The Claiming of Ford by T. Novan

Claiming of Ford 
by T. Novan

LOG ONE

In the darkness of her quarters, she sat in a large padded chair, one comfortable enough to offer her tall body a great deal of rest. Head back, eyes closed. She was tired and her body ached.

It had been a long and bloody fight, but it was over now. The ground battles on Reesa Three had been some of the longest of this encounter. She had returned to the ship after being on the surface for more than six days.

Her second in command, Sarron Roran hated it when she left the ship to go on ground engagements. She smirked when she thought of it. She was a cavalry officer first and foremost. How she had ended up commanding a battle cruiser was still beyond her.

They had told her it was because she was an exemplary officer who deserved to command a cruiser. * Right. It was because they couldn’t get any other sucker to take the job. * She grinned as the joke rolled around in her brain.

All she wanted to do was sleep, but that would have to wait until her Sarron came to her with his report. Just as she was about to become annoyed, the chimes sounded at her door.

“Lights up.” She offered into the air. The lights in her cabin came up, bathing the multiple rooms in a soft glow. “Come.” She said softly as she shifted a bit to face the door.

“Sarron Roran, reporting Garron Ford.” The young man stood at attention before her with his helmet tucked under his arm. He still had his flight suit on.

* Fly boys. * She thought as she stood and moved to a decanter where she poured herself a tall glass of wine. * Wouldn’t be able to fight on the ground if their lives depended on it. * “Report.” She said softly.

“Garron we have taken the sector. Including, but not limited to Reesa Three.”

“Casualties?”

“Fifteen dead, twelve wounded and four are missing in action.”

“Which four?”

“Carrons Deeg, Walker, Quif, and Garner.”

She nodded as she drained her glass. “Terminate them and make the adjustments to the number of dead in the log.”

“As you wish Garron Ford.”

“Anything else?”

“There is one thing.”

She quirked a dark, weary brow. “Yes.”

He waved his hand and two Carron sentries brought in a small blonde woman. She kept her eyes down as she had been taught. None the less, Garron Ford noticed a certain bearing in the way the woman stood.

“Where did she come from?” The Garron asked as she circled the smaller woman, taking in the sight of her torn and dirty jumpsuit and the chains on her wrists. “Remove those,” She growled at one of the guards. “You know better than to bring someone to me in chains.”

The guard looked into the face of the Garron. His hands shook as he unlocked the chains. He was afraid her monumental temper was about to come down on him for something that the Sarron had ordered. “My apologies Garron Ford.”

“Idiot.” She murmured under her breath as she took the woman’s wrists in her own hands and rubbed them. “Are you all right?”

The woman only nodded, still keeping her eyes down.

The Sarron drew a deep breath as he watched the scene in front of him. * She is only a slave for Capri’s sake *. “We found her in the wreckage of Garron Danils ship when we boarded it. It would appear she was Garron Danils servant.”

The Garron nodded her head as she considered the possibility. “Very well. Leave us.”

The Sarron snapped to attention, then he turned, taking the sentries with him as he exited.

The Garron circled once more as she stopped in front of the woman. “Do you have a name?”

“Slave Alpha Four, My Lord.”

“Don’t call me that. I am not your Lord or anyone else’s for that matter. My name is Ford. If you insist on using a title you may call me Garron. Now do you have a name? Not a designation, a name.”

The woman shivered as she shook her head. She had been through this enough times to know that now she would be sent down to the troop quarters to serve there. Garrons didn’t keep slaves that hadn’t even been born citizens. Not to have a name was the ultimate disgrace. “No…no…Garron.”

“Are you hurt?”

“Garron?”

“It’s a simple question slave. Are you hurt? Do you need a doctor?”

“No…no Garron.”

“Are you cold? Your shivering.”

“Yes Garron, a bit. The ship was down to the barest of life support when your troops boarded.”

Ford poured another glass of wine for herself and then one for the woman in front of her. She crossed the room, retrieving a blanket from the bed and sending a request for food from the touch pad near the headboard.

She returned and wrapped the blanket around the woman’s shoulders, then handed her the wine. “Marra.”

“Garron?” She shivered again as she grasped the blanket and took the wine. She wasn’t sure what was happening, but things were certainly different with this Garron.

“Your name. It’s Marra.”

A slight smile broke across her lips. She was glad her head was still down. Surely the Garron would slap it off her face, but she had hope that maybe she would be allowed to remain in the protection of at least the Sarron aboard ship.

“If I keep you, do you promise to serve me faithfully?”

It wasn’t possible that the Garron was thinking of…. “Yes…yes….” It was a quick reply, followed with a nodding of her head, but she didn’t want any doubt.

“Look at me.” The Garron coaxed the frightened woman gently with her voice.

She lifted her head and met the Garron’s face. The woman was tall and dark and beautiful. Even though she looked exhausted she was indeed beautiful.

“Are you sure? I had a slave once and she tried to kill me, because she had taken one of the Sarron as a lover and he wanted my title, my command.”

“Oh no Garron, I would serve only you.”

“I can be very demanding.”

She nodded.

“You will share my bed and just so there is no doubt in your mind, I may take your body from time to time.”

She nodded again. She knew it was bound to happen eventually. This Garron seemed at least gentle compared to the other soldiers that she had managed to evade. She wouldn’t dare try to elude a Garron.

“I have a horrible temper.”

Marra nodded although she had doubts about that one, but she wasn’t going to argue with her dark haired savior either.

“Do you promise always to tell me the truth and never to lie to me?”

She nodded for a fourth time adding quietly, “Always Garron.”

“In private you may call me Ford. In public you will call me Garron. You will accompany me everywhere but battle. While I am in battle, you will remain on board and you will prepare for my return. You will have a bath ready for me, along with a meal, clean clothes, a warm bed and a soft body.”

Marra nodded again.

“Now I will go bathe. While I’m gone I want you to eat the food I have requested and drink your wine. When you are finished I want you to shower and put on clean clothes. A nightgown I think.” She cocked her head from side to side and she looked at the little woman. “Green. The same shade as your eyes. Silk. Long sleeves. It should reach the back of your knees. You can program the request from that com station.” She pointed to the same pad she had ordered the food from. Then you will go to my bed and wait.”

“Yes Garron, as you wish.”

The Garron left the woman to do as she had been told while she went to rest and bathe. She wanted to rid her body of the muck and grime of the battlefield. She slowly removed her armor, then her guns and finally the scabbard that held her blade. Slowly she peeled out of her boots and uniform, tossing them to the corner. The mess could be dealt with in the morning. Now she needed to rest and relax.

She slid her body into the tub and soaked for a nearly half an hour before starting to scrub away the dirt. She could hear Marra moving around in the outer rooms of her quarters. “Come here.” She gave the command loud enough that it was answered immediately.

“Yes Garron?” Marra answered from the doorway as she stepped into the bathing chamber

“Wash my back.” She simply held out the rag and the cleanser to the young woman.

Marra smiled as she stepped forward and took the rag from the Garron’s extended hand and knelt behind her. Now she would be able to start showing her worth as a slave to her new master. Ford leaned forward in the tub to allow the access required to her back.

“Did you eat?”

“Yes Garron. It was wonderful thank you.”

“How long had it been since you had eaten last?”

“Four days Garron. There was very little food to be had during the battle. Your forces were relentless. We lost most of the primary power on the ship in the first two days.” She offered softly as she washed and rinsed the broad back in front of her.

“Hmm…they always are.” She sighed before drawing a deep breath. “You still need to shower?”

“Yes Garron.

“Then strip and just join me in the tub.”

“A bath?”

“That’s what they call it, yes.” She chuckled as she shifted a little.

“I’ve never had a bath. Showers only.”

“Well, now that does make it different for you. Hold on a moment.”

The Garron stood and drained the water from the tub. Marra couldn’t help but marvel at the tall, strong body before her. Never in her life had she seen a woman with such power, grace and beauty. Ford rinsed the tub and refilled it with very warm water. As it was filling she stepped out and took a towel from a nearby bench and began drying herself.

“Get undressed.”

Marra got up from her knees and began removing the remnants of her clothes. Very soon she stood nude and modest in front of Ford. She could feel the Garron’s eyes on her, but she didn’t look up. Her hands and arms seemed to find a need to try and cover her body from the eyes she knew were on her.

“You’re modest?”

“Yes Garron.”

“Certainly not a virgin.”

“Yes Garron.”

This got a quirked brow. “Really?”

“Yes Garron. I’ve managed to remain untouched.”

“How?”

“I am a good servant. I have managed to make my Lords happy without them taking me to their bed.”

“I’m impressed. You must be a very good servant.”

“I try Garron.”

“You must succeed.” She leaned over and turned off the water. “Go ahead.” She gestured to the tub.

“Garron what of the rule?”

“What? The rule that says servants should only shower because a bath is reserved only for the elite?”

“Yes Garron.”

“Are you going to tell on me?” She grinned at the blonde as she pulled on a robe.

“Oh no, Garron. I would never betray your trust.”

“Well then, have your first bath and please take the time to enjoy it Marra.”

The servant looked up and smiled. “Thank you Garron.”

“You know, I really would prefer if you called me Ford. People call me Garron all the time. No one calls me Ford and in my own ho…quarters I would like to be addressed as Ford.”

“Ford.” Marra nodded as she stepped into the tub. It was as if she were testing to see if her mouth would even allow her to say a citizen’s name. She smiled at the tall woman as she sank down into the tub.

“You like?”

“Yes Gar…Ford. Very much. Thank you.”

“Enjoy it.” Ford smiled as she watched the young woman’s eyes close as she sank further into the water. “There is a lavender scented soap there. Make sure you scrub and wash your hair. I want you good and clean before you come to bed.”

“Yes Ford.” She answered as she sat up and made a reach for the soap the Garron had indicated.

She began the complete washing of her body. The warmth of the water amazed her it made her relax, all the muscles in her body simply began to uncoil. It made her feel safe.

Marra simply wanted to spend the night enjoying the bath. She had never felt anything like it before. Slaves were given only cold showers. Citizens were the only ones allowed hot baths. She knew however, that Garron Ford was waiting for her and the last thing she wanted to do was upset her new Master. She had a feeling this could be a very good place to serve, if she didn’t upset the Garron.

She dried her body and debated about wrapping the towel around herself, but decided against that as well. It was apparent that the Garron intended to take her tonight. This was the only thing she regretted. She wouldn’t be able to show her aptitude as a slave until it was too late to bargain. Maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as she had been told it was.

She ran her fingers through her hair to take a few tangles out then she smoothed it back and entered the main chamber. Ford turned and smiled at the young woman.

“You’re very beautiful Marra.”

“Thank you Ford.” She blushed at the compliment.

The tall woman nodded appreciatively. The slave did listen. This made her happy. She picked up a green gown and handed it to the little blonde. “Put this on.”

Marra quickly slipped the gown on as Ford drew the blankets back over the bed.

“Get in. On the left, I sleep on the right.” Ford commanded softly.

She did as instructed laying on her back on the left side of the large bed, watching as the Garron dropped her robe and brought her totally nude body into the bed.

“Roll on your left side.”

Marra rolled over. She tensed a bit as she felt the Garron move close to her, pulling the blankets over them before draping a strong arm over her waist. Then there was only the warmth of the body as she felt the Garron adjust and get comfortable behind her.

“Good night Marra.”

“Good night Ford.”

“Lights off.” Ford mumbled, sending the room into total darkness.

Marra waited. She couldn’t sleep. She stared out the window above her head watching the stars blur by as she waited. She waited for it to happen, but all that happened was she heard a soft snoring from behind her. She finally relaxed in the strong embrace and fell into a deep sleep as well.

****

It was an unusual noise that brought her out of her slumber. As she sat up she knew it was the sounds of intimacies being exchanged. Marra realized quickly, Ford was gone from the bed. The lights in the cabin were on a very low hue, giving enough light to see the outline of the room and the furnishings.

She got to her feet allowing her ears to guide her to the noises. She found a door to a smaller sleeping chamber slightly ajar. She peered through to find Ford with a red headed woman. They were engaged in what appeared to be a rather lengthy session of love making.

Marra knew she should move and that if the Garron caught sight of her, she would be punished and discarded for sure, but something about seeing that long, muscular body covered in a light sheen of sweat, mixed with the sounds made movement impossible.

She watched as the woman under the Garron strained and moaned, clawing at Ford’s back, leaving long red scratches.

The deep, growling and groaning from Ford’s own chest made Marra shift uncomfortably as she felt something stir in her own body.

The slave watched as her Master’s hands and mouth moved all over the woman’s body. She continued to watch as they arched and slid against each other. Moans from the red head grew louder, as did the almost animalistic sounds from the Garron. To Marra, Ford sounded almost like a serpentine as it mated, growling and simply overpowering its mate with its own need.

Finally, with a long groan the Garron collapsed on top of the woman where she remained for a few minutes before rolling away and announcing, “You’re done. You may go.”

“Yes Garron Ford. It has been a pleasure to serve.”

“Of course it has.” The Garron grumbled as she threw an arm over her eyes and drew a deep breath.

The redhead sat up and put on a very ornate robe of black and blue silks. She rose from the bed, turned to the Garron, bowed slightly at the waist and left through another exit, leaving the tall, dark, naked woman laying there on her back with her arm over her eyes and one leg bent at the knee. The Garron never saw her leave.

Marra moved away from the door to the kitchen unit of the quarters and began preparing breakfast for the Garron. She swallowed hard as she pushed back the images of her master and the woman that flooded her mind.

“Lights up.” Marra said as she moved to the food storage unit.

Ford entered the main chamber wearing a long black silk robe. She smiled at the little blonde as she made her way across the room. “Good morning Marra.”

“Good morning Ford.” Marra smiled to the tall woman as she sat a pan on top of the cooking unit and began preparing the meal.

“Did I actually have any food here?” She chuckled as she looked over the smaller woman’s shoulder into the pan that Marra was preparing the food in.

“Enough that I can fix your breakfast. I may have to bring in more supplies. Is that all right?”

“Of course. Especially if you’re going to cook for me instead of ordering it from the dispensers.”

“Maybe you should wait until you taste it first. You might prefer dispensed food.” The blonde smiled up at the tall woman.

” Never. I’m sure it will be wonderful.” Ford gave Marra a kiss on the top of her head before heading to her bathing chamber without another word.

Marra set the meal to simmering then moved to the door of the bathing chamber. “Shall I attend you Ford?”

“No, just fix breakfast and request nine sets of clothes, of various colors, a pair of slippers and a robe for our quarters and three pair of boots for outside our quarters. Underclothes will be left to your own decision.”

“Nine sets?” She asked through the door as her brows shot into her bangs and her heart hammered in her chest.

“There are nine days in the week aren’t there?”

“Yes Ford.”

“Then it makes sense that you should have a change for each day. Don’t forget to make one pair of the boots suitable for the stables. We’ll be spending a lot of time there.”

“Yes Ford.”

She couldn’t contain the smile on her face as she put the clothing request into the computer. This was pure Paradise. She was indeed fortunate to have come into the service to this Garron.

She dressed quickly and served up breakfast as Ford came from the bathing chamber. She was now dressed in a tight black one piece jumpsuit with thigh high black boots. Her suit was decorated with the symbols of her rank, silver bars on her shoulders. Her chest was practically covered in service medals. Marra recognized at least two of them as medals for valor and courage.

“Your breakfast is ready Ford.”

“Where’s yours?”

“I…I….” She stammered as she looked back and forth between the table and Ford.

“Marra I expect you to take your meals with me.”

“Yes Ford. I’m sorry, forgive me.”

Ford just shook her head and sat down at the table. She looked at the huge meal that had been prepared. “There’s plenty here. I couldn’t possible eat all of this. Get another service and join me.”

“Yes Ford.” Marra was quick to get the service and set it across the table.

“Over here next to me Marra.”

She drew a deep breath as she moved the service and then waited. Ford looked to her and lifted a brow in question. She gestured to the chair.

“You’ll find you enjoy it more if you sit.” Ford offered as she began dishing food onto both plates.

“Please Ford, let me.”

The Garron handed the spoon to the young woman and allowed her to serve. * This is her purpose Ford. Try to remember that. *

Marra finished serving and took her seat. Just as Ford was about to take her first bite her personal tone rang out over the com system.

“Damn!” She growled as she dropped the fork to her plate. “Garron here.” She spoke into thin air.

“Forgive me Garron. We have received a message from Fleet Command.” Marra recognized the voice of the Sarron.

“And what does it say?” Ford leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms across her chest.

“That we are to return to Fleet Headquarters on Delta Magna Six.”

“Then set course. Respond to the message and tell them we are en route. Expected arrival will be two weeks.”

“Yes Garron.”

“And Sarron?”

“Yes Garron?”

“In light of our new orders, I’ll be taking the day off.”

“Garron?”

“I’ll be taking the day off. Do you have a problem with that Sarron Roran?”

“Oh no Garron. Absolutely not.”

“Phoenix was injured in battle yesterday and I want to make sure he’s all right.”

“Yes Garron. I hope the serpentine is all right Garron.”

“So do I.” She mumbled as she leaned forward resting her elbows on the table. “Ford out.”

Marra watched as the Garron picked up the napkin, giving it a little twist before replacing it in her lap and returning to her food. Ford looked to Marra and smiled as she reached over and patted her hand. “I’m sorry. He annoys me.”

