Long Live the Empress, Part Three
Written by shadar :: [Saturday, 09 April 2022 18:21] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 10 April 2022 12:02]
Long Live the Empress, Part Three
An Aurora Universe story.
The planet Floridan in the Gamma sector
Ambassador Sher’l Bergstrom was not happy. Not even a little.
Several buildings in the capital city had been reduced to rubble and people had likely died due to collateral damage from a fight between her recently-arrived Protector and an unknown Prime. Even worse, she hadn't even known that the Prime was here on Floridan. And it was her job to know such things.
She struggled to push her worries and anger away as she led her staff in a frantic effort to dig survivors out of the rubble. They pulled out two dozen people, most with serious injuries, and a half dozen bodies, with the only consolation being that the death toll would have been far greater if the battle had occurred during business hours. Her resident staff was assisted in the rescue by a handful of traveling Velorians who’d arrived only yesterday. They were part of a trade delegation working to improve the prosperity of the mostly poor worlds in this corner of the galaxy.
Her small army of blonde superwomen went to work to complete a rescue in a couple of hours that would normally have required the heaviest machinery and hundreds of men a week or more to complete. Only after they were certain they’d rescued everyone and recovered all the bodies did the Ambassador agree to be interviewed on the HoloNews.
Given all the scenes of death and destruction that had been on the News, and the growing fears of more violence, Sher'l was a visual breath of fresh air who gave everyone hope and encouragement. Her holographic image floated in mid-air inside a million homes and businesses across the planet. Hovering just off the floor while standing 6'3" tall, people could walk around her lifelike projection to see her at any angle. Only when they tried to touch her would the Holo projection get fizzly and distort, proving she wasn’t as real as she looked.
Of course, hers wasn’t the only image that was beamed into homes, not when you had so holographers and wildly photogenic Velorians in the same place. The photogs tried to 3D capture each of the Vels while they worked, broadcasting Holovids of them lifting massively heavy debris, every muscle and every curve on intimate, close-up display as they grunted tens of tons off the ground, rising tall on their long legs, often with a part of a building resting on their powerful shoulders, then pushing off with their toes, calf muscles tensing with superhuman definition as they continued up into the air to seemingly disappear through the ceiling of each viewer’s room. Their already sparse clothing tore away as they worked, leaving them clothed only in a layer of gray dust as they appeared both life-sized and uncensored on the Holo, and seemingly with total reality in every home. Some people recorded the program so they could replay it later when they could savor what they’d seen in private.
Yet these were not the mighty Protectors that everyone talked about. These were just average, ordinary women, albeit Velorians. Diplomats mostly. That left many a Floridan grappling with the realization that there was an entire PLANET of such superwomen out there. A planet with gravity so great that no one other than a Supremis could survive landing there.
The Ambassador avoided speculation about the attacker during her brief interview, but in truth she had few facts to report beyond what everyone already knew. As was the nature of Velorians, she spoke freely, without disguise or spin, admitting that a fight between an unknown Prime and her new Protector was the direct cause of the collapsed buildings. Also that the Protector had disabled the Prime just long enough to load her on a stolen diplomatic ship to head for the sun where she hoped to eliminate the otherwise indestructible Prime.
Space Defense corroborated her report, reporting that the stolen ship had accelerated at a fantastic 50G’s until it ran out of fuel, which wasn’t long given it hadn’t been refueled after landing. Sensors now showed it floating helplessly toward the sun, which at their current speed was barely a day away. At that speed and distance, no military vessel or even the remaining Velorians could catch up to them in time, leaving the Protector, Leeloo, to get free of the now flightless Prime on her own. She ended with the encouraging thought that this was the exact kind of thing Protectors are trained to do. To protect peaceful Terrans from the evil Arion Empire.
With that final bit of self-promotion floating out there, the Ambassador saved the rest of her thoughts for her staff, telling them it was clear that Leeloo was too young to truly protect them. This was Leeloo's first posting after graduating from the Academy of Protectors, and facing down a Prime was a Protector’s ultimate challenge. One that Leeloo might be failing at.
What she didn’t say was that losing a young Protector while fighting a Prime would not look good on her record. Especially not during the girl’s first contact with the enemy. Leeloo was barely two years past her Coming of Age, and only months beyond her graduation from the Hall of Protectors. Every moment of her life since those Rites had been spent training for this day, but it obviously wasn't enough.
