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      with the power of 28!! seeker28's Avatar
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      Oct 2007
      Idaho, USA; the back end of nowhere.

      Teaser from one of seeker28's stories

      People have been bugging me to read some of what I've written, so here is a little "teaser" from a story I'm working on. It is long, but worth the read. Please feel free to comment, critique, etc. The more feedback I get, the more likely I am to post additional teasers.

      Oh, and don't steal my stuff. If I find out you have, I will hunt you down and personally shoot out your knee caps. You don't know me, but if you did, you would know that not only am I serious, but I also can and will.

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      This story contains nudity, violence, and sudo-sex. If you can't handle that kind of thing, don't read it!!
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      "She's bought and paid for. Come on, someone ought to get some use out of her."

      Shanthi froze, ear against the cool plastine. If someone came through the door she didn't think she would be able to stop them from raping her.

      "That's not what I'm saying," an oddly moist voice insisted from the other side of the plastine door. "It would be completely consensual--"

      "Of course," the first voice interrupted, oozing sarcasm. "It always is. I know all about your kind of consent. Being physically unable to do anything except strip and gyrate against you like some sex-crazed, leg humping dog isn't exactly consensual."

      "Kyo, it's not--"

      "Yes, it's exactly like that," a third, entirely masculine voice stated. The voice had a crisp perfection that can only be generated mechanically. A translator, an expensive one. "And Mishiu, you will go nowhere near her. One touch from you and she'll be useless."

      "But I can be so careful," a seductive voice whispered. "You know how very careful I can be."

      "No, Mishiu," anger and stern self-control gave the mechanically generated voice an authoritative tone. "We can't risk you altering her chemistry. It took us seven months to find someone compatible. You mess this up and you will find out just how rare it is to find a captain willing to take on a Shade for crew."

      A sharp squeal, like metal on metal caused Shanthi to peek out of the recessed doorway. The cluster of gray pipes running the length of the hall ceiling vibrated, but nothing indicated approach. After listening for a moment to the ship around her, she pressed her ear back against the door.

      "I told you, she's Menotaph, farg-hole. They don't sell their own kind. The gov doesn't sell them either; too farging valuable." Shanthi decided the sarcastic voice belonged to a woman. "So how she ended up in cold storage in space's back-end . . ."

      "Well, thank the gods she did," the mechanically perfect male voice said. "Nothing local is chemically compatible. And, no one had even heard of the Vaklr, let alone their musth cycle." Shanthi realized he had to be the captain, which meant he probably held her ownership disk. Unconsciously she scratched the back of her neck, just at the base of her skull, right over the tiny implant that cemented her position as slave.

      "The Thirteen Families are not going to be happy," the Captain continued, "either because she is some kind of liability they thought they'd lost in that back water dump or because we hold the title to one of their precious cousins who got hijacked on vacation."

      At the mention of the Thirteen Families, the government, sweat broke out on Shanthi's forehead. Her hands, balled into fists, shook at the memory of what had happened the last time she had been in their territory.

      "We're in the Fringes, so if we're boarded -- no, when we're boarded, I'll throw her in there with Kenan, peak interest or not. Kyoshyn, you wreak havoc with communications, stall. Tell them we hit space junk, lie, whatever. And Mishiu, you meet them at the air lock, and be a charmer. I'll make my appearance at a leisurely pace and by then she'll be so wrapped up in Kenan that even if they are dumb enough to go in there, there will be nothing to see." The Captain paused. "Mishiu, if I even suspect that you are thinking of going near her I will blow you out an air lock. May not kill you, but this far from the traffic lanes it sure would put you out of play for a few centuries, at least. And Kyo," his tone thawed slightly," I know I don't have to stress to you how eager an enslaved vacationer would be to . . . assist . . . the Fringe police in finding her. Or how long life in a military prison can be. She gets found and no matter how she ended up out here, we'll get the pleasure of finding out." Shanthi heard the sush of a chair sucking back into floor storage. Silently, she turned and tiptoed back to the "locked" cargo bay.

      It took seven seconds to re-snap the connectors and eleven to re-assemble the triple-check security, but soon the door lock was snugly back in place and it was impossible to tell she'd left the cargo bay at all. She sat on the now empty stasis pod munching a bag of dry nutrient flakes labeled "General Earth Feed." The label made the outrageous claim that the stuff was "balanced and complete for all Earth-based species." Her throat hurt where the tube had withdrawn when she'd woken up from stasis, but she gratefully swallowed the parched, tasteless food.

      The cargo bay door slid open. A gray-furred Simpurrian sauntered in on four legs; slowly swishing it's tail. An ornate translator hung at its neck. A big house cat, Shanthi thought, just an evolved, big house cat.

      "You found the food and clothes, I see, " the Simpurrian said in the Captain's flawless, translator created voice. Its golden eyes watched her closely. "I am Grakkum, the captain. And your owner. Name and species?"

      Shanthi saw the test for what it was, knew she couldn't pass herself off as something less valuable, as she had done to all of her less informed owners. "My name is Shanthi. I am a human, a Menotaph."

      Grakkum's thick tail swung in low, wide arcs. "I bought you," he finally said, "because I have a Vaklr on board. It is in musth, in heat, and it needs a mate or it will reproduce asexually, producing more than fifty young. We do not have the space or resources for that many Vaklr. Do you understand?" The gold-yellow eyes watched her; the pupils enlarged pools of black.

