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Authors: Megan Hart

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BOOK: Passion Model
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I noticed a telltale dark spot on Shaedo’s otherwise perfect inner thigh. “You do realize that I am also authorized to detain and inspect bots I suspect might be renegade for any reason—not just malfunction?”

She probably couldn’t be scared, but my veiled threat had made her a little nervous, at least. Her fingers, tipped with nails the color of platinum, fluttered near her thigh but didn’t touch the dark spot. “I know that.”

I looked very deliberately at the discoloration, which could’ve hidden a private ownership mark—or not. “For instance, bots who jumped the private sector before their contracts were up. If I asked you to show me your ID unit, Shaedo, what would it say?”

She lifted her chin. “Relava nearly blew a gasket last night, okay? But the client was ready for her. He had special equipment, so when she went into clenchdown he wasn’t caught.”

Special equipment. It could be something as simple as a latex sheath, something like the condoms men used to use, that would let the client’s cock slip free of Relava’s clenching muscles. There were other things too. It didn’t really matter.

“He hired her knowing she was malfunctioning?”

Shaedo shrugged. “Paid us both twice the hourly fees to keep our mouths shut.” Her fingers fluttered over the dark spot again. “Don’t ask me to tell you who he was.”

“I’m more concerned about finding Relava. She’s going to hurt someone if she doesn’t get repaired soon.”

Shaedo already knew the worst. “She’s too far gone for that. Unless somebody buys her for themselves, she’s going Oldcity or Offworld. And she knows it too.”

A bot who knew her future would be even more desperate. “See you around.”

Shaedo licked her lips and gave me a sultry stare. “I hope so.”

I ignored her flirtation. She couldn’t help it. It was her programming. I couldn’t be flattered or offended by it.

Eddie hadn’t had any luck with finding Relava, though he’d met up with a bot who had seen her earlier today at the Lovehut we’d detained her in. That was the closest we’d come. With twelve other kennels to search in this District alone, we needed to get on the move.

Kennels are divided into three types: convents, monasteries and dual gender facilities. As their names implied, some housed only female bots, some only male, and some both. It was unlikely we’d find Relava in any of the monastery kennels. At least that would cut out some of the work.

“Where to next?”

“Whiteknee’s.” Eddie named the second biggest kennel in this District.

Luckily for me, we could take a pedtread, not a hovertaxi. We hopped a tread and reached Whiteknee’s in about ten minutes.

We had no better luck there. It had the same layout as Brenda Kitten’s, but all the bots we checked there hadn’t seen Relava recently. Most claimed to never have seen her at all.

“We’re getting colder,” Eddie said, outside the kennel. His stomach rumbled. “I’m starving. Rando’s going to have our asses if we don’t find her before next shift.”

My stomach growled too. “We’re in the right District. I can sense it. It’s out of character for a bot to go to ground too far from her registered home District.”

“Call up the map, G.”

“This is why you love working with me, isn’t it?” I grumbled, but pressed the spot on my temple that activated my internal downloads.

“No, I love working with you because you can get a bot off in under three minutes,” Eddie said. “You boost my productivity ranking.”

I had to laugh. The holomap streaming from my eye sockets jiggled for a minute. “Shut up. You’ll make me fritz the map.”

Eddie stabbed the air in front of the map. “Here we are. There are thirteen kennels in this District. Four monks, four nuns and three orgies.”

The map was complete and updated every four seconds. It flickered as we watched, then renewed power. We appeared as two glowing blue specks on the darker gray of a sidewalk. Whiteknee’s glowed a faint red. I blinked twice, hard, and shifted the view toward the next closest kennel.

“K.C. Rogers’ Kinkhouse. Think she might have gone there?”

Eddie nodded. “Most of the other bots we interviewed said they’d ménaged with her, so we know she’s available for other than just vanilla pairings.”

I tapped my temple again and brought up the Kinkhouse specs. “It’s also registered as having a larger repair and maintenance facility.”

“It caters to the rough trade. If she’s going to attempt a self-repair, that’s a likely spot. Let’s move on it.”

