“That’s too much to worry about now, amigo,” Hurricane said. He thought he’d heard cheering before the commo-link was severed. “Let’s find a new angle to hit those things from. Stay close and keep your maneuvering short. Keep an eye on your fuel.”
“Heads-up, Cisco. A couple of those things are turning. I think they’re trying to follow us,” Pancho radioed. “They’re firing! Break!”
The reentry tiles covering Thunderbird’s upper surface saved his life. When the plasma stream arrived, sensors embedded into the fighter skin registered a massive thermal spike and the auto-recovery system kicked in. As his canopy began to fill with blinding light, Hurricane was thrown against his restraint harness as the RCS fired, pushing the fighter out of the beam. Just the touch was enough to melt his canopy, but not all the way through. His damage-control board lit up with a ½ dozen systems made nonfunctional. Hurricane pressed his pressure helmet to the scorched canopy and looked to the rear. Expecting to see Pancho, all that remained of his F/A-28 was a cloud of hot particles expanding outward, his friend was gone.
His fighter held together despite critical damage to several major flight systems. The most severe problem was the RCS system, which restricted his ability to maneuver, but it had gotten him far enough. USS Ranger was finally in sight through the forward canopy, a sunlit blob growing larger as he coasted toward it.
“Trailboss to Rico Deuce. I have you on visual. I took some hits and could really use a guide-in,” He used the control that he had to rotated the fighter and oriented his engine toward the carrier. “Talk to me here.”
“Trailboss, this is Rico Deuce,” The voice of the carrier flight controller whispered through his helmet speaker. “We have you on our sensors. You’re clear to ditch your spacecraft. SAR is standing by for pickup, over.”
“Roger that, Rico Deuce, ejecting.” Hurricane said and pulled on the manual canopy release, but the canopy remained fixed in place. He could not see the plexi-glass that had melted down over the hull and formed a bond. Another blinking red light appeared on his damage-control monitor. “This is Trailboss, I have negative canopy separation, over.”
“Do you wish to declare an emergency?” Replied the controller.
“Affirmative, Rico Deuce,” Hurricane said. “Break out the barrier, over.”
“The upper bay is being prepped for you. Emergency teams are standing by. Do not deviate from your glide path, over.” The aiming point at the top of the rearward looking video would match up with a similar point on Ranger’s landing bay. When they matched he was lined up correctly. “Decrease speed to three hundred meters per second, over.”
Hurricane increased engine power and watched his speed falling away. His fuel levels dropped into the red zone. His eyes shifted between the velocity indicator and the fuel gauge. When he dropped the landing gear another warning light started flashing from the damage control board. The landing gear door on his scorched side had been fused to the hull.
“Trailboss to Rico Deuce, I have negative landing gear deployment over.”
“Be calm, Trailboss, we’ll bring you in with your gear up. You’re drifting, adjust your course,” Ranger called. Hurricane checked the rearward video and noticed that he was above and left of a nominal approach. He added some down/right bursts from the functional RCS to bring himself back into line. “Decrease speed, over.”
Hurricane rammed the engine power control to the stops. The RUSH burned for ten seconds before his fuel ran out. “Rico Deuce, this is Trailboss, that’s everything I had, over.”
He checked his velocity: 400 meters per second. The rearward video flared as Ranger’s engines came to life. The ship, now filling the display, was attempting to match his speed.
“Your glide path is good,” Flight control said. “Rendezvous in twenty seconds. Get ready for a hard landing, over.”
Hurricane began counting down the time and slumped against his restraints as he forced himself to relax. Something fluttered in front of his face, obscuring his view of the ship. Jena’s picture.
“Smleck,” He swore and twisted the cuff-lock sealing his glove to his spacesuit. With the naked hand he grasped the picture and stuffed it into a cargo pocket. “Wherever I go, you go, beautiful.”
“Rendezvous in ten seconds.”
Despite the Ranger’s increase in speed, Thunderbird hit the landing bay traveling at 350 meters per second. The engine hit first, throwing him back against his ejection seat, breaking off the forward fuselage at the SCRAM intake. Then the pieces started tumbling.
On fifth-day after her late but welcome arrival at Tali’s hab, Jena showered, shaved, and changed into the outfit she brought from the Holdfast, Tali shrieked in mock horror when she saw it and began an immediate deconstruction process that left Jena sitting on her bed in only panties and moon-boots.
