New Beginnings – Pt 2 Ch 8

New Beginnings – Pt 2 Ch 8

It was four days after Lisa’s return. Two days earlier, the Femmes, using Lisa’s mind power and Tabatha’s time shield, dropped back fifty years in time and raided a trainload of fruit and vegetables right off the rails. The large refrigerator cars full of fresh produce made an interesting decorative statement lined up along one outside bulkhead of the park.

The Necrotwins, three sets of twin girls recruited by Lisa, were starting a new course in advanced psychic training in Lisa’s Grotto. The psychic training involved the young girls to embrace their own violent deaths, but other than that, things aboard the Phoenix III seemed pretty routine.

Commander Cutberg had just left her sister and husband once again ‘en flagrante’ and was scanning over the monitors on the bridge. Something seemed wrong, but she just couldn’t quite put it together.

Then she had it!

“Why are we only three-hundred million kilometers from the sun?” she asked the watch officer. “We’ve been under way for a week, and we’re traveling at ten million klicks! We should be halfway to Jupiter by now, and we’re barely out to Mars’ orbit!”

“I have no idea, Ma’am,” the watch officer replied. “Who’s directing the ship?”

“Well, I do a lot of the close work,” Amber replied thoughtfully. “But the Praetor is the only one that can actually make this vessel do anything. The whole ship is wired through its super-advanced, alien circuitry.”

She paced back and forth for a moment, then made up her mind.

“I think I’ll go find Lisa!” she decided. “She built this thing, so she should know how it works…”

Lisa was in the Grotto with her Necrotwins. Today, they were all armed with fighting knives. Several were oozing blood from various sections of their torsos – a belly, a breast, a thin slice along a rib cage…

“Ouch! You’re getting better,” Lisa exclaimed, grinning at the girl who’d just slashed her nipple open.

“God, yes!” Miranda uttered, breathing hard with her excitement. “I nearly came when I sliced you!”

So did I, Darling,” Lisa replied, grinning at her favorite student. “For that, you get a reward – and the rest of you get to watch!”

Mind linking with Miranda and her twin Murielle, she invited Miranda to squat down in front of her with her twin close by. Lisa slid one leg under Miranda so that her thigh brushed against Miranda’s crotch sling bikini bottoms and Miranda dropped forward on her knees so that her warm tingling flesh was pressed tightly against Lisa’s muscular thigh. Lisa grinned, feeling the warmth of the young girl’s sex right through that thin patch of cloth.

“Today’s lesson is on controlling your pain and making it work for you,” Lisa explained, grinning at the twins excitedly. “Now just watch in my mind what would happen if I were to get ‘accidentally’ injured…”

Taking Miranda’s knife hand, she pulled the weapon, still held by Miranda, up so that the pointed tip was pressed against her bare breast a little below her recently sliced left nipple.

‘Now, press it in, darling,’ Lisa thought lovingly to her student. ‘And pay attention to what I feel…’

The blade pressed against Lisa’s breast, pushing the soft, rounded mound up and oddly out of shape. Then with the tiniest ripping sound, the tip of the blade burst through and invaded Lisa’s sensitive, warm-blooded insides as her breast sank down, sheathing the long, sharp blade.

Lisa gasped with excitement and pain as she felt the cold/hot blade slice ever-so-slowly into her breast as her mesmerized student pressed in a little further. The pain immediately shot through her body, making her nipples hard and raising goosebumps on her back, arms, breasts and belly. Even her throat tightened at the incredible sensation.

Changing a barrier inside the depths of her mind, she released the pain from its centralized location so it coursed wildly through and innervated her entire body, especially her belly and between her legs. Her pussy clenched at the sudden flood of sensation.

“Oh my God!” Miranda exclaimed softly as the sensation flooded through her mentor and into her own body.

