I licked blood from knuckles I’d bitten to hold back a scream, the sting rousing me from my dazed state, the pain of my most recent beating kicking in. Bad choice of words. Why they let prisoners have boots… Except they didn’t. Not officially. But there were a dozen or so prisoners with leather boots, thick soled, laced high, buffed to a dull, rich gleam by their boys. The Elites. The boots came out for special occasions. Teaching a newbie like me his place in the scheme of prison life didn’t come close to qualifying, but I’d been lucky. If I defined ‘lucky’ by my continued heartbeat after the lesson ended. The Elite who’d taken exception to me staring at him was on his way to fuck, then whip his wayward boy to death in the Ultra cell and he’d been dressed accordingly. As in boots to his knees, and a whip made from braided jagpaper hanging from his meaty fist. No wonder I’d stared, nausea twisting my gut.
I’d made a tasty appetizer. He’d saved the whip for his boy and kicked me to into sobbing submission. I was grateful. Jagpaper hurt. I’d gotten a cut on my finger from a small piece of it once and screamed my throat raw until the reaction between the natural acid in the paper and my skin faded to a lingering heat. No antidote. The reaction wore off too fast to make it practical. This whip had a thin spiked chain wound through the braided paper. Rumor was, Arensa had made his boy prepare the whip. I believed it. He’d allowed the doomed boy to wear gloves while he did it. Not out of kindness. Contact with skin leached away the acid, rendering the paper less effective as a means of punishment. Looked at one way, the spikes were a mercy. The boy’s skin would tear and bleed and the whipping would be over sooner. Jagpaper shredded when it got wet and on raw skin the pain levels would stop a heart.
If I’d been the sweet, naïve type, I’d have trusted the guards to step in before the killing stroke fell. Three weeks in Rellik had taught me that as well as being a sadistic bunch, the guards were also corrupt. Security cams had mysterious failures at times like this. It didn’t help that the cell checks were twice daily at set times, once in the morning with us safe behind bars, and once in the evening at lockdown. That unchanging routine allowed the prisoners time to get up to plenty of fun and still be ready, hands over their heads, legs spread, for inspection. The Elites and their boys were exempt from the checks. Of course, they were.
Krell help the prisoner who attracted a guard. He’d discover he’d committed all kinds of misdemeanors requiring harsh punishments to correct. The guards administered them at the lockdown check usually. That gave the recipient some hours to recover. The one with an itch to scratch would step inside the cell with his partner to watch his back, order the other inmate to face the wall, and dispense some good old-fashioned discipline. My first night, I’d seen it happen in the cell opposite, to a man I learned had been a favorite for a full week, a pretty kid with wispy blond curly hair and wide blue eyes. Not as cute as he looked. Sayle had used a knife to carve bits off his surrogate mom when she’d complained about the state of his bunkroom. Bits she’d have preferred remained attached.
Two guards, that time. One had taken Sayle from behind, a dry fuck, rough and fast, with a complete lack of expression on his face. Hands brutally tight in his victim’s hair, he’d pulled Sayle’s head back, holding him in place for the other guard to rape Sayle’s mouth with a cock long enough to choke the prisoner, cutting off his oxygen. They’d waited until their climaxes to pull out and revive him. Sayle had been quiet after that, speaking in disjointed mumbles, eyes not tracking. When the guards came by, dragging their metal batons along the bars of the cells, he sometimes pissed himself, mouth working silently, tears streaming down his face. They didn’t use him again. A broken toy was no fun. His cellmate reported the constant whimpering and nightmares the man had, and after a week the guards dragged Sayle out and took him away. He’d volunteered to be a lab rat for a month, they said, reducing his sentence from ninety-nine years to ninety in recognition of his willingness to help further medical breakthroughs. Yeah. His sentence would be reduced to zero by his guaranteed death on the final day of the testing, I bet. He didn’t scream. That made it worse.
I wasn’t in Rellik for a violent crime, though I kept that quiet. Theft, mostly of the cyber variety, mixed in with some ingenious scams dating back to age eleven. I couldn’t help myself. Gullible rich people were my weakness. When the authorities caught up to me, I expected a slap on the wrist and a couple of years in a lo-sec prison where the funds I’d salted away would buy me an easy ride.
The prosecutor, unctuous voice quivering with emotion when he addressed the court, had shattered that illusion by telling everyone that eight people had died because of me. Three suicides, and the last one had taken out her family with the gun she’d then used on herself. One of her victims was her newborn grandchild. I told myself they’d been unbalanced before I targeted their accounts, but my guilt-fueled nightmares were uglier than my waking hours, which was saying something.
Unable to treat it as murder since my defender had successfully argued the lack of direct causal connection between my actions and the deaths, the judge had exercised her right to sentence me consecutively for each offence and sent me to Rellik for a twenty-year stint. It didn’t matter if it was one year or twenty. I would die in here. Probably very soon. I’d tried fighting back. It’d gotten me three broken ribs and some enemies who were too far down the food chain to be dangerous, but got off on making my life miserable in a score of petty ways.
And my cellmate was a brooding giant who stared at me, blinking way less than normal, his hand caressing his cock through the coveralls we wore. They were an eye-watering orange for some obscure reason. He refused to speak to me. I couldn’t decide if that was a good sign or not, but I slept with my back to the wall, as if that would save me if he decided to get friendly with my ass.
My current hiding place was as effective as walking around with a bag over my head and assuming that since I couldn’t see anyone, they couldn’t see me. I’d gone to the library, a small room with a few dusty shelves stocked with an uninspiring selection. The talky discs were aimed at children and the read discs were a mix of whatever donations were deemed suitable. Nothing with sex or violence, and there had to be an inspiring message involved. I was as addicted to reading as I was to stealing, but I’d stare at a blank wall before tapping the cover of any of them.
Curled in a corner, out of sight of the sec-cam, not that anyone would be watching with a juicy murder to enjoy, I let myself shiver and voice a whimper, not caring how pathetic I sounded. Most of the prisoners had retreated to their cells, only the other Elites allowed to witness the whipping, so I could count on a brief period alone at least.
My meltdown didn’t last long. Being alone was too precious a state to waste. I leaned back against the wall, my orange coveralls clashing terribly with the puke-green paint, and closed my eyes.
Time to face facts. I was dead meat. No connections, no power, no physical threat. My hacking abilities were useless in here. Oh, I might survive a few months because I wasn’t worth killing, but I’d cross someone who mattered soon enough and they’d make an example of me.
It wasn’t much of a future to look forward to. Neither was surviving for years in this hellhole.
I’d heard of Rellik and knew only the worst criminals came here, but I’d been unprepared for the level of officially condoned violence and corruption. If I was able to communicate with the outside world, I’d have shared my knowledge with a newsfeed and gotten some changes, but visits, calls, hell, any comm access at all, were forbidden to the likes of me.
The Elites with their influence, power—and those fucking boots—were mostly physically imposing, though one was an elderly man with shrunken features and trembling hands. He’d been in here for decades, but the drug empire he’d created ran as smoothly as if he still sat in his office in Crownin Square. And to all intents and purposes, he did. Comm access was a privilege he’d earned through time spent here and unlimited amounts of credits.
Me, I had the credits, but without comm access, I couldn’t use them. It was a problem I worked on in the brief moments when surviving wasn’t my paramount concern.
Lost in misery, it took the nudge of a bare foot against my knee to rouse me. All prisoners went barefoot inside. Since Rellik was in the middle of an icy tundra, a thousand klicks square, it discouraged escape attempts. If we went outside to exercise, the guards issued thin thermal slip-ons the tundra would destroy within the first klick. I opened my eyes, too sunk in despair to rise and face whoever it was. I didn’t mind dying at someone’s feet. Pride and self-respect were luxury items in here.
“I’ve seen you around.”
I studied him warily. Not bad-looking. Gravel-rough voice, pale skin, gray eyes like granite, with weird amber flecks, and a single touch of color in his red hair. Had to be natural; Rellik didn’t have a salon within its razor-wire topped walls. Instead it had a prisoner whose job was to shave skulls bare if required. Either a prisoner grew their hair long or imitated an egg. Like the boots they wore, the neatly trimmed hair of an Elite proved there were exceptions to every rule.
I wasn’t sure if I’d take the shave. Long hair was a liability in a fight, but I wanted to recognize my reflection. This man’s hair was styled to showcase a strong set of features. There was an uncompromising set to his lips. I noted the styling and came to a mouth-drying conclusion.
Shit. Hiding from one Elite, only to be discovered by another. What were the odds? And why wasn’t this one watching the torture fest wearing his shiny boots?
I struggled to rise at his gesture, and made it as far as my knees, my breath leaving me in short gasps. A panic attack. Lovely.
“Hmm. Well, you do look good like that, so stay there if you want.”
I fought for composure. “Thanks.” For absolutely fuck all. To think I’d gotten to the point where I was expected to show gratitude for the privilege of kneeling in front of some murdering asshole. Krell save me.
“Nice attitude you’ve got there.” He backhanded me, a casual flip of his wrist. My cheek stung hotly, but I bit back a groan of protest.
For some reason, I’d abandoned commonsense and left my survival instincts in my other jacket. Maybe it was anger at the invasion of my refuge. Maybe it was a reaction to the pull of attraction I’d felt looking into his calm eyes.
He snapped his fingers. “Name.”
There didn’t seem any good reason to withhold it. “Dorant Ellis.”
“Well, Dorant Ellis, I’m Carr, but you can call me ‘Daddy’ and I’ll call you whatever the fuck I want. How does that sound?”
A distant scream cut the air, followed by another and another. Hard to imagine a human could make a sound so devoid of hope, so full of agony, and be capable of repeating it. I clenched every muscle to stop the convulsive shudder I gave turning into a shivering fit. “You want me to be your boy? When I can hear one dying for making a tiny fucking mistake?”
Carr rolled his eyes. “He sold details of Arensa’s off world holdings to a competing family and got caught. I told Arensa getting fond of his pets was a mistake, but he’s the sentimental sort. Me, I take a boy to play with, not talk to. They don’t get anything but my come shot up their ass or down their throat, and my protection.”
“So what did your last boy die of? A terminal case of spunk-poisoning?”
He raised his eyebrows. “Where’s this kill-me-now attitude coming from? Because you’ve gotten a few bruises?”
Honesty had me in its grip. “Because I’m as doomed as that poor stupid kid dying while the guards swill jav-juice and those not jerking off look away from the monitors.”
Carr shook his head. “No sec-cams in the Ultra cell. It’s strictly invitation only and the guards aren’t on the list. I’m assuming you’ve never seen it?”
In my nightmares seemed on the dramatic side. “You know I haven’t. It’s in the sealed section, and why in Krell’s name would I want to?”
He studied me the same way I’d assessed him, running his thumbnail over his jaw, following the track of a scar healed to a thin, white line. “A lesson in facing reality maybe? You’re turning down my protection. That proves you’re not scared enough of this place.”
“Believe me, I’m terrified.”
That got me a frown, reshaping his features from mildly threatening to scary as fuck. “Then you’re looking for a more powerful owner?”
I couldn’t get my answer out fast enough. “No!” My legs had pins and needles from kneeling, a warning that if I stood to run, I wouldn’t get very far. “I’m not ungrateful for the offer, but I’m not cut out to be anyone’s boy. I’m older than you, for one thing.” Not by much. I was clutching at thin air here.
He shrugged. “Makes no difference. And you look at home on your knees. Age doesn’t come into it.”
