When we left Captain Jette Jones and the brave crew of the Artemis III, they were under attack and the dastardly plans of Queen Zeta were beginning to take shape (see Issue #1). Her next trap was set on planet Serpens Soma – waiting to be sprung on the Vicar of Yasu …
“The Queen will see you now,” Queen Kalokairi’s chief aide said.
Ryaki escorted the Vicar of Yasu through the Grand Room and down a narrow passageway toward the stateroom where many of the queen’s formal ceremonies were held. Ryaki bade the Vicar to wait as she retreated inside.
After a moment, the numerous viewing screens which lined the walls of the palace came to life. Queen Kalokairi was seated at an ornate table -- signing the trade agreement between Soma and Serpentarius with Ryaki’s voice in the background informing the Somans of “this historic achievement.” The Queen looked strangely reserved.
K’wari shook her head; she was too late.
A short time later, the door opened and Ryaki led the Vicar inside. The Queen was still seated at the table, having finished signing the proclamation.
“Your Highness, may I present K’wari, Vicar of Yasu.”
“Queen Kalokairi,” K’wari said, bowing, “thank you for meeting with me. But it seems I have arrived after the fact. The trade agreement is of great concern to …”
K’wari trailed off seeing that the Queen hadn’t acknowledged her. She sat motionless and non-responsive.
“Queen Kalokairi isn’t quite herself,” came a voice from the shadows. Then a laugh.
K’wari’s eyes stayed on Kalokairi even as her hand went to the rayff on her belt. “Queen Zeta, I presume?”
Zeta smiled broadly as she stepped into the light, casually rolling a glass ball filled with shimmering green smoke in her hands. “And you are a Vicar of Yasu. I must admit I’m not very impressed.”
K’wari turned to face her. “I must inform your Highness that if you have coerced a planetary sovereign into this agreement, that’s a violation of interstellar treaty.”
Zeta’s smile widened. “Kalokairi enthusiastically endorses our new alliance.” Her eyes drifted down and up K’wari’s body. “I may change your mind about it as well.”
K’wari eyed the two guards by the far wall, then pulled the rayff staff from her belt and held it at her side. “This conversation can serve no purpose but as an opportunity for you to size up your opponent. Or to delay hostilities long enough for you to gain an advantage. Either way, there’s nothing more to say.”
“You are correct on all counts, Vicar.” Zeta snapped her fingers and the two guards stepped forward, drawing their gleaming lazerblades.
K’wari turned toward them, pressing the catch on her rayff. Both ends snapped outward with an angry hiss making the staff almost two meters in length. The guards tossed their shrouds aside revealing muscled arms covered in ritual scars. Gems of every color sparkled across their pitted flesh, embedded in their skin.
“Diamond Warriors,” K’wari huffed. “I should have expected that. Someone like you, toying with weak minds.”
Queen Zeta bowed slowly, mockingly. “Yes, I hope you’ll be much more of a challenge.” Then … “Seize her!”
The taller Warrior charged K’wari, his lazerblade raised above his head. The metal blade’s edge glowed with purple light. He swung downward, but by then the Vicar was no longer standing in his path. K’wari caught his blade on the upper end of her rayff as she sidestepped his attack faster than an eye’s blink. She pivoted her grip, letting his momentum drive the top of her staff toward the floor.
The energy running along the blade crackled and danced angrily as it ground against her metal staff. The rayff began to hum, the tone climbing in pitch. K’wari could feel the pommel grow warm as the staff absorbed the lazerblade’s energy.
K’wari suddenly yanked the rayff free with a wide, arcing motion. The Diamond Warrior staggered forward at the sudden lack of resistance. His eyes went wide as the back end of the rayff streaked toward his face. K’wari pressed a recessed button on the handle, slamming the staff right between his eyes. All the energy the rayff had collected burst forth with a concussive blast that sent the Warrior sailing backward. He crumpled against the wall.
Zeta’s eyes narrowed as she fidgeted with the glass bauble in her hand.
The second Warrior charged, swinging his blade wildly. K’wari planted her staff and vaulted toward him, catching him in the chest with both feet. The Warrior tumbled across the room and fell upon the great table, sliding over it and spilling over the other side. Kalokairi stared ahead, oblivious.
The first Warrior moved toward K’wari again, more cautiously.
“Ready for more?” she taunted.
The Warrior lunged for her head and she effortlessly ducked beneath it. The Warrior shifted his grip on the lazerblade and planted his feet for maximum power as his weapon came down again in a blur of crackling energy …
…and passed harmlessly through the air as K’wari thumbed the rayff’s handle and the upper end of the staff retracted with a swish. His mighty swing threw him off balance and he tumbled sideways, out of control.
K’wari slid into his path, pressing the closed end of the staff beneath his jaw. She winked, pressing the catch a second time. The rayff’s telescoping nodule shot out and caught the Diamond Warrior in a savage uppercut that sent his feet sailing up over his head before he landed with a sickening thud on the tiled floor.
K’wari cried out as terrible pain erupted in her right shoulder. She spun around, shifting the rayff to her other hand and holding it up defensively as a lazerblade clanged on the floor. Her right arm was clenching violently from the hurled blade’s energy discharge, a long rip in her cloak exposed.
The second Diamond Warrior leaped across the table and went low to recover the lazerblade he’d thrown at her. It lay on the ground between them. The Warrior slid on one knee and stretched his hand out to grab it.
But K’wari was much too fast. She planted her staff under the blade on the floor and flipped it up with a mighty swing, her right shoulder screaming in protest. The blade spun upward, end over end, embedding itself in the ceiling.
The defenseless Warrior staggered back as K’wari lunged forward and slammed him across the head and shoulders until the wall was at his back. She collapsed the lower section of the rayff and drew the handle into both her hands like a saber. Planting her feet, K’wari stabbed the upper part of the staff into the Warrior’s chest, just below the ribs.
The Warrior grunted in pain as the staff pinned him against the wall.
“Yield!” K’wari barked, jamming the rayff into his nerve cluster.
The Warrior flailed wildly, grabbing K’wari’s cloak. He yanked hard, pulling her forward. He howled as the rayff dug even deeper into his flesh but grabbed the Vicar around the throat. Her eyes went wide as his fingers clenched hard and began strangling her.
K’wari fought for air. The Diamond Warrior barred his teeth and squeezed harder. K’wari angled the staff down, then thumbed the rayff’s catch once more. The lower section shot open, the nodule dug into the floor at a steep angle, then found purchase. She drove the upper part of the rayff straight through his body. The sound of metal striking the wall echoed in the room.
There was a spurt of blood. K’wari stepped back and gasped for breath. The Warrior collapsed.
The other Warrior had gotten to his feet and with an animalistic cry leaped toward the Vicar, his eyes filled with fury. K’wari twirled the staff behind her back nimbly, side-stepping another swordstrike. Again, he raised his weapon –
K’wari stepped back as the Warrior lowered his weapon. Her attention shifted to Zeta as she sauntered toward the Vicar.
“Well… impressive after all. I wanted to see that for myself. Unfortunately, I have many more important things to do.”
Zeta tossed the glass ball at K’wari, which shattered at her feet. Green smoke rose quickly up her body, twisting and twirling like rope. She felt a tightening on her legs, then farther up her body.
Her arms were pulled to her sides, the green gas spinning faster and faster as it enveloped her. There was a sharp clang as the rayff fell from her fingers. Both ends retracted as it hit the floor. K’wari’s body continued to stiffen, tighter and tighter until … she was completely immobilized. She was wrapped so tightly she fell backward into the waiting arms of the Warrior like a fallen tree.
