The harried hurried Hooded Hood squeezes in a double-sized chapter to keep things going
Fri Mar 16, 2007 at 03:56:44 pm EDT
Subject#307: Untold Tales of the Parody War: Challenging Behaviour, or Caph Betrayed
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|#307: Untold Tales of the Parody War: Challenging Behaviour, or Caph Betrayed|
The Junior Lair Legion Training Program and their friends:
Kerry Shepherdson, fiery-tempered probability arsonist
Fashion Accessory (Samantha Bonnington), fabric transmuter
Harlagaz Donarson, demihemigod of thunder
Denial (Danny Lyle), reality-denying self-defined supervillain
Ham-Boy (Fred Harris), the world’s meatiest hero
Kid Produce (Jasper Stevens), the vegetable-using vigilante
Glitch, girl-Transformer robot from a distant star
Captain Courageous (Christopher “Kit” Kipling), the world’s politest crimefighter
Falconne (Belinda "Lindy" Wilson), streetwise problem teen with big bro's flight suit
Prince Kiivan, usurped Emir of All Caph
Ohanna of Raael, his companion and friend, keeper of the sacred treasures
Vaahir of Viigo, outlaw warlord hero, Kiivan's mentor
Prince Aarmus of Aarixus, collaborator claiming to now be Emir
Kriige of Aarixus, his leman
Those in need of a recap are directed to A Note for Those Unfamiliar with Caph at the bottom of the page. It’ll really help if you’re not up on green-skinned alien slave girls. Other Juniors material is available at The Junior LL Archive.
In their own words…
Prince Kiivan, Emir of All Caph:
I came to life the day I met Ohanna.
Before that I was a spoiled court-bred brat, sitting on my father’s throne surrounded by advisors who made all the decisions, groomed for a life of decadence and inactivity. The men who held the power used me as their mask for ruling Caph. I was weak and stupid and I failed my people.
That day, the Thonnagarian survivors from the destruction of their homeworld conspired with treacherous Princes of the court to seize Caph by coup. Prince Aarmus of Aarixus and his conspirators gave our world to the pigeonwarriors in exchange for scraps of power, and those who advised me were the first to die. I was rescued from death by the renegade Thonnagarian Shazana Pel and by the Earth archvillain the Hooded Hood.
But I was saved by Ohanna of Raael.
The House of Raael has been keepers of the treasures of Caph for as far back as records tell. When revolution came the House of Raael fell defending their sacred duty. Ohanna was the last daughter to survive, and she escaped carrying the greatest of the relics: the honour sword of Gaath, the B’Taari Codex, the Xindii vision-stones, the Sceptre of Koorvis, the orb of Truul, and a full database of our lineages and songs that made us a people of history.
Ohanna became slave to the Hooded Hood, and the Hooded Hood bade her attend to me. We were frightened children in a world that had become suddenly dark and deadly, but Ohanna was everything that is best about our people; brave, loving, loyal, talented, and in every sense beautiful. When I would have despaired and ended my life in betrayal by suicide she invoked the ancient right of a slave to demand her Emir’s protection, for her and for Caph. Such demands cannot in honour be denied.
Caph has always had slaves and masters. Other worlds have outgrown human bondage, but on Caph it is an integral part of our culture. I no longer claim this is right, but it is where we are. Women and base gelded serfs are property, sold to a House and chattels of its Master - but they have rights and privileges too. As a slave serves her lord so her lord protects and cherishes her. Slaves and lords alike serve the Emir of All Caph, and he protects and cherishes them all.
Ohanna shared my exile, my constant companion in the strange new worlds the Hooded Hood sent us to. She was at my side when we met Vaahir of Viigo, surely the greatest hero of Caph, an exile like ourselves and now my warlord and right hand. She was with me when we faced the alien cultures of Plyxtrazar, of New Crystaxia, of Xnylone, of Naicluv, of Owna, of Earth. Because of the Hooded Hood’s time and space-bending Portal of Pretentiousness we grew to adulthood in other times while little more than a year passed on our homeworld. Ohanna was always there for me.
In the days before our attempt to liberate Caph, our return home I found myself thinking of her more and more. My childhood companion had become a beautiful woman just as I had grown to be a man. We had bickered and fought and shared and learned together, but now we could no longer be easy friends, prince and slave, boy and girl. She would have been a fitting pleasure slave for an Emir, a most beloved, first amongst chattels, a fine mother for my sons. And yet…
That wasn’t Ohanna. Ohanna was… was more. Our travels had changed us, shown us things no other Caphan has ever seen. To take Ohanna home, to force her back into that constrained submissive role, would have been a crime. And if it was a crime for Ohanna, what of all those others who live in bondage in our society, denied the chance to blossom as she did?
I dared to return to Caph and fight for its freedom. I had to, since the success of Vaahir and Pel’s resistance had decided the pigeonwarriors to yield the planet to the Parody Master in exchange for a favoured place in his armies. But if I won did I dare change my world forever as I knew it should be?
I have learned the languages of alien worlds. They have words for things we do not. There is one such that described what Ohanna deserved to be: Queen.
As I assembled my allies and returned to Caph in a borrowed Xnylonian stealth ship I genuinely did not know what I intended with Ohanna, but I knew that I would never willingly part from her.
And then she was taken from me. By treachery I lost her, and the future with it. She vanished from aboard my ship, from the safety of her own cabin, by that same Portal of Pretentiousness that we had used so often before. The Hooded Hood sold her to Aarmus of Aarixus in exchange for the usurper delaying the Parody Master’s Caphan invasion fleet.
That is the Hood’s way. He would sacrifice all to achieve his ends. I would have failed that test and so failed my people. But while I would give my life to free my world I would not give Ohanna’s. That is why the Hood is more dangerous than I, but why I am not an archvillain.
So Ohanna was lost to me, and that was when I knew, beyond all doubt, that I loved her.
Belinda Wilson, Falconne:
I never really liked Kiivan. Let’s face it, what have some alien prince from Arabian Nights-world and a girl from the ‘hood got to do with each other? Okay, he’s eye candy and he looks good hefting a Caphan honour blade, but that elitist attitude and that cold-fish detachment get right up my nose. And don’t get me started on the whole slavery thing, brother.
But I’ve gotta admit, he was pretty upset when we found out that Ohanna had vanished off the spaceship.
