often.
"I've no problem with that at all, as long as you ladies can handle what I have," he laughed.
"So bring the cards, they are in the upper desk drawer," Aletha urged him on and he stood and walked over to the desk, producing a regular deck and returned with it to the women. They sat down in a circle on the soft, white rug now warmed by the fire as Sebastian threw more logs onto the fire. Aletha shuffled the deck and started dealing the card.
"Who's going to start?" Justine asked.
"I think Sebastian should start as he has less to show," giggled Aletha, much to the surprise of both Sebastian and Justine. All right, Sebastian said and drew his first card, a five of club. Justine followed with a nine of diamonds and then Aletha pulled out a knight of hearts.
"Okay, my game! This question is for my darling husband."
"Shoot!" Sebastian dared her as they threw the cards to the side.
"Honey, what is Justine's favourite cock….tail?"

Sebastian looked straight at Justine for a few moments. "May it be a Bloody Mary?"
"Nah, that should be a Sex on the Beach," Justine confessed with a look of excitement. "Oh dear, you know what that means? Take off that shirt you bad boy!" she then smirked. Sebastian slowly buttoned down and removed his shirt, revealing his toned body and almost six pack abs. "Wow, that looks good!" Justine gasped, without realizing what she was saying. Looking sheepishly at Aletha she made an effort to explain what she meant but was stopped dead in mid-sentence.
"Please don't say another word!" Aletha held up her hand. "I totally agree with you and you can say whatever you like tonight. Just let it out, as I feel it's confession time. Don't you?"
Justine sat for a second, turned bright red and smiled. "You are so right," she finally admitted. "This has been a long time coming. I'm just going to say it now and come what may, but the two of you turn me on in a way I've never felt in my life. I fantasize about you both all the time and I really would like to take this to the next level. There - I said it!" she exclaimed. Sebastian and Aletha both looked stunned, but in a good way.
"Wow," Sebastian finally breathed out. "We sort of had an idea, but we always thought that we were simply over sexed and that it just was a fantasy."
"Really?" Justine's eyes widened.
"Yes," Sebastian remarked. "Now, I can speak for both Aletha and me, when saying that we're unbelievably excited and turned on right now. This is a dream come true for us as well."
"So now what?" Aletha asked. At that moment, as if without warning, Justine stood up, moved over and kissed Aletha with a deep and passionate kiss. Sebastian just sat watching as his wife was taken hostage by the lips of another woman. His arousal was growing uncontrollable at this time and the bulge developing in his pants was becoming ever more apparent as he gave in and removed his slacks. Just sitting there and watching this development between two women whom he had intense sexual feelings for was beyond what he had even dared to imagine earlier.

Aletha found her hands caressing Justine's smooth skin and in a matter of seconds she had her guest's white blouse unbuttoned and on the floor. The heat of the flames was warming their skin and beads of sweat started to develop as their intensity for each other increased. Aletha could feel her nipples hardening against her black lace bra as Justine's hands caressed her body and she could feel her perfect firm breasts pressing against her body. Aletha kissed Justine's neck and chest, tracing her white satin bra with her hot wet tongue.
"Ah, that's so good!" Justine gasped as she peered past Aletha's head directly into Sebastian's sea-green eyes, hypnotizing him with her gaze. It felt to him like she was controlling his body when his hands disappeared under his pants and onto his now thickening member. Justine could feel her juices staring to flow as the heat between her silky thighs increased exponentially. Gasping in pleasure at the sensation of Aletha's tongue working its way around her torso and very sensitive breasts, she reached back to unclip her bra to free her soft breasts to let them be at the mercy of Aletha's talented mouth and lips. Justine moaned with pleasure when her nipples became enveloped by Aletha's hot mouth and she gripped Aletha's hair and pulled her onto her breasts, forcing her to suck and lick and tease her to a point of pleasure.

Suddenly, Justine felt the rough hands of Sebastian on her body. He was removing her bra and freeing her full firm breasts, causing her to moan in pleasure at the thought of what was about to happen. After that Sebastian gently slid his fingers around the waist band of Aletha's lacy string pants and slowly slid them down her soft tanned thighs and over her calves until they too were on the floor, thus revealing her toned butt. She gasped when she felt his warm breath caress her legs and thighs and she instinctively widened her stance to invite him to more. He could smell the lust that was developing between her toned thighs, arousing him further. Justine responded to Aletha's actions by bringing her head back up to Aletha's full lips and kissing her deeply, forcing her tongue to probe all of Aletha's hot mouth and lips. Justine was now fueled by carnal desire and anticipation of climax, and she let out a loud gasp the moment Aletha's hand unzipped her skirt and forced it to the floor, exposing her black lace French style panties. Aletha could feel how damp Justine's panties were as she eased them to the side in one fluid motion, to feel her wet dripping pussy begging to be teased and caressed.

