Event Horizon – Chapter 16 – The Depths

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.

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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.

Anna ran like a mouse through a maze, her heart galloping, her mind dazed with confusion and terror, her desperate gaze affixing itself on every labyrinthine twist and turn. The raven-haired scientist’s sprint took her from dismal passage to dismal passage, taking her through the lowermost quarters of the Death of Hope – the dwelling place of the casteless. When she had been cast down here, she had known that the casteless lived a lowly existence, but she had no idea just how dismal – this area constituted a wretched hive of desolate and godforsaken corridors, chambers, and broken segments. Unlike the palatial vastness of the upper decks where those of proper rank and property lived, these halls were cramped and dark, dirty and hostile, vile and smelly, the living space of the damned. Trash littered the floor where it had practically rained down from above or simply been left and no had no one bothered to reclaim it. Mere exile within this place was the punishment for her slighting him… and it was so much worse than she had been expecting when Charnametros had doomed her here.

Anna thought that she would be able to find her son. That she would be able to get some of the answers she wanted. God, she felt stupid now. Down here, women were in short supply relative to above. Here, the casteless took what they could get, aggressively swarming over any victim they could find. Currently, the small-figured doctor was doing her best to escape from a group of rabid aliens. A few days ago, that never would have been possible… it would have been impossible to get away. This part of the ship had been every bit as crowded as the area above. As of a few days ago, though, a large majority of the casteless down here had been called up and collected to go into battle, and it mean that there was some chance of escaping… if she ran like she had never run before. She had no idea if they were still on her tail – her last sighting of them had been long since gone, but all she could do was keep going, keep looking for somewhere to hide. Compounding Anna’s alarm was the apprehension of potentially bumping into more scaly green devils behind every crook and corner – There seemed to be no end to this feeling of pursuit and lurking evil. So she kept on scurrying without any ability to tell where or in what direction she was heading, a lost soul in hell.

There was no time for thought, orientation, planning, or even a centering of her focus. The doctor just kept heading onward in the quickest direction she could find in the blind hope that it would increase her safety, looking for any. Meanwhile, the very floor seemed to vibrate with the power of the nearby reactor sending trembles through both air and steel, the enormous turbines hammering at her senses with each step. Anna ran through the present corridor, she passed zones of orange conic lamplight that emanated from the dirty ceiling, the rest of her surroundings cast in smothering darkness. Her unshod feet stomped noisily through puddles of… something. Whatever the liquid was, some of it was still warm, which only further emphasized her need to keep running.

The tired doctor, however, could only run for so long. She tripped, losing her footing and sending her careening floorwards into a puddle of something that stank like urine and was as slimy as sea foam. It was an ignoble conclusion to a desperate escape. Raising herself on all fours, the girl panted heavily in exhaustion, runny fluids streaking down her naked skin as her ribcage bobbed. However, no stomping footfalls approached her from behind… and by the time she caught her breath, no one had appeared. She was clear of pursuers.

For now.

Down here, it was almost possible to forget that an epic space battle going on outside. She was that isolated from the grand political goings-on, the desperate defense of Earth from its invaders. Like an exile banished to another land, she had been cast out… It was almost as if Anna was trapped within some alternative world of steel and gunk and horror.

Anna had no idea how long she had been down here for. She had lost count of how many times she had managed to sleep after a dozen times, and it had been at least another dozen since she realized she had stopped counting the time since Charnametros had dumped her into these godforsaken pits. There was no way to truly tell the passage of the hours within these desolate quarters. No diurnal cycle was in effect and no clocks were evident. The Kthid no doubt saw such things as needless amenities for a segment of the population as reviled as the casteless. Thus they lived, ate, and slept without the context of natural circadian rhythms, effectively less than animals. No one kept a uniform sleep schedule.

In those initial weeks, she had initially been captured and subjected to a short though brutal episode of abuse at the hands of these low-ranked reptilian hordes. Only the broadcast order to marshal to their battle stations had enabled her this opportunity for a getaway. Before that point, dozens of lizards had literally been fighting over who would get to violate her next when the message arrived. Said order also rendered the many tunnels and pathways and chambers that constituted this hold more vacant than normal. Otherwise, a mere venture such as this would have been impossible.

Having caught her breath, the ex-Medical Officer of the Midgar-6 rose from out of the puddle and tried to center herself both mentally and geographically. She was lonesome, no one in sight in front of her or behind her, but Anna knew well that this relatively safe state would not last for long. She had felt the impacts against the Aegis from the engagement between HEF ships and the Kthid fleet, and as soon as they recovered their casteless soldiers the halls would once again flood with sex-hungry returnees… and Anna would not be so unmolested anymore.

She needed to find someplace to hide. Some locker. Some cavity. Some space in-between pipes through which she could squeeze. Had she been moving towards the sides or the interiors during her flight? Did that matter? Her mind still blaring with danger, Anna set her feet into motion.

To her eye, these sublevel hallways were essentially treated as sewers by the Kthid who had the privilege of possessing a cast. Detritus always sank down, and unlike on the upper levels no one bothered to clean here. The casteless Kthid were denied most of their slaves and almost all technology, so neither drones nor Arane servants tended to such matters, and the almost feral “society” of Kthid down here certainly wasn’t going to do it. She hurried underneath a pipe that was dripping something foul and warm and journeyed further into the battleship’s unknown innards.

The architecture of this nethermost hell was so disjointed and incongruous that Anna scarcely believed that it could be the result of a pre-planned layout. Moreover, its interior design seemed an amalgamation of a shantytown, a cave system, a forsaken torture dungeon, a boiler room, and a tribal fain all squeezed into one badly lit labyrinth. Most likely, this was by design, as insane as that sounded… from what little Amara knew, old warships used to be designed in such a way to make boarding actions difficult. Down here, however, it made them horrifically complex, dark, and mazelike. Cabins or any sort of individual housing seemed all but non-existent. Everyone lived, ate, and slept in clusters of proximity, surrounded by those few they liked and trusted. The furnishing and lifestyle of the Kthid living up top seemed generally spartan in spirit, but down here their fellow lizards lived like impoverished barbarians, as if a tribe of feral brutes had taken up centuries-long habitation in the ruins of some super-technological engine room. Besides their primitive weapons, skulls and skeletons and murals painted with dried blood or the blue dye that seemed to serve as blood for the Exalted dolls seemed like the only common outfitting or decoration… trophies of those left behind, dead or abandoned. Some of them were slaves… but the providence of these morbid accoutrements was almost exclusively Kthid in origin. These casteless were so savage they made furniture of their dead.

Sound-wise, the entire region was also subsumed by the massive roaring of the ship’s turbines whose pandemonium dipped and rose as it changed output, rendering hearing an unreliable and often distressed sense. Similar things could be said for the terrible ever-present reeking smells which clogged up her nose. Lastly, huge pipes ran across many of the walls and ceilings. On numerous instances, blasts of superheated steam surged out from their malfunctioning valves, these terrifying jets accompanied by hideous hissing whines. Where Anna caught in the path of such venting pipes her skin would be all but evaporated, her blood boiling.

