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About Traditional Art / Hobbyist Member Ed Storm27/Male/United States Group :iconcaptive-centrale: Captive-Centrale
Bound, gagged, and no escape!
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In the darkened chamber, all voices lowered to a hushed whisper. Giggles and snickers were stifled as a soft light flickered into being at one end of the vast room. Suddenly, it leapt into a vast flame, orange light flashing over the assembled faces. As it calmed, only a single visage remained clearly illuminated - that of a stately, well-groomed man with a beard. He gave a warm smile as he dipped the torch low, towards the first row of people. One by one, each of them held up a small candle and, taking the fire from the torch-bearer, they passed the flame on to the persons seated behind them. Soon, tiny flickers illuminated the chamber like a sea of fireflies. The torch-bearer set his brand into a steel cradle, and turned back to the audience.

"There are two flames that we of the Bede Academy have to bestow upon this year's graduating class," he says. "The first is the wealth of knowledge that has been kept alive throughout generations of turmoil by your ancestors and mine. The second flame is the result of that knowledge, and it is infinitely brighter than the first. If everyone has had enough of this medieval nonsense?"

He clapped his hands, and the wall behind him began to brighten. With a smooth, calculated regularity designed to proceed only as rapidly as the adjustment of the human eye, the blank blackness melted away towards the corners of the room as the wall, actually a window, let in the light from outside. The assembled crowd beheld the view of a sprawling city, tall buildings spread out in clusters along roads that wound through grassy, tree-lined walkways. Small, light transports zipped through the air, carrying people from one end of the city to another, all piloted by computers in constant communication with one another, avoiding not only collision, but anything like a close call. The bustle was all in the sky; on the shady lanes below, the people strolled, without hurry - some just went a little faster than others. In the distance, several very tall, shimmering loops of steel soared two hundred feet into the sky, studded with rungs like enormous, twisted ladders; bits of green were barely visible on the closest of these enormous, skyward farms, designed to maximize yields while conserving horizontal space. It was a clean place, orderly, and though the city was large with a great sense of vigor and energy, its clusters of mighty buildings were spread out enough to avoid swallowing the viewer.

"This," resumed the head of the Bede Academy, "is the second flame, infinitely brighter for the survival of the first. Gateshire, one of the last few pillars of civilization left on this planet. This is the legacy you will inherit and advance with the knowledge you have acquired in this Academy. The two are joined; neither is possible without the other any longer." The academician paused, smiling. A twinkle came into his eye. "I have often heard Gateshire referred to as a civilization unto itself, separate even from its sister cities. But this is not quite the case..."

Down among the crowd - composed entirely of the venerable headmaster's soon-to-be-graduating class - several groans were suppressed with extreme difficulty. Several mouthed along with the well-worn speech, crossing their eyes as they silently spoke about civilization as an ideal rather than material accomplishment, at the sacrifices of their ancestors when world order collapsed, at the difficult decision the founders of Gateshire had faced in cutting themselves off from the rest of the world to maintain their own security and prosperity. To a generation that had never known anything besides that same security, it became a subject of little enough import.

Surrounded by this jesting sat a student who, though smiling pleasantly, resisted the urge to join in the laugh. Ricana Wellhouse took careful notes on the proceedings, stylus flying over the glowing screen of the note-tablet in her skirted lap. She also wore a snug white t-shirt, a black jacket with her school's seal on the right breast, and a pair of black, knee-high boots. In addition to being a part of the soon-to-be-graduating class, she was also the senior reporter for the Bede Chronicle, the Academy’s newspaper. With the journalist’s critical eye, she couldn’t help but note down the student body’s reaction to hearing the well-worn speech of their superior. She could almost feel his eyes burning into her from the stage as she wrote, the same look he had given her across his desk in their many meetings about her articles.

Honestly, Ricana, she mused, thin lips pursing to keep back laughter, you can hardly go a single edition without doing something to earn a reprimand.

Almost as if spurred on by the sight of Ricana to address the subject, the headmaster cut swiftly to a point that typically arrived a bit later in the speech. He pointed out to the distant horizon – or what was visible before it. All the students knew what it was; constantly present yet rarely discussed. Beyond the tall buildings, the flying cars guided by Autoflocking software, beyond the soaring, vital Stratofarms - Ricana's gaze lingered on these for a moment, troubled - and beyond even the slight sprawl of small houses of those who could afford to live outside the sometimes-claustrophobic city proper. From here, it looked like a simple grey bar, above which the sun rose and below which it set every day. It was what set Gateshire apart from the rest of the world, insurmountable from without… or within.

“Now,” the headmaster said, “I grew up in Gateshire, the same as all of you. I know how confining those walls can feel to young people, eager to explore and test boundaries.” Ricana lifted her eyes, expecting to meet those of the speaker; but he had turned elsewhere. “But I have been beyond them. I accompanied my father on one of the last diplomatic missions to the people on the outside, when I was just a boy. And I can tell you, those mighty, sentient walls of ours are liberating. They free us from chaos, anarchy and ruin. They free us from futile toil and crippling fear. And, most importantly, they free us from those people trapped in the world beyond, for whom these horrors are a way of life in which they would have us, too, sinking and suffering with them all.”

Now he smiled warmly once again, gently bringing the students back into the comforting familiarity of their history. “What heroes, then, were our forefathers, to erect these walls and keep the light of civilization burning above the maelstrom of anarchy! You, approaching graduates, are about to join your ranks to theirs and keep this ship afloat. I salute you!”

*                            *                            *

“What a load. Do they actually believe this stuff?”

The merchant inhaled hard on his sniffly nose, and swallowed loudly. The woman who had asked the question rolled her eyes. He smiled again, showing grimy teeth, many of them replaced with plastic synthetics that formed a totally unconvincing contrast to his unwashed naturals.

“They don’t have a choice,” he said, voice distorted by his blocked sinuses, “This is what they’re taught from birth. From what I’ve read of it, it’s basically true. Just not the whole truth, ya follow me?”

“Yeah, for sure,” the woman closed the text file that she had been reading – a pirated history book from within a walled city – on her dusty, banged-up nano-reader. The splotchy, incomplete picture, caused by at least a fourth of the nanites having been lost, zipped back into her bulky wrist-mounted device. The light that projected the picture onto the nanites’ reflective bodies shut off as well.

“So, what ya think?” the merchant said, spreading his arms about his booth. “I got docs on anything you want. Including upper echelon stuff – government orders from Gateshire. Stuff they’ll put a bounty on your head for having. Make me an offer.”

The woman pursed her full lips, pierced in a snakebite with two super-thin rings. "I'm good thanks," she said.

The merchant's smile fell. "What, was it the bounty thing? Come on, they'll never find out!"

"I ain't worried about it, friend," the woman said, punching the merchant on the arm and smiling. "I've already got a bounty on my head."

The merchant chuckled. "Don't we all?"

The woman turned away, flipping a hood up over her bright orange hair. She wore it long on the right side of her head, with the left side shaven except for a small, straight lock before her ear. She came up no higher than the shoulders of the motley crowd that clogged the aisles of the bazaar, but none jostled her. Aside from her hooded shirt and the bulky, homemade electronic gauntlets and boots that hung on her small frame, she also wore snug, shiny black tights, thin but super-durable, beneath a denim skirt and a green tank top. Oh her shoulders was a roughed-up vest, with a back patch bearing the letters "CW" formed by a circuitboard design. Beneath this was another patch, ragged and worn, reading "Green River Commune - Anarchy. Ecology. Individualism." around a central seal, depicting a wide, calm river.

She had grown up in a part of history that the texts had left out. The failure of the governments had been a source of panic to most - but a sigh of relief to others. Many returned to the land to survive, retaining all the knowledge and technology they would need to keep the powerful at bay and ensure their own freedom. They gathered at the edges of the slowly-expanding desert that had once been the most fertile land in the world, and sought to live sustainably.They sold food to the wealthy, barricaded behind their walls, in return for protection against those who chose not to rely on themselves, but to raid and steal.

Until the people behind the walls developed their own synthetic food sources, grown on high, soaring towers, and didn't need those in the eco-communes anymore. As usual, the promises of the powerful proved empty, and the people on the land suffered through long, deadly wars against the hordes of nomadic Rovers, until they developed ways to defend themselves.

As she approached the center of the bazaar, a low beeping in one of several rings that lined her ears brought her out of her history review. Her bright green eyes scanned the marketplace, but she never halted or turned her head around. One hand went to her belt to adjust her shirt, and pressed a button specifically placed there to decieve prying eyes. From one of her lip rings, a tiny nano-display appeared before her eyes, nearly invisible to observers; it was a radar, with seven tiny green blips positioned around the central blip - her. She scowled.

"In the middle of the marketplace, you dirty sons of - "

Perfectly coordinated, six men, dressed like ordinary bazaar riffraff, emerged from cover to form a circle around the woman. Each withdrew a weapon from within his ragged coat, and pointed it directly at their victim. Another person, a woman, waited outside the circle. All looked grim and serious, their eyes hidden behind sunglasses.

One of the men said, "Furrow Hollander. Put up your hands."

She spat in the dirt. "Get out of my way."

"You will not receive another warning. Put up your hands and surrender."

"You won't receive one either. Go tell your owners in Gateshire to get bent."

"Alicia," one said to the woman beyond the circle, "Take her."

Before any of the assailants could move, Furrow pointed her bulky gauntlets at the ground and fired a massive shockwave that knocked everything within fifty feet - people, animals, seller stalls - to the ground. Before the attackers could recover, a small, silver ball hit the ground at Furrow's feet, and began buzzing.

"Have fun on the scrap heap, you freaks," she said, and then blasted upward on repulsor jets built into her boots.

The silver ball exploded in a sharp, loud burst of electromagnetic energy, consuming the attackers in a buzzing cloud. The human countenances of all seven instantly vaporized as the layer of nanobots disguising them was disabled, revealing the robotic bodies beneath. The attackers collapsed in a useless, dead heap in the marketplace.

Furrow landed somewhat awkwardly, brushing her orange hair from her face. The other occupants of the bazaar glared at her as they rose to their feet, thwacking their various electronic devices that had also been fried by Furrow's electromagnetic pulse grenade.

"Sorry about your comms, everyone," Furrow said, straightening her jacket. She kicked at the bodies of the automatons. "Take these Wallie autothugs as payment."

Furrow turned to leave the bazaar. One of the scavengers, pouring over the disabled robot that had been Alicia, shouted "Thanks a lot, Circuit Witch!"

"Don't mention it, friend," Furrow said. She threw up her hood, and began the long walk back home to Green River.

