Yew and Me
It was about 3,500 miles from the Martian Oblast to the old Saudi Arabian Facility that squatted in the middle of the crater-pocked expanse of Meridiani Planum—The Meridian Plane. The Saudis had tried to make a grandiose statement when they conceived and built their massive base, and what a statement it was! The centre of their ‘Eden Dome’ was positioned exactly over the point were the zero degree meridian, or line of longitude, crossed Mars’s equator. In other words the point from which all longitude and latitude measurements were made. By this it was intended that The King Faisal Facility and by implication, Saudi Arabia would be located at the very centre of Mars and all things Martian.
Unfortunately, like most grandiose ideas, this one had not stood the test of time. Indeed the base had scarcely been established for eight years before a meteorite had punched its way in and consigned their dreams to oblivion. Saudi Arabia was long-gone from Mars and, except for a couple of visits by scavengers looking for spare parts and useful equipment, their base had remained deserted ever since... Until today, that is. For today the the value of an intact but empty base had been recognised by someone. Unfortunately, countries are not the only entities who suffer from delusions of grandeur.
Looking like a giant black spider with a cylindrical body, the shuttle touched down upon the long-disused landing area located to one side of the dome. Soon six tall, black-clad figures emerged and walked the quarter mile to the reception block that was embedded into the side of the giant dome. One of them examined the airlock mechanism and noted that the tell-tale lights were still lit indicating that the base was still under-power despite being disused for almost twelve years. The photovoltaic panels that supplied the electricity were clearly still in place, dust-free and functioning.
The lights blinked and the massive door swung inwards allowing the figures to enter and begin their exploration of the disused base.
The entrance block followed the usual pattern for Martian settlements in that there were several airlocks leading to a large entrance hall. This hall had numerous uses such as a space for people to be processed on entering or exiting the base. It could also serve as a warehouse for goods to be piled during shipment in or out of the facility. Finally it could serve as a refuge during an emergency. These entrance blocks were always been built as robustly as time and finances permitted to maximise the survivability of those inside, this one probably being the largest and best on the planet had been built by people to whom finance was no object.
On the panel, little coloured lights flickered on and off heralding the first activation in over five years. The place had been left under power and so it would remain until eventually, at some time in the distant future, the last of its rooftop solar panels failed. Even then the solid-state electronics, which were all pulse-hardened, would sleep until electricity was fed into them once again. Twelve short years were nothing to infrastructure that had been designed to function for millennia.
Inside, similar lights flickered as one of the internal airlock doors slid open disgorging the six black-clad figures with their tight exosuits and anonymising helmets. With an almost programmed efficiency five of them fanned out and headed for pre-determined target locations where they would check or inspect the vital components of the Facility’s infrastructure. The sixth, who wore a long black cape over its exosuit, moved into the centre of the hall and extracted a monitoring device from one of the pouches hanging from its black webbing belt. It held the device in one gloved hand and observed the display as it entered commands with the other. Data scrolled up the machine’s screen and, although this was not wholly to the figure’s liking, its posture never changed.
Things are in a better state than Master was led to believe, it thought, pity that the air is not breathable.
It replaced the device just as the room lights flashed on, momentarily dazzling the figure despite its tinted helmet. Tall and slim, the figure never-the-less looked somewhat masculine with its fairly broad shoulders, narrow waist and hips and flattish chest. It looked around at the opulence and splendour that the lighting revealed.
The figure gave a thin-lipped smile. Master will be very pleased!
The hall, unlike other entrance halls on the planet, was opulent and had clearly been designed to impress. Why else would it be lined from floor to ceiling with what looked like marble? It couldn’t be marble, however, for there was none of that rock on the planet. It was probably resin, or some kind of plaster but it succeeded in looking like the finest grade of Italian marble. The ceiling, so high above, was vaulted and decorated with gold blocking while the floor consisted of intricate geometric patterns done in a mosaic of tiny coloured tiles.
Impressive as the basic finish and décor was, the ornate wall directly opposite the entrance even made an impression even upon today’s visitor as ‘he’ came face to face with it. The whole wall was a plain white ‘marble’ sheet over a hundred feet wide and sixty high: its whiteness broken not only by the half dozen or so varnished wood doors of varying sizes spaced along its length but also by the massive gold relief embossed upon its face.
