buy a handbag from Worthy’s.” Prin paused with her
friend at a vendor’s Domarlan Moon jewelry stall. “The
bag from the Elite line that whispers ‘Worthy’ whenever
it detects eye contact.”
“Worthy’s is so starry,” said Gat.
girls sighed in unison.
been saving my credits. I’ve more than enough,” said
Prin. She shivered in anticipation.
“You’ll spend them all,” said Gat. “It’s Worthy’s.”
won’t. Can’t. I have to buy Mom’s medicine on the way
home.” Prin wished she had wealthy parents like Gat’s.
“Nobody ever leaves Worthy’s with credits.”
rolled her eyes.
sniffed. “Quick. Raise your filters. Rootlers. A whole
Fingering her neck implants, Prin keyed her personal
shield, activating the smell filters.
rootlers in short skirts and heels thundered by,
squealing to each other. Dots on the ungulates’ fat legs
decreased in size and color intensity closer to their
ankles. The crowd parted with rude comments.
should have let them into the Opaltum Consortium,” said
a slorn. He draped his snake-like body from the corner
of the striped awning over his stall.
silently agreed as she admired his ware with faces
carved into the gemstones.
slorn slithered closer with his tongue flicking in and
out, his eyes unblinking. “Good deals. Specials today.”
He clasped his tiny vestigial hands together.
picked up a fluorescing pink necklace. “I’d like this
touched Prin’s elbow. “Surely, you can spare a few
“Watch.” Prin touched the corner of the stone. “The
faces on this piece kiss.”
slorn coiled above them. “I have other interactive
pieces under the counter if you’d like to step inside.”
He waggled his tufted ears. “They do more than kiss.”
His breath reeked of curdled milk.
stepped backward, her face flushed.
face mirrored Prin’s disgust. She tossed her hair, long
and blonde today.
a calming breath, Prin said, “Come, Gat. We’re going to
Worthy’s.” Still, she couldn’t help a backward glance at
and Gat merged into the stream of travelers rounding the
corner to the embarkation point. Prin forgot all about
the slorn and shook with excitement. She was really
going to Worthy’s.
crowd funneled through four gates.
“Glaxican,” boomed the first gate. A spray of colored
stars fountained from the top of an arched portico.
Rootlers stampeded toward it, scattering families in
said, “They have fantastic rides there.”
“You’re too old for that,” said Gat.
bristled. “Of course. I was just saying.” Just because
Gat was a year older, she didn’t have to be such a
rootler. Prin stifled her temper; today, everything
would be perfect.
next gate, a rainbow arched overhead. Colored sparkles
cascaded onto those entering its tunnel. The gate
announced: “Something for everyone. And everyone gets
Pictures of merchandise flickered in dizzying speed on
four screens and interactive line-of-sight pixels sensed
when a shopper’s gaze lingered on one image. The display
then drilled down into inventory personalized for that
shorter line converged on The Emporium’s Star Twinkle
gate, but Prin’s attention slid to Worthy’s. A massive
stone structure with a labyrinth of carvings bid her to
enter. “You know you’ve arrived,” the gate intoned to
the few waiting shoppers. They wore fashionable
ensembles, both luxurious and tasteful.
going to upscale.” Prin selected her most expensive
personal adornment program, her skin tingling beneath
her body suit as it activated. She stroked the white
lemfur stole trimmed with longer hairs of gray shading
to black. Her white motskin boots had matching fur. Prin
shook back the black, shoulder-length hair she had
selected, thinking it the most sophisticated. After all,
this was Worthy’s.
in line, a woman with stacked blonde curls raised her
voice. “What do you mean, I can’t embark? Scan my
credits again. I’ve more than enough.”
“Indeed,” replied a slim weymalian. The tip of his nose
actually curled upward as he spoke. “Please return to
shop another day. Your personal adornment program is
inferior. Standards, you know.” He touched a control.
The transporter belt on which the woman stood slid her
through another opening back out of the stone structure.
“Ridiculous,” she spluttered as the door swung shut
forward, please.” The weymalian’s elongated fingernails
depressed a button on the control panel. He regarded
tilted her chin higher. She’d been here before and knew
nose twitched. “Pass.”
took the position on the transporter. The weymalian
smelled of hazelnut coffee, a component of the species’
bloodstream, she’d been told.
pounding, Prin strode up the ramp with Gat to slip
through a shimmering curtain at the end of the hall.
