A herald cried out the formal address and soldiers bowed low as the governor and his eighteen-year-old daughter, Celeste Casperia disembarked their official interstellar cruiser, a vessel that gleamed in the obsidian sky, the ornate gold and silver trailing the length of its body culminating in her father’s initials.
They came down several flights of stairs, Celeste walking three steps behind her father, her beautiful dress supported by six guards who helped her down the steps with professionally practiced ease. She was something of a captive inside the creation, which had been constructed by the very best architectural seamstresses in the System.
In stark contrast to the pomp and ceremony of their arrival, was the cool, militaristic precision of their reception. They were not in a grand hall. There were no cheering crowds. There were just the stark metal surrounds of the satellite station at which they had been obliged to dock. Her father was already very displeased, and showed it by failing to acknowledge the hailer’s welcome with anything but a haughty sniff.
Having reached the ground, Celeste was escorted toward the meeting chamber, which was only a few steps away, but which took several minutes to reach under the burden of her dress. She eventually found herself in another stark space, glass walls surrounding all four sides providing a view of all creation.
Waiting for them was the general of Vector Prime, the planet that the satellite was slowly orbiting. Her father, having arrived first, was already speaking to him. All that was left for Celeste to do was to take up her customary position off to the side and plaster a smile on her face.
Once in position, she let out a little sigh, tried to hide it as a yawn and failed. Nobody noticed. These political meetings were so boring. At least, on this occasion, the general her father was meeting with was a handsome one, and one of the younger generals too. General Alistair Clark had distinguished himself in battle and earned the title several decades ahead of most of his peers. Vector Prime had been a rogue planet when he began his career. Under his hand, it had flourished into one of the most profitable element mines in the System. Parts of her dress were spun from metals found in Vector Prime’s rust red caves. She fingered the folds of the fabric, enjoying how fine and smooth it felt beneath her fingertips.
“Are we boring you, Lady Celeste?”
The general’s voice rumbled through her, provoking a burst of adrenaline that shocked her out of the inspection of her dress and made her look at him properly for the first time. She had become accustomed to ignoring illustrious figures, figuring one general was much like another. The fact that he had addressed her so directly, with a hint of humor as well as censure in his deep voice shattered that illusion instantly.
Alistair was quite a singular looking man, with dark hair slicked back over a powerful skull, a broad face and even broader body. He wore the close-fitting dark armor of his post, which followed the lines of his body, hard plates marking each of his muscles in what amounted to a jigsaw of masculinity. War had left its mark on him; he had quite a noticeable scar on the left side of his face that made his left eye a pale version of the dark right. He was a man built for power, both physical and political, unlike her father who was a short, slight man well versed in manipulation and little else. Seeing them together was almost comical, a fact that no doubt raised her father’s ire from the outset.
“If you could confine your attention to me, general,” her father snapped. “We have much to discuss and precious little time to do it.”
Alistair cast a look at Celeste’s father that spoke volumes. There was more than a hint of disdain, certainly a total rejection of his censure. Celeste’s father was the governor of the entire System, a political network of planets dotted throughout three separate solar systems. As a general, Alistair owed loyalty and obedience to him. Usually generals put on an impressive display of welcome and warmth when receiving a visit from the governor, but Alistair had always had a reputation for trouble and he was living up to it with the rather chilly reception.
Celeste waited with bated breath to see what Alistair would say to her father. He looked on the verge of a scornful remark, but just as he opened his mouth, his expression relaxed into something more friendly.
“We have time for a drink, at least, do we not?”
“Your hospitality thus far has been lacking,” her father said testily. “A drink is the very least I would expect.”
Cringing inwardly, Celeste was embarrassed for and by her father—not for the first time. Alistair met her father’s gaze with a strong smile, and snapped his fingers.