The relief consisted of an huge gold curlicue some twenty-five feet in diameter in the form of a traditional greeting in Arabic. Beneath it were two rows of letters each about four feet high proclaiming the same message in English. The simple, yet powerful message dominated the hall just as its creators had intended all of those years ago. Then, almost as if he was praying, the newcomer read the greeting out loud, voice quavering slightly beneath the impact of its majesty:
Welcome in the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Slowly he, for there was much that was mannish about his posture and bearing, shook his head for the irony of the massive bas-relief was not lost upon him. It was a greeting in the name of the very God who hadn’t deflected a single tiny rock and so had failed protect the one small part of the planet dedicated to his name. The rock, when it had struck almost seventeen years earlier had lanced through the dome and slammed into one of the buildings that were located there. The meteor strike and the partial collapse of the building had sadly killed a number of the people who had been working there and destroyed the colonisation dreams of a small but very proud Kingdom.
Without further thought, the figure moved away to begin his own inspection of the place prior to claiming it in his Master’s name.
Meanwhile, outside on the landing field, more black-clad figures were unloading equipment and stores onto an abandoned Saudi truck which they used to ferry the stuff over to the base. While they did this the massive dome, that towered more than a hundred feet above the landscape and formed the centre-piece of the base, began to awaken from its long years of slumber.
Despite having an over-flowing daily schedule, Lily always tried to find time to stroll through her garden. As she walked slowly through the magnificently landscaped area she tried to get her thoughts and doubts into a semblance of order. The garden, which had once been the personal retreat of the infamous slaver Isis Pines, was the ideal place to relax and mull over problems. Lily certainly had plenty of those.
Strange as it might seem, Lily was actually grateful to Pines, the mistress who had founded Hive Philae when she had emigrated from Earth twenty years earlier. Although a thorn in the side of Lily’s efforts to colonise Mars because of her covert efforts to seize control of the whole planet by kidnapping and enslaving unsuspecting women, Pines had never-the-less made it possible for Lily to massively advance her goal of turning a dead planet into a vibrant second home for mankind.
As she stooped to examine a patch of beautiful daffodils that added a welcome splash of yellow-gold to an otherwise plane grassy bank, Lily began to review the sequence of events that had brought her here those five years ago. The hives themselves, it should be noted, were a phenomenon that had emerged in many places on Earth during the late 2020’s before spreading like a blight across the face of the planet.
Although hives and the culture of slavery that they represented were totally alien to her philosophy, Lily had been smart enough to seize an already formed tool and use it for a purpose for which it had not been intended. When she had ousted Isis Pines, Lily had done so with two goals firmly in mind. Firstly she wanted to eradicate a problem that was threatening to derail the whole colonisation project and to stem the steady haemorrhage of women from the various bases and settlements. Secondly, she had wanted to do good! Mars was being strangled by the very organisation that was supposed to foster its development—the Earth-based multinational UN Martian Authority. Her seizure of Hive Philae had given her the means to break away.
Although the very idea of slavery is evil, Lily had realised that the slaves and the very hives in which they lived were not. Isis Pines had been a bad woman but without her malign influence, the hive was nothing more than a collection of innocent women who lacked a purpose. The slaves themselves were too deeply conditioned and mid-fucked for them ever to return to society as free women, they needed a hive simply because it was the only framework in which they could thrive. Because of this, Hive Philae had been transformed into a force for good and no people on Mars worked harder to terraform the planet and to prepare it for full human settlement than its enslaved inhabitants. Slaves always worshipped their Mistress (or Master) and lived only to carry out their whims and wishes. In effect the Hive itself was nothing more than a mirror that reflected whatever was in the heart of its Mistress—if the heart is pure then so is the Hive.
Lily smiled to herself and then sank down onto the grassy bank enjoying the beauty of the and shrubs and flowers that surrounded her. Tiny birds sang as they flitted from tree to tree and all around her loyal and loving, green or blue-clad slaves worshipped her while carrying out their allotted task of maintaining the garden. She did not crave their worship, but accepted it none-the-less.
