Her New World
It was almost full dark by the time they came ashore, the furr and the human. It had been a long, lonely trip for the two, especially since the gift of speech that had been given to one of them had faded away. But even though they couldn’t talk they were still comfortable in each other’s company, and to a fashion could still make themselves understood.
For example, Staci had no idea that the beach they’d landed on was the one she had been dreaming of for a year. In the dark, all the islands they visited looked alike. So she was surprised when Fred didn’t walk out of the water with her.
Instead, she saw him point to the right and bark a couple of times, and she turned to look. There was a glow on the horizon further up the coast, and Staci knew there was only one place on the planet that could light up the sky in that particular way. She was back.
A twinge of excitement came up at the thought of seeing people again, especially Bob McKinly. But she was also gripped with a sense of fear. She had no desire to be a slave again, yet she knew that unless she did something about Dick Janis she might well end up that way again. In fact, she could end up wearing a collar no matter what happened, but she was prepared for that if it was like it was when they first came to Freedom.
She could handle, and even enjoy being Bob’s lover under those conditions, but not under the conditions in her vision. The thing was, she still wasn’t sure what she was actually going to do; all she really knew was that Janis had to be handled. It was frustrating to her because she was used to making hard decisions, but she felt different now, less decisive, and a little fuzzier. What she needed was Bob to make those decisions, so she had to get to him. But what would he think of her after being apart so long? Did he even still think about her?
These thoughts kept rippling through her mind as she turned to face Fred, but the furr was already gone.
“Fred!” she called out, suddenly alone and afraid. But he had vanished, most likely back into the sea.
Staci knew the big furr disapproved of her decision to come back, and she wished she could tell him why it was so important. But the reasons were too complex for the primitive way in which they communicated so she’d just dealt with his moods. And now it seemed she didn’t even rate a goodbye.
Standing naked on the sand, she closed her eyes anyway. She was a little better at doing this now and in moments she slipped into a light trance, a trance deep enough for her to send a simple thought, ‘Thank You’.
After a moment, there was a flash of something in return, an impression of a smile, nothing more.
Staci smiled and turned to face the lights again. She wondered how she was going to approach the Colony and figured that it might be a good idea to look them over first. She didn’t want to be taken, raped and killed before she got a chance to see Bob, and she had a feeling that things were bad enough over there right now that her dream wasn’t that far off of the truth. So she needed to be cautious, which meant that walking along the beach was probably out. She headed for the jungle.
As she traveled in the general direction of the Colony, she satisfied her hunger by chewing on a root she dug up on the trail. After a year with the Yahshi she knew what she could eat and what she couldn’t and she used that knowledge almost without thinking. She was always aware though that if she chose to she could simply turn around and go the other way, leaving both the Humans and the Yahshi to their fates. But she found that option even scarier than going on. What kind of a person would she be if she didn’t do something to prevent what she saw? Not one she could live with that was for sure. So she kept walking, her long blonde hair swinging behind her, brushing her butt cheeks and back.
She followed a game trail that seemed to be heading in the right direction, for she could hear the sea to her right, until after a couple of miles she saw some lights. She wasn’t expecting this, the Colony was miles yet, but the lights were there and where there was light there had to be people.
Staci stood perfectly still and listened. Sure enough, drifting through the air were human voices, that and music. She wondered who was out camping this far from the Colony and cautiously moved along the trail. She didn’t want to be seen, not just yet, not until she had time to figure out a plan. It was only as she was getting close that she became conscious once more of her nudity. She had gone a whole year without clothes and had completely forgotten there was a need for them except when it got cold, but now that there were other people around she regained a little of her modesty. But there was nothing she could do about it, so she tried to put it aside.
The lights were closer now and Staci could tell that it was a large group. They were certainly happy, for they sounded like they were having a party. Men were yelling and cheering and there were even a few happy-sounding women’s voices which sounded encouraging to Staci. She ducked down and moved even slower toward the ruckus, carefully stepping with her bare feet on firm ground, not twigs.
Then she saw them, or at least some of them. They were in a natural clearing and looked ready to stay the night at least. Three wooden wagons were parked on one side and several large awnings had been put up like tents in a circle. Inside this circle Staci could see people and she realized then who they were. They were the Barbarians, the group that wanted to go form their own community elsewhere on the island. Dressed in leathers and furs that were obviously from the native wildlife, the men sat or stood around cheering at a few half-dressed women who danced in time to the music.
Staci smiled, and figured she had gotten lucky. She knew that none of the Barbarians had ever really gotten involved with Janis or his politics at the Colony, so Staci thought they might be safe to approach for help. But a lot could change over a year, giving the girl pause for thought. What she needed to do was see how the women were treated, for if things had changed since she last saw them, then that would show her that Janis had gotten to them after all. Staci knew that while harsher than she would have preferred, the Barbarian’s strict ways of dealing with their women had a structure and an order that gave it a sort of honor. It was a hard life and the women had no real power, but they were also protected and never senselessly abused as a rule. Cruelty for cruelty’s sake would be a good indication that the Barbarians had changed and couldn’t be trusted.
So Staci crept closer for a better look, sneaking around until she was behind one of the wagons. As she dropped down to crawl under it, she wondered what they used to pull the wagons for there weren’t any domesticated animals around yet. But looking up at the shaft she recognized the harnesses attached to it and sighed. She should have known of course that the women pulled the wagons.
She wriggled forward in the dirt until she could see the party clearly and noted where everyone was. There were twenty men in the group from what she knew, and close to thirty women. But it looked like there were a few more than that here which made Staci wonder if they had recruited some over the time she had been gone. Some of the women were dancing, some serving drinks or cooking food over a fire in an open pit. Many were kneeling next to their men watching the entertainment and Staci saw why, they were pregnant. It looked to Staci like almost half the women there were pregnant to some degree, which may have put a dent in some of the activities the men liked to do, she noted wryly. It was hard to play bondage sex games with a woman close to popping. But Staci felt that was another good sign. Would sadists want to start families? Staci wasn’t too surprised that there were pregnant women here. Her own menstrual cycle had started back up a long time ago, and given the eagerness the colonists had for the next generation to be born, it wasn’t surprising that so many women were pregnant now.
Another thing that impressed Staci was that few of the women were naked. All wore collars of course, but no wrist and ankle cuffs for these women which was standard for the Barbarians. Most were scantily dressed in various ways, especially the dancers, but in general the outfits on the women were practical in a primitive way: short tunics or wrap-around skirts. Staci found herself looking at the clothes they wore and wished she had something to cover herself. But glancing around she couldn’t see anything unattended, so she gave up on that fantasy.
There was one thing though that gave her pause. Many of the women, especially the ones not doing anything active, were bound in some way, either in chains or with ropes. But upon further examination, Staci saw that none of the bondage was really punitive, except for one young woman beyond the fire. She was naked and tethered to a post hammered into the ground, her hands behind her, her legs spread so that she had to stand on her toes. She looked like she was being punished for something because she didn’t look happy. Staci knew that bondage was a big thing with this group, with a woman spending most of her life in it in one way or another, but Staci couldn’t help seeing the dark side of what she saw. Still when she looked at the others that were tied she saw nothing but happiness, or at least contentment. The girl at the post was the only one in distress, so Staci had to assume that she was undergoing a legitimate punishment of some sort.
So, she knew she had to decide what to do: reveal herself to them and ask for help; or back out and go around them in hopes of making it to Bob at the Colony, for he was the only one she really trusted.
The decision was made for her when two hands grasped her ankles and pulled her backwards from under the wagon. “Hey, what are you doing under there?”
She jumped as she turned to face whoever had grabbed her. She came face to face with a large bearded man with a real sword on his belt, who looked as startled as she felt.
“Wait a minute,” he said, “aren’t you…?”
She didn’t give him time to finish, instead kicking out at him and breaking free. She couldn’t kick that hard though with him holding her ankles and he jumped right back on her, but she was able to wriggle out on the other side of the wagon and lose him for a second. The trouble was it put her in full view of the rest of the group who turned to look at what the trouble was as the man chasing her started yelling.
There were other men standing close by who made a move toward her but Staci wasn’t going to hang around. She just started running, forgetting that these people might have been friends, acting on fear and adrenaline. Like a linebacker she dodged and weaved her way through the clearing and at one point figured she had made it when she felt a sharp pain around her calf. Her leg suddenly pulled short and she fell hard, knocking the wind out of her. Struggling to turn over she saw that something was wrapped around her leg, a whip, and the owner was fast approaching with several of his buddies.
It was all over by that point, she couldn’t get up fast enough to run and she was grabbed by the men who had plenty of experience dealing with nude female runaways. In just moments she was trussed up in a hog tie that left her helpless for the first time in a year.
