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 Post subject: Re: Latency -- Chapter 17d
PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2004 11:56 am 
Here it is. Sorry about the delay, everyone... If anyone's left after all this time. I've had a couple of problems with the delivery of this story, that's for certain. For the umteenth time, I'm grappling with the presence of an idea that defies every attempt I make to express it. Writing is hard ;)



Just a note to all who are about to read... This story is advertized as "R-rated" I'm not sure if some of the following material might warrant an "NC-17" Please proceed with that in-mind if you're likely to be offended by potentially "NC-17" material... Then again, I thought my car-stealing metaphor from the beginning of the chapter was a little too racy-- no pun ntended :) My sensibilites are a bit different than most though, so I offer this -- probably unfounded-- warning as a courtesy.



Here's Chapter 17, part d



EIAAOIFs



CHAPTER 17d



Simone stood, backside against the counter, ankles crossed, sipping coffee, occasionally flashing polite smiles to the Ace and Chemist. The gasps and moans of the passionate coupling in the next room finally ceased and the closing thud of a distant door issued into the embarrassed quiet of the kitchen, prompting relieved sighs and relaxed postures for all of its occupants.



Simone drew another sip from her coffee and said, "I think they finally got a room." She peered between her brow and the rim of the cup as she took another sip, sizing-up the Ace and her reaction. Berman was staring back, her features conveying not curiosity, but unease. Simone lowered the mug from her lips and grinned. "Nice house you have here... Sarah Berman."



The left corner of Sarah's mouth pulled into a smile. "Thank you, Simone." She pulled a chair from beneath the small table in the center of the kitchen. "Have a seat."



"I prefer to stand, thanks." Simone uncrossed her legs and settled her rear against the edge of the counter. She smiled. "Claire's told me all about you."



Sarah lowered herself into the chair and leaned against the edge of the small table in the kitchen's center. Her eyes wandered the ornate patterns of the kitchen floor's gleaming tiles. She replied, voice soft and unsteady, "Aki's told me all about you."



Simone set her mug on the counter and took a step forward, drawing nearer to the Ace. She raised an eyebrow. "Interesting."



Sarah edged her chair tighter against the table, stiffening to a more upright posture. Her eyes flitted up to contact Simone's and narrowed slightly. "Yes... Very interesting."



Simone broke the stare and looked over to Natalia. She was leaning against a wall, eyes fixed on the floor, hiding in the dimmest corner of the softly-lit kitchen. Simone asked, "Nat, honey? Where're your shoes?"



The Chemist's head rose. Her mouth was a blank dash, her voice soft, "They were-a wet. I left them at-a the door."



"Where's your other half? She'd kill you if she knew you were walking around barefoot in a strange house."



Natalia sighed, "She stay-a behind with Cecilia." She looked back to the floor, shoulders drooped.



Sarah raised a finger, interjecting, "Um, Simone... This is my home." She gave a polite smile and shook her head. "There's nothing strange about it."



Simone turned back to Sarah and nodded. "Of course not." She returned her attention to the Chemist. "She let you go somewhere without her?"



Before the Chemist could reply, Sarah said, "It was my idea, really. Aki and I needed someone to come here with us."



Simone closed her eyes, drew a breath, and turned her attention back to Sarah. "Interesting... So, what exactly did the dear Ms. Nashumara tell you about me, Sarah?"



Sarah smiled and replied, "She said that you're fearless, strong, and beautiful."



Simone snickered, looked away from Sarah for a moment and then returned her gaze. "And?"



Sarah hesitated. "She said that you can be... Volatile."



Simone's sides shook. Her muted laugh erupted into sudden cackling. After a moment, she stilled and said, "Volatile, huh? I'm not the one who--"



The Chemist blurted, "No one a-wants... Um, we all feel the love for her."



Simone and Sarah both turned their attention to the Chemist's outburst.



Simone lifted an eyebrow. "Indeed, Nat. We aren't monsters, are we?"



The Chemist looked to the floor again. "No."



Simone addressed Sarah, "Claire talked to your husband. He thought you'd be here sooner."



Sarah's face contorted with confusion. Eventually, she gave a dismissive nod. "We would have been, but Aki wanted us to stop on the way." She nodded to the group of bulged plastic bags near the kitchen's entrance. "We got some little travel kits for everyone... You know, toothbrushes, shampoo, blah blah blah..." She leaned toward Simone and asked, "Um, what's all this about being monsters?"



Simone grinned. "Nothing. Just an inside joke." She turned back to Natalia. "Nat, sweetey, you'd better put your shoes back on before Heather gets here. You don't want her mad at you."



The Chemist folded her arms and frowned. "I don-a care."



Simone took a few steps, drawing herself to the Chemist's side. She asked, her tone ginger, "Is there something you're not telling me?"



Natalia's eyes flitted in Sarah's direction for a moment and then back to the floor.



Simone looked to the Ace and asked, "Sarah, could you excuse us for a moment?"



Sarah smirked. "More inside joke stuff, I guess."



Simone gave the sweetest smile that she could muster. "You might say that, yes."



Sarah's mouth drooped into a frown. She stood, pushed her chair under the table and left the room.



After a few moments, Simone whispered, "What did the bitch-doctor do to you, honey? If she so much as plucked one of your hairs, I'll break her fucking fingers."



Natalia shook her head. "No, no. We-a just have a disagreement."



"Must have been a big one."



Natalia started to reply and then stopped. She raised a hand to cover her eyes.



Simone knew too well the gesture that preceded Natalia's impending tears. "C'mere." She reached around her sister and pulled her into a gentle embrace.



Natalia latched her arms around Simone and squeezed hard. Her back and sides heaved as she sobbed against Simone's shoulder.



The Spy closed her eyes. She stroked the Chemist's back, trying to calm her fragile sister. "Shh... It's going to be alright, sweetey."



Natalia sniffled and croaked, "She... She won't..." Another wave of tears interrupted her sentence.



Simone hugged the Chemist tighter. "Whatever it is Nat, I'll make it all better... Okay?"



Natalia loosened her embrace and leaned back from Simone. She sniffled and nodded, giving a small grin. "Si."



Simone smiled back and reached to Natalia's shoulders. She gave a firm squeeze and said, "Let's go into the living room, get all comfy on the couch, and talk about it... Okay?"



"Si."



#



Claire and Aki lay nestled together, their bodies twined in a comfortable jumble of warm limbs, sweat-dampened cotton, and the lazy giddiness that lingered from the conclusion of their lovemaking. Claire's left arm rested on Aki's back, rising and falling through the cycle of the other's sleepy breaths. She relished the warm softness of Aki's little body pressing onto her ribs, hip, and leg. The quiet, the relaxed rhythm, and the familiar perfume of Aki's hair combined, drawing Claire deeper into a restful lull.



She angled her head down, seeking to bring her nose closer to the intoxicating smell of Aki's hair. She pulled the aroma into her nose, savoring the experience throughout the length of a slow breath. Her lips nudged soft black strands as she asked in a sigh, "So, how was I?"



Aki's voice sounded in a languorous whisper, "Wonderful."



Claire smiled at the feel and sound of the word caressing the base of her neck. She flexed her limbs, intensifying the embrace of the dainty body resting half-atop her own. She planted a short row of kisses atop Aki's head and added, "I was a little worried. I um... never did that before."



Aki's nose rubbed in a casual circle, stopping on occasion as the Asian's lips dotted Claire's neck and collarbone with sweet little pecks. A long, contented purr vibrated from Aki's throat. Her fleshy fingertips meandered, gliding, tracing a loose figure-eight on Claire's stomach. Her voice remained a dreamy sigh, "You were wonderful, nushi."



Claire's smile broadened as she felt Aki's toes sliding the length of her shin. Claire slid her right hand up and down Aki's upturned side, smiling as her tentative exploration elicited another contented purr from the smaller woman.



Aki's reaction faded suddenly. She clasped Claire's wrist, halting the Genius' caress. Claire felt her hand being twisted left, then right for Aki's scrutiny. "Your fingers are all red, nushi."



Claire placed another kiss on the top of Aki's head. "My toes too... Frostbite."



Aki stirred, untangled herself, and pulled free from their embrace.



Claire felt warmth and weight descend upon her legs, pinning them to the bed. The jumble of sheets pulled from around her feet, soon replaced by the warmth of small soft fingers.



She heard Aki's voice from the base of the bed, "Oh... My poor frozen nushi... Does it hurt?"



Claire raised her head and looked down. Her blood quickened at the sight of Aki's obverse uncensored by clothing. The beautiful little creature was the perfect collection of curves, covered in creamy skin. Claire swallowed. She shifted her head, trying to give her eyes access to every possible view of her inverted lover. Her Aki-san was a living work of art; pleasing to the eye from every angle. Her mouth stretched into an uncontrollable grin. This diminutive treasure was hers.



Claire squirmed both from ticklish surprise and pleasure, as Aki's lips glided against the top of her right foot, sewing a line of kisses toward the reddened skin of her toes. She said in a giggle, "The skin's a little sore."



Aki paused her affection to say, "I'll be gentle," and then resumed.



A moan escaped Claire's throat as the silkiness of Aki's lips traversed the top of her other foot. She felt a pang of guilt. No one deserved this sexy, caring creature less than her. She looked again to the study in female beauty sprawled down the length of her legs. She swallowed her guilt. Aki-san was hers. She knew it. She felt it. Arousal. Not a cloud of vague attachment to affection. Not the blur of emotional dependency. This was avarice; carnal greed fed by the undeniable allure of Aki's form. She slid her elbows back, reached to either side of her ribs and took one of Aki's upturned heels in each hand. She gave a gentle squeeze, smiling at the yield of the fleshy softness and at the full-body reaction that the touch evoked from her Aki-san.



"My poor Genius." Aki's lips soothed the inflamed skin of Claire's toes with a few more kisses.



Claire smirked and said, "It's alright. I don't think they'll have to amputate."



Aki's feet snapped from Claire's palms. She swiveled and crawled up, settling her chest against Claire's pelvis. Her expression was stern, her voice taut, "That's not even close to funny, nushi." She draped a a forearm across Claire's stomach and then settled her chin on it. Her lips stretched into a wide grin. "I need my Genius intact. No parts can be spared." She gazed up to Claire, adoration and lust glinting above the deep brown of her upturned eyes. Her mouth and chin were smudged in shining, wanton red.



Claire half-smiled as she considered the sight below her navel. "Guess I overdid it with the lipstick... Sorry."



Aki nodded, grinning. "It's adorable, nushi." She raised her head and began to crawl her way up. "My adorable frostbitten Genius... You didn't have to dress up for me."



"I wanted to be sexy for you."



Aki grinned. "You are, nushi." She slinked further up Claire's trunk. "My sexy, frostbitten nushi..."



Claire drew a deep breath. The measured feline movements of Aki's advance exuded grace, purpose, and desire. Claire's insides responded at once, confounding her ability to speak clearly. "I-I think I h-heal faster th-than humans anyway..."



Aki grunted, "Good." She advanced further. Her petite breasts brushed the skin over Claire's lowest ribs.



Claire gasped as pert nipples rubbed against her, dragging upward, inching toward her own. She strained, lifting her head, craning her neck lower, guiding her lips closer to those of her approaching lover.



Aki continued her ascent. "I need you in top condition, Genius." She closed the distance and pushed her parted lips onto Claire's before half-collapsing her naked torso onto the Genius.



Claire savored Aki's kiss, returning the restrained hunger of her lover's gesture with matching delicacy. Their lips settled to form a tight seal. Their tongues glided; playing, dancing, caressing.



She pressed her palms next to Aki's breasts and slid them down the silken curves of her sides, venturing further to rest on the ivory arcs that defined her hips. She clutched the sides of Aki's buttocks and eased them down, urging Aki's hovering pelvis closer.



The kiss intensified. Aki's tongue drove deep into Claire's mouth, the pace of its exploration increasing in proportion to the slow friction of their touching breasts.



Claire released a grunt as she felt a small patch of heat and stubble land below her navel. Her abdominal muscles clenched, hardening beneath the touch of Aki's sex. She moaned as the hot little rasp began moving, grinding against her.



Aki's calves clenched, squeezing against sides of Claire's ribs. Her soles curled around Claire's hips, securing the contact of their bodies. She pulled her mouth away, gasping, smiling.



Claire's chest heaved, her breaths growing deeper and faster as the pressure from Aki's pelvis intensified. She asked, between gasps, "Again?"



Aki returned a devilish, breathless smile. She gave an eager nod. "Again."