“Why me?” I struggled to my feet, unable to bear the vicious tingling a moment longer. He pursed his lips, his disapproval evident, but he didn’t comment. Standing, we were the same height, but it didn’t seem that way. Confidence, arrogance, self-belief; whatever it was he had that I didn’t, it left me looking up at him. “What use am I to you?”
“If you persist in a slow suicide, none at all. If you put your neck under my hand, we’ll see. Nothing you need to worry about now, pretty boy.”
My neck under his hand? My cock hardened, hidden desires I’d never allowed to rule me flooding my body with a powerful surge of arousal. I’d never knelt to a Dominant, never called a man Master, Sir, or Daddy. But I’d stared in the mirror and imagined a collar around my neck. Anyone skilled enough to hack my porn feed would see a theme. They wouldn’t know if I saw myself as Dom or sub, though. Fifty-fifty guess.
Carr would guess correctly, from the slow grin he gave me. “Oh yeah. Now we’re making progress. Listen to me. My momma brought me up to be polite, so I asked, but I’ll be honest, once I decided on you that ended it. Your options are me or death. Once you’re mine, you’re safe. But I’ll hurt you bad if you fuck with me. You’ll beg for mercy and I won’t be listening.”
Dizzy with confusion, I ran the options, treating it as a logic puzzle. Stay unprotected and I’d die. Look for a different protector? Someone with more power? That would leave Carr my enemy and something told me he’d be implacable.
As if he’d followed my thoughts, Carr shook his head. “It’s me or no one. With my mark on you, there isn’t a guard or prisoner in the place who’d lay a finger on you.”
“But I don’t have your—” I choked on the next word because he pulled out a blade pen, mouth twisting with amusement at my reaction. “No!”
“It’ll heal without infection and I’ll find something to distract you from the pain.” He popped his finger into his mouth and pulled it out with an obscene slurp, leaving me in no doubt as to his meaning.
“No.” This time it sounded weak, unconvincing. Then he stepped in close and shoved the sleeve of his my coverall up, baring my forearm. “No!”
Okay, that was high-pitched enough that I was embarrassed for myself.
“Relax. Daddy’s got you.” There was no smile now. He meant it and the implications sent my body into overdrive. Run, fight…or kneel? Each sounded appealing, and each option brought with it a host of problems. He nodded as if I’d asked a question, and grasped my arm, turning it. “Hold still. If you twitch and I make a mess of this, I’ll do it again, this time on your ass, and make you show it to anyone who asks. And they will.”
“Please.” I said it quietly, hoping to reach him. “I don’t want this, Carr.”
He tapped my mouth with the blade pen. “That’s the last time you use my name. Do it again and you’ll spend the day gagged with a soap-rag. Hold still and let me save you. Or do you want me to drag you to the Ultra cell so you can see what happens to boys who don’t make their Daddy happy?”
I’d blocked out the noises of a man dying, like a coward, and now there were none to hear. Arensa might still be whipping his boy or have moved on to the fucking-a-limp-body stage, but the screaming had stopped. I didn’t want to see or know how he’d silenced his victim.
I shook my head and made one final appeal. “I don’t know how to be someone’s boy. I’ve never—I won’t please you, I know I won’t.”
He patted my face. “Don’t worry. I’ll see to it that you do.”
Oh that tempted me. To give in, surrender to his ownership and let him make the decisions. No responsibility weighing me down, a protector between me and this fucking hellhole. The nib on the pen caught the light, the hum of the tiny motor a warning, a promise of pain. I watched, helpless, breathless, while he carved a symbol—his mark—into my flesh. Blood welled fast, obscuring the lines, but I saw enough to know it was his initial, held within a circle.
A circle. The shape of a collar. Except he wasn’t the man wearing one, real or virtual.
“My hand. Your neck.”
Intense heat seared every nerve in my body for an instant. I sobbed, clutching my arm, the wound healing as I stared at it, cauterized, clean. He wiped the blood away, then held his hand out, blood-wet palm down, waiting.
I had no choice. I knelt, put the back of my neck under his hand, and he closed his fingers around it, my blood sealing the pact.
I was a boy at the feet of his Daddy. Owned. Protected. Owned.
He bared himself, then pushed the head of his cock against my mouth and I let him in. Compared to the bitterness of my submission, what he spilled into me tasted sweet as clean water. He came fast, hard as iron, aroused by claiming me or the background to our discussion maybe. Plenty of men in here got off on inflicting pain or watching another suffer.
He was right. I didn’t notice the throb in my arm while his cock was rounding my lips. I decided to remain passive, a boring fuck, not worth keeping, but he took that act of defiance away from me. I wasn’t allowed to move my head, his hands tight on my skull, so what I’d intended to do was forced on me, making it his choice, not mine. My cock was half-hard by the first thrust, as rigid as his by the third, weeks without any relief but my hand making me easy to rouse.
Habit took over and I ran my tongue over the crown, swirling it dexterously, capturing his taste. It wasn’t easy; he’d set a punishing pace, hammering into me, his cock a club of flesh, thick and long. In my ass, it’d core me, leave me hollow when he pulled out, my raw hole gaping. I moaned, the sound turning to a sensation he enjoyed judging by his approving grunt.
He twisted my hair around his fingers, jabbed deep enough to choke me, and shot.
Showing a romantic streak, he dried his cock on my hair. Or maybe that was his distaste for hygiene showing. I tried not to cringe, though spunk and spit didn’t leave hair glossy and thick. Matted and sticky, yes.
“Are you hard?”
No manners. A thank you would’ve been nice. I glanced down, though I didn’t need to. An erection was an attention grabber for more than the eyes and I’d been conscious of the thrum of redirected blood and stretched skin for a while. “Yeah. Can I do something about that?”
“Show it to me.”
And so would the occasional ‘please’. Falling back into silence, because protesting would’ve gotten me nowhere, I reached into the flap of my coveralls and hauled out the proof that my libido had no pride.
He spared my cock an indifferent glance, dismissive enough to make it wilt a fraction. “Keep it out, keep it hard, and follow me.”
I stood, humiliation heating my face. I’d seen prisoners exhibited in various ways by their Daddies, often naked and erect, and averted my eyes. I was the only one who did. And now I’d be the one on display. Survival came with a high price tag.
“You’ll move into my cell tomorrow. Too late in the day to transfer now. The guards like everyone where they belong at last check. One night away from me. So no, you can’t jerk off. Your cellmate doesn’t get to see that when I can’t.”
“Him.” I grimaced, following him out of the library, a dog trotting at his Master’s heels. “I won’t be sorry to move away from Mr. Chatty.”
There, see? I’d found a drop of lemonade in a vat of hard, sour lemons.
“Be glad he wasn’t in the mood to talk.” I braced myself for a story of horror and Carr disappointed me. “He tells jokes when he is. Terrible ones, and you’re lucky if he remembers the punchline. He expects you to laugh, and if you don’t he gets testy.”
“Yeah.” Carr chuckled. “Ball squeezing time. Except not yours. Not now. You’re marked. Safe. Is that sinking in?”
“The same way water sinks into glass.”
“It will.” He threw me a warning glance. “Doesn’t mean you can strut around all puffed up and sassy. You make too many enemies, or the wrong friends, and you’ll become a liability. I’ll take you out myself if that happens.”
“I’m not stupid. And I’m here for a twenty-year-stint. I know I need to watch my step.”
He turned, pushing me against the wall with a smooth shove, hand locking around my throat. “I’m not stupid, Daddy. Say it. Use my name. I want to see your eyes when you do it.”
I swallowed, caught by the fierce gaze that demanded my surrender as much as by his hand. The truth of my situation slammed into me with the force of a blow, the mark he’d carved into me a sharp-edged pain.
“Daddy,” I whispered, not looking away. “Please. I’m not stupid, Daddy.”
Warmth, a soft yielding, then my cock hardened to the point where the brush of a finger would trigger a climax he’d forbidden. I moaned, shameless in my need, holding still for him when I wanted to kneel again or rut against his thigh until I spilled.
“Needy and pretty.” He flicked the head of my cock hard enough that tears sprang to my eyes. “Like that?”
I shook my head, unable to stop the movement, babbling frantically. He loosened his grip on my throat enough to allow it without releasing me. “No, Daddy! No!”
“Oh yeah, you do.” He swept his thumb over the head, bringing his hand up to eye level so the wetness was visible. “Let’s see how many of those it takes to get you to come for me here, out in the hallway where anyone can see you.”
I heard the prison stir to life, as if a signal had gone out that the whipping was over, the danger past. Voices, footsteps approaching…
I clutched at his arms. “I can’t—Let me get dressed. Please.”
He shrugged, indifferent, relaxed. “No. I like seeing your dick all hard and hungry.”
Flick. Flick. The location amplified the effect of the tiny sting, the raw burn of arousal destroying my inhibitions. I keened, hips jerking toward that punishing thumb and finger.
Two men rounded the corner and came to a halt, eying the spectacle I made, expressions avid. Carr grinned at them. Flick. Flick. “Deacon. Silas. Meet my new boy. He’s ready to pop. Want to bet on when?”
Betting was popular in much the same way as breathing. After the government passed laws making it illegal to force prisoners to work, they could stay in their cells or perform chores for credits. Boredom made most sign up for the work detail. The credits were virtual and if I’d had five minutes at a terminal, I could’ve transferred thousands to my account, but what was the point? The only place to spend them was in the prison store and it stocked a motley supply of candy, food, and porn. I craved books and a pizza from Jile’s Bar, dripping with sauce, the soft crust laden with cheese.
“Sure.” Deacon lumbered forward, double chin jiggling, Silas a shadow one step behind. I knew them by name but no more than that. Not Elite, but reasonably high status I guessed if Carr was friendly with them. Or were they lowest of the low and offering my humiliation to them was an object lesson for me, showing me how worthless I’d become?
“Next flick and he’ll blow, I reckon,” Carr said. “You get twenty if he doesn’t and I get twenty if I’m right.”
“What does he get if he loses you a twenty?” Deacon licked his lips as if tasting my pain. “Can we watch?”
“He doesn’t come for me, you get the money, and he gets a stay-up pill fed to him every hour until his dick’s a nice shade of purple and he’s crying for mercy.”
Oh they loved that, chuckling and sniggering over my imminent suffering. I didn’t risk a glare at them, but I made up my mind to come my fucking brains out on the next touch. If I had to choose between pissing off them or Carr, it was an easy decision. Besides, much though I hated the idea of performing for an audience, I wanted the relief of a climax.
Carr shifted his grip, caressing my face, then gripping it so I couldn’t look down. Not knowing when the flick would come made the waiting worse. “Look at me. Look at your Daddy, boy.”
He spoke too low for the men to hear. I blinked at him, unable to speak, my breath choppy, shallow, head spinning. His gaze held me as surely as his hand, the cool grey depths drawing me in.
“First test. Your balls belong to me. You empty them when I say, and that’s now.”
He timed the flick with the final word, thumb pushing past my lips when he delivered it, the memory of sucking him joined by a flare of agony. Perfect combo. I kept my eyes open, sagging in his grip when he caught me by the arms, come spurting from me, messy, strong spurts he avoided by angling his body to the side.
The satisfaction on his face was deep and real. I stood, shaking, adoring him, hating him, and hating myself more. Why was I here? It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fucking fair. I didn’t belong with the worst criminals the planet had to offer.
And I didn’t belong on my knees.
