16

Re: Flotsam

Flotsam
Chapter 5: The Portside Menagerie

I am standing in an alien kitchen in desperate need of coffee.

Elsewhere in the apartment I hear the steady thump thump thump thump of people fucking, a counterpoint to the pounding of my very hungover head. Fucking hell, I need coffee.

The kitchen in Hank’s apartment is small, modular, and cryptic. It's a grid of anonymous metal cabinets with latch handles. I can see that some cabinet doors have been removed to reveal a modest sink with four spouts and a flat ceramic surface that I assume is a stove. I suspect that other lockers contain a fridge and oven and hopefully a dishwasher, because sucks to hand washing. I definitely do not see a coffee maker and a lovingly labelled tin of coffee grounds. Everything is too frustratingly squared away for the hungover interloper. Like in a submarine, or I realize, like on a spacecraft.

I begin to open cabinets, fiddling with latches to unlock them. I find a pantry filled with packages covered in foreign text, something runic looking on one box and another with writing like Arabic script, but nothing remotely English looking. The bedroom noises take on a new urgency, now thump-thump-thump-thumping accompanied by an enthusiastic oh-oh-oh-oh. Assholes. I open another cabinet looking for something that is recognizably a kettle, and find pots and skillets but nothing with a spout. I find mugs, which suggests that hot beverages do in fact exist in space. I hear a grunt and the thumping stops and a deep, woman’s voice bellows an involuntary Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh. There should be a law about people having orgasms before Halley gets her morning coffee. Punishment for violating it would be death.

“Oh, you’re awake,” Hank says in the doorway to his bedroom, flushed like he just finished having good sex. He is wearing a pair of comfy looking pajama pants and nothing else. Despite myself my eyes track over a torso defined by small, muscular pectorals, narrow rippling abs, and those defined hip line things that have always made me a bit crazy.  My stupid horny module goes yum and I wonder if Hank ever masturbates to his reflection....

Fortunately my hungover module currently has command. “Coffee...” I croak.

Hank has the good graces to look bashful, “You must be feeling terrible... and we woke you up.... be right back.” Hank ducks back into his bedroom and I make a whining noise that might contain the word coffee. He reappears a moment later holding a blue postage stamp. “One good thing about living in the future is that the hangover cures actually work. Turn around.” I turn around and he slides my T-shirt dress, once again flaccid and loose, off one shoulder and adheres the patch to my bare skin. I feel a prickling sensation and instantly I feel a little better. “Coffee,” I remind him.

“I have some bad news.”  Hank makes an apologetic face, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but coffee is native to Earth, and well, we don’t have any here.” I make a choked, sobbing sound and must be making some kind of horrified expression. “We have tea though, since the tea plant is interstellar. So I can make you a cup of black or green tea...” It was a far cry from coffee, but the idea of a familiar mug of hot tea was sort of attractive...

“We shall all drink Mud!” Declares Steadfast Freya making her dramatic exit from Hank’s bedroom wearing only underwear. She stoops a little to pass through the door, but then stretches, towering, in the common room. Undressed like this she is even more impressive. And imposing. She looms over me and somehow seems even larger, or at least more muscular in her nakedness. I can see every sinew of her body, which is lean and sculpted with defined, ropey muscles, but which still has a smoothness, a softness at the hip and ass and chest that keeps her looking feminine despite her size. Of course she also has four enormous tits. My eye level is right at the horizontal cleavage between her top and lower pairs of breasts, which, in the nude flesh, are shockingly large and firm, capped with aggressive looking nipples. As she breathes, her top breasts slowly shift and rub against her lower pair. It's been a long time since I've been romantic with another woman, but I find myself staring at this space woman’s tits. Horny module engaged.

“Mud?” I ask, hastily. “Why would we drink dirt?”

It takes an effort of will to pry my eyes off those tits, bouncing heavily and sliding against each other as she boldly marches into the room and flops into a cushioned chair. She stretches, four muscular arms and shoulders rippling, and suddenly we are at eye level. Her eyes are a very bright, sapphire blue and regard me with a frank intensity. Her generous lips quirk in a smile that dimples her cheeks a little but does nothing to soften her square, strong chin. She rubs her face with one pair of hands while her other hands sweep her long golden blonde hair out of her face. Fuck me but she's gorgeous. “We shall drink Mud because it is the beverage that other Halley’s have told me most resembles your Earth-coffee. It is a drink of Hank’s own invention,” she adds giving Hank a lover’s look.

Hank is such a blusher. “The Blue’s have this stimulant powder they snort made from the bark of a native tree. I found that if you grind the bark coarse and  brew it in boiling water you get a caffeinated beverage that is kind of like coffee?” Hank pours steaming water from one of the sink spouts into a pot filled with bright red sawdust. He stirs it thoughtfully. “Mud has caffeine in it, and a few other caffeine like stimulants, but nothing too speedy. And the psychotropic chemicals that get Blues high don’t seem to affect humans.”

“So you made ersatz coffee out of alien cocaine?” I ask.

Hank chuckles, “Yeah, basically.” He takes out mugs and a strainer and pours his Mud. "Time to ride the Red Horse."

I take the mug and sniff it. It smells... earthy and kind of like cinnamon or maybe cardamom. Like dirt, spice, and botanicals. The drink looks like coffee sort of, except red like it was made with clay instead of the familiar brown. I take a little sip and... it’s okay. It has a velvety mouthfeel like coffee, the same richness, but the flavour is much more like chai and dirt than notes of chocolate, graham, and currant. Tragically It isn’t coffee, but it is an acceptable way to get my morning caffeine fix in its absence. I drink another mouthful and smile. “It’s okay. It’s good.”

Freya, who had meanwhile been taking deep lusty slurps of Mud smiles fiercely. “Huzzah!" She claps a pair of her hands, making her tits jump and wobble. "That is the courage you will need, 24th, to carve out a place for yourself here. You must seize the day, grab life by the genitals, embrace adventure!" Three clenched fists and a brandished mug of Mud.

Hank smiles apologetically, "Freya is very passionate."

"Passion is the only way to live," Freya sniffs into her Mud.

"I like passion as much as the next displaced clone," I say, trying to be folksy, "but I think I have to focus on the basics first." Like where was I going to live, or where was my next meal coming from. I am so fucked. "Girl's gotta eat, y'know?"

Hank nods. "Well, you are welcome to sleep here until you get back on your feet. And if you want to pitch in around the bar, I'm happy to give you room and board as long as you want it. I can't afford to pay you much, but I can throw in a small share of profits and any tips you get."

"Please!" I say smiling. "That's so nice! And a huge relief!" I won't be homeless and starving!

"Don't thank me too much, I'm going to make you earn it. Plus I need the help." Hank spreads his hands, "Also, you should know that Clementine has set aside some money for you as a welcome package."

"I can't accept that!"

"Don't be hasty, 24th," Freya admonishes. "The Witch is very wealthy and wants to aid you."

"At least treat it as a loan," Hank says. "You need some basics," he holds up his smartwatch thing, "like a Keyband. And some clothes."

I touched my purloined, flaccid t-shirt dress. A bigger wardrobe that actually belonged to me would be nice... "Okay..." I say tentatively.

"Then it is agreed!" Freya says. "Hank shall go and prepare his bar for the Shift Day hordes and you and I shall go shopping." I start to nod agreement... "After we go meet Halley-23."

"What!?"

"Freya...."

"No, it is important that 24th meet her predecessor. Delaying this trip will not accomplish anything except for wasting time. It is inevitable."

"Wait," I say, curious despite my nervousness at the idea of meeting another Halley-clone. "You know where she is? She isn't like... dead or missing?"

"She works down by the Port. We can go and visit her before visiting the Souk."

"Halley, you don't have to do this today. You have a lot going on without adding something this big." Hank gives Freya a pointed look.

My heart is racing and I take a deep, steadying breath. The idea of meeting a clone of me, well, another clone of me, is a mind fuck. But I was definitely curious to see what Halley-23 was up to, to maybe learn why I was... decanted? Initiated? If not today, then soon. Freya was right that it was inevitable that I would seek her out. If I went today I could get it over with. And I would at least have a... friend? Backup? Someone, at least, to go with. "Okay. Let's do this."

Freya smiles and pumps her four fists. "Seize the day!"

I try a brave smile, "Grab life by the genitals."

***

I am drinking a fluorescent green drink to the sound of alien techno as a woman on stage takes off her clothes. Well, sort of. 'Clothes' might be generous.

The human dancer came onto the stage swaddled in sheer, silken scarves and has been stylishly losing them to music. At first she was nearly completely obscured, her limbs and body all bandaged, her face and head veiled. As the music kicked in she began to sway and slowly, teasingly, pulled a single sky blue bandage off her arm, baring a sliver of skin. She held onto the scarf, now a trailing ribbon and flowed across the stage, throwing out a leg and balancing on her other toe like a ballet dancer. Somehow she unwound a scarf from the extended leg without using her arms and with a flick of her leg she sent that scarf flying into the audience, striking a human man in the face to the rowdy approval of his mates. The dancer freed another scarf from her other arm and now whirled, scarves spiralling around her, along the stage, losing another leg scarf as if by magic. With a kick, this too was launched off stage. And so on, the dancer shedding scarves and dispatching them into the cheering, jeering crowd. At one point she unfastens a particularly wide cloth wound round her stomach and spins like a top across the stage, fabric unspooling off her, leaving only her face, crotch, and breasts covered. The human woman makes a great show of revealing her tits, pulling on scarves so cunningly wrapped that they stay in place despite slipping and moving. The dancer turns her back to the audience and, with one final tug, her halter top of scarves disintegrates into a dozen small streamers of cloth. The dancer whirls and leaps and spins across the stage, juggling these scarves, somehow obscuring her nipples despite her motion. It is playful and athletic and sexy at once and I shout a little in excitement. Freya claps two of her hands and sticks some extra fingers in her mouth to wolf whistle. The dancer does one last pirouette and sends an explosion of coloured cloth flying off the stage and bares her small, high breasts to the crowd. And now here she is dancing, hips gyrating like a belly dancers, naked except for the scarf wrapped around her crotch and the veil strapped over her mouth. Her eyes smile playfully at the crowd, her small breasts heave with her breath. The dancer does a forward flip thing and her last scarf comes off...

And suddenly I am sputtering as I am hit in the face by a silken scarf.

The dancer, naked now, is posing on stage. Her bared skin is brick red and streaked with teal stripes, maybe painted or tattooed or Shaped into her skin like a zebra. She flips her mohawk of teal hair and winks at me, then blows me a kiss over her veil. Her cock, because she has a penis, is erect and pointed right at me. I blush as I realize what hit me in the face and just want to die as I feel everyone stare at me. Freya booms with laughter and claps me on the shoulder so hard I nearly fall into my drink. The dancer whirls off stage to boisterous applause and thankfully the lights dim and its a break between acts. I take an unsteady slurp of my drink and try to keep my hands from shaking. Fuck I hate being the centre of attention like that.

Freya gives me a sympathetic look and signals the waitress to fetch me another drink. I offer up a little smile of gratitude and look around the club, this Portside Menagerie. The Menagerie is an erotic dance club located in the Port District, built into the nave of a huge metal fuel tank. The club caters to all the main species of Flotsam: packed around long tables welded to the sloped floor of the tank are raucous groups of humans, Blues, and what I am certain must be Reptilians. A table of young men in dusty outerwear with bad haircuts that I figure must be Scavengers chant a rhyme and pound their drinks. Another group of humans are dressed in clean, tight clothing covered with sockets and mounting points, and I imagine they could be a space crew. One of the spacemen sees me looking and smiles at me, wagging his eyebrows. One of his female coworkers laughs and swats him, glancing my way and rolling her eyes. Sharing our table is a group of Blues, tall and quietly talking, sipping carbonated drinks in tall, fluted glasses. In their asexual, brightly patterned fabrics and with their reserved manners they seem out of place, like grownups at a children's' party. The waitresses are all human and dressed in strapless bodysuits and heels and strut smoothly around the hall. One waitress carrying a tray of drinks seems to have real rabbit ears and a tail like a playboy bunny. I wonder if she is a another displaced Earthling or if its like that dinosaur that looks like a dolphin. Bunnygirl waitress brings us our drinks and smiles with her buck teeth and wiggles her little pink nose as Freya fiddles with her Keyband to tip her.

I spot a table of a dozen Reptilians and they really do look like humanoid alligators. They are big, all over six feet tall and muscular, with thick limbs and broad shoulders like linebackers. They are covered in rough scales, mostly black or dark green or brown, but a couple have mosaic patterned scales that are kind of lovely. Their bald heads have ridged foreheads and faces that push forward into blunt muzzles filled with sharp teeth and their slit-pupil eyes are a uniform bright yellow. They clutch tankards of some sort of red, mead looking drink in three clawed hands and drum their thick, gator-like tails on the floor when one of their group chugs. Their clothing tastes run to vests and shorts made from mammal looking black leather, like a punk gang of bikers. And much like a group of unruly bikers I think I will steer clear of them.

The stage lighting snaps back on and a figure slinks onto the stage. This dancer is petite and slender and covered in emerald scales and, I realize, is Reptilian. She stands beautifully still, holding beautiful feathers, red and purple and iridescent like a jungle bird. Except she isn't holding them, the feathers are growing from her forearms, hips, tail, and in a crest on her head. As the music starts, hand drums and a kind of woodwind pipe, she flares her feathers in a display and begins to dance. As she hops and skips around the stage, she flashes her feathers like fans, showing us glimpses of naked legs, smooth chest, tail, and hips. "Beautiful!" Freya says to me, loud enough to be heard over the music. I nod my head in agreement, "I love her feathers," I almost shout back, "do all female Reptilians have them?" The dancer spins and whips her tail feathers around, giving us the barest peek at her cloaca. I see the table of male reptilians go wild, roaring, and drumming their tails, and staring fixedly at the dancer. Freya shakes her head, "Reptilian females only grow feathers when fecund to display their fertility. This one uses drugs or Shaping to fake it to entertain males." The dancer tucks and flares her feathers tossing her head back to the music, sways her hips wildly like a hula dancer. "She is also a runt," Freya says, "most Reptilian females stand taller than me, bigger than the males, and would never stoop to performing like this. A Reptilian Matriarch would usually kill this dancer and punish any males she caught watching her." The dancer leaps and beats her feathers like wings, actually seeming to float for a moment. "Although it is a small miracle this one has even lived this long, usually females murder their runts well before adulthood." I look back at the dancer, performing more birdlike leaps before striking a very erotic pose as the music ends, face pressed to the ground tail lifted, feathers framing her exposed sex. It was hard to believe such a pretty creature was a pariah.

After a long drawn out applause the music fell to a calm synth, interspersed with the sound of chimes. A tall, lithe figure walks onto the stage, a Blue, naked with smooth azure skin. They, because I can't tell their gender, walks gracefully to the front of the stage and smoothly sits down cross legged. The Blue closes their eyes and rolls their head around in a circle, shifts their body seeking a comfortable position. Large industrial fans on wheels drive themselves onto the stage and park themselves behind the Blue. With an audible roar the fans spin up, blowing a stiff wind over the Blue and out into the audience. The Blue performer breathes deeply, over and over, sitting still. What kind of sexy dance is this supposed to be? I look around the club and notice the Blues sitting at our table seem flustered and excited. Their noses, once slits, have dilated open and are taking great sucking breathes from the air. The Blue on stage is starting to pant, chest rising and falling as they sit in the wind from the fans. I see the slit on the Blue’s crotch crack open, spreading to reveal shockingly purple, almost human looking labia which engorge into a substantial ring and glisten in the stage light. One of the Blues at our table shudders and moans and I see that some of the the group are sporting impressive looking boners under their clothing. They're really getting off on this performance... of a person sitting in front of industrial fans... aroused and sweaty and... and then I figure it out. Blues use scent to communicate sexy information. The Blue on stage isn't a dancer, but is instead some sort of erotic pheromone performer. Weird! I think I'm a bit jealous I can't smell them... or well, her. And suddenly the performer is done, standing elegantly and performing a little bow, and walking calmly off the stage. A couple of Blues from our table hastily stand and make their way to the door, hands clasped tightly. The other Blues all lean back in their seats, basking and panting, with looks of carnal contentment on their alien faces. “I’ll have what they’re having,” I say.

“What do you mean?” asks Freya.

“Its a line from an Earth movie...”

“Movie?”

An explanation of When Harry Met Sally and Earthling film is thankfully curtailed by the arrival of the next dancer, wearing only a feather boa. At first glance this performer looks like she is some sort of Reptilian: her limbs, back, and bald head are covered in brilliant green and gold scales and she has a long sinuous lizard tail that twists behind her. But she also has mammalian characteristics like great big honking tits, pale human skin on her chest and stomach, and a hugely distended, pregnant looking belly. Which, what the fuck? Is she some sort of half-human, half-Reptilian? Is that even possible? Music kicks in and it's a kind of slinking, climbing baseline thing and the lizard-woman starts to move on the stage, in an exaggerated waddle. It wasn't what I would consider particularly sexy, but the crowd seems into it, especially the tables of Reptilian males. The dancer waddles to one corner of the stage, leans way out, her huge tits hanging heavily, and opens her short muzzle. She extends a long prehensile tongue and licks a human man in the audience who laughs happily. With obvious discomfort the lizard-woman stands back up and waddles across the stage, dragging her tail across a table of Reptilian males, brushing it against them as she goes. The males roar their approval, slamming their mugs and fists on their table. The lizard-woman labours back to the middle of the stage and stops, the music cutting out. The club grows quiet and still, people watching with rapt attention as the dancer on stage breaths heavily in a state of anticipation. Clearly I am missing something. The dancer clutches her bulging stomach and moans, a deep throaty, almost animal sound that fills the club. She squats, legs spread, and rests a bit on her tail and releases another drawn out moan. A giant hologram snaps on behind her showing a close up of the lizard-woman's very human looking pussy. The projected vulva bulge and the dancer grunts and something white tries to push its way out of her cunt and then recedes back in. With another moan the white thing stretches the lizard-woman's pussy further and this time, with an orgasmic squeal, a round, ping-pong ball looking white sphere squirts free of the dancer and falls to the stage. The lizard-woman laid an egg! Is still laying eggs as she grunts her way through the delivery of another egg.  And another. She turns around resting her hands on the ground, lifting her thrashing tail up into the air, letting the room see her cunt as she continues laying egg after egg after egg. The Reptilians in the audience are in awe, clearly getting off on the display. The dancer has one last scream of pleasure and squeezes out one last egg and a torrent of fluids and stands, waist now cinched tight, smooth and toned with muscle. She looks back over her shoulder and runs her long tongue over her snout before slinking off stage, walk now a fluid and sexy strut, tail twitching behind her.