#



Simone sat, staring at her folded hands. Natalia leaned against her, hugging her arm, resting her head on Simone's right shoulder, in the throes of a contented nap. Simone listened the rhythmic tick of her wristwatch. The steady tempo of time's forward progress and the calm rushes of her sister's breathing were mundane and comforting, as was the Chemist's affectionate and needy embrace. They all helped her to maintain an outward shroud of calm despite the measured rage that wracked her mind.



She and Heather had always been at odds with each other. Bitter enemies from the day they met. After all these years together this was the Healer's first chance at total victory-- To outlast her most bitter foe.



Simone glanced down to her napping sister and smiled. Poor Natalia, now as always, trying to keep the peace. She plunged herself into the heart of their conflict. She always did, the little martyr. Simone looked back to her hands. Poor Nat. So shy and delicate, so eager to please both of the people who gave her the bullying that she so desperately wanted.



Simone tensed as she heard the groan of a car pulling up the driveway. She relaxed once she saw the sweep of headlights against the shaded windows of the living room. No one conducting a siege would leave the lights on. It had to be the Ace's husband and the rest. She heard vehicle doors opening and closing. She sighed. Time to deal with Heather.



Simone spoke softly, "Nat, honey... You'd better sit up. You don't want her to see this... C'mon, I don't want you to get in more trouble."



The Chemist released a sigh.



Simone moved her shoulder, enough to encourage Natalia to lean away. "Go put on your sneakers. She'll be here soon."



Natalia looked down and shook her head.



"This is between Heather and me, honey. Stop putting yourself in the middle."



Natalia whispered, "Don't-a hurt her, please. No-a one gets a-hurt?"



Simone gave her sister a sweet, sincere smile. "I won't hurt anyone, honey." She reached over and brushed her fingertips against the Chemist's cheek. The touch elicited a smile and a slight giggle from the Chemist. "Now, go put your sneakers on."



Natalia nodded and unfolded her legs, positioning to rise from the sofa.



"That's a good girl."



The Chemist's mouth quivered into a faint smile. She stood, turned, and left the living room.



As Natalia disappeared into the foyer, Simone heard the home's front door gasp open. Heather's grating scold echoed around the corner. "Nat! Dammit, where are your shoes?"



The Chemist's meek response followed. "I'm-a sorry."



"This place is probably all germy... Have you been washing your hands?"



"Si."



"Did the Genius show up?"



"Si."



"Where's Sarah?"



"I-I dunno."



A familiar male voice sounded. "Ciao, Ms. Serafino."



Simone sprang from the couch and dashed into the foyer. Her boots skidded to a stop on the tiles. Her eyes and nostrils widened with rage.



Barry Schon smiled to her from the doorway. "It's okay Ms. Reveche. We aren't here for what you think we are." He stepped inside, flanked by one of his soldiers.



Simone's eyes locked with his and narrowed to unblinking slits. She stepped forward. The Healer and Chemist retreated from her peripheral vision. She stopped, her face a hand's width from Schon's. Through her clenched teeth, she muttered, "Give me one reason not to rip your scalp off." From the right, Simone felt something hard jab against her ribcage.



Without breaking her stare with Schon, Simone thrust her right arm. She gripped the soldier's throat, slamming her head and neck to the wall in a swift, violent motion. She heard the soldier's pistol clatter to the floor near her boots. She looked to the face reddening above her right hand. Vivian's eyes rolled back. She gagged and grunted.



Simone looked back to Barry. "You brought my little plaything with you... Is she here to keep you safe?" Simone grinned, hearing Vivian sputter and choke. She thrilled at the feel of defiant, gasping struggle through the straining tendons and muscles of the soldier's constricted throat.



Barry smiled. "Please, let her go, Simone. We aren't here to take you back."



Simone's eyes remained locked to Schon's. She grinned and clamped Vivian's neck tighter.



The soldier began to squirm. Her legs kicked and flailed, boots inches above the floor.



"Simone, please." Barry raised his voice, his features remained calm.



She released her hold.



Vivian dropped to the floor, clutching her throat, gagging, retching, gulping in huge noisy breaths. Simone looked down to the ruckus and smiled at lovely sight of the anguished creature bowing before her. She looked back to Schon, raising an eyebrow. "You just wanted to say goodbye, right?"



Barry scowled. He dropped to kneel at Vivian's side and rested his hand on the back of her neck. "Are you okay, soldier?"



Simone rolled her eyes, sighing, "She'll be fine. I went easy on her."



Barry looked up. His tone was curt. "She's very ill. She's burning up with fever. She just regained consciousness twenty minutes ago."



Simone's mouth twisted. She looked down at the crumpled, wheezing girl. She sneered. "Serves her right, then. Little girls shouldn't poke their guns into people unless they're going to pull the trigger." She looked to Schon again. "What kind of tactics are you idiots teaching them anyway? Fighting to lose?"



Barry raised an eyebrow. "She's not the only one who's passed up a chance to kill, Ms. Reveche... What do you have against her anyway?"



Despite Simone's best efforts, her lips shifted. She stayed silent. She looked down to Vivian and found a pair of deep brown eyes, bloodshot and sad, gazing back, blinking and bobbing through the labor of breath. She looked back to Barry.



Schon smiled. "She's here to help you, Ms. Reveche. So am I. Let us help you..."



Simone looked again to the crumpled girl in the charcoal fatigues. She held the other's pathetic eyes for another moment. She spun on her heel and marched into the kitchen.



#



Sarah entered the foyer to find Barry kneeling next to a soldier. She asked, "What happened?"



Schon replied, "There was a slight misunderstanding." He continued to stroke the back of the soldier's head. "Come on, Viv. Let's find you a bunk."



Sarah's brows drew together. "Misunderstanding? There's a hole in my wall..." She dropped to kneel on the other side of the collapsed soldier. Her eyes contacted Barry's for a moment and then focused on the injured girl. She lowered her voice to a soothing tone. "I'm Sarah. What's your name?"



Barry answered, "Her name's Vivian. She's here to help. Simone didn't understand."



Sarah looked over to Barry. "So, she threw her into the wall?"



Barry grinned. "Something like that." He stroked the back of Vivian's head again. "She's very ill... Is there a bed somewhere?"



Sarah nodded. "We've got a guest bedroom that's... Oh, wait--" Sarah smirked and continued, "Um, we can set her up on the love seat in the den."



Barry lifted Vivian's torso, unfolded the girl, and scooped her into his arms. He stood, groaning as he lifted her.



"This way." Sarah rose and led Barry down the hallway, past the bedrooms and office, and into the wood-paneled den. She scurried to the small sofa, snagged the throw pillows from it and tossed them to the floor. She turned to find Barry already preparing to lower Vivian onto the couch. "I'll go find a blanket for her."



Barry nodded as he unfolded the soldier's limp body onto the small sofa.



As Sarah was about to leave, Simone appeared in the doorway, blocking the exit. The Spy's arms extended, pressing the door-jambs, barricading the portal. She wore the saccharine smile to which Sarah had rapidly grown accustomed. She said, "Mr. Schon, Mrs. Berman... I'll take it from here."



Sarah scowled. "I think you should stay out of here. You've done enough already... Beating up a defenseless girl like this--"



Barry interjected, "Um, Sarah--"



Simone raised a finger. In a calm, quiet tone she said, "She's the one who stuck a gun in my ribs. I was merely acting in self-defense."



Sarah rested her hands on her hips and huffed, "What gun? Her holster is empty. I'm beginning to understand that whole 'monster' thing you and Nat were talking about."



"This gun." Barry pulled a black pistol from his coat pocket. "Ms. Reveche was provoked." His eyes moved to the figure in the doorway, narrowing to slits. "Of course, she responded with undue force, which she is well-known to do..."



Simone shrugged. "I merely disarmed an imminent threat."



Barry shook his head. "Look, whatever bad blood there is between you two, could you please forget about it until you're all safe?"



The Spy gave Schon a half-grin. "So, you're going to plead ignorance, huh?"



Barry's eyebrows rose. "You two have some secret little tiff... and I'm supposed to know about it?"



Sarah held her hands out, shaking her head. "Wait... What's going on?" She looked from Barry to Simone, and back again, searching for clarity.



Simone left the doorway and sauntered into the room. Her shoulder bumped Sarah's as she passed to approach Barry.



Sarah leered at Simone's back.



The Spy rested a hand on Barry's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Assistant Director. I was out of line before. I thought that you were responsible for something that you clearly weren't. I apologize."



Barry gave a faint smile and nodded. "Okay, Colonel, I accept. Now tell me what's going on?"



Simone turned to the prostrate soldier spread across the sofa. "Nothing's going on, sir. I received some errant information. I acted on it without verifying its validity. That's all." The Spy knelt and reached to Vivian's face. She peeled back one of the soldier's eyelids with a delicate nudge of her thumb. Her voice was a near whisper. "I think she's passed out." She pulled back a sleeve and rested her wrist against Vivian's forehead. She turned, looking up to Sarah. "She's got a pretty high fever. Could you get some aspirin and a thermometer? Please?"



Sarah swallowed her mounting animosity toward the abrasive woman and managed a smile. "Sure."



Simone's grin dissolved. She rose and stepped closer to Sarah. "Look, I'm sorry. We kind of got off on the wrong foot. I'm a little punchy from all the action lately."



Sarah shook her head, dismissing Simone's apology. "It's okay. Water under the bridge... Really."



Barry's voice sounded from near the room's exit, "Ladies, I'm going to find Ms. Osterholm."



Sarah nodded to Barry and turned back to face the Spy.



Simone reached down to clasp their hands together. "It's no excuse, but we've all been through a lot, lately. I didn't know the girl was sick. I wouldn't have--"



Sarah squeezed around Simone's hands. She said in a firm, friendly tone, "Come on... Let's just forget about it."



Simone shook her head. "No, I--"



"I said forget about it," Sarah snapped. Her face tightened.



Simone's eyes locked to Sarah's in a tense, baleful stare. Her fingers tightened within Sarah's hold. Her mouth quivered and curved into a broad smile. The Spy erupted into laughter, bowing her head, conceding to Sarah's stare.



The sudden mirth of the other spread to Sarah. Her cheeks reddened. She giggled and sputtered along with Simone.



After a moment, the laughter waned. Simone said, "You're exactly like our Mother."



Sarah clasped Simone's hands a little tighter. Her voice still bubbling with traces of laughter, she said, "Speaking of which, take off your clothes."



Simone's left eyebrow sprang into a high arch. "Huh?"



Sarah released the Spy's hands. She folded her arms across her chest. "You're clothes... They're filthy." She nodded toward Vivian. "Get hers too." She rolled her eyes and sighed, "I'm gonna be doing laundry all night."



Simone started to slip out of her coat. She grinned. "Thanks."



Sarah smirked. "I'll bring you some blankets and some clean clothes to sleep in." She sighed, "I'm afraid that some of you'll have to spend the night on the floor."



Simone pulled her black fatigue shirt up and over her head. "That's okay." She tossed the shirt onto the floor. "I don't really sleep anyway." She reached between the black cups of her bra and began to unclasp them.



Sarah turned to face the door. Her sudden discomfort from Simone's casual immodesty took her by surprise. The things Aki had told her -- Simone possibly lusting after Claire -- filled her with nausea then, and profound revulsion now. She steadied her voice to a monotone, "Just leave your uniforms by the door."



She marched to the exit. Simone's voice sounded from behind her. "Thanks again, Sarah. You're a goddess."



Once out in the hallway, Sarah stopped and shuddered. She continued toward the linen closet, hoping that the connotation of Simone's demeanor was more innocent than it had seemed.



#



Vivian stirred from sleep. Her surroundings were soft, dim, and quiet. Urgent pangs knotted her sore gut. Her head and neck throbbed. When she shifted, a familiar scent entered her nostrils-- A subtle sweetness that lingered in her nose as a soothing musk. It reminded of the beautiful white sound at the vineyard. She lifted her eyelids.



Her body was curled beneath something long and black. An overcoat. The garment's collar rested against her chin. Beneath the duster's satin lining, her arms and legs were bare. A cotton T-shirt covered her torso. Thin, summery shorts bagged around her hips. She strained to lift her head, eager to locate her missing uniform. She peered over the edge of the couch. An unexpected sight lay on the carpet below.



Colonel Reveche. Vivian's pulse quickened. Former Colonel Reveche. She stared down at the sleeping woman, sprawled neatly along a folded blanket. Treacherous Former Colonel Reveche. She looked placid, orderly, fingers clasped, resting below her stomach, elbows on the blanket to her sides. Deadly former Colonel Reveche. Her long legs were crossed, bare but for a pair of tattered cotton shorts spotted and smudged with dots of paint. Terrifying former Colonel Reveche. Vivian gulped and leaned back, retreating from her vantage point.



