BEHIND ENEMY LINES
An 'Estrangsters' quickfic by Brother Grimace
Franklin Davers sat against the bulkhead wall of the slave holding area - well, one of the holding areas, he reflected - and barely gave notice to the couple having sex barely a foot away from him in the corner.
In normal times - in a normal place - he would have been mortally offended by the sounds (by the entire episode, actually) of the lovely forty-something with huge blue eyes and overly-long, unkempt gold hair as her slender limbs wrapped around a man barely half her age and she grunted her pleasure out to the world. I see the Great Dane's finally decided to go ahead and give in, Franklin thought, no negative tone to his internal musings as the muscular young Scandinavian drove himself upon the woman and her cries filled the air...
Might as well, kid - eat, drink and bust your cherry, for tomorrow they just may dine on you.
There were at least five hundred men and women of various ages and races in the large area, most of them somehow managing to sleep on the warm, heavy blankets provided for them – the only concession to comfort the Mantoids made for humans, he noted. Amazing how people can adapt so quickly, especially when they think there's no way out of their situation. Modus vivendi, and all that.
The woman - Heather, he recalled - was really familiar, and not just because he'd been intimate with her once before – she was some sort of weather person, I know I've seen her on television somewhere before... just pray she doesn't catch a silver bullet, or they'll snack on the baby – that's why they let the people have as much sex as they want and don't stop any of the rapes. Free-range infant humans – their snack of choice. Since I've been here, I've seen them eat over a hundred newborn babies... and I've seen twenty Mantoids either die or end up crippled in the fights for the babies – not to mention that execution. They actually spaced one of their own because he killed that baby rather than give it up to the winner. Live babies – they'll fight and kill for the chance to get one. They have to be live – from what I gather, there's a special taste to a live newborn that just sends them over the moon. Command will definitely want to know about that one, and we'll need to start placing serious guard details on every hospital nursery in sight...
A hand slid boldly beneath his robe, and Franklin sighed as he turned back to remove Anita Isakson's hand from his crotch. "No."
"Why not...?" the willowy redhead asked, her cultured Georgia accent adding a lilt to her speech as she brushed herself against him in a manner that, in any other setting, would have been the beginning of a very good night for the both of them. "It's not like you or I have to worry about cheating on anyone back home..."
She looked at him with eyes the color of dark emeralds. "There isn't any going back home. Not for any of us."
Franklin saw more than a few of the men who were awake glance at him with various degrees of annoyance to outright jealousy and hatred as the young college coed snuggled close to him – for protection as much as sex, he acknowledged. It's the same in any bad situation – some people take advantage and do the most horrible things, and others become victims... no, they're already victims, and they allow the evil to overwhelm them. God help you if you're a beautiful woman, too. You're a receptacle for a gang-bang if you're lucky, and currency to be traded about if you're not.
He also noticed that many of the women were watching – some with furtive glances, some using their peripheral vision, and some with unabashed interest... as well as with looks that clearly said that they wouldn't mind taking Anita's place. He noticed one woman – in her late twenties, with haunting Slavic features and a surprisingly toned, shapely figure - openly appraising both him and Anita with large, dark eyes that all but shouted 'Either one of you. I'll take you both – separate, or at the same time. I don't mind.'
Anita gave the woman - Marjeta, a Serbian linguist working for the United Nations before she was taken – a glance of pure hatred, and she responded with a bubbling laugh before she crawled over to find a place to lie down. She finally placed herself between an attractive 'girl-next-door' type with long, dark and naturally curly hair who couldn't have been more than seventeen (Franklin had heard her addressed as 'Sarah'), and a Native American woman with a face and slender figure that could have instantly won her a modeling contract; the way Marjeta looked the girl over made her intent obvious. The dark-haired girl sighed as Marjeta kissed the tip of her nose, moved her head slightly and then opened the girl's tunic, staring for several seconds at Sarah's full, heavy bosom.
Tears began to run from Sarah's eyes, but she made no effort to resist as Marjeta shared a deep, impassioned kiss with her; Anita turned away as the Native American woman crawled around Marjeta and Sarah to join in...
After several minutes of sounds Franklin pushed out of his mind, a series of sharp, escalating female cries echoed through the room. In the dim light, Sarah shrieked, crying out as if in pain; Franklin turned – his enhanced senses allowing him to see as if it was daylight – as the young woman's curvaceous form began to quake uncontrollably in the shadows, her half-crazed screams of passion splitting the air.
As the young woman's cries continued to ring out through the thin light, several men stared at Anita - and the women directly around Franklin – their intent obvious. Franklin gazed slowly around the area, his expression arctic, and the few men who were brave enough to even approach Franklin's position stopped in their tracks and turned away quickly. They all found other women, and soon, more people were desperately trying to forget as they grasped and intertwined wildly in the thin light...
That was why Anita chose him when he arrived five months ago, and stuck close to him whenever possible. She was almost eighteen when she was plucked out of her Princeton dorm room three weeks after her freshman year began, and her slender, curvy form made her an immediate object for many a male slave – and fear-driven jealously from more than a few women, afraid that someone would take her and leave them to go hungry on the meager rations they were given, or unprotected from all manners of abuse. That was two years ago – two years of humiliation, brute slave labor, and vicious physical & sexual abuse from aliens and captive humans alike...
Instead of breaking her, the time here had made her strong, focused, and cunning like a cat with a shiv. Anita knew how to pick and choose the ones that could keep her reasonably safe, and her instincts were sharp - sharper than his, Franklin admitted. She wasn't going anywhere more than a few feet from him... Southern women. In this case, the stereotype's more than true. That's why she picked me. She's a survivor... and the others now know better than to try me. Not after I dispatched that redneck from West Virginia - Odell Jones - with two hits. I can't – I won't tell these people how they should compose themselves, not here – but if I see a rapist in the act, he's dead. End of story.
