Means of escape

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“I can get you out of this,” said the sultry voice in my head.

I snapped awake and was sorry I had. It was day three of my totally unwarranted imprisonment on Rigel D, and I was getting sick of being shackled, stuffed away in a cell that looked more like a old-fashioned cheesy motel room on Earth than any kind of jail cell I’d ever seen in ten years of space service. They had the scratchy comforter, the tiny bathroom with the underpowered shower, the works—even terrible art, dolorous vistas incompetently rendered, only it was bolted to the wall, like everything else in this strangely accessorized shithole, and there were no windows, no doors, no way out at all.

This was insane, I had told myself. Sure, I’d been arrested a few times, when I was on shore leave in an imperial port. I like my fire ale, and sometimes, after the things you see defending vulnerable frontier worlds from the sadistic dicks who we’re unfortunate enough to share our galaxy with, you need to fucking unbend. I’ve stumbled into secure areas, defended a few bullying victims with drunken fists, and once I ended up hauled away for a month after succumbing to the charms of a very comely young Ioraian man who waxed rhapsodic about my hard-packed, rigorously conditioned muscles and the salacious glint in my dark blue eyes and didn’t tell me he was one of the off-limits priests of Shieemar. When my C.O. sprung me from blasphemer’s prison (I still don’t know how, other than his assurance that no one died and very few elbows were twisted), he asked me if the priestling was worth it. My shit-eating grin told him all he needed to know.

So I was no stranger to being locked up for a spell. This was different. No one even knew I was on Rigel D. I was supposed to be the next planet over, on famine relief detail with the rest of my brigade. I flopped into bed in my temporary quarters one night after a very late dinner at the local pub, still in uniform and completely exhausted after a very long and arduous day, only to wake up naked and cold on the floor of a dusty cargo hold somewhere deep inside one of those massive Rigellian interplanetary transports, my ankles and wrists in irons and the taste of knockout drugs on the roof of my mouth. Someone stood over me, a long-armed Rigellian, and dispassionately read off some charges that didn’t even make any sense—something about offending the sensibilities of the queen, like I’d ever even heard of any kind of ruling queen or king on any of the Rigels!—and then they’d hustled me out of the transport and into a surface lighter and they’d driven me halfway to nowhere, to the hugest, ugliest desert bunker I’d ever seen. And then they’d hauled me inside and down a hundred corridors and then dumped me here in this stupid Earth motel room somehow, the door not only closed and locked but vanished before I’d even turned around. Since then I’d gotten one simple meal every twenty-four (standard) hours—Earth food, meat, potatoes, bread and butter, a Snickers bar—as if they had an index file somewhere detailing the routines and protocols specific to human prisoners. The platters always showed up silently on top of the low dresser exactly when I was not looking, which I was trying not to let drive me nuts. They’d removed the ankle shackles but my hands were still chained together and bound with iron cuffs that could probably only be removed with a welding torch for all I knew.

There were no guards to rail at, no bed checks, just pure isolation and really ugly artwork. And so here I sat, rotting in this strange, disconnected space, not knowing if I was going to be executed, enslaved, or shish-kebabed.

The voice in my head spoke again. Male, I thought, not sure if there was actual timber and tone, or a sense communicated along with the content, a remote taste of the person trying to connect with me. “Do you want my help?” he asked, patient but cajoling.

I looked around, but of course there was no one. I briefly entertained the idea that I was simply losing it, but I pushed the thought firmly away. That way, I told myself with a mental quirk of the lips, lay madness. Besides, I’d heard of telepaths before—people who could communicate between minds. My friend Drecks (long story) had a run-in with telepaths once (also a long story), and he said having a bunch of them talking at you at once was like being in the middle of a really loud party. There might even be music, he told me with a straight face, if one of the telepaths was had a song running through his head. That part might have been him yanking my chain, though.

So. Telepath. Communicating with me. I didn’t know if the guy could heard my thoughts, or if I could make myself heard on his channel, so I risked speaking aloud. I’d shouted myself hoarse yelling imprecations and demanding anatomical impossibilities from my jailors over the past days, and I’d come to the conclusion no one was listening. But it didn’t matter, not if this telepath could really make anything happen to help me. Looking up at the ceiling and feeling inane, I called out, “Who are you?”

There was a pause. I wondered if the speaker could hear me after all, but then the voice spoke, still sounding as if it were coming from just inside the base of my skull. “Someone who can get you out,” it said.

I huffed. “Anonymous benefactor, then?” I said. “That’s reassuring.”

