Colony Ship Eight

by The Technician

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© Copyright 2015 - The Technician - Used by permission

Storycodes: M+/f+; FM; alien/f+; scifi; spaceship; doomsday; astroid; tribute; slaves; collar; chain; toys; insert; nipple; naked; public; display; climax; cons/reluct; X

What would you do to get on the last ship off a doomed planet?

Everyone was seeking an opportunity to get off-planet before an asteroid destroyed all life on Earth, and the Zorteff controlled the colony ships. But if you were not a scientist going into space for training or someone selected for the colony ship, your only chance– if you were a woman– was to go with the Zorteff as one of their “servants.” If a woman did that, she would live, but it would be as a sex slave on the Zorteff home planet.

Maria Rosales was one of the few people on Earth who truly had a choice. She could leave as a scientist, or on Colony Ship Eight, or she, like the rest of the population of the planet, could watch the colony ship depart and pray that this was not the orbit of the asteroid which spelled the end of all humanity.

I really don’t know if I started out to write a Science Fiction Story and got too erotic or was going to write an erotic story and got too SciFi. Sex wise, it is pretty tame compared to what I normally write for erotic stories. I debated deleting it, or doing a total re-write, but something about the story just feels right, so I am posting it as is.

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Maria could remember the very moment when the countdown clocks in every major city on Earth clicked past the one year mark and switched from displaying years and days to displaying days and hours. Every vidcast on every network in every country showed the silent crowds who gathered beneath the giant billboards in every major city as Earth began what could very well be its final year of existence.

The clocks had begun at 27 years, 231 days. They now read 87 days. The hours didn’t matter– not yet. The day would come when the hours mattered, and then the minutes, and finally the seconds, but for now 87 days was sufficient information.

The massive asteroid, about one-fourth the size of Earth’s moon, had first been spotted nearly two centuries ago as it wound its erratic path through the solar system. At first the doomsday prophets claimed that there was no way that it could miss the Earth. Then, for some unknown reason, its orbit shifted slightly and the new prediction became that it would pass barely 1.2 lunar distances from the Earth. That estimate proved optimistic. By the time the asteroid finally passed the Earth, it was only 0.73 lunar distances away– a very close miss in space terms.

It was feared that at that distance, the huge asteroid would be close enough to the Earth that tides would be disrupted by its gravitational pull. Especially in California and around the Pacific rim it was also feared that severe Earthquakes might be triggered by its passage. Surprisingly, neither occurred. There was some very slight disruption of the tides, but the gravitational effect was much, much less than expected and no major Earthquakes occurred.

What happened next, however, was truly Earth shaking. Shortly after the bright glow of what looked like an irregularly-shaped moon passed out of the night skies, the first Zorteff ship arrived.

When the odd-shaped craft descended slowly out of the sky and came to rest in Central Park in New York City, USA, that nation– and the world– was thrown into a panic. The massive space ship towered above the trees in a small clearing and could be seen easily from the steps of the American Museum of Natural History which was across Central Park West from the landing site. For that reason, New York police used the museum as their forward station. Their tactical teams soon surrounded the elongated sphere which seemed to be supported on three, massive, tubular legs.

Nothing happened for four days as tensions– and military presence– grew. Then on the fifth day, a stairway lowered from the bottom of the ship and one of the Zorteff slowly descended.

The Zorteff were bi-pedal beings whose body shape was vaguely humanoid, but whose skin surface texture and coloring were very reptilian. Their lizard-like heads and humanoid bodies were covered in a gray, scaly material that looked– and, as was later discovered, felt– very much like the skin of a snake. They did not wear clothing, but the patterns of color in their scales– especially on their abdomens– gave them the appearance of wearing very-tight fitting uniforms of some sort. No outward signs of genitalia were present.

The Zorteff who descended the ramp was carrying a large sign in one hand which said, “IN PEACE WE COME. COMMUNICATIONS WAVE UNDERSTAND NO. TALKER VOLUNTEER WE NEED. FEMALE HUMAN MUST BE.”