She was aware, yet could not speak.
“Fear not, brave Vicar.” Zeta cooed. “The effects are only temporary. By the time it wears off ... I will be your new religion.”
Ryaki had taken in the spectacle with wide eyes. She picked up the rayff staff, wiped the blood from its chrome surface and handed it to her Queen without being asked. Zeta’s green eyes glowed devilishly as she fingered the metal carvings on the staff. She looked down at the entranced queen.
“Have you ever been sodomized, Kalokairi?”
Kalokairi shuddered, although it was difficult to tell whether it was from having to suddenly use her mind or because of the nature of the question. “No … my Queen.”
“Wonderful. I have just the tool to use on you,” Zeta said teasingly, eyeing the rayff and slowly twirling it in her hands. “Take her to the bedchamber and lash her to the posts.”
“Yes, my queen,” Ryaki said obediently.
“And do the same for the Vicar of Yasu. In the opposite direction. I want heads between legs. I have some lovely music to play in their ears as well. This should be most enjoyable.”
The Diamond Warrior holding the stiffened K’wari grunted.
Queen Zeta stepped toward him. “I want her stripped but unharmed. I know you will want to get your vengeance for what she did to your compatriot, but there will be time for that later. And you will soon be reunited with your brothers.”
Zeta looked down at the fallen Warrior. “And remove this disappointment. Make sure no one finds the body.”
There was another grunt.
Meanwhile, in space, 120 million miles away, the crew of the Artemis III is fighting for their lives …
“Hard to port!”
The fireball from the Kaudan warship exploded just 500 meters from the tail of the Artemis III.
“Swing around, Epsilon,” said Captain Jette Jones. “A wide arc. Increase speed. Try to get behind them.”
“Flock, power up weapons systems.”
Lt. Kanivia Riesga couldn’t contain herself. “Now we’re talkin’!”
“Once she’s in range, target our stun beam.”
Riesga turned to look at Flock. “Captain, against a fighter like that, our stun beam won’t have any effect,” Flock said evenly.
“I’m well-aware of that, Flock.”
“Coming into range, Captain,” Epsilon said coolly.
“Epsilon, drop us 5,000 meters but stay behind the lead ship.”
Jette leaned forward in her command chair. The wheels were turning. These were the moments that made Captain Jette Jones one of the most decorated officers in the Star Ranger Corps.
“She’s weaving, Captain, but we’re still behind her.”
“Good. Epsilon switch the helm to Lt. Riesga and join Flock at Tactical.”
“The flanking ships are bearing down on us, Cap,” Riesga said.
“Steady as she goes. Keep on that lead ship. Epsilon, access the power relay for the stun beam. Quickly. Then use the charge port of Flock’s battlesuit to integrate the two systems.”
Flock smiled, knowing what her captain had in mind. Interface spikes from Epsilon’s hands – one into the weapons console and the other into the access point on the belt of Flock’s armor – connected the two systems.
“The ship to starboard is in range, Captain,” Riesga’s voice went up an octave. “She’s gonna hit us.”
“Increase speed. Get right on her ass, Lieutenant. We just need one more minute.”
Epsilon stiffened, the glowing white lines of her data matrix jittered and blinked erratically atop the black surface of her torso and limbs. The shock of electrical energy poured across her body as the surging power from Flock’s suit passed through her and into the weapons system. Flock put an arm around Epsilon to keep her steady.
“Stun beam force up 200 percent, Captain,” Flock said calmly.
“That ought to be enough. Target.”
The Artemis recoiled from the sudden blast of power as the stun beam caught the warship full force from behind. The ship appeared to teeter in space then tumbled over itself, lights flickering and going dim.
“That got her, Sir,” Flock called out. “Power outages all over their ship.”
Flock checked her readings. “No, Sir. But we sure punched her lights out.”
Jette leaned toward Riesga. “Defense maneuver six. Port side. Target the starboard vessel and fire, Flock.”
Another powerful beam shot out from the Artemis striking the encroaching vessel. The ship shuddered, then drifted helplessly.
“The third ship has veered off,” Riesga reported. “Shall I pursue?”
Jette paused a moment. “No. Let her go. Epsilon, disengage from the terminal. Flock, I want life scans on those ships. A Kaudan fighter has a crew of –”
“Three, Sir,” Riesga volunteered.
Flock grinned at Epsilon as the long, thin probe retracted, disconnected the two of them. Then Flock got busy again.
“Scanning. I read… three lifeforms on each vessel, Sir. If there are any fatalities then they were packed in there like Ragulian Swamp Varks.“ Flock hit buttons and checked numbers. “No escape buoys deployed. No breaches. I’d say they have a few bumps and bruises though.”
“The third ship is heading toward Kauda, Sir. They’re not circling back for a rescue.” Riesga beamed. “You did it, Skipper!”
Captain Jette Jones’ expression didn’t waver.
“Epsilon, man the helm. Resume course for Serpens Kauda.”
K’wari gritted her teeth. Sweat glistened on her brow as she shook her head weakly. Her eyes were dim, half-closed. K’wari was fighting a desperate battle… for her mind.
“Come now Vicar, give in to me.” Zeta’s voice poured more poisoned honey into her ears. “It is useless to resist me when what I offer is so… addictive.”
K’wari sobbed as the tongue between her legs snaked into the folds of her quivering sex once again and began lapping her will away. She flexed her arms helplessly but her wrists were bound to the corner posts of the oversize bed as tightly as her ankles. The sheets under her ass were soaked with more than sweat.
Queen Kalokairi was inverted and bound atop her. Her legs pressing down on K’wari’s arms, their stomachs writhing against each other. The Queen’s head was wedged between the Vicar’s trembling thighs, eagerly trying to break K’wari’s resistance. Kalokairi fully belonged to Zeta now.
K’wari had been bound to the bed while still paralyzed by Zeta’s fiendish green smoke. Queen Kalokairi had passively climbed atop her at Zeta’s command and held still while she too was tied into place. Then Ryaki had pressed strange devices into K’wari’s ears.
She heard music. Strange warbling tones that rose and fell in pitch... like oiled nipples being pinched and pulled by delicate fingers. The low, throbbing notes intertwined with the shimmering higher chords in a strangely discordant harmony.
K’wari recoiled in her bonds. The music, somehow it was manipulating her. Stimulating certain parts of her mind. The parts where K’wari was horny and needful. The parts that had joined the music and were singing to her now. Singing about how glorious it felt to be at Zeta‘s mercy. How deliciously she would cum if she would open her mind to the evil Suzerain.
K’wari fought the conflict in her mind. She tried to recite the mantra she had learned long ago to sharpen her focus. Concentrate!
The rock on the beach does not try to break the incoming tide,
It simply breaks the tide. It has chosen to break the tide.
I choose to break the tide. The tide will flow through me and past me.
“Look upon her flower my helpless Vicar,” Zeta purred.
K’wari’s eyes reflexively opened wider, gazing into Kalokairi’s glistening sex. Zeta’s words were inside her head too: throbbing and echoing in the caverns of her mind that held her lust and fantasies and weaknesses. Whereas the music teased her, Queen Zeta‘s words fucked her. As surely as Kalokairi’s mouth.
It will flow over me, surround me and engulf me.
It will recede and I will remain.
I will break the tide because I have chosen to.
“Is my slave Queen not flowing like the mighty Ik’ Goth river that swallowed the nations of old? Wouldn’t you like to obey my every command for the chance to drown in her?”
