𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗜𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗖𝗮𝗻 𝗡𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗕𝗲
𝘣𝘺 𝘙𝘢𝘭𝘱𝘩 𝘎𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘰 𝘑𝘳.
“Up. Up," Veronica panted as she dug her nails deeper into my muscular cheeks.
"Ah," was all I could manage, disengaging my mouth from her tight powdery cleavage.
It was at times like these that I nearly damned my uncountable, galaxy-wide romances; I would need more stimuli than just this warm girl under me digging her sharp nails into my ass. So hoping for inspiration with the friction, I turned to look at the reflection of the "double-backed beast" in the reflective glass of the navigating computer's under-panel, and had to smile at the waffled picture of pale flesh and clenched muscles (Veronica looked good too)… until of course, the tentacles began to spread from out the top of the woman's shoulder blades.
Being the well-season warrior I am, I jumped up and out, unfortunately exercising the later use of the verb I had been expecting.
"Neat trick," I said, smacking the back of my head on the wall behind me.
It suddenly seemed very small in this cabin, as I faced the lady/thing which was unfolding itself past my full height, her once luminescent skin morphing to a scaly red, her voluptuous body gone the way of my ‘interest.'
"Quite defenseless now," the creature hissed across the tight cabin.
"Micronia," I said.
I figured my identifying the shape-shifter might buy me a few seconds (of course, it knew what it was, but maybe it would be surprised for a few heartbeats that I had identified it so quick) and searching the room in those fleeting whisper-seconds for a weapon, I found not much that would help me beat back the thing when it finally decided to attack.
"You die now," the creature suggested, and I steeled my naked body in the attack stance of the Bunchi warriors of Remlon Prime. Of course, Bunchi warriors weapon of choice is the infamous Bunchi "Lightening Stick," which blasts a quick one hundred volts of clear, ice-blue electricity.
Bracing for the worst the eight-foot soot smelly creature could give me, my head then spun even further as the small, gray and red midshipman cabin faded around us, and the menacing Micronia faded from view as if someone took a swipe across the fabric of space-time. A half-minute later, I was standing naked, still executing the Bunchi stance, for two bearded men and a thin lady sitting across me in an immaculate, mid-ship circular room with a long table between us.
"A necessary demonstration," the man with the red eyes offered.
"We hope we didn't alarm you," the lady said and nodded her head to an assistant behind me, whom I then noticed, who walked up to hand me my clothes.
"Now, if you will allow us, we will... " the man tried, but I halted my zipping to interrupt with:
"I beg your good pardon. But, just what the hell is going on!?"
"Disorientation is typical," the lady with the sparkling silver hair said, smiling evenly down at me across the high table.
I promptly 'zipped up' all the way.
"It will pass," the man countered, again flashing his crimson eyes to his colleague.
"Great, just great," I agreed, one arm in my shirt. "But until just a moment ago, I was in a most delicate situation with what I had assumed was a startlingly attractive young woman I had picked-up, met, on the beet and berry market of Emsorlin Two."
"Well, you were on that moon, yes," the man said, his lined brow creasing even more. "But the woman and her spaceship did not exist, no."
"Neither did the Micronia," the lady added.
"Well, that's a relief," I said, although I wasn't sure how much of one.
"You are on Ipsmere," the other man finally spoke, and both his colleagues looked over at him in disgust, as if to say, 'Oh Siant Rispuous Moons, when is he going to shut up and let us get a word in?!'
"The planet of illusion," I whispered for my exposition. In times of great stress or utter confusion, I like to provide myself with the most information possible, even if it is merely me talking out loud.
Damn, this was getting worse by the moment.
As my brain was began to a'wander, and I was doing my best to avoid considering the obvious reality here that the carnal moment and movements I had just been at with a creature that was not only not an attractive young lady I had met at the market nor a Micronia, had just been me "having at the floor" of this room, so to speak, in the throes of an illusion, naked, aroused and alone.