"I want you to."
"Do you want someone else? There isn't a woman here who wouldn't take you."
"I have someone."
"Back in the blue. No, you don't. You're gone. See those marks? You're a worker, unfit for breeding – so, they'll work you until you die or someone manages to kill you... for what... it doesn't matter. This is what we all have now. Work, and sex, and occasionally, someone comes along who's good at making up stories or has a really good memory for things, and acts like one of the old-time storytellers or bards. The last guy like that died a couple of months before you showed up... he got caught in one of the energy conduits when they decided to switch the solar panels out and didn't bother to tell anyone that they were starting the power back up. The right side of his body got burned off. Franklin – I want you to."
"You're not betraying anyone if you do, Franklin. This is the rest of our lives. It's okay if every once in a while, you take a moment to push all of this to the back of your mind..."
"We've talked about this before, Anita."
They both hesitated for a moment as a sharp series of pleasured sounds came from the direction of Marjeta and Sarah once again. Franklin chose not to notice how Anita pressed herself against him as Sarah's screams first filled the area, or how she had glanced over to watch for a moment as Sarah, her inhibitions tossed aside, screamed out her lovers' names as she thrashed about, totally lost in the sensations her young body was experiencing, and then watched the entwined couple just across from them before moving close...
Anita looked directly at the three women as they grasped one another, then looked back with resignation on her face. "Well... it's not as if there's much else to talk about... or do. That's probably why they keep everyone screwing all the time. No clothes or fashion, books or DVD's, the nearest good bistro's thousands of miles away – straight down – and do you know how long it's been since I've heard any good music?"
"You're barely out of your teens. I refuse to believe that you have any idea of what good music is. I've seen what MTV has to offer."
"You should be glad for MTV – they've had more of an effect on our world than you'll ever know."
"Anita, it's not as if our entire existence revolves around MTV, or we're even here because of it."
"What makes you so sure of that?"
"The universe isn't that insane."
They were distracted once more by Sarah's screams of released passion, along with the throaty sounds of the blonde woman, and Anita spared the writhing couple another slight glance before placing her hand on Franklin's forearm. "For us, that's just what it is. An insane universe, and the bugs rule it. Escape with me for a moment."
"Everyone else does that. More than enough reason for me not to."
Anita nodded, a slight look of disappointment on her face. Off to the side, the blonde woman shuddered as the young man made an almost comical sound of release before he collapsed upon her.
"That's what I like about you," she whispered. "You act like you're waiting for something. You don't act like a slave... you do everything they tell you, as quickly as they want, and you carry yourself like everyone else does, but you don't act like you're broken." She nestled herself against him, something Franklin has started to allow by unspoken agreement several weeks ago.
"You act like you're just waiting for a chance. Be careful, though – a couple of the others have noticed. If someone gets a chance, they'll rat you out to a guard – or one of The Watched - for some Earth food."
"That's one thing I don't understand," Franklin said, looking down at her. "The aliens don't care if men are killed, but if a woman is murdered, they have a fit and track the one who did it down. Why the difference?"
"From what I understand, there's something about how we taste – same as with the babies," she said, a slight flutter of nausea going through her stomach as she spoke. "It has to do with our immune system – by their standards, we're less polluted and have more of the natural taste humans are supposed to have. That's why they love eating newborn babies. Taste great – less filling."
"I'll never have a Miller Lite ever again."
"You don't look like the type that's ever had his hand around a domestic beer in the first place," Anita smiled; it was a warm, gentle smile totally unsuited for the place and situation they were in. "You're like my older brother Drew. If it doesn't reach a certain standard, you won't touch it..."
"You're a kid. What do you know about beer in the first place?"
She shrugged. "Besides the silliness of that statement - it's not as if I didn't go to prom..."
"Prom Queen, I'm sure."
"Actually, I was the DJ," she said, and actually laughed at the look on Franklin's face. "I wasn't dating anyone, I wasn't going to just take 'pot luck' on a date and I wanted to go. It also helps that I have my own collection of CD's and mix tapes. A few thousand CD's, and I worked part-time at the school station-" Her voice suddenly broke. "I was going to school so I could get my media degree, and then get on-air somewhere..."
Franklin had no words. He lay with Anita in the thin light of the holding area, and felt his sleeve moisten as Anita cried silently beside him.
In the dim light that blessedly shaded most of the copulation from casual view, new screams, moans, and grunts & cries of release could be heard.
Franklin said nothing as the forty-something blonde – Heather – came over and lay beside him. He could feel the momentary tension from her, as if she were afraid he would push her away; when he didn't move, she snuggled close and quickly went to sleep.
"What really surprises me is that no one steals food from anyone else when the dispensers go on," Franklin said, moving aside as a large teenage boy with Hawaiian features accepted two large squares – about five inches long and an inch thick – from a dispenser built into the wall next to the water fountains. (The fountains surprised Franklin, until Anita pointed out that it was easier for the Mantoids to supply water that way to the humans, without the need for cups. The Slaver Mantoids were very aware of just how intelligent humans were, especially at adapting anything into a tool... or a weapon.)
"No on wants to risk it. The Mantoids provide enough food to keep us reasonably healthy and working, and they can tell if someone's being starved. They aren't always watching us – there's far too many of us for that – but they run checks, and if it happens..." She shivered. "They're all about productivity. Whatever keeps us working us is good; whatever doesn't... gets made an example of. They're very big about that. Not that it doesn't happen, but, well, you know how thing are..."