“Check again,” he told Kit Kipling (that’s our resident super-powered Brit boy scout, every bit as vanilla as he sounds and exciting as cardboard). “Maybe she’s in the engineering tubes for some reason.”
“She’s gone,” Danny Lyle insisted. “Sorry, Kiivan, but she’s no longer aboard.” Denial is Kerry’s main squeeze, a cool dude in a leather jacket. But he’s not up for playing around, I guess, and it’s not like I didn’t give him the chance.
“How does somebody just vanish from a small spaceship in the middle of, well, space?” asked Samantha ‘Don’t-Call-Me-Sammie’ Bonnington, a.k.a. Fashion Accessory, a.k.a. Most Self-Absorbed Person in the Universe. She’s living proof that you don’t need brains or personality to make it if you have great boobs.
“The Portal of Pretentiousness,” suggested Glitch. “I picked up some weird residual traces in Ohanna’s cabin that indicate she was transported away by the Hooded Hood’s mirror.” Okay, Glitch is some kind of robot wannabehuman, built like a walking automobile with a curvy chassis. Actually she can be kinda fun if you get her liquored up on doctored motor oil.
“The Hood!” hissed Kerry (pyromaniac delinquent probability-bending jailbait who makes me look calm and stable – really). “I knew we were wrong to trust that no-good slimy sleazoid. Oh, he’s all ‘Allow me to aid your endeavours in regaining your homeworld’, but as soon as it suits him he just turns on us and does something like this. I am so going to burn his ass of this time!”
“Maybe he had his reasons?” Zack asked. Zack Zelnitz, Hacker Nine, my ex, geek with a heart of gold, urban anarchist, Technopolitan science-villain turned Hood intern. He was in a lot of trouble.
“Sure, stand up for your boss!” Kid Produce growled. “Maybe we should kick your butt out of an airlock and see how he likes it!” Yeah, because broody depressing guy is such an improvement, lurking in the corners fondling his fruit and veg. And I mean that literally, because he’s got some kind of shop apron that holds extradimensional groceries that he uses as weapons. Everybody I know sucks.
“Everybody just calm down!” That was Ham-Boy, another competitor for lamest superhero ever. Look, Ham-Cowl, Ham-Scooter, power to create and control raw meat? Maybe he’d be cute out of the Ham-Cowl in a bewildered deer-in-the-headlights way but I’d never got that far with him. But of course he’d be the one to weigh in with the obvious statements. “We need to work out what’s going on and what to do next.” Well duh.
“Next we findeth yon missing Ohanna, smite all that hath kidnapped her with a force like unto the wrath of gods, and restore our boon comrade to our sideths,” shouted Harlagaz. He’s the demihemigod of thunder, son of Donar, and all that. He was first in line for the muscles so he didn’t even queue for the brains. Nice pecs though.
“Well that’s a plan, sure,” agreed Danny. “But we need to know where she was taken to, and why. Figure out what the Hood’s scheming and we can…”
“What Daddy’s scheming, don’t you mean?” spat Kerry. She had a book of matches in her hand, always a bad sign for a probability arsonist in an enclosed space. Kare gets real uptight about Danny being the Hooded Hood’s kid.
“Danny’s not the enemy,” FA told Kerry, carefully lifting the matchbook from explosion-girl’s fingers. “This time. He’s right. We need to think this through and get a plan.”
“I said that,” protested Ham-Boy.
“Whatever,” Samantha shrugged. “Danny said it cooler.”
“Why don’t we just beat it out of apprentice-Hood here?” Kid Produce asked, turning on Zack.
“Because I can pound your apron-wearing ass into jelly?” I suggested. Hey, I got my big bro’s state-of-the-art flying battlesuit. I could take some hick who thinks a celery sword is dark and edgy.
“I had no idea the Hood was going to do that!” Zack protested. I believed him. Hacker Nine is a big dweeb but he doesn’t lie.
“What did you know the Hood was going to do, then?” Glitch demanded.
H9 looked uncomfortable, poor guy. “He just wanted me to get you all together with Kiivan. To get you to Caph, for the revolution. Or counter-revolution, or whatever.”
“But why us?” Kit Kipling actually calls himself Captain Courageous, can you believe that? “And why does the Hood want Caph liberated anyway? It’s not like him to be philanthropic without some darker motive.”
“It could be like Luthor on that alien planet where they think he’s a hero?” Glitch ventured. Did I mention she’s another comic-book-reader freak? Does she think that’s gonna help her be a real girl and score some human beef? Only if she wants to date Comic-Book Guy from the Simpsons. Best. Robot-Sex. Ever. Heh.
“Do you have some way of contacting the Hood?” Danny demanded of Zach. “He sent you, HB and Falconne to get us from the Bar at the Centre of the Universe. Did he have some way of keeping in touch?”
I spotted that guilty twitch from H9 a mile off. “Well, he did check in via his Portal,” he admitted.
“You lousy traitor…” growled KP.
“But now, nothing,” Zack admitted. “It’s like he’s not there any more. Like he’s broken contact for some reason. Like he’s lost interest – or vanished.”
“Because he never does creepy treacherous stuff like that usually,” snorted Kerry.
“But if the Hood has turned on us can we rely on him for the plan?” Kip worried. “If he doesn’t act at the right moment…”
“Maybe we need to turn round and go after the Hood?” suggested FA. “Rescue Anna from him. Find out what’s going on?”
“First we smite the Hood,” agreed Gaz. “And then we smite yon Aarmus. And then we smiteth yon Thonngarians, And then we smiteth yon Parody Master. Tis a good plan.”
“And how do we get back through the Celestian barrier to Earth?” Danny challenged. “Without the Portal of Pretentiousness, I mean.”
“And what about Vaahir and Pel and the forces they’ve gathered on Caph?” Kip said. The boy’s been trained on tactics and stuff since he was a foetus. Shame they never had a class on sense of humour. “There’s only so long preparations like that can be hidden. If we don’t go now everything will fall apart.”
“If we do go we could be walking into a big hairy trap,” KP pointed out.
Kerry grabbed the matches back from Fashion Accessory. “Yeah well, this is a great debating circle,” she snarled, “but this isn’t down to us, is it? We came along to help Kiivan. It’s got to be his call.”
I’ve never seen the guy look like that before, his green-skin almost white, his eyes so… cold and angry. Killing cold. Made me remember that this dude had just spent six years of his life remorselessly training to make war.
