The lump in Heather's throat grew larger as the uniformed men led her from the shuttle. She had always been strong willed and courageous in the face of adversity, but her present predicament made it hard for her to conceal the fear that was mounting within her. One of the men increased his vise-like grip on her upper arm and she jerked in protest.
"Not so hard." She spat. "Where do think I'm gonna go?"
The pair of armed men remained silent.
Upon reaching a pair of double-pneumatic doors, one of the men removed his glove and placed his palm over an illuminated panel. With a hiss, the doors separated and the sheer brightness of the corridor that lay ahead made Heather squint. She swallowed hard as the doors slid closed behind them, and the telltale click that followed assured her that they were securely locked. She shut her eyes momentarily, imagining what fate might await her? The very thought sent a shiver down her spine. She had heard stories . . . horrible stories, but she didn't want to think about that right now . . . She had to be strong.
As the trio pressed onward, the echoes produced by the men’s polished boots on the white, tile, floor was nearly deafening. And aside from Heather's quickening breath those were the only sounds invading this otherwise sterile and silent environment. Heather tried to keep up with the long strides of the men, but the hobble restraints on her ankles made that difficult. A shuffle was the best she could muster without tripping but, after all, she was in no hurry to get to wherever they were going.
At first the corridor seemed to be miles long, but all too soon they had arrived at the opposite end, where another set of double-sliding doors awaited. The men repeated the procedure that Heather had seen earlier and the doors whisked open.
Another uniformed man stood on the opposite side and Heather's eyes immediately met his. He gazed back at her with the same unemotional, almost blank, stare that she seen on the faces of her unwanted escorts. Heather blinked and looked away. Turning on his heel, this man took the lead.
The large room through which they now moved was octagonal in shape and had, in addition to the entrance, seven smaller doors lining the outer walls. In the center of the room stood a large eight-sided console where another uniformed male monitored several video screens and electronic controls. Save for some unreadable markings on each of the eight doors, this room was equally as silent, sterile, and undecorated as everything else Heather had seen in this forbidding place.
The man who led them in stopped at one of the multiple doors and motioned to the one who manned the console. With the flick of a switch, the door opened to reveal a small cell, approximately eight feet deep by six feet wide, with a high overhead that would prove unreachable. There wasn’t any visible source of illumination; the walls, and floor seemed to glow evenly, with a slightly brighter glow emanating from the ceiling. Heather was summarily pushed inside with considerable, unnecessary force and once the restraints had been removed from her wrists and ankles, the man who had stared her down finally spoke.
"Remove your clothing, jewelry and any other personal effects." His voice was authoritative, yet very dry and mechanical.
As frightened as Heather was, she was determined to remain indifferent toward her captors; refusing to allow her true emotions to show or to let their intended humiliation break her. 'No weakness; I will be strong until the end,' she reassured herself.
'The end' she mulled that thought over, considering the irony. It seemed to be approaching a bit more quickly than she had ever imagined. She glanced back at the blank-faced man and managed to give him a sarcastic smile.
Reluctantly, she worked her arms free of her tee shirt, pulled the garment over her head and let it fall to floor. Pulling the tie from her long red hair, she released her ponytail and let her cinnamon tresses splay out across her bare shoulders and down her back. Her boots went next; followed by her socks and the black military-style BDU's.
She now stood before them in only her bra and panties. She noticed how all three of the men studied her revealed body. But they didn't look at her in the way that she was used to being ogled. Their candid appraisal of her semi-naked form was one more of clinical examination than that of lust or sexual desire. The uniformed man who had ordered her to disrobe now pointed one at a time to each of her remaining undergarments. Heather complied, and her nipples responded to the coolness of the room.
The man then produced a small device, about the size of a pocket calculator, and instructed Heather to interlock her fingers behind her head. He used his foot to separate and spread her legs a shoulder-width apart.
"Remain still." he ordered.
Heather noticed a blue light emanating from one end of the device as it was activated, and her eyes followed its glow as the man used it to systematically scan every inch of her naked body. Beginning at the top or her head, he worked his way downward. He used his free hand to tilt her head back and peered inside her ears, nose and mouth. Seeming satisfied, he moved on. Reaching her torso, he squeezed each of her breasts ever so slightly and inspected the area as if he thought they might be fake or that something might be concealed inside. Just as his visual inspection had been, his touch was also cold and calculated.
