Beta 2: Spencer

by Lobo De la Sombra

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© Copyright 2016 - Lobo De la Sombra - Used by permission

Storycodes: M+/f; M/f; scifi; court; sentence; naked; cuffs; collar; slave; servitude; forced; captive; cons/reluct; X

(story continues from )

Part 2: Spencer

Belladonna Sciori had never really grasped the concept of hell. Once, long ago, she'd idly entertained herself by imagining what hell might be. Back then, of course, hell had been a place where other people went.

Much had changed since then. With the final defeat of her armies, she had gone from General Sciori, conquerer, to Belladonna Sciori, prisoner. Sent to the penal colony on Primus, she had accepted her fate, not with dread, but with the firm belief that, even there, her genetically enhanced mind and body could and would prevail.

On Earth, it had meant nothing to her to hear that she had been designated as Beta. At the time, she'd had no idea what that meant. Three weeks later, on her arrival, she'd learned of the mental conditioning that had underlain her endless lectures about life on Primus, as well as the chemical conditioning hidden within what had passed for food during her journey. Unknowingly, she had arrived primed and ready to become the obedient slave of the first person who spoke to her.

By fate or by design, that first person had been Kane, her former lieutenant from her glory days. Betrayed by her, he had spent enough time on Primus to understand only too well what the red collar of a Beta that encircled her throat signified. His first words to her had sealed the conditioning she still didn't realize she'd received. Soon thereafter, her fall from glory had been complete.

Now, nearly a year later, Bella had grown to have what she privately considered to be an intimate understanding of hell. Unable to disobey any command Kane gave her, she had quickly found herself set in the role, not of potential leader as she'd imagined, but of slave to a strict and demanding Master.

Fortunately, or so she'd thought, Kane tired of her rather quickly, trading her to a merchant who dealt in certain hard to obtain local goods. Commanded to obey her new Master, Bella soon found herself longing for the much better days of her service to Kane. Strict and demanding he might have been, but Kane had not been, at heart, a cruel man. The same could not be said of her new Master, and her service to him had been a painful one.

Since then, she had known several Masters, each, in his own way, worse than the last. Traded again and again, each time receiving commands to obey her newest Master, Bella had slowly made her way from slave to a man of power to where she was now, slave to a petty criminal in a town on the very fringe of human existence.

Once, she had been a General, leader of millions. Now, her genetically enhanced body encrusted with filth, she mucked out stalls. Once, she had dined on only the finest cuisine. Now, wracked with hunger, she stole food from the animals she tended. Her descent into hell, she now knew, had been thorough, and she could only wonder how much deeper there was that she could go.

"On your feet, slave!"

Slowly, Bella dragged herself from the floor. Silently, she awaited the commands from her current Master. Gone was the defiant beauty who had, not quite a year before, arrived on Primus filled with plans of domination. Now, her body gaunt and weak from hunger, her skin marked by the whip, she waited, not knowing what her future held, but knowing with certainty that it would not be pleasant.

Mason, her latest Master, looked her over with eyes that showed nothing but contempt. "You," he finally said, "have to be about the most worthless piece of trash I've ever seen. The only reason you're still breathing is because you're not worth the effort of killing. Now, get this stable cleaned out properly. And if I catch you stealing food from my pets again..."

Mason's words were cut off by the breathless arrival of one of his followers. "Mason," the man said urgently, "he's here!"

"Already?" Mason frowned. "Damn it, I thought we'd have more time. Get everyone to their stations, now! We've got to..." Cursing, Mason rushed out, followed by the other man.

Silently, Bella got to work. By now, she had long since lost any interest in the why of her Master's behavior. Happy for whatever had interrupted his latest abuse, she began mucking out the first stall, each movement accompanied by the soft clink of the chains that connected her wrists. Her ankle chains, fouled and heavy with the filth through which she moved, had long since lost the ability to produce any sound.

As she worked, Bella began to hear shouts from outside, along with other sounds. Pausing, she frowned slightly. Once, long ago, she had known those sounds, she thought. Now, they were little more than unidentifiable noise.

Suddenly, the door burst open, Mason lunging in and slamming the door behind him. "Quick," he demanded, "where can I hide?"


Growling, Mason stepped forward, hand raised. "Damn it, slave, answer me! Where in this miserable place can I hide? I need to..." The sound of the door opening silenced him. Whirling, he slowly began to back deeper into the building.

