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Original Fiction
Title: Zero Tolerance
Author: Juxian Tang
Genre: Original fiction
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: m/m
Archive: yes
Feedback: juxiantang@hotmail.com
URL: http://juxian.slashcity.net
Warning: m/m rape and, occasionally, worse things
Summary: A routine drug-smuggling operation goes wrong - and Peter, a proud heir of family business, winds up in a supposedly uninhabited part of space, together with his slave Simon. Here the fortunes change for the men...

Acknowledgments: It is a long story and it took a lot of efforts for me to write it. I would like to thank all my dear friends without whom it would never be written - or would never be as it is now. Thanks to Blue for believing in me, believing that I can write original fiction again - for all conversations that helped to shape the story - and, of course, for the best beta in the world - precise, entertaining and friendly. Really, I can't thank you enough, dear one. Thanks to Quinn for unfailing - everyday - support that meant (and means) so much for me - and for most insightful comments that helped me find my way. And thanks to Eggi because the truth is that without her kindness this story would never happen to me at all.

This story is for Blue, with love

ZERO TOLERANCE

Part 1

He stood at the viewing port and looked at three silver oblong shapes of Aben guard vessels gathering at the nose of his ship. From here they seemed small and fragile against the dark bulk of the Kingfisher but he knew it was not true. Each of Aben ships was twice as large as his own. But not more powerful. And less maneuverable. This difference was what had helped them to win the war against Aben ten years ago. And so far it had helped him to slip through the territories of Aben with his cargo that cost millions.

But not this time. In the black glossy surface Peter saw his reflection - dark clothes and white face. He tried to keep his expression blank, even now when nobody could see it all the same. But what no one must ever see - and he wished he could find self-control not to do it - was how he kept clenching his fists convulsively, sticking the short-cropped fingernails into palms so deeply that the pink crescents left by them started filling with blood.

Thirty-six hours of the stand - and during this time he hardly sat down, feeling as if a tight spring was unwinding inside him. He was aware of the numb tiredness that seeped into his bones - worse than that, into his mind - but so far the nervous energy managed to beat it.

There had always been the risk - and he knew it; the risk to be apprehended or destroyed by the Abenians - give them a credit, they were doing everything for it. But so far the Kingfisher - and he, Peter Solana - had managed to escape unscathed and even not particularly scared. It was his sixth operation - and now it looked like his luck was tried a bit.

The truth was there was no direct danger for either their ship or for the Abenians - everybody kept their shields up, exchanging a blast or two from time to time but knowing they were invulnerable. The question was whose energy would run out first - who would be bound to surrender by the sheer deficiency in their ships' constructions.

The Kingfisher had bigger capacity - Peter knew it. But there were three Abenians. And although the Kingfisher succeeded in putting on a blind field around the ships, cutting off Aben's chances to ask for help, it also meant that they wouldn't get any help, too. Well, Peter knew that they wouldn't get it in any case. The family could calculate the same well as he could. And even if his uncle decided that the value of the cargo, together with the life of his beloved nephew, was worth another open clash with Aben, other families of the League wouldn't let him do anything.

He also knew that Aben wouldn't step away and let him go even if they felt they didn't have enough energy to keep the siege; the Union ships would've - but not Aben. They hated the League too much for it - not without reason, one had to admit. And they probably knew what cargo the Kingfisher carried... which meant that they could safely guess there was someone from the family accompanying it. They would do everything to get him. Would die for it.

He hated that. He struggled with an overwhelming wish to smash his fist into the smooth transparent surface of the viewing port - knowing that it would only split his knuckles - and the outburst would embarrass him. But at least it would be an outburst - a release for the black, unhappy rage boiling in him. No. No, he should control himself better. That's what his uncle expected from him.

Just live long enough to see your uncle again, Peter.

He swirled away from the viewing port, his nostrils still flared and his mouth like a thin line. The cabin was shadowed - a small but luxuriously furnished place - and he paced around the low glass table with the virtual screen spread over the green crystal on it. He cast just a short look at it. The picture he could see through his viewing point was there, too - shown from different angles but identically hopeless - only the numbers in two columns on the sides of the screen scintillated slowly, changing. The quantity of the energy of their ship - and supposed quantities for the ships of Aben. Still too long to wait, even in the best possible variant. Best for the Kingfisher, that is.

He had to stop dashing around like a caged animal. Somehow Peter realized he was doing it but couldn't stop all the same. Not that there was anyone he should have controlled himself for. He glanced at the big man who stood motionlessly in the shadows at the wall. Simon... He didn't need to pay attention to Simon - he never did. Simon's presence didn't bother him - no more than a piece of furniture would. And indeed, the man - tall and silent and with his arms crossed on his chest - hindered Peter less now than this stupid table in the middle of the room.

His intercom came to life suddenly, the Captain must've been at the door of his cabin.

"Mr. Solana? Can I enter?"

"Yes."

He stopped pacing abruptly, huddling slightly. If the Captain decided to come to him instead of talking to him from the deck-cabin, it would have to be something pretty bad.

The door opened and with his peripheral sight Peter saw how Simon tensed subtly - not changing his pose, just some muscles bulging on his arms. Good slave! He was trained to protect Peter - trained so well that Peter didn't care to know how hard it was beaten into him. It was in his reflexes, even now when he knew it was just good old Captain O'Donnell visiting.

The hours of the stand had taken their toll on the Captain - who, with the waxen paleness of his face lined harsher than usual and the shadows under his eyes, looked like an old sad panda. Peter who didn't have an hour of sleep during this time, was pretty sure that Gary did neither.

"Our radars show that there are two more ships approaching from their side," Gary's voice was husky with smoke and his eyes bloodshot as if he was drunk.

"What?" Peter nearly jumped up. It couldn't be true! It couldn't be fuckin' true. "How did they know about us? I thought we had that blind field!"

If his eyes could kill, Gary would be already dead, Peter thought in fury. No matter that he had to look up at the Captain - well, with his height 5'7" he had to look up at most men and even at some women - but he hoped his stare was expressive enough to penetrate even Gary's helpless exhaustion. It did - Gary swallowed uneasily.

