The anger had worn down and no longer blinded her, but she still knew its presence. Dove had stomped down to an SDisk center and took one of the great-circle SDisks from Thiole to New Fahn. It was cold here in this hemisphere, the season late winter as opposed to Thiole's late summer. She slipped her jacket on with the practice of a regular business traveller.
She had never been a "business traveller" before coming to this damned planet and she'd only been here a month. Her title was Information Support for Financial Transaction Analyses, a job which did not require travel. She had been better at it than anyone else in her department at HonorAthena Funds Management: better than Taborah, or Sabienne, or Burlene. The four of them together had collected and collated data identified by Jaylene San Basso, one of the best analysts the Free Worlds had ever produced. Together her team had located wealth being produced and undervalued, and turned that identification into money for the women of the Free Worlds.
Dove had discovered that Jaylene was not ready for this new world. The data handling here was fast and overwhelming to an ordinary human, but Dove had learned how. She had given them all what they needed and could not have gotten for themselves: a routine, an understanding of how the Corridor market worked and how to access it.
For understanding, Jaylene had fired her that morning.
That was not the whole truth. Jaylene had also fired her for moral turpitude that reflected poorly on the company. Dove supposed that she deserved that. She doubted Jaylene even knew she had had sex with the twins in the office the night before, but that had been just one incident in the past two weeks. Taborah had known there was much, much more. Maybe Sabienne had gossipped last night.
The cold clear air hurt her lungs and she wondered how the thin llerkin tolerated it. llerkin were vaguely reptilian but they must not have been cold-blooded to be so active in weather like this. Dove's unconscious wandering had carried her to Otherton, the district within New Fahn that served as the hub for interstellar and interspecies activity. Although one could find Terran-friendly restaurants throughout New Fahn and in almost every major city on llerkin, llerkin-ready menus were rare in the restaurants of Otherton. She stood on Missionary Way. The street of worship.
One of Dove's mothers had been an Opra of the Goddess, one of six on the planet Sparta. Dove had been exposed to hundreds of religious sects, most of them historical, during her years with her parents, yet she couldn't identify more than a quarter of the faiths in evidence here. She recalled the word Catholic but had no idea what "The Church of the Catholic Landing" represented. The "First Interstellar Church of Humanity Organic" had an impressive steeple behind an intimidating, dark tunnel.
She let her feet carry her where her subconscious wanted to go. She hadn't anticipated that there would be a service-- Reverend Butler had announced in the weekly newsletter that she was going to Earth-- but when she reached the Church of the Goddess and her Prophet Jehanne Sterling, Free World, she found she found a placard announcing a service and sermon starting in less than half an hour. She recognized the sermon name, The Rarest of Fine Wines, but couldn't remember the theme. She went in and sat.
She should have remembered. Mama Cavana had given it often enough. It was the one on chastity before monogamy.
After the sermon, she approached the altar, took the wine offered and whispered the ritual "May I blush and bloom again for You" before going back to her pew. The church emptied out until she was left alone, looking up at the end of the hall, at the two enormous rectangular chimes that hung from the ceiling. The priestess had rung them during the service and Dove had felt the sensation of their strike in her belly.
As she stared up she heard a rustle of cloth next to her. "You're Dove San Cioni, aren't you?"
Dove turned and nodded to the priestess. "Forgive me, Reverend Mother. I'm just looking for some quiet." Even as she said it, the tears hiding behind her eyes stung forth and she collapsed, weeping, against the back of the pew in front of her. She hated crying in front of other people and would have done anything to prevent it, but this was a priestess, as close to Mama Cavana and the Goddess of Jehanne Sterling as she was going to get, and here she could at least cry without interruption or fear.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I'm sorry."
"Is there... something I can do?"
"No," Dove said, sniffling. She wiped her nose on her sleeve. Both mamas would have scolded her. "No, not unless you can take me back in time two months and undo everything I've done since then. I listened to the lecture, and I learned, I heard, just how much I've ruined my life." The story came tumbling out of her then, the whole sordid mess of it, how she had chosen to break with her chaste and isolated past, given up her virginity to a Y she liked but did not love, and was now so entangled with a masc, "a man," she said. She found herself stumbling to avoid telling this priestess too much, such as the orgy, or that she was seeing two males at the same time. In the same bed.