With one hand still on the knife, she grabbed her own breast in the same place where Lisa was wounded and pinched herself hard as she began to grind her pelvis against Lisa’s tight, trembling thigh. She shoved the knife in a little further, not wanting to go in past Lisa’s protective ribs and seriously damage her, then twisted it.

Lisa cried out in ecstasy as she came. Miranda and her twin sister both joined her in mutual orgasm. Then Miranda dropped her arm, no longer able to hold it up, pulling the knife out of Lisa’s torn breast. Lisa came again as the sharp blade slashed downward with its exit, and radiated an orgasm through her entire psychically connected group.

Lying back on the ground, Lisa spread her arms and radiated her need to be butchered to her immortal little coven of psychics. The other two sets of twins scooted forward excitedly and began drawing beautiful, fragile designs on Lisa’s flesh with the tips of their knives, each knife leaving a hot, delicate thread of liquid red fire as they traveled over her breasts and belly.

As Miranda lowered her knife to draw a fragile line from Lisa’s pussy down her thigh to her own leaking cunt, she felt her twin’s delicate touch on her shoulder.

“Let me do you,” Murielle whispered excitedly, pulling on her shoulder and begging with her eyes.

Miranda leaned back and climbed off Lisa’s thigh, exposing her soaked bikini bottoms all the while staring at the wicked blade in her sister’s soft but eager hand.

“You know where I want that, don’t you?” Miranda grinned, her eyes gleaming with lust.

“Right through the fabric?” Murielle asked coyly, already knowing the answer but needing to utter the question out loud purely for the added excitement of hearing it spoken.

“Yes. Cut me – right through the fabric,” Miranda urged her sister. “Sheath that blade inside me!”

Murielle scooted around so that her bikini-clad pussy was pressed against her sister’s knee, then touched her knife blade against her sister’s soaked crotch. Grinning and licking her lips, she turned the blade sideways and teased Miranda’s sensitive, quivering flesh by moving the tip up and down, scratching against the thin material, outlining her sister’s soaked and barely concealed pussy lips.

“Right there?” she whispered ardently, leaning forward and kissing her sister gently on her cheek.

“Oh God!” Miranda gasped, and trembled as she came. “Can you feel that?”

“Oh, yeah!” Murielle whispered, her own body responding to the mental connection between the two sisters. “Holy shit, I’m coming, too!”

Both girls’ bodies shook as they simultaneously orgasmed. As Murielle came down, she lined the knife blade up with her sister’s genital opening and gently shoved the tip right through the fabric of Miranda’s sexy blue crotch cover.

Feeling actual steel touching her sensitive pussy lips, Miranda shook again with a new orgasm, wanting to push her pelvis forward and impale herself on that cold, sharp blade.

The two sisters mind-linked closer than they ever had before – so close that Murielle could actually feel the cold blade as it rested against Miranda’s pussy lips. Carefully moving so that the steel tip entered her opening without slicing her sensitive, quivering flesh, she slowly moved it up inside. In the next few seconds, she could feel Miranda’s pussy touching at both the top and the bottom with the width of hard, cold steel up inside her.

“Well, Sis…” Miranda said out loud with her voice trembling in excitement, “Now, it gets interesting…”

She trembled, somewhat in fear, but with a lot of sensual arousal at what they were doing and the forbidden boundaries they were crossing. Then she jerked as the serrated blade cut delicately against the front of her cunt. Coming for a third time, she shook in orgasm, this time causing more damage to her pussy than either of them was ready for.

“Make sure you do that ‘release’ thing in your mind,” Murielle reminded her twin.

“Oh, yeah! Thanks!” Miranda gasped.

Concentrating hard, she copied what Lisa had done earlier as best as she could, then felt the jagged edge of pain that had been robbing her of even more pleasure dissipate and spread throughout her nervous system. Suddenly she was more aroused that she’d even been in her entire orgiastic life.

“Do me!” she shrieked out to her sister.