The tension that had been so thick it could have been cut with a knife dissipated momentarily as a woman entered the room carrying a large tray of drinks in one elegant hand. She was an exotic-looking beauty with long dark hair falling in a glossy cascade to the small of her back and wide-set eyes marked with mascara and liner that brought out their dramatic caramel hue. Her face was striking, but even more stunning was what she was wearing—little more than a collar from which were suspended a thousand shining strands that did not quite function as a dress. Her body was exposed when she moved, dark nipples becoming visible along with the furred mound of her most intimate parts.
Celeste found herself blushing for the young woman, but the woman herself did not seem embarrassed. She seemed composed, eager to serve. It was quite a thing to behold, even for Celeste, who had seen many strange customs in her life.
Vector Prime was known for many relatively barbaric practices, including the taking of slaves. Unlike other planets, the slaves taken in war did not become wives, or even concubines. They became pets. Celeste had read about the practice on the long voyage, and she’d been quite fascinated by the various rituals and practices surrounding the Prime pets. They were kept in cages in their masters’ chambers, or sometimes in more involved kennels that would house several dozen pets, watched over by a trainer. Pets were expected to be obedient and sexually compliant. There were many rituals involved with keeping a woman as a pet, most of them involving carnal obedience in one form or another.
Accustomed to being the center of attention herself, Celeste could not help but notice the way every male eye in the room followed the sybaritic figure of the pet who brought refreshments. She felt a pang of jealousy, probably because she was the one who was supposed to be acting as feminine distraction.
Though she could not claim the level of exotic charm the pet had, Celeste was quite a beauty in her own right, with deep blue eyes and hair that had been colored a bright, regal teal hue. It had been weaved into two long braids that hung one over each shoulder, almost dropping to her waist. She had inherited her father’s relatively short stature and she was quite curvaceous beneath the fabric, though it was difficult to tell from the way she was dressed.
Her gown was as fine as any gown could be, spun silk and silver and many other metals encasing her body in an engineered form, creating a bodice that supported her breasts to great advantage, full skirt, and a cape that flowed from her shoulders. It was a very heavy garment and it was not easy to move in it, but she was not there to move. She was there to impart feminine dignity to proceedings. Her father had expected some trouble from General Clark, and was hoping her presence would soothe the savage beast.
Drinks were had, though Celeste refused hers. She blushed quite furiously when the beautiful pet offered her a glass of Vector Prime’s finest wine, barely making eye contact with the woman. Her embarrassment was noted, albeit silently, by General Alistair, who flickered a wink in her direction, which only served to make her blush more. Beneath her gown, she was squirming back and forth, glad that the heavy construction hid the motion of her hips and thighs.
Having served those who desired to be served, the pet departed. Celeste found her mind wandering, pondering what it must be like to be such a servant, to be bound to serve a master, to be stripped of all the trappings of personhood and be available at all times for a man’s desire. Her mind drifted so far into the daydream that it wasn’t until she heard her father’s voice raised in a shout that she returned to the present moment.
“I am governor of this System, and I demand that you send a full complement of troops to my birthday celebrations next solar month! Vector Prime’s silver guard are elite and people will talk if they are not there.”
“I need my troops where they are,” the general said firmly. “They are guarding the lives of the people of this colony. I am sure your celebrations will not be affected.”
Her father let out a guttural sound of disgust. “A few dead colonials? That is what you disobey my orders over? I need a full hundred thousand men marching through Governor’s Square. This is how we show our might. This is how we pay homage to the glory of the System.”
“I will be sure to send a suitable gift to your birthday party,” Alistair said, barely keeping the smirk from his handsome, arrogant face. “But my men stay at their posts.”
The general was probably right to refuse her father’s request. His colony was one of the wildest, sitting at the very edge of the System and there were frequent incursions both from hostile human and alien alliances from other systems. The planet also contained many dangerous beasts armed with fangs and horns, sometimes both, from which the intrepid citizens who had settled the place needed to be protected.
If she were to be utterly impartial, she would have admitted that it was not her father’s finest hour. Celeste had actually never seen her father have a fine hour. But she was loyal to him, because it was her father who had indulged her every desire from the moment of her birth. As insistent as he was that he be showed respect, he also insisted that she be given the best of everything. Celeste had never wanted for a single material good, which was why at that moment she was sweltering under a dress that felt as though it weighed five hundred pounds.
