Béla lay in the boxcar watching the scenery rumble past. Her body tingled as though it didn't know what to do with all this available restorative energy from all the exciting sexual activity a few hours earlier.
The lazy swaying and bumping of the boxcar as it traveled down the tracks didn't do anything to help her relax. She had already raped Jeff twice since they left New Hope, and was wondering if he was up for it again.
The Great Bard Geoffrey was having considerable difficulty working his goddess' sexual appetites into his understanding of her divinity. Béla wasn't concerned about whether or not he would work it out. Jeff was incredibly imaginative. Besides, she hadn't had any trouble instigating a ritual spring orgy among the druids when she had lived among them… It wasn't really her fault if they turned it into a ritualistic sexual sacrifice but blood does make a really good fertilizer… To have something to do, and to keep her mind occupied with something other than Jeff and the (hopeful) recovery of his prowess, Béla decided to practice her teleportation.
It was getting easier. She took two empty vials and lay down in the sunlight and the buffeting breeze coming through the open side door. Concentrating on one of the vials, she filled it with blood from her veins. Then she filled the other one and put them both away in the first aid kit. They would probably need them in the next town if someone stopped their railcar, which was likely, as the next town bordered the river going around the equator.
The air, while still refreshing as it passed over and caressed her body, was becoming more humid, the smell of marshland more evident as they neared the equator. After all, that was where most of the water was. After another hour of travel, and one more sexual assault on Jeff, the railcar swayed sharply as it was suddenly shunted onto a sidetrack.
The automatic brakes engaged at the same time as buffers noisily pressed against the sides of the car. The sudden swerve and lack of forward motion somersaulted Béla off of Jeff, on whom she'd been relaxing after her last orgasm. "Ride's over," she heard Jeff grunt from somewhere behind her. Béla looked around to see where she landed and discovered she'd rolled completely over with her bare legs smacked up against the front of the railcar and was almost standing on her shoulders.
'Oh, Joy! My favorite position!' she thought sarcastically. 'Pile driver!' She leaned sideways and flopped down on the floor. There were voices of men approaching outside the car, then someone was striking the metal side with a hard object, possibly a rifle barrel or a wooden club. "Anybody in there?" someone called out. Looking around, Béla grabbed her shirt and slid her arms through the openings.
She had no idea where her trousers were and she was already feeling annoyed that some illiterate ass hole had run their railcar into a freight stop when the pennant on the front of the car was plainly YELLOW, indicating PASSENGERS, and not blue or green, indicating cargo or livestock. Jeff pulled out the replenished first aid kit and hopped down out of the car.
He held it out for the rail guards to see. Béla stuck her head around the corner and looked around, then hopped down behind him. The guards looked at her with some disdain mixed with lust. Béla glared back; she knew what she smelled like. She liked how she smelled and didn't care if the guard liked it or not! The guard on the right put the barrel of his rifle under the front of Béla's half-buttoned shirt and pulled it aside, admiring her slender torso and tight belly.
He stared at her lack of pubic hair longer than was politely necessary. "Please, do not anger the goddess," the Great Bard Geoffrey said. "The last person who assaulted her is a pile of ash on the road leading north from New Hope." "New Hope is under quarantine," the guard told them, "as are all the northern communities.
No one is allowed to bridge the equator." "I have the cure for the wasting disease," Bard Geoffrey announced. "It is a gift from her mother, the Goddess of Light." Jeff held the red and white case in front of him and opened it. He produced the two vials of Béla's blood.
"You may test it if you like," Bard Geoffrey informed them. "You should dilute it, first." "We don't have the disease here," the guard told him. "We turn back all who approach, whether they are sick or not." "It looks like somebody has it, though," Béla said, interrupting them.
The guard looked at her, then looked to see where she was looking. High above, on the other side of the equator river, a fire was burning in a town square. "We need to go there," Jeff said, urgently. "We have the cure. We can save them!" Jeff tried to push his way past the guard. "It won't do you any good!" the guard said, shoving him back. "You can't get over the bridge!" "What do you mean we can't?" Jeff asked, anxiously.
"We need to get to Southern, to get a transport…" Béla interrupted him. "Jeff," she said, quietly, but with urgent intent, "nobody can get across the equator. At least, not here. The bridge is too damaged to cross." Béla had raided the mind of the senior guard and saw the horrifying destruction by his own terrified people. He had been unable to stop a railcar with three families in it. As it approached the far side of the bridge, someone had thrown an explosive device, derailing it.
