I was gasping for breath by the time I finished my sprint from Block 6 over to the guest hotel. The woman who’d come to deliver us from evil was going to grant an interview before she left. And she was leaving tomorrow.
Her name was Mar’jan and she’d arrived on Chronus two days ago in response to the mayor’s urgent request for help. A band of marauders had arrived and taken control of the colony. They’d killed Constable Smith and then the mayor before going to work on our women. Given that we are all Amish, I don’t have to describe how we felt about that. The marauders had since broken into the bank and stolen the proceeds from our last harvest.
Chronus isn’t a rich world, but a year’s worth of hard labor by a thousand farmers had produced enough genetically-altered soy beans to extract ten million dollars worth of precious antibiotic drugs. GenoSoy was our sole export and our only generator of hard cash.
We didn’t really expect anyone to come to our aid, but we had to try. There weren’t any security forces out here on the rim, but perhaps a passing Scalantran ship would hear our call. They weren’t much good in a fight, but they sold advanced weapons. Despite our religious prohibition against owning weapons, we weren’t going to give up our world without a fight.
Unfortunately, there was no answer except the crackle of static on the subspace frequencies.
We all thought we were doomed, for the marauders had some kind of energy weapon that made people just disappear... it heated their bodies up to the point where they just vaporized. My theory was that it was an a maser... a kind of microwave laser that vibrated the target’s molecules until they self-generated enough heat to destroy themselves. I saw one of those purplish beams focus on a friend of mine, and all that was left of him after the flash was his smoking shoes. I prayed his dissolution had been painless.
And then she arrived. Mar’jan. We didn’t see her come, nobody knew her name, we didn’t even know how she got here. All we know is that she attacked the marauders in Block 1.
The news traveled fast, telling of a short, blonde woman who’d arrived from nowhere. She initially encouraged the marauder's to fire on her, and they kept trying to kill her until their weapons were drained. She was glowing star-bright by that time.
Or so the rumors said.
None of it made sense to me, so I chalked it up to hyperbole. The last weeks had been hell.
The reports made even less sense when people started saying that she’d slugged the marauders so hard that they flew the length of a city block before landing in a heap, obviously dead. Her kicks would collapse their rib cages. It wasn’t pretty stuff.
All of which meant she was some kind of android. Vendorian probably, although their battle androids were exceedingly rare, and unheard of out here.
Witnesses disputed that, saying she didn’t look or act anything like an android. They claimed she looked as human as any of us. Unfortunately, nobody managed to get a picture of her. Cameras are rare on Chronus, given that most of our people don’t like their picture to be taken.
And then, just as I was trying to find a way to get a look at her without getting myself killed, it was all over. The marauders were all dead, their bodies twisted and deformed, bones broken. The android had apparently killed them all with her bare hands and those powerful punches of hers.
All except for two men who’d locked themselves in the bank vault to escape her. If I could believe the reports, she’d focused some kind of beams from her eyes on the steel and the vault had heated red hot, parts of it even melting. The men inside had been cremated, something that wasn’t discovered until she tore the door open, rendering the hot steel as if it was little more than soft clay, even as it cooled. I’d since seen the deep impressions her fingers had left in the thick steel.
All of which proved the android theory.
At least it did until the blonde retreated to a room in the guest hotel, leaving everyone guessing who, or even what, she was. Not human, that much was obvious. But we’d never heard of an android this powerful. And none that could be considered attractive in the eyes of humans.
I was pondering how to write a story about all this when the phone rang. It was the manager of the hotel. He said the android wanted to talk to a member of the local media. Which guaranteed she wasn’t an android. They obviously don’t give interviews to the press.
Given I was the only reporter on Chronus, the job naturally fell to me.
Which was why I was just now arriving out of breath at our one and only hotel. I already knew this was going to be the biggest story of my career.
Which wasn’t saying much, given that my career had begun less than a year ago, right after I graduated with my journalism degree from Xcel University over on Beck’s World. You see, we live on a planet of three thousand souls with absolutely no newsworthy events, at least until the raiders showed up. Mostly just reports of native wildlife attacking cattle and an occasional farm accident and the crop and weather reports. Reprints of Sunday sermons. Stuff like that.
Since the raiders had come, I’d been buried in stories, unfortunately all of them about tragedies. Now I had a chance to interview the savior of our world. Whoever or whatever she was.
I paused just inside the hotel lobby to catch my breath, and the worried-looking manager told me she was waiting in her room. Number 105. He looked excited as he told me that the android had been asking about me.
“If she’s asking about me, she’s not an android,” I said bluntly.
“I seen her tear that vault open with her bare hands. She’s an android,” the manager said with certainty.
“So what’s she asking?”
