Shadowrun Play => Play-by-Post => Topic started by: Mercy Merchant on <01-10-17/1201:01>

Title: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-10-17/1201:01>
It has been three days since everyone returned to the Overworld.  Things had been a bit.................unsettled............what with the authorities looking for some of them and questions had to be answered.  Robyn really does know a lot of people from her charitable works, her medicine, and other things and she calls in some favors and soon the questions just go away and records are sealed and she is told to never get involved with this sort of thing again.  The return to her normal life is not without issues, but she is able to deal with all of them.

It has been three days since everyone returned to the Overworld.  The hospital has called to schedule her for a few procedures.  She has been busy looking for a cello to replace the one destroyed in the explosion and has an appointment this afternoon to go see one that is for sale.  The book shop has flourished; after all, her presence there is not a requirement for bools to be sold and it seems that more and more people are actually getting back to holding a real book in their hands.

It has been three days since everyone returned to the Overworld.  Al2 has mostly recovered from his ordeal and is back to his normal self.  He spends his days close to Robyn.

It has been three days since everyone returned to the Overworld.  And he has not called her yet.  She has his com code and has been tempted almost beyond reason to call him or send him a message or track him down and go see him.  But he said he would call and she has to trust him.  He seems a different man from the one she had met in Cambodia, but she knows, she fragging KNOWS, that he is still so deep in her heart that she will never be rid of him, even if he does not call.  She reaches up to her neck to touch the wooden idol on its chain, grasping it as she sends a prayer to the voodoo spirit attached to it to let Al look into his heart and if see if she is still there.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-10-17/1828:26>
Tuesday, July 14th, 2076

Al was tired. He sat in his jeans and wifebeater on the sticky linoleum floor of his ill-lit Caravaner, grease-covered hands in his lap, and smoldering Lucky Strike between the fingers of one, a huge black mutt curled at his feet. He'd been up for three days.

He'd been damned glad to get back into the real world. Said a few quiet words to his shell-shocked co-workers, shook hands with the other three. Could tell she'd wanted something else - a word or a touch or something. But he needed to get back in the world first. At least. So he'd played dumb, pretended not to notice, taken his leave.

Back up top he'd stopped to pick up two steaks and two cases of whatever was cheap and gone home. Little place carved out of the weeds on the bank of the Thames nowhere between London and Oxford. Invisible from the road, just a dilapidated boathouse and the Caravaner on a rocky, off-the-grid plot. Quiet.

He'd tossed both steaks at Spike, cursed at the animal for a few moments in greeting, and gone to bed.

And they'd had words. Or looks. Or thoughts. Didn't matter because it probably wasn't real anyhow, and if it was it was from the devil.

No, not from the devil. I like what you did. Right up my alley.

Din't do it fer you.

No, you did it for you. But the fact that that was what you wanted to do proves you're mine.

Don't belong ta no one. And gon' keep it that way.

Good luck with that. By the way, enjoying the sleep?


Just saying, no good deed goes unpunished....

Then it had come to him - half remembered from the Portal, the stuff his conscious mind had chosen to forget, in all its awful abomination...

No sleep since. Tried drinking himself unconscious, but just ended up in a terrified stupor, the merest blink bringing unwelcome flashes of horror.

He'd kept busy with his rides. First day he'd installed manual overrides on all the controls. The next day he wasn't too tired - he'd never really slept well since...since his first time across the Pacific...and he fitted the Bulldog's engine with a turbocharger. Tried to sleep again but just ended up in a cold sweat. This time, though, he couldn't remember whatever he'd started to see, which he'd figured must be a good sign. It pissed him off that the sight of some filthy demon whose ass he'd kicked was troubling him so, but he'd known then just like he knew now that it was more than a memory of the sight - that thing had exuded something that was like anti-matter to the real world's matter - he'd felt it there on Mystery Island, and that feeling had let him know it had to be stopped. If it had sullied his soul somewhere in the process, well, he'd get over it.

Spent the third day replacing the Bulldog's ring and pinion gears. That and the turbo charger and she'd be fast off the mark like a damned Formula One. Took him twice as long as it should - kept dropping the tools, slipping on grease slicks on the floor of the SOTA shop he had in the boathouse.

And now he'd had a frozen soyrito (habanero cheese flavor) and wanted to sleep. It was still there, though, when he closed his eyes. He knew the trick. You can't try not to think of pink elephants. So you have to think about something else.

But there was only one something else that distracted him enough to do the job. Thing was, it was complicated. And as was his policy with all complicated things, he'd decided not to think about it. But he was sleepy now, though, so his defenses were down. And besides, he'd said he would.

He reached up onto the counter, pushed his hand blindly through assorted dirty dishes and food wrappers, and found his 'link. That old number was around somewhere. And in his head. But that was just too much trouble. He hit the key he'd coded with her work number, the one they'd used for comms on the job. Put the thing on speaker and laid it on the floor.

Listened to the intermittent purring it made to let him know it was ringing somewhere, waiting for a connection.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-10-17/2124:55>
Tuesday, July 14th, 2076

She has had to lay in an order of those damned blood fags.  Over the past two days, she has gone through six packs of the things, chain smoking at least two of them, and now she is out.  Lucky Strikes are a colonial brand and an uncommon one at that and she has to order them special because only certain shops will even carry them.  Over the years she has cultivated three dealers that will order them for her and she calls one to order several cases by delivery.  Her hands are shaking as she cuts the connection and sits down in the office of the book shop that bears her name.  She is having trouble sleeping, waking in a cold sweat several times a night., and has taken to wandering the aisles between the bookshelves.  She has her favorite chair in the grouping farthest away from the door and it has long been like a second bed for her.  It is not uncommon for her maid to find her missing from her bed only to find her in The Chair, as she and the shop staff have come to refer to it.  There is a large pedestal in front of the chair with an enormous edition of Robyn's favorite book, Pride and Prejudice.  The leaves are made of silver plate and the words are all in Braille and it was a gift from one of her friends, who had it made for her several years ago.   A special bed of blankets lies on the floor to the side for Al to sleep on and they are often found there of an early morning.

Robyn's is a fixture in this part of The City; a place where people can come to put their hands on real books.  Kids come in to sit in chairs around tables because this is a safe place to chat while waiting for their mums or dads to finish work in one of the tall office buildings near by and swing by in one fancy limousine or another to pick them up.  Young couples stop in because the tall shelves give them a bit of privacy from peering eyes as they fumble through the early stages of adolescence, hormones raging as hands fondle various bits and pieces of each other's anatomy.  Older people come in to actually read the books.  Heavy and comfortable chairs are grouped in three sets about oak tables.  The scent of old leather wafts from the chairs and the bindings of the books on the shelves.  A faint aroma of a blended pipe tobacco drifts through the air, a comfortable scent for a comfortable place.  Some of the older patrons have been coming here since Robyn bought the shop and gave it her name and she knows most of them by name and occupation, counting them among her closest friends. 

Only new visitors are put off any longer by the presence of the huge Hell Hound that always seems to be at his mistress' side.  It is an odd sort of service animal, but she has a license and the thing rarely causes any trouble.  Many of the regular customers are even apt to leave a treat in his bowl near the blankets, as if he were more or less a fixture in the shop, which of course he is.  But even old customers are seeing a change in their favorite shop keeper.  The number of fags she goes through in a day is just one symptom that all is not well and Robyn has to cope with all of these people wishing her good fortune.  It is all too easy to see that something is bothering her.

Music helps.  Mostly.  Today, she has gone across the street with her old wooden cello in her hand and given an impromptu concert for three hours and a half.  It had taken her two days to compose the music and lyrics of this, her opus.  She has managed to lose herself in the flow of the chords and has worked in the horror of the thing and the abyss and the loss of people she had known for years to the whatever it was and its minions.  She has poured her heart and soul into the playing and singing and let her tears flow in memory of the fallen....of those she would never see again.  She is torn between two worlds that are so close and yet so far apart and she is having trouble living her life like this.  As she plays her Requiem for Below, she can feel the ink on her body move, the hydras responding to the music.  Around her stand others that walk the streets of the Overworld in silence, hidden in the anonymity of Greater London.  Word had spread and scores of people from Below that live and work in the Overworld have come to listen and to cry with her.  The millions of people living up here will never know what transpired in a near-mythical realm not so far away from where they are standing, but many of the very people that exist in a despised state have given their lives to defend....well...everything.  Every Great House had lost sons and daughters in an unseen and unknown war and Robyn plays for all of them.  Her music has always been able to bring emotions to the fore in her audience and this is certainly no exception.  Even those who do not know of what she sings are touched by the haunting and yet stirring tune and lyrics.  Those that do know are brought low, made humble by her deft touch and voice.  Three and a half hours.  Without a break.  Someone must have thought she doing it for charity and puts a hat on the ground, but it proves too small a hat and another is donated, and another as people, touched by the music, toss in spare change and scrip.  Several people toss in cred sticks as they walk by.  The police have to cordon off the streets near the park as the crowd grows larger than it can hold.  Local shops close and work in high rise office buildings adjacent to the park is temporarily halted as workers stream to open windows to listen.  Most of those listening cannot understand her words because they are in the tongue of Below, but the tone is unmistakable and resonates with everyone present.  The effect is such that no official or shop owner or business makes more than a passing complaint, all of which are ignored.

The concert is heard far beyond the boundary of the park when the first newsies showed up and drones begin feeding it throughout the matrix.  Somewhere, a man older than time nods his head, his dreadlocks moving in time to the music.  The Old One smiles and considers what the handful of Overworlders, along with some from Below, have done and how their efforts will be felt throughout the Pattern that is emerging in his third eye.  A small group of witches whose machinations were all about the Pattern smile and nod at each other.  Dragons and drakes also hear the music as they grimly prepare for the next step of what has been long coming.  But to most of the people of Greater London, the Requiem is just very, very good music as it stirs and lifts, encouraging the soul to be better and stronger than it is.  Finally, Robyn pulls her bow across the strings of the very old cello for the last time.  Her sightless face is streaked with the tears that have flowed unchecked.  Her heart is heavy, but she feels fulfilled and a bit more complete than she has in a long time.  The hundreds, no, thousands that have been listening to her play and sing erupt into a frenzy of applause, their souls grateful for the music even if most of the people have had no idea what she has been singing.  Her sensors have been telling her of the crowds gathering, but she has ignored all but the music and is actually surprised by the number of people in and near the park that have been listening to her.  The Requiem for Below was originally for her own soul but she can tell that she has touched far more than hers alone.  A old man comes hobbling forward form where he has been standing rapt and shakes her hand, thanking her.  He is followed by another then another and soon a flood of people are in a queue, waiting to shake her hand.  It takes three hours for the crowd to pass her by, one person at a time, and she does not leave until the last person goes past her.  Many people just thank her and ask if she has any recordings they can buy, others just thank her, and some cannot get any words out as they grasp her hands, still too involved in the music to be able to speak.  Through it all, the huge hound has stood by her side but no one seems particularly afraid to come up to Robyn, and the hound makes no attempt to discourage them.  The last people in the queue are several City policemen and women.  They have made sure that everyone leaves in an orderly fashion and now it is their turn to thank Robyn for the music they have been listening to.  She thanks them in turn and motions to the hats on the ground near her.  The number has grown to nearly thirty and most are full of coins and scrip.  She asks the policemen to collect the hats and donate them to charities that provide food for those who need it.  She and Al remain standing near the bench she has sat at for so long today and take in the quiet.

She takes her old cello and walks slowly out of the park and across the street to the restaurant next door to her shop, where she is met by the young assistant manager, a man by the name of Joseph, who personally escorts to her reserved booth.  She orders from the Braille menu provided and pats Al's head as she waits for the food.  Halfway through the meal there is a slight commotion near her table as Joseph intercepts several people who seem determined to see Robyn.  It is her normal custom to ask to not be disturbed while eating, but she calls out to Joseph that it is alright, this time.  The young man steps aside as a group of people come up to the table in a line.  Robyn feels her hydras react to these people and she knows that she is in the presence of all thirteen of the Lords of the Great Houses of Below, even those that are normally never seen.  She starts to stand but the first in line, the Earl, hisses and she remains where she is.  None of them speaks a word, but each places a silver coin on the table in front of her then walks off.  Her tears are flowing fresh by the time the last person walks up to her booth.  He does not have a coin to give her, instead leaning forward and whispering so only she can hear the man she knows as The Old One.  "You have done well, daughter.  You and your companions have helped heal a long-standing rift.  More is needed and you and they will be called on again to serve the Pattern.  Rest and be calmed."  He passes a hand over Robyn's eyes and the pain and horror of the past days goes away., flowing back into the recesses it had been spawned from.  "It is not meant for you to forget because you are meant to not forget, but neither is it meant that you should suffer for the memories and so it is.  Have peace, daughter, and wait until summoned."

The old man straightens up and leaves the restaurant, vanishing into the fog just as have the heads of the Houses.  They belong to Below, not the Overworld, and their visit here has been painful for several of them.  Painful but necessary and none hold a grudge for being summoned for this duty.  Robyn runs her hands across each coin in front of her, aware of the stares and wondering questions directed in her direction by the other patrons of the restaurant..  The assistant manager, somewhat used to the notoriety his rather well known customer sometimes brings, is quick to act and sends his staff out to the tables and booths, offering free drinks, which brings peace to Robyn.  Grateful, she leaves a very large tip when she is finished and picks up her cello and the coins, calling Al to her as she leaves the booth and walks to the door the exits form the restaurant to the book shop next door.  Her maid is waiting for her and takes the cello upstairs as Robyn goes off to sit at her chair and read.

Robyn takes a cigarette from a pack she keeps at the chair and lights it with her old, clunky Zippo lighter.  Her fingers move across the raised characters of the book and she is at peace for the first time in days.  No unbidden horrors reach from the dark areas of her mind to eat at her.  Oh, she knows that they are still there; after all, she cannot, no, is not allowed to forget anything, not even THAT.  But she can now live with it.  She is brought from her pages by the most unlikely of things........a ping on her 'link.  It is not a special 'link, but it is a special tone, one reserved for only one person.  Even though the 'link and the call are internal, her hands tremble on the page of her book as she answers the call.  "Hello Al."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-11-17/0746:03>
Tuesday, July 14th, 2076

No declarations of her truest feelings in the first five seconds - off to a good start. He wondered how long he could keep up his winning streak.

"Yeah, hello. Listen..." and he had no idea what to say. He figured the best thing was to keep her talking (easy enough that) long enough to fall asleep. But then he'd fall asleep, and that would be unmannerly at best. There were a lot of things he'd like her to know, but none of them was he likely to talk about out loud this side of an arctic hell.

His feelings for her were...strong. That was about all he could say about them. Like if you touched really cold metal, and at first the feeling was so intense it felt hot. He was past good or bad with it. He could quantify it but not qualify it. And of course it was obvious why - he'd known her briefly eight years ago. He didn't know her now. He felt her, but didn't know her. He'd realized that right away a couple weeks ago when their paths had first crossed again, and the solution had been obvious, only forgotten now by a brain addled with cheap beer, nightmarish visions, and sleep deprivation.

"...we should catch up some. Like ta call on ya. Yer up for it, flash me a twenny, I'll come by tomorrow night sometime after work."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-11-17/0945:12>
Tuesday, July 14th, 2076

Robyn's heart is begging for her to say everything she feels but she has already tried that and doing so again risks losing this man.  It is like her brain goes into lockdown mode and only gibberish comes out of her mouth.  No, she will try to avoid that sort of disaster this least for now.  "Yes, Al, I would like that very much.  There is a lot to catch up on.  There is a restaurant just next door to my book shop if you care to eat there, or you can take me somewhere, if you like."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-11-17/1043:12>
Tuesday, July 14th, 2076

"Heh. Ya got a bookshop, huh? Maybe ya said somethin' about that..." His voice trailed off as his eyelids drooped. "Alrighty, I can track it - matrix'll be my friend. Play the food by ear. Ya like the restaurant, sure, whatever. See ya tomorrow night."

And he kept his wits long enough to thumb the connection off before falling asleep there on the floor.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-12-17/0201:23>
Tuesday, July 14th, 2076

Robyn sits in her chair and replays the conversation about a million times.  OK, somewhat fewer than that, but still a lot.  She takes a drag on her fag and notices that her hand is not shaking.  She stubs the thing out without finishing it off and rises, clucking at Al, who stand and follows her as she makes her way back to the door separating the shop from the restaurant.  There she finds her personal assistant, Stephanie, talking to Joseph and smiles at the affianced couple.  "Joseph, I am expecting a guest for dinner sometime tomorrow evening."

Joseph nods.  "Of course, Miss Lysander.  Your table is always open for you."

"Thank you, Joseph.  I have a very specific meal in mind and am sending it to you now.  Please see that you have everything available, but I am not yet certain when we will come in,"

"This will not be a problem, Miss Lysander."

Robyn nods and turns to her maid.  "You are not going to take this nice man away from the restaurant after you are married, are you?"

Stephanie shakes her head and smiles.  "No, Miss Lysander, this place is very important to him.  But he will have a much shorter walk to work.  We have decided to accept your offer to help us purchase the flat above yours here."

Robyn smiles broadly.  "I am so glad.  I would have been very sad to lose you to that place in Surrey.  I am retiring, Stephanie.  Good evening to you, and to you, Joseph.  Ciao."

Stephanie bids her fiance goodnight and walks up to take care of her mistress.

Wednesday comes with promise and Robyn greets it as a friend.  The weather prognosticators have predicted no rain, and have said that the morning fog will burn off by 1000.  The day itself is mostly a blur, except for the cross-town appointment she has made to look at a cello she might buy to replace the one she had left behind.  Unfortunately, she had known straight away that the instrument, while a fine one, was not the one for her and she had walked away form the sale, disappointed but certain that there is a cello out there just for her.  Robyn and Stephanie spend an hour getting her ready and she decides to sit in her chair, reading from her book and waiting.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-12-17/0810:28>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

Al woke up sober and refreshed. He quickly opened up a beer to set about rectifying the first problem.

Drank and smoked and watched Spike give his balls their morning lick. Damned dog needed some discipline. He decided to address that issue sooner than later. Seemed he was busy tonight, though. Planning to begin his courtship of Alyce. Put that way, it didn't seem quite so bad. No question he was interested. No question she was hot. And capable. Hell, he was pretty sure she was rich, too, for what that was worth.

A few seconds of her voice had chased the demons clear away last night.

She was also - or at least had been - a whole grab-bag of problems, issues, concerns, and warning signs. Some might be in the past, but in Al's experience, such things tended to get worse, not better. And he'd added plenty of new ones to the list since crossing paths with her again.

But he'd always known she was a handful. And he'd decided back then, eight years ago, admittedly way short on necessary data, that none of that mattered to him.

No, he had to admit, the problem wasn't her. It was him. It had been him from the start. And the past eight years hadn't helped any.

But like he'd told her in Isaint's workshop, hopeless though it may be, he'd give it a shot.

His brain started to hurt, so he decided to get to work. Spent the day beefing up his rides' immunization to the unnatural horror known to modern man as GridGuide. Went out to a local scrapyard to scavenge parts for his next project. Ordered some crap that might be helpful with Spike.

Next thing he knew it was after six. Damned England in July - sun didn't even think of going down 'till after eight. Where was he going, anyway? That turned out to be the least of his problems, since it turned out her shop was named 'Robyn's.' Next to a restaurant, check. Hoitie toitie neighborhood, check. Oh, and there was a little profile of her and the shop in some artsy fartsy chat-sheet. There, dusted.

He took a quick shower, reminding himself he needed to get soap at some point, and used a wet paper towel to wipe the mud off his Docs. Put on clean boxers and opened a new white T-shirt he'd picked up on a supply run to Kong Wal-mart last month in case some special occasion came up. Dipped his jeans in the river for a minute, tossed them over his stolen picnic table to dry, and took a nap.

When he woke up it was almost dark. The jeans were still wet, but he put them on. Shooed Spike away from the car and headed off for London.

At about ten he pulled up to the address. There was a no-parking zone out front, which was conveniently empty for him. He wondered suddenly if he should have brought flowers or something, but then realized he'd brought himself.

Walked up to the shop and it was closed. There was a light on way in the back, though. He was reaching for his lock picks and scanning for alarm contacts when he remembered this was a social call.

It had been a while.

So he rang her work number again.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-12-17/1017:09>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

Alyce had and reread the same page several times and decided to stretch her legs a bit by wandering about the shop.  She stopped at the windowed room that help the more valuable of her first editions, where her image was reflected back at her.  Even though she could not see, she smoothed the fabric of her frock, enjoying how it felt next to her skin.  Alyce is certainly not the prettiest woman in London, or even in her neighborhood, but she has a certain presence about her that gets others to notice her for more that being blind.  Her figure has very nice curves in the right places and her skill is flawless, if you don't count the tattoos arrayed across it, which seem to only add a bit of mystery to her.  She has lost a bit of weight in the past eight years and could be called slightly athletic rather than a bit pudgy, as she had been in Cambodia.  That trip had leaned her up a bit and she had tried hard to maintain the figure she had developed there. 

The frock is a new one and she likes it.  The light green color is good for her skin tone and it is tight in the right places without constricting her.  The hem sits just above the knee in the modern style for this sort of frock, allowing her to show off a nice expanse of leg without appearing tarty.  The top of the frock is modestly cut, with a slight frill at the bosom designed to draw the viewer's attention there, where the fabric clings to her otherwise unencumbered breasts.  She is not overly large in that department, but they go perfectly with her size and weight and it is rare indeed that she does not get second looks from men passing her in the street.  She is wearing her hair down and loose and it hangs to just above her breasts, framing her face.  Her shoes have been chosen to set of the frock and are sensible ones with barely any heel.  As is her normal style, she is wearing only her crucifix and a small, hand carved wooden idol at her neck, the cross on a silver chain and the idol on a leather thong.  The idol is well worn from her hand grasping it while she prays for the safety of the man she loves.  The only other jewelry she is wearing is a bracelet in the form of a serpent eating itself.

Eventually, her shop assistant comes up to tell her that all of the customers have left the shop and that she is getting ready to lock up and leave.  Alyce nods and thanks her, but the woman does not leave right away, instead putting a friendly hand on Alyce's arm.  "If you don't mind my saying, Miss Lysander, you look better tonight.  I hope that you have managed to get some sleep.  We were that worried about you down here."

Alyce turns to the woman.  If Alyce is the soul of the shop, Elaine Waters has been the heart for as long as the place has been Robyn's.  "Thank you, Elaine.  I am sorry to have been difficult lately."

Elaine smiles and waves her hands about at the shelves behind her.  "You have had something on your mind, Miss Lysander, and it was easy to see it bothering you.  I am glad that is seems to have worked itself out."

Alyce nods.  "That it has, Elaine.  Thank you and have a good evening."

Elaine leaves the shop, locking the outer door on her way out, leaving Alyce alone with Al.  The room behind Alyce is hers and she knows where every shelf and chair is, and every book.  She walks back to her chair to wait for Al to arrive and to see if she can now get past that bloody page of her book..  She is involved in her reading to the point that she loses track of time and is a bit startled when her internal 'link lets her know that Al is calling her.  She gathers her breath and settles her pulse before answering.  "Hello, Al.  Are you nearly here?"

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-12-17/1034:58>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

"Yeah, nearly. If right outside yer door counts."

A moment later he saw her though the windows, which was good because it gave him a moment to collect his wits. No matter how hard he tried to be dispassionate, the sight or smell of her always set things off inside him.

When the door opened she saw him with his hand in his jeans, a Lucky Strike hanging from the corner of his mouth, and his ass on the hood of a low-slung sports car. It was cherry red and waxed to perfection, with shiny silver mags and a heart-shaped sunroof.

"Well," he said, looking her up and down appreciatively but making no move to approach, "I'll allow you look a vision." He dropped the spent cigarette into the gutter and nodded to the right. "This the place ya wanted ta eat?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-12-17/1357:02>
Alyce turns and makes her way to the door, her sensors tied in with the security system allowing her to see the auto he had arrived in, but more importantly, they let her see him and her heart skips a beat.  Pressing a hand against a plate unlocks the door and Alyce opens it to go out to the sidewalk.  She resists the sudden urge to just throw herself into his arms, knowing that he would not like that, but the urge is very strong.  No one has ever affected Alyce like this man has.  As unlikely as a match between them might be, her heart is long lost to him.

Alyce nods, trying very hard to not talk too much, as that usually ends up with one foot or both deep inside her mouth.  “Good evening to you, too, Al.  I am glad that you were able to come over.  Bloody nice ride you have there; does it go as fast as it looks like it ought to?”  She points at a parking spot just ahead of where Al had parked.  “I do think that you should pull it up to the next parking slot though as the bobbies around here are pretty much sticklers about towing cars illegally parked.  And, yes, this is the restaurant I recommended.  We have a table waiting, so I can give you the five nuyen tour of the shop first, if you like, or just head on in to eat dinner.  Your choice.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-12-17/1402:49>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

"Considerable faster," he answered about the car.

He thumbed the ‘link in his pocket and it crept forward into the newly vacated space in front of it.

He looked closer at her green dress. Couldn't fault it.

After the get-up she'd worn to the meet a couple of weeks ago, the first time he'd seen her in anything but jungle kit, he'd half expected to find her tonight in another death-hippy number. Funny thing was, great as she looked, part of him was disappointed.

And she was showing a lot less skin than she had that night. Which had been the Alyce he'd known. He was glad she'd shown some sense this evening. And again, the other half of him was deeply disappointed.

That was the problem with her - she brought out both the best and the worst in him.

"Sure, reckon I'd like ta see yer shop. Ya live 'round here, too?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-12-17/1641:50>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

Alyce nods as she holds the door open for Al to enter.  “Yes. I live just upstairs here.  I pretty much have the entire floor of the hotel to myself, well plus my personal assistant and my maid with her kids and her mother.  It can get pretty lively sometimes, especially when my daughter is home from school.”  After she enters the shop, she shuts the door and places her palm against the plate again, setting the alarms except for the motion detectors.  Taking Al’s arm she walks a bit into the shop, where both are greeted by the massive Hell Hound, who comes up to sniff at Al.  “Welcome to my little bit of paradise, Al.  It seems he remembers you.”  Alyce stoops a bit to rub the head of the hound then clucks at it and Al2 wanders back off into the shop.
The entrance foyer has an information and sales desk set back from and facing the front windows, with a comfortable couch for waiting customers.  Even here, a fine aroma of leather can be detected from farther inside the building.  Just off to the right is a largish room brightly painted with scenes from various children’s books and the shelves here contain books in a mish mash of authors suitable for children.  Two boxes of small toys sit against one wall.
Further in, past the customer service desk, are the shelves for general reading.  Beyond these are the shelves dedicated to the serious reader, along with three small groupings of leather chairs about oak coffee tables.  There are also two small reading rooms and a larger special reading room, where Alyce keeps most of the first editions she has collected over the years.  The aroma of fine cigars hangs in the air from years of people using the nooks and reading rooms, competing with the smell of fine leather.  A large leather chair sits off by itself in front of an oak pedestal that holds a large book made of silver plates for its pages and engraved with Braille symbols instead of words.  Alyce rubs a hand on the open page and sighs.  “Still my favorite, Al, no matter how many times I have read it.”
She reaches a place where a wide stairway leads up and a glass door looks out into the restaurant next door.  Pointing up, she says, “This goes to my flat.  There is also an lift just around the corner there that I can use if necessary.  The way past the lift leads to a small warehouse area and loading dock where I take deliveries.  Dinner is through here.  I would have cooked you a dinner upstairs, and would very much like to do that sometime, but I thought that the restaurant would be better for our first date.”  She softly clicks her tongue and the Hell Hound shows up, almost as if by magic.  She pats its head then turns to Al.  “Ready to eat?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-12-17/1654:36>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

"Born ready, toots." Eating gave you something to do with your mouth. Less talking.

During the tour he'd been going over some the things she'd let drop when they'd first met the team. Lesbian lover, missing. Tortured near to death. 'Ware ripped out and replaced. Lingering physical pain. He filed them away as light conversation starters if there were any uncomfortable silences. And there was the daughter thing she'd laid on him in the metaplane. And just mentioned again. Bet your last nickel he'd be steering clear of that one.

The shop had been nice enough. Al had liked the smell of leather. Cigars were okay, too. If you couldn't get cigs. Decent place. As they were seated, he told her so, adding, "Few too many books, though. Reckon ol' Al's more of a trid person. Don't hafta think so much." He looked around for a menu, but the waiter, guy Alyce called Joseph, he said the lady'd already ordered.

"That's real nice. Reminds me I got another apology I gotta run by ya now. Recollectin' back on things today, recalled I told ya I wanted this here courtship ta start the first night off'n the job. An' that I'd take ya out proper, with a show. Like ta think o' myself as a man o' my word. Reckon all I can say is - an' this ain't somethin' I'd own to lightly - reckon after some o' that otherworldly stuff we saw my head just warn't right fer a couple days. Bit discombobulated, ta use the technical term. Make 'er up to ya next week, if'n yer still innerested after tonight."

Having said his piece, he looked around instinctively for the beer.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-12-17/1809:44>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

At Al’s thought, two beers appear on the table, cold and frothy.  Alyce tastes hers and smiles.  “Mmmm.  Bloody nice, this.”  She puts the chilled mug on the table, resisting the temptation to reach across and take Al’s hand in hers.  “I guess we have both had things on our minds for the past couple of days.  Thank you for giving me some time to work through some things.  I would enjoy going to see a show with you; you just pick the date and time.”

Alyce sips again and wipes some foam from her lip.  “You have said that we should use these dates to catch up.  Which of us should start first?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-12-17/1829:14>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

Al downed the first beer in seconds and waved for another.

He lit a cigarette before answering, and remembered his manners before answering, offering one to her.

"Not much ta tell here. Spent the better part o' the last eight years workin' onna docks. Seattle." That was technically true. "An' you? You were sayin' a lot o' stuff that first night. You got a girlfriend now? Somethin' serious, it sounded like?"

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-12-17/1947:08>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

Alyce takes the offered cigarette and lets him light it with his Zippo and blows a couple of smoke rings before shaking her head.  “That is awfully simplistic, Al.  I rather imagine that there is a lot more to what happened than that, but I will not push.  We are only telling what we want to.  I am not sure how much detail you want from me, so please stop me if I am talking too much.”

She takes another drag and lets the smoke out.  “I spent three days tracing you around Phnom Penh and finally found information that one Al Guthrie had been part of a crew that had left the capital for the north, then another two weeks in Phnom Penh waiting for the weather to clear enough to charter a helicopter to where you had gone with Mitch.  Once I got to the village, I spent another three weeks there.  I took several trips out to the area where they said you had gone, but I found nothing except a crumpled pack of Lucky Strikes and some empty bird cages.  No Al and no Mitch.  Everyone was telling me that you could not have survived out there without supplies and I just told everyone that they did not know my Al Guthrie.  It did become clear to me, though, that you had disappeared for some reason and I returned to Phnom Penh to begin an official search.”

“I must have bribed, threatened, cajoled, and or slept with almost every government official in every country of Southeast Asia.  I pulled in markers and debts from every AAA or AA and every criminal organization I have ever worked for.  No luck.  Well, that is not entirely true.  There were lots of sightings, some of them even accurate as I tracked you, but missing you at every stop, sometimes by just days.  Every time I had a good hit, I was in the air to be there.  I logged enough miles that I could have probably saved money if I had bought my own plane.  The last connection I had was some tramp steamer that just seemed to go nowhere and was presumed lost at sea with all hands.”

“I refused to give up hope because I fragging knew you were not dead.  My heart would have told me and all I got from it was that you were still out there.”

As Alyce finishes, a team of waiters arrives with the dinner.  “Ah, the food is here.  I pulled lots of things out of my memory from what you said about liking to eat.  Steak just the way you like it, potatoes, and other things.  I hope that you enjoy it.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-12-17/2001:54>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

Al had never been so happy to see food placed before him. Didn't hurt that she'd done a good job approximating his last-request meal. Damn.

"Well, sure looks good," he said, and tucked in without another word. Her story had made him feel real rotten, but he'd already apologized once, and had meant it when he did. Yeah, it had been completely inadequate, but repeating it wouldn't help that. The worst was the part about sleeping with men to get info on him - he'd known she was no blushing virgin, hell, her boasts had made it pretty clear she was a regular strumpet, but still and all...well, he wouldn't press her on it. He also noticed she didn't answer his question about the girlfriend.

That had been no surprise, not after her inscrutable behavior with the Chinagirl back in the bush. Hell, it could make this whole business easier.

So they were both holding back. Didn't mean anything. There wasn't much he couldn't imagine telling her, but a lot of it wasn't the stuff for a restaurant.

He concentrated on his food long enough that a change of topic wouldn't seem out of place, and asked, "So ya got this bookstore, yer still subbin' fer some symphony or other, volunteerin' shifts at a hospital. An' still takin' I leave anything out? Any other exotic careers I might enjoy hearin' 'bout? An' when do ya sleep, fer pity's sake?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-13-17/0740:31>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

Alyce smiles as she eats from her meal of shrimp scampi and salad. One of the waiters brings a platter with a large piece of meat on it and puts it on the floor near the Hell Hound. As if by magic, someone brings a new beer to the table every time Al finishes one. After a few bites, Alyce says, "The food here is good, isn't it? Anyway, yes, all of that is true, I do have the book shop, the music and the medicine, but I was doing those things before and after I met you. After my search for you sort of dead ended with the steamer, I returned to London and went back to all of those other things. I even took a job or so a year for my other customers. Nothing as exciting or as much fun as that trip to Cambodia, though. I continued to search for you, but you must be very good at hiding if you do not want to be found. My heart knew that you were alive but you had simply vanished into the mist."

"Nineteen months ago I met a women at a party here in London. Her name is Cali and she lives in Below. We hit it off bloody well and quickly became lovers, so that is the girlfriend you were asking about earlier. Then one day she just disappeared, too. This time I was more successful when I followed her and managed to trace her to House Valerian. Some truly sadistic bitch had her and was going to kill her in order to conduct some sort of magic ritual. I traded myself for Cali because that is what friends do. That I was willing to do this would provide the bitch with even greater power for her ritual and she agreed. I was placed on a table and had spikes hammered into my hands and feet. And then the real tortures began. I do not wish to get too graphic here, but the torture involved many cuts to my body and hammer blows to my implants. She would take me so near death that I did not know the difference then heal me, only to start again. Part of the deal was that Cali had to stand and watch it all, and so she saw every mistreatment I suffered for her, and I think it drove her mad over the thirteen days I was on that table. I suppose that it drove me a bit mad as well."

"I was very close to death when the bitch finally had enough of me to use for her ritual and she left me to die, still nailed to the table. As she and Cali were leaving the room, my friend pushed the woman through the door and locked it behind her. She turned to me and told me to think of you in order to stay alive but I did not need that reminder. I had been thinking of you every minute and I am sure those thoughts are what kept me going. Cali had no choice but to rip my hands and feet where the spikes were and then she carried me to the wineow and jumped with me in her arms. She got me to a healer and I was basically remade. My implants were so much bloody garbage by then that they all had to come out.....everything had to come out. i was there for two months then went to another doctor who spent about the same amount of time giving me new implants."

"During that time, Cali disappeared again. By the time I had relearned to walk and talk, she had been gone for several months. I followed her to various locations, but she had vaporized as completely as you had. I still have people looking for her. Iris was one of those people. I lived with Iris for a few weeks when I came back because she could take care of me. But something happened and she stopped being quite as friendly. I don't know why, but there it is. Probably something I said or did. Maybe that is why you left, too."

Alyce goes quiet and her hand trembles as she removes a cigarette from the pack on the table and it takes great effort for her to use her Zippo to light it. She lifts her face to Al and takes a deep breath. "Well, that gets a bit easier every time I tell it. I was not the same after that experience. I am afraid of things I have never been afraid of. I see things where nothing is and I hear voices where no one is talking . I am broken, Al, and have not got back to who I was before. I am not sure that I am a good investment." She gives a small smile. "But everything is not bad. You remember that girl we found in the canoe, Gem? She had no family remaining that I could ever find so I adopted her and she has been a jewel in my life. She is nineteen now and in her first year at Cambridge. She says that she wants to be a doctor like her mother but I would be proud of her no matter what she decides to be in the end. I have friends, some old and some new. And you are back in my life. At least for a few dates and then we can see what happens. I find that I am lost around you, Al. You probably have that effect on every girl you meet, but it is a new thing for me. I have so much I want to say to you and am afraid to say it because of what you might think of me."

She stops talking and watches Al.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-13-17/0805:30>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

About halfway through her speech Al had stopped eating, and by the time she'd finished he'd forgotten about his food completely. Unable to help himself, he moved his scarred hand to reach for hers, only to have it collide with his mashed potatoes, which sent his plate skidding into his beer, which overturned and poured itself off the edge of the table onto the head of her startled monster. Saved, he congratulated himself as he sat beck in his chair licking his grease-stained fingers and trying to figure out how to even respond to all of that.

"Well, reckon there's a hell of a lot a body could say ta all o' that, an' don't rightly know where ta start. Guess first thing is, ain't nothin' ya could tell ol' Al that'd make me think any less of ya....'cept maybe ta question yer judgement tyin' yer fortunes ta some crazy moleperson what's entangled with them Valerian hippies. But I'll allow it was a noble thing ya did."

Hearing - again - of her ordeal had been the hardest part of her story for him to bear. He was no stranger to pain, but had had few experiences he'd compare to hers. He wanted to ask her what had become of her torturer, but this wasn't the time or the place. So he decided to just say the next thing he knew he was supposed to say, and congratulated himself on his ability to fake a tolerant attitude. "An' I'm real sorry ta hear ya ain't caught up with yer girlfriend." What he wanted to ask was how many girlfriends, or boyfriends, or whatever friends, there had been in the past eight years. He knew, however, that he had absolutely no right to ask, and in any case the figure might be high, hell, maybe higher than he could count on both hands. Well, that might be a stretch. In any case, he put that thought out of his mind - something he was good at.

There was a silence, and he knew she figured it was his turn. "Well, I'll clear up one misconception. I sure warn't hidin'. Sorry ya couldn't find me. Honestly, never figured you'd be that inclined ta look, leastways not after much time had gone by an' new faces had come 'long. Carried that letter 'round...till real recent,' like I done said t'other night, never had cause ta get anything goin' with anyone else...but what with...well, with things I...well...knew yer all sincere an' such, but assumed maybe yer eyes were bigger'n yer stomach, so ta speak, when it come ta long-term....shit, I didn't reckon ya'd care fer too long, an' I warn't hidin'...jist don't like the man in my bizness. Hell, ain't no Guthrie paid taxes since Andrew Jackson, an' ain't gon' let 'em git a line on me with a small footprint, 'specially grid-wise..."

His voice trailed off as he realized he'd tried to say way more things at once than he could possibly handle, and made a mess of each one. This wasn't how it was supposed to go.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-13-17/0957:37>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

A small army of waiters had come rushing over to clean up the mess Al had made and the hound had raised his head enough above the tale to give him a glare then settled back down after Alyce used her napkin to sop up the beer.

Alyce takes a few drags on her cigarette while Al is talking then tries to respond.  "You don't really pick your friends, Al.  Sometimes they just happen.  And the real good one are the kind of people that you would sacrifice anything for, even to risking your life.  She was that sort of friend and now she is gone.  I don't know what caused her to leave."

"I do not want to control you, Al.  I want to walk beside you as a partner in life.  I want to go where you go and live like you live.  I enjoy our times together very much.  I can understand if you do not want to share yourself with me, so you can tell me that and I will get on with my life.  That will not stop me loving you, but it will keep me from bothering you, if that is your decision.  And honestly, after eight years of foreplay, I want you in my bed and I would like you to want that as well.  It really is up to you because my heart has belonged to you almost from the first time we met."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-13-17/1416:58>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

Al sighed. It had been a good dinner. Now there was going to have to be woman-talking.

"From the first time we met? Well, I am flattered. The more so since yer such a damned peach. An' yes, it does happen ta me all the time. But ol' Al ain't built that way. 'Specially not where the, er, higher emotions is concerned. Reckon that takes time, shared experience. More of a meetin' o' the minds than can be had - by yours truly, anyway - in a few thrill-packed weeks. So if you've long since made up yer mind 'bout some things, well, power to ya. But that ain't me."

He picked at his potatoes, but their moment had passed. "Goes ta the other thing ya said. Maybe you don't really pick yer friends, but I do. An' damned carefully at that. Can't say as one way's better'n the other. Hell's bells, the Carpenter loved ever'one He met. So maybe fer all yer wanton ways an' criminal allegiances an' hippie sympathies, yer closer ta Heaven than ol' Al. But I am what I am, an' ain't no one never questioned that. An' some things, I ain't gon' be rushed on."

He looked around for more beer, and was gratified that the spilled one had been replaced. He drank half. "Now goodness knows I'm partial to ya. Mighty partial, save my eternal soul for it. Elsewise I'd not be here. All them criteria fer the, um, higher emotions I mentioned earlier, well, how ya reckon I'm supposed ta tick them boxes I don't spend some time with ya? Time not spent dodgin' demons nor bullets. An' preferably time not spent on a bunch o' damned uterus talk." 
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-13-17/1627:42>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

Alyce smiles.  “I think the big difference is that I have been thinking a lot about you for the past eight years, but I do get your point and I do not want to rush you and risk pushing you away.  How do you want to work this?  I am pretty much available except for tomorrow afternoon for a few hours as I have been scheduled to assist in some open heart surgery then.  I have nothing else on my calendar that cannot be moved around.”

Her hands are steady now as she flicks out another cigarette from her pack and lights it.  “I am open to any ideas that you might have.  Maybe dinner somewhere of your choice tomorrow night?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-13-17/1647:09>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

Al wasn't done looking at her. Or smelling her. Or hearing her voice. But he could sense she was drawing the evening to a close. And he couldn't blame her.

"Sure, I'll choose somewhere if ya want. Take ya to a show too, like I done promised. Tomorrow's no good, though. Got a lot on my plate. Magic ta practice. Trid. I'll call ya once I git caught up. Been real, toots."

He stood, stepped around the creature, and dropped a wad of cash on the table.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-13-17/1748:48>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

Alyce stands up with him.  “Al, it is still early.  How about a spin in that flash auto of yours?  Or maybe a walk in the park across the street?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-13-17/1755:40>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

Alyce couldn't see it, but Al's face lit up. "Drivin's good." He offered his arm, which she took as if sighted.

He escorted her to the sidewalk, followed by the other life form.

"2075 Porsche Aguilar, though, um, not exactly outta the box. Got Ferrari Diabolus at home, ya wanna really eat up some asphalt, but she ain't much ta look at, bein' fer work. But this baby'll let ya know yer movin'."

He thumbed his comm and the passenger door rose up with a hiss. "Ain't but two seats, I'm afraid, so reckon you'll hafta decide if'n ya feel safe alone with me."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-13-17/1859:20>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

Alyce might be blind, but her other senses tell her that she has said the right thing for once as every indicator from pulse to breathing rate to tone of voice let her know he is pleased.  She takes Al’s proffered arm and walks with him to the curb, listening to him describe the car.  Her voice is low as she replies to his statement.  “I feel safe with you, Al.  Let me put Al2 inside.”  She walks to the door and deactivates the security system, letting the Hell Hound inside.  The massive beast looks at her for a moment, as if saying something.  “Alright, alright.  I will try to not stay out too late.”  The hound nods as if he understands and walks off into the shop as Alyce resets the security codes.
She turns back to Al, saying, “Bloody minders.  Do you ever get the feeling that they can really understand us and we are not the masters?”
She lets Al help her into the passenger seat and straps in.  “Alright, Al, show me what this thing can do.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-13-17/1936:23>
Wednesday, July 15th, 2076

Al got in and started the car. He didn't bother with a seatbelt when he wasn't working. Pulled out smoothly into traffic and wove his way smoothly among the GridGuide-bound sheep around them. He kept things calm for a while - he knew his own driving, but didn't want to spook some old lady. Besides, just being off the double-G was earning Hezekiah Malachi a raft of penalty notices every sensor cycle. It was a small price to pay to be able to actually drive. Hell, nobody that could afford a car like this minded the fines. But any serious moving violations started, that's when they started taking points off, and that would mean a new ID and all sorts of other hassles.

Once he'd worked his way up the A41 through Islington and Hendon, however, he was on the M1 and they were off. He retracted the heart-shaped sunroof and opened her up. They were in the UK but it was a German car, so the speedometer was in kph. But he knew how to top that out so all he knew was that they were over 320 somewhere - blink-and-you'll-crash speed, but with cybereyes who needed to blink? Well out of London he took the exit for Whipsnade and slowed her down on the upscale country lanes around the wildlife park, letting the summer aromas waft in through the roof.

They came across a brightly lit pub with a gravel lot full of Landys and SKs - posh crowd, but still plenty noisy inside - Al could hear the Quiz Night advertised on the blackboard outside in full swing. He figured Alyce could probably make out the questions from out here. He backed in so that they overlooked a view of a valley - farmhouses and sheep pastures - there was still a little of the old England left, if you had enough cash. Tied his comm into the pub's network and cajoled them into bringing drinks out.

"Didn't sleep fer three days." He wasn't particularly inclined to explain why. "Not till I heard yer voice."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-14-17/0617:53>
Thursday, July 16th, 2076

Alyce senses that Al has complete control of the machine and loves the way the car glides through traffic.  She has two Fly Spy drones in her hair and another one flying in front and behind the car, giving her a bird’s eye view of the car and its route.  She pulls the airborne drones in as they make the change to the M1, knowing that they are not going to be able to keep up with the car on the open road.  The heart shape of the sun roof is a bit different, but she likes the feel of the air on her face and the way it pulls at her loose hair.  By the time they hit close to the top speed of the car, Alyce is having the time of her life, although she resists the urge to hold onto Al’s hand as he shifts through the gears, not wanting him to split his concentration.
Alyce sends two of the drones airborne again when they exit the M1 and go through Whipsnade.  For most people, the aromas of the wild animal park there can be an issue, but for her, it is a bit like being out in one wilderness or another and smelling the animals again.  She turns to face Al and points off to the park.  “Have you ever been in there, Al?  They have a train called the Jumbo Express that guides visitors on a safari tour of the animals.  Lots of endangered species and even some paracritters there.”  She reaches out and lightly places a hand on his leg as he drives, now that they are off the main road.
When they stop at the pub, Al looks like he intends to remain in the auto and orders drinks, but Alyce has other needs.  “Al, I got to use the loo.  Be back in a tic.  By the way, I have not been to a Quiz Night in years.  It sounds like this one is getting over…….maybe we could do this again and make it to the opening question.”  She scarpers out of the auto and walks into the pub, asking one of the patrons where the loo is and walking through the smoky main room, where someone is calling out the answers to the quiz.  Her sensors allow her to navigate the room and it is likely that no one even knows that she is blind.  Back in the car park with Al, she smiles as she slips back into the auto.  “They seem like really nice people here, Al.  And the view must be great from this outlook during the evening sunset.”  She takes one of her hands and raises it up to her cheek.  “Have you ever thought about a life like this?  Where you could just enjoy being alive and looking out at the miracles that God has wrought for us?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-14-17/0628:10>
Thursday, July 16th, 2076

"Hah. Woman, I enjoy the quiet life jist fine. Reckon ya must have ol' Al mixed up with some other person that's got an ongoin' allegiance to a murderous crime syndicate that ruins untold lives, an' keeps on takin' gun-fer-hire jobs out inna bush even though they don't need the money at all an' it takes 'em away from peaceful, life-givin' pursuits. Hell, all I done since leavin' the Mountain's been puttin' in an honest day's work fer an honest day's pay so I can put my feet up come evenin' with a beer an' some trid. Don't got but the two ambitions, an' they'll come in time, count on it. Got sucked inta this urban mercenary thing no more'n a year ago, but I reckon that's Her doin', an' despite Her best efforts, unlikely I'll still be in it a year on."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-14-17/0804:10>
Thursday, July 16th, 2076

Alyce laughs.  "Point taken.  I guess I do it for the excitement and because it beats being at home alone.  I make an average of two trips a year to some really exotic locations and got to do things most people only dream of, and I get paid to do them.  And paid quite well, thank you.."  Without looking his way, Alyce puts her hand back on Al's leg.  "I did notice that there is a key hanging on the rooms available board in the pub.  Interested?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-14-17/0928:08>
Thursday, July 16th, 2076

Her hand on his thigh didn't bother Al a bit. Quite the opposite. But he started the car.

"Don't think fer a minute I ain't. But this here's a courtship, not a damned booty call. An' ol' Al don't kiss onna first date."

He swung the car out into the country road and drove even faster on the way back than he had on the way out, top still down all the way. By the time he pulled up in front of the book store Alyce's hair was in total disarray, which he thought looked damned good, and a change from the ubiquitous pony tail to which he'd been accustomed.

He keyed her lock so she couldn't get out on her own - he reckoned she could hack it in less than a second, it wasn't to keep her in, just to remind her to wait. Then he got out and went around to open it for her. Offered his hand to help her out.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-14-17/1233:01>
Friday, July 17th, 2076

The wind through the sunroof makes talking difficult and Alyce remains silent on the return trip.  She has much to think about and feels that her efforts to reach Al are not getting far.  She finds it hard to fathom how a man who has knocked about a good portion of the world in this age would be reticent about taking a willing woman to bed.  She shakes her head; she knows so little about him and he just does not share information.  He knows so much more about her than she knows about him and it frustrates her to no end.  Yet, any time she tries to get more from him or tries to get closer to him, he pulls away with some Guthrieism that just makes no sense.  Sighing, she realizes that she has a lot of work to do on this.

Back at the shop, she waits for Al to come around and help her out of the car.  Holding his hand, she says, "Thank you Al.  I had a very nice evening and we should do this again.  Your auto is bloody amazing and you drive like you were born to it.  You said that you are occupied tonight, so what would be a better day to get together?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-14-17/1313:50>
Thursday, July 16th, 2076

"Well, my druthers'd be sooner's better. I'll be eager ta see ya, so soon's I git freed up, I reckon. An' I ain't figured out the show yet, so can't rightly say what night. But ya said yer schedule's open, so I s'pose I'll call once I git 'er sussed."

His hand still in hers, he wondered if there something more he ought to do by way of a parting gesture, but through the window behind her he saw her four-legged friend waiting expectantly in the shadows of the shop, eyes and nostrils glowing like impatient charcoals. So he winked, gave her hand a squeeze, and got into his car.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-15-17/0154:12>
Friday, July 17th, 2076

Alyce watches Al drive off and shakes her head in sorrow and regret for another opportunity gone by.  She turns and unlocks the door, locking it behind her after entering.  Kneeling, she puts her arms around her companion and hugs him to her.  "What do I need to do to get him to love me?  I guess it is up to him to make the move.  Let's go to bed."  The two move to the stairs and climb to the first floor, entering the private luxury flat the occupies this entire floor of the hotel.  Alyce walks to her room and undresses before crawling into her bed as Al settles down on teh floor at the foot.  Before falling asleep, she sends messages to Stephanie and Mae, letting them know what time she arrived home and when she needs to have breakfast ready. 

Alyce wakes to her internal clock and stretches before getting out of bed and using the bathroom.  When she returns, Mae is in the room getting Alyce's clothes from the closet and bringing them over to the bed for Alyce to put on.  The aroma of breakfast cooking drifts into the room and Alyce smiles.  "Mmmmm.  Breakfast smells wonderful.  Remember, I will..................."

"............not be in for lunch due to an appointment at the hospital this afternoon.  Yes, Miss Lysander, I remember.  Will you be in for dinner tonight?"

Alyce nods.  "I expect to be here, yes.  What time is Alan coming in?  We have the auto meeting him, yes?"

Mae nods, the slight gap in her teeth making a slight whistle when she speaks.  "Yes, Miss Lysander, John will be there to meet him when the train comes in and they should be back here by half five or so.  He is looking forward to seeing you again.  This past year at school has been hard for him,  but I think he will pass high enough to get to university."

Alyce smiles gently and touches her maid and friend on the shoulder.  "He will do just fine, Mae.  He has adapted brilliantly and is going places."

The two women leave the bedroom, followed by the Hell Hound.  Stephanie is waiting for them in the dining room, already serving food from the trays on the sideboard.  "This is wonderful, Mae, Cảm ơn các bạn.  Thank you."  Alyce's personal assistant turns to her mistress.  "Two calls from the hospital already this morning, Miss Lysander.  They are sending the latest patient charts to you and it is hoped that you can be in pre-op by 1100.  The traffic is light and John should have you there in plenty of time."

After breakfast, Alyce and Al go out to the front lobby of the hotel by the private elevator that goes to the lobby, where they are met by Alyce's chauffeur, John, who escorts them to the limousine.  During the short drive, Alyce is reviewing the charts sent to her 'link and working out treatment issues in her mind.  Alyce gets out of the car at the staff entrance to London General Hospital and enters the building, where she is met be a nurse staffer who walks with her to the pre-op room.  Alyce clucks at Al and he goes off to sit in a special corner where some blankets have been placed on the floor him to curl up on, while Alyce goes to meet the supervising surgeon, Doctor Eric Wingate, and the rest of the surgical team.  Four hours later, the team emerged from the surgery room, tired but in good spirits................another life has been saved, and that is a very good thing.  Doctor Wingate congratulates the team and gives a special thanks to Alyce for her timely assist at several critical junctures.

Alyce declines an invitation to go out, explaining that one of her godsons is returning home today from school and a big dinner is planned.  She gives out rain promises and picks up Al on the way out of the hospital.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-15-17/2145:41>
Friday, July 17th, 2076

Alyce arrives home at just on 1900 to a bit of an uproar.  She can hear Mae's raised voice as she steps off the elevator to find Stephanie waiting for her with her ever-present data pad in her hands.  Her assistant takes her coat and whispers, "Bit of an issue, Miss Lysander.  Alan has apparently got himself a girl and does not want to go to uni.  The girl's father is some sort of race car driver and she helps out and even drives a bit herself.  Mae is not impressed."

Alyce laughs softly.  "Could have fooled me.  Dinner is when?"

"It was supposed to be 1900, but it might be delayed."

Alyce sighs.  "Alright.  Let me see if I can diffuse the issue."

She turns and walks down the hallway to the rooms that Mae has with her family and knocks on the open door to Mae's suite.  She sees Mae and Alan standing in the living area, but the two younger kids are not visible.  Both of the occupants turn to the door and stop arguing as they face Alyce.  Mae gathers her breath and  bows.  "Miss Lysander, so sorry to have you hear this.  Should have closed door." 

Alyce smiles at both of them.  "It is alright Mae.  I just wanted to come see Alan."  She turns to the young man.  "My, you have certainly grown and filled out during this past term.  Welcome home, Alan.  Mae, you will have to get a big stick to keep all the girls at bay."

"It is apparently too late for that, Miss Lysander.  He has already found a girl and she is turning his head from his education."

The boy looks about to explode but notices Alyce's slight shake of her head and calms down slightly.  "No, mother, she is not turning my head.  It is my decision to do this.  I can always go back to uni later, but this will give me a chance to do something besides school for a bit."

Mae's face turns an almost purple color but Alyce steps in.  "Alan, why don't you go see if Stephanie needs any help while your mother and I have a chat."

The young man nods and leaves the room quickly, obviously relieved to be out of the situation for a bit.  Alyce turns to Mae and motions for her to join her on the couch.  Once seated, the two women pause for a bit to let Mae calm down.  "Now, Mae, is this the end of the world?"

The other woman looks at Alyce for a moment as if she has been betrayed then her shoulders sag and she looks away.  "Education is so important, Miss Lysander.  He will never get anywhere without it.  He would be the first in our family to go to university.  He has a future."

Alyce puts a hand on Mae's shoulder.  "But whose future, Mae.  His or yours?  Would you drive him away from you or would you want him to be happy?"

"But he does not know how to be happy or what he really wants.  It is just about a girl."

"You have done an amazing job of raising him on your own, Mae, and he is a smart young man.  Maybe he needs something besides more school right now and he is right about going back later.  What has he said about this girl and going to be with her?"

"She has told him that her father's team is short a mechanic and he is convinced that he can get the job."

"Well, Mae, he has helped John on the auto and he is talented with his hands, so maybe he can get a job doing this.  I have an idea.  Why don't we invite this girl and her family up here for a couple of days so you can meet them?  They can stay in one of the guest suites."

Mae looks up and smiles.  "You make it sound so much less horrible and always have an answer."

Alyce shakes her head as she stands.  "How I wish that were true, Mae.  It seems I have answers for everyone except me.  Now, shall we go out?  I would like to spend some time with my godson."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-16-17/0742:32>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

Al felt better than he had in a long time as he cruised his Porsche up through the posh neighborhoods of Wimbledon, Chelsea, and Kensington to Alyce's shop. Pain in the ass as she was to both his head and his heart, he had really enjoyed his date with her the week before. Reluctant though he was to admit it, in fact, 'enjoyed' would be an understatement. He'd felt giddy like a kid in the days since, and each night - especially late at night - it had been all he could do to concentrate on his to-do list instead of just show up at her place, whisk her away to some all-night joint for coffee. He'd allowed himself to forget all the reasons he should be depressed instead of happy - what the hell, Alyce was a smart cookie - maybe she could succeed where She had failed to convince him he was full of shit.

The job he had now, this urban merc thing, you could get dead if your shit wasn't together. Except that he'd never get killed, so he didn't worry about that. But while he enjoyed the flexibility and down-time this work offered, he'd be damned if he would let it turn him into some layabout granola. So he kept busy, and over the weekend and into this week, that had meant his least favorite activity - shopping. His bang-bag was nearly depleted, and there were ideas he had for his cars that were as exciting as they were illegal. He hadn't found everything on his wish list - nor could he have afforded all of it if he had - as well as it paid, this job had some major overhead - but he'd gotten a lot at the Prospect, and, eventually, most of the rest from Chastity. Only hitch had been a trio of geezers that had taken him for a punter one night (Al congratulated himself on his interest in the local lingo), set up a fake buy to roll him. Maybe it was because he talked proper American English. Or maybe Chastity had gone psycho on him again and was trying to get his attention. Whatever - they'd come hard, and after he'd killed the first one, well, no percentage in leaving witnesses or enemies around....

But in between acquiring restricted explosives and SOTA vehicle components, he'd also had time to plan today, and he couldn't help being excited about it. It was mid-morning now and he had the whole day and evening planned. The show tickets on short notice had been a trick, but, like the dinner reservations, the right amount of nuyen still talked. Besides, it wasn't as though he'd have considered going anywhere he'd have to wear, well, anything but what he always wore.

The weather was clear and it was going to be warm - as usual, Londoners seized the rare opportunity to dress down, and the pavements were teeming with scantily clad eye candy. He was glad for the sun roof as it let the rays shine down on his face - he looked the same as he had when he'd called on Alyce last week, except that he'd been feeling a bit like a hippy this morning and taken his knife to his beard - a ritual his irrepressible manhood foisted upon him once a fortnight or so.

He'd texted her last night to make sure she was free clear though the evening (assuming she'd make herself so if she wasn't already), and now he pulled up in front of her shop. It was open this time, so he sauntered in, taking a look around in the light of day, with customers and all. Figured she'd spot him and make her appearance when she was ready.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-16-17/1251:43>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

Four days.  Four bloody days.  No call, no text, no email.  Four days.  And then a text last night indicating that he would be by sometime in the morning and that she should be available all day.  She should be upset as hell but is she?  Fragging no, she isn't.  She is ecstatic that he has contacted her.  The four days are now in the past, as is all the worry and all the hurt and all the anger.  The text is like an epiphany for her and she smiles, feeling like a dam has broken inside of her.  She has been focusing for far too long on what she has wanted and what she has felt.  Perhaps it is time to work within Al's style instead of trying to force her style on him.  He is the love of her life and she has told him so more than once.  It is time that she just live in the moment with him and see if he comes to realize that he loves her, too.  There is a risk that he does not and she will have to live with that possibility.  But in the meantime, she can be his girl and let him decide if he wants her to be his woman.

He had not indicated what his plans were for the day, only that she be ready and available all day.  A shower in the morning and she is thinking her latest Steampunk outfit will be perfect.  The open wedge in the front shows off just enough leg to be enticing, especially in an auto where it can ride up just a teensy bit more.  The full rear emphasizes her rather nice ass, thank you very much, and will get looks without revealing anything.  After all, the gap in the front probably reveals just a bit too much, but that is why she is wearing her lacy silk knickers.  The top is delightfully low cut, emphasizing her braless bust to a degree that it should get attention, even from Al.  A slight outer bustier helps with the entire image.  The selected color can change, depending on her mood or where they are going, but right now is set to a mid-brown with white accents.  She has a tiny hat set at just the right angle and a bit of lace veil hangs from it down to her shoulders and her long hair is braided with small cogs and wheels.  Her walking stick is a wonder of the Mechanica's artwork, with moving wheels and gears up and down its length and onto the skull that forms the handle.  Water can be added through a small aperture on the top of the skull and a wireless command can set a hidden heater working to create a bit of steam that flows out of the skull's nose.  That effect is entirely for show, but it is rather dramatic.  The last bit is a matching clutch that holds her cred sticks and some makeup in case she needs to reapply some.  The only bits that seem even slightly off are the silver orthodox cross and the wooden idol on their silver chains around her neck. 

She looks bloody amazing and knows it but she hopes that Al will think so, too.  She spends the early morning wandering through the shop and greeting customers, many of whom wonder at the cause of the change in her from the previous couple of days.  Her own sensors and those of the shop that she is tied into are watching for Al's arrival so she is not surprised when he pulls up and enters.  She is at the side of her Hell Hound and hugging him.  Standing, she commands him to stay and instructs her shop manager to take care of him for her.  Christine nods and kneels next to the hound.  "Go on, Miss Lysander.  Al and I will have a brilliant day together."

Alyce makes a last second touch to her frock and Christine laughs.  "Go on.  He is walking about the shop, looking for you.  You look perfect.  Go."

Alyce nods and walks through the shop to greet Al.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-16-17/1509:20>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

Ash was drifting from the tip of Al's Lucky Strike onto the glossy pages of a heavy coffee table book chronicling the production history of Tales of the Red Samurai when he noticed her approaching from the end of he aisle. He'd promised himself he wouldn't do anything rash when he saw her, but the only thing that stopped him crushing her in an embrace was that all the lace and bows and ties and velvets and so forth looked kind of fragile, so he didn't want to ruin it for her.

So he just lowered the book and looked her up and down as she walked up to him. There was the death hippy thing back again - he suspected this was her usual thing, and silly as it was he figured it was a lady's prerogative to doll herself up some. Mostly, however, his eyes hungrily and obviously devoured the generous expanse of toned leg and scandalous display of cleavage. Yup, here was the Alyce he remembered.

He did his best to meet her gaze past the funky shades and said, "I may not be salutin', darlin', but I sure as hell am standin' at attention." Doubtless her radar or sonar or whatever she used had no trouble verifying the statement.

"Now where do I pay fer this here book?"   
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-16-17/1613:49>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

More than one of her enhanced senses tells Alyce Al is indeed at attention.  She knows that this outfit will get that sort of reaction from many men and even some women, but the only man she really cares to impress is standing in front of her.  She smiles at his question.  "That is a very nice book, Al.  I will take you to the counter where a very nice young woman by the name of Cecily will take your money from you while I go get my brolly in case the weather turns sour on us."  She walks with Al to the front and leaves him there to pay for the book, telling him that she will be back shortly.  She knows that his eyes are focused on the swish of her frock skirt as she walks away and she smiles again.

Cecily smiles and bobs her head at Al after Alyce leaves..  "Good morning, sir.  Oh, that one is ever so nice, don't you think?  I am sure that you will like it if you are a fan."  She pauses as she goes to ring up the sale on some sort of antique-looking contraption that looks like it came out of some very old movie.  There is nothing old about its operation, though.  She nods and looks back at you.  "That will be fifty nuyen, sir.  How would you care to pay today?"

Alyce walks to her office and looks at the array of umbrellas she keeps there, retrieving one that goes perfectly with her outfit.  By the time she returns to the front, Al has concluded his business and is waiting for her.  Carrying the umbrella under one arm and using the walking stick to help support her, she smiles and says, "I am ready to go, Al. I hope that you have not been waiting long."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-16-17/1659:22>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

Al paid cash, a hundred nuyen note, and the girl didn't bat an eye. He figured any place selling books made out of paper would have plenty of throwback sorts using scrip.

Alyce came back, and the sight of her just walking toward him in that dress...somewhere far away a girl was offering him his change. "Keep it," he mumbled, grabbing his book distractedly and leading Alyce by the arm to the red sports car. The door opened and Al felt slightly dizzy as he tried to watch her bosom and her hemline simultaneously.

Hopping in on his side, he started the car and asked, "You eaten? We got time afore the matinee if'n yer peckish. Elsewise we can git drinks at the theater."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-16-17/2335:05>
Alyce smiles and lets Al lead her to the car and hands her in.  She leans a bit sideways as Al walks around the front of the car and slides into drver's seat, making sure that he gets a nice view of her cleavage as he does. " I am a bit peckish, Al, I have not eaten since breakfast.  Do we have the time?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-17-17/0758:21>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

"Well jist said we did, precious. Have ya there afore ya can say copious cream-colored cleavage."

It was indeed a short distance to the nearest automobile entrance to the West End Underplex, and Al was too busy stealing glances at his breathtaking date to talk as he wove through London traffic. It seemed a shame to waste the sun, but he'd promised her a show, and hoped he'd found the right one. It had to be the matinee since he had other plans for the evening. And all the live theatre was down here, either on the rebuilt Shaftesbury Avenue or in the new National Theatre Complex. They would head to the latter.

As he pulled up to the Premium Secure Parking, he glanced at her and said, "You did erase us all from this place's..." and trailed off as she gave him the sort of look he'd have given anyone asking him if he'd recalibrated their timing belt correctly. "Sorry."

Once down in the mall proper, he took her arm and they shopped for a nice place to eat as they made their leisurely way to the Patrick Stewart Theatre. They chose a German place called Edelweiss. Tedious name but good eats. Started with sausages, finished with strudel. Of course the eatery offered beer all day. Conversation was light. Al had been thinking over the past few days of things he'd like to discuss if cornered into a real conversation, but he was delighted that she didn't lay anything heavy on him before noon.

Walking from brunch to the show, Al wondered why the damned molepeople couldn't make their little undercity more like this place - everything all clean, no one poisoning anyone, park areas apparently free of deadly demons. He figured Alyce would have a different view - he couldn't fathom her attachment to that infernal sub-realm. And he feared that particular mental derangement was just the tip of the iceberg....

So busy was he cautioning himself not to go down that particular thought-path lest it completely ruin a perfect day, that he didn't notice the man until they were almost on top of him. Standing in front of a shop chatting with a uniformed security guard was the very same plainclothes guy that Al had flipped off...and that Isaint had tasered. Before the man could look up and notice them, Al took Alyce around the shoulders and spun her into a tight embrace so that all the man could see was the V of her fit shoulders and the shape of her perfect ass swathed in all her steampunk finery.

And there, nose to nose in what was meant to have been a mere deception, Al felt her breath on his lips and did the only right thing...

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-17-17/1110:07>
Wednesday July 23rd 2076

Alyce is polite enough to remove her hat and hat pins during the drive.  Her curiosity is piqued when he turns in at the West End Underplex and motors to the nearest car park, but she remains aware enough to capture the security cameras in the vicinity and delete their images.  The look she gave Al when he asked his question was apparently enough to let him know she has it under control.

Alyce has literally spent hours down here shopping and doesn't want to inflict something like that on Al, so simply looks at the offered AROs from various shops they pass, committing anything interesting to her memory for later.  Lunch is perfect and she makes sure to tell Al so. 

Alyce has two of her Fly Spy drones up and so sees the security man before they reach him and is opening her mouth to let Al know when he swings her around and pulls her in close.  She finds her lips millimeters from his and her natural urges take control over the reticence she has been practicing and she closes the gap, kissing him with a passion that should be making his socks off.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-17-17/1132:02>
Wednesday July 23rd 2076

Kissing Alyce was making Al think about getting a lot more than his socks off. There was a tingly throbbing of his pulse in the tops of his feet and behind his ears as he explored her with his tongue. Still, the hand on the back of her head furtively pulled her hair to the side, allowing him to peek over her shoulder at the plainclothes security man, who was taking his time. That was fine with Al. By the time the coast was clear he had needed to switch to his internal air supply...

And then they parted. He disengaged his lips from her mouth and his scarred hand from her perfect ass. "Sorry ta take liberties, toots - was a matter o' life an' death, ya know," he said with a wink. "I'll try an' be on my best behavior goin' forward."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-17-17/1424:11>
Wednesday July 23rd 2076

Alyce pants just a little bit to get her breathing back to normal and her voice is barely above a whisper.  "I thought you did bloody good just then, but I am game if you want to try for better.  And just so you know, I loved the way your hand felt on my ass.  You can do that anywhere and anytime you want."

Her senses are telling her that the security man has walked off.  She gives Al a big smile.  "Too bad that man left.  I was rather enjoying the way you were avoiding him."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-17-17/1716:57>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

Al smiled cockily in response. Hers was the typical female reaction to his touch. But since he didn't say so, he congratulated himself on his modesty and decorum.

Taking her arm, they resumed their stroll towards the venue. As they got within a block or so, Alyce noticed that she was perceiving a lot more people than usual in fashions similar to her own. By no means everyone, but a significantly greater proportion of the passersby also seemed to be going for the same niche look she favored. And by the time the theater was close, nearly a third of the women and more than a few of the men were attired in velvets and laces blended with exotic 19th century-looking gadgetry.