She shifted on the overstuffed cushions, tucking deeper beneath the black cloak. She wanted to hide, but her innards demanded that she locate the closest bathroom. She lay curled under the coat, silently wincing against merciless cramps for another twenty minutes, hoping after each bout that the pressure and pain would subside. It kept getting worse. It grew to be unbearable.



Her jaw ached from constant clench against pain. She panted, breaths hissing through her nose. She sweat from her face, undr her arms, and between her thighs. She peeled the trench coat back and extended a leg into the chilly air beyond, dangling the appendage above the body of her sleeping tormentor. She shifted her weight down and settled a hovering sole onto the carpet, inches from Reveche's thigh. She held still for a second, checking for signs of awareness from the woman. Nothing. Vivian continued to maneuver, unfolding to a precarious stance over the sleeping woman. She glanced around, trying to get her bearings, searching for the fastest way out of the room, at the insistence of her fear and the urgency commanded by her aggravated intestines.



She gasped. Something latched around her bare ankle. She winced, panting through her nose, peering down with trepidation.



Reveche's right hand held her captive. The Colonel's eyes drifted open. Her mouth curved into a mild grin. She maintained her hold, saying nothing. Her smile broadened.



Vivian croaked, "I-I have to use the bathroom." She drew her arms in, hugging herself. Her jaw started to quiver. The movement grew and her aching teeth chattered. Reveche remained motionless, wordless, grinning, leering.



Vivian pleaded through her chattering teeth, "P-Please?"



Reveche released her grip and sprang to a stand. Vivian's eyes darted up to meet Simone's. In her bare feet, the Colonel was almost a head taller than Vivian. Reveche reached to the sofa and scooped the black coat with a pair of fingers. She turned back and reached behind to drape the garment from Vivian's quivering shoulders. The long coat's satin lining enveloped Vivian's goose-pimpled arms with a cool caress. Its length cascaded down to brush the tops of her feet.



"This way," the Colonel whispered, guiding Vivian into motion with a firm, supportive arm.



Vivian followed the Colonel's direction, stumbling through the hallway, and into a bathroom. The space was illuminated with a dim, orange glow-- night-lit along the perimeter of its white tile floor. Reveche slid the coat from Vivian's shoulders and nodded toward the commode.



Vivian wrapped her arms tight, bracing against a wave of chills. She stood, shivering, waiting for the other to leave. The Colonel pushed the door shut, closing both of them into the room. Vivian shook, wincing through conflict; her body demanding immediate relief, her dignity demanding solitude. She tried to be tactful. "Thank you. I-I think I'll be okay."



Simone folded her arms. "Go, soldier... Or do need my help?"



Vivian's innards heaved, demanding that she forsake further protest for privacy. She stumbled to the toilet, yanked down the loose-fitting shorts and dropped onto the seat. Tears leaked from the corners of her clamped eyes, evoked by the physical and mental torture of her circumstance. Her body released its misery under the full scrutiny of her foe.



Everything began to settle after a few moments. Simone's voice echoed softly from the smooth tiles of the walls and floor, "Such a simple, humble act... And so... damned... satisfying."



Vivian cracked one of her eyes open. Reveche was sitting less than a meter away, perched on the ledge of the gleaming oval bathtub. She was looking up to the ceiling, palms resting on the white enamel to her sides, legs crossed.



"Does this bring you back, little Vivian?"



Vivian's eye contacted Simone's for a moment and then darted back to the orange glow of the cold tile floor. She shook her head, face tightening from the pain of another wave of intestinal protest. She clamped her eyes and suffered through another violent ejection.



When the atmosphere calmed again, Simone's voice sounded, "I'm almost willing to say we're even, little one."



Vivian opened her eyes to catch Simone's again. "Even?" she gasped out.



The Colonel's eyes narrowed to slits. She uncrossed her legs and extended them toward Vivian. Reveche's soles pressed onto the tops of Vivian's feet, pinning them to the floor. Simone hissed, "No more games, little girl. I know you were one of them. Did you think that Haz-Mask would keep me from recognizing those little Brazilian eyes?"



Vivian fought with tears and lost. She shuddered, crying.



"Oh, please... Cut the melodrama, you little coward."



Vivian cried, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry... I-I only did it to fit in... It's so hard being a woman-soldier... I didn't want to hurt you... I just wanted their respect--" Vivian began to sob, overcome by the shame of her weakness.



Simone's voice turned soft, "Did you get it, little one? Do they respect you?"



Vivian sobbed, "No... I'm so sorry. I didn't want to-- I'm ashamed."



"Bullshit. You're the one who laughed the loudest when I soaked my pants... When you stuck that thing against my crotch."



Vivian reached out to grasp Simone's hand, blubbering, "I'm sorry... I'm not t-that type of person, really... Please, forgive me." She leaned forward and pressed her mouth to the back of Simone's hand, crying, rubbing her open lips against the Colonel's skin as she whispered, pleading, "Please don't tell Director Schon. He'll be so disappointed in me... I'll do anything to make it up to you."



Vivian felt a nudge against her forehead. She opened her eyes to find Reveche's face millimeters from her own, their foreheads resting together. She closed her eyes against another wave of tears.



The Colonel spoke softly, "My dear little Vivian..." She gripped the soldier's hand and twisted. Vivian winced. Simone continued "...Dear little toy soldier... We're the only two who ever need to know." Simone wrenched Vivian's wrist, transmitting pain up to the soldier's limb.



Vivian gasped. Tears ran from the corners of her eyes and dribbled from her chin to the floor. Simone's torsion eased, the pain began to recede.



A few moments passed in silence punctuated only by Vivian's jagged breaths echoing in the small shining room.



Simone's forehead pressed tighter. The sides of their noses rubbed. "Now, who do you work for, little one?"



Vivian sniffled. She uttered, "You."



The torment returned in an instant. Vivian released a hushed squeak at the return of the searing pain, burning all the way up to her shoulder. She revised her answer with desperate honesty, "You, Ma'am. I work for you, Ma'am." The pain began to ebb, the torture decreased. "I'm y-you're... I'm you're bitch, Ma'am."



Simone's nose edged away, sliding against the beads of sweat on Vivian's. She whispered, "No... No, you aren't good enough for that." Her fingers relaxed and retreated from Vivian's hand.



Vivian opened her eyes and reached to stop the egress of the Colonel's powerful fingers. She managed to sputter, "I w-want to be. Please, let me try, Ma'am."



"Why would I do that?"



"I-I can do things for you. I can be your soldier. I can be your warrior, Ma'am."



Simone's expression sagged. Her eyes swept away from Vivian's. Her forehead trembled against Vivian's skull. Her voice shook as she said, "Please... Don't use that term again."



Vivian leaned back and away. She covered her mouth, realizing what had affected the Colonel so deeply. "I'm sorry, Ma'am... You must have loved her so much... Please... Hurt me again, Ma'am. I deserve it, Ma'am." She extended her arm, presenting the limb for fit punishment.



Simone shook her head. "I've... hurt too many... hurt too many people already, soldier." Reveche slid her feet off of Vivian's and leaned away. She rose from the edge of the tub. "You deserve some privacy... I'm sorry. I'll leave you alone."



"Please don't--" Vivian found herself blurting, "Please stay with me, Ma'am."



Reveche sighed. "Look... You're forgiven. We're even. Let's drop it. Good night, soldier." She started to turn away and stopped. She glanced back at Vivian and gave a slight smile. She reached next to the sink and pulled a hand towel form the counter. She lowered onto the tub ledge and reached forward with the cloth to blot Vivian's forehead. "So what's wrong with you?"



"Osterholm thinks it's food poisoning."



Simone pulled the towel away and scowled. She cleared her throat, sending a rasping echo throughout the room's surrounding shine.



Vivian corrected herself at once. "Ma'am. She thinks it's food poisoning, Ma'am."



A faint smile came to the Colonel's mouth. She reached forward again with the towel and blotted Vivian's neck and collarbone. She sighed, "Maybe I'll allow it after all."



"Allow what, Ma'am?"



"Your potential, soldier. I just might be able to turn you into something useful."



Vivian felt a little smile spread across her lips. The Lioness, the legendary Colonel Reveche found her useful. "I'll do my best for you, Ma'am."



"First things first, little one. I need to get you feeling better."



Vivian patted her ribs. "I'm already feeling a lot better, Ma'am." She ended the sentence with a small nervous laugh.



Simone dabbed Vivian's cheeks and mouth with the towel. "Maybe so, but you're still running a fever. I need to take care of that. I won't have my soldier stumbling around in a daze." Simone gave a half-smile.



"No, Ma'am."



"Find and take three aspirin, soldier. Return to the sofa and resume your rest." Simone handed the towel to Vivian and rose from the edge of the tub. "I have some business to attend to. I'm going to trust you to execute those orders, soldier." She whipped a finger up, stopping it a centimeter from Vivian's right eye.



Vivian flinched. "Y-yes, Ma'am."



The Colonel continued, "If you don't, then I'll get the best doctors in the world to nurse you back to health..." she sneered and concluded, "... and then I'll beat the living shit out of you. I will personally break every bone in your body. Understood?"



Vivian smiled, nodding, "Yes, Ma'am." Such a dreadful, caring threat. The Colonel was the answer to the question she never thought to ask. It made sense all at once. She found her place. She wanted orders. She wanted strict direction. She craved discipline. She wanted approval. She needed acceptance. Colonel Simone Reveche, tall, clever, graceful, deadly Colonel Simone Reveche would give it to her-- more than she could handle. She was winning the favor of the deadliest woman in the world. She was eager to be the sole cub of the legendary Lioness. Someday, she too might become a legend.





--- TBC in CH18



Thanks for reading! Thanks in advance for your feedback!!!!

Edited by: StrangeQuark at: 12/1/04 7:37 am


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 Post subject: Re: Latency -- Chapter 17d
PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2004 5:43 pm 
It is positively freakin' amazing how you can come back with a bang :shock (figuratively speaking, of course :eyebrow ) I'm doing the happy Claire/Aki dance right now :banana But Simone still creeps me out in no uncertain terms. Viv might want to revise her whole admiration of the Lioness. *shudder* Talk about a sado-masochistic freak...but yanno, she's a product of her training and her environment...she's had to endure a ton of crap but she IS trying to be a better person. Maybe being around her sisters (well except for the Healer who clearly needs to be bitch-slapped for essentially abusing the Chemist) might be her way back to civility.



As always, my dear SQ, you have my admiration :bow


Time flies by when the Devil drives.
It's not the pace of life that concerns me, it's the sudden stop at the end.



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 Post subject: Re: Latency -- Chapter 17d
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2004 5:10 pm 
Finally had a chance to catch up on this fic and I can honestly say...Wow!



Claire & Aki- Finally!:D



This story just gets more and more interesting.



BV

It's the passion in a kiss that gives to it its sweetness; it is the affection in a kiss that sanctifies it.



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 Post subject: Re: Latency -- Chapter 18a
PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 8:50 am 
Hi, all. I've been unable to writelately -- that is to say, I've had the time, written the words, read them back, and deleted all of them over and over again-- so I'm sorry about the delay. I used to think that writer's block meant that you couldn't write ANYTHING. Now, I understand that that's not really the block, just a lack of imagination, skill, or motivation. The real block is characterized by not being able to write things-- no matter how hard you may try-- in a way that don't force you to scrap them. Enough of my whining, right? Right.



Here's the first two scenes for Chapter 18. There's a small (maybe big, depending on how much of this story you can remember) surprise coming up soon, and yes, we are beginning to reach the actual climax and end of this oversized tale. This is probably the second-to-last chapter. Enjoy!



-SQ



EIAAOIFs

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------







CHAPTER 18a





Claire woke from the tingling protest of her right leg. The limb's blood flow had diminished within the limp vise of Aki's thighs. They must have been asleep like that for hours, bodies settled in a listless embrace. Claire turned her head, peeling her chin from Aki's hair. Slowly, carefully, she untangled from the captivity of her somnolent partner.



Aki began to stir. Claire froze, halting in place, hoping not to further rouse her lover from well-deserved rest.



Aki shifted, sighed, and then receded back into what looked like deep sleep. Claire waited through a few still moments and resumed, extracting the rest of her body from the warmth of the bedding. The ache of her leg worsened as its circulation resumed, prompting her to wait further for the pain to ebb before standing. She crept from the mattress to the floor, stood, and tiptoed around the other side of the bed.



The little room was dim, illuminated by a small amber night-light next to the door. Her eyes scanned through the warm dusk, searching. Their clothes lay strewn across the floor in little haphazard mounds. She spotted the dress that she had borrowed from Sarah, lying in an inelegant heap close to the door. She sneaked over, grabbed the dress, slipped into it, and then stepped back to bedside. Claire stood there, gazing down, her mouth curving into a smile at the sight.



