The lightsaber duel freed Athena’s mind though at the time she had no idea what a lightsaber was. She was in the main pleasure dome of Dathror the Hutt’s flag ship when the fight broke out. The Inquisitor Sarana was holding the chain that was attached to her collar while Athena danced. Sarana had been chatting with Dathror, detailing what she and Athena would do for him when the dancing was done when the prisoner was brought in. Athena didn’t really notice her or much of anything else. A buzzing sound in her ears blocked out everything but the music she was dancing too. It even blocked out her own thoughts. The buzzing sound kept Athena’s mind in a permanent state of semi-consciousness. She could move and respond to stimuli but no thoughts beyond the simplest were allowed. She danced wildly yet gracefully to music that beat a rhythm that matched her body’s movements. It was hot in the dome and sweat glistened on her mostly nude body. For covering Athena was wearing a loose white halter and sheer white pantaloons along with a white half mask over her face.
The music ended when one of the guards was thrown into the band and the buzzing in Athena’s ears ended when Sarana’s lightsaber cut across her throat and sliced through her collar. Reality broke through the haze that Athena hadn’t even realized had been smothering her thoughts. Even though she was used to handling strange situations Athena was stunned into immobility by the reality she now faced.
The dome was at least a hundred feet around and high and populated by creatures of every size and type and species that Athena had ever seen and more that she had never even imagined. There were variations on arboreal, insect, arachnid, all types of animals and some creatures that had parts of such size and shape that they seemed to have been constructed at random by a drunk god. Even as she became aware of all of that Athena realized that she was wearing next to nothing, her hair had grown long enough to reach down to her waist and it was interwoven with white pearls. She was barefoot and someone had tattooed a set of alien symbols onto the top of her right foot.
Out of the corner of her eye Athena saw a light coming toward her and rolled out of the way just as a bar of solid red light cut through the stage. Two women fought their way over her and onto the stage that she had been dancing on. The smaller of the two moved fast but the other woman –Athena was sure that they were both women even if they weren’t human- had a longer reach. Athena had seen enough sword duels to know that the outcome wasn’t certain.
A man wearing a suit of white armor leveled a riffle at the back of the smaller combatant and Athena’s instinct kicked in. She rolled across the floor and in a graceful move kicked him in the chest. Athena felt the impact on her bare foot but it knocked him back and his gun went off. A pulse of blue/white energy shot into the ceiling and the lights suddenly dimmed as sparks erupted from the light fixture that he had shot. His second shot hit the roof of the dome and a whirlwind erupted.
Athena was still trying to make sense of everything when something hit her on the back of the head and sent her into darkness.
The outraged voice penetrated through the haze of pain and Athena opened her eyes and looked into the gigantic eyes of a slug. A gigantic slug. Somehow she could understand it even though it wasn’t speaking English.
“Minor great one,” a mechanical voice said.
Athena looked around and became aware of her surroundings. She was in a laboratory of some sort, but it was far different from any she had ever known. It was gigantic and filled with robots and flying creatures that looked like insects crossbred with snakes. She was on a table still in her dancing costume. Straps held her down and a robot with a vaguely human face and hundreds of arms was running something over her head. Athena guessed it was some sort of medical instrument and it beeped as it moved over her forehead.
“The lightsaber disrupted the mental anesthesia unit and the slave is fully awake, but that can be fixed once the Persuader arrives and we can reset her mind.”
The mechanical voice was calm and matter of fact as it came from the head of the robot but it chilled Athena.
“Where am I?” Athena pulled at her straps in frustration.
“You are aboard the ship belonging to Darathror the Hutt, Grand Master of the Mitonia system,” the robot replied. “Do not fear, you have not been damaged.”
“Good,” the slug spoke and Athena’s memories started working again. Disgust and revulsion surged through her as Athena remembered the times she had pleasured him. They had done things together that defied every law of nature that she could think of and Athena surged at her bonds with every bit of strength she had. She could feel them start to break.
“Over excitement,” the medical robot remarked. One of his arms snapped down and a second after the needle sank into her arm Athena blacked out.
This time when she felt herself waking up Athena didn’t move. Instead she backtracked in her mind, trying to figure out how she had gotten wherever she was. The details were fuzzy. There had been an alien invasion, but not from another planet. These aliens were from another dimension and they opened up multiple portals all around the world. Athena had found one portal and been captured. She’d escaped just as they were taking her through the portal and one of her bombs had hit the control unit. She remembered being knocked out and then…
A mist seemed to descend on her mind but Athena fought through it. She’d been taken to a laboratory. Stripped, examined, and questioned under some sort of machine that compelled her to tell the truth. Then more experiments and… What?
