She had problems?
Like the Kai-cursed girl-raping death-worshipping barbarian was one to talk!
“Ardis will kill you! He’ll, he won’t stand for this…”
Daymo’s whining grated on her ears, distracting her again from the thoughts whirling in her head. She decided she’d had enough of it. She punched him in the gut so hard he fell over puking.
While Daymo tried to remember how to do things like breathe and keep his lunch inside, Zem stalked around him, glaring at the surroundings. They had picked a place in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but abandoned buildings to witness their interrogation of the man. Bristi was nowhere to be found, probably hunting mice. Aysha’s pack was standing guard up on the rooftops, hidden, but Onda and Keslin were very visible, standing nearby watching.
Technically watching to make sure Daymo didn’t get away, but mostly just watching Zemril try to get it through Daymo’s thick skull that Ardis wasn’t going to be able to help him. With his hands cuffed behind his back and his ankles chained to those, he wasn’t going anywhere.
So far Daymo had failed to understand just how much trouble he was in. He kept insisting that Ardis would find out and destroy them, that Ardis would wreck the whole town, that Ardis took care of his people. Maybe he was just trying to intimidate them, but he seemed to really believe it. She had expected an engineer to be smarter.
Maybe he would be more open to discussion once he had spent a little time absorbing the pain in his middle. She could hope.
Or she could add another dose and maybe speed things up.
She walked around behind him, took aim, and drove an armored boot right into his naked crotch.
Now he was really puking.
She waited a minute for that to settle down. Rixken had mentioned something about not torturing him. Specifically that Daymo was to come back with his nethers, and other parts, intact. But, Rixken was a naive idiot who would start an investigation into his own army in the middle of fleeing for his life, so she didn’t expect him to understand the finer points of getting information out of worthless people. People like Daymo needed persuasion. They were used to getting away with what they did, and they needed that belief torn down before they could get it through their heads that they weren’t walking away this time.
“Are ya startin’ ta get the idea we don’t care what yar boss thinks, ya child rapin’ nat? We’re in the middle a’ nowhere here an’ yar boss thinks you died in a fire. If he cares. No one’s coming, Daymo.”
Daymo whimpered in the midst of his groaning, but didn’t uncurl.
He needed another minute.
And another kick.
How about a rib, this time?
She stepped around to his side and drew back her leg again.
“What do you want?!” he gasped.
Zem put her foot back down and nodded at Onda. The Blackhair approached and grabbed Daymo by the hair while Zemril moved around in front of him and sat down on a big chunk of rubble she had found. Onda hauled Daymo up to his knees and settled him down on them. He stared at Zem, pain and fear lining his face. She imagined she was an intimidating sight, completely wrapped in sleek black powered armor, her face hidden behind a closed helmet.
Should she give him something to help him relax, now? A little humanity?
She unlocked her armored visor and lifted it up, revealing her eyes.
“Your codes, Daymo. That’s what we want.”
“My codes? For the Vorendrayg? I can’t give you those! Ardis would…”
Zem stood up and backhanded him across the face.
He shut up.
She sat back down.
“You aren’t grasping your situation here. You aren’t going to see Ardis again. Or the Vorendrayg. If you don’t give us what we want, you aren’t going ta see anything again, ever.”
He coughed. He had wet himself before. Now he did it again.
“What do I get if I give you the codes?”
“If they work? You get ta spend the rest of your days in prison.”
“Prison? For what?”
Zem raised her eyebrows.
“Are ya an idiot? You’re a pirate and a kid raper. Do ya know what the penalty is for either of those?”
“This is Akati!”
“It’s still under Imperial law, and the mayor of Lanlin handed you over ta the Preparer for judgement.”
His mouth fell open.
“Yeah. The one that’s been blowing up raiders for the past week. That Preparer. He doesn’t like folks that do nasty things ta people that can’t defend themselves.” Whether they were his enemies or in his own camp. “He wants ta cut yar head off for what you did ta all those catamites. But, because yar in a position ta help him get Ardis, he’s willing ta offer you leniency if you give us what we want.”
“The… the codes need my biometrics. I have to be there for them to work…”
Zem leaned in.
“Leave that ta us. All you need ta worry about is giving us the codes and keeping that head on your shoulders.”
She waited. Sweat ran down Daymo’s face.
“So what’s it gonna be?”
Zem pulled out her combat knife and turned it in her hand so sunlight sparkled off the edge. After a moment more of waiting she flipped it up and touched the tip to his neck.
He flinched back, but Onda caught his shoulders and held him.
“I’m on a schedule, Daymo. Gimme an answer.”
Zem traced the tip across his throat, leaving a faint red line.
Thirty minutes later Zem, Onda, and Keslin were at the Lanlin docks, on their own, wearing colorful temisilk dresses and no armor. Aysha and her pack had dropped them there with their gear and left to take Daymo back to the camp. Eventually he would go to a prison, somewhere, but for now he would be living in a cell on one of the storage trucks.
