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Chapter One

Earth 4009

“Come with me,” the guard pointed at Ella.

“Why?” Ella dared to question, and the three other women in the pod looked at her in varying degrees of alarm.  They could all be punished for Ella’s insolence, but the redhead did not seem to be concerned with their well-being.

“Perturbers are not permitted to question guards, female.  Come at once and have done with this foolishness before you are punished along with these other perturbers.”  The guard was firm in his duty.  He was also a strict father, determined to insure his daughters did not end up in a placement facility for society’s misfits.  He had been doing this same source of income for twelve years now, and he had dealt with many perturbers, but this young female was the worst of them all.  Punishment did not faze her in any discernable way.  Guard Deemus considered her incorrigible and could not believe his good fortune this day.  Perturber Ella was leaving them, although why she was chosen was a complete shock and mystery to ponder over a spiced drink later that night when he was within his family place.

Ella glared at the guard known as Deemus and then rose gracefully to approach the entrance of the pod.  He used a control attached to his belt and light crackled as the invisible barrier was lowered to permit Ella to leave the pod.  Once she was safely at his side, Deemus reinstated the bars, insuring the other three perturbers remain where they could not get into any mischief.  “Come along, female.”

“Where are you taking me, Guard Deemus?” Ella asked as she stepped into place beside the large man.  When he finally looked at her, Ella shivered at his expression of mirth.  She knew at once that she was not going to like his answer.

“You have been purchased,” Deemus replied.

“Worms!” Ella exclaimed, and as soon as the curse left her mouth she wished she could recall the word.  Guard Deemus was nothing but thorough in his duty, and punishment was swift.  He touched a blue button on his belt control panel and Ella was immediately treated to thirty second of debilitating cold.  Swearing was punishable, but of all the guards, Deemus could be counted upon to exact the severest penalty permitted by law.  Once she was able to feel her limbs and make her mouth work, she whispered, “Swearing by females is not permitted.”  No matter how many times she was punished for this same offense, Ella could not seem to conquer the bad habit.  The pain of feeling returning to her body was excruciating, the tingling, the pins and needles that felt like fire running through her veins.  It was several minutes before she could get to her feet to face Deemus.

“You will remain silent now,” Deemus ordered.  The female could not leave quietly! Deemus fumed silently.  He would have cause for celebration this night.  He led the way through the facility, curious as to the man who was simple enough to think he could handle this particular perturber.  She would bring him nothing but trouble.

Ella remained silent as she followed Guard Deemus, but her mind was in turmoil.  She had long since lost hope that someone would choose her from the Book of Perturbers in the Front Hall.  Each and every act of disobedience in the outside world and in here was listed below her picture, and in her case, three separate pages had to be attached to list them all.  Very few people would overlook her history. 

“You have kept us waiting, Guard,” Counselor Willet complained, disapproval in his gray eyes and in his sour expression.

“The female perturber earned punishment for swearing,” Deemus tattled immediately, and Counselor Willet gave the man a harsh look.  Ella could not refrain from giggling, which only drew attention to herself.

“Why do you find this amusing, female?” Counselor Willet demanded impatiently.

“It is apparent to me that you fear you will not collect your fee and be rid of me since Guard Deemus tattled.  I assume the coffers of this establishment are running low once again if you are willing to part with someone as incorrigible as I?”   Ella knew she was deliberately taunting the man, but she abhorred him, and the opportunity to make him appear a buffoon was rare.

“Enough of this foolishness, you little perturber,” a deep voice growled from behind her, and Ella whirled to see who spoke.  The man was large and would easily make three of her!  He was not of the city; his style of dress was like nothing she was accustomed to.  His clothing was simple; tight breeches, a tunic that stretched across broad shoulders and a large chest that tapered into a narrow waist.  He wore boots that were laced up midway to his knees, and instead of a control panel on his belt, he wore a wicked looking knife!  His dark hair was long and tied back with a strip of cloth that matched his shirt.  “I am Nickson, and you are my mate.”