*                            *                            *

After the conclusion of the ceremony, students, faculty, and guests of the school mingled in the untinted daylight coming through the enormous windows. Ricana, brushing her straight, bright red hair from her eyes, spotted a tall, erect figure in the dress of a high official, his face beset by the grey hair and deepening lines of middle age. She knew him at once, and, readying her notepad, managed to shove her way over to where he conversed with the school headmaster.

The latter figure, turning away from what Ricana knew from experience must be a sycophantic conversation, froze when he saw her bright red hair bounce into position beside him. He greeted her through gritted teeth, a look of concentrated hate beaming in his eyes. His voice was high with laughter and far too pleasant to be earnest.

"Ms. Wellhouse, what on earth are YOU doing here?" he said, clapping her quite roughly on the back. "Shouldn't you be... anywhere else, at all, right now?"

"No sir Mr. Schollins," Ricana said, eyes beaming as she adopted her own fake warmth to match his, "I'm in exactly the right place to ask a few questions for the Bede Chronicle - if that's alright with you, Councilman Grady?"

The middle-aged official smiled, his salt-and-pepper moustache curling up into an expression of patience rather than pleasantry. "Why of course, my dear. Are you one of the coming graduates this year?"

"Yes sir. And believe me, there's no one our esteemed headmaster is more excited to see depart the hallowed halls of this school," Ricana quipped, readying her notepad. "Okay, are you ready, sir?"

The Councilman merely gave an encouraging nod.

"Great. Councilman Grady, what was the reason for declaring a No Fly Zone in the Stratofarm district last week?"

Grady's eyebrows shot up; he had clearly been expecting to be asked for a comment on the impending graduation. The headmaster froze, looking pale.

"This is for the Bede Chronicle, is it?" Grady said, voice low and full of gravel.

"Yes sir," Ricana said. Grady did not reply for a moment, as though expecting Ricana to explain herself. She did not. At last, he delivered an answer.

"As stated in the official press release," Grady said, "The No-Fly Zone has been imposed due to a potential glitch in the Autoflocking software that guides the city's public and personal transports"

Ricana's face screwed up. "But if the software may have a glitch, why is the No Fly Zone only imposed in one district? Couldn't a glitch cause trouble anywhere in the city?"

"Ms. Wellhouse, please go find your parents, or friends," headmaster Schollins said, whispering to her, "or perhaps a hole to fall into."

"Again, as per the official statement," Grady said, gaining confidence as he hid behind official language, "the glitch involved the Autoflocking system failing to consistently recognize the Stratofarms as obstacles. Plentiful though our own surplus may be, we cannot afford to jeopardize it by risking a transport colliding with our crops. Now, if you'll excuse me."

Grady pushed past, shooting a deadly look at the headmaster; Ricana leapt after him, undeterred.

"Councilman Grady, can you respond to rumors that the Stratofarm harvest for next quarter may be in danger of falling short?"

"Ricana!" the headmaster hissed.

Grady turned, without stopping. "It's alright, Mr. Schollins," he said. "Ms. Wellhouse," he emphasized, as though telling Ricana he would remember the name. "I did just refer to our surplus as plentiful, didn't !?" With that, he left.

The headmaster fixed a gaze on Ricana like a shark on a seal. He was about to go in for the kill, when someone else stepped in front of him.

"Ricana!" The voice was deep but soft, and belonged to a tall, blonde fellow built like a tank, with a broad smile and a twinkle in his eye. Ricana couldn't help return the smile when she saw the headmaster vanish behind the imposing figure.

"Hey, Dad," she said, giving his sturdy frame a hug. "Did you like the ceremony?"

"It was fine, I suppose, if you enjoy watching men patting themselves on the back for the achievements of their children," the big fellow said, with a raised eyebrow. "Is there to be any kind of reception?"

"Yes, but I'm not going," Ricana said. "I've got a story to work on."

Her father's face sank a bit. "Come now, that story will be there tomorrow, Ricana."

Ricana returned her father's look, with slight sadness; she hadn't the slightest clue where her journalistic instinct had come from; the Wellhouses, far back as could be recalled, were doctors or health experts. Her father, the big fellow before her, wielded delicate surgical instruments in his bulky hands with an incredible practiced grace. Ricana's older sister, Meri, had just entered her studies to follow the family tradition. No one in the family could quite relate to the willowy girl that lived to track down answers. She'd often wished her interests would have taken her to healing, just so she could fit in better. But as she gazed out the tinted windows, at the looming loops of the stratofarms, with not a single transport buzzing near their upper reaches, she felt the call of truth take hold, and stopped wavering.

"The story is definitely going to be there tomorrow," Ricana said, "that's what I'm afraid of."

*                            *                            *

A soft whirring sound ran low across the cracked earth of a centuries-fallow farmland. Soft, aquamarine-tinted headlights cut through the darkness, fixed onto the front of a sleek, swift single-passenger craft. The machine hovered with hardly an unstable rattle over the withered earth, carrying a passenger clad in bulky boots and gauntlets, the black visor of her helmet concealing her face. As she raced along the desiccated landscape toward more fertile regions, her bike played an old recording of Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast."

Cresting a ridge, she swooped her bike down beneath some stunted trees clinging to life in the waste. Under this cover, she was moving quickly when a blast of air rocked the canopy above. A huge bulk of machinery, all but its most necessary of lights switched off, zoomed through the air mere feet from the treetops. The sound of its engines blocked out the music, and put a ringing into the rider's ears at once.

The bike halted at once, the rider throwing her helmet off. Furrow Hollander swore, planting her hands over her ears. She watched the aircraft - a moderate-sized cruiser - hover into position and land on an adjacent field, its movements certain and fluid. A professional pilot.

Furrow swore again. Wallies, she thought, recognizing the model of the ship as belonging to the inhabitants of a walled city. What are they doing way out here?

Furrow grabbed her helmet and steered her bike toward the next escarpment in this series of rolling, fallow hills. She was glad she did so; opening a compartment in its side, the ship signaled, with an incredibly bright light, in the direction from which Furrow had just traveled. The faint tint of aquamarine lit up the night like the sun; if Furrow hadn't had her autotint visor, she would have been seeing spots.

For all the knowledge they purport to have saved, Furrow thought, they sure have forgotten how to be inconspicuous.

Furrow halted her bike and hid it near some brambly foliage, then lay on her belly on the edge of the escarpment. From here she had a perfect view not only of the ship, but of the region to which it had signaled. Furrow frowned; she had come back from a bazaar in the empty, unclaimed wastes. No matter whose attention the ship was trying to get, it wouldn't be good news.

Furrow hit a button on her right gauntlet, and a small scope appeared. In it she saw the hatch of the aircraft opening, and several figures walking down the ramp. They hailed someone in the distance, and Furrow moved her scope to see a motley band of raggedly-dressed men and women ride into the field on their ramshackle hovercraft.

Rovers! Furrow thought, her eyes widening. Rough and illiterate, often brutal, these bands of nomads roamed the empty wastes that had once been the breadbasket of the world, surviving off the spoils of raids against settled peoples or each other. Many of them traded slaves, and thus were not even allowed to set up shop at bazaars in close proximity to cities or communes. Their meeting with men from a walled city - Gateshire, Furrow suspected - was a dire omen indeed.

Furrow turned on a remote listening device in her earring; it was easily detectable, but the danger would be worth it if it meant finding out what was going on here. She settled down and watched through the scope, as a man from the airship shook hands with a woman from the nomads.

"Miscrea," said the man from the airship, "Your first shipment, as promised."

"Hellion Horde sure appreciates it, Councilman," replied the nomad leader to the official. Miscrea was a woman in her mid-30s, with silver hinting at the temples of her black mane. Fierce grey eyes peered out from a hood adjoined to her ragamuffin clothing and body armor. She was surrounded by a band whose barbarian aspect matched her own, but who lacked the visible dignity and will of their leader. "Thanks very much, Grady."

*                            *                            *

"By Glories!" Ricana whispered, with her hand clamped over her mouth. She sat in an empty private room of the aircraft, staring out at the scene below and listening through the smallest openable window she could find. Sneaking into Councilman Grady's ship and being taken outside of the walls of Gateshire for the first time in her life had been unbelievable and terrifying enough; only a select few ever left at all, and those carefully chosen dignitaries or soldiers. But now, watching one of her city's leaders cutting a deal with the barbaric nomads she had grown up fearing - and they had to be rovers; Ricana had never seen people who dressed so... slovenly! -  this was the stuff of dreams, too bizarre to believe.

What does this mean? she thought. What could we possibly need from the rovers? We have everything in Gateshire, everything we could ever -

She stopped, and remembered the very reason for her being here. Her mind had flown wide during the journey, at the very idea of being where she was. It all came back to her; the story in her paper about the no-fly-zones around the Stratofarms, the Councilman's own evasive answers about the "plentiful surplus." But she had no way of proving her suspicions... yet.

The speakers had moved off from the window to inspect the merchandise being carted off the aircraft. Ricana realized that may be the key to the whole deal; better to move now, while almost the entire crew was off of the ship.

Maybe it will help to know exactly what WE'RE giving THEM. As quietly as possible, Ricana snuck out of the room, and crept down the hall of the ship toward the cargo hold, trying not to think of how much trouble she would get into if she were caught.

*                            *                            *

Furrow bit her pierced lip, hard; she just managed to hold back from making it bleed. What she was hearing in her transmitter went beyond worst-case-scenario for her people in the communes. What the city-dwellers and rovers were discussing wasn't just a raid; it was enslavement.

"Where exactly are we kicking this off?" Miscrea, leader of the rovers, asked Grady.

"It would be wise to strike the larger communes first," Grady said, "picking off the smallest villages first would only alert the more powerful entities. With our air support, you won't have any trouble crushing the ground resistance. I would strongly recommend Proudhon or Green River for the first attacks."

Green River! Furrow nearly swore aloud. Her home, under attack by rovers and Wallies alike... she was so mad, in fact, that she failed to heed a warning blip from her personal radar, until a shadow loomed above her.

"Furrow Hollander," said a voice in a familiar, inhumanly-even tone. "Put your hands above your head and do not resist."

Furrow's eyes went wide. The rader ring flashed before her, revealing ten patrolling droids having outflanked her and cut her off from her bike at the top of the escarpment. Her heart pounded; there would be no clean get-away.

Still, she turned a smile to the droids behind her. "Come on, you clowns have gotta know me better than that by now."

She fired the repulsors in her gauntlets to take her backward, knocking three of her assailants to the ground. Up on all fours, she reached to her belt an unclipped an EMP grenade.

As it turned out, however, they did know her better this time. The collective AI of the Gateshire drones, however, had preserved the memory of their comrades' defeat earlier that day; this trick would not work a second time. Another female droid appeared, and opened her coat to reveal her body lined with a dazzling array of gadgets. One of them, at her shoulder, lifted and fired a sticky substance that hit its mark right on Furrow's hand, sticking it - and the armed EMP grenade - to her hip.

