In the depths of space, a glowing speck sat serenely, a small oasis of life amidst many millions of miles of nothingness. Its name was the Preceptor, and it was a small station sitting on the very edge of human territory, or what humans liked to regard as their territory. Somewhere back on earth, they were marked as a dot on a map. That’s what made them real. About ninety million miles away, a sun burned, providing the station with infinite amounts of free energy soaked up by myriad solar panels.
Two men manned the station, one of whom was at that moment striding boldly onto the bridge wearing a sleek black uniform that conformed to every hard muscular plane of his body. It could withstand temperatures down to negative three hundred degrees Fahrenheit, but was comfortable enough to wear around the station on a daily basis.
Montague Hawthorne the Third was his given birth name, but he went by the less pretentious moniker ‘Mixer’ instead, a reference to the mixers he attended growing up as a privileged young man in upstate New York, one short decade before war and weather had forced a percentage of humanity to abandon the cradle of their birth and live amongst the stars.
He was handsome. That had helped when he’d run into the trouble that sent him ten lunar years away from Earth. He had a good, strong face with a broad chin and wide, intelligent eyes. His dark hair was getting a little shaggy, hanging down into his eyes until he swept it away. His lips were well formed—a little thin, but shaped in a way that made the smallest expression seem sophisticated. Age had just began to mold his features with cracks and crevices, lines that creased around his eyes and marked the passing of each and every smile. He was a man in the prime of his life, full of vitality and virility and energies that were difficult to expend in the depths of space.
“What are you doin’, Ghost?”
Ghost, a tall man with ice white hair and scintillating blue eyes, flicked them briefly toward his partner. “Working, it’s what we’re paid to do.”
Ghost was a Renaissance man with a talent for leadership and Mixer, well, he could do most other things. Trained as a doctor, he acted as medic and mechanic. Together they kept the station going, provided surveillance for the Alliance, and acted as escort to a few high priority prisoners being sent out to the farthest reaches of human civilization.
It was one such prisoner Ghost was making preparations for. He seemed completely immersed in her data file. He was scanning it as though the secret to life might be found there.
“She’s not due for hours,” Mixer pointed out, scratching his five o’clock shadow as he gave Ghost a ‘would you relax already’ look. “This is going to be a cakewalk. You know it is. Feed her. Water her. Send her on to the next stop.”
“She’s a criminal with three life sentences to serve, and we have her for three months until Alpha Pi Zed comes around to the right orbit,” Ghost said. “I think that warrants a little caution.”
“Anybody can get three life sentences these days,” Mixer pointed out. “I got a life sentence for sneezing at the wrong time once. They give women life sentences for less than that to force them out to the colonies.”
“You didn’t get a life sentence, you got a deployment,” Ghost reminded him. “And they don’t give three life sentences for nothing, especially to women. We’re going to need to be on guard 24/7.”
“Why? In case she escapes into space? There’s nowhere to go on this station. We’re floating in the middle of nowhere. You think she’s so bad she can survive in a vacuum?”
“I think that a lot can go wrong with a confined, desperate prisoner.”
Mixer was fairly certain that Ghost was overreacting. They had dealt with prisoner transfers before, several of them women. It was an easy gig. You kept the prisoner in the cell, took them out for daily exercise, and made sure that they were fed and watered.
“What did she get three life sentences for?”
Ghost glanced at the sentencing report. “Causing unrest, spreading propaganda, undermining the council…”
“A political prisoner,” Mixer snorted. “Yeah, I’m really worried now. Maybe she’ll talk us into defecting from the Alliance.” He laughed at the idea. “Maybe she’ll turn us into rebels.”
“All prisoners are potentially dangerous,” Ghost said. “We’re going to follow protocol to the letter.”
“We always follow protocol,” Mixer pointed out.
“We’ll follow it extra close this time.”
Mixer wandered over to the monitoring station and hit the activation key for the monitor. The station showed up as a square block in the center. Surrounding the station were dozens of objects, most of them small meteorites. The station monitored them continuously and made adjustments to its position if a collision seemed to be imminent. Inorganic objects showed as gray dots. A blue dot had just come into range. It was moving far faster than any of the other objects and was headed directly for the ship.
“She’s on the radar,” Mixer called out. “Right on time too.”