While the Ambassador dealt with the myriad problems created by contact with the Prime, Merle was being wheeled into surgery on the Orthopedic floor of a local hospital. There his numerous broken bones had been set, a job made possible only after one of the Velorians arrived to help.
Despite his half-conscious state as he drifted in and out of anesthesia, Merle clearly remembered her from the building collapse. Their eyes had first met while she stood on the pile of wreckage, dressed in what looked like an evening gown, her blonde hair partially tied up. She stood slender and unusually tall amidst the debris, looking like an actress who’d wandered onto the wrong set. Given his head had been swimming even then as his body went into shock, he couldn't help but smile broadly at her, deciding she was actually an angel. He stared in wonder as she floated upward on thin air to grab the enormous chunk of broken concrete that was threatening to crush him. Her blonde hair covered one eye, but her other bright blue stared directly into his, her face so beautiful and young that he felt as if he was floating as a wave of warmth flowed over him. She was so delicate and beautiful that it seemed a crime for her to be digging around under all this ugly, crumbled wreckage.
Their eyes were still locked on each other when she began to push and pull powerfully on the overhanging concrete, cracking it apart with the power of a bulldozer. A bulldozer angel. That sounded absurd to Merle, especially when she gave off a soft Oooff as that huge chunk of broken building broke free to rest on her hands. Balancing that incredible weight with hands and head, her slender arms and shoulders flexed with steel muscles that seemed to rise out of slender arms as she began to lift what had to be many tens of tonnes. Blinking the dust away, Merle watched as her long, lean legs flexed incredibly as she slowly rose up and out of sight.
He smiled after she was gone, sighing in pleasure as he collapsed and passed out.
Merle came to in a surgical suite where he continued to float in and out of consciousness as the pain meds struggled with his Clone body. But whenever he managed to open an eye, he found that his angel was still there, sometimes scanning him with her sparkling eyes. She seemed far too perfect and too beautiful to be real. Maybe it was just the drugs, but he felt more naked than he’d ever felt before. He shouldn’t have been able to feel her eye beams as she scanned him, but her x-ray gaze made him feel itchy warm as she worked her way slowly down his body, her eyes glowing with an impossibly lovely shade of blue. He knew he had to be imagining it, but when she paused briefly to stare at his groin, her eyes piercing blanket, clothing, skin and flesh, taking him apart from the inside out, it made him swell with power. He imagined she was giving him a 'come hither' look.
With his thoughts swimming in such ways, he wondered what she could possibly want with a Clone who was a slightly souped-up half-Terran? Given how tall Velorian women were, the men of her world must be towering supermen with all the parts to match. But still, the way she looked at him, there was definitely chemistry in the air. He was smiling at the ridiculousness of that as her lovely face slowly faded from view, and he passed out yet again.
A technician raced into the room at that moment with a portable scanner. “This one will replace the broken…”
The blonde waved her away. “No need,” she said. “I’ve already scanned him fully. Two of his ribs are broken with some moderate organ involvement and serious swelling. Three other ribs are cracked, along with two vertebrae, not to mention clean breaks of his left femur and wrist, along with his right ankle. All his internal organs are badly bruised along with nearly every other part of him, but those broken vertebrae worry me the most. His spinal cord might be compromised.”
“Not that it matters,” the doctor replied. “He’s just a Clone. We should just put him down now to prevent more suffering and waste of our valuable time. This poor devil is done for.” He nodded to his nurse who turned to fill a large syringe with purple liquid.
The Velorian stared wide-eyed at the two medics, staggered by the way they were acting as if Merle was just a disposable animal. She glared at them as she said through clenched teeth: “He’s a man, doctor, whole and alive, and he has information that we need. You will do everything in your power to save him.”
The doctor frowned at the tall, blonde girl who looked far too young to be talking to him this way. “As I said, he’s just a Clone. Manufactured, not born.” He reached out to take the purple-filled syringe from the nurse.
The Velorian’s blue eyes flashed arc welder bright as the syringe shattered, spilling its lethal contents. The doctor stepped back as a wave of heat washed over him, staring in fear as she floated higher to tower over him.
“I have the strength to set his bones, doctor, and start him on the path of healing. Nobody else dies today.”
