Once upon a time, there was a prison planet called P. K. R. R. E. S. where a great, galaxy-spanning empire put people it was afraid of and couldn't figure out how to kill. P. K. R. R. E. S. stood for PsychoKinetic Resisting Rehabilitation--Extra Security. The empire was afraid of people with all varieties of psychic powers, but psychokinetics were the most trouble by far. Mindreaders usually just went insane, precognitives could occasionally be useful, and teleporters were just rare, but psychokinetics could cause millions in property damage even after they were locked away.
Resisting Rehabilitation meant that the empire had pumped the prisoners full of drugs which did absolutely nothing and the prisoners were either too stupid or too lacking in training and control to pretend that they were cured. So the young and wild psychics ended up on P. K. R. R. E. S. but a number of the ones with well-behaved talents were released back into society, and bred more psychics for the empire to tear its hair out over in the next generation.
As for Extra Security, an entire planet devoted to imprisoning psychics was about as extra secure as the empire could make a prison.
No ships had landed on P. K. R. R. E. S. since the original survey team. The prison ships would point their thrusters at the ground and hover at about fifty feet, and drop plastic slides out the airlocks and push everyone out. This resulted in some broken limbs and such, but was regarded as not the Empire's problem, and hardly the worst thing expected to happen to the prisoners.
There were stories about P. K. R. R. E. S. None of the prisoners had been given any grain to grow, nor weapons to hunt the local wildlife, and so some speculative soldiers had arrived at the idea that they became cannibals, and every prisoner delivery was the dinner gong sounding, as the experienced survivors rushed in to butcher the fresh meat.
This was ludicrous, of course. How a psychokinetic could be expected to cause millions in property damage and yet not be able to strangle a stag at fifty yards was fallacious, sensationalistic thinking.
Once upon a time, there was a prison ship that came carrying two hundred prisoners for P. K. R. R. E. S., only to find, when they arrived in the Talsoe system, that P. K. R. R. E. S. was no longer there. They checked its entire orbit. Then they started checking for debris fields, asteroids, cometoids. They found nothing.
Baffled, the officers on the ship entertained thoughts of merely dumping the prisoners into space and going home.
The prisoners took over the ship and killed their keepers, but unfortunately, the slaughter did not have a happy ending, as the ship was subsequently destroyed when they attempted to return to port.
P. K. R. R. E. S. got a reputation after that.
Once upon a time, there was a newly minted officer in the Nikkeldepain Navy named Threbus, who was about to go on his first offworld tour of duty. He and all his mates in his squad, namely Ackleby, Gahooj, and Fallorn, had decided to go carousing the night before they shipped out, and Fallorn had had the bright idea of visiting a brothel. Inside the brothel, Threbus and his mates parted ways, and most of them had exactly the sort of time they were expecting to.
Threbus went into his assigned room, and found the prostitute sitting in a rocking chair, reading a book. She stood up and made a complicated gesture at his head which should have thrown him into a trance. It bounced. Threbus said, "What the hell was that?"
The prostitute said, "I don't know. Have you always been immune to lailing?"
"To what?" said Threbus, more baffled by the moment.
"To mind control," the prostitute said. It was her habit not to involve herself with clients at all, but instead to lail them into thinking they were getting something quite remarkable while they humped a pillow, and she read her book.
"Look, are you going to bed me, or not?" Threbus demanded.
"You want to go to bed?" said the prostitute. "Well, I suppose there's no harm in it. Come sit down."
So Threbus sat down on the bed, and the prostitute helped him take his jacket off, and his dress shirt, and then she knelt down to unbuckle his belt, and Threbus thought, Finally! We're getting somewhere, and then she sat back on the floor and yanked off his boots, and his trousers. When she had him down to his long underwear, she bid him get up, and she pulled the covers back on the bed, and bid him lay down again. Threbus, getting more nervously excited, did as she asked. Then she pulled the covers up to his chin, and kissed him on the forehead, and said, "Sweet dreams."
Threbus was so dumbfounded he just watched as she went back to her rocking chair and picked up her book again.
Eventually, he said, "Excuse me, but--"
"Would you like me to read you a story?" said the prostitute, without looking up from her book.
"I--" said Threbus, but she continued on as if she hadn't heard.
Once upon a time, there was a witch from a prison planet, only she didn't think of it as a prison planet, because she had been born there, and because it was no longer under the control of the empire that had declared it a prison. It was her home, and it was a beautiful place, and none of the people the empire sent there had done anything wrong, anyway.
But Toll (for this was the witch's name) longed to see other worlds, because her grandparents and great-grandparents and great uncles and aunts and all of her friends' grandparents and other assorted elderly relatives had stories of other worlds, and none of them were like Karres, the witch world. Toll longed to see the spaceships and starports and automated machinery that her elders spoke of. She longed to see the birds and beasts of other worlds, the mountains and forests and canyons and the wild lights of orbiting rings in the skies.
