Monday, July 21, 2014

February 21, part two



It was too late.  They were gone, the Earther man was going to die in the most awful way I could conceive of, and it was all my fault.

I hadn’t been strong enough to torment the poor man, so Oses had taken on the terrible duty to keep me and my child safe.  The Earther had been made to suffer because of my ridiculous agreements to Finiuld’s drunken arguments that I should make men like him pay.  When I couldn’t bear to do it myself, Finiuld had taken it as a sign that our victim was good only for Tragoom fodder.

My fault.  All my fault.

I guess I had a breakdown then.  There is a period of time that I don’t remember.  Oses later told me it lasted about two days.  I simply curled into a little ball on the ground and wept.  Except for falling asleep for some hours, during which I screamed from nightmares, I did nothing else. 

Oses spent that time holding me.  He kept trying to coax me back to sense, murmuring things he was sure I could no longer hear.  He said my eyes, even as they spilled nonstop tears, were blank.

“That may have been the scariest thing I’ve ever been through,” he admitted when I rejoined reality and began talking sense again.  “If you hadn’t cried, I would have thought your mind had been broken beyond repair.  I hated seeing you weep, but it was the one thing that gave me hope you’d come back.  If you were still in there somewhere, feeling pain, then you weren’t completely gone.  That’s what I told myself, anyway.”

Maybe Oses was right, because after what felt like an eternity of blankness, I became aware of my surroundings once more. 

I was in the pond, naked in Oses’ arms.  I felt his hands moving carefully over my body.  He was bathing me.  It was soothing the way he cared for me.  It was also utterly strange to have this wild, muscle-bound Nobek caring for me like a father with a baby.  I felt safe though for a few precious moments before I remembered where I was and what had happened.

At that point, my consciousness begged to be taken away again.  I didn’t want to be here anymore.  I wanted to go back into the nothing I’d escaped to, where psychotic leprechauns didn’t drag off people to be eaten by monsters.

Yet I couldn’t go again, and after a few moments I realized why.  I had a little hostage to fortune on board.  I had to gather my strength and get the fuck out of here before the baby arrived.  God only knew what Finiuld would do to us with a child to use again me.

Oses’ voice slowly penetrated my still somewhat foggy cocoon of madness, as if catatonia had decided it could release me now that I remembered I had something to fight for yet.  In his deep, growly voice the Nobek crooned, “That’s it, Shalia feels better when she’s clean.  Soon she’ll wake up and stop crying.  She’ll be all right again, and we will find a way to tear that nasty little bastard to dripping shreds.  I will eat his heart in front of his dying eyes, and Shalia won’t cry anymore.”

I guess that was the Nobek version of a lullaby.  I blinked up at him.

“Oses?”

He drew in a sharp breath.  “I thought you were looking back at me finally, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.  Are you back?  Can you talk to me now?”

I lifted a shaking hand to caress his jaw.  “I guess I freaked out.  Damn, I feel weak.”

Oses carried me out of the pond.  “I haven’t been able to get you to eat.  I’ve been saving your meals for when you came out of it.  The last two should still be good.”

Remaining as solicitous as a parent with a sick child, Oses fed me.  “I hope the baby is okay,” I whispered to him between bites.  “What with me not eating and all.”

“I don’t know for certain, but I would think your body would continue to nourish the child.  It’s not that far along anyway, so it hopefully doesn’t require much.”

I felt better after getting some food in me.  I apologized up and down to Oses for going weak on him.

“No, don’t ask me to forgive you.  There is nothing to forgive,” he insisted.  He even managed a smile.  “I am just glad you regained your senses.  That took strength, you know.”  He nodded to the ever-sobbing Plasian a few cells over.  “She may never return.  At least you summoned the bravery to do so.”

I asked Oses if anything important had happened while I was on my mental vacation.

He shook his head.  “There has been no sign of Finiuld.  No doubt he is hunting around for another man for you to claim justice from.”