Staci didn’t want that, she couldn’t let herself be enslaved again, at least not until she had talked to Bob, but it was out of her hands and she cried in frustration.
Watching her, coiling his whip, was Jake Torres, the leader of this group. He recognized who he had just captured, as had almost everyone else and like them he couldn’t believe his eyes. He ordered her picked up and taken to his tent, and the wiggling blonde was carried none too carefully where he could talk to her with some privacy.
Inside the tent, Staci was laid down on a blanket on the ground, wandering hands giving her nude form one more squeeze before leaving her alone, and the hogtied girl looked around to see who was who. She knew Jake of course, and it was to him she made her appeal.
“Please, untie me,” she said. “you don’t have to tie me up. I need your help!”
Jake buckled his whip back onto his belt and settled down on a bench close to the girl. He motioned for the women in the tent to leave and waited until they did so before he spoke.
“You are, Staci Mann, aren’t you?” he asked, his voice a pleasant baritone.
“Yes, Sir,” Staci replied, aware that a little politeness went a long way with this group. She pulled and tugged at the unfamiliar feel of ropes on her body. She hadn’t been indoctrinated long enough by Bob to feel any familiar pleasure after a year away.
“I thought you were dead. Where have you been for over a year?” she was asked.
Now Staci had pretty much lost count of how long she had been gone, but she suspected that it had been something like that. Still, to hear it was a shock. She swallowed.
“Sir, could you please untie me?” she asked again.
“I don’t see why I should,” Jake replied. “I see before me an escaped slave. You aren’t dead, your Master didn’t release you, and so you must have escaped. You even got rid of your collar, and a lot of us want to know how you pulled off that trick. But one thing I don’t see is someone in any position to be making any demands of me WHATSOEVER!” he yelled.
Staci jumped, but she could see that he wasn’t in a rage, just yelling to emphasize his point. She clamped her mouth shut.
Jake got up and crouched next to her, running a hand down her side and around her naked body. Staci endured the indignity because she had little choice.
“You’re in good shape,” he said, “no sign of injury apart from the odd scratch, and you look well fed and cared for. No tan lines but a very decent tan, so you obviously haven’t been wearing anything for a long time, and your feet show signs of heavy wear, so you’ve been traveling. Evidently a year out in the wilds with nothing but your skin to your name suited you. So I ask again, where were you all year?”
Staci took a breath. “I can’t tell you,” she said.
“You can’t tell me,” Jake echoed, looking up at the smiles on some of the men in the room. “Why not?”
“I can only tell Bob…my…Master.”
Jake leaned in close, his head just inches from hers. “McKinly thinks you’re dead, we all did. He had you declared dead three months after you disappeared, after he had run out of ways to look for you. We all felt pretty bad for him, but that was a part of the cost of coming here. You aren’t his anymore, especially now that you don’t wear his collar or his mark. As your captor, I have the right to claim you for myself. In fact I have a good mind to collar and brand you right now.”
Staci’s eyes opened wide in fear. She knew that to be collared would be the end of her; she would never be free of it again. She might not even be able to do anything about Dick Janis if she couldn’t get free of the Barbarians.
“Please, Sir,” Staci begged, “don’t collar me. Don’t stop me from seeing Bob. Even if he isn’t my Master anymore, I have to see him. You don’t know how important this is!”
“Why is it so important?” Jake asked softly.
“Our futures are at stake,” Staci answered eventually, “it has to do with Dick Janis. But you have to understand, I want to tell you what’s going on but I just can’t take the risk that what I say will get back to Dick Janis. I know you…but I don’t know you well enough to know if I can trust you. Can you understand that?”
Jake’s face darkened as he moved away. He stood up and walked over to the other men who gathered around him. They whispered for a moment before he turned to face her. Like most of the men who had made the trip from Earth, Jake had spent years studying women, if only to know how to better control them. He was actually quite good at it, much preferring a psychological approach than a physical one. He could tell if a woman was lying with almost 100% accuracy and he knew that Staci was telling the truth and that what she needed was indeed very important. The thing was, did it really concern him and his people?
“Staci,” he said, “you caught us on the move. You know about our plans to go start our own town, right? Well, only last week the Doc told us that we were done with our genetic shots so we packed up and are now heading south. We aren’t planning on going back to the Colony anytime soon and I could claim you and take you with us with none of them the wiser. I’ve a good mind to do that too, for someone who has lived naked in the jungle for a year obviously knows what it takes to survive. We know enough to get by and fend for ourselves, but your knowledge of what we can and can’t eat would be a lifesaver. Also, what do we care about that asshole Dick Janis? He and his brute squad are a big reason why we’re moving out so fast. Hell, since he started making trouble we’ve nearly doubled the number of people willing to come with us and live our way. The only reason he’s letting us go is because we’re going technology poor. He doesn’t see us as a threat if we don’t have any of his fancy guns. So I doubt whatever is bothering you affects us at all!” He paused and then sighed. “But…I didn’t make millions on Agri-Business back on Earth by not considering all the possibilities.” He turned to his men. “Cage her for the night; I’ll deal with this in the morning.”
“What about the move tomorrow?” asked one of his men. “Do we go ahead and pack up?”
Jake shook his head. “No. I want to figure this out first. Just get her out of here for now.”
Staci had to speak out. “Sir. What’s going to happen does affect you. It has to do with everyone. Please take me to Bob!”
Jake turned, anger on his face. “SHUT UP! I said I was going to think on it. I could just have you enslaved and have done with it, so be glad for what you’re getting!”
Staci shut up and endured the hands on her body once more as she was carried out of the tent. She was not taken far, just where some animal cages had been piled up. One of the men pulled one out that looked rather small to Staci, while the others untied the ropes that had bound her in her hogtie. Then she was ‘urged’ into the cage with someone’s foot, before the door was locked behind her.
“You need water or food?” she was asked.
“Please, yes Sir,” Staci replied trying to get comfortable.
“I’ll send a girl,” said the man and they all left.
Alone in the cage that was too small to stretch out in; she pulled and tugged at the bars but was unable to get out. Frustrated, but glad that Jake had at least listened to her she waited for her food and for the morning.
When morning came Staci was cold and stiff. Unable to do much moving around as she slept in her cramped quarters she had aches and pains all over her body. She was awakened by someone banging on the side of her cage and she looked up through bleary eyes at a big man in a leather tunic.
“Good, you’re awake. I thought I was going to have to get a bucket of water,” he joked with a smile. He unlocked the cage door and ordered Staci out on her hands and knees. Then, with her still kneeling, he used some cord to tie her hands behind her.
“Over there, behind the cages,” he said, “do your business then we go see Jake.”
Staci wasn’t given the luxury of doing her toilet in private, he wasn’t about to take his eyes off her while she was in his charge. So she just tried to ignore him as she peed. Then he took her arm and led her back to Jake’s tent.
Inside it looked much the same, except that two women in collars and silks were clearing away the remains of a meal. One of the women looked ready to give birth while the other one had the bulge of someone not nearly so far along. They both looked at Staci and smiled, but said nothing as they finished their task and left.
Staci’s escort urged her to her knees and she waited like that for several minutes before Jake showed up. He was dressed in pants and shoes alone, and looked like he had been washing up. He ignored Staci while he poured himself a glass of water from a pitcher.
“I’m told you’re not a real submissive,” he said, his back still too her. “The story is that you just came along for the ride not knowing what we were all about. Is that true?”
“Does it matter?” Staci asked just before biting her tongue. Comments like that weren’t going to help her.
“It does to me,” Jake answered. “How can I tell what is important to you if I don’t know what drives you? Take the other women here, for example. All of them have a driving need to serve. That servitude may come in many forms and may not make sense to anyone who doesn’t understand us, but it is there all the same. I know what drives them, but I don’t know what drives you. Yet, you served McKinly well, and I’m told that you had a fairly happy relationship going with him, after a rocky start.” He turned and looked at her. “But it’s been a year, people move on. Have you? Can you stand what you might find going back to him after all this time?”
“I don’t understand, Sir,” Staci said.
Jake shrugged. “Maybe not.” He walked over to a chest in the corner and opened it. Digging around inside he pulled out something that made Staci want to get up and run. But her escort put a beefy hand on her head and held her in place by her hair.
Jake held up the collar and opened it. “You were a green, weren’t you?”
“SIR, PLEASE!” Staci yelled, wincing at the pain on her head. “You CAN’T collar me. You HAVE to let me see Bob!”
Jake scowled. “Girl, whether you see him or not, you’re going to get collared. Understand this. All the women on this planet get collared, and you’re no exception. If you want to go anywhere, it will be in this collar.” And with that he approached her and slipped it around her neck.