"Yes," the trio agreed, to what seemed to match my thoughts.
"Well, nice to meet you all," I began, completely dressed now. I turned from them, smiled at the man who had supplied me with my clothes and made for the single blue door that the man was standing to the side of.
"Please... "the lady started, and I heard her chair slide back as I assumed she stood. "...we need your help."
"Um," I said, turning to my hosts.
How could I say this with as much tact as possible?
Ipsmere was infamous throughout the galaxy as the one place one never wanted to find one’s self. It was a planet of intellectuals who spent all their time devising new ways to entertain themselves with their overused, centuries-old, exclusive power of illusion. Nobody ever visited the small blue-green world or communicated unless they absolutely had to simply because no one wanted to witness these insidious and downright boring games the residents played.
The power of illusion is a powerful one, to be sure, and one most creatures in the galaxy do not possess, let alone have been exposed to too often. And the Ipsmerians made damn sure, through their unending actions and words, that this was one power no one would ever want since it made the user into a boring spud-in-the mudwho spent the better part of his or her days thinking up new ways to surprise his or her fellow spuds with a latest heretofore unrealized illusion.
I had no care to know what problem these folks could possibly have to warrant them kidnapping me. And kidnapping a ranking member of the International Corps was a serious charge, even for those on such an isolated world, and had I the energy right then I would have demanded restitution. But all I truly wanted was passage back to the market on Emsorlin Two, or back to the Corps space station... actually any place that wasn't here. With all I was slowly becoming aware of, I knew I certainly didn’t have much diplomacy to go around or want to help these folks.
"Got to go," I said, turning once again from the trio.
"We are prepared to pay," they shouted to my back.
I turned and smiled.
• • •
"Do not be insulted," the lady I then knew as Doctor Amble Core apologized as we walked down one of the busy corridors of the city.
This was the capital of the planet, a place called Mimba, a sleepy enough city filled from seaport to the main road with a very busy population of Ipsmerian dignitaries. It was a fine crisp day in what was now the time of year that saw Ipsmere hold its general elections. And it was these very elections that I had been receiving a crash course in over three hours since my arrival.
"You simply seemed the best candidate," the lady added as we walked out to a yellow brick and green-glassed arcade where many of the Doctor's fellows were meeting around high wire-framed tables, drinking steaming cups of a yellow liquid I had been offered but denied.
"So, you just docked a robot ship?" I continued my query of how I was plucked to find myself here.
An Ipsmerian scout ship had come to the berry and beet market, docked in orbit and an elaborate illusion was then created: A willowy, wanton woman was to meet the most likely candidate (which turned out to be me) in the market (many mercenaries and military personnel do their own shopping) and subsequently invite that man (me) back to her ship, which was really the Ipsmerian scout ship, distract that man (me still) with her charms (which never existed since she never did), as the ship sped through space, unbeknownst to the man (me yet again) engaging what he thought was his long-dormant lusts (well, thinking he-me was engaging them with someone else), docking when the woman turned into a Micronia (still illusion of course), all to prove to the man (me) that he (me) was where he (of course, still me) I (me) was told he (me) was.
The good doctor and her fellows had boarded the ship as it landed and then met me as I stood bracing for attack from what I thought would be my last opponent.
"When we wish we can use the power for our gains over others," the doctor assured me, adding with a thin-lipped smile. "But we don't do it often."
"Yes, this is a special occasion," I repeated the words of warning I had heard only hours before, only after my payment price had been agreed upon.
"Yes," the lady continued. "If the Sirea faction succeeds, it will be a dark day for this planet."
"Yeah," I agreed.
A military mercenary knows well about usurpers, rogue agents, half-cocked factions going off half-cocked, and such was this Sirea faction, an ultra-revolutionist group feared to be in the capital city due to the weekend elections, these disruptors, all eleven of them, eschewed Ipsmere's legacy of illusion power for a more restrained, straight-ahead way of life. The Sirea argued—and without much fault, I would have added, had I been asked—that their planet's need to stand fast and true to their age-old power had kept them well afield from progress in the galaxy-wide marketplace. And it was feared, by all those not Sirea that the Sirea would indeed strike here, within the next few days, making their mark on the planet-wide elections.