Franklin bit into his second bar. The food bars were actually quite good, he thought; the ones dispensed in the morning (the creatures actually kept their slaves on a 'morning' and 'evening' regimen – again, 'productivity') seemed more filling, and gave people a bit more energy, where the ones dispensed in the evening were always of mixed flavorings, and sometimes, he could actually taste a bit of alcohol... Someone's been reading up on how humans kept slaves, he mused, swallowing and taking another bite. The evening bars are laced with some form of alcohol – or something like it. Keeps the people mildly sedated, a bit more compliant... and also relaxes inhibitions. With the mindset that the Mantoids want to keep the human slaves in, a bit of alcohol would seem like a good thing...
He also thought on how, on occasion and always during the evening, the food dispensers would put out 'the blue food bars'. Franklin's face colored with shame as he remembered the first time he'd eaten them... It was three weeks after he'd arrived and he'd just thought that they were like the others (the morning bars were light brown, the evening ones a dark chocolate-brown shade). From the way the others gobbled them down, he didn't think there was a problem... until almost all of the slaves in the large area began to copulate within minutes of eating. Anita and several other slaves had been pulled out about an hour before, so he couldn't ask her (and didn't quite trust any of the others)...
When she returned, she ate quickly. It was bad enough, Franklin thought, that the air in the slave area was heavy with the thickened, musky smell of sex... and, as hard as he tried, he couldn't tear his eyes away from Anita... the emerald shade of green in her large, sparkling eyes, the way her scarlet hair fell over her shoulder, how the otherwise shapeless tunic she wore managed to still show off her incredible body and the way her firm, full breasts seemed to be barely contained by the pale material, her nipples easily visible... (Did I just say 'incredible body? God help me, I sound like I'm back in high school! What the hell is wrong with me? Whey can't I control myself -?) Anita stood by one of the line of fountains, drinking behind every bite, and when she finished, she came back and sat next to him quietly for a moment before she reached out and touched him on the shoulder. He looked over at her, seeing how her nipples had hardened as she stroked his arm, eyes glazed over by her building hunger for him, and he didn't stop her from moving into his arms and kissing him.
Franklin remembered how she cried out as he took her, then and there, with so many eyes upon them and not caring, her every scream and cry a whip across his back that drove him harder... After he had finished with Anita, her screams still ringing in his ears, he turned to the woman closest to him (Heather, he vaguely recalled) and pulled her to him, her face clouded by lust as she gave in instantly, her husky, throaty sounds echoing through the area. After satisfying himself with her, his eyes fell upon a petite young woman with wheat-colored hair, a proper English accent and wide brown eyes who had just arrived that day, and was trying to hide in the corner behind Anita. (He heard that her name was Charlotte Spearsman, today was her eighteenth birthday – and she had been taken after leaving her birthday party to get some rest. She made the mistake of pulling off to the side of the road to take a nap, as her driving was a bit erratic from her dozing off, and was captured that way.) She looked up with eyes suddenly full of fire as he pulled her to him, tore her gown away in a single movement, picked her up and pushed her up against a bulkhead, driving himself fully inside her young, slender form with a violent thrust that made her scream. Charlotte writhed in his arms, gasping sounds of ecstasy like the animals they were at that moment, grinding and writhing upon him with a mindless hunger that the drugs literally unleashed in them both.
Franklin grunted out his release and tried to pull himself from the young woman moments after the rising cries of her climax, but Charlotte's body jerked in hard, sudden spasms as she clung to him with surprising strength. She half-screamed, half-grunted out her second climax, eyes wide but unseeing as she shook wildly from the force of her young body's release, sputtering sounds out as she gripped him inside herself. Charlotte held onto Franklin as he lay her down on the floor and started thrusting into her again; a shuddering orgasm made her scream incoherently until she literally collapsed onto the floor, insensate, eyes rolling back as her small, firm breasts quivered from her body's spasms. Franklin didn't notice Charlotte's eyes seemed to clear as she curled herself up, tears flowing down her face while a Hindi woman in her thirties – Chandni, he remembered – stroked his chest, laid back and spread her legs as he slid atop her. A random glance away found Charlotte groaning, with Anita kissing her neck and fondling a breast as Heather brought Charlotte's face to her own... Chandni kissed Franklin as Charlotte's screams of pleasure split the air, breaking down into pained, throaty grunting. Franklin began to savage the woman screaming beneath him, and Anita slid away from Charlotte and Heather to join in...
In their corner of the slave area, the five of them spent the rest of the night in mindless pleasuring, Franklin's metahuman stamina allowing him to keep savaging them all, one after another, before finally, as if in mutual exhaustion, they all drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, after untangling herself from Franklin and his newfound, unexpected harem (and fending off his apologies to all; nevertheless, the blonde boy was the first slave male to touch one of the four women since that night), Anita explained that the blue food bars were a reward for very good work. They were liberally dosed with alcohol that the Mantoids made and supplied for the humans, along with an inhibition-reducing drug that would have the Pope screwing the first woman that passed in front of him. The three older women all gathered around Charlotte, consoling the young beauty, and Franklin felt even worse when he found out later that he had been the girl's first...
Apparently, they hadn't gotten any 'blue bars' in several months, and it never occurred to mention them. It was also a way to ensure that the slaves who weren't selected as breeders had plenty of babies for the Mantoids to eat (as the breeders bore children who were kept for even more breeding. Anita mentioned that the Mantoids had them breeding at fifteen years – the optimum age for human females to breed, given proper nutrition, and they could get a child out of them once per year for twenty to thirty years. No breeder female lived past fifty... the Mantoids simply extracted whatever viable eggs she had left and then, some lucky Mantoid and his friends shared the woman over a banquet table. One time, Anita shuddered as she mentioned how - just after she was brought aboard - ten women all reached fifty within the same week. "They acted like it was the Fourth of July," she said, and never mentioned it again.)
He avoided those blue bars like the plague from then on.
