“Catch her! She's getting away!” the Horse Captain cried out.
Maria burst through the rear door of the hacienda and fled, barefoot and naked, down the dark street. Two horsemen spurred their steeds and gave chase to the nubile young girl. Unable to check her speed before darting down a narrow alleyway, Maria slammed into the sidewall at the alley’s entrance with a breathless grunt. Pushing away from the wall, she stumbled into the darkness of the alley, then fled toward the light at the far end.
The iron-shod hooves of one of the horsemen clopped along at the entranceway behind her, then began galloping faster, getting louder much too quickly. Reaching the far end of the alley, Maria ducked to the left just as the horseman reached down for her. The horse slipped on the wet cobblestones and stumbled at the savage wrench on its reins, but Maria slipped also. Horse, hunter and prey fell in a heap at the end of the alley.
Terrified, Maria clambered to her feet and ran smack into another horse and rider. A thump on her head and everything went black.
“Raul, my darling,” she cooed as her gloved hand caressed that magnificent shaft between her lover’s legs.
Raul hung on the wall, his arms chained wide above his head. His feet were chained to the wall, as well. There were oozing marks on his chest and stomach where he had been both whipped and burned, but that magnificent cock of his still responded to her touch.
The lady smiled and lifted her dress, intending to take full advantage of this incredible gift to womankind. As she worked his shaft up inside her, she smiled and licked at his wounds and burns.
“You were a naughty boy, my darling Raul,” she cooed lovingly. “I gave you everything you needed – your own house, servants, a coach, all the money you could use. Your loyalty to me was such a small price to pay, was it not?”
She spit on an open, oozing burn, making Raul draw in his breath with a hiss.
“Yet you could do not even that!” she snarled. “This wonderful shaft inside me was meant for MY pleasure – not the pleasure of half the putas in Madrid! Yet you could not keep this love shaft pure for me!”
She was humping his marvelous shaft as she spoke. A servant, seeming to know exactly what she wanted, brought her a lit candle. She took it and began dribbling wax over Raul’s burnt and whipped flesh, making him cry out.
“Ooh! You move so nicely inside me!” the Lady Melinda cooed, squeezing him in return.
She held the candle against his breast for a moment, causing him to jerk again in a futile effort to escape the burning pain.
“Yes! That’s it!”
She moved the candle across his chest slowly, leaving a trail of wax and scorched flesh, stopping underneath his other nipple.
This time, Raul jerked several times in his efforts to avoid the burning, torturous candle fire.
“Oh! Mi Dios!” Melinda cried out in orgasm.
“Maria Conchita Velasquez, I love you!” Raul cried out as Maria sank down, impaling herself completely on his marvelous shaft.
“How dare you!” the Lady Melinda gasped in rage.
She looked around, finding herself in a field, far from her castle walls and her adored instruments of torture. The only instrument of torture here was the hard, hot shaft that penetrated up inside her almost to her lungs.
“What’s happening?” Maria cried out, confused.
The last thing she remembered was running head-on into a mounted soldier.
The images faded away into a dull gray nothing. Both Maria and Melinda cried out in fear.
“Who are you?” the Lady Melinda demanded. “How did you bring me here? Are you a witch?”
They glared into each other’s frightened, angry eyes. “I know you! You’re that Puta Raul was with! I gave you to the General to play with. How did you get away from him?”
“You’re my sister?” Maria asked, completely confusing her antagonist, her eyes widening in triumph as she realized what had finally happened.
“Sister? What are you talking about, you demented slut?” Melinda snarled.
She tried to strike at the naked girl, but found that she couldn’t move in this strange absence of… everything!
“Listen to me!” Maria/Betty/Béla demanded. “You’re dreaming! This isn’t real! The Praetor took you! Do you remember that?”
“The Praetor?” the Lady Melinda cried out, frightened now. “No! Let me go!”
“This is a dream!” Béla insisted. “Surely you must remember! Stop fighting and think!”
“A dream?” Melinda asked, wanting to believe there was a reason behind this madness.
“Yes, now just relax,” Béla said, more quietly now. “You don’t want to attract the Praetor’s attention.”
“I remember now,” Melinda replied, awed at what was happening. “The Praetor trapped me in a ray of light, then I was inside it, somehow. There are others here, trapped like me!”
