Written by conceptfan :: [Thursday, 03 March 2005 14:29] Last updated by :: [Wednesday, 01 May 2013 13:26]
WRITTEN FOR SGINC WORKSHOP 1.1
The ancient ball of rock tumbled noiselessly through space as it had done for millions of years. Orbiting the centre of the galaxy more than a billion miles away, its seemingly never-ending journey might have lasted as long as time itself.
If, that is, it wasn't for the small grey-blue world that interposed itself into the meteor's path. Catching the rock in its gravity, the planet pulled it towards its surface. This world possessed a rich, thick atmosphere whose molecules rubbed against the meteorite, creating ever fiercer friction. The rock heated. And heated.
Soon, the outer material was burning away as gas. Acting like a defensive shield, the primarily nitrogen and oxygen mix continued to warm the falling body, reducing it dramatically in size. Reducing and reducing until there was nothing solid left of the mighty meteor save its tiny, semi-transparent core.
This jewel-sized piece of beautiful, mystery material seemed immune to the heat all around it and continued to fall, accelerating at almost ten meters a second squared until, unobserved, it reached the planet's surface. Momentum carried it through the soft ground and it burrowed itself a vertical channel into the planet. This shaft quickly collapsed on top of the extraterrestrial object, burying it far from the reach of any life on the surface.
A millennium of earthquakes and volcanic activity had shaken the planet. The water locked into its surface had frozen and thawed many times, shifting the ground still further. Every decade or so, the little rock from space had been pushed a fraction of an inch away from the world's core until, inevitably, a movement of the ground forced it up onto the planet's surface.
During those centuries when the object had been underground, that particular portion of the planet had been increasingly colonised by the world's dominant species. Whereas it had first tumbled through the atmosphere over an uninhabited land, the little rock surfaced on a now heavily-populated territory and it wasn't long before its unusually attractive appearance caught the attention of one member of that populace.
It was a young female who made the discovery. The sunlight had glinted off one of the many facets of the object, making its colour appear all the more vibrant and heightening its beauty. Believing it to be a gem, she stopped and picked up the little stone. Immediately she was overcome by a strange new feeling. A feeling of vitality, of energy. A feeling of power.
The girl did not know if the enjoyable sensation was down to magic or the gods. But she did realise that its source was the strange gem. She placed it in the animal-skin hip pouch that was tied around her waist and headed back towards her tribe's cave.
She was still some distance away when she heard the unmistakeable roar of a tiger. A moment later, she saw the beast just as it was preparing to leap at her. She felt fear, great fear. Animal attacks had cost the lives of so many of her tribe, even during her own short life. That was a part of their existence and she believed at that moment that her own time was about to come.
But something incredible happened. The tiger leaped right at her, but she remained on her feet. She was not knocked down; the animal landed on her and yet it felt more like an empty skin than a beast to her. It closed its fearsome teeth around her exposed neck, but drew no blood. In fact, the razor sharp incisors caused only the barest of sensations. Confused, and still panicked, she raised her arm and watched, stunned as her slender limb brushed the enormous animal off her body and sent it flying several paces back.
Both girl and tiger were confused, but it was the four-legged one who responded first, leaping at the girl once more. This time, she was more prepared and she knocked it away with her forearm before it impacted on her. The animal appeared wounded as it came down on the ground and, overcome with curiosity, she approached it.
She reached for the creature's neck. Once again, it locked its jaws on her, biting down on her hand. She pulled it free without difficulty and saw that she had ripped a few of those terrifying teeth loose. A look of fascination came over her face and she placed her unharmed hands around the beast's throat and squeezed. Instantly, something crunched and the animal went limp.
A few moments later, the girl was standing with her legs slightly spread and her arms stretched towards the sky. Lying across her upturned palms, its considerable weight supported entirely by those arms was the body of the tiger that she had killed. The confusion she had felt earlier had vanished, to be replaced by certainty. Her lips parted slowly into a smile. "So," she thought. "The stone is a gift from the gods."
The girl bent her arms and tossed the tiger a hundred paces from her. She laughed. Then, she made sure that the pouch by her side was securely attached to her waist. She didn't walk back to her cave. She ran. Far, far faster than any member of her species had ever run before.
5 years later.
It was rare in those times - extremely rare - for a tribe to be lead by a female. But no-one would ever dare question her right to hold that position. They considered it an honour to give praise to such a powerful chief. If ever another tribe sought to attack, she alone, without a weapon, would slaughter its warriors. If she desired the lands or the goods of another tribe, she would simply take them. Those that tried to oppose her met their deaths.
She made sure that the strange stone never left her side. She never revealed its existence, so no-one ever sought to take it from her. She told them her power came from the gods themselves, and there was no cause to doubt that. Her tribe became larger and more prosperous, its lands expanded and its influence grew. Nothing, it seemed, could stand in her way.
Nothing but a cat. It was her pet. An animal she loved perhaps more than her kin. It sat almost permanently at her side, occasionally rubbing its head against her. Sometimes, it would absent-mindedly nibble at her clothes. She found such disrespect endearing in the animal. But one day, it chewed through her hip pouch and swallowed the stone inside.
Instantly the girl felt weak. It was as if she had suddenly become extremely heavy. She felt for the stone and found it gone. Shock echoed throughout her being. She collapsed to the ground, calling out for her servants who rushed in to find her lying prone, pleading for help.
No-one noticed the cat choking on the rock that was stuck in its throat. Panicking, the animal ran outside of the cave. Moments later, it succumbed to the suffocation. It died unseen amongst the thick bushes.
The tribe had a new, male, leader within two days. It soon lost its lands to neighbouring tribes and its lineage disappeared within a couple of generations.
Darius clambered up the rocky outcrop. The sounds of distressed goat filtered down towards him, making him hurry. He was young, even by the standards of the time, to be looking after a flock and he was determined to show that he was capable.
