I was chatting with my heart the other night and he commented, when I showed him a rather poor movie with succubi in it, that it might be used by some sort of Succubi Central Intelligence Agency as a means of torture …
Now, pondering that a little further, one could imagine that the Realm might, possibly have such a thing as a succubi spy service …
And so, the question becomes … What’s that all about, anyway?
This might be a story worth telling …
Usually, matters of state in the Realm include meetings in the Throne Room, where Tera and her Eternal, Keith, find themselves attending to—and being attended by—the mechanisms of the Realm’s bureaucracy. This is not, as many know, where Tera likes to be. For the most part, she tends to make decisions wherever and whenever the mood strikes her, even if, on occasion, it is someone else’s mood that does the striking. This drives the bureaucrats and ministers insane more often than not.
Of course, Tera is the one that does the pondering … and deciding, in the end. So it was when a little known branch of the Realm bureaucracy came into being: the Succubi Necessary Observational Operations Perspicacity Service, which Tera so named so that she could call them the SNOOPS (an acronym that makes her giggle every time).
The entire thing began when the Queen was posing, in the nude as it happened, for a purple-tailed, chocolate-skinned succubi who fancied herself an aspiring artist. Now, really none of this was all that odd—Tera was always trying to help those in the Realm, and elsewhere, find their talents and bring them to the fore. However, the fact that there was also a green-tailed succubi in the same room, holding a steno pad and quill in her hands, might have been seen as slightly different even to the none-too-observant … or those that might be drooling off in a corner, watching Tera’s tail drape over her curves, hiding them … slightly … sort of.
Even if that wasn’t strange enough, the conversation would most certainly reach out and tap them on the nose and turn their attention to it as a whole. The aspiring artist looked out from behind her canvas, brushed some of her pink hair away from her eyes, and commented: “Tera, it’s a good idea … really.”
Tera’s tail moved slightly: “Really, Deirdre?”
The tossing of a brush in Tera’s general direction was accompanied by: “Darn it! Don’t move!” The red-tail then arched an eyebrow in reply, which made Deirdre blush: “Sorry … Just … don’t move. It’s tough enough trying to paint you as it is without that darn tail teasing me.”
Tera’s reply was in a soft purr: “I have the oddest sense that you have me here, like this, so I can’t walk off as you try to convince me of your good idea.”
“Tera, you’d walk out of here, nude or otherwise, if you wanted to.”
Deirdre peeked out again, then ducked back: “So, getting back to my idea.”
Tera sighed lightly and waited patiently for Deirdre to paint a little more before she continued to speak: “You want to create a little group of succubi and incubi who will be working as spies.”
“That’s a bit harsh.”
“All right: snoops.” The artist looked at her Queen, waving a brush at her: “And that’s a bit too light.”
“Perhaps. Still I like the idea of them snooping around rather than spying on others. But that’s all semantics, isn’t it?”
“Yes. But they’ll be in danger, in places that we normally aren’t. They’ll have to act in ways you’ll not be happy with, Tera.”
The royal eyes narrowed: “Such as?”
A brush was dropped into a metal can to soak off the paint: “Acting stereotypically evil.”
“And that is where I have the problem. That’s not how our kind is, Deirdre.”
Deirdre picked up the canvas she was working on and turned it onto its side: “I said ‘acting.’ That doesn’t mean they’ll actually do something evil. And really, let’s face it, if we have someone being the girlfriend or boyfriend or lover of someone … unpleasant … they can always mind control them a bit to believe anything.”
Tera hummed, then replied: “You know, I’m sure that I can manage quite well in …”
The purple-tail looked over the top of the canvas: “No, Tera, you can’t. You haven’t got the smallest bit of being ‘not nice’ in you. Also, you have a problem in that you can’t lie. So, you aren’t exactly what would be called prime spy material.”
Deirdre mirrored her model’s eyebrow arch: “Okay, I’ll give you that. You are a huge snoop and pain in the ass.”
The brunette smirked: “Thank you.”
“What did I say about moving?”