There was another long pause, but I waited him out. I wasn’t going anywhere at the moment, and I refused to beg for help. After all, he had come to me.

He wanted something.

After a while the voice spoke again. “You’re not going to be let out of there for a long time,” it said. “And you won’t like it when you are.”

I nodded. I’d figured on both of these things. And given I was on the wrong planet, any other shots at rescue were slim. “What’s your plan?” I asked.

The voice replied immediately this time, excited I might be cooperating. “There’s a way out. A door release, in a recess behind a tile in the bathroom. It’s built so human captives can’t reach it.” After a pause in which I didn’t respond, it continued, “The door opens onto service passageways. Most of them are unguarded—the guards are only needed for transport.” That much I’d already assumed as well; the main problem was getting out of a cell with no doors or windows. “I can guide you,” the voice concluded, “and arrange transport. Away from here. Far away.”

To where, though. I doubted very much that the destination would be my choice—at least until my fists got involved, I thought with amusement. I let the future stages of the plan go for now and focused on the immediate problem, the hidden cell door release. “Let me guess,” I said. “Only a Rigellian can get to it.”

“Yes.”

This made sense. There were two main Rigellian races, both gray-green in color but more or less humanoid. The main thing that distinguished them was that one had arms that were about half a foot longer than a human’s, and the other had arms that were a foot and a half longer than a human’s. I’d had a few nights on a previous tour exploring the Rigellian long-arm anatomy at close range and in great detail, and I’d discovered a few advantages to their particular physiological quirks. Evidently I’d just tripped over one more, at least if you happened to be trafficking in human man-meat.

“I bet I can’t just poke it with a stick,” I mused aloud. I wasn’t going to mention the irons, which wouldn’t let either of my hands go anywhere but around my own cock at the moment.

“Not,” the voice replied in my head, a little oddly, and I wondered if the voice was speaking Imperial Standard—or was it “speaking” at all? No point in trying to figure things like that out at the moment. The voice went on, “It has to be activated by the touch of a living hand.”

Of course. I nodded again, though my interlocutor probably couldn’t see me. It occurred to me suddenly to be self-conscious about being as naked as a sex-slave (which occupation might be in my very near future for all I knew), but I shouldered the thought aside. “So,” I said again, “what’s your plan?”

After a moment’s hesitation, the voice responded slowly. “There is a concoction of local herbs,” it said at length. “When mixed in the right proportions and boiled down to a paste it has been observed to have a … peculiar effect on humans. And other species from certain planets in your local group.”

“Uh huh,” I said dubiously. “What kind of … ‘peculiar effect’? Don’t tell me it makes you look like a Rigellian,” I added. I didn’t just like the way I looked—the way I looked got me stuff.

“Not,” the voice said again. “It causes …” The speaker seemed to pause and consider his words. “Your body becomes more flexible,” it said eventually. I started to object that “flexible” wouldn’t help me reach something only a Rigellian long-arm could reach, though it might useful in other ways. But the voice carried on. “Flexible,” it repeated, “and … rubbery?” My putative ally seemed unsure how to convey the idea it wanted to get across. An image came to me of taffy being pulled and stretched, and I shuddered, not sure if I had conjured the childhood memory myself, or if my friendly neighborhood telepath had rooted it out of my brain for the purposes of illustrating his point. “Temporarily,” the voice added hastily, as if in reassurance. Well, temporarily taffy, that was totally different.

I shook my head as if to dislodge him from my personal internal photo roll. “You have got to be fucking kidding me,” I groused, to myself as much as to my mental visitor. This was nuts, obviously, but I was stymied as to how to respond. For all I knew these herbs did exist, so I couldn’t argue on that point. And it was certainly true that Rigellian flora had weird effects on humans sometimes, as I’d observed first-hand. My buddy Eraser (long story) always came back from shore leave on Rigel C with skin the color of butternut squash.

I cast about for objections to this ridiculous scenario. “How would that even work, anyway?” I asked. “Are … are the herbs growing under the mattress or something? Do I boil them to a paste by glaring at them really hard?”

The patient, sultry tone returned, though there was just an edge of strain to it now. “The servitors in the … facility where you are located are very suggestible, especially under telepathy,” it explained. “I can have them prepare the paste as part of your meal … if you are willing.”

I frowned. “Lorutians?” I guessed, knowing I was stalling. That might explain why I had no contact even with the help that made my meals. The Lorutians were a friendly people and quite clever in their own environments, but unfortunately very weak willed when dealing with outsiders.