One of the animals was in trouble up there, and it was his job to look after it. He was going to make sure that the entire herd returned to the village for milking. He would be a shepherd like his father had been. A successful shepherd.
He saw the goat, its horns tangled in an old, dead bush and almost laughed. These animals could be so stupid sometimes! Approaching with a surprising degree of experience for one so young, he soon freed his charge and was about to begin the process of encouraging it back down the outcrop when something caught his eye.
Bones. Lying inside the dead bush. He leant in to take a closer look. If something was preying on animals in the area, it was his duty as a shepherd to know about it. He guessed the dry remains had once belonged to a cat. But he soon realised that the skeleton was no recent kill. These bones were old. Really, really old.
No archaeologist, Darius was happy to leave the remains as they were. Until he spotted the shiny, blue stone that lay half-buried in dust, in the centre of the skeleton. He immediately reached in and grabbed it. It was pretty, like a jewel, but he knew jewels were not to be found lying in the dust.
He couldn't determine what it was made of. As he turned it over in his hand, he became fascinated by it. It was beautiful. He placed it in his pocket and made his way down the outcrop, driving the formerly trapped goat before him.
That evening, with the herd safely in the big barn on the edge of the village, he took the stone out of his pocket and examined it by the light of a candle. Its many faces reflected the flickering light, enchanting him. He'd never owned such a special object before. He put it back in his pocket.
The following morning, Darius was bitten by a dog. He screamed as an old washer woman dressed the wound with a makeshift bandage until the woman began to tease him. "Some brave man you are!" she laughed. "It's a dog-bite, not a sword wound!" He wanted to cry, but knew that he would only make her laugh even more if he did.
Once he was alone, he took the beautiful stone from his pocket and looked at it. The pain in his leg throbbed terribly, and this time, away from everyone else, his eyes did mist over. "At least I have this pretty rock" he thought to himself.
Over the next two decades, Darius matured. He kept his responsibilities with the goats and slowly earned his place amongst the people of his village. He had learnt early that fighting was not his forte; indeed it was sometimes said - only partly in jest - that he possessed the strength of a child.
Meanwhile the world around was becoming an increasingly violent place. Hunger was stalking the land and more and more tales from other villages began to circulate. Stories of bandits roaming the hills, stealing flocks, attacking townships. Increasingly, the climate became one of fear.
Knowing that he would stand no chance against a single bandit, never mind a group of them, Darius became fearful. When a traveller stopped at the village inn and offered to sell him a rifle, he listened intently to the patter. But he didn't have the sum of money the salesman wanted.
"All I can offer is this jewel." Darius said, holding out the strange blue rock that he had kept for twenty years.
"Let me see that." said the merchant. Then, after scrutinising the stone he declared. "This is no jewel! But it is pretty... I like it. Give me two and you have yourself a deal."
"There's only one." Darius said, disappointed.
"You mean there's no other like it? It's a unique object?"
"Er.. yes." The shepherd was pleasantly surprised by the line of questioning.
A deal was eventually struck; the stone and a few coins for the rifle.
Two days later, Darius was minding his herd when he heard a rustling from a nearby bush. Fearing an attack by bandits, he grabbed his new rifle, raised it to his eye and fired it as the seller had instructed him. The dog who had caused the movement of the foliage was startled by the bang as the rifle, uncleaned for years, exploded.
The shepherd was instantly killed. As he lay dead, much of his flock of goats wandered off and the rest of the village faced years of hard times, struggling without livestock.
The merchant never returned to the village. But he sold more weapons. At first just the odd rifle. Then several guns at once. As the social and political situation declined, so the opportunities for a gun dealer increased. Profits grew. Money accumulated. And silver. And gold.
As he prospered, the arms seller would often think about that rifle he had sold to the shepherd. He kept the stone he had won in that trade, marvelling at how his business had grown from that humble starting point.
After one particularly successful transaction, he paid a goldsmith to set the blue stone into an elaborate gold ring which he placed on his finger and never took off. He liked the fact that to others, it was unique and beautiful - a sign of his wealth - whereas to him, it was a constant reminder of his inauspicious beginnings. A symbol of how well he had done for himself.
Even a rich man must succumb to the creeping advance of age. And a life accumulating wealth from the hardships, suffering and deaths of others can end in as much comfort as any other. The man who sold Darius the rifle passed away as a grey, wrinkled version of his younger self.
Lying on his silk-sheeted, four-postered death-bed and surrounded by his adoring family, he thought of that early trade he had made with the shepherd and of the mysterious jewel he had accepted as payment. With almost all of the strength remaining in his body, he pulled the gold ring housing the gem from his finger and with a trembling hand, held it out towards his eldest son.
"My son," he croaked, "you are well prepared to take over my business. Take my ring and put it on your hand so that I know a part of me will live on with you."
The young man accepted the gift and followed his father's instructions. He looked at his hand and decided that he liked the way the ring looked on his finger. "I'll never remove it, father." he said. The old man's lips moved slightly as if he was trying to smile. Then he sighed and closed his eyes.
"Father!" cried the son, but he already knew it was too late.
30 years later still, when our real story begins.
Jerold had proven himself a worthy inheritor of his father's affairs. With the world becoming increasingly violent, divided and ruled by greed, business had thrived in the decades since the old man passed on, and the son now traded in volumes and values that were beyond even his ancestors' wildest dreams.
The silver that was taking over more and more of his dark hair was a pale reflection of the silver that filled his vaults. But now, as he felt himself approaching the autumn of his life, his thoughts were turning to retirement.
For a wealthy man, after his income has ceased, to continue leading the fine life to which he had become well accustomed, a very large amount of capital is required. So when he heard that a particular foreign government was looking to buy armaments in huge volumes, Jerold realised he had been presented with the opportunity to raise that capital.
