Yew and Me
In many ways Lina Zuyeva was appalled at the state of her beloved Tsiokolski Base and not just at the damage caused by the ‘quakes. The devastation wrought by the woman, Karpova was in may ways far, far worse. As her tiny group moved through the dimly lit subterranean corridors they were stunned by the sight of the wreckage that had been caused by both. For while the marsquakes had only devastated property, Valentina Karpova had devastated lives.
The dull eyes of the drones: the work-units and security-units that they passed said it all. Women who she had known for years walked on by, their eyes dead, their faces blank: their lack of expression seemingly accentuated by the dim emergency lighting. She’d met Yew’s drones several times but Karpova’s were nothing like them. Yew’s drones always seemed to be happy whereas these just didn’t seem to be anything other than, well, zombies.
For some reason that Zuyeva could not understand, her little group was ignored, despite them being armed… Then it dawned upon her: they were dressed in the same brown coveralls that the work units wore and with surveillance systems off-line, there was no one to detect their presence. No one to spot a group of drones moving where none should be. No one to recognise that the little group contained what was probably the last male inside the whole of Tsiokolski.
“Eyes front and keep moving with purpose: they don’t know that we are here.” Lina instructed. And with renewed confidence, the group moved on.
Suddenly, just as they were exiting one of the many staircases that opened up on either side of the large Reception Hall, they heard a shout that filled them with dread. A single voice came out of nowhere: an accusatory voice that yelled. “Intruders!”
Lina’s group braced themselves for whatever was about to descend upon them as more voices took up the alarm call. “Intruders! Intruders!”
Then out of the blue. one of those ideas hit Lina Zuyeva... It was one of those daft ideas of the type that only ever spring into the minds of desperate people who have been backed into a corner. “Intruders!” Lina yelled as she pointed down the staircase that her group had just climbed.
“Intruders! Intruders!” Katerina and Nicol took up the cry while Yuri wisely remained silent.
Suddenly half a dozen Security-Units tore past them and vanished down the stairs at a run.
Borshch for brains! Lina thought idly, then grinning like a Halloween pumpkin, she led her little group out into the Reception Hall.
Eve was suspicious because everything seemed to be going just too well. In the couple of hours since big marsquake had struck, the Hive showed signs of returning to normal. Security-Units were busy rounding-up groups of stray Work-Units, marshalling them into work parties before instructing them to carry out specific tasks. At one stage a black-clad figure had spotted Eve and her two colleagues dressed in their brown coveralls and had moved towards them in a rather determined fashion. However, when she had realised that they were escorted by a couple of black-clad figures of their own, the drone had changed direction and moved off to confront a pair of drones clad in the dirt-smeared white suits of Medical-Units. A grateful Eve let go a small sigh of relief before indicating an archway to Yseult who was still leading.
The archway led to an up-staircase and ‘up’ led towards the Base Commander’s Office. Yseult nodded and turned towards it, ignoring an altercation that seemed to be taking place at the other end of the Reception Hall.
Can it really be this easy? Eve thought as her small group ran up the stairs, almost bowling over a couple of units wearing shiny butterscotch coloured uniforms who were coming the other way. Butterscotch? What do they do—?
The staircase led to a small ante-room that had windows front and back and a plain-looking door on either side. From their briefing the girls knew that the right-hand door led to the Governor’s apartments. They took the left-hand one and trooped into the room that normally was Tsiokolski Base’s nerve centre. This was where Karpova was almost always to be found...
...Only she wasn’t!
The intruders looked around and saw that most of the workstations and desks were empty. Eve felt a wave of confusion break over her. Suddenly Ciara Ward marched over to one of the few other women in the large room: a butterscotch clad drone who was attempting to get a computer terminal to work, despite the fact that power was off and the network was clearly down.
“This work detail has been instructed to report to Mistress personally. What is her current location.” Ciara demanded in almost flawless Russian.