Training. Into her mind was downloaded…
No, that wasn’t the right word. She’d been imprinted with the languages and customs of hundreds of alien cultures. Her mind submerged by a hypnotic haze that was designed to keep her docile. With no world to conquer the invaders had to recoup their cost somehow and Athena and… And others? Other heroines? She was sure of it somehow. Other heroines along with Athena were much desired as slaves.
Her memory was scattered but Athena remembered being sold. Sold repeatedly to different men, women… sold to different things. Revulsion filled her and part of her mind went blank out of self-preservation as Athena remembered having sex with creatures that not only weren’t human but were horrific enough to drive her insane. The last creature had been Darathro. He’d bought her and she’d served him. His gigantic tongue had found her sensitive spots, his slug body had…
Athena willed the memory away and opened her eyes. She was in a cell with her wrists short chained to the floor so that she couldn’t stand. In the cell next to her was the smaller woman who had been fighting in the pleasure dome. Athena couldn’t help but stare at her. Outwardly she was humanoid and her skin was an amber hue. But there was no hair on her head. A crown sat on top of her head and tubes from it framed her face and ran down a little past her neck. The crown was gray on white striped with green triangles rising from it’s base. Her skin had white markings where here eyebrows should have been and white designs on either cheek. Her facial features were human-like, but her lips were wider than a humans and her nose flatter. The entire effect was exotically beautiful. She was slight and slim and Athena could only guess how fast she was. The woman was wearing a deep red leather tunic-skirt that hung down to her knees and boots of the same color. Her eyes were closed and her cage was filled with an eerie red glow.
Athena looked around the room. It was clean. Sterile really and she could smell the antiseptic in the air. There were ten other cells, but they were empty. The room walls were gray with a white ceiling and a black floor.
A door at the far end of the room opened and Darathror slithered in followed by Sarana. Sarana was tall, far too tall to be human. She stood at least twelve feet tall and her ebony skin reflected the light. She was wearing a silver tunic that barely covered her large chest and silver leggings and red boots. The woman wasn’t attractive but she wasn’t ugly either. Her nose was too small for her face, her mouth too wide and her eyes set close together. Her long red hair was flat and lifeless. There was handsomeness to her. Athena felt as if she were looking at a statue from another time, a time when distortions of face and form were considered beautiful.
But it was the creature who followed them that made the bile rise in Athena’s throat. He… She? It! Was a four foot tall creature that walked on three tentacles and it’s face sitting on top of a blob of slimy gelatin was a distorted human one, with three eyes, two mouths and no nose. Shorter tentacles flowed around it like a skirt and it’s skin was green/gray and mottled.
“You are fortunate I was on board,” The creature said as they walked over to Athena’s cell. The voice was like a badly tuned trombone.
“What are you?” Athena demanded.
“It talks?” Sarana said. “I thought their speech centers were disabled.”
“On the later ones,” Darathror said. “This is one of the first.”
“The first,” The creature said. “Unless those markings on her lower appendage are fake.”
“The first?” Sarana said. “Will that be a problem for you?”
“No,” The Creature said. “Re-setting her mental programing will take more time than I expected.” It paused and then added. “It will cost more.”
It moved toward her and Athena backed up as first fear and then rage filled her mind.
“Stay back.” Athena said but the creature ignored her.
“Are there any changes you want made in her?” The creature asked.
“Make her a better dancer,” Darathror laughed.
The creature had come close enough. Athena’s leg shot out and hit it square, sending it back into Sarana. They fell back in a tangle and she got to her knees and pulled. For a second Athena thought that the chains might be too strong. But then she felt them give and with a snap her arms broke free.
“Gua…” Darathror started to shout only to stop as Athena’s foot hit between his eyes.
“Shut up!” Athena shouted. She wanted to stomp him flat but suddenly felt herself being picked up and thrown into the bars. A force held her there and Athena guessed at Sarana’s telekinetic ability by the stance of the woman.
“Lively one,” Sarana said and her smiled chilled Athena. “I like them lively. Perhaps I’ll buy her off of you.”
“She’s mine,” Darathror said.