“Why are you even here?” the doctor exclaimed angrily. “And who are you?” He wasn’t used to being ordered around in his own surgery, least of all by a teenage girl. “I mean, you’re obviously a Velorian, but not one I’ve seen from the Embassy.”
“My name is Pria Lavesque and I just arrived yesterday with the Trade Delegation, where I’m working as an intern. But I’m also studying human medicine at the University. I believe we Velorians should combine our healing power with your medical techniques. Some of us are quite good at it. Healing, I mean.”
“So you will someday be a doctor treating us. Interesting. But from what I’ve heard of your healing, perhaps not very clinically sound.”
The floating blonde ignored his remarks as she settled back to the floor to lay her hands on Merle. “Do I just match the bones up at their original attachment and fracture points?”
“That’s about it. Sounds easy, but it isn’t, not with his powerful muscles. Especially while making sure they can’t shift afterward.”
Undaunted, Pria’s eyes sparkled again as she went to work, setting bones and then holding them immobile while the doctor attached titanium casts, using his portable scanner to see most of what she could see. It was an odd pairing — a grizzled old bone cracker who didn’t regard his patient as fully human and a cute girl whose knowledge of human physiology had come out of a book she’d read on a planet with gravity so heavy that no Terran could ever visit there. But together, they managed to put his bones back in place.
His extensive tissue damage was something else.
“That’s a lot of internal trauma,” the doctor said. “Serious inflammation. But these Clones have a lot of fight in them. Too bad people don’t have his kind of drive.”
He is a person, Pria wanted to scream, but she bit her tongue while forcing herself to step out onto the room’s balcony, her eyes blazing with such anger that she unknowingly knocked a poor pigeon out of the air a half kilometer away. Given that Merle was going to have to stay here and heal, she needed the doctor’s good will. She could always tell him what she thought of him later.
Back in the room, Merle woke up just as the doc tightened the last of his metal casts.
“You are one lucky bastard,” the doc told him. “Not only surviving that building collapse but to have your own personal protector to fly you here and set your bones. But I guess given the way she looks at you, you must be friends.” He wasn't going to share what he thought of a Clone fraternizing with a young Velorian.
“Never saw her until after the collapse, Doc,” Merle said, slowly sitting up to shake the fuzzies out of his head. “Don’t even know her name. And she’s not a Protector.”
“Maybe not the official kind,” the doctor shrugged. “As far as a name, she said it was Pria. Pria Lavesh or something. First time I’ve ever seen a Velorian this close. What a specimen! And they say they’re nearly indestructible — and they can heal any injury that does incur in hours. That would sure put me out of business.”
The two men continued talking softly about Pria until an orderly came to take Merle up to his room. A room that turned out to be vastly superior to the shared bed in a lab dormitory that he was used to. The orderly was hooking up Merle’s IV’s and oxygen when Pria stepped out of his private bathroom while toweling off, the grey dust gone to reveal nothing but golden skin and long, wet blonde hair. Seemingly unconscious of her nudity, she smiled at the shocked looks on the men’s faces.
“You look like you’ve never seen a girl before,” she laughed, tossing her towel to the orderly. She lifted a large mirror she’d taken from the bathroom to begin drying her hair by reflecting the red glow of her eyes off it. Soon her hair was steaming as the bright glare warmed the entire room. Between combing her hair out with her fingers and the intense heat, her long hair had fully dried by the time other patients and staff started peeking through the doorway to see what the bright light was. Pria ignored them to slip warmly under the covers to snuggle up to Merle, molding her nude body against his, metal casts and all. The startled orderly and a nurse who’d joined them quickly pulled the curtains around his bed, shocked by what the Velorian was doing.
It didn’t take long before the scent of honey and wildflower began drifting out the doorway and down the hallway, invigorating and uplifting a lot more than just spirits. It was the natural perfume of an aroused Velorian. Laughter soon started to come from every room, giggling even, and soon after that Pria’s very musical song of ecstasy began to fill the air. A song which rose and fell and sometimes grew shrill enough to break a few light fixtures as she shamelessly went on and on.
The nurses hurried through their rounds, trying to ignore it all, but their cheeks grew rosy as the honey and wildflower scent started to pick up a sexual muskiness. Patients rose from their beds and began dancing around, claiming they suddenly felt strong and healthy and completely pain-free. Depressed patients who’d earlier refused to even try to stand after surgery were walking up and down the hallway smiling at other patients, all of them looking a bit randy. It was as if the air itself had become supercharged with erotic possibilities.
