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Warning: This poem contains controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. NSFW at most jobs! It features alternative sex/gender dynamics, erotic toys, embarrassment, unpleasant family past, and other challenges. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.
The Order of Their Stars
As promised, Astin took V shopping
to find a few personal items to make
the new quarters feel like home.
The first thing they found was
a shelf of document clamps that
could be bolted to a surface.
"You'll need some of these,"
Astin said. "Sargasso Base isn't
like a planet. You can't leave things
lying around loose like you could
before. Pick a style that you like."
V had noticed that many things
which seemed loose were in fact
fastened down discreetly, and thus
picked out a set of pineapple clamps.
Next V wanted a desk lamp to replace
the boring one that came with V's home.
There were plain metal ones and
sleek glass ones, and someone had
fastened together tiny shards of plastic
to make lampshades with interesting designs.
V chose a desk lamp with abstract swirls
of deep blue and almost-white.
"I like the maybe-colors too,"
Astin said quietly.
When they went up
to the counter, V saw that --
like most shops here -- it had
a little display of fidgets.
So far V hadn't been impressed
by the silly gadgets, but these were
gorgeous, elegant things of stainless steel.
V couldn't resist poking a finger into
the hollows between the heavy gears.
"If you like it, buy it," Astin advised.
"Everybody needs a fidget, and that's
the first one I've seen you even look at."
Technically, V did not need a fidget --
but then again, if everybody had one,
it was an essential cultural item
required for smooth business.
It would be useful even if all it did
was sit on V's desk making people
feel comfortable. Besides, it was
aesthetically pleasing as a sculpture.
So V bought the gear fidget.
"Let's try personal entertainment
as our next stop," Astin said, leading
V toward a nearby store.
"Sex toys?" V said, leaning back.
"Among other things," Astin said.
"Look, we don't have to go in if you
really hate the idea, but ... I kind of
get the impression that your education
back home may have left out some stuff."
"Such as?" V said, think about
the exhaustive schooling.
"Who you really are, and
what you like to do," Astin said.
Well. V could hardly argue with that.
"All right," V said. "We can look,
but I won't promise to buy anything."
"You don't have to if you don't
find anything you like," Astin agreed.
V had always thought Vself asexual
due to body issues and a complete inability
to fit within conventional expectations. Yet when
a business discussion had turned into a friendly tour
of Astin's closet and professional clothes, the box of
sex toys had been ... a little less alarming.
Even though V hadn't even known what
the screw rings were for until Astin held them
over xyr nipples, no great fuss had been made over it.
The elegant curves of the heavy metal dildo and
vibrator had been daunting but also interesting.
V had allowed that some experimentation might
be in order, which had led to an embarrassing but
enlightening conversation with the Lord of Pr0n.
Who knew that people made erotica just of
putting on and taking off different clothes?
Or scenes that were all intense negotiation,
following by drawing the curtains?
Suddenly V wondered if this place
might have any more of that.
Once they got inside, though,
the wall full of bizarre things
to stick into orifices was
"Welcome to Easy Come.
I'm Bumpers," said the woman
behind the counter. "Is this
your first time here?"
"Yes, and likely to be
the last," V muttered.
"Well, what do you find
appealing?" asked Bumpers,
leaning over so that her large chest
rested on top of the counter.
"Mostly myself," V muttered.
"Mirrors are in Aisle 1,"
she said cheerfully, pointing.
V had only seen ceiling mirrors
in bad pornography, and that hadn't
seemed exciting at all. Looking at Vself,
however, suddenly felt more intriguing.
Easy Come had clip-on mirrors that
would stick anywhere, a cheap gooseneck
and a much more elegant metal swivel
whose base mounted on the wall, and
even one that hung in the shower.
V had a hard time imagining anything
that one could do in the shower that would
require a mirror and not increase the chance
of a sudden and humiliating death.
"Not that one," Astin advised,
pointing to the clip-on mirror that
V was examining. "It's cheap, and
it tends to pop off wherever you clip it."
V put it back over the shelf, then hesitated
over the handsome metal model. It would
match the decor, but V wasn't sure about
making that much of a commitment yet.
"This one's better than it looks,"
Astin said, indicating the gooseneck.
Closer examination revealed that it
could be fastened with screws or
with a suction cup, so V took it up
to the counter to put on hold.
"Have you tried Dressup Darlings yet?"
asked Bumpers as she put the mirror
into a basket. "It's fashion erotica where
you input pictures into a program, then you
can change clothes on the characters -- or
yourself, if you use your own image -- and
make a montage to play for amusement.
People who like mirrors often like that."
V leans forward, instantly intrigued,
because V was still trying to figure out
a personal wardrobe that will be
both expressive and professional.
Watching a display of that
could be ... somewhat moving.
"Do you have a demonstration?"
V asked, looking around.
"Sure do," said Bumpers.