“We go to Caph,” Kiivan said quietly. “We fight to save that world.” He touched the plas-gar honour blade at his side. “She asked it of me. I promised it. Caph shall be free.”
Samantha Bonnington, Fashion Accessory:
When I pictured Caph I thought of it as a kind of desert world, like the Sahara, with camels and a few striped tents and the occasional palm tree. And while there is all that on their strange planet in the constellation of Cassiopeia – well, their versions of camels and palm-trees and stuff – there’s a lot more.
We touched down in a lush oasis jungle full of greens and yellows, with strange birds calling from the fronds and a crystal lake reflecting the nebula-tinted skies above. Great orange and purple vine-flowers grew everywhere, strewn from the trees like streamers. The ground was covered with some short aromatic grass, dotted with small berry bushes. The air smelled spicy and fresh, like it had just rained.
“Kiivan says there are thousands of these little pockets of paradise everywhere,” Kerry mentioned, stretching and sniffing in the non-recycled non-shipboard atmosphere.
Danny watched her stretch and almost choked on a berry. Did I mention we’d all dressed as Caphans for the scouting mission?
That meant chainmail bikinis for the girls and Conan outfits for the guys. And lots of green body paint. I think Kes and Danny had a great time helping each other on with their makeup. I had to plaster my hard-to-reach places myself.
The scouting party was me, Kes, Gaz, Lindy, and Danny, pretty much the old firm. HB and KP didn’t want to take their masks off, Glitch couldn’t exactly pass as a Caphan slave girl and Kiivan would have been recognised at once. Kit was checking his tactical overview materials, whatever the hell that means. We had H9 doing whatever nerd stuff he does to try and hack into Thonngarian communications. By the time we got back I guessed he’d be reprogramming their TIVOs.
Caphan costumes are gorgeous to look at, by the way, but there’s some serious chaffing from metal lingerie. I admit I did a little bit of redesign to stop the nipping so much. And also because it looked better. But Danny and Gaz were certainly distracted by our outfits, judging by the number of trees they kept walking into. Caphans photosynthesise as a secondary means of sustenance so their pleasure-slave costumes don’t tend to cover up that much.
HB had put us down near a small barter camp, where the locals from half a dozen Houses came together to do their shopping I guess. It was on neutral territory unclaimed by any single clan so we could travel there fairly safely. Nobody was going to try and raid even frankly drop-dead gorgeous girls like us while we had Gaz hulking over us with a huge scimitar.
Oh by the way, Caphan girls also have a complex way of showing their status as slaves through hair braiding and make-up. You can’t completely disapprove of a society that takes its accessorising so seriously.
“So what’s the big plan now?” demanded Lindy grumpily. She’d not been happy about the whole getting-out-of-the-80’s-styled-flying-bird-suit thing, even though frankly it needed a major visual overhaul to look less like an accessory from an Action Man kit. And I guess she didn’t like the whole Caph slavery deal. Then there was the problem getting green body paint to cover up a brown complexion, which requires quite a bit of foundation work. Plus, those chainmail bikinis work best with a fair amount of cleavage inside them so the kid was struggling to pull it off.
For the record, I fitted perfectly. The guys were struggling to pull it off.
“We find the market,” Danny reminded us. “and we find out how good these Xnylonian interpreter discs work to help us pass as locals.”
“And tis mine part to mulch any Caphan who looketh at thee in a disrespectful way,” Harlagaz added. “Kiivan said so.”
“Only Caphans?” Kerry checked. “Because Danny’s looking at me pretty disrespectfully right now.”
Denial grinned. “Hey, you have my full respect in that outfit, Firecracker. You should make it your official superhero outfit.”
“Not a superhero,” Kerry argued. “I’m just a girl from Bogall who is blessed with pyro-probability gifts from Galativac the Living Death that Sucks and cursed with having Visionary as a guardian and big brother. Any superheroes in my life have been inflicted on me as a test of endurance from the gods.”
“And she’s flunking the test,” Falconne muttered under her breath.
Harlagaz turned to a pair of meek Caphan shepherds who were standing at the roadside guarding their hairy sheep-like animals. “Art thou lookesting at these females?” he demanded. “Art thou?”
Even Gaz looked a little appalled when they fell to the floor and prostrated themselves in terror.
“Well damneth,” he declared. “This art no fun at all!”
“C’mon big guy,” Kes told him. “I’m sensing campfires this way.”
“These are campfires that were already there, in the camp, right?” I checked carefully. “Not new ones?” Always best to be sure with Kerry.
The oasis market was kind of picturesque. Lots of colourful rainbow-sheeted Bedouin tents under the almost-palm trees around a rippling natural pool basin. Wares spread on stripy cloths by the rocky path. Maybe a hundred or so people shopping and bartering. Plenty of hand-made crafts stuff, beautiful beaded shawls, lovely fabrics, carved boxes and bowls. Shame they don’t take gold Amex.
Lindy tensed up again as she saw the slaves being auctioned over by the big marquee.
That was probably a bad time for some Caphan dude in an orange coat of middle-class geyserdom to come over and make an offer to rent Kerry. Danny denied what Harlagaz did to him but he couldn’t have denied it that well because the guy staggered away almost folded double.
“Maybe we’d better just get the gossip and get out of here?” Danny suggested. “Before there are more incidents.”
“As long as we’re here wearing this get-up there are going to be incidents,” I pointed out. As I said, I looked really good in the Caphan kit. I’m guessing that orange-coated-guy only bid for Kes because he knew he couldn’t afford me.
“Tis time for us to question yon locals,” agreed Gaz. “I wilt smite them for the nonce until they tell us what we need to know.”
“Er, I think the plan was that we kind of use the non-smiting method, big guy,” I ventured.
“There art a non-smiting method?”
“We split up,” Danny said. “The girls go talk to the slaves over at the marquee. Gaz talks to the henchmen. I go listen in with that cluster of young masters over by the riding animals.
“The horse-things not the pleasure slaves,” Kerry clarified acidly.
“Or we could just cluster round that big TV screen,” Lindy suggested.
We looked where she was pointing. Quite a few people were gathering at an open-sided hospitality tent where chilled juices were on offer. There was also what we’d describe as a 40-inch plasma television. For all their mediaeval Bedouin trappings the Caphans do have some advanced-tech where they choose to use it. They even have news bulletins.