The marquis said Murder on the Orient Express, the Agatha Christie stand-by. With barely a thought, she accessed the program with her headware to find that this revival had taken the scene of the action - an old-fashioned coal-fired train - as a springboard for a steampunk-styled rendition of the classic.

"After you," Al said, ushering her into the foyer.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-18-17/0746:17>
Wednesday. July 23rd 2076

The number of people that are dressed in steampunk style clothing is the first clue that something is up, but Alyce remains quiet until they approach the theatre, where she grasps Al's arm and smiles.  "Oh, Al, I have heard of this show.  Thank you for thinking of it."

Upon leaving the theatre, Alyce is grinning.  "Thank you so very much, Al, I thoroughly enjoyed that.  What is next on your list of surprises?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-18-17/0805:09>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

Their next stop wasn't exactly a surprise, but Al had hoped it would be nice. There was still plenty of London's long summer afternoon left, and he drove his beauty (the girl, not the car....but yeah....the car too) north into London's Village district where they walked hand-in-hand for a few hours around Hampstead Heath before settling into a patio seat at La Canard on Hampstead Avenue. It was supposed to be the best French cuisine in London. Al had no idea if that was true, but he thought the fod was good, and he hoped Alyce did, too. He even broke down and drank wine instead of beer. When Alyce commented on it, he admitted, "Well, an easy sacrifice, really, since they gon' be plenty o' beer where we's goin' next. Ya ready?"

Evening shadows were lengthening as Al took them up to The Ridgeway above Mill HIll - a leafy road winding among walled estates and elite private schools. Situated about midway along the exclusive road was the Adam & Eve. Like the place they'd gone the previous week, it was another gastro-pub catering to the upscale local residents. And like the place the previous week, it had a chalkboard out on the pavement announcing a quiz night, due to start in the next half hour.

"Hope yer feelin' on top o' yer game, toots, cuz the folks in this here locality tend ta have quite a few letters after they names."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-18-17/1426:44>
Wednesday July 23rd 2076

Alyce has been very impressed with Al's choices so far and the pub is no exception.  She leans close to him and takes his arm.  "You are bloody amazing, do you know that?  And you are right, we will have to be on our best game to beat some of the people that we are likely to see here."

Alyce is greeted by several people when she and Al enter the pub.  At least four couples wave them over to their tables and two others groan out loud.  "Bloody hell, Robyn Lysander.  Well, there go our chances tonight."

Alyce leads Al to one of the tables and introduces him to Doctor and Mrs Albert Carson.  They heartily welcome Al to the table and prove to be a lot of fun and very competitive during the game.  Quiz Night is a huge success and the table walks away with the top prize.  There is lots of fun and several rounds of beer.  Al is hailed as a hero for knowing the answers to several tough questions that had stumped the others.  All in all,it was a very good night.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-18-17/1627:10>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

Al also had found the evening quite enjoyable, and the Carson's were indeed excellent company and keen quiz partners, not to mention Mrs. Carson was quite fetching. He had not expected Alyce, or Robyn, to know so many - or any - people here, and had had to remind himself how long she'd lived in London, and the sorts of acquaintances she must make in the course of her various pursuits. Indeed, her interactions with a number of the men and women here, while quite friendly and normal on the surface, seemed to have a certain undercurrent of familiarity he couldn't put his finger on.

As people continued to drink and converse in the aftermath of their victory, in a rare moment when Dr. Carson had gone to fetch another round and Mrs. Carson had turned to chat with a woman at another table, Al whispered to Alyce, "So where ya know these folk from? Doctorin' world? Or they got boxes at yer opera?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-19-17/0814:49>
Alyce nods and takes a deep breath.  "Both, actually.............and more.  I don't want to spoil any of your surprises if you have anything else planned, and my surprise should be told in private. Can we go somewhere?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-19-17/0931:58>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

"Your surprise? Sure, toots, I'm all ears. Reckon my own little agenda's all tapped out fer the day, so anywhere ya'd like ta go...This's the Village,'s a warm night, or if'n ya wanna sit they's any number o' quiet cafe's down Hampstead way...."

He stood and offered his arm. They made their excuses - everyone was damned nice - and in moments the Porsche Aguilar was on the road.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-19-17/1550:56>
Wednesday July 23rd 2076

At the cafe, Alyce orders two pints and takes them out to a small table outside.  She sits down next to Al and puts one of the mugs down in front of him.  She takes a deep breath and leans close to him.  "Before I get into my surprise, I want to tell you how bloody marvelous today has been.  Thank you so very much."

She sips at her beer and says, "Al, I want is to spend my life making you happy.  But I need to be completely honest with you about something that is very much a part of my life.  I am a sharer.  And I don't mean sharing stuff.  I am a sharer of intimacy.  I get together with like-minded people to share sexual experiences.  Sometimes it is with one other person, but it can also be with several people at a time.  That's pretty much what I had to say.  I can give you more details if you like, but this is the basic gist of it."

Alyce sits back and waits for his reaction.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-19-17/1833:31>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

Al let out a low whistle and chuckled. This explained what he'd noticed in the pub. Several thoughts came to his mind, and he spoke unguardedly. "Well, I'll allow as I'm surprised, but also that I shouldn't o' been. Ya made yer easy virtue clear from our first gittin' acquainted. Reckon I jist took some o' what ya said as hyperbolization. I'll learn ta take ya at yer word." He grinned. "But the way ya carried on with that Chinagirl, an' the circumstances thereof...well that din't bother me so much as...well, led me to some incorrect conclusions. An' I s'pose I shoulda taken it as my cue ta let my imaginations run a bit wilder. So I appurciate yer settin' ol' Al straight onna matter, afore I misapprehend anythin' else important."

He drained his stein. "Hey, Camden Stalls is open all night. Wanna go git some ink?" 
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-19-17/2333:21>
Wednesday July 23rd, 2076

Alyce smiles, a little surprised by Al's response, as she had expected something different.  "You are taking this rather well.  Is there even the slightest chance that you really want to hear more about this?  I can talk to you as you drive."

As she walks with you, she giggles.  "Do you really think that I have much room to add any more ink to my body?"

Once on the road, Alyce looks over at Al.  "Alright, a bit of information on my sharing.  There is usually a party invite sent out to the members of the local group.  Those who are planning on attending send a response and show up at the designated place and time.  Participants usually disrobe and wear masks.  Of course,wearing usually does not make me invisible due to my tattoos, but it does add a bit of mystery to the party.  People walk around the house, mingling as they want.  No one is ever expected to do anything that they are not comfortable with.......nothing.  Sometimes I will pair up with one other person and sometimes with multiple people at once, changing partners as desired.  It is a great time, with lots of fun sex for everyone involved.  Some of these parties are just for one night and others an entire weekend."

Alyce pauses.  "Too much information or are you ready for more?"

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-20-17/0642:23>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

Al reached over to turn off the car's heater, but was surprised to find it wasn't on.

"Well, heh, that's an earful already."

He did have some questions, but wouldn't even know how to phrase them. And it sounded as though they might be answered momentarily in any case.

"But hey, that's the whole point o' this courtship thing, right? Git more properly acquainted? So shoot."

Still, he picked up the pace in a bid to more quickly reach the relative safety of the seedy line of tattoo parlors stretching south from Camden Locks.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-20-17/0911:20>
Wednesday July 23rd 2076

Alyce could have waited or could have just stopped, but the flood gates were opened and she kept going.  It would not do to just parcel the information out.  "When I first came to London, I was seeking revenge for the deaths of my parents, my fiancé, my friends, and my eyesight.  I cared for nothing else.  I managed to track one of the men to the LCZ and followed him into that cesspool of humanity.  I was completely unprepared for what I would find there but was determined to do anything to get my revenge.  At a particularly low point, I was left with few options and took the path offered to other pretty girls and went to work in a club.  Al, I was a stripper and a whore, getting paid for sex........for a lot of sex.  I was shagging people in a dirty back room and sometimes on the stage in front of a crowd of appreciative men.  I was introduced to sex with other women and to bestiality."

"In the end it was all worth it.  It got me into the bed of the man I was after and what he told me as I slowly killed him led me to the next man on my list.  A side effect of this period is that I developed a real liking for sex, which eventually brought me to my first sharing circle and I have never looked back.  So there you are, you know my secrets.  I am not the sort of girl any normal man would want to admit knowing, much less want to take home to meet his family.  But you are far from a normal man and I am hoping that you will give me a chance to be your girl and your lover."

Alyce remains quiet for the rest of the trip, letting Al digest what she has told him.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-20-17/1012:43>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

And it was indeed a lot to digest, with revelation round two a decidedly different flavor. He'd just about hit a delivery scooter at one particular disclosure, but had been careful to show no reaction - everyone had a past, everyone, and he'd not betray her trust by scorning hers.

Her pronouncements about her current lifestyle had not initially bothered him. He could easily picture her in such a setting - in fact, there was a certain innocent brand of dignified mischief about her that intrinsically defied the associated taboos, so that picturing her at that sort of gathering lost the sense of scandal it might carry for anyone else.

But this now about her past struck him as tragic - and knowing the past he couldn't help but assume that ugliness was a precursor to her supposed pleasures of the present. But she was a big girl, and didn't need him psychoanalyzing her or second-guessing the way she chose to live.

So once again, as always, she had his mind going in three or four different directions about her.

She'd been pretty straight with him - maybe straighter than he'd ever be with her - and when he parked the car he was direct. "I'm damned sorry ta hear 'bout yer past. Maybe sorry's not the word you'd use, but it's how I feel. An' while I'll be glad ta know all I can about ya, never think ya owe me any explication 'bout anything happened afore us."

He tilted his seat back a bit, slouched down, and bent his knees to put his boots up on the dash to either side of the steering wheel. Lit a cigarette, handed it to her, and then lit another for himself. "On t'other hand, as opposed ta' sad-Alyce-past, ya done got me keenly innerested in naughty-Alyce-present. Got 'bout a million-an'-one questions aswirl in my noggin', an' long as we's tryin' out this courtship thing, then yeah, reckon ya do owe me answers. Jist so's I don't feel like a sucker, ya unnerstand."

He blew smoke out through the sunroof, and said, "Like, when was the last one o' these little misadventures ya had? I mean, if it was since our little reunion. An' when exactly were ya thinkin' on attendin' the next?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-20-17/1211:26>
Wednesday July 23rd 2076

Alyce is very glad that Al seems to be taking her revelations in stride and is doubly so that he shows little interest in her past while seeming to be curious about her present.  Smiling, she nods.  "Thank you, Al.  The last time I went to a sharing party was two weeks before you came back into my life.  I have received an invitation to a party for this weekend but have not accepted yet.  I was not going to accept at all until I talked to you about it.  I would love to take you with me so you can see for yourself what I am talking about."  She reaches out to put a hand on Al's arm.  "Al, I am completely willing to give that part of my life up if you would prefer.  I would give everything else up if you want, although I would hope that you allow me my music and my medicine."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-20-17/1233:23>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

"Woman, the melodramatic shit you say. What kind o' self-hatin', no 'count weasel would want ya ta give up yer music or yer doctorin'?...Or anything else that makes ya who ya are, fer that matter. Nah, we is who we is, an' it works on them terms or it don't. As fer this weekend, though, seems like that'd be gittin' a bit ahead of ourselves, don't it? All things considered, I mean. Besides, can ya really see ol' Al traipsin' 'round some stranger's house in a funny little mask with The Elephant swingin' free fer a bunch o' middle-aged nymphos ta fight over? Shit on sliced turkey, toots, not in this lifetime. Tell ya what, you go on, see yer sex-hippie friends, an' I'll swing by, pick ya up after. We can git a late supper, yer not too tuckered out."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-20-17/1255:46>
Wednesday July 23rd 2076

Alyce shakes her head.  "You are an amazing man, Al.  But I won't go this weekend if you don't come with me.  I do, however, confess to having a great desire to see the elephant and give it all the attention it deserves.  No, if you are not going to come and bless all the other women with your presence, I will not go either.  You can still come and get me for dinner, unless you want to spend more time with me."

She looks over at Al.  "You know, that movie got me thinking.  Would you be interested at all in taking a romantic train exploration on the Orient Express?  We could take a couple or three weeks and............."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-20-17/1805:13>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

After Alyce's voice shyly trailed off from her rather next-step-ish invitation, Al was silent for some time. And then silent some more.  Then he shook himself and said, "Sorry, toots, miles away. Yeah, hell yeah, that's 'bout the best I idear I heard this year. When's she leave? Book us a coupla sleeper cabins, shoot me the bill. I can leave as early as next week. Definitely."

He put his feet down and clapped his hands together. "Alrighty, let's go. Know what I want, sure 'nuff." He was out in a flash and on Alyce's side, opening her door and eyeing her cleavage as he helped her out. As she stood in front of him he said, "Listen, yer gon' do what ya want. But you passin' up yer li'l hootenanny this weekend's got me bothered. Considerable bothered. I'd call it a boon if'n ya'd rethink that a bit." He put a scarred finger to her lips as she started to speak. "Nope, don't ask why, cuz I ain't up fer no woman talk. Jist don't say nothin' till ya pondered on it fer a bit, tell me later. Now, you gittin' anything, or is it jist ol' Al?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-20-17/2035:14>
Wednesday June 23rd 2076

Alyce nods and does not say anything, but she does stick out a playful tongue and licks Al's finger as she gives him an impish grin. 

As they turn to go inside the shop, she says, "I will see if they have anything I like.  And I will make some reservations for the rail trip.  Adjoining cabins alright with you?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-21-17/0714:00>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

“Yeah, that’s what I was hopin’,” Al said as he looked around at the flash in the first shop. “Don’t wanna be no stranger or nothin’, jist a feller needs his own space, yer talkin’ ‘bout few weeks’ time.”

One of the names crossed off Al’s left upper arm had been done here in London, on this street, but that had been almost two decades earlier, and the place was gone now. Al’s other work had mainly been in New Orleans, Accra, Hamburg, and Seattle. So he needed to look carefully, make sure he found the right artist. Shouldn’t be a problem - there were probably a baker’s dozen quality joints on this street. Just had to sift them out from triple that number of tourist traps.

The first place was a non-starter, so they went on to the next, arm in arm. “Ya know, toots,” he said looking up at her, “they got UK tours too. Quick sprawl run down to Southampton, then a leisurely week ‘round the Western Habitable Zone - real nice in summer - night in Bristol - birthplace o’ psychobilly, that - ‘nother week inna Welsh Habitable - then they zip through Merseysprawl overnight so you don’t gotta look at it - after that ya got the Lake District, followed by Edinburgh, an’ finish up with a few days in the Scottish Habitable. But honest truth is, that Orient thing sounds great, too, so you pick. Or decide by which ya can git tix first.”

They were on their third shop now. Al was looking at the flash for someone with the right spirit, and for a place that had the sort of software he wanted. Finally he found some stuff on a wall that was suitably dark and out-of-the-box for his idea, and they had the gear he wanted. Next he looked at the artists. There was a beautiful girl in there with the sides of her head shaved, a brilliant shock of white hair falling to her waist, and a lean body wearing nothing but tight cut-off jeans, the better to display the intricate work gracing her torso. There was a dimensionality and otherworldliness that Al matched to the flash on the walls.

“Yo missy, who did yer work?”

She looked up from the woman’s calf she was working on and smiled. “That’d be Fletcher over there,” she answered in a heavy Eastern European accent. Hearing his name, a thick, hairy man in a denim vest and leather trousers waved from where he also was at work on a young woman -the two customers appeared to be friends.

“Well, Fletcher-amigo, reckon yer my man. Like yer style.”

“About an hour, mate.”

“Groovy. I gotta modify some previous - I see ya got the right imaging gear an’ so forth, mind if I git started?”

The man nodded and Al directed Robyn to a couple of seats. As he removed his boots and socks, he said to her, “Reckon that awesome work o’ yers is all one integrated piece, so s’pose you’ll wanna be careful ‘bout addin’ or detractin’ from it. Cool either way.”

Once his shoes were off, he placed them together and used a wand to scan the soles. Next thing they were displayed on a screen. They had some sort of writing on them that was so poorly executed that Alyce barely recognized it as Khmer, along with numerous small round scars she easily recognized as cigarette burns.  “I ain’t got no talent fer drawrin’, but this stuff is aces…” And using a combination of hand movements and vocal commands, he spent thirty minutes illustrating some sort of monster. A chill ran down her spine when she realized - by accessing the programs input in her headware - that it was an approximation (as least as much as two or even three dimensions would allow) of the thing they had stopped entering the Lyonesse metaplane.

When the man came over, Al said, “That’s roughly what I want - done incorporated the crap already there. Now I need you to give it life - like in them dark pieces on the wall.”

“Yeah, mate, I see what you’re going for. You do those letters yourself? Looks like you used bamboo and charcoal?”

“Sure. Basically means ‘fuck you’ in Cambodia-talk. Can you do that critter like I drew it, only yer way?”

“No worries. So you’ll be stamping on evil. Great metaphor.”

“Ain’t no damned metaphor. An’ once yer done, I need a speech bubble up here inna corner with the thing sayin’, ‘I suck cock like a skeezy bitch.’”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-21-17/1747:35>
Wednesday July 23rd 2076

Alyce nods and begins her search for rail tickets.  She has lived in London for forty years and has never seen the places that Al has just mentioned, so she checks ticket availability for that route first.  Happily, she finds adjacent cabins in the first class sleeper car and books them.  "Hey, Al, got us two on the Britain First tour.  Départs Monday next at half nine in the morning.  Pick me up or meet me there?"

 She holds onto Al's arm as he walks from shop to shop, obviously looking for something in particular.  She approves of the one that he selects, but remains near the white-haired artist when Al goes off to Fletcher.  Alyce uses her enhanced senses to feel the young woman as she works and is pleased.  "Would you have time after your current customer?"

"Don't do butterflies or feel-good drek, but if ya want it a bit edgy, I am absolutely your girl.  Take a look at the design kiosk for some of my stuff or design your own."

Alyce watches the artist for a few minutes then goes to the kiosk.  She knows exactly what she wants and uses a drone as her eyes to set the design that she wants, taking the finished product back to the artist, whose name is apparently Solange, waiting patiently for the girl to finish her current project.  Fifteen minutes later, Solange wipes the back of her customer and pronounces her done.  Alyce steps up as the other girl gets off the table.  She hands Solange her design idea and removes her frock and frilly underwear as the artist looks at the design.

Solange shakes her head.  "A bit ambitious, but I am up to it if you got the time.  Come closer and let me look at the canvas I have to work with."

The artist watches Alyce move and the look in her eyes is not entirely professional.  Alyce has already felt the signs of an attraction for Solange and the other woman's pulse and breathing indicates she feels something, too.  After a long moment of staring, Solange leans forward and whispers, "By any chance....."

Alyce interrupts her by putting a hand behind the white-haired girl's neck and pulling her closer.  Lips touch and open in a sensuous kiss that leaves both women panting.  Two pairs of hands cup breasts and already hard nipples respond.  Solange gasps as she breaks from the kiss and steps back.  "Well, we won't get the work done like that, will we now?  Let me take a look at the skin I will be doing."

Solange draws her eyes across Alyce's skin then bends over and looks closer.  She straightens up and calls out.  "Fletcher, you got to see this."

"I've seen great tits before, Solange."

"No, you fragging asshole.  I am looking at an original Karseau here."

"No fucking way.  In my shop?"

Fletcher apologizes to Al and comes to look at Alyce.  The artist whistles, "Sure enough, Solange.  Karseau.  I never expected that."

"She wants me to add art to this."

Fletcher nods.  "You're good enough.  Just take your time.  And don't go getting fancy and try to mix your own stuff with his."  Fletcher looks closely at the twin scrolls on Alyce's upper arms.  "So how do you have both work by Karseau and.............". He frowns and raises a hand.  "Forgot I ever asked that and I will forget I ever saw those.  Solange, whatever you do, don't fuck with the arms."  He nods again and returns to his table.  "Sorry about that, fella.  That was something I had to see."

Solange has Alyce lay down on her table while she traces the design on her skin.  "This is pretty intricate, dear.  I am thinking three hours minimum.  Are you good for that?"

Alyce calls out to Al. "She says three hours, Al.  You OK with that?"

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-21-17/1853:36>
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2076

Getting the soles of his feet done, Al had a full view of the shop.

And thus he had a full view of Alyce stripping off her dress - and then her sole piece of underwear - right there in the center of the shop. There were four other customers looking at the samples, three men and a woman. All stared, and Alyce was clearly in no hurry to deprive them of their view.

She was hairless below her eyebrows. Tats were the same - the various, dynamic Earl's House stuff, plus the Vor oaths. Her body was slightly less rounded than it had been in the jungle, but more lean and athletic now. Both versions were simply at different ends of the 'perfect' spectrum.

He couldn't hear what she was saying to the other woman, but next thing he knew the two were going at it - and the other customers were still enjoying the show, though through sidelong glances so as not to appear 'uncool.' Fucking kids. Al stared unreservedly, excited by the sight of the unclothed women, by their sapphic display, and especially by Alyce's complete brazenness in front of the other customers.

"Three hours? Hon, we got all night. An' from what I can see from here, you two won't be finished when the ink is."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-21-17/2252:45>
Thursday July 24th 2076

Fletcher finishes with Al's feet in just over an hour, as advertised.  He offers Al a pair of slippers for him to wear, but one look at the man's face and the offer is left unsaid.  Al walks over to where Solange is working on Alyce, joining three other observers; two customers and another artist by the name of Nits.

Alyce is naked and laying on her back on the table, providing a view that is certainly part of the reason for the stares.  The other reason is the work Solange has already done.  A swirling vortex is centered on Alyce's bare pussy, throwing out streamers of colored gases.  Strings of stars spill from the vortex, visible against a dark background as they flow across the expanse of her hips and up her sides, before curling back across her chest and covering her perfect breasts.  Much of the work is still just sketched on her body, but the effect is quite dramatic, even so.

Fletcher walks over after cleaning his own instruments and nods his head.  "Very nice, Solange, very nice indeed.  I think this is some of your best work."

The other artist suddenly jumps back a step.  "Holy bloody fucking Mary.  That thing on her face just moved."

The other two men watching nod in surprise as well and Fletcher snorts.  "Bloody hell, Nits.  I can understand the punters not knowing, but you should know better.  The masterpiece on her face and back are prime examples of the work of Casim Karseau, one of the true masters of the art.  This stuff is strictly from Below and strictly for those who are born or adopted into a high station in one of their Great Houses.  Now why don't you three go back to quietly drooling and let Solange show you why she deserves second billing here?" 

He looks at Al and adds.  "You can stay, seeing how she is your woman.  Pull up that stool over there and let your feet rest a bit, as it looks like this could easily take a couple more hours."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-22-17/1101:01>
Thursday July 24th 2076

A pattern begins to emerge amid the stars on Alyce's chest.  It is difficult to see at first, but as Solange adds more points of light against the darkness she puts down first, two faces can be seen.  A casual observer would simply see a field of stars on a dark night, but looking carefully, a discerning viewer can make out Alyce's face on the right looking at Al's face on the left. 

Three hours and forty-seven minutes after starting, Solange puts her tools down and announces that she is done.  By this time, only Al is left to watch.  Fletcher is sleeping on a chair and the droolers have gone home.  Solange looks over at Al.  "Well, what do you think?  I think that it is just about the best I have ever done."

The artist's eyes roam across Alyce's body with more than a professional look and her rock hard nipples are a clear indication of her desire.  "Fragging beautiful."

Alyce turns her sightless eyes to Al and smiles.  Her senses have told her that he is aroused, and not only by her being naked or by Solange being topless, but by the surge of sexual desire between the two women.  Her face asks an unspoken question of the man she loves.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-22-17/1952:49>
Thursday, July 24th, 2076

Al was perfectly happy to while away the early morning hours leaning back against a wall and smoking. At one point he popped out for some beers. And he couldn’t complain about the view.

He had so much he wanted to discuss with Alyce, but the leisurely pace was perfect. He’d sit, think, text her. She’d text him back with her headware - no one even knew they were talking. Went over the travel plans. She offered to pay. He went ahead and transferred the whole twenty-five and change. He asked some idle questions about her shop. A bit about when she might be playing next. She shot back some chatty queries about him. He mostly avoided answering. It was nice. A long time passed slowly and very quickly.

It gave him some time to think about the things she’d laid on him earlier. As he’d told her, it went some way to clearing up some rather fatal misconceptions he’d had back in the jungle about her romantic attention span. Of course, like everyone else,he’d heard about that scene. Always frowned on it. Still did. But with her, for better or worse, it somehow fit. Still, he’d been surprised at the display before the ink girl got to work - he’d foolishly assumed her hijinks were limited to that one rarified sphere, but apparently any passing fancy was also fair game. Fair enough.

Al loved tats. But even he was a bit sad to see those creamy expanses of perfect skin disappear forever. Her choice. He didn’t say a word. And when he wasn’t looking at one body or the other, he could see it was great work. The tattoo chica was checking him out, too. A lot. He chuckled. No matter how gay, they always looked his way. Hell, if he wasn’t mistaken, it was even…seriously?…yes, as he watched her work on the starry patterns on the side he was watching from, damned if he couldn’t make out his own likeness there. It was so subtle he doubted the girl even knew she was doing it. He silently congratulated himself on the way his masculine charms found their way even into the artworks of his most unwitting admirers. Al Guthrie - Muse.

The girl asked him what he thought, and he spared her the embarrassment of pointing out what she’d done (and he'd certainly never tell Alyce about it - and it was one of the few things she might not notice herself). Just acknowledged the quality - it was impressive.

Almost as impressive as the sight of the two beauties. With the work complete, the girl's professional detachment was giving way, fingertips drifting. Alyce's response was clear. And just sitting and watching the temperature rise between the two women, Al was giving the stitching on his 501s a run for its money.

When Alyce turned her sightless eyes to him, the question was unmistakeable. No doubt it'd be the show of a lifetime. He actually thought on it for a second or two. But sex was not a spectator sport for him, and since he wasn't prepared to be more than that, well, dawn was breaking outside the shop, and it was calling him.

He extended a hand to the Solange girl, and enjoyed the way she moved as she shook it. "Straight up good work, sissy."

Then he put a hand on Alyce's hair and bent to kiss her forehead. "Hell of thing on the spur o' the moment. Ya got moxy."

He straightened up. "Ol' Al's across the street fer some breakfast. If'n ya care ta join me." He nodded to indicate the tattooists were invited if so inclined. "Take as much time as ya need gittin' decent - I don't eat fast."

He unlocked the door from the inside and let himself out.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-22-17/2039:17>
Thursday July 24th

Alyce gives Solange a smile of regret as she swings off the table and begins to put her clothes on.  She does, however, get her com code and promises to contact her soon.  The two women exchange a lengthy kiss before Alyce walks out of the shop and across the street to the diner.  Entering, she looks around and locates Al in conversation with a pretty waitress.

Alyce slides into the booth next to him and orders a more or less traditional English breakfast, or at least the closest the diner could approximate.  She had sensed that Al had not been overly happy about her and Solange getting together, but she refuses to try to explain herself or try to make sense of his contradictions.  There are just too many things on which he seems to stand on both sides and she will have to come to terms with that if she wants to take a chance on him wanting her in his life.

She places a hand on his after the waitress leaves with their orders.  "Thank you for an amazing day and night, Al.  I did sense that you aren't all that excited about my new ink, so I am glad that I took the 'buyer's remorse ' option.  The tat will disappear in 24 hours if I don't go back to get it sealed in.  I am thinking that perhaps I got a bit ambitious."

"Are you working today or............"

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-23-17/0849:23>
Thursday, July 24th, 2076

Alyce had shown up pretty quick. He hadn't meant to cock-block her - or whatever it was called with women - but had figured she'd come if he didn't stay. Woman was just so...servile. Okay, eager-to-please would have been a nicer way to put it. Which was a good quality in a woman in general, he supposed, if also rather discomfiting. Well, it was convenient anyway.

Or maybe she'd just been being courteous - she was on a date with him, after all.

Nope. He was pretty sure she'd do about anything he told her to. He could live with that. If he could live with her. Which came down to if he could live with anyone.

She definitely was tempting him something fierce. All the more tragic that it was doomed from the start. But he'd warned her of that from the get-go, and she'd still wanted to give it a shot. And she was not one to underestimate.

He let her hand stay on his. He liked it there. And even though he'd spent the last four hours looking at her naked, he still appreciated the flagrant display of cleavage. And the heat of her next to him.

He answered her. "if we's leavin' on Monday fer a three-weeker, reckon I got a lot ta tie up afore then."

The breakfasts arrived. He'd also ordered the soy-equivalent of a full English, with extra beans on toast since he couldn't usually get flannel cakes here.

As they ate, they discussed body art. He did not mention the little bonus Solange had unconsciously left in the constellation, but did say, "Fact is, I love that tat. Tits over there done some top-notch work. But yeah, you an' yer damned pulse sensors an' whatnot..." he grinned - he never minded her doing her lie-detector thing on him because he never lied to her - "...I'll allow as, well, toots, you plus full frontal nudity could put half the world's pornographers an' a good number o' Renaissance artists straight outta work. Shit, ya think yer rich now, git some images o' you out onna Grid - whooo-ee. So I was an' still am a bit chagrined to see perfection added to, if'n ya take my meanin'. That bein' said, I am partial ta good ink onna woman, an' that one's right up there. Listen, I know it ain't cheap, but now she's done it first time with the erase option, well, ol' Al'd be happy ta pay the difference fer the off-an'-on-switch option. Best o' both worlds, dependin' on yer mood."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-25-17/1606:48>
Alyce shakes her head and smiles.  "That is very sweet of you, Al, but I can pay for my ink.  I do like your idea, though, and will that done when I come back this afternoon.  What time on Saturday do you want me to be ready?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-25-17/1607:27>
“Well, all depends on you. I do appreciate yer consideration. But like I said, my vote’s fer later.” Dammit, he was going to have to explain himself. By talking. It was suspiciously like she was civilizing him. “Take a few days ta explain all of it. Reckon there’s time ‘nuff fer that next week. But in a nutshell, the moment either one of us starts doin’ or not doin’ things jist ta accommodate t’other, well, I reckon that’s when we’s done…or at least doomed."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-25-17/1608:28>
Alyce shakes her head.  "I see it a bit differently, Al.  I don't do things to accommodate you, I do them because I love you, and love means compromise and sharing.  It is my deepest hope that you come to realize that I would do anything for you because I love you like no other woman ever will.  Anything we might ever have is only doomed if you allow that to happen, because I will never give up on us.  I will give you as time and space as you need, but I will not ever say that we are doomed."

"I suppose that I have spoilt the moment, and I am sorry if I have, but some words need to be said.  Al, want you in a bed with me, where I will make love to you like no woman ever has before because they could not possibly love you more than I do.  If that sends you running, then so be it, although I hope that you still want to go on the train trip with me and I hope that we can hammer some of our problems out together.  Do you?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-25-17/1608:58>
“Yeah, I do hope that, or I wouldn’t be here. An’ yeah, we’s goin’ on that train, hell or high water, toots. Listen…” She was being straight with him. She always was. And while he never lied to her, there was a lot he didn’t say. And he knew it frustrated her. If nothing else, she was a dear friend, and he needed to help her out. But…”…I know….shit, like I said, we got three weeks o’ sittin’ easy, no one tryin’ ta kill us, lookin’ all peaceful-like at rollin’ green fields an’ quaint villages. I will talk to ya then. I will.”

He got up and left some cash on the table. “i respect yer views on the whole compromise an’ sharin’ thing, even if they ain’t my own. I still think you should go ta yer shindig. Reckon ya would if not fer me, an’ wish ya’d go fer yerself. And…can’t put my finger on the why of it yet, but reckon I’ll be disappointed myself if’n ya don’t. But I won’t say no more about it. I’ll be inna city that evenin’ anyhoo, so ya text me that night with the where an’ the when, I’ll collect ya forthwith. Don’t tell me now. Surprise me.”

He opened the door for her. “Best we got you home. Talk more inna car if ya want."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-25-17/1609:43>
Alyce takes Al's arm and lets him take her to the auto.  She has said her piece for now and anything more would probably not help, so she just enjoys the ride home in silence, enjoying what he is willing to give.  She turns to him after he helps her from the auto.  "Thank you again for a marvelous time.  It was simply brilliant.  I will call you Saturday to let you know when and where to pick me up."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-25-17/1610:19>
"Groovy." Behind him, the car door was still up, the engine running. "An' by the way, " he said, lacing his scarred fingers through the hair at the back of her head, pulling her down and close, "this ain't our first date. "
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-25-17/1611:01>
Alyce melts into the strong man and feels his heart beat against her chest.  She lifts her mouth to his in anticipation........
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-25-17/1611:27>
Al paused for a tiny moment right before his chapped lips met her high-end red lipstick, just to torture her a little. Then he mashed his mouth fiercely, painfully against hers, his own desperation for her touch apparent in the way he gripped her hair and in the heat she felt against the center of her new tattoo.

Short and sharp, their tongues embraced and then he was gone, biting her lip on his way out.

“Saturday. Make me wait.”

And he got into his car and drove away without looking back.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-25-17/1613:07>
Alyce stands on the curb for several minutes after Al drives off, savoring that kiss.  It wasn't everything she wanted, but it was enough for now.  Turning, she enters her shop, wishing the sales staff a very happy morning before heading over to where Al is waiting for her.  Alyce kneels at the side of the huge Hell Hound and scratches his head before taking him up the stairs to her suite to find that Stephanie has been alerted of her arrival and is waiting, along with Mae.

Mae helps Alyce undress as Stephanie fills her in on the day's events.  She tells both of them that she will be away on a train trip for three weeks, starting Monday coming then collapses in bed for a six hour sleep. Waking, she showers and dresses before going down to the book shop to deal with business there.

Alyce eats dinner alone at her table in the restaurant next door; well, alone except for the hound at her side.  Her mind is caught on what to pack for the trip.  Her gut tells her that Al is almost certainly a minimalist when it comes to this sort of thing and she decides that one case and an overnight bag will be enough for her needs.  After all, she has packed for rough before and can easily get everything she needs into the two bags.

That settled in her mind, she and Al finish eating and catch a taxi back out to the tattoo shop.  Solange smiles when she sees Alyce but frowns at the Hell Hound.  Alyce introduces the two of them, explaining that Al is her registered service animal and will cause no problems unless her life is in danger.  She explains what she wants done and Solange smiles, motioning for Alyce to strip and lay down on the table.  The work takes several hours, but now Alyce can wirelessly make the tat fade away or be visible.  The physical attraction the two felt the evening before is still very much present and with no other outside influence, Alyce goes home with the attractive tattoo artist and spends the rest of the night enjoying the sort of sexual activity that two women can experience together.

Returning to her suite in the morning, Alyce changes clothes and throws herself into the work involved in running the shop.  She quits early to go upstairs to see to packing for her trip.  That accomplished, she dresses for the night.  Leaving Al behind, Alyce takes a taxi to the location of the sharing party, where she thoroughly enjoys a night of passion and sex with as many partners as possible.  The party is scheduled to continue all weekend, but Alyce leaves early on Saturday afternoon, heading to a mid-range hotel to shower away the evidence of the past twenty hours.  Finished, she sends a text to Al, letting him know that she will be waiting for him in the lobby of the Belvedere at 1700.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-25-17/1614:00>
In her hotel room, Alyce checks her internal chronometer for what must be the hundredth time.  She has been ready to go since 1645 but Al had very clearly told her to keep him waiting.  She shakes her head and checks her face once again.  The drone on her shoulder helps her make sure that her minimal makeup is on right.  Standing, she smooths the dress against her form and smiles.  The body hugging dress clings to all the right places, emphasizing her impressive curves without showing her skin.  All in all, it's an impressive example of a well-known tailor's skill.  Her handbag and shoes are perfect matches for the dress and all of it brings out the color of her hair.

At 1720 precisely, Alyce steps out of the elevator and into the lobby of the Belvedere.  Her senses, assisted by her drone and her scanners pick up Al's location almost immediately and she walks over to him. She is aware of the eyes of others in the lobby watching her walk, but she belongs to Al and is not interested in the other men.  Alyce comes up to Al and leans into him slightly.  "I am sorry for keeping you waiting.  I hope that you think it is worth it."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-25-17/1615:18>
Saturday, July 26th, 2076

Al drove home and slept like a baby. He had been since he’d started calling on Alyce formally. Which he scolded himself for, since she was bewitching him here in London as badly as she had back in Cambodia.

No, he corrected himself, she was bewitching his memory of the man he used to be. Giant demon killing had made him haughty, like a Jerusalem harlot all aflounce in ringlets and wimples, whatever the hell a wimple was. Made him forget his truths.

And he’d promised to talk to her on the train ride. Suddenly it didn’t sound like such a fun trip anymore. Well, there was still this Saturday. But that…well that confused him even more.

Why couldn’t he just have all the good parts with none of the bad parts? But he knew the answer: because then she wouldn’t be her. He congratulated himself on his unerring sense of human nature.

He had a hell of a lot to do before the weekend. He read his new Red Samurai book. Practiced his card tricks. And tried to teach some new tricks to Spike, but the mangy animal was either too stupid or too lazy or both, and it was hopeless. Mostly, though, he’d accumulated a righteous lot of car parts over the past few days, and that meant a righteous lot of work to do between beers and naps.

Saturday rolled around and he was in no hurry, confident that he wouldn’t hear from her until the wee hours, at which point she’d likely be exhausted. Still, he had some vague ideas about hitting the Prospect and a few other watering holes around the Isle of Dogs. Maybe drop by and see the Vicar. And there were a few leads to follow up on some rumours he’d heard about an SK Prime ordnance shipment gone missing….

So he was only on the outskirts of the Smoke when he got the damned woman’s text at around half-four. He was momentarily delighted at the idea of seeing her a bit sooner, but mostly he was awash in a peculiar feeling of relief and disappointment at the choice she’d made. Whatever, he’d said he’d be there. It wasn’t her place though…he slapped this Belvedere joint into his nav and it took some very serious driving but he flashed his security code to a pimply-faced valet at two minutes till and trotted across the rotary to the lobby entrance, skidding to a calm-as-can-be saunter as he crossed the threshold. A quick look around showed him he hadn’t kept her waiting, so he settled down into an overstuffed chair and smoked. Until some geezer came over and told him not to, and not knowing Alyce’s relationship with this place he didn’t make a stink.

And she still wasn’t there. But when she finally emerged from the elevator, he reckoned he knew why. She just kept looking better and better. He near to melted when she leant into him and breathed her greeting. Saucy whore.

“Yeah, it was worth it. What ya hungry for?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-25-17/1839:30>
Saturday, July 26th, 2076

Alyce smiles and runs her face up and down his body.  "Al, if you had to ask that then I have not been very clear in my long range goals.  If you are talking about food, I haven't eaten since late morning so could eat almost anything.  How about a nosh any place you want then maybe a tour of some bars?  And a fag.  I could kill for one of those so can we stop at a newsstand and pick some up?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-25-17/1844:49>
Saturday, July 26th, 2076

"Toots, ya know ol' Al ain't but rarely without," he answered, handing her a Lucky Strike under the watchful eye of the hotel's tobacco Nazi. As he lit it for her, he said, "Well, if yer that peckish I'd say the hotel restaurant, but they got a few hang ups..." He took her arm and escorted her out, asking in a voice loud enough to be heard by their new staff shadow, "Whatcha doin' throwin' yer cred away in a damned smoke-free hotel anyhoo?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-26-17/0212:42>
Saturday July 26th 2076

Alyce links her arm to Al's and lets him walk her to his auto.  "I was only here long enough to grab some sleep and dress for you, Al.  I didn't really care if the bloody place allowed me to smoke.  Besides, I was out.  But, yeah, best not try the eatery here.  By the way, the answer to your question is yes,  I shagged Solange after she redid the ink and I went to the party last night."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-26-17/0726:42>
Saturday, July 26th, 2076

Al was shocked. Alyce's announcement, coming right out of the blue, nearly bowled him over, highlighting the deep differences between them. Didn't care if the place allowed her to smoke?!? He was silent as they got into the car, contemplating the enormity of it. On reflection, however, he decided maybe it was a good thing. After all, he cared about her, and he had heard some crazy rumors about smoking not being as good for your health as he'd thought.

That blip behind them, Al drove to a nearby Thai place and they enjoyed a lovely dinner together talking about nothing in particular. Al was forced to admit - to his terror - that even minor details about Alyce's life were of borderline interest to him, and as the meal was cleared away he grilled her on the mechanics of running a book store and the finer points of death hippie fashion. As she'd suggested, they followed dinner with a circuit through a number of pubs ranging from cancerous dives to fern-ridden wage-slave retreats, during which crawl Al subjected Alyce to an episodic account of his years in the Sahara and then the Saudi Peninsula. Then, as they strolled a late-night promenade around St. James' Park, he related to her the travails of installing an advanced life-support system, an endeavor that had dominated the better part of his weekend so far. It was warm and they sat on a park bench with a view of the pond. "So that's my weekend so far. Anything innerestin' fer you, or jist another coupla days inna life o' yer typical, run-o'-the-mill doctor-musician-entrepreneur-hacker-mobster?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-26-17/0918:16>
Saturday July 26th 2076

Alyce thoroughly enjoys the dinner, followed by the stories.  She lets Al do most of the talking, but intersperses some of her own adventures into the conversation.  Both have great fun and Alyce learns a great deal about the man she loves.

When on the bench, Alyce holds Al's hand in one of hers.  "You know, I can hold a wrench with the best of assisstant mechanics, and would be quite happy to help you with your project.  Perhaps I can help by diagramming it out in the matrix to make it easier.  I can dress a bit rough, and I hear that a little grease on the nose is considered sexy by some."

At his question, Alyce grips his hand a bit harder.  "My weekend?  You know that I was at a sharing party.  How much detail do you want?  I can't give names, but I can tell you what I did."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-26-17/0937:16>
Saturday, July 26th, 2076

Although not bothered by Alyce's predilections and habits - having accepted that they were a part of the whole that made her who she was - it was a truth that knowing where she'd been earlier today raised a variety of questions in Al's mind. He hadn't pried out of respect for her privacy and a desire to put her at ease - even if he didn't think it was a good idea, he was aware of how much effect his disapprobation might have on her decisions, and sought to avoid any hint of such. He knew he'd never change anything about himself for her, and wanted to ensure she not do anything of the sort herself.

But he also hadn't asked any questions because he was honestly unsure of how the answers might affect him. He cared about her more and more with each passing day, and hearing the gory details of her sexploits could send his thoughts in any number of directions, most bad, a few good. And she was a confusing enough proposition as it was.

The smart play was therefore to simply decline her offer. So of course he smled and said, "Sure toots, I wanna hear ever'thin'. Paint ol' Al a picture."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-26-17/1505:10>
Saturday July 26th 2076

Alyce turns her face to Al, a bit surprised at his response.  Realizing that he will have to know sooner or later, she launches into a detailed description of her activities of the previous night and this morning, starting with stripping and putting a mask on and finishing with the trio of lovelies she had cavorted with just before leaving.  She does not go step by step, but she leaves little to the imagination and it is clear that she has no shame in describing the various acts of sexual pleasure she had participated in.  When finished, she relaxes her grip on Al's hand, giving him the option to run away from her if he likes.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-26-17/1649:44>
Saturday, July 26th, 2076

Al sensed the tension in Alyce as she finished her story - not from descibing a night of incredible debauchery in explicit detail to the man she said she loved - but from her concern about his reaction. He admired the chance she'd taken, though she needn't have worried. There were a lot of things about her that kept him ever on the precipice of catching the next uncharted steamer for Madagascar, but this was not one of them.

He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it gently. "Sounds like ya had a party, all right. I'll confess it's a curious feelin', hearin' 'bout it that way. But keepin' ol' Al so well apprised takes the guesswork out, an' that's a comfort. Back in the jungle, with Chinagirl, it was not knowin' what ya were about that made things hard. Speakin' of which..." And he lowered her hand to his lap. "Jist ta erase any doubt but what there's a part o' me liked yer story jist fine," he explained as her eyes went wide behind her spectacular death hippie shades.

He kissed her hand once more, and put back on his knee. "Only trick is, thinkin' o' the quiz night, not sure I fancy wonderin' if any given person ya introduce me to's had carnal knowledge of ya an' me the only feller inna room don't know it."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-26-17/1826:05>
Saturday, July 26th, 2076

Alyce is genuinely surprised by the hardness she feels when Al puts her hand in his lap.  The size implied by the bulge is impressive and she subconsciously licks her lips in anticipation.  When he puts her hand back on his knee, she is tempted to move it back, but realizes that if were interested in that, he would have done that himself.  "There are at least two ways we could fix that issue, Al.  The first way is to bring you with me to some of these parties, and the second way is to make up some code so I can let you know if I have had sex with anyone we meet."

"So let me know if you need any help with your work and I will be happy to get dirty with you.  I am already packed for Monday, so I do not have to worry about that.  For planning purposes, I have one bag and a small overnight bag.  Will they fit in your auto or should I send the larger bag on ahead by taxi?  Or do you just want to meet me at Charring Cross?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-26-17/1833:18>
Saturday, July 26th, 2076

"Bags'll be fine, 'course I'll fetch ya." He stood, helped her up, and continued to walk. "Ya pretty much read my mind on the code, which is a good thing since ya won't see me at no parties till ya find one I can keep my clothes on an' the mask off." He acted nonchalant, but with every movement of her body under the supple fabric of her dress, he imagined it doing - and having done to it - the things she'd so vividly described.

They were soon back at the car and he pulled up the door for her. "So howzabout whenever ya introduce anyone as, say, yer dear friend...?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-26-17/1940:55>
Saturday, July 26th, 2076

Alyce smiles and nods as she laughs.  "Dear friend it is.  I hope that you are not too disappointed by the number of dear friends I have.  By the way, many of the people at the pub Quiz Night are dear friends, some have been dear friends for years.  And to be honest, there are some people I have shared with whom I would not recognize unless I saw them naked."

She lets Al open the door for her and help her into the auto, remaining mostly silent during the ride back to her home.  After getting out, she turns to him.  "So, give it a thought and let me know if you want any help at the garage tomorrow, otherwise I will be on the curb here on Monday by half-six in the morning, or whenever you think I need to be ready.  Oh, I do have a question about the train.  Would you prefer that I leave Al2 home or may I bring him with me?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-26-17/1953:38>
Saturday, July 26th, 2076

"Tomorrow, right. Don't mean ta ignore ya. Jist ya got a way o' pepperin' a body with ideas an' queries an' whatnot, feller can't hardly keep up. Ain't got no garage, per se. Burnt down. Place I got now does fine though. But tomorrow's the Sabbath. No work."

They stopped at her door, he a few telling paces away from it. "Half six'll do, I reckon, but no date o' mine's waitin' onna damned curb."

He kissed her then, more slowly than the last time. He tried not to think of how many others had been there in between times, and the way she moved, hell, it was easy enough not to think of anything at all. Pulling back, though, he thought of it again, and realized it didn't particularly bother him. Which made him feel like a hippie, so he said, "Yer askin' my druthers 'bout yer friend in there, well, reckon three's a crowd. See ya Monday."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-26-17/2047:16>
Saturday, July 26th, 2076

The kiss is slower and Alyce tries to show him how much she enjoys the kiss.  It takes significant effort to not wrap her legs around the man and try to drag him off to a bed, or a dark corner, or frag it, even a lit corner to shag him.  But he is not yet ready for that and she settles for the kiss, trying to delay the break for as long as possible. 

She remains standing on the curb as he pulls away and she considers all of the things she has learned about Al in the past few days.  He has opened up quite a lot for Al, so maybe he is really trying to make this date stuff work.  Going to bed without him will leave her dissatisfied and she knows her toys will get a work out tonight.

And Sunday.

On Monday, Alyce dresses and makes sure that things will run as smoothly as possible in her absence.  She spends time with Al2, making sure that he knows that she will be gone for about three weeks and that he will be left in the care of Stephanie, Mae, and the staff of the book shop.  It saddens her a great deal that Al apparently has no fondness for the Hell Hound and she resolves to try to find out why and try to work out some way to get the two to at least exist with each other.  She is ready by 0600 and sitting on the couch at the front of the shop's main lobby, with her luggage pieces near her.  She is dressed in tailored and form-fitting black trousers that grip her hips and accentuate her shapely ass before falling in a crease to just above the straps of her black two inch heels and there are no visible underwear lines when she moves.  Her top is a midriff-baring lace that has enough holes in it to leave absolutely no question that she is not wearing a bra and hinting at the cross and wooden idol resting in her cleavage.  She is wearing a wide-brimmed white hat set at a slight angle and her entire outfit is accented by a small handbag, her ever-present glasses, and her skull-topped walking stick.

Al is precisely on time but she remains on the couch until he comes in the door to ask for her, then stands for him.  "I am ready Al.  It has been a long time since I took a nice holiday.  Thank you for recommending it."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-27-17/0537:36>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

With no work to interrupt his drinking, Al spent Sunday thoroughly inebriated. Whether he was trying to forget the demon from the other plane or the one right here in London was hard to say, but in any case he did not forget that the latter would be waiting for him at half-six. Fortunately it was full daylight by five, and the few sharp rays of sun filtering through the filthy windows of his Caravaner woke him in plenty of time.
Spike was nothing if not self-sufficient, but Al tore open a ten-kilo sack of chow as a going away present, then tossed some frozen steaks into the man-high grass surrounding his lot – the scent would attract him as they thawed. He made sure he had his cards in his pockets, tossed a couple of cartons of Lucky Strikes, his Erdnase, and some boxers and socks into a small plastic Stuffer Shack bag, and fired up the Porsche.

When Alyce stood, Al was impressed. The painted-on trousers, the taut, bare stomach, and the flagrantly transparent lace top were her ineffable combination of naughty class. He loved when she showed herself off. “Woman, ya look like the over-monied harlot ya are, an’ ol’ Al approves,” he said with a wolfish grin as he picked up her pair of small bags. He tossed them into the tiny space behind the seats while she said her goodbyes inside, and next thing they were in traffic on the way to Charing Cross Station.

An HGV flattening a cyclist held them up, but Al called ahead – there was a certain leeway in the schedule for first-class fares – so when they got there the other passengers were all aboard, and a pair of valets was on hand to assist with the luggage. One took Alyce’s bags and, to his credit, made a valiant if futile attempt to keep his eyes off of her breasts. The other looked somewhat at a loss as Al handed him the small plastic bag, but carried it with as much decorum as he could muster.

The adjoining first-class cabins were mirror images of each other, each with a shower/toilet unit, two-chair dining table, miniature settee and entertainment unit, and a brave approximation of a double bed. Space was necessarily at a premium, but the designers had made a good job of it, with opulence taking the edge off the lack of elbow room.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-27-17/1121:39>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Alyce tipped the valet generously, giving him another opportunity to scan her chest.  The slight morning breeze has caused her nipples to harden and be completely visible through the lace top and pushes her otherwise free-falling trousers against her well formed legs.  She takes a quick look at the two cabins then goes into hers.  "Back out in a tic, Al.  I want to unpack and hang up my clothes to avoid wrinkles."  She disappears into her cabin, returning in a few minutes, wearing the same clothes but sans hat.  Knocking on Al's door, she says, "Let's see what the amenities are like in First, shall we?  I could use a beer and a fag."

The first class section of the train is centered on two sleeper coaches connected directly to an observation coach behind them with dining and bar cars forward.  The observation coach has a second level with seating under a rounded dome in front, an exposed deck to the rear, and a small bar.   Al and Alyce find two other couples already on the exposed deck, taking advantage of one of the clearest London mornings in the past few weeks.  Alyce smiles at the cute bartender, who does his manful best to keep his eyes above her chest and fails dramatically.  Taking a beer, she leads Al onto the open deck and approaches the other four travelers, stopping at one pair.  "Good morning Professor Crane, Mrs. Crane.  Al, I would like you to meet my dear friend, Professor Michael Crane and his wife Pamela."  She had intentionally not used the dear code when introducing the man's wife because she has never had sex with her, unlike the husband, with whom she has shared a number of intimate moments.  "Professor Crane teaches up at Cambridge.  I think we met at some sort of parent's night when Gem first went up.  "How nice to see you on this train."

Professor Crane looks every bit of his fifty-plus years, but his wife must be a trophy of some kind, because she looks barely into her thirties.  Of course, modern science could also explain her youthful appearance.  Pamela shakes hands with Alyce and Al, perhaps holding onto Al's hand a moment too long as her eyes hungrily devoured him and she turned just oh so enough that he was able to get a good look at her expensively concealed bust.  For his part, the professor can barely talk as he takes in the view that the breeze gives him of Alyce's chest.  Alyce breaks the moment by taking Al's arm and guiding him to the other couple, who she does not know.  Mutual introductions are made before Alyce and Al walk to the edge of the deck and look out at the view afforded them of Greater London.  Several other people show up on the deck and some mingling takes place as people learn who some of their fellow travels are.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-27-17/1310:30>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Al figured the room was nice enough. The windows had been permanently locked, a pet peeve he'd rectify as soon as he had a free minute. There was no bathtub, but he hadn't used one in years anyway, so he didn't figure he'd miss it. And while the bed might be a bit short for some, it would be no problem for him.

He explored the first-class car with Alyce, which was fun. The train was actually almost all sleepers, since this was essentially a cruise on rails, but from the materials he'd glanced at, the cars farther back were rather less extravagant. Of course, their operating cost was still probably about fifty or sixty percent of the luxury cabins, even though the luxury ones cost roughly four times as much. And going up to the observation deck confirmed what the extra mark-up bought - exclusivity.

He didn't know the names for all the fabrics these people were wearing, but they screamed money. Even the tech some of the apparel integrated looked like stuff he hadn't read about yet. The women all looked under thirty - so they were natural and bought, or bought unnatural. Hell, the men all looked pretty damned vital for their ages. They all talked like they'd gone to one of those fancy boarding schools, like the archetypical British aristocracy always did in movies. Al liked that, thought it sounded cool. They always acted completely calm and off-hand about the most terrible catastrophes, while getting visibly worked up over trivialities.

Al, of course, looked better than any of them. While it has been a couple of months since he'd taken his knife to his sandy blond hair, he figured it had a sort of windswept look that suited him well. The nose at the center of his weather-beaten face had clearly been broken several times, and his hygiene was conscientious, having partially shaved last Wednesday. His clothes were not expensive, of course, but they bespoke thrift and elegance - they served him well, and in fact were the same ones in which he'd passed out on the beer-sticky floor of his Caravaner last night, leaving his yellowing T-shirt flecked with black dog hairs. He was aware that his antique jacket was fabulously expensive in theory, but it was currently in such a dilapidated state that it didn't detract from his overall look.

And to top off his dashing appearance, he was standing next to Alyce. In her two-inch heels she was five inches taller than he was, which he found majestic. Everyone was looking at her, and yeah, that was partly because of her tits, but he knew from experience that she got just as many looks when dressed more....well, when dressed more.

Although he'd sort of seen himself mostly sitting in his room, eating, drinking, playing cards, and looking out the window most of the time, it was clear this was liable to turn at least partly into a social thing. He shrugged inwardly at that - these folks seemed decent enough, even if given to a certain degree of frippery, and clearly not as clever as they thought they were. But he made a mental note that if he wanted to really relax he'd have to avoid high class gatherings in the future, as Alyce apparently knew half the wealthy people in England (of which she had slept with a fair percentage).

Maybe a nice monster truck rally next time.

For now though, he figured it'd be an okay three weeks.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-27-17/1402:32>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

After about an hour of mingling, Alyce pulls Al off to one side and leans close to his ear, her warm breath pulsing at his neck.  "I am about ready to leave this place and these people, Al.  I am not here to mingle with tiresome people that seem to either want to shag me or shag my boyfriend.  I am here to mingle with you and get to know you better.  We might find more privacy forward in the dining car or maybe just grab some beers and go sit in one of our rooms.  What do you think?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-27-17/1637:35>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Al shrugged. "Reckon I'm good either way," he intoned in his gravel pit voice. "Honestly, yeah, would like ta spend the better part o' my time on this jaunt alone with you. But I'll allow as I also like a certain amount o' time ta myself. An' like a party as much as the next feller, ta boot, so don't reckon we should be hermits neither. So a good mix, in that order..." He realized he was sitting around discussing how to spend his down time with another person. He'd never done that before. It felt weird, to have to come to some sort of agreement about such simple things. Was that what it meant, being in a couple?

He'd been with other women. But they generally did as they were told. He had a feeling Alyce would too, probably like it even. But that wasn't what he wanted from her. Well, not most of the time anyway...

So here they were having a conference to decide whether to slip away from an informal social gathering. He thought it odd that she suddenly minded having people lust after her...but then she was a woman, after all.

Yup, she was  woman. And he did want to spend time with her.

"An' if it's gon' be in that order, then I suppose we exit stage left right about now." As usual, he offered his arm and led her from the deck, a few quick goodbyes tossed off in passing. Her idea about the beers had been a very good one, but no need to stop at the bar. He took her to their rooms, hers to be precise, and by the time they got there he'd used his 'link to order not only the beers but a hearty brunch with French coffee as well.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-27-17/1719:59>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Alyce had the porter place the tray with the food and beverages on the small table and signed the chit because they came to her room, making sure to add in a nice tip.  As the man leaves the room, Alyce shuts the door and locks it before turning to face Al.  Putting her hands to her top, she lifts and removes it, exposing her still near perfect breasts to his, hopefully, hungry eyes. As she slips her hands into her waistband and moves her trousers past her ass to fall in a pile on the floor, she says, "Al, I know that you had once said that I am supposed to be naked when we are in a room together.  Is that still true or should I put my clothes back on?  If you like it, you might want to pull the shade on the window, at least until we are out of London."  Naked except for her glasses, her crucifix, and her voodoo totem, she waits to hear his desire.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-27-17/1730:21>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

And suddenly they were back to those magical days in Andoung Tuek - the thrill of first acquainting combined with the peace and luxury of the luxury train car. Not a penthouse, but maybe close enough...

The first response that came to Al - besides his instant erection - was to say something typically flippant and non-commital like, "Yer room, baby, an' yer body. Do what ya want."

But because she'd ensorceled him, he did something completely out character and thought twice before speaking. He knew he had to start giving her more. Just a little bit. Start telling her straightly what he wanted. Though part of what came out surprised even himself.

"It's a good rule. Keep it. But ya want the shades down, pull 'em yerself. Gittin' a taste fer watchin' folk look at ya."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-27-17/1753:54>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Alyce shrugs and moves to sit on one of the chairs at the table.  "I am fine if you are, Al.  I want to please you and I am OK if that also pleases others."  She dishes out food from the tray to the plates and hands him one before taking one for herself.  She eats a few bites, commenting on the fine quality of the food, then puts her fork down as she sips at a beer.  "What do you want of me, Al?  Do you know yet or are you still trying to work that out?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-27-17/1811:55>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

It was a great meal for a while. Sure, he said he'd talk to her but, "Lord o' lightnin', woman, you do git right to it." He grinned amicably around a mouthful of eggs and sausage. "We got three weeks - don't blow yer wad inna first two hours."

The easiest response would be to ask her his question. The one he'd figured was at the heart of things. The one he planned to pin her down on. But it was way too early. He wasn't ready to hear whatever the answer might be. They needed a chassis first, a foundation.

He swallowed his food and produced his Zippo. But before lighting up, he said, "Sorry...said we could talk. Sorta pictured it by Scotland...shit. Anyway, honest answer's an easy one....B...Still tryin' ta work it out. I mean, look at ya. I ain't gay. They's a hell of a lot I reckon I want. An', if I may wax cheesy, well, I'm tryin' ta show ya...hell, was tryin' ta show ya back inna' maybe show myself too...that that ain't all I want. 'Cept yer such a damned nympho it can be hard to separate things out...But then I like that about ya, see. Maybe too much..."

He sat back in his leather chair, frustrated and exhausted like he'd just wrassled a gator. Finally lit the cigarette forgotten in his hand. "Anyhoo, it's like I done said eight years ago. What a man wants ain't the same thing as what he does."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-27-17/1948:49>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Alyce nods and gives Al a smile that chases all the shadows from the room.  "It is alright, Al, I was just wondering if you had decided what you wanted from me.  I can wait longer for you to tell me.  I have found that I particularly enjoy spending time with you, so take as much time as you need.  You know how I feel and that will not change over time."  She reaches for her knife and fork and begins eating again.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-27-17/2007:04>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Al breathed an audible sigh of relief. "Gracias, chica." He took a deep breath. "And yeah, I know how ya feel..." His voice trailed off. He'd already decided not to go there yet. He finished eating. He loved chatting with her, but for the moment was grateful for the silence.

Once they'd eaten and finished the coffee he investigated the rooms' minibars. Yup, no need to wait for beers, and they'd no doubt be restocked regularly. He opened another beer right away. Decided to get comfortable - took off his Docs and his jacket. Alyce, well, she was already about as comfortable as a body could get.

They were silent for a while, but after a while Al got restless, even though he didn't want to leave the room. "Listen toots, we'll be in Southampton this afternoon, stoppin' fer the night. They got dinner cruises, ya wanna do that. Till then, they ain't shit but filthy sprawl out the window. Ya wanna watch somethin'?"

It occurred to him that as much as he was looking forward to the lush scenery of the habitable zones, he really had about as much scenery as he could handle right here in the room. Still, the mind needed stimulation as well. "Ya know I like Tales. Uncle Shagrat's House is another fave if'n yer in the mood ta laugh. But havin' seen all o' that, I'd sure 'nuff like ta see what it is you watch of a peaceful evenin' - assumin' there are any o' those in yer life."

Whatever they watched, he hated being disturbed during his trid time, so he pinged the room service to come clear their meal now.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-28-17/0518:02>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Alyce smiles at Al's question.  "Yes, Al, I like to read books when I have a few quiet moments.  I brought two of my favorites with me and could lose myself in the pages whenever you feel that you need time away from me.  But I also have something I would like to do with you.  It is a surprise that I had delivered to the train this morning."  She stands and kneels down to reach under the bed, bringing out a wrapped package about the size of a breadbox..  She places it carefully on the table in front of Al and returns to her sitting position on the bed, curling her legs up under her.  "Well. go ahead and open it.  I was lucky to find someone willing to sell this and I hope that you like it."

As Al removes the wrapping paper, he sees a plain,  hard case with Japanese characters inscribed on the top.  "Alyce leans forward a bit as he rips the last of the paper away.  "This is a master set of the extended versions of every Tales of the Red Samurai episode ever made, with bonus features that include director's cut scenes, cast bloopers, close captioned dialogue, and all three of the famous Lost Episodes from season 2.  There were only one hundred of these sets ever made and twenty-seven of those have been confirmed as destroyed.  I would like you to accept this gift from me and in return I wish nothing more than the pleasure of your company as we watch them."

As Al looks over the gift, the buzzer at the door sounds and Alyce stands to walk over and open it to let the porter in.  She stands unselfconsciously as the young man clears the food trays, his actions clearly indicating that he has indeed taken some notice of the naked woman at the door.  His face is red as he leaves the room and Alyce smiles at Al, as she closes and locks the door.  "So, Tales?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-28-17/0533:39>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Al grinned at Alyce's innocent little show for the porter. When the young man was gone, he said, "Don't know what yer doin' to me, woman, but damn if I didn't like that. An' this, oh, I like this too." He scanned the Japanese as he carefully cracked the box. "Optical format - much better quality, but hardly can git it no more. An' yup - yup, they got it - ya know fer English they got no dubbin' - they did two takes o' everthin', one in Jap, one in English - hell, I learned my Jap watchin' this. An' anime. We can watch whichever ya like." He was already slapping the one of the chips into their entertainment unit.

He hopped on the bed, patted the spot next to him, and thumbed the remote.

And six hours later it was mid-afternoon and they were pulling into Southampton - their slow progress down to numerous stops to pick up passengers. There was nothing much in this southern outpost of the Sprawl that interested Al, but he did think the dinner cruise sounded nice, and said so. Alyce was as ever agreeable, which still left time for three or four more extended episodes, since the cruise didn't leave until after dark.

As they dressed, Al gave in to his newfound amusement, asking Alyce, "How short a skirt ya got?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-28-17/1315:50>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Alyce smiles at Al.  "I am very glad that you like this.  I was afraid that it would not arrive in time for the trip."  Alyce uses one of her little drones to allow her to watch the show episodes.  She sits next to Al and places one of her hands on his thigh as they sit close together on the small bed in her room.   At Al's suggestion, she makes reservations for the dinner cruise while they are watching the first episode.

When dressing, Al pokes his head through the connecting door and asks her about skirt length and she laughs.  "Hmmm.  Let me look."  She looks through her closet and finds an adaptable skirt and calls back.  "Got something pretty short.  I will model it for you.  Hang on."  She removes what she already put on and slips the skirt on, removing the lower bit by its hidden zipper, making the length mere inches .  She decides that the lace top will go perfectly with this skirt and slips it back on, setting the color of the skirt to white to match the top.  Pleased with the look, Alyce walks over to the open connecting door and poses in the doorway.  The skirt  would be considered micro by any standards as well as barely decent.  Her white knickers peek out from beneath the skirt as she moves and are even more visible if she bends over.  "This do for you?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-28-17/1413:23>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

For Al, getting dressed meant putting his jacket and boots back on. He was saving his change of underwear for whichever day he felt like taking a shower.

Now, his eye traced the toned lines of Alyce's legs appreciatively. "Yeah, that'll do fer starters. Reckon yer startin' ta git the idear. So ya ready?"

There was a pair of Mitsubishi Nightskys waiting outside the first class platform to take the four participating couples to the pier. They were seated with a couple in their thirties they hadn't met yet who introduced themselves as the Collinses, both as sleek and monied as the other luxury passengers. The two couples sat directly across from each other in the back of the limousine and made idle chat. They spoke mostly to Alyce, not knowing quite what to make of Al in terms of both class and demeanor. Al was just as happy to listen to all the upper-crusty British talk, which he still thought was really cool.

And of course he liked the way Mr. Collins, Peter, stole glances at Alyce whenever he thought his wife wasn't looking.

The dinner would be on a 75-meter yacht called the Petrovius Current, which sounded like nonsense to Al. Looked fancy enough though, and he led Alyce up the gangplank and soon they were leaving the lights of Southampton behind them. It was a warm night, but there was a chill wind. The stars, however, were the sort that simply could not be seen from anywhere at any time back in the Smoke, and there was a live jazz ensemble doing mellow lounge classics that carried gently over all the decks. People milled about, some talking, some just looking up at the stars or out over the low-key ripple of the waves. And Al was next to Alyce.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-28-17/1451:57>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

There was no possible way that Alyce could sit without exposing her knickers to the couple across from her in the limousine so Alyce does not try.  It is pretty apparent that Peter Collins has a hard time not looking up Alyce's barely there skirt and one would have to be truly handicapped to not notice the bulge in the man's tailored trousers and Alyce is not nearly as handicapped as one might assume.  Alyce also notes that his wife, Janet, is taking glances and that her breathing and temperature indicate that she is aroused as well.  Janet spends as much time eyeing Al as she spends on Alyce; apparently attracted to the rugged man.

Peter and Janet leave the auto first and Peter holds out a hand to assist Alyce, who gratefully accepts.  He reward is a very good view of exposed thigh and white knickers, along with a gentle squeeze of the hand that brings out a huge smile on his face.  There is an opportunity to walk the observation decks before dinner is served and Alyce tucks her arm into Al's and walks about with him.  They stop for a minute at the aft of the vessel and Alyce looks up at the sky and the stars.  "You know, Al, I can remember night skies and stars and my drones can give me a sensor image of what we are looking at, but I do miss being able to look up and see what God put out there for us.  My brain and my enhanced senses can combine with implanted sensors to make me far more capable of 'seeing' things than most of the people on the planet, yet I cannot actually see what the least trained person can.  The trip to that beautiful and horrible place where we fought that monster gave me my sight back for a brief time and I find that I miss that very much.  And you know the worst part?  When most people lose a sense like sight, they have to live with that for a long time, but a long time for most people is short for my kind.  I will be blind for the rest of my very long life, or for as long a life as God sees fit to allow me to have.  But it could be centuries, even longer.  That makes me sad, really."  She remains silent for a few moments then turns to face Al, putting her hands on the sides of his face.  "I have experienced tragic losses in my life, and setbacks that have threatened to send be to an oblivion of despair, but I have also received blessings that transcend all of the sadness.  You, Alouicious Harlan Guthrie, are the best thing that has ever happened to me by far.  You are perfect for me and I hope that someday you will see and accept that, but I love you so much that I want you to come to that understanding or reject it on your own.  Just know that I am ready to show you how much I love you whenever you are ready to accept me."  She leans in close and gently kisses Al on the lips before snuggling into his arm.

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-28-17/1622:35>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

"Oh, I got no doubt I'm perfect for ya. Hell, goes without sayin'. Real question might be whether yer perfect fer me, but it's not. No, question is: is anyone?"

When she declared herself like that, as she had so damned many times, it was actually other questions that swirled through is brain, the ones he'd been thinking on, formulating, streamlining, the ones he'd be asking her. Of course now wasn't the moment. But would it ever be? Or would he keep on making up reasons not to get down to brass tacks with her?