“I can tell.” Marra nodded as she poured a glass of juice and set it in front of Ford.

“He’s young and stupid and only got his commission and this command because his father is in the Diplomatic Corp.” Ford took the glass and sipped the juice. “Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on him, but I just can’t seem to help it. I swear to you Marra if I hear, ‘My father says….’ come out of his mouth more time I’m going to toss him out an air lock.”

Marra nearly choked on her food as she began laughing at the vision of the Garron throwing the young man into space. She coughed several times as she reached for her own juice.

Ford was on her feet patting the young woman on the back, reaching for the glass to help her grasp it. “Are you all right?” She asked as she began rubbing small circles on the smaller woman’s back.

Marra nodded as she sipped her juice. “I’m sorry Ford, but the vision of you actually throwing him overboard….”

“Yeah I know,” The Garron agreed as she retook her seat. “It has provided me with many nights of satisfying fantasies.”

Marra laughed again.

LOG TWO

After the meal was completed Marra cleaned up as Ford finished getting ready. This included strapping on her blade, which Marra noticed she wore on her right side and her pistol, which was worn on the left.

“Marra come here.” The slave put the last of the dishes away and moved to her Master. Ford took a deep breath as she held up the wide black collar. “I’m ah…I have to Marra…I don’t want….”

Marra lifted her head a little higher and then her hair. “It will be an honor for me to wear your collar Garron Ford.”

Ford gave a smile that was filled with relief as she placed the collar around Marra’s neck. “Is it too tight?”

“No Ford.”

“I can loosen it if it is.”

“No really.” Marra’s fingers almost seemed to caress the collar. “It’s fine.”

“You only have to wear this when we are out. Never when we’re here.” The Garron watched as Marra’s fingers touched the soft leather. “Go ahead and look if you want.” Ford gestured to the mirror.

Marra turned to the mirror and smiled as she took in the sight of the collar. She had never before liked wearing a collar, until now. The gold seal of the Garron right in the middle of her throat made her happy. For the first time in her life, Marra was proud to be a slave.

She turned back to the tall woman. “Thank you.”

Ford chuckled. “You thank me for the strangest things.”

“You saved me. I don’t deserve to be here. We both know it. We both know that even you could be in trouble….”

“I’m not afraid of a little trouble.” She smiled as she stepped forward and caressed the small woman’s face. “There is something special about you Marra. I want that to be a part of my life.”

“I live to serve Garron.”

“I’m sure you do. I’m hoping to get you past that.” She drew a deep breath. “I need to go check on Phoenix. He was badly injured yesterday when I was engaged on the surface.”

“Phoenix is your serpentine?”

She smiled as she nodded and fetched a long leash from the wall. She rolled it and clipped it to her belt. She noticed Marra looking to the leash. “I will not tether you, but I have to carry it. Anyhow, yes he is my serpentine. I’ve had him since he was a baby. I trained him myself. I don’t know what I’ll do if he dies. A part of me will be lost. We’ve been together for a long time.”

“Then we must go and see if there is anything we can do. Where did you get the name?”

Ford motioned her to the door and they exited the Garron’s quarters. As they walked down the long wide corridor, Marra made sure to listen to every word Ford said, even as she took in the sights around her. This ship was so much larger than any other she had ever been on she was absolutely fascinated by its size.

“Do you know how to read Marra?”

“Yes Garron.”

“Have you ever read any of the mythology concerning the place called Earth?”

“Earth? Oh yes Garron. There are philosophers who believe we came from Earth.”

“Yeah, well so do I, but we know that’s not a popular opinion so I keep that one to myself. Well, in Earth mythology there was a creature called a Phoenix that died and rose again from the ashes. When you see him you will understand.”

Marra nodded as she looked at the lights and all the different types that inhabited the ship.

“Garron may I ask you a question?”

“Of course. Anytime. Please speak to me when you wish Marra. I like the sound of your voice. I believe you to be smart enough to know when to be quiet.”

“How many people live on this ship?”

“About fifty thousand. My command is one of the largest battle cruisers in the fleet.”

Marra smiled again. Not only had she found a benevolent Master, but apparently a very important one as well. She would make sure she did whatever she had to, to keep her place with Garron Ford.

Although, there were faster ways to the stables, Ford walked, taking her time to stop and speak with a few people. Marra stood back and watched and most importantly, listened. She needed to learn what would make and keep Ford happy and listening to the tall woman would give her the hints she needed to do so.

Finally, the doors slid open and they entered the stables. The room was huge. Rows of stalls must have held close to two hundred serpentines. Most of them were on their feet preening and stretching their wings. Marra had never seen so many in one place. They were beautiful. All colors and sizes. Most of them however were large males, used in ground battles. A few were smaller females used mostly for breeding stock Marra guessed. She knew it was important to keep them strong and healthy.

They walked down the last row to a large stall at the end. Garron Ford’s seal was emblazoned on the stall door. Marra noticed the stall appeared to be empty and a knot twisted in her stomach. Ford moved to the stall and opened the door. Marra moved to the half wall and looked in. Phoenix was lying down in his bedding. Marra also knew enough about the beasts to know that this was not a good sign.

He was beautiful, pure white with a slightly silvery haze to his skin. Easily three times as long as Garron Ford was tall, with a long tail and a broad smooth back. His wings were folded close to his body but Marra could tell his wingspan must be twice his body length. He had a long, strong neck but at the base where it met his massive chest his neck and chest were covered in bandages. She felt for the creature as she noticed the droplets of pink blood that soaked through. As Ford knelt down and spoke to the beast, stroking his head, his lids opened to reveal deep blue eyes. Phoenix tried to lift his head.

“No, no boy. Just lay still.” Ford cooed to the animal as she pulled his large head into her lap. “It’s gonna be okay.” She stretched her long legs out and leaned back against the stall wall just petting the beast from his head down his long neck.

Marra stiffened a bit when a large man joined her at the wall. He was wiping his hands on a rag. He glanced her direction, giving a disapproving look before turning back to the stall. “Good morning Garron Ford.”

“Good morning Doctor. How is he?”

“I’ve done all I can do Garron. The rest is up to Phoenix. His wounds are serious.”

“He saved my life yesterday. Turned his body directly into the sniper attack.”

“Yes Garron.” The doctor sighed as he dropped his head. “I’m sorry Garron. I wish there was more I could do.”

“I know you have done all you can. I’ll be spending most of the day here. Will you show my slave were she may find the food dispensers?”

“Of course. Do you have her tether?”

“She’s very docile she won’t try to escape.” Ford never looked up as she continued to stroke the serpentine’s head.

Marra followed the doctor to the dispensers and listened very carefully as he explained them. After he left her she dispensed a cup of a black liquid listed as a favorite of the Garron’s. She sniffed this strange liquid called coffee and wrinkled her nose at its bitter smell. “Yuck.” She murmured as she took the coffee back to the stall.

“Come in.” Ford waved her in.

She entered, making sure to close the gate behind her. As she approached, Phoenix brought his head up and growled, bearing his long, sharp teeth as he snarled at her. She stopped immediately and stood perfectly still as Ford brought the beast’s head back down into her lap. “Oh no, no, Phoenix it’s okay she’s a friend. She won’t hurt us. Come on now. It’s okay. Rest.”

The animal gave a little snort as it’s head returned to it’s master’s lap. Marra noticed that he kept one eye open and on her as she approached. She handed the cup down to Ford. She sipped the coffee then placed the cup on a small shelf at her shoulder.

“If you go to the back of the stall you’ll find a couple of blankets.” Ford smiled at Marra. “Get them.” She did as requested and when she returned, Ford patted the floor next to her. “Spread one of the blankets out so you’ll be more comfortable.”

Marra settled on the floor next to Ford leaning back against the wall. She held the other one in her hands not sure what to do with it. “Here,” She pushed Ford forward just a bit and placed it behind her back, for a little padding.

“That was for you in case you get cold.” Ford grinned at the blonde.

“If I get cold I’ll let you know.” Marra smiled back.

Ford nodded as she looked down at her mount. “Come on my friend.” She looked back to Marra. “Do you want to pet him?”

“Will he let me?”

“Sure he will. I told him you were a friend.”

Marra reached out a tentative hand.

“He likes to have his nose scratched,” She pointed to his broad face just above his nostrils. “Right about there.”

Marra reached over and gave a little scratch where Ford had indicated. In return she got what sounded like a happy little snort from the serpentine. She smiled at Ford and returned to the task of nose scratching.

Soon there was a low purr coming from Phoenix and he almost seemed to be smiling as he released a long sigh.

“He likes you.”

“Just a few minutes ago I thought he was going to eat me.”

“He thought you were going to try and hurt me.”

“Me, hurt you?”

“Well anything is possible. You remember that last slave I mentioned?”

“Yes.”

“She tried to stab me in my sleep. She was about your size.”

“I would never….”

“Somehow I know that.” Ford nodded as she reached for her coffee. She sipped it then put it back. “Besides if you did I’d be forced to terminate you. Don’t make me do that.”

“No Garron, never. I hope to serve you for a long time to come.”

“I’m sure you will Marra, I’m sure you will.”

They sat there together for a few moments in silence just listening to Phoenix snore.

“Sounds like you.” Marra commented quietly as she stroked a little further up the serpentine’s face.

“What?”

“He snores.”

“Are you saying I snore?”

She looked to Ford with slightly amused green eyes as she nodded her head. “Un-huh.”

“I do not.” Ford smiled back.

“I’m sorry Garron, but you do. I was there.”

“Impertinent little thing aren’t you?”

“Forgive me Garron, but aren’t you the one who made me promise to always tell you the truth and never to lie to you?”

Ford’s brows shot up into her bangs as she pursed her lips together. “Hmm guess maybe I did. I’ll have to be more careful about what I make you promise.”

“Yes Garron.”

“You’re enjoying this aren’t you?”

Marra nodded with a little smile.

“You are absolutely adorable.”

The slave dropped her head as she blushed.

Ford reached for her coffee and took another drink as she looked at Marra over the rim of the cup. “So how did you come to be on Garron Danils ship? You weren’t his slave.” She replaced the cup to the shelf as she waited for the answer.

Marra swallowed hard.

“I knew Danils before the war. He wouldn’t have kept an unnamed slave. He would have killed you first.”

“I was a stow-away.”

“Somehow I figured as much.”

She looked up to her Master. “You knew?”

“Oh yeah. You don’t carry his mark.”

“Mark?”

“Danils branded his slaves. You don’t carry his brand.”

“I’m sorry. I’m ready to accept whatever punishment you see fit Garron.” She dropped her head and waited.

“I’m not sorry. I’m glad you weren’t his. You have a beautiful body. It would have been a shame to mark it like that. And I’m not going to punish you. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I feel like I lied to you.”

“You didn’t say you were his slave. My Sarron assumed you were. You never lied to me.”

“Thank you.”

Phoenix shifted his huge body rolling over in his bedding and leaving Ford’s lap now empty. Ford just watched as he rolled away and then curled up with his head resting near his hind legs.

“Do you think he’ll be okay?” Marra asked quietly.

“I think so. He seems to be doing pretty well.”

“He’s beautiful.”

“Yes he is. I hope he’s well enough to mate this season. I’ve already picked his female.”

“She’s onboard?”

“Yeah, would you like to see her?”

“Please.”

Ford got to her feet then offered her hand to Marra. “Come on.”

The Garron pulled the woman to her feet. She did it a little faster and a little harder than she had intended, and they ended up locked in an embrace to keep from falling, just for a moment their eyes met.

Ford cleared her throat and released Marra from her arms, but maintained a hold on her hand. They left Phoenix to his nap and headed back down the row to a smaller stall that held an all black female. She was the totally opposite of Phoenix, smaller and black as the space that surrounded the ship. She craned her neck as they approached, then as Ford held her hand out to the beast she began a soft purring.

Marra noticed the serpentine had golden eyes and it made her gasp just a bit. “Does she have the gift?”

“She does. That’s why I’ve chosen her to mate with Phoenix. I’m hoping for an offspring that has it as well. Phoenix and I understand each other because we’ve been together for so many years, but it would be nice to have a mount that would be able to communicate with me.

“Does the female communicate with you?”

Ford hurumphed just a bit as she scratched the female’s nose. “When she is so inclined, she speaks to me.”

The female seemed to find this comment amusing as she lifted her long neck and drew her head back, she seemed to be smiling at Ford. Then her head shifted and she looked to Marra. * You are a new slave? *

Marra heard the voice in her head and her eyes went wide.

*Well, fair haired female? Are you a new slave? *

“Yes….” Marra murmured aloud.

Ford’s head snapped around as she looked between the female and Marra. “Is she speaking to you Marra?”

“Yes Garron.” The slave nodded her head.

* Marra? It is an unusual name for a slave. It means ‘beautiful one’. It suits you. *

Not sure how to take a compliment from a serpentine, Marra merely nodded.

“What did she say to you Marra?”

“She said my name suited me, Garron.”

“It certainly does.” Ford smiled as she reached for the black head only to have it jerk away.

The female put her head close to Marra. * The Garron is an honorable woman. *

Marra nodded as she reached out and stroked the head that had obviously been offered to her.

* Think and I will hear you Marra. *

* What should I say? *

Marra heard the laughter in her head. * It doesn’t matter. *

Ford watched them intently. “Excuse me I’ll be right back. Marra stay here.”

“Yes Garron.”

Marra continued to scratch the serpentine’s head. “Do you have a name?”

* They have never bothered to give me one of their names. In my gathering I was called Neyta. *

“You’re beautiful.”

* Thank you. So are you. The Garron thinks so as well, about you that is. *

“I don’t know about that.”

* I can tell, I can feel it. *

Marra just smiled as she listened to the outward purring of Neyta. “Garron Ford wants to mate you with Phoenix this season. Would you like that?”

* He is a strong male, it would honor me to carry his heirs. Even though he came from a rival gathering. We are here now and things change. *

Marra nodded. “They certainly do.”

Ford returned with a smile and a piece of paper gripped tightly in her hand. “Well now it looks like you two are getting along well.”

“We seemed to be.” Marra agreed as Neyta placed her head on the slave’s shoulder, giving a little growl at Ford. “Be nice.” Marra grumbled as she scratched the black head. “I’m sorry Garron.”

Ford smiled. Having owned a serpentine for as long as she had she knew the difference between a playful growl and a serious one. That growl had been a playful one. “Well I’m glad, because I just bought her. For you.”

“Excuse me Garron?”

“I bought the serpentine, but I bought her for you. She speaks to you Marra. Don’t you understand? There is a bond between you. Look at her for Capri’s sake. You belong together.”

“But I don’t know anything about caring for a serpentine.”

“I can teach you the basics, but I’m sure she will tell you if she needs anything. If you don’t want her….”

“Oh no Garron!” Marra reassured quickly as her arm encircled the head resting on her shoulder. “I want her. I just want to make sure I can care for her.”

“You’ll do just fine Marra. So what will you name her?”

“Is Neyta all right?”

“It’s fine if it’s your choice.”

“Actually it’s her gathering name. The name she was born with.”

“Then that makes it all the more special for her.”

* Marra please take me to him. Take me to Phoenix. *

“She wants to go to Phoenix.”

“Then by all means let’s take her to him.”

Marra opened the gate and stepped back as Neyta slipped out of the stall. She stretched her long body in the open length of the corridor, glad to be out of her stall even if were just for a moment or two. She moved slowly down the bay toward Phoenix’s stall. Ford was already there with the door open for her.

As she lumbered in, Phoenix raised his head and gave a growl. Neyta growled back and the male dropped his head. She circled him twice, then she lay down next to his back and curled her body around his, flexing out a large black wing and covering him with it before closing her eyes.

Ford pushed the gate shut and leaned on the stall wall as she watched them sleep. Marra joined her. She was feeling great pride in her new charge. She hoped she would be able to keep both Garron Ford and Neyta happy.

“Will she mate with him?” Ford asked as she continued to watch the pair.

“She said she would be honored to carry his heir.”

“Seems that Phoenix has found a life mate then.” Ford smiled as she considered that possibility for herself as well.

“So it would seem.” The slave nodded as she watched Phoenix shift so that he was lying on his side. This now gave Neyta the room she needed to groom him.

* Males. * The female huffed as she began grooming the larger body next to her.

Marra giggled as the comment entered her thoughts. Ford glanced her direction and quirked a brow.

“If it’s all right Garron I’ll tell you when we return to your quarters.”

Ford nodded. “Well now he’s seems pretty happy.” She pointed at Phoenix, who was purring loudly as Neyta continued to groom him.

“I’d say he’s very happy.” Marra agreed, as she side stepped to be a little closer to Ford.

“Do you blame him. Look at her. She’s taking very good care of him.”

* He is my chosen. I will die for him. * Neyta lifted her head to Marra then returned to grooming Phoenix.

“She says that he is her chosen and that she will die for him.”

“Well what do you know. I never thought about them for more than mating until today.” Ford turned to Marra. “It’s a good thing you came into our lives Marra. We might never have know and then they would have been separated after the mating.”

* Yes it is a very good thing. Not only for Phoenix and I, but for the Garron as well. You are going to be important to her,
Marra. *

Marra just shook her head not believing for one second that she could ever be more than a slave to this powerful woman who stood next to her.

* Do not under estimate yourself Marra. *

* Behave Neyta! *

Ford took a deep breath as she tapped her fingers on the stall walls. “Well, Phoenix is getting the best care possible and I haven’t had a chance to meditate in weeks. Would you like to join me?”

