Iron Rose Bleeding

Chapter 11

Anne Azel

To: Inga, Lisa, and Susan, thanks for your help.

The Anne Azel's World web site is now found at

Note To The Reader: All the information used in this story about trends and concerns on our planet is current and accurate data. In the next fifty years, our world will change completely.

These are the events as we know them.

We recorded them factually and objectively.

And now we report them to you.

With great embarrassment, Tap reluctantly let Courtney pay for their morning coffee. Then they slipped into their limo that had pulled up to the curb as soon as the women had got up and headed over to the Piazza della Rotonda where the Pantheon stood.

To Courtney's surprise the usually pragmatic Tap became almost excited when she described the structure of this building. "The original building that stood here was destroyed by fire in 80 AD. This one was built during the reign of the emperor Hadrian. The man is known for his military brilliance but he was too a lover of the arts and had a great interest in architecture. This building is simple amazing. Look at the dome, Courtney, the central opening at the top allows air and light in, yet the massive stone blocks that make up the dome are just as sound today as they were two thousand years ago. You see, it is as if a big balloon was blown up inside and the walls and dome expanded to accommodate it," Tap explained standing in the centre of the black and white marble floor, arms spread in explanation. "The interior measures 43,40 metres and it is the same in height. The whole building is a perfect sphere. That is amazing. This place was built by hand, each block chipped into shape and lifted into place." Tap turned around, looking up at the structure with real admiration in her eyes and a sense of pride.

A woman passing by Courtney, leaned over and whispered, "I wish we had your guide. She is certainly enthusiastic."

Courtney chuckled and Tap went beet red with embarrassment. "I am not your guide," she stated with some indignation.

Which made Courtney laugh even more. "Of course you are not,"she pacified the miffed woman.

Their next stop was the Colosseum. Tap paid the extra 8 lira each so that they could go up to the second level. Looking down on the ruins of the floor and sub basements, Courtney began to understand Tap's excitement with the wonder of this early architecture. "This place is contemporary with the Pantheon and was built at the order of the Emperor Vespasian. It was designed to be flooded so that the "Naumachie""naval battles" could take place here. They also held "Munera""gladiator fights" and "Venationes""wild animal hunts". The place held 97,000 spectators and the doors were labeled with the row numbers to allow an easy flow of crowds," Tap explained seriously.

"It is unbelievable. Look at the size of it!" Courtney exclaimed, leaning forward to get a closer look at the passageways and cells in the substructure below.

"It eventually fell into disuse and became the city garbage dump for many years," Tap stated.

Courtney looked at Tap with interest. There was a sadness in the taller woman's eyes. An awareness of things cruel and violent. "You don't like this place, do you?"

Tap shrugged. "War is an art but one that is so dark that it leaves only pain even for those who win. I do not see the entertainment in that. Are you ready to go?" Courtney nodded and they left in a quiet and reflective mood.

They spent the remainder of the day walking through a nearby shopping area and packing for their flight out that night. Tap, who dreaded the thought of shopping, found that she had enjoyed herself simply because Courtney was having such a good time.

Once again, they took the Concorde across the Atlantic. Courtney tried to read but the article on the massive destruction of the rain forest by lumbering and the impact that had in reducing rainfall to the interior areas had made her quite depressed. When she got to the part where the author talked about how 1965 was the last time the planet was able to produce more oxygen than was needed and that every breath taken since had gone through four sets of lungs first, she gave up. Maybe the average person had it right: watch sitcoms and don't think about the crisis that lurked just around the corner.

She took her pillow and shyly leaned it against Tap's shoulder. "Is this okay?"

Tap nodded and smiled and then went back to her work. Courtney curled close and placed her head on the pillow, needing to feel Tap's warmth.

The next few days were very busy and she hadn't seen Tap since they had arrived back at the estate. Courtney had been archiving the data they had brought back and keeping up on the reading that would arrive daily on her computer. But on the third night, she was woken by the sound of Tap calling her name outside her tent. She crawled out and stood and was wrapped insistently in Tap's arms. "I have missed you."

"I know you are busy but you could email me or something,"Courtney suggested, holding on tightly to Tap.

"I have been away. It is not always possible for me to communicate freely. Sometimes situations are tense," Tap responded cautiously. She felt Courtney's body tighten.

"Are you in danger, Tap?"

Tap rubbed Courtney's back gently. "My position creates danger for me but I am careful. You are not to worry."

"I do worry. I...I care about you, Tap," Courtney admitted a bit afraid of how Tap would take that admission.

For a second there was silence. "I care about you too, Courtney Hunter. Come and sit down here on the rocks, I need to talk to you about tomorrow. Each month, I have a meeting with my chief personnel and report to them on my findings. Tomorrow you will speak instead."

Courtney looked up into clear aqua eyes in surprise. "Tap do you think that wise? They might resent me."

"It is decision I have weighed very seriously and I feel this is the course of action that needs to be taken. There are many things that you are yet unaware of that I have considered in making this decision. Can you be ready to present a summary of our data by nine hundred hours tomorrow?" Tap asked, as she lay back with a sigh and looked at the dome above. It was late and the courtyard lights had now been turned off. Through the dome a thousand stars shone brightly in the night sky.

