This is an excerpt from A Queen From Eden, the fourth novel in my erotic science fiction series (see my profile for more details on where to obtain these novels). This is a sequel to the first excerpt (Sarah Finds Her Pioneer). Be the first to figure out what language the residents of Ooir are speaking!
"Doostey! Doostey!" The man who called himself her husband was shaking her.
"I am awake," Mary grumbled. Awake enough for you, you drunken fool. She opened her legs for him, but that was not what he wanted.
"Jean siyr mir te!" He was shaking her to her feet. She didn't like the sound of that. She wasn't quite sure what it meant, but it was usually followed by a slap or a lashing to urge her along. Instinctively, she flinched, but he was not hitting her. Not yet. She whimpered, and he flew into a rage. Shastagh. She could pick that out, over and over. Shastagh streebagh. You barren whore, he was screaming, and seyry. You barren whore, I'm rid of you at last!
Barren! Barren! These strange primitive people with their strange language had no concept of birth control. She had struggled forever to learn enough to convey the idea that she needed a to take a pill to release an egg. "Ooh?" her husband had snorted, an egg? "Ushagoil?" You're a bird? Finally, he had understood that she needed a medicine to cure her barrenness. They had gone to a larger town to see a doctor! A doctor! These people were Millenialists, but not the second millennium, the first. They had retreated to the Dark Ages. Typhoid, diphtheria, whooping cough, the plague, those diseases had vanished long ago. But enough of them died of wounds, died of cancer, limped from bones that were not properly set, were lame from tendons that could not be reattached. Why? She could not believe that people would do this to themselves, do it to their children. A few generations had passed. They barely remembered, if at all, who they had been, where they could come from. But others could come, others could teach them how to hold a rifle, how to step through a wormhole, how to destroy another world.
They had come, literally, out of nowhere. There was no money for firewalls out on the frontier. No need, it would seem, with worlds so scattered. A planet with a few thousand people on it, who would ever bother it? But they came, in the middle of the afternoon, and she had watched as they killed her patron, absentmindedly raped the children in her charge, then turned their attention to her. Ten months! In ten months, she could have been free, she could have returned to Eden. But, she knew, she would never have left the children, never have left her master. She would have married him, she would have watched over him as he grew old. Then, perhaps, she would have returned. There was time, so much time, an eternity of time.
To find a doctor, her so called husband had dragged her to the town, a great, stinking thing inside a wall, erected more to keep the animals inside than for protection. People and horses and sheep milling around, all shitting in the muddy streets. The rain was constant, the mud was ankle deep. It was summertime, no one bothered to light fires for warmth. They had stopped at a tavern first, and her husband had gone off with a whore, leaving her alone, surrounded by leering strangers she could not understand. An hour later he had returned, demanding money. Argid! Argid! She had had no idea what he was saying, and he had taken coins out of his pocket, rattled them in her face. The men around her had laughed, and one of them had held up a few copper coins. No, her husband had shaken his head, held up a gold one instead. Rour argid! The other man had laughed. Too much money! She wasn't worth a gold coin. Her husband had slapped her, and dragged her back out onto the muddy street.
To the doctor then, a big room on the second storey, a room lined, improbably, with books. They were ancient texts, in Greek and Latin. Period pieces, she had thought. It was surprising that they were printed. That was an anachronism. Then there had been a brief moment of hope. Latin! The doctor would know Latin! And she had tried, haltingly, to explain her condition, but he had looked at her with complete lack of comprehension. He couldn't read the books, she had realized, they were just props. He had bled her then, bled her almost to death, and she had stumbled back to the village, barely conscious. It was then she had first heard "Jean siyr mir te!" She had bled more from the welts on her back as her husband whipped her along the muddy path.
"Wake up!" he repeated, snapping her out of her daze.
"Are you Mary?" a rough voice broke in. In English! Heavily accented, halting, but English!
"Yes!" she said.
"Let's check," the man said, and he jabbed a probe into her forearm. "Yeah, it's her all right. Lady, you look like shit." His nose wrinkled. "You smell like shit."
"It's dry season," she said. "There's no water, barely enough to drink."
"Boje moi," the man said, "how can you live like this?"
Her husband was jabbering away, and the man answered him slowly. "lhiasee!" Her husband was screaming.
"What is he saying?" she asked.