The room was silent for a time, save for the sound of paint being drawn over canvas, before the green-tailed succubi looked up from her pad. A long sigh was followed with, “Tera, it’s not a bad idea. We do that, in a way, right now. This just makes it formal.”
The Queen’s eyes shifted to look at the blond, Asian succubi: “You cannot be serious, Nadia.”
“We have been threatened before, been lucky to get out of things, not without, I’ll add, a lot of problems. We’re better served to get out there, have some warning of what’s coming and, if we have to, deal with it before it falls on our doorstep.”
She closed her oh-so-green eyes: “And this will cost?”
Nadia answered that: “Some space to call their own. Some support from beings that are aligned with you, Tera. Most importantly, we’ll have to find the right people in the Realm to get involved in this.”
One of the things about Tera is that she’s not exactly slow to make a decision, and that was true in this case, as well. “Go make your plans. Get back to me about who you want to talk to, though I have my own ideas about that. Find a quiet out-of-the-way place in the Realm to set yourselves up. Oh, and, for the record, even if this isn’t, you aren’t going to have a formulaic, snoop-looking building. Have some taste, will you?”
Deirdre nodded: “Won’t go nuts … Promise.”
“I’m not concerned about that. I am concerned about you keeping your mind on what you will be responsible for. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are putting your Brothers and Sisters into harm’s way.”
Nadia commented: “You know, in the event that something went wrong, Tera, you’d have plausible deniability.”
Tera pursed her lips slightly and then her tail pointed in the direction of Deirdre’s painting: “Are you finished? Or rather, have you gotten what you wanted?”
Deirdre’s reply was a nod and then a nibble of her lip as Tera rose from the chair she had been sitting in and slinked her way over to have a look at the painting.
Tera looked at the portrait with a quizzical expression: “I do hope I don’t look that way.”
The canvas was completely blank, as pristine as when it was first created.
Deirdre smiled: “I can’t do portraits worth a damn. I can, however, fake it well.”
The red-tail picked up a red robe, draping it over her shoulders: “I hope you don’t with your snoops, Deirdre. I will hold you responsible for anything that happens to them.”
Tera’s green eyes bore into Deirdre’s soul for a moment, then she replied: “Nadia will be working with you from here on. You’re too brash and she’s too strait-laced. I only hope that will keep you both from doing something incredibly stupid.”
Nadia dropped her notepad at this surprise: “Tera!”
Tera smiled at her: “I know that you both are in cahoots in this idea of your’s. So, you might as well take some responsibility, as well.” As the two looked at each other, their sovereign tied her sash, adding: “You forget that I know exactly what you are both thinking.”
Desire tried to explain: “Tera …”
A wave of the brunette’s hand: “No, it’s fine. But it is also a lesson for the two of you. There’s no such thing as ‘plausible deniability’ for me. So don’t make a mistake; remember that I’m watching.”
The two slightly chastised succubi nodded as Tera started to leave. However, before she did so, she looked over her shoulder and smiled: “You’ll always be the Snoops to me.”
After their queen left, Nadia asked: “Where are we going to start?”
Deirdre smirked: “I think we find some suitably named succubi and incubi and ask if they want to join an exclusive club.”
Nadia giggled: “The Snoops?”
“Yup. The Snoops.”
Two months after Tera had met with Deirdre and Nadia, plans were afoot and the two succubi were deeply involved in them. They had found, to their surprise, that, while Tera had given her tacit approval to their plans, they really weren’t all that sure what to do next.
Setting aside the rest of their problems, their first item of business was where they were going to set up shop. Even this question was something that they had been arguing over for some time. Deirdre wanted a place out in the middle of nowhere in the Realm, far away from prying eyes. Nadia pointed out they could really put themselves anywhere in the Realm and just bampf there.
They were walking down the main boulevard in one of the Realm’s more popular fashion districts when Deirdre came to a stop and Nadia, in the midst of texting a message to the bean counters to leave her alone, walked straight into her.
Rubbing her purple tail, Deirdre turned: “That’s the place. It’s perfect.”