“Your background. Experience. Age. Marital status.”
“Marital status? What in the world would an android...”
“Also about your worldly experiences. Travel off planet, stuff like that.”
“You... you didn’t tell her, did you?”
“Your big secret that isn’t a secret? Of course not.”
I started to breathe a sigh of relief.
“But Callie did.”
“Shit,” I cursed. Callie was never going to forgive the fact that I’d worked my way through the university on a neighboring non-Amish world as a male escort. Long John Silver had been my trade name, and that more or less said it all.
I wasn’t ashamed of how I’d paid for school, for I never would have been able to attend otherwise. I was now a degreed and accredited journalist, which sure beat the heck out of running a horse-drawn harvester on some farm. Unfortunately, everyone back here on Chronus was. Ashamed of me, that is. Callie in particular. She claimed I’d sullied the reputation of our little world and their culture and faith forever.
I knew otherwise. Nobody off-planet cared about the Amish or Chronus or anything else out here on the rim. But Callie was very status conscious. Even worse, she’d always had her eye on me as husband material, but given my new reputation, was out of the question. She couldn’t possibly marry such a scandalous character -- not on a world that had been settled by those who followed a strict interpretation of the Amish faith. Not a girl who’d come from a good family.
I walked down the narrow hallway and lifted my hand to knock on her door, only to pause as my courage evaporated. What the hell was I going to say to a woman who’d just saved an entire planet? To an android maybe.
Then I remembered my role. My job was to ask the questions. I was the reporter. Besides, she’d asked to see me, which further proved she couldn’t be an android. Maybe some kind of enhanced human?
Whatever, she was supposed to be leaving tomorrow, not that we knew how. Our ships had been damaged. But then, we didn’t have a clue how she’d gotten here in the first place.
I took a deep breath and knocked on the rough wooden door.
Her accent sounded vaguely Nordic, but her voice was sweet and low. She sounded very young.
I opened the door, only to freeze as I saw a pretty blonde standing the middle of the room, staring back at me. She was wearing heels and a frilly bit of white miniskirt along with a white corset that looked completely out of place, and was holding her hands over her breasts, which were bared above her corset. She wore white mesh gloves with a single white ribbon tied around her neck like a choker. Her skin was a golden color and she was maybe 5’2” tall, even in her heels.
As jawdroppingly exotic as that was, it was her eyes and hair that stunned me the most. And her age. I was only 23, yet she looked very young to me. Maybe that was because of her huge, blue eyes, which looked like a young child’s. Or maybe it was her glowing, blonde hair, each strand seemingly lit from inside with the color of spun gold -- the kind of fine, flaxen hair you also see on children.
All I know for sure is that my mouth had stopped working and my brain was frozen as I stared into those incredible eyes.
“Do you think it would offend your elders if I dressed like this? We Velorians rarely cover ourselves above the waist.”
“Who... who are you?” I croaked out. I’d never heard of a people called Velorians.
“Mar’jan Zor. My home planet is Velor.”
“What... who... why are you here?” I sounded like an idiot, not a reporter.
“You called for help.”
“I meant... who are you?”
I closed my eyes and tried again. “Are you an android?”
She laughed, her eyes dancing. “A bucket of bolts? Hardly. I’m what’s called a Companion. I was on my way to my contract on Ursus 3. We were just outside your solar system and preparing for another jump vector when my ship, actually a Scalantran trader, received your distress call. I flew here to help.”
“I don’t need ships or protection to fly in space.”
“And weapons, even that maser, don’t hurt you?”
“I’m not sure if there is anything in the universe that can hurt me. My people are the descendants of gods.”
I was rendered speechless again. Given what I’d heard about the way she’d opened that vault, tearing at the steel with her bare hands, she was incredibly strong too. But it was the ‘descendants of gods’ thing that floored me.
“You’re a goddess?”
She laughed. “I said descendants, as it a step down the evolutionary tree. I’m just a Companion.”
“So... what’s a Companion? And how is that tied to a contract?” My brain was starting to work again.
She looked at me funny, tilting her head. “I’m told you supported yourself on a nearby world by entertaining women. Selling a bit of yourself each day to pay for your studies.”
I blushed bright red. “That’s none of your...”
“I’m a little bit like that.”
I was flabbergasted. “You’re... an escort?” The concept was mind-boggling, even if she was as wildly sexy as the women I’d met in that profession. But who wanted to lie with an invulnerable woman with the strength of hundreds of men? Men chose escorts for their willingness and vulnerability, not their strength.
“It’s a long contract, a Companion contract that is, but my role is indeed that of companionship. Of any kind that my patron desires.” She saw me frown at the last. “But I thought you at least would understand. The rest of the people on your planet seem very... straight-laced.”
