Blades of Arris: Atana
Blades of Arris: Atana
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Yes, I’m all that stands between Earth and these brutal aliens.
But the night sky isn’t the only place that’s filled with darkness.
And I might be fragile as glass, but this glass holds oceans. Planets. Stars.
Their obsessive leader, with his beautiful fractured eyes, will never make me break.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ My favorite so far. Fast paced and steamy. Love Atana and Lia's story. Love the crazy that are the engineers!
- Alien Shifter
- Forbidden Love
- Mating Mark/Bite
- Divorced Heroine
- Trigger Warnings
- Heat Level: 4 out of 5
I am a lesser from a servant world.
But even before I was taken?
There was no rescue for me.
The night sky isn’t the only place that’s filled with darkness.
And cages look different, but they’re all the same.
I might be fragile as glass, but I shielded my daughter with my own body. I’ll withstand these brutal aliens.
Their leader. The one who has blades in his wrists and a fractured look in his eyes? I’m all that stands between him and Earth.
But now I think I have the advantage.
Because he sees through me, which means he doesn't see what's right in front of him.
And I’m not afraid of anything.
This glass holds oceans. Planets. Stars.
Just try and make me break.
*** Contains unique alien shifters, fierce passion, and loyal warriors who find their fated mates in the stars. Each full-length book is a complete romance with an epic happily-ever-after. Claim your conqueror today!
Intro Into Chapter One
Intro Into Chapter One
Our bodies move together in the dim half-light of this secret room in his spaceship.
It’s quiet here.
Far from the noise of the engineering office, the bustle of officers on the bridge.
He caresses my nape, draws a finger down my curved spine, grips my hip to better align our bodies for his thrust. And I push to deepen every sensual undulation as he fills my pool of longings, eases my aches, quiets my silent screaming. In his gray arms, I am not a woman anymore. I am nothing but desperate hungers finally being fed.
“Do you love me?” His voice is edgy in the half-darkness. His breath ghosts across my shoulder, shivering with unintentional dominance, thready with buried need. “Do you love me now?”
But this crazed and broken man does not know what love is. The concept doesn’t exist in his celibate, highly controlled race. During this coupling I’ve pushed on him, he tries to understand me, who he rules over.
And he does this only because he too is searching for what he’s supposed to become. He was crushed to pieces by his people. By their rules. He’s no longer an obedient cog in their machine. They haven’t realized it yet, but they will, and then he will face consequences.
How long can a person survive beneath a suspended blade?
How long can you walk on the empty shore, knowing at any moment the unnatural tide will return and the thundering tsunami will wipe out everything beneath you—and there’s nothing you can do to save it?
The unsteady danger is present in his fractured irises, in the surgically embedded blades twitching beneath his wrists, in the way he nibbles on my soft shoulder even though touch is forbidden.
“Do you love me?”
I bite my lip.
And yet, my moans burst through as another body-convulsing orgasm floods me.
I was the one who started this.
It was easy to answer his question then.
No, I do not love you. No, humans can share bodies without sharing feelings. No, this attraction is only chemical. Remove it and there is nothing between us.
That was before.
Now, I remain quiet.
Because I’m terrified of what will change when I say yes.
* * *
One year earlier…
Today’s schedule is too packed for a kidnapping.
“My husband is going to kill you.” I yank on the door handle. “He takes his dinner at exactly seven thirty, which means I have to start it in less than ten minutes, and he’s going to be very irate when it’s late.”
“I am your driver.” The man who’s picked me up from the shuttle port has a young face and sad eyes. “This is a driver uniform. I have my certificate up on your viewscreen.”
“The certificate is supposed to be blue.”
“It is blue. It just looks different.” He nods to the officers waving us through the security checkpoint.
My husband insists we use preinvasion sedans to show off our family’s status. Only the shell of the sedan is old; the engine is unnaturally quiet from the hover technology we received from the Arrisans, and the flattened rubber tires dangle off their metal hubs.
The kidnapper controls the window tinting, along with the locks, so the officers don’t see me frantically waving inside. “Why are you so certain I’m not your driver?”
“You’ve forgotten your gloves.”
He flexes his bare fingers on the steering wheel. “They were in the wash.”
“Your fingernails are too clean. You don’t work on ancient engines. And your lapel pin, the identification of your so-called company, is upside down.”
He touches his breast, then sighs. “Please relax. This will all be over soon.”
