Andromeda sat opposite her competitor for a spot on a famous team of killers. The hoverbus cruised from the poor suburbs of Blossoming Orchid City to the downtown-located gladiatorial college of the Sisters. No conversation between the warriors from regional leagues took place.
She was beautiful, Andromeda felt with a pang of pain of unhealed heartbreak. She missed Sadie, her girlfriend, whom she would never see again after her conviction for morbid indebtedness and sentence to slavery two months ago. Her competitor for the spot on the gladiatorial team, whose name she hadn’t asked, was white blonde, had pretty blue eyes, and a cute, upturned nose. She had smiled at Andromeda, not frowned, as Andromeda had done, as they each tried to make way for the other to enter the bus first.
“Hi, I’m Andromeda.” Andromeda was a little overweight, not bad to look at, and had long, shiny curly black hair. She felt sexy draped in her thick black curls.
“Hi. I’m Barbara. Nice to meet you. So, we’re going to be competing for a spot on the Sisters. Wow, eh!” But her lovely smile faded as she spoke.
“Yeah,” Sister Andromeda. Sister Andromeda offered her hand and took Barbara’s. Barbara’s palm was cool; her fingers, long, slender, tapered deliciously at her tips. Her grip was cool and dry but the pressure was warm, starting with a softer squeeze, and finishing with a instant of harder pressure that said, “I mean it. You’re meeting the real me.”
One of them was going to have spot on the unstoppable Sisters of Planet Blossoming Orchid, and the other: she couldn’t think of that black fate.
Barbara was being so real to her. More real than anyone had been since she started fighting in the Arena. Or warm, maybe. Not just real.
Her eyes stung, her face contracted, and soon she was crying, hard. Feeling like she would never kiss, never caress, never fuck or touch the same way again. Just muted sensations felt through Polyflesh and PolySteel. She would fight until she died or could buy her freedom. But she was about to enter the realm of the gods of war, monstrous rape machines and murderers with 100 kills. She feared to confront the least of the Devils, the Sister’s opponents in three days.
It was too much. And the bus was only ten minutes from the entrance to the Sister’s compound. Could she escape? She had her knives. Hijack the bus? And go where? Be shot dead by police?
Suddenly warm, fuzzy cotton-clothed arms hugged her and a cool hand began rubbing her back.
“It’s going to be okay, Andromeda.” And then wetness on her already wet cheek, a kiss. Such sexy pressure, such chiseled lips.
“But how?” Andromeda blubbered like a child, letting herself be held like one. “One of us going to die, either in the Arena, or if we both survive, they’ll tear one of us apart.”
“It’s just going to be okay anyway, okay?” A second hand joining the first, rubbing Andromeda’s hoodie-covered back. “Maybe we impress them and they keep us both. Casualties are up since the GLB allowed all the new weapons and mechanics. More teams are keeping two extras. Apprentices, almost. There’s hope for both of us. Both.”
Andromeda couldn’t stop crying. She was going to be taken apart, her limbs replaced, her flesh removed and refitted with puncture-resistant PolyFlesh. And the feelings of being caressed by this beautiful girl, so wonderful–but each caress she was feeling would be her last. Soon, she would not feel touch except in her new phallus and outer PolyFlesh, a pale substitute for touch.
“Think of something for me, Andromeda? A line from an old book my mom read me when I was a kid. I just remember it was a world about wizards and warriors and a terrible sorcerer who controlled the hero with a magic ring. Another hero reads the words when everything has gone black without hope. “A light from the darkness shall spring.”
“A light from the darkness shall spring,” Andromeda said aloud. Feeling what that meant. She smiled. “Light, from darkness. You don’t have to have reasons to have hope. That’s like reasons for faith. Good just happens all by itself, to put it childishly!”
Barbara let her go and looked at her, grinning. “There you go! I don’t really get what you’re saying, but we really are going to be okay. There’s lots of pleasure in the life of a gladiator, it’s just an adjustment to what pleasure is.”
Andromeda had almost let herself forget as her heart gladdened that she or Barbara would still likely die hard if they didn’t earn the spot. She pulled the slighter woman to her, kissed her, sought her tongue, which was so triangular and sweet to taste. They kissed a long time. And turned, both of them, a line of saliva tying their lips.
The hover bus stopped a minute before the two women stopped kissing. Three creatures of Arena legend, storied Sisters, stared at them kissing. Andromeda turned and saw the three Sisters waiting for them. She hadn’t even noticed the bus stop. Barbara was going to start kissing her again. “Barbara! We’re here. We’ve gotta report!” A look of startlement, a little fear, crossed Barbara’s face, and then resolve.