Staci struggled but the faint click of it closing was like a death knell, and she sobbed in frustration. Once more her freedom was gone and with it her chances to change her vision.
Jake watched her reaction and raised an eyebrow. “Look at me, slave girl,” he ordered, and after a moment she did so. “I’m collaring you but I’m not claiming ownership of you just yet. I figure in the interest of fairness that I might as well take you back to McKinly. If he wants you, he can pay me for you. If not, then your ass is mine and you come with us. Either way, you’re a slave again so get used to it.”
Staci didn’t hear much of what Jake said, her mind locked on the fact that he said he was taking her to see Bob. She smiled through her tears. “Thank you, Sir,” she said.
Jake just shrugged and stood up. “Get her fed and bound for a walk. I want to leave in an hour.”
“Sure thing, Boss,” said her escort and Staci was hauled away.
An hour later she and Jake set out through the camp and into the forest. Jake was now fully dressed in a dark green tunic while Staci was dressed in the first clothing she had worn in a year. Not that she wore much, just a loincloth, but at least it was something, and on her head was a full discipline helmet, placed there at Staci’s request because she convinced him that it wouldn’t be a good idea if the other colonists knew she was back yet. The helmet hid her face from view although she could still see to walk. It also hid the large ball gag Jake put into her mouth for his own amusement. What it didn’t hide was Staci’s very long blond hair, but Jake figured that was a calculated risk. He would have cut it off but if he was getting her back he wanted her to have it. Long-haired women turned him on. Staci also wore a rope around her wrists which were bound behind her, and the end of the rope passed through her legs and was held like a leash by Jake.
She had to hurry to keep up with the fast-moving man or suffer having the rope dig deep into her privates, but even then it took most of the day before they got close to the Colony and only then did they slow.
It was a changed place, Staci saw. Not one woman she could see out on the streets wore regular clothing. All were naked and all wore at least a set of chains between their ankles and wrists. Many were pregnant as in the Barbarian camp and some even had infants with them. They all looked beaten down with barely a smile among them and Staci wondered what had happened over the time she had been gone.
Jake led her through town toward the Recreation building and everywhere they went they saw the same picture: women in true slavery, slavery beyond the games and fantasies they may have had before coming here, with the men looking on and smirking. Some of the men watched Staci and Jake go by and a few even approached the couple. Jake did nothing to stop them groping the girl, instead passing the time of day with them briefly before moving on. One of the men asked if she was available for a quick fuck, but after a moment’s consideration Jake smiled and said he didn’t have the time to spare. No one asked him why he was back, and no one asked who she was.
They did eventually reach the building and Jake took Staci in through the side door that led up to the apartment she’d shared with Bob. They took the stairs rather than the elevator and soon were standing in the hallway outside the front door.
Jake looked at her a moment. “You positive you want to do this?” he asked quietly. “You saw what it was like out there. If Bob decides to keep you then that’s going to be how it is for the rest of your life. I don’t know what got into the people here since we got to this planet. The women seem to have gotten dumber and dumber and the men more and more abusive. Even my group has been affected and only our strict code of honor has stopped us from degenerating like the rest of the Colony. You stay here and you’ll end up getting butt fucked by every man here eventually.” He sighed. “Come back with me. You’ll not be less of a slave, you’ll be worked hard and sexually used, but you’ll still have our respect and affection. You’ll be a slave, but you’ll also have your dignity. Get out of here while you can.”
Staci thought about it. She was horrified at what she had seen walking in, but she wasn’t doing this for herself. She was doing this for Fred and all his kind, as well as her fellow humans. She nodded toward the door.
Jake sighed again and looked around. Satisfied they were alone he took off her leather helmet and then activated the door chime.
“This is Allie, how can I help you?” said a female voice.
Staci stiffened up, an ice pick in her heart. She had logically thought that over time a man like Bob McKinly would have to find female companionship; that he couldn’t live long without a slave girl. But the reality of the situation pierced a deep hidden fantasy that he had waited for her, alone.
Jake was watching her and he saw all that crossed her mind and crossed her heart. He was a big, tough man, but that didn’t mean he didn’t feel for her.
“It’s Jake Torres. Is Bob in?” he said.
“Master Bob is in, Sir. But he’s not taking visitors.”
“He’ll take me. I have a present for him. Get him to look at the door viewer,” Jake ordered.
A few moments later the door opened, and standing in the doorway was Bob, his face white. He stared at Staci with an unbelieving look on his face.
Staci looked back, wishing she wasn’t gagged and bound. She wanted to rush over and hug him, but she couldn’t move because Jake still held her leash.
“Staci,” he said, almost a whisper. She nodded, a tear in her eye. Then she noticed another women standing close behind Bob. She was naked and in simple chains, chains that Staci had worn in the past. She looked shocked as well, and also angry.
“Can we come in?” Jake asked.
Bob nodded and stepped back and the travelers entered the apartment. It didn’t look much different to Staci, a bit more cluttered but the same.
“Where…how?” Bob was asking Jake.
“She just came wandering into camp late last night. Thought I should bring her here and see if you still wanted her. You get her at a price though, a case of your best scotch!” Jake said with a grin.
“Er...” Bob said, still in shock. Staci noticed Allie narrow her eyes at this.
Jake moved behind Staci and undid the rope binding her wrists, then he took out her gag and left her standing in just loincloth and collar rubbing her wrists. “I’m kinda interested in hearing her story, she wouldn’t tell me, insisted on talking only to you.”
“Staci?” asked Bob.
Staci wanted to go to him, yet she felt something different, something off. It might have been the way Allie was glaring at her, but finally coming face to face with the man who had been so intimate with her after all this time turned out not to be what she expected.
“I’ve missed you, Bob,” she said, knowing that at least was true.
Bob just looked at her. “We thought you dead. I never believed you escaped. I thought that we had gotten past that. I thought you were happy with me. How could you?”
“I didn’t escape,” Staci answered, a little put off by Bob’s accusation.
“I’d like to believe that, Staci. God I’d like to believe that. When Janis finds out you’re back the shit’s going to hit the fan for sure!”
“He can’t know, not yet!” Staci said quickly.
“Why not?” Jake asked her.
“Because…because of why I’m here. Because of what happened to me,” she said slowly.
Jake and Bob exchanged a glance. “Okay,” said Bob, finding a seat, “I’ll hold off calling him, but your story had better be good.”
Jake sat down too and Staci sunk to her knees on the carpeted floor, some lessons staying with her, and she began to tell the story of her year lost from the Colony. While she talked, the men listened quietly while Allie served them both drinks. No one noticed her afterward slipping into the bedroom.
Bob rubbed his temples while Jake stood and looked for something to drink. Both men were tired after hearing Staci talk about her experiences, and both didn’t know what to think about it.
“That’s…a hell of a story, Staci,” Bob said eventually, exchanging a quick glance with Jake.
“It’s not a story, Bob, it’s the truth,” Staci replied. She couldn’t understand it; she felt that talking to Bob was like talking to a brick wall. He seemed so different to her, and it wasn’t just his lack of affection toward her. He seemed colder, harder, and not for the first time she wondered if it had been a mistake coming here. If she couldn’t convince Bob that there was trouble in the future, then who could she?
“It’s just so…fantastic, that’s all,” he said defensively.
“It’s not so far out,” Jake said, looking around for Allie and not finding her. “I mean, remember the Doc’s analysis of her collar back then? Some powerful acid, I think he said. Something freed her. And when I got her she had nothing, not even her wrist cuffs or that fancy little ring you’d stuck in her cunt.”
“But…” said Bob. He sighed, “I used to think…I used to hope that you had somehow been taken by someone living here, and that you might have still been alive all this time. But we’ve done some extensive surveys over the last year and found nothing to indicate that we aren’t the only intelligent life on this planet.”
“So you don’t believe me?” Staci asked.
“I want to. But can you give me any proof? Can you prove you had those…visions about Dick Janis? Your claim of him enslaving and killing a native culture is pretty far-fetched. He’s an asshole, but he isn’t that bad!”
Jake snorted, “Are you sure?”
Bob looked at him. “Do you believe her?”
Jake nodded slowly, “Yeah, I do. In fact, I believe her enough that I think it’s a great idea that I get my people as far away from him as possible, and I’m not saying just to the other end of the island. We can build some boats; we’ve got the plans on data pads and plenty of raw materials. I think we’re going to be off looking for a new land to colonize.” He paused for a moment, looking at both Bob and Staci. “You know, you’d both be welcome to come along. You were always a decent man, Bob, and I told Staci earlier that someone of her experience would be very valuable. I don’t have to tell you how hard it was bringing her here when I could have just kept her.”
