143 AS

The Jesus had been one of the proudest items in the vast fleet of the DRSAF, the military elite of the Democratic Republic of Sol, before it's daring capture by its anarchist enemies. Now, its gleaming black imagination engines served as a class-five vessel in the employ of the rebel alliance that sought to destroy everything the Sols had worked to achieve.

It was no less a force for it. Like most class-fives, the Jesus carried on board a Buddha and at least three other combat shamans. It was equipped with antimatter weapons, quantum teleporters and the latest in ansible communication technology. The ship, capable of quantum shifts that propelled it far beyond the reach of other lightspeed vessels, was well maintained by the anarchist memegineers. But it seemed somehow diminished to all that looked upon it and remembered it as a flagship of the Republic. Smaller, even uglier.

It was, in a word, more real.

From the observatory booth of the Jesus, D'jinz-El Ah Rhakin, the ship's resident Buddha, watched the trade convoy pass off the shoulder of the Crab Nebula. She had advised the captain to stay a few lightyears back from their target, to ensure any concealed psychics in the convoy could not sense them, while they harnessed the nebula's vast flux. However, it made it almost impossible for her to discern whether her hunch had been correct.

Rhakin suspected that the Republic had been hiding the President's Esoteric Science Czar, de-facto the most powerful man in the known universe, in the convoy itself. Passing between two solar systems under the pretence of selling enriched uranium for demolition purposes, the convoy was ostensibly innocuous. However, Rhakin had been tipped off by a tachyon burst the Jesus had received three Earth weeks past, which the semantic cosmologists on board had reckoned was manufactured. All signs, all dreams, seemed to point to this seemingly harmless set of trade vessels being the home for the Czar's infamously nightmarish experiments.

It presented Rhakin with another problem. The Czar was reputably a Buddha, too. Rarely had Rhakin ever feared another's knowledge or wisdom, but the Czar had risen to his post by twisting the very rules of reality to his will. It was said that he adhered to no law - physical, legal, spiritual or otherwise – and that he abhorred the authority of the adamantine, of the objective, and could surpass it with his aphotic technologies. A Buddha who was not a Buddha. Could one ever combat such a foe?

Rhakin picked up her robe from the stasis field in which she had been sitting and left the observation deck, nodding to the guard on the door as she did so. It was a tricky decision, one she was loath to make herself. During her combat training she had read all the great tacticians, from the terran theorists like Sun Tzu, Clausewitz and Mao Tse-tung, to the 11th dimensional veterans of the Psychic Wars like Maitreya Tuum and D'jinz-El Gothroid. But Gothroid said one thing, Tuum another. Other relevant opinions, theorems, techniques, mantras and koans came together like a symphony in her vast mind as she walked the corridors of the Jesus.

Rhakin was tall, majestic in her gracely airs of wisdom more than any physical beauty. Her purple hair tickled the shoulders of her robe as she strode. In her spare time she would often teach the dharma to her fellows on the ship, and with acquaintances she would rarely engage in more conversation than koan exchanges. With her friends, many of them bodhisattvas, she would interface intimately for hours on end, switching seamlessly from conversation to telepathy to poetry to sex and back again. Such were the ways of her kind.

She picked up a KENTA in the bar on the way back and took him back to her quarters. As it had been a Republic vessel, the chambers in the heart of the Jesus had been equipped with love rooms for 'advanced sexual interrogation' of prisoners and other spoils of war. The anarchists had redecorated. The bar sold entheogens instead of beer, the love rooms now functioned as non-aggressive tantric chambers.

The KENTA, designated 1984451, had been picked for his inquisitiveness. He looked around her chamber now, with an expression of playfulness, almost innocence, but tinged with carnal curiosity.

It occurred to her: even if the Czar was on board, could it not be a trap? An attempt, perhaps, at avenging a humiliating defeat and taking back the Jesus? For the moment, she didn't care. She joined her elbows behind her back, tossed back her purple hair and allowed the robe to fall from her. KENTA followed suit, removing his red three-quarter-length jacket and billowy, almost Byronic white undershirt to reveal his platinum skin beneath.

"Do we war soon, D'jinz-El Ah Rhakin?" KENTA 1984451 asked, almost unable to conceal his excitement.

"No need to bother with formalities." We are anarchists, after all, she thought. "Call me Rhakin."

"Rhakin."

"And what do they call you?"

"Kintus is more usual," the KENTA admitted. "But only among friends."

"Kintus will do. As for war," she walked to Kintus and, with her superior strength, pushed him firmly in the chest so he fell down on the bed behind him. "I still haven't decided yet."