When I get home, though, I wouldn't mind having one when I see Aki – of course, for what's happened up here, I think it's safe to say that she'll get that time-share in Aspen she's wanted, along with that Alaskan cruise, the motorcycle we've been arguing about for the last couple of years, and she'll have me as a servant for a good month or two.
Being understanding about 'in the line of duty' is one thing, but women do tend to reason in ways that are totally outside the realm of reality. Aki is going to be pissed.
You know – I am going to make it back. Here I am, in Earth orbit on an alien spacecraft, with no foreseeable way of escaping, the threat of being killed (not to mention being eaten) a distinct possibility at any moment, and I'm worried about what my wife's going to do to me when she finds out that I spent the night going back and forth between four women – a blonde MILF, a twenty-year-old redhead with a pralines and cream accent, a very hot Hindi woman and an petite Englishwoman who's barely eighteen, and all of them screw like anacondas on crack. Forget that it happened under the influence of some alien drug. You know what women are like. 'Well, you should have found some way to resist – that is, if you had really wanted to...'
She's going to punish me for the words 'twenty years old' and 'eighteen' alone... and I'm never going to be able to use the words 'I'm too tired' ever again.
Mental note – never let the phrases 'barely eighteen' and 'screw like anacondas on crack' escape your mouth. Aki will burn the words 'castrate him' into her soul...
The room immediately quieted as a man with dark rings under his eyes, appearing to be in his late twenties, appeared at the hatch. "You... you three... you two blondes... you, with the dark hair... you two... the four of you over there... you, with the long hair – no, not you, her - and you. Big boy. Get up and get that hard-on down – you won't be doing any fucking for a minute."
Franklin and Anita finished their food-bars, and stood as the man pointed at them. "They'll need a cleaning detail in Orientation in a few moments. Get some stuff and get down there."
Anita looked straight ahead as the man stopped her before she went through the door, and showed no emotion as he casually fondled her left breast. "Don't get yourself too messy in there. After you clean that stuff up, clean yourself up and come to my room." He looked around the area at the people in the room, still eating their pitiful breakfast. "Find a couple of girls to bring down with you. You know that I like a side-show during the main event."
The man let his hand roam freely over her body as he spoke; Anita let her body respond to the way he touched her, and his touch became less forceful. "Your new boy's got sense. He works hard, too. We'll be putting him in the Gardens soon, alongside that little Brit with the devil-hex on her. He deserves something to keep him working hard... seeing how he doesn't want to find out how good you are. I mean – finding out on his own..."
He gave her breast a last grasp and then let her pass; Anita had to hurry to catch up with the others. "This is different," Franklin said, letting her catch her breath. "Usually, they have me scrubbing the inside of processing tanks or the energy transfer conduits..."
"That's because you're strong and slim, and because the Watched like Calvin don't want you dead outright – having someone who looks like you gives the women someone to fantasize about when they crawl underneath someone. Anything that makes the women actually move when a Watched takes her is a good thing. You're a morale booster... and you do the work of any three men."
She glanced back to see Calvin watching her. "He's not concerned that I stick around you, either. He knows that it doesn't matter." She shrugged. "It's not like things happen to people if they touch me, the way things happen around Charlotte. They're afraid of her. Me, they can use front and back."
Franklin sighed; he saw firsthand how chivalry had cost a couple of men – new arrivals – their lives. The Mantoids did enjoy making an example – and then a hearty snack – out of humans who gave them the slightest bit of resistance. Someday, I'm going to make you giant roaches pay. I can't protect her like I could Charlotte – I've already broken too damn many rules doing that, and I have no idea why... I could tear through a hundred of you bugs without a sweat – and if I had a couple of weapons...
"I'm glad you're not like most new people," she said, taking hold of one of the mops Franklin carried. "A couple of guys I – Most men would have seen Calvin do that and had some need to 'be a man."
"What happened to the last guys you saw act like that?"
"One got beaten to a pulp – literally – and then, the bugs rolled him in fresh tomatoes and ate him," Anita replied casually. "Their idea of 'sweet-and-sour. They love the taste of tomatoes. Another actually took his bucket full of water, took a big swing and broke a bug's arm. They stuck him in the main airlock, put a microphone in with him and sealed it up. He lasted about a day before the air ran out...he went insane before he died. This isn't... Here, whatever happens, happens. People who can't accept that die badly."
Franklin saw the girl in front of Anita – a pretty, slender girl with short black hair and startlingly blue eyes – shiver at her words. "Speaking of tomatoes – they're giving you a reward for working hard and not being trouble. They're putting you in the Gardens."
"Where Charlotte and I work. It's part reward, and part keeping up in shape. All of the breeding stock and the ones that the Watched want to have sex with work in the garden... keeps them in shape without putting them in danger of being accidentally killed."
Franklin nodded. He knew that there were three occasions that his metahuman abilities were all that saved him from death – a rather gory death in one case, when the Mantoids decontaminated a processing tank the size of a high school gymnasium by exposing it to hard vacuum... with several workers still inside. The aliens were annoyed only when 'the Watched' – the humans they trusted to keep the other humans under control, and as such, were kept under even greater observation – found the bodies inside, forcing them to decontaminate the tank again. (Franklin had turned to mist as the hatch was opened and slipped out that way. No one ever gave him a second look.)
"They don't mind if you eat some of the produce, either. They figure 'healthy food, healthy, tasty babies and healthier breeding stock.' The bugs are all about us tasting good. Also, the higher up you go, the better the food you get. If I wanted, I could eat regular food all of the time..." An overwhelming flood of shame peeked out for the briefest of moments from her face, and she immediately sealed it away.
"Yeah." Franklin let it go.
Before Franklin could reply, the unusual, yet familiar sound of running Mantoids came from behind them, and they moved aside as three of the alien creatures, their mandibles clicking excitedly as they ran –And moving quickly even for them, he observed- as they whisked past.
