This is SciFi/Uber-Xena, adult lesbian fiction.  If you are under 21 years old do not read further.


MY PROTECTOR
by
J.C. Wilder

jcwilder@hotmail.com

 

Prologue

Weeks of suffering from a mysterious illness had dramatically changed the Empress of Dethra from a vibrant woman to a frail bag of bones. Knowing death was near she summoned what strength she had left and called for her daughter. She desperately hoped Sarika was ready to take on all the responsibilities of leadership. Ready or not, she would become the new empress at a time when rebellion threatened the empire. Sarikaís religious activities left little room for the strategies of politics and warfare. Her daughter would have to depend on the Council of Elders for guidance as she herself had done. The Empress hoped to pass on to Sarika more than a mantle of responsibility.

The Princess arrived, pale auburn hair mingling with the green of her robe gliding behind her. She brushed past the somber-faced priestesses and elders to reach her motherís bedside. Clutching her daughterís hands to her chest the frail empress sought to empower her only child.

"The future of Dethra is with you Sarika. Donít waste time mourning over me when my spirit leaves, but take care to rule wisely and put an end to this rebellion of the Menials. The empire must not fall."

Sarika moved closer to grip her motherís hands while remaining mindful of her position and the importance of showing no weakness. As she always did when she felt tears threaten to betray her, she thrust her delicate chin forward and rose to the occasion.

"It will be as you ask mother."

Words came much softer now as the Empress allowed herself to gaze fondly into her daughterís liquid green eyes.

"I know it will. But you will need more than the priestesses and elders to help you restore peace to Dethra, and more than the spirits of your ancestors. Before long you will enter the time of union. Your power will increase with the strength of your mate."

Sarika frowned, a brief lapse in her self-control. She had not selected anyone from among the eligible. She was not physically attracted to any of them even though the unmarried ones had made their interest in her clear one way or another. Even now she could feel Elder Tai-Po watching her with what she believed to be lust. She wished she could be alone with her mother but protocol would not allow it.

"Since you havenít chosen yet," the Empress continued, "join yourself with me and together we will call forth a vision of the Protector and hasten him to come to you daughter."

Elder Tai-Po stood close to the Empress and her daughter, trusting that their vision would be of him. He considered himself the best choice and he wanted Princess Sarika. He watched her grow from a spoiled and precocious child to a spoiled and beautiful young woman. A woman whose aura of power wielded from that sensual little body stirred his passion to a fevered pitch. Although it was forbidden, he watched Sarika during her morning meditation in the palace garden. Every sunrise he found himself responding to the sight of her rising from the sacred pond and while enjoying this irreligious voyeurism he often pleasured himself to his own vision of her body beneath his. Now Tai-Po stifled a groan, acknowledging to himself that he would soon have her. Eyes narrowed, he watched the Empress and her daughter place their hands on each otherís temples.

The Empress spoke to her daughter without using her voice. Focus from the center of you being and join with me. We seek your mate, the Protector. Who will it be? Perspiration began to bead on the faces of both women as Sarikaís life force joined with her motherís and together they reached into the unknown, searching.

Sarika searched with her whole being. 'Who?' She felt a new and unexplainable yearning well up inside of her and flow over her own boundary. 'Where are you? I need you. Come to me.' An image began to take shape and both women felt the joy of success until the form became clear. The Empress gasped and the color drained from her daughterís face while they both surveyed the striking olive-skinned figure. Windblown hair, long and black as midnight, whipped across lean-muscled shoulders. Pale blue eyes revealed a spirit of great passion. Strong hands rested on hips supported by exquisitely formed thighs and calves, balanced on long-toed feet. Altogether, unfathomable strength and purpose radiated from the person before them. Unlike anyone Sarika had ever seen before, the woman was as beautiful as she was unexpected. And whoever she was, she would never be the Protector. Mother and daughter pulled their hands away and the vision vanished leaving Sarika with a disturbing sense of loss.

The Empress stretched a trembling hand to her daughterís shoulder and pulled her down until lips were close to her ear and she whispered breathlessly, "The woman must be a key to finding your mateÖ. Sheís on her way here. Let her be your counselor. Thatís the role I sense the dark one to have in your lifeÖListen to her with your heart."

"I will mother."

 

Part One

The changing sleep patterns of middle age were unpleasant for Dr. Holis and she responded to the midnight call with bleary eyes and a nasty attitude. She was thankful to whichever benevolent spirit of nature it was that gave her the strength to hide her irritation from Elder Tai-Po. And when she saw the broken body of her patient she quickly slipped into her role of efficient healer, forgetting her vexation. She assessed the damage with a hand held scanner.

"Who is this unfortunate soul, a Menial from the outer realm?" She had gotten used to treating slaves brought to her by the elder and assumed this was the latest runaway.

Tai-Po struggled briefly with his thoughts about how much to tell the doctor. "No," he slowly responded and ran thick fingers absently over his mottled goatee, both gray and brown. "The wreckage of her craft leaves many questions only she can answer since the rest of her crew are dead. When will she be able to talk."

Cara finished scanning and programmed her mechanical assistant to begin the healing process, including a healthy dose of anesthesia to keep her patient unconscious during the most intense mending that would take place during the next eighteen hours. Her patient had lost half of her normal blood volume, suffered multiple broken bones in her limbs along with damage to her liver and intestines. She had a concussion and skull fractures but the brain itself was intact. All things considered, she was a lucky woman, whoever she was.

"She should be up and about and able to answer your questions in twenty-four hours".

After placing a drop of blood in another scanning device, Cara waited a few seconds and then read what information the general data library contained about her patient. She inhaled sharply before turning to look at the elder.

"This canít be right. Who is this woman?"

Tai-Po smiled grimly, revealing uneven teeth. "I checked the same data myself. Impossible as it seems, our patient was born in the year nineteen ninety-two AD, nearly a thousand years ago."

Cara stared in awe at her patient as the Healer whirred and whined, bringing flesh and bone back together, sealing vessels and linking nerves that the doctor could not see. In a short time there would be little evidence of any injury at all. Realizing the anthropological opportunity that her new patient provided, Cara looked forward to tomorrow when she would regain consciousness. First hand information about what life was like a thousand years ago would break up the monotony around the palace and give them something to talk about other than the damnable rebellion. As she considered the welcome novelty, Tai-Po broke into her thoughts.