“Of course Garron. Anything you wish.”

“Good. You can prepared the coals for me.”

“I’ve never done that before.”

Ford wrapped her arm around Marra’s shoulder and pulled her along with her. “It’s very easy. I’ll show you how. I need to go back and change. We’ll have to get you the proper robes for the temple as well.”

“But….”

“Don’t mention another silly rule or I’ll spank you, I swear I will.” Ford teased as she tightened her hold on Marra’s shoulder. “You are my servant. Where I go, you go.”

LOG THREE

Marra held her breath as she slipped the robes over Ford’s nude body. She smoothed the fabric over her shoulder and adjusted the meditation robes so the hung properly before she moved around to the front and pulled them closed, tying them off as she had been instructed.

She looked up into Ford’s face. She was already beginning her meditations and her eyes were closed, her breathing, calm and easy. Marra led her to the meditation bed and helped her recline into it. As soon as Ford was settled Marra began her other duties to her Master as she meditated.

First, she lit the incense and the candles. Then she moved to the coals. This part frightened her a little. She had no idea what level of awareness Ford had attained and she knew that this could be very dangerous if prepared improperly. She quietly moved to the coals and poured water on them to prepare them.

She glanced over to Ford who still reclined on the bed, in her trance. Marra finished with the coals and moved to her spot on the mat on the floor and knelt as Ford explained she should do. She remained quiet as she watched and waited. She glanced at Capri’s altar. It must be a wonderful thing to be allowed to meditate and worship. To find your place in Paradise and have it waiting for you.

She felt a little sad at the thought, then ashamed. She was sitting there feeling sorry for herself, when she should be rejoicing for Ford. If anyone she had ever met in her life deserved her place in Paradise then it was most certainly Garron Ford.

She wiped a tear from her cheek as Ford rose from the bed and moved silently to the coals. She dropped the long robe and took the first of ten steps across the hot coals. Marra cringed as she watched her Master walk, completely unclothed and unprotected from the heat of the embers. Ford didn’t seem to be in any pain and the walk didn’t seem to be concerning her in the least. She stopped at the fifth step and stood in the center of the ember bed. After about a half minute she took the other five steps to complete her walk. As she came to the end, she moved silently to the altar and lit a candle. Then she knelt on a small padded bench and began her prayers.

Marra rose and retrieved the robe. She walked around the coals and stood a few paces back from Ford and waited. She looked down at her own robes. They were beautiful and she hoped she had done everything correctly so she would be allowed to accompany Ford to meditation and wear them again. She had never imagined herself in anything so beautiful in her life. The Garron had chosen a long black robe for her, with silver threads running through it. To Marra it reminded her of Phoenix and Neyta. She allowed her fingers to caress the material as she continued the wait for Ford.

The slave looked to her Master for any signs of injury or discomfort and didn’t see a thing that might indicate she was in distress. Ford’s level of awareness must be that of an Omni Master.

Ford rose quietly, bowed to the altar then stepped back. Marra helped her into the robe, once again tying it off. They turned together and left the temple.

When the doors slipped shut behind them Ford smiled to Marra. “You did very well.”

“Thank you Garron.” Marra bent over placing the Garron’s slippers at her feet so she could slid into them then she slipped her own on.

“Most people can’t handle being quiet that long and they at least begin humming.”

“I didn’t want to disturb your meditations.”

“Thank you. I needed that.”

“You don’t get to meditate often?”

“Not as often as I’d like. I spent a lot of time on the bridge.”

“Well, today should be a day for you to do the things that you don’t get to do very often. What would you like to do next?”

“Hmm.” Ford slipped her hand into Marra’s as they entered the lift that would carry them back to the deck where the Garron’s quarters were located. “How about a game of Makti?”

Marra looked to Ford who grinned and wiggled her eyebrows. “I’ve never played, but I’ll do my best.”

“I promise to take it easy on you then.”

“Un-huh.” Marra took a deep breath as they left the lift and headed back to Ford’s quarters. “Why do I have a feeling I’m about to take a beating on the Makti court.” She smiled as they entered.

Marra zipped up the silver and gold body suit that Ford had given her to play Makti in. Then she sat down on the bed to pull on the lightweight boots. She looked up slowly when Ford entered from the bathing chamber. She felt all the blood rush to her head as she took in the sight of Ford in the skintight black and red Makti uniform. Ford was already wearing the knee guards, shoulder guards and elbow pads that were required to play the game. She had her gloves in one hand as she stared down at Marra.

“How you doing with the gear?” She asked as she knelt before the little slave and picked up the knee guards.

“Takes some getting use to.”

“Yeah it does.”

“You’ll get it in time. In the meantime let me give you a hand.”

“Ford you shouldn’t….”

“Shhh…now don’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t do.”

“Of course Ford, I’m sorry.” Marra dropped her head, a bit afraid she had offended.

“Hey, hey I was only teasing.” Ford reached up and cupped the small cheek in her hand. “I only wanted to make sure the gear was on right. You could get hurt if it’s not.”

Marra nodded, still afraid to speak.

Ford dropped to both knees, then rose up between Marras’s legs, making her lift her face. “What? What’s wrong?”

“You’re so kind.”

Ford arched an eyebrow. “That’s a bad thing?”

“No Ford. I’m just…well…normally by this time I’ve at least been slapped back once.”

“Anyone foolish enough to raise a hand to you should have it broken from their wrist.”

Marra smiled.

“Now,” Ford took a deep breath as she tried to get herself under control before she did something really silly. “Let me help you with the gear.”

Marra stood in front of the mirror looking at herself in the Matki uniform. She wondered why Ford would even consider playing with her. She had only seen pictures of the game being played and she was completely at a loss for the rules. Then again, she considered rules didn’t matter when she had little hope of winning anyhow. Even if she stood a remote chance, one did not defeat a Garron. Even if you had to lose on purpose.

She turned when Ford returned to the room with her Matki stick in her hand. It was almost as long as she was tall with a long paddle at one end and the net at the other. Ford moved to a cabinet and removed a second stick. She looked to Marra and sized her up as she twisted the stick in the center and adjusted it. She held it up to her small companion.

“That should work. Of course you may adjust it, as you like. Shall we?”

Marra nodded as she took the stick and tested its weight. She followed her master out the door.

The Makti court was empty when they arrived. Ford was pleased that they had the place to themselves. She looked up in the gallery and pointed. “Once in a while people will watch from up there.”

“Great.” Marra mumbled as she looked up. “Everyone can see you beat me senseless.”

Ford laughed a bit as she programmed in the request for the disks. “All right my little friend I’ll program slow disks to start just so you can get a feel for the game. At the level I normally play at, I’d wear you out in no time.”

“I’ll bet.”

“Okay. Here’s how we play. You see that the court is broken up into the sections?”

Marra noted the multitude of black and gold squares that made up the court. The entire room was broken into the three by three sections that alternated between the two colors.

“The object is to stay on your own color while using the disk to knock out the color of your opponent. There are two ways to do that.” She pointed to the far forward wall. “You can try to knock out my squares by hitting the matching square on the far wall when you serve and return the disk. You can use either end of the Makti stick to do this. Follow me so far?”

“Yes Garron.” Marra nodded as she looked back and forth between the wall and the floor that they stood on.

“Or you can try to knock it ‘out from under me’ by doing a ‘reverse’ and sending the disk to the floor at my feet. If you are going to try a ‘reverse’ you must announce it first. Got that?”

The blonde nodded.

“Good. Now if you try a ‘reverse’ the reason for the announce is to give your opponent the chance to move. Once a block of your color has been knocked out it will turn silver. If one of mine gets knocked out it will turn red. Once a block has been knocked out it will hold a slight electrical charge. If you step on it, you’ll know it.”

Marra nodded again. She was accustomed to the feel of a shock. Slave prods provided a great deal of knowledge in this area.

“The final object is to block me in so I can’t move. Understand?”

“Yes Garron.”

“Once you get a feel for the game we’ll move into the advanced rules like walking on the side walls, but let’s just get you playing the basics first okay?”

“Of course Garron.”

“And Marra there is one other thing.”

“Yes Garron?”

“If you absolutely hate this, you have to tell me. I don’t want you to do something you don’t like. Understand?”

“Yes Garron.”

“Good.” Ford moved to the disk dispenser and retrieved the glowing blue disk. “Ready?”

“As ready as I can be.” She grinned as she gripped the Makti stick and turned to face the forward wall.

As much as she tried to figure it out, Ford could not comprehend the fact that she was standing on a corner wondering if she could get make the nine foot jump required to get to an open square. She shook her head as her little opponent snickered quietly.

“You’re loving this aren’t you?” Ford questioned as she twisted her stick in her hands still trying to decide on the jump.

“It is an interesting situation Garron.” Marra replied as she held her Makti stick carefully balancing the blue disk in the net end.

“Why don’t you call a reverse and just get it over with?” Ford grinned as she leaned on her stick.

“I could do that, or you could just surrender.” Marra grinned back and wrinkled her nose.

“Surrender? I’ll have you know little slave, Garron Ford has never surrendered. So,” She smirked she he leaned over. “You’re just going to have to ‘knock it out from under me’ if you want the win.”

“Okay.” Marra turned at the waist and brought the stick up and over, shifting it slightly before the release that put a spin on it that made it impossible to block as it slammed down on Ford’s block.

Using the paddle end of the stick Ford pushed up and walked a step along the wall to try and get to a free square. A small misstep, however when the stick slid, caused her to come down on a ‘charged’ square.

“Game and match to gold.” A computer voice stated as the blocks reset and returned to their normal colors. “Again Garron Ford?” The computer inquired.

“No, getting beaten two out of three today is more that enough for my ego.”

“Very well.”

Ford watched as the scoreboard cleared, she just shook her head and turned to Marra. “Well done.”

“Thank you Garron.”

“So do you like it?” Ford asked as she placed her hand on the small of Marra’s back and guided her to the door.

“Very much.”

“Good. Next time however we’re speeding up the disks and going to advanced rules.”

“Yes Garron.” Marra grinned as she looked up at the tall woman.

“And you,” Ford’s hand trailed up the woman’s back to rest on her shoulder. “Are going to fix me a huge lunch for beating me.”

“Yes Garron. Any requests?”

“No, I’ll leave the details up to you. Just a hearty lunch.”

When they returned to Ford’s quarters, the Garron put the Makti gear away, while Marra changed her clothes. She was slipping her shirt on, when she felt as if she was being watched. She turned, to find Ford standing in the doorway. Marra stood there, with her shirt perched around her elbows, as they stared at each other.

Ford stepped forward slowly, reaching out a hand to Marra. The slave held her hand out allowing Ford to grasp it. She felt herself slowly being pulled into the tall woman’s arms.

The embrace was gentle, Marra shivered as she felt Ford’s hands caress her back. Their eyes locked and time stopped for just a moment. Marra could hear her heart beating in her ears as she waited.

“You’re beautiful.” Ford whispered as she trailed her hands up and down the bare back at her fingertips. “You’re beautiful inside and out.” One large hand moved up the smaller woman’s back, to her neck. “I would,” Ford swallowed hard. “I would very much like to kiss you.”

“Yes Garron.”

Ford stood there for a moment longer, staring deeply into those green eyes. She took a deep breath as she shook her head. “Marra I’d like to. I really would, but I can’t. I can’t take advantage of you like that.”

Marra nodded slowly as she slipped her shirt up onto her shoulders. “I understand Garron.”

Ford cocked her head at the disappointed tone in the smaller woman’s voice. She lifted the face that had dropped as her shirt was pulled on. “No Marra I don’t think you do. It’s not you. Please don’t think that. It’s me. There is something about you, something I can’t explain. Something I can’t put my finger on. Something so pure, I don’t want to ruin that for you. You should only be touched by the one who owns your heart, you should be allowed to find your own love.”

“Ford I am a slave. I will never love. I will only serve. I hope to serve you. In anyway you see fit.”

“Thank you.” Ford whispered softly as she placed a soft kiss on the woman’s forehead and released her. She smiled and winked. “So, is my lunch going to be ready soon?”

“Yes Ford.”

“What are we having?”

“I did some digging in the database and I found a recipe for an Earth dish call a ‘pot roast’ so I am recreating that for you.” Marra buttoned her shirt as she watched Ford move into the bathing room.

“Sounds interesting.” The tall woman began taking off her Makti uniform as she ran water into the bathtub.

“I think you will like it. Based on what was programmed into the dispensers as your favorite meals, you should find this pleasing.” The slave turned her back to the door when the uniform started to come off, revealing broad, dark, muscular shoulders. “I’ve also come across a dish called ‘strawberry cheesecake’ that sounded to good to pass up.” She continued as she crossed her arms and leaned against the wall.

“What is it?”

Marra listen as the water was turned off and the sound of Ford slipping into the tub echoed in her ears. The long and content sigh of her master cause a slight tingle to run through her entire body. “It’s a dessert dish. Apparently best consumed with that drink you call coffee.”

“Ah, well, if it goes with coffee it must be good.”

“I don’t know how you can drink it. It smells awful.”

“Ah, but it tastes wonderful.”

“If you say so.” She laughed a little as she pushed off the wall. “Would you like me to put on some entertainment for you?”

Ford drew a deep breath and considered the question as she closed her eyes and sank a little further into the hot water. “Music I think. Delvian, classical. Early first century. Master Gephon’s Symphony Number Five.”

Marra nodded and moved to the entertainment panel in the living area. She programmed the request, within seconds the soft music poured into the rooms of the quarters. “May I lower the lights Ford?”

“Yes please do.”

“Lights half power.” Marra moved back to the cooking area to check on the meal she was preparing. She smiled as she listened to the trickling of water that indicated Ford was washing. Assured that her meal was progressing, she moved around the room lighting small oil lamps.

Marra was resting in the living area of the quarters when Ford entered the room. She once again had donned the long black robe. Her hair was pulled back into a loose braid. “Are you sleeping?” She asked quietly, noticing that Marra’s eyes were closed.

“Oh no Ford.” Marra opened her eyes and stood immediately.

“Sit back down and relax. That’s what I intend to do.”

“Actually I should be checking lunch. I’m sure it’s about ready.

“It smells wonderful.” Ford settled onto the sofa and relaxed into the cushions with a sigh. “It’s actually been a wonderful day so far. It’s been a long time since I’ve just taken a day off. Why don’t we eat in here instead of at the table?”

“As you wish Ford.”

You know it’s all right just to say ‘yes’ or ‘all right’. There’s no need to be so formal with me all the time. Haven’t you figured out I’m not going to hurt you?”

“Yes.”

“Please relax.”

“I’ll try.”

“Good. Can I help you with lunch?”

“No Ford, I’ll see to it.”

Ford grinned as her brows rose to meet her bangs. “As you wish Marra.”

The little slave rolled her eyes as she made her way to check on the meal.

“That,” Ford sighed as she dropped her napkin to the table. “Was fantastic. That strawberry thing is very good. Add that to my list of favorites.”

“I’m glad you’re pleased.” Marra began gathering dishes.

“Leave those. Just sit with me.”

Marra took a seat next to Ford with her hands in her lap. She wasn’t quite sure what to do.

“Marra do you have any dreams?”

“Ford?”

“Dreams. Things you would like to do.”

“Slaves don’t dream Ford. What is the point? If you have no life outside the one of your master.”

“What if you did? What if I gave you your freedom right now? What would you do?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Tell me.” Ford curled up on the couch with her legs under her.

“I’d find another master. I don’t know anything but serving. I wouldn’t be able to survive on my own.”

“Of course you would.”

“No.” Marra shook her head. “No I wouldn’t. I’ve never been anything but a slave. I’m lucky to be that and we both know it.”

“How did you become a slave?”

“My parents were interned before I was born. Both slated to be terminated.”

“Why?”

“They had broken the law, by wanting a baby and trying for me. My mother was close to delivery when they were discovered. They were arrested and jailed. I was born there in the jail. My mother begged the midwife to spare me. The midwife told the jailers I had died before birth, then she smuggled me out and sold me to a slave broker. I was raised and trained to be a slave. I was given the designation and sent to my first master. He was a Carron on a supply ship.”

“Did he treat you well?”

“He beat me, but other than that he was not difficult to serve.”

“Why did he beat you?”

“Because it suited him to do so.”

“Do you know what became of your parents?”

Marra shook her head and gave a little shrug. “I would guess the execution was carried out. So you see, I have no dreams. No desires. I serve. That is my purpose. I was born to it.”

“No, you were born to be loved. You were made a slave by circumstance.”

“Still, no difference. I am a slave. I know nothing else.”

“That’s not true. You know how to read, correct?”

“Yes.”

“Then you know something else. You know as well as I do that most slaves don’t read. How did you learn?”

“I hid at night and taught myself.”

“And you have initiative.”

“My last master called it arrogance.”

“The Carron?”

“No he was the one before. He lost me in a game of Kinat. Then I went to a Sarron aboard the Battleship Terrin. It was defeated. When Garron Danils’ soldiers boarded, I got through an airlock before it closed and was hiding there. I didn’t want to die.”

Ford watched as a tear slid down Marra’s cheek, which she wiped away quickly to try and hide from the Garron.

“Come here.” Ford opened her arms and the little slave slid into them. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to live.” She offered as she let her cheek rest on top of golden hair as her arms tightened around the trembling body next to her.

