Category Archives: Romance

Antierra Manifesto -blog post #58

Thus do I begin the training of a slave girl to come to a place of self-awareness and understanding.  Small steps, all to be taken within the system.  Step outside, even once and your chances of being flogged to death are almost one hundred percent sure.  You can bend rules as long as you are willing and able to unbend them immediately, but woe to you if you break them.

[end blog post #57]
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[begin blog post #58]

That night Tiki is angry.  Not at me, she knows nothing of my intercession to get her to work kitchen duty, but at the men. 

“Damn them, damn them, damn them!” she mutters in that hoarse whisper all females learn to speak in from the time they utter their first words.  “I be fighter, not gorok!  I train with weapon, not clean dirty bowl and sweep floor for dirty cooks.  Damn them!”  

A ‘gorok’ is a particular class of female worker slave who does the most menial type of kitchen work.  She doesn’t cook, or even serve.  She peels, grinds, husks and cleans, cleans, cleans, endlessly.  Her “shifts” have no set times.  She is up hours before anyone else, warming up ovens, washing utensils and cleaning counters and floors.  She sleeps, when permitted, during the middle hours of the day and of the night.  She is up late into the night cleaning, locked inside the kitchens with sensors ready to set off alarms if she walks outside her perimeter.  A slave of slaves.  There is usually a round the clock complement of eight of these goroks in our kitchens.

Because Tiki is my slave, she is allowed out of the kitchens at nightfall to spend the night with me.  I had hoped otherwise, but I can redeem this time, I think.  I fully enjoy her outburst.  There is fire in this one.  Not hate, not pride, just pure fire.  She has a dream, a vision, however short: to be the best fighter ever to grace the arena.  To beat my record.  I can tell.  Now to blend patience and humility into that fire so it can never be doused, whatever happens to the body of this woman. This one is going to develop into a true mind being, I can sense that already.  I have three years to prepare her to become a hero to the women of her world.  That’s sufficient when one has good material to work with.  It is my turn to do my hoarse communication.

“Come Tiki,”  she rolls between my legs and cuddles against my body.  “You be fine.  You no gorok.  You be fine fighter, best fighter.  Say you this every day.  Pick up broom, it ‘staff’ for you.  Sweep husks and peelings from floor like opponents in arena – just dust to Tiki.  Strong is Tiki.  Mongoose shaking cobra to death.”  She nudges deeper into me, her hair tickling my throat and begins unselfconsciously sucking her thumb.  I take her hand gently and pull the thumb out of her mouth and offer her my nipple instead.  She takes it greedily and smiles at me.  Haven’t I been here before?  Beware Antierra, the snakes aren’t all outside in the coarse grasses at the edge of the desert!  They be hissing from the very walls that contain you.

Wars aren’t won in a day.  They take planning, patience, courage and finally just the sheer gut of the fighters to win them.  Tiki does not take kindly to her new life.  From kitchen duty she is shifted to cleaning the straw in the cages and then to sweeping the yards and washing the blood on the flagstones where some of the women have been “punished” for certain infractions.  In this past week we were made to witness two “punishments” to the death, one of an older fighter whose owner cancelled his contract and condemned her to the next killing orgy.  She was put into a private killing orgy for the trainers, a bit of fun approved by the overseer.  She was led to the centre of the yard and  armed with nothing but a standard training staff, was viciously set upon by six trainers until they had managed to break several ribs and one arm.  When she could no longer defend herself they crushed her skull.  When she died they cheered and toasted their victory.  Old king Jestor would have been truly proud of these men.

The other, a trainee who had a nightmare and did not shut up in time when one of the women tried to awaken her, was flogged to death for breaking the rule of silence.  We watched, listened to her screams and pleas for mercy, her dying moans.  We heard the standard warning, returned to life as usual.  What I would give, had I anything to give, to enter the auto-medic and be given the heart of an android, or better, a heart of stone.  To not feel.  To not have to endure this suffering planet.

It is the way of it… and I cannot help feeling.  To cry?  To curse?  I glance at the bloody, pulpy mess hanging from that steel torture pole I know intimately.  I wonder why it is not I who is hanging there.  I imagine the life that was there, that is no more.  I sat next to her yesterday at morning meal and she smiled sadly at me under her eyelashes.  Well, maybe it is me there because I realize I cannot curse.  If I cannot curse, then I have incarnated all of it.  Each time another dies, I die two deaths: hers and mine.  Malefactus is a neuro-inductor and I am attached to its probes all the time.  

Under the wan light of Albaral coming through the openings in the high black stone walls Tiki and I talk in our cage as we nestle against each other enjoying the mutual warmth of our bodies.  Menial labour brings anger and shame from Tiki.  She is afraid they want to demote her to the rank of goronda, the general purpose female worker drone.  “Damn them!” – her favourite expression towards men in general.  That fire is burning dangerously bright.  The wick needs trimming or the flame will smoke up the glass and obscure the vision. 

I study my feelings for her as a hawk watches his prey moving unawares, feeding peacefully in the grasses below his perch.  I must let her take all of me she needs yet refuse to ever let her possess any of me.  I know how to do this, I know I can do it, but do I have the willpower?  How does an older woman not lose herself in those black pools of sadness that pass for eyes in such children who have never experienced childhood?  Creatures destined to die before they experience adulthood?  What does that make them?

I try my best logic on her.  “Tiki, listen me.  I good fighter, yes?”

“Yes sir, you best fighter.  All women say you best.”

“You trust me, Tiki?”

She replies with a hoarse grunt.  “Huh?”

“Trust.  Believe me.  You think me true to you?”

“Oh yes!  You say, I believe.”

This is extremely dangerous ground.  Who in their right mind wants to be believed by someone who will put her life at stake for what you tell her?  I speak slowly, pitching my voice so she can get every word, every inflection – the tone of voice to them being much more meaningful than the words used to convey it. 

“Good you believe.  But careful you be not believe everything I say.”  She tries to speak and I put my hand on her mouth.  “Wait, I finish, I explain.  I know things you not know.  Things good for me.  Maybe not good for you.  You, me, different.  You listen – I say – you try.  If work for you, is good for you, yes?  If not work for you, is not good for you.  I not know if good for you.  I guess.  I have vision.  Like you but is my vision.  You have vision to be best fighter.  Good vision.  I have different vision.  To be best woman; to be good woman.  I not good woman Tiki.  Good fighter only.  But man can be good fighter too, better than best woman.  But man cannot be good woman.  I have what called “exclusive” vision – be special. 

