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Original Fiction

Written by Ruthless

I had been lying on the floor for five hours. We all had. I was cramped now and all my bones seemed to be digging into the hard surface. I didn't know what had happened to the crew of the space launch, but presumably they were still piloting the craft, because I could feel the faint drone of the space drive below the floor, still making an almost subliminal vibration. The passengers littered the floor.

Sometimes I raised my head to look around. I could see two women ahead of me; they kept their heads down and their shoulders hunched. Nobody moved and nobody spoke. Beyond the two strange women, lay co-workers of mine almost blocked from my sight. Tillisa and Morwen had boarded the space launch with me at Kithera. We had presumed it would be a regular nine-hour hop. But it had become a situation of deadly peril instead.

I heard the hijacker's footsteps before he came through the door. I kept my head down, the floor pressing into my cheekbone. I tried to look peripherally. He walked slowly among us. I could see him. All I could see were a pair of laced black boots. The boots came closer, unhurried. They stopped just inches from my head. The toes of his boots were pointed towards me.

"You. Yes, you. The man." His voice was husky, a touch of T'nerstian drawl and quite calm. "Get up, Get on your knees." His voice dropped, almost to a whisper. "Nobody else move."

I drew my self up slowly, stiff with tension. He had said there was a mini-nuke attached to the launch. He had the detonator to set it off, to instantly vaporize himself and us in an instant of terrorist immolation. I wasn't afraid anything I could do would make him set it off. I was afraid of the menace of the small arms that he carried. More than that I was afraid of the calmness in his voice. To me, it was the voice of a man who could do anything.

I got up on my knees, facing him, my chest rising and falling in deep breaths.

He was a black-haired man with eyes as dark as obsidian. He wore fatigues of some sort. I didn't recognize the uniform; there are so many in the Interstellar Empire. His uniform consisted of trousers with many pockets and a short-cropped jacket. I was facing his lower chest. He slipped the gun down from his shoulder and turned it until the muzzle was leveled with my head.

"Do you want to die?" He sounded curious.

"No." My own voice was level. It almost matched his voice for steadiness. Despite the fear that was singing through me, there was a part of me completely in control. It was this voice that answered him.

"You are going to obey the orders that I give you. You are going to move slowly. You are not going to try anything which might annoy me. And if you do exactly what I say and don't annoy me, then I might allow you to live."

I tilted my face. I looked up at his frightening face. "Yes." I said. "I am going to do anything you tell me to."

"Put your hands on top of your head." He said.

I raised my hands and placed them exactly as he ordered. My gaze dropped again. I could not hold my eyes and face him.

On his belly, below the button fly of the combat pants there was a bulge. I had seen it before. An animal instinct had made me check it out, when this frightening, gun-wielding man had been crowding the terrified passengers back into the cabin, ordering us to lie down on the floor. He had searched us for valuables, patting down over our clothing quickly and efficiently. His hard palm had worked roughly down over my body, my chest, front pockets, back pockets, slap, slap, slap, my crotch. The quick tap had stung. Almost before I had registered it, he had gone on to search a tall blonde Kitherian woman, and I had seen the bulge in profile then. The hijacker had an erection.

It turns him on to point guns at people. Out of the eleven passengers on the launch, by some quirk of statistical probability, I was the only man. The other ten were women. He had his gun pointed at a cabin full of frightened women and it was giving him a hard on. I knew that it could simply be aggression that gave the black-haired man the erection that filled out the front of his trousers, but I thought, "Some of the women are probably going to be raped."

"Now stand." He said. I stood.

He had singled me, the lone male out. Why? Because I was a man, and therefore logically the most dangerous to him, the most expendable. The first thought I grabbed at was that perhaps he wanted to fix his hostages more securely starting with me. He was no longer contented to watch them lying on the cabin floor from the monitor on the bridge that gave the crew visual access to the passengers. That could be it. He could be taking me somewhere else, where he would tie me, before he did the same to the other passengers.

Or perhaps he did not want me to be a witness, if he was planning a quick sexual assault on some of his hostages. But that did not make sense. If he had wanted privacy to do a rape, it would have been simpler to force the woman of his choice to go into the back with him.

My mind was running quickly over these thoughts, discarding them as impossible as quickly as I thought of them. We left the cabin where the passengers were scattered like playing cards on the floor. In moments we had gone into the narrow white corridors in the rear of the ship.

What does he want here? I was tautly aware of the gun that was pointing at my back. It was only a few inches from my shoulder blades. A slight squeeze and the shots would rip out. Why here? Why?

Then I saw the sign for the lifeboat, and I thought I understood. He had reached a stage in his negotiations with the Transtellar Corporation where it was time to make a statement. Either he was going to release a hostage or kill one. I was the hostage that he least wanted to keep.

But in the lock beside the lifeboat entrance there was great big egg shaped object. It was about five feet high, and covered in tough cloth, with ropes. It was unlabeled, despite the handling ropes that made it ready for transportation. It was only by chance that I recognized what it was, because I had once seen marines loading for battle at the spaceport in Chneisra a few years before. The great egg shaped object was a field hospital, an autodoc for a battalion, capable of doing surgery of all varieties, the most complete kind of autodoc that they made.

I stopped and stared at the autodoc.

"Open the lifeboat." His voice came from behind me.

Without looking back I went to the controls that sealed the lifeboat hatch. The door slid open mechanically, revealing a small cabin, which was lined with seats. When it was open I glanced back. My gaze jumped away from the man as swiftly as it flickered onto him. I just could not bring myself to look at him steadily. I was afraid to keep looking at him, afraid that he would find my eyes offensive.

"Take that end." He said. "We're going to put this thing in that cabin."

