I find myself cramped in the guts of the warship. A small crawlway with only the faintest of lighting, an incredible amount of heat, and dozens of hot pipes lining the walls and ceiling. In my rescuer’s little den, there’s empty cans of food and bottles of water strewn about, looks like he’s been surviving like this for a while. I’ve had to crawl on my hands and knees the whole time, and I must move cautiously as I’m deathly afraid of bumping my head against anything. Thanks to that stupid captain, my head is bit misshapen, the left side of my face flatter than normal, with deep bruising and dried blood caked down my nose, eyes, and ears.
There’s just 34 minutes left until the shuttles are set to leave.
I sit cross legged in the little cubby, hunching forward to help subdue the pain above my left hip. My new ally sits in front of me, excitedly bouncing up and down with a wide grin. If I was an escaped slave of the gurant, I’d probably act similar in front of the woman who made a fool of my previous master.
Well, not that I didn’t make a complete fool of myself in the process. I can’t believe I was so stupid, acting like that. Why was my mind even wandering? These are gurant. Evil. Real evil, not sexy fantasy ‘evil’. Of course he would try to kill me at the first opportunity. In fact, didn’t he explicitly say as much? I’m such an idiot.
You know what? I’m stronger than this curse. I’ve always been playing around, never caring too deeply about resisting its influence. But I almost died.
There’s no other option, it’s gotten too bad. From here on out, I swear off men! I don’t care what curse may ail me, I’m renouncing my weakness to hot men forever.
I take a deep breath to steady myself. “Hey, thanks for getting me out of there, I’m sure I would have-“ the light hits my rescuer just right, and holy crap!
He’s a bit dirty and his clothes are old, but I’m smart enough to see what he’d look like when freshly cleaned, and I like it. He’s got a few bruises and cuts, no doubt because life is hard in these crawlspaces, and his body is covered in loads of scars. As he’s a slave, it doesn’t require much imagination to figure out how he got the wounds. His skin is really pale, I doubt he’s ever seen the stars before, but his body is well developed. I see very little body fat and a lot of toned muscles. His piercing blue eyes shine in the darkness, and I’m a sucker for men with long, unkempt hair.
I reach forward to grab his hand, then get down on one knee. “Aah, thank you, my savior! I, Zahra of the Sehat estate, surely would have perished were it not for your timely intervention!” His hand is thick and dense with callouses, just the idea of him using them gets me excited. “Please, sir, I’ll do all I can to repay you in any way you wish, nothing is off limits, but all I ask before you take your reward is simply a name for which I might call you.”
My friend stares at me for a moment, politely smiling but with a blank look in his eyes. Then he squeaks while cocking his head. Squeak?
“Can you… understand me?”
He blushes, then… says something. He’s stuttering and unsure of what words to use, and the language sounds like Cirathan Standard, but it’s not. It’s so broken and garbled, yet familiar. I imagine this is what foreigners hear when I speak. What I can understand loud and clear, if with an accent, is ‘Peldak Protectorate’.
“Aww, you poor man. You must have heard about us from the soldiers and dreamed of this day when we could rescue and civilize you.” I put a hand on his shoulder. “How many slaves must have dreamt the same as you, but don’t even know we’re here? I wish I could alter the timetable, but I can’t. I’ll have to make do with bringing you home.”
The man understood none of that. He just sits there, politely, smiling as I run my mouth. This is to say that his temperament is perfect for a husband! He won’t snap or get overly upset when I bother him, nor will he break off our engagement just because I cling to him in the months leading up to the wedding, nor will he be scared off when we’re on our first date and I start asking how many dozens of children he wants.
If I bring him back to the Protectorate, he’ll no doubt be so grateful of my efforts that he’ll marry me as soon as he can. I’ll definitely be the one to train him the ways of civilization, and I could sneak a whole bunch of lessons to groom him into exactly the kind of man I want, and to make him understand that I’m perfect wife material.
But I can’t do that if I don’t explain to him that I’ll rescue him, and I can’t explain that if we don’t speak the same language.
Luckily, I developed skills as an empath many years ago, allowing me to transfer very basic thoughts and feelings into others, and to receive them in kind. I trained it to seduce alien men who don’t speak my language, but it’s never worked. The seduction never worked, I mean, the skill itself was perfect. The guys kept running away though…
After putting a hand on the center of the man’s chest, I use my empath powers. Savior, happiness, paradise, gurant bad, me friend. I send images of me beheading the gurant captain, then one of me taking this man by the hand, then an image of us standing with a dozen kids on one of the brilliant oasis’ that dot Sayar’s surface.
The man begins to shake, his chest convulses and his heartbeat races as tears streak down his smiling face. He squeaks out a laughter, then prostrates himself, pressing his forehead against the metal floor. After a second of this, he sits up and puts a hand on the center of my chest. It’s a shame I’m wearing armor.
This isn’t how it works, but I’m happy he’s smart enough to see a connection between the physical contact and the thought transfer. He closes his eyes and tries to force his thoughts into my mind. He lets out another squeak from the concentration and I use my power to read his thoughts.
I see the gurant captain, and I get a sense of hatred. I see a man and woman holding a baby, and I feel love. Then I see children working, turning dials and crawling in tight spaces amidst pistons and gears. I see the gurant rounding up adults as children watch in silence. Then I feel loss, revenge, cold metal, hot metal. I see this man knocking over an expensive vase, I see him spitting in a fancy meal. Finally, I see me decapitating the gurant captain and this man praying at my feet, with feelings of gratitude, worship, and relief.