      Shanthi took a deep breath, forced herself to return the Captain's gaze. Information flooded her, recalled from her childhood lessons, from before . . . Vaklr. Plant species. Sentient. Capable of speech and locomotion. Three sexes. All capable of sexual or asexual reproduction. Pairing with a chemically compatible non-Vaklr mate is the only way to prevent reproduction. Sometimes, however, that surrogate mate doesn't survive. "Yes," she heard herself answer. "I understand."

      "You will be that mate," Grakkum stated, voice expressionless. The tip of his tail twitched wildly. Sitting, with a front hand-paw he reached behind the translator at his throat. He pulled out a small disk.

      The hair on the back of Shanthi's neck stood on end and her spine spasmed minutely. Her ownership disk. She wanted to scream and dive at the feline, claw it away from him and smash the gray disk to bits. But the knowledge, the memory of the agony elicited when her owner simply squeezed the disk kept her cemented to the spot. The implant in the base of her skull seemed to buzz in response to the disk's proximity, but she knew it was only her imagination. With difficulty she resisted swallowing to moisten her suddenly dry mouth.

      "I do not want to . . . force you," Grakkum whispered, "but I can. Tomorrow you will go to Kenan whether you consent or not."

      "So this is it," Kyoshyn gestured into the tiny cubby. "Blankets in there, multischute there. We'll have a big breakfast for you tomorrow, just across the hall there," she pointed. "Any questions?"

      Shanthi thought for a split second. "Where are we," she asked, wanting to know if the alien woman would lie to her.

      Kyoshyn stared at her, the iridescent purple scales on her temples and cheeks gleaming in the half-light. Shanthi could see the thoughts passing over the woman's face. Finally she answered, "We're on the ship Sophia."

      Rested, although she had not slept, Shanthi followed the scent of food across the hall. Just as she reached for the door pad a movement on the edge of her vision caught her attention. She turned to look down the half-lit hall. A man, a human-hybrid, stood no more than five meters away. His chocolate brown skin gleamed in the soft light. Full lips curled in to a smile, revealing startlingly white teeth and unexpectedly sharp double canines. Senses humming, Shanthi's gaze slid lower over his naked body. Very hybrid, she thought. She felt her body responding to his presence, mind reeling in a pheromone-induced stupor. Sweat pricked her skin as a rush of wetness exploded between her thighs. An internal ringing muted her ears. All she could think was to go to him. To be with him. And she was moving, as though propelled by a force stronger than gravity.

      Suddenly there was an explosive hiss behind her. Shanthi whirled to see Grakkum behind her. Every hair on the feline's body stood on end. His eyes were pools of enraged black with a glitter of gold around the edges. "Mishiu," Grakkum hissed again, threatening attack. Shanthi followed his gaze and found the hall empty, the man gone. She stood confused, body vibrating in the agony of his absence.

      "Did it touch you," the captain asked.

      "No," Shanthi breathed, voice a regret filled whisper.

      "Good, come eat something. I bought fresh meat for you and Kyo made something called Malt-o-Meal." The captain sauntered away before her, fur smooth, tail up. Slowly regaining her senses, she followed.

      "Here," Kyoshyn said, pressing a medi-doser into Shanthi’s palm. "When you need to eat give Kenan a shot of this on the tesory. That's the big red lump. Try to conserve, though; this is all we've got and it needs to last the full ninety-four days. If you're wounded there is a med kit next to the multi-chute. I'm sorry, but we can't come in there to rescue you, so you'll have to handle whatever might happen."

      "I know," Shanthi answered, securing the medi-doser to her sole garment, a thin belt. "Vaklr in musth are dangerous. And it's your crew. There is no way you could stop it from hurting me without killing it. I understand."

      “Whatever you do, don’t fight it,” Kyoshyn said for the fifth time. “Just relax as much as you can when it touches you. If you fight you will get hurt. Are you sure you don’t want the Blackout before you go in?”

      Shanthi shook her head. “No. I’m sure.” She didn’t like the thought of going into a life-threatening situation drugged.

      Kyoshyn looked away, her bottom lip caught in her sharp teeth.

      Eyes carefully averted, breathing schooled to a perfect imitation of calm, Shanthi turned to the door. I've faced rape. I've faced violence, she spoke to herself. I can do it again. And this time my attacker is as innocent as I.
      "It is time," Grakkum said, smooth voice emotionless.

      Discipline suddenly gone, Shanthi trembled. Maybe she did want the Blackout. But, no. She wanted to scream, to lash out in terrified rage, to fall to her knees and beg. But her ownership disk. That vile little bit of silicone and metal, a microscopic speck of scenthium at its core. Better to go with dignity than to be forced, spitting blood and bile.

      The drab gray-brown door slid open and she stepped in resolutely, though her muscles were slow to respond and her bones were jelly. The door closed behind her, locking with a clang of finality. She stood, her skeleton nearly refusing to prop her up, in a converted cargo bay, painted in the same dull color as the door. A huge box of dirt took up nearly a quarter of the space. The multi-chute and med kit interrupted the gray-brown expanse of the opposite wall.

