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"Welcome to Pandora. We hope you enjoy your stay. All passengers, please disembark the shuttlecraft and proceed to your left."

Byou followed the automated instructions without really registering the voice, the announcement fading into the background noise. He'd chosen the destination for the luxuries its reputation had promised, but one glance around showed a spaceport like any other, albeit less busy than he had expected. Though Pandora was a new resort, he'd already heard from a few other omegas that it was the place to go, especially for one with darker tastes like he had. He'd gotten a bit bored with the rather prim and proper way things were done in Central, and he'd been craving the wilder things that Pandora apparently offered, albeit in coded ways to get past the censors.

Can't have omegas having too much fun, Byou thought sarcastically, though he knew it was more because alphas needed rules and structure to keep them from getting carried away with omegas in heat. On some level he'd appreciated the security, but the rest of him had been craving the unpredictableness that less strict rules had. He'd gotten by with his connections to meet up with anonymous alphas who were willing to spice things up, but after a while that just wasn't enough to sate his urges. The fact was that submission to those alphas was temporary, and while it was fun for the duration of his heat, he wanted more.

Pandora had promised more, and he'd been intrigued enough to give it a try. While the ordinary spaceport didn't look promising, he still hoped he'd find something worth the expense of the trip all the way to the outer rim of settled space. Intent on weaving his way through the milling passengers, Byou missed seeing a couple officials notice him as he headed for one of the food dispensers near where the luggage was being unloaded. He made his selection and waited a few moments, tapping his foot impatiently.

"Please swipe your ID chip to complete the transaction," the mechanical voice said from the machine's speakers.


"Your identification is invalid. Your transaction has been logged and will be reported. Please see the nearest Hub desk to verify your identification," the same voice reported a moment later.

"Fuck you, stupid broken machine." Byou refrained, just barely, from hitting the dispenser that refused to cooperate. He wasn't worried about the machine logging his invalid transaction, but it wouldn't do to loiter. Out on the Rim machines like that weren't connected to the central Hub, but apparently no one thought it necessary to reprogram the audio. Byou glared once more at the machine and then turned away with a sigh, figuring it was just being temperamental due to lack of maintenance since his ID chip should have worked. Or maybe the Rim worlds had a different system, though surely he'd have heard it on the news before he arrived.

"Excuse me, sir, your accommodations are ready. Please follow me."

Byou turned and blinked at the beta official, bemused. "I haven't even checked in yet."

"The passenger log, sir. We here at Pandora pride ourselves in efficiency, and everything has been taken care of for you. Your luggage is already en route to your suite. This way, please." The official gestured with the a fake smile plastered to his face and began to walk away without turning from Byou.

Though Byou was still confused he followed somewhat hesitantly, slightly irritated since he'd planned to just wander around for a while. This sort of service hadn't been in the brochure, but Pandora was said to go all out in pampering omegas and maybe this was part of it. It would have been nice to get a little warning though. Trailing behind the official, Byou glanced around idly and noted the other passengers, all omegas, had been paired off with other officials or had formed small groups and were headed elsewhere together.

The official paused before a sleek black hovercar and passed a data chip to the driver, and a moment later the passenger door slid open. Stepping into the vehicle at the official's motion, Byou settled into the seat gingerly as he noted the spotless interior. The door slid shut and the hovercar pulled away from the curb, and he sat back with a sigh and tried to relax despite a feeling of unease that he attributed to his unfamiliar surroundings. Deciding to figure out just where he was going since the driver was behind an opaque barrier, he tapped the panel on an armrest and swiped his wrist across it.

Access Denied.

Furrowing his brow, Byou frowned. First the food dispenser, and now he couldn't even access the local network? What the hell was going on? Just as he was reaching to press the intercom to ask the driver a headset emerged from the armrest, and he blinked for a moment before putting it on.

"Welcome to Pandora, the prime destination for omegas seeking a relaxing vacation. If this is your first time here, please listen to this short orientation video that will show you the delights we have to offer," a rather bland looking beta official said, a fake smile on his face.

Byou slouched a bit in his seat with a sigh and stared at the video display that had taken the place of the opaque barrier. The last thing he wanted was to sit through a boring vid-ad. However, just as he was about to tune out, the programmed announcement before the orientation caught his attention.

