Twenty minutes ago.
Princess Tasmin stepped out from behind the changing screen, wearing nothing but a white cotton shift and silver lace-up sandals. She grinned playfully and held up her wrists, which were bound by the manacles he’d given her earlier.
“So what do you think?” she asked.
Kell shrugged. “I thought you were going to wear the metal bikini,” he said, the disappointment apparent in his gravelly voice.
“That thing chafes,” the princess complained. “And it’s at least a size too small!”
“It’s supposed to fit like that,” Kell replied. “It smooshes all your soft parts together.”
The princess sighed and sat down on the bed next to the pirate. They were only minutes away from arriving back at Zaladon IV and she really wanted to get a quickie in before that stupid frog captain kicked her off the ship.
She supposed the brawl in the mess hall had been the last straw. A flirtatious wink here, a tweaked nipple there and within minutes the pirates were in the midst of a jealous brawl that only ended when the captain flooded the deck with sleeping gas. Sure, the fight had left two of the pirates dead and three more in the sick bay, but she was bored. She’d been having the time of her life on Zaladon IV, known throughout the galaxy as “The Pleasure Planet.” There were flesh pits and bloodsports and drugs that, even to an experienced user like herself, were new and unique. She’d been there two weeks, only remembered three days of it, and woke up somewhere new every afternoon. It was great!
And then one day she awoke on the pirate ship instead, having been kidnapped so that she could be ransomed back to her father. She tried to tell them there was no chance of that. Her father was very strict on matters relating to kidnapping, blackmail and the like. He never paid ransom or extortion. He simply paid someone else to kill those who were trying to extort him, usually in brutal ways. Sometimes he even kept souvenirs. He had a jar full of eyeballs in his study, and used a skull as a paperweight on his desk. Sometimes Tasmin worried about her father.
But these pirates were a fairly stupid, single-minded bunch and wouldn’t listen to reason. So the princess decided to have her fun with them while she could. Their alcohol was cheap, but effective, and their drugs were pedestrian for a connoisseur like herself but a girl had to take what she could get. Tasmin even bedded a few of the pirates, since she thought that they should have at least a little bit of fun before her father’s mercenaries eviscerated them. None of them were skilled by any means, but they were at least enthusiastic. She picked Kell for a final fling since he was large, scaly and into light bondage, three things she liked in a man. And sometimes a woman.
But now he was sitting on the bed and sulking.
“C’mon,” she coaxed, rubbing a finger along the reptilian’s snout. “I did wear the manacles.”
Kell snorted and Tasmin could see his sharp teeth as he gave her a little grin.
Then the ship’s alarm sounded. Kell bolted off the bed and looked out the porthole.
“By all the dead stars,” he growled.
“What is it?” Tasmin asked, rushing over to Kell’s side. Then saw it, and gave an involuntary gasp.
“That can’t be a ship,” she said. “It’s huge!”
A giant egg-shaped mass was directly ahead of them. Tasmin thought at first that it was a moon, but then she saw lights on the construct’s surface, and the glow of massive engines from beneath.
“It’s a ship, all right,” Kell snarled. “That’s got to be the Gran Huevo de la Muerte. We are fucked.”
Tasmin saw a laser blast erupt from the massive ship. She barely had time to scream a warning before the pirate vessel rocked hard and sent both her and Kell stumbling. A second blast rocked the ship again, harder this time, and they both fell. Kell crashed hard onto the deck, and Tasmin tumbled on top of him, her elbow striking him squarely in the eye.
“Hell and damnation,” he growled, pushing her off and regaining his feet. “They hit the main engines. If we were fucked before, we’re double-fucked now.”
“I’ve been double-fucked,” said the princess plaintively as she rose to her feet. “This is nothing like that.”
Kell looked at her suddenly, and a gleam appeared in his non-swollen eye.
“I’ve got it,” he said. “The escape pod. We can use that to get away! We’ll land on Zaladon IV and then we can…”
The princess shook her head.
“Uh-uh,” she said. “There’s no ‘we’ here. I thought you’d be a fun time before daddy’s men came storming in and killed everyone, but that’s it. Unless you can get it up and show a girl a good time while everything’s blowing up around us, this is where we say good-bye.”
The gleam in Kell’s eye turned dangerous.
“So that’s the way it is,” he said. “I’m nothing but a cheap piece of ass to you, am I? Just a quick bang and then you’re off to the next unlucky sap.”
“Kell,” the princess sighed, holding up her manacled wrists, “you weren’t even a quick bang. Now if you could unlock these, I’ll be on my way.”
Kell glared, and then he grabbed the manacles.
“Not a chance, princess,” he snarled. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re still worth a ransom.”