      Then she heard it -- a strange shushing rustle, a creaking and snapping roar, somewhere between the sound of a waterfall and the crash of a felled tree.
      The Vaklr surged toward her, a boiling mass of strap-like leaves, moving so quickly it was hard to distinguish one part from the next. It's going to crush me, a voice babbled in her head. No, she responded and extinguished her fear in recitation of her childhood lessons. Vaklr. Plant species. Peaceful. No murder. No crime. Only musth. Peaceful. Only musth.

      The plant overtook her, the leaves deftly wrapping around her, binding her, passing her with startling tenderness deeper into its shifting mass. She found herself sliding over a smooth green globe at the plant's center. The leaves cradled her, moving her gently until she hung below a large red bulge on the green sphere. A crease formed and deepened next to the tesory and blunt-ended root like appendages descended to probe her body. They felt their way across her skin, testing each curve and hallow.

      One became fixated on her cheek, pressing in a tightening spiral. It kneaded the flesh of her face in a disturbingly familiar way. Oh, shit no, she pleaded to herself as emotions she thought she had buried suddenly breathed and stretched atrophied muscles in the space created by the Vaklr's spiraling search. Involuntarily Shanthi's arms twitched, fighting the leaves that held them. The leaves curled tighter in response, their edges cutting, jerking her into contorted stillness.

      She gasped in surprise when a sudden, sharp pain bit into her left breast. Craning her neck she saw one of the organs probing into her flesh, the rough outer skin of the root wrinkling and bunching as it sunk deeper into her breast. One that had kneaded persistently against the side of her abdomen drew back. The blunt tip of it stretched, sharpened as the dry outer skin ripped, exposing the appendage protected within. A smooth, sharp tipped purple organ emerged. It stabbed downward, piercing her belly next to her convoluted scar. The pain was dull, not the rude shock that had been the first. She felt her muscles relaxing without her willing it. A gentle sense of well-being wormed its way into her brain with the implacable certainty of a tree's roots splitting a boulder. The drug, her mind whoozed. She had forgotten that the street drug pokou was a synthetic copy of the Vaklr's mating essence.

      Shanthi watched with increasingly detached euphoria as another reproductive organ ripped through its papery covering and sunk into her flesh. A warm tingling sensation spread over her. Whorls of color blossomed in her vision. When the fourth sexual root punctured her skin she felt only a vague, erotic pressure. She sighed, the sound singing in her ears. By the time the seventh and final root had found a soft place in her flesh Shanthi hung completely limp, mesmerized by the waves of sensation that washed over her body. One hundred warm mouths seemed to suckle tantalizingly on her fingers and toes. Flashes of warmth, cold, prickles and caresses passed through her. Swirls of color and explosions of light overtook her vision. Consciousness slipped away into the drugged haze.

      As the sexual root pulled from her stomach the wound shrunk to a small, puckered hole. Shanthi pushed the purple organ away, feeling gingerly at the puncture. Surprisingly there was no blood or pain, just a vague sense of emptiness, reminiscent of the vaginal ache of loneliness after sex without orgasm.

      The impatient growl of her stomach caused her hands to shake with the demand for food, now, but curious, she slid a finger into the hole. The changing texture of muscle and fat finally met the sliminess of gut. It should have disturbed her, but the Vaklr's sexual drug still sang in her veins. She pushed deeper and encountered sudden pain. Withdrawing her finger, she found it covered in blood.

      Hunger rolled over her, leaving nausea in its wake. Quickly she pulled against the other reproductive organs; gave the tug that made them shrink from her on their own. The prehensile leaves relaxed their grasp, passed her gently outward until she stumbled and jerked to her feet.

      If only it all goes this easily, she prayed, I might emerge from this not only alive, but rested as well. Food from the autotress was rich and varied; flavorful breads, rich broth and the most surprising, real fruit, not the pseudo fruits made from cultivated plant matter mixed with food-grade bacterial fiber as a filler material. Grinning, she let the sweet and tangy juice run down her chin. She washed with the multischute, then used it to recycle her waste. Trembling with sudden weakness, she laid down on a thin pallet.


      I count the rhythm of my tapping; feel the hive wall surge under my child hands as it thins, its living flesh responding to my touch. Light seeps through the wall as it nears transparency. Careful, I stop the process just as light from the room below allows me to see in, but before the wall grows so thin they can see me hiding here. Through the green sheen of the wall and the distortion of the hive's cellular flotsam I can still see clearly. The woman, the mysterious guest, waits, pacing, agitated for Queen. I smile at her discomfort. Queen's rare audiences with non-Zikreg guests break up the monotony of my days.

      Sh'Kaanth s'Beezahk, insectoid Zekrig Queen, surges into her private audience cell. I catch my breath at her agitation, her regal beauty. I lean closer to my peephole to hear, my child's breath clouding on the hive's cool flesh. I wish I could see what emotive color she wears. The woman turns, emitting a short cry, then runs open armed to Queen. I watch, unable to turn away, heart hammering painfully as Sh'Kaanth, Queen, my Queen sweeps the stranger up into her arms. Queen cradles the woman against her thorax.

      Gasping, heart pounding, I tear my gaze from their exuberant greeting. When I turn back Sh'Kaanth and the woman have retired to a couch. The stranger trails a hand over one of Queen's loosely folded limbs as I shake.

      "You have a new pashal," the woman's inflection fills the statement with innuendos that make my face burn. I clamp my hands over my arms, trying to stop my shaking; fearing the vibrating of my body might accidentally mimic the rhythmic tapping that makes the hive change shape.