"Or maybe one other question. Can ol' Al even survive ya?" He'd meant it in the colloquial sense, but after the speech she'd just made, hell, he hadn't even given any thought to the damned Aragorn/Arwen thing. No one even knew the natural span of elves yet...sure, he was immortal, and the universe revolved around him, but all that had its limits. He guessed. Or things would be boring.

And he wasn't in the mood for boring. "We'll talk," he promised again. "Now throw them knickers inna drink an' let's go eat."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-28-17/1809:40>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Alyce has more that she can and wants to say, but senses that it will be best to remain silent for the time being.  She nods to Al and removes her knickers but places them in her handbag instead of tossing them overboard.  After all, they had cost her a pretty nuyen and she is loathe to just toss them.  A light evening breeze blows up the strip of cloth that is doubling for a skirt and she revels in the exposure and in knowing that it is now extremely likely that the other people on the boat will be able to that she is bare under the fabric about her waist.

Dinner is excellent and Alyce limits her talking to topics that she hopes do not make Al uncomfortable.  She touches his hand when possible unless he shows some reluctance to that.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-28-17/1833:04>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

He shows none whatsoever.

He loves it. He just feels guilty. Like with each touch, each kindness, he's making promises he can't keep. But he's loving life too much with her by his side. He pushes away self-recriminations of selfishness, rationalizing that she'd be happy to take the risk if it meant a one-in-a-million shot of things working out between them.

Dinner - the food is great. And her exhibitionism has his heart literally racing. And when she talks to him about books and music and her travels his heart races in another direction, and the one plus the other one adds up to five or eight or eleven.

Higher emotions.

There's dancing after dinner. The band sets up out on the foredeck. They are really good. Al is not a dancer. He hasn't been on the open water in months, not since coming back to England, so he savors sitting under the moon, taking in the salt air, the familiar slight sway of the deck beneath him. Many people ask Alyce to dance.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-28-17/2155:29>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

At dinner, Alyce recognizes that Al is warring with himself over something.  She does not try to interfere with his internal struggle but remains ready at his side in case he needs help.  She is relieved that his emotions stabilize as dinner ends and she rises with him to go sit at the foredeck to listen to the band.  The music is good and Alyce notices that Al seems to be enjoying it as much as she does.

The two are approached by a man who asks Alyce if she wants to dance and her immediate thought is to decline politely, but then she thinks that Al might actually like the idea so she turns to him.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-29-17/0455:28>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Al looks back at her, his eyes taking in her almost-nude form.

He raises one eyebrow, the corner of his mouth turning up devilishly.

And then in an altogther placid tone, he congenially says, "Well, dear, ya know I ain't a dancer. But I'd hate ta rain on your parade. Go have fun."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-29-17/1158:25>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

The young man is handsome with a thin face and a wide mustache.  His suit alone cost enough money to set him apart as one of the very wealthy.........................or someone pretending to be.  As he takes Alyce's hand and leads her to the dance floor, Al is treated to a clear view of her bare ass, as is anyone else sitting near him and looking, and he can see that there are several men and a couple of women who are definitely looking.  Alyce's escort is a talented dancer and he expertly leads Alyce through several dances.  Alyce is no stranger to dancing and her sensors give her an exact picture of the location of everyone around her.  During the third dance, the man allows a hand to wander down Alyce's back to reach under the micro skirt and cup her butt as his other hand cups a breast and fondles it through the lace top.  Alyce has her right thigh between the man's legs and he is obviously enjoying it as they move.

Suddenly, there is a loud noise, almost a roar as a large Ork in an expensive suit approaches the floor from off to the right.  He is followed by two men that even nice clothing cannot conceal what their purpose is.  The large Ork approaches Alyce and her companion with arms outstretched as in a welcome.  His Russian accented voice is loud enough to be heard by most of the people in the room.  "Robyn..............Robyn Lysander.  What a pleasure to see you on this wreck of a boat.  You should have told me that you would be here."  The Ork walks up to Alyce and her dance partner quickly aside and excuses himself before moving off into the small crowd.  The new arrival nods at one of his men, who glides into the crowd, following the course of the dancer.  Alyce and the Ork trade cheek kisses before he wraps her in a bear hug that lifts her from the floor.  When he sets her down, she manages to point in your direction and the two come over to you. 

Alyce is smiling as she approaches Al and says, "Al, please meet, Vanya Kurzhnev, a very good friend of mine.  Vanya, this is Al Guthrie."

The large Ork holds out a meaty hand and says, "Oho.  The famous Al Guthrie.  I had heard that you were found and I could rein in the bloodhounds.  Listen, the two of you must come to my table."  He holds out an arm to motion to a small raised area to the right of the dance floor where a large table sits.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-29-17/1813:50>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Al was trying to make heads or tails of his strongly mixed reactions to watching the rich kid and Alyce feel each other up when his thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of the huge ork. Al immediately marked him as Kurzhnev, a big shot in the London Vor, and his internal alarms went off for three reaons:

(1) He hated all mobsters with a passion - present date excluded of course.

(2) He knew the Seattle Vor knew who he was, and were mildly annoyed with him. Probably only enough to kill him, but not enough to torture him first or slaughter his loved ones. Nothing that couldn't be smoothed over someday if necessary. He doubted it was anything that would have followed him to another continent, and he'd never bothered telling Alyce.

(3) He was painfully aware that Alyce had sworn her oaths to these parasites. He wasn't sure if this tusker in his expensive suit was someone that could give her orders.

He decided he'd overlook (1) for Alyce's sake, ignore (2), and focus on finding out more about (3). And all the while let none of this crap interfere with his vacation with his...well, with whatever she was.

So when the moment came he stood, put his own hideously scarred mitt into the giant hand of the ork mobster, and said, "That'd be our pleasure, kemo sabe," as the lit tip of his cigarette danced around the corner of his mouth like firefly in the night air.

Kurznhev and his remaining body guard led them up to the raised table, and momentarily the second bodyguard came back into sight - no sign of the rich twerp with the moustache. Al noted it. Well, whatever price the asshole had paid, he figured three dances with naughty-mode (was there any other?) Alyce had probably been worth it.

The dinner had been first class, but then the spread at the ork's table had been dialled up to eleven. Fuck if there wasn't a damned whole pig at the center, complete with apple in mouth. A number of hard looking men and orks around the table were carving away great chunks from its flanks and setting to with manners at complete odds with their overpriced attire.

But it wasn't really the food that caught Al's eye...or eyes. It was the women. Alyce was a beauty, and the fact that her top was see-through and the wind was stubbornly keeping her bare ass uncovered did nothing to diminish that. But still, you didn't see women like these every day. These assholes knew where to shop for arm candy. Most conspicuous were the ladies seated to either side of Kurzhnev himself. One was a white-skinned round-ear with a ginger pixie cut and cute little upturned nose. The fire-engine-red Chanel applied to her beestung lips contrasted nicely with her ivory shift, spaghetti straps exposing freckled shoulders and thin fabric accenting the hard nipples of her tiny but pert breasts. And the other was, honestly, the first ork woman Al had ever seen in his long life of leering that he'd have readily tapped. Tall and athletically cut, but not too bulky, with massive ta-tas that complemented rather than distracted from her strong form. The tusks were not hidden, but understated, and her cheekbones could have cut glass.

Al reached over to pull out a chair for Alyce, but one of the bodyguards beat him to it.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-29-17/1947:09>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

As Vanya's bodyguard goes to pull out Alyce's chair, she turns her face to him and makes a sharp noise, bringing the guard to as near to a position of attention as Al might have seen outside a war trid.  The man bows to Al and motions for him to proceed before backing off and taking up a position at the entrance to the raised platform.  Of the men at the table besides Vanya, all but one stops eating and bow their heads in her direction.  The gorgeous girl sitting next to the lone hold out nudges him and whispers something in his ear, getting him to stop eating and look around.  He shrugs his shoulders and looks around with an unasked question not unlike "What the frag?"  As he goes back to his plate, the fancy-suited Ork next to him on his other side swings a large arm and knocks him out of his chair while upbraiding him in Russian.  When the man regains his feet, Al notices that his face is pale.  He bows stiffly in Alyce's direction.  "Your forgiveness, please."

Alyce smiles at him and nods before he takes his seat again.  A waiter brings a tray with ten shot glasses on it out to the new arrivals, tipping the tray slightly in their direction as he places it on the table.  Alyce is talking to Al as she deftly sweeps five of the glasses off the tray onto the table in front of her.  "Al, the glasses are for vodka.  You can have beer if you like."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-30-17/0707:01>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

"Like it says inna Good Book, toots, when in Rome," Al replied, downing his first and then second shot of Russion liquor. And though he'd already eaten, the pork smelled damned good and he helped himself.

As he filled his plate, Kurznhev took his place and bellowed, "Yes, yes, Al. Eat! Drink! You are our very special guest tonight - we have so very much to talk about!"

"Much obliged, I'm sure. Y'all doin' the train thing, or's we jist blessed with yer company fer the evenin'?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-30-17/1108:28>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

The large mobster laughs.  "No, Al Guthrie, I am not on a train thing.  I own this fine vessel and am on it for pleasure."  He waves an expansive arm at the people on the dance floor.  "This is a legitimate business and we are expanding into that more and more.  Pretty soon there will be no reason to be a gangster."  He laughs again then looks at Alyce and Al more seriously.  "But that man you were with, Robyn, he is trouble.  A known thief and womanizer who preys on vulnerable rich women.  I have banned him from the boat before but he has managed to find a way on board.  A lapse of security that I will repair."

The meal is truly good and the company seems to be nothing more than old friends, once you get past the fact that they are violent mobsters that would probably kill you and sell your organs for the merest slight.  The conversations are mostly in English in deference to Al, but there are spates of Russian mixed in.  Al learns a lot about Alyce's past with the Vor, but there is no real explanation for the respect that the other mobsters give her, which seems to go beyond being simply because she is a friend of Vanya Kurzhnev.  A lot of vodka is passed around and Al finds that the two beauties across from him look even better by the end of the evening.

Eventually, even this good time must come to an end and the boat returns to its docking berth to signal the end of the cruise.  Alyce looks at her host .  "Thank you, my old friend.  It was very nice to see you again.  I will be more dutiful in seeing that the time gap is shorter between meetings." 

Vanya nods and laughs.  "Yes, Robyn, please do that.  You know how I worry about you." 

As Al stands and pulls Alyce's chair out, every man at the table stands.  Vanya motions for Alyce to wait on the main floor and for Al to remain.  He is smiling, but his eyes are hard and bright.  "I like you, Al Guthrie.  You remind me a bit of me when I was younger.  There is a special place in the Vor for that woman.  Please treat her right."  With that he reaches across the table and shakes Al's hand.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-30-17/1237:40>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Al let his guard down some during the meal, after realizing there was no way the London Vor knew about his little escapade with their fuel stores in Seattle, because if they did, they would have reported the sighting to Robyn.

And he admitted to himself that he'd never have taken so long to figure that out if his mind wasn't so befuddled with he and Alyce's little games. Not to mention it turned out their mark had been some low-life - no threat to a player like Alyce, of course, but still damned poor form on his own part as her escort. Maybe it was just that his mind was in some kind of vacation mode, but then, really, it always was. No, he suspected he was letting himself drift too complacently into his date's sexcentricities. He had to give her credit, her hippie approach to sexuality was a heady rush, and it amplified her natural sensuality to bewitching levels. He could easily acquire a very unhealthy taste for it. But his head was screaming to keep his distance. Leave her to her own devices, sure, that was her. But it wasn't the smart play for him.

Trouble was, knowing the smart play and making the smart play had always been very different propositions for Al.

He listened to the ork criminal's big brotherly...was 'threat' too harsh a word?, probably not...and again shook his hand. "Been a long time since ol' Al reminded anyone of anything young," was the most polite thing he could think of to say. The guy was pretty lucky he was Alyce's friend.

And then he disembarked. From up on the gangplank he could see across the parking area to where Alyce was standing beside their limo chatting with the Collinses, and he quickened his step. It had been a truly superb day, and thinking about three more weeks of the same was enough to stave off the shadows creeping around the edges of his mind. He put his arm around Alyce as he greeted their travel companions, and as the driver opened their door, the thought of Alyce having to sit across from the other couple again - especially now - sent a tickly tingle up and then back down his spine.

It seemed like he'd had some thoughts on this topic just a short while earlier, but as they got into the car he couldn't for the life of him remember what they were.

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-30-17/1610:32>
Monday, July 28th, 2076

Alyce is in a particularly fine mood as she slides into the limousine for the return trip to the train.  Certainly the vodka helps, but it is more than that.  She loves the way that Al had come up to her just now and put his arm around her.  She could tell that it was not like he was marking his territory to others, but more like an expression of intimacy with her…..for her.  Sitting in the car, Alyce trembles slightly at how close he is and reaches out a hand to put into one of his, feeling that this is about as much as Al wants just now.  If it were up to her, she would be straddling his hips in the plush faux leather seats and covering his face with kisses.
If the other couple had been rewarded with a good view of her knickers on the ride to the boat, they have an even better view now.  It is quite evident that Peter and Janet Collins are having a very hard time not looking at what is on display for them and the bulge in Peter’s suit trousers is clear evidence that he is enjoying the view.  Alyce detects the certain indicators in their breathing and their pheromones every time she shifts her position a bit and knows that she could have either or both of them in her bed if she so much as hinted that she was up for that, but for now she is just happy to be sitting next to Al Guthrie.  Half way back to the train, Alyce leans against Al’s shoulder and closes her eyes, feeling comfortable and safe.
When the limo arrives at the rail terminal, Alyce lets Al help her from the auto and walks with him to her cabin.  Once inside, she removes what little clothing she has and goes to sit on the bed.  “Thank you for the very nice evening, Al.  I enjoyed myself quite a lot.  I imagine that Vanya was giving you the big brother talk at the end there?  He is a good friend and he means well when it comes to my welfare.  Frag, I used to change his nappies and was pretty much like a big sister to him as he grew up and I was a bridesmaid at his wedding.  You met his wife tonight; she is born and bred in the Vor and is normally the sweetest woman I know unless you try to hurt Vanya or their kids.  His father was my controller in London and a man I respected very much.  He died in his sleep a few years back of old age and I still miss talking with him.  Vanya is just like his father and will do well in the Vor.  Anyway, what I am getting at is that I could tell that Vanya likes you, so please do not misunderstand anything he might have said.”
“He is a ruthless, brutal man and a boss in a very brutal criminal organization, but that organization protected me when I was born.  I was one of the first UGE babies, which might not have been bad in most countries, but in Russia it was like a death sentence.  The Federal State Police were taking UGE kids and sending them to Relocation Camps to study them.  Stories have circulated for years of how the kids were treated in those camps; medical experiments to see how much torture the new kids could handle, as well as dismemberment and examinations to determine the best manner that the State could make use them, and other atrocities.  State police showed at the apartment block my parents lived in and were actually in the process of removing me from my home when a representative of EVO, my father’s employer, showed up with several Vor soldiers.  When the federal police refused to hand me over, the EVO guy had them killed and took us to safety.  When no one else would help us and other families like ours, EVO and the Vor did.  I grew up Vor and EVO and had Vor soldiers as personal guards as I grew up.  I was engaged to the son of the Vor boss of all of Vladivostok.  They allow me to work for others and to remain independent, but I have done more work for them than anyone else.”  She touches the tats on her upper arms.  “I recite these oaths every day of my life.  These people are my family and my honor and I hope that you can accept that.”
“Al, I am Vor and I am EVO, but I am also me.  I am not sure what all of this means to you, but I feel that you and organized crime do not often share meals at the same table.”  She smiles at Al.  “Well, thanks for listening to me.  So, what are our plans for tomorrow?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-30-17/1635:00>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

"Plan fer tomorrow, toots, is to not have a plan." He grinned up at her around his cigarette as he leaned forward to unlace his Docs. "Train's gon' be meanderin' through the Southern Habitable best part o' the next week, all the way down Cornwall way an' back. Stops fer a village here, a cathedral there, antique fairs, what have ya. Lots o' nice countryside. We wake up ever' mornin' - or afternoon - an' do what we feel like doin'."

Bed was calling him. Trouble was deciding which. But now he needed to speak his piece - she'd brought up an issue that had been much on his mind since Andoung Tuek. "Reckon I knowed EVO an' the Vor is in cahoots. An' I know EVO's done a lot fer metas. Sounds like you've got a righteous debt there, an' ol' Al never casts aspersions on them as pays they debts. No doubt the Vor's great if'n they's on yer side. So you be you, an' that means Vor in yer world, then that's what it means. But yeah, ol' Al'd jist as soon shoot one o' those fuckers onna street without a how'd'ye do, jist on principle. They's poison. Drugs, gamblin', turnin' girls out - destroyin' lives an' killin' souls fer a nuyen, preyin' onna weakest amongst us. Ain't no good in 'em. Yaks, Triads, Mafs. All the same ta ol' Al."

There. It wouldn't change anything. But it had needed to be said. And he'd decided where to sleep. For tonight, anyway.

He stood up, crossed the tiny room to the bed. Put a hand in her hair, used the other to grip her right breast. Bent over and kissed her long and deep, but the hands on her restrained her as much as enjoyed her, preventing her from enveloping him the way he wanted her to.

He stepped back and went to the adjoining door, pausing there to say, "Sorry I'm a pain in the ass. Can't promise ya shit, but hopin' ya don't give up."

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-30-17/1952:12>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076
Alyce smiles.  “I like that sort of plan, Al.  I think I will go up to the observation deck for a few minutes.  If you wake before I do, you can come in and get me up, if you like.  I will leave the connecting door open.”
The kiss is amazing and the hand on her breast almost melts her.  She can tell by the pressure he puts on her that he is not interested in more and she takes what she can and lets him go into his room.  “Al, I should be the one apologizing to you for putting you in that sort of position.  I did not know that Vanya was going to be aboard the boat, but still.  Thank you for being understanding and for being polite at the table.  You are a very special man, Al Guthrie.”
Alyce waits for Al to go into his cabin before getting off the bed.  Going to her closet, she puts on the black trousers she had worn the previous morning and opts for a demure white blouse instead of the see-through lace one.  Stepping into sensible flats instead of heels, she grabs a blanket and pillow from the bed and her book and heads for the observation car.  At this time of the night, there is only one other person in the domed portion and she seems to be off in a corner.  She places her things on one of the small tables halfway down the car and smiles at the other occupant before going to the small bar.  At this time of night there is no barman, but there seems to be plenty self-serve coffee and tea.  Alyce grabs a pot of hot water, some tea, a bit of lemon and some milk and goes back to the seat she has selected, putting her new treasures on the table.  She sits at the table and sets up her first cup of tea then curls up on the seat with her blanket and pillow.  Opening her book, she begins passing her fingers across the symbols that tell the story as if she was reading with her eyes.
Alyce sets one of her drones to watch out of the dome to each side so that she can look up if the train approaches something interesting.  The girl in the booth is only fifteen feet from her, but seems to want to be alone so Alyce does not bother her.  After an hour, Alyce gets up and stretches before raiding the bar for some crisps and a packet of biscuits.  Needing some air, she walks through the door leading to the outside viewing deck and stands near the left rail, seeing very little other than lights but enjoying the feel of the wind as it blows against her.  Her sigh is lost in the night as she tries to imagine standing here with Al’s arms around her.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-30-17/2005:15>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

And there they were. Of course it was no real surprise, because her insane array of sensors picked up his approach from his entry to the car. He shuffled up to her in his stocking feet, knowing she was a dangerous person to startle, but also sure he couldn't anyway. Wrapped his arms around her waist, which left his cheek on the back of her shoulder.

He'd gone to bed dead tired, simply fallen onto it and slept after closing the adjoining door. But the nightmares woke him barely half an hour later. This was one of the times he couldn't remember them, which was always a blessing. And a rare one, lately, because they were getting more vivid, more insistent. He didn't try getting back to sleep, instead watching trid and practicing his card tricks until he got hungry. Figuring Alyce was asleep, he'd gone out in search of snacks. And found her still out there gazing at stars she couldn't see.

"They's diff'rent from the ones I described for ya back ta Andoung Tuek. We's a long way from there, toots. An' miles o' sadness in between. Ever'thin's all busted an' cracked an' broken....That I can live with. The painful part's you comin' along an' tryin' ta put shit back together."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-31-17/0012:11>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

Alyce's radar is the first sensor to kick in and let he know that there is movement in the observation car.  She turns one of the drones still inside the domed area to observe the stairs and smiles when she sees Al come up and walk down to the door leading to the outside deck.  She waits for him to come up next to her, but this time he does surprise her by standing behind her and placing both arms about her waist.  She places her hands on his and leans back into him slightly, almost afraid to say anything to spoil the moment.  After he speaks, though, she responds.  "Yes, they are different.  And the same.  They are all different stars, some with names and some perhaps without, but to me they are mostly just dots of light on a map of the sky.  You can see them and I cannot."  She waves a hand at the heavens.  "You can see the wonder and majesty of what God has created, but to me it is all pixels and matrix.  I will never again see such beauty.  I was given a special blessing to actually see your face for a short time and now I cannot get back there to have a chance to see it again.  But that memory is now locked in my very special mutated brain and I can pull it up in my mind whenever I want and I have thanked God every day since for that blessing."

She puts her hand back on his at her waist.  "You know that I am of the Russian Orthodox faith, don't you, Al?  Will that be a problem for you?"  She gives a slight laugh.  "I am rather afraid that Father Daniel does dread my showing up at mass because he knows that I will have much to confess.  But that is the beauty of faith, isn't it?  Our God sent his son here to die to pay in advance for our salvation.  There are many, many times when I feel completely unworthy of that or anyone else's sacrifice.  I have not heard you say things before in quite the way that you just did.  I thought I was frustrating you or bewildering you or perhaps bewitching you, but I did not realize I was causing you pain.  I never wanted to hurt you, Al.  You are right; Andoung Tuek and here and there have been many miles of sadness in between.  It took your words just now for me to realize how selfish you must think I am and how selfish I should probably think myself to be.  I have focused a good part of the past eight years to looking for you and it should have been clear to me that you were running away from me and did not want to be found."

Alyce pauses and lifts a hand to wipe her tears from her face before she continues.  "I do not know about you, but I can certainly agree that I am busted and cracked and selfish.  I was up here looking at the stars and praying to God that He would show you the way to me.  I have been praying for the wrong thing.  Instead of trying to force myself on you to make me happy, I should have been wishing that you were happy in whatever you chose to do and wherever you chose to do it.  You said that I am causing you pain by trying to put everything back together and I am sorry for that.  But I do thank you for being able to finally tell me that so I can move on a bit.  I know that you don't want to hear my girl drek, so I will just shut up.  I will love you until the day I die, Al Guthrie, and that is God's honest truth.  But I will just enjoy your company from here on out if that is what you want.  I do not want to cause you more pain."

She twists in his arms until she is facing Al.  "I am so very sorry that I brought pain to you, the one person in all the world that I would never wish to suffer any sort of pain."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-31-17/0754:50>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

Well he'd dug himself in deep this time. He knew he had to quit just blowing her shit off, but if he was going to sink deeper into the morass of feelings and emotions, he was going to need some space. He disengaged himself and tossed himself onto a nearby recliner. A cigarette appeared in his mouth, and once it was lit he started talking.

"Ya ain't got nothin' ta be sorry 'bout. Any pain ol' Al's got, that's my own doin', pure an' simple. What I meant 'bout you causin' it, well, does a patient blame the doctor fer a painful cure? Now, as fer the frustratin', bewilderin', an' bewitchin', hell yes, yer guilty as hell on all counts, but since you were apparently A-okay with those particular crimes against ol' Al's fragile psyche berfore, ya ain't got nothin' ta worry about." He hoped the smile was clear in his voice - what was it about women that compelled them to seize on the most negative possible interpretation of anything a man said? Hadn't he asked her just a few hours earlier not to give up on him? Still, she was on the right track in one respect.

"Now, if'n ya wanted ta continue all that bewilderment an' girlie witchcraft on a, what'd ya say? A 'jist enjoy my company' basis, well, we are s'posed ta be on vacation an' all. But do continue - ol' Al don't necessarily mind a little bewitchment, dependin' on the witch."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <01-31-17/0948:08>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

Alyce says nothing but she moves to where he is sitting and sinks to the deck floor at his side and puts her head and a hand on his leg.  She sighs once, completely in love with this man.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-31-17/0958:53>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

Immune to the sharp rays of the early morning sun, Alyce was only awakened by the catering crew setting up the breakfast buffet.

"Holy moley, musta done fell asleep," lied Al by way of good morning. In truth, after a few doomed attempts to follow her into slumber, he had spent the remainder of the night staring at the stars and at her face and trying to figure out a way for things to work out. That he had failed utterly did not do much for his spirits, but then that was the nature of the Alyce drug - even as she filled him with despair and reminded him by her brightness (he was pretty sure he couldn't say goodness) of all that was bad in himself, she smothered him in equal measure with feelings of delight and contentment.

So though his smile as they roused themselves was not pure, neither was it pure facade.

"Hungry? We got a busy day o' doin' anythin' or nothin' ahead, an' that kind o' thing can take a whole lot of energy."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-31-17/1808:10>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

Alyce is still kneeling on the wooden observation deck with her head on Al’s leg when he wakes her.  His breathing and the pulse she can feel through his pants tells her that he is lying about something; probably his sleeping.  She turns her face to him for a few seconds and opens her mouth to say something but closes it without the words coming out.  Whatever the problem is, he is unlikely to tell her and letting him know that she knows he is lying will not do any good, either.  Instead, she stands and stretches, the bottom of her blouse rising to show off a bit of toned midriff before returning to its demure length.  In fact, the only risqué parts of what she is wearing is the way the trousers cling to her ass and the amount of cleavage shown due to the top three blouse buttons being undone.  And the fact that she is clearly not wearing a bra or knickers.
Looking down at him she frowns a bit.  “My head on your leg must have been uncomfortable, Al.  Why did you not wake me to move it?”  Another stretch.  “I am bloody hungry, to be honest.  I also have to use the loo in a very bad way.  I will be right back up, so why don’t you find us a table?”
With that, she moves quickly back into the domed area, passing where the rail staff is setting up the small brunch for those who want to dine while they watch the countryside go by.  She returns to her cabin to use the loo and then goes back to the observation car, climbing the steps to the upper level.  Al has selected a few things from the assorted food trays at the buffet and claimed a table for them.  Alyce stops by where she had been sitting and grabs up her book, blanket, and pillow before joining Al.  She places her things on the bench seat next to her and looks at the food Al has brought over.  “Holy fat lady, Al, are you trying to say I need to add some pounds here?  I ought to gain half a stone if I eat all of this.”  She starts to dig in and sniffs the aromas rising from the various plates at the table.  “Smells bloody marvellous, though.  Thanks for getting it for me.  I guess I can graze on this for a while, but I will need to do some real exercise if I don’t want to get so fat that you abandon me.  I did notice that there is a walking tour of some sort of castle at the place we stop this afternoon.  Are you interested?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <01-31-17/1820:12>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

"Can keebs even git fat?" Al asked around a mouthful of sausage and fresh eggs. "Ain't never seen a fat one. Nor heard o' one neither. Ya mean ta say a few extra carbs an' the whole eternal beauty thing's out the window?" He chewed contemplatively. "Good to know," he concluded, eyeing her figure thoughtfully.

He waved a girl over and asked for a beer. This first-class thing was something else. "Castle, sure. They got knights an' so forth? Plungin' bodices, jousts, jesters? Whatever, ol' Al's game. Hey, ya know...gimme a tick..." Alyce could have done it faster, but then he didn't let her cut his food up for him, either, and thirty seconds with his commlink later, "...yup, speakin' o' joustin', they do got horses out here. If'n ya got a fat credstick, that is, which we seem to. Ya ride?"

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-01-17/0009:14>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

Alyce laughs.  "OK, you got me.  I, too, have never seen a fat Keeb.  It must be something in our metabolism, so don't worry; I will remain the way I am regardless of how much of this food I eat.  Say, this is rather good, you should try it."  She eats in quiet for a bit except to make appreciative sounds about the food.  "Horses?  Yes, I can ride.  Somewhat, at least.  Some of my contracts have used horses to get into the wilds.  I am not an expert rider, though, so no real jumping or racing for me unless you want me to bruise my arse in a fall to the bloody ground.  But, yeah, go ahead and reserve us a couple of horses for a ride.  I'm game."

After finishing breakfast, Alyce pats her stomach and stretching, again raising the bottom of her blouse and pushing her breasts against the thin fabric.  She motions to the book and blanket at her side on the bench seat.  "I was thinking of grabbing an hour of reading, if that is alright with you.  You can sit up here and keep me company if you like.  Honestly.  It is not like I have not read the story before and I like talking to you."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-01-17/0752:14>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

"Ain't like I got nothin' better ta do," he replied, getting up to refill his plate with a stack of waffles, swathes of butter, and real maple syrup.

One hour of reading turned into three, Al contentedly smoking and doing nothing but watch the green fields and forest go by - which had been at the very top of his list of things to do on this trip.

Even at the train's leisurely pace, by early afternoon they had reached Totnes station. They had just finished a light lunch "Place we's headed's called Berry Pomeroy Castle. Three miles an' change on inta yonder valley. S'posed ta be pretty lush, real secluded spot. Lotta history. Hired a local car, he'll take us when we's good an' ready. Once we see the castle, he'll drive us to a nearby farm where there'll be horses waitin'. I turned down the guide - meant a deposit on the animals, but don't need no third wheel traipsin' behind us, an' ol' Al can help ya with the mount if'n ya need it."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-01-17/1025:17>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

After breakfast, Alyce had moved to the other side of the table to join Al and for an hour, her fingers had moved across the page, bring the immortal words of the story to life in her mind again.  Finally reaching a stopping point, she slips the silk bookmark between the pages and closes the book.  She takes one of Al's hands in hers and turns her face to the view.  People come and go from the domed observation car, but Al and Alyce seem almost to be a fixture, but a bit of an odd one, apparently.  Most of the other passengers that come up talk and point out various points of interest, but Alyce and Al remain silent, almost as if communicating on a different level.  Twice in the next couple of hours, Alyce raises his scarred hand to her cheek and holds it there for a few seconds, just letting him know that she is still there.  She sits next to him, just enjoying the company and being near him.

When the train stops at the station, all of the passengers are told that they may disembark if they like and a listing of the various tours and possible activities are listed.  "Berry Pomeroy sounds interesting, Al, as does the horse trek after.  Did you get the hire car for the entire afternoon and evening?"  As they descend the stairs to the lower level and make their way to their cabins, she leans a bit closer and nibbles on his ear.  "Al, you can mount me any time you like.  All you have to do is want it enough to take advantage of the offer."  She laughs as she measures an increase in his pulse and breathing rate.  "Just telling it like it is, Al.  Let me change into something and I will be right out." 

Entering her room, she strips out of her thin trousers and into some jeans.  She leaves the blouse on and changes her shoes for something better for walking before grabbing up a hat and her walking stick.  She is ready to go in a few minutes and looks at Al for a comment, bending over slightly so he can see the effect of her taught jeans on her ass.  "What do you think?  Ready to go?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-01-17/1054:33>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

The effect of Alyce's tight jeans was to make Al's a bit tighter. "Yeah, reckon we's both ready ta go. After you, milady."

The local car that had been available in Totnes was no Mitsubishi Nightsky, but it was comfortable enough, and the old driver in cap and cardigan friendly. Al had indeed secured the car at an hourly rate on an open-ended basis - they had it as long as they wanted. In answer to her query, he'd let her know that, and asked, "Why? Ya got somethin' local in mind fer after we ride?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-01-17/1509:57>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

The driver introduces himself as Harold and he seems to be a very nice man, asking about the trip they have had so far and escorting them to his auto.  It is clear that he takes great pride in the vehicle as it is very clean on the inside and sparkles in the sun on the outside.  The seats are faux leather, but that does not detract any from how comfortable they are.  He tips his hat as he hands Alyce in and says, “Now, pay no mind to smoking, please.  I use some very nice stuff that cleans the odors right out.  I do ask that you use the ashtrays as the local constables hereabouts tend to frown on littering.  I have a small basket in the boot with some food if you fancy a nosh on the way or want to stop for a picnic and a stroll.  Won't find a nicer place in all of Devon to just get lost in and admire what we have been given, even in the hectic world that we live in now.”

Alyce pauses in the process of getting into the auto and looks at the man with a half mischievous grin.  "Wouldn't have any Jammie Dodgers or Wheels in the boot, would you?"

Harold smiles.  "Got Wheels, but none of the Dodgers.  I will make the first stop to be the postal and will get some for you, if you like."

Alyce positively glows.  "Harold, you are a dear.  Thank you so much."  She turns to Al as she slides into the auto.  "Jammie Dodgers.  I always feel that I am partaking of some sort of forbidden treat when I bite into one."

After everyone is in the car, Harold turns to look at his passengers.  “Berry Pomeroy, I take it?  Er, after a quick stop for some forbidden treats, that is.”

Alyce settles in beside Al in the rear and lets him do the talking.  “That'd be the place, thank ye very much.”

Harold nods and puts his hand on the window dividing the front from the rear.  “Now, you let me know if you would rather have some privacy in the back or if you want to leave this open to get the full benefit of my years of knowledge about the area.”

Alyce looks at Al, then back to Harold.  “We are here as tourists, Harold, and would very much like to hear you talk of the area.  We are planning a late afternoon ride from a stable near the castle, but would you know of any romantic drives we could take after we get the horses back?”

Harold smiles broadly.  “Indeed I would, Miss, indeed I would.  I can show you some of the finest romantic scenery in all the area and still get you back to the train in time.  Now, sit back and let me get Bessy here rolling.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-01-17/1724:21>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

Harold seemed to know his stuff. The drive to the castle was barely ten minutes, even stopping for the Dodgers, and by the time they reached the place he'd barely scratched the surface of the castle's history. Naturally he'd centered his brief tale on the White Lady and Blue Lady said to haunt the place. The former was the sister of one of the castle's mistresses, left to starve in the dungeon by her sibling out of jealousy and spite. The latter a young daughter of the manor whose father had raped her and then strangled the unnatural union's progeny before her eyes. Harold claimed sightings had been relatively frequent even before the Awakening, and were now commonplace.

After a life of demon killing, Al was not much impressed. What did impress him were the Jammie Dodgers. Once again, Alyce had done something small that nonetheless sent his imagination afloat through the possibilities and potential she represented for him. In so many ways, as she pointed out with some frequency, she was perfect for him. Still, he tried to keep his spirits up - no point ruining a perfect day with his brooding thoughts.

The castle overlooked an emerald green valley. Al hadn't seen anywhere so inviting since his hunting trip in the Cascades the summer before. But there was something - what was it? - softer about the English countryside than the coniferous rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. Despite having spent some time in England, any forays out of London had been to toxic zones and stinkfens. He'd never taken the time to see the Habitables. Chalk another one up for Alyce.

Harold parked and turned them loose. While not crowded, there was a scattering of tourists picnicking on the grounds, explorin the defensive works, taking tours of the restored mansion. Al stretched his arms to indicate their options - "World's yer oyster, toots."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-01-17/1953:21>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

Alyce takes Al by one hand and uses her walking stick in the other to give her some balance on the rougher areas, of which there seem to be blessedly few.  “There is supposed to be an audio tour I would like to take, Al.  I bet we can find out about that over there at the information kiosk.”  She lets Al escort her and they find that, sure enough, they can rent the devices for the audio tour for a low fee.  Alyce walks arm in arm with Al, kept rapt by the excellent tour guide locked in the tiny device.  The tour takes two hours and Alyce thoroughly enjoys all of it.  The drone at her shoulder allows her to see, but the artful descriptions from the audio tour really help her imagine what the castle must have looked like in its heyday.  She walks through the entire ground floor, imagining a special dinner and gala ball in the Great Hall before trying to look into every nook and cranny covered by the tour device.  They even spend some time outside, looking up at the ruins of the Seymore mansion that was actually built inside the initial castle walls sometime in the 16th century.
At the end, as they are turning in the devices at the kiosk, she turns to Al.  “Say, there was a mention at the end of the tour of two other castles nearby, Totnes and Dartmouth.  Dartmouth is only about seven miles away and looks to be in much better condition than this one.  We do not have to be back on the train until tomorrow evening, so can we visit at least the Dartmouth Castle tomorrow.  The matrix brochure says that they have a very nice restaurant there and a boat ride that takes one across the Dart River and right up to the castle.”  She puts a hand on Al’s arm.  “Maybe Harold knows of a nice B&B we can stay at in the area so we don’t even have to return to the train tonight.”
Once everything is turned in, the two head back to the car park, where they had left Harold and the hire car.  The driver and tour guide opens the door to the car as they approach.  “Did you see what you needed to see?  There is a great deal of history in those ruins and too many people these days are more interested in what they can find on the matrix or in the big sprawls to really care about places like this.  Thank you for showing an interest.  Now, Addington Stables, I think you had said?  They do a nice afternoon tea there and then you can ride for a couple of hours and I will get you back to the train in time for dinner.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-01-17/2012:04>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

Al enjoyed the tour quite a bit, but they didn't see any ghosts. He readily agreed to Alyce's plans for the night and the next day - he liked the train, but they'd have plenty of time aboard and a bed that wasn't moving would be just fine for a night. And Harold did indeed know the sort of place they were looking for to stay, after Al told him he needn't worry about making it to the train. He assured them he'd have the B&B arranged by the time they finished their ride.

Addington Stables was a nice outfit. Al could tell just from the smells when they got out of Harold's car that the place cared for their animals. They were met by a young guy named Bertram. He was carrying carrots. Friendly enough, and courteous, but Al could tell he was being interrogated as they walked to meet their horses. The guy was still hesitant about not accompanying them, despite the deposit Al was leaving. Al's easy chat about riding, however, set him at some ease, and once he'd seen Al with the horses his worries were gone.

Just entering the stables, Al could feel Rufus getting excited on his back, bouncing and barking at the prospect of meeting new friends. Bert handed Al and Alyce the carrots - "peace offerings" he jokingly called them - and Al guided his date up to the mouse dun mare that would be hers for the afternoon. His was a seal brown gelding. Both were bred and trained for tourists, gentle as lambs in any case. They snorted at Al's approach, and when his carrots were gone they continued to nuzzle his hands, reaching over their gates to sniff at his shoulder when he turned to talk to Bertram.

"They really like you." The young man seemed a bit surprised, but Al shrugged. "I'll help ya saddle 'em up," he answered. Five minutes later, Al and Alyce were venturing forth into the forested hills of Devon.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-02-17/0125:02>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

Alyce is pleased that the horse is gentle.  She has ridden many times before, but nothing spirited and any wildness on the part of the horse would have likely ended with Alyce on the ground as she had told Al.  As it is, she is able to control the mouse colored steed she is riding, which pleases her greatly.  The countryside is awesome and the company even better..  Alyce can tell that Al is feeling more relaxed than she has ever known him to be.  Her semi-decision to not push him any more may have had something to do with that and she is actually glad.  She really does not want to cause him pain and would rather live the rest of her live in the agony of not having him if is happy with not having her.  There is it, like some sort of epiphany.  His happiness is more important to her than her own is and so she will do what is necessary to let him be happy.  Perhaps someday he will see that she might have been the girl for him, but that step is now up to him to make.

The ride is quiet except for the noises the birds and an occasional fox make.  A near-perfect summer afternoon.  She rides next to Al, looking casually at him.  "I like this Al.  Thank you.  It is amazing what the countryside looks like, isn't it?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-02-17/0738:27>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

Al still had trouble figuring out just how blind Alyce was. She could "see" well enough they let her do open-heart surgery, but she couldn't read words off paper or make out a tattoo, at least not without touching it. He figured one way to think of it was that she got the data without the aesthetics. Facial expressions, he gathered, did not always come across, but then she would scan vitals or whatever and try guessing what they meant.

Right now he wasn't sure if she was commenting on the scenery or asking about it. He thought the safest bet was to take the hint, and started casually discussing the colors he saw as they rode. There were a lot of wildflowers, and he gave her a pretty good rundown despite not knowing their names. Called out the types of trees they were passing when it seemed like it mattered. Mostly, though, he just liked riding. You could see things on horseback you couldn't otherwise - you were up a bit higher, slower than a car so you could take things in, faster than walking so you could cover more ground, and of course you could access all manner of terrain a car never could, or even a bike if you came right down to it. And with a good horse, you didn't really even have to watch where you were going. Al was glad for the last point, as it let him watch Alyce.

He'd never really thought of himself as selfish before. But didn't one have to be, in matters such as these?

He only kept them out for a couple of hours - unaccustomed as she was to riding, she was bound do be a bit saddle-sore even from this long a ride. Bert was glad to get his animals back, and Harold was right there waiting for them. He drove them for a few miles down narrow country lanes and emerged into a sun-dappled glade, tires crunching on a gravel lot fronting a lovely, three-story house with distinctive Tudor facade.
It was called The Apple Tree, and there was indeed a small orchard at the back.

A woman came out to meet them. They got out and Harold introduced her as Mary. "What? No bags?" she asked.

"Bit spur o' the moment. Reckon we'll git along jist fine," Al replied.

Harold said, "It's called a bed and breakfast, but around here folk joke it should be called dinner and bed. No better place you can dine in the Devon countryside."

"I do have a table left for this evening," Mary said.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-02-17/1020:25>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

The rides had been great and the company even better.  Al had gone out of his way to describe things to her.  The drones she had flying about and her own sensors provided her with lots of information, but Al's commentary made everything come alive and out of the digital.  Alyce is actually a bit glad when Al calls for them to return to the stable as her thighs are definitely feeling the strain of riding.  After dismounting, her gait makes it obvious that she is in some sort of pain and Bert provides Al with a bit of cream to apply to the muscles of her thighs each night until the pain goes away.

Harold continues his on-the-road commentary as he wends his way to the B&B they will be staying at.  Once there he lets Al know that he will return in the morning at about 0800 if that is satisfactory.  he looks at Alyce and then asks Al in a lower voice if he should perhaps arrive a bit later, so as to let the lady sleep a bit longer?

The B&B is tucked away at the edge of a small village and is indeed a treasure.  The hostess is a widowed woman with a great appetite for taking care of others and has a sense of humor to match her somewhat ample girth.  One daughter lives at home with her husband and they help take care of the building and grounds, with Sally doing much of the light work inside and Cam being the general odds body for maintenance and doing some of the work in the orchard.  Local teenagers are hired on occasion to do some of the tasks that might take additional hands. 

There are five available rooms to let, all occupied now that Al and Alyce have taken the last one.  The newcomers are taken through to the dining room and introduced to the others, all of whom are tourists it would seem, although one man, Mark Jessup, has been a tourist here for several months.  The other lodgers are Mike and Wilma Wilcox, Gene and Susan Walker, and Stan and Glenda Stuart.  All of the others are from the north of England on holiday.  Mark is doing some research on the local castles of the area and the other three couple are all friends doing a sort of group holiday.  Dinner is just being set so Al and Alyce are welcomed and take their seats.  Mark has been talking about Berry Pomeroy Castle and seems to know a lot more than the audio tour had provided and Alyce is very interested, asking lots of questions.  It does not take long for the others to realize that Alyce is blind and their attitudes seem to change just a bit as they make sure that she does not have to reach for much at the table.  It does not take much to note that neither Stan Stuart nor Mike Wilcox cannot seem to take their eyes off of the cleavage Alyce is showing.  Certainly their wives seem to notice.

Dinner is pleasant and the food is good.  After the others leave the table, Alyce offers to help Mary and Sally with the cleanup, insisting that this is a good way to learn about the local area.  Certainly the two women are grateful for the help and the work goes quickly and the initial worry about letting a blind woman handle the china goes out the window soon enough.  Alyce asks questions and finds out that the local is the best place to learn about the village and to see what country life is like.  All three seem to get along and the kitchen work is quickly done.  Alyce dries her hands and returns the borrowed apron before walking outside to join Al on the porch.  She takes the cigarette he offers her and looks up at the stars overhead.  "Thank you, Al.  So, you want to go down the local for a bit or just do a walk about before turning in.  We could also just go into the lounge here and let Stan and Mike try to look down my shirt some more.  If we do that, do you think I should undo another button......or two, maybe?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-02-17/1300:14>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

Well, she'd certainly picked up on the new chink in his armor, and no question trying to exploit it was fair game. It made hanging around in the lounge sound pretty good. Still, the local would involve beer. But it was probably a bunch of that limp-wristed craft crap - pears or dates or mint or whatever these limeys took with their hops - and hell, there was plenty of beer right here in the B&B. But then he thought about the wives - their husbands' attention to the young-looking elf exhibitionist had hardly been lost on Wilma and Glenda, and that sort of thing never made a woman feel good.

"Whaddaya say we split the difference," he answered Alyce. "We hit the local, an' you can lose the buttons there. Jist try not ta start any fights."

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-02-17/1637:23>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

Alyce nods to Al and they get directions to the village pub, the Frog and Thistle, from Mary.  The walk takes only five minutes but the cooling evening air certainly has an effect on Alyce’s breasts and her hardening nipples are clearly visible against the thin fabric of her blouse by the time they enter the smoky building.  The pub here is no different than that in any other small village and acts as the defacto meeting hall and gathering place for many of those living there.  The Frog and Thistle is fairly packed this evening and Alyce has to look about a bit for a vacant table.  Al grabs two pints of ale from the bar and joins her, only spilling a few drops as he pushes through the crowd.  Alyce has lit two Lucky Strikes as she waits and hands one to Al as he takes a seat next to her.  Al notes that two more of her buttons have magically come undone and that several of the men seem to be jockeying for a position near the table in the hope of getting a good look down her blouse.  At least two suck in a slight breath as Alyce leans forward to give Al his fag, exposing just a hint of nipple to them.
Quiz Night is advertised to be Fridays, but it seems to be Karaoke Night on Tuesdays and the amateur talent is in full swing on the small stage at one end of the main room.  Some of it is just dreadful, but some is actually quite good and Alyce enjoys the noise, the local camaraderie, and the small crowd.  But most of all, she enjoys sitting next to Al and puts a hand on his, giving it a small squeeze.  During a small break, Alyce taps out her cigarette and stands up, giving a couple of the lads a good look.  “I think I will go see if the tourists get a chance to sing.  Want to come?”
She wends her way through the crowd, her breasts brushing up against more than one person, as she walks to the vacant stage.  The karaoke machine is child’s play to hack and she skims through the available songs in the moments it takes her to go stand in front of it.  Taking the microphone in her hands, she turns to the small audience and asks if it is permitted that visitors be allowed to sing.  The answer is a rousing chorus of yes and she smiles at everyone.  On the stage and in the soft light of a small overhead spotlight, she is amazingly pretty and certainly has the attention of the crowded pub.  The song she picks is a local Devon ballad that she has never heard before, but the music and lyrics are already imprinted on her brain from her earlier scan of the material.  After a false start due to a feedback issue with the mic, she begins to sing and soon has the attention of all of the locals, some calling on others to shut up so that they can hear better.  Alyce has a beautiful singing voice and she puts it to good use here, crooning the ballad as if she had grown up in the area.  When finished, the silence is deafening for a few seconds then the applause begins.  And the calls for an encore.
Five songs later, she holds up a hand to get some quiet.  “Alright, I will do just one more then quit hogging the mic.”  She points to where Al is.  “I want to dedicate this to my man, Al Guthrie.  He is the best companion any woman could ask for.”  As the crowd practically turns as one to look at Al, he can hear some of the lads near him groaning at how unfair it is that she be attached to anyone.  Alyce smiles in Al’s direction and croons out another local favourite.
While Alyce is on the stage for her last song, Al feels a slight tug on his sleeve and turns to find three men standing there that have a familiar look to them.  All three are burly representatives of the sort of country stock Devon can produce and one of them sticks out a hand, gnarled with some sort of old injury.  “Well, God be our saviour, it IS Al Guthrie.  Charlie Eckels.”  He motions to the other two men.  “And these here are Bob and Terri Johnson; remember them?  Course, we were all younger and better looking back then, weren’t we?”  He and the others laugh.  “All of us and you down the Sahara, remember?  Them was some good times, eh?  Say, that Moroccan guide, what was his name……..ah, Achmed, yes.  Wonder whatever happened to that bloke.  Couldn’t find shit in the desert if’n he was in the latrine trench, but he could find booze and women out in the middle of no fragging where.  Join us at our table.  It is back in the snug and out of the main noise area.”  His eyes move to where Alyce is singing the last verse of the song.  “Bring yer girl, too, if you have the mind to.”  He nods to the others and they go back into the crowd.  “Sitting with a couple others, but I think that you had already moved on with some of them Bedouins by the time they was took on.  Randy Robson and Tiny Scott?  Yeah, I am pretty sure that they was after you.  We can have a good time telling stories that might curl the hair of the Keeb.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-02-17/1656:52>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

"Charlie fuckin'' the Johnson boys...hell yeah, lead on." He waved up to where Alyce was winding down her song to catch her sensors and pointed in the direction he'd be going. "But it'd take some tellin' ta curl that one's hair."

"S'alright, mate. Hell, it ain't the hair on her head I'd like to curl."

"Well, ya'd be disappointed there too, kemo sabe, cuz she ain't got none else."

"Guthrie, you dog. Gittin' some of that..." began Terri Johnson, but Charlie slapped the back of his head. "Respect, Terri!"

"But Charlie, you..."

Al broke in. "Don't worry about it, gentlemen. She's a princess, an' that's the honest truth, but she ain't no princess, if'n ya take my meanin'. An' here she comes now..."

Alyce was working her way toward them through the crowd, though the applause from her last set had yet to die down. Al saw that several men who'd had a few too many took liberties as she went by, but she either didn't notice or else smiled brightly back at the offenders. As she cleared the press and entered the separate space that seemed to belong to the men Al was with, she was a sight. Beautiful as ever, but with a glow from the joy of performing. Her white blouse was open nearly to her navel, and the sweat from standing under the lights had left it pasted to her breasts, completely transparent.

Ribald laughter among his three old friends was replaced by stunned silence. She stopped in front of them waiting to be introduced and Al said, "Alyce, these here blushin' virgins is Charlie, Terri, an' Bob. You'll pardon they lack o' manners, but it seems they ain't never seen a pair o' real life tits afore."

That broke their silence, with Bob punching Al hard on the shoulder and then the men all offering hands for Alyce to shake, ushering her warmly to their booth, where Charlie sat on one side of her and Terri the other. Which was fine with Al - meant he wouldn't get a crick in his neck turning to look at her all the time. The singing - singing that wasn't a charade among the mole people, or a distraction for a metaplanar lesbian wedding, singing that was just for the pure fun of it - had made her fucking radiant.

The men were drinking ales, and Alyce joined them, but they all knew Al would rather have a bottle of something cold and commercial. "Toots, these fellers were mercs down Africa way, used ta do guard duty on the caravans I run 'cross the desert...."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-03-17/0716:59>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

Alyce is well aware of the state of her blouse as she steps away from the karaoke machine and onto the floor.  She can feel the trickle of sweat as it dampens her cleavage, making the exposed portions of her breasts glisten in the light.  However, it is the wet material of her blouse clinging to what is not exposed that gets the most attention.  Men along her path do little but stare at her torso as she makes her way to the snug, although some are bold enough to look directly at her and a few of those most drunk or most entranced actually reach out and get a touch or two in before she passes them, giving them something to dream about for nights to come.  Far from embarrassed, Alyce appreciates the way the men are looking at her and smiles at everyone.

 Alyce comes up beside Al and places a hand on his shoulder but does not hide herself behind him.  She nods as each man is introduced and laughs at Al’s comment.  “Well, then, I would think that they have waited long enough, don’t you?  Let’s just get this part out of the way so no one has to worry about twisting his neck to sneak a peek.”  She unbuttons the last two buttons of her blouse and holds it open wide enough that all three men get a full view of her tits.  She wafts the material a bit to get it to dry some, making her breasts jiggle back and forth.  For a moment, the men stand with mouths agape, with eyes wide and trying to sear the vision before them into their brains.  Alyce smiles and closes her blouse a bit but leaves it unbuttoned as she sits down.  Mouths still open, three sets of eyes follow her every movement, still focused on where her hard nipples are visible where they push against the wet material.  For some reason, it takes Al making another comment to snap the trance and Bob gives Al a playful punch while whispering, “Holy fuck, Al.  You ARE a dog.”  Alyce is offered a seat between Bob and Charlie, which seems to suit Al so she accepts the seat.

Charlie is looking back and forth between Alyce and Al and says, “Damn, Al.  never thought I would…………………wait a minute.  Wait a fucking minute.”  He looks closer at Alyce’s face.  “Alyce Krait.  Doc Krait, right?”

Alyce smiles and nods while Charlie looks over at Al again then to his friends.  “You boys heard of Doc Krait, ain’t cha?  And she is sitting right here.”  His hand is shaking a bit as he reaches it out to shake hers.  “Got to thank you, Doc, for the life you saved.”

Alyce frowns.  She has already searched her memory and there is no Charlie Eccles in it.  “I am sorry, but I do not remember you.”

“No, not me, Doc.  My half brother.  Only he weren’t using Eccles.  Rick Sizemore.  Borneo, it was, back in ’66.”

Alyce nods.  “Yes, that name I do remember.  We were out looking for something or other that was important to someone.  Ran into some natives that were not too happy to see us.  They used these little blow guns and poisoned darts to try to discourage us.  Wicked poison.  Came close to losing a few men before the order was given to abandon the expedition.  Crafty little buggers, those natives.”

Charlie holds up a hand and looks about at the others.  “Too modest, Doc.  From what I heard from Rick, you had to work non-stop for days to keep them blokes alive.  To Rick and some of them others, you are next in line to God and Jesus for saving them all.”  Alyce actually blushes red at these words and tries to say something but Charlie isn’t having any of that.  “Hey, I gotta tell Rick.  He’s off shagging that cute waitress from the Towers over to Dartmouth, but he would toss her in a second to be able to see you.”  He stands up and takes a ‘link from his pocket as he walks to the door for a bit of quiet.  Terri Johnson has been looking at Alyce and now snaps his fingers,  “Krait, yeah, I heard of you.  Never on one of your expeditions, but heard about you from some chaps that were.”  He shifts his gaze to Al.  “You, must be better at smooth talking than you used to be, chum.  How did you score someone like her?”

Alyce laughs.  “The same way all of you types score on women.  He got me sloppy drunk on vodka and I was putty in his hands.”  The rest of the guys break out in laughter, getting a shush from the man behind the bar who came over to see what the noise was about.  His eyes almost come out of his head when Alyce turns to look his way.  “Sorry.  Hard to control these blokes.”

The man gulps a couple of times, finding it impossible to raise his eyes above Alyce’s chest.  Al takes pity on him by asking him if he has any good vodka and the table erupts in laughter.  The barman nods and smiles, not sure what the joke is, but manages to leave after taking drink orders from the table.  Charlie comes back in time to get his order in then looks at Alyce.  “Rick said he is already half dressed and racing for the door and that he would flush my head down the loo if I let you leave before he gets here.”  He looks around.  “So what did I miss?”  When told, he looks at Al, shakes his head, and laughs with the rest of the table.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-03-17/0731:33>
Tuesday, July 29th, 2076

As everyone laughed and swapped stories, Terri, sitting with Al a bit apart from the other three, turned to the smaller man and said quietly, “Boss, you never touch vodka. Always beer or whiskey.”

Al shrugged. “This one, she’s jist bein’ polite. Truth is, she don’t need ta be drunk.”

“Boss, any woman needs a pair of beer goggles to give you a try. Ugliest little asshole I ever worked for.”

“Some men say so. Never any women. I got a masculine face.”

“So how long did you end up spending with the Tuareg?”

“Aw, hell, not so long. I mean, that one tribe I was with after you fellers went yer way, that was jist a month or so. Did the crossin’ twice after that afore leavin’ North Africa.”

“No…I’d’ve heard. We were still working caravans, and if you’d been hiring…”

“I was livin’ as one o’ them by then. Doin’ the face coverin’, speakin’ they lingo. Usin’ they fighters fer my guards. Opened a lotta doors – whites always attracted too much resentment in some quarters. So they mask thing, that’s like they religion, so no one ever asks for it ta come off. An’ no outsiders speaks Tamasheq well enough to know how basic mine was. Hell, it were even an excuse fer my Arabic havin’ an accent, since they’d chalk that up ta me bein’ one o’ the desert folk. An’ my guys, they weren’t sayin’ nothin’. Took that charade all the way onto the Peninsula, goin’ fer the orichalcum rush.”

“I heard that was a bust.”

“Yup, jist a pipe dream. But ya don’t gotta find none ta git suckers ta pay ya ta take ‘em where they Satanist ley line charts tell ‘em it is.”

“And you got out before the mess with Ibn Elsa…”

By the time Al was done telling Terri about his time in Persia, they’d gone through two more rounds and chased away at least one waitress.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-03-17/0741:54>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

The first two rounds of drinks were brought by the same woman, Barb, who gives the men a good ogle but seems a bit short with Alyce, shaking her head at the keeb’s state of undress.  The third round is brought by a different girl, Gwen, who passes the drinks out then leans forward a bit to Alyce.  “Don’t you go worrying any about what some old biddies say.  If I had a pair like that, you can bet I would be strutting them out, too.”  Alyce reaches a hand up to the back of the girl’s neck and pulls her head down, kissing her full on the lips.  The waitress seems to like this very much and returns the kiss with fervor as she reaches a hand down to slide into Alyce’s open blouse, cupping her right tit and thumbing a rock hard nipple.  Both women moan just a bit and Terri, by virtue of where he is sitting, can see Alyce’s free hand up the other woman’s short skirt and stroking her knickers.  All of the men at the table are entranced by the two women kissing, or maybe the waitress’ hand as it exposes the breast she is fondling for the rest to see, or maybe the soft moans, or maybe all of it.  The waitress eventually straightens up, although it is quite plain that she does not want to.  She fans her face a bit then winks at Alyce and walks away with a flounce of her hair to the men. 

As the men begin to breathe again, Al smiles.  “Remember the princess thing I said? Now ya can see why ol’ Al keeps ‘er around. Bit of a strain on a gentleman o’ my advance years, but...”

Charlie laughs out loud.  “Yeah, complain away.  Just let me know when you get tired of this job and I will happily take your place.”

Everyone laughs again and they resume the storytelling as they sip at their drinks.  Each takes a turn telling something and it is apparent that, together, all of them have seen a huge portion of the world.  Alyce listens to the stories as they are told, but her attention is clearly focused on Al, who is sitting across from her.  Midway through one of the sets, no one can really recall how many, two more people come into the snug.  Alyce immediately recognizes Rick Sizemore, but not the girl he is with.  Rick takes one look at Alyce and shakes his head.  “Doc Krait, as I live and breathe.  Never thought to see you again in this life, but I am eternally grateful that I have.”  He pulls the girl closer and turns to her.  “Ginny, when we get married and have kids, it will be because of this woman.  She saved my life for certain.  I was delirious for days from the poison from that bugger native’s dart.  Me and some others.  She saved us all; didn’t lose one of us.  Bloody miracle worker, she is.”

The girl looks at Alyce with a deadpan serious look.  “Not sure I should be thanking you for that.”  Her expression doesn’t change as she looks at Rick.  “And who says I want to marry you, anyway, or have your bratty kids to raise?”

Alyce looks at Ginny and says, “You know you want to.  Why hide it?  Go on, tell him.”

Ginny looks at her for a few long moments then smiles before turning back to the man at her side.  “OK, yeah.  I want to marry you and have some bratty kids with you.  But no more running off.  You got a good job at the port and you will have a family to think about.”

Rick looks like he was hit with a poleaxe.  “Really?  That's a yes?  Ginny, I promise that the only running off I will be doing is when you send me to the shops.”

The rest of the men are whooping it up and yelling and the barman has to come around to calm things down.  He leaves after getting an order for another round, but not before taking another long glance at Alyce’s chest.  Space is made at the table and chairs brought over for the two new arrivals and the drinks and stories continue to flow.  There is a strong sense of camaraderie at the table and everyone seems to be having a good time.  The time-honored announcement of “Time, Gentlemen” catches everyone off guard and puts a slight damper on the proceedings.  Alyce excuses herself to use the loo and leaves, listening to the clicking of eyeballs from the others as her butt sways in her tight jeans.  Rick and Ginny make their own excuses and leave, presumably to get back to what they were doing before being called to the pub.  Charlie waits until Alyce has disappeared from sight then leans over to Al.  “You are one lucky bastard, Al.  She has brains, beauty, and guts.  Did I mention a super great set of tits?  And she seems to be way into you.  Good luck with that one, chum.  Hey, we’re rolling.  Have a bloody great time on the rest of your trip and may you always get to your next port of call safely.”

The three men need to support each other to maneuver across the floor to the door, then they disappear into the night.  Alyce comes around the corner from the loo, walking with her arm around Gwen.  The waitress’ face is a bit flushed and she is breathing hard.  The two kiss each other as they approach Al and Gwen shakes her head as she smiles at Al and turns to leave.  Alyce takes Al’s arm and walks with him to the door and out into the night air, which causes her to push in tightly.  “I had a bloody great time, Al.  Thank you.  You know, I could pretend to be sloppy drunk so you can score on me, if you like?  Hell, you could score on me even if we were both stone cold sober.”  She goes quiet as they walk slowly to the B&B.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-03-17/0756:28>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

Al laughed. "Ya make that sound like some sorta peculiar distinction. Hell, I was half expectin' ya to lead those fellers off ta the loo one by one." They both laughed at how true that rang. Since it hadn't actually happened, it was easy for Al to be light about it, while Alyce was simply thrilled at the absence of any condemnation in his tone.

"Did enjoy hearin' more o' yer stories. Hell, woman, I love talkin' to ya. Gen'rally. Like ta find more ta jabber 'bout, ain't got ta do with work. Other hand, sounds like ya got a great many stories ta tell might be more'n a little innerestin'."

And then they were back at the Apple Tree. Despite it being after midnight, the lights in the lounge were on, so they decided to duck their heads in before going upstairs.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-03-17/1017:05>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

When Al and Alyce poke their heads into the lounge, they see Gene Walker and Glenda Stuart sitting a bit apart on the settee there.  Both are breathing a bit hard and Glenda's shirt is folded closed, but Al can see that the buttons are not really fastened.  Alyce nods at the two.  "Good morning.  You missed a great night down the local.  It was Karaoke Night."  Alyce's blouse had mostly dried during the evening, but she has made no attempt to button it and it is not really doing a very good job of concealing her tits.  Just walking to the B&B from the pub has opened it a bit more and her left breast is completely uncovered and visible to the couple in the lounge.  Gene licks his lips and cannot seem to look away as Alyce waves to them and turns to Al.  "Let's just go upstairs and leave these lovebirds to what they were doing before we came in."

Alyce walks with Al to the narrow stairway and leads the way up the stairs, giving Al a very good look at how her tight jeans mold to her ass.  In the room, she laughs as she strips out of her clothes.  "I loved the evening, Al.  You are quite the man, from the stories those blokes were telling.  We can sit down some night and swap more."  She moves to the bed and pulls back the covers.  "Now, as I recall, you prefer that side, right?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-03-17/1041:45>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

The sight of Alyce climbing nude into the one bed in the room was almost too much for Al. Dammit - he'd gotten the two rooms on the train, but hadn't thought of this when she'd suggested this little overnighter. She was Russian - probably good at chess.

He figured they were past him sleeping on the floor, and he'd feel stupid wearing his jeans to bed. So he went to the head and peed, then came out and stripped to his boxers and go into the bed.

On his side.

"Whoa, big day, huh? Sooo tired now."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-03-17/1604:05>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

Alyce smiles as Al climbs into bed with her.  The boxers are a good touch, as is him turning out the lights before undressing.  As he lies on his side away from her, she slides into a spoon position and puts an arm around his chest.  He can feel her hardened nipples against his back as she puts her face up against his neck where he can feel the warmth of her breath.  Leaving her hand where it is, she whispers, “Nice try with the lights, Al, but I can see things in the dark, remember?  I do appreciate the very nice tent in those boxers as it means that you are still looking and still interested.  That allows me to hope that some day you will want to climb into a bed and make love to me.  I would rock your world, Al Guthrie, if you only let me in.”
She laughs gently then hugs him a bit tighter.  “Whenever you are ready, Al.”  Her breathing becomes more regular and he is aware of when she drops off to sleep.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-03-17/1635:38>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

Al hoped that Alyce's soft, rhythmic breath would send him off as well, but it was hopeless. He'd had trouble sleeping for the past six years. It had gotten a bit better for a while after his time with Honesty, but that salve had faded, and since Lyonesse sleep had been more elusive than ever.

Many nights since then, Alyce had helped - her voice, her affection, sometimes just knowing someone like her was real. But now with her breasts nestled against his back, she was having rather the opposite effect.

He got up. He knew one sure way to get sleepy...ever since returning from the last run, ever since reentering his life with her as a person and not a ghost, he'd been studying Russian. Only a few weeks, but he was a quick study. Trouble was, although he'd picked up several languages in his travels, it had always been by necessity and immersion. He'd rarely - well, never - actually practiced or studied. Proof positive he was getting old. 

He put in his earbuds and fired up his commlink, first making sure she was asleep, and even then keeping the volume so low he could barely hear it himself right there in his ear. He scanned the symbols on the tiny screen, mouthed the words, puzzled over the grammar. A couple of hours later at around three he was ready to climb back into bed. He backed up against the nude woman, replaced her arm over his torso, and slept.

Alyce awoke with the warmth of the sun on her face. Her sensitive nipples were still pressed up against Al's back, and now, with more sleep and less alcohol in her system, she savored the feeling more fully. She remembered the scarring on him, having treated the last fresh additions back in Andoung Tuek, mere days from his release from prison. No stranger to the sting of the lash herself, she had been shocked at his scarring - over a year of periodic abuse had crosshatched every square inch of his back with scars overlaying scars. Now, her fingers exploring the expanse of it, she felt what he'd never let her see back then, that it covered his buttocks and the backs of his thighs as well.

He stirred with her touch, and rolled over to face her. "Dobroye utro krasavitsa."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-03-17/1845:15>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

Alyce frowns at the devastation wrought on the skin of the man she loves and somewhere, someone gets a chill feeling in his bones, as if someone were coming to get him and the result was not going to be pleasant.  She forces the frown into a smile as Al wakes and begins to turn towards her.  Her breasts are just about at the level of his eyes, but he looks at her eyes instead of her nipples…… least at first, and Alyce knows that he loves her.  A man not in love would have definitely fastened his gaze on her breasts, but a man in love, well, a man in love goes for the eyes first thing and the breasts second.  Or maybe the ass or legs, depending on personal preference and what is visible.  But Al had gone for the eyes.  He might not be able to verbalize things yet, for whatever reason, but Alyce knows and that is enough for now.
And then he surprises her and goes for the heart next instead of her tits.  She lets the words resonate within her as if they were something directly from God.  She puts a hand at either side of his face and leans in to kiss first his forehead then his eyes then his lips, speaking in Russian as she does.  “Al, ты замечательный, замечательный человек. Вы свет моей жизни и украсить его каждый день. Я никогда не буду жалеть тебя любить и готов ждать навсегда для вас, чтобы сказать, что ты меня любишь. Ни один человек не является более особенным, что вы. Ты дополняешь меня. Потребуются годы, чтобы разработать много способов, которыми Вы заканчиваете меня.”
Alyce leans back from the kiss and says, “You are learning Russian for me.  That is so romantic.”  She puts her forehead against his and looks into his eyes, murmuring words in Russian so softly that he cannot hear.  Tears start to come from her eyes but she keeps on, her lips barely moving as she recites an ancient Russian poem of love and endearment.  When she is finished, she leans forward to kiss him again then relaxes in his arms.  “When do you want to get up to go to Dartmouth?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-03-17/1854:13>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

"Learnin' Russian? Ya give me a lot o' credit, woman. Could be ol' Al jist picked that up somewhere. Sure as shootin' I couldn't follow all that ya done rattled back at me."

He talked a good game, but the fact was that they'd never before been close like this, face to face in bed. Her breasts felt better on his face and neck than they had on his back. But his body was getting some very clear ideas of its own.

"Reckon we git up now," he answered, adding "Gotta pee somethin' fierce," to cover the feelings she was pulling up from inside him. "Hungry too," he shouted over his shoulder from the head.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-03-17/1938:36>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076
Alyce laughs as Al races from the bed.  “Sure, sure.  Everyone in our line of work just happens to pick up that sort of Russian as they pass through somewhere, although I would have expected swear words and crass words that refer to my tits or ass, instead of a romantic morning greeting.  Of course, maybe you picked that up in the bedroom of another Russian girl.”  She laughs again.  “And hurry getting that thing drained.  I need to pee, too.  According to the ARO on the wall, we have just less than an hour before breakfast is served."
Alyce crawls out of bed to go stand in the doorway of the bathroom.  “I want to thank you again for introducing me to some of your old friends last night.  They seem nice people.  And that waitress, Gwen, was awfully nice, don’t you think?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-03-17/1947:20>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

"Heh, you'd know a hell of a lot more about that than me. Shee-it, toots, is ev'ry beautiful girl ya meet gay, or ya jist have some special talent, turnin' folk inta Sodomites?"

Standing and chatting while she waited for her turn at the toilet - something about that was more scarily romantic and intimate than waking up together. It made him grumpy. As he started getting dressed, he noticed she didn't bother closing the door. Shit. How was he going to make it through another three weeks, when the fact was that he loved every bit of it.

Once again he was filled with an overwhelming feeling that he was making things ultimately worse the longer he held onto the dream, and once again the sight of her, the sound, the smell of her, compelled him to procrastinate longer. Another day. Or two.