“My husband will have you shot.”
“Your husband sent me.”
“Then you can explain to him that tonight’s dinner is not my fault.” I cross my arms and lean into the plastic seats.
My kidnapper winds through the center of New Kiev. The city streets have been emptied again by the familiar sound of bullets. Preinvasion metal and gunpowder, they crack like small explosions in the distance, but can’t penetrate anything alien. He parks beneath a bank of private apartments.
Across the street are the ruins of the old justice building. It survived the brutal Arrisan invasion and subsequent continent-fracturing catastrophes—they unleashed these after we surrendered—only to crumble during the famine riots of my parents’ time.
The war against the Arrisans was fought with nuclear weapons, but those afterward were fought with hopelessness and sticks. And yet, even something as soft as a loaf of bread—or the lack thereof—can break a human body.
The kidnapper pulls me out of the back seat. “This way, Liliya Nazarivna.”
How respectful. This is one of the many reasons I know he doesn’t work for my husband.
His fingers curl around my upper arm as he forces me into the empty elevator. Our movements crush the corsage gifted to parents of new college students. Its cloying sweetness battles the sensations uncoiling from my center like sticky, invasive ivy.
Obsessive desire thrusts up my nose, pierces my tongue, slithers down my legs. My muscles go taut. My mind winds up like a coiled clock.
Even though I have so recently satisfied these urges, like the raw wound beneath a bandage, there is no true relief.
Time, in my case, heals nothing.
My only defense is using my brain.
I’m supposed to be home. Dinner will soon be served. Then I’ll supervise the packing of my husband’s suits for the assembly tomorrow. A delivery driver will arrive at nine bearing the documents I must summarize for his speech. He won’t let me eat until after he’s practiced and refined his talking points, and if we go past midnight, he’ll rage that I’m deliberately tripping him up to make his opponents win.
In between these bouts of frustration, I must pack my own bags in secret.
I have duties.
But I also have plans.
My kidnapper walks me down the hall into a nice apartment, a regular office decorated with preinvasion luxuries. So much of humanity was swept away in the tsunamis. So much art, so much history. So many animals went extinct, so many plants disappeared forever. But in this room is an office filled with old books, a real wood desk, and a wheeled chair. The wheels squeak.
The kidnapper pulls out a set of documents and a pen. Truly archaic. He sets a viewscreen on the desk. Perhaps he is a college student, like my daughter. My husband’s enemies have sent a college boy to do the work of a man.
“Whatever demand you have, whatever law you wish him to pass, you should approach my husband directly,” I tell him as he contacts his boss. “My security was reduced again, as you see. My existence means nothing to my husband.”
My kidnapper sits in the other chair, across the desk, out of sight of the viewscreen.
The screen resolves into the face of my husband.
My stomach sinks to my feet.
And in echo, the sickly ivy within my body twists more tightly around my bones.
“How dare you embarrass me?” My husband’s cheeks are red; he’s been drinking. Lipstick smudges his unbuttoned collar. “The moment our daughter leaves, you try to flee to a sanitarium? Do you not understand how that looks?”
My fingers automatically close over my wedding ring. “Don’t say I’m a resident. They can assume I’m there to do the charity work. The institute also distributes food and medicine to orphans.”
“That’s even worse! It makes me look like I, the government, cannot provide for them. And it’s expensive. Why should I pay for you to feed the sons of my opponents? You’ve put yourself above our country for the last time. Since you want to be locked up by doctors so badly, go to planet Vanadis. Those aliens want sick people to cure there.”
The ground moves from beneath my feet.
I am lost.
We are so distant from the rest of the planets within the Arrisan empire. We don’t even have our own spaceships. This is a prison sentence. “Our daughter needs me here to—”
“My daughter doesn’t need you. I’ve overlooked your betrayals too long. Remove your wedding ring.”
The old band slides off my left ring finger easily.
We always wear wedding rings on our right hand. Wearing mine on the left was partly practical—my left ring finger is larger and it was less likely to slip off—and partly rebellious.
This was my mother-in-law’s wedding ring. She was always kind to me. When she died, I switched fingers, and when he asked whether I was now pretending to be a widow, I reminded him he still needed to pay the money to get it resized. Rather than pay the small fee, he told anyone who asked that I wanted to be foreign and exotic, wearing it on my left like they do. I enjoyed my small rebellion.
Yet I have been terrified of losing it, always curling my fingers to keep it on in public. Now I feel numb.