      Queen slowly combs a foot barb through the woman's dark hair. A sigh whispers out of her spiracles, which I, trembling in my secret hole, cannot distinguish from contentment or regret. "Yes," Sh'Kaanth whistles. "I have a pashal, the child Shanthi, new these four and a half years gone." My Zikregian Queen eases further back onto the couch, folding her twenty limbs against her, leaving the stranger tenuously balanced on the edge, alone. I sigh in relief, my jealousy no longer so painful. The woman sits up after a moment with a deflated look. I unknot my fist from my hair and wipe a tear from my hot cheek.

      "This changes nothing, of course," the woman rubs her face. "My loyalty is absolute." Compulsively she straightens her waistcoat. "I am happy for you." I smirk at the lameness in her voice. She glances around the room, oblivious to its richness. When her gaze settles on her palms she continues. "I am glad to see you, nonetheless. It's been six years since-"

      Queen cuts her off with a hiss. A sharp twitch of her tail nearly unseats the stranger. "We will continue this later. Now you will enjoy my hospitality." Sh'Kaanth glances up at my hiding place -- her faceted eyes looking directly into mine. With a gasp I shrink from the window, struggling to convince myself it was only a coincidence that her eyes met mine. "You shall meet Shanthi now," I hear Queen say. "Let me call Ekat to bring her."

      Scrambling, I close up the peephole even as Queen reaches toward the hive wall. Hand over hand I scuttle to the nearest exit in my secret tunnel way.

      "Ekat," I bark as I wiggle out from under my vanity. The tunnel seals itself automatically behind me. "Help me!"

      The insectoid worker bows in, her hind feet clicking nervously. "Queen sent for you. She-"

      "I know!" I jerk the hive-slimed shift over my head and kick the gooey bundle with a scream. "Who is that lady? She has no right to touch Queen. I am Queen's pashal. She chose me!"

      "Little one, you shouldn't sneak off. It is dangerous." Ekat picks me up, carrying me to the dry wash, petting me with two of her thoracic limbs as the hive's fluids atomize and fall away. "Nor should you spy."

      I look up into the Zikreg's iridescent compound eyes. "I don't care," I spit. With a sigh I turn away, then carefully put on my most angelic face. I press my tiny hands against the bony plates of my friend's thorax. "Don't tell Queen," I half beg, half pout. "I am careful. I have at least four days until the next birth. It was safe." I smile my most entreating child's smile. "Now help me get ready."

      Dressed, perfumed and primped I feel much calmer, sauntering into the domed hexagonal garden room. Queen knows it is my favorite and I bubble with pleasure that she chose here to hold this meeting. I sway my hips, carefully imitating the sensual heroine of the vid Night's Awakening. I have practiced and I know the effect will not be lost on the strange woman. Ekat holds loosely to my small hand, escorting me across the room. Moving my hips and shoulders, swinging my arms just so, I know it draws attention to the four patches of rough skin on my belly. They show clearly through the sheer gauze of my shift, marking where Queen laid her eggs. Ekat helped me rouge three of them, leaving the fourth alone, its cap of scabs speaking volumes for my importance as pashal.

      "Here she is," Sh'Kaanth clicks.

      Queen's guest rises and bows crisply, her blue-flecked violet eyes measuring me, never straying from my own.

      Curtsying graciously in response, my lips curl into a smile as I notice that the stranger has been relegated to the smaller of the two couches. I settle on the lounge with Queen, drawing four of the Zikreg's limbs around me. Humming, green and lemon yellow amusement swirling under her transparent exoskeleton, Sh'Kaanth strokes my cheek, me, her pashal. I lean into the caress, causing magenta pink pleasure to join the swirling display of Queen's emotions.

      The woman watches from the other couch, a guarded look shaping her humanoid features. There are thin turquoise and lavender tentacles hanging loose among her severely braided hair. Watching their hypnotic swaying, I wonder if they worked their way loose or if she never braided them in.

      "This is Hae'sha Ossum," the Zikreg gestures with a free limb in the direction of her guest. "This," Queen glances at me and I stiffen, "is Shanthi du'Sh'Kaanth-s'Beezahk-d'Bweenar fu'Okaneye du'Gh'Reebah-s'Kkaasoh-d'Bwheenar y woh Padoon d'Ookg Blue Spires." Sh'Kaanth pronounces my full name beautifully.

      "I am honored to meet you, Hae'sha Ossum, friend of my Queen," I intone, voice syrupy, pleased that my Queen gave me a formal introduction. I smile cunningly, hoping the woman will note my challenge and attempt to return the pleasantry using my full name.

      Hae'sha half bows, reclined on the couch. A smile causes her lips to twitch. "Child, the honor is mine, Shanthi, pashal to Sh'Kaanth, and daughter of Okaneye who is pashal to Gh'Reebah and of Padoon, who served as woh-host when your mother carried you. The honor is very much mine."

      My smile sours by degrees at every word. When the woman finally finishes I sink back against the comfort of my Queen's thorax, deflated.

      Sh'Kaanth nips her sleeping pashal's shoulder, her choice of venom ensuring the child will continue to slumber. Tenderly she brushes a foot barb through the girl's hair as Ekat picks up Shanthi. The five-year-old's head lolls back, expression angelic in sleep. Queen sighs. Pride colors her turquoise and silver, watching her pashal carried away. "I had hoped you would get along," the Zikreg whistles.