“And if the Empire decides to revoke your operating charter?”
He shouted something un-intelligible and slammed his tail against the floor. That broke Sarana’s concentration and Athena felt herself freed. She flew across the room as hard as she could and barreled into the woman’s stomach. The impact took them both against the other woman’s cell and the red glow stopped. Athena saw the woman’s eyes open, saw her hand raised and a metal rod flew across the room. Once it was in her hands the woman pressed a button and a short beam of blue light erupted from it. She used it to cut through the bars of her cell and her upraised hand threw the squid creature into Darathror.
“Jedi!” Sarana swore and with a wave of her hand threw Athena aside. Her own laser sword ignited and the two swords met.
Athena still wasn’t completely sure what was going on but she knew enough to know which side she needed to be on. Grabbing one of the bars from the woman’s cell she brought it down on the back of Sarana’s head. Sarana went down.
“Thank you,” The woman said. “My name is Ashoka and we need to go.”
“Go where?” Athena asked. “I don’t even know where we are!”
“If you come with me I can tell you what I know,” Ashoka said. “But if we do not get off of this ship soon we never will.”
“Ok, I’m with you,” Athena said deciding to trust her instincts.
As they ran through the ship Athena tried to take it all in. The deck under her barefeet was warm, the air she moved through had a vague antiseptic smell. The ship was warm but not humid and the lights were soft enough to mute the shadows. The color scheme was grey to black and well polished. She had only fuzzy memories of walking through the corridors before when they’d led her to the main room.
Ashoka took a sharp left and ignited her sword again as streams of red/white light shot toward them. Athena looked past her and saw ten men in white armor shooting at them.
Athena flew over Ashoka and barreled into the men. Anger surged through her and she gave it free reign as the primitive but satisfying action of hitting something fueled her satisfaction. It only took a minute for all of the men to be laying at her feet.
“Come on,” Ashoka said running past her.
Athena followed and they went through a doorway into a vast hangar. Athena couldn’t help but stop and gape as she beheld at least a hundred space craft and beyond them a large doorway open to space.
Ashoka’s shout broke her amazed spell and Athena followed her to a ship that was shaped like an arrowhead. They ran up the ramp and she followed Ashoka into the front of the ship. The woman sat down and began flipping levers and pushing buttons. Lights came on and the ship hummed with power.
“Do you know how to fly or shoot?” Ashoka asked.
“No,” Athena said.
“Then sit down and strap in,” Ashoka said.
Athena took the seat next to her as the ship started to move.
“This might be rough,” Ashoka said as they moved toward space.
“… be rough.”
The hologram shifted to an outside view of the space station as Ashoka and Athena’s ship blasted away from it. Seated around the table were three people, two men and one woman. The woman would have stood out in any crowd. She was short and ugly. There really was no other way to describe her. Her head was too large for her body and her dull blue hair was worn past her neck. Her face was distorted with a large, wide mouth and a tiny nose along with one eyebrow that went across both deep-set eyes. They eyes themselves were the only bright spot on the face. They were piercing blue and seemed to shine with a dangerous energy. She wore a frilly blue doll dress that made her seem almost child-like. But when she put the cigarette up to her mouth her left hand was revealed to be a set of metallic claws.
The two men by comparison were almost non-entities. They wore simple brown business suits, had plain round faces and were in almost every way non-descript.
“Well gentlemen?” she asked. “The criteria you laid out have all been met. White Owl is effectively nullified for as long as you want her to be. But she is also alive and her skills will not atrophy.”
“Is she nullified?” One of the men said.
“I’m Mr. Blue,” He corrected her.
“Must we maintain that fiction?” She asked with a look of annoyance.
“We don’t mind calling you Mistress Reality,” Mr. Brown said.
She stood up and pressed a button. One wall of the room opened up revealing a large lab filled with computers and round human-sized tanks. White Owl was in one of the tanks, floating nude in a greenish liquid with wires running in and out of her body. Beside her was another tank where an older woman floated and beside the older woman was a tank where a young girl floated.
“Gentlemen what you are looking at is the most sophisticated virtual reality system every constructed.”
“She’s been trapped in VR before,” Mr. Brown said.
“Yes, by my brother the Reality Master,” Mistress Reality said. “Who stupidly entered the simulation with her in order to fulfill his twisted sexual desires. He deserved his defeat. This is a far different system.”
“How so?” Mr. Blue asked.