By the time she got done doing her business - which he wanted to watch but forced himself not to - he was dressed but for his boots. He told himself it was so they could get out of here quicker, but he knew it was really just so he could sit back with a cigarette and watch her get dressed.

An hour until filled his mind with thoughts. So he said, "Git some clothes on - assumin' yer gon' wear any today. Let's tour the orchard afore we eat."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-04-17/1234:57>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

Alyce smiles at Al as she moves to where she had laid out her clothes before getting into bed earlier.  All she has is what she wore yesterday, so it will have to do, and it is not like she has not worn the same clothes day after day before.  She turns profile on to Al as she bends over to slip into her trousers and put the blouse on.  "Al, I have found that almost every young woman is at least a bit curious about what sex with another woman is like and is willing to experiment at least once.  I have gone waaaaaay past the experimentation stage and like it very much.  But I went to bed with you, not her, and will do nothing more than tease anyone else while on this trip unless you desire me to have sex with someone.  If my kissing her bothers you, I will not do anything like that while we are on the trip.  All you have to do is let me know what you want from me."

As she finishes, she turns to Al and he sees that the blouse's top three buttons are undone, just as the previous day.  "I would love to walk in the orchard with you, Al.  Shall we go?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-04-17/1706:26>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

Al made never made a direct reply to her speech on. She was laying at hell of a lot of power at his feet. Sure, he'd called the shots in all his relationships with women, but he'd never dreamt of exercising it in the ways she was suggesting. Hell, such questions had never even come up. His mind thought of six different ways to run with that - six different selves, he supposed - some he admired and some he despised. He thought of three clever responses, but didn't open his mouth because he didn't know which would come out.

So he stayed silent as she spoke and as she dressed - he always felt a little sad every time she put her clothes on, but he reckoned it wouldn't be long before she had them off again.

Then she was dressed in both her articles of clothing, asking if he was ready to leave, and he said, "Yup."

And they explored the orchard in silence.

Al had been raised in a remote Ozark community. Guthries had lived on The Mountain for generations, mostly in deliberate isolation from the rest of the world. The he'd travelled much of the Northern Hemisphere, and seen a hell of a lot of what Mother Nature had left to offer. Though nowhere was exactly like - or perhaps quite as pleasant as - the forested hills and grassy vales of southern England, natural environments were nothing new to him. But he'd been virtually city-bound for the past six years, and the last couple of days - from the train, on horseback, now walking amongst the apple trees - had been remarkably refreshing.

And centering.

Divine providence, maybe.

He adored Alyce in a way that made it hard to breathe sometimes. But where nature brought him into himself, she took him out of it.

He reached for her hand and held it tight as they walked.

Approaching the B&B, a fleet of delicious smells wafted toward them from kitchen and chimney. They entered the dining room to a mouth-watering spread of bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, and blood pudding. Coffee and tea were brewing. They greeted the other guests cheerily, their salutations returned with a forced heartiness by Mark Jessup, and with polite murmurs from the others.  Al and Alyce had not filled their plates before they sensed a tension at the table. The Stuarts were not present. And almost immediately Susan Walker started sobbing quietly and left the room. Her husbsand Gene cursed under his breath then followed her. Looking uncomfortable, the Wilcoxes explained that Susan wasn't feeling well, then also excused themselves. Al noticed they were walking very close to one another, hands clasped tightly.

Unconcerned, Al tucked in. Not his problem. He was reaching for more beans when he saw all four pile into a car with their luggage and pull out.

Now at last Mark Jessup, the only person remaining in the room, spoke. "Stuarts left early this morning. Lots of shouting from their room beforehand." He shrugged. "Even good friends, you travel together, stay in close quarters, nerves fray I guess. Maybe that's why I stay a bachelor. So what are you two lovebirds up to today?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-05-17/0151:13>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

Alyce greatly enjoys the breakfast and makes sure to let Mary know..  She absorbs the goings on at the table and smiles to herself after the other couples have left, thinking that they would not have made good choices for sharing.  When Mark asks, she says, "Off to Dartmouth Castle as soon as the hire car and driver come in to pick us up.  Do you have any pointers that the tour guide might not have?"

Mark nods thoughtfully.  "Indeed.  I would go over and grab the water taxi across the river to the castle.  You can drive along the coast and get there, but the view is a lot better from the water.  The taxi drops you off a short walk from the castle.  You are with the train right?"

When Al nods yes, Mark continues.  "The Tower, back across the river in Dartmouth, serves a bloody great afternoon tea.  If you stay at the castle and its grounds long enough, I would advise taking the water taxi back across and stopping in for the tea before heading back to the train.  A good driver will get you back in plenty of time.  Oh, and ask about the hidden hallways tour when you are at the castle.  The place is riddled with walkways and they offer a special guided tour, but only if you ask about it and it is not in the brochure.  There is some tradition that only the locals can tell you and only to special people, such as yourselves."

Alyce smiles and she thanks Mark for his kind words.  "We will certainly recommend The Apple Tree to our friends.  We have really had fun here and I would hope to return some day soon."

The hire car and Harold have pulled up during the last bit of breakfast and he cheerfully welcomes them back and makes sure that their destination is still Dartmouth Castle.  Alyce looks at Al and gets a nod.  "Yes, Harold, we are.  And this place was all that you said it would be, so thank you for recommending it."  They turn to wave to Mary and Mark before climbing into the car and heading off to Dartmouth.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-06-17/0758:54>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

They bid Harold goodbye at Dartmouth Harbor. Al's mood was more subdued than it had been over the trip's first two days, but he offered no explanation. And the rays of Alyce's personality kept finding ways through the fog and ruining his funk, forcing occasional smile-like grimaces to emerge begrudgingly around his cigarettes at her word or touch.

There was a ferry across the estuary to the castle, but of course being rich (well, she being rich and Al, with no thought for his financial future, pretending to be) they hired one of the smaller water taxis. The bright sun conspired along with Alyce to clear the thunderstorm from Al's mood, light glistening off the mild swells as they crossed to the ancient edifice. Built to defend the river entrance, the best view was indeed by water. And unlike yesterday's veritable ruin, Dartmouth had been built - and maintained - for purpose over the centuries, having seen active military duty as recently as the 1950s.

Touring the place, Al appreciated the clever engineering of the emplacements and supporting logistics works, including the warren of service passages they were able to access when Alyce took advantage of Mark's tip and enquired about them. Ater seeing the castle they saw the church and the village backing the place, missing lunch but stuffing themselves on afternoon tea at the Tower Cafe.

By the time they had taken the water taxi back across the estuary, Harold had just enough time to get them to Dartmouth Station, to which their train had advanced over the previous day.

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-06-17/0833:35>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

Alyce certainly notices that Al seems a bit out of sorts, but after her first question about it gets nothing but a grunt and a brief answer that all is just fine, she leaves him alone, feeling that it is best to not say anything at this time.  She is pretty sure it is something she said, but cannot figure out what it was and if the past is any indicator, saying more will just make things worse.  She tries to let him know that she is open to discussing anything by holding his hand if he lets her. 

As the day goes on, his mood seems to brighten a bit and so does hers.  The castle is very much intact and they walk a lot of the old battlements, even standing where the great chain was that would bar entry to the estuary in time of war.  Some of the canon positions still have the massive guns used to protect the river.  The tour of the secret passages was quite interesting, but for Alyce, just being near Al was the real highlight of the entire day.  They did not say much, but did not not have to.  Afternoon tea was great and they met Ginny again, who arranged a very nice spot for them to dine, making a big deal of it for them.  She even had some of the small specialty cake the cafe was known for sent over with a card that simply said "Thank you". 

They rejoin the train at Dartmouth Station and Alyce quickly goes to take a shower, leaving the connecting door open in case Al wants to come watch her.  She thoroughly enjoys the hot water and washes her long hair, removing the dust of two days of traveling on the Devon roads.  When done, she dries off and goes to sit on the bed, hoping that Al will want to stay and talk for a bit.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-06-17/0848:52>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

Al stayed. It was getting really hard not to, which pissed him off. But he didn't talk much. Looked out the window - and at her - and smoked.

They'd eaten late, so reserved a seat in the dining car - which they'd yet to try - for the last available time slot.

That left some time to kill, but he made no move to fill it. He liked watching the green countryside go by - it calmed him, reminded him of things that he was sure were true - like the window frame was this aperture between reality on the one side and on the other some sort of evanescent wonderland that he knew was impossible but loomed increasingly real.

He figured he was being kind of an asshole, but reckoned this was the best he could bring to the table today. He'd make it up to her later.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-06-17/0904:14>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

It is pretty obvious that Al likes being in the room with her, but is still a bit upset with something she has said or done and is not in a mood to talk about it, so Alyce remains silent, too.  Naked, she pads up behind him and simply puts her arms about him, trying to show that she supports him and likes being near him.  She hopes that he will talk to her when he is ready.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-06-17/0929:26>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

Alyce's arms around him were like a panacea. They made everything all right. The feel of them, skin so smooth and flawless. Her smell. Her breasts on the nape of his neck. The sound of her breathing. And more than all that, the fact that she knew just what he needed, not speaking, but reaching out to him.

He felt so calm. He could almost fall asleep like that, sitting by the window, her arms clasped firmly around his chest. Except that they were a bit tight. He didn't want to say anything, didn't want to put her off. But holy moley, she had a grip. It was almost starting to get hard to...yup, kind of hard to breathe...what a silly notion...but damn, he could barely draw a breath, shit, she was killing him...he shifted his weight and her grip loosened a bit to accommodate him. There, that was okay. He stroked the back of her hand. She kissed his neck and went to sit on the bed.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-06-17/1055:54>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

Alyce feels Al relax a bit as she puts her arms about him.  After a while, he shifts position and she goes over to sit on the bed, still silent until her 'link buzzed that it was nearly time to go eat.  Quickly slipping into some comfortable trousers and a blouse, Alyce goes to stand near Al, who has not moved yet.  She bends over to kiss his neck and whispers, "It is time to eat, Al, but we can just stay here instead, if you like."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-06-17/1242:19>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

"Don't be silly, woman. You know the rules. Ya done put on clothes, so now we gotta go out." He was doing his best to lighten the mood. "Never know what might happen, yer found in violation," he added with a jovial leer, slapping her ass on the way out the door.

The dining car was nice. At nine o'clock the sun was just starting to set, and the train, though westbound for Cornwall, had hit a southerly leg, offering them a perfect view of the fuzzy peach and tangerine sky over lemon fields of saffron. The menu was as high end as the rest of the first-class fare. Al ordered what he figured was the closest thing to a real meal, the black pepper spice-rubbed beef tenderloin, substituting the bulgur with herbs for roast potatoes. He let them go ahead with the 'bevy of beans & basil', idly appreciating the alliteration.

Alyce ordered something he couldn't have named and didn't think would make its presence known in its stomach, but they shared bites of each other's dishes and he allowed hers was pretty tasty.

They took their time through the courses. Al was not eager to go back to the room, and it was easy to linger longer - candles were lit as darkness enshrouded the locomotive, and Al went ahead and ordered one of everything from the dessert tray.

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-06-17/1617:47>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076
Alyce wiggles her ass after he gives it a slap just to let him have another chance to appreciate it.  He does.  And he gently slaps it again as he walks behind her in the narrow corridor.  Her slight yelp of pleasure startles a man who is standing near the door to the next cabin over from Alyce’s in the direction they are heading.  She smiles at him and he does the same as he ogles her figure.  As usual, Alyce is not wearing any sort of bra and her perky breasts sway to her movement and that of the rail car.
The food is so high end that there are no prices listed on the fancy hard-backed menus.  The immaculately dressed waiter calmly provides a Braille version, as if he was already aware that she is blind.  Alyce runs her fingers across the symbols and finds some southeast Asian dishes that she has not had in some time and looks up at the waiter.  “Is the Duck Vientenne done authentically?”
The waiter is very careful not to leer at Alyce’s chest, even though it has almost certainly circulated amongst the staff that the Keeb seems to have a tendency to stay nude in her cabin and does not seem to mind the porters taking extra long in the cabin when called on to deliver something there.  “Yes, Miss.  One of the chefs has trained in the country and has made sure that the appropriate herbs and spices are used.”  Satisfied, Alyce orders that and some sides to go with it.
The food and the wine are excellent, as is the company.  Alyce thoroughly enjoys sitting at a table with Al, even though not much is said during the meal.  Al seems lost in the view out the window and Alyce chooses to let him remain silent, believing that he will let her know when he is ready to talk.  A moment of panic passes through her when she allows herself to think that a partner avoiding conversation or spending more time looking out a window than looking at her could be a sign that he is trying to tell her that he is not interested in taking their relationship to the next level or, worse, wants to end it.  Her mind runs through everything that she has said and done in the past few days, trying to determine what she has done wrong.
Al’s mood seems to lighten a bit as he politely asks to share a bit of the food from her plate, but that in itself sends additional warning flags into her mind.  He does not use his familiar cavalier way of assuming she will share and help himself as he asks, but waits for her to nod that it is alright.  At the end of the meal, Al orders what appears to be one of everything from the desert tray, which also seems a bit off.  Alyce is very tempted to try to break into his mood and ask him if anything is wrong, but bites her tongue and remains silent, almost dreading the answer to that question.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-06-17/1645:28>
Wednesday, July 30th, 2076

Back in the room after dinner Al had continued to drink. As usual. But more. He rarely got sloppy drunk, but he ended up that way fast on that particular evening. And the drunker he got, the more surly he became. Curled more tightly into a chair in the corner. Unresponsive to Alyce’s conversational forays.

Everything had been going so well. Somewhere in his mind he figured that was the problem.

Alyce was unbelievably patient with him, as usual. But eventually he’d retreated to his own room, shutting the door, locking it, and then, dimly realizing she could pop the mag with a thought, had jammed both the inner and outer doors shut with chairs.

And then not slept.

It was back, damned Tssogggoth - that was what he’d named it. It was there, pushing its way through the interplanar portal behind his eyelids every time he shut them. So he kept kissing it and it would go away and then it would just come back and he’d have to kiss it again. He drank more from the minibar, tried stamping his feet, smashing the image of it he’d had inked there into oblivion. But of course that was kid’s stuff he knew what he had to do and the tip of his cigarette didn’t even hurt much and then Alyce was yelling at him though the door why was he screaming and he called her a crazy bitch because he hadn’t been screaming it hadn’t even hurt and he felt a bit bad for Fletcher because he’d done good work even with his clothes on and now Tssogggoth’s beautiful face was all burned away and then She finally came and barked and growled and snarled at it and Her White trumped its Black and he slept as dawn broke.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-06-17/1647:24>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

At around noon he got up, splashed water on his face and felt fine, except…he went into the next room and found Alyce, remains of her lunch on a table, sitting nude on her bed running her fingers down the pages of her Pride & Prejudice. She smiled so bright he didn’t need a beer right away. Cigarettes were another story entirely, and he lit one for each of them before saying, “Hangin’ my head, toots. Ol’ Al warn’t no gentleman last night.”

Alyce stood and stretched. She stood with her, naked also of course. But instead of stretching She bit at something in her snow white coat. “Al, it’s not as though I don’t indulge in some admittedly unconventional pleasures myself, and you’ve been so good about that. I think I can take one drunken rampage in stride. Would you like something to eat? I know the porters are hoping I order something - took three of them to deliver lunch.”

“Yeah, reckon I could eat.” He felt better now, and settled into a chair by the window, smoking and watching the green fields of the Southern Habitable roll by. His food came and yeah, damn if those boys didn’t find things for three of them to do to get it delivered. Made the room crowded, and Alyce kept on needing to reach something, or get past them so that she had to rub against them, winking at Al over the shades perched on the tip of her nose as she did so. Vixen. She was priceless.

He ate and kept looking out the window, idly chatting, just enjoying the company of Her and Alyce. They were both beautiful, sitting there on the bed. But with three the room was a lot smaller. No, the room was getting smaller. And his back hurt. He tried not to lean against it, but there was no space in his box. He knew he had to keep shifting. He’d fallen asleep once and the congealing blood had seeped through what was left of his shirt and stuck to the wall. Pulling free had hurt worse than the caning itself. He kept busy, the little sliver of bamboo he kept hidden behind the loose brick jabbing repeatedly into his sole, stopping only to reapply his spit-and-charcoal mix to the tip. He was nearly done. This would send those fuckers ballistic. There they were now, he heard them coming down the hall. Familiar footsteps right outside, and she opened the door. “Al? Al? Where’d you go?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-06-17/1648:50>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

“Oh, jist miles away, toots.”

“How about we skip that village market tour and just watch some more Tales chips?”

She knew what he needed. They both did. The three of them sat on the bed watching the trid for hours, smoking, vomiting, commenting, Al idly working on his tattoo, shuffling cards, shivering in the cold box. Sergeant Hara only looked at Al and spoke to him twice, once just to remind him to go take a piss, the other time to remind him he wasn’t in Cambodia anymore, that that was in the past. He thanked the Sarge for that. Something was wrong.

“Why’re you here?” he asked Her.

“i’m sorry, Al. What?”

“I’m here to help you with the hallucinations. Keep you as rooted as possible. Guide you through them.”

“Ol’ Al don’t hallucinate.”

“Al, my love, listen…I’d like to take a look at you for a moment.”

“No, no you do not. Not usually.”

“So what is this? Why now? Who did it?”

“Al, it’s just my portable kit. I just want to do a couple of quick scans. You’ve been worrying me.”

“I did it. Am doing it.”

“But ya jist said…”

“Just lie back, Al.”

“What can I say, I’m a bitch. As in female. Not in the pejorative sense. The men-shouldn’t-expect-me-to-make-sense sense.”

“So lay it out for me.”

“Just a few more seconds, Al.”

“Not in front of her.”

Al pulled the lead off his temple and stood up.


“Goin’ ta my room.”

Alyce tried to push him back down onto the bed, bless her, but he just ignored it and walked out.

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-06-17/1650:20>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

They locked the door and he was alone in the box. Dammit, She’d tricked him. But not alone for long. Footsteps in the hall again. Although there was no time here in the dark, he could tell which shift it was by the tread. Anchaly’s crew, they liked the cane. He could handle it. Makara’s boys were more about the cigarettes. Fuck ‘em. But the lone footsteps - that was the one he feared. There was only one that ever came alone. The one coming now. The door opened. The funky shades, the ponytail. She never hurt him. She was always good to him. And she would never let him go.

“I love you, Al. You are perfect for me. I’ll do anything you want. You can do anything you want. I’ll let you.”

He sat in there, in the box, for a long time. Sometimes she visited. She was always kind to him. Brought him presents. Sometimes Tssogggoth came. but She always drove it away, and then was gone.

Around the eighth day She came and hung around. Which was a good thing because Alyce was there too. Gone for eight days, but now back. He’d never gotten away after all. Her body was so hot. Her pencil-eraser nipples thrust proudly through the threadbare fabric of her yellowing wifebeater, which he could see whenever the old brown RAF jacket happened to fall open just right.

“You’re wrong,” She said.

“Ol’ Al ain’t never wrong.”

The sound of a Dog laughing derisively was a jarring, unearthly thing.

“Well I ain’t wrong about this.”

“You are foolish. I’ve always known that. I sent Honesty to talk some sense into you. I sent her bearing great gifts. But what you learned you threw away so quickly.” Her voice was so soft, gentle. Familiar, but he couldn’t place it. “Listen to me now. I have more gifts for you, if you’ll but heed me. Still greater protections against arcane forces. But you have to meet me halfway. Take a bit of advice intended to help you and I get to where we’re a bit more in sync. So if I have your attention, I’ll say it again. You’re wrong.”

“Do tell.”

“There’s nothing she can do that can stop you walking away any time you want. You shouldn’t be worried because, Al, there is nothing that can hold you.”

“A promise could.”

“…….Yes, I suppose it could. But she hasn’t asked for one.”

“Hasn’t she? Won’t she? Isn’t she, ever’ time she goes on about true love and perfect matches an’ so forth?”

“Maybe, maybe not. I only know what you see. She’s not in my pack. But if you don’t ask her the Questions, you’ll never know.”

Alyce took off her torn jeans, then her boxers. She knew he liked it. Knew it distracted him. Stopped him thinking right.

“Think about it. One answer would make things suddenly very simple. The other, well, that could clear many paths.”

“But not all. It ain’t the only impediment, not even the biggest.”

“Well, I’d call it a solid two out of, shall we say three? The others aren’t consequential.”

“Yeah, but One an’ Three…why am I botherin’? Why’m I stringin’ ‘er along, when they ain’t no hope?”

“Oh, I don’t know. A lifetime of happiness? Or freedom? Or maybe you’ll find that both are possible.”

“You damned well know that last one ain’t.”

“All right, maybe not. But you’re thinking too much, and that isn’t like you. She really has you rattled, doesn’t she? I’m showing you how to get started, how to clear one first step. I’ve already done my best to help you with One, and you wouldn’t take it. But you can’t even start to get back to it unless you get past Two.”

“Cross them other bridges when I come to ‘em, hey totem-amigo.”

She barked happily. Done talking apparently.

Lucky Her.

“Al? AL!” And damn if her hand wasn’t behind his neck, lifting it - Al was pretty sure she was clearing his airway. He opened his eyes and his heart melted with the worry on her face. He grabbed her hands and held them until they stopped shaking, then stood up. She started talking about checking this and scanning that and apologizing for hacking his lock, but he said, “Ol’ Al’s fine, toots. Sorry ta upset ya.”

“No Al, I don’t think you are fine.”

“Oh yeah, reckon I am. Ya know I don’t got no truck with no sorcery, but sometimes She fergits that. She’s lookin’ out fer ya though, I can surely tell ya that. Now put on somethin’ naughty an’ lets go find somethin’ fun ta do. Cuz tonight we gotta git ta work.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-07-17/0257:53>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alyce is very confused about what is happening to Al.  She had crushed the maglock on the connecting door with her deck but he had placed an obstacle under the doorknob, probably some sort of chair, to deny her entry.  "Not so fast, Al Guthrie."  She unspooled the monowhip from her finger and wrapped it around the doorknob before giving it a tug.  As the knob popped off on this side she gave the remaining mechanism a push and the other half fell off the door into Al's cabin.  With nothing to give purchase to hold the chair in place, Alyce rams it with a shoulder, pushing it open to show Al on his bed and talking to people she cannot see.  Worried, Alyce picks up the medkit at her feet and moves to his side, preparing to clear his air passage.

The man wakes from his apparent hallucination and sits up, denying her the chance to check his vitals.  Even as she tries to argue with him, he stands and tells her to dress naughty for the evening.  Alyce feels that she is breaking in two as she stands and returns to her room.  All of her efforts have fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes and now he is using some sort of tomfoolery to try to convince her that he is wrong for her.  She is doing this to him for her own selfish reasons and it is killing her to see him go to such an extreme in an attempt to convince her to make the call to break off the relationship.  That would make it her fault and not his. 

As she dresses, she considers what she is doing to him and resolves to let him win.  She loves him too much to continue putting him through this.  She can make a clean break after dinner and make arrangements to leave the train at the next stop or the one after that if there is no easy, the next stop.  It does not matter if there is an easy way or not.  She can get home somehow and Al will be free of her without his needing to be the heel and breaking it off.  She can allow him that small pleasure and move on with her life.  She will never count the years as wasted because she truly loves him and can wish him the happiness he thinks he needs without her.

Somewhat absent-mindedly, she has but on a set of rather see-through harem pants and a transparent blouse coupled with a short bolero jacket.  Soft slippers complete the effect of some sort of genii from a bottle look.  She tries to smile as she turns to Al, but the effort is very hard.  "Will this do for naughty, Al?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-07-17/0430:48>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Al was literally speechless at how hot she looked. Her utter shamelessness aroused him in ways he'd never imagined. "Erm...shit...yeah....yeah, reckon that'll do..." he managed to spit out.

The last eight days...just for fun his checked the time...shit, more like eight minutes...whatever, it had been hell, but looking at Alyce, he was actually grateful to Her. Sure, he'd appreciated Her gifts up until now, but it had always seemed like a sort of working relationship. That She would go to that trouble to help him out with this irresistible but impossible spitfire he'd gotten himself mixed up with, he figured he owed Her one.

He was a bit surprised Alyce hadn't asked him about his irregular behavior and ungentlemanly comportment, but figured the few words he'd offered must have been enough for her razor-sharp mind to grasp the situation. Of course, a lot of the credit went to himself, and he congratulated himself on the amazing efficiency of his communications.

As they left the room - he wasn't sure where to, but didn't care as long as it was out - he was a little worried about what sort of mischief he might be tempted to put her up to, dressed the way she was. But at the moment he was feeling so good - hopeful? - he decided to quit worrying and just have fun, even if it meant his mind straying a bit over onto her side of the line...

They made their way down the corridor hand-in-hand, he limping slightly.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-07-17/0944:10>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alyce resolved that if this was to be her last day ever with Al, that she would put a good face on it.  For just about the first time since she had met the man in Cambodia more than eight years ago, her mind is clear.  Her heart is far from clear.  She is absolutely certain that she will never stop loving him, but she is just as certain that he deserves his peace and happiness and some relief from all of this crap he is putting himself through trying to get her to be the one to break things off.  She will give him his peace tonight and leave in the morning.

Even wrapped in misery, Alyce has no trouble sensing that Al is limping and stops to ask him if he is alright, receiving an Alism back that he is just fine.  The man is a horrible liar, but she shrugs and continues down the corridor.  After all, after tonight he won't be lying to her anymore. 

The train is stopped at a quaint village and the passengers have several hours to walk about and stretch their legs on ground that is not moving.  Two of the travelling couples have debarked just before them and the husbands goggle at Alyce as she steps off the train.  Her breast are completely visible and the nude-colored thong she is wearing conceals next to nothing.  The wives both grab an arm of their men and quickly force them away down the station walkway.  One of the men actually has the gall to ask "What?  What?"

Once on the platform, Alyce puts her arm through one of Al's and Strolls down the walkway in the direction the other couples have gone.  "What do you want to see, first?  Apparently this place is somewhat famous for a battle that took place during the Civil War.  There are several tours offered for the battlefield.  Or we could just walk about the village and stop in at the local for lunch."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-07-17/1015:25>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Al had barely eaten the food they'd ordered at lunch, and now that his little ordeal was over he was indeed hungry. The way he was feeling right now, though, he didn't really care what they did as long as he was with Alyce.

He stopped walking and sat down on a bench to light them some cigarettes. "Reckon all or none 'o the above sounds good ta ol' Al. Listen, Alyce...yer always so damned kind an' thoughtful. Now I do appreciate that ya know yer place, an' don't think I'll hesitate ta let ya know what I want. An' expect ta git it. But the thing is, well, I'm damned interested in ya, an' how'm I gon' learn more, we's always doin' what I want? Like when i said I wanted ta see what sorta shows ya liked, well, ya popped up with them Tales chips. Now no denyin' that earned ya almost as many points with me as this here outfit yer barely wearin' right now, but I still don't know what ya watch. Capice? Now, I am not gon' say one single word 'bout what I want ta do in this here berg. Jist gon' follow you 'round, do what strikes yer fancy. Only entertainment I need is jist to be lookin' at ya anyhoo."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-07-17/1733:25>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alyce is determined that if this is the last day she ever gets to spend with Al, it is going to be a nice one.  No recriminations, no worries.  She is extremely sad and even though she is trying hard to not let it show, most people might still see some bit of that in the way her eyes keep filming over with tears that she does not quite shed.  But Al Guthrie is not most people and he does not seem to notice or, at least, he does not remark on that.  And why should he?  After all, he has won and Alyce just refuses to fight him on it any more.

So Alyce sits on the bench with him for a bit, smoking and watching with unseeing eyes as life goes on about her.  Her sensors pick out people going about their daily lives, some even in pairs and holding hands or just walking together.  For a moment, she is intensely jealous that these people have what she is likely never to have and the effect is almost too much for her to handle.  Alyce shakes her head and stubs her cigarette out as she stands and holds out a hand.  “I think I would like to just pretend to be normal people for a bit, Al.  Just normal people walking down a village street and looking in shop windows.  I do not have to buy anything, but I think it would be nice.

Of course, they are not really normal people in almost every sense of the word.  Each has seen and done things that have taken them completely out of that descriptor, but they can pretend.  Of course, Alyce might have chosen a different set of clothes to wear if she had really wanted to look normal.  As it is, she gets stares from almost everyone they meet on the street or in the shops that they enter.  Men and teen-aged boys leer at her very visible chest and who could be blamed for not casting their eyes downward to see if she as exposed beneath the waist.  That she is wearing a teeny scrap of cloth there does not detract much from the overall effect.  Some of the women seem to take her in stride, but others simply cover the eyes of their children and nudge their husbands and boyfriends to look in a different direction than at the wanton tramp from somewhere else.

Still, despite her overall sadness, Alyce manages to project an attitude of calm and satisfaction.  The decision to leave has released her from worrying about what Al thinks and why he is intentionally shoving her away.  She even forgets her sadness in a couple of shops as she finds things that she really likes, buying several small items for her daughter and the staff as her home and in the book shop.  Suddenly, her eye is caught by a sign in the window of an estate agent regarding a local house for sale.  The photos catch her eye and she pauses outside the window for a bit, considering her options then seems to make a decision and walks into the building.

The woman is sitting behind a desk in the front part of the shop and looks up as Alyce and Al enter.  Her smile falters just a bit at Alyce’s attire but she is a professional and her smile seems to grow more genuine when Alyce asks after the house posted in the window.  She gushes about the large plot of land attached to the house and the scenic view of one of Cornwall’s moors.  “The house is a bit isolated, but only about a ten minute drive from the village.  It sits on an inlet from the coast, practically overlooking the cliffs there.  All of the amenities are top-rate and bought new within the past two years.  A good bit of remodel has been done.  If you are seriously interested in a somewhat remote location, this is just the place.  And the price is down a good bit from the initial offering.  If you are interested, I could drive you out there to view it?”

Al has told Alyce to pick the activities for the afternoon but she looks at him anyway.  Sensing no rejection of the idea, she turns back to the woman and nods.  “I would like to see this place, yes.  Can you tell me why the price is down?”

The woman smiles a bit conspiratorially.  “The owner inherited the house from an uncle he has never met and he has no intention of living in this part of the world.  A bit too remote for the party set, I would imagine.  Too quiet, maybe.”

The woman locks up the office and leads Al and Alyce to a sedan auto and drives them out to the house.  Along the way, she extols the beauty of the place but acknowledges that the moorlands are not for everyone.  “Have you been out this way before?”

Alyce shakes her head.  “Actually not.  Sadly, this is my first time to this part of the country and I am surprised by how much I like it here.  Something about it just resonates with me.”

The woman nods, “Your accent pegs you as from London, although I detect a bit of something else…..Russian?  But that is how it is with visitors here; they either run screaming back to London or wherever they came from or fall in love and stay.  Sadly, most run away.  It is a pleasure to find someone who is at least interested.  So, any children?  We have a nice school in the village.”

Al looks like he is about to choke but Alyce places a finger at his lips to forestall him.  “We are not married.  I am blind and Mr. Guthrie being a very close friend offered to accompany me on this trip I am taking by rail to visit parts of England I have never been to.  He is very good at describing what he sees.  I have a daughter away at Cambridge and I would bring some staff with me, one of whom has three school age children.  The house looks quite large in the photographs so would I be able to hire additional staff from the village?”

The woman seems startled when Alyce says she is blind, but recovers neatly.  “Yes, I dare say that would not be a problem, although I have to say that we are a bit more…………traditional……………in our dress.”

Alyce smiles, “Thank you for putting that so delicately.  I am on holiday and dress as I am comfortable, but I assure you that I can dress more demurely.  By the way, I am Robyn Lysander.”

This time the woman almost loses control of the car.  “The cellist?  I am indeed honored.  My name is Judith Clark and I am very happy to be able to show you around.  I am sure that you will love this house.  Unfortunately, there is no quick way to get you back to London from here except by train and the express only runs through on Wednesdays and Fridays.  But it you can live with that, I am sure that I can make this house work for you.”

Alyce smiles and sits back, listening to Judith talk about the local area and the house.  She tentatively reaches out to put a hand on Al’s.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-07-17/1818:53>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Al clasps the offered hand and watches out the window as the moors roll by the windows of the estate agent's sedan. It's a very different beauty than the green of Devon, but it appeals to him. Lieutenant Kameda - the Red Samurai counterespionage expert with the mildly scandalous interest in poetry - would have explained in her manicured English that it was an ideal example of the sabi aesthetic. Al just knew it touched a cold place in his heart, made him feel like it had a home.

He didn't feel like talking - or, he did, but not in front of some saleslady - so he simply listened to the women talk about nests. He was interested to learn that Alyce kept some sort of coterie of servants - and their children, apparently - as part of her household. And was going to add more.

Well, he had Spike. Didn't reckon he needed much else.

The house was definitely nice enough. Looked old and stately on the outside, new and scrubbed on the inside, but without losing the sense of maturity. He figured that had cost something.

The lady took them around the place, and there was a lot of talk about architectural this and siting that and fixtures and amenities and furnishings and...he tuned it all out. He just liked watching Alyce. It also amused him to watch the lady watch Alyce. She was doing her best not to, he could tell, but her flagrant and casual exposure was hard to ignore.

The lady also watched him. Sure, all women did, but there was no denying he and Alyce could scarcely have been more mismatched in their appearance. He just stood around and tried to figure out a way to smoke while watching the woman try to figure the two of them out. Well, good luck, he thought, and hoped she'd clue him in if she did.

Eventually, the lady turned them loose to look around by themselves. In her typical overly-solicitous manner, Alyce said, "Al, I hope you don't mind me dragging you along on this outing."

"Woman, don't ya listen none at all? I wanna know 'bout ya, an' I ain't gon' do it always doin' the same things I do all the time anyway. Won't pretend house-huntin' holds much appeal fer ol' Al in an' of itself, but like I done said, well satisfied jist spendin' the afternoon gazin' on you. Yer hands down the loveliest damned thing I ever did see. That outfit don't hurt none, by the way..." He looked out a big bay window on the moor in the encroaching twilight. There it was again, a window, the perfect world with her on one side, and the real world on the other..."Nor you wearin' it fer ever' feller in town ta see. Don't 'spect I understand it, reckon its dangerous and mostly likely all wrong, maybe it's yer hippy love ways startin' ta rub off on ol' Al, but yer pushin' the right buttons with me there somewhere."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-07-17/1947:39>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alyce freezes in place, glad for a moment of silence as Al looks out the window again.  She replays in her head every word he has just said.  Twice.  Three times.  Her knees buckle just a bit and she reaches a hand out to support herself against the small table she is standing near.  This is her Al all over again, talking as if there were still a chance of them being together.  Why would he want to know about her if he was not interested.  There was no reason he would be so cruel as to say such words to her and not mean them.  Al can be many things, but he has never really been cruel to her and there is no reason to think he has changed that much.  Is there?

She gathers her mental and physical strength before speaking.  “Thank you, Al.  I really appreciate the compliments.  I thought that you wanted me to dress naughty for you when we came out.”  She takes his hand in her slightly shaking one and leads him out the sliding glass door onto the wrap around deck, feeling the crisp Channel breeze blow through her hair and her skimpy clothing.  They walked along the wide deck to what Judith had pointed out as the overlook.  And that is indeed an apt name, for the decking widens at that point so that it extends over the cliff and one is looking straight down into the cleft leading seaward to meet the English Channel.  A set of substantial-looking stone steps leads from the overlook down to the bottom of the cliff, where a small boathouse sits next to a small two bedroom house nestled snug against the cliff above the high tide mark.  Just off to the side of the stairway is a small lift that can take people up and down to the rocky shore below if they do not fancy the hike on the stairs.  Alyce does not wish to go down at this time, but is certainly interested in the house.  Smiling, she takes Al’s arm again and finishes the tour of the deck, ending up back at the main entrance where Judith is waiting for them.

The estate agent smiles at Alyce and holds the door open for them to enter back into the house.  “What do you think, Miss Lysander?  Enough house for you?”

Alyce smiles.  “It certainly is, Judith.  And please call me Robyn.”

The other woman positively preens at that.  “And now the big question.  What do I need to do to put you living here?”

After laughing, Alyce nods.  “The place has practically sold itself.  It must be fate that it was waiting here for me to find it.  I tell you what.  Contact your seller and tell him that if he will come down another 10,000 and throw in the furniture I will take it.  Here are the com codes that you can use to contact me and here is the one for my solicitor in London.  He will want to look over the paperwork for the legalities, you know.  This is the code for my personal assistant, who will supervise moving me in and will be my direct representative.  I may not be down here right away, as I have things to take care of but will certainly be looking to hire local staff.  Can you help me in that regard, for a finder’s fee, of course?  I will fill positions with people from London for those that go wanting here.”

Judith practically chokes but recovers nicely.  “I think….um….think that we can make this happen.  I will contact the seller and try to get him to agree to the lesser price, but I think he will be happy and I know that he does not want the furniture.  He considers it too old fashioned for his tastes.  Now, if you could just sign a note of intent here and here, and initial here and here, please.  This will take the house off the market temporarily until the banks can make sure that everything is all in order.”  Her smile stretches across her face.  “And I can certainly assist you with finding local people who might be willing to help staff the house.  Leave that to me.”

All being taken care of to the best way possible for the time being, all three pile back into Judith’s car for the drive back to the village.  Judith uses the opportunity to say more about the local area and is still talking when she stops outside her office.  A few more papers are signed and she sees them out the door, still talking.

Alyce puts an arm through one of Al’s and walks with him back to the train station.  “Thank you for coming to see the house, Al.  I think I could be happy there.  I like the area and I think that I could fit in, even if I have to dress a bit more appropriately for any outings into the village.”

As they wait on the platform for just a bit, a young girl of about eight comes up to Alyce and tugs on her pants to get her attention.  Alyce has been aware of her as soon as she came into range of her ultrasound sensors but pretends not to notice her until she pulls on her trousers.  The girl has a small handful of yellow flowers that she offers up to Alyce, who bends over to take them.  “These are beautiful.  What is your name?”

The little girl does a close approximation of a curtsey and says, “Amanda, Miss Lysander.”

“Well, Amanda, thank you.”  Alyce looks around, using her sensors to see who is interested in the child.  “Where are your parents?”

“With God.  They died a year ago.  I live at the church, now.”

“How did you know who I am?”

 “That is your name, right?”

 “Yes, but how did you know?”

The girl shrugs her shoulders.  “I just do.  I know lots of things.  Bring your dog next time.  You miss him a lot and I think he would like it here.  Ta.”

Alyce has her mouth open to ask another question but has to hold it as the girl races off down the village street.  She stands and faces Al.  “Well, that was interesting.  Interesting and a bit creepy.  Why don’t we board the train and get ready to eat.  Are we eating in the room so the poor porters can argue over which three get to deliver dinner or do we get everyone hot and bothered in the dining car tonight?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-07-17/2005:00>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alyce's question about dinner put Al in mind of their short time alone in the house....

"I thought that you wanted me to dress naughty for you when we came out,” she'd said in response to his muddled rambling about one of the things that was troubling him.

"Yup, I'll allow as I do. Jist since we started this trip, seems. Question ol' Al's lookin' fer help on is the why of it."

But before she could venture an answer, Judith had rejoined them. Then he hadn't thought about it too much as Alyce went ahead and bought an insanely expensive house she'd just seen an hour ago.

But now her question about dinner, distracting him from the weird little girl from the Gothic horror story..."Reckon the dinin' car. Safer there."

As he helped her up the steps to the train, he added, "Ya gotta lose them knickers, though."

Once they returned to her compartment, he plopped down into a chair, lit a cigarette, and asked, "So, ya jist bought a danged house like ya was shoppin' fer collard greens. Exactly how loaded are ya, woman?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-08-17/0217:17>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Once in the cabin, Alyce stripped and began dressing for dinner, putting on a set of green silk trousers and a matching blouse.  At Al's request, she left her knickers in the drawer of the small bureau in the cabin.  Once dressed, she takes a cigarette from the pack and bends over to light it from his, giving him an opportunity to see what others will be looking at.  She sits on the bed and looks at Al while she takes a few drags.  Finally she says, "I have a lot of money, Al.  My father invented a lot of things for EVO and they paid him a lot of money and company stock.  He was a smart man and his investments did very well.  When he.......when he was murdered, I inherited it all in a trust fund.  I generally live off of the interest from that fund, but can take some of the principal for certain reasons.  I also make a good bit when asked to perform with the orchestra or assist at the hospital.  I also am very well paid for my trips with expeditions into the wilds.  I make more than I spend and can afford to buy things like this house when I wish to."

She stands and stubs her cigarette out, lighting another.  "Dinner?"

The two walk down to the dining car, Alyce allowing her ass to sway almost hypnotically in front of Al as the traverse the narrow corridor.  Once at the table, she is again presented with the Braille menu and makes a selection from the Southeast Asia section.  Alyce is apparently unaware of the looks she is getting from others in the dining room.  If she is aware, she ignores them, focusing on Al, making the meal pleasant by saying as little as possible since Al seems to like her quiet more than nattering.  Again, she shares a bit of her meal and tastes his.  All in all, the meal is very pleasant, just as she had hoped it would be.  If this is her last meal with him, it should be nice, so that he at least carries pleasant memories of her with him when she goes.

The walk back to the cabin is leisurely and pleasant.  As Al takes a seat on the chair at the small table, Alyce takes her case from the luggage rack and places it on the bed, opening it.  She moves to the closet and remove her extra trousers from their hangers, folding and placing them in the bag.  Done, she leaves the case open and turns to face Al, taking a deep breath and doing her best to not cry just now.  "Alright, Al, this is your chance, but I want to talk first.  This is me trying hard to not be emotional but I have something to say and I wish for you to hear it before you say anything.  There should be no doubt in your mind that I love you.  I want to be with you always, to live with you, to cry with you, to care for you, to fight with you, but always to be able to look at you and say that I love you.  I do not know or understand what is happening to us right now.  You have been obstinate and grumpy.  You have acted completely out of character and pushed me away when I have wanted to help you.  I do not know how men treat women on this Mountain of yours; I do not know if you were brought up to treat your mother or sister or lover like that, but I have to tell you that it hurts.  It honestly hurts.  Someone looking at us from above would say that you are trying to push me away, to get me to leave so that you do not have to be the one to say it.  So I have resolved to let you win this, if that is what you want.  But I want to give you the chance to tell me that I have misinterpreted your words and your actions.  I will stay and continue trying to work out what you want of me if you tell me to.  If you really want me to stay and are willing to at least discuss what you want.  But I will finish packing and depart the train at its next stop if you either tell me to go or say nothing to stop me.  I am not being emotional, I am not screaming, and I am not blaming anyone.  Sometimes, things do not work out as one person would like and this might be one of those times.  I love you, Al.  I love you more than all the stars God has put in the heavens.  My love will survive anything, even you sending me away or you leaving me.  But I have hurt enough already in your presence and staying here if you do not want me is only causing me more pain every day.  You made it quite clear eight years ago that you did not want me but I had hoped that had changed.  This time, I just want an honest answer from you.  A basic , honest answer.  I am not expecting you to leap into my arms and profess undying love because you are not the sort of man to do that.  But I do expect that we will talk about our feelings and work to see if this is worth taking to another level."

She pauses for an instant.  "So here is your chance to send me away or to keep me around and see how far love can take us."  She shuts up and waits for Al to answer or do something that will let her know if she needs to continue packing or if she can unpack her pants and put the case away.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-08-17/0530:54>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

“Woman…what in blue blazes…?” Al chuckled softly, and then quickly held up a hand “…sorry – ol’ Al don’t take no pleasure in yer distress.”

He took a breath. Where to even start?

“Listen, fer someone’s supposed ta have this Mutant-X Memory Power, ya sure do seem ta fergit a lot. Fer starters, ya done got yerself so worked up, ya fergot the dress code we got in here.” His gravel-pit travesty of a voice was mockingly stern, but patient. “Now I will allow that I been a mite irregular on a point or three. An’ I’ll concede that do bear discussion. But what the hell good is it fer me ta git all chatty if’n yer gon’ plumb fergit half the damned things I say? Or worse, color ‘em over with a surfeit o’ feminine imaginations?”

It was dark out now, the lights from isolated farmhouses islands of shimmer in the inky black outside the windows.

His previously gentle tone then became a bit more severe. “Now I said I’d talk to ya, but reckon I’ll do it in my own time, an’ no one else’s. An’ sure as hell not with a half-packed suitcase aimed at my head. So I ain’t sayin’ another word ‘till ya git that there dramatic device ya done laid out on the bed back inna damn closet. An’ you, toots, not a single peep – not a damned word – gon’ come outta that pretty mouth a yours long as ya got a stitch o’ clothes left on that tarty little keeb physique.”

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-08-17/0938:08>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alyce feels like her head is going to explode, followed by the rest of her body.  A sharp retort bubbles up from inside only to die against clenched teeth and a closed mouth.Her hands curl into fists and her knuckles go white as she resists the urge to throw the suitcase at Al.  She ignores the pain of her fingernails cutting into the flesh of her palms as her arm muscles lock in place in absolute anger.  She fights against the emotions boiling up inside of her and almost loses control of herself.  Almost.  Her anger seethes for a few seconds that seem like minutes to her before she regains control of herself and begins to calm down.  When she is back to the point where she is breathing again, she calmly takes the trousers she had folded and hangs them back in the closet before putting the case back on the rack.  Turning to Al, she removes her clothing, carefully hanging the blouse and trousers in the closet as well.  Now naked, she goes to sit on the bed and looks at him, still unwilling to open her mouth to let the anger out.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-08-17/1049:19>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Al grinned, cigarette clenched between yellow teeth. “Ain’t never managed ta rile ya afore, though it’s possible I may’ve tried a time or two, jist tryin’ ta shake up yer niceness-tree. What I ain’t never done is try pushin’ ya away without ownin’ it. Ol’ Al wants ya gone, I’ll tell ya to yer face. Sure as hell wouldn’t sign on fer three weeks on a damned train with ya. An’ wouldn’t ask ya straight out not ta give up on me or this little courtship project, as I did a couple nights back.”

Then he sighed, and the scold went out of his voice. “All that’s onna one hand. Onna other hand, well, reckon if yer antsy ‘bout my intentions, that’s on me fer disappearin’ on ya eight years back. I may’ve misunderstood ya some then, but it ain’t no excuse fer never gittin’ in touch. Count it pretty high up on my Top Ten Sins list, that. And, as I said, well, I ain’t oblivious ta the fact that I ain’t exactly been yer average Joe. That I ain’t bedded ya yet, well, that can’t be reassurin’, not with regard ta either my feelin’s nor even my gen’ral state o’ mental health. Suffice ta say I got my reasons, some or all o’ which I’m set on runnin’ by ya…in my own time.”

The train was passing a town now, and things were a bit brighter outside the window in the real world. He heaved another great, resigned sigh.

“So like I said earlier today, right after gittin’ off Her little magic carpet ride, reckoned tonight we’d git rollin’ on some o’ that. An’ here you did indeed jump start it some, which I’ll allow could be a good thing, cuz ol’ Al has been known ta procrasternate a bit from time ta time. But afore I say anything else, reckon we need some ground rules. What I’m thinkin’s this: ya been plain how ya feel. Well, reckon I ain’t far behind ya. So whatever does or doesn’t work out in terms of, um, logistics, what say we dispense with all o’ this all-or-nothin’ bullshit. If’n we care ‘bout each other, an’ each trust the one not ta hurt t’other, then can’t we jist agree here an’ now ta stay friends, dear friends, no matter what else we find works or don’t between us? Cuz I can see some rough nights ahead in terms of woman-talk, an’ I don’t need the threat o’ my fav’rite person in the world up an’ exitin’ stage left on me if things don’t come out all Big Rock Candy Lollipop Land.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-08-17/1638:10>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alyce feels drained.  She has experienced such rage only once before in her life and that had been directed at the man who had arranged the deaths of her parents, murdered her fiancée, and left her for dead after blinding her.  That she had been so angry at Al is not only uncharacteristic, but it shows her that she had been very close to losing the sort of control that has stood her in good stead for many years.  Now under control again, she feels pain in her hands and realizes that she had cut herself with her nails when she had clenched her fists so hard.  She opens her hands to let the air reach the small cuts then places her hands palm up on her legs.
Alyce nods even before she can speak calmly, letting the anger bleed away into nothing.  She smiles, letting the warmth of that smile center her emotions, and looks at Al across the table, not sure if he can see her hands from his angle.  “Yes, I can agree to that.  I will never give up on you, Al.  If I was going to do that, I would have stopped looking for you years ago.  My heart is completely yours and that will never change.  The suitcase was not for my benefit, but yours.  Some of your words and actions have not been particularly kind and I was giving you the opportunity to call this off if you had wanted to, because I certainly do not want to leave.  There is no way to adequately express my joy that you do not want me to leave.  I will remain your friend until the end of time, no matter what happens here over the next couple of weeks.  And I have to admit that I do not know your reference to Big Rock Candy Lollipop Land.”
She goes quiet, waiting for Al.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-08-17/1641:06>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

"Yeah, never mind the reference. Listen, if ever' time ol' Al gits a mood on yer gon' head fer the, toots, that dog won't hunt. We ain't all as perfectly even-tempered as yerself. Anyhoo, done apologized fer cursin' at ya last night, and told ya it were Her doin', so no need ta take it personal."

He dragged his chair around the table, settling it against the bed directly facing her. Took both her hands in his, gently kissed the trickles of blood from them.

"Now, if'n I need savin' - an' I might - reckon I'll let ya know. If I don't, then it's fuck me fer keepin' my mouth shut - no need ta go martyrin' yerself without my say-so. I know ya got this notion sacrifice fer the sake o' love's some romantic ideal, an' it's an incorrect opinion yer entitled to, but I stand by what I said before - moment we start changin' fer each other, that's the beginnin' o' the end. Cuz then we stop bein' the people we thought we were ta each other. Becomes only on one person's terms at the expense o' t'other's, an' that surely won't fly."

He looked at her hands - the bleeding had stopped, the blood congealing nicely in the shallow abrasions. Leaned back in his chair and took in the sight of her.

"There. Hoooo-ee. That were a ride. Reckon I had some stuff on my agenda fer tonight, but woman, I got me a quota fer this sorta drama, an' we done filled it fer tonight an' then some. What I had, it'll wait a day or so. Ya got more ta say that can't wait, spit it out fast so we can git back ta this here vacation, leastways fer the night. Otherwise, howzabout ya tell ol' Al what the hell was up with that spooky little girl on the platform?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-08-17/1642:38>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alyce bows her head and shakes it, speaking softly.  “No, Al.  No more drama tonight.  I think I have had quite enough of that for night as well.  I will do my best to not let my womanly emotions take charge of me again.  Thank you for being patient and thank you for telling me to stay.”
She looks up at him and wipes a couple of tears off of her face.  “I am not sure about the little girl.  At first I thought she was trying to pull some sort of scam on me.  After all, by that time probably the entire village knew my name and a quick matrix search would have brought up that I use a large seeing eye dog.  It would be easy to go from there to assuming I miss him, which is quite true.  But then she did not follow up the con with a request of any kind, so I am not sure what she was trying to do.  It was a bit creepy, though, wasn’t it?”
“So what next?  Dress and go to the observation car?  Order in and let the porters look at me some more?  I am a bit partial to going to the observation car and just sitting with you up there for a while.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-08-17/1654:24>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

"Toots, yer partial ta goin' topside, then ol' Al ain't got no objections." He grabbed some beers from the minibar as she dressed and then there they were. It was a warm summer night out on the deck, and unlike their compartments or the house on the moor, there was no window offering a line of demarcation between Alyce-world and real-world. They were on a winding track along the south coast of the Penwith Peninsula, slow going, only used for luxury fares like this one, almost to Land's End. The salt breeze wafted over them and made Al restless for the sea.

Once they were settled together on one of the big all-weather loungers, beers opened and cigarettes lit, he resumed their earlier discussion. "Yeah, I'll allow creepy. Crazy world we's livin' in, ways an' means aplenty to explain the inexplicable, warn't what she knew, nor what she did. Reckon there was a feel to 'er. Or maybe I jist been huntin' demons too long."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-09-17/1004:16>
Alyce takes the fag that Al offers her and take a couple of drags on it before replying.  “No, I don’t think it is just you, Al.  I got a distinctively odd vibe from her, too.  It wasn’t so much what she said, but how she said it.  I don’t know; it could have been some young kid showing off for her friends, but somehow I do not think so.”  She shivers a little.  “Creepy.”
After an hour alone, the sliding glass door from the domed observation area opens and Janet Collins comes out onto the exposed deck, followed by her husband, Brad.  Both have a drink in their hand and nod to Al and Alyce as they go to stand at the railing to look out at the countryside moving past the slowly moving train.  After a couple of minutes talking, Janet turns to Alyce.  “Nice night, eh?  I was just telling Brad that I am surprised at the slow pace of the train.”
Alyce motions with an arm.  “That is let us get a better view, at least in the daytime.  After all, they are soaking us for the tickets and they can bloody well let us see what we are passing by.  If we had wanted to speed to the destination, we could have booked an express, but this is so much more romantic, don’t you think so.  Alyce’s sensors were showing her that Janice had taken a page from her guide and was wearing something that could best be described as “showy” in that it showed off the woman’s cleavage and breasts to anyone who was interested enough to look at them.  They were certainly worth looking at and Alyce certainly licks her lips once in appreciation.  For his part, Brad seems entranced by Alyce’s figure, although it is demurely concealed in green silk.  The cool air from the ocean was enough to harden the nipples of both women.
Alyce invites the couple to join them and the four talk about the tour so far and Brad happens to have a good repertoire of bad jokes that he manages to tell in such a fashion that the others laugh anyway.  After an hour, Alyce stands up.  “I need to use the loo.  I am going to stop and get some crisps from the bar on my way back so any requests?”
Janet also stands.  “I will join you.”
The two women head off arm in arm, leaving the two men to talk.  Brad watches them walk away and turns to Al, shaking his head.  “Whoo.  It can get a bit uncomfortable sitting near that much beauty.  How do you manage it every day?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-09-17/1005:55>
"Lifetime o' practice, kemo sabe. Long lifetime, lots an' lots o' practice. But I'll allow as this one's the peak. But hey, yer not doin' so bad yerself. Hell, if mine's a ten, then Janet there's at least a seven, hell, maybe even an eight." Al shrugged. "Never give a final score till I seen 'em nekkid." He congratulated himself on his generousity of phrase.

Brad clearly wasn't sure how to take Al's response. He was a tall guy, and broad. Probably played rugby or something in his university days, and obviously spending enough time in the gym now, ten years or so on, Al guessed, to keep himself from going to seed. In his satin slacks and tuxedo shirt, collar open, he presented a sharp contrast to the diminutive Al, who was wearing a yellowing T-shirt over filthy jeans, and had let himself go to seed decades ago.

"Yes, well...quite. I suppose we can agree they're both lovely ladies."

Al smiled. Brad had that public school way of talking that he liked. Probably used it a lot making the sort of money that let him take this train ride with his posh wife. But Al had stopped the poor guy's initial foray dead in its tracks. Be interesting to see if he got back on his feet in the fifteen minutes or so Al reckoned they had. Well, considering the quality of the prize, he might just be motivated enough to stay in the game.

Al defrosted the moment with a comment about the ass of one of the train crew, and they went on trading guy-talk about cars. Brad liked Italian, and Al told him at length about the work he'd been doing on his Ferrari. They spoke of women, and the trip, and he and Janet's plans to fill the time in the coming days. Finally, when it felt like the ladies must be about due back, Brad said, "So, um, Al, it's wonderful that we're hitting it off so well. Um, I'm sure the girls are as well. And I'm glad you think that Janet...well, I know she..."

Poor Brad lost his flow for just a small moment, but it was all the opening Al needed to offer, "Yes, Brad. Go ahead."

"Well," big winning smile that must be great in the boardroom, "I guess what I'm getting at is..." The smile again.

"Well, amigo, ol' Al ain't no mind-reader. Ya got somethin' ya wanna say, spit 'er out. Don't matter what it is. I mean, look at me, Brad. Take a good look." Al grinned wolfishly around his cigarette, then made Brad wait as he took a long swig of beer. "Don't I jist look like the very picture of open-minded an' progressive?"

Brad hesitated, pretty sure there was no safe answer.

"So jist come on out with it." Al leaned forward in his seat ever so slightly. "I mean, Brad, what's the very worst that could possibly happen?"

"Oh, well, it was nothing very momentous really." Quiet laugh that was meant to sound relaxed, but didn't quite. "I was just going to remark on that hula dancer on your arm there, inquire into his provenance."

"Yeah, Brad, I git a lot o' that." Blew two smoke rings, savoring the moment. "Look, she moves when I flex..."

"Hello boys." It was Janet, back with Alyce from their nose-powdering. "Al," she smiled in greeting. "How have you two been getting on?"

Brad answered, "Oh, splendidly. Al has brilliant taste in autos, and he was just showing me how his tattoo moved."

"Oh, do show me," giggled Janet, as Alyce nestled into the lounger next to Al. 

Al set about displaying the dexterity of his bicep, and Alyce whispered in his ear, like she had a secret behind her words, "So how did your side of the conversation go?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-09-17/1707:17>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

"Oh, me an' Brad, we's gittin' on like gangbusters," Al said in a boisterous tone. "An' what'd y'all lovelies git on about?"

Alyce smiled naughtily and continued to whisper into Al's ear.  “Janet wants to take you back to your room and shag you all night long.  I told her it was alright with me if you wanted to do that, but that it would be your choice.  It is alright with me, Al.  I think I know why you do not want to take me to bed and I am fine with that, but it is OK with me if you want to have fun with her…………..or anyone else, for that matter.  I would like to see your needs satisfied by someone.  Your call.”

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-09-17/1713:20>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Al couldn't help but notice that she'd made no mention of Brad's side of the equation, but that wasn't important for now. He'd had his fun with Brad, and he wasn't interested in making anyone feel bad. So he stood up and extended his mangled hand to the other man. As he accepted it, the bigger man's eyes were shifting nervously between the two women - it was clear he felt like the last to know what had been decided.

"Bradford, hell of an evenin'. An' Janet..." Al released Brad's hand and approached the other woman. Put his hands on her shoulders. She smelled good.To be fair, she was better than a seven. She was shorter than Alyce, but still a bit taller than Al. "...girl, ya ever done this sorta thing before?"

"No," she answered in a suddenly tiny voice, licking her lips. Overbrash and seemingly confident a few moments earlier, she was shaking now. It was almost enough to change Al's mind.

"Well, yer a tall glass o' water, that's fer damned sure," he said, tracing her cheek with the back of his hand, and letting it brush a hard nipple on the way down. "Reckon we got a long ride ahead of us, so you guys don't be strangers, ya hear?"

And he stepped back over to Alyce, took her hand, allowed her to say her own goodbyes, and led her back toward their compartments without further ado.

As they approached their doors, Al slapped Alyce's firm ass and laughed out loud. "Damn, woman, ya can throw a party. An' sorry to call time-out on it, but shit, this is the sort o' thing I was tryin' ta ask ya 'bout back at the house, only times eleven. Reckon ol' Al's head's spinnin' an' lots o' questions I done had about yer hippie love ways is frothin' ta the fore. Temptin' as that young lady was, all I wanted ta do was ask ya a million things all at once, an' warn't gon' do it in front o' them."

Unlocking the door, he added with a grin, "Ya ain't sleepy are ya?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-09-17/1715:53>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alyce shrugs at Janet as she says good evening to both of them.  Her sensors and the drone in her hair catch the way Al lets his hand touch the other woman’s hard nipple and smiles to herself at Janet’s startled reaction, which, along with her admission that she has not slept away from the marital bed before, implies that the other woman might not be as ready for extramarital sex as she had thought she was.  Alyce considers the pleasures of initiating the couple into the fun of sharing and wonders if she will get the chance.
On the way back to her cabin, Alyce wiggles her ass a bit playfully and is rewarded for her actions when Al slaps it.  Yelping just enough to let Al know that she likes that sort of thing, she steps into the room and begins stripping her clothes off to hang them up as she ponders Al’s comments.  “I am glad that you find her tempting, Al.  There are a lot of beautiful women in the world that would be happy to have you between their legs and you should not have to feel that you are limited to only one.  I certainly do not mind if you look at other women or even if you have sex with them as long as you know in your heart of hearts just who really loves you and wants you even more than all the other women combined.”
Alyce takes a seat on the bed, where she sits in a position that gives Al the best possible view of her naked body.  “It sounds like you have some questions for me and I am willing to answer anything you want to ask me.  Straight truth and no drama.  Promise.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-09-17/1733:48>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

"Nah, this ain't drama. Anytime ever'one smilin', that ain't drama. Reckon the first question is what you was plannin' on doin' all night if ol' Al'd gone gallavantin' off with li'l Janet..."

Alyce gave Al an odd look.  "If you had gone with Janet, I would have shagged Brad in his cabin, but I am not really interested enough to leave you to do that and would rather spend some time with you."

Al snapped his fingers. "Well o' course ya would. But begs the' I ain't criticizin', jist tryin' ta git into yer head, an' maybe my own a little bit...if ya rather be with me, then why'd ya even put that shit on the table? An' ya say ya ain't even all that innerested in young Brad, but ya still planned ta let 'im have ya, er, intimately. Why? Hell, what happened when you two went ta the head? I mean, I guessed it from the git go, but which of ya brung it up? How's a conversation like that even go down? Shit, sorry. Pepperin' ya with questions. Don't mean ta interrogate. Understood ya were inta all this...but I already had a question or' now I been face ta face with it, well, almost...hoo-eee woman, ya do know how ta keep a day innerestin'."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-10-17/0212:05>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alyce looks at Al and nods.  “Fair questions.  I put it on the table in case you were interested.  I am not completely sure why you are not bedding me and had hoped that you would explain that at some point, but I am pretty sure from some things that you have said in the past that you have had intimate relations with women and did not find that to be distasteful.  I am hoping like hell that you eventually decide to crawl into my bed and make love to me, but you have encouraged me to go to one of my sharing parties and would probably have encouraged me to take Brad to bed tonight and I wanted you to know for sure that you have the same flexibility and can bed whomever you bloody well wish without me thinking one bit less of you for doing so.”
“To me, sex is just that, most of the time.  It is an act of intimacy and sharing and can be a ton of fun, but most of the time it is just sex.  I am not all that interested in Brad, but I am very interested in sex.  To me, the partner does not really matter most of the time.  I am a very skilled lover and know many ways to please a sex partner and try to give every encounter my best effort and I am sure that I would have left Brad groaning, knowing that he had just had some really terrific sex.  As for the conversation in the loo?  That was initiated by Janet.  She seems quite taken by your bad boy attitude and wants to see what sex outside her marriage bed is like but does not want to cheat on her husband.  Not yet, at any rate.  They might be good candidates for a sharing party, just to see if they are really interested in something a bit more than straight married sex.”
Alyce pauses, then adds, “I look at love entirely differently than I look at sex, Al.  Like I said before, sex is just sex but love is special.  I have never really made love to a man, not really.  I was once engaged and we were sexually active with each other.  Actually, I am sure that I was not his first conquest, but he was certainly the first man I had sex with.  But I knew nothing about sex at that time.  It was all just spreading my legs and enjoying the experience.  Do not get me wrong, I did enjoy those early experiences very much, but there was something missing.  Something that might have developed between us if he had not been killed.  But he was killed and I never really even knew what I was missing…………just some nebulous something.  I did not find it in any of my subsequent sexual encounters, even though I was getting into sharing and expanding my sexual horizons.”
“Then I met you and you turned my entire world upside down.  Suddenly, I had my missing something and he did not want to bed me.  He wanted to look at me, sometimes even touch me, but he did not want to have sex with me.  You, Al Guthrie.  You are my missing something, that nebulous thing I have been looking for my entire life.  I have a hard time breathing and my insides ache when you are not around.  That eight years was…….well, unpleasant.  I think about you all the time.  You are a maddening, stubborn, sometimes grumpy man, but I cannot get you out of me.  So love.  Yes, I am in love and like I said, love is special.  I just know that when you finally make up your mind that I am the woman for you and come to take me to bed, that the experience will be so much greater than anything I have previously done.  I am sure that my first time with you will be the greatest sexual experience of my life to that time, and that every time after will only be better than the one before.”
Alyce holds her arm up.  “Look, I get goose bumps just thinking of being in bed with you and you kissing me and telling me that you really do want me.  I do not really know what more to say.  I do know that if you ever give me the chance to show you, I will rock your world.  Now, I do not know everything about your past and you may have or had another woman who you have loved and who loved you and perhaps I am coming up short in a comparison.  I have no interest in replacing anyone or causing you to cheat on a memory or a living woman.  If you never take me to bed and make love to me, I will have to live with that.  No drama, just truth.”

"So, next question?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-10-17/0809:12>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

"Next question?! Yeah, alrighty, I got plenty more, but gimme three ticks ta git my head around that last batch."

Damn, what he'd meant to be a lighthearted chat about an admittedly arousing topic had reversed right back to the heavy stuff.

Holy freaking moly, he thought, no pressure, right?

Well, he'd asked. And she'd answered. Straight up. He couldn't fault her.

He smiled at her, and then reminded himself he still wasn't sure..."Okay, hey, can you see when I smile or whatever, or should ol' Al text ya emojis or somethin'?...Never mind, detail fer later....Okay, reckon I took all ya jist said on board. Appreciate yer candor. We'll git back to it some night the drama quota ain't full. So movin' on, then. Ya said ya had this, what? Circle or tribe o' sharers. They got these ritualized mask parties. This a big group? I mean, ya go ta one them parties like ya t'other night ya described, ya know ever'one? Scratch that, they's all in masks. But all o' ya at the quiz night knew each other, an' you an' Mister Perfessor onna train here know each other. What, ya ditch the masks an' go fer coffee after? Or is these masked deals the tip o' the sharin' iceberg an' yer into a lot more on top o' that? Sorry, toots, jist tryin' ta picture what I'm in for here, cuz it's clear this ain't jist a hobby fer you, it's a whole world, a whole subculture yer a part of. An' since ol' Al, by virtue o' bein' here, is obviously seriously considerin' bein' a part o' this world...well...ya got a lot o' lovers ya see outside o' these shindigs?"

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-10-17/0956:21>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alyce chuckles as she nods.  "I belong to more than one sharing group, Al.  There are a number in London and they tend to have parties on different days so that people from one group can go to parties hosted by another group.  I also belong to a group up in Cambridge and I attend parties up there if they coincide with one of my visits to see Gem.  The masks allow us to preserve a bit of anonymity but sometimes you just know.  A scar, an accent, something will let you know who you are talking to or having sex with.Still, the rules of sharing  mean that you pretend to not recognize people when in public, although there is no prohibition against that when in private.  On occasion, I have had intimate relations with someone outside of a party, but not often.  After all, I do not feel that I need to be sexually active only at parties and sometimes sex with just one person is good, too.  Sometimes I meet someone and things click and we end up in bed.  I am certainly not against having sex with complete strangers.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-10-17/1031:45>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Al laughed, relieved that the tone had lightened. "Well, glad ta hear that, at least sometimes, sex with just one person's good, too. Cuz that's gen'rally been my limit, jist speakin' as an eccentric, o' course." He shook his head as he opened the minibar to retrieve a beer. It was good to laugh with her. Hell, a mere twelve hours ago he'd been catatonic in some totem-induced fever dream, then she'd tried to kick him to the curb, then attempted to hook him up with some strange young woman, all the while walking around a small village mostly naked, buying a huge house, and meeting a ghost, punctuated by regular protestations of love and adoration.

He figured he'd picked the right traveling companion.

"So, as a gen'ral rule, an' excludin' the, um, higher emotions, ya prefer great piles o' folk ta jist makin' the beast with a paltry two backs?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-10-17/1732:38>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alyce smiles and shakes her head.  “No, Al, that is not what I mean.  I am comfortable with any number of sexual partners and I get just as much enjoyment out of a one-on-one as I do when I am pleasing and being pleased by a couple or a small group.  Most of it is spur of the moment and unplanned.  At a party, I can walk into a room and join in with others or I can take one person into a private room.  No one is ever forced to do something they are not comfortable with or just do not want to do and, in fact, many of the people at these parties are not into group sex; they are just experimenting with different solo partners.  And most of my random encounters are with only one other person, like that hot inker from the tattoo parlour the other night."
She grins a bit.  “You know, I could give you a good demonstration of how much I enjoy a one-on-one encounter, but it would require you taking your clothes off and climbing into bed with me.  I am pretty sure that you would get a greater understanding of me and what I can do for you, for us, with a hands-on experience.”
Alyce pauses.  "If that is not on your agenda for right now, what is your next question?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-10-17/1734:24>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Al chuckled and wagged a finger at her.

No question he was tempted. Like never before. And he wanted to make her happy, too.

Trouble was, happiness just wasn't - couldn't be - in the cards.

He had his magic tricks to practice. His trid to watch. His rides to work on. His dog to talk to. His Lucky Strikes to smoke. And if that wasn't enough, maybe this one for a friend to spend time with.

That'd probably have to be enough.

Ironic thing was, it was just a few hours ago she'd tried to give up on the whole thing for his sake. When really, if he had any integrity he'd be doing that for her.

But She said there was hope. And then again, She had four legs and wasn't real, so what did She know anyway?