They each grabbed their duffle bags of gear and clothes and almost tripped exiting the bus. Between two marble pillars of the common red sandstone available on planet stood two giants, each over seven-and-a-half feet tall, legends. Between them, Sister Diana, sitting in her wheelchair, her voice distorted to sound like a sixteen-year-old woman’s. “So, we’ve got two lovebirds. Wonder how long that lasts?” On Sister Diana’s left, Sister Prudence, leader of squad one, warrior genius, 237 kills. Her head, that of an ant wearing a top hat, carrying a sword cane, hands to crush tank gun barrels. On Diana’s right, Sister Rhapsody, a nearly eight-foot-tall woman with a powerdrill for a head. Strongest of the Sisters. Nearly invincible. 170 kills. Only Sister Prudence had beaten her.
“Unit 2, the fights at 123rd and 3rd street, at the gas station. Three heavy-hitting Devils. Sliced up. Pinned behind two cars. Devil’s moving on our position.”
Andromeda froze. The Devils. They skinned you alive before even getting sexual. That was happening to her teammates that she had to impress. Or she’d be torn apart by them. But better that than skinned and cauterized and slow roasted. No. She wouldn’t go. She’d wait. Be executed. But maybe if she were in time, they could beat three Reptiles. The most penalized, sadistic, artistic warriors in the seven-world league. She could make a difference, save herself.
She found her hydraulic legs launch her down 123rd toward 3rd street. Twenty blocks. At flat out, 70 km/hr. Moments.
Skinned alive and cooked. When do you die?
Andromeda felt wind on her naked breasts, cool summer air and orange-tinted sunlight cutting the chill from Vorenus, the star of Blossoming Orchid’s system. Andromeda’s red, cloak-like Polysteel wings shifted-shape, sprayed paralysing darts, and worked like guillotines. Sister Prudence bought them for her.
Arena was fought between 123rd and 190th street and 3rd Avenue and 50th of Blossoming Orchid City, a poor factory district, closed to business once a week for Arena games.
“Unit 2, they need help. Get in the fight!” said Sister Elizabeth
Mission. Lightning filled her veins. Blood. In her phallus? How was that possible? It was Polysteel—an assault rifle. And it was getting an erection. Polysteel, the healing, feeling metal. She was having a nightmare. Anxiety-retardants soon doused her in cooling, calming clouds that removed none of her fire to act. DO something. To someone.
Sister Andromeda turned the corner of 3rd Avenue and 123 Street and beheld a spectacle. Not a horror, not a battle, not a rape—all of these, but an arousing entertainment above all. Two Devils were torturing Sister Rage, a bird-headed physically powerful Sister with 54 kills, skinning her breasts and then burning them with a flamethrower set for low output.
Beyond two parked cars near the gas station, Barbara was fighting Sister Mercy, whose arms were scythes and her lethal fighting mimicked dance. Andromeda watched seconds of fighting. Anger. Barbara fought with her firing, telescoping spear not to win, but to avoid losing. Every step of her feet announced this.
The Devils–one with a flamethrower, the other carrying two knives and a gun mounted on her shoulders–had not seen her yet. Two busy getting ratings for her network with some sex torture. A vision passed before Andromeda, several visions seconds long—actions she could take and their outcomes. This was Mentor II getting acquainted with her brain. She could feel its foreign presence in her thoughts. Mentor II presented no plan of action for her with a survivable outcome. Not for a new fighter at the world level, unused to her powerful prosthetics, to subdue, much less kill, the Devils raping and humiliating poor Sister Rage on multi-world streaming services. Anger filled her. No hope. No chance of winning.
“I want to fuck her in the ass with my gun!” Andromeda barked at the two Devils. They beheld her, not looked at her, fucking beheld her. She had no head. Had chosen to be without one. The blowtorch artist stopped training the torch on the screaming Sister Rage; the knife woman dropped one knife.
The two women, to her astonishment, moved aside for her. To let her fuck her own teammate. She looked across the intersection and saw the look of confusion on Barbara’s face as she fought her opponent. Andromeda’s cock felt hot, and she grabbed Sister Rage, used her wings to pry her open, then pushed her assault rifle hard up into the woman whose scream sounded like that of a 50-year-old woman. Probably what she was. The feeling in her Polysteel cock was that of a warm, pulsing, soft but long orgasm. She wanted to fire her cock’s gun up into her teamate’s anus, badly. And then terror and revulsion at that desire. Followed by comforting wafts of solace in the joy of creative violence and art. Mentor II asserting itself with comfort drugs.
Andromeda aimed for the bare abdomen of the nearer knife-gladiator, sending her red PolySteel wing striking out like the axe of a giant, missing the gladiator’s abdomen and striking her hard in her chest armour plate, wounding her. Seconds to deal with the flamethrower, then. The flamethrower burned her stomach with a blast of flame before she could strike her first. Pain nearly enveloped Andromeda, but then pain changed into elation, and then arousal. Feeling sexy for bleeding, for burning, wearing scars, being a weapon.
