A Word of Caution

Welcome to the realm of the Unseelie Court. Feel free to wander and browse, but know that the content you will find here is not for the faint of heart. The visions portrayed are often darkly erotic, even disturbing, and should be traversed only by those with the appropriate character and mental age.

You have been warned.

 Chapters

Freedom for Tara

Chapter 6 – Of Geeks and Gears

Dear Diary – I survived my first arena match.  It sounds simple enough when put that way, but it isn’t.  I almost didn’t survive, and if not for the strength of another, and an insane amount of blind luck, I probably wouldn’t be writing this.  Which is why I’m writing this…  I’m not sure of the date, since Galactic time and Terran time are not quite in sync, but it’s some date after December 7, 2010, as that was when I was abducted.

Whoever you are, if you’re not me, then it’s very likely that at some point in my future, I failed to come back through a portal from a match and I’m dead, or very much want to be.  This journal is meant to be a jump-start.  Hopefully, you’re human, or rather Terran.  I’m going to leave this journal in the quarters that seem to be used for Terrans, with instructions that it be given to a Terran if at all possible.  We seem to possess something that the majority of galactic humanoids lack.  I’m not completely sure it’s as simple as the “cunning” that has been mentioned to me, but we _are_ different somehow.  Always the rabble-rousers, it seems.

I’ll try to tell you what you need to know, but your best bet is to start talking with your fellow inmates if you can.  Find someone who will help you and pick their brain.  Learn everything you can and write it down here so that if _you_ fail to come back, the next human will at least know what you know.  A simple fork saved my life today, and now that I know it can go through the portal and be used as a weapon, it’s not going to leave my side unless I can find something better to replace it.  Which brings me to the replicator.

Learn how to use it.  Later today I’m going to gather as many different Galactics as are willing and get them to start going through their menu choices for things that might have been sampled other than food.  If the Var-Lish left things in my choices, then they probably left them in other’s as well.  Who knows, we might get lucky.

 

 

“Wait… wait! Go back one… there!” I was pointing to the replicator display while Deed, the sole Muri female tapped through her choices. Originally, I had each participant in my little experiment search on their own while I sampled anything that they might bring to me, but it just didn’t work. It was simply too easy to overlook something as being of no value just because it was common… anywhere save our little prison universe.

“Huh? Where,” she asked, squinting in a way that made her natural skin patterning bunch up into a fierce vortex. I had learned not to assume that her built-in tattoos matched how she felt emotionally.

I pointed to the screen again. “Right there, that long thingy…”

“You mean the Kamba stick? It’s nothing more than a utensil for eating… What good would that be for anything?”

“Get it,” I answered nodding and rubbing my palms together. “Remember my fork? I didn’t think that would help me in the arena either.”

“But your fork is a weapon! It has multiple sharp tines, and a handle, and…”

I laughed. “…It’s nothing more than a utensil for eating,” I replied, trying to shape my voice like hers. I must have succeeded, because her eyes grew a little wider, which I might have missed save for her patterning. It had a tendency to amplify even the slightest emotional response from the girl. She tapped the screen and I waited impatiently in front of the door. When her selection was ready, there was a familiar beep and the panel slid open. I reached in and found the object I was looking for. It was a thin metal spike tapered to a fairly sharp point on one end. At about a foot long, I carefully felt the weight in my hand and then flipped it once so that I held the sharper end.

“I’m telling you, that thing is NOT going to be of any use in the games…” No sooner were the words out of her mouth, than there was a hard smack, and her Kamba stick was impaled into the side of a medium-sized slab of beef that was part of the growing pile of unneeded meals laying about.

Deed’s mouth fell open.

“You don’t think of it as a weapon because you have always used it to put food into your maw,” I explained as I retrieved the find.

“But… but… how did you… I mean, you THREW it! Where did you learn to do THAT?!”