“Good. Is the airlock ready to receive cargo?”
“Mhm, and I tested the grips yesterday. Fully operational.”
“Test them again.”
Mixer didn’t argue. The grips were electromagnets that would draw the small craft into the ship. They were fairly important pieces of equipment, and though they had never failed, there was always a first time for everything.
* * *
Ghost was concerned. He didn’t have a reason to be concerned, which also concerned him. Mixer was right. This was just another transport operation, a little longer than most because they had to wait for planets to align, but nothing out of the ordinary. Why then, did he have a nagging feeling of foreboding? He’d gone over the transfer documents six times. Everything was in order. And yet something wasn’t right.
He was not given to superstition as a general rule. You didn’t survive in space by being superstitious. You survived by being careful, paying attention to the details, and conserving water when possible. The Preceptor had a significant reservoir for a ship its size, replenished by regular shuttle, so they were good for water. That wasn’t the problem. He knew he was being careful, so that wasn’t the problem either. There was a detail. Something small, something he knew he must be missing. It was tickling the back of his brain, making him uncomfortable, but refusing to reveal itself.
Wanting for anything more useful to do, he read her profile again. Eden Wells, it said. Twenty-eight years of age. An American originally, just like themselves. Most people left on earth were American. Since her early twenties, she had engaged in various forms of what her profile called ‘criminal disruption.’ She was a troublemaker. Had been one all her life. He doubted a spell in a pod would have changed that, nor the prospect of imminent punishment.
She had been captured two years ago, then sentenced a year later. Since then, she’d been space-hopping from station to station to make the journey to Alpha Pi Zed, a colony so far out they were just barely getting the lights on out there. She would be tired, likely weak, and probably no more trouble than a kitten. Space travel, especially extended amounts of it took a toll on even the strongest men. Still, he had the feeling it wouldn’t do anything to change her essential nature.
Satisfying himself that he hadn’t missed anything, Ghost made the final preparations for receiving their guest.
“Pod on scanner,” Mixer called out. He was at the control console, tapping at the buttons as a little blinking light announced the presence of another life drawing close. “Five minutes,” he said. “Those afterburners are set to discharge in 5… 4… 3… 2… there they go.”
A little flare in the darkness was all they could see of the twin engines, which had ignited to slow the pod’s speed to a suitable one for docking. If they failed, the thing would slam right into the station, maybe even punch a hole right through. If one failed, the pod would spin out into the depths of space, never to be returned. Those little engines with their teaspoons of fuel were all that stood between a successful docking and death.
“Looks good. Let’s get down to the airlock.”
They made their way down to the docking station, where a small monitor showed that the outer doors had already retracted to make way for the pod, which was sliding through space toward them, as frictionless as a rock on ice. It docked smoothly with a slight bump and the outer door slid shut, sealing them off from space. Ghost activated the inner airlock doors and he and Mixer made preparations to release their prisoner from her very small cell.
The pod was about nine feet long and the same around. A small, coffin-like capsule, which contained both the prisoner and her life support system. She would have been heavily sedated for the journey. It was standard procedure to knock the inmates out before they were put into the pod. Saved them from accidentally killing themselves when they panicked. Before mandatory sedation, some poor unfortunates had managed to knock their air lines out. Made for a very unpleasant surprise at the docking station.
“Let’s get her out,” Ghost said, reaching for the seals.
“Wait,” Mixer said. “There’s not supposed to be any movement inside this thing, is there?”
“She probably woke up when she hit the station. They do that sometimes.”
He reached for the seals, hitting them with the heel of his palm and the top of the pod slid back, revealing the still form of a beautiful woman. Her long dark hair flowed over her shoulders, her eyes were closed, black lashes tight against her apple cheeks. Her face was heart-shaped, soft, very feminine. She was wearing a basic regulation transport suit. They were rubberized, tight against the skin to keep it warm during the journey. The result was being able to see every toned curve of the beauty’s body.
Mixer whistled low under his breath. “Goddamn,” he murmured.
Her eyes opened swiftly, revealing a brown gaze that was as intelligent as it was wicked. She lifted her arm and in her hand was a small, archaic device designed for sending a shock of electricity. Ghost realized that just as she depressed the button, catching both him and Mixer in a net of jolting current that sent both of them to the ground.