“But it shouldn’t matter if another slave dies. It’s not as if I’m important. I’m not like you, I don’t serve a real purpose.”

“Yes you do. You make me happy.”

LOG FOUR

Ford removed two books from a shelf then returned to bed. “Here.” She offered one of the books to Marra. “I think you’ll enjoy that, but don’t mention that you’re reading it.”

“No Ford.” Marra looked at the cover of the book. ” A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Ford isn’t this book supposedly from Earth?”

“Why do you think I told not to mention that you were reading it?” Ford grinned as she settled in bed next to Marra and cracked the spine on her own book. “We’d both be in trouble. You for reading it, and me for owning it and allowing you to read it.”

“I won’t say a word. Thank you for this.”

“You’re welcome. I think you’ll enjoy it.”

“Oh I’m sure of it.”

“Phoenix seemed well rested tonight.” Ford smiled as she looked over to Marra. They had gone down to the stalls to visit their serpentines and check on the injured beast. “I think Neyta has done wonders for his disposition. He can be such a grouch sometimes. I haven’t heard him purr that much since he was a baby.”

“She asked not to be separated from him.” The slave said, as she examined the book in her hands still amazed that she was holding it.

“I wouldn’t think of it. They are good together. They’re going to need a bigger stall though.”

“Especially if you want them to mate. Neyta will need room to make a nest.”

“Well we’ll make sure that they get moved as soon as Phoenix is strong enough to stand the transition.”

Marra nodded as she opened the book and took in her first words. She settled back against the soft headboard and adjusted the light on her side of the bed. She looked down as she felt Ford’s hand come to rest on her leg. Looking to the dark haired woman who was now totally engrossed in her own book she smiled at the comfort she felt here in this bed.

“You know what would be good?” Ford mumbled as she turned a page.

“What?”

“Some of that dessert thing you made for lunch.”

“I’ll get you some.” Marra placed the book down next to Ford. Climbing out of bed, she moved to the food preparation area, she didn’t have to turn around to feel Ford’s eyes on her.

She prepared the plate for her master and returned to bed offering it to Ford, who looked up with a smile as she took it. “Thank you. You didn’t want any?”

“It’s very sweet.”

“Yes it is.” Ford nodded. “I think that’s why I like it.” She took her first bite as Marra re-settled back into the bed next to her. “Want a piece?” A brow quirked as the fork was offered with a taste of the treat.

Marra smiled as she leaned over and took the food as it was given to her. Once again their eyes met. Ford smiled, as did the little blonde. The slave blushed as she swallowed and found her book more interesting again.

Marra glance over from time to time, watching Ford eat and read. After she finished, Ford read for a bit longer and then she laid her book aside and snapped off her light. She rolled on her right side and pulled the blankets up over her shoulders.

“Good night Marra. Feel free to read as long as you like.”

“Good night Ford.”

Marra found herself tempted to read half the night through, however the warmth of Ford next to her and the knowledge that her master would be up very early made her realize that sleep might be the best option. She put her book down and turned off her own light.

Sliding down into the bed, Marra moved back a bit and made contact with the body lying next to her. It didn’t take long for Ford to roll over and drape her arm over the small waist. Marra smiled as she once again closed the space between them.

Ford stretched as she began to wake. The bed was empty. She tucked a pillow under her head and listened. Water running in the shower unit.

“Ah for Capri’s sake.” She grumbled as she got up and put her robe on. She knew what Marra was doing. She tied the robe off and entered the shower unit, jerking open the door and startling the small woman inside as her hand reached in to feel the icy cold water. She looked at the little woman. “Do you like it like that?”

“I’m used to it Ford.” Was the reply given through slightly chattering teeth.

“I thought as much.” Ford adjusted the water, bring some hot into the mix, making the flow warmer. “Is that better?”

“Yes Ford. Thank you.”

“Marra take care of yourself, please.” The Garron ordered as she closed the door leaving the embarrassed girl to regain her composure and finish her shower. “You don’t have to live by their rules anymore.” She leaned against the counter near the sinks. “Marra I’m serious here. I want you to take better care of yourself. No more cold showers.”

“Yes Ford.”

“Actually, if you really enjoyed it, feel free to take a bath.”

“Thank you.”

“And I want you to eat more. You barely eat enough to stay alive.”

“I take what I need.”

“You need more.”

“Yes Ford. Right now,” The water flow stopped. “I need a towel. Could you hand me one please?”

“Of course.” The Garron pulled a towel down from the shelf and opened the door to the shower, passing the towel in. She looked at the little woman and gave her a playful scowl. “Promise me you’ll take better care of yourself.”

“I promise.” She agreed with a nod as she took the towel and wrapped her body up in it. She watched Ford as she pushed the water from her hair and twisted the excess out. “What would you like for breakfast?”

“Cheesecake and coffee.” Ford grinned as she turned and walked out of the room.

Marra prepared a proper breakfast for Ford much to the tall woman’s frustration. She looked at the plate as it was place in front of her and Marra took her place at the table. She looked at Ford who was now dressed in her uniform. She wondered if there was anything, she didn’t look good in.

“I have to take proper care of you too.” She offered with a shrug as she poured Ford’s coffee. “Somehow I don’t think cheesecake and coffee qualify as a proper breakfast.”

“Oh all right.” Ford groused as she stabbed at the food on her plate. “After breakfast I need to go to the bridge. I want you to go to the stables and check on Phoenix and Neyta. You can then meet me on the bridge.”

“Yes Ford.”

Garron Ford paused outside the doors and ran her hands over her uniform. Taking a deep breath she took a step forward causing the door to slide open. As she stepped inside the Sarron stood from a large command chair.

“Good morning Garron.”

“Good morning.” She settled into the chair accepting a data link from the Sarron. “Anything important?”

“Nothing unusual Garron. All has been quiet. The repairs are coming along nicely we sustained minor damage in the last encounter.”

“What do long range scans show?”

“No problems for the next three sectors. Hopefully, we’ll have a safe and smooth journey back to fleet headquarters.”

“Never plan on a safe or smooth anything during war Sarron.”

“Of course Garron.” The young man leaned against the railing behind him and crossed his arms with a little smirk. “So tell me Garron how are you enjoying your new ‘acquisition’?”

“Excuse me?”

“The little blonde slave. Does she serve you well?”

“Sarron Roran, Marra is indeed a very good slave and she does serve quite nicely. I would thank you not to speculate as to what capacity she might serve me.”

“Surely you have tried her body? She was built to be….”

Before the Sarron could finish that sentence he found himself hefted from his feet. His throat clamped tight in Ford’s hand, at the end of her out stretched arm. He tried to take a terrified breath as he looked down into angry blue eyes.

“Don’t!” She commanded as tightened her hold on him. “Do not speculate about Marra in any way, shape or form. She is mine! You are not to touch her or even think disrespectful thoughts of her! Do you understand?”

He managed a nod as he gasped for air and tried to pry the strong fingers from his throat.

“She is a person and you will respect her.”

“Yes, yes Garron.”

She released her hold on the man, dropping him to the floor. He had just enough time to pick himself up off the deck before the morning crew started filtering in and taking their positions around the bridge. Ford settled back in her chair and gave her first official order of the day.

“Lights up full.”

She turned her head and glared at the Sarron. He lowered his eyes and took a seat at his station, well away from the fuming commander. Ford returned her attention to the data link in her hands and read through the previous day’s reports.

Her ship had sustained very minor damage in the battle the day before. However, lives had been lost and this always frustrated her. The fact that she had to order the termination of the four missing men didn’t help her at all. “Damn regulations.” She mumbled under her breath as she continued to read the reports. She knew she would have to send message to the families of all the dead.

The doors slid open and Marra step onto the bridge. Security officers were quick to surround her. Ford stood and waved them off motioning for Marra to join her.

“How is Phoenix?” She asked as she retook her seat in her command chair crossing her long legs at the knees and leaning her head on her fist.

Marra kept her eyes lowered as she spoke. Showing the proper respect in this very public area of the ship. “He is doing very well Garron Ford. Neyta has used special talents unique to her type, to help him heal. He is much stronger today.”

“You will have to fill me in later.”

“Of course, Garron Ford.”

“For now you will go to my office and wait for me there.”

“Yes, Garron Ford.”

“Sarron, escort Marra to my office.”

The young man stood and gestured toward a room off the bridge. Marra dutifully moved across the bridge and entered the office. She was quick to glance back and forth between Ford and the Sarron. The tension between them was almost palatable.

Once inside Ford’s office, Marra set about tidying it up. There were books on the floor. Statues and metal workings had been thrown all over the room. Some were broken beyond repair. She cleaned up the items and set them off to the side so she could ask Ford if she wanted the items disposed of. The one that could be salvaged she placed back on various display stands.

She requested supplies and continued cleaning. Very soon she had the office back in a relatively neat order when the doors slid open and Ford stepped in. She smiled when she looked around the room. “You cleaned?”

“Yes Garron.”

“Last time I was in here it was a mess and I didn’t feel like dealing with it. We only took minor damage, but as I understand it, it was quite a ride.” She let herself drop down on a couch along the wall. “Windows open.” The walls parted revealing huge windows that allowed the space before them to be seen. Not that there was much to see really, just the blackness of space. Ford rested her head on her crossed arms at the back of the couch and just stared out the window.

“Coffee?” A now familiar soft voice inquired.

“Please.”

Marra made the coffee, taking it to her master and handing it down.

“Sit with me.” Ford patted the couch next to her.

“Are you unhappy Ford? Have I done something to displease you?” Marra settled down close to the tall woman.

“For Capri’s sake no, Marra. If anything you have made my existence more tolerable.” She sipped her coffee as she looked out the window. “I hate it here. Do you know what I would give to see a sunrise or a sunset again? Six years Marra, six years I’ve been on this ship. Six years since I’ve been home.”

“It has been along war.”

“A long and stupid war. Arguing over a planet that probably never existed to begin with. Killing our own people because a few scientists wanted to send out and expedition. How do things get this out of hand? I’ll bet you, there’s not one member of the Diplomatic Corp that even remembers how this got started. They’ve managed to keep piling issue on top of issue until the original cause was lost. Now they claim it’s over territory and boarders. Just like every other war that’s every been fought.”

“Why do you think you’ve been called back to fleet headquarters?”

“Who knows? Maybe to re-outfit my ship so I can kill more of our people.”

“Couldn’t re-outfitting be done at a space station?”

“Not for a ship this size. The only docks large enough to accommodate us are at headquarters. It also gives the Diplomatic Corp a chance to show off the finest and the fastest ships in the fleet, just to remind the people of the power they have.”

“What if you needed repairs and you were too far away?”

“They could send a repair ship. My guess is this is for a show of some kind. Parading us around. The people must be getting restless again. These last campaigns have been long and very bloody, the news going back there can’t be good.”

Marra reached over and placed her hand on Ford’s knee. She wasn’t sure what to say so she offered her comfort silently.

“Thank you for cleaning up my office.” Ford sighed as she took another sip of coffee. “Things got tossed around pretty good during this last engagement.”

“Some things got broken. I set them aside, not knowing what I should do with them.”

Ford got to her feet and moved to the piles of the broken items. She picked a piece up from a pile and fingered it for a moment. Marra watched as a bittersweet little smile broke across the tall woman’s features. Ford held the piece for a moment then dropped it back into the pile.

“Recycle them.”

“Yes Garron.”

The Garron sat her coffee cup on her desk then turned to Marra. “I have an inspection to conduct. Would you like to go and see more of the ship?”

Marra was on her feet in nodding enthusiastically. “Very much Garron.”

“Let’s go. The first stop will be the medical lab so I can visit the wounded.”

As the moved back onto the bridge. Marra noticed that the Sarron was watching the door and wore a little smirk, which faded quickly when Ford came out behind her.

“Sarron Roran you have the bridge. I’ll be conducting an inspection.”

“Yes Garron.”

Marra followed Ford off the bridge. “He doesn’t like me much does he?” She asked quietly as she followed Ford.

“He likes you too much in my opinion.”

“Garron?”

“He has his own ideas about your value as a servant.”

“And you don’t agree?”

“No.”

Marra could hear something in Ford’s voice that told her to drop the subject. She followed quietly behind her master as they strolled along the decks and taking in more of the sights.

She discovered two areas of the ship set up with huge gardens for walking and relaxing. She marveled when they came to the market, the people and the lights captured her attention to the point that for a moment she lost sight of Ford. When she looked up and realized the Garon had managed to get further into the crowd she felt a bit of panic rise in her chest. She lifted up to her toes and her full height to try to find her master.

Ford stopped suddenly as if a force had hit her square in the chest. She stopped and turned back to the crowd. I grin broke out at the sight if the blonde head bobbing in the crowd. She made her way back through and extended her hand to Marra. She closed her hand around the small one that grabbed it as soon as it was offered. With a little tug Ford pulled Marra too her and found herself staring into teary green eyes.

“What’s wrong?” She put her arm around small shoulder drawing her in close.

“I thought I had lost you.”

“You can’t lose me. I knew it the moment we got to far apart.”

“You did?”

“Un-huh. It was like I had a huge hand in my chest that wouldn’t let me go any further.”

“I’m sorry I got behind.”

“Hey it’s easy to get separated in this crowd. Relax and don’t worry about it. If we ever do get separated no one will hurt you because you wear my symbol.”

“Yes Garron.”

“Do you see those men in the black and green uniforms?”

Marra nodded as she searched several of the uniforms out the crowd.

“They are security officers. You can go to any of them and they will find me for you. Okay?”

“Yes Garron.”

“Good. Don’t be afraid. They won’t hurt you.”

They continued through the crowd until they came to a transit unit. Ford stepped aboard pulling Marra up behind her so the were both tucked in a corner of the car as other people boarded and they prepared to travel to another segment of the ship.

“Ever been on one of these?” Ford grinned down as she wrapped the little blonde in her arms.

“No Garron.”

“It’s quite a ride the first time. Just hold on to me.”

Once the car was full. Marra felt a soft lurch, then suddenly her body was pressed hard into Ford’s by the force of the car speeding away from the station. She couldn’t help but think of the one immediate reason she like riding the transit car. Now all she had to figure out was a way to get her arms around Ford every time they got on the thing.

“Would you like to go back to the market later and do some shopping?” Ford whispered in her ear. “I’m sure there are things we could use at home.”

“Yes Garron there are.”

“Later today then, I’ll take you shopping. I promise.”

Marra was feeling just a tad queasy when the car came to a stop seconds later. Ford turned her and guided her from the unit and back to solid decking, which Marra was very grateful. She felt her knees give a bit and was glad Ford’s strong hands held onto her.

“You okay?”

She nodded as she took a deep breath. “Fine, fine.” She whispered.

“You’ll get used to it, I swear and if you don’t, we’ll have a doctor give you an implant so the motion sickness won’t bother you.”

“Thank you Garron. That one comes from the bottom of my heart.” She grinned up as her hand traveled to her stomach.

“Yeah, well, as long as it doesn’t come from there.” The Garron patted Marra’s hand. “I just polished my boots.”

Marra chuckled as Ford took her hand and they moved into the medical labs. Inside, Ford spoke with the doctors then took the time to go to each wounded soldier and spend time talking and checking up on them.

Marra noticed as she looked around one young man who had tears rolling down his cheeks. She moved to him and sat down on a small stood, taking his hand and drawing his attention to her.

“Are you all right?”

His brown eyes looked over, more tears flowed down his cheeks. Marra wiped them away with her other hand.

“It hurts.” He whispered.

“Have they given you anything for the pain?”

“Not for several hours.”

Marra turned to find Ford getting to her feet and moving back out onto the isle way.

“Garron Ford?” She called to her master, who turned and headed toward them.

“Oh no. Please don’t bother the Garron.” He croaked, as his eyes grew big with the approach of the tall woman.

“Yes Marra?”

“This man requires medical attention. He’s in a great deal of pain.”

Ford nodded as she looked around the room for a doctor. “I’ll take care of it.” She moved off quickly.

“You shouldn’t have….” He protested only to have Marra turn back to him and lay a finger across his lips.

“Shhh,” She smiled as she brushed her fingers through his hair. “It’s all right. She wouldn’t want you to suffer.”

“Who are you?”

“I am Garron Ford’s slave, Marra.”

“Garron Ford doesn’t keep slaves.” He looked at her again, his eyes reflecting a little doubt.

Marra lowered the collar of her shirt to reveal her leather collar, the one that showed Ford’s symbol. “She kept me.”

“I can’t blame her.” He smiled as he looked into the deep green eyes.

Marra continued to talk to the man and keep him occupied until Ford returned with a doctor who administered a painkiller to the wounded man.

“Garron Ford, may I stay with him until it takes affect?”

Ford smiled and nodded. “Of course you may. I think that would be very welcomed. Your company is very soothing.”

The Garron combed her fingers through golden hair affectionately before walking away.

Ford leaned against the wall with the Senior Doctor and sipped coffee as she watched Marra comfort the young man.

“She’s very sweet to sit with him like that.” The doctor juerked his chin to the pair.

“She’s a very sweet girl who has been through a lot herself.”

“What does she do aboard ship?”

“She’s my new slave.”

“I thought that you didn’t keep slaves.”

“I never have before, but when I saw her I had to keep her. I couldn’t let her be sent to the auction.”

“She’s very good with the wounded Garron Ford. I don’t suppose you would consider letting her come down from time to time? Just to let her sit and speak with them.”

