The Martian Princess, chs 21 & 22
Admiral Cane searched the minibar for something to drink. â€œYou drank all the champagne?â€ she asked, her face illuminated by the fridge light.
Phaedra said in a dull monotone, â€œBefore the party. She insisted.â€
â€œIs she your wife? Girlfriend?â€ She examined a split of white wine. Martian plonk. â€œI canâ€™t drink this Martian shit.â€ Instead she collected the mini bottles of gin and vodka together. â€œWe could mix â€˜em,â€ she said, handing Phaedra a glass.
Phaedra was devoid of any feeling at all. She had devoted so much energy to hating the Admiral and it seemed to be gone. Why? Exhaustion, she supposed. She worked at finding that hatred and took the glass. â€œIce,â€ she said.
The Admiral dropped a cube in the glass and cracked the nips, handing four to Phaedra. They sat in silence drinking the liquor until the Admiral said, â€œIâ€™ve spent the past five years hating you and yet, now that I see you, I donâ€™t know what I feel.â€
â€œI still hate you,â€ said Phaedra.
â€œFair enough. Give it time. Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™ll hate you too. I guess things worked out for me better. But youâ€™ve done well for yourself, if your girlfriend is the Mayor of Paris/Mars. A lot better than a prison ship.â€
â€œIâ€™m an escort, a convict ,and a whore, understand? I screw disgusting men to stay alive. Sheâ€™s the first gig I could stand.â€
â€œI havenâ€™t screwed anything since coming to Mars, not even myself. Of all the unforgivable things you did to me, destroying my libido is the worst.â€
â€œIâ€™m really sorry about that, Boss. Maybe you should vent yourself.â€
â€œThey had it coming. I saved your fucking life, you and that baby of yours and that boy. That detestable boy.â€
â€œFor the fucking money.â€
â€œIn case you havenâ€™t noticed, space is not a charity. Everything is for sale. What happened to you anyway? You shouldnâ€™t be here at all.â€
â€œI told you, Iâ€™m a consort.â€ Phaedra drained her glass. â€œThis isnâ€™t doing it for me.â€
â€œMe neither. I took some psilocybin earlier but itâ€™s worn off.â€
â€œMaybeâ€”â€ Phaedra said, eyeing the titanium suitcase.
â€œOf course, what was I thinking?â€ She lifted the medicine chest out, brought it over to where they were sitting and put it on the table. They leaned close to examine the contents. The familiar smell of her hair filled Phaedraâ€™s nose. â€œOh, this is good,â€ the Admiral yipped. â€œNarcostar.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want to nod out, I have work to do.â€
â€œWork? Looks like your work is done here.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t understand.â€
â€œHow about a speedball then? I think we could, hmmm. Yes indeed we can.â€ She took out four different vials and said, â€œAmphetamine, narcostar, LSD and nicotine. Your arm please.â€
â€œIn the butt. I donâ€™t want it to show. And donâ€™t get any ideas.â€
â€œYour gown makes it difficult. Lift it.â€ She prepared Phaedraâ€™s injection and wiped a spot on her buttocks with alcohol, then pressed the needle into the goosebumped flesh. Her glands began to pump. â€œMy turn.â€
â€œYou can inject yourself.â€
â€œItâ€™s more fun this way. The gownâ€™s backless.â€
â€œA compliment?â€ The Admiral stood with her back to Phaedra and Phaedra took aim at her butt cheek, a strong whiff of pheromone making her woozy. The crack of the Admiralâ€™s ass was covered in barely visible blond hair. Phaedra found herself staring at the downy crack and then the vertebrae of her long, naked back. The amphetamine rush made her smile idiotically. No, she thought, searching for the hatred, searching for the bitter, angry knot of rage she nursed.
They sat down and stared out the window at the stars. There were one or two meteors. â€œBeer?â€ Phaedra asked.
