Her New World
The view outside the ship was one of breathtaking blues, greens and whites, stretching out in all directions eight hundred miles or so below them. From this height a storm could be seen in the northern hemisphere, lightning visible in the clouds of the upper atmosphere. Elsewhere the glare from Elvira could be seen reflected off the ocean, almost too bright for the naked eye. But it was the green that really drew the eye, for it was the green of a living planet, a planet that could hopefully soon be regarded as home.
Taking in all this as he sipped on an electrolyte shake, was Alan Kent. The former industrialist was still rather shaky after having come out of his fifteen-year slumber, but he was gaining his strength back quickly and was feeling much better than even an hour ago. Looking out the viewport at the world they were about to conquer didn't hurt his recovery either. As the drink the doctor had given him helped his body balance itself, so the view of the planet below them helped him balance his mind. More than ever he knew he had chosen the right path; that bringing all these people here had been the right thing to do. He smiled and contemplated the plans he had for the place, while behind him the doctor and his people continued to raise the personnel needed for the next part of the mission.
"Got a name for it yet?" asked a voice at his elbow.
Kent turned to find Bob McKinly floating just beside him. Kent chuckled, "Now you know Bob, that I'm not going to say anything about a name until we reach the surface and everyone is down."
Bob shrugged. "Yeah well, I just thought I'd ask," he said quietly, his eyes drawn to the planet below them.
The two men looked at it in silence for a few minutes while Kent finished his drink. "It looks a lot like Earth," he said eventually.
"It's pretty close," Bob agreed. "It's slightly smaller and less dense than Earth, giving us only about .82 G. The atmosphere looks to be a good oxygen/nitrogen mix, maybe a little oxygen-heavy. We'll know more about that once the first probe is launched. The only bad thing we've had time to notice is how little land there is. You thought Earth was bad, but this place is almost 92% covered in water, with no major land masses. We just finished preliminary orbital mapping; there are lots of major islands, but nothing bigger than say...Ireland, to live on."
"That will be big enough," said Kent with a smile.
Bob didn't look at him. "Maybe," he replied.
"Bob, you and your crew did an excellent job getting us here. You're to be commended. We owe you a great debt."
"Damn right you do," Bob said, turning to stare at his boss, "especially Staci Mann. Without her, we wouldn't be here!" He told Kent the high points of the accident that nearly cost the ship its mission.
"Then it's a good thing I got her to come along, isn't it?" replied Kent, not at all unnerved by the anger he saw in Bob McKinly's eyes.
"You should have given her a choice!" Bob said angrily.
"There was no choice, Bob, you know that. Not for us. Like you said, without her we wouldn't have gotten here. There wouldn't have been a flight if she hadn't come along." He took Bob by the shoulders and looked him in the eye. "Don't you see that?"
Bob took a breath and let it out. "Then I guess her choice had to go out the window with her free will."
Kent narrowed his eyes. "You of all people should know that we are no longer in the free will business. She is a woman, and in our new community a woman has many rights, but free will isn't one of them. She is subject to our laws now, so don't go dragging in the law of the place we left behind. We came here to get away from all that, remember?"
Bob just nodded slightly, making Kent smile.
"So tell me Bob, how has her training been coming along?"
"I suspended it," Bob answered, pleased at the scowl that statement brought out in his boss. "I had to. I needed her sharp for the flight, not fighting me and her training. Dick was all in favor of throwing her in the deep end, but the culture shook was getting in the way of her performance. It was my call."
"Alright, Bob, I'm sure you know best. But you knew she had to be brought to heel. We can’t have an independent woman among us."
"I know," Bob agreed, looking out the window again.
"Did you tell her what was going on, at least, what we stand for and what we’re trying to achieve?" Kent asked him.
"I tried, but I’m not sure what good it did. We went about this the wrong way, Alan."
"Where is she now?"
"Locked in the flight deck, fine-tuning the orbit. Doing her job."
Kent raised an eyebrow, "You trust her alone up there?"
"I have to! Apart from Dick, she's all I’ve got! Besides, I don't think she'll do anything to endanger the people aboard this ship, and the Com station is locked out so she can’t send a message to Earth. We can trust her to do her job until everyone is on the planet."
"And beyond that?" Kent asked.
Bob didn't answer.
Another man joined them, it was Doctor Kelly. "How are we doing here?" he mumbled, pushing the two men apart a little so he could look at a device strapped to Alan Kent's lower left arm. The medi-monitor must have had some good news on its flat little screen, for the doctor smiled.
"You're looking good, Alan, everything's coming back up," he said, undoing the monitor's strap.
"Does this mean I can go now?" Kent asked the community doctor with a smile.
"Yes, go. Make some room so we can work. I still have people to revive."
Kent chuckled, "Thanks Doc. Come on Bob, let's go to the flight deck.”
Bob followed his leader out of the medical pod that was to become the camp hospital once it landed on the planet, but in the dorsal passageway he caught Kent's foot and pulled him to a stop.
"What is it?” Kent asked with a sigh.
"Staci Mann. I want her. I want to be the one to train her."
"The way you've just been talking, I would have thought you wanted nothing to do with her!" commented Alan Kent.
"I don't agree with your methods here, Alan, I want you to know that. But I agree that she has to learn how to live with us, which means she has to be trained. She...I think she trusts me...a little. At least we have a dialogue started. Anyone else will have to start from scratch. I also don't want someone like Dick Janis getting hold of her. She needs to be finessed into joining us, not tortured. So...I want her."
Kent looked at his ship captain closely for a moment, trying to judge the man's intent. He noted with amusement that Bob most probably had a deeper reason for wanting to keep Staci close to him. He nodded.
"Alright. No doubt she would have been yours anyway. She replaced Maxine on the flight and I doubt many would have objected if she replaced her in the community as well."
"Thanks," Bob said, trying not to sound too relieved. "Your deciding this makes it a lot easier."
Kent shrugged. “Let's go talk to your new slave then, shall we?" he said, and they continued on.
Music played quietly in the background as Staci's fingers danced over the flight controls. The view from the flight deck of the Mayflower was also quite breathtaking, with the planet appearing to hang right over the ship, but Staci's attention was elsewhere. She found herself glancing at it from time to time, but otherwise tried to ignore it. She had seen enough planetary views to last a lifetime while living and working aboard the International Space Station, and even though this was a new planet entirely, the view didn't interest her. She also had another reason for not wanting to look at it. Who was ever interested in what their prison looked like?
Instead, Staci carefully coaxed the immense star ship into its proper orbit, free from the influence of the planet's upper atmosphere. It was planned that the Mayflower would remain in orbit to act as a radio relay for communication with Earth, so it would need to stay up here for many, many years. It wouldn't do for the atmosphere to drag it down as there was little fuel left aboard for its rescue.
Staci did toy briefly with the idea of placing the ship in a lesser orbit, one designed to decay in time, but she figured that either Bob or Dick Janis would check her work and she didn't want to be on the receiving end of their wrath.
Thinking about that, she rubbed the collar about her neck and took a deep breath. She was trapped, and she couldn't figure a way out, not while she wore the collar, not while she didn't have time to work out how to get it off without killing her. And time was slipping away. Once she left the ship, she figured her access to the kinds of tools she would need to get the collar off would be severely restricted. If she was to make a move, it would have to be up here. Yet, it wasn't enough to just be free of the collar, she still wouldn't be free of the colonists. Where could she escape?