"But what I said stands," I pressed. "I'll keep my eyes open. I'll do what I can ‘cause you are paying me, but this is not my fight, lady."
Did I mention I was a little low on diplomacy at the moment?
Plus, I was pissed at myself that I could be bought so easily.
"Let's get you set up at the Pavilion," Doctor Core said, ignoring my shortness.
• • •
As far as these types of things went, the rally was better than most; the demonstrations kept me from complete boredom. If Ipsmerians were diligent about showing off their latest illusions, they were doubly so in a crowd of rapt attendees. Every political leader who stood on the dais to render a speech did so after, during, or before a spectacular illusion commenced by their own mind. It was a parlor-trick show out here in this open-air in front of this audience of thousands, the applause full and quick as each candidate attempted to outdo the other when they were due.
And you would have thought these people, all of whom had the power of illusion, wouldn’t have been so impressed with the tricks of their fellows. As paid to do, I kept my blue eyes peeled, but truth be told, this self-congratulatory crowd was so enamored with themselves, I doubted that if indeed there had been some sort of strike from a rebel agency, anybody would even notice.
But there was something to notice, actually, someone to notice, and I was noticing plenty as a short, voluptuously turned-out Ipsmerian sauntered across the blonde brick flagstones to me, her silver tunic dress shimmering in the bright sun. The woman smiled wide, like she knew me, that Ipsmerian cast of green to her high cheekbones as she came right up to me and offered her hand.
"Doctor Beb Smirt," she purred as I shook her soft hand, then released it.
She stood to my chest and had the most luminescent silver hair I had ever seen. True, all adult female Ipsmerians have silver hair, but something about this young woman's seemed luminescent-ier than most.
"Security force, I'd gather," the woman announced.
"You would," I said.
As captivating as she was, I was on duty here, earning an hourly wage. And knowing what had recently been perpetrated on me because of my libido, I was staying alert and cautious. True, there had been no problems, and I could see clear over this woman's head if there were to be, but still…
"All right, I won't ask then," she said. "How do you like it so far?"
"I'm not a political man."
"Oh," the lady intoned. "On Ipsmere, we are all political… men and women."
"Seems to be a good turnout," I agreed.
Illusion or real, she did smell good.
"Yes. Yes," the lady said. "Enjoying the games then?"
At first, I wasn't sure what this lovely lady was talking about. Still, when a large red bird suddenly flew out over the audience, "bleeped" loudly, and then promptly disappeared, I realized that the woman was referring to the illusions being perpetrated on the crowd.
"If you like that sort of thing," I offered. Personally, if I never tried to have congress with another illusion, it wouldn't be soon for me.
"Yes, it is all in the desire for them, isn't it?"
Alarm bells should have been ringing in my deepest recesses, but I only noticed a slow muffled 'click-a-clicking.' It was possible, given the time of day, my proximity, and the sharp perfume she was wearing, that I was being seduced into charming conversation with none other than a Sirea rebel sent to distract me. Or, again, an illusion. But I let my paranoia ease a bit more and stole a full glance down the delicate, overly exposed cleavage of the lady's dress and submerged those faraway alarm bells even more.
"Nothing to it," the lady offered. "You've been here long enough; you could whip up one just as good. Just think it and cast it from your mind."
I was just considering the implications of her advice when came a Iriteen explosion. I knew the minute I felt the sudden sharp implosion of air and smelled the slightest flick of peppermint to the back of my throat that Iriteen had been used. Jumping from my spot talking to the young woman, who called after me about 'learning a few tricks' and 'having a good time after the rally,' I ran into the spreading, panicked crowd. As is common in these types of explosions, a cloud of thick red smoke was falling then, and I stumbled as best I could as the Iriteen began to envelope the crowd.
