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The Rape Run

2023-01-24 00:08:31

The Rape Run

Written by Olga Anastasia

The Runners:

Melena de Santo – The Colonel

Ja-alixxe – The Bounty Hunter

Aireela – The Amazon

Elionara – The Dancer

Palonae – The Princess (Princess Palonae Noonian Aurora Tonova)

Tasha Castelaine – The Career Woman

Jasmeena – Daughter of the Sands

Cara Haston – The Model

Leesha – The Born Slave

Oorla – The Actress

The Hunters:

Salarin – The Sadist

Leshan – The Runt

Cronorgan – The Master

Lotho-etsarra –The Libido

Jackran-ad-aktar – The Alien

1 - General

I am sleeping alone in my small regulation single bed, as always, when I’m woken by the urgent alarm call of someone pressing the buzzer outside my door.

“Light!” I command.

Sensors detect my voice, signal to the lamps, and my cabin gradually illuminates with a soft glow.

There’s enough light to see my soldier’s watch. As usual I fell asleep with it still fastened round my slender wrist. Zero-two-hundred hours, prime-world time. It’s not my duty period. It’s the middle of the night.

I recheck the time in confusion.

The ship’s engines are resonating with their familiar constant, gentle shush. I hear no tortured roar of battle maneuvers, and there is not the sound of blasts hitting the hull. Everything seems calm, so I have not been woken because we’re under attack.

I am not due on duty for hours. What can have been important enough to wake me up?

The buzzer repeats, a longer, insistent sound.

“Okay, Okay, I’m awake,” I shout out testily. The internal walls marking out the cabins in this cruiser are paper thin, so the caller outside will be able to hear me.

I swing my smooth, pale, bare legs from the cot and stand, padding across the floor to the door. My long hair tumbles into place down my back.

A screen to the right of the exit shows the image of Mansom, my steward. I scowl. Most in the Republic fleet would consider themselves lucky to be high-ranking enough to have their own assistant and normally I appreciate him. But in the middle of the night I’m only good for being tetchy.

I press the open button beside my cabin door, which sweeps aside in a rush of hydraulics, and I turn away without speaking, walking back towards the metal basin.

Mansom enters the room and the door closes behind him. He carries a steaming coffee to help wake me up. He knows my moods and habits well enough to bring this strategically sensible offering.

“Ma’am,” he says diffidently. “Sorry to wake you, but the general wants to see you immediately.”

I grunt, splashing my face with cold water from the basin, and turn back to catch him in the act of watching me. Mansom looks quickly away, but his guilty start gives away that he was staring at my body, again. Okay, I’m only wearing standard issue female underwear – flimsy white cotton panties and a tight vest, but really Mansom… Half the population of the universe are women with organs same as mine. Get over us.

But he’s been assigned as my steward for long enough, being forced to look every day at what he wants but will never have, that the normal male appreciation of a familiar woman has turned to desire, and then to hungry obsession.

I get this kind of thing all the time. Young women serving in the space fleet are vastly outnumbered by our male colleagues so we have to learn to cope with the constant hungry eyes. Luckily rank counts, and while junior ratings are perpetually hit-on, men of Mansom’s grade know better than to dare try anything with a senior officer.

For my part, I have always refused to let myself be treated any differently or behave any differently because of my sex. It’s a point of principle. So that meant when a male steward was assigned to me, I didn’t ask for a female instead. I determined he’d have to put up with me in my smalls, just the same as if he was steward to a guy.

I believe to the depths of my soul that a woman should be able to fill any role in the Republic fleet just as well as a man, and it shouldn’t matter a jot if that woman is considered desirable. If I show discomfort, well that’s just a sign of weakness on my part. So, just as I’ve done every other time this has happened, I pretend I haven’t even noticed my male steward mentally undressing me, and I sip my coffee.

It’s steaming hot and it tastes good. My mood starts improving immediately.

Mansom helps me into the snug white regulation jumpsuit that is my uniform. A symbol on the upper arm of my suit marks me as a colonel. The shoes I slip on are also white, sturdy and utilitarian.

Unlike some women in the fleet, I take no time to apply makeup. Men don’t have to. Why should I?

Only a couple of minutes later, clad in standard field dress, I am moving alone through the corridors of the ship towards the general’s office. Mansom is left behind, at liberty to return to his bed and his dreams.

Passing a place where the vessel narrows allowing viewing windows to have been installed on both sides of the walkway, I see no sign of a planet or sun around us. We are in deep space.

A cruiser of the Republican fleet never drops its guard, even in the middle of the night, so although it is my time to be resting, others are about their duties. A group of soldiers comes down the corridor towards me, dressed in the same uniform jumpsuits I wear. There movements are leisurely, confirming we are not on alert.

Most of the soldiers are men, but there is one woman with them, not as tall and long-legged as me but with a pretty face and neat blonde hair, that she keeps cut shorter than I wear mine.

The approaching group clock the insignia on my jumpsuit (or more likely simply recognize me), and give me the salute due to a senior officer. I return the salute casually. All the men make their way past me and continue down the corridor, but the blonde female hangs back.

“Guys, I’ll catch you up,” she calls after her comrades in her high voice.

Once the men are out of sight, formality can be dropped.

“Jasmine,” I say, pulling her to me in a chaste hug.

“Melena,” she says, giving me a peck on the cheek.

She carries a flowery scent along with her, like her own personal cloud. She shouldn’t really wear fragrance on duty, but no-one is likely to report her for it, including me. Jasmine is one of my few close friends here on the cruiser. Being two women in a mainly male environment we would probably have been drawn together whatever, but our similar personalities and sense of humor made us closer even than the many other serving females who can only let their guard down in the company of their fellow women.

