Beta 3: Belladonna Sciori

by Lobo De la Sombra

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© Copyright 2016 - Lobo De la Sombra - Used by permission

Storycodes: FM+; M/f; scifi; stun; capture; chains; shackles; prisoner; interrogation; freed; battle; slave; servitude; mc; cons/reluct; X

(story continues from )

Part 3: Belladonna Sciori

"What you're proposing is treason, don't you realize that?"

Seated to one side of the large table, Bella watched quietly as Spencer considered his reply.  As she waited for him to speak, she thought about the path that had brought them here.

They had spent, altogether, five days at Spencer's cabin, resting and preparing themselves for the first step in his grand plan.  After leaving, they had spent the next month and a half moving from town to town within the province.  At each town, Spencer had spoken with the leaders, directing each to meet here.

Now, watching as the assembled town leaders glared at Spencer, Bella couldn't help but wonder if it had been worth all of the effort.  He'd barely even begun to pitch his idea, and, already, there was opposition.

"How," Spencer finally said, "can you call this treason?"

"This," declared one of the men seated with Spencer, "is a colony of Earth, subject to Earth laws.  What you are suggesting is a violation of those laws."  At this, the others began to nod.

"We won't break Earth law," said one.

"My father was a criminal," said another.  "I am not.  I will not defy Earth law."

"Why not?"  All eyes turned as Bella rose from her chair.  "You say you won't break Earth law.  You talk like loyal subjects of Earth.  But where is Earth when it comes time to put food on your table?  Where is Earth when bandits raid your town, or when the so-called authorities strip you clean with the tribute they call taxes?"

The assembled men stared.  "Who the hell are you?" one demanded.

"My name," Bella replied, slowly approaching the table, "is Belladonna Sciori.  Perhaps you've heard of me."

"Of course we've heard of you," one man said sarcastically.  "We're isolated, but not that isolated."

"You," another declared, "are the one who almost overthrew the Earth government.  You're a mass murderer who ordered the deaths of millions."

"I," Bella replied, "was a soldier.  I may not have fought for the best of reasons, but at least I had the courage to fight.  And in spite of what you've heard, I never ordered anyone's murder.  My fight was against the military forces of Earth, not civilians."

"Naturally," she heard, "you would deny the charges against you."

"And naturally," she replied scathingly, "Earth would never lie.  Yes, I fought against the government of Earth.  And yes, people died. But not by my orders."

"Can you prove that what you say is true?"

In reply, Bella held up a sheet of paper.  "Each of you," she said, "is the son or daughter of someone sent here for their crimes.  This paper lists the charges against them.  Your father," she went on, directing her words toward the man who had last spoken, "was a government official in an area devastated by famine.  Did he really starve thousands to death by withholding needed supplies of food?"

"My father," the man replied, "withheld nothing.  There was nothing to withhold.  Most of the food that was supposed to be delivered to that area never arrived."

"Can you prove it?"

"None of this," one of the women said, "changes the fact that what you're describing is treason."

"What we're describing," Bella replied, "is freedom.  Earth doesn't care about you.  Earth has probably completely forgotten about you."

"But we are still a colony of Earth."

"This is no colony," Bella declared.  "This is a dumping ground, a place for Earth's leaders to get rid of anyone who threatens their hold on power."  She glanced toward Spencer.  "Look at him.  He's here because he tried to make things better for the common people.  He tried to make a difference, and his reward was a trial on invented charges, followed by a life sentence here."

"But we can't fight Earth."

"We don't have to.  All we have to do is claim this world, our world, for ourselves.  All of Earth's power here, such as it is, is centered on the spaceport.  Sieze that, create our own power structure, our own government, and Primus is free.  Earth can't afford to send a military force here large enough to take and occupy the whole planet.  They've got too many problems of their own, right there on Earth."

One of the men glanced toward Spencer.  "And you support this plan?"