Murielle, draw in by the erotic images her sister was so wildly broadcasting, shoved the knife all the way in to the hilt. Both twins screamed in agony and orgasm, each consumed by Miranda’s pain and arousal.

Murielle collapsed down on her sister, cruelly twisting the knife in her sister’s pussy, neither of them able to stop coming at this point.

A few feet away, Lisa lay with her arms and legs spread wide, creating images of what she wanted her followers to do – one knife through each breast from the outside with the jagged edge up please from Tia and Tara. Another sunk into her navel right up to the hilt from Holly kneeling at her side next to Tia, and the forth one buried in her pussy. Since Haley was the most shy, she got to do Lisa’s most sensitive spot. Such a violent and deliberate aggression against another person’s most private and sensitive parts would definitely improve the girl’s self-confidence.

‘And stay mind-linked with me so you can learn how to handle these sensations!’ she commanded all of them.

She wasn’t concerned with her star pupil, lying somewhere beyond her feet and already gutted by her twin. The ‘M’ twins were having no problems at all exploring their newfound range of sensations.

Lisa arched her back as the knives entered her breasts simultaneously, one on each side from Tia and Tara. Her raging pussy was suddenly violated as a knife was shoved up inside her with some awkwardness from Haley, causing Lisa to arch her belly up in the air even further. Then she was slammed down into the ground as Holly savagely stabbed into her belly with her razor-sharp blade.

She lay on the ground, shaking and radiating pure orgasmic bliss as Tia and Tara, grinning wickedly (mostly at each other) pushed their knives all the way through Lisa’s breasts until the bloody tips of their knives delicately touched against each other right over Lisa’s breastbone. The twins leaned forward and kissed each other as they twisted their knife blades downward and deeper into Lisa’s chest.

Mesmerized by the knife in Lisa’s belly moving up and down as Lisa writhed, Holly suddenly got a wild, erotic idea. Even as Lisa saw it occur in the young girl’s mind, she approved.

“C’mere!” Holly exclaimed, grabbing her sister who’d delicately shoved her fighting knife up inside Lisa’s pussy.

Holly rose and quickly straddled the handle of her knife, still buried in Lisa’s belly button and pulled her sister toward her.

“Get on that!” she said excitedly, indicating the knife handle sticking out of Lisa’s pussy. “Make like it’s a double dildo sticking out of her cunt and fuck yourself with it!”

“Oh, Fuck! Lets do it!” Haley exclaimed, completely immersed in her sister’s excitement and Lisa’s broadcast lust.

Lisa grunted as Holly sank down on the knife handle and drove it deeper into her stomach. The sharp tip scraped her spine as it punched through and dug into the dirt beneath her now bleeding back. She watched Holly’s rump move up and down as the girl helped her twin sister impale herself on the knife handle sticking out of Lisa’s bleeding pussy.

Once her sister was mounted, Holly twisted around to gaze at Lisa and grinned, “Sushi time, Lisa Honey…”

Then Lisa’s belly was being shredded from the inside out as the knife in her belly twisted and turned, driven up and down with the movements of Holly’s pelvis as the girl fucked herself into a frenzy on the knife handle. Haley was doing pretty much the same thing to Lisa’s pussy as she fucked herself on that knife handle. Both girls were losing control rapidly as Lisa’s erotic agony raged through them.

‘Just like old times,’ Lisa thought as she did her best to keep her body from flaring into pure energy from all that bruising, slicing ecstasy.

The last thing she wanted was to evaporate those two because of the incredible ecstasy they were causing in her body. As the twins began to come, they noticed that the knife handles were getting really hot. As soon as she climaxed, Haley quickly backed off, her hands covering her burnt pussy lips. A few seconds later, Holly joined her. They both watched in amazement as both knives sticking out of Lisa’s torso flamed up and evaporated, leaving an open hole behind them.

