Martin smoothed Gretchen’s dress back down over her rear end. “I hope you’ve learned your lesson, young lady,” he said in a voice that sounded far kinder than she would ever have expected. Something about the way the women—Heather and Diana, Ms. Feld and Ms. Renton—had spoken about her had made him take her side, she could tell, though she understood nothing else. How could she help liking this man Martin for that?
“Yes, sir,” she said quietly as he helped her stand up.
“Alright, enough wasted time,” said the man they called Fred. “Come stand before us, in the middle of the room.” Unsure of why she obeyed so readily now, and willing to blame the lingering sting of the humiliating spanking she had just received, Gretchen moved to comply, looking at her bare feet and holding her hands clasped before her.
“My name is Mr. Gramling. You will address us formally, as Mr. or as Ms. When you have been purchased, you will call your owner sir or ma’am, unless he or she tells you another title by which to call him or her. With me here today to take girls back to Athena I have Mr. Lourcy, Ms. Feld, and Ms. Renton, whom you already have met in some sense. Also, here are Mr. Fretter, Mr. Yan, Mr. Morton, Mr. DeFios, Mr. Zachary, and Ms. Lawlor.”
As he spoke each name, one of the sky-people sitting in the semi-circle of stools nodded, some pleasantly, some more seriously. Gretchen didn’t even try to remember the names or the faces. She found she couldn’t stop darting little glances at Martin—Mr. Lourcy—to see if he were looking at her, but he seemed to be absorbed in a little device, a sort of small, glowing rectangle he held in his hand. Only once, as Mr. Gramling spoke, did she catch Mr. Lourcy looking at her, though with a sort of faraway look in his eyes. When their eyes met, he gave a little smile. Gretchen looked down at her hands again, blushing. Something about being spanked by this man, of all things, seemed to have made her unable to stop thinking about him. Well, of course. I’m worried that he’ll hurt me again, aren’t I?
“I’m going to tell you about what will happen to you,” Mr. Gramling continued, “over the next few hours and days. I am afraid that you cannot avoid any of what I will describe: your only choice, Gretchen, will be whether to comply willingly with it, or to undergo correction until you do. Do you understand?”
Was she supposed to call him sir or Mr. Gramling? Her mind threw that question up to keep her from thinking about what correction would mean, though she had to clasp her hands tightly to keep them from shaking as she said, “Yes, Mr. Gramling.”
“Good. Thank you, Gretchen. Now the first thing that will happen is that after I’m done speaking we’ll have a little interview, in which we elites will ask you a few questions, so that we can decide whether we wish to buy you for ourselves. You may find the questions we ask embarrassing, and I am sorry about that, but remember that if you refuse to answer, or if we think you are not being honest, we will correct you. And…” here Mr. Gramling looked at Mr. Lourcy, “…I think I can assure you that the next time you are corrected it will make for a much more uncomfortable backside than you have now. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Mr. Gramling.” Gretchen felt her mouth compress into a tight line, and her chin quiver, as she looked from him to Martin. Martin looked back at her with another smile, this one as if to say Don’t worry. It will be over soon enough.
But what Mr. Gramling said then seemed to take away any reassurance she might have taken from Martin’s smile. “After the first part of the interview you will remove your clothes, so that we can inspect you as our questioning proceeds. I imagine you will find this the most unpleasant part of the entire process, but again you will not avoid it, even if we must restrain you. It will be much better if you make up your mind to obey us. Do you understand?”
Gretchen thought her whole body must have turned red. Inspect you. What did it mean? She knew the thing she had said to Mr. Lourcy, about the having sex, but she didn’t even really know what that meant—it was just the thing that men seemed to do on top of women, at night. Jerry, the man who had protected Gretchen and her mother, and brought them to the enclosure, did it to her mother, and her mother seemed to like it, but something in what the girls whispered about made her think that sex had something shameful to it—and why else would people only do it at night in their houses, and you had to pretend you were asleep if you happened to hear it?
“This inspection is intended to determine two things, Gretchen. It is an important part of our law that authorizes the Taking that we acknowledge both of them.” Mr. Gramling looked at Ms. Feld and Ms. Renton at that point, Gretchen saw, without understanding why.
“The first purpose,” Mr. Gramling continued, “is to ensure that you’ll be able to deliver a baby safely. Although our scanners do a pretty good job of measuring these things, it’s still necessary to evaluate girls for Taking the old-fashioned way. So we’ll bring out that examination table over there, have you get up on it and spread your legs in the stirrups nice and wide, and we’ll take a look.”
