First to be revealed were several of the few stars of the night sky. As the plate continued to descend, a large rounded shape came into view, a blue and brownish-green sphere. Lucia gasped in shock upon realizing she was looking at a planet... her planet. Which meant she was no longer on it. She simply stared in horror for a few moments, Niarith said nothing, allowing her to process what she was seeing. “H-how is this possible?” Lucia finally said, her voice shaking.
“The object I threw you into. It isn’t alive, it’s a vehicle. Like a ship, but it can fly.”
“B-but that.. I don’t- what?” Lucia felt her knees weaken and she nearly fell to the floor. Niarith helped her back to her chair.
“Try to stay calm, okay? You’re perfectly safe in here.” Lucia simply continued to stare out the window, unable to process what was happening. “Miss Carlena. Listen to me. You are safe. You are not on your planet, but you are safe.”
Lucia finally managed to tear her eyes away from the window to look at Niarith. “So this.. vehicle.. It can fly into the heavens? Is that where we are?”
Niarith placed a hand gently on Lucia’s shoulder. “Yes. I know your people are aware of the basics of how they work. But are you specifically?”
Lucia nodded. “Vaguely. The spheres rotate among the heavens, the heavens bear us through the void. My grandmother used to say Empress Mirideth came from the void. That it was why she was so powerful, she used the magic of the void to empower herself. That was just a legend though. Everyone knows she was born here.”
Niarith looked uncomfortable. “That.. may be less of a legend than you think.” Niarith pulled out yet another black rectangular object from her bodysuit. She placed it on the table and pressed a finger on it. The object lit up and an image of a dark blue planet appeared upon it. Blue-black oceans interspersed with patches of deep purple land, and dark blue clouds. “This, is the homeworld of Mirideth Asazlaiyn. Known to most as Lyrion VIc, it is a moon orbiting a gas giant around a Class B star. Does that make sense to you, Miss Carlena?” Lucia stared at the unfamiliar sphere, the world Empress Mirideth was from. The legends had been true. Mirideth was from the void. She was in the heavens. It was almost impossible to believe, but she was here, experiencing it. “Miss Carlena?” Niarith questioned Lucia again.
“Oh uhm, yes. Yes that makes sense. It’s just a lot to take in.”
“That’s understandable, but I need you to get back into a rational state of mind here. I’m going to say it straight, if I don’t get your help, millions will die. Mirideth knows I’m here. She knows why. And she knows that with the right proof, I can stop her. Knowing that, she’s going to do everything she can to make life even worse for your people while she can. She’s petty that way.” Lucia looked back out the window at her world, her home. “Millions…” she whispered, barely audible. “What kind of help do you need?”
Niarith walked over and closed the metal plate with her strange little card. “What I need from you, is the truth. I need you to come with me, and tell my superiors everything that’s happened here, to the best of your ability. They won’t act without adequate proof, and part of that proof includes eyewitness testimony. That’s you.”
“I can do that, where do we need to go? Lucia said, standing. “Well see, that’s the problem. We need to leave the system. We need to travel to another star, another planet, past the void.”
Lucia shuddered involuntarily “We have to.. enter the void? That’s.. the darkest, most evil place in creation! It’s believed to be made entirely of magic! We can’t go there! We’ll be torn apart! Are you insane?!”
Niarith pounded a fist on the table, shaking Lucia from her ranting. “Listen. To. Me. People are going to die. We need to leave, so that less people will die. Do. you. Understand?”
Lucia planted her own hands on the table, leaning toward Niarith. “The void is pure dark magic. It will kill us. How do you not understand that?”
Niarith raised her voice “Listen to me you primitive little shit, the void is not dark magic, magic doesn’t exist! What your people call magic, is not magic at all. It’s technology. Just like the wheel, or the plow, or smithing, it’s the same thing. Just much more advanced. The void is not technology. The void is a very, very large cloud of gas that obscures your world and the stars nearest to it from the rest of the galaxy. It is not dangerous, it is not deadly, and it is NOT made of magic.”
Lucia looked shocked at that. “You mean… there are things.. beyond the void? That.. it can’t be. They always said-”
Niarith interrupted, annoyed. “They were wrong. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your civilization is not the most advanced out there. If anything, it’s one of the least. That’s not an insult, it’s a fact. Now listen. We need to leave the system, but we can’t. This ship only had enough fuel for a one way jump. Such was my superior’s confidence in what I’d find here. We could still leave, but it’d take months of travel at light speed. We don’t have that long. Which brings me to our next move. Mirideth came here from beyond the void. Which means she had a ship. My ground penetrating radar indicates that the ship is beneath her citadel. And mineral scans indicate it still has fuel. We need to get that fuel, or that ship. Either will work. Are you with me on this, Miss Carlena?”
Lucia stared in confused incomprehension. Niarith sighed, smacking her own forehead. “We need to go back to Mirideth’s citadel to get a magic elixir that will allow our ship to fly beyond the void.” An expression of terror formed across Lucia’s face.
“You want me to go back there? For some vague item I don’t understand, because of a vague promise of a way to defeat Mirideth? No thank you. I decline your offer. Kindly take me home.”