"As you may have noticed, your ID chips work differently here. All your needs will be seen to and there's nothing to worry about, so please don't be alarmed. All omegas are assigned to suites catered to personal tastes, based on the information provided us in the questionnaire that you filled out before purchasing a vacation package. A list of available alphas will be provided for you upon arrival at your suite for you to select from. Should you wish to change anything about your accommodations and services, please see a help desk."

Blinking slowly at the beta on the screen, Byou absorbed the information with a frown. He didn't like that his ID chip was basically non-functioning, but he supposed there must be a reason for it even if it was unusual. Beginning to suspect that more than just ID chips worked differently on Pandora, it occurred to him that the questionnaire had also been in code in certain parts. While he was pretty sure he'd answered those coded questions properly to convey what he wanted, there was a chance he'd missed something. Even so, while Pandora catered to darker tastes in a clandestine manner, it still had to abide by the laws and that meant he had an opt-out clause for anything he didn't like. Thus, even if he'd answered wrong on some of the options, he knew the fine print, which he had made sure to read thoroughly, guaranteed him the right to refuse.

Besides, the omegas he'd talked to about Pandora had all assured him they'd thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and he had to admit that the racy details of their trips were the primary reason he'd arranged his own trip. And so here he was, sitting through a vid-ad in the back of a fancy taxi, hopefully on his way to the best heat of his life, if the claims of the smiling beta on the screen weren't exaggerated. Thankfully, the taxi arrived just as the vid finished and Byou sighed in relief and a little anticipation as he slid out of the hovercar when the driver opened his door.

The sight that greeted Byou when he entered the building the driver ushered him into was one of lavish sensuality, and a closer look at the decor revealed blatantly erotic images. He quirked a faint smile at the irony of a brothel catering to omega customers before he was distracted by a painting depicting two omegas entwined together, both wearing collars with their leashes held by an alpha with a very nice body. His attention was brought back to the present by the sound of someone politely clearing his throat and he blushed faintly as he turned.

"Here's your room number, sir, and should you require anything else, please don't hesitate to call information," the beta said, handing Byou a plastic card with a number on it.

Byou noted that the card had an old-fashioned ID chip in the corner, which meant it functioned as a key to his room instead of having the room programmed to his own ID chip. He wasn't sure how he felt about that, but it was a minor annoyance and he merely gave the beta a dismissive nod before heading for the elevators. Anticipation coiled in his gut as the elevator climbed higher, and when it dinged and opened on his floor he swallowed once as he stepped out and oriented himself by the door numbers.

His room, 926, was a bit of a walk from the elevators, and it gave Byou a chance to take in the decor that made the lobby's artwork seem tame in comparison. Feeling a little dizzy by the time he stood in front of his door, Byou fumbled with the card key with sweaty hands as he tried to get ahold of himself. The cool air of the room helped clear his head when he managed to get the door open on the third try. However, the sight of the large bed through the open double doors of the bedroom had his blood rushing south again. He barely heard the door quietly click shut behind him as he gaped at the bed, his wide eyes taking in the honest-to-god straps and chains attached at intervals along its edges. It was both thrilling and slightly terrifying, and he wondered just how he'd manage to sleep comfortably on it. Not that he'd sleep much during the peak of his heat, but still.

The rest of the furniture had the same theme as the bed, and Byou stared at the cuffs attached to the corners of the dining table, of all places. A quick tour of his suite confirmed that it was indeed matched perfectly to his darker kinks, with each large piece of furniture designed for someone to be restrained onto it, and the walls and ceilings were decorated at intervals with hooks and o-rings. He stood in the middle of the parlor in a bit of awed disbelief as he looked around, a part of his mind protesting that some of the things in the suite looked downright illegal, if not definitely against Central's code of ethics. Which explained why it took knowing the right people and the coded language to even know that Pandora offered such things, he supposed.

In any case, to say that Byou was eager to try some of those dubiously legal delights would be an understatement. He was so distracted by his thoughts about which he wanted to try first and how that the soft ding of an incoming message startled him. Sinking into the plush couch in front of the large video display, he reached out with a hand that shook slightly to press a button on the coffee table console panel, and then sat back as the message began to play on the screen.