Bob shook his head. “No, I can’t go. Someone has to hold the pieces together here, keep the sanity. Kent is pretty much useless now and everyone else is pushing for Janis to succeed him.”
“So you at least believe that Dick Janis needs to be taken cared of?” Staci asked.
“Taken cared of…how?” Bob snorted.
Jake moved to the door. “I don’t want to know. I’ll just go downstairs and get my case of scotch if you both aren’t coming.”
“Staci should go with you,” Bob said, standing up. “She isn’t safe here. Dick never liked her and if he finds out she’s back then her life may be in jeopardy.”
Staci blinked. “What, you think he’ll kill me?” she asked.
Both Bob and Jake looked very uncomfortable. Bob broke the silence. “In the past year, he’s had two women executed for trying to escape. I doubt he would buy your story about being kidnapped.”
Staci was stunned. What happened to the sanctity of human life, especially women’s lives? She had to press the issue. “The killing will only go on, he has to be stopped. He’s going to tear this planet apart and you’re letting him do it!”
“What do you want us to do, kill him?” Bob asked.
Staci didn’t answer, but in her heart she knew it was the only way.
Jake moved to the door again. “I’m leaving, I don’t want to hear this,” he said. He opened the front door and froze in shock. Standing there was Dick Janis, a thin smile on his lips, and with him were several men, all heavily armed with gauss rifles.
“Well,” he said to Jake, “I know I wanted to hear this, and I think I’ve heard enough.” He pushed past the Barbarian leader and he and his men soon filled the room, rifles at the ready. He moved until he stood next to Bob but he was looking at Staci who had risen to her feet.
“So, like a fucking rash you’re back again, Cunt. I thought we were rid of you,” he said to her, “and now you’re here planning to kill me. Oh yeah, I heard you. Allie was kind enough to patch your intercom into my phone, so we’ve all heard your little story. I guess she didn’t like the idea of you taking her man away from her. Dumb cunt. But she doesn’t have to worry, I’m arresting you for treason, not to mention being an escaped slave. Both offenses incidentally are now punishable by death.”
“I’m not the traitor, Dick,” Staci said quietly. She wondered why she wasn’t afraid of him. “You’re the one that is betraying what these people came here to build.”
“Me…ME? These people didn’t have a clear vision about what they wanted here even back when Kent first started talking about this flight to the new world! They were all hoping for this bondage utopia where everyone would be happy following their own little kinks, whatever they might be! There was no unifying influence here, no one who was willing to set things up the way they should have been. Sure, they said that women wouldn’t have power here but we all saw that wasn’t true at all. Not until I did something about it. I knew from the beginning that this experiment would fail, so I made my own plans, put them to work, and now this Colony runs like a watch with the men in power and the cunts where they deserve to be, serving us! I DID THESE PEOPLE A FAVOR! And now you’re telling me that I’m the one who betrayed them?”
Staci looked at the man, and saw a glint of madness in his eyes. After such a long time away from him, it was easy to spot, and she wondered why no one else had seen it. “How can you think you’ve saved them, when they aren’t happy?” she asked.
“The men are happy, and that’s all that counts, right fellas?” he said, and his men gave a cheer. Janis grinned. “Let’s get going, boys. Someone grab the cunt and see she’s properly restrained. We’ll hold court and the execution tomorrow.”
Bob stepped forward, blocking access to Staci. “Not so fast,” he growled.
“Out of my way, Bob,” said Janis, “before I charge you with the same thing.”
Bob moved forward again instead, placing himself face to face with Janis, an angry look in his eyes. “You aren’t taking her. You’re not going to execute her or anyone else, Dick.”
“You going to stop me?” Janis asked.
“Yeah!” Bob answered, grabbing the front of Janis’ shirt with both fists. Immediately Janis’ men leveled their weapons at him and Janis himself pulled his side arm, pushing it up until it was pressed against the soft underside of Bob’s jaw. Both men were breathing heavily.
“One more move, pal,” said Janis, “and I WILL pull this trigger.”
Bob sneered at him, lost in his anger. “You wouldn’t dare.”
Janis blinked, then his face took on a calm expression, followed by that thin smile of his. “Bob McKinly. I hereby charge you with treason, and given current circumstanced I see no reason to delay carrying out your sentence!”
Staci saw it coming and yelled “NO!” But it was too late. Janis pulled the trigger and the gauss pistol went off, taking Bob’s face and the top of his head off.
Everyone was stunned, not seriously thinking that Janis would do it, everyone but Staci that is who acted from sheer instinct. She grabbed the gauss rifle off the nearest man, which was pointed in Janis’ general direction anyway, and pulled it to herself, fumbling at the trigger which was still gripped by the guy. She screamed and the rifle started firing, set to full automatic it started spraying the apartment with gauss needles.
Other men started firing too as they began to go down and in the back Jake was yelling for a cease fire. By the time he was heard and the firing stopped, two more men were killed and four wounded, including Jake who held his arm where a gauss needle from Staci’s weapon had passed through it.
“SOMEONE CALL THE DOC!” he yelled, moving forward to see who was hurt, ignoring his own pain. He stepped across bodies and saw that Janis was down with several shots to the chest and one to the head, but he was still alive. Then he saw that Staci was also down, hit twice by the other men, but she too was alive.
There was a wail of anguish from the bedroom door and Allie came running in as fast as her chains would let her. She ran over to Bob’s body and collapsed in tears.
One of the uninjured gunmen came over and placed his weapon against Staci’s head, intent on pulling the trigger, but Jake knocked it away from her.
“FUCK OFF! She’s mine now! Go get a medic!” he ordered.
“She killed Janis,” said the man.
“Janis is still alive, asshole, and won’t be for much longer unless you get the Doc here! Call him!” yelled Jake.
The man looked angry, in need of revenge, but he did as he was ordered while Jake did the best he could with Staci’s wounds.
“Come on, kid,” he whispered, “don’t die on me now.”
He was surprised to see her eyes flutter open. “Bob?” she whispered.
Jake shook his head, surprisingly hurt by the death of this man he knew only in passing.
Staci swallowed, her eyes watering for a second. Then she drew on a little more strength. “Janis?”
“Alive, but hurt bad,” Jake said.
“Shit,” Staci replied before passing out again.
Jake found himself agreeing.
“What do we have here?” asked Doctor Kelly as the victims from the gun battle were being brought into the hospital by volunteers. He took a look at the form on the gurney and with a shock saw that it was Staci Mann. “I thought…” he began to say but was cut short by Jake who had come along.
“No time, Doc. She’s been shot twice.”
Kelly blinked and he began examining her right there in the entry hall. Another tech came and helped him and he quickly determined that she was hurt, but not too seriously. “Open theater one,” he ordered, “have her prepped for surgery.”
“Yes Doctor,” said the tech whose name was John Thomas, one of Kelly’s few male staff and almost a doctor himself.
Other men had been coming in as this was happening, most with minor gunshot wounds that needed treatment and all of Kelly’s staff were now there helping, so Kelly followed Staci into the operating room oblivious to the gurney now coming into the building. He was actually getting prepped to do some minor surgery on the girl when Anna hurried in, her face pale.
“Doctor, you’d better get to theater two,” she said worriedly.
“I’m dealing with gunshot wounds, Anna,” Kelly replied, glancing at his best nurse. Anna was dressed in scrubs as Kelly required for his female staff. He had resisted keeping the women under his employ naked and in chains and cited efficiency in life or death situations as the reason. But pressure was mounting and he didn’t know how long he could keep on giving the women this much freedom. It worried him greatly.
“Doctor, this is worse, trust me. You need to come.”
Kelly hesitated a beat, then handed over Staci to his most promising assistant. “This had better be good,” he said, “do you know who I’ve got on that table?”
Anna knew, but she didn’t want to tell him the identity of the other patient. “We’ve got someone else who was involved in the fighting: white male, 37, multiple GSW to chest, head and abdomen.” She followed with a more detailed rundown of the subject’s statistics and by the time Kelly entered the other operating room he had a feeling that whatever they did wouldn’t be enough.
But then he saw who it was and he stopped dead. “Janis,” he whispered.
“Doctor, he’s lost a lot of blood and has arrested twice. What do we do?”
Kelly stood and watched as his team worked to save the engineer’s life, running scanners over him and feeding him artificial blood. They were keeping pace but that was all. He immediately saw an opportunity to bring about something he had toyed with long before coming to this accursed planet, but had never had the ethics to try. He was a doctor dammit! He had sworn an oath to help people, and as much as he hated Dick Janis that meant that he would never actively try to murder the man. But here he was, dying, and all Kelly had to do now was…nothing.
“Doctor?” asked Anna.
