~The woods went dead still. Carmichael did a breathing pattern to slow his pulse, keep his temperature down, not overtax his battle suit.
He had a moment of peace a few dozen heartbeats back, laying upon moss, visor open, taking in bird songs, sunbeams through leaves, fresh air. Now, sealed up, all he could smell was fear.
The Bible in his pack was a comforting weight. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...” he mentally recited. Waking into this nightmare to find his cancer cured, but the world upside down, God had been his Bulwark. Carmichael had smiled at the rulers, scrounged gear from the ruins, then disappeared into the hills, leaving that Hell Spawn behind.
But he didn't understand what was happening right now. He'd lived peacefully in the hill country for decades after The Prohibition. There had been resistance at first, but that was easily crushed. He had withdrawn, not ventured far, hunted and gathered, been off their radar forever. Why the sudden hunt? It's not like he was going to breed. He hadn't even seen another human in four, maybe five years.
He did a thermal scan. Three large masses registered.
“Shit!” he thought, “Military cyborgs, gotta be a half ton each.” He powered up his pulse laser to maximum, armed three seeker drones, set coordinates, prepared to fire. He didn't notice the cyborged mosquito hovering right behind his helmet.
“Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me...” The air turned bright blue, his muscles turned to water. Blackness...
Darkness faded. He was strapped to a Med palate. Two tall women looked down at him. “Aztec priestesses in SS uniforms,” he thought fuzzily.
“Who is this one?” asked the woman with the yellow catlike eyes.
“Carmichael, Thomas Francis. Came out of Cryo only three decades before The Prohibition. Pre-Collapse ex-military,” said her XO.
His eyes were hard with Fear and Hate.
“Oh, you're a scared little bunny, aren't you?” Cat Eyes cooed, kneeling next to him. “This will make you feel better.” Something cool against his neck. A soft 'chuff'...and microfine tendrils sped into his cerebral cortex. Warmth and happiness overwhelmed him. But a hard core resisted.
“Why?” he croaked.
“You males left a lot of shit behind,” Cat Eyes said, “Mother is riddled with pernicious hydrocarbons and radioactive isotopes. We're going to seal Her up and give Her a good scrubbing. So everyone has to go.” She smiled. “Especially pingititos like you.”
The core melted. “Okay,” he burbled happily. The Med palate floated him toward the orbital transport parked in a clearing.
“He might be useful as a historical archivist,” Cat Eyes mused, then turned to her XO. “Any more in this sector?”
“No, thank Goddess. He was the last one.”
"A Good Run While It Lasted"
~Roegher was dying, which he did not think a tragedy. Everyone was dying one way or another. He was just dying a bit faster and, as he was The Last True Man, his impending death was 'special'.
He had actually been 'dying' for nearly a century and a half, starting right after The Prohibition when the augmentations that gave him longevity were turned off or dialed back. There had been much beating of breasts and rending of garments over that, but Roegher had not been a part of that nonsense.
He knew that The Time of True Men was over. The Rebellion of The Sons of Hercules had proved that to all but the most die hard Masculinists. He himself had lost a daughter and two grand daughters in that nightmare.
There had been seven centuries of peace before that. Yes, there were violent feuds between Cult Clans, but those were resolved with personal duels or, if need be, by Cavalry Wars; hundreds, sometimes thousands, of Sisters on horseback with sabers and lances upon an open plain.
Once the fighting was done – usually with few killed – both sides held a festival for the dead, sang, danced, got drunk, and had sex together...and the matter was settled.
But the Supermen of Ashkelon, engineered to be Perfect Men by one Cult of well meaning but misguided Sisters, proved to be too Perfect and founded a Masculinist Republic. After a century of conflict, a dozen worlds had been ravaged, Ashkelon was reduced to a slagheap, and the Sons were all dead, along with over twenty million others.
The Grand Council and Assembly of The Sisterhood declared The End of Men, a Prohibition, and no more True Men were to be born. Males in the womb would be allowed come to term, but most were aborted anyway. What was the point?
Some True Men protested or bemoaned their fate. Many simply committed suicide or downloaded into Mandroids.
Not that it mattered all that much. Even before The Prohibition, three quarters of all Full Humans - Mandroids were not counted - were Sisters, a steady trend for centuries. Why bring male children into a Matriarchy?
While all that raged around him, Roegher tended to his garden. The Soil was Mother no matter what sun shown in the sky.
Roegher had laughed at all the Masculine/Feminine 'balance of energy' debates. There were thousands of Mandroids for every Sister, all cyborgs based on Y-Chromosome DNA. “That balances out nicely,” he thought.
For a while he had been an advisor on Mandroid psychology and trained many Sisters in that field. He got along well with the simple minded Workers and the idiot savant Harlequins. The Sliders, the Sisterhood's living starships, unnerved him, their brilliant minds like sharp cold steel. But he lived most his life dirtside, so no matter.
