“Where are we going?” Christine asked, tugging at the blindfold impatiently. It was silky beneath her fingers, just like Gaila's skin. She tried to concentrate on the pressure of Gaila's hand pulling her along; it helped her block out the sounds around them. They were some place crowded and public for sure, and Christine was certain everyone was talking about them. And really, she couldn't fault them. A blindfolded girl being dragged through busy corridors by a green woman stood out.
“Is this really necessary?” she hissed, aiming her voice at what she hoped was Gaila's ear. “I know we're at the transporter hub,” she added because the cacophony around her had finally resolved itself into requests for Utopia Planetia and Luna Colony.
“You said you'd do anything I wanted. That's the human birthday custom, right?”
“Well, yes, but...”
“There's no but. It's my birthday, and I want to give you a present. A secret present.”
Christine knew it was useless – even unkind – to protest. It wasn't Gaila's real birthday, or even the Orion equivalent; the milestones of slaves' lives weren't worth recording, at least not to the people who bought and sold them. It was, however, the anniversary of her freedom, which they had decided was even better than a birthday. And Gaila was adamant that she did not want presents; she had everything she needed already, and now that she finally had a little money to call her own, she wanted to give something to someone else. That was why Christine allowed Gaila to position her on the transporter pad and pretended not to hear that their destination was the moon. She did not even try to peer around the edges of the blindfold when they arrived; she only climbed onto the hoverbus with Gaila and tried to ignore the names of the stops so that she would not guess their destination. It would have been easier – and less embarrassing – to charter a private shuttle or at least a cab from the transporter station, but Christine knew that Gaila didn't have the credits for that. Whatever Gaila was giving her today, it was the best she could afford.
Still, she had to admit she was baffled when Gaila began to dress her; she had assumed the purpose of the excursion was to get undressed somewhere new and interesting. Moments earlier, they had stepped off the bus into a building of some kind.
“Welcome to ---” a clerk had chirped, but Gaila had silenced him with a loud “SHHHHH!”
Now they were in what seemed to be a dressing room, and Gaila was pulling a tight-fitting pair of pants over Christine's clothes. Then there was a jacket, and finally, heavy boots and gloves.
“Dammit,” Gaila muttered somewhere near her ear. “I can't put the helmet on without taking the blindfold off.”
Privately, Christine thought that was a relief. Now that it was clear the blindfold was not a sex prop, Christine wanted her eyes wide open. Gaila had many excellent qualities, but impulse control was not one of them. Blindly following her plans could result in incarceration, hospitalization, or both.
“Give me just a second,” Gaila said. “I'm going to get dressed first.”
Christine heard cloth rustling, followed by the sound of a zipper. Then there was a loud click, which she imagined was Gaila sealing a helmet over her own head.
Gaila's fingers brushed against her hair as she began to untie the blindfold, and Christine leaned into the touch. It was nice, she thought, to be touched in a friendly, familiar way; Roger had barely ever touched her unless they were having sex. He liked his space, he'd said.
The blindfold fell off and Christine blinked. They were in a small, gray-walled cubicle so anonymous that it was hard to imagine why someone with Gaila's taste for the loud and vibrant pleasures of the universe would have chosen this destination. But Gaila did not give her a chance to ask questions. She snapped the helmet over Christine's head and shoved her out a door that looked a lot like an airlock.
They were on the moon, as she had guessed. A dusty, gray, unremarkable stretch of the moon. A blue and green sliver of Earth hung in the distance. Christine knew it was hardly the best view Luna colony had to offer. She wondered, though she would not ask, why they were here.
“Jump!” Gaila commanded, and Christine did as she was ordered, though she was careful not to jump too high. She'd been through enough low-grav training to know better than to spin off into space.
“Higher!” Gaila yelled.
Christine hesitated. Gaila's anticipatory grin did not waver. Obediently, Christine bent her knees and launched herself as hard as she could at the star-studded sky, willing herself not to think of the consequences.
“Open your eyes!” Gaila called from the ground, and Christine forced herself to look up at the inky blackness rising above her. It made her heart hammer in her chest, but she smiled anyway. This was space, her new home. A forcefield caught her and bounced her back to the surface before she climbed too high. Already, she longed to jump again.
Gaila caught her on the way down and wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling their hips together.
“I was so broke the last time I came here. I knew there were better places to play in low gravity, better views of Earth...and I was out here all by myself. But I didn't mind. It was the most fun I'd ever had. That's why I wanted to show you.”
Christine squeezed one of Gaila's hands through the bulky gloves. Gaila squeezed back and launched them together toward Earth's distant blue sky.