I shuddered.  “I am not as courageous as you give me credit for.  I can’t do this, Oses.  It’s too much.  I’m afraid I’ll go insane for real if he brings another Earther man here.  What the fuck do we do?”

Oses rubbed the palms of his hands over his face.  He looked angry.  “We must find a way to lure Finiuld into the containment.  We have to kill him and get out of here before this goes any further.”

Our opportunity came the very next day, before we had any sort of a plan for it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

February 25, part one



Days passed and Finiuld did not make an appearance.  There is nothing like time to bring remorse and worry to the forefront.  As Oses and I did our best to bide that time with meditation, planning, and sex, the hours stretched without seeming end.  I started to kick myself for not figuring out the Little Creep’s phasing technology when I had the chance.  I’d had the means in my hand, and yet we remained trapped in our cage.

“You did your best given the circumstances,” Oses consoled me when I fretted.  “Now we must concentrate on looking forward to our first opportunity to capitalize on what you did accomplish.”

“That’s assuming Finiuld ever graces us with his presence again,” I grouched.  “I must have played the aggrieved diva too well.  Where is that bastard?”

“Figuring out how to get back into your good graces would be my guess,” Oses smirked.  “You would be good at dominating if your heart was in it.  That haughty persona gets me excited.”

I blew a raspberry at him.  “Would you be serious?  If we didn’t have to play the part, you’d never let me get away with such things.”

“No, because you aren’t comfortable with it.  However, once we get out of here, I wouldn’t mind a little playacting of mistress overcome by her Kalquorian slave.”

I could have stomped the big twit.  When Oses is bored, which he often was in our cage, he always turned to sex to escape the mind-numbing drag of minutes. If he wasn’t doing it, he was thinking about it.  Even my disciplined cellmate could not hold onto the solace of  meditation for all that time.

I had another reason to fret as one day slid into the next with no sign of Finiuld.  What if he’d discovered I’d turned off my collar?  What if he was plotting my punishment ... or worse, planning to harm Oses ... in retribution?  The idea gave me nightmares.

My nightmares were about to get a lot worse, it turned out.  Had I known what was to come next, I would have wished for those long days to have never ended.

I was amusing myself by braiding Oses’ hair in cornrows when our next foray into Hell commenced.  He was teaching me some basic phrases in Kalquorian as I did so.  It was a way to while away the time without giving our fellow prisoners yet another sex show.

All of the sudden a man was in our containment, his arms windmilling wildly as he staggered several clumsy steps in our direction.  It was as if he’d been pushed into the cell from just outside.

Oses was on his feet in an instant, standing in front of me and growling at the interloper.  The man managed to catch himself and stop.  He stared at us from a few feet away, his eyes wide and staring.  A collar gripped his neck.

He was Earther.

I leaned to the side to get a better look from behind Oses’ muscular bulk at our surprise visitor.  I judged the guy to be in his mid-thirties.  He was in decent shape from what I could tell.  His jeans and gray sweatshirt were a bit baggy on him.  His gym shoes had seen better days to judge from the scuffing.  The man’s brown hair was a tousled mass of curls that hung haphazardly over his wide blue eyes.  He wasn’t anyone ugly or overly attractive either.  His was the kind of face that one’s gaze would just kind of slide over without taking real note.  Yet I will never forget him for the rest of my life.

Finiuld’s voice captured my attention.  “I told you I would make my transgressions up to you, Shalia.  What do you think of my apology?”

I looked beyond the containment barrier to see the Little Creep, resplendent in screaming teal clothing.  He had a collared Tragoom standing with him.  The Tragoom looked as dull-witted as the boulder he resembled.  He looked about the room and its inhabitants with barely any interest.

Meanwhile, Finiuld seemed to be dancing in place, like he had to go to the bathroom in the worst way.  It took me a few moments to realize he was just that delighted with himself.