“And if I refuse this kind offer?” Ella turned her chin up to demand in a frosty tone of voice.

“Your refusal does not matter in the least,” he informed her.  “I have paid your freedom price and you are now mine.”

“You are that wealthy?” Ella exclaimed with a hoot of laughter, laughter that bordered on disrespect.  She fully expected Guard Deemus to reach for the control panel on his belt, and he did not disappoint her.  However, she did not count on Nickson’s reaction.

“You will not touch my mate, Guard, if you value your life.”  The lethal looking knife was in his large hand and to Ella’s vast surprise, Deemus immediately raised his hands.

“The female is a perturber!” Deemus protested, looked at Counselor Willet for backup.

“The female now belongs to me,” Nickson stated coldly.  “I will protect what is mine.”

Ella laughed at the stunned expression on Counselor Willet’s face, and as long as she lived she would treasure the fear in Deemus’ eyes as he backed down.  “I will gladly come with you, Nickson.  Being your mate has its advantages, to be sure.”

Nickson’s dark eyes filled with humor, but his stern expression did not change as he ordered firmly, “You will go into the dressing room and change your clothing, Ella.  But first, you will remove that belt around your waist.”

“I cannot remove it, Nickson,” she answered without a trace of her earlier humor.  “I would burn my hands if I touched the clasp.  Guard Deemus must shut it off first.”

“Do so at once, Guard,” Nickson ordered, his deep voice intimidating the other man.

Deemus longed to give the female perturber a sharp shock, but instead he pushed on the deactivation button and watched the light on Ella’s belt shut off.

She eagerly removed the confining device that proclaimed to one and all her status as a perturber and she tossed it at Deemus with what could only be termed as defiance for his authority.  To her credit, she said not one word, but hurried into the changing room to remove the bright orange uniform.

“You will need to be firm with that one, Nickson,” Counselor Willet sniffed in disapproval.

“She has spirit, and a lesser woman would be crushed in the wilderness of my planet.”

“You will regret this farce,” Deemus prophesized.  “The perturber has been nothing but trouble for the last three years.”

“In my world we know how to handle fractious females without breaking their spirit,” Nickson stated calmly, and then grinned when he heard the grumbling from behind the closed door.  It took less than a second for Ella to poke her head outside the door.

“Are you serious about this?” she demanded, sounding aggrieved.

“It is the way women are dressed on Nandor,” he said.  “Only men wear pants.”

“Oh worms!” she muttered, and Nickson saw the Counselor’s face suffuse with anger, and Deemus’ hand went to the blue button on his belt. 

“Best for you that my mate is not wearing that belt,” he said coldly.

“She cursed!  It is not permitted!”

“Which is no longer your concern.”  Nickson would deal with Ella’s sassy mouth when they were clear of this institution.  He hated the way it smelled, and he hated hearing the females cry out in pain when a guard reached for the controls on his belt panel.  There were better ways of dealing with feisty women.

Ella felt foolish when she left the changing room.  The long dress was a beautiful shade of green, but she was not used to wearing something traditionally female.  In this day and age women wore pants and shirts.  The dress hung to the middle of her calves and was belted with a wide leather belt around her middle, showing off her curves and the fact she was very much a woman.  The soft boots, like the ones Nickson wore, came nearly to her knees.  They also fit her perfectly, to her surprise.  Ella saw at once that her new mate was pleased with her appearance and she blushed.  “I am dressed,” she said.

“So I see, Ella.  He reached for a cloak that he’d draped over a chair and wrapped it around her shoulders.  “It will feel chilly outside after so long inside these walls,” he said kindly.

“Luck of the Gods, Nickson.  You will need it to deal with this particular perturber,” Counselor Willet managed to get in one last dig.  “You asked for the strongest, and you received the most incorrigible.”