The crowds cleared out of our way as we got closer to K.C. Rogers’, which was funny to watch since the people in that area looked a hell of a lot scarier than either Eddie or I. It’s interesting to see how our uniforms make even the baddest of black vinyl clad and piercing-riddled citizens give us wide berth. It proves the Ruling Council right on at least one count—intimidation and the threat of swift and harsh punishment is a better deterrent against crime than weapons could ever be.

I’d rarely come to this part of Newcity before. Bots that service the rough trade are used so hard they don’t usually last long enough to become a problem. I wasn’t unfamiliar with the sorts of acts that went on in this part of town, though. SMBD is not my personal preference, and as an officer it was unlikely I’d ever have to participate in anything like that during an inspection, but I’d been trained in all of them just the same.

Even the Lovehuts in this part of the District reflected the taste of their clientele. More viddy screens showed hard-core sex videos than sporting events, and the drugs listed on the sidewalk menu boards included some of the heavier, more potent cocktails. Not for the beginner. That stuff would knock you on your ass for a week if you weren’t used to it. Painkillers, pain enhancers, muscle relaxants and paralyzers—a veritable cornucopia of chemicals to make your body do things it normally didn’t want to.

“Up there.” Eddie pointed to the discreet silver and black lettered sign hanging over the Kinkhouse door. The house symbol was a black stiletto pump, outlined in bands of pulsing silver. Pretty classy, compared to some I’ve seen.

Once inside, I could see why. The Kinkhouse proprietor was as classy and sleek as her sign. Long sheaves of brown hair fell past her shoulders. She dressed simply, in a form-fitting gown of black artisilk and shoes that matched the sign outside. If our appearance stunned or unnerved her, she showed no sign of it.

“Good evening, officers,” she said in a pleasant contralto voice. “How may I be of service tonight?”

“We’re looking for a bot.”

Her gaze flickered toward Eddie, and her subtly painted lips hinted at a smile. “My kennel houses some of the best in Newcity.”

“We’re here on business. Not pleasure.”

Now she turned her gaze on me. “Of course. How may I help?”

Eddie showed her Relava’s holophoto. K.C. looked at it with narrowed eyes, then shrugged.

“I don’t recognize her, I’m afraid. She might not be one of my regulars.”

“But she could’ve come here. She’s registered in this District.” I watched her carefully for signs she might be sheltering Relava, but saw none.

K.C. nodded. “I assume she’s been having…problems?”

“Malfunctioning ignition. She ran from us when we tried to take her in for repairs.” Eddie seemed entranced by K.C.’s cool gaze and calm demeanor.

“I see.” K.C. tapped slim fingers on her counter. “A bot like that could be very dangerous.”

“We’d appreciate access to the kennel,” I told her.

Again, she nodded. “You realize, of course, that a bot with that propensity for danger would likely be highly prized in this part of the District. It’s probable she’s engaged in congress right now.”

“If she’s not recharging we suspect she might be attempting self-repair of the malfunction.” I put my hand, not as subtly as Ms. Rogers, on my stunner.

“Of course.” She pressed a button and the door behind her slid open smoothly. “Be my guest.”

The communal area was done in the same silver and black décor as the lobby. Racks and baskets of vinyl and plaz accessories dominated the space. All manner of Pleasurebots, including the relatively rare VCTM models, prepared themselves for the evening.

“Haven’t seen one of those in a while,” Eddie said with a nod toward one of the VCTMs.

She had slash marks all over her naked breasts and belly. Unlike some of the other models, who were busy repairing the minor blemishes their violent activities created, the VCTM was only patting on thin layers of plazskin over her wounds. Any amount of pressure on the slashes would reopen the cuts immediately—which was just the effect she wanted.

She glanced at us from mismatched eyes, a sign she’d been through some heavy action that had required some repairs more major than the ones she was making now. She was exactly the sort of bot whose clients might seek out a damaged PSSN model.

“We’re looking for a PSSN-F-03, street name Relava.” I showed her the holo.

She spoke in a voice like grated glass. “I don’t work with regular bots.”

