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Riip Riders of Aeon

(This text has been adapted from Eskan to English. Please excuse any untranslated words- I will do my best to find definitions and equivalents in English, which will be included at the end of the entry for the sake of comfortable reading flow. Is that what Terrans call it? I'll look it up in due time. - Pash)     The Pon kiosk denied me yet again. Third time tonight. Never gets old. I flash my identification at the screen again, reinserting the small metal rods from my Pon stamps into the infernal machine. This time, the screen flashed purple: good to go.   Thank the gods, and not a moment too soon. I heard a set of riders make a landing behind me. I could tell they were an older model- heavily modified, sure, but the light "clink" sound they made when they hit the solid stone street was a definite indicator of their age. I swear they make them less durable these days.   I turn just in time to see Bayjek leap at me, arms splayed in front of him. He hugged me, his thin arms wrapping themselves around my torso as he tried to lift me off the ground. He knows I hate that. Tonight, I wore my weighted riders. Get fucked, Bay. He went for a second try. If he squeezed any harder, my breasts would end up in my skull.   "Bay?"   "Yes?"   "My chest. You're crushing my chest."   He released me and dusted off my shoulder. "Whoops! Sorry."   I stared him straight in the eye. I knew he wouldn't meet my gaze. I hate that, but I love it too. About him, I mean. We both have little quirks that we find so annoying in each other, but if those quirks disappeared- well, it's a love hate thing. Love more so than hate. Those thoughts, I had to save for later teasing.   "Where's the rest of the crew?"   He scratches the back of his neck. He's uncomfortable. My attempts at eye contact are working. The least he could do was play hard to get- he makes it so easy. Too easy... especially tonight, I thought. He was as composed as a flower petal falling into an ocean storm. I smirked triumphantly as he continued to crumple under the pressure of my gaze.   "Well?"   He seemed to regain his train of thought, forgetting the staring contest I was just dominating him in and talking to my face instead of toward my boots. "They heard Ibex was going to be out tonight. They went off trying to find her at her favorite riips. I didn't go with 'em." Ibex Skedrow, celebrity extraordinaire.   I saw my opening- he set himself up perfectly; it was time to go in for the kill. The bajemen swoops for the yvoley. "Aw. I'm glad you came to spend time with me, sweet one."   The skin on his face went from a light purple to a bright pink faster than I'd have been able to snap my fingers, as his flagella began to quiver like mad. Score: Idanje 1, Bayjek 0. Sucker. I knew at the time he had a crush on me. But he was playing hard-to-get with me all the time. He was a part of my game, now. Payback time. I figured I'd get him by the end of the night, if you know what I mean.   I flipped on my riders, hearing them hum to life as I surveyed the area. My options for starting points: The tower to my right, the disposal bin to my left, and the tress straight up ahead. The tress was the obvious choice. It connected straight to the riip, so why not take the direct route? Sure, if a riippsodke came by on the riip, I'd be hit head-on by a vehicle roughly 500 times heavier than me. I'd die instantly. There's always a 78% chance there's a riipper on the track, and a 100% chance I'd die if I got caught in front of one. As good odds as ever.   "Well, Bay... we should get our ride out tonight- still got plenty of moons left in the sky, but they slide by fast." I turned back to see him still stunned by my power play. Gods, I thought, he's hopeless. "BAY!"   "Huh? Oh, yeah..." He regained his attention. "This riip right here will lead us down to Sil one way, and Pala the other. It branches off toward the Takroeon in two blocks toward Sil. Oh yeah, and it passes underneath another riip halfway down."   Sounded good to me. "Let's head toward Sil, and split to the second riip. Let's see where that one goes."   Riip Riding has become a staple of Aeonian culture as of late; you could imagine that it'd be a daredevil's dream. The common knowledge of the sport was that riips weren't designed to be ridden. They were designed for a riippsodke [monorail] to travel on, allowing regular citizens to commute from one tall building to the next. Then, some smartypants loser looked up at those big, shiny rails and thought to herself 'hey, that looks like it'd be fun.' So she built herself some riders and took to the riips, traversing the city with ease, and looking cool as fuck while doing it. That loser was the "Ibex Skedrow," the "celebrity extraordinaire" or whatever. Like most of her family, she achieved an exalted status among the populations and blah-dy blah-dy blooo. At the end of the day, she was still a loser. Still is. That's what we riders share- we don't claim to be more than that. Most of us ride riips for shits and giggles- and some to escape from the troubles of regular life. Me? I'm not afraid to admit the latter.   