“That was close,” Lisa gasped, rolling her head to gaze down at Holly. “I couldn’t… hold… longer…”

The heat that was radiating from Lisa’s body made all four girls scoot back a little. Lisa’s belly wound glowed white-hot for a moment, then faded to its normal flesh color; the wound completely healed.

“Wow!” Haley murmured. “Even we can’t do that…”

“No, and you won’t,” Lisa gasped, forcing herself to sit up. “I’m a phoenix. Fire is my specialty. You have my mother’s abilities, passed on to you when we shared my blood. But my blood doesn’t have those abilities any longer. You six are the last I can ever enhance.”

“Does that mean there won’t be any more like us?” Tia asked, her voice trembling a little.

“No, Sweets,” Lisa replied, grinning at her. “Mom has lots of sisters. They can, each and every one, give the same gifts to others that I’ve given to you.”

“Can you make us phoenixes?” Holly asked hopefully.

Lisa looked at her best student and sighed, somewhat wistfully. “I’ve tried before, and not succeeded. And I lost a very special… person.”

“That ‘Vlad’ person?” Tara asked.

Lisa turned her head sharply and glared at the twin on her left. “How did you know him?”

“I saw him in your mind,” Tara explained nervously, “when Tia and I were doing your breasts… He did that to you. He did a lot of neat things to you.”

“Yeah, well,” Lisa frowned. “He’s gone now. So whatever he did doesn’t matter now, does it?”

“You forget why you recruited us,” Holly reminded her, smiling gently at her beloved mentor. “We’re not called Necrotwins for nothing. I can see the upset his death causes inside you. Let us ease your pain…”

All four girls commenced to crowd around Lisa. For a single instant, Lisa was frightened of being unable to control them. Then she realized that this was their self-appointed task – to ease the pain of other’s deaths, hence their name. She should know. She’d taught them how to do exactly that.

‘Close your eyes and lie back,’ a loving voice, she didn’t know which girl, whispered in her mind.

Lisa allowed her body to relax as she felt the gently soothing mental touch of her students. As she drifted, she began to smell fresh, humid air – thick and hot – like the atmosphere of Earth’s distant past. There was the scent of green growth, of stale swamp, and death, and Lisa suddenly knew exactly where she was.

‘Why have you brought me here?’ Lisa asked the indistinct forms around her.

‘We have done nothing,’ one replied. ‘It is your desire to be here. Do you know why?’

Lisa didn’t answer right away. She gazed up into the pale, almost-white sky, to clouds that floated impossibly high in an atmosphere so deep that it could sustain eight or a dozen different thermal layers, one stacked on top of another. While she watched clouds slowly form and dissolve over and through each other, she could feel hands and lips delicately and lovingly caress her body, bringing her slowly toward her next orgasm.

An invisible tongue licked a nipple. Fingers trailed down her stomach and gently caressed the inside of a thigh. She felt detached and separate, yet more complete than any time she could remember.

‘You didn’t learn this from me…’ Lisa thought at the insubstantial forms surrounding her.

‘You are correct,’ a mind she recognized as Tia, replied. ‘We also gave solace to your mother. We taught each other much.’

‘Where did Mom take you?’ Lisa asked, curious. Then feeling some confusion at her question, ‘What place did Mom feel was special when she said her goodbyes…’

‘She took us to a great ship,’ Tia, again, replied. ‘There, she made love to you one final time, and said goodbye.’

‘I already said goodbye to Vlad,’ Lisa said with anger in her voice, ‘when I killed him!’

‘You cannot lie to us when we are joined like this,’ another mind, perhaps more than one, said to her. ‘You did not kill him. You set him free.’

‘I couldn’t find him afterward,’ Lisa insisted, becoming upset now. ‘I destroyed him!’

‘All you have to do to find him again is remember his touch,’ Tara whispered into her mind.

‘Remember his touch…’ several others whispered.