      "Seems she has a different idea," Hae'sha reclines on the couch, swirling a tall glass of Krystath in one hand, debating whether to drink the libation. Finally decided, she sets it on a low table, knowing it would prevent her from saying what she has to and would instead steer her toward more pleasant pursuits. "I didn't realize her mother is pashal to Gh'Reebah." Hae'sha swings her legs around and perches on the edge of the lounge, resisting the urge to join Queen. "How far back does the gift run?"

      Carefully keeping herself a neutral tan, allowing the humanoid to set the pace, Queen answers, voice emotionless. "Shanthi's decent in an unbroken line from Pfasha du'Nu'Beezahk."

      "Gredits," the woman swears softly. Laughter looses her tense muscles. "Descended in a continuous line of pashals from the original! All of her pretensions are well deserved, I see. And with connections to Queen Gh'Reebah. No wonder you chose her to be your pashal."

      The insectoid Queen inclines her head, the massive frill gleaming as light sweeps up her triangular face and over the delicate telepathic organ. "I am honored she agreed. You and Shanthi are much alike."

      Hae'sha blushes, despite her dislike for being compared to a spoiled five year old. "With her credentials I was no competition."

      "You were seventeen years old," Sh'Kaanth whispers, carefully controlling her color as the scent of the woman's interest becomes almost overpowering. "At that age-"

      "I was on Brakabad," the humanoid interjects, finally alluding to the doubts that had nibbled at her for the last four and a half years. Her doomed hope that perhaps, just perhaps, she could have convinced Queen to consider her for pashal had she had the chance. Mixed relief and nervous tension make her tremble and shudder at turns.

      "Fosha," Sh'Kaanth speaks the title, the endearment with tender sincerity. Magenta blossoms amid swirls of turquoise and silver under her exoskeleton, evidence of her affection and pride for the woman. "I could not. Only a child can take on the burden with acceptable risk. I would not sentence you to an excruciating death simply because your pride demanded it."

      At "fosha" Hae'sha exhales explosively, four and a half long years worth of doubt and frustration bursting through the dam she had built. Trembling like a struck chord, she wrenches the clasp from her hair, letting it spill lose and warm over her shoulders. "Do you have any idea what you've done to me," the words tumble over each other in a flood as her defenses crumble. Hae'sha laughs. Queen draws up her first thoracic limbs in a coy singularly Zikregian gesture. "Do you know what being fosha has done to me? I haven't had sex in six years. I tried. Once. A complete disaster." The woman shucks off her military-cut waistcoat and kicks off her boots. "All of the secrecy has made me afraid of intoxication, so," she grabs the thin glass of Krystath and raises a toast, "this should really get me." Hae'sha drains it in one swallow before carefully setting down the glass.

      Sh'Kaanth opens her limbs and embraces the trembling woman, effortlessly drawing her onto the couch. "I have been with you every night, as I promised." The Zikregian Queen draws a foot barb through the woman's hair, humming, pleased by the way the thin tentacles knot and cling to her like begging children.

      "Yes," Hae'sha sighs, "the dreams."

      "So you can be my eyes and my ears, fosha." Pools of pink and burgundy form and dissipate under Queen's exoskeleton where the humanoid caresses. "Most fosha do not take such . . . pleasure from the process."

      Hae'sha strokes a finger up one of the bony spikes that support Queen's delicate frill, the complex amplification organ that allows her telepathic connection to the monarch. Queen blushes violet and red. "Let me show you why you will always regret I was seventeen," the woman whispers, pulling Sh'Kaanth's body against hers as the Zikreg's hum rises.


      "Everything seems to be fine back there," Mishiu said, sliding fluidly into the gunner seat next to Kyoshyn on the bridge. "Shanthi used the autotress yesterday and what I can see of Kenan looks calm." Mishiu directed its gaze toward the screen, which showed a view of unbroken space, a gray dot at the center. "What have we got?"

      "A ship," Grakkum answered, queuing the screen to zoom in. The gray dot became a modest ship, the remains of a red-painted logo burned into obscurity by repeated jump-point travel.

      "A dead ship," Kyoshyn amended. "I've been hailing them for an hour without response. And I'm not getting any readings, just the charge off the core. Do you want me to alert the authorities?"

      "No, Grakkum responded. "We don't need any questions." He had the computer project the stats of the dead ship. The Simpurrian considered for a moment, his tail swinging slowly. "Let's do the neighborly thing and check for survivors. And while we're over there we might as well shop for spare parts. Kyo, bring us around and clamp on. Mishiu, go get the cutting torch."

      They met in the forward airlock in full deep-space gear. The hatch depressurized with a hiss. The lock slid open to reveal the corresponding door of the other ship. "Mishiu," Kyoshyn's voice sounded over their head speakers, "I think I can do this. Hand me that pry." She popped the cover off the door lock and swore softly at the mass of connectors and bridges inside. "Who'd think a junker like this would have-" she lifted a red bridge "-whatever this security is. I could do it, but I don't think you want to wait three hours. Sure wish Kenan wasn't out of commission. He could do this in three minutes. You're going to have to cut." Mishiu fired up the torch.

      The other ship hissed when the jagged hole burned loose, indicating it was still pressurized. They filed into the narrow hallway on the other ship.