â€œThe whiskeyâ€™s better.â€
Phaedra stood and had to find her balance, then felt incredibly graceful, as if she could fly, and efficient. She got eight minis of whiskey and poured them. â€œIt must be getting late. The meteor showerâ€™s begun.â€
â€œThatâ€™s what I came for,â€ the Admiral said.
â€œMe too. The Mayor wanted to fuck all night and I was like, you can fuck me anytime, but the Kushida Meteor Shower? Earth people save their whole lives for the chance.â€
The Admiral nodded in agreement. â€œThe Ruler Zenobia too. These idiots just want to drink and gossip. I am so sick of gossip, I canâ€™t tell you.â€
A meteor starting high in the sky stretched all the way to the horizon. â€œWow.â€ Colors showered off of it. Phaedra felt herself lifting. â€œYouâ€™re with the Ruler Zenobia? How did you pull that one off?â€
The Admiral laughed quietly. â€œEasy. Her Scionâ€™s got an insatiable appetite for dick. Somehow she got pregnant.â€
â€œItâ€™s not all that difficult once you know how.â€
â€œYou young Ruler girls are real fertile Myrtles I guess. I aborted her and kept silent. Theyâ€™ve been my patients ever since. The little minx is hot. Your age. Poor thing. She picked up the Earth Minister for Trade in the American Zone but it looks like he is after bigger game. Unfortunately for all of them the Old Ruler has business to discuss and he canâ€™t escape. Iâ€™d be there still, bored stiff, if this emergency call hadnâ€™t come.â€ She looked at Phaedra who was smiling. â€œI think the drugs have done you good,â€ she said.
â€œDid you say the Earth Minister for Trade?â€
â€œYes yes, the star of the show, except now everyone knows the Rulers Tobor Ocktomann and Imogen are showing up. You ought to know them.â€
â€œIâ€™ve heard of them of course.â€
The Admiral laughed with scorn. â€œYou must be high if you canâ€™t do better than that, Phaedra. I know who you are.â€
â€œDo you have a cigarette?â€
The Admiral reacted with mock horror. â€œDo you want to kill the Mayor?â€ They both looked at her recumbent form. â€œResting quietly. She wonâ€™t wake up for twelve hours at least.â€
â€œSo technically we donâ€™t have to be here?â€
â€œTechnically we do. She could arrest. She could aspirate vomit. Anything could happen.â€
â€œI donâ€™t suppose there is a monitor in that thing?â€
â€œThere is indeed. Did you want to meet the American Minister for Trade by any chance?â€
â€œYes. Iâ€™ve got to get out of here.â€
â€œI want to know why you are at this party,â€ the Admiral said. â€œThen Iâ€™ll take you to meet him.â€
â€œIâ€™ll tell you that if you tell me where my baby is.â€ Phaedra was suddenly cold. She didnâ€™t feel hatred, she just wanted to know. â€œWe landed and were met by a woman named Qudra, the French pimp who owns me now. My baby and Jedidiah were kidnapped and I havenâ€™t seen them since.â€ She could see her grief and sadness as if at the bottom of a well, reflecting the light dully. It was distant and yet she couldnâ€™t take her eyes off of it. Rage, grief, sadness. So far away, glimmering. She was thirsty for them, she wanted to haul them up and drink them down but instead all she felt was the incredible clarity of the drugs, the warm calm of the narcostar, the pierce of rapid thought, processing, sorting the world, the steady focus of nicotine, and the joy of the oceanic feeling, the connection of every particle in her body dancing with their entangled twins, racing outward from the big bang to the final dissolution.
The Admiral got up abruptly, ran for the door, and stood with her back to it, hand on the knob. â€œYou have to promise not to hurt me.â€
â€œWhatever you did doesnâ€™t matter now. I want to know where they are. I hired a private dick who thinks they are on Earth. Trafficked by Qudra. Is that true?â€ Phaedra tried to figure if she could reach the Admiral before she could escape. It was about six steps.