As he and the others kept moving down the hall towards the orientation area, Franklin watched as a mass of screaming, retching, vomit-splotched men and women rushed off in the other direction. He noticed how one of the new women – a girl younger than Charlotte, actually, with auburn hair and 'man-stopper' glasses that didn't hide the girl's beauty (poor kid, he thought) - flashed a momentary look of sadness at the black-haired girl, who seemed to go milk-white as they looked at one another.
They filed into the room, the sounds of snapping mandibles, crunching and a soft, pulpy sound of squishing heralding the sight of several Slaver Mantoids finishing their hideous meal of human being – a girl, by the look of the shoe that sat askew against a wall where it had been flung during the feasting... until a Mantoid fished the severed ankle and foot out of the blood-streaked covering and devoured the limb with obvious joy.
The Mantoids shuffled out of the area, and Anita reached for a squeegee-like tool. 'Make sure that you wash down the walls, too," she said, "and then, use that anti-germ spray. It kills the smell of human blood and any diseases that we might have. They can't stand the smell of sick humans."
Another interesting fact. 'Anti-germ spray?" Franklin asked, looking at the plastic bottles filled with a blue-yellow fluid.
"Haven't you noticed how you haven't been sick since you've been here?" Anita asked, the squeegee squeaking as she cleared another section of the floor of blood. "The stuff in those bottles is – what did Matt call it? – he said it was basically a broad-spectrum antibiotic, bit it could kill both bacteria and viruses. He said that if the bugs had just come to Earth and started selling this stuff, they could have had anything they wanted. He said that for this, the world leaders would have let them go to Africa, India, China and all of the other overpopulated areas of the world and let them full up on people."
"You know, you can drink that straight from the bottle," she told him, moving aside as he sopped up blood with his mop. "They put small amounts of that stuff in the food bars, too. Keeps everyone healthy, and if you drink it straight – well, it keeps you from getting sick and kills anything you might already have. It heals a lot of other things - there were people who had different problems, several who had diabetes - after the Watched found out, they gave them that stuff in serious amounts for their first few weeks. I guess it healed them."
My God. If this is true... a cure-all for almost all human medical conditions and diseases?
"...and it's death on constipation. You'll go for an hour, and not have bathroom problems for days afterward. I wouldn't get a taste for it, though..."
Franklin clicked back to the here and now. "Why not?"
"Because it's addictive in liquid form. They'll let you drink all you want. The problem is – Matt, Matt, how did you say it – Yes!" Anita wiped her tool clean. "He said that if you drink it long enough, it purifies your entire system... and you'll put yourself right on their dinner table. You have to drink a LOT to clean yourself out of the impurities you get because of life in general, but if you do... you'll smell and taste just like one of those newborn babies."
"Then why not just drown us in it all of the time?"
"Because they need us to work. We're like rabbits to them – pests, pets, laboratory animals and a food source. We also make good slave labor, and they use some of us as soldiers on other planets - from what Calvin says, other races run when they find out humans are coming. We've got a bad rep."
You have no idea...
"If they used that stuff on all of us – or if they gave it to the people on Earth, they'd just lose their minds and try to eat us all." Several people stopped cleaning and looked at Anita with absolute horror in their eyes. "That's not the scary part. The scary part is that they've done it before. I've seen how they did it before."
The slaves slept.
Anita let an arm drape over him as she lay behind him, while Charlotte pressed into his arms, agreeably warm and soft as she slept. Franklin let a thread of sadness slide through him mind as he noticed how easily Charlotte seemed to fold herself against him, as if just being near him was a shield against all harm...
He admitted to himself that – in a shorter time than he'd have imagined – the young Englishwoman had become very important to him, and in a different way than Anita. The redhead from the South was – there was no better way to phrase it – his partner; she was a resistance fighter to his covert military presence... but as for Charlotte, she was –
No. I won't betray Aki like that. I know that circumstances like this cause people to act in ways they'd never imagine, and their emotions can get the best of them, but I can't let that happen here. Not with the fate of the world literally in my hands.
But still... when I look at Charlotte, and she looks back at me...even the other slaves – even Marjeta sees it, because they avoid her like Death itself. I'm surprised that none of the Mantoids have tried to hurt her – well, after what's happened, no, I'm not surprised.
That's something else that Command will be interested in – the Mantoids are very superstitious, to the point that it overrides almost everything else about their attitudes. Beliefs and superstitions hold a very strong place in Mantoid society; that's a flaw in their armor that we can exploit. It's what's kept Charlotte alive for months...
Using his powers, Franklin had built up a very effective wall of dread in the Mantoids when it came to the petite Englishwoman; on no less than thirty occasions (and yes, he counted) he'd killed Mantoids and members of The Watched who had either tried to kill or maim Charlotte - and the one time one of the Watched had gotten her into his quarters and tried to rape her... Even the Mantoids avoided Charlotte after Franklin had literally used that man's blood to paint his quarters red, then tore his body apart and tossed it into a pile in the adjoining bathroom, which he made sure was spotless. It was as if they simply pretended that she didn't exist, since returning her to Earth was out of the question. A pair of young (and unusually aggressive, not to mention dumb) Mantoids had come into the slave area after hearing about 'the cursed female' with the intention of eating her on the spot; Franklin used his mental powers and killed them where they stood with two massive psionic bursts that literally blew their brains out.
That's another thing about the Mantoids – for creatures with psi-ability, they can't naturally detect it in other races, or maybe just in humans, even when it's actively used. Another point for our side in the upcoming war.
Heather crawled over and curled herself against Charlotte, as if to both warm and protect her, and Franklin managed to fall asleep, knowing what dreams would soon come...
"Colonel Davers – I know that you've heard it before, but more than any other mission you've ever been tapped for... if you choose to decline the assignment, no one will think any less of you."
