Nova woke up to the feeling of a hand stroking the curve of her hip. The sensation was very gentle, the fingertips just barely grazing against her skin. It almost tickled.
It made for quite the pleasant wake-up call.
Nova didn’t bother opening her eyes; they were still heavy with sleep. Instead, she clumsily patted away the hand that had suddenly left her hip and launched on a journey toward more… adventurous territory. Her feeble resistance only elicited an amused chuckle from the warm and soft body next to her.
Her eyes still closed, Nova reached out toward the chuckle-producing, lecherous thing beside her and crawled half on top of it, burying her face in the crook of its neck and trying to steal some of its warmth for herself and fight off the morning’s chill.
Apparently, Iris wasn’t one for keeping the heater on in her apartment, even though Verizen was too far north to justify anything else. Maybe she wanted to save on the electricity bill? That hadn’t been a concern for Nova for years, now, but she still remembered what it was like to have to actually pay a modicum of attention to how much money she spent on such things.
Point was, the room was a bit cool, and there was a warm thing within reach.
Her attempt to latch onto the warm thing like a desperate koala onto a tree brought more musical laughter out from between its lips, which, Nova remembered, tasted really good. And the tongue behind those lips also felt really good when it…
“What’s wrong?” the warm thing asked, pulling Nova out of some very pleasant recollections. “Do you want to go for another round, already? Even though we already did it until exhaustion…” As if to punctuate these words, the warm thing started wriggling and rubbing against Nova in a rather distracting – and arousing – fashion.
Finally, Nova forced her eyes open. Just in time for Iris to reverse their positions and flip Nova underneath her. Their lips brushed together for a moment before Iris broke contact. She leaned back until she straddled Nova on the bed. The cool morning air didn’t seem to bother her too much. She let the covers slide off her and displayed her bare form before Nova’s eyes as she stretched and yawned.
“Haaaaa… Unfortunately, even if you’re up for it, I’m afraid I’ll have to excuse myself. I’m already late.” Her gaze trailed down to Nova, lying on the bed between her legs. She bit her lip. “Um… What a shame. If it hadn’t been so difficult to join the Conservatory, I really think I’d skip if it meant we continued what we started last night.”
“How long did you say you were going to stay in Verizen?”
‘I’ll leave tonight. Or tomorrow, maybe. Not sure.’
“Not long, though.”
The work Wieslaw and Sirius wanted help with had been completed. The bad guys were all killed. The cops were all evaded. Wieslaw let his drones fly. Sirius let his shotgun roar. Nova… burned an old grandma to death and made sarcastic comments about the whole thing in her mind.
A good day’s work.
Beyond that, there wasn’t much more for Nova to do in this place apart from resume her tour of the city. She’d already explored Old Verizen yesterday. There were many more things to see, of course, but her goal wasn’t exactly to visit every museum, photograph every monument and statue, gaze upon every halfway decent sight. Her goal was to entertain herself and relax. Rushing from place to place like she was on a mission to hunt down all the collectibles in a video game would take all the life out of her trip and turn it into a chore.
Right now, more than tourism and pretty sights, however, what tickled Nova’s curiosity was a simple question: would Lynn be jealous if Nova told her she’d slept with another girl? And if so, what would she do about it?
Thinking this while said girl is still naked and in bed with me, though, is kind of… disrespectful…
Nova forcefully pushed away thoughts of her sister and refocused on her current partner.
“I guess this is going to be goodbye, then,” Iris said with a little sigh.
She looked genuinely disappointed. Nova couldn’t help but wonder if that was because she was that proficient at having sex or if her beauty gave her an unfair advantage and negated any points she might have lost because of a lackluster performance. The former option tickled her ego, but, well, it was also somewhat unlikely. Before last night, she’d been not so much lacking in experience as entirely and utterly unfamiliar with the act of pleasuring someone else. The only thing going for her was that, one, she wasn’t particularly shy about showing and using her body, and two, she’d let Iris take the lead during the whole thing. It had actually been kind of titillating to be handled and toyed with like that…
Well, in any case, it had all been very pleasant, and neither of them appeared to regret anything about what had happened.
Can’t really ask for more for my first time. And maybe we can experiment next time…
‘You can give me your phone number, if you want. We can meet up when I come back to Verizen in the future.’
Iris gave a mischievous smirk. “Oh? You’re not asking me to be your girlfriend, are you?”
‘No. I’m asking you to come play with me next time I’m in the neighborhood. Or at least keep the option available.’
“Pfft, ‘come play with you,’ huh? Haha. Well, why not?”
Without any further hesitation, Iris grabbed Nova’s left arm and looked at her bracer, apparently hesitating at the lack of visible buttons or screen or… anything else. Nova’s left hand went through a short series of gestures, and the screen lit up and unlocked for her.