â€œI sold you all to Qudra for a good price, thatâ€™s all I know.â€
Before the Admiral could open the door Phaedra was upon her, throwing her to the floor and straddling her waist. The Admiral squirmed beneath her like an eel, much stronger than Phaedra imagined and hit at her blindly. She pinned the Admiralâ€™s shoulders to the ground with her knees and seized her ears, twisting. â€œAgh!â€ she shouted, baring her teeth. â€œI will bash your fucking brains out if you donâ€™t tell me where my baby is!â€
â€œOkay okay. Please,â€ The Admiral panted, tears filling her eyes. Phaedra had never seen her shed tears or even tear up. â€œLet me go.â€
â€œWhen you tell me where they are.â€
The Admiral huffed, her face flushed and wild with fear. Then she grew still and a black anger flooded her eyes. Phaedra was enveloped in pheromone and felt aroused beyond herself, felt her stomach pitch. Damn you, she thought. Iâ€™m gonna fuck your ass when this is over. Then Iâ€™m gonna kill you.
â€œQudra mentioned she might sell you to the Quarantine.â€
â€œThe Quarantine?â€ Phaedra banged the Admiralâ€™s head against the carpeted floor and her eyes rolled white. â€œYou sold us to the fucking Quarantine?â€
â€œIt was the only way I could come here. And you were supposed to stay together. You were supposed to go with them.â€
â€œThen what did Qudra do with them?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. But I can help you find them, if you let me up.â€
Phaedra released her ears. They were red and the earring had torn the lobe. Blood trickled down soaking into a tuft of her hair, which glowed dully. â€œFirst you have to introduce me to the Earth Minister for Trade in the American Zone.â€
They stood, and the Admiral brushed herself off. Phaedra could sense the powerful storm of pheromones pouring off her as her heart pounded. Admiral Sybil Cane stared at Phaedra with a look of devastated love. Phaedra knew it as if they were her own thoughts and feelings. This canâ€™t be happening she thought, but the angrier she became, the more she wanted to fuck, not kill the Admiral, which only made her angrier. She shut her eyes and turned away, forcing all of the emotions back down into that deep well. When she was calm she said, â€œSet up the monitor. I need to get to him before Ocktomann arrives.â€
The Admiral did as she was told, pairing the monitor with her phone. Mayor Maryâ€™s vitals were strong, her breathing steady. â€œWhat do you want with Riotus?â€
â€œIâ€™m going to kill him.â€
The Admiral smiled and took her by the hand. â€œI want to kiss you, 57607.â€
Phaedra hadnâ€™t heard the number in so long she didnâ€™t at first realize what she was saying and then, finding it funny, really funny, laughed, kissing her lightly on the lips, remembering the first time they kissed, the bead of fluid on the sore. â€œYou fucking bitch,â€ she said. â€œLetâ€™s go.â€
Phaedraâ€™s halo crown felt crooked. â€œIs my crown falling?â€ she asked the Admiral.
They paused outside of the gold doors and the Admiral fixed the crown, gazing wickedly into Phaedraâ€™s eyes. â€œI canâ€™t believe we are going to do this,â€ she said under her breath.
Phaedra felt like she was floating. â€œDonâ€™t make me laugh,â€ she giggled. â€œI hope I can pull it off.â€
The Admiral started to giggle too and then they laughed, harder and harder until it was uncontrollable.
â€œStop!â€ Phaedra said through bleary eyes. â€œTheyâ€™ll hear.â€ The Admiral took her arm. â€œI do still hate you,â€ Phaedra reminded her. Gas molecules swarmed the chandeliers. A giant snake stretched across the floor and vanished into the wall.