"We thought..." he halted, turned back and Peter saw him look cautiously at Simon. He understood.

"Simon, get out."

The man barely nodded, turning away without unfolding his arms, and left the room.

"What?"

"Your Abenian gives me creeps," for a moment Gary seemed to want to get distracted from the point, rubbed the forehead with his palm.

"*What?*"

"It might have been the leakage of information. Before we put on the field. We think someone in the crew worked..."

"For Aben? Impossible."

"For the Union. Aben could apprehend the message."

"I didn't know they had the technology for it," bad, bad... could be any worse? "Anyway, I want this man or woman to be found. And I want him or her to be alive by the moment when we get back to the League. And for now, Captain, what are we going to do?"

Not much to do here, right? He pressed the clasped fists to the temples as if trying to nail some idea into his head. Think, Peter, think.

"Do they have the channel open?"

"Yes. You know their demands."

"What if we satisfy them?" and before Gary's mouth opened. "We'll give them a part of the cargo and... They don't know who accompanies the cargo, right?"

"You mean... oh no, Peter," derisive smile, first name instead of Mr. Solana - the best signs how ridiculous the suggestion seemed to him. "You won't find a volunteer. To give himself out to Aben as a member of a family? Huh!"

"We can promise to pay a reward to his relatives."

He thought he saw a flash of disapproval in Gary's eyes but the Captain stayed silent. Thinking?

"If you think that you can pull a better game by giving out me, then I would like you to have second thoughts," Peter's voice dropped down to low - persuasive - and he noticed with some pleasure that it made the Captain fidget slightly. "Because although the Abenians will be tearing me apart limb by limb in the next few hours, you will have to spend the rest of your life in the corners of the Union - and even there my uncle will find you."

He felt a nervous, ugly smile twist his lips at the last words - but the smile never penetrated his voice - and Gary who covered his face with his hands couldn't see it. There was a pause when the only thing Peter seemed to hear was the Captain's slightly broken breath. Then he took the hands away from his face and with surprise Peter saw that some lines of fatigue were gone from it.

"I will not give you out, Peter. And not because of what Andre Solana can do to me. I worked for the family for twenty-six years - longer than you live - do you think I will betray you?"

Why not? But the bitterness in Gary's voice demanded a reaction - and there was the only one that would be proper in this situation; so, Peter opened his arms and took the Captain in an embrace.

"Of course, I don't," he whispered touching the Captain's cheeks with his lips - the kiss that meant a promise to be accepted into the family... a promise Peter wasn't entitled to give - but Gary didn't need to know it. Then, letting Gary go, looking at him again. "So, we'll die together?" with the barest trace of menace in his voice.

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about, Mr. Solana. We can try to make a warp."

Peter walked to the table, his hands shaking slightly as he touched the crystal. The numbers obediently changed to the new ones on the screen.

"The Kingfisher doesn't have the capacity for warp."

"No," Gary confirmed quietly. "Not to reach the League."

Peter kept silent, continuing to look up at him, feeling how all blood left his face, and at last Gary went on.

"We'll come out in the sector M1," he made a pause for Peter to pass the order to the crystal to find the map. "We'll have to land on Shionna Prime..."

"And be captured by the Union troops," Peter added - but there was no derision in his voice.

"The Union is not Aben," Gary said weightily and Peter knew it, he knew all Gary would say. "The families of the League are respected in the Union. Besides, the rumors are the government of Shionna is not incorruptible. You'll lose the cargo, of course - and the ransom will cost a lot..."

"But at least we'll be alive," Peter added. He didn't look up any more.

What a shame it would be... When he had just started participating in the business - he was seventeen - he would prefer to die rather than to lose the cargo and cause more expenses to the family. He still remembered that time - the rawness he felt at the necessity to prove himself, to show he was worth of his uncle's choice. Now, four years later, he must have become cynical - not wanting to play hero any more. He wanted to live - most of all.

And he would - if he did it Gary's way.

"Okay," looking up at the Captain quickly, pushing a long strand of his bang away from his eyes.

Okay! He felt both desperate and furious, looking in hatred at the green transparent form of the crystal, wanting to smash it against the wall. He wanted a drink, too - no, to get a dose of the stuff and swallow it, fast and hard. The wish was so sharp that he felt dizzy... he could do it, of course... he was not an addict, it just felt too good... exactly what he needed.

Not now, Peter. What he needed was to have his head clear - despite everything, despite anger, despite the tiredness that overflowed him suddenly. He sprawled over the sofa with his eyes closed, barely hearing how the door opened and closed again when Simon came in, quietly as always.

A moment... just a moment or two of rest.

It was the warmness of the body of the big man - and careful tugging on the shoe-laces of his high boots - that made him sit up abruptly, nearly crying out at the surprisingly sharp pain that pierced his temples.

"Get away from me! I am not going to undress!" the anger splashed out at last in the sharp kick under Simon's ribs. The man didn't wince, didn't move - it was a brief moment of satisfaction at the flesh giving way under the toe of his boot that was almost enough for Peter. He looked at the lowered, clean-shaven head of the Abenian who knelt in front of him - still unkindly but already having his rage under control, listening to the man mumble with his usual atrocious accent:

"Sorry, master."

Do you know, bitch, what grief your people give to us? It was not fair, of course, Peter knew it. The Abenians that surrounded them now where not the Abenians of his slave - rejecting him once and for all as he was captured and broken.

The dark hands lay passively in Simon's lap but he didn't stand up. Peter looked at the net of scars on his shoulders and upper arms - which seemed a weird décor on his skin but were really the mementos of the savage ordeals that Simon must have been through during his childhood on Aben - or during the war. And some he got on in the prison camps of the League, of course - but Peter never wanted to know which ones. The League had specialists in breaking Abenians.

