Livvie rolled her aircraft onto the runway, listening to the heavy steel doors slide closed behind her. She forced in a shallow breath and gripped the throttle with sweaty hands.
“Officer Jenkins requesting permission for launch,” she spoke into her headset.
Her heart raced. Today’s mission was the last of a series of tests. Just one more to pass before earning her place as a pilot of the Hunter-Killer Squadron of Magnus One, one of the last two remaining cities on Earth. At twenty, she’d be the youngest woman ever to join such an elite group and, although proud, she couldn’t shake the anxiety she felt today.
“Request acknowledged, Jenkins. Hold position,” came the hard voice of the controller.
She turned her face to the bright blue sky, knowing for all its beauty, the contamination it contained.
She’d flown this route several times over the last year of her training and each trip had been uneventful. It was just the thought that today she’d be doing it solo, without any assistance at all, should she run into trouble.
She straightened her back and looked straight ahead, annoyed with herself. She was a soldier. Hunting the resistance fighters outside the city was what she was trained to do. Yes, they had weapons of their own, but nothing as sophisticated as what she had access to.
Still, something made her feel uneasy and she didn’t normally feel uneasy.
She counted to ten as she inhaled deeply, trying to calm her nerves. But when she was given the okay to take off, she was a mess again.
Get it together, Livvie.
After pushing several buttons, she took the throttle with both hands. Acceleration was loud and fast and she was quickly airborne. In no time, she was far beyond the domed, protective walls of her city.
She checked her controls and sat back. The first part of the trip would be unremarkable, dead land. This part of the country had been so used up that all its resources were depleted. The earth here had nothing left to give and was considered uninhabitable at this point.
She would be stationed at Magnus Two, which stood on the western coast of the country. Although Magnus One was the larger of the cities, Magnus Two was the more beautiful, the terrain offering variety in mountains and oceans, desert and rougher country. She was glad for the change, although a part of her didn’t want to leave her twin sister behind.
The first hour and a half passed without incident. She watched out the window as she now approached the mountainous region that covered a good portion of the western half of the country. This land was beautiful and wild. She wondered if she’d ever get to set foot on it, but imagined not. Not with the poison she’d become exposed to.
She was thinking what a shame it was when, out of nowhere in the clear blue sky, a burst of light jolted her aircraft. She screamed when the plane shook violently and didn’t have to see to know that she was falling, something that frightened her to her core. Always had.
“Mayday, mayday,” she called out. She opened her eyes, but her vision had been impaired by the bright white of the light. She knew her ship and worked from memory, trying to right the aircraft. She pushed buttons and pulled levers but nothing worked; the ship had lost power. She wasn’t even sure if her distress signal had been received at Magnus One—she didn’t have the acknowledgement that should have come. She released her seatbelt, sure the earth was fast approaching, and hit the button to eject.
What happened next was thankfully too fast to process. She could make out nothing around her as she was launched high into the sky and away from the sound that signaled the crash of her plane. She held tight to the cords that carried her and only opened her eyes when the sensation of falling had passed and was replaced by one of floating. Her vision was blurred and dark and she kept squeezing her eyes open and shut, trying to clear them. She landed with a hard thud near the heat of the wreckage that was her ship. She heard a popping first and tried to scramble to her feet, to pull herself free of the parachute that had just saved her. That would become the cause of her death if she couldn’t free herself of it. But with her vision as it was, the effort was futile. The popping noise she heard was likely the fuel tank about to blow and if that was the case, she had to get away fast if she had any hope of surviving.
Her last thought was of her sister. Of how she’d be alone now.
There was another crackle from the wreckage, but what happened next wasn’t what she expected.
Large hands lifted her from the ground.
“Up, come on,” a stranger’s voice ordered. “Can you stand? How badly are you hurt?”
The smell of him had already alerted her to what he must be: one of the contaminated humans. With his dirty hands on her.
“Don’t touch me!” She fought him, his form a blur as he cut her free of her parachute.
“Stop fighting,” he said, lifting her easily as he cut the last rope. Another sound came from the airplane behind him. “It’s going to blow any second.”
“Get your hands off of me, you’ll contaminate me!”
“I could let you die instead,” he said, shaking her hard once.
