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Chapter One

 

Captain Graham Masterson was famous in multiple galaxies, and not for one reason only, but for three. Firstly, he was known for his great works in his thirty-one years that had saved the lives of thousands of the Swarii, his own people, throughout the known universe. Secondly, he was known as the youngest captain in military history, and thirdly, because he was the husband of a mostly-human engineer named Eleanor Masterson.

For Eleanor had become not so much famous as notorious. She was an oddity, and not just because she was one of the first Human-Swarii cross species on record, but because she was the first female ever to get inducted into the service and served UNDER her husband, of all places.

What was odd about them both is that Graham Masterson, for as respected as he was, allowed Eleanor to easily be considered one of the least subservient married women in Swarii remembrance. Back on Eleanor’s home world of Earth, there were some cultures that found this as a positive thing: they might have made a movie or a pop song in her honor.

But she lived among the Swarii and had for nearly a whole year now, and the Swarii didn’t revere oddities at all. In Eleanor’s case, they liked to pretend she was something she wasn’t. They ignored the fact that she was practically a miniature being at only 5’2” and only a measly 110 pounds. They ignored that she was an engineer with little strength and only five fingers, and they most especially ignored the fact that she was a woman whenever possible.

Until, of course, she’d talk to her husband on-duty, where it became obvious that she was indeed a woman and indeed the captain’s wife… If simply because anybody else would have been shot in the face by now.

“You’re being stupid!” she heckled, following Graham over to the control bridge while carrying a stack of rolled up plans as if she was planning on using them as a club. “The modification would be well worth the delay, you can’t possibly be so obtuse you can’t see that. If there even WAS a delay, that is, and there WOULDN’T be. You just don’t want to take the risk!”

Graham stopped in his pacing just enough to growl a response. “Exactly, Lieutenant. I don’t.” He had hoped calling her by rank would remind her that she wasn’t just speaking to her husband, but to a senior officer—neither of whom would change their minds about a most decided topic. “The modification to the engines is unprecedented and untested, possibly even lethal. It’s likely to be of more harm than good, and I don’t have the time. This ship needs to be docked onto the mothership in seventy-two hours, and not a second longer. I have a schedule to keep. Responsibilities.” He drawled out the last word as if it was even more foreign to her than the rest of the language.

“Are you suggesting that I don’t have any responsibilities?” she quipped angrily. “Because I would like to see you to do what I do!”

“You might have responsibilities,” he granted, “But you don’t have the concept of priorities.” He suddenly looked toward the ceiling and groaned. “Lord, why I’m wasting my time talking to you about this, I will never know. What about your superior? Where’s he?” He asked this in a bit of a distant way, as if her engineering commander wasn’t Graham’s first cousin and best friend.

“My superior isn’t superior,” she sneered. “He ALSO doesn’t have a pair of balls.”

The command bridge, once a bastion of clicking noises and murmuring, silenced as everybody turned to watch how their captain was going to react.

They were disappointed if they thought he was the type that would lose his temper with her so utterly that he would take her to task in front of the entire bridge, even if it was his right. “You can return to your duties, Mrs. Masterson,” he returned crisply. “We’ll talk about your lack of respect this evening in our apartment.”

“No,” she refused, straightening her shoulders and raising her chin. “You aren’t even listening! This modification can allow you to actually control the ship while in warp jump. It could considerably shorten the length of time traveling between galaxies. It would be perfect to come into the Mothership with that sort of technology on our hands!”

He looked easily over her head towards the guards near the door. “Guards? Please escort the lieutenant to Commander Thorton Hux. Please tell him that he has to control his staff.”

It only took one guard, of course, who merely scooped Eleanor up and threw her over his shoulder as Eleanor continued to protest, “Maybe I should be head of the household, Graham! I have bigger balls than you do! Do you hear me? You’re sleeping on the sofa, Buster! If you think I’ll stand for this treatment, think again! I will not be cast aside so you can kiss your own father’s ass! Graham!”

Of course, he ignored her. She kicked her legs around after the guard took her down the hallway, and Graham still hadn’t pursued her. “Oh, just put me down, Derek!” she told the guard.