“You woman now.  What you want be?  I not understand you.”

“I want be more than what I be, Tiki.  Better.  In good ways, not evil ways.  I tired of killing.  Tired of blood and screams.  Tired all over.  Old now Tiki, very, very old.  But cannot go yet, cannot leave, cannot die.  I first find me, better me.  Good woman me.  I first do something good for another person.  If you not understand, no matter.  You remember I say this and put my words in your head.  They grow there.  Ideas.  You say to me woman thinks is stupid.  Is not stupid Tiki.  I think always.  Think, think.  I watch men, learn.  Design new weapons, train in new way for women to fight so live longer; so you live longer.  I stay here, not die because I want help women be stronger, live longer.  Is nothing else for me.”  

[end blog post #58]

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #52

While awakening and being returned into hypnotic “sleep” over and over; being automatically rolled out of the A-M for Dr. Echinoza’s inspection and Yoba Five’s gentle touch, feeding and rolling over, I completely lose sense of time.  It could have been years, or hours.  I feel an unnatural tingling in my hands and instinctively want to scratch but of course cannot.  I’m securely bound to the gurney, face down this time.  It seems that each time I’m sent back in, if I faced down, now I’m facing up and vice-versa.  There is no pain, just total mild discomfort.  Ants are crawling up both my arms and up my leg. 

Another “out” session.  This time I am facing up.  Bal is asking questions.  I have to focus on his voice – I thought I was dreaming again.
[end blog post #51]
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[begin blog post #52]

“Can you feel your implants?”

“I can feel ants crawling up my arms and leg but of implants nary a crawling do I feel.”

“You’re a really bad poet Antierra.  The tingling and itching is normal as the bionic parts are integrating with the biological.  Can you flex your fingers for me?”

He puts his hand in mine and I squeeze.  He yells and commands me to let go.  I do, surprised at his reaction.

“What happened?  Was there an electrical discharge from my body?”

“That would have been easier.  You now have positronic command-linked “hardware” supplementing your biological structure with an approximately ten to one transfer ratio of force.  You almost crushed my hand with your grip.  Here, hold this.”  He hands me what looks like a hard rubber ball.

“I want you to squeeze this with your right hand, then with your left.  I want to measure the stress you put on it.”

“Hard?”

“Try normal, if that means anything.”  It doesn’t.  I squeeze what I think is normal and the ball disintegrates.

“I’m sorry Bal.  I can’t seem to control the effects of the squeeze.”

“Don’t worry, that will come with a bit of practice.  Also, you will eventually feel the pain you cause your own flesh and you will crack your skin when you squeeze too hard.  Your own flesh will bruise until it adapts.  It will adapt very quickly, as will your skin – changing its encoding is part of the treatment.”

“What about my ankle, leg and foot, Bal?  Are they like this, out of control too?”  I feel excitement, elation and fear all at the same time.  So many “what if’s” with this new body.

“I don’t know.  We’ll have to get you standing to test that.  But my guess is, yes, you’ll have the same problems adapting to your implants there.  Would you like to stand?”

“Bal, I feel I’ve been lying down for years!  Yes I certainly wish to stand.”

“It’s only been just over twenty-four hours actually.

Yoba Five comes over and unstraps me and helps me sit on the gurney.  The light fades and I drop in her arms helpless.  Before I pass out I notice she gingerly grabs my arms and holds my hands away from her.  I close my fists on empty space.

As soon as I recover I’m helped to my feet and taken out of the old Jump Scout ship into the open part of Bal’s office.  The “wall” swishes into place.  They let go of me and I stand on both feet but can only feel one.  I lift my feet, one at a time and watch them move.  Gradually a new feeling comes to my positronic side and I manage to take several steps before I get confused and stumble. 

Yoba Five grabs me from behind but again avoids my hands.  Bal hands me a short stick to hold on to and I find I can control how much pressure I put on it.  Then my foot regains some feeling and I walk some more.  Then more.  I stand on the left foot only and keep my balance without feeling any stress.  This is good.  I feel no pain anywhere in my body.  Gradually I grow into a wild euphoric state of body and mind.  I want to run out in the yards, screaming, shouting and laughing.  I want to tell everybody on this stupid world how beautiful life can be if they just choose it so. 

“Well now we know for certain the replacements worked as planned, that the cleaning is thorough and your healing complete, Antierra.”  The soothing voice of Yoba Five fills me with pleasure.

“Thank you Yoba Five.”

The Cydroid’s laugh floats out to me like the music of a limpid mountain stream trickling down over moss covered rocks.  “I’m YBA2.  My twin is resting.  But I can accept your thanks for her.”

“That is amazing.  You are identical to her in every detail.  Even in my heart I cannot tell you apart.”

“Neither can our lover Bal, most of the time, and he’s had us for many years.”  And she leans over to the Doctor and kisses him hotly.  I stare.  She laughs at me.

“YBA5 obviously did not tell you we share everything in our family group.  Everything.  Naturally we share lovers.  Why should they care?  If one of us is in some way occupied or indisposed he does not have to go without our attentions.  I’ve personally accompanied Dr. Echinoza on dozens of trysts to the southern hideaway.  I did not always mention I was not YBA5, even though I know that his preference is for my youngest sister.  Games of love are good if they harm no one.  Cydroids do not chose to experience jealousy.  It’s a thing that would be of no value to us.”

“I’m going to keep you under close observation for another day.” says Bal.  “We still have four days to bring you out of retirement, girl.  Let’s not take any chances with any malfunction of the positronic implants.  You must be absolutely aware of them and confident of your control over them before you can return to your normal life here.  You will be under close scrutiny because it is well known that no one recovers from Warmo’s treatments.  I hope you are working on a solid story as to why you recovered so easily?”

“I have.  If I’m questioned, the Inquisitor’s machine failed to crush my wrists.  It only bruised me severely but never damaged any muscle or bone.  I was released before the mistake was discovered.  And will someone please, please, tell me if my lover has been found?  Can I see her again, please?”

