Friday, July 29, 2011

The Jade Runner, Part 09

Kit led the way as they searched the ship. On the second level they took a catwalk from the stairs out of the cargo hold into the main body of the ship. The level contained four rooms designed as crew quarters, each with two bunks, a head, and a modest amount of storage space for clothing and personal possessions. On the port side of the ship, nearest the elevator at the back, was the ship’s medical bay. It was equipped with advanced diagnostic beds and what looked to be top of the line surgical equipment, but its cabinets were oddly lacking in any medical supplies.
Across the hall from the medical bay was the captain’s quarters. It was a larger version of the crew quarters with a double-sized bunk, ample storage and a floor safe beneath the bed. After a couple minutes of examination, Kit discovered the bed folded up against the wall to give easy access to the safe. Quinn showed her how to override the safe’s combination with her ownership thumbprint authorization on the remote. The safe opened to reveal sub-floor storage of nearly a third of the captain’s quarters. It was empty.
The group took the elevator to the third level where they explored the ship’s four guest cabins, the mess hall, recreation center, and supply storage. Finding no sign of the sarcophagus, they took stairs from the supply storage up to the fourth level. A quick search of the ship’s library, control center, communications room, security office, and the brig revealed nothing as well. Whatever Rex had done with the sarcophagus it was fairly clear it wasn’t on board the Griffinscape. Just to be thorough, the group took the elevator up to the small fifth level which contained nothing more than two rear docking ports, a set of empty lockers and two environment suits for spacewalks.
“Where is the sarcophagus?” the red head asked, placing the barrel of her pistol against Kit’s forehead when they re-boarded the elevator.
Kit met her gaze with unblinking eyes. “I already told you, we’re not involved with Rex or your sarcophagus. I won this ship from him in a poker game last night at Gorda’s casino. Check it out if you don’t believe me or shoot me in the head if you think it’s going to somehow make your missing treasure appear.”
The red head was unimpressed with Kit’s lack of fear and brazen attitude. “Do you know what happens to thieves in this part of the galaxy?”
Kit said, “I’m not a thief,” while Jade’s voice taunted her; Consequences aren’t just for other people.
“Well see about that,” the red head said. “My boss has ways of finding out the truth.”
Kit grabbed the barrel of the pistol and turned it sideways while leveraging her body against the red head to throw the woman up against the elevator wall. “I’ve tried to be nice cause I already know the kind of scum Rex is even though I only met him a few hours ago but you’ve seen for yourself I don’t have your treasure. Now you can either take your boys and get off my ship or I can throw you off. Either way, we’re done.”
“Kit!” Quinn said, alarmed at the possibility of an escalating conflict that could easily end up with people dead. The two men next to him kept their calm. One kept a weapon trained on Quinn and the other turned his weapon on Kit’s back.
The red head pushed back against Kit. Leverage worked against her though and her efforts were useless. “You don’t have a clue who you’re fucking with do you?”
Kit smiled with teeth. “Just a red headed bimbo and her two lap dogs.” She punched the control button for the first level and the elevator door slid closed.
Upon arrival at the first level the door slid open and the ramp to the hangar floor extended from the ship. The red head seethed in Kit’s face. Quinn kept as close eye as he could on the two men. Kit looked over her shoulder when the ramp thumped against the floor.
“You two,” Kit said, nodding her head at the men, “give my associate back our weapons and exit down the ramp.”
The men looked to their red headed boss and only complied when she nodded her approval. Quinn took the weapons but avoided pointing them at anyone. The situation was the sort that could turn bad at any second from just a single mistake made by any one of the five of them. Quinn knew it best.
Kit glared into the red head’s eyes. “I’ll be keeping this,” she said, indicating the pistol with an extra push into it, “and you can either let go and walk down the ramp peacefully or I can rip it out of your hand and roll you down the ramp after I put a hole in you. What’s it going to be?”
The red head stared back. “This isn’t over.” She let go of the pistol and sidestepped to the ramp, walking down it backward, with her eyes trained on Kit. Once on the hangar floor she signaled to her two men and they left the hangar without a further word.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Jade Runner, Part 08

Quinn exited the dock office. Kit waited for him on the sidewalk basking in the morning sunlight glistening down into the depths of the city. To her right, sky-scraping buildings sparkled as far as the eye could see. On the left, a series of docking berths for privateers and luxury vessels lined the street. The working vessels had already left for the day and the rest were unlikely to be visited for several hours if at all. Other than Kit and Quinn the street was deserted.