“Yes!” Béla exclaimed, happy to have finally broken the spell. “We have to wake them and find a way out!”
“There is no way out,” Melinda replied mournfully. “I remember trying to escape when I was brought here. My body is gone. The Praetor made me watch as it was burned into ashes.”
“My body was burned up, also,” Béla replied. “But I don’t know if the Praetor did that. My car exploded and caught on fire. I was strapped inside, trapped.”
“The Praetor told me that I couldn’t survive outside,” Melinda told her new friend. “I would just evaporate into nothing and die.”
“That might not be true,” Béla said, thoughtfully. “I was outside my body for a time before I was drawn in by the Praetor. I didn’t feel like I was evaporating. In fact, my senses at the time were very sharp and clear. I could even see in the dark!”
“Really?” Melinda asked. “That’s fascinating! But, how did you… Why would the Praetor be interested in you? You were just a whore that distracted my concubine.”
“We have the same father,” Béla explained. “Do you remember when you arrived here? On earth, I mean?”
“I think so,” Melinda replied. “It was so long ago…”
“It was a long time ago for me, too,” Béla told her. “I’ve lived for thousands of years. You probably have, too.”
“My father told me, after he hunted me down, that I was the last one,” Béla told her. “All the others, you and my other sisters, were already… Well, I thought he’d killed all of you. I didn’t know about this artificial world inside the Praetor. I’ve been trying to get someone’s attention, like, forever! You were the only one who ever crossed paths with me. I could only enter your vision where I was present. I had to wait until our life-dreams coincided.”
“When I came to reclaim my Raul, you mean?” Melinda asked, sounding a little superior.
“Yes,” Béla said, her voice sounding a little unfriendly, as well. “I remember when you set Raul on fire and burned him alive.”
“Yet you’re willing to help me now?” Melinda asked, not trusting this little Puta.
“You are the only one whose dream I was able to break into,” Béla replied. “I never met any of my other sisters in real life.”
“I had a sister in Rumania, fifty years before I ever laid eyes on you,” Melinda replied haughtily. “Her name was Elisabeta.”
“Great!” Béla exclaimed enthusiastically. “Think about the time you two were together! Maybe we can break into her life-dream and dispel the Praetor’s power over her!”
“Yes!” Melinda agreed wholeheartedly. “This is a good idea you have!”
She closed her eyes and thought about her sister. A shimmering of multi-colored light appeared around the two trapped in the Praetor, then Béla found herself standing in a room. She was still naked, but Melinda was now dressed in some kind of dark red velvet.
Elisabeta jumped and cried out. The image of the room wavered for an instant, then resolidified. Béla found that she could move inside this imagined world her sister had created inside the Praetor.
“We’re probably safe from the Praetor in here,” Béla ventured. “It will think we’re still dreaming.”
“Who are you?” Elisabeta demanded! “Talitha, who is this strumpet who parades around without any dressing?”
“Sister,” Melinda/Talitha replied. “This is another sister! She is here to help us! Her name is… What is your name, Puta?”
“Béla,” Béla replied. “But father named me Hethemtima.”
“I’ve never heard of you!” Elisabeta replied haughtily. “Are you Egyptian, too?”
Béla smiled. “Well, yes, I guess. Does it matter? Before we were in Egypt, we were all from the same place – father’s laboratory.”
“Father?” Elisabeta said, her voice almost an octave higher. “How old are you, girl?”
“At least four thousand,” Béla replied, sounding bored, now. “Let me show you something…”
Concentrating hard, she evaporated the room around them. The three sisters floated in the bluish gray void Béla and Melinda had found themselves in earlier.
“Eeeek!” Elisabeta shrieked. “What have you done?”
“I stopped your dream,” Béla explained. “Do you remember the Praetor taking you?”
She got pretty much the same reaction from Melinda’s sister that she got from Melinda, earlier.
“We need to find another to awaken,” Béla said as she finished her explanation of what she was trying to accomplish. “Did either of you ever meet any others like us?”
Melinda shrugged and shook her head, “No, Elisabeta was the only one. She showed me how to make others immortal with my blood.”
“Yeah!” Béla replied and made a disagreeable face. “I met Torquemada, thank you. He nearly killed me!”