The scanner detected nothing as he maneuvered it over her shaved sex and smooth rounded backside; then toward the tips of her toes. Completing his duties, he returned it to his belt and gave a silent signal to the others. Heather could only assume that it meant "all clear" as they turned away and left the cell. The door then closed and secured itself; a blank, featureless panel of the same material as the walls. Heather was left alone.
* * *
Her clothing confiscated, Heather stood naked and shivering in the tiny cell. There was no bed, no facilities, no windows. Only the plain white walls, ceiling and floor, which were pierced with deep grooves in an interlocking pattern of octagons and squares. And that damned blinding bright light that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere all at the same time.
Lying down upon the cold, hard floor, naked as a jaybird, she contemplated her dire situation. 'How could I have been so careless, so stupid?' she scolded herself. Eventually, sheer exhaustion took over and she drifted into a deep sleep.
* * *
Heather abruptly awakened as the door to her cell hissed open in one fluid thrust. She was drowsy and confused. She didn't know how much time had passed since she had fallen asleep as she slowly managed to pull herself up and sit on her knees; her head bowed somewhat. Looking up, she expected to see one of the uniformed men, but this time a tall, blonde woman stared down at her with those same black emotionless shark eyes. The new captor’s straw-colored hair was short cropped and her sharp, chiseled, features made her appear to be of some Nordic descent. But Heather knew that her captor was much more of an alien than that.
The woman was also uniformed, though her tight-fitting jumpsuit was much more elaborate and subtly dominant than those of the men who had brought Heather here. It was obvious that the filigreed insignia that adorned the woman’s clothing represented rank - high rank.
"So," the woman began. "I have finally found you." Her voice was deep and accusing.
"I didn't know you were looking for me." Heather said coyly.
"Since we haven't been properly introduced, Miss McMahon, you may refer to me as Cassandra; as you likely know, I command our forces of the eastern seaboard sector. I have been waiting for quite some time to meet."
"Um, I think you have me confused with somebody else, ma'am."
"Please, Heather. There is no use denying your identity. I am well aware that you are the leader of one of the largest resistance cells in my sector. Do not further embarrass yourself by lying."
Heather cocked her head and looked at the woman as if she had lost her mind. "Resistance cell? Ma'am, I don't know what you're talkin' about." She fibbed, faking a country twang. "My name is Emmy-Mae Jones and I'm a student at . . ."
"Sure you are." The blonde cut Heather off with a steely grin. Her eyes remained cool, but Heather could see a smoldering mixture of pleasure and vengeance in the woman's facial features and it unnerved her. This woman, Cassandra, was a key player in just about every horror story that Heather had ever heard about these invaders; her reputation for cruelty had preceded her.
A nauseous feeling was creeping into Heather's stomach, and she concealed the fear the best way she knew how - with sarcasm.
"Well,” Heather smirked. "First of all, I assure you’n that Ah'm not who you think I am. And Ah’ve never heard of, what was that name? Heather Mc . . . somethin’ er other? But whoever that person is, she mus’ta really pissed you off. 'Cause . . . Ah mean, if you extend this same hospitality to all your fine guests . . . stripping them and lockin' them up without a shred of proof; you've got a lot to learn about Earth's customs, Cassandra."
"I could not care less about your foolish customs, Miss McMahon. You are my prisoner now. Your death warrant has been signed and is sitting upon my keypad. You have been, how do you say it? A thorn in my side, for far too long and I will take great pleasure in seeing you at last suffer for your blundering disloyalties."
"Disloyalty?!!" Heather screamed, now on her feet. She seemed to forget all about her nakedness as well as her earlier denial of who she truly was. Only now her pure hatred for these invaders shone through. Heather's deep blue eyes drilled into the black depths of those of her adversary.
"Disloyalty?!" She repeated. "Is that what you call it?! And what part of your practices should earn my loyalty, Cassandra?! You and your kind arrived here five years ago, without a proper invite, I might add. Since then, you took control of my planet, forced our people into submission and, and slavery . . .” Tears of anger and frustration started to stream down her pretty cheeks as she stammered on, " . . . raped our natural resources . . . and . . . you've killed almost everyone I've ever cared about. You can stick what you call loyalty up your alien ass!!"