She glanced at the planet and had a thought. Maybe she would be allowed to live someplace else, somewhere where she would never have contact with the colonists. She could be put down someplace with a few supplies, enough to tide her over until she could live off the land, and then left alone.
She would be marooned, without any human company, but at least she wouldn't be a slave. She'd be free. She was willing to go that far, if they would let her. At least she thought she was willing. She wondered if she could be alone for the rest of her life. Would she find herself drawn to the colonists after several years alone? Would the life they’d planned for her be preferable in the long run to eternal loneliness? Staci was confused and scared. What could she do? What would they allow her to do?
She sighed. It all boiled down to whether or not they would let her make her own choice. Somehow, she doubted it.
She looked over at the back of the cabin where an emergency tool kit was stored in a locker. In there was a welding lance, a tool that would certainly be able to cut through the collar. But it was out of reach, which may have been a good thing the way Staci was feeling at that moment. While Bob had let her stay dressed and had kept her collar turned off, he hadn't let her off the hook completely. Locked to an ankle cuff was a short chain which was also locked to the pilot's seat. She could do her job, but she wasn't going anyplace else, not unless Bob said so.
The way that man had taken over her life infuriated her, yet she preferred being with him rather than with Dick Janis. Bob was a much better man than Janis ever hoped to be. If only Bob wasn't a victim of whatever persecution complex drove these people out here. If only he wasn't keeping her prisoner.
She knew she was scared of the man...or was it that she just didn't trust him very much...or...what was it about him?
Staci felt confused about so many things at that moment, she couldn't sort them out. One thing she could still do though was her job, so she tried to focus once more on what she was doing.
Just as she was getting back to work the hatch to the flight deck opened and Bob McKinly came floating in. Behind him was Alan Kent, and Staci felt her anger rise at the sight of the man. She swallowed it down though, not wanting to antagonize them. Right now, they had the power.
"Status," Bob ordered, looking over the flight deck controls.
Staci reported the work she had done so far in settling the ship into its orbit; keeping to business. Bob nodded and looked over her shoulder. "It looks like we can interrupt you for a few minutes," he said.
"Well, that's hardly up to me anymore, is it?" Staci complained sharply. She glanced at Kent who was watching from across the room.
Bob moved to block her view. "Don't start anything now," he said quietly.
Kent smiled as he drifted across the room, the famous friendly smile that had charmed millions. It was only spoiled by the clumsy way the man handled himself in zero-g, but not much.
Staci, however, wasn't buying it.
"It's good to see you again, Staci," Kent said. "I hear that we have you to thank for getting us all here intact."
Staci just looked at him, trying not to say what was going through her head at that point. Instead she said,
"You could have gotten by without me."
"Oh, that we can't do, Staci," Kent said, settling into the other seat. "You are now a valuable member of our little community. Your presence here is as important now as it has ever been."
"Why?" she asked. "We're here. You have pilots who can do the rest of the flying. My job is basically done, and I doubt you'll need my skills on the planet. What good are engineering skills to a sex slave?" She expected Kent to be angry, but instead he laughed. She looked at Bob who was managing a smile, but his eyes told her that he wasn't really smiling, although Kent was genuinely amused.
"I think you have the wrong idea about us, Staci," Kent said, still chuckling. "Of course we'll need your engineering skills! Don't forget, we are building a new world down there, and unfortunately we are doing it with all the technology we brought with us from the old one. Until we are truly one with the planet, we will need to keep our imported technology running as long as we are able. So people with your skills, such as you and Dick Janis, are invaluable. You won’t be bored, I assure you." He smiled.
"And the sex slave part?" Staci asked, her face blank, but her heart thumping.
Kent shrugged. "Well that is up to your owner." His eyes flicked over to Bob for a second, and Staci caught the exchange but didn't register it. Instead she was getting angry at one of his words.
"Owner," she said. "You see, that's what troubles me, Mr. Kent. I'm a person, a human being. Humans don't own other humans!"
"Don't they?" Kent asked. "Maybe not officially, not back on Earth. But it happens all the same. But here, here we won’t use lame excuses to hide what is truly evident: that women are a secondary sex, biologically conditioned to answer to men! Your submission is natural, it is preordained by nature, and here on this planet, it is your true role.
“You have always been owned, by whoever you had a debt to, by whoever you had to report to in your capacity as a military officer, even by your occasional lovers, the ones who expected some commitment from you at any rate. Now your ownership will be out in the open."
"I won’t be owned," Staci said, knowing she couldn't win but needing to try all the same.
"You already are. I see the collar on your neck, the chain on your ankle. I know you want neither, yet there they are.
“Your body is no longer your own and in time your mind will follow. You will come to accept your position and even love it, for you will never be as safe as you are now, never be as loved, nor as well cared for."
Staci looked at him, but found his attention hard to take so she lowered her eyes. She hated herself for doing it; the submissive act seemed to be so alien to her.
Kent smiled and glanced at Bob McKinly.
"You sure you can handle her?" he asked with a smile.
Bob just nodded.
"Okay," said Alan Kent. "Collar, identify me."
"Voice identity, Alan Kent," said the tinny voice of the collar around Staci's neck. Staci wondered what was going to happen to her now, and braced for a punishment.
"Collar, transfer all primary command functions to the next...male voice you hear." He smiled at Staci as if sharing a secret.
Staci was about to speak, but held her tongue just a moment too long.
"Collar," said Bob, "identify me as Bob McKinly, accepting all primary command functions."
"Primary command functions transferred from Alan Kent to Bob Mckinly," said the collar.
"What's going on?" Staci asked.
Kent sighed and sat back in his seat. "All the unused collars are coded with my voice as the primary one. That means if I were to order your collar to do something, no one else can change it. What I have just done is transfer that power to Bob. He now has primary control of your collar...and you. You didn't want to be owned, Staci. Well, meet your new owner."
Staci turned to look at McKinly, an amazed look on her face. "Bob?" she said.
Kent pushed himself out of the chair and steadied himself against a console. "I had better go find Janis. She's yours now Bob, your responsibility. If I were you, I'd get her back into training. We'll talk more later."
"Sure thing, Alan," Bob said as he watched his boss leave the flight deck.
When they were alone, Staci looked at Bob with a questioning expression. "Did we just get married?" she asked.
"Sort of, only much more than that," Bob answered.
"What do you mean?" Staci asked, afraid to know.
"On Earth, husbands rarely have the power of life and death over their wives."
"What?" Staci whispered.
Bob smiled. "Don't worry. It's not like I want to kill you. But if I had a good reason, I could. You're just property."
"You...you can't mean that!" Staci said, outraged.
Bob's expression darkened a bit. He moved closer and grabbed Staci's hair. "Let's get one thing straight, slave girl," he said quietly. "I may not be a sadistic bastard like Dick Janis, but that doesn't mean I'm not serious about who I am and what we are doing. When I say something I mean it, and I'm getting rather tired of you questioning every little thing that comes along!" He stared into her eyes and when he was convinced that he had her full attention he let go of her hair. "Alan is right. You need to go back on training. Collar, training aide L2."
"Training aide L2."
Staci was about to open her mouth to ask what that was, but thought better of it. Her hesitation was noticed.
"See, you are capable of learning. Eventually, you won’t need the collar to keep you in line, and believe me you need to learn how to behave for your own survival. If you want to be accepted by us, if you want to make friends and live a long and happy life with all of us, then you will have to become one of us. You don't think you can do it? Well I know that you can, one way or another. Do it my way, and you'll want for nothing. I'll look after you." He moved away from her and headed to the exit. "Finish up the orbital insertion and park us. Then get on with launching the com sats. I'll be back to let you use the head in an hour. Oh, by the way, your collar is now set in a different training mode. Instead of you having to say Master first whenever you open your mouth, now it has to be the last word out. Try it. Go on!"