Andromeda shot her wing out again, extending it to its full length of fifteen feet, cutting the gladiator in two. Andromeda went in for a pulse. That meant opening the rib web and making sure the brain was dead. She set about digging with her wingtip blades into the sternum to open the rib web. Suddenly a knife plunged through the skin webbing of collar bone, seeking brain or other vital organs. Andromeda’s other wing responded by itself, slicing the knife gladiator in two as she had the first Devil.
Andromeda ran to help Barbara. She was bleeding badly from a nasty wound in her abdomen. Sister Mercy was indeed a dancer. She struck out with her wings, both in a hugging caress of razor-sharp PolySteel. Mercy ducked the hug, danced into her, opened her side several inches, and cut her left breast off dancing her way out of close reach. As Mercy deftly sidestepped a thrust by Barbara’s spear, Andromeda shot Mercy in the chest with her pelvis-mounted assault rifle. The other Devils were not recovering. Time to butcher them and destroy the brain. Which they did.
“Unit 2. Report.” Sister Elizabeth, duchess of squad two.
“Three Devils confirmed dead,” Sister Rage reported in her rough, gravelly voice.
“Are you okay, Sister Rage?” Sister Andromeda asked.
“You had to do what you did. If you hadn’t tricked them, they would have teamed up and killed you. Forget it.”
Forget that she had raped her and enjoyed it and nearly killed her for the hope of even more pleasure.
“Return to the college. We have the Devil’s owner’s submission. Great work out there. Barbara, Andromeda, great work.” A hoverbus awaited them to bring them to the college.
Brownloam smoke swam in streamers across the high-domed roof of Sister Prudence’s residence just north of the hall of glory, a long marble hall with room for a hundred life-size statues of great Sisters. Five Sisters only had been sculpted in the new franchise, the new world–legends carved in driswood, the only wood harder than steel.
Three of those great women were in the room with Barbara and Andromeda along with Sister Elizabeth, who was thought next for the honour. She was a beautiful naked woman seven feet high, with gorgeous bare feet with deadly claws, and a curvaceous red three-foot chainsaw for her beautiful head. Her voice was that of a polished-speaking warm young librarian who takes a passionate interest in your reading habits.
Sister Rhapsody sat on a cushion smoking shafts of Brownloam. Her incredible musculature softening, relaxing. Prudence took her top hat off, and fangs, and drew a long draft of Brownloam in through her nasal processors.
Sister Prudence and three senior instructors had their own monastic quarters. Prudence kept wonderful objects in her space. Furs, carpets, pillows, space heaters, fans, coolers, and what appeared a small driswood table on which she ground and prepared brownloam. Her bed was a glorious pine slab covered with ceremics in places her PolySteel legs would dent. Comforts, reminders of sensations. And she had an old-fashioned radio made of plastic from 2070. Symphonic music played as all smoked the mood-lifting drug that suspended the connection of Mentor II with a woman for an hour or so. Let you feel everything there was to feel, not just the positive feelings.
“It’s not all steel and blood and coming, girls. How do you feel?” Sister Rhapsody asked. Her voice simulator made her commanding, exact, not warm.
“I’m feeling really aroused,” Barbara said. “I want to fuck, but I guess that means fighting.”
“Afraid so,” said Sister Prudence. “Scare you?”
“Not kissing anyone again. Not having my pussy eaten, not having a lover, being alone forever. Loneliness and fear with little tastes of orgasm every week if you don’t die.” Barbara took her head by her hands and looked as if she were trying to unscrew it, throw it away. The assault pistol. She tried to stroke it, hug it. Her actions grew frantic.
Sister Elizabeth took Barbara’s hands in hers, soft Polyflesh, neck to toes. And she wrapped herself about Barbara like a pet and stroked her naked chest, stroking her back as well. Why hadn’t Andromeda done that? She was sitting next to her friend, watching her in awful anguish. Why didn’t she hug her friend, talk to her?
“Now, now, Honey, this is the Brownloam. It mutes the anti-anxiety affects of Mentor II. Your feeling anxious for now, but stop with the smoke and let Mentor II reengage your coping, okay? You’ll be fine, and I’ve got you until you feel okay.” Sister Elizabeth said.
The smoke continued to waft and everyone was quiet, concerned for Barbara.
After a while, Sister Prudence spoke: “After my surgery and prosthetics I wanted to be someone. Do something. I fought for glory. I got numbers quick, glory and skill quicker. Then I realized that glory is dust. It dies in the memories of a generation or so.
“Even a woman’s world leaves so many to suffer that others might live gloriously. Life as game for glory continues. But now and then, big change happens. Light from the darkness shall spring.”