I ran to the wall. I decided against the tress; it was too risky, even for me. Have to get it at the right angle so you don't just flip off of it and fall to the ground. Any riip rider will tell you that the hardest part is the start, and they aren't kidding around. As I pushed off the ground and onto the wall, I felt the suction pulse drive kick in, allowing me to push myself higher on the wall without just dropping straight off. I leaned forward and kick under me again, scaling the wall in a graceful progression of faster and faster steps until I glided along the wall of the tower, straight for the closest section of the riip. I took the leap of faith...   ...and stuck the landing perfectly. Not a flagella out of place. Keeping with my momentum, I leaned forward and pump my arms in unison with the riders strapped to my legs to hit the higher speed setting. My riders are automatic, unlike Bayjek's. I could hear his own riders, humming behind me, clicking every time he has to switch his setting to keep up with his feet. Sure, this probably means he's a much better rider than me, but that doesn't mean I can't make fun of him for be so old-fashioned.   The riip rounded a tight left in front of us. Not always a good sign. Tight usually means blind. If you can't see the riippsodke, it definitely can't see you. Not that sight makes much of a difference, since it's not going to stop for your ass anyways. You'll get caught by the clamp mechanisms that keep the thing on the riip, and last I checked, a good portion of us can't grow legs back. Or, at the very least, I can't. Hence, tight corners can be bad for your health. Sight is the key to survival. God, I love this shit.   I was far enough away to see the perfect stunt outlined in front of me; I could cut the corner at a certain angle, like you always see in those cool riip rider videos on the universal web. A basic trick, but it looks so nice when you pull it off. The edge of the tower to my left was my only real obstacle. I braced myself for a possible bad decision.   Timing my jump, I catapult myself from the riip and onto the adjacent wall. The towers around me shimmered as they caught the bright light from my riders, and as I looked down I saw small groups of pedestrians pointing up at me. I had a decent sized audience. I whipped out my soul-blade. It would be enough to add my own little flair to the stunt- made from gods-know-what and given to me when I was a youngling, it could easily pierce through a metal plate... or anchor itself in a stone wall. The pressure was ON. Not only did I have to impress Bay, but I had to give those tourists something to talk about when they got home.   As my riders hit the smooth wall and latched on, I twisted my body to the left. Windup. The corner of the building approached quickly. Perfect. As my head rounded the corner, I began twisting my body back to the left, ice pick grip on my short sword. My upper torso passed the edge. This was it. Whipping my shoulders around, I nailed the other side of the wall with my blade and sank it nice and deep into the mildly luminous stone, using the handle to slingshot myself back onto the riip and maintain my previously held momentum. I used a little left-over kinetic energy to rip my sword out of the stiff synthetic wall of the building. Sucks for the guy that has to fix that in the morning, I thought. The bystanders cheered, already a ways behind me as I rocketed down the riip into a tunnel.   I'm not good with tunnels. Bay has a knack for closed spaces, but then again, as we discussed, he's far beyond my skill level as a rider. That previous trick was one I hadn't pulled off before. Like, ever. I'm sure he'd done it a million times, but it felt important to me, and I'm not just being indignant in believing that he thought my move was trivial. There was no time to celebrate that, though. Paying attention can mean the difference between your internal organs staying internal and them suddenly deciding that life would be better in a more well-lit location.   Bay's riders were much louder in the tunnel, their clanking and clicking resounding off the walls as he leapt from the riip and onto the wall, letting himself slide down to the concave floor. These tunnels weren't designed to be navigated on foot- not to say that they were designed for riip riders either, but Bay rode them like he was born in them. I glanced back quickly to see where he'd gone- I didn't hear his noisy boots anymore. I didn't see him. As I contemplated doubling back to look for him, I heard a sound that drew my eyes back forward. And straight into his own. I deliberated quickly how in Borr's name he had suppressed the sound of his thundering boots, but my thoughts were soon drawn elsewhere. He gracefully backpedaled directly in front of my face. He was close enough for me to get a whiff of him- and he smelled great. Like a field of flowers in bloom, and not even the ones that make you feel super congested when you run through them. There was heat in my cheeks. Damn. Bayjek: 1, Idanje: 1.   