He pointed to the corner of the room, where a sort of high bench stood that Gretchen hadn’t noticed before. Out of one end of it rose two short metal poles with fixtures at their ends that made Gretchen think they must be what Mr. Gramling meant by stirrups.
He continued, “But before we do that, we’re going to determine the other information we need to know about you. We’re going to ask you those questions I mentioned before, and then you’ll take off your clothes and come around to each of us so that we can inspect you for ourselves, and see what kind of girl you are when it comes to sexual matters. Some of us will touch you in a way you may never have been touched before, and you may find it very embarrassing, but I need you to remember that you don’t have any choice, and that you’ll be punished again if you refuse to obey us. Do you understand?”
Did Gretchen truly understand? Her face felt as hot as the sun. She supposed at least that she understood why she should just comply with the sky-people’s instructions and get that part over with. “Yes, Mr. Gramling,” she whispered.
“Good. Then things get simpler. After the exam on the table, you’ll go through the door behind me into the entertainment room. There will be refreshments in there, and you may have as much as you want, and talk to any of the other girls you like for as long as you like. You’re first today, so you’ll have a little while to wait before other girls start to join you, and it’s going to take a few hours for us to get through all the candidates, but you’ll find some entertainment options like vids and books in there along with the food, so just relax until I come get all of you after we’re done with the auction. You’ll all come back in here, I’ll tell you who bought you, and then you’ll have a few minutes with him or her to hear a little bit about what is going to be expected of you—just so you’re not kept in suspense, understand?”
“Yes, Mr. Gramling,” Gretchen said. It did seem to make sense, although Gretchen had a very hard time imagining what it would all look like. She had arrived at the Hall of Taking along with fifteen or sixteen other girls of her age or a little older, and then, called in first, she had left them standing outside, still speculating as to what would happen in the room with the sky-people. At least Gretchen knew the answer to that question now, though her attempt to fool the sky-people had ended in abject failure. She wondered idly whether any of the other girls would get spanked before they reached the entertainment room.
“Finally,” said Mr. Gramling, “we’ll board the shuttle and take off for Athena—that’s what we call our home, which you call the sky-star. When we get there, you’ll spend your first few days in a special area of the station, under observation to make sure you’re transitioning to life on Athena in a healthy way. Your master or mistress will visit you there, but you won’t go home to his or her quarters until our doctors are sure you’re ready. Do you understand?”
This made the most sense of all. “Yes, Mr. Gramling,” Gretchen said, feeling strangely confident now that she had heard the whole of his instructions. With the exception of the very first part it all sounded reasonable. Of course, it left the shameful question of what would happen when she went home to her master’s or mistress’ quarters entirely open, but something about knowing more than she had when she walked in made everything seem at least a little less frightening.
“Alright,” said Mr. Gramling. “I’ll ask your first question, and then my friends here will ask some more. When you think about having a baby, Gretchen, what comes into your mind? Once you get up to Athena, it won’t be long before you have a little one in that cute tummy of yours. How does that make you feel?”
Gretchen’s blush, which had gone away entirely as she gained more knowledge about what the Taking meant, returned at full force. She thought about babies, of course. How could you not think about babies when you lived in the enclosure, where girls seemed to get pregnant almost as soon as they turned eighteen, and then just to stay pregnant under the protection of the sky-people’s mechanical defenses and the men of the relict tribes with whom the sky-people had made their arrangements about the Taking and the enclosures?
Gretchen had taken care of what seemed like hundreds of babies in the enclosure’s nursery where she, like so many of her friends, worked alongside their mothers. She loved babies and children, but beyond an awareness that she would almost certainly be a mother herself sometime, she had not thought of how it would happen, even when the enclosure’s chief had come to her house and told her that she had been chosen for the Taking.
After a moment, though, she felt like she had an honest answer. “It makes me happy?” she said without a great deal of conviction, but also knowing that she didn’t lie. “I’d love to have a little one of my own.”
She heard Martin’s voice, then. “On Athena, babies stay with their mothers for the first year of their lives, but then we place them in a common nursery, and they learn to treat every adult with equal respect. We don’t have families on Athena the way you do here on Earth. How does that make you feel?”
On the face of it the question seemed to be intended to discover whether Gretchen might cause trouble when they took her baby away on his or her first birthday, but Gretchen thought that perhaps she had heard a note in Martin’s voice almost of regret about the laws of his home.