"Not good," Furrow lamented. She blasted off with her boot repulsors, trying to get as close to the largest group of drones as possible; the EMP would take out all of her equipment as well, so she had to at least thin the herd she'd have to deal with afterward.

The grenade opened and shot its burst of bolts, sizzling nine of the drones, as well as every gadget Furrow wore on her body. The feeling of the bolts against her skin was none too pleasant either - tailor-made as they were to electronics, they certainly didn't help human flesh either. Furrow collapsed in a heap, wincing with pain.

"It came from up there!" a shout rang out below, and several of the rover craft made their way up toward the escarpment, their occupants whooping and hollering all the way. Furrow began crawling toward her bike, which she estimated had been safely outside the EMP blast. Unfortunately, so had something else.

With lightning rapidity, small, flying droids, buzzing like fist-sized silver wasps, swooped in around Furrow. They dragged behind them straps of tight, shimmering black rubber-latex, a chemically-reinforced variety that was nearly strong as steel. The straps wrapped over Furrow's hands, feet and mouth independently, made a couple of passes, and commenced dragging her backward, into the waiting arms of the female drone. Its female human nanolayer exterior vanished, revealing its true body; a cold silver skeleton, to which the black straps of latex were attached. The drone lifted Furrow up against its redoubtable structure, securing her hands together in a monoglove, and her feet up against her backside. More straps bound her thighs and calves together, and yet another stretched over her belly. She mumbled against the skintight gag, straining once in defeat, before the rovers were upon her with their jeers.

*                            *                            *

A few short minutes later, the drone rolled up the ramp of the airship, still holding Furrow in its stretchy, inescapable grip. Behind it trailed Councilman Grady of Gateshire and Miscrea, leader of the Hellion Horde of Rovers. Each went flanked by a couple of personal guards who eyed one another with a wariness born of lifelong suspicion and enmity. The drone stopped in a corner, turning around so that its bound and gagged hostage could glare into the faces of her captors.

"Furrow Hollander," Councilman Grady said, reading from a nanoscreen, "Circuit Witch, Green River Commune. Bounty, 750,000 marks." He closed the screen, and smiled at her. "You're quite the catch."

"Fmmk mmf," Furrow mumbled.

Grady ignored her. "I hope, for your sake, that you didn't hear much of our conversation. But we'll find out what you know back in Gateshire, and make sure it doesn't leave the prison walls. Nothing that goes in there ever has."

Grady turned to leave. Miscrea, however, stepped up closer to the prisoner, giving her a cock-eyed look.

"You look familiar, Circuit Witch," the rover said. She reached out a rough, dirty hand, and ran the thumb over Furrow's strapped mouth. "I can't quite place you. But... I guess it don't matter now." She gave Furrow a couple of encouraging smacks on the cheek, eliciting a growl from the bound woman. Then she, too, left the ship, while Grady and the other city-dwellers departed for the upper chambers. The ramp closed, and the airship lifted off.

Furrow hung her head in fuming silence, cursing herself for being so stupid. She strained and stretched at the strips of latex; they gave, but only just enough to infuriate her further. Her home was going to need her more than ever, and she would be rotting in a prison. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying desperately to remember the schematics for the Gateshire Binder Drones - for whatever good it would do her, with her hands, feet and mouth completely encased in tight, shimmering latex. There was no way to escape.

Then, a voice from the piles of cargo: "Um.... hi?"

Furrow looked up, stunned, to see a tall, skinny girl with bright red hair, wearing what could only have been the uniform of a Wallie school. She looked pale, with wide eyes and nervous, wringing hands. Furrow squinted at the girl from over her gag, wondering what on earth she was doing here.

"Are you one of the Rovers?" she ventured, biting her lip.

"Mm-mm." Furrow shook her head, the light playing off the black strip on her mouth.

"Are you from one of the eco-communes, then?"

Furrow nodded, trying to shift her body so the girl could see the "Green River Commune" patch on her vest. The drone held her too fast. Furrow tipped her face up at the girl, mmphing to try to get her to remove the gag. The girl didn't move closer.

Instead, she moved one of her delicate, thin-fingered hands over to an open crate, from which she lifted a light, but deadly rifle.The electric weapon wasn't charged yet, but the girl seemed afraid to touch it. Seeing those gentle hands, unaccustomed to toil or conflict, holding a weapon, filled Furrow with a strange kind of pity that she had never felt before; she realized the girl was emerging from naivete, realizing some horrible truth she hadn't wanted to know.

"They're trading them weapons," she said, looking back at Furrow with fear in her eyes. "My city is giving weapons to the Rovers, so they'll attack the communes. They want to force your people to give up their harvests, because ours are failing. That's it, isn't it?"

Furrow hadn't known about the crops failing in Gateshire, but it sure put the last piece - motivation - into the puzzle she had been trying to assemble. She nodded, scowling.

"I didn't know," the girl said, with a tear falling down her cheek. "I swear it, no one knows. If they did, there'd be an uproar. I promise."

"Gmt me mmt mf hmrm!" Furrow said, struggling more.

The girl licked her lips; stowing away was bad enough, but releasing a prisoner would certainly be considered a crime. Furrow rolled her eyes.

"Can I just unstrap your mouth first?"

"Plmmse," Furrow said, moving her head forward. The girl lifted up shaking hands to the edge of Furrow's gag. Her mouth itched to speak.

"Step away from the prisoner," the drone said, scooting backward a few inches. "You do not have the authority to release her bonds."

Furrow scowled beneath the gag. Shifting her body again, she tried to turn her hip up at the girl, and nodded downward. When the girl followed her gaze, Furrow tried to shake the row of small, spherical EMP grenades, still dangling from her belt. She mmphed at them.

The girl seemed sharp enough to get the meaning, but was unfortunately unfamiliar with the gadgets. "Do they explode?"

"Mm-mm," Furrow shook her head emphatically, and nodded backward at the drone. "E-M-P," she tried to say, straining against the gag. "Mnlm hmrts mmchmnes."

The girl didn't seem to understand. But she came forward, reaching out slowly - as though trying to evade the detection of the drone, which was not possible - and grabbed one of the grenades off of Furrow's belt.

The drone lurched back again, but the grenade had come off in her hand. "Ricana Wellhouse, your actions have been logged to the hive mind. Security has been alerted. Place your hands above your head and do not resist apprehension."

"By Glories!" the girl said, a hand going to her mouth. "What have I done?"

Furrow mmphed, her face growing red with anger, trying to tell her to press the button on the grenade. The girl was petrified, tears streaming down her face.

The girl looked down at the device in her hands; that was all the provocation the drone needed. It rotated 180 degrees, and launched six more straps out of its back. They wrapped around Ricana quick as lightning, binding the screaming, frightened girl just as they had Furrow - covering her mouth, wrapping her hands together from elbow to fingertip, and binding her legs in a folded-up position. The robot reeled her in, and held wrapped another latex strap over her midsection.

Furrow growled in frustration, kicking afresh at her bonds. The drone was more unbalanced now with a second prisoner. Sobs wracked the girl's, and hence the robot's frame as she writhed against her captivity. Furrow turned over her shoulder, still mmphing at her companion.

"Prmss thm bmttmn! Hmrrm!"

The girl seemed to wake up a moment. She looked over her shoulder and down, as though trying to see her own hands where they were wrapped in the shiny black straps. Her hand, still holding the grenade, had actually given her enough room to maneuver her fingers, and to drop the sphere out the bottom of the straps. She hesitated.

"Wmll I bm mkmy?" she mmphed at Furrow.

"Ymm'll bm fmne, I prmmise! Jmst hmrrm!"

The girl squinted her eyes shut, sobbed once more, and then pressed the button. Furrow heard the sphere hit the metal deck, and braced herself.

For the second time that day, Furrow felt the jolt of the EMP grenade as the cloud of bolts enveloped both her and her errant savior. The girl at her back stiffened, crying out - more in terror than real pain. It didn't feel great, but the device has been specifically fine-tuned - by Furrow herself - to be essentially harmless to human flesh. In a flash, the drone powered down, and both Furrow and the Gateshire girl dropped to the ground.

They were still wrapped up in yards of clinging latex, but at least they weren't attached to the drone anymore. The bigger problem was that security would be there in less than a minute. Furrow worked at her bonds furiously, finally getting some around her hands to slip.Then, she realized the biggest problem wasn't security.

The ship lurched, and she felt a sickening dip in her stomach. Cargo crates began sliding toward one side of the craft. Furrow braced herself as she, too, tumbled toward the right side of the cargo hold.

The EMP blast had made contact with the circuitry running through the walls and floor, and disabled the entire aircraft in mid-flight.

Straining with all the might her small body possessed, Furrow pulled her arms free from the encasing latex, and tugged her leg bonds violently away. The girl still struggled in her bondage. Furrow, grabbing a blade from one of the nearby crates, cut away at her companion's arm binder, and then finally removed her gag.

"Security might not be coming now, but I think we're out of the frying pan and - hell, you know. Come on." Furrow helped Ricana release her leg bonds, then pulled her to her feet, still gagged. The girl groped at the trailing bands of latex, while trying to maintain her footing as the craft continued its slow, inexorable roll sideways.

On the way up from the cargo hold, the two women encountered the limp forms of three drones - disabled by the EMP - and, further on, two human guards, who appeared to have been thrown headlong into a wall when the ship tilted, knocking them unconscious. Furrow grabbed a rifle from one and moved on, Ricana close behind.

At the bridge, three guards spotted them as they advanced. Too quick for the eye, Furrow zapped all three in succession with high-impact bolts of concentrated energy, rendering them all inert. She kicked the door open to the bridge, and raced to the controls.

"Where's Councilman Grady?" Ricana asked, finally free from her gag. Almost as soon as she had spoken, a sleek, silver craft zoomed out from beneath the bridge windows, curving away from the failing airship.

"I think you have your answer," Furrow said. "The escape craft must have been inside a Faraday cage to protect it from EMP attacks. At least they came prepared. What's your name?"

"Ricana," the girl said, bracing herself against the pilot seats. "Yours?"

"Furrow," she replied, sitting down and going quickly over the controls. "You're from Gateshire, right?"

"Yeah," she said. "What about you?"

"Green River Commune. Tried to show you a few minutes ago, since telling wasn't really an option for me at the time." Furrow found what she was looking for on the controls, and began working on it at once. "I know we just got out of a mess of straps, but you may want to buckle in to the seat. I'm trying something I only know about from looking at the blueprints of this thing."

Ricana sat down. "You have blueprints of Gateshire technology? On the outside?"

Furrow said, with a chuckle, "This morning I was looking at the history books you and your school-buddies learn from. What a riot. Here we go!"