The lizard person was wearing a boxy headset far back on its head and was holding a similar unit in his other hand. He... or she... or it... stopped at the base of the steps and held out the headset toward the wall of police, national guard, and army soldiers which now surrounded the ship.

One of the National Guard officers stepped forward, obviously speaking on a shoulder mounted radio to someone. After a short conversation, the officer lay down his weapon and began to remove his body armor. The last item removed was the helmet, at which point, it became apparent that the officer was not a he, but was, in fact, female. With the body armor removed, the loose-fitting uniform hinted slightly at her femininity, and with the helmet removed, her fine facial features and regulation woman’s haircut confirmed her gender.

She stepped forward slowly and cautiously, pausing every few steps to see what action or reaction came from the reptilian creature. Any aggressive movement would have been met with significant firepower, but the large, gray lizard person stood passively immobile at the base of the ramp. Finally she was standing directly in front of him.

The headset in his hand was at her eye level. He moved his arm slightly, extending the headset toward her, and she took it from his hand. He then moved his arms to his own headset and lifted it off of his head and put it back in place. Surprisingly, it sat behind, rather than over, what appeared to be his ears. The officer did the same and placed the headset on her head with the cups or whatever they were, just behind her ears.

“I can hear him,” she radioed, even though the lizard did not appear to be speaking or making any sort of sound. “He says that our language– our means of communication– is so different from theirs that they cannot program their translators. They need to make a direct mind connection to gather more data on our way of communicating by speech. I need to go with him inside the ship. He promises that I will be safe.”

The lizard being turned and walked back up the ramp into the ship. The officer followed him. She did not return for three days. When she did, she was carrying several small, radio-like devices. A similar device was hanging around her neck.

“These are translators,” she said. “They can be worn by a person, or connected to a radio system. The Zorteff wish to speak with the leaders of Earth. They have a very interesting proposal.”

So began the events that would forever change life on Earth.

The Zorteff explained that they had diverted the huge asteroid sufficiently so that it would not destroy Earth. But it was only a temporary reprieve. The doomsday rock would be back in approximately twenty-eight years. The Zorteff promised that they could return at that time and once again deflect the destroyer, but there would be a price. That price was three hundred women to serve as sex slaves on the Zorteff home planet.

They didn’t use the term “sex slave,” but what they described was effectively that. “We need,” they said, “three hundred very special females who are willing to be absolutely subservient to our sexual needs. These women will eventually be bred by our best and strongest to provide offspring that can be used for our purposes.” They did not specify what “our purposes” were.

The news media did use the term “sex slave,” and the public outcry was tremendous... at first. Then the Zorteff explained that three hundred females from the billions of humans on Earth was a small price to pay for the safety of the planet. In return for this “payment,” the Zorteff guaranteed that they would return with the next orbit of the asteroid and once again deflect the huge object that could end life on Earth.

For most, it seemed like an easy decision, but it took weeks and weeks of debate at the UN before the nations of Earth agreed to the terms. Those who were opposed were not truly concerned about the three hundred women. In fact, they agreed with the Zorteff. What were three hundred women–or men–compared to the existence of Earth itself?

What primarily concerned many of the world leaders was the loss of power represented by those women. This payment, regardless of what it was actually composed, was nothing less than a tribute paid to a superior power. It was the same as the handful of soil and cup of water that was often demanded by ancient Emperors. A tribute payment, no matter how insignificant, would effectively make the Earth a vassal of the Zorteff. A “Live Free or Die” movement began to gain popularity in several of the larger countries.

Finally one of the Zorteff leaders addressed the assembly and promised that in addition to the three hundred female slaves, they would take one hundred scientists and engineers with them in their ship. Those scientist would not be allowed to see the home planet or disembark there, but during the trip, they would be trained in the technology necessary to build and fly colony ships that would be able to take a portion of the Earth’s population to new planets. In the meantime, the Zorteff would leave a contingent of their own people on planet to construct what they called, “Colony Ship One.”