K’wari panted from the exertion and raw, savage need sizzling between her thighs. Every short, rapid breath drew in the intoxicating scent of the woman she was lashed to. She was, indeed, drowning in Kalokairi’s musk. And Zeta was slowly teaching her to love it.
K’wari feared that she would willingly drown ... if only Zeta would let her.
K’wari shook the thought from her mind. She was a Vicar of Yasu. As in control of her mind as her body. She would endure… and prevail.
The rock on the beach does not try to break the-
“Let us give my slave a reward for the splendid job she’s doing with you, shall we?” Zeta leaned forward, hovering over K’wari’s face, holding the rayff staff. One of the telescoping poles was extended. Zeta rubbed the smooth, chrome bulb at the end over Kalokairi’s sex, dipping and twisting the metal across the juicy, quivering lips.
She pressed the chrome against the entrance of the broken Queen’s ass, pausing to let the rivulets of Kalokairi’s honey drip down and ease its entry. With a sudden thrust Zeta plunged it into Kalokairi’s passage. Kalokairi growled like an animal and then began savagely bucking her hips, humping the chrome intruder. Her mouth never stopped devouring K’wari’s plump, swollen lips.
The Vicar moaned, a long guttural sound as she watched the hot, wet flower before her face clench and release. Fresh honey flowed from Kalokairi’s petals and ran down K’wari’s neck and chest, smearing her flesh with delicious syrup.
“Pledge yourself to me Vicar,” Zeta purred, “and you too shall know the unending pleasure of serving the Suzerain Supreme!”
…surround me and engulf me.
I will recede… IT will recede and I will remain.
I will break the tide because... I have to.
K’wari fought with all her being to focus on her mantra… and save her very soul.
The pinkish atmosphere of Serpens Kauda, which means “Serpent Tail,” looks peaceful enough, but the crew of the Artemis III is ready for another fight as it assumes its orbital approach …
“No ships on the scanners, Captain,” Riesga reported.
“Steady as she goes, Epsilon.”
Then from Flock: “Message coming in, Captain.”
“Let’s hear it.”
Flock hit the button: “Greetings from Serpens Kauda, Captain Jones. Queen Glamora welcomes you to our planet. A landing bay has been provided for your vessel near the Queen’s palace. Bay Six. Please acknowledge.”
Jette sat back in the command chair trying not to show her surprise.
“Well, I didn’t see that coming,” Jette said quietly. She jerked her head toward the pilot of the Artemis III. “Okay, Epsilon, bring her in.”
Jette waved to Flock over her shoulder.
“Comm open, Captain.”
“This is Captain Jette Jones. The crew and I accept your hospitality. Please inform Queen Glamora that we should arrive shortly.”
As the Artemis descended, Captain Jette Jones wasn’t taking any chances. “Riesga? Flock? This could be a trap. Look sharp.”
Epsilon’s eyes darted quickly between the view screen and the instruments at her console as she guided the Artemis III into an approach lane. The night sky around them was soon filled with the twinkling lights of other ships. Dozens of smaller craft buzzed nearby as they neared the palace complex.
“That’s a lot of hardware,” Flock said, noting that every landing pad was full. “I wonder what’s going on in there.”
“We’ll find out soon enough,” Jette replied.
“Three thousand meters. Ready to reverse pitch,” Epsilon announced as Bay Six came into view.
“Buckle in and brace for pitch change,” Jette called out.
Epsilon’s hands danced over the controls as she cut the main engine power. The Artemis III dropped and swung upward, its silver nose pointing skyward as the heavy rocket engine’s weight pulled the craft into a vertical orientation. A moment later Epsilon fired the main engine again, smoothly accelerating against the force of gravity just enough to slow their descent.
“Five hundred meters,” she said calmly. She studied the readout at her console as she engaged lateral thrusters and made micro-adjustments to their trajectory. “Ten meters,” she called out.
“Brace for landing,” said the captain.
The Artemis III’s engine burned bright against the Kaudan night as it descended the final few meters. Landing struts emerged from within the craft and reached out to touch the ground below. Then the engine cut off, its mighty roar echoing for a moment as the weight of the ship was absorbed by the hydraulic struts. The craft settled into place, the engine’s whine slowly fading.
“Textbook,” Riesga said, nodding to Epsilon.
“Naturally,” Epsilon quipped, flicking switches along the console. “Landing complete, Captain.”
“Very good,” Jette said getting to her feet. “Let’s get out there and find out what’s going on.”
“Think they’ll have another go at us?” Flock asked as Jette strode past.
“We’ll find out,” Jette replied.
The exterior hatch opened with a hum, followed by a higher-pitched hum as the retractable ladder extended downward, stopping with a thud as it dug into the painted turf of the landing pad.
Jette ducked her head to climb down, then paused. A large security detail was gathering below them, marching onto the pad.
“If things go bad, Flock, you’re gonna have to cover all of us. You’re last off.”
Jette descended the ladder as quickly as she could, not wanting her back turned for long.
She was greeted by two long rows of Kaudan soldiers at attention. And standing some 20 meters in front of her was a very large robot. Eight-feet high and all in black. Riesga and Epsilon descended. Then Flock stomped the steps on her way down. She hopped as she hit the ground, quickly counting the number of guns on instinct. Her eyes stayed on the robot.
“Stay close to me, Epsy,” she whispered.
“Flock, for the sixth time, please refrain from calling me Epsy.”
“Sorry. Epsilon. Just stay close if the shooting starts, okay?”
The robot rolled forward – its large head gradually tapered down to its one leg, which crossed the pad on wheels covered in tank treads. It appeared unarmed, except for its flexible, clawed hands. It was a hulking monster. Even the motorized hum as it approached sounded menacing.
It rolled up to Jette and stopped.
“Submit your weapons,” the robot said in a deep, sexless monotone.
“We are unarmed,” replied Jette.
A four-foot-long arm pointed at Flock.
“Deactivate your robot.”
Flock moved forward quickly and stood by her captain. “Who you callin’ a robot, buster?”
Jette looked at the intimidating robot calmly. “It is her uniform.”
Flock took off her helmet, her blonde hair spilling out as she glared. There was a long pause. The robot retreated a few feet.
“Very well. You will come. Now.”
The robot’s body twisted around the joint at its base until it was facing backward. Then, with its treads moving in reverse, it guided them “forward” toward a large gate. The soldiers surrounded the Artemis’ crew as they headed for the palace … and Queen Glamora.
“Recite your mantra again, I would so love to hear it.” Queen Zeta paced back and forth around the bed, occasionally stopping within K’wari’s line of sight to study the Vicar’s eyes. She was pleased, each time, with what she found there.
The rock on the beach breaks… It has chosen…
I break ... chosen to break. Over me, surround me, engulf me .... Zeta.
I recede ... Zeta remains ... I have chosen to break ...
K’wari knew that wasn’t right but… it was so hard to think. Her dull, glassy gaze was fixed on Kalokairi’s pussy hovering over her face. It was so beautiful. So succulent and perfect as it dripped juice onto K’wari’s chin.
“Open your mouth and speak it,” Zeta cooed. “I love listening to your mind crumble.”
The Vicar kept her lips sealed. She knew Zeta’s ploy: the vile Queen would have her open her mouth to speak ... and Kalokairi’s tangy liqueur would drip onto her tongue and send her spiraling dangerously close to reciting an entirely different sort of mantra.
One that began and concluded with “Yes, Queen Zeta.”