It had the potential to be the one big deal whose proceeds he could retire on. Immediately, he set about organising a ship to take him overseas so he could meet his new partners in person and persuade them to go through with the trade.
To create a good impression, he hired the finest vessel he could afford with the best captain. A man in his line of work has access to contacts in walks of life that are closed to most others. Thus, to ensure maximum security, his crew were recruited from the vast ranks of mercenaries and rogue soldiers that were easily accessible to him.
The ship sailed uneventfully for the first few days. An attack of sea-sickness meant that Jerold stayed entirely inside his luxurious cabin, even taking his meals in there. The men went competently about the business of piloting the craft and the captain kept his employer fully informed on the good progress they were making.
Then, around dusk on the third day, the normal activity on deck was halted by a single, monosyllabic cry from the look-out: "Pirates!"
Of the twenty men on board, only Jerold and the captain lacked experience of battle. Most of the rest were violent men and accustomed to keeping their rifles and pistols close at hand. The remaining few were very violent men and unleashed swords, cutlasses and machetes, their eyes all a-gleam at the prospect of cutting the flesh of an enemy.
As the pirate ship pulled alongside their own, the crew were not only ready for a fight, they were actively looking forward to it. The captain had long since barred himself into his quarters. Jerold, lying sick on his bed, barely even registered the activity outside.
They were ready to face a small army. But they were to be disappointed. The pirate ship appeared deserted except for two slightly corpulent men who swung across the space between the two vessels on ropes, their faces red with rum and effort. Each of the two was skewered on a long, eager blade before his feet even touched the deck of Jerold’s ship.
The men gathered around the pair of slain pirates laughing heartily. No-one noticed the young and extremely attractive red-haired girl swinging across to land on the opposite end of the deck. They failed to spot her looking about nervously, her complexion pale and her eyes wide, betraying fear.
Monika was horrified by the fate of her two erstwhile colleagues. It had been her who had persuaded them to attack the big fancy ship. She had assured them that such craft were invariably laden with treasures and crewed by ageing imbeciles. She had plied her friends with rum, telling them that the other ship's men would surrender without a fight.
She had badly, badly underestimated her target. Her companions were slaughtered. Now she feared for her own life. At least she had the presence of mind to jump ships at a point where no-one was looking, unlike the other two. But what was she to do now? She couldn't capture the other ship single-handed. She would surely be killed as soon as she was spotted. No, there was only one option left.
She had to hide. But where? Not on deck. She needed to be somewhere inside the ship. She could hear voices. People were beginning to move towards where she was. In a panic, she ran to the first door she saw and,to her enormous relief, found it open. She darted through, closing the door quickly behind her. Only then did she look around the room she had entered.
She had been right about one thing. There was wealth on this vessel. She found herself in a luxurious, extremely well appointed cabin. Beautiful mahogany furniture filled the room. A dining table with silver cutlery, a leather-covered writing desk and a huge bed. With... a man lying upon it.
Jerold sat up quickly, despite the slight nausea still affecting him. He took a moment to make sure he was seeing right. He'd heard tales of men at sea having hallucinations. But they'd only been three days out of the harbour and "besides," he thought, "even if it is a hallucination, it's an extremely pleasant one."
Standing by the door to his cabin was the most extraordinarily beautiful woman he had ever beheld. She was tall and slender, and clothed in the sort of outfit he had only seen worn in the upstairs rooms of inns. Her legs were long and shapely, her hips dramatically flaring, emphasising the remarkably tiny circumference of her flat waist.
Her hair was as red and wild as fire itself, crowning her head in undisciplined strands that made it appear as if the perfect beauty of her face had caused her head to ignite. Her eyes were bright and green, her nose perfectly proportioned. Her lips were full and dark, like the ripest of fruits and they begged to be tasted.
Jerold noticed all this about her appearance and then forgot it. His mind was wiped clean as a slate the moment his gaze fell below her chin. For beneath her tiny costume, threatening to explode out of the over-worked material at any moment, the girl sported the two most wondrously large, full and round breasts he had ever seen. They stood so high upon her body and so perfectly symmetric that he could do nothing more for the next few moments other than stare at them.
The man's fascination with her body bought Monika a few moments. She was well aware of the power of her appearance, and had always been happy to use it to her advantage. It was why she wore such revealing outfits. More than often, the way she looked gave her the initiative in an encounter. Especially an encounter with a man. Like this one.
She used the moment to pull out the long dagger that hung from her belt. Brandishing it with a confidence that came from frequent practice, she strode quickly towards the man in bed, eager to be within stabbing distance of him before he came to his senses and reached for any weapon the he might have.
The girl came at Jerold with a knife while he was still mesmerised by the sight of her epic chest. The flashing blade brought him out of his erotic day-dream and his survival instinct came into play. did have a weapon of his own - buying and selling them was his trade after all. It was a pistol. A very, very expensive pistol encrusted with jewels that had been manufactured to the highest possible standards. But there was a problem. His beautiful gun was safely stored in one of the draws of the writing table. To reach it, he would have to run right past the girl, which meant running past her lovely face, her amazing breasts and her big knife.
The irony was unbearable. Here he was, a man who had traded more guns than most armies possessed and his life was in grave, grave danger because of a simple dagger. She was very close now, in another step or two she would be near enough to use the blade. He had no chance to escape without giving her at least one opportunity to stab him.
The size of the knife and her comfort with it told him that one stab might well be fatal. Instinctively he brought his hands up as protection, holding his left arm across his throat and face and his right over his chest and heart. "Don't kill me!" he pleaded, urgently. "I can give you great wealth."
