The lights in Linda Slater's cabin came on, as they were programmed to do, and along with a gentle beeping awoke her much earlier than her assigned schedule suggested. Even though it was 18:00 (6 PM) she still preferred to consider it to be “morning”, although in space, “morning” and “night” no longer had any meaning. Schedules for the 300 passengers and crew were divided into shifts, each staggered so that the load on the kitchen and recreation areas would be distributed. During most of the voyage there was nothing to distinguish one time period from another. No day, no night, no weekends, no Friday nights. A few “days” at the beginning, and a few at the very end of the voyage were the exception.
They were due to drop the final quantum level at 19:37 hours and she wanted to be sure to secure a seat in the observatory room. The deep space journey had taken over six months, referenced to Earth time, most of which had been in ‘hyperspace’ where the observation window was useless.
To say she had cabin fever was an understatement. Six months where there was nothing to see but the grey metal interior of the ship had taken its toll: she was yearning to see stars, or anything that was outside of this giant hula-hoop that was carrying them through space. The most precious commodity in space is, well, space and there is damn little of it to spare on an interstellar ship. The corridor that ran the loop of the ship had barely enough room for two people to pass. Her cabin had a writing desk, a chair, a closet for her personal effects and a bunk: it was smaller than a cell in a federal penitentiary. At least she was traveling business class, there were those who had to share a bunk with someone on an opposite shift.
The ship was actually quite simple, and didn’t look anything at all like what the fiction writers of past era’s had imagined. It wasn’t a sleek smooth rocket, as it never entered an atmosphere. It wasn’t boxy or pointy or any shape that resembled the characteristics that used to be associated with a “ship”. It resembled a giant bicycle wheel. There were countless tiny “spokes” along with four elevator tubes that led to a central hub where the command center was located, and the cargo bay for items that didn’t need gravity. There was also a recreation room where the passengers could play around in zero gravity. And, of course, the docking station.
The ship had very little in the line of engines of its own. Well, it might be a misnomer to call an anti-matter reactor engine “little”, the term more accurately applied to its contribution to the ships velocity through space. The reactor’s main purpose was to generate electricity: lots of it. A small portion of the power generated went to the daily needs of the crew and passengers, but the bulk was feeding the ion impulse engines that was the ‘axle’ of the giant wheel. At full thrust the ion impulse engine would develop a force that was roughly 1/3 that of Earth’s gravity.
Thrusters located on the outer rim would control the spin rate, which created the artificial gravity in the “tube”. Longitudinal thrusters on the four spokes could provide minor adjustments to the ships orientation.
While the impulse engine would provide continuous thrust for the entire voyage, its contribution was insignificant compared to the forces required to make the quantum leap into what laymen still referred to as “hyperspace”. The scientists and engineers cringed when that term was used, but centuries of books and movies had coined the term long before the actual physics were understood.
If limited to any form of thrust based acceleration a ship would require over a year to reach the point where the quantum jump can take place, approximately 90% of light speed. Specially trained astronauts might accomplish that in half the time but they would be subjected to twice Earth’s gravity the entire time. Even at that rate a voyage to Alpha Centauri, Earth’s nearest star neighbor, would require almost 8 years of travel time. And they would be at Alpha Centauri, a remarkably boring star system.
The advancement that allowed practical interstellar travel were the planet based Gravitational Accelerators (GA). A thrust based force, such as the ion impulse engine, results in a force against the ship, which in turn pushes against the occupants (people) to accelerate. Gravity, however, effects everything in its field equally, and as long as nothing impedes the motion (‘free fall’) a person or structure won’t feel the force. Thus a ship can be accelerated with a force many times stronger than Earth’s gravity.
A GA on the moon had pulled the ship out of Earth orbit and into free space. A GA on Mars joined in and veered the ship off towards Pluto, where yet another GA directed it off towards the Hasbold system. A drawback of G.A.s was that the alignment of the planets dictated the direction a ship could go. Smaller ships, such as the scout ships and un-manned communication pods could use G.A.s located on various other “dwarf planets” or asteroids and could achieve much higher speeds and have suitable trajectories at much more frequent intervals. But the cargo and passenger ships choices were rather limited.
Three weeks after the ship cleared Earth’s orbit it had reached the point where a quantum jump was feasible. The massive explosion of energy unleashed by the antimatter reactor wasn’t directed as ‘thrust’, but rather just raw energy. The energy was far greater than could be used, radiated in the form of heat, or otherwise diverted away. One of the laws of physics that had remained was that energy can’t be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another. Momentum can be changed into heat. Static can be changed into dynamic. Base level can be increased to a higher quantum level. The physics equation satisfied itself by having the source of energy (the ship) jump to the 5th quantum level, which resulted in travel at approximately 16 times the speed of light.
The beauty and elegance of the physics was lost on Linda. At this point, she wanted off the ship even more than she had wanted on, and had wanted it for a much longer period of time. Getting on had been quite unexpected, and more from being in the right place at the right time. Bookings on interstellar transports are normally reserved years in advance. A booking would be secured and then an executive or highly trained technician would be selected well ahead of time so that all the proper arrangements could be made.
Linda was a “rising star” in her company, a trade analyst who had proven herself multiple times over. So when a sister company had to cancel their plans to send someone to Hasbold, just five days before launch, they offered it up to Interstellar Mining Corporation (I.M.C.), who snapped it up immediately. The big question was who could leave on such short notice?