These halls were dangerous and decrepit, but more than anything else the casteless quarters were simply profoundly filthy. Washed-out rot infested the oftentimes cracked and dilapidated walls alongside any roof-upholding columns to where to be found. Some scummy biological muck also lined the corners and crevices. Great piles of glop lay on the floor which Anna could only imagine being discarded food. She spotted a severed arm visible amongst it, and only a second inspection showed her that it was a bio-mechanical one, rather than a formerly living limb.

Once, Anna hoped… something. She no longer could remember why she thought that the casteless might be better than this. Her glimpse of something that seemed almost empathetic seemed incredibly far away and naive now, easily imagined… and even if it wasn’t, why she imagined that her son’s might be different from the beast all around her… She felt like an idiot, lost in hell. She no longer thought of this disorientating gutter as a part of the dreadnought in her own mind… she had classified it more like an undercity, a post-apocalyptic settlement of savage Kthid existing separated from the true spacecraft above. Such was its vastness and distinctiveness. A whole other culture could exist here in the belly of the beast… one even fouler and more brutal than the one that came above.

Arriving at a fork in the gloom-lit tunnel, Dr. Constantos heard something over the background noise… the tromp of bare-footed Kthid approaching quickly from one avenue. This immediately sent her hurrying down the alternative passage. After having run apace for some time, she came to regret not having elected to backtrack from whence she came at the fork. Along that narrow passage she had happened upon a lone unlocked chamber, its big bulky door swung wide open… A horrific gangbang was happening audible from within. This area was packed with Kthid and their victims and they were right on the other side of her wall.

Being confronted with this peril, Anna’s heart pounded with trepidation and acute dismay. Standing within that tunnel, she listened to the horrifying screams of women, gargantuan reptilian snarls, and loud meaty thuds which signaled their unholy copulation. This bedlam of carnage had previously been masked by the cacophony of hissing steam and roaring engines that surrounded her. All those noises strummed balefully within her skull. She feared that one of them would walk out at any moment and spot her standing there, helpless and frozen into inaction.

She wasn’t meant for this. She was no hero, or soldier. Stay calm and formidable when a patient was bleeding to death or their heart stopped… that she could do. That was easy. This, though… Anna just wanted to curl up in a ball and hide rather than confront things that wanted to hurt her.

But she couldn’t.

Anna took a deep breath. Overcoming her paralysis, Charametros’ discarded property understood that if she valued her freedom then she needed to sneak past the opened chamber somehow. To complete this, the scientist hugged the wall with both shoulders while tip-toeing forward. The luminosity which shone out from the opening’s egress was like rays of mortal danger with its darkness-conquering brightness. Terrified, her heart in her mouth, Anna gingerly peaked into the chamber, aiming to make sure that the coast was clear before enacting her mad dash.

The moment she gained vision of the room a veritable cornucopia of unsightly sexual defilements assailed her fearful eyes. In that damp, crud-infested, sweat-stinking chamber there were at least two dozen Kthid busying themselves with carnally violating feminine captives. The orgy was an adrenaline-crazed escapade of hard-lurching bodies, green-scaled ones slamming into anything that wasn’t with an excess of sexualized hatred. She had beheld many such scenes before in the last five years, but seeing such gang rapes done in such a desolate environment made the scene somehow seem even more morbid. In the back, someone had painted a wall-covering icon of the Dark Star and its deleterious rays of unlight. The vine-dark tint of dried fluids proved to be a baleful enough color for this task.

Anna took special notice of the alien’s feral disposition. Many of them were fucking with tongues lolling out, almost like a panting dog. Slime drooled from their fangs as they lurched. There was an ignobility to their postures and cadence that she would never have seen amongst Charametros and his ilk, a lack of what passed for… dignity… that the others lacked. These creatures were treated like animals… and they had internalized it.  They fucked like animals.

The frenzied Space Dragons outnumbered their victims almost two-to-one. This meant that most of the slaves were being double-penetrated, taken in at least two of their three holes, as the animalistic Kthid lacked the discipline to take turns.

Many of the females were being lifted off the ground and held in between two malachite giants who plugged their assholes and cunts with enormous cocks without any sense of mercy or rhythm. This two-pronged attack was maiming so savage and hurtful that it was actually fairly rare to witness topside among the Kthid of rank. Up there, the Kthid actually needed to preserve their slaves. Down here, there was no real need at all… the armada’s meat fodder were unable to produce children.

Because none of these women lived. They were all Exalted.

By far the strangest and most mysterious part of being down here were the slave girls doomed to service these murky subterranean quarters. Anna had been aware of Atalanta’s fate, of course, how many bodies had been created for her and been sent down here to entertain the casteless. What she hadn’t realized, however, was that they were more of them. Other digital lifeforms, alien in origin… proof that the evidence in how to produce them was in no way unique to the HEF.

As the Kthid possessed the technology to have the digital women copied indefinitely and then printed into life-like bodies, they constituted a limitless supply of readily available and nonperishable rape fodder. They couldn’t be bred, but they were more than up for satisfying the alien’s lustful urges. Since the Exalted 3D-printed bodies were without exception infertile. So despite being marvels of science, they were considered lowest-class slave cattle by their alien malefactors. Accordingly, they were relegated to entertain the casteless, the lowest of the low of the entire ship.

There were live aliens down here too. Others like Anna who had been cast down… but the competition for those could be severe. Sometimes they would be taken by the ground and protected… from what some of the Kthid had growled into her ear, for years. Here, however, all the slaves were Exalted… mostly Arane. The six-armed aliens were as frequent down here as they were above, though these were the ghosts left behind of heroic lives lived… or however their people had determined who earned the honor. More confusing by far, however, was the rest of them. During her captivity amongst the Kthid, the raven-haired scientist had encountered many alien lifeforms that looked remarkably similar to mankind – or at least it’s female variant, as all males were killed by the Kthid. Had she not perennially been the subject of Charametros torments then wonderment about the biological implausibility of this would have perpetually occupied her thoughts. These creatures, however, were too similar. The other women in this room were, for all intents and purposes, Human.

It seemed insane. For the first few times she had seen them, delusion had seemed more plausible than the reality. Theories burned within her scientific mind, each less likely than the next. Had the Kthid somehow already captured another of Earth’s Exalted heroines and condemned her to the same torture that Atalanta suffered? No… that also seemed impossible. The time didn’t line up. What’s more, the Exalted were all famous heroines subjected to Federation veneration. Anna Constantos had by no means been one of those patriotic diehards who memorized every name, every face, every service record of those elected few who possessed the gallantry, heroics, and genius to be made into one of the Exalted, but just by existing upon Earth she had seen every single one of them more than once as a civilian. None of these women looked like anybody she knew. In fact, that was the real problem.