Her little doll lay below, serene, motionless amidst the chaos of folds. The skin of her shoulders and back glowed, reflecting peach hues cast by the night light. Numerous times in her life, Claire had pondered learning to paint. The sight on the bed prompted that urge again. The cold objectivity of a camera could never capture the beauty of the scene below. Lacking skill, canvas, and paint, she opted to stay there-- looking, memorizing, appreciating the charm of the sight. She leaned over the mattress to place a feather-soft kiss on the sleeping beauty's temple and then backed away, grinning, longing to climb back into their nest, knowing that it would have to wait until later. She had spent too much time indulging her needs. Now, plans needed formulation. Survival had to be ensured. She turned, padded to the door, and slipped into the hallway.



The rest of the house was dark and quiet. Claire's mind and body had been so preoccupied by Aki ever since her arrival that she had forgotten about the others. A sudden thought raced through her mind. Had Josh and the others had ever shown? When she entered the living room, her question was answered.



Through the darkness, she could distinguish the familiar shapes of her kin. Cecilia was on the sofa, her crooked outline leaning against Natalia, both settled into obvious, deep slumber. Heather lay below them, zipped into a sleeping bag on the carpet, resting a few meters beyond the still-glowing embers of the fireplace. Claire released a quiet, relieved sigh, happy to see that they were all safe. She tiptoed her way past them and into the kitchen.



The room's tile floor was cold. It stung Claire's frost-aggravated soles as she entered. She scurried across to the dark patch of throw rug below the sink. Her eyes fixed to the sight of a shadowy figure seated at the table, across the room.



The person turned to Claire's presence and whispered, "Hey."



Claire's eyes adjusted better to the indigo darkness of the kitchen. It was Simone.



The Spy turned back toward the table. On its surface sat an open briefcase and numerous objects, all defying positive identity in the low light.



Claire crept closer and hooked the back of the empty chair next to Simone's. She took care to lift the seat's legs from the floor, attempting to preserve the home's predominating quiet. Once the chair was out from under the table, Claire lowered herself into it. She immediately hooked her feet into the spindly framework between its legs, saving her damaged soles from further agony atop the frigid tiles. Her eyes scanned the table's wares once again, still unaccustomed to the dark, still failing to make an identities among the odd array of items. She twisted toward Simone and whispered, "What're you doing up?"



Simone sighed, "Putting things back together." She pulled a few more things from the case and set them onto the tabletop, adding to the clutter.



"Like what?" Claire watched Simone's actions, her eyes darting from one object to the next, still trying to identify everything.



"Remember Vivian?"



Claire nodded. "Yeah."



"She and Barry want to help us. Now, I have to help them."



"That's... Um, I don't follow."



"They made a pretty big sacrifice for all of us. They're both worse than dead if we're found... That's why I have to help them."



Claire gave a smile. "That doesn't sound very evil or heartless..." She reached over and poked the Spy's ribs before adding, "...Killer."



Simone's mouth curved into a subtle grin. She whispered, "I learned something tonight."



"Tell me." Claire leaned closer, still smiling.



Simone's eyes met Claire's. The solemnity of her expression was clear, even in near-blackness. "Redemption is an option."



Claire nodded. "Sometimes it is. It's usually the best option. I'm glad you're seeing it that way."



Simone replied, a slight squeak beneath her whisper, "I'm trying, Claire. I'm really trying to be good... Like you."



Claire veered her eyes from Simone's to resume her assessment of the items on the table. "What's all this stuff?"



Simone turned back to the briefcase. She patted the black leather box and whispered, "Barry made a little care-package for us. There's a wad of cash, all of my gear that they confiscated, some fake paperwork, a few M-lyncs registered to nonexistent people... A whole bunch of goodies."



"Is everyone asleep?"



Simone picked up one of the M-lyncs and shrugged. "Except maybe for Sarah." She opened the unit's cover, bathing her face in the pale white glow from the display. "She's probably still doing laundry." Simone closed the communicator and returned it to the table. "Heather, Nat, and Cecilia are in the living room... Vivian's in the den, and Barry's on the floor in Josh's office."



Claire smirked. "I really should thank him. I... I think I might've misjudged him before."



Simone smirked. "You'll get the chance. He's going to bring you and me up to speed at breakfast."



"Up to speed?"



Simone tapped the briefcase again. "These aren't the only preparations that he's made for us. He's come up with a plan."



"What is it?"



Simone shrugged. "I don't know all the details... He basically wants to get everyone onto a cargo plane headed for Virginia. There's supposed to be a ship there that'll take us somewhere safer... He said he'll fill us in at breakfast."



Claire nodded. She reached for the wad of paper money. She held the roll of bills closer to the room's only source of light-- The pale glow of the sky seeping through the windows above the sink. They all looked like hundred-dollar bills. She flattened the roll into a stack within her palm and started counting, shuffling the papers from one hand to the other.



"I counted it already, sweetey. It's over a hundred-thousand," Simone whispered. In her peripheral vision, Claire saw Simone reach to the table and curl her fingers around a silvery hulk set amongst the other items. The Spy said, "Money's nice and all... but I'm just happy to have my baby back."



Claire looked up from the money and fixed on the shining gun in her sister's hand. "Whoa... T-that's a Polar Hawk, right?"



Simone grinned and nodded. "Three pounds empty, seven-inch barrel, fifteen millimeter bore... I had her customized-- She can hold eighteen rounds." The Spy pointed to the end of the large pistol's barrel. "See those threads? She can take a silencer, rifled extension, infra-sight, you name it." Simone clasped the top of the gun and spun it to present its grip to Claire. "Wanna hold her?"



Claire shook her head. "That's okay. I'm, sort of, scared of guns..."



"Nonsense." Simone pulled the pistol's slide back and forth a few times, disrupting the silence with three sharp clacks.



Claire flinched, recoiling from the sudden sounds of the deadly weapon.



Simone cocked the slide once more. "See? She isn't loaded, sweetey."



"I'll take your word for it," Claire said, still leaning back from the menace of the firearm's presence. Forcing a smile, she conceded, "I-it's a nice gun."



Simone clunked the burly pistol back onto the table. She turned to back to Claire and smirked. "You grew up in Jersey, and you're afraid of guns?"



Claire nodded. "I'm afraid of guns because I grew up in New Jersey."



Simone smiled and said, "Touché, Genius. Touché."



Claire's thumbs resumed their tally of the bills. The distraction of Simone's gun made her lose count, so she started over.



Simone interrupted Claire's task with another whisper, "How much are you gonna take?"



Claire stopped, looked up, and shrugged. "Nothing. We need to save it."



"Come on, sweetey. You deserve at least a couple grand."



Claire placed the pile of bills back onto the table with the rest of the stuff. She leaned back, folded her arms, and sighed, "I do?"



"How much did they pay you at Lorelei?" Simone asked, reaching for the the cash.



"Nothing. It was--"



The Spy shuffled a few of the notes from the main stack in her left hand, depositing them into her right. "So, they paid you nothing. Did you do anything useful?"



"I guess. I think my team was on the verge of a big discovery, actually... But we still had nothing to show for it."



"Have you been paying your taxes?"



"Yeah, but--"



Simone shuffled a few more bills from one hand to the other. "Thirty-four days, twelve hours per day... How much did you make fixing garbage trucks?"



Claire shrugged. "About one-ten an hour."



"Alright then, let's say Uncle Sam paid you as a mechanic... Four hundred hours at one-hundred ten an hour. That's pretty fair, right?"



"Well, they did cover all my living expenses-- A nice home, good food, and clothes..."



Simone stuffed a few notes back into the bigger pile. "Fine... Lets say your accommodations were six-hundred a night, like a nice hotel. We'll deduct that... Which leaves you with..." Simone's fingers rifled through the money, counting the remainder in her right hand, "... Twenty-two thousand." She placed the short stack onto the table and nudged it toward Claire.



Claire shook her head, arms still folded. "I'm not taking--"



"You earned this, dammit." The Spy pushed the money closer. "Take it. Spend it... Buy something nice for Aki."



A corner of Claire's mouth crept up. It was tempting. Simone's calculations seemed fair. She unfolded her arms and snatched the stack of bills from the table's edge before she could change her mind. Her lips stretched in an irrepressible grin. "I know..."



Simone's eyebrow arched. "I've seen that look on you before. What're you planning?"



"We can go back to the Lambda..." Claire held the stack of notes up, shaking it as she continued, "I can leave this inside... With an apology. It'll cover any damage that I did."



Simone sighed. She reclined, arms dangling over the back of her chair. Her mouth squiggled into a crooked dash as she started to shake her head. "You're so damned noble... You'd better be careful with that. Someday, it'll be your undoing."



"Will you go with me? To drop it off?"



Simone gave an uneasy grin and then sighed, "Sure, sweetey."



"Let's go now. If we don't, the cops might find it before we get there." Claire started to rise from her chair.



Simone reached out, snagging the hem of Claire's dress. "I think we'd better find some real clothes first."



"Okay. Then we can go?"



"Of course, sweetey."



# # #



Claire crept back into the guest bedroom, drew the door to a gentle close, and shucked the clothes and sneakers she had commandeered for her outing. Her hands and feet were still cold from outside, prompting her to pause for a while before slipping back into the bed, fearing that the accidental contact of chilly parts might rouse her sleeping princess.



Claire sneaked over to the bed and smiled. The vision that she had torn herself from earlier was exactly as she had left it-- The dainty woman, at peace, highlighted in muted orange, shadowed in complimentary blue-brown, the curves of her form loosely defined by delicate folds of linen. After some more quiet moments of appreciation, Claire could no longer refuse the scene's invitation. She walked around to the empty side of the bed, lifted the sheets, and crawled in.



Despite Claire's careful stealth, Aki stirred. She yawned and stretched. Her limbs pulled at the tangle of bedding through the protracted gesture. She edged over to settle her front onto the edge of Claire's length and then relaxed again. Her lips brushed the base of Claire's neck, rolling through a sleepy whisper as she asked, "Go somewhere, nushi?"



Claire closed her eyes as the soothing heat of Aki's left thigh settled between the relative chill of her legs. She placed a kiss on the top of Aki's head before replying, "I had to go up the street for a few minutes. Unfinished business."



"All done now?"



"Yeah." Claire smiled, feeling a gentle kiss over her collarbone.



"What time is it?" Aki asked.



"Three A.M."



"You're cold, nushi."



Claire squeezed Aki's thigh between her own. "Not for long."



Aki kissed Claire's neck again and asked, "What do you want right now... More than anything else?"



Claire thought for a moment. The question was straightforward, but the correct answer eluded her. After a few more moments, still unsure, she gave the best answer she could think of. "I want to be Claire Galloway."



Aki's chest pulsated through a muted giggle. "You already are, silly nushi."



"Not anymore..." Claire started, "You see, in a few hours, Claire Galloway would be wandering around Newport Mall, desperately searching for the perfect Winter present for her adorable Asian girlfriend. Her biggest fear would be buying the wrong thing or wearing the wrong clothes to the Holiday dinner with the girl's family."



"This adorable Asian girlfriend... Tell me about her." Aki's toes glided, caressing the length of Claire's shin.



Claire gave her love a squeeze and said, "She's the cutest. Not your everyday cute-- Ultra-cute. Perfect-- A living doll."



"Hmm... Go on..." Aki purred, her foot continuing in its fondling exploration of Claire's lower leg.



"She's more than cute, though-- She's clever. And funny. She's clingy and affectionate-- Which is exactly what Claire wants."



"So, Claire doesn't mind clingy?"



Claire placed another kiss onto Aki's hair. "She adores it."



"What else makes this girlfriend of hers so special?"



"Everything about her. She's smart, caring, affectionate, soft, petite, feminine, beautiful."



"Claire really has the hots for that chick, huh?"



"She likes everything about her. That's why she'd be so scared of screwing things up. That'd be Claire Galloway's biggest fear."



"Are you sure you want to be her then?" One of Aki's palms curled around Claire's side, capturing the skin just below her ribs. "I mean, her life sounds complicated-- All scared of messing things up with her girlfriend..."



"Oh, I'm sure... I'd rather be her right now."



Aki's limbs tensed, clamping her small body tight against Claire's. "Trust me... If Claire Galloway's greatest fear is losing her girlfriend, then her fears are largely unfounded."



Claire rested her lips against Aki's hair and kissed. "You think?"



"I know." Aki's fingers wandered up to clutch Claire's shoulder. "That girl and I seem to have a lot in common. Makes me wish I could be Aki Nashumara."



"Tell me what would Aki Nashumara be doing right now?"