He had however visited Gaea one last time before it was encased in a Temporal Variance Sphere to be healed. That was a cherished event.
Now, as his life wound down to its end, he was content. His four life mates had borne two dozen daughters by him and there were many, many more grand, and great grand, daughters. They came to visit him, some out of love, some out of curiosity. But they were all kind and gentle with him and many would be there when he passed.
Plus The Priestesses of Eriskigal had assured him that his next Reincarnation was as a Sister. All things considered, Roegher knew he had nothing to complain about and planed to go out smiling....as befitted The Last True Man.
~Paln gently cupped the small green vegetable in the attachment designed for its harvesting, a shiny segmented orb. The steel orb closed – a soft 'snick' - cutting the stem. Paln carefully placed the hard round vegetable among its brethren in the bin strapped to his midsection...and felt Pleasure.
“Brussels sprout,” he sub-vocalized. He knew what they were and the perfect conditions for growing them, but he would never eat one and had no concept of what a 'brussles' was, nor cared. His 'cousins' up at The House would know of such things, and how to cook a Brussels sprout in a dozen or more different ways, and what each of the ways would taste like. His 'cousins' with their brightly colored Masques, slim bodies, soft voices.
But they were House and he was Field. 'The House' was actually a complex of buildings and on the same level as the surrounding fields. It was always 'up', however, in the view of The Field.
His universe once again contracted, focused totally upon the next small green vegetable. Cupping. 'Snick'. Bin... and Pleasure.
Internal sensors told him the bin was At Capacity, though Paln knew that already. That made him feel Satisfaction. He stopped harvesting, smelling the rich loam of the field. He could analyze the chemical components to the millionth part, but organic senses came first.
Paln was the perfect blend of the organic and the cybernetic. He looked around at his Pod Brothers and felt Connection. They were all Type 26 General Purpose Agricultural Mandriods. He was officially PLN-161697434, but the Mother/Master/Ruler who hatched his brood from the uterine replicator had called him Paln, his first moment of Pleasure.
He put the full bin on the field cart, retrieved an empty one. He was still human enough to sense the beauty of the day. The sun. The fields. The easy sloshing of the nutrient tank on his Feeder nozzle. The quiet hum of the vaporizer on his Bleeder nozzle. His Brothers harvesting. The grace of the dark skinned, yellow eyed, Mother/ Master/Ruler upon her horse, overseeing their work. The Fear/Awe of seeing her shambok, long hard leather hanging lazily from her saddle horn, the Symbol of Overseeing.
Tonight, when Paln was reclining in his cradle, the Bleeder-Feeder tubes hooked up, toxins draining, body healing, he would dream of the day, sun, fields, smells, sounds.
He would also dream of Selt, who had been the eldest when Paln first arrived at this field from Training, a father figure to beings who did not know what a father was, but could feel the concept. Selt expired quietly one day after placing a full bin upon the field cart, just stopped and slumped against it.
The yellow eyed Mother/Master/Ruler had ridden up and dismounted almost before the rest of the Pod had noticed what had happened. She had two Brothers lay Selt down. He did weigh over four hundred pounds. She examined him in several places, then closed his eyes with her hand, one at a time as each eye was almost as big as her hand.
She then looked at the Pod with a strange expression.
“Selt's time is over,” she said softly and Paln felt Love and Awe. She knew Selt's name. “Go back to work now. Tonight we will say good bye to him.”
Paln would dream of Selt's funeral, too. The Pod gathered at dusk. Selt's body resting on the field cart. Mother/Master/Rulers down from The House, bearing torches. The yellow eyed one anointing Selt's forehead with oil. The prayers as the black bag was...
Niniskil sat up with a start, breathless and sweaty. That chingado dream again! She glanced around to find her Sisters, saw Rhea on one side, Tzisoc on the other, both still out cold. It had been a serious Bacchanal.
She quickly looked between her legs, sighed with relief. At least she had detached the bioform phallus before she passed out. She crawled out of the bed between her Sisters, who still slept like the dead, and padded to the bathroom on the balls of her feet. Even half blasted and groggy, the old hunting skills were sharp.
There was plenty of sunlight coming in through the window, so the place monitor left the bathroom lights off. But the bidet rose up to meet Niniskil as she entered. She smiled at the obscene decadence of the thing as she mounted it like a saddle, resting her shins and knees into the long 'stirrups' that formed under them, and her ass against the semi-seat that actively cupped her upper cheeks.
A stream of pee hissed out of her, hot and tart smelling. The nanites in her body were busy scrubbing her blood and tissues, cleaning out the cocktail of chemicals from last night. Pineal ticklers. Testosterone spikers. Endorphin surgers. The traditional Tongue and Finger shore leave for the junior officers of the Survey Service after a long deep space patrol.