The hijacker waited until I had gotten a grip on the ropes of the autodoc, until it was between him and me before he slung his gun onto his shoulder. He started to shove the thing from behind, while I dragged it from the front. It was heavy. I could just get it moving, but I could not have gotten it into the lifeboat alone. It weighed at least three -quarters of a ton. But the shape of the autodoc was designed so that it could be manhandled by rocking it forward and so we got it moving.

Getting it into the cabin was harder. I had to back into the cabin. I was not dressed for labor. I was wearing my formal clothes, for traveling and for reading a paper in front of the historical society. My jacket bunched up under my arms as I struggled with the big object. The sides of the autodoc compressed slightly to get it through the narrow entrance. The hijacker appeared to glare at me over the thing as it blocked the entrance, but it was exertion on his face, not anger, as he thrust all his strength against it to force it inside.

Our work was not over once we had got the thickest part of the autodoc into the cabin. The seats were in the way. We had to get it all the way inside and that meant lifting it, getting it on top of the seats. My body was damp with sweat and I was gasping with exertion. I put everything I had into helping the hijacker move the massive thing.

I had sweat on my face and I was done by the time we had the autodoc in the place the hijacker wanted. My arms were trembling with the effort they had put out. It was perched up on the seat backs at the back of the cabin.

"Sit there." The hijacker gestured at one of the seats in the front row.

I went and sat in it. This meant I had my back to him.

"Put your hands on top of your head."

I placed them again the way that he ordered, and I rested. I heard him moving behind me. He was securing the autodoc in place, so that it would not roll forward.

He chose me to help him because it was hard work, I thought. And we got it inside the lifeboat, so he'll be pleased. He won't be angry. I understood why he wanted the autodoc in the lifeboat. The object was worth millions. It had not been on board the launch when we left Kithera. It was the ransom that he had demanded and got from the Transtellar Corporation for their ship and for the hostages. He had put it in the lifeboat and now he was going to make his getaway.

My chest ached, not with exertion, but with fear. Still I was able to be dispassionate. Was he going to detonate the mini-nuke when he got away from the launch? Maybe. Maybe not. There was no way to tell.

He didn't hurt anyone. He didn't rape any of the women yet after all. So, if he didn't do that, then he's not so cruel. He won't blow us all up. In my uncertainty, I was trying to find evidence that would tell me what was going to happen. I was guessing. I knew that I was guessing, going from meagre evidence, but I wanted to think I knew what was going to happen, so I guessed any way.

I heard the faint sound of his steps. He walked around in front of me. He still had some of the tie ropes in his hands that he had been using to fix the autodoc in place.

Now he takes me back to the passenger cabin in the launch again, I thought.

"What's your name?"

"Iver Trymsen." I said.

"Close your eyes." He said.

Jesus, I thought. I closed my eyes.

"Don't move."

I thought I might hear the faint sound of him bringing his gun around again, but instead I felt a firm touch where I never expected it. It was on my ankles. It was narrow. It was rope. He was tying my ankles to the seat I was in.

I sat quite still, hands on the top of my head. I felt the ropes climb. They passed swiftly about me and tightened. They passed around my waist. I felt his knuckles turn as he knotted the rope, almost in my groin. The rope tightened. It looped up over my shoulder. I squinted my eyes more tightly shut against the reflex to open them. I felt the man moving, circling me, pulling the ropes.

"Now put your arms behind the seat."

I took them down and in a moment they too were bound with the tie ropes. I was fixed securely. One last tug, tightening the strand that forced my wrist back against the seat and he was done. I heard him move away.

His relaxed voice seemed to hold amusement. "You can open your eyes now."

My eyes shot open. Now I did stare at him. There was a faint smile on his lips as he looked down at me. "That's right." He said. "You're coming with me. I need at least one hostage in the lifeboat so that they don't fire at me as I get away."

I could not help the widening of my eyes. No question now. My fate was sealed. In the vast gulf of outer space's darkness, I was going to die. Even if he did not choose to murder me cold-bloodedly, I could never get back to the space launch, to the Interstellar Empire. I would need a ship to get back and the lifeboat was far too valuable. He would never let me go with the lifeboat just so that I could get back.

He sealed the lifeboat door and he got into the seat at the very front of the cabin, the pilot's seat. I barely took in his actions. I was going to die. Once he got away from the ship I would be no use to him. He might shoot me, or he might space me. I was going to die.

Don't let your breathing go, I commanded myself. Hang onto it. I made it steady. I hung onto my self-control and I stared at the dark-haired hijacker who was seated ahead of me. A faint whine indicated that the lifeboat was preparing for release from the mother ship. The white bulk of the launch, visible from the screen in front of the pilot's seat, appeared to drop away. The hijacker kept it in his view screen as he made the distance widen. He had sensors that would tell him what was behind, or around the little lifeboat. I didn't look at the apace launch. I looked at the back of that dark head. I was looking at the man who would murder me.

In only a few minutes, the space launch had receded until it was a thin white bar against the blackness of infinity. That was when the hijacker opened the communicator.

"These are my orders." He was talking to the pilot of the space launch. "The switch on your right. -The counter says three minutes. Set it to seven minutes and eight seconds... That's right."

His words meant nothing to me. I was looking at the distant white ship now. Gone. I was being carried farther and farther from what the ship meant to me. Life, freedom, safety. My friends.

The hijacker went on talking to the pilot. There were only a few more words. I didn't follow them. Then I heard the hijacker say. "You can throw the switch. It's disconnected."

There was a pause, several seconds. The pilot must have hesitated before she threw the switch. White incandescence flared where the ship had been, a pin prick that silently expanded until the lifeboat screen filled completely with light, until the lifeboat seemed to be facing into a star.

There was no sound. There was no sensation. The lifeboat's stabilizers compensated for the shock wave perfectly. There was only the bitter blinding light. My eyes snapped tight, squeezed shut, but in the yellow after image of the mini-nuke explosion, I heard the hijacker's swiftly in drawn breath. It was the only sound in the cabin. I was too shocked to cry out and all the sound he made was the sucked in air. It had a final sound to it. It could have been amazement at how bright the light was, but to me the hiss of his sharp inhalation sounded like satisfaction.

