Dreams of odd things floated on Melu’s mind that night; water, swimming and feeling enclosed and trapped despite her freedom. Not bad enough to be nightmares, but bad enough to cause the dragoness to stir in her sleep and wake. Twice during the night she’d woken and the second time, she’d sworn that she’d heard something faintly. A scratching, tapping sound had caused her to sit up, rubbing at her eyes sleepily as she’d reached over activating the lamp at the side of her bed to look about.
A glow in the darkness of the night of her room showing off all her smooth curves, Melu slept naked, since clothes for her were often an issue with her dreaming. Should a dream affect her subconsciously, Melu’s breasts may suddenly inflate or her wings start beating, meaning damage to either her limbs or clothing. It was just easier for her to sleep in the buff than deal with tangled clothing or limbs in the morning.
“Gnnrr… That better not be you Smudge,” Melu groaned groggily as she glanced about. The scratching and tapping sounds had stopped now, leaving the room in mostly the calm city sounds of the nightlife. “I swear… if that’s you Smudge…” Nothing. No movement. Everything where it was the night before. Even the bag with the large golden orb laying on a pile of worn clothing near the heater.
Melu’s room was kept a bit of organized chaos, various objects and gadgets placed upon the walls and clothing thrown about the room from wherever Melu tossed it after she took it off. Once a week she’d clear the room and wash them all, but usually her room was otherwise piled up with older clothes. Because of this, her room smelt somewhat of the mineral spring water of the spa, something that Melu really enjoyed.
Something she did seem to enjoy though, was keeping her room very warm. While she would enjoy swimming and the crisp coolness of the water, outside of it, Melu seemed to enjoy rather warm places. Mom told her that it was probably because of the fact their home world was very warm, being between two suns, creating a very warm and tropical world and Melu missed that warmth when she wasn’t in the water.
Whatever the reason, the heat usually kept Smudge out of her room, the rat seeming to be very interested in the belongings that they had at times. Still, that scratching and scurrying noises had her on an edge… Maybe they had an infestation of Geeisals again. That wouldn’t be fun to deal with, rodent like creatures that slithered through the walls, feeding of electrical outlets. Melu flopped back sleepily to her bed eyes rolling up to the ceiling. On the ceiling was an old and faded poster of a tropical looking world; clear blue water as far as could see, with an island and a sunset upon it. She gave a small sigh. She couldn’t recall her home world much… She’d be very young when she and her mother had been taken.
But something in her yearned to one day visit, if she knew where it was. Or had reason to go out searching in the stars. Yawning widely, Melu stared up at her poster, blinking in fatigued blinks, trying to remember and imagine. Sitting on a sandy beach, a drink in her hand, soaking up the sun as she listened to the waves upon the shoreline… One day, she told herself wearily as she began to drift back off to sleep. One day. --- Cursing and swearing to herself, Melu scrambled about her bedroom, attempting to pull a shirt over her head and wings, struggling to get the thing over her chest. Growling to herself, she knew this thing fit her the last time that she put it on. She was starting to stress out; already she was running late for something she wasn’t keen on doing and now...
“Oh come on!” she attempted to twist the top, only to then notice her chest grow a little more, inflating a little larger. This was starting to... Melu paused, cupping her breasts in her claws a little to feel. They were indeed larger than normal. Suddenly it all became clear to her. She was stressing out and it was causing her boobs to grow and expand, slow enough that she hadn’t noticed it in her nerves about everything. Closing her eyes and attempting to calm down, taking a few deep breaths, Melu’s chest began to slowly shrink and retract within her chest until she was able to pull the shirt over herself.
“Finally... Sometimes these things are just a curse,” she moaned to herself as she checked everything that she needed. Her id card was in her pocket, she was covered up as she needed to for exploring the city and the bag with the golden orb was safely secured. Last thing she’d want was some thief or mugger to see it and want it.
