The gown was exquisite, an artistic creation made specifically to accentuate Sabralia’s best features. She’d never looked lovelier in all her life. The finest Tanur lace, in shades of red, blue, and green, brought out the blue of her eyes and contrasted nicely with her long, dark brown hair. A low-cut neckline revealed deep cleavage, thanks to the ingenious cylifters in the gown’s bodice. Alfyt the Harem master was a genius at knowing what made a woman look alluring.
Sabralia swallowed hard and tried to look pleased. Alfyt was observant and she didn’t want him to notice anything odd about her behavior. Like how much she hated dressing in a translucent gown for the pleasure of the Emperor’s military commanders.
“Turn around,” Alfyt ordered, and she spun. The lacy gown floated, thanks to the cleverly concealed cylifters in the skirt.
“Yes. I think the sapphire and ruby jewelry will do.” Alfyt looked at her with narrowed eyes and then punched sensors on his arm com. “Qy, bring lot one hundred and seventy-four.”
Qy, her personal cyborg, fetched the jewelry from the Emperor’s vault. Bracelets, anklets, finger and toe rings of the most delicate workmanship were fitted onto her.
“I don’t like the necklace,” Alfyt said. “Qy, I want you to fix her hair in an upsweep, and weave the necklace through the hair so the collar and pendant drop to her forehead.” He held the necklace to her hair to demonstrate. “Yes, that will bring out her eyes and leave her cleavage unadorned. Really, it needs no adornment. And apply jeweled lashes, the permanent type so she won’t have to reapply them. There won’t be much time for your servant to repair your makeup during the feast days,” Alfyt explained. “They will have many duties. You’ll have to attend to it yourself.”
Sabralia left the fitting. She sighed and paused at the doorway of the main hall to see if she could make a swift path through the Common Harem. The main hall consisted of one huge room with a high-vaulted ceiling, all in gleaming pink-veined white stone. It was filled with furniture groupings, pools, eating areas, dance and exercise areas. The community bedrooms were visible through high-arched doorways off the main hall. Cyborgs and cleaning droids moved silently around, cleaning and caring for clothing and other domestic chores. From what she could see most of the harem girls were still asleep. Good. A few women who were awake sat on the terrace overlooking the pleasure garden with its pools and lounge chairs, being waited on by staff cyborgs. Laughter and splashing floated through the high-arched doorways and windows, so there were a few in the pool. Sabralia doubted they had woken early and decided to swim. They had probably been up all night making use of the intoxicants the Main Harem was allowed to use.
Sabralia knew they envied her. She had her own suite of rooms, her own beautiful cyborg, and she was actually married to Sirn. Most of the Common Harem came from pleasure centers where they had been sex workers or dancers who caught the Emperor’s eye, and they wanted a marriage contract.
Why they would want to be contracted for life to Sirn, Sabralia wasn’t certain. She was a wife because it pleased his vanity to have the hereditary Queen of Coloun in his harem, and the treaty which involved her marriage was favorable to the people of Coloun. In uncertain times of war, her people had welcomed the offer from Sirn. She herself had been just a girl, barely sixteen, and she was given no choice in the matter.
Head high, eyes straight ahead on the staircase that led to her own rooms, Sabralia entered the main hall and walked swiftly to her destination.
“Hey. You. Queennie. When you going to share that cyborg with us? We could teach him a few tricks.”
Sabralia didn’t bother to answer. If she did, the taunting would get worse and she did not want a scene that would require the summoning of the harem cyborgs to escort her to her rooms.
As she mounted the stairs she heard the murmurs and giggles and sighed. They, at least, had friends to talk to and all sorts of games and amusements, while she had her suite of rooms and her cyborg. The other wives lived in a separate residence, but since Sirn had little use for her she’d been given rooms in the Main Harem. She wasn’t one of the wives he ever summoned to please him, and she was tucked away where there would be the least fuss.
Later in her rooms on the third floor, Sabralia sat in the shade of her balcony and let the familiar sight of the aqua clear ocean soothe her. The whole idea of this upcoming banquet upset her to the point where she felt physically ill. She, Sabralia, former Queen of Coloun, legal wife to Emperor Sirn, was to be nothing more than a pleasure girl for Sirn’s Commanders. It was wrong, a disgrace—and yet she had no way to refuse. Sirn’s words were law here on the planet he called Sirn’s Jewel. If she refused, who knew what could happen? He could cancel the trade agreement with her homeworld, turn it into a slave world, starve her people by demanding all the agricultural products Coloun could produce. He could execute her, or cast her out on the glidepath of some cesspool of a spaceport.
“Mistress, you have a message.” Qy handed her the small com. She held it for a moment, not wanting to read the message from Alfyt. “It is a reminder about the Feast.”
With a soft sigh she played the message.
“The Emperor’s Harem will arrive in their feasting garb an hour before the festivities, to be inspected by Alfyt before the Emperor arrives with his guests. Instruct your cyborgs to decorate your hair and skin for a most formal event.” She shivered, feeling suddenly cold, and squeezed her eyes shut. Sirn cared not at all about his harem; they were just tools for his use.