"Look," he said, his voice sounding desperate, "you don't have to do this. I'm sure we can work something out. Just tell me what you want, and it's yours."

As Bella watched, another man entered the stable. In stark contrast to the cheap, rough imitation of finery that Mason wore, this man was dressed simply in a tunic and leggings that were worn, but clean and well-mended. Lean, with a weathered, clean-shaven face, this man looked nothing like the ragged band that followed Mason.

"Mason," he said, his soft voice carrying hints of steel, "I told you I'd be back. I also told you what would happen if you were still in business."

"Please," Mason begged, his face pale, "don't. I'll give you anything, anything you want."

"Anything?" The man glanced toward Bella. "Will you give me her?"

"Her?" Mason stared at Bella for a moment. "If you want her, she's yours."

"Then give her to me."

Mason nodded, his eyes showing glimmers of hope. "Slave," he said quickly, "from now on, you obey only this man."

"Yes, Master."

The man, her newest Master, gestured her to him. Silently, she moved to stand in front of him.

"Who do you serve?"

"You, Master," Bella replied, her voice toneless.

"And if I commanded you to kill him?"

Bella glanced toward Mason, seeing fear once more enter his eyes. "If you command, Master," she replied, "I would obey. Though I do not think I have the strength to complete that task."

The man smiled. "No worries there," he said softly. "Go outside and wait for me."

"Yes, Master." Slowly, Bella moved to a door she hadn't passed through for the weeks since she'd arrived as Mason's new slave. Stepping through, she gazed without curiosity at the bodies scattered around the small compound. Behind her, she heard, once again, that strangely familiar sound. Seconds later, her new Master stood beside her.

"I," he told her, "am called Spencer. What's your name?"

"I am called slave, Master," Bella replied, "as if proper."

"I didn't ask what you were called," Spencer told her. "I asked your name."

"Bella, Master."

"Really?" Ignoring the filth encrusting her skin, Spencer placed a finger beneath her chin, turning her head first to one side, then the other. "And what is your full name?"

"Belladonna Sciori, Master."

"Interesting," Spencer said. "I've heard of you, of course. Who hasn't? Belladonna Sciori, leader of the great failed uprising. I assume there's a red collar underneath all that crud?"

"Yes, Master."

"Very interesting, indeed." Turning, Spencer began to walk away. "Follow me," he said over his shoulder.

"Yes, Master." As quickly as she could, Bella began to shuffle after her new Master as he moved out of the now silent compound and down the hill atop which it was built. Reaching the small stream that flowed past the base of the hill, he paused, allowing her to catch up.

"All right, then," he said, "in you go."


"Into the water," he said, handing her a bottle of soap, "and don't come out until you're clean."

"Yes, Master." The water, which barely reached her knees, was icy at first. Shivering, she knelt, nearly moaning with relief as her body adjusted to the water's chill. Slowly, as if performing for the first time the now unfamiliar act of bathing, she began the slow task of removing layers of accumulated filth from her body. Gradually, pale skin began to emerge.

"Hair too."

"Yes, Master."

For Bella, the afternoon passed slowly. Twice, thinking her task complete, she had left the stream. Twice, after looking her over, Spencer had ordered her back in. Now, her entire body feeling raw from repeated scrubbing, she stood before him a third time.

"You'll do," Spencer told her, after once more examining her. "Question now is, what do I do with you?"


"I don't need a slave," Spencer said. Gazing at her thoughtfully, he added, "But I'm guessing that you do need a Master." Reaching up, he ran one finger over the collar at her throat, its red hue now plainly visible. "So I guess I'm stuck with you, at least until I can figure something out."

"Yes, Master."

Spencer shook his head. "That," he told her, "is going to get on my nerves very quickly. Don't address me as Master again, understood?"

"Yes..." Now unable to use the form of address she had long grown accustomed to, Bella had no idea how to reply. "Yes," she finally said again, "I understand."

Spencer nodded. "Better," he told her. "Now, see if you can keep up. I'd like to cover some distance before we stop for the night."

Later, as the sky darkened with the approach of night, Bella sat beside a small fire, watching as Spencer stirred the contents of a small pan.

"I don't suppose," he said, glancing up, "that you know how to cook?"

"No," she replied, still getting used to such a simple answer.

"I didn't think so," Spencer told her. "And from the looks of it," he added, picking up a bowl and spooning food into it, "you're not too familiar with eating." Placing a spoon into the bowl, he handed it to her, then began filling a second bowl for himself.

