Authors: Caro Soles
Tags: #Science Fiction
The Abulon Dance
By Caro Soles
Copyright 2012 by Caro Soles
Cover Copyright 2012 by Ginny Glass
and Untreed Reads Publishing
The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold, reproduced or transmitted by any means in any form or given away to other people without specific permission from the author and/or publisher. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to the living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Also by Caro Soles and Untreed Reads Publishing
The Danger Dance
The Abulon Dance
A novel set in the world of
the hermaphrodites of Merculian
Those who are helpful and encouraging to writers, those who enjoy what we create, or at least claim to, are appreciated far more than they may ever realize. Know that sometimes a single word of praise is all that keeps us from despair.
Now is my chance to thank some of you who were helpful along the way with the
novels. Thank you to Iréna Zvagulis, who was there at the birth of the Merculians and kept dropping in to find out what happened next; to Nancy Kilpatrick and Helen Lightbown who were unfailing in their editorial insights; to Terry Tweed who loves to read. And thanks to Elizabeth Gershman who fell in love with Triani and whose letters kept me going with the series; to Josepha Sherman for shedding light on plot problems; and to Gordon Montador and Norman Laurila, who gave me hope. And last of all, to Jack Scovil, just for being there, and keeping that hope alive.
The twin moons of Merculian cast double shadows on the grass as the air car skimmed over the ground. Cham leaned forward in the passenger seat.
“Look! I told you there’s an artificial lake!” He pointed to the flash of silver as the car swooped lower.
“You sure you got enough credits to cover the fare?” the driver said.
Cham swallowed. “Don’t worry,
. I’m sure.” He forced himself to settle back and let the seat reform to embrace his diminutive frame.
The instrument lights threw a pale image of his young face on the curving window. He was small, even for a Merculian, being well under the normal five feet. His long, silver-blond curls framed an angelic face, the round eyes a clear grey, outlined in black and flecked with gold. He studied his reflection a moment, then lifted a nervous hand to his hair.
“This place belongs to that famous dancer, don’t it?” the driver said. “What’s his name again? Jani? Tani?”
“Triani. It’s his country place. He’s my lover, did I tell you?”
“You don’t say!” The driver looked at him more closely, his round, Merculian eyes bright with curiosity. “But you’re just a kid!”
Cham grinned impishly. “I’m precocious,” he said, tossing back his hair.
The driver laughed. “You a dancer, too?”
“I will be. One of these days, it’ll be me up there on stage. Chamion Adino Esseris. Maybe I should write the name down for you.”
“It’s okay, kid. I’ll remember.”
Below them, the brightly lit house nestled behind its protective walls and shrubbery, covered by its tinted blue domes. The air car hovered over the tree tops for a moment, then the engines cut back to a faint hum as they landed on the crowded parking strip. Cham looked eagerly towards the ornate door hanging in the wall, that lead to the courtyard. As he handed the driver his cred-ID disk, he hoped Triani had remembered to put some credits in his name lately. Once before he had forgotten. It had been very embarrassing. This time, however, there was no acid comment from the electronic voice, just a purringly smooth ‘thank-you’ from the instrument panel. “Looks like a real big do,” the driver remarked, handing back his disk.
Cham nodded. “It’s a farewell party. The Company’s going to Abulon next week.”
“Abulon? Never heard of it.”
“You will!” Cham waved as he stepped off the small dismount platform and started towards the door.
“Good luck!” the driver called after him and the car hummed away.
Cham hesitated for a moment. Beside him, the blue shrubbery sighed and whistled with tiny night birds, their soft music soothing on the air. Luck. He shivered. Why was he so afraid his was about to run out? Taking a big breath, he reached out and held his hand under the beam of violet light in front of the shimmering gate. It dissolved to let him through. Triani’s parties were famous. There was always at least one hologram band, tables piled high with rare delicacies, Crushed Emeralds served in silver goblets and sparkling Merculian wine flowing freely from a fountain in the courtyard. But it was more than the expectation of a good party that made Cham’s stomach churn with nervous excitement. This was a celebration for him. Last night, Triani had told him he was coming to Abulon, too, news that flooded his heart with joy, and sent his active imagination spinning off in panic. Cham longed to visit mysterious new worlds, but now that he had what he wanted, he was apprehensive. Abulon had been in self-imposed isolation for centuries. All that was known about the place was gleaned from the reports brought back by the Primary Contact Team and most of that hadn’t been made public. Anything could happen in such a place. The frightening possibility occurred to him that they might never get home again. Still, unlike the others, he had never been away from Merculian. It was a dream come true, and he was determined to enjoy himself. Cham slid quickly through the brightly dressed crowd, following the music. The large, central space pulsated with sound, glittered with color and movement. The noise beat against the twinkling lights on the domed ceiling. Most of the guests were dancers from the Merculian National Dance Company and it showed in their lithe bodies, their acrobatic abandon. They filled the dance floor, graceful, androgynous, bathed in the insistent beat of the music. Their round eyes were bright with wine and their own inner fire. Their muscular bodies vibrated. Some had taken off their velvet or satin tunics and tossed them casually to the side. Their smooth torsos, glistening with sweat, rippled under the many-colored, winking lights. Some wore long, beautiful robes whose iridescent hues slid together as they moved. A few wore more tightfitting garb, proud to show the small breasts and softer curves that came with childbirth and the nursing period. Each one was alone in his intensity, yet linked to his partner by an almost mystical union. Tactile telepaths, they had only to touch to sense each other’s feelings.