Nadia was speechless when she saw it. Tera had told them, clearly, to find a nice quiet place in the Realm and Deirdre was almost mesmerized by a rickety building that looked like it hadn’t been used in years. She sighed and put her phone away: “Out of the way. Quiet. Not sticking out. What part of this don’t you get?”
Deirdre pulled her along towards the building and explained: “This place was once—oh gosh, a long time ago—one of the biggest. Everyone came here; it was just amazing what you could find.”
Looking up, Nadia saw an old three story building, paper over the windows, and a sign on it that directed interested succubi and incubi to call the Palace if they wanted to use it for whatever reason they might have. But it seemed like no one had a use for it, hadn’t for some time. “Why are you so thrilled?”
Deirdre was trying to peek between two sheets of paper over one of the windows: “I used to work here, right after I got my tail. It was the most fun I ever had … well, except for spending the night with a certain green-tail who can give an amazing tail massage.”
Nadia blushed, a little: “You’re just lucky that I get bored easily.”
Deirdre turned and kissed her on the lips before holding her close: “Well, the whole idea is to see to that you don’t get bored again, y’know.”
Nadia sighed and then walked past Deirdre, towards the main doors: “Flatterer.” Her tail swished in that certain way that told the purple-tail she was feeling frisky. “Come on, let’s have a look at this place.”
The door was open, as was the way of the Realm, and the two peered inside, curiously. The lights weren’t on, but it was clear, mostly, they were looking at a large, open space, a flight of stairs at the back leading upwards and another downwards into an inky darkness.
Pulling a small penlight out of her purse, Deirdre led the way, Nadia closing the door behind them: “Who owned the store?”
Deirdre was poking about here and there with her light: “Farah. No, not that one—I know you are going to ask.”
The green-tail stayed close, but looked at the ceiling in some frustration: “You aren’t Tera, and you can’t read my mind.”
“No, but I know how you think, and you were thinking it. Anyway, Farah was really into swing, she loved the fashions and she had a really interesting way of promoting the shop.”
Deirdre giggled: “No. That would be that place two streets over. You know the one; they have their salespeople doing striptease while you shop.” She waved the flashlight off in one direction: “When we were working, we wore her fashions, obviously, but we also had to talk the talk and walk the walk. It was like you were walking back in time when you came in the store. But what set things apart was that the second floor was a nightclub and, when you came in, if you weren’t all dolled up, you had to go and buy her stuff. Considering how popular the club was, it was a no-brainer.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“It had its moments. But, eventually, the fashions changed and Farah retired, closing the shop and then going off somewhere. I haven’t heard from her in a long time.” Approaching the stairs, Deirdre pointed the light upwards: “The upper floors are like this, Farah cleared everything out. So we can turn all of this into whatever we want. It’s the basement that I’m interested in.” She tried a light switch beside the stairs and found the light had burned out. Turning her light downwards, it was clear there were a couple of steps that looked like they were ready to fall apart. At least, that’s what it looked like.
Nadia, the wiser, if not older of the two, was looking into the darkness, her green tail moving slowly behind her: “Are you really sure about this?”
Deidre, being a purple-tail and therefore loving mystery, shrugged and then made her way down the stairs: “No, not really. But we need to get a look at things. Tera isn’t going to be a lot of help, so we need to figure things out on our own.”
“Including falling down a flight of stairs?”
The chocolate-skinned purple-tail started down them: “Yup, if we need to.”
It turned out that the stairs were stronger than they appeared, and, after two flights, they found themselves in the basement. As Deirdre moved the flashlight around, it became clear that the basement wasn’t exactly empty. Where she had expected another empty space, where she was planning on starting out their enterprise, they found stack after stack of boxes, piled to the ceiling in places. There was just enough room for the two of them to squeeze by, though at least once they bumped a stack of boxes and it swayed menacingly before settling down again.
“I thought you said this place was empty?”
“Well, it’s supposed to be. Farah wasn’t the sort to leave a mess behind. This isn’t like her at all.”