I smiled. “My brother and I were always trying to prove who was the better knife thrower, much to the horror of our father. It was one of the few guy-type subjects that I could actually better him at. It’s really not hard. That stick is weighted to about one and a half turns at five paces…er, my paces, as you’re a little longer in the leg.” I handed the “utensil” back to her. “I think we better put that one down for a couple dozen.”

Holding the simple spike with slightly more reverence, she continued to search through her menu. To be fair, not everything was quite so obviously useful as the Kamba stick, though by the end of the day we had a considerable arsenal of “tools”, any one of which would be thought of as completely benign in its proper context. Most of the objects were used for eating or preparing food, but not all. There were rings and writing implements, odd containers, identification cards, trinkets and earrings. In one case we found a small stash of hallucinogenic drugs, not that we were about to go testing the already dangerous compound on secondary races, but still interesting.

Perhaps our most promising find was that of a tiny device that Benie described as an “Ort”. In simple terms, it was a communications device that clipped to your ear, much like a Bluetooth headset you might find on Earth, only built with Galactic technology so the entire “phone” as it were, was contained within a gem-like clip that one fixed near the inside edge of the ear. It was built to fit as many different species as possible, and sort of adjusted itself to the wearer as needed. I wasn’t sure how it would help us yet, since it wouldn’t function without the infrastructure that any Galactic world would have in place (just like a cell phone) but it was advanced, and held fantastic possibilities. It was also really cool, and the first piece of extraterrestrial tech that I had seen to date, save for the portals. I loved gadgets, so I was drooling over the tiny device almost at once.

By the time we had cataloged our treasures and cleared the unused food away, almost everyone was ready to puke. It’s just hard to have multiple plates of steaming hot goodies laying about without nibbling a bit now and then. And watching someone else snacking is a sure-fire way to give yourself the munchies. I must have consumed five pounds of french fries sitting there.

When I had filled the one non-food covered table with “junk”, Zeb started relocating things to an extra sleeping room and designated the space my “lab”. On the return trips, she would dump an armful of platters into the recycler, which we kept busy nearly continuously. In this regard, Zeb was a fantastic help. The younger Fretah seemed to have a nearly endless supply of energy and enthusiasm, and even when I found myself practically falling asleep with exhaustion, she was eager to assist in any way she could. How eager I didn’t find out until she helped me back to my own quarters.

I was only semi-conscious, mumbling insanely about how we could use a Kamba stick and a Fretah spoon together to make an anti-aircraft cannon. Zeb half-carried me until she could dump me into my bedding. I must have held onto her, because I remember her falling atop my body. Then, before I knew what I was doing, I took her head in my hands and pulled her face down to mine. Her lips were soft and warm, and tasted slightly of mangoes. In my own defense, it was Dirk I was kissing in my mind, reliving some moment back in his convertible. By the time my brain finally realized that it was Zeb, the long-eared girl had pretty much melted and joined in completely. One hand was resting on my left breast, the other was already sliding down into the waistband of my skirt. Needless to say, I came awake quite quickly.

“Whoa!!” I exclaimed, breaking away from her kiss while I squirmed out from under her body. I blinked away the sleepiness and tried to sit up as the tingling in my nipple persisted despite the fact that the girl was no longer playing with it. “Just… just hold on there,” I panted as my adrenalin rush slowly faded.

“I… I thought…” She started, confused.

I took a deep breath. “Oh Zeb. I’m sorry. I don’t know how that happened, but I’m not… I mean… I don’t, uh… Crap. Look, I don’t know how you and Susan got along, but I’m guessing that you and her were intimate, yes?”

The other nodded nervously.

“Of course. But despite what you might believe, not all Terran’s are… I mean, we don’t all… Shit, Zeb I don’t swing that way. I like guys.”

“Oh,” replied the Fretah looking suddenly dejected.

I was feeling majorly guilty. “Aw, dammit. Please don’t go running away, Zeb. You’re the best friend I have here, and I would really, really hate to lose you over something like this.”

She looked confused. “But you don’t… like… girls.”