"And as I said Cara, there are many questions to be answered. Donít tell anyone else about this patient until Iíve talked with her." He tilted his head down to Cara in an intimidating gesture. "Agreed?"

"I understand Elder." Cara felt relieved when he left abruptly. Tai-Po was the least liked of the elders, and the most feared. He was obviously courting Empress Sarika and Cara hoped the new empress would not take him as her mate. The only thing he cared about was himself. The Empress and the Empire deserved better.

 

_______O_______

"Brace yourselves for impact," Major Ramsey shouted to her crew. One minute they were getting a closer look at a bantam asteroid only a short distance from earth and the next all hell broke loose. In rapid motion the asteroid and her ship collided. Their small spacecraft had not been built to withstand such an event. Bright flashes of light blinded her. The next thing she was aware of was the rapid descent of her ship through earthís atmosphere and the instructions she shouted came automatically. They were going to hit hard. Her last emotion was regret that she could not save her crew.

A dull throbbing pain at the side of her head got her attention and she opened her eyes to see why she could not raise her hand. "What the.... ?" She was lying bare naked strapped to a metal bed.

Cara looked up from her desk and moved to stand close to her patient, speaking with a reassuring tone.

"Glad to see youíre awake. The restraints are only a precaution until youíve talked with Elder Tai-Po."

Ramsey calmed herself after rejecting the thought that she was literally in Hell. She wondered at the unusual accent of the gray-haired woman. "Who are you? Where is my crew?"

"Iím Dr. Holis, Cara Holis." She covered Ramsey with a blanket and her tone turned sympathetic. "Iím sorry to say there were no other survivors of the crash." She allowed Ramsey a minute to process the bad news.

"The Elder will be here in a while and heíll have questions for you. It would be wise for you to answer truthfully. I just got you healed and I donít want to have to do it all over again. In the meantime feel free to ask me anything you want while I check the Healerís work."

With the scientistís eye for perfection she noted that there was no signs of trauma to be found on Laren Ramseyís body as she scanned her once again. But the mind was another matter. She wished to ask her how she happened to crash and how it was that she was nearly a thousand years old. What was Dethra like a thousand years ago? Her dread of Tai-Po prevented such questions.

Ramsey had lost comrades before and it always left her sad and angry. And this time they were under her command. She was responsible for their lives and now they were dead. She should have died, not her crew. She pushed away her grief.

"Alright doctor, where am I?"

Looking into Ramseyís striking blue eyes at that moment produced a tremor that moved along Caraís spine. Now that she was no longer a smashed bloody mess, Laren Ramsey looked extraordinary. She seemed no more than thirty years old with a physical presence that could not be ignored. This one was strong. If Tai-Po could not find a use for her, he would probably feel compelled to break her before he killed her. She did not want to feel empathy for Ramsey, but could not help herself.

"You are in the palace of the Empress."

"Empress?"

"Yes. The Empress of Dethra."

"Of Dethra?" Ramsey repeated Cara's words again as though she were doing a parody of a well-trained parrot. "Weíre on earth, right?"

"Oh, yes. Dethra used to be called earth a millenium ago."

"A millenium ago? What year is this?"

So she does not know, thought Cara. "Well, itís not the twenty-first century."

"You mean itís the thirty-first century?"

"Not yet, but soon it will be. Well, we donít keep track of years that way anymore and itís actually the year four hundred and eight of the Era of Peace. But it would seem that you were born about a thousand years ago. Nineteen ninety-two, right?"

"Yeah. How did you know?"

"Recorded history. Even the minute details are in our data library, up until you and your crew disappeared in the year two thousand and twenty. You must have been twenty-eight years old."

"Yeah."

"But youíre not dead."

"Seems not-- The last thing I remember is an asteroid hitting my ship. Wait-- there was a change in motion before the asteroid hit us. Everything seemed to speed up. I think we entered a time-space distortion of some sort that caused the collision and brought us into the future. A thousand years forward apparently. What do you think Dr. Holis?"

"Young woman, I think youíve traveled a very long way and that you can call me Cara."

 

_______O_______

Tai-Po entered the infirmary with a flourish and scowled. "Why didnít you notify me that Ramsey had regained consciousness?"

"She hasnít been awake for more than a few minutes Elder."

Ramsey disliked the man immediately. She was repulsed by the edge of fear she heard in Caraís voice.

"Leave us now. I have many things to ask and Iím sure you have better things to do than watch us talk Cara."

"All right. But remember sheís been through a lot already."

"I forget nothing, including insolence. Leave us." Cara reluctantly left hoping her patient would not be harmed again so soon.

Tai-Po turned his intimidating look to Ramsey who was now amused by him.

"Ask away", she smiled winsomely and looked down at her restrained wrists, "I promise not to leave."

"Donít be coy Major Ramsey, it doesnít suit you."

"Coy? I apologize for giving you that impression ElderÖ. Elder Tai-Po isnít it?"

"You may call me Elder Tai-Po, yes. And if you answer my questions satisfactorily you will go free. Why are you here Ramsey?"

No more ĎMajorí. Ramsey thought it was interesting that he insisted on using his title though. "Iím here as a result of a freak accident I figure. My crew and I had a little asteroid to watch and suddenly everything speeded up and our ship collided with it. The next thing I knew we were going down through the atmosphere and here I am. Apparently a thousand years has gone by since I left. Do you know of anything like this happening before?"

"No, never. And because I havenít, even though our data library confirms your identity, Iím not convinced that your arrival here is accidental. You know we are in the midst of a rebellion."

"No, I didnít know."

"Yes, a rebellion that will change everything and bring down the Empire of Dethra if it isnít stopped soon. Itís a rebellion of the inferior class against the superior, slaves against the free. How do you feel about that Ramsey?"

"I admit I donít like the idea of slavery and it was not allowed by the government of my time."