“They make good servants,” the voice agreed. “Very loyal and diligent. Assuming there’s no one that can reach out to them with … new instructions.”

I bit my lip. The voice seemed to wait, letting me collect my thoughts. It occurred to me that I was very hungry—the meal would be coming before too long. I didn’t have much time to decide, not if I didn’t want to spend another day in this kitschy hole. To my astonishment I found myself reckoning that the plan could actually work, assuming my new friend was telling the truth about everything—a big if. And that the paste would even work on me. Not too many people knew I was only seven-eighths human, which was one of the reasons I’m so, um, aesthetically pleasing to most people.

Not only might it work, it might actually be my only chance. Even if my guys figured out I’d been taken off-world, unless they got really lucky they’d have to comb pretty much an entire planet for me, and by then it might be too late.

“Okay,” I said aloud at last. I was about to agree, but I wanted clarification on one point. “You said it was temporary, right?”

“Absolutely,” the voice assured me immediately.

I shook my head and sighed. It didn’t really matter, anyway. “Do what you have to do,” I said.


Dinner that night was not pleasant. It was, apparently, Earth pork chops and new potatoes smothered in Rigellian taffy-making sauce, and it tasted like rat vomit. I laughed as I ate, though, distracting myself from what I was doing with thoughts of my rude aunt Marril, who was bonkers about xenocuisine and was always demanding recipes from the planets I was stationed on. Yeah, Marril, you’ve got to try this one. Pork chops à la Rigellian stalag with ratpuke compôte. A delight. Seven stars!

I am so not leaving a tip, I muttered internally as I reluctantly scraped the plate for the last dollop of queasy goodness, determined not to have this plan go wrong through any failings on my part.

Then I sat back from my little round table, staring at the wall, wondering if I was feeling weird because I was being taffy-fied, or because I’d just had the shittiest meal ever. I grabbed the Snickers bar, which thank God was still wrapped and so uncontaminated, and went to take a bite.

“Not,” the voice interceded urgently. I froze, startled—my would-be rescuer had been silent for a while.

“What?” I said aloud. I looked around, in case there was a threat.

“Not chocolate,” the voice insisted.

“Are you kidding me?” I demanded, frowning up at the ceiling as if I’d been commanded by God to give up using my dick ever again. “Seriously?”

“Chocolate inhibits the effect,” the voice said sternly.

I turned my stare on the Snickers bar in real annoyance, then tossed it onto the table in disgust. It skidded to the far side of the round surface and sat there, pristine and half-opened, taunting me like it knew what kinds of revolting tastes were still lingering on my tongue. I sneered at it. “How long will it take to—” I began to ask the voice testily. Before I even finished I felt myself falling forwards into disturbingly profound blackness, tumbling end over end into an endless eternal abyss.


I came to with an pounding headache, not sure if I’d been out for seconds or days. I blinked blearily and tried to focus. Despite my sluggish and aching head my body felt strangely invigorated, as if my blood was coursing a little faster and a little more excitedly through my veins and arteries. I opened my eyes, trying to focus.

“Did it work?” the voice asked from somewhere in the vicinity of by medulla oblongata.

I was about to say I wasn’t sure, but then I noticed something odd. I’d passed out sort of sprawled in the straight-back chair that faced the little round dining table, my head lolling forward as it usually did when I slept sitting upright. Well, my head had lolled forward, all right. I knew that because I finally recognized what I was staring into, which was my own navel.

Without moving my head, I reached up blindly behind my noggin with my shackled hands. My fingers verified what my sputtering but always logical brain was telling me: My poor neck, which had once received so many kisses from not one but three clones of the beautiful high prince of Enfor, was now about a foot long and, while still thick as ever, had ended up pathetically bent over like giant, overcooked rigatoni. “It worked,” I said darkly, my voice muffled as I tried to speak against my own scruffy abdominals.

I was contemplating aiming at my would-be rescuer a set of various very colorful curses I’d once heard and had been looking forward to trying out when he spoke again. “Great,” he said excitedly. “Now try slipping out of the shackles.”