I let out my breath slowly. “Hell, it’s not that simple,” I replied, patting the covers next to me. The Fretah hesitated a moment, then sat down. “I don’t dislike girls, but plenty of men have always been available to me.”

“Then you very well might be bisexual,” she said brightening.

“Uh… no Zeb. I’m not. Really. Just because something feels good, doesn’t mean that it’s what I want. I like men… a lot. I’m perfectly happy with men.”

She frowned. “Tara, I’m sure you noticed, but there are no males here.”

I was about to say something, but instead I snapped my mouth shut. The trouble was, she was right. Escape was so imprinted on my brain, that I hadn’t even considered the fact that I might be here for the rest of my life. And that life might end tomorrow, or a decade from now. Either way, when my only hope for a sexual relationship was hinged on an all-female sampling, it might not be a good idea to restrict myself too quickly.

“Okay… point taken. But despite that very disquieting fact, I’m not ready, Zeb. I haven’t even gotten over what was done to me in the arena yet.”

She was staring at her hands. “I thought as much, but then, when you kissed me…”

“Wait, what? I kissed YOU?”

She nodded with a somewhat lopsided smile.

“Uh… shit. Sorry, Zeb. I must have been really out of it.”

“Perhaps, but you did seem to enjoy it.”

I thought about that and bit my lip. “Alright, I suppose I did. But I really do need more time to work this all out in my head. Do you think I could get a rain check?”

The girl looked at me with curiosity. “I am not familiar with that phrase…”

“What? Rain check?”

“Yes, what does that mean?”

“Oh, well, that’s, er… When a store on Terra runs out of a product at a sale price, it’s a promise to honor that price at a later date.” I smiled.

The Fretah blinked several times. “Why would a store sell something they do not have in stock?”

I opened my mouth to say something, and then for the second time, closed it again.

“And what does that have to do with rain?” She continued.

“You know…” I answered, scratching my head. “I have no idea. Basically, it’s just that an unaccepted offer will be renewed in the future.”

Zeb brightened at once. “Oh! I understand now! So… yes, you may have a ‘rain check’.”

As exhausted as I was, it still took me another hour to get to sleep after Zeb had left. The problem was, I really had enjoyed that kiss, conscious or not, and my body was still reacting to sex in an overstimulated way.

In the “morning” I had a quick cup of coffee and then plodded off to the extra room to take a good look at all the items we fished out of the replicator. My lab looked like a hippie garage sale gone extra bad. The entire room was covered in so much junk that in any other situation, the whole mess would have caused me to simply turn around and paint “condemned” on the door. But now, here, all that meaningless crap was pure gold. Everything had a possible use, from the smallest plastic hair pin, to the high-tech Ort. Everything in that room was a possibility where none existed before… A chance to hope.

“Right,” I said to myself and got busy sorting and organizing. I kept my order pad/notebook handy to write down possible ideas, and since I lacked any real quantity of shelf space, I drew lines on the main table so that I could place objects into a numbered grid of sorts for identification. I’d label things better when I came up with a pen, but pencil markings worked for starters in case things were bumped. Then I made notations in my book corresponding to the grid. The idea was that even if I were lost, the work could be continued by someone else without having to start over.

It was slow going. Most of my collection didn’t have the obvious use of the Kamba sticks. In fact, only two or three items could be used “as-is” like my fork. Simple poking weapons. They would work in a pinch, but I wanted something more lethal, and that was going to take engineering. It’s not like I was expecting to make a laser blaster, but a weapon that didn’t require me to be within ten meters of my target would be nice. Still, I wasn’t kidding myself. I had put a few arrows into a target once when I was a kid at summer camp (okay, maybe it was around the target), but I knew nothing about how to make a bow… or a gun… or hardly anything. Hell, we could probably throw plates Frisbee-style, but unless we sharpened the edges like Oddjob’s hat, the only way we would kill a potential enemy is if they died laughing.

