tagSci-Fi & FantasyTouched Ch. 08

Touched Ch. 08

bystarscape©

"Have we lost them?" I gasped, leaning against the damp stone wall for support.

Grant crept to the corner and peered around the other side. "No." He took my arm and helped me navigate the pile of loose rubble.

"Caley said they wouldn't follow us into the ruins," I protested after we reached the bottom of the hill. "Why are they doing this?"

"I don't know," he replied, holding me up as we broke into a run, "but it's clear they want us back as badly as Raja wanted us to escape."

We fled in silence with only our heaving breaths and the crumbly streets crunching beneath our feet giving away our location. Heart thudding in my ears, I strained to listen for signs of our pursuers. Without fail, just as I started to grow certain our would-be captors had given up the chase, I would hear shouts or the scrape of feet sliding down loose ground.

Shortly after the sun rose we reached the border of a woodland with enormous trees. The mixed wood forest reminded me of the arboretum but on a denser, more massive scale. Never had I seen so many trees in person.

Beautiful though it was, the thought of passing under its quiet canopy filled me with more than a little dread. I knew Grant must have been of the same mind when he hesitated and turned to face me.

He gave a nervous laugh. "I know there's no such thing as forest-dwelling mutants..."

"But it's hard to forget scary childhood stories in a moment like this," I admitted.

He reached out and took me into his arms. "Well, at least I have you to keep me safe," he murmured, lifting my chin.

We held each other and kissed.

"Over there! By the trees!"

"Let's hope those same stories give them pause as well," Grant said, taking my hand. With one last deep breath we began to run, disappearing into the soft green light of the forest.

The woodland floor crackled with the thunder of broken twigs and branches as we rushed headlong between the trees. I hoped we would finally evade them here, but the vegetation, slick from the previous night's rain, slowed our progress. The popping and snapping of wood underfoot echoed around us, converging on our location, and I knew they were close, closer than ever.

"Left," Grant gasped, steering us toward a clump of bushes.

A bright flash lit up the air just right of his shoulder and exploded, smashing the bark off the nearest tree. I cried out and dove for the ground, with Grant throwing himself on top of me.

Thwing. Thwack.

The air buzzed overhead with high-pitched zings followed, one after the other, by shouts and screams cut unceremoniously short until there were none.

We cowered together in the dirt, too terrified to move. Then, without warning, a single twig cracked right beside our heads. Grant stirred above me, ready, I was certain, to face our fate. Steeling my quivering body, I eased up and lifted my eyes.

A man squatted beside us. He had long brown plaited hair and a thick beard of the same color. It was the first time I'd seen a person with facial hair in real life; no one in the city would ever tolerate such an unkempt appearance. He wore soiled, calf-length pants and crude ankle-high boots. The upper half of his body was covered by a brown tunic made of raw fabric.

"Who are you?" the man asked, his blue eyes penetrating my skull.

Grant sat up slowly, keeping a protective arm around my chest as he drew me with him. "My name is Grant, and this is Astrid. We come from—"

"We know where you come from, City Dweller. We're not blind. We've been aware of your presence ever since you first trespassed on our land. Dressed like that—" He snorted, waving a derisive hand at our clothing. "you're not hard to miss."

Several people began to laugh. I jerked my head around, silently counting the party surrounding us. I could see three other men, and a woman, all of them dressed in the same rough outfits.

"Why were you being pursued by your own kind?"

Grant hesitated. "It's difficult to explain."

The man stood up and gestured for us to do the same. "Try."

I gasped when without warning he began running his hands all over my body.

"Don't touch her!" Grant shouted, straining to break free of the two men holding his arms.

"Relax, City Dweller. I'm only checking your woman for weapons. Besides, I think she likes what I'm doing, hmm?" The man grinned as his large hand paused between my legs.

A shiver ran up my spine. "No. I don't," I replied through clenched teeth, fighting the urge to squirm.

He smirked and resumed his search. "If you say so." Finding me clean, he nodded to the woman. "Nissa, give our male guest the same treatment. We wouldn't want him feeling left out of the fun."

I watched as the woman slid both hands the entire length of Grant's body. "I don't know, Taran, this one seems to have a pretty formidable weapon," she reported, cupping her hand over the crotch of his pants.