"Thank you." Carefully, Bella lifted a filled spoon from the bowl, eyes never leaving Spencer's face. Seeing the wariness of her gaze, he frowned.

"This isn't a test," he told her, "and you're not going to be punished. Now eat."

Unsure how to reply, Bella raised the spoon to her lips. For a moment she held the food in her mouth, savoring the amazing richness of its flavor. Swallowing, she took a second spoonful, then a third. All too quickly, it seemed, the spoon scraped across the bottom of an empty bowl. Looking up, she found Spencer watching her from across the fire.

"Wait for it," he said softly.

Moments later, a sudden pain knifed through Bella's stomach. Bending forward, she retched, long and hard. By the time the pain faded, her recent meal lay on the ground at her feet. Looking up, she saw Spencer shake his head.

"I thought as much," he said softly, handing her a rag. "Wipe your mouth off." Once she had done so, he handed her a cup of water. "Rinse," he said, "then drink. How long since you had real food?"

Bella rinsed out her mouth, then took a slow, cautious swallow. "I don't remember," she finally said.

"Bowl." After she'd handed it to him, Spencer carefully filled it with broth from the pan. "Slowly, this time," he told her, handing the bowl back to her.

Nodding, Bella sipped cautiously, waiting for the pain to return. This time, as she slowly emptied the bowl, she felt only the warmth of the liquid as it traced its way to her stomach. When the bowl was finally empty, she gazed at Spencer hopefully, only to see him shake his head.

"I think," he told her, "that's enough for tonight." As she watched, he covered the pan. "In the morning, you can have some more. For now, get comfortable and get some sleep."

Moving away from the mess she'd made, Bella lowered herself to the ground. "If I am not to call you Master," she said, "how should I address you?"

"I told you my name."

Bella nodded. "Yes," she said, "you did. "Thank you, Spencer."

Slowly, in the days that followed, Bella found her strength returning. At first, she was only able to walk for short periods before needing to rest. Gradually, as broth gave way to solid food, these periods grew longer and longer, until, finally, she could walk all day without stopping. No longer gaunt, her body grew firm, rounded, returning to her the beauty she'd once possessed. Before long, only the marks of the whip remained, and even they had begun to fade from skin that had become tanned and gleaming.

As her body recovered, her mind struggled. Spencer, her Master, demanded nothing of her, a fact that she found impossible to understand. Masters, she knew from long experience, were never satisfied, always demanding more. And yet this Master seemed to expect nothing from her. He was, to her, perhaps the most confusing Master she had ever known.

He was also, she quickly learned, a wanderer. Since leaving Mason's compound, they had only twice approached one of the small villages that lay widely scattered across the countryside on this part of Primus. Each time, Spencer had left her carefully hidden, entering the village alone to purchase supplies. Apart from this, he had simply walked, with Bella close behind him. Then, one day, everything seemed to change.

That evening, Bella glanced up from her second helping of roasted meat to find Spencer watching her. Slowly, she lowered her plate.

"Am... am I doing something wrong?" Bella glanced down. "I didn't mean to eat so much," she said slowly.

"It's not that," she heard. "Come here and hold out your hands."

Slowly, Bella moved around the fire, pausing and stretching out her hands. Silently, Spencer examined the metal cuffs that, even now, encircled her wrists, the connecting chain swinging gently.

"I have no idea," he said, reaching into a pouch at his waist, "why I didn't do this that first day." Withdrawing a pair of slender picks, he removed the cuffs from her wrists. Her ankle cuffs soon followed. Now wearing nothing but her red collar, Bella rubbed her wrists.

"Thank you." Bella began to turn, then paused. "May I ask you something?" Seeing Spencer nod, she went on. "Why have you never...?"

"Never what?"

"Wanted me?"

Spencer frowned. "Do you want me to?"

"That would be by your choice," Bella replied slowly. "If you command, I will obey."

Slowly, Spencer reached up, Bella holding still as one hand traced the now lush curve of one thigh. "That," he said, letting his hand drop, "is exactly why I don't." Seeing her puzzled look, he smiled. "Don't worry," he told her, "you'll understand eventually." Unsure of how to respond, Bella nodded and returned to her place on the opposite side of the fire.

Later, after the meal was complete, Spencer reached into his pack, pulling out some worn clothing and what Bella by now had learned was his sewing kit.