"He wants compensation." The man spoke some more, yelled out to his companions in another language, and they dragged in a girl, no more than sixteen. Not pretty, but well built, bursting with youth and strength. Her replacement.
"What is this place?" the girl screamed. "What's happening to me?"
"You've come to hell," Mary said. Goddess! She could not do this! She could not make this innocent take her place. But she had no choice. There was one last exchange. "Dragan bee!" the man who was dragging her shouted, and her husband, her ex husband, laughed hysterically.
"Dragon food?" she said. "You're going to sell me to the Saurians?"
"Nah! Not yet! Too smelly, too skinny! Got to clean you up first! Fatten you up!"
They stepped through a wormhole, right in the center of the village, and emerged in a metal building. They gave her a bath, they gave her a feast, but she was almost afraid to eat it. A nurse came to examine her, and they took her off to a medical center. They repaired her nose, they repaired her teeth. They gave her a soft bed, and she slept, slept soundly for the first time in months, in years perhaps. She could feel her nanobots kicking in, healing her at last. She awoke to find the man who had come for her, sitting at the foot of her bed.
"Better," he said, frowning, "better. Not good enough yet, but better. The big man, he wants you to look good. He doesn't want to drag you in like a turd."
"Drag me where?" To the Saurians, she thought with sudden terror. I'm going to be a snack, a delicacy. Why me? Why me? That other girl, she had a lot more meat on her bones, she wouldn't be so stringy.
"Why, to your queen, of course. I understand she paid quite a ransom for you." He started to guffaw. "She took a personal interest in your case, if you know what I mean!"
"My queen?" Mary was baffled.
"Queen Sarah," the guard said. "I understand the ransom is in two instalments, one already paid, the other to be paid upon delivery." He grinned again. "The big man wants your queen to be very, very grateful."
"Sarah!" she echoed. "Queen of Eden?" she ventured.
"Maybe," he said, "you aren't the right person after all." He jabbed the little device into her arm again, frowned. "Don't you know anything?"
"How would I know anything? I've been stuck out on the frontier, and then in that shithole of a planet. Goddess! What do they call that place?"
"Don't know if it has a name," he said. "Its people call it Ooir."
"Earth," she said, "that's their word for dirt. We're still in the new galaxy?"
"Could be," the man said, evasively.
"It seems too old," she said. "They've been around longer that the transit system bridge."
"Ships," the man said. "They could have come in ships. Long time ago, before the Troubles."
"Ships? That far? Make their own planet, all the way out here?" Mary was dubious. "There were so many Seed worlds, closer in. Why would they come out this far?"
"Come out where no one would ever find them," the man said. "Throw away all their technology, hide it at least, lock the door and throw away the key."
"Why?" Mary said, "why would anyone do that to their own children?"
"Save them, I imagine. Damn, lady, haven't you seem crazy planets before?"
"I was sacrificed at age ten," she said. Now, that seemed almost like a pleasant memory. "I was raped to death by a hundred men."
"You don't look dead," the man observed. "Not as dead as you did two days ago." Two days? It had seemed like one long night.
"They intended for me to be dead," she said. "They left me to die, but I disappointed them."
"Yep," the man seemed unfazed, "that sounds pretty fucked up."
"Why are you doing business with those assholes?"
The man shrugged. "We have a shortage of soldiers. They have a shortage of women. Works out nice. The more women we give to them, the more soldiers they make for us." He smiled a ferocious grin.
"Your big man, he knows about this?" Mary was getting agitated.
"Knows, yeah, he sort of knows. Some of the little messy details, maybe he doesn't concern himself with."
"The girl, he knows about the girl?"
"Which girl?" the man seemed totally unconcerned.
"The one you traded for me," Mary said, "the one you condemned to live with that, that ..." she could not find a word to describe her former husband.
"He said to do whatever it took," the man said defensively. "Do you think it would have been nicer for us to kill everyone and burn the village?"
"Him," she said, "you could have killed him. You could have burned his balls off first."
The man laughed, but not for long. "Bad business," he said. "Better this way."
"And this man, this big man of yours, he's fucking Sarah?"
"I didn't say that," the man said. "I never said that. The word is," he added, "they're in love."
"In love!" Mary spat it out. "Goddess!"