It all flashed through his mind, as it had dozens of times before, in the time it took him to wag is finger. Smile never fading, he said, "Okay...let's see....yer obviously o' the elfin persuasion. An' all the 'dear friends' I run across so far been round-ears. That pretty much it, or ya git more exotic than that?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-10-17/1735:19>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alice gives Al a rueful smile.  “You mean besides the dogs I let shag me years ago?  Yes, I have tried lots of people and have no particular preference for any race, although I am usually restricted to oral or digital sex with male Trolls as I am just too small for what they have to offer.  Orks, Dwarves, and other Keebs are not usually a problem and there are a number of them on my 'dear friends' list.”
“Next question?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-10-17/1737:14>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Al very nearly swallowed his cigarette before she'd finished her first sentence. Still unsure how she was with facial expressions, and knowing his spiked pulse could be taken any number of ways, he did his best to just act nonchalant.

She'd mentioned that before, albeit in less graphic terms, but he had somehow decided to unhear it. He had to keep his cool now - asking her about all this stuff and then acting or even seeming, shocked or derisive at her frank answers would be a low-down thing to do.

"Next question issss...howzabout we watch trid together till dawn - only not Tales - somethin' you fancy? Got the munchies, too. They's the 24-hour room service, or I hear they got the all-night buffet back in the plebe seats - ain't the same hoi-polloi fare we git up here, but lots more choice."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-10-17/1738:03>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alice nods to herself then says, “Sure, Al, we can watch a trid if you want.  I have a good copy of Pride and Prejudice loaded to my ‘link that I can slide to the player here.  There, that is done.  Now, to go back to one of your earlier questions that I did not answer; most of my normal senses besides sight are enhanced with implants and or I have had to rely on them in lieu of sight for so long that they are much better than those of a normal sighted person.  Smell, taste, hearing, and touch are all improved.  I can detect differences in someone’s breathing, sometimes their heartbeat, or their sweat.  Over the years I have become a pretty good guesser as to what people are doing just be paying attention to what their bodies are saying to me.  Also, I cheat.  I use very small drones in my hair, one looking to the front and another to the rear and I tie their sensor feeds to my comlink.  This can many times be better than what someone else sees with their eyes.”
“Before we start the trid, may I ask you a question, since it seems that you might be done asking yours for the night?  Can you tell me why you do not wish to make love to me?  No drama, just truth.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-10-17/1820:59>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Seeing her prepare the chip, Al replied, "Sounds like yer optin' fer the room service. What'll it be?"

He called them up and ordered two Angus beef burgers with onion rings and steak-cut fries, asked if they had those jammie-wheelie things, which they did, then ordered whatever else Alyce wanted.

Call placed, he settled back into his chair. No, he didn't want to get into this. Yes, she was a dear friend, and it was a fair question.

"Well, I can promise no drama. And while I can't promise all the truth, I can promise it'll all be truth."

He watched her face through the crazy steampunk shades she always wore, even when otherwise buck naked. He reckoned he had her attention.

"Now the smart-ass but true answer is, yer askin' the wrong question, when ya ask why I do not wish ta make love to ya. Shee-it woman, all those high-falootin' sensors yer sportin', sure ya know this ain't the first time The Elephant's been threatenin' ta tear a hole in my pristine five-oh-ones here. An' it ain't jist The Elephant wants ya. It's all o' me, ever' part that thinks or feels wishes ta make love to ya."

What he also wished was that the food would get here, to rescue him from his conversation. But he soldiered on. "So why's its stayin' jist a wish? Ya said you thought ya knew, an' I'd honestly be curious ta know yer theory. Maybe you'd be onto somethin'. Fact is, toots, they's a multiplicity o' reasons. Some I reckon I'll git round ta talkin' 'bout. Lord knows She's antsy for me to. Some I may not ever. Or I will, cuz they'll need ta come out, I reckon, fer my wish ta ever come true."

He stubbed out his cigarette, reached down to unlace his boots. He still wanted to try the plebes' buffet some night, though.

"S'pose that ain't too satisfyin' an answer, but it's what I got for ya right now. I can clear one thing up, though, misconception ya seem ta be saddled with. It ain't about no one else. No one livin', dead, or remembered I got no loyalties to, not in that sense." He thought of something, and shrugged out of his ever-present jacket. "Back ta Andoung Tuek I done showed ya my Troubleshooters tat. Well, I got a helluva lot more'n that, lemme show ya one more."

He was reaching for her hand to let her feel his skin when the knock came at the door.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-10-17/2257:50>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076
Alyce’s heart almost explodes at his words and her face lights up in a radiant smile.  “Yes, Al, it is not that difficult to know that your body wants mine, but after all, your elephant starts to stir when you look at any pretty girl.  That is just a part of nature.  You have never before come out and said that every part of you that thinks or feels wishes to make love to me.  That is new.  It answers some questions and leads to others that you apparently do not wish to talk about at this time.”
She pauses to order her thoughts then shakes her head.  “I am not certain, Al, but I do have a few theories about why you are not shagging the bloody hell out of me.  The first is that you do not want to get too close to me for some reason.  Perhaps you have gotten close to other women and something happened and for whatever reason you moved on or they did.  A broken or torn heart takes a long time to heal and what sane person wants to risk that again.  Secondly, for some reason you are afraid that I will want to change you so much that you will not be Al Guthrie anymore.  And thirdly, you are afraid that we will get close and that you will hurt me.  Fourthly, you are indeed in love with me but want to be absolutely sure and you do not want to cheapen it by just jumping into the sack with me.  I suppose there is a fifth one; that you are afraid of getting old while I do not seem to age and that I will leave you or that I won’t and will suffer even more by staying out of pity and duty as you grow ever more feeble.”
“Now, I am not saying that any of these reasons is the correct one.  It could be some combination or an entirely different one.  I hope that you do tell me your reasons so that we can discuss them and see if they are valid.  I am ready to listen whenever you want to talk about it.”
She lets Al take her hand so that she can feel one of his tats when the porters knock on the door with their food.  Alyce smiles at Al and rises to go unlock the door and stands aside but in full view as the three men place the trays on the table and find several reasons to remain in the cabin for as long as possible while trying to get a good luck at the eccentric Keeb who seems to always be naked in her cabin.  This time, Alyce manages to brush her left nipple against the bare hand of one of the porters as she signs the chit for the meal.  She smiles as the man gasps in pleasure and thanks her repeatedly.  She can hear them talking about the experience as they walk down the corridor to the dining car.  "Bloody hell, did you really get a feel of her tit?"

"Damn right I did.  You think she would let us fondle her a bit next time."

"Probably.  You know how some of these rich women are.  But right there in the cabin in front of her boyfriend?  Now that is some serious strange drek  Not saying I didn't enjoy it, but seriously strange."
Finally turning back, Alyce walks over to Al and holds out a hand.  “Let me feel the ink, Al, then we can get to our meal and the trid.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-11-17/1714:13>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

"Well, alrighty then, but we gotta make 'er snappy - nothin' worse'n cold fries an' rings."

He sat next to her on the bed and put her hand to his left arm. There, stretching down from his shoulder nearly to his elbow, was a list of ten names.

Sally Mae

Except that each of the names, including the last, had a neat black X inked across it - each was still legible, but clearly crossed off the list.

"Some fellers wear rings, well, I always had this. Bad comparison o' course cuz I ain't never been hitched - reckon suicide's a mortal sin, after all - but if there's a name not crossed out, then I's spoken fer, an' if the last one's got an X, then ol' Al's a free agent. Lot a fellers, they git a tat o' some girl, inevitably regret it, then do some half-assed fix, turn it into a dragon or some shit. New one lady, she had a guy's name on her tit, so it'd show, right. Then had another name worked over that one. Then another. Pretty soon silly woman had nothin' but a mottled black blob on an otherwise perfectly good mammary. Nah, reckoned I'd go about such things in a more orderly fashion. Plus, gives me somethin' ta remember 'em by. Point is, yes, toots, I been with women, before, an' no, they's no one now. Hell, only one on the list I got any idea still livin' or not. So can we watch yer Austen chip now? Gittin' hungry."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-11-17/1755:48>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

Alyce happily sits down and begins to eat her salad, which was all she had wanted.  Except for the three packages of Jammie Dodgers.  After eating, she moves a second chair over so that she can sit next to Al for the movie.  She wraps an arm through one of his and leans against him a bit.  She turns her drone feeds off and just listens to the timeless dialogue, imagining the screen action and putting Al's face and body in for the hero, Lord Darcy.  Her lips move as she recites every word from memory.

She sighs deeply when the movie is over and wipes at a couple of tears on her cheek.  "Greatest story ever written and this is the finest screen adaptation ever made."

Sitting up, she turns to face Al.  "So, am I your girl, Al?  Would you like to add my name to your arm?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-11-17/1833:07>
Thursday, July 31st, 2076

"Heh. Fact is, 'bout a year ago, back in Seattle, I actually did. Or thought I had. 'Cept it din't turn out that way. Wild story sometime. Fer now reckon ol' Al's plumb tuckered out. Lord o' lightin', what a joyride of a day this's been, hey?"

He got up and went to his door.

"'Night darlin'."

And after he'd stripped and gotten into his bed, the movement of the train rocking his insomnia away, he realized with incredible chagrin why she'd had to be pressed to show him her favorite thing to was just so damned easy to forget she was blind...he smiled at the thought that she'd never said a word to set him straight...
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-11-17/2017:22>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce had wakened at 0330, unable to really go to sleep.  It is now 0430 and the toy she is using on herself is well into doing its job.  The pillow had been deemed far too thin and so Alyce has added the spare pillow from the luggage rack, hoping that the two together are adequate to keeping the noise of her calling out his name during her orgasms.  Temporarily spent, Alyce removes the pillows from her face and lets her body quiver in the aftershocks of sexual satisfaction.  She gets up on shaky lags and cleans the vibrator before putting it away and stepping into the shower to wash off her sweat and the other evidence of her early morning activity.  Smiling to herself, she dresses in a short sundress and leaves a note on the table for Al to find before quietly leaving the room to go to the observation car and climbing to the domed room. 

The sun is just peeking onto the Cornish moor they are currently traveling through, but it is early enough that she has the place to herself.  She goes behind the bar and grabs a package of biscuits and finds a booth bench she can sit in, lifting her legs so that she can use it like a lounger.  She takes the time to go over every word that Al had said to her the evening before and smiles again.  He has as much said that he loves her and wants her.  There is something holding him back from making the leap from the words to taking her to bed and she hopes that he will be willing to discuss that sometime soon.  She also accepts that she has no real business in trying to pressure him on this and that it will be best for him to do it at his own pace.

She polishes off the biscuits and uses a damp finger to gather up all the crumbs to stuff in her mouth.  Smiling, she leans back against the outer wall and feels the rhythm of the train swaying as it travels through Cornwall to Land's End, the destination for later this morning.  The train will remain on a siding of the station for two days to give the people a chance to see the area.  Alyce has looked through the various tourist sights and read the visitor reviews posted in an attempt to get an idea of what to see.  Feeling a bit peckish, she goes to the bar and sneaks another package of biscuits and a couple bags of crisps.  By this time, two couples have come up to see the dawn over Cornwall and she nods to them as she makes her way back to the booth, waiting for Al to come along.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-13-17/0739:46>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Al woke late, feeling fairly good. He went straight from the bed to the shower, not having tried it yet. When he got out, he spotted the plastic bag with his change of clothes in a corner behind a chair, but he'd knotted the top, so he'd either have to fiddle with the knot, which might take thirty seconds, or else cut it off, which would ruin the bag and then he'd have to find a new one. All that was way too much to think about before noon, and with not even the first week gone by, changing into clean clothes now seemed a bit extravagant. So he put the clothes piled on the floor by the bed back on and went into the next room. Found Alyce's note and went up to find her where she'd said she'd be on the observation deck.

The breakfast buffet was laid out by then, so he waved at her then filled a plate before sitting down. It was a warm day, and the rail siding was on a rise overlooking one of the rocky cliffs that faced the ocean. There was a strong breeze whipping at Alyce's hair. Just over a mile out there was another rocky shoreline, a military gunboat running the strait between.

"Funny we should end up here, hey?" he said, nodding at the island opposite. "Right here spittin' distance from the real-world Lyonesse. Suffice ta say, ol' Al's got less'n zero interest in goin' over there, even if it warn't restricted. Other'n that, though, reckon we got two days ta kill here..."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-13-17/1008:34>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce already has a plate of food in front of her when Al comes up.  She can smell the soap and shampoo on him and smiles but the clothes are a different story and she shakes her head a bit.  As Al sits down, Alyce nods.  "Yes.  Two days.  I have been looking at the matrix brochures of what is available for tourists, but was thinking of seeing if we can find another Howard here and have him take us to the places tourists do not normally go see.  What do you think?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-13-17/1020:29>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Al shrugged as he stuffed his face with pancake, maple syrump dribbling off his chin. He somehow ate with a cigarette in the corner of his mouth, and ashes occasionally fell into his food. He did not seem to notice.

"Sure, toots. Sounds good. Or else jist hire a car an' we tramp around findin' spots on our own." His head did a weird little bob, as though he were tallying points on two sides of a scoreboard. "Pros an' cons ta both, I reckon. Whatever you wanna do."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-13-17/1048:33>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce laughs.  "OK.  I am checking on hire cars now and both choices are available.  I rather prefer using one with a driver who knows the local area.  Brilliant!.  I have reserved a can and driver for two days.  Matrix bio says Grace was born and raised in the area and has a great knowledge of the local sites and places off the normal path for those willing to do a bit more than just see the grebes and the standing stones.  She is home on uni break and is available for short or extended trips into wonderful Cornwall.  She sounds interesting."

Alyce finishes her breakfast and lights a cigarette as she sits back and watches Al. 
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-13-17/1059:40>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Al nodded as he blew his nose into his cloth napkin again - the effect of the copious amounts of chili sauce he'd splashed onto his eggs (over easy) was not dissimilar to having pepper-sprayed himself. Though by the way he was shoveling it in, his enjoyment was undisturbed. "Uni girl, huh? Might be easier on the eyes than that other old coot. Assumin' round ears that is. When do we leave?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-13-17/1111:45>
Friday, August 1st, 207

Alyce stubs out the butt of her cigarette.  "Any time, Al.  She is waiting just off the platform for us.  I told her we were still eating breakfast and she said not to worry.  And, yes, she is a round ear and quite attractive, at least according to her bio pic.  Here, I am sending it over to your 'link."

Alyce sends Al the bio and photo of Grace Hill, uni student and hire car driver for the summers.  She is fairly attractive, about 5'6" and 125#, with short blonde hair. and a nice figure.

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-13-17/1310:45>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Al nodded, but did not pick up his 'link. "Well, reckon I'm ready ta go when you are," he said, downing the last of his breakfast-beer.

"Got the car fer two days, huh? Brad was sayin' they's some nice country back the way we come, along the Lizard Heritage Coast. Easy day's drive to a berg called Falmouth, an' yup," he was glancing at his 'link now, "they got three rooms down ta The Oceanic Hotel. S'posed ta be real nice, an' I can hire a boat tomorrow mornin', git out onna water in somethin' lets us feel the swells a bit. Course I ain't certain which direction yer girl's secret sites is, so maybe we'd best touch base with her afore committin' ta anythin'."

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-13-17/1544:01>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce nods as she listens to Al.  “I think that the Falmouth idea is a good one.  We can check with Grace, but I would think that she will have no problem.  You mentioned three rooms, so I am assuming that you want one for each of us and for Grace?  We can make that happen.  Why don’t I take care of the rooms and you look into your boat?”

She stands and picks up her cigarette case and lighter, waiting for Al to come around the table and escort her below.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-13-17/1632:20>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

"Well, hell yes we need three," Al replied as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Girl's workin' fer us, on us ta pervide 'er a place ta crash. Can't have the poor thing sleepin' inna car after a hard day o' drivin' and tourguidin'."

He pushed a last rasher of bacon into his mouth whole and took her arm, admiring the short sundress on her as the fabric rippled in the breeze. They went back to their compartments - Al didn't bother going into his, his boots were on is feet and his cards in his pocket - and while Alyce did whatever women do to prepare for an overnight trip (and he did appreciate that she'd done nothing at all to prepare for the last one), he hired a boat for the next day.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-14-17/0125:36>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce packs a few things in her smaller overnight bag and signals that she is ready.  As they leave the cabin, she makes the arrangements for the hotel and sends a copy of the reservation to Grace, who is waiting for them at the depot.  As the pair step on the platform, they see the woman from the bio waiting for them near a large sedan.  She smiles as Alyce and Al identify themselves and assists them into the car then places the bag in the boot.  Returning to the driver's seat, she looks over the front bench seat and lets her passengers know what is going on.  "I can get us to Falmouth in plenty of time to check in to your rooms.  I have to say that you have made a very nice choice and I am very grateful that you would think to put me up there as well.  If I may, the Ranch Steakhouse and Grill is superb, but there are several other fine places to eat in the area.  If I might recommend, I can take you to Falmouth via a scenic route and perhaps stop a couple of places on the way.  Then Falmouth to check into the hotel then some sightseeing.  I understand that you have some boat plans for tomorrow and then a return here in time to make the train departure.  I have checked on the schedule and the train will be here until half ten tomorrow night, so we have plenty of time.  Questions?"

Alyce shakes her head and smiles as she looks to Al.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-14-17/0809:17>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

"All sounds good," said Al. "I rarely turn down a good steak." He silently congratulated himself on the subtlety of his wordplay.

The car was air-conditioned, which was a good thing. The Lizard Peninsula was the warmest place in Britain, and what better day to demonstrate that than the first day of August? Al had his coat off as they got into the car. Grace had offered to stow it in the trunk (boot, she'd called it - these charming Brits and their crazy way of talking) along with Alyce's bag (which Al had carried), but he wouldn't part with it, keeping it on his seat beside him or in his hand the entire journey. The mid-morning sun when he'd gotten up had caused him to pick a frayed wifebeater up off the floor instead of the T-shirt that had been crumpled alongside it. Without the jacket, Grace could see the fetishes he kept on leather thongs around his neck and upper left arm, along with the hodgepodge of tattoos on his arms and the periphery of the work on his back. Tufts of hair threatened to run riot from the low collar. The muscles on his upper body were not large, but rippled visibly under skin that showed the slackness that age and years of illness will bring.

For her part, young Grace was professionally groomed, but dressed for the heat, with a new-looking white tank top and khaki shorts finished off by hiking boots. She was slender and muscular, the brevity of her trousers revealing thighs that spoke to a good diet of sport or hiking. Unlike a lot of very fit girls, however, she was well enough endowed to challenge her tank top's attempts to protect her modesty. She wore no make-up, that Al could see, and her blond hair was long enough not to look butch, but short enough she was getting away with not having done much with it. She didn't have any ink - at least not that Al could see - which matched her scrubbed, country girl look.

Alyce was still in her fetching little sundress, the light fabric dancing daintily with every dash of breeze, its colors matching her dark hair and somehow not clashing with the funky shades. Where did a blind chick get that sort of fashion sense? Maybe she hired shoppers. More likely, he imagined, she had her entire wardrobe replicated in some hot-sim VR host, allowing her to perfectly coordinate her look in her little headware bit of unreality before wearing everything to such shimmering effect among the meatbound. As the light cloth whipped around her upper thighs, he remembered he hadn't watched her dress this morning, and couldn't help wondering what, if anything, was between her and the ground.

They got into the car and Grace got her first strike, politely explaining that the car service did not allow smoking in its vehicles. Al figured it wasn't her fault, so he didn't give her a hard time, simply saying, "Well I hope we's makin' a lot o' sightseein' stops." Which elicited a smile and an assurance they could stop at any time. Al figured if the Good Lord hadn't meant for people to smoke, he wouldn't have given them lungs.

And so they set off, Al and Alyce nestled into the comfortable rear seat, his scarred hand a rough presence on the silky skin of her leg, Grace pointing the car up the A30 towards Penzance.

Al couldn't help but hope they ran into some pirates.

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-14-17/1702:25>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce likes Grace’s professional attitude and she really enjoys the way she is dressed.  She is a bit disappointed by the no smoking in the car rule, but she appreciates the polite yet no-nonsense manner in which Grace had informed them.  She nods at Al’s comment and instinctively reaches for her pack of Lucky Strikes before stopping herself.

The car is air conditioned, which is a helpful relief from the August heat of this part of Britain.  Grace shows her expertise by anticipating the needs of her passengers to smoke and pulls the car over frequently to show them some scenic sight of the Cornish coast or the lands to the interior.  It does not take long outside the car at any stop to have the clothes plastered to the bodies of Grace and her passengers, making the return to the car inviting.  Before long, Al is able to get a clear view of the breasts of both women as their tops cling to every curve, but of course he is too much of a gentleman to point out the obvious in order to not embarrass anyone.

Alyce brings up the famous opera when they pass Penzance, bringing a response from Grace.  “Ah, yes.  Very famous, that.  But the truth is a bit more interesting.  The Cornish coast was home to some very real pirates, although most were on the north coast, due to its closeness to Wales and Ireland and the trade routes between them and the Continent.  Many were simply wreckers, some of whom rigged false lights and lured unsuspecting vessels to their doom.  Others were more of the sort to take advantage of ships that were tossed onto the shore by storms.  Since no survivors meant that the locals could keep whatever washed ashore form such wrecks, there were seldom any survivors.  Two of the more infamous female pirates of the 1500s were from Falmouth.  Mary Killigrew was the daughter of a pirate and married a pirate who was made an admiral by Elizabeth I.  She would go out with a crew and raid ships along the coast when her husband was out with the fleet.  There is some question as to whether her husband and the queen knew, but it is thought that both turned a blind eye to her activities as long as she raided Spanish, French, and German ships.  She was eventually caught but served only a short sentence before returning to Falmouth where she gave up seagoing piracy for another sort and became a fence for the goods recovered by various breakers.  Elizabeth was the wife of Mary’s son and took to piracy in her own right.  She, too, was eventually caught and pardoned by Elizabeth I to return to the Falmouth area.  Besides the wreckers and pirates, the rugged coves and inlets have provided havens for smugglers for centuries.”

“Oh, and there is a well known rugby team here named the Cornish Pirates.  Very good, actually.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-14-17/1704:29>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Al listened with interest, but occasionally grumbled something audible but unintelligible, upon which he refused to elaborate when prodded by the ladies, changing the subject and making comments about his breakfast. Alyce seemed to like this girl - hardly a surprise - and Al didn’t want to be rude. The stories were historical, hundreds of years ago.

But he’d faced pirates more than once, and there’d been nothing glamorous or romantic or admirable in any way about them. The parts of the story about - wink, wink - ensuring the shipwrecks had no survivors, bunch of hard-working sailing men, just wanted to get home to their wives and kids, and then all the royal damned pardons for a bunch of bloodthirsty murderers.

His mind drifted to the thoughts of sailors - one sailor, anyway - just wanting to get home to his kids.

He was glad when the girl-child changed the subject to rugby.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-14-17/1706:30>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Grace keeps up a running commentary of the area and seems to know it quite well, telling a lot of stories and jokes about the Cornish coast.  She is pleasant to talk to and pleasant on the eyes.  At each stop on the trek, she takes pains to point out some little thing about the area then steps back if there are no questions, so as to give her clients some privacy.  During one of the earlier stops, a slight breeze comes in off the coastal cliff Al and Alyce are standing on, ruffling Alyce’s sundress and letting Al know for sure that she is not wearing knickers today.  From where he is standing, he sees from the corner of his eye that Grace has observed the incident and is standing quite still and wide eyed.  The girl licks her lips once and smiles before turning to look at something in the distance.

Between stops, Alyce asks Grace what she is studying.  “I am up at Cambridge, studying law.”

Alyce beams.  “Cambridge?  My daughter is there studying for medicine.  Her name is Gemima Lysander, but she mostly goes by Gem.  I think that the two of you might get along famously.  May I send her your com code?”

“Absolutely.  This is brilliant.  I have been pretty busy up there with studies and have not had time for many friends.  Thank you very much.  Oh, wait, you’re that cellist.  From London.  Not that I want to interfere with your holiday, and you probably get this a lot, but I play a bit and was wondering……….”

“Of course.  Let’s talk when it won’t bore poor Al.”  Grace looks in the rear-view mirror and smiles at Alyce and something else passes between them at the same time.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-14-17/1807:00>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

The girls were getting on thick as thieves, which gave Al time to thoroughly enjoy the scenery. With all the stops, it was early afternoon before they'd made the normally ninety-minute drive from Land's End to Lizard Point, from the westernmost point in England to the southernmost. There was a beautiful white lighthouse there atop a bluff, hemmed in on three sides by rocky cliffs dropping a hundred feet to a sea dotted by smaller outcroppings, like a giant's toes in a shallow bath.

The ocean was calm, but there was still a lot of turbulence and froth in the rocks below where the tide kicked against the stone wall of Britannia. They stood on the edge and smoked and savored the wind in their hair. Far out on the water Al could see fishing vessels plying their trade.

Grace had feuled them with a few fun-filled facts and then gone back to the car on one pretense or another, and Al wanted to say something to Alyce but as usual he wasn't sure either what it ought to be or even what he wanted it to be.

He was just reaching for her hand when he saw her. There, down on a saltwater-swept serpentine stone maybe a hundred, hundred-and-twenty yards out. He squinted, never having gotten out of the habit in the years since his eyes were replaced. He looked through the binoculars Grace had loaned them. Damn.

"Heya toots, lay yer eyes, er, yer sensors on that..."

"What is it, Al?"

"The girl down there, out on that rock. Don't know if ya got facial recognition or somethin' this far out, but that's Little-Miss-Know-It-All from the platform t'other day."


"That postage stamp o' rock, hunnerd yards or so out, yer eleven o'clock..."

"I see the rock, Al, but there's no one...."

"Aawwww...SHIT!"  The little girl was gone. Tendrils of foam were receding from the grooves in the rock, evidence of a wave that had just crashed down on it. She must have been washed off when he was talking to Alyce.

He looked down and gauged how far he'd have to get to clear the rocks at the cliff base, then skipped back away from the edge to give himself a run at it.

"Al...! What are you doing?"

"Damn girl's drownin'...Don't let this outta yer sight..." and he tossed Alyce his jacket and ran off the cliff - piece of cake without an arrow through him, he thought, and half the height anyway. His body formed an arrow and he cut the surface clean, then made his way out to where the girl had gone under.

There was a lot of sunlight. No undercurrent here. Saltwater didn't bother his cybereyes, and he could stay under as long as he needed thanks to his internal air source. And he could swim like a fish.

He searched and searched. Even though he didn't need to, he surfaced periodically. Alyce had been joined by Grace on the cliff edge, and he gave thumbs-ups so they didn't freak out. He searched for half an hour. Found nothing.

Hope lost, he made for land. The cliff face didn't look impossible, but there was an easier spot a bit down - he got out there and took off the wifebeater to wring it out. Finally took his boots off - they'd dragged like a bitch. The walk back barefoot dried his jeans a little, not much.

The girls found him about halfway up the bluff.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-15-17/0037:16>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce is confused by Al’s words but rechecks the feed from her drone and still sees nothing.  She sends the small thing flying out to the spot he is talking about to get a closer look, but still nothing.  She is turning to tell him when he backs off, tosses her his jacket and races into the void, falling to the water below.  Grace’s piercing scream follows him down the cliff face, echoing off the walls.  “Bloody fucking hell, what did he just do?  He’ll kill himself on those rocks.”
Alyce recovers a bit.  “No, he won’t.  He is Al Guthrie.”  She points to where the man rises to the surface only to go back under.  “See, just there.  He will be alright.  He was saying something about a girl on the rocks and that she must be drowning and then he jumped in to save her.”
Grace gives a startled look at Alyce before returning her eyes to the water below.  “My God!  He saw a girl down there?  From where?  Must have been one of the boats out there because there are no cars here, although I suppose that she could have gone down the steps over there.  But why?  It is insanity to go down there with the water coming back in.”  She pulls her handy out and looks at it.  “No bars here.  I could drive over to the next village back for some help.”
Alyce reaches out a hand.  “Not enough time for that.”  She lets her ultrasound scan the steps and nods.  “He may need help with the girl when he finds her.  Those steps.”
“You’re fucking crazy.  Those will be slick as hell.  You will never make it.”
Alyce smiles.  “You have seen Al Guthrie do the impossible.  Now watch Alyce Krait do it.”
Grace watches open mouthed as Alyce races over to the narrow steps with no side rails leading down the cliff face to the cove below.  The Keeb begins descending and Grace shakes her head, swearing to the world about crazy people.  As she follows Alyce down the first steps, she calls out, “What insane asylum did you say the two of you had escaped from?”
The wind at the top of the cliff is not too bad, but the shape of the vee cut here acts as a sort of wind tunnel, turning the wind into a raging monster that threatens to topple the two women as they work their way down steps made slippery by moisture from the spewing froth below.  With no hand rail, Alyce and Grace are forced to stick as close to the rock face as possible, grabbing onto whatever small crevices and bumps they can find.  They do find some old rusted iron rings on the rock face, so there must have been a rope here long ago.  The rope is gone but the rings themselves provide some handholds for the trip down.  Their progress is made all the harder by the wind blowing up Alyce’s sundress, forcing her to use one hand to hold the dress against her legs to prevent it from flying up into her face.  She is less than a quarter of the way down when she realizes that this is not going to work and she turns to Grace to hand her Al’s jacket.  “Hold this for a mo, right?  Don’t drop it or I am dead bloody meat.”
Laughing, Alyce reaches down and pulls the sundress up and over her head.  She is trying to wrap it into a bundle when a gust of wind whips it out of her hands and off into the gorge.  For a moment her face follows the frock then she laughs again.  “Well, doesn’t that just take the bloody cake.”  Wearing only her flats, she reaches for the jacket and carries it in her arm as she resumes  her descent.  So it is that when Al meets them, Alyce is naked except for her shoes and Grace’s top is so soaked that she might as well not have been wearing it.  Alyce notices that there is no girl with Al and her heart sinks as she hands him his jacket.  “I am sorry about the girl, Al.  I know that you tried.  You look frozen; you should put this on.  We should go back up and go get warm and call for help.”
The girls turn around on the stairs and begin the climb back up.  Being third gives Al a nice view of both female asses as they climb the stairs, but his heart is only partially in that as he mourns for the girl he could not save.  Once back at the top, any thought that perhaps Alyce’s frock had blown up here disappears quickly.  She puts her arms about her, a bit chilled even in the heat of the early afternoon and looks at Grace.  "My overnighter in the boot.  I have tomorrow's frock in there."  Grace nods and moves off to get the case.

Alyce turns to Al.  "I am sorry Al.  So bloody sorry.  You could not have done more.  But can I ask if you are sure that you saw a girl there?  My drone sensors did not pick anything up on those rocks.  No one at all.  Here, I can send the feeds to your 'link.  Please look at them."  She has already isolated the feed coverage and sends it to him to look at.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-15-17/0731:51>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Standing barefoot on the wet steps, Al's first instinct on receiving his jacket from Alyce was to hand it right back to her - she clearly needed it more than he did. But instead he shrugged it on - he didn't know what excuse she'd contrived to get naked, but he figured it had been her choice; far be it from him to rain on her parade. He'd tossed his soaked wifebeater, Docs, and socks to the hired girl and trudged up the steps behind them.

Up at the top, Grace headed for the car and Alyce tried to console Al on the loss of the girl. She was sweet. "Reckon warn't no one there ta find. Knowed it was probably a phantom, jist couldn't take the chance." He sat down on the grass to look at the images she'd sent just as a tour bus pulled up. Soon the place was bustling with sightseeing retirees, or pensioners in the local dialect, and one would never know there had been any sort of crisis.

Al was always loathe to part with his Pa's jacket, but he had done so for three reasons. First, obviously, it was heavy and well nigh impossible to swim in. Second, he'd wanted something to tie Alyce to the shore, lest she jump in after him and leave him with two people to save. And third, it contained his 'link, which was expensive, his Thai porn star cards, which he'd had for seven years now, and, most importantly, his Zippo and Lucky Strkes. These he now extracted, lighting one for himself and one for his dramatically underdressed and obviously bereft of smokes date. He then rolled the jacket into a pillow and stretched out on the grass to let his jeans dry, the sun warm on his chest, his commlink in his hand.

Comparing the time stamp on the feed with the moment he'd spotted the girl - he always knew the exact time of things - he looked to see what the camera had seen. it had not been focused on the rock at that time, but it had been in its field of view, and it was easy to blow up the rock from the corner of the image. "Nope, yer right. Not a damned thing there. Hell, probably shoulda double-checked with ya afore divin' in. Water were nice, though."

And if the ladies had been inconvenienced, that was on them for worrying too much.

"So here's what I'm thinkin'," he said, turning his head to speak to her. He ignored the surrounding tourists, who were giving them a fairly wide berth in any case, and the breathless arrival of young Grace. "Whatever form she may've taken back on that train platform, it was diff'rent from what I saw on the rock, cuz yer sensors read it diff'rent. Warn't no coinkidink ol' Al saw 'er out there today, so that's intent. An' since the obvious response ta expect would be fer me ta try'n help, well, ta me that says mischief. Don't know what the little chica's game is, but reckon we'd best treat 'er with a modicum o' due concern."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-15-17/1001:54>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce plops down on the grass next to Al, letting the sun warm her.  The slight breeze was tickling at her and far more comfortable than the swirling gusts that had ripped her dress from her.  She takes the cigarette from Al, glad that hers were still in the car and not in the sundress that was now missing.  Sitting in the sun, she waits as Al goes through the images she had sent him.  The arrival of the tour bus complicates things a bit, but Alyce makes no effort to hide herself from the people that pile out of the vehicle.  The guide tries to coral his charges over to the lighthouse, but some find staring at the naked Alyce to be more entertaining. 

Grace arrives with the overnighter and Alyce puts a spare dress on, much to the disappointment of the onlookers.  The young driver looks at her passengers and shakes her head as she laughs.  "OK, who are you people, really, and where have you been my whole life?  I have never had a more fun day and it is not even half two in the afternoon yet.."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-15-17/1024:37>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

"Well, li'l darlin', ya know who this is already, rock star o' the cello world, Robyn Ly-somethin' or other." He stood up, jacket in hand, the weight of the water in his jeans dragging them low on his skinny hips. He'd never known fiddle players could be so famous. Clearly he needed to get a bit more culture.

"Me." he continued as the three walked back to the car, "Reckon I'm jist as advertised. Alouicious Harlan Guthrie, esquire. Been earnin' my daily bread mainly in the stevedorin' trade, till lately, but I'll allow as I've done more'n a few shifts in canneries an' on oil rigs."

He was closing one of the car windows on his wifebeater and socks now so that they'd hang out and dry in the wind as they drove.

He was conscious that the girl's wet shirt was likely uncomfortable, but that not everyone was as happy as Alyce to just shed their clothes in mixed company. Trying to be indirect, he scratched idly at the hair on his chest and offered, "Done some drivin' in my day, too, if'n ya'd like ta dry off inna back while I take the wheel fer a spell. Don't reckon we'd tell no one."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-15-17/1638:17>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Grace nods.  “There’s a lot of good to be said about a man that works hard.  And for a man that would leap off a cliff to save a little girl.”  She turns to Alyce, adding, “And the woman who would chase after to help him.”  She helps hold Al’s socks and shirt against the window as he closes it, and smiles at Al’s offer while shaking her head.  “Thank you very much for the offer, but company policy, you know.  I am a bit uncomfortable, though, and I have a spare top, it you don’t mind stopping for a mo once we get away from the bus.”

She finds a wide spot to pull off to the side and lets her passengers out for a smoke break as she walks to the rear of the car and opens the trunk, fishing out a dry white top.  Looking around to make sure there were no cars coming, she quickly removes her top and bra, giving her passengers a good look at her breasts.  She places the wet items in the trunk then slips into the dry tank top, turning to Al and Alyce.  “Alright, ready any time you are.  Still have a drive to go to get to Falmouth, but I have already called ahead to make sure that your rooms are held past check-in time.  There is lots to see on the way.”

Alyce had reached out to take Al's hand as Grace replaced her top and is smiling as they return to the car.  She snuggles next to Al and says, "Al, I am not sure of the mischief.  Perhaps she is trying to tell us something?  That is twice now, only I did not see her this time.  But she was bloody obvious at the train depot.  Why the difference?  Is it you she is interested in?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-15-17/1641:51>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

With no cigarette to keep his fingers busy, and uncertain what idle hands might get themselves up to in the back of a car with single-article-of-clothing Alyce, Al was absently doing one-handed shuffles, triple-cuts, and fans with his cards.

"Me? Ol' Al ain't no pederast, much less a whoremonger 'mongst the dead. Shee-it, woman, got enough trouble with the livin'. 'Sides, women on this mortal plane's unable ta deny theyselves ta me by virtue o' my masculine charms, raw animal magnetism, an' mastery of all manly arts."

He held up a finger to pause the conversation. "Hey, you up there. Ya reckon ya could deny yerself ta ol' Al?"

"Oh no, sir, not for a moment," the girl replied, a laugh in her voice and her tongue firmly in her cheek.

Al turned back to Alyce. "There, ya see? But none o' them qualities'd hold one iota of appeal fer no ghost. Still...I ain't surprised yer givin' 'er the benefit o' the doubt - yer always seein' the good in folk, you are. Hell, I ain't fergot how ya thought them folk tryin' ta kill us back inna jungle were jist a bunch nice fellers, playin' by the rules an' lookin' forward ta havin' them of us as happened ta survive over fer a family cookout once the job was done. That's a fine Christian quality ya got there woman, an' speaks admirably of ya, but I'll venture it's a liability in some fields of endeavor."

He stretched, annoyed by the way his bare back stuck to the leather seat, cards turning pirouettes in his hand all the while..

"But I'll allow as an open mind's in order. Hell, all I said was we should proceed with caution. I ain't in the habit o' killin' kids. Not even dead ones."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-15-17/1642:48>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce smiles to herself.  Grace’s response to Al’s question had not been as light and playful as it had sounded and she wonders just how much Al really realizes about the effect he can have on some women, despite his rather bombastic claims.  Her face and voice take on a more serious manner as she resumes the conversation.  “I am not as leery around spirits, having seen many Below, but some of them are not kind and I agree that caution is advised.”
During the next stop for a smoke break, Grace comes up to Alyce and the movement of what is slightly hidden under the tank top reminding Al that she had removed her bra to let it dry.  “So, did I hear that you have been Below in London?  I have always wondered what that is like but was never brave enough to just go.”
Alyce smiles.  “I think that Below is a wonderful place and I have a house I keep there.  In fact, I spend about half my time in London in Below.  Would you like to go there some time?  I could show you around.”  She motions to Al with a hand.  “My friend is not a fan of the place and might not accompany us.  But I dare say that you would be safe enough with me.”
Grace suddenly leans forward then takes a short hop back.  “Bloody hell.  Excuse me, but did I just see your tattoo move?  Is that some artist’s trick and where did you get that done?”
Alyce smiles and nods.  “Yes, it moves and yes it is some sort of trick, and mojo is involved somehow.  I got it Below.”
“Wow!  Brilliant!  I have never seen anything like that.  May I touch it and would I feel it move?”
Alyce nods.  “Yes, you may touch it and yes, it moves if you wait long enough.  It will not hurt you.  The one on my back moves as well.”
Grace’s eyes go wide.  “I thought so, but wasn’t sure.  You know, when we were on the stairs and I was behind you.  I thought it was just my eyes playing tricks on me.”
Alyce smiles.  “I will have to show it to you again sometime, so you can see it better.”
Grace nods then seems to realize what was meant and blushes a bit before heading back to the car.  Alyce turns to join Al looking out over the ocean.  “Nice girl, don’t you think?  And I can tell that she is having a hard time resisting your charms and would likely agree in a flash to go to bed with you if you asked.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-15-17/1652:44>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

"Yup. Reckon they all would," Al replied absently, wondering when or if the little ghost would appear again. If spirits passed when they were young, and somehow were stuck here, did they age, did they mature over the decades or centuries? Or did they retain their childlike souls?

They rejoined Grace. Al's shirt had dried and he pulled it free from the window.

"Do the dogs move, too?" she asked.

"What? Aww, no, nothin' so flashy as Miss Robyn's."

"But the color, the texturing, the definition - if it weren't for the halos and the hierarchical perspective, I'd almost think someone transferred a photo to your back."

"Heh. She worked off photos. But it's all hand inked. Had ta be, fer purpose."

He turned his back away from her and put on his shirt. Not to be rude. But they were his dogs, and private viewings were Alyce's department. "How much longer ta that steakhouse, darlin'"?
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-15-17/1801:22>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce nods.  “I am feeling a mite peckish, too, Grace.”
Grace laughs as she holds the door open for Al and Alyce.  “That depends on how many stops we make.  Do you wish to just push through?  I can have us there in a bit under an hour and get us checked into the hotel then off to dinner for you two.”
Alyce slides into the car next to Al and looks at him.  “Can we make it in one go?”  She turns back to Grace.  “I think that will be good, please.  I will let you know if I need to stop for a quick smoke.”
Grace smiles and nods, shutting the door before climbing into the front of the car.  She puts it in gear and heads off down the road to Falmouth.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-15-17/1810:12>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

It was a nice drive. The scenery was pretty much the same as they'd been stopping to see, though, so the view from the car was good enough for Al. He liked gazing out over cliffs at the sea as much as the next guy, but a good ten minutes was plenty for him.

Food, on the other hand, well, that was a moral imperative. Can't have those poor cows dying for nothing.

He put his dried socks back on and laced up his still-wet boots as they drove. Looked at Alyce. Thought about the music she'd played outside her mole-hole the other day. Realized he'd never heard her play with the orchestra she subbed with. It was easy enough to find. Thought about listening in private on his earbuds. Knew she'd hear it anyway.

"Put this onna sound system, darlin'," he directed Grace as he sent the file to the car's node.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-15-17/2008:01>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce hears the first part of the concert and immediately recognizes it.   She places a hand on Al’s arm.  “Oh, Al.  This was the concert the orchestra did in Berlin two years ago.  I even have a solo part about halfway through, just before the intermission.  The people I play with are individually quite bloody good, but combined as a group, we are great.”
Alyce sits back in the seat and listens to the music, an obvious smile on her face.  Al notes that Grace bobs her head slightly to the music.  The songs are powerful pieces that can evoke strong emotions and he catches Alyce wiping tears from her face several times.  The cello solo is dramatic and completely amazing.  The concert is only up to the intermission when Grace announces that they will be arriving at the hotel in about two minutes.  Alyce leans over to Al, some of the last tears still on her face, and places a soft hand on his cheek.  “Thank you.”
Grace parks the car and holds the door open for her passengers and follows them up the steps and into the grand lobby of the hotel.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-15-17/2020:11>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

The place was nice. But of course it was. That was the thing about too damned much information at your fingertips, thought Al, no surprises. It was beautiful...exactly as it had been on the booking node.

Whatever - he figured a date, even a three-week one, wasn't the place for seat-of-your-pants travel. Never hurt to do things the easy way time to time, and he'd had some damned fine paydays recently. With no luggage himself, he grabbed Alyce's small bag, and then grabbed Grace's as well. Seemed like the courteous thing to do. Their party had been assigned three rooms facing the sea, adjoining doors. Al didn't even go into his - he was hungry, and waiting in the lobby was the best way to hurry the women.

The women. Plural. Shit. He addressed Grace as the two women were opening their doors. "Listen, yer welcome ta join us at dinner if'n ya want, li'l darlin'. My treat. But ya wanna break from the clients, ol' Al unnerstands that - I'll set up a tab in the hotel restaurant, you can git anythin' ya want in there once ya drop us at the steak joint. Do what ya want."

Turning to Alyce, he said, "Reckon I'll be downstairs."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-16-17/0023:57>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce nods.  "Down in a few, Al."  Entering her room, she walks to the large closet and unpacks her overnighter, removing  three extra sundresses and a bikini swimsuit and hanging them up.  She pauses for a moment, lost in thought, then nods her head before walking to the door that connects her room to that of Grace.  She unlocks her side and knocks.  "Grace?  Are you still there?"

Alyce hears footsteps on the other side of the door then the noise of the lock being undone.  Grace opens the door and says, "Sure, Miss Lysander.  What do you need?"

Alyce smiles.  "It's Robyn and I need you, come here for a minute."  Turning, she walks to the closet in her room and points to the hanging sundresses.  "You and I are not that far apart in size where it counts.  Pick one."

Grace looks puzzled.  "I don't understand."

"I was thinking that you were about to decide to stay in the hotel and eat and I would like you to eat with us."

"Oh, I am not sure that is a good idea.  Besides, I have nothing to................................."

"Yes.  The lightbulb is turning on.  I would think that a budding solicitor would be quick on the uptake.  Listen.  My Al is not sophisticated, he rarely dresses up for anything, his people skills are not great, but he is a man's man.  He is a doer.  He is Al Guthrie and that is all he needs to be."

Grace nods.  "You are in love with him."

"Oh yes.  I have made no attempt to hide that from anyone.  I am certain that he loves me, too, but he is having some...................commitment issues, maybe.  But in any case, I do know that does appreciate a pretty girl and you, my dear, are gorgeous.  I thought it might be fun to have us on his arm tonight.  Both of us dressed in one of these nice frocks.  Nothing goes any further than you want it to, but the evening will be fun and lively.  What do you say?"

Grace looks at Alyce for a few moments then nods.  "Sure, OK.  Why not?"

Alyce smiles and motions to the dresses.  "Pick one.  And there are a couple more things I should tell you that are guaranteed to make the evening a bit more fun, if you are up for it.................................

Al is pacing in the lobby smoking area, having been asked to go there by a very polite but insistent concierge.  He turns his head to look at the lift every time the bell rings indicating that it is arriving at the ground floor.  Its door has opened several times and Alyce and Grace have not been there.  This time they are, stepping out arm in arm and looking around before Alyce points in Al's direction.  He sees the two women approach him wearing flowery sundresses that are of a similar pattern but slightly different colors.  Both dresses show off all the right curves in the right places and the material stops just before it gets scandalous.  Both women are looking at Al as they approach him.  Grace is blushing a bit for some reason and Alyce hands her off to one of Al's arms and takes the other.  "I convinced her to dine with us.  Shall we?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-16-17/0816:49>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Al's gut was rumbling impatiently when the elevator doors opened and what he saw made him forget his stomach altogether. Alyce was a vision as always. Yet another sundress graced the womanly curves of her lean physique. It was obviously a tailored cut, and dangerously short, just the way he liked it. Grace had decided to come along, which he figured was a good thing - she was a sweet little girl, he was getting plenty of chances to be alone with Alyce on this trip, and the girl's presence would protect him from any of those serious relationship discussions Alyce seemed so fond of. The girl's dress was a near-match with Alyce's, the fabric around the bust straining a bit but otherwise a good fit. While both women appeared to be in their early twenties - the one because she was, and the other because she was a keeb - their faces contrasted as much as their posh dresses matched, the girl's scrubbed face and blond hair complementing the woman's longer, darker hair, blood-red lipstick, and ostentious steampunk shades.

In his jeans, The Elephant was trumpeting for both of them. But in his chest, his heart was singing louder, and it was all about Alyce. "Ya light up ev'ry room ya enter, toots, an' teach ol' Al somethin' new 'bout beauty ev'ry time I see ya." He was delighted when she took his arm, and surprised (though he figured he really shouldn't have been) when she planted Grace on his other arm.

It made him a bit antsy to have neither hand free, but he reminded himself this was a vacation, not work. Besides, he'd noticed something else that required his attention. Poor Grace's white face was blushing pink. She being female, he could only guess why. But he figured she might be afraid she'd overstepped by joining them. Or else, like a woman, smarting at Alyce winning all his praise. "An' you, li'l darlin', ain't you a sight, what with them legs an' them beaudacious ta-tas? Real glad ya joined us. What say, jist in case it needs sayin', that yer off the clock this evenin'. Night out with new friends. Sure we can rustle up a cab."

They crossed the spacious lobby, a curious trio - the stunning women on either side of Al were not especially tall, but he in the middle was rather the shorter of the three, and looked much older. As they went out the doors to the portico, but before he could signal the valet to fetch a cab, they crossed directly into the path of another couple. She was a handsome matron whose obvious wealth was working very hard to keep her looking under forty. And he was the young man that had danced with Alyce on their cruise.

At the sight of them, or especially at the sight of Alyce, he froze. Apparently reluctant to look bad in front of his latest meal ticket, however, he recovered and greeted them cordially. Al waved it off.

"No time fer chit chat, amigo. Jist gotta pass on some bad news."

"I'm sorry...what sort of bad news would that be?" Al had to hand it to him, he was good at forcing a smile.

"Falmouth. We's in it. So that means yer not. Kiss yer lady friend goodbye or else take her with ya, but turn around an' git in that there taxi. Holel'll send ya yer stuff, ya call 'em after ya git where yer goin'."

The woman spoke, surprisingly unsurprised. "I'll catch up with you later, Joel." And she disappeared as if by magic.

Joel went beet red and clenched his fists. He was a lot bigger than Al, which might have given him unfortunate ideas. Al was pretty sure the Vor had sent him a clear message never to be caught anywhere near Alyce, and a lot of trouble could have been avoided by simply reminding him of that. But Al wasn't going to let a bunch of mobsters proxy for him. He didn't want this scumbag anywhere near his ladies, and he could handle it himself.

He held up a hidously scarred finger on a hideously scarred left hand.

"Empathy, Joel. Feelin' what others feel. Gon' give ya a chance to try it. Want ya ta have empathy fer what ol' Al feels."

"Listen, get out of my way, you mangy little pip..."

And Al used his right hand to grab the extended finger on his left and snap it backwards with an audible crack, leaving it jutting out from the back of his hand at an uncomfortably unnatural angle.

Poor Grace stifled a shriek and her nails dug into the sleeve of Al's jacket.

Joel's eyes went wide, his mouth silently trying to form a question.

"Ya see Joel," Al said, as he grabbed another of his own fingers and broke that one too, "If you don't have empathy for the way my fingers is feelin', then I'm gon' hafta treat ya ta the first-hand experience - no pun intended."

Al's face was calm, not a trace of pain or distress.

Joel turned and got into the waiting cab. Al used his good right hand to call another. The wide-eyed valet nodded vigorously and set about fetching one.

Al chuckled, but the women were immediately starting to fuss. Before they had time to get bent out of shape, he calmly opened his left hand and the fingers stretched back into their normal positions. "Bones is smart materials. Damned handy - pun intended this time - fer makin' repairs in tight spots. But makes fer a good parlor trick, too." He lowered his voice and winked conspiratorially as their cab pulled up. "Jist don't tell no one ol' Al's secrets, hey ladies?"

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-16-17/0948:38>
Grace had blushed a bit deeper at Al/s compliment, after all, she is used to men eyeing her nice figure but this is the first time one has said anything quite like that to her.  She looks aver Al's head and gets a smile from Alyce and a knowing grin.  The experience on the steps outside the hotel pretty much unnerves her, but she notices that Alyce remains calm so, beyond the first surprised yelp, she remains silent, although her fingers are tight on the sleeve of Al's jacket. 

At the cab, the girls get in first and Al can plainly see that neither is wearing any underwear.  There is not a lot of time for talking as the cab ride to the steak house is really only a few minutes in duration.  Alyce is sitting in the middle and wraps her arm through his and snuggles up against him.  At the restaurant, Al is first out then helps the ladies out.  From his angle, the sundresses do not do much to hide the fact that neither woman is wearing a bra.  They smile at Al as they each take an arm to enter the restaurant and Al notes that Graces blush has mostly gone away by now.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-16-17/1024:37>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Mostly, but not all.

The girls, Alyce first, and then Grace, had not missed the chance on getting out of the cab to repeat the performances they'd made getting in. And Al, on helping Grace out, had halted the flow of his hand for just a split second, just as one foot had hit the pavement and the other was in the car, freezing her in place for the merest of instants and catching her eye.

Just so no one could pretend - just for that moment - that there was anything accidental about her little display.

But he'd closed the moment with a rakish smile. Shaking his head at Alyce and her naughty tricks. Wondering how she'd pulled it off, and what other surprises she might have planned, he joined the girls in front of the restaurant and, taking them both in from head to toe, said, "Did I mention how incredibly stellar the twain o' you is lookin'? Well, if I did then I didn't say enough. Y'all got me harder'n a hickory axe handle. So since the two o' you done turned yerself out fer a nice dinner an' a lovely evenin' out, what say we have ourselves a nice dinner an' a lovely evenin' out?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-17-17/0100:28>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Grace keeps her eyes on Al/s as he helps her from the car, knowing full well that his position would afford him a direct look at just about all of her.  She gulps as she feels the stirrings of something unexpected.  While part of her is incredibly unsure of herself or in what she has allowed the smooth talking Keep to talk her into, another part of her finds that she enjoys it immensely.  She is not really sure what Al has actually seen since he seemed to keep his eyes focused on hers, but just being nearly naked in front of him and able to allow herself to want him to look is enough to make her wonder just what sort of girl she really is.  Before now, she had been naked for just two men, boys really.  One was a student at her school before she went away for her first term at uni.  A wild party to celebrate the end of school and beginning a new life had resulted in her first coupling, a rather staid bit of two teenagers not really knowing more than where to stick what.  She had been so drunk that she barely remembers the incident, or the boy for that matter..  The second man is her current maybe boyfriend.  She has slept with him several times but she was having doubts about his suitability.  Just something he had said, you know?  Anyway they were taking a break apart for the summer and she would sort it when she returned to uni in another month or so.  She finds that to be as near to being naked in front of a near stranger is a big step for her, but she actually finds it freeing, in a way. 

The moment is broken when Al gently pulls her from the cab and takes an arm from both women, leading them to the restaurant entrance.  Al lets the amigo at the door know that he is Al Guthrie and he has a reservation.  Grace shakes her head slightly and smiles.  This man can be maddening, but she sees a bit of why the Keeb is hot for him.  The doorman points them towards the hostess, who checks her list and nods, smiling.  "Right this way, Mister Guthrie.  Your table is ready.  A nice booth with a view of the gardens outside, as requested."

As the hostess leads the three to the booth, Alyce moves her hips in a manner designed to cause her short dress to sway, almost but oooooooh barely not exposing her bare ass, but certainly hinting of it.  Grace does not have the experience of the older woman but her legs are enough to draw attention on their own.  It is inevitable that people watch them as they pass through the crowded eatery and one man manages to drop his fork on the floor just after they pass and bends over to pick it up just in time to catch a glimpse of two wonderfully shaped asses, bare as the day the women were born.  The poor man does not hear his wife's first comment, but the second is accompanied by a sharp kick under the table as the woman hisses at him.  "George.  What do you think you are doing?  Sit back up this instant."  For his part, George does sit back up in his chair and looks at his wife, wondering what she would look like walking about without any knickers on.  He grimaces and shakes the rather horrid vision out of his mind, preferring to remember the sight of the two women, something he will fantasize about for years to come.  Up to now, he had not liked the little holiday his wife had arranged in Falmouth, but that has changed forever.

The nice looking hostess seats Al and his companions and tells them that the wine steward and their waiter will be along shortly.  The booth does indeed have a terrific view of the restaurant gardens, which appear almost as a refuge from the busy town and the tourists filling its hotels and streets.  A small stream-fed pond provides the centerpiece for the garden and the sound of flowing water is meant to soothe the visitor, helping them forget for a bit of time the bustle of the outside world.    Artfully placed shrubs and trees serve to mask the several special booths on its edge from each other, providing a modicum of privacy to the occupants.  Soft music plays in the background and the lighting is a bit dimmer, so as to provide a special ambiance to the entire dining experience.

A man appears almost out of nowhere and presents Al with the wine list.  "Sir, would you care to order from the wine list or do you have a particular wine in mind already?  We have some magnificent Bordeaux, if I might be so bold as to recommend one for you."

Al opens his mouth to make some sort of Guthrism and Alyce puts a hand on his arm and nods.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-17-17/0802:23>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

With Alyce having handled the pickled grape juice selection for the ladies, Al sent the man off with an order for something "cold, gold, an' inna bottle, preferably from America."

The waiter was a step behind the wine guy, and Al ordered buffalo wings and pork ribs to get them started. The man then left them to look at the dinner menu. Al went for the biggest prime rib they had. Grace tried to order something from the lower end of the menu, but neither of her hosts would conscion it, and when she protested that other options would be too much to eat, Al assured her he'd polish off whatever she couldn't. "One thing ol' Al can't abide is wasters o' I'm always willin' ta come ta they rescue!"

Sitting between the two women, Al turned to Grace as they waited for the waiter to return and take their order. "Right then, let's talk about cello-playin' - what're he odds, hey? - law studyin' - won't hold 'er against ya - car drivin' Grace. Question comes ta mind when ol' Al looks at ya, li'l darlin', is where ya git all those damned fine muscles? I mean, yer natural endowments are top notch, an' don't think I ain't noticed. But reckon that's luck. Them shoulders an' legs, though, they didn't come fer free or even cheap. Now don't git me wrong - ol' Al don't really care none 'bout trivialities such as physical beauty in any case, reckon I'm all about the inner beauty, right? Right? But since the lines on those thighs an' arms do almost distract from them elegantly buoyant tits, can't help but assume yer a sportin' woman, an' can't help but wonder 'bout yer sport o' choice."

Grace laughed through her blush. "Um, so, you want to know what sport I play?"

"Ain't that what I jist said?"

"Right. Well, I've been riding since I was a wee tot. And at school I play some rugby in a girls' league. Can't really afford the time, to be honest, but i think the investment translates to better mental performance, end of the day, you know."

"Couldn't jist do it cuz it's fun."

She laughed again, and the ribs and wings came, accompanied by generous supplies of towelettes and three lemon-garnished finger bowls. Along with their first round of drinks.

Alyce toasted Grace, looking into the girl's eyes and complimenting her frankly on what a good sport she was being, and Grace shifted the attack back to Al. "Did you play sport, Al? I mean, you know, when you were much younger."

Al guffawed at her riposte, and said, "Reckon I rode some as a kid, too. Lotta huntin', if'n ya count that. Ain't never had no use fer tossin' 'round a ball, though. I am, however, partial ta urban brawl, an' they got a ball. Like watchin' combat biker some. I'll allow as I like things a bit rough - though rugby, that ain't fer no wiltin' lillies, now is it?"

Al got Grace to open up about her rugby misadventures while they all laughed heartily and got famously messy with BBQ and spicy rib sauce. By the time their mains were served they looked like three pre-schoolers around the dinner table, and laughed the more as they tidied themselves with the towelettes.

When things calmed over the steaks, it was clear that the ladies were itching to discuss music, and Al was happy to listen to them do it. it was clear to him from their conversation that there was a lot to classical music that he'd never quite tipped to, and after a half hour or so he figured it might even be in the same class as psychobilly.

Halfway through the steaks and Al definitely thinking ahead to dessert, their talk of music touched briefly on some shows Alyce had done Below. Knowing Grace was curious about that unique hellhole, and feeling in a generous mood, Al said, "Okay toots, heard ya mention ta young Grace here I warn't no fan o' that place, an' I'll allow my impressions ain't been the best. But I know they's a part o' yer heart there. Maybe it's time ya told us a bit about the place's good points...assumin' they is any."

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-17-17/0954:15>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Dinner is going swimmingly and then Al asks about Below.  Alyce goes quiet and looks at him for a few moments.  "Alright, I can say a few things about the good points of Below.  The people, Al.  That's it, plain and simple.  Most of the people who live in Below are from families that have lived there for generations.  Some of the original settlers were circus freaks who could not handle being stared at, poked and prodded, laughed at, and or screamed at.  The coming of the sixth world and the subsequent changes in people brought about a significant social change.  In the country I was born in, Russia, the central state machine tried to gather us together to experiment on.  They wanted to see why we were different and how they could use us for the benefit of the country.  There was no care about us as people.  I was one of the lucky ones.  I spent my entire early life inside a small compound, afraid to leave the walls.  The places was comfortable and secure, but it was still a place with a perimeter I could walk around in about an hour.  Many others were not so fortunate and dies or lived horrible lives in prisons and medical labs.  Other countries were more gracious to their new races.  I emphasize the word more.  Most normal people were afraid of the new metahumans and some had good cause to be.  Here in Britain, many who were in London found the abandoned warrens of Below a sanctuary against the prejudices of the surface, the Overworlders.  The expanded on what had been left behind and started lives down there.  They lived, worked, and raised families.  And just as in any other melting pot of society, there are good and bad people in Below.  Most of the people there just want to live their lives and get along with each other and with the Overworld.  Some don't.  In reality, there are no differences between the people of both places.  Al, you and I have experienced more hate and death and danger from people up here than you have ever experienced down there.  Your first experience there was a negative one and you have decided that most of the denizens of Below are of the same sort who attacked you when that is just not the case.  But you will not allow yourself to see that unless you let me show you the place as it really is."

Alyce looks at her dinner companions and smiles.  "Now, I am sorry if I have tossed a blanket on the fun, so let's get back to having some."

Grace has gone a bit pale but is actually glad for the break.  "Do you think that you could show me around there some day?"

"Certainly.  Perhaps during your next holiday from uni.  Come on down and I will see if I can get away to take you on a tour."

Grace smiles.  "Brilliant!  And, Al, there is a very nice stables just near here.  I understand that you are going out on a boat tomorrow morning, but would you like me to look into setting up some horses for the two of you in the afternoon?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-17-17/1055:01>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

"Li'l darlin', hell yeah we want the horses, but fer the three of us. An' you'll be onna boat, too, ol' Al's got anythin' ta say about it." He glanced at Alyce and gave her thigh a squeeze out of courtly couresy and got a confirming smile, but hadn't really needed it - she wouldn't have lassooed the girl into her exhibitionistic ways if she hadn't come to genuinely care about her - that was something Al had learned about Alyce.

Grace was a bit at a loss for words, however. Al continued, "Listen, ya done seem ta've passed this one's little initiation - which I can't say I've' hope they's more surprises ta come - so no way we can see ya as the help no more. Wouldn't even be right. So ta yer comp'ny we's takin' ya 'long as a guide, but us three'll know it's jist three friends makin' a day of it. An' that's all I'll say onna matter. Now I think someone said somethin' 'bout gittin' back ta the fun..."

To which Grace simply nodded vigorously. A lot was going on behind her eyes, like she was remembering something and thinking about something and feeling something all at once, but Al knew better than to try to guess what went on in a female's head. The laughter at the table quickly resumed, the talk turning a bit bawdy as more drinks were served and the three became better acquainted.

At one point between dinner and dessert, Grace was talking or something to a waiter and Al took Alyce's hand: "Thanks, toots. Wet blanket, yeah, that one was soaked. But ya opened ol' Al's eyes a bit, an' that don't happen ever' day. Reckon this little one rates a tour, then ol' Al oughtta git shown 'round a bit too, ya kin find the time. Now, evenin's young - an' spicy as you've made it, still been entirely too tame so far..."

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-17-17/1600:06>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce leans over to Al and gives him a quick kiss.  "Just wait, Al."

After Grace finishes with the waiter, Alyce slides out of the booth and announces that she is going to the loo.  Grace nods and slides out as well.  Alyce smiles at Al.  "We will be right back."

The two get to the bathroom and Grace practically collapses against the wall, fanning her face.  "Wow!  You were right.  I have never been so excited and confused at the same time in my life."

Alyce nods. "Still up for this?"

"Too bloody right I am."  Grace's mind flashes back to the few minutes the two of them had spent getting ready.  She had just agreed to come along and wear one of Alyce's frocks when the woman had tossed something at her as if it were just part of the conversation.

"You know, Al is really starting to like you.  I hope that does not bother you."  Alyce reaches up and draws a hand down Grace's cheek.  "I find that I am coming to like you as well and I really hope that doesn't bother you."

Grace had reddened and held her breath but had not pulled away.  She shook her head and managed to smile.  "No.  That does not bother me at all."

Alyce smiled.  "You are very beautiful, Grace.  So, are you willing to try to make the evening more fun?"

Grace had hesitated only a few seconds then nodded.

Alyce had smiled again.  "Al likes me to go without my knickers when we are together."

Grace had nodded as she smiled.  "So I have noticed.........wait, are you suggesting that I should do that?"

At Alyce's look, Grace had paled.  "I am not sure that I could do that."  Alyce just kept looking at her.  "Well, maybe.  Are you sure that he won't mind?"

Alyce had laughed.  "Are you kidding?  He would love it."

Now in the bathroom at the restaurant, Grace chuckles.  "This has been the best time. I feel liberated and sexy and a bit wanton all at the same time.  What is next?"

Alyce smiles broadly.  "We play the next bit by ear, but your next challenge will be when we get back to the room.  Al prefers that I wear no clothes at all when we are alone in a room.  I would like you to consider joining us."

Grace pales. "You mean?  You mean you want me to be in the room and naked, too?"


There is a long silence and Alyce begins to think she might have gone too far, when Grace softly nods her head.  "Sure.  If I can go out in public wearing only a frock for everyone to get a look at, I can do that."

Alyce smiles.  "Brilliant!  I think that will surprise Al a lot."  She looks like she wants to say more but doesn't.  Instead, she takes Grace's hand in one of hers and leans forward to give the younger woman a kiss that sets Grace back, but she does not pull away.  After breaking, Alyce leads Grace out of the bathroom and back to the table, where they both slide back on either side of Al.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-17-17/1621:20>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Al never could understand why women always wanted to do their business together. Were their bladders somehow synchronized? Or were they just that dependent on company? In a moment of epiphany, Al realized that both were afraid of what might happen if the other was out of their sight and alone with him. He congratulated himself on his keen insight.

The waiter had come by to take their dessert orders, but Al told him to come back once the ladies returned. When they did, Grace was blushing all over again, but there was a bit of extra spring in her step. They both looked like cats that had eaten the canary but also like they were trying to act totally natural. Whatever, he'd only hurt his brain if he tried to figure them out. Instead he just said, "Ladies, it's worth bein' without ya fer a few if only ta see the sight o' yer twin lovelinesses makin' they way back in my gen'ral direction." And like all women, their expressions made it clear they appreciated the remark.

For dessert, Al ordered the double chocolate and orange brownie, skipping the ice cream. Well, actually insisting they substitute it for more of the brownie. Alyce had the key lime stack, and Grace the sticky toffee pudding. The sugar blended well with their third round of drinks, and soon their conversation was cascading across the table like a chocolate fountain, punctuated by dipping strawberries and marshmallows of laughter.

The girls finished with coffee, Al with a beer, and then he suggested a turn around the garden as they waited for the cheese board. It was a lovely enclosure, cozy but not cramped. Unlike a lot of such places, the pond was pristine, with no sign of the associated plumbing. There were rock-garden paths to explore; plenty of space to enjoy the ambiance without ever seeing the surrounding diners. But there was also a path around the garden's circumference that afforded peeks at the other booths facing the garden, lending a naughty sense of voyeurism that blended well with the understated lighting that crept up from lamps set in the ground along the paths. The stars overhead offered the perfect canopy.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-18-17/0535:05>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce thoroughly enjoys the key lime stack, but also appreciates the bits of sharing that all three do, taking small bites from the other two desserts.  “Now that I have tried all three, I can definitely say that the key lime is the best.”  Grace tries to wipe away some sticky toffee from where it threatens to drip from her chin to where her perky breasts are pushing out the fabric of her sundress, apparently missing a drop or two but does not seem to notice as she is too busy laughing at one of Al’s jokes, for which she seems to be developing a liking for.
The walk about in the garden finds favour with everyone and the women let Al escort them along the path and over the small pond.  While on the bridge, Alyce pulls Grace over and places a finger on her breast.  “You missed a spot or two of toffee.  May I?”
Grace blushes a bit and bites her lower lip even as she nods.  Alyce dips her head to the top of the left breast and lets her tongue lazily brush down the exposed flesh, licking up the two small drops of toffee.  Grace closes her eyes and lifts her face a bit and Alyce can feel the heart rhythm of the other woman pick up and her breathing go shallow.  As her tongue reaches the edge of the fabric it gently pushes under it, reaching for the barely concealed areola and nipple, eliciting a soft moan then a gasp from Grace, who thrusts out a hand to grab onto Al’s jacket to keep her balance.  Finished, Alyce allows her tongue to trace its way back to the woman’s neck before standing away from her.  Grace’s eye remain shut for a few additional seconds then she looks back at Alyce with eyes like saucers.  “Wow.  Just bloody wow.”  She shakes her head as she shakily moves back over to Al’s arm.
The inner path intersects with the outer path at several places and Al guides the women to it at one point.  At various spots, the path narrows and tree branches cause one to duck to move past them.  Al is treated to a very nice sight of the posterior of both women each time and he is pretty sure that someone at two of the other VIP tables gets pretty much the same treat, albeit slightly concealed by the tall grasses that give each booth a bit of privacy.  They do pass one other couple taking a stroll around the outer path, trading pleasantries, and Al is pretty sure that he spies a young woman in one of the almost hidden booths with her head bobbing in the lap of an older gentleman.  The man catches Al’s eye and nods before putting a hand on the girl’s head and pushing down gently.  There is no doubt that Alyce sees this on her ultrasound sensor and Grace shakes her head as they pass the table, an indication that she has noticed something as well.
As they reach their booth on the path, they see that the waiter has placed the cheese board on the table and refilled the girls’ wine glasses and brought another beer for Al.  Al slides in after Grace so that he is back in the middle and all enjoy the fine cheeses presented.  After they finish, the waiter appears almost as if out of thin air to enquire if he can bring them anything else.  When Al indicates no, the waiter slips him a small chit to sign and Al does so with a small flourish, adding a sizable tip for the excellent service.  Grace looks over to Al and says, “Thank you so very much for the dinner……….and everything else.  I really had no idea that there were such nice people as you about.  This has been a magical evening.”
Alyce looks at Al then at Grace.  “I see no reason to call it a night yet, do you, Al?  There is a nice walk near the waterfront where we can see the lights of the castle across the inlet and I was thinking that Grace might want to see some of your card tricks.  He really is quite good with a deck of cards and I am sure that he would appreciate a new audience.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-18-17/0633:15>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

The walk down to the water was well worth their trouble. Even late into the evening the antique and curio shops were open, boutique toy stores and vintage map vendors alongside nautical history specialty houses and local galleries, with plenty of clothing shops, each with its own distinct flavor. The cobbled streets were busy with strolling couples and small groups, but by no means crowded, and lined with old-fashioned gelato and crepe stands, and clever street performers.