Aki stayed quiet for a few moments and then replied, "At the end of every day, she'd treat her brilliant diesel mechanic girlfriend to a shiatsu massage."



Claire smiled. "Really? She knows shiatsu?"



"She's, um... Well, she's familiar with the concept, at least... She'd improvise-- Anything to get the girl to take off her shirt. She would squeeze those muscles for hours, turn them into mush... Kneading, rubbing... Tasting, kissing... Where was I?"



Claire grinned. "Giving your girlfriend's aching shoulders some much needed attention?"



Aki giggled. "That's right. And after that, she'd be thinking of a way to get her strong, gorgeous girlfriend to ask her to move in. She'd be subtle at first-- Buying little things to spruce-up Claire's apartment, staying overnight and waking up early to make breakfast before she and her nushi would go to work together. Maybe she'd let it go on for another month or two, but, eventually, she'd raise a fuss if she didn't get her way--"



"What makes you think that this mechanic-girl wouldn't jump at the opportunity? She is in love with Aki Nashumara after all..."



"She loves her?"



"Beyond any doubt, Aki-san."



Aki's voice lowered to a just above a soft whisper, "I love you too."





TBC in CH18b



Thanks for reading, and thanks also for your feedback.



-SQ



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 Post subject: Re: Latency -- Chapter 18a
PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 2:47 pm 
The last couple of parts have been very good :applause



It seems that Vivian gains most of her self esteem from how other people view her. Which explains why she was willing to join in torturing Simone in order to fit in with the other guards and how she seems so desperate to gain approval from first Barry, then Simone.



Simone seems to alternate between being sympathetic and deeply disturbing. I guess that's understandable given she's someone who was bred and raised to be a ruthless killer, but who is now trying to better herself.



I think Simone's right in saying that Claire's noble nature is going to get her in trouble. She needs to realise that no good deed goes unpunished.



I have this horrible feeling that that money she left is going to be used to trace them somehow. :paranoid



Looking forward to :read more



--

Homer Simpson: When will people learn, democracy just doesn't work.



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 Post subject: Superb
PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 1:51 am 
Because of you, I still have two project reports to write and a bunch of tests to prepare. But, it was worth it! I stumbled upon this fic yesterday afternoon and I just finished the last update. You had mentioned that you were on the verge of finishing the fic and I half wanted/didn't want it. Now I have time for my work, but I want to know what happens! What a great piece of writing. This is really an interesting story idea. Good plot and social/political commentary all rolled into one...score. The character development is wonderful and I love how you are able to maneuver the complicated relationships that exist within the story. You are right when you talk about the clones being "children." So advanced intellectually, but unable to navigate their emotions, which don't live by set laws. I wonder how this will fit into the final acts. And The Spy. Her goal is to be an enigma and she is succeeding! I'm just waiting for her to pull something. I just can't figure out whether it will be something backhanded or something heroic like blowing herself up to save the others. I eagerly await your next update! Cheers :peace



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 Post subject: Re: Latency -- Chapter 18a
PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 7:59 am 
Justin--



Glad you noticed Vivian's weakness (or strength, if you're one of the people who has use for her.) Back in chapter-- i dunno-- 13, maybe, I felt that there were too many goddesses in the balance. Aki, Barry, and Josh were a little outnumbered, so I decided to let Vivian come in and play. It just so happened that she turned out to be as three-dimensional as I had hoped. I like characters that have identifiable foibles-- It means that I can exploit them later :)



Simone said it before, Claire is, sort of, her hero. The Genius is setting a good example through her actions and the intent that drives them. Will Claire's good deed go unpunished? Well, she's already paid for it-- first emotionally, and second with cash. It won't be the last we hear of the incident, but Claire has indeed already paid. It takes a special kind of car-thief to offer spontaneous compensation to their victim...



Serendipitous--



Another fan-- Yay! Thanks for putting your life aside to indulge the product of my imagination. We're close to the end, yes. Close is a relative term though. There's probably another 35,000 words until we get there (I keep rewriting it...) so I hope that you enjoy the ride. There will be a sequel eventually, but once I'm done with this, I've got two other stories that I've been dying to polish enough to share. We'll probably see one or both of them first before the Latency saga continues. Simone might get her own spin-off... I'm still debating how to handle that.



I'm glad that you've noticed the relationships within this story. They're the most important part, IMO. I like to explore the things that keep people together, as well as keep them apart. It's what life's all about, right?



The final act(s) are going to involve everyone on some level. Will the Spy do something heroic? Maybe she'll try to be heroic and fail. Maybe she'll try and succeed. Maybe she'll sit back and watch, not wanting to steal Claire's thunder. We'll have to wait and see.



I'm very sorry (read "happy") that this little tale has disrupted your life. That's a wonderful compliment. Thank you. :)



All--



More to come. Thanks for reading.



-SQ



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 Post subject: Re: Latency -- Chapter 18a
PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2005 6:10 pm 
Hey SQ,



Can I even begin to count *how* far I am behind in leaving feedback. I've a few minutes now and thought I'd best let you know that I have enjoyed following every twist and turn in this story.



These last two chapters were really good. They reminded me so much of the fluidity of the beginning of the book.That's not to say that there were any real flaws throughout, but here you seem to get your steam back. While I'm always riveted to the page, something really resonated with me. Your writing was crisp and clean; the chapters have a wonderful flow of narrative and I love your dialogue.



I really like the character dynamics you've built into the story. Yes, Simone and Claire's relationship kinda gives me the 'hee-be-geebies,' at times. But as you've pointed out, they are extraordinary women. You've handled that dynamic with exceptional care and great skill - Kudos for making me squirm and believe every moment is turth.



What I love most about your writing is the ease with which you handle so many characters, an incredibly complex plot, and manage to create a cohesiveness to the story. So the experts say, the element of story writing are: Plot, setting, dialogue and characterisation. You have a wonderful depth in *all* these areas; there is a simultaneous driving of the story between strong, three dimensional characters and a dynamic plot. There is rising action, reversal, rising action, dynamic (I'm fond of this word today, look to see it a lot) tension, comedy, drama on so many levels, it's hard for me to distinguish one single factor that puts this story over the top; it all just "works."



It's fascinating (and very instructive) how, over the course of such a long work, you've managed to maintain the uniqueness of each character's voice. I'm certain if you wrote a dialogue scene between all the characters, without tags, your readers would know, without doubt, who was speaking.



I look forward to more, though sadly, I don't want this story to come to an end. I do have a rather sinking feeling about the next bits...I'll leave the resolution in your capable hands.



Peace!!

Patches





Our wedding vows: Life Love Everlasting, Always Intertwining. - Sunday June 27, 2004 :)



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 Post subject: Re: Latency -- Chapter 18a
PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 11:17 am 
Alright, patient Latency fans...



It's been a while since I released anything, I know. If this story could pay the mortgage, the release schedule would be a bit peppier. Sorry for the disappointment and wait. It hurts me more than it does you.



It hurts because I have the end (the fifth version of it so far) written as well as most of the scenes that lead up to it, but I haven't had the time to create the connections between the major events and where the story last left off. Again, the career that pays the bills has taken precedence :(



I hope to have at least the next three scenes from chapter 18 ready and posted sometime this weekend. I'll try to make them worth the wait since I value you--the readers--and the effort and appreciation that you've continually contributed to the progress of this story.



Things planned for the future:



After Latency is done, Claire, Aki, and others will be hosting little "Latency-- Outakes" installments-- a bonus for the die-hard fans. (<-- That's optimistic, huh?) These shots will include deleted scenes, different takes of scenes, and even the primordial ooze (i.e. first draft of a completely different story that turned into Latency) in which Claire, Aki, and Smitty Coombes made their debut.



Also there is an alternate ending that will be a Kittenboard exclusive, and it'll be commented-on and presented by either Aki or myself. We're still discussing it.



Two more novel/novellas (non-Latentverse) are in-progress as well, so I hope to share those in the near future. One's set in space in the far-future, and the other's set in Soviet Russia in the present-day, but alternate history. They're both character-stories (just like Latency-- big surprise, right?) that I'll try my best to make worth your reading-time-- Again, I do appreciate it, always.



Patches--



Thanks for the kind words. They mean a lot coming from a skilled writer like you.



"...believe every moment is truth." -- Well-stated. Afterall, fiction is --by definition-- a huge lie. I'm glad to know that you were compelled to believe it. As a wanna-be story teller, that gave me warm fuzzies.



All--



Thanks for your patience. More of chapter 18 will be up soon.



Thanks again,



-SQ

Edited by: StrangeQuark at: 3/4/05 11:21 am


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 Post subject: Re: Latency -- Chapter 18a
PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 1:51 pm 
Quote:
It hurts me more than it does you.




okay, this gave me scary images of you in dressed up like a headmaster holding a cane in your hand



Quote:
It hurts because I have the end (the fifth version of it so far) written as well as most of the scenes that lead up to it, but I haven't had the time to create the connections between the major events and where the story last left off.




I've been at that stage a couple of times, so I can sympathise, it is most frustrating



Quote:
a bonus for the die-hard fans. (<-- That's optimistic, huh?)




This confused me for a moment, wondering if we were going to see Claire and Aiki trapped in an office building that's been taken over by Bank robbers or going round an airport that's been taken over by terrorists, Then I realised that you didn't mean fans of the die-hard films :blush



since I'm one of those die-hard fans I'm looking forward to these extras.



There's no need to worry about any delays. Your story is always worth the wait.



--

Homer Simpson: When will people learn, democracy just doesn't work.



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 Post subject: Re: Latency -- Chapter 18a
PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 3:04 pm 
What Justin said ;) and more. My apologies for not being more effusive. My partner's mother was diagnosed with cancer so she's been away from me for a few weeks...thus, life is stressful and exhausting. You know how I feel about your work, SQ; you've never let me down.



Cheers,

K.


We kissed for hours, wrapped around each other in the dirt, immersed in the heady, religious world of deep sex.
Love is just a different form of ego. It's nothing but a flatteringly worded form of possessiveness.--Kannaduki no Miko



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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2005 5:12 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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I read this fic so long ago. I'm so happy to finally see Aki and Claire together, they're adorable. I hope you update soon!

Another 'Latency' fan.

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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 5:37 pm 
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OI! *pokes SQ* Where've you been?


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2005 3:34 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:03 am
Posts: 35
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Vix--

Glad to see that the C/A ship is bringing you some joy. It certainly has for them. I hope to update soon. We're close to the end, so the going is tough for this storyteller-- Lots of threads to weave into convergence as things reach the ultimate climax.

Keili--

I've been swamped with non-writing stuff :(

The fact that I haven't had any time to write anything of quality is killing me. The notion that I'm leaving some folks hanging is torture. I hope to end this mutual suffering soon, but not for the sake of story and delivery. Am I a perfectionist? Hardly. Do I feel that these characters, their story, and my readers deserve my best effort? You betcha.

Maybe I can blow-off some real work today and spend some quality time with the keyboard. Let's hope so.

Thanks for wondering where I've been. It's a small gesture that means a lot :)

All--

Thanks for your patience. I hope to reward it soon.

--SQ


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2005 3:09 pm 
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StrangeQuark wrote:
Kieli--
I've been swamped with non-writing stuff :(

I can understand that. I have been, too, mostly of the variety that I can do without....and also busy with the writing stuff, writing anime fanfic and beta reading for a truly ungrateful person That is going to change soon though. I'm tired of putting in a lot of work for nothing.
Quote:
The fact that I haven't had any time to write anything of quality is killing me. The notion that I'm leaving some folks hanging is torture. I hope to end this mutual suffering soon, but not for the sake of story and delivery. Am I a perfectionist? Hardly. Do I feel that these characters, their story, and my readers deserve my best effort? You betcha.

Not to worry, dear, we understand. It's just that you've been rather quiet lately and I'm sure we were all concerned. Good luck!


Last edited by Kieli on Sun Jul 15, 2012 7:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 12:59 pm 
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Glad to hear from you, SQ!! Will be waiting most patiently :)

Patches


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2005 10:59 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:03 am
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Location: New Jersey
No update right now. Sorry Kittens.

You can check out Aki3D in the mean time.

http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/20943274/

I'm still struggling with the scenes that lead up to the end. Once I get them close to right, I'll post them.

Thanks again to all of you for your continued support and patience.

-SQ


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Thu Jul 28, 2005 4:17 pm 
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Well, it wasn't an update, but the Aki3D was too cool! Thanks for sharing.

BV

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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 10:22 am 
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2. Floating Rose

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Thanks, BV. I'm glad you liked her.

Here's another sketch, rendered in simple, cartoon-like shading. It's Simone having a nap at the end of chapter 17.

http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/21400461/

I *will* update the story soon.

Thanks again for your support and patience.