Staci just looked at him, shocked.
"Go on!" he yelled.
She took a breath and then said, "Yes Master."
Bob didn't smile, he looked rather sad really. "You'll be okay, just put aside what you think you know and follow what we are teaching you."
He looked away and then left the flight deck, closing the hatch behind him.
Staci looked at the closed hatch for a long time before whispering angrily, "Yes Master."
The group gathered in the medical pod, at that moment the largest open space on the ship. Eighteen men and women of various disciplines, a double meaning word with this crowd, all wakened after their fifteen-year journey. Alan Kent needed their help with the next phase of the mission, for the decision he had to make was critical and could not be taken back. Making it to the planet was one thing, but now they had to decide if the planet was safe to live on, and where they were going to make their home on it.
That's where this expanded crew came in. These were the people whose skills could take on this challenge: planetary engineers, biologists, geologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, etc. All would take a good look at the planet below them and render an opinion. Kent's job was to act on that opinion.
He floated near the view port, anchored in place with the planet in sight behind him as he watched everyone gather together. Most were men, but there were two women in the group as well, their submissive status not affecting their much-needed scientific skills.
Almost everyone was talking quietly but no one approached Kent, as if sensing that he needed to be alone. Kent didn't mind this at all.
He was just beginning to grow impatient though when the last few people he was waiting for entered the compartment. As he expected, conversation stopped.
Bob McKinly and Staci Mann looked around at the gathered group; Bob with acknowledgment, and Staci with concern. The group, for the most part, looked at Staci in confusion.
"What's going on, Alan?" one of them asked.
"Everyone, I'd like you to meet Staci," he said. "Most of you were already in hibernation, but shortly before we left we lost Maxine and Leslie to an accident. It would have meant abandoning our attempt to make this trip, but I convinced Staci here to come along and take Maxine's place. As a lot of you know, Staci was instrumental in Maxine's training, not to mention the construction of this ship. She was more than qualified to take her place here with us. In fact, due to an in-flight emergency, Staci saved us yet again and we owe her a big round of thanks for being here."
The group listened to this in silence, and then one of the men started clapping, a big smile on his face. Others joined him and soon almost everyone was applauding and welcoming her to the group, some coming over and shaking her hand.
Staci was overwhelmed and confused. Whatever she had expected from these people, it had not been the friendly welcome she was being given. She had expected cold stares and demeaning treatment from the men, but instead they treated her like an old friend and seemed genuinely happy about her being there. Staci had also expected the women to be subdued and oppressed-looking, but they were as animated as the men and didn't look like they were slaves. They were even both dressed as she was in a ship's jumpsuit, although like her, neither one wore anything on her feet.
In fact, if it hadn't been for the collars around their necks, Staci would have thought that everything that had happened to her up to this point might just have been a big joke. But the other women’s collars showed her that this was indeed a group effort. That knowledge dulled Staci's enthusiasm.
She didn't notice that the only people who didn't applaud were Bob, who sidled over to Kent to whisper something in his ear, and Dick Janis who sat with arms folded next to a far wall, and Doctor Kelly who hung around in the back looking a little morose.
Kent listened to what Bob had to say and frowned before calling the group to order again.
"People, please," he said, waving them back into silence, "there are things to discuss and we have little time. So please, your attention."
Everyone settled and watched their leader.
"Now," he said, looking at each of them in turn, "we have a lot to do as you know, we need to decide where we are going to land, if indeed we are landing. You've only had a few hours to look at the problem so I'm not expecting an answer right now. But Bob just told me the final figures for how long we can work before a decision has to be made. Bob?"
McKinly moved forward slightly. "At most we have eight days before the number of people we have up overwhelms our life support systems."
There was a general outburst of dismay from the group and Bob put both hands up to calm them down. "Yes, I know. We were supposed to have several weeks in orbit to enable us to examine weather patterns and test several possible sites. But as most of you know by now we had problems in the flight that isolated the aft section and made everything in there unusable. We can’t draw on any of the supplies stored in that section because of contamination."
"We can't do a proper weather cycle pattern in just a week!" said one of the men, prompting most of the others to voice their own concerns as well. Bob let them have their say for a few minutes before waving them down again.
"It's going to be difficult, I know. But there is nothing we can do about it now."
There was still grumbling going on when Kent took the floor again. "So, we have eight days. I want a recommendation in five. We'll need those last days for the landing itself. But remember this; the original Mayflower settlers had little choice where to land when they reached their new world. They made the best of what they had and flourished despite the hard times."
When Staci heard this she almost laughed. She remembered that the Mayflower pilgrims had almost starved until helped by the natives. But she forced herself to keep a straight face as she continued to listen to Alan Kent.
"We have a week they never had, and I know that by the end of that time you will be ready. You all know what you have to do, and you will have the complete cooperation of Bob and his flight crew for any help they can give you. Let's get to work."
Conversation was muted as people left to pursue their vocations, but Kent motioned for Bob, Staci and Janis to remain behind.
Staci watched the other women leave, anxious to ask them how they felt about what was going on. She still didn't believe that they would voluntarily place themselves in a submissive position to men, but their attitudes confused her. She dragged her attention back to Kent.
"Okay guys, where are we?" Kent asked.
Bob nodded at Staci to go first.
"Er...We're in a stable orbit, parked seven hundred and eighty four kilometers above the surface, Master," she said, biting out the last word. "All the communication satellites have been launched and are functioning normally. They should reach their final orbital positions by this time tomorrow, Master. I'm still checking out the rest of the ship's systems, but all looks promising...Master."
Kent nodded, noting her difficulty with her training.
“One more thing to note, Master, is that there appears to be the remains of a small moon in orbit about one hundred and fifty kilometers above the surface of the planet. Not much more that debris really, Master. Orbital decomposition shows us its been up there a few thousand years, but we will have to be careful of low-orbiting debris. This isn’t a great place for orbital spacecraft to live, so let’s not be surprised if we lose a satellite or two…Master.”
Kent frowned, as did the others. “Is the Mayflower in danger?”
“No…it’s made of sterner stuff. But our com sats aren’t nearly as well armored, Master.”
Bob said, "Then I guess the only thing we can do is deal with it when it happens. Dick, what about you?"
Janis scratched under his arm as he gathered his thoughts, "The aft section is a write off. But it's sealed and we won’t have a problem with it. I've been doing prep work in the space garage, getting the probes and the shuttle ready. I should have a probe ready to go in another hour if I'm left alone to work. The shuttle is ready to fly."
"That's great Dick!" Kent said with a smile.
"We're not in bad shape," said Bob, "except for environmental. But we have a lot of work to do, so if we could get to it?"
"Not yet," said Kent, looking at Staci. "The original plan called for Maxine to run the shuttle trips to and from the planet, but now we have Staci instead. Are we okay with that?"
All three men looked at Staci, so she stared back at them.
"Well?" Bob asked.
Staci's mouth went dry, but she tried to look calm. "I can do it, I will do it, Master," she said. "Look, for better or for worse, I'm stuck here with all of you. I'd be stupid not to do what I can to help this colony succeed. After all, like you said...Master...it's my survival too...Master."