“I am not going out like this.” Jena said as Tali rummaged through a storage box filled with cosmetic tubes.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course you are. We both are. Ah, here it is!” She removed a small plastic jar and twisted off the cap, removing a dollop of something lotion-like. Tali lifted her hands to Jena’s face and rubbed the cream in. Her hands stroked Jena’s forehead, cheeks, and ears before beginning down her neck. Jena stopped further progress by taking Tali’s hands in her own.
“I think I can get it from here, thanks,” Jena said and took the cosmetic jar from where Tali had set it. It was a clear, scented body lotion impregnated with silver glitter She curled her fingers into a scoop and dipped them inside. “Shouldn’t you be getting ready?”
“Yes. Just holler if you need anything.” Tali said and turned on her heel, disappearing into the small attached shower-room. Jena smeared glitter-goo over her backside. After she rubbed it in, she adjusted the fit of her black tushy-floss and admired herself in the mirror.
“I look damned good,” Jena said and lotioned her legs, then arms, then chest. Tali emerged from the shower-room clad identically. “Do you think I should add some more eye makeup for this? Don’t I look good?”
“We’re going for the classic look tonight. You’ve got enough on.”
“Do my back?” Jena said and offered the jar to Tali, who seemed obliged to apply it as a vigorous rubdown that left Jena aroused. She walked out of Tali’s grip and took the jar. Tali fluffed her hair in the mirror as Jena applied the same treatment without the semi-sensual massage.
Satisfied, Tali capped the lotion jar and took a reinforcing breath, reaching up to correct the few small flaws she found with Jena’s look. “Are you ready to start celebrating life?”
“I have no idea how this night is going to end.” Jena said. “But I think I’m ready to start living again. If you ditch me, though, I will be so pissed at you.”
“Not gonna happen,” Tali said and coded her door. Her last accouterment was a thick strap of black leather she snapped around her own neck. “Don’t be surprised if someone just comes up and grabs you. If that happens just go with the flow.”
“Go with the flow.”
Heads turned when they stepped out into the main corridor of Tali’s hab-level. Jena set her face in a confident smile and let her breasts lead the way. When the elevator door opened at ground level, Martian men and women stared. Tali’s smile beamed and Jena was secretly of her comfort. A path cleared for them as they made for the appropriate conduit.
Viking Carnival was held underground. The façade was made up to look like the front of a warrior’s helmet. Each side of the helmet crest was detailed with a human face, one side male, the other female. The mouths were the eyeholes were the entrances. Tali led Jena up to the side that was female and fed her ticket into a designated reader. Loud, heavy music pounded out as the door slid open. In the lighting sequence Jena could see forms writhing inside. At the center of the floor a relic presided, still dusty from the century it sat in place before recovery.
Jena adjusted her tushy-floss and set her smile. Ok, lead with the tits. Smile set to kill, she thought and fed her ticket in.
Tali smiled over her shoulder as they faced what lay inside. “We’re a long way from home, Jena.”
Jena’s eyes went wide in surprise as Tali’s hands found her breasts and gave her nipples a tweak. She laid the smile set to kill on Tali. “You’re so gay!”
Tali shrieked and ran into the mouth laughing.
Welcome to the Pleasuredome. On our way home. Going home where lovers roam. The music was courtesy of archives dating from the period Viking was launched. A long dead singer crooned through unseen speakers arranged throughout the wide room. The walls were red and craggy in places images were from a holoform projector creating a show from old, 2-D video archives of the band. Larger-than-life figures carrying instruments played on a small platform set up at one end. From head on, the holographic effect provided depth and looked the most realistic. Attendees looking on from the sides saw only giant shadows dancing.
Jena and Tali stalked the floor of Viking Carnival through a crowd they judged to Martian CIV, GOV, and MIL with assorted planetary celebrities working the mix. Looks received from male and female guests ranged from bonhomme to predatory. Tali took her hand and let her toward the dispenser area as she let her eyes drift over the crowd, reading intentions. Attendees were mostly naked and many were in exhibition; a collage of faces, breasts, and erect cocks frozen in flashing strobe-light.
Viking 1 Lander was encircled by a wall of plexi-glass cut lower on one side allowing attendees access to the faded white relic. The finish on one corner had been rubbed down to gleaming metal. First Tali, then Jena, lowered a hand to the spot. Jena felt a shock rush through her as her fingers touched.
There was a naked man standing behind her.