Opening the bag, Melu took a look at the orb. She blinked curiously at it as she studied it. She swore last night that she’d laid it in the satchel length wards, but this morning it seemed to nearly be sitting up. And as she touched at it, it felt... warm. Again, that odd feeling washed over her as Melu stared at it, feeling that odd desire to keep it and protect it. She’d never felt feelings like this before as she rolled the golden nugget to its side, refastening the bag. It was probably warm as she’d thrown it in the clothes pile near the heater overnight, but still... Should she go through with this? She really disliked going to the pawn broker Zouupin anyway. The guy was a complete sleaze.
Maybe she should just skip over it. Tell them that she wanted to keep it. After all, Namine had claimed the occasional trinket or tech gizmo, Mom as well. Smudge didn’t seem too worried about material things other than what it could get him. Melu herself, often passed up on things unless it was very pretty, like a sapphire necklace that Smudge had found a year ago. No one would blame her for deciding she wanted to keep it, right?
She was debating it when suddenly there was a knock on the door and a voice questioned, “Melu dear? Are you alright in there?” Snapping out of her thoughts, Melu blinked, looking about, “Err, wha? Oh, sorry. Yes Mom, I’m fine...” she called out as the door slid open with a light swoosh sound.
Strolling into the room was a slightly larger and older water dragon, with hide of a more turquoise colour to Melu’s blue. A kind expression seemed to look about the room, shaking her head. “You always keep this place in such a mess Melu...” Known only as Mom, the kindly mother of Melu treated all her friends as children. Both Namine and Smudge called her as Mom and she treated them as her children as well.
“Not really Mom,” Melu protested as she began to sling the bag over her shoulder. She remembered that she’d suggested they not show Mom the orb. She might want to keep it. That thought managed to help Melu remember that they wanted the credits for it. Several thousand credits would go a long way to improving the spa and helping them. “I like to think there’s just enough balance between chaos and order to keep it from collapsing.”
Placing her hands on her hips, Mom smirked to Melu, “Have you been reading those stories again to say something like that?” “Maybe,” Melu teased. She considered a few moments showing Mom the orb and asking about these odd feelings, but decided against it. “I have an errand to run to the pawn broker for Smudge this morning, so it’s just you and Namine this morning opening. That’s okay with you?”
Giving a warm smile and a flick of her wings as a shrug, Mom replied, “Not a problem at all there Melu. If it’s anything like yesterday, you could probably take the whole day off.” “Oh, nah...” Melu shook her head. It was tempting, but really, what was there to do here in Capital besides shop and watch the space ships take off? “Thanks, but I’ll be back afterwards. Though I should get going. Running late as it is...” Chuckling a little, Mom stepped back out of Melu’s room, “Don’t let me hold you up. I’ll go get the place ready for opening. Namine’s downstairs already for opening. She asked for you to stop by on your way out.” Then with that, Mom footsteps were heard going down the hall, towards the stairs down to the spa, before the door slid shut with another swoosh. Standing there, checking over everything one more time; card, shoes and bag. Seemed like she had everything, but she felt like she was forgetting something, though nothing came to mind. Slinging the bag over her shoulder, the dragoness slipped her clawed feet into some sandals she had for when she walked about the streets and left her room, the automatic door swinging open and closing behind her.
Descending the stairs and pressing her claw against the palm print scanner, the door separating their living quarters from the spa. The lower level of the building had the pools and the massage rooms, but once one ventured up the stairs, there was a four bedroom house, complete with a kitchen and a spacious living room. It often smelled of fresh water, but Namine was the only one that complained of the smell, given she was the only non water dragon. There was one empty room they currently used for storage, given that Smudge didn’t want to live with them.
Probably for the best, since the rat seemed to hate washing and for a spa, that would give them a bit of a poor image. The door closing behind Melu, she turned down the main hall, empty and quiet. Sitting at the main reception was her three horned companion playing a virtual hologram game upon her PDA. Melu rolled her eyes as Namine gave a curse as the hologram monsters attacked. “Nami... Are you still trying to save the world with that children’s card game?” “Hey, it’s not just a kid’s game,” protested the saurian as she began to tap at the holograms, selecting her moves. “But this user, MrPwnUrFace... Argh... I swear he has to be cheating when he... Oh come on!” Namine cried out in protest as one of her holographic card monsters exploded into pixellated gibs.
