<- Back to Index
Hyperlinks in the text are intended as supplemental material, discussing elements of the science behind the science fiction. They are not intended as required reading for the story. Hyperlinks will be provided at the point in the story where it comes up, but all the links will also be collected at the bottom of the post for easy reading.
Thank you for reading! Me and my coauthor Darinost are gradually combining forces and blogs, so the joint comment section for our stories is currently located on discord! Come on in and let us know what you thought, we don’t bite.
Since the dawn of Terran civilization, the soul of mankind had always laid in a state of moral conflict, caught between two natures… between the violent, territorial primates that sought only to protect what they had, and the social creatures that worked together to ensure more safety and larger prey than any one could do alone. The birth of civilization entailed the beginning of swinging that balance towards order – towards a sense of hierarchy, of stability, and the decorum and compliance that necessitate the function of such a community. Its urbane niceties warred with ancient, older inclinations towards cunning and feral chaos.
In essence, this conflict was about the bestial versus the human. The cold-blooded versus the warm. The suppression of primal violence in favor of peace. And it was a conflict that had been raging since the very beginning of humanity.
There was a purity in surviving on the back of one’s capacity to do violence, to see every obstacle as a source of strife – to live wholly in the now with no regard for society’s norms and shackles. However, humanity had, generation by generation, chosen otherwise… the conflict slowly being won by the forces of the future. Advancements of all kinds led to a deepening of civilizations, and the need for further cooperation, which mandated a further removal of the primal past from whence mankind sprung. Now, violence, struggle, and survival were obstacles in the way of cooperation and the success it would bring. The genteelness and warmth of society slowly displaced it… for century after century after century, the most peaceful time in history to live had always been “right now.”
And in no era of mankind was this dialectic of history more pronounced than that of the Terran Federation.
The rise of the HEF, the unification of Earth, and the birth of the Terran Federation brought humanity as close to a utopia as it had ever come, and it had done it by being more cooperative than those who wished it to be otherwise. Fascist genocides, Assyrian tyranny, Medieval ignorance, and feudal despotism had all been left behind. The last vestiges of human savagery had been pushed to the very fridges, to the darkness of its allies and the dark space where pirates dwelt, the need for worse quelled by the societal titans of inclusivity and peace.
But that didn’t mean those instincts had gone away entirely.
In every era, throwbacks existed… outliers, people who seemed as if born to the wrong century. These were the individuals who seemed better suited to a zero-sum game than cooperation… people who had a hard time working with others or even caring for them. They didn’t belong with the tribalistic apes… they belonged in a territory of their own. Depending the era they might be revered as hero warriors, or they might be school children, businessmen, or workers like anyone else, but to them, their fellow pedestrians were not citizens and comrades, but rather rivals for resources. For them, the veneer of civilization was a cloak, not an evolution. These people were violent in ways that were inherent to themselves. Violence was the markers of their lives… a reminder of instincts humanity had always needed but had also – mostly – left behind.
Even in utopia, there were individuals who felt more intimately connected to death than they did with peace or stability.
Depending on the time in history, they had various names. Anti-social personality disorder. Sociopath. Cold Blooded. Kunglangeta. Bloodsuckers. And a surprising number of people that history called Great… the conquerers, enslavers, and tyrants of humanity. When a person was far enough along the sliding scale of these traits, there was no real psychological treatment for those poor souls that would let them enjoy the harmony of society. They were people born out of time, and would always be some kind of a threat to people who wanted to live peaceful, harmonious lives… but the talents these people had were real, and valuable. They had once let humanity survive in a cold and bloody world… and in the right time, in the right context, they could again. These talents were not those of heroic leadership or moral excellence that the Exalted possessed and which the HEF publicly revered, however… those of rouges and murderers… dark-cloaked assassins. They were everything that a utopia wished didn’t exist.
But just because they couldn’t form attachments easily didn’t mean they could form any… and theirs were talents that could be harvested.
While the space battle waged ferociously between the forces of mankind and those of the Kthid, one lone heat signature drifted… only barely warmer than space around it, with no engine running. It was in the wrong direction to be scanned, or so the few who knew about it hoped and was running on minimal power… just enough to keep its two occupants alive. Persephone drifted alone with her cybernetic void… not wanting to spend unnecessary computer resources of creating anything more impressive than that. Stranded within this blackened nothingness, the Exalted existed aloof from everything going on outside, save for watching sensors of the battle. Nearly every other Exalted was there… aboard one or more of the ships, all directed by Aesha, pretty much every hero of the HEF was helping in the battle. For all of that, it didn’t seem to be going very well… but Persephone sank deep, deep, deep into her endocrine control system… letting herself remain as cold and logical as she could. Even as full barrages were fired, spaceships were downed, or even the Kthid boarding parties succeeded in breaching HEF vessels did she come out of her nearly trance-like meditation.
Instead, she focused on opportunity and waited for a single order… one single command from HEF High Command. Step by step, her computer plotted an ever-updating intercept course… and in the middle of nowhere, she awaited its junction.
An electric impulse sent the signal into her digitized mind.
The time for mankind’s most covert weapon had come. The Kthid were not the only ones who could launch boarding extrusions. However, their method would come not via the blunt swing of a heavy-headed hammer, but through the sickle slashing with expert precision through their enemy’s jugular.
From several dozen spaceships drifting in the darkness, there was a tiny, almost unnoticeable engine flare that lasted only a moment, easily lost in the chaos of a battle… and several tiny ships launched for planned intercept points in radio silence and as much diversion as possible. With luck, the battle damage, drifting shrapnel, and still-burning clouds of oxygen that hadn’t dispersed enough yet would mask their approach enough to avoid detection…for just long enough…
For most of the Kthid boarding sleds, their attack on the human fleet had been a one-way trip. Slowly down and maneuvering to match the speed of the incoming ships had spent the vast majority of their fuel, and that was before they spent their troops on the human dreadnoughts, where the marines outnumbered them a hundred to one. Their attack had been win or die, claim the ship they attacked, or die trying… and most of those that had done sufficient damage died anyway, smashed to shrapnel by the Kthid barrage as their fleets passed. Fewer than one in a hundred of the boarding ships was in condition to manage to intercept the Kthid fleet again… but it was the only way home. If they could, they did.
One Kthid vessel glided through space, still leaking oxygen and smoke on the drip back towards the armada. It, like most of the casteless who had made up the volunteers for the boarding action, had come from the Death of Hope but with the ship so heavily damaged and running on fumes, it had little choice but to intercept with the first Kthid vessel it came across. For most of the docking sleds, they would attach nestled into external vents, docking portals open into the ship, but these were too heavily damaged to allow anything like that so instead they pulled into one of the hangers… a dry dock meant for landing the shuttlecraft for the elite, and occasionally for repairing ships while in flight.
The bay was protected by a series of Aegis shields, allowing an opening out into space for the ship to come in through without completely depressurizing the hanger bay. Once inside, the shield would be brought back up, and the entire bay would turn into one airlock for the remaining crew of the sled… the damaged boarding craft returning to a natal mothership like wounded birds hoping to recuperate in the safety of their parent’s nest.
It wasn’t the only one. The Empty Night had, by virtue of its positioning, been closer to the back of the fleet, and so one of the easier ships for the boarding craft to catch up with… any coming from this angle would likely encounter it first. Thousands of boarding sleds had been launched, so while thousands died a few had made it here. Soon, the ornate docking bay that usually only knew the touch of the elite’s shuttle-craft was polluted by four smoking hulks, a clutter of damaged boarding craft haphazardly strewn across its deck as best as they could. Mechanics, low-ranking members of the Engineering caste, turned up their noses at the casteless ships… but reluctantly they did move to salvage the injured vessels, either to repair them or to salvage as much equipment as could be possibly attained. Warriors emerged to take the confused casteless into custody, none of which were particularly sure of why the warriors paid them any mind at all.