Monika knew that she had got to him before he could get to her when he shielded himself with his arms. Something caught her eye - on the hand covering his face. A ring. It had a thick gold band that stirred her pirate's lust for the precious metal, but what really attracted her was the beautiful, large semi-transparent blue gem that was set in the band.
She'd never seen, or even heard of, any gem like it. It was astonishing in its colour and its size. Countless tiny faces caught the light, alternatively reflecting and absorbing it in a dazzling, fascinating manner. It enchanted her, almost as if it had a voice that was calling to her. She'd never known anything quite like it. For some reason, some strange, inexplicable reason, she had to have that ring.
She paused a moment. Hadn't the man just offered her great wealth? Obviously he was scared of her knife, frightened for his very life or else he wouldn't have made the proposition. She had the advantage over him and he had something she wanted. Desperately wanted.
"Give me your ring." she said.
"No... not the ring!" he exclaimed. "It... it's special. My father gave it to me."
Monika was not prepared for that answer. She had to have that ring. His refusal wasn't going to stop her. Her mind racing, she considered her situation. There was a way. A way she could get that ring without his consent. She drew up her right hand, the dagger held tightly in her fist as she slashed the blade down towards his face.
Her target was his right hand. The point of her knife pierced his flesh, just above the knuckle of his forefinger. She drew the blade with expertise across the base of his middle three fingers, the keen edge making light work of the thin bone and muscle it encountered, amputating those three digits in less than a second.
The severed fingers fell under the spell of gravity and dropped onto the bed-sheets, staining them red. A trio of spurts of blood fountained forth from the man's hand. He screamed in shock and pain as the thick red liquid splashed his face, blinding him for a moment. His other hand left its perch across his upper-body as he closed it about the wound in an attempt to staunch the flow of blood.
Meanwhile, Monika dived forwards with her own hands outstretched to snatch up one of the knifed-off fingers - the one with the ring still encircling it. Blood oozed from the cut-off end of the digit but she paid it no mind. The object of her desire was in her grasp and she felt terrific about it.
Not just terrific... She felt wonderful. As if she'd just had a sip of a magic elixir. As though a finger of sunlight had reached down from the sky to warm her from the inside out. As if somehow, from somewhere, she'd just received a burst of energy that was now flowing through the veins and arteries of her body, filling every part of her with the same lovely sensation.
Monika knew that the thrill of holding the ring could not account for the intensity of the feeling. She felt more alive, more fresh, more alert than ever before in her life. She felt full of energy. Ready for anything. This was not the excitement of a new possession. This was something beyond that... something almost magical.
The ring! It had to be something to do with the ring. Whatever it was - magic or otherwise - she knew that the ring contained an incredible power. Never before had she felt so, so... good. She slipped the metal band onto her middle finger. It was a loose fit but it seemed right.
The sensation of energy passing around her being grew in intensity, stretching to the very limits of her body until it became so overpowering that she dropped to her knees and threw back her head, lost in the most remarkable physical and mental experience she'd ever known.
She felt wave upon wave of the unknown tingling force spread like ripples on the surface of a pond from the finger that now bore the ring outwards into every extreme of her body. Her toes. The follicles of her hair. Her ears. Even her nipples. Every cubic inch of her being was being infused - no, filled - with this.. this.. feeling of power.
Slowly, gradually, Monika began to regain control of herself. Of her mind. And of her senses. It wasn't that the feeling pulsating out from the ring was diminishing - the sensations were as powerful as the first moment she experienced them. But somehow, she was beginning to manage them. To push them further and further from the foreground of her consciousness, allowing more and more room for her brain’s normal functioning.
She became aware once more of her surroundings. She stood up straight once again and found that the cabin had become clear to her again. She was aware. Aware of the sound of the screaming, bleeding man. Aware of the multitudinous running feet outside that were getting ever closer...
Yet it was strange. The room looked slightly different to before. The man's screams sounded different too. She noticed other things in a rush of information through her brain. She could smell the blood still gushing from his fresh wound. She could also smell the mahogany furniture, the sea-air outside, the animal-skin rug on the floor in the far corner of the room - even the man's skin.
She found she could distinguish between the smell of his uncut skin and the smell of his wound. She could tell that some of the wood in the room was newer than the rest. Everything around her seemed to have its own distinctive scent and she could - somehow - separate any one of those smells from the others and identify it.
Even as Monika marvelled at the clarity of her olfactory senses, she realised that the information reaching her brain from her eyes was also now exceptionally detailed. Colours which she would previously have considered identical were now obviously different. She could see the grains in the wood panelling all around her; tiny cracks in surfaces had gone from being invisible to obvious.
The shapes of things, minute details, the patterns of light and shade throughout the room; subtle tones and textures, all these were suddenly perfectly visible to her, even after the briefest of glances. It was all so... so completely amazing.
Her hearing too, seemed remarkably good. Although the man on the bed was still yelling, she could somehow still detect the sound of many - perhaps even a dozen - pairs of running feet on the deck outside charging towards the door to the cabin. She could also hear the low, accelerated, thudding beat of the man's heart - even, she noted with real surprise - the calls of the birds circling the ship and the rush of the wind blowing through their wings.
The sound of approaching runners brought her back to her present predicament. She was supposed to be seeking a place to hide and instead, she was trapped in a cabin with a man who was screaming his head off. The men outside had effortlessly slaughtered her comrades. What chance would she have alone against them? Maybe she could use the man on the bed as a shield of some kind - perhaps she could put her knife to his throat and threaten to kill him if anyone tried to attack her...
But it was too late already. The door behind her burst open with an almighty crash and the shouts of a number of men competed with the agonised yells of the freshly de-fingered fellow lying near her. Monika whirled around, forgetting in the excitement her plan to take the screamer as a hostage, and saw a crowd framed in the open doorway. They couldn't all fit through the bottle-neck entrance at once, but they were managing just fine two at a time.