“Very convincing, Altarian.  (He always says this with a barely repressed sneer, as if to say ‘well it’s your story and I don’t have to buy into it.’)  You’re female so they won’t expect too much.  They’ll likely accept your distraught state over the loss of your Cholradil lover and will warn you to settle down or face consequences.  You will meekly accept the rebuke and be quiet.  Things should return to normal.  Just don’t grab any weapon or someone’s arm and crush it with your bare hands.  And don’t be too quick to use that left foot in fighting.  Only as necessary, you understand?  Eyes and ears will be on you, and from you, on us.  We want to destroy Warmo.  Do your part as discussed and desist from doing more than agreed.  Let us do our work.”

“I promise.  Thank you again doctor, for everything.  But mostly, thank you for saving Deirdre.”

“Your lover?  What about me?  Don’t you love me anymore?”  And he smiles and winks at me as he says this.

“I am terribly embarrassed, doctor, I mean, Bal.  You were correct, that was the drug talking, the misery I felt from losing Deirdre and the shock of the torture.  I wanted to cling to someone real.  No, I don’t love you, certainly not that way.  I admire you and I respect you.  You are free from any other attention or intention.  But if you otherwise want me or need me, for that you need not ask.  It’s yours.”

“Very understanding.  I agree, you should be a Cydroid.  We couldn’t do that but we made you a little faster and tougher than before.  You are now a partially bionic being.  Let’s hope our enhancements won’t be looked at too closely if they should get exposed by cuts in the arena.  You will exercise caution?”

“Yes I will.  I understand your concern.  You have your people to worry about here and your hopes for change in this place.  I’m here to help, not hinder.  I will use the advantages you have invested me with to the best of my ability, Bal.  Please convey my thanks and full admiration to XBA9.”

It’s YBA2 who answers.  “That won’t be necessary.  He does not do it for thanks or admiration, but for the experience and being part of an elaborate and complex game.  We Cydroids play many games that endanger life.  It’s often how we seek answers to existential questions that remain beyond ourselves.  We have many abilities you do not have, such as blocking neural responses to pain.  If we had to feel these worlds the way you do we would be in worse shape than the Cholradil.  We will do our part.  Get ready to do yours.”

Two days before the deadline, the doctor calls the handler office for two escorts to return me to my normal life.  As a sign that I’m just another female gladiator slave the doctor pushes me out his door to stand naked and await my escorts.  As I expected, they examine me, then take me to the wash troughs where they dump cold water on me.  Then the feeding and since it’s late in the day, I’m led into a cage.  To my shock and surprise I see a young trainee there.

“Deirdre!”  I almost shout.  I bite my lip to keep from crying out with the double pain of thinking they found her and brought her back to certain death,  then realizing it isn’t Deirdre, of course – Cydroids never lie – but another young woman likely recently arrived into our killing fields.

[end blog post #52]

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #46

… “Another eternity and the doctor comes over and releases the mechanism that holds my wrists and ankles and keeps me from falling as I try to put my weight on my feet.  I cannot walk at all.  So he throws my limp form over his broad shoulders and carries me out through tunnels that seem to go on forever; that in my mind I want to go on forever. 

It feels so good to be dead; to be in a place where no one can ever hurt you; to be carried to your final rest by someone who cares for you.  Death by torture has a way of changing your perspective on life.  I think it has made me soft.” …
[end blog post # 45]


[begin blog post #46]

Chapter 22 – Conversation with a Cydroid

I am not dead, I’m in a place where death is always the best choice if it is given. 

Bal and a female I recognize as a Cydroid assistant sedate me and proceed to do their difficult and painful work.  They explain what they have found: two crushed wrists and an ankle dislocated that must be re-set.  More pain.  Another deposit in the bank of love.

When I come to I’m bathed in my own sweat and stink. I’ve been bandaged up tight.  I guess dislocated joints are best taken care of by human hands than the auto-medic?  I’m rambling incoherent in my head. 

I had hoped I could go through it again and be rejuvenated, I mean, as long as I’m still alive, why not?  Think of all the fun I can have, with men taking me for their sexual pleasures as they please, beating me to an inch of my life for any reason, trying to kill me in their pleasure arenas while ogling and mocking my nakedness and finally taking me into their dungeons to torture me to death, sharing this fun with hundreds, thousands of spectators. 

We girls do know how to have fun on Malefactus.  Even better than Old Earth at times. 

I don’t do so well under partial sedation or under the influence of any other drug.  The Cydroid assistant has removed the cool sheet that covered me and is washing my body gently and carefully as I lie on that same “gurney” I recognize from before.  I remember Deirdre holding me up and I feel my heart breaking into pieces again.  Deirdre…

Don’t go there stupid.  Let her go.  That was another time, another life.

“Bal?”  I ask weakly from my prostrate state.  I can’t even move my head to look at him.  He comes over and leans over me taking my pulse from inside my thigh.

“Ah, our patient is awake again.”

“Introductions?  I want to thank you,” and turning my eyes to the Cydroid, “and my healers for saving my life…”

I extend my bandaged hands only to have them flop down again.  I have no strength in my arms.

“Don’t be alarmed.  It’s the effect of the drug we gave you.  You’ll be fine, Antierra.  Meet YBA5.”

“Please to meet you, YBA5”  I continue in a hoarse whisper, still not my voice.  “What does that name mean?”

The Cydroid answers this time, with a beautiful lilting voice, singsong in quality, unlike anything I’ve heard.

“It means that I am a legally adopted member of Doctor Balomo’s Cydroid clan.  I’m number five.  The Y indicates female, X male.  I’m the fifth female Cydroid to be added to his family.  It was a proud day for me when I graduated and he accepted  me.  Dr. Balomo is not only a renowned medical healer but famous anthropologist as well.”  I notice she beams at him as she praises him and he turns away. 

She continues, “My particular specialty apart from being a spy (something to entertain you with later) is human anatomy.  I like your body – very well made.  I would like to congratulate the creator of such a wonderful unit.”

“I guess that would be me. Thank you, but I was aiming for an external effect I could project on the people here, not a near-perfect body.  I’ve had quite a bit of practice using different types of human bodies and I can tell when one will suit my needs or fulfill my requirements.  I just wish I’d made it out of whip-steel, not flesh.”

The weak attempt at a joke is not lost on her.  She smiles warmly, her small perfectly shaped mouth opening wide as if to include all of what I wish to convey that has no words.  And she pays me the highest compliment from a Cydroid point of view:

“That body, hah, you should be Cydroid, not human.”

