No sooner had we boarded the mini-ship and sat down at the controls than I felt my sense of purpose begin to veer. Plotting my course, I formulated the words I wanted to use in my mind and had started to open my mouth when I heard a voice warn: “Don’t move, Sam.” There was a searing flash of light and a crackling pop over my right shoulder as Àkbä vaporized in a gray mist. I recognized the interloper’s voice. It was Sylvia! I wanted to turn to see her; but a jab of cold steel at the nape of my neck stopped me. Also: her tone of voice was—unfamiliar and unwelcoming. “I thought—I thought you—” I stammered.
“Thought I was dead?”
Now I turned my head to look at her. But this was not the Sylvia I had known. Sylvia was transformed. In her place was a foreign creature, tall, dark and deadly serious. Clad in a gray, close-fitting raiment, she wore black boots and a black cap that covered her hair and ears. The old carefree Sylvia was gone; the new Sylvia possessed a deliberate calm that infused and informed all of her bodily movements. She also pointed a ray-gun directly at my head.
“Sylvia, what’s happened to you?”
“Shut up, Earthnoid,” she ordered. “Get down on the floor and stay where I can see you.”
Something told me I had better do as she suggested.
She sat down at the controls. Her fingers played across the console, plotting a course of her own.
“Where are we going?” I asked. No reply. Sylvia continued working the console. I was vaguely aware of motion and knew that we had been on our way for some time, when Sylvia broke the silence.
“You’ve done quite well for yourself, haven’t you, Little Man?” I couldn’t understand her tone; her coldness seemed to be sheer calculated cruelty. Why was she treating me this way? I was shocked and—well: hurt.
“You’re a traitor, Sam. Did you know that?” She must have seen the shocked incredulity in my face. “No? I should shoot you right now…”
But she didn’t shoot me. Instead, she related a bizarre tale, the chronicle of her adventures since we had parted so long ago in the Hall of Memory. “It’s the tale of my Great Awakening to the true nature and agenda of Joracian Empire. To this vast and glorious civilization for which you, it seems, have become Chief Apologist and Lackey.”
I sat in unblinking disbelief but listened closely to the story she related, a strange one to my ears.
“As soon as you had disappeared into your pod at the Hall of Memory, Àkbä removed me from mine on a pretext of wanting to show me something very important on the mini-ship. I blacked out.
“When I woke up, my clothes were gone and I was being ravished by a gang of Joracian males, chief among them your pal, Àkbä. They’d given me some sort of drug… The sex wasn’t so bad—ordinarily, I might not have minded but they weren’t very nice about it.” Sylvia looked away as she said: “I don’t like being forced.” Her tone of voice was so vapid that it scared me. There was not a tear in her eye.
“After they’d finished with me, I was spirited away to a place called the Basilica of Bimbos, where I was cleaned up, body-painted, tattooed (with a flaccid Cock-&-Balls emblem: the Joracian logo!), perfumed and put on an auction block. The whole place was a center for slave-trade, prostitution and drug-dealing.” Sylvia played with her ray-gun, turning it this way and that in her hand while she spoke. “These activities, by the way, Sam, are the primary enterprises of your adopted Civilization, and the true staples of the Joracian economy.”
After a brief pause, she resumed her narrative. “A fat and wealthy Joracian named Trazmagor (he resembled Elvis in his years of final, bloated decline) purchased me at auction. A real piece of work, this Trazmagor, if you know what I mean. He used to have me give him head while slaves packed his ass with cream cheese before sodomizing him. Of course I was being sodomized by a male slave at the same time, so what the hell!” Sylvia’s smile was not pleasant to see. “This activity alternated with electroshocks, which were delicately and unpredictably administered to every part of my body—except the face. Traz had a thing about faces—by a sadistic little twist named Nytåal…I got good and sizzled. Then it was off to the cold showers, hot tub and steam room. The massage was splendid, however. I actually began to look forward to being raped and tortured because I knew the massage was coming…
“Trazmagor and I got to be pretty chummy after a while. He let me in on some rather tasty tidbits about Joracian Society. He not only explained Joracian customs to me, but actually took me to places so I could see their beliefs and traditions in action…”
She let this sink into my brain, which was pretty numb by this time.
“You know what the real kicker is, Sam?” I shook my head slowly. “The Joracians aren’t resettling any of the people they evacuated from Earth. A few—the ‘lucky ones,’ I guess you could call them—are sold, like I was, into prostitution and slavery.”
Sylvia leaned forward and whispered to me in a most disconcerting way: “Want to know what Joracians do with the rest of ’em?” Sylvia paused for dramatic effectit worked. “Most are systematically exterminated in Games held for the amusement of elite Joracian sports enthusiasts. The rest participate in something called ‘the Feast of the Ortho-Aesthetic Body’…”
“Joracians consume us, Sam.” Sylvia looked at her weapon, then back at me. “They EAT US!”
There wasn’t much I could say to her. As much as I didn’t want to believe it, I sensed somehow that the story Sylvia was telling me was true. I was feeling pretty desolate, myself. I finally got up the cheek to ask Sylvia a question.
“So, where are we heading now?”