Despite what most people might think, the VCTM models are actually among the most intelligent. They have to be. Dumb bots putting themselves in situations where they’re caused constant physical harm as part of some citizen’s sexual thrills would be destroyed so fast it wouldn’t be worth constructing them.

“She’s got a damaged ignition.”

“Well, that changes things.” She gave the holo another look. Her flat gaze took in the picture, and then she nodded. “I’ve seen her.”

People expect Ops to be taciturn and steadfast all the time, but when we get a break we get just as excited as anybody else. I maintained my composure better than Eddie, who let out a long, hissing “yesss!” The VCTM gave him a jaded glance that reminded me how much some of these models are really like women.

She pulled a complicated contraption of spikes and vinyl from a rack and looked at it for a moment before slipping it over her breasts. The spikes, instead of pointing outward, dug into her skin. She didn’t flinch.

Intelligent or not, she obviously still needed leading. “Where did you see her?”

Luck had finally caught up with us. She jerked her head toward one of the corridors. “She was recharging back there a while ago.”

Sometimes, my instincts scare even myself. Before I even turned, I knew Relava had entered the dressing room. The quiver had become so pronounced, her high heels chattered on the floor.

There’s not much loyalty among bots. The ones gathered in dressing room scattered like rats startled by the light of a hovertaxi. Relava didn’t waste any time. She shot through the room, shoving the VCTM model aside with one arm, and barreled through the room at top speed.

Eddie was quick, but I’m just faster. Relava flew past him. Her eyes met mine for one startled minute, and then she was past me too. I whirled in place and followed.

She pushed through the doors and into the lobby, and I was close enough on her heels to smell the stench of ozone that clung to her like bad perfume. I swiped a hand at my stunner, but she put on an extra burst of speed as we rounded the edge of the desk and I couldn’t get close enough to reach her.

In another moment, she hit the street. The plazglass doors cracked behind us, but we kept going. Relava lurched through the crowd, which had become larger as night fell.

I switched easily into hyperdrive with nothing more than a mental push. The muscles and tendons in my legs took energy from organs getting less use at the moment, like intestines and kidneys. My lungs expanded the additional fraction that allowed me to take in extra air. I pushed off from the pavement. I’m not truly able to fly, but in those moments of hyperdrive, it’s as close as any person can ever get. My hand swiped at her and caught the trailing strands of her dark hair. My fingers tangled, and she stumbled.

It wasn’t quite enough to stop her. She kept going for another few feet, right into the path of traffic. The hovertaxi screeched to a stop, but not soon enough. The vehicle struck her, hard, in the midsection.

Her torso split, and her limbs separated from her body. Her head rolled along the ground. She was still smiling.

Blue sparks arced for a moment between the sad, scattered pieces of her body before fizzling to black smoke. A finger twitched, and one eye closed. As quickly as that, she was deactivated.

“God-of-choice, I hate doing a Blade Runner,” I muttered. My stomach twisted.

The crowd didn’t pause to gawk. The hovertaxi driver got out and inspected the front of his undamaged vehicle, asked me if he needed to stick around, and cursed when I told him he’d have to fill out some paperwork.

Eddie appeared with a tarp from inside, and we waited until a cleanup crew arrived to pick up the pieces. That and the inevitable forms we had to fill out took a good part of an hour, and by that time, darkness had fallen over this part of the District.

Eddie clapped a hand to his stomach. “I’m starving.”

Relava’s flight and demise had stolen my appetite. “Let’s call it a day.”

“Hey, G,” Eddie said with a glance at his timepiece. “Didn’t you have a date tonight?”

The world seemed to stand still for a moment. I checked my internal clock. “Oh, no.”

I’d forgotten all about Declan.

Chapter Eight

It was too much to hope he’d waited for me. Torn between wanting to shower and change or rush straight to the park, I opted for the latter. The park was dark when I got there, the show long over, and even the last lingering lovers had disappeared to other pursuits.

I gripped the metal fence with fingers gone numb with disappointment. Even though I scanned the grounds of the small area with my night vision, I knew I wouldn’t register Declan. I forced my spine to stiffen. There was no sense in falling to pieces.

