Androids do not suffer from seasickness, but Shap felt uncomfortable devoting precious processor time to staying upright on the barque as it heaved on the Great Ocean of Pendor. He had a notion, as far as his android brain would allow, that though his Prime Directive was to defend his mistress, it should in fact be efficiency. And efficiency was not increased by sliding across a slippery deck while Princess Simla smiled at his discomfort. The sun was sinking in the turquoise sky of Pendor and the wind and waves had picked up, throwing the three-masted ship around like a toy.
Simla went over to lean across the rail at the side of the ship and Shap's concern circuits kicked in so that he was at her side almost immediately. "Mistress?"
She cupped her hands to her mouth and retched, and Shap instinctively laid his broad metallic hand on her shoulder.
"Perhaps you should go below, ma'am."
The ship heaved again and Simla's hand flew out and the dazzling, golden bracelet on her wrist, embedded with jewels, glittering in the moonlight, flew from it and shot into the boiling waves.
"Oh, my!" Simla screamed, throwing her hands to her mouth again, but this time in horror. "The bracelet!
My father's gift. It's priceless."
"It bears the diamond, Eye Of Venus, and is indeed priceless," Shap intoned.
"You must retrieve it. Shap. You can get it. I know you can."
He could and he would. He clambered nimbly over the bulwark and without a pause stepped forward and let his heavy metal body slip under the crashing waves.
Simla smiled and wiped the salt spray from her face with the sleeve of her jerkin. Quickly, she turned and loped across the deck to the forecastle, her slim, athletic figure cutting through the raging wind. Her light green eyes flashed with anticipation and excitement. A door, a few steps, a short corridor and she was into Torzil's cabin. He lay on his fur-covered bunk, bare-chested and magnificent and the sight of him made Simla's breath catch in her throat. The slamming door made the big man turn and raise himself on his elbows. "You've come then, my fine trollop," he breathed huskily, using the arcane style favoured by his class. Simla quite liked it and wasn't averse to slipping in a few words herself when the occasion required.
Torzil was everything she'd ever hoped for. Broad of chest and shoulder, with brown hair hanging to his shoulders and framing a face that was almost handsome. Admittedly it had a few pock marks from some childhood illness, a scraggly moustache, a broken nose and a livid red scar down the right cheek, but these imperfections only served to arouse her further. "You were expecting me?" she asked. "I saw you stare at me when we boarded ship," he grunted, "and I know a woman when she has a flame in her belly."
Simla swung one long leg up and placed her booted foot on a low table. "And you have no fire?"
He ran his hand over his short kilt and down his muscular thigh. "For a wench such as thee, an inferno."
".And yet you never pursued me."
"I am a son of Serdan and we do not pursue wenches. There is no need."
She knew what he meant, any woman would be proud to be loved by such a fine specimen of virility. Still, her own pride would not allow herself to be taken so easily. "Perhaps, but a woman likes to be pursued at times."
"I have no time for such fripperies. Come, let me love thee." He held a broad hand out towards her and she admitted to herself that she was shocked by his tone. This had not been part of her plan. She was eager to give herself, but not like some common street slut, he must show her some respect. "Have you no patience, son of Serdan?" she asked haughtily.
He recognised her tone and a wry smile played across his thin lips. "Patience is alien to one such as I. I take what I want, when I want it."
She trembled, unsure now if she'd bitten off more than she could chew. Surely he would recognise her qualities and show her some respect. But even if he didn't she worried that at this very moment, when her dreams seemed about to be fulfilled, her nerve would fail her.
He traced one of his thick fingers down the rivulet of reddish hair that trickled from his navel down to the mysteries of his kilt. It swung the balance and she advanced towards him, peeling off her rain-sodden, red, jerkin. He grabbed her wrist and pulled her over him, saying, "You're a fine one, my pretty, I'll serve thee well."
'You'd better,' she thought, straddling him and attacking his mouth with her hungry tongue. His hands immediately flipped up her kilt and gripped her behind and even through her thick, woollen tights she could feel his calloused grip.
"We Serdan have never been found wanting, lass," he mumbled, tearing his mouth away from her.
"Well, I hope you're more than mere talk," she ground herself against him and felt him tense.
"Careful, you'll have me done before I'm ready."
"I haven't even begun to torment you yet."
"We'll see." He rolled her under him and his hands scrabbled to pull her tunic open. She had been dreading this because her breasts were small and she didn't want to disappoint, but Torzil obviously found them satisfactory for he began to feast upon them. Now, she finally felt pleasure from his attentions and wanted more. Her free hand went to her tights and struggled to slip them off. She'd had a lifetime of kisses and caresses and now longed to be loved properly.
But it was not to be. There was a loud crash as the heavy oak door was splintered from its hinges and Shap stood there. Torzil rolled off Simla and his hand reached for the blade he'd hung above his bed and drew it from its scabbard.
"Who is this vermin who disturbs a Serdan Duke at his pleasures?"
Simla raised herself on one elbow and seethed, "Oh, shit."
"You know this intruder?" Torzil growled.
Shap took in the sight with his steely gaze, before turning his unblinking eyes on Simla. "You miscalculated, mistress," he said in his metallic tone, "unlike air breathers, mechanicals do not suffer from the bends. I had no need to pause in resurfacing."
"Mistress?" Torzil swept the long hair from before his eyes and regarded this interloper. "Ye Gods, a guardian. What's a scum girl like you doing with a guardian android?"
Simla couldn't really decide if she insulted or not. "Perhaps I am no scum girl."
"Whate'er you are, I'll have thee now I've started love play. Begone, guardian, the lass has no need of thee." His voice was authoritative and he obviously expected to be obeyed because he turned again to Simla, but she knew the game was up. Shap strode over swiftly, grabbed Torzil by his shoulders and with one swift effort lifted him bodily from the couch before placing him on the floor.
"What? Your android is defective, lass, it does not obey my command."
"I am not a mere android, sir, I am Snap."
"Aye, I've heard of thy kind. A guardian to the lass, art thou? But know, that I am a Duke of Serdan, and thou will obey my command. Now, begone."
Shap ignored him and handed Simla's bracelet back to her. The diamond's sparkle caught Torzil's eye.
"What goes here? Out, guardian, I say, the lass is in no danger. We are merely at love play."
"I appreciate that, sir, but you must desist."
"Not while I have strength in my right arm, machine. It needs reprogrammed, girl, it does not know the meaning of love play." He reached again for his sword.
Simla began buttoning her tunic. "Oh, Shap knows very well what love play is, and I wouldn't draw that sword."
But her words came too late. Torzil drew the blade and scythed at Shap with one fluid move. The attack came as no surprise to the android, for he found humans boringly predictable. He caught the sword with both hands and snapped it in two. This only served to anger the man. "What devil's work is this, that a Serdan Duke is to be denied his pleasures by a foolish android."
He swung a fist at Shap, who grabbed his hand, twisted, and broke the Serdan's arm. Torzil howled and sank to his knees.
Simla swung her long legs off the bunk. "I warned you." She lifted her jerkin from the floor and paused long enough to give Torzil a peck on his tousled head. "Come on, Shap, you've foiled me this time, but I'll manage to get laid yet."