She put her hands against his chest and looked up, slowly registering the meaning of his words. As her vision cleared, she could make out the outline of his form, how big he was. He looked different than anyone she’d ever seen. His dark hair hung in thick waves to his shoulders, a shadow of stubble all along his face, his jaw and neck.
He looked down at her, but she couldn’t understand his expression because in the next second he had hauled her over his shoulder and was running from the wreckage. The explosion came a few moments after that, but by then, he’d pushed her to the ground, laying his weight on top of her as they took shelter behind a boulder. She screamed, covering her ears, his arms hugging her, compressing her already small form, his body pinning hers to the earth. She felt his breath against her cheek, the scruff of his unwashed, unshaven face scratching her softer skin, the smell of him like nothing she’d ever smelled before.
A few moments later, the air around them seemed calm and the sound was now that of a fire burning. He rose up to his knees, straddling her hips, and she turned to watch him as he took in the state of things. He looked down at her and moved his weight so she could pull herself to a seat. She faced him, rubbed her eyes once, and looked again. Was this real? She looked back at the wreckage of her plane. She’d crashed, her worst nightmare. No, not her worst. She’d survived the crash and was now sitting across from one of the contaminated humans she was trained to kill. Her hand reached for the dagger she kept on her at all times. It wasn’t standard uniform, but she’d learned to fight with one and she fought well. Her brother had taught her before he’d been killed on a special mission almost five years ago. She turned slowly back to the man to find him studying the wreckage. Now was the time; he’d be too strong to overpower without injuring him first. Quickly, she flipped the knife open and with her palm turned up, she brought it to his stomach. She knew it would cause him pain, but she had no choice.
He grabbed her wrist just as the tip of the blade cut his shirt. “Is this how you thank me for saving your life?” he asked. He easily relieved her of her dagger and, holding her wrist painfully in his hand, turned the blade over to study it. He checked her name badge before meeting her eyes once again, his expression a hair different. She wondered if he could make out the engraved name on the knife.
Jet engines cut into the air, drowning out the sound of the fire.
“They’re coming for me!” she yelled. “And they’re going to kill you.”
Ignoring her, he quickly tore the small golden badge off her uniform and threw it toward the wreckage.
“What are you doing? Why…” She clutched the torn shirt to herself.
He dragged her to her feet, pulling her along up the ridge. “They’re not coming to rescue you if that’s what you think,” he said.
“They are. Give me back my dagger,” she said as he dragged her along. “It doesn’t belong to you!”
“Let’s go,” he said.
She kicked him hard and for a moment, was pleased that it got his attention. But when he turned his furious gaze to her, she could only meet it with her widened eyes.
He took a moment and she could see his struggle to contain himself.
“What you believe is inaccurate. They’re not coming to rescue you, they won’t even touch ground. They are coming to destroy anything that’s left of your aircraft that we could potentially use, and you along with it. Now, if we stand here, we will both surely be shot and killed. I’m not going to hurt you, but you need to come with me now. I won’t leave you here to die. Do you understand me?”
The sound grew louder, but they were still not in sight. She knew it would be another few minutes before they were here.
“Fuck you,” she spat.
He took hold of both her arms and turned her, crushing her side against his chest, holding her in place there. She didn’t understand his intention until his huge hand slapped her bottom hard. It would have thrown her off balance but for the fact he held her.
“Ow!” she yelled, reaching back to cover herself, but not succeeding before the second blow hit. “Stop, what are you doing?”
“Never spanked, I gather,” he said, turning her so she faced him again. “Well, remember this one. Are you ready to do as I say?”
He was a barbarian. They all were—an effect of the poison for sure. She’d scream her head off when the soldiers landed. She was part of an elite group, a specially trained hunter. They needed her, that’s why they’d been dispatched so quickly from Magnus One. This man had it coming to him and she’d make sure she was the one to kill him. Although she’d never killed before, and certainly never at close range.
But for now, he needed to believe she’d do as he said. “Yes.”
He let her go and she rubbed her bottom, her face flushed and hot when she met his gaze. His eyes were a searing blue, dark with specks of bright gold.
“Let’s go,” he said. “If I have to do it again, it’ll be a proper bare-bottom spanking.”
Her mouth fell open.
Taking her by the arm, he dragged her up the ridge.