Courtney lay back beside her. "Yes. I think so,"she said, with more confidence than she felt. She needed to prove she had a right to be here. For a long while, they lay in silence looking at the stars overhead and listening to the soothing sound of water as it flowed over the rocks in the channel.

A satellite caught the light of the sun and slowly drifted in an arc across the sky. Tap pointed it out to her. "It is a French communication satellite," Tap explained. "An old one from the 70s."

"Do you believe in UFOs?"Courtney asked, dreamily.

"What?"came the sharp reply. Tap had been taken unawares and needed time to think where this conversation was going. "What" is not always used as a question but as a means of forcing clarification to allow time for thought.

"You know UFOs, little green men sightings," Courtney laughed.

Tap cringed. "Do you?"

"Well, not little green men or even flying saucers. The distance to the nearest planet that might be able to support life just seems way too far away to allow conventional space travel. It would take light years just to get here even at the speed of light. But I do like to think that there is intelligent life out there. Don't you?"

"Yes, I believe the same. The idea does not scare you?"

"Of course not...well as long as they remain a theory. I mean if an alien was to beam down here I'd probably have a heart attack," she laughed.

Tap gave a ghost of a smiled then went on seriously, "I would like to sleep with you tonight, Courtney Hunter."

Courtney's eyes got round. "Aaah, Tap, I mean I am attracted to you but I don't know you very well. I don't..."

"I do not feel that I am ready for sex with you either, Court. I just meant that I want to sleep beside you. The kissing makes me want more."

Courtney looked into those remarkable eyes for a long time. "You are a very strange person, Tap. You say and do things in such a - different way. But I can't help wanting more too. If I have your word that you will not take advantage of the situation, yes, I would like to share a bed with you too."

Tap stood immediately and offered Courtney her hand. She pulled the smaller woman up effortlessly. Courtney got what she needed for the night and together they made their way across the channel to the path in the courtyard that ran along the front of the staff quarters. Dark eyes watched them go.

They entered the sand room and crossed over it to enter a smaller room filled with electronic equipment. "Security," Tap explained, and keyed in some codes that allowed Courtney to follow her into Tap's private rooms undetected.

The room was - different. Once again, there was no furniture. One wall was a sheet of water that flowed over metal and ran out a channel in the floor. The others were a soft, silver grey. Each of the three remaining walls had an abstract painting on it in gentle muted colours and flowing lines. Courtney walked over to one and looked at it intently. It almost seemed to move. "Who is the artist?" she asked. "They are all by the same person I can tell." Her back to Tap, she did not see the look of astonishment.

"They are Tay Appala Punra," Tap answered honesty. When truth is not understood it is as good as a lie.

"I don't know the name, but this work... it seem so familiar. They are beautiful," Courtney stated ,and turned to see Tap looking at her with a smile of appreciation. "No bed, huh?"

"I always sleep on a mattress on the floor. Is this satisfactory to you?" Tap asked, trying to act as if her world had not been rocked by Courtney's innocent remarks about the paintings.

"Yes, that is fine." Tap nodded, and started to take her clothes off carefully hanging each piece in a walk in closet off to the side.

At first, Courtney had hesitated but when she remembered that nudity was no big deal in the community, she followed suit, pleased that Tap's eyes reflected approval of Courtney's soft curves. Court had always been athletic and her body was well toned without being muscular.

They showered separately, Tap going first while Courtney finished hanging her clothes up. It seemed strange to see her black jump suit next to Tap's. On hers was the red tag that allowed her into the private areas and public areas of Tap's world. On Tap's pocket there was a blue bar. Courtney wondered what secret places that security strip would open. She didn't touch it. Already she was in way over her head.

Tap was already propped up on cushions and reading off her palm pilot screen when Courtney returned. At the sight of her, Tap put down her reading and watched as Courtney crossed the floor and sunk onto the mattress beside her. Tap flipped the cover over both of them and the light in the room slowly faded.

The sensation of lying beside Tap was wonderful. It just felt right to be there. As unusual as Tap's environment was, it felt as if she belonged there. She relaxed slowly and then curled up close to Tap and went to sleep.

Tap was a very long time getting to sleep that night. She stayed awake just soaking in the physical sensations of sleeping naked beside Courtney. It was like nothing she had ever experienced before. The intensity of the sensation made her close to losing control. She knew psychologically she was not ready to consider having a sexual relationship with Court but physically her body was crying out for release. Finally, sleep came and she drifted into a sensuous dream.

It was a raw, passionate mating, their lips hungry and needy of each other. Tap could feel the warmth of Courtney's body on her and instinctively she knew what Courtney would do to give her pleasure. The dream taking was intense and vivid and Tap woke with a gasp and shudder of need.

Courtney was asleep, one arm wrapped over Tap's waist and her head resting on Tap's shoulder. By sheer will power Tap regulated her breathing and controlled her need. She had promised Courtney that she would not take advantage. It was a rash promise made with no real understanding until now as to just how strong the desire to have sex with someone you were really attracted to could be. Tap, for the first time in her adult life, felt herself totally out of her depth.

Chapter 12

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