Dick Janis looked unimpressed, but both Bob and Kent nodded thoughtfully.
"Okay, that's settled then," said Kent, "let's get to work!"
As Staci and Bob left the pod, Staci couldn't help yawning.
"It's been a long day, hasn't it?" Bob asked, watching her.
"Yes, Master," answered Staci, not looking at him. But she had to agree. She hadn't slept since before the boost. Hadn't eaten much either.
Bob nodded. "Come on, you're due some down time anyway. We all have to sleep." He turned and headed aft, surprising Staci who thought she was going to get locked into her hibernation unit to sleep again.
"Where are you going, Master?" she asked.
"My place. Come on."
She followed along behind him almost halfway down the ship before he accessed one of the landing pods and directed her inside. Unlike the medical pod which had to be usable in orbit, this pod was crammed full of supplies and equipment that would be used on the surface. From the code designation on the hatch, Staci knew that once landed and emptied, the pod's final use would be the recreation center of the Colony. She wasn’t aware of any place to live inside it.
Bob led the way through piles of strapped down goods to a relatively empty room that looked odd to Staci's eyes. Then she realized why. Unlike most of the compartments aboard ship, this one was set up for use in gravity. It was a bedroom for an apartment, and it had a used look.
"I've been sleeping in here," Bob said with a shrug, "it's more comfortable than a sleep sack on the flight deck."
"Is this going to be your home on the planet, Master?" Staci asked, running a hand along the carpet over her head.
"Our place, at least for a while," Bob answered.
Staci flushed at the reminder that she was his. The thought that they would be living together had not had the courage to cross her mind.
"Later, once we are more settled, I want to build a proper cabin to live in; something more relaxing, more like home," continued Bob.
She looked at him, "I don't see you as the log cabin type, Master."
"You'd be surprised," he said with a soft smile. "There's lots about me you'd be surprised about."
"I suppose so...Master," Staci said without enthusiasm.
Bob watched her a moment, "You know, as we get to know each other, you might actually begin to like me."
"Doubtful...Master," she said, staring at him.
Bob's friendly smile vanished, but he didn't look angry, just sad. He took a deep breath and sighed. "How easy this is, is all dependent on you, you know. Get undressed."
Staci didn't move, she just looked at him.
"Staci, I don't care for giving orders twice. I could always program your collar to shock you if you hesitate to obey an order, but I hate to do that. You're a very intelligent woman and no doubt you know that I could make your life very hard if I wanted to. I could even turn you over to Dick Janis, and I know you don't want that. But I don't want it to be hard on you. I want to teach you that our kind of lifestyle can be full of warmth and love and can be just as fulfilling as any other relationship. But it's up to you to do your part as well. You have to trust me!"
"Trust you?" Staci said, surprised. She forgot to add the magic word and her collar gave her a two second shock to remind her, which made her curl into a ball.
Bob moved to her, taking her in his arms as if to comfort her. But Staci pushed him away to recover on her own. He let her find her own way.
"Having this thing...about my neck...kinda destroys any trust...doesn't it...Master?" she eventually said.
"And yet, it has to be," he replied evenly. "Now, do I have to repeat my order?"
Staci didn't look at him. Instead she turned her back and began removing her jumpsuit. "Are you going to rape me, Master?" she asked.
Bob didn't answer, didn't want to give voice to the anger this stubborn woman was generating within him. He kept his temper and waited until she was done, revealing that she was nude under the outfit. She floated free, naked except for collar and cuffs, her back to him. He thought she looked quite lovely in her vulnerability, and felt himself grow hard.
"Turn around," he ordered, keeping his voice low.
After a brief moment, she reached out and spun herself around, an arm across her breasts.
Bob deliberately looked her over, head to toe. He had to teach her that she no longer had the right of modesty, that all her defenses were to eventually come down. While he didn't like the fact that she was there against her will, he knew that he had to train her properly for her own good.
"Over here," he said.
She moved closer to where he was floating beside the bed, and didn't make a move when he pulled out a chain that he attached to her ankle cuff. His hand hesitated a moment on her leg, before he moved away.
"Get in bed, get some sleep. I'll be back for you in four hours," he said, and he left her alone, taking her jumpsuit with him.
Staci watched him go, and with a tired shrug did as she was ordered. She thought she wouldn't sleep, but in minutes was completely out.
"I'm telling you, Asshole, it would be a mistake to stay in this valley! Look at the erosion patterns on the valley walls!"
A warm wind blew in from the west, ruffling Staci's hair in a way no shipboard air vent ever could. She could feel the breeze soak deep into her body, and figured that maybe planetary living might not be so bad after all. Especially on this planet. She felt heavy after being in space for so long, but not as heavy as she was used to after a month in space. The planet's slightly lighter gravity was noticeable and quite pleasant.
Standing next to the shuttle hatch, she watched the team of scientists she had brought down, argue over the terrain. This was her second trip to the surface after spending two days in orbit waiting for them to decide if the atmosphere was safe to breath. Evidently it was and Staci was glad to be able to take a deep breath of some very fresh air. Things were getting kind of stale up above.
The planet, however, seemed newly-made to Staci. It all looked so primal and raw, like a jungle movie. The valley they were in at the moment was clear of major plant life, but the higher ground on both sides were covered in a thick forest of things that could only be called trees. They looked like trees you would expect in a swamp or jungle, yet the climate here suggested the more traditional kind, like Oak or Maple. One thing Staci was sure of, this wasn't Earth.
There was a noise behind her, and Staci turned to see the female colonist that had flown down with them. The woman was hauling a large case and Staci moved to help her. The woman smiled, but said nothing as they took their load over to where several other cases lay scattered.
Staci looked closely at the woman. She looked quite normal except for the collar about her neck, blue in her case, and the same cuffs on her wrists and ankles that Staci wore. The woman was a red head, her hair long and done in a pony tail. She wore a striking green wrap instead of a jumpsuit that encircled her body several times like a sarong. The material was almost translucent, the woman's body visible in shadow-like detail. Staci could see that the woman didn't seem self-conscious about her odd clothing, and she also seemed quite at home walking barefoot over the lichen that seemed to pass for grass on this planet. Staci was having a hard time being barefoot on real ground, but Bob refused her any shoes. She was actually used to it in the sterile conditions aboard ship, but not out here where everything was a bit too real to be going around without shoes. She gathered though, that shoes for a woman would be a luxury, not a right, with this group.
They sat the case down and the woman whispered, "Thanks."
Staci looked startled. She had yet to get a chance to talk to either of the women who were currently awake, they were all kept too busy by their respective 'Masters'.
The woman smiled at her. "It's okay," she whispered, "the collar doesn't care if we whisper. The men allow it. You can talk if you like."
Staci blinked. "Hi," she whispered back, waiting for the shock. It didn't come and Staci smiled.
"Hi," replied the woman, "I'm Lynn. I'm glad we're finally getting a chance to talk."
"Me too," replied Staci.
Lynn pointed at Staci's collar. "Green, so you're just starting. How is it going? Are you having fun with Bob?"
"Fun?" replied Staci, trying to see what was so fun about her position.
Lynn grinned, "You're a lucky girl!"
Staci was about to reply when the men called out to them, "Get that stuff back aboard. We're not staying. This site is one big flood plain! Let's move on to site C!"
Staci and Lynn looked at each other and picked up the case.
