Justice for JennybyEquilibria©
Wind whipped through my hair as I stood on the outer deck of the airship's gondola, the steady thrum of the propellers loud in my ears. Though One hand lifted, pulling a strand of blue-black hair from my face, I had to shake my head. The wig was considerably longer than the length I wore my own chestnut strands, falling to my waist rather than shoulder blades, and I just wasn't used to it.
A glance downwards took in the rest of my unusual wardrobe. Somehow, it had combined leather dominatrix with traditional Oriental costume. Black leather corset, yet with the designs one would expect to see on the most ornate of kimonos, silk skirt to further mimic that look, thigh high black boots with spiked heels, and leather gauntlets on each arm, going all the way up to my elbow.
I knew if I looked into a mirror just now, I wouldn't see my own face, but rather a very realistic, beautiful Asian woman looking back at me. Where Hardy had found someone that good at the manufacture of realistic rubber masks, , I would never know, and wasn't about to ask.
My thoughts drifted back onto Hardy as I rested my leather-clad forearms on the brass rail, lips curving into a frown. Without him, I'd have never known what had happened to Lysander. I'd been the ship's medic aboard the privateer airship Angel. One Ms. Janet Killigrew-Sixsmith, Jenny to just about everyone. That's how I first met Lysander Chickeringg.
He was an ensign on the HMS Cambridge, a force frigate in Her Majesty's airship brigade. Now, don't get me wrong; the crew of Angel were pirates to the core, but we were licensed pirates. I'd met Lysander when we came to the Cambridge's aid in a pitched air battle. He'd taken an energy blast to the left biceps, and the medic aboard Cambridge had been taken out, so I pitched in to help.
It might not have been love at first sight, but it was certainly lust. Tall, broad shouldered, and with this air about him that was both boyish and commanding, and the bluest eyes I'd ever seen. What was meant to be a brief liaison turned into something more lasting, and five years later, we were still together, when we could be.
Or, we were, until the Cambridge and her crew vanished. No one seemed to know what happened. The Angel's captain pulled all the strings he could, but to no avail. If anyone knew anything, they weren't talking. So I left the Angel to start my own search, and it led me to Dr. Phineas James Hardy, one of the world's foremost leaders in the research of divine energy. How he heard about my quest remains a mystery, but he contacted me, saying he knew what happened to Lysander and the rest of the Cambridge's crew.
That's how I found out about Hardy's competitor, Madame Ming. Devious, cruel, and ruthless, the woman was also researching divine energy, though with no scruples to speak of. According to Hardy, her forces had captured the Cambridge, and taken its entire crew into custody for use in her research. The doctor tried to convince me to give up, as it was simply too dangerous, but he hadn't reckoned with my sheer stubborn nature. And, let's face it, I can be charismatic when I want to be.
So, he helped me craft a disguise as one of the sort Ming hired, and slipped me into the ranks of her newest employees.
which is what's brought me to this pass, standing aboard a small runabout, en route to Ming's base.
I'll give Ming credit, her airships are among the best. Sleek and trim, with the very latest in microthin aluminum shielding over the airbags, with a combination of steam and divine energy to power the propellers and other systems, an array of top of the line energy cannons... and comfortable seating in the gondola, too.
One hand dropped to the belt slung low on my hips. The pistol was standard fare for Ming's employees, and that was fine with me. I might be a medic, but I served on a pirate ship, and you don't do that if you can't shoot. Unfortunately, the curved sword was also part of the weaponry Ming preferred her employees to carry. It isn't that I'm fumble-fingered with a blade. Hey, I once killed three sailors with a single back swing. The fact that they were part of my own crew is irrelevant Really.
And then, there was the final implement, and the one that disturbed me the most. My fingers caressed the glossy coils of the whip riding at my left hip. I'd had to practice with the thing for hours until I had at least learned to strike where I wanted to. A high degree of anatomical knowledge did help with that, I admit, but I felt none too happy at the thought of using the thing.
A change in the sound of the props made me look up, realizing that we had arrived. The runner slowly lowered towards the roof of a sprawling complex, where ground crew secured lines, bringing her to earth and holding her there.
The other passengers - two other new recruits and several returning employees - filed out, and I joined them in descending the ladder.
"Chang, Li, and Sen, follow me," barked a female voice. It took me half a heartbeat to realize that Sen was the name I was supposed to be using. Sen Yin, to be precise. I joined the other two, following the small Chinese woman.
"I will show you to your quarters. Tour and debriefing in thirty minutes."
Now, I should digress briefly, and explain a bit about divine energy. In a way, it goes back to the golden age of technological invention, when steam power was new, and the frontier of new sources of energy was still being explored. Not many know this, but steam nearly wasn't the wave of the future. Some bloke, Edison I think his name was, was trying to harness lightning. Some people were really excited about his ideas, but when one of his experiments backfired and quite literally
fried the poor man alive, that avenue fell by the wayside.
Some started turning to the human body and spirit as sources of energy. Not merely muscle power, but trying to find ways of tapping into that divine spark of life.
Progress was slow up until the Great War, that reunified the old British Empire in order to fight off the invading Germans. That was when the true leaps and bounds were made.
Of course, that was only the beginning. It's taken decades, years in which other energy sources - some natural, some chemical, have come around, bringing about the change from physical ammunition to the energy weapons we use today.