He smiled, showing his incredibly clean teeth, and his eyes nearly had me hypnotized. Bayjek: 2, Idanje: 1. Two points made in the span of mere seconds. He may be a dope on the ground, but on a riip, his confidence reaches a peak; he goes from hiding under a metaphorical rock to standing on top of that rock and beating his chest like a Terran primal beast. I was close to just grabbing him by the shirt and making the ultimate play- but we hadn't even got to the end of the game. I needed to save my move for the match point. Oh, and I needed to wait until we got out of the danger zone; kissing on the riips is never such a good idea. Sight is the key to survival, remember?   He winked at me (B: 3, I: 1) and flipped down under the riip. I yelped, concerned that my best friend had fallen off the track, but when I looked underneath, I saw him drifting along completely upside down on the bottom of the riip, grinning like a liar who'd just gotten away with murder.   "You fucking scared me!" I yelled down to him. I wasn't lying, he'd genuinely had me spooked for a quick moment, the jerk.   "Hey, I'm the one in control of the riders, not gravity, 'sweet one,'" he shouted back up, still beaming. I felt the blush in my face. Bayjek: 4, Idanje: 1. He had me almost beaten. But I still had my secret weapon. Not now, I reasoned. Wait til the right moment, when we were off the riip.   Bayjek dropped back behind me and righted himself atop the riip as we reached the end of the tunnel. Surprisingly, not a single riippsodke had given us any trouble. As we exited the darkness, we were met with one of the best views I'd ever seen. We had a perfect shot of the city, in all its flickering pixelated glory. I could read all the advertisements from here; some were for self-care products like soap and skin lotion, some for old Terran memorabilia, some for city housing, some for food. We were headed straight for the center building. The Takroeon was as big as ever. It looked as if it was split down the middle to make way for the massive sphere suspended seemingly by thin air in the center. I could make out the unique designs on it, carved by hand during its creation. Its bright white color was striking, even against the equally white background that made up the rest of Aeon.  
. . .
  Not one riippsodke had been heard, let alone passed us, up to this point. The same was still true. Seemed the transporters had the day off or something. I felt bad for whoever was walking that night. It wasn't the warmest jungle night ever- the cold was still biting through my jacket, surprisingly. We got off the riip at the closest stopping point: a squat shopping district made up of shorter buildings lit up with long signs. They're such big signs, yet the only ever bother to put one or two words. With that much space, I'd put up more. Marketing agencies, call me.   I landed elegantly on the edge of the roof of the building closest to the riip- the sign read [translation pending]. I recognized it as the store where I had bought my groceries the other day. It's weird how everything changes at night. You can be in the safest place you know in the day, but by night it becomes a strange wonderland of mystery, for better or for worse depending on where you decide your "safest place" is. My safe place is a tall-ass tree in the center of the forest. Who cares if it's unconventional? I don't judge. Off the tangent, now.   Bayjek landed and sat down beside me. He looked... different, to me. I noticed the general skittishness, but there was something else in there, too. He was a much deeper purple than usual, which meant he was nervous. I was used to that. It was his aura. His energy aroused me, for lack of a better term. He seemed uncharacteristically confident as he scooted closer. We had been getting... closer, recently. I didn't think much of it, except that maybe he was going to make another point on me. I hadn't prepared at all for what came next.   "I brought drinks." I glanced over at him, expecting to see... I don't know. Juice cans? Whatever it was I was thinking of, I didn't get it. Instead, in his hands were some of the most ornate bottles I'd ever seen. Bottles I'd never thought I'd see in person, much less in the hands of... him. I knew what was in them; it freaked me out, but in a good way, I guess. I can only imagine what my expression must have been. My heart was throbbing with ecstasy at this point. I'd felt this way before around him, but my feelings peaked at that moment.   "Oh my gods. Bay..." I turned myself more toward him. "You didn't..." He looked at me with his pretty little blush and his cute eyes, smiling from ear to ear. "...for me..." Lost for words, I stared at the bottles.   He had to have spent a small fortune on these Lesdn Porlees. For those that don't know, Lesdn Porlees are highly sought after drinks of [Eastern] origin. Something about the distilling process and the cultural value. I knew that these bottles weren't cheap. I also knew what him getting one of these for me meant culturally and socially. I didn't even have time to use my secret move. Game, set, match. Bayjek won, 5 to 1, fair and square. He had proposed to me. I'm still have trouble getting it through my head.   He just sat there and kept grinning as my whole face lit up bright pink. I'm pretty sure I looked like a lightly bruised fruit. Men don't propose all the time- this was all happening so fast. We'd been friends for so long, and I have already mentioned that we'd been getting closer than that lately. Maybe we'd been this close all this time and just never noticed until then. I felt my flagella standing straight on end. This was an event. An occasion.   