“No one touches this ass,” said Prince Night in a rough and stormy voice. “No one!”
Night’s father’s tone came soft. I could barely hear what the ruler of Android City, King Dusk, said. But I knew what he should be saying.
“You will honor the body-temple. Never forget, your body is the temple. You will honor every need, every touch you feel, every sound, scent, and taste. You are twenty-one now. It is time you became a man.”
This was the mantra we all learned from the time we could talk. We must revere our human bodies in all ways. The most sacred reverence we could give ourselves beyond the necessities of eating, sleeping and exercise was sex. No one worked. The city’s automated existence was overseen by android servants. Thus we had entered a Golden Age of decadence and pleasure. A rite of passage into the realm of sexual ecstasy was planned and celebrated for everyone, usually at the age of seventeen. Rarely past the age of twenty.
The prince was twenty-one.
In our city’s culture, it was unheard of, and an insult to the body-temple, to be a virgin still at twenty-one unless you had tested asexual/aromantic.
The prince was neither.
I was hiding in an alcove used for android stop-offs and power-ups. I was no android, though, still young and fully human. Not like King Dusk who was ninety percent cyborg and nearing the apex of his second century of life. There was little of his body left that functioned naturally. Life persisted, but steel limbs and organs had no feeling. We all would become that one day, old and made of metal until even steel could not sustain or contain the life force. Which was why we were encouraged, and even sometimes forced, to embrace all bodily functions while youth and vitality lasted.
But the prince abused his body. For one thing, he had nine tattoos, so the rumors said, done in the Grim Lands beyond the safe walls of Android City. He’d run with a gang of thieves at the age of fifteen when he had them done. And he had piercings! I’m not sure how many, but to abuse the body-temple that way for reasons other than health, especially if one was a royal, brought disgrace and shame to the family. He spoke roughly to his father. And he swore off sex probably just to madden him.
The reason I had ducked into the open closet was because I’d seen the king and his son come around the corner at the end of the corridor, heads bent in heavy discussion.
I hid because I feared my presence might upset the prince.
But let me back up a bit in this story.
The king of Android City had nine sons, all named for various times of the day. For example, the eldest was named Evening. The next Dawn. The next Sunset. And so forth. Night, Dusk’s youngest, had been grown from the frozen seed and embryo of the king and his first wife, Dewdrop, long dead. People said because Night was a vat-baby that was why he was a problem. But I grew up with him. The problem with him was not that he was a vat-baby. Simply, he defied and questioned everything he encountered. He was not satisfied with the new Golden Age that Android City had brought for all humans in the last millennium. He accused his father of a loss of heart. And me? The son of a palace guard, I’d played Steam and Smoke, Mask and Trigger, and Skart with him, as all young kids did together, until the age of twelve when I was judged by the royal council to possess a body-temple of Anomalous Splendor. It was then, on my birthday, that I was accepted to the Academy of Exalted Pleasure where I would learn all the glorious ways a body-temple such as mine could excel at helping others in the quest to ecstasy. I would become a Guide in the Rite of Ecstasy for those my instructors chose to pair me with.
That day, Night accused me of having no heart, and declared me his archenemy until the day he died.
I cried. I’d just been told by the royal council I was beautiful, and by the youngest prince of Android City that I was horrible, all on my birthday. I’d loved that boy. By all the gods that never existed, to be told I had no heart when it was breaking, to be spat upon by my best friend, well, I did not want to live.
But I was consoled by my training, and put my mind into being the best. But since that day, my heart stayed hidden.
Much like I was now, hiding in a space where androids plugged their sockets into the wall for lunch.
For the past nine years I had only seen the prince, off and on, at a distance at various functions. He had never come to visit me at the Academy. Not once.
And now, here I was. Hiding. Wearing my sheerest red and pink silks and my dark hair sprayed with glints of gold. I’d been doused in lavender baths, scented with green-sea spice. I worried the odor lingered on the air and gave away my presence.
I could not allow the prince to see me yet. For he was on his way to the Sacred Chamber of Exalted Pleasure, his father literally pushing him forward, forcing him into this rite of passage. The rules were he could not see me until he was locked safely within that room.
In the alcove just around the bend from the chamber I stood very still, holding my breath as they passed.
I could not understand why anyone would have to be pushed into their rite of pleasure. Nor should they be forced. But the king’s orders took precedence over all.
At the Academy where I lived, my first instructor called ceremonies where the virgin was not eager to take the sacred journey and had to be coerced into ecstasy, the Enforced Rite. When I questioned the use of the word “force”, he chastised me it was a petty concern. It did not seem petty to me.
Then yesterday, that same instructor chose me for the role of Guide to Prince Night.
I wanted to decline but he would not hear of it.
“You were chosen,” he said, “because you knew him as a child. You are familiars. This is a matter of delicacy because he is the prince. And you have been well-trained. I expect you to handle it with all the grace and expertise I have taught you.”
Another thing he’d taught me--I was not allowed to refuse his assignments.
Today’s assignment: Prince Night of Android City.