"Look lady," the man said, suddenly very serious, "you do anything to mess this up, and the deal is off. You understand? Even if you think you're safe, back on some comfy little planet in the first galaxy, you aren't, you understand?" He walked over, lifted up her chin, moved his face close enough to kiss her. But his lips were thin with rage. "If your queen ever finds out about that girl you're worried about, if she ever finds out that Luther is mixed up with this shit, you're back there, you understand? Or, maybe you'll be tender enough to be a little delicacy. Dragon pee."
"Dragan bee," she corrected. Goddess! She was never going to let that miserable language slip out of her mouth again. "You use them for livestock, too?"
"We do not," he snapped.
"But somebody, something, does?"
"Lady, it is none of your fucking business." He got up. "Look, we could do a mind wipe on you. Wipe out the last two years. You want that?"
Yes! Yes! But she shook her head.
"Behave yourself," he said. "Remember what I said. If the big man's romance goes sour, you're back in the mud." He turned to leave, then paused and added, "or the stew."
She slept again, and when she awoke, the man was back. "Are we leaving?" she asked.
"No," he laughed. "Change in plans. The big man thinks he can get it for free now. He's holding you in reserve." He leered. "You're going to be a wedding present."
Wedding present? She was reeling. "Isn't the queen married?"
"A detail," the man said, "the husband has been missing for a long time. Dead, or as good as dead."
Noah, she thought, dear sweet Noah. You never came back. And Karen, and Swirl. She fought back sudden tears. "You may be here for a while," the man was saying.
"That's fine with me," she said. "Do you have a name?"
"Of course I have a name."
"Would you care to share it?"
"Pyotr," he growled it out.
"Pee-oh-ter," she repeated. "Pee-oh, I like that."
"Call me Pete," he growled.
"You looked better yesterday," he eyed her critically. "You look like the living mummy."
"My skin is peeling," she said. It had been like leather, embedded with the grime of Ooir. No amount of soap would ever cleanse it, but now, thankfully, it was peeling away, revealing soft whiteness underneath.
"They gave you a salve?" he said. "Not wise. It's lucky we didn't have to send you back today."
"No," she said. "There was no salve. It's probably just the nanobots cleaning things up."
Goddess! She should not have said that! Maybe he wouldn't notice. Maybe he would not understand. But he was upon her immediately.
"Nanobots!" he snarled. "What nanobots?" She said nothing. He sat down on the bed next to her. "You will tell me this thing," he said, quite mildly, "eventually. Do you understand?"
What's the use, she thought. "This knowledge," she said, "is dangerous."
"So?" he snorted. "I have tempted death many times." He stared down at her. "You're a cyborg." It was a statement, not a question. She nodded, too tired, too scared to argue. "How?" he asked. He leaned close to her again, breathed into her face. "How?"
"My daughter," she whispered, so quietly she first hoped he had not heard her.
"Your daughter?" He punched at his phone furiously. "Two daughters. Boje moi! Queen Karen? Queen Karen is you daughter?" She nodded, mutely. "Great God in heaven!" he said it, slowly, in English, more a prayer than an expletive, "it's true! It's true!" He grasped her by the hair, pulled her to his lips. "Change me!" he hissed, "change me!"
"I can't," she said, teeth chattering. Even in her worst moments on that shithole planet with her asshole of a husband she had never been so terrified. "I would if I could," she was sobbing, "but I can't, I can't."
First barren, now this. He was going to beat her, kill her. She closed her eyes, waiting for the first blow. But it never came. Instead, he was stroking her hair, gently, so gently. It had been a long time since she had felt a touch that gentle. "Sarah," he said, so softly, "can Sarah do it?"
He was such a good man, after all. She could trust him, she had to trust him. "She could for a while, before she gave birth," she answered. "Not anymore."
"Not anymore!" The man was laughing. "Oh, my boss is a fool after all! A bigger fool than anyone else!" He punched his phone again, and began to talk rapidly in Russian, too rapidly for her to pick out more than an occasional word. "Siny?" he was saying. "The sons?" And then "H'raak." It sounded even more menacing, more guttural when he pronounced it.
"Well," he said, turning his attention back to Mary. "My boss, maybe, is not such a fool after all. Your daughter Karen, and this new queen, the Queen Sarah, they both had children by H'raak, is it not so?" Mary nodded her head. "And the children, they are immortals?"
"It may be," Mary said. "I don't know for sure."