“The Griffinscape is docked in berth 14-92,” Quinn said, joining Kit on the sidewalk.
She looked at the numbers on the berths. “Should be about a block in front of us then.”
They walked in silence to the berth. The door from the street was already open. Quinn, cautious by nature and habit, kept Kit back while he walked in first to look around. No one in sight, he gestured for Kit to follow him inside and together they stood and gazed over the Griffinscape for the first time.
The ship was not particularly large, about the height of a six-story building. Its outer hull was painted green, a color choice Kit might have made herself had it been hers to make. The engine struts extended from the left and right sides of the ship and appeared newer than the rest of the vessel, just as Rex had boasted at the poker table.
“She’s old,” Quinn said, “but these things were built to last and it looks like someone has done a few upgrades.”
Kit nodded. “Converted garbage scows like this usually have huge cargo holds and plenty of room for a small crew.”
Quinn gestured toward the ship. “Shall we check it out?”
Kit reached inside her jacket for the remote. Her ears twitched at the sound of the pump action of a concussion rifle. She looked to Quinn expecting to see the rifle in his hands but he was spinning around toward the source of the sound himself. Her hand fell from the tip of the remote to the pistol she’d taken away from Rex, holstered on her belt.
She reacted only an instant slower than Quinn. They were both too late. The blast hurled them eight feet closer to the ship and landed them on their backs. A boot kicked the pistol from her hand while a pair of foreign hands took the rifle from Quinn.
The owner of the boot waved her own pistol in Kit’s face. She said, “You’re not Rex’s usual type.”
Kit glared up at the red head, ignoring the pistol in her hand. “I’m not with Rex and this isn’t his ship anymore.”
“Really?” The red head said. Her eyes glistened with amusement. “I don’t care what your relationship with Rex is, all I want is what he promised to deliver to my boss. Now why don’t you be a good little girl and tell me where it is?”
Kit pushed herself up off the floor and Quinn followed suit. The red head and her two companions kept their weapons pointed at them but did nothing else to deter them from moving around. Kit doubted whatever they were looking for was aboard the ship. Still, it seemed unlikely they’d just leave unless they knew it first hand.
“I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about but you can search the ship if you like and if you find whatever it is, you can take it with you,” Kit said.
The red head pressed her pistol against Kit’s chest. She flipped the jade stone hanging around Kit’s neck with the tip of her pistol. “Did you get that from Rex?”
Kit wrapped her hand around the stone. “No, it belonged to my sister.”
“Sure it did,” the red head said, without conviction. “Alright, let’s take a look around the ship.”
“The remote is in my jacket pocket,” Kit said, “try not to shoot me while I pull it out.” She reached into her jacket and slowly pulled the ship’s remote out.
The red head watched, seemingly expecting some sort of deception. She looked genuinely surprised when the passenger ramp extended down from the back of the ship and the door slid open at the top. Kit and Quinn were directed to lead the way by the gesturing of weapons. Upon entering the ship they realized they were inside an elevator that would lead to the upper levels while a passage straight ahead likely led to the engine rooms and cargo hold.
Kit looked over her shoulder at the red head. “Which way?”
“Why don’t we check the cargo hold first?” the red head said.
Kit led the way down the corridor. Doors to the left and right were marked for the engine rooms and at the end of the hall a double width door was marked Cargo Bay. Kit pressed her hand to a button on the right side of the door and the door spit in half and disappeared inside the walls. They walked into a large open room that clearly stretched another floor or floor and a half straight up. The room was empty except for a two person lift on the left side and a staircase leading up to the next level on the right.
The red head said, “You could save us all some time and just take us straight to it.”
Kit turned to fully face the woman. “I don’t even know what you’re looking for and this my first time aboard this ship.”
“Right,” the red head said, rolling her eyes. “You’d be a lot more convincing if you weren’t wearing part of it and didn’t have the ship’s remote.”
“This necklace belonged to my sister for twenty years before it came to be with me,” Kit said holding it out in the light. “It’s got nothing to do with Rex or anything you’ve got any right to be looking for.”
“If you take me to the sarcophagus now,” the red head said, staring straight into Kit’s eyes, “I won’t have my boys turn you in as a thief.”
