Near the planetoid Volun-4, just outside the cluster of Bahdtwe
The wormhole closed rapidly behind the tumbling figure of her; she had done the passage much too quickly. She had hurried partly because of her anger, but mostly because she was afraid that her hunch might be wrong, so she had traded control for haste. If she was wrong, she felt that perhaps by rushing through she might still have a chance to backstep and try again to find the warship whose trail led to this empty plot of Space. An option she knew did not really exist since they could have gone anywhere. Righting herself, she looked for the ion trail that had led her to believe that the ship was going in this direction. There were no signs of anything similar. She had arrived before them or they had turned. Which one was true, she could not know. She had only her instincts to ignore or to trust.
Interpreting the stars against her knowledge of them, the Protector of Tetra made her decision and accelerated away from the wormhole, in the direction of her home planet.
The interrogation chamber on A'ya's ship
"I saw you die."
William's incredulous words were met only with the satisfied glare of Casan's brilliant green eyes, her subtle grin not unlike the Mona Lisa. A'ya seemed to be enjoying the moment, casually slipping her hand into Casan's robe while she rested her chin on the powerful shoulders of the red-haired warrior. Her voice purred.
"She does not look very dead to me, Will'm. In fact, she appears to be very much alive." A'ya's hidden hand found a sensitive area on Casan's chest that made the redhead draw in a long breath. Casan arched her back just a bit to show her approval as A'ya continued.
"Is she not wonderful? So incredibly strong. So very....very...." A'ya's voice faded when Casan turned her head toward her. Their lips met slowly, letting their tongues play freely. William sighed loudly to show his annoyance.
"Look, this is all cozy and all, but I saw this woman drop dead in front of me and Lillith tossed her and her other folks into the Tetra sun. This can't be her!"
A'ya and Casan released their embrace just enough for A'ya to whisper a translation of what William had just said to a very entertained Casan. The two women giggled together before A'ya chose to finally explain. As Casan continued to simply stare at William, A'ya drew her hands pleasantly back over Casan's shoulders and walked calmly around her as she spoke.
"Funny thing about large celestial bodies, Will'm, is if you don't approach them just right, you can never be sure that you'll even come close to them. So many forces at work. Sometimes they'll surprise you, eh?
"I found her and the others orbiting around that sun when I passed through your sector quite a while ago. I didn't even know a Protector was on Tetra. I just found some drifting space junk and took a look. The two males were dead alright, but this one,..." Her hands tenderly caressed Casan's neck from behind. "This one was just barely alive. Her hemorrhaging had been stopped by the hard cold of Space, her frozen blood sealed her wounds. Much of it had already sublimated away, but the rest kept her from bleeding to death. She had no pulse. Isn't that interesting? No pulse, yet she was still alive. It's in the eyes, Will'm. Always look into the eyes. The Supremis species does not die easily. I can say that in spite of killing so many of them." A'ya closed her hands around Casan's neck as if she were going to choke the life out of her. For an instant, Casan's eyes narrowed as her steady gaze slid to one side, but A'ya's sudden giggle put the moment back into perspective and Casan's smile widened as her gaze returned to William. A'ya kissed the side of her neck tenderly just before she returned to strutting and explaining.
"I brought her back, treated her, nursed her, helped her overcome her addiction." A'ya stopped and raised her clenched fist. "She is my sword, the strong right arm of her goddess. Casan! D'twe hwant'r!"
On command, Casan loosed the rope that bound her robe. With a slight shrug, the robe slipped easily from her body and fell to the deck. William's eyes opened wide at the sight of her. She was even more powerfully built than he remembered on that foggy night so long ago. Around her hips, a white cloth Kitant hung loosely, clipped at the front with a silver crest. Amused and more by William's obvious expression, Casan raised her arms and curled them into huge, tightly-flexed masses of muscle. Her shoulders flared large, her chest contracted into striations of power, her belly creased into a display of hard abs, and her legs rippled with awesome might! William instantly knew what he was seeing.