She brought it up on a big screen,
then handed V a control pad. "Here,
pick whichever model you like."
V chose an androgynous one
and then spent a fun five minutes
playing dressup before testing
the montage mode.
It was surprisingly good.
"I'll think about this one,"
V said, handing the control back.
"What do you think about something
handheld?" Astin suggested.
V could feel blood rushing
toward Vs cheeks, and willed it
away. "Don't I have enough?"
"You have a mirror to see what
you're doing and a program for
inspiration," Astin said. "I thought
you might like something other than
your hands for the main event, given
that you haven't exactly sounded
excited about sex in the past."
That was partly because of Vs body
and mostly because of the Alta Familia
pulling V this way and that for years.
V looked at the wall of sex toys again
and cringed. There was a computer
with an artificial penis on it, and
another with a silicone vulva.
"A little much for you?" Bumpers said.
"Let me show you to the novice section
and see if that's more your speed."
To Vs surprise, the novice section
was much less intimidating.
The insertables here were
a great deal smaller, some of
them no bigger than a finger.
The vibrators were soft curves
that didn't look like they were
meant to go anywhere particular.
V selected an oblong one that
was like a shorter, fatter version
of the slender arc that Astin had.
Surely that would feel good on
sore muscles, if nothing else.
"Have you seen these before?"
Bumpers said, holding out a rod of
stainless steel that had bumps along it.
"You can rub it along your body.
I have one for my feet."
Obviously it had other uses,
but V couldn't help imagining
how good all that cool metal
would feel on hot, tired feet.
"All right, I have two handhelds,
and that is enough --" V said,
then spied the purple velvet gloves.
"Fine, three then. Checkout, please."
V always had a hard time resisting
the purely sensual pleasures of
fine clothing and accessories.
After V paid for the goods,
including Dressup Darlings,
Bumpers packed it neatly
into a box that had once
held nuts and bolts.
"Thank you, please
come again," she said
as she handed it to V.
"I might," V said, wondering if
self-love would actually work this time,
and if somehow another person might
eventually appeal as a partner.
Bodies could be so confusing,
and souls even more so.
"I think this will be good for you,"
Astin said. "You need some space
to explore yourself and your desires
without anyone getting in your way."
"What if I don't like it?" V worried.
"Then you will know yourself
that much better," Astin said.
"I didn't like everything I tried,
but I did like knowing more
about who I really am."
V thought about all of
the transformations that
V's life had undergone, and
how much Astin had faced too.
Space itself offered so much more
than planets ever had for them.
They couldn't change their past, or
the societies of the Galactic Arms, but
they could change the order of their stars,
and sometimes, that was enough.
* * *
V -- a teenager living on Trunnion, a planet bordering the Lacuna on the Orion side. V was born to the Alta Familia or High Clans, and has a holographic tattoo to show that, which is currently covered by a wide cuff bracelet made of copper wirefloss and black plastithong. V no longer affiliates with that family, and is currently living with Spalling. V is asexual and aromantic, still trying to figure out how to form connections with other people, around that and the socially fraught childhood experiences. V uses a "V" pronoun set: V is, Vs arm / V's book, with V, of V's, and Vself. The distinction is that Vs is inward-focused, about V; while V's is outward-focused, things associated with V. V is introduced in "Too Expensive to Ship Back."
Astin -- an other-gendered trader, neurotypical, friends with Weavercreep and Operetta. Astin likes clothes of ambiguous colors, such as honey and mauve, with shapes that are easy to customize. Similarly, practical yet attractive furniture of androgynous style is preferred, blending straight and curved lines. Introduced in "Uncounted Colors of the Stars." Astin uses the "xe" set of pronouns: xe is, xyr book, with xyr, of xyrs, and xyrself.
Bumpers -- a neurotypical woman with a voluptuous body. She describes herself as megasexual. Her sex drive is high enough that she doesn't fit in most places, but she enjoys running a sex shop on Sargasso Base. The shop has lots of autoerotic materials. Introduced in "The Order of Their Stars."
* * *
See V's pineapple clamp.
This is V's new desk lamp.
The desk toy is a Main Reduction Gear Unit salvaged from an engine.
Metal sex toys can be quite charming. Such materials are plentiful in the Lacuna. Astin has nipple screws, an elegant double dildo, and a banana-shaped silvertone vibrator although it's not real silver as in this set.
V picks out a slim silvertone dildo with a dong on one end and graduated spheres on the other.
Acrylic mirrors have many advantages.
Compare a clip-on mirror with light, a gooseneck mirror, a wall-mounted swivel mirror, and a shower mirror.
Sex machines may come with a dildo or a pussy. (Ignore the part where it says "for men" or "for women" -- the type of sex object desired has only a vague correlation with one's own genitals.) The Lacuna version of the pussy mount also has an ass insert.
Velvet gloves are popular for sensation play. V is aware of enjoying luxuries, but is just beginning to realize the erotic implications.