Long Live the Queen
by Kaol


Kara's eyes remained closed as the tingling wore off. she could feel Kaol's arms locked tightly about her, and hers about him as well. It was a pleasant enough sensation and she was more than a little tempted to linger within his embrace, but there were more important matters at hand, and she could not pause now for a simple physical pleasure. That could come later, perhaps.

Letting go, she opened her eyes and stepped back, eager for her first sight of what this man had assured her would be a ship that travelled the stars. Her brow furrowed in confusion as she stared about her. Something was wrong. This wasn't right. Certainly it wasn't?

"This is wrong, dammit. Something went wrong," Kaol spoke, echoing her unspoken sentiments. She glanced back over at him and noted the pensive expression he now wore. He began pacing back and forth, nervous energy coming off him in waves like a pent up lion, staring anxiously up at the sky and then back at her. "'Ya screwed up, Mark!" he bellowed at the sky, shaking a fist at the blue clouds.

"Is something wrong?" Kara asked, already knowing the answer.

"Is something wrong? Is something wrong?" he replied testily, waving his arms about him, indicating their current landscape. "Does this look like a spaceship to you?"

Indeed, it did not look like a spaceship to Kara, but on the other hand she had no experience in such matters. What it looked like was a jungle not far different from the one they had mysteriously left only seconds before. However, she could tell it was not the same one, for the foliage was much less dense and it took only a casual glance to determine that she had never seen any of these plants before in her life. Nor had any Earthling, she suspected.

Looking up at the light orange sky above was another dead give away that she was far from any place she had ever been before. A part of her mind was fascinated, and like a child in a candy shop she wanted to run from plant to plant examining them. But Kaol's worried expression suggested to her that perhaps fear might be a more appropriate response at the moment. "Are we in danger?" she asked.

Kaol shrugged somewhat petulantly and stopped his pacing for a moment. "I'll be damned if I know. Probably. Through no fault of my own I keep finding myself in situations like this, and the people I encounter are never eager to give me a surprise party. Yes, I think it's fair to say we are likely in danger." He shook his head and walked over to her. "I don't know what is going on here. It seems my fears were right, and Mr. Wizard and Treb didn't have all the bugs worked out of that screwy machine of theirs. It got me to you safely enough, but something screwed up in bringing us back. I have no idea where or when we are."

"Well, I can assure you we aren't on Earth anymore, if that's any help," Kara volunteered, amazed at the calmness in her voice. Not on Earth anymore. How her colleagues at the University would envy her now. There was a dull pain as she wondered if she would ever see any of them again, or any of her friends. She had not really stopped to consider all the ramifications of agreeing to travel with this man. Her actions had been as impetuous as one of those heroines in those cheap novels she read in secret Yet she quickly pushed those thoughts aside, as there was nothing to be done except make the best of her current situation. No looking back. "Will your friends be able to locate us and bring us back?"

"I sure hope so. I have to believe they will. On the other hand, it's possible we were sent here for a reason. I've found deux ex machina the guiding principle of my life, in spite of my personal feelings on the matter," he paused then, and a worried smile, but a smile nonetheless, curled the side of his mouth. Listen to me go on. We did make it here in one piece, and I guess I should be grateful that our atoms aren't scattered across the galaxy." He paused a moment more, sucking on his bottom lip, and then spoke suddenly. "Do you still have that red gem? Maybe that had something to do with us being deflected?"

Kara opened her palm and looked down at the stone held there. She had forgotten about it in her surprise at their sudden and unexpected change of location. It glowed like a tiny lamp in her hand, and she could feel a comfortable heat emanating from it . "It's right here," she responded.

"Don't lose it," Kaol said. "We need to get you and that gem back to the Pegasus in one piece. That was fairly powerful magic you did back on Earth, and we need to analyze your capabilities further. Tell you what, why don't we give it a brief test here. Hold it out and try to blast that tree over there."

Kara nodded, stepping forward. She felt somewhat foolish in this exercise, as she adamantly refused to believe in magic. Yet if there was a scientific principle underlying the powers of the gem she had discovered, she would only uncover it through testing and categorizing its powers. Concentrating, she held the gem forward and aimed it at the tree, wishing the object to burst into flame.

Nothing happened. Lips pressed in a tight line, she concentrated even harder, picturing the tree exploding like a giant torch. Still nothing. She held the gem up to her face and examined it more closely. It still pulsed with a pink light, but other than that seemed an ordinary, if expensively large, gem. Shrugging, she glanced over to Kaol. "I can't seem to make it work again."

"Don't worry about it. I just thought it was a shot. I figure Mark, wherever the so and so is, will have a better idea how to guide you in its use. Just make sure to keep it safe. It may still come in handy for us." He stood with hands on hips and studied their surroundings. "Well, I guess there's nothing to be done for it then. Whether we're here for a purpose or blind bad luck, it doesn't seem we'll benefit any by just standing around. Let's start walking. It's possible we could be marooned here for some time, and we should try to find civilization, if there is any here. I'm sure Mark is busting his posterior trying to figure out a way to bring us home. In the mean time, let's make the best of it. If we're here for a reason, we'll probably discover it soon enough."

Kara smiled back. "I've no idea if I should be agreeing with you or not, but I can't think of a better plan at the moment." She paused and slid her hand in her pocket, placing the magical red gem within easy reach. "Let's go then," she said, noting what appeared to be a primitive path worming its way through the jungle. She began walking and heard Kaol's heavy tread behind her. "So, we really haven't had much chance for talk so far. Is there anything you want to know about me?" she asked.

"Oh, I don't know. So many questions, so much time. Are you married, seeing someone, have a boyfriend, want one?"

She glanced over her shoulder and saw Kaol waggling his eyebrows teasingly, boyish grin beneath mirthful eyes. She gave an uncertain grin back. Men from her time were hardly so forward. This might take some getting used to. Put did she have a beau? Not yet, she thought, and glanced over her shoulder once again. But the day was young.


"But I thought you said it would work! I thought you said it was safe!"

Mark cringed beneath Sarann's verbal blows as he and Treb frantically worked on the malfunctioning time machine. The fact was, he was certain it had worked initially. His magical powers had confirmed that Kaol had encountered the woman they had sent him back to rescue. However, his powers could not confirm whether Kaol had successfully completed his mission and saved the woman's life or not. He had expected to find that out when Kaol returned at the end of the allotted time. Knowing Kaol, Mark suspected his friend had succeeded, but would likely return complaining about how hard it had been. Now that his return had been botched up, Mark knew he would be hearing about this for some time to come, provided they eventually got him back, that was.

And that was what had him worried. How were they going to get him back? And in addition, where the hell was he?

"It was supposed to be safe," Treb insisted, his handsome face impassive. He set aside his laser welder for a moment and faced Sarann. "I wouldn't have allowed Kaol to go if I felt there was a real chance of anything like this happening. I know you're worried about him. We all are. But the fact is the machine seems to be operating just fine. Mark and I have been going over it and over it and we cannot find anything wrong."

"Well then, why isn't Kaol back?" Sarann asked, anxiety still evident in her tone.

Mark sat heavily down on a stool in the disheveled workroom of the quiet spaceship. "I wish I knew," he admitted, shaking his head. "I really wish I knew." He slapped the time machine in disgust. "Stupid machine."


"Hold up a moment," Kaol called. Kara turned about and saw him halted beside a large bush dotted with beautiful red and yellow flowers. He reached out tentatively and touched a petal.

"What?" Kara asked.