“And that’s why you are going to dinner topless? Because they are so conservative?”
She smiled. “Actually, this is the normal dress code for my planet. I’ve done the best I could with local materials. I’m just not sure if they are prepared to meet a Velorian.”
“So this is going to be a cultural exchange,” I smiled. “How very Velorian of you.” I wasn’t at all sure what that last really meant, but I was able to make a pretty good guess. “A planet of women who look like you and who don’t believe in covering themselves must be the ultimate fascination to human men.”
“Except my patron is a woman. An older woman who wants me to bear her a daughter. I’m pregnant with the twin girls who will become her children through adoption.”
“You’re a surrogate too?”
“Hardly. My conception was done by the Maternity Engine. My daughters will look just like me, more like clones than identical twins.”
I felt my confidence returning as she talked about herself, but it startled me that she was pregnant, with twins no less. She didn’t look it. “Surrogate was the wrong word, I apologize. Our people would call you a brooder.” I paused to gather my courage for the next question. “And you a lesbian?”
She shrugged. “We don’t bother with such distinctions on Velor. But no, I’m not exclusively interested in femmes.”
“I’ve known many women in my work. But not one even half as beautiful as you.” I put my ill-gotten skills to work and walked forward to gently rest my hands on hers. “Perhaps I should be the first to judge the suitability of your outfit for Chronus mores.”
She smiled beautifully as she allowed me to lower her hands. My heart raced as she revealed the most perfectly shaped breasts I’d ever seen. Round and firm, nipples larger than normal, with no evidence of gravity’s effects. She was flawless.
“I think this would be the perfect outfit for dinner tonight,” I lied. It was payback time. If the savior of the planet was in the same business as I’d been in, if she flaunted the local morals like I had, then how could they continue to think ill of me? “Just as long as you allow me to be your escort,” I quickly added.
“And my lover too, if I so desire?”
My heart flip-flopped. “I could hardly refuse any favor requested by the savior of our planet.”
“You are good at this,” she winked at me. “Consider the request as made.”
“After dinner or before?”
“I’m tempted to say both. But the residual pheromones might confuse your elders.”
I walked over to open the door. “Then we will enjoy the splendid dinner they’ve prepared for us. And then a most delicious dessert, which will be my treat.”
As you may have gathered by now, I had no idea what I was getting myself into; all I could think about was payback. But I got a pretty good idea of how far I’d stepped over the line when I walked into the dining room with Mar’jan on my arm. She was a glowing icon of blonde hair wearing high-heels, her tanned skin and perfect body all on display. Her mostly nude body.
She was like nothing anyone had ever been seen on this backward and conservative Amish world. Every other woman in the room was dressed in head to toe black and wearing scarves to cover their hair, the bearded men wearing black suits and top hats.
The voices hushed as soon as we stepped through the door, and a hundred pairs of eyes stared at Mar’jan, glasses pausing halfway to mouths, forks too. It was like someone had hit the Pause button. We were the only people moving as I led Mar’jan over to introduce her to the new Mayor. She did a cute curtsy and then held out her hand to him. He just stared at her, seemingly unable to pull his eyes from her chest, his hands clenched at his sides.
My initial amusement was quickly turning to worry as I led Mar’jan to the traditional seat of honor, raised as it was on a short dais in the front of the huge room. She sat down, her tiny skirt briefly giving everyone in the room a look beneath it before she demurely crossed her legs.
I walked over to the microphone beside the mayor. “Ladies and gentlemen, gentle people of Chronus, I’d like to introduce the woman who saved all our lives, the woman who saved our very way of life. This is Mar’jan Zor from Velor.”
Mar’jan rose to her feet and smiled at the frozen faces, covering herself with her gloved hands this time. She was a fast learner. “Thank you for the privilege of inviting me to this fine dinner. I’m glad you have come to thank me, but that is not necessary. My involvement on your world was purely a matter of luck. My ship happened to be nearby when your call went out, and we received it only seconds before we were supposed to jump from your system to the next.”
I nodded to the crowd, trying to get some reaction, but they were still frozen.
“My race, the Velorians,” Mar’jan continued, “are the descendants of a race named the Galen. Some consider them gods. Others do not.”
“But as you saw yesterday,” I quickly added, “Mar’jan is uniquely powerful and immune to any weapon, in addition to being uniquely beautiful. In any way we humans can measure it, she is a goddess.”
Voices gradually began to punctuate the silence as I said that, the loudest ones clearly disapproving of my theology. The Amish are uniquely religious and Christian. Then, very slowly, a ripple of applause began traveling through the room. Certainly not applause for her state of undress or my comments, but instead, a simple Amish thank you for delivering us from evil. More hands joined in, and soon, everyone in the room was giving her a standing ovation.