Amidst the smoke, scurry of individuals, noisome engines, and occasional explosions rippling the shuttle bay, with casteless being escorted away and the annoyance of mechanics, there was a period of much mayhem and commotion. The interest and chaos, however, didn’t last long. After some initial triage, and after the casteless were all gone, the engineers had determined that a point-defense laser had caught the ship’s rear when it had turned to slow down, destroying the starboard engine and rendering the port engine only partly functional. It had led the ship to miss its intercept with the human fleet, but not destroyed it… meaning that it hadn’t lost all of its speed yet, and it had been able to limp its way back home.
The damage was fixable. In all honestly, it was practically the lightest damage a starship would expect to take at the hands of an enemy warship and be taken out of commission. They could have this one back to operational before the next battle if Huntmaster Voerash wished it… only minor repairs and it would be nearly as good as new.
That didn’t, of course, mean that the casted engineers wanted to work on it. Two disgruntled Kthid moved around the ship they had been assigned to work on. With acrimonious snarls and sneers, they circled the ship that had been stuck with. “No glory in this,” one of them spat.
“Even less so when you consider where it’s from,” the other said with a groan. “The Huntmaster may well even hold it against us that we fixed it at all.”
“On the other hand, he might like it,” the first came back. “Who can say what he and his have in mind.” He slowly raked his hand over the ship, tracing the lines around the fuselage. His nose twitched. “Do you smell that?” he asked.
The first mechanic spun a wrench in his hand as he walked around the scarred hull. The scent of ozone was strong but there was something else here too… it smelled like copper and ammonia. The dropship was built out of a titanium and gold alloy, and it shouldn’t have any solvent of any kind on it anywhere. “I think something else might be leaking…” he growled out, sniffing like a probing dog. Searching with tongue flickering and nostrils flaring, he arrived at the broadside of the ship closest to the wall. From this angle he was blocked from the rest of the docking bay’s view, echoing with its tumultuous sounds. The young engineer’s eyes fixed itself upon its metal bulk and peered intensely. Something was amiss and he knew it… something was leaking here.
“I think you’re imagining it,” the second engineer said. “I don’t smell anything.”
“Then your nose must have fallen off your face,” the first said as he traced his hand over the hull. “I know I smell someth-”
His hand suddenly distorted. The engineer looked it, confused by what his eyes were seeing. He clenched and unclenched his fist, watching a fractal pattern of his hand in the air. He moved his hand and touched metal… it bent slightly, distorting the image further… a glimmer of light dazzling before his eyes akin to sunlight reflected off the surface of the water. “What in Shau’lun’s name…” he hissed.
An almost epee-like blade sprung out from thin air behind him. It penetrated his jowls from behind, piercing right through the back of his scaled skull and into the hollow of his cranium. The engineer blinked twice in mortal confusion for a moment. Despite having his brain skewered, the young engineer attempted to scream.
The second engineer stared for a long, fatal second before he turned to run. Too long. A distortion in the air, and then three flashes of light glared with tiny, short pops that were lost in the clamor of the busy room. He wasn’t wearing an Aegis… hadn’t been prepared for violence. The engineer dropped like a stone, death taking the assassin’s victim. A vague outline of something translucent and humanoid moved quickly, before he could collapse noisily onto the ground the mostly, and the shape quietly but quickly lowered him to the docking bay’s deck without making a sound.
Sliding up next to the further away of the two engineers, it got low, braced itself, and shoved. At the contact the shimmering outline of the body flickered a bit, shimmering, revealing small glimpses of the form of a nimble, athletic blonde woman clad in skintight black and white. The optical camouflage failed for an instant where she put pressure on it, pushing the body down beneath the landing skins between the ship and the wall and as out of sight as it could get. Then she froze, invisible as the air and listening… waiting for an alarm.
“Well, that was close,” Persephone said into her ear. “Just need a few more seconds.”
Nike gave an almost microscopic smile behind her mask, knees bent, low to the ground and waiting. The camouflage rippled around her, settling back into sightless stillness. Her hair swayed behind her, shoulder-length blonde, smooth and flaxen as ground wheat. Throughout the hanger, she saw nothing moving towards her… no alarm raised, no one charging over. Clear. With the space dragon down, Nike was free to asses that her clandestine kill had gone off without a hitch.
Panting softly, the blonde slowly let herself breathe easier. The face beneath the mask and goggles was as pale and tranquil as death at its most quiet. There was an eerie sense of equanimity about it, as if every facial muscle did not contract even whence she wheezed or grimaced. It was a countenance of perpetual winter, cold and harsh, and almost like the personification of something unearthly. Lady Death brought to life… the Grim Reaper’s wicked girlfriend.
“I guess the Midgar-6’s warnings are accurate,” Nike whispered into the mask, the microphone picking it all up. The infiltrator spoke with a voice of beguiling softness while gazing down upon her prey, momentarily flicking a gaze over the equally-camouflaged hull of their single-woman ship where it remained attached to the dropship. “Kthid do not go gently into that good night.”
“But their cyber-security isn’t anything special,” Persephone’s voice spoke into her ear. “I’m in.”
Nike nodded. Good news. The portable unit that the Exalted had been in was state of the art compared to the average model, but even so its processing power was pathetic compared to their usual mainframes. If they could make a home for themselves inside the Kthid computers, “Access?” she asked.
“Limited,” Persephone admitted. “Their permissions are highly regimented. I think you’ll need to link me into other systems as we go, but I can interface with communications on the ship and from there to you.”
Straightening her back, Nike smiled. This was… fun. There was a slight stirring of some kind of emotion beneath the surface. She was the first woman in history to have infiltrated a hostile alien spacecraft, willingly, at least, but even that barely created a ripple in the coolness of her voice.
“I’m set here,” The Exalted said. “Proceed with infiltration.”
There was no additional warmness to their dialog. No conversation beyond the work. Nike didn’t like it… especially not if the conversation drifted to their relationship. The assassin liked Persephone… one of the few people she had ever been able to connect to. She did not, however, like thinking about how she was her grandmother. Adamantium-clad mental fortitude and coldness were not something that ran in the family… not everyone was damaged the way she knew she was. For their connection to function, Persephone needed to be close to her and rational, but not psychopathic… project Tartarus needed a handler.
Nike tapped the side of her mask and then shrugged both shoulders so to make her muscles limber. Then she raised her rifle.
“Excited?” Persephone asked.
“Mmhmm,” she mumbled in reply, truly without nerves. She was excited… as excited as she got, anyway. Somehow, this felt like the challenge she had been waiting for all of her life. The ultimate test of her abilities. A sense of… purpose. This was the most important thing she had ever done. This was what would… make her meaningful to the Federation. A sense of belonging, finally.
Persephone laughed. “Good! Happy hunting!”
The infiltration expert’s cloaking device covered her with little but brief flickers as she advanced, her figure almost completely invisible to anyone who happened to toss their eyes in Nike’s direction. The optical camouflage cost almost as much as a fusion reactor and it was an incredibly impressive piece of technology, completely state of the art, and top secret even within the HEF. The one-piece bodysuit was specifically tailored after Nike’s athletic figure, flexible enough to let her move but so tight that if she ate too large a meal it wouldn’t fit anymore. It molded perfectly to every contour and shapely curve, hugging onto the skin so tightly that the agent almost felt as if she was sprinting and jumping around in the nude.
The source of its camouflaging marvel were the thousands of optical sensors built into its fabric, along with literally millions of tiny polygonal pixel displays of exact geometric shapes. It allowed images in one direction to be protected in another, seemingly allowing light to bend around her nymphlike figure and so create an illusion of invisibility. There was no way to make it flawless from every direction at once. It wasn’t perfect… while it could hide her almost flawlessly when she was still, when she moved it was good but not enough to keep her completely from sight, and any protracted stare was bound to uncover anomalies. Her best bet for stealth was the same as it had been for any spy for thousands of years – darkness, and staying out of sight. Huddling by the spacecraft, she waited until one of the more violently smoking ships suffered a minor explosion, and in the resulting commotion she dashed across the hanger undetected, disappearing into enemy territory.
In the shadows deep in the Kthid computer systems, Persephone reviewed the data that they had already collected. With Nike on the move, there was some time before she needed to do anything else, and she had to be efficient with her time. The computers here were impressive, but she didn’t have full control over them… her ability to frame-jack was extremely limited. She was able to fully process information, but not able to slow down much beyond real-time. She was used to being able to rely on it to manage time. Instead, she had to live almost like a flesh and blood brain for a change.