The prison planet, the witch world, had no ships of its own. It could move about to anywhere in the skies it liked, but the only ships that came and went were those that dared to investigate a planet which had appeared from nowhere. These were largely prospectors, fortune-seekers, pirates. So when Toll had thought to buy a passage offworld, they had told her, these pirates, that the only payment they would take from her was seven years' service. Naïvely, Toll thought they were interested in her services as a witch, but quickly learned otherwise. Even then, Toll thought it would not be so bad, because she had the lailing, and because she could travel on their pirate ship for seven years and see all of their stars.
And then they sold her contract at the first stone they made port on.
"Why are you telling me this?" Threbus asked.
"Because you're a witch," said Toll.
"I--" Threbus spluttered. "I've never even heard of your prison planet!"
"But you're immune to lailing," Toll pointed out. "I've never met anyone I couldn't lail who wasn't a witch, too."
"I'm not a witch! Stop saying that," said Threbus.
"But not all of the witches were sent to Karres," said Toll. "My great-gran says, her brothers were all left behind. On Ashlain, they thought only women could be witches."
Just then, all of Threbus's mates burst in. "The lieutenant's down the hall turning out all the rooms looking for us!" Ackleby cried.
"Say, what mischief's afoot here?" asked Gahooj. "You're not even naked under there!"
"Is widdle Threbus-kins a virgin?" said Fallorn, jumping on the bed and pinching Threbus's cheeks.
"I most certainly am not!" Threbus said. He pushed him off and climbed out of the bed.
"Sh," Ackleby said, louder than all the rest of them. His ear was pressed to the door. "He'll hear us!"
"I can lail him," Toll offered.
"No, you can't," said Threbus. "The lieutenant's my cousin."
"So you admit it!" cried Toll.
"I admit to nothing!" cried Threbus.
"Play your strange sex games later," Gahooj enjoined them.
"I suppose it's out the window with you all, then," said Toll.
"Oh, let's take the wench with us," said Fallorn, "I've yet to have any fun tonight!"
Which is how four half-dressed junior naval officers and one fully-dressed witch came to be climbing down a trellis which really shouldn't have held their weight, onto the dimly lit streets of Havenport, the capital of Nikkeldepain. The lieutenant came to the window not a moment after they had all reached the ground, and after some yelling of Threbus's name, attempted to climb after them. The trellis gave way and the lieutenant tumbled to the ground, where he landed with a thump and a groan.
"Oh, shit," said Ackleby. "He knows you!"
"Of course he knows me!" said Threbus.
"Does he know the rest of us?" Gahooj asked desperately.
"I shouldn't think so," said Threbus, "but--"
"But it'll be the stockade for you, if not worse," said Ackleby.
"Best of luck," said Fallorn, and dashed for it.
"Sorry!" called Gahooj, dashing five yards ahead.
"You won't turn us in, will you? There's a chum," said Ackleby. He slapped Threbus's arm and dashed after them.
"You bastards!" Threbus yelled. "What the hell do I do now?" he asked Toll.
"Can we get to the spaceport?" asked Toll. "I'm pretty sure I can hotwire a ship."
"Oh, you can, can you," said Threbus. "The girl from the planet that doesn't have spaceships?"
"Well, I can rell a vatch, and they're quite good at machines, most of them," said Toll.
Some of the lieutenant's foot soldiers came running around the corner of the brothel, shouting and falling over each other to help the lieutenant. Threbus, seeing his future career as a decorated, adventuresome naval officer slipping away, put his hand out for Toll's and said, "What do you fancy, a yacht or a cruiser?"
"Oh, a yacht," said Toll. "We haven't enough hands for a cruiser."
Once upon a time, there was a parking attendant at the Havenport shipyards at Nikkeldepain who lost his job because the governor's yacht went mysteriously missing on his watch, but that is another story for another day.
Once upon a time, there was a vast, dead, empty stretch of space where a spaceship, suddenly and without warning, appeared.
Inside the ship, Toll said to Threbus, "I do believe I'll marry you."
"Marry me?" said Threbus. "What are you talking about? You won't even have sex with me."
"Who says I won't?" said Toll.
"But--you--" Threbus spluttered at her. "In the brothel! I'd paid and everything, and you--you--"
"Well," said Toll. "You've just done a rather amazing thing. I've never seen anyone sheewash anything all on his own, before. It takes hundreds of us to sheewash the planet! That's much more impressive than money, you know."
"Oh, you choose now to be impressed," said Threbus. "I feel like my brains are about to fall out my ears and my arms are about to fall off my body, and now you want to--?"
"My poor baby," said Toll. "Just you rest."
And Threbus once again suffered the indignity of having Toll wrap a blanket around him, kiss him on the forehead, and wish him sweet dreams.
He found he minded less this time, but possibly it was just the exhaustion talking.
Once upon a time, there was a great and powerful leader called a Daal, who had one great and terrible fear. This fear was that he would be telepathically controlled by some alien race seeking to do his people harm. The Daal was certain he was particularly susceptible to telepathic influence, for in fact he was a hexaperson, six clones with one linked mind.