Kelly noticed someone who didn’t belong and turned his head to see one of Janis’s men standing in a corner. The man was armed and looked uncomfortable.
“GET THAT MAN OUT OF HERE!” Kelly yelled, making the man jump. “DAMMIT! THIS IS A STERILE AREA MAN! DO YOU WANT JANIS TO DIE?”
“I’m not supposed to leave him alone,” protested the man.
“Fine, stay here and contaminate him to death,” Kelly replied, moving toward the silent figure on the table.
The armed man looked unsure for a moment. “I’ll wait outside the door,” he said, leaving the room.
Kelly ignored him; he just stood and stared at Janis while his crew waited for orders.
“Doctor, if you don’t do something soon he’s going to die,” said Anna.
Kelly just stared at the man, and then he looked up at each of his team, all women in this room. They could see that he was wrestling with a huge dilemma. “You’ve all heard the part of the Hippocratic Oath which states, ‘First, do no harm.’ Well…I think that if we…let this man live, we would be doing more harm than if we did nothing.” He looked at each of them again, searching for any kind of protest, any sign that what he had said was being badly received. But these women were all victims of the changes brought about in the Colony by the man on that table, and even though they occupied a privileged position in the hospital, outside they were as suppressed and abused as any of the other women here. He knew they didn’t know all the details, and Kelly was deeply ashamed of being a part of Janis’ plans in the first place, but he needed their support at this moment because it was against his instinct to just let a man die. He got his support as one by one each of the women stood back away from the table, leaving Kelly standing alone. The doctor took a final look at his patient and then moved back himself. Silently, the group watched the last few seconds of Janis’ life tick by, and when the alarms went off, all they did was turn them off.
“Anna,” Kelly said quietly once all was still in the room again, “have John take care of the girl and the other patients. I have to go. It’s…important.”
Anna nodded and they watched their doctor leave the room. Each of the women in there was relieved that Janis was gone, but still anxious about the effect it would have on the men. But things had to get better, didn’t they?
Kelly pushed past the guard outside the door and continued on out of the building. He met Alan Kent coming the other way and went right by him without a word.
“Doctor, where are you going? I was told there was some shooting!” Kent said.
Kelly ignored him as he had something much more important to do. He walked quickly over to Janis’ maintenance building and around the back to where Janis’ pony girls lived. Without a pause he opened the gate and walked in, stopping for a moment to look at them.
They were both standing, oblivious to the firestorm that was quickly brewing in the Colony. Neither of them knew what was happening beyond their own skin due to the helmets they both wore. They were shut off from everything except what they could touch, which wasn’t much for their arms were bound high up behind their backs as usual.
Kelly stifled a sob at their condition, the whip marks, the piercings. He moved forward toward the closer of the two and began examining her helmet, looking for the lock that would release it and didn’t notice when he was joined by Kent.
“He’s dead,” said the former industrialist. “You killed him.”
“He died of gunshot wounds. We couldn’t do anything for him,” Kelly replied, not looking at the man.
“Bullshit. You let him die.”
Kelly looked at Kent. Kent had changed more than most over the past year. He was withdrawn, almost silent, as if fighting inner demons that no one else could see. Some thought him insane, so no one objected when Janis pretty much took over, least of all their former leader. Kelly knew better, the man was brain damaged.
“Do you know how to get these off?” he asked, talking about the helmets.
“You don’t want them off,” was the reply.
“My God man! This is my wife and daughter!” exclaimed the doctor. “I sold my soul to Janis in order to keep them safe. I did unspeakable things for both of you so that he wouldn’t kill them! Now he’s gone and I want them back! You can’t stop me from getting them back!”
Kent laughed. “Believe me Doctor, you don’t want them back. Ever since that so-called boating accident back on Earth, Janis has been doing little experiments on your lovely wife and daughter. Look at them. They’ve been isolated from everything except their training for several years now. What kind of madness have they gone through in that time? Do you really want to know?”
“I can help them,” Kelly said, looking once more at the naked bodies of his family, feeling their pain.
“They are better off as they are, and you know it. What he was having you do to the women of the Colony was nothing compare to the way he fucked up their brains.”
“Not just the women,” Kelly mumbled.
Kent paused. “What was that?” he asked.
Kelly turned to look at him. “Not just the women, but the men too.”
Kent scowled. “Explain it to me Doctor, simply.”
“You knew about the women, genetically altering their brains to make their neurotransmitters less efficient, leaving behind a less intelligent woman who would be easier to deal with, easier to subjugate. Including those changes with the other genetic treatments that we all needed to adjust to the food here was the plan, but that wasn’t all of it. You were never supposed to know this but he also had me design and include changes for the men too. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”
“What…changes?” Kent asked, breathing harder.
Kelly was getting nervous; Kent looked like he was on the edge of madness to him. He shook his head. “You don’t need to know.”
Alan Kent wasn’t going to take that for an answer. He pulled a pistol from his belt and pointed it at Kelly. “You’ve been fucking with my brain, haven’t you? I want to know what you did!”
“Not just yours, everyone’s. Everyone that is except Janis…and me, I just couldn’t do it to myself. Janis wanted more aggression out of the men, to give them more confidence and less resistance to his extreme views. Mixed in with a milder form of the reduction in intelligence that he wanted for the women, it was supposed to leave him on top, in control. So he had me making genetic changes to the prefrontal lobe, enhancing aggression. Every time anyone came in to get their genetic booster, they were also getting the necessary booster for the changes in their brain chemistries.”
“So that’s what you did to me?” Kent said.
Kelly hesitated. “Not quite. For you, he wanted more, he wanted you out of the way; he wanted you to be a vegetable within a couple of years as he solidified his powerbase. I’m sorry, but I had no choice. I had to do it.”
“Is it reversible?” Kent asked.
“With no more treatments, everyone will come part-way back, and Janis’ plans to do this to the next generation colonists will never come about now. But for you, the best you can hope for is…senility within five years.”
Kent closed his eyes, fighting within himself for the truth.
Kelly moved closer to the man, hoping to take the gun away from him. “We have to tell them all what’s been going on. They have a right to know.”
“No,” said Kent. “You fucked with their brains, and they aren’t going to be happy about that. I know I’m not.” He raised the gauss pistol and shot Don Kelly in the head. “Goodbye Doctor, give my love to Dick when you see him.” He turned and left the corral, madness firmly within his grasp now, and went to reclaim his people.
Behind him, standing near the body of their dead husband and father, the two pony girls remained unaware.
Eight months later, and it was raining. Staci waddled through the mud as best she could, her large belly and her bondage slowing her down. She paused in the darkness, checking to make sure she wasn’t being observed. She didn’t want to be seen on this particular errand, not now.
Most people ignored her anyway, the fervor of their anger now spent. Just days after the death of Dick Janis, Bob McKinly and Doctor Don Kelly, a mob of men pretty much dragged Staci out of the hospital where she had been recovering from her wounds while being ruthlessly interrogated about her time away. They almost lynched her but Kent intervened, telling them that a long, slow punishment was a lot better than a quick death. The mob agreed, and Staci had not known a day of peace since.
She spent the first month in a cage in the central square, a tiny cage that allowed her almost no movement at all. The back of the cage was open and her ass stuck through it enough to allow access to her anus and vagina. They were both used quite liberally by the men as they passed by and there wasn’t a day when she wasn’t forced to service most of them. Then when she became pregnant she was taken out and put into her present bondage.
Alan Kent had regained his position as leader of the Colony, and in his madness he was almost as bad as Janis had ever been. One of the promises of his ‘platform’ was the continual degrading of the woman who had taken Janis from them, so he thought up a simple yet humiliating punishment for her that she was still living.
He put her in bondage, her wrists cuffed to her collar with a four-inch chain, her ankles connected only a foot apart. This stopped her from reaching almost every part of her body, and it was even hard for her to brush her face. The last humiliation though was a mental one. She belonged to no one; she was a slave without a Master, or many Masters depending on how you looked at it. Kent made her the camp slut, available to all except the women who, with one exception, were strictly forbidden to have any contact with her. She couldn’t feed herself or take care of her own needs and she had to beg for food, water and shelter every day. To make her even less human Kent had rigged her collar so she couldn’t talk, which made it even harder for her to ask for what she wanted. So she had to use the only thing she had left, her body, trading sexual favors for the things she needed to survive.
She did have a few sympathizers. Tommy Windwalker would sometimes take her in and clean her up, letting her sleep inside his shop from time to time, and there were other friends of Bob McKinly who tried to help too. But any show of friendship toward Staci was officially frowned upon by Kent and his men, so those treats were few and far between. One offer of help she never heard about came from Jake Torres. The leader of the Barbarians had offered to buy Staci from Kent, but Kent wouldn’t have it. So Jake and his people had to leave without her, much to his disgust. He saw her punishment as a waste and truly felt sorry for her. But he took comfort in the thought that maybe in the future he would be able to come back and get her.