As my head clears and the drug still holds the pain at bay, I realize I have a thousand questions for the Cydroid.  Bal notices I wish to speak with her and excuses himself.

“You have things to discuss.  I have work to do.  I must contact the King and bring myself up to date on developments.  I have to ensure the people I forcefully released from Warmo’s dens have been dutifully returned and that any wound has been properly treated.  Hhhhh.”  He turns to leave with that deep sigh.

“Bal?”

“Yes?”

“I’m scared to tell you this, but I love you.  I don’t know yet what kind of love I have for you, but I know what I feel.”

“We will talk of this later.  You are under the influence of a powerful sedative and if you remember, you yourself told me your body cannot handle drugs.  Do not speak of feelings now.  Wait.  Remember, you just lost your lover, or had you forgotten?”

“No doctor.  Not forgotten – trying to forget.  Deirdre is no longer a part of my life here.  She is gone, forever.  I will never see her again.”

“I’m disappointed in your analysis of the situation, Altarian.  Let’s just say it’s the drug talking.  Enjoy your time with YBA5.  She is a wonder healer and a font of knowledge.  She’ll keep you amazed.  Take care.”

“When will I see you again, Bal, please?”

“When you see me again, Antierra please.  Don’t cling to your temporary good things.  Let others have their space also.  We all need to breathe.”   

That was a warning to get myself together, and quickly.  More effort, when all I want to do is lie here, be taken care of and let the world go on without me.  Oh, to just wallow in self pity and pure wonderful misery.  To be a bitch.  To be dead!

He walks out of his office looking pensive and the automatic door swishes closed.  I got a glimpse of the sky, still cloudy and windy but not raining.  A cold draft finds my back and I shiver.  It’s not just the cold I am reacting to.

[end blog post #46

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #44

(I must be tired… forgot to post the title of this blog post…)

Fate, yes.  Some Earthian friend of long ago called it karma.  Whatever it was I would pit myself against, I would serve Earth again.  The people would never know but she would know.  She would be grateful.  “Ich diene.”
[end blog post #43]


[begin blog post #44]

Chapter 20 –  Goodbye until the End of Time

The day drags on, yet the moments fly.  I strain to hear sounds from the kitchens that indicate Deirdre is there, working and in her inimitable way, amusing the other workers without seeming to do so, right under the eyes of their guards. 

Why am I torturing myself so?  I act as if I were a pubescent girl in love for the first time with a man who pays no attention to her.  Damn.  What a predicament.  Now I can understand what those poor Earthians went through with their own personal love affairs I thought were so stupid.  Now I certainly could empathize.  Now I’m living their pain.  What a terrible thing this inloveness is!  And the worse is yet to come.

I dread the time of evening meal.  She will come out, unaware, innocent, and will give me my bowl with her beautiful hands, the long fingers shamelessly running over my skin, her hair brushing my bare shoulders.  She will lean against me for a few moments before moving on and returning into the kitchens.  And I will never see her again.

The sun has gone behind the battlements and Albaral has not risen yet.  We end our training for the day; put away the wooden and rough or worn out fibresteel weapons we train with.  Wash and get in line for count, inspection and finally our evening meal.

Two of our own have not returned from the arena.  I should feel something for them, I know, compassion and a real sense of personal loss, not necessarily in that order.  But what I feel is envy.  I’m jealous of their new found freedom.  Death means it’s over, all the pain and suffering we are made to endure; that so many endure all over this world.  Death means we find peace finally.  We can fly away free for as long as we wish it.  Death is our blessed realm.

Of course that is an incomplete picture, but my mind is not into completing images right now.  I feel torn and shattered.  The count and inspection complete we line up at the tables and sit, waiting silently for our meal.  The clattering in the kitchens stops and silent young servant women file out, each with two bowls in hand, passing them out.  Deirdre is not among them.  Again I’m paralyzed by fear that something happened, that our plan was discovered, that they’ve taken her to kill her.  I can barely eat, yet I must so as not to arouse suspicion.   

The meal over we wash our faces quickly as we pass the washing troughs, then file into the cage compound, each to our own.  In the gloom I see a young woman in my cage, and for a moment I think it’s Deirdre but it is not.  She could pass for Deirdre in size and no guard recognizes the subterfuge.  I don’t know where they found her or how they got her into my cage but it satisfies the official count.  I sit next to her and she moves against me, crawling between my legs as the young ones often do, like young animals seeking a mother’s warmth and protection.  I hold her lightly and wait.  More lights go out and there is the usual noise of the changing of the guard outside, only with much less volume than usual.  Many less men out there.  Then as the automatic alarm systems fully set themselves, no one remains in the yards to accidentally trigger the sensors. 

Rising Albaral is hidden behind phosphorescent-edged clouds above the keep.

With night comes the expected storm.  I can hear the thunder far away and soon the wind comes up.  Heavy drops of rain spatter far above on the tiled roofs, sparsely at first, then increasing to a true downpour. Distant lightning flashes and my heart beats as loud as the thunder.  After a time a trainer comes to my cage and opens it.  The young woman, startled begins to stand.  She is ordered to lie down in the straw and to not make a move: she won’t.  Guided by the Cydroid-trainer’s extended arm I step out and follow.  In the gloom I see two guards carrying the body of a woman towards one of the southern portals.  Deirdre?  It has to be!  It opens and I want to run out to her and at the very least, whisper goodbye.  The false trainer grabs me and whispers my task again. 

“You have twenty minutes now to lay the marks.  I will wait for you inside the wall and return you to your cell.  Your friend is fine.”

I run out as if I were making for the crossing, then turn sharply, digging in the muddy sand to leave impressions, run down to the water and go in silently, gliding through the deep waters.  For a moment I can even enjoy the sensation of swimming, even though the water is icy.  Reaching the far side, I run up the bank far enough for my footprints to get lost in the shifting sands.  I steal one moment to stand and stretch in the breeze, outside the keep, giving myself a momentary illusion of freedom. 

I carefully retrace the steps, backward over the first set until I’m in the water, turn and, as silently as before swim back across the moat.  I take a different path along hard ground and rock, back to the portal that immediately hisses shut.  The false trainer leads me back to my cage.  It’s now empty.  I understand the simplicity of that part of the plan here:  I go in with Deirdre; a trainer orders me out of my cage in the night and makes me walk outside the walls and back.  When I return Deirdre is gone.  Meanwhile in reality my false companion is returned wherever she came from and cannot be found to be interrogated.  In any case, she would have no story to tell except she was put in the wrong cage, in the wrong line-up.  She could not know why the mistake was made.  My lies and her innocence almost guarantee a dead-end.