"Welcome, omega. If you have a safeword, please speak it at the tone so that it will be recorded into the suite's sensors, and for nonverbal cues, please type in whatever prearranged signals you prefer."

Byou blinked at the beta voice, caught off-guard by how the message got straight to the point, and the fact that the screen showed a generic hologram rather than a person. Clearing his throat, he spoke his safeword at the tone that followed a few seconds later, but blanked for a bit at what to key in for nonverbal signals. Selecting the option to decide later, he felt a flutter of fear-tinged excitement at the thought of being so helpless that he had to rely on body language.

"Here is a list of alphas that match your preferences. Please select at least one to attend your needs during your heat. If none are suitable, please fill out a more detailed questionnaire and we will attempt to find you a better match."

Byou's eyes widened as the screen changed to a detailed profile with a picture gallery of the first alpha. Unsurprisingly, the alpha was just his type in looks, and he spent a few moments going through the pictures and shamelessly leering at the ones where the alpha was wearing nearly nothing and posed sensually. Pausing when he got to the unclothed pictures, his mouth went dry and he stared for a few moments, his body reacting all on its own at the sight of the alpha's large, erect cock. Blinking a bit dizzily, he shook himself and shifted on the couch as he collected his wits and clicked to view the actual profile part. A bit disappointed when nothing really caught his eye on the alpha's profile, he moved on to the next in the list.

The second and third alphas were pretty much the same as the first, very attractive but otherwise unremarkable, and Byou was beginning to wonder whether he'd need to fill out the other questionnaire. Deciding to view the profiles first to speed it up, he skimmed through the next two and skipped the picture galleries. He frowned a bit and sighed when neither appealed to him, then navigated through the menu to see the list of names. Ten alphas total, and he'd already gone through half without feeling more than superficial arousal. Disgruntled, he wondered whether he had higher expectations than Pandora could easily cater to, or whether he'd filled out the compatibility questions wrong.

Byou checked the time and sighed again before getting up, glad that his heat wouldn't begin until the following day, as it gave him time to arrange things before he'd be in no capacity to make rational decisions. He'd arrived a day early on purpose since it had been included with his vacation package, which also had an extra day after his heat finished to recover. The extra days were standard even for regular resorts, though in this case he had a feeling he'd need it for more than just the usual soreness from being thoroughly fucked for five straight days. That is, if he found an alpha he was interested in.

While any of them would do to sate his physical needs, Byou had been hoping that one would stand out as someone who could offer more than just that. Pacing restlessly around the room for a few moments, he peeked in the fridge and snorted softly. Figured that they could easily supply his favorite foods, but the more complicated things were thus far disappointing. He eyed the nutritional supplements that took up an entire shelf, each bottle labeled with a day number and meal time for the alpha to feed him during his heat since he'd be incapable of feeding himself.

Just as Byou was about to reach for a drink the console dinged with another incoming message and he blinked as he glanced to it curiously, head tilted. Closing the fridge and returning to the couch, he accepted the message and frowned at the screen as it changed to the generic hologram again instead of a live video. He noted it was a call from another suite just as a very obviously alpha voice spoke.

"Hey, your profile caught my eye and I wanna meet you," the alpha said, his voice sending shivers down Byou's spine.

"Hey yourself, Mr. No-face. What if I've already chosen another?" Byou retorted, intrigued by the alpha's boldness but skeptical after the disappointment of the other alphas.

"You'll prefer me, so cancel it."

Byou couldn't help but laugh a bit at the alpha's arrogance, but instead of finding it a turn-off he leaned forward with a grin. "Oh, do tell how you know that, when you won't even show your face to me," he drawled, and a glance to the side of the screen showed the green dot that indicated alpha could see him.

"Because I know you want an alpha to make you submit and want it," the alpha said in a matter-of-fact tone, and Byou could swear he was smirking. "And not just that, but one who wants you. You want to be pursued, taken, ravished, and treated like a treasured pet."

Byou froze and blinked slowly at the hologram on the screen, his mind processing the alpha's words a few steps behind his body reacting to said words with an almost primal need. He swallowed after a few moments and shook himself, his expression going from dazed to slightly annoyed. "Don't fuck around with me then, show yourself. The decision is still mine."

