Interlude: The Heart Of HellEdit
Intersection of West Shawnee Boulevard and 24th Street
Muskogee Starport, Free State Of Oklahoma, Earth, Republic Of Earth
March 23, 2276, 0808.21 MCT
The Deirdre McCallum State Government Complex sat majestically atop Honor Heights,in the center of what had been the worst part of the former Muskogee Metropolitan Prison Zone, before John LaRue and his company of what had been Oklahoma National Guardsmen had marched headlong into the heart of Hell two hundred years ago.
The part in which the Terran President now stood hadn't been much better...the concrete, rebar and concertrina wire wall stil stood beside her, cutting off the view of passerby on what had been U.S. Highway 62 from the actual prison zone, signs on the outside still warning of death or worse for unauthroized personnel, the guard post and gate at the intersection of West Shawnee and 24th Street still standing as well, albeit somewhat worse for wear owing to the passage of time.
The decision to leave this part of Muskogee as it had been two centuries ago had been just as deliberate as the decision to plant the state capital in Honor Heights and the decision, before that, to turn the Muskogee Metropolitan Prison Zone into Muskogee Starport...death, hate and destruction could not be allowed to triumph over life, love and creation, but, at the same time, her people could not forget why this had to be.
Why they had to keep fighting the Mannie dicksuckers until one or the other of them fell.
So this section of Muskogee, from Harris Road to Okmulgee Avenue, remained just as LaRue and his men had left it, no park rangers, no tour guides, no souvenir stands, no museums.
Though, some people who'd stood where she was standing now—including a couple of Highborn technomancers—swore they heard the screams and sobbing of those who'd been imprisoned here, the cursing and abuse of the ones who'd been their jailers, every time the wind picked up.
Like it was doing now, the chill of Oklahoma in the springtime cutting through her, even in her long, grey duster....
"...how the fuck could you just leave them behind?!" Melinda screamed incoherently, beating on her grandmother, shoving her, two of her own pilots restraining her, Melinda struggling in their grasp, cursing them for holding on and Flavia for doing what Jo had told her to do.
"She was your wife!" Melinda spat at her,"Sarah was your fucking granddaughter! And, you just up and fucking left them to those Mannie dicksuckers! I will never fucking forgive you for this, you hear me, bitch?!"
"I will never," she repeated,"ever forgive you."
"As far as I'm concerned," she added, tears choking her voice,"I fucking don't have grandparents anymore...."
...those last words, the last Melinda had said to her, coming back to whip at her, same as the wind was now, the view of the State Capital Complex blinded by tears, Flavia sighing, shaking her head...it hadn't been from lack of trying, but Melinda wasn't willing to understand, or forgive, no matter how many times she tried to tell her it hadn't been her decision to make, that if she had a choice....
Either the woman she'd loved and her youngest granddaughter, or the lives of her crew, which she'd been ready to sacrifice for the sake of two people.
She shook her head...Jo had saved her from making that decision that day, by making the right one for her, just as Flavia had made the right decision two days ago in letting Melinda take the Shooting Star to Roanoke to go back for her sister's body.
Two different choices, for the same reasons.
Jo had understood the math behind that.
Maybe someday, Melinda and Flavia both could share that same understanding.
Not today, though, the Terran President thought sadly to herself, turning away from the view of Honor Heights, getting in the waiting '76 GMO Bullet grav car, placing her hand on the steering yoke to lift the vehicle up on its grav thrusters, nudging it into the skyway above, steering it towards Fort Gibson.
Aboard the first RES Shooting Star
Oklahoma Free State Air & Space Museum, Honor Heights Park
Muskogee Starport, Free State Of Oklahoma,Earth, Republic Of Earth
March 23, 2276, 0811.16 MCT
I wonder if she ever had any doubts, Melinda thought, as she sat in the command chair of the first Shooting Star, looking around her at the deserted stations on the bridge, how little dust and nearly a century of disuse had seemed to affect them, the ship's nanocolony continuing its task of keeping her ready in case she was ever needed again.
The last of the Perserverance-class war cruisers, Melissa Thorne's Shooting Star was a museum within a museum now, as she had been since being retired in favor of the current Shooting Star during the Centennial celebrations, Melinda's great-great-great gramma having lived long enough to see her old ship mothballed and her replacement comissioned, dying peacefully in her sleep that night.
Melinda wished could've seen the old ship as she had been during the opening hours of the Tricentennial War, all lasers, banks of missile launch tubes and the donut of an antiquated Smythe displacement engine housing on her backside...after Danica Adair's upgrades, the only thing left of the originial ship was the bridge sticking out like the head of a giraffe from her aft module, serving as an aim point for enemy gunners and jump fighter pilots(the main reason contemporary Terran warships buried their bridges on their mid decks), and the engine section on the underside and the intersection of the twin tapered cylinder design this ship shared with Melinda's own Shooting Star, every other system having been replaced with forerunners of modern displacement-projectile cannon, displacement torpedo tubes and jump engines.