A week later, I was of a different opinion. Carr moved me into his cell without trouble or fuss and my name disappeared off the work detail lists, though my account showed the credits for a full daily shift. My only job was pleasing him and my days—and nights—centered on him. He was the sun to my planet, but if he was my Daddy, did that make me his son? The pun was too silly to share, but there was nothing amusing about my situation. My life depended on keeping Carr interested in me and happy. I’d learned the fate of my predecessor the day after I moved in, whispered to me in the line for food. I was expected to get food for Carr, take it to his table, then kneel by him until he signaled me to rejoin the line. The first time, he’d kept me there so long I got a smear of mashed potato and a teaspoon of gravy and that was it. Leftovers didn’t happen; the prisoners went back, scraping the vats of food clean.
I’d complained in a restrained way and Carr shrugged, spat his mouthful of boiled beef into his palm and offered it to me. Gagging, I’d shaken my head, then discovered good boys didn’t turn down anything their Daddy gave them. He’d tossed the morsel onto the floor, kicked me to my stomach and put his foot on the back of my neck until I’d gotten the meat, coated with grit now, into my mouth.
Chewing hadn’t appealed. I’d gulped it down, choking when it lodged in my throat, aware of the jeers and laughter around me.
As object lessons went, it was valuable. Carr didn’t posture or threaten; didn’t get angry either. He dealt with any perceived disrespect in a thorough way that left me under no doubt of our relative positions.
And it helped settle me as no amount of kindness would have done.
The boy before me had killed himself. Stolen a blister pack of the strongest painkillers from the pharmacy and downed them like candy. I believed it was suicide because no Elite disposed of a boy that humanely. The safety of an owned boy came at a price. I didn’t ask Carr why Jon had found life as his boy unbearable. I’d find out soon enough.
For now, I was coping. There were bonuses. Carr’s cell was nominally the same as my old one. Prison was the great equalizer. But it was at the end of a short corridor and the cells around it were empty. No one to hear me scream, but no one to keep me awake with bubbling, nerve-rasping snores. Carr didn’t snore. For that alone, I awarded him a point or two. And the padded shelf he slept on, jutting out from the wall, was bigger than the regular beds. Wider, longer; room for two.
I’d expected him to make me sleep on the floor or the standard bed on the opposite wall. Instead, Carr put me between him and the wall after he’d finished with me and I slept within the confines he’d set. Slept well, warm and safe, ass aching.
He fucked me often. I’d always enjoyed it, but there was a difference in the occasional lover pushing into me with gentle nudges, using copious glide oil and asking if I was okay every few minutes, and Carr ordering me to strip, bend over, and spread my cheeks. He did that when he had no intention of using me, usually when he was reading, looking up now and then to tell me to shift position or arch my back more.
At the end of the first week, he made me do it with company in his cell.
Being a living piece of performance art shut down my brain. I was aware of nothing at first, shocked humiliation acting as anesthetic, then sensation and awareness crept back. The smooth padding of my bed against my face and chest. The ache in my arms. The soreness where my fingers dug into flesh to keep my hole and balls displayed. The indifference toward me pouring off both men during their conversation. I got a slap and grope from the visitor on his way out, after a grunt of permission from Carr. He handled me as a farmer would an animal, cupping my balls, then prodding my hole with a thick, dry finger.
“Tight. Bet he squeals when you poke him.”
Carr chuckled. “Unless I gag him, yeah.”
“My boy’s gotten so loose with everything I’ve shoved up his hole, it’s no fun fucking him. Pity. Got him well-trained and now he’s no use to me.”
My heart bled for him. I concentrated on holding still, heart pounding with a squirmy mix of arousal and distaste.
“Pass him onto someone lower down as a gift,” Carr suggested. “They’ll owe you and it’s not like they can complain he’s loose without someone telling them it means their dick’s tiny.”
The Elite snickered. “Good idea. Jon won’t like being passed down, but when I tell him any whining and I’ll say goodbye in the Ultra cell, he’ll kiss his new Daddy’s feet like he means it.”
“A session in there usually brings a boy to heel,” Carr agreed. “My boy hasn’t earned one yet, but he will eventually. They always do.”
“Ain’t that the truth. Going to invite me to watch when he does?”
“Of course. I like showing off my boys, you know that.”
Once we were alone, I jerked upright and turned on Carr, pulling my clothing back into place, covering my crawling skin as if that would erase the last hour. “That was the single most humiliating—”
He waved me off as if I were a buzz fly, irritating but harmless. “That? That was nothing. Shut up and make yourself useful since you’re on your feet and dressed. The kitchen’s open and if you tell them it’s for me they’ll give you a fizz-tube. Make sure it’s cold.”
I kicked the leg of the table under the small window, jarring my ankle painfully. “Did you hear me? I hated it. He pawed me like I was meat and you let him.” My voice shook and to my horror tears blurred my vision. Too much. All of it. Too fucking much. The prison, the conditions—Carr. I understood now why some prisoners took the simple way out and killed themselves. Years in here—I wouldn’t survive. Even if by some miracle Carr kept me, instead of recycling me when a fresh piece of ass came along, my spirit would wither and warp until I didn’t recognize myself.
Carr eyed me, astonishingly tolerant of my outburst. Maybe he’d anticipated this meltdown because it was what most of his boys went through. And maybe he had ways of dealing with it. Like the Ultra cell. I shivered, wrapped my arms around myself, and fought the impulse to fall to my knees and beg for mercy.
Raising his hand, Carr beckoned me over to his bed. I went, legs weak, skin clammy, and sat next to him when he patted the bed.
“Talk to me, boy. Tell me what’s crawled up your ass and I’ll make sure it dies. No need to watch your words. I want honesty and if it comes with some disrespect, I’ll overlook it this once.”
I waved my hands in sheer frustration as if they were wet and I was shaking them dry. “That’s what’s wrong. Boy. I’m not your boy. I like men, yeah, no problem there, but submission doesn’t appeal to me. I can fake it, but it doesn’t come naturally.”
With certainty strengthening his words, Carr said, “You’re wrong about that.”
Furious, I glared at him. “I know what pushes my buttons, for Krell’s sake!”
Carr leaned in, breath warm against my neck. I held still, taut, waiting, and he clasped my wrists, then licked a wet stripe from the base of my neck to the hollow under my ear. My cock stiffened, the thin coverall doing nothing to disguise my arousal, and a moan escaped me, treacherous, revealing. I clenched my hands within his light grip, staring ahead until, unwillingly, my gaze went to his face. He pulled back and said softly, “So do I.”
The air between us thickened like honey. He leaned in again and brushed his mouth over mine before catching my lip between his teeth and tugging. He could’ve reared back and left me bleeding, but he stayed where he was, the bite gentle, the pain in my hands to ease. All I had to do was go with him, get closer, not pull away. My nerves thrummed, my breath taken in sips, but slowly, imperceptibly, I relaxed. The bite became a kiss, tongues, teeth, lips, combining to reduce my doubts to a faint whisper.
“You’re mine,” Carr told me, breaking the kiss. He traced the pulse beat in my wrists with his thumbs. “Never doubt it. And stop worrying. Enjoy it. There’s precious little else to do in here but fuck, and I’m not a cruel man. You could do worse.”
“I know. I do. It’s only… You ask a lot of me.”
“No more than you’re capable of.” He gave me a quizzical look. “You hated being on display? Being touched?”
“By anyone not you? Yeah.” For the first time, I used his name with no telltale hesitation punctuating it. “If I’m yours, don’t you want to keep me for yourself, Daddy?”
Pleasure lit the gray of his eyes, warming their coolness, the amber streaks bright. “No one else will ever fuck you, but like I told Clifton, I like showing you off. And he asked permission before he put his hands on you. If I’m not around, no one will touch you, and if I’m there, no one will hurt you.” His voice sharpened. “And if they do, if you get a look, a word directed at you that you don’t like, you come running to me, and I’ll take care of it. Got that?”
I nodded. “Yes, Daddy. I promise. But no one’s done anything like that.” With no intent to flatter, and not without some pride in him, I added, “They wouldn’t dare.”
It scared me how easy it was to give him that title now. How it resonated with me. Carr had given me permission to admit a truth I’d shied away from. No; he’d taken away the option of hiding from it.
Once again, contradicting emotions flooded me. I hated him for it and wanted to kiss his feet in gratitude at the same time. Confusing. I couldn’t trust my reactions to him. Not in this artificial setting. But I had to stop judging the prison against the real world. This was my reality. I was a long-term prisoner, under the protection of a man who expected me to submit to him in body—not too much of a problem—and mentally, emotionally, which was a whole different mountain to climb.
“You’re getting there.” He patted my face, a touch I got often from him. “Go get me that fizz-tube.”
I drew in a breath, slipped to my knees by the bed, and bowed my head. I needed to give him my full submission before I lost my nerve. “Yes, Daddy.”
He grabbed my hair and pulled me between his spread thighs, freeing his cock with his other hand. “Well, why didn’t you say you were thirsty, boy?”
He sounded amused, but his grip was brutal, and he used my mouth with a roughness that left me fighting for breath but exhilarated. I’d done this to him; roused him to the point where he might have a tight hold on my hair, but none on his control. He pulled out, rubbing the musky head across my face; cheeks, chin, even my eyes when I closed them, whimpering with lust.
“Beg for it, boy.”
Oh yes. I could do that. Wanted to whip our arousal to a frenzy with simple, perfect, honest words. “Daddy—please. Fuck my mouth, please, Daddy, use me, please—”
I didn’t recognize my voice. Broken, yearning words coming from a place inside me so secret even now he’d broken down the door, what lay hidden was too timid to emerge. Didn’t matter; he reached in and hauled it out, exposing it—me—to his gaze.
He growled and stood, turning me, still kneeling, so my back was to the bed. One knee beside my shoulder for support, a hand on the wall behind me, he positioned me, spine screaming, angling my head to suit his purposes. I’d never taken a cock deep in my throat and I’d never sucked one as long and thick as my Daddy’s, but it was learn the knack fast or let him down by squirming free, spoiling the moment.
He came soon, a wild, guttural sound torn from him, the taste of his spunk lost until he eased back and I caught the final spurt on my tongue. I held it there, unwilling to swallow. Come had an alien pungency to it for me and I’d never relished the aftertaste, but it was different with him.
He stroked my cheek, murmuring, “Good boy.”
With reluctance, I cleared my mouth and answered. “Thank you, Daddy.”
“What’s gotten into you?” It was less a question than an observation, but I didn’t have an answer anyway. He shook his head. “Never mind. I like it, and so do you by the looks of it.” He gestured me up and I obeyed, wincing at the ache in my back and the rasping burn when I swallowed.
“Cock out. Show me.”
Gingerly, scared I’d trigger my climax, I did as I was told.
“So if I told you to keep it out on the way to the kitchen and back, I know you’d do it. No choice. But would you hate it?”
I snorted, safe in expressing my feelings when he was in this mood. “I’ve had nightmares where I’m naked and no one else is, so, yeah, probably.”
He tilted his head. “You’d be doing it to please me. Because I fucking love displaying you, love knowing your balls are aching and you’re desperate for release. Would that sweeten it?”
I didn’t answer for a while, turning the question over in my mind, seeing my exposure and humiliation from a different angle. Finally, I grinned, lips still rubbery from the fuck. “Even with that, I’d hate every moment, but it doesn’t matter, does it? Not if it’s what you want.”
“True.” He stood. “I’ll give you a choice—”
“No!” I raised my hands in an apology. “Sorry. But it’s the last thing I want.”