He was given Simon at his twelfth birthday. And it was the day when he fucked him for the first time. Well, Simon had been well broken by then, raped so many times that he must have lost count - but for Peter it was the first time he fucked a man. There were women - slaves and whores - but Simon was his first male - and the first Abenian. Kneeling and tamed - still having something of a savage in his bearing - or was it what Peter liked to imagine? He must have barely felt it when Peter entered him - but it was the idea itself - a proud man of Aben bending over for him, being used like a whore for his young master's pleasure.

Hard to believe that once you wanted to fuck someone so badly. Peter felt a short, painful chuckle bubbling in him. Sex didn't mean much for him any more - hadn't for years, inferior both to drugs and to the rush in his blood at the danger of out-smarting Aben and Union troops. Inferior to the joy he felt every time he did something in the right way - in Solana's way - that made him see the pride in his uncle's eyes.

There would be no pride this time. But shit, he would have to live with it.

He dropped his feet on the floor, oblivious to his slave's presence. He knew the man got up and moved to the wall again, sensitive to even unsaid orders of his master, while he peered at the crystal screen again. Yeah, right. Here these two new ships were. Taking the places on the left of the others.

Replacement? He was sure at least two of the ships that initially detained them were low on energy and would have to leave at once. But so far all five were there, making a neat half-circle around the Kingfisher.

Soon you'll have a bit of surprise, motherfuckers. He licked his lips that seemed cracked with dryness. The crystal updated him on what the Captain and engineering team were doing - preparing the Kingfisher for the warp. He wished briefly he could inform his uncle of what needed to be done - maybe, he could start making the arrangements with the government of Shionna right now. But the blind field must've still been on, useless as it was.

Fuck... oh fuck! He took another look at the screen and for a moment just gaped at it. It couldn't be true. It must have been his worst nightmare and he wanted to wake up - now. But it was true, of course. The ships lined up to fire.

Now he had it figured out - why all five ships were crowded there. The shield wouldn't stand the fire from five points, no matter how little power three of the ships had. Perhaps they would become worthless wrecks right after the blast. But they were Abenians - they never thought death as defeat.

Unlike you.

Did Gary see that? He must have. He must have been frantic. Because if Aben should capture their ship now, especially at the price of losing some of their vessels... having their limbs torn off one by one would seem the fastest and easiest death for them. All of them.

And if... If they went into the warp? The trajectory would change... For a moment the fear was so sweeping that Peter felt his mind go blank. He managed to focus pressing his fingers to the crystal again. The crystal - the unique invention of the League scientists - was aligned specifically for him, catching his commands even when he was messed up like this. He looked at the screen again and another fit of sick fear overwhelmed him.

If what his crystal showed was true, they had all the chances to come out of the warp very, very far from the sector M1 - and, the most important, the ship would go boom in three and half minutes after that.

But there were these three and half minutes, right?

"Gary, you..." whispering to the intercom with white lips. Silence. They must have cut off the deck-cabin not to be interrupted.

He got up abruptly - but it still seemed to him that he had to move like through thick liquid - too slow, too imprecise. The crystal made a pitiful sound as he threw it to the box. What else? The part of the cargo - not the one that was in the holds, he was losing that all right - but at least what he could save: the compact bag he hanged over his shoulder. The pain gun was the third thing - who knows how people will behave at the minute when they understand they're dying.

He left the room without saying a word, without looking at Simon. In fact, from one moment to the other he completely forgot about the silent man - or, rather, wrote him off unconsciously, the same as three dozens other people who would die on the Kingfisher if everything went the way the crystal told him. And he believed the crystal.

He was in the corridor, dodging the people who scurried back and forth, certainly for business but with desperate, panicky seal on their faces. He didn't even need to raise the pain gun once, so absent they seemed, hardly recognizing him. He already could feel the vibration from the floor and walls spreading through his body and making his teeth chatter finely - the vibration indicating that the ship was just seconds from the warp. But he knew what others, except, maybe, the Captain and the engineers, didn't know: that the moment of the warp would coincide with the moment when the Abenian ships fired.

The blast hit - and the Kingfisher quaked as a giant body going into a shudder. Peter knew it would come - and yet the force of it threw him across the corridor, smashing into the opposite wall, making him slide to the floor bonelessly.

The huge roar that accompanied the blast seemed to change into the complete silence suddenly. Lying flat on the floor, looking up at the low dark ceiling above, Peter knew it was not like that, the noise must have been going on. There were people around - and the flame somewhere near because he could smell it although couldn't see. But it was so quiet as it was - whether he was stunned or what - and something in him wanted him to stay like that, on the warm cozy carpet in the corridor.

Then he saw how the contours of the walls and ceiling above him lose their sharpness and understood that the ship went into the warp.

* * *

The little rat was running!

From his place at the wall where Simon always stood he couldn't see what the fuckin' kid saw on the screen of his fuckin' crystal - but he saw very well how Peter's face lost its expression suddenly, the trademark milk-white skin of the League citizen getting even paler and the mouth compressing hard. He must have thought he controlled himself pretty well, wasn't everything what the League did about control - self- and otherwise? He would never guess how well Simon could read him. And really - after nine years of reading his face to know what he wanted or not wanted - trying to avoid a punishment - or calling for a punishment on himself from time to time because no slave should stay unpunished for a long time and it was easier to decide himself when and what for - was there any secret left in Peter for him?

Silently he watched the young man grab the most valuable things in the cabin - the crystal and the bag - and those not big enough to slow him down. He was going to get out. Not with the ship on Shionna as he and this pathetic Captain whispered to each other. Somehow, some way, Peter must have guessed that it wouldn't work. And now he was going to run.

Simon might hate him - no more, no less than he hated everyone else in the League - but in one thing he had to give Peter a credit - he had this gut feeling for danger.

And as soon as the door behind Peter slammed shut, Simon slid out behind him.