As Kintus tried to sit, Rhakin mounted him, sitting so her legs were either side of his hips and their eyes met. Holding his shoulder tight with her left hand, with her right (she, like all of her kind, was ambidextrous) she unbuttoned his trousers. He slid them off to reveal a fast-growing erection, which slapped against her coccyx.

They kissed, exchanging pleasure nanos until their mouths were aflame with artificial delight. Her breasts squashed against his muscular chest, and she lifted herself up and onto his cock, swallowing it whole.

Regaining control over her body after the initial excitement (it would have been embarrassing for a neophyte like Kintus to have to wait for her) she began to move herself slowly up and down, stimulating the wall of her vagina with his flesh.

He closed his eyes, a sure sign of inexperience, as she moved faster and faster, moving the qi he had given her from the base of her spine, the muladhara, through the other chakras in her body. The svadishthana, the manipura, up through the anahata to the vishuddha.

Kintus was almost gasping for breath as he struggled to keep up with her. He was having the consciousness fucked right out of him. His cock was hers, his body was hers.

And where do you think you're going?

"I'm sorry?"

Rhakin stood in the mostly-empty white hall. Before her was a severe, scholarly looking man in a tweed suit and a raggedy bow tie. Age had robbed him of some of his good looks, but he still had an impressive nose that seemed a direct continuation of his forehead's policies. Upon this nose were perched small, round black spectacles that fell lower than their bridge. His hair was thick and white, sweeping around his head like a tidal wave.

I said where do you think you're going?

"Well," Rhakin told the old man. "Before you interrupted me, I was on my way to visiting Chokhmah. Not that it's any of your business."

And just what do you want with Chokhmah?

"Look," Rhakin said, a little put out. "Just who do you think you are?"

They used to call me William. Now I just wander around here. Tidying up, occasionally. What year is it?

"143 AS, Earthwise," Rhakin answered. She looked around. "Is this Da'ath? It looks a bit… different."

Oh, I think so. I heard someone refer to it as the Quantum Temple the other day. Who knows what that means. Or was it the other year? Time is a bit of a mess around here. Some days I don't think it exists at all. I've just come straight from Geburah, I think, but I get lost quite a lot. I was looking for the library.

"Geburah?"

Yes. I think I'm going through a bit of a fascist period, to tell you the truth. I was talking to Thomas and Ezra the other day…

"Look, it's been… interesting and all, but I'd really like to get to see Chokhamah for some advice."

You modern Buddhas, always jumping from station to station, using sex as a shortcut. Back in my day we were all really quite bad at it. Isabella was always threatening to cut off my loan if I didn't concentrate on the country or on the writing.

Anyway, you can't see Chokhamah. Khalika is using to talk to someone. Jane something. Hmm. You don't have a sister, do you?

"No. No, I don't. That's a shame. I've got a battle coming up, you see."

Oh. Well yes, I see your concern. Have you tried Netzach? Might be more your speed. Given that you're a, well, you know. A lady. Do you still call yourselves ladies? Some days I dream I'm back at Coole with the others. Oh, Maude. Maude!

"Maude? Who's Maude?"

Gone! She's gone! Gone gone gone! Hahaha hurh hurh huhuhuh awwww…

"There, there," Rhakin said, walking to the old man's side and putting a hand on his shoulder. "I don't suppose you know much about war, do you? You look pretty clever."

I'm not. Or rather, I still feel a bit guilty about war and all that. I wrote a play once… well, to tell you the truth, and keep this under your hat, but Isabella did most of the writing. Still, it was my play. A lot of people died as a result. I've never quite been able to get over it.

"Are you sure you're not just taking credit where it's not due?"

Maybe. Maybe. But yes, I do know a bit about war. It comes from being Irish.

"You're Irish? I suppose that explains your weird voice patterns. I knew an Irishman once. Or did I?"

Did you? What was his name? Perhaps I knew him.

"Okay, there's no need to be sarcastic. His name was MaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrRRRRR

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ssssssso good. Oh, so good. Don't stop. Please, Rhakin," Kintus was murmuring in her ear. Back in her chamber, she stood from her seated position until her slit was touching his nose. He groaned a complaint and began kissing and licking at her sex, desperate for more. She knelt to the side of him, grabbed one of his nipples and twisted until he cried out in pain. Then she led him off the bed before pushing him face first onto it.

"Stay there," she commanded.

While she was rooting around in her bedside drawer, her room's monitor turned itself on. On the screen, about six feet wide and six feet long, were the faces of three of her co-conspirators in the rebel alliance: Shan Watter, Mra-Khal Al Tshen and an unknown official.