I looked from him to the Earther, who was watching Oses with what looked like terrified hatred.  I looked back to Finiuld.  “Apology?”

Finiuld nodded, wiggling all over like an excited puppy.  “I was drunk the other day, most regrettably of course, but I did remember our discussion.”

“Which one?” I was at a loss.

“About how much you’d like to get revenge on the men of your world for all they did to you.  How you wished to have the power they denied you, the same power they wielded unjustly.  Here is the first deserving victim of your vengeance.”

I got a sick, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach at Finiuld’s words.  He remembered all that?  When I thought of the things we’d discussed as I’d played the part the Little Creep wanted me to play, I got downright nauseous.  We’d talked about outright torture.  I’d voiced bloody, awful plans I’d never had any intention of carrying out even had I been given the chance. Finiuld’s contributions to that conversation had been even worse.  I’d gone along with it to keep Finiuld distracted, to keep my own hide safe and hopefully find a path of escape.

Seeing the glee on the monstrous Ofetuchan’s face, I knew he expected me to carry those malicious acts out on this poor man I’d never seen before.  My gorge rose.

“I don’t know this man,” I said in a choked voice.  “He’s done nothing to me.”

Even as Oses shot me a warning look, Finiuld’s happiness faded.  He looked like a kid who’d been promised a treat only to be unfairly denied.

“But he’s one of them,” he protested, a hint of anger coloring his cheeks.  “He was part of that society that undermined you.”

“Some were not like that.  Some men felt compassion for the lot we women were dealt.”  I adopted the steely voice and crossed my arms over my chest as I glared forbiddingly at Finiuld.  I had my tough mistress look on, but I was shaking like a leaf inside.  “For all I know, this man was one of the enlightened few.  I may be bitter and I may be angry, but that does not mean I have to be unfair.”

I prayed I would not be forced to make a decision that could cost me Oses’ well-being or my soul.  Given the choice, I knew which way I would go.  I could not torture anyone, especially someone who had done me no wrong.

Perhaps it would have worked.  Maybe Finiuld’s sick plan would have backfired on him had the Earther man just kept his stupid mouth shut.  But no, no, fuck no.  He had to speak up and fuck everything over. 

Still looking fearful with Oses standing there, the man nevertheless let his lip curl in disgust.  In a tone that was scathing, he said, “You’ve lay in sin with this alien, haven’t you, woman?  You’ve whored yourself out to stay alive rather than die pure and good in God’s sight.  I can tell.”

Finiuld’s loathsome smile returned.  “You see?  He is exactly the kind of man who disrupted the order of nature.  I brought you a good one, Shalia.  I have redeemed myself.  Now show him the error of his ways.”

Before I could lose it and scream at Finiuld to go fuck himself, Oses turned his body so that he could keep an eye on the Little Creep and the Earther while whispering in my ear.

“I know you are not capable of hurting this poor idiot, my Matara.  But we must do what we have to.  You will order me to punish him, and I will carry out what you cannot.”

I stared up at the Nobek, horrified.  “Oses, no.  This is beyond savage.  No matter what kind of asshole he is, this man has never done a thing to me!”

“Perhaps not, but if we are to escape from this alive, Finiuld must be placated.  You must play the part he has written for you in order for us to escape.  Remember your baby, Shalia.  If you cannot do this for yourself, do it for the innocent you carry.”

“Oses—”

“I will hurt the Earther, perhaps badly, but there will be no permanent physical damage beyond scarring.  I can do that much for your sake.  As for the psychological trauma, there is no help for that.”

Before I could find another argument, Oses stepped away from me with a bow.  “I am glad to be of service to my Matara in punishing this man for his people’s sins against her.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to show you my obedience to your wishes.”

He turned away and grabbed the Earther. I was too horrified and scared to protest.

I will not describe what happened for the next hour.  For most of it, I kept my back to Finiuld, so he could not see that my eyes were squeezed shut.  I simply couldn’t watch much of what Oses did to that man.  Unfortunately I could not shut my ears.  I got the full dose of the Earther’s shouts, curses, screams, and finally the sobbing pleas for the brutality and humiliation to end.