A woman came over to drape a shawl over Mar’jan’s shoulders, closing it in front of her, and the tension level in the room decreased noticeable. The room was quickly filled with the buzz of animated conversation as people sat down and resumed their dinner. Everyone had an opinion about Mar’jan, and as near as I could hear, they ranged from goddess to whore.
I smiled, realizing they were both right.
The dinner ended promptly at 8pm as the sunset was at 9pm and it was the universal norm for Chronus people to go to bed with the sun and rise with the sun. Being Amish, they didn’t use electricity in their homes. Darkness was for sleeping. Daylight was for work.
Mar’jan and I walked along the shore of a small lake, listening to the croaking orchestra from a hundred musically-inclined frogs. A warm, fragrant breeze blew across the water’s surface, bringing with it the fresh, grassy scent of Kronus. Given it was after nine, we were the only people outdoors in the entire city.
“This is a uniquely healthy world,” Mar’jan offered.
“I could say the same for present company. What would it take to encourage you to stay here? To buy out your contract.”
She laughed. “About ten million credits.”
I was flabbergasted. The average citizen on Chronus made about five-thousand credits per year. I’d used to charge twenty credits for a night of my services back during my university days.
“So, you really are a million dollar baby, huh?”
“It’s the only way for my home planet to earn hard currency.”
“By selling yourselves?”
She shrugged. “At millions of credits each, the money is really helping Velor. It all goes into the Treasury.”
“Given your abilities, why don’t you hire yourself out as mercenaries.? As protectors of the weak and the downtrodden?”
“It’s been talked about. But the people who need protection can rarely pay. Mercenaries would merely be hired by the rich, the powerful, the unscrupulous.”
“So you became companions and brooders instead.”
“It’s what the Galen created us to be.”
“But why did they make you so strong... and so hard to injure?”
“Two reasons. One is the Galen sex act. Apparently it’s more or less in the nuclear range. And secondly, so we can protect our young.”
“Nuclear sex?” I couldn’t help but smile at the image.
“Temperatures in the thousands of degrees, forces sufficient to shatter boulders, and then an ejaculatory release that’s near nuclear, given it involves some kind of hormonal matter/anti-matter thing, with all that heat and pressure concentrated inside our bodies.” She shrugged. “Or so I hear. No one I know has ever met a Galen.”
“Where are the Galen now?”
She shrugged again. “Nobody knows. All we know is that they never used our race for their intended purpose.”
“Sounds like a relief to me. The sex sounds painful to put it mildly.”
“To the contrary. That’s more or less how we like it.”
“Your shitting me?” I gasped.
“Not that I’d know myself,” she smiled at my reaction. “The Maternity Engine implanted that embryo in me. My patron insisted that I arrive intact.”
I couldn’t help but smile, seeing as she’d left her cloak behind and was walking bare-breasted beside me. “Somehow you don’t come off as the virginal type.”
“Everyone misunderstands Velorians, so don’t feel bad.”
Our walk had taken us back to her hotel.
“Would you like to come in?” she asked. “I’ve never been with a human. I would like to learn how you make love.”
“So asks the young virgin?” I smiled at her direct request.
“Only technically. And without gold, I’m pretty well protected from any moments of enthusiasm we might have.”
I hesitated, not sure what to say to that. I wasn’t used to women telling me they were inviolate as they invited me to their bed.
“Your friend told me you are very good. Sexually.”
“I let others comment on that.”
“Your ladies? Perhaps I can be one of them for just this one night.”
She didn’t wait for my reply as she opened the door and walked inside, keeping her back to me as she quickly unbuttoned her tiny skirt and tossed it to the side. She was wearing only the corset now, leaving me to marvel at her perfect ass and legs, her glowing blonde hair hanging halfway down her back. The soft light of the room made her hair glow, even as it warmed the remarkable colors of her flawless skin.
“God, you are so beautiful,” I blurted out, enjoying her blatant seduction. “I’ve never imagined the human body could be this perfect.”
She turned to face me, a smile on her lips. “Human? I don’t think so.”
“Yet you seem so very human, Mar’jan. The way you look. The way your skin feels. The way you think, the way your emotions seem to work.”
“Thank you for the kind words. But why don’t you say those same things with your body. I’m getting tired of admiring you beneath your clothes.”
“You can...” I sputtered. “You can see through things?”
“My patron doesn’t call me her super girl for nothing.”
I laughed. “A girl who protects planets while bearing children and looking stunningly beautiful doing it. I know I will never forget you.”
“Nor will I forget my very last moment with a man.”
To be continued...