LOST COLONY CH. 02-1

Lost Colony: Chapter 02

***

Sparr stepped into the pre-dawn light, Syreet’s scent still lingering. A hundred different emotions fought within him. He had survived another day on this strange planet, witnessed sights and events exotic and foreign, and triumphed in the arena. Those alone were enough to boost his spirits. The night of wild sex had left him energized and confident. Even the sky was beautiful. Light spread across the thin, rippled clouds, highlighting them in bands of lavender and grey. An unfamiliar, pale moon was just setting. Never in his life could he have imagined such a day as this.

“Okay bud.” Sparr nudged the rickshaw driver awake. The youth, disoriented at first, grinned at his passenger. Shortly, the two were retracing the path of the previous evening.

Less pleasant thoughts now crowded his mind. He was still a prisoner, even if one with unexpected freedoms and pleasures. He might tomorrow be told to risk his life, and possibly take the life of another. The fate of the Odysseus, and all of those aboard her, Calista included, was unknown. His mission remained, but Sparr had none of the resources to pursue it. Kaybe was dense with alien species, both plant and animal. The trove of genetic code contained within them would generate untold wealth for his employers. More importantly, for an Earth struggling with famine and disease, the genetic bounty could be the foundation for new medicines and food sources. He had to find a way to resume his work.

In the tiny rickshaw darting through the streets of Vonde, Sparr began to plan his escape.

***

“Mmmm… these have been very rigorous negotiations.” Calista’s finger traced a line from Sparr’s muscular shoulder toward his belly.

“Oh, agreed,” Sparr said, grinning. “Two powerful corporations. Billions at stake. But I have to admit, I’m finding it difficult to remain neutral.” His hands stroked her round ass, slipped down her thigh.

In zero G, you never got tangled in the sheets.

“Completely contrary to ethical guidelines,” giggled Calista. Her finger, continuing its journey, slowly pushed the lovers apart. Sparr’s already softening cock slipped from her slit, trailed by a few globs of cum.

Sparr watched lazily as the pale globs floated away to form a sphere. Like them, Sparr was content simply to float, basking in the post-fuck glow. Passengers in cryo-sleep were woken every six months to receive mission updates, to socialize, and to prevent the complications that could arise from extended hibernation. He and Calista had concluded that no better protocol existed for verifying physical health than a vigorous fuck. The fact that the zero G training room had been available was a happy coincidence.

“And we’re all about ethics.” Sparr kicked off from the back wall to rejoin Calista at a viewport. He embraced her from behind. Calista’s fine, blonde hair hung in a cloud behind her, the strands tickling Sparr’s nose. “This is why I keep my hair short.”

Calista didn’t pull her eyes from the view of deep space. “Yes, but next time we’re woken we’ll be on planet. I’ll look amazing; you’ll look like a convict.”

Indeed, thought Sparr, once they arrived at Kaybe the game would change considerably. Here aboard the Odysseus, as well as in the months leading up to the start of the mission, their affair had been no more than a pleasant diversion, two fit and attractive people flirting and fucking. Once they entered orbit, their interests would diverge sharply.

“So, about that,” Sparr said. He pressed himself close against Calista, fondling a breast. “I was thinking we could find a central location, near both of our interests, work from there. I’m not saying share an office or anything, but we could-“

“Alain.” Calista cut him off and wriggled away. “No, just… look.” She sighed, the earlier playfulness gone from her voice “You’re here for K2 Gene. I’m here for K2 Mineral. Our claims aren’t supposed to overlap, but you know how well that goes, how it always goes. We can’t play nice and still do our jobs.”

“Yes, we have competing interests. We’re also adults. I see no reason why we can’t make this work.” But even as Sparr spoke the words they rang false in his ears. There were a hundred ways things could fall apart. Still, he struggled to understand why Calista was so intent on ending their affair before they had even reached the planet.

Calista shoved herself away from the viewport, away from Sparr. Her uneven push-off gave the blonde’s body a subtle spin. Sparr was treated to a view of her breasts, unburdened by gravity, jiggling slowly. As her body continued its turn, he took in a view of Calista’s shapely backside. She reached the door.

“Was today fun, Alain?” She was looking back at him with something like sadness. “Have you enjoyed our time together?”

“You know I have, Cali.”