From time to time, Oses would come to me, temporarily halting the Earther’s torment.  He would remind me in hushed whispers that I had to be strong for the baby, that it would be over soon, that he would someday repay Finiuld for all the horror we’d been forced to endure.  Then he would straighten and loudly announce, “As you wish, my Matara.”  And the cries would begin all over again.

Let me say here that I do not blame Oses for what he did.  I have gotten to know how the Nobek mind works.  As a protector first and foremost, Oses had a job he had sworn to do above all else:  keep me and my unborn safe from all harm.  He was able to turn off all conscience, compassion, and humanity in order to achieve that goal.  He had to in order to save his own soul while he went about his duty.  Heaven knows, he could have done a lot worse than what horrors he did perform.

I am no Nobek.  At last I couldn’t take what was happening anymore.  I yelled, “Enough!”  Because I didn’t want Finiuld to take out any frustrations he might have had on Oses, I added, “This is becoming boring.  This man is as weak as a child and I am sickened by his crying.” 

It was only a little bit of a lie.  I was sickened, all right.  I was nearly crying myself.

Since Oses had to ‘obey’ me for appearances sake, he ended the assault.  I opened my eyes before turning to Finiuld.  I tried not to look at what had been done, but I couldn’t miss Oses putting his bloodied kilt to rights, or the Earther rolling from his stomach to his side, curling in a fetal position as he sobbed.

Somehow, I didn’t fall apart.  Instead, I faced Finiuld.  My face felt numb, so I didn’t know if I managed the haughty ‘Her Highness is Displeased’ look I was going for.  I also didn’t really care at that point.  The ship could have blown to smithereens right then, and I would have been more relieved than anything else.

I said, “It’s a start, Finiuld.  Thank you for giving me my chance at retribution.”

Finiuld didn’t look happy, but he didn’t look angry either.  Just a little disappointed. “I am sorry he didn’t perform as well as you deserved.  When you didn’t abuse him yourself, I knew he was lacking.  Unfortunately, the Earther men are scattered few and far between in this part of space, so they’re a bit hard to come by.  However, I will endeavor to find someone more befitting your needs.”

I swallowed a tide of nausea.  I hoped it would be a long, long search before the bastard found someone else. 

Finiuld jerked his head to the Tragoom who still stood behind him like a stone monolith.  “Be ready to pull him out.  Earther, get out here.”

The weeping heap on the floor didn’t move.  “Fuck you,” he managed to gasp between sobs.

Finiuld set off his collar.  When the Earther finished screaming, the Little Creep again ordered him out of the containment.

“I thought you were giving him to me,” I said.  I was a little worried that this ‘failure’ to please me would get the man even more torment than he’d already endured.

“He is not good enough for you, Shalia.”

The Earther crawled pathetically across our fake grass towards Finiuld and the waiting Tragoom.  God, I felt awful for what he’d been through with Oses.

“So you’ll keep him as another of your exhibits?”  I had the crazy urge to tell Oses to carry the poor man.  He was bruised and no doubt sore, but there wasn’t too much blood, at least.  He still moved with an awful slowness that was painful to watch.

“No, I don’t care for the males of your race.  They disgust me now that I know the full extent of their abuses.”

The man was nearing the containment field.  Finiuld patted the Tragoom’s arm.  “Be ready when I activate the phase.”

I didn’t miss how the Tragoom shuddered and winced at his touch.  Without the collar, the big monster could have squashed Finiuld like a bug.

That the Little Creep wasn’t keeping the Earther man gave me a surge of hope.  Was he going to let him go free?  Would the man perhaps tell others of the Ofetuchans?  Maybe word would get back to the Kalquorians, and they would know to pick up our trail here.