Well, if the Solana kid was a rat, he, Simon, surely was a big cat following him. The picture made him smile while he sneaked carefully behind Peter, taking care not only not to strike his eye but also not to be seen but other crew members, too. He ran into a young ensign woman, though - her eyes getting huge and full of horror immediately as she saw him - the instinctive horror of most people at the sight of an unchained Abenian. She would scream, he knew it - and with a sharp jerk he tugged her into the dead-end of the corridor, snapping her neck in the same motion.

Her dead face became so peaceful immediately, just her head slightly awry, as he lay her down in the corner. Only then the enormity of what he'd just done reached him. Murder. Of a free woman. Did he care to think how he would pay for that... if captured? If he was wrong - if Peter was wrong - and the situation was not so serious.

And yet Simon couldn't feel sorry. Feeling how the thin frail neck of the bitch snapped in his hands... it was... beautiful. He wanted it for so long - for years.

And now, with the world falling apart around him, he got it.

He didn't lose Peter from his view when he was back in the main corridor - and it was when the fivefold energy of Abenians hit the ship. He saw Peter slammed into the wall panel and slip down, apparently unconscious, the pain gun falling out of his hand and skidding along the corridor - and pressed himself into the wall trying to stay on his feet. He felt his fingernails crush as he stuck his fingers under the panel, the shock wave of the blast shattering his body - and he cursed and cursed in Abenian - the language that he was supposed to forget but never forgot.

Hey, was he going to die by the hand of those who had been his people? It would be swell.

Well, he didn't die. The moments of animal fear passed - and he was still alive, still on his feet. He straightened on the trembling legs, looked at the corridor that seemed suddenly very empty. A moment later he understood - everybody who had walked there, lay now. He looked back and saw the corpse of the ensign he had killed fallen into the main corridor - but now it didn't matter. They would think she was killed in the blast - if they wonder at all.

Hastily, almost frantic, he looked for Peter and for a moment thought he lost him. But he was there - lying on the floor, all too quietly, his eyes dark and unseeing - and with sudden annoyance Simon thought he was dead.

Fuck him! The stupid kid couldn't even survive for him! Couldn't do this one little thing for Simon! He felt lost. Wherever the ship was going, he was going with it. Peter knew how to get out. Simon didn't.

Then the long curved lashes of the young man fell and rose again - so tranquilly as if he was watching clouds in the sky somewhere above him - and then he moved. Groggily - turning on his fours and staying for a few moments like that as if the floor threatened to slip away from under him. His forehead was bleeding - and Simon saw how a long strand of hair stuck to the gash and Peter pushed it away in irritation, balancing precariously on three points.

"Need to... need to go..." he heard him mumble. Yes, right! Get out of here. Get me out of here, little bastard.

From his fours to his knees - and groping around until he found the crystal and the bag - Simon noticed how he looked around somehow confusedly, as if he knew he had had something else but probably couldn't remember or didn't care enough. Then Peter got up on his feet, holding against the walls for equilibrium - and walked weaving - away towards the deck-cabin, stepping over or stepping on the bodies that lay across his way.

Dead bodies... or stunned... Simon didn't have time to look at them as he followed Peter - yet there was this little bell of triumph sounding in his heart. The League sluts. He wished he had time to spit on every of them. "...the Abenians will be tearing me apart limb by limb..." he recalled the low, sarcastic voice of Peter that he overheard. Well, it was the least the little bitch deserved.

Blood. He didn't notice it - smeared over the metal stripe on the floor - and nearly fell - his arms akimbo, a short curse barely caught on his lips. He knew he gave himself away - expected Peter to whirl around with the usual abruptness of his movements - and knew that he would have to kill him now... would have to kill him and ruin his chances to rescue... if they had any in the first place.

Peter didn't turn. In fact, he continued to move towards the deck-cabin door in his stumbling, shaky walk, looking down to choose the way between the bodies.

Could it be? He didn't hear. He probably couldn't hear. A evil grin spread over Simon's lips. Shell-shocked. Good! Even better than he expected. He saw Peter push the door and stagger into the deck-cabin - and covered the remaining space between them in a few huge leaps, leant to the opening, listening. Just like all those hours he had spent listening at the doors, getting the knowledge of the things that were supposed to be too confidential even for the tamed Abenian slave to hear about them; nothing new in it.

Except now he was fighting for his life .

He saw only a part of the deck-cabin - someone's body sprawled on the floor, in the pool of blood around the head. And the Captain at the table - his usual helpless self, pale long-fingered hands covering his face - and the keening sound tore from under these hands, high and steady - and not really sane, Simon thought with satisfaction.

Then Peter's voice - for once halting and kind of uncertain, even though he apparently couldn't hear the Captain howling:

"Gary, Gary! Everything is going to hell. We are fuckin' going to crash right now... Let's get out of here."

Why for fuck's sake does he needs this wimp? Peter cared for no one in all his life, this Simon knew for sure. And yet now, losing the precious time, he stood in the thrashed deck-cabin, shaking the Captain's shoulder, trying to get through to him.

"We'll take the shuttle... this is uninhabited sector but we can..." there was no so much certainty in Peter's voice as horror and urgency. "At least, it's a chance... We need to take this fuckin' chance, Gary!"

"They killed us," the keening sound stopped - and the voice coming from under the hands was clear - but still hardly sane. "They didn't give us enough time..."

"Come on, Gary, fuck you!" did Peter understand what was going on? Probably not. "I'll go to the shuttle. Forget the Kingfisher... my uncle will buy you another ship..."

Oh sure! The mighty Mr. Solana will come and make everything okay. Even here, where there are no fuckin' living souls around - except their crazy ship that, frankly, was almost dead, too.

He saw Peter try to pull the Captain's hands away from his face - and the howling sound resumed suddenly, something trembling deep in the Captain's throat, so creepy that for some reason it reminded Simon of a dirge. Then Gary pushed Peter away, so violently that he nearly fell - and at the next moment - Simon barely had enough time to step away - Peter stumbled out of the deck-cabin, turning back and screaming almost hysterically:

"I am not going to die here because of you, you idiot! I'll go off in a minute. Get yourself together and follow me if you want!"