Sighing, Melu pointed to the doors. “Remember to open on time and remember to put that thing away when you’re not on break. We’re supposed to open in fifteen.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Namine waved her hand, focusing back to her game. “I’ve done it before. Good luck with Zouupin. I’ll call if we need you.” Rolling her eyes again, Melu pressed the button at the door as it swipped open, Melu strolling out into the city. Outside their building, the skyscrapers reached up high into the sky to where low lying clouds masked their tops, hover crafts zooming between them overhead and lower down in various heighted tiers until just over their own heads. Various alien species wandered the streets about their business on their feet, tentacles, claws or whatever they may have; some families with children and others individually, others flogging wares for credits.
Capital wasn’t exactly high up on space port cities, being somewhat of a backwater place really, but it was still Melu’s home. It was what she was used to, even though she did crave to eventually check out other worlds. She wouldn’t want to leave behind Mom, Namine and Smudge for too long. It was the travellers and guests that talked of grand huge sprawling metropolis’ which sparked Melu’s curiosity the most. Telling of places where the entre planet was a multilayered city so high up that the surface was almost considered a myth. It made Capital seem like a quaint little village.
Glancing up, Melu’s mind was elsewhere when he bumped into someone. “Wha!?” Melu gasped, glancing about as her shirt tightened suddenly as her surprise caused a mild inflation.
“Oye! Watch where you are going!” snapped a familiar voice to Melu. Feminie, elderly and harsh, like nails on a chalkboard; Melu cursed herself as she looked down towards the smaller creature below her. It was somewhat bird like, with feathers and wing arms, chubby and plump, with massive owl-like eyes that filled up most of the front of her face.
As the bird like creature glowered up at Melu, the dragoness winced, “I’m sorry Ms. Gutheryl. My mind was elsewhere.” The fat little bird Gutherly was one of their regular customers and also one of their worst; snappy, demanding and always complaining. “As it is always with you lot,” she squawked angrily, folding her wings in a cross glare. “Well, are you going to stand there all day looking stupid or get out of my way?” Grimacing, Melu quickly stepped out of the way, as Gutheryl began to waddle away down the street grumbling, “Good for nothing… No respect…”
One of these days, I’ll just drown you in the pools… Melu hissed within her own head. As the bird disappeared amongst the other people, Melu’s chest deflated again and she set off, turning down this street, ducking down that alley, up these stairs and then down those ones, before she came to a small corner store upon a run down street. A few ragged looking individuals lingered about the run down streets, a few turning their gaze to Melu curiously as if she felt out of place in her somewhat fancy garb. She wasn’t worried about her safety, but the dragoness still knew they were wondering about her presence here.
The store before her was somewhat dark, the lights inside dim and a few odd curiosities shown in the window, ranging from old robot parts of discontinued models to forgotten relics from off world cultures and various weapons. A dirty sign over the door read ‘Zouupin’s Emporium of Offworld Oddities and Curiosities’.
Taking a deep breath, Melu clutched her bag and pushed forward into the store, the doors opening before her as she stepped into the emporium. The first thing she noticed was the smell; a musty and old dusty smell as her eyes adjusted to the low light inside the store. She coughed a little, the smell at first tickling her nose before Melu gave a light sneeze.
As her eyes adjusted, she began to see that the store was currently empty. There were a number of shelves upon the walls and in the centre of the store, with even more odder items resting on display upon them all with a counter at the back wall. Strange instruments and tools, weapons that looked several centuries old and even some strange oversized discs with some odd alien called ‘Elvis’ on the front of them.