â€œThatâ€™s the awful part, isnâ€™t it?â€ The Admiral said cheerfully. â€œIt really sparked my libido. I havenâ€™t felt such hatredâ€”well, never.â€
â€œIn all your years on ship Iâ€™ve hated you the most?â€ They bumped into the potted plant. â€œThis is fucked up,â€ Phaedra said. â€œI really do have to kill him.â€
The Admiral waved her off a little sloppily. â€œNo fucking problem. That guyâ€™s a-aâ€”â€
â€œShowboat,â€ Phaedra said, laboriously drawing out the syllables. â€œGod itâ€™s nice speaking English. American English. I think I might have to fuck your ass before I kill you.â€
â€œEvery red blooded gal needs a good ass fucking now and then to keep her honest.â€
â€œIâ€™ll put that on my bucket list,â€ Phaedra said. â€œNow, attention!â€ She stood erect and saluted the doors. â€œIn we go.â€
â€œAnchors-a-weigh!â€ the Admiral said, pushing the heavy gold bar. They fell over themselves and hastily stood erect when the Host looked up from the elephant tusks.
â€œMadam Petrune, Doctor Cane. I trust the Mayor is doing well?â€
â€œItâ€™s all under control, Boss,â€ the Admiral said. â€œI got her stabilized and monitored. She canâ€™t fart without me knowing it.â€
â€œI am immensely pleased,â€ the Host said, allowing them to pass.
â€œDid you try the venison?â€ the Admiral asked.
â€œI havenâ€™t eaten since noon.â€
â€œNo wonder youâ€™re fucked up. You need to eat.â€
The thought of food repulsed her. She pulled herself together and surveyed the room. â€œWhere to?â€
â€œItâ€™s just up here. The small tables on the riser along the window.â€
Phaedra followed her up the steps. The tables were in shadow, concealing the occupants from prying eyes. Movie stars, politicians, models and tycoons from Earth were seated together, as well as the Martian Rulers, chief among them Old Zenobia, her Scion and their guest, the Earth Minister for Trade in the American Zone. Phaedra watched him watch her as she approached. This will be easy, she thought. Young Zenobiaâ€™s back was to them. She craned her head around to get a look. â€œThe Doctor returns,â€ said the Ruler Zenobia dramatically.
The Admiral casually presented Phaedra and said, â€œLook what the cat dragged in. My old old friend, Eleanor Petrune.â€
The three gazed on Phaedra. Riotus looked like he was going to leap out of his clothes. The women melted into their seats. Riotus cleared his throat and said, â€œCharming to meet you mmmâ€”â€ he looked at her wedding ringâ€” â€œMiss Petrune.â€
â€œMrs., actually,â€ Phaedra said. â€œMy wife is back home on Earth.â€
â€œI trust,â€ Riotus said to the Admiral, â€œEverything is OK?â€
â€œYes,â€ said the Old Ruler, â€œYou must tell us all about it.â€ She asked Phaedra, â€œI hope you will join us as my guest?â€
â€œIt would be my honor,â€ Phaedra said. She did need to sit, the floor rocked beneath her feet like a dock in heavy weather. The Earth Minister for Trade in the American Zone stood and pulled out the seat next to him. â€œMrs. Petrune?â€
Phaedra put her hand on the table to steady herself and said, resisting the urge to laugh at him, â€œThank you. My feet are killing me.â€
â€œItâ€™s those titanium pumps,â€ the Admiral said. â€œThatâ€™s why I wear swans. Theyâ€™re old fashioned, but at least I can walk in the morning.â€
â€œMy dear,â€ the Old Ruler said, â€œIt isnâ€™t a party if you can walk in the morning.â€
â€œAre you here on business?â€ asked Riotus. He looked at a waiter and snapped his fingers. â€œChampagne. Two bottles.â€
â€œYes, I am working for the Mayor of Paris/Mars on some construction contracts.â€
â€œI hope your feet are not too sore to dance,â€ he said.
That was too much for the petulant Younger Zenobia. â€œSheâ€™ll have to wait her turn,â€ she said.
Phaedra said, â€œIâ€™d love to dance. I have spent most of the evening talking to the other Mayors, a dreary business when thereâ€™s so much fun to be had.â€
â€œFirst time on Mars?â€ the Ruler asked.
