Marian VCA is no ordinary huntress!
When a cruel tyrant and his armies wreak havoc in Luca, countless lives hang in the balance.
One woman – Marian, a Phaser – has made it her mission to bring down the sadistic war monger Palus. With fellow Phaser and friend Marika by her side, they will stop at nothing to find the elusive tyrant and assassinate him.
Doing so will be no easy feat. Palus has informants at every turn, hindering Marian’s mission, but soon he will discover that Marian and Marika possess mysterious skills that could enable them to succeed and defeat his armies.
Can Marian and Marika root out the malicious evildoer before he takes more innocent lives?
The snow fell loose and light across the rocky landscape of Elas, Genova, when suddenly a distortion appeared in the atmosphere, as if life’s canvas was being cut open. Marian VCA stepped through this hole, this mysterious portal, and when she fell onto the snow, she ran around, desperately seeking shelter.
She hugged her bosom and shivered violently as the cold wind’s invisible knives punished her for wearing a dress and bedroom slippers. Genova was the last place that a Phaser teleporting in to Luca would want to visit, but Marian lacked the skill and experience to control her teleport jumps, so here she stood, a milk chocolate popsicle in a long green dress.
The sky stood cloudless, a tapestry of stars, moons and manmade transports, but Marian was shivering, and hyperthermia was a reality. In the distance, between the gusts of wind that played at obstructing her vision, she could make out the outline of a dome. She pushed forward towards it, her dress making her movement slow. It was unlike the tight, warm, 3B suit she was used to, the uniform Phasers typically wore on missions such as this.
When she reached the exterior of the domed structure, she looked around until she saw the outline of a door within the smooth, white surface. She slid her hands desperately along it until the edges lit up, and breathed a sigh of relief as the motors started working inside of the walls.
Before long, the door slid into the ground and Marian ran inside the chamber as it shut quickly behind her.
It was warm and heated inside, and she rubbed her numb hands and danced around to bring back feeling into her frozen limbs. Her toes felt as if they belonged to someone else. Sure, there was some feeling when she wiggled them inside of her slippers, but it was taking a long time, so she reached down to massage life back into them.
She caught sight of her own dress and cursed. Why hadn’t she worn something more appropriate for a mission? Why did she let anger, frustration and reaction send her to the crystal room prematurely? She was upset, that was understandable, but surely the Phaser, that rational thinking part of her emotions would have forced her to grab a 3B suit wouldn’t it? She rummaged through her backpack to see if anything could help, but eventually she gave up and went back to rubbing at her toes.
When her body was warm and she could wiggle her toes without them hurting, she pulled a pistol from the small of her back and started walking down the narrow hallway. Lights on the inside of the dome revealed walls covered with circuits, and the hall she was in was very narrow. After a while she determined it was spiraling inward and that eventually she would reach the center. She put both hands on her pistol and held it in front of her at the ready.
When she got to the center she found it empty, save for a chair, a panel, and a soft voice repeating something over a set of small speakers.
“Is anyone out there? This is Amanxa. Please answer! Is anyone out there? This is Amanxa. Oh, do answer! This is Amanxa Lux, we are dying, please answer…”
The voice wavered, and the woman was speaking rapidly, too rapidly for Marian to understand everything she was saying. The dome was not the first one Marian had encountered in her lifetime. She recognized it as one of many intelligence batteries that the resistance used for communication. A long time ago—when she was living in this galaxy—she had heard about the domes and their strange technology.
She waved her hand rapidly across the panel until it lit up and the face of a pale, Tyheran woman appeared. Her face was tightly drawn and sharp cheekbones jutted out from what would have once been considered a pretty face. Her eyes were wide and they barely blinked. As she stared into the holo-comm, the blue light gave her face a cobalt homage to the spirit of death.
“Hello, hello, who are you and what’s your situation?” Marian asked, happy to be speaking in her native Tyheran tongue once again.
“Thank the skies, someone answered! Look, whoever you are, we need help. The Fels have arrested and executed Barrium. We are unable to leave the city and there is no water, no food. Th-they are torturing us and they have a force field up, preventing anyone from leaving. They executed Barrium in front of all of us as an example, and now they are making us pay by starving us!” Amanxa Lux screamed.
