Authors: Yamila Abraham
Hester’s eyes glittered a violet hue.
“He deserves better than me.”
The servant said a few more words, gestured to the nightgown he’d placed on her bed, and left.
The next morning Hester flew her to the arena.
Neither Lysanter nor Vivian were with them.
Lenora didn’t question this.
She was brought to the locker room where a fresh uniform was folded on the seat for her.
Only one of the remaining women sat waiting for her.
“I was starting to think I was the only one left.”
She spoke in English with a Russian accent.
Lenora looked at her as she dressed.
“Two girls lost yesterday.
The rest are still playing.
I think Vivian’s already out there.”
“Well, let me tell you, I fail today.
I wanted to forfeit but that asshole wouldn’t let me.”
Lenora hesitated to pull her arm through the long sleeve.
“Why…why do you want to forfeit?”
“Wentivan, my groom, he’s not so bad.
I can put up with one like him.
He’s not from the home world so I don’t have to go back to that Hellhole.
He doesn’t have some asshole servant.
I understand they can no longer shock us like my last husband did.
Lenora finished putting on her pants and sat next to her.
“You were married to a Dak-Hiliah before?”
Seventh seat on the High Council.
He was not terrible, but his fucking servant—always shocking me.
Matoranis would do nothing.
So I escaped.
Then this traitor bitch told the empire all about how we were getting away.
The Aquars gave us all back to them.
They were going to put me in some fucking slave colony.
I said, fuck that.
Just give me a husband who doesn’t have the asshole servant.
Someone who won’t shock me.
They said shocking wasn’t allowed anymore, but I had to play this stupid game.
They needed contestants.”
Lenora’s mind boggled.
A whirlwind of questions flooded her.
“How did you get over the anatomical differences?”
“What you are talking about?”
“Their big…um, organs.”
The woman let out a boisterous laugh.
Then she snuffled.
Their dicks are humongous and it hurts them to get horny.”
She stretched out her arm and marked a line under her deltoid.
“Matoranis was this long and a little thicker than my wrist.
He didn’t get it all the way in, of course.
It was uncomfortable in the beginning.
Your body adjusts.
Don’t be a coward.
There are worse things in this new world for you to worry about.
Getting shocked was the most terrible thing.
Now they can’t shock us?
Who gives a fuck about a sore
Lenora let out a deep breath.
The women at the colony had exaggerated with such enthusiasm.
It was as if they were trying to scare her.
She should have been suspicious.
“What a relief.”
A robot rolled into the room.
“Lenora Winquist, you are the next contestant.”
“Wish me luck.”
Just lose and get married.
Stupid fucking games.”
Lenora ignored her and went with her two robot guides.
“Can you tell me how Vivian did?”
“Vivian Thurski lost.”
She felt as if her heart had dropped from her chest.
“Games Organizer Danfet is considering an accusation of cheating which may change the outcome.”
Lenora could barely get words past the lump in her throat.
“What difference does it make if she cheated?
Tears were forming behind her eyes.
As the silver curtain came into view Lenora realized nothing the robot said made sense.
Danfet knew Vivian cheated.
He colluded with Lysanter.
Her brow knit and the anguish inside her abated.
It seemed like a trick.
What if the robot was trying to distract her so she would lose?
Her eyes narrowed.
This was no time to get clouded by emotion.
The robots halted by the curtain.
When she opened it there was nothing but darkness.
As her eyes adjusted the faint light spilling in from behind her showed the outline of the pyramid.
Come in!” Danfet said over the speaker.
Lenora tried to rip down the curtain.
The robot nudged her.
She held her ground to squeeze her eyes closed tight.
Once she adjusted fully to the darkness she stared inside with the curtain held as wide as she could manage.
The pyramid had a chain ladder hanging down each tier in staggered places.
Left, left, right, left, right.
The robot pushed her in and closed the curtain.
As you can see, or rather can’t see, your objective is the same.”
The area fell into abject darkness once the curtain was closed.
Lenora took off in the direction of the first tier.
She banged into the wall and then went left to find the ladder.
“Well of course she’s not going to listen to my introduction.
Lenora dear, you should know we all have glasses that let us see in the dark.
We’re watching you!
Do your best!”
The alarm chirped for the robot.
When it came out its cylinder head illuminated the ladder.
Lenora scampered up it.
The next tier was just as easily taken.
For the third she had to bolt past the door the robot would come out of before his alarm sounded.
