Odilia is a nice planet. The sky is purple, the grass is yellow, the property prices aren’t that bad. But reproduction is painful, solitary, and asexual. Which is why the Odilians find the recently discovered “X-rated” disks from Earth so fascinating. And why the money-making scheme they’re hatching is so brilliant.
The plan is simple: abduct four Earthlings and juice them up on a heady pheromone cocktail. Then plop them in a variety of titillating holographic scenarios and market the results as reality entertainment—for vast profits.
The four chosen humans are strangers to each other, but not to life’s disappointments. Leandros, a lounge singer who’s never committed to anything longer than an Elvis medley. Eve, an interior designer who’s living a life much more beige than bold. Beau, a laid-back car mechanic who wants more from life than oil changes. And Cassandra, an innocent debutante who’s learned most of her sexual know-how from self-help books.
As unwilling—okay, sort of willing—stars of the Odilians’ budding intergalactic porn empire, the four of them consider their options. Relax and enjoy the ride? Try to escape?
How about fall in love?
This book contains voyeuristic aliens, hologram cowboy orgies, big dildoes, disco, and gratuitous use of the word “baby”.
“I believe I have studied Earthling sexual habits carefully enough to have grasped that particular mechanism,” Andyr commented.
Nisom hissed, the typical Odilian response to an unfunny joke.
“I was talking about our plan,” Nisom said. “We enter the Earth’s atmosphere, pick up the subjects, and immediately leave. Provoking a war with the Earthlings wouldn’t be cost-effective.”
Lubda spoke up for the first time from the reclining couch in the corner of the bridge. “It’s always money with you, Nisom. There’s more to life than money, you know.”
“I’m glad you feel that way, Lubda. You won’t mind my keeping your share of the money when the experiment is a success and we have more Odilian credits than the Supreme Ruler.” Nisom’s appendages rasped together in anticipation. “Imagine how our home planet will greet new entertainment after all these years of the same old disks and computer-generated holograms. Live subjects. We’ll be able to name our price.”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Nisom,” said Andyr from the navigation controls. “We need to procure the subjects first. And ensure the chemical reaction works as well as we anticipate.”
“That’s another thing,” Lubda piped up. “I understand the science, but I can’t help thinking that chemistry doesn’t quite explain the biological phenomena we see in humans. From watching the disks there seems to be more, sometimes…something non-molecular, even.”
Nisom and Andyr glanced at each other and raised their neck quills in a universal sign of derision.
“It is precisely from watching the disks that I have formulated the chemicals,” Andyr explained with exaggerated care. “The disks are our primary source of information about human life. They are documented fact. This is why they are so fascinating.”
“I know, but…”
“The disks prove that Earthlings are completely predictable in every way. They are biological machines programmed to behave according to the promptings of their hormones and impulses. Unlike us,” Andyr added, with an arrogant twist of the head that indicated which species was preferable.
“If Earthlings are so predictable, why do we need real ones? Why can’t we just keep on watching the disks or utilizing the holograms?”
It was Nisom’s turn to speak to Lubda condescendingly. “Because everybody on Odilia has watched the disks so many times that their eyestalks have turned gray. They know the holograms we developed aren’t real. Live humans will respond the same way as the humans on the disks, especially with our chemical prompting—but they will be in situations of our engineering. Situations that Odilians will pay vast amounts of money to see.”
“I don’t know,” Lubda began, still having second thoughts about the plan.
“This will be reality entertainment at its finest. Our program will surpass all the tedious and infantile programming available.” Nisom practically crowed, pacing in long slides across the floor, growing more excited. “Survivor 283: Fath Nebula, yet another season of tribes living and competing on a distant moon of some planet surrounded by poisonous gases and desolate, inhospitable terrain. Boring. Life Swap, where two members of very different alien races trade places for a week. Dull. We are offering real entertainment. We will be rich.”
Lubda shrugged, a maneuver that for an Odilian required the use of twelve different sets of muscles.
“Fine. I bow to your superior knowledge of Earthlings and Odilians. I’m just glad that I got to choose the four Earthlings myself.”
Nisom turned away from Lubda and joined Andyr at the controls. “Enough idle chitchat. We’re wasting time we could be using to make money. Prepare to enter Earth’s atmosphere, Andyr. Check the transporter coordinates, Lubda. It’s time for the experiment to begin.”