"Thatís right, it wasnít. And guess what happened. Anarchy took over before the end of the next generation. Famine and disease and ignorance resulted. We lost much through the second age of darkness. It took a long time for mankind to become healthy again. We had world peace for more than four hundred years, and now the hard-won order is being shattered by the arrogance of reprobate Menials. They poison the minds of others and we are losing hold of the Era of Peace. Everyone must fall into one of two categories Ramsey, categories that you may not accept. You may even be here to bring down the Empire. Are you?" Tai-Po looked at a monitor near Ramsey.

"No.  No,  Iím not here for political reasons. Itís just a terrible accident. My crew is dead and I suppose I should be too."

Ramsey turned melancholy. She had lost her soldiers and everything that was familiar to her, including her family and friends.

"I donít know whatís happened to the world and I will leave the politics to the politicians. I always have."

"It seems you are not lying. Still, I am not sure about you yet. You are a soldier, an officer whoís led successful military campaigns for political power."

Tai-Po noted the elevation of Ramseyís vital signs reflected in the monitor along with the intensity that he doubted she could keep out of her eyes even if she wanted to. She was really a remarkable specimen. The only thing that kept her from being beautiful was her dark skin. That and the fact that if she was standing she would be taller than he was.

He projected, "You donít like me do you?"

"No, not much."

"The feeling is mutual Ramsey, so you wonít be surprised about what I have decided." A flash of Tai-Poís grin warned her that she was not going to like his decision. "I will remove your restraints but not until youíve been given the collar of a Menial. You will be my slave and if you please me, I will let you live. I will reconsider your life on a daily basis."

The elder was not disappointed at the lack of fear in her eyes because he was anticipating the pleasure of giving her pain until hatred turned to fear, and then he would kill her. She might have been a superior woman in her time, but her time was long gone.

 

_______O_______

The warmth of the morning sun became unpleasant as the day wore on and believing herself to be isolated while she worked in the palace garden, Ramsey stripped down to her loincloth. For three days Major Ramsey had worn the black metal ring of a slave around her neck. She had learned that Tai-Po could cause her to drop to her knees in pain by merely pressing a black spot on his bracelet. He teased her with it, sometimes making her drop for no reason other than his whim. At night he threatened her with death.

'So this is the future', Ramsey thought with disgust. 'People abusing people.' She was glad that she had not had children. She had no descendents to be a part of this monstrous atrocity.

Time passed quickly and Laren was learning how to lose herself in the simple tasks assigned to her. She had not weeded a garden since she was a teenager at her grandmotherís ranch. She remembered and let her fingers play in the dark soil enjoying the texture. She loved the smell of the earth. Earth. Ha! Strange how good it feels to laugh even when my life is over. This is no longer earth, it is Dethra, Laren thought bitterly.

Inside the palace Empress Sarika was losing patience with one of her Menials.

"What do you mean you canít fix the biosystem today? Itís positively awful in here and I want it fixed by this evening. Get more slaves to help if you need to but do it quickly Talbert."

"Iíll do everything in my power Empress, but the system is ancient. I canít find the schematics anywhere and the data library shows completely different wiring than what it actually has. Nobody does this kind of thing anymore."

Talbert stopped when he realized he was whining and from the corner of his eye he could she the enchanting features of the Empress take on a pink glow.

"Iíll keep at it Empress."

"Good. Now go." Sarika allowed her personal slaves to place a cool compress on her brow and fan her while she sipped her favorite ice tea. She just began to feel better when a slave announced that Elder Tai-Po sought an audience with her. She waved away the compress and fans.

"I will receive him."

Tai-Po entered with his usual fanfare, elegant robes flowing behind him. When he reached Sarika he got down on one knee, smoothed his goatee and placed a lingering kiss over the ring on her right hand.

Sarika inquired, "What concerns you that couldnít wait until the council meeting in the morning Elder?"

It had been one week since her motherís death and still Sarika had not softened to him, treating him with the same formality as the other elders. The Empress had not revealed who her mate was to be and his sureness that her vision had been of him was beginning to wane. He had already earned a terrible afterlife to get her. He would not allow anyone else to have her and he had decided to pressure her into accepting him.

"More attacks from runaways Empress. I need your approval to use level four nerve gas."

"But that would contaminate the area for years, would it not?"

"Yes. But the renegade Menials have managed to make an antidote for the level three agent. They are approaching the boundary of the Holy Estate. Itís either the gas or the fire laser from one of our few workable aircraft. Either way there will be long lasting effects on the environment." Her spiritual training was extreme and demanded that she protect the environment. How could she make the decision to act?

He noticed her look of pained indecision and his small spirit was glad.

"Empress, I long to help you with this. I would give anything to make this easier for youÖ. Have you considered making me the Protector of Dethra? You must know by now that I care for you very deeply." He wanted to say more but he knew anything more would not be tolerated.

"I have considered many things, Elder."

Sarika felt sick. Her vision of the dark woman with the blue eyes made little sense and before long she would have to take a mate. Her body itself would demand it. How unfortunate that Tai-Po was the best candidate. She had never liked him. His manipulations and harsh nature were not lost on her. But she did not have to give in to him today.

"I will consider your words Elder Tai-Po, and I will leave the decision about how to retaliate against the runaways for tomorrow. We will discuss it further with the rest of the elders during Council. In the meantime dispatch our crafts to blast sound waves. That will keep them from advancing too quickly."

She was dismissing him again and he barely managed to hide his rage. She would not be able to put him off much longer. In two weeks she would celebrate her eighteenth birthday and the ritual of womanhood would bring on an irresistible drive to mate. The last empress who refused to mate had gone insane and killed herself. She will not say yes to me now but soon she will be begging me to take her. Who else would she choose? None of the other elders will compete with me any more. Her choice is simple. She must mate with me and make me the Protector of Dethra or die. With that thought Tai-Poís rage left him and he offered the Empress a genuine smile that almost made him handsome before taking his leave.