"You can never be too sure on a strange planet. For all we know, these buds could be covered with acid. "Better safe than sorry," he explained, then reached out and plucked a bud off. "Pretty," he commented, matter of factly.

Kara gave an uncertain smile. "I suppose," she said.

"You suppose?" he said, eyebrow raised in question. "And here I was about to offer it to you. But hey, if you don't want it, I guess I can just toss it." He made a gesture as if to throw it back into the brush, and paused to see her reaction.

Kara's mouth opened, but no sound emerged. He was teasing her, she knew, but wasn't certain how to react. On one hand she found it sweet that he was offering her a flower, as it had been too long since a man had made such an old fashioned gesture towards her. Yet she wasn't sure if he was sincere or simply having fun at her expense. He was a bit of a mystery, and that both intrigued and annoyed her, as she was used to being in control of such situations.

"You're going to catch a bug with your mouth open like that," he said, still smiling. "Here, why don't you take this. I'll bet it would look really pretty in your hair. Really, here you go," he said, handing her the flower.

"Thank you," she said, angry at herself for blushing, but totally helpless to stop it. His fingers lingered a minute over hers, before withdrawing. As he smiled at her then, she thought he actually looked handsome, but then he looked away as if embarrassed himself, and she diverted her attention to the flower. Taking it, she tucked the blossom in her hair behind her ear. She knew she had to look a wreck, as she had not bathed since being submerged in quicksand, and her hair was a tangled mess . Still, Kaol didn't seem to mind. She smiled out of Kaol's sight and began walking again.


"Stupid damn, mother, frag, jeez," shouted Treb, before his speech deteriorated into truly colorful epithets, and he tossed his tool at the machine.

"Feel better?" Mark asked, pinching the bridge of his nose and shaking his head.

"Much," Treb growled, and stomped out of the room.


"I think you'll find things different if and when I get you to my time," Kaol responded, continuing his impromptu lecture on life in the greater galaxy as they continued their trek through the jungle. "People are judged more on their abilities than on their species or sex. Not to say that there aren't all kinds of prejudices, mind you," he added, chewing idly on a dead piece of grass. "Myself, I find Mashobas an intolerable race of spine snapping simpletons. They smell bad too. So I guess some prejudices are just unavoidable."

"Unavoidable?" Kara asked, looking over her shoulder once again. She had found their conversation over the past hour to be at once intriguing, frightening, and fascinating. It had occurred to her that she might use those same words to describe her companion. But this universe he described living in would no doubt overwhelm her when she first arrived, and so she was determined to be as prepared as possible for when she finally did arrive. "Why should prejudice of any kind by unavoidable? It seems like there's room for work in this universe of yours."

Kaol chuckled. "Never said there was....

Kara shrieked and Kaol was cut off in mid-sentence as they were summarily jerked into the air and slammed together. She heard Kaol grunt as the air was knocked out of him, and felt a sharp pain in her neck as her head snapped forward and her forehead bounced against his chest. She sneezed violently upon bumping her nose, and shook her head to clear it. What the hell had happened?

Painfully twisting her head about, she saw that they were suspended in some kind of woven rope net, dangling a substantial distance from the surface of the jungle floor. Their bodies were sandwiched tightly together, and she found herself unable to move to any appreciable degree, one leg poking through a gap in the net and the other twisted painfully behind her. Once again Kara thought that it might have been nice to be close to this man, but found it difficult to appreciate in their current circumstances.

"You okay?" Kaol wheezed, speaking into the blonde hair topping her head.

She looked up and saw his face was red and strained. "I'm okay, but what about you?" she asked, suddenly more concerned about his welfare than her own.

Kaol shook his head. "Not sure. Maybe hurt my left arm. Can't move it to find out. Maybe nothing. Maybe more. But it hurts like hell, and that's no lie." He gave a strained smile. "This is really embarrassing when it happens to us hero types. Unfortunately, it seems to happen to me with humiliating regularity."

"And you're supposed to be one of those hero types, I gather?" she grinned bravely back. "Well, at least we know this planet is inhabited. Maybe we're going to find the folks you were looking for."

"Yeah, and maybe they'll have us for dinner, and I don't mean as guests of honor," he grunted through grit teeth.

"Maybe I can use my gem to get us free," she said, with a sudden bit of inspiration, remembering the gem in her pocket, She was reluctant even to suggest this, as its seemingly magical powers were not something she was comfortable using yet, and it certainly had failed her in her last effort to make use of it. She did not understand the gem, and was finding it increasingly difficult to believe it had saved her life only hours before. It seemed more like a dream with each passing hour.

"Good idea, Kara," Kaol hissed. "In fact, if I wasn't suffering excruciating pain right now, I'd have probably come up with the very same idea, You're gonna do just fine in the future if you can think on your feet, or rather off your feet, like this."

"If only..." she murmured, trying to free her hand from its position behind Kaol's back. But the net held it pinned there, and she could not get the leverage to pull free.

"Forget it," Kaol murmured. "The welcoming committee has arrived."

Kara looked down immediately, and saw what Kaol was referring to. A group of women were approaching along the path, and it was clear they had seen the two of them dangling from the tree. Kara suspected they were the ones who had set the trap, and studied them closely, trying to determine their intentions. She had some training in anthropology, among many other subjects, and she quickly surmised they were dealing with a somewhat primitive culture.

Their garb was quite revealing, and would have scandalized most American women. Kara was not so easily scandalized, and studied their outfits for future reference. They consisted of quite limited qualities of dark leather, crisscrossing the breasts and hips. In addition, they wore bright feathers in a sort of crown about their long, thick hair. To a woman, they all carried various weapons of a primitive variety; spears, knives, bows. Kara did not find that especially encouraging.

And then it struck her. There was not a man to the group! She would have expected a primitive scouting party to be composed of mostly or all men. Traditionally in such cultures the males would do the hunting and fighting, while the women remained behind for the more traditional duties of child rearing and horticulture. It was impossible to say for certain, but it seemed a fair bet that this was a matriarchal society they had stumbled upon.

Kara felt herself growing excited at the prospect. A tribe of Amazons! Such groups had been the stuff of legend on Earth, and here she was discovering one in actual existence. What a discovery this would be! She was about to mention her hypothesis to Kaol when one of the women swung her spear in a sharp arc and cut the rope suspending them. Kara heard Kaol cry out as they landed, and a grunt of pain snuck through her own teeth as they clicked shut on impact.

Kara remained unable to move, tangled in the net, lying atop Kaol. She watched with apprehension as a tall, dark-haired woman approached. She was an incredible specimen of womanhood, her figure a well-rounded hourglass of which Kara could not help feeling a twinge of envy. Kara knew that back on Earth this woman would have been enthusiastically courted by the best of male society. The worst would have likely given it a go as well. Now though, the woman's eyes were dark, a veritable thunderstorm brewing behind them, and Kara felt a twinge of fear. This woman could run her through with her spear in a second, and there was nothing Kara could do about it. Kara was still unable to reach her gem, and was not at all confident it would work even if she did. For all she knew, the power it had unleashed was a one time phenomenon. She looked at Kaol, hoping he was intending to live up to his heroic mantle, but his eyes were squeezed shut in pain, and it did not appear rescue was coming from that direction. It was up to her to do something, but what? Hello," Kara tried, keeping her voice as steady as she could, deciding diplomacy might be her best bet.

The woman's eyes widened slightly, and she nodded her head in response. "Greetings, sister," the amazon responded. "I apologize for catching you in this trap along with your slave." The woman gestured at two of the others in her group, beauties in their own right, and they began loosening the trap from about Kara and Kaol. "My name is Esiol," the woman said, holding a hand out to Kara.