Iriteen, not only being a loud yet harmless explosive, is also a free-acting chemical agent that when released in an atmosphere as rich in nitrogen as Ipsmere's was, produces a red gelatinous rain. Harmless chunks of the crimson chemical fell, a sure impediment for me to stop what was transpiring up on the dais as two robed figures grabbed the then acting head councilor Zabe Zabane (a man who had wowed the crowd with a full-scale snow storm of a three-minute duration as his illusion). It was a kidnapping, I realized, as I dodged and shucked the falling blood-red chunks, making my way up across the dais and to the two running figures. As I ran, I registered all shouts, cries, and recriminations, but one stood out in my mind the most: "They are heading to the dock!" "Don't let them over the dock; we'll lose them for sure!"
Of course, I had not been briefed on exactly what or where this 'dock' was, but I assumed I was heading in its direction and would soon be upon it following the perpetrators and their prey as I was. Running full speed towards the two running figures and the slumped councilman between them, I ran down the west side of the pavilion and under a lattice-topped tunnel and then out again into the late afternoon sunshine, down a steep flight of steps and then right into…
Nothing more than a balcony overlooking a parking garage below me, the Sirea kidnappers were holding the councilman between them as they made their way out across a one-lane bridge that spanned where I was standing to the other side of a gray block building’s roof high over the open hover-cars below. It was an open maw of a space, but one I could easily traverse… that was, of course, if the bridge the Sirea were using had stayed in place.
Damn these people and their illusions, I thought, as the bridge crinkled way like Alvberian spray paper in the still air, and the three figures stood on the other side, looking over at me and glaring at my misfortune.
"I thought you guys were against using illusion!" I shouted to no response, then a fleeting moment of clarity blurred past my mind.
'"Nothing to it," the lady had said. "You've been here long enough; you could whip up one just as good. Just think it, and cast it from your mind."
That voluptuous Sirea distraction had no idea how prophetic she had been, admitting what she had to me. Never thinking I could run as fast as I had or that I would muster the courage to try my own illusion, the lady had unwittingly prompted me to perpetrate one of the best and brazen illusions to the crowd swarming behind me.
Knowing that I would: (a) never again step foot on this world; (b) that no matter how much they paid me, I would never live down the fact that I had been tricked so easily away from the beet and berry market; and (c) that I still had a score to settle with this planet for bringing me here, I unzipped my fly and imagined, concentrated, 'illusioned' my member large and thick enough to span the open expanse before me. To my immediate surprise, the illusion worked (yes, there really was something in the air here!), and I received more than a few cheers—not to mention quite a few wild looks from the ladies of the crowd behind me—as I imagined, illusioned, cast my now mammoth member touching to the building across from me. I figured, if those Sirea could transverse on a bridge of their own making, then I could certainly bounce over on my illusionary penis, which I did, never doubting for a second that what I was seeing was not actually real. Making to the other side, I zipped up, grabbed the two male Sirea by the scruff of their necks as they stood staring at me slack-jawed, a bemused smile crossing their faces as they realized they had just been bested by an out-worlder who had used the power they so hated to the best of his natural ability.
• • •
"Truly remarkable," Doctor Core was saying as we walked across the shiny tiled tarmac of the Mimba port. I counted the payment notes (converted only a half-hour before) and smiled at her as she continued to gush.
"No Ipsmerian would ever be so vain, at least not in public, but..."
The lady continued as she had for the past half hour while they arrested the Sirea men, and order was restored in the pavilion. I wasn't sure if she was insulting or complimenting me, as I hadn't been all along, but I could easily live with either. It is not every day a man gets to be so blatant and forthright with a part of himself usually kept under wraps. But as I thanked the lady one last time and turned to ascend the ship's gangplank, I realized that what had got me into this mess in the first place, the need to 'use' my little soldier on what had turned out to be an illusion, had also gotten me out of this mess, a few extra pay notes and another adventure in my pocket. ✦