Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 5: Temptation

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Strephon MacKenzie, a half-fae investigating faerie activity in the city, has come to see Melchior, a fae lord posing as a businessman who runs a computer firm and has his own agenda.

Here was the difficult point; how could he insinuate himself into Melchior's confidence without committing himself? Although half a mortal, Strephon was Fae enough that he could be bound by oaths. But oaths bound both ways, and Melchior would be playing it cagey too.

Strephon smiled ruefully. "I suppose it serves me right for not getting out more. I've spent too long living in the past and now I see the future already on top of me. But---" he paused, as if the thought had just occurred to him. "Why are you telling me all this? As you observed, I hold the Queen's favor. I could be a spy."

Melchior spread his hands with a look of mock innocence. "Have I spoken any treason against Her Majesty? You may tell her whatever you will. In fact, an associate who has Her Majesty's ear, her confidence so to speak, would be extremely useful to me. You are a man of both worlds, Strephon; surely you see the value of this."

Strephon saw very clearly; he saw ambition and a lust for power. His first impulse was to laugh and tell Melchior to go to the devil, but he also saw danger. He had to know more. He bit his lower lip and knit his brow. "You make an impressive salesman," he said at length, "but as you said, I am also a man of the Mortal World. How much of this is pitch and how much have you actually achieved? I would be interesting in seeing this 'Virtual Reality' of yours."

Again Melchior flashed his predatory grin. "I hoped you'd ask that." He pressed a panel on his desk and Lilith re-entered carrying a thin briefcase. She set the case on the desk and produced a console, several cases containing computer discs, and a device that looked like some sort of technological diadem. "Let us demonstrate," Melchior said, inviting Strephon closer.

Strephon advanced, examining the apparatus. "This is our next generation of computer games, utilizing technology that combines the most advanced interactive algorithms and graphics with the magic of the Fae," Melchior continued. "I think you will be most impressed." Strephon examined some of the titles on the discs: "Nameless Circle"; "Bowling for Lightbulbs"; "The Featherbunnies and the Magic Sp00n".

Lilith took a fourth disc and placed it in the console. Then she plugged the diadem likewise into the console and leaned over Strephon with it. Once again he he caught a heady whiff of Fae essence as well as what he was sure was a calculated eyeful of her cleavage. He tensed. "This won't hurt a bit," Lilith purred as she placed the apparatus on Strephon's head. She adjusted the headset, making sure it fit snugly against his temples. Then she reached over to the console and pressed a button.

Instantly, the room seemed to dissolve around him, and Strephon found himself sitting not in his wheelchair but in a large redwood tub filled with steamy warm water. His clothes had vanished too, and he realized that he was wearing nothing but a pair of brightly colored swimming trunks. He gave the water a tentative splash. It felt real, but he knew it was an illusion; a Faerie glamour. It must be. But he had sensed no one casting the spell! Was Melchior telling the truth? Had he devised machines that could record and cast Fae Magic?

As he pondered this, Lilith materialized standing over him, also in a brightly colored and rather immodest bathing suit. Strephon noted absently that her silvery tattoo ran down her arm and her leg as well. "This is one of our best-selling titles," she explained. "It's called Virtual Hot Tub. The object is to design and build spas and pools and to use your own personal avatar to interact either with simulated people or with other players. As you see, in the new version, players will be able to actually experience the environment." She pressed a large red button by the side of the tub with her foot and the water began to churn and fizz. The jets of warm water felt pleasant against Strephon's limbs and the bubbles tickled. Under other circumstances, he could rather enjoy this.

Lilith sat on the edge of the tub and swung her legs into the water. "You can alter your avatar however you like." She demonstrated by tapping her finger against an unseen console. Her swimsuit dissolved, leaving her naked for an instant, then reformed in a different color and style. "Or do you like this one better?" Again her suit shimmered and evaporated to be replaced by one even more revealing.

"You couldn't do anything about mine, could you?" Strephon asked. Even though his body was obscured by the foam on the water's surface, he still felt uncomfortably exposed.

"Certainly." She did the odd tapping against her imaginary keypad again and Strephon felt a moment of nakedness as the trunks disappeared and were replaced by a tight-fitting pair of black Speedos. He squirmed  This was not more comfortable.

He was even less comfortable when Lilith slid into the tub next to him. "The game comes with several existing characters and the option of adding on new ones, but personally I prefer playing..." she sidled up closer, " on one."

"Ah, yes. I can see how that would be more, ah, interesting."

"This game is very popular."


"And extremely relaxing." She ran her hand along the inside of his leg.

"Ah. I hadn't noticed."

"You seem so tense. I think you need a nice rubdown." She proceeded to rub his thigh. Her other arm slipped around Strephon's torso and she began nibbling on his ear. Strephon felt his face turning red, and not from the heat, as her hand moved dangerously up his leg.

Suddenly, he grabbed her hand and pulled it out of the water. He turned to face her, almost nose to nose; kissing distance. For a wild moment, he considered it. Lilith stared into his eyes, enchantment dancing in her own. Almost noiselessly, she whispered, "You want me."

He held her hand tightly, drinking in her sensual presence. Then he released it and said, "We are keeping Lord Melchior waiting. Perhaps another time I can devote my full attention to you." He gave her what he hoped was a cool smile. She returned it with a lustful grin pretending to be coy.

The world dissolved around Strephon again and he found himself back in his chair, back in his clothing, back in Melchior's office. Lilith sat on the desk -- incredible; he thought she must have been right on his lap. She removed his headset. Then she reached up to a spot behind her ear and Strephon saw that she actually had a jack plugged into her head. Interesting. He looked up and saw that Melchior was watching them from behind his desk.

"Are you impressed?" Melchior asked.

Strephon took a deep breath to regain his composure. "Quite," he said. "I must admit you have me intrigued."
"Perhaps you would be interested in attending a party I'm holding Monday night. Some of my associates and many of the more important people in the city will be there. It never hurts to make connections."

Lilith had finished putting away the apparatus now. She crossed her legs and favored him with another seductive smile.

"Yes..." Strephon said. "That would be interesting."

But inwardly he was thinking "What have I gotten myself into now?"

NEXT:  Table for Two

1 comment:

kurt wilcken said...

In retrospect, "Lilith" is a rather obvious name for a Bad Girl, and perhaps an inappropriate one for a subordinate given the character of the original. I ought to go back and change it. Any suggestions?

"Bowling for Lightbulbs" was the title of a song written by my youngest brother Geoff during his Angry Young Man period. I no longer remember what that title meant. I'll have to ask him.

"The Featherbunnies and the Magic Sp00n" is a reference to Lord Jex Featherbunny, the online alter ego of James Crowther, who started the Dark Redemption campaign. The Harry Potter fansite where my wife and I first met him had an autocensor that replaced offensive words with euphemisms. This led to some humorous results when you wanted to write the word "wristwatch" or "cocktail". For some reason it did the same thing with the word "spoon" -- apparently the last four letters of it are a dirty word, which I was unaware of. My sheltered existence, I suppose. But because of this, it became a running gag on the site to spell the word with zeroes instead of "O's" -- "sp00n" -- to confound the autocensor.