-SQ


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 12:52 pm 
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These illustrations are great. It really helps to be able to see the characters.

There is one thing. It might just be the lighting, or the angle of the camera but from that picture it looks like Simones only got one...um... breast :blush

What's up with that?

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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 4:54 pm 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:03 am
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Location: New Jersey
Justin-

That'd be a side-effect of the 'toon shading and the angle. To be honest, her bustline is the worst part of the job. I can get them to sit properly and be of a realistic size, but once I conform clothing to their surface, all of this over-smoothing and stuff messes up the silhouette.

3D artwork is REALLY complicated, difficult, and time consuming. It's like using a quadratic equation to depict an aroma... er something like that. You know, difficult. Though the odd breast thing does bring an unwanted sense pf mystery to the picture, I'm pretty happy with the lighting, pose, and mood. They're very much in line with my vision of the scene. Oh yeah.... Her hair should look a lot more black. More quadratic gremlins to shoo away.

Thanks for the comment; sorry about the misleading perspective.

-SQ


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 12:30 am 
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Quote:
3D artwork is REALLY complicated, difficult, and time consuming.


Oh yeah, tell me about it. I've done some playing round with 3D work and so far I'm still at the level of silver spheres floating above a chequerboard surface. You're doing people which is, like, way harder than that.

So I bow to you :bow oh mistress of the third dimension.

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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 6:27 pm 
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2. Floating Rose

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Justin-

LOL :D

I've done my fair share of reflective spheres, cones, cubes, etc.

All,

Here's another Simone pic: http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/21450700/

And the previous one updated a little (higher res, better hair color, still the strange boob-illusion though ;) )

http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/21450586/


More goodies (including the story to which all of the pictures belong) soon.

-SQ


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2005 7:20 am 
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2. Floating Rose

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Location: New Jersey
At long last, another installment. Thanks for waiting. There's another couple thousand words on they way in the next day or so.

To say that I'm happy with this would be a lie. I simply got tired of editing it-- I need to move on.

EIAAOIFs

Chapter 18b(1)

Simone sat, mingling with the darkness of the kitchen while fondling the polished silhouette of her nickel-plated pistol. The weapon's body warmed during two-hours of idle caress and rumination; silent time spent gazing at the window above the sink. The glow of dawn bled into the overcast, tingeing the buttermilk sky with hints of salmon and lavender. She ceased her stare at the world outside and placed her gun on the table. She collected the rest of the gadgets and papers, packed them back into the briefcase, and snapped its latches shut. She rose, stretching, deciding next to find her clothes and steal a shower before the others would wake to claim either of the home’s bathrooms.

She slinked to the laundry room at the end of the home's main hallway. Through dim light, she spotted a pair of tall wicker baskets on the washer. She peered into one and searched through neat stacks of earth-toned shirts and differing indigos of faded jeans, prodding through the casual fare to find her black fatigues at the bottom. She delved into the other basket and located her undergarments, completing the ensemble of total black. She decided to collect Vivian’s charcoal togs as well and headed toward the bathroom, pausing as she passed the door to the den. She pushed it open slowly, quietly, and crept inside.

She looked to the couch on the other side of the room. Vivian lay there, tucked beneath Simone’s overcoat, deep asleep-- Round face, a head of loose chocolate curls, creamed-coffee complexion. Simone snapped her eyes from the sight. She set their clothes onto the seat of a chair at the room's entrance and reached for the door. Before leaving, she glanced at the sleeping soldier and forced her eyes away again. She crept back into the hall and slipped into the bathroom.

Simone showered as she strove to live-- quiet, quick, and effective-- but slowed while rinsing, allowing a brief indulgence in the soothing fall of hot water against her shoulders and back. Though the austere existence of the previous day wracked her frame and muscles, her mind needed this secret comfort more than her body. The escape, the plane, the highway, that dinner with the Genius, the car, and now the soldier; she felt close to a breaking point, one that she was engineered not to have. She stopped the water.

While toweling dry, she took another lazy moment to revel in the comfort of cleanliness, standing, breathing in the invisible steam that curled up from the freshened skin of her chest and shoulders. The bathroom's mirror hazed from the moist air and Simone gazed through the fading film, regarding her reflection. The face staring back grew more familiar each day. This one, the third one, looked better than the second-- even, symmetrical, pleasing, no scars-- no hint of the procedure.

Heather had followed a magazine scrap to create it. Her knives and gauges achieved a result far exceeding the standard beauty of that nameless underarm deodorant model-- Noble and beautiful enough to charm anyone, yet generic and unremarkable enough to confound positive identity. A masterpiece.

Simone's eyes returned the flirty gleam of her fog-softened reflection. She smiled and turned to peer back at the mirror from over her shoulder, whispering, "Oh yeah... You’ve got the looks, honey." She untwisted and leaned closer, bracing her palms against the edge of the basin. "...No one can resist that face..." She closed her eyes and pressed her lips to the cool glass, kissing the handsome woman on the other side. "I love you too." She shook her head and recited again, raising her voice a little to achieve the inflection her ears craved, "I love you, Ma'am... Ma'am? I love you--"

A murmur beyond the room snapped Simone to alert. She yanked the towel from her body and wiped the smudge of her lips from the mirror with hasty swirls. A gentle rap of knuckles sounded against the door.

A timid voice asked, "Colonel? Ma'am?"

Simone wrapped the towel around herself and drew the door open. Her eyes met Vivian’s for a moment and darted away. "Yes?"

Vivian’s whisper rasped with recent slumber. "I um... I have to go, Ma'am."

"How did you know I was in here?"

"I heard your voice, Ma'am."

Simone fought to keep her expression consistent, struggling to withhold visible embarrassment. Before she could plan an escape, her voice acted. "You heard me? What I said?"

Vivian’s eyes flitted and wandered as she responded, "I couldn’t make out the words, Ma'am... I just thought I recognized your voice."

Simone held her breath and clamped her lips, preventing any further compromising outbursts. She nodded as she slid past Vivian and into the hallway. Keeping her head up and her eyes straight, she marched into the den and pushed the door to a gentle close behind her. She released the breath, silently cursing her foolishness. "That bitch is driving us crazy," she thought.

She jumped into her clothes and ran her fingers through her still-wet hair, shaping the short black bob into order. Once finished preparing her body for the certainty of another long day, she left the den and dropped into a chair in the still-empty kitchen. She sat, waiting for the stir of the other nine to seep around the corners as the glow outside the window grew into the pallor of early morning.

Within minutes, Barry shuffled in wearing an old T-shirt and boxer shorts, his attention fixed on tapping the buttons of his M-lync’s input cluster. He paused and looked up from his communicator to flash a smile. "Sleep well, Colonel?"

Simone smirked. "I caught a few minutes here and there."

"Good. Is your sister up yet?"

"Which one?"

"Claire the Genius."

Simone shrugged. "Beats me. Probably still snuggled up with her little... friend."

Barry grunted, "Yeah... They're an interesting duo alright." He reached down and pulled a chair from under the table. As he lowered to sit, he asked, "So, how'd I do? Did I pack everything you’ll need?"

"Yeah. Thanks. That was good thinking."

"Every now and then, I like to give the impression that I know what the hell I'm doing-- It's the mark of a good manager, I'm told."

Simone responded with a polite chuckle.

Barry set his M-lync on the table. He bowed his head and clasped his hands, lacing his fingers. His thumbs spread as he started, "Listen, Simone..." He leaned closer and lowered his voice, "I know you have some kind of problem with Vivian..."

She concealed her amusement, locking an ironic laugh behind a smirk.

Barry continued, "Look, I really don't care what it is. Just, maybe, take it easy on her. Okay?"

Simone lifted an eyebrow. "She gives good head?"

He scowled. "No!"

"She doesn't give good head..."

Barry's face tightened with frustration. He shook his head and grumbled, "I wouldn't know... She's twenty years younger than me for god's sake."

"Alright then... Why the whole 'don't hurt her' speech then? What do you care?"

"About fifteen years ago, I was stuck in Cincinnati. So much snow piled up in four hours that they had to close the airport. While creeping along in a shuttle bus from the terminal to a hotel, I became acquainted with a young flight attendant. After downing a few overpriced drinks together in the hotel bar, we headed up to my room and got even better acquainted. The next morning, I hopped on the first flight back to DC. That was it. Never heard from her again... Until last year."

Simone shifted her lips into a crooked grin. "I think you’ve been duped. She’s older than fifteen, Daddy."

"Last year, that same stewardess reached out to me. Her daughter was in trouble. She’d spent her seventeenth birthday in a juvenile prison. Mother Teixeira exhausted all options. She remembered me bragging about how I was connected. She was desperate for someone to help. She figured that I could pull some strings and get her daughter into the service despite the long juvenile record. She hoped that the Army could make Vivian to shape-up."

Simone rolled her eyes. "Very touching. I'm tearing already."

"The father ran off when she was still in diapers. The mother spent more hours at altitude than at home. Her daughter got mixed up in all sorts of trouble-- Arrested five times since she turned ten, joined gangs, expelled from school before she could graduate--"

"So, you want me to give her a break? For being a naughty little bitch?"

"I was hoping you'd see it differently," he leaned closer and continued, "Vivian was a troubled girl. She transformed from that to an absolute model soldier after only four weeks of drill. That's how she got to be the first pick for your job after you betrayed me."

"I didn't betray you."

"You used my name and forged my print."

She raised a finger. "Used, you said it yourself. I used you, I didn't betray you."

"Either way..." he waved his hands in dismissal before continuing, "She belongs to you now. I wanted to make sure that you understand who she is... And what she needs."

Simone's eyes darted from Barry's to the table's top. She swallowed and then looked back, asking, "She is mine, isn't she?"

"Take good care of her. She's a good girl. She's trying to be, at least. Keep her on a short leash. Make sure she stays that course."

"Does she know you nailed her mother?"

Barry shook his head. "She has no idea-- I’m just her Director. Please keep it that way."

"You’ll have to earn that."

Barry sighed, "How?"

"Make me a promise."

He reclined and folded his arms. "I’m listening..."

Simone felt her mouth twist as she considered the best phrasing. "When you’re around her... When you talk to her... Could you... Could you..."

"Yes?"

Simone looked away and tossed a dismissive wave. "Never mind."

"No, really... What were you going to say Colonel?"

She felt her cheeks heating, defying her will to conceal emotion. "It’s nothing. Forget about it... And don’t worry, I won’t tell her about your little search of her mommy’s cavities... She’s already struggling not to vomit."

Barry grinned. "As always, you’re a genuine lady through and through."

--TBC in chapter 18b(2)

Thanks for reading and commenting.


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2005 10:49 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:03 am
Posts: 35
Location: New Jersey
Here's the rest of 18b. Again, I'm not happy with it, but even less pleased with editing it for the 30th time. Here it is...

EIAAOIFs



Chapter 18b(2)


Aki sat next to Claire in the coziness between the back wall and kitchen table, still nibbling at the remnants of the small breakfast she prepared for them. While munching on the last corner of toast, she caught Claire's sly smile in the corner of her vision. She returned the grin, contributing to their simple, wordless conversation, recalling the giggles, steam, and slippery touches of their shower a half-hour ago. She knew it was the reason for the unusual cheer in Claire's quite demeanor. The sudden presence of others dissolved the room's seclusion and the Genius turned away and sipped her coffee, a lingering grin visible high in her cheeks.

Aki looked to the new presence and tensed. Simone had entered with a uniformed girl stepping close behind.

The Spy stopped at the far counter and reached to a bowl of fruit, taking an apple from the assortment. As the other started to follow suit Simone lashed-out, grabbed the girl's hair and yanked backward, twisting the soldier's face toward the ceiling in an instant.

The soldier's jaw loosened; she gasped, her hand retreating from the vicinity of the mixed fruit. While holding the brutal grip on the girl's hair, Simone chided, "I didn't give you permission to eat."

Aki tried to rise, compelled to intervene, but found her left thigh pressed to the seat by a solid grip. She looked to Claire, her eyes questioning. The Genius frowned and shook her head, whispering, "Let it be."

Aki whispered back, "But--"

Claire shook her head again. "Not our business, Aki-san."

Aki turned her attention back to the others, hoping to find an opportunity to stop the cruel spectacle. Simone guided the soldier to the table and released her grip. She issued a soft order, "Sit." The girl obeyed, drawing the chair opposite Claire. Simone headed back to the counter. The soldier sat, head hanging, staring at the surface of the table.

With the tension now somewhat lessened, Aki leaned forward to whisper, "Hi. I'm Aki Nashumara... Um, are you alright?"

The girl did not look up or reply.

"That's Vivian," Claire whispered, completing the introduction.

"It's nice to meet you, Vivian," Aki said.

