Vyla watched from the viewport as the pleasure barge coasted through yet more unfamiliar stars. She was so far from home now, and she knew she could never return, but now was not the time for such laments.

The guard captain snored loudly from his bed where Vyla had left him, and she curled her lip in disgust. She had spent weeks seducing the large Orion, pandering to his vile desires, in order to gain his favour so that he would have her regularly brought to his quarters.

Like the guard, Vyla was also Orion, but her pheromones were not as potent as some other females of their race, so she had lived the life of a true slave - not merely pretending like most women in the Syndicate. The powerful criminal organisation that owned her was not above sending its fellow Orions to infiltrate and destablise their rivals, preying on lusts and perversions, but neither were they above forcing their own kind into genuine servitude.

Vyla would not have to endure this life for much longer.

The Orion Syndicate had made an error in taking her to the stars. She had known only slavery for over thirty years on her homeworld, tending to important Syndicate members, but by granting her a glimpse at the vast expanse of space, with the distant lights of other worlds, and the infinite freedom it offered, they had given her a craving for more.

So she had concocted a plan with her brothers and sisters in bondage.

Vyla checked the bedside chronometer. Almost ship's midnight. That was when the plan was to be put into motion. She made her way over to the guard captain's discarded skin-green uniform on the floor, and carefully removed his communicator and security key.

High-ranking men of the Syndicate were trained to resist weaker pheromones, so Vyla had resorted to more physical and verbal tactics in order to sway the captain. She had cultivated the persona of a openly promiscuous slave who wished to attach herself to a man of status. It was sadly a common goal of many slaves, as well as a common fantasy of their masters, so it was easily believed after a time.

Thankfully, the Syndicate did not believe in tagging its Orion slaves with the neurolytic restraints they used on those of other species. The restraints could be used to track, punish, or even kill those they were implanted in. Such a measure would have made Vyla's plan much more difficult.

After several depraved visits to the guard captain's quarters, Vyla had ascertained that he kept a ceremonial dagger in a chest of drawers, and she now availed herself of it as well. As convincing as her act had been, the captain was still not foolish enough to carry his disruptor into the bedchamber. She would have to rely on old-fashioned weapons for the moment.

The minutes ticked over on the chronometer.

Now, thought Vyla.

She roused the captain with the curving blade at his throat. "Get up," she said to him as soon as his eyes opened.

He immediately knew from the fire in her eyes that this was no game, and he slowly obeyed. He was a big man, but his prime was past, and it had been too long since he handled a slave who fought back. To his credit, he showed no fear.

Vyla, herself a tall woman, stood behind the captain, knife still to his throat, and held his shoulder firmly. She was clad only in her skimpy slave outfit, barely covering her toned form, but she would not allow her captive to dress at all, forcing him to endure the indignity that he had helped enforce on others.

Her dark jade skin contrasted with his paler tone as she closely marched him to the door. At her command, he opened it, and the younger guard outside went for his sidearm when he saw what was happening.

"Drop it!" Vyla barked at him, pressing the knife close to the captain's throat.

"Do as-" the captain started to say, but a sharp jab cut him off.

"I am giving the orders now," Vyla said.

The guard slowly unholstered his disruptor and calmly laid it on the deck.

"Kick it away," she ordered, and the guard obeyed. "In there." She nodded her head towards the captain's quarters. With a weary slump, he entered the quarters.

Keeping the blade very close to the captain's neck, Vyla moved her free hand to the waistband of her metallic underwear, where she had tucked the security key. She withdrew it and tapped the key against the electronic lock, sealing the door. The captain would likely have some hidden means to contact his superiors in there, but the low-ranking guard would take time to find it.

Noticing her grip on his shoulder was gone, the guard captain took his chance and drove an elbow hard into Vyla's stomach. As she buckled, the captain slipped away, although Vyla managed a fierce but shallow scratch across his throat with the knife.

The captain dove for the disruptor on the floor, but he was slow, lumbering, groggy. Having long ago learned to ignore pain, Vyla instantly recovered and leapt for him. Her taught, ropey body collided with his bulk, sending them both into the wall. Her blade clattered aside in the impact.

The captain flipped himself over, sending Vyla onto the deck, and he swiftly rolled on top of her, pinning her arms. As she struggled under him, trying to push his hefty weight off her, he laughed, emerald blood dripping from his neck onto her chest.

The laughter angered her more than the elbow to the gut, more than the threat of defeat, and more than the torture she had endured so long. He was mocking her, like it was one of the sick games he enjoyed.

"Stupid whore," he said. "What did you really hope to accomplish?"

Driven by rage, she thrust upwards, headbutting the captain hard, sending him backward instinctively, roaring in pain. He started to scramble for the disruptor again, but the knife was closer to Vyla than the gun was to him.