Cassandra simply glared back at the young woman who had just exploded then melted down in front of her. "You are truly mediocre creatures," she observed, shaking her head. "As backward and unintelligent as your species might be, you never cease to amaze me. And you my dear," she raised her hand, grabbing Heather's chin between her thumb and forefinger as if she were an obstinate child, " . . . Are full of spunk indeed! But that will be over soon."
"I don't need your criticisms or your lecture!" Heather shouted. "Just kill me and get it over with! You said my death warrant's been signed."
"Oh it has." Cassandra said with a certain slyness. "But I have no plans of killing you, my dear; at least not yet. As much as I would enjoy ending your existence personally, I do not want to run the risk of creating a martyr for your people. That would also be much too boring. No; I have other, more original, ideas for you."
Ever rebellious, Heather only smiled.
Cassandra matched that with her own chilling smirk and a slightly arched eyebrow. Without saying anything more, she turned and strode out of the cell. As if on cue, two of the uniformed men entered to grab Heather’s arms and then frog-marched her as they followed Cassandra through the large octagonal room, past the set of double-doors, down one part of the corridor and into another room. Here they stopped, holding Heather upright.
This space was larger and contained several view screens on the walls as well as what looked like a large console in the center. Oblong splotches in diseased-looking colors broke up the stark white-on-white panels. Along one wall stood a series of several metallic sculptures of nightmarish alien creatures that were like nothing Heather had ever seen before. And one sculpture that she recognized immediately, with an involuntary gasp.
Cassandra merely smiled cruelly. “You seem to appreciate my conquest trophies; how ironic that you’ll soon be joining them.
“What did you do to him? Is he alive?” Heather stammered, taken totally off guard.
The alien leader ignored the captive’s outburst, except for allowing herself a smug smirk of satisfaction. Reaching down below what seemed to be the surface of her console, she extracted a small liquid-filled cylinder within which a small, long, dark shape moved.
Cassandra held the container up as her fingers danced on the locking mechanism. Heather could easily see the wriggling eel-like creature that swam excitedly. ‘Almost hungrily,’ she thought.
Suddenly, without a word, the men flanking her twisted her arms so that she fell to her knees and leaned to one side. Cassandra stepped up behind her and Heather felt a slimy coolness at the base of her skull, a sharp twinge of pain, and then a spreading numbness. The guards let her stand once more as Cassandra returned the empty container to the console.
“Oh, God, no! You put that thing inside me??” she screamed.
“Planets sometimes evolve very… useful… organisms that can serve our purpose in many ways. Some fly; some allow us to breathe underwater,” Cassandra stated, eyeing her captive from a meter’s distance. “That little worm has evolved a most remarkable ability to filter the thoughts and nerve impulses of almost any sentient being. Without actually being intelligent itself. Remarkable!”
The numbness was traveling down Heather’s spine; her whole body began to feel a chill that penetrated her bones. But she could not shiver and when she tried to protest again, she could not say a word or move a muscle. Her eyes widened in mute fear.
Cassandra continued, “This symbiosis confers upon the host the retained knowledge and skills of previous hosts as well as an almost telepathic capability for anticipating the emotions and desires of superior beings. Such as ourselves.”
The guards released Heather and stepped back. She could only stand there motionless, waiting, a prisoner within her own body.
“We are not so different, your species and mine. Both share similar physiology, thoughts, and desires. Chance a different set of circumstances and you might have prevailed. Now our destiny will overshadow yours.” Cassandra looked directly at Heather with a curiously softer expression.
Heather felt her body start to move, on its own, without her desiring any movement. Slowly at first, then with easy confidence, she approached the alien female. ‘Just a quick chop to the throat and she’d be gone,’ the captive thought, trying to will her arm into making that one simple action. Her controlled body had other plans as she placed that same arm around Cassandra’s slim waist and kissed the leader full on her lips. She could not resist her tongue making its own explorations; there was a brief flush of pure lust that made her want to make passionate, endless, love to Cassandra with every fiber of her being. Then the flood of emotion vanished.
The alien leader stepped back; Heather remained frozen in mid-embrace for a moment before standing upright at attention again.