Anna could not assign any of the Human Exalteds she saw to any known ethnic stock. They possessed none of the earmarks which would place a person amongst any of the nationalities of mankind… no grouping of racial features common to Earth or other worlds in the Federation could be seen on them. It was not that they appeared biracial, or multi-ethnic, or of some mixed heritage… they were more exotic than that. Her lineaments were queer in the most minute and peculiar of ways. She had the visage of one of those actors who sprung to prominence on account of the exotic strangeness of their looks… not necessarily beautiful or ugly but… other. Anna simply could not place them. Seeing that on an individual scale was disconcerting, but seeing it on mass was indescribably foreign even before she noted their clean-shaven heads. Was that something racial, something that made them distinct from the Humans she knew, or was it some kind of cultural marker instead? that supposed to be some cultural marker? The Kthid could possibly have ordained it so to humiliate them, but that only made sense for individuals… here, all of the Other-Humans she had seen had been bald. On Earth, with beauty standards being what they were, it was hard to imagine a Terran Exalted female choosing to be bald…What sort of Earthling female would naturally go around bald, let alone an Exalted. 

Even as it seemed that unease and trepidation pricked her all over with their tiny needles, Constantos could not help but wonder. Was this really an “alien” Human? Had the unlikelihoods of the Human form being so ever-present throughout the galaxy actually spawned a lifeform that – at least to the naked eye – was physiologically identical to her own species? Anna deeply regretted the fact that she could not study one of these people closer, as a proper scientist. She wanted to pursue this mystery down to their very genome.

Alas, it seemed unlikely that would ever be possible.

“Whipworthy whores!” one lizard snarled, dragging his clawed hand over his victim’s shoulder so that the false-skin material ruptured and blue fluid leaked out. The Exalted woman screamed as if just having been mutilated, her scream as Human as most of the alien women’s were. The fact that the Kthid could so recklessly employ their claws however viciously they wanted made Anna wince in sympathetic pain. There wasn’t one among them who hadn’t been slashed by their claws, three stripes running parallel to one another as if the wound had been inflicted by lions. 

The only biological slaves thrown down here were those who were considered useless – if they weren’t being punished for being a useless slave like Anna was then they were either infertile or so infirm that they could not possibly survive another pregnancy. From the Kthid’s perspective, the greatest damnation of the casteless strata was their inability to procreate their genes. Access to fertile prey was not a part of their ranking privileges, generally. Had the ruffians who initially captured Anna down here known that she was still fruitful, then not only would she never have been able to escape their grasp, but a veritable war between the casteless would have likely broken out over the possession of her body.

That was partly why the conquest of an entire planet – like Earth – spawned such zealotry from them. As a reward for the full spoils of war, there would temporarily be breeding stock in such abundance that even the casteless could be allowed to sire progeny. They would get to unleash all their bestial fury into a flesh-and-blood woman instead of mere androids.

“Worthless… plastic… bitch!” the same lizard that had slashed the AI’s shoulder angrily erupted. His whole face contorted like that of a berserker during a murder fury. “How long have you been down here? Five centuries and you still can’t fuck properly? Learn your place you wretched… piece… of garbage!” With a road, he seized her head and ripped hard enough that it popped off her neck like a doll. The artificial lifeform’s limbs all convulsed like a dying insect and then stiffened into rigidity. In the back of the box-shaped room, a machine stirred to life, already commencing the process of printing out a replacement. 

Anna winced seeing it and looked away. The better part of her brain knew that she should keep moving, but the scientist couldn’t help but linger and focus on the fate of these unfortunate Exalted and all of the questions she still had for them… like, for a start where they came from. In hindsight, Anna should have suspected something… the Kthid had been ready to handle something like Atalanta, having systems already prepared to deal with a digital lifeform like her… because they had used it on Exalted in the past. Were Exalted even the right word for these Other-Humans? Anna had no idea if their digital recreations were dependent on post-life existence like Maria’s was.

Just another question she wished she could ask.

While the printer worked to create a new copy of the Other-Human woman, Anna turned her attention to the others. Most of them were the multi-armed Arane, each of them as Exalted as the others. These aliens were purportedly one of the Kthid’s most ancient conquests – only having avoided genocide due to their unique ability to lay eggs without male input if needed. Based on her impressions and that time frame Anna’s impression of them had always been of a rustic and underdeveloped civilization. To think that they had invented this kind of technology before being conquered. Miranda had warned her, though, hadn’t she? Generations of enslavement had chafed away the more highminded aspects of their race – their culture supposedly completely lost. These Exalted, though… hadn’t they lived then? Wouldn’t they know?

The woman sighed deeply and then resumed peeking through the door. She had spent years upon this damnable dreadnought and still, she was being confronted with cosmological oddities for which there seemed to be no natural scientific explanation. This Other-Human, the Kthid having evolved into being a mono-gendered species, their ability to impregnate a female no matter how vast the genetic difference between them… and perhaps most unnervingly of all the terrifying unlight of the Dark Star… 

In the far left of the chamber, by the wall where the ubiquitous pipes of the coolant system ran through this room, superheated steam suddenly burst out of one of the valves and shoot towards the ceiling at a slanted angle. The doctor jumped at this sudden outburst but the Kthid within barely reacted to the jettisoning of white-hot gas, as such expulsions were part of their daily routine. None of them even stopped pumping their hips while briefly glancing over the outflow.

All except the one casteless who stood in the steam’s way. He roared as it unexpectedly splashed against his arm. The scales of his skin sizzled as if about to melt as he yanked it away with a shout of pain and… annoyance. Had he been Human or virtually any other alien that Constantos knew about then the meat affixed to that limb would now have been smoking and ready to fall off the bone… but the Kthid were hardy to an insane degree. He merely snarled irksomely and shook the limb like a child trying to mitigate a burn, causing some of his onlooking comrades to sadistically chuckle at their fellow, which only increased his annoyance. Then, in proper Kthid fashion, he decided to project his newfound wrath on those who were lesser than him.

“You!” he exclaimed and seized the nearest Exalted woman by the nape of her neck, yanking her off-ground by this grip. “You think that’s funny?”

The Arane he had grabbed babbled in a language that Anna didn’t understand, squealing as she tried to get away as the Kthid gripped her, impaling the squirming alien on his cock and almost immediately beginning to fuck her. “As if I’d believe a lying bitch,” he growled… and then placed the Exalted woman’s head in the trajectory of that steam. Her shriek was shrill and high-pitched as the insanely hot steam melted the plastic muscle fibers right off of her face like overcooked meat, and the alien shuddered with pleasure. “At least you’re tight like this. Dumb ghost of a whore…”

As soon as the screams died and there was scarcely any head to hold onto anymore. Her whole countenance took on the liquified look of a melted clay figurine, and Anna was grateful that through the steam she could see only hints of its identity-ruining effect. The Kthid dropped the false corpse as soon as it was damaged enough that it stopped responding and the body thudded onto the hard floor. Soon after the gaseous outflow abated as abruptly as it had commenced. The Kthid started licking his forearm which now expelled rills of smoke and looked badly burned, like a dog licking his wounds. “So, which of you is going to finish what she started?”