The only regular comfort Staci got was from Anna, who made sure the poor girl was physically able to carry the life within her to term. Anna gave her the dietary supplements she needed as a pregnant woman, and healed as many of her injuries as she could get away with when Staci came each week to be checked over. Anna, still chief nurse but now forced to work nude and in chains, couldn’t do a thing to ease her own suffering, but she could at least help Staci.
But for Staci there was no real escape from the way the Colony treated her. All this abuse had its effect on her, and for months she retreated into a far corner of her mind, letting her body go through the motions of living. She mourned the loss of Bob McKinly and while intellectually she knew that his killer was dead, emotionally she still vowed some kind of revenge on the people of the Colony that contributed to his death. It was all that held her together at times. She was slowly dying.
But one afternoon she overheard a conversation that gave her purpose again. Nicholas Butu had taken over running the Recreation building, and he kept a small cage in the back of the bar for Staci to sleep in from time to time. She was still accessible to any of the bar patrons who wanted her, but it was the best he could do for her.
That afternoon Staci was lying in the cage, dozing, when she heard voices close by. It was Alan Kent and one of his lieutenants, standing at the bar. She knew they probably didn’t know she was there for Butu had accidentally thrown a blanket over the cage to give her some privacy, so she was able to listen-in with little fear of being discovered.
“They’re coming, Alan, they’re coming I tell you!” said the man nervously.
“Calm down, Karl,” replied Kent, “it’s not as if they are showing up tomorrow. They have to wait for the thirty year window just like we did.”
“Didn’t you hear me? They have something new! It was all in the message from Earth. It’s a new type of star drive that pushes them even closer to the speed of light. A ten-year trip instead of fifteen, and that means a different window. We don’t have thirty years, we have maybe fifteen. In five years they’ll be launching and coming this way! Two ships! Over a thousand new colonists! They’ll come right here and take over!”
“Calm down, calm down,” Kent kept saying, “there’s no need to get so agitated.”
“What are we going to do, Alan?” Karl asked him, fear in his voice.
“We’re going to do what I always planned on doing to any follow-up colonists. Invite them to land here and then overpower them with force before they have a chance to unpack. We have the advantage, Karl, this is our planet, and we are now very heavily armed. We can take them easily because they won’t be expecting it.”
“Are you sure; a thousand people?”
“By then we’ll be almost half that ourselves with a teenage population we can arm and train,” replied Kent, planning for a future he knew he wouldn’t witness personally. “We follow the plan and kill most of the men and enslave the women. Once we get collars on them they won’t be a problem, I promise you that.”
Karl didn’t sound convinced, but he went along and Staci listened as they talked more about Kent’s plan; but her mind was racing for the first time in months.
More people from Earth were coming, and they were walking into a trap. Staci wondered what she could do about it when she couldn’t even help herself, and another month passed before an opportunity opened up from a very unexpected source.
It was the night of the rain storm, and she struggled through the mud in her hobble. Her original intention that night was to head over to the bar and beg food from the kitchen, but as she was resting she got the feeling that she was being watched.
She was often watched, that was her lot in life, but this feeling was different, familiar, and it was coming from…the forest.
Staci suddenly started to tremble with excitement, and she had to will herself to calm down and focus. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the feelings she was getting, trying to do something she hadn’t done since coming back to the Colony.
There it was again that feeling of being watched, and something else, concern? It was all so faint that Staci couldn’t be sure that she wasn’t just imagining it. But she had nothing to lose by giving in to her imagination for a moment and she marshaled her fading mental strength and focused on one thought, ‘Help.’
What she got back was a direction, and an offer of comfort, and Staci knew that what she had discovered was true, there were Yahshi in the tree line.
Now Staci didn’t want to be seen; no one could know that she was hobbling her way to freedom. She had wished for this very thing from time to time: that the Yahshi would come and she would be rescued. Her plan then was to find the Barbarian camp and go live there. The Barbarians were hard and she would still be a slave, but she would be a loved a respected slave, not an animal as she was treated here.
Now, however, she had a different plan, and once again she was acting for others as much as herself. The walk across the pony girl racetrack between the Colony buildings and the tree line was agony for her, and with each step Staci feared discovery. She knew she could not go far, for she was never meant to leave the Colony again. Her collar was therefore programmed to send a signal someplace if she wondered too far away. But she couldn’t miss this opportunity, it might never come again.
Halfway across the field her hobble chain caught on something and she was stuck. She dropped down onto her knees and would have hauled on the chain with her hands, but her collar punished her whenever she tried to pick up her chains. So instead she closed her eyes and focused once more on crying for help.
Nothing happened for a while though, and she thought they weren’t coming, that the big furrs would leave her in the field to be discovered and punished by the Guard. But suddenly a furry giant was at her side, and even in the dim light Staci could see that it was Fred.
She was never so happy to see anyone in her life. She would have hugged him if she could. But then she grew quite alarmed when he picked her up and attempted to carry her back to the trees. Not even her collar could stop her yell of pain as the chain pulled taut on her ankles.
Startled, Fred dropped her in the mud and crouched down next to her. He examined the shiny chain and smiled. To Staci’s astonishment he grabbed the chain and bit down with powerful jaws, severing it cleanly. He looked at her and chewed up the links in his mouth, smiling happily like someone eating a tasty treat.
Through her pain, Staci grinned too and closed her eyes. She concentrated on an image of herself, her collar melting away, her hands free of their bonds. She had no idea how they had gotten her collar off before, but she needed it done right away before any alarms sounded.
Fred watched her for a moment and moved closer. He examined her collar and the rest of her bindings and Staci got the impression he was trying to decide something. Then, he held his stomach and began to retch, bringing up bile and vomit in a huge mess that coated Staci’s front.
Shocked, Staci tried to back away, and she cried out at the smoke and hissing right under her head. She thought that she was dissolving, that Fred had somehow turned and was trying to kill her. But there was no pain and after her momentary surprise she became aware that something was happening to her bondage.
Her arms came free first, dropping to her sides because she had little strength in them anymore. But she could still move them and she lifted them up in amazement, examining how the chains had melted away. It all made sense to her now. The furred Yahshi ate rocks and metals, so their stomach acid had to be strong enough to dissolve such materials which it apparently did extremely fast. But acid that strong would normally eat through flesh even faster. Since the Yahshi were living creatures though, that couldn’t happen, so there had to be something in the acid that prevented it from dissolving living tissue. Staci had no idea what, but she was glad it was there as her collar came free and she was able to pull it from herself.
“Thank you, thank you!” she said hoarsely, using her voice for the first time in months.
Fred tilted his head and then looked back at the Colony buildings: people with flashlights were coming.
Fred moved to pick up Staci again, but he stepped on what was left of her ankle chains and once again Staci yelled in pain. This drew the attention of the men looking for her and several lights all focused on the pair in the field.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?” yelled one of the men, seeing a full-grown furr for the first time. Kent hadn’t let news of the Yahshi escape to the general populace, so for most of the men in the field that night, the big furr was a complete surprise. And as with all things new, the men responded the way they usually did, they shot at it.
Staci screamed and dove for the dirt as the gauss rifles started firing. She hugged the earth, feeling more than hearing the passing of the needles the gauss rifles fired at high speed.
Next to her, Fred roared, already hit at least once by the barrage. But it didn’t stop him and he leapt forward toward his attackers. To Staci’s continuing horror the roar was answered by others from the tree line, and close to two dozen other furrs leapt from the trees and started running toward the humans.
The men had been shocked by Fred’s gruesome appearance, but now faced with a whole hoard of furry giants on the warpath they began to panic and spray their lethal loads everywhere. Many shots found targets, bringing down several of the Yahshi, but in turn many Yahshi got close enough to use their three-fingered claws on the men attacking them. It was apparent though that the fight was really one-sided as technology began to win out. The magnetic gauss rifles made killing from a distance too easy and few furrs made the distance before being cut down. It was a slaughter and Staci hid her eyes from it.
But she suddenly felt herself being picked up and she saw that another furr had braved the firefight to come get her. To her surprise she recognized the patterns in its fur. Now full-grown, Betsy was reunited with Staci once more.
Betsy carried Staci quickly back into the cover of the trees and would have continued on except that Staci began wiggling and hitting her.
“STOP!” she kept yelling. “STOP! Not now, you can’t take me away now. I need to get to the shuttle, the SHUTTLE!”
