The pair descended the staircase in silence, only speaking upon reaching the bottom of the tower and making sure it was clear. “Okay, we’re in. According to my scans, the only way down to Mirideth’s ship is through a hidden access hatch… directly behind her throne. This… will be tricky.” Niarith said, quietly. Lucia felt her body place a hand on Niarith’s shoulder.
“We’ll be okay. We’re together. We’re gonna get through this.”
Niarith laughed softly. “You’re right, thank you Lucia.” Lucia continued to scream inside her head. She wasn’t in control of her body. Mirideth was. That meant Mirideth knew they were here. Knew where they were. This was a trap.
She tried with all she had to will her body to obey her, to force herself to speak. She managed to get out “N-nia- Niarith, thi- this is- is..” “What is it?” Niarith asked, concerned. Lucia strained against Mirideth’s control, forcing the words from her mouth “M-mirideth iss c-controlling mmy body somehow.” Niarith’s eyes widened. “Oh fuck… Okay, I can fix this. Don’t panic.” She rushed to Lucia’s side and pulled open a panel on the device over her eyes and ears. She fiddled with the circuitry for a minute or so, footsteps were now echoing off the walls.
Lucia winced as a loud burst of static flooded her ears, blocking out all other sounds. Her vision went fully white before stabilizing, the white outlines no longer clear and straight, but fuzzy and indistinct. Sound other than static returned, but only as indistinct differences in the static. Lucia’s mind instantly quieted, the forceful control over her body abruptly stopped. She nearly fell over as her body fell back under her own control again. Niarith spoke, barely audible. “Okay, that should be blocking your nanotech’s signal to her’s, let’s get out of here.”
They ran down a smaller side corridor, avoiding the small group of thralls that had been bearing down on them. From their concealed position, Niarith un-holstered her pistol and took aim at the nearest thrall. She flicked a different switch than she’d used before and fired. A short pulse of blue light emitted from the end of the weapon, completely silent, and the thrall fell, a small smoking hole in her head. The others were alerted, and looked around wildly. Lucia watched as their indistinct forms spread out and searched the corridor ahead of them. She turned to look behind them, it was a dead end. She briefly wondered why a corridor like this would exist. That thought was interrupted by a quiet clicking noise, as Niarith fired another shot. It was hard to tell, but her hand was shaking. She fired a few more shots, and it was over. Lucia looked down the hall again, and saw the corpses of the thralls, spread out across the corridor.
Niarith took a static filled breath. “Okay, we’re clear for now. You okay Lucia?”
Lucia thought for a moment. Her thoughts were clearer than they’d been since first arriving at Mirideth’s citadel, she was her own again. “Yes. I’m okay. Thank you Niarith. Truly. My mind is quiet but for my own thoughts again. Thank you.” She acted without thinking, hugging Niarith tightly. Niarith sighed, pulled back from the hug, and kissed Lucia on the cheek.
“Okay, we’re not far from the throne room. It’s down the hall we were just in, then through a prison block. We’ve got this.” They left the smaller corridor, stepping over the fallen corpses of the thralls Niarith had killed.
They soon came to the door to the prison block. It was a different one from the one Lucia had been rescued from. Looking through a small crack in the wooden door, Lucia could see that the block was full, unlike hers. The majority of the prisoners were partially corrupted, part thrall. If they entered, they’d be discovered immediately, and the corrupted women within would certainly raise an alarm. Lucia reported this to Niarith, who was keeping watch. “Damn it, this is the only route fast enough. What do we do?”
“We kill them.” Lucia replied, matter of factly.
Niarith gave Lucia an odd look. “How can you be so cold about this?”
“Listen to me Niarith. I’ve killed thralls. The Rebellion’s doctors have performed autopsies, even vivisections. Once the transformation has begun, there’s no saving them. It changes brain structure, they aren’t who they were anymore. They’re slaves. The only reason they’re in the cells is because the change can cause unpredictable aggression. We have to kill them. It’s our only option, and for them, it's mercy.”
Niarith stared at Lucia for a long few seconds, conflicting emotions running through her head. She finally said, quietly and with intense sadness in her voice “Okay. Let’s do this before I lose my nerve.” Niarith reached out a hand to gently squeeze Lucia’s
“Hey. It’ll be okay. Give me the pistol. I can do it myself. Safely from a distance. You don’t have to do anything but follow me. Okay?” Lucia felt good, reassuring Niarith that way. Not because of the compassion itself, but because it was Niarith. She was beginning to wonder if she hadn’t had at least some part in their coming together. She nodded, and Lucia opened the door slightly. Just enough to fire the pistol through.
Less than a minute later, it was done. The cell block was full of corpses, all with clean, smoking holes through their heads. Lucia handed the pistol back to Niarith. She took it, somewhat reluctantly. The pair slowly, carefully made their way through the room, trying to ignore the smell of burnt flesh. When they reached the door on the other side, Niarith paused. “Mirideth’s throne room is at the other end of this corridor. This is it. You ready Luci?”
Lucia paused at that. “Luci?” she asked.
“It’s a nickname. Hope you like it.” Niarith leaned over and kissed her. Lucia kissed back, of her own volition this time. She did like Niarith, and Niarith and her, and them, together. She did want this. She pulled away from the kiss and said in a resolute tone “Let’s do this.”
They made their way slow and quietly down the hall, there was no door. The hallway simply opened onto the room Lucia had seen only a day earlier. The place this all began. Mirideth’s throne room. Lucia was surprised to find it empty, not only of Mirideth, but of anyone. Lucia had a very bad feeling. “Niarith.. Stop. Something‘s wrong here.”
