Scents of Danger
It was their attempt to strangle each other that had saved Athena and Tania. They had rolled across the loading dock floor tearing and hitting at each other in a mindless rage. That rage had prevented any real strategic thought. Tania did not transform into Ultra Woman so she did not have her full powers. They both forgot the advanced fighting moves each had spent a life time learning. The only thing that either of them cared about was killing the other. Both of them sought to strangle the other and both kept breaking the hold. In the end they smashed through a packing crate and amidst the splinters each got a death hold on the other’s throat. The result was that they both choked each other into unconsciousness.
Now lying in her hospital bed Athena watched the sun set and told herself again that almost killing her friend wasn’t her fault. But she wondered; had she always been jealous of Tania? Did she just follow orders or did the drug free some dark part of her? The idea that a part of her felt that way -however small that part was- chilled and sickened her. She had been hypnotized and drugged before, she’d had her mind taken over three different ways but each time she’d had a little corner of herself that was free. This time hadn’t been like those times. This time it had been a primal, terrible force tearing it’s way through her. A savagery that she’d never felt before and never wanted to feel again.
“Athena?” Tania asked from the doorway to her room.
“Come on in,” Athena said.
Tania walked in and stood by the bed. She was wearing a casual pair of blue slacks, a white blouse and a blue sweater. She’d healed days before once she’d been able to transform into Ultra Woman. Also Tania had been lucky to land in the crate after Athena had smashed into it. A jagged wood splinter the size of a tire iron had stabbed through Athena’s gut and another through her leg. That had added a few days to Athena’s healing and brooding time.
“It wasn’t our fault,” Tania said as if reading her mind.
“I hated you,” Athena said.
“I hated you too,” Tania said. “That drug stripped away our humanity and reduced us to animals. I was aware but the fury I felt was beyond control.”
Athena nodded, relieved that the other woman didn’t blame her. It would have been silly if she had but Athena hadn’t been able to push the feelings aside.
“They’re releasing you tomorrow,” Tania said. “The hunt begins then.”
“Damn right,” Athena said.
“Forgive me but I don’t think amateur detective work is going to help right now,” A new voice said from the doorway.
Athena looked over and saw a tall woman standing in the doorway. With an effort she suppressed her anger. Shawna Debbane was an Interpol agent working the case and she had the care and compassion of a rock. Though attractive she dressed down, wearing a plain grey skirt and blouse with a black coat and a black purse. The woman had a severe face (which Athena had come to think of as owlish) that was highlighted by her thick eyebrows and her hair was drawn back into a strict ponytail. Her olive complexion completed what could have been an exotic beauty if her attitude didn’t come across as condescending.
“Those people came into my museum, stripped me, molested me and forced Tania and I to fight to the death,” Athena said. “No way in the world that’s let go.”
“I can understand your feelings,” Shawna said in a tone that said she didn’t. “But The Cannon is no one to fool with. It won’t do anyone any good if you and Ms. Mezona end up as prisoners or are sold to one of his many white slavery contacts.”
“It’s Mezona,” Tania corrected her “and we would have help. Ultra Woman and White Owl have offered aid.”
“I’d like to avoid involving any of the local freaks,” Shawna said. “I have enough trouble with them at home.”
“I’m not saying they don’t have their uses Ms. Nichols, but we’re not dealing with supervillains. The Cannon just likes to wear a mask to keep his true identity hidden and we’ve already identified Ms. Skunk.”
“Who is she?” Athena asked deciding not to press the ‘freaks’ comment. It wasn’t like Shawna was the only law enforcement officer who had that sort of attitude.
Shawna walked over to the bed and handed Athena a picture. It was a blow up of a driver’s license photo and showed a serious faced black woman with short-cropped hair.
“Who is she?”
“Lamora T’Kaya,” Shawna said. “You don’t recognize her?”
“She went to school with you, in fact she’s been in all of your schools since you were in elementary school. A year behind you, but according to records always there.”
Athena cast her mind back but the woman in the photo didn’t trigger any memories.
“I really don’t remember her.”
“Do you know her brother Lamont?” Shawna handed her another photo. This was a young black man with a shaved head and a more earnest expression than his sister.”
“I think he was on a few digs with me,” Athena said. “Back in college. Always seemed a bit off, he never said more than five words to me. I think he vanished on one of the digs, the professor said he quit and we never heard from him again.”