“I’ll consider it.”

“Thank you Garron.”

“If I do, you’ll have to swear to me that no harm will come to her. I won’t have anyone abusing her or mistreating her.”

“I swear to you Garron she will be safe.”

LOG FIVE

“Oh brother.” Ford crossed her arms as she peered over the stall gate at the serpentines. “Phoenix, have you no shame, boy?”

The male opened his eyes at the familiar voice as he lay on his back with his wings spread out just a bit, as Neyta curled around him and nuzzled his thick strong body. He was purring loudly and almost seemed to have a smile on his face.

Marra had explained as they made their way to the stalls that Neyta was using her powers to help the male heal from his wounds. She said she didn’t understand it and couldn’t explain it, but as Ford watched them now it didn’t matter to her. All that mattered to the tall woman was that he was healing quickly.

“You are just pathetic. You better not let your friends see you like that.” Ford grinned down at the beast.

“Actually.” Marra blushed a bit as she stepped closer to Ford. “This is sort of a pre-mating ritual.”

“Ah foreplay.”

“What?”

Ford laughed out loud as she turned to Marra. “Surely you know what foreplay is?”

Marra dropped her eyes as she shook her head. “No, Garron.” She lifted her head and her brow creased. “Is this something I need to know to please you?”

The tall woman shifted uncomfortably as she shook her head. “Uh, no, Marra, it’s not, but remind me later. I have another book I want you to read.”

“Yes, Garron.”

“In the meantime, I think that we should plan on taking Phoenix and Neyta to the exercise ring tomorrow. Right now, however, I think I promised to take you shopping, didn’t I?”

“Yes, Garron, but if you’re tired….”

“No, I’m fine. I’m accustomed to long days and short nights.”

“Does this mean we have to ride the transit unit again?” the little slave asked innocently as she followed behind her master.

“Yes, I’m afraid it does.”

It was a good thing that Ford didn’t turn around. The smile on Marra’s face would have given away her thoughts.

Marra found the market less crowded in the evening. She liked it because she felt more secure that she wouldn’t lose Ford in the crowd. As they entered the market, Ford took Marra’s hand, then picked up a small basket and gave it to her. “You know what we need. You do the shopping. I’ll take care of the merchants.”

“Yes, Garron.”

As Marra shopped, Ford informed the merchants as to who Marra was. She explained that she would be coming in and shopping from time to time and that any purchase Marra made should be deducted from her account.

The Garron watched with some pride as the young woman picked the best of everything they needed, making sure that all the items were fresh and ripe. She picked fruits and vegetables, spices for cooking, and a few utensils she had noticed were missing from Ford’s cooking area.

“How you doing here?” Ford looked into the basket with a smile.

“I believe I have everything, Garron.”

“I would think so. I don’t think I’ve ever bought this many supplies at one time.” The tall woman laughed as she wrapped an arm around the smaller woman.

“Yeah, I can tell.” Marra giggled as she handed the basket away to allow the items to be boxed up.

“Ah, you’re getting cheeky. I like that. Showing some fight.” Ford nudged her. “I think that’s a step in the right direction.” She looked to Marra who was preparing to say something. “Don’t you dare apologize to me. I told you things were different now.”

Marra closed her mouth quickly and wrinkled her nose as she gave Ford a smile.

“Oh, now that is too cute.” Ford grinned back as she placed a kiss to the slave’s forehead.

Ford took the box as it was handed back. “Thank you.” She smiled as she looked to the merchant.

“It is my pleasure, Garron.” The woman looked back to the small woman and then to the Garron.

As she watched them walk away, her husband handed her items, which she stocked on the shelves. “I never thought I’d see it.”

“What?”

“Garron Ford is in love.”

“Really?”

“Un-huh. The little blonde woman.”

“Can’t be. The little one is a slave.”

“Doesn’t matter. Slave or not. That woman has captured the Garron’s heart.”

“Garron Ford has worked too long and hard to build her career to give it up for a slave.”

“We’ll see.”

Ford settled down on the couch with a data link and a glass of wine. Marra watched as she rubbed her temples.

“Something wrong, Ford?”

“Hmm, nothing more than usual. Just going over the day reports.”

“Must be very challenging, taking on the daily responsibilities of running the ship.” Marra settled down next to the tall woman and began rubbing her shoulders.

“Hmm, yes it is.” Ford closed her eyes as the small hands adeptly began rubbing the knots from her neck and shoulders.

“Very frustrating some days, I’m sure.”

“Umm-hmm….” The Garron agreed again as she slowly began to relax.

“Feel good?”

Ford could only nod now.

“Here,” Marra got up, taking Ford’s hand and pulling her to her feet. “Take your robe off.” Ford allowed Marra to untie the long robe and slide it from her shoulders. “Now lie down on your stomach.”

Ford dropped down to the bed and stretched out right in the center of it. Marra settled down next to her and began giving her a proper massage. She was rewarded with a long deep moan.

Soon Marra found that her master was fast and very sound asleep. She completed the massage, covering the woman with a blanket, and left her to sleep alone in the bed. Marra carefully slipped a pillow from the bed and took another blanket to the couch where she curled up with her book and read until she too dropped off.

It was some time later when Marra felt herself being lifted from the couch. She never quite woke up, feeling safe and warm in the arms that held her. She heard words whispered in her ear, which never really sank in. She felt the softness of her bed and the warmth of the body curling around her and she was asleep again.

Marra awoke early. Ford was gone from the bed. Marra rose, it didn’t take her long to figure out where the Garron was. She discovered the door to the smaller sleeping chamber closed. Marra took a deep breath, trying to quell the queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.

She busied herself by taking a quick shower and then began fixing breakfast. As she prepared the food, the door to the smaller chamber opened. Marra glanced up to find Ford tying off the belt to her long robe. Behind her, she could see the redhead pulling on her robes and departing the room through the other door.

“Good morning, Marra.”

“Good morning, Ford,” Marra answered quietly as she dropped her head back to her task.

Ford pulled the door closed and stopped, considering the body language of the woman in front of her. “Something wrong?”

“No. Of course not.”

“You’re lying.” The Garron’s voice was deep and forceful.

“It is none of my business, Ford.”

Ford smiled as she made her way to the cooking area. “You’re right it’s not, but I’ll tell you just so you know. That woman is my wife.”

Marra looked up, the shock quite clear on her face. “Your…your…wife?”

“Yes. My wife, one of four actually.”

“I…I…don’t know…. I mean…I…”

Ford laughed as she kissed Marra on top of the head. “I’ll explain everything later. Right now I’ll be taking my bath.”

“Yes, Ford. Shall I draw it?”

“No. You just fix breakfast.”

Marra shook her head trying to let this new information sink in. She certainly didn’t understand why the Garron would keep her housed in the comfort and safety of her own quarters if she had so many wives. Surely, she would prefer the company of them.

She set the table, pouring Ford’s coffee as the tall woman entered the room. She glanced back to find Ford dressed in riding clothes.

“You should dress for the stables and the exercise ring today.”

“Yes, Ford.”

Ford held Marra’s chair, tilting her head, making it quite clear she wanted the little slave to be seated. As Marra settled into her chair, Ford settled into hers and reached over, taking Marra’s hand.

“I don’t love her. I don’t love any of them. They were all arranged marriages. They all have other mates as well, except for Danella, who is more than happy to stay with me. Why, I don’t know. I’ve told her over and over again to take another wife or a husband, or both.”

“You don’t owe me any explanations, Ford.”

“Yes, I do, Marra. I care for you a great deal. On some level it must bother you that I have Danella here. I am merely carrying out my marital duties to her. She lives in her own quarters, as do all my wives. Just look at me as the head of a very extended family.”

“Yes, Ford.” Marra nodded, doing her best to accept all of this information.

“Marra, I can go to her quarters if you prefer.”

“No!” Marra realized that her answer came too quickly. “I mean, why should you do that? She is your wife.”

“Will it make you feel any better if I tell you that I’ve never had any of them in our bed?”

“Our bed?”

“Well, it is a bed, correct?”

“Yes.”

“And you and I sleep in it, together?”

“Yes.”

“So that would make it our bed.”

Marra smiled as she nodded and began eating her breakfast. Ford liked that smile and decided that she wanted to see it more often.

“So.” Ford sipped her coffee as she decided to change the subject to something far more pleasant. “Are you going to ride Neyta today?”

“Ride her! Are you crazy?” The words were out before Marra could stop them. Ford’s laughter filled the room as Marra blushed. “I’m sorry, Ford. I just can’t picture myself riding Neyta.”

“Because you don’t know how, or because you’re afraid that she won’t let you?”

“Well, setting aside the fact that I don’t the first thing about actually riding her, I’m not sure she would let me.”

“Sure she will and I think you should have your first lesson today.” Ford’s grin was wide as she watched Marra nod.

“Yes, Ford.”

They led the serpentines from the stables to the exercise ring. Neyta complained to Marra that her halter was stiff and itched a great deal. Phoenix and Ford seemed to be playing as they walked ahead of them. Phoenix would nudge the tall woman with his head, then whenever she turned around to give his snout a playful smack he would lift his long neck up taking his head well out of reach.

“Keep it up,” Ford warned as she opened the door to the exercise ring. “You overgrown lizard.”

Once inside the huge room, with the doors securely closed. The halters were removed and the beasts were allowed to roam around the room, stretching their wings to full span. Marra marveled when Neyta took to the air and began flying around the room. The slave had never actually seen a serpentine in the air before and she had to admit it was a beautiful sight.

The high domed ceiling of the room gave the beast more than enough room to climb and dip through the air exercising her wings and body to its fullest. Phoenix watched and growled from the ground. His injuries kept him from taking to the air. He watched as Neyta glided around the room, stalking around the ring under her, growling and snorting at her. He flapped his wings in protest and reared to his hind legs.

Ford crossed her arms, leaning against the wall as she watched Phoenix try to call Neyta back to the ground with him. Marra ran her hands over Neyta’s harness as she watched them.

“He’s not happy.” Ford gestured to Phoenix as the silver-white serpentine continued his tirade.

“She’s doing it on purpose,” Marra offered as she worked the halter in her hands to try to make it a little more pliable. “To make him exercise.”

“Well, she’s doing a fine job of it,” Ford agreed as she moved to a processing unit and requested two cold drinks. She relaxed against the wall as she handed one of the drinks to Marra.

“Thank you.”

“Welcome. What are you doing?”

“Neyta says it’s stiff and it itches. I’m trying to loosen it up for her.”

“I’ll make sure to get you some oil for it. That’ll help.”

“Thank you.”

“Call her back to the ground before Phoenix has a complete breakdown.”

“Yes, Garron.” Marra stepped forward and watched as Neyta flew overhead.

* Come down now. Garron Ford commands it. *

* Yes Marra. *

The black beast landed smoothly at Phoenix’s side and gave him a nudge. He growled as he flapped his wings.

* He’s such a grouch. * Neyta offered as she gave him a stroking down his neck to soothe him.

Marra laughed as she watched the pair play, now that Neyta was back on the ground.

“What’s so funny?”

“She says he’s a grouch.”

“He can be. He has a very stubborn personality.”

“Hmm.” Marra nodded as she continued to work the harness.

“And what’s that supposed to mean little one?” Ford growled as she scooped Marra up in her arms.

Marra laughed as she struggled a bit. “Nothing. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Un-huh. Sounds to me like you were making a comparison.” Ford hoisted Marra over one shoulder. “Admit it. You think I’m stubborn too.”

“I never said that.” A smack to her backside made her flinch a bit.

“Admit it.”

“Okay, I think you have the ability to be stubborn.”

“Good girl.”

Ford pulled Marra from her shoulder and settled her back to the ground. She wrapped her arms around her waist and held her close. They looked to each other, eyes meeting again. Ford was simply compelled this time. She lowered her head, meeting Marra’s lips with her own. It was soft and gentle and over almost before it began. Ford pulled back as she realized what she was doing. “I’m sorry.” She released Marra and took a step back. “I didn’t mean to. I, uh….”

“Ford please don’t be sorry. I’m not.”

“It’s not right. I have no claim to you.” The tall woman turned and headed for the serpentines.

“Okay.” Marra dropped the harness then dashed to grab Ford by the arm, turning her around to face her. “That first night I was brought to you, what was all the posturing about?”

Ford laughed as she looked at Marra’s hand on her arm. “That was it, mostly posturing. I have a reputation among my men. It was for your protection just as much as it was for my reputation.”

“I see. So they were, umm,” Marra grinned, “idle threats or veiled promises?”

A quirked brow and a thin smile met the little slave. “You’ll have to wait and see. Now get your harness and let’s get to that lesson.”

“Yes, Ford.”

Marra ran back for the harness and then returned to Ford’s side. Neyta and Phoenix were playing on the dirt floor of the arena, throwing it over their bodies and rolling in it.

“I hate this part.” Ford grimaced as she moved into the dusty fray. She gave the bigger serpentine a healthy thump on the neck. “Behave!”

Phoenix drew back and reared his head, cocking it from side to side as he slowly lowered it to Ford’s shoulder and began purring.

“Water, Phoenix. You bathe in water, not dirt. Silly boy.” She gave him a good scratch along his head and neck. “Now Marra is going to take Neyta for a ride and I want you to be good.”

Neyta lumbered forward to meet Marra. * You’ve never ridden before? *

* No. *

* I promise to be gentle. * Neyta knelt down, tucking her front legs in front of her and lowering her head.

“Thanks so much,” Marra offered aloud as she slipped the harness over the beasts head and fastened it into place. “What about a riding harness?”

“You won’t need one for in here. She won’t be moving that fast. Just use her front leg like a step and swing your leg over her neck and scoot back to her back. Keep your legs tucked under and in front of her wings. Use your thighs and knees to guide her direction along with the reins.” Ford grinned as she stroked Neyta’s long nose. “And you may want to tell her to stay on the ground.”

“You mean she can take to the air with me up here?”

“Oh yeah.”

“That would be very bad.”

“Then keep her on the ground.”

“Oh like I can make her do anything.”

“You’d better hope you can.” Ford grinned as she stepped back.

“Ford!” Marra yelped as Neyta stood, jerking the little woman back then forward as she took her first steps. “Neyta be good.”

* Please, Marra, don’t fear. I won’t do anything that you can’t handle. Just relax. *

“Easy for you to say. I’m riding you, you’re not riding me.”

Marra was sure she heard the beast laugh as they started to move around the ring at a slow pace. Ford watched with delight as Marra and Neyta found a good rhythm together.

She watched as Marra finally began to relax and she noticed how docile the serpentine was being. She knew the beast had never been ridden before and she had the potential to be explosive. It had taken her weeks of training to break Phoenix to the halter and harness and she had hand raised him from a hatchling.

Phoenix snorted and pushed Ford with his head. She turned to face him. He looked back and raised his wings.

“No boy, not today. You’re not ready. You still need time.”

Phoenix lowered his face to Ford’s, met her nose to nose and growled.

“Your breath stinks.” She laughed as she pushed his face away. “Remind me to give you some Gena root and have your teeth brushed. Yuck!”

Phoenix grumbled and blew a deep breath at the tall woman.

“Oh gross!” She waved the foul odor away as Neyta and Marra completed their first circuit.

“What?” Marra stopped Neyta with a gentle tug.

“Phoenix is trying to kill me with his breath.”

Marra laughed as Neyta tossed her head just a bit.

“So what do you think?” Ford gestured to the serpentine. “Do you enjoy it?”

“Actually, I do.”

“Good, very good. Hopefully we’ll be able to take them off ship when we arrive at fleet headquarters and allow them to run outside for a bit. Phoenix likes it planet side. He likes to eat the vegetation.”

* I would like that a great deal ,Marra. *

“Well, if we can manage it, I’m sure we will Neyta.” She leaned forward, giving the beast a good scratch on the neck.

LOG SIX

Marra jerked out of her sleep as the alarm sounded. Ford was on her feet gathering her robe and dashing for a closet to grab a uniform.

“Report!” She yelled as she began pulling on her clothes.

Marra was up almost as quickly tying off her robe and finding Ford’s boots, which she handed to her master.

“Squad of rival fighters and one small attack cruiser within a half sector Garron Ford.” A voice offered from the com panel.

“Scans?” Ford sat on the couch and pulled on her boots.

“Another fifteen attack cruisers within the sector. All headed our direction.”

“Ship status?”

“We are at full fighting capability Garron Ford.”

“Launch Apha and Beta fighter squads. Ready my transport.”

“As you decree Garron Ford. Command out”

Ford rose from the couch and moved to Marra. She took her hands and kissed them lightly. “Stay here. I’ll be back soon.”

“Ford? Take me with you. Please don’t leave me behind.”

“Marra it’s a battle. I can’t take you into this.” She smiled at the young woman. “Everything will be okay.” She caressed Marra’s cheek and smiled. “I promise.”

The little woman smiled weakly and nodded. “Please be careful.”

“I will little one, I will.” Ford kissed the top of Marra’s head and left their quarters.

As the door slid shut, Marra realized it would be best to get dressed and find something to do, because there would be no rest for her until Ford returned. She dressed quickly, running her fingers through her hair and splashing water on her face to wake herself up completely.

As she rubbed a towel over her face she stared in the mirror. “You knew this could happen. You’ve spent your life on these ships.” She brushed the towel over her face again as she continued to consider her reflection. “You’ve prayed for your masters to go to battle and die. Will you wish that upon Ford too?”