The house lights come back on and a waitress comes onto stage with a bucket and a trowel to clean up discarded eggs. "What the fuck was that?"

Freya laughed heartily. "24th, I do so enjoy your Aquarian out of water perspective and candor! It is a true delight!" She takes one last slug of her drink and signals a passing waitress. "That dancer is a human shaped to be part reptile, a Hybrid. Reptilians keep human slaves and they find it pleasing to make their favourite slaves part reptile. Especially slaves used in sexual entertainments." Freya pauses to pay the bunnygirl waitress again, who I swear actually hops a little as she leaves. I notice Freya checks out her ass and wiggly little tail. "Reptilian Matriarchs rule their clans with an iron talon, and breed according to their whim. Males, who outnumber mature females ten to one, have no sexual power. And so in Reptilian space there is a market for Hybrid slaves in sex shows or as illicit lovers. The egg show is a classic entertainment, although the Matriarchs try to forbid it. The presence of an oviparous Hybrid performer is a considerable boon to the Menagerie. Along with the Reptilian female with courtship feathers, it makes this club very popular with the Snakes."

I nod thoughtfully and sip of my refreshed bright green drink.

The houselights dim again and a fanfare blasts. A familiar fanfare. A this-is-the-theme-to-Rocky fanfare. A tall brass pole emerges from the stage and is illuminated by nested lights. "Llllllladies and Gentle-Ssssapients!" an amplified voice enthuses, "Put your hands, paws, or whatever together for the exotic, erotic, Earthling stylings of Halley Comet!!!" Fuck, here we go. Another spotlight blares, illuminating a figure wearing white go-go boots, a red trench coat, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed red hat. The woman struts to the front of the stage and the music transitions to Eye of the Tiger. She reaches out, places her hand on the brass pole, and swings around it once, ripping off her hat and sunglasses, letting a cascade of long, platinum blond ringlets whip out. Halley-23 smiles and blows the audience a kiss. My big sister clone is a stripper. Halley teasingly unties the sash of her trench coat and pauses holding it closed. Eye of the Tiger reaches the end of the strumming intro and just as it hits its first loud guitar riff Halley throws open her coat...

And I see what she's done to herself.

Fucking hell.

***

(That last chapter sure was long, huh? And way too worldbuildy. Hopefully this new chapter is more everyone's speed!)

17

Re: Flotsam

Oh I get it, the condition for spawning a new clone is "current version can't continue her relationship with Clem anymore", right?

18

Re: Flotsam

I think the condition for a new clone is when the last copy changes.

As always amazing writing!!!

19

Re: Flotsam

tbailey309 wrote:

I think the condition for a new clone is when the last copy changes.

As always amazing writing!!!

That could be it too, then. Though we'll have to see what happened to the other clones before we'll know for sure either way, methinks.

20

Re: Flotsam

Stay tuned wink

21

Re: Flotsam

Flotsam
Chapter 6: Halley-23

This was a terrible idea...

l am sitting awkwardly in a strippers dressing room trying not to freak out. Halley-23, the woman who I am a backup clone of, the closest version of me on this planet, decided to become an exotic pole dancer in space. With extras. Fuuuuuck.

And now I am planning to have a nice sit down talk with her. Deep breathes Halley.

As I sit here waiting, my mind runs back to the club, back to Halley-23s dance routine again. The horns of Gonna Fly Now, the red Carmen San Diego outfit, the brass pole, and her naked body. Her weird, altered naked body. Take another deep breath. Eye of the Tiger plays and Halley Comet, the exotic Earthling stripper, throws open her red coat and bares her six breasts. Six! Six perfect double D tits in three rows. The human men in the crowd cheer and I feel very uncomfortable. Stripper Halley elegantly shrugs out of her coat, and stretches her six arms. Six! Again!  She arches her back, standing up on the tips of her go-go boots, all projected curves and lithe limbs. She does a little spin showing off her perfectly toned body, her heart shaped ass. She looks so fucking good. And now she's standing in front of the pole, posing with two arms above her head on the brass, four hands tracing her over her cluster of breasts. She leans forward, the stripper pole nestled in the crack of her ass, until her long, teased-out blonde hair pools on the stage. The men in the audience are now suspiciously, intensely quiet. It is the sound of boners. Boners directed at an idealized version of me. And then Halley Comet is off the ground and on the pole, spinning with her limbs extended. As Eye of the Tiger grinds on, stripper-me works that pole, sliding up and down it, rotating in athletic and elaborate eight-limbed configurations, grinding her naked crotch against the metal in a way that communicates directly with every human male in the room, until finally, as final riffs of the song fade out, Halley-23 is doing the horizontal splits, six-breasted torso pressed to the floor, panting. Halley Comet is a very talented pole dancer and very, very sexy. And I find that I am distressed.

How the fuck did a version of me become a six-titted space stripper?

The dancing thing I can kind of understand. I, or I guess Halley-Prime, knew her way around a brass pole, at least a bit. Privately, behind closed doors. For fun.

It was a few years ago, right after I had dropped out of college and moved into the trailer park with Clem. I had always struggled with anxiety, but this was when it really blossomed, changing from something manageable to a life destroying miasma. My agoraphobia got so bad I couldn't leave the trailer for days at a time, and even on good days I panicked as soon as I left the familiar confines of the park. Clem was there for me as much as he could, but he had to work long hours at his shitty jobs to support us. So I ended up making friends with Maureen, a trailer park neighbour who stripped under the name Topaz. She was a beautiful, sweet young woman running from a broken home and supporting dental hygienist school and a mostly recreational coke habit by dancing. One night we got drunk and a bit stoned and Maureen thought it would be fun for me to take a spin on her practice pole, a length of galvanized pipe a handy ex-boyfriend had installed in her trailer. It was fun and something new to do within the safe confines of the trailer park. So I kept at it and practiced and listened to Maureen and by the time I sorted out my agoraphobia enough to leave the park, I had gotten pretty good. Not as good as Topaz or as good as Halley Comet, but passable. Good enough to tease Clem with my skills in the bedroom. Good enough that Maureen tried to talk me into going on stage myself. But... I couldn't do it. The idea of being up there, being stared at by so many people, being that vulnerable made me panic, made me want to puke. So I gave it up before it even started. Maureen finished school, moved out of the park, and moved on with life. And I got abducted by aliens and cloned.

So, yeah, I knew where Halley-23 learned the basics of the exotic art of Earthling pole dancing. But how did she get over the stage fright? And why did she decide to grow those extra tits?

I fidget nervously in the folding chair I'm sitting in and drum my fingers on the hard laminate vanity counter. I wish Halley-23 would stop glad handing her fans and show up already. I just want to get this over with.

"Look who decided to finally, like, show up!" Says my voice brightly from behind me. Shocked I whirl in my seat and see Halley-23 who giggles happily at my surprise. "Like, hi," she says.

"Hi," I manage lamely.

Halley-23 is still completely nude, her red jacket and hat clutched to her side. Up close she is even more beautiful, more of a spectacle.  Her six breasts are large and weightless and too perfect to be real, but still hang and move in a perfectly natural way. Her six arms, the ones not involved in the mundane business of holding clothes, hang casually, with a natural ease. Her face is still essentially mine, but a bit leaner with lips that are fuller and a nose thats just a little thinner and sharper. And it's all framed by a golden cascade of ass-length, shampoo model platinum blonde hair. I spare a glance in the vanity mirror and with my pale face and messy, shoulder length black hair, I look more like her sister than her clone. Her uglier sister. And her skin, it's tanned in a way my pale-ass flesh could never manage, and it seems to glow and sparkle. I realize that's because it actually, literally, glows and sparkles. What I first thought was body glitter I now see is a constellation of tiny, mirrored scales. And that healthy glow? It's really a faint bioluminescence that's not bright enough to light up a room, but draws attention to Halley and makes her visually pop. The combined effect is that Halley-23 looks like an airbrushed centrefold... in a really different fetish magazine. She sees me staring, rolls her eyes, grins, and starts hanging her costume on the back of a chair.

Halley pulls on a g string, slips a silken robe on, and turns a chair to face me and drops gracefully into it. She folds two pairs of hands in her lap, smooths her hair behind her shoulders with the other two, and leans toward me a bit, "I bet, you like, totally have some questions for me."

I nod, trying not to stare at her still exposed breasts.

"Well I learned to dance on, like, Earth in the trailer park..."

"From Maureen. I remember."

Halley giggles. "Obviously! Sorry, like, it's totally my first time meeting a new me."

"You're doing fine."

She beams, "You're a sweetie!" Holy crap she is sunny. Is this what being super hot does to a person?

How the fuck did you go from being me, new on Flotsam, to a six-titted naked pole dancer? How do I ask this delicately? "Why did you decide to become a stripper?"

Halley-23 chews her lip cutely. "Wellllll.... Like, the last thing I remembered was like, being in the trailer park? And then I woke up in a weird space bedroom? And Clem was a girl and like he had a naked catgirl slave me and then I totally fainted. So Clementine took me to a bar where I met Hank, who is like, really Halley-2  and he explained the whole, like, Flotsam thing and offered me a job working in his shitty bar and like, whatever." Six simultaneous yadda-yadda-yadda hands.

"That is pretty much my entire Flotsam experience so far," I interject.

"Oh, like you're brand new!" Halley giggles, "I bet like, Hank's huge girlfriend dragged you here."

I nod, getting another giggle.

"Sooo, like, I'm doing the new Halley thing, meeting other clones and like, maybe looking for Halley-prime? And also doing the waitress thing. But like, Hank is a sweetheart, but his bar kind of sucks? And he can't really pay much." Great my new job is terrible. "And he had this way cool girlfriend Aleese, who was a waitress here and she would, like, invite me to come hang out. Which turned into getting a shift sometimes when like, someone no-showed. Which turned into a regular gig and became like, my main job." She smiles wistfully. "That's when I met my bitches.” She giggles, “The like, other dancers."

"What like, drew me to the dancers was that they were all kinda outsiders. Like, Ssslaine our Reptilain dancer. She is like, a runt, okay? And Reptilian females all get raised together in like, a way competitive style where they like, try and kill each other. To prove who is best? And like Ssslaine is little so she was like, a natural target. But one of the males that looked after her clutch like, felt way bad for her and smuggled her out to a free human colony? So she like, survived to adulthood as like a weird Reptilian surrounded by humans. And then she had her first adult moult and grew her feathers. And they were totally beautiful in a way that made her pretty to humans. And maybe sexy to humans. And when she danced the way she like, instinctually wanted to, people liked it, so she became a dancer. But she still felt like an outsider so she came to Flotsam, 'cause it's a whole planet of outsiders. And here she started to take drugs to like, keep the feathers around longer, and danced for money and for other Reptilians. But the Matriachs still totally hate her, so she spends her time around humans and like, avoids Syndicate clubs. Ssslaine’s still kind of a Snake bitch, all stuck up and shit about being like, a superior life form, but she also like, loves us and would do anything to protect us.

“And then there is Sissilliss, the ovipard... the egg laying one. Okay? Her parents were like, indentured to the Reptilians and to like, get out of their debt contracts they sold their daughter to the Snakes. And like, her new owners started to like groom her and Shape her into a lizard-hybrid to make her a pleasure slave. And like, by the time she was grown she already had her scales, and tail, and could lay a small clutch of eggs during her monthly cycle. A highly ranked Syndicate Matriarch bought her and gave her like, as a present to one of her like, lieutenants? But this male was on the like, wrong side of a fight? So like Sissy was given a poisoned knife by a rival Syndicate Lieutenant and during one of her egg shows for her owner, she like, killed him and escaped. So she ran away to Flotsam and has been making her way dancing since, hoping her past doesn't catch up with her. What's totally crazy is that Sissy is a total sweetie, and like the nicest Sapient on the planet. She is like totally my best friend.

"You saw Kammallaporandoola dance too? The dancer with the scarves? She is like a member of a nomadic group of humans who were once slaves to the Reptilians. They like, rose up and like, kicked the Snakes out, but not before the Snakes totally poisoned their planet. So the people, like, built arc ships and started to travel the Nexus, visiting different planets to trade for stuff and repairs. And like, they were way poor or whatever, so they stated to use performance to barter for goods. Like, dance or storytelling or song or acrobatics or whatever.  Some of the original nomads left and settled down, but like, other people who liked that stuff joined the crew. And like, generations went by and it became like a travelling space circus. Which totally made a stop at Flotsam a year ago. And it was bonkers to see all these super talented people descending on our shitty little planet. A total party! And like Kamma was a dancer specialist who was just soooo good. But when the ships left Kamma, like stayed behind. It's kind of like a total mystery and she won't like tell us why. But she stayed and started to do different sexy dances and it was great." Halley-23 blushes. "I really like her. Like, like-like her." She giggles, "And she is so fucking into me."

"She's the one with stripes right? And the penis?"

Halley giggles and blushes, "Yeah, it's like a recent thing. She got it Shaped on from Clem as like, a clone-day present for me 'cause she knows I miss cock. It's just, like, for a few days." Halley bites her lip and and makes a sly look, "I'm gonna try and convince her to keep it!" She presses her tongue against the side of her mouth in a pantomime blow job face.

"Coooool..." I say. Changing the subject now. "What about the Blue, uh, smell dancer?"

"Oh! That's Fragrance. She didn't join the dance group until, like, after I joined."

"Fragrance?"

"Blue names are like, too fucking hard to say and like, have a smell component. So they like to have human nicknames. She picked Fragrance because she is like, a pheromonal therapist? She like, helps Blue couples that have trouble like, connecting sexually. So she goes to them and gets herself really horny and makes sexy smells that drive the Blues wild until they fuck. It's like, kind of an important job for the Blues? But it's also kind of lonely 'cause it's kinda like dating a hooker who is also a priest. It also doesn't really pay well, 'cause it's like a public service? So she started to dance here to make some money on the side. Which is like, great for us since it brings in the Blues, who like, usually aren't super into strippers and exotic dance." Halley leans in and says in a quieter voice, "And like, I think Fragrance gets off on performing? Like, she loves the attention and is kind of an exhibitionist. Which is like, a moral failing for the Blues because it's like, selfish and aggrandizing? Which is stupid 'cause Fragrance is really nice and sweet and just likes to feel sexy sometimes." Halley makes a playful face and whispers, "I bet she is totally jilling off right now." She giggles with a pair of hands covering her mouth.

Okay, TMI. "So you met the girls?"

Halley, "Right! So, like, y'know, it was nice to make friends with these girls who were, like, as lost as I was. And we started to hang out every night after work. And one night after the club closed we got all tipsy and stuff, and they were asking me about Earth and like, Kamma asked me what Earthling erotic dance looked like. And I was feeling silly and it was just my friends so I thought I would show them? So we looked all over the club and found like, an old pipe that went floor to ceiling like a pole. The girls made music for me, the two scaley gals drummed their tails and like, Kamma hummed a beautiful tune, and I stripped down to my bra and panties and started to pole dance for them. I was rusty, but I could still kinda do it okay. And the girls fucking loved it! They told me they thought I could be like, a real stripper! I was like, so embarrassed, but like also totally flattered!

"While like, this was going on, I was like so over the Halley-prime drama. Like, I had looked and whatever, but it wasn't fun or like, going anywhere and I was having such a good time with the girls and at the club. So I started to like, avoid Hank and Clem? Not because of like, a fight or anything. Just 'cause, like, they were so tied up in all that Halley shit. I wanted to do me and like, start over. But I couldn't make enough money only being a waitress at the club, I still needed to work and live with Hank. But if I started to dance... well, like, that would totally be enough to move out. Especially if I moved in with Kamma, which she totally wanted. So like, I hit the stage and became the only Earthling stripper on Flotsam." Halley smiles and does a sexy pose in her seat, thrusting out her six tits proudly.

"I still don't know how you managed to dance on stage in front of people!"

Halley giggles, "Oh that..." There is a soft knock outside the door. Halley puts on a plastic smile, "Come in!"

And into the room walks the greasiest motherfucker I've seen on this planet so far. He is a pale human man with thinning hair, a neck beard, and pale blotchy skin. He is wearing a thin leather blazer with the sleeves rolled up to show off a lizard scale tattoo on his forearm. Except it's not a tattoo, it's a patch of actual scales growing from his skin leading to a clawed hand clutching a metal-skinned courier bag. He turns his head and now I see his left cheek is covered in scales too, his left eye yellow and slit-puppilled. He sees me and smiles, yellow fangs flashing, a forked tongue slipping out of his disgusting mouth. From living in a trailer park I know a low level drug dealer when I see one. "Comet! Baby! You didn't tell me you had a hot Ssisster!"