“So you weren’t involved with him romantically?”
“He seemed to think differently,” Shawna said. “And so did his sister. There was an entire wall of her house covered in photos of you and she had a dart board with your picture on it.” In his room was a set of letters detailing your romance.”
“Our romance? I barely talked to him.”
“Are you sure? His letters are very explicit, right down to the type of sex you prefer.”
“I don’t care what they say, I never spoke more than ten words to him and I certainly didn’t sleep with him.”
“Do you have a crescent shaped scar on you’re lower back?”
“It’s above the swimsuit line,” Athena said. “I never slept with him, never talked to him more than casually!”
Tania put her hand on her shoulder and Athena forced herself to calm down.
“Is she in custody?” Tania asked.
“No, she bolted a few minutes before the FBI got to her house,” Shawna said.
“What about the pictures on her phone?” Athena asked.
“They haven’t surfaced yet.”
And they won’t if T-Gal has anything to say about it, Athena thought. One of the first things she’d done when regaining consciousness was to put a call into the tech-based heroine. If any of those pictures surfaced on the net they wouldn’t stay there for more than a split second and T-Gal would do her best to track their source. So far none of them had.
“What about the Cannon?” Tania asked.
“He seems to have been on some sort of shopping spree,” Shawna said. “I’ve heard that he’s had contact with an arms dealer, set up a new distribution for cocaine coming out of his farms in South America and there have been some art thefts from private collectors. He’s been very busy.”
Shawna took the photo’s back and put them in her purse.
“We’ll continue our investigation, in the meantime again please don’t try anything yourselves or call in any help. They’d only get in the way.”
“That woman!” Athena growled the next night as she and Tania flew toward the Pirate’s Lair. “Freaks!”
“In her defense Athena she had no idea that we are White Owl and Ultra Woman.” Tania said. “I’ve checked into her. She may be insensitive but she is a good detective, well respected in the Middle East and Europe. That’s saying something considering that she’s a woman, Egyptian and based in Alexandria. But she also has a bad attitude toward superheroes and we’ve both faced that before.”
“She didn’t believe me about Lamont,” Athena said. “I’m telling you Tania I barely spoke to him.”
“That is a mystery then,” Tania said. “Somehow he built a fantasy life around you and convinced his sister that it was real. Maybe that’s why she was so determined to get you.”
“I’ve got enough enemies that don’t like me for real reasons,” Athena said. “I don’t need ones that hate me for stuff I never did.”
They landed on the terrace of the casino. The Pirate’s Lair was one of the cities mid points between respectable and criminal. The top floors of the hotel were first class and offices occupied the lower floors. On the ground floor were upscale shops. Underground for three stories were playrooms where women and men could be rented and used. You had to be very special to get to those floors or even know about them. It was the sort of place where starlets cavorted with crime lords and where the wealthy got their illegal drugs. Security was tight and getting in the front door was a sign of high social status. Getting in after it was closed was a sign of that same high social status, but for a different part of society. The games that went on after the place was closed were the kind of games that could get a person a long prison term.
Still even for a city used to a bit of sin there were limits. The Pirate’s Lair was allowed to operate so long as it’s darker side kept a low profile and it kept hours that didn’t disrupt the city. Also –much as it infuriated Athena- as long as it kept a good chunk of it’s profits heading to the right pockets.
It was two AM Sunday morning and the casino was closed, but the giant sliding doors to the terrace were open and the two heroines landed. Athena held Tania back at the entrance. Le Joueur, owner and operator of the casino sat at a table with bottles and three glasses in front of her. Athena looked pointedly at the lit cigarette in her hand. The Asian woman smiled and then snuffed it out.
“Welcome ladies,” She said as they walked over to the table.
Le Joueur had cut her long black hair short and there was a new scar on her throat. But other than that she was the same slim, graceful and attractive Asian woman that Athena had met when she’d owned the Golden Spire. She was wearing a revealing green dress lined with gold Chinese characters. As a source of information the woman was reliable. She was also far more dangerous than she looked.
“Batty Rum with honey for White Owl, Black Jack’s Special Rum and Artemisia Absinthium and mint for Ultra Woman and my own favorite Grappa and Coke,” She said mixing and pouring the drinks.