I spend the night transfixed in thorough angst, ice running through my veins – feeling more alone than I remember ever having felt.

I look up through the only opening visible where sometimes you can see a star or two, or where Albaral crosses.  It’s still dark and raining so if they reach the craft in time, assuming they have a reliable carrier that won’t be grounded by lightning, it will have gone through the clouds and become invisible quickly. I can see and imagine the shuttle craft streaking across the skies picking up speed to vanish on its way to Koron, a trip that should take the small craft just a bit over six months shunting time.  How I long at this moment, to be aboard that craft!

Goodbye until the end of time! 

“Don’t look back when you reach the new shore,
Don’t forget what you’re leaving me for,
Don’t forget when you’re missing me so,
Love must never hold,
Never hold tight but let go.

Oh the nights will be long,
When I’m not in your arms,
But I’ll be in your song,

That you sing to me, across the sea.
Somehow, someday, you will be far away,
So far from me and maybe one day,
I will follow you,
‘Til then, send me a song.”

(excerpt from “Send me a Song” by Celtic Woman)

And I cry for us, for her, for me. 

Not all of it is sad. 

I take comfort in the Cydroid’s words of certainty.  She is safe.  What else matters? 

For now I must try to find some sleep.  Tomorrow we will be subjected to the inevitable investigation.  Escapes, even attempted ones, are taken most seriously here as I’ve seen.  If the investigators cannot arrive at logical conclusions regarding the events, they will arrest individuals at random and send them to be interrogated by the inquisitors.  Most will never return.  They will be made to endure the most extreme sophistication of torture ever devised by pseudo-humans, either to extract information (the lesser reason) or satisfy the torturer’s lusts. 

Since Deirdre is my friend and known as my lover, I will certainly be one of those chosen for the inquisition.  Ah well, it’s the price you pay for loving, for caring, for standing out in some way and for upsetting the status quo which I’ve already done much of.  I know in my heart that even if I had nothing to do with Deirdre they would come for me.  I’ve been on their list of suspected subversives for some years now, whomever ‘They’ be.

This I must share here: my experiences on Old Earth taught me well as regards those we are forced to call ‘They’ in referring to ‘Powers’ we know exist but cannot identify because they are chameleonic in nature and use humans to camouflage their evil works.  We’ve always known ‘They’ exist and have power of life and death over us, never mind how many legal ‘rights’ or safeguards we are given under the law.  Whenever we choose right over wrong in their viewpoint and according to their arbitrary rules we are targeted as the enemy; terrorists, subversives, spies and in many cases we forfeit our lives to them.  So, let me emphasize that ‘They’ are very real to me. 

I must sleep now.
[end blog post #44]

 

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #43

(Sorry, a bit late on posting this next segment.  Enjoy anyway!)

It is the way of it. 

And I’m sick to death of hearing that damned expression that says it all for all of us.  How can I communicate abstract ideas to these people?  They express white noise for thoughts and they have the limited vocabulary of a three year old Earthian child, exceptions noted.
[end blog post #42]


[begin blog post #43]

Chapter 19 – “Ich diene”

The training session and meal over we are returned to our cages.  Later, Deirdre is let in.  I realize that it is going to be during that interim tomorrow night I’m to be let out of my cage by a Cydroid disguised as a trainer or handler and Deirdre will be carried out into the desert; that I won’t see her after tomorrow.  Even more painful, I’m sworn to silence and cannot tell her that as of tomorrow we won’t be together and may well never see each other again in the flux of space/time.

Long ago I swore to myself I would learn of detachment.  On Altaria I went on many long walks, quests for peace of mind and steadiness of heart.  As I surveyed the beauty of my world I practiced the art of detachment.  Altarians number in the billions all over many worlds.  Only a relative few ever remain on Altaria, for it is not a permanent place for us, just our port in the galactic oceans.  It is a place of rest between assignments we give ourselves.  Some of us, particularly those who are called ‘WindWalkers’ or ‘Avatari’ can be gone for millions of years, even more, before we find our way back home.  We are galactic wanderers, sailors of space.  Yet when we come home we can get attached to its gentleness, softness, peace, tranquility, but mostly it’s the complete lack of pain or suffering or sense of loss we get attached to.  It can become difficult to leave again.  So we are taught detachment by the few ancients who remain there to care for those who return, to heal the minds and encourage those who must leave again. 

I’ve always felt that what we are taught of detachment at home is an illusion.  I think the ancients know this too, but allow us to discover it on our own.  They equip us to go with a story that makes sense only until it is tested.  A truly detached ISSA, seems to me, at this point at least, is an oxymoron. 

Now I’m losing the love of my life; of this particular life.  I’ve done all I could to see her leave, knowing she has no future here.  And tomorrow evening I’ll watch her go and never see her again.  My heart is already tearing apart as I feel her against me and smell her breath and skin; listen to her soft breathing and the rustling of her toes in the dry straw as is her habit to grasp straws in her toes and twirl them. 

“Practicing dexterity and flexibility.” she explained to me long ago.  “They taught us never to stop pushing our abilities to do things with our bodies, impossible moves are not impossible.”  She can tie knots with her toes; stand straight up with only one hand on the ground.  Do at least ten back flips without missing a beat, even jumping over obstacles while doing it; casually throw a leg over her head and turn her head back almost a full one hundred and eighty degrees.  She makes incredible faces to make the saddest person laugh – if it were permitted here.

“What’s wrong Antierra?”  She breaks into my train of thought, sensing my disquiet and inner pain.

I reply instantly, without hesitation, according to the advice I’ve received from the Cydroid.  ‘Feign anger.’

“I’m angry from today’s sessions.  I think some fighters are getting lazy or stupid and won’t fight properly.  As if they want to die.  I’m upset at the twins for what they have become.  I blame the chakr.  Maybe they get too much.”

“It’s not the drug and you know it.  They can’t help themselves, Antierra.  Once they taste the killer juice inside their heart and find they like it, they are killers.  You should be thankful that you trained them well enough to survive their instinctive drives, no?  And that you were able to change the rules to let them fight as a team?  What more did you hope to accomplish?  They survived their first fight and they were so intensely proud.  They saw they had power too, a power that had been denied them as concubines.  It is the price we all must pay if we would reach a new level of understanding.  All of us, even you, must be prepared to pay a price.”