It was like being stranded in a vast desert with nothing but wine to quench her thirst. Giving in would feel glorious on her hot tongue... but it would also seal her doom.
Zeta chuckled as she resumed pacing. K’wari could never remember being so thirsty.
Ryaki held the rayff staff now, sodomizing Kalokairi with a steady, merciless rhythm. Ryaki had realized the rayff’s unique ability to absorb, temporarily store, then release energy. She’d drained several hand comps into the staff by now. Each time, building up a surge of power before pressing the button to release the charge into Kalokairi’s spasming body.
The slave Queen howled in orgasm each time, then resumed molesting K’wari with renewed savagery. What Ryaki did to Kalokairi was transferred seamlessly into K’wari. She was fucking the Vicar just as much as her former Queen.
K’wari’s sluggish mind screamed: Oh Goddess, they’re all fucking me! Fucking me... soooo good! They’re all fucking me and there’s nothing I can do to stop from turning into the perfect little slave-warrior. Queen Zeta will see to it I’m used just the way a useful whore like me needs to be!
K’wari cringed. What the hells was she thinking?! She looked over and saw Zeta laughing — and heard it in her own mind as if she were laughing at herself!
Goddess! Help me... I can’t tell the difference between my thoughts and her words!!
Zeta leaned forward and looked at Ryaki then back to K’wari. “Do you know her species?” She asked, her voice tinged with concern. She climbed onto the bed and studied the Vicar. “Do you know their signs of dehydration?”
“N-no my Queen,” Ryaki stammered.
“Fool!” Zeta hissed. She hovered over Kalokairi’s ass and softly brushed a wet strand of hair from K’wari’s face.
“K’wari,” Zeta said softly. Not the mocking tone of the pitiless ruler. Not the wicked purr of the scheming seductress. This was a different voice, full of sympathy. “K’wari?” she repeated. “Do you need something to drink? Something to slake your thirst?”
K’wari nodded slowly. “Y-yesss please,” she whimpered.
Zeta’s hands lunged like striking vipers, grabbing Kalokairi by the curves of her slick ass and pressing her pussy to K’wari’s open lips. “Then drink!” she shouted as Kalokairi’s juice flooded K’wari’s mouth. “Drink your fill my obedient slave-warrior!”
K’wari’s mouth and tongue knew well a woman’s weeping sex. Not thinking why she shouldn’t, she thirstily slurped at Kalokairi’s pussy.
Ryaki laughed alongside her Queen and tapped the button on the rayff’s handle sending a jolt into Kalokairi’s clenching ass. The energy surged and twisted, forking into K’wari’s mouth through the former Queen’s delicious cunt and into K’wari’s own sex through the Queen’s servile mouth.
The arcing lust flowed in a spiraling loop between their slithering, grinding bodies. Over and over, the circuit repeated as their mouths howled and groaned around wet, swollen flesh. The orgasms obliterated every thought in K’wari’s brain and left her vision dancing with spots of white.
Zeta’s laughter echoed from the arches of the bedchamber to the recesses of K’wari’s empty mind.
K’wari was cumming again before she could even begin to recall her mantra — or what she used to know about drinking wine in the desert ...
Serpens Kauda’s palace exterior was an eyeful. Not primitive like Sepentarius’ or sleek and streamlined like Soma’s, it was a cornucopia of excess – lights and colors and fantastical structures that literally assaulted the senses. It was too too much. Of everything.
Still, Kauda managed to balance the theatrics and glitz of its queendom by serving as a shining example across the galaxy to the benefits of monarchy. No matter that Queen Glamora left nearly all the duties of running the planet to those who served beneath her.
And inside … hundreds of people filled the wide hallways and “meeting” areas, many as outrageous as the palace grounds. The crew of the Artemis was led by the huge robot into the main ballroom. It was a startling sight. As if everyone was under the influence of contraband Plutonian pleasure pills.
Strange, thumping music and strobing lights. Tangled, gyrating bodies with skin on skin on skin … loud laughs and clinking glass. It was the kind of decadence that would make Empress Ta’a Al of Orgasmia proud, Riesga thought to herself.
Even Jette Jones, who had traveled to dozens of alien worlds, stared in amazement.
Their giant “escort” deposited them off to the side of the center of attraction, although it was difficult to tell where that was. There was shuffling in the crowd below them… and from it emerged Queen Glamora.
She pinballed through the crowd, hugging and kissing and laughing with whomever was nearest, yet her ornate crown stayed exactly in place. She was led up the steps on the wing, her eyes both searching and unfocused.
Despite the sexual chaos -- and the distraction of the gaudy silver gown, the curled raven hair, the too-red lips and the excessive makeup -- nothing could conceal Queen Glamora’s natural beauty. She was ravishing.
“You will bow to the Queen.” The robot was seemingly unaffected by the hedonistic mayhem.
“That won’t be necessary, Guardian,” said the Queen as she alit in front of Jette. “It is an informal occasion. I know who they are.” She put out her hand as if sharing a secret. “You have to forgive my sentry robot. The Guardian is still lacking a bit in social graces.”
Jette smiled tightly.
“Captain Jones! So good to see you are well.”
“Queen Glamora.” Jette half-bowed.
“I’m so sorry. I’ve only just heard. My deepest apologies. There has been a terrible mistake.”
“A mistake? Your star fighters almost –” Jette elbowed her lieutenant’s arm.
“My … crew, your Majesty.”
“Yes, of course. I simply don’t know how this could have happened. But we have had sightings of Tabicocean Pirates in our area. I must confess my space commanders were a little too overly cautious.”
Riesga opened her mouth but knew better than to say anything. She looked to her captain.
“It’s understandable, Queen Glamora,“ Jette said flatly.
“As you can see, we have a rather festive party going on …” She waved her hand over her shoulder idly.
“I appreciate that, your Majesty. But it is urgent we have a moment, at least, to talk. It’s about the trade alliance Kauda has just made with Serpentarius. The Galactic Systems League is understandably concerned.”
“Oh, that,” the queen said with a sigh. “Really, there is nothing to be concerned about. It’s only a few items, a little of this for that, you see. Serpentarius has orchards full of Mangara fruit just rotting on the vines. They have more than they need and, honestly, I find their sweetness quite delectable.” The Queen leered at Riesga. “And, I believe, Queen Zeta wanted some of our living stock to populate her zoos or some such. That, and a few other things I can’t even recall now. Really, nothing very significant.”
“Majesty, I’m afraid Queen Kalokairi and Queen Diamanti may think otherwise. I’m here, diplomatically, to see what can be done to allay those fears.”
The queen stamped her foot like a child, then abruptly composed herself with a practiced smile. “I’ve barely looked at the contract myself, Captain Jones. But if you wish, I can have a copy of it made available to you. On that note … if you wish, you and your crew are welcome to stay here as my guests overnight. Perhaps enjoy the party? Tomorrow I shall be off to the TSS Space Station. Queen Zeta has called a meeting of the Suzerain Council for tomorrow evening.” She leaned in to whisper to Jette, “Queen Diamanti, of course, will be there.”
Jette knew she could not refuse the Queen’s invitation under any circumstances, and it would provide a ready excuse to accompany Queen Glamora to the space station – and see what was going on for herself.
“That is very generous of you, Queen Glamora.”
“Excellent! Enjoy the party. I shall have my staff make the preparations for your stay. Now, if you will pardon me, I have other guests to attend to.”
Jette bowed her head, Riesga and the others doing so one beat behind.
