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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.


Freedom for Tara

Chapter 3 – Elevator to Hell

Life as a galactic prisoner wasn’t as boring as you might think. Sure, there wasn’t much to do, it’s not like we had televisions or books, or any other form of outside entertainment that might be available to inmates in a prison back on Earth. But what we did have was each other.

I found that even the idle chit-chat around the common-room table was far more interesting than anything I might get at the local hang-out back home. I mean, everything was completely new. There were entire worlds to hear about! And the best part was that no matter who was talking, it was all worth listening to. Everyone wanted to hear about Earth, of course. Who wouldn’t want to know about the scoundrel black-sheep of the universe? But I found that it’s really hard to describe the latest scandals back home, to a people that just don’t understand what it means to be ‘bad’. Not by ‘Terran’ standards anyway.

I learned a ton, none of which would be even remotely usable should I ever get back to Earth, but still. It was something to do, and frankly a hell of a lot more entertaining than the crap most of the television networks were putting out these days.

I found that Benie was quite the storyteller, and not surprisingly, the group’s defacto leader if there were such a thing. It’s not that they followed her orders, but rather they let her organize them and set basic rules to avoid conflicts. They turned to her when the inevitable clashes occurred, and to my complete surprise, took her judgments without comment or resentment. It was the galactic way; that inbred penchant for peace was keeping things calm and civilized, and I saw right off that if we had any chance at all of survival, I was going to have to break them of their ‘niceness’ in a big way. I made the mistake of trying to explain this to Benie.

“Tara, it simply can’t be done. They don’t know how to be subversive. None of us do, save for you. We just don’t think that way,” she explained as we sat alone at a small table near the kitchen. A group of about ten others had taken up an ad-hoc dance circle in the central courtyard and was laughing as each tried their hand at another’s local moves.

“Well you’d better learn. On my world they have a name for ‘nice’ people who refuse to fight back when war comes knocking… they call them casualties.”

She shook her head. “The other human before you, Sue. She thought as you do. She tried to teach us, but I’m afraid she didn’t get very far. She made a little progress with a few of us, but just when I thought that maybe… well, she didn’t come back from a match. Zeb really hasn’t been the same since.”

“I heard they were, uh… close.”

She nodded. “Zeb is young, and still open to… alternative ways. Sue was about the most alternative thing to come through here since we arrived. I think Zeb has taken a liking to you as well.”

“Yeah, I noticed.” I rolled my eyes and the other laughed aloud. “But it’s all good. I think she needs someone right now. So do I, for that matter.” I was quiet for a moment, then asked, “Benie, what’s it like?… In the arena I mean.”

“There are few words I can give you to help you understand,” she replied sadly. “Each time is different. Always, it is terrifying, but for different reasons. It is never a simple thing to run for one’s life. I’ve survived eight events, though I have only been caught twice.”

I was shocked. “You were caught? But I thought that if you were caught…”

“That I would be killed?”

I nodded.

“No. The Var-Lish could kill us easily. But that’s not their intent with these games of theirs. It’s not even in their best interest as they then have to extract fresh players from various worlds. But they place no restrictions on the creatures that we face when we step through that portal. Some will merely restrain you, and then stimulate you sexually until you are forced into an orgasm before releasing you. Others are more… aggressive.”

I waited, not really wanting to ask the question.

“You wish to know what happened to me,” she stated simply.

I frowned, realizing that it might be very difficult for the woman to talk about it. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t ask you to relive that.”

“No, I need to process it. Keeping it inside will only let it hurt me further. Sue taught me that. The first time, it was a vine of some sort. I was with an Arnisha named Dren. We came through the portal into what looked like a jungle. We could see the exit, and never even noticed we were trapped in the plant until it was too late. It… it slipped under my clothing… uh… and… came inside me. It… it…”

“Hey, it’s okay… really,” I said as she faltered.

“I need this,” she continued, sweating slightly. “I couldn’t break away, and was held there while it… raped me… for about an hour.”

“An hour?! Oh my god…”

She shrugged. “Not so bad, really, once the initial terror faded. That particular creature was more interested in stimulation than violating me. The second time I wasn’t so lucky.”

“Benie, as much as I want to understand what the arena is like, I don’t want to push you…”

“You’re not,” she replied, with a slight smile. “I knew the moment that we stepped through the gate the second time, that we were in trouble. We were up against Garst. Three of them. Garst are semi-intelligent quadrupeds. They have short, thick legs and bulky bodies, which would make you think that they would be slow, but they’re not. There were four of us, so we figured at least one would make it if we ran for the portal right off. That was a mistake. They saw what we were doing and rammed Ashreen, a Barlos, knocking her unconscious, then came after the rest of us. They were huge and very heavy. One of them knocked me down, face first, and pinned my arms with its forelegs. It ripped through my clothing like it was nothing, and took me from behind. Their genitals are like the rest of them, short and stubby. They’re also… rough.”