Lisa woke up. Her arms were tied down and ropes cut tightly into her breasts and stomach. Looking up, she saw Vlad playing with a sharpened stake. He was carbonizing the pointed end of it in their campfire, turning it around and around, slowly and lovingly smoothing the rough edges as though he knew exactly where he was going to put it.

Lisa felt her body becoming aroused as she remembered what he did with that flaming hot piece of wood. The memory was so powerful that she didn’t need to touch herself to come – not that she could have with her hands tied so tightly behind her.

Vlad rose up, the smoking stake in his hands and walked toward her. He smiled as he noticed she was awake, and kissed her gently, almost delicately, on her lips. As his kiss grew hungrier, Lisa could feel the heat emanating from the stake. It was warming the lower part of her bare, rope-bound belly.

Lisa’s breath grew quicker and more ragged as her body tensed to receive his gift to her. The heat radiating from the stake was warming her pelvis and her thighs, now. She fought to spread her legs to better receive his gift between her legs, be it stake or penis. She would joyfully accept either from him.

She moaned in ecstasy as Vlad entered her and began to fuck her, knowing that the stake was being reserved for her/his pleasure, to be taken in a very short while. She grew dizzy as he continued to kiss her, breathing her life-giving air into his body and breathing his air into hers.

He was leaning hard against her, now, the tree she was tied to holding them both as he was so dizzy that he couldn’t stand, but not so dizzy that he stopped ramming his cock in and out of her. Finally, when she was nearly unconscious and completely saturated with asphyxiated sensation, he broke his kiss and gasped for air, still leaning heavily against her – still with his hard cock deep inside her.

Lisa gasped, barely conscious, fighting her body for air even as it demanded her attention with its overwhelming orgasm. She strained against the ropes, her legs no longer able to hold her up as she twitched and trembled from the raging fires flooding her insides. Then that hard, hot stake was in her belly – searing, twisting, digging in deeply, making her scream in agony, scream in orgasm, scream into oblivion…

Lisa woke up. The Necrotwins were lying around and half on top of her. Murielle, Miranda and Haley were unconscious. Tia and Tara were weeping softly and hugging each other tightly. Holly sat between Lisa’s legs, not looking at anything, but breathing as though she’d been in a battle, or, more likely, just had a tremendous orgasm.

The ‘T’ girls, noticing that Lisa was awake, reached out and hugged her tightly. In their minds, Lisa could see them giving solace to her mother. The experience they’d lived through with Béla was very similar to her own, just now, with the dream image of Vlad.

The weight of another body attracted Lisa’s attention. Holly was kissing Lisa’s stomach, right where that hot stake had penetrated her. She kissed and licked that spot for a moment, then rose up again, almost reverently, and hugged Lisa around the waist.

“Okay, girls,” Lisa said, deciding she’d had enough. “Everybody off!”

“Wow!” a new voice said from somewhere nearby. “That was the most intense thing I’ve ever seen!”

Lisa jumped. The three girls who were awake also jumped. Everyone looked at the newcomer.

“Oh. It’s just you,” Lisa said, recognizing Amber.

“Well, thanks!” Commander Cutberg said in response. “I’m happy to see you, too!”

“Okay, girls,” Lisa called out to her coven. “Scat! Kirk and McCoy have to powwow now.”

“Are they all twins?” Amber asked, surprised by the similarities of each pair.

Lisa nodded while delicately pulling Tia’s fighting knife out of her right breast. “Yeah, Just like you and Ember. Sit down, Jim. What can I do for you?”

“What were you doing?” Amber asked. “I’ve never seen anything like that. I’ve never *felt* anything like that! They were using knives on you! And that stuff you were broadcasting…”

“Just teaching them the basics of survival,” Lisa mused, pulling the matching blade out of her left breast. “Things they need to know to get through life alive, you know?”

“Not really,” Amber admitted. “How come you never showed that stuff to me ’n Ember?”

Lisa looked at Amber, not sure how to say what needed to be said. Finally she sighed, and began.