"So," he said as he began working on the clothing, "they say you're enhanced. Is that true?" Seeing Bella's nod, he went on. "That kind of genetic work's been illegal for a long time. How is it you exist?"

"May I speak freely?" This time, it was Spencer who nodded. "Thank you." For a long moment, Bella simply gazed into the fire.

"When the treaties were signed that outlawed genetic enhancement," she finally said, "not all of the people involved obeyed the orders to stop. One of those who didn't was Frederick Worth, one of the most brilliant men to ever work in that field. Before the treaties, governments had competed for his services, or so I was told. They made him rich, gave him power and influence. And then, when the treaties were signed, he lost all of that."

"I remember reading about him," Spencer said. "They say that, by the time he died, his criminal empire was larger, more powerful, than some nations. Some would also say that he was insane by then."

"If they did," Bella replied, "they would be right. I kept his papers, his journal, and his final entries are nothing a sane man would write. He'd become obsessed with creating the perfect human. That criminal empire, for all its strength, was created to gather what he needed to continue his work. His followers stole the equipment he had to have, kidnapped the people he selected and sampled their DNA before collecting a ransom for their release. It was all designed to help him create that perfect human being."

"And you were the result."

Bella shook her head. "Only one, only the last result. There were others before me, but each, in one way or another, failed to meet his standards, his definition of perfection. I was his last, his greatest, creation, or so he believed. Of course, by then, he'd already gone mad, so who can say whether or not he succeeded?"

Bella shook her head. "I thought he had," she said softly. "All my life, I was taught that I was destined to lead, to conquer. From childhood, I was trained to be a warrior, a leader. I was also taught to believe in my own superiority over everyone else." Holding up her hands, she displayed the red marks from nearly a year of restraints that still marked her wrists. "And where did it get me? I'm a slave. If you commanded me to walk off a cliff, I would obey, because I have no other choice. Maybe," she added, dropping her hands and staring into the fire, "it would be better if you did."

For a long moment, there was silence. "When I was young," Spencer finally said, "I remember something my mother used to say any time things went wrong. Everything, she would tell me, happens for a reason. I still believe that. You were created for a reason, you exist for a reason. And you are here now for a reason."

"What reason?" Bella shook her head. "Even you don't want me."

"It's late," Spencer said, setting aside the clothing he'd been working on. "So what I want is for both of us to get some sleep."

Next morning, Bella woke to find a small bundle of cloth next to her. "Try them on," Spencer said without looking up from the food he was cooking. "See if I got it right."

Lifting the bundle, Bella saw that it was the clothing he had been working on the previous night. Slowly, she donned the worn cloth, covering a body that had long forgotten the feel of clothing.

"How does it feel?"

Bella glanced down at herself. These clothes, she realized, had been designed for Spencer's slim frame. On her, they were snug, even tight, in spite of his alteration. The leggings hugged her like a second skin, while the tunic struggled to contain her. After a moment, she looked up.

"It feels strange," she said.

Spencer smiled. "That," he replied, "is because you're not used to it." Moving around the fire, he examined her. "They'll do," he decided, "at least until we can find better. I don't have anything for your feet, but we'll take care of that, too." Moving back, he returned his attention to his cooking. "When we get to town," he added.

Bella's eyes widened. "We? Town?"

"Of course. We need supplies. Someone has eaten nearly all of my food."

Bella's eyes dropped. "I"m sorry," she said softly. "I didn't mean to..."

"Bella," Spencer said, cutting her off, "relax. I'm teasing you." Smiling, he passed her a plate piled high with food. "Although," he said, watching as she eagerly dug in, "if this keeps up, I may not be able to afford it much longer." He shrugged, his eyes thoughtful. "Oh well," he said, "maybe it's time."

Bella paused, looking at the small cluster of buildings doubtfully.

"Is something wrong?"

"There are people there," Bella replied.

Spencer nodded. "Towns usually do mean people," he pointed out.

"People are cruel."

Spencer frowned. "I'm a people," he said. "Am I cruel?"

Bella shook her head. "No," she said, "you are not. Or maybe you are the cruelest of them all, and I simply haven't seen the price I'll have to pay for all of this."

"I guess we'll both see," Spencer told her, "when the time comes. For now, we need things, which means we need to go in there."

"But," Bella protested, "what if someone commands me? What if I have to obey?"

"Who," Spencer asked her, "do you obey?"


