The smell of lavender was piped into the room through a vent near the bed as soft music filled Bianca’s mind, drawing her from her sleep. As she blinked open her eyes, her shifting brainwaves set the room into motion. Light filtered into the room and the TV flicked on to the World News Network. She could smell the subtle hint of her daily coffee being made, the rich aroma of veggie soufflé riding in behind it.
“Good morning, Lady Whitaker.” The covers were drawn from her body, the temperature in the room rising to accommodate her nudity. “Today’s weather in The Dome is a balmy eighty degrees Fahrenheit. Your schedule for today…”
The modulated voice droned on in her mind as she rose from the bed to be dressed. A maid bot, thin with synthetic flesh so pale she nearly sent it back when it arrived from the device center, was by her side with a pre-chosen outfit. Warm hands helped lift her night shift over her head. The clinical caress still had the power to make her sigh. It was all the touching she received and it would be silly not to savor it.
The gray dress dropped over her head and then the nanites just beneath her skin shrank the fabric to fit her figure. Bianca hated wearing the drab dress, but it was the uniform of the noble elite and Dome protocol required it of her. The nanites just under her skin tingled as the sensor in her mind registered another’s presence. The house spoke into her mind.
“Mr. Wile has scanned in and will be at the door shortly. Would you care for the kitchen to produce a meal for two?”
Bianca debated the safety of having Henri linger. It was far too much of a temptation. Her cycle was at its peak and she struggled to maintain the edicts of The Dome when he came around. She needed something to reign in her hunger so her place in society wasn’t put into jeopardy.
“Fix Henri whatever he communicates to you, I’ll be down shortly.”
Crossing to the floor to ceiling mirror, Bianca pressed her hand to the glass. It was warm beneath her palm, the pane flexing and bowing in a slow rhythmic pattern. She trailed her fingertips down the clear surface and watched as her reflection rippled.
The pane shifted just slightly, the surface going foggy as she gazed into it.
“On the wall.”
Bianca watched the foggy glass waver and then solidify again.
“Who will touch me after all?”
The image mirrored back to her was shrouded in darkness. A torch roared to life, flooding the surface with light. Bianca looked away briefly to blink the spots out of her eyes. When she glanced back, the lit room was empty. It was vastly different than her own domicile. The room was painted black, with old art she’d never seen before decorating the walls. Naked women and obsolete metal transporters were the make up of the artwork, and Bianca felt her cheeks heat at the poses. Clothing and machinery littered the floor. None of the clothing was the uniform of the elite or the common citizens of The Dome. The bed was low to the ground, or she thought it was a bed. A closer glance revealed a broken frame and a warped mattress with blankets heaped on top of it.
Bianca gasped as the landscape outside the window revealed the terrain. She was staring into a place so far outside The Dome it created stories of fear in children. Bad girls are cast out of safety, of the controlled atmosphere, and eaten by mutants. It was the Tierra, desolate and dry. The red clay of the polluted earth far outside the protective glass barrier glinted back at her. She found it unsettling, seeing the sky colored the same sickly gray of her uniform and the trees stripped of leaves. That place was a nightmare.
“And who are you?”
Bianca barely suppressed a scream at the face that appeared in the mirror. He was tall, much taller than her, though he stooped to meet her eye. He was also naked from head to toe. She swallowed as her eyes traced over broad shoulders, strong arms, tanned skin, and…
Her eyes snapped back up to his as heat flamed her face. They were a strange brown, almost the same color as the red clay out the window. His eyes were wrong, but she couldn’t look away.
“Who are you?” The words left her in a shaky whisper.
That made him smile; he flashed pointed white teeth at her. Bianca felt her heart kick into a gallop at his smile, a mix of fear and arousal worming through her. His eyes made a slow trek down her body, hitting all the points on her that she’d gazed at on him. Her nipples tightened beneath her bodice, her stomach fluttered hard, and her legs trembled so hard she had to press both palms to the mirror. Where she snatched eyes away at the naked junction of his hips, he seemed to linger as though he could see straight through. She felt her pussy throb there, as though aching to be revealed to him in truth.
“Oh no, pretty girl, I asked you first.”
He moved closer to the mirror, growling softly as he held her eyes. She felt compelled to answer. She felt compelled to do other things as he asked of her.
The way his strange eyes flashed made her clench. When his skin seemed to shift as though something crawled beneath it, Bianca took an involuntary step back. He knew exactly who she was from the look on his face.
“You’re definitely not safe, princess.” He started to turn away.
Something about that made her angry. “I’m not afraid of you.”
“You’re afraid of what I’ll do to you.” He turned back and flashed another toothy smile. “It’s not me you should be worried about though. Watch your back.”
He kept his taut backside to her as he left the room. The mirror faded until her reflection reappeared. There was no time to digest his words as an alert sounded in her mind. It was her stepmother who spoke.
“Something has happened to your father, Bianca, and you are needed at the capital immediately.”
Just like the alert in her head, biological ones went off beneath her skin in warning. Going to the capital was not a good idea.
“I’ll be sending over guard bots to escort you.”
“No need, Lady Chancellor, I can direct myself.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible.” The voice changed in her head, reverting to the sticky-sweet tone her stepmother often used. “You’re wanted for his assassination, my dear. Do stay put.”
The pain in Bianca’s mind was jarring. Her father was gone, the ache in her heart almost debilitating. Panic followed on the heels of the revelation. Her stepmother was sending the authorities.
The man’s message came back to her and Bianca knew she had to go to him. She tried to convince herself that it was because he knew something about what was happening, but her body still buzzed from their moment earlier.
“Mr. Wile appears to be approaching with the guards. Would you like to change before being escorted?”
Bianca didn’t respond. She stripped out of her uniform and pulled the one unsanctioned outfit she owned out of the closet, shorts and a high cut tank top. She pocketed her credits and a few pieces of heirloom jewelry that belonged to her mother. With the sound of tread outside the door spurring her on, Bianca mentally commanded the window to open and climbed out on to the ledge, glad that that she’d found the ratty old tennis shoes in her closet because the regulation slippers would have provided no grip. Her domicile was six stories up in a building not quite in the center of the city. It should be easy to climb down and escape without detection. Except Bianca made the mistake of looking down.
Vertigo made her head spin, and she plastered her body to the stone face of the building to steady herself. Lines of people marched along the sidewalk beneath her and sleek solar electric cars cruised up and down the glossy street. No one noticed her clinging to the edge of her window, not when their lives were regimented to the minute.
Thoughts of her father rose in that moment. The city grew blurry as tears stung her eyes. Bianca realized she wouldn’t get to speak with him, hug him, or hear his laughter again. He was the only family she had left and he was gone.
The sound of the door opening in her room brought her back to the present. If she didn’t get out, she’d end up like her father. Someone had killed him and was trying to frame her for it. Who had the most to gain from her father’s death? Why would they frame Bianca for it? A crash sounded and she got her mind in gear. She took a deep breath and remembered her times as a child when she loved to climb.
Bianca had a lot of questions and few answers. One thing she was sure of: she had to outrun her stepmother, and to do that she needed to find a way out of The Dome.
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