The ship was busy. Really busy. The amount of traffic going through the computers was incredible. Encrypted, most of it… she had the machine intelligence interface working on cracking it, and running everything open through the translation software they had put together, but what she had found already was a lot. There were some things they couldn’t, or wouldn’t want to, encrypt… like the commands to the Aegis. The way it was strengthening and weakening gave information about the course and maneuvering. That was for starters.
She put the info together and sent out a tight-beam transmission back to a beacon orbiting Set III… a message that would work its way to Aesha. Along with it, she sent a single short text message. “Breach Successful,” it said. “Beginning hunt.”
Leaping athletically in a lunge, a nearly invisible Nike managed to pass right through the closing security door right before they shut behind her with a loud clamorous clank. The Kthid warriors who had passed through it and were now on the other side never saw a thing, and their heavy footfalls combined with the hissing of the closing door hid the sound, making her a ghost.
“Wow! So, this is what the inside of a Kthid ship looks like?” Persephone chuckled with amusement as Nike immediately scurried down the hallway along the pronounced floor crevices which lined its path. “The way the hallways are set up makes it look like an opium lord’s brothel. Hardly efficient spaceship design. I have a hard time believing they’re all like this. You think we’re the first non-Kthid seeing this?”
“Save for those the Kthid have captured,” Nike tersely whispered. The thought wasn’t a pleasant one… not even to someone like her. She might have difficulty forming emotional connections, but she never had difficulty determining between “friend” and “enemy and potential target.” High Command had assumed that, given that they were invading, any non-combatants or captives would be scarce aboard the enemy ships. That they would have left most of their slaves behind. If that was the case, Nike couldn’t see much sign of it.
The bastards were raping them openly.
A loud rumbling noise blared throughout the Dreadnaught alongside a light shaking akin to that of an aftershock. The space battle had long been left behind, but there would still be missiles and railgun fire coming from Set III toward the retreating ships. It could have been a partial impact from one of those, weakened by relative speeds or point defense, or maybe it just maneuvering. Either way, it was evident that the Empty Night had hardly settled into a post-combat routine for long… and even so, many of the Kthid were hard at work with their… recreation. The Kthid didn’t even seem to notice… if they weren’t actively engaged in patrolling or working a battle station, most of them were in the presence of a woman.
“How many worlds…” Persephone whispered as they passed an open door. The masked infiltrator flattened herself up against the entryway, peering inside to watch what the Kthid were doing. If it weren’t for the constant rumble of engines and artillery barrages, then Nike would easily have been able to distinguish the screams and thudding noises beforehand. Within was what appeared to be a semi-replete mess hall for some of the soldiers… alongside the spectacle of interspecies depravity. Four different beautiful and exotic-looking alien women being raped by a crowd of soldiers… obvious celebration of the end of the battle.
While some of the Kthid were busy devouring meat-rich meals, others were busy violating unknown alien lifeforms right out in the open upon the dining tables. Some were even electing to combine the two activities at once. They didn’t notice Nike as she peered into the door, almost invisible. The ship was fairly dark, and lit mostly in reds… it was good for her camouflage.
Everywhere Nike’s recording gaze went she beheld these green monsters skewering their dicks into slave women that appeared most unwilling to be their receptacles. The mass rape appeared both utterly ruthless and incredibly casual at the same time… no one seemed to be paying it any mind, really. The implication needed no analysis… this wasn’t in any way uncommon.
“My my,” Persephone exclaimed in her granddaughter’s ear. “They’re just as vile as Atalanta described! I was sure there was some kind of exaggeration.”
“And as ruthless,” Nike whispered, her voice too quiet to even emerge from her lips. The microphone was so deep against her jaw and ear that it might as well have been connected directly to her bones, though… it carried the sound perfectly. She let her goggles scan over everything, recording it… All of this had to be studied. “Those xenos they are violating. They look like… humanoids, all of them. Very close, anyway. Humanoid bodies, breasts and all…”
“I’m sure the biologists will have a fun time with that,” Persephone said cheerfully. She sounded amused, but there was a dark, sharp edge beneath the faux happiness. “If they declassify any of this, anyway.”
“So they are kept here permanently to be raped?” Nike asked.
“Even when going to war and hoping to collect new slaves,” Persephone concluded.
Nike’s focused descrying was broken as she heard the security door a ways behind her starting to reopen again… another patrol coming through. Before even the Exalted began to comment on it Nike was already moving, sprinting down the hallway and away from the torment of the aliens, just a moving blur until she crossed the nearest corner and up a sloped ramp, running up a level and away. She inwardly cursed her own lack of due diligence. That mess hall was much too close to a zone of activity for her to spy in safely. This was not a day to lapse on safe procedure… Nike needed to be as ghost-like as she could be.
Her perilous journey took Nike deeper into the depths of the massive battleship… it was unsteady progress. When the hallways were empty, she all but ran but the balls of her feet, dashing between any obstructions in the overly ornate hallways. When someone was in sight, she froze, locking herself out in place and against the walls, giving them the minimum profile of her suit to draw their eyes. She was still in active battlestations, so people moved around regularly… clearly in the process of maintenance. These here were some of the ship’s cannons… the naval artillery a set of loading tubes, missile bays, and charging stations that went on as far as the eye could see.
“All that firepower…” Persephone commented. “And this is just one of their gunnery stations. Based on what we’ve found for schematics, there are seven of these on each side of the ship. The Azteca just barely surpasses that.”
“Makes one consider if we could blow up a missile or two,” Nike purred softly as she crept along.
“Could be fun…” she said with a chuckle. “But not yet. We need to save our reveal for something a bit more consequential. Your charges aren’t going to make one of these nukes go critical, but there are more sensitive places. I don’t know if a battleship this big can be taken down wholesale by anything we can reach, but we could certainly make a big mess. Keep heading for the turbines, or the reactor. I’ll pass along this info to HEF command.”
“Acknowledged,” Nike said and rounded a corner… and a body came flying towards her.
It was too quick for thought, but when her mind failed to process the information quickly enough her training took over. Through sheer muscle memory, she brought up one hand, planted it against the coming person, and kicked off the ground as she shoved. Her hand and feet together formed a fulcrum, sending her somersaulting backward in the air by stealing some of her attacker’s momentum, letting the oncoming body pass beneath her. Her form rippled a bit at the contact, working to recover its invisibility, and an alien’s body stumbled as it passed right by her before it crashed and tumbled down to the ground. Nike hit the ground in a crouch a moment later, her suit rapidly changing as it tried to adjust.
“After her!” a boisterous Kthid voice hollered.
Nike looked down the hallways and beheld a trio of the ferocious warriors stomping towards her at full sprint. Their charge was so aggressive that she nearly jumped into full flight before she realized none of them were looking at her… they were focused entirely on the sprawled-out alien behind her. Instead of striking and killing, she ducked and rolled, moving out of the way like a pedestrian about to be run over by a car, hoping that their focus would keep them from noticing the momentary shift in the red light, and her gamble paid of – the trio passed right by her without a second glance.
“Dirty barbarian bitch!” one of them hollered before swinging their weapon, some kind of shock prod, down upon the alien who was struggling to rise. Scenes of savagery played out before Nike’s visor. The trio beat and bludgeoned a female alien which humanity had never previously encountered. Huddled together in the fetal position while jerking and screaming, surrounded by scaly green monsters, it was hard to get a good look at her, but the creature appeared to be some kind of… humanoid jackalope. Thick, curving rams horns emerged from her skull, though one of them was broken halfway. Long, pointed ears had flattened against her head, but it was easy to imagine them standing up. She was large, muscular, and when she opened her mouth to scream Nike could see pointed teeth in her mouth.