I was brutally disabused of that notion with Finiuld’s next command to the Tragoom.  “All right, snag him and he’s yours.  You will not eat until I return you to your cell, however.”

Behind me, I heard Oses’ sharp intake of breath.  I stared at Finiuld.  “Wait.  What?”

Oses’ hand gripped my shoulder and he pulled me against him.  “By the ancestors.  If I’d known, I would have granted the poor bastard a merciful death.”

Finiuld and the Tragoom disappeared.  The Earther man was right next to the containment shield, shaking and still crying.  I saw a flicker in the shield and tried to yank free of Oses.  “Finiuld!  You gave him to me!  The Earther is mine!”

The man suddenly disappeared, and the containment flickered more strongly than before.  They were dragging him out.  They were taking him away.

I remembered that Tragooms do not kill before they feed.

“Finiuld!”

“You can’t help him, Shalia,” Oses whispered as the containment field stopped its rippling.  “Mother of All, I am going to rip that little monster’s heart out for this.  I swear it on my ancestors’ names.”

I kept yelling.  “Give him back, you damned Little Creep!  You said I could have him!  Finiuld!  FINIULD!”

Monday, July 14, 2014

February 21, part 3



Finiuld and I kept contact, right into the containment where Oses paced back and forth like a caged tiger.  Seeing his worry for me, right there in the open like that, closed my throat.  The big brute truly cared.  It meant so much, especially when I’d failed to find the answer to our escape.

Finiuld bowed to me before we parted ways.  “I will make up for my stupidity, Shalia.  You’ll see how I wish to serve you now.”

With that, he stepped away.  As soon as I no longer touched him, he disappeared.

Oses thundered over to me like a stampeding buffalo.  “Shalia!  Are you all right?”

“Fine, no thanks to Finiuld,” I said in my haughtiest tone, speaking fast to keep Oses from interrupting me.  “Would you believe he got drunk and fell asleep?  I had to wait for him to wake up all that time.  The nerve!  How dare he treat me that way!”

Oses’ eyes sharpened at my bizarre rant.  His next comment let me know he understood my worry that the Little Creep remained nearby, unseen and spying on us.  “Shameful.  I would never do that to you, my Matara.  Nothing pleases me more than your happiness.”

I lifted my chin and looked Oses over, as if evaluating my personal property.  “Which is why I keep you around.  I told Finiuld you know how to treat a woman.”

“Let me tend to you now to make up for what you’ve been through.”

With the Nobek’s prodding, I sat down on the ground.  He commenced to rubbing my feet, which at any other time would have set me off giggling.  Oses was the last person in the universe I would expect to be playing the slave boy part.  After a few seconds however, I was in heaven.  That man knows how to massage.  I practically melted under his touch.

After some time of that delight, Oses cocked an eyebrow at me.  In a tone so low I had to strain to hear, he said, “The containment shimmered about two minutes ago.  I think we might be safe to speak now.”

I leaned forward to get as close to him as possible.  He moved so that my lips brushed his ear.  “My collar is turned off,” I whispered.

Oses turned his head to look at me.  His deft fingers froze on my instep for an instant before continuing to rub.  “How?”

I quickly related the whole story to him.  I finished by asking, “Did I fuck up by not killing him when I had the chance?  Or by not turning off everyone else’s collars?  Or at least yours?”

He considered for a few seconds before slowly shaking his head.  “Considering you couldn’t make the phase device work, I think you did the best thing under the circumstances.  Excellent work, Shalia.  Excellent.”

I warmed under his praise.  I was relieved to know I hadn’t messed up.  And then Oses asked the question that let me know I had fucked up after all. 

“My Matara, did you attempt to transfer control of the phase gadget using that collar control panel?”

I stared at Oses.  After a moment of stunned realization, a billion ugly names to call myself erupted in my head.  Why had I not thought of that?  WHY?

Apparently, he saw the answer on my expression and how I felt about it. Oses was quick to assure me, “It’s all right.  At least we know it might be the means of making the phase controller work for us at the next opportunity.”