The deal was done. A world-wide draft selected three hundred women between the ages of eighteen and twenty for the Zorteff. Actually, by Zorteff direction, and using their criteria, closer to 300,000 were initially selected by the draft. Those women then filled out extensive medical and family history questionnaires and the Zorteff themselves selected the final three hundred... plus an additional three hundred “alternates.”

The scientists and engineers were selected by Earth committees from criteria given them by the Zorteff. Two months later, the tribute women, the scientists, and the Zorteff– except for the construction crew which stayed behind, departed for the home planet.

The only objection to the whole process came when the Zorteff gave the final instructions for the departure of the female slaves. The engineers and scientists were to report directly to the ship a week before the departure. The three hundred women, however, were to gather in front of the Empire State Building to be escorted naked and in chains to Central Park.

“I don’t think it is an accident,” the mayor spit out, “that this is almost exactly the reverse of Macy’s parade. These women will be on public display as trophies of the Zorteff.”

His objection was duly noted... and ignored.

The one confusing aspect to the instructions was that three hundred alternates should be held in reserve that day in case any of the women of the first three hundred wanted to back out at the last minute. Various vidcast news discussion shows spent days speculating on what this mystifying mixture of tyranny and compassion might mean. Would these lizard overlords actually allow some of their tribute slaves to simply back out of the agreement.

The consensus was that having the alternates was just a ploy to create docile compliance of the tribute slaves. But when the day of departure finally came, and the time approached for the Zorteff to place the chains, almost a dozen of the women began screaming, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.”

As the hysterical women were led away to someplace on the sidelines, replacements were brought forward from the reserves. Then the three hundred, with the new replacements, were positioned properly in the streets in rows and columns. They stood silently together five columns across with sixty women in each column. All of the women stood with feet slightly spread and their hands on their heads as they had been instructed to do.

Four of the Zorteff with slightly different body coloring then walked among the ranks. They leaned over slightly in front of each of the women and flicked their reptilian tongues in the air. The tongue never touched the women, so it was assumed that they were tasting the air. Every so often, after tasting the air in front of a particular woman, the inspector would touch them on the shoulder and point back to the steps of the Empire State Building. As they walked away, he would gesture for one of the alternates to come and take her place.

After the four completed their inspections, long coffle chains were pulled from several large chests. There were collars approximately every four feet. Smaller chains went from each collar to the wrists. Once all of the women were collared and chained, the inspectors again walked through the ranks tasting the air. Surprisingly, seven of the women were replaced on this last inspection.

Then with a drum of some sort beating time, the Zorteff marched the three hundred naked women to their ship and departed.

Central Park was leveled and became the staging area for the construction of Colony Ship One. One of the first things which the Zorteff workers did was to erect a huge, four-sided display. It was the first countdown clock, and it, like the countdown clocks which followed it, began counting down the 27 years, 231 days until the killer asteroid returned.

Twenty-four years later, the ship was complete. It was shiny and massive and towered high above all but the tallest buildings of the city. Over the next three years, planet-wide lotteries were held to determine the 2000 colonists who would venture out into space. The Zorteff who had remained to build the ship assured the leaders of Earth that there were, indeed, inhabitable planets on which Earth’s culture could be preserved should the asteroid eventually destroy the planet.

As the time for the Zorteff ship to return approached, the selection process for the three hundred female sex-slaves was repeated. Stories of the sexual depravities to which these women had been subjected had become commonplace on the comweb–and not only on erotic story sites. Various scientists wrote scholarly, but very titillating, articles about what might be occurring on the Zorteff home planet. The reality was, however, that no one knew what had happened to these naked women once they entered the Zorteff ship and blasted off into space.

Fear of what might become their fate caused many women to hide from the next world-wide process to select the pool from which the slaves would be selected. Surprisingly, though, the same stories motivated almost as many other women to volunteer to be part of the Tribute Three Hundred, as it was now called in the media. Some were obviously drawn to the idea of sexual slavery. Others, however, said only that it was something they had to do, almost as if something deep within them was compelling them to act.