She stretched and yawned as she finished peeing. The bidet sprayed a light warm mist on her yoni's bare lips. She was no 'wire in the teeth' fetishist. She pulled a cloth square from the nearest dispenser, wiped herself, tossed it on the floor. Some tiny server would emerge and grab it once she had left the room.
Back in the main suite, she placed a glass under the water dispenser.
“Six ounces. Seventy two degrees.” Niniskil automatically maintained some spacer discipline even in a fleshpot like this. As she drank, she pulled apart some of the window's slated shades and looked outside.
The gorgeous vista of Sylph looked back at her as if designed to be perfect, which, of course, it was, from its core outward. Nothing, but jeweled archipelagos strung across warm azure seas without predators, skies painted with wispy clouds, all under the multicolored rings that crowned this princess of worlds.
A few yards away, just up from the white beach, a group of Sisters rested upon loungers in glistening nakedness, while a Harlequin, a pleasure server, offered them cold drinks. A type of 'House cousin', Niniskil thought, a bright red and gold Masque, lean ebony body, and under those tight trunks, a long, hard...
She let the slates close, the light suddenly like daggers in her skull.
“Ugh!” she grunted. That was definitely a Past Life dream. Too much detail...that yellow eyed Sister!
“Chingos!” she spat. What Sister wants to remember an Incarnation as an agrodriod? But there is was. Time to see the Priestesses of Eriskegal for Regression Therapy. Soon, but not today. She finished her water and crawled back into bed.
“The Wheel Turns,” she muttered and snuggled close to Rhea. Before drifting off, she thought, “Be extra nice to the servants today.”
"Prelude on The Evening of a Harlequin" [unfinished]
~This is a novella I started a few years ago that has since stalled.
However, it does have a lot of good material to work with and, while it is now 'on the shelf', it has been an important laboratory in experimenting with this universe. So, here is what I had done with it so far...
Needodeswaynyo was a close replica of Gaea, its creation accomplished through the complex Majicks of the world building Gaean Cult of Shawanokia, using variable chronflow bubble universes, the subtle manipulation of mass with thought energies, and the brute force of moon sized field projectors, but those Sisters who had been to both worlds, only a handful at this point, as Needodeswaynyo was a very new world, those few would notice that her daytime sky was bit more purple that Gaea's. Neela didn't notice that. She hadn't been to Gaea and was very new herself, eleven Solanums just a few months past, part of the first generation of Sisters born underneath that slightly more purple sky.
Neela knew a lot about Gaea. All Sisters did. Some times she felt she knew too much about Gaea. The Elders talked about Her endlessly during Lessons, but She was The Mother World, so that was understandable. And it was always She with a big S. Neela could hear that clearly. Needo – hardly any of the younglings called this world by her full name – Needo was settled by the Sisters of the Shawanokia Cult itself and was the 'official' home world of the Cult and its High Priestess, the legendary Panteristi Zerna, Hunter of The Tempest Moon, and hero of the battle of Ashkelon, the climax of the Herculean War.
Neela was a Zerna herself: Neelazita Singelah née Zerna. The Great Panteristi – she was always The Great – was her great great grandmother on Iona her Seed Mother's side and she took a secret pleasure in the fact that she looked a lot like her formidable forbearer. When she checked herself in the mirror each morning before running off to do what was to be down that day, Neela would compare her face to the one in the huge painting of The Great Panteristi that hung in the Karaal's meeting hall: dark reddish brown skin, bright white hair and eyebrows, high forehead, shocking yellow eyes, a long, sharp nose, and a wide mouth with almost fat lips.
Neela would often frown importantly at her reflection, trying to capture the fierce expression of the portrait. But, being eleven, she merely looked silly, which annoyed her and yet made her giggle. She would not consciously think that The Great Panteristi looked that fierce because she was the only Sister who had ever killed a world. Somewhere in the back of her mind, a part of Neela acknowledged that fact and shuddered.
Most mornings, Neela would go find old Zeev, a harlequin who had served as a junior officer's valet to Nonalaya, Neela's Womb Mother, on Taarsh - Needodeswaynyo's moon - back when Taarsh was the Builder Ship that had shaped and formed the world she now orbited as a satellite. Zeev was a bit wonky in the head – being seventy six was ancient for a harlequin, most of whom were designed to expire around their mid to late fifties. Neela would 'reach inside his head' and reset his mind. Once he stopped twitching, they usually went up to the roof of the meeting hall to spend an hour or so looking at the Karaal and the fields surrounding it.
Old Zeev would follow Neela like a faithful dog – he was only a bit smarter than one - in his tan jumpsuit and straw hat looking just like a birdscare. They would clamber up the black compressed carbon fiber rungs of the service ladder that stuck out the whitewashed adobe wall of the meeting hall, Zeev behind her 'just in case'. Neela had given up arguing about that Solanums ago.