People were clustering to watch the show because Prince Aarmus, new Emir of All Caph, was announcing the news about his new slave. This wouldn’t normally be a great story, except when he revealed who that slave happened to be.
“We’ve gotta get back to Kiivan with this right now,” Kerry said through gritted teeth, just before the TV screen exploded.
Kit Kipling, Captain Courageous:
We made landfall around midmorning local time. Caphan days are around 22.43 Earth hours and they measure time in fourteen variable-length hours between sunrise and sunset and again between sunset and dawn, so it’s hard to make comparable time translations. On Earth it might have been perhaps ten a.m.
Caph IX is an interesting world. The planets there have a complicated elliptical orbit around their mother sun. While the inhabited world of the Caphans is relatively circular in its rotation (over three of our years for one rotation of their sun), allowing for mild seasonal variations and an annual monsoon, its neighbouring planets have much greater ellipses, so that occasionally Caph is not the ninth but the tenth or even eleventh planet from the sun. The proximity of the Andromeda nebula makes the skies bright by day and night, spectacular with blues and purples and reds.
But there was little time for cultural analysis and tourism. The first part of the mission brief called for us to make contact with the indigenous resistance movement and get an update on readiness for insurrection. That contact fell to Kid Produce, Glitch, and I, in the city of Kathalaar on the southern continent. While Kerry and her friends sought out the mood and gossip of the general populace, our contingent made use of abandoned drainage tunnels to enter the waterways beneath the metropolis and rendezvous with our contact.
Glitch wasn’t too happy with the assignment. “Why do I always get the service ducts?” she objected. “Why aren’t I up there in the sunlight doing the Mata Hari stuff?”
“This is important too,” I advised her. “We all have our role to play in this mission.”
“I could so have passed for a Caphan in one of those chainmail bikinis,” the seven-foot tall green and orange-hued Autobot grumbled, hulking along the shallow waterway bent almost double to avoid the roof. “Okay, maybe I’d need more body paint.”
“Quiet,” snapped Kid Produce. He was leading the way, lighting the path with, well… a cucumber torch. Don’t ask me how he had a cucumber that shone a yellow light out of one end. I don’t think I even want to know. Don’t get me started on the celery sword.
“We might get a chance to go upside later,” I whispered to comfort Glitch. “I was hoping to buy some kind of souvenir to give to Anna when I get home.” At this stage we’d been missing from Earth for over four months. I knew that Anna Kensington would be worrying for me. At least I hoped she would. Does that make me a bad person?
“There’s something in the middle of that pool,” Kid Produce said. He was all business when it came to the mission, rarely speaking unnecessarily. I’d have admired his professionalism but for a certain disquiet about the manic glint in his eyes as he forced us towards our objectives. “Some kind of box. Cover me while I check it…”
That’s all he got out before he was grabbed by the neck and pinioned against the wall.
“Ambush!” called Glitch. “But I never registered anything on sensors!”
“If you can track us, they can track us,” said a handsome man in leather armour from right behind the robot. He had a Caphan-style plas-gar longsword in one hand and what looked like a Z’Sox molecular ripper glaive on the other. “You can let him go, Pel. It’s them.”
And that was our first introduction to Shazana Pel, rebel Pigeonwarrior and greatest enemy of her own people, and to Vaahir of Viigo, Kiivan’s legendary warlord.
“You couldn’t have worked out it was us before plastering me across the wall?” complained KP, rubbing his neck where the Thonnagarian warrioress had not been gentle.
“You’re playing with the grown-ups now,” Pel told him, hefting her mace to illustrate the point. “Deal with it.”
“There are codewords we should exchange,” I told Vaahir.
We exchanged them.
“This way,” the warlord said. “The Thonngaraians have started to do sewer sweeps for rebels again since they got Avawarrior reinforcements.”
“There are Avawarriors here?” Kid Produce asked. “Just wonderful.”
“I thought the dimensional dreadnaught had been delayed?” I checked. “There seemed to have been some kind of diplomatic glitch, maybe to do with the Lair Legion or the Hooded Hood’s larger battle against the Parody Master.”
“The dreadnaught’s not here yet,” Pel confirmed. “Some kind of diplomatic snafu is holding things up. But the advance guard is on the ground. There are around five hundred Avawarriors and five thousand support troops and technicians, and that’s giving Ancient Shadara the courage to persecute her enemies again.”
“Ancient Shadara is the last surviving member of the Great Aerie, the Thonnagarian ruling council,” I remembered. “After Thonnagar was destroyed in the Crisis on Infinite Parodyverse the remnants of the Pigeonwarriors sought out a new power base under her rulership and…”
“Yeah, thanks, encyclopaedia-boy,” Kid Produce interrupted rudely. “I’ll read the paperback edition.”
Vaahir led us through a concealed entrance into some older tunnels. Glitch noted that the ancient masonry had been augmented with some state-of-the-art sensor baffles.
“The Thonnagarians aren’t playing games here,” Vaahir answered her. “So nor can we.”
“Right,” agreed Kid Produce. “So let’s have the lowdown on who’s ready to fight what so we can get on and do it.”
“I have a full report for Prince Kiivan,” agreed the Warlord. “But first… how is the Emir doing with the news about Ohanna?”
“News?” asked Glitch. “What news?”
Kriije of Aarixus:
I really hated Ohanna.
For lots of reasons.
First, she was a spoiled pampered pleasure slave who’d risen far above her station, giving herself offworld airs as if she was somebody special just because she’d learned alien disobedience. I could have been a pleasure slave if not for an accident of birth. I have the looks, the deportment, the artistic abilities. But because my mother had the appalling bad taste to conceive her daughter by a slave father such a role is forever denied me. Mother was flayed to death, of course, but I will always bear the stigma of ignoble birth.
When I was four I maimed another child drudge in an argument over a mouldy rind. That brought me my first proper whipping but it also brought me to the attention of the Leman’s Guild. I was selected as a candidate, bought from drudgery, and raised by them for service in some powerful house. The slaves of the Guild may not be pampered bed-toys like the rich beautiful vapid pleasure slaves but they are the accountants, emissaries, scribes, bodyguards, and custodians of Princes. Almost before I first came to a woman’s cycle I was purchased by the House of Aarixus, as the lowliest of Prince Aarmus’ personal chattels. In short bloody years I rose to be his most valued agent, his confidante and lover. If I was a pleasure slave I would surely have been his most favoured. But I cannot be a pleasure slave with the privileges of that rank – unlike Ohanna.