Shortly after the Zorteff ship returned, one half of the Zorteff construction crew, 50 of the Earth scientists who had accompanied the Zorteff ship, and the 2000 colonists departed aboard Colony Ship One. The remaining 50 Earth scientists became part of the construction effort and future crew for Colony Ship Two.

One hundred new scientists were selected, and with the countdown clock at 14 days, the Zorteff prepared for departure. The process for determining the final three hundred sex slaves was the same, with one major exception. After the three hundred were gathered naked in front of the Empire State Building and the tasting of the air selection process was complete, several Zorteff with totally different patterns on their skin walked among the women inserting something into their sex.

The women stood, as ordered, with their hands on their heads and their feet slightly spread. After the Zorteff touched them, their eyes were even more wide with fear and anticipation. They had prepared themselves to be marched naked through the streets, but having what was effectively a very large dildo thrust into them in public was something new and unexpected.

After all women had had a device inserted, one of the commanders walked to the front of the columns of slaves. Staring intently at the terrified women, he raised his hand high into the air and then brought it back down. As his arm slowly lowered, the tribute women began to gasp and then pant and then shake and cry out as tremendous orgasms overwhelmed their bodies.

After the orgasms passed, the women stood trembling in their columns. Some had fallen to the ground and had to be helped up by the security people who were guarding them. Again the tasting lizards walked through the lines checking the air in front of each woman. Six times, one of them stopped and tapped a woman on the shoulder and pointed toward the steps of the Empire State Building. Once their replacements were in place, the other Zorteff returned and inserted the devices in the replacement’s vaginas. After all six were crying out in passion, the testers tasted the air in front of each of them and then made some sort of signal to the large group of Zorteff who were holding the coffle chains.

Once everyone was collared, the march through the city began. When all three hundred were aboard, the Zorteff ship lifted off. Shortly after leaving Earth’s orbit, on their way back to their home planet, they once again deflected the asteroid. When it passed through the night skies, still well within one lunar distance of Earth, all the countdown clocks returned to 27 years, 231 days.

The entire process, including the parade of slaves, was repeated when Colony Ship Two was completed, as it was for Colony Ship Three, Four, Five, Six, and Seven. The only difference was that in addition to whatever it was that the Zorteff inserted in the women’s vaginas, beginning with Colony Ship Three, small devices were also pressed over their nipples. Those devices were activated first and the women were forced to stand for nearly two hours, brought to the edge of orgasm by the pulses which tingled through their bodies. All the while, the testers walked up and down the rows, tasting the air in front of the slaves. Occasionally they would tap a woman on the shoulder and tell her to leave, but more often, they would use what appeared to be a small can of spray paint to create a pattern on the slave’s abdomen. The <O> pattern looked almost like an eye, but the Zorteff did not explain its meaning. Once all three hundred bore the <O>, the coffle chains were brought out and the march to the ship began.

By the time construction began on Colony Ship Eight, only a few of the original Zorteff construction crew remained. Each colony ship was crewed by one half of the recently returned scientists and engineers, and one half of the construction crew for that ship. It was apparent that the last of the Zorteff construction crew would leave when Colony Ship Eight was launched.

The final list of who else would leave Earth on Colony Ship Eight was announced when the countdown clock reached 120 days. At 90 days, the list of scientists and engineers was announced.

Everyone had assumed that Maria would be one of the chosen ones, either for the colony ship itself, or for the cadre of scientists and engineers who would be trained to build Colony Ship Nine. She was, after all, a genius, a scientist, and a world-renowned expert on the Zorteff. She was also one of the very few–perhaps even the only one on Earth –who could communicate directly with that lizard species.

When anyone else was present, Maria would speak to the Zorteff workers, using her neural translator, but when no one else was around, she would turn that device off and make a direct mind connection.

She was nearly found out when at clock day 130, the Zorteff ship approached on its return trip. She was reporting contact information long before anyone else. That is when she realized that her mind connection had a much greater range than the translators themselves. That is also when she removed herself from the list of potential scientists or colonists.

None of her co-workers understood why she had done so. “You belong on that ship!” they tried to tell her, but she would merely smile back at them and say quietly, “I belong with my father’s people.”