Her naked body was covered with impressively chiseled musculature… roughly human-sized but thicker and brawnier. This one’s breasts would have been the envy of sex symbols everyone on earth, firm above her rib cage, and her sunset-red hair was fuzzy and wild on her hair. It wasn’t any of these features that most caught Nike’s eyes, however… it was the innumerable burns, lacerations, and bruises that the Kthid had clearly already put onto her, even before this wave of beating. Dark purple swelling dotted her limbs and torso all over, distorting the normal shading of her skin with hematomas that bulged from various parts of her body. Every blow from the Kthid’s shocking weapons seemed designed to inflict even more of these painful, but not life-threatening, wounds.
Concerned with not being noticed, Nike moved, hiding her partly-visible body behind a statue adorning one of the walls and peeking out around it. When her vision returned to the scene, the alien woman was, to the assassin’s surprise, not crying on the ground but struggling back to her feet. She was obviously terrified, but also determined… Her human-like features made it plain to Nike that she was infuriated beyond belief to go with it.
The way she rose, however, didn’t seem to trouble the Kthid. On the contrary, they laughed as they kept shocking her. She made it up to her knees before the limbs commenced shaking like twigs. She stayed on her feet a few seconds more… but before long the jackalope alien collapsed back down into a ball, her willpower wilted asunder by the Kthid’s blows. They landed several more strikes before concluding, this whole ordeal ending with bellowing scornful laughter. When the ram-girl no longer moved, one of them clasped onto the one intact horn and commenced dragging the shallowly-breathing woman away across the floor, back the way the hunters had come.
Nike ceased being married to the wall that she hid behind, looking out across the hallway into the distance where they disappeared.
“Want to check it out?” Persephone asked.
Instead of answering, Nike moved.
“Did those reptiles look off to you in some way?” Persephone said.
“Yeah. They’re youths,” Nike responded. “Smaller than the others.”
The cloaked woman sneaked after them, following them down the winding pathway they followed… down several ramps until they entered what appeared to be some kind of training area for young Kthid. The floor was covered in sand, preventing her from going much further – as amazing as her optical camouflage was it wouldn’t stop her from leaving footprints in the sand. Within the room, these acolytes were working out – practicing wrestling, powerlifting, kinetics, and all forms of melee fighting. Snarls and the thuds of bodies jostling emanated from within as they engaged in furious context against one another, under the watchful eye of a few armored adults.
That was one thing… but some of these unblooded Kthid were busy indulging their masculine aggressions in much more visceral ways. In a human gym, this would have meant pummeling the heavy bags or other such instruments. With these caiman sadists though, they took the opportunity to beat up outmatched jackalope slaves instead. A whole slew of them was kept in dog-sized cages by the corner. Some were filled with unconscious ones, still and unmoving to the point Nike couldn’t be sure they still lived. Others were kept inside, clearly waiting to be released for their turn to be dragged into the ring.
Several of them were fighting Kthid… and young though these Kthid were the fights were like watching a heavyweight box up a much smaller, untrained opponent while throwing nothing but ferocious power blows. None of the slaves were in good shape… Most were exhausted, bruised, and worn down. The Kthid certainly showed no mercy… going for concussion-inducing headshots whenever they could, cracking ribs whenever they aimed lower. Many of the jackalope aliens were knocked down to the sand, unconscious or dazed, bleeding and helpless… but despite all the damage and the danger they were still trying to scrap, lashing out against the Kthid for all that they were worth.
“Brave of them to fight back in a situation like this,” Persephone commented across their communicator. “Their struggle is so… futile.”
“It’s instinct,” Nike answered softly. “They’re aggressive… I think they have a hard time backing down from a fight.” She shook her head. “They’re so hard-headed, it every time someone hit them they hit back.”
Persephone chuckled. “So that’s why the Kthid are beating them up… they want someone that struggles to the very end.”
Nearby to the entrance, one of the ram-girls was savagely floored, sand dispersing upon the impact which saw her lying face-down. One of the Kthid had clubbed her on the head with a staff, hard enough that it had killed off her feistiness… the woman twitching on the ground. The Kthid grinned balefully at his “hard-won victory” and then pulled out his cock from beneath the loincloth, jerking that scaly thick pole a few times until it stiffened like a weapon. With his manhood jutting, he knelt down behind her, the green monster placing his bulbous blunt cockhead against her anus and then delivering an inward shove. At first, the tanned alien gave no reaction, merely laying there corpse-stiff as he burrowed in his manhood. Then, almost at the point where he was to go balls-deep, the consequential penetration made her whole figure jerk. Her face rose groggily from the sand, minute grains falling off her forehead and chin, her eyes confused and wondering what was going on. It didn’t take long for the pain of the sodomy to set in, and sense arrived in her hollow eyes, followed by the screaming.
“Ha! So much for Mirucain toughness!” the green beast yelled while sawing into her rear, each thrust of his pelvis causing her to repeat the horrifically pained noise. The ram girls asshole shuddered every time they were violently slammed into, screaming while he yanked on her head by the horns… and while this loud, obvious, screaming rape happened, training and fights continued uninterrupted all around them as if this was beneath notice – Dozens of Kthid sparing with desperate aliens – Mirucains – while the defeated ones were turned into sex toys.
“I would say that these Reptiles are barbarians. But not sure I know any barbarians quite this blase and cruel,” Persephone commented. “At least most human conquerers paid attention to their chattel.”
Drooling between sharp teeth as he fucked his slave, the Kthid’s spin dripped down onto the backside of the downed Mirucain. There was a madness in his eyes akin to what she would expect from a rabid animal. He twisted and yanked on one of her horns like he would a doorknob and pulled it backward, yanking her head off the sand. The white-haired alien girl began screaming even louder, that youth straining his muscles as if he wanted to pull said outgrowth straight off.
There was nothing else she could do here. Silent as the shadows, Nike resumed moving. “Feeling conscientious, grandma?” Nike asked.
“Mmm?” Persephone responded, surprised by the question, and the very fact that her agent had asked it. Nike was not the moralistic type, or even the talkative type for that matter.
“I’m hearing quite a lot of judgment out of you on this mission,” Nike’s silky-smooth voice said while scurrying along seldom-passed pathways, her progress quick. Now that she had gotten away from the engineers doing maintenance, the halls weren’t quite as busy.
“You think?” Persephone asked. “These Kthid are not like humans, no? Monsters.”
“I think arguing their morality is a waste of time,” she responded.
“You really believe that?” Persephone asked. There was no judgment in her tone… just curiosity.
“Strife is a fact of life. They are here, doing what they do,” Nike whispered back as she walked, making her way up several levels until the ramp could go no further, this heading out into the next hallway. These hallways, if anything, were even more ornate. “Whether or not its moral is irrelevant. We need to stop it. Best not go too much deeper than that… best to avoid getting personally involved.”
“I think it’s hard to get too much more personally involved than being behind enemy lines, dear. I think-” the Exalted began before they were cut off by new danger interrupting them. Positioned by an intersection, Nike and her Exalted handler both heard stentorian footsteps grow near… metal-clad footsteps. This was no patrol of younglings. Nike dashed so to hide behind one of the ornate and decorate pillars that decorated the overly elaborate hallway.
“Damn his eyes,” an annoyed Kthid’s voice thundered. “Sarcand is a fool! Had he not fallen directly into that initial ambush we would already be harvesting the first crop of humans by now. Instead, all of this… and now people are going to look at this as a success. Pathetic!”
Nike leaned out just slightly from behind her cover, and while the assassin wasn’t sure what she expected to see she hadn’t expected this. The grey-green Kthid walked at the head of a column of Kthid down the hallway. He was wearing pants, but he was naked from the waist up… at least, where he had flesh and scales at all. His scales were covered in scarifications, prodigious dents, and other signs of combat, but more notable was that the creature sported a cybernetic eye and one artificial hand. Other Kthid walked beside him, speaking with him as they walked… but there was a non-Kthid in the group as well. Beside him there walked a tall, thin, crimson woman who was as covered in scales at the Kthid were. Her tail, however, was unlike theirs… broad and strong and covered in spines like a porcupine.
“And the casteless from the boarding sleds, Huntmaster Voerash?” one of the Kthid asked. “What do you want to be done of them?”
“Filth from Sarcand’s line,” the angry Kthid growled. “Doubly cursed casteless, worthless seed from a worthless seed. Toss them into the reclamation vats for all I care.”