Zeta tasted the end of the rayff staff as she gazed at the gaping star on the cum-splattered ass of Kalokairi. She savored the moment. Everything was transpiring as the prophecy of the Goddess of Darkness had foretold.
With Zeta’s tones of sound strumming in her mind – plus the subliminal instructions she buried within them – the Vicar of Yasu mindlessly lapped at the pink flesh of the fallen Queen of Soma. An occasional grunt of pleasure left her lips as Kalokairi did the same atop her. Their wrists and ankles still bound together in a sapphic knot of lust and hypnotic helplessness.
“Pardon me, my Queen, but I have arranged everything as you instructed.” Ryaki had returned to the bedroom, feeling a spasm between her legs at the sight of the two enslaved women. “Queen … Kalokairi’s cruiser is scheduled to depart at morning light for the space station. I have made sure you and the Diamond Warrior are included on the manifest as the Queen’s security detachment.”
“Excellent,” Zeta purred. “Well done, Ryaki. I shall leave these two as they are overnight. Six more hours of brainwashing and debasement should ensure their complete obedience to me.”
The words “obedience to me” made Ryaki shudder.
“And where do you sleep, my dear?”
“I do not live in the Queen’s … Kalokairi’s residence, Queen Zeta, but she does provide me with a room down the hallway.”
A deep moan, smothered by pussyflesh, from K’wari made Zeta’s eyes shine with sinister approval.
“Good. I shall take it. If you do a sufficient job massaging my feet I may allow you to lie with me tonight.”
Another spasm. “Thank you, my Queen.”
“Tomorrow shall be a very special day.”
The crew was led to a higher floor of the opulent palace that housed the guests’ living quarters. The Guardian opened three doors with a wave of its clawed hand. “This is a two-room, adjoining dwelling,” it intoned in its deep artificial voice, motioning to one door. “These are single-occupancy rooms.” It gestured to the opposite side of the hall. “Will these accommodations suffice?”
“Yes, thank you,” Jette replied. She waited until the Guardian had rolled back down the hallway to the junction at the far end before addressing her crew. “Epsilon and I will take the double. You two are in the singles,” she said nodding to Riesga and Flock. “I’m not sure what to make of Glamora’s excuse for the attack, but just to be on the safe side I think we ought to stay in our rooms until morning. Might not be a good idea to go wandering.”
“Would it be better for us to bunk together, Skipper?” Riesga asked as Epsilon entered the suite, studying its surprisingly subdued interior.
“I want Epsilon close,” Jette said quietly. “And you’ve got some homework to do, Lieutenant.”
“Yes, Sir,” Riesga said, standing a bit straighter.
“Learn as much as you can about what we’re getting ourselves into. Zeta is clever and knowing the details might make all the difference.”
Flock entered her room and took off her power armor as soon as the door closed. She set the individual pieces of her parent’s amazing technological creation on the corner table. She opened a drawer and found it filled with a wide assortment of curious and wanton toys and liquid vials.
She smiled, closing the draw again. The Kaudans were a unique people. She spread her feet on the carpet and stretched her arms over head.
Riesga flopped on the bed and started reading her “homework” on her hand comp. “Show me background information on the four ruling houses of Te’ Sareez starting with Serpentarius,” she instructed the device. The comp blinked several times and then began displaying the requested data. Riesga tucked an arm behind her head as she started reading up on Zeta’s family history.
There was a soft knock on the adjoining door of the suite.
“Come.” Jette was tinkering with the large viewing screen on the desk as Epsilon entered. “Good. I’m glad you’re here.”
Epsilon had a quizzical look on her face as she entered. “Captain, did you not want to partake in the festivities? It appeared to me that everyone was having a very good time.”
Jette laughed. Epsilon’s limited “life experiences” certainly took a leap forward observing the orgiastic festivities.
“That’s not exactly the kind of party I would enjoy, Epsilon,” she said. “Besides, we have work to do. I’d send a message from the ship but we’d have to put it on scramble and I don’t want the Kaudans to think I’m up to something.”
“Up to something,” Epsilon repeated with only a hint of a question. “Aren’t you acting on behalf of the Galactic Systems League?”
“Absolutely,” Jette said, her head snapping up. “Absolutely we are, Epsilon.” She continued her tinkering. “But I’ve also learned that things can change very quickly.”
Epsilon paused, processing. The white lines of her matrix buzzed in an irregular pattern for a moment before resuming their languid resting state.
“You are up to something.”
Her captain smiled.
“I want to get a message out to the Admiral. And Queen Diamanti too,” Jette replied. She put down the pocket multi-tool, retracting the screwdriver. “See what you can do with that.”
Epsilon looked over the hardware on the desk. She pressed her finger to one of the access ports. A long, spiked probe extended from her forefinger and connected with the machine. She frowned.
“The system is secured and monitored, Captain. It would be difficult to get a message out. And even if you did, someone would be able to access it here in the palace, presumably. It wouldn’t be a private conversation.”
Jette smiled. “That’s never stopped you before.”
“It will take time to reroute.”
“Lucky for you we have all night.”
“Yes, Captain. I’ll begin at once.”
Twenty minutes later, the desk was covered in computer parts. Epsilon appeared immersed in her work, but then her head popped up and looked at Jette.
“May I ask you something, Captain?”
“Would it be more appropriate if I called you Skipper?”
Jette’s eyebrows rose. “I’m sure you’ve noticed that Flock and K’wari call me Captain.”
“But not Riesga.”
“Right. It’s … a term of endearment. But I don’t think that is a habit you should get into. Especially if you have another captain someday.”
“She is allowed.”
Jette looked at Epsilon and smiled again. “We’re both Star Rangers.”
Jette returned to her work. After a moment, Epsilon did too – accepting that that alone was the answer. Then her head popped up again.
“There is something else, Captain.”
“It’s about the Queen’s sentry …”
Johansen “Flock” Powers was stretching her limbs on the floor of her room, which was pleasantly homey compared to other rooms she had seen in the palace. Her body still ached a bit from the grueling ordeal on Tarkaria. No suit of armor could withstand everything, but the aches were more from strain and exhaustion. She was looking forward to a little peace and quiet.
“I’ll do everything possible to comply with your request,” she muttered under her breath as she shifted into a new position and tried to focus on her breathing.
The buzzer on the door was greeted with growl.
She leaned over from the floor and hit the button.
The shadow of the eight-foot-tall “Guardian” fell across Flock’s face.
“May I enter?” came the monotone robotic voice.
Flock didn’t stand, studying the looming mech for a long moment. “Sure, why not.”
The Guardian rolled smoothly into the room, the door swishing closed behind it. “Is there anything I can provide for you?” the robot asked, its long right arm reaching out, its clawed hand open.
“So what are you now? A butler?” The Guardian’s head swiveled and fixed on Flock’s armor in the corner of the room. “Hey! You know what I want? A cheeseburger. And a milkshake. From Earth? Do you have those?”
The large head swiveled back. “What is cheeseburger?”
The Guardian moved closer and Flock stood up defensively. There was a humming, the sound of internal latches being opened. The breastplate parted down the middle, from the head to its one foot … and out stepped a young woman, naked but for a tied, white wrap about her waist.
She wasn’t much older than Flock. With an athletic shape, sparkling blue eyes and long blonde hair resting on her shoulders, she was one of the most beautiful women Flock had seen in a long time.
“You,” Flock said in amazement, “are the Guardian?”
The woman smiled. “I’m Hunni.”
Flock smiled back. “You certainly are.”
“May I inspect your uniform?”