“Because when I hold your leash you can tell yourself you’re obeying through necessity, not because submission is something you crave?” He screwed up his face, his annoyance plain. “When the truth’s out there, for both of us to see, what’s the point in pretending it’s hidden? Stop fooling yourself. You like your neck under my hand. I like it being there. What’s wrong with that? It’s how we’re built. If I needed you screaming and bleeding to get my kicks, yeah, I can see where that would scare you, but every time you’ve been on display, your dick’s been wet as rain and hard as rock, so forgive me for assuming your death from shame was a long way off. Now the choice was to go out there alone or with me beside you, but that’s off the table now. You’re going solo and you’re going smiling, like you’re happy as fuck to be showing the world you’re suffering from blue balls to please your Daddy. And when you get back with my drink, you go to your knees at the door, put the fizz tube in your mouth, and crawl to me.”
I went. With Carr glaring at me, every word snarled as if he’d been insulted, I wasn’t hanging around to plead my case. The trip to the kitchen and back was an ordeal, but not as much as I’d expected. A few snickers, some appraising glances, but mostly anyone I passed ignored me. No one wanted to risk Carr’s displeasure by mocking his boy.
When I got back and delivered the fizz tube on my knees, he sighed. “You’re a pain in the ass.”
“Yeah, well, get your head wrapped around being honest with yourself, or the pain will be in your ass.”
I grinned up at him and got my hair tousled. I knew he’d forgiven me when he tapped the red flavor button on the tube. I liked red, he liked green, and no one in the universe liked blue. He passed the tube to me half-full and I drank it still kneeling, leaning against his thigh while he tugged my hair gently from time to time.
I touched the gleaming toe of Carr’s right boot, the black leather warm against my fingertip. “They don’t need polishing.”
“Polish them anyway.”
I glanced over my shoulder to where Carr lounged on the bed, naked, lean, pale, the bush of hair around his cock the color of cinnamon. He’d been absent most of the morning. I’d learned not to ask questions when he disappeared for hours at a time, though I wasn’t sure where he went or what he did. Gambling with guards or the Elite? Using the comm forbidden to me to protect his assets on the outside? If he wanted me to know, he’d tell me. Being spanked until my howls brought an audience to watch my suffering had made that clear. Standing with my scarlet ass on display for an hour, pressed against the bars of the cell for anyone passing to pinch or fondle, had made it even clearer. Carr had watched to make sure I wasn’t finger-fucked, but he’d allowed his Elite pals to grope me as much as they liked.
“Where do the boots come from? Who decides who gets to wear them?”
“Questions, questions.” Carr shrugged. “They’re passed down. Those don’t fit me all that well, but they’re ceremonial more than anything, so it doesn’t matter. Not sure how the tradition started. And I’m Elite because I had something to bargain with when I arrived.”
I was dying to ask, but even between Daddy and his boy, there were no-go areas. Prison etiquette forbade asking what an inmate had done and how long he was in for. Oh, details leaked, but direct questions led to broken bones.
He chuckled. “Killing you not to ask, isn’t it?”
“It might kill me if I did.” We’d been together a few months now, but I wasn’t entirely resigned to his ownership, even if every day I fell a little deeper in love. He was confident, strong, and had a dry sense of humor I appreciated. If we’d met outside the prison, I’d have gone after him without hesitation, submitted eagerly to his desires, but it would’ve been by choice, not this forced necessity.
“Not with me. You’d have to do more than that.” He tapped his thigh, drawing my attention to his cock, stiffening slowly. Aroused by picturing my death by torture? No. Not Carr. My pain, humiliation, and mental anguish turned him on, but I got the feeling that wouldn’t be the case if it wasn’t doing the same to me. “I was a dealer in lon-jev. A major dealer. I manufactured it and distributed it. And when I was caught, I turned over my research in exchange for, well, let’s say those boots.”
Jolted by his frankness, and wondering why he’d chosen today to share his history, I let the boot fall to the floor with a thud. Lon-jev was banned on every planet in the system and it didn’t matter. The rich paid for their regular doses without complaint, pouring credits into the bank accounts of people like Carr. Take the drug and stay young; miss a dose and the effects were devastating. I’d seen pictures. Firm bodies, smooth skin, clear eyes—until the drug wore off. Then it was sunken cheeks, wispy hair, and shaking hands before death swept in to collect an outstanding debt. People had murdered to get the credits for a dose when their money ran out. Done unspeakable acts to appease their dealers.
“You’re looking at me as if I’m a monster.” Carr shook his head, his exasperation clear. “I’m not. I never cut off a customer. One payment upfront. Lifetime supply guaranteed. And I put half my profits into making the drug safer, more efficient, more affordable.”
“That’s worse.” I stood. “Too many long-lifers and the economy crumbles. Civilization falls. We don’t have the resources to feed and house a population that increases without—”
“Heard it all before,” Carr interrupted me. “And I’d check your facts, boy. We’ve got planets crying out for immigrants, and more to colonize. Wave lon-jev at them as an incentive and the ships will fill up with volunteers. People who can make a difference because they’ll live long enough to see their work bear fruit. Sure, it’s a risk, but so is breathing. I was so fucking close to making production cheap and safe when they nailed me. They’re carrying on the research I started, but will they do what I planned and make it available to everyone? Not likely.”
He didn’t sound annoyed, but amused, a secretive amusement I couldn’t decipher. I know something you don’t know… Curious, I asked, “Who’s carrying it on?”
Carr jerked his thumb up. “What do you think the lab rats on the top level are for?”
I swallowed. “Oh. I thought… Well, I knew it was medical research, but since lon-jev’s illegal and this is a government lab…”
“Ironic,” Carr agreed. “Though the death rate should’ve clued you in that it’s not officially sanctioned.”
“Do you, I mean, did you ever… ” My voice trailed off. I wasn’t sure I wanted the answer enough to finish my question.
Working out what I’d been too cowardly to ask didn’t give Carr any trouble. “No, I’m not a user. I was waiting for the drug to be safe. And I didn’t like my odds of finding a supplier if I was put inside, and I knew it was a matter of time before they caught me.” He shivered. “My worst fear is that they give me a small dose, enough to hook my system, then watch me die when it wears off.”
A vulnerable Carr troubled me. He was my protector. If he wasn’t safe, untouchable, then neither was I, but that wasn’t my primary concern.
I wanted him safe too.
“Stop frowning.” Carr pointed at the boot on the floor. “Pick it up before I notice you dropped it and punish you for disrespect.”
Easy enough to distract us from dark thoughts. I picked up the boot and tossed it away. “Oops. Sorry, Daddy.”
If a spark of understanding lit his eyes, genuine annoyance quenched it fast. “Cute. But that was a mistake. You’re forgetting who’s in charge here. Ultra cell for you, boy. I’d planned a visit there sometime soon anyway. Time you learned what it’s for. Time you got naked. I want to see you down to the bones. And I won’t be the only one watching.”
Aghast, I shook my head. Panic filled my lungs like cold, filthy water, making breathing a struggle. I’d never seen the place, but I’d heard plenty of horror stories and the screams of Arensa’s boy dying were hard to erase from my memory. I’d tried. “No, see, I didn’t mean—”
“Tonight,” he said flatly. “I’ll prep you later.”
“Prep me?” I echoed, aware of how foolish I sounded.
“Wash out your ass. Get you clean and empty, then fill you until you’re screaming.”
He wasn’t joking. Fuck, what had I done? I crawled. I begged. I cried. He gagged me to shut me up, then dragged me to the showers. With a crowd of onlookers, some openly jerking off while they watched, he pushed me into a stall set up for his purpose. A fresh nozzle in place, he ran his hand over the tubing, keeping me in position with a command I obeyed out of fear of the consequences if I showed him up in front of an audience. I wasn’t uncomfortable bent over a waterproof, padded bench, but that wouldn’t be the case for long. I twisted my head to watch him tap in the settings. My eyesight was good enough to see he’d gone for hot and soapy.
I braced for a blast of water, but he was never angry enough to damage me through neglect. And maybe he knew the slow, remorseless trickle was as hard to bear as a jet. I sobbed out apologies, but he filled me, plugged me for five long minutes, while my guts tied themselves in knots, then let me spill onto the floor, the disgusting mess swirled away within seconds. Then he did it again, this time with warm water, until I lay exhausted, scoured of dignity.
“You think this was bad?” Carr whispered into my ear after dismissing the onlookers with a curt order. “This was nothing, boy. Not even a punishment. I like my boys clean, that’s all, and you haven’t been doing it yourself as often as you should.”
Because the humiliation of doing it in public was unbearable. I sniffled pathetically, slipping free of the constraints I wrapped around myself as a shield and showing him an honest reaction. “I’m sorry, Daddy.”
He slapped my ass. “Shower.”
I stood passive, linked hands resting on top of my head, while he washed me. It was erotic because his hands were all over me, but the coolness in his eyes warned me not to expect release or affection. It didn’t matter. It was enough that he touched me without cruelty, his slick palms gliding down my back to my ass, parting my cheeks to expose hidden skin to the coursing water.
I stumbled out, legs unsteady, and let the blast of the dryer bake me. It didn’t stop the shivers, but it helped.
“No food for you, but drink plenty of water. You’ll sweat in there. And cry. Don’t want you dehydrated.”
I gave up. He wouldn’t relent and if he cared about my health, whatever he planned wouldn’t kill me. Dying of embarrassment wasn’t likely. Resigned, numb, I trailed after him, shutting down thought and emotion.
That lasted until the moment came when he stripped me for the walk to the Ultra cell. Everything I’d held back for the past hours crashed through the wall I’d built and battered me like a gale force wind peppered with hail. I clung to him.
“I can’t do it. Whatever it is. Not with people watching. Please. Just you. Please.”
“You need this.” He caressed my face. “Need to bend to my will before you break from holding back. I could do it here in private, but it’d take longer and that’s no kindness. You’re struggling to survive in here. You can’t see it, but I can. Once this is over, it’ll go easier on you, boy. Listen to me. Trust your Daddy.”
He saw more than I did. The grey hours in this isolated place with freedom too distant to anticipate were wearing me down. I was bored—apart from the times that Carr focused on me and drew me into a different world, darkly arousing—and resentful at what I still viewed as an unjust sentence. Acid emotions, eroding my reserves until a breakdown was inevitable. If that happened, and I became suicidal, apathetic, or violent, Carr couldn’t save me. I’d be an ideal candidate for the labs.
“And I love showing you off,” Carr added. “Be a credit to me.”
“Tell me what you’ll do.” It was a plea and like every other one out of my mouth, he ignored it. He wore his boots, too big, but not by much. Black, glossy, they made my mouth water. I’d buffed them to that high sheen, knelt, bowed over, when Carr pulled them on. I’d kissed them, my breath clouding the mirror-bright surface, and inhaled the scent of the leather, drawing it deep inside me. I knew them like my hand after hours tending to them over the past months, and seeing them on Carr for the first time did stuff to me. Weird stuff. I was too apprehensive to get hard, but I was aroused, a turbulent froth of conflicting urges threatening to sweep me away.
“Why should I?” He rummaged in his locker, then brought out a length of sticktite. “Hands in front of you.”
I extended my hands, palms kissing, and he bound them, the sticktite warming as it sealed. A loop around my wrists, then more loops around my fingers, leaving my thumbs free. He left a strip long enough to lead me by. Having the use of my hands taken away freed me from responsibility. I was helpless. Sure, if I’d been the hero of a vidflick, I could’ve taken out six attackers with hands and feet bound and blindfolded too, but this was reality. Armed with a knife or blaster, I’d still have lost against most of the men and all the guards. I didn’t have the fighting gene.