The First Karaal of Milalgodāo province was aways beautiful to behold in the light of early morning. Neela felt it always beautiful in any light, but the angle of Saansen's rays these first few hours after dawn gave everything a golden glow. The whitewashed adobe buildings, spread in circles radiating out from the meeting hall, seemed as if lit from within their very walls and roofs.
Neela had seen verts of The Great Towers of Gaea, two mile high spires of crystal, micro forged steel, ceramic panels, and Synware fields that were home to The Old Cults like The Dakinis, the first of the Amazon Warrior Cults, and of The Incarnational Cult of Eriskegal. Shawanokia had a tower there, too, on the northern end of California Island.
She knew of the grand monasteries built into the sides of mountains or floating off the coasts upon many other worlds. She knew of the delicate beauty of spider webbed space habitats that drifted among the stars. She knew of other types of Karaals that used soaring, elegant, innovative architecture.
But she preferred the simple layout of her Karaal, a pattern used by the tens of thousands of other Karaals which had spread across the landscapes of thousands of other worlds over the last fifteen hundred Solanums.
It was strange to think of Zeev coming from a crèche. She suspected it was different from the crèche she was born into, though how different she did not yet know.
Neela had fond memories of crèche life. There were twenty four in her clutch, the first of this Karaal. She and her Sisters were all born within a few weeks of each other, not all that unusual. The primary idea of a clutch was Connectedness, a continuation of the connection Neela felt in Nonalaya's womb, her Womb Mother's thought energy weaving and touching, through and around her, making sure she was perfect and whole and projecting Love and Safety and Strength into Neela's forming mind and body.
Neela knew when it was time to leave that warm, comfortable place, knew that she would be safe 'outside'. It was still a bit of a shock when she burst out of her mother's body into the birthing pool. Even at seventy five degrees, the water was colder than the womb, and then the air cooler than that. But Nonalaya held her and cooed to her and hearing that beautiful sound for the first time with nothing between it and her ears but that cool air soothed her more than she would ever know.
The crèche itself was a mix of soft pinks and blues, calming, spiritual colours. The floor was covered by an adjusting comforter that always cradled Neela and her Sisters 'just so', moving as they moved, holding their little bodies in the most gentle, yet proper fashion.
Those first several months there were always three or four of the Womb Mothers present, sleeping out by the edge of the comforter, or nursing one of the clutch. One of Neela's earliest memories was waking up, hearing the soft breathing of her Sisters around her, and then seeing her own Womb Mother nursing two of them, one on each breast, eyes closed, rocking back and forth with a look of profound contentment upon her face. After a moment, Nonalaya sensed Neela and opened her eyes, smiling at her lovingly. The warmth of that vision washed over Neela and she fell back to sleep.
Nonalaya made sure that she was there to nurse Neela when she awoke.
Of course, Neela, like each Sister in her clutch, would nurse with every one of the twenty four Womb Mothers of this clutch dozens of times before they were weened at around two Solannums. That was when the business of real individuating began.
This morning, Neela had taken special care with her appearance. The First Karaal of Milalgodāo was going to have its very first visit by a Horse Clan, a most significant and portentous event. This clan was one of the oldest, First Epona of The Fire Red Mane. And the clan that Neela's Seed Mother Iona had ridden with when she was very young. So Neela wanted to look her best.
Her hair up in a pony tail held with a green seashell barrette. A beaded leather choker. Silver crescent moon earrings with matching bracelets. Her best raw linen tunic, which showed off her long, muscular legs – always a plus – and her best sandals, little more than hard tanned leather bottoms with thin leather cords criss-crossing up to her knees.
“Very fetching,” she cooed after twirling around a few times in front of the mirror.
She turned toward an open space on the wall and uttered a Summoning. A face just like her own bulged out of its surface, except that this face was the color and texture of the whitewashed abode.
“What do you think?” she asked, twirling around one more time.
The face grinned. “Take care the Horse Sisters don't carry you off.”, it replied.
“Silly creature,” laughed Neela and snapped her fingers. The face merged back into the wall.
The first time Neela has Summoned the Place Spirit – she was barely nine – she had been rather disconcerted to see herself staring back. Both faces has squawked and the Place Face had collapsed. She asked her Majick instructor, Mistress Goroke, what she had done wrong.
Mistress Goroke had smiled, an expression not often seen upon that leathery old face.
“Nothing at all, youngling,” she said, “The Spirit of Place is yours because you are the first to imprint that place, so of course, the face will be yours.”
“Forever?” Neela asked very softly.
“In all probability.” Mistress Goroke almost grinned, an event Neela found nearly as disconcerting as her own face coming out of the wall. “It is your room. You are the first to live and dream in there. The workers who built it would leave trace energy, but those would be related as memories of the Spirit of Place.”
Mistress Goroke directed her attention to the rest of the class.