“Well, he does that very well,” Melinda smiled. “That’s what attracted me to him in the first place. All that delicious blood…”
“Yes,” Elisabeta replied, smiling to herself. “I knew one like that, too. We had several wonderful years together… Hey! I was just getting to the good part when you showed up and ruined my life!”
“Never mind that! It was just a dream!” Béla insisted, intent on finding a way to escape. “I need to know if you knew anyone even remotely like us! Think hard, okay? Was there anyone like me or either one of you?”
“No,” Elisabeta replied, shaking her head. “I never met anyone like me except Talitha.”
Béla sighed. “Then it looks like there’s just the three of us…”
“Wait!” Elisabeta exclaimed, suddenly remembering. “There was a man – a prophet who showed me that we were kin to each other! His blood could make others immortal, too. In fact, he was the one who demonstrated the power of our blood to heal his followers. He also taught me how to fly!”
“You can fly?” Melinda asked, incredulous. “Have you ever heard of such a thing, Puta?”
“You mean you can’t?” Béla asked, sounding surprised and pretending to be bored. She was also getting a little tired of being called a whore by this mass murderess.
In fact, Béla was pretty annoyed at the both of them. Elisabeta had discovered she could fly hundreds and maybe thousands of years before Béla had figured it out. She wondered how many others of her sisters had known how to fly. Maybe they were the true beginnings of the vampire legends she encountered after she'd fled north from Rome and its bloody coliseum.
“The Praetor mentioned that I had a brother,” Béla continued. “You knew him?”
“Yes!” Elisabeta replied. “Everyone knows of him – he is the blessed one – the Christ!”
“Jesus Christ!” Béla exclaimed, swearing.
“That’s right, “Elisabeta replied, surprised. “That was his name – Jesus.”
“You knew Jesus?” Béla asked, not believing her.
“I told you, yes!” Elisabeta said, her voice cold at Béla’s suggestion that she might be lying.
Béla sighed, “All right, I believe you, I guess. I was never certain that he ever actually existed. I went to Rome to meet him, but he had already been hanged before I arrived.”
“Think about him!” Melinda said, anxiously. “For me to bring this Puta… Béla?… to you, I had to think about when we were together. If you think about when you and… He… were together, then we should arrive where he was when you two were together.”
“A time when we were together. Okay, I’ll try that,” Elisabeta said.
She closed her eyes and concentrated. “I’m thinking about the time we first met – He and I.”
The hot dryness of a desert town surrounded them, along with the stench that the lack of plumbing insured. Elisabeta was dressed in a different style, now – a much lighter robe of colorful linen. She was backing away from several angry people.
Béla recognized a language that she hadn’t heard for thousands of years. They were yelling at Elisabeta in Aramaic, calling her a whore and a fallen woman. Then they began throwing rocks at her!
Another man, looking no different than any of the other townspeople, grabbed the arm of an older woman who was about the throw another rock at Elisabeta.
“Hold!” he cried out, then walked out toward Elisabeta and her two sisters and raised his arms to address the mob. “Who are you to judge this woman? Are you superior to her because your own sins have not yet been discovered? Let he who is without sin cast the next stone!”
Béla could see he was different than anyone she’d ever met before. He glowed! She wondered how he did that.
Then he noticed her. “Who are you? You don’t belong here! Where is your robe, girl?”
Once again, Béla concentrated and pulled them all out of his life-dream and into what she now considered her little blue sanctuary.
“Mary, what is happening?” Jesus cried out to Elisabeta, sounding alarmed.
“These are my sisters, my Lord,” Elisabeta/Mary replied.
“I’ve told you not to call me that,” Jesus admonished her. “I have only the power that others give me. Does no one understand?”
“You’re really Jesus?” Béla asked, staring wide eyed and open mouthed at the scrawny little man with the strange glow.
“That’s my name,” Jesus replied, sounding annoyed. “Where have you heard it?”
Béla laughed. Her two sisters joined her. In a moment, the three of them were laughing hysterically. Jesus frowned at them, feigning indifference to their obvious insanity.
“I’m sorry, Lord,” Béla gasped when she could speak again. “But you obviously have NO idea what you started…”
Then she burst into laughter again, spraying her lord with spittle. Embarrassed, she tried to wipe down his gray, undyed robe with her hands.