Turning around a corner of crates, Deirdre noticed a single sheet of paper laying on top of them. Shining her flashlight on it, she shook her head … and once again the blonde Asian walked straight into her, brushing her tail in the process …
“Ow! Darn it …”
… and dropping her flashlight, which then rolled off along the floor before it went out.
In the pitch black, Deirdre called out: “Don’t move. There’s another light switch against the far wall. I’ll find it.”
Nadia was brushing her hands against a wall of boxes: “Why don’t we just make some light with magic instead of messing around?”
The green-tail tossed her right hand to the side, creating a ball of light which blinded the pair of them.
“Hey! What the … ? Gosh damn it!”
Blinking, Nadia mumbled: “Some snoops we are. Can’t even make our way through a basement without making a mess of things.”
Her dark partner came back and reached for the sheet of paper, reading it and then shaking her head: “Yeah. I think we got led into this one.”
The note read:
To the Snoops: It’s about time you got here. You need a cover story, so this is it. Deirdre, you worked with Farah a long time ago. You know what to do. Nadia, I think you’ll find the basement has some interesting features that will be helpful. Move your tails now, you’ve been messing around for long enough, and watching the two of you going in circles is making me dizzy.
The letter was signed with a very familiar “T.”
Deirdre looked at the ceiling: “I should have known. Tera’s always got something cooking.” She heard some rustling from off in the distance and followed it to find Nadia looking through one of the boxes. She was waist deep in the box, her tail moving about happily, in that way that Deirdre recognized as her friend finding something she really liked.
“So, what are we going to be selling? Shoes? Jewelry? Cans of Redi-Whip and coconut oil?”
Nadia poked her head out of the box: “Better. Never let anyone tell you that Tera doesn’t keep her tail out of things … or that she doesn’t have a sense of humour.”
The following month a new shop opened, the buzz surrounding it bringing citizens from far and wide to attend the opening day. The building had changed dramatically from what it had been a short time before. Now a sleek and modern, well-lit, and, all things considered, quite loud fashion store was in full swing, the place packed with shoppers looking at the items on display.
Nadia was in the midst of talking to a visitor to the Realm and explaining how one of the items they were looking at did, in fact, have that hole in the right place for any of the succubi or incubi when she heard a voice behind her.
“Nice to see what you’ve done to the place. I always hoped someone would take up where I left off.”
Turning away from her customer with an apology, Nadia found herself looking at a smiling platinum blond with red horns: “Um. Thank you. I’m sorry, but I don’t know you.”
The blond, her hair in a bun, a smokey almond sheen to her skin, was wearing a vinyl corset and skirt in black that told Nadia one important thing: this succubi was used to getting her way and wasn’t afraid to make sure that it happened the way she wanted.
Her partner’s voice came from behind before she could ask another question: “I do.” Deirdre walked around Nadia and then embraced the new arrival. Before the green-tail could speak, the two of them were twining tails and kissing each other deeply.
Nadia felt a flush of … disappointment as she watched. The kiss wasn’t a kiss of hello. It was clear that whoever this was, Deirdre knew her intimately. Nibbling her lip, she asked: “Who are you?”
The two finished their kiss and then the Asian green-tail found herself smothered in a kiss that was every bit as hot as the one her partner had gotten moments before. When it ended, she barely managed to whisper: “Wow.”
For that, she got a squeeze of her tail before the platinum blonde pulled hers away: “It’s nice to know that I haven’t lost my touch.”
Deirdre then offered: “Nadia, this is Farah. We … a long time ago … I mean …”
Farah looked sideways at the purple-tail: “No need to be bashful. I was Deirdre’s mentor when she became one of the succubi. I know her intimately.”
Nadia answered, with a little hesitation: “I’m …” She looked at her companion, then continued: “… Deirdre’s lover and partner.”
Deirdre’s purple tail shot straight up into the air for an instant in a way that was unmistakable before she quickly recovered herself asked: “What are you doing here? I haven’t heard from you in ages! What brought you here?”
“Oh … Tera called me. Said that you and your partner … “in crime” I think is how she put it … needed someone to help you both out. I’ve been out of touch for a while, but fashion is fashion, and I know that much.” She looked around the store: “So, tell me: which one of you has the secret agent fetish? Who’s idea was to call this place ‘Snoops’?”
