LOST COLONY CH. 03-1

Lost Colony: Chapter 03

***

“Hold still. No, I said… I said don’t move!”

Sparr did his best to comply. The blade at his neck could end his life in an instant, and the swirling mist of the hot spring couldn’t have been making it any easier for its wielder to do her work.

Phia hovered over him, brow knitted in concentration as she scraped and cut away at almost a month’s worth of unruly beard. Dark whiskers fell away in clumps, some dropping to Sparr’s chest, and some to the stone floor. When she was satisfied with her work, the young woman started on his hair with a blade, and a comb which looked as if it had once been the spine of a fish.

A deep sense of relaxation settled upon him. While Phia acted as barber, another temple maiden, Velyn, scrubbed him with a porous stone. It was this treatment that had caused Sparr to move earlier. Now, as the steam settled into his bones, even the occasional abrasion from the scrubbing no longer troubled him. Reclining against a woven back rest, Sparr had almost fallen asleep when he felt hands tugging at the simple wrap he wore around his waist.

“Let’s see how much attention he needs… here.” A note of surprise found its way into Phia’s voice. Sparr’s cock was just as relaxed as he was.

“Oh,” said Velyn, looking up from where she had been scrubbing Sparr’s feet. The two exchanged a glance.

“Well then,” said Phia, “this will take some time.”

“Plenty,” said Velyn. “Don’t want to rush this, disappoint Liette.” The redhead was grinning broadly.

Phia knelt, and applied a handful of lather to Sparr’s groin. She spread it in a thin layer, and with great care, began to shave the thicket of hair surrounding his cock. Sparr looked on nervously, afraid to do or say anything which might unsteady the girl’s hand. Phia, however, had an aptitude for just this sort of intimate attention. She slid the razor expertly toward the base of his cock, then with exquisite patience, scraped away at his sack. The brunette lifted his cock to one side, cradling it in her hand.

A lazy arousal crept into him. Phia was as pretty as the rest of the temple maidens, with playful, short brunette locks, dimpled cheeks, and a sweet smile. Steam had pressed the flimsy robe against the contours of her soft body. Soon, Sparr’s cock began to grow in her hand. Phia noticed.

“Oh,” she said, as if surprised. “Velyn, he likes it.”

Velyn leaned forward, her copper hair tickling Sparr’s thigh. “Don’t stop, then.”

The brunette happily continued, drawing the razor across the most vulnerable parts of Sparr’s male anatomy. A small, polite, scraping sound indicated the hairs being cut neatly away from his sack and around his cock. Locking her eyes on Sparr’s, Phia rinsed the razor then resumed. Sparr’s cock twitched in her hand, continuing to swell.

“Shit,” Velyn said softly.

“Mmmmm,” said Phia. Her eyes widened. “Anyway… it’s easier when they’re hard.”

That much was true. As Sparr’s erection drew every wrinkle of loose skin from his balls, they became smooth and tight. Phia’s motions became even more sure.

“Let me hold it,” Velyn practically whispered. “He’s huge!”

“I’m almost done.” While Velyn hoisted Sparr’s engorged rod, Phia finished her work. “Rinse him.”

Without releasing her grip on him, the redhead poured warm water over Sparr’s groin. As the last of the lather sluiced away, his cock stood out in full relief, a straining shaft and head over a pair of clean, plump balls.

“Fuck!” Phia stroked his shaft delicately, slender fingers just brushing the head. Her other hand began to slide up her thigh.

“Are all gladiators this gifted?” asked Velyn. Her hand looked tiny next to the fat, veined shaft.

“Gladiator is only my part-time job,” he groaned. Being bathed, trimmed, and shaved by the two young women left him eager for release.

“Mmmm,” said Velyn. She exhaled a soft breath against his sack. “What’s your other job?”

“I’m a trader.” Sparr had decided that passing himself off as some type of merchant might open doors.

“Boring!” declared Phia with exaggerated disappointment. Her fingers brushed his sack, sending Sparr a tingle of pleasure.

“Yes. You should have said you were an adventurer.” Velyn gave his shaft a firm squeeze.

“I’m ready for an adventure right now,” Sparr panted.

With no warning, Velyn lifted his cock and popped the head into her mouth. After five heartbeats she pulled back. “Yes you are,” she said sweetly.

Phia looked alarmed. “No, no, he’s for Liette!”