“Okay, stop shouting, girl, where are you? I don’t know a Barrium: was he your husband or your leader? I am not from here, but I am here to help,” Marian said.
“I am in the city of Astuif, on the moon of Talula,” Amanxa answered.
“Ohh, lovely Talula. I know where you are. How many Fels are out there? Maybe I can call the resistance to come and rescue you,” Marian said.
There was dead air over the speakers and Marian heard a heavy and disappointed sigh from Amanxa.
“Where have you been stranger? On the planet Fahree, meditating in a cave for the last three years? There are no resistance fighters to save us. Palus Felitious scattered them and they all took off to any planet that would have them. Astuif lies in ashes, and we are what’s left of the resistance that you remember on the moon.”
“Bomb? What sort of bomb would they use on a moon?” Marian asked, furrowing her brows at the concept.
Amanxa appeared as if she wanted to spit the words out but could not summon enough saliva to complete the act. Her lips trembled and a tear fell from her eye as she forced out the words. “It was a scortchet.”
Marian could not believe what she was hearing, and she tried in vain to imagine the aftermath of the oxygen-sapping firebomb known as a “scortchet.” Talula was a tiny moon, and a scortchet had incredible reach. To hear of such a weapon used on a city was so unbelievable that she sat quietly for a time with her mouth open.
When she and Rafian—her husband—were resistance fighters and lovers, they had left their comrades to jump to the galaxy of Anstractor. At the time the resistance was at a high point. The Felitians feared them, and the moon of Talula was theirs in more ways than one. Her brown eyes, which normally twinkled with the tiny, star-like lights of her Tyheran heritage, now grew dark as they narrowed. A muscle twitched in the corner of her mouth, and her fleshy lips, which normally held a look of indifference, twisted into a frown.
Her friends had died, and it wasn’t from a battle where they could be honored as warriors. No, it was from a bomb – possibly launched from the planet of Tyhera, since it was where the Felitians ruled, and the only place that could pull together the resources. She thought about what would have made the Fels decide on so drastic a move, and it dawned on her that the rebels must have all retreated to the moon.
Wiping out the resistance leaders in one area was too good a chance to pass up and Palus Felitious—Emperor of the Felitians—would have jumped at that chance, instantly.
Marian’s mind switched to her Casanian friend, Marika. They had jumped to Luca together, and she had suggested that they land in separate areas. Marian had tried to jump alone when she saw Rafian in the arms of another woman, but Marika had caught her before she reached the crystal and reminded her that they had intended to visit Luca together.
They were friends, these two deadly women; more than friends, actually. Marika was her refuge. Whenever Rafian would break her heart Marika was there, and whenever she needed a friend to boost her up, all she had to do was tap her comm.
Marika was to find them a good transport and learn as much as she could about the situation. Being Casanian on Luca—with no races or species that looked anything like her—meant that blending in would prove a challenge. Marian was worried for her—especially now, with this news of the resistance being over.
“Things are really bad,” Marian mumbled, forgetting for a moment where she was.
Amanxa spoke again. “I know it is a lot, and I know you cannot help us, but we will die unless someone does something. Can you call someone out here? Please. What is your name?”
“I am Marian, and I am going to travel to that moon and find a way to help you, Amanxa,” she said.
“How? Don’t be silly,” Amanxa scolded, though her soft voice made it sound sweet and caring. “You cannot come for us by yourself. They have patrolling guards, tracking towers; not to mention, no rebel is safe on this moon. No, you need to call in the Lochte rebels, the Fahree monks, or any one of our allies on the twelve planets.”
“I don’t know any of them, but I think you should try and stay strong until me and my partner can liberate you from the Fels,” Marian said.
The speakers went quiet as Amanxa sat looking off to the side. Eventually she nodded, and reassured Marian that she would stay strong.
“Marian, are you inside that buried egg?” asked a sultry voice inside of her ear. Marian recognized it immediately as Marika on her nano-comm, a small device that was implanted in the ear. It was a Vestalian military tool, which negated the need for bulky comms and other cumbersome, communications equipment.