“You know we aren’t going to drink them,” Athena said “even if you drink them first.”
“Once was enough,” Tania agreed.
Le Joueur smiled and sipped her drink.
Athena told herself not to loose her temper. Life was a game to the other woman, a game of betting and loosing. She lived strictly according to that code and if you wanted information you had to work with that. That had led to some strange, painful and embarrassing situations in the past.
“I’ll bet this drink you are looking for Mr. Cannon,” Le Joueur said sipping her Grappa.
“You’d win,” Athena said.
Tania sat back and decided to let Athena do the talking. She had her own underworld sources but not in this city. Informants were indispensible for anyone involved in crime fighting. They were an interesting type of person, a type that Tania had never met on her home island. Some were simply for sale, others motivated by vengeance or jealousy or plotting some scheme of their own. It was amazing how much information could be found out about the underworld and it’s denizens if you knew where to ask. Someone always knew something, it was just a question of finding that someone and asking the right way.
The right way to ask Le Joueur was to play her games. Tania classified her as what a sociologist would call a person performing a dramaturgy. She saw life as a play and herself playing a part. Beneath her façade Tania suspected there was a lonely, hurt woman desperate for friendship and love. Athena was the closest person that Tania knew who filled that role. The conversation between them was a deep and fast cat and mouse game of catch with more hidden meanings than Tania thought either of them realized.
Not that the woman couldn’t be ruthless. Tania remembered her own introduction to Le Joueur. It had started as a friendly game of cards over drinks and it had ended with a weekend of warm leather and cold chains. It hadn’t left permanent scars, but it had been a sensual experience Tania both did and did not want to repeat. The second time had been more of the same, but Tania had been wise enough to pass on the drinks then too. It hadn’t saved her from a long night but she had gotten the information she wanted as the game shifted from the card table to the bed. But for all the bondage and sexual games Le Joueur had forced Tania and Athena to play she’d never pushed them too far. She played at cruelty but was never actually cruel. That was one of the reasons Tania suspected that Le Joueur really did care for Athena. She’d heard from other heroines who’d lost their bets that the casino operator was far harsher with others. Stunning Siren for instance couldn’t mention Le Joueur’s name without the anger showing in her voice. Nor was the woman any gentler with heroes as Stunning Siren’s brother The Stunner could attest.
But when the woman lost she told everything she knew and some of what she suspected with an insight that was very helpful. Tania wasn’t really sure how she felt about Le Joueur.
“…So he’s still in the city,” Le Joueur said. “A robbery that made headlines across the world doesn’t make for any easy exits.”
“He would have planned for the heat,” Athena said.
“And he did,” Le Joueur said. “He’s still here, but he won’t be for much longer. Not with this kind of searching going on. Not only the police but there are some heavy hitting underworld types that are art collectors.”
“You know where he and Ms. Skunk are?” Athena asked but it wasn’t really a question.
“I have a good idea on him, nothing on her.”
“Do you know anything about her?”
“She hates Athena Nichols for some reason,” Le Joueur said. She leaned back in her chair and sipped her drink. “Can’t imagine why, that woman’s pretty bland as women go.”
How much of that was a front, Tania wondered. Part of the dramaturgy? Le Joueur knew that Athena was White Owl. Why the…
It was a signal, Tania realized and her eyes swept the room. There was no one there. Or was there.
“Do you have a match?” Tania asked suddenly.
Le Joueur passed a package to her and Tania lit one and used it to light the pack on fire, then she tossed the burning match book into the shadows at the end of the bar.
A woman was revealed.
“Ah, Miss, or is it ‘Ms’ Ebony Greed,” Le Joueur said. “I guess I should have put out more glasses. Come sit down, I’m sure you’re here for the same reason as White Owl and Ultra Woman.”
“I am, and it’s just Ebony.”
The woman came over and sat down and Tania watched her carefully. Ebony was at least seven feet tall and so heavily muscled as to be nearly ridiculous looking. Her skin was so black it seemed to absorb what little light there was. She was wearing a black armored suit that matched the color of her skin so well it was hard to tell them apart. Her hair was long and even blacker and the details of her face were had to make out because the seemed to be hidden in shadow. There was a mask on her face, a copy of Athena’s style of half mask and in it her eyes glowed with a soft red hue. The red was so subtle it was barely there.