“I’m going to flay you so badly that animals will shy in the street when they see your face,” I promised the renegade.
“Easy to say,” the little bitch replied, clutching her houri daggers. “Harder to achieve.”
Ohanna is one of very few pleasure slaves who has ever left Caph and then returned. Some thousands of them are sold offworld to the Lovetoads, of course, but they die in bondage far from their homes, forgotten and unmourned. I and a handful of lemans have experienced the wonders of the galaxy, have even studied our enemies on other planets, while pleasure slaves stayed in their harems practising their weaving and their singing and their coupling. I can weave and sing, but my efforts mean nothing, can never be regarded as aught but drudge work. Ohanna travelled the distant worlds freely and was welcomed there, had learned and flourished in ways even I would never be allowed. She was an abomination.
“I’m going to enjoy seeing what the Master does to you when I toss you before him in chains,” I told Ohanna. “Your little bluff has fooled him into losing face. I know how creative he can be when it comes to taking his revenges.” I came forward and made a first assay of her skill, a few minor thrusts with my daggers to see how she reacted.
The girl was fast and well-trained, I’ll grant her that. Her former Master had seen her instructed in combat. She deflected my first attacks and even managed to press me back a pace before I checked her. “Aarmus is a traitor, a collaborator, a usurper, and a coward,” the rebellious snip replied. “I will not be his slave. I am free.”
There is an order to Caphan society. A slave-girl must fight to resist raiders, must not surrender herself to them for seven days until it is clear that her former Master has relinquished his claim and will not make a challenge of balek gorn for her return. Then she must yield to her new owner. But there is no precedent for a slave who has been legally sold, properly transferred either through the ritual of vina drea or through common bargain, to deny her new Master’s rights. That sets her beyond the law, and the sentence must be bloody death.
“All Caph will tremble at your destruction,” I promised as I pricked at her eyes with my needles. That always disconcerts pleasure slaves, who are so afraid of marks and disabilities devaluing them. “And all the world will see the end to the great romance of Kiivan and Ohanna, and the triumph of Aarmus, Emir of All Caph.”
“Kiivan will come for me,” Ohanna insisted, like some heroine in an ancient ballad. She ducked under my guard and used a kick unfamiliar with me to knock me backwards. I began to realise that this was a serious fight.
Fine. Pleasure slaves might play at combat and become proficient with whips if they progress to slave-mistresses. I was weapon-trained by the Guild for six hours a day since I was a mere infant. Ohanna was hardly the first upstart I’ve had the joy of carving.
But battle is psychological as well as physical. “Kiivan won’t come,” I pointed out. “He can’t come. We know all about your pathetic resistance. It works well lurking in the shadows, but if it comes out to fight the Parody Forces here will decimate it. Kiivan dare not challenge for you for he would be walking into a trap, putting his head in a noose. Whatever his affection for you, insipid little chit that you are, do you really think that a Prince of the blood would risk all his ambitions to save a mere slave?”
That stunned the child. I pressed harder, pushing her back towards the balcony’s edge. “I think he should not,” she admitted, looking more frightened than when her plight first dawned on her, “but I believe he will.” She suddenly turned on me with a new savagery. “He’s stupid like that. And he made a promise.”
There was no more time for talk then. The fight turned serious, just me and the bitch alone in Aarmus’ vast conference hall. I knew that by then my Master would be watching the combat on the monitors from the safety of his orbiting state-ship. I was determined to give him a good show.
Ohanna was a harder opponent than I expected. I was confident I could slice up any pleasure slave born for their training is for brief vicious close combat whereas I have a far more comprehensive set of battle-skills and assassination techniques. But the abomination had studied in alien schools of war in techniques with which I was unfamiliar. Each time I thought I had her she used some method of which I had no knowledge to set me back again.
The fury rose in me, years of resentment channelled into this one battle with this one single representative of all I hated about Caph. The scorns, the beatings, the sheer unfairness of my lot welled within me and gave strength to my arm and speed to my hand. I felt my blades score the flesh of Ohanna’s arm, and again on her belly.
I had overlooked her own passion though. With what anger did Ohanna of Raael return to her home, finding it so changed, betrayed by a Master she trusted to dire servitude to her worst enemy? What fury stoked her own fight, now matching my own rage with her own?
Her blade entered my chest quite cleanly, missing the heart but puncturing a lung. As I staggered back she used nerve-punches to disable my limbs and drop me bleeding to the floor.
The shock of the sudden reverse stunned me as much as her blows. Anger turned to fear as she kneeled atop me. She held her houri-knife to my neck as I lay there gasping and paralysed.
“Let’s see if Aarmus is willing to risk anything to save you, shall we?” she hissed in my ear.
I wished that he would, that my years of service in his House and bed would mean something to him. But I knew they would not.
Fred Davis, Ham-Boy:
Caph is sure a long way from Goth Haven.
For starters, Goth Haven has less women in chainmail bikinis and exotic lingerie – except on a Friday night down at the Studio District. The animals, the plants, even the sunlight’s different from what we know on Earth. It was interesting, but I couldn’t help feel a little bit homesick for the Gulp N Go.
But it’s the customs that make the place so alien. I don’t just mean the slaves and a whole society built around people owning other people. We had that on Earth not too long ago, before we wised up. I mean the honour system and the invisible rules of prestige and respect and tradition, like ancient Japan and Camelot and Arabian Nights and D&D all rolled together.
I don’t pretend to understand it. But I understood where Kiivan was coming from when he heard about Ohanna being held by Prince Aarmus.
“You have to stay calm,” Kip advised him. “A hasty move now could be disastrous.”
“Calm?” Kerry argued. “This isn’t the time for calm. This is the time for blowing things up. Preferably Aarmus.”
“When exactly isn’t the time for blowing things up, in your opinion, Kare?” asked Samantha.
“Sometimes she’s in more of a burning mood,” pointed out Danny reasonably.
“We need to do something, I agree,” Glitch chimed in. “I hate to think what a bastard like Aarmus could do to poor Anna.”
“So… what?” Kid Produce demanded. “Kiivan’s supposed to just run in there and storm the castle and rescue the damsel? Don’t the big red letters T-R-A-P on the side of this package give anyone a clue? Reacting like that would be as good as suicide.”
“Tis a good plan,” Harlagaz opined. “Let us go forth and smite yon villains most wrathfully for the nonce. Or die trying. Maybe both if we art lucky.”