Newcity never sleeps, but I’d never longed for empty streets and dark alleys more than I did now. I didn’t want to mingle in the groups of citizens heading for their evening’s entertainment. I only wanted to go home, get undressed and wash away my frustration beneath a stinging hot shower, synthetic water or not.

The minute the door to my apartment slid open, Kaelyn fluttered up to me. “My Gemma looks tired.”

“I am tired, Kaelyn.”

She cocked her head to look at me. “I programmed the steam shower for my Gemma.”

I grasped her slight arms and kissed her cheek. “You are a treasure.”

Her face pinked with pleasure. “My Gemma looks sad too.”

“Did…did anyone call for me here tonight, Kaelyn?”

Her fine features crumpled in concentration. “No.”

I hadn’t thought another surge of disappointment could fill me at her answer, since I’d expected it, but my already low spirits sunk further anyway. I couldn’t be surprised. Declan probably thought I’d stood him up. Why would he have bothered to call me?

I put my soiled uniform in the disposal unit and paused at the interdomicile supply port to order another for the next day. The viddy display showed Kaelyn had already taken care of it for me. I wasn’t exaggerating when I called her a treasure.

My fingers brushed the keyboard but didn’t push any keys. I didn’t know Declan’s code, or his District, or anything more about him than the scent and taste of him. He knew where to find me, but I had little hope he’d do so. How long had he waited? Not long enough and I couldn’t blame him. Hadn’t I been angry when I’d thought he’d ditched me?

The steam shower responded to the warmth of my body and switched on as soon as I stepped into the plazglass enclosure. Instant heat seeped into my body. The steam wrapped around me, and needles of nearly scalding artiwater pounded my flesh. It was just what I needed.

Kaelyn waited for me outside the bathroom with a glass of synthfruit juice and a slab of some sort of fragrant cake. “I ordered this for my Gemma.”

Even my disappointment couldn’t take away my sudden appetite. It had been hours since I’d eaten, and I’d worked hard today. I gobbled the food and drink, gave Kaelyn the plates, and ran my internal ultrasonic tooth cleanser. Then, still naked, I coated myself with waterproof protective dreamcream and got into my water bed.

The curved metal lid closed over top of me with a low, comforting click. Darkness instantly bathed me, and silence cloaked me. The water adjusted rapidly and perfectly to my exact body temperature, which had elevated slightly after the steam shower. I put the mouthguard between my teeth and plugged my ears, then slipped the duel-pronged flexicord into my nostrils and felt for the switch that would turn on the oxygen. The first two seconds of forced air were as stale and shocking as always, but then it was as though I were breathing regular air.

I slipped down into the water. Floating. The water caressed me, held me, lifted and dropped me, all as gently as a mother crooning her child to sleep. The
slap, slap
of it against the inside of the bed had the rhythmic quality of the sea.

I floated, aching for sleep and not finding it. No matter how I tried to tell myself it was stupid to pine away over a man I barely knew, my mind kept returning to his face. The way he whispered my name. The feeling of his hands on my flesh.

I floated. Thinking. Yearning. Would he try to see me? What would I do if he didn’t?

I’m an Op. It’s my job to find out who and where people are. With my access to Newcity’s database, System, it shouldn’t be difficult to trace Declan. The truth was, I was afraid.

No person had ever affected me this way, not even Steve. My ex-husband’s face rose briefly in my mind, but any memories of the love we’d shared had been replaced with the sight of his face on the viddy screen the last time we’d spoken.

His lip had curled in disgust, and his eyes hadn’t quite been able to meet mine. He’d asked for money, and I’d refused. I hadn’t asked him why he’d decided to dissolve our union. The answer had been all over his face.

It was too soon to imagine sharing my life with Declan the way I’d shared it with Steve. Yet I couldn’t stop my mind from turning over a picture of us, laughing together. Holding hands. Standing before our friends and family to share the vows that would join our lives as husband and wife. Loving him.