â€œIâ€™ve been here five years.â€
â€œA long time to be away from your wife, I should think,â€ said the Younger Zenobia. â€œShe must get lonely.â€
The Admiral said, â€œEleanorâ€™s contract is over.â€
â€œThatâ€™s right,â€ Phaedra said. â€œIt was actually up a month ago but I agreed to stay on to help the Mayor out, and, in return, she invited me to the Gala.â€
The Old Zenobia said, â€œCooperâ€™s Day is the event of the year. Youâ€™re quite lucky to secure an invitation.â€
The waiter returned with the champagne. He draped a cloth over the cork and twisted it open. Adjacent tables cheered when it popped. He poured glasses and the Earth Minister raised his high. â€œA toast: to new friends.â€
The Ruler Zenobia cried, â€œTo new friends!â€ They clinked and drank. Then the Old Ruler raised her glass and said, â€œOn Mars we have a tradition of hospitality. No one knows how long they will be here, how long they will live. Dear friends disappear in the night. There are rumors of ghosts haunting the ruins of abandoned settlements. I can tell you that I myself have seen them, and heard them moaning in the tunnels of ice. Among ourselves, we appease the unquiet spirit of this desert planet, when we toast, To the dust!â€
â€œTo the dust!â€ they exclaimed and the toast spread to the nearby tables. â€œThe dust!â€
Riotus drank the entire glass of champagne, his Adamâ€™s apple jerking up and down. â€œI would love a spin on the dance floor.â€ The meteor shower was near peak. The lights dimmed to almost dark and the electric candles on the table flickered to life, illuminating faces from below in flame-colored light. People crowded the windows, oohing and aahing.
The Younger Zenobia stood. â€œYou havenâ€™t seen me tango.â€
Phaedra, who had barely touched her champagne said, â€œI havenâ€™t tangoed in a dogâ€™s age.â€
The Old Ruler restrained her smile. â€œAn excellent idea,â€ she said. And then to the Younger Zenobia, â€œShow Mrs. Petrune what you can do on the dance floor.â€
â€œI thought I wouldâ€”â€ the Earth Minister for Trade in the American Zone started to say when the Old Ruler silenced him with her eyebrows.
â€œMy dear Riothamus Cunedagius, I could really cut the rug in my day and daresay could cut it now with the right partner. Humor an old woman, wonâ€™t you?â€
â€œNothing that vigorous is required, My Lady,â€ he said with unctuous insincerity. He stood and they went through the darkened room to the dance floor. The Old Ruler whispered in the conductorâ€™s ear. Tony Vaael signalled the orchestra and changed the tempo to a tango and the couples clasped each other close and began the slow, sultry dance.
Young Zenobiaâ€™s silk gown rubbed against Phaedraâ€™s bare chest. She felt like she had twelve feet. Then the young Ruler opened the embrace and took her mechanically through elaborate moves, displacing the other dancers. She grasped Phaedraâ€™s back and dropped her to the floor. Phaedra felt faint as the ceiling circled like a carousel, showering the room with sparks. The Young Zenobiaâ€™s skin was turquoise and then blue, magma boiling in her eyes. Their arms stretched. The music got fast and she was whirling. In and out of her line of vision flashed Riotus who, despite executing the moves with precision and grace, had his eye on Phaedra. The Admiral stood at the edge of the dance floor swaying to the music, serenely inebriated. When the number ended Phaedra reached out to the Admiral for balance and they embraced briefly. The Old Ruler, beaming in ecstasy, said, â€œOh, Riotus, youâ€™ve put years on my life, thank you. But I am an old woman and quite winded Iâ€™m afraid.â€
â€œThe pleasure is all mine, Lady.â€
The Younger Zenobia approached with her hand out, smiling. Riotus turned away from her and took Phaedraâ€™s hand. The Admiral intervened. â€œZenobia, dear. I would be delighted if you would take me.â€
The orchestra launched into the next number, languid waves of sound washing over the throbbing bass. Couples separated and moved about each other with eyes closed. Riotus put his hands on Phaedraâ€™s hips. She looked into his eyes and moved with him, rhythmically bumping her hips against his until he was hard. She retreated; made him come to her as she shrank into herself and moved as if she were swimming in a warm tropical lagoon at midnight. She opened her eyes and saw brilliant yellow meteors liquefy across the windows. Riotusâ€™s face elongated like taffy. Her heart stitched with paranoia and panic. He must know why she was here. All eyes were upon her. She didnâ€™t dare change her step. She tried to think without breaking the trance of the music and their movement in and out of each other. Their shadows stepped across the ceiling. He stretched his muscular body against hers like a serpent.