The answer was Linda. She wasn’t married, had no children, not in a serious relationship. Her modest apartment was easily packed up and the belongings put into long term storage. Her normal job duties often had her corresponding with counterparts on Hasbold so she at least knew the basics of proper protocol and legal requirements. The customs and social aspects were something that she would have to learn from a book during the three month voyage.
The biggest problem was that word that she was coming would only arrive at Hasbold a mere 2 days before the ship reached orbit. Worse, it would arrive on the equivalent of their “weekend” which meant that there would be only a few hours for the Hasbold office of I.M.C. to make arrangements before she arrived at the space port. Linda could only hope that arrangements could be made on such short notice.
Linda was surprised to find the observatory room empty. Well, it was still four hours until the drop from the second quantum level down to base, and there were much more comfortable places to spend idle time. Linda selected a seat in the center of the room and settled in with her notebook computer to spend the time reading.
It was the arrival of a number of other passengers that alerted her that drop out was imminent. While raising to higher quantum levels required an extraordinary amount of energy, dropping levels was much easier, and in fact required some amount of energy to avoid dropping before it was intended. The drops from the 5th to second quantum levels were unremarkable, it was the second down to base that had the light show.
The ship’s ion engine had been thrusting in the reverse direction for some time now, pushing them closer and closer to the instability point. At precisely 19:37 the “quantum physics” became unstable and Newtonian physics took over. This happened, quite intentionally, very close to the sun such that the sun’s gravitational forces would act to slow the ship further, dropping its speed significantly and ensuring it was safely away from the warp instability point.
During quantum travel, “light speed” no longer has meaning, and thus any of what would be considered “light” from outside the ship has no meaning. In other words, there are no stars visible. At the instability point the ship passes through a quantum “leap” and suddenly it is back in a realm where light does have meaning. The ship is traveling nearly at light speed, however, which creates an effect similar to “Doppler” with sound. The classic example of Doppler is the train signal, as heard from a passenger on the train. As the train approaches the ringing bell of a train crossing the bell increases in pitch, but at the moment the train passes the effect is reversed, and the sound decreases in pitch. A similar effect with the light: Stars ahead of you get an increase in “frequency”, or color shift to ultra-vilolet, while those behind you get a shift towards infra-red. Stars to the side are just streaks.
The effect was most dramatic at the instant of instability and diminished rapidly as the ship slowed. There were “OOOHs” and “AHHHS” just like during a fireworks show, except there was no “grand finale” but rather a gradual tapering off. In less than an hour many of the passengers had filed out, and not long after that Linda was once again alone. They were just stars now, just like you might see anywhere, but Linda was content to look at them.
A G.A. on the solar systems outer most planet kicked in to slow the ship even more and provide course corrections towards Hasbold. Linda knew that their destination had to be one of those tiny dots of light but it was impossible to pick it out at this time. It was her meal time, and missing it would mean going without until the next meal time so she reluctantly gathered her things and made her way to the dining hall.
Twenty shifts later she was waiting in her room to be called to the docking station. When the call came she grabbed her “carry-on” and made her way to the elevator. Some people enjoyed this ride, and would do it for fun, but Linda hated it. At the top the ride was no different than any other elevator, but the artificial gravity decreased as it neared the hub until at the bottom there was weightless-ness. A crew member was on hand to help her make her way to the docking station where a planetary shuttle was docked.
She was pleased to see that there that in the seat next to her was her traveling companion and co-worker, Tom Petersen. Technically, he was now her boss as he was assuming control of I.M.C.’s holdings on Hasbold. While they had never worked together back on Earth, the three month voyage had given them plenty of opportunity to get to know each other and they got along quite well. Tom had been able to spend over a year preparing for his trip and was much more knowledgeable about local customs so Linda would follow his lead. There was the customary announcements, the flight crew demonstrating emergency procedures, and then the door was closed and sealed. A few clunks as the shuttle disengaged from the docking port, numerous mild jerks as it maneuvered a safe distance away, and then a gut wrenching acceleration as the shuttle accelerated away from the ship she had spent the last three months on.
The next stop was to the space station in geosynchronous orbit. The station was tethered to the planet below by cables 25,000 miles in length. While the station was technically in the neutral force zone, another cable extending an additional 5,000 miles attached to a counterweight that allowed for the space elevator to run up and down the cable. Long gone were the days of burning tons of fuel to blast a rocket into space.
Linda might have enjoyed the descent down to the planet’s space port had it not been for her fighting the rising nausea. She had taken the medication that had been provided but it was not completely effective. At least she didn’t need to use the “barf mask”, as it was commonly referred to. Once on the ground she made her way to a restroom, where she was able to empty the contents of her stomach into the toilet in a more conventional way. Afterward, she washed her face and brushed her teeth and rejoined Tom Petersen at the arrival station.
“Feeling better?” Tom asked, the amusement obvious in his voice. Once Linda joined him they took their place in line for arrival processing.
“Some.” Linda replied. “You are lucky it doesn’t bother you.”
“I went down to the hub almost every shift.” Tom explained. “I did puke my guts out the first few times, but after a while you get used to it.”
Linda thought about that. Yes, it might have been better to acclimate yourself to the effects of weightlessness when you could simply return to your bunk and lie down. The knowledge that she might have a very long day ahead of her before a bed was available was not a pleasant thought at the moment.