“Luci, now isn’t the time for losing your nerve, we need to get to that hatch, come on!” Niarith grabbed her hand and led her to the area behind Mirideth’s throne. As they crouched behind the throne, searching for a way to open the hatch, something occurred to Lucia. Something terrible. She spoke, her voice shaking.
“Niarith… are you.. In control of your body right now?” Niarith turned, staring at her with an unreadable expression on her face.
“We need to get to that ship, Lucia. We can’t stop now. People’s lives depe- eendd on it. I- I… oh fuck Luci what’s happening? I can’t… fight it.. I…” Niarith’s terrified expression went blank, she stood and pulled out her pistol, aiming it at Lucia. Lucia stared up at Niarith, horror on her face. “Take off the blocking device, Lucia. Do it or I will shoot.” Niarith said, in the same, toneless, emotionless voice that Lucia herself had used when obeying Mirideth’s commands. Lucia did as she was told, hating herself for not realizing sooner. Niarith’s arm started shaking, her aim wavering, then suddenly straightened. "Do not move."
With the device no longer on her head, she began to hear the whispers in the back of her mind again. To feel the pull of Mirideth’s control. The hidden hatch suddenly slid open, and the Empress herself stepped out. “Hello there, Plaything.” She said as she stood, staring at Lucia as she knelt on the stone floor, openly weeping.
“Just kill me, w- Mistress. Don’t turn me. Please.” Mirideth stepped closer, and knelt down on one knee, bringing herself to eye level with Lucia.
“Oh come now Plaything, there’s no need for tears. You knew you’d never succeed, didn’t you? I’m simply too powerful. It’s not your fault. You never meant to betray the officer here. It was all my doing. You simply did as you were told, like a good girl. You brought me what I desired, because it feels good to do as I say. And now that I have her, I can become more powerful than I ever dared to dream!” Mirideth stood as she finished speaking, her voice echoing through the empty stone hall. She turned to Niarith.
“Now you, my dear, you are my true prize. A human from beyond the void. I had never dreamed a PTEO would find me. At first, I admit, I was afraid. Afraid of what might happen when I was discovered. But.. I hatched a beautiful plan, you see. I used your precious Lucia here. I used her, to bring you to me. And now that I have you, I can move my operations beyond this primitive backwater. I can use you, to bring me the galaxy!”
Lucia tried to stand, to take action against Mirideth, but found she could no longer move her body. Her mind remained hers, but her body now once again belonged to Mirideth. As Mirideth stepped closer to Niarith, lowering her gun arm, and gently caressing her face, Lucia understood what was about to happen. Mirideth wanted her to watch. She wanted her to watch Niarith be turned to Mirideth’s control. “Don’t worry my dear, I promise you you’ll enjoy the show.” Mirideth whispered in her mind, though she showed no outward sign of it. "Niarith suddenly struggled, saying "I-I'm getting us... out.. of this..."
“Now, my new Plaything, we can’t have you saying such things. False hope is a terrible thing to give to someone you care for so much. Oh yes, my dear, darling Plaything, I know exactly how you feel. After all, I engineered it, didn’t I? As well as being inside your pretty little mind.” Mirideth stepped closer to Niarith’s unmoving body, placing a hand on her waist. Now, Plaything, look into my eyes. The teal glow denoting Mirideth’s use of her “magic” started behind her mask. She reached up and turned Niarith’s head, holding her by the chin, forcing her to look into the glow. “Stare deep, Plaything, stare deeply into the glow, let it take over your thoughts, your mind, your will. Let my will take precedence over your own. Feel your mind fade, my Plaything. Tell me you’re mine.”
Niarith had gone mostly limp, her arms hanging, her knees bent inward, hardly holding her up. She spoke in a toneless, empty voice “Yesss… Mistress… I am… yoursss..” Lucia strained against Mirideth’s control over her body, trying with all her might to move, to stop this. As Mirideth continued to enslave Niarith to her will, Lucia found herself able to move a finger, then another, and another, then a hand.
“That’s it, Plaything, you are mine. All mine. You are empty of all other desires now. You serve me eternally. Say it.”
“I.. serve you… eternally.. Mistresss...” Lucia regained control of an arm, a leg, her head and neck. Mirideth leaned in to kiss Niarith, sealing her control. Lucia suddenly jumped up, ran at the pair of them, taking her dagger and stabbing into Mirideth’s pale thigh, flicking the switch.
The green light of the dagger’s gravitic fields coalesced over Mirideth’s body, giving her no time to even react. Niarith fell to the floor in a heap. Lucia kneeled over her, holding her in her arms, and took her pistol. She turned and aimed it at Mirideth’s head.
“Now who’s failed, wi- i- Mistress?” She aimed, readied herself to fire… and stayed that way.
“You will drop the weapon, and fall in line, Plaything.” Mirideth whispered in her mind ”You have immobilized me, but you have not undone my control. You will drop the pistol. Now-” A pulse of bright blue light, blindingly bright in the gloom of the stone hall, sprang from the pistol, penetrating Mirideth’s head. As the light faded, Lucia stared up at Mirideth, still contained within the gravitic dagger’s field. She had a small, faintly smoking hole in her head, just above her left eye. The whispering had stopped, her muscles relaxed, no longer fighting her brain’s signals. Niarith stirred, confused. “What.. what's happening? Luci? What..” She turned and saw the scene before her. Lucia’s outstretched arm, the pistol in her hand, Mirideth’s body, contained in the green glow of the dagger. “Luci… holy shit… Do you know what you just did? You can’t.. I..” Lucia dropped the gun and kissed Niarith, fully herself, entirely meaning it. Niarith kissed back, her protests able to wait until later.