"Support it?"  Spencer laughed.  "I created it."

"This is crazy," declared one of the women as she rose to her feet.  Are we going to sit here and listen to the mad schemes of a dishonored politician and..."she glared at the red collar still adorning Bella's neck..."and a slave?"

"I say," one of the men replied, also rising, "we put it to a vote.  Do I have a second?"  Seeing a hand raise, he nodded.  For a moment, he gazed silently at Bella, before turning his attention back to the table.  "Do we," he said, "vote to remain as we are?  Do we continue to exist as the backward, forgotten refuse of Earth?  Or do we stand, do we claim the rights to which we are entitled, and do we tell Earth that this is our world, and that we will no longer be their dumping ground?  I think," he added with a smile, "my vote in this matter is obvious.  Now, what about the rest of you?"

"Here's the latest."

Bella glanced up from her desk.  "And?"

Spencer grinned.  "Eighty percent of the planet is now with us," he said, nodding toward a map of Primus that adorned one wall.  "All that's left under Earth control is the area around the spaceport, and even that is shrinking.  The word is spreading, and more and more towns are declaring themselves free of Earth control."

"And the larger towns, the cities?  What about the authorities there, the ones receiving support from Earth?"

"Removed from power," Spencer reported.  "Peacefully in most cases, but there was violence in two areas."


"Light, in both cases."

Bella nodded, her attention still on the map.  "The real problem," she said, "the real fight, is still ahead of us.  I know one of the men in charge at the spaceport.  He will not give up his power without a fight.  And," she added, "he has the benefit of Earth technology, Earth weapons, while we make do with whatever we can scrounge."  She shook her head.  "I've seen the estimates," she said.  "Even if we were able to disarm all of the Earth-backed leaders in the areas we control, we'll only have enough weapons to arm about a hundred troops.  And no ammunition, once what we do have is gone."

"That," Spencer replied, "is your problem.  You're the military mind here, not me."

"Are you sure?"  Turning away from the map, Bella locked eyes with Spencer.  "I meant what I said back at that first meeting.  I never once ordered a civilian death.  I fought against a status quo that didn't want people like me to exist."  Slowly, she shook her head.  "People like me," she said softly.  "Smug, arrogant, caring nothing of anyone else.  Maybe they were right to ban our creation.  Besides, look how well my fight went.  Can I do any better here?"

Spencer placed his hands on her shoulders.  "You," he told her, "are not the same person you were then."

"No," Bella agreed, "I'm not."

"Besides," Spencer added, "here, things are different.  Here, you can fight for something, rather than against something.  Why you fight can be the most important distinction of all."

Bella nodded again, then rose from the desk.  "I need to think," she said.  "Lieutenant, I'm going to take a walk.  Keep an eye on things until I get back."

"Yes, Captain."

"Captain?"  Spencer looked at Bella, his eyes curious.  "I thought you were a General before."

"I was," Bella agreed, "but these people don't need a general to lead them.  What they need is a Captain to fight with them."

"We will win," Spencer declared.

"Yes," Bella replied, "we will."  For a moment, she locked eyes with him.  "And when we do, when all of this is over and we're in charge of our own lives, you and I need to have a long, serious talk about that command you gave me back at the cabin."

Bella woke slowly.  As her mind, her eyes, began to focus, she took in her surroundings.

She had, she remembered, been walking, her mind filled with plans, strategies.  She remembered a flash, remembered feeling her body go numb.  After that, nothing, until she woke to find herself here.

Here, she saw, looking around, was a small, square room, empty except for a single table and two chairs.  Bella lay against one wall, her wrists and ankles locked within steel shackles.  Chains connected the shackles, more chains securing her firmly to rings set into the wall.  Other than these, her only adornment was the red collar still locked around her neck.

Slowly, Bella pulled herself to a seated position.  I'd forgotten, she thought, how powerful a punch those stunners can put out.  Silently, she sat waiting for whoever might come for her.