Carr kissed me, a possessive assault on my lips and senses, leaving me yearning for him, wishing we could spend the night in this small room with the illusion it was our choice to be there. I didn’t fool myself the upcoming ordeal was my fault. Carr had been waiting for me to step out of line with a patience that made him unique. Playing with his boy in the Ultra cell was his right; he could’ve taken me there anytime. Instead, he’d let me decide when I was ready. Or decided for me that I was and taken offense at something he’d have let pass any other day.
With my lips tender from a nip that came close to drawing blood. I followed him out of our cell. Word had gotten out. The men lining the hallway knew I wasn’t off to die, only suffer, so they didn’t hold back on enjoying my predicament. Suggestions ranging from the obscene to the physically impossible provided a soundtrack to my walk. I kept my head down and stared at Carr’s boots, far enough behind him that the leash was taut.
As if arriving a few seconds later was any better.
The doorway into the secure area opened for Carr. I walked into unfamiliar territory, looking around me, instinctively gathering data. I was vaguely disappointed to find it looked like the hallways in the rest of the prison. The only difference was the lack of holding cells. The walls were featureless, another door at the end of the hallway standing ajar.
“Through there’s the Ultra cell,” Carr told me.
Yeah, I’d figured that out for myself, Daddy. I nodded as if Carr could see me, and closed the distance between us as if he represented safety, which tonight he sure as fuck didn’t.
The room he led me into was big and every Elite was in there, some sitting on chairs fixed to the floor, some leaning against the walls. It wasn’t the Ultra cell. That was in the center of the room, a large cage with a device inside it that had my eyes widening in horror.
A nexus chair. I’d seen them often in porn, but never for real, never with the sure and certain knowledge I’d be the one strapped into that bright red metal contraption. Designed to hold a person securely and display them at the same time, nothing hidden, it could be raised, lowered, pivoted, and flipped. Carr could turn me upside down or sideways. And some of the chairs, the top-line models, had features I didn’t want to contemplate. They could deliver electric shocks, heat up or chill until flesh seared and stuck to the metal. Some were equipped with retractable spikes sharp enough to pierce skin as easily as a finger popped a soap bubble.
I’d wondered what the Ultra cell contained and shied away from picturing it, but this made sense. A nexus chair was so fucking versatile. Beside it was a cabinet on wheels, red metal like the chair, shallow drawers holding Krell knows what. The ceiling of the cell was a mirror. Nice. I’d get to see myself being tortured.
I found myself on my knees with no recollection of how I’d gotten there, chest tight, heart pounding. The voices of the men waiting to see me writhe and hear me scream were a faint buzz, lost in the roar filling my ears. I held out my bound hand imploringly and Carr squeezed the release tab on the end of the sticktite, freeing me.
“Up, boy. Into the chair.”
I’d obeyed him for a few weeks, no more. I’d taken care of myself for years. I shook my head and heard him sigh, disappointed in me but not, I thought, all that surprised. He’d expected me to balk. Annoyed at being so predictable, I struggled to my feet. Why fight this? I was going in the chair one way or another, so at least let it be with dignity.
I held to that comfort until Carr kicked my feet out from under me and sent me sprawling. “That’s for hesitating.” The ground out words clawed at my senses, tearing away any illusion I was in control of my destiny.
I wasn’t. My Daddy was.
It might as well have been the two of us in that room. The audience became of little importance as the walls. I crawled into the cage, knelt by the chair, head down, and waited. Keenly aware of every breath I dragged into my lungs, I fought for composure.
“Love the back of your neck,” Carr said quietly. “It’s this smooth, flat plane, elegant as fuck, and it’s what I noticed first about you.” I frowned, surprised by the unexpected gentleness. “You were at a table, pretending to read, your back to me, and I wanted to put my hand on that bare skin and feel you shudder, knowing you were owned. But I waited. Wanted you to know what this place was like first.” He clasped my neck, a sure, confident touch, and I cried out. “Yeah. I knew you’d do that. And I’d have fucked you right there in front of everyone, so maybe you’re glad I waited, huh?”
I found my voice, groping for words, so aroused by his hand on me I was stupid with lust and the love I clung to as a reason for obeying him. Pretending I had a choice. That I wanted to please a lover, not appease my owner. “No, Daddy. If I’m yours now—and I am!—I was yours then. I wish you’d claimed me.”
I believed it now. Wouldn’t have then. I’d have fought him off, backed away, and we knew it, but there was a truth to what I said.
“It’s no fun if he’s broken already,” a man complained. “I thought this was you teaching him a lesson, Carr. If I’d wanted to see you bill and coo—”
“Relax,” Carr said indifferently. “He’s not where he needs to be yet and he won’t get there easy. And anyone who’s bored can get the fuck out of here. I like an audience, but I sure as hell don’t need one.”
I waited for the scrape of a chair or the thud of boots on the floor, but there was silence. They trusted Carr to deliver by the sound of it.
“Take a seat.”
I forced my body to obey, standing, then dropping into the chair. It was huge, a cradle of metal and leather straps, and surprisingly comfortable. Of course, some people used it for pleasure. Hard to believe, but they did. I reclined in it more than sat, my head marginally higher than my feet, legs extended, but together, wrists anchored high enough to expose my armpits without straining my shoulders.
Carr grinned. “Modesty isn’t an option. You’re going on display.” My skin heated and I shook my head, but he pointed up at the mirror overhead. “See that boy staring down at you? He’s hard. Aching for the chance to please his Daddy. Loving every minute of being humiliated and looking forward to being played with. He’s the truth. You’re the lie.”
I looked. I saw. Meeting my gaze was impossible, but I took in the thick, swollen shaft, the upturned hands, the rapid rise and fall of my chest. He was right.
“Feet in the stirrups. Put them there for me. Show me some willingness to learn.”
Learn. What I was? Did I need this lesson? I was here, wasn’t I? His mark on my arm, his hand on my neck… I got it. I was his boy. Move on.
Except that would’ve been easy and where was the fun in that?
He strapped my ankles to stirrups at the ends of long bars and pressed a button on a handheld controller. Silently, agonizingly slowly, the bars moved, splitting my legs wide. An amused murmur brought my awareness back to the men watching, but I kept my gaze on the mirror, though I saw nothing but a blur now. My thigh muscles screamed for mercy, but Carr waited until I was splayed to the limit before halting the machine. I looked at him then, not my reflection, seeking some sign of approval, some warmth. Locked together for hours at a time, I’d soon learned to read his expression. He returned my gaze without giving much away.
“Nice.” He jiggled my balls, rolling them casually. “Bare, though. Let’s see how you look fancied up.” He opened the top drawer of the cabinet and took out a handful of tiny clamps, sweetly vicious. He’d never used sex toys on me before; his strong fingers and cock made clamps and dildos redundant and we were in a prison, after all. The locker searches for the Elite were rare and cursory, but they happened.
With the first clamp about to brush my balls, he drew back, snapping his fingers in mock dismay. “Forgot something.”
From the knowing chuckle rippling through the watching men, they knew what was missing. Within a few moments, so did I. The dildo Carr worked deep inside me was cool, firm, and the size of his cock. I took it with a grunt, adjusting to it without difficulty. Then the lube he’d used warmed, heated, burned, an itch I couldn’t reach, tormenting me without causing real pain.
I squirmed, gasping, unable to keep still. Sweat popped out on my forehead. “Fucking lube! What the hell is in it? Shit, it burns!”
Carr pursed his lips, then gave me a smirk. “What a filthy mouth on my boy. I apologize for him, my friends.”
I’d heard much worse from Carr, the guards, and every other prisoner in here on a regular basis, so the rebuke was an additional source of irritation. Through gritted teeth, I snarled. “And fuck you too! Get it out of me!”
Dropping the grin, Carr said, “No. It’s in you because I want it there. That means you take it and thank me.”
I shook my head, mutinous, glaring at him, working hard to hold still. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of seeing me suffer. I couldn’t do much, but I could deprive him of that, at least.
“Thank me,” Carr repeated.
“Or what, Daddy?”
There was no anger in his expression. Some pity tinged with sympathy, maybe. “If that’s how you want this session to go, I’ve no objection. It’s been a while since I punished a boy in this chair. Maybe too long.”
Jon? Was that what pushed him to kill himself? Could Carr be that cruel? I lost some of my defiance, eying him uncertainly. Maybe an apology wouldn’t hurt. I didn’t have to mean it.
I got as far as “I’m sorry—” before Carr gagged me. Ball gag, chains, straps, the ball forcing my mouth wide, but a hole drilled through it leaving room for air to come in and saliva to seep out. I closed my eyes for a second, then exchanged a look with my reflection. He thought I was stupid, I could tell. I didn’t disagree.
“That should help you stay polite.” The corner of Carr’s mouth twitched. “Now let’s deal with the punishment for what slipped out before I gagged you.”
I appealed to him with my eyes, straining my body toward him. The burn in my ass had faded somewhat. I wished I’d realized the effect wore off that soon. I’d have kept my mouth shut.
Carr traced my hole with his fingernail, tapping the taut skin, then pushing the dildo in and out a few times, awakening a different heat. “Do you know why this cell, this chair, exist?” I grunted, the best I could do by way of reply. The slide and drag of the dildo had me craving Carr’s cock. It wasn’t enough for my ass to be filled and stretched; I wanted it owned. By him.
“It was where the first governor played. Nasty games. The kind that lead to riots. He’d pin a prisoner in place with spikes, then burn one side, freeze the other, followed by a whipping that only ended when he saw exposed bone.” I told myself not to throw up, but I wasn’t listening. I swallowed sourness, gagged, and swallowed again, light-headed with horror. “When the dust settled and the blood dried, they gave the cell to us. And the governor, or so the story goes. Not sure about that, but it makes a better ending when we’re tenderizing the new meat by telling them horror tales.”
The decades-old torture death of a vicious sadist didn’t interest me. The clamp snapping at my balls held all my attention. Carr used it to catch pinches of skin, never closing the clamp the whole way, giving me a foretaste of the damage it could inflict.
“Still hard.” Carr ran his finger along the length of my cock. “Pain will break you, but you enjoy it in small doses, the same way you love being exposed. You’re being rude, though. You’ve got an audience. Look at them. Meet their eyes. Every single one of them.”
He stepped aside, leaving the clamp dangling from the root of my cock, stimulating nerve endings I didn’t know existed. I brought my gaze down, deliberately unfocused, and swept the room with a blank stare.
“You’re pissing me off.” Said in a mild tone, conveying information, not a threat, it still scared me. I wished it had the effect of drying my mouth; I was slobbering now. Not a good look on me. “Do it properly.”
Why did I push him? It was as pointless as punching a soft cushion. He absorbed my blow to his authority without suffering any damage to his confidence.
I blinked, brought the room into hard-edged reality, and did as I was told, creating a brief connection with every man there. Some left me grubby, their knowing, avid glee soiling me. Others seemed indifferent, one man sympathetic. And some, a handful, smiled, pleased with me, enjoying my surrender without diminishing me as they did it. I looked away quickly from them, buoyed by their approval, but conscious of a sneaking disloyalty to Carr.
When I turned to him, the satisfaction I saw on his face wiped out everything from the growing discomfort of the clamp to my apprehension. I basked, relaxing in the chair, loving that I’d pleased him. Temporary insanity.
“See? You’re happy when I’m happy.” Carr shook his head. “How did you go without this for so long? You need it.”
Maybe I only wanted it. Had he considered that? The gag frustrated me. Would I have shared my thoughts? Probably not since we weren’t alone. But I could’ve put my side forward in a respectful way, could have—
Carr stroked my side, fingers light, tickling me. He drew close to my armpit and I fought to escape as vigorously as if he held a burning coal or a blade. The noises escaping my gag were primal, animalistic grunts, echoing in a room gone quiet.