“Sarcophagus?” Quinn said. “I don’t suppose you have the papers authorizing its removal and transport?”
The red head waved her pistol in Quinn’s direction. “This is all the authorization I need.”
“It’s obviously not here,” Quinn said.
“We’ll see,” the red head said.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Jade Runner, Part 07

“This is ridiculous,” Kit said. She stood in front of the sofa, to the right of Quinn seated in the center. Her gaze darted between his lap and the blue carpet she stood upon. She wrung her hands together in front of her waist. “I feel silly.”
Quinn looked up into her face. “Ridiculous is someone else being punished for your crimes. If you feel differently, we don’t have to do this.”
“This isn’t going to change anything for Tara,” Kit said, looking into his eyes.
Quinn nodded. “It won’t make things right for her but, it will help clear your head so you can focus on what you need to do to make things right.”
“What do you want me to do?” she asked.
He patted his empty lap. “Lower you jeans and lay over my lap.”
Kit buried her doubts and trusted the blue eyes of the man she barely knew. Her fingers grasped the button holding her jeans in place and slipped it out of the eyelet. The zipper slid down with ease. She stole a glance toward Quinn only to discover his eyes looking straight ahead instead of at her white panties peeking out of her opened jeans. It felt like privacy and she tugged the jeans down to her knees. She knelt on the sofa beside him, slowly adjusting her weight and position until she rested on his lap.
He wrapped his left arm around her torso, encircling her into him. His right hand patted her silky undergarment. Kit felt safe and connected to him. Her eyes fluttered closed. She relaxed into his arms, trusting his strength and warmth. His hand felt soft and compassionate. Her heartbeat synchronized with the rise and fall of his even breaths.
“You’re not really a bad girl,” Quinn said, gliding his hand over her raised buttocks, “but you have been bad.”
Her bottom felt electrified by the proximity of his hand. She breathed agreement with his sentiment. “Yes.”
Kit felt him nod. His hand snapped through the air. Her breath paused. His open palm clapped against the fullness of her right buttock. Her flesh bounced. She blinked. He raised his hand. She exhaled. His hand slapped her left buttock. Ripples of his force washed over her entire body. Her buttocks tingled akin to excitement.
Quinn hardened his hand and quickened his spanking pace. The oft repeated impacts into her bottom jarred Kit. Her eyes stuck open and widened. He held her tighter to him. Her arms yearned to interrupt the volley of spanks falling. She squeezed her hands into balls and pushed them into the sofa cushion. Her legs shifted, eager to alleviate the growing discomfort with wild kicks in the air. Kit resisted the urges, surrendering herself to the moment and the swinging of his hand.
“Do you still feel silly?” he asked, taking a moment to feel the heat emanating from beneath her panties.
She nodded into the cushion. “Yes.”
He said, “That’s because you’ve acted like a naughty child, allowing someone else to take the blame for your actions.”
“I know,” she said. Her face flushed with embarrassment at the admission.
Quinn resumed the spanking. His hand flew faster. Kit grunted with each smack. Her legs moved up and down, transforming from twitching to kicking as the spanking’s intensity grew. Her buttocks began to burn on top of the irritated tingle from before. She attempted reaching back to protect herself from the onslaught only to be thwarted by his body and restraining arm. Her grunts turned to genuine expressions of pain. Tears welled in her eyes. His arm kept her restrained and helpless. Her cheeks dampened with tears and a sob wracked her body.
A few more spanks and she cried freely. Tears ran in streams from her eyes. Her legs continued to kick up and down, but the tension drained from her body. She shuddered in rhythm with the claps of his hand. The painful fire in her bottom became a strange comfort as she accepted her need for punishment. Jade’s voice echoed in her thoughts. Consequences aren’t just for other people.
Quinn stopped spanking. He kept her on his lap, held her body to him. His hand gently restrained her legs one at a time until she laid still, trembling only from the effort of crying. He said, “It’s over now.”
She cried into the cushion until there were no tears left to cry. He held her in silence. His fingers gently stroked over her glowing panties and the exposed flesh of her upper thighs. Her breathing slowed and tuned to his. The warmth and pain remained, but it dulled in the aftermath of her tears. The sensations emanating from her buttocks felt more like forgiveness than punishment.
Kit lifted herself up onto her elbows and twisted her head to look up at Quinn. “Thank you,” she said.
His lips turned upward and he nodded. “You’re welcome.”