Alan Kent had been rather specific with his request as to what sort of site he wanted for the community. "We have to be by the sea," he had said, "but on high ground. There has to be a river close by for both water and power use and travel into the interior. The island we choose has to be one of the biggest. Ideally I'd like the entire community together, but a terraced landscape will be fine. Make it geologically stable, and relatively warm."
Those were the edicts, and his team labored to find something suitable.
Site A, which had looked very promising from orbit, turned out to be made out of some kind of shale that threatened to collapse into the sea at any moment. Site B was a flood plain as had already been mentioned, but then there was site C.
On the flight over, Lynn had gotten permission to sit up front next to Staci. And although the two of them couldn't hear each other well enough to whisper together, Staci was glad for the company. When they got to site C however, all eyes were on the ground.
It was a large lagoon with a white, sandy beach, the water dotted with tiny islands in a pattern that made Staci wonder if this was an old impact crater. Above it, about 50 feet above sea level, was a large plateau surrounded by a huge forest, big enough for a small town. Behind that was a large river that emptied out into a different bay on the other side of a peninsula of rocky land that jutted far out into the ocean.
The area contained everything that Kent had wanted, and additionally had a sort of natural defensive position, with the sea on one side and the river on two others.
It was quite beautiful, and everyone aboard the shuttle was mesmerized as Staci flew several passes. Eventually she landed on the plateau, and everyone got out.
The scientists immediately got to work, and Staci quickly found out that Lynn was a biologist. "My job is to make sure that there is nothing poisonous here, so I have to test everything," she whispered with a smile. “In fact, when it comes to all things biological here I’m the one in charge.”
Staci nodded and smiled, thinking that the woman was just kidding her about being in charge of anything, and helped her new friend with her equipment as she quickly set up a field lab for testing the plant and animal life, of which there were rich amounts. As they worked, Lynn asked Staci about her past, and the young pilot engaged in the first decent conversation she’d had since leaving Earth. But she held back on the things she really wanted to know, because some of the men in the party were working close by and Staci didn't want them to hear. She wanted to know about Lynn and her submission. Had she really volunteered to live this way or had she been kidnapped like Staci had? Staci wanted to know just what prompted a woman like Lynn to want to live as a man's slave.
Staci needed advice, yet was too afraid to ask for it while the men were around, so she kept the conversation light and away from her own reasons for being there.
As the hours went by, the scientists got more and more excited, and soon Staci had to fly back to the Mayflower to pick up Kent himself and a few others who wanted to look at the site. Kent grinned at Staci when he came aboard, but otherwise left her alone, for which Staci was glad. But back on the planet she couldn't help watching him as he walked slowly about, arms out wide, taking deep breaths of fresh air. He turned to look at the assembled group and grinned.
"Okay, what's wrong with it?" he asked, startling them.
"Nothing, really," said a man named Kango, the chief geologist. "We need to do a lot more surveying to be sure, but this is a very promising site."
"Yeah," said another, "and just check out the view!"
Kent did just that, looking up at the mountains in the far distance first, then out to sea. He nodded and smiled. "This is the place," he said, and no one dissented. "I want the survey completed in two days, and then the plan for the town layout the day after. I want to begin landing pods as soon as we can. Has anyone checked out the water quality yet?"
One of the men said they had and Kent seemed satisfied. He sent them all back to work and then looked at Staci again.
"Come on, let's take a walk," he said.
Staci hesitated and then followed as Kent headed for the ocean. He said nothing as they carefully picked their way down the steep slope to the beach, but his smile stayed with him. When they reached the sand he stopped and took his shoes off, sighing.
"I've always liked the feel of sand under my feet," he said quietly, his eyes half closed.
Staci said nothing, not willing to admit that she enjoyed it too, although being forced to go barefoot everywhere else was a pain all its own.
Kent wandered down to the surf, leaving footprints in the sand. He stopped at the water's edge and stared at the horizon. Visible offshore were several small islands, jutting out of the sea like big pencil erasers. "I suppose, without a moon anymore, that this place won’t have tides," he said.
"No, Master," Staci answered.
Kent sighed again, "Pity, but this is a beautiful place, isn't it?" He turned to look at her. "Don't you think so?"
Staci nodded slowly.
Kent frowned, "Look, I wish you'd relax. You're going to worry yourself into an ulcer if you're not careful. There's nothing you can do. You're a part of our community now, and you will have to live by our rules, like them or not!"
Staci still said nothing, she just stared at him.
Kent decided to try again. He was truly worried about the girl, yet he couldn't let her undermine him, not here. They were at the new world at last, an Eden in many respects. He couldn't allow a serpent into the garden at any cost.
"Look, Staci. You can make a life here with good friends and a family. I know Bob well and there isn't a better man to look after you and see that you get what you need. But you have to meet us halfway, you can’t resent us for the rest of your life. Can’t you at least agree to give things a shot?"
Staci blinked, and then looked away. He could see the confusion and anger on her face, and knew that both had to wiped from her before she could really accept her new life here.
"Staci, talk to me," he ordered.
"I can’t...Master," she said quietly. To Kent's surprise she sounded as if she was almost crying.
"Why not?" he asked.
She wouldn't look at him. "You...couldn't understand...Master," she finally said. "Please...don't make me talk, Master."
"You're going to have to sometime, Staci," he said gently, "if not to me, then to Bob."
Staci didn't answer, she just looked out at the waves.
Kent turned to look as well, and after a moment, began undoing his jumpsuit. "Say, do you swim?" he asked.
"Er...yes, Master," Staci said after a moment.
Kent smiled, "Then get out of those clothes and we'll take the first ever dip on this planet. We'll go down in our history books!"
"I'd rather not...Master," Stacy replied, watching the man strip down to nothing.
Undressed, he turned to look at her, completely unashamed of his nudity. He had a good build, well muscled, with just a bit of middle aged spread; a very handsome man in Staci's eyes.
"Get undressed Staci. Now," he said slowly.
Staci had heard that tone before in Bob's voice, and also in the voices of some of her previous military instructors. She knew a command voice when she heard it and knew it meant trouble if it wasn't obeyed. So, feeling shame with every move, she slipped out of her clothes and stood naked on an alien beach with the man who had tricked her into coming along on this trip from hell. She didn't look at him, but could feel his eyes on her body.
"Slave positions!" he suddenly yelled. "Kneel! Stand! Kneel! Present! Stand! Present!"
Staci was startled and without thinking she began to move according to his orders. These were the humiliating positions Bob had started to train into her at the beginning of the flight, and she had done so many of them that she hadn't forgotten a single one. It was different doing them on the shore with the sun shining down on them, but she managed to meet each command without a problem, and ended up in the standing presentation position as taught to her by Bob. Her feet shoulder width apart, her hands behind her head, elbows back.
She stifled a sob as she presented her body to Alan Kent, ashamed that she had humiliated herself in front of him yet not sure what else she could have done. She fully expected the man to come up to her and take her right there on the sand, but instead he gave her the command to relax.
"You did well, for a beginner," he said with a smile. "Perhaps, there is a part of you that is submissive after all. We'll have to find out, won’t we?"
"Come on, let's try out the water!"
Staci followed him into the ocean and to her surprise she found it warm and very inviting. It was just like being weightless in a way, and as the two of them paddled around she was able to give in to the novel feeling of swimming naked and relax a little.
Kent for his part, looked to be a strong swimmer, and he circled Staci over and over, laughing and grinning away.
"Thank you, thank you Staci!" he yelled at one point. "Oh slave girl, without you we would never have had this!" he said, spreading his arms once again. "We'll have to put up a statue of you sometime," he said laughing.