Furrow pulled on a huge lever, with all her might; the muscles in her small arms tensed up hard, fingers gripping like vises. From below came a mighty KA-THUNK on either side of the airship. Ricana turned round to look out the windows, and beheld two huge steel wings - which the craft hadn't needed when flying under its own power - having extended at the throw of the lever. Furrow pulled back hard on the manual control wheel, and the craft arced up out of the freefall, at least temporarily, to begin gliding at nearly ground level. Furrow managed to keep the thing from crashing outright for another few miles, before she finally let it down as gently as possible - still scraping uncontrollably across the wasted landscape - and put the flight of her abduction to a halt. The Circuit Witch unbuckled at once, and grabbed her rifle.

Furrow thought a moment. "We were headed towards Gateshire, no doubt, but that turn we took at high altitude probably put us a little closer to home - for me, at least."

There was no reply. Furrow looked at Ricana, observing the girl had stopped in the middle of unbuckling her seat belt. The look on her face was one of inner panic.

"Hey, come on! We've gotta get moving before those guards wake up!" Furrow said.

"That drone logged my actions to the hive mind. When I tried to release you," Ricana said, sobbing. "When I get back to Gateshire, they're going to arrest me. Throw me in prison! By Glories, what have I done to my life?" The girl fell into tears.

Furrow sneered, having little patience for mourning a life lived in a glass prison. She reached over and unfastened Ricana's seat belt, then lifted the girl up to her feet by one arm. To her surprise, she found Ricana was taller than she was. She slapped the teenager on the back.

"If that's what they'll do, then we need to get you out of here before a search party comes for the ship," Furrow said. "Or worse, if rovers get here first. I owe you bigtime for the save, kid. You might have saved my entire commune. The way I see it, I've got to keep you out of their prison. Come on."

Furrow led Ricana out of the ship, and around the back of the craft. She let out a satisfied "Aha!" when she found a hatch for emergency supplies. A sinister laugh followed this when, inside the compartment, there was a hoverbike with room enough for two, safely tucked inside a Faraday cage to prevent EMP attacks. Furrow had it out and running in no time. She climbed on, and turned to Ricana. Once again, the girl stood frozen on the verge of tears.

"Where will I go out here?" Ricana asked. "What will I do?"

"You'll go anywhere," Furrow said, putting her arms out to the empty horizon, where the morning sun rose, "and do anything, that you want."

Ricana followed the Circuit Witch's gesture across the landscape. In spite of herself, she felt a tiny smile take hold, and a wave of excitement - maybe fear - wash over her.

"No walls, huh?" Ricana said.

"You got it," Furrow said. She patted the bike seat behind her. Ricana climbed on, and together they sped off towards a better place.
Possible Futures - Graduation
May I present my first foray into the world of sci-fi DiD, a world I've been itching to try for a long time. I finally got the impetus to do so from the Girl Detectives of the Universe contest, hosetd by :icongolavus:, one of deviantARt's finest DiDsters (DiDists? DiDians? I dunno). 

A primary inspiration was this decidedly non-kinky document: tellus.org/documents/Great_Tra… by the Global Scenario Group, detailing possible futures (HEY THAT'S THE TITLE) resulting from various methods mankind might adopt toward guiding (or not) the development of a sustainable worldwide civilization in the next few decades. Just in case you're enough of a nerd to care about that sort of thing.

Hope you all enjoy; if there's enough call for it, maybe I'll continue exploring this world.

-Ed
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(Contains: nudity, sexual themes, violence/gore and strong language)
The House of Jaguars

By the time the boat churned to a stop, Sabina smelled the cool scents of the falling rainforest night drifting all around her. A few exotic bird cries saluted the falling night from beneath the canopy high above. Once, Sabina thought she even heard a howler monkey calling out to the dusk.

What I would give to have come here under different circumstances! This would mark Sabina's first entry into an actual rainforest, and she couldn't even see or touch it, couldn't make notes or walk about as she pleased. A biologist she was not, but she had always loved nature, from naïve childhood days spent pressing her nose against the glass at zoo exhibits to teenage and adult years, when she found solace by putting mile after mile behind her on hiking and camping trips. Her blindfold, her gag, her bound hands and feet suddenly hurt her on a deeper level than they had all day.

Sabina estimated the journey across the bay to have taken about half an hour, judging by when she first heard animal noises, and felt the shade of the trees. The boat had continued up a river for some time thereafter, finally stopping to moor at an unknown destination. There was no question in Sabina's mind; they had gone to Belize.

More voices called out in the same Mayan dialect she had heard all day; feet shuffled down a dirt path. Sabina felt an arm grab each of hers and hoist her up. She released a squeal as the rope linking her wrists and ankles was cut, followed by the ankle bonds themselves. At once, the captors lifted her out of the boat and onto shore, and began walking her up a steep and winding hill path. The humidity of the rainforest coupled with the soreness in her bound wrists and arms, as well as the lingering cramps in her newly-freed legs, to weigh her down in this sudden relocation. Still, it was either march or be dragged; Sabina would walk.

At the top of the hill, Sabina's blindfold suddenly lifted from her head. It could not have been later than early evening, yet down at the bottom of this dense rainforest there was almost no light. Dancing flashlight beams showed her glimpses of a dilapidated building straight out of a horror story; smashed windows, peeling paint, jungle vegetation going a long way toward reclaiming it in its abandonment. The way it vanished whenever the light left its surface made the structure seem to be a part of the darkness itself, as though it could only be touched, properly entered and interacted with, when light was present. Groping for it in the dark night, one would only find jungle foliage.

The inside of the building, however, was a hive. Sabina looked about as she was carred into the single-room building that evidently formed the kidnappers' headquarters. There was another radio here, as well as a computer in one corner with a mobile wireless hotspot; the glow of the screen provided most of the light inside the dim building. Militants sat before both, hard at work at their respective tasks. The rear wall of the building was a series of chain-link doors granting access to outdoor animal pens.

Jaguars, Sabina thought. That confirmed for her where she suspected she had been taken. Belize has quite a few jaguar reserves.

As the kidnappers brought Sabina to the end of the row of pens, however, the flashlight beams allowed her to observe a pen in use for holding a very different animal.

Sabina's eyes flew wide over her gag. she began mmphing wild cries of realization and terror, struggling against the iron grip each kidnapper had on her arm. Another clamped a hand down on her neck to help control her, but she hardly noticed him.

A young girl sat brutally chained to the inside of the cage, naked but for the skimpy black bikini bottoms that clung to her groin. At the approach of the light she hid her tightly gagged face within the wet curtain of her long brown hair. The pain of exhaustion, of hunger and sleeplessness, clearly shone out of her eyes from behind the messy net of hair. Her bare, tan skin, marred by slashing scratches from the jungle foliage, glistened with sweat. Sabina saw her wringing her hands where they hung chained above her head. Otherwise, she made neither noise nor movement at the kidnappers' approach.

Laurie Rousseau! The light had left her face, but her features had been plain enough. Sabina had found Sophie's sister.

I must look like quite the rescue party with my taped-up mouth and bound hands, Sabina thought. Perhaps I can tell her she's safe with an elaborate code of eye-blinks.

"Senorita Laurie, you getting a new neighbor!" taunted one kidnapper. With that, two of the captors forced open the door to the cage adjacent to Laurie's, and those that held Sabina marched her in.

They cut the bonds on on her wrists first, then brought her arms around front. Sabina tried to reach up and remove her gag, but hands instantly clamped down on both wrists and her still-gagged mouth. One of the kidnappers said, "You not allowed to speak until we say, Senora. Get used to it." Despite shooting him a defiant glare, Sabina nodded.

They forced Sabina down to the ground, where they sat her back against the same cage wall to which Laurie's legs were chained. It seemed they had run out of chain; lifting her hands up above, they secured them tight with elastic ties to the cage over her head. They then pulled her legs out along the outside wall of the cage until her knees were completely straight, and secured them there with the same springy cords at her ankles and knees. They made sure to tie her legs up and off the ground to give her less leverage to struggle.

One kidnapper left the cage, the other remained. He leered at her over his disguising bandana, chuckling. Sabina cast a confused and hateful glance at him. Unfazed, he leaned down, and began running a hand up her thigh.

"Mmph!" Sabina tried to yell through her gag. She rattled the old, rusted cage with all her strength to try and evade his grimy fingers. The kidnapper only laughed, continuing to stroke her flesh through all her futile struggling.

"Welcome to Guatemala," he said, then got up and left the cage. The door required two of the kidnappers to shut.

Guatemala? Sabina thought. This guy definitely flunked geography. There's no way in hell the boat could have gone that far; the ride would have taken hours! Unless...

Another figure suddenly stood at the door to Sabina's cage. With one arm he muscled open the door that two of his companions had to work together to shut. He entered and clicked on a flashlight, which he sat upright on the floor of the pen. He crouched over this, elbows on his knees, face looming over the upturned light. The shadows played over his features for only a moment before he leaned forward, sinking his head back into darkness. Sabina observed a severe brow and calm, drilling eyes over the bandana he wore. There was also a scar streaking up his face and into his hair, resulting in a ravine of white amidst his otherwise black strands. The light now shone against his chest, revealing a dirty white t-shirt beneath his ripped-up flak jacket. He was short in stature, as were most people in this region, but built like a tank. He had to be the leader, at least of this part of the operation.

"Now we got one of the grave robbers herself, here in the House of Jaguars," he hissed. He reached out a hand, fingers nearly hidden in his tattered fingerless gloves, and gripped Sabina's chin, forcing her to look at him. His thumb rubbed the tape, lingering on the contours of her lips.

"How many ancestors you dig up on this trip, arky?" he asked. "How you like it, if maybe we go North and dig up your grandparents, eh? Send their bones to a museum in a box?"

"Nm! Wm nmvmr dmb mp bmnms!" Sabina tried to argue.

"I just receive word from our friends on Volutas," The kidnapper said. "You study Mayans, eh? Maybe you know about Lords of the Night? Tonight is night of Hun-Came. Since you and you arky friends didn't listen, tonight will be the first sacrifice at San Guillermo in four hundred years. It's gonna be your arky friend," and here he looked at Laurie through the cage, "and your sister."

Laurie screamed into her gag. Sabina breathed hard through her nose, remembering the kidnappers carrying Angela out of the house, bound and gagged in her underwear. She held her captor's gaze, trying not to lose herself to fear. It wasn't working.

"And next night, we decide what to do with you two." The kidnapper traced his finger down the line of Sabina's neck to her chest, and began to reach under her tank top. She writhed away from him, expecting a brutal retaliation. He offered none.