The drone looked up. “Mistress is in the Reception Hall.” The woman answered, the orange light glinting angrily from the captive bolt that was set in the centre of her forehead.
Without thinking, Eve moved across the room and peered out of one of the windows that overlooked the interior of the building. From it she had a good view of the disturbance that they had glanced a few minutes earlier. Odd! Karpova’s Security Units seemed to be fighting amongst themselves.
Then as she watched, Eve realised that some of the black-clad figures were wearing environmental suits without helmets... Yes. Karpova was down there, Eve was able to identify her simply because she was dressed in an expensive-looking bright green gown and so looked so out of place in the midst of the austerity and chaos that dominated the reception hall. She watched for a second or two longer before she recognized a second figure and realized just what was going on.
“Lily!” She shouted. “Mistress Lily’s down there and she’s in trouble.”
“Intruders!” Shouted the butterscotch drone, or at least she would have done if Ciara hadn’t dropped her with a perfectly placed right-cross.
Yseult dashed over to the window and glanced out for a split second before seemingly jumping across the room towards a second butterscotch clad drone who was trying to clear fallen debris off another of the workstations.
She grabbed the drone by the arm in an attempt to attract her attention. “You will show this Unit where the microphone for the intercom is located.” She instructed precisely, her spoken Russian not quite as good as her sister’s.
Lily swung the baton before jabbing it into a black-clad security drone’s stomach. The woman screamed as she folded onto the red-brown stone slabs that formed the floor of the large hall.
The melee had been going on for some minutes and Lily and her five guardians had been forced back against the wall by sheer weight of numbers. Although the drones from Hive Philae had attempted to shield Lilith Yew from any contact with the enemy as they tried to protect her, this tactic had fallen by the wayside due to the overwhelming numbers of the opposition.
Lily’s girls were holding their own—just! And a couple of them had even managed to arm themselves with riot batons, courtesy of the locals and Ruby in particular had proved particularly adept in wielding the so-called ‘defensive weapon’.
Suddenly Lily saw Aruni, her Indian drone, drop down on one knee: being forced there by a welter of blows. The Hive Mistress reacted, moving to the woman’s defence she began to jab at the assailants faces with the business end of her baton. The drones attacking Aruni began to give ground especially after one of their number took a taser discharge to the nose. The drone screamed and staggered backwards into several of her colleagues before collapsing. The sudden reduction in pressure allowed Lily’s girl to get back on her feet—just!
It was no good, as Lilith well knew: they were holding their own but were tiring while there always seemed to be replacements available to take the place of fallen enemy units.
Lady Yew recognised the figure in the shimmering green gown: it was Karpova!. The woman was hovering in the background from where she was gleefully observing the one sided battle but Lily had been too preoccupied to pay her much heed.
“Karpova!” Lilith hissed to herself as recognition dawned. The Mistress of Hive Tsiokolski had arrived in person to watch the proceedings unfurl. How very silly of her. Stupid in fact. Lily thought.
Then things began to unravel when Ruby cannoned into the wall and slid down it to form an untidy heap on the floor. This is it! Lily thought and braced herself for the worst.
Suddenly the Tannoy crackled into life. “All Security Units will report immediately to the waste reclamation facility. This order cannot be rescinded. I repeat...”
Gob-smacked, Lilith watched their assailants disengage before moving away towards the nearest down-staircase.
“No!” Shrieked Valentina Karpova. “I order you to come back here and finish them off!”
But it was no good, her own Security-units had quit the field in answer to the summons and were marching away in good order.
Lina Zuyeva’s party had been a mere twenty yards away when they heard the tannoy order the black-drones away. At first they couldn’t believe their ears, but then as the seemingly solid wall of troopers moved away Lina saw Karpova who was by now attempting to flee from Lily Yew and her bodyguard. However even under Mars’s lower gravity, running in what amounted to a full-length evening-gown was not easy. Escape became impossible when Lina realised that her nemesis was running straight towards her.
By now Eve and her group of infiltrators were back in the reception hall and were closing on Karpova from a different direction.