Jasmine is quite junior to me in rank, a sergeant, so in front of the rest of the crew she has to treat me respectfully, but the moment we’re off duty I enjoy and actively encourage the open, casual way she speaks to me.

“Why are you up?” she asks me with puzzled concern. “It’s not your time on duty.”

“Something going on,” I tell her. “I’ve been summoned to see the general.”

“Raiders, perhaps? Or smugglers? Or a strike planet-side?”

“Possibly. But then why aren’t the crew at their stations, and why are we in deep space? I’ll let you know later, if it’s something I can discuss.”

Jasmine nods, and adds in a relaxed tone, “You working out today?”

“Certainly. I’ll come and find you.”

The gym on the ship isn’t sexually segregated, so Jasmine and I soon found there’s safety in numbers from the constant discreetly watching male eyes, if we perform our keep fit together.

Working out is supposed to be a nice part of fleet military routine, recreation, but I frown when I think of braving the gym. Okay, it’s the one place I can’t avoid wearing tight clothing, but it’s not that there’s a problem with guys trying to pick us up the moment I venture out in public. I am too senior in rank for men to come onto unless they want to risk being busted down to private, and Jasmine’s boyfriend - one of the space marines – would break anyone’s neck if they messed with his girl.

They never say anything, but we can’t forbid them looking at us, and boy, as soon as I step out from the changing room dressed in lycra, watch they do.

For example, I have to lean over a bench to lift a weight and work my triceps, and seeing how I have to do that with my ass sticking up in the air the bench press machine right behind me never seems to be without an occupant. Jasmine literally mounts a rear guard for me, scowling at anyone sat behind me who is being too blatantly obvious.

But even with her there I’ll always feel uncomfortable when I’m in that sweat-soaked room. And yet just like the situation with the male steward, at the gym I’d be letting them win if I let my sex stop me doing what I want.

“See you later,” I say in farewell to Jasmine, and squeezing her hand in platonic friendship, I continue my progress until I’m at the quarters of our commanding officer.

I press the buzzer at the general’s door, and hear his voice call, “Enter.”

“Sir,” I say, as I walk into the room.

The general is sat behind a large desk, with a facing chair on its opposing side already prepared for me. I’ve known him for years but salute him smartly all the same.

“Colonel,” he says, gesturing to the chair. “My apologies for waking you. Please sit.”

I do.

He surveys me for a moment, like a schoolmaster considering a difficult pupil. The general is a small man, wiry-built and in his sixties, but he still has a sharpness and a manner that commands respect.

“Colonel de Santo,” the general says. “May I call you Melena?”

I look suspiciously at him. First names in the fleet mean bad news.

“If you must, Sir,” I say.

“You have been critical in our Republic’s fight against the Slavers of Aghara-Penthay,” he begins, “and proven your courage again and again.”

There is not much I can reply with to this flattery, but, “It’s a fight I believe in, General.”

It is a cause close to my heart. I detest the Slavers, and everything they represent, and I think there is no more important task for the space fleet than bringing about their defeat.

For decades, no, centuries, the Slavers have been the scourge of this part of the galaxy. Acting like common raiders, they prey on ships following their legitimate business along the trade routes, and like all pirates the Slavers come not to destroy, but to plunder.

As their title suggests, their fortune comes from the capture and sale of slaves. They’ve been so successful at this work that over the centuries they’ve grown hugely wealthy.

These riches enabled them to afford so many ships and armaments to protect themselves that now they can menace this region with impunity. Even the Republic’s space fleet cannot currently beat them in their home territory, and dare not approach their hub, the horrific planet of Aghara-Penthay. We’ve fought a series of skirmishes along the frontier, encounter after encounter for decades and no sign of a victor.

“We all want to see them defeated,” says the general with a nod of agreement that our cause is the right one. “And I can imagine that as a woman, you particularly oppose them.”

Briefly I feel myself scowl, disliking any reference to my gender and how it might make a difference. He is, however, unfortunately correct.

While the Slavers deal in slaves of any kind, and are known for selling some healthy, strong males for breeding stock or for intense physical labor, their specialty and their fortune comes from trading women. Beautiful women. The sexual desires of the galaxy’s men are insatiable, and the immoral rich and powerful will always pay well for compliant, broken, and most importantly desirable, female slaves. So, yes, given that as I too am a female considered to be unusually attractive, it is in my own interest to free the galaxy from their threat. My gender makes us automatic enemies.

“You are perhaps the highest profile woman serving in the Republic fleet,” continues the general. “Your success in battle against the Slavers has made you a symbol of woman’s struggle for equal rights in the galaxy.”

I am further irritated as once more the general brings my sex into the discussion, so I wave an arm dismissively. Okay, the fleet’s publicity arm put me in a propaganda movie, and they used my image on a recruiting poster to attract more women into the fleet, but I never sought that attention.

“I’m not interested in being famous, or a symbol, general, if that’s the issue,” I reply with increasing annoyance. “If that’s what’s what you want to talk about, I’d welcome a lower profile.”

“Nonetheless, you have grown into a figurehead, and caught the notice of the galaxy, and the Slavers themselves,” he says, moving on in a calm tone, like I’m a difficult beast he’s trying to settle.

The general looks at me shrewdly, and even more carefully he says, “Your beauty has only added to the attention you receive. A journalist described you as both the most famous and the most desirable woman in the Republic fleet.”