“Any word from corporate?” Linda asked, inquiring about the local office of I.M.C.
“Not a lot.” Tom replied. “We are being met by an agent but no word on accommodations for you. Worst case you will be in a hotel for a bit, shouldn’t be a big deal. Here, go ahead.” Tom motioned Linda to go first when the arrival agent became available.
Interstellar arrival is actually much more streamlined than international arrival back on Earth. For one, the extreme cost of getting anything into space means that they have a detailed list of exactly what every passenger will have with them. Another is that if you can afford to be on an interstellar transport, they aren’t going to question your credentials. Thus, it was only a few minutes before Linda had been cleared and moved to the main lobby of the space port.
She knew that someone would meet them, but she had no idea who. That problem was solved the same way it has been solved for centuries: A man holding a sign that simply read “Mr. Petersen”.
“Ah, you must be our escort!” Linda said, extending her hand in greeting. “I am Linda Slater, I trust you received word of my arrival?”
The man looked at the extended hand for a second, then cautiously extended his own hand. In the awkwardness of the moment Linda realized that she had committed her first mistake, that handshakes were not the custom on Hasbold.
“Mr. Osglove, and welcome to Hasbold.” He said “I got the message just moments ago, I am afraid. But don’t fear, I have people working on the logistics as we speak.” Linda watched as Mr. Osglove’s attention diverted from her to something behind her. “And you must be Mr. Petersen, welcome, welcome!”
Both Tom and Mr. Osglove pressed their hands together, as if in prayer, and bowed their heads slightly, the common greeting on Hasbold.
“Mr. Osglove, so nice to meet you at last.” Said Tom.
Tom’s reply had piqued Linda’s curiosity a bit, as it was obvious that the two had communicated beforehand. Simple text messages were routinely sent between Earth and Hasbold, and could be exchanged in as little as 4 days, but there was no such opportunity while onboard the interstellar flight.
“And this must be Kerrie!” Tom continued, diverting his attention to the tall, slender women that stood patiently behind Mr. Osglove. The standard greeting was exchanged again. “You look even better than your picture!”
Linda watched the exchange with confusion, as Tom’s demeanor towards the woman was most inappropriate for business.
“So pleased to meet you, Sir.” Kerrie replied, her smile brightening her face.
“If you are ready then we should go, I have arranged for a transport pod and it costs a fortune to keep one waiting.” Mr. Osglove said, urging the party onward. Without hesitation Kerrie picked up both Tom’s and Linda’s carry-on bags.
“The transport pods technically carry four, but with your carry-on bags it will be too much.” Mr. Osglove explained as they reached the curbside loading zone. “I’ll call for a second pod, but it may take a while to arrive. You and I should leave immediately before the first pod times out. We can talk business on the way. Kerrie and Linda can follow.”
Tom looked to Linda, who nodded agreement.
“As you wish.” Tom said as the two men entered the waiting pod. Linda watched as the pod doors closed and it merged into the flow of traffic. Once the pod was out of sight she returned her attention to Kerri.
“So you work for Mr. Osglove?” Linda asked.
“On, no!” Kerrie replied. “He is just acting as the broker.”
“Broker for what?”
“Slave placement.” Kerrie said. “Mr. Petersen is buying my penal contract and will become my master. Well, that is as long as he meets the requirements.”
“So you are a penal slave, I take it?” Linda asked. She was aware of existence of penal slaves as it had been part of her corporate training as there were some trade issues that could arise if ‘slave’ labor was used in certain areas of their mining operation, but she had never actually encountered any such cases.
“Yes.” Kerri confirmed. “Level two.”
“I have heard of this, but didn’t know it was common enough that I would ever encounter it.” Linda said.
“Not all that common, about one in 500” Kerrie said.
“One out of every 500 citizens is a slave?”
“Our crime rate is lower than yours” Kerrie countered defensively. “I checked, your criminal rate is close to one in every 200. You just lock your criminals up, keep them out of sight, out of mind. Here, only the most violent criminals are locked up, the rest of us remain as productive members of society”
“On Earth freedom is considered sacred. Slavery is just wrong!” Linda insisted.
“So why then do you lock people up? We consider freedom to be precious here as well.” Kerrie agreed. “And only those who have shown that they cannot live by the rules of society lose that. Ah, our pod is here!”
The sleek, bullet shaped cylinder pulled up to the loading zone, the gull wing doors opening as it slowed to a stop. Kerrie grabbed Linda’s bag and bid her to enter. Linda sat in the rear seat, facing forward while Kerrie took a forward seat, facing back. Kerrie helped Linda get her seatbelt fastened as the gull wing doors closed and the pod started rolling again.
The first few minutes of the trip were on surface streets, where the pod had to contend with surface vehicles of all sorts. Other than not having a human driver it wasn’t much different than a taxi ride in any city back home. But when the pod reached an access point to the underground transit system all similarity ended.
Bright daylight and blue skies were replaced with dim artificial light and grey concrete walls, and soon even that was difficult to see as the interior lights of the pod came on. Linda felt her ears pop as the pod pressurized and felt the bumps and jerks as the pod detached from the wheeled undercarriage. A conveyer carried the now wheel-less pod along to the air lock and then after a brief pause the magnetic levitation system was accelerating the pod into the transit system. Further conversation was suspended until the pod reached cruising speed and the acceleration forces disappeared.