The kidnapper—my husband’s lawyer, it seems—slides me documents to unravel my life.
I sign the medical release forms. My family will not hold the shuttle company responsible for my untimely death, disintegration of the shuttle, or alien attack. There are many forms. My husband gets bored and terminates the connection. How familiar. Spending time with me is always tedious for him.
The divorce documents hurt.
I asked for this. Twenty years ago, with fire in my heart, I demanded my freedom. And now that I’ve endured, now that I’ve suffered and survived, he cuts me free.
I allowed it. I allowed all of it.
When did I become a passenger in my own life?
My hand is steady as I set down the pen.
The lawyer slides the documents into a legal folder, speaks into a network phone that it’s done, checks his wrist chronometer.
“When does the shuttle leave?” I hear myself asking.
He glances again at his chronometer. “A driver will take you in twenty minutes, Liliya Nazarivna.”
The ivy unfurls around me, forces me to stand and walk to him. “Why are you so respectful?”
He looks down at me with his sad eyes. “There is no time for distractions.”
Through his trousers, I curl my hand around his dick. Despite his apparent disinterest, he’s hard. “There is more than enough time to take care of this.”
His nostrils flare.
It is true that we don’t need twenty minutes. He must know my reputation. There are few men within my husband’s inner circle who don’t. Our coupling is functional, moving aside clothes and completing the act. Well, he completes it. I never do. And yet, there is brief cessation of need. The ivy curls up its leaves and releases my muscles to my own will once more.
This is my third time today, which is my usual requirement. When my sexual need isn’t met, my mind will circle the problem endlessly, cycling over my schedule until I’ve found the chink where I can slip it in. Perhaps it is a mental illness, perhaps it is a hormone disorder. I have been called all sorts of names. High libido. Wanton. And yet, despite all my heated embraces, I have never once felt passion.
Two men appear at the law office to take me back to the shuttle port. The lights of the city are beautiful in the night.
I wonder if the lawyer will return the ring to my husband or pocket it.
It’s worth a lot of money. That was one of the many gifts he dazzled me with when we met.
Out of all the girls at the finishing school, he chose me. My grandmother was an honored Hero of the People during a brief skirmish in a long, cold war, but no one cared about that anymore. He was the one with the bright future. Our wedding was a fairy tale. I was the efficient, well-organized damsel, always conscientious, always obedient. Exactly what my school had prepared me to be.
But school didn’t prepare me for my wedding night. That was the first night he had a headache. The first night he pulled away from my hand and ignored my upturned face. The first of many nights he looked on my carefully groomed and prepared body, hopeful and anxious to please, and refused me.
And yet he did eventually give me our daughter. My elderly aunt managed to cook a tureen of my grandmother’s hearty soup, a flavor I hadn’t tasted since childhood, so I could heal from her birth and grow strong. When we were finally released from the hospital, I found my husband had eaten the whole thing. He’d not left me a single drop.
That was the first time I tried to leave him.
But by then, he had all the blackmail he needed.
I think he was grateful when the ivy took hold and compelled me to seek other men.
The urge came on suddenly when my daughter was eight. First it was once a day, then twice. Then three times. My husband grew bolder in his affairs with other women. How could I accuse him? I consulted doctors, hundreds of them. All the while, my husband insisted there was no need. He knew I was sick, though. Here’s my proof. Aren’t I grateful he’s finally acting? That he finally supports me in finding a cure?
The two men escort me onto the shuttle back to America. We pop up, above the clouds, into the night sky. The stars are numerous here. Which direction is Vanadis?
We drop beneath the clouds and land at the intergalactic port. This was once a flat land filled with waving grain, much like the rich black earth in our most hotly fought-over fields. Now it is a jagged plateau of black glass. The sun rises, blinding my eyes, and I stumble on the gritty surface. My escorts do not help me.
Port staff check my luggage. I’m interested in what’s inside as well. Which housekeeper will have packed my trunk? What was she told as she layered in my shirts and slacks and dresses? The staff pull out pink bunny slippers, and emotion pricks my heart. Someone knew me well enough to include this small token, this last gift to me from my daughter. Because I am too serious now, she says.
“You were so happy in your finishing school photos, in your wedding album.” Natalya tapped her favorites as she scrolled through the images with me, selecting which ones she would take for her own collection in college. “Even when I was little, you had more fun. I want you to do something for yourself after I’m gone.”