"And who else?"

Bella's eyes slowly widened. "Only you," she replied softly.

"Exactly. You obey only me. If someone else commands you, you will not obey."

"I will not obey," Bella repeated, relaxing slightly. "Thank you for that command."

Together, the two began to thread their way between the buildings, finally making their way to the small market in the center of town. Slowly, they made their way from stall to stall, Spencer buying what he needed as he found it. His pack, nearly empty before, soon began to bulge with the things he'd placed inside.

Silently, Bella followed, her eyes never leaving Spencer. Then, as they neared the final set of stalls, she found herself facing a young man of muscular build. She tried to step around him, but he blocked her, his eyes locked on the red collar visible at her throat.

"Beta?" Smiling, the man reached up with both hands, squeezing breasts that strained against the tightness of Bella's tunic. "Let's have some fun, Beta."


Spencer glanced over from where he was talking to one stall keeper. "Why are you yelling at me? If you don't like his hands on you, remove them."

Bella stared, body tense, as the man lowered one hand to reach between her thighs. Then, strangely, she seemed to relax. "Remove them from me," she said, "or from him?"

"You." Spencer grinned. "I can't afford to bail you out of the local jail."

"Yes, Spencer." Reaching up, Bella grasped the wrist of the hand still squeezing one firm breast. "You," she said softly, "do not have my Master's permission to touch me. Nor," she added, her fingers beginning to squeeze, "do you have mine." Under the pressure from her fingers, the man's hand popped open, releasing her breast.

"Ow!" Eyes wide, the man pulled back, but Bella's grip refused to be broken. "Let go of me, slave!"

"You," Bella replied, a smile beginning to form on full lips, "do not command me. Only one man has that power over me, and that man is not you. He has told me to leave your hands attached. He has not, however, said anything about the rest of you."

"I think you've made your point," Spencer observed. Nodding, Bella relaxed her grip, allowing the man to yank his hand away. Cradling his wrist, the man fled into the small crowd that had gathered. Watching, Spencer smiled.

"I also think," he added, "that you won't have any problems like that again while we're here." He nodded toward the woman tending the stall where he stood. "She," he told Bella, "is going to fit you for some clothes. So go with her, and try not to give her too much trouble."

"What do you think?"

Bella stared down at herself. Maria, the woman from the stall, had taken exhaustive measurements of Bella's body. Using these, it seemed as if only moments passed before she had cut and sewn a new outfit, which she had proudly handed to Bella.


Bella continued to stare. These new clothes, cut to fit her shape, were still snug, hugging her like a second skin. Finally, slowly, she nodded.

"Good." Nodding, Maria handed Bella her old clothes. "Now," she said, "let's go out so I can get paid."

Outside, Spencer stared silently for a moment. For reasons she couldn't understand, the look in his eyes sent a small wash of warmth through Bella's body. Slowly, he looked away, focusing on Maria.

"We'll take two. And who do we talk to about getting a pair of shoes made?"

Following the encounter at the market, Bella was surprised, and not a little bit uncomfortable, to find herself the center of attention. Nobody spoke to her, nobody approached her, but she could feel everyone's eyes following her every movement. Under their gaze, her new clothes, so faithfully outlining the lush curves of her body, somehow made her feel more naked than she ever had before. As she waited for Spencer to finish negotiating with the local shoemaker, she found herself wondering if maybe it would be better being an anonymous, naked slave.

"Two days." Frowning, Spencer stepped out of the shoemaker's shop. "That's the soonest he can get them done. Which means we need to find someplace to stay until then." Turning, he began walking toward the edge of the market. "Luckily," he added, "this town does have an inn."

Bella felt relieved to put the market, and the stares, behind her. Silently, she followed as Spencer made his way to the inn, watched as he spoke with the innkeeper. Money changed hands, after which the innkeeper led them upstairs, to a small room at the back of the building.

"It's not much," Spencer remarked, closing the door behind them, "but it will do." Grinning, he said, "And it's likely to be more comfortable than sleeping on the ground." Dropping his pack onto the bed, he nodded toward Bella. "Might as well relax," he told her. "We'll get something to eat in a little bit, and then some sleep."

Later, Bella watched as Spencer dropped to sit on the side of the bed. "Why are you doing this?"

Leaning to unlace his boots, Spencer glanced up. "Doing what?"