The Daal's fear was not unfounded, because the reaches east of Uldune, where he ruled, were plagued by some kind of alien, some yellow, writhing invaders of the mind. Many of his people feared telepathic influence as well, especially the ones who ventured out to the stars, for adventure or trade or piracy (which was a national pastime on the Daal's world).
One day, there came two strangers to Uldune, a man and a woman, who made a great profit by selling tin hats to the citizenry, reputed to keep out telepathic influence. They made a show of their wares--the woman, who was a witch, would enthrall some passerby, and make mysterious signs with her hands, and the passerby would dance or cluck like a chicken or walk on his hands. Some passersby she caused to sing, or speak in tongues, or balance spoons upon their noses--some harmless thing that amused the crowd and demonstrated her control. Then the man would put a tin hat on their victim's head, and he would come out of his trance, bewildered! And the man would tell him he could keep the hat and its protection for the low, low price of two hundred maels.
The Daal was greatly interested in these tin hats, but feared becoming these showmen's puppet, even to prove their point. He sent his guards to extend an invitation to his palace to them, that they might come willingly and not attempt (and almost certainly succeed at) escape, and then fed them a banquet laced with drugs from the Empire reputed to dull the powers of witches. When they had eaten and drunk, he had them brought into his presence.
The Daal made known to the couple his interest in their wares.
The man said, "Well, we would be happy to make you one, your Greatness."
The Daal said, "I have a special issue."
The couple waited patiently.
The Daal send his guards away. "I'm going to need six of them," he said.
"No problem," said the man. The woman was waving at him to be quiet, but the man seemed not to notice. "As many as you want."
"I need six of them," the Daal repeated, "because there are six of me. And I will need them not to interfere with my link amongst myself."
"Ah," said the man. He looked baffled.
"We can accommodate you," the woman assured him. "But not unless you promise not to kill us to keep your secret, as I can hear you planning, and mean it. And I promise you I will know."
The Daal stared at them in consternation. "You aren't supposed to be capable of using your powers!"
"We aren't?" said the man.
The woman patted him on the arm. "Really, it takes more to stop a witch than that," she told the Daal.
"But the tin hats you make," said the Daal, "these will prevent even you from seeing my thoughts?"
"Oh, yes," said the man.
"Very well," said the Daal. "I will not kill you if you will make them for me."
"You're lying," said the woman. "Lock us away and bring us back when you mean it."
The Daal was so infuriated that he did just that.
After the witches had been locked away for a night and a day, the Daal summoned them into his presence again. The man and the woman, who had been kept in separate cells, embraced with an embarrassing passion. The Daal waited until they parted, and repeated his demand for the tin hats.
The woman said, "Do you promise not to kill us?"
The Daal said, "I promise."
And the woman said, "You're lying. Try again tomorrow."
For seven days and seven nights this repeated. On the eighth night, the Daal was near his wits' end. He had tried everything he could think of. He had tried to control his thoughts, to mean it with one self's mind while the others kept his true plans safe, to think of anything but his false promise to distract the witch. She was never fooled.
On the eighth night, the woman said, "Do you promise not to kill us?"
The Daal said, "Do you promise never to reveal my secret?"
The woman smiled. "I promise to tell it only to the blood of my blood and the flesh of my flesh," she said.
"And how," said the Daal, "am I meant to trust all of your family? No, I will have to kill you after all."
"Not all of my family," said the woman. "Only my children. I think that's fair."
"Hmph," said the Daal. He looked at the man. "And you?"
"I can keep it to my grave," said the man.
The woman, holding his hand, said, "His children will be mine. He'll tell no others."
The Daal said, "Very well. I will not kill you."
"Good," said the woman. "You mean it. We'll start in the morning."
The man and the woman made the Daal six very fine tin hats, and the Daal was pleased to see they didn't interfere with his communication with his other selves at all. They were all specially molded to his skulls and exceedingly comfortable as well.
The Daal ordered twelve hundred maels to be withdrawn from his coffers to pay the man and the woman, but the woman said, "Let us not forget you kept us captive for eight days. I think you owe us recompense for that, as well."
The Daal realized she was not talking about money. "What did you have in mind?" he asked.
"You rule a planet. You can marry people, right?" the woman asked.
"Yes," the Daal said cautiously.
"Good," said the woman. "Marry us."
"Woman," said the man, "I haven't even asked you."
"Well," said the woman, "hadn't you better?"
"Fine," said the man. "Will you marry me?"
"Oh, yes," said the woman. "Gladly."
The Daal rather suspected she was witching the man, but decided it was really none of his business, and married them anyway.
Once upon a time, there were three sisters named Maleen, Goth, and the Leewit, who loved to listen to their mother's stories. Not all of the stories were age-appropriate, especially for the Leewit, who was the youngest, but they were all interesting. Some of them were even true.