After a period of time that might have been minutes or hours, the door to the room opened, allowing a single man to enter.  At the sight of him, Bella nodded.

"Kane," she said softly.

At first, Kane ignored her, settling into one of the chairs and spreading papers across the top of the table.  When he finally turned his attention toward her, his eyes were cold.

"So," he said, "the slave returns.  And she brings friends."  He glanced at the papers on the table.  "How is it," he asked, "that a slave, conditioned to total obedience, becomes the leader of a rebellion?"

"Maybe," Bella replied, "I am simply being obedient.  Maybe I was commanded to lead."

"Maybe you were," Kane said, nodding.  "And maybe, maybe, I will find the one giving those commands and cut his head off myself.  Now, slave, tell me where I can find the real leader of this rebellion."

"You won't have to find them," Bella replied.  "They'll find you, when they're ready."

"That," Kane said, "is not an answer.  You will tell me everything I want to know.  That is a direct command, and you have no choice but to obey."

Bella shook her head.  "Your control over me," she said, "ended when you commanded me to obey the man you sold me to.  You see, I've learned a few things about Beta conditioning since then, including its limits.  A Beta can only be commanded by one person at a time.  When you commanded me to obey someone else, you gave up any control you had over me.  I obey one person."  She smiled.  "And that person," she added, "is not you."

Glaring, Kane rose to his feet.  "You will give me the answers I need," he said, his voice harsh.  "If not by obeying my commands, then by more painful methods."  He glanced at the scattered papers.  "I already know part of it," he said.  "Enough to send a report back to Earth, along with a request for support."

"How long," Bella asked, "will it take for that report to reach Earth?  Two days, maybe more?  And even if they have forces right to hand, it will take another three weeks for them to get here.  Do you have three or four weeks to spare, Kane?"

"I will win," Kane told her, "with or without Earth's help.  With the weapons I have stockpiled here, your people don't stand a chance."

"Look at you," Bella said sadly.  "When you served me, you claimed to hate the Earth government and all it stood for.  Now you serve them, taking the scraps they toss at you, all in the name of your own precious power."  She sighed.  "I know," she said, "about power.  I know how it drives you, the need that can never be satisfied.  And I know how it feels to have no power at all.  None can have less power than a Beta slave."  Chains jingling, she reached up to touch the red collar.  "This," she said, "has taught me many things.  I used to think I was superior to everyone else.  Now, thanks to this, my only hope is to be equal."

She shook her head.  "Your power," she said softly, "will end here.  And when the ships from Earth get here, they will be told to go back to where they came from.  The people of Primus, the real people of Primus, don't want or need anything Earth has to offer.  We can, and will, take care of ourselves from now on."

"Before I kill the person commanding you," Kane said, turning toward the door, "I will make him give control over you back to me.  Then you'll learn things about power that you never dreamed of."  Pausing at the door, he looked back.  "Your next visitor," he said, "will be here to get answers from you.  He'll be ordered to keep you alive and relatively undamaged, at least visibly.  But you know what will happen to your mind.  Do you have anything you'd like to say before the pain starts?"

"Actually, I do have something to say."  Seeing the look of interest in Kane's eyes, Bella laughed.  "Don't," she said, "forget your papers.  I prefer to keep my room tidy."

Several hours later, the door opened once more.  This time, the man who entered had an unmistakable military air about him.  In one hand, he carried a case, which he placed on the table before turning his attention to Bella.

"I am here," he informed her, "to obtain certain information from you.  I am authorized to use any and all means necessary within the limits placed upon me.  The equipment I have means my methods will be crude.  You will suffer.  Providing me with information now will lessen that suffering a great deal."

Calmly, Bella gazed at the man.  "I don't recognize you," she said.  "You must have arrived after Kane traded me off.  You know who I am?"  The man nodded.  "Would you do me the honor of telling me who you are?"