The End of Part 1a



Written by Juxian Tang

I sat stone still. The last movement I made was to switch the view screen off and it was minutes ago. Dark flickering stains were floating in front of my eyes. I felt the darkness inside me, too. It was flooding like magma, thick and boiling, ready to splash out.

I made a long controlled exhalation and lolled back in the seat. The only my lucid thought was that I had to think it over. Yuck! I never was farther from wish to think!

I felt the urge to take a dose instead. It was so intense that had some dizzying quality. I knew I wouldn't do it here. Not with this entire long way before me. And still the sensation of a tiny phial with white crystals lying neatly in my chest pocket bewitched me. It could make my journey blissed out.

A little sound behind me broke the spells. I didn't turn around. My hostage - who else could it be! He was pretty quiet until then - and I didn't know why he chose this moment to make a noise. It was like he had something stuck in his throat and tried to cough it out. Well, if I blow his brains out right now, I thought, it will be an appropriate final trait to all the picture. To avoid doing it I slid down a bit in the seat and put my boots on the control panel.

Ooh! How stupid! I hated myself. To suck like this... And I guessed myself smart. Fuckin' SSC! A big mistake. An extremely big mistake it was to trust them.

Too late.

Again I felt like smashing the screen in front of me with my bare hand. I would like to shatter everything, to howl and shout and kick the seats out of their places. Only I knew once I started doing it I probably wouldn't be able to stop.

Very carefully I re-adjusted the setters of the screen to show our front way - and switched it on again. There was no reason why I couldn't watch where we were going. The darkness in front of me was clean and quiet. There was no chase. I guessed they got shocked with the explosion and overlooked the boat - and when they recollected I was too far away to get my trace.

It didn't contradict with the sudden start of the communicator. The sound was so strident that I winced. Scattered signal. They wanted to contact me. I knew better.

I let it work, I didn't care. On the panel I found separate device for SuperVision. I didn't need the screen to watch blank space any more - and I set the sensors to let me know if something bigger then stardust was approaching me.

I pressed the button and 3-D image appeared in front of me. A sleek girl with her face both solemn and fascinated was speaking swiftly:

"The operation on hostage release captured on Transtellar Company space launch "Yvonne" going from Kithera to Tangor failed. Despite the confirmations of TSC management that consensus was reached with the terrorist and he obtained the ransom, the ship with eleven passengers and four crew members exploded today at 11:20 of Interstellar Empire Time."

"After the terrorist started from "Yvonne" on the life-boat, the launch disappeared in white flame of mini-nuke explosion," I switched to another station. "We don't have information if the terrorist took any hostages with him. The list of passengers and crew..."

The next station had the modeling of explosion itself. Good work, guys! It was far not so blinding as in reality - but impressive nevertheless. It almost looked like a beautiful flower blooming in the darkness.

They set me up...

I hit the switch abruptly. It was everything all the same, on every station. Well, it was my instigation - didn't I demand the broadest interpretation of the capture? I briefly recalled the thin-hair guy from SSC who contacted me.

"It is our indispensable condition. The capture is to prove that to fly with TSC is not safe - it is our goal."

"Your goal," I grinned. "My goal is three thousand credit units."

I had to get it after the affair was done.

It was my own face looking at me from the picture at the next station. Ten years younger - the way I was on Thalassa - a bright kid with a startled expression.

"Darren Grey, a.k.a. Sojourner, declaring himself anarchist-individualist, who accepted the responsibility for the explosion of power station on Aria-7 in 2098, the hijack of the ship with the members of UTI board in 2100, the demolition of the gravitation arch in 2101..."

They enumerated my credits. Not all of them were mine - some of them I merely adopted. But it was what I was paid for - my name.

My name - and what did they do to it now?!

I didn't pay attention to time. It stunned me when I understood that I switched from station to station for almost three hours! I was fed up with everything I heard; it almost made me sick. The explosion didn't seem anything to me any more - just a fact of beauty, a masterpiece painted by an artist in the outer space. My own name sounded like chanting in my ears.

The communicator stopped signaling - but when it happened I couldn't say. We were already too far from the usual ways of space ships coursing in the Empire - and as we were going further the stations of SV started fading, too. Well, the set of the life-boat was not the strongest one. For some time more I could watch CNN and DagmaTime - and then they were also dead.

I felt inconvenient being in silence. It was not for long - seconds, maybe, until I started thinking about a dose again. I forgot about it watching - but the itch didn't pass. I almost reached for my pocket. It was wrong, of course, I knew I couldn't afford doing it...

I jumped out of the seat abruptly, hitting the floor with my boots. The gun lay on the control panel in front of me, I grasped it sharply and walked to the back of the salon. If nothing else - I still had my hostage.

The guy sat still, deep in the seat, as if trying to hide himself in it - but surely it was only the way I tied him. His face was tilted away from me - it looked like he never saw anything more interesting than clear white panel on the wall.

He even didn't turn to me when I approached him!

I pointed the gun.

"Iver Trysmen. Look at me."

It seemed he was too tired to move. These hours since we stepped to the boat changed him drastically. His face looked haggard, with big dark shadows under his eyes. And his eyes were rimmed with red.

He looked at me without expression - almost unwillingly, I thought. Then his eyes blinked and stuck to the black hole of my gun's point. He appeared to struggle with taking them off from it - but he managed and gazed at me again. His lids were fluttering.

"Yes, right," I said. "At me. I just wanted to ask if you feel like thanking me for saving your life."

It seemed his eyes lost focus. His mouth gaped a little open - and he drew a breath through it - sharp as a gasp. I pointed the gun to his face. It took several seconds before he said:

"Thank you."