Velyn shot a look over her shoulder. “We have a minute,” she said. Again, the redhead pushed her lips over his cock, held it, then withdrew. “Anyway, you don’t have to. I think he likes me better.”

“Dammit,” said Phia. The brunette shot her own, nervous glance at the door. Then, like Velyn, popped her mouth over the head of Sparr’s cock.

“Fuuuuck,” he groaned.

For several exquisite minutes, Velyn and Phia passed Sparr’s cock back and forth. They giggled at their naughtiness while teasing each other about who was better at pleasuring him. Neither girl took him particularly deep, or with any real intention of making him cum. The sensation was sublime, but nothing about the encounter suggested he would get the release he sought.

“Oh shit!” Velyn leapt up. The redhead had heard something. “Quick,” she hissed.

Phia rolled away, scrambling to fasten her robe. Velyn did the same as the two quickly tidied the room. Together they guided Sparr into a slightly more formal wrap, fastened with a clasp bearing the Origin symbol. The garment left Sparr’s chest and calves exposed. It did nothing, in his current state, to conceal his erection.

Almost before they had finished, a woman of early middle years breezed into the room. What she lacked in youthful beauty, the newcomer more than made up for with confidence and poise. A spill of brunette curls tossed past her neck, unbound but disciplined. Bright eyes swept over Sparr, lingering at the obvious outline of his cock. The smile she offered was more than half smirk.

“I take it he’s ready?”

“Lell, yes… yes,” Phia said, half stammering. “He’s clean, the way she likes.”

“Mmmm,” Lell said thoughtfully, her eyes turning back to Sparr. “Yes I can see he’s ‘the way she likes’.” She laughed. “Velyn, Phia, wipe the saliva from your mouths. You,” Lell said, indicating Sparr, “let’s get a look at you.”

Sparr joined her to stand before a full-height mirror, his first real look at himself since before he had landed. What he saw mostly pleased him. Phia had trimmed his straight black hair close on one side, leaving it longer on top, a fashion favored by the temple youth. The style wasn’t particularly to his taste, but so long as a beauty like Phia was on hand to maintain it, he would raise no objection.

Except for the bandaged cut where Efreem’s blade had sliced him during their match, Sparr’s body was intact. His muscles were harder, his veins more prominent. The wrap suited him, highlighting his muscular shoulders, torso, and narrow waist. He looked like a more ripped version of himself from five years ago.

Lell must have liked what she saw. She pressed herself against him from behind, running her hands down across his body, just brushing his cock.

“Yes,” Lell said. “I think Liette will find you to her liking.” Her body was hot and close. “But, if I might offer a warning?”

“Ah, okay.” At Lell’s attention, Sparr was stiffening again.

“We had a strong fellow like you here not three months ago.” Her hands found his organ. “I think the carrion birds picked the last of his flesh last week.” Lell met his eyes in the mirror. “Keep your wits about you, Alain. It will take more than strength to survive here.”

Confused and on guard, Sparr let himself be led from the hot spring. Like Vonde itself, the temple had been built against the rocky walls where two ridges came together. The back rooms of the sprawling structure had a cave-like look. The rest of the temple was built from rough stones, and protected from the elements by a carved wooden roof. The place had a labyrinthine feel to it, with narrow corridors twisting away to secret chambers. He was reminded of Syreet’s house, and felt a sudden twinge of longing. Would he ever see the raw and beguiling gladiator again?

Lell led Phia, Velyn, and Sparr through the complex. Upon reaching a large, open hall, the two maidens slipped away, leaving him and Lell to observe a novel sight.

The semi-circular hall sloped down, ringed with shallow steps like an amphitheater. The base of the room was taken up by a line of booths of varying sizes. Some held small couches, some a table and chairs. A few seemed unfurnished. Sparr’s attention, however, was drawn to the proceedings at the center of the room.

Liette stood at a dais, flanked by temple maidens on one side, and youths on the other. Before her stood an assembly of perhaps thirty townspeople, dressed in degrees of finery. Sparr noticed two or three of the prominent merchants he had seen both at the slave auction and the gladiator show. Without their servants hoving about, they looked less imperious, smaller. Those dressed in a lesser degree of opulence stood slightly back from those clustered near the front, and so on. Near the very back, to either side of Sparr and Lell, were commoners who seemed content to kneel or bow in silence.

“Welcome all,” Liette began, “all who bring their problems to Omm. Here, you will be free of them.”

Sparr was reminded of his conversation with Stef regarding the Origin creed.