‘I’m. Going. To. Rip. Your. Heart. Out, Bitch!’ Heather shouted with her mind, but her lips remained sealed and her eyes stared straight ahead. A single involuntary teardrop fell down her cheek.
“You see; absolute obedience. We often utilize these creatures ourselves, to condition our security forces as well as our subjects. Your prior existence in that pitiful resistance is over; from now forward you will serve me however I choose. When I tire of your presence, then you will join the others in my trophy gallery.”
Heather said nothing, because she could not budge. The guards formed up and trooped out, leaving them alone. Cassandra seemed to lose interest and stepped over to her console. A few seconds later, Heather’s body walked slowly over to a low pedestal, took a graceful pose, and froze in that position. Apparently, the leader most wanted to view some decorative statuary while she worked.
‘Kill me; do it now! Or release my body so I can do it myself,’ Heather thought to herself, since she could do nothing else, as her body and most importantly, her tongue, was having languid sex with Cassandra for she had lost count of how many times. The two entwined on a softer sleeping platform; the glaring lighting had been diminished. Rank had its privileges, even here, it seemed.
Some of Heather’s newfound ‘skills’ were sexual in nature; the alien leader seemed insatiable in that respect, though Cassandra herself knew yet more techniques. Heather of course couldn’t not enjoy the lovemaking, because the damned worm in her brain made her crave it, but all the while her mind rebelled, for all the good that did. When she wasn’t being a sex toy, Heather became a posed sculpture or piece of living furniture at her captor’s pleasure.
Cassandra, it turned out, had an ironic sense of humor as well as a vast knowledge of Earth fetishes and fantasies. On many days, the captive was dressed in leather or latex; at other times she appeared as a harem concubine or serving maid in high-heeled shoes and archaic square-mesh leg covering. Corsets cinched her figure into physically impossible proportions or she stood for hours or days coated from head to toe in metallic paint.
The days blurred into one another; whatever emotions and shame Heather had became as numb as her controlled body. Eventually, rebellion and despair gave way to a mindless acceptance of fate. She didn’t have to be conscious as her arms and legs and lips were moved for her, not by her. Resisting was as effective as a candle in a hurricane. To anyone observing, especially Cassandra, Heather was becoming nothing more than another object to be used or discarded at the leader’s whim. But, down deep inside the captive’s psyche, the profound hatred was only magnified.
* * *
If it hadn’t been for the voices, she probably would have gone mad.
At first, of course, she thought she was hallucinating, or at least hearing echoes of her own alter ego.
Heather’s first inkling was during lovemaking, an almost constant activity when Cassandra was in residence. Lying together, her head deep in the woman’s crotch, tongue tickling the alien’s all-too-human vagina, words drifted into her mind:
“Softer, pet, touch me more to the sides...ahh!”
The voice was clearly Cassandra’s with the same odd accent in Terran, but she was far too occupied to have said it out loud. Even now, the alien leader was arching her back in ecstasy, hands caressing her own breasts and flat stomach.
“Yes, yes; now deeper. That’s it, ah, wonderful... Ah..”
Heather felt the woman’s coming orgasm as much as heard it, though her own controlled body could only react to commands and so she kept stimulating Cassandra all the while, driving the cruel leader to even greater heights of pleasure.
“Ohh, yes; YES! Hold it… hold it… Don’t move… UmmmhH!”
That was too much like a command; Heather’s body froze in place instantly, turned into a very erotic living work of art. Cassandra, focused on her own culminating pleasure, continued to rock gently against her now motionless lover, emitting little gasps of joy:
“Oh! Oh!! Ohh!!!”
Heather remained little more than a living sculpture for the rest of that day, held rigid, not able to move a muscle on the alien’s sleeping pad as the leader basked in the afterglow of her multiple climaxes and then drifted off to cleanse herself and go about her much more important business.
* * *
Time seemed to compress as Heather lay there; the subtle sounds of the room around her increased in pitch from a deep rumble to a frenetic buzz. Even the soft boudoir lighting seemed to change, becoming harsher and more bluish. One part of her being knew she was passing into complete stasis, another trophy for the gallery; for a moment she almost welcomed the oblivion.
“Hellp,” came a slow basso voice intruding on her torpid thoughts, picking up her attention immediately.