And ever obedient, I did. I chose a sanitarium to serve in and receive treatment from until I ended this clockwork dependence on sex. That was my selfish whim.
I’m sorry, Natalya. This is how it’s turned out.
A woman checks my identification. “Lia? Your ticket says Lia.”
“It’s Liliya,” I tell the woman.
“Hmm. Someone typed it in wrong. Not that it matters much.” She crosses out the wrong name on the ship’s manifest and rewrites it correctly, but in a few minutes, a porter calls out to me. “Miss Lia? Your ship’s this way.”
This is so typical.
I guess I’m Lia now.
Despite any effort to change, life assigns me a destiny and carries me away.
I leave my ex-husband’s men behind, along with my birth name and my old life, and pull my trunk up the gangplank.
The entryway is filled with families and tearful farewells. I slip past these, an echo of only hours ago at Second Harvard where I saw Natalya off.
Inside the spaceship, there are thirty apartments. It’s like a hotel, but there are no windows into space. No closet. One plastic box with deafening moisture-wicking fans—a shower that doubles as a jet engine white-noise maker. I unpack into the small chest of drawers that used to reside in our third-best guest bedroom. There’s one picture in my trunk. Natalya forced us to take a family photo saying that her college dorm mates would be scandalized if she didn’t have one. She’s always been good at handling her father. She even got him to smile.
No other memorabilia. I’m extra grateful for the slippers, then.
This is a little exciting. I’ve never gone to space before.
My brain clocks the minutes to liftoff, so I try one last time to call Natalya. Voicemail. I leave a pleasant and uplifting final message and instruct her to archive it for later. I don’t want my disappearance to shadow her new adventure, but I think she’ll want to save this if it’s the last time she hears my voice.
Then I lie down to rest.
What will my ex-husband tell her? He was terrible to me, but he’s always been an exemplary father. Because of his genuine goodness to her, I could never hate him as much as I wanted to. But this certainly pushes it.
The violent shudder of the ship taking off, exiting from our planet’s gravity, awakens me. I go out into the medium-sized cafeteria. The furniture is a bit grimy, as if it’s spent the last two decades in a field, but when I ask if there’s any cleanser or polish, the captain looks askance at me. I don’t mind cleaning, though. It’s meditative, and later, she relents and lets me loose with lemon, salt, and vinegar.
Our meals come from replicators programmed with all our planet’s foods. The captain insists there’s no rationing, no quotas. I can’t believe it.
“What’s the catch?” another woman demands before I can. A small subset of us are rightfully incredulous.
“This replicator was made for alien voyages,” the captain assures us. “Aliens live in space for decades. A flight to Vanadis is nothing. Eat anything you want, get seconds, and you can even waste food. It all gets recycled.”
Wasting food makes me faint.
She pats my shoulder kindly, her dark brown skin a healthy contrast to my paleness. “It’s okay. I promise you.”
But when I join the more easily accepting—or naive—passengers in line and finally see the menu options—food from all over the world! Every dish from my home except, maybe, my grandma’s soup—I have to take a steadying breath so I don’t cry. Space is wonderful. I’m so grateful for this trip.
At these nightly banquets, I get to know some of my fellow passengers.
Catarine is a quiet Dutch-Malay scholar only a few years older than my daughter. She’s nicknamed the diplomat because her expression never changes.
Esme is the ingénue, a Persian-Australian athlete who must wear a helmet because she faints when she gets too excited.
Allie is a black accountant from a small American town that wasn’t destroyed by their supervolcano. She’s the kingmaker because she has fierce thoughts about the Arrisan emperor.
“How dare he take over our planet, destroy half the arable landmass, and then designate us a food producer?” Allie slams her fist on the cafeteria table, causing the silverware to jump. “I tell you what. You all get cured on Vanadis. I’m going to hitch a ride to Arris Central, become the first human to enter the palace, and talk some sense into that emperor.”
“I don’t…don’t…” Catarine stares blankly into the water pitcher in the center of our table. “I…uh…think you can…can’t…do…can’t do…”
This poor girl was once supposed to be a scholar; now she suffers from a thick mental fog. It’s heartbreaking. That’s why when she nicknamed me “the housewife,” I didn’t correct her. I was a housewife. She doesn’t need to know I’m not even that anymore.