He saw Peter walk along the corridor, towards the heavy round hatch of the shuttle - not noticing him. Simon prepared to follow - and that was when the Captain stood up suddenly. There was blood on his face - and wetness of tears and something icky - snots, maybe - but his feverish eyes showed some reason at last.

"Wait, Peter, I am going with you..."

"No, you don't."

He must have not realized at once who it was. Simon saw him look up slowly and meet his eyes with a mixed expression of indignance and disbelief. Then his gaze slid down again - until focused on the thin stinger of the pain gun pointed at him. Sure, Peter couldn't find the pain gun in the corridor - because by that time Simon already had it.

"Get out of my way, slave!" Gary roared - and at that moment Simon pushed the button to the death level and fired.

He had seen the pain gun in action hundreds of times - had felt it on himself dozens - but he could never imagine that it would be so sweet to see how the shot by his hand would make a man twist in agony, his eyes huge like glazed dark plates, his mouth opened - but there would be no scream coming out of it - before the body, already breathless, would fall in an untidy heap on the floor.

"Slave no more," Simon said and nobody could hear that the rough blunt accent was gone from his voice on these words.

He had just enough time to slide behind the closing hatch of the shuttle - with Peter running his hands on the keyboard, not looking back. Good. It was what he needed the kid for - to get them out of here. And as soon as he felt the slight push of the shuttle leaving the ship, he sighed with relief.

Now the Kingfisher was striving to its death, with all its crew dead or still alive. But he, Simon... he was going to live.

"I think we made it," he heard Peter's voice, much calmer now, as the young man leaned against the back of the seat, looking at the ship bulk moving away from them - and then he turned to Simon, saying: "I am glad you made up your mind, Gary..."

The words died away. He must've seen it all at once - the blood-spattered sandals on Simon's feet, the pain gun in his hand - and his lips whitened as he looked for something to say - maybe, for some order to make. But he didn't have time for that.

"Rats are leaving the sinking ship," Simon said enjoying the sound of his own voice, easy and free. "Captains don't. And I don't need you any more, little rat."

He pointed the gun and suddenly saw a white ball of explosion behind the viewing port, where the Kingfisher had been a moment ago. He wondered if they were still too close, what it was going to cost them. The wave covered him - and he fell on the floor, clasping the pain gun, seeing the stars swirling as the shuttle was rocked and tossed. And then a strange form appeared against the front screen - a huge dark globe growing swiftly - and he thought he didn't know what it was - but it was too late to ask.

* * *

He felt the impact - actually, he was sure it would be the last thing he felt: the shuttle hitting the surface, the blow reverberating through every bone and muscle of his body. Ribs, spine, head... Then a brief moment when he felt absolutely weightless - he didn't know it was the shuttle bouncing - and another impact - but he still was alive, still conscious enough to fear and hurt. And only after everything went quiet he realized with a kind of weak amazement that instead of the dark insides of the shuttle he was looking at something grey and green above himself.

Free... at last, he thought losing consciousness.

Simon didn't know how long he was out cold. He opened his eyes and had to close them again, squinting painfully at the light reaching him ruthlessly. What was it? Heaven? Hell?

In a way he was surprised how quickly his memory returned. There was something - after the Kingfisher had blown up - something approaching... They crashed... and now he was...

Wait, he was not dying. The shuttle was a mess, half of its corpus jammed and torn - and yet Simon was not suffocating in the open space. Neither he was swiftly getting poisoned with some unsuitable substitute for breathing gas. He could breathe this air... fresh and somehow wet and rather cool... but no way lethal.

Well, well, looks like the stupid kid mixed up something about this sector being uninhabited. And he, Simon, got another chance.

This thought gave him the energy he lacked so far. He moved, acquiring the control over his body - making himself sense every limb, every part of his body. He lay flat with his arms thrown widely on something so hard and angular that it seemed to leave dents in his bones. He didn't know if the shuttle was supposed to be so inconvenient. Probably not - until now.

His right arm had gone asleep, covered with some debris - but when he shifted and raised it, he saw the pain gun still clasped there so tightly that the skin on his knuckles went grey.

"Good slave," Simon whispered with a smirk, turning on his fours - and felt bile rise in his throat while his head span and span unmercifully.

He threw up and dry-heaved until the greatest pain he felt nested in his stomach - and only after that managed to move. Shit, he was not going to succumb like this. He went through worse things than a little sickness, right?

Right. Feeling the lousy taste in his mouth, still shaky on his feet, he crawled out of the wrecks and looked at the strange greyness above him.

Was it his sight or did it look like the panels were emanating some soft pale light? It was not the sky, by all means. It looked like the insides of a spacecraft... but a very, very big spacecraft, right? And yet what was around him didn't look like a ship at all.

It was ferns. He had never seen a real fern - but one guy in his neighborhood, on Aben, had a necklace with a hologram of it. Simon thought for some reason, however, that ferns were rather small plants. These were pretty solid - like a steady sea of green going everywhere he could see at the level of his chest. Well, except the part where the shuttle burned and crushed its way through them.

He turned his head again, looking for more damage around. The shuttle had to break through something, right? He didn't see anything... maybe, this damage was already removed. If it still was a ship.

The ground under his feet, uncovered with any other plants, was smooth and solid. And there was silence. No wind, no motion of the air. Just soft, distant humming of the machinery - maybe, far above him.

"Hey!" he doubted if he should scream - but somehow he knew there was no one around. He would hear them - would smell them. "Hey! I am a good guy, not dangerous!"

Nothing. Just as he thought. For some reason the idea of complete loneliness filled him with sweeping exhilaration. Freedom! He, Simon Kewlene, was a free man now.

He would go away. There was no reason to stay at the shuttle - and whatever this place was, maybe, he would be able to find something more interesting around. Someone had to breathe this air, after all.

He was uninjured, he had a weapon and... there was something else he could use before leaving. The wrecked shuttle looked shapeless, the sharp edges of metal sticking from everywhere, the walls pressed in and shattered. But the bag - the bag with six hundred packs of the most expensive and most powerful stuff in the Union - might still be there.