"She's....she's enhanced! You...how did you...?" A'ya's laugh stopped William cold as she effortlessly lifted the flexing Casan up into the air by simply gripping the striated hips of the Geheim woman and hoisting her overhead like a trophy. A'ya beamed up at her creation.
"I am a goddess, Will'm. Do not question when I create perfection."
For that instant, William had a thought that perhaps she might be right.
On the bridge of A'ya's ship
The sound of glass shattering on the steel deck momentarily got the attention of at least half of the dozen or so crew on duty in and around the bridge. The party had kicked into high gear a few hours ago and was now flickering out like a spent candle. Those of the crew who did not hear the empty bottle of Geheimite brandy drop to the deck had good reason. They were all passed out and sound asleep.
It may have been a military ship, but the crew was anything but the appropriately disciplined and well-trained machine that normally crewed an Arion man-of-war. Most were social discards from hundreds of planets across galaxies too numerous and widely scattered to mention. They hitched the wagons of their futures to A'ya, seeing only profit and dominance in her and wanting little more than that. These were the creatures A'ya trusted most because, when profit was the motive, no one would dare chance her displeasure and lose out on a net gain. Their loyalty came with a price that A'ya made sure was met. Most of the lower ranks of the crew working in the decks below were survivors of planetary raids or pirated ships that had the misfortune of crossing A'ya's path. While the crew split up the riches found, A'ya kept all technology of power for herself. A weapon here, a weapon there, anything powerful enough to damage or kill a Supremis being. Even the ship itself had been stolen, with a few of the crew still surviving to serve her. All of this she kept under her own control for they were all useful to her in so many ways. Useful indeed to a being who believed that the entire Universe was hers as well.
The First Mate lounged sideways, across the Captain's chair. His unfocused eyes could not make out the broken glass that spread out from the base of that same chair. Too drunk and too lazy to investigate, he merely slumped back into a more comfortable position. With a blasé wave of his hand, he announced his intention to call off any further investigations into the whereabouts of his brandy bottle.
Suddenly, an excruciatingly loud klaxon alarm, punctuated by high-pitched wails, sounded from the Threat Detection Console. Hands, arms, and legs flew everywhere as bodies crashed down to the deck in panic! The First Mate flung himself at the TDC acknowledge button to silence the horns and peered at the screen to see what had set every damn alarm on the bridge off like that. Seeing the tiny sensor image on the screen and the computer's assessment of that distant smudge, his eyes grew larger as he immediately sobered.
The crackle of the overhead communication device startled everyone in the Interrogation Chamber. The voice of the First Mate only seemed to annoy A'ya.
"Cap'n! We got a Velorian Protector bitch in a high-speed approach two points to port ahead and slightly below. The closure rate is..."
For the first time since William had arrived, he noticed that A'ya looked very surprised. She turned away from him and shouted back to the communication device overhead.
"Evade! Cross her extended path to port. Shear away!"
Seconds passed that seemed like minutes until A'ya looked up to speak. The First Mate interrupted her by answering her next unspoken question.
"She's turning to intercept, Cap'n. Looks like it's us she's after."
A'ya was stunned! "Who is that? There are no Protectors out here! The closest is on Tolan!" The sound of William's laugh made her instantly spin around to glare angrily at him. All she saw was his broad grin.
"I told you not to take her for granted. That's my girl!"
"Impossible! This one is coming from ahead!" William rolled his eyes and shook his head in disbelief.
"What is it about you megalomaniacs that you always think that nobody else in the Universe has a brain."
A'ya cursed silently at such a blasphemous remark, but she had other business to attend to at the moment.
"Bridge! Hold course and open fire on her when you have a target within range."
Slowly, A'ya collected her thoughts. She hadn't come this far by giving in to surprises.
"Well", A'ya sighed, "it's not exactly what we had planned for her but if it's done out here then here is where Lillith will die."