Kara took it and stood up somewhat gingerly. She was still sore from the fall, even though Kaol's body had been courteous enough to absorb most of the impact. "My name is Kara Novva," she responded primly. She turned back to Kaol. His eyes were open now, but unfocused. He was cradling his arm and looking up at the business end of several spears the women held on him. If she didn't act soon, Kaol might become a human pincushion. Kara spun back around to Esiuol. "That's my friend . You don't need to worry about him. He won't hurt you. He's injured, as a matter of fact. He needs help."

The leader, as Kara now knew Esiuol must be, stared at her with a somewhat bewildered expression. "Did you just refer to this male as a 'friend'? And what is this manner of garb you both cover yourselves in? Are you so ashamed of your body? From what land do you come where they dress in such a ludicrous manner?"

Kara looked down at the skimpy remains of her once expensive safari outfit, and then over to the dark pants and blue shirt her companion wore. Clearly, they would not be mistaken for natives. Esiuol was asking a number of questions that would be difficult to answer, and Kara doubted that she would believe the truth. In addition, it was clear she had flubbed in describing Kaol as a friend. It appeared that not only was this a matriarchal society, but one in which males were viewed as second class citizens. She had to play along for both her own and Kaol's sake. "Ah, did I say friend? It must have been that I bumped my head. No, he is merely a, uh, a slave of mine. Yes, he, um, he gives me massages. Yeah, yeah, massages, uh huh. And he, uh, he was, uh, trying to escape and, and, uh..."

"Trying to escape!" Esiuol bellowed and raised her spear. "We shall handle that here and now."

"No, wait!" Kara cried, frantic, raising her hands up, ready to grab the spear if necessary. "Don't kill him. He, uh, he's really a great masseuse."

Esiuol turned back to her and lowered her weapon. Her eyes narrowed to twin lines of flint as she studied Kara. "You plead for the life of a male? Simply because he gives you massages?" she asked, her mouth wrinkling as if biting into something bitter. "There is something about you I do not trust, Kara. I fear I must insist upon your return to our village until I can make out the rights of this. Perhaps your story is true. Or perhaps you are a spy. I must insist we detain you until the truth is found out."

"Fine," Kara agreed, hoping that she could learn more on the way back to the village. It was a delicate game she was playing, and she would have to tread carefully. If she spoke without care, she could endanger herself and Kaol even further. She glanced back at Kaol, trying to keep her face impassive, not wanting to reveal any emotions. She could see he was in pain, and her heart ached with the desire to rush over and comfort him. But that would only cause them both more difficulty.

He saw her expression, and nodded almost imperceptibly. Kara swallowed a sigh. He seemed to understand. They were in danger, and it seemed it was on her shoulders to get them out alive. Unless, of course, his friends were able to rescue them soon. Frowning, Kara began to worry that she had made a dreadful mistake in agreeing to journey with this man. And his life might be in jeopardy as well for believing she would be a worthy companion.

Her hand reached carelessly up to her hair, and she found the flower gone. With an almost frantic sense of urgency she patted her head to make sure, and her gaze darted over the ground, looking for the token. She spotted it lying crushed beneath one of the warrior women's feet. Her mouth opened as if in physical pain at this loss, and she hoped it was not symbolic. Taking a deep breath, Kara wrestled her emotions back into line and then, jaw firm, she marched forward, determined to see them both through this encounter successfully.


"Anything?" Sarann asked, her voice glum.

Mark looked up from the crystal ball he had been staring into for the past several hours. So far he had honed in on the Federation congress debating the use of airbags in spacecraft, a marital spat between two Zaruthean probblenoids, and a somewhat amusing rerun of Gilligan's Island. But nothing of Kaol. Air whistled from his nose in disgust as he eased back in his chair. "Diddly-squat," he replied. "Back on my planet these crystal ball thingees wire supposed to help you do magic and that sort of thing. I thought if I conjured up one, it might help me locate Kaol and this woman, if she is with him."

Sarann got up and walked around behind him. Her hands rested on the back of his neck and began kneading the tight muscles there. "I know you're doing your best, Mark Just don't give up, okay? He can't die like this."

"Die? Who said anything about die?" Mark replied. "For all we know, he has landed in the bordello of the Women from Planet 38-DD and is having the time of his life." Mark paused, considering. "Hmmm. Come to think of it, maybe I better go after him personally. It might require some hands on work."

"Come on," Sarann said, slapping him lightly on the back of the head. "Quit joking. He could be dead or dying out there and there's not a thing we can do about it."

"Look, Sarann," Mark replied, serious once more. "I'm as worried about Kaol as you are. But the fact is there just isn't that much we can do for him the way things stand. I suspect that the time machine did not malfunction, but that he was diverted from returning to the Pegasus for a specific reason. You've been with us long enough to know that things like that seem to happen. It's as if there is some mystical force out there that continues to use us towards its own ends. Luckily those ends seem to be good, but even if they weren't we are powerless to do anything about it. I'm a fairly powerful sorcerer, but I'm also new at this still, and I'm doing everything I can."

"I know you are, Mark. I know. But I feel so helpless. I'm just worried about him."

Mark reached behind him and patted Sarann's hand tenderly. "I know you 're worried, Sarann. We all are. It's just..."

At that moment another figure entered the room. Sarann looked up and saw it was April, the Pegasus' nominal communications officer. Sarann frowned at the interruption. She could not understand why Kaol kept her on board. She understood, intellectually at least, that Kaol had a thing for her once, but it was also her understanding that it was ancient history now. At this point the woman added little to the functioning of the crew, but did a fine job of annoying the majority of them. Except for Alice, Sarann amended. They were like two peas in a pod, which she felt was an appropriate metaphor for their intellects as well. "Hi guys," April said, brightly. "How are things going?"

"Fine, except for the fact that Kaol is lost someplace and somewhere in time and we have no way of bringing him back," snapped Sarann, releasing her frustration on her crewmate.

"Wow, sounds serious," April said, turning back around. "Well, I'll see you later. I was just looking for Alice. I promised her I'd give her a perm this afternoon. Let me know if anything changes." She smiled briefly, and then turned and exited.

Mark and Sarann exchanged a silent glance before shaking their heads in unison. "Maybe we should have sent her like Kaol suggested in the first place," Mark murmured, and was rewarded with a nervous chuckle from Sarann.


Kara studied her image in the polished mirror with some skepticism. While she had little difficulty with the native women wearing such revealing outfits, she wasn't sure she was comfortable in such gear herself. However, she really could not protest, as she wanted to ingratiate herself with Esiuol as much as possible. Upon their return to the amazon's city, her hypothesis had been confirmed, and she found that Esiuol was indeed queen of this tribe. Additionally, Kara had come to discover this society was far more advanced than she had initially believed.

Kara tugged on the thin strips of leather, trying without success to get them to cover more of her anatomy, before giving up with a shrug. Truth be told, the tattered remains of her safari outfit had covered her little better. At any rate, she decided she had nothing to hide anyway, and turned and walked back across the room.

The city itself was far more impressive than the circle of grass huts she had expected. These women had built themselves a castle of sorts, hewn from a beautiful, pink marble. Or, more likely their slaves had built it. Finely woven tapestries served as decorations and hung upon her walls, several depicting battle scenes in which, Kara assumed, Esiuol's tribe emerged triumphant. Others depicted couples, trios, and crowds engaged in various sexual acts that had Kara staring in astonishment, before bringing color to her cheeks. She did not look away, however.

Her bed was enormous and her mattress seemed filled with enough feathers to have defrocked a flock of geese. Beside it was a large basin cut into the stone floor, with several spigots arranged around the sides. It seemed available as a bath, though upon her arrival in the high walled city she had been bathed elsewhere. It had been a relief to get the dried quicksand out of her hair and various body crevices. So far, Kara felt she had been treated like royalty in this city. All in all, she had to admit that she had never in her life stayed in accommodations quite so impressive.

She fingered the red jewel that now dangled low about her neck. Kara had been able to convince Esiuol that it was an important talisman to her, and so Esiuol had quickly ordered it set in a gold pendant with accompanying chain. The fact was, Kara and Esiuol had hit it off remarkably well during their journey back to the city. Kara did not agree with all the Queen had to say...far from it...but was nonetheless impressed by her power and authority.

Kara frowned as she stopped to consider Kaol's position. He had not fared so well, and had been roughly handled the entire trip back. That disturbed Kara, but she had been impressed by how stoically he had stood up to this treatment, even giving her an uncertain, but somehow reassuring grin when she caught his eye. Esiuol had assured her that his wounds would be taken care of once they arrived, but would speak no more of the matter following that. Kara continued to hope that if she was able to continue to win favor with Esiuol, she might be able to at least get him free of the city. Whether she escaped or not, she had to help him.

A knock on the door intruded on her thoughts. Clearing her throat, she called, "Come in."

The door was pushed open by a copper headed male carrying a tray of food. Kara's eyes widened as he entered the room, head discretely bowed. He was clad in the barest of leather garments, and his body was tanned and muscled, seeming to have been carved with love by a master artist. Involuntarily, Kara could feel her heartbeat begin a tripping dance in her chest. The fact was, since she had been here, she had seen nothing but perfect male specimens, when she had seen males at all.

"Your dinner, Mistress," he murmured, setting the tray on the table, and turned to leave. Kara swallowed with some difficulty as she noted the view from this angle was just as impressive as from the other. There seemed very little body fat anywhere, and she was looking. "Ah, excuse me," she called out.

The man turned and nodded towards her, a worried expression crossing his features. "Yes, Mistress?"

Kara found herself staring for a moment, and then remembered she had spoken first. What was it she had been thinking about a moment before? It had seemed relatively important. Oh yes! "A male was brought into the city with me. Do you know what has happened to him?"

The man shook his head. "No, Mistress. I do not. I can seek to find out for you, if it would please you."

Kara nodded. "Do that, please."

He nodded again, relief clear in his blue eyes. "At your leave," he replied, turning and exiting.

Kara shivered slightly to herself. She pursed lips and gave a low whistle. Goodness. She could really come to like this place. Yes, she certainly could. All her life she had existed in a society which treated women as second class citizens, and while she had preached equality to those who would listen, she had to admit that she quite enjoyed being in a situation where the roles were reversed.

From her conversations with Esiuol, and from what she had seen thus far, men were little more than chattel here. They performed only the most menial of chores, and it was clear that only the most attractive were allowed out in public. Kara had no doubt they were available for other uses should any lady demand it. She glanced back over at a mural depicting three men and a woman, who was doing a remarkable job of keeping all three occupied. Wow. She sucked in a deep breath of air. With men like that walking around, it was a wonder the women here got anything accomplished at all.

She moved over to the tray and began sampling the food, nibbling a bit of this, tasting that. There were various salted meats of a kind she had not eaten before, tasting something like pork, and some deliciously sweet fruits as well.

After she had eaten her fill, Kara went and laid back in her bed, sinking deeply into the thick softness. I could get to like it here, she thought. Maybe equality wasn't all it was cracked up to be, after all Maybe it was time she stopped trying to win a battle she could never win, and settle into a world where women were appreciated. Kara couldn't say she approved of the way men were treated here, but she thought she might be able to get used to it. With her intelligence, Kara also felt certain she could rise high in this society quite quickly.

Kaol was nice, and she knew that she was starting to nurture some feelings for him, but physically he certainly couldn't compete with what she had seen in this city so far. If she got him free and was forced to remain behind, well, that would be a cross she would just have to bear. With a smile glued to her features, she fell into a deep, comfortable sleep.


"Anything yet?" Treb asked, sticking his head in through the hatchway.

"Nothing," Mark sighed, and looked away back out the porthole at the limitless expanse of stars.


"Hmmm, wha..." Kara mumbled as she snapped up in bed. Something had awakened her, and she immediately saw what it was. She had company standing in the doorway. The proud form of Esiuol was accompanied by an adolescent female who displayed something of a resemblance to the tribe chieftain, if not possessing the extravagant form of the elder warrior. Kara suspected they were related in some way.

Between them stood Kaol, and Kara's mouth slowly opened in surprise and sympathy, feeling her heart going out to him once more. In an instant she was ashamed at how she had almost forgotten about him since her arrival. He stared at her with a somewhat embarrassed expression, meeting her eye and then looking quickly away.

He was dressed much as the other males in this city, wearing the briefest of coverings, leaving little to the imagination. Although his wrists were shackled together, Kara noted that he no longer appeared in physical pain, and his current discomfort seemed solely related to his present situation. She allowed herself a second look at his body and thought that it still looked pretty good, though she had become somewhat jaundiced after seeing all the superior specimens of manhood that populated this place. Still, she had seen a lot worse and found she quite approved of his current outfit. Her eyes flicked back to Esioul expectantly.

"We have treated your male and are returning him to you," Esiuol spoke. "However, Rogabagdoogah, our medicine woman, has found strange ideas in his head, ideas that make us rather suspicious of your relationship with this male."

Kara's eyes flicked worriedly over to Kaol, who shrugged. "Whoops," he grinned sheepishly.

"Silence!" Esiuol barked, cuffing him behind the ear. Kaol winced, and looked as if he had something to say about that, but kept his tongue.

Kara watched this interchange with concern. Had they read his mind? What did they know? What relationship did they know of or suspect?

"I am reminded that you called this man your 'friend' earlier. Such ideas are heretical and will not be permitted in this city while I am ruler."

"Perhaps it's time for an election then?" Kaol asked, and then shut up again under the combined glares from Esiuol and Kara.

"But I told you before, I was hit on the head," Kara stammered, trying to salvage a slippery situation she felt sliding out of her control.

"Indeed, so you said. But there are too many inconsistencies to your tale. You are a stranger, travelling with a male, although you say he is an escaped slave. Yet you show concern for him and his injuries. One might almost think you would treat him as an equal."

"Him! An equal! You must be joking!" Kara responded, trying to get into the spirit of Esiuol's mind set and pull herself out of the pit she felt herself descending into. "He's a man! How could he be my equal! Only in his fantasies could he ever be as good as a woman. He is good only for serving me and other women!" She saw Kaol's flummoxed expression, and felt like dodging the daggers shooting from his eyes.

There go any thoughts of romance I might have had with him, she thought, with some sadness. But she had a feeling this was the only way she could save their skins.

"Well spoken," said Esiuol, looking over at the younger woman on the other side of Kaol. "Listen well, sister. Hear another elder speak the true words." Esiuol looked back over at Kara. "My younger sister, Taranda, next in line for the throne, has taken the notion that boys can be enjoyed as peers. The folly of youth," Esiuol shook her head. "If she ever wants to be an effective leader she will have to forget such heretical foolishness. But back to business. While you speak a good game, words are meaningless without action behind them. So we are going to have you undergo the endurance ritual with this male to prove your words regarding your relationship with him."

Kara saw Kaol's eyes widen and he turned to look at Esiuol in wonder. Kara was impressed by Kaol's control thus far. He had to be itching to voice his outrage at this treatment, but he had played along for the most part, leaving the ball in Kara's court. Yet she could sense his control weakening and he might get them in worse trouble if he started talking and insisting he would not be treated this way.

"Ah, just what is this 'endurance ritual' you mentioned?" Kara asked, unease creeping into her tone.

"Nothing you should find unpleasant," Esiuol commented, her lips twitching into a smile. "In fact, you should find it rather, shall we say, invigorating? Normally it is a coming of age ritual we save for our young women. But if you are to be part of our tribe this will be a way of you proving yourself worthy."

"Yes, but what do I have to do?"

"You will see," Esiuol commented dryly. "Taranda, give the male the injection."

"Injection!" Kaol snapped at last. "Hold it! Time out! I'm not taking any injection. Kara, use the gem for gosh sake! Stop this nonsense!"

"Silence!" Esiuol barked, grabbing the needle from Taranda and stabbing it into Kaol's thigh. Kaol stared at it, mouth gaping open and glanced back up at Kara, fear evident in his green eyes.

"Oh boy," he moaned.

"Now," Esiuol continued. "I need you to drink this," she said, handing a clear vial to Kara.

Kara took it and peered with some suspicion at the red liquid. She felt uneasy, as if she were trapped in quicksand once more, only this time without Kaol to come to her rescue. She had no idea what Kaol had been injected with, and wondered if Esiuol planned to poison them. But that didn't make sense. She could have them killed outright, and would have no need to resort to such measures. "What is it?" she asked, holding the vial up to the light streaming through the window.

"A pleasure enhancer," Esiuol remarked, eyes sparkling. "Drink it."

Kara considered what would happen if she refused. None of the images were particularly pleasant. She would have to play this through and hope that she would find an opening to escape and free Kaol. While part of her would not mind staying in this culture, she was finding Esiuol's actions less and less acceptable. Her eyes flicked over to Taranda, who was frowning slightly. Sighing, Kara lifted the vial. She drained the contents and smiled at Esiuol. "Bottoms up," she said.

"That is certainly one of many options," agreed Esiuol with a leer.

The liquid tingled going down, burning like fire in her belly, but it was a good fire. She felt the mixture spreading through her system, and realized that there was some very fast acting drug in there. A very nice fast acting drug. Very, very nice. "Mmmmm," she purred, feeling her skin start to tingle. Oh my, but she was feeling good. Very good, in fact. Her tongue ran over her lips, and she found herself becoming sexually aroused. She looked over at Kaol and saw him in a different light. Her eyes smoldered as they ran over his form. He gad seemed attractive before. Now she knew she had to have him. She had to have him now.

Esioul's laugh distracted her, and she glanced over at the tall leader. "I see the drug is taking effect. Very good. You will now make use of your male in a manner that will clearly show you once and for all who is the superior. If you really did believe that males were your equal, as our medicine woman has suggested, that will change soon. You will use him and throw him away, thereby proving your suitability for our tribe."

Kara was not interested in the woman's talk. She felt herself trembling with sexual energy, and eyed Kaol with a predatory gleam. Her eyes met his, and she saw a similar hunger there. Her teeth gnawed her lip in anticipation. She let her gaze drift downward and saw with satisfaction that he was as excited as she. Apparently there had been something in the injection he had been given as well, or perhaps he was simply responding to her arousal. "I want him," she growled, low in her throat. "Leave now."

"And you shall have him," Esioul agreed, hunger in her own voice as well. "And have him, and have him, and have him. But you shall do so under my direction. I believe I can teach you quite effectively."


"It's been over 24 hours since he was due back," Treb said quietly to Mark, careful not to awaken Sarann, who had finally succumbed to exhaustion. Her head rested on the steel table, mouth hanging half open.

"I can tell time, Treb," Mark snapped back, too many hours awake and too many black coffees taking their toll "Do your talents also extend to weather forecasting?"

"Back off, Mark," Treb said, voice calm. "Maybe you better get yourself some sleep."

"I know I should. But I'm starting to worry. I kept thinking that Kaol would reappear in a matter of time. But I'm starting to think we may have to deal with the idea that Kaol is not coming back to us."

"Bullshit. We're not going to be so lucky. He'll be back. We both know the machine was functioning properly, and that means something intentionally diverted him from returning. If that's the case, you should expect it to take more than a day to accomplish whatever he was called to do. Besides, we can work some more on the machine in the mean time."

"What are you talking about? We just agreed the machine was operating fine."

"I know," Treb replied. "But I've been working on some calculations, and if we boost the energy levels and make a few modifications, it's possible we can jerk him out of whatever situation he finds himself in. But, if we do that, we run the risk of screwing up whatever he was sent to do."

Mark sighed wearily. "I don't care. If it's important, we can probably send him back. At this moment he could be dying, just as Sarann has suggested. Anything is worth a shot at this point. I just hope he's not hurt, wherever he is."


It was good, Kara thought. It was very good. She was no virgin, and had enjoyed the attentions of several lovers in the past, but nothing came close to comparing to this. She and Kaol had been going at it for over three hours so far, and neither were showing any interest in slowing. Esiuol had acted as a master of ceremonies, orchestrating the events and occasionally lending a helping hand when necessary. Kara would have thought herself too shy to engage in sexual activity in front of an audience, but she found herself far less inhibited than she had ever been before. In the back of her mind she realized the drug was playing a major role in this. But the front of her mind didn't care.

Kara had never believed in sex for the pure physical joy of it, feeling the emotional component as important as the physical. Now, as her body responded to Kaol, she found her feelings responding as well. There had been something, some spark that had passed between them from the moment she had first seen him, her head bursting free of that quicksand bog. He was no Apollo, but he was attractive in his own way, and he had treated her well, had shown her respect. It had occurred to her that she might eventually find herself linked to him in a romantic way, and this feeling had grown with each minute in his company. Now they were linked physically, and she found herself falling quickly in love with him. If it had been Esiuol's idea to dehumanize Kaol by this prolonged sexual encounter, it had backfired terribly.

Kara gasped with pleasure as her attention returned to the business at hand. In the past few hours, Esiuol and Taranda had introduced Kara to sexual positions she had not known existed, and if she had been told of them, she would have not believed them physically impossible . Now she found they were not only possible, but they introduced her to levels of pleasure previously beyond her comprehension. Modesty had been thrown out the window, and she had even let Taranda join them for a brief threesome. Kara was hot, sweaty, and happier than she could ever remember having been. Climax built upon climax until she felt her body would explode. But it did not, and like a junkie, she craved more and more.

At the moment, she and Kaol were rolling about in the sunken bath alongside her bed . It had been filled with a warm and fragrant mud, and before long, she and Kaol were coated in the slippery substance. Their bodies slipped and slid over one another, hands grasping and squeezing muscled flesh. Like a drowning swimmer, Kara's mouth sought his as if it held life-giving oxygen. They had exchanged few words since their marathon sexual encounter began, but she felt fairly certain he was enjoying himself as well. She certainly had physical evidence of that. Whatever drug they had given him left him with an inhuman stamina for which she was indescribably grateful.

"Take him in," Esioul bellowed, slapping Taranda on the back in excitement. "Drain the man! Show who is the master. Show him who is in control."

Grabbing him by the hair, Kara pulled his head forward, burying his face in the soft flesh of her breasts. Kara would show them all who was in control and screamed in the satisfaction of doing so.