"Tomorrow night," the kidnapper reiterated. "Hope you friends enjoy their last sleep in the House of Gloom." He rose and turned about, once again shutting the door with only a single arm. His flashlight remained in the cage, providing scant illumination of the pen now that he no longer stood over it. Conversation arose inside the building in the Mayan tongue Sabina could not quite understand.

It must be Itza, not Yucatec, she reasoned. In her inability to move her body, her mind became a whirling hive. House of Gloom, House of Jaguars... more from the Popol Vuh; those are the places of torture in the underworld, Xibalba. Fitting enough for the Lords to use them. This place is part of a jaguar reserve, or used to be, anyway. That means the hideout on Isla Volutas is the House of Gloom. Luis-Perez's residence? Too small, and where were the other kidnappers? Where was Angela? It's got to be somewhere else that's dark.

Laurie sobbed behind Sabina, rattling her chains against the cage. The young archaeologist tried to turn and give the girl some kind of comfort, but hardly expected it to work when she was in the same helpless position.

And what was that about Guatemala? Sabina wondered, brow furrowing. He had to have known we're in Belize... although, if these guys are Guatemalans, they might share the national sentiment that Belize rightfully belongs to their nation. Not exactly the most in-vogue cause for extremists to get involved in, but with all the anti-colonialist rhetoric I've been hearing, it's possible.

Laurie sniffled, and Sabina could feel the shaking sobs of the nearly-naked captive through the cage as she cried. How long had she been held prisoner there? Had they ever cut her down to giver her food, water, to let her use the bathroom or clean herself up? Had she slept?

Sabina tested her bonds. The ropes around her knees and above her boots held pretty firm, although with enough squeezing she was confident she could wriggle her hands free. There was only one exit to the pen, however, and the kidnappers were clustered around that thick as grass.

What the hell could I do to distract them from here? Sabina wondered. Laurie's crying was really bringing her down. With a roll of her eyes, Sabina tried to console the girl.

"Dmn't wmrry, wm'll gmt mmt mf thms."

It didn't work on Laurie, nor did it sound particularly convincing to Sabina through the tape on her mouth. It only served as a bitter reminder of her own captivity, of the kidnapper's words: "You speak when we let you." Sabina didn't even have control of her own mouth.

That really sucks, she thought. If only my lips were free, I could disable these goons with a witty turn of phrase.


Last Rights

Adelita winced as yet another bump in the road jarred her from the tailbone up. She sat in the cramped rear of the Lords of Xibalba's old van, thighs and ankles linked tight with duct tape. Tape encircled her arms and chest as well, and several pieces had been pressed tight over her mouth, covering the lower half of her face. Her hands, however, were bound behind her with rope, and linked to the similarly bound hands of both Sophie Rousseau and Angela Perry, so that all three women sat tied in a captive circle. Sophie and Angela bore similar tape bonds and gags to the detective, and mmphed beneath the tape on their mouths every time the van slammed over a bump in the road.

The detective glared over her gag at one of the kidnappers riding in the back of the van. In the darkness it seemed he didn't see her at first, but once her eyes became better adjusted she realized hi stare was locked right onto her. An icy wave of fear and vulnerability flowed over her skin. This was followed by the fire of defiance.

"Mmph," she mumbled at him, not trying to form any word in particular.

"You got something to say, cop?" the kidnapper taunted. "That's too bad, eh?"

"Maybe she wants to tell say you under arrest," one of the men up front said. They all burst out laughing.

Adelita looked round at them all, feeling even more acutely aware of the tape sticking tight along her legs and over her mouth. Her wrists, however, felt a sudden tug; just as suddenly, she realized the ropes binding her hands had slackened a bit.

Not enough to get free now, she realized, but enough to get free later.

She groped backwards with her fingers and found those of Angela Perry, whose mostly-bare body pressed up against her right side. The two women locked hands in a heartening moment of solidarity, managing to retain the looks of frustration and fear they wore outwardly. The kidnappers couldn't see their hands, so Adelita began frantically picking at Angela's bonds as well. Sophie had to have felt what was happening; the other women hoped the terrified girl wouldn't give them away.


"Don't worry, officer, we going to be there real soon.Then you have time to read us our rights - maybe they be your last words, ah?" They laughed again. Adelita tucked her head down and kept her anger in check.

For now.


Striking Back

The forest is friend to no man. Some imagine themselves to be its masters, but those who truly know the forest know that you are always at its whim when you're within. Most of those who patrolled the area around the abandoned jaguar pen were of the latter category.

Carmen was not. She strolled alone down the treacherous paths as though they were a city street to which her rifle gave her ownership. Her flashlight flickered over the immense foliage of the rainforest floor, occasionally pausing on a pair of yellow eyes that briefly flashed, before darting off into the darkness. She chuckled, and adjusted the bandana that kept back her thick mane of dark hair. Her ponytail fell halfway down the small of her tank-topped back, just above the utility-laden belt on her camo pants that spilled over her combat boots. Who need fear the rainforest in the twenty-first century, after all? She had a gun and friends close by with a modern, military-class first aid kit. As far as Carmen was concerned, in the battle between man and nature, the victory of man had been no contest.

A deep, throaty growl slowly rippled through the nighttime air. Carmen froze, feeling as though the bloodcurdling sound had come from right behind her. She broke out in a fresh sweat. her eyes darted round, looking for the stark, calmly violent eyes of the jaguar, her shaking fingers in their gloves slipping down to the rifle to click off the safety.

She whipped around quick, flashlight whirling along the disturbingly-bright colors of the surrounding foliage. She didn't see so much as a mouse scamper by. Over and over she scoured the jungle around her to find nothing but idle plants. Had she only imagined the grisly noise?

Carmen began to laugh, clicking the safety back on, followed by turning off her flashlight. Of course she had imagined it. No jaguars came past the creek where the Rousseau girl had fallen the previous day. Not since she and the others had taken control of the tiny strip of land between the creek and river, where the old pen rested.

No sooner had the woman turned off her flashlight, than a dark mass leapt from the forest and tackled her to the ground. Her rifle went clattering off into the jungle, and a firm hand silenced her cries for help. She felt the supply of cable-ties she carried click loose from her belt, and before she knew it her hands had been zipped together behind her back.

Her assailant flipped her onto her stomach with ease and straddled her right over her elbows. He corralled her legs with his arms and zip-tied them at the ankles and just above and below her knees. All the while, she used her uncovered mouth to hurl obscenities at him in what he counted as three different languages.

"Yeah, yeah," he said. "Why don't you scream a little louder?" With that, he reached backward, tugged the bandana off her head, and gave her ponytail a hard yank. Her pained shriek filled the night.

He got off of her, picked up her flashlight and used it to locate her rifle. He dug through her utility pockets to find additional ammo and supplies - including two large daggers. Carmen's cursing continued in a steady stream. He yanked her hair again, twistingi the ponytail, and she screamed a second time.

"Son of a bitch, who are you?" She demanded at last.

He stretched the bandanna taught, and pulled it between her teeth before knotting it behind her head. It was so tight against the corners of Carmen's mouth that she couldn't move her jaw to form any intelligible words. She watched as her attacker knelt down before her, and shone her flashlight up at his bearded face. His eyes looked like dark pits over his grim, sadistic smile.

"I'm striking back for the arkies," Zane Brown said, "Ranger style."

Carmen mmphed wildly into her gag as he disappeared back into the foliage. In the distance, she heard pounding feet coming along the path. Her friends' voices echoed beneath the nighttime canopy, as they raced to her aid - which, she realized, is just what her captor had wanted.


Fire of the Gods

Sabina tried harder than ever to work herself loose. Two distant screams had ripped through the jungle night, and ripped simultaneously through the nerves of everyone within earshot. One of the kidnappers worked the radio, rattling off names until he found one that would not answer. He repeated over and over: "Carmen! Carmen!" Many of the kidnappers had grabbed their rifles and dashed off into the forest. Four remained; the frightful leader was not among them.

In her struggles, Sabina had found that not only could she potentially work her hands loose, but the wall to which her legs were affixed might not be as sturdy as it seemed. She couldn't tear it down bound as she was, but several good strong kicks might take her to freedom.

But what about Laurie? she thought. Even if I somehow got away, I know where they're hiding her. They'll never let her live.

Sabina shook her head. Freedom is the first step. One of us free stands a better chance at getting both of us free.

Sabina twisted about, working her shoulders, waist and hips like some bizarre bondage bellydancer. Her wrists, slick with sweat from the humid rainforest, began to slip between the loops of rope. Her thumbs began to tingle with coming numbness as she tried to pull them down through her bonds.

And to think, she chided herself, all those times I've been to the gym, I never once sat down at the thumb machine.

Distant gunfire caused Laurie to cry out with panic. Sabina looked around and saw only blackness. Not even the flash of a rifle's muzzle came to her from out of the night; the battle arrived via sound alone.

The kidnappers became hysterical. The one at the radio continued to call out the names of his companions, but few answered. Sabina tried not to get too optimistic; in the midst of a firefight most of them could probably not even hear their radios.

But who are they fighting? Who could possibly have known where they've taken us?

A black form dropped out of the darkness right outside Sabina's cage. She was lucky the kidnappers were preoccupied or they might have heard her try to scream through her gag. She writhed away from the cage, fearing the touch of a bloodied corpse or some frightful new adversary. Instead, she heard words that were a heavenly song to her ears.

"Be quiet, it's Zane!"

"ZMNE?!" Sabina's incredulous mumble stretched her tape gag to the extent of its strength.

"You got it. Listen, I'm going to keep them busy. If you can, get yourselves free and get clear. Use this." Sabina felt a dagger slip through the cage into her bound hands. With that, Zane vanished into the foliage.

Okay, now you've really got to get loose, quick!

Sabina tugged harder at the cords, wriggling every part of her body she could at once. Her bare legs shimmied against the knee and ankle restraints. She arched her back, head pushing against the cage so she could look up at the bonds on her wrists, to see where she was trying to cut with the dagger.

It's too hard to cut like this! Sabina realized the ropes encircled the widest parts of her wrists, just below her hands. Relaxing a bit, she pushed her right hand up further into the bond, and pulled the ropes taught around it with her left. This gave her plenty of room to wriggle the left hand free.

She squealed in delight behind her gag, and quickly slipped free her other hand, before moving down to cut the bonds on her knees and ankles. The firefight moved closer; flashes lit up the canopy every few seconds, punctuated by confused shouting down by the river. If Zane was alone, he had no hope of outgunning the kidnappers. Sabina smiled beneath her tape as she realized he must be leading them on a wild goose chase through the forest.

Sabina turned round to look Laurie, who had probably been bound for two days straight. The girl's head spun in terror with each pop of gunfire, each frenzied shout. She stopped, however, when she saw Sabina moving freely - albeit still gagged - in the cage beside her. Laurie began hopping up and down on her butt, squealing as if to say "Get over here and untie me!"