“Bit out of your territory,” Athena said. “Don’t you normally stay in Europe?”
“I go where the art goes,” Ebony replied. Her voice had a strange hollow quality to it. The tone reminded Tania of someone speaking through a trumpet.
“You know her White Owl?”
“Ebony Greed,” Athena said. “What are she doesn’t steal from museums she steals from the people who steal from museums.”
“I have no wants nor warrants in the US,” Ebony said.
“Are you here to compete against us or help us?” Tania asked.
“Why?” Athena asked. “You help us and you can get the reward.”
“That’s small change compared to the price the Egyptian government has offered for the statue of Isis,” Ebony said. “The one on loan from the British Museum that the English looted from Egypt in the 1900’s.”
“That’s being decided in court.”
“They won’t mind getting it early.”
Le Joueur laughed at the confrontation.
“Well this is a fun situation.”
“That’s not the way I’d put it,” Ebony said. “I want the information and I work alone. Even” she added “if I have to stomp some pretty faces into the floor.”
“That won’t be as easy as you think,” Tania said matching her aggressive stance.
“Security,” Le Joueur called and Ebony, Tania and Athena were instantly caught in pink and green force field bubbles.
“Might as well get this straight now ladies,” Le Joueur said as Ebony Greed pounded on the field. Athena did the same but Tania mere pressed against hers. Unlike Athena she’d been in one of these before. The more you hit it the stronger it became. Hit too hard and a sleeping gas was released. “I’ve lost two casino’s to super powered battles. I’m not going to loose this one. As it is a quarter of my yearly profit is eaten up in insurance. Either you play nice or I’ll leave you in those bubbles and call the cops and tell them that you broke in.”
Ebony and Athena stopped punching and Le Joueur nodded.
The bubbles vanished.
“Those were Mr. Restraint’s bubbles,” Tania said.
“Yes, I bought them from his widow when I bought this place. I’m tired of having my casinos smashed like some old west saloon. Now here are the rules.”
She walked over to the roulette table and picked up the ball.
“If this lands on black then White Owl and Ultra Woman leave and I give my information to Ebony, if it lands on red Ebony leaves.”
She was actually angry. Tania could tell from the way she had dispensed with her playful act. Tania suspected that Le Joueur had planned an evening around the information she had and was disappointed that it had been spoiled.
“Agreed.” Athena said.
“I don’t like it, but I agree.” Ebony said.
“Fine,” Le Joueur said. She gave the wheel a spin and tossed the ball onto it. “It’s a pity really, I have a new room set aside just for you White Owl and I’m sure that Ultra Woman would have enjoyed herself too.”
“Sometimes the house doesn’t win,” Tania said.
“My dear the house always wins,” Le Joueur said. “Didn’t you ever see Casino? Robert Dinero was right.”
“Very few in that movie ended up living happily,” Athena pointed out.
“He did.” Le Joueur said as the ball landed on a red slot. “And for tonight at least so do you.”
Without a word Ebony Greed turned and walked into a shadow.
“Lights,” Le Joueur called and the casino floor was instantly lit as bright as a desert at noon. Ebony was nowhere to be seen.
“Show off,” Le Joueur sniffed. “I’m sure she’ll follow you.”
“I’m sure she’ll try.”
“My dear Athena of course she will,” Le Joueur said with a laugh. It was a forced laugh and Athena could tell that she was still disappointed and angry. With a twist of her hand she produced an odd coin and handed it too her.
“Roman 3rd century,” Athena said. “Worth about twenty thousand and part of the robbery.”
“Yes, one of my regulars was in debt to me for about that much. I suspect he’ll know quite a bit about the affair.”
“Where can we find him?”
“Where do you find most sailors?” Le Joueur asked. “In a run down place near the waterfront. Apartment 23, 14 Sea Skull lane.”
“That coin is part of the collection,” Athena said. “It belongs to the museum.”
“Care to wager on that?”
An hour later Athena and Tania stood on the edge of a building near the waterfront. The rooftop was littered with trash and rats skittered about. They’d both flown as high as they could before coming to the building and landed back to back to make sure there was no sign of Ebony.
Not that it was going to be easy to spot her at night, Athena thought as she took her binoculars out of her utility belt.
“You shouldn’t have played,” Tania said again.
“That coin belonged to the museum,” Athena said.