The invisible woman remained glued to her pillar as the column passed her by. In a rare sign of nerves, Nike felt her heartbeat quicken. “Damn. Now that’s one monster of a Kthid,” Persephone spoke as they were out of reach.
“Indeed,” Nike answered, feeling almost like she had encountered a mythical Leviathan.
“Huntmaster appears to be a command designation,” Persephone added. “It seems like that behemoth is the very Captain of the ship.”
“And Sarcand, according to our files, is the attacker of the Midgar-6. It looks like there might actually be something to the sowing-division plan High Command is pursuing,” Nike said with a tiny grin. “I think he’s going to be awful furious after we find something to blow up with these bombs of ours.”
“I’m going to update High Command on what we’ve seen. Continue heading right on the passageway. That should head back towards the center of the ship… we’ll likely find reactor control ther-”
The Exalted’s voice was suddenly cut out, overruled by a burst of rippling static.
Nike wasn’t accustomed to fear, but her heart sped up further with a surge of panic. She also wasn’t accustomed to her handler disappearing on her in the mission. “Persephone,” Nike whispered harshly, instinctively covering one ear. She did her best not to raise her voice, but the words came out hard. All she could hear through her headphones was rumbles and tumult, static and roar.
“N-ke,” Persephone’s voice came in from the other side, mostly occluded by the loud static.
“How bad is it?” Nike asked. “What’s going on?”
“It’s n-t-… Secur-y sc-… breaching ch-…” a distorted voice answered. “Un-… -ship is-… -iscovered. Proce-”
Nike grimaced. She couldn’t hear much, but what she heard made it obvious that the ship’s computer systems had detected an intruder. Communications were being disrupted. Nike had faith in Persephone to get control back… but the idea of being alone in an alien environment was concerning. It was a tense few seconds before Persephone’s voice came back. “There. Better.”
“Under control?” Nike asked.
“Automatic lockdown process,” the Exalted said. “They know there is a malicious program in the system but not where or what, or that we specifically are here. Consider us on a clock.” She clicked her tongue. “Let’s move.”
Grimly, Nike continued prowling forward.
The prodigious humming of one of the reactors was now loud inside Nike’s ears… the static in the air was caused by the powerful Aegis fields containing nuclear plasma. She had passed corridor after corridor to make it to these critical areas of the ship, passing horrific sight after horrific sight. She hoped that as she moved away from the corridors populated by the general soldiers and into the secure engineering section that there would be less of that… but the only sound louder and more pervasive than the humming of the reactor system were the cries of alien women in peril.
It… bothered… Nike.
She tried to dismiss that feeling, sneaking up to an opened door and gazing inside to find yet another gang rape in progress. The only difference between this gang rape and the previous ones she had witnessed in the earlier sections was the level of sophistication and organization, and that other people continued to work around it. Professionally-working engineers existed alongside guffawing Kthid rapists using several alien women of various species. One looked like a humanoid race of pink and violet moths. Others looked paler, like vampire bats. Many of these Kthid spoke to one another, practically ignoring the torment of their victims as they spoke to one another. stood by the side and beheld the spectacle that was their torment, hollering jeers and insults as it occurred. From these comments, Nike and Persephone’s translation missed out on two words that it flagged as species names… “Umbral” and “Rosterian,” so at least their suffering had a name.
Had a member of mankind happened upon these creatures outside the context of Kthid enslavement, then these first contacts would have given some credence to the religious cult’s insistence on demons from the stars. Both girls could have almost passed for human at first glance… their features were both very similar to that of a naked human woman. The differences from there, however, were striking. The moth girls had enormous, delicate-looking wings with bright eyes on them, clawed, inhuman feet, and antennae and tails. They were in bright colors and their hair was equally bright, usually the same shades as their wings and tails, and they tended to wear their hair loose and down their back.
The bright colors made the Rosterians a sharp contrast with the other race, these… Umbrals. They looked suspiciously like demons in the classical tradition, with huge, pale bat-like wings which jutted from their otherwise very humanoid frames. However, instead of a skin color that lay in a hellish crimson or Tartarian black, these aliens were thoroughly white-skinned from top to toe, with hues almost approaching the shade of chalk or skeletons. Their hair was of an even whiter shade still. Both of them in the room had it in long braided ponytails that traveled all the way down to their tailbones, which sported actual tails – long enough to reach the ground and finned.
Their silhouette made them resemble demons – most specifically, that of a predatory succubus. All of them were statuesque and voluptuous without exception, not one lacking a finely-formed body, not one of which was not far taller than the average Human woman. They were, in fact, almost tall enough to match the Kthid in height, though even with their muscular builds they were still so slim that the comparative body mass was far off.
“Look at their eyes,” Persephone noted.
Nike did. Their pupils were like tiny bloodstones, their redness was so deep as to match the unmistakable sight of fresh blood. It wasn’t the only set of eyes, either. They had other small slits in their face that resembled those of a pit viper, minor enough to barely be seen but obvious enough that her goggles drew instant attention to them. The computer analysis labeled them as likely some kind of heat sensor… and based on how narrow the pupils were on the Umbrals Nike took them to be used to the darkness. They also sported two slender sets of ears, with the upper slightly larger than the lowers.
There was only one of the moths, busy sucking off one of her captors as a diversion while he worked at a console. The small group of Umbral women formed the majority of the victims here, and the light was being used to torment them. Some of the green-grey Kthid carried bright lights and used them to point at the woman’s eyes, showering them with illumination so strong and stark to make their skin appear to turn stark white. The winged females’ reaction made it perfectly clear that her assumption about them evolving in darkness was right – at the touch of that light the collection of women hollered while trying to scramble away, desperately trying to protect their eyes most of all. The sounds they made were like they were being fried under the light, the pain all-encompassing and acute. Nike didn’t think it burned them or anything like that, but being as sensitive as they were even normal light must have been uncomfortable for them. These klieg lights the Kthid carried were absolute torture, to the point that they barely noticed the Kthid cocks inside of them… which isn’t the say the Kthid didn’t notice the way they tightened up.
“These creatures,” Persephone said, her voice angry. “They make the rams fight. They hang them by their wings. They torture these with light. The Kthid seem to take delight in finding what makes their captives special to use it to hurt them the most.” The Exalted was horrified, and furious.
“EEEEIIIIIIIII!” a sharp, shrill shriek came from one of the women as the Kthid grappled her, forcing her hands away from her head. Hefting that klieg-light one-handed, he manipulated that ray so as to graze against her face, and she reacted as if acid had been poured upon those ruby-like orbs, screaming as he continued to bounce her on his length.
Nike felt she was beginning to share the Exalted’s anger and disgust. It unnerved her… but, secretly, it also pleased the assassin. It showed her that there were thresholds. That there were levels of heartlessness and evil that were beyond her. The Sethis were… in most ways… just like humans, exhibiting the same sentiments and societal impulses. They were just like people – despite their unique quirks, they were in most ways much closer to a normal human than Nike was. It was… an uncomfortable fact of her life she had needed to learn to live with. Learning of cruel, cold, sadistic alien conquerors had triggered some worries in the depths of the elite killer’s mind… a concern that she would find herself to have far more in common with them than she did her own people. That the same things that made her not fit in with the Federation’s society would be things that linked her to the Kthid. It was… comforting… to know that that was not the case. That even at her worst she was still far closer to human than they were. “We cannot dally here any longer,” Persephone said finally. “We have the races recorded… we need to move. Hurry, Nike.”
Without argument, Nike took sprint. “There are… a lot more civilian casualties on these ships than we were lead to expect,” she said as she ran.
“Yeah…” Persephone said slowly, dragging out the words. “There are.”
A lot more collateral damage.
It was a fact of war in space. They didn’t have the ability to be surgical. The kind of destruction that would cripple a ship was likely to kill indiscriminately from those on board. The HEF, in their desperate struggle to hold on, couldn’t afford to let the Kthid use their hostages as shields.
But in wholesale slaughter, how much better would they be?
Nike was used to certainty. This kind of doubt wasn’t something she was used to, and she was even less comfortable with it.
“They found the ship!” Persephone suddenly cut in.