"You've fed me," Bella replied slowly. "Now you've clothed me. You removed my chains. You've given me more than anyone has given me since I got here. To be honest," she added, "you've given me more than everyone else I've encountered since I got here. And you've demanded nothing in return." Pointedly, she looked at the bed. "I would do anything you commanded me to do," she said.

Boots off, Spencer rose and threw back the covers, then stretched out on the thin mattress. "It would be a shame to wrinkle your nice new clothes," he said, looking up at her. "Take them off, then get in bed."

Slowly, Bella removed her clothing. Naked, she slipped onto the bed beside Spencer, settling on her back and waiting for what she knew was next. To her surprise, Spencer pulled the covers over both of them, then rolled toward the wall.


Rolling back, Spencer looked at her. "But what?"

"I thought you wanted me to..."

Smiling, Spencer placed a soft kiss on the top of Bella's head. "What I want," he told her, "is sleep. For both of us." With that, he rolled once more to his side. "We have someplace to go. As soon as we get you those shoes, we get started."

* * *

"Well, what do you think?"

Bella paused, almost glad for the break. In the nearly three weeks since the events in the market, Spencer had set a brisk, nearly grueling pace. Before, they had seemed to wander aimlessly, but this time, they had moved steadily in a single direction, as if toward a fixed goal.

As they moved, the reason for Spencer's bulging pack quickly became clear. Twice, they had seen towns, and twice circled around. Wherever it was they were going, and for whatever reason, it somehow seemed to mean avoiding other people.

Now, standing beside Spencer, Bella looked around her. They stood high on the slope of a mountain. Behind and below lay thick forests, with no sign of human habitation for at least two days' walk that she knew of. Above, on a small area of level ground, lay what was evidently their destination.

Quietly, Bella examined the smallish building. Built of roughly hewn logs, the cabin faced out over the slopes behind them, it's rustic appearance only slightly marred by the gleam of solar collection panels on the roof.

"What is this place?"

"This," Spencer replied, "is home. Well," he added, walking up the final slope, "as close to home as someone like me can have. Come on, let's go in and rest our feet."

With the thought of no more walking to spur her on, Bella quickly followed. Inside, she saw a room as rustic as the outside. Everything, it seemed, had been made by hand. Following Spencer's example, she pulled off her shoes at the door before settling with a sigh into the soft cushions of a chair.

Looking around, she asked, "You live here?"

Spencer shook his head with a smile. "I visit here," he said. "Most of the time, I'm out there, among the people. I just stop by here now and then to rest, and to make sure nobody's trashed the place."

Bella glanced around her. "If I had a place like this," she said, "I don't think I'd ever leave."

With a grunt, Spencer rose from his chair. "Don't think it's not tempting," he said, moving to a panel beside the door. Opening it, he began flipping switches and pushing buttons. As he did, the room, dim and growing darker as the sun set, was suddenly filled with soft light. "At least the batteries are still sound," he said, turning toward the kitchen area. "I hope the same can be said of the storage unit."

Bella watched as he knelt, opening a panel in the floor. Curious, she rose and followed him as he descended, climbing down a ladder into a chamber easily the size of the cabin above. Reaching the bottom of the ladder, she gazed around, eyes widening.

"Stasis chambers?"

Spencer nodded. "One of the perks of my special situation," he said. "All of this was set up for me when I got here."

"Special...?" Bella stared at Spencer, a memory suddenly flashing into her mind. "I know you now. You're Charles Spencer. You were President."

Spencer nodded. "One of the last," he said. "I think there were, what, two more after me before the treaties of unification were signed?"

"You were kicked out of office," Bella said, staring, "convicted of high treason. I thought you'd been executed."

Spencer laughed. "So that's what they're calling it now? High treason? Makes sense, I guess, gives them the appearance of having the moral high ground they love so much. And no, I wasn't executed, as you can see. An execution would have been way too public. I was sent here, provided with all the comforts of home, basically to get rid of me as quietly as possible."

"But why?"

Instead of answering, Spencer opened one of the units. "Ah, good," he said, examining the contents. "Everything's fresh as the day it was put in here." Pulling out some packages, he closed the unit. "In the mood for some real home cooking?"


Setting down his fork, Spencer leaned back in his chair. "How's the food?"

"Amazing. I haven't had this dish since I left Earth. Most of this stuff isn't even available here."

"I still get deliveries," Spencer told her. "Even now, stuck here, they want to keep me happy and silent."


