As the second sun goes down, Riz wonders if he’s done the right thing.
This is closer to disaster as he’s ever flown, far too late to start wishing the journey had never been undertaken. With Pleasure Planet Pixel in darkness, there is less than a rotation before the Game he’s attending begins, yet Desi is nowhere to be seen. Next time, if this all goes to plan, they’ll not need to take separate transports and can travel as an item.
That word has a comforting ring.
‘Oh, you weren’t lying, you did miss us: we are truly touched!’
Their hand on his arm sends every hair erect, frisson of desire inevitable and inescapable. Turning, they are still in the complimentary spacesuit, not bothering to change after arrival. Iridescent pearl skin shimmers: brilliant light from the nebula above, ethereal beauty that transcends this solar system plus thousands of others. His devil stands, head slightly tipped, reading every thought without care or permission. In their imagination they’re already entwined in the luxury hotel bed, his fears being sucked from a tired and tense body: the Earthman begins to relax.
Riz knows this last year of stress was worth every moment: the prize is already in sight.
‘You were the one who said our lives were getting predictable, so we did consider making you wait, but thanks to the Slingshot mechanical failure that will be the last transport of the day. We could have taken layover until the morning, but there’s too much to do.’
‘I’m sorry we fought at the Terminal. I… sometimes it’s easy to forget how much you can hear in my head.’
‘You have nothing to worry about, Lover Boy. The day somebody else attracts that primate brain, then we’re the one in trouble. Until then, it’s our job to make sure that your pleasure centres are never left wanting. We are VERY good at that task, and intend to only improve over time.’
They kiss him, mouth tart, alcohol and need both all too obvious. The relationship’s odd-fitting, even now: sometimes motivation gets misplaced in a sea of pheromones and sloth. However, his liberation is close: hatched over the NeuralNet, virtual chat room for those with debts that conventional employment would never pay off. The human who loved being fucked by everybody but eventually was screwed by his own naivety, and the Centuran androgyne with a flair for the overly theatric.
If it all worked out tomorrow, both of them would finally be free.
‘Do you believe in fate?’
They’ve woken tangled together but instead of pre-dawn intercourse it is discussion. Desi will know he has nerves that need to be assuaged: they wrap both mind and body around him, cocoon of reassurance, allowing Riz to awaken far better than would happen with stimulants. The question is taking time for them to process, and only now does he grasp why –
‘You don’t know what I’m talking about, do you?’
‘Oh, we grasp the human concept, don’t worry. We have an equivalent, we were just trying to work out a visual metaphor to explain.’
Centuran culture is not about words: as a race of telepaths, verbal language is largely redundant. Instead comprehension is based around imagery, often complex fractal patterns that have evolved directly from the very stuff of the Universe itself. The image Desi places in Riz’s brain however is very human: they’re at the last casino visited, win at which removed all but 5% of their joint financial debt. He stands and throws two dice, but then catches both before they hit the table.
Fate is the development of events outside a person’s control, regarded as predetermined by a supernatural power. You throw the dice, and it is fate that decides the numbers. For us, fate is that which cannot be affected by our own minds. We can control the dice in flight and precisely dictate the number that falls, but are unable to truly influence the person throwing.
Their voice in his mind is musical, soothing cadences that make their kiss far more potent than any given by his own kind. That’s what attracted him to Desi, he could indulge an almost constant need for stimulation with a being who had evolved simply for that purpose. Their race didn’t procreate in the same messy fashion as bipedal humans, so there was no need to concern himself with the physical and once that had happened… sensation stopped just being about release, biological offering.
Orgasm takes place in a different way: no body cavities, contraception irrelevant. His body and brain are warped, sensation shuddering from fingertips to follicles. The most intense and beautiful experience that Riz has ever felt, on demand, and which never gets old. There’s a small part of his brain that knows they should be at the Game venue, working out the best place for him to sit so they can still covertly communicate, but today he just lets them engulf his primal brain completely.
The sensation is so great, he passes out with the pleasure.
The water is incredibly cold: Riz is immediately awake.
It takes a second to realise an ice bucket was upended over him, he’s naked and tied to a chair, and that Desi is being restrained by a couple of Law Enforcement automatons. Only two things could have caused this sudden downturn in circumstance: random attack or deliberate action. Causality is a subject Riz knows a lot about: studying Freakonomics at NYSU for four years, working at Church built for the worship of Saints Levitt and Dubner. There wasn’t an outcome that couldn’t be tied to another if you were smart enough to play the algorithms…
This Game was one of many that the WolfIsi Group had manipulated for the last decade, without fail. By coming here, he’d guaranteed that his loan company would notice, and do what always happened in situations where they thought a client was about to escape control. As contract was signed not in blood but DNA, his body remained their property until such times as all existing monetary debts were paid in full: before then they could invoke repossession of that material at any time. He had anticipated them striking at the venue, but as they haven’t, that’s not a problem.