Being reminded of this statement, and the teasing I received after its publication, makes me really angry.

“What difference does all that make, General?” I snap back, not hiding the hostility in my voice. “You know that’s all baloney.”

“It matters because your reputation makes you a target, Melena,” he answers patiently. “Imagine the damage to the Republican fleet’s credibility and the fear that will spread through the Republic’s women if even the great Melena de Santo was paraded as a sex slave.”

I dismiss this as well, for I have long known what the Slavers would try to do with me if I were captured, but I get on with the job anyway and I avoid contemplating that fate. I devote my efforts to the downfall of the Slavers, not to fearing them. All the same, when the general utters the phrase “sex slave” I shudder for a moment.

“I won’t let that happen, Sir. I would kill myself before they took me,” I say, trying to sound confident.

“You might not have that choice, Melena. Lots of women would rather die than be broken, and yet they are captured and tamed all the same.”

I clench my fists under the desk to hide my surging emotions. Every female in the galaxy is aware of their fate if they are captured by the raiders of Aghara-Penthay. Not even I can escape the fear the Slavers instill.

Deep down a part of me knows that like so many women before me, I would too be unable to resist if I fell into the Slaver’s hands. They would break me under the whip and the neural implants, and then I’d live out my days enduring rape after rape after rape. But I suppress my personal fears to fight the good fight, and that’s what I’ll keep on doing. I’d rather not dwell on such gruesome things.

“Why have you woken me to discuss this, General?” I ask suddenly. “What is so urgent?”

He pushes a screen across the desk. There is an image of myself on it, the one they used in the recruiting poster.

I remember standing proudly with my head held high for that photo. I’d turned up for the shoot in my regulation jumpsuit but Publicity had made me wear something stylized and tighter than my usual uniform. And I hate the camera angle they used in the end. In that profile, the most prominent thing about me is my embarrassing gravity defying breasts.

A few parodies and versions edited to make me look obscene have made it out to the ether. The photo on this one hasn’t been altered, but the writing on the version filling general’s screen isn’t the call to women to join the fleet. I can read the new text perfectly well for myself, but he speaks anyway.

“The Slavers have put a bounty on you, Melena, a bounty that’s almost unprecedented. They’re offering half a million credits to someone who delivers you to the Slavers alive. And what makes this situation even worse - we’ve only just come out of communication silence, and discovered it. That means this announcement has been all over the galaxy for several days. Bounty hunters will already be on their way here.”

The fears I’ve spent years quelling flutter in my belly, but I hide them from the general. I refuse to show weakness, especially weakness that results from me being a woman.

Inside, I’m in anguish though.

Who will resist such a fortune? It is enough credit for a bounty hunter to spend the rest of their life living in luxury. Every lowlife in the galaxy will be attracted by this fortune. And just for capturing me. Fortune seekers will already be on their way here.

“I have to take you off active duty and put you under protection, Melena,” the general says. “You need to go into hiding somewhere secure until this blows over.”

“No!” I protest. “That’s giving in to them, if you take me off service just because I’m female. The galaxy will believe that I’ve run away like a coward, and that would send a worse message than if I was taken.”

“No it’s not worse, Melena,” the general presses, almost pleading. “Just think what the Slavers will do to you.”

“I won’t give in to them,” I insist firmly, and then remember my rank, and say, “No way, Sir.”

The general pauses, leaning forward to make a steeple with his forearms, elbows on the desk, and tries a new tack. I can see the deep furrows of age in his face. His skin is quite brown, tanned from leave spent on sunny planets.

“Have you ever met a woman who’s been fully processed through Aghara-Penthay?” he asks.

“Of course not,” I reply.

Slaves are almost never recovered by the free planets of the Republic, once they’re taken. After capture, women disappear into the hidden places of the universe, the cellars, the dungeons, the pits and the cages of those who can afford them on the worlds that don’t respect law and order.

While women might have equal rights in most of the Republic, possessing a vagina instead of a penis means a human becomes property as soon as she sets foot on Slaver territory. Occasionally women return from the station orbiting Aghara-Penthay, where they can enter and leave under the escort of a registered male “owner”, but I’ve never met a woman who has been down on the planet’s surface. Females only go there when they’re lost, and on their way to be processed and sold by the Slavers.

“I think you should meet one, Melena. It would give you some perspective.”

And without giving me time to reply the general leans forward and presses the intercom on his desk.

“Ask Beyala to come in, please,” he says to someone.

While we wait for this Beyala he offers me coffee, but I’m pissed with him and I refuse. I sit back petulantly in my chair and fold my arms under my chest.

It is only a couple of minutes later when the girl enters.

She’s wearing a standard ship jumpsuit, the navy blue that designates a civilian, but despite her entirely generic attire I can tell immediately what she once was, a slave of Aghara-Penthay, because Beyala has the mark.

The slave mark – an indelible sign that a woman has been processed on the surface of that vile planet.

Beyala’s imprint reminds me of dark make-up, eyeliner or perhaps a tattoo, swirling patterns that emerge from the edge of her right eye to decorate the right side of her face. The spiral design is the same one that has been used by the Slavers for centuries, and is supposed to remind the observer of the letter that starts the word ‘slave’ in the ancient galactic universal script.

Even though it’s a barbaric thing to inflict I must admit that adorning Beyala, it adds to the beauty of an already exceptionally striking woman.

Unlike some marks and brands which owners apply to the thigh or the shoulder blade, Aghara-Penthay’s Slavers choose to mark the girl’s face, because for the rest of her life unless she veils herself it will be almost impossible to disguise. With each person she meets, their eyes will track to the mark before they go anywhere else, reminding the girl and everyone else constantly of what she is.