"As long as she's dead, eh, A'ya?" William's words sounded like a curse. A'ya shrugged.
"I only want to help Casan avenge her comrades. Justice, Will'm. Simple justice."
"Bullshit. I'd bet you never helped anyone to do anything in your life. You're just using Casan to do your dirty work for you."
A'ya sneered. "You'll never understand me, Will'm. I didn't want any of this! It was Casan and..."
"Bullshit! Lillith was right! You know exactly what you're doing! You know where each and every Protector is located and you're quietly moving against each one! You're not interested in right or wrong, you're just eliminating the competition!"
A'ya peered back at William in cold silence. Moments passed before he spoke again, his voice dropping to a whisper. Something still bothered him. "What do you get out of doing all this, A'ya? Why drag us all out here? You could have...." A sudden realization froze William in shock as his eyes widened.
A'ya's face seemed to harden. "Well done, Will'm, although it did take your little male mind a while. I couldn't just kill you and Lillith in front of the baby and the Tetrites, now could I? Out here, your deaths happen the way I say they happened. The Tetrites are such gullible creatures. You feed them the information they hunger for and they trot off contentedly. They will raise that brat of yours for me while I teach her to worship me properly. She will one day be a magnificently powerful addition to my inner circle, standing proudly at my side as the daughter of a god!"
William immediately felt a father's sharp, stinging hatred for someone who intends to harm his family. Touch my daughter and die, you stinking bitch, he thought. Lillith was coming. He needed to do what he could to help stop this woman. She was a real psycho. Maybe the best way to fight someone nuts is to play with their head, use a little psyche-warfare on her. Freak her out a bit to give Lillith an edge. It might be worth a try. One thing was sure, he was going to enjoy messing with her head until Lillith arrived to do some serious damage to her body.
William lowered his head slightly as his eyes bore intensely into A'ya's. His voice became cold and menacing.
"Lillith is coming, A'ya, but not for me. She is coming for you."
For a moment, no one moved as William held A'ya in his cold stare. The sudden rumble of the guns broke the spell and A'ya blinked once before her original look of defiance returned.
"Let her come on then, Will'm. Casan! Ski'tre buntra'jha fort'p ska!"
Casan nodded rapidly. "T'aye, A'ya!" Quickly, Casan ran back to the hatchway to William's left and disappeared as A'ya removed her weapon and placed it on the desk. Straining against the energy locks, William's hatred filled his voice.
"A'ya! Before this is done, you will face me. Do you hear me? I will bust you up!"
A'ya calmly turned, her coolness only incensed William more. Two can play mind games as well as one.
"Will'm, when Casan kills Lillith, we are going to send her body into the nearby sun just as she did to Casan. You will join her, Will'm. I'll chain you in gold to her lifeless corpse, but you'll be alive. That won't be very pleasant, will it, Will'm. Face to face with your dead lover. You may even see her be consumed in the sun before you are as well. Pity, but then.....who cares."
Lillith could now make out the swept hull of the cruiser using her normal vision as she hurtled toward it at high speed. The steel of its hull and bulkheads were coated to prevent Tachyon imaging, so what it contained was hidden from her, but she could feel William's presence. Somehow she knew he was there.
Suddenly, tiny brilliant red flashes appeared all over the ship, signaling the weapon discharges meant to destroy her. Concentrating on the approaching pulses, Lillith tumbled a bit to the right to begin her violent movements to avoid them.
Every available weapon with a forward field of fire was engaged on the target. The First Mate staggered a bit, still under the influence of the brandy in spite of the adrenaline surging through his body. Out through the forward transparent-steel windows, he could just make out a tiny dot that jinked and twisted, expertly avoiding the fusillade of energy discharges that rained at it. A tiny dot that gradually grew larger as it came right at the bridge window! He screamed loudly as everyone lunged for cover!
"SHE'S GOING TO RAM US!"