The same technique was required for the fourth.
The alarms chirped one after the other in rapid succession.
Lenora felt the extended arm of a robot gush past her foot, but then she was on the fifth floor.
She felt her way to the statue in the middle.
The lights came on once her hand touched the smooth surface.
She heard cheers and the thumping of scepters.
“Magnificent!” Danfet said over the speakers.
“Our Lenora has won again!
What style this human has!
She makes it look easy!”
Lysanter came out of the door behind the fifth tier.
The cheering continued around them, but her assigned groom looked dour.
She clutched his arm.
“What happened with Vivian?”
“We can’t talk here.
Come into my craft.”
They sat side by side in his flying limousine.
Lenora lowered near enough to him for their legs to touch.
She didn’t care.
Her face once again verged on tears.
“She made it to the top tier without any trouble.
I’d given her contacts that let her see in the dark, and she ran the course twice yesterday.”
“Nayjoor was waiting for her on top.
Before she could touch the statue he cried out ‘cheater’ and shoved her off.
She fell back onto the fourth tier and the robot caught her.”
Lenora put her face into her hand.
“Oh my God.”
“She broke her arm and ankle.”
She darted her eyes back to him.
“She’ll be fully healed, don’t worry.
She’ll only be a little sore tomorrow.
I don’t think it will hurt her performance.”
“Hasn’t she lost?”
“Danfet accused Nayjoor of cheating and wants to give Vivian a pass on this session.
His decision will be followed unless Nayjoor protests officially.
It would be humiliating for him to do so.”
Lenora melted back in her seat.
“Oh thank goodness.”
Lysanter took her hand in his.
“You did magnificently.
I knew you would.”
She met his eyes.
The soft expressions he made gave her a placid feeling.
“Most in the audience are local to this world.
They’re both rooting for you and looking forward to you becoming their queen.
You’ll be a celebrity here.”
“Aren’t you getting ahead of yourself?”
She heard him swallow.
He drew her hand to his lips and kissed it.
“I want you to stay with me, Lenora.”
She turned back toward the window.
“I told you from the beginning, I don’t expect you to fall in love with me in three days.
But don’t you trust me?
Don’t you believe that I’ll respect you?”
“It’s not that easy.”
“It can be.”
She squeezed her eyes closed.
Now a tear fell.
When they arrived at Lysanter’s home Vivian was being brought into the lower floor on a gurney.
Lenora ran to her side.
“I don’t know why I’m on this thing.
I feel fine.
They used some alien hocus pocus and healed me.”
“I can’t believe Nayjoor did that to you.”
Vivian’s face flared with anger.
What a fricking dickhead.
I was home free and then this asshole tried to kill me.
I felt like I was in the air for ten minutes before I crashed right on my wrist.
Holy shit it hurt!”
Lenora looked at Lysanter.
“How can he still be assigned to her after what he did?”
“Danfet’s scared to take her from him.
It will lead him to protest his decision.”
He went to Vivian and touched the reddened skin on her arm.
“I’m repulsed, Lenora.
I’ve never seen Nayjoor this belligerent.
He was recently named a hero to the empire due to uncovering a scheme by our enemies, but at the same time he was pressured into divorcing his first wife.
Ever since then he’s been incorrigible.
The only way she’s going to escape him is to win.”
“You’ll help her cheat again, right?” Lenora said.
Lysanter closed his eyes.
“There’s no way for me to help her in the last game.”
Lenora grew plaintive.
“You’re going to be with her.
You can ensure she wins.”
She looked back down at her friend with a scowl.
“I can make sure that asshole never touches her again.”
“I’m still going downtown,” Vivian said clumsily in the Dak-Hiliah language.
“What did you say?”
“I had them implant her with Dak-Hiliah and Dornovonian while she was in the hospital,” Lysanter said.
She sat up on the gurney.
The two Dornovonian medical personnel protested with their small arms flailing.
Lysanter gestured for them to leave her be.
Vivian climbed down.
The attendants reluctantly took the gurney away.
“I’m going to get dressed and then I want to go out, okay?”
She looked at Lysanter.
“Would that be all right?”
“Today is your turn, Lenora.”
She traced a finger up and down the side of his arm.
“Take her with us.
He took her hand in his.
“You’re manipulating me.”
Lenora kept her head down.
“But I prefer that to being pushed away.
I’ll only agree if you let me have my arm around you.”