“Fucking stupid, idiotic, of all the moronic—” I muttered, wishing I could kick my own ass back and forth across our cell.

“No, Shalia.  You were panicked in your desperation to get to me.  That’s all.  You really did do a good job.” 

I didn’t believe Oses for a second.  The means to our escape had been right there!  Okay, so I didn’t know that for sure, but it seemed likely.  I can’t even begin to describe the self-loathing I felt for myself in that moment.  How could I have overlooked the possibility?

I'd been too desperate to even think about that. Plus the remembered conversation between Finiuld and his friend had kept me from thinking along those lines. They'd said the other Ofetuchan had been killed, his phase controller taken, and the prisoners escaped from their containment in that fashion. I'd zeroed in on that information, never thinking for an instant about other avenues to make the device work for me.

Stupid!

I should have killed the Little Creep while I had the opportunity. Sooner or later I would have thought to try to gain control over the phase device using the computer in his room. We could have taken control over the ship and been flying it right at that moment!

Tears threatened as I had to come to grips with the fact that I’d blown our best chance for escape.  I swallowed them back with difficulty, telling myself that it was too late for regrets.  We had to concentrate on what we could do with the little bit I’d managed to accomplish. 

“Now what?” I asked.

Oses spent several more seconds massaging and thinking.  At last he said, “It all depends on Finiuld and what he does next to impress you.  That’s assuming he doesn’t notice your collar is turned off.  The first priority is that if you get the opportunity, you must escape.  Forget about the rest of us; if you can get the hell off this ship, go.”

I scowled at him.  “I am not leaving you, Oses.”

“Don’t be stupid, pet.  Your life and your child’s are worth more to me than mine.”  He grabbed a handful of my hair at the back of my head and snarled so close to my face that our noses touched.  “You will save yourself and the babe if you get the chance.  That is your one and only priority. If you don’t obey me in this, I will take it out on your hide.”

I snarled back, “You are an asshole and I will do what I think I need to.”

“I am an asshole, but you should know your welfare is all that keeps me alive right now.  Do not fuck with me on this, Shalia.  If you and the unborn cannot be saved, then I have no reason to live.”

I didn’t understand how Oses could think like that, but I could tell he meant every word.  Maybe it’s a Nobek thing.  Since I didn’t want us to lose sight of the possibility of escape for everyone, I gave him the acquiescence he seemed so desperate for.

“Fine.  If I get my chance, I’ll cut and run.  I’ll curse you the entire time too.”

Oses relaxed.  He let go of my hair, eased back, and smiled.  “Good.  That’s perfectly fine with me.”

“What else?” I prodded.  “What can we do that might get us all out of here?”

Oses glanced around at our fellow prisoners.  “It could be one of these would tell Finiuld if they knew you were not susceptible to your collar.  They might do it for favors or to escape punishment.  Don’t tell anyone.”

“Okay.  I take it I should fake being punished if the Little Creep decides I should be?”

“Absolutely.  Also act that you still fear being punished if it seems right to do so.  Meanwhile, I need to figure out how that phase gadget might work just in case you get the opportunity to grab it again and the collar control system isn’t tied to it.”

I had an idea. “Oses, if Finiuld comes in here with both of us present and awake and we can see him, should we try to get it off him then?  I realize he’ll still be able to order your collar, but if he follows through with giving me control over you, maybe I can countermand his orders.”

“Which he could negate immediately.  I may have to kill him instead, if you can remain in control long enough.”  Oses mused for a few seconds.  “Plus we’ll both have to be hanging onto him if he decides to phase, and you know that’s going to render me nearly senseless with pain.”

He thought on it, and I stayed quiet to let him do so.  In the end, he sighed.  “It’s got a lot of problems, but it may be our only chance. If we can get our hands on him, I will have to do my best to fight through the pain.  Barring a better opportunity, I think we’ll have to give it a try.”