Still conscious, but unable to move, Ghost watched as his prisoner stood up and strode past him without a second look.
* * *
It was a pity, Eden mused to herself. The guards were attractive. She reckoned she probably had a seven-minute window, maybe five if they were particularly well conditioned. Just enough time to activate the emergency escape pod that all space stations had on hand. They acted like the floating prisons were impenetrable, but nobody would take duty on a station without a lifeboat.
She sat down in the control chair and began manipulating her way through the programming. It should have been a simple enough matter to release the emergency escape pod, but it had been secured. Sensible really; couldn’t have prisoners popping off the station whenever they felt like it. Shaking her head to clear it, she concentrated harder than she ever had in her life. She was glad a co-conspirator had messed with the usual transport protocol and disabled the pod’s sedative system. It was hard enough getting her brain to work after months in a pod. It would have been impossible with a sedative coursing through her veins.
Six minutes left. The override was easy, simulate a real emergency. Short of blasting a hole in the side of the station, there was no way to create a real emergency. The computer could be fooled though, and that was her intention, to tell the computer that an emergency was in progress and that it should immediately begin procedures to engage the emergency craft.
Five minutes left. The computer was being difficult. Seemed as though someone had locked every single process down, making her manually enter the operating system.
Four minutes left. She was getting close. The lights flashed red as the station entered the emergency phase.
Three minutes left. The emergency craft was powered up. All she had to do was get in it. Standing up from the computer, Eden suddenly found the base of her neck enveloped in a strong, lock-like grasp. One of the guards was awake. His hold was firm, allowing him to manipulate her as easily as if she were a naughty kitten. She fought back, of course, kicking blindly backwards, but that got her nowhere as a strong arm wrapped around her waist and the grip at the base of her neck grew stronger, arching her back against her captor’s tall frame.
“Four minutes,” she gasped up into his hard face. “Impressive.”
He said nothing, but hauled her over the chair, pinned her arms behind her back, and cuffed her. See-sawing over the narrow, but padded fulcrum, Eden wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. She suspected it was not going to be pleasant.
“You want to be aggressive? You’re going to have your butt worn out,” the man growled at her.
Okay. So he was pissed. Made sense. Being shocked wasn’t pleasant, especially the debilitating spasms that followed. Eden had been on the receiving end of that treatment numerous times. She’d also been beaten by guards more than once or twice. His threat didn’t scare her, it inconvenienced her.
He brought a hard surface down against the seat of her rear. She didn’t know what it was, and it didn’t matter. There was a loud cracking sound, and Eden stifled a laugh. This guy had to be an idiot. The rubber suit she was wearing protected her from the cold of space. Beating her with it still on was going to be entirely ineffective.
There was a soft mutter behind her, then the paddle returned. This time it caught her with a swifter, harder stroke. And this time, it burned as if her rubber panties weren’t there. Her entire seat was suffused with a hot sensation that multiplied upon itself over and over with roiling heat.
She squealed, then turned to look at him curiously. “How did you do that?”
The guard with the pale blue eyes and the white hair held up a clear paddle with what looked like metallic contacts running down the inside of its structure. It was humming with soft resonance. Obviously it somehow overcame the resistance of her body suit to deliver an effective blow, or the simulation thereof, directly to her buttocks. Curious, Eden tried to get a better look, but she was foiled when he brought it down across her bottom again with a loud cracking sound that accompanied the induction of some serious heat into her cheeks.
“You’ve got three months here,” the guard said. “Judging by the first three minutes you spent here, I don’t reckon you’re going to enjoy your time.”
“Well, it’s not a holiday is it?” Eden forced a defiant smile. It froze on her face as the paddle landed for the third time. He must have tweaked the settings, because that third stroke blazed like hellfire right through her bottom and sent a shock of sensation shooting all the way up to the base of her neck. She gasped, her mouth falling open as he swept the paddle back up and then back down again.
Four. Five. Six. Six of the best and each one exponentially worse than the one before it. Eden didn’t know if it was simply a cumulative effect, or if he was putting the settings higher each time, but she knew the last stroke of the paddle made the breath leave her lungs in a high-pitched squeal as her hips danced back and forth over the ridge of the chair in a desperate attempt to dissipate the sting. The rubber suit that had insulated her from the cold was now acting as a devilish device to keep the heat in. Her bottom felt hot and swollen; constricted by the suit, it burned on and on. She wanted it off, but her hands were still cuffed behind her back.