The guard, who had been the one guiding her back down to the engineering level in the past, set her down when he got inside the elevator. “You play a dangerous game, Little Girl,” the guard warned her. “If you were mine, I would have you—”

“Yeah? Well, I’m not yours, Derek,” she reminded tersely, snatching her rolled plans back from him. “And let me remind you—when I single-handedly win the damn war for your stupid race, you too will stand in line to thank me!”

“Single-handedly, huh?” Derek droned in echo, his face as blank as it always was. The elevator opened and they stepped out.

“Who the hell else will help me?” she replied, narrowing her eyes as Thorton walked over to her, bare-chested and throwing his large arms up in the air.

“Where the hell were you?” he asked, exasperated. He looked over at Derek, who shrugged, waved lazily, and returned to the elevator. “You weren’t kicked out of the bridge again, were you? Ellie—goddamn it! Who do you think he’s going to yell at for you lipping off? Me, that’s who! What in the blue galaxy—ah, for cripes… You were nagging him about that damn engine modification, weren’t you? Ellie, that modification could blow the whole damn system!”

“No guts, no glory,” she said in English, pushing the rolled up plans into Thorton’s chest.

Thorton grumbled—Eleanor had a way of shaming him that he had to fight off. That girl thought she was so much better at his job than he was, simply because he tended to look before leaping. Of course, he didn’t have the ‘I’m a woman’ safety net. He didn’t have anyone to bail him out if he failed. She had her husband at the end of the day, and past that, she had the Admiral of the entire fleet wrapped around her finger.

“Ellie, you can really kill morale, you know that? Especially mine… Look, please get the radiator on generator eighteen changed out. Please—for the love of God!—wear proper safety gear this time.”

“You get the radiator changed out,” she countered, walking towards the engines.

“I don’t have time to change the radiator!”

“You have time to nag at me,” she responded with a shrug.

“Goddamn it, Kitten! If you touch one engine—just one—I swear to God I will actually use my strap on you. Don’t think I won’t do it!” he threatened, following close behind her.

“Fine,” she snapped, turning the corner towards the generators.

“Safety gear!” he reminded with a shout. He watched as she stomped down the hallway until her figure disappeared around the corner, then he turned towards his office, looking up at the ceiling. “That girl’s gonna give me an ulcer. And I used to think humans were cute! Bah!”

As soon as he walked into his office and threw the plans across his desk haphazardly and sat down in his chair for the first time that morning, he heard his communicator buzz for his attention. “No,” he groaned, reading that the message was coming from the command deck. He tried to ignore it. “No!” The communicator on his wrist started to buzz. That was harder to ignore. He turned on the communicator on his desk. “Commander Hux,” he sighed wearily, his shoulders slumping.

“Do you have a problem with discipline, Commander?” Graham both looked and sounded pissed.

“If this is about Ellie, she’s your wife, not mine,” Thorton reminded bravely, shrugging.

“She works under you, not under me. Where’s your sense of control? Are you running a pirate ship down there, or are you actually part of the fleet?” Graham snapped. “Let me remind you that you’re the one that wanted her working under you. I certainly know that I didn’t send myself a petition to put her in my service.”

“Her engineering test scores are off the charts, Boss. You know that,” Thorton groaned. “And she’s gotten us out of a couple of binds this year, you have to admit. Only a human can human rig. We don’t have that level of creativity or problem-solving by a long shot…” He wiped some sweat away from his neck—it was always hot as hell in the engine room. “I don’t know… Maybe the modifications wouldn’t be a bad idea…” he mused, sounding tired.

“Are you giving in because you actually think it’s a good idea, or are you giving in because she wore you down?” Graham countered, narrowing his eyebrows dubiously.

“She wore me down,” he responded quickly and truthfully. “There’s no working with her when she has it in her mind to do something like this…”

The captain sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose between his index finger and thumb for a moment. “No. If she wants to experiment, she can do that back at the Mothership in a closed environment abiding proper testing procedures and clearance.”