But back in Merle’s room, Pria and Merle was blissfully unaware of her spreading chemistry and its impact on the Orthopedic floor.
The other Velorians who were transporting urgent patients to the hospital saw what was going on with Pria, and word quickly got back to Sher’l as she sat in her Ambassadorial office. This kind of mass healing was a serious violation of Velorian protocols. It reeked of the divine, and Terrans were already too prone to either worship or fear what they didn’t understand.
But instead of flying over to the hospital to get Pria out of there, Sher’l pulled her bio. She was surprised to find that Pria was not only as young as she looked, but that she hadn’t been trained as a diplomat, or any other trade. She was little more than an intern who was two years into her university training and far too inexperienced unprepared to know how improper it was to be socializing this way with Terrans.
But given she was acting instinctively and from a sense of compassion, even obligation, Sher’l understood. Pria was simply being Velorian, for better or worse. Protecting Terrans was their mission in the ‘Verse.
It wasn’t until she got to the bottom of Pria’s bio that she saw the note: “Pria has a strong fascination with meeting Terran men, who she believes are both emotionally responsive and able to channel great sexual power. Her interaction with Terrans should be closely supervised for both their mental and physical safety.”
Sher’l smiled. Too late now for that. But she wasn’t surprised. Every Velorian who left their home planet was special in some way. She herself was drawn to Terrans for similar reasons. Terran men might be weak and fragile and often under endowed, but their passions were extremely powerful and raw, and that made up for a lot. They weren’t afraid to release their inner animal, often without any thought of restraint or propriety, which explained why it was said that Terrans all have a savage animal in them. That they were closer to their shared great ape ancestor than any Velorian, which made them radically different than Velor’s largely neutered men who were far too controlled and serious for frivolous antics like casual sex. Their own men “have the hardware, but lack the software” as Sher’l was fond of saying.
This was, in fact, the secret reason she’d entered Diplomatic service more than four centuries earlier. To luxuriate in the wild passion that Velorians can ignite in Terran men, often losing herself completely in their enthusiasm.
So naturally, she dismissed Pria’s youthful violation, which turned out to be wise after the local News media picked up on it and started to run some positive stories about the way the Velorians were healing people at the hospital. They interviewed some of the patients, and everyone had a glowing tale to tell about how much better they suddenly felt. How energetic. At which point they smile and perhaps wink and say no more.
Their doctors and nurses went on and on about how much faster the patients were healing. Yet in typical Floridan fashion, nobody mentioned Merle, or the lovemaking that was the source of all the the goodness that was radiating down the hallway. Given he was just a Clone, nobody wanted to hear about him.
Sher’l played along there as well, saying nothing about Merle. After all the negative stories about the loss of life in the building collapse — and the fact that it was partially caused by her own Protector — she was just happy for a few positive stories.
Several days passed before Leeloo returned to Floridan, looking haggard and beat up, thanks to expending most of her Orgone trying to get back to Floridan as quickly as possible. She searched first for Merle, and found him in the hospital, where she shocked him by appearing as skinny as a reed. The contrast to his own condition was startling, for thanks to Pria’s healing, he was now in better shape than ever. His broken bones had completely knitted and his bruising was almost gone. He’d never felt so healthy and strong.
The Embassy staffers greeted Leeloo warmly when she arrived with Merle and Pria in tow, and to his pleasant surprise, they were even polite with Merle, treating him as an honored Velorian-friend. Pria got a few hugs but even more frowns. Everyone was on pins and needles as they waited for the Ambassador to arrive. Leeloo whispered to Merle that the Ambassador was 472 years old, and had been born a Prima like herself — the most respected genetic class on Velor. Primas became Protectors, Scribes and government leaders.
The Ambassador’s reported age shocked him. He tried to imagine what such an ancient Velorian might look like, but all he had to draw upon were the handful of very old Terran women he’d seen. His wrinkled, shrunken, washed-out perception was instantly destroyed when a vibrant thirtyish-looking woman appeared, dressed in a cream colored crop-top sweater and a very short skirt of the same material. She looked nothing at all like an Ambassador as she floated barefoot a centimeter off the floor. Her cutely dimpled cheeks and super-blue eyes and all that blonde hair was packaged with a flawlessly smooth-limbed body. Yet despite her lack of visible muscle, Leeloo whispered that all Primas were at least in the 200-tonne strength range.