He had watched helplessly as the railcar and everyone in it plunged down and disappeared into the swift black water, far below. Béla looked at the guard, still mind-linked with him.
'The disease is in the water supply now,' she made him think. 'Soon the whole world will be infected. There will be no stopping it without our help!' "There is nothing I can do," the guard said helplessly. "Even if I were to attempt to return, I would be shot by my own people." "Well, I can get across without using the bridge," Béla told him. "What kind of reception would I get if I suddenly appeared in that Town Square up there?" The guard had no idea.
"Most of the people who have guns are guarding the perimeter," he informed her. "You might possibly be overcome by brute force, but you probably won't be shot. At least, not right away." "Are there any of you here who are sick?" Béla asked, "Please tell me. I… we can cure them." "Those of us who get sick go out from the station to die in the fields," the guard replied, "away from those whom they would sicken. They live with each other, in the death camp, there." He pointed to a colorful patch of tents several miles north and to the east of them.
Off to one side of the encampment raged a bonfire. "That looks like a good place to start," Béla told Jeff. She noticed that there were no rail tracks going near the encampment.
"It looks like we get to walk there." On the orders of the senior guard, whose mind Béla had merged with, they were released on the north side of the station with directions to the settlement. They didn't really need directions, as it was far enough away for them to see on the rising horizon. As they got closer, it disappeared behind a small wood, but reappeared as Jeff and Béla emerged from the trees. There were no guards preventing entrance from this direction.
Béla felt the minds of the people before her. Many were not very sick yet. A few were dying. There were two non-infected guards on the northern road, set there to prevent anyone who wasn't ill from entering. For a camp where people came to die, it was remarkably well kept, with latrines dug into the ground downwind from the camp. Over the individual campfires, whatever they were cooking smelled good.
After a moment, a lad noticed them approaching. "You don't look sick," the young boy said, looking at Béla. "You shouldn't be here. If you stay, you'll get sick and die." "Run and tell whoever is running the camp that we've brought a cure for your disease," Bard Geoffrey told the lad.
Their reception was only slightly less than enthusiastic, tempered only by the fact that everyone there was sick. The Great Bard Geoffrey and his goddess set up in the middle of the camp and began injecting everyone with Béla's diluted blood.
Those cured brought their families to see the goddess, carrying those who were too weak to walk on their own. Those who no longer had families brought food and supplies as an offering of gratitude.
In less than a day, the encampment was declared free of disease of any kind. Béla lay on a soft blanket (a gift from a grateful family), basking in the sun. She was concentrating on an encampment similar to the one they were in, about twenty miles up the horizon. In the background, she could hear the Great Bard Geoffrey telling the story of the goddess' birth and her purpose to save man from being cast from the second paradise to a fascinated group of people.
She knew her story almost by heart, now, having heard it about fifty times. 'We should go there, tomorrow,' Béla thought, gazing at the distant encampment. She could feel the anguish radiating from the distant encampment and knew she could help them.
She also realized that if she made too many detours, it was possible that she wouldn't arrive at Southern Depot before their crystal sun began to shine, shutting down all transport to the great ship for the next two months, at least. Somehow, it didn't seem to be as important to get back as it had been.
'Perhaps the journey itself is what's important,' Béla thought to herself, then smiled as she remembered how many old earth philosophers had said exactly that.
She went to sleep in the sunlight, her mind closed to the stares and whispers of the people around her as they tiptoed by, being careful not to awaken the sleeping goddess.
'Geez! I thought you'd never go to sleep!' Elaine complained as she shook Béla awake. They were back in Béla's old quarters aboard the great ship. 'Thanks to you, I'm confined to quarters until further notice! No fun, no sex, no nothing!' 'I had everything under control,' Béla replied angrily. 'You didn't need to blow up that guard!' 'Under control?' Elaine shouted, 'Under control? He shot you!
Christ!' Elaine trounced off the bed and stomped back and forth, unable to control her upset with her older sister.
She had almost lost her! If that horrible man had gotten off a second shot… Béla closed her eyes and dream-walked Elaine through the incident to the conclusion that should have occurred. Béla had just converted a devout follower, whom Elaine promptly vaporized with the ship's laser cannon. Stunned at her new knowledge, Elaine dropped to her knees, sitting with her legs flat on the floor in a 'w'.
When she looked up at her sister, tears were running down her face. 'I killed him,' Elaine said, her voice surprisingly steady, 'for no reason, then. I was being so fucking righteous.
"Anyone who hurts one of us, one of the chosen, gets hurt ten-fold worse!" That's what I've always believed. He hurt you, and I killed him. It felt right at the time…' She looked up into the air around her. 'Yes, Father?' she asked. Elaine faded away.
The room faded away. Béla slept peacefully under the crystal sun, hundreds of miles below the great ship. The next day (when Béla awoke, she considered it the next day, although the crystal sun never moved), the Great Bard Geoffrey and his pet goddess returned to the rail station and convinced the attendant there to let them use the electric rail car they had arrived in to travel to the next station along the equator.
The papers still with the car indicated they had time on it; enough time to actually reach Southern Depot if the bridge had been passable. The only change needed was the destination. Riding in the railcar with the electric motor powering it was completely different than riding in it as it coasted gently down toward the equator.
The motor annoyed Béla in much the same way as the sun when she'd lived on Earth. In addition, there was an odd vibration in the floorboards that physically set her nerves on edge. "That's just the gears," Jeff told her.
"They're not meshing quite right. It's not important." Grimacing, Béla collected as much 'cush' as she could find to put between her rump and that annoying, vibrating floor and sat, silent, watching the scenery roll by. They'd left all their vials of her diluted blood at the death camp behind them for use on any late arrivals, so Béla didn't know what she was going to use to collect her blood in when they arrived at the next camp. "Don't worry about it," Jeff told her.
"We'll just ask for a couple of jars and you can do your 'stand-in-the-sun-and-ask-your-mother-goddess-for-the-cure' routine just like we've been doing since New Hope." It sounded reasonable. For the two of them, it would be easy to pull off. Jeff was a born showman. Béla grinned, remembering her journey across France in the sixteenth century with a traveling 'gentleman doctor'.
That was before the French Revolution, but after the so-called 'Hundred Year' war, but things still got pretty exciting a couple of times. After forty minutes they arrived at the next rail station.
As they felt the car being shunted off the main line, Béla braced for the jolting stop they'd experienced before. They glided smoothly to a stop and a platform appeared alongside the open door at the same level as the floor of the railcar. As the pair stepped out onto the platform, an attendant greeted them, bowing formally.
"Greetings, Goddess," he said, "and salutations to you, Bard Geoffrey. You are expected. Please follow me." Béla and Jeff looked at each other and shrugged, then followed the uniformed attendant down through a tunnel to the ground level.
An open horse-drawn carriage waited at the curb. "The captain of the Lorraine Station wishes you to join him for dinner, if you would," the attendant informed them. "This carriage will take you to his residence." Uttering their thanks, they climbed into the carriage and sat down. The attendant climbed up and took the reins. A whip cracked and the carriage leaped forward, almost causing Jeff to slide off his seat into Béla's lap.
"A hot meal?" Jeff asked. "We haven't done anything yet to deserve it." Béla shrugged. She hadn't picked up any evil intent from the attendant who had greeted them and she had no idea what the station commander might want with them. Evidently, he had heard of them and wanted to meet them in person. After a short five-minute ride, they arrived at a luxurious looking, gated mansion. The gate was open and they rode on through, the carriage stopping at the front entrance.
The driveway continued on around in a large circle to meet itself near the gate. There was a beautiful fountain in the center of the circle spraying water at least thirty feet high from several spouts. Another attendant greeted them formally and held the goddess' hand as she delicately stepped down. Béla was suitably impressed at the manners presented to her. Neither of the attendants she'd met had even glanced at her bare lower half almost like partial nudity was normal, here.
But that didn't stop her from being on full alert. This situation was definitely unfamiliar. On Earth, she had learned that usually when people were this friendly for no particular reason, they either 'had it in' for you, or they wanted something. Either way, she had the distinct feeling she was being set up. She raided every mind she could sense, searching for some evil intent. The servants were simple people with simple desires. She didn't sense anything sinister at all. In fact, for all the people around, it was, mentally, pretty quiet.
Jeff and Béla were led into the main hall, briefly introduced to the station captain, and shown their quarters for their brief stay. "Do you have anything besides your packs?" the captain had asked.
They both said, 'No,' as they were traveling by foot and by rail, visiting as many communities as they could. Once Béla was shown her rooms, she believed she could fall in love with this captain. There was a luxurious bathroom equipped with dual showers and a whirlpool bath. A whirlpool bath might not be as relaxing as the Jacuzzi she'd had back home, but it was much more therapeutic than the communal baths on the great ship, even with the waterfall.
Within five minutes of the time she had been ushered into the room, she was in the bath, surrounded by tiny scented jasmine petals that swirled around as the water caressed her body. Five minutes later she was asleep.
