Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #science fiction opera, #erotic Romance
He left his office, leaving her standing there while he walked through the general office and returned with a palm healer.
The doctor pressed the unit to her left shoulder, and it chirped and whirred as it ran through a healing cycle.
The tissue under the healing unit warmed and felt better immediately. When the unit chirped and the doctor retracted it, she flexed her arm. “Much better.”
“Wish Ajaru good luck for tomorrow. The medical staff is split on their loyalties, but I for one am pushing for his win by at least seventy points.”
Bex nodded and smiled. “Great. I am heading out for our briefing right now. I just needed to get this checked out.”
“I have made notes on your file. It will be worked on immediately after the fight is over.”
She inclined her head. “Thank you.”
Bex left the med facility and headed for her own quarters. Ajaru was now under watch until the fight the next day. She communicated with him by interior com, but they may be listened to. They had already said all there was to say before the fight. Tomorrow, it was all up to him.
The morning of the fight, she handed in her verdict with the other jurors. The judge acknowledged her vote and dismissed the jury.
Groaning and rubbing her shoulders, she headed for the lav, and after a quick gel shower, she wandered over to her closet and opened it to see a new bodysuit and a matching trainer’s robe. “Nice.”
Her new quarters had a lot more space and a mirror. She smoothed on the brown leather with brass studs, sealing it and feeling it flex against her body. The only parts of her that would be giving off any pheromones were half of her neck and her face. She combed her hair back into a tight bun, putting the robe over her shoulders.
She looked like a respectable and fairly gender-neutral trainer. She checked the time and hissed, heading for the arena with the robe flapping around her legs.
She was scanned and grudgingly allowed into the trainers’ area just in time to see the fighters’ parade into the arena. Bex found the seat given to Ajaru’s trainer and she settled down.
Ajaru met her gaze and saluted her, drawing the recorders to her and plastering her image on the screens.
“And here is Ajaru’s new trainer. He has a woman working with him now, so let’s all wait and see whether her techniques have awoken his enthusiasm for the fight!”
The other trainers laughed, but Bex merely sat straight in the front of the box and watched the lesser fighters square off for the first group battles that would whittle them down so that challengers could work their way to the champion ranks.
The vid screens finally showed Ajaru entering the arena three hours later.
Bex got to her feet and walked to the edge of the box. Two of the other trainers tried to elbow her away from the railing, but she kicked out at them and elbowed each in the head in rapid succession.
They groaned on the floor, and she winced when she saw that her actions had been caught on the recorder.
“It seems that Ajaru’s new trainer is not just a pretty face. She has some claws.”
The announcer turned his attention to the two fighters squaring off, and Bex breathed a sigh of relief.
Ajaru twirled his two swords and the crowd went wild.
Bex watched the twenty-minute battle with pride. Her fighter had listened to everything she had been saying to him in their endless briefings, and he was putting her directions into practice.
He won by two hundred points with only two small wounds on his arm and thigh. Bex nearly fainted with relief.
She returned to her seat and watched the final match of the grand champion versus one of the champion challengers. The grand champion was a Veruan, an Admaryn descendant species. He was graceful, savage and his good looks made him a popular choice to root for all around. His long hair was braided at the temples and swung as he moved; his charcoal grey skin and ruby eyes were set off by the slate colour of his hair.
He was poetry in motion, and Bex could guess at why he was such a popular grand champion. He was wonderful to watch—almost hypnotic—when he sliced at his opponent. A fighter against him didn’t have a chance. His attack was a lazy dance that left blood on the floor of the arena.
When the challenger collapsed on the ground, the grand champion raised his arms to accept his accolades from the cheering crowd. He showed mercy by making his bow to the crowd short and allowing the medics to take away the challenger.
As he crossed the sands with the standing champions and winners, he did something that shocked the hell out of Bex. He blew her a kiss.
Ajaru watched and a dark cloud crossed his features. She saw his muscles tense and raised two fingers to her temple to tell him to calm down without speaking.