Merle blinked as he tried to get his head around her being that old and looking like this, not to mention that strong. Everything about Velorians was off the chart. How they looked so intensely human, yet any estimation about age was always wildly wrong. They all seemed young, even the ancient Ambassador, not the least for their open, wide-eyed and inquisitive expressions. The way they looked so directly at men, projecting an improbable mix of innocence and vampishness, two traits that were normally polar opposites. One look and you knew she was ready for anything, and most especially sex.
That train of thought made him chuckle. He was starting to wonder if a Velorian’s innocent immortality was their greatest power of all.
And that was all before you considered that brute force and super strength and near indestructibility were her birthright. All of which were normally very masculine traits. It was said that Velorians had been engineered by advanced aliens from ordinary humans, something Merle as a Clone fully understood, but what specific purpose had dictated this particular solution? If they’d wanted power, why not a Hulkish mountain of muscle with biosynthetic armor or whatever? Why pack all that power into a young woman so stunningly beautiful that men who met her forgot their own names.
He shook his head. Maybe that deception was somehow part of her power? But focused on what goal?
What he knew was that the many models of Clones on Floridan were all engineered for specific purposes. A dozen models, from the loveliest Lillies, designed for love, their strength and toughness only a few times increased, all the way to his line of large, muscular Merles, designed for raw power and toughness to do the hardest and most dangerous jobs. Each Merle was stronger than fifty men and they could turn a bullet or a flame with their bare skin. That was a proper division of skills and body types in Merle's opinion, and all were apparent at a glance.
So why had the Velorians confused that by putting extreme physical power in such a slender, stunningly cute young woman, radiating sexual pheromones from her long blonde hair, yet who could work a block of steel with her slender fingers as easily as a sculptor could work his block of clay?
There was an important story here, that was certain, but he didn’t yet know how to ask anyone about it.
Thanks to those thoughts, he was overwhelmed as the Velorians floated around him like glittering jewels. But instead of engaging, he slowly retreated to a corner and lowered his eyes, exactly the way all Merle's were trained to behave in the presence of women. Leeloo had to finally float over and embrace him to get him to engage again. She whispered in his ear, struggling not to giggle. “Now’s the time, go on. Just walk over and introduce yourself the way I’ve taught you. You have earned the title of Velorian-friend, and that is a high honor.”
Merle took a deep breath for courage and in the way of a Clone, he forced his feet forward, walking directly toward the Ambassador. Everyone else in the room seemed to disappear as his feet seemed to float when she fixed her eyes on him. He was nearly to her when she hooked one thumb suggestively through the bottom strap of her top.
Her gesture was not lost on Merle. Leeloo had earlier explained the particular way a high-status Velorian female expected to be greeted. A greeting that would have gotten him arrested and dumped into the recycle tanks if he tried it with any Natural. That last thought made it harder to maintain his courage, making his huge hands shake slightly as he reached for her. He paused to see her smile, and then very gently slipped his huge hands under the warmth of her sweater to boldly cup her magnificent breasts. They were as warm and full and delicately soft as Leeloo, despite the four centuries and then some between the two women. Sher’l smiled down at him as he stared up at her, her floating feet and natural height making him feel small. Fear and doubt grew in his mind, but did as instructed, gradually holding her tighter and tighter. Soon he was using all his considerable strength, his hands buried deeply in flesh that had grown increasingly firm as it somehow matched his increasing strength. His arms and shoulders flexed huge now, his hands a maze of steel tendons as his forearms bulged with naked power, yet she just smiled sweetly, all the while radiating the confidence of a goddess. Right up until Merle ran his thumbs over her huge nipples.
She gasped slightly as her eyes closed halfway, her smile softening into invitation as her hands rose to hold his, tell him to continue. Yet he was so shocked at the dramatic change from her official expression, not to mention this obviously open invitation to continue to please her, he pulled his hands quickly away. Despite feeling embarrassed as he saw people watching them, seemingly amused, he was also very aware of his power, knowing that despite the strength he was pouring into her, or perhaps because he was, the mere touch of his thumbs could spirit her away this way. He was so overwhelmed by conflicting emotions that he couldn't resist bowing low to her, acknowledging her superiority.