“Why?” She shouted as the three groups converged upon her. “Why me? What have I done?”
Lily didn’t answer as she was too busy trying to prevent Lina from shooting the woman dead with the assault rifle that she was waving around.
“No Lina!” She said quietly. “We still need her: she’s probably the only one who can transfer control of her hive.”
Zuyeva made another attempt to raise her gun but by now Eve and Yseult had come to Lily’s aid and disarmed the frantic woman.
“She’s evil and deserves to die!” Lina spat when she realised that it was all over.
“No doubt!” Lily said, her voice hard and uncompromising. “But I hereby sentence her to live!” At that she produced a small jar of oil which she proceeded to throw in the luckless Karpova’s face before escorting her up into what had previously been her office.
“Noooo!” Shrieked the woman but her struggles became weaker as the oil as the was absorbed by her skin and carried to her brain where it slowly suppressed her will.
As transfers of power go, Tsiokolski’s went much more smoothly than the one at Hive Philae five years ago. No slave emerged from the background to try to subvert proceedings as Rebecca had attempted those years before.
At Lilith Yew’s behest. The former Mistress of Hive Tsiokolski had eventually made a broadcast over the Facility’s tannoy and over the encrypted radio links to the subordinate settlements transferring power to the new Mistress.
The negotiation had been brief and one sided with Lily telling Lina Zuyeva that she was the new Mistress of Mars’s second Hive.
“What? No!” The Geologist had recoiled in horror. “I don’t know anything about running a hive! I hate the idea of the fucking things anyway!”
Lily had listened to her objections for several minutes before interrupting her. “Five years ago I was in exactly the same position: I hated Hives too and I particularly loathed the way that they robbed people in general and women in particular of their freedom and individuality.
“I had spent years fighting against the damage that Isis Pines, the former Mistress of Hive Philae, was doing. Somehow I had to stop her from infiltrating the other Facilities and Bases on this planet and put an end to her abducting and enslaving women. I also had to find a way to prevent the UN Mars Authority from wrecking our colonisation program. I accomplished both by ousting Pines and converting Hive Philae into a force for good.”
Zuyeva slumped visibly and gave Lily a pleading look. “But I’ve never run anything bigger than a research team!”
“Lila,” Mistress Yew leaned forward and placed a comradely arm around the woman’s shoulders, “the enslaved women within this facility are your friends. Who better than you to look after them? Don’t worry about the day-to-day running of the bases and settlements—the women will carry on doing that in exactly the same way as they did before! All you will have to do is provide direction and give them purpose. Oh, and reprogram those infernal captive bolts to slacken off on the control: the last thing that Mars needs is a pack of zombies!
“Five years ago,” Lily continued, “I ousted Pines mainly because she was a bad person. Today we have removed Karpova because she is evil. There are hundreds of women living in this hive—they need someone to take care of them. Most of them are your friends and neighbours, so who better than you?”
Suddenly, the room’s main lights came on, blazed for a moment and then settled back to normal brightness: the reactor had been repaired.
Almost as if she had received a sign, Lila Zuyeva looked up and gave Lily Yew a weak smile. “But I’m not a lesbian! I’ve heard that the Mistresses of these all-female hives are always lesbians.”
Lilith chuckled in a kindly sort of way. “I wasn’t when I took over at Philae.”
Zuyeva sighed and asked. “Are you now?” Which admittedly is the sort of question that one normally never asks a Head of State.
Lily gave her a knowing smile. “I am whatever my hive needs me to be! And I suspect that you will be too!”
There had been a pause and then Lina had given her a reluctant nod. “I’ll do it.” She said quietly
Lily’s relief was palpable as she hugged the Russian woman and kissed her on the cheek. “One proviso, however: no woman is to be enslaved against her will.”
Lina Zuyeva, Mistress of Hive Tsiokolski, pulled back and stared at Lilith: her face and expression resembling stone and with a voice like ice, she answered. “Tomorrow I will comply and we will both personally supervise the dismantling of those hellish machines in the Medical Bay. But today...” She gestured in Karpova’s direction... “She gets a bolt!”