He was poker straight as he saluted the fight master.
Bex rose to her feet, and with the rest of the trainers, she bowed to the fight master and left to go down to the main hall to gather their fighters up and get them treatment.
The invitations to celebrations would be coming in while the fighters were getting patched up.
Bex looked through the crowd of fighters and spotted Ajaru. She grabbed a healing kit from the row of them against the wall, and she beckoned him closer.
He shook the hand of the grand champion and headed toward her after parting from what appeared to be his friend.
Blood coiled down his arm and marked his thigh. The leather skirt that he wore was conveniently out of the way.
“Come over here. You are not badly hurt, so let the carved-up fighters take the seats.” She slung the pack over her shoulder and opened it. The cleanser quickly reopened the wounds. Bex warmed up and activated the sealer, placing it over the slice on his bicep.
Ajaru grinned, “I delivered what I promised.”
“You did. I will talk to the fight master and get working on finding your match.”
“Not today, you won’t. We have been invited to the governor’s home.”
Bex paused and worked on him for a moment, making sure the slice was healed. “I don’t think that my name was in the invitation. Trainers don’t usually attend those things.”
“And yet, your name was in the invitation. All the champions from this afternoon were invited, but you are the only trainer asked to attend.”
She shook her head and worked on his thigh. “I don’t have anything to wear. This is the extent of my wardrobe.”
“I will order something appropriate for you.”
Bex snorted and held the unit to his thigh. “I can only imagine.”
“It is serious. The governor can make your career. He is an avid fan of the games and is curious as to my sudden change in attitude. I believe they think we are lovers.”
She snorted again. “It seems a popular thought. The announcer really had it in his head that we had an intimate connection.”
“So did Regaran. I set him straight, and now, he has interest in pursuing you.”
Bex wrinkled her nose. “Wonderful. Who is Regaran?”
The sound of a throat clearing sounded from right behind her. She glanced behind her and saw charcoal skin. “Ah. The grand champion. Lovely fight today. The crowd loved it.”
“Ah, but were you impressed, dear lady? I strove to gain your favour.”
“Right. You didn’t even see me until you were three-quarters done your battle. When he pressed you back and you looked up to see the blades coming, you first spotted me; I could see it in your eyes.”
He cleared his throat again, no doubt trying to get her to turn to face him. “I saw your image on the screen first.”
She chuckled and checked the knitting of Ajaru’s thigh, returning the healing unit to duty for another round. There was some deep damage that could be a problem if not taken care of.
Ajaru tapped her on the head. “I believe he wants you to look at him.”
“I know what he looks like. He was prancing around the arena for quite some time. You are my job; you get taken care of first.” She mentally winced at her rude tone.
A low chuckle sounded behind her. “It is fine, Ajaru. She has a sense of priorities. I will see her this evening. Unless you are careless with cutlery, she won’t have an excuse to avoid me.”
She casually peeked behind her, and he was gone a moment later. Sighing with relief, she double checked the job the portable unit had done and stood up straight. She was glad that she had been given the loose robe; it meant that Regaran had not been staring at her butt the whole time.
Ajaru had a distinctly amused look in his eyes. “Do you have something against him?”
She put the machine back on his arm, making sure that everything was sealed and tidy. “No, but I don’t have any active hormones, remember? It is job first and room for nothing else.”
He winced. “Right. I had forgotten. Well, he is a good enough fellow. Once I have climbed the ranks again, I will have to try and dethrone him.”
“Do you think he will still be there when you rise?”
“Oh yes. He is a stubborn fellow and born to fight. You saw him. You know what I will be facing.” Ajaru nodded.
“Fine. I will start getting you ready for the fight with him.” She grimaced. “It won’t be to the death, will it?”
He looked offended. “Of course not. We are too valuable for that.”
A guard came to them and nodded. “You are to return to your quarters and prepare for the trip to the governor’s home.”
She gave him an arched look. “This is as good as it gets.”