Sabina couldn't reach Laurie's hand restraints through the pen, so she went to work on the girl's legs, which were fastened to the wall of her own pen. It wouldn't provide freedom, but at least it would give her some small relief. She had just freed the girl's ankles when she heard a rattling at the cage door.

Sabina leapt back into the corner she had been bound in, crouching on her forefeet. Before she knew what she was doing, she had removed the grenade from her jacket pocket and held it behind her back, one finger looped into the pin.

The leader of the kidnappers stood outside her cage, one arm shoving open the rusted door. In the beam from his flashlight she could see blood trickling from a wound on his arm. He fixed a lethal stare on her, which she returned from between the dangling black locks of her hair, over her mouth still taped.

"Hope you ready to die, arky," he hissed through a filter of pain and fury.

You too, asshole. As soon as the door slid open far enough, Sabina pulled the pin, sent the hand grenade rattling through the door, and plugged her ears. The kidnapper saw something skid past him in the darkness; his eyes flew wide.

Someone yelled "Granada!" The kidnapper vanished into the building, just before a colossal BOOM and a sickening shockwave that rippled through the midnight air, enough to knock Sabina back against the cage. The young archaeologist winced as debris pelted her like spiking sand blown in a hard wind. The noxious smell of gunpowder smoke washed over her, and a final crumbling thump shook the earth. Then all fell silent.

Or at least, mostly silent. Over the ringing in her ears, Sabina heard a rain of small, powdery debris continuing to hiss down to the earth. Small pebbles of concrete crackled down from the decimated building. And, of course, guns still popped in the distance.

Sabina opened her eyes and sat up, enthralled by the total calm around her where before there had been bustling activity. She couldn't see inside the smoky building. Her door remained wide open, however, and Laurie's was not. She would have to go into that gaping dark ruin to free Laurie, unaware of what she would encounter.

She looked over at her fellow hostage, and saw the girl wide-eyed, her naked breasts heaving rapidly. Her whole bare body was flecked with black specks of debris and earth; Sabina guessed she must look the same.

Get up, get up, get up...

Sabina rose at last, creeping on all fours towards the open door. The shockwave had left her a bit too dizzy to stand up right away. She used the doorframe - warped as it was from the blast - to lift herself to her feet. Her legs wobbled, trembling as she still was from the sudden terror of the explosion, not to mention being bound for a number of hours.

Sabina found the kidnapper's flashlight he had dropped in the pen. She clicked it on as she entered the building, and almost instantly clicked it back off again. She pressed her back up against the wall between the two cage doorways, eyes closed tight, her hand slapping over her taped mouth to contain a scream. The grenade had made short work of at least two kidnappers. From the brief flash Sabina had seen, identification was going to be very difficult.

Laurie mmphed urgently from her pen. Sabina took deep breaths through her nose, and finally realized she was free to remove her gag. She peeled the tape away and breathed as though she had just come up from the bottom of a lake. The lingering reek of gunpowder made it difficult to feel accordingly refreshed.

Sabina turned to the door of Laurie's pen. She tried to shove it aside, pulling as hard as she could in the direction it ought to have slid. She remembered the difficulty even two of the kidnappers had in moving the dilapidated old cages, and began to despair. Then, she shone her light against the poles themselves.

"Ah!" she exclaimed, smiling freely for the first time all night. The steel rails along the door's edges were almost rusted through. Sabina began kicking the door inward as hard as she could, while pulling at the top of the door with her hands. First one rail, then the other snapped, and Sabina was able to peel the door back like the lid on a can of tuna. She jumped into the pen and began at once to untie Laurie. Still she listened as the rare gunshot still rang out in the night - they had almost finished.

Don't be dead, Zane...

Once Laurie's hands were free, she pulled out the saliva- and sweat-soaked gag from her mouth, and began a kind of gasping cough-breath that set off warning bells of dehydration ins Sabina's mind. The girl began crying almost instantly, curling her knees up to her naked chest and wrapping her arms around them. Sabina's throat tightened.

"Laure?" she said, "Laurie Rousseau, right?"

The girl nodded, her face hidden down in her arms. Dark thoughts came to Sabina about what the kidnappers could have done to this girl. She saw thin scratches along the captive's arms and legs, and wondered what caused them.

Ask later, she thought. We need to find a way out of here.

"Alright, Laurie, my name is Sabina, I'm an archaeologist working with Dr. Izado at San Guillermo." Or at least I was... is that even certain anymore? "My friend Zane is chasing off the kidnappers. Do you remember Zane Brown from your visit to the site?"

Laurie sniffled. "I'm not a child. Just get me the hell out of here, please." The defiant tone in her French-accented English did not match her beaten posture, but it was at least a sign that the girl had some spirit left.

"Okay," Sabina said, "I guess we'll try to get down to the boat." Even as she said it, she realized any number of kidnappers could still be guarding the way. The only weapon she had was the dagger Zane had given her, now resting in her boot.

"Laurie, can you stand up?"

The girl raised her head, bit her lip and nodded. She wiped her tears away, leaving grimy smears across her cheeks. Then, her arms reached up to the sides of the cage. The girl began pulling, but fell back almost at once.

"Fuck!" she sobbed, and made a weak motion as though to kick the pen in fury.

Sabina left the pen, and looked around the building - carefully avoiding the frightful corner where the two former kidnappers lay - until she found an abandoned rifle. She had no idea how to turn off the safety or check that it was loaded, but she reasoned it was better to have it anyway. She returned to the pen.

"Okay, Laurie, I'm going to have to help you. We'll make it, I promise. Then we can get you some food, water, rest - "

"A bath," Laurie choked. Sabina looked down at the captive girl, and actually saw a kind of struggling smile on her face. She had to return it, and felt tears of hope brimming in her eyes.

"Damn it, Laurie, I don't have time to cry right now," she said with a chuckle. "Come on, give me your arm." The Rousseau girl did as she was bade, and together - mostly through Sabina's efforts - she rose onto quaking legs.

The two girls made it to the doorway of the building, and listened for the shouting and gunfire that had pervaded the night; they heard nothing. Now that violence had rocked the rainforest, the stillness of peace became a tangible terror. Sabina licked her lips. She couldn't hold Laurie, the flashlight and the gun at the same time, so she had pocketed the flashlight. Now the trail down to the boat vanished in blackness after only a few feet.

And someone was racing up it towards them.

"Oh God," Sabina said. She prepared to help Laurie to the ground and raise the gun; then she realized she wouldn't have time. Instead, she dropped the rifle, took the flashlight in hand once mor and pointed it straight down the trail, ready to click it on and blind whoever came running up.

The dark figure emerged from the foliage, panting and winded, but standing strong. Sabina pointed the device at his face, and clicked it on.

"Stop right there, I've got a gun on you!" she screamed. Her voice died away, however, when she saw the bearded face of Zane holding his own rifle in the air. The flashlight dropped to her side.

"Oh my God..." Sabina couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry.

"Nope, just me," Zane said, in that dry, humorless tone of his. "Are you two alright?"

"I think that explosion scrambled my brains; otherwise I'm just peachy," Sabina replied. "Our new friend Laurie hasn't fared so well."

"Just get me out of here, please!" Laurie cried.

"Right, come on. I managed to corral the ones who are left back into the jungle, so we've got the boat - for the moment. They could regroup and counterattack any time."

"Are you serious? I just blew two of them up!" Sabina said, her stomach flopping at the thought; she wished she hadn't mentioned it.

"I wounded just as many, and captured one," Zane said. "I think your grenade really put fear into them, but these guys aren't just punks like the Lords; they could get their nerve up again, and I think they're done taking prisoners."

"Okay, let's go," Sabina said. Zane took Laurie's other arm, and just before they set off, Sabina said:

"Wait a minute... you captured one?"
Sabina Bowen in the Mayan Moon Road, Part 7
Fresh on the heels of Part 6, here's Part 7 of the Mayan Moon Road, where things get really intense for my captives... and their captors. Sabina really shows her mettle in this one, and to my mind proves herself quite unlike any other damsel out there.

Part 8 will be coming along as well but probably a bit more slowly... I'm about out of stuff I already had typed up :P

-Ed
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Captive Found

"Thank you, Dr. Izado. And I'm so happy to hear you'll make a full recovery. We'll be in touch as things develop."

Sabina hung up the payphone, and climbed back into the cab. She told the driver to go ahead, and watched the city pass by as the car pulled back into traffic. The heat that beat down from the sun was bad enough, but now she was going directly against the instruction of detective Adelita; she was going to find the artist, Luis Perez.

And, why? Sabina thought, for the first time. I'm no cop, I'm just a graduate student with a hunch. What will I do if I run into the Lords of Xibalba, the same people who have three other women held hostage, and tried to kidnap me once already?

As the car turned onto the street where Luis Perez' address was listed in the phone book, Sabina knew why. It was the same thing she had explained to Adelita the night before: that burning curiosity, the desire to piece together the evidence and lift the fog of mystery. It had taken full possession of her now that she and her colleagues had come under attack.

Sit in that house under police protection and wait, while our work is interrupted? Sabina thought, as they pulled up outside the address, Hell no!

“Muchos gracias,” Sabina said to the cab driver, “¿Espere un momento, por favor?”

    “Si, senora,” he said with a wave, agreeing to wait for her. She got out of the car and donned her satchel, checking the address she had lifted from the phone book one more time. It was a diminutive stump of a house, like all the others along this cracked and sun-baked stretch of road, coated in white stucco and crowded onto a tiny plot of grass that she assumed she was expected to call a "yard." Despite the fact that the mailbox lay in a battered heap on the ground, the place seemed to be a little better-maintained than some others nearby.

Sabina trudged through the tropical heat onto the shade of the porch - really no more than a single step - and knocked on the door. Noises from inside suggested scrambling and stumbling, including a few distinguishable curses in Spanish. Sabina momentarily reconsidered the wisdom of coming here directly instead of phoning first - but too late now.

The door opened, and within the house stood a young local man, skinny with dark hair hanging down just past his eyes. His brown forehead glistened with sweat. Suspicion hung heavy in his countenance as he looked at her.

It was then that Sabina realized why the name Luis Perez was so familiar; she remembered the woman she had bumped into at the quay the previous morning. The face on the flyer stared back at her from the doorway even now. Luis Perez, the young man who was in the clutches of criminals... or, more likely now, a criminal himself.

Sabina panicked inside for a second, then licked her lips, straightened up her posture and offered her hand.

"Buenos dias, senor," she said, continuing in Spanish: "Can I speak with Senor Luis Perez?"

"Yes, that is me," he said. He cleared his throat, tapping his fingers against his pant legs. Sabina tried to listen for more noises within the house. She didn't dare take her eyes away from his.