The Hive was no longer as Pines had left it even though Lily had made few real changes. What she had done was redefine the very philosophy that drove it forward. Pines had forcibly abducted women and enslaved them: a practice that Lily had put a stop too. Oh, the Hive still recruited new slaves but now only accepted volunteers. When she had first broken away from Authority-control there had been a flood: Eve and Solana amongst many others from her own Copernico Facility. All were women that wanted to remain close to and support the person who had fought their battles and given them purpose for many years. Women arrived from the other bases and settlements too, women of all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds and finally, when word got around many even came from Earth, paying for their own one way ticket to slavery just so that they could submit and share Mistress Lilith Yew’s magnificent vision.
The flow had become a trickle over the five years since the takeover, but even now hardly a week went by without at least one woman presenting herself at the doors of Hive Philae and requesting sanctuary from pressure or stress or unhappiness or unbearable responsibilities. The hive welcomed them all providing that they were volunteers and no woman had been coerced into slavery at anytime since Lilith Yew had taken charge. The final one had been Isis Pines herself who now resided and worked happily somewhere inside the hive that she had founded and once controlled. Isis Pines was now dressed in a uniform identical to Lily’s other slaves and wore the same black collar bearing the same tyet symbol that had once been her emblem. Lily hadn’t yet got around to designing one of her own so the women all continued to wear the Ancient Egyptian symbol of the Goddess Isis. The Egyptian Goddess had long since fallen as indeed had her namesake on the red planet and the only thing now left of either of them being their shared symbol.
Suddenly Mistress Yew’s contemplative mood was shattered by none other than solana who had once been one of her senior administrators at Copernico. solana, who was still small, blonde and intense had requested slavery because she could not bare to be parted from Lily who she had secretly loved for years. “Mistress! Mistress!” She called desperately, “Please come quickly. There have been developments that need your guidance.”
Within minutes Mistress Yew had taken her thrown-like seat of genuine imported Italian marble that dominated the centre of the Administration dome. The dome itself sitting atop the buried underground hive. The garden and the dome together filled the small crater that Pines had personally selected to house her hive. Windows pierced the walls all around the ‘D’ shaped room; the ones cut into the curved wall looking out onto the vastness of the Elysium Plane while those of the straight side overlooked the verdant garden. Overhead the transparent dome itself allowed yellow sunlight to flood in and warm the air.
She had no sooner settled into her seat when rebecca one of her most trusted assistants swung a view screen out in front of her. There was a man’s face on the screen, she recognised it as belonging to Mike Price who administered the Hawking Facility. He looked perplexed.
“Good Morning, Mike. Is there a problem?” She asked, adopting a business-like manner.
“Hi, Lily: you could say that!” He looked bemused rather than agitated. “I’ve just had two aircraft land at my base and they’re both crammed full of Russian families and single men: they say that they are refugees.”
Lily sat up in surprise. “Do you know what’s caused the exodus?”
The Canadian spoke only one word, but he spoke it with a great deal of feeling. “Karpova!”
The corridor down which the Ward sisters strode was rough-hewn and unlined giving it an unfinished look when compared to Philae or even Copernico. The Russians tended to be a little more austere than most others and were quite happy to put their main efforts into constructing something new rather than beautifying work they already regarded as finished.
The base was bigger than they had supposed and by the low-level rumbling that permeated everything it was clear that someone was tunnelling to make it even bigger. As far as the girls knew mining had long since ceased at this site and was now confined to the half dozen or so of its satellite stations. Earth was hungry for resources including the rare earth metals being mined on Mars. The home world’s need for them had made it economic to haul the metals across millions of miles of space. The whole of the electronics industry relied upon them as well as many others such as germanium which was still plentiful here. By now Earth’s own deposits were all but exhausted hence the need to mine them and ship them back.
Svetlana had long ceased to struggle and shout and now seemed resigned to her fate as she hung listlessly between them dragging her feet and staring numbly at the brown dusty floor. Out in front, bouncing along in the low gravity, Work-unit 4a-56 led and the sisters followed which allowed them to move with purpose. The real secret of moving through a strange hive was to look as if you knew what you were doing. If you didn’t then you were soon exposed as a phoney as the girls had found out during their last hours of uncontrolled existence when they had been members of the party that had infiltrated Hive Philae. Not knowing the rules, they had soon been caught and enslaved, their free will being eradicated shortly afterwards when they were irreversibly conditioned.