Why not just kill the stinking nat on the spot?
Granted it was a little easier to be convincing when the reward was real, but it wasn’t like he deserved honesty. Daymo or any of them. The gegging nats.
But Rixken was going to have proper trials, with evidence and witnesses–no shortage of those with twenty whores to testify against their keepers–and an official ruling. Yes. The fool was going to give every single one of them their “rightful hearing”.
And then cut their heads off. He was a proper idiot and a stickler for ‘righteousness’, but at least he wasn’t nice. He knew when someone needed a blade in them for evils they’d done. The nats from the bordello would get what was coming to them.
Just like the commanders of the Kerchaxes.
Nera’s dirty kesh! What was the pek-head thinking? How could he go after his own people? It made no sense. Except where it did. Three thousand was a lot of people dead.
When would it be her turn?
Would Rixken cut off her head too, or could she make a deal and get a pardon?
Better to just vanish if it came to that. It wasn’t like she had anything to offer.
This wasn’t that moment though. She still had all her Kai-cursed dirty little secrets, and she wasn’t about to give up yet. Finding a way through was the one thing she had that she took pride in. Unlike other skills.
What would Rixken do if he actually knew how they were planning to get onto the Vorendrayg?
Nothing smart. She was certain of it.
She looked at the Blackhairs standing on either side of her.
“Are you two ready for this?”
Onda tilted her head and arched a thin dark eyebrow. That night she had the dark olive complexion of one of the native seafolk and long brown hair bound in a complex braid that ran down over one shoulder of her tight black-and-gold two-layer dress. Skin, hair, and dress all went perfectly with her tall, slender figure.
“This isn’t our first time tricking our way past a bunch of three-legs,” Keslin said. She had a similar olive complexion, lighter to match her longer ears so that she looked like a high-tree, and rich auburn hair in a three-tailed crown braid. Her dress was leaf green, flaring low and flowing high, and complemented her fuller figure.
They looked like a pair of courtesans from the capital city. Zem completed the set with her red and gold temisilk outfit. They were ready to go to work.
The Vorendrayg sloped up and away from the long concrete walk of the port, a kring-white mountain forested with blood red guns. Zemril wanted to run away from it. She had infiltrated bases and boats and towers and palaces in her time, but this… this monster was all pain. Nothing in it was anything soft or welcoming. She hoped the men would still be the typical sort, eager to melt between her legs, and not as forbidding as their ship.
Kai forbid she ran into a pirate as dutiful and chaste as Rixken.
They approached the boarding ramp, guarded by a pair of white Girden Mk1 anchors and four men in powered armor. Ardis guarded access to his ship zealously, but he also took care of the men who had to stay behind while the others partied. Often this consisted of prostitutes hired and sent to entertain them. Apparently slaves were one thing, and professionals another.
Blackhair agents in the city had gotten them the password for that night and made sure they would show up at the right time. From the expectant stance of the guards, their arrival was not a surprise.
Zem hoped the password was right as well. She did not want to end up full of holes.
“Another bunch?,” one guard said. “Ardis is really lookin’ out for us all tonight.”
Another guard flipped up his visor, exposing hard, leering eyes.
“This bunch is nice, Nayv. These are some high end girls.”
The first guard nodded.
“Got the password?” he said.
Zem made a show of scrabbling through her small shoulderbag until she found a napkin that had the password scribbled on it in eyeliner.
“Watery toast?” she read off in a rolling fisherfolk accent. “Is that it?”
The first guard nodded. “That’s it. Welcome to the Vorendrayg, jirras.” He waved them toward the ramp.
The second guard unlocked his gauntlets and approached Zem.
“Need to search them first.”
The first guard turned his helmet to the second, then nodded.
The two remaining guards also took off their gauntlets and approached the two Blackhairs.
A pat down? Definitely an excuse. The model of powered armor these men were wearing had scanners that could easily pick up any weapons Zem might have been wearing. But she stood still as firm hands explored her body through the thin silk, all the way up, all the way down, and every place in between. Then parted the overlapping skirts of her dress and ran up the insides of her legs.
She saw where this was going. While a public performance wouldn’t kill them, she would rather avoid it if possible. She put her best smile on her face, loaded with promises of wild nights and ecstasy.
“I always like some time with a soldier when I can get it, but Ardis did say we were to see to the men in engineering first.” She loaded the word engineer with disdain. “I wouldn’t want any of you to get in trouble if we’re missed.”
The hands stopped.
She put a hand on the pauldron of the armored guard kneeling in front of her. “If you find me after your shift I’m sure we can have a good time then. I’ll be wanting a real man after seeing to all those techies.”
The guard stood up and took his helmet off, still leering at her with his hard eyes.