* * *
Hayden knew this area well. The mountains provided cover and resources to live from and they were able to use the structures still standing in the old towns. He was on his way back from visiting the camp at Moon Bay when he’d received the call about downing the airship, but he hadn’t expected there to be a survivor.
He looked down at his captive. She was young, couldn’t be more than nineteen or twenty, he gathered. And pretty, he could see that through the dirt that covered her face and hair. She wasn’t injured, likely a bruise or two, but that was all from what he gathered. It would take a few hours to reach the camp and he didn’t have medical supplies. She’d been lucky he’d been in the area or she’d be dead now.
The first jet came into view just as they made it to the mouth of the cave. He tucked her inside and held onto her, not willing to take a chance she’d run out and lead the soldiers to their hiding place. He’d let her watch just what they, her commanders, were capable of. Let her see how much they cared about her and others like her.
A second, third, and fourth jet followed close behind.
“Let me go,” she said, struggling.
“Watch,” he ordered, only tightening his hold on her.
The jets hovered nearby when the first explosion came. It was a small one, but would have done damage to the intended target.
“That was the badge you wore,” he explained. “It’s set with a small explosive, just enough to kill the person wearing it, that can be set off at any time by your commanders.”
“I don’t believe you,” she said, her face an expression of shock.
One of the jets then trained its weapons on the grounded aircraft and unloaded on it, causing another explosion to rock the ridge. Two more jets joined in leveling the plane to near dust. He looked at the girl who watched quietly, her face falling, tears filling her pale green eyes. He almost felt sorry for her; no, he did feel sorry for her. She was as much a victim as he. Maybe more so.
The last jet circled the area. He noticed she wasn’t trying to pull herself free anymore. “Do you want to go outside? Call to them? Tell them your location so they can rescue you?”
She met his gaze, her expression wounded. She didn’t say a word.
When the jets opened fire on the area around the downed aircraft, he pushed her against the wall and once again covered her body with his. The scent of her filled his nostrils, her hair smelling fresh, clean. He inhaled deeply and closed his eyes, memory flushing his senses. When it was over and the jets retreated, only when he was sure they were out of sight, did he release her. He stood, hauling her to her feet. She turned her face up at his, looking smaller than she was. She was of average height, 5′5″ he’d say, with a petite build. He stood a foot taller than she. Her eyes searched his face and the look there was quite simply one of a lost child. But she wasn’t a child; he’d felt that beneath his hands when he’d spanked her. And what the feel of her stirred in him was something he hadn’t experienced in a very long time.
“They probably thought I was dead,” she said.
“It didn’t seem to me like they were taking any chances on you remaining alive,” he replied.
“Because you hid me here. They would have picked me up if they’d seen me.”
“Why did they flatten the carrier then?”
“So you wouldn’t be able to get information or use any parts.”
He nodded. “Very likely. And why carpet bomb the area?”
She opened her mouth to speak, but stopped. It took her a moment to continue. “What are you going to do with me now?” she asked.
“Well, I’m not going to hurt you, if that’s what you’re afraid of. Do you have any other weapons concealed on your person?” he asked.
He must not have believed her because in the next moment, she was turned and pushed up against the wall. She struggled, but it was useless.
“Put your hands against the wall and spread your arms and legs. I need to pat you down.”
“What? Why? Hey!”
He had to hold her pressed to the wall in order to search her. Not finding anything but her softness beneath the stiff uniform, he let her go. “What’s your first name?”
“You didn’t have to do that. You’ve already ripped my uniform and I told you I didn’t have anything,” she said, holding together the spot he’d torn just above her chest. “And I’m not afraid of you, if that’s what you think.”
“Of course not. You’re too stubborn. I asked you a question.”
“What’s your name?” she asked back.
“You may call me Commander or Sir, as you please. I’m the leader of the resistance fighters in this region.”
“Resistance fighters?” She wasn’t even going to address the former comment.
“Yes, the ones you hunt to kill along with the civilians. The women and children. Name.”
“You’re contaminated. You’re mutants who would destroy us, our cities, expose us to the poison in the air.” With that, she covered her mouth and nose with her sleeve as if realizing for the first time that she was breathing in the “poison.’” He almost laughed.
