Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Adult, #Dragon, #Erotic Romance, #Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Space Opera
“We have an understanding.”
He closed the distance between them, and her toes curled when his lips touched hers. His armour was warm when she pressed her palm against it, and all of the small touches of the previous ten days washed through her in remembrance. His hands had been all over her at one time or another.
The only place he touched her was her lips, but her body came alive under that tiny contact.
Her family would not approve, but her family was not here and this was precisely the sort of thing that she had left home to experience. Affection without restraint and no disapproving eyes.
A knock at the door pulled them apart.
Jill felt heat in her face and a distinct pulse in her lips. “I think that Laliette is here.”
He inclined his head. “I believe you are correct.”
He stepped back and turned, leaving plenty of space for his wings. She supposed that appendages like that would create a number of physical habits to move around in a world where everyone else could turn on the spot and not knock anyone down.
Laliette came in and Jill smiled. “Welcome to our new home. Well, the old home that the workers had their way with. The walls have been moved and blown out. I think. All I know is we have four times the space for twice as many people.”
Laliette chuckled. “Babies take up a lot of room. They rarely stay where they are put once they start moving.”
The baby in question shoved her arms into the air and waved them around, making tiny mewing sounds.
“Well, the gang is all here, so let’s have dinner at the new dining table and Rimash can explain my schedule. I still haven’t figured it out.”
Laliette moved beside Jill and helped her assemble a selection of beverages on a tray.
“You have a very well-equipped dispenser.” Laliette commented.
“It is at your disposal, as is everything but my room and Rimash’s room. Just as I will never enter your space without your authorization.” Jill smiled.
“That is…that is very generous.”
Laliette looked around at the wide living space, the huge windows that overlooked the wide columns of the Great Archive itself and the maze of buildings, colleges and study halls that stretched as far as the eye could see.
It was a new view and a great view. Jill hadn’t believed the change that had taken place in her quarters, but her rooms now adjoined Rimash’s on one side and the baby’s room on the other. On the other side of the baby’s room was the nanny’s quarters. They each had wide windows, and it was that one clue that identified their location as the top of a tower.
Since Rimash led her to and from her quarters, she was pretty sure that this wasn’t just renovated, but rather a completely new level. He wasn’t mentioning it, so she would ask him later.
She carried the tray over to the table while Laliette helped Rimash with the meals.
Laliette ate from the pale yellow and grey colour coding in the menus. It was something to keep track of. When Imjay started eating, it would be important to make sure that Jill and Rimash had themselves coded for her nutritional needs. That was something that Jill had learned during basic briefing, and it was her first download. Feeding yourself in an alien environment was always a bit of a chore, but the Alliance and the Imperium had come up with a colour-coding system for their automated dispensers. It kept folks from getting indigestible or toxic items in their meal.
As they settled around the table with Imjay in her bassinet next to them, Jill took a mental snapshot of her new family. It was very odd, and her parents would not approve, but it felt right. They loved her, but while they spoke frequently about pride in their homeland, they wanted to fall back on familiar tradition. It made it an odd place to be as their child. Jill wanted more for Imjay. She wanted traditions that grew around the baby, not ones that smothered her.
Rimash looked at her with a slight smile on his lips. “You look a thousand light years away.”
She blinked rapidly and refocused on the folks around her. “I was thinking about Imjay’s future. It brought me to a few conclusions.”
Laliette sat a little awkwardly and waited until Jill started eating before she relaxed and took her own bites.
Jill grinned. “New rule. If we are all here, we eat together. You can tell us about Imjay’s day, and we get to listen.”
“You are that interested in listening to her feeding schedule?” Laliette smiled shyly.
Rimash was watching them, and he concentrated on his very large meal.
“I am aware that I will probably be with a client on the day she takes her first steps, says her first word and laughs the first time. I am keeping her because her mother wanted her to have a good life and asked me to make that happen. Because I am a woman of honour and Imjay is named after me, I will do it. She is my daughter, and the price I pay to keep her is my work. The price
pay for me taking over the fees for your education is to witness those moments and tell me about them.”
Laliette nodded and straightened her shoulders. “I will reward the trust you place in me.”
Jill chuckled. “Nothing so serious. Just keep her from choking on the necklaces or the beads of my costume when she starts crawling.”
Rimash cocked his head. “You are truly embracing the burden of motherhood.”
She winked at him. “You can’t do it, though you would have made an excellent nanny.”
Everyone laughed, and the meal continued on through dessert until they were all at ease with each other and Jill was holding Imjay with one hand while eating her iced dessert with the other.
Imjay was sleeping soundly in her arms when she rose from the discussion of her schedule and carried her into the baby’s room. Stately trims of blue and grey surrounded the room. Even the thin blanket on the baby’s bed was in those shades.
The temperature in the room and the bed was monitored and would sound an alarm in both her room and Laliette’s if there were any problem. Laliette was on the hook for the nightly feedings. She appeared fine with it, so Jill took a wait-and-see attitude.
As Laliette and Rimash had discussed her schedule, Jill had looked up the Driar and was a little surprised to see that it was a designed social structure. When Laliette said that there was no place for her as a middle child, she hadn’t been kidding. Folk in her situation were unable to have children. She was stuck in a position of servitude. Her older siblings would find partners and be breeders; the younger would be in support positions, as she was. Laliette was lucky to have been allowed to study at the Great Archive.
Jill had thought that her options were limited growing up; she was learning that she had more options than others were afforded. Her luck might have been different, but it was still luck.
Smiling, she settled Imjay in bed and covered her to her ribcage. A small stuffed toy was wedged in the corner of the bed and a little investigation showed that it was a small, cuddly dragon.
Imjay sighed and sucked one of her fists.
Jill backed out of the room, and the moment she eased the door closed, she yawned mightily.
