Tanj was getting nervous. She'd completed all her "courses" at the "academy", and while she'd passed her "finals", she hadn't gotten high marks. It wasn't because of her skill, she was told, repeatedly, but because of her "attitude". Some of the finals had been situations that only in retrospect could be viewed as examinations. Some of them had resembled just ordinary events in her so-called life at the "academy". Others, such as the "opportunity" to escape, had appeared less so. It wasn't that Tanj didn't want to escape, but she knew, naked and collared on Elysium, her chances of getting away (i.e. off planet, and out of the star system) were zilch to nine decimal places. Thus, perhaps for not the right reason, she passed that test when she failed to take the apparent opportunity. She still winced at the public punishment of those that had failed that particular exam.
The guards had been teasing her, saying that with her low scores, and the visible evidence of her "misbehaving" (the academy tended to add a "piercing" for each major offense, in addition to the standard "for control purposes" nose ring. Tanj, in her stay, had wound up with both nipples and her clitty pierced by stainless steel rings.), that she'd probably be bought by some low-rent tavern owner somewhere, for the amusement of his customers. They'd said that she'd probably spend the rest of her days waiting tables and sucking off drunken customers, sleeping on a pallet behind the bar. She hoped, at least that whoever "picked up her contract" (i.e. bought her) would have the good esthetic sense to replace the steel rings with gold.....
Finally the day came; the big semi-annual auction. She was bathed, and groomed, until her fur shone. Before being taken to the auction, the guards took her to a booth where some Psych types performed some mumbo-jumbo. They _said_ that this was to hypnotically condition her, so that the next person she saw would be ingrained upon her as her true Master or Mistress. They blindfolded her, and a guard led her out again. As she followed the tug of the leash towards her fate, Tanj found it hard to believe that the "conditioning" would work. "I can beat this" she thought; "First opportunity, and I'm over the horizon!"
Tanj stood, her leash fastened to the wall, barely enough slack to turn a bit. As she stood, as her ears told her, among her classmates, waiting for her turn, she listened to the proceedings. The auctioneer would describe the physical characteristics of the slave for sale; weight, height, intelligence, metabolism, and so forth, and then launch into a history of their schooling. Tanj had heard that as the auctioneer described their abilities, 3-D videos were shown to demonstrate the point. Finally their "finals grades" were announced, along with the Psych profile as to where the staff Shrinks thought the slave would perform best. As slave after slave was sold, Tanj's attention was drawn to a pair of voices. They seemed to have a strange accent, almost reminiscent of something she'd once heard described as 'cockney'. They were loud, brash, and obnoxious, and Tanj couldn't imagine how they'd been admitted to the auction. They seemed almost constantly on the verge of creating such a ruckus that the auction would have to be halted, or perhaps to the point where they'd be ejected. As if playing a challenging game, they never quite reached that point, however.
Tanj heard her friend Marla, the She-Wolf announced, and listened aghast as she was sold to one of the more well known brothels. Kayla, the otter fem was sold to a Doctor, and Tanj got the impression that this guy didn't have the time for a wife, and that Kayla would be the one to fit sex into his busy schedule. She wasn't sure if she was happy, or sad for Kayla....... Finally it was her turn; the guard led her forward and placed her on the block. The announcer's words were a distant roar as her heart pounded in her ears. The bidding seemed to see-saw back and forth between a wholesaler and a firm that provided "temporaries", in a desultory fashion. Just as Tanj thought the wholesaler would take it, one of the brash voices bid a half credit higher. There seemed to be a scuffle, as if the other brash voice was actually physically "leaning" on the other bidder, some shouting, and finally the gavel fell. The two annoyances appeared to have won the bidding (probably allowed to do so by the auctioneer just to get them out of there). Tanj felt a sudden hard jerk on her leash as a voice growled "C'mon, You", and the next thing she knew she was being dragged away at a trot! As she was taken from the building she heard one guard, apparently talking to another, saying that he thought "those two deserved each other". Who had bought her? What was going on?
The public conveyance to the airport was jerky, and she was bounced, probably on purpose, from one of her purchasers to the other, their paws all over her body. Finally they arrived somewhere, and as she was dragged along, Tanj made out the characteristic smells and sounds of a spaceport. "Am I actually being taken off-planet?" she wondered. Elated, she figured that was half the battle in escaping! After many twists and turns, and some noticeable changes in temperature, Tanj was rudely dragged through what could only have been a very small airlock. In fact, the way she was squeezed against her purchasers, it was probably not more than a two-person airlock. That meant a small ship.....