“Does something trouble you, Mistress?”
She glanced at Qy. All the cyborgs were spies; it was built into their programming. They recorded and uploaded all harem conversations during their nightly maintenance, and a sophisticated program checked all contents for signs of trouble, especially for disloyalty to the Emperor. Disciplinary actions followed.
“No. I am just thinking about how I want my hair arranged for the feast.”
“I will pull the front of your hair high and wind into decorative curls, to give you some height, and we can leave long curls down the back. I will entwine the necklace through the curls.”
“Yes. It is to be most formal.”
Qy was exceptional at his job of decorating Sabralia so she looked her best, as were all of the cyborgs of the Harem. Her coloring was a rather duller copy of his own, she thought, observing him move about her quarters doing his chores. Where his hair was blue-black, hers was dark brown; where his eyes were pale sky blue, hers were a muddy blue gray. His skin was naturally bronze, hers very pale with a tracery of blue veins.
She was round and sturdy, with big eyes, big lips, big breasts and hips. There was nothing delicate or elegant about her, but Qy would give her the illusion of beauty. She had been plump all her life, which was not at all the fashion here in the Harem full of lithe dancers, and the inactivity in her life made her curves even fuller. So she was diligent about getting some exercise every day.
Her gown arrived in triplicate, so she could wear a fresh gown each day of the feast and be easily recognized by the Commanders who fancied her. Too bad the beauty was all for the enjoyment of men who would just use her. Rape her.
Sabralia couldn’t breathe. She had to get outside. “Come, let us walk by the sea. I would like to splash a little,” she said when Qy finished with her raiment. “It is a lovely day.” She made her voice deliberately cheerful. If she didn’t get outside for a while she was afraid she would break down into tears, and that would be reported to Alfyt.
Down by the water she could think—think of a way to avoid being raped by the Emperor’s finest. And if she cried a few tears, the ocean water would disguise it. She slipped into a simple swim tunic and thin leggings and Qy accompanied her down her private stairs to the sandy beach.
The palace was on a hill overlooking a wide bay. Long stretches of white sand contrasted with the pristine blue green waters of the sea. This was a beautiful world, with a warm climate and abundant forests and meadows. It would be an ideal agricultural world, but Sirn had not opened it to colonists, and none of the native life forms were sentient. Sirn only used it for military installations and his palace. Sirn held hunting parties now and then, and the dangerous beasts had been removed from the palace and spaceport area. The women of the Common Harem did not have access to this section of beach because it stretched close to the spaceport, and Sirn did not want them distracting his men. But she had been deemed not a security risk to the spaceport. She’d been married to Sirn since her teen years and had no military or spacecraft education, nor was she flirtatious as far as their records indicated.
A wonderful, scary idea came to her as she floated, letting a gentle wave glide her to shore. The beach! That was the answer!
Alfyt and the cyborgs would be tremendously busy during the feast. She would tell Qy to prepare a luxurious pallet, with food and drink, at her special place on the beach, because one of the Commanders wanted to be entertained outdoors, by the sea. Later she would lie and tell Qy her man had visited while Qy was at his nightly maintenance—her mind raced with the plan. She would hide on the beach until the feast ended and the Commanders left.
Leaving the water, Sabralia took off down the beach thinking of a small cove near the forest, well out of sight of the palace. The place had a small area of grass fronting the woods, which were just a short upward trail above the beach. She’d had picnics here before, enjoying the view of the beach. Wildflowers grew year round in the meadow and the floral scents mingled with the fresh breezes from the sea, making it even more pleasant. The forest behind it stretched a long way, all the way to Sirn’s Spaceport.
“I love this spot, Qy,” she said when they reached it. “It is my favorite little cove, with the trees. Let us come here for lunch tomorrow.”
She knew Qy would recall the location at any time she mentioned her favorite cove. Cyborgs were good that way.
The morning of the feast, Sabralia woke in Qy’s arms. She had trained Qy to hold her from the time he returned to her room from his nightly maintenance, until she woke. He was a machine, of course, but his body was a man’s, fit and smooth skinned. She enjoyed the sensation of his warm smooth flesh next to her every night. The touching normally helped a little, with the loneliness. But this morning there was no comfort in his arms. Tonight was the feast.
Qy gave her an engaging smile. When he smiled like that he looked so warm and human. His eyes seemed to glow with sky blue light. With his black curls tousled and covering most of the plate that curved over one temple and ear, Sabralia could almost forget he was a cyborg. She suspected that the human body Qy had been fashioned from had been a genetically engineered human, a Puregen. Emperor Sirn had been pushing his invasion into the Puregen Systems for years, anxious to gain their wealth and technology. Most of the cyborgs at the palace seemed to come from that stock. Under their appliances, they were all startlingly handsome.
“Good morning, my love,” he said in his rich, warm tone. “Would you like me to feed you your breakfast? Or would you like to bathe first?”
Her stomach was a tight knot of pain. “I am not hungry yet. I would like to bathe.”
“Would you like me to bathe with you?”