She dropped the towel over the rack and straightened it slowly. Then she clicked off the light and left the room. She made the bed then began cleaning the quarters.

The rooms didn’t need to be cleaned. They had been immaculate when she arrived and they had remained that way. She only had to spend a few moments a day straightening up, to keep them in the condition they had been in when she arrived. She stood by the bookcases and fingered the spines of the books. She realized that some of them were very old and very, very rare.

She smiled when she thought of the book Ford had given her a few days before. How patient the woman had been with her when she came across a few words she didn’t understand and how she had taken the time to explain it to her. The memory of the smile on Ford’s face as she sipped her coffee and explained the pages made Marra’s heart beat a little harder.

She moved away from the bookcase just as the first explosion rippled through the ship. She stopped in the center of the room, just barely feeling it, but knowing deep down inside that somewhere on the massive ship there indeed had been an explosion.

Marra knew instinctively that outside, in the blackness that surround them, there were fighters firing on the ship and engaging the fighters that Ford had ordered launched. She also knew that Ford had taken her command transport out into the fight. All she could now was wait. Either Ford would return or someone would come fetch her and she would be taken or sold to a new master.

She wanted Ford to return.

Marra drew a deep breath as she heard the external door to the smaller sleeping chamber room open and close. Then the door that connected the rooms opened and she was face to face with Danella.

“So,” the woman stepped into the room and regarded the little blonde. “You’re the one warming her bed at night.”

Marra straightened her shoulders and looked the woman in the eye. “I serve Garron Ford.”

“I heard she had taken a slave.” The taller woman circled Marra as if she were inspecting her. “She’s never done that before. You’re very small. Maybe she took pity on you.” She completed her circle, standing face to face, she sneered, “I could ask her to get rid of you, you know. I am her wife. I should be sharing her quarters. I should be living here with her.”

“Do you make her happy?”

“What?”

“Do you make her happy? Do you cook for her? Do you take care of her?”

“There is no need for that. Everything she needs is provided by the replication unit, she simply has to request the things she requires.”

“Apparently not everything. You can’t request companionship and friendship from a replication unit.”

“You brash, insignificant whore!” The woman drew her hand back and slapped Marra hard, sending the little woman to the floor. “I am her wife. I can give her anything she requires.”

Marra picked herself up from the floor and stood once again, squaring her shoulders. She could feel the blood trickling down her chin and the pulsating in her eye. She knew that soon it would begin to swell shut and bruise. She made no motion to touch her face or acknowledge the injuries. “As you say. I only serve her.”

“Yes, well we’ll see how much longer that lasts. What is your name, whore?

“My name is Marra. I am not a whore.”

Another slap, she was prepared for it this time and the blow didn’t send her to the floor. She let her head roll with the jolt to keep it from doing much more damage. She turned her head back she let her tongue taste the blood that had been drawn that time.

“You are what I say you are. You are Ford’s property. Therefor, you are my property.”

Neyta’s eyes opened and she craned her neck, snorting and growling as she got up from Phoenix and began pacing the stall. She tossed her head back and forth frustrated at her inability to communicate with the little blonde at such a distance.

When she howled her frustration, Phoenix rose and tried to calm his mate. She hissed at him and drew her head back. She felt something was wrong and she wanted to help and protect her mistress. Her anger was growing by the second, she flapped her wings and howled again.

The handler on duty came into the stall area and watched the serpentine raging. He removed a dart gun from the holster at his hip and fired the sedative into the beast’s neck.

He waited and watched from a distance as Neyta crumpled to her knees then collapsed to the floor of the stall. Phoenix was with her a second later, covering her protectively with his own body and snarling at the handler.

“It’s okay boy. She was upset because of the battle.” The handler spoke in low, soothing tones as he approached. “She’ll be okay in a few hours.”

Phoenix growled, low and threatening as he eyed the handler. The handler could see the female was still breathing and he knew better than to try and get in that stall to remove the dart. He sighed as he turned to check the other beasts.

Ford maneuvered her ship passed the rival fighter then banked a hard right to roll up and come in from behind for the kill. “Acquire target!”

A series of beeps then a long tone told her the ship had been targeted. Ford’s hands moved over the console, sending a series of bursts at the ship in front of her. She watched as the ship as it simply seemed to fall to pieces before her eyes. “Capri carry that soul.” She prayed aloud as she watched the fragments float away.

As she turned again her small craft again, she watched as her fighters engaged the rivals and watched as her ship was attacked by the smaller and much more maneuverable attack craft that had been sent to ambush her larger battle cruiser. They reminded her of little parasites slowly eating their prey alive.

“Ford to Command. Report.”

“We have sustained light damage Garron Ford. Our shields are holding at ninety eight percent. All defense grids are on line and firing at full capacity.”

“Very good. Causalities?”

“None to report at this time Garron Ford.”

“Excellent. Well done. Ford out.”

Ford banked again, as the sensors of her ship told her she was being targeted. “This,” She growled as she maneuvered her ship out of the line of fire. “is no way to spend a perfectly good morning. I was very happy in bed.” She sighed as she took her ship down the center of her cruiser, targeting the smaller attack cruisers.

Marra stood looking in the mirror. Her left eye was swollen shut and both lips were busted and bleeding profusely. She looked at her shredded shirt, which she removed and threw away. She turned to look at the lash marks across her back, a tear slipped down her cheek as she tried to touch the marks. She heard the door open and close. She quickly pulled on a robe to hide her back.

“Marra!” Ford called as she moved into the room. She had her back turned when Marra stepped out of the bathroom. She turned around to find the small woman standing before her clutching the robe around her throat with her head down.

Ford watched in disbelief as a crimson tear dropped off Marra’s cheek to her robe. She crossed the room in two long strides and lifted the little woman’s face.

“Marra what happened? Who did this to you? Marra dropped her head only to have it gently lifted again. “Who?”

“Not important.” Marra wanted to burst into tears from the pain and the humiliation, but she swallowed hard and held them back.

“It is important. I want to know. Marra, you promised never to lie to me and a lie of omission is still a lie.”

“Danella.” She answered softly.

“What? She came here, while I was gone?”

Marra only nodded, her busted mouth made speaking painful and difficult. She cried out as she felt herself lifted into Ford’s arms. She couldn’t help but clutch the tall woman’s uniform as the pain shot through her back.

“Shhh. I’ve got you. You’re going to be okay.” Ford whispered as she headed out the door to the medical lab. “You’re gonna be all right Marra. I promise you. And Danella will not go unpunished for this.”

“No, no Ford please. She already wants you to get rid of me. She called me a whore and….”

“Oh someone is leaving all right, but it’s not you.”

“Please….” Her tears flowed as freely as her battered face would allow. “If you….”

“Marra, I am the head of my family and I will not allow anyone to mistreat you.”

“She said I am her property too, since she is your wife. She had the right.”

“No! No one has the right to touch you.” Ford held the woman as close as she could get her as they entered the lift that would carry them to the medical deck. “Just rest.” Ford whispered in her ear.

Marra closed her eyes and buried her face to hide it from the three people who shared the lift and stared at her.

“Is she all right, Garron Ford?” A soft voice offered, from the back of the lift.

Ford craned her neck to find a young doctor standing behind them. “She’s been beaten. I want her treated.”

“I’d be happy to take care of her for you.” The young woman stepped forward laying a gentle hand on Marra’s arm. “I’m Doctor Carlisle. What’s your name?” She asked softly as she tried to see the wounds.

“Marra.” It was not much more than a whimper and it broke Ford’s heart.

“Okay Marra. We’ll go get you settled in the med lab and take very good care of you, okay?”

Ford felt the nod against her chest. She gently brushed her lips over Marra’s forehead, resting her cheek against the top of the blonde head. “We’ll take good care of you.” She whispered as she closed her eyes and offered a prayer of forgiveness for what was going to befall Danella for this very hasty act.

Ford followed the doctor into the lab and carefully laid Marra on a bed. The blonde cried out again and rolled to her side, with her back to Ford. It was then, the tall woman saw to blood soaking through the robe. She watched quietly, as the doctor slowly stripped the garment away to reveal the whip lashed back.

Ford stormed across the room, feeling rage and anger through very fiber of her being. Her hand came up hard against the com panel. “Ford to security!”

“Yes, Garron Ford.” A deep male voice responded without hesitation. “Carron Alloton here.”

“Carron, I want you to send a security team to the quarters belonging to my wife, Danella. I want her placed under arrest. Take her to the darkest, dankest, most filthy, vile part of this ship you can find and hold her there until I get there. She is to talk to no one. She is to have no visitors and I want her stripped to the barest of clothes before you take her to her cell.”

“As you decree Garron Ford.”

Ford let her head drop forward as she closed her eyes and allowed what she had seen settle into her mind’s eye. “I’m sorry Marra. I’ll make this right. Capri forgive me for what will befall Danella, but she has pushed me too far and brought this upon her own head.”

She drew a deep breath and returned to Marra’s bedside. The slave had been stripped out of her clothes, a temporary bandage placed on her back, she had been sedated and was now laying on her back covered with a sheet. Ford took her hand as she knelt next to the table and allowed her other hand to comb through Marra’s hair.

The doctor worked quickly and quietly, tending to the young woman with soft words and gentle hands. She moved to the foot of the bed and began her exam. Ford’s eyes snapped shut against the pain when she realized what the doctor was looking for. The painful gasp torn from Marra’s throat sent shivers down her spine. Slowly she turned her head toward the doctor and opened her eyes. She watched and she waited.

The doctor gave a little smile as she replace the sheet over Marra’s feet, wrapping them back up to keep them warm. She looked to Ford, who questioned with a lifted brow.

“There is some bruising, but she is still intact. An attempt may have been made, but it either failed or was stopped. It looks like she put up a struggle.”

Ford let loose a heavy breath of relief with the news. She nodded and returned her eyes to Marra’s face. She ran her fingers through the woman’s hair and spoke in soft tones. “You’re going to be all right Marra. Doctor Carlisle is going to give you the best care available.”

“I’m sorry.” It was not much more than a sleepy sounding little whimper from Marra as she struggled to open her eyes.

“Sorry? Sorry for what?”

“That Danella is so angry.”

“She always has been a manipulative, possessive woman, but this time she has gone too far.”

“She,” Marra grimaced in pain as she tried to lick her lips. “She wants you.”

“She can’t have me.” Ford smiled as she leaned up and placed a soft kiss on Marra’s head. “I want you to rest and let the doctor take care of you. I’ll be back later.”

Marra nodded. She wanted Ford to stay with her, but even in her drug-induced haze she still remembered her place.

“Garron Ford?” Doctor Carlisle called softly as she stepped away from Marra’s bed.

“Yes?”

“Do you want me to send someone for her slave collar, or will you bring it down when you return?”

Ford looked to the bed and drew a deep breath. “That woman is never to wear a collar again.”

“Yes, Garron Ford.”

“And I want you to make sure she has everything she needs. I want her to have the best of everything.”

“As you decree Garron Ford.”

Ford turned on her heals and left the room. She allowed herself to grow angrier as she walked to the security level. There were always faster ways to travel through the ship, but anytime Ford needed time to think she found that she liked taking her time. Now her walk was for a different reason entirely.

She entered the security office and looked to the monitors that viewed into the holding cells. A young guard came forward and offered a salute, which Ford waved off. “Which cell is she in?”

“Number six Garron Ford.”

Her head turned to the monitor for the number six cell. Danella lay curled up on a bunk, dressed only in a light sleeping gown.

“She’s been asking for you.” The guard offered as he handed a data link to Ford. “This is my report on her arrest.”

Ford looked over the report. A smile curled at the edge of her lips. “She wasn’t alone?”

“Umm,” the young man shifted nervously. “No Garron Ford, she had a man with her. They were in bed together when we made entry.”

“Is there any doubt in your mind about what they were doing?” She arched a brow as her grin grew wider.

“No Garron Ford, there is no doubt. They were making love.”

“Oh this is too good.” She glanced up at the screen. “Prepare to spend the rest of your natural life in there Danella.” She turned to the guard. “I’ll be going in there now. If you are the least bit squeamish, turn this off.”

The young guard reached out and clicked the monitor off. “I’m not squeamish Garron Ford, but what ever happens in there is between you and your wife and none of my business.”

“Thank you.”

Ford tossed the data link on the desk and made her way to the cell. She laid her hand on the lock and the door slid open. She stepped inside and drew a deep breath, crossing her arms against her chest as the door slid shut.

Danella bolted from the bed and tried to run into Ford’s arms. She found herself making solid contact with the back of the tall woman’s hand as she was slapped to the floor. She looked up as her own hand covered her cheek and tears streamed down her cheeks. “Ford? What’s going on?”

“I should ask you the same thing.”

“Ford, please tell me what’s going on.” The woman moved to her knees and remained there as she looked up to the Garron.

“Oh I don’t even know where to start. Should I start with the fact that you came to my private quarters, while I was engaged in battle and beat Marra? Or should I start with, after you beat Marra you went back to your quarters and cheated on me.”

“I…I…Ford she’s only a slave.”

“Forget her for a minute. Let’s talk about the fact that you’re sleeping with someone you’re not married to. I can keep you in here for the rest of your natural life for that.”

“Ford, for Capri’s sake!”

“I told you to take other spouses. You told me no. You said I was the only one you wanted to be married to. The only one you wanted to be with.” She leaned over and sneered, “And you had the audacity to call Marra a whore.”

“You’re only doing this because of her!”

“She’s one of the reasons yes, but thankfully you gave me the reason to lock you up for the rest of your life.”

“Ford you can’t do this!”

“Oh but I can, dear wife. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. You will never see the outside of a cell again. This is your life from this point on Danella. Pray to Capri for a short one.”

Ford smiled as she turned and left the cell.

LOG SEVEN

Ford rubbed her eyes, trying to stay awake as she sat by the slave’s bed. The little woman slept now, the Garron was grateful for that. She took Marra’s hand, giving it a soft kiss. “I’m so sorry this happened to you. I promise you, Danella will pay for this for a long time to come.”

Dr. Carlisle watched from her office as the Garron fought sleep. She finally stood and smoothed her uniform as she walked out to the exam room. “Garron?”

“Yes?”

“Let me put you in a private room, so that you might rest.”

“No. I won’t leave her.”

“Both of you. I can move both of you to a private room.”

“That would be very kind of you.”

“Garron if you don’t mind my asking, why? I mean she’s simply a slave.”

“She not.” The tall woman answered quietly as she combed back blonde locks. “She’s more than that.”

“If you say so, I of course, will not argue with you Garron.” The doctor moved a transport bed next to Marra.

“I’ll carry her.” Ford stated simply as she placed her arms under the little woman.

“As you wish Garron.”

Ford lifted Marra gently into her arms. The blonde whimpered and clutched Ford’s shirt, moaning softly, but never waking from the sedatives. “I have you Marra. You’re safe. Capri, help her through the pain. I’ll make any sacrifice you ask of me.”

The doctor led the Garron to a private room where there was a large bed. Ford looked around the ornate room as she placed Marra in the bed, covering her with soft blankets. “What is this place?”

“Your private room should you ever need medical care.”

“I didn’t know it existed.”

“You’ve never used it. Whenever you’ve required medical attention you’ve always refused to stay. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of room in the bed for the both of you. As a doctor I must insist that you get some rest Garron Ford.”

Ford smiled and nodded as she wiped tears from her very tired eyes. “Thank you doctor I’ll do that now.”

“There are fresh sleeping clothes in the closet. They are tailored for you.”

Doctor Carlisle checked her patient, then quietly left the room. Ford took the time to shower before changing into sleeping clothes. She carefully slipped into bed with Marra, keeping a considerable distance between them, as not to disturb the injured woman. She lay on her side watching Marra sleep until her own exhaustion took over and her eyes slipped shut.

A few hours later, the doctor returned to the room to check her patient. She shook her head as she adjusted the medical scanner to block out the Garron’s bio scan. The little woman was curled up tightly, tucked protectively in the arms of the Garron as they slept facing each other. She sighed a bit as she adjusted the scanner. She could filter out everything but the Garron’s heartbeat. She realized as she looked at the device that their hearts were beating in perfect harmony with each other.

“Amazing.” She mumbled, making another adjustment. As she performed the scan again she felt eyes upon her. Looking down, soft blue eyes met hers.

“How is she?” Ford whispered, having no desire to move herself or disturb Marra.

“Much better. Her life signs are much stronger.”

“When can I take her home?”

“If she continues to improve overnight, first thing in the morning.”

“Good. I want her home. How long will it take her to heal?” The question was asked as a soft kiss was placed in the top of Marra’s head.

“She’s going to be sore for several days. She should be fine in a couple of weeks. Now get some more rest. I won’t disturb you again until morning.”

Ford closed her eyes once again. Marra snuggled closer to the tall woman, murmuring just slightly as warm blankets were pulled over her shoulders.

Marra tried tentatively opening her eyes. The bruised eye opened, but her vision was blurry. Stretching also caused some discomfort and a protest from Ford, who still held her. Marra took a mental inventory of her injuries, she realized that the beating was one of the worst she had ever received. She tried to remember the whole attack. She knew that Ford would want all the details. While she was more than upset and embarrassed she knew her Master deserved answers to the questions she would ask.

Ford groaned, rolling onto her back. She slowly opened her eyes, turning her head slowly to look at Marra. “Morning.”