"Oh, Dove, child," the Reverend said. Like most priestesses, she was older, perhaps in her early 40s. Too young to be calling Dove child, but Dove didn't care. The priestess took Dove's hands in her own. "The Rarest of Fine Wines isn't just about virginity. It is about that, that can't be avoided, but that isn't what it's all about. How does the rest of the refrain go from Sterling's own words? 'The rarest of fine wines has been denied to me, but I shall not forgo other bottles at the table?'" Dove nodded. "Notice how Sterling says 'It has been denied to me.' I think she is avoiding the responsibility for her first choice, while proclaiming her right to make others. And she knows this. The Prophet wasn't a fool. And she also chooses not to go back, not to try and reclaim her innocence. Instead, she chooses to go forward, to proclaim her right to new experiences. And one of the things she says, Dove, that has always made its greatest impression on me, is that she describes a life of chastity, initiation by her beloved, and lifelong monogamy as the rarest of fine wines, and the only one those who drink of it ever taste. But neither she nor they can describe it as the finest of fine, and she has left for herself a table full of different vintages for her to try."
Dove nodded. She was taking in part of the message, she knew, but she had heard lectures like this throughout her young life and she knew that it might not be months, even years, before she understood it. But the words of experience reminded her of Ash and Arwen's mantra, "Every kiss is better than the last, because the last one is just a memory."
"Is he good to you?"
Dove, startled, nodded. 'He.' 'AshAndArwen.' She would try and avoid that mistake again, the one she had made with Sabienne. Maybe she should avoid it by being honest. She said, "It's 'they.' Two of them, but they're Pendorian and sometimes they're like one, and sometimes they're like more than two. But whatever they are, they like me. Yes, they're good to me."
The priestess recovered from her surprise. "We knew," she said, gesturing about the empty room. "We knew that when old Earth reached out and reclaimed us that there would be confusion with the introduction of the old ways and that much would have evolved since we left. We had poor imaginations. We had never anticipated this." She held an open hand to Dove. "I do not know what your mothers will think. Oh, the Church is a political body, Dove, never forget that."
"I don't think I can."
"No, I didn't think you, of all women, could either. But this is not about politics. You are so far from Her womb, Dove, and I cannot counsel you in the ways of your heart. Do you have the Poems of the Prophet?"
Dove nodded. She had one, an actual book, not just a data file. She kept it by her bed. She had not had time to read it since landing on llerkin. "It is a comfort in its familiarity," the priestess said. "Her religion is different from many others, Dove, in that it teaches forgiveness before love. You cannot have the one without the other. I want to meet these men, this creature, of yours someday. Will you invite them?"
Dove tried to imagine her rambunctious boys bouncing around inside this beautiful room like ping-pong balls. They were so silly sometimes and she looked forward to bringing it about. "I'll invite them. It's a beautiful shrine."
"It is, isn't it?" The priestess pointed to the twin chimes. "I have never seen chimes so heavy sound so beautiful. And the Pendorians cast them within five days of receiving our order. I thought they were supposed to be irreligious and secular, but they honestly seem interested in building us the best church they could."
Dove looked up at the chimes. They were, she knew, a stylized representation of the vulva, and their ringing was a summons back to the womb or the cry of a new voice. She said, "Pendorians believe in community. Giving us a place of stability was their first order of business."
"They have done an excellent job, then."
Dove rose, giving the priestess time to recognize her invitation to excuse. The priestess stood as well and opened her arms in the kiss of familiarity. Dove received it with gratitude. She had never had time or attention for the priesthood aside from her mother. They had always been a collection of busybodies who viewed her mother's ascension to the Opra with envy, and Dove's presence either an opportunity or a timesink to their campaigns. She forgot, sometimes, that the ones with an actual body of women to care for did care, most of the time. "Thank you, Reverend Mother."
"Go with Her, Dove. Be fruitful."
"I shall. You as well."
Dove left the church feeling better. She was still without a job, without a source of income, and without an anchor in this world that was not fresh and untempered, but knowing that at least one member of her church did not turn her away made her more confident. She pulled her padd on over her eyes, thankful that some things were still free. She knew where her feet would next take her.
She found one of the many light rail cars that circled the city and rode it the short distance to the residential areas where Ash and Arwen lived. She looked at the tall, green townhouse and admired the little robot lawncare machine creeping along the grass. Her body tensed with the pain of impending confession. She could admit that she lost her job. Admitting to the boys, admitting to herself, that her nature was what they and Zia and Polly had always believed, could hurt much more.
She walked up to the door and rang the bell. She heard a scuffling of chairs and the low talk of voices for a moment and then the door opened. One of the twins stared at her. He was dressed sweetly in a blue pullover that left his arms bare. "Dove? What are you doing here?"
She kissed him hard. He seemed ready to protest but soon giggled into her mouth and kissed back. His arm reached around her shoulders to pull her close. She sensed the hard ready lump behind his dress against her hip. "Dove?"