“Umm … sure go ahead,” Flock said. She was already inspecting Hunni. “Just don’t press any buttons.”
Hunni looked at the battlesuit with wide-eyed wonder; Flock’s eyes were just as wide. She caught herself staring, turning to the empty robot chassis.
“That’s a pretty impressive suit you have too. How is it powered?”
Hunni turned from her hips, as if putting her voluptuous breasts on display. “If you wish, you may try it on.”
Flock ran her hand down the black metal frame, leaning sideways to peer inside. “I don’t see any instrumentation. How do you control it?”
“It needs to be engaged. If you wish, you may try it on,” she repeated.
Hunni returned her attention to Flock’s armor, bending over to inspect its two leggings. Her perfect ass jutted out invitingly.
“Uh, sure, thanks.”
Flock stepped into the machine carefully and faced forward. There were no buttons, no lights, nothing.
“Okay, how do you get it start –”
In an instant, the center section slammed shut.
Flock’s knees were pinched together. She could barely raise her hand to bang on the shell.
There was a motorized hum. Flock felt even more constricted, only able to hit against the enclosure with her fist pressed to her hip.
“Get me out of this thing! Hunni?”
And then there were tingling sensations on her body … like waves of heavy air surrounding her. The pressure increased as if a thousand invisible hands were caressing her skin.
She was in total darkness.
Flock grunted as she struggled to move her arms, searching for some sort of control or latch. She could hear strange whirring sounds all around her, like dozens of tiny servomechanisms activating.
“Hunni! Let me out!”
She could feel something... several somethings... moving inward, closer to her body. Smooth, irregular conical shapes touched her breasts. They moved laterally, centering themselves, and then pressed into her. There were indentions in the metal, they slid over and captured her nipples with a soft sucking sound.
Flock pictured metallic hands with vacu-ports in the palms. She tried to look down, but her head bumped into a smooth flat armature that was sliding into place, from left to right, in front of her face.
“What the fuUUUCKKK!” Her voice suddenly spiked several octaves higher as she felt new intruders between her thighs. Twin probes, one extending from in front of her, one behind. There was a strange buzzing sound and a quick flash of light from below. Then, Flock felt strange warmth over both of her passages.
The buzzing and warmth continued for a moment, then she felt her skin-tight leggings suddenly loosen. Micro lasers! Cutting through my clothes! Then, warm and very well lubricated steel probes pushed forward. Flock knew exactly what they were targeting.
Her hair was suddenly yanked back, holding her head firmly in place. Gentle and rough stimuli fondled her neck and shoulders. She heard herself gasp as her nipples were repeatedly sucked and released. The intruders below moved inside her gradually and relentlessly. They began moving. Vibrating with a soft purr between her legs.
“What the fuuu...”
The words died on her tongue as a bright flash erupted in front of her. Several flashes. Staccato, throbbing pulses of light in every color. There were shapes as well. Line forms of complex geometric patterns. Spinning and changing faster than she could keep up with. It reminded her of… of something.
White moving lines and shapes over a black surface in the shape of a beautiful woman’s body. She could picture a face too. Why couldn’t she think of the name? Flock fought to concentrate… Epsilon! Why was that so hard?
The thoughts were dashed from her brain as the pulsing light increased in intensity. The neural interference continued to jumble her mind into an incoherent mess.
The words appeared in front of her eyes, hovering in space in front of the swirling colors and dizzying shapes.
“Establish physical response baseline.”
Flock struggled to comprehend. Individually, she knew what the words meant but the phrase made no sense. The words were moving closer. Then, she felt soft foam touch her face as the display visor pressed itself over her eyes and locked firmly into place.
The buzzing phalluses inside her began to pulse and pump relentlessly. Soft rubber tips inside of the cones that had captured her breasts begin to squeeze and massage her sensitive flesh. The vacuum ports continued to pinch and suck her nipples.
The display began showing her images. Sexual depravity of every kind. Nude, oiled bodies grinding and thrusting across each other. Eyes closed and mouths open in ecstasy. Women trapped inside great mechanical beasts: their limbs stretched in steel bondage as they were fucked into a frenzy.
As the fiendish automaton discovered what she liked, some images disappeared from the cycle and others were repeated more often.
Tiny, soft buds slid into her ears and she heard a chorus of sexual cries. Women barking, pleading and cumming. Over and over.
Flocked screamed from the suddenness of her orgasm. There was almost no sound. She could only hear the faintest hint of her cries inside her own skull over the sexual sounds being pumped into her.
The devices molesting her were relentless – probing, stroking, invading. Flock shuddered inside her skin. She couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t think. Another orgasm wracked her body. A fleeting thought of the Tentacle Snare passed across her mind then popped like a bubble. Twenty-seven! Oh, Goddess …
Flock lost all sense of time. The torturous pleasure seemed unending. Everything shut down in her consciousness. She barely whimpered as another climax struck. Then another behind it.
The visor continued hammering its decadent program into her wide, unblinking eyes.
Her body involuntarily spasmed in shock. Orgasm. Wetness splashed down her legs. Orgasm. Nothingness. Orgasm.
There were new words for her now: “Baseline established.”
She felt something press firmly into her thoughts, like an ethereal probe was boring into her skull.
“Brainwashing sequence initiated.”
Flock saw a woman’s face: regal, mature, utterly beautiful. She heard a name: Queen Zeta.
Flock came again, then passed out.
As daybreak filtered into the room, Jette and Epsilon were still busily working. Jette had managed to get a quick message out to Moonbase One, although Epsilon couldn’t say whether Admiral Hartley would receive it in two hours or two weeks. She spent an hour wiping data from the system, preventing detection.
One of Queen Glamora’s attendants had stopped by in the meantime to inform Jette that Glamora’s ship was preparing to leave for the space station. Jette was getting impatient despite knowing that Epsilon was working as quickly and efficiently as she could.
“Captain,” Epsilon said, drawing Jette’s attention to the computer. “I am receiving transmission.”
Then an image appeared on her screen.
Queen Diamanti smiled that singularly beautiful smile Jette knew so well.
“My Vipera Berus … I dared not even dream about when I would see you again. I wish the circumstances of our meeting were different. This issue is of grave concern to Caput.”
“I share your feelings, Sovereign,” Jette replied evenly, although she couldn’t keep her heart from pounding. “My ship will be following Queen Glamora and her delegation to the TSS Space Station for your meeting of the Suzerain Council this evening.”
“I wish I had more I could tell you, Captain Jones. No overtures have been made to Caput about any trade alliance with Serpentarius or from elsewhere. I’m afraid Queen Zeta is hoping to exclude Caput from this … arrangement. I know little more than you do.”
“I understand, Sovereign. It is my intention, as a representative of the Galactic Systems League, to get a full accounting of these trade pacts. I guarantee you, we will all know exactly what is going on before long.”
The Queen’s teeth shone like pearls as she smiled. “Of that, I have no doubt. Nor in you, Vipera Berus. Be well. Until tonight.”
Two hours later, the Artemis III blasts off – first to pick up the Vicar of Yasu from Serpens Soma and then on to the Te’ Sareez Space Station orbiting Serpens Caput …
“Queen Glamora’s vessel is approaching the station, Captain,” said Riesga.
“Message from the space station, Captain. It’s K’wari,” Flock said flatly. Epsilon processed that Flock hadn’t looked her way since they boarded.
“Yes, K’wari, go ahead.”
“I must be brief, Captain. Queen Kalokairi signed the trade agreement with Serpentarius before I could meet with her. I don’t know the details.”