The man on the other side of the table wiped his glasses clean. "That's usually the kind of bullshit they say to make a man remember that he is a man, and to not show fear in front of his troopmates. Not this time, though. This time... if you say 'no', it'll show that you actually want a chance at a future."
Franklin looked closely at the man. He was a good judge of character, and he realized that the man was being absolutely straight with him... and that whatever the mission was, it frightened him.
Franklin watched the man's face as he described the mission – go to a tiny suburb of Baltimore, Maryland, where several agencies have reported multiple abductions of local residents. Wait for the proper moment – you will KNOW when that is – and allow yourself to be abducted by-
"You have Christmas-level clearance, Colonel, and you've been working DELPHI operations for several years now. You're also a Beta Nightbreed-"
"Excuse me? What's that?"
The man sighed, and slid the heavy folder around so Franklin could look at it. "When you were named as a possible volunteer for this mission, they opened up your complete file. Your five Slider expeditions. Your Nightbreed augmentations report. Your Starseed qualifications. Your Dark Door Report. Everything since the day you stepped off the bus at West Point, Colonel. Everything."
"Allow yourself to be captured by the aliens. Gather all possible information and, when possible, escape from the vessel to deliver said information to Command. Do not demonstrate your metahuman abilities unless doing so is vital to the completion of the mission. This includes the rescue of any possible captive humans unless rescue of said human captives is vital to the success of the mission."
Franklin managed not to show his awe as he walked with the other slaves into what – for these poor souls – had to be heaven.
These mothers have the technology to build O'Neill cylinders... Jesus. They really are harvesting human beings on a scary scale...
He could see hundreds – no, thousands of men and women at work in what was one of the largest agricultural areas he had ever seen. Fully thirty miles long and easily five miles across, the chamber (from his view) was six sided, with three sides covered with 'farmland' (and a number of 'lakes'), and the other three were –
Transparent aluminum – no, that's 'Star Trek' stuff. These bugs have a transparent metal alloy capable of resisting the temperatures and radiation in space for long periods of time... If we had that metal, we could build underwater colonies, and mine the moon. We could do so much...
But to these bugs, we're dinner. Back to work.
Two of the Watched led the group into a thick grove of orange trees; as they walked away, the slaves walked over to the waiting baskets, carrying bags and ladders, and then headed into the trees. "We pick oranges today," Anita told him, taking two baskets and nudging at a ladder. "Grab that and tag along."
"Don't bruise any of them," she said, grimacing as Franklin idly tossed an orange into a basket. "The Mantoids get annoyed about bruised or damaged fruits and veggies."
"They can tell?"
Franklin took the next fruit and placed it carefully into the basket. "You don't have to be that careful," Anita teased him. "They expect a certain number of baskets per shift. If you work that slowly, they'll think that all you're doing out here is having sex with everything in sight."
She picked up the basket and moved over to another row; Franklin hefted the ladder and began to follow when a soft moan caught his attention. As he went over to Anita, the moaning grew slightly louder, than became muffled, as if someone was covering his or her mouth with something-
"That's Bree," Anita said, heading up the ladder to pick oranges from the top and put them in her bag. "Probably Faith, too. The gardens are the only place you'll really get any sort of privacy here..."
Slightly more masculine sounds caught his attention from several rows off, and Franklin grimaced as he saw the heads of two men on the ground behind a tightly-knit set of trees, both groaning as they moved together. "Oh," Anita said, shaking her head at Franklin's obvious discomfort with what he had just seen. "It's Rodney and Scott. They better hope nobody catches them-"
"The bugs don't like homosexuals?"
"Being gay has nothing to do with it. They consider it a waste of valuable genetic material. If they get caught, they'll put them in the lab and harvest them there. I've heard about it, which is why any man that's gay really hides it here."
"What about lesbians?"
"That's why Bree and Faith – and anyone else like that who's lucky enough to get work in the Gardens – usually wait until they're here, because they don't want anyone to watch them."
"Watch them', or 'see them together'? Do the bugs have a problem with women-?"
Anita's face went hard as she cut him off in mid-question. "It doesn't matter. If they mark you as a breeder – like Faith - they'll just jack you up with that drug in the blue bars and stick you in the breeding lab with some guy. If that's a problem, then they'll just lock you down on a lab table and spread your legs. They can breed babies in tanks, from what I heard, but the natural way tastes better. Free-range humans, and all that."
"They tagged me for a mission."
Aki said nothing, and finished sipping her milk.
"All of our records are in order."
Franklin looked across the lunch table from his wife. How the hell did I ever end up marrying a squid, especially one as smart and pretty as she is?
He took another bite of his salad, and she sat her glass down. "Bakeson called me and said that he thought I should have lunch with you today," the lovely Asian woman said, brushing a droplet of milk from the front of her Navy uniform. "He had actual sincerity in his voice – yes, he called personally. I understand."
"-Is a racist, a sexist, and a bigot. You would have been promoted to Brigadier General three years ago if you hadn't married me, or if you'd asked for a transfer back to Special Forces, or regular duties. I know how he feels about me, and my family, and Asians in general."
"The point is, Franklin, that you have a duty. So do I. Enjoy this lunch with me. Our jobs will take care of themselves."
Franklin looked across the table at his wife. "I love you, Aki."
"That's why you'll come back to me. That's why I'm not worried."
The Mantoid actually coming along with the work crew was unusual – unusual enough that many of the slaves whispered about it. Even beyond that – the Mantoid carried a weapon.