Betsy couldn’t have understood what Staci was yelling, but she stopped all the same and set Staci down where they were safe. Her flat face looked at Staci curiously, a clawed hand reaching out and brushing Staci’s naked pregnant belly.
“It’s so good to see you, Betsy,” said the girl, trying not to think about what was happening behind them. “But there isn’t time for us to catch up. I have to get to the shuttle now while the camp is in confusion!”
Staci then closed her eyes and willed herself to calm down, filling her mind with a picture of the shuttle and herself standing next to it. Staci knew that she couldn’t get there quickly by herself in her condition. So her only chance was to convince Betsy to take her there.
It seemed futile, trying to get across what she wanted to the furr, but as the firefight was dying down behind them, Betsy stood and lifted Staci once more in her arms and they began to move. To Staci’s immense relief they were headed in the right direction.
It wasn’t far, and Betsy made the quick dash across the open ground to the base of the shuttle without seeing anyone. She set Staci down then stood and waited, uneasy at being out in the open like this. She looked up at the strange thing Staci had insisted they come to, and Staci wondered if Betsy was curious as to what it tasted like.
Staci didn’t have time to ask though, instead she waddled over to the belly hatch and looked up at the entry key pad. The last time she was here she had been caught before she could try something, and during her last stretch of captivity she wouldn’t have been able to reach the keypad anyway with her hands chained to her collar. But now her hands were free, just a few chain links left hanging from her wrist cuffs, and she reached up and punched in a code she hoped she remembered correctly.
Back on Earth, her job had placed her in contact with almost everyone at one time or another, and while working with the space station dock workers she had learned a few of the backdoor ship codes they used to get their jobs done. All ships had emergency access codes, known only to the builders for the most part. But the dockworkers also had access to those codes and were not shy about using them if they had to gain access to a ship to do some work on it, if the owner couldn’t be found to let them in on time. Working on the Mayflower project, Staci had known the access codes as well as the dockworkers did, and while Kent and Janis may have changed the public access codes, she prayed they had both forgotten about the emergency one.
Green light, and the belly hatch began to open. Staci let out a breath, knowing just seconds separated her from freedom now. All she had to do was get Betsy to leave and then she could board the shuttle and get out of here. So she really didn’t need to hear Betsy growl at that moment.
Staci turned to see what Betsy was looking at, and saw a man with a gauss rifle standing next to the front landing gear of the shuttle. It was Tommy, and he had a stunned look on his face as he took in the sight of the eight foot furry creature crouched next to Staci. He pointed his gun at it.
“STOP! It’s okay!” Staci yelled, her voice coming back.
“What…what is it?” Tommy yelled back, still pointing his weapon at Betsy.
“There’s no time to explain, Sir,” Staci said, “but it won’t hurt you if you don’t attack it. Just get out of here!”
“Oh no. Not until I know what’s going on! We’ve been attacked by a whole group of those things and when I saw you being carried by one I had to come get you. But you’re friends with it? What’s going on, Staci, and why are you opening the shuttle?”
Staci sighed, time was ticking away, she could feel it. “There’s too much to explain, Tom. But believe me, you have nothing to fear from them. They didn’t attack you, they were just defending themselves. Look, I have to get going before anyone else gets here, do get out of here will you?”
Tommy turned his weapon on Staci. “What do you mean, get out of here? You aren’t going anywhere! You’re not allowed to leave the Colony!”
“Tommy! I have to go; I have to fix what’s happening! You’re my friend, please don’t try to stop me.”
Staci could see that Tommy Windwalker was in a big dilemma. The man had acted as a friend, yes, but she could see that he wasn’t the Tommy of old. He, like many of the men here, seemed just on the edge of control and the appearance of the Yahshi seemed to have pushed him in another way he couldn’t handle. As Kent had planned, no one knew about the genetic changes their brains had gone through, so Staci had no explanation for what she could see happening to her friend.
Tommy gripped the butt of his weapon a little tighter. “No, just step away,” he said slowly.
“Tom. I don’t know if you know this or not, but Earth is going to send more ships soon. Two will be arriving in another fifteen years and Kent has plans to take them over. He’s planning on killing hundreds of people and enslaving the rest. Do you want that to happen? Do you want to be a part of that?” Staci asked him.
Tommy didn’t answer for a moment, then he shook his head. “He couldn’t do it, Kent is better than that.”
“Kent is a madman and you can’t see it. He’s almost as bad as Janis was.”
“Janis was a good man…he just had a few bad ideas.”
“Dick Janis killed Bob, Tommy, shot him in cold blood,” Staci said slowly. “And I think Kent did the same thing to Doctor Kelly, despite what he said about a fight. Do you really want to follow these men, would your soldier’s code allow that?” Staci had often wondered why Tommy hadn’t joined the Barbarians. As a former SEAL, Tommy should have been attracted to the Barbarian’s code of honor and conduct, the very principles that had stopped them from going to hell like the rest of the Colony. But instead he had stuck it out here.
It was an endless minute while Tommy deliberated what Staci had said, and Staci knew time was running out. She was amazed however that Betsy hadn’t done anything but sit and watch, and she again suspected that the Yahshi understood more than they let on. But Tommy eventually lowered his rifle, which made Staci sigh in relief.
“Tell me,” he said, “how does your taking the shuttle stop what Kent is planning?”
Staci bit her lips, for her plan, while shaky, was the only way she could think of to take away the advantage the Colonists had not only over the incoming Earth people, but also the natives who were still in jeopardy. Besides, she could see other armed men now running for the shuttle. “EMP,” she replied.
As a soldier, Tommy knew what that meant, and he almost raised his weapon again. “That would leave us helpless against these…whatever they are,” he said.
“Only if you attack them. Leave them alone, and they’ll leave you alone. Trust me!”
Tommy waited a beat before answering. “Okay.”
Staci let out a breath. “Thank you. Look, Tommy, come with me, you don’t belong here. I’m going to fly over to Jake Torres’s group first. You’d be welcome there, I know it.”
Tommy nodded and took a step forward but Betsy growled again. Staci didn’t have time for this but she took the time anyway. She moved to give the huge furr a hug and pushed her toward the trees, mentally picturing her safe in the forest.
Betsy tilted her head and cuffed Staci gently on the cheek, and with a last look at Tommy, she ran off.
The other men were just coming into range as Tommy and Staci boarded the shuttle, and she slipped easily into pilot mode by barking out orders for him to seal the ship and change all the access codes.
Tommy did as he was ordered; knowing that aboard the shuttle Staci had to be in charge.
Staci, meanwhile, hobbled over to the engineers console and began running up the dormant systems. She brought up the small fission reactor that powered the ship’s electrical systems and in turn the heart of the small vessel.
Looking through the windows she could see that they had company. “You done yet?” she asked her crewmate.
“We’re safe, unless they get a mag torch to cut in with,” Tommy replied, finding a seat.
“Or a bulldozer to push us over with,” Staci added, seeing one pull out of the Maintenance building not far away.
The radio suddenly came to life. “I know it’s you in there, Staci. Stop now before it gets worse for you!” said Kent.
Staci ignored him, she needed just a few more seconds to bring the ship up to speed. She started the engines to warm them up.
“Shut 'em down, Staci! Collar…shock!”
“I’m not wearing my collar anymore, you dumb fuck,” Staci mumbled, happy as hell that she had gotten it off. With it on, even coming this far wouldn’t have been far enough. “Tommy, we have to disable the Colony transmitter, we can’t have them calling the Mayflower before we’re done. Any suggestions?”
“Yeah, just knock the tower over,” he replied.
Staci grinned, her first real smile in a long time. “That’s easy to do,” she said and with no regard to the people massing under the shuttle she lifted off.
The shuttle lifted cleanly, although a little uncertainly as Staci dealt with trying to steer after not touching the controls for almost two years. But like riding a bike the skills were still there, and she began moving their steed over the Colony rooftops. To their right was the field of battle, and Staci couldn’t help looking down at all the bodies that lay there. She knew that Fred had to be one of them and she held herself against feeling his loss. She really had no time to spare for it right then, but knew that in the future she would mourn him almost as deeply as she mourned Bob’s passing. She only hoped that the entire tribe hadn’t been wiped out, that enough escaped for the tribe to continue. Of the humans that probably had been killed, she felt nothing. She had stopped feeling for most of the men here a long time ago. But there was someone down there she felt for, someone that had been her only real human connection during her degrading punishment: Anna. And as luck would have it Staci saw the woman coming out of the hospital as they flew over it.
“Open the hatch!” Staci ordered.
“What? Why?” yelled back Tommy.
“We’re picking up someone. Get it open.”
“We’re not stopping to pick up anyone Staci. You crazy?”