“Your name. Last time I’ll ask nicely. Remember what I promised a little while ago?”
Her eyes grew wide as she searched his face, obviously trying to figure out if he was serious. He hoped she’d test him actually. He hadn’t had a woman in a long time and there was nothing he’d like to do more than bare her bottom and spank her. Well, that and fuck her long and hard.
“Airwoman Olivia Jenkins. Almost. This was my last training mission.”
“Well, then count yourself lucky, Olivia. And stop covering your nose and mouth. There are no contaminants in the air. It’s a lie your leaders tell you. It’s the only way to keep you contained within your bubbles which is where the true poison is.”
“You’re lying. You’re a liar.”
“Let’s go; the Jeep’s a fifteen-minute walk. If we leave now, we’ll make it to camp before midnight.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” she said.
“What’s your alternative?” he asked.
She sat back down. “I’ll wait here. Stay here until they come back for me,” she said. “Besides, I know what you do to women back at your camp.”
“Well, we don’t brainwash them, if that’s what you mean. Get up.”
“You’re wasting time and you’re trying my patience. Get up. Now. I will not repeat myself.”
She looked straight ahead, ignoring him entirely, and folded her arms to hug her knees to her chest.
* * *
Her heart was racing. What was she supposed to do? She should resist, shouldn’t she? He was exactly the target she was trained to destroy, after all. She was a part of an elite group of hunters.
If you were so important, why didn’t they even try to find you?
She wasn’t going to think about that. It was an accident, an oversight; they’d send more people out to find her. A whole search party. They’d found her brother, hadn’t they? Had retrieved his body, at least. Her family was important; her sister had even been chosen as a Contributor, which was one of the greatest honors.
His hands closed around her arms and lifted her like she weighed nothing. When she was fully off the ground, he carried her outside. She kicked and punched, resisting every step of the way, but it didn’t make an ounce of difference as he sat down on a rock.
“I gave you a chance, Olivia. I hope this will teach you to obey the next time I tell you to do something.”
“Let me go!” she said when he pulled her body face down across his lap. She had to put her hands on the ground to keep from falling forward when he strapped one leg over the backs of hers and hugged her waist tight to his chest. “You can’t do this!”
Without a word, he pulled her pants down to her knees and she froze. She stiffened her back and hauled her torso up, squeezing her legs together tight. He couldn’t do this. He wouldn’t.
“Watch me,” he said, his fingers sliding into the waistband of her panties.
“No!” she wriggled and fought, trying to slap his hands away, which was impossible from her awkward position.
He gripped her wrists and held her arms behind her low back. He then pulled her panties down to her knees. She realized when she bent her knees to resist, she’d only be exposing herself further to him and stiffened once again. Nobody had seen that part of her. She’d barely looked herself. She kept her body straight as a board when he rested the flat of one huge hand on her now bare bottom.
“You will do as I say, Olivia,” he chastised. “I’m your new commander; as far as Magnus is concerned, you’re dead. You no longer exist for them and they don’t exist for you. I’ll help you, but you will obey my rules, the rules of the camp.”
“Never!” she cried out. “Let me go! I’m part of an elite group of hunters. I’m a trained soldier. You have no right! Ow!”
The first spank landed across both cheeks at once and she called out with the sharp sting of it. She struggled to free herself, but he held tight, keeping her hands together in one of his while he held her against his belly. He brought his hand down hard, rotating, first her left buttock, then her right. He didn’t let up for what felt like an eternity. The sting grew hotter, more painful as the blows fell. Sharp, loud slaps reverberated off the walls of the deserted ridge, followed by her yelps and screams.
“Stop!” she called out. “It hurts.”
“It’s meant to hurt. To teach,” he replied.
He wasn’t even out of breath even as her own breath came short. Tears fell from her eyes and were swallowed up by the dry earth. She lost track of the count and was almost grateful for when he’d stop to rub her swollen, tender buttocks except that when he’d start again, it hurt worse.
When he began on her thighs, she lost all control of herself. “Please stop. I’ll do what you say. You’re hurting me. I’ll…please.”
“Relax your body. Stop fighting, take your punishment, and it will be over.”