Swearing internally, Eden blinked back unwanted tears. She didn’t blame the guy for paddling her. She would have wanted to tear strips off anyone who shocked her too. If anything, he was showing restraint. But that didn’t make it any easier to control her breathing and not take big gulping breaths that would inevitably lead to sobbing.
His hand returned to the back of her head, claiming control with a firm grasp. He tugged and she looked into his face.
“For the next three months,” he growled softly, “you’re mine. You eat, sleep, eliminate when I say so. You put so much as a pinky out of line and I’ll make this paddling look like a love tap. Understand me?”
She nodded. “Yessir.”
What else was there to say? He’d won that skirmish fair and square. Running her mouth would only lead to more pain, and Eden wasn’t interested in pain. She was interested in escape.
“I’m going to take you to your cabin,” he said. “You’re going to start feeling pretty sick soon. It’s a consequence of the space travel. If it gets too much, ring the call button and we’ll shoot you up with a sedative.”
Space shakes. Eden had heard of them. They weren’t really a consequence of space so much as the consequence of being shot up with enough sedative to keep you quiet for the month it took to get from the last earth staging center to the station. Humanity had long departed for the stars, but it wasn’t as simple as just setting a distant galaxy into the ship’s computer and zipping there. It meant space-hopping, going from station to station until you were close enough to take a ship direct to your final destination. Some stations were larger than others. Some were almost planets in their own right, large enough that you could be born, live, and die there without ever having been deprived of anything in the human experience.
Penal stations were different. Penal stations were small, uncomfortable, and unrelentingly remote, positioned as they were near the colonies no self-respecting traveler would want to go to.
He didn’t walk her to her cabin, he picked her up by the belt and carried her slung over his broad shoulder like a sack of potatoes. The halls were narrow, wide enough just for one person to pass down. Or two, if one was atop the other.
He reached a wall panel, slapped it with his palm, and Eden watched as the wall slid away to reveal a small cell about six feet by nine feet. There was a simple bed with a foam mattress and nothing else, gray plate walls seamlessly rounded so there were no panels to pry off, nothing to get a grip on at all. The commode was in a little dome at the end of the bed. Aside from that, there was nothing.
“Had more room in the pod,” Eden said as the guard flipped her over his shoulder and deposited her gently on her feet inside the cell. She stood with her back to him, calmly letting him take the cuffs off. Her bottom was still hot and uncomfortable. The second he was gone she was going to rip the damned suit off.
“Behave yourself and you’ll earn some time in the Holobay.”
That was something hardly worth looking forward to. Holobays weren’t all they were cracked up to be. They were basically an omni-directional treadmill and a pair of virtual reality goggles that allowed you to pretend you were doing something other than floating in the depths of space, waiting for a planet to rotate through its orbit so you could slingshot yourself at it and not miss.
“I’ve never been one for playing pretend,” she shrugged, stepping deeper into the cell when he prompted her to do so.
“Then you have a long stretch ahead of you.”
Eden shrugged again. She had the rest of her life ahead of her, however long that was. The sentence was life, and everybody was serving it.
The guard hit the panel again and the wall slid shut. She would have been in total darkness aside from a glowing lamp on the ceiling. Wasting no time, Eden peeled off her suit. She needed a shower badly, but being naked was a good start.
Lying out on the mattress face down, she sighed to herself. After a month in a pod, stretching the limbs felt nice. The concoction they shot her up with had made sure they didn’t cramp or atrophy, but there was no substitute for being able to actually physically move.
Her butt still ached from the paddling. Looking over her shoulder, she could see the tops of her cheeks had been toasted red. Not really all that much of a consequence for having shot thousands of volts into a guy. She’d half expected him to beat the hell out of her, not that Alliance personnel were allowed to indulge in that sort of violence. Still, millions of miles away from the nearest base, there wouldn’t have been anything stopping him.
* * *
“Little bitch,” Mixer swore under his breath. He’d come to a full ten minutes after being shocked. Half an hour later, he still wasn’t back to full operational status.
