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(Straight) Boys (Cult of the Butterfly 17)

By Paul Smith.



(Straight) Boys (Cult of the Butterfly 17)

Paul Smith

Copyright 2017 Paul Smith

Smashwords Edition.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to people, places or events is purely coincidental, and bears no malicious intent.

ISBN: 9781370541744

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'Title speaks for itself I think… ^_^'


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Thank you.

Raina’s message had come through whilst he was busy filling the dump fridges. Sitting back on his haunches he wiped sweat from his brow, fishing the phone from his pocket.

[May have news on what your feathered friends were up to. When you free?]

Groaning, he hoisted himself to his feet, wincing at the rush of blood back into his legs as he did so. Glanced at the still empty fridges to do and the time, sparing a look out across the bar at the cleaners, who were busy gossiping by the DJ booth.

[Give me an hour... Where will you be?]

The reply when it came back prompted a raised eyebrow. [Meet me on the corner of Castle Green at 14:00? We’ll walk out to North Bridge. See you then x]

A trip to the Bridge…? Seb racked his brain but came up with a blank. Obviously this was to do with the pen drive he’d lifted off the Peacocks, which in turn meant the person they were going to see had some affiliation with the hacker commune she was a member of.

It must be a recent development, he realised, for her to say nothing last night when she came in for cocktails. What have you got for me Murder?

Stuffing his phone in his pocket, he went back to work, determined not to miss this latest rendezvous with destiny.

A spattering of school uniforms littered Castle Green as he reached the park gates, gave him pause as he peered over the crowd, feeling a little out of place. Then he spotted Raina on a bench, Onassis shades bent over her screen as she consulted battle reports. She was wearing that coat, her hair bound up in the scarf she affected when she’d been working. She spotted him as he paused to allow a dog walker to go first, stood as he approached.

They embraced, Seb squeezing her hand before they set off side by side up the park’s broad central avenue.

Afternoon Murder.”

Stamp,” she replied with a grin, using his Woad moniker.

So… a trip to the posh side of town?”

Hardly darling. Bay area’s just across the river.”

Granted, but the place definitely reeks of gentrification.”

She nodded thoughtfully. “That I cannot deny.” Her phone vibrated and she fished it out of her bag, fingering the screen.

Whose got the kids?” Seb asked, guessing the reason for the message.

Mum,” Raina offered, glancing over the top of her shades as she typed.

Seb nodded, slipping his own phone out and squeezing it. Boo, nobody loves me. He let it slid back into the depths of his pocket. “So who are we off to see?”

Guy I know from Righteous Wind.”

Seb glanced about reflexively, but no one seemed to be paying them the least bit of attention. His eyes lingered on a pair of approaching joggers, but the narrowing distance revealed there really wasn’t much to see. Sad face…

Murder’s tendency to bandy the name of well known hacker groups about always made him nervous. She had very firm beliefs on state surveillance, when and where it was likely to happen. He could practically hear her derision if he were to raise protest.

Really Seb...? Where would they hide their operatives: lurking amongst the extreme frisbee team? One of the little old ladies doing Tai Chi over by the cherry blossoms?

You really do worry too much,” was she scolded gently, obviously having caught his brief survey out the corner of her eye.

So you keep telling me.”

She flashed a smile in response, putting her phone away. Pushed her sunglasses back on her head as they stepped off the main avenue, the sun vanishing behind intervening trees.

I see you decided not to keep your risqué statements purely vocal,” Seb offered, gesturing to her attire.

Raina rolled her eyes. “You’re just jealous of my panache.”

Yes, that’s what we’ll call it...” Seb grinned “...panache...”

Fuck off Seb.” But she grinned back as she said it. The coat in question was a camo affair, long and flimsy enough to almost be considered a kimono, though Raina assured him it did an excellent job of fending off Shensang’s brief but violent winter rains. He always thought of it as her ‘ironic’ coat, as the lining was a violet shade of hot pink, completely at odds with the external olive toned camouflage. In that sense it was Raina to a ‘T’: a fiery, often in-your-face set of beliefs and passions hidden behind her carefully crafted public face.

Seb secretly loved the jacket, had done on sight. But it was a function of their established relationship that he never admit as much, in much the same way she took the piss out of him for his taste in shoes.

They exited the park, heading towards the sweeping lines of the suspension bridge across the river that gave this part of the city its name. Raina brought him up to date on the latest dispute with the rival cleaning collective, who were trying to muscle in on their Summer Heights contract.