The ladies stopped in more than one apparel shop - Alyce sensed that Grace was concerned she'd packed for neither boating nor riding, and swooped to her rescue with her bottomless credstick, all without the slightest hint of inconvenience or obligation. Not a fan of clothes shopping, Al lurked on the street or browsed military memorabilia shops. Though he checked in on their fashion efforts from time to time.

It was a warm evening, so the girls were not uncomfortable in their abbreviated frocks, and a light breeze wafting through their hair lent a magical quality to the giddy glow they were already sporting.

By the water, they could indeed see the castle across the inlet. They stopped and leaned on the railing, and Al said, "Ya know ladies, they's a story - well, a legend, really - 'bout ol' Dartmouth Keep. They say if ya gaze long 'nuff at the topmost window in the east tower under a full moon an' at low tide, which wonder o' wonders, we got tonight, then ya can make a wish. Now, that ain't true, o' course, 'specially since ol' Al jist done tried it an' no beer appeared in my hand. But ya know how it is, with the Awakenin' an' all, scholars all tryin' to prove the old tales really were true, jist a matter o' mana levels an' some such Satanist nonsense. But I hear tell that with Dartmouth, jist a wee bit o' the ol' wishin' magic done come back. Jist a smidgen, mind. Nothin' really useful, jist a little taste o' what might be, Baalzebub's hold on this world grows any tighter. Fer instance, I heard that if ya wish fer, say, a particular card.....whyn't ya name a card for me there, young mistress Grace?"

She licked her lips, eyes alight. "Okay, six of clubs."

"Alrighty then, good a card as any. But din't ya listen ta ol' Al? Ya gotta gaze up at the window like I showed ya, there, an' concentrate on yer card...there, ya done it?"

"Yes." She was looking at his hands expectantly, but he left one on the railing, and the other on Alyce's shoulder.

"Well, lookee there, seems the story's true. Yer wish done come true."

She looked puzzled. "How?"

"Card's right there, li'l darlin;. Bein' a gentleman, ol' Al can't very well fetch it for ya, but I'll allow its in a place I spent a fair part o' the evenin' studyin'."

Grace followed his gaze down and there, nestled smartly in her cleavage, was a card.

"Six o' clubs?" Al asked.

She snatched at the card in gleeful shock, but then her lips twisted in amused surprise. "No, Al....It's a Joker."

"Sheee-it, that ol' fool. Always tryin' ta make ol' Al look bad. Now what he means is that ol' Al's full o' mischief. That's what a Joker's all about, I reckon we can agree. Now, one bit o' mischief I been thinkin' of all night, has been gettin' into dear Alyce's dress here."

Al took off his jacket. "Hold this, li'l darlin'," he said, handing it to Grace, now wearing only his yellowing wifebeater. And then, careful not to expose her to the eyes of passersby, Al put his hand up Alyce's dress.

"Hmmm..." She sucked breath sharply through her teeth. "Nope, not there." He explored a bit more, eliciting a surprised gasp. "Damn, not there either. Where is that pesky thing?" Removing his hand from under the hem of her dress, he faced her toward the water and stood behind her, reaching around to search for the card under the top half of the frock. "Hell's Bells," His explorations brought more distress to Alyce as Grace looked on and giggled hysterically, delighted to see her mentor-in-crime finally in the hot seat herself. She doubted Alyce was embarrassed, but it was clear she was being mercilessly teased.

Finally giving up on his search of her bust, Al scratched his head in dismay and then, "Oh ho!" And he plucked a card from her ponytail. "How do like them apples? Seems there was never no need ta act so improperly after all." Handing it to Grace, he said, "One o' the only things Blind Fury here can't do," clearly referring to reading the card face.

"Bloody hell, six of clubs!" the blond girl shrieked.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-18-17/1313:15>
Alyce enjoys a good card trick, but this one is one of the best she has seen in a long time.  It has been over eight years since Al has touched her body like this and she shivers in delight and anticipation as his fingers first caress her.  The slight gasp at the light touch turns into soft pants as his fingers gently probes inside her for the card and her hips move almost of their own accord to bury him a bit deeper.  The sexual tension that has been building in her all night threatens to erupt from her and his fingers are well lubricated when he pulls them back out, eliciting a soft moan from her.  She leans against his body when he moves behind her and places his hands inside the dress to gently massage her breasts.  Her already hard nipples are extremely sensitive and she sighs at the gentle touch, mentally willing him to not stop.  Of course, she does not have any sort of mind control super powers and he removes his hands only to find the damned bloody card in her hair.  It takes all of her willpower to not turn around and rip her dress off, begging him to continue touching her.

Grace is mesmerized.  Her initial reaction at the slight discomfort Alyce was feeling quickly turns into something else.  Although she cannot see everything in the dim light, she does not have to to know what he is doing under the frock.  Her own breathing gets a bit raspy as she begins to softly pant in unison with the Keeb, almost wishing he were touching HER body that way.  Alright, there is no almost wishing here; she does wish he would touch her body that way.  Her past sexual experiences have never had her reacting in the manner that Alyce is now and the man is only using a couple of fingers.  She is absolutely fascinated by Alyce's reactions as the man reaches under the upper part of the sundress and her own breasts ache so much for his touch that she moves her hands without really thinking about it, using one to caresses them through the thin fabric of her own dress wile the other touches the wetness between her legs.  Al breaks the moment by finding the damned bloody card and she drops her hands to her sides in an almost embarrassed manner, hoping that no one has seen her touching herself.  She looks from the card to Alyce's face and sees the older woman turn her face to hers and lick her lips and Grace blushes as she is sure that the Elven beauty has actually noticed everything.  The blushes grow deeper when she realizes that she actually does not mind as much as she should.

Al, ever the gentleman, allows the two women to calm down before suggesting that they move on.  Grace hands him his old jacket and takes an offered arm as Alyce takes the other.  The rest of the walk is pretty much a blur.  Grace knows that she responds to questions but for the life of her cannot seem to remember any of the conversation beyond the barest amount.  Her mind is occupied as strange, almost taboo thoughts whip about.  My God!  Who are these people and what have I gotten myself into?  I should not be doing this.  Any of this.  This is supposed to be a bloody job, not some sort of existential experience out of a porn trid, and yet here I am, wanting one or both of my erstwhile clients to touch me.  Alright, who am I kidding; I want them to shag me into insensibility.  How did it get to this and do I even really care?  Hell bloody no, I don't give a fig.  What I care is that it not end in complete frustration.

Al guides the women along the walk, heading back to the hotel.  After the first couple of questions, it is obvious that Grace is not really paying attention and they stick to talking mostly between themselves.  Alyce worries a bit that she has gone to far with the young woman, but instinctively feels that she has gotten closer to Grace than she has to anyone but Al in a long time.  That in itself disturbs her a bit, but she does not want to stop and hopes that Grace does not want that as well.  The night doorman greets the three and casts very admiring looks at the women as they climb the stairs to the entrance.  He sighs a bit and wishes that her were as lucky as the man between the beauties.

As the three exit the lift on their floor, Alyce gently urges Al to the door to her room, which sits between the other two.  Once inside, she closes and locks the door and moves to the foot of the large bed.  Once there, she turns and removes her dress in a sensual manner guaranteed to increase sexual desire in those watching her.  Grace stares, letting thoughts run through her mind that before tonight would have been quickly chased away but now seem completely normal.  She shudders when Alyce is finished removing the simple cloth dress.  She has seen the woman naked earlier in the day, but things are a bit different.  She opens her mouth and closes it twice before being able to speak.  "Holy bloody hell.  Is that something you just know or can you teach me how to do it?"

Alyce laughs, and even her laugh seems sensuous, but she motions for Grace to come to her.  "I have been taking my clothes off for others to enjoy for a long time.  It is indeed something that I can teach you, but it would take lots of practice.  Come here and let's try to get Al's elephant back into that oak ax handle condition it was in earlier."

Alyce guides Grace through removing the dress, using her hands to guide the young woman's body into a couple of different poses.  She stands naked as she has Grace remove the dress and put it back on several times.  Grace quickly loses any embarrassment at being naked in front of Al and manages to do a reasonably sensuous strip tease.  Her skin has almost melted where Alyce has touched her and her breathing is far from normal by the time Alyce judges her motion as well done.  Alyce moves to stand behind Grace and uses a hand to point the girl's face at where Al is standing and trying to get into a more comfortable position.  "See?  I think we succeeded, don't you?"

Grace nods, mesmerized and bit astonished at the size of the rather obvious bulge in Al's trousers.  "Oh, yes, I would think that we have succeeded rather bloody well."

Alyce sits down on the bed and pats beside her.  "Come on, sit next to me."  She turns her face to Al.  "Alright, Al.  You now have a very appreciative audience.  Why don't you show us some more card tricks?"

Despite herself, Grace licks her lips and nods in agreement.  Maybe he will search her for the card this time.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-18-17/2004:03>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Al had seen a lot of things in his life, including Alyce seducing two different women before his eyes. But this was different, and he was mesmerized. He finally spoke, scratching the stubble on his face. "Holy frijoles, that's jist a bit more'n I bargained for. Heh. Looks like Alyce told ya 'bout the room dress code. Well, Grace, that takes guts, so I reckon ya earned yer card trick."

He took his jacket and boots off, opened the adjoining door and tossed them into his room, then took out his cards. "Jist a quick one - been a helluva day."

They sat side by side on the bed watching him intently as he shuffled the cards in one-hand. Grace was clearly excited but uncomfortable - she wasn't deliberate covering anything, but she sat with her knees together and her arms in such a way that afforded a tiny modicum of modesty. Alyce, on the other hand, was sitting in a rather more suggestive pose.

He asked Alyce to name a card, and she said nine of diamonds. He shrugged, shuffled the cards in the one hand again, and again, still standing in front of them, and held the deck out in front of himself. Turned it over to face them and there was the nine of diamonds. Grace, remembering that Alyce could not read the card, whispered to her that it was the card. They started to laugh and applaud, but he held up a finger. He removed the card and handed it to Grace. Then shuffled the deck a few more times. Took the card back from Grace. Then tossed it into the air, flipping it expertly so that it shot up almost to the room's high ceiling, then held out the deck and caught the card in the deck itself, so that it was half protruding, face towards them, though the rest of the deck was back to them.

Then he handed the deck to Grace. "All right darlin', now very carefully remove the cards above an' below where the nine o' diamonds is stickin' out. That's it, keep takin' away cards till yer left with jist the nine there an' the two cards next to it, top an' bottom....There, ya got five cards, now, with the nine showin'. Now, take the two cards on top of it an' look at 'em."

Grace did so. "Oh my...they're the seven and eight...of diamonds."

"Now the two on the bottom, naked kemo sabe...reckon ya can guess what's comin'..."

And on turning over the other two, Alyce didn't have to be told. "Seriously, Al? The ten and jack of diamonds?"

"Noooo way," laughed Grace.

Al collected the cards. "How 'bout one last drink fer you two lovelies afore ol' Al hits the sack. An' I don't mind admittin' I'm makin' the time for it so's I can take in the scenery."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-18-17/2104:46>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Alyce gets off the bed and walks over to the mini bar, motioning for Grace to come with her.  The younger woman had lost some of her reticence during the card tricks and blushed only a little bit as Al's eyes follower her movements.  When they get to the bar, she leans over and whispers to Alyce.  "So, is it like this all the time?  I mean, you naked and..............?"

Alyce nods.  "Yes, but it does get a bit more exciting if someone comes to the door.  Al like to order room service so that he can allow the bell staff to look at me, too?"

Grace gasps and pales.  "Bloody hell, you say.  I don't think I could do that.  Letting others see me.  My father would just die."

Alyce smiles then places a hand behind Grace's neck, pulling her head close enough to kiss her.  The girl is startled and gives an attempt to move away, but it is not a truly serious attempt and her struggle lessens with each second of contact.  Soon, she opens her lips to the pressure of Alyce's tongue as it probes for greater access.  Alyce moans softly into Grace's mouth, setting off a chain reaction in the girl. "Holy shit.  This feels fragging awesome.  Am I a lesbian and just never knew it?  Or bi?  Frag, I don't know and I am not sure if I care." 

Once the kiss is completed and the women break apart, Alyce pats Grace on the arm.  "If you are interested enough, you can do anything, even allow perfect strangers look at your naked body."

Alyce gives Grace her drink and takes one back to Al, who is standing near her bed.  She hands him his drink and softly says, "You do not have to leave tonight, Al.  You know that, right?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-18-17/2155:11>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Al chuckled from his seat, beer in one hand, cigarette in the other. "Well, do an' I don't. But I reckon that's an offer needs young Grace's sign-off..."

The blond bit her lip and just shrugged shyly.

The last thing Al wanted to do was hurt the girl. He got up and approached her. He grabbed her ass with one hand and a breast in the other and kissed her softly. Just for a moment. "That's ta let ya know it ain't you," he told her quietly.

Then he went to Alyce and kissed her long and deep, pressing his body against hers.

At the adjoining door, he said, "You girls jist stay up an' chat as long as ya like. Don't mind ol' Al's snores. Reckon I'll be by inna mornin'...have some breakfast brought in."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-19-17/0208:28>
Friday, August 1st, 2076

Grace stands frozen in place for a few seconds after Al leaves the room.  She can still feel the impression of his hands on her body and his lips against hers and part of her shivers uncontrollably.  Alyce notices the movement and nods.  "He is like that, you know.  Al Guthrie."

Grace walks over to the bed and sits on the edge.  "I am not sure whether to be pleased or hurt.  There was so much innuendo and.......and I thought promise.  I was steeling myself to have him shag me and I was trying to figure out if I want that or not."

Alyce shakes her head.  "No, you have to be honest with yourself.  You do want him to bed you, don't you?"

Grace looks at the Keeb with large eyes.  "Ye.....Yes.  I suppose I do.  Does that make me a horrible person?  To want to shag your man?  Do I......?"

Her last question trails off without being finished but Alyce nods.  "I understand some of what you are going through.  Understand this first of all; I am not jealous.  I would be happy to have Al make love to any woman.  I want him to be happy.  I love him so much that it hurts and I would gladly let him be with anyone if that made him happy.  I know that he loves me, but he will not bed me.  There is something going on inside of him that he will not talk about.  He keeps saying that he will when it is time, and I think he has come closer to saying it on this trip than he ever has before.  Maybe by the end of the three weeks.  But if not, I will continue to wait for him to be able to talk to me so I can try to convince him that all of his arguments will not stop me from loving him."

She pauses then continues.  "So get it out of your head that anything is your fault.  I can tell that he likes you very much.  A good bit of you being with us was at his invitation and I appreciate what you have done in order to remain here.  I half feared and expected that you would be running for the door when I first told you what I would like you to do.  He is very right, you are far more than a hire car driver to us and I hope that we do not treat you as that."

Grace blinks and says, "Wow.  That was a talk.  And I was thinking some of the things you said not to worry about."  She motions to the connecting door leading to Al's room.  "It was just that I had some thoughts of how the night would end and............and that did not happen.  Now I am a bit confused."

Alyce moves to sit on the bed next to Grace and uses a hand to brush a stray hair back in place.  "It does not have to be a completely empty night.  Not if you don't want it to be."

Grace's eyes widen again and her breathing gets a bit more rapid.  "Do you mean.....?"

Her words are cut off as Alyce leans into her and begins kissing her.


Alyce is up early, awakened by her internal alarm.  She can hear the soft breathing of the woman in bed with her and smiles.  For someone who had never bedded a woman before, Grace had proven to be a very fast learner.  Both women had been worn out before dropping off to sleep.  Alyce's overly sensitive nose easily picks up the odors of the musk from both women and she slips out of bed to go to the bathroom.  Toilet done, she steps into the shower as she confirms that breakfast will be delivered in about twenty minutes.  Body clean, hair clean, and teeth clean, Alyce walks out into the bedroom just as someone knocks on the door.  The small drone Alyce had placed just outside the door lets her know that a hotel bellman was delivering breakfast.  She pads over to the door and opens it as Grace stirs.  The bellman cannot believe his eyes as he drinks in the form of the naked woman in the doorway.  She steps aside to usher him in and he is rewarded by a quick glimpse of an equally naked Grace sitting up in the bed before she yelps and flings a sheet over her body.  Alyce grins at the man and signs the chit he presents and watches as he leaves the room.

Turning back to the bed, Alyce laughs.  "You can come out now.  The poor man is gone.  You will have to stop trying to hide that delicious body of yours.  Get up and shower while I get Al"

Grace nods and tosses the sheet back before running to the bathroom.  Alyce opens the connecting door and finds Al nearly dressed.  Of course, it does not need much, but her heart still stutters a beat or two to see him there.  "Breakfast has come.  Grace is in the shower.."

Al smiles at her and comes over to take her hand and go to where the breakfast cart is set up.  The noise of the shower cuts off and Grace comes out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel.  Alyce shakes her head and Grace stops.  She pauses, as if a bit unsure then barely blushes at all as she drops the towel and comes to sit down at the table.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-20-17/0815:35>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

After the previous evening's feast, Al wasn't extraordinarily hungry. He downed some eggs and a few rashers of bacon, sipped a bit of coffee, and grabbed a beer to go.

"Alyce, yer a vision this mornin'. An' Grace, real glad you consented ta accompany us today. Now, we wanna git outta the inlet with the tide, an' that means you lovely ladies need ta be down ta Pier 23 in an hour. Ol' Al's goin' down now - only seen the digital walk-through, an' I never take a boat out sans my own inspection fer seaworthiness. See ya down there."

They had rented a thirty-eight-foot Samufani Sea Lion cabin cruiser called the Meanderer. She was no speedboat, but the foredeck was clean would be a good place if the ladies were the lie-in-the-sun types (incomprehensible to Al, but he knew some females, and even a few girlie-man types, went for that), and there was a small bar and sunken seating area aft. The cabin was well-provisioned for a gourmet lunch, and all the mechanicals and hull were in the excellent condition advertised.

Apropos her name, they had nowhere special to go in her, but Al was looking forward to being on the water in something smaller than a minor village, and planned to take her out at least twenty miles, just to get a taste of being out of sight of land.

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-20-17/1037:28>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Al had given them an hour, but Alyce and Grace show up at the pier in thirty-five minutes, ready to board the cabin cruiser.  They had left almost immediately after Al had and had descended in the lift to the hotel shops to look for appropriate clothing, finding some very cute shorts and blouse combinations.  They had worn their new purchases from the store and walked the short distance to the pier.  The shorts showed off the toned legs of both women and they had garnered some double and triple takes from the men they had passed and more than a few whistles.  Arriving at the gangway to the Meanderer, they see Al on the aft deck and Alyce calls out to him.  "Hey, Al, we alone on this trip or is there a crew?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-20-17/1048:19>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

"Welcome aboard, ladies. Don't reckon ol' Al needs a crew ta handle this little skiff. Jist relax yerselves an' I'll have us onna water lickety-split."

Cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, released the aft mooring, walked along the wooden marina planking and untied fore, then took a long step back onto the deck.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-20-17/1111:18>
Alyce and Grace go aboard and smile at Al as he admires their legs.  He goes through the motions of getting the vessel away from the pier as the ladies take a quick tour.  The sunken seating section at the aft is nice and both of them mention to each other how the foredeck is perfect for sunning.  Below the deck is a nice cabin with a small galley and they ooh a bit over the spread arranged for them.  Forward of the sitting cabin is a small bunk room, presumably for trips that take more than a day.............or in case someone needs a bit of privacy. 

While below, they feel the surge of the powerful engines and both reach out to grab onto something to keep from staggering.  Laughing, they return to the deck and watch the town disappear behind them.  There is some sea spray as the boat moves quickly through the swells and it is soon quite apparent to any observer that neither girl is wearing anything under their blouses.  Alyce leads Grace back to the sunken seating area and fetches both of them a lemonade from the well stocked bar before sitting on a comfy cushion next to Grace, putting her bag down and feeling the water slip by.  Grace casts a look at the receding shore and looks back to Alyce with a slightly worried grin.  "He does know what he is doing, right?"

Alyce smiles broadly.  "Don't worry.  He is Al Guthrie and he always knows what he is doing.  From the stories he has told me, he is more than capable of handling this boat.  Sit back and relax."

The sun is warming and as soon as Al gets the boat past the harbor and gets it to settle down, Alyce removes her clothing and digs a bottle of sun tan lotion from the bag at her feet.  "Lotion me up?"

Soon both girls are rubbing lotion on each other and some of the touches are more than platonic, leaving both almost to the point of showing complete disregard for propriety.  Certainly they are both breathing harder by the time they sit back and let the sun work its miracle on them.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-20-17/1257:58>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Al spent an hour on the bridge taking the boat out of sight of land and into a nice gap between the main outbound shipping lanes. Not that they'd be fully out of sight of the passing maritime traffic, but it would be a bit quieter.

Behind him, the girls were having right time of it but at least he could concentrate on the ocean ahead. He was glad Alyce had found herself a new dear friend - it made him less depressed about things.

It also made it damned hard to concentrate. Especially when they moved to the foredeck and stretched themselves out for a nice sunning and  chat....

Warm day or not, the Atlantic waters were cold, which was exactly what he needed. Having wieghed anchor, he'd gone to the afterdeck without a word and stripped, then just dropped into the waves - sort of a reverse birthing, a hippie might call it.

He didn't go far, in case the landlubbers needed anything, just stayed under the surface for a good long while, letting his internal air supply oxygenate his lungs as he watched the sunlight wend its way through the shifting currents and schools of drab silvery gray cold-water fish.

The more fun the trip got, the more he felt the need to step back and think about things. And Alyce, bless her, had a way of keeping things very fun indeed. He'd spent a good part of the previous evening lying on his bed, Ozark Catastrophe in his earbuds, sifting through all the ethical variables and spiritual conundrums. He'd arranged things out, lying there staring at the ceiling after his ice-cold shower, making lists of pros and cons and then mentally crumpling them up and throwing them out. He tried just letting all the data wash over his consciousness in the woman way of thinking, tried to just feel an answer. Even less luck at finding an answer.

Well, plenty of answers - just none good.

He needed more data, the data he hadn't gotten earlier because of Alyce's relationship-martyr thing. Maybe after Grace was gone. Nice girl, but so very beside the point....
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-20-17/1707:51>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

While Al was occupied with getting the boat into deeper water, Alyce and Grace had shucked their clothes and applied oil to each other before walking to the front portion of the deck and laying down on towels.  The 800 pound gorilla on the deck is what had happened the previous evening and Grace seems a bit reluctant to get into a discussion of what she had done.  Alyce lets things brew for a half hour then rolls over to face the young woman.
“Grace, it seems that you are talking about everything except what you really want to talk about.  Come, we are both adults.  What do you need to let out?”
Grace looks at the Keeb and gulps a couple of times.  She blushes a bit as her eyes roam down Alyce’s body and hers reacts in an extremely maddening manner.  In the light of day, she is a bit uncomfortable with how she had behaved in the evening and a lot uncomfortable with what she had done in bed with Alyce.  She is even a bit uncomfortable with the present situation, knowing that not only Al, but everyone else that passes by them can see her naked body, even if she is laying on her stomach.  After all, good girls just don’t do these things and she has been raised to be just that; a good girl.  Her mind is warring with itself on just why she is doing this.  It is not like these people are forcing her to act the role of a tart, but on the other hand, she has never felt so alive in her life.  It is all so very bloody confusing.  Finally, she takes a deep breath and says, “I am not sure I should be here.”
Alyce sighs as she hears what she had wonders was the problem.  “Here with us on the boat or here with us on the boat naked?”
“Uh, a bit of both, actually.  I am so bloody confused at what is happening.  Yesterday I was simply working a job as a hire car driver and today I am the girl that was very nearly naked in a public restaurant, who was truly naked in the room of her clients, who went to be with another woman for the first time in my life, and who is laying naked on a boat deck where the client and anyone with a nice set of binocs can see me.  This is not me………or, rather, is not the me I was raised to be.”
Alyce nods.  “Were you uncomfortable at the restaurant, or in the room, or in the bed?”
Grace blushes even more.  “Hell no.  I loved it.  I felt so………………so liberated and free of the fetters of my upbringing.  I actually enjoyed the sense that men were looking at me and trying to see up the frock to get a look at my………well, at me.  And I almost did not notice that I was naked when Al was in the room.  And, most of all, I have never experienced or enjoyed sex as much as I did with you.  That was simply amazing and I don’t know if I…………if I am now a lesbian or bi or what.  And it is all so very confusing.”
Alyce puts a hand on Grace’s arm.  The girls blushes a bit more but does not pull away.  “See?  Just like that.  My mind is telling me that I should be pulling away, but all my body and heart want to do is lean over and kiss you.”
Alyce smiles.  “I am certainly not going to stop you if you want to do that, but I do understand what you are saying.  About forty years ago I was in a similar place in life.  I was raised to be a “good” girl and my first and only sexual experiences were with the man I was going to marry.  Sex was not even in the equation until after I got an engagement ring on my finger.  Looking back, he was barely adequate in bed, but I did not have the experience to know differently and so was quite happy.  My life changed a lot in the period of one evening, just as yours has, but my experience was rather violent.  The story itself is not really meant for now, but the effect is.  I might have lost my mind over the things I did to survive and get justice for what was done to me.  For a while I became a total tramp, even working in a strip club and prostituting myself.  I told myself at the time that I was doing it all for a reason and that I would probably kill myself after it was all over.  Fortunately, my mind took a different tack and I realized that I could either be horribly angry with myself and feel abused enough to end it all, or I could learn to live with myself and be comfortable in my skin.  I chose the latter and embraced who I had become.  Now you get to make the same choice.  You can look back on these two days with regret and hate us and hate yourself for doing these things and go back to being the “good” girl you were raised to be.  Or you can embrace the real you that you have now discovered and learn to be comfortable with that.  The choice is ultimately yours to make and, really, only you can make it.  Before you get too wound up, though, I think that you should ask yourself if what you have experienced was good.”
Grace frowns at Alyce’s words and is a bit shocked at first.  By the time Alyce finishes, though, she has given some thought to what the Elf has said and nods.  “Fair enough, and well said, Alyce.  It certainly gives me something to think about.  Thank you.  I hope that it was not hard to talk about your past?  I assume that you did not get married?”
Alyce nods slowly.  “Yes. My fiancée was killed after watching his assassin rape me.  The road to justice took several years and much pain, but it was ultimately very much worth it to me.  That man is one of the few people that I have personally killed in my life and I have to admit that I took a long time doing it, inflicting an extreme amount of pain over that time, and that it was extremely satisfying when it was over.  I suppose that makes me a bad person, too, but I have come to live with that as well as everything else I have done since.  I have very few regrets in life, and killing him is certainly not one of them.”
Grace shakes her head as she tries to imagine Alyce killing anyone but cannot.  “Anyway, you have given me lots to think over.  I hope that you will be patient with me.”
“As patient as I need to be, dear Grace.  You will come to a decision in your own time, and I am a patient woman.”
Grace goes silent as she tries to digest what has been said and is still in a thinking mode when Al stops the boat and anchors it.  Both women hear Al dive into the water from the aft deck.  Grace sits up and looks about before standing.  “Come on, lets dive in.”
Alyce shakes her head.  “No thank you.  I have found that oceans and Alyce do not get along very well.  I am actually doing quite well enough to just be on such a small boat in such a bloody great amount of water and being out of sight of land is giving me the shakes.  I can barely float and cannot really swim at all.  Go ahead if you like.”
Grace smiles and nods before diving over the bow of the boat and disappearing under the water.  She loves the water and swims like a fish, seeming to be able to hold her breath for an inordinate amount of time.  She quickly finds Al under the water and gives him a thumbs up before diving on past him.  As unreal as it might sound, Al is almost certain that he saw some small bubbles floating up from a couple of small slits on the side of her neck.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-20-17/1720:11>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Al's long underwater reverie was disturbed by Grace's appearance behind him. She swam a playful circle around him before giving him a cheerful thumbs up and diving deeper. He might have worried had he not seen the gills. A guy on the Troubleshooters had had those, only his were artificial. He suspected Grace was born with hers - damned Sixth World. He wondered if he'd be able to see them once they were out of the water.

She was either under for a long time or else simply had come up some distance from him, because he didn't see her until he got bored a couple of hours later and went up. The last twenty-four hours had helped him decide a couple of things - in fact solving what he called Problem Three. Which was some relief - while not the most fun option, it was one he could live with. But that had never been the biggest problem anyway, and figuring it out put him no closer to the other solutions. But he supposed it was something.

Climbing the ladder up to the afterdeck, he emerged dripping from the water to find his date and their new friend back in the cushioned conversation area having drinks and setting out lunch.

"Oh my gosh, Al..." Grace exclaimed, all shiny with sunblock, "...that's why you call it The Elephant!"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-20-17/1919:10>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

As Grace dives into the water, Alyce suddenly finds herself on her own.  On a small boat.  On the ocean.  With no land in sight.  The fear of drowning has always been primal with her.  She will go into water if others are around to help save her and has three times dove into water to save others.  It should be noted that on those occasions she had very little time to consider the options.  This time is different and she can feel the fear trying to take control of her, turning her into some sort of mindless idiot.  Being around others makes it easy to ignore the fear and push it back into the darker recesses of her mind, but now there is no one on the boat with her and her heart begins beating faster and faster and she curls up into a fetal position to try to protect herself.
Grace steps onto the boat first, rising at the rear where the water steps are and moving to the front, dripping water all along the way.  A strange noise is barely audible as she makes her way along the narrow decking next to the side of the cabin and she calls out.  “Alyce?  Are you alright?”
The only response is an odd gurgle and she races forward to find Alyce curled about herself on the towel, drool coming from her open mouth and her voice the source of the odd noise.  With years of experience on and in the water, Grace immediately recognizes what she is looking at, though she has only ever seen such a severe case once before.  She reaches out to touch Alyce and is immediately startled by two things; first, that the woman’s pulse indicates that her heart is beating at an incredible, and dangerous, rate; and second she barely catches movement as Alyce’s hand flicks in her general direction, the tip of her index finger opening and an almost invisible strand of……..something…….comes flowing out of it.  She dodges the strand of monowire and it strikes the railing on the side of the boat, slicing through the hard metal as if it were not there.  Afterwards, the strand lays on the deck, a glint in the sun really the only indicator of where it is.  Grace gasps as she realizes how close to death she had come and pays attention to where the two-metre length of wire is as she bends over her friend and lover.
Alyce’s skin is extremely pale and she is apparently in some sort of shock.  She realizes that a bad move on her part might cost her an arm or worse as she leans over Alyce and begins to treat her for shock, all the while talking to her to try to bring her down from the narrow precipice the Elven woman is teetering on.  She uses her body to warm Alyce and is horrified when she turns in her arms and threatens to drag the edge of the concealed whip across her back.  Grace’s words and closeness eventually begin to get through to Alyce, who calms down a bit, although it takes nearly twenty minutes to bring her around to a level of consciousness that allows speech.  Once Alyce appears a bit more stable, Grace rolls away from her, very mindful of the position of the monowhip.  She disappears aft at a run to bring some of the lemonade back out to Alyce, arriving in time to see her try to sit up.  The Elf looks at her with a smile then seems to notice her hand.  Terrified, she follows the line of the whip and cringes before returning it to her finger and closing the tip.  She looks at Grace and whispers, “Did I hurt you?”
Grace laughs as she settles back down next to Alyce and hands her the glass of lemonade.  “Are you kidding?  No one just gets hurt by something like that.  I would be dead or dying if it had hit me.  Fortunately for me, your aim sucks when you are unconscious.  Here, drink this and then we will go back to the aft deck and sit for a bit.”
Alyce takes the glass and drinks the lemonade in a single pull then allows Grace to help her to her feet.  She shambles to the rear of the boat and sits down heavily in the padded conversation pit.  Grace takes a seat next to her.  “OK, now perhaps you can start by telling me why you did not let me know about your little problem?”
Alyce gives a weak smile.  “Guess it is not so little, heh?  Truly, it has been a long time since I have been alone on the water like that and I had hoped I would be alright but even knowing that both of you were just a short distance away did not help and everything came crashing in on me.  I guess I am not as tough as I thought I was, but I am already feeling better now that you are back on board.”  She reaches out a hand to touch Grace.  “And nothing to Al, right?  He does not know and would be angry that I did not tell him.  I had hoped that I could handle it because he really wanted and needed this boat outing.  Please do not spoil it for him.”
Grace sits and thinks on the request for a minute then nods her head.  “Alright.  This time.  And now you know how you react and you will not have a next time, right?”
Alyce grimaces and nods.  “I will do my best to not be alone on the water again.  Promise.  Perhaps I should really invest in the time to get some swimming lessons and learn to get past my fear.”
Grace nods back.  “Perhaps, indeed.  Now, I expect that Al will be surfacing soon.  What say we distract ourselves with getting the luncheon ready for him?”
Alyce smiles and agrees with Grace and the two are busy setting lunch up when Al pulls himself out of the water.  Alyce is not quite herself yet, but she does hear Grace exclaim about the elephant and orients her sensors to get a better view as Al towels himself off then pulls on his boxers and jeans.  Grace blushes but does not look away as the man dresses in front of her.  After all, he has seen every part of her exterior and she is very interested in his.  She leans over to Alyce and softly says, “When he finally gets around to it, you will be very well treated by that thing.”
Instead of saying anything else to Alyce, Grace simply calls out that the luncheon is nearly ready then goes to get Al a beer from the stocked fridge, taking it to him.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-20-17/1930:18>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Al thanked Grace for the beer. By the time she handed it to him, he already had a Lucky Strike lit in his mouth, though she couldn't figure out where it had come from since she'd just seen his cigarettes and lighter next to the wheel on the bridge.

He sat down close to Alyce and wrapped an arm around her, allowing himself to enjoy the feel of her skin against his. Grace sat across from them and they tucked in, all hungry.

As they ate, Grace teased, "So Al, how come me and Alyce have to be sitting here buck naked, but you get to have your jeans on?"

Al answered carelessly around a mouthful of foie gras on sesame cracker. "This one's naked cuz that's how she prefers' cuz ol' Al apparently likes ta do some things the hard way. Yer choosin' ta be naked cuz...well...that'd really be fer you ta say, though I'd wager this one had a hand in' I sure ain't complainin'. Me, I'm wearin' jeans cuz I like wearin' jeans, an' cuz I ain't no damned nudist nature-boy."

He refilled the ladies' wine glasses and opened another beer for himself. Then he remembered to try to spot her gills, but couldn't see a thing. And though curious, figured it wouldn't be polite to pry. So he contented himself with obviously staring at her neck hoping she'd say something, all the while congratulating himself on his subtlety and sense of decorum.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-20-17/2358:43>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076
Alyce is quite happy indeed to be sitting next to Al and his arm around her is enough to chase all the demons away and put them back into the darkest parts of her mind.  She gives a contented sigh and realizes that she could live like this for a very long time.  Even on a boat.  Even so far from land.  As long as he is with her.
Grace watches the two and shakes her head softly, wondering if she will ever really find someone to share life with as these two so clearly can do.  Their love is not perfect, but maybe, just maybe, real love is not meant to be perfect.  She had thought she was in love twice now and she had been wrong both times.  If she is honest with herself, she is as close to being in love with Alyce as she would ever be with anyone, but nothing can really come of that unless Al allows it or dumps Alyce.  Her nostrils flare a little when she considers just what she would do to Al if he hurt Alyce that much then calms down as she realizes that the last thing that Alyce would want is for anyone to hurt Al.  Grace would just have to be available to pick up the pieces if the worst happens and she suddenly realizes just how Alyce must feel.  Her fork stops in its movement to her mouth as she has an epiphany-type moment and realizes that she would wait until it is her turn, just as Alyce is waiting for Al.  She laughs softly to herself and continues to eat.  Some poet somewhere must have written about such a love triangle as this is and she supposes that she is a true sap for believing in what she feels, but there it is.
The subject of pants comes up and Al’s response has Grace giving Alyce a sharp look then a smile as she realizes that Alyce had never said anything more than what Al had just said.  Grace had interpreted the words in her own way but in all honesty, she is extremely glad that she did.  Her life is very different but, in a strange sort of way,  incomparably better for having met these two, even if she never sees them again after this evening.  She laughs at herself and says, “Yes, I do like being naked in front of you and Alyce.  Not sure why, but it seems the way it should be.”  She lifts her wine glass to Al and Alyce and gives a small toast to them and their happiness.

She does notice that Al is staring at her and is lost for a reason.  Certainly it is not her body that entices him, as he has seen all of it before.  Something else........and the light bulb goes off above her head.  Smiling, she flexes her neck just a tiny bit and the gill slits open a small fraction of what they do under the water.  The pain of her body trying to suck water through the gills is more than enough to remind her why she never does this when out of the water.  She blushes at his look and bows her head slightly, half waiting for the "mutant" comments and hoping that he will not embarrass her too much.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-21-17/0726:21>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Girl knew how to take a hint. Curiousity satisfied for the moment, Al redirected his gaze to some of her other features, again making no attempt to hide his interest.

The conversation turned to the afternoon's ride. Grace assured them she had dealt with the stable she'd hired before, and that they provided excellent mounts for both seasoned and novice riders. Al was impressed that rather than ask them something useless like whether they could ride or not, she asked just the right, specific questions to get an idea of their respective abilities. "Alyce, they''ve got just the right animal for you - a chestnut mare named Cherry. Not exactly a mount for a novice, but someone with a bit more experience, though she won't let you fall. Al, sounds more like you should be riding Bunny."

"Bunny? Sheee-it, girl, ain't ya got a Firebrand or a Blitz or some such?"

"Don't let the name fool you, Al. The stable owner's daughter christened Bunny when she was five years old. But he's their only stallion, and they only hire him out to proven riders. I'll let them know."

She fetched her commlink and was on it for a few minutes. Al said to Alyce, "Yer girlfriend's got gills. Happens. Damned useful, hell, almost enviable. Almost. By the way, you okay leavin' tonight? Don't mind sayin' I'm right eager ta have ya all ta myself again, but two of ya need more time, we can always catch up ta the train later."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-21-17/0916:05>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

At Al's words, Alyce shifts her sensors to Grace but cannot "see" any gills so she just takes Al's word for it.  His other question brings her some pause, then she carefully considers her words.  "Is Grace a third wheel for you, Al?  A distraction?  If she is then I am all for leaving tonight.  I think that I have made a strong connection with her, probably more than anyone but you.  That being said, this was supposed to be a holiday for you and me and I am happy to keep it that way.  I want you to feel comfortable enough to talk to me, to work out in your head what it is you need to say to me.  So, yes, I am OK with getting on the train and leaving her at Land's End.  Is that what you want?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-21-17/0937:23>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

"Not a third wheel if things was simpler. Love havin' 'er around...though I'll allow she does make things, er, harder...pun intended. But ya wanna try workin' through some shit...well...we got two more weeks on this trip, few days won't make no difference, ya need ta git some yah-yahs out."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-21-17/0952:41>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Curious, Alyce put her hands under her breasts and lifted them up.  letting them go, she chuckled softly.  "I thought my yah-yahs were already out."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-21-17/1010:23>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

"That they are, toots, that they are. I mean, ya wanna git yer jollies, blow some foam off the top, release some pressure, unload the gun...I'll allow as ol' Al ain't been much of a date in certain respects..."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-21-17/1018:48>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Alyce leans closer to Al and whispers, "Are you finally offering to make love to me, Al Guthrie?  If you are, I will kick her off the boat and let her swim back.  I want the first time to be just you and me.  Unless having company would make it easier for you."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-21-17/1035:09>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

"Easier?...Criminy, tryin' ta be...dunno if ya can call it bein' a gentleman...tryin' ta be, uh, considerate o' yer not inconsiderable needs....ya got an itch ta scratch an' that means stickin' round here fer a few days with young Grace there...well then I'd unnerstand."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-21-17/1109:27>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Alyce sighs and places her head against Al's chest and murmurs.  "No, Al.  I do not not need to stay here for a few more days.  Thank you for thinking of me.  I am getting the feeling that you would like it to be just the two of us again, and that is fine with me." 

Grace has wandered off towards the front of the boat, leaving the two of them alone for a bit.  Alyce sits up a bit and puts a hand to Al's face.   "Al, how can I convince you that you are my life?  Anyone else is just a smaller part of that.  I like Grace very much and we are very close, but she can never replace you in my heart.  No one can.  She helps me fill a need for something you will not give me, but she cannot fill that empty space inside me......that space that I keep only for you to fill up."  She shakes her head before putting it back down on his chest.  "I can feel your heart beat, Al.  I wish it beat as hard for me as mine does for you.  I don't think that you truly understand what you do to me and I would love to take the rest of our lives to show you, but you do not seem to be interested.  I do wish that you would work through your issues with me and get it off your chest.  Just talk to me."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-21-17/1210:51>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

"Well shit, toots, that's what I come on this trip ta do. Three weeks jist the two of us holed up inna room with rotatin' scenery out the window. 'Cept we keep runnin' inta charmin' tour guides an' dear friends an' old caravan mates an' Vor bigshots an' even freakin' ghosts. Who'd o' thunk we's so freakin' popular, an' ol' Al not even in the sims yet? Time's right, an' I see a purpose to it, talkin'll come. Some things it might help. Some, maybe they's no point. Jury's out."

He gave her thigh a squeeze and stood up. "Reckon it's time ta weigh anchor, we gon' make the stables with any degree o' punctuality. Have us back ta shore in an hour."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-21-17/1648:47>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Alyce smiles as Al gets up to do whatever it is he needs to do to get the boat turned about and moving back to shore.  She feels much safer now than when she had been alone on the boat, but she can’t wait to get back in sight of land.  She sits on a soft cushion in the conversation pit, where she is soon joined by Grace.  Every time Al looks back at them, he sees them locked in some sort of discussion that seems to involve a lot of touching and some kissing.
As the boat gets closer to Falmouth, the women get dressed and return to their conversation, although with none of the kissing and lots less of the touching.  By the time Al expertly guides the boat back to the pier, Alyce is feeling much better.  She resists falling to the pier and giving thanks for arriving safely, but the urge is there.  Grace nods at Al as she gets to the pier decking.  “I will go get the car and come pick you guys up.  Be right back.”  With that, she turns and lopes off towards the land and the hotel.
Alyce stands, watching Grace go then puts an arm through one of Al’s.  “I hope that you enjoyed the boat trip.  We will have to do this again sometime.  Maybe just the two of us?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-21-17/1652:04>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

"Yeah, jist fer now, lotta two sounds real good. But we'll take yer girlfriend ta dinner this evenin', o' course, an' git back ta Land's End a bit early, at which point I can make myself scarce." There was no hint of annoyance or self-sacrifice in Al's voice. "Ya gotta unnerstand, toots, that jist cuz cavortin' with ever' Tom, Dick an' Mary ain't ol' Al's thing, I like ya jist how ya are."

They got in the car and enjoyed a quick drive up into the hills, arriving at a handsome farmhouse overlooking a green vale in the early afternoon. All was in readiness. Bunny's spirit did indeed put the lie to his unfortunate name, and Al enjoyed feeling the animal's energy beneath him. He held it in check, of course, as their goal was leisure rather than challenge. Grace proved an excellent equestrian as advertised, and Alyce's mount was gentle but just frisky enough to hold her own with the other two steeds. They spent a lovely couple of hours seeing the English countryside not off the beaten track but off any track at all, though they did not stay out too long lest Alyce get saddle sore.

Besides, there was dinner, still, and the drive back.

They had kept their rooms at the hotel so that the ladies would have a place to freshen up and dress for dinner, and as they turned the car over to the valet Grace told them she'd made arrangements for a particularly lovely dinner.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-21-17/1659:04>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Alyce enjoys the ride much more than she had liked the boat trip, but that is probably something that she will never tell Al.  She admits several times to being envious of Grace’s ability to sit a horse and she encourages the others to go on ahead when she realizes that both Al and Grace are holding back because of her.  Of course, both refuse to do that.  How typical.  When finished and back at the stable, Alyce rubs her butt.  “I guess I need more practice at doing this, too.  Maybe I can find someone to give me some private lessons?”
Grace laughs.  “You got it.  Call me whenever you get the urge and I can come over to see about a lesson.”
Back at the hotel, the girls share a shower and freshen up for Al.  Hands and lips are busy for a few minutes and the shower probably lasts a bit longer than it needs to to get them clean, but who is going to begrudge them a bit of private time?  After showering, they get dressed.  They still really only have the sundresses, but they look quite fine in them.  While waiting in the room for Al to come through the connecting door, Alyce moves closer to Grace.  “You are an amazing woman.  I intend to call you so please answer when I do.”
Grace melts into Alyce and replies, “I don’t think it is possible for me to ignore you.  I…..I…..well, let’s just say I will always be available, even if just to talk.  I have a feeling that you need that sometimes and I will be there when you call.”
The two lean in for a kiss and are still at it when Al comes through.  Grace breaks the kiss as Al asks about the dinner plans.  “Be patient, Al.  All in its time.  I think that you will be pleased.”
At that moment, someone knocks at the door.  Alyce looks at her drone feed and sees that there are seven hotel bellmen with three large food carts waiting in the corridor.  She turns to Grace, but the other woman is already headed for the door, opening it to stand aside for an older gentleman who must be one of the senior bell staff.  “Just in time, Francois, thank you.  You may set up over there, please.”
The man bows to Grace.  “Oui, mademoiselle.  Merci.”  The man moves into the room and guides the other men and the carts to various locations as one of the men unfolds a fancy linen tablecloth and places it on the table in the room.  Another places candlesticks on the cloth and lights the long candles as others place two settings of fine china and silverware on the table.  Confused, Alyce turns to Grace and finds her standing in the open door leading from the room.  “Grace?”
The woman smiles a bit crookedly and gives a small wave before leaving the room and closing the door behind her.  The bell captain bows to Alyce.  “Mademoiselle, my name is Fancois.  I am the captain of the serving staff here and I have been asked to provide you with the most romantic dinner you can have outside of Paris.  It will be my pleasure to make that happen for you.  I was told that mademoiselle has a particular style of dress that she prefers for occasions such as this?”
Alyce is still partly looking at the room door, expecting Grace to pop back in but knowing that she will not.  She turns her attention to the bell captain and nods before stripping her dress off over her head.  The men in the room would need to be statues to not look at her…………and they are not statues.  Alyce is treated to many long looks of appreciation and desire as she is escorted to the table and seated across from Al.  Francois offers her a bottle of wine for her approval and places a beer at Al’s arm.  Alyce’s meal is some sort of French masterpiece that really is hard to get unless the chef has trained under certain masters, and Al’s steak and potatoes is perfectly done to his taste.  The men remain in the room to provide refills on the drinks and switch courses of the meal.  Soft music is playing in the background and the men remain as unobtrusive as possible, but Al certainly notices where their eyes are every time one of them comes to the table for something.
Downstairs in the car park, Grace is sitting alone in the driver’s seat of the hire car.  Her head is bent over and tears are freely falling onto her legs.  “Damn you, Al Guthrie.  Damn you to all the hells for not seeing what is in front of you.  Can’t you see the pain you are causing her?  Can’t you see how much she loves you?  If she would love me like that I would be grabbing on and never letting her go.  Frag me, too.  God damn it.  What happened to me?  How could I fall so far so fast?  This was supposed to be a simple two-day drive and now look at me.  Frag it.”  She places her hands in front of her face and just sobs uncontrollably.  Her ‘link goes off with Alyce’s fifth attempt to call her but it goes to voice mail like the other ones.
Grace finally receives a call she does take.  It is from Francois to let her know that the meal is nearly done and Grace sends the acknowledgment and climbs out of the car to go into the hotel to use the bathroom off the lobby.  It will not do to show up at the room in the state she is in now.  Some cold water later and she looks into a mirror to see that her face is a wreck from the crying.  The woman using the next sink over smiles at her.  “Man troubles, dear?”
Grace looks at her and laughs.  “Sort of. That obvious, huh?”
“Dear, you have enough tracks on your face to let him know he got to you.  And your eyes tell your story.  Mind if I say something?”
Grace shakes her head and the woman continues.  “Never let ‘em see you down like that.  It just shows that they won.  Some men can be moved by tears but it will only change them for a few minutes and then they are back to being men again.  Here, I have something in my purse that will help.  Trust me, even us old hags have man problems once in a while.”  Grace gives her an odd look and sees that the woman is certainly not a hag nor is she really that old.  Her face is a bit careworn, but there is a sadly youthful glint in her eye. A simple but expensive looking dress adorned her slender form, topped by a tiny silver A as a pendant high on her throat. A small cluster of tiny black-eyed Susans served as a modest boutonniere. She nods at the question and her new companion smiles, removing a small sprayer from her purse and holding it out.
“Nothing dangerous here, dear, but it works wonders on faces like yours.  Clears up those tear tracks and red eyes and he will never know.  May I?”
Grace nods again and the woman spritzes her a few times and tells her to let it stay there for a minute before wiping it off.  Once done, the woman motions to the mirror and Grace looks, only to see that her face looks pristine.  If she had not known, she would say she had not been crying for the past hour and some minutes.  She smiles and thanks the woman, who hands her the bottle.  “Keep it, dear.  You might need it again and I can always get more.  I hope that he is worth it.”
Grace nods and smiles as the woman winks at her and leaves the bathroom.  Looking again at her reflection, Grace smiles and thinks, “Fragging right, she is worth it.  I guess I will be just as she is and wait.”  She gets a message from Francois that he is leaving the room and she lets him know that she will be right up.  She looks at the bill he has sent her and transfers the balance owed after the down payment and pales a bit at what the cost of the meal has done to her bank balance.  Still, she tells herself that it was worth every fragging nuyen, even if she will have to take care what she eats during the next term.  And no new shoes.  She smiles at the reflection again and leaves the room, taking the lift up and heading to the door to Alyce’s room.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-21-17/1705:36>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Dinner was a special kind of torture for Al - delicious and frustrating. Sublime and infuriating.

On the surface, there was both perfection and disappointment. The dinner was exquisite, the ambiance superb, and Grace’s gesture sublime. And Al had indeed been craving time alone with Alyce.

Except that it was wasted, since despite the professionalism of the service staff, they were hardly alone anyway. And they’d have much rather had Grace with them.

Al had grown quite fond of the girl, and knowing there were two more weeks and maybe much longer with Alyce, spending their last evening with Grace all together had been a no-brainer. And he knew for Alyce it was worse. He could often tell from her face when she was making commcalls on her headware…and she was making quite a few.

So lovely gesture wasted backwards and forwards. Like most lovely gestures, he reckoned.

But that was the least of it. Way down below the surface…holy shit, of course this would happen.

Al didn’t have many rules for himself, but the ones he made he kept. But it was one thing to not do something you knew you’d enjoy from your heart to the marrow of your bones. And it was quite another to have something happening you’d decided not to do, and then try not to enjoy it as it was happening.

A few hours ago, below the surface of the Atlantic, he’d looked at himself over the past few days. He’d thought about Alyce and her unique hobbies. And the way, to a limited extent, he’d let them rub off on himself. How he’d become an aider and abettor of her little exhibitionist streak, coming to crave the sight of her exposed to the hungry eyes of men. He’d let himself slide into it because what the hell, it was damned fun, and hoping it would give him a look inside the way she thought about sexuality…since that was obviously a core issue in her personality, her lifestyle, and their maybe-gonna-happen relationship.

But a few things had happened to make him decide it wasn’t for him. He didn’t mind what she did. Had no qualms about her continuing to live as she did. And while there were huge obstacles to them being together, that strangely was not one of them. Not now that he’d decided not to be a part of it himself.

But here and now, thanks to Grace’s utterly un-refusable gift, his angel was here, in all her naked, shameless glory, displaying her most private aspects without embarrassment or hesitation for a period of hours to not one or two but seven wide-eyed men.

And Al found it the hottest thing he’d ever experienced in his life.

He could control his actions, but trapped in this situation, he found it hopeless to control his reaction. And yet he felt honorbound to try.

So he concentrated on a perfectly prepared meal. Enjoyed sampling hers. Made small talk about all manner of things, which he loved to do with her; though of course nothing of real import could be said with their audience. He thoroughly savoured the sight of her flawless face, shoulders, and nipples in the candlelight. And he concentrated as hard as he could on the latest combat biker tournament he’d seen every time her breast swayed as she turned to accept a refilled glass from a lucky wine steward. Focused his mind on next season’s urban brawl line-up as she took his hand and swayed her heart-shaped ass past the staff toward the window to gaze at the harbor lights while they brought the next course. And ran down Tales episode lists in his head when she suddenly remembered something she wanted to show him in her bag, skipped bouncily across the room, and bent at the waist to retrieve it.

He didn’t know if she did it more for herself or because she knew he liked it, but the effect was the same either way. He quickly found out that the best memory of the greatest monster truck rally of all time was no match for the sight of Alyce Krait acting the harlot. He was bewitched and ensorcelled, plain and simple.

And so it was with both disappointment and relief that the long dinner drew to a close. As the staff cleared the last of the meal away, Al said, “Toots, that were a lovely meal in ever’ way imaginable. Don’t know what I’m gon’ do, way ya got ol’ Al atween a rock an’ a hard place. But wonderful as this evenin’, this day, this whole week’ve been, we got a problem, toots. This lovely thing that girl did, well, road ta hell an’ all that…she done made all three of us disappointed as hell by my reckonin’. An’ I ain’t gon’ feel right, we don’t take ‘er as far as Bristol with us. You an’ me, we’ll have plenty o’ time after that. Whaddaya say?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-21-17/1925:44>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Alyce has almost completely enjoyed the dinner.  Grace’s gift was touching and sweet and altogether lovely.  It was also a bit maddening and now she was surrounded by two maddening people; one she was desperately in love with and another that she was falling for all too quickly, even by her standards.  After all, there was room in her heart and in her life for only one Al Guthrie.  Gem and Lydia have special places, and Cali, who Alyce still refuses to believe is dead.  But is there room inside for Grace?  On retrospect, it is already too late to wonder about that and the woman is already there, taking a place somewhere below Al and above the others.  Frag, how is this going to work?
Alyce places five calls to Grace but all of them get routed to the same message.  >>Alyce, please enjoy the dinner and quit calling me.  I want your meal here to be special.  I can see that you and Al were truly made for each other.  I know that he loves you, even if he cannot say it.  I love you, too, and hope that you are happy.  You deserve it.<<  Alyce chuckles; the woman is better with the matrix than she had thought.  Alyce gives up on the calls after five times and settles in to enjoy the meal.
Certainly the attention she gets from the waiters is nice.  She can pick up the accelerated heart beats and breathing as one or another comes to the table for one reason or another.  She even makes slight adjustments in her seating to best show off her body as they look at her.  By the end of the meal, all seven men are left with enough material to fuel fantasies for a long time to come.  Alyce is careful to smile at all of them and even manages to brush the tip of a breast against a couple of arms.
When the meal is over and cleared away, Alyce motions to the bell captain and he comes to her side.  “Will you let me know what this cost so that……”
The man interrupts her.  “I am sorry, mademoiselle.  She said that you would do that and I am promised to not say anything.  This has been an exceptional opportunity and I thank you very much.  I hope that you allow us to serve you again should you decide to return to Falmouth.”  With that he turns and follows his crew out the door, shutting it behind them and leaving Al and Alyce alone.
She walks to the window and looks out at the harbor below and the lights from the vessels at anchor.  Al comes up behind her and puts an arm about her waist, pulling her in close.  She melts into the man and sighs.  “You know we are going to have to kill her, don’t you?”
Al chuckles from behind her as her closeness reminds the elephant just what it was thinking about earlier and it presses against the woman’s bare ass.  Alyce lazily reaches back and idly draws her hand along the length of the bulge then returns the hand to clasp Al’s arm snaking around her.  At Al’s invitation, she turns in his arms and faces him.  “Part of me is disappointed, but part of me wants to realize that she made the gesture for us and I do not want to make her feel badly for doing it.  I am certain that we can make it happen if you want to do this………..and if she wants to do this.”
Alyce’s drone feed from outside the door lets her know that Grace is approaching the room.  “Here is your chance, Al.  Grace is about to walk into the room.”
Indeed, at that moment they hear a key at the door and it opens as Grace walks in.  She smiles to see Al and Alyce in an embrace.  “Hey, you two, get a room.  Oh, yeah, this IS your room.  How was the dinner?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-21-17/1939:10>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Al had merely suggested bringing their new but dear friend with them for another couple of days. But the words with which Alyce acquiesced - "...if you want to do this...if she wants to do this..." - made him wonder if he was missing something. Certainly Alyce had an almost abnormal capacity to feel very strongly for someone very quickly - was Grace more than a scintillating new acquaintance and fleeting affair to her?

It was worth keeping an eye on.

But if so, all the more reason to bring girl - of all the problems Al was having forming a relationship with Alyce, fear of losing her was not among them, and one thing about her was that if she fell for someone else, he knew it would not dilute whatever would or would not happen between himself and her.

So here she was, just in time to barely get them back to Land's End to catch the train.

"Dinner was fuckin' amazin', li'l darlin'." He stepped over and hopped up to sit on the writing table. With Grace by the door in her barely-legal dress and Alyce naked by the floor-to-ceiling window, his move formed them into a perfect equilateral triangle. "Whole trip, really. Only thing could put a dent in an evenin' like this'd be sayin' adios ta you. So yer comin' with us onna train, least as far as Bristol, next couple days. See where that takes us. Only objection ya could make'd be that ya don't wanna, an' I don't imagine I'd believe that. Anythin' else's jist details, an' don't you doubt we got answers fer all o' them."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-21-17/2343:44>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Alyce nods at Grace as the young woman looks from one to the other of her companions.  "We really kind of need an answer pretty soon as we need to make arrangements for the train."

Grace stumbles over her words.  " that you....want me to travel with you?"  She turns to face Al.  "Al?"

Alyce nods as she raises her arms to let her dress slip back down over her body.  "It was his idea and he made the invitation to you.  So, what do you say."

Grace nods.  "Hell yes.  I was trying to tell myself I wasn't going to cry when I left you at the station, but of course that was a bloody lie.  At least now I can cry at the Bristol station.  You two are the most amazing people ever."

Alyce is moving to the closet, where she grabs her overnighter that is already packed and turns to Al, who comes up to take it from her.  She walks toward the door, stopping to face Grace and give her a kiss.  The presence of tongue in the kiss startles Grace, whose eyes fly open in surprise.  "Now, let's get moving or we will miss the train.  Will you have a problem with your job?"

Grace follows Alyce out the door and down the corridor to the lift.  "No, not really.  I was actually supposed to be off starting yesterday so that I could get everything ready to go back to school.  I just took this tour as a favor to the owner.  I can just drop the car off and be at the station in time.  Clothes............"

Alyce interrupts her.  "Clothes will be optional in the cabin and we will stop somewhere to get you something to wear to go out in when we leave the train to do some sight seeing."  She looks over her shoulder at Al, who is following close behind. "If we leave the train."

There are several people in the hotel lobby that seem to be just hanging about doing much of nothing when Alyce leaves the lift and her enhanced hearing picks up a few groans of disappointment.  Al tosses the overnighter into the boot of the car and Grace makes sure that everyone is buckled up then heads off down the road, back towards Lands End.  Alyce leans over to rest against Al and whispers, "Thank you, Al.  You're the best."

Halfway back, Alyce looks up and says, "Alright.  As suspected, no additional cabins on our car for the trip to Bristol, but I was able to get Grace into my cabin for the hop there, so that is settled for now.  Oh, and Al, I was checking on entertainment in Bristol and remembered what you said about the place.  There is a venue that seems to be the home to several psychobilly bands and they seem to play pretty much twenty-four hours a day.  Would you like to go there?"

From the front seat, Grace gives a squeal.  "Al, you're into psychobilly?  I knew there was something good about you.  Happens I know a bloke can get us tickets to Motion Bristol.  Should I try?"

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-22-17/0748:59>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

"Great minds thinkin' alike, li'l darlin'. Skinny Jimmies is playin' there tomorrow night, plus a new bunch a fellers I's had my eye on, The Zombicrats, openin' Was thinkin' ol' Al was gon' have ta pull somethin' nefarious ta git in, but if ya can git us in legit, more power to ya, girl."

Al was itching for a cigarette, but they didn't have time to stop. Still, he felt more at ease. There was something right about young Grace coming along, and while it threw an extra wrinkle or two into the relationship tangle, it also offered a further reprieve from uterine talk. Hell, the way these two were hitting it off - chatting back and forth as if they'd known each other for years - he might not have to talk much at all for the next few days.

The highway cut the base of the Lizard Peninsula toward Land's End, so the drive was not that long. They dropped off the car and walked a short distance to the train siding. It seemed a lot of the guests had made the most of the two-day stop, as quite a few familiar faces were also boarding the train just as they were.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-22-17/0939:34>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Grace actually manages to make one smoke break stop on the way back to Land's End, much to the relief of her passengers.  They dropped the car at the hire car office and she pushed the keys through the slot in the door.  Doing so was normal.  Walking to the train station and planning on getting aboard with a couple she had met the day before is not normal and she has to pinch herself to make sure it is not a dream.  Not for the first time does she wonder just what she is getting into and the answer is still "I don't fragging know but I want it so very bloody badly."

Alyce takes one of Al's arms and Grace the other as they join the queue getting back onto the train.  Some of the other passengers nod their heads at the trio and some give them odd looks but no one really says anything.  The official checking tickets seems aware of the change and welcomes Grace aboard with the others.  In the cabin, Grace looks about, noting the somewhat smallish size of the room and bed.  Going to it she turns and looks at the others.  "Comfy" is all she says before reaching for the hem of the short sundress and pulling it over her head.  She sits on the edge of the bed and watches hungrily as Alyce removes her own dress and joins her. 

Both women look at Al as if to ask "What next".
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-22-17/0951:29>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Al looked back at the two women. "Well, I ain't takin' my damned clothes off, if that's what yer thinkin'." He did remove his boots and jacket, tossing them through the open door into his adjoining room. "I was usin' this trip ta catch up on my trid 'till I realized poster-child-fer-the-diff'rently-abled here is blind, so now that seems rude. What does come ta mind is that two of us here had a barnburner of a git somethin' ta eat this evenin', Grace darlin'? If not, ol' Al'd be happy ta fetch ya somethin'..."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-22-17/1630:06>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Grace considers her answer and quickly decides that starting the trip with a lie, even a white one, is the wrong first step.  She shakes her head.  “No, Al, I didn’t eat.”
As Al reaches for his boots, Alyce says, “Why not just order in?”  She turns to face Grace.  “Are you up for that?  Would you let three young men see you naked and not freak out?”
Grace pales a bit and bites her lower lip before nodding.  “I think so.  It will need to happen some time, right?”
Alyce shakes her head at the young woman.  “No, Grace, it will not NEED to happen at all.  It should happen only if you want it to.  I enjoy being naked in front of other people and rather like it when they stare and admire my body.  I love it that Al lets me do this and is not jealous about the way other people look at me.  You need to decide for yourself.  You have let Al see you naked; did that bother you?”
Grace considers her answer then shakes her head.  “It did at first.  I mean, I had only ever been naked for two guys in my life and neither of them really saw anything because the lights were out and we were under the covers when we had sex.  So, yes, it was a bit unnerving to have you and Al looking at me.  But I…………frag, to be honest, I actually liked that.  So, sure, bring ‘em on.”  She looks over at Al.  “Um, it is just looking, right?”
Al nods as he tosses the boots back into his cabin.  “Lookin’ only, li'l amiga.  Less'n ye were to start somethin’.”
Alyce laughs.  “Al is referring to me teasing a bit and rubbing a tit along an arm or hand.”
Grace blushes and shakes her head.  “I cannot understand it and don’t believe that I am doing this."

 This time it is Al that laughs.  “I call it the Alyce Effect.”
A meal is ordered and they are told that it will be delivered as soon as all the passengers are on board and the train is moving.  Grace makes use of the time to set things up with her friend in Bristol, arranging tickets and backstage passes to meet the bands Al had expressed an interest in.  After that is settled, she and Al talk about psychobilly while Alyce accesses everything she can on the subject.  Before long, the train leaves the station and there is a knock on the door.  Grace’s hand instantly goes to Alyce’s and grips it tightly.  Al opens the door and takes a seat as he watches the three young men, who had come to see the woman who always seems to be naked when they come in and are clearly surprised to see two.  Grace’s face is a deep red and her grip on Alyce’s hand is tight, but she does not turn away as the men get a good view of her body.  Alyce sets the tone by shifting a bit as the men move around, giving them a very nice look and allowing her breast to rub against the arm of two of them.  By the time the men leave, Grace has loosened up considerably and her blush has nearly faded away.
When they are alone again, Grace looks at both of her companions.  “My God!  That was actually a ton of fun once I got over being embarrassed.  My mum is probably turning over in her grave, though, to see her good-girl daughter acting so shamelessly.”
Grace is very hungry and digs into the food with gusto.  The three talk about Bristol and Grace seems to have a lot of knowledge about psychobilly music, mentioning a small underground venue in Cambridge that hosts a band or two every now and then.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-22-17/1641:39>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

Mighty effort though it was, Al kept his composure through the waiters' visit. Well, he'd tried to avoid the situation. What the ladies did on their own initiative had to remain their choice always.

But FDR on a pogo stick, they'd definitely hooked him on something here. Damned road to sexual hippiedom was what this was, and no doubt. And the other stuff floating around between them all - Al was no stranger to uncharted territory, but this, traveling with Alyce...and now young Grace...this was a blind leap into the void.

Well, it wouldn't be boring.

They talked for several hours, then, as Grace (and Al) ate. Alyce offered her a cigarette, which she politely declined. Al gave her about twenty-four hours before the Alyce Effect kicked in on that front, too.

As it got later and the girls' body language became, what? More feline, Al guessed. Yup, that was it. As it got later and the two of them started moving more and more like a couple of giant, cozy cats, he figured it was time to either get naked with them or risk being a third wheel. He finished off his beer and stood up.

"Another truly lovely episode in a truly lovely encounter, ladies." And then, knowing they'd both be emotionally and libidinously devastated by his departure, he decided to throw them a bone and ease his exit with a line or two of woman-talk.

"Ladies, the fuckin' cat's pajamas, that's what you two are. Cream in my damned coffee. Now don't take no genius ta see we got a right complexicated situation here, an' ol' Al won't pretend ta know what the next hour'll bring, much less how any of it plays out inna end. But I reckon I'm on firm ground sayin' we's all three here cuz we wants ta be, an' cuz we each of us wants the other two ta be. An' reckon we all trust each other ta look out fer each other, wherever our own individual paths may have ta lead us. 'Nuff said. G'night."