“And now she’ll be able to sell it back and you’re her slave for a night.”
“Not a slave,” Athena said “more like a playmate. Look I can’t really explain it, but I think that Le Joueur has potential, I think there’s a good person in there.”
“Do you think submitting to her is going to bring it out?”
“I think…” Athena started and then stopped. “I think if she thinks of me as a friend then sooner or later these games’ll stop. In the meantime I can take being tied up for a night.”
Tania stayed silent and Athena was grateful for that. Ultimately Le Joueur and the relationship that they had was hard for Athena to explain to herself, let alone explain it to anyone else. She couldn’t deny that a part of her liked the woman and sometimes even the games. Sometimes when Athena lost the bet Le Joueur still played the sub to Athena’s dom. Athena was sure that the woman was reaching for something more than what she had but Le Joueur didn’t even know what it was. Given the life that she’d led and the abuse that she’d suffered the idea of an open, loving friendship with no strings attached was probably as strange and puzzling to her as quantum physics. Athena was sure she could teach Le Joueur what true friendship was.
And so long as the games don’t go too far I’ll play along, Athena thought.
“Someone beat us here,” Tania said.
Down on the street Shawna and another man were leading a large man toward a car. She was talking on a cell phone. Athena focused her binoculars and activated the audible enhancer.
“A tramp steamer on pier 15 taking medical waste to Africa,” Shawna’s voice could be heard over the tiny speaker. “I want the harbor patrol and back up there in ten minutes. Name of the ship is the Catch of the Day.”
“I wonder how she found him,” Athena said.
“I’ve heard that she was good.”
Athena put her binoculars away and flashed her friend a quick smile.
“But she can’t fly. We can get there first.”
“Wait,” Tania said.
Athena looked to where her friend’s eyes had traveled and saw a shadow on the other roof move.
“Come on,” Tania said flying toward it.
Twenty minutes later they were hovering over the edge of pier 15 and watching the pandemonium bellow. Harbor patrol boats, police cars and even a swat team surrounded a large and aging container ship. But no one was resisting. The crew was crowded onto the dock, passive and handcuffed while a man in a captain’s cap was arguing with the leader of the swat team.
“I don’t think there’s much we can do,” Tania said.
“Nope.” Athena agreed. They’d spent too much time trying to corner Ebony and that had slowed them down. Even now Athena kept glancing at the shadows.
They watched as Shawna arrived and the Captain engaged in a wild argument with her. From the looks of it the captain was protesting his innocence.
“Could Le Joueur’s tip be wrong?”
“Maybe,” Athena said. “She’s not perfect. But where else could that guy have gotten the coin?”
They watched as Shawna directed teams of officers toward the cargo containers stacked on the ship.
“This will be a while.” Tania said as the men started to open the containers.
“Ummm.” Athena agreed.
An hour later they were still watching and Athena was torn between boredom, frustration and just a little bit of satisfaction as she watched Shawna’s frustration grow.
“Who’s the amateur now?”
Athena turned around and saw that Tania was pointing at another ship. This one was smaller and slowly moving toward the open see. In the lights on the ships deck she could see some sort of commotion going on. Taking out her binoculars she focused.
“Ebony Greed,” Athena said. ”She’s fighting with the crew.”
“Right pier,” Tania said, “wrong ship.”
“Let’s tell her,” Athena said.
They flew over to the Catch of the Day and landed on the deck where Shawna was directing the search. She gave each of them a harsh glare.
“I don’t have time to babysit superheroes,” She said.
“You’re on the wrong ship,” Tania said. She pointed at the ship that was moving off. “That one is the right one.”
“How do you know that?”
“Take a look,” Athena said handing her the binoculars. “That’s Ebony Greed on the deck and she’s obviously fighting the crew. Why else would she be there?”
“All I see are some lights,” Shawna said and Athena realized that she couldn’t see the deck from the angle they now had. “A brawl maybe, a mutiny… Could be anything.”
“Detective that ship is under way,” Tania said. “In an hour…”
“That ship is the Silver Starfish heading to Bolivia with a cargo of farm equipment and cars, we checked it yesterday.”
“We saw a fight on the main deck between Ebony Greed and the crew.”
“Which could be anything for any reason Ultra Woman,” Shawna said. “Now if you don’t mind I have a ship to search.”