“I am satisfied with my mate, Counselor, and you would do well to remember that she is no longer listed as a perturber and if you offend her it will be my duty to deal with you as befitting her status.”  He was satisfied when he saw the man turn green.  He gave Deemus one more glare and then took Ella’s arm and led her down a long hallway.  The Guard on duty there was a young man, newly appointed to his position, and he gave them a genuine smile as he wished them a happy life.

Ella turned her face toward the sky and breathed deeply.  “I did not expect this day to happen,” she confessed, tears in her eyes.  “Thank you for this moment, Nickson.  I will try to be a good mate, but I must warn you, I am every bit as incorrigible as they say.  I fear I laugh when I should not, and I cannot resist pulling pranks.  I also have a terrible temper, and I curse,” she said, warning him with her normal honesty.

“I laugh when I should not, and I, too, have a terrible temper.  I sometimes curse, but will not tolerate that from my mate.  You will be punished if I have to tell you more than once.”

“I am afraid I left my belt behind,” she said with a smirk.

“I do not need a belt to control a woman… at least not that type of belt,” he amended, his dark eyes full of amusement.  “You will soon learn that we live very simply on the planet Nandor.  We do not use control panels.”  He led her to a highway vehicle and helped her inside.  “We go to Transport Center 434,” he told the driver.  If the man was shocked or surprised, he gave no sign of it, although Nickson was sure that he did not get many requests for that particular Transport Center.  It served only one planet, Nandor, and there was only one weekly public transport to and from the planet.  Only rarely did Nandor receive visitors, and the transport was how the residents of Nandor shipped and received goods.

“I have heard of Nandor,” Ella surprised Nickson by saying.  “However, I do not recall many details, except that it is long trip and sparsely populated.”

“Correct,” he agreed with a smile.  “Does this frighten you; to be so far away from Earth?”

“Why should it?” she shrugged eloquently.  “I have no one here who cares whether I live or die.  Escape from my prison is a welcome change.”  She smiled at him impishly and asked, “Are you not fearful I will damage your reputation on Nandor?”

“I daresay it will not come to that, Ella.  You will learn to be a good mate, or you will suffer the consequences.”

“What consequences?” she frowned.  She had left the control belt behind, unless he had another kind on Nandor…?

“We will not discuss consequences and punishments until the time comes when we must.  For now we will discuss pleasant matters.”

“I do not have much in the way of pleasantries to discuss, Nickson.  I have been imprisoned as a perturber for over three years.  I was not treated to rewards of any kind.  We were not appraised of current events in politics and economics, nor were we permitted entertainments that most citizens take for granted.  We were given work assignments to complete and then locked into our pods the rest of the time.  It was felt that severe punishment would turn us into worthwhile citizens suitable for mating with another, provided the price of release was paid.”  She looked at him and demanded curiously, “How much was I worth, Nickson?”

“You ask far too many questions, Ella,” he scolded lightly.  They were already at the Transport Center.  He paid the driver and then helped Ella from the vehicle.  There was only one other person there, and he was quite elderly in Ella’s opinion.

“I see you found what you were looking for, Principal Nickson,” the man gave him a toothless grin.  “She is right pretty, too, but is she strong enough?” he questioned, a dubious expression on his face.

“She will do, Aimal.  Ella, this is Aimal, my mechanic.  Aimal, my mate, Ella.”

“You sure are easy on the eyes, Lady Ella,” the man said with a huge smile for her.

Ella was shocked at his respectful form of address, but could not help but smile back at the man.  “Thank you,” she replied.  “I am pleased to meet you, Aimal.”

“Yes, she will do,” Aimal muttered under his breath, and then turned serious.  “Are we leaving now, sir?”

“We are, unless there is a reason we should not?” Nickson asked, one dark eyebrow raised questioningly.

“The skyship is ready, sir.  Just waiting on your say-so to get started.”

