Two girls, sisters running across the fields, laughing, the long stalks of wheat, hiding them as they ducked and dived and ran. Their laughter reaching the slaves in the fields, the sound bringing a smile to their weary faces. The scream as the ground opened up into the cavern below... the darkness....
Slap.... a second slap.... then light, fuzzy and grainy as she opens her eyes. Pain fills her body, fresh blood drips slowly from healing wounds, her wrists tied, up and apart. Wood under her wrists, heavy rope around them. Nothing under her feet, only air, pain in her arms, pain... voices all around her, screams, shouts, the occasional sound of small arms firing. The voices a mixture, of familiar and unknown. A whine of repulsors came close and she opened her eyes fully, focussing on the three men before her.
"I told you she would come around, Baron. I know the type.... hard as nails when they are fighting, but knock them out and you can do what you wish to them. I like my Amarr Holders that way.... first time I've had a self appointed slave that way.... "
The voice came from a young officer, the flashes of the Bloody Hands of Matar on his combat jacket, the grin on his face and this hand resting on his crotch. Dust and sweat coated his brow apart from a patch he had wiped. Spatters of blood on his sleeves. The man beside him, tall almost regal looking. He was wearing a suit of exquisite tailoring, tribal motifs blended in almost seamlessly with the fabrics pattern. Behind him, two heavily armed sebiestors, their eyes looking everywhere, darting as if expecting an attack.
She focussed her eyes on the officer and smiled. She knew his sort, the one called the Baron, he was different, unfathomable. Turning back to the officer she licked her lips and spoke softly.
"You do... seem like the kind of person who would need his sexual partners unconscious."
The officer stepped foward and punched her in the gut. The Baron tutted.
"Too impulsive... So tell me, slave. Why are we here?"
"The usual self righteous crap you people spout. Here to free the oppressed.... "
He punched her again. She kicked him, slamming her foot into his throat, the cruching of his larynx and throat loud in the small space between the three of them. Clawing his crushed throat, gasping for breath he fell to his knees. Carmilla watched him then spat on his corpse.
"Going to try and free the slaves, get one over on the Amarr. Am I right?"
The Baron looked down at his companion and shrugged.
"I knew he would come to a sticky end one day. His sort always does."
"I don't suppose you want to let me down then."
He shook his head and hefted his cane and swung it around hard against her ribs several times.
"Didn't think so."
"We are here to free the slaves your Mistress has. We know that you are the slave of Ithiria Deritan. We know there are others here. We will free them and take you back and... free you too."
Carmilla laughed, the pain of her ribs lancing through her as she looked at him.
"You really havn't done your homework have you Baron. Check with your people.. I can see them coming now. I think they may have some bad news for you."
She laughed more as he turned and walked to his approaching men.
"Sire, we have a problem. We have every person on this estate and we have gone through every single one. There are no slaves here. No signs, no collars, no lessions on the wrists or necks to indicate they were recently removed."
"That's impossible. We have proof she has them...."
"All released. The majority of them have bio-chips, I can show you which worlds most of these people were born on when they were slaves. But now, there is not a single slave on this estate that is linked to the Deritan."
The Baron swore and walked towards one of the groups of people sitting on the ground, guarded by a score of his crack troops. All of them looked at him with undisguised contempt. Each one he checked at random, no signs of abuse, no signs of being collared. Some even had their tribal tattoos. He turned around and looked at the smoke rising from the orbital bombardment that had preceeded the assault.
"So we did all this for nothing? Our contact was most specific. She even gave us the location of the slave pens....."
"Sire.. there is only one slave on this estate. Just... one."
Carmilla watched the Baron storm towards her and rain down blows on her with his cane. He fumed as he looked at her
"Where are they? What have you done with them?"
"Where are... whom?"
"You can laugh all you want. We still have enough to take down the Deritan, to wipe out her estate. You have have gotten rid of all of the slaves, the proof and everything.. but you left yourself!"
The Baron stood with his hands on his hips and laughed at her.
"Oh.... really? You want to check that... Baron?"
The aide scanned Carmilla's bio-chip and read the information coming onto the screen of his datapad. He handed the pad over to the Baron.
"She is a slave. But not to the Deritan. We have nothing, and it could look like an unprovoked attack on a Holder of the Khanid Kingdom."
"Who is she? This new Mistress of yours?"
"All that matters... is who she isn't. Now get your troops out of this estate before I inform the owner of your unprecedented attack on her estate. I may even forget your assault on me as well. My Mistress would not be pleased that you assaulted her property."
The Baron walked dejectedly back towards his landing craft, the laughter of Carmilla, still bound as she was to the cross, loud in his ears. With luck he mused, the embarrasment of this... mistake would not be heard of outside the estate. They didn't need such publicity, heads would roll for the failure in intelligence.