Cassandra blinked and stared around her. Somehow, she was in a perfectly square room, sitting on a heart-shaped bed. Thick red shag carpeting covered the floor and walls. And there was a…
A mirror on the ceiling?
She wasn’t at home. This was most definitely not Foxborough, Connecticut. People in Foxborough didn’t tend to go for red heart-shaped furniture.
Was it real? She gingerly touched the satiny bedspread. It felt real. She got up and looked through the open door, which led to a rather lavish tile and chrome bathroom with a heart-shaped tub. That looked real, too. Tacky, but real.
Unless this was a particularly lifelike dream. She’d had some very lifelike dreams lately, dreams where when she woke up she had to lie in bed and catch her breath for a few minutes before she could remember where she was and who she was. Dreams that were populated by strange, shadowy people, and weirdly intense feelings.
This could be one of those dreams. Except it appeared that she was alone.
Experimentally, she gave herself a hard pinch on the arm. It hurt.
“Wake up,” she told herself. Nothing happened.
“I’m Cassandra Mary Elliot, of 46 Maple Street, Foxborough, Connecticut, USA,” she said aloud. Her voice sounded flat, its loudness absorbed by the shag carpeting. “I’m twenty-one years old, and I am probably dreaming right now.”
Well, she knew who she was, anyway. That was a step up. Unless she wasn’t really Cassandra Elliot of Maple Street, Foxborough, and she was only dreaming that she knew who she was.
Cassandra shook her head. It didn’t do to think too much in dreams. She’d read a book about it recently. You should relax and enjoy and forget about logic and reality.
That decided, she sat down on the heart-shaped bed and looked around her. There was something weird about this room, besides the fact that nobody in Foxborough would be seen dead in somewhere like this, and that she shouldn’t be here either. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, though.
Instead, she tried to remember what her last waking thought had been. She’d read that sometimes when you fell asleep your brain kept on going over what you had been thinking about and your dreams reflected that.
But the last thing she could remember was sitting in her bedroom, at her desk, half-heartedly studying because she couldn’t sleep. Cassandra looked down at herself; she was wearing her cream satin nightgown and her green Chinese silk bathrobe. Well, she hadn’t been wearing that before. She’d been in flannel pajamas. And there was no way on Earth that she would be wearing this outfit in somebody else’s bedroom; she practically blushed every time she put in on in her own bedroom, where nobody could see her.
So she must be dreaming. It was good she’d got that settled, anyway.
“Hey, hi there.”
A deep voice, slow and drawly and masculine.
Cassandra’s head shot up. And immediately she knew what had been weird about the room on top of its general weirdness, because there was an open door in the room and there hadn’t been any doors before except for the one leading to the bathroom.
But now there was a door open in the wall across from her. And a man standing in it.
Cassandra scrambled further onto the bed, as if it would give her protection. The man was tall and strong-looking. He had long straight brown hair that tumbled over his shoulders and a goatee around his mouth. And he was wearing—this got worse and worse—faded jeans, a black leather jacket, and a black T-shirt that had some rock band’s name printed on it.
“Who are you?” She couldn’t keep the fear out of her voice.
The man regarded her evenly. “My name’s Beauregard B. Bryson, but you might as well call me Beau because everyone does. Is this your place?”
“I—I’m not sure. If it’s my dream, I guess it’s my place. But it’s a little strange.”
Beau nodded, slowly. “Yeah. Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels like they’re having an acid flashback.” He stepped forward and Cassandra retreated a little further back on the bed. It might be her dream, but she wasn’t so sure that he wasn’t a psycho rapist. She’d seen a photograph of a psycho rapist one time in the newspaper and she was pretty certain he’d been wearing a leather jacket and a rock band T-shirt. It might even have been the same rock band he was wearing.
Instead of leaping onto the bed and raping her, he held out his hand. “Guess we’d better get to know each other if we’re dreaming together.”
His hand was big. The nails were short and his fingers looked pink and scrubbed. Cassandra took his hand and shook it as if it were the tail of a rabid raccoon she thought was going to spin around and bite her at any moment. Despite her fear, it felt warm and welcoming.
Beau smiled. “What’s your name?”