As Al stood smoking in his ice cold shower, he replayed his little speech in his head and congratulated himself on his compassion and sky-high EQ.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-22-17/1931:09>
Saturday, August 2nd, 2076

The girls bid Al a good night with Alyce’s eyes letting him know that he is more than welcome to stay.  When he is in the other room, Grace leans over to Alyce and whispers, “What the frag did he just say?”
Alyce laughs.  “If you are a very, very lucky woman, you will learn to interpret what I call his Guthrieisms.  He has a way with words that I am sure is influenced by a mix of where he was raised and all of the places he has been in the world.  Loving him has allowed me to make sense of all of that.  He was saying that he likes you and that he is not sure where this will lead you, but for now, he accepts you as part of us.  If you want to be part of us, that is.”
Alyce turns her body to face Grace on the edge of the bed and puts a hand up to the other woman’s face.  “So do you?  Do you want to be part of us?”
Grace bites her lower lip as her mind wars with itself.  She nods and looks directly at Alyce.  “I….I am pretty sure that I have fallen for you.  Frag, it all seems so incomprehensible and…….and odd.  I feel so strange.  My guts are a bit tied in knots and just now and I do not know if I am saying the wrong things or the right.  How do you know and what am I doing to you and Al?”
Alyce brushes her hand across Grace’s face.  “First off, you cannot come between me and Al.  We love each other with a passion that cannot be weakened by someone else coming into the mix.  Yes, I said he loves me with a passion.  I can feel it every time he touches me and in every word he says to me.  I can feel him looking at me.  For some reason, there is something going on that keeps him from making the leap to my bed, but he will work through that in time, or he won’t and then neither of us will get to experience that level of joy.  But it does not mean that he loves me less.  I used to wonder about that.  He walked away from me just over eight years ago.  No word, no message, no nothing.  I was devastated.  But now I know that there is something bothering him and that he is trying to work through it.  And what is love if it is not giving him everything he needs to work through this problem?  So I give him time and encouragement.  I continue to let him know that my love is his no matter what he decides, and I continue to hope that he will one day decide that he can talk to me about what happened.”
“The second really important thing that you need to know is that the heart is boundless.  I love Al with everything I am, but that does not mean that I cannot love others as well.  I have my daughter, Gem, and her fiancee, Lydia……………..and I have you.”
Grace’s eyes get wide as saucers at that and she sucks in a quick breath.  “Me?  You can love me?”
Alyce leans forward and gives Grace a soft kiss.  “Yes, dear Grace, I can love you.  There is room in my heart for you and I offer my love to you free of any obligation to accept or discard it or to feel the same way.  Are you alright with that?”
Grace pales.  “Alright?  I…..I really don’t know.  It terrifies me, in a way.  And it terrifies me that I think I feel the same way about you.  I have never felt like this before, with anyone, and I had thought I was in love with both of the guys that I was with.  Everything is so strange and different.”
“Yes, but is it a good strange and different or a bad strange and different?”
Grace does not hesitate in her response.  “Oh, definitely a good strange and different.  But it is still strange and different and I was brought up to be a good girl.  That sex between two women is wrong, that flaunting my naked body where strangers could see it is wrong, and that having feelings for a man who is obviously claimed by another woman is wrong.  In effect, I am certainly going straight to hell when I die.”
Alyce gently kisses Grace’s eyes and lips.  “So do you want me to stop doing this?”
Grace’s breathing is getting shorter.  “Noooooo.  No.”
Alyce moves a hand to the other woman’s bare breast and fondles it, causing Grace to pant and moan softly.  “Or should I stop this?”
Grace can barely breathe and cannot talk so she just shakes her head.  Alyce moves her other hand to caress Grace’s upper thigh.  “Or this?”
Grace opens her eyes and they are on fire with her desire for Alyce.  All doubts flee into the darkness as she cups one of Alyce’s breasts.  “Frag no.  Don’t stop any of it.  If I am going to hell, I will make sure that I do it right and have as much fun as I can.”
She lowers her face to Alyce’s and the two women kiss deeply, then she pulls back a couple of inches.  “What about Al?  Is this wrong?”
Alyce shakes her head.  “No.  Al is fine with this.  He knows that no matter who I sleep with, or however many I sleep with, that I love him.  I will always be in love with Al Guthrie, and nothing can possibly change that.  And he knows that.  I also know that he wants like hell to be with us right now, making love to us.  He is in his shower and I can tell be the way his breathing changed that he is taking the coldest shower possible in an attempt to control the elephant.  I have felt how hard he gets with desire and I have detected the differences in his heart beat and breathing when he sees me naked.  And now that applies to you as well.  He is attracted to your body as he is to mine.”
Grace nods and closes the gap between them a bit.  “OK.  Wait…..did you say 'how many you sleep with'?”
Alyce laughs and nods as she finishes closing the gap.  “That is a story for later.  Now, lets take advantage of the time we have.”
Voices cease, but the two are hardly silent as they make love to each other.  Finally spent, they curl up together and Grace places a hand on Alyce’s face.  “Thank you, Alyce, for everything.”  Then, just before falling asleep, she adds, “Would it be alright if I were to love Al just a bit?”
She thinks she hears a soft chuckle from Alyce.  “Grace, dear, you may love him as much as your heart can let you.  Let him come up with a Guthrieism for that.  He might swallow one of his fags.”
Both girls laugh a bit at the thought then fall deeply asleep.  So it is that when Al wakes, he hears nothing from the other room except soft breathing.  He walks through the connecting door to find the women wrapped up in each other, with a sheet covering their lower legs and nothing else.  Alyce has her left leg tossed up over Grace, who is on her back with an arm around Alyce.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-22-17/1937:56>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

The train was stopped, of course. Because they were in Bristol now for the next forty-eight. Another sharply sunny day with the promise of an amazing night.

Apparently not as amazing a night as these two had had, but there were other pleasures to be had in this world. Al congratulated himself for his appreciation of higher pleasures. Like psychobilly.

He'd always been into alternative country, mostly, but just in the last months since returning to the UK he'd gotten turned on to psychobilly. He'd always like rockabilly well enough, but there was something about these kids in their crazy get-ups that struck an uncharacteristic chord with him - he figured their outlandish shows were a reflection of, well, enough of all that artsy-fartsy thinking. He liked it. And apparently Grace the cello player liked it too. Weird world.

He was hungry, but wanted to eat with the girls. So he sat down at their table, lit the day's first smoke, took out his cards, and practiced the Invisible Flight until they stirred.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-22-17/2141:51>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Alyce’s drone lets her know that someone has just walked into her room and she wakes enough to see that it is Al.  She smiles at him as she stretches.  “Good morning, Al.  I have apparently overslept.”

She moves down the bed to place her head just below Grace’s waist and licks her there, causing the woman to suck in air and sit up.  Alyce gives her a naughty smile and slides off the bed, headed for the bathroom, touching Al’s shoulder as she passes him.  Grace sticks her tongue out at Alyce’s back then sits up and stretches.  “I guess I am second in the bathroom today.  Say what is that, another card trick?”

She moves to sit closer to the table, putting her elbows on it and leaning towards Al, letting her pert breasts sway a bit.  She watches him closely, and smiles at him.  “I know that I might only be along for the ride for the next forty-eight hours, but I have something I need to say to you. I spoke to Alyce about it a bit last night, and she said that I need to have the courage to tell you myself so here it is.  I know that you are in love with Alyce and she loves you beyond anything……….well, I am not good at saying this, but she loves you a lot.”

She pauses and blushes a pretty red.  She nervously reaches out for Alyce’s pack of Lucky Strikes on the table and taps one out of the pack, lighting it with the old Zippo next to it and taking a few drags.  The action seems to give her a bit of courage and she continues.  “I was wondering if it would be alright if I was in love with you, too?”  She holds up a hand.  “You don’t have to return it, you know, and could even tell me to go sod off, if you were of a mind to.”  Here her chin gets a bit defiant.  “But I won’t change my mind.”  She may be a bit defiant, but her chin moves a bit as if she were almost expecting to be turned down.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-22-17/2201:04>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Al gathered up the cards, shuffled them several times, then pushed the deck at Grace as the sound of a steady stream came from Alyce through the open bathroom door.

Grace looked at Al, got the unspoken message, a bit chagrined that he was apparently ignoring her speech, and shuffled the cards herself. It was a different deck than he'd used the night before. Instead of nude Asian girls in crassly pornographic poses, the card faces were adorned with vintage cars. He nodded at her to shuffle again, and she did. And again. Then he took the cards back and shuffled them himself once more. In the bathroom, the shower started. It lent them a sense of privacy, even though Al knew that Alyce was listening to every word. Grace would get used to that. With one smooth motion of his hand, he fanned the cards out in a long, perfectly even arc, face down. Then with one fingertip flipped the one on the end and they all turned over, retaining their formation. And Grace saw that the whole deck was arranged in sequence, from ace of spades on down to two of hearts, a joker at each end.

But before she could express her amazement, he was speaking. "Sure wouldn't expect ya ta change yer mind 'bout somethin' neither you nor any member o' yer sex can help. It were bound ta happen, no point in layin' blame nowhere. Ta know me is ta...well, you know how it goes. Fer some folks, like ol' Al, the adage happens ta be true. Thing that separates you from all the other women meets me is, in yer case, reckon I'm partial ta you too." He gave her a friendly wink. "Spend a little more time with me, an' well, ya still won't be able to help how ya feel, but ya might start ta unnerstand it ain't necessarily a good thing."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-22-17/2331:17>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Grace nods, not quite knowing how she should be taking this and feeling a bit lost.  At this moment, Alyce emerges from the bathroom and announces that it is free and Grace hurries in.  Alyce finishes toweling off and places the towel on a rack in the bathroom before coming out to stand next to Al.  She rubs a hand against his face and leans over to kiss the top of his head.  "I am glad that she found the courage to tell you.  She would have rattled the words off without hesitation if she was not being honest or perhaps just after our money, but I heard the hesitation and a bit of fear came out.  I am pretty sure that she is legit, Al, so you now have too lost souls pining away for you."  As they hear the shower turn on, she adds, "Here, move sideways."

She guides Al's legs so that he is facing into the room then sits on his lap, placing her arms around his neck and her head against his chest.  Sighing, she says, "I am so glad that you are in my life, Al."

After a minute she says, "So, eat in the dining car, order in, or eat out on the town.  Oh, and I did some checking and this psychobilly music usually has kids in odd clothing.  Do we need to find something to wear for tonight?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-22-17/2351:20>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Al loved being in this compartment.

Having Alyce across his lap was indescribable. And indescribably painful.

He knew where he wanted to eat breakfast, but couldn't say anything. The fact that Alyce had asked something else without waiting for his reply made it easy to simply not answer the first question and skip ahead to the second..

"Yeah, folk do git a bit fancy. You two can wear whatever strikes yer fancy I reckon. Though there's a lotta goth in psychobilly fashion, so you could prob'ly jist wear what ya always do in London, be jist fine. But ain't as though they's no rules to it. Me, my ever'day attire is already painstakin'ly selected ta be appropriate ta any social gatherin'."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-23-17/0022:46>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Alyce laughs.  "Goth still means a shopping trip.  I did not bring much of that with me.  Mostly just sundresses and a bathing suit.  I bought some shorts in Falmouth, but nothing really that would look like I belonged in that sort of club.  No, I think Grace and I will have to go try on some new clothes.  You can come along and let us model for you.  And you did not answer the question about breakfast.  Where do you wish to eat?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-23-17/0031:37>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Dammit, had she sensed his attempt at a turnaround? Trying the Alyce Effect on him, too?

Grace had stepped out of the bathroom now, toweling off.

"Reckon we let young Grace decide...where ya wanna breakfast, li'l darlin'?"

She had just picked up her dress from the day before, but let it drop back to the floor.

"Well, here in the room, I guess," she answered smiling coyly, a glint in her eye.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-23-17/0049:36>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Alyce smiles.  "You heard the girl, Al.  Order us up some breakfast while we brush our teeth and discuss our shopping excursion?"

Grace smiles.  "Shopping?  What are we shopping for?"

"Clothes, dear.  We cannot go to this concert tonight in either our sundresses or naked.  Although, to be honest, some of the things I have sen indicate that there is a chance that what some of these people wear will come off during the night."

Grace laughs and nods.  "Some yes.  I have been to a few of this sort of concert and there are some people who shuck their clothing and even some sex off against the side wall.  After all, some of the tunes are very sexually suggestive and some people are just unable to resist the suggestion."

Alyce nods.  "So I saw in the articles I read."  She turns to Al.  "What do you think, Al.  Do you want your women to take their clothes off tonight?  It might make a difference in what we get at the shops.  I am completely comfortable with keeping everything on, so I leave that up to you, if it makes a difference in any way."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-23-17/0106:06>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Al started to say that whether they took their clothes off was not exactly his decision. Yeah, he liked calling the shots, but only when he was sure it was - at least on some level - kosher with the woman. And of course with Alyce anything was kosher.

But now Grace was here...

Then he thought about their little experiment last night, her reaction to it, and now her own giddy initiation of what looked like a repeat.

He looked at her as they both waited for his answer. She was biting her lip again, that crooked, conflicted smile.

"Reckon any clothes is too many clothes, far as you two is concerned. Let that be the theme, an' you two decide the particulars. If young Grace is ready ta graduate from private train compartment ta wild psychobilly show...well, reckon we'll be there ta keep 'er safe."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-23-17/0157:55>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Grace's smile falters a bit.  "That is a bigger step than I am sure I want to take yet.  Maybe just a bit risque, perhaps?  Without taking everything off for a large crowd?"

Alyce smiles and gets up off Al's lap to hug Grace.  "You don't have to do anything you are not comfortable with.  And don't let me lead you to places you do not want to go yet.  My lifestyle is not for everyone and is not to be entered into lightly.  We can talk more about that later.  And I think that breakfast is coming down the corridor."

Grace looks at Alyce with a question then turns to look at the door as someone knocks at it.  She is momentarily froze with uncertainty and then it is too late, as Alyce walks the few steps to the door and opens it for the stewards to enter.  There is a short pause as the three young men stare for a moment at the beautiful woman holding the door for them and the other beautiful woman standing in the room.  The men move into the cabin and begin setting up the meal on the table.  This time the women are not sitting on the bed and the small room becomes a bit crowded and there is some "unintentional" brushing and touching.  Alyce plays along as if it were a natural thing, but Grace, despite her apparent willingness, is a bit slow to respond.  Nothing really overt happens, but there is a lot of staring.  The girls had been seated before, and parts of the body had been mostly concealed by the table edge and closed legs, neither of which is the case now and the men get full views.

There is only so much delay that can be built into setting up the breakfast and the men eventually have to leave the cabin.  As they walk down the corridor, they are talking among themselves and Alyce can easily pick up the conversation, which she sends on to the 'links of the others. 

"Holy drek, you guys did you get a full look at the new girl?  I would shag her in an instant."

"You idiot, I would do them both if I had the chance.  Too bad they are already his."

"Yeah.  Way too bad, and I would also shag both.  They are way hot."

"OK, OK.  I would do both of them.  You guys did not let me finish before."

The conversation ends as the three young men walked around the corner of the corridor.  Alyce grins and looks over at a blushing Grace.  "You will have to face that sort of thing if you are going to display yourself for others to see."

Grace nods.  "I guess so.  It was fun, but aren't you even a little upset about how they talked about us?"

"Heavens no!  I rather liked it, even though I have no intention of shagging any of them.  But it is nice to know that my body can still attract men like that.  So, let's eat."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-23-17/0815:46>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

After breakfast the three headed for the famed if unimaginatively named Bristol Shopping Quarter. It had an open-air mail at its core, surrounded by increasinly less corporate institutions - farmers markets and antique vendors, and further out the real hippy, counter-culture traders. Whatever the women might have been thinking about wearing - and Al couldn't wait to find out what they chose (Grace's flustered 'maybe just a little bit' risque' ringing in his ears), and how powerful the Alyce Effect would be.

With no particular sightseeing in mind, the ladies really made a shop of it - besides clothes for that evening, they bought other things Grace needed, although it seemed to Al that they were buying considerably more than two days' worth. He chalked it up to Alyce's boundless generousity and bottomless credstick.

They ate a late lunch on the pier - a wonderful fresh seafood place - and when they'd finished eating, the shopping was done and they still had hours to kill. Not in any  hurry to be anywhere in particular, thoughts of naps back at the train or a long walk around town both crossed Al's mind. Neither, however, was anything he was married to, so he just sat and smoked and waited for anyone else to have an idea.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-23-17/0948:20>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Alyce and Grace are shopped out by lunch time.  Alyce has had everything shipped to the train, including a suitcase for herself and another for Grace.  Grace had been reluctant to accept any of the clothes, but Alyce had insisted, saying that she would need something for the school term.and convinced her to just accept it.  The three have just finished a magnificent seafood lunch and are sitting, fell and satisfied, on the restaurant terrace, smoking cigarettes and watching the people go by.  Finally, Alyce stubs out her cigarette and stands.  "Come on.  We are here to see the sights, right.  I have this great guidebook for Bristol in my head so how about a nice walking tour?

Grace follows suit and both women stand looking at Al.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-23-17/1332:26>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Alyce's sightseeing data was pretty good, and they chose a route they could walk at an easy pace over the course of the afternoon. Bristol's sights, while not exactly ancient wonders of the world, were interesting enough - a lot of nautical stuff. The weather was perfect and watching the colorful locals proved as fascinating as the sights. But by the time they were hungry for a late dinner, they were all very ready to sit down for a break.

Al mused, "Well, ladies, we can eat out an' git a break from the train cuisine, or we can just eat in the room - git more of a breather that way afore a hard night o' fun. Six o' one, half dozen o' the other I reckon. Either way, we'll head back to the compartments later so's ya can git changed."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-23-17/1547:30>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Alyce and Grace have been holding hands while shopping, giggling like school girls over the selections they had made, but had been pretty much glued to Al's arms while playing tourist.  Very few people are immune to the sight of Al with his women and the three get lots of stares and second looks.  Both women are a bit careless at times and some of the passersby are given a quick look at their bare asses. 

At Al's words, they look at each other and smile almost as one.  It is hard to say which speaks first and to Al it seems simultaneous.  "Train."  Both giggle again and Alyce leans up to whisper in Al's ear.  "I may have a convert.  What do you think?  Would you like to see her naked and willing?  You know that I would not mind if you took her into your cabin and shagged her, right?  She would be willing.  And from what I can sense, the elephant is more than willing to dip into her.  I can wait, Al, but if you feel an urge, act on it and take her to bed."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-23-17/1624:08>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Al whispers back, "Woman, reckon I know yer rules. This point, though, ol' Al were ta do anythin', can't imagine it not startin' with you."

And then, in a normal voice, he responded to the group decision. "Alrighty, then, train it is. But if you too minxes is gon' keep tormentin' them boys, ya might consider at least throwin' 'em some sorta bone."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-23-17/1719:51>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Alyce smiles at Al and caresses his face as she moves back to his arm.  She nods to him to let him know that she understands his position.  "A bone, eh>  Might have to at that, the poor boys."

The three walk back to the train and go to Alyce's and Grace's cabin, where they begin going through the things they had bought earlier.  Al gets to watch as both women try on and take off several outfits.  It is very much like watching a strip tease show and even stoic Al is not so stoic by the time the meal arrives, carted in by the same three young men.  Alyce is again caught in the middle of the room where it is inconvenient to reach where Grace is sitting on the bed.  The men take a while to set up the food, as usual, trying for as much of a look at the naked women as possible.  In a change form the past few days, Alyce comes up behind one and puts her arms around him in a slight hug before dropping one hand to the rather obvious bulge in his trousers. 

She giggles softly and takes him by the hand, leading him into Al's room.  They are out of sight but the others clearly hear the man as he yells out.  "Bloody hell.  I could get fired for this."

Alyce seems to pause a bit before responding.  "Are you telling me to stop this?"

"Uh....oh  Please don't stop.  Soft slurping noises can be heard in the next room as well as soft moans that get louder before a loud yell startles those sitting in Alyce's cabin.  The young man comes around the corner into the other room, wearing a huge smile.  Alyce steps to the doorway and crooks a finger to one of the other young men than the third and both men rush forward, almost fighting to be the first through it.  Several minutes of slurps and moans later, both men cry out and zippers can be heard in the ensuing silence.  Alyce returns to the occupied room, leading the two men.  She kisses all three and gently turns them to the door, ushering them out.

Grace's eyes are as large as saucers.  "Hell, Alyce.  Did you just......just......crap, really?"

Alyce laughs.  "I was giving them a bit of a tip for good service."  She looks at the food and motions for Grace to slide over a bit as she sits down next to her and winks at Al.  "Now that I have had my starters, I think that I am ready for something a bit more substantial.  What do we have?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-23-17/1743:14>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Al chuckled softly - at both Alyce's shenanigans and Grace's reaction. His angel had taken things rather farther than he'd envisioned, but of course he shoud have known that her imagination was, in some ways, rather more adventurous than his, and equally unfettered.

That business taken care of, they ate with gusto before the ladies got dressed for their evening at Motion Bristol.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-23-17/2133:00>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Grace looks at Alyce while they eat and Alyce finally asks if she is OK.  "I guess so.  I.......I just was not really prepared for that.  I will say that the sounds coming from in the other room were hot as hell though.  I could close my eyes and imagine what you were doing, especially when you took two in at once.  Wow.  I guess I am wondering if I can do that."  She blushes.  "I mean, I know HOW to do that, but I don't know if I am brave enough to try.  This is all still so new to me and I want to learn but I don't want to learn so fast that I get scared away."

Alyce reaches out a hand to touch Grace on the arm.  "Dear, first thing is that you do not have to be like me.  Even if you want to, you do not have to get there in three days.  You are right; it is possible to learn so fast that you burn out.  Take it all at your own pace.  I will tell you that I liked taking them all, but that is just me."

Grace nods and seems to be thinking her way through things as they eat.

When done, Alyce goes to the bags of purchases she made earlier and pulls out some clothes.  She starts by leaving the underwear off and slinking into a pair of really short denim shorts that would be considered barely legal in some places and would certainly be frowned on by the rigid church-going crowd.  She slips on a denim vest that shows most of her midriff and buttons the top two buttons, leaving the bottom three undone.  The vest shows off her arm tats and lets people see the huge piece of artwork on her back.  It covers her nipples, barely, and exposes a lot of underboob and cleavage from the bottom up.  Her glasses and skull-headed walking stick make the outfit even better.  She is wearing knee high black boots with white silk stockings that rise another few inches above the top of the boot and connected to the shorts with garters to complete the whole thing.  Almost the only color  besides her ink is a red flower in her hair.

Grace is dressed a bit more conservatively as a 1950s pinup girl, with a slinky red dress and a bra that makes her boobs jut out.  Her short hair is accented by a wide brimmed hat and she is wearing platform shoes that add about three inches to her height. 
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-27-17/0744:39>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Al's Doc Marten's, ripped 501s faded nearly white, yellowing wifebeater and vintage RAF bomber jacket were not quite as flamboyant as the horror-tinged punk regalia of die-hard psychobilly faithfuls, but neither would they stick out. In any case, he was going to hear music, not play dress up.

The girls did look great, though, hitting to different aspects of the rockabilly fashion spectrum.

Motion Bristol was in walking distance, and the closer they got the more the streets were filled with obvious psychobilly fans - the unique blend of exaggerated 1950s fashion colored with very un-1950s levels of body art, all overlaid with skulls, costume wounds, and other Halloween paraphernalia.

When they arrived the Zombicrats were already into their set. The rear of the venue was milling with people drinking from plastic cups and shouting at each other over the din, while the middle distance between the bar at the rear and the stage at the front was host to a fairly spacious area where couples were swing dancing. And then, right up near the stage, was the pit. Every show ended up with a different feel, but usually as the hour got later the pit got wider and the swing dancing sort of faded away.

How crazy things eventually got depended a lot on the band's quality and flavor, as well as the particular night's crowd.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-27-17/2357:57>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Grace gives an excited sort of squeal as they approach the venue.  "Can you feel the music?"  Her body begins to move in sync with the beat and her mouth whispers the lyrics to the tune being played.  She and Alyce have been holding onto Al's arms, but now Grace turns to face him, her head flicking from side to side and a huge smile on her face.  "Come dance with me, Al."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-28-17/0407:40>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Ah, the vigor of youth.

"Whoa ho ho, li'l darlin', ol' Al don't dance. Interferes with sittin' an' smokin' an' lookin' cool inna corner somewhere. Maybe this one'll boogie the night away with ya," he answered, nodding at Alyce. Both girls were attracting quite a bit of attention - they weren't the only women there dressed to impress, but they were certainly the hottest.

Al went and got three beers in big plastic cups, which he carried in one hand by sticking his fingers into the liquid and holding the cups by their lips. Held them high and navigated through the crowd, found the table with the best view of where Grace was dancing, and sat down with a bunch of other people in the one empty chair. Just ignored them until they got annoyed enough to almost start a fight, think better of it, and leave.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <02-28-17/1016:48>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Alyce is not much of a dancer either, but she lets herself get dragged to the dance area, where Grace shows her some of the basic dance moves.  Her memory lets ehr remember the proper steps and her naturally lithe body help her get the swing in her movements.  Soon she is dancing sufficiently well enough to not be embarrassed with her moves.  After a few minutes the girls come back to where Al is sitting and sit at the table.  Grace looks around and then back to Al.  "How did you get this table?"

Alyce leans over to Al.  "You should try the dancing, Al.  I am not sure I am going to go down to the area closer to the band, but the swing area is fun."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-28-17/1557:28>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

"Swing area's fun ta watch. An' even that'll be over once ol' Al gits out there. No point ruinin' things fer the little one. Look at that young thing out there cuttin' up the rug. She's gotta lotta life in 'er, that's certain. Reckon I like 'er fine....Startin' ta think with you it's a bit more'n jist like."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-28-17/1914:03>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Alyce takes a long few seconds trying to come up with an answer to that question.  “That obvious, huh?  Yeah, I guess so, and I am pretty sure that it is not all one way.”  She turns to face Al.  “And I am pretty sure that it is not just me she is interested in.  I can’t see well sometimes, but I can tell when someone’s breathing changes and hers does when she is looking lat you.  So, yeah, was I glad that you thought to add her to this part of our trip?  Absolutely.  And would I be glad if you offered to let her extend her stay with us?  Again, absolutely.  But this trip is also for us to talk.  Grace is a lot of life and a lot of fun, and I could easily see spending a lot of time with her.  But is she adding to the confusion?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <02-28-17/1922:43>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

The Zombicrats were burning the place up, even better live than on the media Al had been accessing since he started following them. The crowd was getting pretty worked up. And of course it was deafening - Al's implants kept it tolerable, but they were simple dampers, not sophisticated filters, and he could just barely hear Alyce as she practically shouted in his ear. He was glad for her far more high-end auditory suite - he could reply in a normal tone of voice and be confident she caught every word through the din.

"Yeah, I'll allow she's smitten with ol' Al. But ever' woman is, so ya gotta disregard it, factor it outta the equation. An' yeah, reckon I'm charmed by 'er, though it ain't nothin' ta how I feel 'bout yerself. Ya want 'er on board fer longer? Nothin' could give me greater pleasure'n ta give you all the pleasure I can - them what's in my power, leastways. Us talkin', that's logistics, can be worked out. Added confusion, hell yeah, but I think she makes things easier'n she makes 'em harder, truth be told. Put it to 'er, see what she says."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-01-17/0133:36>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Alyce smiles and nods her head then turns back to listen to the rather loud music.  A few minutes later, Grace comes to the table, panting as if she had run a few miles.  "So, no more dancing?  OK, I am beat anyway.  Maybe I will go back out later."  She sits and Alyce leans over to whisper in her ear.  After a minute, Alyce sits back and Grace turns to Al  Her eyes ask the question that her voice cannot seem to.  Her lips mouth the word, "Really?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-01-17/0938:50>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Women. Everything a big drama. Not wanting to shout over the music (there was probably a reason he always came to these sorts of things alone), he just gave her a 'don't look at me' shrug and nodded meaningfully at Alyce, blaming everything on her. He suddenly felt like stepping outside for some air. The Zombicrats' set was finished, their twanging clatter replaced by piped-in Demented Are Go tracks from yesteryear as the headliners set up.

He stood and, noticing their drinks were empty, pointed at the bar, and then at them in silent question..
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-01-17/1008:34>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Both women nod at Al's offer to get another round of drinks.  After he leaves, they just sit and watch what is happening around them, the noise making it a bit uncomfortable to talk.  Alyce is a bit unconvinced that what she has been listening to is really music and has turned her filters to reducing the volume to a comfortable level, which does little to help her friends.  Grace's eyes are bright with excitement and it is apparent that she likes this.  After a couple of minutes of watching, Alyce leans over and taps Grace on the shoulder, moving closer for a kiss when the other woman turns.  Momentarily surprised, Grace gets into the kiss before breaking and looking at her friend and lover with a huge smile. 
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-02-17/1429:41>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Before getting their beers, Al went on outside for some under-the-stars time before the headliners got started. A lot of the other clubgoers had the same idea, as usual, and he shouldered then sauntered through the crowd, moving easier as it thinned, until finally he found a nearby alley that didn't have anyone rutting or shooting up. Took a moment to empty his bladder, buttoned back up, and lit a smoke.

Three contemplative puffs later and a young woman walked up to him, almost in spitting distance before he noticed her. "Got a light?" she asked. Her voice was sultry without overdoing it, red lipstick already staining the butt of the cigarette in her mouth. Rarely missing a shot at performing his favorite parlor trick, Al put his empty hand up and there was the big Zippo in it, flame burning steadily. She breathed life into the tobacco from her side and they were all set.

"Thank you."

"Don't mention it, amiga."

"Say that again."

"Don't mention it, amiga....?"

"It's not just your face...your voice remind me so much of Mark Phillips."


"The legend himself."

"Been inna ground a helluva long time..."

"So maybe you are him, risen from the grave."

She was tall in her wedges, which had six-inch heels atop a two-inch platform. She wore bright red capris and a black halter, a biker-leather shrug covering her shoulders. A long stem of yellow snapdragon was safety-pinned to the shrug, and her long, straight hair was dyed to match the capri pants and held away from her face by a cherries bandana knotted at the top of her head.

"Sorry, kema sabe, reckon I was born afore he passed."

"Yeah, you do look a bit long in the tooth...just sayin', you remind me of him. Do you sing?"

"Not a note. I'm a Thespian."

"A what?"

"Let's jist talk music."

And so they did. She wasn't too bright, but she was a psychobilly encyclopedia, and they went on and on, Al's familiarity with an earlier age of the genre complementing her knowledge of the current Bristol scene.

And then she looked at her watch and said, "Well, I guess that's about long enough. It's been nice meeting you." And with a wink, she was gone.

Immersed in the conversation, her mention of the time reminded Al that he'd promised the girls another round of hour ago.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-03-17/1003:46>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Alyce and Grace have a good time as they wait for Al to return with the beers.  After thirty minutes, Grace looks around and says, “Al is certainly taking a long time with those beers.”  She makes to stand up.  “Maybe I should go see if he needs any help.”
Alyce already knows exactly where Al is, thanks to the mark she has on his 'link and she can guess what he is doing.  She places a hand on Grace’s arm and pulls her back to her seat.  “Oh, you know him.  He is probably off smoking somewhere, since the venue is supposed to me non-smoking.  I could almost kill for a cigarette, too, to be honest.”
Grace looks a bit unsatisfied but allows Alyce to pull her back.  “Hey, Alyce, be completely honest.  How does Al feel about me?  Am I being a third wheel for you guys?  After all, this is supposed to be your holiday and now I am staying in your room and everything.”
Alyce shakes her head.  “Dear, I have tried for years to figure that man out and have failed completely.  I do know without any doubt that he loves me and wants me to be happy.  Why he won’t take the last step and tell me, I don’t know.  But he will tell me at some point, when he is comfortable with talking about it.  I also know that he wants you here with us.  He wants you to come with us after we leave Bristol.  I am sure that part of this is him delaying having that talk with me, but most of it is because he likes you a lot and wants you to be with us.  With US, Grace, not just me.  Al Guthrie never lies, so if he said he wants you here, then he wants you here.   And I definitely want you here.”
Alyce leans over and presses herself against Grace, kissing her deeply and passionately.  She hears but ignores lots of calls from nearby patrons telling them to get a room or hooting it up at the sight of the two lovely women kissing in public.  Grace initially resists, but succumbs to the allure of the Keeb as well as her own desire and wraps her arms around her as she returns the kiss as passionately as she can.  When they break, both woman are panting and looking at each other with desire and need.  Alyce controls the notion to go off and find a quiet corner to make love to Grace, instead moving her chair a bit closer and taking the other woman’s hand and holding it in hers.  Both hearts are beating quite fast as they try to catch their breath.  They pretend to watch the dancing while considering what they will do to each other when they are back aboard the train and in their cabin.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-03-17/1102:56>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

By the time Al got back with the beers the Skinny Jimmies were well into their set and Alyce and Grace were well into each other.

The girl's words echoed in his head - '...that's about long enough.'  Yup, he reckoned it had been.

He figured they'd find the beers when they came up for air, and, as usual, he was right. They grinned their thanks at him, words useless amid the noise, and drank thirstily. The SJ's were in rare form - Grace proved unable to resist the dance floor, and Al a cigarette. No one said anything to him. By degrees, the crowd was whipped into an increasingly raucous frenzy of bacchanalian reverie.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-04-17/0709:47>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

Alyce stays at the table with Al as Grace goes off to rejoin the dancers.  She slips closer to Al and takes his hand, holding it to her cheek for a few moments before putting it back on the table.  Realizing that verbal communication is going to be almost impossible, she instead turns to her ‘link, sending Al a text message.  >>Al [Alyce]:  Thank you, Al.  That was just the right amount of time.  Do you mind if I just sit here with you for a bit?<<
She tries to move just a bit closer so that she can more easily make out his smell among the myriad of smells in the area.  She filters out the odors that are not Al and focuses on those that are; his body, his cigarettes, his old jacket that has a distinctive smell of its own, his hair.  She sighs, comfortable just to hold his hand and be close to him, with no need for talking, no need for strange naked antics…………………….just sitting with the man she loves and loving the smell and feel of him near her.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-04-17/0723:35>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

As loud as the Skinny Jimmies were, and as frenzied as the crowd was becoming, Al enjoyed a deeply peaceful moment. Because no one was talking. He realized his mind had begun automatically scheming to find ways to avoid any situation where conversation might be required.

So now, for a moment, things were still.

And with Alyce leaning against him and holding his hand, he could really appreciate her closeness. Think of her wisdom, strength, and beauty. Of course, he also thought of all the other things that had nearly dissuaded him from ever even bothering with this whole courtship thing, all the psycho-girlfriend telltales every guy who's been around the block once or twice knows as signs to head for the hills - the Lucky Strikes, the Zippo, naming her creature after him, the fucking bust...

Well, considering how fucking irresistably attractive he was, he supposed some latitude had to be given. Hell, not meeting her in Phnom Penh, that might've killed most normal women. That she hadn't commit suicide, become a junkie, or entered a convent spoke to a certain very admirable strength.

He reflected for a time, listening to the twanging riffs of the psychobilly band, upon the great responsibility held by anyone - particularly himself - so desirable to all womankind. How easily he could lift hearts to lofty heights with one careless smile on a street corner or kind word in a shop, only for them to crash into the depths of despair when he passed on his way down the road, never knowing the broken hearts left in his wake. At times, when he was sober enough to think about it, the consciousness of it could be a heavy burden to bear.

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-05-17/0202:43>
Sunday, August 3rd, 2076

The Skinny Jimmies announced the last song of their set and Alyce opens her mouth to say something but closes it without uttered a sound.  It feels so good to be sitting her with him and she does not want to ruin the moment by talking.  She knows that she has a record of saying the wrong things to Al and that bothers her a great deal.  Her heart is overflowing with words of love and she cannot seem to say any of them without saying them poorly.  She is terrified of losing him because she can't tell him that she loves him in a way that he will not blow her words off as a natural thing, or will criticize her for being a woman and saying woman things.  All in all, being in love is a very frustrating far and she cannot for the life of her understand why anyone would want to do this to themselves.  Still, there is it, she would spend the rest of her life in misery just to have a chance of hearing him say out loud that he loves her and that he wants to be with her always.  Yet it is becoming a bit more obvious every day that he is perhaps never going to say those words and that thought is a bit depressing.  Still, until he tells her that he will never say them, there is still hope in her heart, and love enough to manage.

Grace walks out of the crowd of revelers as the set ends and heads to the table.  She sees Alyce and Al just sitting there and notes to herself that they look perfect together, wondering again if she should stay or just slip off back home on her own.  Emotionally, that might be the smartest choice, because there is a good chance that her heart will be broken if she stays.  She has never met anyone like Alyce before and she has fallen completely for the Keeb, wanting to see if there is anything to it.  She is more like a goalie; waiting for the shot to be attempted and Alyce to tumble to the ground, hurt and dazed.  Grace wants to be there to catch her if Al lets her down and leaving will not allow her to do that.  Besides, she also has feelings for Al, which he has blithely passed off as a natural thing.  He has a maddening way of turning a phrase of love and affection into something completely different and then making light of it in such a way that has her thinking that the man is completely oblivious to how he is hurting Alyce with almost every word and action.  Still, it is Alyce's choice to love him and Grace will respect that and be ready if the worst happens.  She has prayed already that Al will talk to Alyce and will pray again for that. 

She walks up to the table and takes a seat without saying a word, placing a hand on Al's other arm and just holding onto him in companionship and, yes, a bit of love.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-05-17/0654:04>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Pleasantly surprised at being allowed to actually listen to the concert in peace, Al had a satisfied feeling after the last encore. It was well after midnight and he was hungry again. Standing, Alyce looked a vision as always in her boots, shades and denim bikini, while Grace's lovely red dress now served as counterpoint to dissheveled hair and sweat-run make-up, giving her an incredibly alluring aura. Considering that he could likely choose any two women in Bristol to accompany him, Al congratulated himself on his excellent taste.

As was often the case with popular music venues, the law of supply-and-demand had provided a number of all-night eateries in the vicinity. They found one. Like the rest, it was fairly crowded, but they found a booth and Al ordered a full English with beer.

Across the room, he spotted the people he'd pushed out of their table in the club, and quietly asked the waitress to put their meal on his tab. Their response when she told them was to flip him off, but he figured that was fair enough.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-05-17/1000:48>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

At the eatery, Alyce orders a large salad while Grace follows Al's lead and goes for the full English.  Both women order beer to drink and Alyce raises her glass in a salute to the bands and the evening.  "That was wonderful.  Thank you, Al, for broadening my musical horizons and Grace for trying to teach me to dance to swing.  I had a very nice time."

Grace joins in the toast.  "I, too, had a great time and thank you for inviting me."  She turns to Al, "You missed some good dance opportunities.  Maybe next time we can get you on the dance floor."

Alyce takes a few bites in silence then asks, "So, is it back to the train or do we look for a hotel for the night?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-05-17/1423:45>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

"Bed's a bed, far as ol' Al's concerned. I'll allow as the train's're a mite abbreviated, but then that don't make no difference ta me. Then again, if you two're hankerin' fer a night with a bit more elbow room..." Al let the thought hang, indifferent as he stuffed half a tomato into his mouth.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-05-17/1811:36>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Alyce nods.  "Train it is, then.  It is already nearly two in the morning and I would hate to pay for a room for a couple of hours."

Grace nods in agreement and both look at Al.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-05-17/1943:16>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

It was the first time Al had ever heard Alyce discuss money as if it had any value greater than air. He wondered if the buying a huge house in Cornwall the way he picked up corn nuts at the Stuffer Shack check-out had put an actual strain on her finances. Whatever - none of his beeswax.

They walked the half-mile to the train, the cool air refreshing, and nothing on their agenda for the morrow.

Sometimes he told them to go on ahead, promising to catch up. He always did, and never explained. Fact was, he sometimes had the feeling that walking alongside them was a terrible waste, since it meant he couldn't see them. They were both some striking, each in their own way. So me made chances to get a better look at them as they walked.

Once back at the train, he said his good nights and headed to his compartment. The train wouldn't leave for Wales until Tuesday morning, but they had no particular plans for the next day. With no work to be done, Al saw little reason be ever be awake before noon. He intended to stay in bed at least until then...even if it took him until eleven to fall asleep.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-05-17/2218:01>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Alyce and Grace watch Al leave their compartment then look at each other.  Grace licks her lips and gives a half smile and a shrug.  "Do we?  Can we?"

Alyce steps forward and places her lips against those of the younger woman.  When she breaks the kiss, she whispers, "We do and we can."

The girls clasp each other in an embrace and kiss deeply before moving their hands over each other to remove clothing, which hits the floor at various locations on the short path to the bed.  Falling onto the bed together, they make love to each other for a couple of hours, lost in the emotions of pleasing and being pleased.  Alyce turns her alarm off just before falling asleep and so it is that Al finds them still in bed when he enters the cabin after waking up.  They are laying with Alyce on her back and Grace has one of her shapely legs tossed across Alyce.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-06-17/0743:18>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

It was after one when Al wandered into their compartment. They had clearly had another busy night, and seeing no need to wake them he backed on out and made his way up to breakfast on the observation deck. Of course by then it was lunch, but food was food. He helped himself to fish and chips with mashed peas and a pickled onion, congratulating himself on his acclimation to the local cuisine.

He'd had about enough of Bristol's sights and shops the day before, so he ate and smoked and drank beer, contemplating a day in his compartment practicing magic tricks and watching the trid.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-06-17/0928:00>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

The women show up in the observation car as Al is about half way through lunch.  The quickly grab some food, knowing that the buffet will be taken down shortly.  They are wearing the short sundresses that Al has said he likes and they join Al at his table, both of them sitting opposite him.  After a "Good afternoon", few words are spoken as all three eat their meals.  When done, they sit back and light up cigarettes; Alyce a Lucky Strike and Grace pulling one from a pack of Players she brings from a pocket.

Alyce takes a few drags then says, "What are the plans for the day, Al?  I am not certain, but I think we have seen most of Bristol."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-06-17/0952:52>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

"Heard that. Nice enough berg an' all, but seen all I need. Jist speakin' fer myself. Lookin' forward ta seein' what the Welsh contryside has ta offer tomorrow. Till then, though, was fixin' on jist takin' 'er easy today. Less'n y'all got any sorta suggestion, or simply need me fer somethin'...."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-06-17/1601:05>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Alyce pauses in her eating and softly says, as if more to herself than anyone else, “Al, I will need you for the rest of my life.”  She is not certain if he has heard her and does not expect a response.  She sighs a little than talks louder.  “I can make use of an off day.  I can catch up on some reading or maybe watch some trid.  What about you, Grace?”

Grace nods.  “A day off sounds good.  Al, you can practice your card tricks on me if you like.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-06-17/1609:58>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

"Li'l darlin', if'n I could practice 'em on ya, then it wouldn't hardly be practice no more, now would it. That bein' said, mi casa su casa. Could always try tyin' me up. Either way, an at-home day's soundin' better the more I think on it. Nice little stay-cation in the middle o' the vay-cation.  Y'all finish yer grub, reckon I'm gon' go git started. Worlds ta conquer."

Back in his compartment, Al contemplated the wonderland of possibilities before him. He had his cards, his cuffs, his Tales chips, his cigarettes. Or, if feeling diligent, he could call up one of Sensei Ryder's tutorials on the lavish entertainment system. So many choices. He needed to lie down to consider them all. And within moments he was asleep.

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-06-17/1911:51>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Alyce and Grace finish their lunch at a leisurely pace then go down to their compartment to check on Al and see what he wants to do.  Alyce stops Grace from calling out and tells her that Al is sleeping.  Grace gives her one of those how-in-hell-do-you-know-that looks but remains quiet as they go to the connecting door and find that Al is, indeed, asleep.  Grace shakes her head and looks at Alyce again, perhaps starting to believe some of the things Al has been saying about this woman.  After a whispered consultation, Grace lies down on the bed in their cabin to take a lazy nap and Alyce strips her clothes off and takes her book into Al’s cabin, where she sits and reads silently from her book as she listens to her companions sleep the afternoon away.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-06-17/1915:24>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Al woke before he opened his eyes. It was mid-afternoon. He heard the soft sound he'd come to know as fingers rapidly tracing Braille, the occasional turning of a page. Without moving, he said, "So here's a riddle for ya. What's a cute girl with a mutant eidetic memory need a book for at all? Once ya done read 'er the first time, can't ya jist read 'er in yer head after that?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-07-17/0039:18>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Alyce chuckles softly and speaks so as not to waken Grace, who is sleeping soundly in the next cabin.  "Yes, Al, you are right. I have the book memorized and do not need to read the hard copy.  When I was a baby, my father had just taken a job at a small company that would later become EVO Corporation.  A short while after he was employed there the Russian State Security Service came to take me away to one of their re-education camps because I was UGE.  Because I was different from everyone else.  My father's boss found out about it somehow and brought three Vory gunmen with him and told the security men that he was going to take me and my parents with him and they decided he was not going to do that.  He and the Vory gunmen killed the state security guys and three local policemen that were with them and took me away.  This man was very important to me as I grew up; sort of like the uncle I never had, you know.  He was my guardian and my friend.  He stood with me as I grew up and was my counselor in practically everything I did. By that time he was very, very important in EVO and did not need to do that, but he did.  He was genuinely interested in me and he loved me, although he never said as much until he was dying.  He stood with me when I was in the hospital, rarely leaving my room and making sure that I received the very best implants available at the time.  He arranged for EVO and Vory security guards at the hospital and told the hospital administrator to go fuck himself when he complained.  My parents were buried long before I was finished with the million or so surgeries I needed to be put back together, but he took me to their graves so that I could say my own farewells.  He supported my request to be involved in tracking down the Yak assassins and I am sure that I would not have been allowed to go if he had not forced the corporate suits to give it a green light.  I could call him any time of the day or night and he would not mind talking to me."

Alyce's face is streaked with tears by now and she pauses to take a breath and control her emotions.  "He got sick when I was fifty, but he passed it off as nothing.  His daughter had to call me to tell me to come home, and be right quick about it if I wanted to see him.  I was on the first sup-orbital back to Vladivostok.  I didn't pack anything.  I came alone.  I had no visa to be back in Russia.  His daughter used her contacts at EVO and they made it all happen for me.  There was a car waiting at the aerdrome and I had an official escort to his home.  You should have seen the people there, Al.  One bomb could have destroyed three quarters of the heads of EVO and the Vory and they were all there for this one man, this one fragging man.  Someone had the word out and I was passed through all sorts of security without stopping.  But everything worked and I made it in to see him.  He was sitting up in his bed and joking with everyone there.  He had this book on the table near his bed.  He had it made for me for when I would go home, only I never went home until that day.  It is made of some sort of metal alloy so I can take it anywhere.  It is nearly indestructible, or at least it has come through everything I was ever in.  It is very light so does not add to my weight much.  But I would not care if it was plastic, Al, or tissue paper.  This book is him. My friend, my surrogate father, my guide, and my protector.  I don't need it to know the story.  I could recite it by rote and get every word and every inflection right.  And I do not need it to remember him.  But when I touch the characters, it is him talking to me, and that is something special"

She sits in the chair, silent for a moment.  "And that is the answer to that riddle, Al."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-07-17/0856:44>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Al sat up on the bed. "Fair enough," he said with a shrug. He had a few sentimental items of his own, so he could understand where she was coming from.

With Grace sleeping in the next room and nothing else to do, She nudged him to resume Her plan. "So what's it look like?" he asked Alyce.

She answered a questioning glance.

"I mean," he continued, "Ever' so often when yer gender-compelled need fer jibber-jabber overwhelms yer good sense, ya been known ta ask me what I want outta all this, or from you, or whatever. Well, ta be honest toots, that is percisely the question ol' Al's been hankerin' ta put ta you. Now, I know that ya think ya been all open like a book with all that, layin' yer heart out with a lotta words 'bout ferever an' true love an' soul mates an' whatnot. An' I apperciate yer bein' open 'bout how ya feel. But feelin's an' three nuyen, toots, that'll buy ya a pack o' smokes an' precious little else. Practical application, woman, not a bunch o' cotton candy clouds. This whole togetherness, right fer each other-ness, how exactly does that play out inna real world o' gravity an' mass an' energy an' time? Cuz honestly, toots, I been turnin' it over in my mind, an' I can't think o' what'd be diff'rent ta how things is right now. Well, aside from knockin' boots - I'll concede I been a source o' some understandable frustration on that front. Aside from that, though, yer gon' hafta tell me jist what it is ya want, or what ya envision. I mean, I know given yer druthers ya wouldn't be innerested in no kind o' monogamy nor emotional exclusivity. An' o' course any sort o' cohabitation's completely out o' the question. So is it some sort o' label yer after? Or do we gotta start makin' appearances at each other's social events - yup, that'd be a pretty one-sided deal. Family introductions or other forms o' self-torture?"

He shook his head in bewilderment. "Or would jist addin' in the sex fix things? I know that's damned important for ya. Is that really all yer after? Cuz I can't really picture what else might even be diff'rent."

He held up a hand, staving off her answer a moment longer. He'd come this far, and though it was not in his character to reveal so much of his...private thinking...he was a man, and a man led from the front, not by hiding behind a woman's petticoats. "Ol' Al ain't afeared ta paint a little picture o' my own. Listen. Assumin'...jist assumin'...things was ta move forward after this here' I'm jist talkin' hypertheticals here...lots in my mind still ta work out...but in terms o' how things might be assumin' we wanted ta go deeper after this here train, trek...meant ta say train trek...well, assumin' that, then - an' I don't wanna scare ya off or nothin' - but layin' things onna line here...reckon I'd like ta see a lot of ya. An' by that I mean see a whole lot of ya...I'm talkin', well, jist say if it'd be too much...I'd surely understand if'n ya thought it were too much...but I could see us meetin' up twice, maybe even three times a month."

There - he'd said it now. No going back. Hell, he'd come this far, he might as well lay the next one on her, outrageously intimate though it was..."In fact, assumin' we moved things forward, jury's still out, jury's still out, mind, but assumin' that, an' assumin' things kept goin' well, then reckon I could see ya, well, after three, four years or so, reckon I could see ya comin' by my place once in a while."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-07-17/1653:02>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Alyce nods at Al, thankful that he has not said anything about her tears this time.

As she listens to him continue, it feels like a large part of her heart just stops beating.  She shivers at how cold it feels to almost not be alive any more.  She had feared some of this and had thought that she was prepared to hear it.  She wasn’t. Her immediate reaction is to almost pass out, but she struggles through the rest of what he has to say and tries to get a grip on her emotions.  At the end, she is calm.  He has, in fact, given his version of the future and has asked her for hers.  He deserves to know what she wants.

Alyce takes a deep breath and starts talking, her voice level and calm because there are no tears left to cry over this.  “Fair question, Al.  Thank you for being honest with me.  You have asked for what I want, without the trappings of my feminine emotions and so I will tell you what I had wanted out of this.  Put most simply it was your name.  I wanted to marry you, to live with you, to have your children.  I wanted to travel wherever you wanted to go and have a home somewhere that we could go back to between whatever it was we were doing.  Where the home is or what it looks like is immaterial, just that it be our home.  I had hoped that you would want to take me to see your family and be proud to introduce me as the woman you loved, to show me off and make me feel like I was the most beautiful woman in the world and a real catch.  Some part of me wanted to introduce you to my sharing lifestyle, but I would have been more than willing to give that part of my life up to be with you.  I was hoping that we would be partners in life, talking about dreams and plans and working together to get there.  I wanted to bear your children so that you could see what a brilliant father you would be.  Mostly, I just wanted to hold you in my arms every night and wake up with you every morning so that I could feel your love for me and I could kiss you and tell you in words that cannot be misunderstood that I loved you with all my heart and soul.  Every day, Al.  Every day.  That is what I wanted.”

Another deep breath.  “Now, it seems that what I want and what you want are not the same thing and are actually pretty far apart.  If there is no compromise in you and no desire to work towards my wants, then we have an issue.  If you are willing to talk about accepting my love for what it is and moving onward, then there may still be hope for us as a couple.  Whatever we decide, you can be sure of two things that will never change in this life.  The first is that I will never stop loving you, ever, as what I feel for you can withstand anything and remain strong.  The second thing is that I will always be your friend.  I will always be there for you and will try to have your back whenever you might need that.”

Alyce removes her dark glasses and turns her glossy white eyes to him.  “Now that we have both put our wants out on the table, so to speak, where do we go from here?  If you decide that my friendship is all you want, I will stop bothering you about sex or relationships and just be your friend.  If you want to love me then tell me so and let’s work together on that.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-07-17/1719:20>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

For a moment Al forgot even to smoke, much less breathe. He had expected her to be overjoyed at the prospect of the unprecedented intimacy he'd posited, but instead she'd countered with an illustration quite beyond his wildest imaginings. The surprise, however, was overwhelmed by the soulstopping allure of it. With each word she spoke, sitting nude in the chair beside his bed, with each picture her words had painted in his heart, he had been drawn to her as never before. What she described screamed to his center as home, happiness, hallowed ground. Every detail she uttered meshed with the others to form a perfect whole - a vision of bliss it was all he could do to refuse. He suddenly wanted her - and this life with her she described - more than he had ever desired anything. Ever. More than air.

But not more than himself.

Even if he had a right to such happiness - which he did not (and now there'd be no need even to have that discussion with her - yes, She was wise) - even if he had the right to such happiness, it would cost him who he was. It would be someone else's happiness. Some other guy's. Because he wouldn't be there anymore.

So although he could see in his mind's eye reaching for her, taking her mouth, her breasts, her sex in an embrace that promised eternity, he did not move. More even than before, it was now impossible.

He mentally slapped himself. It was all crystal, no need to think further. He could bemoan his fate later. Right now he had to do what he could for her, and keep her somewhere in his life.

"Listen. I love you too. From the moment I met ya, I ain't been with no other. Thought about ya ever' day fer the past eight years. These days, think on ya ever' minute. Love ya as a friend. Love ya as a womern. Want between yer legs an' in yer arms like only a man in love can. An' ta me, that's love. Real damned McCoy. But maybe that ain't what love means ta you. Cuz all o' that what ya described...that ain't never gon' be me. Not ever. If in your mind that means ol' Al don't love ya, then that's your mind ta make up. So if it's all or nothin' with you, then so be it. But fer me see, it's jist as impossible that - how'd ya put it? - that friendship could be all I want. But maybe if I ain't gon' go the whole route, then that's all I'm good for. Hell, reckon I admire ya, with yer all-or-nothin' attitude. S'pose anythin' less is jist playin', an' ya rate better'n that. But I'll hold ya ta that always bein' my friend part."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-07-17/1924:43>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Alyce carefully analyses what Al has said to her and has to admit that it rings of truth.  That every bit of it is true does nothing to dispel the immense pain and sadness she feels  It is like she is in some horrible B-trid where two lovers are kept apart by their own errors and misadventures.  She fights back the tears and the urge to just leave the room, knowing that neither of those responses would help much right now.  Some part of her realizes that Grace is awake in the other compartment and is listening while trying to stay quiet enough to not interrupt, but Alyce does not really care who overhears her right now.  She takes several breaths and calms herself enough to speak.
“Al, my love for you is not all or nothing, it is everything.  You asked me to tell you what I want from this and I told you.  I want you.  I want you to be happy.  I want you to be happy every day of the rest of your life, even at the expense of my own happiness, because you are more important to me than I am.  My take on what you said is that seeing me two or three times a month outside of whatever work we do together is enough for you to be happy and I can accept that version if that will really make you happy.  And just to clarify something, you said you want between my legs and in my arms, but will you actually allow yourself to make love to me or is that never going to happen, either?”

By this time, Alyce is almost certain that this part of her life is ended, but she gives it one more try.  “Listen, Al, you asked me to be honest with you and you have been pretty honest with me in telling me that my dreams of us are never going to happen.  Not ever.  I would like to ask for one more bit of honesty from you, if I may.  Can you tell me why not?  Tell me why you can never live in the picture as my husband and raising our kids together.  Is it me?  Have I ruined everything with my immoral ways, my careless disregard for sex with other people or my past as a whore?  My being blind or an Elf?  Or is it something else?  You have not talked about it, but it must be very important to you.  Can you be honest enough to tell me why we cannot be together?  I am a big girl and I am just about out of tears anyway, so you can be as brutal about it as you need to be.  I just want the truth.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-07-17/1946:16>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Al didn't think much of the way Alyce framed him not wanting to yoke himself to another for all eternity, not wanting to dive into some sort of soulmate spirit meld as selfishness on his part. Or the way she was now offering to sacrifice herself for his happiness, as if looking down and granting him his freedom from her made her solely responsible for any future happiness he might enjoy, and at the conspicuous cost of her own endless sorrow. None of that sort of thinking was healthy for her. But he figured she was into it, so why take it away from her. Besides, if she was hurting half as much right now as he was all the time, then she was hurting pretty bad, and he didn't want to make that any worse than she wanted it to be.

"Well, that's a mouthful o' big questions all in a rush."

It was high time for a cigarette. He lit one for himself and left the pack and the Zippo on the table between them.

"Sex? Din't know that were still onna table here in the world o' wedlock-or-just-friends. But then you are Alyce Krait. No, wouldn't say never. But if the path ta carnal bliss were fraught with dire complexities afore, it's a fuckin' moon-shot inna frogstorm now."

He forced himself to keep looking at her as he spoke. Her words were still ringing in his ears and soul, her vision of what could be between them. And it still called to him like a siren song. Every second spent looking at her he felt weaker, closer to just smothering her in his embrace and promising himself to her forever. But dangerous as it was, he wouldn't let himself take the easier path of looking anywhere but into her ageless face. Besides, she'd actually straddled the hardest question, asking only the two easy ones that lay to either side of it. Still no need to talk about anything he didn't want to.

"The playin' house thing, woman, that ain't you. That were never inna picture from long afore we met. It ain't yer sex hippie ways. It ain't yer past whoredoms. Ain't yer blindness nor yer keeb defect. Ol' Al jist ain't never gittin' hitched nor no facsimile thereof. Plain an' simple an' 'nuff said."

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-08-17/0004:08>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Little sparks of life ignite on the ashes of what had been Alyce's heart and she picks up her head as she listens to Al.  When he is done, she stands up, keeping her face directly at him, and walks the few feet to the bed, where she sits down next to him.  Her bare thigh is against his clothed one, but she can feel the heat from him and he has to pick up the faint smell of her musky scent rising from her.  She puts a hand on Al's thigh but does not move it higher.  She continues to let him look at her dead eyes as she licks her lips.  "Oh, Al.  One of us is not communicating well, and it is probably me.  I seem to lose a lot of my sense when I am close to you.  I think that you are working under a great misunderstanding so I would like to clarify some things.  If I continue to confuse you, please let me know and I will try again, and I will keep trying until you understand exactly what I am saying and what I mean."

"Now, first of all, you are dodging the question and that is not fair.  You should be as honest as possible.  You say that the future that I want is not possible, but not for the reasons I had put to you.  In essence, it is not because of my sex hippie ways or my past whoredoms, nor my blindness or my Keeb defect.  In short it is not me at all.  That sort of leaves you, since there are only two of us in the room.  I heard you say that you are never getting hitched or any facsimile thereof, so I am assuming that simply living together without being married is also out.  OK.  I can manage that.  But then you say it is plain and simple and nuff said.  Well, Al, that is the part I do not agree with.  There have been plenty of times in history when most people have said something is impossible and would never happen, nuff said.  Yet someone tried hard and found a solution.  If everyone had believed things were impossible, we would not have airplanes or boats or trains.  We would not have cured cancer and most of the other medical plagues of the last couple of centuries.  Keebs are impossible, as are Halfers, Orks, and Trolls.  Magic is impossible and yet we know that is not true.  So, I ask you, what makes living with me so impossible?  There is always a chance that we could put our heads together and figure out a way to make the impossible possible.  Now, I can understand if you believe it to be impossible and I can understand you not wanting to talk about it, but let me say this about it and then I will drop the subject unless I have not made myself clear.  I want to help you.  I will wait and hope that you decide to ask me for help.  I will wait as long as it takes.  Knowing that you love me makes it easy to wait.  I will be sad if you die some day without ever telling me, but I will not bring this up again unless you do."

"Secondly, you have told me several times that you do not want me to change because then I might not be Alyce Krait.  I suppose that you also think that any changes to you would mean that Al Guthrie is no longer Al Guthrie.  I think that you would be right in both cases.  Neither of us would be the same as we were.  But I think that we would grow into something better, something combined.  That sort of change would only make us stronger, not destroy us.  You are already different from the man on that boat with the toxic monster and even more different from the boy who attacked a toxic creature with his bare hands to save his family.  You are the sum of your experiences and there is no way that you are the same man as you were even last week.  I believe that being together would be the greatest adventure of all time, but I will accept that you believe otherwise and will also not bring this up in conversation again unless you do or if you need further clarification on my point."

"My third point is that there has never been a wedlock-or-just-friends issue between us.  I have always looked at you as a friend first and foremost.  Wedlock without friendship is a recipe for disaster.  I will always be your friend, no matter what.  Let me repeat that, no matter what.  I would like very much to have the wedlock as well, but I also know that trying to force someone into marriage can easily backfire.  I just want you to know that I love you enough to want to be your wife.  I can understand that you have some reservations about that and will also not bring this topic up again.  You know my stand on the issue and I will be ready should you ever change your mind."

"So, I hope that I have been very clear on those three things.  Please ask me to be more clear if you have any questions.  Otherwise, you know my feelings on them.  Now, however, on to the fourth point.  Sex has never been off the table, Al.  No matter how much we agree or disagree about anything, I would never use sex as a weapon or withhold it to make a point.  I think that any complexities you see are completely in your mind.  What is really stopping you from letting me please you?  From feeling the warmth of my already wet and willing sex as you slip into me?  From feeling the exhilaration of letting your cum flood into me?  You said you wanted to be between my legs and have for a long time.  What is stopping you?"

Alyce's hand has not moved an inch from where she had put it when she sat down, but she knows that he can feel her desire in her accelerated breathing and the rise of her breasts that are so close that he would only need to move his hand a few inches to cup them.  She goes quiet and waits for him to speak or take her or move away from her. 
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-08-17/0725:45>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Al was pretty sure he was the smartest guy in the world. And then he'd let that upscale doc in Seattle talk him into a small fortune in further noggin enhancements. But he was still scrambling to keep mental notes on all Alyce's questions.

And then the weight of her last couple of lines simply eclipsed all his cerebral scribblings.

There were times, thanks to the voodoo gods, when he could literally feel the trajectories of bullets winging their way towards him. They often whispered in his ear the moment before crisis struck. Now, with Alyce's last words, their shouting was threatening to overload his dampers.

Though physical death was off the table for Al, there were graver threats. And this one was the mother of them pun intended.

Still, no need for panic. Like all the really bad things that could befall a man, this was entirely within his control. He just had to make the correct choice.

If only he always had.

For now, though, he simply spoke the truth. And the truth he spoke was simple. There was no need to complicate it with stuff that was no one's concern but his own. "Woman, I done told ya. It ain't about you. I ain't gittin' hitched ta no one. An' I ain't never presumed ta let anyone think diff'rent. Gon' live my own life my own way. Some folks, happy ta have around it. Some...well, some I'm happy ta have in it. But none are gon' be a part of it. It's all mine, an' I don't disagree nor care that maybe this combination, self-abnegation thing makes fer somethin' better. Like how I am, not innerested in better. I ain't a combination guy. I'm Alouicious Harlan Guthrie. One feller, indivisible. Complete package. No assembly required. Reckon I wanted ya close, want ya close, but warn't lookin' ta co-opt yer entire life. S'pose you bein' a woman, all that immersion in the other person stuff sounds grand. But partnerin' up, bindin' down, yokin' together, that ain't fer Al. Never was afore you. Never will be after. I ain't never done nothin' suggests or promises otherwise, an' neither shall I." 

He didn't like the way he sounded. He had no desire to be harsh. He did his best to soften the sandpaper snarl that was his voice. "it ain't a problem ta solve. It's what I am."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-08-17/0951:01>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

And just like that the flickering lights of hope were snuffed out.  Robin removes her hand from Al's thigh and stands up, facing him.  He would see no more tears because there were no more left inside her at this moment.  She reaches for her glasses and puts them on before talking softly.  "I asked for brutal honesty and you gave it to me, so thank you for that.  I did feel that there was a bit more brutal in those words than I had wanted, but maybe it takes that for me to hear and get the message."

She scoops up her book and holds it to her chest as if it were armor of some sort.  "I love you, Al, and more importantly, I am your friend.  I will always love you and I will always be your friend.  It appears that no matter your protestations that you love me and want to make love to me, you cannot bring yourself to actually make love to me.  It is almost as if you are afraid that once you do, your body and heart might betray your brain and tell me all the things I long to hear from you.  I am not you, Al, so maybe those fears are justified.  In any case, it is not my place to judge you or your intentions or needs."

Alyce returns to her seat at the table opposite Al and opens her book to continue reading, relaxing in the presence of the man she loves but who does not love her enough.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-08-17/1039:03>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Al was crushed. Thirty minutes earlier he'd been hopeful. Not optimistic. He'd still been unsure if a path to happiness existed. But he'd had hope. And now....

He admired Alyce immensely for sitting back down and resuming her reading. As if nothing had changed. Making good on her promise to stay friends without even a moment's break. He knew she was not feeling as casual as she acted. He knew he wasn't. All he wanted to do was take off. Go for a walk. A very, very long walk. But with her unbelievable gesture, to leave the compartment now would be a real betrayal.

Had She known this would happen? It had been Her that convinced him to ask the question, to make what had been vague and amorphous concrete. The better to consider the options, She'd said, to find the best way forward. Like She'd wanted him to find that path to happiness with Alyce. Sure, She'd admitted she didn't know what the answer would look like, but that now sounded like nothing but pre-emptive CYA. Whatever, he was stuck with Her, and he'd probably never know what She'd been up to.

His heart was breaking seeing Alyce so far away and The Elephant was like steel seeing her so close and he felt like an idiot just sitting there doing nothing. He adored her beyond rationality. The last week had been a taste - one he knew he wasn't allowed - of what a happy life might be. He'd been scheming and contemplating, sussing out this scheme and that plan to work through his shit and be with her. He'd wanted to stay her closest friend and so much more. He'd wanted to be her boyfriend. Her lover. He'd thought that was a lot - hell, it had been all he'd even thought of - dreamt of - being able to offer.

And now he saw that - to her thinking, anyway - it was woefully inadequate. Wholly unacceptable, in fact. Despite his protestations, for her if the white fucking picket fence was off the table then all of it was. Friendship, sure. He appreciated that immensely. And apparently sex would always be on offer - but that was who she was - no particular distinction there. Neither would be enough for him, though. And what he had to offer would never be enough for her.

Whatever. Hopeful had equalled foolish. He'd known it was a long shot, and his disappointment that the charade hadn't lasted longer was just him wishing he'd kept lying to himself. Nuts to that.

He laid back down on the bed, stretched his legs, and flipped on the trid.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-08-17/1637:50>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Alyce sighs and puts her book down again.  She can sense the frustration in the air.  She knows that she is in immense pain and that Al must also be suffering.  She whispers to herself, “Damn and bloody hell.”  With ridiculous ease, Alyce finds the various mechanisms in the room and locks the door leading to the hallway and connects to the electronic hinges on the door connecting the two compartments, closing and locking that as well, the audible clicks certainly heard by Al.  Next, she accesses and shuts off the trid player.  Standing, she removes her glasses again and walks back to the bed, taking the now useless trid remote from Al’s hand and tossing it onto the table before sitting on the edge of the bed and leaning over on top of his chest.  She cannot see into his eyes, but she knows her own heart and is now going on instinct alone.  Without saying a word she bends over to lightly kiss his lips, sending her tongue to taste him, and shivering at the feelings this brings to her.  Sitting back up, she uses one hand to begin raising his  T-shirt while the other caresses the elephant in his trousers.  As she bends back over his face, she whispers to him.  “I love you Al.  Make love to me.  Don’t just fuck me, make love to me.  I want you very badly but I need you even more.”

After that, it is his call.  Her touch on his iron rod is feather light through his pants, but he can feel it nevertheless.  Her other hand continues to slowly raise his shirt until she can feel Al's bare chest pressing up against her own.  The feel of his skin against her breasts immediately brings her nipples to a rock hard condition.  She does not stop unless and until he makes her and she hopes that he will not stop her.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-08-17/1649:36>
Monday, August 4th, 2076


It was the word that came to Al's mind when Alyce stood and locked the outside door. A nice word for unpredictable. Inconsistent. Unsteady.

Then the adjoining door closed and he figured she was tired of Grace listening in. But the second click of a lock - was it just in his head? - it has been ten times, no, a hundred times louder than the first.

He'd broken into a cold sweat by the time she took the remote from his limp fingers, heart racing.

Somewhere as the walls closed in she was kissing him, touching him. His breathing grew ragged, irregular.

Her tongue probing his mouth far in the distance...and then her words, saying his name, brought him back to reality. She was touching him. He snatched the wrist.

Not quite enough to hurt her.

He pushed it up, enough that her body rose a few inches with it. He figured she could feel his heart palpitating, and she must surely smell the sweat now. She couldn't see the hardness that had swept over his craggy features, but she would hear it in his voice as he hissed, "You ever lock me in a room again, I'll..." Fuck. No. Be cool, baby. You won't rip the wires from her head. She's a friend. You won't skin her alive. She hadn't meant it that way......Calm down. Get a grip. Don't be fucking pussy. He loosened the grip on her wrist. His body didn't move. "Never lock me in a room. Or you'll never see me again."

He waited. Forced himself to wait as the milliseconds dragged by. Cold with her half atop him.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-08-17/1842:49>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Alyce collapses on Al’s chest.  Her mind flickers and the doors are unlocked and the connecting door is opened.  As soon as he lets go of her, she springs off of him to the floor, crouched over, her good hand holding the mangled one.  Her head moves from side to side and her mouth opens but no sound comes from it.  She can see the blood flowing from where she had pulled the hand from the spike that had held it to the heavy wooden table.  The blood pools at her feet and she tries to stem the flow by holding the crippled hand to her chest.  But nothing can dull the pain.  The physical pain she feels in her hand is enough to almost drive her mad, but the fact that Al had done it to her was more than enough to finish that job.

With a shriek of fear, pain, dismay, and agony all rolled together in one primal sound, Alyce loses control of her magnificent mutated mind.  The memories of what had happened to her come flooding back from the dark corridors she had thought were locked to keep them in.  She looks at her hand and feels the blow that had driven the spike in and then she sees movement on the bed and HE is after her again.  With a second scream that echoes through the compartment, Alyce Krait’s mind dissolves into an animal’s need to get away.  She spins and is out the door while her tormentor is still trying to get off the bed.

A porter is her first victim, dashed to the wall and then the floor as the naked……..thing…….races past him.  Before the man can pull himself from the floor, she is gone and out the train car door, running like all the demons in hell were after her.  She leaps the fence of the station platform, dashing past several people standing there and landing in the gravel car park on the other side of the barrier.  Some part of her feels the stones and gravel cut into her feet but she is too far gone to let that stop her and she tears out of the car park.