Deirdre and Nadia looked at each other, then answered in unison: “It’s all Tera’s fault.”
Farah was a slave driver. At least that’s what Nadia thought about the rather domineering red-tail, who was hovering over Snoops like it was her own personal store and not Nadia’s and Deirdre’s. Worse still was that Deirdre seemed to be pleased with everything that Farah did and kept bruising off all of Nadia’s concerns and questions about what was going on.
On the other hand, Nadia couldn’t really argue with Farah’s insistence that all of the succubi that were on the sales floor dressed up like femme fatales, and that the incubi looked like a certain fictional secret agent from some other realm with whom she wasn’t familiar. But why was it that every single incubi was to call himself ‘James’ and every succubi ‘Jane’? Marketing wasn’t one of Nadia’s strong suits, after all.
Nor could she really fault Farah’s choices when the sales reports were looked over, the order books checked. She did, however, have a problem with Farah putting her tail into the other part of what Snoops was from time to time, even if the red-tail wasn’t aware that she was doing so.
That was, after all, what this was all about, even if Farah wasn’t supposed to know it.
For all intents and purposes, the store was two levels now, the lower one the showcase of their wares, the upper, partly office space, partly where fittings were done for their clients. The basement wasn’t store but stockroom, with various succubi and incubi rushing in and out to stock shelves and to get items that their customers wanted.
At least that was the basement until a certain box was moved from a certain wall, the tip of a tail was slid into a lock, and a secret doorway was opened. Nadia meant to ask Deirdre why she kept talking about someone named ‘Max,’ but never really got to.
One particular afternoon, Nadia was sitting at her desk and had just interviewed a green-tail that had the correct password when she came into the store, meaning that Tera sent her along to join the Snoops … assuming that Nadia and Deirdre thought she would work out, of course. Nadia found that being dressed up as a femme fatale didn’t work for her, so, ever at her best, she just looked professionally aloof during the interview as she spoke with the applicant, trying to figure out what she would look like as a femme fatale, on the one hand, and if she was quick enough on her tail to be one of the Snoops that the Realm needed. The blonde was doodling on a note pad when she heard the clicking of heels coming towards her.
Deirdre stepped into view soon after, doing her best to look as ‘fatale’ as possible. Nadia did like the look, even if Farah had been completely responsible for it. Deirdre always did manage to make a purple cocktail dress look amazing. The wide-brimmed fedora added that little touch—though it was a shame that Farah had insisted on that.
“So? What do you think?”
Nadia arched an eyebrow: “If you mean your outfit, I think you look very mysterious.”
“Farah thinks so.”
The snapping of the pencil in Nadia’s hand was very loud in the office, she looking at the broken pieces before picking them off her desk and dropping them into the waste basket beside her. “Wonderful. I’m so glad.”
Her purple-tailed partner nibbled the inside of her cheek before blowing out a breath and closing the gap between them. The blonde Asian succubi didn’t say anything, only watching as Deirdre approached and then put her shapely rear on top of Nadia’s desk, sitting there, legs crossed, beside her.
“We need to talk.”
“No, we don’t.”
“So this miffed attitude you’ve been carrying around since Farah appeared is nothing to worry about?”
“Of course not. She’s looking after the store. Our cover is good. What’s there not to like about her?” There was a telling pause, then she continued: “Other than you two being …”
Deirdre’s hand moved to touch her partner’s sleeve: “No, we’re not. That’s over.”
Nadia closed her eyes: “Okay … Sure.”
“No, Love, you aren’t going to mope around without knowing the entire story, whether you want to or not.”
“I don’t need to know. Let’s move on; there’s other things to talk about.”
“No, first things first: Farah was my mentor, I loved her dearly, and still do, for everything she taught me. But I wasn’t the one she really loved. Farah only loves herself. She is self-centered, demanding, can be the most bossy succubi you’ve ever met. But she’s not stupid. Hiding things from her is a mistake. She’ll start rooting around to figure out what’s going on if you don’t tell her.”