I realize I’m being rude and staring, and yet I notice Beyala is watching me with almost as much interest as I’m studying her. Embarrassed, I look away, down at the desk.

“Eight days ago we seized the heavily-armed ship of one Kazar, a drug trafficker and a thoroughly nasty piece of work,” says the general.

“I remember the mission,” I reply.

Yes, I was leading one of the assault teams. I lost a good man, blasted so completely that not even immersion in a healing tank could save him. My group dealt with the resistance from Kazar’s guards, but after the capitulation we left. I was not involved in searching the upper decks.

“When we searched Kazar’s personal quarters, we found Beyala waiting in his bed,” the general says. “He’d made so much profit from narcotics that he could even afford to buy a girl from the Slavers.”

I look at her respectfully, a real slave of Aghara-Penthay. This woman is exceptionally lucky to have been rescued. Very few of her kind ever see the free worlds again.

“Beyala,” the general says, addressing the woman in a kindly voice, and with great courtesy, he says, “If you’d like, you may sit.”

I don’t need an explanation for the general’s elaborate formality.

“They gave you the implant chip,” I say to her, my voice choking with sympathy.

Implanting is the stuff of nightmares, another example of the Slaver’s cruelty towards their captives. Lodged in Beyala’s brain stem, too deep to be surgically removed, it will be there. Her control chip.

Everyone in the fleet has sat through briefings on Slaver technology, and knows about implants. The chip interferes with brain patterns, so the slave behaves not according to their own free will, but according to the program’s configuration.

Some functions are common to all chips. An implant makes it impossible for the carrier to commit suicide, either through action or inaction. Yes - a slave cannot even escape their hellish existence by ending their own life.

A woman with an implant cannot harm a male, any male, in any way either, also by action or inaction.

The chips have a location broadcast ability, which enables the Slavers to find the slave, anywhere in the galaxy. That means once a slave is implanted, it’s almost impossible for her to escape the Slaver’s control. Even here in the Republic Beyala will live her whole life in fear of being retaken. She will never be free.

Almost all women’s chips have an obedience function active, which explains the general’s careful phrasing to Beyala. To me, this would be the greatest humiliation to endure. She feels an overwhelming compulsion to follow any request, as long as it’s given by a man. That means her unlamented former owner Kazar did not have to worry about keep her captive or Beyala running away. He just had to ask her not to leave, and she would have felt an irresistible urge to stay with him.

Our best technicians still haven’t found a way to defeat a chip’s encryption and turn them off, and they can’t be surgically removed without causing terrible damage. The chips have to be left in place. Beyala is in a civilized place now, on a Republic cruiser, but she’s still a slave. So right here in this room in front of me, all the general would have to do to have sex with Beyala would be to tell her to put out, and she’d oblige gratefully.

There are other functions that can be configured in control chip, which the Slavers customize according to the owner’s wishes. Women can be made desperate for sex – turned into raging nymphomaniacs, or, for the tastes of the sadist owner, women can be conditioned to be repelled by contact, and loathe any touch of a man. Her dislike will not protect her. If ordered, the slave will yield just the same.

Women can be turned lesbian; or mute; or submissive; or be programmed to be aroused by enduring torture or the wearing of restraints.

Even the women participating in the Rape Run are implanted, although as those ten are not yet full slaves, some of the functions are left dormant until after the competition is over. There would be no sport in hunting a female who could easily be found with a tracker. And where would be the victory in capturing a woman who would come the moment you called her?

“Beyala’s implant makes her very vulnerable to exploitation,” the general tells me, as if I, a woman, wouldn’t already know the implications of suffering the process. “The fleet will have to place here somewhere she can be protected by those merciful to her condition, and she will need assistance for the rest of her life.”

The look I flash him is hard, for I know exactly why the general is showing Beyala to me. It’s a crude attempt at manipulation.

This ruined female before me is a living example of the fate that awaits me if I fall into the Slavers’ hands. He expects me to go meekly into protection as soon as he shows me how her whole future has been shattered by one microchip.

His ploy works, in that the horror I’m meant to feel at the idea of living her life is so intense, it’s as if someone has gripped my heart. And yet the sympathy I feel for her, the sisterly comradeship, is also intense. This is why I joined the space fleet, to help put an end to such barbarity.

“I’m so sorry for what they’ve done to you,” I tell her with great tenderness.

“Your sympathy for me is misdirected,” Beyala surprises me by interrupting, her answer delivered in a brusque, dismissive tone. I’d expected her voice to be compliant, like a slave, but she sounds cold, almost authoritarian. I soon learn why.

“My implant prevents me feeling any unhappiness at my situation. Rather, I rejoice in serving men. So do not pity me. Furthermore the particular configuration of my chip programs me to feel masochistic urges around men – I truly want them to hurt me - but sexually sadistic cravings towards all other women. So your sympathy, to me, sounds only like an expression of your own weakness, and as it would arouse me to see you suffer, I recommend you do not show such vulnerability.”

I understand now why she has been staring at me so intently. She’s enjoying my fear of the Slavers. Floundering for something to say, I try to break the sudden tension in the room.

“Do you feel aware of the implant?” I can’t help asking from morbid curiosity.

Beyala looks contemptuously at me, and snorts with derision.

Gods, she wants to hurt me so much she’ll even try with words. Is the control over her that bad? And I do flinch, stung by such animosity from a complete stranger.

“I’m asking the question,” the general interrupts gently, taking control. “Answer me please, Beyala,”

Compelled now to reply, she immediately does.