"Of course.  I am Staff Sergeant Michael Landsdowne, United Earth Defense Force."

Bella nodded.  "Most impressive," she said.  With a glance at her chains, she added, "Please forgive my failure to rise in greeting.  If I may ask, how is it you came to be here?"

Landsdowne shook his head.  "I am not here to answer your questions."

Bella smiled.  "Please," she replied, "indulge me this one thing.  It's the least you could do, considering what's about to happen here."

"I was court-martialed," Landsdowne told her, "along with several others from my brigade, for gross insubordination and failure to obey the direct orders of a superior officer, leading to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians."

"And did you kill those people?"

"We refused, but they died anyway, and we were charged with the crime."

"And yet," Bella observed, "you continue to serve the very people who betrayed you.  Don't you find it the least bit ironic that you're about to help do what you refused to do, what you were punished for not doing, before?  The information you've been ordered to extract from me will result in the deaths of thousands, perhaps millions, of people whose only desire is the right to decide for themselves."

"And you," Landsdowne said, "are trying to help those people gain that right?"

"I was," Bella nodded, "until I wound up here."

For a moment, Landsdowne stood looking at her.  Then, turning, he closed the case.  "It would appear," he said, lifting the case from the table, "that I failed to bring all of the equipment I require.  When I return, we will begin."

Waiting for Landsdowne to return, Bella watched the shadows move slowly across the wall of her cell.  Slowly, the cell began to darken.  Evening, she thought, probably about the same time of day as when she'd started the walk that had brought her here.  Sitting quietly in the gathering gloom, she found herself wondering where Spencer was, what he was doing with her gone.

Thinking about Spencer, picturing his face, Bella couldn't help but smile.  In their time together, this one man had done more for her, given more to her, than perhaps even he realized.  By treating her as an equal, instead of a slave, he had helped her to remember that she was, indeed, human.  He had also, in his quiet way, shown her that there was no such thing as "superiority".  There was only the difference of one human being from another. The sound of the door broke her train of thought, drawing her attention back to the world around her.

"Your people," Landsdowne said, closing the door, "have launched their attack.  They are, of course, outgunned."  He shook his head slowly.  "Most of them," he went on, "don't even have guns.  Just like those civilians back on Earth."

"And what," Bella asked, "do you intend to do this time?"

"My duty."  Leaning down, Landsdowne produced a key, quickly unlocking Bella's shackles.  Rising, he stepped back and snapped to attention.

"Private Michael Landsdowne, reporting for duty, Sir!"

Slowly, Bella drew herself to her feet.  "Stand easy, Private."  Watching him relax his stance, she asked, "Why?"

"I refused to participate in genocide on Earth," Landsdowne told her, "and I refuse to do so here.  If you mean to end this, I stand with you, as do the others from my brigade here."

"How many?"

"Sixty-two," was the reply, "counting myself.  As we speak, the others are preparing to gain control of the arms warehouse adjacent to this building.  It would be my honor to escort you to join them."

Bella glanced down at her naked body.  "Unfortunately," she said, "I appear to be underdressed for the occasion."

Landsdowne smiled.  "As to that..."  Setting his case on the table, he opened it and handed Bella the clothing she'd been wearing when captured.  Once Bella had dressed herself, Landsdowne pulled a pistol belt from the case, offering it to her.  As she settled the belt around her waist, he drew his own pistol, opening the door and checking the hallway beyond.

"Clear," he reported, "for now.  With your permission, I suggest we move."

Bella nodded.  "Lead on, Private."  Drawing her weapon, Bella checked its load.  Snapping the clip back into place, she followed Landsdowne toward the rising sounds of battle outside.

Altogether, it took just over five hours to completely break the spaceport's defenses.  Landsdowne's fellow soldiers, after taking the warehouse, had mounted a furious attack, breaking through and allowing the stored weapons to be funnelled to the attackers.  Now armed with weapons equal to those of their enemy, the people of Primus had captured the spaceport facilities, driving the defenders back into a steadily shrinking area.  Surrounded on all sides, the defenders had fought viciously, exacting heavy casualties even as their perimeter shrank until it contained a single building.

