Skin Deep

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Angry satisfaction pulsed in Raycuda's belly as she studied her body in the mirrors of her dressing room. Whichever way she turned, the effect was spectacular. The room's special filters sprayed her hairless skull with droplets of light and dappled her scaled skin like glitter on a pristine white surface.

She gauged that the lighting on the auditorium's dais would be the same. One thousand athletes, council members and media would see her as she was now: flawless.

Reassured that her shoulders hadn't overdeveloped during the work up to the last swim meet, she slipped into a strapless golden sheath.

Dipped in honey.

Any other time she might have surrendered to the erotic caress of the material, indulging herself in pleasure, but tonight she needed to conserve her potency. Tonight, she planned to seduce Pietr Lomas, the chairman of Universal Sports Incorporated, a most powerful man renowned for his uncompromising decisions. Barely two years ago he'd ordered the reconstitution of the entire Track team when they'd failed to perform. Now there were rumours that the current Swim team was to follow a similar fate.

I will not be with them when it happens!

She stepped closer to a fragment of her reflection and was met with aquamarine eyes set in a face symmetrical beyond fault, and gills jutting like a decorative frill from under her jaw. Symmetry alone was not responsible for her beauty, she mused. No. Something more: vitality, health, and a delicious blend of species genetics and a privileged athlete's lifestyle.

I will not lose it! Clenching her fists, she leaned her cheek momentarily against the cold surface and waited for the spasm of fear to pass. Then she stepped through into her bed chamber and regarded the stiff kelp brocade curtains and the cascading water walls. They soothed her. Nor this!

Her devoted trainer, Min, a sun-dried, sturdy woman hovered by the bed, waiting.

'Have you packed the Amory aphrodisiacs?' Raycuda asked her, sharply.

Min nodded. 'Please, use the cream,' she begged. 'The ampoules are dangerous.'

The Amor goddess. Rumours had it that Pietr Lomas' craved to be her lover but that she spurned him--for while the UNINC athletes were denied sex while they were preparing and competing, UNINC officials enjoyed all the delights of physical pleasure on the nearby moon, Jelome.

Raycuda fingered the small leather case smuggled in from Jelome. After tonight, Lomas would not be able to resist her. The illegal concentrate and milder creams had cost her every last credit she had.

'I know what I'm doing. Anyway, how much help do you expect I'll need to get Pietr Lomas into bed, old woman? Do you think I am so unappealing?'

The trainer glanced about furtively. 'I think you are playing a stupid game. I think you have not learned the things I have taught you. What about your team? Would you desert them so?' she whispered.

Raycuda seized the smaller woman's shoulders and shook them. 'I'm saving my life, fool. If UNINC decide to reconstitute all the swimmers, I'll, I'll...' her voice tapered off roughly.

Min's face softened. 'I know what you're trying to do. But this is not the way.'

'And what is?'

'You're in danger, yes. But talk with the others. The team is everything...'

'The others are brainwashed, Min. Happy to accept what UNINC dictates. I despise them, and if I don't do something to get Lomas' attention then I'll be dead along with them.'

'You underestimate people. You always have. We could persuade him to-'

'Persuade Pietr Lomas! He only cares about winning. Winning is all.' Raycuda smiled. 'I understand that at least.'

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