Sister’s Rhapsody and Diana were nodding their assent until Sister Prudence’s last remark.
“What change, Prudence?” asked Sister Rhapsody.
“I’m working on it. A change in this woman’s world is coming.”
“Women eliminated homelessness, prisons, and unemployment, making sure slaves could make ends meet and after a set term regain freedom,” Sister Elizabeth said in her warm tone.
“Tell yourself that, Elizabeth. Freedom is everything this world reserves for the rich: opportunity, change, growth, variety, abundance. The rest are slaves. Legal or not.”
Barbara was stroking Elizabeth back. She seemed so calm now as to be ready to sleep.
“Sisters, thank you for company and the brownloam. May we be excused?”
“Sister Prudence tipped her hat to them both.
“See you bright and early for sparring,” Sister Rhapsody said.
Barbara was happily led by Andromeda to the common area where ten gladiators slept on wood, stone, furs, mats, whatever their bodies needed for comfort, for some sense of the tactile.
“let’s cuddle up in my rook,” said Barbara. The rook was covered in thick wool and cotton blankets and thick sheets and on a ledge above her in-built shelving a framed picture of a black cat.
The two blooded warriors drew their knees up and played under the covers to find each other’s flesh and touch skin to skin. They spooned, Andromeda hugging her breasts into Barbara’s back.
“Do you think there needs to be more to life than fighting, orgasms, and hope of glory?” Barbara asked.
The question hung in the air as Andromeda stroked her nipples against Barbara’s back, for her comfort more than Barbara’s. Sister Prudence said nothing about the two of them each getting a spot on the team, nor had Sister Elizabeth, who had praised their performance in the Arena. One of them would just be doing a routine sparing exercise with a senior Sister, lose, and then more Sisters would pile in to start butchering the sexual turkey. For ten minutes she stroked her friend’s back with her breasts, feeling her anxiety ease as the Brownloam drug’s effects on Mentor II faded. In place of the anxiety, a strong urge to harm.
That instant, Barbara fondled Andromeda’s breasts with her claws, opening the skin a little, letting some blood trickle.
“Wanna fuck … fight …” Barbara gave up.
“Sure. There’s enough room and no one’s around. Make your move.”
Barbara grasped her spear and swing the blade at Andromeda’s chest, cutting her breast an inch deep and dashing a spray of blood against the brick wall.
“Nice. Very sexy cut, very nice jab,” Andromeda said.
“Thank you! Here’s another!”
Andromeda blocked the spear by furling her wing into a shield, then sent a spray of darts from her wingtips at the pistol-headed woman. Several struck Barbara, and she struggled not to drop her spear but failed. She fell to her knees. Andromeda sent her sharpest wing blade into Barbara’s abdomen, impaling her.
Still numb from the paralysing darts, she was Andromeda’s toy. Andromeda twisted her wing in Barbara’s opened abdomen. The pain she saw in the trembling body of her friend aroused her intensely. She wanted to stab her heart, her brain. But that was normal, wasn’t it? Mentor II was kill software.
“Hey, don’t fucking kill me! Andromeda!”
Andromeda drove her wingblade in deeper, and twisted it hard. Barbara began to twitch and some of her organs were certainly mangled.
Barbara’s assault-pistol head rang out, striking Andromeda in the chest. Clean through. Her heart. Arterial spray, lightheaded, knees weak. Was she going to die? She could kill Barbara now. She’d been mortally attacked by her. Andromeda extended the hydraulics of her wing, fanning it out, cutting her friend in half. Blood and guts, and even brain, covering her rook.
“Andromeda. Can you hear me?”
Corda, Team Chief Surgeon and Cyborg Engineering Director. She was fifty, wore her grey hair shaved close, flattering her. She was kind and warm for such a technical genius and artist. You could tell she tried hard to be human.
“How is your breathing, honey?”
“A little difficult.”
“That’s natural. You were shot through the right atrium. You can’t zip-heal organs like flesh wounds, my dear. The healing gets slow if you’ve taken a potentially fatal injury to heart, brain, lungs. Anything else gets hurt, you can carry on.”
“Is Barbara okay?”
“No, honey, you fought. She’s dead. You almost didn’t live. Mother Clockwork and Sister Prudence are going to talk with you in a few minutes, but they know it was self-defence.”
Andromeda had killed Barbara after all. She waited to be shot, didn’t she, before cutting her in half? Her dreams teemed with arousing moments of her playing with Barbara bleeding out on the end of her wingtips. But that didn’t mean she was going to kill her—she just went too far with her building orgasm.
She felt relief. Joy. She would have a spot on the team. Not be gangraped to death and torn apart.
She loved Barbara. So soon, so intensely.
Her wingtips went to her head, searched to hug it. She had declined a head. Yet still her fingertips, capable of flight and murder, searched frantically for her head to hold.