Nike skidded to a stop, leaving behind a cut-out segment of the hall that was likely meant to let heavy equipment pass. “Persephone?” she asked.
“Our cloaked intrusion ship… they found it. They know we’re aboard. Computer systems just went to red aler-” The Exalted cut off suddenly. No static. Just dead air.
“Persephone?” Nike whispered.
No reply came.
A siren began to wail through the hallways, and just then Persephone’s voice was back. “Run!” she shouted, her voice a pained scream. “Under attack! I… What the hell?! Nike, I’m trapped in some kind of simulation… I can’t access any of the alarm systems anymore. The communicator is starting to get sectioned off, too…” her voice trailed off. “…There’s something else here. Oh, fuck. Get away from m-”
“Persephone!” Nike said, perhaps a bit too loudly. She was filled with the fright of not knowing how to proceed. Boarding this alien vessel had been a less nerve-wracking experience than waiting as her handler got suddenly cut off… All she could do was repeat her grandmother’s name. The images couldn’t help but fill her head, a perfect visualization of the scene inside her head. The blonde, red-glowing woman was trapped like any number of other captives they had seen while furious reptiles stormed around her, discovering the intrusive Exalted in their systems.
“Persephone! Persephone get out of there, do you hear me!? Disconnect. Pull out and run. Persephone, pull ou-!”
A sound came over the communicator then… a horrible sound. Hearing it, Nike earnestly wished that she had not witnessed so many scenes of the Kthid violating their slaves throughout her voyage through the Empty Night… Not having such a comprehensive mental picture of what it involved would have been more merciful. The shadowy Assassin had managed to – mostly – keep possessed of her calm while watching the horror happening to others… and not her handler. She could hear it as, distantly, Persephone struggled. Then the sounds of pain began. The slovenly panting of the attacking simulation likewise carried through the feed, marking out his lust for both flesh and blood.
“Let… go… of me!” Persephone’s voice came, almost unrecognizable. Too distorted, to distant to be real, to be human. Nike knew what was happening… knew it shouldn’t have been possible. One of the Exalted should have been safe. “No, no, no, NOOO!”
Then there were just screams.
Uncommunicative from the pain, all Nike was allowed to hear were distorted, static-filled shouts of agony. Whatever security process had locked her into a simulation was built to attack a digital lifeform, and the process by which it would do so was clear as day to the assassin. Persephone was… was…
Her screams went hollow — as if being strangled — then she gasped with acute shock. A Kthid howled back like a primitive monster achieving his victory, his ferocious snarl of dominance overruling her noises of pain. Then there were more guttural sounds, short bursts of air being expelled by the simulated Persephone as she was slammed, as if they were being driven physically from her body… and it was accompanied by meaty, thudding sounds of impact.
“NIKE!” Persephone shouted. “Finish the mission! Blow it u–EEEYYYAAAHHH!” she bellowed, overtaken with pain.
“Persephone!” Nike shouted back. She leaned against the wall, listening in horror to the sound of her friend, mentor, handler, and confidant being raped, unable to see it, unable to help, only able to listen… but Persephone said nothing more. Standing stock-still and lonesome within the corridor, Nike was flooded with the indescribable horror of losing a family member. She did not know how to take it. All her life she had dealt with killings and murder. They had all been so clinical and professional. This was something else entirely. The conflict had hit her in the one place she had never expected it to hit. Persephone…
She remembered what Persephone had mentioned earlier. Concerning the morality of the Kthid. How she saw them as monsters and how Nike had claimed they were just another mission. She had claimed it shouldn’t be personal.
It felt awfully personal, now.
Nike wasn’t sure how long she hid there, listening in horror, before her mind re-engaged and she realized that they might be able to track the broadcast. She immediately cut her receiver out, opening an access panel on her headset and physically tearing out the cable to prevent any power from reaching it. The transmission broke instantly… Where there once had been voices and the sound of horrific rape there was now only static, an electric humdrum signifying nothing… and a second later there was not even that.
But the silence didn’t help. Nike knew. Somewhere, helpless in the darkness of the Kthid’s computers, Persephone was still being raped.
The assassin dashed onward.
The sound of the reactor area was loud enough now that Nike just had to follow the sounds… the buzzing felt like it was rattling her skull. Carefully, she peered into its interiors, attempting to espy any guards or engineers attending to its functions.
Finding none, Nike repeated the look around, gazing down the scope of her lifted rifle.
Not a soul.
The hair on the back of her neck raised.
The ship was… populated. Extremely populated. There had been Kthid everywhere, working on everything. Finding unoccupied areas for any reason, anywhere, had been a challenge. Now, here she was in a critical engineering section… and there was nobody?
Something was off.
Where were they? The Kthid were an alien civilization, doubtless with their own priorities and psychology, but Nike had a hard time believing they were so different that they wouldn’t understand the importance of safeguarding such a critical part of the ship. Perhaps the Kthid wielding klieg-lights that she had just passed were the engineering crew? On a recess torturing helpless aliens, away from where they were supposed to be? That was one explanation, she supposed… but it didn’t track.
Ambush. Had to be. But as she looked around… nothing came at her. She could see no threats. Nothing reacted to her presence. And the target was right here…
This was an ambush. This was certainly an ambush. But if she had already been detected… how long could she go without being found? The optical camouflage only had juice for another hour or so. Could she find another critical target in that time, while they were trying to hunt her down? If they had found her here, would she even be able to reach another critical target?
This had to be a trap… but grimly Nike realized the joke might be on them – the best way through their trap was for her to spring it, fight through it, and succeed anyway.
Based on guesswork, the ship had four fusion reactors. One of them was right here, right in front of her… and truly enormous. It was connected to a huge latticework of vents, gears, and thermal facilities that it used to turn the heat of fusion into usable electricity, the turbines that powered the ship. If she broke then, she would have cut off one leg of the vessel. If she could find a way to rupture the Aegis containment, she could probably shatter the ship, instead. The Kthid armada would lose one of its battleships for no expenditure of Human materiel.
Silently, Nike reached into the pocket on the edge of her legs and pulled out one of her charges, stepping into the room and towards the turbine array. If there was a critical point to disable, she would find it there. One by one she swept her gaze over the machinery as she invisibly walked between them, evaluating each for its potential for destruction and waiting tensely for an ambush that still wasn’t com-
Nike sensed something above her. She wasn’t sure what it was – there was no sound to serve as a clue… but something was coming. She lunged forward, flinging herself away, looking up as she did… and caught a glimpse of her doom where it dropped from a precarious perch among the turbines, a nearly suicidal place for a person to stand. It wasn’t one of the Kthid, however – it was that crimson-colored reptilian woman from before. Her white hair fluttered around her face as she dropped, and Nike had a moment to recognize that she had a digital visor over her eyes, no doubt something tuned to see her detect thermal signals instead of optical ones.
Nike dodged out of the way 99%. Even attacking from ambush, even attacking from a place no sane person could come from, Nike’s reflexes were sufficient to send her sailing out from the attack almost completely… but only almost. The baton the alien carried, one that looked like the Kthid’s shock lances that they used on the Mirucains, swung out and missed her… but the alien lashed out with her tail as well. Nike launched into a backflip that arched her back away from the lance, and then pushed off into a spiraling jump that should have let the tail sweep beneath her, save for the one spine that caught her leg. The razor-sharp spine drew a visible line of blood as it parted the optical fabric, creating a tear in the perfection of her illusion… Her suit was built for stealth not combat, and so offered little protection against harm.
The alien hit the ground lightly and lunged for Nike again, and the assassin was forced to raise her rifle to deflect the shock-lance. The crimson alien twisted her wrist at the hit, locking her grip, and sending the rifle tearing from the blonde’s fingers… she had to dance backward yet again as that tail lashed forward again, and again, and again…
The alien’s fighting style was… odd. There was no weight to it, no commitment. It was almost more like a dance as they engaged in hand-to-hand combat… Nike’s blows actually hit harder than hers did. It was almost like it was a sparring style… and it took about thirty seconds and four more scratches in her outfit for the numbness to begin to spread, and for Nike to realize why that was. The alien’s combat style was so non-committal because it didn’t have to be… she was relying on light touches only, because the poison would do the hard work for her.