I had loved Steve once, enough to agree to bind my life to his. His touch had made my body respond. We’d even laughed together, though it seemed I only ever cried alone. If I hadn’t agreed to join him on the hoverbike ride, perhaps we’d still be married today. We might have had children.

That choice had been taken from me. I’d never create life or carry a child in the womb the doctors had determined unimportant to save. Compared to the organs that allowed me to live, lungs, kidneys, intestines, I suppose their choice made sense. But now I pressed my hands against the flat plane of my belly and imagined the scarred mess inside.

In our world’s past, motherhood had once been assumed to be the sole purpose of a woman’s life. Her role was to create, bear and raise children. Time had allowed women more freedom of choice, but motherhood had still been considered the shining icon of womanhood, the pinnacle of purpose for the female sex. More recent advances had further removed that assumption. Same sex pairings, artificial insemination and birth control reversible only by surgery had made having children more of an active choice than ever before. Women can choose to have a uterobot carry the egg and sperm joined in a laboratory rather than become pregnant themselves. We can choose our children’s gender, hair and eye color, genetically determined height and weight, resistance to disease and aptitude for tasks.

I still had choices. Too many of them in my opinion, but I could still be a mother if I chose. But I didn’t want a child without a father, and I didn’t want a home without love.

I wasn’t afraid to make love with Declan, but I was afraid to love him. I’d gone down that path before, with Steve, and had my love torn from me like meat in the teeth of feral beasts. The accident had stolen more from me than my internal organs; it had taken my marriage.

I floated, dreaming. I couldn’t maintain the melancholy thinking of Steve and my accident always brought me. The water soothed away those old aches, which is why I invested the money in the water bed to begin with. No matter what befell me during the day, no matter what might wound or scar me, sleeping in the water, the real water, always made everything better.

I spread my legs to feel the water caress every part of me. In the silence, the beating of my heart became the thud of ocean waves. I thought of my holo program and the blue ocean I’d created.

In the blackness, I couldn’t be sure if my eyes were open or shut. Soft sparkles of color drifted through my vision, like tiny stars. If I reached out my hands to either side, I’d feel the warm inner lining of the water bed, but I chose to keep them resting on my stomach. I wanted no tether, nothing to ground me. I wanted to float, to drift, to let the day slip away from me.

Despite the warmth and gentle rocking of the water, I couldn’t relax enough to fall asleep. Tension coiled through my body, my thighs, my shoulders, my neck. I stroked the smoothness of my belly and felt the tension even there, muscles jumping beneath the skin.

The situation with Relava preyed on my mind. She hadn’t needed to be destroyed, but desperation had driven her recklessness. She’d lost her life because of her own fears. Still, my responsibility in the fiasco bothered me.

My hands smoothed lower, to the swell of my thighs. The muscles there ached, but the warm water would relieve the pain by morning. My fingers touched the sensitive inner flesh, and the skin there trembled at my touch.

If I’d met Declan tonight as planned, we surely would’ve ended up making love. His hands would’ve touched me where my own caressed me now. I let my fingers drift a little higher, to brush the soft lines of my pussy and my swelling clit. I closed the third finger and thumb of my left hand on that spot. Just behind the bundle of nerves was the switch that forced my body into instant sexual arousal. I didn’t need to press it. My touch against my flesh and the thought of Declan was enough.

I parted my legs farther, and the water lapped at my openness. I rocked my hips against my hand. The stars in my vision grew brighter, sparkled, pulsed in time to the throb of my arousal.

I slid the first two fingers of my right hand inside my opening and felt the slickness even the water couldn’t wash away. My hips jumped, and my clit began to heat. I moaned in the back of my throat, the mouthpiece muffling the sound. I slid my fingers in and out, deeper, harder, imagining them as Declan’s cock. My other hand stroked my clit in slow, rhythmic circles that brought me to the edge, then eased me back.

The water sloshed. My knees bumped the sides of the tank as I drew them up to tilt myself further against my hands. I thrust my fingers slower, and slid my left hand up to caress my jutting nipples. The water licked at my erect clitoris, teasing it, taunting it. No matter how I pushed against it, the pressure wasn’t enough to send me into orgasm. I teased myself with it until my body became a blast of sensation, and even the stars in my eyes faded into a white hot glare.