“We’ll go out and check for you,” Athena offered.
“What is it with America and amateur detectives?” Shawna asked. “Leave the crime to the professionals.”
“What do you think we are?” Athena demanded.
“Swimsuit models who can fly.”
“Detective collectively we have put hundreds of criminals behind bars,” Athena said stung by her tone of dismissal. “I work closely with the city police.”
“Fine, tell them about your hunch. Now will you please move your Victoria Secret asses, I have a ship to search.”
She turned away and Athena stared at her in shock and anger. She’d known some cops who didn’t like superheroes but she’d never known one to turn down help.”
“Come on Ultra Woman,” Athena said and flew into the air.
“That is a very stubborn woman,” Tania said when they were out of earshot.
“That’s a very dumb woman,” Athena said. “See who’s the amateurs when we drop that ship in her lap!”
The battle was in full swing when they arrived. The ship had a crew of about twenty men and some of them were down on the deck not moving. The rest were massed about the huge woman with clubs and were beating her relentlessly. Someone had a thrown a cargo net over her and that was slowing Ebony down. Tania could tell that the woman was loosing ground. Despite the fact that they were on opposite sides Tania could sympathize. She’d been in Ebony’s situation many times.
Without the need for talk Athena and Tania split, each bowling into a separate side of the mob with Athena taking the left and Tania taking the right. The men scattered and they pulled the net off of Ebony.
“Thanks,” She said “I’ll give you half…”
“We’ll settle later,” Tania said dodging a blow and sending a man flying with a kick to his stomach.
“Take them down!” The Cannon shouted. “Five thousand for each man if we get them!”
Spurred on by his offer the crew surged toward them and after that there was no time to talk. The fight took on a life of it’s own and Tania’s body moved with the skill of a lifetime of such battles. There was a rhythm to it, almost a dance. Punch, dodge, kick and then repeat. Twice sheer numbers brought her to the deck but Athena managed to pull enough men off of her to allow Tania to free herself and then to help Athena who was being over run. Gradually the number of attackers started to dwindle as men fell and were un-able to get up. Tania was sure of victory. If this had been a group of trained fighters they’d have been in trouble, but this crowd were more used to a tavern brawl than an actual fight.
Tania tried to keep track of the Cannon but he’d vanished and she wondered if he’d fled. That was proven wrong when a beam of gray/green energy slammed into her and set Tania against a bulkhead with enough force to make her head ring. It pinned her there and rings of black energy traveled along the beam and hit her stomach again and again with the force of a sledgehammer. Out of the corner of her eye Tania saw Athena pinned down by five men. The beam cut out and Tania fell to the deck struggling to get her bearings. She was struggling to her feet when the men piled onto her with a net. Pinned by their sheer weight she nevertheless pushed a few of them off and brought her legs up underneath her. Tania was staring to rise when one of them pressed a cloth over her face. Tania felt dizzy for a moment and then sad. Very sad.
Suddenly Tania was seeing her daughter head out into space, suddenly she was seeing a sunset, and suddenly she was looking for her lost doll, her favorite doll. Tania started to cry and as the sadness overwhelmed the amazon her struggles subsided. All the sadness that she had ever known in her life filled her; overwhelmed her. It crushed her and she no longer felt like fighting. She just wanted –no, needed- to be left alone to cry. She felt herself pushed face first onto the deck, felt her arms being pulled behind her and felt blow after blow hit her head and none of it mattered.
Athena’s laughter made Tania look over and she saw her friend pinned to the deck as she was. Athena was pinned on her back with two men on her arms and one on her legs and another was punching her breasts again and again. With each blow Athena laughed harder.
Athena knew that it was some derivative of the drug that had put her out before but it didn’t matter. She was happy and that was it. It wasn’t like the time she had been hit with laughing gas. This was just pure happiness. A joy that made everything ok no matter what it was.
“Snap out of it!” Ebony Greed demanded pushing over to her. She shoved the men away and lifted Athena up by her costume.
Athena just laughed at her.
The same beam of energy that had stunned Athena slammed into the other woman and she was thrown across the deck and into the wall of a cargo container. Athena watched laughing as the men attacked her and one of them pressed a cloth over her face. For a moment Ebony started to sag but then she threw them off of her with a titanic shrug.
“That doesn’t work against someone who doesn’t breath you fools!” She shouted.