“Morning.” The slave offered softly. Her jaw and mouth still ached, she hoped it would pass quickly so that she might be back up to serving Ford quickly.

“Easy. Don’t push yourself.” The Garron moved up, placing a pillow behind her back so she could rest against the back of the bed.

“Home?”

“Later. I promise you. Just as soon as the doctor says it’s okay.” Ford placed a gentle hand on the side of Marra’s face that wasn’t bruised. “I’ll be there to take good care of you.”

Marra smiled, laughing a little. “I serve….”

“You get well.” Ford gave a phony growl as she leaned in nose to nose with the little blonde. She smiled, then kissed the nose before her. “You got it?”

Marra nodded.

“Good girl.”

Two hours later, Ford offered Marra the choice of resting in bed or curled up on the couch, she chose the couch. Settled there, she found herself tucked under a warm blanket with thick pillows supporting her back. Warm tea and hot cereal was prepared by Ford’s own hand in the cooking area. It was then served on a tray with a fresh flower the Garron told her was a rose. She smiled up at the tall woman as she contemplated the tray.

“Eat.” Came the playful command, from the tall woman. “Or would you like me to feed you?”

“No.” Marra motioned Ford back. “I can do it.”

“Every bite.”

“Yes Ford.”

“I have a meeting, which I’ll be having in my office here, but if you need anything you just call, okay?”

“Yes Ford.”

Ford settled behind her desk with her feet propped up on the corner when the chimes sounded. She opened the drawer and removed a small knife, which she began using to clean under her nails.

“Come.”

Sarron Roran entered the office. He came to attention immediately. “You requested to see me Garron Ford?”

“I did.” She looked up from her nails as she considered the man before her. “You know why I called you here?”

“Yes Garron.”

“Sleeping with my wife. Silly move young man.” She returned to cleaning her nails with the knife.

“I…I…can offer no excuse Garron Ford.”

“Good, because I’m not interested in one. All I want to know is are you the one who tried to rape Marra or was that Danella?”

“She wanted me to do it, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The girl was fighting and I just….” His head dropped as the memory came back to him.

“Do you know what kind of punishment I could inflict upon you?”

“Yes Garron. Anything you choose.”

“Yes. I’ve put Danella where she belongs. Of course this isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me. Were you after my command?”

“No Garron. I really felt affection for Danella. I had hoped she would marry me, but she kept telling me no.”

Ford reached over to the com panel on her desk. “Ford to security.”

“Yes Garron.”

“Give me a vid link to my wife’s cell.”

“Yes Garron.”

“Screen down.” A vid screen dropped down behind the Sarron. “Turn around and face it.” Ford ordered. The young man did as he was commanded. The screen came to life, showing him the woman who had been imprisoned. She stood immediately facing the screen.

“Ford! Thank Capri!” Danella spoke as she moved closer to the screen.

“Don’t get excited Danella. You’re not going anywhere. I just want to know something. Do you have feelings for this man?”

“Ford I never meant to hurt you….”

“I don’t recall saying I was hurt. I asked you if you have feelings for this man? Answer me.”

“I am very fond of him.”

The Garron stood, tossing the knife in the air and catching it as she crossed to stand next to him. “Really? So if I were to hurt him….”

“Ford please don’t!”

“Oh so you’re willing to beg for him? Tell me Danella, did Marra beg? Did she beg you not to hurt her? Did she beg you not to let this man rape her?”

“She wasn’t….” The redhead protested only to have Ford raise her hand.

“No she wasn’t, but Roran says she wasn’t because he couldn’t. He says you wanted him too. Is that true?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I wanted to hurt her.”

“Why?”

“You willingly share your life with a slave, but not your own wife.”

“The slave treats me better.”

“It is her duty.”

“No. It is her nature.” Ford placed the knife to Roran’s throat. “And unfortunately for you, this is mine.” With the final statement, Ford made a quick and clean cut across Roran’s throat. She let his body drop to the floor, making sure to step around the blood pooling at her boots. “Too bad I won’t be giving you the same peace Danella. Screen off.”

Ford cleaned her knife then replaced it in her desk. She settled on the corner and used the com link. ” Major Carron Gallet. Report to the office in my quarters.”

“Yes Garron Ford.”

The tall woman settled down behind her desk, taking out her prayer book she said a quiet prayer for the soul released at her own hand, then inscribed his name in the back of the book with all the others. She took the time to flip through the pages and look at all the names. Then she remembered to place the marks for the people she had killed in battle yesterday. The overall count was in the thousands now. As she flipped through the book she was amazed that she knew so many names of the people she had killed.

When the chimes rang again she offered one final prayer and put the book away. “Come.”

Another young man entered the office. His eyes widened at the body on the floor. He was quick to catch himself and come to attention. “Garron Ford?”

“Congratulations Gallet. You’ve just been promoted to Sarron. You’re now second in command. I’ll be taking the next two weeks off until we reach our destination. I am not to be disturbed unless it is an emergency.” She stood, giving a glance down at the body. “Clean that up.”

Ford left the office, returning to Marra, who was dozing on the couch. She had set her tray aside and found her book. Now it rested on her chest as she slept. Ford removed it gently, placing it on the table.

“Ford?” Marra tried to sit up only to find a large hand on her shoulder.

“Rest.”

“Neyta. I need to check her.”

“I’m sure she is fine.”

Marra shook her head. “No. There is something wrong. We need to go to the stables. Please?”

“All right. All right. If it’ll make you feel better. Let me call for my personal transport.”

Marra tried to smile as she sat up, but her busted mouth made it hurt. She brought her hand to her lips as she raised a brow at Ford. “If you have a transport, why have we been walking everywhere?”

Ford tossed her head back, laughing hard as she made the request for the transport. She was laughing so hard, the officer at the other end had to ask her to repeat her request.

“My transport you idiot. My personal transport. Send it and a driver to my quarters.” She continued to laugh, tapping off the link to the com panel. She returned to Marra, offering her a hand. “Now you need to get dressed.

Marra nodded, not sure how quickly she’d be able to accomplish the feat today. Slowly she rose from the couch. When she faltered a bit she wasn’t surprised to feel strong hands balance her. She had discovered very quickly that Ford had the fastest reflexes she had ever seen. “Thank you.”

“Do you need help dressing?”

“No.” The blonde had no desire for Ford to see the marks all over her body. She allowed the shame to overwhelm her once again, dropping her head.

“Marra,” The tall woman placed her hand gently under the small woman’s face, lifting it to meet her own. “You didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t your fault.”

“I must have done something. I just wish I knew what it was. I don’t want to make the same mistake again.”

“No, no,” Ford reassured her, pulling the little woman into her arms gently. “Danella is unbalanced. She only wanted to hurt you because she was jealous.”

“Jealous? Why would she be jealous of me?”

“Because I love you.” Ford sighed as she placed a kiss to the top of Marra’s head. “Now go get dressed.”

Marra pulled away slowly, watching as Ford cleared the dishes. The Garron had just said she loved her. What did she mean by that? She wanted to ask the question, but she knew better. She turned, moving to her cabinet to withdraw clothing.

Neyta raised her head the moment she felt Marra enter the stables. She was still too weak to move her body. Phoenix stirred the moment he felt his mate move. He reared up growling, and flapping his wings as he swished his tail forcefully.

Marra was off the back of Ford’s transport, before it even stopped. She moved as quickly as possible to the stall. Phoenix reared at her growling and baring his teeth.

Ford jumped from the transport and was at Marra’s side. “Easy boy!” She spoke to the silver-white beast, raising her hands to try and calm him. She slowly opened the stall door, entering very carefully as she spoke in low hushed tones. “Easy fella. We’re here to help.”

Ford managed to back Phoenix down and calm him. She motioned Marra into the stall. The slave entered, kneeling immediately next to the black beast. Neyta lifted her head, placing it in Marra’s lap.

* Help Marra. Drugs. *

“They drugged her Ford.”

“What?”

“They used drugs on her.” Marra stroked the beast’s head. “Oh no!”

“What? Marra what’s wrong?” Ford inquired stroking Phoenix’s neck to keep him calm.

“She’s mated with Phoenix. She’s pregnant. The drugs are killing the hatchling. Ford we’ve got to do something or they’ll both die.”

The Garron left the stall immediately. She stormed into the keeper’s office, dragging the man out of his chair. She pinned him against the wall lifting him from the floor. “Who? Who dared touch my serpentines?”

“I…I…don’t know Garron. I just came on duty.” The man struggled only to be slammed again the wall again. “Find them. Find the person who did this. And bring me a medical kit.” She dropped the man to the floor.

Before leaving the office she punched her hand through a glass cabinet full of medications. She tossed vials to the floor until she found what she needed. Taking a needle, she loaded the meds into it, then returned to Marra and Neyta.

Phoenix growled a little as Ford injected the small beast. She looked up to her own serpentine. “She’s okay boy. We’re gonna make her all right. She and your baby will be just fine.”

LOG EIGHT

Ford settled down in the back of the stall. She spread the blankets and pillows out to make a nice soft bed for them. She knew that Marra wouldn’t leave Neyta until she was sure the danger had passed. The beast had been treated for the dose of sedative that had nearly claimed it and the life of it’s baby. She was responding well, but Marra remained steadfast in her desire to stay with the beast.

The tall woman lay on her side, head resting in palm of her hand as she watched the little woman with the beast. She wondered why someone as lovely as this girl had been born to such a poor station. Marra was everything that Ford had ever wished for. She was kind, gentle and obviously very loving. She smiled as she watched her talk to both the beasts, stroking their heads and reassuring them that everything would be all right. It appeared to Ford, that even her own beloved Phoenix was bonding with the little blonde.

The Garron watched for quite sometime, until she saw the signs of fatigue taking over the little woman. Moving to her, she pulled her up by the shoulders, leading her to the bed at the back of the stall. “Rest.” She whispered.

“You must be hungry Ford. I should….”

“You should do what I tell you. I told you to rest.”

“Yes Ford.” Marra complied with her Master’s orders, stretching out on the makeshift bed.

“Now,” Ford knelt down, running her fingers through the blonde hair. “Are you hungry?”

“Just a little.” The grumble from her stomach gave her quiet words more emphasis.

“Un-huh, just a little.” Ford smiled.

“Okay, maybe more than a little.”

Ford nodded, getting to her feet. “Maybe. Stay here, I’ll be right back.”

Marra watched the tall woman leave. She wondered about the words the Garron had said to her, ‘I love you’. She couldn’t believe that Ford had meant them literally. What if she had? The Garron certainly wouldn’t give her heart to someone like her, a mere slave. Her finger slid unconsciously to her throat. She sat up immediately, panicked by the thought of not having her collar. Surely this would result in another beating, one she didn’t think she could handle. Tears streamed freely down her cheeks as she curled up against the wall, waiting for Ford to return.

The tall woman scowled at the replication unit. What to feed the little slave? Surely she was not ready for solid food yet, but the thought of feeding her soft foods even made the Garron’s stomach queasy. She gave it a little more consideration then placed her choices for a meal.

She most certainly wasn’t prepared for the sight she found when she returned to the stall. She entered, placing the tray on a shelf, then dropped to her knees pulling Marra into her arms. “Hey what’s wrong?”

Marra’s hand traveled to her throat as the sobs wracked her body.

“What? Marra please tell me.”

“I’m…I’m sorry….”

“Sorry? Sorry for what?”

“I forgot….” The little woman trembled harder, leaving the Garron in a very confused state.

“Forgot what?”

“Collar.” She choked. “My collar.”

Ford exhaled a heavy breath. “Is that all it is? Marra I don’t want you to wear it anymore.” She wiped the tear stained cheeks slowly, gently. “I don’t ever want to see it on you again.”

“But….”

“But nothing. As soon as we reach command, I intend to petition the council for citizenship for you.”

“Ford you can’t do that.” She sniffed.

“Umm excuse me?” Dark brows shot straight into Ford’s bangs. “And why not?”

“I mean…I just…you…” Marra stammered, pulling away a bit. “Why would you do that?”

“I told you, I love you.”

“About that.”

Ford got to her feet retrieving the tray. “Yes. What about it?”

“I’m, umm, well a little confused. Love me? How could that be? We’ve only known each other a little more than a week.”

“I’ve known you a lot longer.” Ford answered simply, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Marra nodded slowly. She wondered if Ford had taken a bump to the head during her last mission. “Okay.”

“Capri has shown me your face many times. You are my destiny. Everything I do now, I do for you.” The Garron handed Marra a cup of a semi solid stew like substance.

“Ford this all sounds so, forgive me, insane.”

“I’m sure it does.” She agreed, taking a bite of her own stew. “But,” she waved her spoon at Marra. “You do trust me, don’t you?”

“With my life.”

“How about your soul?”

“If you wish it.”

“No,” Ford shook her head. “Not if I wish it. Do you trust me, with your soul?”

“Yes.”

“Then believe in me.”

“I do.”

“Good. Now that, that’s settled, eat and get some rest. I want you to get better so I can give you another sound thumping on the Makti court.”

Marra ate her stew, deciding not to remind Ford she had lost the last time they played Makti.

Ford stretched, reaching out to find the bed empty. She opened very tired eyes to find Marra feeding both Neyta and Phoenix from her hand. The blonde turned, offering a very sweet smile. “Good morning.”

“Couldn’t prove it by me.” Ford groaned, stretching again. It had been a long time since she had slept anywhere, but in the comfort of her own bed.

“Coffee?”

“Oh yes please.” The tall woman nodded, rolling over and executing a push up that looked as if it would bring her out of the bed. She held it for a moment then just collapsed back into the bed with a soft thump and a groan.

“Are you all right?” Marra grinned, stroking Neyta’s face and looking to her Master. She could tell that Ford wasn’t hurt or injured. She was just apparently really, very tired.

“I’m fine, I didn’t sleep very well.” She mumbled out of the side of her mouth, nuzzling the pillow.

“Why not?”

“Because, ‘someone’ kept climbing on top of me in her sleep.” Ford opened one eye that held a hint of playfulness. “Apparently, mistaking me for a mattress of some sort.”

“A very warm and soft one I’m sure.”

“Un-huh. You mentioned coffee?”

“Yes Ford.” Marra brushed her hands free of the feed she had been giving the beasts then turned to go get Ford’s coffee.

The Garron closed her eyes, remembering the feel of Marra’s body lying on top of her own last night and trying to fight back the feelings that it had evoked deep down. “No Ford, be good.” She said aloud, so her mind and body would obey. Unfortunately for Ford, she found herself very worked up and it was not going to be easy to rid herself of this frustration. Every time she moved she felt Marra move with her. “Capri give me strength.” She groaned, rolling over to face the wall.

Marra moved from her spot at the corner of the stall where she had been watching the tall woman. She cleared her throat as she knelt next to Ford, holding out the coffee. Ford drew a deep breath and rolled over, sitting up she accepted the cup.

“Thank you Marra.”

“You’re welcome.

The Garron reached out, running gentle fingers over bruised flesh. “How do you feel today?”

“Better. Stiff and a little sore, but most of the pain is fading.”

“I’m glad.” She stared into her coffee cup. “Why didn’t you beg?”

“Ford?”

“Why didn’t you beg Danella to stop? She would have, if you had begged.”

“I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of hearing me beg her for anything.”

A wide smile broke across Ford’s face as she pulled Marra down next to her and settled against the wall. “That’s my girl.” She was happy with the way the little woman was learning to curl into her body and relax in her embrace. She let loose a very happy little sigh, sipping her coffee as she closed her eyes to savor all the sensations.

“I think you should.” Ford proclaimed, taking a fresh change of clothing from her closet.

“Without your mark? Ford I don’t know if I can.”

“Sure you can. It’s just a trip to the library.”

“I…”

“Marra. I gave you the title of two books.” Ford wasn’t taking no for answer here. She turned and crossed her arms. “Please go to the library and get them for me.”

“Can I at least take my col….”

“No.”

Marra dropped her eyes then moved hesitantly to the door of their quarters. She decided to give it on last try. “Ford?”

“Marra go.” The tall woman intoned firmly without turning around.

“Yes Ford.”

She stepped out into the corridor. Feeling alone and scared the second the door closed behind her. She was alone without Ford or even her collar that showed her as Ford’s property. She would have had the courage to carry out this errand if she at least had some sort of mark to show her as Ford’s. Slowly, she crept along the wall, following Ford’s directions that would lead her to the ship’s library.

Ford’s shoulders dropped a bit when she heard the door close. She knew Marra was scared, but she also knew she was going to have to teach the woman to stand on her own two feet if she intended to set her free when they arrived at command. Marra would have to be able to function on her own and Ford had a lot of walls to break down and a very short time to do it.

She grabbed her clothes, deciding that a long hot bath would sooth her nerves and her tense muscles. Soaking in the tub with her eyes closed, she wondered why Capri would let her fall in love with the little blonde if it were her destiny to just let her go.

“There must be some lesson here. Please show me. My heart aches when I think of just leaving her behind. I know it is your plan, I just don’t understand. Please help me.”

She relaxed deeper into the warm water, inhaling the incense, relaxing into the trance, allowing herself to be commanded by Capri.

Marra entered the library, immediately grateful for the fact that it appeared to be empty. She stood looking at a finder terminal that would tell her where to locate the books requested by Ford. Now all she had to do was figure out how to use it.

“Can I help?” A deep male vice was soft from behind her. She turned to find a young man about her own age. He smiled as her ducked his head just a bit to try and make eye contact with her. “Sometimes the terminals are a little confusing but I’d be glad to help you find something.”