“I know these instincts that make me such a slave once were not my own, Sir,” she says to him, changing back from hostility to humility so immediately it’s as though someone flipped a switch, “and yet today they feel so deeply part of my identity it’s as if they’ve always been there. In that sense I’m not aware of the implant at all.”

“Some piece of my awareness knows I’m being controlled and my inclinations I would once have believed were shameful and wrong, and yet through the core of my being they’re also now me. As I stand here, Sir, I’m so desperate for you to tie me up and abuse me that I resent every second your whore friend sits here in this cabin with her prissy legs crossed.”

My face reddens with embarrassment both at such frank admissions and the unceasing venom directed at me. Neither could be faked, and clearly they run to Beyala’s core. It’s impossible to believe the delicate girl openly begging for cruelty could have been a normal young woman with the same will and urges as my own.

For a moment I have an image of my steward Mansom politely asking me for sex, and my irresistibly complying in some degrading act. I shudder.

“And this could be your fate, Melena, if you don’t go into hiding,” the general resumes. “This, and worse than this, for unlike Beyala they will certainly want to subject you to public degradation.”

Looking away from the almost predatory stare of the slave girl, I restore my courage and my equilibrium. Preventing this kind of treatment of sentient females is why I joined the fight.

“Whatever the risks, you can’t discriminate against me just because I’m a woman, and because men happen to find me attractive,” I say angrily. “That would contradict everything we stand for.”

“You don’t understand how desirable you are, Melena, and what a trophy you could be. There’s only one reason for such a vast bounty. You’re so beautiful they want you for the Rape Run.”

Before I can reply to that, the general’s expression changes, as if he’s had an idea. He looks questioningly at me, as though he’s seeing me in a new way.

“Maybe that’s the problem, I hadn’t thought of that,” he says. “Maybe you really don’t realize how much your beauty puts you at risk.”

Immediately he scoffs for a moment at his own illogical thinking aloud.

“But no, surely you must have experienced the way men see you, and react to you, and you release what a threat that represents?”

The general is a strategic and tactical genius, and I’m familiar with seeing his mind race and his understanding grow. His eyes widen, and shame floods me as I know what he’s about to ask.

“You have been with a man, haven’t you Melena?” he says abruptly. “You know… intimately… I’m sorry to ask such a personal question, but it affects your safety on my ship, and I must apply a commanding officers prerogative.”

I don’t answer but my hot blush of embarrassment must speak for me. His look of utter incomprehension, and Beyala’s malicious pleasure at my discomfort makes the humiliation ten times worse.

“Seriously, Melena? There are eight times as many men as women on this ship, and all of those guys would like to bed you,” he says, awestruck, “and in all the time you’ve been stationed here, you’ve not had sex once?”

His elbows hit the desk with a clunk and he puts his head in his hands, a gesture of despair.

“Gods, what the Slavers will do to you if they find out you’re a virgin? Please don’t let them capture you as a virgin, Melena.”

He looks up again.

“What’s the matter? Are you a lesbian or something?”

While Beyala smirks at me, I’m about to reply that it’s none of the general’s business, but a deep boom resonates through the ship. It sounds like the docking clamps. The general taps a symbol on his pad and puts on a businesslike manner.

“Supply vessels,” he says. “Right on time.”

My opportunity to argue has gone.

“We have to bring this meeting to a close,” the general says. He stands up, so I rise as a well, as soldiers do for a senior officer.

“Colonel de Santo,” he says to me. “Your orders are to report in six hours to the supply vessel Koshkeen, docking here as a cover to escort you into hiding. Dress as a civilian. Koshkeen will transfer you to Capital Prime, where you will be safe.”

It is a direct order from my line commander. I am forced to obey, just as much as if I was Beyala, and I click my heels smartly to indicate acceptance.

With his official orders delivered, the general’s face softens.

“Melena… I can’t give you this next request as an order, but as someone I hope you think of as your friend, I suggest in your remaining six hours you look for a man you find slightly attractive, and get yourself laid.”

I am outraged at such a request, and blush furiously. Beyala’s smile widens at my discomfort, and she’s compelled to say, “I hope they catch you, and you lose.”

My dignity demands a retort to both insults.

“For the record, Sir, this stinks. I’m going off the ship under orders, but note my objection.”

“Noted,” says the general, and I am dismissed.

As the door to his cabin closes behind me, I hear Beyala has switched to her wheedling tone once more, and is asking, “Now, Sir? Oh please! Do I have to beg?”

2 - Visitor

All the way back to my quarters, I seethe at the general.

How dare he?

One of the main reasons I joined the space fleet was because the Republic believes in the equality of women. Back when I signed up even fewer women had made it into the fleet, so I worked hard to show everyone that being female was no handicap, and equality was correct. I was determined to do as well as a man, and I what’s more I wasn’t going to be one of those who set her career aside to mother babies.

As I rose higher through the ranks and members of my sex became even rarer, being the first woman breaking down barriers became a point of pride to me. I would be an example to other girls, showing them that the Republic space fleet was a great career.

All that toil has just been proven futile, in one ten minute interview. The general’s high-handed dismissal showed me that nothing had changed for women, over all these centuries. Because I am female, someone passed a particular set of chromosomes before I was born, I am being treated differently. Because I am female, I cannot reach my full potential. Because I am female, I am a seen as prize, a trophy. I will no longer be given the chance to fight men as an equal – they will fight over me while I remain docile and passive. The victor will give me commands, and will do with me as he wishes.