“Clothing has been provided for you in your quarters.”
Bex made a face and followed the guard through the throng with Ajaru at her back. She had no idea why they were bracketing her until they reached the small area where the public could see them in person.
Shouts of, “Trainer Bex!” screamed out, and the crowd pushed at the restraint gate.
The guard quickly moved them past the small gate in the arena walls and kept on alert until they were back in the training area. Security let them through and the guard visibly relaxed.
“We will get you stowed, Trainer. It will take you longer to get ready.”
They walked to her upgraded quarters and she darted inside, heading for the wardrobe. “Oh, damn it.”
The clothing was the furthest from androgynous that she could imagine. The halter-top was connected to a skirt via bejeweled straps. It wasn’t going to be easy to get into.
With regret, she removed her trainer’s robe and bodysuit.
Getting into the costume wasn’t as difficult as she imagined. The matching sandals with gem-studded straps gave her something to look at through the thigh-high slits in the skirt.
Grumbling at looking like a comfort companion, she went to the lav and tried to work something out with her hair. Finally, she decided to loosen her chignon and pull a tendril of hair out to coast down her blue skin and rest on her shoulder.
She checked her correspondence and found the invitation from the governor, asking for her by name. Nineteen other nobles had asked her to attend their celebratory dinners, but someone had RSVP’d for her in the negative. There was nothing like having the arena in charge of your correspondence.
She checked the chronometer and waited for the knock on the door. She wasn’t allowed to head out on her own. The trainers enjoyed a trusted position within the training grounds and were carefully guarded outside of it.
Bex wasn’t leaving unless an arena guard was with her.
She sighed. At least her skin was still blue enough to make it feel like a covering, even if the scent protection was wearing off.
When the knock came, she walked to the door and palmed it open. The guard blinked and looked at her with surprise. “Trainer Bex?”
“Indeed. Shall we meet up with Ajaru and his babysitter?”
“I was not expecting you to look so…”
She sighed and stepped into the hall. “I know. Neither was I. Both of my parents had below-average looks and my appearance is a blend of both. Who knew they were one generation from attractive?”
He nodded and led her through the halls, past two shocked trainers who stared at her with their mouths open.
“This is going to bite me in the ass, I just know it.”
The guard didn’t comment.
They joined Ajaru and his guard in the common area, and her fighter smiled slowly. “I am guessing that Regaran could see this all along.”
“It could be. Can we go now before I run and they have to tranq me?”
The guards nodded and led them to an exit where a vehicle was waiting. The trip to the governor’s home was quick, but they waited in a line of vehicles that were being slowly relieved of passengers.
“Are you nervous, Bex?”
“I am. This is terrifying.” She wrinkled her nose. “I haven’t worn this little since I was on holiday, three years ago.”
He touched her hand and squeezed it. “Call on me if you need anything.”
Their vehicle glided into position, and he got out and held his hand out to help her exit.
She murmured to him, “I will keep that in mind.”
Her face and body were going to be on every news program and off-world vid of the events. She kept her hand loosely on the back of Ajaru’s forearm and tried to look aloof and not petrified.
They walked through stone archways, the sidewalks lined with reporters and hovering cameras. Ajaru took all the attention as his due, but Bex’s experience with the female fighters had not prepared her for this.
Inside, they were scanned for weapons and directed toward the receiving line. Apparently, the governor held one of these parties every month. He enjoyed being surrounded by winners.
They went through the receiving line and most of the wealthy seemed to think she was a hired companion.
The governor smiled at her. “Trainer Bex. I am delighted that you could make it this evening. What did you do to turn Ajaru around?”
She smiled benignly. “Why, Governor Urikad, I merely had to ask him what he wanted and promised to work on helping him achieve it. Moving toward a goal is always easier than being told that where you are is the goal.”
The governor laughed and took her hand to kiss the back of it. His forked tongue slipped across her skin, but she didn’t take offense. His kind had poor eyesight. The tasting was how they saw.