Eventually, she finishes her sentence, which is, essentially, I don’t think you can do that because the Arrisans took over our planet in a day. Arris Central is an artificial planet surrounded by warships. You’ll never get to knock on the palace door, much less walk inside.
“Catarine’s right,” Esme says, as if Allie’s ludicrous fantasy has any basis in reality. “I used to do medical outreach to seniors who lived through the invasion. All the Arrisan foot soldiers moved in unison, like gray robots, and their elite soldiers, the blades? They’d grow those swords out of their forearms and slice though tanks. And, like, concrete. And slice missiles in half, out of the air, just for fun. The palace will be surrounded by blades.”
Allie points her well-manicured finger. “They’ve never seen the likes of me.”
And she says it with such conviction that even though I know it’s utterly impossible, even more impossible than us reaching Vanadis without any issue, I feel a slight stir of hope.
One of Allie’s pretty white sleeves has a small stain.
I offer her my homemade spot remover, which I always carry next to my scheduler in my handbag. She looks at it, then at me. “Are you serious?”
“Lia’s so prepared.” Esme grins at me. “You always have the right thing. You’re like the ultimate personal assistant. You’re amazing.”
Her words kindle a small fire in my chest, both warm and a little painful. “No, no. It’s nothing important.”
“What else have you got in there?”
Her question triggers a fun little game where everyone shares the oddest items in their handbags. Catarine has her identity stitched into a sleeve and emergency cash in three currencies. Esme has a metal loop called a “key ring” with a mini surfboard dangling from it. Allie has a packet of apple seeds from her family’s farm.
I don’t have anything unusual. But they’re so fascinated by my mini field repair kit that soon I’ve turned out the rest—dry shampoo and chewable toothpaste, a glass nail file that doubles as a personal safety device, emergency salt tablets, instant hand warmer. Even the stylus for my scheduler doubles as a penlight. They’re in awe.
Allie picks up the glass file, testing the vicious edge. “When I’m in charge, you’ll be my supply officer.”
And the fire burns a little hotter.
“What happens when you get seen by the Vanadisans and they cure your sickness?” our most beautiful tablemate, Noemi, asks Allie as she repacks a full makeover kit into her designer bag. Her grandmother was a preinvasion movie star, and she’s nicknamed the ace. “Won’t you be normal?”
“That’s why I’m not getting cured. This illness is my superpower.”
“But Arrisans don’t have sex. They removed all their lust and have babies in test tubes.” She tugs her sleeves down over her scarred wrists and sighs with longing. “It’s like a perfect society.”
“That just means I’ll surprise them. First sex, then revenge, and then retribution. You’ll see.”
Noemi’s symptoms aren’t obvious like Catarine’s and Esme’s, but she suffers worse than all of us because she has an intense, overpowering aversion almost equal to her compulsion.
That would be a curse.
Sex is just an urge like eating and sleeping. It can be put off, but not forever, and when we have it, we go back to normal for a time.
After Catarine has been with a man, she can read again. She can hold thoughts and speak in full paragraphs. Esme can run and jump and laugh and cry. She’s allowed to feel, but only for a few short minutes.
My brain winds up like the gears of an ancient clock, ticking off each second since the last time I had sex, and I feel the march like small ants on my forearms. Every minute—which I convert to the universal Arrisan Standard Time, where the closest equivalent to the minute is called a click—scrapes across my skin. I become more accurate than an atomic calendar. Ask me when our meals are, whether we have enough time to finish a movie before the dinner chime, exactly how many clicks it is to finish the journey from here to Vanadis. The ivy coils. Its poison leaches into my brain. It pulls the gears tighter, tick-tick-tick, seeking an outlet, an end, a release to the pressure until I go insane.
But it is not so difficult to suffer in silence. I have much practice sitting quietly, alone, waiting for the passage of time.
And being together on the fragile voyage through space, even though it’s a torture, also feels precious.
That’s what I’m thinking on the afternoon when the evacuation warning goes off.
As a small, defenseless vessel from a helpless backwater planet, it’s easy to fall afoul of another race. It could be anyone, really. We have no protection, nothing of value, no ransom worth our lives. Alien pirates can attack us for target practice or fun or simply because they can.
Red lights flash. Warnings blare.
A hull breach is imminent.
The captain races from the bridge. “Get to the escape pods!”
We jostle and panic, but eventually get to the individual pods. Mine is just large enough to sit on the chair inside and fasten the harness. The doors between my pod and the main ship close. There is a bump, and then I detach.