The tunnel suddenly ended at a ‘tee’ junction where Unit 4a-56 swung unhesitatingly to the left and led them towards a bank of three elevators. The right-hand leg of the ‘tee’ had displayed a twee little sign board, complete with pointing hand, that informed anyone who was interested that it led to Family Accommodation Zone Number Four.
Once they arrived at the row of elevators both work units and unmodified people rapidly stepped out of the way of the two Security-units and their prisoner so that 4a-56 was able to usher them into an empty car.
There were ten levels, according to the bank of buttons on the control panel, each of which had a label displaying a selection of Cyrillic words neatly printed upon a rather worn label. The list for their current floor predictably included the word for Hydroponics. Two floors below them was the ever-popular Sewage Processing Area amongst several others all specialising in the very necessary field of recycling. While right at the top sat Administration whose lettering was larger than all of the rest to inform everyone of just how important the Administrators thought themselves to be.
4a-56, however, pressed the second button down whose list included “Medical Centre” and guessed that this was their actual destination and the place where the woman now known as Svetlana would cease to exist.
Meanwhile, over at what had been the King Faisal Facility, things were beginning to unfold. Although what those ‘things’ were would not have been obvious to a casual observer. The black caped figure walked around with short, mincing steps as he checked up on things while issuing orders to the others who had formed themselves into a number work details. Except for the cape, his garb was identical to the others although it was clear that he was in charge.
“Remember,” he said in his high-pitched voice, “if this place is not habitable within seventy-two hours, Master will be most displeased.”
High-pitched or not, his words were enough to cause the group of twelve, who were gathered amongst the overgrown plants and shrubs inside the vast dome, to tremble and shuffle uneasily. For they well knew that their Master could be truly terrible when displeased.
One of the others raised a hand for attention. “It will be difficult to get the air breathable in that time. There’s a lot of Carbon Dioxide to scrub out.” The voice, like the figure was androgynous.
The tall man glared, although this was not obvious due to the tinted helmet, but glare he did. “I advise you to try and for your own sake I hope you succeed for Master’s wrath can be terrible in the face of disappointment.” But then you might be give to me...
The tall man’s cape swished as he spun around. At least the dome itself was intact and sealed, it had been designed to be self-sealing in any case but the Saudi’s had completed full repairs just prior to abandoning the place.
Because his face was hidden behind the tinted plastic visor he permitted himself the luxury of a thin-lipped smile. The place had been in a better state than Master had feared and that was certainly something to bring a smile. He had checked the buildings that were clustered together towards the centre and had been please at what he had found. There was accommodation for about twenty families plus single rooms for about thirty others showing that the Saudis had been thinking big when they had built the place. This would be easy to re-purpose to house Master’s property. There was also a small mosque with its large gold dome and this was a truly magnificent structure that had been built in the style of the thousands of similar places of worship on Earth and like all others of its kind, was intended to be the centre of its community and included such things as meeting rooms, a refectory and a school. Master would no doubt appropriate this and have it converted into a palatial residence. The man had let his thoughts trail away at this point as he dared not judge his personal God.
Finally there was the utility block housing well-equipped laboratories and workshops which would be converted into a manufacturing centre. Other small structures were dotted around, most related to maintaining what had been the vast growing area that filled the space within the dome. Ironically the plants were either rampant or dead but he doubted that Master would allow this current state of affairs to persist as plants were needed to produce oxygen as well as food.
Finally he had inspected the Reception Block with its many rooms accessed from the great hall. Here he found power generation, computing, environmental maintenance, the administration wing, the governor’s residence and finally the medical suite. His eyes had lit up when he had entered the latter. Oh, the hours of endless pleasure he would derive from working on Masters property as it was brought in for conditioning or modification. He was a surgeon after all or had been until Master had graciously elevated him above the straight-jacket imposed by pointless medical ethics.
Then, without a word, he turned on his heel, exited the dome and returned to the shuttle. It would lift shortly to make the predetermined hop to the next place that Master required him to visit. As he minced away he permitted himself another smile. If I complete this assignment to Master’s satisfaction, I might be rewarded by being chosen...
The sigh that followed was almost orgiastic in its intensity and if he had still been able he would surely have experienced an erection.