“It’s Anna. We need her. Damn it, I’m not having my baby without her and she doesn’t belong here. I’m landing this thing so the sooner you get that hatch open the quicker we’ll be out of here!”
Tommy stared at her, anger in his eyes. He looked about ready to take over. But he pulled himself together and did as he was ordered.
Staci landed the shuttle right beside the Hospital and Tommy dashed out. In just moments he practically threw a nude and chained Anna through the hatch before closing it behind them. “GO, GO!” he yelled as men on the ground started taking shots at them.
With a grimace Staci punched the controls once more and the shuttle lifted back up. “You okay Anna?” she yelled.
Stunned, Anna lay on the floor where Tommy had dumped her. “What’s…what’s going on?” she asked, scared.
“We’re getting out of here, Anna. Getting out for good!”
Anna’s eyes were wide open. “Peter…” she said, just loud enough to be heard.
Staci risked a look behind her. “I’m sorry, we can’t stop for him. But I had to stop for you.”
Anna shook her head. “You can’t…he’s dead. I was just told. Shot in the confusion.” She started to cry and Tom went to her, helping her into a seat.
Staci held her breath for a moment, angry at the carnage around them and sad for Anna’s loss. But to be honest she was glad Anna was away from that man. Peter had changed like the others and Anna had often complained about his treatment of her. Staci knew she would be better off with the Barbarians, especially since she was a medic.
“There’s the tower,” Tommy said, pointing.
It was a simple matter to simply fly into the thing and topple it over, rendering ground communication with the Mayflower impossible until they built a new one. Staci hoped her plan would have succeeded by then. With nothing left for them to do at the Colony though, she accessed the Mayflower herself and used it to tell her where the Barbarian camp was. She knew they’d taken a radio with them for accessing the ship, one of the few pieces of high technology they were allowed by Janis. She found their signal on another large island almost seven hundred miles away, and that’s where they pointed the shuttle, leaving the Colony behind for hopefully the last time.
They landed out of sight, about a day’s walk from the Barbarian camp, and Staci spent several hours linked up with the Mayflower, composing and sending a message that would not reach Earth for another eight years. In it she told the truth about the Colony, what it stood for, what they had originally wanted and how that vision had been corrupted by Alan Kent and Dick Janis. She told of her own story, being captured and broken into slavery, and also of her time with the Yahshi. Then she told them what she intended to do about the Colony.
She tried to paint as complete a picture as she could of the truth as she knew it, and then told the Mayflower computer to keep sending that message until told to stop. The message would get to Earth okay, and the people there would be warned, but it would be too late for the ships coming here. Staci only hoped that the little warning the new Colonists did get, would make them cautious about dealing with the men and women of the Colony. But Staci still had one more blow to give, and with great care she reprogrammed the shuttle’s flight computer and engineering systems in order to do it.
While this was going on, Tommy and Anna were stripping the shuttle of everything they could salvage. They dumped almost a ton of material out near the edge of the clearing they had landed in by the time Staci finished, and they waited there as she came out and sealed up the ship. The pregnant woman in her ship-issue jumpsuit, walked away from the shuttle for the last time. She didn’t feel any elation, any happiness at what she was doing, only a sense of relief that at last peace might descend upon this planet. She was tired, she wanted a rest.
They stood together and watched as the shuttle lifted off on autopilot, to climb into orbit by itself and execute its final mission. Once it disappeared into the clouds, they sat unspeaking and waiting, each one busy with their own thoughts.
For the first time in hours, Staci had time to think about the life inside her, not that it was often from her thoughts. Her fears up until the Yahshi had arrived had been of the baby being taken away from her by Kent’s people.
It was strange, but while before she had been afraid of getting pregnant, once she was she found she wanted to keep the baby. She had no idea who the father was, but that didn’t really matter to her. It was a life she was nurturing, and that was all that counted. She patted her big round belly and winced in pain for a moment.
Anna, now dressed and out of her chains, but otherwise still in shock over the turbulent time they’d just had, noticed Staci’s wince and came over. She took a medi-reader and strapped it to Staci’s arm.
“How are you doing?” she said, concerned.
“I’m fine,” Staci answered, glad to have Anna there, yet not wanting to be fussed over.
“You’re having contractions,” Anna said looking at her equipment.
Now it was Staci’s turn to be wide-eyed. “The baby?”
Anna smiled a tired smile. “No. You’re a good way off yet. But you had better calm down. You don’t want to have this baby here.”
“No, I don’t. Anna, I’m really glad you’re here with me,” Staci said.
Anna smiled again. “Like I had a choice the way I was swept off my feet,” she replied, looking over at Tom who watched the two women from afar. Anna sighed, “Do you really think Jake’s crew will accept us?”
“Yes. I do. Look, I’m sorry about Peter.”
Anna sighed again, her eyes on the ground and she looked close to crying. “Me too, but to be honest, I lost the Peter I loved a long time ago. I’ve done my mourning.”
There was a cough behind them, it was Tom and he held up the data pad he had been watching. “It just happened, we lost the link,” he said. The pad had been linked to the Colony net, but the connection had just dropped out, something that never normally happened. But they all knew why.
High above the surface of the planet, directly over the Colony, the Mayflower shuttle had detonated its fission reactor sending an electromagnetic pulse into the atmosphere, where it converted to a wave of ionized particles that hit the ground below it. A human can’t feel these particles, and can’t see them, but they create havoc with high technology, killing anything that runs on a processor. All of the Colony weapons, radios, food dispensers, trucks, phones, toys…etc, were instantly turned to useless junk. Anything unshielded was destroyed, which for the Colony meant almost everything. Even their power plant on the river died, and more importantly all the electronic collars that kept the women in servitude were now nothing more than metal rings. In effect, this put the Colony back two hundred years, back before electricity was used by man for everyday things, with little ability to recover. It rendered the Colony harmless without hurting anyone.
Both Staci, Anna and Tommy knew this, and they knew the downside too. The hospital was pretty much dead, most of its equipment now useless; so injuries and sickness were now life-threatening. But Staci knew that the hibernation units in the shelter under the Recreation building would have been shielded, so if they had to people could be put in there. It wasn’t much but it was all they had.
One upside though was the Barbarian camp. They were so far away from the Colony town that the curve of the planet itself shielded them from the pulse. So while the Colony had been rendered helpless, the Barbarians were protected; not that they had much that would have been destroyed anyway.
Tom and Anna began packing away the stuff they’d salvaged from the shuttle: food packets, tools, and other items; while Staci sat and rested at Anna’s insistence. They figured out what they could carry and what they could come back for later and wordlessly Tommy helped Staci with her lighter load while Anna hauled on a heavier pack. Then, they looked at each other, knowing that their ordeals were now over. The name Freedom actually meant something now, even though this new world they had found had turned out not to be so new after all. But the humans here had a new start once again, and Staci believed they had a good chance to build it right this time; provided they didn’t screw it up.
“The camp is that way,” she said, pointing toward where the Barbarians had made their home.
“I know,” Tommy replied, a lot calmer than he had been back at the Colony. He’d taken a long leather strap and was fastening the end to the ring on the front of Anna’s collar.
Staci and Anna exchanged a glance, and Anna gave Staci a small smile.
This surprised Staci who figured that after what they had been through since Janis died that the last thing Anna would smile at would be the prospect of being leashed. Yet Staci also understood that this was who Anna was, and Staci didn’t blame her for that at all.
“It isn’t completely over, is it, the slavery?” Staci asked, looking at both her friends.
“It will never be over, Staci,” said Tom, “it’s why we came here. Bob tried to explain that to you, didn’t he?”
“Yes, he did. I thought back then that I was being cruelly treated, even during our best moments. But these past months have told me how good I had it back then. I don’t know if I will ever understand or feel as deeply about my submission as you do Anna, but I know this. I’m ready now to accept my place at the feet of a man…as long as I’m respected.”
“That’s important to you?” Tom asked.
“Yes,” Staci answered, surprised he had to ask.
Tom smiled. “Good.”
“So, what now?” Staci asked, a little puzzled at Tom’s response.
Tommy pulled another long leather strap from his pocket and unraveled it as he walked toward Staci. He reached under her long hair and wrapped the strap about her neck, closing the buckle so it wouldn’t tighten and choke her.
Staci in turn, simply stood still and let him do what he did. She knew that even though she had escaped the Colony, she hadn’t escaped her slavery, but it was a role she gladly accepted now that she knew that it meant more than being abused. Besides, Tommy had always been a friend to her, and he too was suffering a great loss. They would be good for each other, she thought.
Tom shouldered his own pack before picking up both straps. He looked at both the women and Staci saw him give them a soft smile.
“Come on, slave girls,” he said. And they followed.