"Ash?" she said. He nodded, grinning. "Ash, go tell Arwen. Go tell him, I'm home."
The boys listened attentively and without interruption as she told her story. She reassured them that to the best of her knowledge none of the women at the office were aware of the little tryst they had all had the night before. There was nothing there for them to worry about. Jaylene had finally decided that she had enough of a grip on the market that she didn't need Dove's speciality, and had fired her for being an embarrassment to the firm. It wasn't last night, it was the boys in general. "If I have to get fired for them worrying about my private life, then I don't care."
"I'm still sorry," Arwen said.
"I'm not," Dove said, her chin coming up strong. "Not when they're going to throw out that kind of nonsense. What right does Jayl have to judge me? She's in her late 30s and has never had a lover, as far as I know. Money means everything to her."
"It did to you, too, for a while."
"I'm glad I figured out that I needed something else."
Ash said, "So are we." Arwen said, "Oh, hey, we got jobs!"
"Fashion critics for a small but influential journalism aggregator. It pays pretty well, too. Enough that we can continue to afford the house without dipping into the bonus from Thia. Like my dress?"
"It's very plain," Dove said.
"Exactly!" Ash said, gesturing with a finger in the air. "That's the point. Plainness is in, and your people happen to have it." "If we can ride this for three years, we can build on what we've got and maybe afford that bed we wanted."
"We can already afford the bed," Dove said. She suddenly realized that she needed to start making a living of her own. She needed to keep her end of the bargain if she was going to live here. "Oh, hey, when's rent due?"
"You don't need to worry about that." "We've got it covered."
"No," Dove said. "I can't let you do that. I have my pride, too. I'm not going to sponge off of you two. If you can afford me, then I can well afford you two." She grinned.
"All 16 HIU?" Ash teased.
"Someday, I'll make sure that I can!" Dove said. "Really, guys. I want this to be an equal partnership. I have a bonus from Thia too, and I don't have to tell you how much it is for you to know it's pretty big. I want to contribute as much as you do."
"We've already paid up for the next three months." "The next payment isn't due until eighth month." "Plenty of time."
Dove nodded, enjoying their volleying. That was plenty of time for her to figure out where her next four LIU were coming from. Plus whatever. Ash said, "Hey, Dove, what did you do for Jaylene?"
Dove tried to describe it, but the boys shook their heads. "I don't know anything about the financial market." "Me neither. It's never been our interest." "But did you notice her hands?" "Oh, yeah. She has great hands." "Hey, Dove..." They were both quiet for a moment, their own hands dancing access on the padds they wore. One said, "Can you tell me what the commodity market projections six months in either direction will be for olive oil?"
"Olive oil?" Dove said. "I suppose." Even before she knew what she was doing, an illustration appeared on the wall behind her, showing trend and projection. "Jayl would know if that projection was right. She'd be able to find noise in it and profit from it."
"How did you find that?" one said. "Show me the L. Neal Smith aggressive hedge fund, two year successes."
That come up just as fast.
"Something hard," one said. "Let me think." "Got it. Dove, celerionomic total output, media only, for the arcology Engel on Unity between the years 5885 and 5895, 120 month graph."
"That's easy!" Even before he closed his mouth the table became visible behind Dove. Even better, it was graphically illustrated with colors showing relative depths.
The boys examined it closely, then nodded to each other. Arwen said, "Dove, we think you're a cybercognitive."
"A cybercognitive. You think about information the way the machine does." "When you were at the firm, you worked faster than the other women, didn't you?" Dove nodded. The other said, "A lot faster, I bet." She nodded again. "Dove, you can turn human requests for existing information into representations of that information faster than even some AIs can."
"Is that important?" Dove said. "I mean, I understood that I was faster than the other women at the firm, but I'm not 'special' compared to you, am I?"
Both twins nodded emphatically. "If you're as good as you seem to be, yes, you're important." They both rose, one taking each shoulder. "And you're already special." They drew closer, the warmth of their bodies radiating into her.
"After last night... Guys, is it possible to be addicted to you?"
"It's too bad that it's not." "We would want you to be." They took her hands and led them through the back door to their bedroom. There, laid about the bed, were dresses, dozens of them. "Sorry," one said. "We were trying them on."
She shook her head even as one swept the bed clean and the other pushed her down. Already, her body was shifting over for them, moving into that mode where promises of bliss waited. "Whoops!" one said even as he pounced upon her, his hand already under the hem, his fingers carelessly caressing their way up her thigh to her underwear. She gasped, excited, aroused, ready for either one of them, for both of them. She was already fumbling for one, trying to get her hands under his skirt, to feel his dick and his balls in her hands, in her mouth.