Piecing all that together and making some inferences, I think these slaves have been born and raised in this ship for generations. When his parents got too old to be useful as workers, they were executed by the captain. This man then was so filled with anger and grief, that he escaped into the maintenance tunnels and has been waging a guerrilla war of inconvenience in the same way I pointlessly destroyed things while on my rampage. Then, this guy found me and is excited that I’ll kill the captain.
It seems he didn’t get my hint of us moving to Sayar, getting married and starting a family. I’m not worried though, he’ll figure it out soon enough.
With his hand still on my chest, I transfer another series of thoughts. Acceptance, revenge, a kind of passing of the torch. I accept his desire for revenge and will follow it through. His body tenses and he begins to shake like a firework, ready to burst from excitement, his constant squeaks are adorable. In the absence of a name, I’ll call him Mouse. For this man, my one true soulmate, I think a dead gurant captain will make a fine wedding gift.
…oh, and I’ll take the captain’s head back so I can get a kiss from Henryk. I’m not really interested in him anymore though. He’s old news, but I guess it’d be rude to go through the trouble of getting his hopes up only to deny him after an hour of waiting.
A final set of ideas needs to be transferred. An image of Mouse leading me through the tunnels. An image of the captain. An image of me standing behind the captain with him completely unaware. One last image of me stabbing him in the back of the neck. Mouse gives off a feeling of elation from that one.
Mouse seems to get what I’m asking, for him to lead me so I can take Gogrundudel by surprise. With a nod and a gesture to follow, he heads off through the maintenance tunnels of the ship.
28 minutes left.
Mouse takes me to a small vent overlooking the bridge of the ship. We’re squished side by side, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but being in such close proximity with my soon-to-be husband has my heart fluttering, and the blood flow hurts my head. When I head down there to kill Gogrundudel, I’ll need to make sure my skull isn’t hit. At this point, even a light tap might kill me.
I look to Mouse, he looks to me. His nice blue eyes seem so full of joy that the captain will die soon, I can’t let him down! Because we’re pressed together I can easily transfer my thoughts. It’s me standing down there with my sword while he watches from above. I’m telling him to wait, and he nods in understanding.
I pull the vent off then slip into the bridge. Vaalige softens my landing, and nobody yet knows I’m here.
The bridge has hundreds of workers, gurant and human alike, working in a pyramid like design. Gogrundudel stands at the highest point in the back, now decked out in power armor, with bandages covering the wounds on his face. Some gurant sit in the next row down, then more under them, and so on. Human attendants run back and forth to help their gurant masters and their higher-ranked peers, and the bridge is a dull roar of activity. Buttons being pressed, shouting, the gurants’ many snarls, and I can faintly hear the alarm going off thanks to our raid. I wonder how everyone’s doing.
The bridge has a wide-open window with a brilliant view of the battle outside. Explosions bounce off the gurant shields and a few Protectorate warships are close enough that I can see them zoom past. Once the extraction time comes, more allied ships will get closer to cover our exit. A lot of people are going to die, but High Command decided it was worth it just to eventually kill this one gurant.
Hmm. Everyone’s so preoccupied on the battle. I could take out my sword and be done with Gogrundudel, one simple cut and we’re done… I look up to Mouse. His eyes are sparkling like a child the night before their birthday.
How about I give him a show?
“Hey! Grogundelidal!” I intentionally yell his name wrong as I loudly pull my sword from its scabbard. “You escaped last time, but this time it’ll be Zahra Sehat who emerges as the victor! Wanna continue from where we left off?”
“[No. Someone kill her.]” Sickening gurant, no sense of honor. I declared a duel yet he has the gaul to send lackies? He didn’t even glance back.
Two gurant charge forward, one from two o’clock and the other from ten o’clock. Their claws are drawn, and all four pairs are crackling with blue bolts of electricity.
No messing around and making a fool of myself in front of my fiancé. As the gurant on the right reels back his right arm, I step forward and use all my power to slice him deep across the chest, from left shoulder to his right hip. I don’t slash deep enough to sever his spine, but all his organs are destroyed.
Quickly turning to face the gurant from the left, I dodge a swing, then another. I duck under one final swing and use the opportunity to cut his legs out from under him. He falls forward, and I quickly jump on top of him to stab him through the back.
Upon hearing two armored giants fall, Gogrundudel finally turns to face me. Only God knows what he’s thinking now, for I don’t waste time to ask. I charge forward and his reaction is delayed. He tries to raise his gauntlets to block me, and he screams “[guards-!!]” but it’s too late.
I expertly flip over him, twisting my body in an impressive arch. Thankfully the ceiling of the bridge is so high, otherwise my legs would have scraped against it. As I come down behind him, I slice horizontal through his neck, executing him instantly.
I stick the landing like a gold medal athlete, while Gogrundudel’s body and head make two distinct thuds as they smash into the ground.
The bridge crew is silent, stunned. Mouse is squeaking to himself as he tries to contain his joy. I’m left a little worried as my sword cracks and falls apart in my hand.
Normally I use vaalige to sharpen my blade and have it cut through everything with ease, but electricity touching the vaalige I control will weaken me. I’ve killed a lot of gurant today, each with a suit of power armor that has electricity coursing through it. While I can empower my muscles to help push through, my sword’s taken too much abuse, and it’s finally broken. But with Vaalige at my side, I’m far from defenseless.
I quickly grab Gogrundudel’s head by the jaw, then run to the vent and catch Mouse as he climbs down. “Ha! That went perfectly, see you never, toad monsters!” The doors open before me and I make my way out into the rest of the ship.
17 minutes until the shuttles leave, plenty of time.