Of the sixty-two men who had started the battle with her, less than thirty remained as Bella approached the enemy's final defenses.  Arriving at the front line, she nodded a greeting to the tired, smoke-stained people who greeted her.

"Captain!  You're alive!"

Bella smiled wearily.  "Yes, Lieutenant," she said, "it would appear so."  She glanced toward the building from which, only seconds earlier, all fire had ceased.  "Have they agreed to our terms?"

"Nothing yet, Captain, but they have stopped shooting."

"So I see.  Still, remain alert.  Until and unless they surrender, they're still dangerous."

Moments later, the door of the building opened.  From within, a line of men emerged, empty hands held high.  At the rear of the line, two men dragged a third, struggling figure between them.

"It looks like they accepted our terms."

Bella nodded.  "So it would seem."  She turned to Landsdowne.  "Private, secure the prisoners, please."


Bella smiled, then turned her attention elsewhere.  "Spencer?"

"On his way," she was told.

"Have him meet me inside," Bella said, then nodded toward the struggling figure at the rear of the line of prisoners.  "And have him brought to us."

"You've lost, Kane.  It's over."

Kane moved slowly, the chains connecting his wrist and ankle shackles jingling softly.  "For now."

"No."  Bella shook her head.  "For good.  A message has already been sent to Earth, telling them to recall any forces being sent here.  Of course, they'll arrive before any such recall can get to them, but it does allow us to say we tried to warn them before the ships arrived and met the planet's defenses.  Defenses we now control, by the way."

"And who is we?"

Bella nodded to Spencer, who sat beside her, along with several other men and women.  "The provisional government of the free and independent world of Primus," she said.  "Meet Charles Spencer, our new President."

"New..."  Kane stared at Spencer.  "It was you," he said slowly, "wasn't it?  You're the one commanding her.  You ordered her to do all of this."

"Actually," Spencer replied, "I did give her a command, but this wasn't it."

"Then what?"

Bella smiled, thinking about the words whispered in her ear in a small cabin on a mountain.  "He did give me a command," she said softly, "one that I will gladly obey for the rest of my life."

"What command?"

"He said, 'From now on, you obey only yourself'."  Seeing Kane's eyes widen with shock, she laughed softly.  "Yes," she said, "he actually spoke those words to me.  And by saying those words, he freed me."

"But," Kane protested, "you're still Beta.  You still wear the collar."

Bella fingered her collar.  "Yes," she said, "I do.  Fortunately, we now have the tools we need to remove my collar, as well as all of the other collars still worn by any Beta on this world.  Nobody else sent here wears a collar, so why should we?  Also, all remaining Betas will be given the same command I was, freeing them.  We are one people now.  You could have joined us, but you chose your own path, and now you must pay for your decision."  She turned her attention to one side.  "Colonel Landsdowne," she said with a smile, "as commander of the Primus Defense Force, would you be so kind as to have the prisoner escorted to his cell, there to await trial?"

"Sir, it would be my true honor."

Smiling, Bella rose from her chair, drawing Spencer up as well.  "As for you," she said softly, "we have things to discuss."  Turning, she led him from the room.

"What is it you want to talk about?"

Turning, Bella smiled, her hands going to her waist.  As Spencer watched, she quickly shed her clothing.  "You know," he said, "you don't have to do this."

Still smiling, Bella quickly relieved him of his own clothing.  "Actually," she said, drawing him down onto the bed, "I do."

"How so?"

"After the battle," Bella said, wrapping her arms around him and pulling him to her, "when I saw you, saw that you were safe, I gave myself a command.  I commanded myself to love you well and truly for the rest of my life.  And as you know," she added, kissing him softly, "I have no choice but to obey."

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