      "I've got lights," Kyo said as illumination came up. She turned away from the wall control panel to face down the hall. A greasy brown stain smeared one wall. Ice crystals and bits of flotsam, broken plastine and personal items floated eerily in the zero gravity. A cigarette butt bumped into the visor of her helmet. A gray lump of fabric hovered in front of Mishiu, who reached out with a gloved hand and grasped it. It turned the object over, stopping when it revealed a blue-edged white patch, a silver sun with thirteen rays in the center, blue crossed swords overlaying it.

      "Gov military," Mishiu's voice whispered over their headsets. "What the hell is going on here?"

      Grakkum scanned the sensor readouts that scrolled up one edge of his visor. "There is still oxygen in here. Lots of methane and carbon monoxide, too, but it is still breathable. There may be some survivors. Everyone keep your gear on -- we don't know what happened here, and judging from these readings this ship stinks so bad you wouldn't want to breathe the air anyway. We'll split up. We might find someone alive, and if not, we'll probably find something useful."

      Grakkum made his way down the corridor using jets to skirt around floating rubble. His crewmembers split off behind him. There was a lot of debris; smashed wall paneling, twisted conduit, an avalanche of vid cards. He turned a corner and nearly sailed into the first.

      "I've got bodies," Kyoshyn's strained voice exploded through his head speakers. "They look bad. Like they died of some terrible disease. Their skin is-" her voice broke off and Grakkum heard the sound of her retching.

      "Nobody touch them," Grakkum commanded, struggling to keep down his breakfast. "Just keep looking. Maybe someone survived."

      They continued on in silence -- for how long Grakkum wasn't sure. He had just used a broken wall tile to push his way through a floating dam of bloated decaying bodies when Mishiu's voice whispered over his headset. "I don't know what happened here," it's voice shushed, "but the more I see the less this makes sense. This hunk looks like it's been crapped out of hell's back end a few too many times, but I'm running into all kinds of fancy security. And weapons. Thirteen Families only weapons. All our squishy buddies are in civilian clothes, right? But I keep finding Gov uniforms.

      "Do you think this was an undercover police boat," Grakkum asked, grateful to be talking, needing the distraction to keep looking through room after room of decaying ooze.

      "Maybe," Mishiu replied. "I'm almost to the bridge, so we'll know soon."

      "This could have been pirates," Grakkum said hopefully, making his way across the mess hall, littered with floating dishes and rotting food. "I be-"

      "No," Kyoshyn's voice broke into their conversation. "Not pirates!"

      "Why not-"

      "Not pirates," she insisted, voice rising in pitch. "Pirates would never leave without this!"

      Kyoshyn crouched outside a cargo bay, her boots clamped to the floor. She worked quickly on the door lock. It was meant to only open when two key cards were inserted simultaneously, followed by several codes. But for some reason one of the key cards was jammed into the slot and the last nine codes were scratched into the screen. She worked on popping the lock while she listened to Mishiu go on about finding Thirteen Families weapons for the benefit of Grakkum. The captain has a hard time handling dead bodies, where as she just gets it over with by vomiting. Suddenly the door jerked open and she stepped inside, queuing the lights.

      She stood, jaw dropped in shock, staring at the dazzling cargo before her.
      "This could have been pirates," Grakkum's voice floated over her headphones. "I be-"

      "No," she gasped, "not pirates." She tried to think what to say, but found her mind too mired in dumbfounded surprise.

      "Why not-" Grakkum insisted.

      "Not pirates," she screamed. "Pirates would never leave without this!" Finally finding her senses she stumbled forward, pulling awkwardly against her boot's autoclamps. She reached forward, gloved hands out stretched. A rod of glowing, faceted silver light, as thick as her thigh and a meter long hung suspended in a cradle of cushioning false gravity. "Scenthium," she whispered in awe.

      Stunned silence met her. "It's huge. Uncut. It must be tribute from the Zikreg-Menotaph. That's why there are Thirteen Families military on here. Why this boat looks like such a hunk."

      "Why invest in showy security when it would only attract attention," Grakkum whispered.

      "There are other crates back here," Kyo said. "If there is more-"

      "I'm on the bridge, and something is cycling up the drives here," Mishiu interjected. The whole crew stumbled as a yellow pressure wave of light rolled across the ship. "We've, ah, just been decontaminated," Mishiu confirmed their suspicions. "The whole farging ship. It's flushing out the air. We'll have gravity soon. And -- what the-" its voice cut out suddenly.

      Kyoshyn pushed aside a floating crate and stared, her mind working quickly, time seeming to stop. She took in the empty stasis pod, it's top floating loose, the sealed stasis pods, the species behind the plastiglass, the autowake cycle on its last notch, the red lights turning green. "Oh gods," she whispered.

      "Get out," she screamed, even as Mishiu's voice roared over the head speakers.

      "Get off the boat!"

      Gravity suddenly returned and she narrowly missed a falling crate. It fell with a crash, splinters of bio-seal exploding against the backs of her legs. Sprinting, adrenalin screaming through her veins, she vaulted over a pile of rubble and out of the bay.

      "What's going on," Grakkum hissed, but Kyoshyn could tell he was running, so she didn't waste breath answering.

      Mishiu was waiting at the Sophia's lock with and auto-seal held at ready. It was only after Grakkum sailed through the hole and the seal was in place that Mishiu slapped the lock shut and started the decontamination cycle. Yellow light slammed against them.

