Seije closed his eyes again and Ember turned away from the banks of synthprinters and processor slabs to his side of the living area. In contrast to the the stark, utilitarian equipment, Ember’s part of the room was full of comfortable couches and chairs, with accents in deep, ox-blood red wood. A veneer across the long wall of the room doubled as an entertainment unit and adjustable viewscreen. He permitted himself a small smile at the design he had carved out in this otherwise stark, square space, and crossed to the kitchen area. He took a glass from an open shelf and filled it with cold water, first rubbing the cold, hard outer surface against his forehead, then taking a drink. The after-effects of the drug were easing, but he was tired.

He smiled and climbed the stairs to the the sleeping rooms, hearing Malika singing some bawdy song at the top of her lungs. As soon as she was dry and dressed, she’d be out into the night, not content until she had sated herself in flesh and skin.

In his own room, Ember stripped off the expensive suit and hung it up, resetting the colour to neutral beige and wiping away the subtle pattern. A quick shower of his own washed away the boring shape and tint of his hair. He rubbed at the ache starting in his shoulders and rolled his head, feeling a satisfying pop. Clean and dry, he slipped naked between soft, caressing sheets, and was asleep in minutes.

Chapter Two

The previous night’s snowfall had cleared, the last dregs of wind blowing wisps of loose snow across the streets. Ploughs had come through at some point, clearing smooth pathways for traffic. The world was white, under a sky of hard, brilliant, sapphire blue. When Keene came through the doors of the hotel the next morning, he had the biggest, stupidest grin Lexa-Blue had ever seen plastered across his face, and she wasted no time telling him so.

“It’s only the biggest and stupidest because you’re not looking in a mirror, Blue,” he shot back at her. “Looks like I’m not the only one who had a good time.”

“I had a deeply intellectual and spiritual evening with friends. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” She pursed her lips and attempted to compose her face into an expression of prim innocence. The effect was enough to send Keene into fits of laughter that she joined.

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