Authors: Anna Carven
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 Anna Carven
All rights reserved.
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Zyara’s vision swam as she leaned over the balcony, looking out at the scene below. Underneath the glittering night sky, the streets of Darkside had come alive.
Right now, she was in sensory overload.
If there was one thing Humans did well, it was pleasure. Earth, she was coming to realize, was a hedonist’s playground.
The riot of color stretching out before her was called the Glory Strip, and it was teeming with Humans and aliens alike. Towering holographic signboards provided a lurid backdrop to the hundreds of people streaming past. Jarring, high-pitched music assaulted her sensitive hearing, and rapid Human-language speech blasted from hidden sound devices.
Apparently, the latter was called ‘advertising.’
She stared at the drink in her hand, swirling the red liquid around. Her beverage, a spicy, slightly sweet drink that Humans called wine, was really starting to go to her head. For some reason, it made her feel good, but at the same time, her sense of control was slipping away.
She put the glass down on a nearby table. “That’s enough for me,” she declared, a little too loudly. She blinked, trying to regain her composure. This was so unlike her.
She was usually the calm, collected one. As the official combat medic for the Kordolian military’s notorious First Division, she’d seen and done just about everything. There wasn’t much in the Universe that could shake her anymore.
Or so she thought. This Human drink; this alcohol, was proving to be unexpectedly potent.
“Are you sure?” Beside her, Sera raised a dark eyebrow as she sipped her water. For mysterious reasons only she and Xalikian seemed to understand, the Human had stuck to water the whole night.
Zyara was beginning to suspect those two were up to something.
Sera rounded the table, reaching Zyara’s side. She was amazingly steady on her feet, despite the fact that she was wearing ridiculous shoes with a precariously tall heel.
Zyara still couldn’t get her head around Human fashions. Why anyone would want to alter their natural height was beyond her. Still, she had to admire the way Sera was able walk so gracefully in her dangerous heeled shoes.
“You’ve only had half a glass. Is it not to your liking?”
“It’s fine,” Zyara said, a little too quickly. “I just don’t think I should have too much. I really don’t know what kind of effect it might have on our physiology.”
Sera’s dark eyes shimmered with amusement. “Don’t tell me you’re already feeling it? Have I finally discovered the great weakness of Kordolians? Could it be that for all your fierceness, you Kordolians are total lightweights when it comes to holding your liquor?”
Something in Sera’s voice made Zyara laugh, despite herself. The Human’s tone was light and teasing. “Your Human indulgences seem a little dangerous. I think I’ll go easy on the liquor for now.” She scanned the crowd, noting the curious glances directed towards her. They were on the balcony of a club called
, an entertainment venue where Humans and aliens alike came to consume various intoxicating substances, lose their inhibitions, dance like maniacs, and engage in certain… liaisons.
Across from them, a tall, dark Avein male had his wings wrapped protectively around a Human female. The couple seemed completely oblivious to the crowds as they kissed. Zyara raised her eyebrows in surprise. The Avein were extremely protective of their line, and relationships with other species were not permitted.
But in this dark, chaotic place, it seemed anything was possible.
A low, pulsating beat surrounded them, shaking the walls and floor. Humans liked their music loud, rhythmic and primal. The dark, driving beat lent a certain wildness to the scene. In this chaotic place, it seemed anything could happen.
Sounds and smells and colors assaulted Zyara’s senses from every angle. A pair of Human males walked past, eyeing her with brazen lust. They wore tailored dark suits and their black hair was slicked back from their faces, giving them a sharp, dangerous appearance. Zyara returned their look with an icy stare.
How dare these Humans ogle her as if she were a common pleasure slave? She was a Kordolian from a Noble House, and there was a time when she could have had her pick of any of the males on Kythia. Humans were such a young race, and still clueless in many ways.
Sera grabbed her arm and pulled her close. “Fucking gangsters,” she whispered, glaring at the men as she dragged Zyara away. She picked up Zyara’s wine glass and thrust it into her hand. “Come on. Drink up, and we’ll go and find the others.”
Zyara regarded her wine dubiously. A warm, pleasant sensation had settled in her belly, and her limbs felt loose. She was tempted to start swaying to the driving beat.
She felt so strange. In this place, it was as if all the rules and conventions of society were being broken, all at once.
The pleasure districts of Kythia’s civilized zones had nothing on this place.
Oh, to Kaiin’s Hells with it. There wasn’t much of the drink left. She might as well finish it.
The reckless abandon of this place seemed to have infected her. Throwing caution to the stars, she closed her eyes and downed the rest of her wine. The sweetness was unpleasant, but overall the liquid was rich and warm as it slid down her throat.
Sera elbowed her playfully. “Now you’re getting it. This is what we do on Earth. We work hard, and we play hard. I keep telling Xal that you Kordolians need to learn to relax.”
“Perhaps you’re right,” Zyara murmured under her breath. For the past few weeks, she’d been working without a break, tending to the Humans and aliens the First Division had rescued from a hidden laboratory, where they had been used for medical experiments.