She mewled, trying to soften her muscles, to give him what he wanted. He continued to spank her as she did and she tried hard not to struggle, but when the flat of his hand hit that most tender, most private place between her legs, she gasped and stilled instantly, shame flushing her already hot face a dark shade of pink. She wasn’t sure if it had been an accident. He’d hit her there.
“Good girl. How do you address me, Olivia?” he asked, striking two more times.
Her response came short. “Commander.” Another breath. “Commander, Sir,” she said. She needed to get out of this position; this was too much to process.
“One or the other will do,” he said with a small chuckle. He straightened her up and she immediately reached to rub her bottom.
He shook his head and put her hands at her sides. “You don’t get to rub out the sting,” he said. His glance traveled to the little triangle of neatly trimmed dark hair between her legs. She could do nothing to cover herself as he held her wrists on either side of her. Her body began to shake, small tremors as if she were cold. He looked up at her. “I’d stand you in a corner, but we don’t have time,” he said.
Corner? Shame would devour her if he made her do that.
He pulled her panties and pants up and stood, his body inches from hers. He took her shoulders in his hands and squeezed while looking at her. It wasn’t a painful squeeze, more reassuring if that were possible, and it caused tears to fall from her eyes as the full shock of what she’d just been subjected to settled on her mind. She dropped her gaze to the ground, too embarrassed to look at him. He pulled her to him and rubbed her back.
“Shh,” he said. “It’s going to be ok, Olivia. Punishment is over, shh.”
Was he expecting her to put her arms around him? To allow him to hold her? He was contaminated, a mutant. He was her enemy. And he’d just spanked her bare bottom. Hard! Rebellion bubbled up inside her, pushing her shame aside to make way for anger. His guard was down; he’d thought he’d won. She raised her hands up to his arms, slowly holding at first, but when his hands on her relaxed even more, she gripped his arms and brought her knee up to his crotch as hard as she could like her brother had taught her to if ever a man tried to hurt her.
“Fuck!” he yelled, letting her go to grab his crotch.
She stumbled backward, looking at him. She’d never actually done it before, didn’t realize it would work so well. He was doubled over in pain. Good. He deserved it after what he’d done.
“Fuck you!” she spat, turning around to run. But she stopped short. Run where? The shadows were growing longer, signaling the end of daylight, and an animal howled somewhere in the not too far distance. She glanced back at him to find he was looking back at her, although still crouched over. His eyes told her to run, not to stick around to find out what he’d do to her if he caught her. And so, she ran. She headed back down the hill he’d dragged her up, not sure what she was going to do, where she was going to go or hide. He wasn’t going to stay down forever.
The animal’s howl sounded like it came from closer now and Livvie searched around her. This was useless, stupid even.
“Come back here, Olivia. Don’t make me come after you.”
She looked at the wreckage of her plane, at the nothing that was there. Tears of frustration clouded her vision just as his hand fisted her hair and yanked.
She put her hands back to capture his wrist. “Let me go,” she said more quietly this time. “I…”
He turned her to him, still pulling just hard enough that she had to turn her face up and lean into his hand to alleviate some of the pain.
“That wasn’t a very smart thing to do, Olivia.”
“I don’t want to go to the camp with you,” she said, the sensation in her chest, her belly, new to her. Was this how her body reacted to an enemy attack, to real danger? She’d not felt anything like this during training sessions, even those where actual one-on-one combat was required. “Please let me go.”
“Let you go? Think for a minute. What are your options?” he asked, still holding onto her. “Where will you go if not with me? How will you survive out here?” He was calm, patient even.
She only stared at him, knowing he was right.
“I won’t let anyone hurt you at camp; you’ll have my protection.”
“You’re hurting me now.”
“I can’t help you if you don’t let me.” He released her hair and took her arm instead. “Are you finished? Ready to go? I’m starving and could use a shower. You too, from the look of you.”
She was hungry, that was true. Besides, maybe she could gain information to lead Magnus One to their camp, destroy the fighters. Be a hero.
“Are you going to punish me again, spank me, for what I did to you?” she asked.
“That will depend on your behavior on our way to camp.”
“Am I your prisoner?”
“I believe you’re as much a victim of Magnus as we are; you just don’t know it yet.”
“So you’re going to brainwash me into thinking it.”
He shook his head. “The brainwashing has already been done. Let’s go.”