Halley giggles in a way I can tell is fake, "Oh you!" She dimples, bites her lip, and makes a show of averting her eyes, "Do you have my Bliss?"

"Would old Adder have ssslithered all the way down here if he didn't have the ssstuff?" He says playfully. His tongue tastes the air again, and his intensity ratchets up a gear "Do you have my money?"

Halley slips a Keyband over one of her wrists and holds it out to the drug dealer. He touches it with his Keyband and some display flashes green. "Atta girl!" He says now, all disgusting, fanged smiles. He opens up his courier bag and draws out five steel canisters, which from Clem's brief paintball job I recognize are miniature compressed gas cylinders. He handed these to Halley one at a time, who catches each one in a different hand. He carefully reseals his bag, tongues the air, and leers at us. "Now have fun girlssss. I'll be ssseeing you!" And exit scummy lizard drug dealer man.

Halley watches the door for a few seconds longer, seemingly to make sure that Adder has truly fucked off, before releasing a breath she had been holding.

"This is how I get onto Stage," says Halley brandishing one of the cylinders.

"You get fucking high!" My sister clone is a six-titted stripper junkie!

"Oh slow the fuck down," Halley mutters as she puts the other cylinders into a drawer with a lock and pulls out something that looks a lot like an asthma inhaler. "This isn't like, crack or anything. It's called Bliss and it's like the best fucking anti-anxiety medication that I've ever like, used.” She looks down at the inhaler device and fiddles with it, removing a spent canister. “Like, we have tried all the Earth meds for anxiety and like, none of them really worked all that well. And the side effects? Like, weight gain and not feeling sexy and like making us more depressed?” Not to mention the one that made us super constipated. I nod begrudgingly. “Bliss like, actually works. Actually makes me feel brave or whatever. And it makes everything a little like, happier? Brighter?” Halley sticks out her tongue a little and peels off a wax seal on a fresh Bliss canister and inserts it into her inhaler. It makes a little hiss as it snaps into the mechanism. “So it like, helps with the depression and anxiety, and like, a couple hits a day and I can go dance on stage and be like, sunny for the crowd.” Halley licks her lips and lifts the inhaler to her mouth. She delicately seals her lips around it, closes her eyes, and activates the device. It makes a sharp whooshing sound and Halley breathes deeply, sucking greedily at the drug. She flops back in her chair bonelessly and groans in contentment, a waft of escaped drug vapour giving the room a faint botanical smell. She giggles in pure happiness and looks up at me, stretched out and beautiful, “It also like, gives you a fucking great high for a few minutes.”

“What about side effects? You sound like...”

“Like totally a bimbo?” Halley-23 rolls her eyes. “Yeah, Bliss like, makes me sound dumb. I’m like, still smart or whatever, but Bliss fucks with my translation nanites so I sound way dumb. It’s like, embarrassing but whatever.”

I make a face, “Translation nanites?”

Halley giggles, “and People think I’m a ditz!? Didn't you like, wonder why all these aliens seem to be speaking English?”

Whoops, thats a bit embarrassing. I blush,  “Now that you mention it...”

Halley smirks at me like she’s scored a point. “Well, like, Sissy likes to use Bliss sometimes and like offered me a hit and like, it made me feel really great. So when everyone said I should totally pole dance on stage I was too scared until I thought about using Bliss.” She giggles, “and like one good hit of this and I was on stage in my panties humping a pole for cash!”

“Wild.” Totally fucking wild. “And how did that lead to the whole...”

“Six tits and arms?”

“I was going to say ‘new look’.”

More giggling, “so like, the exotic art of Earthling pole dancing got me into the business. But like, the bit wasn’t going to stay mine forever. In just like, a couple months there were fake Earthlings spinning on poles and totally horning in on my shtick. So i needed to find like, an advantage? And like, Kamma pointed out that i could get free Shaping. So I went and got a fortune in work done.”

Halley smiled wistfully. “Clem is such a sweetheart, she was so happy to help me. And like, if you get Shaped, you should do it on Bliss. Something about the drug like, interacts with Shaping so that it feels reeallllllyyy gooood.” Halley clutches her six boobs and blushes, “the feeling of the Shaping nanites reaching into my tits, like, pulling and massaging and like, growing them... it made my clit so fucking hard!” Halley giggles, “I gooshed right there on the table!” She strokes her arms, “and the feeling of my new arms growing was like, a warm long massage that got me all horny again. So I like totally jumped Clem’s bone and fucked her.”

And now I'm picturing my space princess ex(?)- boyfriend fucking my mutant stripper alter ego. Its all six big breasts mashed up against three smaller ones, so many arms and a tail roaming, soft faces kissing hungrily, and a impressively large cock plunging into Halley making her giggle and pant and moan. Until they both goosh. Ugh, its kind of hot. I blush, “What about your girlfriend?”

“Kamma?” Halley giggles, “she was there and like, joined right in.” Halley smiled impishly, “We totally double teamed Clem as a thank you.” Dang, okay mental picture just levelled up...

“Anyway!” I say.

Halley has a bit of a giggle fit. "Geez, we need to get you some Bliss to loosen up!" Dubious stare. "No? Okay." She cutely rolls her eyes, "so like, having these extra tits and arms and having my like, overall sexiness jacked up gave me a really big advantage. No other dancers were gonna be able to like, afford this kind of Shaping. So I'm kinda like THE Earthling Pole Dancer on Flotsam. And like, I realized that Clem could help the other girls get better too. So like Kamma got her stripes Shaped into her skin, which she can make glow or change colour if she wants. And Sissy got her eggy parts like, super charged so she can lay so many eggs at once and do it four times a day if she wants. Or like, none at all if she isn't dancing. Ssslaine got her feathers grown from her body like, permanently so that she could stop taking hormonal drugs that make her feel shitty. Which took fucking forever because she isn't human. And then we were like totally a super group of strippers. Especially after we got Fragrance and a few other rad ladies to join up. Next thing, we like, bought out the Menagerie with a few backers, so like all us bitches have a stake in the club. So we like do really good and can like, be fair to freelancers too." Halley giggles, "Not bad for like, a bimbo stripper, right?"

I nod. I didn't want to be an erotic dancer, but if I was that did sound like a pretty sweet deal.

A knock at the door and there is Sissy wearing a drapey fuchsia toga and looking kind of sheepish. Well, as sheepish as a lizard-person can anyway. "Ssso sssorry to interrupt, but the girlss are keen to get going... Ssslaine is getting difficult."

Halley rolls her eyes, "Oh, I like, fucking bet she is. Tell her to hold onto her tail feathers. I'll be out in like, a minute."

Sissy nodded and smiled at me, "It'ss very nice to meet you, new Halley." And then shyly she ducked out of the room. 

"Okay, like, sorry to run, but there is concert in the club tonight? So me and the girls get to go out for once." Halley wiggles into a sheath of loose fabric that hangs over her body like a loose tunic with openings for all of her arms. She touches her Keyband and the fabric shrinks, becoming a tight lycra looking dress in metallic red with a very short skirt that hugs her body like a second skin. Halley looks critically at her go-go boots, shrugs, and piles her hair up on top of her head in a lazy top knot. She grabs a white, faux fur looking cape garment and flings it over her shoulders. Halley strikes a pose, and moues at me playfully. "How do I look?"

She looks fucking hot and carefree in a way I have never in my life been. "You look good. Really good."

She smiles and giggles, obviously pleased.

As she ushers me out of her dressing room Halley-23 takes my hands in a pair of hers. "If I can offer you like, a piece of advice? About life on Flotsam? It's find your bliss." She giggles, "not like the drug or whatever, but like, what will make you actually happy. It's something we Halley's find way hard." She envelops me in a six armed hug with so many tits and gives me a wet kiss on the cheek. "Don't be a stranger sweetie." She releases me and struts down the hallway looking hot as fuck towards her weird, sexy friends. Halley sees me watching and winks, "Good luck!"

***

(Halley-23 is heavily inspired by that great Ariel comic of the six-breasted stripper. Despite their (seeming?) absence Ariel remains the best! I will also hopefully start doing some illustrations to go with the story soon.)

22

Re: Flotsam

Flotsam
Chapter 7: The Scenic Route

I am drinking tea to the sound of tinkling wind chimes.

It's pretty nice.

Steadfast Freya and me are sitting in a handsome Purple Quarter plaza at an outdoor bistro set molded from heavy gauge wire. The plaza is cozy and round and paved with smashed blocks of painted stone arranged in a haphazard mosaic. It is surrounded by brightly painted junk buildings filled with art galleries, cute cafes, and Blue clothing shops. Wind chimes hang everywhere and ring cheerfully in the late afternoon breeze. The outdoor seating belongs to a tea shop built from a teal engine nacelle and forms a loose constellation of sipping, chatting patrons. Which is where Freya and I are sitting in companionable silence sipping very nice black tea. This is my kind of alien cultural experience.

After talking to Halley-23, my elder clone turned multi-breasted stripper, it was time to go shopping. I tracked down Steadfast Freya in the club and found her still chatting with Subtle Helga, a Nordic bouncer slash strongwoman slash erotic dancer who had been my way into Halley's dressing room. The two Nordic women hugged tightly in farewell and wet set out into the city. The Portside Menagerie club is located on the border between the Human District and the Port, in an area filled with clubs and bars set up to capture thirsty Spacers returning home. Freya led me deeper into the Port, down narrow streets lined with shops and narrow shebeens below patchwork boarding houses, and into a small bazaar. The crowded market was lined with small stalls displaying unfamiliar produce, carts with roasting meat and tureens of stew, and futuristic looking curios spread out on carpets. Freya grasped my hand in one of hers and plowed through Sapient shoppers, humans and Blues mostly, sprinkled with unfamiliar aliens, and one indignant, hissing Reptilian, until we reached a large container set into one wall of the bazaar. The box was shuttered by a folding steel door which Freya banged on with her fist until the door, almost begrudgingly, rolled up revealing a small cluttered shop.

The container shop was small and dimly lit, cluttered with industrial shelves covered in small electronic looking things. We wiggled into the narrow spaces between stuff, and I noticed how cloyingly hot it was in the box. The tube lighting that ran the length of the ceiling was some sort of heat lamp, filling the shop with an intense, dry heat. The shop smelled funny, like the inside of the home of the weird guy from the trailerpark who kept terrariums of snakes. I resisted the urge to cover my nose and followed Freya deeper into the shop. What kind of person wanted to work in a stinky, sweltering box? A Reptilian. A hugely obese Reptilian male with brown scales stretching over a  tautly bulbous belly. He lifted his head, toady with a fat swollen neck, and narrowed his eyes. "Yesss, what do you want?"

"Classstar," Freya had replied, "is that how you hail customers come to the finest Merchant of Keybands of dubious origin."

Classstar hissed, "I will not hear sssuch ssslander from one sssuch as you Sssteadfast Freya. My merchandissse is above reproach."

Freya chortled, "You are fortunate that I only care for the quality of your wares, Merchant. Not their provenance."

"And I only care about the value of your currensssciesss."

Freya and the shopkeeper entered into an elaborate ritual of haggling, which was mostly just exchanging insults. Freya called Classstar a "Snake", "Half-breed", "Egg-thief", and questioned his virility and suitability as a mate. Classstar called Freya "ssslave-kin" and "automaton" and "vermin" and went out of his way to questioned her courage and honour. There was much shouting and fist waving and baring of fangs and I was afraid that there would be blows or property damage. Between the shouting and the heat and the enclosed space, I began to feel very claustrophobic. I had to start my breathing exercises to fend off an anxiety attack. But somehow prices were eventually settled, hands warmly shaken, Keybands tapped, and I left the shop wearing a surprisingly heavy metal bracelet. My very own Keyband. Halley is coming up in the world. Look out Flotsam!

Freya plowed a path through the market to a cart selling grilled skewers of spiced meat. Freya explained the cart was owned and operated by Lucky Thergas, a legendary Spacer who discovered three amazing artifacts and went on to lose three separate amazing fortunes. Now Spacers consider it good luck to buy lunch from the scruffy old man, a kind of karmic mitzvah that would help find their next big score. Lucky Thegas also, Freya insisted, made the best spiced vat-meat-on-a-stick on Flotsam. She led me, brandishing a couple bouquets of aromatic meat skewers and a plastic cup full of sauce, down another narrow passageway, up some rickety metal stairs, and into a rooftop parklet overlooking a crowded thoroughfare. And there we sat, legs dangling over the edge of the roof, eating spicy meat dipped in something like tahini cream sauce and people watching. I took a bite and sighed happily. It was believably the best meat-on-a-stick in space.

Freya then gave me a quick lesson about my Keyband. She explained that it was a robust but basic model that she herself favoured when on planet. Her professional, space Keyband was more complex to interface with her spacecraft and whatnot, but she thought a straightforward model like this would be better for me. When not in use the Keyband looked like a dull metal bracelet, a deceptively inert strip of metal around my wrist. Stroking the Keyband with two fingers would cause it to project a small holographic touchscreen for simple commands. This holographic interface could be expanded into a larger screen of varying configurations or projected directly into my eyes for privacy. The Keyband would track my gestures, fingertips, or lips, so I could type on a holographic interface or wave my hands at it or mouth silent commands to the device. It was more powerful than my sadass Earthling laptop and was linked to a variety of Flotsam Networks. Freya helped me create a 'Halley24' account on the general Human/Blue Public Network, the invite-only Purple Quarter Network, and on the private Network that Hank and her shared with their friends. She explained that there were many Networks on Flotsam, most private or corporate, and that I should be wary about who I associated with digitally. I tried not to make a sassy teen face. Freya also set up my banking for me, linking the Clem gift account to my Keyband, and explaining how the two currencies used on Flotsam work: the Planetary, linked to the cost of energy provided by the Greys, and the more valuable Orbital, set to the cost of spacecraft fuel. Freya showed me how to conduct a transaction, and then we tapped Keybands so I could pay her back for buying mine for me. Freya laughed and slapped me on the back, hard enough that I nearly fell tumbling off the roof to the street below.

Presently in the plaza, the wind chimes tinkle and I take another sip of tea. I look down at my Keyband. I experimentally poke it, summoning its home screen. It displays the slightly confusing time, a root menu, and a "Congrats on your new toy : )" message from Hank. I grin, and set about typing a "Thanks : P" back at him. With a cheerful flash of blue I send my first alien text message. At least, I think I did.

After our snack break and Keyband lesson Freya took me on a long walk to our next shop. To reach the Menagerie Club, Freya had summoned us a flying uber thing: seats encased in a sort of snowglobe held aloft by four engine pods. It was exhilarating, but over in moments. To get home, it seemed, she wanted to give me the scenic walking tour. So we backtracked off the roof, under the landing struts of a spacecraft turned house, and onto the major thoroughfare we had eaten our food above. It is the widest street I had seen on Flotsam, and was actually paved with something like tarmac. Big shops built from welded together hull sections with wide display windows lined the road, displaying all manner of unfamiliar goods and fashions, making this seem like a kind of alien high street. The foot traffic was thick, rich in prosperous looking Blues and happy looking humans out for shopping on Shift Change. Cute couples held hands and strolled, teenagers scoffed at one another, parents lovingly scolded their offspring, and various species of drone zipped overhead carrying boxes. I tried not to freak out, since crowds are definitely not my recovering agoraphobe deal, but Freya always seemed to manage to carve out enough space that I was never smothered by strangers.

"Discover the Ultimate Truth!" a woman had shouted into the crowded high street. I turned and looked and saw a pair of bizarre looking humans standing in front of a holographic sign. The shouting woman was dressed in a skin tight green spandex outfit that showcased the bizarre configuration of her body. She had red hair in a cute bob and an impish face, which was all standard model, but her torso had four enormous breasts and while she had two arms, she also had four legs, each pair oriented opposite the other like two people crouching back-to-back. Four-legs looked earnestly at the strangers ignoring her and yelled again, "Let us share His Knowledge with you! The Answers you seek are just an Epiphany away!" Her companion had kind of a giraffe-lady thing going on: she had a normal, if slightly horsey face perched on top of a too-long neck and an elongated body with a lean, tall torso and long, long angular limbs. She also had a flexible tail that, because of her purple spandex bodystocking, I could see had a worryingly phallic looking tip. Tall-girl scanned the crowd from her elevated vantage point. When she saw me make eye contact she pointed a very long finger at me and shouted, "You! Yes you! He-Who-Slumbers has a Message for You! Won't you share in His Dream!? Find the Answers that you seek!?" Behind them their holographic sign cycled through weird alien script, until for a moment English flashed 'The Circle of the Sleeping God'.

"Fucking cultists," muttered Freya, taking my hand and steering me down the road.

"What?" I asked, feeling more than a little creeped out.

"Pay them no heed." Freya had told me.

We turned off the High Street, climbed up a ladder bolted to a naked cliff of stone, and queued for an improvised funicular. We scanned our Keybands and climbed into a retired shuttlecraft set on rails pointed up the mesa. With a worrying thunk the funicular car started to rapidly climb the slope to higher levels of the city. I looked down getting a great view of the Port District: the hulking, ragged donut of the Arena with its flapping banners and holograms; the busy rail station and monorail stretching to the Spacecraft Mesa in the distance; the large plaza of the Great Souk, the cities largest marketplace, spotted with geodesic vendor tents; and the riot of lights flashing on the city's largest casinos. As the funicular climbed higher I could just make out reflective, black glass pyramids on the far side of the Port District. Freya saw me looking and said, "Reptilian District citadels." With a shudder the funicular ground to a stop at a station near the summit of the lower city. Freya helped me climbed out and we set off down another maze of dusty footpaths squeezed between scrap-homes. Freya led me to a small shop built into some sort of battered module, spherical steel studded with domed windows, like a huge bathysphere. Freya gestured and declared it "The finest clothing merchant on Flotsam." The Nordic woman was wearing a hunter green tunic with a narrow, plunging neckline that almost reached her naval, exposing her double cleavage.  The tunic sculpted to her body like a bodice, hugging and lifting her tits in an improbable way that probably involved programmable future fabrics. Freya was pulling it off, I guess, but it was way too much look for me. I tried not to make a skeptical face as we entered the shop.