Staci thought that quite funny, and was actually smiling when she felt the water surged behind her just before something hit her in the back. She was pushed forward hard and just had time to scream before going under. Something large brushed past her, scraping her back with its rough skin, before moving away.
She was out of her depth and struggled to reach the surface, but the pain in her back confused her and she wasn't sure which way was up. In a panic she began to thrash around, but a strong hand grasped her arm and pulled her to the surface.
Coughing, she began to scream from the pain in her back. She saw the water tinged with red and knew it was her own blood.
Kent saw this too and tried to take hold of the frightened girl, but she was too wild with pain, her arms and legs kicking and threatening to push them both under. In desperation he yelled, "Collar, stun!"
Staci's collar activated and her body suddenly went limp as she lost consciousness, allowing Kent to take hold of her and tow her towards the beach. As he swam he kept a sharp lookout for whatever it was that had hit her, but he didn't see it. He was worried that whatever it was it had poisoned the girl, for her reaction was far in excess of the injury to her back. He didn't want her to die.
He picked her up once they were in the shallows and carried her up the sand to where their clothes lay. He put her down and fumbled in his own pants for his phone. He called the shuttle.
"This is Kent, I'm on the beach with the girl," he said hurriedly. "Get down here with Lynn. Staci's been hurt by something in the ocean. She might be poisoned!"
While waiting he dressed, watching as Staci's breathing got slower. The collar was keeping her out though, which he thought was a good thing.
Lynn, along with two of the men, made it down the slope and Lynn immediately took out a medi-monitor from the medical kit she carried and strapped it to Staci's arm. She wasn't a member of Doctor Kelly's staff, but she did have training.
"Turn off the collar, Master," she ordered, knowing that the stun setting would interfere with the medi-monitor's diagnostics. Kent gave the command and Staci began to writhe with pain once more before Lynn could sedate her.
"What got her, Master?" she asked as she worked, not at all curious as to why Staci was nude.
"Something...in the water...something big?" Kent said, getting the shakes finally.
Lynn gave him an angry look. "You shouldn't have gone into the water, Master. We haven't cleared any of the marine life!"
"Sorry, I wasn't thinking," Kent admitted.
Lynn began an examination of Staci, checking on the medi-monitor as it analyzed her blood. Lynn started to look worried. "There's stuff here I don't like, Master," she said. "We need to get her up to the Mayflower as soon as we can!"
"Is she going to die?" Kent asked.
"Let's treat her as if she is, okay Master? Doctor Kelly needs to look at her, now!"
Kent nodded and pulled out his phone again. Doing something calmed him down and as he ordered one of the men up top to bring the shuttle down to the beach, his voice and his manner grew stronger. Soon he seemed like his usual self, and in minutes they were loading Staci aboard for the flight back into orbit. It was a two-hour flight though, due to where the Mayflower was when they launched. But Staci's condition was unchanged by the time they reached the ship, and they were able to get her to the medical pod right away.
Doctor Kelly immediately took over and evicted everyone but Bob McKinly, Alan Kent and his medical staff so he would have room to work. He wasn't nearly as worried after he did the blood work though, and was actually smiling as he programmed the drug sequencer for an antidote.
Bob, seeing this, asked what was going on.
"She's going to be fine Bob," said Kelly. "It’s nothing lethal, just very, very painful. An alkaloid from the creature got in her bloodstream, much like the rock fish on Earth but not as potent. I can neutralize it easily. She'll be back on her feet tomorrow."
Both Bob and Alan Kent smiled in relief. Kent slapped Bob on the shoulder, "Great news, hey Pal? I'll leave you to it; no doubt you'll need to take care of her for a bit."
"Yeah, thanks, Alan," said Bob, distracted.
Kent smiled and nodded. "I'm sorry I got her into this," he said.
Bob looked at him, "Really?"
Kent caught his meaning, "I'm talking about the accident."
The two powerful men stared at each other for a few moments, before Kent moved away. "I'm going back to the surface," he said.
Bob merely nodded and turned back to watch the Doctor work.
After a moment, Kent left them alone.
Staci opened her eyes. The light was dim and she was comfortably warm although there was a tightness across her back that told her foggy brain that she was wearing a skin grafter. She’d worn one before after crashing a trainer during her academy days, and it had kept her from having some pretty ugly scars on her left thigh, hip and side. But why she was wearing one now she couldn't quite recall. She was glad to feel that she wasn't alone in her sleep sack though, and sighed appreciatively as she held the warm body next to her, aware of their nude bodies pressed together.
She closed her eyes for a moment, content to just lay there until her next duty shift started, but as time went on things began to click inside her brain. She looked around trying to figure out just whose quarters she had ended up sleeping in, and eventually recognized them as belonging to Bob. That was when she remembered who Bob was and her blood ran cold for a moment as she realized what was going on. She started to shiver, but it passed quickly as she gained control of herself. Yes, this was the Mayflower, not the beach where she had been attacked. She had evidently survived, and the graft pack on her back was obviously the result of that incident.
Staci began to calm down, realizing that she was safe and whole...or at least, relatively safe. She stared at the back of the head of the man she was sharing her sleep sack with, and it was undoubtedly Bob McKinly. He was sleeping soundly, snoring slightly, his arm trapping one of hers against his hairy chest.
She could feel her entire body pressed against his, and yet she didn't feel quite as repulsed as she thought she should. She was pretty comfortable really. She realized that despite what Bob meant to her, her body still reacted to him as just a man, something to take pleasure in when it could. It was unnerving, yet...Staci couldn't decide just what was wrong with this moment.
Sure, he was sleeping naked with her as if they were lovers, which they were most certainly not...yet his being there, at least in a very basic way, was a comfort to her. She knew she was the kind of woman that always felt the security of having a man close to be a good thing, which was why she was seldom without a lover. She had felt so alone on this trip, that now, even though she knew who Bob was, she still found his presence at that moment to be something she needed.
She wondered if she would feel the same way if it had been Dick Janis she was sharing a sleep sack with, and decided that no way would she have still been in it by now if it had been. That man really repulsed her.
Staci sighed softly, not willing to wake the man. She wondered what the hell she was doing, enjoying the feel of him against her. Didn't she hate him? Did she?
She got an idea and gently tugged the arm wrapped across his chest downward, sliding it down his firm belly. She just wanted to pull her hand free, but it was stopped by the soft ball of flesh between his legs. She knew what it was, and her hand stopped moving.
Staci felt another shiver go through her body, but this time it wasn't fear. Her fingers, as if on their own accord, began to cup him in her hand, sliding over smooth skin and soft hair. She took him and gently let her fingers begin to massage him. She didn't know why she was doing this, but she did it anyway, manipulating the man who was manipulating her.
He groaned and she stopped, afraid she had wakened him, but he didn't stir, except in her hand where things were growing, so she continued. She kept it up for quite a while, her fingers almost still at times, her other hand trapped at her side. She brought him to full hardness and just let her touch move up and down him, keeping him that way.
At times Staci would almost doze off until a groan or a moan from her victim would jerk her awake. She kept telling herself to leave him alone, but she couldn't resist having him at her mercy for a while. She was so into it that she didn't notice that his eyes were now open, until he turned his head to look at her.
They froze, she with her hand around his manhood, and him staring into her eyes. Then, without a word, he reached down and moved her hand away from him, before unzipping the sleep sack and climbing out. His erection looked painfully hard after so much stimulation, and Staci's eyes were drawn to it.