Starlight glittered in Prin’s eyes as she teleported to
“Welcome,” a melodic female voice said. “You’ve arrived.
For age-appropriate merchandise, may I suggest Worthy’s
Fortunata? Please disembark.”
it’s just so starry!” Prin glanced up at the three-story
building with leopard marble pillars. The columns’ spots
morphed, sliding into one another, separating again, and
reforming. Four musicians strummed harps at an ebony
door towering two stories.
ahold of yourself,” hissed Gat. “Act like you belong.”
approaching catlynx held the tip of her tail in her hand
and swished it back and forth. She swiveled her
elongated neck to stare at them as she passed. A doorman
with white gloves clicked his shiny, booted heels
together and flung the door open to admit the slinky
catlynx without her even breaking stride.
Inside, the girls entered the humanoid wing. Prin
drooled over a shoe program that guaranteed its owner
uniqueness. The shoes changed whenever a like pair was
scanned within visual distance.
could see you in those,” said Gat. “They are the newest
promotions for Hol4 Day.”
go on,” said Prin. “We haven’t even gotten out of the
lobby.” It seemed her extra credits shifted as if they
would jump right out of her purse. Gat wasn’t helping
“Accessories this way.” Gat led Prin into an area draped
with giant scarves festooned from the ceiling.
Iridescent robotic butterflies dipped and swirled among
the sheer fabric, weaving sparkles of color. Prin didn’t
see the purse she wanted within the glass display cases.
grabbed Prin’s arm. “This way. Shoes are in the alcove.”
She hurried to a display of slippers with iridescent
tendrils that vined up the wearers’ calves. “Oh, yes.”
She pulled Prin closer.
scanner flashed across them. Not finding enough credits,
a force field of perfumed air blocked their passage. A
voice recording activated. “May I direct you to an
appropriate department?” A holographic map displayed the
third under level.
the alcove, two women sipping Champlene rolled their
eyes at the attempted intrusion.
stepped back. “Ignore them. Let’s go.”
seated themselves in the air-cushioned levelator, which
stopped at each floor whether anyone got out or not. At
the first level down, the doors opened to shoppers
picking from a buffet of mouth-watering pastries. Prin’s
stomach growled. Other shoppers reclined on velvet
couches set amid columns and fantastic statuary of wood
nymphs. Musicians serenaded them, and models paraded in
gowns of multi-layered sheer fabrics.
weymalian circled with a tray of free samples of
skyRillas. He held up one of the snail-like creatures to
a trio of matrons. “These are the best skin rejuvenating
rillas ever. Breathe in their pheromones to slumber in
erotic dreams of their home world, DeonSur, while the
rillas cleanse your skin and dispense a nourishing gel
from their shell.”
levelator door shut.
grandmother could use one of those.” Gat giggled.
door opened at the second under level. Shoppers sat at
marble café tables before a fruit juice bar. Schools of
air fish in neon orange and rose swam in lazy loops and
spirals on a current of argonited air above the bar.
third under level, Prin and Gat exited. No buffet or
lobby with free samples awaited them. However,
fluorescing chips in the floor changed color as they
whisked Prin to the shoe display. “Oh. Strutters!”
Dropping into a chair, Gat placed her foot on a pad for
measurement scanning and entered her style selection
into a keypad. Prin joined her, thinking her own motskin
boots were perhaps dated.
reindelyn salesperson glided up, clutching a packet of
programs. Her segmented body redistributed her mass as
hundreds of tiny legs rippled forward. Her upright torso
weaved before them.
kirk plenum flections sa ferdum em comp dedhomme.”
adjusted her translator for reindelyn and played back
the greeting. “I’pe brovnht seperal sekections in
addirion tu yovr rejuest.” Prin fine tuned her
equipment. She really did need to upgrade.
slipped a program chip into her unit, attached
wafer-thin muscle activators to her thighs and hips,
then stood. “I hope this works.”
a few steps, the program optimized. Her walk turned into
the strut of a runway model. She paraded before a
mirror, her smile spreading. “Wait until everyone sees
me in these. Or maybe, those. Why not get a pair for
groaned. “If only.”
strutted back to try on other pairs.
reindelyn said, “Moy I compkiment yov on yovr sekection?