Both ships even wore the flag of the old United States of America proudly on their bows.
Melinda sighed, the back of her sky-blue dress uniform collar chafing her neck...Gramma Thorne said the resemblance between her and her ancestor was uncanny, and, in looking at old flatpics stored on the family album, Melinda had to admit there was a slight resemblance between the two.
Only slightly, though.
She doubted Melissa Thorne would've left her sister to the mercy of those Mannie dicksuckers, or to the WARCOM from which they'd devolved.
She had yet to inject Sarah's nanocolony into her, not wanting to know how much Sarah hated her for leaving her behind that day...she had to have, otherwise, she wouldn't have stayed out of contact with the rest of her family for twenty years, she would've at least tried going back to Earth, just to let everyone know she was okay....
Another explosive sigh, Melinda sniffling back her tears...Sarah had joined the StarForces because her big sister had, and she'd always wanted to be just like her, she'd frickin' looked up to her, and Melinda had just deserted her, when she'd needed her sister most...she could've been a bit faster initiating jump sequence that day, could've jumped before that bitch had snared her with the fucking grav beam.
But, she hadn't been, she'd just let her pull her into jump with the Shooting Star, and Sarah had....
...gaunt face streaked with dirt and dried blood, clothes ragged, the M65ACR in her hand, as she led the others through the slum, going from cover to cover, just as she'd been trained to do, closing in on the drags whipping and jazzing their victims through the streets, one of them throwing its whip down at the feet of one of the zeds, ordering her to pick it up and show the others what....
"...we bitches are all about!" Miss Ruthie screamed, stomping Sarah into the floor again, grabbing a handful of her matted hair, forcing her mouth open, rubbing the head of the strap-on against her chapped lips, Sarah's collar forcing her to say over and over....
...Melinda flinched, fists shaking and pale at her sides, tears blinding her eyes for the instant she allowed herself to shed them.
The master of the Shooting Star rising from Melissa Thorne's command chair, choking down her grief, wiping her face with the sleeve of her dress uniform before walking off her ancestor's bridge.
500 meters underneath Golgatha
Government District, Heaven, Kingdom Of Man
March 23, 2276, 0815.22 MCT
"Mom?" Bunny asked, rubbing sleep out of her eyes, as she padded over to the sofa, Stephanie turning away from the spot on the wall she'd been staring at since sunup, looking at the child Sarah and she had made together still in her p.j.s.
Not really a child anymore.
Day by day she was growing into a young woman, Stephanie's lankiness balanced out by Sarah's good looks, her height, her bust...Throne women were all big-chested, from what Sarah had told her....
Their daughter was busting out of the grey pajama top, that was for sure, the grey shorts which were part of the outfit starting to get tight on her as well.
"Gonna have to replicate you some more new clothes, it looks like," she said, Bunny sitting next to her mom.
"I have to fix the scanner first," Bunny replied,"or one of us does, at least."
"I brought spare parts for the replicator with me from Earth," Stephanie said,"along with some new mods."
"Awesome," Bunny whispered, trying to sniffle away her tears.
Stephanie gently laid her hand on her daughter's left knee.
"They're burying her today, aren't they?" Bunny asked.
"Not sure," Stephanie replied, distractedly, sniffling as well, "think so, yeah."
"Think Aunt Melinda injected Mom's nanites into her yet," Bunny asked.
"Dunno," Stephanie said softly, not knowing what to think of her sister-in-law...Sarah said she'd have a hard time forgiving herself for what had happened, even if her sister knew damn good and well what she'd signed on for, same as Stephanie.
"Probably not," she added, sighing.
"Probably," she repeated,"not."
Grand Colisseum, Royal Palace
Government District, Heaven, Kingdom Of Man
Men screamed and cheered from the speakers built into the Grand Colisseum, the filthy zed's dark chocolate titties recoiling and sizzling, as the electrowhip in Ruth's cestus-gloved left hand struck them hard, the zed staggering back, almost falling to the floor of the arena, Joshua's eyes narrowing, His breath growing shorter and shorter, as the anointed King of Man regarded the gladitorial match taking place at His feet.
"How goes the harvesting, Asa?" He asked His Director of National Security, Spinks immediately replying:
"We've harvested nearly ten million Soyachi of the upper and ruling classes in the past two days, Master; the Office of Male Reproductive Services' scientists are in the process of splicing the more viable of their genomes with ours."