He helped her up off his lap. She fastened her jeans back in place. He moved to the left side of the sofa and she sat on the right. She avoided his gaze, looking around the room at the pictures once more. He waited until her eyes finally met his again.
“You’re going to need a plan,” he said.
She nodded. “I’ve got a ship.”

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Jade Runner, Part 06

Kit sat on the edge of the sofa in Quinn’s apartment. He stopped at the fridge grabbing a pair of cold water bottles before joining her in the adjacent living. Her gaze wandered the room drinking in the knickknacks sitting on shelves and various table tops. There were pictures, clearly from the not too distant past with Quinn wearing a military uniform and surrounded by smiling friends attired the same. A picture of a woman rested on the right side of the mantle above his fireplace and the ring on her finger looked like a match to the one worn by Quinn. He tossed her one of the water bottles, interrupting her visual inspection.
“You’re married,” Kit asked, nodding toward the picture above the fireplace.
Quinn sat on the sofa and flashed her a wry smile. “I was.”
Kit raised an eyebrow. “What happened?”
He cracked the top off his bottle and drank deep. “It’s a long story,” he said. “Besides, we’re here to talk about you and the trouble you’re in.”
Kit lifted her unopened water bottle in Quinn’s direction. “I could use something a little stronger.”
Quinn laughed and smiled. “I’m sure you think so, but when trouble is nipping at your heels, it’s best to keep a clear head while keeping yourself hydrated.”
She put the water bottle aside on the coffee table and stood up. It only took her four steps to round the coffee table and stand in front of the mantle. She lifted the picture for a closer look. Kit said, “She’s pretty.”
“Charm and good looks only get you so far in life,” Quinn said. “Why don’t you start by telling me who you’re running from.”
She set the picture back in its place and shrugged. “Everyone, no one.”
His gaze lowered a nod as if he was trying to see her eyes through the strands of hair hanging in front of them. “Yourself?” he asked.
“No,” she said. Her certainty arrived in the form of an abrupt tone. She turned her back to him. “I’ll face the consequences for what I’ve done if it comes to that but there are others, more guilty than I, who need to face consequences as well.”
Quinn took another swig from his bottle and leaned back into the sofa. “Maybe you should start at the beginning.”
Kit turned back to him. She shook her head. “If I knew the beginning, maybe I could,” she said.
“It had to start somewhere,” he said. “When was the first time you realized you were in trouble.”
Kit laughed. “When my father unfastened his belt.”
Quinn raised an eyebrow of his own. “Was this recently?”
She laughed harder. “No, that was a joke.”
“So your father never unfastened his belt when you were in trouble?” he asked.
“I didn’t say that,” Kit said.
Quinn shook his head. “Then what are you saying?”
Kit kicked at the carpet beneath her feet. “Do you remember that woman in the square outside the casino?”
He nodded.
She said, “I’m responsible for what’s happening to her.”
“In what way?” he asked. “She was tried and convicted on evidence and there was no indication they were searching for an accomplice.”
Kit looked away from his compassionate eyes. “I don’t know why they laid it all on her. I’ve never even seen her before. I just know I was the thief, and she wasn’t involved.”
Quinn asked, “Why did you do it?”
Kit looked into Quinn’s blue eyes. There was no reason to trust him and yet she did. She had already told him more than she planned to tell anyone. What would it hurt to tell him everything? Only the whisper of her sister’s voice kept her from opening up completely. Don’t be reckless.
She said, “It doesn’t matter. I’m not sorry.”
“That’s not entirely true,” he said. “You feel guilty about something.”
The guilt twisted in her gut and she nodded. “Tara,” she said. “I never meant for an innocent to be hurt.”
Quinn said, “You could turn yourself in and prove her innocence.”
Kit blinked at him wondering how he could seem so wise and naive all at once. “The courts aren’t going to admit they made an error. All turning myself in will accomplish is putting me in the same position as her.”
“So you’re going to just let her suffer for your crime?” he asked.
She lowered her head and stared at the tops of her boots. “There’s nothing I can do until they release her,” she said, raising her head to meet his gaze again, “but after, I’ll do everything I can to make things right for her.”
Quinn finished the last of his water and set the empty bottle aside. “Helping Tara isn’t going to erase your guilt.”
“Nothing will,” Kit said.
“That’s not true,” Quinn said. “An appropriate punishment can absolve you of guilt.”