The other pulled off her skirt and tossed it into the pile with the others. His mouth made contact with her pussy and Dove whimpered. She needed this so much, yet shame still touched her at how little self-control she had in their presence. All it took was their speaking their desire for her and she was committed to giving them everything. Then his tongue slipped between her nether lips and she was transported to the realm of lust and desire. It was more self-control than any one woman should be asked to have. Dove decided not to have it.
The one over her stroked his dick with his hand. It seemed to gleam, the skin so taut, and she knew that he was already close to climax. It would hardly slow him down. They had already confessed to being modified for sexual pleasures, with an ability to stay hard and climax several times in a row, and with extra sweeteners added to their prostate gland products to make even swallowing their come a delight.
Mouth, dick, eyes, pussy: it all ran together until she was coming, her body suddenly in the grips of ecstasy, and the boy who knelt above her head suddenly came, shooting semen arcing over her head and over her breasts. Some splashed onto her padd and her face.
She giggled, grateful for the padd. It may have been modified to taste better, but she doubted his come would feel good in her eyes. He bent down and kissed her and licked up the dribbles of fluid across her cheeks. The other boy took care of the droplets across her breasts.
Dove grabbed the boy between her thighs and pulled him up onto the bed. "You're still fresh," she said, and turned him over onto his back, threw one leg over his hips, and mounted him without hesitation. "Goddess, your dick feels so good," she moaned even as it filled her, even as she wrapped her body around him. She put her hands on his shoulders and started slowly, gasping at the pleasure. It must have been Ash, she though, his was the longer of the two. She whimpered as his cock touched deep places within her, but she was setting the pace and she kept it slow.
Arwen knelt beside her, his hand stroking her back, his cock hard again but still with a little driblet of semen at the tip. She liked to see it. She wanted both of them inside her again, like that first time. But not yet. She wanted each of them in turn first. Arwen's hand, a small, moving addition to her pleasure, eased down her already sweaty back and over her ass. "That's one sad thing about skirts," he said.
"Yeah?" said the other. He had his hands on Dove's breasts, his sure fingers doing things to her nipples she had never known she would like.
"They hide how beautiful Dove's ass is."
"Mmm," the other sighed.
"Touch me there," Dove said.
Both boys grinned. They were experts on sodomy. She had caught them doing it with each other more than a few times when she had come over. She suspected they had done that on purpose, to convince her that it was worth trying, and maybe they were right. She shivered to remember the touch of Ash's mouth on her asshole last night but then she had been in the grip of erotic madness.
Arwen's hand slipped down along the curve of her ass, down into the crack. She shivered: she had offered the invitation but had no idea what to expect. The boy underneath her began doing his part, pushing up with his hips, taking over the action her tired legs could no longer do with authority, even as the other boy slid his fingers down into the crevice of her desire, touched where his brother's dick and her pussy melded them into a single unit. He moistened his fingers with her overflowing fluids and then his fingers slipped back, covered the short distance to her asshole. He touched her there and she bent her head down to receive.
It felt nice. Not incredible, not wonderful. It wasn't as beautiful a moment as when one of them slid into her pussy. It was certainly an addition but not an overwhelming one. She liked it but not enough to go any particular distance with it right now. She looked down at the boy underneath her, grabbed him and said, "I want you to fuck me now." With that, she rolled over onto her back.
Ash immediately gave her what she asked for. She pulled her legs up and let him get as deep as he could, taking him all the way down into the depth of her pussy, down until his hips met hers. Arwen knelt beside Ash and ran his hands over his brother's rutting body. Dove looked up and could see the pulse in his delicate throat, could feel the fire in his masculine powerful body. She loved every line of him. She loved them both, could not separate them, and when she came it was with a tremble and a scream that left her without the strength to speak.
Ash climaxed with his own satisfied laugh and Arwen replaced him. Dove couldn't stop him. Didn't want to stop him. She let him in with open arms and open legs, engulfed his dick in her deep, tight liquidity, and she laughed and cried out, "Love you guys!" as she came again, and again, before Arwen gave her his second climax of the day.
They all dropped to the bed, spent and exhausted, and Dove luxuriated in the pleasure they had taught her. She had never actually slept on this bed and suddenly she wanted to nap here, to rest here, to make love here over and over, to spend all day and night making love with her mascs, her twins, her men. She was a daughter of the Goddess, and she had learned what every woman in the Free Worlds would soon learn: that there was love out among the stars, love pure and intense and without reservation. "Oh, Dove," one said softly. "We love you too."
"Yes, we do."