Nike retreated in a circle, looking to prevent herself from being skewered by additional venomous slices from the crimson alien’s tail… but she was growing slower. The assassin had sparred in hand-to-hand combat with hundreds of veteran warriors, but this woman… she was good. More experienced than Nike was, more experienced than any person Nike had ever fought. When she thrust forward again with the shock lance, this time, Nike’s venom-numb reflexes weren’t quick enough to get her out of the way. She stumbled instead of launching herself into another flip, and the instrument stabbed into her just above her right breast. High voltage ripped through her body like a wave of sizzling agony, and her whole figure became enshrouded with rippling electricity. Her suit began to short out, flickering on and off as it tried to reboot from the electrical interference, making it seem like Nike was fading in and out of existence.
“…Bitch…” she growled through girded teeth as she jerked backward and away… and the red-skinned alien just looked at her, almost expressionless. Its purple eyes only narrowed, and it offered no further reply. The reaction was eerie. Somehow, despite communicating nothing tangible or concrete at all, Nike knew that this xeno drew some level of satisfaction from having succeeded, from having caught her… a slave she might be, but she had accomplished something that she was good at. It was like the cold pleasure the Reaper himself would feel at doing his deadly business. Nike recognized a glimpse of herself in the alien’s eyes.
Her suit shuddered and died at last, optical circuits giving up completely. Rills of smoke rose from Nike’s figure as the alien advanced on her with the shock lance again. This time, Nike deflected it away, only to take two more scratches from the alien’s tail. Then, as she reeled back from that, its shocking tip caught her in the stomach and, practically lifeless, she fell backward, shaking and stiff as a board.
She couldn’t… fail… like this… Nike fought for consciousness as darkness clawed at the edges of her victim, and her whole body tingled with numbness as the venom sank in. “I…” she whispered. “Can’t… f-”
When Nike came to she was in the midst of the beeping and pinging of processing computers. She tried to raise her head… it was a challenge. Her neck felt numb and muscleless as she gazed groggily around, taking in the room. The chamber looked almost nothing like the interior of a spaceship… it looked more like a temple. The walls were covered in bas reliefs carved in stone, the sheer expense of which must have been incredible. There were plenty of Kthid moving around the spacious chamber, all manning some console or attending to some function, relaying orders through communicators. This was a busy place, but somewhat private, more ornate than any public command center despite the holographic displays that displayed the solar systems and the arrangements of the fleet. Even in her stupor, Nike recognized that she was in some private command center of the Empty Night.
“Ah. You are awake. My Heitera did excellent work,” a balefully deep Kthid voice growled.
Hefted in between two Kthid which held onto her arms, Nike watched as that tall carmine-colored alien woman walked over to a luxurious throne, and held herself up before the malachite-grey monster seated upon it. He was large enough to be a titan, even without the terrifying mechanical augmentations he had to replace his injuries. Even while beholding the world in her daze, Nike could recognize the monstrous shape of Voerash, the Huntmaster of the ship.
The enthroned commander presented his feet. Dropping to her knees, the crimson alien pressed a kiss against his instep. Despite her great success in capturing the infiltrator, the slave still presented her submission in the lowest way possible. With the ceremony completed, the venomous alien slid aside to present Nike fully before his gaze. “Bring her over,” he ordered.
Nike felt herself lifted off the deck, carried towards his enthroned presence. Something seized ahold of the mask which shielded her face and pulled, unveiling her death-pale visage and disheveled blonde strands of hair about it. Only when Nike felt the hot humid breath of his nostrils fume against her face did she fully snap back into alertness. Her only question, croaked through an enfeebled throat, was “How?”
Voreash’s mechanized eye zoomed and then retracted, expanding slightly out of its sunken eye socket, the artificial pupil observing the minutia of her visage with absolute keenness. It was not a mimic of its biological counterpart. The creature had the eyesight of a machine… and Nike grimaced at her own stupidity and failure. How had she not foreseen this? Who knew how many spectrums it captured visual data in?
Voerash’s tongue slithered out from its pit and licked at his alien lips, a threatening growl leaking from his mouth. “I was intrigued when I noticed one of the Human scum had infiltrated my ship,” he said with glittering eyes, and Nike realized that it wasn’t coming from her own translation software anymore… now it was a second set of words over the Kthid growl, coming from a speaker somewhere on his body. “Ever since that mutt Sarcand presented your kind before the Sunbreakers, I have been curious what I would do with the first one of you I got for myself… and when that bastard isn’t here to take pride from it I have to admit you are a very lovely specimen.” He lunged forward, his sharp teeth brushing against her as his long tongue jutted forward to drape against her grimacing visage, coating it in slime.
“Y-You bastard!” she wheezed.
Having seized her mask with his mechanized hand, Voerash crushed that plate as if it was brittle as glass. With his biological counterpart, he seized Nike by the throat and took control of her, the other two Kthid backing off. “Some Kthid find defiance from lesser creatures amusing. I find it endlessly tiresome. You made a grave mistake in trying to sabotage my ship. For that, you will suffer. I will make you the first human to continue my line,” Voerash promised her.
“T-This is for Persephone!” Nike croaked, bringing up her hand which hid the spring-loaded blade before his skull. With a mere flick of her wrist, its dagger propelled outwards and sharpened steel lanced outward. Casteless, Engineer, or Captain, any would die the same at Nike’s hands…
Only he was faster.
She hadn’t seen him move before her wrist was broken and hanging from one of his fists, the blade off to the side of his head as his eyes snarled at her. “What,” he spat, “did I just tell you?” Voerash’s mechanized hand seized the prong of the blade and then broke it in half. Without even a grunt of effort, he ripped the blade’s harness from her hand, disarming her. “I’ve survived better attempts than that to kill me,” Voerash growled at her. “You think I could be killed so easily? Only the Dark Star can kill a being like me.”
The calm confidence with which he said it sent glacial chills through Nike’s body. If there was a single thing that her profession had taught her then it was that anyone could be killed and done so much easier than a normal person would assume. Here stood a behemoth who thought himself unkillable… and it looked like she wasn’t going to be in any position to prove him wrong anytime soon.
His hand found the top of her bodysuit, claws digging beneath the edges, and then began tearing downward. Nike yelled as he commenced ripping off her clothing, mirroring the cries she had heard from Persephone when the Exalted had been captured before her. Nike was horrified by the baleful irony… She may be one of mankind’s most skilled operatives and assassins, but in the hands of a titan like Voerash the Huntmaster she was just another female victim for his pleasure. She had seen what the Kthid did to their slaves… Now she was going to be one of them.
She tried to struggle but her efforts were weak compared to his muscle as Voerash stripped her of the high-tech infiltration suit. The pale nakedness of her figure was unveiled for his uses just as her face had been. Though squirming and sprawling with all the nimbleness of her super-fit body, Nike could not free herself of him. The expert Assassin found her pussy bared and her breasts allowed to bulge freely in short order while, around her others watched. She had come here to kill and destroy and now she was another one of the playthings that she had been observing throughout her journey.
While handling her with ease, the Huntmaster also pulled out his imperial manhood. “You tried penetrating me with that needle-thin blade,” he said. “Let’s see if my pillar manages any better!” The boast compelled Nike to look down towards his crotch, and it was… alarming. The sight was terrifying because there was no chance that was going to fit inside of her. His scaled cock possessing the thickness of her arm was jutting up at her and placed so close to her taut pink pussy it was an obscene comparison. Throughout all her life, Nike had thought herself unflappable, a woman with nerves of steel. Now she found that rape could fill her with a different kind of fear!
Then he slammed her down.
“AGH!” Nike thundered and threw her head back with pain as she felt something rip all at once, and his dick only pushed a little way into her. In a second, Lady Death had turned into a maiden defiled. Unlike her subtle ways, the Kthid assault was an entirely blunt and straightforward weapon. He did not try to wiggle that enormous cock into her pussy… instead, he simply rammed the two organs together with all the power he had.
“Mmm… you scream like any other bitch,” Voerash mocked. “You cried the name Persephone when trying to kill me. Who is that?” the Huntmaster questioned as he fought to impale Nike upon his cock with savage force.