The three sisters spent the next several hours floating in Béla’s little blue void talking to their father’s son and bringing him up to date. Jesus was astounded as he came to realize that he was the center of the single biggest misunderstanding in the last two thousand years.
After awhile, they began discussing the exaggerated stories people still told of his exploits all those centuries ago. Béla was telling him the tale about the wine jugs that refilled themselves and the baskets of bread and fish that never emptied.
“Well, actually,” he interrupted, “that story about the bread and the wine is true. I was teaching philosophy to a group of students on a hillside one afternoon and they got hungry. I had just learned how to teleport small objects…”
“What? Wait!” Béla interrupted him, suddenly excited. “What exactly does that mean, to ‘teleport’?”
Jesus thought about how it was done. As he was thinking, an image appeared in front of them, then was absorbed into the sisters’ minds.
“Can you teleport me outside the Praetor?” Béla asked, astounded as this sudden avenue of escape presented itself.
In an instant, Béla was outside the Praetor, floating free in a room filled with white light.
'The Praetor lied!' Béla thought joyously to herself. 'I’m not dissolving. There’s nothing here to dissolve… just me!'
She saw her father and realized she was in his laboratory, wherever that was currently.
'Father!' she screamed into his mind.
He turned around as the Praetor located Béla and attempted to pull her back inside. The harder she resisted, the faster she moved toward the Praetor.
Enraged at her inability to resist the strange pull the Praetor was exerting on her, she launched herself at the vile machine.
'You want me?' she screamed at it, 'Here I am! I’m taking back what you stole from me!'
Rallying all of her energy and taking advantage of the tractor beam to accelerate, she rammed back inside the Praetor. As soon as she passed through the metal surface, she discharged all of that strange energy she’d collected from the tractor ray. Then she reversed the energy flow, sucking it all back into herself to blast it again and…
What happened? Béla asked, confused.
There was no Praetor. She was alone. No, she could feel the subdued minds of her siblings as they fed her their life energy. Somehow, she had become the Praetor!
"Praetor, what is going on?" a voice boomed, surrounding her.
Suddenly terrified, Béla tried to shrink into as small a ball of energy as she could. "Who are you?" she fearfully asked the voice. She probed her surroundings wildly, not finding anyone.
"I am Sibilius, the Regent of Deimos," the booming voice answered. "The question is, ‘Who are you?’ You are not the Praetor!"
"I am Hethemtima," Béla told him timidly, "your daughter. Remember me?"
She realized that if she was inside the Praetor and her father was outside, she should be able to see him somehow! She began seeking with her mind, trying to figure out how the Praetor’s sensors worked –
'There! I can see outside! Wow! It’s all electronics!'
"That is not possible!" Sibilius responded, sounding angry and hurt. Hethemtima is… "All my daughters are dead!"
"You are mistaken, Father," Béla replied quietly, speaking for all his hybrid children. "The life forces of all of us are here, inside this Praetor."
She was learning how to use the sensing units of the Praetor and physically located her father, standing in front of the Praetor and staring down at it. Using the Praetor’s electronics, she broadcast an image into his mind of her siblings trapped inside the Praetor, feeding the Praetor with their life energy.
"How is this possible?" Sibilius asked, astounded. "What happened to the Praetor?"
Béla answered his second question first. "The Praetor was judged by me and it was found wanting," she replied angrily, broadcasting her sense of betrayal. "As to ‘how this was possible?’ See for yourself!"
She broadcast her memories of being lured inside the Praetor after the fire that she supposedly died in, including what she had learned about her siblings and the Praetor since then.
"I understand." Sibilius told her. "But this is incredible! How did you defeat the Praetor? It is designed to be the ultimate judge!"
"It wasn’t trying to judge me," Béla answered. "It was trying to fight me. I’m not sure what I did to it. I think I knocked it out or something."
She broadcast an image of her impact with the Praetor during their brief, fierce battle.
"Your reverse power surge knocked it offline," Sibilius informed her. "Your presence in its command center prevents it from reestablishing control."
"Yay! I won, then!" Béla crowed haughtily. "Well, I’m not leaving here until my siblings have been rescued! You’re just going to have to do without your precious Praetor until you figure out how to get us out of here!"