His voice was flat. He didn't say anything else, just pressed his mouth tightly. His lips were parched; but no wonder, he had to do without water for - let me see - almost nine hours. Well, he was a man, right? And I didn't have any water here, anyway. And even if I had, I thought, I was not sure I would care about him. Not with this his accusing stare!

Actually, I was not ready to swear that his stare was accusing. His eyes did have a little wild look - so dark and with such expanded pupils that they seemed black. But what else could it be? Only pain, and fear, and disgust.

"Was there your girl-friend on the launch?" I asked.

He kept silence for long enough to make me feel like punching him. When he shook his head no it was almost as if he didn't know what to answer. I surprised him.

"Your sister?" I went on. "Your close friend?"

"You killed them all," he whispered swiftly.

Maybe, when he said it he wanted to take his words back. I imagined how the butt-stock of my gun could hit his face. I restrained the wish.

"Yeah," I giggled. "Sure! Blooey! I like to kill people,' I added coyly.

There was suffering in his eyes. From time to time his lids sank down - but stayed like this only for a moment - and he opened them with a kind of effort. I moved the gun in front of his face.

"It's even better if I can see their eyes, you know," I hissed almost intimately.

His blond hair was matted on his temples - like of a little child. He lost control over the sound of his breathing - it went out in short noisy gasps. Well, I thought - he disgusted me but I could frighten him.

I set the muzzle against his cheek. A long shiver went through his body - and I saw again the flap of his long curved lashes. It was weird that he had such dark lashes and dark eyes being so fair himself, I thought.

It seemed he tried to withdrew even deeper into the seat from me. Ask me, I thought, plead me! He didn't say a word. His stare was frozen, fixed on me, too black to read it. Cry, I made him in my mind, show me how scared you are!

Here he didn't lose control. Was he too proud, I wondered. Or he simply loathed me too much to give in with pleading? I passed the muzzle, pressing it deep to his skin - and saw a pink wale it had left on his cheek-bone.

He didn't stand. He closed his eyes - as if locked his face from me. His breath got somehow wet quality, like sobs, absolutely out of order. I ran the cold metallic muzzle over his emotionless face, pressed it to his lips, pressed it between them. It stopped against his teeth.

"Open it," I said. For a moment he didn't give a sign that he heard me. I knocked on his teeth slightly. "Open it or I'll beat them out."

The muzzle slid into his mouth and I moved it further, until it stuck to the back of his palate. His eyes were screwed up now - almost like he was going to cry. His face became pink because he tried to hold his breath.

I made some slow rocking motions pulling the muzzle out and pushing it in. My head was swooning. I felt hot pleasure spreading inside me - almost like as if I did take my dose.

When the communicator in the front started squealing suddenly the abruptness of it almost made me squeeze the trigger. I stopped my finger half-way and sighed out. If the guy heard it he didn't display; he seemed to be submerged in his own torment - of what I was doing to him. I yanked the gun out of his mouth - what a lucky dear - he didn't know how close to death he was!

I walked to the control panel swiftly. It was a diffused signal. And in this part of the space it could mean only one thing.

I opened the com and entered my coordinates. The rustle and the noise became deafening - and finally the screen in front of me lightened. I saw Neaf.

His toothless mouth foramen worked when he looked back at me - in the grimace that was adequate to a smile for darloxians.

"What, brother?' he squeaked. "They didn't pay?"

Behind me I heard a short moan - as if Iver Trysmen at last gave way to his emotions. I didn't look back - I knew his eyes were locked on the screen.

"They paid all right," I answered quickly. Probably they couldn't see the autodoc in the salon - as I could see only vague octopus-like shadows of others behind Neaf.

He didn't ask me what happened. He trusted my choice - and, by the way, do you think fourteen or fifteen humans meant anything for him? I knew I was the only human he cared about.

"Have a problem," I still was unsure how to verbalize it - but it hung over me infinitely.

"A tail?" he asked.

"No!" he should knew me better.

"Then don't worry. We'll speak aboard."

The screen trailed off. I checked the sensors - I didn't know where from they would come. For long minutes the screen stayed black and dead - and then in one of the squares displaying the space around me I saw a light point approaching fast. I switched again - the point was in the center now, growing and becoming brighter - until the angular disc filled the space all over.

I directed the boat to its bottom and saw the door sliding open. It sucked us inside.

Now I could be easy.

The End of Part 1b



Written by Ruthless

The sight of the creatures on the hijacker's communicator screen was a shock like a wave of thunder in my head. Darloxians. Well, to whom else should a man who had declared war on his own species go to for comfort and counsel? The Darloxians are not at war with the human race. They are a strange ugly, species, in some areas technologically backward, which keep to themselves and observe the treaties that bind our races to peace. But the trade missions are few, there was certainly no extradition agreement, nor could it be said that they are friends to our species. I knew very little more about Darloxians than that.

It may be that I am xenophobic, that of all the trades in the vibrant, diverse culture of the Interstellar Empire, I chose to study human history. I have a gift for languages, but I turned it to the dead languages of my own race, shunning the fricatives and sibilances of alien mouths. My eyes retained the after image of the Darloxian I had seen on the screen. I find it hard to appreciate the aesthetics of other intelligent species. The sight of the Darloxian repulsed me in a way that clenched me down to my viscera. They were so ugly!

My captor had slung his gun again. He took out a knife. He smiled. His narrow lips curved. Again I faced him. I felt the knifepoint against my shoulder. It moved, a thin lick of pain tracing through my jacket as it sawed. He was cutting the rope that tied me to the seat. I stayed sitting still. The knife moved deliberately, behind me nicking into the places where the rope was taut, circling me. When he stepped back the rope was still tight about my wrists, but slackly looped about my ankles.

"Get up, Iver."

I stood. I was clumsy, off-balance and hobbled by the ropes that trailed loosely about my boots. He motioned me to step forward towards him. He held the curved knife in his hand so that he was gesturing me wordlessly to approach it. I took one clumsy step, almost a hop towards the knife.