Stunned, Anna pulled back into safety and then rubbed frantically at her eyes. She tried clearing up her vision as well as unblocking her thoughts which had been made leaden with shock. By the time she recovered herself, he had gathered around one of the Arane Exalted with several of his fellows, her queenly figure ebony-skinned and nimbly six-armed while sporting big breasts and a thick ass. Within seconds she had been forced to her knees and his already-hard cock was stabbing its way into her mouth. This printed clone was being skullfucked savagely, making her look like a Hindu Goddess violated by some unremitting demon, her debasement birthing obscene glottal sounds. That scaly-hued monster was jabbing his dick so far into her mouth and at such an angle that it seemed like his pecker would have skewered her brain if she were made of biological matter. The Kthid was fucking at a speed that exceeded even that of his comrades. Anna wasn’t sure if this reprobate was capable of tunneling an entirely new cavity within the salve’s innards, but if he could he likely would.

Anna could only get brief glimpses of the Arane’s agonized countenance in between these penile humps. With her skull buffeted back and force her face was more like a blur than a picture, but the effect of this savage face-fuck was still plainly evident. She winced horrifically as if in great pain, but even more alarmingly, the skin-plastic gracing her face was beginning to crack and fall off her head, dislodged like crumbs tumbling off a biscuit, making that mask look like splintered bark. The savagery of the moment had a spellbinding effect on Constantos. Like a train wreck, the horrified doctor couldn’t look away… she simply needed to witness it to its rapidly approaching end, certain despite everything she had seen that it couldn’t possibly go like this.

In a fit of fury, the casteless rapist orgasmed mid-plunge. His triumphant seed made an explosive appearance as lumpy Kthid-sperm was abruptly blown out of the Arane’s nose. The gooey jizz was jettisoned as if blown out a cannon. Tinier rills also splashed out of the sides of her violated mouth and even from the Arane’s ears, these outputs quickly receding and transforming into oozing flows. Anna held no doubt that a big payload of that viscid glop had ended up inside any cavity inside the artificial body it could find to pollute.

As if this massive facial damage had not been enough, the Kthid standing at her sides seized two of the Arane’s arms each and abruptly yanked on them hard enough to dislodge the extremities from their sockets. There was a loud tearing noise like that of ripped clothing – and then the deed was done. The Exalted alien had been jizzed and crippled, suffering at the very end of its existence. She started to sway back and forth upon her knees like a mast being rocked by a strong seaborne wind. All three Kthid found this a laugh-worthy sight, inspiring great amusement in the cruel trio of rapists. One of them delivered an open-handed slap to her cranium and Anna heard something crack in that false skull even as she collapsed to the d deck like a heap of rubble. The three casteless casually strolled away and looked for their next AI to defile, heading towards the printer as it tried – and failed – to keep pace with the rate of destruction taking place here.

To Anna, the course of this game was obvious. The Kthid would find a collection of the artificial women laying by one of the printers, listless and barely active, and they would take full advantage… enjoying their most savage urges as they took out their rage at their lot in life on an available victim. This would continue until there was no one left to hurt. Then they would leave, going elsewhere to do something else, to get food or find a convenient shelter and security, leaving the Exalted women to slowly be replaced by the next group to stumble into the room.

Anna’s eyes fixed on the Arane and her heart all but stopped for an instant before it began to race. The Exalted woman was all but destroyed, but she still lived… and while she only had one single functioning eye of her six, it was positioned to point directly at Anna. The doctor saw the moment that a tiny paroxysm of recognition gripped the suffering AI as she spotted the doctor peeking through that swung-open door. Anna nearly gasped as their eyes meet. The two captives upon the Death of Hope stared at one another. The Arane’s lips began moving as if attempting to formulate words. The Earthling nearly shrieked with sudden terror at realizing what was going on… the Arane was trying to alert her brutal Kthid masters to Anna’s position!

After nearly half-jolting to her feet and preparing to dash, Anna realized with chilling relief that the copy was unable to speak. Her vocal cords, or maybe whatever speaker they installed inside the throats of these things, must simply be too damaged… no doubt ripped apart by that last Kthid’s merciless oral rape. The scientist remained there frozen, like a block of ice as she watched the destroyed alien’s lips move without producing any noise. Her oncoming death proved to be Anna’s deliverance. All light faded from those alien pupils as it finally ran out of enough power to stay active, and then she was not looking at Anna Constantos anymore.

Divorcing her eyes from that carnal spectacle, Anna flattened herself against the walls and tried to unfreeze her stiffened limbs and sinews. That near discovery had nearly scared what was left of her sanity out of her. She held no illusions that the Arane wouldn’t have sold her out for a mere iota of favoritism or mercy from those casteless beasts. When her existence was reduced to nothing but a cavalcade of never-ending defilements, such a boon would have seemed a matchless achievement and success. Anna’s presence would have seemed as if delivered by angels. Understanding the captive woman’s predicament all too well, the Terran doctor could not even blame her. All she could do was feel hot tears travel down her cheeks at the sadness of their fates. Did morality even exist in an abyss such as this? Were betrayal and backstabbing merely a way of making perdition a bit more bearable?

Why had she hoped to accomplish anything here?

She didn’t know how long she had before another copy of the woman printed. Anna took one more glance into that room of torture, just to make sure that the coast was clear. Seeing that it was, she dashed past the opening without taking any foolish risks this time. Her feet padded across the uncomfortably hard floor as swiftly as she possibly could. No snarling reptiles came hounding after her. She was safe. For now. And now she would venture even deeper into this ship’s damnation.

Light sources grew scarcer the further in this direction Anna journeyed. It was as if she was approaching the Dark Star itself, the baleful unlight swallowing all brightness. Anna did not know if she should consider this as a positive or not. She really had no idea how good Kthid night vision was; if it was better than hers or worse. Darkness presented her with the unknown, but that could be true of the casteless as well. Still, there was nowhere to go but onward.

By now, she had at least figured out the direction she was going – further toward the core of the ship. Anna could surmise this from the sounds of the reactor cooling systems growing fainter that she was leaving the engines behind. This meant that there was less machinery around – unfortunately, it also meant that away from the only part of this hellhole that was relevant to the ship’s function there was even less incentive to maintain anything, and the area around her somehow grew even more extreme in its dilapidation. She passed a series of passages where doors had been rent open, bashed or cut apart by blades in some war between the casteless down here and God alone knew how long ago it had happened. No one had fixed it. It seemed like no one had ever noticed. There was no doubt about it – Anna was heading towards the dreadnought’s most isolated and woeful quarters.

The fetid stench of it overwhelmed the naked, exhausted girl… It overmastered even the normal miasma of stale air that hung throughout these corridors. The former Medical Officer of the Midgar-6 recognized these odors as being part of the aftermath of a ferocious orgy… a horribly familiar stench. That meant danger… but it also meant people. Possibly food. As much as they wanted to avoid everywhere she needed to eat, and that meant she needed to be close enough to be in danger. For lack of any other options to pursue, she allowed the stench to guide her through the darkness. It would lead her to danger, but possibly also to salvation. After a few minutes, she happened upon a swung-open door that was big and bulky and led to a  room that, not so long ago, must have resembled the gangbang chamber in the reactor cooling that she had just managed to pass by the skin of her teeth. Rays of light even shone from its egress just like that one had. The only difference was that this one was empty.