It is dark in space.
I am suspended at the same velocity as the ship, so I can see it out of the corner of my window as I fall away from it. Fall away from the other pods.
The atmosphere meter attached to the wall ticks downward.
Is this how I will die?
My life up to this point has been so unfailingly obedient.
I have walked every step of this path, but after a certain point, I stopped choosing. I became a passenger on my own journey. When did I become so insignificant?
“You did something important. Your life matters. You’ve made a difference, Lia.”
Esme and Allie said that. Catarine too tried to say it to me. So did Noemi and our tireless Captain Zeerah, the only one of us who isn’t sick. My heart burns a little brighter because of them.
Time keeps on ticking.
The atmosphere goes down.
Stars pass by the small window.
Parts of me go numb, even though gravity is lessened here in this pod.
I’ve hit something?
Lights glow. I’m passing into something. Streamers move beneath me. Another pod obscures my vision. We’ve been collected. Saved? I can’t see by what. Light seems to be cast behind me. And now everything rattles and I can’t see anything but walls.
The atmosphere meter abruptly swings up. Full. Oh, some sort of gas is being pumped into…
…I dream about a sleepy princess overgrown by a field of ivy. The lesson, my brother said, is not to tarry in the shadows. Keep moving, or else ivy will smother you like it smothers everything.
Like now. Green seaweed winds around my limbs, prevents me from reaching the surface of this dreamy ocean. But I can feel it. I’m rising. The surface is coming.
Male voices rumble in my ears. Their unnatural scent lingers in my nose. I, with my clockwork brain that demands oiling, wind tight and hot.
Gravity turns heavy. It binds my arms to the rests, my feet to the floor.
I force my eyes open.
My harness is loose on my concave chest. I’ve lost weight. My fingers are bony. No wedding ring would stick on this ring finger, or even the middle. Perhaps not even the thumb.
The escape pod is cracked.
Outside, there is light.
The atmosphere indicator is full. Yes, this is real air I’m breathing, although my head hurts and my mouth feels like sludge. I have no water in me to swallow. I am fragile, made of metal sticks, and all of me is rusty.
I reach for the harness and squeeze the release.
Or maybe I’m just weak.
No. I refuse to be weak.
My hand shakes, then my forearm. I use my other hand. Sweat beads up on my brow, and then the buckle easily clicks, sliding apart. I nearly fall off the seat. I’m so empty, I’m beyond hunger, but so weak, I cannot stand.
The scent intensifies.
That ivy from my dream thickens and wraps around my tendons. It doesn’t matter that I have no strength. The oceanic plant will force me up, make me stand.
I totter out of the pod.
I’m in a massive hangar. A stadium. Rafters are just visible in the distant ceiling. Spaceship pieces lie everywhere. This tiny pod is a pebble in their shadows.
Labels are in Arrisan Standard. Exit, part number. That’s not surprising. It is the language of the empire, of space travel, of technology.
But the military precision of this place…I think I have been rescued, and subsequently starved, by Arrisans.
Behind me comes a roar.
I limp around the outside of the pod, one hand on it to steady myself. The taut ivy keeps me from collapsing.
And there they are.
Well, Arrisan males. Gray skin, silver eyes, and short black hair. So similar, they seem robotic, cut from the same mold.
My stomach drops.
Fear makes my head lighten.
The conquerors stand in two rough lines, and they each wear a bandolier of tools over their gray cloak-like space suits. When the hoods are up, they’re like ghosts, grim reapers, shapeless nightmares.
The two groups tumble over each other, fighting.
That’s the noise.
Shouts and hot zaps. Laser fire.
One shot blackens the pod just above my head. The old metal loosens and drips.
I can’t stay here.
The ivy holds me in place.
These Arrisans are celibate, monk-like. They don’t feel lust. They had their lust metal surgically removed so they literally can’t get hard.
My brain knows this.
But the ivy does not care.
One of these men will be my treatment. Sate my need. It won’t take long. Five minutes. I mean, clicks. Four clicks. I am efficient. I can do it in three.
I can do it between swings of their fists.
Between laser blasts.
I can schedule this.
How many thrusts are in a click?
How many instants until the laser fire reaches its destination?
I know this answer. I can feel it like a temporal compass pointing always to true north.
I am a clockwork mind.
Here, in front of me, is what I need.
The ivy winds tighter.
I will have it.