I want to scream at her when she utters those words.  Indeed, even I must be prepared to pay a price to reach my next level of understanding.  Indeed!  Ha, young one, the things you have yet to learn.  I bite my lip to refrain from saying anything at all.  After I regain some of my composure I say,

“Let’s not talk anymore.  Just be with each other and let this day slip away and the new one come.  Let me hold you.”

We hold each other and eventually fall asleep to be awakened by the handlers as if today was to be just another day.

There is unusual activity in the training compound.  Liveried King’s men come and commandeer a whole squad of guards and they walk off.  Handlers and trainers watch, as dumbfounded as the rest of the fighters and trainees.  Only I (and whatever Cydroids are among us) know what is going on and I try to concentrate on my work.  I drive my charges ruthlessly.  I especially seek out the one I had talked to the day before and take her on.

She whispers to me,

“I think about what you say.  You be correct.  I fight, I live.  I find secret place.  I be best you ever train.  I be no coward.”

“Good.”  That is all I can say.  I’m a welter of scattered emotions projected by feelings I have no control over.  I press the girl a few times, motion for a male trainer to take over and walk to the long line of water-tight cabinets where the real fighting weapons are kept locked.  They have been unlocked for my inspection for I have the eye for damage or imperfection on blades of all sorts.  A gift from some dark past life? More than likely.  I pretend to be absorbed in inspecting each one but really, I feel sick.  I’m afraid.  Truly afraid.  More afraid even than I’d ever experienced back when I was a child on my last natural incarnation on Old Earth in C-20.  Fear: a familiar feeling I never thought I’d encounter again after the horror of the Melkiar wars. 

Suddenly I long for one of those days during the end of those wars when we chased them across parsecs of space, sometimes being chased by them and more often cornering them and destroying them.  My crewmates called me cold then.  I spent all my waking time – considerable because of the Altarian training which can keep the body awake and fully functioning for days on end without food, stims or drugs of any kind – sweeping the deceptive emptiness of space, always searching for our invisible enemy hiding in his energy shielding cloaking devices. 

Speaking of enemy I do not mean only the external enemy.  The great enemy of any ISSA is always beside you; walking with you, shadowing you or chattering in your ear.  I’d lay in my restraining harness in zero-g of a jump scout, feeling the vibrations of the drive through the infrastructure of the machine and ‘it’ would be there with its constant suggestions to give in to personal desires and search for additional comforts or credits for ‘work well done’ as it was wont to repeat.  It would have been easy to fall asleep, not only in the harness, I mean really fall asleep.  To let my mind return to the accepted ways of Old Earth, to the drugs of endless deceptions that lead nowhere; to promises, to trust, to hope, to love, to faith, to anything but hard self-empowerment. 

Some of the male crew at first sought me out for sex and romance… or both; female crew numbered in the minority on most ships and men will be men.  I ignored them.  Those who insisted, I bathed in a frigid aura of Vaxdali polar ice.  What can I say?  I may have looked like an angel to some of those males, but angels have their own personalities and mine missed out when they handed out the “nice, sweet and warm” programming during that reincarnation.  I overdosed on ‘reason’ and ‘logic’ instead. 

I brought it up, so let me explain a bit about ‘Vaxdali.’

Vaxdal (as recorded in the database documents of the Supremacy) is a great ice world at least six times the size of Old Earth and orbits a distant sun beyond the far reaches of Orion.  It’s g-force is a crushing 1.8 times that of Earth.  It is inhabited by ice wraiths, mammoth-sized white to brown, thick-haired humanoid creatures that burrow and live miles under Vaxdal’s ice cover and feed on mineral deposit, so it is believed according to bits of unreliable data picked up from remote sensors. It has been impossible to record the number of Vaxdali who inhabit that world.  Anywhere from a few thousands to possibly a billion or even more.  Again, all computer-generated data not backed by any real solid research.

Despite the terrible dangers of flying low in Vaxdal’s atmosphere and getting trapped and pulled down by its g-force and immense magnetic storms, small groups of human sightseers with more money than brains irregularly charter trips to that place just for a computer-enhanced chance glimpse at a surfaced herd of wraiths, or Vaxdalis.  The Supremacy does not permit landing on this world and no method has yet been devised to safely set down investigators, archaeologists or anthropologists.  It is believed in the non-scientific circles of FreeNet jabber that the Vaxdalis are pseudo-human cannibals.  Who would know?  ‘Final Frontier’ legends, most likely.  But you’d laugh to see the corny and idiotic holorec and infovid F/X they’ve done on that one world alone.  Old Earth is not the only place where people seek mindless entertainment just for a chance to forget their current reality and not have to deal with it.

Back to my story.

I had no desire then for sexual contact with anyone, male, female or other – yes we get ‘other’ in many forms, especially androids who can be very persuasive and seductive.  I had no desire to get close to anyone.  I had a purity of desire to accomplish something.  The wars were dragging on and holding me back and I wanted to end them.  But it wasn’t the Melkiars I sought.  I had something deeper in mind.  I wanted to drink and eat detachment; to be able to function among a close-knit body of humans without being affected by their lower emotions.  I had a vision of the cosmos waiting for me to explore.  Of moving through dimensions without a body, incarnating here and there as needed: unattached yet able to feel, but in a non-personal way.  Seeking knowledge and adding to the great store of it.  Being “me” everywhere and anywhere – always free from any attachment beyond my own quest; my own thirst for knowledge. 

I dreaded the idea of having someone, a mate, a child, in tow.  Love?  No thank you.  Been there, done that; don’t work as we used to say!  What I dreaded more than anything was the inescapable, constant drag of human emotional baggage. 

In a way I got my wish.  We were scouting a round in a complex field of tumbling asteroids and debris caused by the destruction of a moon, I and my android partner A. Kale at the controls of a Class B destroyer when we came under blitzkrieg attack.  Two Melkiars dove at us literally from within a hollowed out asteroid where our sensors had, for a quantum moment, been blinded.  Taking us in a pincer move they jointly blasted us just as we returned a barrage of fire-power that blew up both of the Melkiars and the asteroid to cosmic dust. 