Simon felt suddenly sick at the thought of getting back into the wreckage - as if it was going back into the cage on his own accord - but he waved it away. Sentiments; his white teeth showed in a smile at this word but there was nothing nice in it. He couldn't afford sentiments. He had spent nine years in slavery - and three years in a camp before that - he was not supposed to feel any shit if he wanted to survive all this; not that his life in the streets of Aben or the brief stay in the Academy before they were thrown to fight the League had taught him anything else.

He would find the bag - and then he would leave. He spotted it at last on the floor - dusted and half-covered with debris - and pulled at it. And only then he saw the pale hand clutched on it.

Perfect! Fuck it! Simon cursed both in English and Abenian looking at the dirty bloodied fingers - and then passing his gaze to the motionless figure jammed between the seat and the control panel - torn clothes and pale skin - and thought if it was an instinctive urge to clasp something when the world seemed to go to hell around you.

But could it be someone else, not the bag?

"You stupid fuck," Simon yanked and the fingers let go almost immediately but he was not sure it made him happy; perhaps he relished the thought of cutting these fingers off to make them go. "I could live without seeing you ever again."

He kicked the seat away, looked down at the curled body - pushed it with the toe of his sandal. And was shocked into muteness when the fingers curled convulsively. There was no sound. But if he listened hard... he didn't want to hear it... well, it was there - the ragged, uneven breath.

"You alive, aren't you?"

He kicked, pointedly, in the belly - and elicited a small painful sound - too small, no motion - but it told him that even though Peter was alive, he hardly was conscious. For a moment Simon just stood, doing nothing, looking, and his lips curved in a grimace of glee and disgust.

"Bad luck for you, do you know it?"

Then he squatted and picked the man up.

He might be dying; there was blood - not much of it and mostly sticky, not fresh - but Simon was ready to see something - a piece of metal sticking from his kidney - or his spine bending backwards like a rag doll's. There was nothing like this - broken ribs in the worst case and Simon knew one could live with it, knew it from his own experience.

Well, whatever it was - but Peter's eyelashes fluttered when he raised him from the floor. Coming round. Good. Or bad - from whoever point of view you looked at it.

Peter didn't weigh much to make him break into sweat as he carried him out. Now Simon was careful - he was not sure how long the kid would survive - and he wanted him to live at least as long as his plan demanded. For once he didn't mind to feel the slight body, bony and warm even through the clothes, in his arms. He put him on the ground and returned once more to the shuttle, found the emergency kit there, took out the knife and the skein of rope. He didn't know if he needed these precautions - but he might - and he didn't want anything to go wrong - not when he was so close to making everything - right.

The light changed a bit - or so it seemed to him - growing duller, the shadows of the ferns cast over the ground and Peter's body paler, grey. The young man's baggy sweater and the same baggy t-shirt he wore underneath were torn and rumpled around his waist, showing the strip of white skin over the belt of his pants, plentifully covered with scabs and bruises. Well, Simon thought, it must have been how he looked everywhere. His forehead was gashed pretty badly but it had been during the blast - and blood coagulated richly around his nose and ears.

"Just don't die on me now," Simon whispered with the intensity that surprised him. "Wait a little bit."

There was a conveniently twisted protrusion of the shuttle and he grabbed Peter's wrists, feeling how some bone shifted in the left one - broken? - wound the rope around them and then around the wreckage. It held well - the knots held even better - fuck, the little bitch would rather break his wrists than get free from the rope. Simon saw Peter turn his head from side to side slightly, probably in pain - but it must've been not enough to make him come round.

"You don't know it," Simon said although that he was the only one who listened to the sound of his voice. "But I always wanted to do two things. For everything you did to me - only two things. To fuck your ass - and to shit on your face. No," he said suddenly, his face distorting. "Three things. And to tear your heart out."

"This is your master, you filthy bitch. Listen and try to memorize it. It is your master. You live for him. You serve him - you are everything he wants you to be."

"Serve him..." his lips felt numb as he repeated the words. He looked down at the one who he was supposed to serve - had served for years: whom he remembered a small boy - growing up in a short man considered by a lot of people handsome - or pretty for his sweet pale face and shining grey eyes under the girlish-curved eyelashes. Simon's hand clasped in fist; but he didn't hit. He smiled again, almost not feeling his lips, and pulled Peter's sweater and t-shirt up.

He had a knife - he could cut them - but he didn't want to waste his temper on fighting with clothes. He just pulled them up enough to bare Peter's chest, not to cover his face - looked at the rise of the ribcage over the smooth flat belly - the contours of the ribs visible under bruised skin.

For nine years of being Peter's property Simon had seen him in various stages of nakedness - and was always kind of disgustedly mesmerized with the difference between them - almost as if they were not the descendants from the same Earth. He had no bulging muscles like the ones that adorned Simon's chest and made him look so impressive in the slave garment. And this pale skin of Peter, contrasting with dark hair in his armpits and groin.

It also repelled and aroused him that Peter - everyone in the League, probably - had their nipples so bright and different from the color of their skin. Simon's, big and erect, seemed the natural continuation of his body - but theirs were so openly sexual - pink and soft and vulnerable. Just as Peter's were now, even though bruised and with a scab running across one of them.

There was something Simon always wanted to do - whether he explained it with curiosity or was ready to admit how much it aroused him at nights when he had had nobody else to quench this arousal but himself... knowing that he would never be allowed to touch his master like this. But there was no one to stop him now. He reached his hand and took the scabbed nipple between his thumb and forefinger, rolling it until it hardened on the tips of his fingers.

Peter might not feel it - but his body reacted in the natural way. Simon squeezed, harder than it would ever be possible in sex, pulling the resilient bud of flesh up and down, crushing it between his fingers - almost as if the sensation hypnotized him, seeing with grim satisfaction how the scab, already dry, started bleeding again and the redness spread around the pink circle.