‘Who’s that?’ she formed the words in terran in her mind, not knowing if they could be heard. ‘Where are you?’
“Meee,” followed a few seconds or minutes or days later; time was still playing tricks on her. She decided to pause and listen, wondering idly where Cassandra had gone off to for so long.
“They… took… me… to…” the voice replied after what seemed an eternity, slightly faster now, “ship. Captured… Betrayed.”
Her memory offered up the image of the leader’s trophy room and the statue she’d seen displayed there. Up until this instant, she had assumed the worst. Now she realized the aliens were even crueler than that. He was alive, barely, trapped forever instead.
‘Sir! This is Heather, we may be on . . .’ she started to reply, then time blurred again and she never finished the sentence.
Abruptly she was in a different place, in what seemed to be the middle of a sandstorm, as her rigid body was supported by several sets of hands. One of them held a disc to her arm, which stung briefly. Suddenly, vital energy coursed in her veins as the buzz of the ship returned to a subsonic thrum and Heather’s frozen body seemed to thaw in an instant.
She slumped, no longer a stiffened statue, but the trio of attendants were ready; they kept her upright and moved her to the center of the cleansing powder shower. Two women and a man, as equally naked as she.
“Almost thought we lost you,” his voice echoed in her thoughts.
“Does she need another boost?” came a woman’s thoughts; Heather linked them to the one holding the disc-shaped device.
“Wha?” she mumbled, feeling her body caressed by several hands.
“No, otherwise she might end up commanding us,” the man replied.
The third woman ‘spoke’; her thoughts seemed more mature though her appearance was as youthful as the others. “You are fortunate, indeed, little playtoy. Her exalted excellence has allowed you to grace her audience with the supreme ruler. We serve to prepare you. Do not resist.”
‘Are you captives, too?’ Heather asked, getting her wits more about her, trying not to be distracted by the caressing hands.
“Everyone is a captive of the supreme,” the man offered. “You will not distract us while we prepare you for your role.”
Although he hadn’t meant it as a command, Heather found herself unable to ‘say’ anything more to them as they finished the shower by blowing the remaining dust away with an air hose and led her into a dressing area. She let herself be guided as if in a trance as the three attendants clothed her in a series of overlapping gold fabric strips, brushed her hair, and the two women applied some makeup to her face.
Heather could not stop them, nor did she want to. She had, however, begun to wonder about her ‘role’.
* * *
They led her into a large chamber that Heather recognized from before as where she had first been questioned by Cassandra. The leader’s trophy gallery stood unchanged and unchanging along the far wall. However, a large ornate chair had been placed in the center of the room, with a swath of golden carpet leading to the main entry.
Heather was still in ‘puppet mode’ so she could only walk where she was guided and hardly caught a glimpse of the glinting metallic statue of her commander. His voice was silent, now, or too slow for her to detect.
She found herself standing to one side of the chair, just at the edge of the carpet, as the more mature woman held out a large golden-leaved ceremonial fan to her. “Hold this over the throne, and do not waver. Her excellence will not be pleased.”
Once again, Heather found her body and mind taking the command without question; a few seconds later she was in standing in position, statue-like, gripping the fan raised motionlessly over the throne as a canopy. Surprisingly, the assistant stood on the other side, holding an identical fan aloft; just now Heather noticed that the woman wore an identical costume and had become equally inanimate.
The other two had positioned themselves on either side of the entryway and held long poles, ceremonial spears, vertically at their sides and they, too, had quickly turned into unmoving decorations just as Cassandra strode commandingly into the chamber, followed by her troop of lackeys.
She was dressed more formally, in flowing robes with a cape, than Heather had ever seen her before as the tall blonde moved to the throne, merely glanced at the two fan-bearers, and sat with a regal flourish. As if on cue, a fanfare began, alien in tone and cadence yet oddly familiar.
The measure ran for almost a minute, then paused and began again. Cassandra fidgeted slightly on the throne, smoothing out the creases in her robes. The song played out once more and repeated, and then yet again. Time was passing; she grew more visibly displeased with every mounting repetition.
Without warning, an older man walked briskly into the audience chamber, as luck would have it just as the fanfare faded. He wore clothing that was almost heavy and shiny enough to be a medieval suit of armor. Ceremonial decorations covered him, but the most striking impression was his clouded expression of fury.
He barked at Cassandra, the words unknown, but his thoughts rang through clearly: “You have disgraced the command I trusted you with! Abase yourself.”
Heather had never seen Cassandra move so quickly. With a brief wince of reaction, she was out of the chair, had whipped off her cape and laid it over the carpet. She then moved away two steps, never showing her back to the supreme leader, and kneeled beside the now-empty throne. “As you desire,” her thoughts complied, though she said nothing out loud.
Without a hint of compassion or a glance at Cassandra’s face, the leader stepped to the throne and seated himself. By now, the music had cut off and his entourage had arrived in the chamber. There was a prisoner also, another shacked captive that had been stripped of her clothing; the aliens had not yet managed to take her dignity as she glared at her captors with fire in her eyes.
“Commander, explain to us how this… subject… was able to penetrate our defenses and approach our presence with a weapon?” His alien words were accusingly indirect.
Cassandra was on her feet as if spring-loaded. Gone was her haughty demeanor. In its place was a tense uncertainty colored with an undercurrent of dread. “Supreme, the preparations were designed with many safeguards, numerous levels of security,” she explained.
“And yet?” The leader made the slightest of nods to the captive.
“The final responsibility was mine,” Cassandra admitted, head bowed. “Command me to your bidding,” she spoke in formal contrition.
“Shall I place you in my trophy room, as an example to others?” He mused, as much to himself as to her.
Cassandra’s eyes widened in surprise and fear, but she kept her voice steady. “As you command, Supreme.”
The leader spoke to the room. “My trophies are symbols of conquest, of strengths overcome, such as this warrior that stands before me. She will honor my gallery.”
He nodded to the guards surrounding the captive terran woman; they brought her to the base of the throne and forced her to kneel on the robe, glaring daggers at him in her eyes. Henchmen approached, unseen by her, removing the shackles, then holding something to the back of her neck. She flinched, jumping up in agony. Heather, from her immobile vantage point to the side of the throne, glimpsed what looked like one of those eel-like creatures attached to the young woman. Except this one was almost glowing with an ominous swirling yellow-orange hue.
‘Oh, my God; it’s Tiffany!’ Heather gasped in her mind as she finally recognized the captive. ‘You got closer than I ever did!’
“Nooo!” the captive cried, feeling her legs start to stiffen. “You can kill me, but you’ll never win, you alien sack of sh…” her voice faded as her body slowed into a defiant pose and then froze solid. It was over in seconds; the color drained out of her skin and hair, leaving a slightly shiny metallic blue-gray hue. She was a trophy.
“Rebellious to the last, that is a fitting addition to my collection,” the leader stated, with a long look towards Cassandra. “Perhaps some day you will be worthy of such an honor.”
“As you command, Supreme,” she replied meekly.
He nodded again; two of his guards approached the throne, carrying an ornate decanter between them. The container was inlaid with silver, leaving enough transparent so the wine-colored fluid inside could be easily seen. Heather knew that Cassandra always kept it prominently displayed; here in the audience chamber it had rested until now on a tall pedestal, illuminated from above.
“You have shown disrespect to your level of Freedom; therefore now you shall have less of it, sub-commander,” he proclaimed.
Cassandra could only watch as he ceremonially up-ended the decanter and poured a quantity of the liquid onto the carpet, where it left a spreading stain. She knew that meant her mind would now be less her own and more what others told to her.
The supreme leader stopped before emptying the entire container. Without another word, he turned and stepped out of the audience chamber, leaving his many assistants to follow, carrying off the stiffened figure of Tiffany and replacing the container of Freedom on its pedestal.
Cassandra remained speechless for almost a minute, standing embarrassed in her domain, her center of power. Her own assistants had already made themselves scarce, but the immobilized captives acting as decorations didn’t have that ability. Heather and the others could only stand mutely as the demoted female leader let her emotions play unchecked over her beautiful features and her imagination run wild. One time in the past, she too had been little more than a decoration for her leaders before she had gained the power and Freedom; now that possibility seemed all too real again.
Cassandra sat at last on her throne, realizing it would have felt better if the Supreme had made her into a trophy.