Lillith mushroomed in size rapidly as she rocketed straight at the window! There was a flash of blue, red, and yellow that filled the window....and she was gone.
Without a target, the guns fell silent. The First Mate, along with the rest of the bridge crew, slowly rose to their feet. Looking nervously around themselves, no one could understand what had happened. Acting on instinct, the First Mate pulled his Gar pistol from its holster without really knowing why. The silence enveloped them all in its eerie grip.
Only a handful on the bridge noticed the angry looking face of a young female appear upside down at the right-most window. Her blonde hair floated with a liquid freedom without gravity to keep it in place. With a flick of her finger, she snapped on the window so loudly that it sounded like a gunshot inside the bridge. Without hesitating, the First Mate blindly fired his Gar pistol at the sound, hitting the window directly in the center just an instant after the face disappeared upward. The window held from the blast except for a small web of fractures at the center. Everyone sighed with relief before hurling insults at the First Mate for his stupidity.
"Are you insane? Put that weapon away! You could have blown out that window and we'd all be dead!"
"Shut up! Shut up, all of you!" The First Mate screamed back at them. He heard something else. Something he desperately hoped he wasn't really hearing.
A subtle, high-pitched squeal came from the window for just a moment as the First Mate noticed a crack grow from the center web toward the lower left corner of the window. The jagged crack moved a few inches, then stopped. One of the crew whispered, "It's stressed. The pressure's too much for it."
Everyone of the crew immediately bolted for the airlock hatch to the inner ship except for the First Mate. He stood frozen in fear as he watched the crack start again, squealing loudly now as it grew on a jagged, uneven course for the corner. Just as the crack reached its destination, the First Mate's terror could only allow him to mutter, "By....the.....gods!"
The explosive decompression when the window blew out sucked everything loose, including those crewmembers who could not escape in time, directly out of the ship and into Space. Much of the forward bulkhead around the window was blown outward, shredded by material and bodies being pulled violently out through an opening originally much too small for them. The First Mate lived long enough as his broken body hurtled away into the darkness to see a Velorian Protector sitting cross-legged on the ship's hull just above the windows. She didn't move at all as she watched him tumble into the cold distance to die.
It was all over quickly and silence returned to the bridge.
Lillith slipped through the hole that had once been the front of the bridge complex and stood on the cold deck. Dark except for the faint glow of small indicator lights that were sprinkled across various panels, she could still see that only one being other than herself now remained on the bridge. A solitary figure firmly strapped into a seat, its face a bloody mess, its eyes and lungs torn apart by the sudden decompression. Sparks from a nearby damaged console illuminated the face, its mouth frozen open at the instant of its death, a mask of pain and terror. Lillith winced at the sight and felt sorry that any creature would have to experience that. She rotated the chair to return the figure back to the console and away from her sight before walking toward the still open airlock hatch to the rest of the ship.
"Firing stopped, A'ya. Now
why do you suppose that is?"
William's words were taken silently by A'ya as she looked upward expectantly. The bridge should be reporting that the target was destroyed by now. She would wait no longer.
The silence annoyed her almost as much as William's mind game.
"You don't suppose they're not there, do you, A'ya?"
"SHUT UP! BRIDGE!"
As if in response, a massive bang shook the entire ship! The hull creaked.
"She's just letting you know she's here, A'ya", snarled William, obviously enjoying the moment.
A'ya nodded slightly as she muttered to herself, "This one is formidable." William chuckled.
"Yes, she is, A'ya. She's cold as ice and cunning when she hunts her prey."
In the airlock from the bridge, Lillith finally got the airlock pressurized, but she just couldn't figure out how to open the other hatch. She had already pressed all the buttons on the small console and none of them worked. Out of frustration she punched a hole through the hatch, but all that did was shake the entire ship and leave a six inch hole in the center of a bowed out hatch. Peering through the hole, she could see a number of Arions with weapons waiting for her to come out.