Sabralia hesitated for just a moment. Qy was trained to either bathe her quickly and efficiently, or to get into the bathing pool with her. Baths with him in the pool were far more intimate. Sabralia’s face turned hot. She wanted the intimate bath, wanted to feel his hard body naked against hers…and maybe it would help calm her down about the Feast. Or perhaps it would be her last pleasurable moment for a long time.
Most of the harem cyborgs were used for sex. Sabralia thought it was disrespectful to the men they had once been, before their brains had been replaced by processors. Sometimes though, she opted for a long, slow bath, where QY would wash every inch of her skin.
“Bathe with me, Qy.”
“Yes, Mistress.” Without hesitation, he slid off his wrap shirt and loose trousers, revealing his golden, muscular body, lithe and perfect. Broad of shoulder, slim of hip, he only had cyborg hardware on his forearms, one thigh, and just above one side, stretching back to his spine. If she put her arms around him just right she could feel flesh, nothing but smooth flesh, covering taut muscle. His sex was surrounded by a riot of shiny black curls, and there was a small sprinkling of soft black hair drawing a line up his torso, and a light growth of hair on his chest. She could have his hair removed, of course, but she liked the contrast of black hair and golden skin. She liked how the silky hair on his chest felt under her fingers or against her cheek when she snuggled him at night. His penis was long and flaccid. He did not get aroused like a human man. It was something the Harem girls had to manipulate and teach their bots.
Qy would breathtaking like that, it was tempting to have him for sexual pleasures, but the cyborg had to be taught every move, just like they had to be taught everything else. The idea of teaching Qy how to have sex, how to pleasure her that intimately, was daunting. It had taken a long time to teach him to use caressing strokes when he bathed her, and his deep kisses had only recently become less mechanical.
Plus Sabralia new how vulnerable she was from loneliness. What if she developed stronger feelings for her servant, only to have him replaced by another? Often the servants were evaluated and moved to military installations to perform more complex tasks. Someday they would take Qy, and she didn’t need to add to her grief.
Qy gently disrobed her and helped her into the steaming pool, scented with sweet Bellflowers from her homeworld. He slid in beside her and they sank into the warm water. She sat between his open legs. His large hands slid gently up her arms and she shivered with anticipation. This morning she would…indulge. She didn’t, not very often, because her emotions for Qy seemed overwhelming then, and he was only a cyborg. He could never be a true lover. His brain no longer functioned like a human’s; he had no personality or thoughts. As a contract wife in the harem, one that didn’t hold Emperor Sirn’s affections, she was not popular, nor was she ever called to the Emperor’s bed. The women of the harem…few could be trusted. So many curried favor and attention, hoping their name would get back to the Emperor, or even to Alfyt, the harem Master. She couldn’t trust them, so Sabralia kept to herself, her only constant companion Qy. But she knew it would be wrong and emotionally dangerous to let her emotions grow for a cyborg.
With his hands massaging her shoulders she could pretend he was more than a cyborg, for a short while, and forget about the upcoming feast. Who knew what would happen at the feast. Rape. She shivered despite the hot water.
“I would like a full massage this morning.”
“Wonderful. I love to touch you everywhere.” He replied with the phrase she taught him. His hands soon left her shoulders and rubbed down to her lower back, pressing and circling with strong fingers. His touch seemed to go deep inside her body, almost removing the unpleasant tightness within her.
He cleaned her breasts with slick fragrant cleanser. She had never taught him to play with her nipples, but his massaging touch brushed them constantly, sending tingles of pleasure through her body. She felt the deep tension melt way.
“It is time for you to lean on the side, Sabralia.” She kneeled, resting her head on her arms on the side of the pool. Qy’s hand slid to her buttocks, squeezing and stroking in a deep massage, and she melted in bliss. Heat flooded through her and she could feel herself get wet. His hands slid down her legs, massaging her thighs, her calves. He spent much time on her feet, rubbing each toe in a circular motion. Then he turned her around and massaged up the front of her legs.
“The nozzle now? Or kissing?” His voice was low, seductive, like she had taught him.
Qy was not the best of kissers, not as she remembered kissing boys in her youth. His movements were mechanical, and she found she enjoyed the kissing more if she was already aroused. Knowing that kissing her did not give him pleasure or arousal took much of the pleasure away for her.
They kissed for short while, then she murmured, “The nozzle.”
“Yes.” He slid a water nozzle between her legs. She wrapped her arms about his neck and they kissed, while he applied the stream of water to her clit. She came with a shudder, and then buried her face in his neck, crying for things she couldn’t have, for the life she was trapped in.
“I will wash your hair now, Mistress.” Qy proceeded to cleanse and rinse her with clear water, while she let tears stream down her face. She never felt lonelier than after she came in the arms of her cyborg. He wasn’t really there with her, had no ability for emotional communion…her life was empty, unless she pretended.
But the tension was gone, for a moment. Did she really dare to hide on the beach?
She ate a small breakfast, but didn’t feel like doing anything. Qy sat with her on the divan on the balcony overlooking the sea, and they watched the waves. She closed her eyes after a while, though sleeping was no real solution.