Part 4: Shiva - Chapter 1

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Monk sat on the bridge of the Shepherd Moon and watched the approaching spacecraft on the screen. He had at first questioned the orders from Zeus that informed him a Sape was coming to join the ship. Then he'd discovered the Sape was Stefan Rix himself. Why was that necessary? Didn't Rix trust him? But after a moment he'd reconciled himself to the situation. No, of course Rix didn't trust him, just like he didn't trust Rix.

In any event, there was nothing to be done about it.

Beside him in the co-pilot's chair, Bashful was less tolerant. He had just finished a diatribe in which he injected all the venom he could, and many curse words, about what he thought of Sapes.

'Be quiet,' Monk said. 'Nothing's gained by your comments.'

'But we don't need him!' Bashful persisted, slamming his fist on the arm of the chair.

Monk blanked him out as he plotted the trajectory of Rix's ship and determined it would rendezvous in ten minutes. Not much time to make things ready. He'd ordered the ship cleaned last night: none of the other Helots, nor the two Serfs who were part of the crew, had bothered to keep the place tidy. It felt bizarre giving orders to fellow Helots—obscene, even—but the place had to be presentable. Rix would want to know that things were proceeding as he would wish them.

The kitchen was still a mess, and now largely empty of fresh food. He hoped Rix brought his own supplies with him, otherwise everyone would be living on pre-packaged goods from now on. The main living area, which encompassed a lounge and mess room and an entertainment section, had been straightened up by Sissy and another female, Pansy. The slave deck was reasonable. It was on the other side of the ship from the three Sapes' cabins. Those cabins alone were a similar-sized area to the space ten Helots had shared. The Helots avoided the slave deck now except for Creeper, who lorded over his own small empire, enjoying the space all to himself. Sissy and Monk had moved into the cabin that had belonged to Van Yang. Pansy had also paired up with a thick-headed, long-armed brute known as Gibbon. The amount of noise they made while having sex meant they were given Shana's old cabin, which was a little removed from the rest of the ship, down near the engineering bay.

It wasn't fair, of course, to still address the others by their nicknames. Gibbon's real name was Terin Parl, according to the ship's manifest. Monk had looked all their names up soon after they'd taken over the ship. Sissy was really Marla Musto, but everyone still called her Sissy. In fact they all still called each other by the nicknames the Sapes had bestowed on them. Their slave bonds were not just physical, and would take time to all drop away.

He eased himself out of the pilot's chair and walked to the door. He carried no weapon, not even one of the harpoons the Sapes had been killed with. He would show Rix he wasn't scared.

'Everyone come out here!' he announced over the ship's internal PA. 'The Sape is arriving!'

They trickled out from various parts of the ship: seven Helots, two Serfs. As soon as Sissy appeared he looked at her, and wondered secretly if she hadn't gained a little weight in the last few days. Gibbon and Pansy appeared from the kitchen where they'd been trying to clear up some of the more serious food stains. Creeper had been watching a movie in the entertainment area. He moved slowly out of the sofa he'd sprawled in and after a sharp glance from Monk turned the movie off. Four others, Lola, Sniper and the two Serfs Frank and Drummer, also arrived after a minute or two. Bashful had been ordered to stay on the bridge and co-ordinate the docking procedures.

'The gravity's too light!' said Creeper. 'I feel like I'm floating.'

It was pointless to repeat the need for the gravity to be adjusted to that of the Moon. Rix would be unable to move in anything stronger, and lighter gravity would discommode them all.

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