"I saw you artwork in a local cafe, and I'd like to talk to you about possibly buying the piece. I'm interested in discussing you motivations for it, if you have a moment to speak indoors." Her eyebrow rose as she finished.

In an instant the young man's face lit up. Sabina imagined the thoughts of the budding young artist: a buyer! Finally, someone who wants my art! He stepped aside and opened his mouth as if to say, "Yes, of course!" But just as quickly, his glee faded away, replaced by an expression of tragic horror. He bit his lip as if about to cry.

"I'm sorry, senora," he choked, "but i do not have a moment. You cannot possibly come inside."

Sabina's face fell as well, forgetting herself for a moment as true empathy flooded through her heart for this struggling artist who had just realized that he finally had a buyer, but could not sell. Then, she remembered who she suspected he was involved with.

My God, she thought, what if the Rousseau girls are here?"

"What's wrong, Senor?" she asked, a hand going to her breast. She stepped forward, trying to appear concerned. His eyes moved to her hand for a split second, long enough for Sabina to try and see inside the house. The interior was quite dark, however, with all of the shades drawn. Sabina's eyes were too slow in adjusting before she had to bring them back to Luis' face. She had spotted a dim silhouette of a young, dark-haired woman seated just inside, but hadn't been able to make out her face.
    
But the other woman had seen hers.

"Luis!" came a frantic cry, followed by words that sounded Mayan, but were not quite the Yucatec Sabina had studied. She did, however, understand the last word:

"Arky!"

Sabina did not even have time to turn before the frantic young man grabbed her hair and yanked her into the dimness of the house, slamming the door hard behind her. This happened no more than an instant after Sabina had stepped forward to look inside. To the driver on the street, it looked like she entered the house of her own free will.

Sabina winced at the pain in her scalp and went wild trying to fend off the mad artist, who exhibited strength far in excess of his appearance. Another set of hands attacked her as well; no doubt the woman who had yelled.

The inside woman? she thought.

Her hair in her face and the gloom of the house prevented her from seeing much of anything. Her leg and arm muscles pumped, stomach and throat tight with fear. In her mind repeated the single word: Escape, escape, escape! The criminals' hands locked onto her like iron claws, pulling her arms down behind her back, holding her hair. The woman clamped a soft but tight palm down over Sabina's mouth. To breathless to scream, she tried to work her jaw open to bite but the fingers remained firm. Luis had produced some strap of leather or thick cloth which he began to wrap around Sabina's wrists. She wriggled hard away from him, to no avail. Arms out of commission, she tried instead to kick her way to freedom. The woman cursed as the young archaeologist's boot came down hard on her sandalled foot; the hand left Sabina's mouth.

Escape, escape, escape...

Sabina fought on with the ferocious vitality of fresh hope. She delivered a savage kick backward right into the artist's groin, and thus became free of his grip as well. Her hands were bound, but she lunged toward the kitchen in search of the back door. In her haste, she did not see the pair of bare, duct-taped legs sticking out just beyond the doorway to the kitchen. Her foot snagged, eliciting a pained cry of "Mmmph!" from the floor, and Sabina went tumbling down. She saw the scratched-up surface of the cupboard only a second before her head struck it.

Sabina felt a rushing snap in her head and she began whirling slowly in every direction at once through invisible space. Her skull felt like a billiard ball, smashed by the cue stick to spin across the velvety softness of dull confusion. She opened her eyes and thought she was falling down an endless waterfall somewhere in the Caribbean rainforest. A great roaring swirled up around her, and just before she hit the water, she came to. For a moment.

In that moment, everything came back. The dirty kitchen in the small house, the ruin of poverty and dashed dreams on the face of Luis Perez, the struggle in the darkness. The kitchen was much brighter. The artist himself stood over her body now, binding her ankles fast together. Rope already encircled her bare thighs just above her knees. Sabina thought her mouth had been filled with something thick, and hoped it wasn't blood. Someone cradled her head in their lap. A strong ripping sound preceded a cold, sticky pressure against her lips. She tried to speak, and heard only mumbles.

Across the room, sobbing into the gag on her mouth, sat a young woman with light brown hair falling around her face, wearing only a bikini, bound hand and foot with rope. Sabina recognized her by the picture Detective Adelita had shown her in the cafe that morning. Her heart leapt with an elation that made her head cartwheel in agony.

"Sophie!" Sabina tried to say through her gag, "I've found you!" Then, she surrendered at last to unconsciousness.


The Detective’s Cask

Detective Adelita walked into Sabina’s empty room, sighing through her nose. Her anger was a quiet wine, left bottled up to build to perfection before being unleashed. A red haze clouded her thoughts of the young archaeologist, of the dismissed reports of the Lords of Xibalba’s activities and of the attack on the University servers. Mostly, however, she directed this latest vintage at herself, for letting Sabina into her confidence. The whole investigation could be compromised.

She reached down onto the bed for the open phone book lying there, and lifted it up to reveal the old Indiana Jones t-shirt she had caught Sabina in that morning, among other rumpled clothes. She wondered briefly how the girl could have made such a colossal mess of the room in one night. Her slim brown finger followed the list of names down to the circled entry she had known she would find. “Perez, Luis,” followed by a phone number and address.

For someone who is used to looking for hard clues, she isn’t very good at covering her tracks, Adelita thought. She turned round to the detective behind her.

“I know where to go,” she said. “We’d better hurry.”


Into Regions Unknown

At first, Sabina had only awareness; her brain received no feelings or sensations. After a time there was pain, the agonizing dizziness behind her eyes like a blade stuck into the back of her skull. Then, when at last she had absorbed and grown accustomed to that, there came the noise of a whirring motor chugging through the void. She remembered her body, and came to lift herself up to a seated position. It was hard, for her arms and legs were pinioned tight.

The hiss of churning water rode to her astride the wings of salty spray. She felt herself rocking, felt the entire surface upon which she sat slapping waves. She heard a strange, warped mumble, and realized it was men talking in another language. She heard thunder.

Distantly she called inside her head the name of the god that had sent fire through her mind's eye, through her heart and parts beyond the previous night on the beach:

Itzamna...

The humid Caribbean breeze whipped her hair about. She tossed her head back and forth to rid her face of the black strands, only to feel a pressure she hadn't been aware of lift from her eyes and then slip off her head entirely. She opened her eyes to an unbearable grey brightness and shut them again as quick. A gasp attempted to escape her throat, and became nothing but a muffled whimper. Thus, the events before her loss of consciousness returned. Her mouth instinctively wrinkled the tape into a sideways frown.

Okay, she said, stifling her panic with pragmatism, I'm bound, I'm gagged, I've been kidnapped. I've seen Sophie Rousseau, so they can't afford to release me. But... where am I?

Sabina opened her eyes slowly, a difficult task as the speeding boat slapped the waves every few seconds, tossing her up and down on the deck in frightful proximity to the motor in back. Between the brightness of the afternoon sky and the risk of being thrown into the ocean bound hand and foot at any second, Sabina found keeping her eyes open something of a challenge.

Come on, you coward. Just do it. Find out where you are now. Be scared later. She thought of twin eyes roaring ablaze through the jungle to the sound of ancient chants, of furious and eternal flame roaring like a jaguar at the gateway to the world of the medieval Itza. The heat that had burned in her chest, her cheeks, her other places... that awkward, embarrassing, yet somehow indescribably comforting heat that wrapped her up, that used her, that made her belong to it...

You don't need to be scared, my child, she imagined a deep voice speaking to her, echoing as through from within a cave of a million chambers; You've a god on your side!

She opened her eyes. The light no longer seared her vision. A timeless calm overcame her as she took in her surroundings: the boat, the sea, the distant landscape to the right, the horizon to the left. The setting sun sinking below the land.

We're heading south.

Isla de Volutas lay just about parallel to the southern border of mainland Mexico. Sabina tried to think: Where, then? Belize, Guatemala, Honduras? How far could they reasonable be taking me?

She studied the vessel that bore her to regions unknown; it looked like an old patrol boat, designed to carry out any number of speedy operations close to shore. It was filled with piles of tools, coiled rope, all sorts of things that any small vessel needs. Sabina looked closer to the bridge, and her eyes went wide.

Several long, dark green crates, stamped with "U.S. MILITARY," sat atop one another just beneath the roof over the open-air bridge. A couple were already opened, revealing several layers of carefully stacked black rifle cartridges. Two M16 assault rifles sat propped nearby.

Sabina remembered discussing with Adelita the possibility that foreign mercenaries could be involved, but neither she nor the detective thought that involvement had gone beyond training the Lords of Xibalba. Sabina thought back to the previous night. The kidnappers who had attacked their mansion had all carried handguns. If those were the Lords - and the tattoo on their leader's arm had all but confirmed it - then Sabina's current captors had to be their paramilitary allies.

She looked at the sun again. Unless she had been unconscious for an entire day - which she doubted very much as she felt no hunger, thirst, or exhaustion - this crew had been able to come get her on extremely short notice. It had been just after one or two o'clock when she had gone to the house of Luis Perez. It couldn't be more than four right now.

Which means they're WAY more involved in this thing than we expected.

Sabina studied the men on the bridge. If Luis Perez represented the Lords, then that group of ragamuffin criminals were truly out of their league in associating with whatever organization now had Sabina in its clutches. The two men on the boat, despite their short stature, displayed cut physiques, brown muscles on their arms and backs rippling beneath their stained and tattered tank tops. One wore dark green cargo pants tucked into black boots, the other camouflage. Their faces, turned away from her, were uncovered. One piloted, while the other appeared to be talking on a radio. Over the noise of the propeller behind her, she could barely hear the unfamiliar Mayan tongue he used. It was certainly not the Yucatec she had studied but one that was related all the same.

Suddenly, there were words she did understand: "Bacalar Chico." Sabina looked around, and found the boat turning towards land. She arched her neck, watching as the boat approached a large, straight canal cut through the earth, either side overgrown with rainforest trees. It couldn't have been more than a mile long; even from here, she thought she could make out the body of water on the opposite side of the canal in the hazy blue distance. Sabina's mind worked quickly. Then, she heard the responding voice come through the radio, and recognized another word:

"Chetumal."

Sabina realized she was smiling beneath her tape gag. Chetumal Bay, she thought. We're about to pass between the southernmost tip of the Mexican coast and the island of Ambergris Caye, and then we'll be in Chetumal Bay. Which means we're either going to someplace in southern Mexico, or Belize.

Some part of Sabina was relieved to know at least where she was. Now, if she could only get at that radio and tell someone! She tugged hard at her bonds, finding that her wrists and ankles had been locked together in a hog-tie. Her fingernails began to pick at the knots, though to what end she couldn't imagine; Sabina entertained no illusions about her own abilities.