Franklin looked it over with every chance he got, as the humans were led to a point on The Habitat (the name for the giant alien station) further from the slave pens than he'd ever been before. As they were crowded into a heavy elevator (and instructed to hold onto the straps – low-gravity environment), Franklin examined the device. It reminded him of the small barbells aerobics-types used when working out (but larger, and with the grip shaped for Mantoid claws); on one end, there was a round, heavy glass globe (about the size of a baseball) with a thick electrode in the center. It looks like one of those funky plasma lamps that the stoners buy...
There was no mistaking the purpose of the other end. There was a small metal tube that extended about an inch from the end of the bottom of the 'Barbell' – and once, when the Mantoid turned, Franklin could see the shining, tri-edged spike within. That thing's a perfect trench knife – you could split someone's head open with it when you hit them, or skewer through their skull (or anywhere else) with that spike. Who knows what that bulb does?
He found out minutes later, when the Mantoid led them into what had to be an aircraft (spacecraft?) hangar, and one man let his curiosity override common sense. He actually went over and looked inside what had to be one of the smaller ships on the deck. (They were supposed to be walking along the area, easily the size of a football field, and pick up any foreign objects on the floor, as well as clean up any spilled fluids. The Mantoids were very strict on some areas being near-sterile environments.) The Mantoid saw him and without a hint of warning, grasped the device and flash-fried him with a directed pulse of white-hot energy that flashed away from the bulb like ball lightning and seared him to the side of the ship! (Later, Franklin saw that only the side of him facing the flash was charcoal; the other side was totally untouched. Nasty.)
Franklin nearly died moments later; as if to set another example, the Mantoid turned to him (the nearest human), the tri-spike snapped down from the bottom of the barbell-weapon and locked into place. The Mantoid lunged downward at Franklin's skull-
He wasn't there; a burst of super-speed moved him three feet away. The Mantoid jerked back, turned, lunged again...
Every human on the hangar floor suddenly dropped to their knees and cried out in pain as Franklin slammed the palms of his hands together with all his strength, and the Mantoid's chitinous form splintered and blew backwards in a fountain of greenish-yellow fluid and insectoid parts, caught in the point-blank force of Franklin's shockwave!
His energy spent, Franklin sagged down on one knee, looking at the incapacitated slaves and the shattered remains of the Mantoid, now spread over fifty feet in the opposite direction. About a minute later, other Mantoids came in with barbell-weapons raised, followed by a trio of Watched, but after looking around, all but one left with two of the collaborators, and the third Watched directed them to continue cleaning. Several minutes later, over a hundred humans were brought into the hangar to help mop up the remains of the Mantoid and ensure that the hangar floor was clean.
Franklin's hyper-senses let him listen in on the watched as they talked; the Mantoids assumed that the other Mantoid died because of a serious fluctuation in the antigravity field-plates under the hangar floor and let it drop. (Plenty of humans died that way, too, he overheard.) He kept his face impassive, but listened with satisfaction as the Watched mentioned that the Mantoids weren't all that happy with having to keep the humans in nearly-full gravity, and that the Mantoids weren't built to handle full-gravity for extended periods, even though their bodies were far more resistant to damage than Earth insects...
Yes. We can kill you bastards... and you have weaknesses we can use against you. Oh, yes...
We're going to kill all of you.
They stood side-by-side, the Green Beret and the Marine aviator, and watched as a couple of heavy tractors roared past. "They expect that the new annex for the SSC campus will be ready in three months." Kyle Armalin said, sipping from a can of root beer. "Someone will probably ask me to teach a class or two."
"Isn't that what you do anyway – those seminars... didn't I hear something about you taking a teaching job from Russell Stark?"
"It's more like babysitting the cast of 'Saved By The Bell' and making sure that they don't blow up Bayside High with their powers."
"Well, you screwed up that one already."
"First, that was a day or two before I got the job. Second, fashion plate, somebody tried to zero them all down. Granted, the little redhead could definitely do the job..."
"Got any info on that Black Majesty guy?"
"It's why I'm here today. Heading back down to New Orleans later tonight, so I can talk to The Doctor at Old Stanley's... I've got a meeting with the new Director in two hours – her name's Trainor. I guess she wants to see how I look off Bakeson's chain."
"Not to mention with your rank back." He looked over to see the shining eagles of a full Colonel on Kyle's uniform. "If there was any justice in the world, you'd get your Medal of Honor, too. You deserve it for what you did – 'Sir Kyleton."
Kyle's smile was remarkably free of bitterness. "Not in the U.S. – but over in London, well, let's just say I never pay for beer. There's also something about the women there, too-" He stopped as he saw the look on Franklin's face. "Just kidding. As for the Medal – well, the Navy Cross works, too, and people know what happened. Good enough."
He drank again. "I don't understand why they asked you to do this one instead of me.
"Bakeson's dead. That means people get picked because they can do the job, and not to just try and get them KIA." Franklin almost laughed as a seagull almost flew into the window of a crane operator, scaring the man and making him drop the candy bar he was eating. "They must think you've got more than enough to do with that Legion – they must think it's worthwhile – and besides, I could have said 'no."
"You've got a wife, and a family to think about. I personally don't like the idea of lying to your little brother if he shows up someday asking questions... or having to explain if he ever gets clearance on this."
"Well, you'll have to find some other way to try and die in the line of duty. It might help you to try finding reasons to live, though."
"I do. For every day I'm still breathing, I'm pissing someone off."
"I could always respect a man who knows his place in this world."
Franklin started away, and Kyle's voice turned him around. "It's kind of ironic, isn't it? We're each running the other's primary mission. I'm working with civilians to teach them how to become an effective fighting force. That's what Special Forces is all about."
"And I'm going off to die – because that's what Marines are here for." Franklin brushed off the top of his cat, and then put it on. "Fortunately, I'm not a Marine."
"True. Shame that your parents never married."
Franklin almost laughed; instead, after a moment, he saluted, and Kyle returned his salute with a textbook, parade-ground perfect manner that Franklin would never admit that he envied. Kyle would never let him live it down.