Sarika yearned to be free from the responsibilities that lay heavily on her shoulders. The relief she found in a cool bath was only temporary and again feeling out of sorts she wandered to the balcony where she let her mind drift until her eyes settled on the lone figure of a Menial working in the garden. Rising from the ground laughing, the slave removed what little clothing she wore, standing tall and naked in the bright sunlight. Her skin glistened with the sheen of perspiration, her magnificent form marred only by the black collar around her neck. She glanced up and Sarika felt a jolt pass through her. 'Those eyes. By all that exists in the universe and beyond, it is my vision in the flesh.' And then her vision dove cleanly into the sacred pond. Rising quickly to the surface her long arms sliced through the water and her body glided smoothly away until the definition of her remarkably muscled frame could no longer be seen, only to reach the edge and turn to swim back again. Not daring to take her eyes from the dark-haired woman, Sarika uncharacteristically yelled for her slave.

"Celeste, come quickly."

And Celeste came quickly to her. "Yes Empress?"

Nodding her chin to the pool below she demanded, "Who is that slave in the pond?"

Celeste gasped at the sacrilege unfolding below. Only the Empress was allowed to enter the sacred pond where she offered her morning prayers. "Her name is Ramsey and she belongs to Elder Tai-Po, Empress. Sheís new to the palace and  obviously has not been told about the sacred water. I will tell her."

Sarika motioned for Celeste to be still, her cheeks blushed. "No, just bring her to me."

"As you wish, Empress," she responded, and made her way across the royal suite and down in the ancient elevator that made sounds of protest she had learned to ignore.

When she reached the garden she was relieved to find Ramsey out of the water and dressing. The slave was tall and the way she turned and looked directly at her caused Celeste to wish that she were not alone with her.

"The Empress has summoned you. Please follow me."

"Really? The Empress? What does she want with me?"

"You just swam in her sacred pond." Celeste was pleased that Ramsey was willing to follow her. "But I donít think she wants to punish you." Celeste recalled the expression on Empress Sarikaís face as she watched Ramsey swim and in all her years with the young woman she had never seen that particular expression before. She did not look angry exactly. "I donít know, maybe she is curious."

"So when I meet her should I bow or something?"

"Yes, and do not look directly into her eyes. Do whatever she says without question. She holds the spirit of The Source and you must show that you respect both her sacredness and her authority."

Seeing the look of astonishment that played quickly across Ramseyís face, Celeste felt a twinge of pity for her.

"It is true, isnít it?"

"Whatís true?"

"That you come from a place so far away that you are ignorant."

"I donít like being called ignorant and Iím getting enlightened real fast. Tell me, does the Empress give you much pain?"

"No, never. And you mustnít talk about pain, especially around the Empress. She doesnít like it."

"Well now, that makes two of us", laughed Ramsey.

Celeste felt trouble brewing. Ramsey had the temperament of a runaway. Nevertheless, she did as she was instructed and brought her to stand before the Empress who waited for Ramsey to bow before addressing her.

Ramsey had never met an empress before and did not know where to put her hands and she finally looked at Celeste for help. Celeste mouthed the word 'bow'. Ramseyís dark hair brushed the floor as she bowed elegantly.

Sarika sighed with relief. "Tell me your name slave." Her voice wavered and she wished the woman could look at her.

"Ramsey. Major Laren Ramsey your Highness." She let her eyes rest on the delicate fingers that grasped the arms of a chair barely small enough for the woman in front of her.

"You may call me Empress Sarika. Or just Empress. You have an unusual name. I have traveled the world and never seen hair or eye color like yours. And you form words strangely. Where were you born Major Laren Ramsey?"

"Texas. Empress, please call me Ramsey." The Empress had a soothing voice and she wanted to match the sounds with her expressions. Ramsey thought it was awkward, not being able to look at her directly.

"Tell me Ramsey, where in the universe is Texas?"

"Not that it matters much, but didnít Tai-Po tell you anything about me?"

"No. Elder Tai-Po didnít. Should he have?"

Suddenly Ramsey was looking into her eyes. Sarika descended into clear blue stillness and felt as though she was in deep spiritual meditation. Radiant warmth filled her. She had never before seen eyes as exquisite as this, nor felt such a welcome connection to another person, let alone a Menial.

Ramsey was surprised that the Empress was so young. The tone of her voice did not match her youth. And her eyes were hypnotic. Ramsey felt drawn to her and the strength of it startled her to anger. This young woman was considered to be holy yet she ruled over an evil empire. And that made her evil.

"I donít think youíve had anyone from Texas in Dethra before Empress, I thought the novelty of it would have been mentioned to you."

The sarcastic flavor was not lost on Sarika who snapped back as the stillness in Ramseyís eyes was devoured by a hostile flare. No one had dared look at her so before. She was loath to say what came next but knew she must.

"Watch yourself slave and avert your eyes from mine." Ramsey clenched her jaw but obeyed the young empress. "Youíre arrogant and would not last long with Elder Tai-Po. Itís a blessing for you that I claim you for my own." She scribbled a note and handed it to Celeste. "Take this to the Elder and tell him that my decision is final."

"But Empress, the Elder will.Ö"

"She is no longer the concern of the Elder. My message will be enough Celeste."

Celeste brooded in the elevator. Trouble was brewing all right. This slave would not do for the Empress. She did not even belong in the palace.

Sarika dismissed the remaining slaves except Ramsey who was struggling with the idea of being claimed by the young woman, empress or not. Sensing Ramseyís distress Sarika rose.

"Kneel before me Ramsey."

Ramsey kept her eyes averted from the petit empress but remained standing. No one had dared defy her this way before.

"You became mine the moment you entered the sacred pond. Now kneel."

Still Ramsey stood and it was Sarika who shook slightly. She had to establish her authority now or Ramsey would be no good to her and she was sure that the magnificent person who defied her was the key that would help her find her mate, although she realized that Ramsey did not know it. Before her mother died she told her to listen to the counsel of the dark woman of the vision. She was willing to listen but only after she knew she could trust her. She used her most commanding tone against the resistance of the tall woman.

"Kneel Ramsey."

Watching the still body she experienced desperation for the first time in her young life. She pointed an arm toward her slave and her finger touched the black spot on her bracelet. Ramsey fell solidly to her knees, gasping in shock at the shriveling, burning pain consuming her.