A wave of music swept her forward. The pulse boomed in her bowels. She felt the geometry of her mind. Thoughts and words became solid. She knew what she had to do. She had to awaken to the task. The other couples were not looking at them at all but gazing inward, each one in their own head, connected by the pulse. Now, she thought. But what would happen when she did it? Would he drop to the floor, dead? Would he feel stricken, need to sit? All they said was that it would look like a heart attack.
It was not her first time. She had slit the throat of a gangster in his hotel room and felt the hot blood on her fingers, the light dying in his shocked eyes. She had shot a politician, his cum still warm in her mouth. She had poisoned a union leader at the breakfast buffet of the Dust Inn in the English Zone and garroted a rival drug dealer while pegging her from behind. Every time she had escaped according to plan, shedding her escort identity and returning to The Pearl. She had to trust Qudra.
The dance went on and on, like space, unbound, without destination. Riotus placed his lips against hers and grasped her ass, moving her deeper into the dancers, away from the Admiral and the Younger Zenobia. His mouth smelled like a basement. They were deep into shadow now, at the edge of the dance floor. There was a potted palm against a gold column. He was maneuvering her towards it and before she knew it, he had stopped dancing and was pushing her against the column. He plunged his hand down her front and started to grope her. His finger rubbed around until she was wet enough for him to penetrate her. â€œPlease, not here. We can go to my room.â€
â€œShut up,â€ he said, thrusting his tongue into her mouth like a cock. She pushed the button on the ring, grasped the back of his head and pulled her mouth away.
â€œFuck you,â€ she said, pushing the stinger into his neck.
Riotus stood rubbing his neck with a look of bewilderment, a man who wants to know, what did I do? She made a beeline for the Mayorsâ€™ table, leaving him to die.
She needed to sit more than anything. The table bobbed around in her eyes. She sat in the chair as if she were mounting a horse, and the Mayors, delighted by the fresh blood, pelted her with questions about La Mairesse, while Phaedra tracked Riotus as he moved through the dancers. She couldnâ€™t tell if he was enraged or not. His expression was desperate. His hair hung in lank, sweaty ropes. He was panting clouds of pink snow. â€œPetrune!â€ he shouted, pushing people out of the way.
The Earth Minister for Trade in the American Zone staggered to the table and stood, apoplectic, with bulging eyes and blue lips, attempting to talk. He gasped Petrune! and made a harsh noise. The color drained from his face. Phaedra looked directly at him and smiled. â€œIs everything alright, My Lord Minister?â€ she asked. The breath rattled in his throat. â€œCan I get you a glass of water? Champagne perhaps?â€ He pointed at her.
â€œHeâ€™s trying to say something,â€ Eupraxia Kiev said.
The Duke of Chou nodded. â€œHeâ€™s had a bit too much to drink Iâ€™d say.â€ They had a jolly good laugh. â€œSire, please sit down.â€
â€œYeah,â€ Phaedra said, â€œTake a load off.â€
Riothamus Cunedagius gripped his chest and fell forward, smashing his face against the table and dropping to the floor, dead.