“So.” Carr took the single clamp off me and tossed it back in the drawer. “That’s interesting.” He removed the ball gag and let it fall to the floor, then wiped my face dry. “Ticklish?”
I heaved in breath after breath, wild gasps that did nothing to calm me. “Don’t, Daddy, don’t, please—”
“Don’t touch my boy how I want, where I want? Not gonna happen.” He meant it too. “But since it bothers you to the point of pissing yourself, I won’t tickle. Promise. Only touch you. Gonna show me some trust and stay still? Let me touch?”
I nodded. Easy. It would be easy. I’d lock every muscle, and he’d tied me down, so I’d get through it somehow.
Carr released my wrists. Without conscious thought, I clamped my arms to my sides tightly enough air would’ve had a hard time passing through.
“Your boy doesn’t look willing to let you get your hands on him,” a man called, prompting laughter.
Carr waved the crowd to silence good-naturedly enough. “If it was easy, would it be fun? Arms back where they were. That’s it. You can do it.”
Sipping air, heart thudding fast, I extended my arms up and out, but at the first movement from Carr, I broke, wrapping my arms around myself, shuddering. I’d worked myself up for hours only to be horrified by the reality of the chair, and now I’d reached the limit of my endurance, a test I’d never pass.
“Break his arms so he can’t fuck around.” Arensa. He was the only man in the room I’d never kneel to. I’d kill myself before I put myself at his feet and my last breath would be a sigh of relief that I’d escaped him.
“Yeah, that’s not going to happen,” Carr told him. “In fact, nothing’s gonna happen that you’d enjoy. He might cry, but he’ll walk out of here whole.”
Arensa snorted. “Waste of my time then. You’re going soft, Carr. Better men could be wearing those boots if you ask me.” He stood, and left, taking most of the men with him, some playing follow-my-leader and giving Carr disgusted glances, others moving at their own pace, leaving with a resigned shrug or a smile. Door closed, the atmosphere changed, becoming intimate, expectant. The men I’d bonded with were the ones who remained; no surprise there. Five of them and Carr.
And I still couldn’t bring myself to raise my arms.
“Why does it matter?” I asked, voice hoarse. “Hold out my arms? It’s stupid. It’s nothing. I gave myself to you. Trusted you to protect me. Why do you need me to do this of all things? Hurt me. Punish me. I’ll take it, all of it. Hold still if you get everyone in the room to fuck me. But this—I can’t do it.”
“It’s nothing to you, maybe, but not in my eyes. If you don’t trust me not to lie, you don’t trust me at all.”
I swallowed, acknowledging the hurt at the back of his words. “I’ll try again.”
“Good boy.” Carr touched my face, pressing his fingers against my cheek. “Feel that? It’s what I’ll do to you. No tickling.”
A man could stare at those grey eyes for a while without getting bored. Carr’s eyelashes were a deep red-gold, thick and blunt, a shade lighter than his eyebrows. I let his gaze soften the edges of my unreasoning panic, then made a conscious decision to trust.
Slowly, making it graceful, I extended my arms again, not without an inward flinch or two, but letting nothing show. I held still, relaxed, and Car stepped closed, placed his hands on my waist, then drew them along my sides. Warm, firm, a caress not a tickle. He reached the hollow of my armpits and used his fingertips there, stroking the skin under the scatter of hair, his gaze never leaving my face.
It was as erotic as sex. Heat surged through me, leaving my body loose, receptive. My cock couldn’t get harder. I inhaled, smelling musk and precome, heady, ripe scents from both of us, clouding the air.
“Thank you,” Carr said, mouthing the words so they were ours, a private message. I smiled, giddy with triumph. “Now we can get fucking started.”
The next hour or so passed in a blur. Carr worked me over, using the chair and gravity to torment me, keeping me on the edge between arousal and agony with a skill I admired in the odd moments coherent thought was possible. That chair, that fucking chair… He clamped my nipples, flipped the chair and raised it so I hung above him. Then he added weights to the clamps, one at a time, until my nipples stretched and darkened to purple.
Leaving the weights in place, he slapped my cock, light, stinging pats he soothed with his tongue. It was bizarre to lie suspended above him this way, straps crisscrossing my body. He raised or lowered me as needed, spinning me so the men watching got a good view of my face or ass, whichever provided the most entertainment. When the clamps came off, he fixed a jackhammer dildo to the chair and let it do its worst. For that, he set the chair on slow-rotate and stepped back to watch with the audience.
I’d never been fucked with a jackhammer before. It was a weird sensation, the dildo retracting into itself, then extending, punching deep, a solid thump of a thrust repeated endless times until my hole burned, excruciatingly tender. I sobbed, cock jerking with every thrust, shameless in my need, cock dripping. I held nothing back, sharing my utter degradation with them, mouth slack, eyes closing when I faced away from then, snapping open a moment later.
Daddy. I said it, screamed it in my head, frantic for his touch, his cock. He was so fucking far away, leaning on the bars of the cage, arms folded loosely, watching me with an air of boredom so obviously fake it was a compliment. His cock shoved against his coveralls, honest in its eagerness. His pose crumbled when the word he loved made it past my lips, shattering the silence in the room.
“Daddy! Please! Fuck me. Need you. I’m your boy. I’m yours. Show me that’s true. Show them. Please, Daddy, please, please—”
And my Daddy pushed away from the cage bars and strolled over, shedding his coverall on the way so by the time he reached me, he was naked besides his boots.
I’d seen men who made my breath catch at their beauty, my cock go rigid at their hotness, but they weren’t mine the way my Daddy was. I gloried in his lean body, strong, purposeful muscles flexing with every step. Saw his cock, thick, flushed dark like mine, his balls drawn up, taut, full of come I’d gladly swallow or take in my hole or on my skin.
He eased the dildo out and set it aside, then turned me on my back, lowering me to level with his waist. My abused hole clenched, a shaft of pain arrowing through me, but I was still hungry for his cock. I’d heal. He’d used plenty of slick and spread me gradually, after all.
“You’ve got plenty to say, boy. Demanding plenty too.”
I rolled my head, restless, the emptiness within me calling out to be filled. “You make me want so much.”
“Lucky for you, I can deliver.” He dipped his head and licked the head of my cock, the pliant warmth of his tongue as shocking as a whip stroke. I jerked, cried out, but he hushed me and continued, slow licks, painting me with spit from root to tip. Closing his hand firmly around my wet shaft, he took the tip inside his mouth, then jacked me slowly. It drove me wild. His hand was punishingly tight, and the lash of his tongue close to unbearably arousing. I swore I felt tiny spurts of come leaving me, mini-climaxes matching the starbursts of color I saw when I closed my eyes for a moment.
He pulled back, leaving me panting, and grinned. “Gonna fuck you now, boy.”
Too exhausted to speak, I nodded. Over his shoulder, I caught sight of a man leaving, slipping through the door. It didn’t matter. They could all go, or every prisoner and guard in the place walk through and stare. If my Daddy was with me, I was happy.
He took me with my legs high and wide, sliding into my loose hole and stretching it wider, his cock huge, thick, rasping raw skin and soothing it at the same time. Slow rocking, then a flurry of short, powerful jabs, followed by a deep fucking hitting all the right places. Strung up, strapped down, I couldn’t do much, but I clenched around him, angling my ass to accept what he gave me, delirious with pleasure.
On the edge of coming, he paused, hands gripping my face, forcing me to emerge from my fog of lust to focus on him. “Whose boy are you?”
“Yours! Yours, Daddy. I belong to you.” I could say it every hour and learn something new about myself every time.
“Never forget it.” He said it with enough intensity that it drew my attention, distracting me as he came, taking me with him. We shared a moment of utter oblivion, released from the world, bodies shaken with the force of our release, but when it was over, my come wet on my stomach and chest, his trickling out of me, I was conscious of a new tension between us.
He let me recover, cleaning me and himself, frowning as he worked. When my breathing was back to normal, he dressed himself, undid the straps and helped me down. I was desperately thirsty, weak enough that standing was a struggle, but he’d see to me when we got back to our cell. He held me up and we left the cell, heading for the door. The four men remaining stood and stepped aside for us, their expressions giving away nothing. Had they been impressed by me or disappointed I had surrendered easily? It didn’t matter as long as my Daddy was pleased, but I wished they’d say something, even smile.
“You heard?” Carr asked them, getting nods in return. “Good. Thanks.”
Maybe we could shower first. I stank of sweat and come. Yeah, a hot shower, with my Daddy washing me, hands gentle and firm… And he had access to painkillers, but I liked the throb and ache of my stretched, fucked hole in a way.
Dreamy, happy, I stepped through the door and stopped dead. Guards. A row of them, batons ready for use.
“Well?” one asked. “Satisfied?”
Carr pushed me toward them. “Yeah. He’s mine now and he knows it. I’m done with him down here. Take him upstairs.”
A guard grabbed my upper arm, and brought his baton across my throat. “No struggling, you hear? Lab rats who fight don’t last long.”
Struggle? I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. The betrayal was so complete it left no room for any emotion. I turned my head to look at my—to look at Carr, and had no words to attack him with. Later, I’d find them, scream defiance, abuse at him in my head, watch an imaginary Carr shrivel under the lash of my disgust, but in that moment I was silent.
It made sense. If they took me to the lab, I was a dead man walking. The dead don’t speak, don’t cry, don’t mourn.
The cell was a luxury hotel room compared to the ones in the prison itself. The wall opposite my bed had an entertainment panel in it. I had my choice of books to read, movies to watch, music to listen to, art or landscapes to stare at. Food arrived in a recess in the wall, along with fresh bedding from time to time. I stuffed the used sheets and dirty plates into a second recess and that was my housekeeping done. As a signal to sleep, the lights were lowered and a blast of disinfectant scented air whooshed in through a vent and was sucked back a moment later, taking with it any dust or debris. I learned to hold my breath when that happened. The air didn’t smell or taste good when that was going on. The meals were varied and cooked by someone who cared about their job, and there was a shower in the corner and a toilet with a privacy screen, though I doubted I was truly private. Microcams studded every corner.
They’d sedated me on arrival. I’d recovered enough to fight back once I didn’t have Carr in my sights, and fear had given me a viciousness I hadn’t known was in me. One look at the rows of cells, one sniff of the clean, cool air scented with antiseptic, one long shuddering scream echoing off the walls from an unknown source, and I’d lost it.
Waking in the cell to discover every bruise and scrape had been taken care of, not even a twinge in my ass, was the opposite of reassuring. They clearly wanted me in good shape before they began the experiments. Made sense if I was scheduled for lon-jev testing. The initial dose took a toll on the body, rewriting the system as it did. Agony in the short-term, with potential centuries as the payoff. Not that anyone had proven that yet. The oldest known human on the drug was a woman named Mela Dee, supposedly aged three hundred and twenty, but her whereabouts were secret and the media often proved her older, younger, or, if the news was slow, an alien, a time traveler, or a complete hoax.
I waited for guards to drag me out of my cell. Waited patiently, then yelled. Waited some more, and went to sleep. Ate. Showered. Slept. Ate, showered, slept. Ateshoweredslept—
My world narrowed to the four walls of my cell. I used the entertainment panel from time to time, but mostly I sat, slumped in a corner, body hungry for a touch it’d never feel again, bitterness souring every memory. He’d played me. Gotten me convinced I was a bootlicking subbie boy and had me happy with that. Broken me and reshaped me to suit him. And I’d known he was doing it and hadn’t cared. Had cooperated, because somewhere in the short time with him, I’d fallen in love. I’d wanted to please him and yeah, he wasn’t wrong about the submissive side I’d kept under wraps.