"Don't worry. I'll make sure to repeat it when you won't miss anything," Simon whispered letting it go at last and pulled at the belt of the man's pants.

He saw Peter shiver slightly as he tugged the pants off of him, baring his lower belly first and then the darkness of his groin with the soft cock lying across his balls; it must've been cold for him - what Simon hardly felt now, so hot he was. Peter still didn't come round enough, just a small frown trembled between his thin brows as Simon continued to undress him. The boots were next and he unlaced them expertly - why, he had done so many times, just as he laced them up in the morning.

He felt almost dazzled looking at the half-naked body in front of him, the ribcage rising and falling oddly at the unconscious pain the broken ribs must be inflicting. He felt his own chest expand, too, steadily and stronger than usual and he was not sure what he felt more - arousal or the anger that made him almost drunk with its intensity.

From the very first time when he had to kneel on all fours as the boy that was his master fucked him up the ass half-successfully, he prayed only for the day to come when he would be able to revenge himself. He knew it was silly, most possibly he would die in slavery - but he couldn't stop praying - he couldn't stop believing.

He raised Peter's legs, put them on his shoulders, doubling him, and looked at the clean, just a shade darker entrance of his ass, so tiny that he knew there had never been anything up there - no cock, not even a finger. And seeing his own dark engorged penis against it was such an abomination of incompatible sizes that he felt both sick and even more enraged - turned on - with it.

"The only thing of yours that is still virginal, huh?" he muttered setting into the position. "Has been, I mean," and slammed in hard and dry, ruining the resistance at the first thrust - and kept thrusting through the torn tissues, seeing how the tip of his cock got coated with blood.

It was when Peter's eyelids flew up over dazed eyes and he tugged at the rope on his wrists for the first time.

* * *

You are born into a family that has eighty years of retaining power and business behind itself - and it is much in their world of shaky balance between inside and outside wars the League led.

Your father is hardly liked by anyone but feared by everyone - and when he dies, torn in pieces in his pleasure space-yacht together with your mother, you have the sheer luck not to become a poor useless orphan but be adopted by your childless uncle, the man who manages to multiply the wealth and the authority of your family and who is feared all right but is loved and respected, too.

You grow up as his heir - having everything, wanting even more - you claw the right to participate in the operations a year before you come to age - and prove every time, every move that you can do it, that you are worthy - that Andre Solana didn't make a mistake when counting on you.

They start listening to your words at the family counsel - and when one of the old fools fucks up another operation, you take over his part of the business - and you know you can do better, you can do so well - that a few years later your uncle won't hesitate to retire and leave everything to you.

You marry a good girl from the family - pure, intelligent and beautiful - who doesn't dare to speak up when you come home late at night, whether it is after a council or after a wild tryst with an expensive whore or two.

Then you go to the routine operation - that will bring the family (and you) another good piece of capital - and something goes wrong. A small thing - some fuck whose name you will never know sneaks the information to the Union. But it is like a snowball - one clings to another - and eventually the only thing you can do is to try to minimize the damage... And your favorite ship blows up in pieces... and you have a fat chance to get stuck in an unexplored part of the space... or die...

But you come round spread on the ground with your hands tied up above your head - and the cock of your Abenian slave turned bad is tearing its way through your insides like an agonizing rod of glowing iron.

The pain reached him all the way through unconsciousness. Well, the truth was that it probably never let him go completely - but only now he managed to locate it. First somewhere in his chest, flaring up at every breath as something heavy pushed on his ribs, as if jamming them into his lungs. And then worse pain - and stranger pain - tearing through him from the bottom upwards in the place where it was not supposed to hurt and he couldn't come up with any explanation how it could be.

He opened his eyes and saw.

He started fighting at the very moment when he saw Simon's dark face looming over him, the white teeth bared in what was not a smile at all - moving in cadence with strong, abrupt motions of slamming his cock inside - already deep enough to pin him to the place successfully and still striving deeper. He thrashed, surprised with the pain that pierced his left wrist immediately, forgot about it and about sickness and headache - knowing only that he had to stop somehow what was going on. Couldn't let it happen. Even though it was already happening.

No, not to him - it was not right! He was Peter Solana, the nephew of Andre Solana, the heir of the family. What would his uncle say if he knew? What would others say? They would want to oust him, to take over, he wouldn't be considered strong enough any more - not adequate.

Family members don't get fucked up to the ass. Unless they are not family members any more and would be better off dead.

The realization was so grounding that for a few moments the pain - the same pain that brought him from unconsciousness - seemed dispensable. He struggled to free his hands again and saw Simon look straight in his eyes - the level, almost calm gaze - while his thick lips moved, white teeth flashing briefly as if he said something - but to his absolute surprise there was no sound.

Like a dream, he thought. A nightmare. It must be a dream. Then the pain caught on him, reminding about itself with particular sharpness as Simon thrust his cock into him once more, so deep now that it seemed to be somewhere in his abdomen, hard and burning, mangling his insides. He gasped, trying to catch the shriek, tearing his lips with teeth desperately - knowing that he bit them to bleeding by the wetness in his mouth but not feeling it.

Then the thrusts stopped. It was not over, though, he couldn't think for a moment that it was over. He felt Simon inside - huge and long, filling him, spreading him beyond possible. And he also felt the warm heavy shapes pressed against his ass underneath - and even though nothing in his life was similar to this experience, he knew what it was - Simon's balls resting against his crack as the man stopped for a little while, having penetrated him fully.

Simon said something again - and it was another shock for him to realize that he didn't hear it - although how could Simon's words mean anything, change anything. Then Simon laughed - nodded with the black fire of satisfaction sparkling in his eyes - and ran the knuckles of his hand against the side of Peter's face, up and down, almost as if caressing. But he knew it was not - not when there was such contempt - such derision in Simon's eyes - and that made him snap, despite every motion made him feel sick and hurting again. His hands could be tied, he could not move - but he could bite.