Falconne raised her hand. “Hello? Is everyone forgetting that we came here to liberate the planet? I’m real sorry that greenie got herself captured but we’re kind of taking our eyes off the ball here, aren’t we?”
Kit winced but nodded. “There is a very limited window of opportunity to foment rebellion. The Glory of Destruction is in a holding pattern out in the nebula clouds just now for some reason but it could start moving at any instant. They can be here in less than a day. The Parody Troops are consolidating their hold. Vaahir’s secret preparations can’t remain secret for much longer.”
“I don’t like these save the world by sacrificing innocents deals,” I admitted. “They never end well.”
“I wish we had Glory here to advise us,” FA admitted. “Or Visionary, to blame.”
Danny turned to Kiivan. “What do you want to do?” he asked.
The Emir of All Caph’s hand was laid on the blade of the honour sword that Ohanna gave him. “We save her,” he answered. “This isn’t like your Earth, where hard choices have to be made between the desperate needs of individuals and the general good of society. On Caph I can only save the world if I care about every single person on it. I’m not going to choose between Ohanna and Caph, because to me there is no difference. She’s the very soul of Caph made flesh.”
“Oh…” said Glitch, sentimentally.
“Makes sense,” Danny added less sentimentally. “We need some flash point to trigger public sympathy, to start off the revolution. Kiivan going after Ohanna against Aarmus might be just the thing if we manage it right.”
“Or it might get Ohanna killed. Or all of us,” Lindy countered.
“Tis best we try,” Gaz rumbled. “Lady Ohanna must not be left friendless in her hour of need.”
Hacker Nine had spent the last few hours slipping his way into the local internet or whatever the Caphs called it. He couldn’t get into the Parody Forces’ systems without risking setting off alarms but he said the Thonnagarians were wide open. “I’ve got the security feed from Aarmus’ palace,” he announced. “I’m downloading the guards’ reports now. Looks like there’s a standoff. Ohanna can’t escape and she’s got Aarmus’ leman hostage. They can’t storm in and take her down because of the micro-transnuke in her jewellery.”
FA frowned. “Ohanna doesn’t have a micro-transnuke in her jewellery, does she?”
Kerry also frowned. “If she does, I want to know why I didn’t get one.” She turned on Danny. “You never buy me anything nice,”
“Anna doesn’t have anything of the sort,” Kiivan said, his face a mixture of worry and admiration for his lost friend. “But she has unlimited ingenuity.”
“Good bluff,” Kid Produce admitted. “Gives us a chance.”
“Rescuing Ohanna might not be very practical,” Kip warned, “although I’m glad we’re going to try. Palace security is very heavy, and they have state-of-the-art force screens, Thonnagarian guards, Avawarriors...”
“Yes,” agreed Gaz happily.
“It doesn’t matter,” Kiivan answered, “I have planned and prepared for a long time, suborning my heart to my head. But this is Caph, and here it is hearts that count. Logic says that I should forget Ohanna and begin my campaign of war. But my heart tells me that without her it is all for nothing. Without her I could never be the Emir that Caph will need.”
“You want to own her?” H9 asked.
Kiivan shook his head. “I want to tell her that I love her,” he replied.
“Over Aarmus’ dead body,” suggested Harlagaz.
“Works for me,” grunted Kid Produce.
“I’m in, minus the unnecessary killing,” FA agreed. “I’m a sucker for a romance story.”
That’s true, by the way. I’ve seen it written on bathroom walls.
“What about you, Denial?” Falconne asked Danny. “Are you going along with this crazy stunt?”
Danny Lyle grinned. “I know Kes doesn’t like me talking about my dad,” he admitted, “but there’s one thing I learned from him. Sometimes it’s not enough to just do a thing. Sometimes it has to be done in style.”
“Contact Vaahir please,” Kiivan asked Glitch. “Then patch me in to the global broadcasting system. I want to speak to Aarmus – and I want all of Caph to hear.”
There’s another alien custom, by the way. They call it the balek gorn, the challenge of ownership, where two warriors fight to the death over possession of a girl.
Dating’s easier in Goth Haven too.
So they tell me.
Glitch, 3rd generation Autobot S/N E48857-A:,
I’ll say this for humans. They shine. Just sometimes, when they’re at their very best, when they’re at that brief peak they can achieve, they come alive like nothing I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s the biology, or maybe its their spirits shining out through the meat machines they live in, but sometimes there’s no other way to say it: they shine.
Kiivan shone as he challenged Aarmus. H9 had done his usual firewall-baffling technical wizardry with the help of a hard implant Shazana Pel had wired into one of the remote transmission stations. I was easily able to over-ride the local comms signals – hey, I am one of the most sophisticated recon and report models ever designed, after all. Then I just projected his hologram so he appeared standing over every metropolis on the planet to make his play.
“Aarmus of Aarixus,” he boomed, his voice echoing from the mountains. “You have betrayed your Emir and your world. Traitor I name you, treacherous and cowardly, without honour or future. You have clothed yourself in stolen power, collaborated with alien invaders, and you seek to sell all Caph into a slavery more profound than we have ever known.”
Human males can do amazing things with rippling muscles and stuff when they’re agitated, can’t they?
“I, Kiivan, Keestus’ son out of Tiriiv of Ekooria, trueborn Emir of All Caph, have returned to destroy you. I have come to liberate my people as I vowed I would. I will lead them through fire to a future of peace and hope. But first there must be a reckoning.”
Kiivan’s face darkened. Humans don’t hide their emotions under steel faceplates. Sometimes it can be scary.
“Aarmus, you have stolen that which is mine. I claim Ohanna of Raael, to have and to hold, and I invoke the balek gorn to prove my right. I stand with Gaath’s blade in my hand to see if you dare respond to my challenge. Defeat me and Caph is yours. Or surrender Ohanna to me and face my justice. If there is any shred of manhood in you then face me as a warrior.”
Kiivan’s giant figure lifted his plas gar weapon high into the sky. “Ancient Shadara, Thonnagarians, Avawarriors, all oppressors of Caph, the time of your rule is over. The Emir has returned. Tremble and flee or stay and die.”
And one last thing. The young man’s face changed; not softer, but different, yearning, seething. “Ohanna… I’m coming. I love you.”
Zachary Zelnitz, Hacker Nine:
Whoa. If I could amp up the charisma like that I wouldn’t need online dating databases. Or CSFB!’s porn hard drives.