“Yes I am,” Marian replied. “It’s a communication tower, believe it or not. Where are you?”
“I’m outside in a rather fancy-looking spacecraft,” Marika joked. “I lifted it off two soldiers.” She giggled heartily and then inhaled. “They were so smitten by my exotic beauty that I was able to tie them up with relative ease,” she said.
“You should have murdered the bastards,” Marian said.
“I don’t kill without reason – you know that. Now hurry up and come outside so you can see it. I need a shower and a change of clothes, and I am more than positive that you do, too,” Marika said.
Marian looked back to check on Amanxa, but the holo was off and a red light indicated that the signal had been lost. She powered down the receiver and then ran quickly back through the spiraling hallway. When she reached the door leading out, she remembered how cold and numb her toes had become. She furrowed her brows and bit down hard, then opened the door to the cold night air.
The wind felt like an icy cold blanket thrown over her body as soon as she stepped out, and she covered her face to block the icy air. There was a hovering vessel, loud and massive in front of the dome, and when Marian chanced a glance, she saw the familiar outline of Marika’s face.
The ship looked like a giant dragonfly, and its bright, white exterior made it almost invisible against the snowy backdrop. Marian jumped up, pulled herself on to one of its legs, and climbed inside to rejoin her friend.
“Thype, its cold!” she exclaimed suddenly, and then punched the heads up display out of frustration.
“Whoa! Don’t go breaking this beautiful piece of equipment, cruta!” Marika cursed. “I just got it new and I want to keep it that way. Those former owners did a bang-up job of keeping it clean.” She flashed a pretty, fanged smile across her spotted, red-toned face.
“Those crutas killed all of my friends, Marika. They set an entire moon on fire and now we have to find a way to rescue the last of them,” Marian said.
“So, how do we do that, Rhee?” Marika asked. “I have no idea where we are, much less where this moon is. Just tell me your plan, okay? We’re Phasers, we’ll find a way to get it done.”
“Thype that Palus and his army of murderers!” Marian screamed and slammed her fist into her leg. Marika reached down and took hold of the fist, and then stared at her until Marian decided to calm down. She relaxed her fist and took a deep breath, smiling slightly as she stared into the large black pools of Marika’s eyes.
“I’m not from here, Marian, but I’m here for you no matter what you choose. Give me something to understand this emotion that threatens to unnerve you; tell me about this Palus. Why do you hate him so much?” she asked.
Marian thought on the word hate. It seemed appropriate for what she felt within her very soul for Palus Felitious. Hate was an emotion that she knew well, but hate wasn’t strong enough a feeling for what she felt. It was another emotion, something more formal and necessary.
She began to talk, not taking her eyes off of Marika’s, as if she meant to embed her words into the woman’s brain.
“When Rafian first came to my galaxy, Palus was ruler of all planets,” she began. “In that time, many people were happy, including my family. We were good citizens; at least my parents were. They did whatever the law said to do.”
She stopped, sighed, and then looked out at the snow as she recalled the history. “These laws included having a photograph of him in every house, paying heavy taxes, and giving up our eldest sons and daughters to Lords and Ladies that needed heirs.”
Marika seemed puzzled, then smiled and shook her head. “So, why exactly was this guy allowed to do all of this?” she asked.
“That story is even longer than I have time to tell, girl,” Marian said, and she seemed to stare through Marika as she sat with her fist in her hands. “Plus, it’s one that I never got the full explanation for. Just know that I was one of those daughters in line to be connected to one of Palus’s Lords. Because of my father and his service, however, I was allowed to do what I wanted to do. They gave me a royal title – Baroness Rienne, so that my children would be lords and ladies.
“Look, Marika, we’ve been intimate, so I trust you enough to share this with you. Being part of a tyrannical ruler’s party is not a part of my history that I want the Phasers to know,” she said.
“Come on, Rhee, you don’t have to put security on secrets with me. Heck, you know enough of mine to end me,” Marika said, and Marian smiled at her words.
“When Rafian came into my life he opened my eyes, and when I saw what was going on around me, it upset me. At that time Rafian was one of the resistance leaders, but he risked his position to take me, an enemy woman, into his arms and make me his wife,” Marian whispered.