That statement created more confusion than understanding. It was widely known that her mother was a single parent. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, no father had ever been in the picture. Why she was choosing to stay on Earth and possibly perish with a father she never knew was a topic of gossip– of course only when she wasn’t around.

Adding to the mystery, about that same time, Maria began wearing long-sleeved blouses and pants. Gone were her normal mini-skirt and sleeveless blouse. This might not have been noticed if it were going into winter, but it was mid-summer. Her attire absolutely stood out against what everyone else was wearing. Everyone noticed.

Luckily for Maria, not everyone noticed that she often did not take her translator with her to her daily private meetings with the Zorteff commander. As an explanation to the one or two people who wondered how she could meet with one of the lizard people without a translator, she said that it was easier to communicate with the commander in written form, and for that no translator was needed since the computers automatically translated the text.

Many people did notice, however, that as the countdown clock approached zero and the possible day of doom, Maria– unlike almost everyone else on Earth– seemed to become happier and more carefree. One of her supervisors seriously suggested that she voluntarily take a psychological assessment, but she politely refused, asking, “Has there been any deterioration of my work? Have I even suggested any thoughts of self-destruction?”

Since she did not meet those necessary criteria, the assessment could not be mandatory, so the matter was dropped. When she was happy and cheerful on the day that Colony Ship Eight departed, however, her supervisor almost changed his mind and ordered a mandatory assessment anyway. But what could he say, “She is happy when almost everyone else is sad?” That wasn’t one of the reasons that could be coded as a diagnosis into the mental health system computers.

Maria’s cheerful mood became even more buoyant as the day approached for the Zorteff ship to once again blast off. She was positively jubilant when a week before launch, the Zorteff announced that the one hundred scientists and engineers would not be boarding until the last minute. While everyone else whispered in small clusters wondering what was happening, she merely smiled and said, “It will all be explained by the nines when the time is right.”

Finally the day of launch arrived. The three hundred slaves and the three hundred alternates were once again gathered naked in front of the Empire State Building. Everything seemed the same... but something was different. Even the vidcasters picked up on the fact that the Zorteff seemed to be much more gentle in their actions with the tribute slaves. Several attempted to find euphemisms for the fact that the Zorteff appeared to lubricate the devices that were placed in the women’s vaginas. After many flustered attempts to avoid using the word, eventually most of them gave up and said, “It appears that the lizards are using lube on the dildos this time.”

An additional device was also used, or more accurately, the nipple devices had been modified and enlarged. Whatever it was now covered the entire breast and appeared to expand and contract slightly almost as if a human hand were massaging the breast. From the reaction of the women during the hours of stimulation, it apparently also felt that way.

Another thing that the vidcasters noted as different was that there appeared to be a much larger percentage of women who were rejected in the tasting process, especially after the forced orgasms. Again, they had difficulty coming up with the proper wording to describe the fact that the orgasms seemed to be brought about less forcefully, but at the same time seemed to be even deeper and more prolonged that the orgasms witnessed in the previous tribute payments.

Finally, the process of final selection was completed. Everything was ready and the slaves were standing waiting to be chained and marched to the ship. Everyone knew what would happen next. They had seen it seven times before. The vidcasters were ready with their prepared scripts to speak about the humiliation of being chained in coffle and what the sacrifice of these women meant for the planet.

Some had even started into their spiel when one by one all vidcasters slowly fell silent. They had nothing to say from their prepared scripts when, instead of coffle chains, silk scarfs were pulled out of the chests and one was handed to each of the naked women. The silence of the vidcasters turned to gasps, however, when Maria Rosales strode out into the street and stood facing the rows and columns of slaves.

It was difficult to tell if their shock was from this unexpected development, itself, or from the fact that Maria was as totally naked as the three hundred... and her body was covered from neck to ankles in what appeared to be a very intricate tattoo that mimicked the scale patterns of the Zorteff leaders.

“People of Earth,” she began. Her voice was amplified greatly and resounded through the streets, though there did not appear to be any microphones near her. Her gaze seemed to stop at each person as she slowly scanned across the crowd. Then she said firmly, “Today is a day of truth.”