“My name is Michil, yes?” He said and put his hands to his hips. “I guess you are from off-world. On Mars we pride our hospitality. I would enjoy welcoming you.”
Jena felt her mouth flap open and shut as her eyes flicked downward. The Martian had been blessed with girth. A fleshy pillar drooped between his legs. A proper response to his question fled from her mind. Michil raised a confused eyebrow and looked down.
Suddenly understanding, he laughed and said, “It is a friendly weapon, yes? Don’t let it frighten you.”
“Jena, come on,” Tali said and pulled on Jena’s arm, leading her toward the lines formed around the dispensary. “We not ready for this yet. We need to get smlecked, first, very smlecked.”
Jena let herself be pulled away but fixed her eyes on Michil’s before the crowd consumed them. To navigate the Carnival was a gentle course around bodies writhing, intertwined on the exhibition floor or the crowds standing around pleasure machines. Supplicants cries were drowned out by music.
“Tali, what did you get me into?”
“More importantly,” Tali said and slowed to a stop at the end of the nearest line. “What’s getting into you? Or should I say who?” She cackled at her zinger. “What did you expect? A tea party?”
“I didn’t know,” Jena said. “But knowing you, I think part of me expected this.”
“A large part of you, I’d say,” Tali jested. “Every time I’ve seen you, you’ve been getting wrapped up tighter and tighter. That’s what working on the upper staff is doing to you. You need this. I need this. I need you to have the best time of your life. Whatever you can think of. Don’t worry, nothing leaves here, we’re just two more faces.”
When Jena’s turn at the dispensary came she was confronted by a perplexing dilemna. The dispensary had four sides, each imprinted with identical series of colored buttons and a hopper in the bottom she’d watched other attendees remove their selections from.
“Jena, since this is your first event, you probably should start easy,” Tali said and took a deep quaff from her oddly flourescent drink. The sequence she’d entered into the dispensary panel was blue-yellow-green. She squinted at the panel. “Try a red-yellow-orange. You’ll have a great time without too many surprises.”
“What am I trying?” Jena said and touched the buttons matching Tali’s suggestion. Once she’d pushed three in, they flashed and a plastic cup dropped into the hopper and began filling.
“Just something to put you in more of a party mood,” Tali said as Jena removed the cup and looked inside it, appraising the liquid shimmering inside it. “They buttons put additives into your drink. Red-yellow-orange will keep you awake and stimulated. Try it. If it doesn’t do what you want, try something else.”
Jena lifted the cup to her lips. “This is approved, right?”
“Earth rules don’t apply here,” Tali retorted as Jena tried a sip. Her drink was an indeterminate fruit flavor and spicy. “Things are more legal here, but don’t worry about your next substance test, they’re not scheduled until well after all this is out of our systems.”
“You’re right,” Jena said and took a larger gulp, nearly a quarter of the cup at once. Seconds after she swallowed, she felt a heat in her stomach that spread upward toward her neck and downward toward her panty-thong. Jena squeezed her legs together as a familiar tang reached her nose. “Smleck. I just got wet.”
“That’s the yellow kicking in,” Tali confirmed and led her away from the dispensary. “This place is ours tonight, Jena. Where do you want to start first?”
“Christ and Allah, I don’t even know.”
“Neither did I my first time,” Tali said and sipped on her blue-yellow-green. She stood on tippy-toes to take in the action and smiled when she saw some across the room. “It’s a little early for the group floor. Have you ever gotten off from a machine?”
“Just the human kind,” Jena said and concentrated on threading through the crowd without slopping her drink. Tali angled for a man-shaped contraption set up against the wall with a crowd around it. “I don’t know if I want to try anything without a soul. It sounds so unnatural to me.”
“Tweaking isn’t unnatural. Sometimes at home I use a machine to get off,” Tali said. “Using it on my girlfriend isn’t unnatural. I think you should try it before you knock it.”
Jena giggled, her response to the mirage of Tali and Gabrielle that appeared in her mind, only it wasn’t Gabrielle. She took a sip of her red-yellow-orange and mentally cursed. Unable to deny it any longer, she admitted to herself that she was into girls as well as guys, perhaps for just one night.
“Think about it, Jena, are you to live or do you just exist? Don’t be afraid. Just wait until your red-orange kicks in. You’ll be all good, not a care in the world. I’ll keep you out of serious trouble, don’t worry. By the end of the carnival you’ll never remember coming so hard in your life,” Tali stepped into a ring of people surrounding a device that resembled an upright racing cycle. We got twelve hours of paradise.”