“Then just…” Calista struggled for the right words. “Just remember this then, all of this.”

She was gone.

***

“Your communicator is within range.”

Sparr almost jumped out of his skin. Shortly after being sold into slavery, Sparr’s implant lost its ability to reach his communicator. He had instructed his implant to check on a daily basis, but had largely given up hope. For all he knew, the Urst had kept his communicator, along with the rest of his confiscated equipment.

Now he was no more than 25 meters away.

“You okay, Animal?”

He and Ast had been sent to fetch sacks of grain from the storeroom, a corner of the compound previously unknown to Sparr. The gladiator had hefted sacks onto both shoulders, but now paused to regard his comrade.

“Yes. Ah, yeah,” Sparr practically stammered. “What’s in there?” he asked, pointing to an obviously reinforced door

Ast shot him a cautious glance before turning to leave the courtyard. Sparr scrambled to catch up with him. Once they were in the clear, he got his answer.

“Strong room. Money things.” The two hustled through the compound toward the outbuilding that served as the bakery. “Not Animal things,” he added with a laugh.

Sparr’s implant had made considerable progress in decoding the local language. He no longer even noticed its translations. With nightly practice he had mastered basic sentences, especially anything to do with fighting and sex. His implant could understand even more. It now reported its translation confidence at around ninety-seven percent, although its vocabulary was still limited.

When the Governor had purchased him and Efreem, their possessions must have been included. A strongroom, however, presented obvious problems. Not only would it be guarded, Sparr had no particular skill with burglary. If he wished to reclaim his equipment before escaping, he would need to employ subtlety.

With each day that passed, subtlety became an ever more abstract concept. He and his fellows practiced with sword and shield, with spear and club. Sparr absorbed more blows than he could count, but as the days went on, dealt more than he took. His muscles hardened. His reflexes, already respectable, became swift and sure. It was increasingly difficult to conceal his abilities.

Sparr, to his astonishment, observed that neither he nor the other gladiators were closely guarded. Just as he and Ast had ventured unaccompanied to the far corner of the Governor’s compound for grain, others left the grounds entirely. Two strong, skilled fighters would be sent on an errand, accompanied by only a single guard. Sparr himself had been completely unguarded when he was summoned by Syreet. If, instead of staying the night with her he had fled, Sparr could have had a half-day start on any pursuers.

There were deterrents of course. He was unarmed, had no tokens, and no more than a rough idea of the direction he needed to go. Plus, as Sparr had already learned, Kaybe was dangerous for a solo traveler. Even armed with his pistol, he had been lucky to survive a single night on his own. If he was to continue his journey, he would have to plan meticulously.

“The Urst wagons, where do they travel?” Sparr and Jinn were watching two others play a dice game so swiftly moving and complicated that Sparr wondered if it had any rules at all.

“Everywhere,” Jinn said absently. The lanky man’s attention was fixed almost entirely on the game.

“They go to the big city?”

Jinn reluctantly tore himself away from the swiftly moving dice. “What?”

“The big city. The one with the towers.” Sparr made a motion that he hoped would call to mind towers rising high.

For a long moment Sparr got back only a blank stare. Then Jinn’s eyes flew open wide.

“New Shong? Shong?” He seemed startled.

“I don’t know the name. The one with the towers.” He repeated the hand motion.

“Shong,” Jinn confirmed. “No, no.” He shook his head. “Not the Urst. No.”

“Who does go there?”

“It’s a dead city. Few travelers.”

Sparr’s heart sank. The sliver of hope he had allowed himself hinged entirely on reaching the city he had seen from orbit. If the city was abandoned, what would be the point?

“Few travelers, but some?”

“The Origin goes. To curse the machines.” The Origin, Sparr had learned, was one of only two religions known on Kaybe.

As quickly as his hopes had sagged, they were restored. Machines. The word hung in the air, a teasing suggestion that perhaps not all of Kaybe was just one step ahead of the dark ages.

“They curse the machines?”

“Curse, yes.” Jinn seemed as confused by Sparr as Sparr was by Jinn’s latest revelations.

“What machines?”

“The maker machines. Where are you from?” It was a question Sparr had come to expect.

“Earth.” Sparr was about to leave Jinn to the game when he saw one of the men betting a token.

“Can I see that?”