“That ties it.The Suzerain Council is meeting tonight on the space station. We’re almost there.”
“Yes. Queen Kalokairi agreed to take the LM in tow. I will meet you here.”
“That’s fine. Also, I want –”
“The message has been terminated, Captain.”
“It’s more serious than I thought,” Jette said more to herself than anyone else. “No need to alter course, Epsilon. Let’s go straight to the station.”
Jette had no idea what awaited them on the space station, but she knew she would see Diamanti there, and that clouded her thoughts no matter how much she wished to ease them aside.
It has been only three years, but it seems so much longer and so very far away …
Captain Jette Jones sat stiffly in the vestibule as a steady stream of people passed by. Colorful flags and trumpets and laughter filled the courtyards of the palace of Serpens Caput, the “Serpent Head.” It was a rare, grand occasion and Jette considered herself fortunate to be there.
The Queen’s palace was a blending of old and new. It preserved its history while also showing that Caput was growing and vibrant. Statues and images of its past surrounded by synthetic marble and steel and glass. People of all colors, ethnicities and social standing filed into the majestic cathedral where Queen Diamanti was to address the populous after the recent threat to her Queendom had been quelled. It was a time to celebrate.
There was a storybook quality to it all, Jette thought -- a place of princesses, knights and happy endings.
Why then did she feel so sad?
“Captain?” Jette looked up to see Lt. Coral Pace moving toward her. “The Artemis is ready to go whenever you are, Sir.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant. I think we have time to watch the Queen’s address before shoving off. Let’s find a spot in the back.”
Pace was surprised, but her voice didn’t show any. “Aye, Sir.”
“Excuse me, Captain Jones?”
A woman in white bowed deeply. “The Queen would like a private word with you before you go.”
Jette was led through a side door and down a long hallway lined with portraits of all the queens of Serpens Caput. It was strangely solemn. A polite wave ushered her into a private chamber.
Standing in the center of the tastefully decorated room was Queen Diamanti. Dressed in her white robes, as always, her deep bronze skin illuminated by bracelets and rings and a wide ornate necklace. And on her head rested an eight-pointed crown, as elegant and understated as the queen herself.
“Captain Jones. Please.”
The Queen spread her arms and Jette moved toward her as if magnetized. Face to face, she lowered her arms and nodded to the three women standing off to the side.
“Pay them no mind, Captain,” she said with a voice so soft yet strong it felt like a cool breeze on her skin. “They are witnesses.”
“Witnesses to what, Sovereign?”
“We have a very old custom here on Caput, one seldom used, but it is an honor I wish to bestow upon you, Captain Jette Jones. If you accept.”
“Anything,” Jette answered slowly, “you wish to give me, Sovereign, is heartfully accepted.”
Queen Diamanti’s eyes never wavered.
“Everything that is Diamanti is already yours.”
She smiled brightly, touching Jette to her soul. “However, as Queen of Serpens Caput, above the unceasing gratitude of my people, there is but one part of myself I may pass to you.”
She turned and reached down, removing a gold chain from a white box. It was a gold medallion, round and smooth, with the image of Te’ Sareez’s twin suns on one side and smaller twin stars on the other.
“It is not only an award which I give to you, Captain Jones. With it is an honorary title which has been given to only a few outworlders, signifying their great service to the throne. It is presented only by the Queen … to her Vipera Berus. Her Uncontested One.”
“It’s beautiful, Sovereign.”
Queen Diamanti leaned forward slightly, her voice almost a whisper. “It is shared by us alone. It is the only time I may bestow it. For you, there is also a duty to uphold it. Knowing too, that although great distance separates us, a day may come when I will call for you again to my side.
“And, if that day never comes, be gladdened to know that this bond shall never break, never be tarnished, never fade. And perhaps in some distant time, with this symbol resting against your breast, if I am no longer Queen, merely your Diamanti, you will call for me in the end.”
She raised the medallion high. “Do you accept?”
The words left Jette’s mouth before she need think them. “I do.”
The Queen put the medallion around Jette’s neck, smoothing it with her fingers.
“I shall cherish this and vow to honor your words, Sovereign.”
They smiled more than a smile.
“Ladies? You may turn your eyes and ears off now.”
The three women closed their eyes slowly. The Queen stepped close.
“Jette … at this moment, my heart sings … and weeps.”
“Sover –” Jette felt her voice crack. “Diamanti, I will sing those joys and cry those tears with you. Always.”
They embraced tightly, both of them feeling that it alone was not enough.
The kiss was long and deep and binding.
Finally, the Queen of Serpens Caput pulled back. “Now, my dear friend, my Vipera Berus, we must return to our obligations. I fear they will always be there for both of us. But … know well, you are part of me.”
Jette stared at her, not wanting to ever stop, before bowing deeply.
“Your people await, Sovereign. As do my shipmates.”
Captain Jones bowed again, before turning and striding quickly away as the tears fell.
The Artemis III prepares to dock at the space station, not knowing what dangers await them …
The TSS Space Station hung like a jewel above Serpens Caput. It had two tiers of docking ports – the top four reserved for the four Queens. Jette noticed Queen Diamanti’s ship had not arrived. On the lower tier were six ports. Four were open, but two were filled by ships Jette had never seen before.
“Which uniform should we wear in the station, Skip?”
“The one without the collar,” Jette replied, tugging at her collarless tunic. “And with sidearms.”
“Do we have landing clearance, Epsilon?”
“Very well,” Jette murmured. “Let’s get on with it then.”
The airlock opened with a hum and a hiss of steam. Jette stepped inside, wearing her beige uniform and blue half-cape. Her rayvolver holstered. There was no one tending to the airlock, no station representative there to greet them.
Riesga peered into the space station’s concourse. “It’s empty.”
“Flock, you and Epsilon wait by ship. Riesga and I are going to have a look around.”
Jette and Riesga left the airlock and moved to the center of the large concourse. The absence of the usual flurry of activity – bustling dignitaries, VIPs with their entourages, even the stray tourist – made the bright white terminal seem vast and cold.
In the airlock, Epsilon waited patiently. She looked over at Flock.
“Flock. I have reconsidered. You may call me Epsy if you wish. It is … a term of endearment?”
Flock didn’t react. Epsilon knew Flock was preoccupied guarding the ship, yet she could also sense Flock’s heart rate and pulse were steady.
“Are you feeling all right?”
Flock turned her head. The smile came late. “Huh? Sure.”
Epsilon was silent a moment, processing. She stood straight, the lines of her matrix shimmering with a slightly eccentric pattern. Then Flock began to walk briskly into the station.
“Where are you going? Flock, the captain said to –”
Epsilon hurried after her.
The station appeared deserted, aside from a few efficiency robots tending the facility’s systems. Jette and Riesga moved farther in. Conference rooms, concessions, services … all abandoned.
Bypassing the elevator, Jette climbed one of the access ladders to the second tier of the structure. Again, empty.
“Do you think they needed to abandon the station for some reason?” Riesga asked, ducking her head into a room.
“I doubt it. Glamora’s ship is docked. They only arrived here 30 minutes ago.”
“Look at this, Skipper.” Riesga was drawn into another room. “That’s weird. I don’t remember reading that there was a botanical garden on the station.”
Jette entered the room – it was fragrant, lush and green. Plants of all sizes and shapes filled the room. The pink-and-blue sphere of Serpens Caput spun slowly in the background, filling much of the view from the large glass window. Artificial sunlight bathed the room in a golden glow.