“Then maybe this will!”
The beam of light was pure white this time and Ebony screamed as it pinned her to the wall of the cargo container. It pulsed like the last time and hit her again and again until she fell to the deck. She struggled to rise and then screamed as bright spotlights were focused on her.
“Don’t like the light?” One of the men taunted and five of them set on her with clubs and brass knuckles.
Athena had laughed through it all and she kept on laughing as some of the men pinned her to the deck. She barely felt any pain as her breasts were pounded on repeatedly. The blows stopped when the Cannon walked over to her. Beside her Tania kept crying.
“Let’s throw’em over the side,” A tall sailor with a scar on his throat growled in a harsh gutteral voice when Ebony was finally still. He kicked Athena in the stomach. It hurt but Athena kept laughing anyway.
“Not here,” The Cannon said. “We’re too close to the harbor and someone might see. Besides they might be worth something to someone. Come on, let’s take them down bellow. Get Salty and tell him to bring his stuff. Get that belt off of White Owl.”
He bent down and looked at Athena.
“Might be able to sell them, might just drop off for sharkbait.”
Athena laughed in his face and he joined her.
Athena had never laughed so long in her life. She and Tania were half dragged/half carried into the old of the ship and thrown against the bulkhead. She was too happy and Tania too sad to do anything. They lay helpless and watched as an old deck hand carrying a trunk nearly as tall as himself walked into the room. He wasn’t tall but he was broad and looked to be as old as the sea itself. He had one eye covered by a black patch with a red skull and crossbones on it and his skin was the color of dull copper. His jeans were worn and his shirt had seen better days. His hair was the color of sea foam.
“We have to keep them tight,” The Cannon said. “Use the best chains we have, Ultra Woman is strong enough to break small ones.”
“I been chaining up women since women were around,” Salty said in a thick accent. “It ain’t the size of the chains Skipper, it’s how you use’em.” He turned to a large black crewman. “Turner, you still have those brass knuckles you’re wives used on us? The small ones fit for a lady?”
“Sure, got’em in my cabin.”
Turner left and Salty walked over to Athena and smiled at her.
“Pretty one,” he said and Athena laughed. “Keeping them pretty while they chained ain’t easy.”
“First we get them chained, then we decide what to do next,” The Cannon said. “We got the stuff but it’ll wear off and Ms. Skunk said there might be some real brain damage if we use it too much.”
“Damn silly stuff,” Salty said as he ran his hands over Athena’s body. “You want to take a woman out you just beat her or get her drunk and then beat her.”
There was nothing overtly sexual in the way he touched her, it was more as if he was a tailor fitting her for a new dress. His hands cupped her breasts and reached around her throat and her wrists. Satisfied he went to the chest and took out two lengths of chain. Then he took a surprisingly sophisticated laser cutter out of the old chest and cut them to size. Going back he fitted one of the chains snugly around her waist and the other around her neck. Athena felt the heat as he used the laser to weld the links back together but he was skillful enough not to burn her. Once he was done there was no way to take the chains off without breaking them. He ran another chain from the one on her neck to the one around her waist and secured both ends.
“Got’em,” Turner said returning.
“Thanks, put a cleat with a ring on it onto the bulkhead.”
Turner took a cleat out of the box and walked over to the wall.
Salty pulled one of Athena’s gloves off of her arm and then put her fingers into the brass knuckles. He closed her hand into a fist and then whistled a lilting tune. It was strange to hear such a beautiful tune come out of the old salts mouth. Shock made Athena stop laughing for an instant as the metal flowed around her fingers, locking her hand into a fist. A ring was now around every segment of her fingers attached by a small bar to a larger bar held in her palm and the large bar that covered her knuckles’ now had a ring in it. Her fingers were completely immobile.
Salty rolled Athena onto her stomach and pulled her arms behind her back. He pulled her hands higher and higher until Athena felt her arms were going to break. Her wrists were just past her shoulder blades when he stopped. Despite the pain she was happy and kept laughing. She felt him attach the rings on her knuckles to the chain around her neck. When he let go only the chain around her waist kept Athena from choking herself as her arms tried to pull down. Despite the intense pain coming from her arms Athena had never been happier. She giggled as he finished.
“Done,” Turner called.