A pair of huge, fierce-looking men, the first through the door, rushed at her. Each carried a knife that dwarfed her own blade and a look of deadly intent. With nowhere to run, she panicked for a brief instant before she realised she had run out of options. She threw her arms up into the air, dropping her own sharp weapon in a gesture of complete surrender. There was no time to voice her capitulation, but she hoped the sight of her raised hands would be enough.
But if the two men did see her arms and if they did understand the meaning of the gesture, they showed no sign of it. The one on the right thrust his blade violently at her bare stomach, the other slashed his across her face. Time seemed to stand still for her. She saw the two blades nearing her body as if they were merely floating her way. She saw the grimaces on the faces of the two men, their expressions strangely frozen as they appeared to move at a fraction of normal speed.
Somehow, Monika felt calm. It was as though this stretching out of the moment in time allowed her to reason. Watching the knives travelling at such a leisurely pace, she couldn’t believe that they posed her any threat. She felt as if she could side-step the twin attacks if she wanted.
But she didn’t. She was thinking of the ring on her finger, the way it had altered her perception of the world and made her feel so wonderful. She glanced from one blade to the other. She should’ve been afraid and yet she felt a complete stillness inside, almost an assurance that she needn’t be concerned. She was certain that it had something to do with the blue gem, but she didn’t even begin to understand it. Somehow, she just knew that her life was not in danger.
The tip of one knife reached her stomach. The point touched her smooth, flat flesh, still moving amazingly slowly. She expected pain, but felt nothing. Curious, she looked and saw that the steel had not sliced into her. In fact, the sharp point of the knife didn’t even seem to be dimpling her skin. A moment later, she noticed that the entire blade was actually beginning to bow. It was bending! Monika realised that the knife was being pushed into her with great force. And yet… it couldn’t even prick her!
What was happening? She felt a light tickle-like touch on her cheek and realised that the second man was dragging his blade across it. Again, she felt no pain when she expected it. She could feel that her skin was uncut, but there was no question; the knife was being slashed over her mouth and nose. Could it be that she was suddenly invulnerable to knives? Had the ring done this to her?
There was a loud snap from below. She glanced down and saw that the first knife – the one being pressed into her gut – had broken in half. She couldn’t tell either by looking or from the feel exactly where the point had been thrust against her skin. The man wielding it was slowly looking at his weapon, his facial expression changing at the same sluggish pace from aggression to shock.
The same transformation was occurring on the face of the second man who had drawn his knife right across her face without leaving a trace. She felt herself filling with a sense of wonder and curiosity. All notions of fear vanished from her mind, she lifted her hand towards the man with the broken knife. She was amazed to see that her arm did not move at the same snail-like speed as the two men, but rather at a normal pace.
She found she had time to think. “Maybe it’s not them that’s slow, but me that’s fast…” she reasoned. “But why do they look slow? Can I control it?” As she completed the thought, the world around her returned to its normal pace. The two men’s faces changed to show their surprise, their arms began moving as before. “Can I make it slow again?” the girl wondered, and, instantly everything reduced in speed.
The ring! It had to be magic. It had given her so many fantastic abilities. A string of questions sprinted across her mind. The first was “If I move fast while I make the world feel slow can I hit these guys before they notice?”. She chose the one who had attacked her stomach. Making a fist, Monika drove it towards his belly. She heard a strange, squelching sound unlike any she’d ever heard before. The man doubled-up and then something really strange happened.
His feet came off the floor. His face turned crimson, his eyes opening wide in shock. And then he was travelling backwards, feet and hands towards her. He sailed through the air as if riding a magic carpet for about ten paces before he crashed into the crowd still squeezing into the room. Behind him, men were knocked off their feet, pushed down and to the side by the momentum of the one she had punched. Slowly, shouts of shock and pain began to waft towards her ears.
The men were still tumbling over, rolling over the floor and each other, while she was already examining her hand with intense fascination. Had she really just done that? Punched a big man hard enough to send him flying, knocking over a crowd of his colleagues like… like skittles? If she hadn’t seen it, she would never have believed it. She had to confirm it wasn’t a hallucination.
She turned to the second man who had rushed her. He was slowly twisting his neck to view the chaos unveiling equally slowly behind him. “Enough of this everything slow” Monika thought, and the world obliged by returning to its usual speed. She didn’t bother making a fist the second time. She just placed her hand flat against the man’s chest and gave a gentle shove.
Now that everything was happening at its customary pace, she didn’t get to see his feet gradually lifting off the floorboards. Instead, he seemed to be instantly travelling away from her, arms and legs flailing, a yell coming from his lips. He crashed into the general melee, knocking over some of the men who were struggling back onto their feet. From the shouts, she realised some of them must’ve been quite badly hurt.
Monika looked at the mess of men on the floor and smiled. “I’m strong,” she thought. “Really, remarkably strong.” She felt an urgent need to test her theory. Glancing at the man on the bed, still clutching his profusely bleeding hand, she reached for him. Perhaps he was too absorbed by the pain from his wounds, or perhaps he was in a state of shock. Either way, he didn’t try to resist as she curled her fingers around the uppermost portion of his left arm.
Something went crunch as she got a good grip on him, and he started screaming once again. She ignored it as she experimentally raised her arm whilst maintaining her hold on him. It was fantastic! Her arm came up smoothly and easily, and it brought the man’s entire body upwards just as smoothly and easily. She tried raising and lowering him and found it effortless. She could barely even feel his weight. It was like lifting a piece of cloth!
She lifted her hand over her head, looking at the big man dangling helplessly from her one-handed grip, enjoying the sight. She discovered she could make his entire frame swing wildly through the air just by turning her delicate wrist. It was fascinating.