“How long is the trip?” Linda asked.
“About 100 kilometers in the tube” Kerrie answered. “Which will take about 15 minutes. Then about ten kilometers of surface travel, which will probably take another 30 minutes.”
Kerrie did the calculations in her head: that was 400 Kilometers an hour in the tube, impressive!
“You don’t approve.” Kerrie said solemnly as the silence continued. “About my penal contract. I was warned that Earthlings might have objections. I am sorry if I make you uncomfortable.”
“It is just so foreign to my culture.” Linda explained.
“This is our way.” Kerrie said softly. A long silence followed, through which Kerrie shifted uneasily in her seat as Linda avoided making eye contact.
“Vandalism and juvenile delinquency.” Kerrie stated at last.
“What?” Linda asked.
“My crime.” Kerrie explained. “I assume you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask.”
“Juvenile delinquency?” Linda asked in amazement. “How long ago was that?”
“Twenty years.” Kerrie replied. “I was 15, got in with the wrong crowd. We got a bit carried away one night, broke into a dwelling where no one was home and found their liquor supply. We really trashed the place, and then got so drunk we passed out and were caught the next morning when the owners came home. “
“Twenty years, for something you did as a kid?” Linda exclaimed.
“No, as a juvi I was placed in a training facility until I turned 20. Not much different than what you call a boarding school, except they are very quick to apply corporal punishment. But you come out with a trade level education and a clean start.”
“And then I re-offended.” Kerrie continued after a moment of silence. “A trivial offense, would have been a minor fine for someone without a record. But I was just months out of school so it was considered a ‘breach of contract’, and thus there was no leniency.”
“How long is your sentence?”
“Penal slaves have a minimum sentence but there is no maximum.” Kerrie explained. “A master can keep a slave as long as he wants, or sell them to a new master. If a master wishes to relinquish his claim a petition to the courts can be made for a pardon, but there are still a lot of conditions: slave must be employed, have some financial base, a place to live, etc. It happens frequently, once the minimum period has expired. A slave with a good paying job can buy their own way to freedom. Occasionally, a master will simply give the slave their freedom as a reward for good service. But the most common is having a family member purchase a slave’s contract.”
“But not your family?”
“I haven’t wanted them to.” Kerrie said. “It would be a financial burden on them, and I am happy where I am. Plus, if I am released and I re-offend again, well, the consequences can be far greater.”
“I can’t believe that Tom is getting involved.” Linda said.
“It is fairly common for interstellar executives to be a master. A typical stay is 5 years, and then they cycle home. Too short for a meaningful long term relationship, too long to expect them to be celibate.”
“A sex slave then.” Linda groaned as the realization hit her.
“No, I am not a prostitute!” Kerrie said indignantly. ‘That would be a level three or greater. Mine will be a one master, one slave domestic arrangement. My master will be responsible for my discipline as well as all my basic needs. In exchange he can assign duties about the residence and is entitled to 50% of any income I might earn. Technically, sexual acts cannot be demanded or forced but they are generally expected in a level one or two arrangement. Which suits me fine, as I have needs. In most aspects it is no different than what you call marriage.”
“So what then?” Linda asked. “House pet? Bed warmer? Maid? “
“More than just that.” Kerrie assured her. “I have a job, which I will continue to work at if my master wishes. Or he could have me work for him; I can be quite useful as an executive assistant. Or, if he would rather I just stay at home, well, that is his prerogative. “
“You wouldn’t want to stay home?” Linda asked. Kerrie’s tone had made it obvious that the choice was undesired.
“It can be like being under house arrest.” Kerrie explained, and then in a more sheepish voice. “And if I am not kept busy, I tend to get into trouble.”
“So what form does the discipline take?” Linda asked.
“It can vary, and is specified in the slave’s contract. A master cannot withhold food, water or shelter and must provide basic security and medical, but otherwise it is whatever is arranged between the master, slave and courts. There is a court appointed advocate that reviews the punishment book from time to time to ensure that the guidelines are followed.”
“Punishment book?” Linda asked.
“Like these.” Kerrie said, as she dug into her handbag and pulled out two hardbound notebooks. “This one is from my last master.” Kerrie continued as she passed a well-worn notebook across. “And this is for my new master.” The second notebook appeared to be new, with no noticeable creases in the binding.
Linda accepted the notebooks and flipped open the ‘new’ one. Only the first few pages contained any writing. The pages that were written upon had journal like entries: a date followed by an infraction: ‘Late for work’, ‘Volume on entertainment system too loud, neighbor complained” and similar comments.
Linda swapped books and quickly thumbed through the book from her previous master. The book was three quarters full, and contained writing from several different hands. She let the book fall open to a random page and read carefully. In what was obviously Kerrie’s hand there would be one or more offenses listed, and then a brief description of a punishment and then a signature, obviously from her master and next to it were Kerrie’s initials. Occasionally there would be an additional signature, with a name printed below it, and Linda became aware that these were on the more serious infractions. A horizontal line would be drawn below the signatures and the process would repeat.
Failed to have dinner ready on time.
Spanked, over the knee, 25 times. <signature>
Late to work.
Spanked, over the knee, 25 times.
Paddled until crying, approximately 50 swats
Stood in corner, 30 minutes <signature>
Rude to guest.