“Yes,” Lindy said, as if she was reading my mind. “He knows how to turn it on.”
I could so turn it on too if I spent some time programming the variables and mapped it out in hex.
“It’s a great grand gesture,” Captain Courageous told Kiivan, ignoring Kid Produce’s advice about even better gestures the Emir could have used when he was talking to Aarmus, “but you know they’re never going to let this be a fair fight. The minute you arrive for this balek gorn thing they’ll just arrest you if they don’t kill you outright.”
“There art some problems with their nefarious plans,” Harlagaz noted. “Us.”
“Yeah,” agreed Kerry. “We do the clever plan thing and Kiivan skewers Aarmus. Then we shop.”
If only it was that simple.
“Okay, so what’s the clever plan, Kare?” asked Fashion Accessory.
“What am I, plan girl?” Kerry objected. “Danny, you’re a devious supervillain. Make a plan.”
Danny shrugged. “Another one?” He glanced over at me. “Okay. H9, let’s go talk.”
I trotted after Denial into one of the dorm bays at the rear of the Xnylonian stealth ship. The gangways were half-blocked with our luggage because the next phase of our original timetable called for us all to head out across Caph to set things going for the big revolution.
“What do you need?” I asked as Danny shut the door behind us.
He grabbed me by the collar and slammed me into the bulkhead. It hurt. “I want to know what’s really going on,” he demanded.
People sometimes forget that Danny’s only a nice guy when Kerry’s nearby. I’d just made that mistake.
“What do you mean?” I babbled, because Danny had a look in his eye that scared the hell out of me. “And ouch.”
“I mean what’s my father really up to?” he hissed. “I’m not as dumb as I look. You’re interning with him, and there’s got to be a price. If he’s grooming you he’s testing you, and his tests almost always involve you doing something you don’t want to do that costs you a little piece of your soul. So I ask again: what the hell is going on?”
Again with the wall-slam. “You’re a smart guy, Zack, so you know all the things my denial powers could do to you that would be absolutely undetectable. So start by telling me about all those mysterious disappearances when you weren’t around on board the ship during our journey here. Then tell me why the Hood wanted us all on Caph right now to help Kiivan. Then tell me what he really wants, because I don’t think freedom and liberation for Caphans is top of his cowled crime agenda.”
I try not to pick fights with deadly serious guys in leather jackets who know where I live, so I admitted to my recent trip through the Portal of Pretentiousness to sub with the Purveyors of Peril. “But all of that was just another aspect of the fight against the Parody Master,” I explained.
“And before that, when the Hood sent you, HB and Falconne to fetch us?”
“Probably before that,” I admitted. “The Hood might well have arranged for the whole Bottled Badripoor thing. Maybe the SR 1066 circumstances that sent you to Badripoor in the first place. In fact wasn’t the Hooded Hood advising Goldeneyed back when G-Eyed decided to form a Junior LL Training Programme anyhow?”
Danny’s scowl was not comforting. “So why?” he demanded. “Why push Kes and me together? Why take you on as an apprentice? And I’m assuming the Hood arranged for Ohanna to turn up at Aarmus’ palace?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the Hood wants the Parody Master looking in this direction for some reason? If there’s one thing the Juniors do well it’s make people look at them.”
“Well there’s one way to be sure,” Danny said. “You had some kind of low-level communications conduit with him. He’s probably keeping tabs on you through that Portal of his. So get him here and I’ll ask him myself.”
I had to confess again that the Hood seemed to have vanished. When Danny let me out of the necklock I showed him the video footage that was playing on pretty much every Astrovidian-fed newsfeed across the galaxy showing the Hood going down.
“That’s faked,” Danny sniffed. “But you’re saying the Hood might be out of the picture for now? Because that has a big impact on the masterplan to save Caph. As in when the PM comes to get us after we kick the Thonnagarians off we can’t shift the whole world to safety using the Portal of Pretentiousness.”
I didn’t tell him that that was never the Hood’s plan; only the plan he’d let Kiivan believe was going to happen. “Things can still work out,” I suggested. “The Hood always has a contingency.”
“And what’s that?”
“How should I know? But he does.”
Danny scowled again. He looked at me earnestly. “You’re going to have to make a choice, you know,” he told me. “Like I did, like we all do. Are you going to be on the Hood’s side or ours? You wanted to be an urban anarchist, to have fun and make the world better. Do you really think serving my father’s going to get you there?”
“What about you then?” I shot back. “You like to play at being all bad-guy, but here you are trailing Kerry like a puppy. And you know that’s somehow playing into the Hood’s hands but you’re enjoying the sex so much you don’t care. How long have you been on ‘our side’?”
He pushed me back again then stepped away. “You have to decide, Zelnitz,” he told me. “You’ve run out of second chances.”
He was wrong though. I’d already decided, even if I didn’t understand back when I made the choice what it would mean. And I was already past any chance of redemption. It was too late.
In less than a day Danny and Kerry would be slaughtered and the whole of Caph would be destroyed, hopefully along with the Parody Master, and nothing I could do now could stop it. That was why the Hood had sent the Juniors to Caph IX: as bait for the Parody Master, so everyone would die.
Coming Next: Aarmus vs Kiivan, Vaahir’s war, Pel vs Ancient Shadara, H9 vs Denial, Ultimate Kerry, all the stuff you were promised this time round that got bumped for space reasons, and the Junior Lair Legion face to face with the Parody Master, in Untold Tales #308: The King’s Slave, or The End of the World.
Readers Unfamiliar With Caph Start Here:
It all started, as so much of the Parodyverse did, with an in-joke. During the big space-epic Transworlds Challenge storyline somebody joked about the lack of green-skinned slave girls. All space-epics have to have green skinned slave girls.
So CSFB! and Goldeneyed liberated nine green-skinned slave-girls from the Slimy Slaver Lovetoad of Frammistat Eight. The problem was what to do with them next. Deputy-Leader Yo instructed them to go see Visionary.
The slave-girls interpreted this as to mean that they were now Visionary’s property and waited for him in his bedroom. When Vizh had recovered from his near-coronary and stopped hiding in the bathroom he discovered that (a) These nine girls were pleasure-slaves from the planet Caph, where women outnumber men by 5:1 and all women are property, taught from birth how to please their masters; (b) Through quirks of Caphan rites-of-conquest legislation he was now their legal owner; and (c) the greatest, most shameful, and most terrible fate of a Caphan girl is to be unowned, cast out with no master, a fate the women in his bedroom feared more than death.