“Oh Benie… I’m so sorry.”

She sighed. “We were fortunate in one respect though. Once they spent a few times, they really didn’t want anything else to do with us. We were able to crawl back to the portal and get back before the time limit. Some girls aren’t so favored, and injuries here are often fatal in the long run. There are no medical supplies. We Fretah can block most pain in ourselves and others, still, broken bones are common, but are better than what can happen if you are impregnated.”

“What?! Are you serious? I would think that different species wouldn’t be able to, to…”

“In all but a very few cases, a species’ genetics are incompatible with any other than their own.”

I was frantic. “Then how could…”

“But, that does not mean that something placed in our womb won’t grow.”

I just stared at her.

“Tara, I know this is frightening, but you need to understand. There are certain species that will implant seeds, fertilized eggs, even spores, that will germinate and grow with varying results. In most cases, however, the host is killed in the end.”

There was nothing to say. I looked away in horror, unable to accept what she was telling me. After several minutes, I finally met her eyes again, and nodded once. Her story frightened me in the extreme, but it did have one positive effect. It solidified my eagerness to escape.

After eating half a plate of onion rings, I excused myself and tried to get some sleep. There was a second replicator unit that would give fresh bedding and even blankets if one wanted. My quarters weren’t the Ritz, but they were comfortable and warm, and I was snoring in only a few short minutes.

I couldn’t have been asleep for more than twenty minutes when there was a warbling alarm that caused me to jump up, adrenalin pumping. Slightly disoriented, it took me a moment to remember where I was and to identify the voices I heard nearby. There were several people crying, and a rush of steps from all directions. Pushing back my door curtain, I noticed that a red pulsing glow was illuminating most of the central courtyard. Benie came running up to me.

“What the hell is going on,” I asked over the din.

Her face was dark and serious. “The alarm is a warning to clear the courtyard. It means a match is coming.”

“Shit… what should I do?”

“Just ready yourself,” she explained. There was a deep boom and a sudden change in pressure, and I suddenly found there was a ten-foot high arch of what looked like neon in the middle of the large open area in the center of our compound. There was no surface to speak of within the half-circle, just a lack of light, but a curtain of fog or mist seemed to pour forth from nowhere. “That is the portal down to the planet,” she said, just as the alarm stopped. The red light continued, however. “It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be picked for this match, but we never know for sure who will go. They usually give new prisoners a break for at least one arena event.”

“How do you know if you’ve been chosen,” I asked, staring at the strange doorway.

No sooner had I asked the question, than I was interrupted by another alarm, this time softer. I also saw that a there was a glowing blue circle on the ground around Nusho, one of the Fretah, as well as a short Arnisha and a pair of Barlos twins. The Arnisha immediately started wailing.

“The lighted circles indicate the chosen for this match,” Benie recited calmly. “They have three galactic minutes to enter the portal.”

“What happens if they refuse?”

The Fretah woman looked at me. “When you first step into the arena, there is a small ‘safety’ zone directly beyond the portal that prevents anything from attacking you for another three minutes. Anyone who refuses to enter the portal will be forcibly pulled through with a tractor field.”

“No surprise there…” I commented.

“There’s more. The tractor field causes a paralysis effect. You will remain conscious, but unable to move any of your extremities as you are sent through the portal and placed just outside of that safety zone. The paralysis lasts for a full five minutes in most people, and I can assure you that five minutes in the arena is a VERY long time.”

“So you can refuse, you just pay the penalty.”

“A very bad penalty. At least if you walk through on your own, you have a chance. Refuse, and you basically forfeit yourself to whatever awaits below. I need to go.”

I nodded, and the long-eared woman ran off toward the Arnisha who had curled up on the floor within her glowing circle. I could see that the glow wasn’t even, but darker in a growing arc. Like a countdown clock, the blue line tracked the time until she would be forcibly drawn into the games. Benie crouched next to her, undoubtedly giving her much the same speech she had just given me. The Fretah was right. Going in willingly was the better option.

The other chosen had gathered in front of the portal, waiting to see what would happen. Despite Benie calmly pleading with her, the woman I remembered as Helen, simply wouldn’t budge. A dark depression seemed to fill the air as we all realized the futility of her plight. Benie continued to try to talk the other into action, even as the other three stepped through the neon arch and vanished. Just before the dark blue of her circle completed, The Fretah leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on the woman’s head, then stepped away. A moment later, there was a gong-like sound that repeated four times. At the last, the circle around the Arnisha turned bright red. Helen suddenly went limp as she was lifted weightless and drawn toward the arch, the red ring of judgment following on the ground under her. I knew there was nothing anyone could do but watch, but I wanted to run out and knock her back, resist in some way. Benie caught my eye and shook her head. A second later the woman’s whimpers were abruptly silenced as she passed through the portal.