The dragoness was starting to examine the odd things on a shelves that was labelled ‘books’ with things written in alien languages when, “Ello poppet,” croaked behind her. Giving a jump, Melu felt her chest inflate and her heart race, twisting about to see the creature having just appeared behind her. “Scared ya did we?” he snickered, all six eyes firmly upon her inflated breasts. Zouupin resembled something of a big upright toad almost. His hide wasn’t slimy or greasy, but a smooth texture. A large mouth seemed to split his head nearly in half at the middle, flapping like a large trap, as his eyes were in two groups of three, with one large eye and two smaller ones on each side of the top of his head. Though one of the smaller eyes was lazy, never truly focusing on anything, Smudge claiming it wasn’t a real eye but a failed cybernetic replacement. His body was large and chunky, with a pair of muscular arms on each side of his body, giving him a total of four arms and two legs. He was wearing a jumpsuit that looked like it was a few decades old.
The toad was a sleaze in Melu’s eyes with the way his eyes were always on her chest and often sneaking about like that to watch her inflate. Breathing out to calm herself again, her boobs shrinking, finding that this was happening way too much today for her liking already, Melu ignored the question and addressed her business, “Morning Zouupin. Smudge brought us something that we thought you might be interested in.”
Placing one set of hands upon his hips, Zouupin smirked widely. “Oh really now poppet? What’s the rat found for me this time? Better not be another couple o’ them portal ringy things that he brought me last time. They just don’t wanna sell. No one wants some ring that things go in and ya can never get it out.”
“No, not this time,” Melu shook her head, glancing about the shop to make sure it was clear, before unlatching the top of the bag. A small glimmer of the golden orb and Zouupin’s eyes, all six of them went wide. He pointed with an arm to the counter as he scrambled towards the doors, switching the sign to ‘Back in Five Minutes’ and locking the doors.
“Well now poppet, this is quite the find then… if it be genuine,” Zouupin told Melu as he shuffled behind the counter. “Let us see it then.”
Placing the bag on the counter, Melu lifted the golden globe from the satchel and placed it upon the counter, before reaching into the bag and lifting it out and resting it next to the bag as Zouupin began to handle it in two of his hands, examining it. “We know you are often after gold Zouupin,” Melu began, attempting to talk it up in the hopes of lifting the price a bit. “So we decided to come to you first before anyone else because we knew that you could make a good deal for us and--”
“Ain’t gold poppet,” the toad answered flatly as he lifted it in two of his hands, the remaining ones resting on the counter. “Too light to be gold. And wrong texture too…”
Melu’s jaw dropped. Not gold? But… She’d been expecting to… She suddenly felt so deflated with the fact that the orb wasn’t the big pay check they were expecting. “Are… Are you sure?” she asked, her voice wavering a little.
“Yup. Right as rain,” the toad nodded, as one of his arms reached under the counter, pulling out a small nugget of gold the size of the toad’s palm and placing it upon the counter. “Go ‘head and feel for yourself. Lift it up too while yer at it.”
Reaching for the nugget, Melu instantly noticed that the gold in her hand was particularly heavy for what it was and its surface was rather bumpy and coarse feeling. As her other hand reached and brushed over her orb, she could feel as she felt across it that it was very smooth.
“Well, maybe it’s been polished and it’s uhh… I…” Melu stammered, before sighing, her wings drooping as she felt defeated. This wasn’t what they were hoping it to be. Finally looking up, she looked to Zouupin as she handed his nugget back over to him, “Well, any idea what it is then?”
Shrugging with the two top arms, he replied as the lower took the gold from the counter and placed it safely away again, “Beats me. Could break it open and see. Could melt it down and sell it to some fool I guess as well.”
Lifting her spirits at that news, Melu considered looking to the orb. “Well… How much then would you offer for it?” A hand lifting up to scratch at his fat chin, Zouupin considered as he turned it over in his hands in thought. “I’d offer ya fifty credits for it. It’s really worth nothing it seems, so I think that’ fair.”