Two days later, when she was sure that things were running smoothly at the new hive, Lilith Yew, once more the undisputed leader of the Planet Mars, had left and flown back to the Copernico Facility and thence to her own beloved Hive Philae. She was very tired but had successfully neutralised another major threat to the future of her planet. However one thing pleased her even more than that: her faithful slaves: Ruby, Aruni, Eve, the Ward sisters, Saira, Kate and all of the the others were safe. Her small party was battered but had fought to protect her from the onslaught, just as she always fought to protect them.
Lina would make a fine leader for Tsiokolski, and in fact had surprised Lily when she had requested that Yuri should move elsewhere. At first the former army paramedic had demanded to be allowed to remain at the Facility to ‘look after’ his wife and daughter but the new Mistress had displayed a hard streak that Lilith had not suspected was there. She had pointed out to Yuri that Work-Units 6g-27 and 4a-56 were no longer his wife and daughter and because of the personality overlay generated by the captive bolts and the other modifications produced by the nanites, they would never again be able to function independently of their Hive.
Yuri had recoiled at this and then lunged at Lina before being restrained by her escort of Security-Units. Then while his anger dissolved into tears she had reassured him that she herself would personally look after the women and always make sure that they were together. Tearfully, he had nodded and reluctantly agreed that it would be better if he moved out. Lily had offered to transport him to Copernico and he had thanked her—she would make sure that Alexander found him a job. After all, trained paramedics were always in short supply..
Yes, Lina Zuyeva definitely had a hard streak, Lily realised, although she did not realise just how hard that streak actually was. For unbeknown to Lady Yew, both droning machines had been used once more during the night before they were due to be scrapped. While Lilith Yew slept, Lina had instructed her newly acquired Security-Units to strap the other two members of her little resistance cell into the chairs and after the pair of machines had hummed for the very last time Katerina, the computer expert and Nicol, the exchange student had become Administration-Units 7f-26 and -27 respectively and as such were destined to wear butterscotch coloured hive uniforms for the rest of their very long lives.
Lina had hardened her heart and made the decision... The two women had taken part in one successful revolution: what was to prevent them from doing it again? Besides, there could never be a place for free women within the hive and as they had all been through so much together: the new Hive-Mistress could not bare to be parted from her two friends.
Lilith was happy to share the rejuvenation and enslavement technologies that she had acquired along with her hive, although if she had known just how ruthless the new mistress actually was then perhaps she would have been rather less enthusiastic about sharing this technology.
Yes, Lilith well knew that two threats had indeed been dealt with, for although The Master had been little more than a minor annoyance, Valentina Karpova had harboured dangerous ambitions which, after her interrogation, Lina had summed up as. “Today: Tsiokolski—Tomorrow: The planet!”
Lilith had shuddered when she had realised just what the Russian woman’s vision for the future of her planet entailed and wanted no part of a future in which robotized women marched in mindless lockstep across the orange-brown landscape. So far she had been forced to defeat three other Hive-Mistresses: Isis Pines who was just a bad woman; The Master who was selfish and regarded other people as toys for her amusement and finally, Valentina Karpova who had been a megalomaniac. In hindsight, Mars was better off without the different futures that each represented. Without them the planet would stand a real chance of prospering.
Now as the big plane banked and began its final approach to the landing strip at the Copernico Facility, Lilith Yew, Mistress of a whole planet, gazed out of the window and by chance saw that they were passing close to her very own Hive Philae. Memories of Rebecca, her beloved bed-slave, slipped unbidden into her mind. Lily smiled as she remembered the woman’s beautiful, symmetrical face with its loving smile; the swell of her small breasts; her smooth, golden skin; her long silky, chestnut hair; her enticing musky smell and the soft inviting curves of her wonderful feminine body.
Lily sighed contentedly. She would soon be home.