I’ll take these,” said Gat.
Gat’s purchase, they found the accessory department and
the handbag Prin coveted. She kept looking away, then
back to make eye contact, just to hear the handbag
lite tu upnrade yov buots, uf curse,” said the reindelyn
hand trembled over the extra credits. “No upgrade. Next
clerk’s sensory filia whipped about then drooped. “Yov
dun’t wagt tu pos ir vp fur a fww crwdits.”
today,” said Prin.
glanced around. No other shoppers had heard. “Really,
Prin. You have the credits.”
have what I came for.”
“You’re really stopping there?”
Prin ignored Gat’s eye rolling. She turned to the
salesclerk. “Please wrap my old purse. I’ll carry the
they left the store, Prin imagined other shoppers
radiated their approval -- that she belonged. She was
Worthy. She smiled when her purse whispered to each
shopper they passed.
air itself seemed perfumed beneath the yellow dome
enclosing five Worthy’s stores with magnificent stone
facades. They rimmed a bowl-shaped center garden
landscaped with cascading pools, palms and lush foliage
from Glicon’s tropical moons.
stopped at a bed of kitpurr plants. Their blossoms bore
kitten faces and the stamens swayed in the breeze like
whiskers. The plants purred in a gentle, warming hum
that resonated across the walkway. She expected their
slitted eyes to open and wink at her.
“Look,” Gat cried.
Dancers in feathered costumes flitted by, followed by a
duo of pipers on a flying carpet. Its fringes brushed
the top of the kitpurrs. Flexing claws, their branches
batted at it.
“Gravity suspensors,” said Gat.
frowned. “I knew that.”
raised her eyebrows.
reached a crosswalk. Down the side lane, troupes of
singing monlers swung through the trees toward a
splashing fountain ringed with vendor’s stalls. Shoppers
clustered around them and before a puppet show.
stopped at a stall where a weymalian sold fragrances.
“Oh, I have enough credits left for this one.”
ducked beneath the yellow and white striped awning and
joined her at the counter. “So expensive,” she
weymalian’s nose tipped upward. “Well worth the
credits.” He sprayed a mist of perfume at her.
dodged the shimmering puff. “No. I don’t need any more
fragrances. Neither do you, Gat.”
But this is so starry, and I have exactly the right
amount of credits left.” She completed the transaction.
“Here.” The weymalian thrust a bottle at Prin. “You have
enough credits for this.”
not interested. I’m going home with credits.”
eyes widened. “Quite inappropriate.”
said, “She’s not feeling well. Let’s check out the
scarves at the next stall.”
hurried Prin down the walk. “You’re expected to spend
all your credits. It’s Worthy’s.”
told you, I have to buy medicine.”
but I didn’t think you were serious. I mean REALLY. Just
buy the medicine tomorrow.” Gat flicked her hand.
anger flared. “Unlike you, I won’t have more credits
tomorrow. So, get over it.”
just not done.” Gat glanced from side to side. “I’ve
never even heard of anyone not wanting to. It’s,… it’s….
You’re a freak.”
rolled her eyes and continued on, making Gat run to
catch up. They joined shoppers streaming toward the exit
portal. At the arched entrance to the teleport tunnel,
they passed a scanner, which flashed in red lights:
Sixteen Remaining Credits. A laser light beam played
turned on her. “Look what you’ve done.”
“Un-Worthy,” Prin’s purse shrieked.
cried, “Don’t look at it.”
Shoppers hurried by, raising noise and smell filters. A
catlynx bushed her tail out. “Well, I never.”
rootlers stampeded up and stopped to stare. One with
lighter spots hitched her bra strap up. “I didn’t know
Worthy’s let just anybody in.”
other squealed, “Nasty cheapies.”
wailed, “I’ll never be able to come again.”
Prin’s blood pressure monitor activated. “I’ve spent my
credits on this!” She slung the purse against the side
of the rounded metal corridor. She left it shrieking: