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ORBIT AROUND SCATARA-IV
"And remember Olena's
orders," Gwen's voice sounded over the
speaker. "You're to transport inside
the tent, not out
in the open, and don't forget to remove your boots."
"Yes, ma'am," Lyra answered, winking at Ezri as she leaned over the
communications console. "I've double-checked your list and have
all your supplies ready for
transport, and I've already removed my boots."
"She knows how to read a simple list and set transporter coordinates,
Gwen," Ezri chuckled.
"When I want your opinion I'll tickle it out of you, Dax," Gwen's voice
Lyra suppressed a laugh. "I'm ready to transport down, Doctor,"
"Transport away," Gwen answered. "We're returning from a visit to
one of the outlying villages and should be back to the clearing
any second now. Away team out."
The away team had erected a large, multi-room bubble-tent near the
river and some distance from the Bendwater clan-town. This
established their neutrality among the clans
and let Gwen interact with Bendwater's neighbors without everyone
having to jump through diplomatic hoops. A flagpole beside the
entrance was flying the red and
black banner of a Carmow "sacred healer".
"I remember my first away mission," Ezri said. "It was a pre-warp
planet in the Arcturus sector, and the locals had
problems with the presence of a 'spotted freak'. I had to watch
Lyra smiled at the grinning Lieutenant. She knew she was getting
a gentle reminder to remember her intercultural training. "I
understand why the
Carmow might react negatively to a 'green-skin' wandering into their
midst," she shrugged. "If cat-women had been raiding Orion-II and
dragging off my relatives
and friends into slavery I might have a similar
"You'll be fine," Ezri said. "Olena wouldn't let you down there
if the situation was all that hostile."
"Yes, ma'am." She stood and made her way to the door to the aft
compartment. "Want Angie to bring you some flowers or something?"
"Thank you, no," Ezri chuckled. "Just remind Olena she's
supposed to be negotiating for permission for me to land this thing so
the surface portion of the Science mission. I'm going stir crazy
"Oh, sure," Lyra laughed, "I'll beam right down and tell my Department
Head how to do her job."
"Just go, Middie," Ezri giggled.
Lyra passed into the aft compartment and donned her equipment harness,
holstered her hand-phaser and tricorder, and slung her
phaser-rifle. She then stood next to the requested
cargo container of medical supplies. "Ready for transport," she
said, tapping her comm-badge. There was the usual shimmer and
hum... and she was gone.
Back in the command seat, Ezri glanced at the side screen she'd set to
monitor the transporter and noted Lyra's departure and arrival on the
Suddenly, an alarm bleeped and the piloting system flashed from
"standby" to "active". A quick glance at the tactical plot showed
two—no three very fast, very
small craft emerging from around the edge of the planet. Another
alarm sounded and the communications console displayed a flashing
"Pirates!" Ezri muttered, and began pressing buttons in rapid
succession. Communications were being jammed, which meant
contacting the away team was impossible. At least for now, they
were on their own. She sighed and triggered a final
ATALANTA left orbit at full impulse, on the opposite heading of the
attacking fighters. Ezri's eye was on the tactical display, and
just as she expected, additional contacts popped onto the screen
directly ahead of her projected course.
Three pirate ships, all larger than fighters, were attempting to box
her in. "A pirate fleet!" she muttered under her breath as she
tapped the controls. Starfleet Intelligence had posited two or
possibly three single-ship rival
pirate bands operating in the Expanse, not a coordinated pirate
fleet. They must have
approached the system on courses masking
their presence behind the outer planets. She had three
alternative courses already keyed into helm control. She made a
choice and tapped the screen. ATALANTA changed heading, and
as soon as the gravity well of
sufficiently distant went to warp.
One of the pirates went to warp in pursuit, but the rest continued
closing on Scatara-IV. Ezri realized she was heading away from
both the away team and a
possible rendezvous with ARTEMIS,
but her options were severely limited. Her attention shifted to
console. Piloting and fighting
take some fancy flying to keep out of her
pursuer's weapons range and bend
Ezri's thoughts were on the away team. Hang in there, she thought. Hang in there 'til I can bring help.
A few seconds after
Lyra materialized inside the bubble tent
her comm-badge gave a coded chirp. Bleep-bo-beep! It was a
signal that it was being jammed, that powerful signals were being
were specifically designed to overwhelm all attempts at
told Lyra three things: (1) whoever was doing it had good intelligence
on current Starfleet comm-protocols, (2) the jammer was powerful and
probably nearby, and (3) the away team wasn't
going to be
transport back to ATALANTA. Even if Ezri had the shields down,
transporter wouldn't be able to lock onto their signals.
"Pirates!" she exclaimed.
Lyra scanned the immediate area. The tent was twice the size of
ATALANTA and was decidedly spartan, both as a medical
facility and as accommodations. There were a few cargo containers
supplies neatly stacked against one wall, a simple examining table, and
off to one side a field desk and computer console. Lyra hurried
over to the desk, set the computer in comm-mode, and began trying to
circumvent the jamming. Ezri would be better equipped to
accomplish this on ATALANTA, but it stood to reason she was probably
somewhat busy at the moment, assuming she was still in orbit.
Suddenly, a high-pitched, Doppler-shifting shriek sounded
overhead. It was the unmistakable sound of a small,
fast-moving spacecraft on full-thrusters. Lyra unslung her
phaser-rifle, moved to the door of the tent, then unzipped a
half-meter of the flap and opened it a slit to peer outside.
The tent was situated a couple of kilometers from the clan-town and
close to the riverbank, and Lyra could see her shipmates on the far
side of the clearing.
Olena, Gwen, Angie, and one of the natives—"Zeeka" Angie said her name
was—were about two hundred meters
away, just emerging from the jungle. As she watched, two more
swooped low, and fired their disruptors on low power. Her
Starfleet comrades and Zeeka staggered and crumpled to the ground.
Lyra was about to open the flap the rest of the way and go to their
aid when the air shimmered around her fallen friends and a dozen
armed, green figures
Syndicate pirates, Lyra
realized, and their ship is in orbit.
orbit—unless she'd already been boarded and captured. Across the
were stripping her friends of their arms and equipment—and four of
the pirates were jogging in her direction!
Escape and evade! Lyra
for the partition across the back of the
tent. On the far side was a row of cots, more cargo containers,
the door to the sanitation facility, and a second exit door. She
zipped it open, stepped outside, and
zipped it closed.
The river was flowing about ten meters away and the jungle was close,
but not close
enough. There was no cover on either side of the tent and she'd
be seen if
she tried to
run for it. There was only one option.
Stepping carefully, so as to leave minimal tracks, Lyra went to the
river's edge. The grassy bank was only a couple of feet above the
slow-moving river, and a large, willow-like tree was growing at the
edge. Two thirds of its mass of tangled roots were in the soil
and the remainder were in the
water. Lyra slung her phaser-rifle,
climbed onto the roots, then eased herself into the water.
The current was weak and the water only a little cooler than the humid,
air. Careful not to kick the bottom and raise a cloud of silt,
Lyra eased herself under the roots, making sure she was as far up under
overhanging bank as possible—and waited.
of the Federation
shuttle, which was proving to be surprisingly fast. The rest of
her fleet remained in orbit while she decided how to proceed.
One hand resting on her holstered disruptor-pistol, she walked over to
the still unconscious prisoners. Her crew had dragged them to the
middle of the clearing and were in the process
of stripping the captives to the skin—standard procedure for
newly acquired slaves. She surveyed the haul. One was a
young Carmow and the other three appeared to be Humans of the
variety. All four appeared to be prime merchandise.
One of Humans had a short mop of blond hair and was quite athletic in
build. All three pink-skins were in excellent shape, but the
blonde was exceptional, with lithe, well-defined muscles. The
second Human had long, black hair, and the third was shorter and
with long, brown hair.
Marta turned to a pirate who was busy examining one of the looted
The pirate shrugged. "It will take time to break the encryption,
but I think that one"—she pointed at Gwen—"is a
physician." She waved the tricorder. "This is a medical
model. Based on their uniforms and arms, I assume the other two
Marta used the toe of one boot to sort through the pile of rumpled
clothing. "Two Lieutenants and a..." She frowned.
"One black rank pip?"
"Midshipman," one of the pirates volunteered. "She must have just
left their Academy."
Marta's smile returned. "Yes, a youngster. She'll fetch a
good price. The other two Humans are a little old, but I think we
can sell that one—" She pointed at Olena. "—as a gladiator,
other—" She pointed at Gwen. "—as a science-slave on one of the
planets." She stepped to the side to gaze down at the
Carmow. "This one's a youngster, as well. A kitten with tan
Nice. I know the perfect buyer."
The Ruby Queen turned and walked towards the Starfleet tent.
"Take no chances with any of them," she called back over her shoulder,
"especially the blond Human."
"Yes, Prime Suzerain," the pirate with the tricorder answered.
She gestured to the others and several pirates shrugged generous coils
red-dyed rope from their shoulders and knelt beside the captives.
upturned face exposed.
didn't think the
pirates even knew she existed, so, unless they resorted to scanning
technology, she was probably safe... for the moment.
"You idiots!" Lyra heard a pirate shout. "Don't break anything!"
the voice had the unmistakable ring of command.
"Yes, Prime Suzerain," several pirates muttered.
Their captain, Lyra
realized. A pirate with
delusions of grandeur. The Orion rank of Prime
Suzerain was roughly equivalent to a Starfleet Admiral. Lyra
heard the back flap of the tent unzip, followed by the approach of more
"We'll set up camp further to the north." It was the "Prime
Suzerain", again, standing more or less directly over Lyra's
head. "That clearing we
mapped from orbit. Take it all, including the tent.
Even if we can't sell the Starfleet equipment, we can always use more
"Yes, Prime Suzerain."
"As long as we're here, we'll see if we can't catch a few more
kittens," the Prime Suzerain continued. "When YES-PLEASE returns
with the captured shuttle, we'll warp out before the Starfleet warship
even knows anything has happened."
"I'd love to see the expression on their faces when they learn we've
snatched some of their fellow do-gooders," one of the other pirates
"Yes," the Prime Suzerain chuckled. "Remind me to leave their
thank you note."
The pirates' laughter faded as they stepped back into the tent.
A clearing somewhere to the north,
I'll stay put
while they break the tent,
then follow. If they
don't beam their prisoners directly to their ship, maybe we still have
chance. Maybe I can save them. And maybe my first away
mission will be a 'KOBAYASHI MARU'.
KOBAYASHI MARU was the
famous (infamous) training simulation all Starfleet cadets went
through their final year at the Academy. It was a no-win
scenario, a puzzle with no solution, a test of character in the guise
of a tactical exercise. The lesson was deceptively simple:
do the right thing, even in the face of overwhelming odds, even if it
means capture or death.
Maybe there was a near zero chance
going to give it her best
someone pounded on it with a cartoonishly large hammer. And
would whoever the idiots were who were doing all the screaming and
laughing please just—SHUT—UP?
Ow! She'd have to
remember not to think so loud.
Time passed. Maybe a minute... Maybe only a few seconds...
Angie realized she was naked, bound, and gagged. Another tactical
exercise on the holodeck? No...
eyes popped open. Pirates!
She was staring at several pair
of booted feet—booted feet attached to green legs—attached to scantily
clad Orion pirates. We were
strafed by fighters, she remembered. Disruptor cannon on minimum power are a
worse than a disruptor-pistol set on stun.
As her mind continued to clear, Angie conducted a self-inventory.
She was nude, box-tied (red rope), and gagged (cloth stuffing and
cleave-gag). In addition, her hands were
in tight fists and bound inside some sort of skintight mittens.
Otherwise, the bondage were essentially identical to what she'd
endured during Olena's training sessions.
She realized something was happening. That is, there was violent
activity in her immediate area. Angie rolled over and beheld
Olena, nude, box-tied,
gagged, and engaged in unarmed combat with a pair of Orion
pirates. Only her legs were free, and yet, she was giving the
pirates a good fight. As Angie watched, Olena executed an
elegant, almost balletic swing-kick and landed a solid blow to the
stomach of one of the
pirates. The green, booted and bikini-clad beauty oofed and fell back. The
other pirate lunged forward, attempting to grapple Olena's nude body,
rewarded with a solid head-butt. A dozen pirates were watching
Olena's display of martial arts prowess, laughing and applauding
as the bound and gagged blonde more than held her own.
Suddenly, the report of a disruptor-pistol on stun sounded—Bang!
Olena froze in mid-kick, then crumpled to the ground.
"Didn't I tell you piss-brains not to
Angie squirmed and tucked her body until see could see the
speaker. She was a pirate, of course, and dressed like the
rest, only her green boots and bikini were finer than the others'
costumes and her accouterments were adorned with
large rubies. She holstered her pistol as she joined the
group. Their captain,
"She's a terror," one of the pirates told the newcomer, pointing at
Olena's unconscious form. "As soon
as she came to, she attacked."
"Oh, that's what happened,"
the ruby-adorned pirate sneered. "Cut a pole and carry her," she
ordered, "and for being so sloppy, you can all walk to the campsite."
"Is the transporter down, Prime Suzerain?" one of the pirates who had
been battling Olena asked.
The captain rolled her eyes, then pointed at the speaker and the
other pirate Olena had felled. "You, and you. Strip to your
boots. You're sex-toys for your mates for the next week."
The pair of pirates sighed as their fellow Orions laughed and cheered,
stood and began peeling off their equipment harnesses and bikini
Angie examined her fellow prisoners' conditions in greater
detail. All their bonds appeared to be identical: red
ice-spider silk rope box-ties—cloth stuffing and cleave-gags—and tight,
chamois-thin, leather mitts laced over their fingers, hands,
and wrists. "Mrfh!" A boot had delivered a businesslike
nudge to Angie's stomach, rolling her onto her back. She found
herself staring up into the smiling face of the "Prime Suzerain".
"Welcome to your new life, Starfleet," the pirate said. "I am
Marta Cyrelle, your first owner."
"Hail the Ruby Queen!" One of the watching pirates shouted, and
the others cheered.
Angie glared up at the gloating pirate.
"A strong one," Marta chuckled. "Good. Breaking the feisty
to the collar is always great sport." She held out an open hand
to one of her crew. "Wand," she commanded, and the rubber handle
meter-long metal rod was slapped in her palm. It tapered to
a small, round, rubber paddle a few centimeters in width.
Marta lifted Angie's chin with the paddle. "A
useful tool, the slave-wand," the Orion purred. "It can deliver a
variety of sensations, such as intense pain, tickling
Angie tried not to show fear as Marta shifted the wand's paddle
from her chin to her crotch, but couldn't keep herself from flinching
as the cool rubber was
pressed against her labia.
"Pleasure," the Ruby Queen purred, and thumbed a button on the handle.
shivered and squirmed in her bonds. Zzzzzz... The
paddle was emitting multi-colored tendrils of energy that played across
Angie's thighs and lower tummy. Zzzzzz...
She tried to kick and roll away,
but two of the pirates grabbed her ankles and splayed her legs and a
third knelt and grabbed a fistful of her tousled hair. Zzzzzz... The
sensation was indescribable. Angie's eyes rolled up in her head
and her nipples grew hard and rigid. "Mrpfh!"
"Yes," Marta cooed. "It feels good, doesn't it, Starfleet?"
Angie squirmed and struggled. "Mmmmpfh!"
"Cum for your owner, Starfleet," Marta ordered. "Cum like the
pleasure-slave you are."
Angie tried to fight, but the wand was impossible to resist. It
was like a Klingon pain-stick, only tuned to stimulate her
neurons in a way that was decidedly not
punishment. "Nnnnnn..." She was panting through
her gag, her breasts heaving and her pale skin glistening with
sweat. Zzzzzz... The
The watching pirates laughed and cheered as Marta continued holding the
paddle against Angie's crotch.
Finally, Marta lifted the wand, thumbed the switch,
and the tendrils disappeared. Zzzzt.
which make it useful." Angie watched over her shoulder as Marta
thumbed the switch, again, then shook the wand. Whip—whip—whip. The
wand was now somewhat flexible, no longer the
stiff rod it had been before. "Just so we understand one
another," Marta said, then delivered a stinging slap with the now
flopping paddle to Angie's right butt-cheek. Whack!
"Yes, it hurts, doesn't it, Starfleet?" Marta cooed. "Just
imagine a prolonged whipping with the pain setting on 'high'.
White-hot agony, but no damage
Angie rolled onto her side and glared
up at the Ruby Queen.
"Still a strong one," Marta
said, and her crew laughed. "Good. You're going to be a lot of fun, Starfleet." She
tossed the wand to one of her crew. "Finish securing the blond
'terror' and pack up the Starfleet
camp," she ordered. "Transport the bulk loot to STAR-MANTA's
hold, then hit the
trail. I want our camp
set up before dark."
"Yes, Prime Suzerain," several of the pirates muttered.
Marta smiled at Angie—who continued to glare in response—then thumbed a
communicator on her belt. "Beam me to the bridge," she
ordered. The air shimmered, the hum of a transporter beam
sounded, and the Ruby Queen dematerialized.
bubble-tent and packed up all its contents. She heard the
hum of a transporter, then eased herself out from under the
roots and onto the side of the tree. She slowly raised her
dripping head above the riverbank and peered towards the
The tent and all its contents was completely gone, of course, with only
trampled grass, the flagpole, and healer's flag forlornly flapping in
the breeze to show it had ever existed. Lyra climbed a little
higher, eased her head around the trunk of the tree, and a pair of
pirates came into view. They were
about thirty meters away with their backs to the river, and they
were each carrying a looted Starfleet phaser-rifle in a slovenly,
unprofessional manner. About twenty pirates were waiting for them
in the middle of
the clearing, and among the pirates—
"No!" Lyra whispered under her breath. Angie, Gwen, Olena, and
the Carmow Zeeka were naked, bound, and gagged. Olena was in a
strict hogtie and suspended from a long pole. A pair of
pirates—naked, but for their boots—were carrying the pole by its
ends, and the Orion criminals' wrists were lashed together with red
rope. Whatever that was
Angie and Gwen seemed resigned to their fates, standing relaxed in
their rope bonds with their heads bowed. Zeeka, however, was
struggling to free herself and screaming through her
gag. Even at this distance Lyra could hear the little feloid's
well-muffled howls of
outrage, but just barely. Her tawny tail whipped with
your strength, Lyra thought, wishing she could project her
thoughts to the agitated captive. Wait for your chance.
The sauntering pirates rejoined the others and the group set off
to the north. The pirates bearing Olena were in the middle.
Next came the remaining captives, coffled by lengths of red rope,
neck-to-neck. Gwen was in the lead, then came Angie, and
then Zeeka. As they neared the jungle, the pirates became more
alert and sorted themselves out into a front and rearguard.
Angie could see one of them using what was probably a
hand-scanner. They know the
Carmow will try and set an ambush,
Lyra reasoned. She's scanning
for life-forms. The lead element of the pirate patrol was
disappearing into the jungle.
What to do? Lyra saw
two courses of action: (1) try and link up with the Carmow, who had to be aware of what was
happening, or (2) follow the pirates on her own. Or, maybe there's a middle ground.
Lyra waited several seconds after the last of the pirates had entered
the jungle, then jumped off the tree and started jogging across
the clearing, her phaser-rifle at the ready. Did the rearguard hang back to set a
counter-ambush? That didn't seem a likely tactic for a
bunch of pirates. In any case, the longer she waited, the
greater the chance she'd lose their trail. Lyra knew her
field-craft was adequate, but she was hardly a jungle huntress. I'll know if I'm wrong when they stun me.
She reached the middle of the clearing—and skidded to a halt. A
pair of pirate bikinis, one a mottled brown and the other in a
disruptive gray pattern, were discarded in the grass. Lyra
quickly grabbed them both, tucked them into her equipment harness, and
jogged on. Obviously, they were the clothing of the naked pirates
carrying Olena, and their fellow criminals hadn't felt compelled to
retrieve their shipmates' property. Pirates, Lyra mused, shaking her
She paused as she neared the edge of the clearing. I hope I get this right, she
thought, then faced the jungle on the side closest to the
She raised her
left hand, and slowly began gesturing in "claw-speak", the Carmow
sign-language Olena had ordered them to study.
"Four friend—many enemy—I hunt."
Just to be sure, she repeated the message, praying she was remembering
the signs correctly and wasn't signing a bunch of gibberish. She
her hand, checked the setting and energy status of her rifle, then
entered the jungle.
she is a pirate," a gray-striped Carmow growled. "She is green,
like the others."
"She is the green kitten-warrior of whom Oleeena spoke," Purrgatah
growled in response. "She is a star-friend."
"We should take her," the gray-stripped cat-woman continued. "We
should bind and question her."
Purrgatah made a cutting gesture. "No. Follow with your
hunt-sisters. See where the green kitten and the green enemies
go. Already our clan-kittens are in deep hiding to keep them safe
from the pirate's star-magic, as Oleeena advised, and our clan-sisters
gather for war. I must convince the elders to send the Bendwater
war-stick to the other clans.
"It shall be as you say, Pathfinder," the gray-striped warrior
nodded. She crossed the lance-point of her m'rrtu with
Purrgatah's. "Unless it is the will of the gods, I swear they shall not take your
little sister to the stars, Pathfinder."
"Unless it is the will of the gods, my friend," Purrgatah
The gray-striped warrior melted into the jungle, and was gone.
"May the gods favor our star-friends, as well," Purrgatah sighed, then
broke from hiding and headed across the clearing at a
loping run, abandoning stealth for speed.