I later found out why the crew weren't present at the time- they were all in on it, and had been helping Bay out with airing his feelings about me. This was planned carefully. How did he know I wouldn't have chosen the other direction on the first riip? How'd he know I would really be up for a ride like that that night? I suppose I'll know when the time comes for me to find out, but I have a feeling that he would have had a plan either way. I'm happy it turned out the way it did, however.   I'd held hands with him a few times before, but only jokingly. But then, when I clasped his hand in mine (I made sure to take the bottle out of the hand first. I love him, but I still didn't want the expensive gesture itself go to waste, you know?) that night, on top of that cheap-ass market, next to an empty street, with a perfect view of the white giants of Aeon's metropolis, it felt real. I didn't know when I started finding his eyes to be so damn cute. They're a dark violet hue, with white speckles. They look like stars of the night sky trapped within the eyes of the most beautiful person on the planet. I know, that's subjective, but you can't convince me now that there's anyone better. I would later find out that those eyes were a result of a rare chronic disease that would shortly render him legally blind under Ausran Universal Law. Too soon? I'll talk about it later, I promise.   Back on topic. We sat there, sitting on top of a shitty grocer, dangling our feet next to that long sign, holding hands and staring deep into each other's eyes. This was the most romantic thing I'd ever done in my life. I could have sat there for days, just looking at Bay, thinking of all his little quirks and how, as much as I hated them, they were part of the reason why I liked him; thinking of how I was going to take care of him from now on; thinking about where we were going, where we'd been, where we were in the moment; thinking about kids, admittedly with slight disdain; thinking of us and everything I wanted to experience with him. We could read our heartbeats without even touching one another, we could tell if we were in the same crowded room without seeing one another, we could tell our mood without speaking to one another... When your best friend suddenly becomes the one thing you desire most in the universe, you feel like you already know them- but then they have a way of unveiling a sea of nuance to you that you never would expect otherwise.   That is, I would have done that, but we were interrupted by the sound of what turned out to be another riip rider on the rail we'd leapt off of not so long ago. The rider zoomed past us, but the blur was familiar enough. A silver-clad riip rider; it was unmistakable. It could only be... "Idan, did you-"   "Yeah."   Without another word, we grabbed the bottles, stuffed them carefully back in Bay's all purpose backpack, and took to the rails in search of that silver blur. We had to, at the very least, come back to our friends with a tale of how we rode alongside Ibex Skedrow on the night of Bayjek's surprise proposal.  
. . .
  I had started off the night thinking Bayjek was hopelessly enamored with me. I'd end the night being hopelessly infatuated with him. It's only fair, I suppose. But, at that second, our newfound love had to take a backseat. I'd spent a good portion of my time living here filling my walls up with posters and merchandise depicting the pioneering rider's likeness, almost all emblazoned with her signature catchphrase: "Born to fly, without wings." And by gods, did she fly.   The rider in front of us was a chrome bullet, never breaking her stride; it was like watching a machine, her legs pumping pistons both in looks and acoustics. That's another thing- she wasn't quiet, either. With every push off of her riders, there was an audible sound of mechanical pieces moving and shifting into gear, hydraulics pumping, unseen cogs turning, and all the while combining their sound to churn out their automated symphony. Her legs were freakishly long, as were her arms, and it wasn't just a trick of the speed- they weren't proportionate to her body. At the time, I chalked it up to her trying out a riding frame. It was an explanation that worked for me. All of these observations were made just from behind. I wanted to get a good view of her face; then, and only then, could I confirm to myself that I was riding with the myth, the legend, the hero of my dreams and aspirations.   I slapped on my goggles and sped up- don't want to make my eyes all watery with the wind resistance beating them up. We were in the midst of all the tallest buildings in the city- the governmental/business section of the metropolitan sprawl. These were the buildings where markets, trade, banking, and legislating were all done.   