“You two were my first twins,” Lisa said. “I didn’t even know at the time that I would start collecting you. But then twin children started showing up among what few refugees sought entrance into Solar City. Maybe the solar radiation had something to do with the fact that the few children being born were often twins, and, more often than not, had psychic abilities as well. How these kids found Solar City, I have no idea, but I could see they were special – like you and Ember, so I let them enter.

“And as they grew up, I started interacting with them more and more – just teaching them the really basic stuff, and they just sort of formed a clique. As they became sexually active, the games they played with each other evolved to accommodate their needs and desires.

“When they were children, they didn’t play tag or hide-and-seek – they were psychic, you see, and those games were too easily won. The games they liked best were strategy games – ‘Ambush’, ‘War’, ‘Rough Riders’ – each one knowing what the others were doing but not allowed to use that information – except in ‘Ambush’. A double ‘Ambush’ to ambush the ambushers was permitted in that game.”

Amber smiled, remembering similar times with her own twin, Ember.

“Once they discovered sex,” Lisa continued, “they kept playing these games, but they added sex-play into it so that when one pretended to kill one of the others, the winner could play with and sexually torment the ‘dead’ victims. They all found that pretty exciting, and it didn’t take them long after they started doing that before they began calling themselves the ‘Necrotwins Club’.

“One of them found out what me, Tanya and Tabatha did, and that we had named our own little group the ‘Femme Fatales’, another ‘death wish’ name. They decided they wanted to be, like, a second team or a ‘backup’ so that if anything happened to a Femme, one of them could replace the lost team member. So they dropped the ‘Club’ from their group name and just call themselves the Necrotwins now, as they would be taking the place of any dead or missing Femme.”

“Do they know about the Praetor?” Amber asked.

“I don’t think so,” Lisa replied. “Although they could have found an image of it in my head or maybe when they consoled Mom.”

“Well, anyway,” Amber said, “there’s something going on with the Praetor, and I don’t know what…” Something looked a little strange… “what it… um…” The lake was tilted. “Why is the water crooked?”

“Oh! You noticed!” Lisa grinned. “Congratulations! We’ve been turning for almost a day, now, and you’re the first one to notice.”

“What do you mean: Turning?” Amber asked, her face full of uncertainty and worry. “You mean like, ‘Turning the Ship’?”

“Yeah,” Lisa admitted. “I wanted to see how well we could maneuver at this speed.”

“You’re changing our direction of travel?” Amber was definitely worried now. And starting to get angry. “Where the hell are we going?”

Lisa blinked up at the mortified commander. “Mars, of course. Where did you think we were going?”

“MARS!?” Amber yelled. “Why the hell are we going to Mars?”

“You swear more than I do,” Lisa observed. “What difference does it make to you where we’re going?”

“Because! I’m the…” Amber began, then hesitated. “I’m the one in charge of the bridge! I should know about these things!”

“Why?” Lisa wanted to know.

“Why?” Amber yelled, almost in tears, now. “Why? It’s my JOB, that’s why! And you just… just… took it from me! There! I said it! You took my job away from me! I’m the… I’m the Captain!”

“You’re the coordinator,” Lisa reminded her. “You coordinate shipwide activities. That’s your job description. There is no ‘captain’ position. Ask my step-mom. She made the roster.”

“But… but, my ship…” Amber whimpered. “It’s my ship… my command…”

Lisa stood up and hugged her blood-sister. “You’ve been playing Captain Kirk and Ember’s been playing ‘Scottie’. But it was just playing. The Praetor ‘is’ the ship, and it doesn’t really need maintenance, or orders. It knows where we’re going, and we’re going to Mars.”

“But, why?” Amber wanted to know through her tears. “Why are we going to Mars?”

“Because Mom’s ship is there,” Lisa said simply. “And another Praetor.”