“Hah. We’ll see if she gets it since she blew up that lab last season,” reminded Thorton. “I mean, the Admiral loves her—that’s obvious. On that note, he doesn’t want her to blow herself up on his watch. He was pretty jarred after the close-call…”

“Everyone was jarred by the close call. She nearly sucked the whole floor into outer space. And she killed the gravity generator… That was expensive.” The memory was obviously not getting Graham excited about letting Ellie start her experiments on his own ship. “You need to make her drop this—she can’t keep going over your head when she doesn’t get her way. Are you a commander or aren’t you?”

Thorton blanched. “I’m a commander—everyone else I don’t have any problems with. Ellie’s the only prima donna!”

“And you made her that way by not providing discipline. I won’t allow favoritism. It hurts morale. If you want me to write you a good report, you’ll lead a good command,” Graham informed. “Clear?”

“Yes,” Thorton grumbled.

“Good. Masterson out.” The image of Graham disappeared, leaving Thorton stewing. The full-blood humans on the ship weren’t even a fraction as much trouble. The couple was a pair of model citizens.

Thorton grumbled and turned his chair around to grab a sandwich from the small kitchenette area he had behind his desk. Finally—breakfast. It was already afternoon, of course, but that’s how things were since he took the engineering commander position—he had to grab food when he could, whenever he could, and as much as he could.

Ellie might not have been a very good officer, but she was a good engineer. She had gotten the ship out of a few tough binds that year, as Thorton had predicted. It seemed like nothing could stand in the way of that girl’s goals—not lack of materials and not lack of time. She always figured out how to make something work. If she had a submissive bone in her body, she would be a perfect worker. But as it was, she was unstructured and arrogant.

A red light was suddenly flashing above his head, followed ultimately by a ringing of an alarm. He looked over at his desk to see where the alarm was pulled. “For fuck’s sake!” Thorton growled angrily, stuffing the rest of his sandwich into his mouth before sprinting out the door towards the engine room.

“Goddamn it! I told her not to do it. I told her!” he growled to himself as he and the lower-level engineers rushed to the engine room to find that the system was overloading. A radiator had already busted a seam. Of course, Ellie was straddling a pipe above the engine and reaching down bravely to fix what she’d done. “What did I say?” Thorton shouted at her. Someone shut off the steam valve as he grabbed a steel sheet and, with the help of two others, repaired the ripped seam before turning the steam valve back on.

“Ellie, goddamn it! Get down here! The engine is unstable! I don’t want you in the area! We have to turn off the reactor first!” He knew Ellie knew all that—in the last year; hell, in the first three months, she learned the engineering core backwards. Still, she didn’t move from her position.

“I got it!” she called down to him. She was wearing protective goggles, which were fogging up in the room’s steam, and the fact that they covered half of her face made it nearly impossible to tell whether or not she was worried except that her lips were pursed with resolve.

He didn’t chance it. He began to climb the ladder up to where she was. He would drag her down if he had to. If the engine overloaded, parts could explode and spit at her like a projectile. The worst thing that could happen is the engine could rip open a seam big enough to cook her. “Eleanor! Get down from there!”

“I almost have it!” she argued, still trying to jerk her wrench over a socket.

Thorton ordered his men to shut down the reactor from the ladder, and kept on climbing until he was able to crawl out onto the piping that Ellie was sitting on. It was nowhere nearly as sturdy as he hoped it was up there, and the tubular piping rocked slightly under his weight. He took a deep breath to get his courage, and then continued to crawl towards Ellie, who was still trying to relieve pressure on the engine.

“I almost have it, I almost have it!” she told him, not even glancing up, although she could surely see him moving nervously in her direction from straight-ahead.

“Leave it! That’s an order, Kitten!” Thorton issued firmly. She didn’t even acknowledge him, just worked faster. “Did you hear m—?”

KAPLOW! Suddenly the engine hiccupped underneath them, and a nut flew between them. It was close enough to Ellie’s face that she swung away to somehow avoid it, and then lost balance on her pipe. Thorton reached out and grabbed her hand, which wind milled in his direction as she fell off.