This interrupted my inner tirade, and I turned my thoughts with interest toward this newly opened opportunity. I moved my hands together back toward my lap, and found that I could lift my head easily, enough to see what was happening. I tugged back on my right hand, anchoring the chain and shackle in place with the other. At first nothing happened, then I watched in fascination I pulled my hand straight through the iron cuffs, easy as pie. It felt like nothing stranger than pulling off my spacesuit, or grabbing my wrist with my other hand and then pulling free from it. My hand looked strange now, smooshed and elongated, and I felt a twinge of incipient horror; but I flexed my hand, squeezing into a fist and then splaying the whole hand outward like a starfish, and as I did so my hand slowly reshaped itself, reverting to its standard configuration just as though I was constantly squeezing free from iron bonds and springing back to normal like it was no big deal. I stared at my hand in absolute wonder, examining it as I continued flexing and splaying, as gobsmacked as if I’d gotten a whole right hand upgrade for my birthday as a surprise from all my mates.

“Did you do it? Is it working?” badgered the voice.

I realized I had stalled in my assignment, and I transferred my attention to the other hand. Reversing the procedure by holding the chain and cuff with my newly freed right hand, I pulled free from the iron cuff as if it were nothing but rubber. “No, that’s me,” I thought, still a little stunned. “Yeah,” I called out. “My hands are free.” As I spoke I was reaching behind my head again to see if I could do something about my neck. I guessed if my hands sprang back to normal if I focused attention on them, I might not be stuck with a noodle neck for the rest of my life. Gently I tried lifting my head up and back in the normal way while I held onto my neck, helping it straighten itself out. Soon my head was in the correct vertical position, but I could tell from the elevation and from what I was feeling as I grasped it with my hands that my neck was still rather too long.

“Good, good,” the voice enthused. “Now all you need to do is find the release. I’ve prepared the transport, so you just have to get to it.”

I was still distracted by my neck situation, torn between feeling my rescuer’s urgency and not wanting to risk running around with a too long neck in case my head suddenly flopped forward in the middle of running for my life. “It’s in the bathroom on the right hand wall,” the voice was telling me. “Third column in and two squares below eye level,” it added helpfully.

Eye-level might not be the most helpful measure at the moment, I thought. In desperation I tried shoving down on my head with both hands. Incredibly this seemed to work, and I pushed harder, forcing my head down nearer to where it was supposed to be, until I was reasonably close to normal. I leapt up and ran to the little bathroom, feeling euphoric at having finally gotten my hands free after three days of being bound.

The right wall was all square white tiles, maybe ten centimeters on a side. With some trial and error I found a tile that, when enough sustained pressure was exerted on it, folded up and in on spring-loaded hinges. I bent to peer into the dark recess, but I could see nothing or either the release nor of any Rigellian critters that might enjoy pouncing on unsuspecting human forearms from secret hideaways like this.

“Are you ready?” the voice cajoled. “Are you doing it?”

“Hold your equines,” I grumbled. Sighing, I straightened up, squared my shoulders, and thrust my left arm into the recess.

There was nothing to feel, of course. My arm was a foot and a half to short. For the moment. “How do I … how do I reach it?” I asked.

“Stretch,” the voice said.

Oh, okay, I thought snarkily. Is that all. But I dutifully made an effort to stretch, concentrating on grasping something that was beyond my reach—but did not have to be.

“Stretch,” the voice repeated, as if it wanted to give me helpful instruction but had nothing to offer but the simple imperative. “Stretch,” it chanted. “Stretch … stretch … stretch …”

“I’m stretching!” I barked, and then, unbelievably, I was. I could feel my hand extending, stretching, pulling itself through sheer force of will and the action of muscle in the way muscle was never, ever designed to function. It was happening! I was doing it, and … it felt amazing.

I realized with some embarrassment that it was feeling a little too amazing, because my dick, slumbering since a particularly frustration-driven marathon wank session the night before, was now shaking itself free from lethargy and tingling with interest at the deeply pleasurable sensation I was feeling as I forced my arm to stretch, longer and long and longer, fingers fumbling along the inner sanctums of the hidden recess like they were the original crawling hand. Then my dick suddenly became aware of all of the possibilities of pleasurably stretchiness, especially with regard to itself, and twitched itself into half-hard and swelling arousal.

I smiled down at it in exasperated affection. “Later,” I told it firmly, and it twitched at me, telling me it would hold me to that promise. Fortunately, in that moment my hand found the release, and I embraced the distraction from my relentless libido. “Got it,” I called out.

“Grasp the handle and turn it toward the left,” the voice instructed. I was already doing that, if only because it hadn’t wanted to turn the other direction. I heard a distinct kathunk and a soft whirr start up. Heart beating fast I ran from the bathroom toward the front of the main room, barely aware of my too-long left arm—in time to see an angry Rigellian guard with a very big gun standing right in the newly revealed doorway, glaring at me like I’d ruined his kid’s Christmas.

“Fuck me,” I huffed.


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