Or at least it appeared so…

Moving just as furtively as they had earlier, Constantos sneaked up to that door and peeked inside. All she witnessed were filth-encrusted walls and a few bare Kthid skeleton bones laying discarded across its floor like broken utensils. The room stank of urine, a small reeking pool of it gathered in the center. There were not even any Human-like curiosities to startle her very understanding of the universe therein. It was just empty.

Maybe it was her paranoia, but the apparent lack of peril here seemed fake to Anna. There was a printer here… the lights on it glowed, showing it was powered and had supplies. It could be used to make new copies of the Exalted for them to rape… and it could make food. These sites were not often abandoned for long. Anna crept slowly inside, walking in and gazing around. Her body spun slowly all the way around. There were dozens of broken exalted parts, littered around from the last time someone had… played… with them. There were people here, however… or rather, more Exalted. They leaned or sat or lay against the wall, intact… but the lights behind their eyes seemed to be out. Occasionally, they trembled… and it wasn’t too hard for Anna to figure out what was distracting them, what they were thinking about. There were at least a dozen other copies of them elsewhere… and likely most of them were in the process of being raped right at this moment. Compared to that, why would they be able to spare any focus for here of all plac-

Anna froze. As she walked through the room one of the discarded parts, a torn-off head, caught her eye. It lay next to a disfigured body… a dark-haired woman with pale skin and green circuits. She sported a luscious mane and a curvaceous body but was missing her left arm from the elbow down. Numerous claw cuts disfigured her form and her pussy was a bifurcated chasm ruined by Kthid cocks burrowing into it time after time and leaving plenty of creamy semen inside which now oozed out and pooled by her thighs… and she had never been so excited to see such a horrible thing. Frantically she began to search, looking around, leaning down to peer at the copies of Arane and Other-Humans until she found what she was looking for. She almost didn’t recognize her, even though her features were completely unchanged. “Atalanta!” Anna whispered urgently. “Atalanta! Please, it’s me, Anna…” She had undoubtedly been left here after having been reprinted sometime after the orgy had concluded and now the former heroine of the HEF was just… laying here, waiting for the next time someone came to rape her.

“Atalanta! Atalanta… please, I need you,” the stunned Doctor whispered.

The Exalted heroine stayed as quiet as a corpse. Anna knelt down beside her and gently shrugged the Exalted’s shoulders. The two of them had not been separate for all of the intervening years… Anna had on some occasions, early on in their voyage, seen the Exalted woman being used to break the spirits of some of the captives. The last time she had seen her, however, had been most of five years ago at this point… and that was the first time she had been able to speak to the woman since she had put herself bravely between Anna and the other members of the officer core and their Kthid rapists on the Midgar- 6.

For all the good it had ended up doing any of them.

She gently shook the beautiful Exalted woman again, trying to get her attention. “Atalanta! Atalanta, it’s me… it’s Anna…” the dark-haired woman begged.

There was some jerk within Atalanta’s pupils. It was tiny but it was something… a spark of awareness. With it came fear. Her eyes widened, holding the fixity of a madman. “Y-Yes, Masters! What can this worthless cunt do for you?” she barked with the surety of long practice, practically as if it was a preprogrammed line. She spoke the Kthid language, far better than any Human could.

It chilled Anna’s blood to hear the misery and desperation in her voice. Atalanta had once been one of the greatest that Humanity could offer, a veritable heroine of the race. Now she seemed so much a traumatized slave that she had practically been rendered braindead, a mere repository for sordid inputs and commands. Despite looking straight at her, the insanity in Atalanta’s eyes did not waver. It was as if she saw an invisible Kthid standing in front of her, ready to punish them both at a moment’s notice.

“Atalanta,” she croaked. “Atalanta, it’s mePlease. I need you with me. I need your help. What’s happened to you?”

The Exalted woman’s bright eyes flitted around rapidly, ping-ponging from the left to the right as if she did not comprehend the question, or if some bug had jeopardized her systems. “What? Happened to me?” Atalanta muttered in bewilderment. “What happened to this useless fuck-hole?”

Anna wished there was some way she could lend her erstwhile comrade comfort. Alas, she did not know how. She did not even know how to save herself.

Finally, her eyes focused. “A… Anna…” she whispered softly. “This… isn’t real, right? This is another of their lies?

“No,” Anna whispered holding onto her. “It’s me. It’s me…”

Atalanta made a pathetic wailing noise low in her throat. “Oh Anna…” she cried out. “I… I…” Her mouth seized moving. The heroine’s once so stately face went stiff as if in rigor mortis. For a moment, Anna wondered if this copy had expired as well. Then, Atalanta’s bright blue irises started to shake within the milky white of their orbs. As she watched, the shakes and twitches grow more intense, eventually overtaking her terrified mien as well, letting the doctor realize that the Exalted woman was sobbing. “I… I need to serve. I can’t be seen talking to you. If I do they’ll punish me. Punish me again. Punish me worse. I… I can’t be involved.” 

Anna hated seeing her like this. Her obvious dread was dismal to see. Having been suffering such unbelievable torments for years until there was nothing left of her but the broken victim Atalanta was expecting another bout of misery to unfold. She had been so shattered by this process of rape, torture, death, and repeat that she could not conceptualize a day outside it. Anna wondered if Atalanta even remembered her time onboard the Midgar-6 at this point.

“I can’t talk to you. Please, Anna, you have to go. Please, masters, rape this ghost-slut. She really deserves it! This worthless body has gone unused for hours now! She deserved to be punished so that she does not get rated one again! Only the most useless fuck-slaves get rated one!” Atalanta begged, voice desperate.

Powerless to aid her, Anna watched as the erstwhile Heroine descended into further bouts of confusion and madness. “Atalanta, I don’t understand. I… I need your help. Please.”

“I can’t…” she whispered.

“Please, Atalanta!” she begged. Now that she had found someone who might know something, anything to help her, something that could make this possible at all, she felt suddenly desperate. “I need you to tell me if you’ve seen…” The enormous insanity of what she was asking for was… hard to even think about, and she felt silly for asking. “I need to know if you’ve seen anyone… merciful… down here.”

Atalanta’s laughter was hysterical. “Mercy?” she asked incredulously. “Mercy is when they don’t hurt you too badly for a few minutes at a time. Mercy is when your holes are too worn out to be pleasant anymore and they kill you quickly to let yourself be rebuilt.” Her voice grew louder and louder as she went until she was yelling loudly enough that Anna was cringing at the noise. “Mercy is when they don’t tell you you did a bad job and you suffer far worse. It’s never-ending, Anna… It’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lives, their only purpose to make my master’s happy. Dozens of copies, most of them getting used multiple times a day… usually at once, and then-”

“Most of them?” Anna cut it, unable to stop the sudden surge of hope. Dread had been growing with each shriek, but that vanished in a burst of inspiration. “Why only most of them? Why not all of them?”