      "I'm so sorry," Mishiu whispered as it set decontam to run again. "I thought I had killed it then."

      Kyoshyn sipped a mug of caf, her purple hair wet and loose around her shoulders. She had her legs propped up in her action holster and was knitting an afghan with her long toes. She directed a game of chess with the other hand and was watching jump-point stats scroll down the view screen, calculating their next leap. There was a quiet chime at the door.
      "Come in."

      Her captain strolled onto the bridge. Sighing, she put her knitting down and shut off the chess.

      "Are you ready to tell me what happened on that ship today?" Grakkum's voice was soft.

      "Couldn't sleep without knowing," she asked.

      Grakkum nodded, leaping onto his padded seat next to navigation. "Mishiu is still in its lab, sloshing around. It won't tell me what it found, or what it meant about ‘killing it.’"

      "Well," she began. "I found the scenthium. A big-ass chunk. Probably worth more than most fringe planet's yearly gross planetary product. We were all voting peers for a second or two. We would have been so farging rich!" She sighed again and set down her caf. "I thought there might be more. But-" she struggled with the images, her eidetic memory bringing back each terrifying detail. "Instead I found Soldiers."

      "What? Survivors?"

      "No. Well, yes. I think. In stasis. Zikreg soldiers. You know, Soldiers with a capital 'S.' Indestructible, chop them to bits and the bits still keep coming. Farging leviathan. Their stasis pods were cycling up -- the lights turned green! One pod was already open. We had to leave before they killed us all!"

      Grakkum stared at the view screen, into space, its blackness spread out like wings. "Are you sure they were Zikreg soldiers? Positively?"

      Kyoshyn tapped a button and the view of space was replaced by a graphic of a Soldier. The three armored segments; the twenty plated appendages; the huge, frilled head -- all hard plains and spiked knots. Its wings stretched, glittering darkly. The faceted eyes were like black holes, full of destruction. "I saw this. Three of them. I just hope they don't come after us."

      Shanthi slept, dreaming, remembering, as the Vaklr Kenan stirred behind her, leaves curling.


      I leap over my bed, sailing into the pile of cushions that represent Mount Thelis, firing at the Ekas huddled behind the lounge. The fungun's red light fizzles harmlessly off of them. They roll theatrically in mock anguish.

      "Ha ha," I laugh. "Your army is destroyed Queen Du'Fasu!" I yank a doll out from under the tumbled pillows of Mount Thelis. A mask of Hae'sha Ossum is tied to the doll's head. With a flourish I press the fun-gun into its ear. "And I have captured your pashal Dasu! Ha!"

      Ekat, with a plastine queen's frill strapped to her head raises four thoracic limbs in jubilation. "Look now, Queen Sh'Kaanth, my adversary, and see who will die today!"

      Jaw open in surprise I look down to see a fungun clasped in the doll's hand. "No," I screech, dropping the doll and diving behind the bed where I tug off my play queen's frill. Roaring, I leap back onto the bed, landing on the doll. "I am pashal Kanth, come to rescue my Queen," I announce. I wrestle with the Hae'sha-masked doll while Ekat plays Queen Du'Fasu's hope and terror in turns. Finally I rip the fungun from pashal Dasu and fire, hitting the doll squarely between its blue and violet Hae'sha eyes. "Yahoo!" I dance in elation.

      Suddenly I hear a clicking behind me. I whirl and come face to face with Queen. "What are you doing," she asks.

      Quickly I kick the Hae'sha doll over the edge of the bed. "Playing. Reenacting the battle of Mount Thelis." I see her gazing at the doll with the Hae'sha mask. I leap off my bed and into her arms, forcing her to look at me. "Why don't we play? You can be yourself and I'll be your Soldiers. You can tell me to kill Queen Du'Fasu and carry off all her workers. It'll be great!"

      "I don't have time, dear Shanthi.” She strokes my face gently. “I only have time for your shidothum. We can play tomorrow, when Hae'sha has gone."
      With a humph I shove myself out of Queen's arms. I crawl onto the bed, my back to Sh'Kaanth. "Why do you have to spend so much time with her?"

      A sigh whistles out of Queen's spiracles as she sits next to me. "She is one of my fosha. I have to reestablish my link with her. It had been six years, and it may be another six before we can meet again. There is much to plan that can't be done in dreams. Please, pashal, Shanthi, my rebhan. I only have time for your shidothum. Come." She reaches out to me, her foot barbs soft as they close around my wrist.

      Color swirling to soft peach contentment, she stretches out on the lounge. Obediently I climb onto her thorax. I close my eyes as she washes and nibbles the rough bumps and scabs on my belly. I feel her saliva soothing my skin, seeping into me and calming the babies. But I am not calm. I am burning up with questions inside. Again and again I see the fungun's red light hitting between the blue and violet eyes, fizzling against the Hae'sha mask. Sweat prickles the palms of my hands. Queen's babies have stopped their squirming and chewing, mesmerized by the chemicals in Queen's spit. But I am on fire; quivering, fists clenched, trying to still my anger, and failing.

      "Shanthi, what is it," Queen sighs.

      I am suddenly still for a moment, then. "You wouldn't lay eggs in her, would you," I burst.