He let out a surprised shout as he caught her entire bodyweight. The pipe under them creaked dangerously. He certainly noticed how her jaw dropped in horror and how firm her grip was on his.

“We’re okay,” Thorton promised. He looked at his position… It sucked, simply put. She was too far off the ground to toss safely away from the engine. He held onto the pipe under him with one arm and both legs and slowly scooted back towards the direction he had come, holding Ellie by her arm.

“Hurry,” she begged, looking down. They were both thinking the same thing—the engine could bust at any second. They could hear the metal creak. She grabbed his arm with her other hand. “Hurry!”

He clenched his teeth together and grunted as his chest got bruised by every damn groove of the pipe he dragged his body over until he got to the ladder. Finally, he was close. “Swing over,” he ordered, swinging his arm in the direction of the ladder.

She screamed from the motion. “No! I can’t!”

“Grab onto that goddamn ladder, Ellie!” Thorton barked.

With a whimper, she let go of his arm again and her body dropped an inch from his grasp. She gasped in both fear and pain. He swung her body over again, where she was able to hook the ladder with her leg and then grabbed hold of it with her arm. She pulled her body onto it as Thorton let go of her.

The engine creaked again. “Go! Go!” Thorton demanded, watching her climb down using only one arm. The arm he had grabbed onto during her fall she was clutching close to her body. He groaned and climbed down next to her and picked up her body with one of his arms, pressing her to his side, and then continued to climb down the ladder at a fair clip. The engine made a sickening crunching noise and then, GABANG! A seam opened up in the engine and a large chunk of the metal swung backwards, hitting against the ladder just over their heads. He dropped them to the floor and then shoved her to the ground and put his body over hers just before the ladder fell on top of them.

Finally, there was a loud roar and then a winding-down noise that whirred into silence. Ellie could hear Thorton breathing loudly into her ear, but didn’t move and didn’t say anything. With a relieved sigh, she pressed her face against the cold floor.

Thorton didn’t move until another couple of engineers came to help him pry the heavy ladder off his body. “Are you okay?” one of them asked, looking at the trashed room around them and the red marks across Thorton’s back.

Thorton rolled over to his side and one of the engineers picked Ellie up into standing. She winced at the pain getting to her feet panged in her body, and she rubbed tenderly at her shoulder before looking down at Thorton. “Are you okay?” she asked, echoing the other engineer, who knelt down next to Thorton.

Thorton looked void of all emotion for a moment. But in the next he climbed to his feet and quickly, hastily, began to take off his belt, looking menacingly at Ellie, who was already walking backwards away from him. “That’s it, you disobedient little…”

“Whoa, whoa! I’m injured!” she cried, running away from him towards the hallway.

“You will be injured! I’m gonna crack your ass the other way!” he said, running after her. “You nearly got us killed, you little shit!”

She had to run impressively fast to be able to outrun Thorton, who even sported a bit of a limp. She would have liked to be thankful for him saving her life. She even would have stood for groveling to him a little bit about how she was sorry her experiment didn’t go as well as she’d planned. She figured she’d bake him a cake or something later; just as long as she got away from him.

She certainly didn’t wait for the elevator—she vaulted up the stairs to the next level up, which was conveniently the medical level. Thorton was blind enough with rage not to notice that waiting for the elevator would get him there faster than the stairs. He was only a foot behind her the whole way, growling.

“Eeeek!” she hooted, running to the first friend she saw, who was luckily Fie, an eight foot tall giant of a man, even by Swarii standards. She was quick to use him as a barrier between her and Thorton, who kept on trying to reach out and grab her.

“Whoa! Whoa, Buddy!” Fie said, putting his hands on Thorton’s shoulders to hold him back, noticing that the man was bleeding from the lip and his nose, his chest and back covered with angry red welts and bruises, and that he looked extraordinarily pissed. “Whoa!”

“Get off of me!” he ordered. Fie continued to stand in his path, and so he looked around at Ellie, who pushed herself against a counter. “I should have you shot!” he spat, pointing at her with his folded belt. “This will be the last order YOU disobey!”