His teeth clicked a tiny fraction away from Simon's palm - that moved back immediately as the man looked down at Peter with both amusement and anger - and when he spoke again, Peter discerned the words:

//"Little rat."//

He spat; he cursed at Simon, every dirty word he knew - but he didn't have much time for it as Simon raised his hand and backhanded him, making his head snap to the side. He didn't see another blow coming but he felt it all right when it came, his head tossed to the other side abruptly.

His sight blurred and he thought he was losing it again, almost relieved - and angry for this relief because fainting was not the way out, not when he did nothing to prevent or to stop what happened. But he was not gone. He felt Simon's hands clutch on his shoulders, the fingers stunningly strong - shaking him until he opened his eyes and looked again.

//"Stay with me,"// he could read it on Simon's lips - and saw another triumphant smile pull them apart. //"I need you to feel it."//

And he did feel. He tried to prepare himself to it - clenched his jaws - clinging to the thought that at least he would be silent, wouldn't please Simon with crying out. But he couldn't imagine that wrenching pain that dashed through him, from somewhere seemingly under his solar plexus to the torn over-stretched ring of his anus, as Simon pulled his cock out - out until probably only the tip of it stayed inside Peter.

Then he slammed in and Peter screamed. He might not hear his own voice but he knew he was screaming - tried again and again to gnaw in his lips to stop it and failed as Simon continued to send his cock in and out. He pulled on his hands again - but not to get free now. He wanted to feel other pain... as if it could distract him. And with some part of his mind he was kind of glad that he screamed too hard to be able to form words - because the most possible he would beg - he would beg Simon, his slave, to stop it.

Then the battering that seemed to grow sharper and more violent slowed down suddenly - and stopped all together as Simon froze between his legs, his cock buried as deep inside him as possible - and although Peter couldn't feel his semen spurting inside him, he knew it was what happened. He shuddered silently - the humiliation overwhelming pain again - and closed his eyes, unable to stand seeing the dark face above him any more.

There was one principle Peter tried to cultivate in his life - the principle he came to believe to be the only true one: survival was everything. But now he suddenly thought it would be better if he died before he let it happen.

Simon changed his position slightly and a flow the pain from other, unexpected sources covered Peter: his thigh muscles ached dully - and his arms must've been sprained. And as Simon took his hands off of his pelvis, he could feel the throbbing, scathing pain of the scratches his fingernails left there.

A whole lot of things you can never imagine when you are on the giving end, right, Peter?

Then there was the long agony of Simon pulling out his cock that softened but still was big enough - and Peter bit the inside of his lip again, not wanting to give out another sound and still making a small one through his nose.

He lay sprawled now - and although he was too torn to feel how Simon's cum was leaking out of him, soaking in the ground between his legs, he knew it was what happened. What he didn't know was that blood colored the cum red.

He saw Simon stand up, fumbling with his cock, probably wanting to tuck it in and deciding against it - it had to be too mucked for that. He didn't want to look at Simon but his eyes were driven to the man despite his will - with what he hoped was not terror. But the question he wished he didn't ask was inevitable - what now.

What now... in the beginning, before the pain swept him, he had wanted a lot of things - to get free, to see Simon dead, to forget everything - but somehow during those minutes - and he knew that how much could pass? - half an hour? - his aspirations narrowed to much simpler and pathetic things: to stop being naked... to curl around himself, cover his private parts. To stop hurting and to get a bit warm.

Well, what he truly wanted - and he refused admitting it even to himself - was that he wanted to cry. He didn't cry since he was seven years old, since the last lesson his father gave him - and even then crying hadn't meant anything good, just more shame and another punishment. But now he wondered if crying would make him feel better.

No. He caught a gasp that was almost like a sob, stifled it behind his teeth immediately. Anger was better - safer - he should stick to it.

Men don't cry, men kill - remember I told you?

Oh fuck you, father.

Too absorbed in his feelings, he almost missed the moment when Simon leant towards him, saying something. He was terrified with his inability to hear again - he had never thought it would be so handicapping. Simon could have repeated what he said - or said something else, his eyes still sparking mocking and wild, as if sex did nothing to put out the hatred that burned in him.

Yes, Peter, did you ever realize how much your slave hated you?

He couldn't help it - a hysterical laughter escaped his lips, so strange because he couldn't hear it. But Simon could all right. Peter saw with regret - too late, too late - how the man's eyes narrowed into slits. And now, when he spoke, Peter understood him. Wouldn't he - with the pain gun pointing in his face.

What one loses, the other acquires, right?

//"What is it? What is it?"// the question could be weird but he got it right.

"My pain gun."

//"No. *My* pain gun,"// a long, slow smile. //"What does it do?"//

"Hurts."

He stood up and shot. Peter knew he would - but there was no way he could prepare himself to it... that was the beauty of the weapon - one could never be ready to this pain - absolute pain. A long convulsion seized him, arching his body, twisting his tied arms out of the joints - for something that must have continued a split second - but seemed like ages for him. And even when his body slumped on the ground, the course of pain through his nerves went on, making his limbs twitch. And only after that he could start taking shallow fast breaths that were frighteningly like sobs - but he cared no more.

Low level... you don't usually bother to use it, Peter.

He didn't know who said it - Simon or the cold, merciless voice that stayed sane inside him through everything. He didn't know he was shaking as he looked up at Simon - just to see him push the button slightly up and shoot again.

Pausing. Letting him acquire his breath again. Shooting. Peter was sobbing - he would be ashamed of these sounds if he knew he made them. He saw Simon's face - the dark mask of hatred - hovering over him through the mist of pain. Like some strange divine creature... his Nemesis, huh?

By the time Simon shot no more there was no coherent thought in Peter's mind - no pride, no dignity - just the fear.

He didn't know what pleasure his trapped animal stare gave to Simon when the man came up a bit closer and took his cock in hand. The only thing Peter thought was not again, not that soon. But Simon was not going to fuck him. He aimed his cock at Peter's face and started pissing. And it was worse - it turned out that it still could be worse.

Then he finished, tucked his cock into the pants at last and left.

The End of Part 1

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