Princess Tasmin started to argue, but Kell grabbed a towel and stuffed it into her mouth. Then he grabbed his sword and dragged her out into the hallway.
The princess bolted down the hall, pulling the gag out of her mouth as she ran. She wanted to get to the escape pod and off of the ship before Kell could kill the frog and catch up to her. She had no doubt that the reptilian would have murder on his mind, and she wasn’t entirely certain that the lure of a possible ransom was enough to quell his more atavistic instincts. She turned a corner, then hid inside a doorway as several screaming pirates ran by.
One of them was on fire.
Tasmin stayed perfectly still, hiding until the screams stopped, and then ran again. She clutched the escape pod key tightly in one hand, and cursed Kell for not removing the manacles. Still, if she could get to the pod and escape back to Zaladon IV, she knew plenty of people who would have a key. And with any luck she’d be able to avoid her father’s mercenaries and indulge in another week or so of lecherous fun.
Tasmin rounded a bend and saw the hatch leading to the escape pod a mere twenty yards ahead. She heard the sounds of battle close by, but she didn’t see anyone. Carefully, she moved towards the hatch. As she neared she saw the blinking control panel. That it was still lit up was a good sign. The princess crossed her fingers that the damage to the engines hadn’t done any harm to the hatch mechanism and got close enough to insert the key when a pair of figures locked in combat tumbled out of a doorway and into the hall.
She recognized one of them. It was Gug, a large pirate from a high-G world who specialized in bludgeoning, pummeling and crushing. In the fight in the mess mall he had picked up a fellow pirate in each of his immense hands and swung them with ease. Tasmin never tried seducing him because she wasn’t sure he would even understand the concept, and was afraid that even if he did she would spend the rest of her life in traction.
Facing Gug was a blonde human woman. The princess assumed she had come from that massive ship, and also assumed that she’d be returning to it either in a body-bag or in a jar, depending on how angry Gug got. She was wearing a plasti-steel breastplate that showed off her abs, and for possibly the first time in her life Tasmin was jealous of another woman. The blonde’s abdominal muscles looked like they were sculpted out of marble and then painted a flesh color.
Still, impressive physique aside, the blonde woman was still no match for Gug.
The big pirate swung a head-sized fist at the woman. For all his bulk, Gug was agile enough and Tasmin thought that the fight was already over. The blonde stood her ground but then, just as the blow was about to land, she moved.
To say she was quick was an understatement. It was like calling the sun hot, or the universe big. She sidestepped the attack, grabbed Gug’s arm and with a single deft motion spun the appendage back and popped it clean out of its socket. Gug stood still for a moment. His brain had to first process that he had failed to connect with his punch, and then react to the pain that suddenly erupted from his shoulder.
Then he howled in agony.
The blonde woman didn’t hesitate for a second. She swung a leg up in a perfect kick, cutting Gug’s yowls short as her foot connected with his throat. He coughed and sputtered, reaching for his injured throat with his good hand. Unfortunately for the pirate that left him in an exceedingly vulnerable position as the blonde dropped to the floor, used the momentum to slide right through Gug’s legs, and send a short straight-punch right into his crotch on the way.
Tasmin saw the big pirate’s knees buckle and she made a dash for the control panel. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing, and she also knew that there was no way she was going to get away from the blonde woman. But she wasn’t ready to go home just yet. She inserted the key into the panel. The hatch started to slide open, and that was when the blonde woman saw her.
“Hey,” she said, moving past Gug. “You’re that princess we’re looking for.”
The princess didn’t even look back, she just jumped through the hatch and into the escape pod. She was reaching for the launch control button when a hand grabbed her ankle.
“Not so fast, princess,” the woman said as she pulled Tasmin back into the ship. “You’re worth a big, fat reward, y’know.”
Tasmin kicked at the woman with her free leg and hung onto the hatch.
“Let me go, you hard-bodied freak,” she cried, struggling to escape.
Then she saw Gug rise to his feet behind the woman. The pirate grabbed her with his good arm and Tasmin gave a good kick, getting free as the blonde was pulled back by Gug. Tasmin dove for the escape pod’s launch button, pushing it even as the blonde woman twisted Gug’s good arm in a painful looking wristlock. The hatch doors started to shut and for a moment Tasmin thought she had escaped. But then the blonde launched herself at the shrinking portal, twisted in mid-air, and landed inside the pod. They looked at each other for a brief moment.
And then Gug’s arm came through the portal, grabbing at the blonde woman. She gritted her teeth and grabbed the arm, holding it even as the hatch doors slammed shut, severing it entirely. Dark blood sprayed the both of them as the escape pod’s engine ignited, sending it spinning away from the wreckage of the pirate ship and hurtling towards Zaladon IV.