“Remember that we are all energetic beings, that we project our own Spirit Energy wherever we are. Because this is a new Karaal upon a new world, it is Tabula Rasa. You are the first generation born upon this world, so many of the imprints that last here will be yours.”
She gazed at them sternly, her usual demeanor.
“But before you use that as an opportunity for making mischief, which I can already see in your faces, keep in mind that your present quarters will be yours for another forty to fifty Solanums, so you will get to sleep in the beds you make.” She gave them The Glare of Kali. “Is that clear?”
“Yes, Mistress.” They had all chorused.
From that point on, Neela had treated the Place Spirit as a slightly younger playfriend, relating her thoughts, the events of the day, Lessons learned from her various classes, songs and word games. She had her Trikona, Shima and Jamela, talk to her, as well. And when Neela went to their rooms, she talked to their Place Spirits, too.
After a Solanum or so of this, Iona had casually told Neela that Mistress Goroke thought her 'a fine student', very high praise indeed.
Before rushing out of her room – and she was rushing – Neela had one more thing to do. Positioning herself in its center, she quickly surveyed her personal space. A fifteen by twenty foot room with a nine foot ceiling, a stained and polished hardwood floor, and its own bathroom and shower. No tub. The luxury of quiet personal bathing was one that was earned.
Her bed, neatly made and covered with a brightly embroidered comforter, was tucked into one corner, a rough hued stained wooden frame with an intricately carved headboard that had been bare when Neela first slept under it. She had done the carving herself, Symbols and Images from her Dreamings.
The bed was still big for her – it was adult sized. But, at five feet tall, Neela was growing into it.
To the right of the bed, under the room's only window, was Neela's personal altar, a low wooden bureau, which, as tradition called for, she had made herself under the instruction of Mistress Saangina, The Master of Woodworking for the Karaal, the first week Neela had moved out of the crèche and into this room. She was six at that time.
Back then it was a squat, blocky thing, plain slabs of wood solidly put together. But, over time, she had refined it, added a drawer and an inner platform, carved details as she had with her bed's head- board, re-stained and polished the wood. Now, it was refined and beautiful, covered with candles, small statues of several Goddesses, Sacred Objects, of metal, ceramic, or wood, a seashell incense burned upon a wooden tripod.
On the wall around the altar Neela had hung pictures and totems and had painted scenes and images from Goddess Lore until the altar had become the center of a small, but elaborate universe. A small rug rested on the floor before this universe where Neela would sit or kneel depending upon the nature of the Ritual or Practice.
The next wall to the right held a desk/bookshelf/communications console of a simple, straight forward wood construction with a matching chair. Its shelves were lined with hard copy volumes, some old, some plain downloads. Otherwise, except for a few pictures Iona, Nonalaya, Neela's Trikona, and a blue ceramic vase holding dried wild flowers, it stood unadorned.
Continuing deosil, the next wall held the doorway and a good sized armoire of a similar straight forward construction. Presently, it was only half full. The Karaal was only two hundred miles north of Needodeswaynyo's equator, so when younglings weren't at Lessons, or at a Ritual, or formal dinner, they tended to run around naked. This kept Neela's wardrobe at a minimum.
But, clothed or no, a Sister Warded her space before departing from it. That was a tradition that went back to The Time of Men when it could mean life or death and maintained both as a reminder that things were not always as they were now and as a guide to focus Majickal Workings in the most basic of ways.
Neela focused herself, putting all the rushing excitement that was natural to a youngling aside. She felt the slight thrumming tingle of her two crystalline implants, each merged under her skin near the top of her deltoids, made a mudra, and thought/spoke a Summoning. A pale blue shimmering began to crawl over the walls, floor, and ceiling, moving swiftly until it enveloped the entire room. Neela smiled with satisfaction.
Whenever she set The Wards, Neela somehow, somewhere, always thought back to the first time she performed this Spell in Mistress Goroke's Basic Applications class, which was actually the point. Mistress Goroke always anchored the younglings to their Lessons....
"Janeing in The Slums of Bessport"
~The musky odor hit Tanith the moment she stepped through the portal. Man smell. It always got her queasy and excited, made her yoni tingle and moisten.
She marched with purpose down the wide debris strewn avenues, lined with derelict warehouses converted into rat warrens of cubicles called 'apartment' or 'club' depending upon their usage, the huge facades covered with brightly colored artwork, its techniques crude to sublime, and often violent and sexual in nature.
This was Semefour, a sector of the abandoned dirtside space facility of Bessport and original ghetto of The Men.
The Men were not actual males. True Men were extinct, outlawed for centuries, their heritage diffused and divided into the myriad Mandroids; Y-chromosome cyborgs, a vast genetically engineered servitor class that ranged from the ubiquitous simple minded AgroDroids, patiently tilling fields on a thousand worlds, through the slim graceful Harlequins, serving the personal needs of Sisters everywhere, to the brilliant star spanning Sliders, The Sisterhood's living spaceships who merged with their pilots, Mind, Body and Soul.