Ghost smirked. “Three life sentences and you thought she wasn’t going to be a handful.”
“My hands are all cramped up like an old lady’s,” Mixer complained, stretching his fingers out painfully. He’d caught a decent whack from the stunner, probably more than Ghost. “When these are working, I’m going to…” he trailed off into a growl.
“I paddled her and put her in her cell,” Ghost assured him. “There’s not much else you can do, unless you want to spank her again. I doubt it would hurt. She strikes me as the sort of woman who has missed a few good spankings in her time.”
“A few? All of them, I bet,” Mixer said, rubbing his hands along his thighs in an attempt to warm them up a little. The shock had constricted the vessels in his fingers, making them feel terribly cold even though the station was warm.
“I have to hand it to her,” Ghost said. “Her plan was sound.”
“You think it’s okay that she shot us?”
“No,” Ghost said. “But… put it this way. What would you do if you were being shipped off to a colony to be someone’s breeding mate?”
Mixer screwed up his face. “Nobody is breeding me.”
“I mean if you were in her shoes, what would you do? Would you just sit in your little pod and let yourself be shipped off? Or would you do something about it?”
“I’d do something about it,” Mixer said. “I’d never let them put me in a pod.”
“See, that’s a flawed plan. Then you’re still stuck on a planet with a bunch of people who want to punish you. Her plan was to get shot up here, take over the emergency ship, and go wherever she wanted. Another two, maybe three minutes and she would have succeeded for sure. That’s some smart thinking there.”
There was a snort and a curse from Mixer as he stretched his hands out and curled his fingers back down against his palm. “You’re not even mad she zapped us, are you?”
Ghost shrugged. “There’s not much use in being mad; besides, that was our fault. We let ourselves get distracted. Prisoners will try to escape. It’s our job to see that they don’t.”
“Fair point,” Mixer conceded. “You got her under control?”
“Tucked up nice and safely in a cell.” Ghost pushed a button and brought up the feed from the cell.
Mixer let out a low whistle as the screen flickered to life and focused on the very naked form of their prisoner. Her bottom was raised and bare, pink all the way across her not inconsiderable buttocks. She wasn’t short on curves, that was for sure.
“I guess you taught her a thing or two,” he said. “That’s a hot little ass right there.”
“Six of the best,” Ghost said. “A warning, but she will try again. We need to double security on the emergency craft. I’ve already changed the passwords and amplified encryption.”
The prisoner stretched and turned onto her side, away from the camera. For a long moment, Ghost and Mixer stared at the lovely length of her body, admired the way her neat waist flared up to a bold, thick hip and strong thigh.
“Well,” Ghost cleared his throat. “It doesn’t look as though she has the shakes.”
“She’s got some kind of tremor,” Mixer said. “Look at the readout.”
At the bottom of the screen were numbers indicating respiration and heart rate. For some reason, Eden’s pulse and respiration were both climbing, though she appeared to be doing nothing besides lying there.
“I think…” Ghost squinted. “I think she’s…”
Mixer let out a roar of laughter. “I guess she liked that paddling.”
Their prisoner was masturbating. The movement of her shoulders and the parting of her thighs confirmed the diagnosis as she plunged her fingers deep into what they both imagined to be her hot, wet pussy.
“So we get cramps and she gets an orgasm. Hardly seems fair. We should lock that pussy up,” Mixer said, grunting as his hands tensed up of their own accord.
“We are not going to stop a healthy young lady from enjoying her body,” Ghost said firmly. “Sexual release is good for prisoner behavior.”
“You think if she plays with herself long enough, she might decide not to attack us again?” Mixer hissed and stretched his hands again. “Blasted current hurts like a… why aren’t you in pain?”
Ghost was in pain. His extremities were tingling and he ached all over. She must have set the charge to a level just slightly less than lethal. That was how he knew she had to be one of the good ones underneath it all. Calibrating a zapper wasn’t an exact science. If you wanted to be certain it was going to work, you’d max it out and to hell with the consequences. If their prisoner were truly dangerous, she’d be well on her way to the nearest rebel base and he and Mixer would be a couple of charred bodies.
He flicked the screen off, gave her a little privacy. Mixer grunted, looking askance, but didn’t put up too much of a fight.