As we got close to one of the taller towers, she sprung off of the riip toward it. I watched her soar through the open air with stylish poise, and hit the side of the wall. She immediately began her stride again, building up speed on the side of the building. A seamlessly executed move. I had to stop myself from freaking out at a simple action. But, who knew a trivial move could be achieved so wonderfully? An advertisement for L'hinean travel flashed in my face, obstructing the view of the silver woman. A giant, hot, red-skinned man stood in her place, striking a seductive pose that I would have been interested in had I been in a riipper at the time and not chasing one of the most inspirational people in my entire life. Wait, I realized. An advertisement...   "An ad? Now?" I thought out loud. That could only mean one thing.   A riippsodke, almost silent in its approach, bared down on Bay and I. Man, when dark matter suspension is introduced to the public transportation system, us riip riders are gonna have a day to celebrate. But until then, those support clamps can put a rider off the riips for good, so we do our best to avoid them. Or, if you're a daredevil, try to find the most high-traffic riips and go out looking for them. It's the rider's choice to put themselves at a greater risk. A risk I wasn't taking today. I skipped over the support clamps and slowed myself down to keep behind the vehicle. When I landed, I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride. It's not easy to perform a triple backflip, not to mention over moving obstacles around half my height.   The advertisement had disappeared at that point, but I couldn't find the silver rider... at first. As I scanned my surroundings, the glint from her suit caught my eye. I noticed that she was not only right beside the riipper, but she was also keeping up with it. She didn't look the slightest bit tired out by this feat at all. Her long legs kept their consistent movement going strong as she rode the wall alongside the riip, showing off her impressive speed to whomever occupied the cab of the transport next to her.   Determined to catch up, I rode harder. I wasn't going to lose her. It's not easy to out-ride a riippsodke, but it can be done, albeit for a short time before you're too tired to continue. As I reached the back of the cab, I considered my options. Jump from the riip and onto the wall, which would lose me speed- or, I could pull another fancy trick out of my ass and use that to pass the vehicle. Being me, I chose the trick. It would be difficult to perform, but if I failed, it wouldn't be my problem anymore, would it? I imagined the stunt I'd seen on all the programs Bay had showed me in the past- riders, looping around trains effortlessly. Think of the inverse of what Bayjek was doing in the tunnel. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to me. I took a deep breath and...   ...jumped. My riders caught the side of the riippsodke; it was too late to turn away from the trick. It was now a do-or-die situation. I took three quick speed-building strides, and took a left, letting my same side rider slide over the bottom edge of the cab. Then my body. Then my right leg. Time felt like it was in slow motion. Everything felt so fluid; it had to be, or else I wouldn't be sitting here writing this. I felt the blood in my head rushing all over the place, but I had to ignore that. I made the same step on the bottom (As I'm writing this, I'm realizing that I'm very glad I didn't drink the Porlee before then), traversing the underside of the transport entirely upside-down. I quickly switched over to the right side of the vehicle. And then! The moment of truth. The deal maker or the body breaker. I took my three strides and launched myself straight up off the top edge of the right side. I'd gone from the back of the cab to the very front, looping the vehicle round a probably spooking the passengers. Or leaving them in awe. I didn't care which was true.   I landed on the wall of the adjacent tower, riding right beside the silver woman. I got a good look at her face, or as I noticed, her mask. I'd never seen anything like it. It was dominated by a single indent where the gap between the eyes were supposed to be, cutting off a bevel that started at the back of the mask and continued all the way to the other end at the chin. Small asymmetrical sensors and indentations were also present- I'm not sure what they were for, but one can assume their purpose.   She turned her head toward me. I must have been doing Bayjek's ear-to-ear grin. How exciting. The hidden love of my life proposing to me, and getting to meet my hero in person? I suppose it was just one of those nights. I couldn't tell what expression she had toward my appearance, but I could only assume that she somewhat approved of me, for whatever reason. It wasn't like I'd dressed nicely for the occasion or anything. We had reached the edge of the tower, and I was ready to wave her goodbye. Riding alongside her was enough exposure for me.   However, instead of jumping from the tower onto another riip, of which there were plenty in the area, she decided to loop around the edge and cut my path off, spiraling up the tower and looking back at me. Challenging me. I squinted at her. This conceited, lanky reprobate wanted a race; who am I to deny her a little harmless fun? Ignoring Bay's utterances of my name, presumably asking me to return to the riip, I switched on my pacer and she hers, and began pumping my legs even harder, trying to keep up with the gray-white bullet already halfway to the top.  
. . .