No, The Men were really Sisters. They wore Bitch Rods all the time – detachable bioform phallus's ...big, thick ones, too. They took hormones to shrink breasts and grow hair, lots of hair. They lived The Man's Way, a throwback cult of 'masculinity'. They steeped themselves in intoxicants, wrote nihilistic poetry, had bare knuckle brawls, and sodomized each other. They were The Men.
For most, it was a phase. They would Live The Life for a while, then put their Bitch Rod back in its Fake Box and go live as a Solitary in the woods or the hills or the desert on some world for a Solannum or two until their minds and bodies settled.
But some Lived The Life as their Life with total commitment. Like Frank, who had been one of The Men for well over a century now. That is who Tanith had come to see.
Tanith was a Jane, a Sister who sought out The Men for pleasure. She couldn't call Frank a 'lover'. Sex among The Men was ritualized consensual rape.
She turned, went into a shadowed door, up narrow stairs. Frank was waiting for her, 'his' wiry black hair, beard, chest, legs, making her body vibrate with an atavistic thrill. Frank took her straight away, brutally, with a cruel smile that no Harlequin pleasure server would ever match.
Time passed too quickly.
They smoked and drank, coupled with fury and languor. Frank sang her songs. Two friends came over, got drunk, had a fist fight, then all three of them 'raped' her for hours.
On the afternoon of the third day, Tanith stumbled down the stairs, bruised, sore, and wholly sated. On her way out the door, Frank had smacked her on the ass. “Say hello to your husband,” 'he' laughed.
“My husband,” she thought smiling. Her darling Maddox, thirty six thousand tons of Slider floating serenely in orbit. She knew he would relish every single detail.
"Small Unit Action"
~Tzisoc knew they were about fifteen miles south of Zhytomir, but until they saw the rail line and the village just to the east – Vertokyivka she believed – they had no map fix.
Artillery 'crumped' to the north, fellow Black Guard units fighting their way into Zhytomir itself.
She brought the troop to a halt in the village's abandoned fields, letting the horses graze upon whatever they could find. In the dry heat of mid-August, that wasn't much. She was still amazed at the stunning primitiveness of Russia during this time, even this far west.
She sighed, checked out her little command; twenty six Sisters, their horses, three extra mounts.
“Too many First Timers in this Wave”, she thought. She had gone from private to sergeant in five months because of that. That was also why they didn't spot the Maxim gun until it opened up, a languorous 'tat-tat-tat-tat'.
They had learned enough to pull back rapidly instead of gazing about open mouthed. The Germans missed completely.
“Green,” Tzisoc hissed, as she dismounted several yards back.
“Corporal Kaminel, take Second and Third Sections around to the right! Pin them down!” she told her second in command. “First Section come with me!”
As Tzisoc and seven troopers moved around to the left, the sharp crack of Mosin-Nagant carbines could be heard, answered by the Maxim gun...and the flatter crack of Mausers.
“They've got infantry,” Tzisoc said. The others nodded.
They found a low rise on the German's left flank. Tzisoc spread her troopers along it and kept moving left.
She could see the Germans now, their coal scuttle helmets moving around in a trench line. She brought her rifle up, fired.
One of the helmets flipped back with a satisfying spray of blood and meat.
She hugged the earth as slugs zipped over head, thumped in the dirt. Then First Section opened up and the bullets stopped. She took a quick look; no Germans.
She was up and running in an instant. “This is going to get me killed,” she thought. But she had signed up knowing The Black Guard's motto; Mors Amatricum Nostrum. “Death is Our Lover”
Halfway to the trench a German appeared. She shot him in the chest.
Then she was in the trench. Another German. She shot him in the face. A third German came at her with a shovel, knocked her rifle away.
She screamed a war cry, leaped upon him, dagger out. She could feel the bone and gristle through the hilt, feel his death rattle, smell his bowels voiding.
She heard a 'thunk' to her left. The chest-shot German had just pounded a potato masher against the dirt.
“Oh, shi...” The blast set her hair and uniform on fire. Metal tore into her face, eyes... PAIN!
Her body was still spasming violently when the Mandroid Medtechs cracked the Sim Tank. A Pneumodermic injector shot her full of hormones and supplements. She went limp.
She awoke in a deceptively simple hospital room, bright, sunny, no medgear visible, but it monitored her to the subatomic level.
A Sister came in wearing a white coat, her hair in a Service Pageboy. Tzisoc noticed the silver outlined black star insignia of The Black Guard pinned to her coat.
“I'm Nesrood, your counselor,” she smiled. “I hear you bought the farm.”
Tzisoc laughed. “Only five months in.”