      "No, Shanthi. I only lay eggs in you. You are my pasha-"

      "Not even one?" I twist away from her, rolling so I can look into her huge, glittering eyes.

      "Her body would kill one egg," Sh'Kaanth whistles. "And a whole clutch would kill her."

      I think about this for a moment, seeing that Queen wears pale green and tan sincerity. "But my father carried eggs. Lots of them. It didn't kill him and he wasn’t a pashal."

      Queen strokes my head, her foot barbs combing through my disheveled hair. I didn't let Ekat brush it for me this morning. I was too mad. "Your father prepared to serve as woh host for many, many months before. He was strong." Her color suddenly shifts to tan and I know there must something she doesn't want me to know. She only is that color if she suppresses her emotions.

      "And," I prompt, pressing my small hands against her thorax.

      Queen shifts. "It nearly did kill him."

      I am still, quiet, mind blank with surprise. My father is so . . . big, strong. He is like the great forest trees, stretching for thousands of feet into the air. Unshakeable. Permanent. I can't understand how a few hundred tiny babies almost killed him. And why -- "He never told me that," I blurt.

      Sh'Kaanth laughs, her voice a falling of silver chimes. "Padoon wouldn't. He likes to impress you far too much. You carry the eggs so easily only because you were prepared so soon after birth, an advantage he didn't have. Your immune system has learned to accept my young as part of your flesh. Padoon's immune system only could be temporarily suppressed."

      I sigh and lay back against her, feeling her resume the shidothum. I stare across the room and find myself looking at the doll with the mask. It fell tumbled against the side of my bed, an arm thrown over its face, covering one blue and violet eye. "How long has she been here," I whisper, staring at that half-hidden face, its one eye glaring at me, burning into me.

      Queen sighs, changing from magenta and purple pleasure to resigned blue-gray. "Before I received Hae'sha yesterday she was in quarantine for two weeks, so you wouldn't get sick. Remember, the long quarantine is why we rarely have non-Zikregian guests. They carry germs your immune system can't handle. And thankfully Zikreg don't carry any germs that could infect you, and those germs we accidentally carry in from outside are easily -- Shanthi," Sh'Kaanth suddenly interrupts herself, halting the flow of facts she knows her pashal is already familiar with. The words, their familiarity, she hoped would sooth the child. A failed ploy. "Shanthi, pashal, why do you have to hate her so much? You don't hate my other fosha."

      I don't move. I just keep laying here, feeling the warmth, the rise and fall of Queen's body. Any other time it would comfort me, make me feel loved. But now it all feels unfamiliar. After seeing the way that Hae'sha woman looks at Queen. The way Queen looks at Hae'sha. "You are supposed to be mine," I finally whisper. "I feel different about Hae'sha because you feel different about her too. She isn't just a fosha." I stare at the tumbled doll, feel my eyes drying, begging to be blinked. But I keep them open; keep them fixed on that one burning eye.

      “Oh, my Shanthi . . .” I feel Queen's body heave under me as she shifts, continuing the shidothum. I keep my eyes open, pasted to that spot, feeling her lick and nibble. She gently moves me, turns me, silently performing the task. When she finishes I slide down off of her and go sit on my bed.

      "Shanthi," Queen pauses in the doorway. "Please come see Hae'sha leave. She wants very much to say good-bye to you." I stare at her like I am staring at a wall. "Please, rebhan, it would mean a lot to me."

      After she is gone I tell Ekat I want a nap. When I am alone I crawl under my vanity and open my secret tunnel. As it closes behind me and darkness folds around me I finally blink, my eyes like sandpaper. In this humming darkness, cradled by the hive, I let the tears come.
      Last edited by seeker28; 02-08-2008 at 12:38 PM.
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    2. #2
      Veteran of the DV Wars Man of Steel's Avatar
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      Mar 2007
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      Houston, TX
      ...wow. I am literally speechless. That was simply amazing! I loved it! Absolutely incredible, seeker! I have to read more, have to find out what happens next! The sheer artistry of the writing, the vivid descriptions, the sense of suspense, the way you effortlessly wove a world all your own, the great characterization... I am thoroughly impressed.

      Do you by any chance like Firefly? I thought I detected a bit of a Firefly-like influence in the crew of the Sophia. Also, if you don't already have anything published, you should seriously consider it. I wish I could write so well. That's awesome work, girl!

    3. #3
      with the power of 28!! seeker28's Avatar
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      Oct 2007
      Idaho, USA; the back end of nowhere.
      Thanks, MoS!! I was especially hoping you would like it. Yeah, I'm a HUGE Firefly fan. I own the series on DVD, as well as Serinity, the graphic novels... I loved the reality in Firefly, the believeablity. I wanted to make sure my story had such characters.
      LD tasks of the month completed: 16
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    4. #4
      ex-redhat ClouD's Avatar
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      Sep 2007
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      I've only read a bit so far...but wow.

      Truly amazing, clean writing.
      You merely have to change your point of view slightly, and then that glass will sparkle when it reflects the light.

    5. #5
      Join Date
      Nov 2008
      ill be honest, its not my kind of story. but i was totally absorbed. i couldnt stop reading. very well written, amazing descriptions. unbelievable i enjoyed it, thanks. also an amazing sense of history and reality.
      Last edited by Jeff0Bray; 11-16-2008 at 04:26 PM. Reason: forgot this bit
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