So fascinating in fact that she didn’t notice that most of the other men had already picked themselves up from the floor. The two she had hit were still down, and a couple seemed to be finding it difficult to stand, but the rest had recovered and were now staring at her in a mixture of disbelief and awe.
She heard a sharp bang from the direction of the crowd and almost instantaneously felt a light tap on her hip. She turned to investigate, just in time to see a small metal object hit the floor about two yards to her side. It looked like a crumpled bullet. She pondered the sequence of events: sound of pistol, feather-light pat on her hip, mangled shot falling to ground. No… it wasn’t possible…
Crack! Another shot rang out. Another tap, this one on her shoulder. A moment later, another bent lump of lead landed noisily on the decking, this time about three yards from her. All the evidence pointed one way, but she just could not believe it. Those two tiny raps she had felt couldn’t have been bullets striking her… could they?
She opened her hand, realising the iron grip she was exerting on man whose ring she had stolen. No longer being held in place by her dainty fingers, he fell the four feet back down to his bed, bouncing on his rear and crying out in pain – presumably from his upper arm or his hand. Monika ignored him completely, looking over instead at the group of men at the far end of the room.
Two of them were definitely holding pistols. Two others were lifting rifles to their shoulders. The two bullets she had seen hit the floor could have come from the pistols. But how had they become so misshapen? And did those little taps she felt have anything at all to do with it?
Her wonderfully sensitive eyesight and enhanced processing abilities drew her attention to a tiny movement of a finger of one of the men in the crowd. Not just any man, but one of those holding pistols. And not just any finger, either. It was the finger curled around the weapon’s trigger lever.
The sight of someone on the point of firing a gun at her was startling. The world all around her instantly slowed to the dawdling pace of earlier and immediately she felt calm once more. How could anything in such a slow universe hurt her, especially if she could move a thousand times more quickly? She had nothing to fear. Her only emotion now was curiosity.
Monika watched intently as a tiny spark appeared at the end of the gun’s barrel. She watched as the spark seemed to grow in size and intensity. She watched as the first wisp of smoke curled from the end of the weapon, closely followed by her first sight of the bullet itself. At that speed, it seemed almost reluctant to leave the weapon. The tip poked out and the rest grudgingly followed until the entire slug was free of the barrel.
It was as if the thing was merely wafting towards her, floating at its leisure on a cushion of air as it crossed the room between shooter and shootee. She realised she would be able to walk up to it in mid-flight and simply pluck it out of the air. But she chose not to. She wanted to know if she truly was invulnerable to it. So she stood completely still, her arms hanging free by her sides and waited.
Slowly, slowly, the bullet made its way towards her. She wasn’t sure how she did it, but she felt as if she could tell exactly where it was going to strike her. It was a well-aimed shot and it was heading straight for her heart. The lead pellet, she joked to herself, was like every lover she had ever had: it was making a bee-line for her chest.
It seemed to take an age for the bullet to reach her. When it finally did, it touched first her brief garment, quickly burning a hole clean through the material. But the sensitive skin beneath did not register the heat. She saw with her own eyes as the tip of the shot made contact with the top curve of her large breast. There was a slight sensation of something, like a fly landing on her flesh, but no stronger.
Monika stared in fascination as her generous bosom was almost imperceptively indented around the end of the bullet. Then, it got really weird. The dimpling of her flesh halted. Completely. It was as though her chest had only a miniscule give and having reached that point, it would go no further. Logic suggested the shot would have to penetrate her silky skin.
But her bounteous flesh was refusing to surrender. It didn’t make sense. Having been expelled from the pistol by a controlled yet powerful explosion, the mini-missile still had plenty of forward momentum. Something would have to yield.
That something turned out to be the solid lead of the bullet itself. She gazed on, amazed, as the shot seemed to fold up against itself, widening as it shortened in length. She could definitely feel something – a very gentle pressure on her breast – but the sensation was at odds with the information being registered by her eyes.
She could clearly see that the hot, usually deadly, pellet was being squashed flat against her beautiful skin. It was transforming in shape, increasingly resembling a coin in its thickness and diameter. And then, as she continued to stare, the tiny dimple in her supposedly soft, undeniably round and unquestionably big breast started to disappear. The natural elasticity of her skin was fighting back against the pressure being exerted upon it.
To her wonder, the suppleness of her bosom proved more powerful than the bullet. As her flesh pushed outwards, it knocked the crushed lead disc away. A new dent – an exact match of the curve of her breast - appeared in the battered slug as it changed direction, floating now directly away from her body at about half the speed with which it had arrived.
She followed its new flight-path, watching it travel about three yards to her left before gravity took over and its trajectory curved towards the floor. Before it landed, she had enough time to examine herself, noting that the large area of feminine flesh now visible through the new hole in her costume did not display the slightest mark. There was nothing, nothing at all on her perfect skin to betray the fact that she had been shot. Only the big gap torn out of her garment stood witness to the bullet’s impact. It certainly hadn’t hurt her in any way.
The rough disc hit the floor and came to a rest. She glanced at the slowed-down men and saw the way their expressions were in transition. Shock and surprise were taking over the features on each face. “Back to normal speed!” she thought, and all the faces immediately completed their shifts to stunned amazement.
Monika glanced down at the crushed bullet and then back up at the disbelieving men and burst out laughing. She was invulnerable to bullets! This strange, beautiful ring on her finger gave her remarkable abilities – the strength of dozens of men, fantastic speed, heightened senses and, more than that, indestructibility. Two knives had failed to cut her. Even a pistol couldn’t hurt her!
The men froze as the following realisation spread among them: the three bullets had all been well-aimed; each had hit the girl’s lovely body, and each had simply bounced off her without leaving so much as a scratch. The third shot had hit right on one of her gorgeous big tits, tearing a big hole in her clothes but failing to harm the oh-so-desirable flesh beneath. Indeed, the ricochet lying on the floor looked as if it had been crushed flat against that delicious skin.