At last I could hold out no more. I left my breasts and slid my hand once more down to my cunt. Once, twice, I tweaked my clit with my thumb and forefinger, and my orgasm bolted through me hard enough to arch my back and slap the water against the tube. I waited a second or two, and paused in the stroking and thrusting, then once, twice, again, and a second, milder series of contractions rippled through me.

Spent, I let my hands fall to my sides. The water calmed. I floated. Then I slept. If I dreamed, I don’t recall it.

 

 

My internal clock woke me, and I slid seamlessly from sleep to consciousness without the startlement that so often accompanies the change.

I pressed the rubber button and removed the flexicord and other gear. The lid of my water bed slid back to reveal a room, dim in deference to the blackness to which my eyes had grown accustomed, but still bright enough to make me squint briefly. I felt no sense of urgency, and for a moment couldn’t think why. Then it struck me. Today was my scheduled off-day.

For a moment, I sank back into the water, but couldn’t stay there for long. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d taken a day of leisure. My job had been life for so many years, even the idea of actually staying home on my off-day for any reason other than an emergency seemed like craziness.

The more I thought about it, the better it sounded. I got up from my water bed and wiped off the dreamcream, then tossed the towel in the disposal. I stretched, the tiny joints in my back popping and crackling. Yesterday’s strife and disappointment seemed shoved far back in my brain, and today stretched out in front of me with colors glowing like Solaria sunshine. Bright.

“Is my Gemma going to work today?” Kaelyn’s fair head peeped around the corner. “Is my Gemma feeling sick?”

“I’m not sick. It’s my day off.”

Her brow furrowed. “But my Gemma does not take her day off. She always goes into work anyway.”

“Not today.” I gave myself a glance in the mirror. “Today I think I’m going to…relax.”

She probably wouldn’t have looked more aghast had I said I was going to eat filth. “My Gemma is sick!”

I laughed and drew her closer to me. “No, Kaelyn. Just…I’ve been thinking. Life is too short.”

Her wings fluttered against my bare arms. “Is it something I’ve done wrong? Is my Gemma going to send me away?”

My heart twisted a little at her assumption that any change in me was a reflection of her status in my household. I smoothed her hair gently away from her forehead and held her still until her wings ceased their beating. “No, Kaelyn. I’m not going to send you away. I would never do that. I love you.”

The dark fathoms of her eyes brimmed with tears. She flung herself against me, shaking with the force of her emotion, and I realized something that shamed me. I had never told her I loved her before.

“Oh, I’d hoped and hoped, but I never thought my Gemma would…oh!”

I rubbed her back, feeling through her light shift the thin knobs of her spine poking up in the space between her gossamer wings. She clutched me harder. I held her for some long moments, neither of us speaking.

When she pulled away, she seemed almost shy. “When my Gemma bought me from the slave trader, I was afraid.”

“I know that.” I let her stand back from me.

She nodded, and her delicate features wreathed into a smile. “But my Gemma has been so kind, never working me too hard. Caring for me. They took me from my home when I was very small. Away from my family.” She paused as if to consider her next words. “I’ve thought in my heart, felt in my heart, for a long time…”

“Yes?” I prompted her.

“I wondered if my Gemma treated me so well because I cost much money, or because she loved me as I loved her. Because I’ve lost my mother, my Gemma, and…”

Tears stung my own eyes as her words sunk in. “Oh, Kaelyn. I didn’t realize.”

She nodded again. “My Gemma doesn’t want me to think of her this way. I understand!”

“No, Kaelyn.” Again, I drew her close to me, this time so I could look deep into her eyes. “For a long time, I couldn’t feel much of anything. But I’ve always cared for you. And I’m honored that you feel for me what you did for your own mother.”

The petite, winged creature I’d bought for three months’ salary had no idea of the gift she’d just offered me. “I’d be honored to have you as my daughter, Kaelyn.”

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