Sarika raised her chin and removed her finger from her bracelet. A shudder of empathy passed through her.

"I didnít like doing that. Obey me from now on and I will never have to do it again."

Ramsey filled her lungs with air while the searing pain began to subside. She had learned her lesson and would do her best to obey her new owner. She had thought nothing could hurt worse than Tai-Poís torture but now she knew there was worse torment at the hands of her new owner.

Sarika knew it would be several minutes before Ramsey could stand. She placed her hand on the olive-skinned cheek.

"Will you do what I say?" There was regret in her face but Ramsey could not look into her eyes and did not see it.

"Yes-- Empress."

"Good."

Sarika touched the silky black hair in a comforting gesture and knew that she was the one seeking comfort. She hoped her new slave did not force her to use the collar again. It was positively awful. And the growing need she felt to look into her eyes a second time was distressing. The attraction and the alarming power of it confused her. Forcing herself to step away from the slave, Sarika chose to lighten her mood.

"Tell me what kind of abilities you have, besides gardening and swimming."

Pushing humiliation aside, Ramsey answered her new owner.

"Iím a military officer and a pretty good pilot, not too bad with computerized electronics and I make great chili. By the way, your elevators and cooling system could use some repair."

Sarika gaped. "Who are you?"

"You can read all about me in the library Iíve been told."

Walking to her work desk Sarika touched several places on it's top and began to read aloud: "Ramsey, Laren JusticeÖ Major, United States of America Airforce. Born November 26, 1992 AD and died December 2, 2020.... Led several successful missions against the Nation of China before her death at the age of 28 while commanding a craft that collided with an asteroidÖ." Sarika stopped reading and stared at Ramsey. "Very funny", she said without humor. "What is your true name?"

"That's it Empress." Hoping to avoid another dose of pain, Ramsey made a suggestion. "Please, talk to Dr. Holis and sheíll confirm it. So could Elder Tai-Po if he would. Heís the one that found me half dead after my ship crashed."

"And you expect me to believe that youíre nine hundred and sixty-three years old?"

"Iím about as old as Methuselah. I know I look younger donít I?" She wished the Empress would tell her to look at her so she could see her sincerity. She did not.

"Please, talk with the doctor."

"I will slave. If you are lying you will regret it and if you arenít, then Elder Tai-Po will regret withholding the information."

 

_______O_______

Wishing she had not missed the inspiring calm of noon meditation, Dr Cara Holis popped a couple of serenity pills into her mouth before responding to the summons. And still she was anxious, sitting in front of her young ruler while telling her just about everything she knew about Major Laren Ramsey. Chattering as if they were the best of friends, she knew that if her nervousness was annoying to her it must be even more so to the Empress.

"Yes indeed, Ramsey was quite the bloody mess when I first laid eyes on her, what with broken bones sticking out everywhere." She paused only to take a breath. "But she healed very nicely, wouldnít you say so Empress Sarika? I am so sorry for rambling but IÖ"

Sarika boldly grazed her eyes across Ramsey. "Itís all right Dr. Holis, I agree with your assessment." She admired the glow of health shining from the strong figure. So different from others, and the difference thrilled her.

Ramsey could not see where the eyes of the Empress lingered but the sultry gaze may as well have been a caress. Once nicknamed Major Machismo because of her physical prowess and stoic demeanor, Ramsey now wondered at the warmth flooding her. Was it embarrassment? She thought that it must be, and had to marshal her will to keep from telling the young woman to stop whatever it was she was doing to her, empress or not. Instead, she spoke to the nervously fidgeting doctor.

"Cara, what convinced you that I am Major Ramsey?"

"The Elder convinced me. I mean, I didnít really believe you were from the twenty-first century until Elder Tai-Po said he personally checked the data. And everything about you fit someone from that Era. Your dark skin, hair and height. Havenít you noticed we all have brown hair and eye color? I mean all except the Empress?" Cara tilted her head toward the colorful Empress with dazzling light auburn hair and green eyes.

Cara was physician to the Holy Empress and knew her unusual coloring was due to the unique mating process that did not just require the joining of two people in the usual manner, but a medical procedure similar to cloning. Hair and eye color, along with telepathic kinetic abilities were thereby passed down from mother to daughter. An Empress always inherited more from her mother than her father.

The rest of humanity, what was left after the Second Age of Darkness, procreated the usual way until they shared a similar coloring of their own. The only thing differentiating them was whether they wore the bracelet of a Ruler or the collar of a Menial. Rulers were born to Rulers and Menials to Menials. Elder Tai-Po broke the pattern by putting a collar on Ramsey.

Cara continued her reasoning, her audience oblivious to the pause. "Yes, when the Elder confirmed the Libraryís data then it made sense. You were listed as dead nine hundred and thirty-five years ago because somehow you crashed here. You said you mustíve entered a time distortion didnít you?-- Ramsey?"

It seemed that the time-traveler stared at the Empress. And if she was not mistaken her Empress was staring at Ramsey. Cara was shocked that the Empress allowed the intimacy and waited silently, feeling the tension.

Ramsey wondered what force caused her to look unguarded at the young woman. The Empress saw into her soul, and knowing that she also saw into the soul of the Empress paradoxically relieved her embarrassment.

Sarika sank again into the blue depths of her slaveís eyes. She believed. Ramsey was different from all others; she was from another time. And she knew Ramsey was as confused about it as everyone else. Perhaps she and her mother had even caused her to be here. Some things, she knew, could not be explained. She respected the mystical elements. Before she died her mother said this woman would be her counselor, but what could someone from nine centuries past tell her that she did not already know?

Ramsey felt a growing desire to speak to the Empress. "Trust me. I will always tell you the truth," she finally said.

Sarika saw the gleaming white smile and was captivated. Her chin thrust forward.

"I do."

The brief statements were meant as promises and sealed a bond between them. The intensity of the moment lessened when Ramsey looked away. Sarika was amazed that she felt the presence of the newcomer so forcefully. Turning to Cara, she willed her rapidly beating heart to calm.

"Why wasnít I told about Ramsey days ago when she was found?"