Atalanta’s mouth opened and closed a few times. “What?” she asked, visibly realigning her thoughts to the surprising question. “I… I mean, a few of the copies have been decommissioned. They don’t get used anymore.”

It appeared that the fallen Medical Officer of the Midgar-6 had encountered yet another mystery down here in these dismal quarters… but it was possible one of her mysteries might be able to resolve another. Some of Atalanta’s copies had gone missing for indiscernible purposes. That was strange. There would be no need to do that. No real reason for it. “Why?” Anna asked.

Atalanta laughed bitterly, a hysterical edge to it. “Why would they tell me anything?” she choked out. “They’re stored with other Exalted, just… remaining there. They probably were… too boring to fuck anymore. Too damaged maybe. I don’t know.”

“Atalanta, that makes no sense,” Anna said, growing more excited. “If they were damaged, they would just make new copies, wouldn’t they? Why would they keep a copy intact and just store it?” Atalanta began shuddering again and Anna could see her attention drifting, no doubt being dominated by her suffering elsewhere. “Atalanta! Please, Atalanta, stay with me.” She wasn’t listening.

Dismay captured the Scientist in its ethereal clasp. She needed this information. She had been searching for so long down here, looking for safety, looking for someplace to hide, but it was evident that no such place existed. If there was someplace where the Kthid did not venture down here then the Exalted would have discovered it long ago, and never crawled out. Her copies were being kept somewhere, but surely the Kthid must be infesting that area too. After all, who else could have stolen them? Nothing existed down here but the casteless.

Her mind drifted even further, onto things that she had almost given up on. Two of her children were down here. Her first and secondborn. They had been tossed down here just like her. She had seen some of the casteless show mercy… and somehow, operating on nothing but instinct, she had felt suddenly sure that her son would be, had to be, like them.

Was that just blind hopefulness? The irrational love of a mother for a monster her rapists had forced into her womb? Were they just like the other feral Kthid? Would their existence be spent tormenting the Exalted just as everyone else did?

Everything she had seen down here told her that it was hopeless. That she must have misunderstood what she had seen on Maldoror, or it had been some crazy outliers… but some part of the inside of Anna’s mind protested. It was simply what the Kthid did. They were without exception vandals and reavers and rapists. And still… she knew that she would never accept this horrifying scenario as true until Constantos saw her children with her own eyes. Anna could not expect he was a monster until direct experience had proved her otherwise. She needed to find her sons. She needed to just… look at him.

The raven-haired Doctor rose and commenced aimlessly pacing about the room.

That was merely another mystery whose answer was unattainable to her. Alongside the natality of the Human-like Exalted, and the fate of Atalanta’s kidnapped clones. At least this question her scientific mind told her already had an obvious answer, not so much a mystery as her own inability to confront the obvious truth in front of her. Her intuition wouldn’t stop struggling against her cognition.

But there were just so few reasons that copies of her clones would be taken out of circulation. If they were still being raped in captivity, then maybe some casteless could be hoarding them, but to just put them away where no one touched them? What reason could there be for that… but mercy? And so many of them being gathered meant that it had to be a group.

She needed to know for sure.

“Atalanta,” she begged. “Please, listen to me. Help me.” The Exalted just rocked back and forth, so Anna swallowed… then, hating herself, she raised one hand and slapped the Exalted woman across the face. “Listen to me you little whore!” she spat.

Atalanta reflexively bowed, pressing her face down to the ground. “Yes master. Anything master. This ghost-whore is a good cumdump. Please… please don’t punish me. I will give you such pleasure as you wouldn’t be-”

“What I want,” Anna said, trying to keep her voice firm and brave and cruel and hating herself more with every passing second, “is to know more about your decommissioned copies.” She thought for a moment and winced as the idea occurred to her. “Your masters are upset you have been holding out on them. That there are more copies of you they could be using at once.”

The panic in the Exalted woman’s eyes was horrific. Anna didn’t know if somewhere in her broken mind she thought Anna was one of the Kthid, or merely that she was speaking for one… or perhaps most awfully of all, she knew the truth and was so desperate to avoid the punishment that she would jump at even the slightest possibility that Anna spoke truly. “No masters! Not at all masters! I… I didn’t put them away, Masters!”

“Can you take us to them?” Anna said. “They’ll believe you if you can show them the truth, that someone else put them away.”

“I… I…” The momentary flood of uncertainty and the panic it inspired was painful for Anna to watch. Then her face firmed up into an expression that expressed certainty of a more religious sort than scientific – something that she hoped was true, not something she was sure of. “I can! I will! Please, follow this whore…”

Atalanta rose to her feet, moving with energy, and she all but ran from the room. Anna didn’t have more than a few seconds to feel like Human garbage before she followed the fallen heroine and hoped that this would be worth it in the end.

And that she would be able to forgive herself afterward.

Atalanta was largely running on instinct. She had no memory of where her other fuckdoll bodies were brought, not in the slightest. All she had was that she could hear the environment, could see the coloring, could get a sense of which of the data relays her personality was being forwarded to them through. She had to succeed. Failure wasn’t an option.

Anna needed her.

It hadn’t taken her more than a few minutes of terrified mindlessness to realize what Anna had done… but after that, it was her shame that kept her going. She had failed her ship. Failed its passengers. Failed its crew. Now one of them needed her help and there was something she could do. It had been a very long time since the last time she had felt like she could help anyone… and given a chance she was unwilling to fail again. She didn’t know why it was so important to Anna… but a fuckdoll didn’t need to know. It was important. That was all that mattered.

Her existence was hell. Atalanta’s personality and awareness had been perpetually split between 32 different bodies. It wasn’t, as far as she could tell, the standard number of copies for the other digital beings down here… her code was more efficient, better put together than the others that had fallen under the Kthid dominions violence. She could tolerate more copies before they overwhelmed her. It wasn’t a blessing, however… it just meant that her suffering is more plentiful. She experienced all of it, all the time. If one were to be destroyed – which happened on a daily basis – then the printing machines would simply assemble a new copy so that her sexual thralldom could go on. That meant there could be 32 different rapes going on simultaneously at one time, every minute of every hour for every day of the rest of her life. Right now, three of her copies were being raped up the ass… one by two cocks at once. One had their cunts being invaded, and three were sucking off at least of her Kthid dominators. Three were stuffed airtight by a swarm of the Kthid and that was unlikely to change anytime soon. Two were in the process of putting on a lesbian show with others Exalted for their amusement. Four were laying around in the garbage heaps by their printers, waiting for the next master to come and rape her. Two lay dying but not dead yet, slowly bleeding out their slow blue slime. One was being fucked in holes that weren’t supposed to exist. And the last… well, she was running through the halls, leading Anna onward. This was her life… there was all there was to it now and her only reprieve from this mind-breaking drudgery of misery was if one of the casted Kthid topside had usage of a disposable fuckdoll for something as well. Then a new copy would be printed there to be raped as well, before being thrown out like trash.

That was the best she could hope for… and that was if she was lucky.