“This’ll do it,” Salty said pulling Athena over to the wall and attaching another length of chain from the ring on the wall to the chain around her neck. It forced her to sit upright. “Even if that stuff weren’t holding her down.”
He was right. Athena had no leverage with her arms pulled back and up and if she pulled too hard the chain around her waist would pull up, allowing the chain around her neck to choke her.
“What about her?” The Cannon asked gesturing toward the weeping Ultra Woman.
“Amazon’s is trickier,” Salty said. “But she ain’t the first one I’ve set.”
Tania watched in misery as the old sailor went over to his chest and reached into it. She’d watched as Athena was bound and winced at the posture that the bondage had forced her friend into. With all her heart Tania wanted to move, to fight and struggle. But she couldn’t. She just couldn’t. Sadness filled every part of her, paralyzing her mind and soul. She could fight back but that wouldn’t stop the sadness. She could even win but what then? She could stand over their unconscious or even lifeless bodies and there would be no joy in the victory. Even the thrill of battle would be lost to her. It felt as if she would never again no joy or happiness.
Salty walked back over to her and he was carrying a black chain attached to a disk. The disk had a black choker attached to it. The chain was wide and flat with the links being circular, not the rectangular ones he had used on Athena.
“Stand her up and hold up her arms,” He ordered.
Two of the men grabbed Tania and pulled her to her feet and then held her arms above her head. Tania had run out of tears but choked sobs still escaped her. The old sailor paid no attention as he put the choker around her neck and detached the disk from it. Then he started to wrap the chain around her stomach. Starting at her waist he carefully encircled her body with link after link, drawing an endless supply from the disk. It took him a while and he pulled it snug as he wrapped. When he reached her breasts he crisscrossed, between them. When he was done the chain was wrapped around Tania’s upper body from her waist to her neck. He re-attached the chain to the disk and pressed the disk between her breasts. There was a metallic click as the disk mechanism took hold of the chain.
“Put her arms down.”
The men did so and he put his hand on Tania’s shoulder and forced her to her knees, then forced her to lay down on the deck. Once she was down he rolled her onto her back and she felt him attach chains to her wrists and more chains from her wrists around each leg down to her ankles. Then he took hold of her legs and dragged her over to Athena. Another chain from the ones on her ankles secured her to the same cleat that held Athena
“Now this’ll do it,” Salty said pushing the button on the disk.
There was a hum and the chains started to grow tighter. Tania quickly found it difficult to breath. Her legs and arms were pulled back until her wrists were nearly touching her ankles and her spin felt like it was being torn in half. The chains squeezed her body like it was in a huge vice and when they finally stopped Tania found it impossible to draw a full breath. She could barely breathe at all and the lack of breath made even keeping awake hard, movement was impossible.
“That’ll hold her?” The Cannon asked.
“Oh yea,” Salty said. “Way back when I was on a smuggler and we picked up an amazon. Not sure why she was in the middle of the ocean, but she was in a bad state. The captain back then he grew to like her. She didn’t like him though and beat the hell out of him, even hurt as she was. He was an old dog though and didn’t give up. Finally got her in a bear hug and after spending his life lifting rum barrels he could have squeezed the life out of a whale if he’d gotten his arms around it. Once she was out he got the ships witch to make that and that worked for a few days.
“He got drunk, got stupid and she got loose and nearly killed us all. The witch and me got away in a lifeboat while she was still fighting the rest of the crew.”
“When was that?” Turner asked.
“About the 50’s I think,” Salty said. “I remember I thought I’d be rowing all the way to New York but we got picked up by the SS Atlantic and I got to see the Singing Nightingale.”
“Damn you’re old man,” Turner said shaking his head.
“Enough of the old time memories,” The Cannon said, “She get’s loose and we’re in trouble.”
“She’s stronger than any of us but her muscles still need air and she ain’t gonna get enough of it while that’s on her. She for all of us Skipper? Amazon’s are rough lot in the sack, she can handle me and Turner. Best to have a ring-gag handy though, they bite.”
“For now it’s enough that she and her friend are out of action,” the Cannon said. “I got another on deck for you to work on. If they aren’t worth anything I’ll let you and the crew pass her around, till then hands off. You’ll get first try.”
A chorus of aye-aye’s greeted his order and he took a phone out of his pocket and snapped a picture.
“There should be someone willing to pay for these two.”
…To be continued.