Paddled 100 times.
20 strokes of the cane (minor skin breakage)
Clamp on tongue, 10 minutes <signature>
Witness <name> <signature>
“You get caned?” Linda asked.
“For some medium level offenses.” Kerri said. “There are other punishments that are worse.”
“I have a small cage that I can be locked up in, sometimes for a week at a time. Even worse if the cage is placed in a dark closet. It drives me insane.” Kerrie said softly. “It hasn’t been used in a long time, but the cage is kept around as a reminder.”
“And there is a witness?”
“I have the right to request one for any punishment.” Kerrie replied. “I usually don’t, but my last master insisted for any punishment that might leave marks. We had a neighbor who was happy to oblige, but now I will need to find someone new.”
Before Linda could make any response a warning light flashed yellow in the pod and a mechanical voice announced “Prepare for deceleration”. Kerrie quickly took her notebooks back and placed them securely in her handbag.
Moments later the forces on the pod were the opposite of when they started. Linda, who was facing forward and initially had the forces push her back into her seat was now experiencing the opposite forces which were attempting to throw her out of the seat if it weren’t for the seatbelt passing across her chest.
“Wow, that is a hard stop!” Linda complained once the forces slacked.
“Regenerative braking!” Kerrie exclaimed, with a bit of pride in her voice. “The system retrieves almost 80% of the energy during the stop. With the tube in a near vacuum there is very little wind resistance, and the magnetic levitation has nearly zero resistance so travel is very efficient!”
“You seem very knowledgeable” Linda remarked.
“Oh, sorry!” Kerrie apologized as she removed her punishment book and made a quick note. “I work for the transit authority, and tend to annoy people with such detail. Bad habit of mine.”
There were some minor bumps and lurches as the pod cleared the air lock and was mated with an undercarriage. Linda blinked as the pod emerged from the underground and daylight flooded the pod. They were now in a downtown area, with skyscraper office buildings towering above ground level shops. Pods, taxies, delivery trucks and an occasional personal vehicle crowded the street while pedestrians crowded the sidewalks.
As the pod made its way out of the downtown area the office buildings were replaced with apartments, but still towered high above street level shops. For all the size of this planet the usable land mass was actually quite small and little of it was wasted.
The autonomous vehicle made its way to a designated passenger loading zone and stopped, opening the gull wing doors as it gently came to rest. Kerrie stepped out, then turned back to grab out the luggage and after double checking to ensure nothing was left behind pressed the “release” button on the outside console. The gull wing doors swiftly closed and the pod merged back into traffic.
“A direct entrance is around the corner” Kerrie explained. “But it is actually closer to enter through the strip mall. This is a good a place as any to pick up whatever you might need for a nightly meal, so it is just as well.”
The crowds diminished only slightly as they entered the mall that made up the ground floor. Kerrie expertly weaved through the remaining throngs of people to the bank of elevators. After a brief wait the silver doors parted and Kerrie ushered Linda inside. Kerrie pushed the button for the 23rd floor, and when the “Authentication Required” light came on she waved her ID card at the panel. The doors closed and the elevator started its ascent, followed a moment later by Linda’s stomach.
“Uggh!” Linda exclaimed. The nausea that she had felt from the shuttle had not completely abated and she was a bit more sensitive than normal. “That moves fast!”
“There is a freight elevator that moves slower, if you prefer” Kerrie offered.
“No, I’ll get used to it.” Linda assured her.
After an equally disturbing end of the ascent the doors opened onto a hallway that served as the reception for no more than four apartments. Kerrie led them to the last apartment on the right, and after waving her ID past the door console ushered Linda inside.
The view was breath taking. The entry to the apartment put them immediately into the main entertaining room, which had large picture windows on two sides providing a panoramic view of the city. Tom Petersen and Mr. Osglove were conversing in the corner and turned as Linda and Kerrie entered.
“Ah” Mr. Osglove remarked. “The second pod must have come quickly; we just barely got here ourselves.”
“Yes, we were fortunate.” Kerrie replied.
“I am sure you two must be tired.” Mr. Osglove said to Tom and Linda. “Arrival day can be quite exhausting! Linda, I have managed to secure another apartment in this building, but it is a few floors lower. All the arrangements have been made and I can escort you there in just a bit. But first, there is a bit of business to attend to. Kerrie, your punishment books, please.”
Kerrie stepped forward, pulling the two hard bound notebooks from her handbag.
“If you are not too tired to take care of the initial punishment we can get this squared away now.” Mr. Osglove said. “If you would prefer, it could be done another day, but I can’t allow Kerrie to reside with you until the sale is completed. I will need to bring Kerrie back at a later time.”
“Oh, now is fine!” Tom said enthusiastically.
“Initial punishment?” Linda asked in alarm.
“Yes, it is part of the seller’s requirements.” Mr. Osglove replied. “All the infractions that have not been punished since Kerrie’s last owner was able to deal with her need to be dealt with prior to taking possession. The seller has reserved the right to revoke the sale contract if it is felt that the punishment was inappropriate: either too lenient or too harsh.”
“As you can see, Kerrie’s previous owner has made all her punishment equipment available as well.” Mr. Osglove continued, motioning towards a collection of items that were at the far end of the room. “For convenience sake, we have moved all the extras that Kerrie comes with in ahead of time. Of course, if the sale is not concluded I will need to extract them all, but most of them that can be retrieved at a later time. Kerrie will need her clothes and other personal effects today, however.”
