Set in the future, tradition is maintained. By a new writer to us.
By Rebecca Fox
In the year 2340, the world was richly expanded. Many of the newly colonised planets had reorganized themselves into societies that mimicked the lost civilizations of Earth. On one planetary system, Imperial Britannia, the society had developed the customs of England in the late 19th century; a system of gentleman soldiers who protected the galaxy against foreign invaders.
Captain Killian Heber was one such distinguished officer at Imperial Command. At thirty years old, he was already in charge of an entire military base, from the lowliest cadet to the highest intelligence officer.
Killian was an ideal soldier. He was scrupulous in his behaviour, obedient to his commanding officers, and just to those under his command. He was a talented officer who made decisions well under intense pressure. Disciplined in his personal habits, Captain Killian Heber never stepped out of line. Tall, serious and dutiful, he was not only exemplary at his post but served as a model for all other soldiers.
The same could not be said of his ward and sister, Imperial Cadet Maeve Heber. Maeve was twelve years younger than her distinguished brother, and the complete opposite in every way. Short, gregarious and free-thinking, Maeve seemed determined to live life to the fullest enjoyment, regardless of what the rules may have been.
Killian had been nineteen when his parents were killed in the Great Attack, leaving him heir to the enormous Heber fortune and sole guardian to the little Miss Maeve. Killian might have sent her to boarding school, but at an early age, Maeve was found to have a unique talent for cryptology. She could devise and decipher coded languages faster than many professionals and the government needed her talents.
Therefore, Maeve had been brought to be raised at Command and at eleven, would enter the Imperial Cadets, young students who were chosen to be future officers.
Killian was granted an officer’s suite and the freedom to raise the spoiled but adorable young ward. Unfortunately, that proved to be a case of a child raising a child. While subordinates may have stiffened in terror at the mere sight of his frown, Maeve seemed immune to her brother’s authority.
She sauntered in late to meals, which would have cost others their food and a stiff punishment in addition.
Her uniform always had bits of printing ink splattered over it, and no words were even spoken to correct her.
Worst of all, she was always missing when it came time to chores. She would be found with a book and a wide-eyed smile of regret.
While other young cadets lived in a barracks, Maeve enjoyed a luxurious bedroom with every amenity an indulgent brother could devise and a maid to clean up after her.
While other cadets knew the strap and the cane, no one would dare lay a richly deserved hand to Captain Heber’s precious little pet. It was hard to hold a grudge against such a charming girl, but many bristled at the favouritism shown to the ‘Princess’. As such, Maeve enjoyed few friends among her fellow cadets and remained fairly isolated. Despite her attractive build and pretty features, few boys came calling.
It finally came to a head when Maeve had sneaked out after curfew and had wandered into the now empty shooting fields. Unfortunately, she had triggered the security alarm and had woken up half the base.
That had been the last straw and finally, someone worked up the courage to tell Killian to put his little ward in check. “You need to get that girl in hand,” Rowan Ulick said. “She’s a dear thing, but she is spoiled. You are the laughing stock of the entire base; you can’t keep your own house in order.”
The handsome young Captain Rowan Ulick was the son of the Major General Anselm Ulick and from a family as wealthy and distinguished as the Hebers. He was head of Combat Engineers stationed at the base and had a career as honourable as Killian. The two were fast friends and only Rowan could speak truth to him plainly.
“I know. On one hand, I cherish her innocence. It’s charming to see her still so naive and sweet. I lost that innocence by her age. I hate stripping it back from her, taking away that sense of hope that I can make everything all right,” Killian said, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
“On the other hand, it’s the only way you can keep her safe,” Rowan said, wishing he could make his friend see sense. “She must understand that the rules apply to her too. Go upstairs and lay down the law. She will pout and cry, but she’ll be grateful for it. Discipline is a gift, it keeps us safe.” Rowan’s busy father had always taken the time to cut a switch from the tree outside and stripe his son’s naughty backside as needed. And Rowan had needed it a great deal. “At least confine her to her quarters.”
“All right, I will talk to her,” Killian said, rubbing his temples. He still saw that frightened little orphan who had clung to him in terror against a terrifying world. How could he bring tears to her eyes?
* * *
At dinner, Maeve had made every effort to turn on the charm. She had the cook make Killian’s favourite meal, her uniform was spotless and she made witty conversation with her exhausted brother in the beautifully decorated living room.
It didn’t work. As the maids served dessert (something all other cadets only got on holidays), Killian changed the topic. “Why did you climb out the window last night? Were you trying to insult my authority?” He asked, far more sharply than usual.
Maeve lowered her eyes. “I didn’t think, brother. I truly did not intend to rebel. I just, did not consider the consequences,” she said, trying to look as young and innocent as possible. She tossed her red hair, clearly trying to seem adorable. “I was being silly, and I’m so sorry.”
Killian took her hand. “And that is normal for a child,” he said gently. “You are young and full of high spirits, and you often forget what is important. You didn’t think.”
Maeve smiled. “I know, and I’m very sorry to have worried you. I promise, it will never happen again,” she said brightly. She was still so young, his little fledgling.