Melu winced. Fifty credits? That was very shy of their hopes of a few hundred to a thousand credits for the item. That would be barely enough for her to order a gourmet take out for the entire family let alone any other hopes for them. And as she saw the orb in Zouupin’s fat fingers, she felt… very uneasy about it. A primal fear seeming to well in her at this thought of him having it and melting it down, seeming to make her want to panic at it. But fifty credits? Only fifty?
“I… No. I think I’ll hold onto it,” Melu shook her head. “I think if it’s only worth that much and it nothing special, I might hold onto it myself.” Shrugging, Zouupin handed the globe back to her. “Pity. Seems like it might have something in there. Feels like it’s meant to house something me thinks. So if you wanna crack it open sometime, whatever is inside might be worth selling and ya know where to find me poppet.”
Sliding the orb back into her bag, Melu fastened it and pulled it down, slinging it over her shoulder again, her gaze to make sure it was securely fastened and hidden. “Well, thanks for your time Zouupin, I’ll get going and—Yaah!” Melu shrieked in surprise as the toad held up a sinister looking mask over his face, causing her to yelp and her chest to expand tightly in her shirt once again, Zouupin gurgling in amused laughter. --- Slowly making her way back to her business and home, Melu felt strangely defeated from everything that had transpired and enjoying the long walk to clear her head. She’d gotten rather excited about everything and hadn’t even considered the thought that the idea wasn’t what they had all thought it was. Foolish thinking…
Pausing to buy herself a drink at a local coffee store on the way back (and ignoring the questioning glares from Ms. Gutheryl who by dumb luck was sitting at a nearby table), Melu sat down and checked the time, taking a quick peek at the orb inside the satchel. It’d been two hours since opening now, the dragoness taking her time to get back. No calls from the others to ask for help, so maybe she should take a day off. She began to search her pockets for her phone to call the others.
Cursing to herself, Melu suddenly realized that she had left it at home. Of course, now she knew why she’d felt she was forgetting something earlier today. She had left her phone upon the shelf in her room. Collecting her cappuccino, Melu quickly left, sipping the drink on her way back to the spa, ready to drop off the bag and relax in her room for the rest of the day.
But when she arrived, the foyer was full of chattering aliens and Namine was running about in a frantic dash, attempting to clean up after people and calm them down. Seems that today was actually going to be a very busy day compared to the previous day’s dry spell. “Melu!” the triceratops gasped in relief. “Thank the stars… Why weren’t you answering your phone? We need you to help out quickly. We’ve got these people all to serve, the Bloggett slugs came to visit and we need a clean up in room four. Mom’s at the pools and…”
Frowning and motioning with her hands for Namine to calm down, Melu attempted to soothe her friend. “Easy Namine. Give me a minute or two to get dressed then I’ll be right down.” Pushing past the people to the staircase, Melu hurried to her bedroom, tossing the satchel with the worthless orb into the pile of clothes near her heater again and quickly stripping naked from her suit to throw on her looser work clothing and kick off her sandals.
Then returning downstairs, the dragoness quickly leapt into the chaos to try and assist both Mom and Namine as best she could. It was a very, very busy day, with the cleaning of the room from the slug people who’d left slime everywhere, dealing with bratty children that ran all over the place and one even puking on the carpet. Even when they had finally shut up shop for the day, all three of them had taken a ten minute break, Melu, Mom and Namine barely able to do much other than stare at each other in disbelief.
They’d had busy days before, but for some reason, today had been absolutely hell. They’d learn a few weeks later that Smudge had attempted to promote them by offering a discount coupon for that day only without warning them. The resulting argument with the rat erupted into Namine chasing the rat in circles about the pool.
But right now, as the carpets were finally cleaned, the pools cleared, rooms sparkling and everything smelling fresh, Melu staggered from exhaustion to her room. Namine was already snoring away in her room across the hall, door wide open. Mom was finishing up something in the kitchen, but Melu was too worn out to even bother with the thought of eating.
Groaning to herself, the dragoness pressed the button from inside her room, the door locking behind her. Near tearing off her clothes and tossing them aside, Melu fell backwards upon her bed, feeling the world slipping away as she fell. She was asleep even before she landed.