"I should make you finish the job," he said quietly, looking at her.
She looked in his eyes and felt somewhat sexually flushed. She blushed and tried to look away, but he smiled. He pushed his legs back into the sack, this time facing her, and pushed close to her, pressing against her. She could feel his hairy chest rub against her nipples, sensitive with her arousal, and she placed a hand against his hip. He pushed a hand of his own around her bottom, cupping a cheek and holding her against him. Through all this she simply stared at him, mouth slightly open.
He raised a finger and touched her lips before running it along the line of her jaw, and he whispered in her ear, "I want you, do you want me?"
Staci's eyes looked into his, her lids half closed, her heart pumping hard. What did she want to do?
Almost unconsciously she pushed his hip down and away, before letting go so he could move up again after spreading her legs as much as the sack allowed. She closed her eyes as he slipped into her, and began to shiver with excitement.
Staci offered a little cry, wrapping her legs about him while he began to pump her slowly. It seemed to her that he was determined to make it last, and she didn't know if she wanted it to or not.
But the need was too strong in both of them, and they both began to pump faster, the sleep sack preventing them both from flying apart in the zero gravity.
Bob began to bite her neck, something he did during sex apparently, and he listened to Staci as she vocalized her rising passion.
Unable to stop, he orgasmed first, but he kept on pumping until he felt her shudder beneath him, her cries loud and full of feeling. He held her tightly, eyes closed, until the aftershocks were over and they began to come down.
He began to chuckle.
"What's so funny, Master?" Staci asked the head buried in her shoulder.
She got no answer, just the chuckle that slowly developed into a laugh.
Smiling, and almost laughing herself, Staci kept asking, and every time she did the laughing man would laugh even harder. But something was wrong, the laughter was too forced, too hard, and Staci began to get scared. All the good feelings she had gotten from the sex flew away from her and she felt trapped in the sack with this man. She struggled to get free but he held tightly on to her, not letting her go. She began punching him, biting him, anything to get away, but he seemed impervious to pain.
Then he raised his head and the face of Dick Janis stared back at her, mouth wide open in laughter, eyes full of hatred and madness.
She woke up suddenly, looking about in fright. She saw she wasn't alone, but it wasn't Janis or Bob. It was one of Doctor Kelly's nurses, a girl who introduced herself as Anna, and Staci saw she was still in the hospital pod. She was loosely tethered to a bed to stop her from floating away while she slept, and had no covers, her nude body on display. Anna smiled at her in a concerned way and came over to her.
"Bad dream?" she asked.
"Want me to give you something to help you sleep?"
"No..thanks...Master," she said, feeling foolish and vulnerable.
"Oh, don't worry about your collar, they get turned off in here while you're under treatment, Doctor's orders."
Staci nodded, and for the first time was aware of the skin grafter on her back, the thin pad conforming to the shape of her body. At least that part hadn't been a dream.
"Are you sure I can’t get you anything?" asked the nurse, who Staci could see wore a red collar with her uniform.
"Er...a blanket?" Staci suggested.
The nurse smiled, "Sure. I know you're not used to all the nudity yet."
"Can we talk?" Staci asked, seeing a golden moment to get some information.
Anna however shook her head, "No, you need rest. Just lie here quietly until the Doctor sees you again. I'll get that blanket."
Disappointed, Staci did as she was told, although the blanket was a big improvement. She thought about her dream and what it might mean. Was she feeling things for Bob McKinly? She couldn't see how she could...yet...
She curled up and lay thinking about him for a while.
The next day she was sent back to work, but not until she was asked a bunch of questions by Lynn, Doctor Kelly, and a small man named Laslo, who was a marine biologist. She told them all she could remember, but all they told her in return was that she was perfectly fine. So Staci was released into Bob's care and he put her back to work piloting the shuttle with orders to stay out of the water.
Staci looked at him to see if he was concerned about her injuries and she saw that he was. This encouraged her, and she went back to work smiling.
The move was almost ready to begin by this point, the large pods that had traveled here from Earth attached to the Mayflower's spine were being made ready for launch. They would be flown down three at a time and placed according to a map created by Kent and the surveyors. The landing plan was important because for most of the pods, once they landed they would not be able to lift off again. Looking at them, it still seemed incredible to Staci that they could fly at all, but she had witnessed a test back on Earth where a fully loaded pod had been flown to the surface from orbit, landing within inches of its target spot. So Staci knew it could be done. She was just glad that she wasn't one of the pod pilots.
The first three pods to go were the power station, the heavy equipment pod, and the heavy supplies pod. None of these pods carried sleeping colonists, but they were essential for the creation of the community. The heavy digging equipment in the equipment pod was needed to terra-form the site and to prepare it for the rest of the pods. There would be a lot of earth-moving going on, and they had just a few days to get it done. The power station had to land as close to the river as it could, so it could draw water using pipes in the heavy supplies pod. The water it drew served two functions. First, it provided the fuel for the hydrogen extraction cells that would generate electrical power for the community. Second, the power station was also the water treatment plant, and all the community's fresh water would be processed there.
As each landing spot was made ready, another pod would launch and make its way down to the surface. By this point the community was committed, the plateau would be their home.
There was an excitement in the air that even Staci felt when the first pod launched. This was what she had come here for, to be a part of the first interstellar human community. She could almost forget the collar around her neck, and the future to which she thought she was going to be subjected. She waited with the others on the flight deck, tracking the three pods as they entered the planet's atmosphere and homed-in on the transponders placed on the plateau. She cheered with the rest as the first pod landed and even traded a hug with Bob McKinly and Lynn before getting back to work. She felt good for the first time in a long time, and she began to wonder if in fact things were as bad as she’d feared. Thinking about it, the only bad things that had happened to her happened right at the beginning when Dick Janis stripped and raped her. She would never forgive him for that, nor could she forgive the attitudes of these people for thinking such actions acceptable. But afterwards, even though they still forced things upon her, they also went out of their way to be nice to her, to be nice to each other. She saw no oppression; at least what she had been taught was oppression, of the women she had met. In fact, they seemed quite happy.
Maybe, Staci thought as she worked, Kent was right. Perhaps if she accepted, or at least opened her mind a little, she might find some sort of peace here. But she could not let go, not completely, no matter how well they treated her. Being a slave, subject to someone else's will, was just not Staci Mann. And as the pods continued to launch, she decided to just bide her time until she could either free herself, or convince someone else to free her. To that end, she considered Bob McKinly to whom she had been officially 'given'. He liked her, she could see that. Maybe, just maybe, he was the weak spot she could manipulate to get her freedom. She watched the landings and started to plan.
The flight deck was deserted except for Alan Kent and Bob McKinly. Bob sat quietly at the co-pilot's console, closing down the Mayflower computer, one of the last steps before abandoning the ship to orbit by itself through the black void.
Already he and his team had closed down the rest of the ship, powered down the environmental systems, turned off everything that had to be turned off, and vacated to space every compartment on the ship except for the flight deck level, which would remain at life support minimums.
All the other colonists were now on the surface of the planet, along with all the pods. There was no one left now but he and Kent, with Dick Janis and Staci waiting for them in the shuttle which was docked to the port right behind the flight deck. Once Kent was finished, they would leave, and no one would need to ever come up here again until the next scheduled ship service time, or unless the powerful relay transmitter that sent and received signals too and from Earth needed servicing.