Franklin looked up from Charlotte's sleeping form as one of the small aliens known as Gnomes escorted Anita, an especially cute Maori girl in her late teens, and the Slavic woman back into the area. He noticed that the Gnomes looked at him for a touch longer than he felt comfortable with, but then, they withdrew.
He looked over at Anita, who gave him a bare glance before she went to the showers. She emerged minutes later, folding a clean tunic about herself as the Slavic woman followed her out, and Anita paid no attention to the lustful looks the woman gave her as she sat down next to Franklin.
"Calvin wanted a better show than usual," she said without preamble, devouring half of a food bar in one gulp. "Marjeta was more than glad to accommodate him."
Franklin remained silent; Anita chewed her next bite slowly, and there was no denying the wave of pure hatred that touched her eyes for a moment as she watched the Slavic woman bare her breasts for a muscular Latino. Marjeta laughed as he fondled her, and as the man took one of her breasts into his mouth, she looked directly into Anita's eyes and let her moan echo through the area...
"She's more than eager to get someone to knock her up," Anita said, tossing a look of supreme dismissal at Marjeta before focusing back on Franklin. "She's learned how to drink just enough of that crap to make the babies she has the bug version of a five-star meal, without getting addicted herself."
"I thought you said that –"
"It works faster on men," she cut him off, and put her hand on his arm. "Women get a good idea when it's getting to that point – your cycle gets – we don't need to talk about it."
Anita started on the second bar she was allotted for dinner, and nodded slightly towards the Maori girl. "Calvin had an especially pleasant time hurting her," she continued, looking over to where the girl had curled up into a tiny ball in one corner. "She didn't scream or beg while they were using her... I think Calvin would have given her to the Mantoids if she hadn't been a virgin. He gets a big flip when he has the chance to be someone's first."
"How long has he been here?"
"Years," she said simply. "He loves it here. I heard that in the blue, he was some sort of county official. A nobody, so when they got him, it was the best thing that ever happened in his entire life. He also knows how to read their language, so that makes him valuable."
Their written language? "Anita-"
"It's not as if it's all that hard, either. I've seen it, too – Calvin sleeps really deep after he has good sex, and when he does, I've looked them over. I'm okay at understanding it, and they actually have primers, and language-translation books that they have the important workers read and learn to work in the-"
The deep, throaty groaning Marjeta made as the Latino man took her on the floor in front of everyone interrupted them. "As I was saying earlier, she's more than willing to have babies for the Mantoids to eat. She's still not considered breeding stock and she still doesn't taste good to them, but those babies of hers have kept her alive for a long time."
Anita turned to Franklin. "Talk to me," she said, scooting back against a wall. "I... sometimes, I just need to talk, Franklin. Talk to me. Tell me things. On occasion, I just want to... Just... talk to me."
He positioned himself on the wall next to the woman. "Back 'in the blue', like people say here, I'm a soldier. An officer. I've got four brothers, and my parents named us all after Presidents. I'm Franklin Delano Davers."
"They wanted girls and had girls names picked out, but we kept showing up with extra equipment. George's name was almost a joke, they had another laugh when I showed up, and after John was born, they just said, 'the hell with it.' Uly was next, and then Jefferson – he's at West Point now."
"What do they do?"
"George breeds specialty cattle – his dream is to get several heads of Mishma stock from the Japanese, but the world will end before that happens. John's a neurologist, and Uly – Ulysses – owns a modeling agency. Shy like you wouldn't believe, never dated in high school or college, and now he's surrounded by beautiful women all of the time."
"What about you? You said you were a soldier, and you know how to fight..."
"Yes, but I spent a lot of time in my dress uniform at diplomatic functions."
"Because you're handsome."
"No – because I'm a great dancer. Most politicians can't dance unless they're doing it around questions."
Anita looked at Franklin without speaking for a long time, and then pressed herself into his arms. "Tell me that someday, it'll be all right. I'll deal with tomorrow when it gets here. I'll deal with an hour from now when it gets here. Just... just tell me that right now. Tell me that it'll be all right."
Franklin wrapped his arms around the young woman, and she relaxed slightly into his embrace. "It'll be all right," he said. "It will."
I'm not lying, either. She can understand their language – that can be helpful if I try to take the ship. I understand why it was so important for them to plant a Beta Nightbreed aboard – I can turn anyone here that I need, and in days, I'll have an army ready to strike from within. If we can take this ship, it would be a hell of an orbital base to strike out at them – and the tech we could get from examining it...
He turned towards the trio of girls that he had seen earlier – the girl from the cleanup crew, the auburn-haired one with the glasses, and a very attractive redhead who was almost certainly the sister of the one with glasses. He had heard everything that they said with his enhanced hearing, and that actually make him feel a bit heartened...
The sisters have mental abilities... hmn. The redhead's would be perfect to control anyone I turn... I just have to implant a suggestion that she never try to control me. The one with glasses, and that detonation ability – she can take out the bugs at range, and keep my back clear.
I need to watch them, and make sure that nothing happens to them. If I have to, I'll break cover and step on a few bugs – I've seen enough since I've been here to make it look like an accident. Besides, I can go anywhere on this ship I want. I'll go mist and follow them anywhere I have to...
Franklin looked down at the young woman in his arms. Nobody deserves this. I'll get you out of here, Anita – I promise. Even if I have to sire you so you can come out with me, I'll do that. I'll be damned if I leave you here, in this pit of hell... and there's no way that I could ever leave Charlotte here. I'll turn Heather, too, and if I can ever find her again, Chandni as well... if she's still alive.
Soon... we're getting out of here.
8 May 2007 – rewrite 19 June 2007
Secondary rewrite 23 January 2008
Outpost Daria version 24 March 2010