The men threw back their heads and laughed while Grant's face flushed crimson.

"Perhaps later you will have the opportunity to discharge it," Taran told her while the others snickered. "Kuri, search their bag." He looked at Grant. "Now, you were about to tell us why you were running from your people."

"Our...our lives were in danger."

"That much seems apparent. But why were your lives in danger? Are you criminals?"

I spoke up. "N-no, not exactly. I-I mean, some people might...see us as criminals, but most would consider us...deviants."

"Really?" The man cocked his head. "For what reason?"

"Because we can't control...we don't have the ability to suppress...we have the need to touch and be touched."

"And?"

"And...we were caught...kissing in public," I disclosed.

"Oh no! Kissing? How scandalous!" Taran gasped, covering his mouth with his hand before once again busting out into raucous laughter along with the others.

A few minutes later he wiped the tears from his eyes. "I'm sorry," he apologized, still chuckling. "I know where you come from that is indeed a serious infraction. So were they coming to imprison you?"

"To return us to the hospital," Grant clarified. "We escaped late last night, during the storm."

"And how did you manage that?"

We told them about Caley and the others.

"But why trespass on our land? Surely there are places where you can hide from the authorities within the city."

"Not really," I objected. "There are very few unwatched places."

"From the looks of your supplies," Taran commented, gesturing at the opened knapsack, its contents spread about the ground, "this must have been a last-minute decision. You're hardly prepared for survival, even in the short term. You don't even have any tools, other than that pad, and it's not going to provide shelter, or help gather food." He pointed at the puzzle box. "What's that?"

"It's a gift for Astrid. I...had intended to give it to her during the solstice celebration."

The man tipped back his head, studying Grant's face. "How did you know where to find us?" he said at last.

"We didn't. We were sent here by one of the individuals who helped us escape, Raja Das. She said our people resided in the ruins outside the city, and provided us with coordinates on that pad, but we never had a chance to even look at it. Running into all of you was completely accidental."

The dark-skinned man picked up the pad and turned it on. "He's right, Taran," he confirmed, handing the tall man the device.

Taran furrowed his brow. "Who is this Raja Das? And where did she get these coordinates?"

"W-we don't know," I told him. "We only just met her last night, and spoke with her for only a few minutes. She said she worked for the Ministry of Science, Center of Reproduction. She told us to 'find our people' outside the city—until last night we didn't even know anyone lived in the ruins, let alone that we are supposedly from here. She mentioned a man named Zarek; she said it was imperative we speak to him."

"Did she now?" The man exchanged a look with his companions. "About what?"

"We don't know. She gave us a data chip. Do you...do you know him?" I asked.

"I think it's time you come with us," Taran announced, ignoring my question. "I'm afraid we'll have to blindfold you. Considering the company you keep—" He tipped his head toward the bodies of our pursuers. "I'm sure you understand our concern."

"Jacob, Roy, Nissa; stay here and take care of the bodies. Then double back, sweep the perimeter; make sure we didn't miss any stragglers. We'll meet you back at the camp. Kuri, take their bag; you're with me."

~*~*~


We wandered blindly for what felt like an hour or more. My swollen feet stumbled and tripped many times, but one of our escorts never failed to catch me before I fell flat on my face. It was a strange sensation, feeling a stranger's hands touch me without flinching with disgust or even hesitation. In fact, one of them kept a hand on my shoulder at all times, guiding my steps.

At long last we came to a stop. Someone eased me to the ground, then removed my blindfold. I looked around, blinking, waiting for the world to come back into focus.

I saw several small shelters covered by what appeared to be animal hide. We sat upon the same type of surface, protecting us from the wet ground. In front of us stood a circle of rocks with charred lengths of wood lying inside. One of the men, slim and tightly muscled with waist-length black hair tied behind his head, used a small handheld device to ignite the wood. Soon the smoky warmth of fire eased my shivering bones.

I reached down and touched the ground cover. "Is this...made of animal skin?"

Taran wrinkled his forehead. "Of course. It's elk hide," he added, as if he knew my next question.

"Where are all the people?" I asked, fingering the hide, exploring its stiff, rough texture.

"What do you mean?"

"We thought you were taking us to see Zarek."