The soldier's eyes flitted up to contact Aki's before drooping back to stare at the table. Simone returned and seated herself in the empty chair opposite Aki. She snapped a bite from her apple and finished chewing before saying, "Aki, this is Vivian. She's here because she thinks she can help us."

"We met already," Aki replied, forcing a smile. She watched Simone continue her meal next to Vivian's empty place setting and then turned to address the stoic soldier. "Um, Vivian?"

Simone answered, "What is it, honey?"

Aki began to understand the rules. She turned to the Spy and used her most courteous tone. "I'd be happy to make some breakfast for Vivian... If she'd like some."

Simone shook her head. "No food for her. She's sick. We don't want her yacking all over the plane." She leaned back and bit-off another mouthful from the apple.

Aki turned back to Vivian. "Upset tummy?"

The soldier looked to Simone. The Spy nodded, her mouth still busy chewing. Vivian turned to Aki and replied, "Yes, Ms. Nashumara."

Aki observed the pair for a few more moments, trying to gage their moods. Simone finished the apple and tossed bare core onto Claire's empty plate. Aki nudged into the pause, volunteering, "My mom used to make me a special drink when I had an upset stomach..."

Vivian nodded, looking again to the table's top.

"What was it?" Claire asked.

Aki turned her eyes up, digging through her memory for the recipe. "I think it was one part black tea, one part green tea... about a teaspoon of cinnamon and a big pinch of ginger."

"Sounds kinda good," Claire said.

Simone nodded. "Some ancient Japanese herbal remedy?"

Aki shrugged. "Maybe... My mom got it from Family Triangle magazine."

Vivian chuckled for a second and stifled herself. Simone winked to the girl. "You can laugh, soldier. You're at-ease."

Aki asked Vivian, "Would you like me to make you some? It always helped me feel better."

Vivian paused and eventually nodded. "Yes, please, Ms. Nashumara."

"Sarah's probably got everything I'll need." She turned to Claire and asked, "Some of it might be up high though... Will you reach for me?"

"I'd be happy to give you a hand," Simone interjected, rising from her chair.

The sly one's volunteerism caught Aki off-guard. She wanted to protest, but decided not to jeopardize the civility that calmed the room's previously tense atmosphere. "Thanks." She stood and walked to the other side of the room and started to open cupboards, searching for the needed ingredients.

"You said black tea, right?" Simone asked. Aki felt the Spy's body touching her back. Black-cloaked arms angled up at each side of her head, reaching into a high cabinet, trapping her within the Simone's intimidating, beyond-friendly stance. She tensed. She would have ducked and run if not for Claire's assuring presence mere meters away.

She cleared her throat. "Um, I'm going to need more room to--" Simone's body squeezed Aki's stomach against the counter's edge, cutting the sentence short. Aki whispered, pleading, "Please don't..."

Simone's pressure did not yield. She could hear Claire's voice behind her, engaged in conversation with one of the men, obviously too preoccupied to notice Simone's bullying. Aki's mind raced, wondering whether to call-out for help. Simone's force caused no real pain, just subdued terror.

"Found it." Simone said. Her body leaned away at once, ceasing its forceful contact with Aki's. "Green tea too?"

Aki's fingers remained in tense curls. She could not bring herself to answer.

"I'm sorry, Aki... Was I crushing you? I needed to lean in for a second... Tea's on the top shelf."

"Oh," Aki managed to reply.

Next to her left ear, she felt a sudden closeness followed by a whisper, "Did she tell you? Last night?"

Aki asked slowly, "Tell me what?"

"She loves you-- A lot."

She nodded. The discomfort she felt at the Spy's nearness lessened at the declaration and its emphasis. "Did you see any ginger up there?"

"No. Maybe it's over here..." Simone shuffled to the side and swung open the door to another cabinet. Her hand disappeared into the cupboard and after a few glass-bottle clinks it reappeared holding a whole ginger root. "I guess you'll need a grater..."

Aki looked over, watching the Spy go through a sequence of drawers; opening, inspecting, and closing each. She kept her tone even as she said, "Simone... Don't take me the wrong way, but I think we need to, you know... Reach a understanding."

"What do you mean, honey?" Simone asked, rummaging through a drawer stuffed with clanking gadgets. She produced a flat grater and then set it and the root onto the counter in front of Aki.

Aki reached for the items. "You hate me. I don't want you to hate me."

"I never hated you, honey-- We just had a rough start. I needed to be rough so that no one would get suspicious."

"What about when you tried to kill me?"

"I never did any such thing." She added, "I actually had the opportunity at least three times... You'll notice that I never took any of them."

Aki's chest tightened at Simone's threatening admission. She closed her eyes.

"I never would have and never will, cutie-pie. That's all I'm trying to say."

Aki opened her eyes at the touch of Simone's fingers to the back of her hand. She looked straight ahead, keeping her voice even as she asked, "Why should I believe you?"

"You don't have to." Simone's fingers slipped away to rest on the counter space alongside Aki's hand. "You'll probably want to grate that ginger over a plate, no?"

"Um, yes. Thanks."

Simone slid a small plate in front of Aki. "If she loves you, then I love you too. Okay?"

"I don't see that as a guarantee."

"You don't think Claire loves you?"

"She told me she does. I believe her."

"You don't think I love you too?"

"Why should you? Don't you want Claire all to yourself?"

"That's preposterous, honey," Simone chuckled. She reached for one of the tea containers and pried its lid open. "That was all just a smokescreen-- To keep the other's confused. You really think I'm that sick?"

Aki sighed, "I guess not. I'm sorry."

"It's okay." Simone pushed a heavy pinch of leaves into a tea ball and screwed halves of the sphere together. "Look, we have a lot in common. We should be friends, close friends. We're going to be sisters-in-law, you know."

Aki's face grew hot. Through a tight, involuntary smile, she replied, "I don't know about that..."

Simone snapped, "Listen, Aki-- You need allies. I'm offering to be yours."

Aki turned, half-facing face Simone. She squared her eyes and whispered, "What do you mean?"

Simone shook her head. "I won't say anything more. You decide for yourself. My offer's on the table."

"Friendship or alliance?"

"Both. Take one or the other if you must, but please accept at least one."

"And if I don't take either?"

Simone clamped her eyes and leaned forward, pressing her palms to the counter. "Dammit, why is this so fucking difficult?"

"Are you confusing me on purpose?"

Simone remained motionless, her body balanced in a forward cant, her head hanging.

Aki started to feel sorry for Simone's obvious distress. "Are you okay? I mean, are you having a crazy spell? Claire gets those too..."

Simone shook her head. "I'm... Aki, I... I need your help. I'm just not very good at asking you for it."

"My help?"

"She's driving me crazy."

"Claire?"

"Vivian."

Aki raised a brow. "You two are--"

"No! And we never will be. She's not like you and me."

Aki's pity for Simone grew as she grew to understand the familiarity of the Spy's personal misery. "You wish she was, though."

Simone looked away for a moment and then returned her eyes to Aki's. "No. I don't know... I just don't know anymore."

Aki looked over to the table, finding Claire engaged in conversation with Barry Schon and Vivian glancing backward toward Simone's location. She turned back to the Spy and asked, "What can I do to help?"

"I don't know, honey. I really don't."

Aki offered, "I may have been there myself a few times. I think I understand what you're going through."

"Can I talk to you, then... When I need to, can we talk?"

Aki's mouth curved into a little smirk as she considered the needy proposition from the world's deadliest woman. "Sure. Like you said, we're going to be sisters-in-law someday anyway, right?"

"Thank you. I... Um, I... Thanks." Simone gave a small smile and stepped away, shuffling to the other end of the counter as Josh Berman labored into the space between them.

Aki finished the teas, added the spices, and headed to Vivian with the mixture.

# # #

Claire smiled, watching as Aki rose and walked over to the counter with Simone. She hoped the two could learn to get along, and this mutual gesture gave indication that both were willing to try. Barry entered the kitchen, adjusting the knot in his tie with one hand, his m-lync clutched in the other, engaged in conversation over the device. Claire listened, dividing her attention between Aki's activities and Schon's discussion.

Barry stayed silent for a moment and then said, "Of course... I understand. But that's--" He paused to listen for a few moments. "Understood, however, they could be at Berman's house. That's why we're going there now... It makes sense that they're together... Yes. Just... Just tell the buyer that we'll hand over the whole gang in seventy-two hours. They can wait a little longer, right?"

Claire looked to Vivian, hoping to read some reaction form the soldier's face, but found an expressionless stare into nothing. She looked back to Barry.

He continued, "If they're unwilling to wait, then they can find their supposed super-beings elsewhere, right? I mean, come on Dimitri, we're the ones who have them. We set the price, and we call the shots." Barry paused again and then relied, "Okay, fair enough. We will have them. I'll find the missing two. If you can stall the buyer for another couple of days, then we're golden. Alright." Barry clapped the cover of his communicator shut, ending the call. He turned toward the table and smiled to Claire. "Good morning, Ms. Galloway. Nice to see you again."

Claire returned the smile. "I heard that you're still looking for me."

Barry chuckled, "Yes, well, the truth can be too upsetting for certain parties to hear, as you well know."

"Thank you for letting us go. It's a very decent thing you've chosen to do."

Barry looked away for a second and then back to Claire. He scratched his head as he replied, "Please, Ms. Galloway... You should know better than to use the term 'decent' in conjunction with my name."

"I don't see any need to retract my comment."

Barry nodded toward the empty seat where Aki had been. "Mind if I sit here?"

"It's free for the moment."

Barry settled onto the chair and looked across to Simone and Vivian. "'Morning, Viv. Sleep well?"

"I think so, sir." She added, "The Colonel took care of me. I think my fever's gone."

"Glad to hear it. You're a born fighter, Lieutenant."

Vivian asked, "Was that Dimitri, sir? On the 'lync?"

Barry nodded.

"Who's Dimitri?" Claire asked.

Barry turned to Claire and answered, "He's the big boss. He chairs the Committee of Five."

"Who are th--"

Barry interrupted Claire's question. "They make the policies and wallow in the indignity of profit."

"So, they're tyrannical capitalists?"

Barry shook his head. "Worse. They're a collectivist oligarchy suffering through an incurable addiction to cash."

"Sounds like capitalists to me."

Barry shook his head. "They hate capitalism. They'd rather feed off the steady trough of public money than speculate in the free market. They're worse pigs than any capitalist is capable of becoming-- Capitalists will freely admit they're just in it for profit. These idiots delude themselves into thinking that they're saving the world."

Claire smirked. "Anti-capitalists? Sounds kind of un-American."

"Only two of them are from the U.S. The others are from Europe, Africa, and Asia."

"Where are they? I mean, like, are they all over... Even in China or Aztlan?"

"All the Committee members are from different places, but they conduct their business from New York City-- By no small coincidence-- at the former headquarters of the U.N."

"A secret world-government?"

Barry shook his head, "More efficient, less bleeding-heart, all action. They're ruthless. You see, they think they're smarter, know better-- Elitist assholes. That's why they operate above and beyond any recognizable form of democracy. They see themselves as a body of noble, benevolent dictators. They think the population can't be trusted with the task of self-government. In some ways, they're right, but not in-total. After all, a benevolent dictator is still a dictator."

"You think an uniformed and misled public could have any capability of making the right decisions?"

Barry raised a finger. "Why are they misinformed? Who's controlling their collective will with dogmatic falsehoods? It's an illusion. They've built a huge wall around their power. Lies are the stones, ignorance a mortar that grows stronger all the time, solidifying into apathy. It's bigger than you or me, Genius. It's a game that we'd best remain spectators to."

"I've found that just standing by and watching can be pretty dangerous."

"Yeah, it can get a little hairy, but the players still do all the real bleeding and sweating. Spectators can relax and enjoy the beer and hotdogs." Barry grinned.

"But they have to buy it-- Everything they enjoy... It isn't handed to them. And, if you take enough damage in the stands, why not throw-in and join the game?"

Another voice groaned into the debate, "Sounds like you've met your match, Barry. Don't give in, Claire. Press him on the details and his arguments always crumble."

Claire turned to watch Josh lope into the kitchen and toward the counter next to where Aki and Simone stood. After reaching to open a cupboard, he tensed and pressed a palm against his lower back.

Barry smirked. "I slept on the floor, and you're the one with back pain?"

Josh replied, his voice tight, "I think I pulled a muscle helping Sarah and nasty-puss get Cecilia into the tub... Not to mention all the times I had to get her in and out of that van yesterday." He straightened and took a few labored steps toward the table. Vivian stood, offering her chair, extending a steadying hand toward his shoulder. Josh eased himself onto the seat and nodded, visibly thanking the soldier.