A man with a MIL haircut and an “Iron Fist” gauntlet tattooed on his shoulder was bent over in the machine harness, facing them, with a wireless kill-switch tensed in one hand. The racing cycle vibrated as a piston mechanism worked a large prosthetic in and out of the man’s anus. Semen spilled from his erect penis into a latex skin as he released the kill switch and collapsed onto his stomach. The piston arm retracted until it was all the way back, then turned the rotor head at the tip and plugged it into the tube of a sonic sterilizer built into the carnival ride. When he picked himself up, his last obligation was to wipe the machine clean for the next in line.
Tali grinned and stepped forward, preempting a similar move by another woman waiting her turn, who shouted something offensive sounding in Mars-Russian but stopped short as Tali climbed onto the machine. She leaned forward against the “fuel-tank” form and put her hands onto upright handles that kept her center of gravity forward. A small vid-screen mounted between the handles came to life and she could see her pussy. A small “+” marked the location the prosthesis was aiming for. One handle controlled “right-left,” the other adjusted “up-down.” When she pushed the handles forward the piston started moving in toward her. She let go of one and pulled her panty-thong to one side.
Jena watched, awestruck, as Tali flushed and closed her eyes. Her friend bleated out longing as the rotator head made contact. Jena crossed her arms over her breasts as minutes passed, fighting impulses demanding similar attention. Emotions flooded her as she noticed the onset of Tali’s first orgasm. Arms crossed, she rolled a nipped between her thumb and forefinger, a momentary thrill that made the heat filling her more intense, the opposite effect she’d wanted. Jena wanted to come so bad it gave her the shakes.
She turned when she felt a soft touch on her elbow. Gabrielle met her with the same smile that Jena had come to envy. Tali’s lover wore nothing but body-paint and patterns of stick-on glow-beads. It was her that Jena had seen that first day.
“So sorry for my late-come-late, yes?” She said and brushed past Jena into the circle. “Look at my little Earth-girl. Such a show-off.”
Tali gave out a passionate yowl and released the kill-switch. She dismounted the ride and wiped it down, then wobbled over to them on weak legs. Her lover’s arms were immediately around her shoulders, drawing her into an embrace. Tali lowered her head to Gabrielle’s breasts. “Wow, the greens hit me like a tidal wave. That was A-MA-ZING!”
Gabrielle played with Tali’s ear and said, “Earth girls are so easy to please.” She looked at Jena who felt envy again. “If only all Earth girls were. Come on, there is so much carnival to do.”
When Jena described her feelings, she was informed by Gabrielle and Tali that it was the Orange kicking in. Jena felt lusty. She wanted to be wanted. She wanted sex. The trio found an open spot on the exhibition floor behind the Viking 1 and made it their own. Tali kept Jena calm while Gabrielle visited the dispensary.
“Promise me that this won’t create weirdness,” Tali said as she faced Jena, sitting inside the cradle of Jena’s legs, her own legs riding over Jena’s hips. “I have a confession to make. I’ve wanted this to happen for so long,” Jena smiled as Tali kissed her. Their lipsticks formed a bond and slowly pulled apart. Tali ran her fingers through Jena’s sweat soaked hair. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“No.” Jena said and gasped as a new sensation raced through her. When she described her symptoms, Tali replied that the red was kicking in. Her skin was on fire, every nerve tingling, the only relief she could imagine was a thorough tongue-bath.
“It gets better,” Tali said and eased Jena onto her back. “Your legs. Give them to me.”
Jena lifted her ankles until she felt Tali’s hands on them, guiding them apart, the insides of her legs were tickled by the tips of Tali’s hair as she let her head drop. Jena felt hot breath on her skin and then something electric flitting against her clit, seeking out ticklish places. She bit a knuckle as a small wail escaped her lips.
“Give me your love.”
“Take it.” Jena moaned.
Tali was experienced. She alternated periods of oral service with stimulation by one finger, then others that massaged her internally. Other times she might’ve rejected her friend’s attention but at that moment, surrounded by a faceless crowd and thundering music. Jena slowly became aware of a bemused face smiling down at them. Gabrielle had returned from the dispensary with a drink in each hand.
“My little Earth girls are enjoying the carnival, yes? How nice!” Gabrielle said and place the multicolored beverages on the floor and dropped down next to them. “It is so good to see you happy, Jena.”