The alpha chuckled indulgently and a few moments later the screen changed to a live feed, showing a half-naked man with tanned skin and a body that looked in prime physical shape, the muscles neither too defined nor too scrawny. As for the face, Byou confirmed the arrogant smirk as well as noticing the alpha was very attractive, more so even than the others he'd seen. The alpha was reclining casually on a couch similar to Byou's, and he could tell from the tent in the black track pants that he was quite ready to rut and well-endowed besides. Byou had to admit he was very interested, especially by the alpha's atypical accessories that included several facial piercings and a nipple ring, plus a lot of metal jewelry in his ears and long wavy black hair that reached past his shoulders.

"Like what you see, hmm?" the alpha said, his hand stroking his cock through his pants as he smirked. "I can provide a hands-on demonstration too."

Byou's mouth snapped shut and he sat back with his best attempt at an aloof expression. "My heat doesn't hit until tomorrow, and you're gonna have to offer more than that to get me interested," he said flatly, glad the alpha couldn't smell the lie in the last part of his statement over the vid feed. "Besides, isn't it like, against the rules to proposition me like this anyway?"

The alpha chuckled again, not sounding the least bit discouraged. "It is, technically, but there's a loophole for cases like yours."

"Cases like mine?" Byou raised a skeptical eyebrow and crossed his arms.

"Diva bitches," the alpha said bluntly with a wide grin, and it grew a notch at Byou's indignant snort. "You know what you want but you don't know how or want to have to ask for it, and that's where I come in. I can give you what you want."

"I'm pretty sure it says somewhere in my profile that I don't like arrogant assholes," Byou retorted, his pride stinging a bit at the truth in the alpha's words.

"It does, but I'm sure you've had a chance to see the other alphas here aren't adequate for you."

Still skeptical, Byou arched his eyebrow again at the alpha and shifted to slouch more. "Well, you've seen my profile, so send yours over and I'll think about it."

The alpha made a show of considering the demand and licked his lips, and Byou saw a brief glimpse of a tongue piercing, which made him wonder where else the guy was pierced. "You know, I could just make my claim on you, but even though I suspect you'd like that, I'll indulge you." The alpha leaned forward and pressed a few buttons on his console, his confident smirk unwavering.

While a part of Byou bristled at the alpha's continued arrogance, the rest of him was sending signals that contradicted his disgruntled ego, so he settled for a glower until his console dinged as it received the profile. Pulling it up onto the smaller console screen, he skimmed the text and his gaze halted abruptly as the words registered on the kink section. "Clearly, you didn't need to exaggerate your personality or charm," he drawled to cover his reaction to what he'd read. This alpha, Aki, was looking for a damn mate if he was reading the clues correctly, and at the very least he was a Traditionalist, which both excited and scared Byou. While he was looking for something more than a one-time fling, the mating tradition had died out well over a century ago, and it was a rather permanent relationship.

"Seriously though, I'll give you time to think it over, but I want to meet you face to face before your heat hits so we can talk," Aki said, and his change in tone had Byou looking up in surprise. They stared at each other for a few moments before Byou found himself nodding slowly.

"Okay, I'll think about it," Byou murmured, a bit stunned as he processed everything. When the screen went blank he sat back and blinked in a daze, part of him wondering if this were too good to be true and the rest of him wanting to jump at the chance. A mating was still a bit too permanent for someone he'd just met no matter how interested he was physically and otherwise, but Aki had certainly gotten his attention in all the right ways.

Getting up to pace restlessly for a bit, Byou headed for the fridge and fetched the drink he had wanted before Aki's call, and then returned to the couch and sipped the citrus concoction as he paged through the alpha's detailed profile. What he read intrigued him, and the coded words definitely supported the Traditionalist theory which sparked his curiosity, as that type of alpha was unheard of in the Hub since their beliefs about omegas were quite the opposite of the more equality-minded progressives. It certainly explained the overwhelming arrogance, but yet his gut told him that Aki wouldn't treat him badly. Something about the alpha's change in demeanor after sending his profile was reassuring, and he suspected the arrogance was more for show even if the underlying confidence wasn't an act.