"Hut Ruarmi," the three on the screen said. It was a traditional greeting among shamans, roughly translating as 'Who am I?' The idea being, anthropologists and etymologists reckoned, to surrender the Self as an offering to the addressed for the gift of their attention.

"Hut Ruarmi," Rhakin replied duly.

"I hope we're not interrupting anything?" Shan said, watching Rhakin pull a thick dildo out of the drawer.

"Not at all," Rhakin said, strapping the dildo to herself. She then walked back over to Kintus. "This is about the convoy, isn't it?"

"Yes," Mra-Khal piped up. "We were wondering what the plan of action was," then, gesturing to the man by Shan's side, "This is Field Commander Koan. He's our most important spy."

The Field Commander was a short man with a prominent nose. Nevertheless, he was handsome beneath his thin black hair. Rhakin nodded to him, before turning her attention back to Kintus.

She took firm hold of his hips. An excited tingle on her clitoris as she rubbed spit into his anus. Kintus tried to grab a pillow to bite, but she reached over and slapped his hand away. For his transgression, she slammed the dildo in. He cried out, and she began using it to caress the insides of his anus lovingly as she spoke to her addressers: "I've decided we will strike within the hour. We'll take the main vessel, with the Transcorp logo. If the Czar is on board I will face him alone."

"And if you don't make it?"

"Usual protocol. Bring up my file on the records as soon as my nanos do a post-mortem, and we can begin again."

"Right-o," Mra-Khal said.

"Have fun," Shan waved a cute wave as they disappeared from the screen. Rhakin reckoned the Field Commander was the new tactical theorist, double-agenting for the alliance, which would explain his authoritarian title. Everyone in the alliance had an advisory title, owing to its chaotic structure.

Rhakin took hold of Kintus' hair and wrenched his head up near hers. He wasn't quite as tall as her, so she had to lean ever so slightly to giggle in his ear. She nibbled at it as she gently fucked his ass. She was quite wet by now, so she rubbed her pussy with her right hand and shared her cum in his mouth, rubbing it around his gums with two of her fingers. He laughed a protest, and she giggled again, grabbed his cock, and began to fellate him.

--

"Stay in your positions! Attack formation triple delta, on my command!" Rhakin's voice was more clear than loud. It didn't have to be either. She co-ordinated the assault upon the convoy on several wavelengths, broadcast both to the ground troops and the artillery, while the Jesus' captain overshadowed proceedings from the dock.

They had breached the hull of the main vessel, and Rhakin was quietly confident of success. The convoy was not comparatively well protected, and the Republic forces were being easily dispatched. In no time at all, she was making her way through the bowels of the ship, firing her dharma disrupter with incredible accuracy at the few armed threats she did meet. She left her body running on autopilot and achieved nirvikalpa samadhi.

There was indeed a fellow enlightened one on board, she deduced once she had regained standard ontology. The reading she was getting from it was different, however. Both here and not, a sphere and a hole in space at once. For the first time since the Republic had first come to 'liberate' her home when she had been a child, she felt a glint of fear in her heart.

"Tell me where the laboratory is," she demanded of a technician, holding his head between her firm hands. He didn't need to answer: her nanos, given a massive qi boost, overwhelmed his, delivering her a perfect 3-dimensional map of her environment. She tried to extend her perception into the 4th, but something was blocking her. She would find out what.

The door of the laboratory buckled under her swift kick. Rhakin found herself in a room of near impossible circuitry, made not to specifications of comfort but practicality. Holograms, which filled the room, speculated on mathematical theorems and cosmology simultaneously, and it was only her Buddhahood that allowed Rhakin to tell fact from fiction.

Enzymes dribbled, sine waves oscillated. There was pain here. And something unusual – death? This was, indeed, the home of the President's Science Czar.

At the centre was a strange, circular device, about twice the height of Rhakin. Two thin mechanical claws reached around a shimmering, fluid material, like a molten metallic mirror. Where the material flexed, a rainbow effect seemed to glisten and refract off its surface, like oil on water.

As Rhakin drew closer, the material seemed to recoil in places, as if it recognised her. Looking upon it, her genitalia tinged. There was no denying its sexual potency. The smell of it was like cut grass perfume, an artificial ecstasy that enthralled her nostrils.

Suddenly, Rhakin found herself unable to move. She was caught in a stasis field, a manufactured gravitational manipulation used in prisons all across the Republic. Fortunately, her own robes were blessed with the same properties, and a kinetic blast emitted from her, disabling whatever circuitry had created the field. She sent out a second blast, compromising the integrity of any liquid mainframes within ten feet of her, just to be on the safe side.

"Must you wreck my lab?"