  Gods, she was fast. Every time I thought I had caught up, she'd just leave me in a spray of exhaust from her riders. It was like she was toying with me. I was still smiling like mad. It was time for another crazy/stupid move to keep her on her toes.   She slowed down again a little, and let me catch up just enough for me to feel the odd amount of expelled heat from her riders. If I got any closer, she'd just speed away like before. It was getting annoying, so I began preparing for something a little different. I slowed down with her and then shut off my right rider. It lost grip with the wall, leaving me drifting down quickly on the wall, but also gaining speed from the drop. She turned her head to look back at me, and when she didn't find me right behind her, she fully turned her body around. Fell for it before I even finished bamboozling her, entertainingly. She saw me below her, hanging by one leg to the wall, and slowed down even more, making strides toward me. I can only imagine what expression she had on under that mask.   As I felt the grip failing on my left boot, I executed the full trick. Unlike the other crazy daredevil moves I'd pulled that night, this was one only I could execute. I used a combination of my momentum and my propulsion drive from my right boot to swing myself back up, like a pendulum with a rocket strapped to its ass. I looked back at the tower I'd just launched myself away from, watching as the silver rider engaged a full latch to the wall and leaned against it, I'm assuming in awe. Last step.   I felt my body succumb to my whim and shift phases. My arm out in front of me began to dissipate as I used my ability to prepare my special move. I'm going to call it the Dimensional Whipshot for the sake of my own amusement. For those of you who aren't Breakers, this may be the best way to explain how it feels to perform a dimensional slingshot. Imagine you're jumping into a pool of ice water, and when you hit the water, you're submerged automatically. But then you blink and it's over. It doesn't last long, but you've literally just traveled through a pocket dimension a short ways. The opening of the rift will create a significant amount of suction, like a vacuum, but only for a split second. Fortunately for me, a split second of extreme vacuum is enough to change the direction of my movement- and my momentum. I used that split second to think to myself: "By the gods, this is going to be so fucking cool."   And it was. From anyone else's perspective, they would have seen a woman disappear and reappear instantaneously flying towards the tower, when she was falling away from it just moments before. As my boots touched the tower again, I shot a look down at my gray antagonist. She was still latched, but she seemed to be trying to shake herself out of whatever spell I'd put her in and was attempting to regain speed. I looked back up the tower. I was almost at the top. I had this race in the bag.   My legs felt heavier than boulders as I used the last of my energy to get to the finish line. Before I crested the tower, I took a peek behind me to check on the progress of my opponent. For a second, I thought I'd be looking her right in the face. But there was nothing. She was nowhere to be seen. I didn't care whether or not she'd quit halfway through or fallen off the tower. I'd won. I'd beaten my idol.   "Hey, kid." Or, at least I'd thought. A voice from the uppermost part of the building startled me. It sounded like a woman with a mouthful of salt speaking through a microphone hooked up to a set of blown-out speakers. "Neat trick. You had me mesmerized for a moment there..." The silver rider leaned against the pointy roof of the tower, hands behind her head, looking up at the night sky like she'd been there the whole time. I hadn't even heard her reach the top, strangely, as one would imagine with riders that noisy.   I glanced at my wrist and brought up my pacer. I'd clocked in at 3 minutes and 23 seconds (rough guess based on Ausran-to-Terran time conversion).   She spoke again. "5 seconds faster."   "Huh?"   "I said, I was 5 seconds faster. I can read your pacer." She wasn't even looking my direction.   "Well, you did have a head start."   "You got ahead of me. You proved that you're a better rider than you look." Ouch.   She raised herself up. As I looked down, I noticed her legs weren't exactly normal. Or her arms. Or the head behind the mask. She was like a robot. A cybernetic rider.   She wasn't wearing riders- instead, her legs ended in black, semi-circular pads. I saw circuits and wires underneath the plates that covered what were supposed to be her shins. Her arms shared a similar design- two split plates on the lower limb, with hands made of the same soft black material as the feet/pads/whatever. She was wearing clothing, specifically a skin-tight top and a set of running shorts that may have given Bayjek second thoughts about being attracted to me. She still hadn't taken the mask off.   She balanced delicately on her foot-pads, like a Terran ballerina in the middle of a performance. A soft whir emanated from her behind her mask.   "Where are your riders?" I asked, realizing seconds later that my question was quite stupid.   "They're built in," she exclaimed, motioning to her left leg and revealing the beginnings of something that resembled a boot- but not quite a boot. It was mostly a slick wire frame with metal plates gathered around it- almost archaically designed.   