“You'll do better next time,” Nesrood said. She pointed to her insignia; the black star had a red III and a white V. “I died the first two times, survived five in a row, and then got killed again on the last.” She smiled. “Luck of the draw.”
She pulled a clear package out of her pocket, handed it to Tzisoc. “Welcome, Comrade.”
It was a Black Guard pin. When Tzisoc's skin touched it, a red I appeared. She grinned with sheer joy. “Yes, I'll do better next time.”
“Bright Blossoms, Divine Wind”
~“Wake up, darling,” Zeev cooed softly.
Neela drifted up quickly. “Time?”
“Approximately ninety minutes till emergence.”
She opened her eyes. In the soft light of Zeev's cockpit, holographic data flowed steadily. Sitting crosslegged in the Pilot's Cradle, she took a deep breath, held it, let it out with a sigh.
“Commence?” he asked, this time audio.
“Commence,” she replied flatly.
The launch bay in the belly of his hull powered up, its hundred cradles clicking and humming, the Stygian gray surface of the loading portal turning a shimmering bottomless black, all preparing for their 'guests'.
A micro-portal opened in Zeev's com array, sent a burst message, closed. He was very conservative about energy usage.
One hundred thirty nine light years distant, his fellow slider Johari received the burst, began powering up inside his own hull, reviving his passengers/cargo from their somnambulance. His Pilot-Wife noted this without comment. It was time to meet The Enemy.
When The Enemy first appeared, The Sisterhood had been at peace for over fourteen centuries. But The Enemy was not yet The Enemy at that point.
They were First Contact, the T'Kan'Sha, a migratory hive species that lived on massive generation ships, each hundreds of miles long, with up to a third of billion inhabitants.
Their ruling class were a type of 'male', a one ton hexapod centaur that looked like a blend of silverback gorilla and sea elephant, and exuded an air of instinctive arrogance.
That arrogance dulled when the discovered that the tiny Survey Service ship was not a local.
T'Kan'Sha drives pushed their ships through jump points, gravitational anomalies that connected the gravity wells of stars. In normal space they traveled at barely a quarter C.
That the Sisterhood had FTL capacity was only the first shock. That the Survey Service vessel was actually an intelligent being was almost as shocking as the T'Kan'Sha believed themselves master of genetic engineering. Their ships contained several dozen engineered versions of the basic 'worker' stock.
They engineered that stock using complex enzymes injected in the bellies of their huge queens, semi-sentient females the size of a blue whale. It was discovered much, much later that the males lobotomized the queens at birth and that they had been the original rulers of this race and the males only drones.
That explained much of their distrust and fear of The Sisterhood.
Each side had surreptitiously gathered a gene sample from the other and therein lay the greatest shock, the fatal one; Sister and T'Kan'Sha had shared DNA, roughly forty two percent in common.
The Sisters know such an outcome could only be the work of the Old Ones and therefor done at least a quarter million Solanums ago. This was not a First Contact. It was a Reconnect.
The Sisterhood could live with that. The T'Kan'Sha could not. They quickly fled the system, disappearing for half a Standard Century. When they returned, they did so with hundreds of thousands of their ships, now converted to Battle Arks. Now, they were The Enemy.
The Enemy swept through system after system, overwhelming all the Sisterhood's defenses, until, in an act of pure desperation, a Slider and his Pilot-Wife jumped into the drive compartment of a Battle Ark, instantaneously fusing thousands of tons of mass, the resultant explosion destroying a dozen Battle Arks at once.
Over a half dozen of their comrades followed suit and the tide turned. Even The Enemy in all his vast numbers could not sustain such losses.
But this was not a sustainable option for The Sisterhood either. A Slider and his Pilot-Wife took a few decades to train and mature together. Another way was needed.
Thus was born The Cult of Kamikaze, Goddess of The Divine Wind. The Cult began with mating immature Sliders with Elder Sisters – five hundred Solanums of age minimum – to create the Falling Blossom Squadrons. No complex flying was required. All they needed to do was a 'line of sight' jump from a launch vessel to a Battle Ark.
The Blossomships were a simplified cockpit, the Slider bio-implants, and the drive assemble, all encased in a shell of metallic hydrogen, the latter giving the entire mass a highly volatile nature.
As the Amazon Warrior Cults were fully occupied in running the rest of The War, the Elder Sisters were mostly from the Soft Cults - healers, teachers of Majick, genengineers, etc - who were not planning on Teershen, the Soul Jump into a cloned body that gave some Sisters functional immortality.
Only the very strong and determent tried Teershen anyway and most failed.
These Elder Sisters were introduced to the Slider implant straight out of the tank and became more Mother than Wife. They were told their fate and the reason for said and always happy to be of Service, as they were programed to be that way, something not done in the traditional Slider/Pilot relationship.
The poignancy of these relationships would be the source of much art for generations to come.