“Are you okay?” Marika asked, glancing around out of habit. They had been sitting in the cockpit for what seemed like a really long time, and it made her feel extremely uneasy.
“It’s just Rafian. Sometimes I forget what we went through to be together,” Marian said. She closed her eyes and inhaled the warm air of the cockpit vents.
“You know, back then I thought we were the good ones … the Felitians, I mean. I thought we were helping people and that the rebels were just fools that didn’t want things to change. Rafian helped me to see the truth, to see what was going on when you peeled back the layers.” She began to hit her knee with a balled up fist, and though Marika found it annoying, she let her continue with the story.
“Palus took power to suit himself, and was hurting and killing anyone that disagreed with his politics,” Marian said. “I was helping this creature to murder people, Marika. I was raised in that culture of hate, thinking myself a privileged member of his Utopia.”
“So, he killed the enemies of his regime. I’m still not getting the evil part of what this man’s about, Rhee,” Marika said.
“You’ll see it for yourself in time. After the resistance got some traction and people began to push back against his policies, Palus reacted in the worst way. He organized troopers to go after rebels no matter where they were. They would kill innocents, leveling villages and cities, just to get at a few resistance members. We need to get the leaders talking, Marika. I haven’t been here in a long time. If we cannot find anyone, then we will need to jump back and talk Tayden or Camille into letting us bring an army of Phasers here.”
“Or, you could just talk to your husband,” Marika said under her breath.
“I don’t want to talk to Rafian because he will make it about us. So, let’s see if we can reach the rebels. After we’ve done that, we need to fly into Talula and get those people out quietly, then see if we can smuggle them into Tyhera,” Marian said.
Marika squinted her black eyes and her face seemed to darken as she stared at Marian. But Marian was touching the panel in front of her, plotting a course to what looked like a tiny island on a planet that resembled Vestalia.
“Marian, this isn’t going to work and you know it,” she said. “You don’t know where to start in contacting these resistance leaders, and even if you did, they don’t know you from a Felitian spy. Think, Phaser! This is going to take an organized plane-jump. It will probably take over eighty Phasers and a good chunk of the main warp crystal. You and I both know that only Rafian VCA can authorize that. Tayden Lark would laugh us out of her office. It is going to take some real convincing to pull them away from the Geralos, which we both know is the priority where they are concerned. And you will have to play nice – with Rafian,” she said.
“I don’t want to hear anything more about Rafian, or Tayden for that matter,” Marian said. “They can stay in Anstractor and thype each other’s brains out for all I care. I need to see to my people.” She punched the console so that the ship’s engines came alive and then glanced over at the spotted assassin.
“Marika, we’re all they have and I imagine that it might take us several days. The citizens of that city will be hurting by the time we get there, but we must get them out. Then both you and I will need to find Palus Felitious and make him answer for his crimes!”
Marika waited for Marian to finish her orders and then watched her fight against the cold and emotion that racked her body. Marian saw her staring and made a face. “So say something, cruta. Are you with me or what?” she shouted. “Ugh, I know my plans are garbage, but we need to do something. Look, it’s why I brought you along to help me. This is what you’re good at. Tell me how to remove this bad man, and the rest of the stuff like the rescue”—she shrugged—“I’ll figure it out.”
“Take your time and get yourself together, Marian,” Marika said, her voice taking on an authoritative tone. “Go see your people on Tyhera and get back into the culture there. That way when we move, you will know more about the enemy than just a bunch of memories. I will blink back when we’re ready and talk to Rafian. I will get Val to help me convince him too, so that he knows it is more than you putting me up to this.”
Marian stared forward and put her hands on her knees, then nodded slowly to confirm Marika’s words.
“You know that he will move the universe for you, Marian VCA, so I wish that you would drop the victim act for a few, humble up and get him here. Your people need you and they need our skills,” Marika said, waiting for a reaction from Marian. When none came, she reached over and took her hand again. “Look, Rhee, Rafian will come when I tell him that you are here. But you must promise me that you will be ready.”
“I will be ready, Marika. I promise you,” she said.
“Okay, but just make sure that when I do jump back in, it will not be to a frozen rock like this one, okay?”