"I see. Surely you didn't expect us to put our people at risk based on your claim that you are some long lost members of the tribe on an important mission?" The man looked at us both. "Oh. You actually did believe that? Well, let me explain something to you. Our people learned long ago that whenever City Dwellers arrive, trouble soon follows."

"We're not here to cause trouble," Grant insisted. "Besides, we owe you our lives. I'm not sure if we could have evaded them much longer if you hadn't intervened. Thank you."

Taran nodded. He looked at me and said, "It bothers you, doesn't it, that we killed those men?"

"I, too, am grateful you helped us when you did. If we'd been captured..." I shuddered, unable to finish. "I've just, I've never seen people killed before."

"Believe me, it's not something we enjoy doing. But past experience with hostiles has forced us to implement a shoot-to-kill policy whenever they pose a threat."

I wondered what past experiences to which he was referring but said instead, "Thank you for not shooting us."

The man laughed. "Don't think we weren't considering it. But we noticed the way you interacted as you were fleeing the others. You touched each other far more than normal City Dwellers, and just outside the forest we saw you kissing. We know for a fact that is not typical of your kind."

Grant shook his head. "No, we're definitely not typical."

"Good." He laughed again and looked at me eyeing the other man as he stirred something in a big pot. Something that smelled delicious. "Are you hungry? I find it easier to speak over a meal."

My mouth watered, forcing me to swallow. "Yes, please."

Several minutes later the black-haired man handed each of us a bowl. I glanced nervously at the thick, chunky contents. It didn't look nearly as appetizing as it smelled, but I couldn't risk offending our hosts. I picked up the spoon and lifted it to my mouth.

"Tastes better than it looks, doesn't it?" the brown-haired man said, smiling at me.

I swallowed. "It's delicious," I answered, taking another spoonful. "Thank you."

"Kuri doesn't have the artistic flair for presentation like some, but he's by far the best cook among the hunters."

I looked at the black-haired man and smiled. "Thank you. It really is very delicious."

He nodded. "You're welcome."

"So tell us again, Grant and Astrid, from the beginning, and do not leave out any detail. How do two City-Dwelling deviants end up wandering around lost in our forest, searching for a man they've never heard of before?"

~*~*~


I woke to find myself lying next to Grant inside one of the shelters, covered by a warm, if somewhat scratchy blanket.

"Feeling better?" he murmured, tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear. He leaned down and kissed me.

"Mmm." I breathed in his scent and smiled. It had been more than twelve hours since we'd last decontaminated and he never smelled better. "You smell so good."

"So do you," he whispered, tickling my neck with his stubble, making me moan with delight. He slipped his warm hand underneath my shirt and cupped my breast. "It makes me want to have sexual intercourse with you right now."

I pressed my body against his muscular frame and sighed. "Me too. But those two men are out there."

"They think we're asleep. After you nodded off in front of the fire while they were questioning us, Taran told me to bring you here and get some rest. Somehow, I don't think they are the kind of people who would mind even if they did know." He slipped the tip of his tongue between my smiling lips and kissed me again.

I slid my hand down the front of his pants. "Do you need me to discharge your weapon?" I giggled, feeling the strength of his need beneath my palm.

"What do you think?" he groaned as I stroked him through the thick fabric.

"Well...okay," I acquiesced, giving him a sly smile before I ducked under the covers and pulled his pants down over his hips.

"Guhhh. Astrid. I wasn't...uhhh...expecting..."

I smiled as his hands reached under the blanket, holding onto my head while I kissed and licked the length of his penis. I had never pleasured him with my mouth before, but it felt natural and naughty and entirely appropriate for the moment.

Parting my lips, I moaned, and so did he as I took his stiff organ into my mouth, bathing it with my tongue. He tasted as good as he smelled, musky and warm with a hint of saltiness. I encountered moisture at the tip, and dabbed at the tiny slit which was its source.

I wrapped my fingers around the silky skin of his shaft, and with a firm grip, slid my fist up and down while I rubbed the head over my lips, coating them with his essence. When I drew him back into my mouth, I felt the blanket shift and found myself uncovered.

"Is something wrong?" I asked, looking up at Grant from between his legs. I bit my lip. "I don't really know what I'm doing."