“This,” Mistress Reality said pointing to the older woman, “is Margaret Gruntzelmeyer, the worlds greatest Star Wars fan. She’s written over a thousand fanfics and created numerous fan films. There is nothing she doesn’t know about Star Wars. This virtual reality is mostly her creation.”
“Why would she do that?”
“For her,” Mistress Reality pointed to the tube that held the younger woman. “A year ago Margaret, her husband Tom and their two children Luke and Ashoka were in the way when my brother tried to escape from prison in a stolen SUV. Tom and Luke were killed instantly, Margaret and Ashoka were both made quadriplegics.”
“I remember that,” Mr. Brown said. “Your brother was killed.”
“Yes, the only good piece of news to come out of that day. I felt guilty and offered Margaret the chance for her and her daughter to live active, useful lives. I convinced her that I was a representative of Disney experimenting with a new entertainment system. Her mind would maintain the virtual universe and her daughter would live in it. A little hypnosis and I set the machine in motion. It’s been working perfectly for over a year and a half. Margaret believes that she is writing for Star Wars and Ashoka believes that she is… Well Ashoka.”
“It’s impressive,” Mr. Brown said. “But why is this vr system going to hold White Owl when no vr system built has been able to hold anyone for very long.”
“Because this is real.”
“No it isn’t.” Mr. Brown said.
“No it isn’t,” Mistress Reality agreed with a twisted smile. “Think of it this way gentlemen, when you read a book are the character real? No, but you fool yourself into thinking that they are for the sake of the story. Now Ashoka deep down knows that she really isn’t a jedi and it’s all an illusion, so does her mother. But they are happier with the illusion than reality. That happiness lends this system an authenticity that no computer reality can. For lack of a better term there is a soul to my virtual reality. If all White Owl met were computer simulated people she’d sense something was wrong. The best computer still can’t completely simulate a real person. Since White Owl is dealing with real people the reality she finds herself in, is a real one. The cover story gives her a plausible reason to believe it.”
“There are only two people aside from White Owl.” Mr. Brown said.
Mistress reality pushed a button and a monitor on the far wall came to life. It showed twenty more tanks with people floating in them.
“Behold the fan base,” Mistress Reality said. “For two years I combed the online community and found the greatest fans with the deepest desires to live in a Star Wars universe. Kidnapping and hypnotizing them was more simple than I thought it would be. Though Margaret is the guiding force” she smiled and it wasn’t a pleasant smile “They all play a part in building the universe. I’m adding more constantly. This allows me to mix the computer simulated person with the real person. The result is enough reality mixed in with the fiction to fool anyone.”
They looked skeptical and she went on.
“Another reason she’ll believe it is that she has a purpose in this reality. White Owl has based her life on being one of the good guys.”
Mistress Reality paused but the expression on her face could have been contempt or admiration.
“In this reality she has a cause, people to help. She won’t look for a way out because the premise is so believable to her. How could she abandon a universe in peril? All those worlds, all those people to save and now a new friend that needs her help. And in the future possibly other heroines.”
“White Owl must have seen the movies,” Mr. Brown said.
“Yes and that is why Ashoka will tell her that she’s been enslaved for decades now, this will account for why the Star Wars universe looks so familiar to her. Her aging of course was restricted by her processing to be a slave girl.”
They still looked uncertain and she returned to the table and pressed a button. The hologram came to life showing the space ship being pursued by TIE fighters.
“This is all happening in real time gentlemen, so they’ll be no tell-tale gaps in her perception of how time is working. If you can find a flaw in my system, please tell me what it is.”
Both men looked at each other and then Mr. Blue spoke.
“And your system can hold more than one heroine?”
“It can hold as many as the Consortium needs it to hold,” Mistress Reality said. “Just capture them and bring them to me. White Owl’s back story will work for them as well.”
The two men looked at each other and then nodded. Mr. Brown took a plastic card out of his pocket and handed it to Mistress Reality.
“You’re account is now active,” he said. “Payment and credit for future payments.”
“We’ll be in touch as we identify new targets,” Mr. Blue said.
Mistress Reality took the card with a smile and glanced at the hologram. White Owl and Ashoka were in hyperspace and Ashoka was filling her in on more of the back story. The look of grim resolve on White Owl’s face was very satisfying to the villainess.
Fight evil if you must you foolish girl, Mistress Reality thought to herself, just don’t fight it in the real world.
…To be continued.