The general thinks he is protecting me, as though he understands the situation better than I do. All he is doing is demeaning me with his treatment.

And being ordered into hiding was not even the greatest insult I just received. How dare he advise me to go and get laid? I thought he was patronizing me by taking care of someone he sees as a female unable to look after her herself, but interfering in my private life is far worse.

Some of my anger is also directed at myself, because my reactions gave away that I’m a virgin, in front of the slave girl who enjoyed every moment of my embarrassment, when I should have behaved calmly. God damn, some days I wish I’d been born a man.

“Are you a lesbian or something?” the general had asked me.

He’d never have asked a male subordinate if they were queer. It just so happens I’m not, or at least I’ve never spent time thinking about it, but that’s my personal business. The only reason I have my cherry is because I have more important concerns than my sexuality.

Pausing, I sigh, leaning against a window to look at the complex form of the cruiser, and several smaller ships docked alongside to load supplies. One of these might be Koshkeen, here to smuggle me into seclusion as though I’m a nun.

While my breath fogs the window glass I face up to the honest truth that I’m lying, even to myself. Okay, so I have been concerned about my sexuality – hetero with a hint of bi – but my shameful secret is that my body’s sensitivity is what really deters me from intimacy. The few times I’ve touched myself the response of my body – flaring into passion – makes me feel like there’s a sexual animal inside me that could claim me utterly once it was released.

First and foremost I’m a Colonel in the Republic fleet. I can’t let myself be reduced to something so aroused I cry out uncontrollably. I’m strong, not a woman who can be made desperate to orgasm.

So my limited sexual encounters have always been kept strictly to my terms. I gave head to a guy at boot camp, swallowing his slimy seed like I’d heard girls were supposed to do. I made out with a few guys, but as soon as they dared their hands inevitably would stray to my breasts, wanting to play with nipples that are almost as responsive as my more intimate place. I’d push them away, and they’d call me cold.

Always the same pattern with roaming hands and me fighting off the advances, until later on I was able to use my rank as a shield. I was relieved when the requests for dates finally stopped.

But still they look. They always look.

God damn my body!

I hit the button hard to open my door.

One of the cleaning orderlies is changing the bedding on my regulation cot. She has brought in a huge laundry basket – too large to carry, so it’s on wheels, with canvas sides. She’s in the blue jumpsuit of a civilian.

“Ma’am,” she says politely to me, as I walk in.

She’s an exceptionally pretty girl, this one. Not delicate, but a strong beauty, like a sportswoman. She’ll be one of those unfortunates living a life like mine – unable to bend over in the gym without guys staring, and ordered into a subservient place by her boss, who is inevitably a man.

Yes, I think to myself, watching with righteous indignation as she humbly goes about work. Her kind of role is the only place where the fleet wants pretty women. If you’re desirable, that means you’re only good for performing menial tasks like changing bedding.

I haven’t noticed this particular woman before, but there is a crew of hundreds on the ship, and new people arrive all the time. All the same, the beautiful ones usually stand out. Everyone on the ship knows my name, for example.

My hair doesn’t help. It’s a deep red color, the shade of wine, and it’s ruler-straight, never showing the least trace of a curl. Okay the attention from my hair is partly my fault - I’m vain about the color, and I grew it long, down to the base of my spine, way back in my teens.

But as for the rest of my body – that I could do nothing about. It was my genes that decided I’d be tall and slender, with delicate features and large eyes that make my face look even more feminine. My greatest curse – the gravity defying breasts, I inherited from my mother, and she also gave me the slim but athletic frame that makes my boobs so noticeable in relation to my ribcage. I’ve considered a reduction, just to escape the endless men who greet me to my face but as soon as they dare, look down. Surgery would be another way to let them win.

Cursing, I hit the button heavily that closes my cabin door.

In the corner of my private space is a small shower area. I’m high enough rank to have en-suite, and not need to rely on the communal washing areas. Stepping around the busy cleaner, I cross towards my shower, ready to warm the spray. First I intend to get clean, and then I’ll sit and consider whether should give up the last of my self-respect and go out looking for a screw.

I never reach the taps.

There is the smallest pain, just above my right hip. A pinprick hardly there, but enough to make me pause. No worse than a mosquito insect bite.

I’m trying to continue towards the shower, but for some reason I can’t move. It’s like my body no longer belongs to me. Time slows to a crawl. The muscles in my body spontaneously relax, except for my heart which is suddenly racing. My knees bend, involuntarily, and I start to collapse towards the hard cabin floor.

I’d strike my head if it wasn’t for the hands steering me. The woman’s hands. She pushes me forward so I tumble into the laundry basket, which as it zooms towards me I see has already been lined with soft sheets. After this soft landing my feet and knees are tucked limply in after me. My inert body offers no resistance.

I’m on my side. I try to speak, but my mouth doesn’t move.

“Too easy,” I hear the cleaning girl’s voice say, and the sheet from my bed is thrown over me, so I see nothing but white.

3- Ja-alixxe

I have been kept restrained since my capture, my wrists shackled above my head, padlocked so I dangle from a fixture in the ceiling high above.

I am utterly helpless.

Ja-alixxe (I have learnt that is her name) is an experienced bounty hunter and clearly has no intention of allowing such a valuable prize as Melena de Santo to harm herself before Ja-alixxe claims the bounty. She is wise. Knowing the never-ending series of humiliations that await me once I’m handed to the Slavers, I will indeed take my life if I have the chance.