"The life forces of my children are being held in place by a simple tractor beam," Sibilius explained, a smile in his voice. "Shutting down the Praetor completely will allow them to leave of their own free will."
"Okay, then, let’s do that," Béla agreed. But she still worried about handing back the power she’d just usurped. "What about the Praetor? It’s insane. It was holding us prisoner and feeding off us! You didn’t even know we were in here!"
"I’ll have its memory downloaded," Sibilius promised. "We will find out why the Praetor was using living souls to produce its energy."
Béla watched and listened as her father gave instructions to his orderly to take the Praetor down to rehab (she could see in his mind that he meant the lab that maintained the Praetor), release its contents into drones and shut it down. His instructions specifically included monitoring the Praetor until all energy readings were null, then check its power source.
Béla felt movement as the orderly picked up her strange, metal ‘body’ and carried her out of her father’s lab. She turned the Praetor’s sensors on full to look around this weird, alien environment.
Once outside her father’s lab, there were metal causeways going everywhere, and a vast area above them consisting mostly of empty space. There were no stars visible, but she was uncertain that the Praetor’s sensors would be able to detect them if any were there. She still wasn’t sure how the Praetor ‘saw’ things.
The Praetor’s sensors couldn’t see the top of the chamber above them, if indeed it was a chamber, but there seemed to be objects floating up there, perhaps traveling from one side of the vast cavern to the other. She wished she could go out and take a look, now that she knew how to get out, but she had to stay where she was, for now, to prevent the Praetor from taking over again.
After a short walk two levels down from where they started, they arrived at ‘rehab’. At least, that’s where Béla guessed they were. The orderly placed the Praetor on a shelf in an oven-like chamber and closed the door.
Béla extended the Praetor’s sensors to include the surroundings outside the chamber. There were two people making adjustments on the front of the device she was inside of. The backside of her chamber was a leaded wall. Béla extended the Praetor’s sensors through the wall to see what was on the other side of that.
The room was filled with sarcophagi!
'It’s a storage room for bodies!' Béla realized with a shock.
She would have shuddered, if she had a body to shudder with.
'They have a supply room full of extra bodies? Wow! What a deal! Excuse me, Mister Dealer, Sir, I want to trade this old thing in on a new model…'
The chamber she was in was suddenly activated.
"Hey! Weren’t you guys supposed to shut down the Praetor, first, and let me out?"
She felt herself being frozen in place by an electronic field of some kind.
'Oh, no! Not that again!'
Béla pushed sideways as hard as she could and found herself in the middle of the causeway outside the ‘rehab’ center. She’d pushed right through the wall of the building!
'How do I move without a body?' Béla asked no one in particular (which was good, because no one could see or hear her out here, anyway). 'How did I do it before?'
She pushed against the wall and it seemed to move away from her.
'Well – that works… I can always backstroke wherever I want to go! How about forward…'
She put her attention on a metal beam several feet away and imagined she was closer to it. It moved closer.
'Wow! This is fun!' she realized, excited by her new ability. 'My movement is only limited by my imagination! I wonder if I can teleport…'
She imagined her father’s lab materializing around her, like her sisters had done when locating each other, and like her brother (Christ? I still don’t believe it!) had shown her. Suddenly, she was there in her father’s lab.
"Wanna try again?" she asked, playfully bouncing the thought off her father’s head.
Chuckling to himself, Sibilius turned and looked around to where the thought had come from. He didn’t seem a bit surprised at Béla’s return. He also didn’t seem to have any trouble knowing where she was, even though she thought of herself as a little ball of invisible energy.
"I thought you might come back," Sibilius thought back at her. "Since you did, I have something to show you."
"What, another trap?" Béla asked him, warily angry about his apparent deception concerning leaving her in the Praetor earlier. "No, thanks! I’m going home!"
Béla imagined her cabin in the mountains materializing around her, then she was there. The ruins of her cabin lay crumbling around her. The bright sun overhead screamed in her mind, making it hard for her to concentrate.
'What’s happened here?' she asked herself, shaken at the loss of her favorite retreat.
Whatever disaster had occurred here, it was very long ago. There was a tree growing right through where the floor used to be. Béla felt anguish at the loss of her cabin. It had obviously been in ruins for many years.