The Ambassador’s expression had returned normal, albeit with one corner of her mouth uplifted to say how impressed she was that someone had taught him this archaic greeting. It was a rare human who understood the ritual these days, and even fewer who would dare attempt it, especially in public. Not to mention having Merle’s strength. She turned her head to nod at Leeloo, acknowledging that she’d chosen her human mentor well.
A few moments of awkward silence later, and with the memory of her breasts still filling Merle’s hands, he saw the other Velorians starting to move toward a large table. He followed them, which was a joy of its own given those tiny skirts, and to his amazement, was seated next to Leeloo who was in the secondary place of honor, directly across the table from the Ambassador. Everyone sat when she did, although that was the wrong term for most of them. Merle alone had a chair while all the Velorians floated on thin air with their bare legs crossed, looking so steady they might as well have been sitting on stone.
After a series of more ordinary greetings and introductions, Leeloo rose above everyone and started to tell her tale. She began with the way she'd deliberately drawn the Prime to herself, and then the battle that had collapsed the buildings and finally the long running battle in the stolen spacecraft, all the way to the sun. She ended by saying there was near certainty that the Prime had burned up along with the wreckage of the stolen ship.
“Near certainly…?!” the Ambassador demanded, clearly not pleased. “What if you’re wrong and she returns with murder in her eye? We’re supposed to protect this planet and make it prosperous, not get it destroyed by some crazed Prime.”
Leeloo shook her head. “I can’t see any way she could have escaped the fate I created for her. She had no way to fly. The ship was out of fuel and we were already in the outermost photosphere and headed directly in. The ship was melting around us, systems overloading and failing. No ship could have flown that deeply into the photosphere and survived. Given that my flight power had finally returned, and the ship was completely dead and seconds from exploding, it was now or never for me to escape.”
The sour look on the Ambassador’s face said she’d expected more from her. Like going into the sun and dying herself to ensure the job was done.
“I accepted you here, Leeloo, against my best judgement. I’d asked for an experienced Protector, but clearly Floridan isn’t important enough for that. The Council pointedly reminded me that even ‘newly-graduated Protectors have to start somewhere.’ But you failed to give me the one thing I need — confirmation of the death of that Prime. We will therefore have to assume she’s still active.”
Leeloo looked pained. “Ambassador, I see no way she could have avoided perishing.”
“Nevertheless, you have no proof.”
“This is not even the most important thing, Sher’l," Leeloo replied, speaking louder as she rose higher. "You are ignoring the other finding, or you don’t understand it, but this Prime was more powerful than I’d been trained to fight. So powerful that I’m guessing she had more than one infusion of Galen genetics. While Aphrodite does the honors to make Protectors like myself, we all thought the Galen had abandoned the Arions after they revealed their warlike tendencies. I think that is now wrong.”
“Just because you couldn’t defeat her, you want to radically redefine the combat capabilities of the Empire?” the Ambassador smirked. “You’ve never even fought a Prime before.”
“I sparred with other Protectors during training all the time,” Leeloo said defensively. “All of whom were supposed to be stronger than any Prime. We fought with all our power, and I passed every test a Protector could pass.”
Sher’l rolled her eyes. “Sparring and fighting for your life are two different things. Perhaps the Hall of Protectors needs to upgrade their tests.”
Leeloo clenched her fists, tendons creaking as her incredible strength stretched them. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Sher’l, but I have my own theory here. As we know, the Galen have their rebels and malcontents — Aphrodite happens to be ours. But what if another Galen has linked up with Aria and they were doing greater enhancements than we are? Doubling up or something. This Prime was able to hulk out with far greater muscular expansion and strength than I’d been taught was possible. My'ra, that was her name by the way, went from a cute teenager to massively muscular when she was pumped. Almost monstrous. Bigger than any Protector. She lifted the remains of that pancaked building and threw it -- and it had to weigh at least a thousand tons. Not even the most experienced Protector could do that.”
“You call that a theory? That’s hardly even a hypothesis,” Sher’l spit out. “You’re guessing at the weight of that building. Just a weak attempt at an excuse. It’s a matter of faith that everything we’ve learned about the Galen over the last two-thousand years says they would NEVER help those fucking barbarians.”
Heads turned to look at Sher’l in surprise. An Ambassador cursing?