Iris smiled. “Let’s see…” She scrolled through the icons on the home screen and quickly found and opened a notepad app. “Can I write my number in there?”
Nova’s left hand moved again. ‘Sure.’
Iris laughed at the robotic voice that suddenly popped out of the machine between her hands and used the tip of her pointer finger to write down her phone number. Her handwriting was a bit shaky, perhaps because she was unaccustomed to writing on a rounded surface – the screen followed the curve of Nova’s forearm.
In truth, there was no need to write down anything. Iris just had to spell out her number once, and it would be forever carved into Nova’s memory, but Nova didn’t want to cut down Iris’s enthusiasm like that. It would have been mean.
Eventually, though, it was about time to part. Iris swung her legs off the bed and went to get a quick shower. Nova didn’t need to. Her magical superpowers cleaned off all traces of last night’s activities from her body. Instead, she picked her clothes up from the pile of them on the floor and got dressed. By the time Iris returned, she was already ready to go.
Before she left though, Iris called out to her one last time. “Hey, Nova. Do you mind if I show the painting to other people?” she asked, pointing to the piece she’d made of Nova last evening. It was still where Iris had left it before the two of them moved on to… other activities.
There was laughter in Iris’s question. Perhaps, she assumed Nova wouldn’t want to share with any else such an erotic image of herself. In that case, however, she was dead wrong. Nova nodded and gave her a confident thumbs-up.
‘Go right ahead. It looks very nice. I don’t mind if you show it off.’
Quite the contrary, in point of fact, but she didn’t need to say that. She could pass off her agreement as support for Iris’s painting carrier and confidence in her eventual success. That sounded a lot better than that she was kind of excited people would – indirectly – see her naked. And Iris really was quite talented, to Nova’s untrained, layman’s eyes, so it was hardly a lie, anyway.
Before Iris could dig any deeper into her perverted motivations, Nova made herself scarce.
It was already pretty late in the day – compared to Viper Nest’s usual hour, at least – but not late enough to forgo breakfast. Nova didn’t want to just buy fast food from a stall like she did last evening with Iris, though, so she found a nice-looking restaurant and ordered a few croissants and a cup of tea.
There were few patrons inside, and though some turned to stare at Nova when she entered, they all quickly returned to their conversations or their own cups.
As she ate, Nova’s attention turned to a muted television on the wall opposite her. The lack of sound didn’t bother her. She’d learned to lip-read a few languages in her free time, and Amidonian was one of them. The captioned images and videos flashing in one half of the screen certainly helped, too.
It was yet another report on Sirius and Wieslaw’s vigilante rampage. Apparently, even after nearly two days, not everything had been said on the subject. The news networks would probably try to milk it for all it was worth for another week or so, Nova reckoned. Most of this particular report seemed to be a rehash of some basic info on the event. Most of it she already knew, since she’d been one of the participants, but one thing did catch her interest. The final confirmed death toll.
Holy guacamole. That is a lot. How could a gang have recruited so many people? Wasn’t it supposed to be a newly formed group? Or did they come from another city? Is it a whole organized mafia?
In truth, Nova could have reached that number – or at least a close estimate – by sifting through her memory of that night, crossing the radio communications between Wieslaw and Sirius, the feeds from the drones, the sounds of gunfire, and the screams. She just hadn’t bothered. But looking at the final number like this really put things into perspective. Nova had killed 12 people, that night. This was already pretty extreme, in her not-so-humble opinion, but this meant Sirius had killed a whopping 75 people in a single night. Which sailed right past extreme and straight into completely fucking psychotic.
For all his harping on morality and good behavior, isn’t he pretty far from it himself? Conventional morality, at least. I think most normal people would be sympathetic if they heard he is doing his best to fight crime. But if they actually got the numbers and saw the bodies lined up in front of them, I’m pretty sure they’d tell him he’s going way, way, WAY too far. And his mom accepts this? Even though she’s a cop? Or maybe because she’s a cop?
Not that Nova blamed Sirius. Or herself. As far as she was concerned, all 87 of their victims only got what was coming to them.
The sheer number was… a bit staggering.
Now that I think about it, Sirius has been doing this for years, so it’s probably little more than a drop of water in the ocean to him, but didn’t my body count almost triple all of a sudden?
Nova was still very, very far from Sirius. He had killed almost as many people in a single night as she had in her whole life. Times four.