It didn’t take long to spot Triani. He was tall for a Merculian, and dark, with snapping black eyes. He wore tight-fitting black velvet pants hung low on his narrow hips. His white satin blouse was tied high in front, exposing his midriff. A heavy gold chain glinted at his waist.
Cham heard the magic name ‘Abulon’ as he slipped an arm around Triani and lifted his face to be kissed.
“Hi, sweetie. You’re two hours late.” Triani’s lips brushed his.
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it. You wouldn’t believe what an awful time I had getting out of the city. There was—”
“I don’t want to hear about it. Have you met Orosin At’hali Benvolini?” Triani turned to the smiling Merculian at his side and Cham looked up into sherry brown eyes. He liked what he saw there and kissed the proffered hand respectfully.
“Orosin, how the hell did you get mixed up in the Diplomatic Corps anyway,” Triani went on, giving Cham an absent-minded squeeze. “You, an Ambassador? You’re a musician! What has politics to do with music? Are you going to make them dance to your piping on Abulon?” Orosin grimaced. “I don’t think that’s what the Inter-Planetary Alliance has in mind. I’m supposed to show them what the other members are like by giving them samples of the different cultures while the Abulonians are making up their minds about joining.” He helped himself to more wine. “It’s
Ambassador, Triani, with the emphasis on culture.”
“I hear they’re quite primitive. Let’s hope they know the meaning of the word ‘culture’.”
“I’m counting on you to set things straight if I fail to get the idea across,” Orosin replied, laughing.
“Oh, look!” Cham exclaimed. “Who’s that giant pale blue person who just came in? Is he a Serpian?”
The tall male stood at the entrance, pursing his lips disapprovingly as he looked around at the dancers.
“Yes, and I don’t think he likes Merculians very much.” The Ambassador smiled and shook his head. “He’s on my staff, too, worse luck. He actually told me the other day how much it annoys him that the translators have selected ‘he’ for our third person pronoun.”
“What would he prefer? ‘It’?” snapped Triani.
“Who knows? I tried to explain it’s not that unusual in cross species/cultural translation, but it didn’t make any difference. His name’s Talassa-ran something and I’ve never seen him smile, though I suppose there must be something he enjoys.” Triani grinned and set down his glass of Crushed Emeralds. “I’m going to find out right now,” he said. He let go of Cham and started towards the Serpian.
Cham sighed. “Is that man going to Abulon with us?” he asked plaintively.
“You don’t have to worry about him, Cham. He’s only here because he considers it his duty as a member of my advance delegation. Besides, as a Serpian, he’s taken the off-planet vow of celibacy.”
“Oh.” Cham twisted a blond curl through his fingers absently. “You don’t suppose it will be dangerous on Abulon, do you?” he asked at last, looking at the Ambassador anxiously. “I mean, just how primitive are they?”
“Chamion, the I.P.A. contact team has already been there. Triani was referring to the technology, not the people. There’s nothing to worry about, I assure you.”
Cham blushed, embarrassed by his childish question. No one else was worrying. Why should he? He thanked the Ambassador, bowed and edged his way through the crowd, looking for Triani. When he found him on the other side of the room, Talassa-ran had a firm hold of the dancer’s muscular upper arm and was scowling down at him fiercely. “Please listen to me for one minute,” the Serpian was saying in his thin, unpleasant voice. “You must have immunity booster shots before going to any non-Alliance planet. Why have you not complied with the regulations?”
Triani smiled up at him beguilingly through his thick, black lashes. “You’re cute when you’re mad, baby,” he said. “But that’s no way to ask someone to dance.”
Triani, I do not wish to dance. Not with you. Not with anyone. I tell you this repeatedly.”
For answer Triani threw his arms around the man’s neck and rubbed his lean body up against him, laughing low in his throat. “I’m your host, sweetie. You’ve got to be nice to me.”
The man pulled away, an expression of acute distaste on his face, his skin turning a deeper blue with anger. “This is business.”
“So’s dancing. I’ll think about the shots tomorrow, okay?” He held up his arms invitingly. “Come on, sweetie. I can follow.”
Talassa-ran turned away. “You people never have one serious thought in your fatuous heads,” he muttered. Triani shrugged. He caught Cham’s eye, smiled and opened his arms. Cham melted against him. Around them, the dancers continued their joyful celebration of movement. There was no distinct break between one dance tune and the next. They all flowed together, the dancers starting in or leaving as the mood took them. Cham’s arms clung around Triani’s neck. His eyes were closed and his lips were smiling faintly. They moved as one, with a fluid, smooth motion natural as thought. Others danced in groups, hand in hand, forming long, graceful lines, their feet twinkling in a complicated pattern. Bowls of large, marble-like candies were being passed around by small androids with metallic, silver caps. Triani slipped one in Cham’s mouth, then caught sight of Talassa-ran scooping up a handful from the bowl. He glided over beside him, Cham still in his arms, the blond curls spilling against his chest. He touched his hand.