“If you do not obey me in this,” the governor seethed, “I will strip you of your rank. I will demote you to a mere soldier and you will be marching in the parade rather than watching it.”
Her father often threatened generals and such with loss of status and rank. Celeste had seen him do it many times, always with the same result. The general would stammer an apology, and her father would get what he wanted. She hid a yawn behind her palm, hoping that this meant the visit was at an end.
“No.” The general’s deep, masculine voice said a word that shocked both the governor and his daughter.
Celeste’s eyes widened a little.
“No?” Her father bristled. “What do you mean, no?”
“I mean no,” Alistair repeated. “Shall I have one of my men fetch a dictionary?”
Celeste watched her father’s face first turn pale and then bright red with anger. Nobody had ever spoken to him in such a fashion, she was sure. It was fascinating to see someone refuse her father without fear. There was no doubt in her mind that she was witnessing two egos clashing like titanic asteroids. When that happened in space, explosions were often imminent.
“This is insubordination!” Her father puffed himself up and called upon all his gravitas. “Do as you are told or I will have your rank this moment.”
Alistair stood with a mocking smile on his face, calling the governor’s bluff. “I don’t think so.”
Celeste watched her father’s gaunt finger rise in the general’s direction. “Arrest this man!”
Six soldiers moved to stand before Alistair, blocking the governor’s escort with little trouble. The governor never traveled without security, of course. There were several high-ranking system guards with them to ensure their safety, but it seemed rank no longer held sway in this negotiation. The general’s men stood firm against their alleged betters.
“Governor, you are a long way from your home planet. The men I command are loyal to me,” Alistair said gruffly. “You are making a mistake that will not be easy to fix. I advise you to get back on your shuttle and not trouble us unless there is some serious use for our manpower.”
“Your men should be loyal to the System!” Her father was quivering with rage now. “This is not your private kingdom, general. Your loyalty belongs to me. Without it, you are nothing more than… than… a warlord!”
“Is that what warlords do, governor, refuse to send men to birthday parties?”
The mocking tone in the general’s voice was not helping the situation at all. It was enraging her father, whose ego was now so bruised, and his will so frustrated, there could be no graceful bowing out. He had to double down to save face. And he did.
“Arrest this man dead or alive!” he instructed his guards. “Open fire!”
Celeste’s eyes went wide as suddenly another tedious diplomatic visit turned dangerous. Her father seemed to have completely forgotten her presence in his eagerness to prove his dominance over the general.
The general might have been disobedient, but the governor’s men were not. They lifted their weapons and began firing. Unfortunately, their reflexes were outmatched by the general’s men, who were much quicker on the draw. A hail of bullets filled the air, loud explosions heralding each projectile.
Caught in the crossfire, Celeste would surely have been killed if not for the heavy body of General Alistair landing atop her. He leaped from where he stood, caught her around the waist, and tackled her to the floor. Celeste screamed as she saw her father turn and flee, his wounded guards following after him. For an older man, he certainly could move when he wanted to. Within seconds he was gone from her vision. She screamed for him, but he didn’t seem to hear her, and if he did, he certainly didn’t stop.
Pinned to the floor by the general’s body, Celeste felt the rumbling as the governor’s ship separated from the orbiting station, and then saw a streak of light across the sky as it departed under emergency protocols.
“Father!” Celeste sobbed.
She was hauled to her feet by the general, who grasped a handful of the back of her dress and lifted her as if she and dress weighed nothing at all. She felt utterly helpless in his hands, her eyes filling with tears of fear and outrage as she dangled from his grasp.
“Well,” he said gruffly. “This is an interesting turn of events, isn’t it?” His eyes, one dark, one light, ran over her face and body with a calculating expression before he pushed her toward his men, handling her much like he might a rag doll. “Lock her up, get her on a transporter, and have my officials meet me for an emergency session down on Vector Prime. This means war.”