When he realized he was rereading Aki's profile for the fourth time, Byou stopped and took a deep breath to steady himself, feeling nervous and yet excited. He took a few moments to collect his wits before he called Aki back and waited, and when the alpha appeared on the screen again he rubbed his palms on his thighs as his mind blanked for a moment. "I'm willing to talk," he managed to say, his voice reasonably steady.

Aki smiled without his usual smugness and nodded slowly. "Take a shower and I'll be over in about fifteen minutes," he said, and waited for Byou to nod in acknowledgment before leaning forward to end the call.

"Wait!" Byou blurted, and then fumbled for a moment as Aki paused and gave him a curious, patient look. "Are you a Traditionalist? And why a shower?"

Surprise flitted briefly across Aki's face before it was replaced with faint amusement. "The first question requires a complicated explanation, but as for the second, it's because it'll help clear your head and keep your scent from being overly distracting," he said and then gave Byou another serious look. "I won't touch you without your leave."

Byou sucked in a breath and nodded slowly, his belly fluttering with butterflies at the thought of merely meeting the alpha. "Fifteen minutes, see you then," he said, and then ended the call before Aki did, wanting to grab a little control while he still could. Managing not to trip over his own feet as he got up and headed for the bathroom, he rushed through a cold shower and dried off as fast as he could. The doorbell dinged just as he was slipping into some loose pants, and he tugged on a shirt before hurrying to open the door, his palms already sweaty again. The alpha's scent hit him almost at the same moment as his reached Aki's nose and they both stood frozen for a few moments.

Aki recovered first and visibly restrained his reaction, though his gaze remained fixed on Byou with almost unnerving intensity. "Step back and to the right two paces," he said in a calm tone, and when Byou responded obediently he stepped across the threshold and let the door shut behind him. "I think your heat might come a little early," he murmured, and then turned to the left and headed to the kitchen area to fetch something.

Byou watched Aki mutely, almost afraid to approach given how powerful his reaction had been to the alpha's proximity just from answering the door. Suspecting Aki's guess was right about his heat, he blinked and reflexively caught the beverage the alpha tossed at him and glanced at the label. It was a very fragrant drink that helped omegas to think clearly, functioning as a temporary arousal-blocker.

"Okay, first thing's first, go sit in that chair over there and drink that while I sit here," Aki said, pointing to the chair in the corner and establishing a wide safety zone between them. Once they were both sitting, he tilted his head at Byou and took a sniff of the air. "To answer your first question, the simple answer is yes, but a more accurate answer is that the few of us who practice the old ways have made some modern adjustments to the rules. We don't tend to advertise ourselves, for obvious reasons, and we live mostly on the outer Rim."

"Are you looking for a mate, then?" Byou asked bluntly, sipping the drink as he stared at Aki.

Aki was silent for a few moments, considering his words. "That's one of the rules we adjusted, so you need not worry, though your profile caught my eye because you were seeking more than just a fling."

"Did you proposition me because you think I'd be a compatible mate, yes or no?" Byou asked, crossing one arm over his chest as he continued sipping the drink.

Aki sighed and quirked a half smile as he shrugged and then nodded. "Yes, I was hoping you might be interested, but I don't expect you to decide right away, to say the least."

"Yeah, well, a permanent arrangement involving kids is kind of a deal-breaker for me at this time," Byou deadpanned. "Besides, Central's pretty thorough about ensuring omegas can't get knocked up."

Aki arched an eyebrow and gave the air another pointed sniff. "Either Central's developed a new method of contraception that can't be detected by smell, or the alphas you've been with up until now have all been sterile."

Byou froze and stared at Aki for a few moments, absorbing the implications and paling a bit. "You mean to tell me you can smell that I'm fertile even before my heat's hit?"

"Yes, it's something all alphas can smell when an omega's near or in their heat, but most don't know enough anymore to identify that smell for what it is," Aki said slowly, frowning. "Most omegas that come here aren't fertile, but you are, and I'm guessing you're not knowingly taking any other form of contraception. Few of us who are born and raised on the Rim have had the sterilizing procedure, and especially among the Traditionalists it's almost unheard of."