The voice came from a balcony above. Rhakin turned, and looked upon a quite shocking figure. He was a short, plump, naked man. And with two heads. The first, dark skinned, was active, inquisitive, its bald skin constantly moving over the bones of the face like a series of nervous tics. The other, as if to make up for it, hung on the naked chest, quite dead. Between the two heads the black and white skin mediated into the brown blotches that covered the hairy body.

Rhakin instinctively raised her dharma disrupter. The creature raised its hand, two fingers distinct from the others, and deflected the shockwave easily.

"Can't we talk?" it said. And then, mockingly: "Buddha to 'Buddha?'"

"Who are you?" Rhakin demanded, a slight tremble in her voice.

"That's quite the question isn't it?" the thing replied. "That's what all this is for. I needed to find out."

"And your conclusions?"

The two headed man sat cross-legged on the floor, and invited Rhakin to do the same. She preferred to stand. Out of the corner of her eye, the fluid material shifted.

"Who do you think I am?" he said at last.

"The President's Science Czar."

"Oh, I'm much more than that," he said, gesticulating with his hands. "I mean, look at yourself. One two-headed dwarf and Ms Queen Dominatrix Anarchist Buddha Person is already shaking like a leaf.

That's what I am. I'm fear. I'm Pan. I'm Hermes. I'm the trickster god. I'm god-considered-as-a-male. I'm the outsider god. I'm Boo Radley. I'm Emperor Palpatine. I'm John Galt. I'm Jeremiah Richards."

"You have two heads," is all she could think of saying.

"Two heads, yes. Two faces. Like Janus, no? Jane-us. Quint-us. Marc-us. Three pretty distinct metaphysical assertions, wouldn't you say? My twin here. Died in childbirth, don't you know. But you're asking the wrong questions."

"Okay," Rhakin replied. "What's the right question?"

"The right question?" the Czar scoffed. "What kind of Buddha doesn't know the right question? Okay, since you asked, I'll tell you. The right question is: Who is Quentin Quark?"

From a dissection table near him, the Czar picked up a strange visor. Although she could not remember having ever seen it, looking at it when held in front of his face gave her a sense of déjà vu. Rhakin considered that she was talking to a madman. She had to think of a way to beat him, to escape, before his words compromised her mental equilibrium.

"Oh, I'm insane all right," the Czar continued, reading her thoughts. "A madman is anyone at odds with what we call 'reality.' But what is reality but another layer of fiction? How else would your vessels work? Real physics? Don't be ridiculous. No, the only way to see this world for what it is is to strip it down to its archetypes. Hero, villain. Good guys, bad guys. Male, female. Black, white.

"Consider the Taijitu. A veritable map of the universe seconds after its creation! The White Hot Singularity splitting off into two, before fracturing into more and more splinters, all gods, all demons, humans, animals, minerals, plants, rocks, all facets of the same diamond. What parts are the baby and what's just afterbirth? Can we ever return to the centre?"

Once again, Rhakin found herself unable to move. She tried a kinetic blast; nothing. A quantum burst was ineffective. She went telekinetic, to no effect. The Czar had trapped her with some esoteric force she was not familiar with. He grinned as her mind struggled to make sense of her prison.

Her drew closer, close enough so she could smell him. He was covered in sweat. Yet she could still smell the glorious metallic material that aroused her.

"I need this," he said, pointing at the material. "Do you know what this is? It's a piece of the Source. Uncorrupted, pure, truth. I need to follow it back. I need to find out Who I Am! And you must help me."

He was so close now they were touching. The dead head pushed against her as the live one began to smell her neck. His arms wrapped around her, and something pushed against her thigh. Still she struggled, but less and less as the aroma thickened. The metallic material, what the Czar had called the Source, seemed to want their union. Whether it was rape or not.

An explosion. Glorious, and terrible. It tore through the far side of the Czar's lab. Distracted, he turned on his heel in time to see a squadron of KENTAs racing towards him.

Acting quickly, he gestured ever so slightly, and the squadron found themselves caught in a stasis field as Rhakin had before. Their capture, however, precipitated her release. The Czar's concentration broken, Rhakin almost fell as she lost her buoyancy. He turned back to her in time to see her kick hurtling towards his living face. She felt his orbital bones collapse into his mouth, and he dropped to his knees in agony.

Rhakin turned to the KENTAs, freeing them with a well co-ordinated kinetic blast that disrupted the gravitational manipulation. But the Czar was already on his feet, and suddenly Rhakin found herself doubled over. He had hit her before she had even seen the attack coming. He chuckled as a team of blank-faced Asimovs rose from the ground of his lab, poised to tackle the invading KENTAs before they could intercept him.

Another explosion. A fist, directed at her head. Rhakin blacked out.