Niarith looked at Lucia with a deadly serious expression. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Miss Carlena. You see, your world is classified as protected primitive territory. I’m not allowed to interfere unless there’s an existential threat posed by non-natural forces. Mirideth is a non-primitive human. She poses an existential threat. And thus, I can interfere. But you are not an existential threat. You are what is considered a cultural threat-”
Lucia interjected “What? Why am I a threat? I haven’t done anythi-”
Niarith raised her voice to be louder than Lucia’s “You are considered a cultural threat. The information I’ve just given you, the fact that humanity beyond your world even exists, could destabilize your entire culture. I can’t allow that. It’s illegal. And so..." She took a deep breath. "I’m sorry, but you cannot go home. Ever again.”
Lucia simply stared, unsure what to do or say or think. She could never go home again. Because of the laws of something she didn’t even know the name of. It was ridiculous. It was outrageous. It was enraging. “How. Fucking. Dare you. How DARE you try to keep me from my home based upon laws I had no way of knowing! How dare you rescue me without telling me this would happen. Now you want me to risk my life to save my home, even though I can never return to it? You want me to risk that monster getting ahold of my mind, for a home that is no longer mine? No. How dare you. No. I refuse.” Niarith grabbed the metal object hanging from her belt and raised it to point at Lucia.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist, Miss Carlena.”
“What is that? A weapon? You’re threatening me?” Niarith clicked a switch on the side of the weapon and it made a strange sort of “bwee” sound.
“If it saves the lives of everyone on that planet, you bet your primitive ass I am, Miss Carlena.”
Lucia and Niarith stood that way for several, unbearably long seconds, tension rising. Lucia dived to the side and under the table all in one motion. Niarith responded by firing the weapon, an incredibly loud, metallic POP sounding as she did. Lucia, who had been going for Niarith’s legs, was disoriented by the sound and landed to Niarith’s left. Before she could recover, she felt Niarith’s boot upon her back, pinning her to the floor. “Not. Smart.” Niarith said, before aiming the weapon again, and firing.
Darkness enveloped all of Lucia’s senses. After a while she felt herself floating in a void, white, misty smoke floating around her. She heard a strange humming noise, coming from seemingly everywhere at once. “Hello, Plaything” a sudden whisper in her ear, she jerked her head to look, but nothing was there. “Oh my dear, darling Plaything, don’t worry. I’m not here to hurt you.” the voice whispered into her other ear.
“Witch! Show yourself, stop with the mystical whispering!”
“Very well, my Plaything.” The mist parted before her, and revealed the feminine form of Empress Mirideth, dressed as she had been before.
“What do you want with me? Where are we?”
Mirideth laughed, a lovely, alluring sound. “Why Plaything, we’re nowhere. This is all in your pretty little mind.”
“My mind? How are you speaking to me within my own mind?” Mirideth stepped closer to Lucia’s immobile, floating form.
“I’ve been in your mind ever since I first entered, Plaything. Don’t you remember, my pretty glowing eyes, my soft, pale curves, hm?” Something about the way she spoke made Lucia’s thoughts hazy, hard to keep track of.
“You loved letting yourself think about me. You loved giving in to those thoughts, letting me in.” She walked in slow, sensual circles around Lucia as she spoke, her heels clicking on a non-existent floor, stopping by her right ear to whisper “Admit it, pet. Admit you like to think about my body, my face, my voice, all of me.”
Lucia struggled to keep her thoughts clear “I- I uh..” Mirideth suddenly appeared in front of Lucia again, without crossing the distance.
“Tell me, my darling Plaything. Tell me.” She reached out a gloved hand and touched Lucia’s chest, then quickly made a grabbing motion and pulled back. All of Lucia’s clothing instantly disappeared.
“Wha- how.. What are you doing, witch?” Lucia demanded, the shock of it providing sudden clarity to her thoughts.
“Whatever. I. Want.” Mirideth replied, punctuating each word with a sensual touch of a limb to Lucia’s now nude body. “And Plaything, my name is not ‘witch’, my name, to you at least, is Mistress. You will address me correctly, won’t you pet?”
“Yes Mistress.” Lucia replied in a toneless, empty voice. She hadn’t thought about it, or even intended to say it, it had simply happened. “Wh- what. What are you doing to me?” Mirideth brushed a lock of hair from Lucia’s face
“Nothing you don’t already want deep down, Plaything.” Lucia’s mind recoiled at the thought of wanting this… at first. But more and more, her thoughts turned to Mirideth’s beautiful form, to her alluring voice, to how good it would feel to just give in.
“Plaything, tell me.” Mirideth commanded. That same toneless voice responded before Lucia could stop it
“I like to think about your body. Your face. Your voice. All of you, Mistress.” Lucia felt a rush of intense anger. “Stop.. manipulating my mind… w- wi- w- Mistress.” Mirideth suddenly leaned in and kissed Lucia on the lips. Lucia gave in, it felt too good, Mirideth’s soft, cold lips against her own. She couldn’t resist, didn’t want to, she kissed back. The kiss ended, far too early for Lucia’s liking, and Mirideth stepped back and said, in a voice typically reserved for speaking to small animals “Good girl!” Everything faded, the void, the mist, Mirideth, Lucia herself