Right, she thought, like I'm going to get free and take down two armed professional mercenaries. I might as well jump into the ocean.

Sabina stopped picking. If she went along for the ride, she might at least find out more about the kidnappers. There was much to appreciate along the way, after all; as the boat entered the Canal de Zaragoza, Sabina could not help but feel a sense of awe that she was now passing through a strait dug out of the earth by the Mayans as early as 600 A.D., and through which thousands of canoes laden with trade goods must have passed each day of that long-ago age.

She imagined the elaborately-carved and painted boats, torches on prow and stern, passing one another as they cut quietly through the incredibly blue water flowing through the canal. The boatmen, dark-skinned Maya with long black hair, thin linear tattoos and jade body piercings, would call out to other traders they knew, asking after the health of their families or their cargo and destination. The canal was a vital place, since before its construction traders bound for Chetumal would have had to pass all the way round the peninsula that was now Ambergris Caye, avoiding several deadly reefs along the way.

Today, despite the typical Caribbean beauty of its lush forests and azure water, the Canal de Zaragoza was just another part of a deserted paradise. the only other boats Sabina could see were far out in the ocean that the kidnappers had left behind as they entered the man-made strait. She ached for those far-off people on their distant white dot of a vessel, fishing or trading or cruising without so much as a hint of her plight. Her throat began to tighten, and she felt sobs coming on.

No, damn it. Sabina straightened herself up, set her chin, refused to surrender to tears. Her brows arched down, eyese slamming shut. I'm still alive. I can find a way out of this. People will be worried about me. I won't disappoint them. I won't give up.

Sabina opened her eyes, and found they had just left the end of the canal. they looked to be passing north around the next few islands and they would be in Chetumal Bay proper. Sabina released an impatient whimper as she realized that unless the kidnappers gave themslves away on the radio, it would be a long time before she had another clue about where they were headed. Even if they were on the way to Belize, a straight shot across the bay, it would still be a journey of nearly fifteen miles.

A rogue wave kicked up, and one of the green cases slid about three inches along the deck. Sabina spotted the movement from the corner of her eye, and watched, frozen in place, as a small green orb commenced a lopsided roll along the deck, toward the low end of the boat - where Sabina sat. It rolled right up next to her bound hands, and stopped.

It was a hand grenade.

Sabina kept her eyes glued to the kidnappers, who evidently hadn't noticed the migration of the explosive. Snatching it up quick, she shoved the weapon into the pocket of her jacket, which the kidnappers had left on her. She glanced down, making sure the bulk wasn't too obvious and wouldn't fall out. No sooner had she regained her innocent captive pose, then one of the kidnappers turned around to check on her.

"Hey!"

The kidnapper stalked toward her, wild-eyed, mumbling what had to be curses in his Mayan tongue. Sabina couldn't help hiding her face in her tumbling black hair, shrinking behind one shoulder. Thoughts of being thrown overboard and sinking, hog-tied, to the bottom of the bay filled her head. What a beautiful horror would the blue tomb of a Caribbean seabed be...

He grabbed her hair, eliciting a pained, angry squeal from behind her gag. Her heart hammered. Rather than tug her over to the edge of the boat, however, he seemed to be searching within her wind-tangled locks for something.

"Where's your blindfold?" he said, voice heavy with the unfamiliar English.

Sabina shook free of his hand, to give him a black stare of defiance, chin thrust out, lips pulled down to straighten out her tape gag like some sort of silvery adhesive shield.

"Mmph," she said. He reached for the edge of the tape.

"They's no one around. Screaming do you no good." Sabina rolled her eyes and nodded, and he pulled off the gag. She spit out the wadded-up cloth that had been stuffed into her mouth back at the house, grimacing at the disgusting taste. He produced a bottle of water and gave her a much-needed drink that didn't last quite long enough. When he pulled away the bottle, she began gasping and licking her lips. He asked her again: "Where's your blindfold?"

Sabina's dark eyes turned up to him. "I ate it."

The kidnapper's lips pressed tight in fury. He retreated to the bridge and began rummaging about among the various odds and ends there. Sabina tried to burn the look of his features into her brain.

"I already know where we are, you might as well forego blindfolding me. I can't escape."

"I don't care. You seen too much." There was no use struggling; Sabina allowed the kidnapper to place a long strip of cloth around her eyes, knotting it in the back. She cried out when the knot cruelly tugged a lock of her hair in with it. He sealed her lips with several strips of tape, mercifully not stuffing her mouth this time. She heard his footsteps retreat to the front of the boat, and the motor whirred on. The radio, for the moment, remained disparagingly silent.


Still In The Game

At the hospital, Dr. Izado sat upright in his bed, setting aside a tray of disgusting food. A badly-acted soap opera blared indiscernible through the fuzzy speakers of the television mounted on the wall. His arm hung up against his chest in a sling. The wound had not been serious, and he expected to be discharged at any moment.

The phone rang. wincing as he leaned over, he picked up the receiver.

"Hector Izado," he said, voice a bit slurry from lingering painkillers. He listened for a moment, brows furrowing.

"I see," he replied, "by boat?" The voice said a little more, and he replied again: "How far out are you now?"

The voice replied again, yelling; there was the sound of a boat motor in the background. "Okay," Izado said, "Did you find out anymore about them?"

Izado's brows shot up at the next answer. "You don't say? Well. Keep me updated on Sabina. I've got some phone calls to make. There is a lot to do, but I think I know how to bring this to a head. Si, goodbye."

Izado hung up the phone and winced as he sat back again. He chuckled, shaking his head.

"Not out of the game yet, am I?" Izado said, scooting to the edge of his bed. His clothes sat on a nearby chair, and it was going to take a while to get back into them; he had to be ready to go as soon as the discharge came in.

"No, I won't be out of this game until it kills me."


Police Response

Adelita and the other detective knocked on the door of Luis Perez's house and waited for nearly ten minutes before deciding no one was home. They had gotten back in their car and were about to pull away, when they spotted two figures, a young man and woman, walking toward them down the street. Their nerves must have already been frayed, for when the two observed the unmarked police car pulling away from the curb, the boy turned and bolted back the way they had come. The girl, evidently sensing that this wouldn't exactly look innocent, hesitated, before following her companion.

When Adelita saw that girl run, saw the way her body moved and black hair swayed, her mind instantly brought her back to the interior of the cruise ship, to a memory burned into her brain for two days now; the image of the inside woman, the infiltrator who had bound and gagged two stewardesses, fleeing at her approach.

That is her, Adelita thought. It has to be.

In a second, they were off.  The car easily caught up with the two as they fled into the yard of a large house. From the rear of the building, several figures, all wearing bandanas over their faces, came running at their friends' cries. One of them, a big, bald man, had a tattoo on his arm that matched Sabina's description exactly.

All of them were armed with guns.

"Shit," Adelita swore, one hand going to her gun. She stopped the car, preparing to put it in reverse; a firefight here could only end one way. There was a shot and the car rocked, an incredible hissing noise coming from the rear passenger tire; the Lords were immobilizing the detectives.

Another shot cracked the windshield, and Adelita's fellow detective clutched his chest; Adelita knew he wore a bulletproof vest, but that wasn't much comfort when they sat surrounded by vicious criminals, shooting to kill.

The passenger door was pulled open, and a hand reached in to yank out the other detective. Several guns fixed on the back of his head where he lay on the concrete.

"No!," Adelita yelled; her door opened behind her, and strong hands pulled her out of the car as well. They held her there, several guns trained on her. The Lords smiled over her prone companion.

"Now, we gonna waste some cops protecting the arkies," one said, putting his gun right against the man's head.

"Stop!" the commanding voice of the bald leader boomed over the street. "Leave that one. Others might come. Take the woman with us; time to move."

They took Adelita's gun, and marched her to the back of the house. There, in the back of a large, sweltering-hot van, sat the almost-naked forms of the abducted archaeologist, Angela Perry, and - Adelita's heart leapt - Sophie Rousseau, both bound back-to-back with rope and gagged - Sophie with duct tape, Angela wearing a crude bit gag made from a wrench and tape.

"Looks like we got one more, ladies," one of the kidnappers said, grinning. "Make room."
Sabina Bowen in THE MAYAN MOON ROAD, Part 6
And I managed to go over a year this time... but Part 6 is here! I won't go on my usual tangent about re-energization or renewed interest, but I'll just leave this here and try to reassure what is left of my audience for Sabina & Co. that I will be starting work on Part 7 immediately after this posting!

It's a little shorter than most of my previous MMR parts, but as you might be able to tell, the action is picking up!

-Ed
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Not that work was rolling in like crazy anyway, but I'm closing commissions temporarily; my more mainstream artwork is going to be demanding a lot of me in the in the next month and a half, so I simply won't have the time. Two more fetish projects will appear here soon and then that's it for a while. I'll still be lurking, so hit me up for a chat.

-Ed

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EdStorm's Profile Picture
EdStorm
Ed Storm
Artist | Hobbyist | Traditional Art
United States
I am eloquent in all internet occasions requiring a black tie, and always accompany my snobbery with a strong undercurrent of self-deprecation. I love over-the-top DiD bondage with thick strokes of humor, as well as said gargantuan chunks of hilarity by themselves. I love weird fiction, heavy metal, folk music and mythology. I'll drink a beer with anyone here as long as the fire is one to admire, and I typically start rhyming far too late in a paragraph to look as clever as I'd like. I inject 3000 mg of whimsy into my orange juice every morning and spend the rest of the day snorting derisively at anything remotely ironic or sad.

Are you still reading this?

Fine, go look at the pretty pictures.

-Ed

COMMISSION STATUS------
as of 10 May 2014

CLOSED
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:iconultimate-psycho:
Ultimate-Psycho Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
:iconthanksforfav-fmr0:
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:iconst-stiefel:
st-stiefel Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for the fav.
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:icondannysuling:
dannysuling Featured By Owner May 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
From my "watch" I can only conclude that you've chosen not to be too active here recently. I hope you're okay and doing well.

Meantime, this quick visit is simply to deliver a "Thank you!" for your past posts, images and stories alike. They bring considerable delight over where I hang out!

Very best to you!
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:icondidsandothersexyness:
DIDsandothersexyness Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014
Thanks for watching
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:icongolavus:
Golavus Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2013
I do hope you've had a happy and thrilling birthday sir!
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:iconthephoenixking:
ThePhoenixKing Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2013
Hope you're having a wonderful birthday!
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:iconenglishdamsel:
EnglishDamsel Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2013
Happy birthday!
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:iconshadowartist64:
Shadowartist64 Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
happy birthday
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:iconbeckybondagelass:
BeckyBondageLass Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Great page, creative works and impressive profile <3 :) Becky 
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:iconultimate-psycho:
Ultimate-Psycho Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
:iconthanksforfaving:
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