“I am saying so, Aimal,” Nickson grinned, and then led Ella inside the small skyship.  He seated her and then securely fastened her safety net.  “You will remain seated unless you ask permission to move about.”  When her green eyes flashed fire, he tapped her nose gently with his forefinger.  “No temper, my lady.  This is merely a safety precaution.  I would not want you injured by moving about when it is not safe to do so.  I would hate to have to turn the controls over to Aimal to take you to task for disobeying me like a small child would.”

“I am not a child, and I thank you for explaining why I must remain seated,” Ella said with as much dignity as she could muster.

“No, you are not a child, Ella,” he said with a smile.  “We will be underway shortly.  Once we are on our way, Aimal will provide you with entertainments to occupy you while we travel.  This is a long flight, and your seat folds back to make a bed should you wish to sleep.  Aimal will provide you with blankets and a pillow if you wish them.”

He turned to walk away and Ella called after him.  “Nickson…?”  He turned back, surprised to see tears in her pretty eyes.  “Thank you for your kindness toward me.”

He used the pads of his thumbs to gently wipe the tears from her cheeks.  “A free spirit like you should not be caged, Ella.  I will have care for you.”  He walked away again, unaware that his touch left her trembling.

Their ascent was flawless and Aimal gave him a proud smile.  “You are the best student I ever had, Principal Nickson.”

“You know I am always Nickson to you, Aimal.”  It embarrassed him to have his old teacher address him with respect.

“You earned your title, and I am proud to use it,” the elderly man answered as he always did. 

“Aimal, I did not ask Ella if she required food, and I suspect she will not ask unless it is offered.”

“Has she had such a terrible time?” Aimal asked softly.

“Yes, sir, she has,” Nickson was happy to give Aimal the respect he had earned many times over the years.  “Three years as a perturber in that institution.  Her misdeeds covered over three pages.  I rescued her.”

“And if she is incorrigible?” his teacher asked philosophically.

“She may never sit again,” was the wholly masculine answer.

Aimal chuckled, but quickly said, “Be mindful of your strength, son.  She is tiny as can be.”  He rose from his seat.  “I will offer her refreshment now.  May I bring you something as well?”

“Thank you, Aimal.  I am famished,” he stated.

“You are always famished,” Aimal said with a chuckle, but he went to the small galley and prepared food that could be easily eaten as Nickson held their lives at the controls of the skyship.  He took him a salver, and then he returned to the galley and picked up the other two he had prepared.

“Lady Ella,” Aimal spoke softly; he did not wish to startle her as she was staring out the window with rapt attention.  When she hurriedly turned her head, he saw that her eyes were wary, and he smiled.  “Principal Nickson and I were hungry, and I thought you might be hungry, too, so I took the liberty of preparing a salver for you.”  He offered her the dish, and she accepted it with a big smile.

“I am famished, Aimal.  Thank you for your kindness,” she remembered her manners.

“All you need to do is say something, Lady Ella.  I am happy to serve you.”

“Would you sit with me, or is that permitted?” she asked.

“The skyship is in capable hands, and I am free to sit where I please,” he said with a wink as he sat beside her.  He fastened the safety net, and then said, “It makes me proud to see that you are wearing your safety net.  Too many young people take foolish chances, and then are injured when the pilot has to avoid debris or other flying matter.”

“Nickson did not give me a choice in the matter,” she said matter-of-factly as she took a bite of the food Aimal gave her.  “This is so good!” she said, her eyes wide with pleasure.

“I am not surprised the boy was firm on the matter,” Aimal nodded grimly.  “He lost one of his best friends in a skyship accident when he was a young teen.   “They were all on a sightseeing trip, and Beizer was acting the clown to impress the females in the group.  The pilot hit some debris, and Beizer was thrown.  His neck was broken and he died instantly.  Young Nickson blamed himself for not making Beizer sit down and fasten his safety net.  It was not his fault, of course, and no one blamed him, even Beizer’s family, but Nickson felt responsible and he is firm with everyone aboard his skyship.”

“Aimal, Nickson is a handsome man, and I assume he has money… so why would he travel all the way to Earth to choose a wife from a facility for perturbers?”