“It makes me sad,” Gretchen said. “I think it would be hard.” She wondered if her master or mistress might punish her for crying over having to see her baby cared for by another.
One of the other men said, “They take very good care of the children in the nursery, of course. And you will be allowed to visit as much as you like. That’s in the law.” It sounded to Gretchen like he, too, felt disquiet.
But then Ms. Renton said, “More important, you’ll get used to it, dear. And you’ll have another baby to think about.”
Gretchen wondered suddenly about what the lives of these women of the sky-people were like. Did they not have babies? They seemed almost like entirely different creatures from Gretchen and her friends.
Ms. Renton continued, “Well, as long as I have floor, let me ask you, dear, do you play with yourself very often? I mean, between your legs, to give yourself pleasure there.”
How could she ask that? A different creature indeed. And why did she want to know? “Sometimes,” she whispered.
“Once a week?” Ms. Feld asked. “Or more? Or less?”
“Less,” Gretchen mumbled, her face glowing hot.
That was the most embarrassing question. There were more about taking care of babies, and a few about her family, and about her feelings with respect to the sky-star and the enclosures. Gretchen said honestly that she felt great gratitude to the sky-people for sheltering those who lived in the enclosures.
“No resentment?” asked Mr. Gramling. “You don’t feel like we shouldn’t be meddling?”
“Well,” Gretchen said, remembering when she and her mother had first made their way to the enclosure, and how everyone there had seemed so much happier than everyone outside, “the Taking seems hard, but I know that my family will be alright. I don’t think there are many in the wild lands who could say the same thing, and I’m sure if Jerry hadn’t brought us to the enclosure, my mother and I would be dead now.”
“And you feel that way even though I just spanked you a few minutes ago?” Martin asked, a little surprise in his tone.
Gretchen looked at him. “Well, I didn’t like it. But I did try to fool you, even though it seems now like I was very silly to do it.”
No one else had a question, Heather saw. She smiled; time for the real examination. Heather didn’t think she wanted this girl, but there was some satisfaction in making Martin Lourcy anxious that he might not get her.
Fred said, “Go ahead and take off your dress, Gretchen, while we bring the examination table over.”
“I’ll do it,” Diana volunteered.
Heather watched little Gretchen look uncertainly at Diana as Heather’s best friend moved to fetch the table and wheel it into the middle of the room. She’s a sensitive little thing, Heather thought. Has she understood that Diana and I are interested in her for different reasons than the rest of the elites here? The question about self-pleasure had clearly taken her aback, of course, the way it did all the girls, but something in Gretchen’s pretty eyes seemed to betray less confusion than an understanding of how great a gulf stood between the life of a relict girl and that of an elite woman.
“Get that dress off,” Heather said, injecting a chill into her tone, experimentally, to see how the girl would react. “Didn’t you understand what Mr. Gramling said? We want to see what we’re thinking of buying.”
Gretchen’s head snapped around to look at Heather with a wide, startled gaze. She reached to her neck to untie the string there, still searching Heather’s eyes for some sign of compassion and, Heather felt sure, finding only amusement and the acquisitive spirit of a collector. Gretchen dropped her eyes as she loosened the string, and Heather felt a little thrill of arousal travel through her loins at having dominated the girl that way. Perhaps she would bid, after all.
The collectors of the Maenad Club. Heather liked to think of herself and Diana thus. Erika Wendt had come to them, on the eve of the passage of the Act for the Support of Secure Enclosures on Earth and the Taking of Young Women Therefrom and told them that she could not imagine better stewards of her vision for the clear-eyed, ethical use of relict girls for sexual pleasure than the two twenty-two-year-olds who had campaigned for her re-election the previous year.
That election had represented the only time in Erika’s career when her position on the council had suffered any threat, a consequence of a conservative backlash against the Wendt Amendment’s forcing erotic matters into public view—a thing that even after almost five thousand years of recorded human civilization still made privileged old men pretend that the female pussy, and its effect on the male cock, gave birth to all evil, along with that highest good of children. “Just like Pandora,” Erika had said that night, when telling them about her vision for the club they would found.
Heather had looked at Diana, and found her friend and habitual lover as puzzled as she. “Pandora?” Diana asked.
Erika laughed. “Greek myth.”
“Oh,” Heather said, trying to look wise. She hadn’t liked culture class very much; her field was sociological analysis and policy.
Diana seemed to remember something, though; she had nearly become a teacher before deciding on video production. “The box?” she asked tentatively.