Spencer glanced around him. "You're right," he said softly. "I was President. I was also a dreamer. I thought being President would let me actually accomplish things, make things better."

"What do you mean?"

Spencer eyed her. "You're what, ten years younger than me, maybe twelve? Something like that, right?" Bella nodded. "Then you probably don't remember how bad it was. The economy was failing, people were hungry, crime was off the charts. I thought I could fix all of that with a program I initiated after I was elected. Basically, there would have been more for everyone, with the wealthy footing the bill. Unfortunately, I underestimated the power of wealth".

"Before my program even got started, I found myself being impeached, charged with things that made no sense whatsoever. They had no proof, no evidence, nothing that would fairly convict me, so I thought I could beat it. Imagine my surprise when I was declared guilty and sentenced to life here."

"It was rigged?"

Spencer laughed wryly. "As rigged as a ship under full sail, and then some. By the time I realized how badly they'd stacked the deck against me, it was too late. They even had the public howling for my blood, believing I'd betrayed them."

"So why weren't you executed?"

"Near the end," Spencer explained, "when I realized there was no way I could win, I started using my contacts, people who still believed in me. They started gathering information on the people working against me. Nothing to prove me innocent, of course. All of that was destroyed even before my trial. No, what they gathered was dirty little secrets, information that could ruin people if it ever came out".

"That," he went on, "is how I wound up here. My enemies found out about what my friends were doing, but by then, all of the information had been safely hidden away. They knew that, if I died, that information would be made public. So they cut a deal. They would allow me to live here, in exile, and my friends wouldn't destroy them. So they set up all of this, arranged for me to receive regular supply deliveries, and hoped I would die quietly."

"And the information?"

"Still hidden. My enemies have been searching for it this whole time, but they'll never find it. Which means I still have a weapon hanging over their heads, a reason for them to keep me happy and quiet." He glanced around him wistfully. "But now," he said, "I think the time for quiet is almost ended." He turned his eyes toward Bella. "Thanks to you."

Bella's eyes widened. "Me?"

"Since I got here," Spencer told her, "I've spent most of my time moving from village to town to city, acting as a sort of elder statesman. I've also been quietly forming alliances with groups from all over this planet."

"Alliances?" Bella looked doubtful. "Spencer, everyone here is a criminal, some of the worst that ever walked on Earth."

Spencer shook his head. "Not everyone. Oh, those sent here have been bad, true, but this colony has been here for over a century. Most of the people here now are descendants of the original prisoners. And they're good, honest people. On this world, the sins of the father usually don't carry on to the next generation, not when people are too busy just trying to get by. For every thief or smuggler here, there are a hundred farmers, herdsmen, traders, craftsmen. Earth created this colony as an almost medieval place, with limited technology and few if any luxuries, and most of that goes to those in charge. The rest live simply, much like their ancestors did centuries ago. Because of this, the people of Primus have evolved their own culture, their own ways."

"And the others? The ones in charge?"

"They," Spencer declared, "continue to serve Earth, whether they realize it or not. They keep the population poor, primitive and isolated from each other. In return, they get their good food, their weapons and communication gear, but just enough to keep them in power. It's a very efficient system, keeping them dependent on Earth and then letting them do the dirty work. And the poor fools don't even realize it."

"And you," Bella observed, "intend to change that. How?"

"To be honest," Spencer said, "I had no clue. I've travelled the planet, gathered people together, but I really had no idea of where to go from there. But then I found the key. You."

Bella was stunned. "Me? I'm a slave, remember? I have no choice but to do whatever you command me to do?" Her eyes narrowed. "Or do you plan on using me as a puppet in your scheme?"

"Yes," Spencer replied, rising from his chair, "you are a slave. And yes, you do have no choice but to obey my commands." Slowly, he moved around the table until he stood beside her. "And I have a command for you now." Leaning down, he began to whisper into Bella's ear.

As she listened, Bella's face grew pale, her eyes widening. When Spencer straightened, she stared up at him. "Did... did you mean that?" she said softly.

"Did I say it?" Bella nodded silently. "So you have no choice but to obey."

"No," Bella said slowly, "I don't. I will obey your command."

"Good." Spencer nodded toward the rear of the cabin, where a ladder led to an upstairs loft. "Now, let's get some sleep. We have a lot to do."

"Just one thing. Before we begin on your crusade..." Bella held up her plate. "Think I could get seconds?"

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