Dragged forward, Tanj found herself made to kneel, her leash fastened to the floor. "Strange", Tanj thought; "I've got enough slack to sit upright; in fact, enough slack to get somewhat comfortable...... That doesn't seem to fit the way I've been treated so far....". She heard the two who had seemingly dragged her half way across the planet going through a start-up routine, suddenly very professional. As main power came up, and the drives reached operating temperature, one of them requested clearance to lift off, suddenly back in the brash, annoying mode; "Elysium Departure Control, this is Bloody Corsair Three Nine; its time to leave your stinkin' gravity well, and we want clearance to depart!" The controller's voice came back with a formal, if somewhat chilly permission, with directions to the outer buoy, and dire warnings as to what would happen if they repeated the stunt they pulled on arrival. The acknowledgment was merely a snort and some derisive laughter. Then the ship lurched and Tanj knew they were heading towards orbit. The inertial compensators were good, almost too good for a ship this size. That suggested something "high performance". Whatever kind of a ship she was on, it wasn't a cargo shuttle. The departure from orbit was handled with the same sneering sarcasm, with the same frosty reply, and warnings. After a while, all was quiet, save for the whine of the main drive, and the low thrumm of the powerplant.
Tanj found herself cataloging anomalies. The two who'd bought her she was now thinking of as Pirates. Lord knew, there were enough of them in this part of space, the centers of Imperial civilization being far away. But there was a very interesting change in.... "tone" from when the two talked between themselves, and when they were on the Comm, talking to traffic control. Beyond that, the air in the ship smelled much better than she would have thought, especially from the "image" she'd been building of these two. Somehow, she expected them to be wearing slashed jeans, mohawk hairdoos, their fur dyed in fluorescent pinks, purples and greens, with tattoos on shaved skin, and their own piercings. She would have thought their ship would have smelled like an old Gym locker, with underwear and socks strewn about. Instead, the air was clean, lightly scented with pine, and machine oil, and the floor beneath her felt clean. Very strange.
As they cleared the outer marker, and were turned loose by InSystem Traffic Control, Tanj heard them both stretch, as if they were suddenly relaxing. Well, pirates might be glad to be away from "Authority" again.... Then one actually said; "if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go hit the shower; I simply _have_ to get this ...... GOOP out of my fur!" The other one answered rather cheerily; "Righto, Mate, I'll keep watch; don't use up all the hot water!" Tanj felt someone move past her, and for a while, she heard only the normal sounds heard on the flight deck of a ship in space. As she listened, she suddenly realized that the remaining pirate was humming a tune from Sylbert and Gullivan, neo-classical light opera! If these two were pirates, they were very, VERY strange pirates! Gagged and blindfolded, Tanj could only marvel at it all.
After a while, Tanj heard the other pirate get up from his station; he moved back to her, and Tanj felt him unbuckling the gag. She moaned with relief when he tugged the ball from her mouth, and carefully worked her jaw back and forth. "Thot you might want somptin to drink" he said softly. Tanj nodded her head; "yes, please, Master". He chuckled; "no, I'm not yer Master; we wuz just sent to get you, 's all. Call me Reggie". Tanj's mind whirled; if they weren't her purchasers, then who was? Who would send these two to an auction? "Um, Sir, if you're not my Master, then might I ask who is?" Reggie chuckled again, as sounds were heard from what Tanj took to be a small galley; "you can ask, but I can't say. 'e's told us quite carefully how we're to handle you. I'm afraid that means I can't release your hands, either. And I definitely can't take the blindfold off; thot's for him, and him alone." "Well", Tanj thought to herself; "At least I know my purchaser's male...." Reggie held a cup for her, letting Tanj drink through a straw. Lukewarm Tea, sweetened, she thought, with honey. After a bit, the other Pirate came back, and Reggie departed. This one inquired if Tanj was all right, but when she assured him she was fine, proceeded to ignore her, as he puttered about on the flight deck. Tanj considered trying to talk to him, asking him a few hundred of the several million questions floating around in her head, but considering that they might just silence her with the gag, decided to hold her tongue. Eventually, all her questions would be answered anyways.... After a while, Tanj laid down on the floor, curling up a bit, and dozed off to sleep.
She awoke with a start, the ship ringing from the thuds and bumps of docking clamps latching onto the airlock ring. Sitting up, she listened to the Comm traffic. The banter was light, the two pirates obviously well acquainted with whomever they were talking to. After a bit, she heard them deactivate the drive, and put the powerplant on low standby. One by one, the ship's systems were shut down, and then she heard them rise from their seats. She felt them untie her leash, and then, with surprising gentleness, lead her through the ship. This time, Tanj shared the airlock with only one of them; obviously they were much more relaxed here, seemingly no longer in a hurry. As Tanj was led through the corridors, through the twists and turns of wherever they were, she heard others nearby, and got the impression a number of them were staring at her as she was led past. Finally, she's told to kneel, her leash just dropped on the floor. "Wait here, little one; your new Master will be along in a little bit" Reggie said, and then they were gone.