They were only beginning the struggle to come to terms with all that when the girl actually started to laugh. It was although she knew how shocked they all were by her invulnerability to gunfire and found it amusing. She wasn’t merely laughing. She was laughing at them. They were not the kind of men who tolerated being mocked by a woman, even one as apparently remarkable and undebatably sexy as the girl standing before them.
Someone shouted “Get her!” but it could have been any one of them. They charged forward as a group, opening their throats to free blood-thirsty yells of attack, drawing knives and swords from their sheathes and pistols from waist-bands. Steel glinted in the dim light of the room.
Monika’s laugh stopped. The sight of a small army charging at her with nothing but murder on its collective mind would have made anyone feel terror. Instinctively, she made it all become slow, recalling how doing so had eased her fears a few moments earlier. Any unease in her mind quickly vanished as she looked over the onrushing crowd.
The two with rifles were alone in remaining on the far side of the room. As their colleagues began to dive for the girl, they lifted their weapons, excruciatingly slowly, to firing position. She could easily tell that they would fire off their shots before the other men reached her. But everyone was moving so slowly! It would take an age before either rifle shots or blade-wielding mob came within reach.
She reasoned with herself: “If nothing hurts me when I make it seem slow, surely nothing will hurt me moving at normal speed. I just have to allow things to take place at their usual pace without being terrified…” Monika steeled herself and let it happen.
Almost instantly, there was a loud retort from one corner of the room as a rifle was fired. She didn’t even have time to be concerned as the tap on her bare shoulder followed immediately. She was watching the bullet spinning away as the other long firearm went off. This time, the light rap was on her forehead. It proved as ineffective as any of its predecessors. The spent shot pinged away from her skull, passing over the heads of the crowd that was almost upon her.
One of the men at the front of that crowd was brandishing a pistol. She heard the crack as it was fired and felt an even softer pat than the rifle bullets had caused, this time on the centre of her belly. With her perception of her surroundings now at normal speed, she didn’t have time to react as the little lump of lead squashed flat against her abdominal muscles and rebounded.
Monika was still looking at the new hole in her clothes as the crushed shot flew away from her. Even with its rate of travel vastly decreased by the impact against her, it still had enough power to tear into the hip of one of her attackers. The hit man fell with a yell, clutching his bloodied upper leg, even as another of his comrades fired his own pistol.
This latest shot hit her glorious chest, on the uncovered inner portion of the upper curve of her right breast. The bullet merely compressed up a little against that lovely feminine skin before bouncing off, on a new trajectory, only to impact once again on her chin. Squashed still further, the shot rebounded once more, glancing the top of her other bosom and falling onto the floor a yard to her side.
Not that the men attacking her noticed. A knife was plunged at her head. The blade pressed against her nose, bent and snapped in half without managing to leave a scratch on her face. A sword whished through the air, expertly directed in a wide swipe at her neck. It was a blow that would have decapitated any other being. But against her, it did no more than make a loud clang. The wielder of the weapon dropped his sharpened steel in shock, clasping his bruising hands to his stomach.
Others were trying to punch her. For every fist that landed on her beautiful body, there was an accompanying scream of pain. She could hear the tiny bones in the men’s hands breaking on her smooth skin. Feet flew in, heavy boots swung by strong fighters, but she barely felt them. Again, her attackers succeeded only in wounding themselves. It was as if she were made of solid iron!
The men began collapsing around her, brought down by their injuries or tripping over one another. Monika surveyed the remarkable scene. So many men, trying so hard to hurt her with their weapons and their big fists and feet. And without even defending herself, let alone fighting back, she was effortlessly defeating them!
She placed her hands defiantly on her shapely hips, ignoring the blows still raining in on her body from all sides. As yet another man lost his footing and tumbled into the helpless, moaning mass at her feet, she finally understood the power she had suddenly come to possess. Throwing her head back, she began to roar with laughter.
2 days later.
Jerold pulled on the rope with all his might. It was near impossible to set the sails without the use of one of his hands, but as one of the least injured of all those on board, the task had fallen to him. The girl had threatened to kill them all if they failed in their duties on board the ship and he didn’t doubt for an instant that she was capable of carrying out her threat.
He couldn’t believe how his fortunes had changed in such a short space of time. He was sleeping in the hold with the rest of the men now. In fact, he was just one of the men. Like all of them, he’d already signed all his wealth over to the incredible red-haired girl. She had taken his luxurious cabin. And his rank. She had even forced the ship’s Captain to renounce his ownership of the vessel to her.
This girl was now their master. She had told them as much when she had ordered the crew to assemble on deck shortly after the one-sided fight in his cabin. Her cabin, he corrected himself. The men, limping and bleeding, clutching broken limbs and hands, gathered in terror. They were defeated and exhausted. And exceptionally afraid.
She had told them they now belonged to her. And she told them of the painful death she would deal out to any of them who failed to obey her word or otherwise displeased her in any way. As she spoke, she turned her gaze from one face to the next, her expression one of smug satisfaction as she saw the effect of her words on her audience.
Now, forty-seven hours after that spine-chilling lecture, Jerold struggled with his work. He was no better than a slave now. None of them were. The young woman – the beautiful young woman – was unopposable. They could not fight her, could not stab her, could not shoot her. They had tried every weapon they had against her, without effect. Every single last fire-arm and blade on board… except…
Of course! Why hadn’t it occurred to him earlier? There was one more weapon on the ship which wasn’t used in the doomed fight. A weapon powerful enough to sink an entire ship. It might be enough to bring down the girl. To free him and the men from their slavery.