So, what, they went over your heads?”

Raina smiled wickedly. “Oh they thought they had. Didn’t realise Mum’s got a direct line to the building owner.”

How’d she manage that?”

Raina grinned. “Let’s just say there’s more than meets the eye hiding behind that good Christian veneer.”

Okay...” Seb eyed her dubiously. “I’m not sure I want to know.”

Probably for the best.” Raina glanced at her phone. “This way.”

Seb followed her into the parking area that fronted the first of three apartment buildings, their white marble facades shimmering in the afternoon sun. The building’s lobby was blissfully cool after the heat outside, and there was an elevator waiting for them as they crossed the open space. Like most post-Insurgency developments it was starting to show it’s age, but effort had definitely been made to reinvigorate the place. The lack of graffiti and the fact most of the mail boxes appeared to be in working order attested to that.

Post colonial chic, Seb thought, remembering an article he’d read online.

Third floor,” Raina offered, when he hovered his hand over the buttons as the doors slide shut.

So, do I get a name?” he asked, as the lift whisked them upward.

You’ll see.”

Narrowing his eyes at this sudden show of coyness, Seb gestured her out first. She led them left, then right, stopping before the door to what would be one of the buildings rear apartments, looking out over the distant river. Raising a hand she knocked smartly on the door, glancing over her shoulder at him. “Now remember, be cool.”

Seb held up his hands in placation, butterflies stirring unexpectedly in his stomach.

A few moments later the door opened and they exploded into flight.

Murder!” Gillian crowed, stepping out to engulf the woman in a bear hug. “And Seb!” a hand snaked out to clasp his proffered palm. “Come in, come in!”

As Gillian turned to close the door Seb began miming furious imprecations at Miss Murder.

She affected not to understand, dancing out of his reach with an impish grin before shooting a meaningful look over his shoulder.

Seb ceased further threats as the other man turned, daring one last glare in Murder’s direction. She ignored him pointedly, her attention on Gillian as the big guy ushered them towards the lounge, and the sounds of armed combat. Gillian’s (shirtless) flatmate glanced up as they entered, flashing them a smile before turning his attention back to the action on screen.

Cryo Black,” Murder said, coming round to stand behind the couch for a better view. “First assault on the dreadnought?”

The flatmate nodded, glancing up for a brief reassessment of the woman now stood behind him.

Make sure you get the ICE in lab two. You won’t need it now, but it comes in handy later.”

Um, okay... thanks.”

Seb raised an eyebrow at Murder, who grinned.

See you guys have met Caleb then,” Gillian offered, swaggering in to join them. “Sorry about the mess and stuff, would’ve tidied up if I’d known you were on your way over.”

Seb glanced from Caleb’s abs to what was swinging about inside the front of Gillian’s sweat shorts. No need to apologise…

Hey don’t worry about it...” Murder shot Seb a look “...you’re the one doing me a favour.”

I figured that’s why you were here.” Gillian sauntered over to the kitchen. “Can I offer you a drink before we go through?”

Go through…?!? “Juice if you have it.”

Murder glanced back at him shrewdly. “Same for me thanks.” She skirted back round the couch to grab him by the arm, practically dragging him away from the sight of Caleb rearranging himself during a lull in hostilities.

Gillian fixed their juices in tall glasses with ice, straw and freshly sliced orange. Seb accepted his with a nod of thanks, this display of hospitality being enough of a shock to drag his mind back out of the gutter (at least temporarily).

Another beer?” Gillian called from the depths of the fridge.

Cheers bro.” Caleb, from the couch.

Gillian fished two out, tossing one across the room without apparent warning. Caleb caught it deftly, twisting the top off and then cursing as the initial burst of fizz went everywhere.

You shook it up, you bastard!” Caleb growled, peering over the back of the couch with a grin.

Don’t know what you’re talking about,” Gillian replied, with a wink for Seb and Raina. He gestured them ahead of him down the corridor towards his room, Murder herding Seb ahead of her.

But I wanted to help dry him off… Seb risked a look back… with my tongue… There was a brief glimpse of torso, but Murder wasn’t having any of it.

Again, excuse...” Gillian offered, waving a hand in the direction of a wardrobe that seemed to have vomited its contents across the surrounding floor space “...here.” He bent to straighten the duvet.

That’s really not helping… Seb forced his teeth to stop grinding.