We were greeted by a slim middle-aged woman with greying hair hair and an impressive collection of warring smile and frown lines. She was dressed in a tastefully simple black dress and had a very smart shawl-slash-scarf thing that was effortlessly cool. Jangling bracelets lined her arms and anklets danced above her slippered feet. The woman genuinely smiled when she saw Freya, leaning in for a chaste hug and air kisses. Then she saw me and frowned. "A new Halley, I see."

I tried not shrivel under her gaze or play with the hem of my one, purloined t-shirt dress. "Hi. I, uh, need some new clothes."

"Yes," a look that managed to be both smile and frown, "I can see that."

The tailor and designer, Illadra, had me strip to my underwear in a privacy screened part of her shop. Since I hadn't managed to get a bra yet, this left me tits out, but a frown with a quirked eyebrow had me obediently topless. Illadra explained that she had to take my measurements, that she would be scanning me while I moved to create the perfect fit. She had me stand in a circle marked on the floor for a few seconds and then ordered me to raise my arms up, touch my toes, and twist my torso. Then she instructed me to walk along a straight line, naturally and smoothly. Which made me self conscious, so I started to think about my posture and gait.... and Illandra scolded me "This isn't a pageant! This is about making clothes that fit! Be natural!" I blushed and did my best to follow instructions. At the end of the marked path was a simple metal chair in another marked circle. “Sit down,” Illadra told me, and when I mechanically sat with perfect posture, she added sternly, “Naturally.” I sank into a slump, and then thought better of it and tucked my legs under me. “Very good,” the tailor said, and I felt a little flush of pride. Why did approval like this matter to me?

Illadra had me repeat the process a few more times: walking, standing, sitting. She had me hop and jump and sit cross-legged on the floor or like I was wearing a dress in the chair. All of this in only underwear. But between the repetition and her clear, authoritative instructions I was finding it easier to move and act naturally. With all the weirdness, it was a pleasure to just follow instructions like this. Illadra, who had been typing notes on a hologram the entire time, instructed me to twirl and bow, which I obediently did. The tailor smiled, “Yes... That should be adequate.”

Illadra held out her wrist and we tapped Keybands, making her other bracelets tinkle. "There," she said, "those are your measurements. The basic ones can be used by any clothier in the city to fabricate you garments and I've included a list of designers and finer shops that can use my more advanced measurements to make clothes that fit properly. Most clothing on Flotsam comes with instructions for your Keyband to improve the fit through the use of reactive fabrics. The fitting instructions I've just given you will be better and you should use them." Illadra smiles thinly, "I have also made private fitting and style notes for you, which I will apply to any clothing you purchase from me. I only fabricate with the finest reactive fabrics: imported natural fibres woven with programmable polymer spindles. I promise you, clothing designed and fabricated by me will look and fit better than anything else on Flotsam."

The tailor directed me to sit in a comfy chair and conjured a hologram screen for me. The hologram worked like a touchscreen and displayed outfits modelled by a digital me, smiling confidently or pouting. Illadra had already organized a curated gallery of looks for me, but also had her entire catalogue of offerings. I skimmed the her very tasteful picks appreciating how stylish digital me looked, living her best life.  I saw a tight mockneck shirt tucked into high-waisted jean-analogues outfit that looked cute on me so I tapped on it. Suddenly a three dimensional hologram of me wearing the clothes appeared, standing naturally and shifting around, modelling the clothes. I fiddled with some controls and the holographic me obediently turned, showing me how the outfit looked from the back. Another fiddle and model-me started to walk around the shop a little, letting me see the clothes in action. I tapped another outfit and suddenly the hologram was wearing a breezy canary yellow sundress with a cool scarf thing that I would definitely be buying. I loved this! It was all the convenience of internet shopping but with the utility of trying things without the hassle of repeatedly stripping in a weird little room!

I selected a bunch of outfits from Illadra's curated list. I mostly stuck to plain looking staples, fancier siblings to the kind of clothes I would wear around the trailer park. I also picked a few riskier, outside my comfort zone clothes, like the canary yellow dress. The kind of clothes I might have bought if I had the money and courage to be glamorous. Freya, who had been shopping a very different curated list of Illadra's clothing, also bought a couple outrageously confident outfits. We both paid for our garments and Illadra turned on the clothing fabrication machines hidden in the shop basement. She promised the clothes would be delivered by drone later that evening. As we left she smiled, gave us both chaste hugs, and air kisses. "Come back soon" she instructed us.

And then we were back to navigating the maze of the lower city, mostly moving downslope along stairs and the odd ladder. At one point we actually used a public fire pole to slide down several stories of an apartment into a new part of the city. Despite buildings being bodged together from space trash, every new neighbourhood had a flavour: a clump of homes and shops with a common religious symbol hanging in windows, or a very narrow street lined with matching planter boxes, or an outdoor market filled with people wearing distinctive clothes. Sometimes we encountered a wider, paved road with small wheeled carts that acted as mobile staging platforms for small delivery drones to recharge and reload. Once we had to stand aside as a group of Ürnauts stomped by in their dull grey armour leading two naked prisoners, their heads and hands encased in featureless black rubber spheres. A cigar shaped silvery Grey probe drifted by lazily, budding off smaller flying quicksilver spheres. One Grey sphere seemed to notice us and slowly orbited us once, watching. I stared at it and tried to look innocent. Freya just ignored the drone and beckoned us onwards.

We walked into a narrow little quarter where the improvised housing had burgundy banners and strands of twee Edison lights hanging. All of the people here wore identical voluminous burgundy robes, veils, gloves, and masks so that they were all uniformly obscured. "Human refugees from a digital panopticon," Freya explained. She lead me into the cargo hold of a scavenged space freighter that was subdivided into small shops run by Red Robes. The proprietor, a woman I'd guess by the hint of curves whenever she moved, waved us welcome into her shoe store. Using sign language my Keyband translated into speech, she instructed me to take off my borrowed shoes and walk on a sensitive floor strip. She made a recording of my foot size, shape, and gait and then showed me a holographic catalogue of her shoes. I picked out a handsome looking pair of riding boots, something like running shoes, some ankle boots with chunky heels, and some simple ballet flats. I paid and the Shopkeeper signed that she would start fabricating my shoes presently, delivering them by drone the next day. As I paid my currencies, I realized I was buying fashion from someone completely muffled in a community uniform.  I asked, "Why shoes?" The proprietor glanced around and almost shyly lifted the hem of her robe revealing amazing boots made of green leather embossed with platinum constellations and daring heels. I smiled and winked, and the shopkeeper nodded happily as we left. Cool chick.

A few turns later and we made our next stop, a quick foray into a lingerie shop run by a pair of bubbly, chubby women with just immense breasts. Fortunately they could use Illadra's measurements and I left the shop the proud owner of a simple collection of functional brassieres. No awkward tit measurements required. Freya bought a truly menacing looking four-cupped bra that she claimed was designed for "support whilst weightless in the Black."  We continued on horizontally and the scene got artsier and the foot traffic got Bluer and less uniformly human. I guess we were back in the Purple Quarter? Freya spotted and waved at an enormous furry alien who tooted back musically. The creature was huge, taller than Freya, and looked like a humanoid-shaped pile of brown fur. Its face was completely hidden by fur except for two huge, globular red eyes. Its body had two legs, two arms capped with six flexible tendrils instead of fingers, and so, so much fur. The creature wore a single garment, a heavy belt of bulging pouches and hanging tools. It was like spotting a handyman Sasquatch. "We call that sapient Furry Fred," Freya explained. "It performs simple repairs for sapients who dwell in the Purple Quarter. It is very territorial, and lives amongst us to avoid the other eight of its kind that live elsewhere in the city. They only mingle during their mating frenzy, when they enter courtship combat to determine who will be the dominant female in the coupling. Their breeding is a scourge upon our city, but fortunately it happens but twice a decade." Which sounds like it would make compellingly weird porn. While walking past some Blue galleries I spotted a shop selling bags and I zipped inside. I found a large canvas shoulder bag with a grey and blue fractal pattern that I thought looked cool. I bought it and headed back out to find a smugly proud looking Freya waiting for me. I stuck my tongue out at her and she laughed heartily. She asked if I was thirsty, and after I nodded yes but not booze, she nodded and resumed leading me through the city.

It might have been my imagination, but I swear one of those silvery Grey drone globes was following us. There had been the long look by the silvery globe by Illandra's shop, and I had noticed other Grey drones drift by as we moved about the city, but this current drone seemed to be following us like a cross between a lost dog and a helium balloon. I stopped walking and looked up at the drone and it stopped and hovered above me. "What do you want?" I asked nervously. The drone swung closer and hovered a few inches from me, the warped reflection of my face on its quicksilver skin staring back at me. "Seriously what?" I asked. Freya frowned at the drone, hands on hips and other arms crossed. It might have been my imagination, but I swear I saw her shake her head ever so slightly. The drone backed up a few feet, hung for a moment, and then rapidly flew away from us. "What the fuck was that?" I asked. Freya shrugged, "The Grey are mysterious. Best to put it from your mind."

And a skip, hop, and an actual jump later here we are drinking tea in a lovely mosaic plaza. Free of mysterious drone scrutiny. I think. I take another sip of tea and try to stay in the moment. Remind myself that paranoia isn't healthy. Wind chimes tinkle.

I look at Freya sitting across from me sipping her tea with one hand, while fiddling with a Keyband hologram with her free hands. She has been very nice to me today. This whole shopping excursion, the act of doing mundane things while walking around on Flotsam has been really nice. And fun. Even being forced to confront my previous clone... it was nerve wracking but... cathartic? "Thanks for, well, everything today."

"It is no hardship," Freya says looking surprised. "You are my friend."

That's sweet but... "You hardly know me?"

She gestures away her Keyband and chuckles, "This must be odd to you, as we have just met from your perspective. Yet I have known many other Halleys with the same memories as you, in this same life moment, who act much akin to you. I may not truly know you, but I already ken that I admire you and that we can be close companions."

That... makes sense. In a really mind fucky kind of way. Being a clone is fucking weird.

Drink some tea.

Appreciate you have inherited a friend.

I smile at Freya blushing a little, "That's really... nice. Thank you."

Freya nods curtly, smiling back.

We both sip our tea, letting the moment hang. "Are you friends with the other Halleys?"

Freya nods, "I have been friends with several Halleys. Since taking Hank as a lover, I have met every new Halley."

"Have been friends? That sounds past tense..."

"Oh, I remain compatriots with some Halleys, and count a few among my innermost counsel. Yet, people grow and change, and you are experiencing a great upheaval in your life. Every Halley adapts to life here and some go down paths separate from mine. Not all friendships are meant to last forever." Halley shrugs her upper arms, "Life is about cherishing the moment, not grasping at the past."

"That's profound."

Freya nods solemnly, "Tea is a drink meant for profound thoughts."

Her deadpan cracks into a smirk and I giggle, getting a bray of laughter from the larger woman. "Are you still friends with Halley-23?" I ask her.

Freya considers this. "We are still on companionable terms. Yet our bonds of friendship have faded, not out of malice but from neglect. She has built herself a new fellowship of sisters and no longer needs Hank and I as she once did. I am glad for her in this regard. There is also a matter of her... vice..."

"That Bliss drug?"

Freya nods, "Hank has explained to me how anxiety and depression are an illness that requires treatment. Yet among my people, the Nordic clans, we view fear as a thing to be conquered and drugs as a cowardice. It is a failing, but part of me is uncomfortable with her use of narcotics, even medicinally."

I get where Halley-23  is coming from but still... "That makes two of us."

Freya leans in conspiratorially and in a voice pitched up comically, "Like, I also find the way she talks like, totally annoying? Like OH MY GAWD!" She bats her eyelashes for emphasis.

I laugh, almost spilling my tea. "Like, I totally get what you are saying?" I reply breathlessly, doing a nigh perfect impression of Halley-23.

Freya grins back at me, "I do find her a tremendously gifted dancer."

Playful grin, "You should see me on a dancefloor."

Flash of teeth, "Or maybe a pole?"

I blush, am I flirting? "It'll take something stronger than tea to get me to do that!"

Smiling Freya rolls her eyes and snorts, and waves to the proprietor of the tea shop, a Blue laden with a tray of biscuits and tea.

The Blue tea shop owner has weathered skin and wears a colourfully patterned veil and cloth wrap dress kind of like a sari. Their blue skin is weathered and wrinkled, making me think this Blue might be elderly. They smile broadly down at us and present each of us a pair of crescent shaped cookies. "A joyous greeting! Friend Freya, it is a pleasure to see you once again. And, forgiveness, but have we met?" Large black eyes blink and nostrils flare. "You look/smell familiar to this one."

"No, I'm afraid we haven't met before," I say in maximum politeness mode. "My name is Halley."

"Ah, Halley," The Blue says thoughtfully, "Where are you in your lineage?"

Lineage? Oh..."23, the newest one. I'm... only a couple days old?" Whoa.

The Blue nods and hands me another cookie. "You may call this one Hearthstone."

"It is very nice to meet you," I reply. "Your tea shop is delightful."

Hearthstone smiles, "Gratitude! You Halleys are so polite!"

"Have you met other... me's?"

"One is familiar with some Halleys, yes. One of your lineage even once worked for me at this shop. Such a sweet... how does one say? Girl. Such a sweet girl. But so naive and so full of questions."

"What happened to her?"

"One does not know, really." Hearthstone cocks their head,  "My Halley had been very excited by a group she had found who promised her information. She requested time off to travel, and that was the last I saw of her." The Blue shook their head sadly and refills our tea cups, "One hopes she is alright. One does worry."

"I hope she is okay too." I say, also worried for one from my lineage.

Heathstone looks up, sniffing the air. They smile politely, "By your leave, one senses other patrons in need of service. It has been a joy to meet you new-Halley. The best of fortunes to you." The teashop owner nods farewell and moves to a table of Blues.

I nibble on one of the cookies and it tastes like sugar and almonds. I think I might love this tea shop.

I take another bite of cookie and look at my new friend. I realize that I know very little about her. Especially with how much she pre-knows about me from past clones. "Freya..." I ask, "What brought you to Flotsam? I mean, I'm assuming you aren't from here."

"Aye, 24th, I do not hail from Flotsam originally. I came to this planet seeking adventure and fame as part of my battle/glory/courage/journey. This concept does not translate well... let me explain." Freya places her tea on the table and steeples all four of her hands together. "In the days before the unified Reptilian Empire and their war with the Grey, the Reptilians had many warring clans fighting for prestige and dominance. My people, the Nordic Humans were created by a fearsome Matriarch to be a slave race of elite warriors. She used Witchcraft to Shape my ancestors from normal stock humans, performing the rarest of all acts of Witchcraft: inheritable transformation. To Shape a human so that they breed true requires changes, genetic changes, to their gamete cells. This is a fragile art, nay a science. To create viable, Shaped offspring a Witch must create a new program of genes, to create a new subspecies rather than simply guiding mature flesh into a new shape. Your witch Clementine, for all her power, lacks the finesse and biological sagecraft to create such a miracle.

"The first Nordics were unleashed upon the Creator Matriarchs rivals, a miracle army that was unstoppable and which tipped the balance of power within the Reptilian clans. It was a glorious victory for our Creator. Yet the Nordics did not remain the weapon of a single clan: some of our number were captured by rival clans and allies of our creator were gifted breeders to create their own warriors. And so the First Schism occurred, and the Nordic humans went from a single clan to many, and were forced to fight one another for their Reptilian mistresses." Freya shakes her head, "these were the darkest times in my peoples history.

"Yet from this darkness came the seeds of our emancipation. My people were proud of their skill and lore and the common culture they had forged. Nordic warriors of all clans came to respect their foes from the other clans. A respect that they did not hold for the Reptilians, whom they viewed as oppressors . And so the clans united in secret and as one rose up against the Reptilian Matriarchs in a glorious war of independence. The battle was fierce and saw Reptilian space buckle and warp in a crucible of glory. When the fighting stopped the Nordic clans had carved out a Holmspace for themselves and won their freedom. As did many normal humans, who escaped their overseers and fled to more hospitable space.

"The Nordic Emancipation war broke the system of the Reptilian clans and left a small number of Matriarchs with inflated strength, beginning their Wars of Consolidation, a period of civil strife that lead to the creation of a unified Reptilian Empire. With the hated Reptilians fighting amongst themselves, my people experienced their Second Schism. The Nordics were not a people prone to peace and yearned for a life of conflict and rivalry. And so the Nordic clans were reborn and began to raid against each other and compete for prominence." Freya pauses to eat a cookie. "Many of my people consider this a golden age, the true Nordic Era. And yet the infighting amongst the clans left them vulnerable to the looming threat of the new Reptilian Empire. The Matriarch Empress brought her military might against her upstart slaves and invaded Nordic Holmspace. Despite the bravery of the Nordic Warriors, my people were routed and forced to flee before the Reptilian Host in the Great Exodus. The Nordic humans lived for generations as nomads, fighting a war of insurgency and resistance against the Reptilians. The Matriarch Empress, emboldened by her victory, decided to turn her military against the Grey to begin a new wave of Reptilian conquest. Yet she gravely misjudged the strength of the Grey, who swept upon the Reptilians in a wave of quicksilver destruction which decimated the Reptilian Host. Sensing a moment of opportunity, Valiant Thor, a great hero, rallied the clans and attacked the weakened Reptilians and took back the Holmspace.