The vidcasters, who had now been trying to speak beneath her words, again fell silent as they realized that her mouth was not open or moving. She was speaking through the neural translator system as would the Zortefff.

She paused to let the loud murmuring die away, then continued.

“For many years,” she said, “my mother was considered crazy because she said that she had been impregnated by one of the Zorteff. Everyone laughed at her when she spoke of being seduced by one of the lizard people. Her claims were considered to be ridiculous. After all, although cross-species sex might have been possible, reproduction was out of the question.

“When I was born, she refused to name an Earthly father and was shamed and ridiculed to the point of having to change her name and go into hiding.”

Her voice gained volume and pitch. “She was not alone in her shame. For many generations in the past, other women have tried to tell the world that they had been taken into space and impregnated– artificially– by gray lizard people. They, too, were shamed–or forced– into silence.”

Gesturing toward the three hundred, she continued in a slightly softer tone, “All of the women standing here–as was my mother–are descendants of those women. In fact, all of the tribute women selected by the Zorteff have been–or were intended to be–direct descendants of women who were impregnated by what they claimed were ‘Lizard People.’”

Gesturing now toward the rows of lizard crewmen lining the streets on either side of the tribute women, her voice once again increased in volume as she said, “Zorteff is not the name of their race. It is what they, themselves, are. They are Zorteff– soldiers who have been genetically modified for the rigors of space and for the millennia of intense warfare between the worlds of ‘The Nine Planets.’

The people of The Nine Planets, themselves, are–or were–much more highly-evolved and more closely resembled humanoids, but Novem have a life span of only one hundred to two hundred years. Zorteff are, for all practical purposes, immortal.

“People of Earth,” she continued in a stern tone, “learn from what befell the race called ‘The Novem.’ As the war raged, weapons were refined and improved. Some of the Zorteff knew that the eventual outcome of the war would be nothing less than the complete annihilation of all nine planets. So several centuries ago, some of the Zorteff– mutual enemies with a common cause from all nine planets– met to discuss the fact that the ultimate course of the war would be the total annihilation of all Novem.

“They banded together and salvaged one of the abandoned Battle Moons and secreted it outside the system of the nines. They used that massive ship to search for other inhabited worlds where they could safely store their genetic lineage. They chose Earth because despite our many apparent differences, it was possible to embed their DNA– Novem DNA– within human clones.”

“All Zorteff are male. All of the clones were, naturally, female. But the clones carried both the active DNA of their mother’s and inactive DNA from the Zorteff. That inactive DNA would be passed on from generation to generation, keeping it safe until it could be harvested and returned to The Nine Planets. Because of the inactive DNA, the clones and their descendants would be capable of reproducing with the Zorteff.”

Everyone heard a deep sigh from Maria even though she remained standing perfectly still with her mouth closed. “The Nine Planets are no more,” she continued. “Their ultimate doomsday weapons were exactly that. The only survivors of The Final War are those Zorteff who were away from their solar system on their salvaged Battle Moon.”

She looked up at the many video devices which were focused on her and continued. “The three hundred,” she explained, “were never intended to be sex slaves. They were intended to be wives. The purpose of the sexual stimulation in the presence of the Zorteff was to activate the dormant DNA and bring out the latent Novem genetic strain in the pheromones released by the women. The presence of that pheromone meant that they could cross-species reproduce. The children would be of mixed race, but Novem would live on through them.”

She gestured toward her body and said, “Because I am one of those children–a Terra-Novem– intense sexual stimulation did more than that for me. It brought out the body coloring of my father’s race. It began the first time I formed mind contact with Captain Zortow and, yes, he and I have been lovers since the Zorteff ship returned to Earth.”

Reaching over to a small stand that had been placed next to her as she spoke, she picked up one of the dildos and inserted it into herself. She then put on the nipple and breast covers. “These devices,” she continued “are part of a Novem coming of age ceremony, modified slightly for human anatomy. Sexuality was celebrated rather than hidden in the societies of The Nine Planets. The intense orgasms caused by these devices were both proof that a person had gone through what we call puberty and at the same time helped complete that process.”