Kidnapping me was just as she said, too easy. It took less than five minutes from the moment when Ja-alixxe injected me with a temporary paralytic drug to the moment when she wheeled the laundry basket to her ship, docked in the middle of the other supply vessels. She was so confident she even took half a minute to flirt with the guards at the docking ring. Idiots - as soon as a beautiful woman bats her lashes at them, they’re too distracted to remember they’re supposed to check what she’s carrying.

With full permission of the fleet vessel, Ja-alixxe undocked, talking lazily to the command deck on her communications panel. All the while I lay helplessly in the basket next to her, hearing the voices of the fleet that should have been my salvation. I felt the basket roll slightly as we escaped into hyperspace and we were away, as easily as that.

I judged by the high pitch of the engines that we were in a much smaller vessel than the capital cruiser of the Republican fleet. “Be too small to be noticed”, is the mantra of the bounty hunter.

Once she’d safely escaped, Ja-alixxe attended to her captive at leisure.

I was first wheeled to a holding cell, still in the laundry basket. Before I’d recovered from the paralyzing injection she’d shackled my wrists closely together in front of me, and then cranked a winch that pulled me up to a suspension point in the ceiling. She surprised me with her strength, managing to move my limp body quite easily.

Hanging from my arms, my feet did not reach down to the floor.

I dangled, stretched out and at her mercy.

The next part was inevitable, but that didn’t make it any less degrading. Ja-alixxe couldn’t risk me carrying concealed weapons or tools I might use to get free. We both knew that.

The one piece jump suits work by the space fleet are hardly the most practical garments for wearing while restrained either – getting out of clothing for toilet breaks is impossible with shackled hands. So while I hung from my wrists, limbs still only just starting to tingle with returning feeling, she cut every last piece of my clothing away.

I was naked, and she wasn’t done with me. After I’d been stripped, a second set of shackles were locked onto my ankles, and threaded through a steel ring embedded into the floor. It seems unnecessary to me, but she was taking no chances.

“This key is going in another part of the ship,” Ja-alixxe told me, holding the small piece of metal that could release my shackles up to my view. “It will stay there until we arrive. So you can’t leave this room, even if you somehow successfully overpower me, because you won’t be able to unlock the restraints.”

Paralysis left me unable to respond so I just hung there, silent and shamefully bare. Ja-Alixxe appraised me, as she probably did with each captured bounty, and she must have seen the blush I gave in response to another woman looked at my body.

She showed her first trace of humanity.

“You won’t have to be nude for long,” she said in a more gentle tone. “Just until the drug wears off. I’ll find something convenient to clothe you when I come back.”

“Come back?” I wondered, and as she opened the cell door I realized she was going to leave me there in that degrading state. I tried to plead as she left me, but I couldn’t make a sound.

Alone, I waited there as limp as a side of meat in a butcher’s refrigerator, my spirits in the most miserable state I’d ever experienced.

I was seriously injured once, on a military operation against drug runners. You’d never know it to look at me now – they can do wonders with a couple of days immersed in a healing tank, even rebuilding an entire body. Anyway, the risk of being wounded I’ve always been able to cope with. My naturally sensitive flesh doesn’t have a strong tolerance to pain but I’ve never lacked for courage, and that time I was back on duty as soon as I was fixed, with the wreck the blaster had made of my body forgotten.

The prospect of rape has always terrified me, though. I think it’s because a rape victim is left with nothing, denied even the right to the intimacy of their own body. There is no humiliation in being wounded, but there is terrible shame in being violated.

So as I hung there and waited, paralyzed, privately, I could admit to myself that I was dreading my future. My mind kept going over visions of horror after horror of what might be to come – imagining what it would feel like if I were rendered passive and obedient, my skull implanted like the former slave on the ship; and then imagining countless faceless men looming over me as they rape me; rape me; rape me. I imagined being in the power of one of those men who likes to make girls scream, and I even imagined being sold to one of the carnivorous species that consider human female flesh a delicacy. I imagined torture and suffering. I imagined many things, but in those warped nightmares the pain was never as bad as the rapes.

These horrors had to be avoided at any cost, but on Ja-alixxe’s ship there was nothing I could do but pass the time anticipating these ordeals. As much as I could plan or think, or scheme, not one escape idea occurred to me. Dangling naked from my wrists, a captive in a bounty hunter’s ship, I was powerless to prevent any part of the destiny fast approaching.

I was there a couple of standard-galactic hours before I hear the sound of the security pad outside the cell. By that time I had regained the feeling in my body. Unfortunately my bladder was one of the last muscles to activate. Before physical control returned I humiliatingly urinated, a spray of warm liquid that went everywhere.

So when Ja-Alixxe opens the alloy blast door and I bravely lift my head to face her, she discovers me with piss drying on my leg.

And this is my new present life, the reality I must boldly face.

I have made only one strategic decision during my time alone in the cell, and that is to try to engage Ja-Alixxe in conversation every opportunity I have. Her mercy is my only chance now. I must appeal to her sympathy as a fellow female.

“How can you do this to another woman?” I ask her as my opening gambit. “You’ll know what the Slavers will do to me if they catch me.”

At the time when I pose my question she is sponging me clean. Ja-Alixxe has washed me, from my neck down, carefully moving my long red hair aside to clean my back. However much I try to keep stoically still I feel myself flinch and blush at the more intimate touches. Each time I twitch there is a clink from my chains. I give an unwanted gasp when she takes me by surprise, rubbing the sponge over my sex.

“It makes no difference whether you’re male or female, honey,” she says. “I’m a bounty hunter, and this is what I do. You’re just a commodity. There’s nothing personal in this. I’ll try to make you as comfortable as I can, while you’re in my custody.”

