Alien PracticeBy Brisen
Page 1 of 2
Avon was flat on his back beneath one of the main systems
consoles when the sound of booted feet heralded the arrival of Cally on the
flight deck. Intent on her mission, she failed to notice his legs sticking out
from under the navigational control panels. |
She hopped lightly down the stairs and strode over to the central area of the room. "Orac, tell me about the human sexual practice of flagellation."
Avon paused in his repair work and raised an eyebrow. What had suddenly piqued Cally's interest in that, of all subjects? But Orac had completed a search of his databases and was answering. "Available information on this subject will take you approximately fourteen Earth years, eight months, twenty-one days, three hours and nineteen seconds to absorb. Do you wish to continue?"
Cally's eyes widened. "I had no idea it was so complex," she gasped. "No, Orac - just - just - tell me about the rudiments of the practice and explain its appeal."
Orac's lights blinked disapprovingly. "Your instructions are imprecise," he said. "Kindly be more specific as to the parameters by which "rudiments" may be defined."
"Well, how should I know?" demanded Cally. "I know nothing about this - this erotic flagellation, so I do not know what its rudiments might be! That is why I'm asking you!"
Avon chuckled to himself and rose silently to his feet. "Why this sudden interest?" he inquired.
Cally jumped and spun round. "Avon! I didn't see you there!"
He smiled thinly. "Evidently. Well?"
Cally met his gaze unabashedly. "We should reach Freedom City in two days. I couldn't sleep, so I decided to read up about it. The records mention clubs and other establishments catering to a number of unusual human sexual practices. Most of them I have heard of, but this -" She shrugged. "We have no corresponding practice on Auron. I didn't understand, so I thought I'd ask Orac. But I don't seem to be getting anywhere."
"That," said Avon, "is scarcely surprising. Orac is just a machine - an immensely sophisticated machine, but still just a machine. You cannot expect him to offer a nuanced account of this type of psychosexual phenomenon. You would have done better to have asked one of us."
"I thought it might cause you embarrassment," she replied. "I know there are various cultural taboos surrounding human sexuality." He glanced sharply at her, wondering if she was mocking him, but the greyish-brown eyes that met his were limpid, ingenuous. For a moment he was tempted to offer her a practical demonstration; but he pushed the impulse firmly to the side. Cally was of age; she was no fool, and she was certainly able to look after herself - but it would take a dishonourable degree of sophistry to persuade himself that she was in this instance a freely consenting adult when she had no understanding of what she might be consenting to. Not that she was likely to accept such an offer in any case. So instead, he gave her a considering look and demanded: "What do you want to know?"
Cally tilted her head. "I do not understand the attraction of this practice. Why should you wish to beat each other? And even more, why should you wish to be beaten? Is there perhaps some ritual significance?"
Not for the first time in his life, Kerr Avon was grateful that his slightly sallow skin was not prone to blushing. He had expected her to ask for a simple dictionary definition. A discussion of the sexual psychology behind this particular practice felt rather too personal for his liking, but there was nothing for it now. Keeping his features impassive, he adopted his best lecturing tone and started pacing the room. "The practice of erotic flagellation dates back at least to the eighteenth century of the Old Calendar. Adherents were for many years considered to be sexually deviant, but the practice gained increasing acceptance during the liberal era of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Flagellation is now considered a blameless, if not quite mainstream, element of sexual behaviour."
He paused, wondering how best to continue. Cally frowned. "I still don't understand. How can whipping lead to sexual arousal? Do participants whip one another's genitals?"
At that Avon felt a distinct movement in his groin. Stay detached, he told himself sternly; keep it dry and clinical. Imagine it's a question about astrophysics or cyberengineering. "For the submissive partner in the relationship, the arousal has both a physiological and a psychological aspect. The buttocks are the site most usually selected to receive the whipping. The human buttocks are an erogenous zone in their own right; the increased blood flow to the genital area also results in arousal. In psychological terms, the eroticism lies in the pleasure of surrender, of abdicating all control and responsibility to another. The cultural roots of erotic flagellation are thought to lie in the corporal punishment administered to children in Old Calendar days, and many of the rituals associated with the practice invoke the dichotomies of domination and submission, infraction and correction, punishment and mercy."
Cally looked horrified. "That's barbaric!"
He nodded. "Almost all sectors of human society now regard the infliction of physical punishment on a child as a criminal offence - and rightly so. Corporal punishment these days is strictly confined to relations between consenting adults."
She relaxed slightly. "Then... if that is the attraction for the - the submissive partner - what does the dominant one gain from it?"