Cara had been waiting for this question. "The Elder was in charge, Empress. I didnít think it was my place."

She wanted to add that the Elder had ordered her to keep Ramseyís identity a secret but she did not intend to say anything Tai-Po would undoubtedly punish her for later.

"Of course."

Sarika focused on Ramsey again, hoping the thrilling stimulation she felt at doing so was not projected to her slave. She could not always keep sudden responses from being telekinetically projected.

"Elder Tai-Po chose to make you his slave. Why."

"He said he didnít trust me since no one has been known to time travel before and I know how to wage military campaigns. But most of all, I think he wanted a target for his bracelet." Ramsey fingered her black neck collar.

Sarika preferred that the Rulers use the bracelet only as a last resort for disciplining Menials and this was not the first time she it been implied that Tai-Po used pain liberally. Nothing could be done about Tai-Po unless another Ruler willing to report it witnessed the misuse. She was sorry that she herself had to discipline Ramsey with the bracelet. She had never felt such a mixture of distress and relief when Ramsey responded to the pain. Menials could not be allowed to ignore the authority over them, no matter how much one may like a slave, and pain induced by the collar was an effective way to insure obedience.

"Once the collar is worn, it can never be removed. Did you know this?"

"No. But Iím not surprised."

Ramsey was a realist and thought nothing about Dethra could surprise her anymore, no matter how abhorrent.

"Perhaps itís for the best that Elder Tai-Po made you a slave since youíre a foreigner and therefore could never be a Ruler. Everyone must be one or the other. To allow someone to live among us who is neither would disturb the order we strive to maintain. Since it is my duty as the Holy Empress to keep order, you will remain my slave, but know that I will be good to you. I will keep in mind that your adjustment is a process. And you will keep in mind that my authority is absolute."

Ramsey had no other choice.

"Yes Empress."

Sarika gracefully fanned her face.

"This evening you will tell me what the world used to be like." She hoped the biosystem would be fixed by then. "In the meantime Dr. Holis can show you how to access the library. I want you to learn all you can about the world as it is, since this is your home now. And I will consider what work would be best for you."

She dismissed the two women and contemplated the course of action she should take against Elder Tai-Po for keeping Ramsey a secret. She wanted to make it a harsh response but she needed him to help subdue the rebels, so it would be only a token. But perhaps for the proud elder, making him forfeit his chair at her right hand during council would be painful enough to make him think twice before keeping something important from her again.

 

_______O_______

Light from the clear ceiling of the library shone down onto Ramseyís head making blue highlights. She could not gain access to all the information in the library but what she learned about the history of the world deepened her grief.

The war with China had ended with a nuclear holocaust that nearly desolated the earth. High tech systems were largely wiped out and radiation poisoned the food and water along with most of the people. Tai-Po was right. Sickness and anarchy reigned for a long time. Those who were strong hoarded resources and enslaved others to work for them.

A religion surfaced that was based on purifying the environment and establishing order. Status was determined by birth. Religion provided leadership for government and united the world under the office of the Holy Empress. But in the last few days the dissatisfaction of some of the slaves had grown into a rebellion that reached the borders of the Holy Land and would soon threaten the palace of the Empress.

Ramsey wondered what armaments were being used in this conflict but learned nothing other than that the Rulers had aircraft while the rebels did not. This advantage alone should have given victory to the Rulers long ago. Ramseyís military mind was puzzled.

She learned that there were no emperors, only empresses. It seemed that only the females of the line of Dethra had the ability to impart cleansing to others, and to the environment. It was remarkable that the empresses resembled each other so much. Empress Vilell, Sarikaís mother, had been the twelfth, her life cut short by an unknown illness. Her holographic image revealed a beautiful woman in the prime of life. She died just a week ago, explaining the black robe that Empress Sarika wore. Her death also made Sarika the thirteenth empress of Dethra, an unlucky number according to superstition. And twelve had not been so fortunate either, Ramsey thought.

The sunlight pouring through the ceiling began to cause her discomfort and Ramsey decided she had spent enough time in the library for one day. She got up to leave and noticed the holographic screen at the next booth. It clearly represented the plot design for a temperature control unit, probably the one for the palace. Ramsey spoke to the man who watched the hologram with a frustrated expression.

"Have you been studying this design long?"

"All day and it still makes no sense. The actual system is not put together like this. The colors and connections are different and I canít see how to fix it. Oh, Iím Talbert by the way."

Ramsey noted the slave collar her wore and wondered how severely he would be punished if he could not fix the system soon.

"Ramsey. Pleased to meet you." She made a quick decision.

"I know how to work on systems like this and Iíd be glad to help, not only for the cooler air but to keep your owner from giving you the bracelet treatment. Who owns you?" If he said it was Tai-Po she had no doubt he would be cruelly punished.

"Are you kidding me?"

Talbert was willing to kiss the feet of this darkly majestic woman if she could help him fix the biosystem.

"Iíll take any help you can give, but not because the Empress would cause me that kind of pain. She never uses the bracelet on me. Actually, they say sheís never used the bracelet on anyone. But I donít want her to be unhappy with me either. She can still make my life miserable, you know?"

Ramsey did not want to tell him that the Empress had used the bracelet to make an impression on her earlier in the day.

"Yeah, I know."

Talbert showed her the biosystem control panels and she went to work, replacing coils and thin fiber wiring using magnifying lenses. She explained the layout to Talbert who was fascinated, thinking Ramsey was either making a mess of things or she was a genius. They turned on the repaired system and the air surrounding them quickly became more comfortable to breathe. He decided she was a genius.

Ramsey felt a surge of relief. "That should hold her for awhile. The next thing to go will be the microprocessors. Weíll have to make some if you donít have any on stock. You know, this isnít too different from my time."

"Ha. What are you talking about, youíre younger than me, and this system is ancient."

"I mean itís not too different than the systems where I used to live."

"Really? I didnít know there were other biosystems around. Where are you from?"

"Texas"

"Never heard of it Ramsey, but I heard you came from some place pretty far away and thatís why you look different. Does everyone from Texas have black hair?"

"Nope."

"Blue eyes?"

"No. Thereís, variety back home, but Texas is pretty far away all right."