It was this transmitter that Kent was about to use. He was in the pilot's seat, dictating a message to be sent to Earth in just a few minutes. He detailed the arrival of the ship, the search they made of the planet, the successful insertion of all the colony's pods, and his hopes for the community. He didn't mention anything about the submissive roles the women would be playing in this community, nor anything about Staci Mann's involuntary acceptance of her role. Earth, in his opinion, didn't need to know.
Bob watched him as Kent finished up his speech, and then coded the message, along with gigabites of scientific material about the planet, for its trip to Earth, an eight-year journey. That done, he shut down the rest of the board and his job was complete.
Kent was looking at him. "You going to miss her?" he asked quietly, indicating the ship around them.
Bob looked around the cabin, now dark and silent except for a few standby lights on the console. He thought about the trip so far, and the time he had spent training for the flight out from Earth. He shook his head.
"No, not really," he said. "the Mayflower was only a means to a purpose, and I was the one best qualified to command. But this isn't my life. I'm no career astronaut like Staci was. I'm ready to settle down on ground that doesn't move."
Kent nodded. He reached out to touch the console, "Oh, I don't know. I'll miss her, I think. I spent a lot of money on her, saw her at her birth in the eyes of my engineers, and took her through her teething pains as she was built in orbit. She has been a focus of my life over the past five years...heh...twenty, if you count the time I've been sleeping. Yeah...I think I'll miss her."
"Well," said Bob, pushing himself out of his seat, "you'd better hurry up and say goodbye. The last shuttle leaves in five minutes!"
Kent chuckled, "I'll be right there."
Bob nodded and headed aft, leaving his leader behind. He passed through the flight deck hatch and through another compartment before ducking into the shuttle.
At her position in the pilot’s seat, Staci looked back at him, her face slightly scared for some reason. She glanced at Dick Janis, who sat in a seat in his customary way, with his arms folded.
"What's going on?" Bob asked, concerned.
"Hell, Bob," Janis said with a yawn, "I think your bitch is afraid of me!" He grinned.
Bob pushed past him and settled into the co-pilot's seat. "You okay?" he asked the girl.
Staci looked back at Janis for a second, before turning and nodding slightly. She focused on her console and tried to ignore Bob as he watched her.
A minute later, Kent joined them and Janis went to close the hatch. They all buckled in and Staci deftly undocked the shuttle for the trip back to the surface.
They all rode in silence: Staci because she didn't want to talk; Bob because he was thinking of their future; Kent because he was going over the jobs they still had to do on the surface; and Janis because he was asleep. A somber group made even more somber by the weather over the colony. Rain had moved in so Staci had to fly with poor visibility as she made her final approach.
She put the shuttle down behind the maintenance shop which was where it was supposed to stay until needed, and made a show of spooling down the engines. She had a plan, not a brilliant one, but a plan all the same. She figured she would take her time shutting everything off. The others would leave, and she would be left alone. She could then quickly close the hatch, power the shuttle back up again, and then head back to the Mayflower. She wouldn't be able to escape the planet, but she could at least put herself back into hibernation. Maybe, just maybe, another ship from Earth would eventually arrive, and she would be rescued.
But, her plan only lasted less than a minute.
"Staci," said Bob, standing up, the two other men getting up as well, "out of your seat."
"I have to finish closing down the engines and prepping the shuttle for its down time, Master," she said, looking up at Bob with a hint of worry in her face. "Why don't you guys get going and I'll meet you outside, Master."
Janis snorted. "Cheeky bitch. Does she think we're stupid?" he said.
Bob gave him a look and returned his attention to Staci. His expression was calm and firm. "Staci, you know we can’t leave you here alone."
Staci closed her eyes, her plan of escape evaporating. It hadn't been much, but it had been something to hold onto.
"Do I have to repeat an order?" Bob said firmly but slowly.
She shook her head, "No...Master." She got out of her seat and stood in the middle of the cabin, her eyes on the deck.
Janis moved past her to finish the job she had started, but he kept an eye on her. Near the hatch, Alan Kent also watched while getting a bag out from a nearby locker.
"Strip," Bob ordered.
Staci glanced up at him, then at the two other men, before reaching for the fastener of her jumpsuit. Bob and the other men watched as she took of her only item of clothing, stripping herself bare before them. Kicking the garment away she stood with her hands clenched at her sides, trying not to cover up.
"Turn around," Bob said, and after a second Staci did so, revealing the new skin on her back that would darken and blend into her natural skin tone before another week would pass.
Kent tossed Bob the bag and from it the former captain of the Mayflower pulled some rope. He stepped up behind Staci and proceeded to bind her wrists behind her, surprising her.
"Staci," he said quietly, "we are about to step out onto a new planet, a new home for both of us. We leave behind many of the things we used to call normal, used to call home, and instead embrace what we have brought with us, and what we hope to find here. I know, that for you, this separation is going to be hardest, because you never expected to live the life we need you to live. So, in our opinion, it is vitally important that this change, from old world to new, be as complete and as marked as we can make it." He ran the ropes up her arms and started to bind her elbows together, making her wince.
"What…?" she started to ask, but he hushed her.
"No, don't talk. Just listen. In stripping you of your clothing and belongings we are telling you that everything you thought was yours to bring you comfort and security, is no more your concern. Your only comfort and security comes from me now, and from the other members of this community. You will be cared for, trusted even, but only if you trust us and agree to live by the terms we demand of you. If you don't, if you continue to struggle, then you will still live by our terms, only it will be under the lash, where pain is your constant companion. I don't think you want that." He bent low and started to tie her feet together.
"When we leave this shuttle and step out onto the planet for the last time, you will go out naked, taking nothing with you but your restraints, symbols of my control over your life, symbols of your submission to me. How long these restraints stay on is dependent on you. We went easy on you for most of the flight, but from here on out you will learn to live the way we want...the way I want you to live." He finished tying her feet and stood up again, fighting the unaccustomed gravity. He walked around to look the frightened, bound girl in the eyes.
Tied as she was, she looked beautiful to him, and he hoped that some day, she would see that beauty for herself.
"Collar, training aides off," he said.
"Training aides are off," repeated the device.
"Staci, the collar can’t shock you now, no matter what you say. This is your last chance to speak as a free woman. Once we go out that door, you'll be punished for any disobedience. Do you have anything to say?"
Staci looked up at him, shocked, embarrassed, humiliated, scared. The ropes dug into her flesh and her shoulders already ached because of her bound elbows. She’d never been treated like this before, and she was at a total loss. She could only think of one thing to say.
Bob blinked, his expression not one of satisfaction, as was Kent's, or of animal lust, like Dick Janis'. Bob looked somewhat sad. Yet there was a iron will behind that expression that could not be hidden. Staci could see it, and it frightened her.
"Why?" he said eventually. "The answer to that can only be discovered by yourself. Anything I say now will not make any sense to you. Now, it is time to go." He lifted his hands and in them Staci saw a gag. She turned her head but Bob easily got it into her mouth, strapping on with little effort. He then bent low and picked her up, tossing her over his left shoulder.
Staci started to cry, the undignified position adding to her humiliation. She knew she would be leaving the shuttle backwards, her ass presented first to the world, her naked body unprotected from the elements. She tried to hold on to her humanity, her rights as a human being, but she felt little like a human as she was carried out into the rain.
As a respected astronaut she had boarded the Mayflower back in Earth orbit, a strong woman, an equal among her male peers, full of confidence. As a naked slave girl she was now carried onto the planet surface, subjugated to all men, no longer an equal.
Her tears were invisible in the rain.