Anyway, techniques for extracting divine energy are still being experimented with, and there seems to be something of a race to be the first one to design a system that is both elegant and efficient. From what Dr. Hardy said to me, he believes that the sexual energy released from a woman's peak is the way to go, and he says that Madame Ming has some sort of similar, if male related, ideas.
I had, of course, taken all of this into account while preparing for this mission, and needless to say, a wide range of scenarios filled my mind during this time, but very little could have prepared me for how this institution was run. The armed guards, all female, that were in abundance had me worried. I was one woman, after all. But as we were led away from the rooms we had been assigned and given a tour of the barracks and other amenities, I wondered if I was really prepared for what lay in wait. I'd find out all too soon that I was not.
"And this is the first extraction room, where you will be working," our guide said, before opening the door and leading us into a vast chamber, and my blood ran cold as I took in what lay before me.
Row upon row of men were set in orderly lines, each man chained to a saddle-like apparatus. Naked save for their genitalia, each and every one was coated in sweat, surrounded by a host of wires, copper piping, and blinking lights. Some sort of milking device had been attached to the scrotum of each, with one rubber tube and one copper pipe running away from a black box at its base, as each captive man shuddered and writhed. And all up and down the lines, women dressed like me strode, sometimes lashing out with their whips when a captive wasn't performing properly, at other times caressing with their hands, and offering murmurs of silken praise.
Each line of prisoners fanned out in rays around the center of the chamber, where all the piping seemed to lead, terminating in a massive console housing a crystalline vessel of sparkling substance. The sight was breath taking, and nauseating, all at once in its complexity and cruelty. There must have been one hundred men, at least. And this was only one of the rooms.
"Prisoners of war," the guide told us. "It will be your job to coax the energy from the subjects, by whatever means possible."
Days passed in that hellish place, and I'd no choice but to move up and down the lines, striking out with the whip and stroking with fingertips. I dared not offer true comfort to these poor men, for some of them had broken enough to welcome their slavery, and could well have turned on me. Yet there was no sign of my Lysander, and precious little glimpses of Madame Ming, just an occasional glimpse of a dimunitive but beautiful Oriental striding purposefully through the halls.
On the fifth day, though, I found him. I was told to report to the main extraction room, where the other containment units fed into. Prisoners that had been there for some time were kept there, undergoing more experimental methods of extraction. Of those who had survived this long, some were fighters, but not all.
I'm afraid I lost it entirely when I saw him slumped on his saddle, almost unrecognizable. Broad shoulders had withered in the months of his captivity, his golden hair turned dull and grey-streaked, all the vitality pulled from him. With a cry, I ran to him, yanking free the wires, disengaging the tubes, pulling him from the wicked machine. Seeing me in my disguise, the man I had loved could only cower and whimper, "Mistress, do not hurt me. Please."
Growling, I pulled the concealment of rubber from my face, tearing loose the wig in the process. Glazed blue eyes blinked as he wheezed.
"...Jenny?" Lysander whispered, then shook his head. Which, of course, is when all hell broke loose. Some people just have no concern whatsoever for the touching reunions of lovers.
I had to drop Lysander as shouting began behind me, spinning into a firing stance. Four quick blasts from my pistol took out the other women in the room at the moment, though I knew we had precious little time before guards would arrive. I moved quickly to free the prisoners who looked the strongest first, arming them with pistols and blades from the fallen women, and just in time, as a squadron of guards charged in just then.
Leaving the fighting to the released men, I busied myself in freeing more and more captives, who quickly spread out from that central room, taking the battle elsewhere. Ducking some of the energy blasts, I turned back towards Lysander - just in time to see an energy blast take him in the guts.
Time froze as I ran for him, pulling his frail body into my arms. His last words still haunt my dreams.
"Love you, Jenny... and the Queen... never thought you'd come for me."
I must have gone a little mad, then. I don't remember, really. I've since been told that I grabbed up
the nearest pistol, ran for the main containment vessel and started firing into it. When that didn't work, they say I drew my blade and shattered the crystal, hitting my mark for once. I only remember rage, chaos and then a searing, blinding light, followed by blackness.
But most of the prisoners escaped, and they took me with them. The base was destroyed, but I'm told Madame Ming was never found, and presumed to have gotten away. I wound up in Dr. Hardy's care, though I don't know how. I was hit with a blast of highly distilled and extremely potent divine energy, and it's done some things. I know my injuries were extensive, and the doctor had to implant some life support mechanisms in me. And a few other things, too, though he might not know that I'm aware of them. They've put me mostly back together again, though, and for that I am grateful.
The blast has left me with two gifts, too. I don't understand the why of it, but I've developed empathic talents and a minor skill for clairvoyance, and I'm told my charisma is off the charts. But there's a price. My vision is all but gone, reduced to a vague, foggy blur of swirling color and vague shapes.
It hasn't stopped me, though. Ming destroyed my love. I've done the only thing I can do to see her taken down; joined with Dr. Hardy. He saved my life, and he's the only one who can help me. I'd kill for that man. I might even die for him. So long as he doesn't get between me and Ming, when the time comes.
I may have been blinded by a facial, but that day will come, and justice will be mine.