With well-tested reflexes, she grabbed the dagger and lunged for the guard captain again. She plunged the blade between his ribs and savoured his gasp.

"This," she whispered to him in answer to his question.

Despite this callous response, and her satisfaction in watching the captain's lifeless body fall to the deck, she had wished for no bloodshed in their plan. It was regrettable but she knew she must move on. No time for remorse. She caught her breath and tried to ignore the fact that she had just taken a life.

Tucking the knife into her waistband, she picked up the disruptor and retrieved the security key from where it had fallen when she was attacked. She then made her way to the slave quarters.

Vyla found that her brothers and sisters had been similarly busy. As soon as midnight had struck, those in on the plan had rushed the guards simultaneously, overwhelming them and taking their weapons. As she had expected, authority vanished when outnumbered.

She found the guards restrained in the slave quarters while the slaves themselves stood outside, most of them confused and frightened. Those involved in the takeover held disruptors or blades, and she soon found Tiro, one of her closest co-conspiritors.

Tiro was a young, fit lad and a recent "recruit" to their ship. His hunger for freedom was as strong as Vyla's.

She slapped him lightly on a bare shoulder when she approached and he smiled at her. "You've done well, Tiro, but we're not finished yet."

"Yes, Vyla," he said, his smile resolving to a more intense expression, then puzzlement. "Where is the guard captain?"

Vyla shook her head. "I was forced to kill him."

Tiro nodded. He, too, would shed no tears at this, but knew how it severely altered their plan. "He would have been a valuable hostage."

"We can still win this," said Vyla. "Get those who do not know our plan into guest quarters. Lock them in for now." She tossed Tiro the security key. "Then, we head for the control deck." She raised her disruptor to show her resolve.

Vyla poked her head out ever so slightly to peer into the control deck. It was a semi-circular room, not too large. The crew at the consoles around the curved sides would give no trouble, but there were two armed guards by the throne at the rear.

In the throne itself sat Mistress Shah'ura, the topmost Syndicate representative on board. She was an elegant, older Orion woman, whose figure belied her age, clad in fine, flimsy silks, with a silver crown atop her head.

Vyla and her fellow rebels were just outside the two entrances to the deck, on either side. Looking across the way, she could see Tiro peering out the other entrance towards her.

It was now or never.

She nodded to Tiro and, in unison, they led their groups out onto the control deck, assembling before the main viewscreen.

"Nobody move!" shouted Vyla as she emerged. They were met with shocked reactions, but nothing more as she, Tiro and the others kept their disruptors aimed and ready.

"What is the meaning of this!?" Shah'ura demanded, rising from her seat despite Vyla's command.

Vyla approached the throne, her weapon pointed at Shah'ura. "Freedom, 'Mistress.' That's the meaning of this. You no longer rule this ship or our lives."

Shah'ura laughed, and again Vyla felt a stab of anger at the mocking.

"Fool!" Shah'ura said. "You think that a pathetic band of slaves can overthrow me?"

Before Vyla could offer a rebuttal, a disruptor shot rang out through the deck.

Everyone tensed and searched for the source. Vyla herself quickly checked her own weapon to make sure it had not misfired.

Shah'ura fell to her knees, then forward, a smoking disruptor burn in her back. Behind her, one of her guards clutched his weapon.

"Yes," said the shooter. He was Damoth and he was in on their plan. However, he was not supposed to reveal himself so soon, in case Shah'ura's supporters mounted a counter-insurgency.

The crew were stunned by Damoth's actions but Vyla was enraged. "No killing unless necessary! We agreed!" She already wished that she had not killed the guard captain, now this.

Damoth, like most of the guards, was a big man and he shrugged his muscular frame. "She did not deserve mercy."

"If we kill a mistress, the Syndicate will never stop hunting us!" said Vyla.

"They would not stop either way," said Damoth, defiantly.

Vyla fumed but said no more on the subject. They could not afford dissension among themselves at this stage. She turned to face Tiro.

"Get everyone except… him and her" - she pointed at two random crewmembers - "to the slave quarters." The two she indicated would be forced to show them how to operate the ship.

Tiro organised some of their people to handle this task. Vyla moved to stand in front of the throne, staring at the stars on the viewscreen.

Damoth was right. The Orion Syndicate would likely keep searching for them no matter what. They were still "property" and the Syndicate did not tolerate slaves revolting. It was Vyla's intention to drop off the crew at the nearest habitable but isolated planet, and then spend their near future liberating more slaves from other ships and colonies.

But this was a pleasure barge, not a warship. They could not survive forever on board, especially if the Syndicate was after them. They would need to find a safe haven.

As Vyla gazed into the unfamiliar stars, she wondered who in this galaxy would take in the likes of them.