Barry said, "I've got hyprocet, man. You want some?"

"No, thanks." Josh shook his head, shifting in the chair, wincing through the motion. "That stuff makes me sick."

Hyprocet-- Just hearing that word started a warm stir through the muscles of Claire's arms and legs. A prescription painkiller; her favorite. She remembered finishing a week's supply in one day the last time she had her hands curled around a bottle. Before she could think, she blurted, "I could use a few."

All heads turned to her after the sudden sentence. Barry and Simone wore similar expressions of curiosity, Aki and Vivian were blank, Josh looked away and sighed. The room's scrutiny multiplied Claire's discomfort. Her voice again acted on its own, fueled by greed for the pleasure-chemical. "My frostbite... It really hurts. A-A few doses of that would really help."

"I dunno..." Barry looked toward where Aki stood, holding her special-recipe tea. "Is it okay with the misses?"

Aki looked to Claire for a moment and then to Barry. She sighed, "She can have two... Just don't give her the bottle."

Claire felt a spark of anger at Aki's addition, but then sank into shame, realizing the prudent truth in her lover's warning. Aki knew her well enough not to trust her-- A notion that carried a mix warmth and hurt.

"Here," Barry said, digging into his blazer to retrieve a plastic bottle. He handed it to Aki as she approached the table. "You can play pharmacist for the Genius today."

Aki gave a wry grin as she clutched the pills. She nudged her way between Vivian and Josh to place a steaming mug in front of the soldier. "Drink the whole thing, but drink it slow."

Vivian nodded. "Thank you."

Barry said, "That HXX started making some funny noises on the way over here. If only there we had an experienced diesel mechanic around here to take a look at it."

Claire turned to see Schon flashing a grin in her direction. "What kind of noises?"

Barry shrugged. "Like a clackity-click-click whenever I let my foot off the gas to slow down. Would you mind checking it out before we go?"

Claire looked first to Aki, then back to Schon. "I guess... I don't have any tools though."

"Josh?" Barry asked.

"I've got a box of odd wrenches on a shelf in the garage. You're welcome to them."

"Whattaya say, Genius?" Barry asked, rising from his seat.

Claire nodded. "Alright. Let me listen to it first. Then we'll see if we need to get wrenches involved."

She followed Schon out the front door to the driveway. He walked to the passenger side of the truck, opened the door and climbed inside. She saw him beckoning to her through the window, so she popped the driver's door open and looked in, questioning.

"Hop in and start her up. You'll hear the problem once she's run for a few minutes."

Claire hoisted herself onto the bench and pulled the door shut. She pushed the button for the engine's starter and cranked the motor into operation. The idle felt smooth; the motor settled into a mellow thrum. She turned to Barry and shrugged. "Sounds healthy to me."

Barry looked straight ahead, gazing through the windshield as he spoke, "It will... There's something else you need to hear." A moment passed before Barry added, "Do you trust me?"

"I guess."

"Then clear you mind. I mean it-- Don't think about what I'm saying, just listen. You have to keep your thoughts on the motor. Listen to the sounds it makes."

"What... I don't--"

"Please. Just listen to the motor. Don't think about what I'm about to say. Just absorb it, okay? Let the words enter your ears, but don't think about the subject I'm talking about."

Claire nodded. She listened to the rhythm of the engine and scanned the instruments on the dashboard.

"Cecilia is screwing with us," Barry started, "She's manipulating everyone. I've witnessed it before. Remember, keep your thoughts clear."

Claire struggled to flush her mind of Barry's words at once. She gazed at the temperature display on the dash, trying to recall whether its value had climbed since her first glance. She spoke, trying to further distance her thoughts from where they threatened to lean, "The engine's still kind of cold."

"That's right. You need to find a way to stop her. I don't think she knows what she's doing."

"But she can't... We all get sick when she talks to us."

"That's what she wants you to think. She can whisper just as well as she can shout, Claire. I've heard it. Now focus on the goddamn motor."

"If you think that's the problem, then I don't know if I can fix it. I don't even know where to begin."

"You're going to fix it, Genius. I know you'll find a way. I may be the only one who notices that tapping sound, but that doesn't mean the whole thing won't break down-- Soon."

"But what should I do? What um, tools can I use?"

"Have you ever tried putting an ear to the hood? Just listening? Maybe you'll find the solution by observation."

"This is stupid. She can hear everything we're think--"

"Sure, maybe it's a crank pin..." Barry blared, "Or maybe not... She's distracted right now. Osterholm and Sarah are giving her a bath. She's distracted... but not totally."

"How did you learn so much about the motor?"

"Some of my mechanics back at the Lake clued me in. They have all sorts of diagnostic tools for this particular brand. None of them understand much about it, but they made some interesting observations."

"I think I have an idea. I think I know what tools I need."

"Great. We're going to scram in about an hour. Once we get to Fairchild, you'll have a whole cross-country flight to work on the problem."

# # #

Aki rose from the sofa as she heard Claire and Schon come through the front door. She looked to Claire as they entered the living room. "What's wrong with the truck?"

"Nothing the Genius can't fix," Barry said, grinning. "I'm going to start cracking the whip, get everyone moving." He stepped away and into the kitchen.

Aki stepped closer to Claire to be snatched into a hug. She leaned into the embrace and smiled at the firm kiss to the top of her head.

"Do you still have that Hyprocet?"

Aki leaned away and nodded, releasing a sigh.

"Could I have a few? The skin on my hands and feet--"

"Okay already. You can have your pills, nushi."

"Are you pissed at me? Because I have frostbite?"

Aki shook her head. "No. I just... I don't like it when you get fucked-up. It kinda scares me." She wriggled her right hand into her jeans pocket and pulled the vial of pills free. "I guess I'm a little insulted... That you think you need this. Even with... Nevermind." She twisted the cap from the bottle and reached to take Claire's left hand in her right. She carefully shook three of the green tablets from the bottle's mouth onto the enflamed skin of Claire's upturned palm. "I'm giving you one extra." She brushed her thumb against the side of Claire's hand and added, "Because you're mine."

Claire leaned down and placed a kiss on Aki's forehead. "Thanks, cutie-chan." She took a step back and grinned. She patted her left thigh, asking, "You know what this is?"

Aki shook her head.

"It might not look like it now, and you probably can't read it, but as soon as we get in the truck, it'll be a lap with your name on it."

Aki felt a grin lifting the corners of her mouth. She reached for Claire's hand and held the pill bottle close to it once more. "Follow that with a kiss and you've charmed your way to number four."

Claire leaned down and pressed an avid kiss onto Aki's lips before lifting away. She shook her head. "Three's enough... You'd better get your stuff together. We're leaving soon I'm going to find something to wash these down with."

Aki's smile faded as she watched her love scurry past the kitchen's entrance and around the corner, into the hallway. Her heart sank at the visible confirmation that Claire had no intention of taking the pills with anything soft.


--TBC in chapter 18c

Thanks again for reading and commenting.


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2005 11:10 am 
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23. Volumey Text
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Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 11:18 am
Posts: 3714
Location: Chesterfield
As always that was a great update :)

It seemed to focus mainly on Simone, and I have to say she is one twisted sister, She seemed to want to ask Aki for adivce on how to woo Vivian. I think my advice would be to stop abusing her.

It makes me wonder what her childhood was like. I have this feeling it was a pretty tough one, with their mother abusing her in order to toughen her up. It's explain why she finds it so hard to show affection and resorts to abuse.

Vivian does seem to be overly submissive in all her relationships. Certainly she seems to thrive on being dominated. Which makes me wonder if a relationship between them could work. It's probably result in them fixing the holes in each others psyches, or it'll end in a case of murder suicide,

The stuff about the world leaders was interesting. Presumably these are people who would want to get their hands on the lonevity syrum,


Then there's the revelation at the end. Just what is cecilia up to and how is Claire going to stop her?

_________________
02/28/2007


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2005 2:45 pm 
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13. Big Knowledge Woman

Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 3:08 pm
Posts: 1827
Location: Space, the final frontier
Yep, you've done it....you've now supplanted Satan as ruler of Hell. You've gone and left me two short updates and left me ranting at the monitor, scaring my secretary into fits. (I know it's a rough draft but I found a few little errors...just spelling stuff)

There IS such a thing as overediting. I have that problem sometimes. IMHO there's editing and there's editing to the point where the story gets bled out in the wash. You don't want it to be too squeaky clean because often good details, imagery and plot can be lost in the need to be anal. But that's just my observation. Honestly? I don't know what you're upset about. Granted, things are moving a little more fast now but I'm still enjoying it. Anshin shi, you're doing an excellent job as always.

(cutie-chan, eh? Had me laughing....one second it's the more serious -san honorific, then next it's the way more familiar -chan....can't wait until you say Aki-kun and then she'll be ready to have the ring on her finger :eyebrow )


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2005 5:08 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:03 am
Posts: 35
Location: New Jersey
Justin--

Thanks for the feedback. Yeah, there’s a lot of Simone in this part... The first two scenes of the chapter (like six months ago, I know :( ) are very Claire-centric, so I wanted to add a touch of balance and also explore the realization of another -- albeit unusual -- relationship. I planned on it serving as a contrast of sorts, but much more as a true thread in the emotional development of the Vivian and Simone.

Does Simone want to woo Viv? Not really. She has no expectation of a ‘conventional’ romantic relationship with her. Physical romance is a small, yet important, part of any coupling-- The strongest bonds tend to go much deeper, their psychological roots often seated in complimentary sets of needs. Codependency at worst. Harmonious friendship at best. Besides, Simone knows she can get her ‘action’ elsewhere if she feels the urge. We’ll have to see how this plays-out. I am trying to underscore the fact that there’s a trust building between the two-- A trust that exceeds a simple commander/soldier relationship.

Like Barry told Simone, Vivian thrives under strict control. Hopefully Simone will heed that and keep her from stepping out of line... Or will she allow too much slack on the leash, given her troubled emotional state? Hmmm... Either way, I hope it makes for a good read.

Kieli--

Sorry to madden you. I’m happy, though, that it seemed short. I thought it dragged.

The real wrinkle is that I LOVE writing dialogue, so much that I create entire chapters of the stuff and ignore things like description, mood, setting, and pace in the narrative. It’s my love of conversation that leads to overzealous editing. I often feel self-indulgent with big blocks of conversation and try to add a bit of balance out of guilt. Probably misplaced guilt, but there is some validity to it-- I need to develop my descriptive and time-compression skills much more, and all of this dialogue allows me to skimp on both.

Yes, Claire’s pet name for Aki has transformed. You gave me the idea a while ago, and it seemed to fit with the fact that their physical relationship has been actualized. Plus, the old one was getting a bit stale :)

All--

More soon. Really. Much sooner than before. Thanks for your continued patience and support.

-SQ


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2005 8:23 am 
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11. Fish in the Bowl
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Posts: 1333
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I've recently found and devoured this great story. Your characters are so richly developed, that I can visualize every scene. THe pace is so quick and the story spans such distance that I had to catch my breath. Very difficult to do with the laptop attached so tightly. My family had to pry me away.

I adore Simone. She says what she means and takes no shit. What a wonderfully chilling character. She's so icy at times that I'm glad I'll never meet her on the street. The kitchen scene, while making the tea, was so damn intense. Brilliant writing!

As far as your comment about dialogue, I tend to like more talk and less floral pattern description. I think you write a good balance of both. Again, this is my personal opinion. If it helps, I couldn't stop reading and as I neared the final update I hoped it would be further along. Ah well, I shall patiently await your new updates, like the rest of the addicted.

_________________
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"A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a joke or worried to death by a frown on the right person's brow." C. Brower


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2005 5:28 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:03 am
Posts: 35
Location: New Jersey
Urn of Osiris--

Thanks for your kind, enthusiastic words. There’s nothing more motivating than gaining another fan (except a publishing deal, I suppose.) :)

I’m glad that you like Simone, that you can see her strengths and respect her deadly side. I’m trying not to make her too likeable, but I think I’m falling a bit short with that. I won’t have her attempt to rape Buffy, like the writers of a certain TV show did when their villainous vampire became too liked by the viewers.

Instead, I’m going to let her tell me where she wants to go and see what happens. She’s been handling herself well up until now. We’re starting to see cracks in her armor. I’m as curious as anyone where she’ll take things from here. She isn’t going to ‘turn’ on anyone though. That’s not really her style. She may use a few people, though.

Everyone plays a part in the ending, but Claire is going to do most of what leads to the climax. She is the leader after all. But we’ve seen Simone come to her rescue before... Maybe they’ll have to team-up again, like they did in their escape from the Lake.

Thanks again for your praise and appreciation. I hope to deliver some more story very soon.

-SQ


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