“Understood.” Said Tom.
Linda looked in shock at the collection of what would best be described as torture devices assembled at the far end of the room. There was a large X frame with multiple straps on each leg, obviously for securing a person in a spread eagle, standing position. There was what appeared to be a padded workbench, upon which were an assortment of whips and paddles. Next to that was an A shaped frame that also had straps on each side, obviously to secure a victim in a bent over position.
What really bothered Linda was the wire frame cage that was, in fact, nothing more than a kennel for a large size dog. Linda recalled Kerrie’s comment about being locked in a cage for up to a week. In that small thing? The thought was horrifying.
“I believe that you received a copy of these prior to arriving?” Mr. Osglove said as he passed the notebooks to Tom.
“Yes, Kerrie and I have been in communication. “ Tom assured him. “I believe we have an understanding of what is expected from both parties. Isn’t that right?”
“Yes Sir” Kerrie said sharply.
“But I see that there has been a few additional entries since I received a copy.” Tom said sternly. “Another instance of being late for work, and then being a flirting tease, and then this last entry: Boasting. That was just today!”
“Yes Sir” Kerrie said respectfully. Linda looked, bewildered. She had made that last entry in the pod, as a result of a comment that Linda had made.
“We will deal with them in reverse order.” Tom declared. “Most recent transgressions first. “
“Perhaps I should wait outside.” Linda suggested.
“Please don’t go!” Kerrie cried out. There was a moment of awkward silence before she continued. “It is my right to have a designated witness. My last witness is no longer available, and after relocating I don’t have any nearby friends to call on. I know you don’t approve, and in a way that might be better. I would really appreciate it if you would be my witness!”
“I couldn’t!” Linda replied.
“It would be a good arrangement.” Mr. Osglove said. “You will be in the same building, so it won’t be difficult to attend. If you are basically opposed to corporal punishment then your presence would help keep a situation from escalating into a problem.”
“Please?” Kerrie begged. “I would really appreciate it. It wouldn’t be every time, just for the major punishments. I’m really not that bad very often!” Kerrie assured her.
“Alright, I’ll give it a try.” Linda said, shaking her head.
‘Oh, Thank You!” Kerrie gushed.
“Well, now that’s settled, shall we begin?” Tom said sternly.
“Yes Sir.” Kerrie said softly.
“Now then, boasting. False pride, I am sure.” Tom scolded as he stepped closer to his charge. He reached up and grasped her by an earlobe and started dragging her towards a chair. Kerrie gasped, and bent her head down to relieve the tug and stumbled along the best she could.
Tom sat in a straight backed chair, pulling Kerrie down across his lap. Her skirt rode up, exposing her pantie clad bottom. Tom’s hand immediately descended upon it, the smack echoing around the room. Kerrie gasped, but otherwise remained silent.
“What did you boast about today?” Tom asked sternly between swats.
“OWW! The Transit System, Sir!”
“Did you design the transit system?”
“OWWW, No Sir”
Linda watched from across the room, stunned. As she watched Tom lower the panties, baring Kerrie’s buttocks, she unsure if she should intervene or not.
“What is the harm in a simple boast?” Linda whispered to Mr. Osglove as the spanking continued.
“To most, nothing.” Mr. Osglove replied. “But it was something that Kerrie had included in her self-admitted undesired traits. All part of the contract, actually, something that she wanted to have included. Mr. Petersen actually doesn’t have a choice. If it is in the contract, he has to deal with it.”
“By spanking her?” Linda asked as she Kerrie’s bare buttocks get repeatedly slapped.
“Oh, this is nothing!” Mr. Osglove assured her. “Wait until we get to the tardiness issue, which is something that does have serious consequences if it isn’t curtailed.”
“Now then, the flirting!” Tom said loudly. “Get up and explain yourself!”
“Some girls from work and I went to a bar.” Kerrie started, as she scrambled to her feet, the skirt falling back over her buttocks as the panties fell the rest of the way to floor. She stepped out of them and continued. “There were some guys at the next table, and they were being jerks, so I teased them.”
“Teased them how?” Tom demanded.
“Well, I, uh.” Kerrie stammered. “I sort of showed them my breasts, and, um, my, you know, crotch.”
“What, you flashed the entire bar?”
“No Sir.” Kerrie replied. I had removed my bra and panties, in the restroom, and had left my blouse unbuttoned a bit. I didn’t give them a full view; just enough to let them know that there was no bra and panties. I got them to buy us all drinks, and then we left.”
“A real cock tease!” Tom scolded. “Strip naked!
Kerrie quickly pulled the dress off and removed her bra. She stood at attention, apparently unfazed at being naked in front of three other people. Tom circled her, inspecting her closely.
“Over to the cross!” Tom commanded.
Kerrie quickly moved to a spot in front of the cross, but was unsure if she should be facing the X frame or have her back to it. Tom came up behind her, grabbing her shoulders to spin her back against the frame and securing her wrists and ankles. Linda noted that Kerrie was completely void of pubic hair.
“Punishments should fit the crime, don’t you agree?” Tom asked menacingly.
“Yes Sir” Kerrie agreed as she watched him select a multi-thronged whip from the bench.