Joshua nodded, watching Ruth inflict a brutual strike to the zed's stinking pit of iniquity, making it bleed and scream in orgasmic ecstasy, the King Of Man summoning all of the Talent at His disposal to prevent Himself from falling prey to the zed's seductive and corrupting wiles.
Still, it warmed His heart to see Ruth stomp the zed onto the floor of the arena, Ruth stroking the anodized-metal member strapped around its powerful thighs, as it looked up into the box where its anointed Lord and Master sat in judgement over all of its subhuman kind, the zed remembering to lower its head just as its King turned to face it.
He waited a few beats, listening to the will of those watching this both here and on line, waiting for the cheering and the demands for Ruth to show the zed how much even its own subhuman kind hated what it was, before He finally nodded His head, giving His permission for Ruth to proceed.
The zed's screaming growing more lurid, its flailing about more frantic, with each powerful thrust of Ruth's well-toned body into its victim and latest lover, Ruth screaming, calling the zed a bitch, a whore, a slut, ordering it to tell its Dominant how much it liked this, that it deserved this, because it was what it was, Ruth continuing to scream this, the zed trying to fight the influence of its collar, still languishing in denial in spite of every proof to the contrary, Ruth howling incoherently, even as it grabbed at its subbie's hair, effortlessly pulling it out from under it, forcing it face down into the arena floor, raising its pit of inquity high in the air, Ruth driving itself into it from behind, slapping it hard at the same time.
The zed persisting in its denial in between bouts of estatic screaming, the cheering growing to a deafening overload feedback squeal over the speakers and to fever-pitch inside the Colisseum itself, the anointed King of Man suitably impressed by how well Ruth had accepted its reassignment, and the assimilation of its former people into His Kingdom, showing its gratitude for its Lord and Master still having a use for it by rapidly becoming the arena's top gladiator.
How it dealt with the zeds sent here for failing to submit to the will of their collars and their ordained superiors was the reason why.
"Do your scientists," He asked Spinks,"have any idea what effect splicing their genomes with ours will have on the future of My Chosen Race?"
"Every one of them has told me precisely the same thing, Master," His Director Of National Security replied. "While the Soyachi are naturally longer-lived than we are, their genome no longer holds the key to eternal life. Spliced with our genomes...."
"Tell me, Asa," He demanded of His most loyal servant, His eyes fixed upon Ruth forcing the zed to its knees—its instrument of dominace still in the zed—and, to thunderous applause, wrapped a garrote around the zed's pure, warm, chocolately neck, using it to thrust itself further into the zed from behind, pulling on it to slowly, finally, put an end to its worthless existence with an expiring exultation of pure bliss.
"At best, we can delay the inveitable by a year, eighteen to twenty months at the outside," Asa answered frankly, showing no fear for whatever fate his King reserved for the grim news he had to give Him.
The anointed King of Man nodded His head, watching Ruth drag the zed's corpse out of the arena by its hair to the exultation of those in the stands and online.
"It will do," He decided.
"It," He repeated slowly,"will do."
Fort Gibson National Veteran's Cemetery
Fort Gibson, Free State Of Oklahoma, Earth, Republic Of Earth
March 23, 2276, 0833.16 MCT
Amanda sighed, as annoying Oklahoma drizzle whipped itself in her face, spotting her dress uniform, the wind nearly taking her sky-blue uniform beret off her short tawny, auburn hair, both Melinda's parents standing beside her, the three of them looking up, watching the Chihuaua III slowly descend through the black and gunmetal-grey clouds, escorted by one of the Shooting Star's jump fighter squadrons.
"Mom?" little Sarah—not so little anymore, really—said, her sister Josie Rose and she standing beside her, Amanda looking down at the thirteen-year old twin daughters, both of them looking entirely too grown up in their Civil Aerospace Patrol dress uniforms, and....
She sighed again...they were growing up, too fast, eligible to join the active-duty StarForces in another three years, like every generation of Tallgeese and Throne women before them, and these two would be no different.
I might have to bury them too, one day, she thought to herself again. Worse, I might have to—
She squashed that last thought down, smiling bravely as she looked at her girls...that was the way things went anymore, every generation growing up with the threat of extermination at filthy Mannie hands, generations before that knowing only what WARCOM had inflicted upon them, the Hell they'd made of Earth....
Amanda nodding her head, turning away from Josie and Sarah.
God, if I do have to bury them one day, she thought,and it isn't because they died in their sleep, at least let it be because they died on their feet, fighting for their lives.
All I can really ask for anymore, she added, sniffling, as the dropship touched down, her sister in law's flag-draped casket borne on the shoulders of the Lighthorse company's headquarters squad, as they descended the ramp and walked slowly towards the waiting mourners.