Sebastian lifted Aletha's leg onto the rest on the couch seat, and in doing so, he opened her legs enough to be able to see her perfect shaved pussy, glistening in the light of the fire. Without hesitation or warning, Sebastian moved in and began to caress it with his fingers, feeling the silky wet juice drawing him in to feel even more of her ever-wanting womanhood. Aletha gasped with every movement of his fingers as they teased her lips and caressed her clit. There was never any doubt he knew what he was doing when it came down to pleasing her. Still she pleaded for him to give her the pleasure she knew he could deliver. Sebastian responded to his wife's hips bucking towards his mouth, did what she pleaded and began to taste her lust for him. Soon his tongue was moving skillfully up and down her lips sucking and teasing her clit and probing the entrance to her glistening and ever so perfect pussy. At that moment, Justine could not contain herself any longer. She let out a scream of passion when Aletha's fingers entered her and stroke her g-spot like it was her own.

Weakened by pleasure and sheer lust they all fell to the soft carpet. Aletha then pushed Justine onto the carpet spreading her silky legs so she was able to examine Justine's wet pussy herself. Justine had a small tattoo of a butterfly on the left side of her pubis and a thin but neat strip of soft silky hair as if there to guide her lips to pleasure. She smelt like expensive perfume and Aletha could see that she had come to them with intent. Justine in turn reached down to the side and found Sebastian's boxers, tugging at them so that they soon found their way down his muscular legs and onto the floor. She could clearly see his hardened cock now, searching for some attention, so she grabbed him slowly, causing him to jerk and moan as he continued to pleasure his wife's pussy.
"Oh, you're so hard and thick," Justine whispered in Sebastian's ears. "I want you in me, I want you to fuck my pussy deep!" She could immediately feel his cock hardening and throbbing anticipately in her hand. She pulled him towards her and began kissing his cock, exploring his length with her tongue and lips as she cradled his balls in her hand. All three gasped when Justine placed her mouth over Sebastian's cock and began to suck him, first slow long strokes and then to his surprise, taking him in deep into her throat.

The sound of sex shrouded only by the crackling of the fire, the rain on the window outside and distant, rolling thunder. Three bodies woven together in carnal pleasure and lust for sex. Aletha was beginning to shake and quiver as she neared orgasm through the skillful work of Sebastian's tongue and fingers and when she pulled away from him she also stopped caressing Justine and turned to face her man.
"I'm so fucking horny right now," she murmured as she watched Justine work her mouth up and down her husband's hard cock the same way she too had done many a time. Unconsciously she began to caress her own pussy and as her moans got more intense so did that of her friend and husband, quickening to the edge of climax while she stroked her clit. Justine then looked up and beckoned her to join in on pleasuring Sebastian. He in turn, was soon gasping and moaning at the feeling of two beautiful, sexy women servicing his hard cock at the same time. This was the ultimate fulfilment of his fantasy.

"Honey, I want you to eat her pussy the way you do mine. I want you to show her how to cum in pure oral ecstasy," Aletha suggested. In awe, Sebastian slowly pulled his cock out of Justine's hot mouth and instead he dropped down on his knees and drove his attention to her soaking pussy. He wasted no time in teasing her and caressing her with his tongue and fingers, forcing her to buck and thrust her hips into his face.
"Oh yes, fuck you're good," she gasped, gripping the carpet in passionate overflow.
"I told you he could eat pussy," Aletha purred stroking her glistening lips. Glancing up at Aletha, Sebastian realized that she was now on the brink of climaxing herself. He returned his gaze to Justine, rose to his knees to tower above her, taking in the beauty of her toned body and perfect breasts, looking straight into her grey eyes. Then he slowly stroked his hard cock over her wet pussy lips, adding slight pressure as he crossed her clit. Every stroke made her moan louder as she built up to orgasm.
"Please suck my tits and nipples while he fucks me, I want you to taste me again! Justine pleaded with Aletha. With a smirk pulling at her lips, Aletha moved over, still teasing her own pussy as she knelt down and started to lick and caress Justine's nipples, feeling how they hardened in her hot mouth, teasing them with her tongue. She stopped just long enough to glance at the other woman.
"Do you like it?" she whispered. "Do you like us?"
"Yes, yes," Justine exhaled. "Oh, fuck me, Sebastian! I want all of that big cock now!" she then screamed. He spread her legs wide and with a slow fluid movement, he eased his large throbbing cock past her pussy lips and slowly filling her pussy with his member. "Oh, you're hard, I want you deeper!" Justine moaned and pulled him into her, yelping as his cock filled her. Sebastian started grunting as he thrust his cock in and out of her tight pussy feeling how with each thrust, her pussy gripped his cock as to not let him exit her. Over and over again he pounded her pussy, causing her perfect breasts to quiver and shake.