Shrugging, the other gladiator handed Sparr the coin. Seeing it up close confirmed everything he had suspected. The token was highly detailed and finely minted. It consisted of at least six thin layers, each of which was unique. The outer edge on each layer was a solid ring, but with triangular and rectangular teeth stabbing into the otherwise hollow center. Some of the teeth were short, some long. Their widths varied subtly. The layers, fused together, formed an intricate disc. The lightweight metal must be extremely strong.

Sparr compared it to another token. Though identical at first glance, he could see that the layers on each disc were different not just from each other, but from their counterparts on the other token. They reminded Sparr of puzzle pieces or keys. He handed both tokens back. Whatever their origin, the discs hadn’t been minted on Kaybe.

***

The blue-robed woman came to watch the fights on the same day that Jinn fell.

Sparr watched her entrance from the gladiator holding pen. Liette, he had learned, was the high priestess of the Origin. Followers of the religion identified themselves with an emblem which Sparr first had seen nestled in Liette’s cleavage on the day he had been sold. It consisted of a cross laid atop a spoked wheel. Religions on Earth had been in decline for centuries, but Sparr knew what the cross and wheel symbolized. The Origin seemed to be a merging of Christianity and Buddhism, at least in its symbolism. The teachings remained a mystery.

Primly, Liette seated herself next to the Governor, offering only the most subtle nod of acknowledgement. The gaunt official, for his part, smiled infinitesimally. To his neighbor he made a great show of opening a colorful tin. With an equally minimal smile, Liette drew forth from the tin what appeared to be a tiny scroll. She pressed it to her nose. Sparr now noticed that others in the audience held similar objects which they from time to time would hold beneath their nostrils while taking in a deep breath. Scent or drug, Sparr had no idea.

This day the fights opened with an event Sparr hadn’t previously witnessed. Two slim and pretty young women entered the pit. Each wore a gauzy skirt of a material which might have been silk, or some more exotic material. Not for the first time, Sparr’s mind leapt at the possibilities of the local fauna. Were there silkworms on Kaybe? Something similar?

A band of stronger material wrapped the womens’ tops, just wide enough to contain their small breasts. From a filigree necklace, each wore a preposterous cape, as gauzy as their skirts. In their hands, each carried a long, carved staff with a padded tip. The two might have been identical twins except for their hair, one sporting a wild auburn tangle, while the other wore a pair of blonde braids. Both smiled at the audience sweetly, blowing kisses and winking.

They faced off. Auburn, affecting an expression of concentrated anger, drove at her opponent with a series of sweeping blows. Blonde leapt gracefully over each before pressing her own attack, a flurry of jabs, one of which landed on Auburn’s shoulder. The two squared off again, circling and feinting. The crowd cheered.

From across the pit, Sparr caught a glimpse of Syreet. If he wasn’t mistaken, the Amazon was watching the blonde with particular interest. Once, she raised her head to Sparr. Syreet licked her lips suggestively before returning her attention to the performance.

The two combatants leapt forward, trading blows with exaggerated showmanship. First Blonde, then Auburn launched their attacks, pirouetting spins, thrusts, and parries that seemed always just to miss their opponent. The loose, gauzy skirt and cape they wore seemed designed solely to showcase their lithe bodies. Auburn dove forward, staff extended. Blonde jumped over her, twisted, and landed another blow on her opponent’s back.

Auburn cursed and spat, turning again to square off. The crowd roared in approval. Wine merchants did an early, brisk business. Sparr found himself smiling. Choreographed or not, the performance was athletic and sexy. Even Liette and the Governor seemed to have shed their exaggerated restraint.

Blonde pursued her advantage, rushing forward with a dazzling combination of jabs and sweeps. Auburn stumbled back, frantically blocking, but steadily giving up ground. Sensing victory, Blonde leapt. Auburn, with an elaborate spin, flung her cape up. Her lithe opponent faltered, her face caught in the flimsy material. In a stunning reversal, Auburn struck Blonde repeatedly, the final blow sending her rival to her knees. Blonde dropped her staff.

The horn sounded.

Auburn strutted around the pit, staff held high. She soaked up the crowd’s applause, shaking her ass and flipping her cape. After completing her lap she found Blonde still kneeling and panting. In a final show of victory she grabbed a blonde braid and shoved her rival’s face between her legs. An even stronger roar poured from the crowd.