Back in the compartments, Grace is completely startled by the screams and bumps her head getting out of the bed.  She looks into the adjoining room in time to see Alyce tear away and fails to grasp for an instant what is happening.  Her ears catch the sound of Alyce racing down the corridor and the clash as she runs into the porter, who is cursing a stream.  Grace looks at Al and says, “What happened.  Frag, she has no clothes on!”  She turns to grab up the sundress that Alyce had discarded and heads out the door of her room, colliding with the porter as he is getting to his feet, sending the poor man to the floor of the corridor again.  She is able to follow Alyce out of the train and tries to leap the fence to the car park, failing rather spectacularly as she plows face first into the gravel of the lot.  Her last sight of Alyce is of her running down the street completely starkers then she groans and rolls over on her back, dazed and almost unconscious.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-08-17/1859:48>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

"The fuck?"

Okay, sure, he'd had himself a moment, but....sheeesh....

He sat up, shook his head clear. No time for his boots - he took off after Grace. Nearly tripped over the porter. Recognized him from the evening before. Dragged him to his feet. Held him steady against the wall. "Well, kid, ya got the good side o' crazy. Now ya see there's gen'rally a bad side goes with it. Keep yer mouth shut, tell yer mates ta do the same." He grinned in the lad's face and gave his cheek a couple of friendly slaps. Bounded out the door after the women just in time to see Grace crash and burn in the gravel.

She'd live. He snatched the sundress and vaulted the fence. Snagged his jeans on the top, sending him toppling to the hard ground. He turned his head and looked through the chain link at Grace. Their eyes met. She was distressed. Al grinned in a bid to calm her, make her useful. "Jist another day at the office, li'l darlin'. Go back, light some aromatic candles. Put some whalesong on. Whatever you females do ta git yer heads straight."

Alyce was nowhere in sight, but the sound of exclamations of surprise were easy to pick out up ahead. He raced along at speed as long as there were turning heads and raised commlinks in sight. Followed in her wake to a large park. No more onlookers pointing the way. And his damned socks were ruined. But her sign was child's play to follow on the grass, and she'd gone into the underbrush like a rhinoceros. He was gaining on her - there was still a quiver in some of twigs and branches she'd disturbed.

He moved more cautiously then, remembering the whip she'd added since their time in Cambodia.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-09-17/0027:53>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

As Al turns to continue the chase he hears Grace quite clearly say, “Fuck that shit.”  There is noise of someone scampering up the chain link fence behind him, but he is already off on the hunt.  By the time he enters the park and begins to push through the underbrush, he can hear Alyce slightly ahead of him, struggling and making sounds that he has heard from wild animals, not people.  A couple of severed branches remind him of the monowhip in her hand and that brings a fear to his mind.  That weapon is often as hideously dangerous to its wielder as it is to an opponent, even in the best of conditions and in the hands of a skilled user.  He knows that neither of these applies to the current situation, which means that Alyce is just as likely to slice her own arm off as to clear branches away, especially in the mindset she is currently in.
Footsteps behind him let him know that someone is catching up to them and he hears Grace gasping for breath as she tries to talk.  “Al, be careful.  She has a fucking monowhip.  I don’t know if you know that.”  When he turns to look at Grace, he sees that her face and upper arms are bleeding from a couple of dozen small cuts and scrapes.  At his look, she nods.  “I saw it on the boat when she almost killed me.  I guess you don’t know that she is terrified of being alone on open water?  Anyway, her mind went into shock when she was left alone on the boat.  I found her all curled up and tried to touch her.  Hell, I didn’t know what was wrong with her, did I?  She reacted like I was going to kill her and that fucking thing barely missed me as it cut a thin slice from the railing.  She made me promise not to tell you, but hang me for a traitor if I am going to let you walk into it without knowing.”
Al’s smile at her brought one of relief to Grace’s face.  “And I don’t do aroma candles or whalesong, so I am coming.”
The sounds of animal fury make it easy to track Alyce.  She has made it to a small clearing in the underbrush and is flailing away at the wall of branches in front of her.  She might be mostly an animal just now, but there is nothing wrong with her senses and she easily detects Al as he enters the clearing.  The look of rage on her face is replaced by……………..terror, sheer unmitigated terror.  She takes a step back as she raises the whip in her hand.  “Stay away.  I won’t let you do that to me again.  I will kill myself first.  No more nails.  No more nails.  No more………”
Alyce’s voice trails off as something from her sensors makes it to the sheltered spot that holds the remaining bit of her sanity and that part realizes that Al is not the enemy.  Confused, she recoils the whip into her finger and calls out somewhat plaintively, “Al?  Help me”.  Almost completely used up, Alyce falls to her knees in the clearing, her body shuddering in great heaves.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-09-17/0806:07>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Well, Al thought, this is what happens when you fail to keep things light. From now on, vacation stays vacation.

Still wary of the now-retracted whip - he supposed it was a good weapon for a weakling or a woman - Al put his arms around the spent Alyce and drew her upright. A nod at Grace and the girl approached with the dress - it was ideal, easy to put on a slack body. Once she was covered, Al picked her up in his arms and headed back to the train, Grace running interference.

Naturally the local constabulary - real cops here in Bristol; why couldn't she have pulled this in some podunk backwater - had taken an interest and two, a man and a woman, spotted them when they broke into the open. The very good news was that Alyce had not taken out the whip until she was well into the foliage, so it was just a matter of a naked crazy woman.

She was no longer nude, which would help, but yup, she was definitely nuts. Al hadn't known about the water thing (so at least twice now she'd nearly killed someone with her new toy), but he figured this hullabaloo was about the torture she'd mentioned at the hands of her molepeople friends, or girlfriends, or...hell, he couldn't keep track beyond the conclusion that all those protection tats had helped her exactly zero.

"Everyone all right here?" Good training - act like they wanted to help. Hell, maybe they did.

Grace put the whole thing down to a combination of too much bubbly and an ill-advised dare. Since no one had really been hurt, this mostly seemed to satisfy the officers. But of course they still wanted to check IDs. None of the three were carrying theirs (Al figured maybe Alyce kept it on her headware, but she wasn't being super communicative at the moment). The officers offered to drive them back to the train. Al declined. They insisted. Of course that meant riding in the back of their car. Which was basically a cell.

But he wasn't going to leave Alyce.

It was indeed quicker back to the train that way. Grace presented her ID. Al ponied up one of his - it was about as solid a nuyen could buy, and he used the one with no security affiliations. Alyce lay quiet on her bed while Al found the 'link she kept for show, thumbed through for a Robyn Lysander ID, and flashed it AR. Apparently neither of the officers was one of the UK's burgeoning cello fan base, and they didn't raise any eyebrows. They advised the three to slow down on the liquor, but that was all. They saw the compartments. They knew better than to mess unnecessarily with rich people. Again, good training.

Fifteen minutes after leaving the train, it was just the three of them.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-10-17/1021:16>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Alyce struggles back to consciousness, shunting all the dark memories back to the dim corridors of her mind that they are supposed to be kept in and locks the doors behind her.  She know that it is not a cure, but it is the best she can do.  For now.
Her eyes flutter as she wakes and she looks around to see where she is, half expecting the walls to be covered in rubber mats, but is quite happy to see that she is back on the train.  Quickly, she searches her memories to see if maybe the experience had been a dream, but the part of her mind that was recording everything tells her that it really happened.  Alyce looks around to see who is in the room with her and smiles at both of her friends.
“Thank you for helping me.  I know that  I put both of you through a bloody hard time and am sorry for that.”  She holds up her right hand.  “I will be getting rid of the monster hidden in here.  Twice now it has been more of a hazard than a benefit.  I will see if there is something else I can do with that finger.”
She looks at Grace and smiles.  “I would like to talk to Al, dear.  Would you please give me some time?  Afterwards, I would like some time with you.”
Grace pales a bit but nods.  She gives Al an almost pleading look but says nothing as she hangs her head and leaves the room.  Alyce waits until she and Al are alone before starting to speak.  “Poor girl.  She probably thinks that I am going to send her away.”  She turns her face to Al and takes a deep breath.  “I want to give you the biggest apology I can, Al.  I have hurt you so much.  You would never have snarled at me if you were not in pain and I brought that on.  I have been so very wrong and selfish, trying to make you see my point of view.  I had no right to try to put my ideal of love on you and I had no right to even say that I could help you with what is bothering you.  Some things just are what they are, like my irrational fears of someone trying to hammer spikes through my hands when they grab my wrists or being alone on open water.  I do not know if there is any way for anyone to help me with those.  I was just too afraid of losing you and I just said everything wrong.  Hell, I was trying to seduce you and I couldn’t even do that properly.”
“Al, something you said made me see that, in your opinion, I was creating a small room and trying to lock you in there with me.  Looking at what I said objectively, I can see where my hopes for a home and wedlock could be seen that way, but that had not been my intention.  You had asked what I wanted and I told you what to me would be the perfect life.  I had thought that we could negotiate to something in between seeing you a couple of times a month on one end and being married on the other, but your response was so completely negative, so void of any compromise, that I lost sight of what we were discussing and focused only on that negative answer.  Then my words set off more negative answers from you and I got lost somewhere along the way.  So let me try to be clear.  I do not want you in that little room.  I do not want to chain you to me.  I do not want you to feel trapped in any way.”
“I hurt you…..I hurt you a lot.  The words you used and the words you did not use have me thinking that I was very close to losing your friendship, but I think we have stepped back from the brink of that.  I hope that we have, anyway.  So, can we get back to where we were before I lost focus or have I totally ruined any chance of something more than friendship with you?  I understand that marriage is out of the picture and so are kids and cohabitation.  What do you want out of us?  I want you to be happy with US, in whatever form that ends up being.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-10-17/1320:17>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

As Alyce spoke, Al took off his shredded socks and threw them out the window. His toenails were in desperate need of a trim.

His eyes could record anything he saw. Sometimes when Alyce started talking, he wished his ears would do the same - then maybe he'd be able to keep up. But he caught the important points. Figured it start with something light.

"That there whip o' yours, reckon those things take a heap big lotta practice ta git a handle on. More important, I seen how good ya are with it. Hell, ya gave them hippie demons a run fer they money, an' ol' Al din't think that was possible with that sorta weapon. So here's jist a thought. Wny not lock yer cybernetic activation with a fairly complex code? Jist 16 bits or so oughtta do 'er. Somethin' wouldn't take ya but a split second ta mentally enter when ya got yer wits about ya. But likewise somethin' ya'd never be able ta git yer head around or would even occur to ya ta do at such times as ya may not be thinkin' straight. Give it some thought. It's no small comfort ta me ya got some means ta look after yerself, things git up close an' personal."

He lit cigarettes for both of them. it was clear she was still in a state. Needed rest. But she wouldn't get any if he didn't throw her at least a bone on the woman-talk front.

"Alrighty then, jist a few quick points, an' it's ta bed with you an' a walk fer me. Hell, reckon I gotta git my own head straight - ain't like I'm immune to a bit of a panic attack myself, it seems. Yer's jist happened ta be a mite more flamboyant is all. So that's quick point number one: no apologies. Always with the apologies. Ya ain't done nothin' wrong by me, Alyce. Not by bein'...upset. That warn't your fault. Not by tellin' me the truth - ya got ever' right to want whatever it is ya want, an' ta say so if asked. An' not by bein' any other thing about yerself."

He extended a second finger. "Second point, contrary ta what yer penchant fer melodrama might tell ya, ya ain't now nor ever been nor ever will be anywhere inna vicinity o' losin' my friendship. 'Fraid we's passed the point o' no return on that one."

Another finger. "Third point...third point is that two points was more'n enough fer now. Git some rest, we'll all have a nice dinner tonight." He kissed her forehead, said, "Reckon I'll fetch yer teddy," and then opened the adjoining door.

"Yer up, li'l darlin'." They passed in the doorway and then Al was alone in his room. He put on his other pair of socks, then his boots and jacket, and headed out in no direction at all into the bright Bristol afternoon.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-10-17/1525:07>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Alyce just smiles and stubs the cigarette butt out in the ashtray before she snuggles down in the bed and pulls the cover up to her chin.  “Thank you, Al.  You are a comfort.  I love you.”
Grace is still looking a bit worried as you let her by into the room.  Al can hear soft talking from the two women but cannot make out the words.

When Al returns from his walk, he sees Grace sitting on one of the benches located on the platform outside the train.  She lifts a hand and gives him a short wave before motioning for him to join her.  She is smoking and seems to be trying to form rings as she exhales, but is doing a horrid job of it.  She fishes a pack of cigarettes from a pocket and offers it to you and you see that she is smoking Players.  She has cleaned her face but you can see a small horde of cuts and scrapes on her face and arms from where she crashed into the gravel.
Hunching forward a bit, Grace places her elbows on her knees and looks up at you.  “Alyce tells me that you do not go in for a lot of feminine talk, so I will go right to the point and try to hit the facts.  You can use your imagination to toss in all the womanly stuff if you like.  I am in love with her, Al.  I have never met anyone who affects me like she does.  She is in love with both of us and you are in love with her, completing some sort of odd love triangle.  To complicate things a bit, I also have feelings for you and would gladly try to find out just what those feelings are if you were to indicate the least bit of interest in me.”
Grace takes a couple of drags on her cigarette and continues.  “I want to stay on the train with her and with you.  But I am an outsider to your party and want to know what you want.  You invited me along but I want to know if you still want me here.  I will pack and leave if I am in the way.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-10-17/1625:07>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Having declined the Player, Al pulled out a Lucky Strike and lit it as he listened patiently to Grace's spiel. Once he was sure she was done, he said, "Yup, still want ya here."

He was sure he didn't understand these women's need for him to constantly repeat things, but no harm in humoring them.

"Now, I'm hungry. Nothin' wrong with anyone in this outfit a good steak won't fix."

He stalked back to the train assuming Grace would follow. And assuming she'd get them a table somewhere. And assuming she knew where he'd like to eat. And assuming she'd get Alyce sorted to go out.

She was a good girl, even if she was useless when it came to aromatherapy and whalesong.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-11-17/0747:16>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Grace nods and stubs her cigarette out after lighting another from the end.  She catches up to you and takes your arm to walk across the platform to the train.  Alyce is still sleeping when you get to the room and Grace goes over to her and sits on the edge of the bed to stroke her hair.  Alyce smiles up into her face and holds out a hand for you.  “My heroes.  I made a bloody fool of myself and the two of you kept it from getting lots worse.  Dinner?”
Grace nods and helps her out of the bed and tosses her a sundress to put on.  While she is doing that, Grace sits down and plays with her ‘link.  “Hmmm.  The dining car on the train does not have steak on the menu tonight, but there are two eateries within a block that do.  One advertises Authentic UCAS Cooking and the other is an English restaurant that serves steak in addition to its normal meal.  I will book us three seats at the foreign one.”
Alyce chuckles and then she twirls and asks if she is presentable, causing Grace to almost choke to see her lover flipping the skirt of her dress above her waist.  Alyce leads the way out the door, followed by Grace and Al.  One of the porters is in the corridor and turns sideways to allow everyone to pass, but lets out a snort and mumbles something that has Alyce stiffen a bit as she walks by the man.  Grace moves with the swiftness of the athlete she is and places a hand around the neck of the man, lifting him three inches off the floor as she slams him against the corridor wall.  “Yeah?  It’s bloody alright for you to get your tiny dick hard just looking at us in the room, right?  Or for you and your mates to place bets in the corridor about what it would feel like to take me in the arse and how long it will take before I offer it up to one of you?  And it’s OK for you to wank off thinking about ramming your puny rod into the Keeb just so you can have a bit of strange?  And then she gets a bit pissed and decides to take a dare and streak through part of Bristol and that gives you the right to snicker?  For your information, my arse belongs entirely to the man behind me so you can just quit gagging about it, and we are considering shutting down the peep show.”
The man is gurgling a bit, but is not in danger of choking…..yet.  Grace pulls him from the wall and slams him back against it using just her arm.  “When I let you go, you will offer a really heartfelt apology to the lady and if we think it is enough, you will be allowed to see more of us.  Otherwise the tittie show is over for you and your friends will know why.  And if I ever hear you talk about her like that again, if I even hear from someone else that you have been talking about her, I will find you and rip your pissant head from your shoulders and use your neck like a straw to suck out the two functioning brain cells you have then use your empty head as if it were one of my rugby balls. All of this will be extremely unpleasant for you, believe me.  Now, are you going to apologize to the lady?”
The porter tries to nod his head, or at least it looks like he might be trying.  It is hard to tell with Grace’s hand on his neck.  But his feet are beginning to drum against the wall behind him and she lets him go.  His feet hit the floor and he collapses, sucking in huge breaths. He manages to get to his feet and make what an apology to Alyce that could easily rank among the legendary apologies of all time.  He looks back at Grace and she nods her head, which seems to give him the impetus to vanish up the corridor.  Grace looks at Alyce and Al and shrugs.  “What?  Was I too soft on him?  A girl has to develop some sort of skills when she is the only female on a bloody co-ed intra-city rugby team, but I did not want to hurt the wanker.”
Alyce just laughs.  “No, it was perfect in my book.  But you do not have to be so protective of me, Grace.  I have heard it all and much more and it does not really bother me much any more.”
“It bothered me.  No one should get to talk to you or about you like that.  Besides ig I had not done something, Al might have killed the guy.”
Alyce laughs again and kisses Grace before departing the train.  When the two are arranged at Al’s sides, Alyce asks, “So did you mean what you said about your arse?”
Grace does not even pause.  “Absolutely.  If Al wishes to pop that cherry, it is all his
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-11-17/1218:45>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

In the train, Al stood by and watched as he saw a totally new side of Grace. No denying she was full of surprises.

As they all walked to the restaurant, he said to her, "Reckon ya told that boy what was what, an' I won't fault it. But you'll want ta be careful 'bout assumin' who ol' Al will an' won't kill...or whatever ya meant by that. Robyn here's been 'round the block with this stuff a few times, an' ya might take a page from her book, take some shit in stride. Now you ladies decide ta amuse yerselves with yer little games, well, I ain't complainin'. But ya wind them fellers up, go outta yer way ta bring out they most carnal selves, an' then expect 'em ta treat y'all like vestal virgins when they's talkin' 'mongst theyselves...shit, ya don't know the first thing 'bout them fellers, nor did ya screen 'em fer chivalric quallities afore paradin' yerselves fer they captive pleasure. Sure, it'd be nice if they then proceeded to comport theyselves as perfect gentlemen, but that ain't the reality you'll often find. Now, ya wanna train 'em up, some, lay down some ground rules for 'em, let 'em know the score first, don't reckon they'd mind, considerin' the potential benefits. But abject humiliation on first offense...."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-12-17/1942:53>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Grace blushes and looks about to say something when Alyce touches her arm.  "Al's right dear, as usual.  I am very used to people talking to and about me in those words.  Granted, what he said was a bit off the norm, but I have heard worse, believe me.  We have riled those men up over the last few days, going back to before you joined us.  It is not right to expect that they will behave as gentlemanly as Al does.  It is probably too late to begin covering up, as that would just be wrong, now.  I think that you have scared the boor man and we may need talk to him about that.  In any case, we are here to enjoy a nice dinner.

Grace blushes and looks from one to the other of her companions, her appearance as if she were about to cry.  "I was only.............well, frag, I guess I did not think that through."  She sighs.  "I am sorry for presuming about you, Al.  I just got caught up in what I was saying.  Sorry."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-13-17/0850:58>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

When Grace said sorry, Al's first response was to answer along the lines of 'that's all right, yer jist learnin' the ropes.' But then his mind asked him, learning the ropes of what, exactly...? The fine art of being a newly-minted lesbian sex hippy in the company of over-monied urban mercenaries with deep-rooted criminal ties and severe mental health issues? (Well, to be fair, one with some mild hang-ups that were completely under control, and one whose batshit craziness was growing increasingly apparent.)

He remained convinced that Grace's presence was good for them. But was their presence good for her?

So he merely muttered "Bygones" and changed the topic to rugby, wondering whether Grace thought there might ever be an armed version along the lines of combat biker or urban brawl.

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-13-17/1024:15>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Alyce sits and smokes while listening to Grace and Al talk.  Her mind is absorbing everything they are saying to each other but is also working through her own internal issues.

Grace's face lights up when Al talks about Rugby and it is easy to see that she is enthusiastic about the subject.  She shakes her head.  "Not sure about the combat version, Al.  There are always people talking about that and there have been a couple of leagues started up that never really went anywhere.  It's a pretty rough game as it is."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-13-17/1316:46>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

"Well, i'll allow as them fellers seem fit, though i ain't quite sure how rough it can be, them not wearin' no kinda pertection an' all...."

"No no no, Al, that's precisely why they're so much tougher than those stupid Yanks hiding behind all their layers of padding and plastic..."

"Tougher, or stupider..."

And so began a lively dinner indeed, though the debate in no way detracted from Al's enjoyment of the double rack of BBQ ribs - one glazed in honey, the other with a habanero finish. Mountains of chips and onion rings were followed by a lofty stack of brownies and ice cream, no expense spared to spare them any hint of soy fillers or substitutes.

It had been a hell of a day, and Al figured he'd earned it (there were few, if any, days that he failed to make the same calculation), along with seven or eight bottles of beer.

The women likewise enjoyed the meal, though not necessarily to the same carnivorous excess as Al.

Eventually, repast complete, they headed back towards the train. Al did not speak much on the way.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-13-17/1958:57>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Both women did actually enjoy the meal and the conversation.  Alyce watched the back and forth between her companions and smiled.  She has never really been much into sport, but knows how some people can be rabid about it.  Alyce prefers to drink wine with her meal if it is available and takes a couple of glasses as she works her way through the very nice dinner.
On the way back to the train from the restaurant, a trio of street musicians had set up to entertain the evening foot traffic.  A young man and woman are playing violins, while another young man is sitting on a chair with a cello between his knees.  All three are dressed in jeans and wearing T-shirts decorated in the current psychobilly style.  Both violinists have long hair, although the woman's is quite a bit longer.  The cellist's hair is buzzed short all over.  Most of the people passing by push on without really sparing the young musicians a second look, but some stop to listen for a bit before moving on.  By the time Al and his companions leave the eatery and walk past them, the small group has collected a few bits of scrip and some coins in the battered instrument case in front of them.  Alyce holds the others back for a couple of minutes then places some scrip in the case as she nods to the three and waits for them to take a break between songs.  She holds out her hand to each one.  “You are very good, young three.  Do you take requests?”
The male violinist seems to be the spokesman.  “Bloody right, that.  You call and we’ll play it if we know it.”
The cellist calls out.  “We mostly do covers, but we do have some original stuff.”
Alyce turns to her friends.  “I think I will stay here and listen to these people for a bit, if you do not mind.  No need to wait unless you want.  I don’t think I will be long.  I’ll be fine here if you want to get back to the train.”
Grace nods and looks at Al, taking her cue from his actions.
Alyce turns back to the man with the violin.  “I sort of like the cello bits.  Do you have any covers of something Robyn Lysander has done?”
“The blind chick?  Sure, we’ve done her before, but let me make sure we have some music for that.”  He turns to the cellist, who nods, and then the young woman, who has not said anything yet.  As she nods, too, he steps closer and the three confer quietly for a few moments before the first man turns back to Alyce.  “OK, we have some of her stuff.”  He smiles and nods his head over at the sitting man.  “Jimmy says to tell you that he isn’t as good as she is, so don’t expect that.”
Alyce nods and the three begin to play a medley of some of her songs, plus a few covers of other string instrumentals.  Alyce lets the music wash over her and feels it begin the healing process for what she has been letting bother her.  The number of people watching the trio varies but is never more that seven or eight at a time as some stop for a bit and are replaced by others when they leave.  Alyce’s keen ear picks up the slight mistakes they make but they are neither so numerous or so blatant as to detract much from the overall sound.  When they break, she nods to them.  “You are all quite good.  Thank you very much.”  She motions for the male violinist to step forward and digs a credstick from her clutch.  “Here, give me your ‘link so I can give a better show of my appreciation.”
The man fishes a battered Meta from a pocket and hands it to Alyce, who slots her stick and transfers some money to him.  She hands it back and his eyes widen.  “Bloody hell, lady.  I think you put too many naughts in here.”  He hands it back to her but Alyce shakes her head.
“I never make mistakes with naughts.  Consider it an investment in your future.”
The young man, still a bit shaken, shows the ‘link to his friends, who likewise give Alyce some odd looks.  In the noise, she walks up to the cellist and touches his arm.  “I know a thing or two about playing one of these.  May I try, please?”
The man looks confused but the other says, “Hey, Jimmy, she just gave us enough to buy you a new one if it breaks.  Let her try it.”
Alyce shakes her head.  “No, Jimmy is perfectly right.  It is his instrument and he has every right to not want others to touch it.”
Jimmy looks at her and nods as he hands it over to her.  “Sure.  No problem.”
Alyce smiles at him and takes the cello from his hand and sits on the chair he had been using.  She pulls the instrument to her lap and leans over it, lowering her head and speaking to the cello in a voice so soft that the words are not clearly heard.  While speaking, she runs her hands along the wood, feeling the grain and the curve, and plucks gently at the strings.  The trio of musicians watches this and shake their heads.  Jimmy almost reaches out to take his instrument back when Jillian, the female violinist, takes his arm.  “Hey, don’t.  You remember when old Burnette got that new violin because, because,  Frag what was his name?  Right, Vinson, sat down and ruined Burnette’s old one?  Remember how the guy spent a few minutes before class talking to the new one.  We all thought he was crazy when he said we should always talk to an instrument we were not used to, just as a sort of introduction?  Looks like she went to the same school as Burnette.”
After a couple of minutes of talking to the cello, Alyce places it upright, takes the bow in her hand, and begins to play.  Jimmy is a good cellist, but Alyce is a great cellist and the difference in the way the instrument performs in her hands is clearly noticeable.  All three young musicians look on in amazement as she goes through two songs.  After silencing the instrument, Alyce looks at the violinists and waves her bow.  “You can join me at any time.”  Over the next half hour, Alyce and the two violinists entertain the passers-by and Alyce lets the music work its magic on her.  The small crowd of onlookers grows, as does the pile of coins and scrip in the violin case.  After the last song, Alyce stands and takes bows with the others and shakes hands all around as she gives the cello back.  Jimmy smiles broadly and shakes his head.  “I don’t know how you got it to sound like that, lady, but I’m not sure I could ever do that.”
Alyce nods and chuckles.  “I felt exactly the same when I was your age.  Keep at it and you will get better.  I see a lot of potential in you.”
At that time, a man steps out of the crowd and raises a device in the air as he takes some photos of the four musicians together.  “Tell me, Miss Lysander, what brings you to Bristol?  I am sure that the readers of ‘Music Times’ would be interested in knowing.”
As her three new companions turn to the man first then back to Alyce, she nods.  “Brian, right?  Aren’t you usually up in London?  You must be over here covering the concerts.  I was down here for a couple of days to take in the wonderful city and listen to some classic psychobilly.  And to get some impromptu practice in with these new friends of mine.  Why don’t you come see me in London in a couple of weeks and I will give you my impressions.”
The reporter is pleased that Alyce remembers him from the two interviews he has done in the past, but he also knows when an interview is over.  “Thank you, Miss Lysander, I will do that.  Now, then, if you will excuse me, I was on my way to cover another venue when I caught sight of you here.  It was nice to meet you again and I will leave you alone.”  The man bows and heads of to cover his story.  It is not unusual to find celebrities of all kinds at these concert events, and he is hoping to find someone with a little more star power than a concert cellist.
Alyce turns back to the others and shrugs.  “Sorry about that.  I was hoping to avoid that sort of thing.  Anyway, listen, the London Symphony provides music internships for deserving musicians and I think that the three of you have the skills to do well there.  You at least deserve the chance.  I am sending each of you the name and public com code for Judith Merimar.  She sits as the head of the selection board for this program this year and I would recommend that all of you contact her.  The internships are invitation only and those of us on the board are allowed to make recommendations for the positions available.  The selection board will meet in two months and I will be sending Judith a recording of your work that I heard earlier.  I wish you luck.  I am also sending you a link to the matrix site for the project so that you can decide if this is even something that you want to consider.  Now, I should be getting back to my train.  Thank you for a splendid after dinner evening and also thank you, Jimmy, for letting me use your instrument.”
The three young musicians are still watching Alyce with open mouths as she smiles at them and walks off towards the train.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-13-17/2013:06>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

As during the first part of the walk, Al remained quiet the rest of the way back with Grace. Though careful to avoid seeming distant - he smiled, and made occasional brief comments on things they passed.

Once back to the train, Al plopped onto his bed and put on the trid. Called up Season Four of Uncle Shagrat's House - after today he seriously needed someting not serious. He left the door open for Grace to open, close, be on either side of. "Jist watchin' some trid, li'l darlin', welcome ta set a spell."

He pulled off his boots and tossed his jacket into a corner.

As he watched Uncle Shagrat apply his own brand of madcap wisdom to caring for his sisters' twenty-six children, he spent some time double-tasking on his 'link.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-13-17/2354:10>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Alyce  makes it back to the train and walks into the corridor leading to her compartment.  The porter they had confronted earlier is in the corridor and slides to the side to allow her to pass.  Alyce recognizes the man by his scent and stops to talk to him.  The man makes to move away but Alyce raises a hand to stop him.  "Please, don't go.  I would like to speak with you for a minute."

The man gulps but nods and stands his ground.  Alyce smiles at him and says, "Thank you, Dan.  First, I wish to apologize for our outburst earlier this evening.  My friend is very protective of me, and that means my feelings as well.  She heard you say something and reacted to that.  I believe that she overreacted a bit and would like to apologize for that."

The porter nods.  "Thank you, Miss Lysander.  Your friend has already apologized at great length.  And I owe you an personal apology as well.  Regardless of any other issue, what I said was deeply unprofessional.  I allowed a personal reaction to influence me and that should not have happened."

Alyce nods.  "Thank you, Dan, I think that we can all move on from this, don't you?"

"Absolutely, Miss Lysander.  Absolutely."

Alyce smiles again as she moves past the man and walks to her compartment.  She sees Grace laying on the bed, resting her head on her arms.  Al is apparently watching a trid of some kind in the other compartment.  She walks to the door and opens it, smiling at Al as she stands in the doorway.  "I am back.  I am sorry that I was a bit later than I had thought.  I had a good time and I think that the music helped me a bit.  Thank you for letting me stay, Al.  May I join you?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-14-17/0851:12>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

"Door's open, toots. Pull up a chair. Ya watch Uncle Shagrat?" Sensing she might not be a fan, Al elaborated without awaiting a response. "He's this crusty old tusker, see, maybe thirty-five, forty - that's him with the scraggly gray beard an' the turd hat on - don't ask me why he's wearin' a turd hat, it'd take too long - well, ya really do gotta understand the hat ta git this episode's deeper themes - see that one ork brat with the pink dreds an' glowin' face tats - that's Groknarg, Shagrat's second sister Broktha's eleventh kid - second litter, right? - so he's eight in this episode - this kid gits up ta the most side-splittin' shenanigans...told his uncle the hat's a cultural symbol o' this Amazonian ork tribe he's studyin' at school, needs 'im ta wear it fer this project...o' course it all goes sideways an' backfires...especially once the chupacabras show up, irreverent rascals they are..."

And so Al carried on for some time, pausing occasionally to overcome his laughter, explaining the antics of the lovable old drug dealer as he tempered street smarts with love to keep his twenty-six nieces and nephews on the straight and narrow as hilarity ensued all around them.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-14-17/1002:05>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

Alyce nods and sits in the chair next to where Al is stretched out on his bed and tentatively puts a hand on the bed next to him to see if he will take it.  She accesses the trid player and watches the show with Al.  She listens to his explanation and enjoys watching the program with him, but remains quiet, content to just have him near.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-14-17/1102:52>
Monday, August 4th, 2076

At some point amid the hilarity, around the time he was explaining how it was possible for Shagrat's sister Grundelhag to be her own daughter, Al realized that he was once again watching two-dimensional images flicker across a screen with a blind person. (He was pretty sure she couldn't see such things, but really still had no idea, so thinking it best to play it safe...) He made some comment about being all laughed out and switched over to a classical music show of some kind - dammit, he was going to have to remember his manners better. His ma would've had his hide. But when he'd turned the trid on it had been just himself and Grace, and then she hadn't been interested (some people had a hard time with more sophisticated types of comedy), and then when Alyce had shown up it had just slipped his mind....

Once again, listening to the longhair music - five strings, they called it chamber music in the program guide - he was impressed by how intricate and suble the music was. He as convinced there was a lot to appreciate there with a bit of training, which added to his respect for Alyce. He was, of course, equally convinced that the music bored him to tears. And to sleep - though he hadn't expected to be able to slumber, the sweet strrains of the strings soon had him snoring soundly.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-14-17/2325:26>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

When Al wakes, he finds Alyce sitting on the chair next to him, reading her book and flipping pages in some sort of odd déjà vu experience.  The difference is that grace is also in the room.  She is sitting quietly in the other chair, doing something on her ‘link.  The difference in Al’s breathing alerts Alyce that he is waking up and she closes her book.  “Good morning, Al.  I trust that you slept well?”
Grace puts her ‘link down.  “Good morning, Al.  There has been a slight delay and the train is not leaving for another hour.  Do you want to go up for breakfast.”

Both women are dressed in their short sundresses.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-14-17/2327:01>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

Al awoke with an uncharacteristic start. He was lying in bed, two seated women hovering. Beautiful women. His favorite women, but it was a disconcerting good morning for a man accustomed to waking alone. Well, that’s what he got letting his guard down, falling asleep unintentionally.

Not his fault - how was he to guess that he’d even be able to sleep at all? He had to hand it to this one, she had a way of solving his sleep issues. Something about her presence…no question she was special. And that just made him depressed.

No point showing it. “Yup, jist lemme have drain the lizard.” He staggered into the bathroom, emptied his overflowing bladder, and buttoned up.

“Wales today. Did I mention I never been ta Wales? An’ you two. How lovely can two women be. Let’s eat."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-15-17/0215:15>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

Alyce and Grace get up and leave the compartment with Al.  Grace nods as she says, "I have been here a couple of times to play a match.  We came by motor coach on both occasions and the scenery is quite nice."

Alyce shakes her head.  "I have never been, actually.  I had a medical conference scheduled once, but an emergency operation came up and so I tool the conference by matrix.  Not nearly as interesting.  I am glad that we will be taking the train here."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-15-17/0831:31>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

On the First Class observation deck, Al spent some time concentrating on the stacks of bacon and Belgian waffles with which he'd burdened his plate. One thing about doing merc work for and with hippies and degenerate, he'd never eaten so well in his life.

It was another sunny morning, and the deck was awash with their fellow luxury class passengers, the few they knew, and the many they didn't. The tour's program included many social mixers, but they'd only ever done the one dinner cruise, so while a lot of the guests now seemed quite friendly, the three were mostly left to themselves. The Collinses smiled from a polite distance, but never managed to approach. Alyce's "dear" professor was a constant presence with his trophy wife, both clearly in some sort of hunting mode. Waiters bustled amid a dozen or so other couples dining in four- and sixsomes.

"Reckon first stop today's a little berg called Merthyr Tydfil, if I'm sayin' in correctly. Shit, I thought Russky was hard to pernounce. S'posed ta be a nice spot, with quick excursions up inta the Brecon Beacons area." He shrugged in the bulky bomber jacket that was too big on his slight frame. "Could be nice, assumin' they's nothin' better onna trid."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-15-17/0957:05>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

The train starts moving as the three are eating and soon Bristol is behind them.  Alyce is eating her breakfast and sitting opposite from Al at the table.  She nods her head as she finishes a bite.  "Not sure if I could pronounce it any better, Al.  We can certainly take that excursion if you like, as none of us have really been in Wales before and a look at what is here would be nice.  Sounds like your heart isn't really in it, though.  Are you feeling well?"

Grace looks from one to the other of her companions and rises from the table as she pushes an empty plate slightly away from her.  "I think I will go out on the exposed deck to watch the scenery go by while I take a smoke.  Ta."

Alyce's face turns in Grace's direction and she shakes her head.  "So, Al, is there something bothering you?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-15-17/1032:30>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

Al could have said a lot of things.

He could have said, "Yeah, it bothers me some that I was a yellow-bellied coward, done things they ain't no goin' back from, an' now ain't got no right ta the happiness starin' me inna face."

Or he could have said, "Yeah, it bothers me that I want more'n anythin' ta make ya happy, but what ya want is somethin' I simply ain't got in me ta give."

Or, conversely, he could have said, "Yeah, it bothers me that yer sayin' I'm the loveless one fer not lettin' us self-destruct in each other's hopeless arms, when it's all this love you say ya got comin' out yer ears that's aimin' ta eat my fuckin' soul."

Or he could simply have said, "Yeah, it bothers me that yer so hell bent on bein' in my bed that ya made it impossible ta relax an' be friends."

Or, "Yeah, it bothers me that I called my car last night jist cuz I can't breathe without knowin' I got an exit route, but I can't tell ya about it cuz you'll melt down in a sea o' histrionic tears."

But all of those thoughts were far too abbreviated to be completely fair or completely true, and to make them so would take hours or days of tedious misunderstandings and possibly a number of pshychotic breaks. So he decided instead to say something that was, in fact, complete and completely true.

"Yeah, it bothers me the sun's shinin' cuz it hides her natural glow. It bothers me the wind's blowin' cuz its stealin' away yer scent. An' it bothers me they's people here cuz none of 'em's worthy ta share the same air as you. Other than that, toots, hell, they's times when all I gotta do is look across the breakfast table at ya an' ever'thing wrong with this fallen world jist comes out sunny fuckin' side up."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-15-17/2217:31>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

Alyce listens to what Al says and waits to see what else he wants to say, but it seems that he is finished.  She smiles at him and shakes her head.  “Thank you, Al.  You have just said the nicest things to me.  I am glad that you feel that way because it puts words to my own feelings about you.  I do hope that you are happy, Al, because that is the number one most important thing to me.  I know that you do not like feminine words and emotions so I will just leave it at that for now.”
She lifts a plate.  “I think that I will go get me another slice of ham and ask for some more tea.  Would you like me to bring you anything?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-15-17/2219:22>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

“Sure, woman, whyn’t ya fetch ol’ Al some more o’ them there waffles, lots o’ butter, not jist on top, but between each slice, then that syrup. An’ yeah, ham sounds good, right onna waffles, say five slices. An’ coffee, black.” What the hell, she was a woman, and she had a mutant memory. She was two steps away from the table when he called her back - just spoke her name quietly, knowing she’d hear, and knowing she’d come when called - shit, she was just too damned perfect to let go of - and when she turned he added, “An’ coupla them bananas, ‘long with a bowl o’ peanut butter.”

Grace rejoined them after a few moments, sensing that Alyce’s attempt at woman talk had not lasted long. By the time they finished, they were well on their way into the Welch Habitable Zone. The view was arguably better from up top, but apparently a lot of the other passengers thought so to. “You ladies’re welcome ta linger. Ol’ Al’s fer a seat by my own damned window."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-15-17/2220:48>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

Alyce smiles and makes three trips to the buffet line to bring Al his food and then hers.  Along the way, she arranges for some black coffee for him and tea for her.  Grace returns to the inside portion of the observation dome and drinks some tea with them as they finish eating.  Both women are quiet except for a couple of mentions of the excellently prepared food.  When Al is ready to go, Alyce makes to rise with him, but Grace puts a hand on her arm.  “Could the two of us remain up here for a few minutes?”  She looks over at Al.  “Woman talk.”

Alyce sits down and turns her head to face Al.  “We will be along shortly.  I was getting interested in the Uncle Shagratt story.  Do you think we could watch some more of that?  I am able to hack into the program and see the show as a feed on my 'link.  Unless you had something else in mind, of course.”

A few minutes later Alyce comes into Al’s compartment and sits next to Al.  He already has one of the episodes on and Alyce asks him to explain what is going on and actually enjoys the misadventures of the title character.  During a break between two of the episodes, she looks over at Al and says, “These guys are brilliant, Al.  They have taken many of life’s lessons and disguised them as the comedic failings and triumphs of this Ork and his sister’s family.  I can see why you like it so much.”  The train slows to make a scheduled stop at a small station so that a long freight train can go past and Alyce tenses a bit, then relaxes with a short sigh.
They are on the siding for perhaps ten minutes then get moving again.  After another episode, Alyce reaches into a pocket of her sundress and pulls out a folded piece of paper, holding it out to Al.  “Dinner will be just the two of us, Al.  Grace has decided to go home and get ready for classes.  She got off the train at that station back there and wanted me to give you this after it left.”

The note is written in a fair hand and addressed to Al Guthrie.  “I am a fairly bright girl and I know when I am in the way of something, even if I am not sure what the something is.  There is, of course, the chance that I am misreading the whole thing, but I am acting on what I am feeling.  I believe quite strongly that I am not helping either of you, and may even be causing more damage than you will admit.  I will never forget the kindness that you have shown me and recognize that I owe each of you, separately and together, a great debt for helping me find out things that I did not know about myself.  You took me into your life for a short few days, Al, and I am truly thankful that you did.  You have my com code, so please contact me if you want to talk about rugby or swimming and I hope that you think kindly of me on occasion.  I know that I am taking the coward's way out, but I am afraid if I look too long at either of you that all my words will be twisted up and you will tell me to stay and I will.  So here it is; so long, be you and be happy.”

 Alyce lets Al read the message then puts out a hand to touch his arm.  “I do not know what she wrote to you, but I do know that it was hard for her.  She did tell me that I was a very lucky girl and I assured her that I know that.  I want to add my personal thanks to any she said for allowing……no, more than that…..for inviting her to come with us for a couple of days and then extending the invitation for the rest of the trip.  That was extremely generous of you and I want you to know I appreciate it.”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-16-17/1359:02>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

Al would have written the silly girl off for good, but she was a female, so allowances had to be made. Besides, there was Alyce to think of.

"Don't thank me - din't do nothin' I warn't inclined to. An' though I's said as much more'n once, people either ain't listenin' or think I'm a liar. Now, I don't know what that girl told you, but accordin' ta this little missive, she din't want ta go, but she's gotta go in order ta save us. Apparently the child thinks she knows..." His voice trailed off when he realized he was preaching to the choir. Alyce didn't say so, but he knew she wanted to girl back, and this, at last, was something she wanted that he could do.

He started lacing up his boots.

"I'll call her," Alyce offered.

"Negatory. Jist encourages more damned drama," Al said in a voice that brooked no argument. He'd had enough of this silliness.

He headed for the door. "But she's thirty minutes behind us now, Al. How will you...?"

"Catch ya in the next stop or two."

He went down the hall looking at his comm. It was easy enough to find a spot ahead where the track was fairly close to the highway. His car had been shadowing them since reaching Wales a couple of hours ago - he had it go and wait for him at that spot. Then it was a simple matter of going up to the observation deck - damned nanny state safety freaks had all the regular doors sealed during transit - and waiting for the right spot. It was far from the first train he'd jumped off of, and this tourist number was hardly going faster than the Jumboland Express at the zoo.

He was forty minutes by train from the last station when he got into his Porsche. He made back the distance in seven. On the way, he checked the timetable out of that station. The last train had nonetheless left fourteen minutes ago. On a hunch, however, he parked the car and headed in. He could easily catch the train before it made its next stop if he was wrong.

Of course he was not wrong.

There was Grace. Sitting on a bench. Next to the little girl from the rocks, holding her spray of yellow flowers. Or the big girl from Bristol. However you wanted to slice it.

Grace looked surprised but more relieved to see Al. The girl looked at him with recognition but without alarm.

"Al, thank goodness. This is..."

"Amanda," he said.

"Yes, but..."

"We've met," Amanda joined in helpfully.

"Okay, sweetie. Al, Amanda here has lost her parents, I think they got on the last train without her by accident or something. These damned automated village stations, there's no one here. And then my comm died..."

Of course it did - so Alyce couldn't have called her anyway.

"An' ya jist had to miss yer train ta stay with young Amanda the psychobilly fan here."

The little girl shrugged at Al and winked.

"Yes...well, yes I did. Can you call the local police?"

"Don't reckon that'll be quite necessary. Amanda here, she can take care of herself jist fine."

"What are you going to do with Grace, Al?" the girl asked the man directly.

"Depends on Grace, whether she's still got the brains she was born with."

"Grace," Amanda said, "Leaving Alyce hurt her. And you. And for what? You out of the picture won't help that poor, lovely woman get any closer to this emotionally retarded lout. But you in the picture may help her cope with all the heartache this patriarchy poster-boy will inevitably cause her."

"Hey, now wait jist a goldurned minute..."

But the girl ignored him. "He's a distraction. But he'll tell you one true thing - the best thing you can do for the ones you love is to do what you want for yourself. That will make you happiest, and thus it will make them happiest."

"Shee-it, I was gon' say that. Or, well, somethin' like it."

Grace sat stunned. The more time she spent with these people, the more out of her depth she was. "What...? Who...?"

"I'll check in on you later." And with that the little girl was gone, leaving only the yellow flowers on the bench to mark her passage.

"Al, what....?"

"I'll tell ya what. I'd jist as soon sent ya on yer way, carryin' on like a damned soap opera queen. But then they's Alyce. Now ya wanna take off, I ain't gon' stop ya. If'n that's what you want. But ya take it upon yerself ta try an' guess one more time what other folks want - after they told ya an' fuckin' told ya - I'll have ya over my knee. Now come git inna car."

He turned and walked out. Grace followed. As they crossed the gravel lot, she said, "Damn. Nice car, Al."

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-17-17/0018:03>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

Al grabs up what Grace had brought with her from the train and tosses it into the small boot of his car.  Grace, still in a daze, follows meekly and slips into the passenger seat.  Al spins through the gravel of the station’s small car park and out to the slightly rutted dirt road paralleling this section of the track.  Grace opens her mouth to say something, but a look at the expression on Al’s face in profile kills any desire on her part to say anything so she just closes her mouth.

The car is one fine machine, engineered by one of the best auto makers in the world and modified by Al to be even better.  Better, as in faster.  By the time Al gets the car off the dirt access road and back to the pavement, the auto is travelling at a very fast speed and Grace has a white-knuckle death grip on the armrests of her seat for almost the entire trip.  Al is concentrating on the road and is more than halfway back to the train before he notices that Grace must have picked up the small bunch of flowers and pinned them to her dress.  He shakes his head and mutters under his breath at how some undeserving people get all the fragging luck with their guardian ghosts, while others…………………..well, they get less than optimum support.

Al catches up to the train but it is travelling far too fast to just jump back on, especially for Grace in her current state.  He takes one hand off the wheel to access his ‘link, getting a small yelp from Grace even though the speeding auto does not swerve one bit from its path.  Al gives her a roguish smile as he shifts to another gear and pushes the car even faster, causing his passenger to go even whiter, if that is possible.  He flips through the train schedule and swears to find that there are no scheduled stops between here and its destination for the day.  Nothing for it, he races ahead, attempting to get to the town well before the train arrives.  Fortunately, traffic on the road is light and only a handful of people shake their heads at the maniac driving the foreign-made auto at what should be impossible speeds.  Al does slow down as they approach their destination, staying within the legal speed limit as he arrives at the train station.  He leaves the car and walks around to the passenger side, where he practically has to pry Grace’s fingers from the armrests.  He leaves her trying to stand on wobbly legs and gets her things from the boot.  Grace meekly lets him take her arm and escort her onto the station platform, where she sits on a bench.  “Don’t ya be movin’ any, lil darlin’.  Ol Al gonna get some gas inna car and send it off.  If’n yer not here when I git back, I’l just find ya and give ya that hidin’ I told ya about.  Understand?”

Grace’s eyes open a bit wider and some color comes back to her cheeks, but all she manages is a nod of her head.  Al nods back and goes back to the car, taking it to the local petrol station to fill the tank.  Once back at the train station, he re-engages the autopilot and sends the beautiful thing at a sedate pace to a car park.  Al paces back and forth on the station for a bit before sitting down near Grace and waiting for the train.  She calms her nerves and looks over at Al.  “Thank you, Al.  Not sure what I was thinking.  I know that you said I was welcome to stay, and I don’t doubt you.  But I just thought that she and you might be better off without me in the way.  I am just so fragging confused by everything I feel right now and I am not sure what to do.”

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-17-17/0023:36>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

Al spoke without removing the cigarette from his mouth. He stayed at arm’s length - didn’t want to risk getting snuggled or some crap if he spoke nicely. “Well, hell yes yer confused. Shit li’l darlin’, you done come right down the rabbit hole followin’ after us’n. An’ you wanna go home, hell, I’ll buy yer ticket. Drive ya my own damn self. Second ya tell me that’s what ya want. But since you an’ I both know that ain’t what ya want….’nuff said. Now I reckon yer findin’ yerself doin’ shit ya never inna zillion years’d believed ya would, someone told ya last week. An’ ain’t like ya got a lot o’ mileage on ya nor a surfeit of experiences behind ya, so no doubt yer outta sorts some.”

He stretched, legs out in front, arms straight back, Lucky Strike aimed at the sky. Then relaxed a little was as still splayed out like a lazy spider across half the bench.

“Now I ain’t here ta tell ya the shit yer gittin’ into’s okay.. Hell, way I was raised, it ain’t. So do what ya like. I know fer a fact Robyn’d neither force nor even push ya inta nothin’. But I also know she’s got a way about her. Morals is a damn sight looser’n most folks', an’ she’s got a talent fer showin’ others the errors that could be their ways. A right temptress she is, an’ I’ll admit I’s fallen prey ta a hippie love predilection or two my own self, whilst enjoyin’ her company. She’ll bewitch ya, ya let ‘er, lead ya down paths some would call free, others’d label dark, doomed. But whichever side ya call it on, they’s all damned fun. Yer young, an’ it ain’t fer me ta tell ya what. But I’ll give ya two thoughts ya can take ta the bank, an’ then a fair warnin’.”

Fresh cigarette. “First, she won’t think less o’ ya if’n ya ain’t the libertine she is. I know she’d be the first ta tell ya that, but I also see ye’ve a tendency ta second-guess what people say. So I’ll tell ya she means it - yer not inclined, say so. Ya won’t lose ‘er over it. Second, ‘long the same lines, ya say yer confused, first step is simplify. An’ one way ya can make ever’thin’ simpler is quit tryin’ ta read too much inta shit. Me an’ Robyn, we ain’t no babes inna woods ya gotta look out for. We say it, we mean it, or else it’s on us, not you. So ya take all that worry ‘bout us outta the equation, jist worry ‘bout yer own heart an’ head, things’ll go better for ya. An’ the warnin’: as ya may’ve guessed, me an’ her, we been known ta git inta the sorts o’ shit that ain’t always strictly legal and most usually earns an enemy or three. Ya deserve ta know that. Shit flows downhill, so ya hang with us, one way or another, that shit’s gon’ touch you. Law o’ nature.”

He grinned, all yellow teeth and flat eyes. “Now methinks I hear a train. Reckon I want ya on it - some o’ my motives’re pure, some definitely ain’t. I know she wants ya on board. You do what ya want."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-17-17/0036:20>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

Grace looks at Al with wide eyes for a minute then nods and stands up.  "You are something else, Al.  A rare man indeed.  I could have used some of your advice when I was growing up and trying to figure out just who I am.  I am not sure how, but it seems that my path is a bit clearer.  Are you sure she wants me?"

At Al's nod, Grace smiles and leans over to kiss him on the cheek before grabbing her things and racing to the train car.  Al smiles and saunters in the same direction.  By the time he gets to the compartment, whatever embracing and other embarrassing female stuff is done and Grace and Alyce are sitting in chairs opposite each other in the compartment, one hand from each reaching out to grasp the other.  Alyce looks away from Grace's face to Al's.  "Thank you, Al.  I understand that you have a fast auto.  Can we take a drive somewhere?  The train does not leave here until late tomorrow afternoon."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-17-17/0847:23>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

Al shrugged. He had just driven across a good chunk of Wales. But when it came right down to it, Wales wasn't really that big. And he never got tired of driving.

"Sure. They's jist the two seats, so you'll have ta share shotgun. But then, I don't reckon you twain've got many personal space issues atween ya."

On the way out to the car, he explained,"Ain't much road access up inta Brecon Beacons. That other train I mentioned, they built that track so's they could skip layin' much road up in there. But we can still see plenty around the edges."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-17-17/0919:51>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

Indeed, the girls have no real personal space issues and opt to share the passenger seat in Al's fancy auto.  They decide to have Grace sit on Alyce's lap on the way out and swap over for the trip back to the train.  Al might have been correct about the lack of many main roads into the area, but he was certainly able to sniff out a few old dirt tracks, some of which challenged even his abilities to a point.  The land in this part of Wales is rich in cultural history, much of it available on the matrix, and Alyce treats her companions to a tour guide's perspective of the area from the Iron Age forts and cairns, through Roman and Norman occupations, to the historical significance of the various ores found here during the Industrial Revolution.  The landscape is very different from the moors and hills of Cornwall and all three of them enjoy the outing very much.

Of course, some enjoy it a bit more than they probably should.  On the way outbound, even as Alyce regales the others with the knowledge she gleans about the park, she lets her hands roam across Grace's body, eliciting small gasps and louder moans that are definitely not caused by Al's driving skills.  On the way back to the train, Grace returns the favor and Al smiles to see Alyce squirming at the merciless touch of her girlfriend.  Both girls are a bit glassy eyed when Al pulls back into the station car park and they have to leave the car.  Alyce suggests dinner at the local rather than returning to the train right away and looks at the others.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-17-17/1007:59>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

Al had thoroughly enjoyed the drive around the Merthyr Tydfil area and forays into the lower reaches of Brecon Beacons. This time he was in no rush, and loved taking in the scenery. Having to handle the car, it wasn't the same experience as leisurely viewing from the train...besides which the ride came complete with other distractions, but it was a good outing, and a welcome break from the drama earlier in the day.

A pattern had clearly developed - irrational woman drama, followed by lots of fun to get things back on an even keel. And then back to the drama. So if they had fun tonight, the morning seemed sure to herald more silliness. He supposed time would tell whether the incipient pattern played out. He hoped he was wrong.

"Local fare should do jist fine," he answered. While no major metropolis, the town was hardly a tiny hamlet, either, and there were plenty of choices.

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-17-17/1036:04>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

The girls broke apart, each taking one of Al's arms as the trio walked into the town and looked for a nice place to eat.  ALyce spotted a pub that had a sign outside advertising "Quiz Night" and nudged Al in that direction.  They went inside and found that they had about forty minutes before the activities so they found a table and ordered some dinner fare from the cute girl who came by to take their orders.  All three had beer with dinner and enjoyed the meal, which was very nicely prepared.  They were not the only tourists in the pub, but they were the quietest, with several others completely justifying the local dislike of "foreigners" from London.  Two couples from the train became a bit boisterous and began extolling the virtues of London over poor Wales and things looked to be getting a bit ugly when Al stepped up and offered to get the four a last drink and see them to a cab back to the train.  At first, both husbands looked like they were going to resist the offer, but Al's face brooked no argument and they left the pub after the last drink, their way to young "wives" in tow. 

The barman sent over a round of drinks to Al's table and several people came by to thank Al for his actions...........and some to stare down the fronts of the girls' frocks.  everyone got down to a good evening of quiz.  Grace proved to be a very competitive player and was able to answer almost all of the sports questions with little hesitation.  Alyce and Al rounded out a good team, but they still came in second to one of the local tables.  Laughter and good times were experienced by all and the three had a raft of new friends by the time they left the pub and walked back to the train. 

Once in their compartment, the girls both looked at Al and Alyce spoke up.  "That was bloody nice, Al.  Thank you.  You are a real gentleman."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-17-17/1329:50>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

"Heh, gentleman huh? Been called a lotta things, but..." He trailed off, his eyes drifting up and down the two women's forms in the little sundresses they were so attached to. "Nah, ol' Al can handle a coupla drunk corpocrats an' they trophy wives. Reckon the real test o' my gentlemanly colors comes ever' time I'm alone with a coupla delectables such as yerselves." He shrugged. "Well, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it."

He went through the adjoining door to his own compartment, not to signal an end to the evening, but to give the ladies their privacy if they wanted it. He left the door open to welcome their company, knowing they'd shut it if they wanted to.

"Gon' order me some cold beers an' greasy snacks, hit the trid. Y'all are welcome ta join me if'n ya come up fer air."
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-17-17/1826:33>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

Al hears some giggles from the other room that fade off to silence for a minute, then the girls come into his compartment, both naked as usual.  A bit breathless, they sit at the table with Alyce sitting in the chair near the bed where Al is propped up to watch the trivid and Grace sitting opposite her.  When the beers and snacks arrive, both women toast Al’s courage in taking on the job of escorting them and share his snacks.  The conversation is light and mostly about the vid they are watching and just a bit about the butt of the porter that had delivered the snacks.
When Al signals that it is time to go to sleep, Alyce motions to the window.  “What do you want to do tomorrow, Al?  The train does not leave until about 1800, so we have most of the day here.  Do you want us to get up early and head out somewhere or just be lazy and sleep in?”
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-17-17/2106:03>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

"Well gittin' up early's sure as hell out. As fer what we do after that, ya wanna make a plan, go for it. Ya wanna leave it up ta me, then yer gon' hafta ta wait till I git up, cuz I won't know what I feel like till that happens." He decided to take a shower before attempting the hopeless task of falling asleep, and was down to his boxers when he noticed something on the program listings that flashed on the trid screen as he sent it to sleep. "Oh shit, they's showin' the lost pilot episode o' Karl Kombatmage next..." He looked at them sheepishly. "I know I can jist call that shit up whenever...guess I'm old school. Looks like ol' Al's stayin' up a mite longer. Yer welcome ta stay or go, but what say ya leave the door open either way....I can use the earbuds if'n ya wanna sleep."

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-17-17/2354:27>
Tuesday, August 5th, 2076

Alyce stands up and motions to Grace.  "No thanks, Al.  I think we will retire to the other room.  We will try to be quiet, but you might want to have the earbuds available, just in case you hear any odd noises from the other compartment.  Thank you very much for today, Al."

Alyce goes through the connecting door, followed by Grace, who stops at the door and turns.  "Yes, Al, thank you very much.?  Her eyes scan Al's body and she smiles.  "Nice tent.  It's good to see that you notice us."  Giggling a bit, Grace walks through the door into the other room.  Al is serenaded by low moans and groans followed by some gasps and panting.  There is a short break of near silence then the sequence of moans and groans begins again, lasting until well after Al's show is over.

In the morning, all is quiet when Al gets up.  After dressing, he walks into the other room to find Alyce sitting naked at the table and reading her book.  Grace is laying on her stomach on the bed, sound asleep.  Alyce looks up as Al comes into the room and smiles.  "Young kids these days.  No real stamina.  I may have my work cut out for me with this one.  Shall I dress to go up for breakfast?"
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-18-17/1746:38>
Wednesday, August 6th, 2076

Al hadn't slept, but he was used to that.

Still, he felt tired. He'd been tired lots of times in his life. Hell, most of his life. But never tired like this. Vacation could be hard work, depending....

He thought for a second. Breakfast would be good. But he wasn't in the mood for a crowd. "Ya mind if we eat in here?"

Of course she didn't. They smoked as they waited - it didn't take long. The service didn't wake Grace, but after the porters had gone she stirred at the smells of coffee and bacon and after a moment joined them at the table.

Breakfast conversation was varied - the trip so far, girl stuff, sightseeing opportunities in Wales. As they wound up the meal, but before the girls made any move to dress, Al said. "Been one hell of a ride, ladies. Ol' Al's had enough train cruisin' fer the nonce, though. Room's paid for, so o' course y'all're free ta use both. Toots, reckon this is a mite rude, since we done made this date fer the whole route. Ain't got no excuses. Feel free ta call or text in a few weeks' time. Reckon I'll be right happy ta hear from ya."

He got up to grab his plastic bag. Grace said, "Seriously? What the fuck? After all that yesterday?"

Al chuckled as he tossed his two books into the bag, leaving some discarded socks and underwear on the floor. "Night an' day, li'l darlin'. Cuz I ain't leavin' a note, I'm standin' here talkin'. An' I ain't doin' what I don't want, thinkin' it'll make someone else happy. Doin' exactly what I want, which is exactly what I told you ta do - or would have, that damned ghost hadn't stolen my thunder. Fact is, it ain't got nothin' ta do with you. Jist wanna go fer a drive."

He was standing at the door now, hand on the knob. It took all his considerable will not to turn it and walk out. But he knew that'd be rude. He gave it a moment, braced for more drama to send him on his way.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-18-17/1946:00>
Wednesday, August 6th, 2076

Grace has a stern look on her face and opens her mouth to say something but Alyce places a hand on her arm and shakes her head.  She smiles at Al and rises to walk to him, giving him a small kiss on the cheek.  "Be happy, Al.  I could not wish for more for you than to be happy at whatever you do."

She steps aside and brushes a hand across the side of his face then returns to her chair.  Grace just watches this with an open mouth, but does not say anything more as Al opens the door and passes out of the compartment.  She turns her face to look at Alyce.  "Are you insane, or is he?"

Alyce laughs a bit.  "Probably both of us, a bit.  I am sending you a note.  Al spoke these words to me."

Grace reads the message and looks up at Alyce.  "Al said these things?  Then why...........................?"

Alyce shakes her head.  "I am not certain, Grace.  I have no doubt that he loves me very much.  There is something that is bothering him.  He will not talk about it.  I had hoped that he might do so on this trip, but I lost that chance when................."

Grace interrupts her.  "When I came along, you mean?"

Alyce shakes her head.  "Absolutely not, dear.  Anything that happened is purely me and Al.  I really think that he is not yet ready to tell me.  He may never be ready and this may be as good as I ever get from him.  Time will tell."

Grace stands.  "Am I going to be a reminder of him leaving?  If so................"

Now it is Alyce's turn to interrupt.  "Grace, stop, please, and listen to me then decide if you are going to leave or stay.  I will always love Al.  But I told you once that my heart is big enough to love more than one person.  Right now, you and I are at a crossroads in our life and I would like very much for you to stay and see where our love is going.  Are you interested in finding out if what you feel is just lust or something more?"

Grace considers her lover's words and her mind goes to what has happened to her over the past few days.  Her body tingles and she smiles broadly, even as she shakes her head.  "I will not even pretend to understand the two of you, but yes, let's see where this goes, shall we?"

The younger woman sits down on the Keeb's lap and puts her arms around her neck and both are smiling as their lips meet.

In the corridor outside the room, Al walks past a woman who has her back to him as she looks out a window.  He stops two steps onward and looks back.  The well-dressed woman turns to face him and smiles.  "I, too, hope that you find happiness, Al.  You deserve it if anyone does.  Thank you for helping Grace.  She will have face troubles in her life and will still face some persecution for her life choices.  I will be there to help her along the way, but you have been especially kind.  I wish that I could help you.  If it is any consolation, that young Elven woman really does love you very much.  So long, Al."  The woman reaches out and pins a small bunch of yellow flowers to his lapel and pats it before turning and walking off, a slight smile on her face.

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-19-17/0004:21>
Wednesday, August 6th, 2076

The afternoon passes by without really affecting the two women in rail compartment 1B.  They are far too involved in themselves to even notice the passage of time and it is left to the imagination just what they do.  As they lay on the bed, panting and quivering, Grace tries and fails to lift her head.  "Frag, Alyce, what did you just do to me?"

Alyce laughs weakly.  "I am not sure, exactly.  Do you want to do it again?"

Grace turns her head to look at the other woman.  "Fuck, yeah.  At least, I would if I could feel my body. Maybe a break?"

Alyce laughs and rolls over to face her friend.  "I'll give you a bloody break."

Words dissolve into giggles then moans and groans and more time passes before they come up for air and go eat dinner, not even noticing the taste of the food or the looks they get from the other diners.  They only have eyes for each other as they eat their meal.  After dinner, the pair goes out to the open observation deck, where Grace describes the land the train is passing through.  Soon enough, her voice stops and she just leans against Alyce and holds her tight to her side.  Grace knows that Alyce is thinking of a man who is now several hours away but always close.  She does not understand the love they share but it is real and she hopes that she can earn even a portion of the love that Alyce has for Al. 

Alyce sighs and allows her attention to roam elsewhere than where she is.  She puts a hand to her throat and touches the wooden voodoo idol there and smiles at the memory of how she got it and of the man who gave it to her.  and stole her heart at the same time.  He had disappeared from her life once before and it had almost killed her, and now he was leaving again.  But this time is different.  Back then she was very unsure of everything, but now she knows for certain that he loves her and that is enough.  The scent of the young woman standing next to her wafts up and she smiles while reaching her hand to take that of her lover.  She feels a slight tremor in the girl's hand and brings it up to her cheek.  Turning to Grace, Alyce smiles and leans towards her and places a hand behind her neck to kiss her gently.  Without saying a word the two walk back down to their compartment and celebrate love.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-20-17/0124:02>
Thursday, August 9th, 2076

Alyce is in bed next to Grace, listening to her soft breathing.  She does not have to turn her head to watch the gentle movement of the younger woman's breasts as they rise and fall.  Alyce's body is still tingling from the afterglow of extended sex as she relaxes and composes the message that she wants to send.

>>Al [Alyce]:  Hey, you.  I miss you already.  I wanted to get a message off to you before the words got out of my head.  I hope that you read this but you should not feel obligated to reply.  First, and most importantly, you are the love of my life, Al, and my very best friend.  I know that something is bothering you and that this vacation was supposed to be a time when you could figure things out and talk to me about them, and I blame myself for saying and doing things that did not help you get to that point.

No matter where you are, I am just a call away if you want to talk to me.  You have two numbers now that you can use.  The old one is still tied to that ancient meta you gave me years ago, which is never turned off and will forward to me wherever I am.  I have attached that number here just in case you have misplaced the note I wrote you in Cambodia.  The second number, also attached, is to my current ‘link and should also get to me anywhere.  I feel confident that we will meet each other professionally on occasion, but would love to see you at other times as well.  Call me and we can meet.  Call me from anywhere and I will get there.

By the way, I wrote down those words you spoke to me at that breakfast, just to make sure that I never forget them.  They have already given me a peace I probably do not deserve and a certain contentment that I wish my words could give you.  I know that you meant every word and they are the most precious things anyone has ever said to me.

I am going to stay on the train with Grace and see where that may lead for me.  We both miss you very much.  Good night and please be happy.

I love you, Al.


After sending the message, Alyce rolls to her side, facing the sleeping Grace and folds an arm around the young woman before falling asleep.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: adamu on <03-21-17/1859:32>
Thursday, August 9th, 2076

Sitting in a smoky pub in Sheffield, Al watched his 'link vibrate on the sticky bar top.

He hadn't felt like going back to London. He hadn't been tired of traveling. He hadn't been tired of vacation. He'd been tired of traveling with other people. And of not being the driver.

So he'd gotten a room in which to sit and do nothing in a seedy part of what had once been a nice town and was now just one cell in the body of the urban sprawl that covered most of the British Isles. But there was still a bit of the Peak District left. Most of it has been logged into nothing, but there were a few spots he thought he'd hike up to. Get his head clear.

He glanced at the number on the text he'd just received. So much for waiting a few weeks. But then she wasn't much of a listener. Not like him. He reflected for a moment on what the world would be like if everyone on the planet was as good a communicator as he was - no more war, no more hate, a fucking paradise if people would just learn to be like him. But then he'd definitely never have a moment's peace.

He went ahead and read it. No surprises. Just as painful as he expected. He'd have to make himself read it another few times, just to twist the knife a bit. But he'd be drunk by then. He ordered another beer.
Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-22-17/1016:23>
Thursday, August 9th, 2076

By the time the women wake up, the train has stopped at the station for Snowdonia National Park, where it will sit for the next three days so the passengers can take advantage of the visual wonders of North Wales.  Alyce leaves the bed to use the toilet, making way for Grace when she is done.  When Grace returns to the room she finds Alyce back on the bed and stops to look upon her own visual wonder that just happens to be in North Wales.

"Hey, don't you want to go see some of the sights?"

Alyce shakes her head and Grace grins before returning to the bed. 

Title: Re: Al and Alyce - Second Chapter
Post by: Mercy Merchant on <03-25-17/2220:40>
Thursday, August 9th, 2076

It is afternoon when the girls finally drag themselves out of bed to take showers.  It is convenient that they can use the showers in both compartments since each one is barely large enough to allow one person to get clean at a time.  They leave the train and are immediately aware of a slight breeze that ruffles the hems of their sundresses.  This far north is bringing a bit of a chill to the breeze and both look at each other with the same thought to buy some climate appropriate clothing.  Fortunately, the town has several locations that serve tourists that arrive here unprepared for the area and they are soon wearing clothing more suited for North Wales.

The next stop is to see what sort of tours are available and they arrange to take a bus and rail tour of Mt. Snowdon, the highest peak in Great Britain south of Scotland.  The train is a replica of an ancient locomotive and cars and will take them all the way to the summit and give them thirty minutes to look about.  They also arrange for the following day a guided tour by motorcoach to one of castles of the Welsh Princes who had defied Edward I when he expanded British rule into Wales.  Having taken care of the next two days, they leisurely walk the lanes of the town, eating lunch outside a tea house then dinner at one of the pubs on the main road.  After most of a day of talking, they realize that they actually have very little in common except a love of the cello, but that realization does nothing to lessen the attraction they feel for each other, nor the satisfaction they get from just walking together and certainly not the immense physical enjoyment they get from making love to each other.

After dinner in the pub, the two walk lazily back to the train to spend the evening up in the observation car where Alyce starts her book from the beginning, reading aloud to Grace, who enjoys the words and the way Alyce reads them.  After a few chapters, Alyce slides the silken bookmark into place and the girls hold hands as they go down to their compartment and spend even more time getting to know each other's carnal desires.