Maria began to tremble slightly as the devices she had placed in and upon her body were activated. A low, keening, wail erupted from the loud speakers in the streets but her mouth remained closed. Suddenly she threw back her head and screamed– a long, loud physical scream of intense passion.

She stood breathing deeply and swaying as she recovered from what was obviously a very intense orgasm. The coloring and pattern of her naked skin became darker and more pronounced. The surface of her skin, itself, seemed to grow hard and shiny, almost as if the dermis were changing into scales.

Finally, she fully recovered and stood once again facing the three hundred. Holding up one of the scarves, she said, “The Zorteff are not infallible. The slave coffels were used because of a mistake in translation and from ignorance– or lack of familiarity– with both our culture and their own.”

Wrapping the scarf around her neck, she continued, “It was the custom of the Novem that as a public pledge of mutual loyalty to a relationship, you would bind your mate to yourself using a long silk-like scarf and together walk before your families and friends.”

Turning to the three hundred standing before her she yelled out both physically and through the amplified translation speakers, “Fellow sisters of Novem, if you are willing to help reclaim the planet of your fathers, tie this scarf around your neck as symbol of your willingness.”

To the amazement of the people watching throughout the world all but a handful of the naked women wrapped the scarves around their necks and stood with their legs apart and their hands clasped on their heads. Somehow the Novem DNA awakening in them guided them into that ritual stance. The few who were still holding their scarves were quickly replaced by volunteers who walked forward from the reserve three hundred. Soon three hundred naked women were standing in the street with the bright blue scarves tied around their necks, fluttering in the wind.

Five columns of Zorteff suddenly appeared. Evidently they had walked unseen from the Zorteff ship. The columns walked slowly between the columns of the three hundred. Soon there was one Zorteff standing beside each woman. Maria again said something aloud. It was evidently in the Novem language and was not translated by the equipment. The Zorteff, and the Tribute Three Hundred, however, heard both her words and her true thoughts.

The Zorteff standing next to each woman took the other end of the scarf and tied it tightly around their own wrist. After they were finished, Maria tightened her own scarf and assumed the same position. The vidcams zoomed in for a closeup as the commander of the Zorteff stepped forward and wrapped the scarf around his wrist.

He then turned to face the people and the vidcams. “People of Earth,” the translator system boomed out. “The Battle Moon, which you have seen in your skies and called an asteroid, is now leaving your solar system forever.”

He paused before continuing. “You may hate us for what we have done, but it was necessary to save the Novem race. And someday you will recognize that we have also helped to save the genetic heritage of your planet. The colony ships which left Earth have already begun to repopulate eight of the nine planets. Our Battle Moon will be the colony ship to populate the ninth planet.”

He gestured toward the throng of politicians and dignitaries gathered on the steps of the Empire State Building. “When you have finally destroyed your planet–which it appears you will eventually do–your genetic heritage will be safe on those planets. After you have destroyed yourselves, perhaps the population there will send colony ships back to repopulate the Earth as the Novem originally sent colony ships out many millenia ago to populate many worlds... perhaps even this one.”

He then turned and, with Maria by his side, began the march toward the Zorteff ship with the three hundred Zorteff and their mates walking behind him. Shortly after they entered the ship, its engines came to full power for lift off.

As it rose into the sky, the countdown clocks once again reset, this time to display question marks for the years and months and days and hours. The minutes and seconds, however, were counting down from 05:00.

When that countdown reached zero, it once again reset to 05:00 and it has repeated that cycle ever since. At first, the world leaders spoke of removing the clocks from all the cities of the world, but after much discussion, decided to keep them. It was hoped that the constant countdown to possible annihilation would help the nations of the world cooperate and work toward unity and peace rather than continue on their course toward mutual destruction.

Hope for true world peace was now very high, but just in case, deep space exploration probes were sent out looking for inhabitable planets... and work continued on Colony Ship Nine.

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