But just handling the objects gave me ideas. For example, I couldn’t see any possible use for an earring until I noticed it was made from a number of wound metal wires that looked like copper. I carefully unwrapped the whole thing and ended up with two pieces of stiff wire about six inches long and an eyelet. That might not seem like much until you remember that thanks to the replicator, I wasn’t limited by quantity. If I had one, I had a thousand. All it took was time. Any piece of anything else could be obtained as many times as needed.

But just having resources still didn’t give me any advantage unless I could use them. Even then, I had no tools (I’d have to make those too) and no skills as far as crafting what I wanted. I suppose I am reasonably smart (by human standards… make that Terran standards) but MacGyver I’m not. I was going to need help. But before I opened my shop to the rest of the inmates, I knew I better have my wares in order or it would just look like I was going insane. So four hours later, I wasn’t just filling my boxes with whole objects, but rather raw materials. There were twists of metal, clips, screw-like things, pins, plates, wires, thin paper-like materials in all sizes, straps, thread, clasps, rods, and a even small patches of something that looked like leather. By lunch time, I had a sampling of over two-hundred ninety-five discrete raw materials and I wasn’t even halfway through my pile. It was time to bring in someone who could actually make use of my junk.

I ignored the grumbling of my stomach and went off in search of Benie. She’d know who had engineering training. I saw Zeb crossing the compound from the showers and stopped her. She was wearing a towel, a slight blush, and little else.

“Hey, have you seen Benie? I need to ask her a question.” I was a little nervous around her given our last meeting.

“Well… she was visiting Makiela a few minutes ago, but you might want to…”

“Okay, great, uh… thanks, Zebbie,” I said quickly, taking the excuse not to have the conversation I’m sure she was considering. I squeezed her shoulder, blushing myself when I realized it was bare, and trotted off toward the Marroons’ quarters. I was almost halfway there when I remembered that the deep bronze-skinned race was the one that never wore clothing. They had gotten over the fact that the rest of the humanoid races did, but their own brains had never developed the ability to ignore the constant rustle of fabric over one’s skin. So even those that could break with their society’s rather adamant religious practices, wearing a simple shirt and pants would drive them literally crazy. I had seen her and the other Reesethee Marroons around the compound. They were a little hard to miss. But it still helped if I took a breath and prepared myself for nudity. I tapped on the wall at her doorway and then mistook the grunt I heard from within as a call to enter. I say mistook because, while I was prepared for Makiela to be without clothing, I had not expected Benie to be so as well. More so, that grunt had not been in response to my knock. Not at all. In fact, I’m pretty sure that neither Makiela nor Benie had even heard my knocking. They were just a little distracted at that moment.

I stopped cold, the standard galactic greeting I had prepared caught on the first syllable. Benie was seated in Makiela’s lap, her legs wrapped around the woman while the Marroon’s left hand dropped down between them and into the Fretah’s lap. Her right was cupping one of her breasts. Benie’s own arms were locked behind her lover’s head as they kissed and rocked against one another most intimately. I had chosen to walk in just as the Fretah was hitting her peak, her gasping voice rising in pitch as she finally trembled and then collapsed against the other’s chest in pleasurable exhaustion.

With my mouth still hanging open, Makiela looked up at me and, to my surprise, smiled.

“We have an audience,” she said softly into Benie’s ear while she continued to stare at me. I was simply stunned. It would have been completely rude to run out then, so I just stood there, blushing to my toes as the Fretah woman turned enough so that she could see me.

“Tara?”

I sighed, utterly embarrassed. “I… I am so unbelievably sorry. I thought I heard… I mean, I shouldn’t have walked in on you and… oh god…”

Benie looked confused and amused at the same time, and finally interrupted me. “Tara, we’re not mad at you.”

“You’re not?”

“No. Look, we pretty much give up any chance of privacy the moment we’re brought here. You get used to it.”

I wasn’t convinced. “But you… Uh, maybe I should come back later.”

“Stay. Please? You obviously had something important you wanted to talk about.” Makiela nodded in agreement.

I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, resigning myself. “Are you sure?”