“But what if they did?” Leeloo challenged. “And what if we’re the first to discover it? Shouldn’t you include that possibility in your report to the Council about this encounter? I was lucky to survive her. Other Protectors may not be.”
“Or maybe they have enough skill to not need luck. But as far as your guess, find me some hard evidence and I’ll pass it on. Until then, my report will deal solely with your failure and your lack of suitability. Not to mention a question about the Hall of Protectors and the quality of their training.” She looked up directly into Leeloo’s eyes. “I’m asking for you to be replaced. Until then, you will only act on my direct orders.”
Leeloo rested her hands challengingly on her hips, legs lightly open, now looking every bit a Protector despite her depleted state. “Would my death have been sufficient evidence, Madam Ambassador?” she said angrily. “You almost had that.” And with those words hanging in the air, she spun around to fly out of the room.
Merle hesitated for a moment, staring back and forth between the very regal Ambassador, and the retreating backside of the Protector he was supposed to be helping.
Why was he even in this meeting?
From the moment he’d emerged from the tanks as an enhanced but fully grown adult, his knowledge implanted, he’d been looked down upon by Terrans. He lacked most of the rights of a human, living as little more than a chattel slave. A lab-created tool who lacked a soul. Yet here he was, invited to a council with these high-born Velorians, invited even into their innermost discussions and squabbles. He was being treated as their partner, with trust and respect, all because Leeloo had selected him.
It was intoxicating and amazing and completely beyond his ability to understand such openness and trust. He didn’t ever want to leave this table.
Until, that is, the angry Ambassador turned her bright eyes on him and then flicked them toward the door, her gesture wordlessly releasing him. He spun around to run after Leeloo as fast as he could, only to have Pria swoop in to wrap her strong arm around him to hug him to her warmth. Soon they were flying off, with Leeloo already out of his sight.
“Do you guys always argue about everything?” he asked in awe.
“Pretty much. Our social hierarchy is very flat compared to yours. We debate, argue even, but everyone gets a say and our only rule is to speak your truth.” She shrugged. “I guess our way of honoring our superiors is to argue convincingly. Sometimes they are wrong. More often we are. And yes, it can get pretty loud, but in the end, we all find a way to work together. Leeloo will too.”
“Social hierarchy?” he laughed mirthlessly. “I’m always at absolute zero in any hierarchy. My arguing like Leeloo did with a Natural could get me sent back to the tanks as raw material for the next birthings. Yet you live in this utopia of free speech.”
“Hardly a utopia,” Pria said with a shake of her blonde head. “We’re human too, and we share many of the same emotions. At least we women do. But we also have our own sordid history of quasi-slavery — our Companions. The Ambassador was instrumental in ending our Companion program. She has said she wants to eliminate Clone slavery here, and I would not count her out. Unfortunately, we have to solve these Arion problems first.”
Merle stared at her, his eyes big and round. “Is that even possible? Freeing us?”
“Yes. No. Forget I said anything,” Pria winced. “For now, please keep anything I say to yourself. This has to be handled with great delicacy. Some Floridans want to keep things as they are, and there are many who will turn to the Empire if we try to change things too quickly, and we can’t allow that. Arions are the ultimate racists and eliminating slavery is never going to come from them. Only we can offer a path forward, but only if your leaders give us that permission.”
“And that’s the Ambassador’s job here?” he asked, disbelievingly.
“One of them,” Pria nodded. “But I need to shut up now and just fly.”
She surged ahead, her slipstream lashing Merle painfully, making it impossible to talk further.
Solar Observatory Alpha, orbiting a million kilometers from the surface of the sun
The crew of a hundred scientists at the Alpha Observatory were going about their business monitoring the sun and predicting CME and related flare events. Given Floridan’s weaker magnetic field than Old Earth, and the wildly variable activity of their sun, it was vital that farmers and others who spent their time outdoors were warned when to take precautions. Covers could be erected in hours to protect most crops.
The massive wheel-type space station was one of three that were positioned edge on to the sun in close solar orbit. Artificial gravity was created via centrifugal force from rotation. That rotation was also essential to distribute heat across the hull given only the small section facing the sun was fully exposed at any time to solar radiation.