All of a sudden Justine's moans became cries of pleasure and she shouted his name and begged him to fuck her until she came. That didn't take long, and with one final thrust of him, he brought her to orgasm, coming all over his throbbing cock, clenching every muscle in her body and letting out a loud scream. With a grunt, Sebastian pulled his still hard cock out of her tight pussy. Having experienced the power of a woman's orgasm he still wanted more, he felt insatiable this night. Aletha had never seen him this aroused before and was not going to pass up this opportunity to have her man fuck her to orgasm.
"My turn now my love, how do you want your wife tonight?" she asked seductively and wiped Justine's cum off his hard cock. "I want to take you from behind and fuck you till you scream like never before," she said.
"Yes, take me! take me now and fuck me hard!" Aletha enticed him. Sebastian needed no further invitation, he grabbed her and moved in behind her. Firstly, teasing her with his hand and fingers, feeling that she was wet and ready for his hard cock, he parted her lips and with one motion he filled her wet pussy. "Oh, fuck that's so good, harder and faster my lover!" she begged. Sebastian thrusted hard and deep, getting faster with each stroke as he teased her clit and nipples with his right hand, the left one holding her waist, listening to her moan with pleasure.

Justine, who had recovered from her intense experience, was now ready to assist Aletha in reaching her orgasm. Crawling up to Aletha, she began kissing her neck, slapping her gently on the butt cheeks at the same time as Sebastian thrust deep inside her. Suddenly, Aletha's body stiffened and contracted as she neared her orgasm, and once again, all it took was one hard thrust of Sebastian's cock deep into Aletha's pussy to bring her to an explosive orgasm. Sebastian pulled out of her the moment she collapsed to the floor in what would have to be her best orgasm yet. But it was not over, Justine looked at Aletha and smiled.
"Should we give him the ultimate gift, should we have him cum on us?" she asked with lust in her eyes. Aletha nodded in agreement and then they both looked at a now very grateful Sebastian. "Stand up, it's your turn to be pleased!" Justine commanded. Holding his still erect cock in his hand, Sebastian stood up with disbelief shining in his eyes. Then both women began to lick and suck him once more, taking turns at filling their mouths with his hard cock pausing only to kiss each other.
"Come on baby!" Aletha teased him. "We want you to cum all over our tits and faces, we want to taste your come and have you orgasm hard!" Hearing that, Sebastian let himself come and covered their firm tits and mouths with his hot cum, bellowing with delight when the women milked every drop of cum out of him.

Exhausted they all collapsed on the soft carpet in front of the fire, satisfied and in awe of the event that had just transpired.
"I think this was our best adventure yet, and will be until the next time," Justine said smiling.
"Glad you feel that way, we're so glad we took this to the next level," Aletha said nodding at Sebastian. The trio drew close to one another and fell asleep, naked and more satisfied than ever before.

As the fire died and the sun rose, the trio reminisced about the night before and couldn't wait for the next time. Because sure there would be a next time!
Menage a trois
Ménage à trois (DA doesn't like accents)
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... were taken down. Apparently there were complaint about the erotic nature.

So just one little warning, enter on your own risk. I don't write for kiddies, I write for mature people who are not afraid of some sensual edge in life. Those are welcome to enjoy the best parts of my gallery. The others, well I imagine that they can easily find a playground fitting them too.

Love
/Pipina

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olycksalig
Up To No Good
Sweden
Sitter perfekt i mina ögon!

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Freeport Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2017  Professional General Artist
Thanks for the fav of  The Town Gate's Apsis by Freeport !
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Thanks a lot for the 'Architecture of London' fav!
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Thank you for the favorites ... 😎
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Thanks so much for+fav :) (Smile)  
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Thanks for the fave! Hug
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Thank you again for the fave :la:
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