Kit shook her head. “I’m not turning myself in, not yet anyway. There are things I have to do first.”
“I wasn’t suggesting anything so reckless,” he said. “I could spank you.”
She gazed deep into his eyes. There existed no reason to doubt his seriousness. A deep blush colored her cheeks at the thought of him swatting her buttocks. She wanted to laugh. The stern set of his jaw suggested it would be unwise. She picked up the bottle of water he’d given her. The cap fell to the floor and she drained the bottle in a single gulp. Her mouth still felt dry.
“Not for stealing,” she said.
He nodded agreement. “For Tara.”
“Okay,” she said.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Jade Runner, Part 05

Kit turned to face Rex head on. He kept his pistol steady and his smile a little too wide. The scruff of unshaven facial hair and the tossed appearance of the light brown locks on his head could have seemed charming in the right setting. In the alley, it showed his true nature, a thug and scoundrel. Kit studied his grip on the pistol wondering if she could close the distance between them before he could squeeze off a shot.
The overhead lights flickered. Kit poised herself to move if the darkness lasted more than instant, but it didn’t. Behind Rex a figure moved in the shadows, closing the distance and clearly carrying a much bigger gun. The glint of a badge told her it could be local law enforcement and if that was true, he could be there for either of them. Either way there was a good chance he’d distract Rex long enough for her to get away.
A click followed a whir when the man pumped his rifle, revealing his presence to Rex. “I thought I smelled trouble,” the shadow man said, “then again, maybe old Rex here just needs a bath. Care to weigh in on it little lady, or should I just mind my own business?”
Rex glanced over his shoulder at the man. “You’re a little out of your jurisdiction, casino guard. Why don’t you lower your weapon and scamper off like a good little boy before someone gets hurt.”
The guard stepped out of the shadows into the light. “You’re a little young for hearing loss. I was talking to the lady.”
Rex kept his eyes on the guard while keeping his pistol pointed at Kit. The lights flickered again. Kit jolted forward and swung her case into Rex’s gun hand. The pistol clattered against the wall and fell to the ground. Rex spun toward Kit, his hand cocked to strike her in the cheek. The guard moved fast as lightning and grabbed Rex by the shoulders. An instant later the lights steadied and Rex was laying on the ground looking up at Kit and the guard. Kit held the pistol in her hand.
The guard pulled out his phone. “I’ll just give the authorities a quick ring and by midday, old Rex here will be joining that poor woman in the square.”
Kit swallowed panic at the thought of the authorities asking questions. She laid a gentle hand on the guard’s phone. “We don’t need to do that. I’m sure Rex was just upset and not thinking straight. Right Rex?”
The guard raised an eyebrow at Kit. She smiled back at him. He looked a couple decades younger than the typical private security guard for places like Gorda’s casino. If not for the gray hair Kit would have pegged him for his late twenties or early thirties. He was attractive in his uniform and something about the twinkle in his blue eyes told Kit she could trust him.
Still lying on the ground, Rex said, “Yeah, I was just foolin’ around. No harm done, right kid?”
“I guess we’re done then,” Kit said, focusing a stern gaze on Rex. “No hard feelings, but I’m rather hoping we don’t cross paths again anytime soon.”
Kit and the guard took a step back. Rex climbed to his feet. He said, “No promises, kid. It’s a small planet.” Rex left before things could get reheated.
The guard watched until Rex was out of sight and then turned to Kit. He extended his hand. “I’m Quinn Greyborne.”
Kit shook his hand. “Thanks for the assistance, Quinn.” She turned away and started back down the alley in her original direction.
Quinn said, “This isn’t exactly the safest part of town. Can I get you a taxi to get you wherever you’re going?”
Kit turned around and waved the pistol in the air while walking backward. “I can handle myself.”
Quinn nodded. “So you’re looking for trouble?”
Kit shook her head, smiling at his question. “I didn’t say that.”
He started following her. “You didn’t have to. Whatever it is you’ve done, it’s not worth getting yourself killed.”
Kit stopped walking. “Who said I did anything?”
“You weren’t avoiding the authorities for Rex’s benefit,” Quinn said. He stopped with a few feet still between them. “I’m sure you don’t want to hear it, but it’s pretty obvious you’re in over your head.”
“You don’t know anything about me,” Kit said.
Quinn nodded. “My shift is over. Why don’t you come back to my apartment and we’ll see if we can’t figure you a way out of your trouble.”