The extent of the trauma inflicted on some of them had shocked even her.
Sera had been insistent on dragging Zyara away from her work, and finally the medic had relented. She’d agreed to join Sera, Xalikian, and a few of the other Kordolians and their Human mates on a night-time trip to the outskirts of Teluria, the large inland city that was the center of intergalactic trade on Earth.
She had to give it to Sera, the Human was persistent.
And part of her had been curious, anyway.
Darkside was always an interesting place to visit, but this time, Zyara wasn’t entirely sure if she was enjoying herself.
She followed Sera as they wove through the crowds, nudging bodies that were slick with sweat, fending off curious, probing hands and adoring stares. The majority of
clientele were Human, and she was all too aware of how much she stood out.
She’d tried to dress as close as she could to the Human style, wearing a pair of high-waisted black trousers and a long umber-colored blouse that matched her eyes. Her lilac-hued hair was pulled up into an intricate arrangement that showed off her pointed ears and complimented her sharp features.
But unlike Sera, she wore no make-up. On Kythia, it was the males who painted their faces, not the females.
They made their way inside, walking across a transparent suspended platform that swayed slightly from the sheer weight of all the bodies packed onto it. They dodged dancing Humans and aliens, and Zyara was glad to descend the curving staircase, because the structure they’d just set foot on didn’t seem entirely safe.
They crossed the floor, pushing through a sea of writhing bodies. Colored lights flashed above, timed to the beat of the music.
It was hot and frenetic, and Zyara couldn’t wait to be out of there.
That was why she’d gone up to the balcony in the first place. She’d needed fresh air.
She looked out across the crowd and saw several familiar figures standing in a dark corner. Kordolians were easy to spot in any Earth crowd. They were taller than most Humans, and their luminous silver-grey skin stood out in the darkness.
Prince Xalikian was there, looking refined and regal with his dark, curving horns and aristocratic features. The two First Division soldiers, Rykal and Kalan, stood beside him, hard-faced and intimidating despite the fact that they were standing in the middle of a giant Human party.
Sera pushed through the tightly-packed dancers, heading straight for Xalikian. She deftly dodged a pack of young Human women who appeared to be trying to catch the Kordolians’ attention.
As she reached Xalikian’s side, he curled a possessive arm around her shoulders.
Zyara joined them, feeling a little unsteady on her feet. “So this is what Humans do for fun?” She almost had to shout to be heard above the pounding music.
It was fascinating. Humans had a knack for deriving pleasure from the smallest things, whether it be food or music or something as simple as the warmth of the sun.
In the Kordolian Empire, pleasure was an overwhelmingly sexual thing, and it was never freely given.
“Creativity must be a Human trait,” Xalikian shot back, a wry smile playing across his dark lips as he looked out across the dance floor. “I’ve never seen or heard anything like it.”
With his mate by his side, the Prince appeared relaxed. Of all the Kordolians, he had adapted best to the Human way of life. Zyara’s lips quirked as she took in his appearance. He wore a tailored black Human-style suit that accentuated his tall, lean frame.
In her figure-hugging white dress, Sera complimented him perfectly.
Rykal and Kalan scanned the crowds with hard eyes that missed nothing. Zyara followed the direction of their gazes and saw the two Human women who had captured their attention.
In the midst of fighting the insectoid Xargek on the mining station Fortuna Tau and engaging in battle in the hot, sandy deserts of Earth, both Rykal and Kalan had somehow managed to find their mates.
The tall blond peacekeeper called Arin and the diminutive mechanic, Jia, began to descend the narrow stairs. They both held colorful, elaborate looking beverages that were adorned with flowers, fruit, and flashing decorations.
Zyara had lost count of how much alcohol the two women had consumed. All she knew was that it was a lot. And yet they seemed perfectly fine. The Human ability to metabolize toxins was impressive.
They chatted and laughed as they made their way over to the Kordolians. Despite interested looks from quite a number of Human women, Rykal, Kalan, and Xalikian only had eyes for their mates.
Zyara was beginning to feel like the odd one out.
She told herself she shouldn’t feel this way; that it was petty and unreasonable. Perhaps the alcohol was affecting her more than she thought. She glanced across at the males, her eyes narrowing. “You three aren’t having anything to drink?”
Xalikian made a face. “I can’t stand the taste of the stuff. Too sweet.”
Rykal shook his head. “General Tarak would kill us if he knew we were getting wasted in a crowded place full of Humans. Even though we’re off-duty, there’s no way I’m about to drop my guard. You know what they say about this place, right?”
Zyara inclined her head. “I’m aware of Darkside’s rather unsavory reputation. But it seems no worse than any grey zone we’ve been to in the Universe.”
“It’s the only place around here where any action happens after dark.” Jia leaned against Kalan, who wrapped a thick arm around her tiny waist. “Aside from the skyport and the financial district, everywhere else is closed for business right now, except Darkside. Darkside never sleeps.” She grinned. “It’s more fun to live a little dangerously.”