Our Only Limitation
Misty air draped everything in a heavy fog. Taug grunted as he stripped off each section of his bio-suit in the white-walled, laboratory-style cleansing room. Water dripped down the tiled walls. Turning to Justine, he lifted one booted foot and wagged it at her.
“Would you be so kind? These things are worse than Tatarian leeches.”
Justine unfolded her arms from across her chest and bent low. She grabbed the boot heel and jerked, nearly toppling Taug.
“Careful! I don’t want my toes to come off with the boot. They don’t grow back as quickly as the tentacles.”
Wiggling the boot effectively, it squelched off the swollen three-toed foot. Justine wrinkled her nose. “What’s that smell?”
Taug sighed as he lifted his other boot in her direction. “You don’t want to know. The price we pay to travel to foreign parts.” After Taug was completely free of every article of clothing and well wrapped in a large towel, he tromped over to a shower stall, tossed the towel over the door, and turned the spray on full blast. Shouting over the noisy spray, he waved a tentacle. “Get me that robe hanging to the left. Oh, my! This feels good!”
Justine rolled her eyes. “I’m your servant now?” She threw the swirly green-and-blue garment onto a nearby hook. “I thought you were a water creature. Where’s your ocean?”
Taug scrubbed and giggled. “We’re a bit too advanced to stay in the water all the time. Just for sport and refreshment.” He turned off the shower, snatched up the robe, and, patting his body in the joy of cleanliness and freedom, he stepped back into the room. “You have no idea how good this feels.”
Justine tilted her head at him as if analyzing an insect.
Plodding down a white, rounded hallway, Taug lifted a tentacle and flicked off their itinerary. “First, I’ll have to dress properly, then we’ll attend the banquet, and finally, I’ll arrange matters with Mitholie in his private suite. He enjoys luxury like nothing you’ve ever seen. You’ll—”
“I’ll see for myself. What do I wear?”
Taug stopped and appraised her with a frown. “What you’re wearing will do.”
He started forward again. Humming.
Justine laid a hand on his shoulder. Without the boots, he was much shorter. She peered into his eyes. “I’ve been wearing this for a week.”
Taug shook his head. “No one will know… or care.” Justine squeezed his shoulder. “I know. I care.”
Taug blinked. “I suppose you’ll want your own room? And a shower and new clothes?”
Taug peeled her fingers from his shoulder. “That’s what I keep asking myself.”
The air was heavy with water vapor as wispy ivies swung from the rafters like algae swaying in the deep sea. The murky green underworld of Crestar swirled behind a massive see-through wall. Various aquatic creatures swam about in placid acceptance of their environment. Pliant green tables and squishy white chairs dotted the floor, while Crestonian youth hustled between persons of importance offering drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
Taug sauntered into the room, positively transformed by his neat, new attire: a well-fitting white, sleeveless shirt and leggings with a long, flowing robe.
Justine trailed after him, unchanged.
A mingling, chattering crowd turned as one and stared past Taug to the android behind him.
A satisfied grin gleamed through Taug’s eyes. Justine may attract stares, but he would demand respect. He plodded forward, scanning the intimate group until he zeroed in on Mitholie.
Mitholie wore a heavy, dark green tunic of shimmering brightness. The thin cilia on top of his head were daubed with blue gel, and his face bore the fancy red stripes of his rank and position. Stepping forward, he stretched out his tentacles in a welcoming gesture. “So glad the prodigal son has made it home at last.”
Taug bowed out of respect and to hide his smirk. “I’m honored you know the reference. Newearth Studies was never one of your favorites.”
Mitholie surveyed Taug only a moment before his gaze shifted to Justine. “Ah, the redoubtable android, Justine Santana. It is delicious to finally meet you.”
Justine tilted her head, frowning. “It’s delicious to meet you as well.”
Titters broke out among the assembly. Tentacles rose to cover uncouth giggles.
Taug winced, but Mitholie reached out and cupped Justine’s hand in a wide tentacle. “Let me introduce you to my brain trust. These are my most intimate associates. They will be working closely with Taug to make your stay on Crestar sheer ecstasy.”
Justine stared at Mitholie’s tentacle as he led her toward a tall Cresta with a high forehead and huge green eyes. She leaned toward Taug and whispered. “Hyperbole doesn’t have the same—”
Taug shook his head in a sharp motion while staring straight ahead.
Mitholie dropped Justine’s hand and offered an introductory wave to the large Cresta. “Meet Zendrox. He specializes in biomechanical advancements. In fact, he was the one to adapt our bio-suits to Newearth terrain. He once worked with the renowned Donadello, who searched the furthest reaches of the universe to discover—” An undertone humming warned him off the topic. He flicked his gaze around the wide-eyed crowd. “—a cure for our weakness on land.”
A chime induced Mitholie to bow benevolently. “Time for the festivities. Let’s get comfortable.” He waddled to a wide table and plopped down on a soft, white couch. The others arranged themselves as close as possible without blocking Mitholie’s view of the runway arranged at the front of the room.
Justine stood to the side, her arms folded. Taug patted the cushion beside himself. With a sigh, she clumped over and sat on the soft material that oozed up around her.
Green and yellow lights swirled around the room as troops of scantily clad beings filed in. There were Bhuacs, Ingots, Uanyi, and three human children. They began to perform various acrobatic games, displaying their species’ best attributes.
Justine’s eyes widened and her breathing quickened. She shot a glance around the room. Every Cresta perspired with pleasure. She recognized Taug’s automatic grin, set in place to cover his thoughts.
Mitholie actually drooled.
Calls and grunts of dissatisfaction urged the players to perform more daring acts of entertainment. One Cresta stood and gestured in such a manner that, even though Justine could not understand the exact expression, she knew the vulgar meaning.
The players halted, confused, sweating and heaving desperate breaths. One of the human children wiped his eyes. His shoulders hunched, despair animating his trembling limbs, as if he knew something was coming and dreaded the moment.
Justine’s eyes narrowed.
Mitholie stood and barked a command.
Taug struggled to his feet and raised a tentacle. He glanced at Justine and then offered an extravagant bow to Mitholie. “The journey was long, and I know Justine would like to prepare herself for tomorrow’s events. We should eat and retire before—”
Mitholie glowered. “You’ve grown insensitive to pleasures of your own kind, Taug. But—” He sighed. “—it’s true, our opportunity is a narrow one.” He dismissed the players and waved the waiters forward. “Bring the food.” Dashing a glance at Justine, he grinned wickedly. “I know you don’t need to eat as we do, but you might enjoy a sustaining meal. We don’t partake of our own kind—but that is our only limitation.”
“…the crux of evil in this world…They consider no cost to anyone but themselves.” ~Erika Johansen
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Science Fiction Novels
Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg
Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN
Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend
OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN
OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF