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Journal of a Space-Vixen

8th September, 2006. 1:30 am. What happened to the blondes...

"Commander, we've got a problem. Her Highness and Charmian have gone."

"What do you mean, gone?"

"I mean they aren't where we left them and they aren't in this area of the forest at all. They are nowhere they can possibly have got to on foot. Commander, they've disappeared."

As the brunettes ran toward the Silver Vixen, Charmian turned to the Princess.

"What now?" she asked in a quiet voice.

"Not much to do now except wait for the brunettes to clear out the Vixen," replied the Princess. "Let's sit down." In truth she felt Charmian had best sit down before she fall down. She took her hands – still ice-cold – and settled her against the trunk of a great tree of some alien species.

"Can they do it?" asked Charmian tremulously.

"Our brunettes? Clear out a few schizzies? Of course they can."

"Only one armed brunette," said Charmian.

"Don't you worry about Chinchi," said Mela. "There is no one better to have by one in a tight spot."

"You are right …"

"Sshh!" hissed Mela. Charmian opened her mouth, but Mela squeezed her arm tightly, and put a finger to her lips, warning her to stay silent.

Two creatures were making their way through the undergrowth. As they came nearer it was clear that they were human in shape but very bulky. They could well be more mascûls. As they were not headed directly toward the blondes, Mela felt the best course was to keep silent and hope they were not seen.

Charmian stared ahead. She seemed unaware of what was taking place, almost as if she were in a trance. As she became more aware of the mascûls – for they now decidedly were mascûls – she began to moan very quietly and rhythmically as if in abject terror. Mela held her arm firmly both to reassure and attempt to restrain her. The girl seemed to have no awareness of her own actions and Mela feared she might do something to signal their presence.

The mascûls trod heavily through the undergrowth. They were a good fifty yards off and facing in another direction. Provided they didn't turn and look in the blondes' direction, they should be safe. Charmian was breathing heavily. Her frightened moans were too quiet to be heard at any distance, though she seemed to be in some state of mental shock.

The mascûls were approaching the point where their path placed them directly in line with the blondes – though not facing them. After that they would be walking away from them and would soon be gone.

Mela tightened her grip on Charmian's arm, scarcely daring to breathe. Suddenly, a strange bird screeched and one of the mascûls turned toward them. The mascûl was looking high into the branches of the trees, looking for the source of the sound. It did not see the blondes, but its harsh, furred face was clearly visible at this distance.

Then the unthinkable happened. Charmian screamed – a long, wailing scream full of fear and despair. The two mascûls turned toward the blondes and then started running at them.

"Get up!" Commanded the Princess. "Come on – we've got to run."

She leapt to her feet and dragged Charmian after her. The mascûls were bearing down upon them with a speed that belied their bulk. Mela ran, dragging Charmian behind her, but Charmian ran like a girl in a trance. Mela felt as if she were pulling a dead weight behind her.

Suddenly Charmian screamed. One of the mascûls had caught up to her and seized her arm, crushing delicate blonde flesh and sinew in its huge paw. Mela had already flipped the cap off a slender gold pen-like tube, now she released the lever. An earl-splitting scream rent the air as something streaked skyward, leaving a thin trail of black smoke. Then the heavens were illuminated by a dazzling white light and a deafening explosion caused the very ground to tremble.

The two mascûls threw themselves to the ground, thinking they were under aerial attack.

"Come on," shouted Mela, pulling Charmian's hand. The shock of the assault together with the terrible explosion seemed to have cleared Charmian's head. The two blondes ran fast across the rough ground.

Despite its ferocious noise, the skyflash had no offensive potential. It was simply a distress signal with which Mela had been equipped by Chinchi. It could be seen and heard for miles and should bring help running – but with Antala away, Claralin and Chinchi fighting inside the Vixen and the others in a village some miles away, it seemed doubtful that help would come.

As they reached the road, the mascûls were already up and after them. One of them drew a blaster and shouted a command at them. They could not understand a word of it, but "Stop or I'll shoot" seemed a rather probable guess.

The two blondes stopped running as they reached the roadside. The mascûls slowed their pace and walked toward them, each holding a blaster levelled at their helpless prey.

The one closest to them leered unpleasantly through its facial fur, and then its expression changed. They all became aware of a clangourous ringing sound, like that of several electric bells, distant at first, but coming rapidly closer. The mascûl looked at its companion, which was already turning back into the forest. It turned to follow, and they disappeared into the trees as two large black cars pulled up, their bells drowning all other sound.

"I never thought I'd be so glad to see the rozzers," said Mela.

The bells were shut off, but the ringing continued in Charmian's head. She heard car doors banging, saw uniformed brunettes. One of them saluted. Words swam in and out of her mind.

"Rayati, ma'am…….

"……..aerial explosion…..this area………."

And then everything was black.

 



Current mood: artistic.

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17th August, 2006. 10:17 am.

Very quickly, Mela got onto the ramp, and, lying on her stomach, let herself down over the side of it until she was hanging on by her hands, and then dropped onto the grass a few feet below. Like an automaton, Charmian followed her.

"We move round, close to the hull toward those trees and then break and get into their cover. That way they will have very little chance to spot us visually. Pray they haven't got the ship's scanners working."

"Might they have?" asked Charmian tremulously.

"Very unlikely. The ship's systems are very tightly encoded, and if I know Chinchi, she's made them even harder to crack."

The two blondes attained tree-cover quickly. They half-ran, out of sight of the road, in the direction Mela thought was the way to the lake. Within minutes they heard the approaching roar of two hoverbikes.

"A Range-Runner and a Chandra," said Mela, who knew her bikes. "Chinchi and the Commander."

They ran out onto the road and flagged down the two brunette riders.

"What are you doing out of the Vixen?" demanded Commander Carshalton.

"The ship's full of mascûli," gasped Mela. No idea how many are in there. I've killed three of them. Don't know if they're on alert yet."

"They're probably trying to crack the ship's systems," said Chinchi.

"All right, Madam Pilot, let's get in there," said the Commander.

"You may want this," said the Princess, handing Claralin the blaster.

"Thank you. Don't worry, Chinch, I'll bag you one when I kill the first mascûl."

"I am Haiela," said Chinchi. "I don't use weapons."

"Greenies!" exclaimed the commander. "You wouldn't care to tie our hands behind our backs while you're at it, would you?"

"I am sorry, Commander," said the pilot.

Claralin made reverence even as she ran. "I am sorry too, white Haiela. That remark was enormate. Please forgive me."

"Forgiven and understood," said Chinchi.

They were running toward the ship as they spoke. The guard Mela had shot still lay sprawled on the entry-ramp.

"It looks clear," said the Commander. "We go straight up the ramp and hope it isn't an ambush."

"Chalwe, Commander."

The two brunettes ran up the ramp and into the ship.

"We need to get to the control room as fast as possible," said the Pilot. "May I precede?"

"Yes, but stay close to me and fall back at the first hint of an encounter. You are unarmed, and we need you alive."

They made their way swiftly along the corridors. Suddenly a siren sounded and a mascûl voice barked orders.

"That's the alert," said Chinchi, who was wearing a translator earbud. "They've found one of the bodies, but they don't know where we are. Let's keep moving and try to shoot before anyone can report our position."

They had only progressed a dozen yards when the amplified voice barked again.

"What is it this time?" asked the Commander.

"They are throwing a stasis-field over the ship. Nothing crystal-powered will work."

Commander Carshalton tried the blaster. "That's right. It's dead. What's the idea?"

"They think we are like their femīni and that they will have the advantage of strength. Also once we get mired in a fight they will be able to mob us. What they don't know is that we have no swords."

Around the next bend was a huge mascûl with its great Kang-sword already drawn.

"Stand back," said the Commander to Chinchi. "I'll deal with this."

Claralin fixed her eyes on the aggressor, ready to react to the first movement. The mascûl came in with a swift down thrust that could have cloven her head in two. Claralin twirled aside at the last split-second and thrust her second knuckles spear-like under the creature's ribcage in a perfect inverse cobra-strike. Even with so large a creature the blow might well have rendered it unconscious had it been unprotected. As it was, the leather clothing absorbed most of the impact. Even so the creature staggered backward, slightly winded, and eyed the Commander more warily.

They watched each other closely. Claralin knew that only split-second timing stood between her and a bloody death. Suddenly two things happened at once. The mascûl came in with a forward-thrust. Claralin sidestepped with perfect timing and aimed a stamp-kick just above the knee. Simultaneously, Chinchi dashed past the mascûl, tuned and pinched the back of its neck. It slumped to the ground.

"Zippy business," said Claralin, "but I thought…"

"I didn't say I can't fight; only that I can't carry weapons."

Claralin retrieved the mascûl's sword and tried its weight. "Very fine piece of steel," she said. "Heavy, too."

"Too heavy for you?" asked the Pilot.

"For my style, yes. If I fought like them it would be ideal. It's a hack-and-slash weapon." She made a few practice passes. "Still, it'll do the job."

"The control room is just on the next corridor, Commander," said the Pilot urgently.

The door of the control room was open. There were five mascûli inside: four with swords, one studying the control panels. On the floor near this one was a fat tubular device, emitting a faint blue light, which Chinchi surmised to be the stasis-generator.

"Can you engage the warriors while I shut off the stasis-field?" asked the Pilot.

"I think so," said the Commander.

"Good. As soon as it's off, I shall shout 'haya', then you can blast them before they know where they are."

The Commander leapt into the room flourishing the Kang weapon. The swords-mascûli advanced upon her. She executed some fancy parade-fencing flourishes. One of the mascûli moved in with an abdominal thrust. It was a hasty, ill-considered move. The Commander parried it easily and spun in one smooth movement into a death-cut to the neck. The other three realised that over-confidence was misplaced, but also knew that with three against one they should be able to kill their prey. They began to manoeuvre into a surrounding formation that would ensure that she could not defend against them all at once. One covered the door since the closed space would work to their advantage.

In the meantime, Chinchi slipped into the room and sauntered rapidly toward the stasis-generator. The unarmed mascûl watched her with incredulity. Chinchi saluted jauntily, made slight reverence and turned her attention to the generator.

The mascûl advanced and put its arms about her body, tightening its grip into a ferocious bear-hug that would have killed the femīn it believed Chinchi to be in seconds. Chinchi's strong, deft fingers drove swiftly into a series of pressure-points and the mascûl fell.

She turned to the stasis-generator and within twenty seconds shouted: "Haya!"

The Commander, who was now hard-pressed, drew the blaster and killed two of her assailants with astonishing rapidity. The third fired just as Claralin dropped out of the line of fire. She fired from the ground and the fight was over.

Chinchi already had the Vixen's systems fired up and was pressing buttons intently.

"Phew. You worked out how to use that alien stasis machine pretty g'doinking quickly!"

"No I didn't. A stasis-generator requires power like any other machinery. It beams its field outside its own radius so it doesn't self-nullify. I just opened the crystal-hatch and removed the power-crystal. I may not carry a weapon but I do carry a multifunction screwdriver."

"You clever old Pilot!"

"Thankers, Commander. I've closed the outer portal and all interior doors. I'm running the scanner now. Let's see what we've got."

The mascûl Chichi had downed regained consciousness and, stealthily drawing its blaster, took careful aim at Chinchi's back. The Commander spotted the movement out of the corner of her eye, drew, span and killed the creature just in time.

"Chinchi, you g'doinker! Why can't you kill these things?"

"That's your job, Raihira."

"You mean the one you squuz in the corridor is still alive?"

"'Fraid so. But that's the least of our worries. I'm just checking the scanner. As I thought, there are several of them about the ship, but there are also over a dozen in the main concourse. What are they doing there, do you think?"

"Never mind that - how long will it take them to rush this room?"

"About as long as it takes to blast the doors and get here."

"Listen, Chinch, I'm pretty good, but I don't think I can sustain a firefight with over a dozen mascûls. Aren't there any internally directed weapons-systems? Ducts of poison gas or something"

"Complete invasion of the ship wasn't one of the contingencies the Guild provided for. I'll have to make a note of that in my book."

"Never mind your book - we're going to lose the ship, not to mention our lives."

"Oh don't be pessimistic, Commander. They won't make it to the room thanks to you."

"Thanks to me?"

"Yes - I just took your idea and did the opposite. I hope you don't mind."

"My idea?"

"Yes, about the gas. There are no provisions to pump gas into parts of he ship: but one of the contingencies that is provided for is oxygen shortage If necessary one can withdraw oxygen from selected parts of the ship to conserve it for others. I have just withdrawn the oxygen from every area except the control-room."

"You really are shining today, Madam Pilot."

"Thank you again, honoured Commander. What now?"

"They obviously know where we are. We'd better pick up the others and move the ship. Can you cloak her so they can't track us?"

"I can try. I'm just scanning for the others."

The Commander dropped into a chair. "I must be out of condition. Fencing with those critters has exhausted me. That sword is heavy, and they are so strong. Their technique is poor, but I think they must be so much stronger than ordinary mascûls that they rely on strength."

"Are they stronger than ordinary mascûli?"

"They must be. I was always taught that a schizzie femīn is stronger than a blonde and a mascûl weaker than a brunette. These critters aren't noticeably weaker than us, I'd say."

"You're right there, honoured Commander," said Chinchi, feeling her bruised ribs. Rather the reverse, in fact.

"Exactly. I think an ordinary mascûl would have trouble wielding one of these swords. I knew a girl who fought like them back at Selastine. One of those big West Arkadyani peasant girls by background. She was a bit out of place at Selastine. Anyway, when she was fourteen she used to smash her way through the fencing tournaments. You could parry her great thrusts easily, but she smashed straight through the parry. I think that is what these critters rely on. They haven't encountered brunettes in combat before, so I suppose they think that even if we aren't femīni, we can't be stronger than mascûli. I suppose they'll know by now, though."

"Not quite yet, honoured Commander. Not one we've tangled with has so far lived to report back."

"How is the scanning going?"

"I've got Evelynn's party, but I'm having a bit of trouble with Her Highness and Charmian."

"Good. As soon as we've got everyone back on board we move out. We'll take on water elsewhere. I want the ship cloaked as soon as we are all in order."

"Commander, we've got a problem. Her Highness and Charmian have gone."

"What do you mean, gone?"

"I mean they aren't where we left them and they aren't in this area of the forest at all. They are nowhere they can possibly have got to on foot. Commander, they've disappeared."



Current mood: awake.

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10th August, 2006. 11:02 am. The Princess and the Captain

Rayati Raihiranya

My, this story is hopping about. This is its fourth location for continuation, chosen because readability may be a little better. It likely won't be the last.

For those interested in dreary old authorial biography, this short section was written on the aero from Asia Minor to the Cockney Raj. Pop to my friends page for the previous epi.

The Princess and the Captain - work in progress :

 Meanwhile, back at the Vixen...


Shortly after the Captain's duel with the mascûl assassin, Commander Carshalton had returned to the Silver Vixen from a brief hoverbike reconnaissance of the area. 

"There's a village nearby," she said. "They are very kind and helpful, but I haven't been very informative about the Vixen. The Captain prefers discretion at this stage. They really are the most delightful people, though - very happy to give us food for the night and tomorrow's breakfast. There s also a small lake nearby from which we can draw water. So I want Madam Pilot to move the Vixen over to the lake while Evelynn takes Estrelle and the paxits into the village. A blonde will be best at dealing with these people, the paxits will know what they want for feeding us. Estrelle can ride a hoverbike, so you'll take one of the paxits each. She looked expectantly at Evelynn who was a little taken aback by Claralin's sudden air of command. 

"Chalwe, Commander," said Evelynn a little belatedly.

"Where is the lake, Commander?" asked the Pilot. 

"About ten miles east of here, taking the nearest pole as north." 

"Do you mind if I see the area first, Commander?" 

"I was about to suggest that, Madam Pilot. We'll do a quick reccie on our bikes and you can work out the best and most discreet way of positioning the ship to take on water." 

"Should I be doing anything, Commander?" asked Charmian. 

"I want the Princess to stay aboard, and you will look after her." 

"Chalwe, Commander." 

The members of the company moved about their business. The Princess retired to the small room set aside for her, to attend to her hair and makeup. She felt it part of her duty to look impeccable. Charmian accompanied her. 

"Commander Carshalton seems rather efficient, doesn't she, Mela, I mean Your Highness?" 

"Mela will do while we are alone," said the Princess. "Yes, she does. I am so glad Antala appointed her Commander. It is good for both of them and for the relationship between them." 

They chattered idly for a while. It felt rather artificial somehow, talking as if they were on the Homeworld and everything was normal. Finally Charmian broached the matter that was preying on both their minds.
 
"What do you make of the attack on Antala?" 

"Was it an attack, do you think? Perhaps it was just some aggressive mascûl." 

"I know that's what Chinchers said, but, Mela, there aren't aggressive mascûli on this planet. That is pretty clear from the Captain's report. Those school-brunettes have lived here all their lives and never even seen a mascûl. That one must have tailed Antala. Where from? Does it mean they know where we are? What else do they know? What do the brunettes think about it? They will never discuss these things with blondes for fear of worrying us. Don't they imagine we can think of these things for ourselves?" 

"I know how you feel, darling, but at a time like this they need more than ever to maintain the order of things." 

"I understand that, Mela, but it makes me so nervous. That bang I heard a minute ago. I felt for a moment that it was something dreadful." 

"It scared me too, but --" she stopped and listened. "Are those footsteps?" 

"Yes, they are. Someone's in the ship." 

"Surely not." 

"Listen. They're opening and closing doors as if they were searching the place." 

"They must have some kind of electronic override device to work the portals. I'm going to go out and see."
 
"No, Your Highness! I am here to look after you. Those are my orders. Stand against the wall beside the door where you can't be seen and I shall open it a little and peep out." 

The Princess obeyed her guardian, truly impressed at how the ship's company was already functioning as a true polity. 

Charmian reached for the door-control, but before she could touch it, the door slid back. Framed in the silver portalway was a huge mascûl with no hair on its head but abundant black fur on its face. It was dressed in heavy leather clothing and had a sword at one side and a blaster at the other. It moved into the room and took Charmian by the shoulders. Its manner was unfathomable, for it seemed both amorous and aggressive at the same time. It barked words that neither of the blondes could understand and pushed Charmian further into the room, while closing the door behind them with a flick of the small controller unit on its wrist. 

The Princess, now standing behind the mascûl and as yet unseen, looked in horror as the creature rammed Charmian up against the far wall of the small chamber and began to paw her body. Silently, Mela stole up behind the mascûl which was both too obsessed with what it was doing and too noisy to notice her. She managed to remove the blaster from its holster and felt for the triggering-point. The mascûl suddenly became aware of her, and turned. Mela ran backwards and there was a flash of light. For a fraction of a second the mascul's body was irradiated, almost like a neon light, and then it fell to the ground, lifeless. 

Charmian was dead white, wide-eyed and trembling. 

"How did you know how to work that thing?" she asked in a strange, distant voice. 

"I didn't," said Mela. "I was trying to work it out and it just went off in my hand." She put her arms about her friend. Charmian was cold and clammy. 

"What now, Your Highness?" 

"We aren't far from the ship's outer portal. We try to get out as quickly and quietly as possible. Stay close behind me, Charmie. Stay quiet, and don't worry. If anything spots us, it's dead." 

"But what if there are lots of them?" 

"Just be quiet and follow me. Those are your orders." 

"Chalwe, Your Highness." 

The Princess opened the door. Fortunately they were silent. The corridor outside was empty. The mascûl they had just killed was probably detailed to this one, and it would not have been missed yet. She moved quickly to the end of the corridor. She felt Charmian behind her. She felt the girl's cold terror. She stopped at the corner at the end of the corridor and patted Charmian's arm. 

"It's all right, she whispered. We're very close. Just do your duty." 

She peeped into the next corridor. It was the last one before the outer portal. One mascûl. She blasted it as it reached for its weapon. Thank Dea for silent blasters. The great ramp leading to the outer world was down. There was one mascûl holding a large long-range beam weapon and facing away from them. Mela blasted it from behind. 

"We don't go down the ramp," said Mela. "Just do what I do." 

"Chalwe," said Charmian in a voice that seemed to come from miles away. 

Very quickly, Mela got onto the ramp, and, lying on her stomach, let herself down over the side of it until she was hanging on by her hands, and then dropped onto the grass a few feet below. Like an automaton, Charmian followed her. 

"We move round, close to the hull, toward those trees and then break and get into their cover. THat way they will have very little chance to spot us physically. Pray they haven't got the ship's scanners working." 

"Might they have?" asked Charmian tremulously. 

_____

And there we must leave them pour mome. No word from Apple or Linux users on the accented characters in words like "mascûl" so I take to they are working all serene. Positive confirmation would be appreciated though. You know, make a note (below) saying "Chalwe, Vixen. All serene for Apple". Good gravy, I've even written it for you. Unless it isn't all serene, of course, in which case just scream. You do know how to scream, don't you?

Until next time,

Rayati.


Current mood: bouncy.

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