"Sounds like you miss it."

"I do. Iíd give anything to go back."

"Well, when I tell the Empress that youíre the one who fixed the biosystem, she just might be willing to grant you a visit back to Texas."

"Somehow Talbert, I just donít think so."

 

_______O_______

Time was going by too fast for Sarika. She needed to find a way to stop the rebels with the least amount of damage to the environment possible, and she had to choose a mate before her birthday. The two tasks seemed impossible. Her evening prayers were filled with pleas for help and guidance from The Source, and the benevolent spirits of the dead.

When she heard audible voices in response she thought it was the result of taking too many serenity pills after meeting Ramsey. It sounded like her mother, telling her to listen with her heart. She waited for more but there was only the rumble of her stomach making her need for food known. She was not happy to have more mystery presented to her when it was answers that she needed.

Immediately after dining Sarika called for Ramsey.

"Talbert tells me the Palace has you to thank for fixing the biosystem. Thank you Ramsey."

Remembering to keep her eyes averted, Ramsey bowed gracefully. "My pleasure Empress."

"When we are alone like we are now, you have my permission to call me Sarika. Did you enjoy the Library?"

"Enjoy is not the word. But I caught up on the basics of world history over the past nine hundred years. It seems no one won the war. Not Asia and not North America."

Sarika noted Ramseyís sadness. "The holocaust was terrible. Youíve lost your family and your friends and you wonder if they suffered. Iím sorry. I too have lost someone close to me recently."

"Your mother, I read. And Iím sorry for your loss Empress."

"Sarika, I insist. Now sit and tell me about your life." Sarika patted the cushion beside her.

Ramsey did not want to like the young woman before her. She reminded herself that she was a prisoner of sorts, and the Empress was the head jailer. She reminded herself of the bracelet on the wrist of the woman and the collar around her own neck. So when she sat next to her and reminisced about her past, she pretended that she was alone and Sarika was not a part of her world. She lost herself in the telling and forgot that she was speaking.

She remembered her dreams of wanting to be free and fly like the wind. Riding horses on the ranch her family had owned for generations. The face of her brother as they wrestled in the mud, his freckles disappearing. The hard work of branding cattle. The lessons about reaping what you sow, and if something was worth doing it was worth giving it your all-out best. The beauty of the big blue sky on a summer day that brought the family together for picnics. The excitement of summer storms and the first snow of winter. Cold hands, breaking the ice on the water troughs. Newborn animals. Togetherness. And the love of freedom.  To have your own land and sit under your own tree. She remembered.

"Go onÖ. Continue Ramsey." Sarika was enthralled by the beautiful prose that came from her slaveís mouth. She wanted to hear more of the rich voice, even if the ideas were strange. "You really rode a horse? And did everyone sit under their own tree?"

Startled by the voice and the hand on her thigh, Ramsey turned and looked at Sarika. She was lovely, leaning toward her with eyes wide and lips smiling in an altogether expectant pose. Ramseyís stomach knotted.

"Not everyone Empress." Ramsey turned her eyes away.

"No, I want you to look at me when weíre alone, and call me Sarika."

Ramsey glanced at the hand on her leg and up to Sarikaís face, which had taken on a slight pout. She was really just a child who was used to getting her way. But a dangerous child, Ramsey knew.

"All right, Sarika."

The Empress beamed with pleasure at hearing Ramsey say her name while looking in her eyes. Ramsey was startled, pleasure coursing through her and settling for a tingling, agonizing second between her legs. A child with a womanís body, Ramsey amended. And Sarika was the first to break the contact, removing both her hand and her eyes from her slave, a look of shock on her face.

Oh shit! , Ramsey thought, knowing Sarika had seen the brief sexual response in her eyes. She felt humiliated again, a developing pattern she was determined to change.

"Can I go now?"

Sarika had just realized the nature of her attraction to Ramsey and although she was unaccustomed to the new thoughts forming in her mind, she was quickly adjusting. It was not forbidden for an empress to take a woman for a lover, just unusual. Even more unusual if the woman was a Menial but she was sure there was a precedent for such a relationship somewhere. And if not, she would set one.

She looked up at Ramsey with new eyes, sure of herself for the first time since becoming Empress.

"No you canít go yet. I still have some things on my mind, and you will stay until Iím satisfied."

Sarika wore confidence well. Too well, Ramsey thought. And suddenly she felt like prey for the young woman.

"What satisfaction can I give you?"

Now she purposefully projected her desire and ran her hand up Ramseyís arm, cool skin rubbing warm until her hand found the slave collar at her neck.

"Tell me traveler, did you leave behind a mate?" Pressing herself against solid warmth, she felt her slaveís growing agitation and Sarikaís confidence wavered.

Ramseyís skin tingled everywhere Sarika touched her and she was having difficulty thinking instead of feeling the delicious and yet unwelcome sensations.

"No. I have no mate."

Sarika moved the back of her hand to caress her neck and jaw.

"But you were a soldier. Surely you have experienced sex."

"Yeah," Ramsey gasped and when Sarika placed her other hand on her thigh again, she stopped it from moving to more sensitive places by placing her own hand on top.

"Sex with a woman?"

Ramsey silently cursed herself for telling the Empress that she would always tell her the truth. "Yes."

"Well Iíve never had a lover. You will be my first Ramsey, this is the satisfaction I need from you."

She touched her lips to the olive-hued skin at Ramseyís throat, causing her distraught slave to leap from the cushion.

"No."

Sarika was confused again. "No? But you want me. I can feel your desire."

"You felt my body responding, thatís all. I donít love you, you donít love me and I donít want to be your lover." Seeing the look of fury on Sarikaís face, Ramsey prepared herself for the pain of the collar.

"You dare defy me?"

"I don't mean to be defiant. Iím telling you the truth. I told you I would always tell you the truth."

Anger departed from the Empress when she saw the anxiety in her slaveís eyes and the brief thought of using the bracelet again was quickly rejected. Feelings that Ramsey inspired in her were almost out of control. And now she felt despair. If she felt this awful before the ritual of womanhood she did not want to imagine how she would feel in less than two weeks when the irresistible urge to mate took her over.