His free hand lunged out. The dancer's grace had an athlete's speed behind it. He took me by the hair, fist clenching above my forehead where I keep it long. He pulled my head down and forward. He wrenched so hard that he was tugging at my scalp. I could almost feel the skin lifting. He started to back up and with his grip on me, I had to follow him, however awkwardly.

The rope slithered after me like a child's trailing toy. I could not take real steps. Somehow I scuffed after him. The pull on my hair had brought spontaneous tears of pain into my eyes. I could not use my arms for balance because they were held together behind my back. I stumbled into the airlock with him. He pushed me up against the wall. Now we were face to face and he was laughing down at me. Soundlessly, with his face screwed up, he laughed. He didn't let go of my hair and he didn't put away the knife.

When the lock opened he dragged me shuffling small step after shuffling step into a slippery wide square passage. It was humid. I felt at once an oppressive weight. He did not seem to feel it. I knew now why the terrorist was so strong and moved so lightly. The gravity on the Darloxian ship was greater than earth normal. He was accustomed to it. The Terran normal gravity on the space launch had felt light for him. But I was not accustomed to Darloxian gravity, and although it was only perhaps thirty percent more than Terran normal, I felt suddenly like weights had been placed on my shoulders and hung from my arms.

The white floor was like glass. The inevitable happened. I lost my balance and went down. But I went down only to one knee because I tried to catch myself and because he kept his grip on my hair. I felt it rip from the roots. His knuckles were digging into my head. My breath was leaving me in explosive gasps from the difficulty of trying to walk like that, but my fall made things easier. When I went down I kicked and the rope around my ankles gave way. It was in a wide loop when I got back to my feet again. By the time we reached the door at the end of the passage, I had stepped out of it.

Darren, -I knew the hijacker's name by now from the Super Vision broadcast that he had watched so avidly- flung me up against a wall again. This time he turned his attention to the Darloxians. There were four great wide-jawed aliens in the room and they turned their round bulging eyes on me.

"How do you like that!" Darren exclaimed to them. "We've got another passenger, a human hostage. Look at the little fucker!"

The Darloxians made me so frightened that my breath stuck. Even in that moment confronted with the xenophobic shock of the sight of their bulky tall figures so close to me, I wondered why the man was speaking English instead of the alien language. I had never seen Darloxians in the flesh before, only in pictures when I studied the chapter devoted to them in my High School stellography book, and the rare image that had flashed on my super vision screen.

They were massive. Each one was a couple of heads taller than humans are. They were sand-coloured with wrinkly fitting skin that bagged around them like outsized clothing. They were naked. All that they wore were several half-empty equipment bags, which dangled around their big abdomens. Their limbs and tentacles seemed loosely jointed so that they hung slackly below the slopping shoulders. I even saw their big floppy penises and scrotal sacs. Every thing seemed pendulous about the bullet heads and great round abdomens. Only the wide webbed feet seemed firmly braced.

The Darloxian answered him in the same language, sounding surprised. Its voice was shrill and sharp. "You want to keep this human one alive?"

The easy smile twisted Darren's lips. "Hell, I don't want him alive! I just brought him along for the ride. If you want to eat him, you just go right ahead."

For a moment the bulging eyes all turned to the terrorist. "Never have we eaten human flesh before. It is an experiment to consider." Then the eyes turned again to me. I stared back appalled. They made no move to close in. I was like a puzzle that intrigued them. They were in no hurry to begin solving it as they considered me.

"We better get the goods out of the life boat, Neaf." Said the terrorist. "The sooner we can get them both under wraps the better."

"We shall attend to it immediately." The Darloxian who had thus far spoken said. He spoke an order, in English still to two of the other Darloxians. They left the chamber, their huge feet slapping on the floor.

"No telling if they've got a trace on the lifeboat, or even tampered with the autodoc." Darren said tensely. "I made a check but it was a quick one."

"It can be taken care of." The Darloxian assured him.

"Yeah? We can't really tell if the autodoc has been tampered with until we use it. All it would take is a few settings in the programming being changed and that thing will kill instead of doing its work. I wouldn't be able to tell by inspecting it. It would take a surgeon-programmer."

"Then we will find a human in need of surgery to test it on." Neaf, the Darloxian concluded.

For a moment the man locked eyes with the larger alien. They seemed to exchange a thought. Darren inhaled sharply. He didn't speak of what they were thinking. His hand came up and he tapped the front of his chest, in a nervous gesture that was unusual so it caught my attention. It was like he was reassuring himself, perhaps checking to see if he had a heart still inside his chest. He looked all around himself. There was even a muscle in his face jumping. The marks of fatigue were visible on his face.

"You look after the lifeboat for now." Said the hijacker. "We'll deal with the autodoc later, okay?"

"Whatever you prefer, Darren." The alien replied.

"I've gotta go take a rest." Darren looked about, his darting gaze taking me in as it once more traveled about the cabin in the Darloxian ship. "Where can I put this little fuck, store him until we've got a chance to get rid of him? Got any pressurized storage holds he can be locked up in?"

"Any hold will suffice." The Darloxian stirred as if he was about to raise his tentacles and I realized that the gesture was a shrug, the imitation of a human mannerism coming out in an unnatural motion that made the wrinkles below the creatures chinless head pronounced. "What about the hold beside the one that we fixed up as a cabin for you?"

Darren nodded. "Good. Put him there. That's alright."

He moved swiftly. He was in a hurry to leave. Even so as he darted out of the room his look paused on me again and he frowned. I was defenseless against his anger and scorn and hatred. It made me want to shrink away.

When the man was gone, the Darloxians moved closer to me. I pressed myself flat against the wall. It was not Neaf but the other Darloxian that came closest. Its mouth was a gash and the mouth opened. The hijacker had told them they could eat me. He had also told them to put me into a storage hold, but I remember how he had casually offered to let them consume me and I looked horrified up at the wide lipless maw.