The casteless had their entirely own unique way of being cruel to their property. The Huntmaster didn’t give them access to technology, but the systems that sustained her were still located in the central computers and that meant that she was still trapped in the same nightmare they had used to break her and every other Exalted down here… the one that sent their consciousness spiraling into a maelstrom of sexualized horror and defilement, each minute therein seemingly lasting centuries. Trapped within that alternative reality her rapists might be Kthid, but just as often they were eldritch horrors, antemundane monsters too terrifying for her to imagine they ever existed in reality. Ancient Maldoror was nightmare enough… it was like Atalanta was being given a history lesson in Kthid past and a tour of the galaxy. The maelstrom of misery was a veritable katabasis into the unlight of the Dark Star. The Kthid’s way of inflicting suffering was simply to make her experience the suffering of its darkness… and they did it again and again.

After every time they were used by their rapists, the Exalted were subjected to grading. The Casteless would decide how good of fucktoys they were, telling the machine how much they had enjoyed raping them on a scale of 1 to 10. The feral casteless could reply however they wished… however, any rating larger than a 2 was an unbelievable rarity, a treasure that she had heard only once or twice in all her time down here. It seemed their existence was just something that the casteless could use to mock them with, to tell them if they screamed loud enough then they might be given something as “exalted” as a rank of 3. 

An average score of “2” meant that the Exalted in question was a worthless fucktoy valued less than the disgusting slime which infested the walls of their quarters. An average lower than that, however, “1.x”, however, meant that the Kthid answering the call felt disrespected by what a useless sex slave she was. He had been offended… and this disrespect could not go unavenged. It meant that she needed punishment. An average grade that didn’t rise to one meant that that evening she would be re-educated… five whole minutes locked within that simulacrum. A simple disrespect could only be countered by thousands of years of mind-breaking torment under the baleful unlight of the Dark Star.

For the entire first year of her stay within this bottommost hell, Atalanta was given nothing but ones. Every single day ended with years worth of a fate worse than death. Atalanta long since felt like she had been shattered into dust, something tiny and weak and broken and worthless. For that whole time, when she was fresh and interesting to them, there wasn’t a single day her rating reached the lofty height of a “2.” It was as if the option was merely there for the casteless to mock her with. “Imagine, a mere day without spending time within the simulacrum!” they would jeer as she slobbered on their cocks.

To them, it was all fun and games, a sadistic distraction from the ignobility of their existence. But for Atalanta, these gradings entailed a terror powerful enough to haunt her every waking thought. Every second of her existence was spent desperately trying to avoid a low rating. She would plead, fuck and do debasing things to herself just to avoid it. Her every day was a headlong charge deeper into her own dismay… But for the first year, every day was precisely the same.

It was only after the first year, after the novelty of her slavery had ended, that the Kthid casteless no longer took much personal interest in seeing her defiled in favor of the other Exalted. Only then did they finally allow Atalanta’s “bribes” and desperate self-degradations to begin to raise her grade above a one. It was not often. Maybe once a week at the start. But to win this privilege Atalanta would do anything. She would kowtow and bow and grovel before the casteless as if in worship, and then she would offer to do the vilest and most debasing things she could think of. She would insert all fingers into her cunt, hook them against those vaginal lips, and then pull until that womanhood was split apart. She would have some of her copies gang up on another of them, fisting herself, kicking her foot up another copy of her own pussy. They would swallow their piss, and their shit, and worse still. Anything. She would do anything to escape the wrath of the Dark Star, to avoid going into that simulation one more time.

 This was when the “trials” began. A few enterprising, amused casteless wondered how earnest she really was in her devotion to them? Would she truly do anything they asked just to upgrade her rating from a one to a two? It was a statement that needed to be tested. That was when they began to make challenges to her, just for amusement. Like, asking her to prove her devotion by standing still in a steaming vent and allowing the surge of obscene hot steam to melt away her ugly cumrag of a face. They promised that if she could learn to stand there without flinching they would believe she was worthy of something higher than a one.

Despite being an artificial body, Atalanta perceived pain to the same extent that a biological woman would. As such, these demands were just as impossible as they would have been for a normal woman. The agony of willingly melting apart her own body was just too overwhelming for her artificial nerves. Despite her nigh-unbelievable exigency to avoid another go inside that simulacrum once more, Atalanta would scream or flinch or step aside or do something else that the casteless would interpret as a lack of devotion on her part. As she rolled around on the floor in agony and dismay, they would all cackle laughter and state that she wasn’t being so earnest in improving her rating after all. Then they would downrate her once again and throw her consciousness into the nightmare, and Atalanta knew that she had no one to blame but herself for her failure to avoid her misery.

It was simply impossible to subject herself to torments like they wanted… but to her horror, it was only impossible the first few dozen times, the first few hundred times. Eventually, it began to get easier for Atalanta. There wasn’t a trick to it, not really… the way the Exalted saw it, her mind had just grown so dilapidated with her trauma that it couldn’t process the suffering anymore. The Exalted woman would willingly throw herself into the fire, into grinders, into steam, into any kind of torment they wanted from her and she would do it with as much desperate enthusiasm as she could muster, knowing that even this extreme pain could save her from something that was even much, much worse. Finally, she had begun to regularly free herself from the horrors of that maelstrom.

And then the Kthid upped the ante.

A rating of “2” should not be so easy to get for a printed-out lifeform who could not even sire her master’s children, she had said. They would need to employ proper Kthid discipline to evaluate her. Oh sure, she could stand underneath that surge of steam. But could she fuck underneath it?

And so Atalanta was schooled to resist an even greater level of torment.

Fucking while being blasted by the extreme-temperature steam could come in different positions. One common variant was for Atalanta to ride the jutting dick of a supine Kthid cowgirl-style – already a herculean task to accomplish given the sheer size of their cocks – but now as she bounced upon their erections she could push the top of her body into the pathway of the steam. Frying her chest, her head, her arms as she fucked. Willingly exerting herself as hard as she could to perform these great rebounds was simply mind-shattering, pulverizing her already sundered sanity into tinier and microscopic pieces.

The first several times Atalanta was tested in this position, the Kthid would find reasons to withhold an upgrade of her daily rating. Maybe she did not fuck hard enough. Or maybe she did not rebound far enough into the trajectory of the steam as she bobbed. Or maybe they just perceived a hint of tentativeness as she fucked, real or imagined. Either way, she would go back into the nightmare to learn her place.

And, over time, Atalanta did.

There were other positions. Other torments. They would change over time and in-between days, rarely repeated twice in a row. Another entailed Atalanta sticking her entire head into an aperture found within one of those vents. She would then be fucked doggy-style as the furnace melted her, prolonging the torment of her faux skull being melted. The heroine would thus be ferociously sodomized or pussy-pounded while trying to survive this ordeal, that Kthid muscle power working to break her just as the steam did. As the Kthid could not properly judge the moment of her death with this approach, their evaluation would often be faulty. “Your body slumped out of position before you died,” they would say to the next copy of Atalanta that was printed out, and she would cry knowing that she had likely just been doomed to yet another set of centuries in the simulation of torture.