Tom swung the whip through the air a few times, getting a feel for its weight and reach. With each lash the five tails of the whip sang through the air.
Kerrie gave a sharp cry as the tails made contact with the tender flesh of her breasts, which undulated briefly after the impact. Tom brought the whip back with a backhand stroke, lashing at her breasts from the opposite direction.
“Is that – “ Linda started to protect.
“SHH!” Mr. Osglove interrupted. “Everything is fine, I assure you.” He continued in a whisper.
Linda watched as additional blows were landed: right to left, then left to right, then angled lower right to upper left, then lower left to upper right. The five tails of the whip left marks in their wake. Kerrie writhed on the cross, twisting left then right in a futile attempt to escape the blows while occasionally crying out.
Soon the individual marks had blended all together, her entire breasts turning a bright red with a few purple lines where a tail had cut a little deeper.
“Now!” Tom scolded.”Do you want to show off your tits now?”
“NO SIR!” Kerrie replied.
“And now for the pussy!”
“NO!” Linda exclaimed as she started to move forward, only to be held back by a hand on her arm.
“It’s okay” Mr. Osglove assured her.
Linda watched in horror as the whip was swung upward, the tails impacting directly upon Kerrie’s exposed labia. Linda had expected a scream, but instead there was more of a gasp. Again the whip struck, and Kerrie whimpered a jerked a bit in her restraints.
‘How can she take that?” Linda asked quietly.
“Being restrained helps.” Mr. Osglove said. “But if required, I believe she could take it without the restraints.”
Again and again the whip struck, turning the insides of her thighs and entire crotch area red. Kerrie jerked her head back and forth, thrusts her hips a bit and occasionally cried out but never begged for it to stop.
“Mr. Petersen has done his homework well.” Mr. Osglove commented when the whip was finally set aside.
“So you think it is fun to tease with these!” Tom scolded as he took Kerries breasts in hand. “How do you like them now?” He continued as he kneaded the tenderized flesh in his fingers.
“Oww, I, ungh!” Kerrie stammered.
“And how about here?” Tom asked as he grabbed her crotch and squeezed.
“AHHHRG!” Kerrie cried, but then gasped as Tom’s finger slipped between the lips of her labia. “Ohhhh” she moaned as he grabbed a nipple with the other hand, stroking her sex and pinching her nipple.
Kerrie tipped her head back and thrust her hips as much as her restraints allowed, humping his hand.
“Oh Sir!” Kerrie called out. “I. I’m going, I’m about to, AHHHHHH!”
Linda felt a stirring in her own nether region as she watched Kerrie in the throes of an orgasm. The smell of sex was permeating the room and there was no denying what was happening.
“That was just so that you will feel the next phase even more!” Tom said menacingly once he had finished fingering her.
Tom released her feet first, then her hands. Linda noted that he kept her pressed against the X frame until she was fully untied, and then kept a hand on her upper arm until she was safely standing on her own. Linda could see that there was concern and tenderness in Tom’s actions.
“Now, across the spanking frame!” Tom commanded. Kerrie moved quickly towards the A frame and bent over it, her feet on one side and her hands dangling down on the other.
“I am NOT going to restrain you.” Tom advised her. “These offenses are more serious and you are required to take the punishment without being tied down. Do you understand?”
“Yes Sir!” Kerrie replied.
“You were late to work, several times!” Tom scolded harshly as he selected a long, slender paddle from the collection spread out on the bench. “This isn’t just a bad habit that needs to be curtailed, it could get you fired and ruin your entire life!”
“Yes Sir!” Kerrie agreed.
“You’re getting 50 swats!” Tom told her. “And that is generous, I should give you 50 swats for every time you were late, but I think that might be too much in light of the other punishments you have already had!”
“Thank you, Sir!” Kerrie said eagerly.
“But be advised that all future occurrences WILL be punished individually!”
“Yes Sir!” Kerrie agreed. Her head hung low, her hands grasped firmly to the legs of the A frame. Her buttocks, already a deep shade of pink from the earlier spanking were perfectly presented as targets.
“Very well,” Tom said. “You count these.”
“ONE, SIR!” Kerrie called out, snapping her head up.
“TWOSIR” Kerrie yelled out, the two words spoken as one. Her body was tense, and she held her head up, staring off at some point in the distance.
“THREE!” Kerrie screamed, dropping the honorific. Her hands held on but one leg kicked involuntarily for just a moment before she was able to control it
Over and over the paddle struck, turning her buttocks from pink, to red, to crimson, and finally splotched with purple.
“OWWWWW - - - 49 !” Kerrie called out, her voice getting frantic.
SMACK!!!! It was clearly the hardest swat of all.
“fifty” Kerrie said, almost at a whisper, before collapsing limp against the frame. Her body trembled, and there was a light sheen of sweat that could be seen upon her torso.
Linda looked on, unsure of what to think. Kerrie had obviously suffered, and her buttocks were obviously going to be well bruised, but there hadn’t been any crying and the cries of pain were nowhere near what Linda would have expected.
Tom set the paddle back on the bench and then started to rub the small of Kerrie’s back. “Take your time” he told her as she started to stir. Kerrie slumped back down, but only for a minute before pushing herself upright.
“I am okay, Sir.” Kerrie said softly, a slight tremor in her voice. “Thank you.”