“Calm down, Commander. Let me take a look at you,” Fie offered, his voice as low and calming as it usually was.

Thorton’s face puckered angrily, looking up at Fie, then looking at Elle, who looked more ashamed than terrified with the way she hunched against the wall, still nursing her injured arm to her chest. “As soon as he clears you for work, little girl, your ass is mine.”

Ellie and Fie both watched as Thorton stomped angrily out of the room, after which Ellie looked up at Fie and requested flatly, “Do me a favor? Never clear me for work for the rest of my life?”

“What happened? I saw the alarm go off, but…” Fie asked, his brow worried. He walked up to her and carefully took her hand off of her injured arm.

“I was too clever by half,” she divulged as Fie carefully helped her shuck off her coat. She winced. “Thorton kept me from getting dropped on an engine that was blowing… Caught me mid-drop. It was impressive, but he nearly ripped my arm off. Think it’s dislocated?” she asked, with a shred of hope in her voice, as if she really wanted him to hell her that she had a slow-healing injury.

“Nope,” he replied simply, helping her pull off her shirt in order to look at her shoulder.

“You haven’t even looked at it yet!” she whined. “How do you know?”

“You have a low pain-tolerance, Ellie. You’d be screaming your head off if it was.” His words held a weight of certainty as he easily picked her up by her waist and settled her on the counter she had been leaning on, hoping the extra height would help his neck strain which he normally acquired from looking down at Ellie’s short height. “A spanking would be the least of your concerns.”

“I think he was more interested in killing me than spanking me,” she grumbled, wincing uncomfortably as he worked with her arm by moving it ‘gently’ around.

“Does that hurt?” he asked.

She looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. “No, feels fantastic. Do it some more.”

“That’s human sarcasm, isn’t it?” Fie asked flatly. “You might not want to be sarcastic with a medical officer, Lieutenant. You’re a different enough species that I might not get it one of these days.” He looked down and saw that her entire wrist was bruised… a few of the darkening welts were in the shape of Thorton’s fingers.

“You’re a lucky little girl, Kitten,” Fie told her. “A lot of the engine blows end up with me sticking someone in a body bag and calling his wife with some bad news.” He shook his head. “All you have is a slightly torn muscle that will heal in no time and a few scrapes and bruises. It was just a regular day on the playground, as far as you’re concerned.” He walked across the room to grab a couple of supplies. When he came back, she was trying to rub some dirt off her nose with her even dirtier coat sleeve.

“Question?” she asked, watching him prepare a very, very scary-looking needle and trying to ignore him as he did it. “How many people actually get shot around here? For as much as I get threatened, you would think that it happens all the time.”

“On some ships it does happen all the time,” Fie replied. “I remember the first post I served on, about twenty men were shot for insubordination… Only one was actually killed, mind you, but a lot of shooting.”

“Nobody’s even insubordinate around here,” she chuckled nervously.

Fie raised a dubious eyebrow.

“Except me, I get it,” she replied flatly.

“That’s because Graham Masterson is one of those few men whose reputation precedes him. He’s talented—even if fate did put him together with one of the more silly girls in the universe. At least you’re just an engineer. It’s really uncommon for engineers to get disciplined on the whole. On any ship, anywhere, if you were to hold engineers up to the same standards and guidelines as everyone else, you wouldn’t have any engineers left— they wouldn’t make it past the first week. Why do you think the Admiral pressed Thorton into becoming an engineer? Because he didn’t want to see him dead. As you know quite well, Thorton wouldn’t have made it this far otherwise.” He looked up and added easily as he wielded the needle near, “This is gonna hurt.”

He wasn’t fooling. Nobody could make her scream like a two-year-old better than Fie. Not even Graham’s spankings ever produced the level of shrill pain that Fie could unleash within seconds. It was possible that he was very correct—she did have a low pain tolerance.

She left his ears ringing afterwards, and he let go of his steady hold on her in order to put his fingers over his ears and loosen his jaw as if to somehow repair the damage that way.