He’d also like to be more clothed for this, but no matter.
The WI officer’s uniform is starched to within an inch of rigidity, yet looks like it could disintegrate at any moment, straining across her huge, genetically-enhanced biceps. The woman’s face regards him not with pity but in a way that could almost be respect: the rules of this engagement might yet be about to change. Maybe they’re not here because of potential collateral loss; perhaps someone finally saw through this deception.
‘Mr Monteverdi, I must say it has been some years since we had a client come this close to completing their payments on time. You are to be congratulated on your industry.’
‘Thank you, I took it upon myself as a personal challenge to pay off this loan on time and to the penny.’
‘Which you will do by simply winning a round of the Game tomorrow, which my superiors feel sure you’ll be more than capable of achieving. That however would mean we’re unable to maintain you as collateral, and under the circumstances this will cause us an issue, especially with the amount of money you seem capable of regularly providing.’
Riz had read the old case files on Fully Paid Loans until he could recite them from memory: in three hundred years, only a handful of clients had escaped death by invoking the clause he would now be forced to use. It would all hinge on the Officer not grasping the significance of Desi, something that now needed to be confirmed…
On cue, comes invasion of his mind: their hands cover his eyes, slim fingers caress earlobes. No-one else is aware of the Centauran’s real identity.
‘Under agreement terms I invoke the Double or Nothing clause in my contract. Details of intention to do so are posted in three public forums plus via time-delayed message on SocalTwetwerks.’
The Officer blinks at Riz, clear confusion etched on hardening features, before headset implant prompts understanding. Robot spiders will be crawling the Solar Internet, confirming that the naked bloke in the chair just completely changed the game. He’s forced WolfIsi to allow him a chance to become debt free with one random action, at the discretion of the Officer. They have fifteen Earth minutes to decide what it will be: in the previous cases coin tosses (which were believed to be weighted to the company’s favour) had decided the outcome, but since all forms of physical currencies became redundant at the end of the century and his contract hadn’t been updated to reflect this due to clerical oversight…
Desi is a mask: beautifully smooth skin, pert yet full, heavy breasts that defied gravity, surgically added slit at her groin to make sure no-one ever checked the DNA details too carefully. It was amazing the number of people who didn’t: she just looked like a human with a skin job. That’s what the desk clerk had her registered as, which might yet be useful, depending on the intelligence of the Officer. According to the Citizens Advice Worldnet, races with a human equivalent IQ of 70 or lower made the best Enforcement teams, being able to understand instructions yet not argue with contentious interpretation…
Riz is confident: all bases are covered, regardless of what happens next. He’s about to gamble the loan he took for gender reassignment to completion, and win.
‘They said you might do this. My boss read your file really well. Thanks to you, there’ll be a new amendment to the standard proposal in the New Year. You should be proud you found a loophole that we’re now going to close.’
Respect turns inevitably to condescension: the Officer pulls from her pocket a small recording unit. If it’s on record, they have to play fair. WolfIsi Legal will now be well aware that if they try and bury him, this part of the Universe will know about the fatality very fast, thanks to many and various messages sent to a lot of very important and high profile media outlets.
Riz made sure nothing was left to chance.
‘Thanks to Clause 27b/6 in your contract, we have the right to substitute an alternative form of random action for the Double or Nothing gamble.’
Riz loved games from an early age: in a world where everybody could work out the odds, he’d taken gambling a stage further. That’s why Desi had been sought out, means by which to take probability and bend it to his own ends. The biggest trick was to lose and make it look as if it wasn’t cheating, by warping the Universe itself to his ends.
‘You have to predict the number on these two dice. That’s our offer. I’m waiting.’
Large, long table by the Hotel room door is picked up, almost dropped in front of Riz’s restrained torso. He has fifteen minutes to accept this offer or lose the Double or Nothing get-out completely. In his head, possibilities land: dice will be remotely controlled by one of the Law Enforcement units, so they fall exactly as dictated. The units will have been picked so they cannot be hacked or interfered with. Just like coins before, belief is that any final result completely controlled by the Company is intractable.
Desi is smiling in his head. Not a small and quet but loud and brilliant, promise of so much once this debt is finally paid. They love the simian, unconditionally, because no other human mind they have encountered was so good at predicting all the outcomes, and playing to win.
‘Six. You’re going to roll a six.’
As the dice are thrown from the giant woman’s hand, Riz decides he quite likes being tied to chairs.