Again, Sparr’s eyes found Syreet. He couldn’t tell which of them had enjoyed the performance more.

Jinn’s match brought no such joy.

The judge called for a blood match with knives. Jinn loped forward in a defensive crouch, his blade held in front. His opponent, an older man covered with a history of scars, circled him cautiously. Jinn had the advantage of reach, and fewer years. Several times the older man stormed forward, his blade flashing. Each time, Jinn fell back, dealing more cuts than he took. After no more than three minutes, both men dripped with blood, but Jinn less so. Again, they circled.

Seemingly emboldened by his advantage, Jinn darted forward. When his opponent exposed his right side, Jinn struck. The older man spun, planting his knife in Jinn’s neck. Both men staggered back, bleeding.

Jinn fell first. The horn blew.

Sparr darted forward, accompanied by the weapons master. Together they carried their fallen comrade back to their wagon. Jinn stared first at the weapons master, then Sparr. A geyser of blood poured from his neck. For a moment his eyes locked on Sparr.

“Shong,” he said.

Jinn died.

Sparr closed his eyes, trying to block out the painful scene. Jinn had been a quiet man, poorly suited to combat. What injustice had brought him to die in this place, to perish far from his family? It was achingly pointless and sad.

***

The rest of the afternoon passed in a fog. Ast hadn’t joined them. Another promising warrior named Stef took his place. A man of Sparr’s years with flowing blond hair and wild eyes, he engaged lustily with his opponent as the two fought with spears. Neither combatant held an obvious advantage, but Stef dealt so many small cuts that the judge eventually called the match in his favor. Stef performed an awkward victory lap, offering his spear to a confused young woman who handed it back, shaking her head. Stef returned to the wagon, trying to conceal his disappointment.

Syreet’s match was also fought with spears. As she had the previous week, the crowd favorite seemed to pursue a losing strategy, falling back steadily before a wiry woman who was a match for her athleticism and reach. The Amazon defended herself but couldn’t seem to mount a counter attack. As the match progressed, the bet takers were called back for a second flurry of wagers.

Both combatants began to tire. Syreet’s opponent kept up her assault of well-timed sweeps and thrusts, but the effort required left her panting. Syreet, too, seemed winded. Her blocks and parries grew weaker and slower, arriving barely in time. Perhaps sensing opportunity, her rival threw all of her momentum into a move that Sparr had seen Syreet herself use. The wiry woman feinted high, then lunged low, slashing with her spear in an arc that couldn’t miss Syreet’s legs.

Except Syreet no longer was there.

The Amazon had only feigned fatigue. Syreet ignored her rival’s high feint entirely. As the other woman threw her weight forward, Syreet leapt to the side. She jabbed her spear into her opponent’s upper back, and as the other fighter lunged forward, left a shallow but bloody cut from shoulder blade to waist. The judge sounded the horn.

Syreet leaned back, raising her spear and spreading her arms exultantly. For a moment she was as still as a statue, her taut body glistening in the mid-day sun. Then she pranced forward, circling the pit, arms still outstretched like a bird about to take flight. The crowd roared their approval, called out her name hopefully, or clapped. Near the end of her circuit, Syreet approached a spot along the rail where Auburn and Blonde had watched her match. She looked back over her shoulder to be sure Sparr was watching, then kissed Blonde on the lips. The girl was surprised, stiffening as Syreet embraced her, but after a moment she softened. Their tongues met. The two reluctantly pulled apart, but not before Syreet whispered something in Blonde’s ear.

Sparr once again found himself erect at the beginning of a fight.

The judge announced Sparr’s turn, a blood match with sword and shield. His opponent was a youth named Toma, whom Sparr had observed the previous week. The boy had fought a skilled, defensive fight, waiting for his opponent to make a mistake, then striking swiftly. Sparr was confident he could take the match, but had no wish to risk injury. He came up with a strategy.

The combatants took the field. Sparr dropped immediately into an exaggerated defensive crouch, hiding behind his shield. Toma, too, adopted a cautious posture, but as the two circled, grew bolder. When Sparr showed no signs of attacking, the youth rushed forward, delivering a blow squarely at Sparr’s shield. It was a safe attack, meant to produce a reaction without exposing himself. Sparr hopped back but didn’t counter. A few in the crowd hissed.

Leave a Comment