Killian nodded. “Yes. I know that you will never act without thinking,” he said, squeezing her hand. “After a week under restriction, I doubt you will ever forget.”
“A week? Elder Brother, surely that’s much harsher than needed. Just seeing you upset is enough punishment,” she pleaded.
Killian forced himself not to fall for it. Rowan had said it would be right and he had to consider this approach. “I think not, little moonbeam. When you broke curfew last week, you assured me it wouldn’t happen again. You will have to be punished,” he said. “It’s not out of anger, but because you must learn a lesson.”
“But the dance is tomorrow,” Maeve whispered, horrified. “You can’t make me stay behind.”
“Sadly, you will have to wait till the next one. You will not leave this house outside of academy for an entire week. Is that understood?” Killian said, trying to be stern.
Maeve nodded. “Completely.”
* * *
Killian had assumed she understood. He had even felt guilty enough to buy scones for his sister as a special treat to make up for missing the dance. Of course, he didn’t expect to find her room empty.
He dialed into his communicator. “Rowan, I need you,” he whispered, his voice shaking. Either his sister had gone completely rogue or she had been kidnapped. He wasn’t sure which one was worse.
* * *
Rowan was not in charge of tracking, but basic training him taught him a considerable amount. He knew Maeve had likely climbed down the tree, a hair bow was still tangled in it. He knew she wouldn’t dare show her face at the base dance for fear of being seen. Therefore, she would have likely gone to town.
And there was one place in town that mimicked the dance, even if in the crudest way possible.
The Stars help her if she was there!
The Stars were merciless and Rowan walked into the seedy music hall. Sitting in a corner, her coppery hair streaming down her shoulders and in a dress that was definitely not approved for a lady of gentry, was Miss Maeve Heber, giggling at a bunch of lovesick swains.
She had the codes for twenty-seven current operations in her head, and she was cavorting about with non-Imperial civilians. She could be kidnapped or killed for the information in her mind, and she had no awareness of the danger. Rowan put his hand on her shoulder, gritting his teeth with barely concealed frustration. “Come. Now.”
Maeve gave her most charming smile, which also revealed that she was quite intoxicated. “Come off it,” she giggled. “I’ll be back home within the hour. I promise.”
“Is this bustard bother you?” One of the lads said, putting his hand around Maeve protectively. “The lady doesn’t want to go with you.”
“The lady doesn’t have a choice,” Rowan snapped, trying to figure out how to extricate the little miss without causing a scene. “Now, run along before you get yourselves into trouble.” He had his hand on his blaster pistol, no longer hidden under his cloak. They all understood and scrambled.
Maeve got up, but the amount of alcohol tumbled her back into the chair. “Oh, my head,” she whimpered, clearly feeling the Firewater’s effect.
Rowan sighed. “You have no one to blame but yourself,” he said, gently scooping her up and carrying her out. “And things are only going to get worse.”
* * *
Killian paced nervously, his hands shaking. Maeve was the perfect kidnapping target, tiny and helpless with a head full of knowledge and leverage over a senior officer. He would do anything to see to her safe return, and he feared just how much he might be asked to do.
Rowan entered the office, Maeve sleeping in his arms. “She’s fine, just drunk,” he assured his friend as Killian raced to her side. “Put her to bed, she’ll need to sleep it off.”
“Thank the stars,” Killian said, bending down and kissing her forehead. “I never want her out of my sight again, poor little moon-beam.”
“Killian, Maeve broke several laws. She sneaked off base, was drinking under age and was cavorting with non-Imperial Nationals. By law, she should be court-martialed,” Rowan said darkly as he laid the sleeping girl on the couch.
“She’s just a child,” Killian whispered, his voice tight with fear. “A court martial is surely too harsh.”
“She’s not a child, she’s an Imperial Cadet. And if any other cadet had sneaked off base and gone drinking, you’d have them sleeping it off in the brig,” Rowan reminded, exasperated.
“Maeve is my little sister. If she failed, it’s because I failed to teach her properly. I’ll take responsibility for everything,” Killian said, closing his eyes. “I’ll stand trial for her.”
“No, you won’t. Sir, the Empire needs you and your sister needs you. I can speak to Father and I can spare her from prison, but you will have to trust me,” Rowan said, holding out her hand. “Give me your signet ring.”
“Why?” It was the symbol of his authority. Not something he would like to hand over lightly, especially given his stress.
“Because it’s the only way she’ll obey me. And she’s not going to enjoy what will happen to her. If you want her kept out of the stockade, you all must follow my orders to the letter.”
“You won’t hurt the poor girl?” Killian asked, no longer the man who had ordered a mass caning of recruits for keeping a messy dormitory.
Rowan smiled. “Nothing that will be permanent besides a swift change in attitude.” And Killian was too afraid to ask further.
* * *
The next morning, Rowan came before breakfast and was pleased to see Maeve was sitting in her bedroom in her nightdress, combing her coppery hair. That would spare him the problem of how to get her to undress without offending decency. She turned to him with wide eyes as he entered.
“Thank you so much for saving me, I’m so sorry I was a bother.” In other words, she had learned nothing.