But if he appeared in front of me now, I’d spit on his boots, then in his face.
No one hurt me the way he had and got a second chance.
On day five, I snapped out of it. Boredom in prison was habit-forming. I was warm, still naked, but warm, well-fed and safe. In prison I’d learned to take each hour at a time. Whatever they had planned for me, it wasn’t happening yet, so why worry? I exercised as best I could, building up a sweat, and read some classics I’d always told myself I would if I had time.
I had time, but they didn’t stand up to their reputation. Instead, I accessed the erotica section, jerking off until my cock was scarlet, and my balls wrung dry. After a while, that palled too.
The walls were opaque, but sometimes I fancied I saw a shape pass by. I called out every time, but no one came near me.
When they did, I wasn’t ready. Was showering, in fact, scrubbing away the stink of an exercise session that’d left me panting and invigorated. A panel slid open, two guards stepped in, flanking a middle-aged woman in a crisp pale blue suit. Her hair was sleek, an ebony cap shining with a luster that spoke of an expensive dye. I couldn’t see her eyes. Silver and black techspex hid them from view. I’d tried the glasses once in a store and gotten a headache that took a day to shift. If she could handle seeing the world through an overlay of continually scrolling information and messages, good for her. I’d pass.
Three people. Claustrophobia hit me between heartbeats. The cell was too fucking full. They were breathing my air—
“Dorant Ellis.” The woman gestured to the guards to stand down. “I’m Doctor Tamsin. Please come with me.”
I was wet, shivering, and about to puke, pass out, or piss myself, maybe all three, but the cool indifference in her voice had my spine stiffening. “You’ve left me alone for weeks in here. You can wait for me to dry off and give me something to wear.” Talking felt odd after so long in silence.
A guard stepped forward, baton ready to swing, but she stopped him with a chop of her hand. “No. He’s not to be hurt. Very well, Ellis. Dry yourself and I’ll find you clothing, though it’s not necessary. No one cares.”
“I’d still like to meet my fate with my ass covered.”
Dressed in a disposable coverall, too short in the leg, too tight across the chest, I left my cell. I didn’t look for escape possibilities. Top floor or ground, I was still inside a secure facility and surrounded by the tundra. I had nowhere to go. Unless… They’d drugged me. I’d assumed I was in the prison, but that wasn’t necessarily true. Even so, I didn’t see a door to the outside anywhere, let alone a window.
They led me along a hallway and down a ramp. If the cells I walked past held occupants, I couldn’t tell. Maybe they were soundproofed and all my yelling had been pointless.
“Why now?” I asked, addressing all three of them. “What makes today special? Is it my birthday? Ooh, is there cake?”
“Shut it, scum.” The baton-happy guard was dying to hurt me, I could tell. The other seemed bored as if escorting me was the most tedious of tasks in a mind-numbing day.
“Why should I? She said you can’t hurt me. I’ve been in that fucking cell for two weeks with no one to talk to, so forgive me if I’m on the chatty side now.” Truth be told, I hated the sound of my voice, strident with a quaver. But if it bugged the asshole to my left, I’d babble until my tongue flapped loose.
“Talk or stay silent,” Doctor Tamsin told me. “It’s of no importance. But when you go into the room, please opt for the latter until you can be sure your voice is under control. Loud noises could harm the subject.”
“The what?” I didn’t get an answer. She ushered me into a room a duplicate of most hospital rooms on the planet; bed, uncomfortable chair beside it, and a monitor attached to a med-dispenser beeping its opinion of the patient.
In this case, it sounded a death knell. The guy asleep in the bed was ancient, wisps of salt-white hair drifting across a pale scalp, features lost in deep wrinkles. His hands were misshapen claws and his breathing labored.
I saw my future in him. How old was he? My age? Younger? And by the look of it, lon-jev withdrawal had accelerated his life in a rush of years, pushing him into his grave. I felt sympathy, but in a vague way, too selfishly concerned with myself to spare him more than a wince and a quickly redirected look.
“Ah.” The quiet exhalation from the doctor drew my attention. I gave her a questioning grunt, careful to match her volume. “You don’t recognize him.”
Huh? I knew him? So who was he? One of the prisoners I’d spoken to in passing? Sayle? I knew as I ran through the possibilities I was fooling myself, but admitting the inevitable; that it was Carr lying there, was unthinkable. Carr was the heartbreaking asshole Elite who’d moved onto another boy to play with. This shrunken husk couldn’t be the vital, strong man who’d taken me as his and kept me safe.
I shook myself, relief flooding me. Of course, it wasn’t. Carr had influence. Men like him didn’t end up as disposable flesh to be tortured in the name of science. “No, I don’t. Should I?”
“Go to the bed. Look at him. Say his name. He’s conscious.”
Under her urging hand, I stumbled forward. Closer. Close enough to smell the age pouring off him, a musty reek of decay. Not Carr, it wasn’t, but when I opened my mouth, intending to murmur a generic greeting, I said, “Daddy? It’s me.”
He opened his eyes. Grey eyes streaked with amber, still clear, the pure, deep color unfaded. Carr’s eyes.
I fell to my knees and bowed my head, resting it against the stiff sheet until I had regained sufficient control not to scream like an animal caught in a trap, cruel metal pulping flesh and bone. I slid my hand into his and his fingers curled weakly around mine, but he didn’t speak.
I stayed like that for a while, breathing with him, rubbing my thumb across his knuckles, willing some spark of vitality to ignite. When it became clear nothing had changed, I slid my hand free and stood, turning and heading for the door in a walk that became a headlong dash for escape. Not from the place, but the future I faced, one with no Carr in it.
The guards at the door let me get three paces beyond it before striking the back of my knees with their batons set to deliver a neuroshock, bringing me down to writhe in pain, a broken-backed snake at their feet.
“Enough!” Tamsin crouched beside me. “You have questions. I’ll answer them, but you mustn’t do anything that compromises your position, do you understand me?”
My legs ached as if I’d been lying on ice for hours. “No.”
“You’re a prisoner. You have no rights. You’re here, not down there with the rest of them, but that’s a matter of location, nothing more. Now stop misbehaving. Show me you’re as intelligent as Carr Stevin believes you to be.”
I’d never been sure if Carr was his first or last name, or an alias. “I wasn’t trying to escape the prison, if that’s what you mean. I had to get out of that room, that’s all.”
“I see.” She stood, leaving me to stare at her neatly tied shoes, a gray composite fabric that contrived to suggest they were expensive by not trying too hard. “Guards, lift him—gently—and take him to Interview Three, then leave us alone.”
“Can’t do that.”
“You’ll find you can.” The edge to her voice scared me. “Unless you want to be assigned to outside guard duty for the rest of your life and trust me, it won’t be a long one.”
They guarded the outside? I shuddered. Freezing cold, bitter winds, and animals always ready to add human to their diet made that assignment almost as bad as what lay in store for me. Almost.
That ended the protests, though I can’t say I found their gentle handling an improvement on what had gone before. The interview room was bare of decoration, but the two chairs on either side of a white table were padded at least. Tamsin went to the dispenser in the wall and served me an energy drink flavored with citrus, waiting until I’d sipped half of it before clearing her throat.
“I assume you know Carr was involved in the production of lon-jev.” I nodded. “What you don’t know is that the General Council reversed the ban on it soon after you arrived here. Full control of the reworked version of the drug—nu-jev—lies with the government. There will be harsh penalties for anyone supplying it who isn’t official, but I doubt that will be an issue.”
“Why?” That seemed naïve of her. Supply and demand was a concept as old as humanity. And why wasn’t she telling me about Carr?
She smiled. “It’s free.”
Stunned, I blinked at her. “That would do it.”
“Tailored single doses for each individual, according to the formula I’ve developed based on Carr’s work, no need for top up doses, and when the effects wear off a few centuries down the road, the decline is gradual, much like aging is now. “ She shrugged. “He’s asked that our part in it remain secret, but he’s changed the course of history.”
“You’re proud of him.”
“Of course. He’s my grandson, after all. My blood runs through him.”
She couldn’t have been more than forty, if that. “No. Impossible. You’re far too young. Unless you’re on—uh. Sorry.”
Asking someone if they were on lon-jev was an insult in any culture, but if what she said was true, it had to be the case.
“I’ve never used lon-jev,” she said flatly, her forbidding expression daring me to doubt her. She didn’t show any pleasure at being told she looked young either.
“Whatever. I don’t care. What I do care about is Carr. Is he—is he dying?” I asked knowing he was, had to be, but wanting her to tell me I was wrong.
“Yes and no. Oh, don’t glare at me, young man! Yes, in the sense that he is close to death, no, because there’s a chance of reversing the process.”
“Then what’s being done? He’s just lying there!”
“Nothing is being done—You! I’m aware my grandson has feelings for you, but if you roll your eyes, heave impatient sighs, or give me a look implying you find me lacking in brains, I’ll toss you outside and let a few hours in the snow cool your temper.” She drew in a sharp breath, then released it along with her bad temper, it seemed. “Carr’s explicit wishes are being followed to the letter. In a short time, he’ll receive a variant of nu-jev. Ridiculous name, but I suppose they have to differentiate between the two versions somehow.”
Relief swept through me, a cleansing breeze in an airless room. “So he’ll be fine in a few hours. That’s wonderful.”
She grimaced, and for a moment I saw her age show through the smooth skin and bright eyes. “The medical team rates his chances at less than ten percent. They’re overly optimistic in my opinion.”
I stood and walked to the closest wall, resting my forehead against it, hiding my face instinctively, my emotions too raw to expose to her. Those odds were crappy enough that hope had no room to move, let alone grow.
She shifted position, the scrape of her shoe against the floor loud in the silent room. “I have a few minutes before I need to go to him. If you have questions, ask them now.”
“I’ve got dozens.”
“There won’t be time. Edit.”
The dry humor coating her voice helped and reminded me of Carr. I drew in a quick breath, pushed away from the wall, and faced her. “Okay. Why is he in this state? What went wrong?”
“He was one of the first to try nu-jev. It’s safe, but we estimate one in a million users will have an adverse reaction to it. Too soon to be sure of the numbers. It doesn’t sound like a major problem until you realize the population of the seven systems alone is in the trillions. And Carr is one of the unlucky ones. He got the dose and within hours he showed signs of rapid aging. If you wondered why you were left alone for so long, it’s because he didn’t want you to see him in such a state.”
“That’s the single most stupid thing I ever heard, but there’s no point in telling you my opinion of it. I’ll tell Carr when he’s in a fit state to hear it.”
She raised her eyebrows. “I was under the impression your relationship ran along different lines, but by all means do so if you get the chance.”
I didn’t back down. So she knew I was Carr’s submissive. So what? She didn’t seem to care and neither did I. “You said he was getting a variant. You’ve discovered an antidote to the reaction?”
“For everyone, no, though research will continue in that area, I guarantee it. For my grandson, yes.” She ran her finger across the inside of her wrist. “He’s of my blood, but ironically, that could be what triggered the adverse reaction. We’re not meant to use any longevity drug.”
She studied me. “I’ll trust you with an answer. It’s safe enough. If Carr dies, you die too. You already know too much.”
I backed away from her, but there was nowhere to run. There never had been once I set foot in this place. “Hey, lady, I know how to keep quiet.”
“Under torture or with truth serum pumping through you? I doubt it.”
“Fine, I’m as doomed as Carr. So tell me what secret’s more important than my life.”