"Uh-oh", she muttered as she pulled her face away from the hole. Frantically she looked around the small chamber and spotted yet another switch on the bulkhead above her. She stabbed at it once, flipping the small toggle to another position. The lights immediately went out.
A'ya slowly paced as she and William waited in silence. She seemed lost in thought, a point not lost on William.
"So where do you think she'll attack you, A'ya? Could be anywhere. She might even be watching you right now. Watch your back, A'ya, or you just might get it broken."
The last remark brought a smile to A'ya's thin lips. Walking calmly up to the imprisoned Terran, she ran her fingers through his hair almost tenderly.
"I needed you alive to bait Lillith, Will'm, and now she's here. I don't need you to live any longer so don't provoke me or I might just trade my enjoyment of seeing you die later to shut you up now. Would you like me to do that? Hm?"
William glared defiantly at her but said nothing. A'ya patted him lightly on his head.
Lillith just didn't know what else to do. Gripping the top of the closed hatch back to the bridge, she hoisted herself up and slammed both feet against the uncooperative hatch solidly! The half-ton structure blasted off its mounts and rocketed down the gangway, slamming into the six Arions Betas gathered there to ambush her. Four were killed instantly, the remaining two were left unconscious and badly injured.
A blonde head poked out of the airlock to looked around before moving ahead. Walking cautiously toward the first turn in the gangway, she noticed movement around that corner. Stepping back, she was suddenly confronted by a very nervous Thort. He unsteadily aimed a small disruptor pistol at her and was about to fire when Lillith remembered what she had once read about Thorts in her classes back on Velor. Immediately she stuck her tongue out through her lips and blew. The loud "blurt" sound was instantly recognized as an appropriate greeting by the Thort who responded with an appropriate fart sound in return. The weapon did not fire, but it did not lower either. Lillith's knowledge of species didn't tell her what else to do, so she simply spoke to the threatening Thort and hoped for the best.
The Thort's buzzing voice responded in English.
"That is good. I do not want to hurt you either. You are, perhaps, Velorian?"
The Thort lowered his weapon with a shrug. "Then my weapon would not harm you anyway. This is all quite pointless. I only wish to leave."
"Wait, please, I'm looking for my mate. He is a Terran male, quite beautiful with strong, wide shoulders and sexy...."
"There is a terribly annoying Terran male down below that does not know when to be silent."
"Interrogation Chamber, deck 4, subdeck B. Look for the double doors. There is a maintenance stairway at the end of this corridor. It is hardly used and you should not be molested by the crew if you use it."
Lillith nodded, making her hair bounce lightly. "Deck 4, subthing B, double doors. Got it."
The Thort turned to leave, but stopped before he had taken a step.
"Do you plan to kill A'ya?"
Lillith looked resolute. "If I have to."
The Thort nodded. "You will have to. When you do, my brothers will smile upon you." With that, the Thort turned to continue down the gangway. He didn't slow down or turn around as he called back to Lillith.
"Have a nice day. Do not touch his restraints!"
A final snort signaled the disappearance of the Thort as he wheeled around the far corner and disappeared.
"This is taking a bit longer than I would expect. Perhaps we should wiggle the bait a bit."
A'ya gripped the helpless William by his neck and smiled.
The brief scream of pain that reverberated through deck 4 made Lillith's head snap to attention, her wide blue eyes slid to the left, then right, waiting for one more sound to confirm the direction. It only took a moment.
Lillith charged toward the familiar voice.
William heaved heavily, trying to catch his breath now that the pain had subsided. A'ya looked pleased.
"Thank you, Will'm. That should do it." He glared up at her sneering face with a look of pure hate.
"I'm ....going...to enjoy...doing that to you, A'ya."
"Oh, Will'm, promises, promises...."
Suddenly, the double doors exploded inward, shearing the steel framing from the bulkhead and scattering shards of ripped steel through the room. At the center of the destruction stood a massively muscled Lillith, snarling her words through gritting teeth.
"Get...away...from my mate."
The Fallen continues....
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