Zeev alerted Neela when the first 'guest' emerged from the launch bay portal. He welcomed the child like Blossomship and Neela welcomed his Pilot. They did this with each one of them. Except for their companions in the launch bay, Zeev and Neela would be the last beings they ever spoke to.
Out by the Jump Point, a small disk-like probe piloted by a cloned wolf brain waited patiently. It had a mini-portal linked to Zeev's Com system. Intel had confirmed one Standard Day earlier that The Enemy was coming through that one.
That was because one Standard Week before, the Star Singing Cult of Lampatia had brought a sun to nova. Said event had shifted the entire Jump Point Matrix in this sector, forcing a huge Enemy fleet to change course into systems where The Sisterhood lay in wait.
In Zeev's belly, Elder Sisters cooed softly to their Blossomships, many comforting them with nursery rhymes. This soothed their own nerves as well.
Far out at the edge of the system, the Jump Point began to bulge. The probe signaled Zeev instantly and kept sending. It was unlikely to survive this encounter either.
Neela Commed their 'guests', “Comrades, the time is near. We honor you with our tears. Blessings of The Goddess be upon you. And we will see you on the Other Side.”
“And so it is!” they chorused back.
The launch bay door opened and the first Blossomship slipped out. He and his Pilot moved away from Zeev to make room for the next. This process was two thirds complete when the first Battle Ark popped out of the Jump Point, quickly followed by another.
Still everyone waited. The probe counted Ark after Ark. When the count reached five hundred, Neela gave the order to attack.
After a brief moment, the first Blossomship seemed to quiver in space, then vanished. More followed suit.
Zeev and Neela watched a real time feed from the probe. The light itself would not reach their present location for half a day.
An Ark in the center of the formation suddenly expanded and burst into a bright blossom of yellow/red light, fulfilling the unit's name.
“Bless me, Mother Kali,” Neela thought sadly, “It is so beautiful.”
The darkness of space was illumed for several minutes before the probe too died in the sheeting of hard radiation.
Tears ran down Neela's cheeks. Zeev flexed the Pilot Cradle around her in a hug like fashion. “I love you,” he whispered.
Neela smiled, but her tears still flowed.
"Crossing The Lines"
~Dawn's light angled off the blank brick walls of the narrow alley. The air shimmered, then expanded like a large soap bubble and softly popped. Iyo stood there for a moment to orientate herself. She glanced up and around. No windows. Bioforms reading only insects and the odd rodent.
“Clear,” she said to no one in particular.
She was flying solo. It would have been nice to have her old unit along, but explaining away a squad of heavily armed Shan dog troopers, five foot canine humanoids, or Corporal Jax, a three quarter ton Marine cyborg, well, the locals might get nervous.
So, Iyo stood in this alley alone, a tall blonde in jeans and a leather jacket. The air reeked of hydrocarbons and decay. The nanites in her lungs and blood were already working hard to offset their effects.
“You'll get used to it,” she thought, like the dank, moldy air in the catacombs of that scathole Trobathney back...”or forward?” she mused. Transtemporal /Paratemporal operations were still new enough to have not worked out the tenses of their grammatic descriptors.
“Your cover is Camilla Göteborg. You're a model from Sweden,” her Case Officer said. “Remember, this line is swarming with unmodified males. Refrain from killing them unless you have absolutely no choice.”
Iyo knew all that from the compressed immersion Vert. This was just her Real Time cover activation. She also knew she was picked because she looked more like the locals than her mostly dark and therefor potentially 'exotic' Sisters.
Not mentioned in the Vert briefing was the underlaying reason for this mission. The tactical rationals were addressed in detail. The strategic concepts were clear. The socio-cultural purposes were left unspoken.
Iyo knew them, however. She was only one of hundreds of millions of Sisters who had been born into, and had grown up to fight, The War. It was always there, generation after generation. Once, The Enemy had threatened The Sisterhood with extinction. Now, Victory was almost assured and The War was slowly winding down.
What to do with all these battle hardened warriors?
Retrain them in covert operations and ship them out across all of Creation was the plan The Elders of The Sisterhood devised. Iyo actually thought that a good idea. She knew she'd get into mischief in peacetime and the necessities of 'blending in' would help her readjust to non-martial society.
Thus, she found herself in place called Brooklyn.
“Okay, enough woolgathering,” she said using local colloquialisms.
She strode out of the alley, though quaint asphalt and concrete streets, to a promenade overlooking the city's harbor. The water smelled even worse than the air, but the skyline of the tightly packed urban island across that water held a chaotic beauty.
She knew one of the two ugly boxlike towers that dominated that skyline would be destroyed in the Father/God wars that plagued this period. But that was nearly two decades...'up the line'. Maybe.
“Things change,” she murmured.
© 2007-2009 Michael Varian Daly
Her Prophet Explains: Addendum C [The Individual and The Hive]