That night, down in the hold, when she was on the far side of the ship, surrounded by his former wealth in his former quarters, Jerold whispered his plan to the other men. How three of them would lift a solid iron ball into the ship’s cannon, once a fourth man had prepared the powder-charge. A fifth member of the conspiracy was charged with waiting, with his matches ready, for the moment that the girl moved in front of the barrel of the enormous weapon.
Meanwhile, Monika sat on the big bed in her cabin, listening intently to the conversation taking place amongst her men. With the ring on her finger, a whispered discussion twenty yards away and behind walls was as clear as a bell. She heard every word, chuckling to herself at the thought of half a dozen men hushing their voices for fear of her.
Whilst they slept, she walked quietly on deck to the cannon. Beside the huge iron cylinder was the small stack of balls, each considerably larger than her head. Bending down she lifted one with two hands, surprised at how easily it came up between her palms. Balancing the ultra-dense sphere on one palm she tossed it gently about twenty feet above her head and caught it. “It might as well be full of air!” she thought to herself, in awe at how light the thing seemed. She decided to let the men carry out their plan.
The following morning, Monika strolled proudly along the deck of her ship. She smiled with satisfaction at the way her mere presence inspired an atmosphere of fear amongst the men working. Men working for her. Despite the injuries and wounds they had sustained. That she had caused. She wasn’t so much their Captain, she realised, as their goddess.
As she walked, she noticed the solitary figure standing well away from the others. Hunched over the ship’s cannon, he was doing a decent impression of a man cleaning the weapon. His furtive glances in her direction reduced the effectiveness of the charade. With her sensitive hearing, she listened to the adrenaline-fuelled thumping of his heart with great amusement.
Passing right in front of the huge gun, she paused mid-stroll and turned, ostensibly to look out at the sea. This left her directly facing the cannon, but she pretended not to notice it. The fake cleaner’s pulse reached a new pounding crescendo and she knew he was taking the bait.
It was all she could do not to laugh when he struck a match and put it to the tiny fuse protruding from the powder chamber. But she maintained the pretence of being completely unaware, even when the firer abandoned his cover and ran, shouting, towards the other men. An enormous boom shook the ship as the gunpowder exploded. Monika watched as a cannon-ball identical to the one she had juggled the previous night tore through the smoke and flames at the end of the giant barrel. She saw that her position was perfect and held herself still, waiting for the iron sphere to reach her.
A large ball of solid metal launched into the air by an explosion of that size has so much momentum that it becomes practically unstoppable. Cannon-balls tear holes through the thick hulls of ships and break strong masts like match-sticks. But the slim red-haired girl wasn’t afraid. She barely even blinked as one of those terrifying balls shot towards her.
It hit fairly centrally on her chest. It was, after all, the most prominent feature of the front of her body. For about a quarter of a second, her generous breasts yielded to the immense weight and power, her big mounds squashing very, very slightly as the huge ball pressed against them. But, as had happened with the far smaller bullets three days before, her chest seemed to fight back almost immediately.
Despite the huge force pushing against them, her breasts quickly matched and then, amazingly, bettered it as they naturally reverted to their usual perfectly round shape. In so doing they pushed back against the mighty cannon-ball, generating power even greater than that assaulting them. The ball’s forward motion was first conquered and then reversed as the huge heavy chunk of metal merely bounced off her.
To Monika, it felt like a brief, friendly hug. There was no pain. One moment the cannon-ball was flying towards her, the next it was embracing her and the one after that it was travelling away from her body. On a whim, she brought her hands up quickly, catching the retreating shot between her palms and bringing it to a complete stop without having to exert herself.
The collective gasp from the on-looking men would have been audible even if her hearing hadn’t been greatly enhanced. She knew the sight of herself holding the captured cannon-ball in front of her wonderful chest was rather striking and she enjoyed the moment all the more because of it. The ball felt feather-light to her and it had required no effort to catch but the demonstration was having a profound effect on her audience.
She decided to put on a show for them. Drawing her hands towards herself, she brought the cannon-ball closer to her body. Once more, her chest yielded slightly to the solid metal, her big breasts giving way for a moment. But then, remarkably, as she continued to pull the shot to her, they refused to give any more.
The air filled with a high-pitched squeal. It was as though the iron was alive and was screaming in protest at the forces being exerted on it. On the one hand, the red-head’s delicate hands were driving it against her body with phenomenal force. On the other hand, her chest was successfully resisting that force.
Her breasts would not concede, so it was the cannon-ball itself that succombed. The metal started to deform, to bend and stretch to accommodate her body. Her large round bosoms dented it on two sides, the solid iron no match for the power contained in her beautiful figure. The squealing rose in volume and the ball began to loose its spherical shape completely as it surrendered to the superior strength of the girl.
She continued to press the iron against herself for a moment or two more. When she stopped and lifted the now re-moulded metal away, there was little in its shape to suggest it had once been a ball. It was wider and less tall than before and one side of it was completely dominated by two identical deep, wide depressions. Monika made sure that the men saw that.
Satisfied that she had made her point, she adjusted her grip on the lump of scrap so that she was holding it on a single outstretched palm. Then she casually bent her arm, and tossed it out to sea. She put little effort into the throw and her modifications had made the former ball much less aerodynamic than it had been. Yet the misshapen chunk soared from her little hand, not splashing down into the brine until it was over a hundred yards from the side of the ship.
She placed her hands on her hips, emphasising her dominance as she fixed the now cowering men with her gaze. “Do any of you still doubt my power?” she demanded of them. There was no response from the group. She smiled, a grin of arrogant satisfaction.
“I thought not.” she said.
The men waited in silence for her next instruction. Monika paused, partly to enjoy the moment and partly to consider what she would demand of them. She knew the men were hers to command as she wished. The ship was hers, too. And anything else she desired. The beautiful ring with its strange, blue gem gave her the power to take whatever she pleased and she had no intention of ever taking it off.