"The sanctity of Holmspace was enshrined in the accord between the Reptilians and the Grey, and so the threat of Reptilian invasion was eliminated. And yet the clan leaders had seen firsthand how infighting had nearly destroyed my people. So they formed a Counsel and forbade armed conflict between clans, ushering in a time of peace. The clan leaders began a program of civilization, of rebuilding Holmspace and weaving together the clans into a single people. A true golden age.

"Yet my people still yearned in their hearts for glory and conflict and adventure. They could not fight each other or attack the Reptilians without violating their oath, so the Counsel decided on a new way for the young to prove themselves worthy. When a Nordic youth reaches the age of adulthood they are sent out of Holmspace on a battle/glory/courage/journey, a sojourn into space to seek adventure and battle. They are meant to prove their courage and return to the clans clothed in glory and with experience of the wider galaxy. For most Nordics this means enlisting in armed conflict as mercenaries to connect with our warrior traditions.

"I came to Flotsam as part of my battle/glory/courage/journey." Freya takes a long drink of her tea.

Holy History Lesson Halley. But... interesting. "Sounds like a noble version of Rumspringa," I say.

"I do not think that translated for me?" Freya replies. "I heard Technological/Debauchery/Vacation."

I giggle, "That's actually just about right. There is a religious sect on Earth who live by a.... strict moral code and who reject a lot of technology because they think it's sinful. They send their young adults out to live in mainstream society and experience all of the cool gadgets, drugs, and sex of the world. Then these young adults are expected to choose between committing to their sect and its rules or leaving it all behind. That's Rumspringa."

Freya grunts, "That sounds like a clever way to propagate the sect."

"So... you came to Flotsam instead of being a mercenary?"

"Nay," Freya said, "I have been blooded in battle and honoured with a Name.  I was among the marines who boarded the Flexidrine Flagship; I fought on the barren moons of Eldrix against the 3LT56-VX swarm; I held the Citadel Station control throne singlehandedly, silencing the rail guns during the invasion of Klooonr-9. I am Steadfast, a warrior proven."

I don't know what any of that is. But it sounds impressive? "Then, sorry, why did you come here?"

Freya smiled ruefully, "because while there is glory in battle, their is no honour in mercenary work. I grew weary of killing for rich Sapients and their insatiable greed. There was no reason for me to continue to compromise for I had already been Named." Freya shrugged,  "I still craved adventure was not ready to return to Holmspace and reproduce, so I came here and joined a Spacer crew. Now I find adventure exploring the strange derelict spacecraft and artifacts orbiting the Flotsam sun. Perhaps I will find new glory and fortune by discovering something worthy of song?" Freya smiles wistfully.

"Wait, reproduce? You have to have kids when you go home?"

"You make that sound strange? This is the way of my people." Freya smiles easily, "After my battle/glory/courage/journey I will return to Holmspace, find a worthy mate, and spawn. The offspring of my body I will send away to another village to be raised communally by the clan. In turn I will stay in my home village and help raise children born in other clan villages. This is the home/child/labour phase of our lives where we rear the next generation of Nordic warriors, farm the land, and tend to civilization. And then, one day, I will go on my second sojourn: the vocation/knowledge/wisdom/journey where I will travel out into the galaxy and devote myself to a craft or lore to become an artisan or sage for my clan " Freya pauses, "I know it is very different to your Earthling ways, but it is my home and my family."

I nod, "Family is important." Not that I really had a chance to know mine.

"Yet Flotsam is also my home and Hank and my crewmates are also my family." Freya shrugs, "I still have much to experience before I am ready to, as Hank puts it, 'Settle down'".

Freya lifts her cup and finishes her tea. She stretches and stands, "I will return anon; I need to make water."

My Keyband flashes for attention. I wake it and the homescreen shows a new text message. I gesture it open thinking it's Hank responding but...

-GreenGurl: Hey! R U the New Halley?"

I stick out my tongue and type a response.

-Halley24: Yes. Who dis? New phone.

-GreenGurl: LOL Luv the Earth jokes. Im Halley-22!

Holy crap. I stare at the messenger hologram for a full minute. Another clone getting in touch with me by text? That's not kosher, right? What do I do?

-Halley24: O Hi. Whats up?

-GreenGurl: Just saying hi.

Okay....

-GreenGurl: U should come visit me <3
-GreenGurl: <Sends Pathfinder Link>
-GreenGurl: Come whenever. Just give me a headsup so I can be there to meet you : )

Freya sits back down at her seat and frowns at me, "Are you well? You look unsettled."

I swallow down a bubble of anxiety and push my messenger hologram to Freya. She taps it and the letters morph from English to runic. She skims the text and raises her eyebrows. "Well? What do you intend?"

"I think, that I should go meet her?" Meeting Halley-23 had been weird but good. And I was curious to see how a different version of me turned out. "What could it hurt?"

"Excellent!" Freya thunders, smiling fiercely. "We will need to get your immunity nannites updated before you visit 22nd."

"Immunity nannites?"

"Your translation nannites also protect you from infection by alien pathogens."

"And mine are out of date!?" I shudder, "You took me to a strip club!"

"Fret not," Freya says laughing, "You have nothing to fear from the Menagerie but a hangover and regrets. Your clone template of Halley-prime has many immunities but predates the Grove and its problematic flora. You simply need a special patch before you can safely visit it. It is a small thing."

I take a deep breath, "Okay... so how do I get this sorted out?"

"We need enlist the skills of a Healer. I know just the sapient to consult." Freya fiddles with her Keyband. "She says she is available today."

"Cool."

"She will meet us at the Witch's home."

The witch? Clem. Clem's place? Oh no.

"Oh fuck."

***

(Oh boy, you guys. I'm sorry? Hopefully at least some of you are on board for the Sci-fi/mystery elements of my novel sized TF story thing. I swear TFs and smut heavy chapters are coming...)

23

Re: Flotsam

This is a fun story dont worry and dont stop. I have always enjoyed your tempo and merth as a writer, yes it's an odd ball fetish spot but your stories always have an up tempo grace to them that I have always enjoyed.

This story is alot of fun and your world building exemplary. I cant wait to see the next chapter

24

Re: Flotsam

Don't worry about the tf and smut, this chapter was really good, I love me some good world building

25

Re: Flotsam

Haha thanks. It's nice to see people still enjoying this. I always worry about the balance with these things and am concerned about straying too far from my usual formula.

26

Re: Flotsam

I like the story so far. Keep it up. I think the story could work without tf or just a few small tfs.

27

Re: Flotsam

Flotsam
Chapter 8: Bluebells and Clementines

I am standing outside the airlock door to my ex-boyfriends space apartment.

Maybe ex-boyfriend. Who is a girl now. With a penis. And has a sexy catgirl clone of me as a pet.

My life is complicated.

I take a deep breath and let it out as a sigh, clenching and unclenching my hands, shifting my weight from foot to foot. I am not ready for this. Not at all.

Steadfast Freya, who has been impatiently waiting for me to open the door, snorts and gives me a little shove. I stumble forward, throwing out my hands to catch myself, touching the door which chimes and warmly chirps "Welcome home Halley!" The door swishes open and I fall into the house, Freya looming behind me. No escape.

I do a big cartoon swallow. Gulp! This is going to be so awkward.

Pussy the catgirl clone lackadaisically and fluidly crawls to the threshold to greet us, black furred tail twitching cheerfully behind her. She gracefully lifts herself onto her hind legs and narrows her green feline eyes at us, "Oh," she sniffs, "it's you again."

It strikes me again just how fucking weird this is. I am looking at my own face, but with big green cats eyes, a pink little twitching nose, whiskers, roving black furry ears, and a blandly judgemental look. I am seeing my own nude body, but a leaner, dancers version sporting eight pointy little tits and forelimbs covered in black fur and ending in paws. A cats tail waves lazily from a much perter version of my ass and a hairless crotch shows my pink little pussy to the world. It's like looking at a bizarre pornographic reflection of myself, as if I was still in Illadra's clothing shop, playing with a hologram model of myself wearing the sluttiest cat costume ever. "Mrowr," Pussy says, "what do you want?"

"We have come to see the Healer," Freya replies, "she is expecting us."

"She is still with Master," Pussy says coolly, "but I suppose you could go watch if you wanted." She turns, tail lashing, and falls back onto all fours, slinking away, "I don't really give a shit."

"Charming," mutters Freya. For a catgirl, Pussy is kind of a bitch.

I take a look around Clem's space-trailer home. It's basically a one bedroom apartment with a modular galley kitchen, a small corner for a dining table, and a modest living space with a pair of comfy looking couches. The interior is lined with a seamless warm grey polymer: floors, ceiling, and walls. Some kind soul added a dark blue area rug by the couches; I suspect the handiwork of a girlfriend or past Hayley. The walls display a few holograms: a large photo of Earth from Space; a drones-eye panorama of the Flotsam City Mesa, like a picture of those villages in Italy perched on cliffs; and an area with cycling candid photos of Clementine smiling with friends and Halleys. A book shelf is covered in Clem style tacky crap: sexy figurines, interesting looking mechanical components, a few geodes, and an outrageous looking bong. Also an enormous equine-looking dildo, which is new. Dildo aside, it feels like coming home to our trailer. But where was Clem and our 'Healer'? Other than Pussy who is lounging on the small dining table and tongue grooming her thigh, the apartment seems deserted. "Attend," Freya directs me, "we can see the Witch at her craft."

Freya leads me to the bedroom, the very room I woke up in the other day, beginning my new clone life. I close my eyes and rub my face, I'm not sure I want to go back into that room. It's kind of a fraught space? Freya just barges in regardless of me, and not wanting to be left behind with Pussy, I scramble in after her. And walk into a bizarre scene.

It takes my brain a few seconds to figure out what I'm watching exactly. There are two people, women, on the bed in Clem's small bedroom. Clementine is sitting crosslegged at one end of the bed, head bowed in concentration, with the foot of the other woman in her lap. She is wearing only a little camisole top and a pair of underwear, both slicked to her body with sweat, and has her lustrous silver hair tied up in a loose topknot behind her spiralling goat horns. Her long tail is coiled behind her, and her three breasts raise and fall steadily with controlled breathing. Clem massages the other woman's foot with her hands, which give off a faint white glow. She frowns and chews her lip, sweat dripping off her forehead.

The other woman is lying naked on her back and is... blue? Is a Blue. But not like any Blue I've seen yet. The Blues I've seen have all been tall and skinny and asexual. And clothed. The only way to tell their sexes apart was to strip them naked and get them horny enough for their junk to engorge. This Blue was curvaceous, with big tits and curves and an obviously womanly body. Four big tits to be specific, with long, teat like nipples and, laying on her thighs, a big sack of flesh with more teats. An udder? And the Blue has horns on her head and a long ropey tail snaking out from below her wide, pillowy ass.  And did she just moo?

Was Clem shaping a Blue into some sort of cow-person? A cowgirl? Why would anyone want to be part cow? Why would an alien want to be part Earth animal? Was a cow an Earth animal? This was fucking weird for so many reasons.

I take a closer look at the Blue woman's feet. The foot not currently being shaped isn't really a foot at all, but a perfectly formed cloven hoof. The other foot, or hoof, isn't quite on model yet: it looks more like two toes only half covered in hoof material. But as I watch, Clem keeps massaging these toes, kneading them together, and slowly, so slowly they begin to merge together as the hoof material expands. Freya and I watch in silence as Clementine patiently, laboriously, Shapes the foot into a perfect cloven hoof, a matching twin to the other one. Clem withdraws her hands and throws her head back and pants, taking great deep breaths of air.

"Sorry, Bell," Clem says, wiping sweat from her forehead, "that's all I've got for you today." She rolls her long, elegant neck in a circle, eyes closed "And I have an appointment today still. It's an easy one, but, bleh." Clem blinks her eyes and looks around the room, noticing Freya and me for the first time. She startles and then smiles, "Hi guys. Did you enjoy the show?"

Clementine's hair is a tangle of escaped locks and sweat makes her shirt cling tightly to her three tits, nipples showing. When she smiles her entire face lights up. She's fucking gorgeous. I nod mutely and blush. "This is Bluebell," says Clem nodding at the Blue cowgirl.

"Helloooo" lows Bluebell.

"It's nice to meet you," I say gamely.

The bovine-ish Blue pushes herself up to a sitting position, her heavy breasts spilling onto her udder. She moos and blinks her large black eyes, like she's just had a spot of headrush, and swings her legs over the side of the bed. Carefully she places her new hooves onto the floor with a pair of solid clops. She takes a deep breath, her stretched nostrils flaring, and, with a heave of mammaries, she stands up, unsteady, arms milling, and stumbles into the strong, waiting arms of Freya. "Moo..." Bluebell lows, "these hooves will require practice..."

"Easy girl," Freya says, "I've got you." She guides Bluebell towards the bedroom door and gives me a pointed look. "Shall we go to the common hall to practice your stride?" The pair step through the threshold leaving me alone with Clementine. It's an ambush! I've been betrayed!

"So you finally came to talk?" Clem asks, climbing gracefully to her own hooves and stretching her stiff body, giving me a pretty compelling show. I try not to stare at her breasts, or at the sweaty bulge in the front of her underwear.

"I, uh, actually think we came here for Bluebell... She's a healer of some sort, right? Something about immunity nannites?" I stammer, "b-but I would love to talk? To you, I mean."

Clementine laughs easily, "Don't be so nervous Hales, it's just me." I give her a skeptical look. "Fine, it's just me in a prettier package. I'm still not going to bite." She sits on the edge of the mattress and pats a spot next to her.

Blushing, I hesitantly step over and sit next to her. "You have definitely bitten me before."

Clem giggles, "I don't remember you complaining in the moment. Or, for that matter, using the safe word."

I giggle too. Clem still knew just how to make me laugh. It was surprisingly easy to fall back into our familiar rhythm. I turn and playfully give her arm a whack. Which is the first time I've touched her, Clem, since waking up on Flotsam. Waking up in this bed. Her bed. That I was in now.

Clem cutely snorts, and playfully says "Ha! I didn't think you'd hit a girl!" Because she's Clementine now. And just like that its weird again.

"Oh Clem, what the fuck?"

"I know Hales, I know. It's an adjustment..."

"Adjustment? I woke up to find that I'm one of two-dozen clones of me on an alien planet and that my boyfriend is an alien sorcerous with a catgirl sexpet who is one of those aforementioned clones."

"A big adjustment?"

"How can you be so calm about this!"

"Hales, I've been on Flotsam for eight years now, and a woman for most of them. This all... well, it doesn't seem normal, but it's my life, y'know? I mean, from your perspective we've been dating what? Three years? Maybe four?"

I do some quick math "Dating three and half, living in the park together for three."

"Okay, well, I have had Pussy as my petgirl for five years now. Which is longer than you've subjectively known me."

"Well that's a total mind fuck."

Clementine titters, "Did you just call me an alien sorcerous?"

I pout, a little amused and a little annoyed. "That's really what you want to focus on?"

Clem sighs, "I know, I owe you a real talk. About me. About us. But I have an appointment with a really important client; someone who travelled to Flotsam from another star system." She rubs her face and smooths her long, elfin ears. "I kind of have to bail..."

"It's okay," I say, grateful to escape from having a real talk. I am so not ready for that. "I probably should have called ahead," I shrug, "but Freya."

Clem grins, "I get it." She stands back up, "I gotta freshen up and get changed into something more presentable. VIP client likes presentable. Do you mind?"

I shake my head, "Go ahead."

Clem doesn't ask me to leave the room, so I stay, staring at the wall while Clementine peels off her sweat stained shirt and kicks off her dirty underwear. I sneak a peek and watch her bend over and root around in a pile of floor laundry, her round, perky ass wiggling in the air and her long sinuous tail swinging in sympathy. I try and glimpse her vulva or scrotum, but her tail resists me. Clem finds what she's looking for and stands up, back to me, and unpins her hair, letting it fall down her back in a shimmering cascade. She has... a towel? A towel that seems alive, like terrycloth made of living, clawing fibres. Clementine takes the creepy towel and runs it over her sweaty body, bending to run it over her hooves, and shapely digitigrade legs. My breath catches as this time I definitely see her pussy and the backside of her balls. She runs the towel over ass and the base of her tail, along her toned, elegant back, and up onto her shoulders. She turns, giving me a glimpse of ripe sideboob and the bulge of her cock and oh crap she can see me and I quickly look away. Shit! Did she just notice me peeking? I look fiercely at the wall and count to fifteen... and then sneak another look. And there is Clem wrapped in her towel, hands on a cocked hip, eyebrow raised as she smirks at me. I blush, clearly caught. Clementine giggles as she lets the magic towel fall open and wraps her hair in it.

Blushing I stare at my feet. This beautiful creature is definitely not my awkward, gawky Clem. But maybe we still fit together okay? She still seemed to get me, can still make me laugh, and talking with her was, despite the awkwardness, one of the most familiar and home feeling moments of my time here. While most of my romantic experience has been with men, my sexuality has always been fluid and I am definitely attracted to this woman. And that cock... Dang! I could tap that. Maybe this could work? My heart hammers in my chest. Do I still want to be with this new Clem? Does Clem still want to be with me?

And what about that stupid catgirl Pussy? Ugh....

I am getting so far ahead of myself.