For the first time Avon permitted the shadow of a smile to touch his lips. He resumed his measured tread of the flight deck. "That satisfaction is a little more difficult to define - but no less real, I can assure you. Firstly, there is the pleasure of control over another. Closely allied to that - in some cases, at least - is the pleasure of giving. Oh, yes," as Cally looked bewildered, "the dominant partner assumes complete responsibility for the well-being and pleasure of his - or her - lover. And finally..." He hesitated. Was this too personal an admission? But he had already started the sentence; it would be more dignified to finish. "Finally," he said evenly, "there is the satisfaction of having the entire attention of one's partner focused on oneself - every sense fastened upon your absolute power to give pleasure... or pain."
She was staring at him, eyes wide, dilated, as if she had never really seen him before. His body felt subtly charged, his skin supersensitive, as if an electric current were running through his veins. He took a step towards her. "Do you understand, Cally?" he asked softly.
Her breathing was shallow. "I - I think so," she whispered.
The silence was broken by heavy footsteps. Blake, coming to take over the night watch. Avon made up his mind. He raised a hand to cup the line of her jaw. "If you wish to pursue this subject," he murmured, "come to my cabin in half an hour." He offered her a rare smile, then stalked from the room.
Cally stood uncertainly outside Avon's door. She raised her hand to knock; hesitated; returned it to her side; then raised it again. She gave herself a mental shake. She had made up her mind to go through with this. How hard could it be? Very, with Avon, came the unbidden thought. The butterflies in her stomach fluttered faster.
She could leave now - tiptoe away down the corridor and return to the sanctuary of her own room. But no - quiet as she had been, Avon would have been sure to have heard her approach. If she fled he would know; and that was something her pride could never allow. And - she had to admit - she was curious. She wanted to know. She swallowed hard, and tapped.
He opened the door to her almost at once and stood aside to let her through, placing one guiding hand lightly upon her back. He had removed the jacket he had worn on the flight deck, and was simply dressed in charcoal-grey trousers and shirt.
Cally looked around. She had never been in Avon's quarters before. It was tidy, ordered - Avon's room could never be anything else - but there were unexpected touches of sensuality amidst the austerity: the bed was draped in something soft and crimson, while the walls were adorned with an eclectic mix of documents amongst which she recognised several antiquarian microcircuitry diagrams, a couple of star charts and a series of mounted sheets of musical notation from pre-atomic Earth. She noted with faint relief that the cabin seemed innocent of whips, canes and other likely instruments of flagellation. But then again, perhaps human etiquette required that such items were disposed of with discretion.
Avon came to stand in front of her. He placed both hands on her shoulders and gazed down at her - though not very far, for she was almost as tall as him. "You came," he said. She nodded mutely. "And are you sure - quite sure - that you want to do this?" Again she nodded. " Yes," she whispered, and then, in a stronger voice, "but I do not know exactly what to do."
He smiled - a slight smile. "I will tell you." He took her by the hand and led her to the corner. "Stand here - facing the wall."
She stared at him in surprise. "Is this some kind of joke?"
His voice hardened. "It's no joke. Do as I tell you." Wonderingly, she obeyed. "That's better. Now, you will stand there, without speaking or turning round, and await my pleasure. Is that clear?"
"Yes," she murmured. It seemed to be the correct response, for he made no comment. She sensed rather than saw that he had turned away from her and was moving about the room. She heard the sound of drawers opening, the soft thunk of something heavy being laid down. She debated turning her head a little so that she could see what he was doing, but perhaps that would spoil the ritual? She felt vulnerable standing there, straining her ears to catch his movements, unable to see anything but the ten centimetre squared patch of his bedroom wall. That, she decided, must be the point. The realisation sent an odd thrill through her.
She became aware that Avon was no longer moving about the cabin. She had no idea where he was, though she felt certain he was still in the room. The silence crackled on her skin.
"Cally." She jumped. His voice was just behind her ear. She could feel his breath on the back of her neck. "Easy," he murmured, laying a hand between her shoulders, "easy... easy..." Her breathing steadied, but not for long, as he drew his hand slowly down to the base of her spine. One long finger rubbed gently at the point where her tailbone met the cleft of her bottom. She shivered and sighed, making a mental note of this new and unexpected erogenous zone.
Avon continued. "Now, Cally, do you know why you are here?"
She blinked in confusion. Her mind was swimming, sinking in the slow, delicious waves he was drawing from her. "Because - because you asked me?" she ventured.
"And you obeyed. And do you know why I asked you here, Cally?"
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