“It burns,” she whined afterwards, wincing even more.

“Let it burn. It’s healing the damaged tissue so I can get you cleared for work,” Fie told her.

Her eyes widened. “I don’t want to be cleared for work today! You saw Thorton, he’s crazy!”

“Yeah, well, from what you told me, it sounds like they need all the engineers on duty right now.” He didn’t sound very apologetic. He just picked up an electric tablet and started writing something into it. “Take a shower, take your afternoon nap,” he encouraged, “and report to duty in two hours. Your shoulder should be done healing by then.”

“Can’t you find something for me to fix up here?” she complained as he gently helped her put her shirt back on. “Any equipment that needs tinkering, perhaps?”

“Yeah, I could find you something… But I won’t.” He grinned teasingly and pulled her body off of the counter and set her feet back onto the ground. “I’m sure by the time you go down there, you’ll be full of spit and vinegar again, anyway. Your team needs you… Even if you’re the reason that they need you.”

She shuffled miserably to her and Graham’s apartment and felt the communicator on her wrist buzz. God, those communicators were annoying pieces of work… They were larger than a watch, and so when she was called on one, the vibration it caused seemed to rattle her arm up to her elbow. She entered the bedroom and pushed her communicator under the main screen in her living room. Her husband, handsome in his uniform, looked very serious and very concerned when he appeared on-screen. “Are you alright?” he asked her.

“Thorton tell you what happened?” she groaned. Exhausted, she sat back on the sofa right in front of the monitor.

“Damn right he told me what happened! You put us behind by at least twenty hours, Eleanor! You disobeyed a direct order!” he griped, his neck showing the vein that only seemed to swell when he was angry.

“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t know we were trucking on full speed. It could have worked, if…”

“I’m not interested in another one of your inadequate excuses,” he said, ripping his hand through the air. “I called to see if you were alright.”

“Well, why don’t you just read the medical report, if that’s all you want?” she quipped.

“Your attitude will get you nowhere with me, young lady. I called you because I’m your husband; I love you, and I worry when you’re injured,” he snapped, trying his best to be patient, but she could see that his nostrils were flaring with rage.

“Well, don’t worry. Fie cleared me for work at five.”

“Commander Hux assured me he won’t shoot you, even though it’s his right to,” Graham added with fervor.

“How comforting,” she replied sarcastically.

“It’s not that comforting for you. What trouble you’re in is of your own making. You better believe you and I will discuss this later.”

Graham was a head-of-household type that didn’t actually discuss many things with his wife. However, he did like calling his punishment sessions with her ‘discussions’, much to her disdain. “Goody goody gumdrops,” she huffed. “It’s been awhile since we discussed something.”

“Yes. Too long,” he agreed ominously. “I’ll see you later on.”

“Uh huh,” she agreed, watching the screen turn off.

She did what Fie recommended—she put her clothes in the freshener, took a shower, took a nap, and damn it all if her arm felt fine afterwards! She wiggled it around stiffly, trying to loosen up the muscle, and then washed the gunk off her goggles, which were still dirty from earlier, and which she always wore in her hair like a headband until she needed them.

The walk down to the engineering level she felt was akin to walking “the long mile” to one’s execution back on Earth. It was both too long and not long enough. She was sure that Thorton would still be angry, and as she walked through the Engineering Level and found herself avoiding more and more furious gazes from the other engineers and mechanics, she became absolutely certain that she was indeed walking to her doom.

She finally spotted Thorton. He was standing on a raised platform with sparks flying around him, his eyes covered with safety goggles as he welded the scraps of the secondary engine back together.

She cleared her throat. She didn’t think he would really be able to hear her above the noise, but was mistaken. As soon as she made her little cough, he turned off his welding gun and turned his head slowly down towards her.

“What do you want me to start on?” she asked, pulling her hands behind her and looking repentant and nervous.

He snorted ruefully. “You know the strap of leather I have hanging in my office?” he asked her shortly.

She gave a nervous chuckle, as if he couldn’t possibly be serious.