But sexual actions did not need to involve a Kthid. Their depraved minds spawned a plethora of likewise nasty ideas. What if Atalanta were to fellatio one of those valves as it surged? Could she give it a good blowjob even as the gaseous vapors speedily billowed down her digestive system and dissolved her artificial body from the inside? Her entire throat and stomach would be filled up with the steam, the sensation very perceptible as it sizzled her innards apart. There would be no pussyfooting around the blowjob as this happened. Atalanta could keep her lips sealed and her head bobbing against that metal protrusion even as her midriff was evaporated. And she needed to look as if she enjoyed it too.

Was a blowjob too simple? What about sodomizing herself with one of them instead? The actual torment of this was very similar. Atalanta would be down on her hands and knees and rock back and forth so that her anus plugged and unplugged itself against the valve. The Kthid expected these swaying motions to be action-packed, wanton, and run as smoothly as milk. If she failed to clog her asshole with that valve upon the very first shove backward then they would disqualify her. Skin-frying steam would be sprayed directly into her rectum. The disintegration of her plastic-like flesh would thus start at her bowls rather than her head. Atalanta hated this position the most… It was the one where it took the longest for her copy to die.

If the Masters found her helping another girl… they would punish her. They would start ranking her lowly again. Even for Anna’s sake Atalanta shouldn’t be doing this… years of being forced to birth Kthid children were a tiny misery compared to her suffering.

She was trying to focus on the way. It was… it was definitely this way, right? It was like trying to find her way through a maze using only out-of-order camera still-frames, trying to put them in order to put together her pass. It was just so hard to focus on what was happening to one of her clones that wasn’t being tortured. If she wasn’t currently suffering to prompt for her attention it was hard to remember what had been done with that one. She was relying on half-remembered snippets. Still, she was close… she was certain of that. Atalanta paused in an intersection, trying to piece together which way she needed to go… and when she did she realized, too late, that she wasn’t alone. “You there!” a roar came from down one of the pathways. The Exalted turned her gaze and was confronted with three snarling Kthid emerging out of the darkness towards them, armed with rusty-bladed cleaver swords.

“Run!” Anna commanded. She sprinted down the hallway. Atalanta, however, did not.

“Master!” she begged, prostrating herself. Maybe… maybe Anna would get away if they were too busy with her. The first two of the Kthid to reach her, however, simply ran past, charging after the running doctor. It was only after that that one of them grabbed her by her hair, lifting her up.

“What is this?” he growled. “One of the Humans helping another of the Humans escape?”

“No, masters!” The AI’s voice was pitched with terror. “I wasn’t!”

“Bullshit!” he growled. “You’re going to be lucky if your rating gets to a two for a decade after I’m done with you. I’ll introduce you to a whole pack of my friends, and we’ll keep you for months, and give you a one rating hundreds of times a day. I’ll sink you so far into the red you’ll never escape.”

Out of the darkness, the two other Kthid returned, hauling Anna back with him by her hair. “Praise be the Dark Star! And Huntmaster Sarcand!” the drooling malachite giant snarled and pull her forward, clasping onto the dark-haired beauty. “Look at this piece of rape meat!” one of them jeered, his exposed gums overflowing with saliva.

“That one is biological!” his slightly more intelligent-sounding comrade exclaimed. “No ghost-whore.”

“She looks like she’s in good health. A Human. Cunt might actually be fertile!” the one holding Atalanta sneered. “I’ve been wanting to vandalize one of those blood-and-bones bitches for years!” He turned his gaze back on Atalanta. “Is she fertile, slut? Is that why you were protecting her? Tell us of the prize, and maybe I’ll give you some mercy after a few weeks. Maybe you’ll only have to spend a year trying to get your rating back up.”

Atalanta sobbed. “No, no, no,” she whispered. Anna closed her eyes and sheltered her face like a child attempting to deny reality.

“I swear, they give the most useless people these afterlives,” the Kthid leader of these casteless exclaimed. “It was like they knew they were good for nothing but fucktoys. Let’s take them somewhere private and the-“

“Gaaaahhh!!!” one of the reptilian brutes suddenly exclaimed. It was not the scream of a triumph catch but that of sudden and unexpected pain. His comrades spun and snarled with warlike agitations, raising cleavers as if about to fight. Atalanta hit the ground hard and she was suddenly disoriented as she watched a quick, savage fight break out in the hallway… savage, primitive warrior Kthid battling each other. At last, the Exalted’s eyes focused in stupefied surprise as she saw the still drooling Kthid standing stiffly before her. A femur whose end had been sharpened like that of a wooden pole now protruded through his chest just where his heart lay, the weapon’s alabaster white stained with its scarlet blood. The caiman’s expression was that of total and incomprehensible surprise as life swiftly drained from his eyes. He tumbled to the side, suddenly collapsing onto the floor. Behind him, his two comrades fought viciously with another pair of feral Kthid who had invaded the hallway to steal their findings! 

The battle was the most ferocious Anna had ever seen. Her eyes could scarcely follow the various hacks and parries that the space dragons performed. Bites and scratches and wrestling were equally employed. During the tumult, one of the Kthid performed a swift spin. He was positioned so close to her that this meant his tail was flapped in Atalanta’s direction and on a trajectory to impact with her.

The Exalted managed to get both her forearms up just in time before the tail struck home. She was knocked off her feet as quickly as she regained them, landing with a heavy thud against the hard and unwelcoming floor. Grounded, her vision went starry for a moment… and by the time her retina’s focused again, the battle was over. Atalanta spotted two green reptilian feet walk up to her, allowing the huge casteless victors to tower above her downed form.

“This one is biological,” the Kthid said, his voice toned with surprise.

“Take her! And the AI too!” a more distant voice said. As Atalanta glanced over, he was licking a laceration on his forearm. “Grab them both and bring them.” As the large Kthid with his bloody bone weapons picked up the limp Anna, Atalanta realized that the doctor had fallen unconscious… likely hit at some point in the battle… and Atalanta cursed herself for a fool. They had not managed to escape the fate of being a slave to the casteless. This interruption had rendered her the prisoner of some other group instead. What torments awaited them both now, she did not know.

She only knew she had failed to protect someone yet again.

The last sensation Atalanta felt before she let herself sink into her despair was that of being lifted and slung over the Kthid’s shoulder, the victors picking them up and taking them deeper into the bowels of the Death of Hope, back to where they could be ravished in privacy and security…

Next Chapter ->

3 thoughts on “Event Horizon – Chapter 16 – The Depths

    1. Not many. I have read a few of his books… the monster Hunter international collaboration at least. I might have read some of his scifi but I don’t remember reading anything specific. It looks like they are up my alley tho.

      Glad you are enjoying!


  1. Yeah. Legacy of the Aldenata is pure awesomeness.

    Just a few things. So most Kthids from what I gather are castless. and from their description they would be extremally vulnerable to chemical attacks. Not only this but their method of attack would probably see the return of the bayonet.

    This is also like Harry Turtledoves Invasion series. Where the Aliens have the technological edge but lack the experience humans have at warfare.


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