"Don't lie to me!" Pyotr came very close to her. "It's very easy to tell when you are lying, did you know that?"
"I have an expression? A telltale?"
"No," he smiled. "You lose all expression. Your very lack of telltale is itself the sign. You were trained," he added. "You were a great woman once. You will be great again. You will grow younger, more beautiful, while you watch us wither."
No, she thought, I'm not even going to get out of this room alive. If they had ever suspected, on Ooir, they would have burned her alive as a witch. Here, who knew? She could see the envy, the hatred, tearing through him. "I think they all are cyborgs," she said.
"From H'raak! From H'raak! It all has to come from him!"
"He's dead," she answered, "long dead. The gift, it doesn't last forever, it can fade. Even Karen, I don't know, and she's gone, she's far away."
"But the sons!" he was back in her face now, "what about the sons?"
"I don't know," she said, "how could I know? I haven't seen them since they were babies."
"How is it done?" he asked.
"A kiss," she said "a kiss."
"Like this?" And he kissed her, he thrust his tongue deep into her mouth. She tried to glow, but nothing happened, except that he kept kissing her. She had no resistance left in her. She was so used to being violated that it was natural for her now. Stop me, stop me, his eyes were pleading, but she would not stop him, would not urge him on. She just opened her legs up for him, waiting for him to make up his mind. He drew back, and stared at her for a long time, trembling. "Not today," he said, "not today."
"By tomorrow," she said, "I'll be through peeling."
"Boje moi!" He turned back to her. "You want me to?"
The question startled her. "Not today," she said, drawing the covers back over her. "When I invite you."
"You?" he snorted. "You will ask me?" The idea seemed to amuse him. Then he remembered some of the things he had read about her, looking up information about her daughters. "You know things," he said.
"I was a trainer," she answered.
"If I force you, you'll just be a body." She nodded. "But if you invite me ...Boje moi! I will not wait forever," he growled, as he left her alone. ***** He did not return. One, two, three meals went by, and he did not come back. She had no idea if it was night or day, even if those concepts had any meaning. There were no windows in her room, she had seen no windows anywhere since she had arrived. She did not know if she was on a planet, or somewhere out in space, on a ship or platform. The room, she realized, was just another prison cell. At least there was a warm soft bed, a real toilet, a shower, food that arrived predictably. But there was nothing else, not a thing. It was better, so much better, than grovelling in the dust of Ooir. But she was weary of those four grey walls, the uniform, slightly blue, glow of the ceiling, the glossy reflection of the floor. There were speckles on the floor, and she began to imagine that they made patterns. If she stared long enough, ghostly faces peered out at her, or, sometimes, other parts of the anatomy.
She had sunk into a constant light doze, half dream, half meditation, when he returned.
"You're back," he said, incongruously.
"I'm back?" she echoed, not comprehending.
"No," he said, "the back that belongs to you. It's peeling."
Of course it was, and it itched. She just couldn't reach it.
"Let me help you," he said. "Turn around." And he rubbed, not too hard.
"Oh," she purred, "that feels nice."
"Are you inviting me?" he asked.
"Yes." Why not? She needed company, she needed something to pass the time. Why not share some pleasure? She didn't care who he was or what he did. A strong eager body, not too eager, patient enough to please her, that was what she wanted now.
He moved away from her. "Not here," he said. "Not like this. We will do this properly." He reached into a bag he had brought with him. "Here," he said, "I brought you some clothes. I hope they fit."
A dress, some underwear, sandals. Clean, but not new. "You wife's?" she asked.
He winced at that. "My daughter's," he said. "My wife was a bit larger, if you know what I mean." He said it calmly, without much expression, but she could sense the pain.
"I'm sorry," she said. But secretly, she wasn't sorry at all. She didn't want there to be a wife, not a living one.
"It happens," he shrugged. We are not going to talk about this, his body language was saying. We are going to have a nice time together and not worry about the past. "My daughter," he added, eyes twinkling, "she's bigger now, too. At least for now."
"Expecting?" she said, and he looked puzzled. "Pregnant?" she corrected, and he nodded.
"My first grandchild," he said.
"I have two," she said.
"How old?" he asked, and she realized with a shock that Eric would be almost twenty two.
"In their teens," she said, evasively. She could tell that he was doing some rapid calculations. Fifty, she would have to be at least fifty years old. She had looked that old, a few days ago, but now ...