Time goes slowly when you have no way of measuring it. Tanj tried to keep track of time by her heartbeats, but kept loosing count. It seemed like hours, but might have been mere minutes. Finally, she heard a door shoosh open and then closed, and she knew someone was in the room with her. She found it exquisite torture to have to hold still, to remain kneeling, but somehow she managed. Her nose twitched; she smelled something familiar, a scent she's smelt before, but she can't quite place it. After a while, she sensed someone moving closer and then large hands were unbuckling her blindfold. Blinking at the light, Tanj tried to clear her vision; looking up boldly, her eyes widened in surprise when she focused on the smiling face of the Lion she had met (and gotten in a bit of a bind) at the Founder's Day party at the 'academy'! "Uh-Oh" she thought to herself; "he's bought me to get revenge for what happened!" To her amazement, he turned and moved over to a couch; sitting at one end, he grinned back at her and silently patted the seat next to him. "Does he want me to sit on the couch with him?" she thought to herself in amazement; "not exactly the move of a vindictive dominant Master.... unless he's toying with me....." Hesitantly, Tanj rose to her feet, to cross the short distance. Sitting down, a bit awkwardly, her hands still cuffed behind her, she turned to look at him.
The Lion looked at her for a minute or two, his eyes traveling along her body from the tip of her head to her feet and back; Finally he nodded; "as nice as I remembered. After the little "affair" at the academy, I did some checking into your background. All very low key and quiet. No flags raised. I can't say as I was surprised at what happened to you. Its a standard gambit of the folks in power here. Sucker in some poor ship, somebody that'll never be missed if they suddenly disappear. I'm sure they don't do it for profit; there just isn't that much to be gained in the whole. I'm sure they do it just for the sense of power it gives them. A nasty bunch, wouldn't you agree?" Tanj could only nod, as she listened in amazement; this certainly was NOT what she'd expected!
He smiled; "in fact, you'd be surprised how many folks have run afoul of Elysium, in just that manner. Your story is far from unique, I'm sad to say. And believe me, I know." Tanj Blinked; "you mean something like this happened to you?" He just nodded; "my parents ran a small single-ship freight line. The ship was as much "home" as "business" They suckered us in just as they did you, albeit many years ago. I haven't seen my family since, although I'm convinced that if they're still alive, they're down there on Elysium. If they've been sold off-planet, I haven't found any trace of it. Tanj's eyes narrowed as she looked at him; "you were sold to the academy too, weren't you?" Again, he just nodded; "I was about 16, and just what they were looking for." He grinned; "the reason I was looking so lost in the foyer that night, was because they'd changed it so much. They must be doing well, to have spent that much money on renovations just to impress "customers". I guess I was also a little nervous, wondering if any of my old "instructors" were still around. Thankfully, I guess I've changed enough since then that none remembered me. And that my cover seemed to hold, as well".
Tanj shook her head, having a hard time believing his story; "how'd you ever escape?"
"I didn't. I was sold, at the end of my training, to a rather eccentric and very wealthy lady otter. She had this thing for..... size. She also had a few other kinks. She LOVED underwater sex, not really surprising in an Otter; but Lions generally don't care for water. As a punishment, when I'd been "bad", I'd have to service her underwater. You wouldn't believe the artificial gill system she'd had built for me..... But I digress. Generally, I was her butler, and bodyguard, housekeeper, groundskeeper, and all-around handyman. Of course, I don't have to tell you what went on in the bedroom...." Tanj just grinned and nodded, having sampled some of his wares already. I was with her for about eight years, and we were actually very fond of each other. One day she went off to a ski resort, to meet with some of her business partners. A combination business and pleasure trip. I was left at home, to do some house painting, some shopping, and generally to "hold the fort". She had some business calls she was expecting that she didn't want to leave to an answering service, or voice-mail. I had a news service running in the background as I painted the grand hall, and I heard a piece about the death of my mistress in a skiing accident. It was murder; I was sure of it as soon as I heard the news. She'd been beginning to suspect they'd been cheating her, and on Elysium, business is a very rough game. At any rate, we'd planned for such an eventuality. Stupid she wasn't. There was a file in the computer, and I opened it, and read her instructions. I found clothes, papers, credit cards, keys, all stashed and waiting. Including a key for my collar; I didn't even think it COULD be removed......... I took public transportation to the starport, where I found her private "yacht" waiting, all prepped by the starport staff, on instructions issued when I'd opened the file. I raised ship, and headed outsystem, her papers and passcodes getting me through all the checkpoints. Finally, I made the jump to the Tellus system. There I executed a series of instructions that resulted in the complete liquidation of her financial empire, the funds being dispersed through multiple blinds. Her final instructions to me were to take down those that had killed her. And that" he waved his paws to encompass the entire installation" is what I've made my life's work. Oh, and incidentally, I'm planning on taking down the whole Elysium government, and in the process, finding whatever may be left of my family. I'm going to make Damn well sure that what happened to me, what happened to you, what happened to them, never happens to anyone ever again.
And here's how you're going to help.......