“The box,” Erika confirmed, leaning back into the cushions of her recliner in the den of her quarters, to which she’d invited Heather and Diana for a celebratory drink after the final debate in council. “Or the jar, in the original story. It’s her womb, really—or, rather, symbolically, I suppose.”
Heather glanced at Diana again, and to her relief found her friend once again as confused as she.
“All human evil?” Erika asked, looking from one to the other. “Flies out?” Heather shook her head. Erika sighed. “I thought I’d made progress with educational reform at the beginning of my career. You girls are supposed to be more interested in cultural preservation than my cohort was.” She took a sip of her whisky, then looked thoughtfully at the glass. “Booze is definitely better than it was thirty years ago, at least.”
Heather looked at Diana. Erika got like this sometimes, and you never knew whether to ask for a story or to try to get her back on topic. But she found the main thread again, now. “So,” she said, lifting her beautiful face, its wisdom embodied in the few wrinkles and the snow-white hair always worn back in an elegant chignon. “Pandora gets a jar, full of all human evils. It’s the gods’ trick, but when you understand about Greek myth, that doesn’t make it any less a women-are-the-source-of-all-evil thing, because she opens the jar, and then slams the lid back down before hope gets out. Really, in Greek, the word pretty much means the future.”
She might not remember culture class, but Heather knew herself to be smart as a whip, like every other elite woman. “Children,” she breathed. “Children are locked inside women’s bodies.”
“So,” Diana said, with a bemused smile, “hope isn’t good or bad—it’s just what the human race literally can’t live without.”
Erika smiled. “Pussy. And that’s why we’ve got the Taking. And it’s also why you two are going to keep working for the ideals we share.”
Heather and Diana exchanged another puzzled look. “But, Erika,” Diana said, “we won, right? We can take relict girls ourselves, just like men.”
Erika’s eyes seemed to twinkle. “Ah, but that won’t promote our ideals. We’re going to found a club.”
At first Heather and Diana couldn’t figure out whether Erika was joking. “A club?” Heather asked. She searched her brain for information learned in culture class that might help. “You mean, like a strip club?”
Erika laughed. “No,” she said, “but I’m hoping that a lot of stripping will go on there. And, who knows, maybe one of the patrons will want to bring back the ancient art of the striptease. And I have to confess, as well, that I’ve always been fascinated by a strange thing in the historical records of eroticism called pole dancing. But, no, I don’t mean that kind of club. I mean a social organization founded with a mission to promote healthy ideas about dominance and submission. Now that we are going to be importing a lot of relict girls within an institutional power dynamic that will make them subservient and thus naturally teach them the value of submission on both an erotic and a domestic level, we need to build upon that foundation. Both for the pleasure of the new club’s membership and for the education of the elite more generally in an area that has long been neglected, I want you to join with me to form what I think we should call the Maenad Club.”
Erika looked at both of them briefly and continued with a smile, “No, I won’t make you try to dredge that one up from your culture class. The maenads were sexually abandoned female followers of the god Dionysus. They had sex with a mythological creature called a satyr, as well as, presumably, with Dionysus himself.”
“So,” Diana said thoughtfully, “a sort of women on top kind of affair.”
“Yes,” replied Erika, “but also women on the bottom. The relict girls specifically.”
Should we buy Gretchen for the club? Heather wondered as she saw the girl’s lovely naked body come into view. The breasts were small but perfectly formed, with tiny pink nipples, and that lovely glimpse of pussy that showed through her golden nether fleece did draw the eye most movingly. But Heather and Diana had found that the best club girls tended to play with themselves at least once a week. On the other hand, Gretchen’s blush at the question might have indicated a little more interest in the practice than she wished to admit. Several club members, too, loved that kind of deep blush, which indicated an innocence that stood on the verge of lewd knowledge for which it yearned in spite of the shame it brought. Heather thought she could very easily find a club member who would pay in excess of five thousand credits for the right to have Gretchen first. Indeed she had in mind three candidates, two women and a man, all of whom had requested that Heather and Diana bring something back for them. Well, if little Gretchen was a club girl, she would show it now.
“Go ahead and walk around the circle, please, Gretchen,” said Fred, once Diana had sat back down. “Stop in front of each of us, and turn around so that we can see all your charms. Start with me, please.”