Sarann walked into the room where Mark and Treb sat, going over the blueprint Treb had hastily drawn up. "I just had a bad feeling," she said. "I feel almost certain Kaol is in grave danger! Like he is suffering horribly!"

Mark looked up from the plans, circles under his eyes, and scratched his beard. "Sarann, you've no way of knowing that. I'm the one with the magic powers around here, remember? I'm sure Kaol is fine. He's a big boy and can handle himself. Besides, Treb here thinks he's come up with a way to get Kaol back to us, wherever he may be."

Sarann frowned, clearly not comforted. "I'd like to believe you. But I just have a had feeling he is suffering terribly."


Kara gasped as Taranda dumped a bucket of warm water over her, washing free the stimulating mud coating she had worn only moments before. Kara suffered the cleansing with some impatience. Kaol was being washed off across the room, and she felt an almost physical agony at being away from him for even a brief period. While she knew the drug had to be at least partly responsible for her feelings, she wondered how long this marathon encounter would last. Could it be that she would never be satiated? Perhaps Esiuol planned to have them engage in sex until their hearts gave out. Still, Kara thought with a wanton smile, there were a lot worse ways to go.

Yet as Kara rose, eager for another round with Kaol, Taranda leaned close to her and whispered in her ear. "If you care for this man, you must act quickly," she said softly. "I would help you if I could, but you must act soon or it will be too late. His life depends on your actions."

Kara did not turn her head, stifling her surprise. It appeared Esiuol had more of a rebel in her midst than she suspected. Kara wondered if the Queen realized just how rebellious her younger sister was. Kara stopped to consider how much better this city might be if the young one were in charge. But Esiuol seemed hail and hearty, and it was unlikely the youngster would assume the throne anytime soon . Yet what of Taranda's warning? What did she mean? Kara's eyes sought out her pendant, now resting with her hastily discarded clothes across the room.

"Come, come," shouted Esiuol, interrupting her thoughts. "You aren't tired yet, are you? Your slave is ready for more, and if you do not take him, I will."

Kara surprised herself by glaring darkly at the Queen. Over my dead body, she thought. Nobody would take Kaol besides her, and she was surprised by the intensity of that emotion. "I'm ready," she growled, her passion a ravening monster taking over and making her forget Taranda's whispered warning.

"I thought you might be," Esiuol replied with a knowing smile. "Now come here and lie down on this tapestry. "

Kara did as instructed, as she had been doing all afternoon. It occurred to her that whatever she had taken had also made her extremely suggestible. Yet as Kaol approached she decided she didn't really care how suggestible she might be, as long as the suggestions involved their bodies in close proximity. She laid down on the tapestry, and Kaol immediately lowered himself on top of her. His lips found the sensitive spot at the corner of her jaw, and she shivered with excitement.

"Raise one arm above your head," Esiuol ordered, and Kara did so immediately, responding without thought. Taranda and Esioul then began to roll them up in the carpet, so that only their heads and Kara's right arm peaked out from the top. Through her eyelashes, Kara saw Taranda's worried expression, but quickly dismissed it as Kaol found his way into her once again, and her tongue clicked against the back of her teeth as she stifled a cry. Trapped in the tapestry with limited movement made their actions all the more desperate and frenzied, and she bit at his neck in response to the wonderful friction.

Kaol's lips moved up to her ear. "You're incredible," he moaned.

"Mmmm, you too. Uh, oh, that's good. Oh, keep that up."

"Plan to," he murmured. "But you have to get us out of here," Kaol responded his voice low so that only she could hear. "You don't know what they do to men around this place. I've seen things. I've heard things."

"Shut up," Kara moaned, uninterested at this point, squirming against him. "Oh, oh, oh," she continued.

"I suppose we could take it up later," Kaol conceded, going for an ear.

"Okay, and now for the grand finale," Esiuol cried out, her own face flushed with excitement. Stepping forward, she pulled free an ornamental dagger from its hilt at her hip. She slapped it into Kara's outstretched hand. "You have used the man to the hilt," Esiuol declared, chest heaving. "Now bury this in him to the hilt! Show him his place in your life and join your rightful place in our community!"

For a moment, Kara almost did as she was ordered, so used had she become to following Esiuol's directions. Yet as the knife came sweeping down to Kaol's exposed neck, Kara realized what she was doing, just as her body convulsed in an explosion of pleasure once again. "NO!" she screamed, surprising herself with the intensity of the emotion now flowing through her, and throwing the knife aside at the last moment. "I love him!"

"WHAT!?" screamed Esiuol, eyes darkening. "What did you say! You said you LOVED him!" Her head spun about to Taranda, whose face was now a mask of abject misery. "Go fetch the guards at once! And wipe that stupid expression off your face before I skin it off with a sharp blade!" She spun back around to Kara, who had stopped her lovemaking at Esioul's bellow. "The old woman was right! You do care for this male. Well, we shall soon take care of that!"

Kara knew she had placed their lives in jeopardy by her exclamation, but part of her didn't really care. She hadn't been thinking, responding purely by instinct, and it was that instinct which had saved Kaol's life at the last moment. She rested her cheek against Kaol's and whispered to him. "I meant it, Kaol," she murmured, and found that indeed she did. Their lives were in jeopardy, but for now she enjoyed the warmth of his body against hers, their sweat mingling as their passion was temporarily quenched. They would surely pay dearly for her outburst, but so be it. She was tired of playing Esiuol's game. She would not take back her words even if she could.

"Don't worry," Kaol said, his voice soft and comforting. "We'll be okay. And even if we aren't, let me say thank you for a wonderful afternoon."

The harsh hands that unrolled the tapestry from about them before grabbing and pulling them apart seemed determined to negate his reassurances. "Kaol," Kara cried out, and then succumbed to darkness as a club impacted on the back of her skull.


"Okay," said Mark. "We should be able to fire it up in a couple minutes here. If this doesn't bring Kaol back, then we are out of luck."

"Do you think it will work?" Sarann asked, eyeing the time machine skeptically. Her gaze darted back and forth from the machine to Mark like a hyperactive hummingbird.

Mark sighed heavily. "Don't ask me questions if you don't want the answers."

"It should work, Sarann," Treb interjected, bent over the computer. "I'm feeding in all the auxiliary power the Pegasus can spare. If Kaol is reachable by us, this will get him."

"Well then, what are you waiting for?" Sarann asked. "Bring him back already."

"Just waiting for the machine to absorb enough power to operate properly," Treb replied. "Don't want to do this half-cocked."

"Just hurry!" Sarann urged.


Kara sat at the edge of the pit, her face impassive. Her eyes were drawn like a magnet to the figure of Kaol, suspended over the middle of the gaping chasm. His arms and legs encircled a thick, smooth pillar of pink marble, with his wrists and ankles tied together. The pillar swayed slightly back and forth, suspended from a solid chain attached to a crossbar across the breadth of the pit. Kaol was also attached to the crossbar by a rope about his waist.

Kara had been unable to get a good look at what lay in the pit below Kaol, as whenever she leaned forward, the hand of the guard behind her clamped on her shoulder and pulled her back. Yet Kara knew that whatever was in there had to be extremely unpleasant.

Turning her head slightly to the left, she looked up at the fierce face of Esiuol. The Queen's eyes were predatory and filled with a blood lust which Kara suspected Kaol was meant to quench. She had been busy barking orders to other women, preparing the execution, but now she seemed to wait with increased anticipation, pausing only to allow the rest of the city to gather to witness the event. Kara recalled the Romans and their love of throwing Christians to the lions and thought that people were sadly similar regardless of their planet of origin.

Kara looked to her right next, where Taranda sat. Unlike her older sister, Taranda's expression was pensive, worried. With regret, Kara recalled the girl's words of warning, but she had been too enthralled by the power of the drug and had not heeded her warning until it was too late. Taranda seemed to sense Kara's eyes upon her and turned to look at her. Her lips parted as if to say something, but then she looked away once again, eyes downcast.

Kara felt her heart sink slightly. She had hoped that the young warrior might prove an ally in this crucial moment. Perhaps there was nothing she could do, though. She was little more than a girl, and only a potential power in the tribe at this time.

Fingering the red gem once again cradled against her bosom, Kara wondered exactly what was planned for Kaol. She further wondered what Esiuol had planned for her. Apparently Kara had broken one of the tribes' most sacred commandments by expressing feelings for a male, and doubted she could escape without punishment of some type. Yet Esiuol had been totally uncommunicative since Kara's outcry, responding to her questions only by looking down her nose and curling her upper lip in disdain.

But first things first. Kaol was going to be executed, and there was no one to save him but her. A feeling of complete misery attempted once again to creep up upon her, but she valiantly pushed it away. She did not want this responsibility! Who was she kidding? When she had not stopped to think about it overmuch, this entire series of events had seemed an adventure, a great story. Now this man's life was hanging, literally, in the balance, and it was up to her to save him. Self-doubt gnawed at her like a septic rat, and her fingers worked the gem more fervently. What could she do?

She could feel her skin prickle as the seats in the arena filled. It would be soon. So soon. Her eyes went back to Kaol. He could not see her, as he was facing the other direction, and thus she was unable to even offer him the solace of a comforting glance. Kara suspected that Esiuol had planned it this way. Not for the first time. Kara felt a surprising anger building within her towards the Queen. She was not prone to violence, but found herself nursing such feelings towards the leader. If only Taranda were in charge, Kara thought, not for the first time.

"Greetings fellow citizens of Odelot," Esiuol intoned, her voice strident, carrying easily to the many women assembled there. Kara was not surprised to notice a total absence of the city's males. She had hoped that perhaps if men were present they might rise and rebel against the torture of another male. Yet that was only wishful thinking, and she knew that no help would be forthcoming there. How had she ever thought she could be happy in such a place?

She listened as Esiuol continued, hoping to get a clue as to what was planned for Kaol. "You are gathered here today to witness the execution of a male. Through some manner unknown to me, he has brainwashed a female into caring for him. This cannot be tolerated, and we must crush this menace before it spreads. We hope that this will be the first step in rehabilitating the weak woman who allowed herself to be ensorceled by this vile creature."

Kara's mouth hung open, amazed at how this woman managed to twist and manipulate the facts. Kara rose to her feet surprising herself, and called out to the crowd. "These are lies!" she cried. "There is no illness in what occurred between me and this man! The illness is in your refusal to accept that you are missing out on an important part of life by your treatment of men!"

A rough hand on her shoulder shoved her back into her seat. Esiuol glared at her and addressed the warrior standing behind her in a dark tone. "If she attempts to speak again, use your club upon her and knock her unconscious. Try not to hurt her -- too much."

Esiuol turned back to the crowd. "I think that outburst speaks more loudly of this woman's confusion than anything I could say. Therefore, let us be rid of the menace." She nodded to a woman straddling the crossbeam with a gleaming sword in her hand. The woman nodded back, and swung her sword at the rope. It parted like butter, and Kara watched Kaol's muscles straining as his arms and legs tightened about the pillar, trying to avoid sliding down into the pit now that his support had been withdrawn. Kara felt her own muscles strain in sympathy. He was sliding slowly down in spite of his efforts to hold on.

"It's greased," Taranda said softly beside her. "He is not given a chance. It is my sister's way."

Kara looked swiftly to her side, and then back to Kaol. He was sliding faster now, his thighs locked at the bottom of the pole, feet dangling over the space. "Mark!" she heard him cry as his knees slid off the edge and he began to move quickly off the pillar, his arms unable to support his weight. "Now would be a good time for a rescue!"


"Okay," snapped Treb, his voice tense. "It's powered up and ready to go. We are locked onto his coordinates. He's not even in the past any longer, but on our current time, but in a different galaxy. He's alive and ready to bring back."

"Well, what are you waiting for?" Mark replied.

Treb hit the switch.


Kara felt her hands trembling and her mind raced in panic. What was she going to do? No plans were coming to her, and it was almost too late. She had told this man she loved him, and now she was sitting passively by, his death possibly mere seconds away. Yet what could she do!

"Kara!" Kaol cried, approaching the end of the pillar. "Where are you?"

"Here, Kaol!" she cried back, unable to stay seated any longer. She thrust an elbow behind her, connecting solidly with her guard's solar plexus, and heard a satisfying gasp as the air left the woman. Her hand reached out and grabbed Esiuol by the hair at the back of her head. "Nobody treats me this way," she yelled, voice shuddering, and leaped for the pit with Esiuol in tow. Kara's eyes widened as Kaol lost his grip and began to drop. Without thinking, Kara leaped in after him, dragging Esiuol behind her. Arms outstretched as if in flight, Kara impacted with Kaol and then gasped as the universe seemed to shimmer and dissolve about her in a dizzying whirl.


Kara stared in wonder at the sight before her. Three unfamiliar faces stared at her, and she was looking out from a solid steel cylinder that had mysteriously materialized about her. She corrected herself, no, she had materialized within it. From the totally unfamiliar gadgetry she saw before her, she had a suspicion as to where she was, but was too disoriented to speak.

"Who is that?" the solitary woman of the group called out in surprise.

"I'm not sure, but I believe it's the woman we sent Kaol back to rescue," replied the bearded man next to her.

Kara latched onto the man's speaking of Kaol's name. These had to be Kaol's friends, and she instantly remembered the danger he was in. Her eyes looked about quickly, and she saw that Kaol was indeed absent. He had not been transported with her. Frantic, she turned back to the bearded man. "Look, I don't know who you are," Kara said, the words spilling out of her. "But you have to send me back right away! Kaol is in danger! I was just trying to rescue him when you made me come here. If you don't send me back right away I'm afraid he might be killed!"

A handsome blonde man turned to the bearded one and spoke quickly. "If she impacted with him at the instant of transmission, that could explain why she was brought back instead of him. She could have shoved him out of the coordinates we had locked onto and been returned in his place."

"Fine, fine," replied the bearded one. "Just send her back! We can't take a chance on what she's saying. Send her back."

"Right!" said the other one, and Kara felt a wave of nausea strike her as they vanished and disappeared.


The wind blew her hair back behind her head in a blonde stream as she fell. There was a brief flash of fear, before she impacted, landing on something soft and gushy. She tried to push herself up, but her hand sunk into the gooey substance. It felt warm and alive, and looking down, Kara could see a veritable maze of pulsating veins and arteries throbbing in the uneven, convoluted surface. She felt her gorge rising as she realized it resembled nothing less than a gigantic, exposed human brain.

With an extreme effort of willpower, she reminded herself as to why she was here, and looked about for Kaol and Esiuol. She spotted Kaol immediately, struggling below her in the clutches of some thick, purple tentacles that emerged from the bottom of the thing she found herself atop. Kara could not even begin to imagine what manner of beast this was, but she was certain it was deadly. She tried to stand, but found it impossible in the shifting mass. It did not appear she was sinking any further, but the soft brain tissue did not provide much support. "Kaol," she cried out. "How do we beat this thing?"

"You're back!" he called out, looking up and seeing her. "Thought you'd deserted me." His feet scuffed the bone laden surface of the pit as the thing tried to draw him under. "Look," he cried out, face red from exertion. "I don't suppose it would be asking too much for you to get down here and help me before this thing eats me, would it?"

'I can't seem to get off this thing," she called back, pushing down and feeling a stringy vein burst beneath her palm.

"Ow!" Kaol cried out as another tentacle looped about a flailing arm. "Try the damn stone again! I am in some serious trouble here!"

The stone, right. She jerked a hand free from the animate brain and grabbed the stone. How could she make it work this time?

"Kara!" Kaol cried, and she saw his legs about to disappear beneath the creature. She could not see what was lurking under there, but the panic on Kaol's face suggested it was not good.

"Kaol!" Kara cried back, her blood covered fist squeezed about the gem. At that moment, a red beam shot out, sending one of the tentacles exploding into flame. A high keening emerged from below the creature and it began to buck, sending her into a belly flop across the gelatinous pink tissue.

"DIE!" came a battle cry from above, and Kara rolled aside just as Esiuol leaped down from above. It took only a moment to spy the ledge that the Queen had landed upon earlier. Kara decided she must have been watching the battle between Kaol, Kara, and the creature, silently awaiting her moment to strike. The spear in her hand broke the chain holding the gem about Kara's neck and sliced her skin at the collarbone. Kara cried out in surprise and pain, and reached out for the gem. Esiuol was too quick for her, however, and grabbed the pendant and tossed it over the side.

Kara watched the gem sail through the air with fear and longing, but did not have time to mourn its loss as Esiuol raised her spear once more. I'm going to die, a voice said in the back of her head as she saw the steel tip descending towards her chest. Without conscious thought, Kara's hands flew forward and wrapped around the shaft, stopping the descent of the spear. The blade hovered mere inches from her sternum.

Esiuol tried to shift her weight on the uneven surface, trying to lean into the blade. Kara's arms ached and her teeth bared with the effort of keeping the blade away. Yet in spite of her efforts, the point edged closer, and Kara felt her back sinking deeper into the putrid brain tissue.

Esiuol's face was a mask of rage, and its fury had a surprising calming effect on Kara. She would not be killed by a primitive wild dog bitch Kara was a 20th century American woman, and she would not give up her life by being run through by a spear atop a giant brain. It would not happen.

Digging deep and discovering a reservoir of strength she had not known she possessed, Kara gave forth a battle cry as fierce as any Esiuol had ever uttered, and shoved the spear aside. She released it simultaneously, and Esiuol's weight drove the spear deep into the creature's brain.

The creature shrieked again, a noise unlike any Kara had heard before, painful to the ears. Black blood sprayed from about the spear in a gory fountain, and Kara felt the surface shifting beneath her. The creature began to heave even more wildly, and Kara could not decide if she would do better trying to dive off or holding on for her life.

Esiuol screamed then as well. She had slipped into the cleft dividing the brain's hemispheres, and the creature seemed to be drawing her in. It was still bucking like a bronco, and Kara had closed her fingers about the spear's slippery shaft, at once holding on and twisting it deeper into the wound.

"Help me!" Esiuol shrieked, sliding further into the creature's cortex. Her fists hammered uselessly against the throbbing substance, and yet the two hemispheres moved back and forth, opening and separating as if chewing her alive. "Help me, Kara!" Esiuol cried, frantic eyes pleading.

Damn, Kara thought, and tried squirming towards the trapped Queen, maintaining her own grip on the spear. Esiuol was up to her armpits in pulsating brain, and her face told the story of her agony. Kara's fingers stretched towards Esiuol. Gasping, seeming to have difficulty breathing, Esiuol reached up and out towards Kara. Her chin tilted backwards, and her eyes were wild with terror. Kara felt the woman's fingers brush her own, and Kara strained even further, not wanting to risk losing her own grip on the spear and plunging in alongside the dying queen. The monster was still jerking madly about, and though in its death throes, it appeared determined to claim at least one more victim before its demise.

Yet there was only the briefest ghost touch on her fingers before Esiuol let loose with a final, desperate scream and disappeared within the monster brain. Kara turned her head away, unable to bear watching the clutching fingers in the air, all that remained of the once imperious ruler.

The creatures bucking seemed to be growing weaker, and Kara's thoughts returned to Kaol. She had lost sight of him in her own battle to stay alive and subsequent rescue attempt of Esiuol. She tried to wipe some of the gore off her face, hoping to get a better view, and yet was unable to see Kaol. A sinking feeling pulled her heart into her stomach. Had she gone through all this only to lose him as well?

The creature grew still, and seemed to settle lower to the ground. Kara released the spear and scrambled through the cooling dura mater. She slipped and slid down the side of the creature, tumbling into a pile of bones alongside. Stumbling, near exhaustion, she walked around the side, fearful that she would discover Kaol's bones joining the others of this monster's victims.

As she rounded the corpse, she saw Kaol lying very still in the midst of shrivelling purple tentacles. Breaking into a shuffling run, bones crunching beneath her feet, Kara moved to his side. She dropped to her knees and threw her arms about him, cradling his head against her chest while fighting back her tears. She pulled back away and her trembling fingers went to his pale throat, afraid of what she might find.

At that, his eyes flickered open and she gasped in surprise and relief. An unsteady grin crossed his features. "You look really gross," he said, coughing.

"Where I come from its usually considered poor form to insult someone who just rescued you from a giant man-eating brain," Kara said, looking down at her ichor coated form.

"Point taken," he grunted in reply. "Come here," he whispered. A shaking hand pulled her closer and he planted a weak kiss on her lips. "Thanks," he said.

"Thank you," she whispered back. His eyes closed again, and Kara looked up at the circle of faces lining the rim of the pit. She picked out the face of Taranda and locked eyes with her. She was leader of this group of women now, but Kara had been at least partially responsible for the death of her sister. What would happen now? They weren't necessarily out of trouble yet. Taranda raised her spear, and Kara flinched involuntarily. Would a shower of spears descend in a deadly hail upon them? If so, Kara was determined to face death with as much dignity as she could muster. She had not survived this far only to beg for her life. To her surprise, Taranda raised her spear in a gesture of salute, nodding grimly at Kara. Kara nodded back, not betraying the relief she felt. The tribe had a new leader, and Kara had a feeling they would do much better with this progressive youngster at their head. Holding Kaol's hand, she nodded again, thinking that this might end up being a worthwhile city soon. Her mouth opened to call for a rope, and then she felt a familiar tingling come over her. Quickly, she threw her body upon Kaol, embracing him fiercely, determined not to be left behind.


They materialized within the tube chamber of the machine, bodies pressed tightly together. Kara supported Kaol, as he remained very weak from his battle against the monster, and she worried that he had sustained internal injuries.

The door to the machine opened up, and the bearded man was there once more. "Kaol," he cried, helping the two of them out of the machine as a smell of smoke filled the air. Kara looked over her shoulder as she stepped out and saw the machine burst into flame. The blonde man moved immediately forward with a device that spewed a fire quenching foam upon the flames. Kara looked about her in wonder.

The woman with the silver make-up moved to her side, as Mark supported Kaol and moved him to a nearby chair. "I'm Sarann," the woman said, placing an arm about Kara's goo-coated shoulders. "Welcome to the Pegasus."

"I'm Kara," Kara replied, giving her a weak smile. "And if it won't be considered too rude, I'm going to pass out now."

She did.

Copyright 1992 Kaol


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