Tom pulled her into an embrace, holding her tightly as he whispered something into her ear that Linda couldn’t hear. Kerrie whispered something back, and Tom nodded. Another minute passed, the two holding each other, and then Kerrie pulled away.
“Mr. Osglove, may I speak with you please?” Kerrie asked.
“Of course,” Mr. Osglove said. “If you will excuse us for just a moment?”
“Of course!” Tom said.
“No problem.” Linda replied, once she realized that the question had been put to her as well.
Kerrie and Mr. Osglove moved off to the far side of the room and started talking softly, far too quietly for Linda to hear. Kerrie occasionally pointed back across the room, apparently to the X cross and A frame. She turned her back so Mr. Osglove could inspect her buttocks, and held her breast up for inspection. Linda noticed that she seemed to smile, and then nodded enthusiastically.
“Mr. Petersen” Mr. Osglove called out as the two started making their way back. “If you are satisfied, I believe we can complete the deal!”
“Very satisfied!” Tom called back.
“Very well, then.” Mr. Osglove said as he produced a multi-page document. “I need you to sign here, and here, and initial here. Great. Now Kerrie, I need you to sign here, and here, and initial here. That’s it! Mr. Petersen, I hope you enjoy your slave!”
“I am sure I will!”
“And Kerrie, I hope you behave yourself!”
“Ummmm.” Kerrie said sheepishly. “I’ll try” she said in a tone that did not provide much confidence.
“Now we just need to complete the punishment book.”
Tom picked up the newer of the two books, flipped to the last page that contained entries and made a few quick notes and signed. He then passed the book to Kerrie, who signed her name and passed it on to Mr. Osglove, who inspected the entry and passed it on to Linda.
“If you will be so kind.” He said as he handed her the book, held open to the appropriate page.
Linda took the book and read the notes: Bare hand spanking, followed by light whipping of breast and crotch, 50 swats with paddle on buttocks (unrestrained). No skin broken. Linda shrugged, signed her name and passed the book back.
“We’ll leave you now to get settled in.” Mr. Osglove said as he started towards the door.
“Tomorrow then?” Linda asked as she started to follow.
“Not too early!” Tom replied.
“I am afraid that your apartment won’t be so grand.” Mr. Osglove stated once they were at the elevators. “There isn’t a lot available on short notice, and the only units they rent furnished are single room studios.”
“That will be fine.” Linda assured him. “So how did you secure that unit for Tom?”
“The waiting list for a good apartment can be many months.” Mr. Osglove replied. The elevator arrived and the entered. Tom pushed a button corresponding to the 5th floor. “Fortunately, I have had a year to work on it. That unit became available and we moved Kerri into it about half a year ago, shortly after the arrangements for Mr. Petersen’s visit had been finalized. Taking over the apartment and the furnishings were all a package deal with the slave.”
“I see.” Linda said, grabbing ahold of the safety rail as the elevator started its rapid descent. “I take it that her previous master was a foreigner. Is he still here?”
“Oh no, it’s been almost a year now since he rotated home.”
“So you are acting in his behalf?” Linda asked, bracing herself as the elevator came to a stop.
“No, “ Mr. Osglove said, a bit of confusion obvious in his voice. “His claim was released prior to departure, per our laws.”
“You said the seller had requirements that had to be met. “ The elevator doors opened and Linda kept pace as they made their way down a hall.
“Ah!” Mr. Osglove said, smiling. “Yes, she did.”
“She?” Linda asked. She had just assumed that any owner would have been male.
“Yes, and she agreed that the requirements were met, and signed the papers to transfer ownership.”
“What?” Linda asked, not fully understanding. “Are you saying that Kerrie owned herself?”
“Yes, that is correct.” Mr. Osglove said. “Her previous master transferred ownership to her, gave her all the furnishings, and left her with a fair amount of cash.”
“Then why didn’t she request a pardon.” Linda asked. “It seems that she meets the requirements: place to live, a job, some money.”
“Because she didn’t want it.” Mr. Osglove replied. “Some people rebel against authority, others are lost without it. Believe me; Kerrie was very diligent in her background checks and reference checking. She knew exactly what she was getting with Mr. Peteresen. Based on what I have seen, I think she chose wisely!”
“That’s crazy!” Linda exclaimed. They had stopped before a door to apartment 534.
“Wave your ID across the console, it should open.” Mr. Osglove said. When the door clicked, he pushed it open and stepped inside. “Not so crazy.” He continued. “It is actually quite common. Most level ones and twos remain that way by choice.”
“I see.” Linda said as she looked around. Compared to Tom’s apartment this one was quite drab. One window looked out, but the only view was of similar windows on the building opposite. A small efficiency kitchen was in one corner, a bed in another, and chair in front of an entertainment center in a third corner. She noted that her bags had already been delivered to the room.
“Like I said.” Mr. Osglove commented. “Not as nice. We can start a search for a better unit, but waiting lists are common.”
“Or.” Mr. Osglove said. “We could arrange a similar deal as Mr. Petersen.”
“Would you prefer a male or a female slave?”
“I couldn’t!” Linda gasped.
“Think about it.” Mr. Osglove said. “There is a much better selection in male slaves, but there are some females available. Don’t need to decide right now, I will always be at your service! Have a good night!” Mr. Osglove clasped his hands and bowed his head as was the custom and quickly left the room.
A slave, Linda thought. What would it be like to have a slave?
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