If it was a dream, it probably wouldn’t do any harm. “Cassandra.”
“Hi there, Cassandra.” He sat down on the bed beside her. Cassie tried not to breathe too much, but she couldn’t help noticing that he smelled of soap and something minty, like gum. “Do you think we should go have a look around this place and see where the hell we are?”
“I don’t know.” Something occurred to her. “How did you make the door happen?”
As soon as she said it she realized it was a bizarre question, but Beau just nodded and shrugged. “Dunno,” he said. “I thought of there being a door and there it was, and there you were.”
“Maybe it’s just a coincidence.”
“Do you remember how you got here?”
“Nope. Last thing I remember I’d just beat my brother at poker and I was watching a rerun of Wheel of Fortune. That’s why I thought it was a flashback. The spinning lights can do that to ya.”
Cassandra nodded, though she wasn’t sure what he was talking about. “Maybe you’re right, we should go and look around and figure out where we are.”
“Can’t hurt,” Beau said amiably. He stood up and offered her his hand again, presumably to help her off the bed. Flustered, she ignored it and slid off the bed by herself. Her bathrobe rode up her legs and she tugged it back down before she stood up. When she looked at him, Beau’s gaze was on her bare legs where she’d just covered them, and she blushed.
“Uh,” he said, and ran his hand through his long brown hair. “I guess we’d better start with that door.” He went to it, still open in the carpeted wall, and waited for her to join him.
Well, if he was going to rape her, it seemed like he’d have done it when they were sitting on the bed together. And really she might as well see what this dream was all about before she woke up. She joined him at the door and they walked out into the corridor together.
It looked like a hotel corridor: long, papered in beige, with sunken lighting and tastefully patterned carpet. Soft music piped in. They walked down the hallway in silence, their footfalls muffled by the carpet. Beau’s legs were much longer than Cassandra’s, but he walked slowly to keep pace with her, and she could smell the clean scent of his hair.
The hallway ended in a single white door. It had a gold handle.
“I guess this is it,” Beau said and he reached out and twisted the knob. Even though Cassandra knew this wasn’t real, she still held her breath with trepidation as he opened the door.
The vast room beyond was lit with a dim blue light. It seemed to be coming from a large transparent blue tube in the centre of the room that stretched from the floor upwards toward a distant ceiling. The walls of the room were invisible, shadowy and too far away to perceive.
“Cool,” said Beau appreciatively and he stepped inside the room. Cassandra followed him, looking down at their shadows, cast long by the light from the hallway behind them.
And then their shadows disappeared along with the light.
Cassandra whirled around. There was nothing behind them but darkness. The door was gone.
“Beau—” she started.
She felt his hand curl around hers. She blinked, and tensed, and the world dissolved around her and then reformed.
They were inside the blue tube. She held out her hand and knocked on the wall of it. It felt like some kind of strong, thick glass. There wasn’t a light source; the walls themselves seemed to be glowing.
“What’s going on?” she asked. Beau was close beside her. The tube wasn’t that wide, but there was enough room for them to stand and move around a little bit.
There was a noise, something like a vent opening, and a rush of air. She felt something warm whoosh over her skin and breathed in a smell that seemed familiar somehow. Appealing, exciting.
Heat flushed through her body. But it wasn’t like any heat she’d ever felt before—not like the warmth from sunshine, or an open fire. It came from deep inside her and radiated from her center into her limbs, making her fingers tingle, her breasts feel heavy, her belly melting, sending a pure sizzling lightning bolt between her legs.
“Oh my,” she gasped.
She heard a deep growly sound from next to her and realized it was Beau. She felt Beau like a magnet beside her. She could hear his breathing, hear his heart, feel him warm and big and alive beside her, and she suddenly felt more hungry than she’d ever been in her life.
But not hungry for food. Hungry for him. For Beau.
She turned to look at him and God, he looked good. Tall and strong and handsome. There was a dark light in his blue eyes.
He looked as ravenous as she was.
His tongue moistened his lips and her gaze stuck on his mouth. His lips were full, his tongue pink and wet, and there was nothing in the world she wanted to do more than to kiss him.
She had to kiss him. She didn’t care if he was a stranger, or that she didn’t know where they were. She licked her own lips and imagined tasting him there already. It was maddening, tempting, irresistible.