He smiled and shook his head. "No, I like what you're doing. I just...want to be able to watch you while you're doing it."

My cheeks grew warm. "I want to make you feel like you made me feel with your mouth."

"The glans—the head—is very sensitive," he told me, "especially where it connects to the shaft."

Holding him in my fist, I examined the swollen crown before running my tongue around it. His body trembled beneath me and he groaned. I continued my tentative exploration, paying close attention to Grant's reaction. Noticing that he quaked with pleasure every time I manipulated a tiny flap of skin at the front of his penis, just below the head, I decided to experiment and strummed the membrane with the tip of my tongue.

"Uhh. Yes, keep doing that." He placed his hand over my fist, encouraging me to resume stroking him as well.

A few moments later his hands returned to my head, fingers buried in my hair. I enjoyed listening to him moan and feeling him writhe beneath me while I pleasured him this way. As I licked and suckled his turgid organ, inspiration struck. I wondered if I could fit his entire length inside my mouth, and decided to try.

"Ohhh..." Grant shook, lifting his hips when he realized my intentions. "Oh woman, how are you doing that?"

I pulled back and caught my breath. Although I gagged when the head of his penis entered my throat, Grant's reaction thrilled me so much I was determined to try again.

The second time was a little easier than the first, the third easier still, and in time I found a rhythm not unlike his whenever he sank deep inside my body. While he moaned and shuddered with pleasure, my fingers caressed the wrinkled skin of his testicles; I marveled at their softness, almost delicate as they lay hidden beneath the masculine power of his rigid tool.

"I'm gonna... I'm gonna... Unghhh!" he cried, muscles seizing as he lost control. His penis jerked, spurting warm fluid into my mouth again and again. I rolled it around my tongue before swallowing; while its consistency was a bit thicker than the liquid I tasted earlier, its flavor was virtually identical.

Grant pulled me up by the shoulders and kissed me hard, thrusting his tongue deep into my mouth. "I don't know how you did that," he admitted, breaking the kiss, "but it felt incredible. Thank you."

Looking into his dilated eyes, I smiled and kissed him back. "My pleasure."

"The others have returned," a voice, Taran's voice, announced from the other side of the hide. "If you've gotten enough rest we would like to continue with our conversation."

Cringing, we hurried to situate our clothing and crawled out of the shelter. When we emerged, to my horror I saw five pairs of eyes staring back at us, smirks on all their faces.

"Well, Nissa, looks like she beat you to it," Taran commented as my cheeks burned. "From the sounds of that performance, it's no wonder you chose to run away with her," he added, addressing Grant but looking at me, his eyes glinting.

~*~*~


"You've been hiding something from us."

Grant and I exchanged a startled glance. "What do you mean?" I asked.

"Kuri, show them."

The black-haired man produced the secret box and began sliding the wooden panels out of position. "My grandfather told me about puzzle boxes when I was a boy; he said his grandfather's father used to build them."

I swallowed as he unlocked the box's secret in short order.

"Tell us again what this is?" Taran asked, taking the bundle. He unfolded the fabric on the hide, exposing its contents.

"It-it's historical data," Grant explained. "Music, images, written records. Forbidden knowledge."

"And how did you come to acquire it?"

"I-I work for the Museum of History, in the archives of the archeology department. I found it two years ago, when I was doing an inventory of the storage rooms."

"The technology looks outdated, but with newer components."

"Yes," Grant confirmed. "The data pad is more than twenty years old, but the power source was converted over with technology from maybe a decade ago, give or take a few years."

"Why did you hide this information from us?"

"You must understand," I cut in. "Our people...in the city, viewing such information, let alone possessing it, is a crime. It contains pieces of human history, treasures I never dreamed existed. If it had been discovered, the authorities would have seized it, destroyed everything. We couldn't take that risk. It means everything, this knowledge." My voice faltered as I choked. "It freed me, and Grant. It freed us both."

Taran held out the device. "Show us."

Grant took it and turned on the power. I noticed that a data chip was already inserted into the side, and glanced down at the piece of fabric spread out on the ground cover. I saw the second chip nestled in between the ear pieces, and wondered which contained Raja's message for Zarek. I soon received my answer when a sweet, plaintive melody swirled and filled the camp with its haunting refrain.

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