“But,” Amber asked, suddenly realizing something, “if the Praetor is controlling the ship, why did you say you wanted to see how well…

“You really are pretty bright,” Lisa laughed, not too harshly. “You’re right. I’m not doing anything, but we’re really are switching ends.”

“Switching ends?” Amber asked, still confused. “You mean to slow down?”

“Yep!” Lisa replied. “In another two or three days, we’ll be matched with Mars’ orbital speed, and close enough to locate Mom’s missing ship.”

“You mean you don’t know where the other ship is?” asked Amber.

“Well, we did until twenty years ago when their Praetor stopped broadcasting,” Lisa replied. “But, it couldn’t have drifted far. It was in a solar orbit near Mars at the time and traveling at about the same direction and speed.”

“You mean there could be survivors?” Amber asked, not believing the possibility.

Lisa shook her head. “No, not unless the Praetor collected their life-forces. If it managed to save anyone, they could be reborn when we return to New Eden. There’s a university there that specializes in bio-genetics.”

“Bio-genetics?” Amber asked. “What can they do?”

List grinned. “They manufacture bodies. Like mine… Well, like Mom’s, anyway.”

“Wow!” Amber murmured. “Am I really that much out of the loop?”

Lisa laughed. “You are living in a completely different world, Amber. You have Roland, and your sister, but you shut the rest of us out. You talk to the Praetor sometimes, though, and it likes you, or so it says.”

“The Praetor likes me?” Amber asked, incredulous. “It’s a machine! How can it ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ anyone?”

“It’s alive,” Lisa informed her. “Why don’t you ask it? I did. Once you get to know it, it will talk to you on a more personal level. It gets annoyed though, when you try to make it do things with your dead knobs and switches on the bridge when you could just ask it to do whatever.”

“I thought that was what I was supposed to do,” Amber replied, sounding a little defensive.

“Well, on the earlier designs,” Lisa smiled, “that was true. But this design is different in that this ‘ship-skin’ actually houses the Praetor. The ship is the Praetor, and the Praetor is the ship. That was done on purpose and that was what the Praetor wanted.”

“The Praetor wanted to be a ship?” Amber asked, trying to clarify what Lisa was saying.

Lisa grinned and said, “The Praetor wanted mobility. Now, it has it.”

“But it’s still taking us to…”

“Mars, for now,” Lisa clarified.

“I hope you don’t take this the wrong way,” Amber said, “but a living machine is in control of all our destinies. Is that right?”

“Uh-huh,” Lisa agreed, getting slightly annoyed that Amber was taking so long to figure all this out. “Right.”

“And that doesn’t upset you?”

“The Praetor is interested in our survival,” Lisa explained, bored now with the whole conversation. “Talk to it and get to know it. Now go away.”

Amber turned and walked sullenly back the way she came. As she stood in the lift she started to press the button to take her almost a half-mile straight up to the bridge, then reality began to sink in.

‘I’m inside the Praetor,’ she thought. ‘I’m like a tapeworm, or maybe an amoeba. How can it have my best interests at heart? How can it even know what I want?’

She sighed and forced her body to become less tense.

“Take me to the bridge, please,” she said out loud to no one.

The lift began to rise.

“Are you the ship?” she asked, still addressing the almost empty lift.

‘Yes,’ the Praetor said into her mind. ‘Do you have a question?’

‘No, I don’t think so,’ Amber thought back at it. ‘I don’t know… Yes! What am I doing here? Do you have any idea?’

‘You are surviving,’ the Praetor replied.

A thought behind the simple statement seemed to suggest that the answer was obvious.

“Wrong fucking question,” Amber murmured out loud. “Why am I here?”

‘You are here because you thought you could help,’ the Praetor replied. ‘Why else would you be here?’

“That’s what I’m asking you, dammit!” Amber snarled into the air.

‘You search for complexities that don’t exist,’ the Praetor responded. ‘Logic and survival are simple tasks. Your emotions are complex and stain everything you view with complexities that are often only illusions.’