“I’ll be sure to do that.”
Zem let her smile go wide and hungry.
“Don’t disappoint me.”
The guards parted and let them through. As they started up the ramp Onda turned to her and said in a loud voice, “Zem, you’re insatiable.”
“I just can’t get enough of good, strong, men.”
Inside the ship some crewmen pointed them to engineering in the bowels of the ship. One tried to make off with Keslin but they fobbed him off with more excuses. When they reached the section where the primary fusion plants, capacitor banks, and computer hubs were located, a party was already going on in the break room with real prostitutes that had arrived before them.
It was exactly the kind of party the word “orgy” had been invented to describe.
They avoided it, for the moment, looking around the main control room first. There were still several engineers in it monitoring systems. They didn’t look happy about it, but if they were out here babying the computers, it was obviously important.
Zem reached into her purse and felt the biometric spoofing device the Warsisters had gifted her with, made to look like a large-screen unicomm. There would be no way to use it with people watching. They needed to get the area cleared first. Then they could hack in using one of the more out-of-the-way consoles.
The best way to get the men to leave the control room and stay out of it would be to convince them to join the party. Or bring the party to them.
Then make sure it was a raging success.
Zem looked at Keslin and Onda.
They returned the look and nodded.
Time to get to work.
Zem lay on the couch, ignoring the naked man snoring next to her, as a vision danced in her mind in which streams of people from all over the world poured after a man carrying a sword that blazed like the sun. Was she dreaming? She didn’t have time to sleep, and this was not a place to drop her guard. She shook the vision off, but the sword lingered in her mind for a long moment, confronting her. Finally she sat up on the couch naked, sore, and…
She hadn’t felt ashamed about this part of her job in a long time. Usually she just shut all internal judgements out and let whatever animal pleasure she could feel in the act take over. But not this time.
What had changed?
She scanned a carpeted room filled with couches, chairs, and tables all draped with discarded clothing and sleeping bodies and spotted Onda walking toward her, dressed again, a folded square of red and gold temisilk in her hands.
“The soporifics worked.” Onda held out Zem’s dress.
Zem took it and began pulling it on.
“They’re all under?”
“She’s hacking into the computer systems right now.”
Zem finished donning the dress and followed Onda out of the break room. The main control room was, indeed, empty. They had managed to convince all the engineers there to put their systems on hold and join in the festivities.
Kai, she wanted a shower. The feel of male hands on her skin wouldn’t leave. The sweaty stink of their bodies. How many had she…
Don’t think about it, Zem. Keep moving. Yar just doing what needs ta be done.
Keslin was tucked back in a corner, loading code into the power network and slowly working her way into everything else.
“It’s all old Imperial. My specialty. Let me have a go at it.”
Keslin glanced up, twitched an ear, then nodded.
Zem took her place and began getting a feel for the network that formed the nervous system of the Vorendrayg. After a few minutes of expanding on Keslin’s work, Zem was pretty sure she knew what to expect from the rest of the ship. Somebody in the PirGevgens’ employ had updated the software over the centuries, to a degree, but it was still essentially the same Imperial Naval operating system it had always been. That meant all of Zem’s overrides worked beautifully, allowing her to tear through most of the network defenses on the ship like cobwebs.
Thirty minutes later, all sign of Daymo’s last login was gone and they all had wide back doors to all the systems on the ship. That included automated security, which meant Zem could now switch off the intrusion sensors covering the hull in the aft-port section of the ship.
Which she did.
“That does it.” Zem smiled and stretched. “Now we can get back in.”
“Good.” Onda tapped Zem on the shoulder. “We need to get moving before anyone wakes up. Or any more come home. We’ve already been here five hours and I do not want to have to exhaust another man tonight.”
Zem nodded. Neither did she. Time to get back off the ship the way they had come in. Once they were gone without suspicion, they could sneak back in through the deactivated security perimeter with all their equipment and make a hiding place in the extensive storage bays of the ship. Of course, it would be several more hours before it was late enough to risk that, even with the stealthing on their armor, so…
“Yeah, let’s go.” She lead the way out of the control room, purse once more in hand.
Maybe she would have time to get that shower.
Oh, Kai, please.
She was certain she had never wanted one more.
This chapter is part of the in-progress serial web novel The Unbroken Blade, intended to be book one in The Shattered Empire trilogy, and features a mix of sci-fi and thematic elements reminiscent of near-future military fiction such as Gasaraki or Isaac Hooke’s Atlas series and sci-fi combat classics such as Mechwarrior/Battletech and Gundam. The story is rich with battle and conflicts of honor and conscience arising around a civil war on the forested world of Dankar, far from our own, but is primarily focused on how the main characters deal with the challenges they face, not their machines or their world. Follow this blog to receive each chapter as soon as it is released. Like and share to give me a shot of encouragement. Full chapter updates on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.