Elaine tapped on her sister's shoulder, waking her up. 'Don't you have anyone else to pester while they sleep?' Béla asked, annoyed. She looked at her sister. Elaine looked excited about something. 'Father is allowing the debarkation to continue,' Elaine told her, excitedly. 'I get to go down to the surface tomorrow!' Béla smiled.
'Great! So, what's the plan?' 'Well, me and some of the others are going to be doing what you're doing,' Elaine told her, radiating excitement. 'Father and the Praetor have approved it all.
We've been watching what you've been doing and how you've been going about it. Father doesn't think there will be any risk to us if we don't let the populace know where the real healing comes from. That 'filling the vials' ritual you do is really what convinced him it was safe for the rest of us.' 'You mean Father prevented the rest of you from coming down because you could heal people?' Béla asked, incredulously.
'That's what it seems, Sis…' Elaine told her. 'Isn't this exciting? I get to go down, play 'goddess', fly around, and have people worship me… I can choose whoever I want or as many as I want to do with whatever I want… Béla laughed, 'That's too many "I wants", Darling! Be careful about being greedy or Father'll bench you, again!' 'Yeah!
That's another thing!' Elaine whined, teasing her oldest sister. 'Why do you get away with the things you get away with? Hmmm?' Béla thought for a minute, seriously wanting to answer her sister's taunt. It was actually a bone of contention between Béla and Melinda, Between oldest sister and newest. 'Well, could be 'cause I'm the prototype,' Béla suggested.
'The rest of you are all later models. The rules you have to follow could be because of all the mistakes Father made with me…" 'You mean like our first fuck-fest?' Elaine asked, coyly. 'We haven't torn each other up like that, since. I really miss it.' 'Fuck-fest?' Béla cried, raising her eyebrows. 'Fuck-fest?? God, Girl, I nearly tore you into little pieces! I could have killed you! You were so far gone you couldn't even regenerate! If someone hadn't reset the thought dampeners, we'd both be dead!' 'Maybe,' Elaine said, leaning forward to kiss her sister, 'but I liked it…' She brushed her lips tenderly against Béla's, then bit her hard on her lower lip, drawing blood.
The sudden pain woke Béla up. "Ah! You're awake, I see," the captain said. Béla looked around. She was in a dark room with bars making up one wall. 'This is a jail cell!' Béla blasted into the captain's mind, intending to knock him cold. There was nothing there.
'I'm in a thought-dampening field!' she suddenly realized. The only way she could get out of one of these things was in her sleep. "What was that interesting mark on your lip that appeared as you woke up?" the captain wanted to know. "It looked at though you were bleeding." Béla remained silent. If he wanted to know what it was, he would have to come into the cell and find out. If she made physical contact, she could control him regardless of the electronic fields around her.
'How in hell did he get father's technology?' Béla asked herself. She was certain that her present antagonist was unaware of her ability to outwit technology like this.
The only reason she was in this cell was that she hadn't expected high tech stuff mixed in with the iron horse technology that manifested on the inner surface of this strange little moon. "I suppose you're wondering how I was able to capture you so easily, 'Goddess'," the captain said, sounding sarcastic, "or should I call you, 'Hethemtima'?" Béla'2 eyes widened. 'Is he another vampire hunter like Torquemada?' she wondered. "Yes, I see you know that name," the captain said.
"Allow me to introduce myself. I am Robert LaCrosse, the Regent of Northern." "Regent?" Béla asked, "Where's your Praetor? A real Regent would have his own Praetor to dispense justice." If he actually possessed a Praetor, that would explain how she'd been so easily fooled the staff that attended her arrival had been mind wiped.
"You needn't worry about the Praetor," the captain told her. "You're not here because of any crimes you've committed. I was of the understanding that you had perished in a fire, nearly a century ago." "News of my demise has been greatly exaggerated," Béla replied, misquoting one of her favorite actors.
"If I haven't committed any crime, why am I here?
And how do you know my real name?" "My Praetor told me who you are," the captain stated. "It knows everything, you know. As to why you are here? I simply want the formula for your vaccine. You weren't carrying any when you arrived. So I must assume that you make it yourself. Your companion wasn't very helpful in this regard. You've fooled him into believing it's in your blood." 'This guy is a fake!' Béla realized, getting pissed, now.
'If he was a real Regent, then he'd know it really is my blood! Especially if he knows who I am… He's missing too much personal information like he read about me in a book or something…' At the captain's mention of Jeff, Béla sat up. In her hand was a small piece of metal from the inside of the door lock. She was getting better at this teleportation stuff. This was the largest thing she'd ever successfully 'ported.
'Before I let him know my cell door won't lock anymore,' Béla thought, 'I'd better find out where Jeff is.' "Is he all right?" Béla asked. "Geoffrey, I mean." "He'll recover," the captain said, "Having one's mind stripped isn't comfortable, of course." Béla looked at the small man with absolutely no expression on her face. Mentally, she added him to her 'kill at first opportunity' list. He was the second one down on that list, superceded only by the monster Torquemada.
With a sudden chill, Béla realized she could kill him without even leaving her cell.
The thought made her tremble with both fear and wanton desire as she realized how close to being omnipotent she was at this moment. "Where is he?" she asked, her voice even more deadly quiet than before.
'Father may be right,' Béla thought to herself, her blood going cold at what she was about to do.
'He may have created a race of demons…' "Where he is now isn't important," the captain told her, not noticing, or perhaps in his arrogance, ignoring, the subtle change in her demeanor.
"What is important is the formula. You will give it to me, now." "All right," Béla said, coldly smiling at him. She stood up and walked to the front of her cell. She touched the bars with her back of her hand, making sure they weren't electrified.
Then she put her open hand between two bars, showing him the little inch square piece of metal in her palm. "Do you know what a computer chip is?" she asked, quietly. The captain quizzicallylooked at the little metal square. He picked it up, holding it close to one eye and examining it. In the brief instant when the Captain's fingers had touched her hand, Béla raided his mind. Now, she knew where Jeff was. She also knew there was no Praetor here.
The captain used drug hypnosis on his staff to control them. He did have experience with a Praetor, though. He used one on the great ship to study during his voyage here over thirty years ago. The demise of the Regent's last surviving daughter (Hethemtima) had been mentioned in a study of current events that he'd run across. "Where are the circuits?" he asked, frowning at it in a puzzled manner.
"They're all in your head, Captain," Béla whispered as the metal chip evaporated out of his fingers. Captain LaCrosse stared at her for a moment. Béla stared back, not daring to move as she watched the life go out of his eyes.
After a few seconds, LaCrosse collapsed to the floor. 'Lobotomy, anyone?' Béla thought to herself, trying to keep her stomach down as it reacted to what she'd just done.
She stood and watched, shivering, swallowing nervously, looking down at the captain's twitching body as he died. After a moment, he stopped twitching. Béla walked over and pushed her cell door open. As she stepped out of the cell and over the dead captain, she could feel other minds in the area.
The thought dampener was set only to occlude the area inside her cell. She knew she wouldn't have to worry about another thought dampener hiding something from her LaCrosse had only been able to smuggle one unit down to the surface, hidden in a shipment of grain.
Béla walked out of the small building she found herself in. There were no armed guards, but there was a servant standing at the entrance. Evidently, LaCrosse didn't trust his servants with weapons. He did have a personal guard unit, but they were currently on perimeter guard to keep the sickies out with orders to shoot to kill. Having only been given the instructions to wait for the captain, the drugged and hypnotized servant had no objection to Béla staying or leaving.
Béla walked up to him and placed her hand on his cheek. She dream-walked him through the removal of the hypnotic influence that affected his free will which had ended with the acceptance of his position in the late captain's household. The servant's name was Richard Bowen.
He had been fortunate enough to be accepted for a position as a personal manservant in the LaCrosse Mansion at the Lorraine Rail Station. 'You are now being permitted, on a trial basis, to continue your service to the new landowner, the Great Bard Geoffrey.
It is your duty, now, to report to the Bard in the Rectory where he is recovering from a minor concussion. Your new duties include familiarizing the new landowner with his estate and its workings. 'That should do it,' Béla thought to herself as she reviewed her work. She realized that she was going to have to do this to every one of the dozen or so servants the late captain had 'employed'. It would be a lot of mental stress for her, but this was a first-rate mansion, fit for a great bard and his goddess.
'I wonder if Father will think I've slipped over the edge murdering the owner of this palace and then claiming it for my own… Is that any better than what Elaine did when she fried that guard?
At least, she thought she was protecting me… But this man was hurting others and had to be stopped. He even wanted to control the cure to this devastating disease that ravages the planet so that he could become even more wealthy and powerful. Béla decided she'd better mind-link with the Praetor and present her case before she was accused of cold-blooded murder.
But first, she'd better handle the other servants and let Jeff know of his new acquisition so he wouldn't be confused by the appearance of his new personal servant.