“They’ll make me do the Rape Run,” I press. “I’ll be defiled in front of the whole galaxy.”

Ja-Alixxe is not cruel, but neither is she kind. Not even my mention of the Rape Run, the most popular competition amongst men across the whole universe, and the most detested by women, provokes any sympathy.

“You’re just a commodity,” she repeats.

The sponge strokes between my legs a second time, and to my shame again I flinch.

“You’re sensitive,” she observes, pausing. “From the poster I was expecting someone tough. I didn’t think you’d be so… vulnerable.”

And so my body has betrayed me already. But that’s just the start of my embarrassment. A far greater humiliation comes when I see the clothing she has provided.

“Please, no,” I beg, for I recognize this uniform, and the vision of myself wearing such a thing has haunted my dreams.

The garment she’s brought me is a simple rectangular wrap of a silk-like material, the size of a small bath towel and scarlet red in color. These wraps are designed primarily for practicality, being particularly easy to remove and secure while the wearer remains secured, as their only fastening is one simple bow at the woman’s left side, under her arms.

They fit around the body also like wearing a towel, and the string bow is tied in place. The natural swelling of the female chest prevents it falling away.

These garments are made intentionally too small, for they are created to solely present the wearer pleasingly to men.

While I struggle futilely, my face growing hot with shame, Ja-Alixxe fastens mine about me. It comes down only as far as my upper-thighs, with just enough drop of fabric to conceal my most intimate place. On the Republic ship I would never show anything like this much bare leg.

At its upper hem it covers my areolae, but I am naked from there upwards, flaunting acres of my full cleavage and leaving my arms and shoulders bare. The thin fabric is woven not to be satin-smooth and as comfortable as possible, but to be just coarse enough to brush skin sensuously. With nothing protecting my flesh from the gentle friction of the wrap, my nipples are responding to the caress, protruding and drawing the eye to my chest.

Another deliberate design contrivance is making the garment too small to wrap round me completely. Thus at my left side where there is the fastening, a stripe of my flesh is entirely exposed. It is particularly undignified while I have my arms raised over my head, as I do now.

This view of my hip and the side of my breast makes clear to all who might see me I am wearing nothing beneath the one silk garment. Women are not permitted undergarments where I’m going, for this is the single item of clothing for a slave of Aghara-Penthay. She has dressed me as a slave girl of Aghara-Penthay.

Again I try to appeal to her conscience, mournfully telling her, “It would have been kinder if you’d killed me, bounty hunter.”

This, she doesn’t deny. But she justifies herself with:

“If I hadn’t done it, someone else would have found you. And a man would probably have raped you before handing you over.”

Once she’s finished washing and dressing me Ja-Alixxe moves away again. As she reaches the exit I realize I am to be abandoned in my cell for a second time.

“Wait, stay with me,” I plead, but the door is already closing.

Sensation has returned entirely to my body. So I use my rediscovered muscles to struggle, kicking out with one foot, but the ankle chain goes taut with a loud clang, and I start swinging so my view of the blank cell wall moves from side to side.

“Goddammit,” I say to myself.

I wish I didn’t have to feel so exposed, but my generous bosom means the slave uniform hangs down some distance away from my belly, and this combined with a denial of underclothes leaves me very open to the air. I look down and see my nipples are still showing.

“Goddammit,” I repeat. All someone would need to do to examine me would be to lift the hem. How is any woman supposed to bear this?

For a moment I kick out in a frenzy, venting some fear and rage, but all that happens is I finish swinging a little more noticeably in my shackles, my chest heaving with exertion and just as totally trapped. My hard nipples tingle from the teasing fabric.

So I freeze, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait.

After an eternity the tone of the ships engines alters – up on the bridge Ja-alixxe must be making a course change. She will be making for a rendezvous somewhere, taking me to sell me, and as soon as I think the phrase “sell me” my mind fills again with images of the rape and torture lying ahead.

I am not used to being in such a passive role – staring at the blank wall of a holding cell while waiting for a timetable only known to someone else, and it makes the hours drag out even more.

I try to pass the time by forming a new strategy. There must be a plan – I’ll go insane if I have to accept I’m really helpless. But by the time Ja-alixxe returns only one fresh idea has occurred to me. Appeals for mercy to my captor didn’t work, so at her next visit, I try another approach. Her own self-interest must be my salvation.

“You won’t be able to dock at the Aghara-Penthay trading station to sell me,” I tell her. “There are no free women permitted, even there. Any female has to be with a male escort - her owner.”

Ja-Alixxe is spooning a paste of nutrients into my mouth while I say this. I have considered refusing the food – attempting to starve myself, but I dismissed that approach. There will not likely be sufficient time to die of hunger before we reach our destination, and I’m sure once we arrive the Slavers will be able to ensure my co-operation. I am better to keep up my strength, and I docilely I swallow the savory paste.

“Do you wish to urinate?” she asks me when I’m finished eating. Ja-Alixxe is already pulling my wrap aside to permit me to do this, baring the neatly trimmed dark red nest of my pubic hair. I’m terrified by how quickly and easily my organs can be accessed in this nonexistent covering.

“No!” I quickly say, almost like a plea, and from my shrill cry it’s not clear if my answer refers to peeing, or the humiliation of having her expose my sex.

Trying to recover my dignity I warn again, “They won’t let you leave Aghara-Penthay.”

“We won’t be docking at the station,” Ja-alixxe says, and thankfully she drops my garment back into place. “We are travelling to rendezvous with one of the Slavers&