The Darloxian spoke. The husky scraping noise that was its speech was brief and utterly incomprehensible to me.

"In English, Hurluck." The Darloxian named Neaf corrected him.

"You don't like Darloxians, Human?" The alien's voice came out rough when it spoke in my language.

"You're... big." I had almost no voice.

"You're small!" It exclaimed.

One of the tentacles came forward. It was reaching down in front of my heaving chest. I felt a light contact through my shirt but the tentacle went lower. To my horror the tentacle stopped at the level of my crotch. It had to be a coincidence, I thought, because that was about as far down as the thick muscular probe could extend without stretching.

"Chthri-Darren says he wants another man to be with." The Darloxian told me. "He needs other men to talk, to touch, to have."

The pressure of the blunt tentacle on my crotch made me gasp out loud with pain. It was pushing relentlessly inward and my testicles were being crushed by the jabbing end. My mouth opened wide. I could not back any farther. I could not move to either side. Instead, I rose up on tiptoe to avoid the push. I almost howled. I evade the pushing tentacle but the end of it slid below my balls, scraping them, pushing between my legs. The relief was brief. The Darloxian began to push upwards.

"UnnnhhHH!" This time I did vocalize my pain. The creature was strong. My back slithered up the wall as it levered me up into the air. My feet left the ground. It held me uncomfortably astride the end of its tentacle with my balls being mashed back against me.

"Chthri-Darren says that he wants a man to make pleasure from." The Darloxian was speaking right into my face. We were almost eye to eye it had lifted me so far from the ground. "He wants this. It is a very interesting idea."

Then the Darloxian released me. One instant its tentacle was there. The next instant it had pulled it away and there was nothing holding me in midair. I dropped.

I fell heavily to the floor, rolling to my face, the breath knocked out of me. Pain was shooting through me from my crushed balls. Groaning, I brought my knees up under me. I was almost lying on the Darloxian's big webbed foot. If my wrists had not been tied behind my back, I would have brought them forward to cup around myself.

I had barely gotten the groan under control before the Darloxian grabbed me again. This time it grabbed me by the foot. It stooped. The longest tentacle wrapped around my ankle. I was dragged. The smooth white floor slid under me.

It was the Darloxian Neaf who intervened. I don't know what that Darloxian would have done. It was only dragging me across the floor. Perhaps it would have simply dragged me down the corridor of the space ship. But Neaf stopped him, lifted me with two tentacles about my ribcage, and although I flinched and heaved away in fear, Neaf stood me on my feet again.

"Darren has not said you must die yet." Neaf said. His voice was surprisingly human. He modulated it more skillfully than the other Darloxians that I had heard speaking English. 'So you will be kept, as Darren wishes."

I went where the huge Darloxian made me walk. It was not far. There was a small room with no internal control panel. A light glow in one wall, otherwise apart from the door the room was featureless and unfurnished. He made me go in here. It was the storeroom. And when I was inside, the door was sealed and the aliens left me alone to my fear and my desperation.

The End of Part 2a



Written by Juxian Tang

The darloxians were having their meal when I walked in to the crew quarters. The after-effects of the dose were still perceptible - the state of bitter agitation that made me wander around the ship for almost an hour until I came here - uneasy in every place, entering a room to leave it only some moments later - as well as the numbness of skin spreading down from my face.

The lid of the phial was made in the form of a pipette, only designed for collecting the powder. The stuff was to be inhaled. I knew that the Alazanians - the race that was producing the thing - have their nasopharynxes rotten after several years of application. Well, I couldn't say I used it for years - and mind you, I didn't use it every day.

The joint had been a weird one. It was not that it didn't bring me the feeling I expected - that was why I chose just this stuff - it always worked. But usually I saw other things when blissed out. It was - probably - that the mini-nuke explosion occurred to close in time - and what I had been watching looked like the breathtaking interlacing of exploding flowers, giving birth to new explosions, blossoming in inflorescence of swirling blaze balls - like enormous incandescent mimosas.

The amazing thing was that I thought I didn't pay attention to the faces of the passengers I had taken hostages. It turned out I clearly remembered quite many of them.

After my visions faded I brought myself in order - took the shower and changed my clothes. I never wear fatigues aboard, you know.

The Darloxians were eating their usual protein jelly - raptly consuming huge amounts of it. They sat around the stocky table in the center of the room, on the low, excessively wide sofas designed for the shapes of their bodies.

"Sorry," Neaf said looking at me when I walked to the nutrition apparatus in the corner. "We didn't reset it."

"No harm done, brother," I shrugged. I was neither hungry, nor thirsty. It was only that I knew I had to eat something.

I started pushing the buttons trying to extract from the damned machine something more appetizing than Darloxians' dainties. At last it fizzed and I saw whitish liquid filling the glass. Soluble milk. I giggled.

The Darloxians behind me were talking quietly in their own language. I could understand them - well, shouldn't I, almost nine years together, after all. But now there was nothing more than a discussion about the game - a kind of darts the Darloxians were quite fond of.

The apparatus expelled two more tubes of food without labels. I took them and went to Neaf.

"Is it yours or mine?"

His tentacles reached tentatively, taking the tubes and opening both simultaneously, then squeezing little peas from either one into his mouth.

"Yours. And not bad."

I retrieved the tubes and settled back on the sofa. Neaf moved to give me some place. His tentacle stayed on the back of the seat around my shoulder.

"Have to talk," I said in sotto voce. "It is regarding the explosion."

"Now?" he shifted demonstrating his readiness to stand up. I mused and decided against it.

"In the morning. It can wait."

And really - why couldn't it? They all were dead. Except one.

When the thought of Iver crossed my mind I realized that Neaf was thinking about him, too. Well, it was not unusual for us - to be in synch.