But she had still become an incredibly prolific mass murderer, almost overnight. She’d managed to spend the full 53 years of her past life, plus the first 15 of her new one in relative peace and quiet. But then, she’d killed that helicopter pilot – and his copilot, when he crashed. Then, the two mercenaries she’d ambushed in that dark construction site. Two more with a grenade trap, and two more with a stolen assault rifle and pistol before she was taken out by a flashbang. Eight people dead because of her within two or three days. But all of them had been pretty justifiable self-defense, she thought. But then, she’d spent a night shooting people in the back of the head, hitting them with a truck, and burning them alive. Twelve more all of a sudden. And those had neither been in self-defense, nor in the heat of the moment. They’d been cold and deliberate
And yet, when Nova reflected on all that spilled blood and those extinguished lives, when she thought of the families her victims had left behind, the wives and husbands and children and parents who had learned of their loved ones’ violent deaths and were now grieving and weeping while she peacefully sipped on her tea and munched on her croissants, she felt…
Well, nothing much, actually.
At best, ‘ew, all that blood was icky.’
Which was the point.
It wasn’t the first time Nova had noticed this about herself.
That she was not very nice.
In fact, she tried to remind herself of this and to question her motivations as frequently as she could. Otherwise, she might begin to rationalize her actions and think that she was actually a pretty good person and it was everyone else who was wrong. That there was a slippery slope Nova didn’t want to climb down. She was selfish and entitled and self-centered enough. She didn’t need self-righteousness also coming along to the party. That way lay the path of the simple, ugly bully, or of the nutjob protagonists from those novels she used to read, who butchered thousands simply because their victims competed against them for possession of a shiny treasure – greed, in other words. Sure, Nova would freely admit she wasn’t very nice. But it was comforting that, at least, she wasn’t as bad as those crazy assholes. She didn’t mind being selfish and entitled and self-centered because, well, most other human beings weren’t much better than that anyway, but she sure didn’t want to become some sort of greedy, bloodthirsty, psychopathic butcher.
However, could simple, healthy selfishness really explain her complete lack of guilt after killing 20 people?
Most other human beings were selfish and entitled and self-centered. But they wouldn’t blow the brains out of their friendly neighborhood organ harvesters even if they were given the chance to do so with impunity. They’d call the cops. And if they were forced to go through with it, they wouldn’t spend the next days visiting museums and sleeping like a baby in the arms of a beautiful young woman they’d just seduced. They’d be traumatized. They’d drink themselves under the table to unsee what they’d seen and forget what they’d done. They’d attempt suicide. They’d go see a therapist.
Admittedly, Nova had done the latter, after her mother forced her to, but it hadn’t had any real results. Perhaps because she and her therapist were on two different wavelengths. The guy thought he faced a young and innocent teenage girl who wasn’t as devoid of emotion as her face was of expression. What he truly faced was an old thing from a different planet, twice his age, with 50 years of pent-up frustration and bitterness and with a 24-year deadline at the end of which something unspecified but most likely bad would happen. At this point, her sessions were more an annoying but ultimately harmless distraction than anything else, to Nova. Even Marian seemed to have realized that, as she didn’t get on Nova’s case too much even when she skipped a session or two if she had a half-decent reason.
But now, Nova was starting to become a little… concerned.
Well, no. She started becoming concerned a few years ago, already, when she reflexively smashed a daring idiot’s face into an elevator wall because he tried to touch her. It hadn’t really sunk in, back then, beyond a simple acknowledgment of her increasing propensity for violence. But now, it had gone far past harmless, civilized, gentlemanly elevator fisticuffs.
Was she already a bloodthirsty, psychopathic butcher?
Sure, she wasn’t greedy, but that could easily be explained away by the simple fact that she already had more money than she knew what to do with. If she were poorer, would she be out there stabbing innocent people to death just to steal their wallets? All the while confidently telling herself that, ‘hey, it’s fine, I need the money more than they do.’
It was a little disquieting that she couldn’t decisively dismiss this scenario.
Maybe I should keep Tourist Mode activated all the time. Also, refuse any further dubious invitations from my friends. Though, I’m not sure that’s going to change anything. Before two days ago, I hadn’t touched a weapon in 4 years, but that didn’t prevent me from shooting people in the face as soon as I had a rifle in my hands…
Nor would it change the underlying problem: the scarcity of the fucks Nova had to give about other people.
But it probably wouldn’t hurt to take a step back and consider her actions more carefully in the future. Perhaps Sirius and Wieslaw could afford to casually cut through swathes of criminals because they trusted in their unshakable moral compasses to keep them from stepping too far, but Nova couldn’t say the same.
One good thing, at least, was that she knew for a fact that she had no problem living a calm, peaceful, violence-free lifestyle. So it wasn’t like she was somehow addicted to death and bloodshed.
Nova gave a heavy sigh.
She paid for her meal and left the restaurant, pointedly turning away from the news report that was still droning on in the background. She wasn’t sure if her considerations held any weight at all. In the end, she was unlikely to change, nor did she really want to. At best, she’d be a bit more cautious with how she employed her violence. Maybe that would have to be enough.
In any case, she had better things to do than feel guilty about not feeling guilty.
Namely, calling Sirius to ask him what his mother would make for lunch.