When I look back up Clementine is half undressed in some fancypants lingerie. Her breasts are snuggly foisted by a lacy, black three-cupped bra that is fancier than any piece of underwear I've ever owned. Her legs are encased in sheer black stockings, somehow engineered to fit over her cloven hooves and inhuman gams. I boggle at how she managed to pull them over hooves without tearing runs in them. More future cloth? Her improbable stockings are clipped into an oldschool garter belt that hugs a pair of black, lacy bikini cut panties, smooth against her crotch. She has crystal jewelry things hanging from her horns and a choker made from beads of the same stone. Clem has gathered her hair into a new, and very professional looking bun with a few artfully messy forelocks left free. Clementine stands there looking like absolute perfection, chewing a plump lip, all trussed up like a Christmas present to unwrap, tail lazily waving behind her. "How do I look?" she breathes, voice husky.

"Awooogah..." I breath, aiming for sultry and probably missing.

Clem giggles, prettily. Which I find myself liking.

Clementine clops over to another heap of discarded clothes and pulls out a black dress. She slips the garment over her head, baggy and loose, slides her tail through an opening and, with a prod at her Keyband, commands the dress to cinch tighter, to become a form fitting dress with a pencil skirt and a square collar showing off wide double cleavage. Clem pinches the sides of her dress and wiggles her hips then smooths the front of her skirt. Her too smooth skirt. "Uh," I say blushing a bit, "where is your um?" I point at the flat crotch of her dress...

Clementine smirks, "My cock? I can, uh, retract it inside my body a bit when I want to for that all female look. With the right pair of panties I think I can pass pretty well." Clem does a little pirouette to show me. "It's a bit... restrictive feeling. But it feels kind of formal? Like wearing heels or a corset or something. And it looks nice with some outfits." She shrugs, "Some of my clients are a bit conservative. A bit of hardware..." Clem wags her tail and thrusts out her chest, "is just good advertising. But the whole enormous cock thing squicks some of them out." She rolls her eyes, "So part of the VIP package...."

"...is putting away your package," I finish for her.

"And few clients are more VIP or more conservative than today's." Clem summons a holographic screen that she tweaks into a mirror and conjures some makeup from amongst her laundry. She begins to apply. "This guy is a Shaping fixer who sends the rich and famous to Flotsam to get work done discreetly. His hustle is sneaking the celebri-rich off their home planets, getting them safely here in comfort, ensconcing them in Upper Terrace luxury, and getting them the best Shaping money can buy from someone who can keep their flawless mouth shut. Which, yours truly, the most powerful shaper in the quadrant, is happy to do for a generous fee." Clem applies lipstick and moues, "It's mostly pretty easy work like thinning down a starlet addicted to Ellsbarron Honey, very addictive and very fattening; or making a pipsqueak singer taller and much better hung. It just has to be done quickly and quietly and with a certain 'professionalism' and 'glamour' to give the VIP clients a 'premium experience'. Then it’s a few days of spas in the terrace and yachting back home to miraculously recover from that flu that gave them a new nose." Clem smiles, "Today it's some business executive’s daughter. Apparently she's getting herself a new nose and better boobs as a birthday gift." She winks, "I might throw something kinky in for free if she asks."

"What? Like a penis nose?" I say, joking.

"Oh, I wouldn't recommend that. It'll get stuffy every time you cum and just dangle from your face when it's soft." She tuts, "Very inconvenient. Imagine dipping that in your tea?"

"Youch!"

"No one ever considers the practical considerations of genital face and..." Clem glances at her Keyband, "Shit! I really have to run. Being late is not VIP." She clops over to me, gathers me into a hug and a kiss on the cheek and hoofs it out of there. I watch her go, enjoying the orbit of her hips and sway of her tail. I touch the lipstick smear on my cheek and sigh.

Maybe I want to get back together with my ex?

***

I find Bluebell and Freya waiting for me in the living room. Freya makes the face of someone who really wants to dish, but is too proud to admit it. I let her suffer, she deserves it. Bluebell for her part looks as placid as a cow, and smiles pleasantly at me. "I'm told that you are some sort of 'healer'."

Bluebell snorts in amusement, "One prefers the term Physician, but one understands that Nordics have a certain way of speaking."

Freya crosses two pairs of arms, "Do you not heal the injured? Provide succour to the sick?"

"One does."

"Then you art a healer."

Bluebell chuckles, "Why do you require the services of a... healer? You look healthy."

"I, uh, wish to visit The Grove? And I've been told that I need some sort of immunity update?" Hand wave, hand wave.

"Ah, one sees. You still have the Halley-Prime nanomachine configuration, and need to be outfitted with resistance to the Sylvannic Funganoid. One can do this for you."

That sounded suitably technobabble-expert. "You can?"

"Mooo-f course. It is a simple procedure; much akin to a vaccination."

"Great." Getting jabbed with a needle by an alien with a cow fetish.

"We shall have to travel to ones clinic though," Bluebell says with regret in her voice. "One does not have the necessary materials with this one to 'heal' you."

"You shall have to journey without me," Freya interjects, "I vowed to toil as Fair Hank's bar wench this night and must return to the Hideaway before the eventide rush."

"Does Hank want me come and help too?"

"Nay, tonight shall be too chaotic for an unaccustomed hand. You should go with Bluebell and have your medical needs addressed. And to make sure the healer journeys home safely."

Bluebell nods her head, "One could use a companion. One fears she is still unsteady on her hooves."

And so I am outflanked again. "Alright Doctor Bluebell, lead on."

The cowgirl doctor has managed to get herself dressed and is standing on her hooves, leaning with her flanks pressed against a wall. Like every Blue I have seen she is very tall, nearly seven feet from hoof to horn, but unlike other Blue’s who are androgynous and thin going gaunt, Bluebell is pneumatically curvaceous and very womanly. She has thick, generous thighs; a round, heavy ass; and hips with a shocking wingspan that have been squeezed into skintight knee length shorts. Instead of the narrow torso of her species, she has a slightly rounded belly, a bulging pink udder which nestled in the curve of her wide hips, and four huge breasts capped with long drooping teats, now squeezed into a Holstein patterned bandeau that does almost nothing to obscure her bovinified bust. Her face has also been remodelled, her large black eyes rest above a squared, muzzley nose with wide nostrils and a mouth with bee-stung, human lips. Her skin is still blue, but instead of the deep azure of most Blues, hers is a pale robin egg, with emerging blotches of navy. And then there are her bovine flourishes: mobile cow ears, short little horns, her altered legs and brand new hooves, and a cute, ropey tail that swishes against the wall. Bluebell frowns and takes a hesitant step forward and stumbles. I rush forward to catch her, shocking at the solid weight of the altered Blue. “Thank moo,” she says.

“Farewell, Pussy,” Freya says as we stumble out the door.

The petgirl, who is sprawled in a sunbeam, waves a dismissive paw and flicks her tail. “Whatever.”

***

I am holding the hand of an alien doctor who has decided to become part human and part cow. A cowgirl? But not yeehaw, rodeo cowgirl. Cow-hybrid. Cow-woman? Cow-sapient? Alien-Cowgirl? What’s the polite way to say this? “Cowblue? Bovine-Blu-man?”

Bluebell blinks her huge eyes at me, “Pardon?

Did I say that out loud? “Sorry, never mind.” Idiot.

Bluebell is mostly able to walk, but she isn't exactly sure-hoofed yet, so I'm forced to clutch her hand to prevent stumbles. Holding hands with a strange alien turns out to be awkwardly intimate, and since she towers over me, it's making me feel childlike and very silly. And of course everyone is definitely watching us. Local humans gawk at us and give Bluebell fondly bemused looks; expressions that suggest familiarity and a kind of acceptance. Blues on the other hand avert their eyes and make a show of ignoring my new bovine acquaintance. Which is somehow worse than the staring. We are definitely a spectacle, which is making me more than a little anxious.

"So," I say to get my mind off being stared at, "why did you decide to..."

"Shape oneself into a...what did you call it? Bovine-Blue-man?" Bluebell grins, "It is a long story."

"Perfect!" Distract me from my social anxiety. "Give me the whole scoop."

"Mooo. One supposes it all started when one was training to become a doctor. It is common for young Blue physicians to travel to a new planet when they do their final, practical training. One managed to find a placement in a fantastic hospital on a world at the edge of Blue space. This world had many human citizens, so a great many of one's patients were human instead of Blue.” Bluebell smiles wistfully, “the human body is so strange and wonderful, an artifact of incredible engineering and design. One found herself deeply fascinated by human biology and one resolved to become an expert in human medicine.”

“As one spent more time around humans, dealing with the human body and the human matters that seep into providing medical counsel, one began to get enamoured with human culture,” Bluebell moos, “and sexuality.”

“Humans are so sexual! You perform your gender and sexuality constantly, instead of only privately in the nest between lovers. You have women and men. You have ridiculous, gorgeous external genitals and secondary sexual characteristics that you emphasize. You all live sex!”

“One found herself attracted to humans, sexually and intellectually. One began to take human lovers, men and women, and to experiment with dressing in human drag. For the first time in ones life one got to live openly as a woman. It was incredibly liberating,” she moos like a hungry growl, “and very fulfilling.”

“However, this is what got one into trouble.”

I grimace, “your bosses didn’t like you... fraternizing with humans?”

Bluebell shakes her head making the small cowbell she wears on a chocker tinkle. “Blues value their human citizens. As a people we encourage friendship with your kind and we expect there to be a certain amount of sexual exploration. It is considered a harmless kink. Ones flirtation with human-style gender was considered distasteful, but it was tolerated as long as it did not impact ones work. The reason one was dismissed from the hospital was that several of ones human lovers were former patients of this one, and this is a violation of the Healers Oath.” Bluebell sighed, “One deserved to be terminated.”

I squeeze her hand in support. “Is that why you came to Flotsam?”

Bluebell nods, “As a disgraced doctor with a known deviancy, finding employment in medicine within Blue space would have been difficult. One would have had to forsake her experiments with gender and Conformed to Blue society. One was reluctant to do this, so one sought alternatives. Flotsam was attractive because it is perennially short of doctors and has both Blue and human communities.”

I smile as we stumble past a gaggle of laughing human teens with antlers and horns growing from their heads. “And Flotsam is already full of weirdoes.”

Bluebell moos in amusement, “Yes, one did consider that Flotsam is a refuge for many outsiders.”

“So one began her life anew on Flotsam, catering to the medical needs of humans and Blues. Initially one worked hard to Conform, to build a place within the respectable Blue community. But the heart travels where it must and one began to discreetly dress as a human woman in covert clubs catering to certain fringe communities. It is through these clubs that I became acquainted with the Shapists.”

“Shapists? Do you mean Shapers?”

Bluebell shakes her head, “Shapists are humans who belong to a subculture that Shapes themselves for aesthetic and recreational reasons, often in ways that defy convention. It is not unusual for them to grow extra limbs or breasts or genitals or for them to experiment with animal hybridization.” My mind flashed to Clem with her tail, hooves, and extra breasts. “Casual members will often try small changes, maybe a tail or extra nipples that can be hidden. Core members, the ringleaders, will spend fortunes pursuing wild transformations, becoming so altered that they could never pass as normal again. One found in these people kindred spirits, outsiders who wanted to change their bodies as part of a path to their truer selves. One made many close friends among the Shapists and found many excellent lovers. One also became aware of Clementine.”

“It began as a rumour, a new Shaper on Flotsam, some unknown talent from a backwater called Earth who could do more challenging transformations far faster than anyone else on the planet. As the Shapists scene began to see nagas, people with serpent tails in place of legs, or four-legged humantaurs, it became clear that a truly remarkable Shaper was in our midst. Then one heard something that would change the course of her life: the new Shaper, this Clementine of Earth, was so powerful that she could shape non-human sapients. One’s mind exploded with new possibilities.”

“I met Clementine at a Shapist party, an unveiling of the new body of Villah dox Quillix, a wealthy heiress and leading patron of the group. Villah would change her body in the manner most sapients would change their clothing. Every few Shifts she would commission a team of Shapers to remake her body around a new theme and hold a lavish party to reveal it to her admirers. She held a Jungle Gala when she gave herself tiger stripes, a tail, and a few feline features. She threw an elaborate beach party when she had her legs Shaped into a stimulated fish tail like a mermaid. When she briefly became a man she threw a raucous bachelor party. She would pay to have her closest friends tweaked to fit the theme and would always feature Shapists whose bodies fit her current whim. This particular party was promised to be something spectacular: Villah had found a new Shaper of incredible talent and gossip said she had done something particularly daring.”

“The theme of the evening was Earthling decadence: guests were instructed to wear Earth tuxedos or gowns, Earth delicacies were circulated, and jazz music was performed by live musicians. Villah dox Quillix made her grand entrance upon a hovering dais, fashionably late as always. She was laying on a divan, snug in a gorgeous black lace corset and matching evening gloves, legs draped under a silk sheet. At first everyone was disappointed, Villah appeared human; fashionably thin and perhaps a bit too beautiful and busty, but far too baseline for all the hype. But then the silk sheet was drawn off her revealing that the heiress had replaced her legs with a whole other body: from the hips down she had the torso, arms, and head of a ravishingly handsome man. A man who looked, as everyone who knew Villah knew, like the male version of dox Quillix. Villah also, her dates were happy to report, had her mouths altered so that despite appearing normal from the outside, inside they felt like vaginas with internal clits on her palettes and tongues that could engorge and become phalluses. The crowd had gasped, not just because the mirrored torso form she had chosen was impossibly difficult to create, but because of how quickly it was accomplished. Villah had worn a towering, hugely obese body only two Shift Changes before, and to change from that to this in such a short time was beyond all of the Shapers on Flotsam. That this was all accomplished by a single Shaper was sensational.”

“One met Clementine by accident, amid this todo, an awkward and lanky woman with three breasts hiding against the wall. She nearly jumped out of her plain black evening dress and heels when one wished her greetings. One admitted that a friend had pointed her out, and that one wished to convey compliments on her astonishing work. She blushed and smiled proudly and stammered thanks. One explained that this one had heard that she could even shape nonhumans, perhaps even Blues. Clementine cautiously admitted that she had been informed that she could, but that it would be very difficult and that she had never tried. One took a deep, wavering breath and explained her great desires to become womanly, to take on human characteristics, and that she, Clementine, was this ones only hope to do this. Clementine looked at this one, took in her Blue body wearing a platinum blonde wig, squeezed into a red sequinned dress with false breasts and fake hips, and thought. She reached up to stroke her chin, to feel facial hair that was not there, frowned and tugged on her unkempt mousey brown hair instead. She told me that she knew something about feeling trapped in the wrong body and that she would help if she could.”

I smile a little sadly for Clem. Always a good guy, even when he’s a girl. “And so you started to be Shaped.”

Bluebell smiles and moos. “Yes. It took ages and happened very gradually, but ever so slowly Clementine began to make my body womanly. Ones skin began to plump with fat, making one look deliciously supple. Ones thighs and hips and ass swelled, creating real curves. One grew breasts! Nipples that sat upon swollen flesh that grew into tiny buds which became handfuls of breast which expanded into a generous bosom. One grew external labia and a real, human clitoris. After many seasons one could look in the mirror and see a smiling blue woman looking back.” Bluebells black eyes grow shiny with tears, “One finally looked like how she always pictured herself. One was overcome with joy.”

I smile, genuinely pleased for Bluebell and give her hand another squeeze. But... that doesn’t explain the whole cow thing. “Um, sorry, but how did you go from wanting to be a woman to wanting to be part cow?”

Bluebell blinks her eyes and smiles mischievously, “It was these beautiful things!” She moos and shakes her tits, “these magnificent breasts! One had no idea how amazing it would feel to actually have tits! One became obsessed, constantly looking at her busty body, constantly hefting her titflesh, caressing her nipples. But one wanted more. One wanted to be bigger and bustier and..." Bluebell moos, "one wanted to make her breasts lactate."

"So one returned to Clementine, who was happy to assist her. Slowly, over many Shaping sessions, ones breasts began to grow again, eventually becoming huge with protruding nipples. Then, starting with a trickle, ones breasts grew heavy and filled with milk." Bluebell closes her eyes and moos softly, "One was in ecstasy, the weight of ones breasts jostling with every step, the new painful tension of being engorged, the joyous relief and abandon of being milked... it was the most sexual thing one had ever experienced!" She moos again, longer this time. "One needed even more!"

"One was with a lover she had not seen in many circles of the sun. He was a human space trader who chased profit and adventure throughout the Nexus, and one last saw him after she became womanly, but before she expanded her bust. We made love. His eyes were as large as moons as he stared at the this one's huge surging breasts as she rode him. One bent forward, straddling him, his cock inside her, and made him nurse from her tits until we both came.” Bluebell licked her lips and smiled. “Afterward, as we lay together, he told this one that she had surprised him, that she was a ‘sexy cow’.”

“One had replied, what is a cow?”

“As a species, Blues do not farm animals for milk. Blues do not lactate, our young are born with a hump which feeds them until they are ready to wean, so milk is foreign to us. Here on Flotsam arable land is so precious that it is uneconomical to raise cattle, so one had never encountered a cow before. Ones lover summoned a hologram and showed her what a cow was. One was enraptured! Here was an animal that was the ultimate expression of mammalian femininity. A creature bred for lactation, an animal with a wondrous mammary gland called an udder. One became fixated! One knew that she had to embrace this creature with her body, to incorporate bovinity into her form." Bluebell shivers and moos. "It was like discovering the answer to a question one did not know to ask."

“One was nervous to bring her new desire to Clementine. Ones body had already taken years of hard work to Shape. To become part cow would take years more. One was also unsure if Clementine would even be willing: ones lactating, busty body was strange for a Blue but not so unusual in the mixed community of Flotsam. To become part cow would make one a trye outsider. One is not a human, capable of being Shaped and reShaped on a whim. If one spent years becoming part cow, it would take additional years of painstaking Shaping to reverse it, making these changes effectively permanent. It was, as Clementine would say, ‘a big ask.’”