"Why wonít you love me?"

"You rule over me. Iím your slave. Iím not free to love you."

She was the Empress and she would never beg although at that moment, looking at her splendid slave, she wished that she could. Her chin rose and she tore her eyes from the object of her yearning.

"Go then. Just go."

When Ramsey left she took another pill. Just before she drifted into sleep she heard a voice from the Source once more.

'Why do you hold on so tight to what you could so easily let go of?'

_______O_______

Without feeling rested Sarika arose and went half-heartedly to her morning prayers, numbly noting that the elevator did not offer itís usual grumbling on her way down to the sacred pond.

When she got there the sight of Ramsey sleeping on the ground greeted her. She shook her slave and then put her fingers to her lips.

"Quiet, slave. I donít want to alert the whole palace to our presence here. What are you doing here anyway?"

Ramsey rubbed her eyes. "I have no other place to sleep since you claimed me yesterday." She watched as Sarika let the robe fall from her shoulders to the ground. "What are you doing?" She clutched the robe at Sarikaís feet and pulled it back up to her shoulders, bringing her breast to naked breast with the Empress since the robe remained open.

Sarika was rewarded with that tingling current she could not get out of her mind since she first felt it the night before. She placed her hands at the back of Ramseyís neck and began to pull the dark head down for a much-desired kiss.

Ramsey knew what was happening and was powerless to stop it. The Empress pushed inexperienced lips against hers and the world spun around them.

Sarika heard herself moan when Ramsey took control of the kiss. Yes. This is what she needed. She had never felt so alive. The scent of the garden was potent but none of the blossoms smelled as good as Ramsey. The texture of her hot mouth was exciting beyond anything else she had ever experienced. She wanted to feel more of her.

"Oh," she groaned when Ramsey pulled away only to claim her lips again in an even deeper kiss.

The sound of shattering glass broke the loverís passionate reverie. Ramsey pushed Sarika to the ground and covered her with her own body, inadvertently pushing the air out of the smaller womanís lungs.

"Whoís there?"

Ramsey looked around the perimeter of the garden. No one answered and Sarika struggled to move.

Once she caught her breath she decided she liked their position and wrapped her arms around Ramseyís waist.

"No oneís here but us. Iím very happy that you changed your mind." She began to taste the flesh of neck above her.

Ramsey felt the heat of passion stir again but this time she was prepared. "There is an attraction, I admit. But itís not love and I havenít changed my mind." Ramsey rolled to the side and stood away from the little beauty. "It wonít happen again."

Deciding she did not have time to push it, Sarika tossed the robe aside again, standing boldly before her stubborn slave. With a tone befitting a woman who was used to being obeyed, she flung out her instructions.

"Your sleeping arrangements will not be overlooked anymore. From now on you will spend your nights in my bed."

"Where are you going to sleep?"

Not bothering to respond, Sarika dove into the water. Ramsey knew she had been dismissed and left to ask Celeste where she could find some breakfast, feeling as though she had no more control over her life.

Sarika let the water cool her until she was ready to meditate. Her morning prayers began with more than the usual thankfulness and ended with the never-ending need for guidance. The benediciton was odd.  "I am willing to listen, mother. But I am going to have Ramsey, counselor or not."

Her breakfast was not appetizing and she ate little of it.  Her personal slaves wondered if she was ill but she assured them she was not and asked Celeste to get her council robe. Celeste knew that it was time and had it ready. She let Celeste dress her. It had been more than a week since she wore something other than the black of mourning. Unfortunately the purple robe clashed with her coloring and she defiantly added a long black scarf to match her mood before leaving her suite.

Tai-Po stroked his goatee while he simmered with jealousy and anger. His position in the council had been diminished and he no longer sat at the side of the Empress. Worse than that, he witnessed the lovemaking between the Empress and Ramsey in the garden. The Empress was giving to Ramsey what belonged to him.

Where was the fairness in life, he wondered. How could the Empress do this to him? But it would change. The Ramsey bitch had thrown his plans back a bit, that was all.

He stood with the eleven other elders when Sarika entered the hall, bowing and speaking in unison with the others, greeting the Holy Empress.

Sarika let it be known that she was as committed as her mother before her, to end the rebellion of the Menials but not at the expense of undo harm to the environment. Level four gas was a last resort, and not the choice she wanted to make today. She polled each elder for another plausible solution and one-by-one they failed to provide anything useful. Finally she reached Tai-Po. And he put in motion his revised plan.

"I think there is another solution. We have here at the Palace an expert in weapons and military strategy, someone who could probably repair some of our ancient weapons like she did the biosystem yesterday. Weapons that maim but don't kill and wonít harm the environment. An ancient to restore what is ancient."

The Elders looked to the Empress to explain what Tai-Po was talking about.

Sarika wondered why she hadnít thought of it herself. Of course, Ramsey was an expert in computerized electronics. "Elder Tai-Po refers to Major Laren Ramsey, someone he rescued from a crash just days ago. Her undeniable identity is of someone who fought in the third world war, just before the nuclear holocaust."

Astonished exclamations and questions erupted from the elders. Sarika quieted them with a raised arm. "What is important now is that she is the only one who knows how to make the ancient weapons useful for us. Tai-Po may have the right idea. But Ramsey is my slave and must be monitored by someone who knows more about the weapons more than I do."

Tai-Po was the first to offer. "I would be glad to oversee Ramseyís work."

Sarika hoped another elder would volunteer but the rest of the council members agreed that Tai-Po was the most knowledgeable about the weapons of the ancients.

"So be it then. I will have Ramsey report to you Elder Tai-Po but I expect a progress report at least twice a day and you can anticipate that I will be making onsite appraisals at the garrison."

She had learned that she could not trust Tai-Po completely and she did not want to hear that he was using the bracelet to torment Ramsey as he did when she was his slave.     But for now, she had little choice but to give him his way.

Tai-Po showed his uneven teeth through a tight-lipped grin. "May your trust in me be fully regained Empress. Check whenever you like." His little Celeste would let him know when she was coming to visit, he had no fear.

 

Continued in Part 2

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