But we had received a killing blow.  Com was dead.  Life support non-functional and the aft section where the suits are kept in readiness had been sliced off along with our drive, not that those suits would have done much good without a ship or contact with fleet. 

All twenty of our crew complement died within minutes from shock and exposure as what remained of our ship careened out of control and pulverized itself in the maze of the asteroid field, along with our three androids who otherwise would have shut themselves down and could have been recovered by the inevitable search that would follow.  Ah, bitter moment to sweet oblivion. 

I reincarnated on Altaria as I had pre-planned.  I felt no loss, no remorse.  For me the wars were over.  I would not be tempted to return.  I planned my next adventure based on some promises I’d made to a world and a people that had given me so much and deserved better than what it was getting from fate. 

Fate, yes.  Some Earthian friend of long ago called it karma.  Whatever it was I would pit myself against, I would serve Earth again.  The people would never know but she would know.  She would be grateful.  “Ich diene.”

[end blog post #43]

 

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #34

[begin blog post #34]

They eagerly listen and seek to incorporate many of the innovations I propose.   We turn to the design of the axe blade itself. 

“Too heavy for any woman, even I” I say.  “Try leaving just the outline of the blade and remove all the metal inside.  Think of it as a sword blade cut in three sections, the longest cutting edge curved, the other two used as braces.  Weld them here… and here.  See?  Then try a new design – one with two blades opposite each other.  That will cause excitement, guaranteed.  Look, if I roll the handle with a powerful wrist action the blade spins around its axis, thus, and anything it contacts is sheared off as if it had contacted a milling blade…”

“A milling blade?”  The look of intense interest is almost comical, like leading a class of first graders on a field trip.

“Don’t they teach engineering to men here?”  I ask, being deliberately provocative.  The smith’s face darkens momentarily and I know I’ve walked in dangerous waters.

“Begging your pardon sir, but how do you know about blending metals?  Is there teaching for this?”

“This of no matter to gora.  We not speak of teachings here.”  The subject is closed.  I keep my mouth shut and await developments. 

“Tell what you need to fight, we make.”  He raises his finger at me in a warning gesture.

I bow my head and lower my arms, then speak in a much lower, subservient  voice, “Please, light and deadly, always, when designing weapons for females.  Survive on skill and speed we do, not strength.  Longer we last, more money owners make.  They see results from good weapons, smiths get credit, as you say, yes?  Good arithmetic?”  The two I’m addressing look at me quizzically.  No ‘arithmetic’ for these guys. 

Then I show them my relatively larger feet than those of a typical T’Sing Tarleyn female.

“Where I from there be people train to use no weapon to kill – just body.  Feet be good killing weapon in hand to hand combat.  You hear I kill trainer by using sweeping side kick many years ago when first I here, yes?”  Some nod knowingly as I demonstrate by knocking down a bundle of what could have been potatoes, from a ceiling hook, raising my foot higher than the tallest of them.  I pick up the bundle and swing it back into place, hiding the fact it was almost beyond my strength.

There is one thing you learn in these kinds of worlds, not very different from Earth: that those who think themselves stronger are easily impressed to observe those they consider weaker do something they cannot do.  It’s up to the “weaker one” to immediately change the subject, let it go.  Never rub it in that you can out-do a man at anything.  If they see you beat them at something they will accept it, once or temporarily, but if you make it look that you are gloating in the least they will find some justification for nailing you when you do not expect it and they will never miss their chance. 

The only safe place to gloat over a man is in the arena when you know you have beaten him and he still does not realize he is a walking dead man.  If he is a particularly vicious type who has raped or tortured other females, now is the time to let him know that you are taking revenge for their pain and death.  Let him face and feel the terror he has been inflicting on others.  In any other situation, when under an authority that has power of life and death over you, remain subservient even when it is obvious you are superior.  You cannot reject them but they can reject you.  Here subservience is best expressed by always reverting to pidgin talk when addressing men.

“Please, I would like foot weapon is call ‘sandal’ that straps to foot and has blades mounted on it.  Make retractable if that be possible?”

I had to describe what a sandal is.  Except for the richest among them who do so strictly as an affectation, no one wears shoes, having no need of them.  But they catch on quickly especially the head smith after he decides to ease his now huge erection in me.  He takes me as casually as if he were taking a drink of water.  The others watch and smirk.  I have difficulty getting used to that, even after all the years I’ve experienced the casualness of it.  Perhaps it’s because they are also raping you when they do it, stealing your power if you let them by not being prepared for it.  Almost every act of fornication here is an attack upon the woman.  As an act of love it would be a violation of their laws on sex.  But breaking their law on casual sex seems much less of an offence, probably because it is rape, the socially acceptable humiliation of a female.  

“I see head trainer,” he belatedly answers after rubbing his dirty hands on my breasts and feeling my hardened nipples. “Maybe I convince.  He approve, yes, we make for you.  I credit young apprentice here,” – points to a young boy working with a hammer on a piece of what I take to be white-hot steel – “for new ideas.  He be about gora size so he be one to think of thing like that.” 

It was a definite insult, not just a slip of the tongue, a serious goading for whatever reason.  Maybe the head smith does not like the boy and would like to be rid of him.  The boy fires his master a look of pure hatred that could mean trouble down the road.  To be compared to a female is the lowest of insults.  To say to a man, “You’re a gora!” is to guarantee a fight, often to the death.  I suspect this boy has yet to pass his puberty rite and has not killed his first female.  His eyes sweep over me with utter contempt.  I know he’d attack me if he did not already know that would be the most foolhardy, and terminal, thing he could do.  He knows that if he did kill me he could claim I was the cause of the insult he had to avenge.  Probably he would only receive a mild reprimand and have to pay back some of my value by winning a fight in the arena sometime in the future.  Of course, that also depends on who it is owns me and my fighting skills and how much they are worth…  He’s not so stupid that he does not realize to attack me gains him two ways to die: at my hands instantly, or in the arena by and by.

But the white bearded, broad shouldered smith laughs loudly – the first hearty laugh I’ve heard on Malefactus.  And I start to wonder… the smith could be useful if I could somehow draw him into a conspiracy to get Deirdre out of this place, away from Hyrete and off Elbre.  I too have that female ectohormonal power men so dread here.  The power to seduce just by being what nature has endowed me with.  My “rebuilt” body is still very attractive despite its scars.  And he’s had a taste of it and what I chose to express with it.  How much more of it does he want?  He would know many traders I warrant, but how could I trust them not to sell her back into the same situation?  I shake my head to free myself of these mindless thoughts.  Always I comeback to worrying about ‘my’ Deirdre.