“One saved her breast milk form many Shifts and with the help of a friend made cheese. One purchased some vinefruit wine and a terrine of savoury vatmeat and presented it all to Clementine during our next Shaping session. One smiled when she saw how Clementines eyes became fixated on the cheese and how delighted she was when one told her it was real. Coyly, one enquired how Clementine felt about a regular supply of cheese. She frowned thoughtfully and fidgeted with her tail, asked me what one had planned. Bashfully, one informed her that she wanted to be part cow. Clementine had laughed and told this one that she did not have to resort to bribes. She sketched a salute with her tail and declared she was in no place to judge unusual desires. Clementine with a wink told one that she would happily accept cheese in payment.”

“And so one began her next transformative journey. It has been slow, tedious, periodically painful, and often embarrassing. It is still a work in progress, but one think she looks quite sexy.” Bluebell puffs out her double cleavage and thrusts out her udder. Tail swishing behind her, she bats her eyes at me and moos long and deep. I’m staring, and realizing it, I blush. Bluebell notices and snorts, visibly quite pleased.

We enter a familiar looking plaza, the one I had tea with Freya in. Bluebells new hooves clop loudly on the mosaic cobblestones, and I squirm a little at how conspicuous we are. The humans in the plaza look up at the commotion, a few smirking like jerks, and a couple offering Bluebell a friendly wave. The many Blues in the plaza completely ignore us. No, they actively ignore us, pointedly avoiding us like a charity canvaser. Assholes. I glance at Bluebell and see a mask of bovine stoicism. “You okay?”

Bluebell moos in amusement, “Yes, one is quite used to being shunned.” She waves a hand dismissively and flicks her tail as if swatting a fly. “It is just our way.”

“Seems pretty shitty to me...”

“One is a Deviant.”

“You’re unusual but I’d hardly call you a pervert...”

Bluebell grins, “one is most assuredly a pervert. One has a fetish for an alien animal and lactation.” She gives her mammaries a shake for emphasis. “However, that is not what one is saying.”

“One is a Deviant. Blue culture has a concept called Social Responsibility. It stems from our experiment with unrestricted Capitalism, when greed and resource mismanagement nearly destroyed our homeworld. The survivors knew a new outlook would be needed: the common good needed to be emphasized and non-material forms of wealth needed to be valued and celebrated. The survivors knew that enforcing this change with laws would be tyrannical, that social change has to be organic and generated at the community level. So they created the Contract of Social Responsibility, a code of conduct where Blues tried to live according to ideals of community, family, ethics, and egalitarianism. They would hold themselves to a standard and pressure others to live the same ideals. Over time, Social Responsibility became formalized and today it is the foundation of Blue culture. The Congregation Hall is the centre of our community where we gather to meditate on the harmony of our community and to celebrate Paragons, Blues that exemplify our shared ideals.” Bluebell moos, “It is an imperfect system, but it has allowed ones people to peacefully thrive for generations.”

“One is shunned, not so much for her body or sexual interests, but because one behaves against the code of Social Responsibility. One has been deemed selfish for her drive to satisfy her own needs without regard to the community. Ones body makes many Blues uncomfortable, but it is ones choices that make her Deviant.”

“That sounds...” like total bullshit that is super fucked up. “Pretty repressive...”

Bluebell swings her head from side to side. A Blue shrug? “It is just our way. It is not so terrible. One is not a victim of violence or confinement. One still has all her rights: if one requires food or lodging, the community is obligated to ensure her needs are met. One is unwelcome in the Congregation Hall but not barred from attending, since no Blue can be denied this. Blue merchants will still do business with this one out of duty to the ethical code. One still has Blue friends and acquaintances, even among respectable society.” Bluebell pauses thoughtfully, “One is not required to change and is free to pursue her perversion, just without the endorsement of her community. Which is more than many societies would allow.”

Bluebell does her head wobble again, “It is not ideal, but it is tolerable. One loves herself, her life, and her body. This is an acceptable price to pay.” She moos loudly, making a passing Blue cringe. “Besides, one finds Blue society much too rigid and stuffy!”

“Still, It must be hard.” I deploy another supportive hand squeeze.

Bluebell directs us down a narrow footpath made of raised steel plates and lined with homes. “The main difficulty has been professionally. When one first arrived on Flotsam, ones practice mostly catered to Blues. Once one was declared Deviant many of her patients left to find doctors more in harmony with the community. Many humans, understandably, prefer to have a human physician. Ones medical practice has suffered because of her choices.” Bluebell grins, “One has become something of a renegade doctor to make up for it. Flotsam has many outsider groups with special medical needs, groups that are more openminded than the Blue Community. One works with cyborgs, restrictive cultists, and minority Sapient species with similar physiologies.” She glances around, “Sometimes one does work for the Syndicates or other Deviants. Ones main patrons are the Shaped. Many have challenges caused by their changes and being a fellow Shapist, they feel comfortable working with this one.”

Bluebell gives her udder a fond pat, making the pink sack judder. “One has also started selling her milk. Real, fresh dairy on a planet with no cows is very valuable.” Bluebell looks wistful,”One dreams of finding other individuals fascinated by cows and one day starting a cowgirl dairy business.”

We clop down a secluded, narrow path between a rock outcropping and an unbroken metal wall, and enter a small courtyard. Bluebell moos bovine contentment, “ones home nest and clinic.” Nestled between a rusty, cylindrical apartment block and a huge space freighter turned into flats is a cute little A-frame building. The building facade is fashioned from layered shingles of metal, some bright and silvery, others copper, and a few patina green. “Heat sink fins,” Bluebell informs me proudly. The sloped roof is made of starship deck plating attached like a tin roof. There is a single round porthole window near the top of the front, probably brightening a loft, and a pair of square windows on either side of the metal door hung with Holstein pattern curtains. Below each window is a planter box filled with bluebell flowers. At the apex of the building hangs a rusty iron rooster weathervane. Wind chimes tinkle in the breeze. It is absurdly adorable.

Bluebell leads me to the door, which recognizes her and opens, and ushers me into her clinic. Despite the rustic exterior, the front room of her adorable house is a sci-fi infirmary. The entire inner surface, walls, floor, and ceiling is coated in seamless white laminate. A worryingly articulated looking examination chair sits in the middle of the room lit by a cluster of powerful examination lights. Cabinets and counter line one side of the room and the other has a collection of anonymous future machines. An open door allows a peek at a quaint living area and kitchen in the next room.

As soon as we walk in, Bluebell summons a hologram and starts typing commands. A large 3D hologram of a beating heart with sheets of light cruising around it hovers in the air with accompanying squiggly graphs. My vitals? “Should I sit in the chair? Or take off my clothes?” I nervously ask.

“If it would make you comfortable,” Bluebell says. “But one does not require it. One would usually have to analyze a sample of your immunity nannites, but one already has ‘Halley-Prime Standard Load’ on record and an immunity booster prepared for Halley-23. It should only take a few moments to synthesize what one requires.” Bluebell clops over to one the machines, a modular pharmacy maybe, and opens a compartment removing a small ampule of clear fluid. “Your immunity nannites cannot be directly reprogrammed, it is a safety feature. So one is going to inject you with short lived nannites that will provide immunity immediately and, in a process not unlike plasmid transfer between bacteria, provide information your native nannites will incorporate.” The Blue cowgirl clops over to the cabinets and withdraws a little gun shaped device and slots the ampule into it. “This will protect you from everything currently on Flotsam, including the Sylvannic Funganoid.”

Bluebell steps up to me and gently grasps my left arm. My heart is pounding in my chest and my hologram heart is a reflective light show. I hate needles and am none too fond of doctors. I look away and wince my eyes closed, bracing for the sharp prick of a needle. And instead feel a warm spot on my skin, like a tiny heat lamp. “There. Now you can safely go visit Halley-22 in The Grove.”

***

(Phew! In hindsight that could probably have been two chapters....)

28

Re: Flotsam

So lemme get this straight... Bluebell is a Deviant not because of her transformation, it's about actually going through with them entirely willingly? If, say, she'd somehow been forcefully been changed against her will, they'd only be uncomfortable, not disdainful?

29

Re: Flotsam

Haha. Sounds kind of dubious, doesn't it? I would say that Blues are terrible critics of their own society and that Hank (I tried to imply) thinks the Contract of Social Responsibility is bullshit.

30

Re: Flotsam

Flotsam
Chapter 9: The Grove

I am standing in a patch of grass surrounded by trees, a glade I guess, waiting to meet another clone of myself.

I check my Keyband and it confirms I'm in the right spot and that Halley-22 is running late. I frown and hold in a yawn, I'm still tired from the night before. After leaving Bluebell's clinic I managed to wander back ot Hank's Hideaway just in time to be introduced to a rowdy bar of regulars. A tipsy Hank and a shitfaced Freya insisted on putting me to work slinging booze to a crowd of Hank’s Salvager buddies, Freya's Spacer crewmates, and a collective of Purple District radical poets who compared me to all manner of goofily flattering things. It was a fun night, followed by a less fun morning which began when Bluebell, who offered to lead me to The Grove the day before, showed up bright and early, fresh and buoyant from her morning milking. Grumbling, I followed the cheerful Blue cowgirl, now clopping away like a pro on her hooves, downhill and deeper into the Human part of the city.

Bluebell bought us tea and sweet cakes from a vendor, and then led me down a long, winding set of steel stairs, around a tight corner between two towering rocket booster apartments, and onto a public cargo lift. From there I saw the Grove: a teardrop of green sprouting right out of a dense Flotsam neighbourhood, like an organic splash on the mesa city. From my vantage point on the descending lift I could see a central stand of tall trees forming a dense canopy, which was surrounded by a more open cluster of shorter trees that gradually thinned into a wide swath of meadow bordered by reflective metallic plinths. I gasped, shocked at the sight of greenery. Trees! And grass! And not piles of rusty space trash! I smiled in anticipation.

The lift crunched to a stop and Bluebell led me through a seemingly random series of paths, ladders, and cutbacks until we walked through an abandoned building made of stacked steel ingots and emerged on the edge of the Grove meadow. A pair of seamless silver plinths, gently humming, marked an invisible line that the plant growth did not cross. Bluebell mooed happily and trotted right onto the grass. I followed, feeling something like a static charge as I passed through the invisible barrier. Bluebell, who had been wearing a loose cornflower gingham shirt dress, had taken the garment off and was spreading it, reconfigured for size, as a blanket to sit on. The Blue cowgirl sprawled on the blanket, nude except for some little shorts, and basked happily in the sun. I tried not to stare at her four large breasts and udder as she mooed happily and told me she would wait for me. I consulted my Keyband for the coordinates GreenGurl sent me, and trial and errored my map dot to the right spot.

And now I am apparently being stood up by my own dang clone.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry....” comes my own voice and the sound of rustling bushes. Halley-22 stumbles into view and I gasp at the sight of her.

For one she is naked.

For another she is green.

I take a cleansing breath.

“Hi, welcome to the Grove.” Halley-22 has bright green skin and dark green eyes, nipples, lips, and labia. Her hair is that same dark green and hangs down to her ass in an unruly cape, shot through with braids, colored beads, and vines sprouting cute white flowers. Her breasts are enormous, each as large as her head, and her hips have grown wider than her shoulders giving her an exaggerated hourglass figure. I notice she has tattoos in a vine motif all across her body, which I realize are actually living plants. Draped around her neck, wrists, and ankles are wooden and glass bead necklaces and bracelets in orange, yellow, and teal that contrast nicely with her emerald skin. The only garment she wears is a leather belt around her waist with a kind of satchel pack that rides on the curve of her right hip.  She is barefoot. Halley-22 totally has an Earth goddess slash flower child thing going on. It’s weird, but I kind of dig it?

Except... instead of being laid back and resonating with the universe, Halley-22 is giving off a decidedly tense, tightly wound energy. Which is making me a bit nervous.

“Sorry I’m late...” Halley looks away, visibly flushed. “I had to take care of.... something.”

“It’s fine.” I say, too curious to be mad. “No big.”

Halley frowns, “Uh, just want to check, but you’ve been inoculated against the Sylvannic Funganoid, right?”

I nod, “I’m all up to date on my vaccines as of yesterday.”

Halley smiles and visibly relaxes the tiniest degree, “oh good!” She steps forward and embraces me in a big, busty hug. A hug which lingers just a little longer than it should and did she just smell my hair?

She steps back, looking bashful. “I’m so glad you came,” she says. I think she’s blushing, but with her green skin it’s hard to tell. “Do you want to see my favourite spot in the Grove?”

“Sure, why not?” I reply, following Halley-22 deeper into the Grove. My green clone walks effortlessly through the woods, her wide ass barely disturbing a leaf. She reminds me of the deer that used to haunt the trailer park, a graceful creature in her own environment. I meanwhile stumble along like a clod, crashing through bushes, branches plucking at my new canary yellow dress. I’m less a forest deer than a lost and slightly drunk cow.

As I gracelessly trudge, I look around at the Grove as the trees around us thicken. It’s honestly a bit surreal. The Flotsam mesa has such a dense strata of buildings that everywhere I’ve visited has been busy with people. To be walking along a not-quite-footpath, alone in the wilderness with a single guide is like being transported to another planet. It’s kind of nice? I take a deep breath of air, heavy with plant smells. This place is so alive. I grin kind of stupidly. This is definitely nice.

Halley leads me up an incline and suddenly we are climbing stairs woven with thick vines. I blink my eyes to clear my head a little and notice a neighborhood of abandoned buildings barely hidden by the vegetation. Three tree trunks push out through the broken windows of a car sized vehicle and stretch above our heads, while the collapsed remains of an A-frame home, not unlike Bluebell’s clinic, serves as a nursery for young trees and a thicket of bushes. A steel frame antenna serves as a trellis for growing vines covered in the white, seven petalled dogwood flower analogues. We climb over a thick root passing between two steel boiler tank buildings and enter a small cobbled plaza, like the one with the tea shop, except with stones are dislodged and warped by flowering shrubs and vines. The abandoned nature of the space is a bit haunting, but the flowers are very beautiful. Thick pollen fills the air.

I touch the leaf of a shrub as we pass, and pause to examine it. It has a three-pronged shape like a birds footprint with pointed tips. The edges of the leaf are serrated with that same shape repeated smaller, and the edges of the edges are jagged with yet tinier birdfeet, and so on, fractally as far down as my eyes can see. I glance all around and see that all the plants, the trees, shrubs, vines, even the grass have leaves with the same shape. Even the vines growing on Halley match, and the flower petals in her hair are three-pronged and serrated. Something about this seems odd to me, like maybe it’s important somehow? I take a deep breath of sweet smelling air and try to just enjoy the moment.

Halley leads me to a tree growing against a corrugated steel wall, the back of a cargo container building. The green woman grabs a low hanging branch and lifts herself into the tree, smoothly climbing up a ladder of limbs. I look up, enjoying the sight of her wide, generous ass and the dark green slit of her vagina as she ascends. And did I just check out my clone? I give my head a shake. “C’mon slow poke,” Halley taunts gayly from the building roof. I frown at the tree; when I decided to put on my new, pretty yellow dress today I wasn’t expecting to climb any trees. I glance around, hike up my skirt, tucking it into my underwear to keep it out of the way, and pull myself into the tree. Halley-22 watches me intently while I climb, reaching out her hands and pulling me onto the roof. I stumble as I stand, falling into her nude embrace, our exposed thighs touching. We both laugh and I step back, fixing my dress. “Welcome,’ she says, eyes on me, “to my special place.”

I gasp. Framed by a thick patch of flowering plants is an astonishing view of the Grove and city. We must be high up slope, since I can see what seems like the entire Grove spread out below us, the tops of trees, patches of meadow, and a few built objects tall enough to thrust free of the vegetation. In the distance I can see the edges of the Grove, the row of silver plinths, and the return of inhabited buildings with their chaos of improvised shapes and brightly painted flourishes. In the far distance I can see where the city meets the Junk Desert, the almost abrupt transition from homes to tumbles of twisted metal stretching to the horizon. It really is very beautiful. “Dang...” I say.

Halley-23 is staring at me, green lips curled in a smile. She walks, wide hips swaying, to the edge of the roof and sits, legs dangling over the ege. I look down and see its a survivable drop to the ground below and carefully sit next to her. She leans against me, her nude body warm against my bare arm. Up close like this I can smell her, a little musty with a tang like sweat or sex, but also a grassy, herby smell and the cloyingly sweet scent of flowers. It must be the flowers growing in her hair. Her scent tickles my nose and makes my head swim a little. I feel like giggling. “Thank you for bringing me here.”

Halley pulls back from me, and when I turn, I find she is looking at me intently, face inches from mine. I stare into her green eyes, seeing her irises are streaked with three-pronged shapes like the leaves, that the edges aren’t smooth, but jagged with fractals. Her pupils are very dilated. A green tongue slowly licks her lips. Her nostrils flare as she starts to breath faster and my heart is hammering in my chest. My head swims and I feel kind of high. Halley-22 leans forward and kisses me, hungrily on the mouth.

I yelp and pull back, nearly tumbling from the roof, except Halley has held onto me. “What the fuck?”

Halley-22 is panting, large breasts surging, and her eyes spark with desire. “You turn me on so much,” she purrs, “I’m so horny right now.” She frowns and bites her lip, “Haven’t you ever wondered what it would be like to fuck yourself?”

I’m panting too, I realize, and I feel butterflies of arousal in my pelvis. Distantly I realise my underwear is wet. My green clone wants to fuck me? That’s super weird, right? But, a rogue part of me whispers, what if it’s a good weird? With her voluptous green body, Halley-22 is certainly hot and she is obviously attracted to you. And why not? She knows exactly what you like and maybe this counts as some sort of futuristic masturbation. I stifle a moan, it has been a while since I remember last getting laid, and technically this clone of me is still a virgin.  I shake my head, trying to clear it. “No, this is too weird...”