“I hope you are ashamed of yourself,” Rowan snapped, furious at how cavalierly she was taking this. “Your behaviour was unspeakable. You should be on your knees, begging forgiveness from your long-suffering brother.”
“I apologize, it was only a bit of fun, and I promise it would never happen again,” Maeve said. “Thank you for helping me last night, but this is a family matter.”
“No, this is a concern for me and the entire army. You broke the law and you are in deep trouble. Your brother is the only reason you aren’t in handcuffs,” Rowan snapped. “But we’ll deal with that after I assist your brother in curbing your behaviour.”
“You’re not my brother, you can’t punish me,” Maeve said pertly, but her knuckles were white on her hairbrush.
“I’m a superior officer, little miss. You obey me, and you address me as sir,” Rowan said. “And right now, you are requested to obey before I drag you to military prison myself.”
“Prison?” Maeve said, her eyes wide. “My brother is a superior officer; he won’t allow you to treat me so callously.”
Rowan sat at the edge of the bed. “He has allowed me a great deal of liberty,” he said, his tone cold and official, holding up the ring. She gasped as he patted his knee.
Although the tender Miss Heber had never been spanked, she was well aware of what it was. And her devoted brother’s authority had been passed to Rowan, a far less merciful man.
“You come here right now or I will make you. And that will be deeply unpleasant for you. Your brother won’t save you now. Bring your hair brush, it will be useful to me.”
Maeve stood her ground. “Please, don’t do this, I’ll never disobey again,” she pleaded, backing away.
“And yet, you are disobeying me as you swear to obey,” Rowan said, resolving to treat her like any ordinary cadet. He rose to his feet and was at her side before she could blink. With ease, he took her arm and marched her over to her bed. She wriggled helplessly in his grasp. “You have earned this a hundred times, Maeve. I’m merely giving you exactly what you deserve.”
“Please, have mercy on me,” Maeve whispered, understanding now nothing would save her. “I beg you…”
Rowan sat down and pulled her across his knee.
“Mercy? My dear little Maeve, you are getting a rather large dose of mercy. Any other cadet who went out drinking would be sitting in a prison cell, not tucked away in the lap of luxury. Well, the price of one lap is another,” he said.
He would not bare her as her thin silk nightgown would offer no protection from his hand. He positioned her carefully, her torso mostly on the bed, leaving only the area required over his knee. Maeve may have been short, but her bottom had more than sufficient padding. He placed her right arm on the small of her back, pinning her helplessly.
“No!” Maeve pleaded, wiggling miserably.
“Silence,” Rowan said, bringing down his hand with a thundering clap on the left side. “Consider this medicine for your selfish behaviour.”
It was a strange feeling giving the punishment, but he felt good about it. She needed it badly, and someone had to do it.
Maeve cried out in pain. “Mercy, please,” she begged, sobbing. “I’ll not survive your brutality.”
“Oh, stop exaggerating. This is why the Stars created the posterior, well padded for protection for much-needed discipline,” Rowan said, snapping his hand down on the right side. He would concentrate on the top for a bit, and then give the little minx a nasty surprise to finish up.
Like a machine, he kept up his painful rhythm. Left cheek, right cheek, left, right, with the same sharp slap. He made sure that underneath her nightgown, she would be as well roasted as a Christmas goose. By her squalling, she surely was feeling it.
“Please,” she kept begging, but her punishment continued.
“Will you ever disobey again?” He snapped, letting her catch her breath. “Sneak out and make everyone worry?”
“Never,” Maeve sobbed, her voice shuddering with tears. “I swear it on the Stars, I shall hear and obey.”
“Good. Let me give you a reminder, just in case,” Rowan said, picking up the brush and rubbing circles on the sensitive juncture of thigh and rear that was called the sit spot. “Eight. Four on each side. Count them, if you wish them to count.”
“No!” Maeve shrieked as the brush slammed into this most tender area. “Please!” She broke down sobbing.
“Count it quickly, my girl, or I’ll say that one was a mere demonstration,” Rowan warned, holding the brush.
“One, sir!” Maeve yelped before the treatment was repeated on the second side. “Two, sir!”
Rowan and Maeve continued their painful percussive duet, Maeve’s soprano howlings and Roman’s hair brush in perfect harmony. “There, that should settle you, my girl,” Rowan said, putting down the brush and rubbing the girl’s hair gently. “It’s over now.”
Maeve just wept. “Hurts,” she whimpered, sobbing miserably. It had been a big shock to her system, but she was making a meal of it. Still, had she been properly disciplined all along, this wouldn’t have happened.
“I know. But you needed it. Your brother was ready to face trial for your mistakes,” Rowan said. “He could have lost his commission because he loves you a lot more than his own life. But I found a plan to save him because I care about both of you.”
Maeve looked up at him. “Thank you,” she whispered, in a show of character that showed she was a Heber at heart. “For saving Killy.”
“Of course. I care about you Heber clan,” he said, kissing the top of her head. “Now, off to the corner and wait till your brother comes home. There’s more to be done.”
He still had more bad news for the family, but he would give her a chance to recover. She still needed to face formal punishment, and that meant… the cane.
© Rebecca Fox 2016