Kit laughed. “It’s too late for that.”
“Maybe,” Quinn said with a tilt of his head, “but where else do you have to go?”
Kit shrugged.
“Give me a chance,” Quinn said. “I might just be your white knight.”
“Don’t you mean gray?” Kit chuckled, nodding at his hair.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Jade Runner, Part 04

Kit reentered the casino, leaving Tara to her fate in the square. In time she could help her, but not until the worst was over. Kit sat her silver case on the counter at the cashier cage and handed in her slip to collect her winnings. The cashier made a slight attempt to get Kit to take the winnings in gambling chips, undoubtedly some unwritten policy discouraging employees from handing out too much cash to a customer. Kit didn’t take the bait.
“Just the cash,” she said.
The cashier nodded and then paused looking at her computer screen. Kit’s heart skipped a beat and then stopped beating all together. Her imagination placed her in the pillory outside, naked, spanked and crying like the poor woman, Tara. The cashier didn’t notice the concern creeping onto Kit’s face when looking back at her.
“Did you want the casino to sell the cargo ship and transfer the funds to your account?” The cashier asked.
Kit started breathing again. She shook her head. “No, I’ll take the ship as is. Just cash out my chips please.”
The cashier nodded. “I could do that or I could set you up with a line of credit and a complimentary suite in the hotel.”
Kit grabbed hold of the edge of the counter and leaned in toward the cage. “I just want my cash and the ship.”
The cashier shrugged, “If you insist.”
“I do,” Kit said.
“For a small fee, the casino can provide you with security for anywhere you’d like to go within the city,” the cashier said.
Kit raised her voice to be heard by other gamblers in the vicinity. “Are you trying to tell me you don’t have the cash to pay me for my winnings?”
Heads turned toward Kit and the cashier. “Of course not, I’m just doing my job ma’am,” the cashier said.
“Then quit trying to sell me your kitchen sink and pay me,” Kit said.
The cashier pulled stacks of cash from a hidden drawer beneath the counter. “Would you like to verify the funds yourself or shall I have the machine do it?”
Kit looked up at the glossy ceiling and shook her head. “Are you going to charge me to have the machine do it?”
“No, ma’am,” the cashier said, “it’s a free service provided by the casino.”
“Then I suppose the machine’s count is good enough for me,” Kit said.
She looked around the casino while the machine sorted through the individual bills counting their total value. Everyone had gone back to their gambling and were no longer interested in her drama at the cash cage, but the earlier attention drawn had been dangerous. Someone might remember later, and if LX was looking for their money, it could lead them to her. Especially if someone recalled the silver case. She should have tossed the case and replaced it with something less conspicuous as soon as she’d traded the last of the cash for chips. It hadn’t occurred to her until it was too late and that was because her plan had never included LX finding out about the theft and having someone convicted of it before she had left the casino.
With the money counted, Kit stuffed it neatly inside the case and sealed it closed. The cashier pushed out an electronic tablet onto the counter and a plastic stylus. She said, “I’ll need your signature on the top, confirming receipt of your funds and your thumbprint on the bottom to complete the transfer of the Griffinscape’s registry.”
Kit signed and pressed her thumb in the indicated box. “Can I change the ship’s name here?”
The cashier shook her head. “Sorry ma’am, you’ll have to do that with the port authority. I can call you a taxi to take you there, but I don’t think they’re open for business for another hour or so.”
Kit nodded. “That’s alright, I’ll handle it later.”
“Very good,” the cashier said and handed Kit the remote to the ship.
Kit smiled and slipped the remote into her inner jacket pocket. “Thank you.”
Outside, Tara was getting her second set of ten swats when Kit exited. Kit paused a moment at the scene realizing she’d look conspicuous if she didn’t wait to leave the area until the paddling was over. All eyes were on Tara, still claiming her innocence at the top of her lungs. Every echoing crack of the paddle, rippled inside Kit making her more and more ashamed.
Consequences aren’t just for other people, Jade’s voice whispered in Kit’s ear.
The spanking ended. Tara sobbed in place, supported only by the restraints keeping her on display. Kit turned away from the scene. Distracted by guilt, she walked away from the casino without a guiding purpose. Windowless walls lined the walkway and the overhead lights flickered on and off, blinking darkness around Kit.