Seriously, don’t sweat it,” Murder offered, shooing Gillian towards his terminal and taking a seat on the edge of the bed. “So, what have you got for us?”

Seb sat down cautiously next to her, sipping at his juice.

Well...” Gillian took a seat, calloused fingers dancing lightly over the keys as he woke the machine before him. Like most hackers Seb had met his equipment looked innocuous enough until you paid attention to the details. There was an obvious air of customisation to the set up that reeked of technical skill way beyond his own, and he considered himself fairly tech savvy.

So.” Gillian finished unpicking what he’d been after on screen with a flourish. “This here’s your prize.” He gestured at a tree of nestled directories. “It’s worth mentioning I had to out source for some of the encryption cracking, called in a few favours from our friends in the north.”

Murder nodded. “‘That Woman’?”

Gillian grinned. “Got it in one.”

She okay?” Murder asked, leaning forward to peer at the data onscreen.

Usual gripes. Store got trashed last week apparently in the riots. She had some choice words to say about the NPD.”

I bet she did.” Murder shook her head. “I saw the coverage on the news, looked pretty ugly.”

Gillian nodded. “She said to pass on her regards.”

I’ll drop her a message later to say thanks.”

Sure she’ll appreciate it. Anyways...” his hands flew over the keys briefly again “...I have the wreckage of the shells she pulled apart for us,” he waved up dizzying lines of ragged code, “thought it might be useful for our own crypting.”

Murder nodded. “Good call.”

And this...” and Gillian dragged a set of documents to the fore “...is what they were protecting.”

Seb scanned the data onscreen, the butterflies that had been doing somersaults in his stomach plunging suddenly down an abyss. “Those look like...”

...shipping contracts. Yes.” Gillian’s look was grim.

What would a coven want with off world shipping rights?” Murder, thinking aloud.

I don’t know, but I have some nasty ideas.” Seb glanced at her soberly, all thoughts of lechery banished in light of this fresh revelation.

Murder nodded, obviously following something of his train of reasoning. “Can you package this up for us?” she asked, turning to Gillian.

Already done,” the big guy replied, holding up a fresh pen drive. Murder indicated Seb, who accepted it from Gillian’s calloused palm.

Okay, so not all banished, he admitted, studiously ignoring the little spark of excitement the brief skin contact had ignited.

You have copies?” Murder asked.

Gillian nodded. “Followed the usual protocols.”

Good, well done.” Murder rose, Seb following suit. “I really appreciate you doing this.”

Hey, anything that helps the cause.” Gillian grinned, chucking Seb on the shoulder. “And nice to see you in some normal clothes mate. Not that that little black number didn’t suit you...”

Yes, alright...” Seb found himself blushing furiously at the mirth dancing in the other man’s eyes. He glanced hopefully at Murder, but she was trying to suppress giggles of her own.

Seriously man, or should that be woman...” Gillian laughed, giving Seb a quick hug. “I’m only messing with you bro. But you did rock the frock. Not many dudes can say that.”

Well, I’ll take that as a compliment.”

As you should,” Murder offered, having finally gained some control over her mirth. “Aah, Gill, we really should do this more often. You guys will have to come over for dinner one night.”

Sure!” Gillian took their empty glasses, leading them back down the corridor to deposit them in the kitchen, rolling his eyes at the damp towel tossed onto the side. In the lounge Caleb was now in full stealth mode onscreen, face intent as he waded gun muzzle first down a half flooded service duct. He was still (Seb couldn’t help noticing) a little damp...

Down boy.

Our guests are leaving,” Gillian offered pointedly as he walked past, tossing the towel at Caleb.

Oh, yeah...” Caleb dodged without taking his eyes off the screen “...bye.”

Laters,” Murder replied, returning Gillian’s exasperated look with one of understanding.

Yeah, laters.” Seb hurried after the others before one or more of the voices shouting for attention in his head got control of his vocal chords.

I meant it about dinner,” Murder said at the door, standing on tip toes to give the tall hacker a peck on the cheek. “It’s been ages since we’ve seen you, I know Mum would love to have you and the little lady over.”

I’ll speak to Louisa.” Gillian assured her. He turned to clasp hands with Seb, pulling him in for an unexpected hug. “Take care dude, maybe see you there too?”

Oh he’ll be there if he knows what’s good for him,” Murder said grinning. Seb turned from her to Gillian, who winked at him as they stepped out into the corridor beyond.

They walked back to the lift in silence, the tide of hormones receding to leave him washed up on uncertain shores.

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