Dreams are one thing.  Reality too often plays out differently.  And in this place, reality has a way of hitting you on the side of the head.  Not literally this time, but in my heart. 

The days continue to slip into weeks, the weeks stretch into more months.  Since my healing and interview with the doctor – I still don’t know his name – I have heard nothing.  Deirdre has had many “interviews” with all the men in the compound but she seems not to mind, or care.  She had expected her life to have been as a provider of erotic pleasures and has been thoroughly trained for it.  It doesn’t make it any easier for me though, because I seem to worry about her every waking moment.

In all of that, I am a fighter.  I had anticipated that sooner or later I would be forced to use the axe in a fight and that day has come. 

[end blog post #34]

The Antierra Manifesto – Blog post #22

[begin blog post #22]

Chapter 11 – The Drook Challenger

Deirdre desperately needs to be trained if she is ever going to become a fighter.  I have earned a certain kind of “reputation” among the handlers and developed an understanding of their pecking order in the training compounds, from the overseer down to the lowly trainers.

Perhaps I should explain the hierarchy of authority and power surrounding the whole aspect of arena fighting.  First are the owners whom we never see or have contact with.  They foot the bills for our maintenance and they recoup these losses and sometimes even make money from the gambling on our fights.  The fighting is arranged by the arena council, a group of a dozen owners or other influential people representing Hyrete and other major centers where fighter slaves are bred and raised.  Then come a variety of “judges” who adjudicate on the various laws and rules of combat, weapons and the conduct of fighters and challengers.  They also decide when a fighter is ready to enter her first arena combat.  Then come the overseers, guards, handlers and trainers.

What a fighter must quickly learn is not so much the official power of each class of male over her, but their pecking order.  It is important to develop a sense of which men are the most power hungry and vicious and which men are there because it’s a fairly safe job, certainly more so than being palace guard, police or military.  These latter can often be manipulated if one knows how to play the sex and humility angle.  I know the ones who have enough authority among their peers to approach for small favours.  By dint of hints and innuendos, I am able to make my desire to train Deirdre known to a couple of handlers.

In return, possibly as a favour to an old and battered crone but one considered still in good enough form and a safe bet in a fair fight, I am given permission to begin her training.  I cannot fail to notice more than a hint of cruel amusement on the faces of the handlers when they authorize the training of Deirdre.  The reason is soon brought home to me.

She is utterly hopeless in hand-to-hand combat.  Though taller than most T’Sing Tarleynan females, she has no aptitude for weapons.  Try as she may, she cannot produce a single hit and winces as if in pain each time she does attempt it.  She blocks thrusts and jumps blows with amazing alacrity, using subconscious reflex actions that blur her movements.  She performs intricate dances of evasion to any thrust, even using the staff weapon as if it was made for pole vaulting, her acrobatics causing cheers to come from the males watching from the benches where they sip on their home brewed mead.  No doubt she is a superbly trained performer and entertainer.

But her heart refuses to enter fighting mode.  There is not one ounce of motivation there.  All the wonderful energy I experience from her when she helps me, or makes love to me, there is none of that on the grounds.  I am in despair.  One day she will be thrown in the arena and the worst possible will be done to her.  Why won’t she fight?

In each session I speak to her of this.  I try to impress the necessity of going along.  “You are strong, daring, probably the fastest I’ve ever seen.  And you are fearless,”  I say to her, “So why can’t you do what you are supposed to?”  Today she shrugs, drops her staff to the ground – a violation of my own rules as an unofficial trainer that could get her severely punished – and turns from me.  When I grab her and spin her around to upbraid her for her neglect and cowardice, I see her face is covered in large, hot tears.

In desperation I ask, “Who are you, Deirdre?  I know you are not gladiator material.”

“I am ‘Cholradil’ (pronounced show-ray); a natural born empath.”

I am shocked by that revelation.  “I thought they had no such class of female.” I reply to her.

“They don’t.”  She replies.  “It is said we are rare – they call us atavistic ‘throw-backs’ or freaks.  When they can use us they keep us, otherwise we are killed as soon as they discover what we are.  About three years ago while I was still in crèche I was caught stealing herbal medicines to help a wounded friend.  They could have flogged me to death but instead they put me in the line-up to be sold for gladiator training.  That was their real punishment.  Since the buyers were not made aware of my predicament, they made money on me which they would not have had they just killed me.

“They knew I couldn’t fight and considered it was a great joke to put a Cholradil in among fighters.  I cannot harm anyone or anything, let alone kill, you see?  I never told you because there was no point in it.  I always knew I would never be able to fight anyone and that I would be killed the very first time I go into the fighting ring.  It is my punishment.  It is the way of it.”

“It is the way of it.”  They say that with so much fatalism.

“They actually tolerate individuals who could never harm others?  They have empaths on this twisted world?  Why?”  The question was rhetorical, of course.  I did not expect her to have the answer.

“I was born feeling what you feel; what anyone feels who is close enough to me.  If you hurt, I hurt.  If I hurt you, I hurt me.  When I was still very young, I knew if another beat me up, I could do nothing but put my arms up to block the blows.  But if that person was hurt, I’d find some way to help her because I could always feel what she felt in her pain.  It wasn’t what you call “compassion”.  I didn’t have to like her.  I did not have to want to do it but I had to help her heal so our pain would go away.  After a while they did not hurt me anymore.  They left me alone and came to me only if they were hurt.  I would heal them and they would ignore me.  I was something they could use.  I could never play in their violent games or listen to their thoughts of violence against one-another and against the authorities they hated.”

“What class of girls were you bred for and raised in, then?”

“Sex slaves.  Entertainers.  Pleasers.  We learned all that is known about sex.”

“But your branding says you are class 04, fighter.  How can that be?”

“They changed it by grafting and re-branding to make more money.  I am tall and look as if bred as fighter.  It was a ruse on their part.  I sold for much money.”

Well, that explains some of what I’d observed in her.  “Is that why you speak so clearly and knowingly?  You were educated in the arts of words, of communication?”

“Yes.  I would be worth more.  Maybe even become a concubine of some great man.”

[end blog post #22]