In silence, then, Gretchen turned to display herself, biting her lips and with her eyes apparently fixed on the carpet. When Fred put out his hand to stop her turning, so that he could caress the pretty backside Martin had spanked, and then move his hand around to her front and make her cry out when he gave her a little wank between the legs, she trembled, but made no more sound than a whimper.
“Very nice,” Fred said. “Thank you, girl. You may move on.”
Gretchen suffered similar gazes and touches from most of the other elites. When she came to Heather, she issued the command, “Your back to me, Gretchen. Bend over and touch your toes, please.” For a long moment Heather considered the lovely view thus exposed. Then she wet the first two fingers on her right hand in her mouth, and began to caress Gretchen’s pussy in a very matter-of-fact way. The girl gave a sobbing little moan.
Heather stopped then, nearly as soon as she had begun. “Thank you, dear,” she said. “You may move on.”
When Gretchen reached Martin, he said, even before she could turn, in a voice that sounded to Heather’s ears rather troubled, “You may move on, Gretchen. Thank you.”
Diana stood and kissed Gretchen when the girl reached her, putting her left hand in the girl’s blond hair to hold her head still. “Wh—” Gretchen said in surprise at the sudden gesture, and then Diana’s mouth came upon hers, and Gretchen’s face turned bright red as she shuddered, as if trying her hardest not to struggle.
Diana’s right hand came down between the girl’s legs and probed there. Heather watched her friend’s slim fingers move up and down, and then, gently, in and out, until Gretchen cried out into the elite woman’s mouth.
“Thank you,” said Diana, breaking the kiss suddenly. “You may move on.”
The final examiner was Jonathan Yan, who had Gretchen hold her pussy open for him. “She’s wet,” he said. “See what you did, Diana?”
A few of the other elites chuckled.
“Is it my fault if I know how to treat a relict?” Diana said archly.
“Alright, Gretchen,” Fred said. “We’re almost done. Hop up onto the table, please, and put your feet in the stirrups.”
The girl obeyed quickly, giving Heather a delicious view of her pink pussy-lips and even a brief hint of the tiny anus. Heather wondered why stolen glimpses like that excited her fancy so much more than what she now saw, as Gretchen assumed her place on the table, legs spread wide. Of course, the exposed position of the exam had its own charm, but it didn’t convey that lovely sense of having seen something that the girl herself didn’t know she had shown you.
Heather sighed as she watched Fred take his examination bag from under his stool and advance toward where Gretchen lay open before them. No matter how many years went by, since the night Erika Wendt had said to her and Diana, in the little restaurant on D level that looked toward Mars every few minutes with the turning of Athena, “You two probably haven’t even considered supporting my amendment, have you?” Heather still never seemed to become entirely accustomed to the idea that to have a relict girl at her disposal could make her heart beat so fast.
“Just relax, Gretchen,” Fred said, his voice a little exasperated. “I need to have a good look inside your vagina, and then your anus.” Gretchen made a whimpering little sound. “That’s better, girl. There we go.” A pause, as Fred carried out the vaginal exam.
The girl gave a little whimper on the table. Did she know how high a price she would fetch? Fred would want her, as well as Martin. A pretty face and a pretty pussy, together with a trim backside: Gretchen would do well at the club, too, with that fresh face—she’d be in very high demand. Heather and Diana should probably pass, though, since the girl didn’t give much evidence of the depth of her erotic nature.
“She’s intact,” Fred said, standing aside to show where he had opened Gretchen with a plastic speculum. “It’s a very healthy—and, I must say, a very lovely—prospect.”
Then Gretchen, undoubtedly in response to being spoken of that way while laid so very bare and open, suddenly gave a low, whining moan that came close to changing Heather’s mind about the girl. She looked at Diana, who raised an eyebrow back; she had heard it, too. Gretchen liked to be put on display. Various kinds of display made up a large proportion of the activities at the Maenad Club. A pretty relict girl like Gretchen who got aroused when spread upon a table for the prurient pleasure of ten elites could be a great asset.
Fred turned back to the girl’s widely spread thighs. He said, “Gretchen, I’m going to palpate your clitoris for a moment now, to test your responsiveness.” His last words were nearly drowned out, though, by the girl’s sharp questioning cry of gratification, cut off when Fred stopped his palpation.
“Now I’ll open up your rectum, Gretchen,” he said. “Just to make sure you’re healthy.” A little whimper from Gretchen. “Just relax as much as you can, girl. That’s it.”
Fred turned back to the other elites. “Everything looks to be in order, and even though she’s slim, her hips are well within the acceptable range.”
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