“Hear and know,” the priestess intoned. “Omm cast down the machines. He who had everything, saw the corruption the makers wrought.” Liette raised her arms high. “He threw aside the machines in his journey of eight steps…”

Sparr quickly lost interest in the sermon, which seemed to consist of superficial fragments of Christianity and Buddhism intertwined. The only interesting part was the reference to the ‘maker machines’. Increasingly, Sparr was convinced that Shong held the clues he needed.

He wasn’t the only one with limited interest in Liette’s sermon. The crowd shifted restlessly. No one sat. It was obvious to Sparr that the townspeople weren’t there to hear the priestess speak at all. Either getting the hint, or reaching the end of her speech, Liette stepped aside. Two of the youth, which Sparr later learned were referred to as princes, first brought out a shallow bowl, then pushed forward an odd contraption.

The wheel immediately reminded Sparr of an historical windmill. The base was a monolith more than two meters tall, rectangular, but tapering slightly near the top. To its front was affixed a wheel consisting of eight spokes, each of which extended just past the outer rim. The spokes and the rim itself were intricately carved with indecipherable symbols and illustrations.

“Who will sacrifice?” Liette called out. “Who will journey on the wheel?”

The elites jostled for position and attention. Through some subtle assessment of their standing, Liette identified and called forward a matriarch. The woman, as stiff as a twig, stepped up to the wheel. As Liette watched with a trained eye, the matriarch placed tokens into the bowl.

“The sacrifice!” The priestess was a skilled showperson. “You must journey on the wheel.”

Smugly, the woman placed a thick hand on the wheel. One of the princes, a handsome, olive-skinned youth joined her. With a suggestive wink, he pressed himself close behind her and laid his hand upon hers. Together, they pushed the wheel. After several turns, the outlandish device slowly crept to a halt. Liette leaned forward to confirm.

“Wisdom!” she cried out. “Omm has taken your burden.”

With another sly glance, the same prince escorted the matriarch to one of the booths. Once seated, a maiden brought them a small box. With an elaborate flourish, the youth opened the box and retrieved one of the small scrolls Sparr had observed at the gladiator pit. With one arm, he embraced the aging woman. With the other, he pressed the scroll to her nose. As the maiden pulled a privacy curtain, Sparr just caught a glimpse of the woman’s eyes sliding shut in an ecstatic expression.

Again, the crowd jostled and strained for attention. Again, Liette selected, then called forward a supplicant. The man, a ruddy and magnificently bearded specimen of Vonde society, placed a somewhat larger stack of tokens into the bowl. Two giggling maidens stepped forward, stroking his arm and embracing him as the man spun the wheel.

“Nourishment!” Liette pronounced, as the wheel crept to a halt. “Omm has taken your burden.”

The maidens escorted the man to a booth, joining him on the small couch within. One of the princes brought forth a jug of wine and a platter of cheese and cured meats. The man took a long drink of wine, and before the prince could close the curtain, was already kissing and groping the maidens.

So the service went. Supplicants came forth in ones or twos, made a donation, and spun the wheel. The most common result of the spin was wisdom, which appeared to be one of the scented or drugged scrolls. Nourishment meant food, wine, and erotic opportunity. A tub in one of the enclosures allowed for Baptism, which was no more than an opportunity to cavort in the steamy water with a maiden or prince of the supplicant’s choice.

“So, what do you think?”

Sparr for a moment had forgotten about Lell. As he had watched the scene in the hall unfold, Lell had watched him. She hadn’t lost the knowing smirk. He doubted she was a believer.

“This?” Sparr asked, spreading his hands to indicate the scene. “Sanctioned prostitution?”

Lell practically snorted. “You may be okay here, Alain.” She shook her head in surprise. “But… I’d keep that particular thought to yourself.” Lell slipped away, but not before giving Sparr’s ass a firm squeeze.

***

“Kaybe. Rhymes with maybe.”

Grinning or shaking their heads at the dismal humor, the would-be spacefarers fell in. After a full morning of briefings, the group was establishing a level of comfort, but hadn’t formed the alliances, rivalries, and attractions yet to come. For the time being, it would be polite smiles and assessing glances.

Someone groaned. “Who came up with that?”

Captain Fowler didn’t bother to identify the source of the question. “You try saying K2-136-b a hundred times a day. Onboard the Odysseus, on this mission, she goes by K2B, or just Kaybe. You’re welcome. Now, save those questions for something just a touch more interesting. Like this.”