“Life on Nandor is not easy.”  Aimal chose his words carefully.  “It takes a woman with a strong will to survive there.”

“But what about Nickson’s friends?  Are they not all from Nandor?”

“Oh, no, Lady Ella.  They are from Exetor, where Principal Nickson grew up.  He is one of the early settlers on Nandor.  Not many women wish to give up the comforts they are used to having to live in the wilderness.”

“I see.  Since I am a perturber, I have no say in the matter…!”  Ella was suddenly very angry.

“Now, do not be upset.  I think Principal Nickson chose well when he picked you.”

“Why do you refer to him as ‘Principal’ all the time, Aimal?”   It was irritating!

“Why, because he is the Principal of all of Nandor,” Aimal answered, looking at her in surprise, but when he saw her expression he realized that Nickson had not bothered to mention that to her, either.  “Nandor is divided into seven different areas called gatherings.  Each gathering has a Chief.  Nandor is the Principal Chief of Nandor.  He has final say over all laws.”

“Like a King!” she hissed.

“Well, sort of, only he was elected by the Council of Chiefs.  He is fair minded,” Aimal defended the younger man.

“Fair minded my Aunt Nellie!” Ella exploded.  She placed her salver on a shelf table and unfastened the safety net and got to her feet.

“Where are you going, Lady Ella?” Aimal asked in concern.

“To tell that arrogant bastard he can just turn this skyship around and take me back to Earth!” she stormed toward the front of the cabin toward the control cabin.

“You had best sit back down, Missy,” Aimal tried in vain to reason with her, but shook his head when she threw open the door to the small cabin where Nickson was seated, monitoring their flight.  Aimal got to his feet and followed her.  Some people had to learn things the hard way, and Lady Ella was in for a lesson she would not soon forget.

“Why are you out of your seat, Ella?” Nickson asked with a frown. 

“I demand that you turn this heap of junk around and take me back to earth!  I have no intention of going to this planet of yours and living in primitive conditions!”

“Aimal, will you take over, please?” Nickson asked politely as he slid from the pilot’s bench.  Aimal took the controls without a word, but it was obvious from the look he leveled on Nickson that he felt the younger man should exercise some patience.  Nickson was not that foolish.  If he gave this feisty perturber one little inch she would take the proverbial mile.  “You come with me, young lady,” he took Ella’s arm in a firm grip and pulled her from the pilot’s cabin and shut the door firmly.  He knew that Aimal would not disturb them unless there was an emergency of some sort.

“Release me at once!”   Ella tried to pull her arm free, but Nickson pulled her toward the back of the cabin, hit a button on the wall, and a large sofa popped from the wall.  He seated himself, and without so much as a word, he pulled her down across his hard-muscled thighs.  Ella’s eyes opened wide in shock when his large hand landed with a painful whap on her bottom!  “What are you doing?” she squealed in outrage, unable to believe he had actually struck her where she sat!

“This, my little perturber, is an ancient custom that serves to settle a little brat like you and get your attention for a good talking to!”  He slapped her bottom a second time and she cried out in pain.  “This is called a spanking, and it is most effective.”  He spanked her a third time, and was prepared when Ella struggled to get free of the hold he had on her.  “Settle down, little girl.  You earned this spanking, and now you will have it.”

“Noooooo!  This is barbaric!”

“No more barbaric than using a belt with a control panel to shock, freeze, or stun,” he stated.  “This is a lot more personal, and will leave you with something to think about when you sit down for the next few hours.”  He spanked her again, and then he decided that she was not getting the full benefit of his hand since the dress was made of heavy fabric designed to keep her warm. 

Ella screamed when Nickson took the hem of the dress and lifted the garment to expose her backside.  All she was wearing underneath was a pair of lacy panties, and she knew they would provide no protection whatsoever!  “Please do not!” she begged, something she never did in the facility for perturbers!  “Please, Nickson.  Do not!”

To be continued…



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