It was nearly lunch time on the station when the Rotational Velocity Alarm unexpectedly sounded. By the time station’s engineers had gathered in the control room, they could feel the station slowing. They scrambled to figure out why, but none of the rotational management thrusters were firing. They manually activated the thrusters to speed the station back up, but something caused the thrusters to shut themselves down moments later due to an overtemp hazard. Frighteningly, strain gauges on the hull showed a very dangerous build-up of stress at one section of the outermost wheel. Then someone called in to report seeing an energy beam of some sort striking the thrusters. Were they being attacked? And if so, by whom? Scanners showed no ships in the vicinity.
A group of three engineers suited up and headed toward the hull location where the strain gauges pinpointed the greatest stress. Just to be safe, two of them carried weapons. The earlier report of an energy beam had them confused and on edge — scanners would have shown a ship if it had been close enough to deploy that kind of weapon.
Except it wasn’t a ship. They were shocked when they rose over the side of the hull on the cool side to see what appeared to be a human woman dressed in a skintight black outfit that covered very little of her tanned skin. The men froze when they realized she wasn’t wearing any kind of pressure suit. Even more astoundingly, she’d buried her fingers to their roots in the hull with arms and legs spread wide to distribute the force. Dramatic muscles were visible across her body as she somehow used her strength to slow the station. By pressing against what?
The confused men contacted Control in a panic as they processed what they were seeing. The long, raven hair, floating weightlessly. A bust too large for her slender body. Most importantly, the obvious fact that she was floating mostly naked in zero pressure, and didn’t seem in any kind of distress. Mortal fear crept into their hearts, for they knew there was only one being in the universe who matched that description and had the raw strength to slow a million tonne space station with their bare hands.
Myr’a continued slowing the station’s rotation, her eyes sparkling blue as she looked back at the three men, her eyes piercing their pressure suits and gold-filmed visors. She saw the wide-eyed fear as they recognized that she was Primal. She smiled, knowing this was going to be fun. She just had to give them time to report back to Floridan.
Her long fight with the Protector on that Diplomatic ship had nearly done her in, especially given the Protector was able to absorb Orgone from the sun earlier than she’d been able to. But as they plunged inward, she’d caught up and was about to finish the blondie off when that witch regained her flight power and tore herself from her grip to dive through the side of the hull and disappear.
Myr’a’s last hope faded. She began her death chant, lamenting that her death would bring disfavor on her family. It was a total shock moments later when the Aliana crashed into the Diplomatic ship while struggling to dock with systems failing. Myra tore her way through the two hulls to join the Arion crew, who were being literally cooked alive.
Thankfully, the crew had her backup Syn-Volata’i device on board, and she managed to insert it despite her sun-baked dryness. It was a struggle to activate and calibrate it to her body as the crewmen burst into flames, but like all Arions, they’d done their duty to the end. Myr’a barely avoided that fate herself as she activated her Volata’i only seconds before both ships exploded, racing outward from the photosphere, barely avoiding the lethal edge of a million degree prominence that seemed to chase after her as she searched frantically for the Aliana’s wingman — scout ships always traveled in pairs. She found it orbiting at a safe distance, and closed with it to cycle herself in through the airlock. She was still too hot for even the nominally invulnerable Betans to approach at first, but they tended to her as best they could.
Once she’d cooled enough to replenish her fluids, they gave her a black combat outfit to wear, the stretchy fabric feeling good against her skin. The crew gave her the coordinates to the nearest Solar Observatory space station in its higher orbit, and she departed to begin exacting her revenge on the planet that was responsible for that Protector trying to kill her.
Her plan was simple. She’d attack the space station in such a way to generate a cry for help that would ultimately draw the Protector toward her. She could already imagine how surprised the blondie was going to be to hear she was alive. For it was only in the Empire that an entire crew would have had the selflessness to sacrifice themselves to save her, the granddaughter of the Empress. She would make sure they were recognized for their heroism and that their families would forever be rewarded with honor and glory. It was the Arion way.
She left the second scout ship to complete a low, accelerated orbit around the star to gather more Orgone, with her new indestructible combat blacks swelling as her breasts stored huge amounts of Orgone. It was more power than she’d ever carried before, but she'd need it all to confront that Protector again. The blondie was learning fast, and she’d be more dangerous the next time.
Now that the men had seen her and taken cover behind some machinery, it was time to start taking their station apart, slowly enough to ensure that both video and voice communication was established with Floridan as they screamed for help.
Help that could only come from their supposed Protector.
To be continued inThe Battle at Alpha