She wandered back into the dining room where the dishes were done and her escort and the nanny were in a deep and serious conversation.
Jill cleared her throat. “Laliette, can you go on duty?”
She nodded. “Call me Lali. Of course, I will, Archive Jill. We will see you in the morning.”
Jill nodded, “Good night, Rimash, night, Lali.”
She headed back to her room and stripped off the headgear, the hand flowers and the gown with a few short moves. The bed had never looked so welcome. After she was in her nightdress, she settled into bed with her gaze on the door to the baby’s room.
Knowing that she could hear Imjay if she needed to, she went to sleep with a smile on her lips.
Imjay woke up twice, but Laliette was on the ball, the squalling quieted and Jill went back to sleep.
When she sat down for breakfast with Imjay in her arms, Lali came out with a surprised look on her face.
“Good morning, Archive Jill.”
“Good morning, Lali. You were up during the night, so we decided that we could get up, changed and fed while you got some much-needed rest.”
Rimash came in and leaned over Jill’s shoulder, stroking his finger over Imjay’s little cheek. The baby chuckled and pursed her lips toward him.
“Good morning, Rimash.” Jill smiled.
He turned his head and kissed her. “Morning, Archive Jill.”
She sat still in surprise, but Imjay chuckled happily.
Lali got her breakfast and sat at the table. “I can hold her if you need your arms free.”
Jill smiled. “No, I am happy to have her with me. She will be yours for the next seven hours. I am enjoying the moment I have.”
Rimash smiled. “She will also be on duty this evening. I believe it is time for you to truly get a feel for the Great Archive. You are going to meet it.”
Lali muttered something under her breath that sounded like a prayer to a deity.
Jill tried to think up an excuse, but there was nothing to be found. When he inclined his head toward the door, she looked down at the baby before getting to her feet.
“Sorry you couldn’t finish your breakfast.”
Lali grinned and held out her arms. “I don’t mind. She is a treasure.”
Jill stroked the fuzzy little head and took Rimash’s arm. “I will be back as soon as I can.”
“And we will be here. Call anytime during the day and I will answer.”
It was reassuring, but so was Rimash’s whispered, “I will get you home as soon as I can.”
They were making their way to the lifts and her suspicions of the night before were answered. They were much higher than they had been the last time she had headed into the lift on the way to work.
“So, we are in a tower now?”
He shrugged. “It depends. Do you like it?”
She laughed. “Of course, I do. It is lovely. The city, the libraries, everything visible from our vantage point. It is a wonderful place.”
His expression grew smug. “I am very glad to hear it.”
His satisfaction was a little peculiar, and she pondered it as they continued to her offices for her morning’s hide and go seek in the Archive.
The sun set early on their part of the archive. With the glowing gems of the lights below to guide their way, Rimash held her to his chest and flew them through the night sky.
No mechanical flights were allowed over the Great Archive. It was one of the security protocols. If any mechanical being was spotted above the surface, it was shot down by automated defense systems located in a ring of satellites.
Jill turned her face to the gentle caress of late-summer air. Speaking wasn’t feasible as he flew, but she didn’t need a tour. She could identify the buildings by their outlines. Her connection to the Archive told her where they were.
It was a shock when the buildings suddenly ceased and they flew over an expansive plain toward a huge crater.
His even altitude suddenly shifted, and they dropped down into the crater and a crevice within it.
Power surged around them, but Rimash flew steadily, curving to follow the path that took them deep into the heart of the world.
When Rimash landed, he set her on her feet and took her hand. “This way.”
She followed through two large doors that opened at their approach. The power that filled the entire planet had its apex through those doors. Waves of knowledge beat at her until she simply gave in.
Jill felt woozy as the great mind washed through her. Rimash supported her, and in a moment, she was out of her body and standing in a room where a being made of light stood in front of her.
“Welcome, Jillema. You have had an interesting time here. First, you sweep away the best records of my most promising Contract Archives, and then, you cause a multi-planetary incident by taking on a child of two worlds and making it a citizen of the Great Archive.”
The glowing figure floated toward her, touching her face with light caresses.
“Now, you are bringing my most-trusted companion into the role of lover. You are an upheaval in a bipedal body.”
Jill tried not to stare, but she was held in thrall to the glow.
“I am not formally in opposition to the arrangement, but I believe that you will require an upgrade in the very near future. I am not in the mood to part with the security master that I have enjoyed for the last few centuries.”
She cleared her throat, though she didn’t have a body to really need clearing. “An upgrade?”
The pulse of white light turned pink as it chuckled. “So, you are not struck dumb at the sight of me. Good.”
“What are you?”
The laugh was bright. “I am not a planet, not a star, but the beginning of one or the other. I came to myself early and sought out knowledge. I pulled it in via satellites and made myself known to passing vessels. I traded my water and soil for databases and staff to work them. I sold my plants in exchange for designers and soon a city formed. The Alliance came to me and asked if I would store their knowledge, soon the Imperium did the same. I know more than I tell and hold more than anyone could ever learn in a thousand years.”
“I am only twenty-four and have lived my life in the same town until a few months ago. I want to learn, I want to live, and if I am honest, I want to love.”
“It seems you are in the right place.”
Jill decided to correct a point. “And if I may speak on Imjay’s behalf, it was you that made her a citizen. She wanted to live, she survived and is thriving.”
“Ah, in the matter of your daughter. There have been opposing claims from the Imperium and her father’s house and her mother’s house. Do not worry. They have no grounds. She was rejected by her husband and her contract search generated a debt that her child completes. I understand that your mind recoils at the thought of buying your daughter, but it is a last-ditch legal means to defend yourself and her.”
Jill wrinkled her nose. “What is my first means?”
“The first means is to use the citizenship of the archive and your legal guardianship, offered by myself.”