She waited, giving me a chance to slot the pieces together. It didn’t take long. “Mela Dee. You have to be her. And you don’t need the drug because you’re naturally long-lived?”
“Mela Dee is my descendant,” she corrected me. “When she was born, I was already ancient by any definition. And when I said Carr was my grandson, I missed out a dozen or so generations.” She took off the techspex. Carr’s eyes. Or the other way around, I guessed. And under the dye, I bet her hair was red.
Okay, I was doomed. Unless…She seemed to care about family. “If you’re that old and you had kids, I could be related to you, as well. Ever think about that?”
“By now, my descendants could fill a planet, so it’s possible, but do you have these?” She tapped the corner of her eye. “I’m a mutant, a freak. And now and then so is one of my descendants. I can always tell because of the eyes. None of them have the capacity to live as long as me, but they always live longer than most.”
“You’re immortal?” I shook my head. “No. You can die. Can’t you?”
“I suppose if a mountain landed on me, I wouldn’t crawl out of the rubble. But my body seems to disapprove of the notion.” She smiled at that, a flash of teeth. “I’m stronger, more resilient with every passing year. My bones don’t break, my skin resists cutting. Can I die? Yes. But I do my best to avoid it.”
It was too much to take in and I didn’t try. “So what’s being done to save Carr? And I’m asking because I love him, despite what he did, not because you’ve made my life and his one and the same.”
“What he did? I don’t understand.”
The memory of Carr’s betrayal still had the power to move me to anger. “I gave him my trust, my submission, and he let them take me. He stood there and let them drag me away right after I—”
“Because you gave him those things, in front of witnesses, he saved you,” she corrected me. “And I could’ve held my breath longer than the trust lasted. Fool. He got you out of the prison and into safety. You’re no longer in the system. You might not last long, but you’ll die a free man, if that’s any consolation.”
I wanted to believe her the way a child craves candy, sweet and tempting, but like the candy, it wasn’t good for me to be too credulous. “Whatever. We can sort that out later. If he makes it.”
She nodded and rose. “I assume so. They’ll be ready to proceed now, so if you’ll excuse me.”
“I can’t be there?”
That earned me a shrug. “No reason why not. If it doesn’t work, you can give his corpse one final kiss before I have the guards kill you.”
Cold-hearted bitch. I still followed her out.
The procedure was simple enough. A complete replacement of Carr’s blood with hers. She’d siphoned off a liter a day, storing it in stasis until there was enough to flush Carr’s system completely several times over. His body could reject it or her blood could save him. The odds were terrible, but they were all he had. And it was better than the others like him, who’d be lucky if a cure was found in time.
I stood in a corner of the room, ignored by everyone but a guard. Not the sadistic one; the bored one. He picked at a spot on his chin and eyed me sourly. Oh, the wonderful fun he could’ve been having if it wasn’t for me!
I didn’t pay him much attention. Too busy staring at what I could see of Carr through the machinery and the medics. Tamsin took a seat. Somehow, no one crossed her path, giving her an excellent view of the transfusion. It took a long time. Longer than I’d expected. I quivered with tension, relapsed into numbness, then tensed up again.
I’d lost hope when they stepped back, looking to her for approval.
“Leave,” Tamsin told them with a flick of her hand. “It’ll work or it won’t. If it doesn’t, there’s nothing you can do.”
I expected arguments, but they filed out, taking orders from her with a meekness that spoke of her power. The guard waited until a glare from her sent him scuttling.
Tamsin hurried over to Carr once we were alone, beckoning me to join her. I was conscious of being in the way. I wasn’t family. Carr and I had known each other for a few months and most of what we’d done was fuck. Though there’d been times that we’d talked, sated, exhausted, about anything from ice cream flavors to politics with a detour into windsailing versus skimmers as the quickest way to get wet. Times we’d connected on a level not purely physical. Or I wouldn’t have fallen in love with him.
Carr looked like death had taken place a month ago. His skin had a dirty pallor to it and his breathing was slow and shallow.
“Has he had the nu-jev?” I whispered it, as if too loud a noise would hurt Carr.
Tamsin opened a chiller drawer in a nearby cabinet and took out a hypo filled with a pale green liquid. “Now or never.” She added the drug to one of the feeds delivering fluids to the wasted frame and set the hypo aside.
Moved by an impulse I regretted as soon as I did it, I took her hand. She allowed me to hold it for a moment, then drew it free. Her skin felt like anyone else’s. I’d expected a static charge at least.
I’d also expected an instant reaction from Carr; death or life delivered as soon as the drug hit his system. Nothing. The monitors showed he was still alive—not that they needed to, since the sound of his breathing was audible—but he wasn’t rejuvenating before my eyes either.
“Patience.” Tamsin touched Carr’s face with her fingertips, then cradled his cheek. “Come back to me, child.”
Her touch couldn’t have made any difference, but when I glanced from his hands, still gnarled as a tree root, to his face, the wispy hair held touches of red, new growth fuzzing his scalp. I held my breath before realizing how ludicrous a reaction it was, then nudged Tamsin. “Look!”
She turned away instead, and when she turned back, if there’d been any emotion on her face, a glimmer of a tear, no evidence remained. “A promising sign, but there’s a way to go yet. A cup of tea would be pleasant. Ginger and peach for me.”
I’d have preferred to dive into a bottle of something with a kick like a bad-tempered mule, but I joined her in the tea and we sat sipping the hot, fragrant liquid as the years rolled off Carr one by one.
When he opened his eyes, looked at me and smiled, I went to my knees, all doubts and grudges forgotten, all his sins, if he’d committed any, forgiven. My Daddy was alive and if that meant I lived too, it wasn’t the first thought I had.
“Guess it worked.” The dry rasping voice broke in a cough. “Fetch me a drink, boy. And Tamsin, get these fucking tubes out of me so I can get up and give you a hug.”
If I’d spoken to my grandmother that way, she’d have walloped me, but Tamsin grinned, her features relaxing, and did as he’d asked.
She got the first hug. I didn’t mind. I got the second, and it was worth the wait.
Carr slid a length of leather along my thigh. He’d used it on my ass earlier, making the whipping sensuous and leaving me tingling all over. I’d expected him to disappear for tests or meetings once the medical staff had cleared him, but he’d grabbed me and hauled me off to his suite, locking the door and disabling the comm.
I’d let him do anything he wanted and encouraged every excess. I was bitten and bruised, my asshole throbbing, my balls empty, and I’d never been happier.
The suite was comfortable without being luxurious, but it had a wall with a floor to ceiling window and a view of the sun rising over the tundra. I’d gone on hands and knees facing the view and begged him to fuck me like that. He’d obliged—then slipped a blindfold around my eyes, stilling my protests with a brutal squeeze on my balls. “When I’m in you, that’s all you’re thinking about, boy. You can sightsee later.”
In the darkness he’d forced upon me, I’d done just that, learning the scent of him again and the shape of his cock when it spread me wide. He’d hurt me at times, but I’d welcomed every rough caress and forceful thrust. I needed to have his mark on me after the fucking ended, even if it was as transient as a reddened patch of skin.
I said as much, and he’d frowned and pointed at the mark he’d carved into my arm, “That not enough? Maybe I should give you a few more reminders.”
“Maybe you should, Daddy.”
“Flirty little slut. Spread your legs, yeah, that’s it. Show me where you want my cock. One finger? You’ve got to be kidding me. Stuff your hole, boy, get it wide open for me.”
And now Carr had reached the point where more fucking was physically impossible. He smacked the leather against me, a lazy, light slap, and yawned. “Food. Or a soak. Or food in the soaker.”
The bathroom was utilitarian in decoration, but the soaker was easily big enough for four and equipped with jets and a variety of pre-programmed cycles. I loved Carr more than life, but I’d cheat on him with the soaker in a heartbeat.
“Sounds good, Daddy. May I join you?” I’d learned not to take anything for granted.
“Sure.” Carr drew the leather between his fingers, then said abruptly, “I wouldn’t have let her kill you.”
Jolted out of my post-fuck euphoria, I snapped, “If it got to that point, you’d have been dead, so I don’t see how you’d have stopped her.”
Carr sighed. “Good point.”
“Am I safe now?” My skin turned clammy. “I know too much. All her secrets. Shit, why did she tell me? I didn’t need to know! Keep me in the dark, lie to me, whatever. Can you uh, do a mind wipe or something?”
“And turn your brain to jelly? Easily. Remove specific data? Are you serious? No.” Carr sat up, not without a wince, I noted. I’d done plenty of clawing and biting myself. “You know some of it, but only she knows it all. And you’re not the first person she’s shared her story with and I can introduce you to some of the others so there’s proof it’s not a death sentence. You’re not a stupid man. You know if you blab to anyone you’ll be committing suicide, but why would you want to? You’re free, you’ll get nu-jev if you want it, and—”
“Free?” I repeated. Tamsin had said I was, but I hadn’t believed her. “In a couple of decades, sure, but—”
“Free.” He smoothed back sweat-damp hair and grimaced. “We stink. Into the soaker, boy.”
“Not until you tell me what you—Ow! Daddy!”
He spanked my ass off the bed and into the bathroom, hard, stinging slaps on already tender flesh, lecturing me on the way. “When I tell you to do something, you do it. When I tell you you’re free, you accept it. For fuck’s sake, she owns planets. You think she can’t get your conviction to disappear when it was a shaky one to start with? Your sentence was harsh and any decent lawyer would’ve gotten you a few years in somewhere civilized. Doesn’t mean you’re not a menace, though, but I’ll keep your criminal tendencies under control.”
“We met in prison,” I pointed out. “You’re a criminal too.”
That got me pulled into his arms for a kiss before he dumped me in the empty soaker and set it filling. “You’re as clueless as a day-old kitten, I swear. Boy, Tamsin could’ve gotten me out of here any time she wanted, but with nu-jev about to go live after the legislation, this was a safe place to be. Lot of lon-jev dealers out there who wanted things to stay the way they were and they’d have blown up cities to get to me. But in here, they thought I was powerless and out of the way. Their mistake. Remind me to send flowers to their families because they’re all dead now, or they will be.”
The hot, mint-scented water flowed around me, reawakening pain in dozens of places, but soothing away the sting a moment later. I stared up at him, searching for words. Gratitude wasn’t my uppermost emotion. She’d put me under an intolerable burden of debt. I owed her my freedom, my continued existence, and my Daddy. In return she wanted my silence on something I’d be insane to talk about. It wasn’t enough. Maybe I could bake her a plateful of cookies.
“Close your mouth before you drown,” Carr advised me and climbed into the soaker.
“I’ll let you gag me, if you answer one question.”
He flicked water at me. “You don’t let me do anything. I want to, I do it. But I’m in a good mood after coming back from the dead and finding my boy waiting, so go ahead.”
“Am I? Still your boy? If we’re not in prison and we can go anywhere, do you plan to take me with you?”
It was his turn to gape. “Did I ever say anything to make you think this was a temporary deal? Because it’s not. You’re mine, boy. Mine to look after and protect, from everyone but me, at least. I don’t plan on being all that gentle with you. You get twitchy when I’m nice. And we won’t be going anywhere until things settle down out there, so don’t start planning a vacation.”
Relief swept away the last of my doubts. I touched a bruise he’d left on my wrist and pressed against it hard, savoring the sweet throb. He was right. I didn’t want him nice, didn’t want Carr the man, or the scientist.
I wanted my Daddy and it looked as if I’d have him for a long time. As life sentences went, it was more than I deserved, but I wasn’t complaining.