So Vizh took the Caphans home with him to his Condo (and he was, of course, a perfect gentleman; assuming perfect gentlemen go bright crimson all the time and walk into objects). Later a ritual was observed that effectively transferred ownership of the girls to the Manga Shoggoth, who was able to relocate them to safety on his dimensionally-separate continent of Lemuria along with many other slaves he has rescued from various times and places.
All of the stories concerning this are collected in The Caphan Story Archive
Miiri, brightest of the Caphan women and their natural leader, recognised that Visionary had been a very nice man, ethical within the boundaries of his strange society despite amazing temptation. So now she was no longer technically his slave she adapted to the customs of her new world and acted decisively as an independent woman. She consequently gave birth to Magweed (a.k.a. Naari) and Griffin, Visionary’s twins. But that’s another complicated story.
The youngest of the nine Caphans was Kaara of Jaaxa, who had been sold at auction after her clan were treacherously slaughtered by an enemy. The young man who sought to own her as his own was sent away to torture and death. But Vaahir of Viigo did not die in the salt mines, but instead escaped with the aid of a disguised emissary of the elder gods, Nyalurkhotep. Vaahir sought to save Kaara from the villain who had carried her off – Visionary.
One almost-end-of-the-world later, Vaahir saw the error of his ways, saved Kaara from Nyalorkhotep, and helped the Lair Legion save the Parodyverse. The Shoggoth sentenced him to exile on a distant world where he would protect the weak and share their hardships to learn humility and compassion. Details appear in the Tenth Caphan Saga.
Back on Caph, the ruling houses gave shelter to the Pigeonwarriors, homeless survivors after the destruction of their planet Thonnagar. However, Ancient Shadara and her eyrie came with treachery in mind, seeking a new world to rule. With the aid of the betrayer, Prince Aarmus of Aarixus (who had once sold Miiri to the Slaver Lovetoads), the Caphan ruling elite were wiped out in a planetary coup. Aarmus became the puppet ruler of a Pigeonwarrior-run world.
But there was resistance. Shazana Pel was a renegade pigeon warrior who rescued the eleven-year-old Emir of All Caph, Prince Kiivan, from assassination. With aid from the Hooded Hood she kept the boy alive and helped him to escape. At the same time eleven-year-old Ohanna of Raael, Miiri’s younger sister and last survivor of the House tasked with preserving the Emir’s sacred treasures, carried to safety the greatest relics of Caph. Ohanna’s father gave her in slavery to the Hooded Hood, and he in turn set her to care for Kiivan. He delivered both of them into the tutorship and guardianship of Vaahir of Viigo. The story appeared as Untold Tales #219: Shazana Pel Must Die
For reasons of his own the Hood mentored Kiivan and Ohanna, sending them through his dimension-spanning Portal of Pretentiousness to other places and times where they could learn and train. The two youngsters grew together for six years, learning from alien races such as the Xnylonians and Naicluv, from organisations like the Intergalactic Order of Librarians and the Yellow Flashlights Corps, from time fighting beside Vaahir, and from an eventful visit to Earth as friends of the Junior Lair Legion.
The Caphan situation has become more complicated. As resistance mounted the Thonngarians realised they are too few to hold the planet. Instead they made a deal with the Parody Master, exchanging Caph to his authority in exchange for a favoured place in his armies. The transfer of power is only a few days off.
In consequence, Ohanna came to Kiivan and reminded him of the promise he had made her on the night they had fled Caph. She had claimed a slave’s right of protection from her Emir, for her and her world. Now she brought Kiivan the honour sword of Gaath, founder of his line, and set him on his task: the liberation of Caph.
Kiivan has made preparations and alliances. With the Hood’s assistance he gathered together his young friends from Earth: Probability arsonist Kery Shepherdson, fabric manipulating Fashion Accessory (Samantha Bonnington), demihemigod Harlagaz Donarson, meat-manipulating Ham-Boy (Fred Harris), computer genius Hacker Nine (Zach Zelnitz), the Hood’s son Danny Lyle (Denial), transformer robot Glitch, polite British superhero Captain Courageous (Kit Kipling), the vegetable vigilante Kid Produce (Jasper Stevens), and Falcon’s little sister Lind Wilson (Falconne). At the start of this story they are all in a borrowed Xnylonian stealth scoutship heading for Caph IX in the constellation of Cassiopeia.
But the Hooded Hood had one last trick to play. In exchange for collaborator Prince Aarmus delaying the transfer of power (without realising why), the Hood sold Ohanna to him. The Portal of Pretentiousness swept her from the Xnylonian shuttle and Kiivan to Caph and Aarmus’ stronghold. Ohanna’s bluff of having a concealed explosive was called by Aarmus’ leman Kiije and we last saw the two women squaring for combat.
All of which is an awful lot of events from one running joke. And here we are, racing towards the punchline…
The Ballad of Kiivan and Ohanna
"Oh promise me," Ohanna cried, "the ancient rights of all -
Protection for your people, justice, honour; hear our call.
Oh promise, me," Ohanna asked, "to serve as Caliph should,
To stand for us with your last breath, to spend your dying blood."
"For here I hold in bloody hands the treasures of your reign
The things my House died to protect to help Caph rise again.
Here Gaath’s great sword," Ohanna called, "that Emirs held of yore -
Mine to bestow upon the Lord who’ll make Caph free once more."
"That is your right," Prince Kiivan owned, "and right of all our race,
Who have not always had their rights nor had their lawful place,
And so for you," Prince Kiivan vowed, "and every Caphan soul -
I am your Lord, I’ll do what’s right, and one day I’ll be whole."
"Then wrongs shall be amended and then all oppressions cease.
Then I’ll return and lead you to a day of joy and peace,
I promise you, Ohanna, that our world will see new starts.
This is my blood oath," Kiivan said, "so hold it in your hearts."
The Hooded Hood's Homepage of Doom
Who's Who in the Parodyverse
Where's Where in the Parodyverse
Original concepts, characters, and situations copyright © 2007 reserved by Ian Watson. Other Parodyverse characters copyright © 2007 to their creators. The use of characters and situations reminiscent of other popular works do not constitute a challenge to the copyrights or trademarks of those works. The right of Ian Watson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved.
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