She stepped closer, leaning into my face, like she was trying to use my eyes like windows to see into my skull. It may have just been the mask, though. She drew in close, and her scent hit me- oily, with a light hint of sea spray and purple flowers. At least, I assume the flowers she smelled of are purple... I'll put it this way: if purple was a decent smell, it would be this one. This night could only get so much more wild, I thought to myself as the mask began to break into sections and fold off of her face.   I was treated to the sight of a Midlander with pale blue skin. It had dawned on me by now, but this was not the same Ibex Skedrow that advertisers had fawned over since she emerged as a Skedrow. I hadn't a doubt in my mind that it was her, but it was strange seeing her like this. In this... way. She looked like she'd just walked off with half a junkyard. The most striking part about her face was the eyes. They were a cold blue, mechanized, making whirring sounds I'd heard not seconds ago every time they'd dilate. She stared, unblinking, at me. I was a bit uncomfortable. Atop one of the tallest buildings in the city, with a woman I hardly knew, far away from Bayjek, and not to mention freezing my ass off, I was more than uncomfortable.   "Can I... help you?" I squeaked, in a voice barely audible against the wind.   "Sorry," she started. "I'm losing focus." She stood up straight again, striking a sort of indignant pose. "I didn't mean to frighten you." She looked down at her hand, flexing it's mechanical tendons. Almost like she was getting used to them. But also... not? If she wasn't used to her limbs, than why risk riding in such a dangerous part of the city? Is she stupid? These thoughts swam in my head as I watched her display of equal parts elegance and awkwardness, if that makes any such sense. This was not how I thought I'd meet one of my most inspirational heroes. I decided I might try my hand at a little small talk to ease the tension.   "Um... so... do you come around here? Like, often?" I barely managed to form a sentence. My speech had been next to seamless before, but after witnessing Ibex's crude mannerisms, I became that much worse.   She didn't seem to be fazed by my poorly delivered attempt at light conversation. The whirring in her eyes stopped as she then gazed silently out at the darkness of the jungled outskirts. Confused, I took a look at her face. Her artificial eyes were fully dilated as she watched something or someone or nothing. And she just... stood there. As if her body stayed in place, but her true self was far away beyond the walls of the metropolis that surrounded us.   A giant tower rising high above sea level is cold at the top. Who'd have thought? So naturally, I became impatient. I wasn't going to get anything out of this. No tips on how to ride faster, no autographs, no pictures, not even a real conversation- just an aloof, ungainly, tactless cyborg. It was such a departure from the persona I'd known so well through in media. I was shocked, and maybe even sad. Thinking back to it, it wasn't as if she was always like this behind the scenes. People would see her out in public all the time out of that character she'd cultivated among the masses, and she seemed normal by most standards. It was later I found out- nobody had seen her on her frequent routes in a considerable amount of time up until I happened to race her up one of the tallest buildings in the city.   "Look, I'm going to go now. Just, you know, it's a little cold, so it's uncomfortable up here, and I need to go find my friend." I received no immediate response.   I frowned, genuinely disappointed at the time. I was unapologetic about my selfishness at then, a thing I do regret now that I'm here writing about it. However, I can't do anything to change the past, so I'll just apologize now- sorry, to those whom it may concern. But, I digress.  
. . .
  I found Bay searching the business sector for me, frantically asking around if anyone had seen a yellow skinned girl wearing riders and an orange windpiercer jacket. The person he was questioning when I found him pointed behind him in my direction, mouthing "There!" as he turned around swiftly to meet me.   "Where were you? You had me worried sick!" he near shouted.   "I... Sorry, Bay, I..."   " all competitive and left me behind in the dust."   "Yeah. She challenged. I pursued. I'm not allowed to have fun." I made a smug face and continued. "I'm not allowed to hang with any of my other friends and do the same stuff with them." He stifled a giggle. "Not allowed to watch a TV show that has males in it. Not allowed to take a look at other boys on the street and say 'oh, the gods did a good ass job on that one.' Not allow... Hey!"   He was lifting me up in the air, ear-smiling again. I knew he'd get over it quick.   "How'd you manage to pick me up? These boots are weighted."   "Oh, so that's why you were so heavy earlier. I thought you'd decided to hit the food court a little later than usual." That one made me snort. It was embarrassing, but it was around him, so I didn't mind.   We walked a ways to the riippsodke stop. I was too damn wiped to continue riding. My legs were killing me, and I was still chilled from earlier on the tower. I couldn't let Bay notice, though. One has to be stoic around their male in public, right? No shivering. If anything, I'd give him my jacket before he gave me his.   