A soft click echoed against the walls behind her. It was followed by the unmistakable hum of an energy pistol charging. Kit tensed to run but first threw a glance over her shoulder to look for the source of the noise. Rex stood too close to miss with his pistol aimed at the center of her back.
He cleared his throat, shrugged, and smiled. “I’ll be taking my ship back and I might as well confiscate your case full of money while I’m at it.”

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Jade Runner, Part 03

Kit left her winnings in the care of the casino while she stepped outside for some air. Her head was spinning at her incredible good fortune and the infinite possibilities for her future now that she had a ship of her own. It meant she could go anywhere she wanted and truly leave the past behind. A whole galaxy full of adventure awaited and maybe someday she’d even forget the things from which she was running away.
The bell in the square rang, dragging Kit’s attention back to the present. Everyone in the vicinity stopped to watch and people even exited the casino to watch. It was only a moment before the security doors on the right opened. Two guards stepped through the doorway dragging a woman between them. She was naked. Her face colored red with a mixture of anger and embarrassment. She resisted the guards and their forward movement into the square with all her strength.
The overhead speakers surrounding the square crackled to life. A dispassionate male voice spoke to the crowd;
Come gather all and witness the punishment of Tara Finch, accused and convicted of thievery this very afternoon from the honorable LX Pharmaceuticals. Tara Finch is sentenced to 24 hours in the entertainment square’s pillory just outside Gorda’s Casino. She will receive ten swats to her naked buttocks every hour for the duration of her sentence. As with all thieves, Tara Finch’s personal belongings have been turned over to the victim, LX Pharmaceuticals.
Tara’s head whipped from side to side, taking note of the onlookers while she continued to struggle against her guards. “I was framed!” she shouted. “I didn’t do it. I’m innocent.”
Kit swallowed hard watching the scene play out. The words on the speakers and Tara’s insistence of innocence opened a raw nerve in Kit’s gut. She had planned her theft carefully, certain that the blame would fall on the crew of the cargo ship and not an innocent bystander. Guilt panged Kit toward stepping forward and announcing herself as the true thief. It was one thing to be a thief, it was another to allow an innocent to take the fall. She took a deep breath and a half step forward.
Jade’s voice rose up in ears. Don’t be reckless.
Kit exhaled and blinked. Jade was right.  There would be no good done from outing herself. Tara would still suffer an unfair fate and she too would suffer the same. The money would be gone. Her hand wrapped around the jade stone on her necklace. It too would be gone. Thieves loose everything, just like gamblers. Kit stood her ground, resolved to watch Tara’s suffering as a warning to herself. She couldn’t change Tara’s sentence, but when it was over, she could help her. Kit made the silent promise to herself, to Jade, and to Tara.
The guards secured Tara in the pillory in the center of the square. Her body was bent ninety degrees at her waist. The dull metal of the pillory kept Tara’s head and hands locked in place while ankle cuffs chained to eye-bolts in the ground kept her legs in the desired position. Her naked buttocks jutted out into the open air of the square awaiting the first ten swats of her sentence. The rest of her body, equally naked, lay exposed to the curious eyes of bystanders and a group of cameras transmitted front, back and side views on Centora City’s Crime & Punishment channel.
Kit wiped a tear drop from her eye. The Punisher stepped out the same doors the guards had came from, carrying a paddle with him. He held the paddle high for all to see as he approached Tara from behind. The crowd cheered and applauded. He tapped the paddle against Tara’s buttocks. Taking a step backward, he raised the paddle high into the air. He swung the paddle down hard, taking a step forward as he did. The jarring impact rippled through Tara’s naked flesh. She cried out loud enough to drown out the reverberating crack of the paddle’s impact.
“I’m not a thief,” Tara said. Tears streamed down her face.
Nine more times the Punisher swung the paddle with full force onto Tara’s quivering buttocks. Each time she cried a little louder and insisted a little more forcefully on her innocence. The crowd did not believe her. They had heard it all before and thought they knew the system to be infallible. Innocent people don’t get accused of crimes. Kit knew better.
The Punisher left after delivering the tenth swat. The guards remained, not that they would protect Tara from the ridicule of the crowd. Kit forced herself to move forward. She had to complete her plan if she was going to help Tara. The glowing red image of Tara’s buttocks burned itself into Kit’s memory.
As she walked past Tara, bound in the pillory, Kit paused and whispered, “Be strong.”