“So I’m nuts?” she asked it.

‘All beings are insane to the degree that they allow their emotions to rule their logic,’ the Praetor replied.

“So I should just ignore how I feel?”

The Praetor hesitated for a moment to give her the chance to figure it out herself.

‘To set yourself against your emotions is still to be ruled by them,’ the Praetor replied, finally.

“Talking to you is really frustrating,” Amber pointed out.

‘It is not my purpose to answer your questions,’ the Praetor pointed out in return. ‘My purpose is to instruct and enlighten.’

“So ‘enlighten’ me as to why I’m here!” Amber growled. “If you can…”

The lift reached the bridge and the door slid open.

‘I can only assume you have returned to the bridge because you have an emotional attachment to it,’ the Praetor replied. ‘I can see no other reason for you being here at this time. You are not needed here until we reach Mars. Then, you will be requested to coordinate inter-ship activities.’

‘Requested?’ Not ‘ordered’? she asked, thinking the thought so that the watch officer wouldn’t think she was talking to herself.

‘I do not own you,’ the Praetor replied candidly. ‘I ask you to do this because you enjoy doing it, and you are good at it.’

“I don’t believe it!” Amber said out loud.

“Ma’am?” the watch officer said, startled by the sudden statement.

“Nothing, just talking to myself,” Commander Cutberg replied.

‘What should I do in the meantime?’ she thought at the Praetor.

‘What would you like to do?’ the Praetor replied. ‘You have the freedom of the ship, as usual, to do as you please.’

‘Oh, boy,” Amber muttered.

“Commander?” the watch officer asked. “Are you alright?”

“Yes! I’m fine!” she replied, sounding perhaps a little terse. Then, more apologetically, “What’s your name, anyway?”

“Dennis, Ma’am” the watch officer replied. “Dennis Knight.”

“Well, Dennis, I’m Amber,” she stated, introducing herself.

“Yes, Ma’am, I know,” Dennis, the watch officer replied.

“You can call me that from now on, if you wish,” Amber told him.

“Yes, Ma’am… um, I mean, thank you, Ma… Amber,” he stuttered.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“Um, watching the equipment?” he replied, hoping he answered it right.

“Were you told to do that?” she asked.

“Well, no, Ma… Amber,” he said. “I was asked to, though. I thought it was quite a privilege that they’d ask me…”

“At least you have a function here,” Amber murmured, somewhat to herself.

“Ma’am? I mean, Miss?”

“It’s Missus – at least for the time being,” Amber replied, reminded of another problem she didn’t have a solution to.

“You get lonely up here all by yourself?” she asked.

“Well, no… Amber, not really,” Dennis replied. “The Praetor is teaching me Quantum Physics.”

“The Praetor?” she asked, almost laughing. “Of course! How thoughtless of me!”

‘You live in a completely different world, Amber. You have Roland, and your sister, but you shut the rest of us out.’ Lisa’s words echoed in her mind.

‘Not anymore, I don’t…’ Amber thought to herself, finally coming up with an answer to Lisa’s accusation.

But she knew it hadn’t been an accusation – not really. Lisa had simply wanted Amber to realize that.

‘What did she want me to know? That I feel trapped? Or that I’ve trapped myself! That must be it – she even said it – I shut them all out!’

“Well, the Praetor says I’m not needed here for a couple more days,” Amber told her new friend Dennis, “so I’m going to spend some time in the Grotto.”

“Great!” Dennis grinned. “I was wondering why you weren’t enjoying yourself more. Have fun! I might see you down there after my watch!”

Amber left the bridge – not ‘her’ bridge, not any longer, anyway. But then, she realized, it had never been hers. It had just been a game – a game that she would play in a few days when they got to Mars, but a game that she could put down whenever she wanted, now.

It was a new feeling for her, and she couldn’t quite describe it, then the word came and she recognized it for what it was – Freedom.

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