The chill wasn't the only thing that followed me from the tower, it seemed. As we boarded the transport, I spotted none other than Ibex, standing stock-still at the platform. Her mask was back on, but I felt her eyes on me. It was creepy, but also calming, in a way. A silent goodbye that we owed each other from not a minute or so ago. I pictured the expression she would have been wearing, had she been back to normal, whatever "normal" is, anyways. A woman of contradictions, she was. The train then left the platform, leaving Ibex behind. She turned her head to watch me through the window of the riippsodke as we traveled down the rail. I soon lost sight of her behind the next block. Apparently, no one has seen her in public since then.   Bay looked forlornly out the adjacent window, sitting on the other side of the cab. That wouldn't do. My new boyfriend in solitude? That's a no from me. I got up from my seat and sat down next to him, putting my hand on his knee. He turned toward me, face pink yet again. I would have gotten another round of "the game" up and running, had he not surprised me with his next action. He pushed my flagella back from my face as I leaned in further. I was sure he was going to playfully push me off, not encourage me to go further- although, I didn't mind either way. I stopped leaning in and lifted my head to survey our surroundings. The cab was empty, aside from Bay and I. No one to around to peek. Satisfied, I leaned back in. As he reached again for my cheek, I grasped his wrist, slowly moving it down toward my breasts. Unzipping my jacket slowly using his hand, I felt my flagella rise like before, scraping the bottom of the baggage rack. As I felt his fingers slip over my nipples, I involuntarily bit my lip. I could feel his member, pushing in between my thighs straight through his pants as I let myself down on top of him slowly. I was horny before, but this was like beads-of-sweat horny. Breathing-clouds-or-steam horny. I led his hand further down and on to my ass. I wanted him to dig his fingers in as I unzipped him and let loose the beast upon the lands (That was corny. I'm leaving it in anyway.) However, I had to listen to him when he told me to wait.   "Not yet. Not here."   "We're alone. There isn't another soul around." But, I couldn't argue with him. I found a little embarrassment within myself and clung to it. I frowned, zipping my jacket back up. Then I leaned in closer. "My nips can probably cut a perfect hole in the window behind you."   We snickered to ourselves. The moment wasn't all lost, though. We groped each other shamelessly until we made it to our stop, of course. Now that I think about it, I'm very pleased with my timing. Not only was there no one aboard the riippsodke, but not one more person got aboard during that episode. We didn't even have to drink the Porlees. By the time we had reached my apartment, I'd already shoved his hand down my pants, which made it difficult to retrieve my key card from them as I was in such a hurry to get them off.   The rest of the night will be left up to the imagination of the reader, of course, but without being subtle, I will admit that Bay had his first night with the girl he'd been crushing on for years, and according to him, it was everything he'd ever dreamed it would be, and a little more.   As I write this, he sleeps with his head in my lap. I am braiding his flagella and watching my work unravel, one miniature tentacle at a time. He's so pretty when he sleeps like this.   Despite the terrific ending to that night, I was, and still am, quite curious about Ibex Skedrow. I never gave myself the chance to ask her what had happened to her; what the story was behind the prosthetic body, why she was so distant, why she had went from a bubbly Midlander like myself to a tall, cold shadow of her former self. Her face still permeates me dreams sometimes, and I wonder why she stared out into the night so intensely, and yet so lonely.   A woman of contradictions, for certain.

Pon: Ausran currency. Speculated unstable by Terran economists, despite apparent stability.   Riders: 1. A pair of gravity-defying boots that allow the user to grip surfaces and create massive amounts of momentum in a short amount of time. 2. (singular) Rider: A user of a pair of riders.   Riip- Suspended rail, like a monorail on Earth.   Bajemen: Predatory bird. 20 foot wingspan, preys on small to medium sized jungle creatures in the Midland region. Is known to swoop and steal younglings.   Yvoley: Omnivorous insect. 5 feet long, tree dwelling. Generally docile unless provoked, and will spray corrosive bile at supposed attackers.   Riippsodke: An Ausran monorail system. Rides riips slung underneath. Average speed is approx. 75 mph. Riipper is slang.   Takroeon: The name of the AUMO headquarters building and functioning town hall. Largest structure in the city.   Lesdn Porlee: A ceremonial drink of Eastern origin. The equivalent of buying your girlfriend some flowers. Very expensive flowers. Poisonous to humans in doses of more than 0.04 litres. Extremely high alcohol content, and hallucinogenic. Don't drink it all at once!   Breaker: Classification of certain hux. In short, a hux that can bend or break the laws of space-time. This can be through opening portals to other dimensions, teleportation, and other forms of displacement of matter.   Windpiercer jacket: Rider clothes meant to keep one warm as they traverse their surroundings at high speeds.


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