“What we do is none of her business.”
“Alright, we’ll keep things a secret as long as we can. But someone is going to slip up, and she’s going to find out about us.”
Nadia’s sigh was a long one: “She knows about you and me, and she’s …”
“… she’s not doing anything except getting on your nerves, making you crazy for knowing that she was once with me. You need to accept that we need her here, get over your problems with her. I’ve had enough nights at home.”
The green-tail didn’t look at her lover: “I’ve seen the looks she’s been giving you.”
“Then you’ve been seeing something that I haven’t. When you introduced yourself as my lover—which, by the way, you never said to me—that ended things for her.”
“I thought it was obvious.”
Deirdre tapped one of Nadia’s horns: “It’s obvious, you dummy, but I still would like to hear it.”
“No, it’s obvious she’s spending a lot of time with you.”
“Of course she is. She’s running the store. We’re both her bosses, but you don’t want to deal with her, so you’re spending most of your time here getting things up and running, and so I have to play interference.”
“Someone has to. Tera wants us to do something, and we’re not ready.”
“When did she tell you that?”
“Doesn’t matter. Nobody’s ready, so … I’m going.”
If the snapping of the pencil was loud, the cry of “What?” was even louder.
The Asian pushed herself away from the desk and looked at her chocolate-skinned partner: “I’m the only one that has learned enough to go out there. I’ll be fine. I don’t have to look like you, or Farah. I just have to blend in, get what we need to know, and then get out. The ‘girl next door’ look will do just fine.”
“No! Absolutely not! You aren’t going anywhere. I don’t care what Tera says, you aren’t going to risk your tail.”
“I’ll be leaving before you know it and I’ll be back before anyone’s the wiser. Trust me, there won’t be a problem.”
The argument went on well into the night, neither succubi giving an inch on what she thought about the entire situation. It was past midnight when they left their hidden lair, the night shift working the store as they walked out the doors together …
… and right into the waiting stare of Farah: “Where have the two of you been? I have things to discuss. We need to change some of the displays, and I need a decision.”
Nadia pointed at Deirdre: “Talk to her. I’m going home; it’s been a long day.”
As Farah started to point out what she saw to be issues that needed to be addressed, Deirdre could only watch Nadia walk away and then disappear around a corner.
The following morning, Nadia didn’t return to Snoops … nor the next day. What came next was her purple-tailed partner prowling the store night and day waiting for her to return, at one point telling Farah to leave her alone in a way that made the red-tail take two steps back from her.
After a week with not a word, Deirdre decided to see Tera. Or at least she intended to when the Queen walked into Snoops. Her expression was troubled, which was worrying, but more so when she took the painter by the arm and pulled her upstairs and into Nadia’s office.
“Where is she, Tera?”
Tera was looking out the office windows to the floor of Snoops below: “Something’s happened. We need to go find her.”
Something snapped in Deirdre and what she said next she instantly regretted: “This is all your fault! If something’s happened to her, I’ll never forgive you!”
The monarch turned and sighed: “You don’t think that I feel the same way? I told the both of you that if anything happened to any of you I would never forgive myself.”
The next voice wasn’t Deirdre’s; Farah stood in the doorway: “Where’s Nadia, and what the hell’s happened to her?”
Tera glanced in the other red-tail’s direction, then to Deirdre: “You both have something to talk about. Don’t let me get in the way.”
The explanation about the SNOOPS didn’t take long, Tera nodding here and there as the story unfolded. Farah’s expression didn’t change from anger, though her tail started to move slowly behind her as the story was told. When it was over, her answer was simple as she looked at Tera: “Then we go get her.”
“It’s been a long time since you’ve been out there, Farah. Don’t overestimate yourself.”
Deirdre looked from her Queen to her past Mentor: “What do you mean?”
The green-eyed brunette pointed her tail at Farah: “Ever hear of Mata Hari?”
“You have got to be kidding.”
The retired spy smiled: “I’ll have to teach Nadia the fan dance when we get her home.”
“You mean if.”
“No. I mean when.”