“I want you to get it,” he told her, looking more serious every second. “And you want to be fast, Girl, because the more I work on shit that you messed up, the more pissed I get, and the worse it’s gonna be.”

She gulped, not liking that order one bit. “Can we talk this out first?” she pleaded.

He tugged off one of his safety gloves with a violent jerk.

“I’ll get it!” she assured, scurrying away from him. She knew where that was going—the last thing she wanted was punishment leading up to another punishment. Thorton obviously wasn’t at his most patient that day.

She had worked under him for nearly nine months now, and although he threatened her constantly, he had never used the leather strap on her, although she knew full well that the entire existence of the strap was a contingency from Graham to have her work under Thorton. Graham didn’t want to see her shot, or even whipped, and yet had the foresight to predict that she was going to be a huge pain in Thorton’s ass and that, eventually, Thorton would want to—or would have to—do something about her.

The strap of leather actually had dust on it. She found herself blushing as she came out of the office with it… She wanted to hide it under her jacket to keep any of the other men from seeing it and predicting what was going to happen. But then she figured they already were aware of what was going to happen to her, and it was humiliating. All she was to the others at the moment was a little girl about to get her bottom smacked by her boss. To her, it seemed so utterly ridiculous.

Probably back on Earth, if whipping was still done in the Navy, a spanking would never seem adequate. But the Swarii were certainly a gentler race of beings, at least in regards to their females. They revered women to the extent that it would kill them to see one of their women suffering… Although it was rare that a woman would actually deserve severe suffering. Executing or physically damaging a woman was unheard of.

Spanking was more common… But not as common as it seemed to be for Ellie! A ‘difficult’ Swarii woman who ‘constantly’ got spanked was a joke in Ellie’s mind. Men considered a ‘brat’ to be a woman who didn’t have their dinner ready by six or someone who would try to use sex as a reward system for getting what they wanted. Married Swarii women were absurdly obedient and submissive… Ellie was neither. She felt the pull to submit to her husband, certainly, but she knew that pull was just a biological instinct from her Swarii-side; one that she pretty much squashed with the help of the fact that she was mostly human.

Graham was a very, very patient husband. And fortunately for her, he was very educated and intellectual enough to realize that she wasn’t fully Swarii and couldn’t be held up to the same standards as other Swarii wives. Even so, her bottom was the victim of the flat of his hand more than enough times.

By the time she got back to Thorton, he was nearly done with his welding. Thorton was actually on the ‘short’ side of the Swarii-height spectrum, but she never really noticed, and it was rare somebody said something about his height. Thorton was burly—he was extremely muscular and built up from years of manual labor. Her husband was quite lean in comparison; Thorton seemed like he had rows upon rows of muscle…

She was beginning to think she might not survive the strapping.

Finally, his welding torch fired off and he pushed his goggles off his eyes and up onto his forehead so he could get a better look at his work. He then turned and looked at her in a way that divulged that he knew exactly how long she had been standing there. He pulled off his gloves and his protective apron and slapped them both down onto the platform before he climbed down.

“You cleared for work?” he asked as he stepped up to her with a sharp look of resolve in his eyes.

“I wouldn’t be down here otherwise,” she assured, swallowing; looking at his busted lip with a slight amount of guilt that she knew would dissolve as soon as he started punishing her.

“You nearly got yourself killed,” he reminded firmly, yanking the leather strap out of her small hands.

“I know, I’m sorry. It was a bad judgment call on my part,” she admitted, her heart beating quickly. In fact, she was beginning to think her heart had relocated to her throat and she now had to both breathe and swallow around it.

Thorton gripped her arm and pulled her to the steps leading up to another grid level. “It wasn’t your damn judgment call. It was my judgment call. What you did was directly disobey me. I’m the boss here!” He sat down on a step and pulled her over his lap with a single, firm motion. “Something you’re gonna learn,” he assured grimly.

“Can’t we do this in your office?” she squeaked in a plea, listening to how the sounds of other engineers working were beginning to quiet so they could watch her punishment.