Halley-22 groans. “Come on,” she pleads. “You have nothing to worry about, you’re immune right?”

Wait, what? “The fuck?”

“The Sylvannic Funganoid,” Halkey gasps. “It’s sexually transmitted.”

And like a blast of cold water I’m not turned on anymore. Sexy times cancelled. With prejudice. “And you’re infected!”

“Of course!” She cups her huge green breasts and growls in frustration, “Isn’t it obvious!?”

I blink my eyes kind of stupidly. It is obvious. Halley-22 is extra curvy and green and... she is scooting back from the edge of the roof, supine with legs spread and knees bent. Her dark green vulva glisten and a look of intense sexual need pinches her face. Her hand dips down to her sex, slides along her cleft, rubs her prominent, knuckle of clit. Her hand repeats the motion, and she hums in pleasure, her other hand and arm clutching her breasts. Halley’s hand begins to move faster, stroking her cunt at an increasingly frantic pace. A rhythmic squelching and a floral, resinous smell fill the air. She whimpers and squirms. I know I’m blushing, and I wonder why I’m watching this, but I can’t look away. Halley-22 tips her head back and makes a kind of drawn out groaning sound as her whole body tense and relaxes. My o-face reflected in green.

Halley-22 flops flat onto her back, taking deep breathes, large breasts raising and falling. Her legs, now flat on the ground, are still open, a puddle of fluid spreading from her still engorged cunt. “Sorry for that,” she eventually says, “it can get a bit too much for me sometimes.” Halley’s blows a big puff of breath, “I tried to take the edge off before you came.... but...” But Jilling off in the bushes wasn’t enough apparently. Maybe i should be flattered?

“What, what’s it like?”

Halley sits up, “To be infected?” She purses her generous green lips and thinks. “Well, I’m horny all of the time. All. Of. The. Time. Like, do you remember back when we were teens, still at St. Ursula’s orphanage?” The all girls orphanage that Halley-Prime lived in during her late teens. I nod, suspecting where this story is going. “When we shared a room with Patricia O’Mallory?” Beautiful, leggy Patty, our first big crush on another girl. “How we would wake up sometimes to hear her touching herself? And we would lie awake and listen to her masturbating, pretending to still be asleep so that she wouldn’t stop, the whole time wishing we were in that bed with her, making her make those little, hushed noises. But instead we would just lie there awake, well after she nodded off, thrumming with desire we were too scared and confused to act on.” I blush and nod, remembering those nights, and how I ached with need, burned with intense frustration. “That feeling multiplied by five is my normal.” Holy shit!

“I just want to have sex all the time, with anyone. With everyone! The Sylvannic Funganoid wants to spread, after all.” Halley smiles with something like religious ecstasy, “and the orgasms! Grove disease, I’m told, rewrites the pleasure centers in the brain, making orgasms incredible. Mindblowing! Especially with another partner.” Halley smiles coyly, “Remember how we had to learn how to find our orgasm when fucking a dude, and how much better sex got after we did? It’s like that: sex is on a another level for me now.”

“You make being infected sound so glamorous...”

“Hales, I’m a nymphomaniac! Being this horny all the time is exhausting, and I have an almost irresistable urge to have sex with just about any willing partner. Which, I fucking love, but the rational part of me knows is icky. Plus, it really fucks with normal human relationships: I just tried to fuck you, my own clone! Who I just met! It’s hard.” Halley-22 frowns, “and then there is what the Grove disease is doing to my body. The Sylvannic Funganoid, consumes humans. It’s eating my body and replacing it, cell by cell, with funganoid units, making me a part of the Grove. I’m as much plant as human at this point. And since I caught the disease through sexual transmission, the SF chowed down on my nervous system first.” A look of sadness passes over Halley’s face, “I can’t leave the Grove: partly because I’m infected and can’t pass through the Grey containment field, but also because my mind partially lives in the Heartwood. The Grove, all the plants you see, and all the infected women who live here, are all part of a single organism, a kind of sexually transmitted, parasitic biological computer. A computer that I’m being absorbed into, have been absorbed into.” She smiles wistfully, “I am functionally immortal, though, so I get to have wild nymphomaniac sex far into the future.”

Woah, that’s some heavy shit. “How did this happen to you?”

Halley-22 slides back onto the edge of the roof and sits next to me, looking at the view of the city. “It was an accident, basically. I woke up at Clem’s place like we all do, flipped out, and stayed with Hank for a bit. But things git weird with Hank and were weird with Clem so I decided to find some space and do my own thing. Strings were pulled and I found a job as a courier for the Pony Express.”

“The drone delivery company? Why do they need couriers?”

“Because drones suck at security: hackers can hijack them, they can be intercepted by thieves with hunter drones, recipient IDs can be spoofed. A courier who actually hands mail over is much more reliable. Plus with the Grey and Ürnauts and others around, people don’t trust network encryption much. So its oldschool coded papers and trusted couriers.”

“So I had a job carrying secure documents, mostly in the Terraces between embassies and corporate offices. I had a little apartment, a bit of money, and a cute receptionist on my rounds that was a huge flirt.” She grins and sings, “ I was going to make it after-all.”

“But then one day I had a delivery to a down market home out by the Junk Desert,” Halley pointed to a distant clump of particularly rough looking apartments right at the edge of the heaps of scrap. “It was cute, a birth anouncement from a sister in another star system to her down-on-his-luck Scavenger bro. When I left the guys flop, I looked up slope and saw green, saw the Grove for the first time. It was my last delivery of the day, so I decided to check it out.”

“It’s hard to explain just how magical the Grove seemed to me that first time. I’d been living on Flotsam for months; months of twisted metal, neon holograms, and dusty, red stone with barely a plant in sight. Most Sapients keep gardens or at least a few planters, but it isn’t the same as actual wilderness or a park. I missed laying out in a field of tall grass at night, watching the sky and listening to the chirp of insects. I missed that greasy little stream in the thicket behind the trailer park. Fuck, I missed seeing trees! So finding a big clump forest growing in the middle of Flotsam? It was like finding an oasis in the desert.”

“I think I get it a little,” I say. Parasitic organic computer aside, the Grove was very lovely in a way Flotsam, generally, was not.

Halley-22 smiles wistfully, “I ran right past the Grey plinthes and into a meadow. I kicked off my shoes, running in the grass, spinning and leaping, until I tripped, tumbling and laughing on the lawn. I laid there for a while just basking, smelling the grassy air and feeling amazing. But then a breeze blew past and I smelled flowers, intoxicating, beautiful flowers. I rolled to my feet and tracked them down, a whole thicket of blossoms, with a scent that crawled up my nose and made my head spin. I was giddy and lightheaded. I needed more. I collected my shoes and set off, walking into the trees, touching every trunk, brushing every low hanging leaf. It was heavenly. I went deeper and deeper into the trees, towards the heart of the Grove. And then she said ‘hello’.”

“It startled me, and i jumped a little and looked around. I couldnt see anyone, so ‘hello?’ i called back. I heard happy tittering and a rustling of leaves and then there she was, a green, curvacious woman naked  with vines for hair. She was ravishing and wild, I stared at her transfixed. She walked toward me, wide hips rolling, and with an unthreatening slowness, drew me into an embrace. She smelled amazing, like rain and grass and flowers. My heart was hammering in my chest. ‘Welcome to my home,’ she said, ‘have you come to make love?’”

“I didn’t really think, I just nodded.”

“She smiled and took me by the hand, leading me to a secluded little glenn, and started kissing me hungrily. I kissed her back, lost in the moment, head buzzing. We touched and ran our hands over each others bodies, our mouths following behind. Somehow, we fell to the grassy ground, and I ended up on top of her. Laughing and smiling I pinned her down, kissed my way down her body, enjoying the herby taste of her skin, until I came to rest on my knees, face poised over her slick, green cunt. I breathed in and smelled the same intoxicating scent of flowers. I felt feeverish, delerious with lust. I leaned in, tongue leading, and began to eat her pussy. My mouth tingled, she tasted sweet and thick like syrup, her sharp, floral smell coated my face. She came, her thighs gripping my head, her back arching and black spots swam in my vision. I sat up, blinking, head throbbing. ‘What?’ I asked seeing the green woman with a worried look on her face.”

“And then I passed out.”

“The Grove first appeared on Flotsam some time around Halley-10. No one is really sure where it came from, or why it suddenly appeared, but people think someone found a seed out there in the Junk Desert and brought it back to the city. They must have planted it, because a Grove sapling rooted and started growing, putting out vines and spreading. At first no one paid it any mind, it was a nice curiosity: a vivacious new plant that could actually flourish on Flotsam. So what if it had a tendency to climb and wind and spread between buildings? It was green and alive and grew flowers that smelled amazing. It wasn’t until people began to noticing strange green growths on their skin, surface infections of the Sylvannic Funganoid, that anyone knew anything was wrong. By then, the Grove had infiltrated a whole neighborhood and infected dozens of people. Most of them had surface lesions, infections that could be treated by amputating Funganoid tissue. But the Sylvannic Funganoid had managed to get into the nervous system and brain of a few humans, who started to spread the infection sexually. The women infected this way started to change: they became green, and curvaceous, and horny as fuck. These women, the Dryads, couldn’t be cured because their brains were partially Funganoid. They were stuck. The Grey declared the Grove a contamination zone and erected the plinth barrier, the residents of the overgrown homes evacuated, and a nanobot vaccine was developed to protect everyone from future infections. Everyone moved on with their lives, wary but curious about Flotsam’s new patch of wilderness and the nymphomaniac plant women who lived there.”

“Which is where I came into the world, loaded with Halley-prime’s immune system, naive to the dangers of the grove, and unprotected from the Sylvannic Funganoid.”

“I was infected.”

“When I came to, it was to the sight of several Green faces looking at me with concern. ‘She’s awake,’ one Dryad woman said. ‘Shit, her eyes are already green,’ said another, squinting at me. ‘Then it’s already too late,’ added a third with a grim expression. In the background another green woman, the one I’d had sex with, was crying and repeating that she didn’t know. Another green woman held her and stroked her hair. The first Dryad woman leaned down and kissed me on the lips, ‘Welcome to the Grove, sister.’ I moaned and kissed her back, suddenly more horny than I’d ever been in my life. The other Dryads, my new family, fell upon me eagerly, happy to satisfy my new libido and welcome me to my new life.”

I look at Halley-22 and want to hug her, but the Dryad woman had started to touch her cunt while recounting her story and I didn’t want to send the wrong message. “I’m so sorry,” I say.

She looks at me and shrugs, “Thanks... It’s not so bad, as far as illnesses go. Extreme horniness, breast enlargement, and immortality aren’t the worst symptoms to have to live with.”

“So what is life like for you now?” I ask.

Halley looks a little flushed and I see she is still slowly stroking herself. “You remember Moon at the trailer park?” I nod, thinking of the elderly hippy remnant, with her battered old winnebago, amazing vegetable garden, and her even better weed shed. She had the rough, sunken face of someone who lived young and fast over many decades and the poverty of someone who spent life rejecting the system, man. She sold the best weed in the park and taught me everything I know about gardening. It occurs to me she is probably responsible for Hanks rooftop.

“You know her stories about when she lived on that commune? Everyone practicing free love, running around naked and high? The drum circles and communal gardens and living in harmony with each other and Mother Earth?” And the unmentioned, unless Moon was drunk and morose, lack of bathing, dumpster diving for food, sex work when money was tightest, and the string of overdoses that eventually ended the commune. Halley smiled, “It’s a lot like that without, you know, the darker stuff. And with a lot more sex. And better drugs.”

“Drugs?”

“The Grove provides, man. The fruit of the Grove trees is heavily fermented and has something in it that gets humans and dryads drunk. The berries that grow on the vines have the same stuff, but concentrated, and are good for a nice, mellow high. Grove flowers contain a potent aphrodesiac, and when eaten are a bit like Molly. Concentrate the flowers into a tincture and you get a psychedelic that’ll have you tripping balls. It’s an entirely natural pharmacopeia.”

Halley-22 smiles, “Tonight when the moons come out, I’ll gather with my other green sisters in one of the meadows, and we’ll have a drum circle under the stars. Someone will bring Grovefruit wine and someone else will have gathered a basket of vineberries, and we’ll get drunk and high and dance and sing, pairing off to fuck when the urge overcomes us. Maybe other sapients will come join us, we usually have some curious humans out for the party. Eventually, when we are all too tired to dance or fuck, we’ll all huddle together and cuddle, nodding off and passing out, maybe waking for a quickie, and sleep until morning. It’s... I belong here.” Halley-22 looks thoughtful, “Sylvannic Funganoid infection aside, I’ve found my family.”

I smile and nod, happy for her and maybe a little jealous. But there is something that isn’t quite adding up for me... “You only talk about sisters, does the funganoid not infect men?”

Halley-22 makes a pained face, “No, men can be infected too. It’s just different for males. Females get the disease and become Dryads: we turn green, become extra curvy and horny. Men get Satyr syndrome: they become kind of masculine comets. Their bodies become more muscular, they grow a thick pelt of mossy, green hair and hornlike branches, and their cocks become green and enormous. For about a month they are absolute gods of male sexual performance. It’s incredible.” Halley is breathing deeply and rubbing her swollen clit.

“And then?”

“And then they burn out and die.”

Fuck! “Fuck!”

“Yeah,” Halley looks sad and horny at the same time, “it’s pretty tragic. These days it doesn’t really happen much, since just about everyone is immune. The only exceptions are lonely dudes who decide to go out with a bang. A kind of death by sexy times.” She smiles grimly, “We Green sisters try and make it as memorable for them as we can...”

“What do we have here?” asks an unfamiliar, lyrical voice. I startle and turn to see the bark of a nearby tree warp and split open to reveal a beautiful green face. It’s eyes open and are an unbroken green so dark it’s black. The face pushes out of the tree becoming a head with vines for hair studded with flowers and berries. Another push and there is a neck and shoulders and enormous breasts with hugely round, dark green nipples, leaving the tree looking like a fictional, lusty Dryad. “You didn’t tell me you had a sibling,” the tree purrs.

“Clone actually,” Halley-22 says, who stands and walks over to the new Dryad. She grasps the emerging hand of the newcomer and pulls. “Mythrie, I’ve told you all of this before...”

Mythrie slides to the hips, catches, wriggles, and slips free of the tree, tumbling to the ground. She stands, brushing herself off and tries to strike a pose, hugely wide hips cocked, heaving breasts proudly on display. She fucks me with her eyes, “Does she want to make love?” She asks.

Despite myself and everything I’ve just learned, I think about the offer. Mythrie is beautiful, a human hourglass. Except human isn’t quite right... she seems much more plant than Halley. Her hair is entirely made of foliage, and her skin has a rubbery, almost succulent look to it, with little striations that resemble the grove leaf pattern. And something about her body isn’t quite right either. She moves like a human and broadly looks like one, but her musculature is oddly ropey, like it’s formed by cords of vine instead of flesh. She runs a hand through the leaves of her hair and I see she has vine tendrils instead of fingers. I glance at her feet and see that she has roots instead of toes, and that these start to grow into the roof. Her vulva are dark, dark green and shine with moisture. I close my eyes and pinch the bridge of my nose, trying to clear my head. Why am I being such a randy slut today? “N-no thank you,” I manage to stammer.

Mythrie pouts beautifully, “but I’m so horny.”

Halley-22 places herself between us, “Mythrie, you know the rules. When a guest says no, we stop bothering them. How else are going to make the Grove a park for everyone?”

Mythrie aims her pout at Halley-22, chews her succulent bottom lip. “I need it so bad,” she whimpers.

“I need it too...” Halley growls with hunger. Suddenly the two green women are together, clutching at each other, mouths kissing and sucking. I stand up from my perch and give the two dryads a wide berth as Halley falls to her knees and buries her face in Mythrie’s cunt. Mythrie moans, head tilted back, a long vine lolling from her mouth in place of a tongue. I edge my way to where we climbed onto the roof, and Halley-22 rolls onto her back, legs spread wide. Mythrie stares, sucking in great deep breathes of air, and I watch in a kind of horrified fascination as something pushes out of her snatch, a long green tendril with the girth and length of a goodly sized cock. The cock-vine assumes the position and Mythrie drops onto Halley-22, rubbing her protuberance along the prone woman’s vaginal cleft. Both green women moan in pleasure. I take a step backward and almost fall off the roof, yelping a little as I catch myself. Halley-22 startles in concern and rolls onto her stomach to look at me, pushing herself to hands and knees. Mythrie opportunistically takes advantage of the position and drives her crotch vine home, Halley’s face becoming an open mask of shock and pleasure. I now know exactly the face I make when I’m penetrated. And also the particular frown I make when someone fucks me from behind, as Mythrie does just that, thrusting enthusiastically into Halley-22 who grunts and rocks back against her. I have got to get off of this roof before I see my o-face again.

I carefully lower myself into the tree we used to climb onto the roof. I ignorie the sounds of the two green women fucking and try not to think about how wet my underwear is, just focus on safely climbing down and getting out of the Grove before I am jumped by a Dryad. Or before I jump a green lady myself. One foot down, lower body, and then firmly place the next. You can do this Halley.

Just before I lower myself below the edge of the roof, I spare on last look back, just in time to see Halley thrust her head forward, mouth open in what looks, embarrassingly, like an intensely pleasurable dry heave. My doggy-style, deep-boning, orgasm face. Blah.

I drop down to the ground below and hear Halley-22 call after me, a little breathlessly, “It was nice meeting you...”

“Come visit....”

‘Let me know if you find Halley-Prime.....”

***

(Fun fact: Halley means one who lives in the hall in the wood/grove.)