"So you're saying that you would get me pregnant if we..." Byou trailed off at Aki's serious nod and gulped, his interest in the alpha now tinged by risks he'd never considered before. He shook his head slowly as he absorbed the fact that he had somehow slipped through the cracks in Central's usually thorough contraception requirements for every alpha and omega citizen. It was such an accepted fact that everyone was sterilized at the onset of puberty, and he'd never even given it a thought. The procedure wasn't permanent anyway, though it took a lot of effort and expense, not to mention rigorous testing and regulations to get a child license, and most omegas didn't bother, leaving the childbearing and raising to the betas instead.

"Pandora can provide you with temporary contraception, since I'm not about to risk giving you a kid you don't want," Aki said, tilting his head as he gave Byou a considering look. "I'm guessing your heats have been more intense than other omegas?"

Grasping at the one thing he could answer right away, Byou nodded a bit shakily. "Yeah, I mean I did wonder, but I never thought I wasn't sterilized..."

"I can understand if you'd rather choose another alpha for your heat considering the circumstances," Aki said, albeit with reluctance.

"Well, the contraception works, right? So there's no risk of getting a souvenir from you," Byou quipped, and then took a steadying breath before he finished off the drink. "It does change things, but if you're not expecting me to like, move in with you after, I'm fine with it."

"No, there are no strings attached if you accept me for your heat," Aki said seriously. "Though if you're sure you accept me, it's best to take the contraceptive right away." Waiting for Byou's nod, Aki then got up and went over to the suite's comm and keyed in a few commands. Returning to Byou but keeping a distance of a couple paces, he tapped a button on the coffee table console. "Do you accept me as your alpha for the duration of your heat?" he asked, pinning Byou with a serious look.

Though he was still reeling just a bit from everything, Byou took a deep breath and rose to his feet. "I accept you as my alpha for the duration of my heat," he replied, and glanced to the console as it beeped acknowledgment of the verbal contract. Swallowing as he realized he wasn't quite sure just what he'd agreed to, he had to admit that the unknown factor gave it the thrill he'd been craving. Still, he remembered the safeword was his opt-out, but he doubted he'd need to use it. A different console dinged a few moments later, and Byou watched as Aki fetched a packet from a wall panel and handed it to him.

"Now is the time to set any limits you may have," Aki said, once again moving a few paces away.

"Um, no gagging me, and no heavy restraints?" Byou replied, feeling nervous again as he fumbled with the packet. "And uh, avoid drawing blood or bruising, if possible."

"If possible," Aki echoed, a grin twitching at his lips. "Go get yourself ready in the bathroom and come out when you're done, naked," he ordered, his arrogant smirk returning at Byou's startled look. "Or I could strip you if you'd prefer."

"Bathroom, right, going now," Byou murmured with wide eyes as he clutched the packet and retreated to the bathroom, casting a brief look over his shoulder at Aki before shutting the door. Forcing himself to focus on the task at hand, he collected his scattered wits and read the instructions on the packet, but it took a few attempts before he understood what to do with the contraceptive.

It didn't help Byou's concentration at all to realize he was feeling the first signals of heat despite the drink Aki had given him earlier, and he cursed as he reread the instructions carefully. The last thing he wanted was to use it incorrectly and end up with a kid. Taking out the first pill, he double checked and then swallowed it with a sip of water from the sink. That done, he dithered for a bit and stalled, fidgeting with the remaining pills and hoping Aki remembered to administer them on time.

Deciding to meet Aki's challenge halfway, Byou shed his shirt but kept his pants on in a minor act of defiance and then hesitated at the door. Wiping his sweaty palms on his thighs, he took a steadying breath and opened the door... to find Aki waiting for him just two steps away with a thick leather collar in his hands. Swallowing hard as he stared at the collar, he didn't dare raise his gaze and sank to his knees before he fully registered the command to do so. He shivered at Aki's touch as the alpha fastened the collar around his neck, and only then did he lift his head to give him a timidly searching look.

"As of now you are mine, and you will depend on me for everything, and in turn I will care for you," Aki said slowly, caressing Byou's cheek with one hand while the other took a gentle but firm grip on the omega's hair.