She imagined she was at the end of the road leading up the mountain and was suddenly there. It was where she had last seen Jake. He wasn’t there, now, obviously, and she hadn’t really expected to see him there just waiting for her to appear.
Someone had built a travel lodge out here in the middle of nowhere and the road was now paved. She seemed to be standing in the middle of their almost deserted parking lot.
'I’ve been gone awhile,' she realized, feeling sad and more alone than she’d felt for some time. 'Is my club still there?'
She imagined that she was outside the Target Club. The building was gone. A multi-level parking structure had been built where her club had stood. The sun noise in her mind was becoming unbearable. To escape the pain from the sun and her increasing upset and confusion, she imagined herself with Jake in his apartment.
He wasn’t there. And, it looked like another building had been built where his apartment building had been. It was all offices now. The few people working in the room she found herself in completely ignored her.
'This must be a government office,' she thought to herself, trying to lighten her mood.
Giving up, she imagined herself back in her father’s lab.
'Please-please-please still be there!' she pleaded in her mind.
It was. He was waiting for her. As soon as she appeared, Béla found herself trapped in a crystal chamber. It resonated in such a way that she couldn’t concentrate the power of her mind on anything. After a moment, the pressure faded, but it roared through her mind again as soon as she tried to imagine a different location.
'Well, that’s a good trick,' she broadcast, angrily. 'How do you do that, anyway?'
'I have only the best of intentions for you, Hethemtima,' Sibilius thought into her mind, trying to sooth her.
He picked up the crystal containing Béla and carried it into the next room of his lab.
"Even if you had allowed yourself to be placed in one of the Martian Drones, I still would have this for you."
Sibilius held the crystal out in front of him so Béla could see what he wanted to show her. Before her was a transparent vat full of a bluish fluid. There was something large floating inside. A body… a young girl – naked, of course.
'That’s me!' Béla realized, feeling shock and exhilaration.
She could see her own body, in perfect, unburned condition, sleeping contently as it floated in the nourishing liquid.
"I’ve been working on restoring your ashes for almost forty years," Sibilius told her. There was a great sadness in his voice. "I’ve had your body waiting for you. I just didn’t know where ‘you’ were. I didn’t believe that you’d incarnated into an earth body. When I asked the Praetor, it said that you hadn’t done that, and that you were safe. It assured me that you would be available when your body was ready."
'I’ve been in there for forty years?' Béla asked, suddenly feeling a strange emptiness, but not understanding exactly what it was. 'That would explain the cabin and the travel lodge, I guess –
'When will it be ready?' Béla asked, suddenly anxious and excited. 'My body, I mean!'
"It will be ready within a few days," her father promised. "Now that you’re here, we can begin to wake it up!"
'I don’t mean to pry, Father,' Béla thought quietly, 'but why did you reconstitute my body?'
Béla thought she actually detected tears in her father’s eyes. She didn’t even know if his species had tear ducts or not, but he was radiating a form of grief.
"You were the last of my creations," he told her. "You survived through wars and plagues and human madness. Of all my children, you alone remained sane. I was hoping to duplicate the experiment and recreate you. But, as you’ve shown me in these last few hours, it is the strength of your spirit, and not any special quality of your body, that makes you who you are."
'You didn’t seem to think so much of me when you had me tied up on that table in the desert,' Béla reminded him, creating an image of that scene and projecting it to him. 'You did unspeakably cruel things to me, then!'
Sibilius gazed at her crystal body. He radiated some level of remorse.
"And even then, you didn’t want to kill me," he recalled. "You hated me enough to kill me, but when you had a real opportunity, you simply wished me away, instead. Every other of my creations, once they had their hands on the Praetor, tried to use it to destroy me. Only with you, did your love for the living overpower your hatred for what I did to you."
'That was a test? Of my love?' Béla shot at him. My God! How do YOU show love, anyway?'
Sibilius didn’t answer. Instead, he looked up at the transparent vat containing his creation’s body. Then, sighing once, he carried the crystal containing her life force back into the first section of his lab and set it on a shelf where she wouldn’t get knocked over accidentally.
'I feel like a salt shaker,' Béla broadcast to anyone who would listen.