The center of the briefing room lit up with a holographic representation of their destination. For most of the group, this was their first time seeing the latest, most detailed view of the exoplanet.

“Large, ice-bound polar regions.” Fowler began his lecture as, on cue, the poles were highlighted. “They’re massive compared to Earth’s, taking up more than eighty percent of the planet’s surface. What’s left isn’t much more than a thin strip along the equator.”

Sparr watched the presentation, fascinated. “The quality of these images is far better than we’ve seen before. Are they from last year’s late September launch?”

Fowler snapped his gaze up. “Sparr, right?”

“Yes captain. Alain Sparr, K2-Genetics.”

“Mmm,” Fowler said. “Very good, yes. That launch carried an Alliance probe. Its destination is classified, but it did pass nearer to Kaybe than anything in three hundred years.”

Several in the room turned to Sparr, reassessing. Most were Alliance crew, military, or scientists. These would have a fixed mission, either in flying, protecting, or exploring Kaybe. He and a few others would pursue the commercial interests of their employers.

“There’s more,” Fowler continued. “Even with the fly-by we still haven’t detected any signs of activity on the colony. Nothing in more than three hundred years.”

Everyone in the room knew the story of K2-136-b. Four centuries earlier, it had been the wet dream of anyone who studied exoplanets. A world with liquid water, near-Earth mass, and a comfortable distance from a warm star, it could hardly have been a more tempting target for colonization.

Earth governments on their own couldn’t hope to mount colonization missions. Instead, wealthy corporations funded all space travel, in exchange for rights to colonize, mine, and extract other resources. K2-136-b had been colonized with a well-funded mission backed by several such corporations. The mission began, with early indications that everything was going as planned.

And then, nothing.

“We have no idea what happened to the colonists,” Fowler said. “They sent back a single probe when they reached orbit. Nothing but good news. After that, zip.”

“Did the Alliance probe run any spectrographic scans?” This question came from a blonde woman Sparr had seen earlier that morning. From the wave of male faces now smiling toward her, it was clear Sparr wasn’t the only one who liked what he saw.

“Yes, although the probe wasn’t equipped for detailed spectrographic scanning.” The captain’s eye flicked for a moment as he was fed some piece of information by his implant. “You’re with K2-Mineral, right?”

“Yes,” the blonde said. “Calista Brandt.”

“Well Ms. Brandt, the spectrographic scans don’t reveal much we didn’t already know, but there may be some interesting details for you. The complete data are available on the mission portal.”

Fowler’s briefing continued, but Sparr’s eyes lingered on Calista. She was roughly his age, tall, and fit. Fine, blonde hair was pulled back and bound with a clasp. She was attractive without calling attention to herself, shapely without flaunting it. Sparr felt a surge of attraction.

“Now, let’s discuss mass allowance. This will interest you in particular, Ms. Brandt, assuming K2-Mineral is still interested in exceeding it.”

It did, in fact, interest her. Calista shot the captain a look of what might have been irritation before she recovered her composure. Whatever interest the blonde or her employer had in exceeding the mass allowance wasn’t something she wanted publicly discussed.

Sparr sat back for what promised to be an enlightening conversation.

***

“The priestess will see you now.”

As the service concluded, Lell escorted Sparr through the hall. Cleared of supplicants, maidens, and princes, the room felt bare and pointless. Only the sound of a few giggling maidens slipping from the curtained alcoves reminded Sparr of the desires and deals made just half an hour earlier.

Liette’s private chambers were more fitting for a queen than a priestess. Sparr didn’t see a throne, but the couches, tapestries, rugs, and fixtures were unlike anything he had seen on Kaybe. Liette herself reclined on one of the sprawling couches, sipping wine. Kess stood behind her nervously, her eyes flickering between Sparr, Lell, and Liette.

The priestess looked much as she had the first day at the slave auction. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a single braid, decorated with glittering ornaments of glass, jewels, and burnished metal. Liette had loosened her gown, revealing enticingly deep cleavage. Her eyes swept over Sparr lazily.

“Do you know why you’re here?” Liette asked.

Did here mean the temple or Liette’s chambers?

“I believe Kess spoke for me,” he said.

Liette smiled almost imperceptibly. “Yes, she did. And do you know what she said?”

There were few things, Sparr suspected, that would drive Liette to defy the Governor as she had. Given the blatantly sexual foundations of the temple, he could guess what Kess had told the priestess, but had the maiden told of their intimacy?

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