“That’s because there isn’t. Or wasn’t, when I was here three years ago.” They headed for the door, but Riesga stopped. “Something?”
“Yeah,” Riesga said, quirking an eyebrow. “I’m no botanist, but it looks like all of these plants are poisonous.”
“You sure?” Jette moved back into the room, looking carefully.
“Well, the ones I can identify. Like this one. Plante de paradiso … it’s called Eve’s Apples because of the red bulbs. It won’t kill you but it’s a powerful hallucinogen. And that colorful one there? Definitely deadly.”
Jette followed Riesga slowly around the room.
“This is Viper Vine,” Riesga said, pointing to a lattice of ivy covered in thorns. “It’s toxin can be used for all kinds of paralyzing agents.”
“There were no hazard warnings on the hatch,” Jette observed. “What is all this for?”
Riesga jumped. Jette was at her shoulder in a flash.
Along a side wall was a glass enclosure about 15 feet long … filled with snakes. Dozens of them, twisted around each other like strands of thick rope.
“Sorry, Skipper. Just startled me.”
“It startled me too.” Jette stepped back. “Let’s get moving. Someone has to turn up. And K’wari should be here somewhere.”
Just as they reached the door a woman appeared.
“Hello there.” A tall, handsome woman in a white lab coat stood in the doorway. She held her eyes on Riesga. “I am Dr. Arkana. You must be Captain Jones.”
Riesga jerked her head toward her Captain, but her eyes stayed on the woman. She wore a short coat, mid-thigh, and with the deep cut in front it gave the impression that the good doctor was wearing nothing – or practically nothing – underneath it.
“Oh, forgive me, Captain.” They shook hands. “I see you found my little menagerie.”
“This is my first mate, Lt. Riesga.” Dr. Arkana’s gaze made Riesga feel like a lollipop. “Interesting hobby you have, Doctor.”
Dr. Arkana casually caressed a nearby leaf. “Lovely, aren’t they? It’s my belief that just because something is dangerous doesn’t mean it can’t also be beautiful.”
“So … where is everybody?” Riesga asked, taking a step.
“Oh, they’re around. Security for the meeting of the Suzerain Council has been very strict. All non-essential personnel have been taken off the station temporarily. Come this way?”
Arkana led the two Rangers back outside and down an interior hallway. Riesga’s eyes were locked on the swishing hips in front of her.
“Eyeballs back in your head, Ranger,” Jette whispered. Then, “And what is your position, Dr. Arkana?”
“I am Queen Zeta’s … administrative assistant. She is also my sister.”
Jette and Riesga looked at each other. “That explains a lot,” Riesga said under her breath.
“The Council lets you run that little shop of horrors back there?”
Dr. Arkana stopped and turned to Jette. “Every life is precious, Captain. Don’t you agree?”
At that moment Flock arrived, Epsilon hurrying behind her.
“Flock,” Riesga said, “You were supposed to stay with the ship.”
“I thought you might need a hand,” she answered.
Dr. Arkana continued walking.
“And here we are,” Dr. Arkana announced. She nodded her head toward an open door.
They entered another empty room – the Suzerain Council chamber, but with a difference. At the far end was a large, high-backed chair with steps leading up to it, hastily constructed yet still clad in vibrant gold. Curtains surrounded the throne as if it were a stage.
“Skip …” Riesga couldn’t make sense of it but she noticed with each step they took Dr. Arkana’s brashness seemed to melt away and was replaced by … deference.
As Jette reached the steps the curtain parted, and Queen Zeta appeared. She paused a moment to see the reaction on Jette’s face -- she gave her none – then dramatically sat down. Zeta was uncovered but for a long strip of fabric between her legs and a green-and-gold, short-cropped bustier.
“Making yourself at home, Zeta? It seems a bit much, even for you.”
“So wonderful to see you again, Captain Jones. It’s been ages!”
“What’s this all about … your Highness?”
“This is no longer the Te’ Sareez Space Station, Captain. It is the palace of the Suzerain Supreme!”
“There’s no Suzerain Supreme in any Te’ Sareez charter,” Jette challenged.
“It’s a recent development,” Zeta replied smoothly. “A Sovereign of Sovereigns, so to speak.”
“And that would be you?”
“I think you’ll have a problem convincing the other queens of that, Zeta.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure.” Zeta smirked. “Slaves!”
From behind the curtain to the left two women emerged, crawling with their heads down toward the “throne.” They were naked, collared, with the tinkle of their golden tethers dragging behind them. They wore no crowns. It was Glamora and Kalokairi!
Jette was speechless. The two women reached the feet of Zeta, who leaned down and grabbed their leashes. Tugging them, she steered each woman’s head to a leg.
They began to lick.
Jette hadn’t noticed it before, but nestled atop Zeta’s head were three crowns, two neatly fitting inside Zeta’s larger one.
Jette raised her rayvolver slowly, leveling at Zeta. “Fun and games are over, Zeta. Let them go and we’ll talk.”
“Talk?” Zeta huffed. “Why do we need to talk when I already have what I want?”
“Destroy her, my Queen. She’s not worthy to stand in your presence,” Ryaki hissed, emerging from behind the curtain and taking up position beside Zeta’s throne.
“Silence!” Zeta’s raised voice echoed in the room. “Slave.” Ryaki cowered submissively. “Do you know who this is? Captain Jette Jones. Honorable. Courageous. Proud. The kind of woman you could only dream of becoming. Leave my sight!”
Ryaki bowed deeply and scurried obediently away.
“We must stop meeting like this, Captain. In a different reality I would be more than willing to lure you into my bed … without having to invade your mind and turn you into this.” Zeta looked down at the two panting naked women kneeling mindlessly at her feet. “I can only hope that the Goddess of Darkness sees that in our future.”
“Goddess of what?” Riesga stepped close to her captain.
“Ahh. I see you have a new subordinate, Captain. She’s pretty enough. Although the last time you were here I did quite enjoy playing with … what was her name? Lieutenant Pace?”
“Quit stalling, Zeta. Let them go. My trigger finger is getting itchy. Queen Diamanti will be here soon. There’s no way this crazy scheme of yours is going to work.”
“Oh, you underestimate me, Captain. I still have a few tricks up my sleeve.”
With that, Zeta nodded forcefully.
Jette took the force of the stun ray full on, flying across the room before landing face-down some 10 meters away.
“Flock!!” Epsilon cried.
Flock lowered her forearm after discharging her suit’s energy weapon at the captain. Her face was a blank.
Riesga pulled her rayvolver from the holster, but before she could raise it her hand was slammed hard, knocking the weapon away. The impact of the rayff staff leaving her fingers numb. She looked up and saw familiar crimson robes.
“K’wari?? What the hell are you doing?” Riesga stared at the Vicar in disbelief as Epsilon ran to Jette.
“Surprise!” And there was a cackling laugh. “Your brave shipmates are already under my control. As will you be!”
Jette struggled to her feet, Epsilon’s arm around her waist. Just then, the room was quickly filled by Diamond Warriors, armed Kaudan soldiers and a half-dozen Guardian robots with power pistols in their clawed hands.
They were surrounded.
“I’d make you all kneel. Kneel for me.” Queen Zeta’s voice dripped with dominance. “But that will come soon enough. You see, Captain Jones, my ‘crazy scheme’ is only now coming to fruition. I will take you all, one by one.”
Jette glared hard. Zeta spoke only to her. “And you will worship me. Worship the Suzerain Supreme as my slave.
“Every day … for the rest of your life!”
To be continued … in Part 3 of “Slaves Of The Suzerain”!