“So that’s it then,” I asked, walking briskly up to Benie.

“Now we wait. The maximum time for each match is always three galactic hours. That’s how long they have to get to the other portal.”

“And we just sit here?!”

The Fretah woman looked confused. “What else can we do, Tara? Would you step through that portal and join them?”

“There has to be some way we can help,”

She shook her head just as the glowing line of light that marked the edge of the portal changed from yellow to green. There was another pulse in the air.

“The return portal is in place. It’s up to them now.”

I sighed. “Is it far? The exit portal, I mean. Is it far from the entrance?”

“It varies with each event. Sometimes it’s quite close, maybe only a dozen meters. Other times it could be hundreds.”

As it turned out, we didn’t have to wait long. About ten minutes later Nusho and one of the Barlos twins stepped out of the curtain of darkness and fell, panting to the ground. About half the compound descended on the survivors, some bringing water, others blankets. Nusho just pushed them away and found Benie.

“Bellarus… We’re orbiting Bellarus,” she said as she caught her breath. “They were Mingis. Two of them.”

I saw Benie take a deep breath, her face serious and grim. “The others…” she asked, though I got the impression she already knew their fate. Nusho just shook her head.

“They were distracted with Arnisha. She never had a chance, but we took the opportunity and ran for the portal. We almost made it too. The second Mingis hit Teg from behind and dragged her back just as we went through.” I assumed she was referring to the other Barlos twin.

“Damnit,” muttered Benie. “It’s almost worse that Esh survived.”

“She’d have turned around if she could have. She was already starting through the portal.”

“I don’t understand,” I commented. “Why would…”

“They are telepathically linked,” she reminded me. “She is very aware of everything that her twin is experiencing down on the planet. And when we leave orbit, their link will be severed.”

“Is that a good thing?”

She was watching the girl as she lay on the floor, curled into a ball and shaking. “About one in twenty are able to survive separation. And even then, their lives are horrible ghosts of what they once were. Here, under these conditions… her chances are very slim.”

“Bad thing…” I answered myself. “What are ‘Mingis’?”

Benie made sure her Fretah companion was safe, then she walked me aside to the kitchen area. When we were seated, she explained.

“You showed me one of your food items… a Humbugger?”

“Hamburger…. Yes?”

“It has some form of ground meat between two halves of a bread.” The woman seemed to shiver slightly at her own description.

I nodded.

“Imagine the top piece of bread with about a hundred long tentacles hanging under it. Now imagine that piece of bread four meters in diameter and you have a Mingis. Nusho is a biologist for the Consortium. She can identify most of the species within known galactic space, and where they come from.”

I was impressed, but thoughtful. “What will… What will become of Teg and Helen?”

“The Var-Lish will wait the full three hours before closing the portal, trapping them on the surface. The Mingis are contact telepaths. They feel whatever their victims feel, and will use them for pleasure until their bodies fail. Once captured, it’s highly unlikely that they will have the strength or even the will to break free. The individual tentacles are not very strong, but there are hundreds.”

I thought about it and found myself frowning. “I… I just can’t imagine how being raped by something like that…”

“Stop,” said Benie, placing her hand on my shoulder. “Trust me, you shouldn’t try to visualize that. It will only cause you stress. The real memories will be bad enough… No need to create false ones. But to answer your unasked question, you have to remember that the Mingis can feel your pleasure. It doesn’t take them long to figure out exactly what arouses you… how to touch you to elicit the greatest sexual stimulation. And, they have scores of limbs in which to do just that.”

I swallowed, and despite Benie’s warning, found myself thinking about it in great detail.

A number of us gathered in the courtyard several hours later, and watched as the last few minutes ticked by on the return portal. There were a pair of glowing dots that slowly traveled up either side of the arch lines until they met at the top. In the last few seconds before connecting, they pulsed and once again there were four warning tones. At last, the portal turned red, and with a brief flash and a drop in pressure, it was gone.

There was a wail of grief from Esh, knowing that her twin’s fate had just been sealed… and that of her own. A few moments later there was a change in the background noise as the Var-Lish ship left orbit and I saw Benie turn to the Barlos female. The woman looked abruptly panicked, then her face took on an expression that I will never forget. It was a deeply contorted pain that can only come from a loss so great that it rips apart your soul. Luckily, whatever terrible horror she was experiencing didn’t last long. She made one gut-wrenching scream, and then fell to the floor, dead.