"I put him to that storage hold," he said. "You didn't see him, did you?"

I didn't. I was in many places when having my promenade - but all of them were far from my cabin.

"Nah," I shook my head. I was not intended to say anything else.

"Do you speak about the human you have brought with you, Chthri?" Hurluck needed a little time to re-adjust his vocal organs to English. Both Neaf and I looked at him.

"Yeah," I replied a little faintly and decided to look after my voice.

"May I ask if you have any plans in respect of the human?"

The thing was that, you see, I did have some plans when I took Iver to the life-boat with me. But the way it turned out with SSC the thing was no more possible.

"if I see this little piece of shit becomes a nuisance, I'll space him," I said calmly. "Right now he doesn't bother me. And you?"

Hurluck delayed with the answer. For some moments I saw how his maw worked and then Neaf outstripped him.

"For keeping the human alive we have to attend his vital needs."

"Oh, but sure," I settled in the sofa more comfortably.

"Who do you want to take care of him, Darren?" Neaf said.

I grinned. When I smiled I felt more than usual how numb were my lips. It was like stretching the rubber.

"Whoever," I span my hand. "It doesn't matter. He won't need much and won't need it for long. Hurluck? Do you mind? Bring the human here, okay, sweetie?"

For a moment his protruding eyes studied me. then he stood up heavily.

I was tossing the food tube up. Slap - it landed in my palm. Slap - again. Finally Neaf reached and grasped it in the midair.

"Want to take it away?" he teased me. "Should we give it to the human for eating?'

"Yeah, it's good," I mumbled rather absent-mindedly.

"And something to drink?"

"Push the button," the way we sat only Wagr could do it without standing up. the machine sputtered again. I didn't like the sound. It drowns everything I could hear from the corridor.

"Hurluck is slow," Wagr noticed.

"He is eating the human," Soyii supposed tonelessly. The one with the sense of humor.

"Hurluck had his dinner," Wagr said.

They appeared. At first Hurluck's dragging steps, almost silencing Iver's careful walk. His expensive boots had to be absolutely unsuitable for this surface.

And then I saw them. He was stooping. Strange, I didn't notice it before. Was it because he was exhausted? He kept his hands behind his back - and I understood they were still tied. Of course. I didn't say to the darloxians to release him - they must have thought I wanted him this way. For how many hours? Well, I didn't tighten the rope savagely. At least I hoped so.

But when I passed my eyes over his face I understood that there was something more wrong with him than just his hands. He was pale as paper. His skin was very fair all the time but now he seemed closer to a dead man than to an alive one. His eyes looked like tinted glass - the introspective gaze of somebody who saw the hell - and still was seeing it, despite of what really happened in front of him. His lips were white.

"Untie him," I said to Hurluck.

A tentacle stretched groping for a knife. Iver didn't seem to register how it moved behind his back. He shivered, however, when the steel blade touched his skin. The bits of the rope fell on the floor beyond him.

"Move," the Darloxian pushed him to his back.

He made one more uncertain step. His hands dropped on his sides like sand bags. If there were any traces on his wrists I couldn't see them under the sleeves of his dark-blue crumpled jacket.

I watched Iver's face closely when he raised his hands a little in front of him with a bit of effort and span them. He didn't make any sound but there was something like involuntary tears in his eyes.

"Sit, human," Hurluck said.

Very submissively he took the low seat, the one with no Darloxians sitting. I watched him continually - but he didn't look back at me. his tired eyes wandered without stopping anywhere. It seemed everything was the same for him - no difference if he saw me, or a Darloxian, or simply furniture.

And really - I thought - why should it be otherwise?

I pushed a plastic glass to him. His lips moved - he had to be terribly thirsty by then. I saw his hand reaching for the glass and then he almost dropped it. He couldn't hold it - his fingers were deadened! I gazed at him smiling malevolently.

He made a gasp. We all watched him how he took the glass with both his hands. He drank swiftly.

I looked at him - and at Hurluck still standing behind the sofa. His tentacles were floating in the air above Iver's head - but he couldn't possibly see what happened. His smallness seemed almost startling against the background of the Darloxian's bulk. He sat uneasily on the brink of the seat, with his hands curled on his lap. And he still didn't look at me. The empty glass was more interesting for him!

"What do you want to say, Hurluck?" I shifted my eyes to the Darloxian abruptly. I saw him trying to verbalize his thoughts.

"The humans think we are loathsome," he said slowly, in his squealing sharp voice.

I smiled. I lolled back to put my head on Neaf's saggy shoulder and rejoined:

"but that's all right. We don't have to like them back."

"I don't like humans," Hurluck declared. "they are wretched."

It made Wagr said to him something about me. I laughed. I didn't mind.

"But they are not too small. They can be made pleasure from," said Hurluck.

I stopped tapping my fingers on Neaf's primary tentacle. And started again. Swirling florescence of my last joint appeared before my eyes for a moment.

"Yeah?" my own voice sounded remote but level. I looked at Hurluck tranquilly.

"It has to be inspected," he said.

Only for a moment I glanced at Iver. Was he realizing we were speaking about him? He didn't stir, didn't change his pose. There was this agonizing expression on his face. Look at me, I cursed, why don't you?! He didn't.

"Well," now my voice was more frisky. "I've told you. You are welcome."

"It's all right with Chthri-Darren," I heard Hurluck saying to Soyii.

Sometimes even I was stunned with the speed they could move. Soyii stood up. It seemed there was the swish when their lowest tentacles stretched and wound round Iver's wrists. They yanked him from the sofa, raised him in the air for a moment and stood again, in the vacant space behind the seat. Iver kicked instinctively when they plucked him - he lost his boot.

"no... Please..." some messy words he did say - probably well aware himself how useless they were.

They bent him over the back of the sofa quickly, pressing him to it. There was some fuss with his clothes. I stood up abruptly and stepped to them.