“Y-You bastard!” Nike shouted, her unflappable pose gone. Such a simple curse was all she could use to communicate her hatred, a sudden visceral rage.
“Ah! Someone close then! A lover? Your kin? No doubt dead. Pity. I always like breaking in family members in tandem,” the Huntmaster said, still grinding her cunt against his groin via a handhold of her hips. The voluptuous woman was like a doll to him, one that he could use or manipulate however he wished.
“AAAAAGH!” Nike bellowed, feeling as if her lower body was being ripped apart. She was no stranger to pain but this felt as if being ripped apart down the middle! When her cunt-lips separated to encompass his cockhead, it was if her two hips were moving apart alongside them. Voerash had no patience with making her adjust to his size – He was going to get his dick into her even if it ended her life. Were she a less athletically gifted woman then it very well might have.
“I’ll! Kill! Yo-EEEYYYYAAAHHH!” Nike kept shouting, her ferocious promise ended upon being slotted onto his cock! With a sickeningly gnarly sound her vagina was torn open so as to allow his enormous dick to enter, and once it broke through it didn’t stop. His iron-hard cock smashed instantly against the entrance to her womb with gigantic power, signifying what she was going to be used for from now on. Though skilled in all the deadly arts of murder, Nike was now just a rape victim at his command.
“Seems my blade is the more formidable!” Voerash commented upon achieving his triumph, the assassin’s cunt snugly wrapped around his engorged manhood. Promptly, the Huntmaster began yanking her up and down on him, and due to the length of his tool, the movement forced Nike’s body to bounce on his body. Her breasts swayed with every bob and the impacts against his lap were so thunderously hard that all air was knocked from her lungs. This happened over and over, making her feel as if about to die. This wasn’t sex… it was merely an outright brutalization of her vagina. He was thrilled by it. His blonde-haired plaything, meanwhile, was almost silenced by the breathlessness of the assault, only tiny grunts of agony accompanying the damage he was doing to her. Nike could not prevent herself from suffering the fate of a war-captive woman… her lot being made a copy of that of all the extraterrestrial slaves that she had observed.
Besides them, the scarlet-scaled alien woman knelt down by the side of his throne. With legs doubled under her, she sat in absolute silence, unfazed by the savage rape happening before her eyes, motionless like a perfectly trained pet. The other Kthid likewise treated this as an everyday occurrence. Though central in the command bridge, Nike’s suffering was just a normal part of the scenery, one more decoration in the ornate chamber.
“Order the maneuvers back into formation,” Voerash ordered while bouncing Nike, his voice practically purring with pleasure. “This battle is over. I’ll be busy for a time enjoying its spoils.”
Nike had no idea for how long she had been rebounding off Voerash’s groin before it ended. An hour. Two hours? With her visage directed toward the status screen, the only way she had of telling time was the bounces on his cock and watching the spaceships moving through space. It felt like an eternity. The pounding ride she took left her thoroughly coated in her own sweat and dizzy with exhaustion, and her womb seemed brutalized beyond any point of recovery.
Voerash grunted as he enjoyed her, filled with masculine lust. Gods alone knew how long had passed before gooey, super-hot jizz came spurting into Nike’s womanhood. Feeling its high-temperature sting was the confirmation of her failure – She had arrived here as a personification of death and had now been made just another outlet for Kthid sexual aggression. Voerash kept skewering her even as he orgasmed, keeping up the savage mating damage even while squirting her full of his impregnating seed. The assassin could practically sense her own uterus being colonized by the alien warlord even as the extra spilled outward to make a mess of the rest of her.
“Pe-Persephone,” she wheezed, laying collapsed against the Huntmaster’s chiseled muscular chest. Even now the Assassin’s thoughts were with her handler, the Exalted who shared her fate somewhere deep in the Kthid computer systems. Were they even aware of her? Would she be pulled out of her endless simulated prison? Or would they simply leave her there?
What had been her last words? To complete the mission? Nike had failed to do even that. She could not be the avenger that Persephone had trusted she would be.
Unfamiliar feelings swarmed throughout her chest and her belly. The tragedy of not having been there for the only person she had ever managed to connect with. In that second, she felt even less like a human than ever. “You came here to take the life of the Kthid,” Voerash growled into her ear. “I promise you now… at my Heitera, you will spend the rest of your days birthing them instead, Human filth.”
He tossed the beaten assassin to his feet, and quickly several other soldiers gathered her up. “Take her to my chambers and have her await me there,” the Huntsmaster ordered. “I believe she was taken with a rifle, correct? Disarm it. Then see how far up her asshole you can shove it before it breaks. When I return, we will see how talented her mouth is at persuading me to remove the weapon.”
Nike would have liked to object… but no one cared what Lady Death had to say. She was dragged away, beaten, and left to her fate…
For more details of the Events Aboard the Empty Night, you can read the story here.
2 thoughts on “Event Horizon – Chapter 14 – The Empty Night”
Well, to be fair, this is what happens when you don’t clean out the fridge often enough. Trust me, I know.
I actually just couldn’t think of a good intro for this review, so I went with that (and so help me if I have company over, I will label my leftover containers “the last vestiges of human savagery”, just in case anyone decides to read said labels). The intro is genuinely really cool, the almost mythical description of sociopaths that leads well into the introduction of Nike and Project Tartarus.
And wouldn’t you know it, you got a sexy assassin into the Dark Star universe. 😉
Sociopaths are a potentially interesting writing challenge, since they can be as close as one gets to writing an alien creature. Mind you, if you tick every single box on the ASPD checklist, they tend to come across as flat characters, fine as villains but less so as protagonists. Having said that, not every one of them will exhibit every trait, and even for those traits exhibited, they exist on a sort of sliding scale, so people with some of the traits, to a greater or lesser degree, make for a fascinating read. Moral sociopaths are especially compelling, because most of us are guided in our moral explorations by our empathy. Someone who is missing her empathy “sense” has to ponder morality in a very different way, like a blind person learning how to paint.
On that subject, I recall you expressing some worry about having made Nike too “soft” for lack of a better term. In my opinion, I think you balanced Nike fairly well within the confines of the narrative. To explain, I think the character as established (deficient empathy, feels emotions at a lower level, and has only the one strong personal bond) and the setup (Nike is normally extremely detached inured to horror, but being on a Kthid ship starts to get to her) are both quite good, but the execution is limited somewhat by the narrative, or rather, how Nike has to fit into it.
For this to land perfectly, I think we would need to show Nike at her baseline, exposed to or doing something horrific, and not really reacting to it. Then, before the mission to the Empty Night while learning about the Kthid, she may worry about whether she is more like them than like other humans, showing, ironically, a layer of humanity previously unseen with her. Then the third stage of this little arc would be her on the Night, and would play out more or less as it does here. This is constrained by how Nike fits into the narrative, however, because she has to be revealed right here, in this chapter, meaning we are not permitted her “baseline” chapter or her worries surfacing earlier. The arc is thus condensed, and I think that may be what you’re sensing when you think you wrote her too soft. The arc is actually fine, it’s just happening in a single chapter rather than a series of them.
It might be worth revisiting Nike in the future, should an idea strike you, perhaps with a short side story or something.
At any rate, moving on…
For just a moment, I thought she was talking about the Sons of Adam, and wondered if they’d ever said anything about aliens. However, for all that they’re important to the story, I realized this was something of a callback to the lore entry for the Void Tracer, and “the religious cult” for Nike might be something completely different.
Speaking of the star demons, it is always cool to be part of a shared universe, and aside from the Umbral cameo, it was interesting to see the new moth aliens. I don’t think these came up in the chapter with the Sunbreakers. The setting continues to expand. Slayer also has an absolutely badass scene here, dropping down from the ceiling like a ninja.
I also get insanely jealous of how you write Voerash. He always seems so cool when he pops up in your work. I mean, he’s a monster, but he has a wonderful sense of presence here, and while I don’t want to retread old ground, he shows he’s capable of restraining himself and choosing not to act when the situation calls for it.
Anyway, sorry this took so long!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you IBD 🙂