“No,” he replied firmly. “You’ll have everyone working overtime. They deserve to see this.”

She felt him raise her skirt and pull down her leggings, and instead of protest, which wasn’t going to work, she tried squinting and imagining that she was somewhere else… That this was all just a bad dream and that really not every damn engineer on the ship couldn’t see her lacy, white panties.

The first CRACK she heard of the leather hitting the delicate skin of her bottom made her remember that this was very real, everyone seeing her undies was the last thing she should be worrying about, and that she really was going to get her ass blistered by Thorton.

She tried to grit her teeth and just ‘take it’ without kicking her legs around while hollering like a spanked toddler, but that was not meant to be! Thorton was surprisingly good at delivering sufficient pain with every blow so that she was struggling like a wild animal in less than thirty seconds.

Because of Thorton’s size, she didn’t seem to be providing him much of a physical challenge, even when she put her arms back to try to stop him. He merely pinned her wrists uncomfortably to the small of her back, making her even more helpless and pinned than ever.

Graham was a lecturer—he liked to speak when he was spanking her, hoping that she would learn something wise during the process. Thorton didn’t say anything. He merely ground his teeth and grunted every now and then, but that was it. Her screams, once they started, easily drowned that out.

She hadn’t been strapped in a good long time—not since she was working in her Frian master’s harem, by Peyton, a human that escaped with her about a year after he used the leather strap on her. She was beginning to realize that Peyton had been easy on her; possibly because it had been her first spanking, possibly because he had been in a hurry that day.

Thorton was not in a hurry. He was too busy making an ‘impression’. She was beginning to realize that nobody else in the service had ever been spanked for corporal punishment, and therefore no laws were written down—no limitations were set for Thorton. She was beginning to wonder if she could literally be spanked to death.

It didn’t really matter; she was going to die of embarrassment first anyway. Not because she was certain her bottom was going to be the reddest anybody in the room had ever seen, but because, even though she liked to act tough on a day-to-day basis, she was blubbering like a damn baby. She was crying so hard she could barely catch her breath.

The leather had strapped every square inch of skin from her mid-thigh to the top of her bottom, of this she was certain. In fact, she was pretty sure Thorton thoroughly strapped everything twice before he put the strap down and yanked her back into standing.

She tried to dry her eyes on her coat sleeve.

“Get back to work. You still haven’t even replaced that damn radiator. I don’t care if you work through the night,” Thorton told her, his voice sounding hard and void of all sympathy. She couldn’t see his face very well—the tears were still blurring her vision.

He slapped the leather strap in her hand and her fingers closed around it. “Put this where you found it, Lieutenant.”

She sobbed something that was supposed to come out as, ‘Okay’, but it didn’t really sound like either of their languages. She tried to pull her leggings back up under her skirt as quickly as possible, letting out another sob as the fabric tightly clung to her swollen skin, and then she walked away, her head hung low, still trying to correct her breathing to normal.

Thorton pursed his lips into a thin, white line as she walked off. That wasn’t as enjoyable as he thought it was going to be. Pain in the ass that she was, Thorton didn’t like causing Ellie pain. It was too easy to view her as a cute little sister, where it was his lot to bear her more than bear-down on her.

That being said, she scared the hell out of him! He needed to get the point across… And Graham agreed. Her blasé attitude towards authority had to be nipped in the bud before it got her into some serious trouble.

He went back to work, thinking about how he was going to get things to change under his command, particularly if Ellie was going to work under him during the next nine-month stint. In a way, he hoped she would. He honestly liked working with her. They were a good team, despite her horrible attitude. They knew each other’s strengths and limitations.

And besides, Ellie was probably the only woman he even had a relationship with, except maybe the human girl, Mary. When he got leave to take a wife in the Swaraan lottery, none of the three thousand girls attending were a match for him. That had been a blow, even though he was invited again to next year’s marriage festival to try again. He was beginning to have his own doubts that he was even a good mate. He was rough around the edges…

He shook his head. Nope. He was going to keep his cousin’s wife alive. If not for Graham’s sake, then for at least his own… Somehow.

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