Iver's face was pink and distorted - the most vulnerable face I've ever seen. He tilted it up - now he let me look in his eyes - too late. His tender mouth was half-opened - as if he was going to scream. But he didn't. He didn't exhale, too. It was just his rounded lips on the level of my crotch. I felt hotness spreading in the bottom of my belly.

"the human can be opened wide enough," Soyii made his verdict. they didn't went in, I thought, I saw it on Iver's face. He was jerking - not great movements - he was restrained in his motions.

"hey, human," I said. "Do you want to make pleasure for Hurluck?"

His eyes were slowly focusing on me - with the utter misery that made me think about a suffering animal - how it looks because people can't understand its language.

But, of course, Iver could speak.

"No," he whispered.

"But you'll have to," I said. "Keep him up."

Hurluck and Soyii stretched him.

Upright, with his arms spread as wide as possible he was in a kind of crucified position now, struggling to stay on his feet. His face was a grimace of pain. I knew they probably stretched him to the point of discomfort - but they didn't squeeze his wrists too tightly to injure them.

I didn't care how roughly they held him. And why should I? The human. That was word perfect. He was a human. And I was no more.

I stepped over the back of the seat and looked at him.

He had his pants off, down around his ankles. His shirt was long enough to cover him - but I saw they didn't take his jockeys off - just pulled them down of his bum. He looked like a little boy going to make caca.

"you are a passenger here, Iver," I said looking at his face. "Don't you know the passengers should pay for their journey? It seems our hosts do not mind to take the payment in services."

"No," Soyii made a sound that was laughter. "Not at all."

Hurluck was horny by then. His penis, which I usually saw limp and pendulous under his wrinkled belly, was extended. The skin on it became darker and glistened slightly. I knew Iver didn't see it.

Iver was trembling. It was as if they stretched him too much - like a string under tension. there was a tiny clear sound in the silence - and after a while I understood it was his teeth chattering.

"Darren..." for the first time he said my name - like a shock wave going through me. "I'll do whatever else..."

"And whatever else - too."

I didn't want to listen to him any more. I put my forefinger to his dry tender lips to shush him.

Other darloxians - Neaf and Wagr - shifted behind me, moving closer. I could see their reflections in Iver's ink-dark eyes, widely opened. He was so pale as if he was passing out. But, maybe, he was, I thought.

I didn't want it.

"Cheer up, you prick," I pawed his face in both my hands, hypnotized with the sensation of his smooth skin. "come on, you are not going to spoil the fun?"

His cheeks under my thumbs were wet. I reached my hand and he gasped. I don't know what he thought - I wanted only to take off his neck-tie. A bright yellow-blue thing - ridiculous color now, when his face was so deadly. I yanked the knot until in loosened off. His throat was moving constantly - as if he didn't stop swallowing, never easy for a moment.

I started dealing with the tiny buttons of his shirt. My peripheral sight registered the Darloxians. Now not only Hurluck but Soyii, too, had erection. It was whom I saw. I wondered about Wagr. Perhaps. No one of them displayed impatience.

Iver's thin silky shirt was wet of sweat so much that it stuck to his body. I had to pull it aside to bare his chest. I didn't take it off - and how I could, let me ask, with his wrists in the pliers of my Darloxians' tentacles? But they would take care about it further, I was sure.

His chest was unblemished. I thought about my own tattoos - it was so strange to look at a man's chest without these "decors". I found the thought that I didn't see a naked body (excluding my own) for quite a while. A bit of my mind tried to recall when I had been at a brothel last time and I discarded the thought as unnecessary. My cock was painfully hard.

Iver almost didn't have hair on his chest - like a young boy. His nipples were tiny and flat, just pale pink rounds. I rubbed them with both my palms roughly trying to make them erect.

"What's with you, fuck," I murmured. "Show us what a beauty you are."

I didn't feel like laughing - but I made a chuckle.

"For God's sake..." he said it. He made several shaky sobs and stopped it. It was not that he tried to reason me. He couldn't. It was just his misery speaking.

His white jockeys were still covering his genitals somehow, exposing a little of his curly pubic hair, so fair. I passed the back of my hand over them and he flinched - but it was probably only reflex.

"Looks like you don't like to be touched," I mumbled. Nobody answered me.

The wish to press my own furious hard-on to his soft overwhelming was overwhelming. I bit my lip without feeling it. I looked to his face but he was looking down, to what my hands were doing there.

"Look at Chthri-Darren," Soyii stretched another his tentacle occasionally and raised Iver's chin. Now his suffering eyes were looking at me - in such pain that it was a kind of vertigo to look in them. I regretted that I looked in them. He made me think about a dying animal once more.

But, of course, he was not going to die of what I was doing to him.

I shifted my gaze back abruptly, to much more pleasing sight of his flat belly sucking shallow gasps.

I put my palms on his narrow bare thighs, feeling the slightest down on them, so fair that it was almost imperceptible. My fingers played with it absent-mindedly as I felt my teeth tearing my own numb lip until I drew blood.

His thighs were narrow - boyish. He was more narrow than me, all in all, a frail slender being. So fair. Every time this paleness of his startled me, making me ache inside. I put my palms around him.

He was tensed. He tried to escape me - well, I expected it. But it was not much possible for him to escape. His small bum was tensed, drawn-in. I was drowning in the sensation, with my fingers kneading his unyielding flesh, digging as deep as they went.

His mouth gaped open slightly. He was sobbing shamelessly.

Something cold and slightly clammy touched my hand. Familiar sensation. A tentacle, I didn't even knew whose. It was slithering down his cleft. He moved forward - so, that he almost touched me. He didn't have much choice. Every choice was bad for him.

I stepped back.

"You shit," my hand raised and slapped him on his face. "Have a good time!"

I went to the door.

The End of Part 2b

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