“Iljek, it’s time for another piece.”

The Interplanetary Artist Laureate, holder of the Sigil of Creativity, founder of the Union of Visionary Crafters, chair of the Board of Humanities at Reykjavik University of the Arts, leaned back in his lounge chair and put his porn on mute, giving his assistant a long-suffering sigh. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

Elarii bit her lip and tried to hold Iljek’s upside-down gaze without letting stress get the better of her. Breathe. Breathe. That was what her therapist had told her. Deep, calming breaths. Elarii took a quick sniff of oxygen from the decorative tube affixed to her robes at the shoulder. Calming breaths. “No, Iljek, I’m not. It’s been almost four months since you produced any new art.”

Iljek snorted and glanced back at the holo-dish projecting his entertainment. “So the creative spirit hasn’t hit me yet. Tell the papers I’m sequestered in meditation or whatever.”

“That’s what we told them last month,” Elarii told Iljek, reaching down to surreptitiously turn off the alarm on her blood pressure meter. “Last time it was three months. We can’t just keep stringing them along without anything to show for it. You need product.”

Iljek sighed and sat up in his chair, scratching his head with one hand and his balls with the other. Elarii had been on him for several weeks about this, but the tone in her voice told him she was getting desperate, and that meant it really was time for him to earn his keep. “All right. Bring me a recorder.”

Relief thrumming through her body, Elarii came around to the front of the chair and set down the silver cube she’d had prepared for the last two months. Hesitant to do anything that might break the fitful spell of productivity, she didn’t speak, just turned on the device and backed away. Iljek held out his hand and she pressed a baton into it, the sophisticated tool that would tell the three-dimensional recorder what to paint in the air in response to Iljek’s creative vision.

Standing slowly, Iljek faced the recorder. He was silent for several moments, and the hush over the room was only accented by the soundless ecstasy of the porn star writhing doggie-style in front of the dish. Elarii stayed absolutely still. She wasn’t worried about disturbing Iljek’s ‘creative process,’ but if he got distracted, there might never be anything to show for this brief moment of responsibility.

Suddenly, Iljek’s hand shot out, and a splash of colour appeared in the air in response to the movement and angle of the baton. A quick twist and the shape took on a metallic sheen. With gyrations almost as complicated and random as the image itself, Iljek soon produced a visual cacophony that closely resembled the regurgitated spleen of a Geritenal llama. The artist grinned and stuck the baton into an empty beer can, chucking the contraption through the recording area with a final flourish, creating a puce-gold splotch through the center of the image. “There,” he said triumphantly, putting his hands on his hips and then flopping back into his chair. “How d’ya like that, huh?”

Elarii smiled with pure relief. “It’s perfect, Iljek. True creative vision.” She moved forward and carefully disentangled the baton, turning it off and setting the recorder to freeze.

Iljek grinned like a madman and resettled his underwear over his skinny artist’s stomach. “Now where’s the remote…? Ah, thanks.” He took the device as Elarii offered it and hit the dish back on, settling in with a happy sigh.

Elarii shook her head and carried the recorder away, leaving Iljek to his holo-women and ‘creative juices.’ She locked herself in her office, a room used only once every few months–if she was lucky–and placed the recorder on her desk. When she pressed the button, Iljek’s creation sprang to life, in all its three-dimensional glory. Elarii frowned at it for a few moments, deeply considering the swirls and splotches arrayed chaotically across the canvas of air. Everything was still.

At last, her eyes brightened, and Elarii picked up a stylus and turned on her computer monitor. Across the top of her screen, she scrawled Inverted Innocence–the suffering of the Ternean meteor disaster. Sinking back in her desk chair, Elarii smirked. This one would be easy; the art institutions of the galaxy would have her heart-wrenching interpretation of Iljek’s scribbles within the next forty-eight hours. She’d have to clear her schedule to accommodate the coming lecture circuit.

Stylus in hand, Elarii bent over her tablet, scribbling away. Now the real art could begin.