Benie laughed. “Yes,” she replied, untangling herself from the Marroon and then patting the pile of sleeping clothes next to her.

I hesitated one last time, then came forward and sat down. I was more than a little distracted by the fact that I was the only one wearing more than a smile.

“Now, what has you so aroused,” asked Benie. I froze, and my eyes went wide. In response, she motioned her own eyes to the front of my shirt, which very plainly showed that my nipples were hard and quite present.

I realized she was playing with me and the fact that I had walked in on their lovemaking.

“Um… Well, you know that I have been collecting things from the replicators, yes?”

Makiela snickered. “Bit hard to miss, love. There was enough food out there to sate an army.”

I cringed. “Sorry about that.”

“No problem,” she replied, smiling. “In fact, some of the combinations of smells actually put me off eating for a bit.” She patted her belly. “I was having trouble keeping my weight down anyway, so you did me a favor.”

“Oh my… I had no idea it was so bad.”

“Really, Tara,” continued Benie. “No one is complaining. You’re a girl with a mission,” she said as though that would justify anything.

“Right. Okay, so once I had piles and piles of er, junk… Zeb and I put it all in one of the spare rooms. I then spent the better part of a day going through it, cataloging things and disassembling them for the raw materials.”

I saw Makiela turn and look at the Fretah in surprise.

“Go on,” urged Benie when I hesitated.

“Well, it was important to list where everything came from so that we could pull it from the replicator as needed, so I had to note what food entry it was from and how I disassembled each item and on and on. That way, if we needed more of something, we could just look it up in the book.”

“Wait,” interrupted the Marroon. “Are you saying that your little ordering pad contains the instructions for obtaining simple building materials?” The woman was quite surprised.

“Er, well yes. But that won’t give us any real advantage in the matches on its own. The number of items that could be used by themselves in a practical way is less than a half dozen or so…”

“Exactly how many items are listed in your book?” Asked Makiela, slightly in awe.

I blushed a little. “Well, I filled this one up pretty fast and had to go back and get a few more…”

They just stared at me, waiting.

“Um… two hundred and seventy six. I numbered them.”

“May I see?” Asked the Marroon. I handed the woman my pad.

“Sorry if it’s a little sloppy. My galactic is, er, kinda rusty. I’ve only been writing for a few days.”

“By the gods…” exclaimed the woman as she flipped through the pages. She stopped at one entry and her eyes grew wide. “This… number one twenty-two, you really have this? A strip of springy metal four pillons long and a half pillion wide?”

I looked over her shoulder at what she was reading. “Oh yeah, that was an interesting one. I found that inside a serving utensil used by the Makali. Why in the world they need a springy spoon is anyone’s guess. Anyway, it was wrapped completely within a sort of plastic, and the spoon end fit into a groove at…”

“Makiela?” Benie was watching her lover.

“Benenitee, I think our Terran companion may have given us more than simple poking weapons.”

“Huh?” I exclaimed, trying to catch up. “I’m not sure any of this stuff is going to be all that lethal. At the very least we’d need someone with some engineering skills. That was why I was coming to see you, Benie, to see if you knew anyone in that profession.”

Makiela was still turning pages. “If we had a shaft of some kind, thick, short…” she said to herself.

“Um… try number… sixty-three, I think. I believe it was a form of pepper grinder, but that sure as hell wasn’t pepper in there.” I shivered, recalling the orange and green granules that had dropped into my hand when I turned the top.

“Yes, yes! And some strong cord or wire?”

“Number seventeen. Earrings,” I said to Benie, smiling.

I was a little confused over the Marroon’s enthusiasm so I just let her browse through the pages while I continued to talk to the Fretah. “So, what do you think? Does anyone in our group like to tinker with things?”

Benie just laughed and glanced over at Makiela.

I looked up and saw that the woman was hunched over my order pad, entranced. Even though she was born on an entirely different planet, the posture and focus was unmistakable. Makiela was a geek.

“Oh, duh…” I said, getting it.

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