“Un I,” Marra could feel herself starting to shake, she took a deep breath and tried again. “Yes please. Garron Ford requires these books.” She showed him the paper Ford had written her requests on.

He smiled as he gently pulled the paper from her hand. “Okay those are pretty easy actually. I know were they are. They’re technical manuals for the ship.”

“She could have accessed them from any com terminal.” Marra stated her thoughts aloud before realizing what she had done.

“Yes she could have.” The young man agreed stepping away to find the requested items. Marra followed him into the rows of books, not wanting to lose him in the huge room. “I’m Carron Richards.” He offered without turning around.

“Marra.” She replied softly.

“My friends call me Rick.” He looked over his shoulder, giving her a slight smile.

“Umm…I’m Garron Ford’s.”

“Oh. I didn’t see a mark.”

“She told me not to wear it.”

“Interesting. Well that doesn’t matter,” He stopped, pulled the books down then turned to Marra. “My friends still call me Rick.” He smiled again.

Marra accepted the books with shy hesitation. “Thank you Rick.”

“You’re welcome Marra. Anything else I can do for you?”

“No. I need to get these back to Garron Ford.”

“Well I’m usually here so if you need anything else, just let me know.”

“I will. Thank you, you’ve been very kind.”

“It was my pleasure. You’re welcome.”

Ford paced the length of their quarters, Marra was taking much longer than she had thought she would and she was beginning to worry when the doors slid open. She tried not to look as relieved as she felt when she saw the woman.

“Your books.” Marra held out the requested items.

Ford smiled at the annoyed look on the blonde’s face. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No, Ford, of course not.”

“You just look so, umm, what’s that old Earth term? Pissed off.”

“Ford?” A blonde brow arched, not at all understanding the term.

“Angry.”

“No, I’m not how did you say, pissed off. I was just wondering why you would send me for books that you could have accessed from the com station?”

“I wanted to show you that you can move around the ship without me or my mark and you won’t be stopped, questioned or beaten because of it.”

“But, why would I want to go anywhere without you?”

“Well,” Ford hefted the books. “I may have an errand for you, or you might want to go to the stables or the market without me.”

Marra nodded. Realizing the only way she would be away from Ford would be at Ford’s own request. She resigned herself that this could be a possibility, which case she would complete errands as quickly as feasible and return to where she belonged. “As you wish.” She sighed softly.

“What did I tell you about that?” Ford chastised gently. “It’s not that way with us Marra.”

The blonde wanted to scream. She was becoming more bewildered by the minute. She was a slave, plain and simple, but Ford insisted on treating her almost as an equal. It was very confusing. She just shook her head, moving to the food preparation area. “Are you hungry?”

“I’m starved, but you’re not cooking. I want you to change. I’m taking you out to dinner. You’ll find a new outfit in the bathing chamber. Go take a nice hot bath and get ready.”

The urge to scream was becoming stronger. “Yes Ford.”

She looked in the mirror at the gown. She had never seen anything so lovely. Much less ever dared dream about wearing something as beautiful. It was whitish sliver almost the same color as Phoenix. Her shoulders were bare, but the dress had long sleeves that reached her wrists. The top of the dress simply pulled down slightly past her shoulders. Ford had left instructions for how to fix her hair and she had pulled it up into a loose knot as requested. Make-up had been provided to cover the bruises and with a little research from the com station she figured out how to utilize it properly.

“Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.” Ford whispered, approaching from behind.

Marra felt a rush as Ford’s hand came to rest on her shoulders. “Thank you Ford.”

“Oh it is my pleasure.” Ford’s hands dropped briefly, only to return and drape something around Marra’s neck. “Since you’re so concerned about this. You may wear this if you like.”

Marra watched in the mirror as Ford clasped a delicate piece of jewelry around her neck. She fingered the elegant necklace marveling at its distinction. It was yellow in color, Fords symbol was set in a small yellow disk in stones, the like of which she had never seen before. She was speechless. It seemed that Ford enjoyed doing that to her.

“The metal is called gold, the stones are called diamonds and emeralds.” Ford whispered, her lips gently grazing Marra’s ear. “Its beauty almost matches your own.”

Marra turned to face the tall woman. Their eyes met again. This time Marra looked deep into the depths of the azure before her. She took a deep breath, closed her own eyes and leaned up, placing a soft kiss to the lips before her. She was relieved when she didn’t feel Ford pull away. The kiss became firmer, but remained gentle. After a moment both parties pulled back, continuing to look at each other.

“Thank you.” Marra finally offered, running her hands up the front of Ford’s jacket, noticing for the first time that the Garron was in a full dress uniform. “Mind if I ask where we’re going?”

“I told you.” Ford smiled. “Out to dinner.” She offered her arm to the woman, with a little smirk. “Shall we?”

“Do you always get so dressed up for dinner?”

“Only on special occasions.” Ford offered leading them to the door.

“And what makes this a special occasion?”

“Well, you mean other than the fact that I’m taking you to dinner?”

“Yes.” Marra’s embarrassed answer slipped out quietly.

“I can’t believe you forgot.” Ford teased as they stepped out into the corridor.

“Forgot what?”

“It’s your birthday.”

Marra smiled as she looked at the floor. She knew good and well Ford had no way of knowing when her birthday was. She herself didn’t know. “It is huh?”

“It is now.” Ford nodded, tightening her hold on Marra.

LOG NINE

Ford felt Marra grip her arm just a little tighter as they approached the restaurant. She knew the surroundings were going to be intimidating to the blonde, but this would be a good experience for her.

“Everything will be just fine.” Ford soothed, rubbing Marra’s hand.

“I…I know.”

“Relax Marra. You’re the most beautiful woman in the place.”

“You’re biased.”

“Just a touch.” Ford agreed as they were shown to a large table in the very back of the room. It afforded the Garron a visual of every part of the place and gave them a lot of privacy, shrouded behind a few plants and a couple of small statues.

Marra watched as the other patrons went back to their meals and the conversations that had died down as they walked through the room picked back up after they took their seats.

Ford smiled as a man and woman rose from their own table and crossed to theirs. She stood, greeting the woman with a warm embrace and a kiss on the cheek. The man received a firm handshake and a pat on the back. They chatted for a minute then Ford gestured to Marra. “Let me introduce you.”

Marra adjusted in her seat so that she was sitting up very straight when Ford turned to her. “Marra, I’d like to introduce you to Lauren and her husband, Conner.”

The blonde extended her hand, receiving warm handshakes from both parties. “It’s very nice to meet you.”

Lauren looked back and forth between Ford and Marra, then smiled a coy little smile. “It’s very nice to meet you Marra.” She leaned over and whispered, “She never did wear her dress uniform for me.”

Ford, cleared her throat a tad embarrassed when Lauren stood back up. “How have you been ‘Dear’?” The Garron grinned when the word dear passed her lips.

“Very well Ford, very well. I just wanted to come over and let you know that Conner and I are expecting our first child in about seven months.”

This resulted in the woman receiving another warm hug from Ford. “Congratulations to you both. I shall remember to include the baby in my prayers.”

“That’s very kind of you Garron Ford.” Conner spoke for the first time, sounding very respectful with his tone.

“You are expanding our family Conner. Of course it is my pleasure. You will notify me when the child is born?”

“Absolutely.” Conner was quick to agree. “Well, we’ll let you get back to your meal. We just wanted to say hello.”

Marra watched as the pair returned to their own table. Ford settled down next to her, pouring two glasses of wine from a bottle that had been waiting when they arrived. “Another of my wives and her husband.”

“So that’s what she meant by you never wore your dress uniform for her.”

“Yes, that’s what she meant.”

“I’m honored.”

“As well you should be. I’ve never worn this uniform for anyone other than to make official public appearances.” Ford teased again, taking Marra’s hand as she sipped her wine. She nodded her head to the glass in front of Marra. “Try it, I think you’ll like it. I hope you don’t mind I called ahead and ordered dinner for us.”

“Of course not Ford.” Marra tasted the sweet liquid in the glass, deciding almost immediately that she liked it.

“Good?”

“Very, thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Ford moved closer to Marra, leaning in and placing a very soft kiss to her ear. “Happy birthday.”

“Speaking of that.” The blonde drew back, looking at the Garron. “You know it’s not my birthday.”

“How so?”

“I have no idea when my birthday is.”

“Exactly. So how do you know it’s not today?”

Marra just shook her head. She certainly couldn’t argue with the logic of the conversation. “I guess I don’t.”

“Well, it is now and I can prove it.”

“Really?”

“Umm-hmm.” She withdrew papers from the inside of her jacket, handing them over to Marra. “Here you go.”

She unfolded the papers slowly, reading and absorbing every word in them. “Oh Ford!”

“I told you I was going to do it.”

“But…”

“But nothing. I have never in my life met someone who deserves to be a citizen more than you do. You have everything you need, a name, a birth date and a sponsor.”

Marra’s brows came together as she looked at the papers again. “What’s this?”

Ford leaned over looking to the place that Marra indicated. “Kurrathian.”

“What is that?”

“My last name.”

“How can I have your last name?” Marra inquired, taking a sip of her wine.

“Marry me.”

It was nearly a mistake. She choked just a little with Ford’s last statement and had to work hard at keeping the liquid in. She finally managed to swallow. “Marry you?”

“Yes.” Ford turned to her, producing a small box. “It’s an old Earth custom. It’s called a proposal.” She opened the box to reveal matching rings. “Marra, will you marry me?”

“I…I…Ford I….”

“You,” The Garron swallowed hard. She felt as if her heart would break at the words she was about to say, but they needed to be said. “You don’t have to stay with me, but if you marry me it’ll be easier for me to get your citizenship granted. Like all my wives I will grant you your freedom to do as you please. I know you don’t love me. I know you probably never could or never will, but I do care for you and I…”

“Yes.”

It took a moment for the soft affirmation to reach Ford’s ears. “What?”

“I said yes. I’ll marry you.”

For the first time in a very long time Ford actually felt a little off balance. She wasn’t expecting Marra to agree so quickly. She fumbled for just a second with the ring box, pulling the ring out.

“This is also and old Earth custom. It’s an engagement ring. You wear it to show that you are to be married. Then after we get married we’ll add the wedding band.” She took Marra’s left hand in her right, slowly, placing the ring on her third finger.

“How did you know?”

“Know what?”

“My ring size.”

“Believe it or not I know how to be sneaky.” She leaned back in the booth, bringing Marra’s hand to her lips and giving it a soft kiss.

“Apparently so.” Marra blushed when she felt Ford’s soft lips on her hand.

****

Marra lay in bed next to Ford, who slept soundly and peacefully. She looked at the ring on her finger and then her hand went to the necklace. So Ford’s plan to gain her citizenship included marrying her. But why, when she already owned her? She rolled on her side to watch the woman sleep. What purpose could Ford have for wanting to secure her citizenship? She was born a slave and surely she was meant to die a slave.

Ford moaned a bit, turning in her sleep, tossing a strong arm over Marra, and pulling her close. She settled into what was becoming a familiar spot, so warm and safe. Her eyes drifted close and for the first time, she slept and began to dream.

The smoke was thick, burning her eyes and tearing at her lungs. Alarms were ringing. Lights of all shapes and sizes flashed and buzzed. She remembered what Ford had told her.

“If it goes bad. Get to my transport. Get to the surface, you’ll be safe there.”

She stumbled through the wrecked corridors, trying to remember the directions Ford had given her. Trying to remember where Ford’s last known location was.

She coughed hard as the black smoke filled her lungs. There was no way to make it. She certainly couldn’t survive this. She could feel the ship coming apart at the seams.

She stumbled again, falling over a body. She stopped when her eyes made out the clothing.

“Ford! Ford!”

She pulled the woman into her arms. Blue eyes opened slowly. “Go….”

“No. No I won’t….”

“You must.”

Ford’s hand traveled to her cheek, a thumb brushed away a tear. “Don’t cry. Capri comes to claim me. But she has plans for you…go.”

The scream was torn from her chest as she felt the hand drop away and Ford’s head drop back.

Ford bolted up as the scream tore through the room, waking rapidly she pulled Marra into her arms. “Shh…Shh…Marra it’s all right. It’s all right….”

“The ship! You! I couldn’t….”

“Shh.” Ford tightened her hold on the smaller woman, easing her back to the bed. “I’ve got you. You’re safe. Everything is fine.”

Marra couldn’t resist the calming, hypnotic tones of Ford’s voice. She simply allowed herself to relax into her protector, falling back into a deep dreamless sleep.

Ford recognized the signs of night frights. She held the trembling woman through the night, wondering what had caused the outburst. Marra had never really done anything like this before. If this was a result of Danella’s abuse, she would make the woman pay for it in ways Danella wouldn’t be able to imagine the Garron capable of.

Ford never returned to sleep. She rested there, next to Marra for the rest of the night, holding the woman, but refusing to be separated from her even by sleep. Several times she found herself placing her lips to the top of her companion’s head, leaving the tenderest of kisses.

“So much is planned for you. You have no idea. It is my great fortune to have you in my life. I hope you stay with me.” Another kiss was left behind.

Then Ford closed her eyes in prayer. “Capri, forgive me for delighting so much in the joy she brings me. Forgive me for loving her, I simply can not help myself. I will release her as you have commanded, but my heart burns at the thought and I hope she returns to me.”

Ford felt a tear slid down her cheek, then another and another. It was the first time in a long time that Garron Ford Kurrathian cried.

****

Marra stretched long and hard in the soft warm bed, realizing immediately that Ford was gone. She pulled herself upright, groaning a bit when her still bruised muscles protested.

“Hey, what did I tell you?” Ford chastised with a smile, bringing hot tea and fresh rolls to the bed on a tray.

“Ford I really should…”

“Stop arguing with me. You’re really bad at it and you never win.” She settled down on the bed offering Marra a cup of tea. “So what would you like to do today?”

“A walk in the garden? Then a visit to Neyta and Phoenix?” Both requests were made by a slightly blushing blonde from behind her cup. It was the first time she had ever been asked what she would like to do and she liked the fact that Ford had asked her.

“Wonderful ideas, both of them. We’ll make a day of it. Then maybe we’ll do a little shopping. We do have a wedding to prepare for.”

This last comment was accented with a kiss. Marra found that Ford’s kisses were growing a bit bolder with each one bestowed. She also found she was enjoying them more and more.

Ford caressed her cheek as she pulled back form the kiss, smiling like a small child. “You’re beautiful.”

Marra blushed again, quickly returning her cup to her lips.

“And so cute when you don’t know what to say.” The tall woman added, rising from her spot on the bed. “Marra do you remember waking up at all last night?”

“No Ford. Did I disturb you?”

“No.” The Garron lied. “You just seemed restless. I wondered if you were having trouble sleeping.”

“I don’t remember anything unusual.”

“Well that’s all that matters then. I’m going to take my bath. Enjoy breakfast.”

Marra sipped her tea as she listened to Ford prepare for her bath. She drew a deep breath thinking of a warm bath for herself actually, knowing now that it was perfectly acceptable and that Ford wouldn’t mind in the least. Then her thoughts took an entirely different route.

She got out of bed and moved to Ford’s bookcase. She scanned them for a moment, knowing the title she was looking for. Finding it, she flipped it open and read the section she thought might be helpful. Her brows furrowed together as she turned the pages, looking for anything she thought might answer her question.

Not finding the exact answer she was looking for she decided to improvise, hoping that it would be all right. She’d know soon enough if it weren’t. Moving to the shower room she removed her robe and gown, examining her body for bruising. Finding it healed to her liking she replaced her robe, then headed for the bathing chamber.

Ford’s head snapped around when Marra entered. She smiled at the little woman, offering a questioning shrug. Marra remained quiet, only returning a smile. She moved closer, kneeling behind Ford at the edge of the tub. “Wash your back?”

Ford felt her breath catch. She nodded silently, handing Marra a cloth and a bar of soap. She simply began to melt when she felt the small, but insistent hands on her back. She held in all the little noises of pleasure that wanted to escape from her body as her mind reeled.

So lost in her feelings and emotions, Ford didn’t notice when the bathing stopped. With her eyes closed and the visions well hidden under her eyelids, she merely smiled at her own erotic thoughts. She did, however, jump like a nervous catala when she felt the small body slide into the tub behind her. Her eyes snapped open, she started to move forward only to have those hands grasp her by the shoulders and pulled her back.

“Shh. Don’t.” Marra whispered, settling down into the water. She pulled the larger woman back into her. “We are, after all engaged. This most certainly must be all right, isn’t it?”

Ford could only nod and suffer while Marra held her and bathed her entire body. The blonde smiled to herself when she felt slight tremors running through Ford. She was beginning to understand some of the power that she held over the strong, beautiful woman in front of her.

She knew she would never do anything to harm or betray Ford, but she might try to find a way to use it to explore some of the feelings that she was now having that were new to her.

“Are you all right?” She whispered, after one particularly strong shudder ran through Ford’s body.

“Marra,” Ford swallowed hard. “Do you remember the conversation we had the other day about foreplay?”

“Yes.” The answer was giving as a soapy cloth brushed over extremely sensitive nipples.

Ford groaned. “This would be considered foreplay.”

“Is this bad?”

“Under normal circumstances no.”

“These aren’t normal circumstances?”

“No.”

“Why not?” This was asked as the cloth worked its way down a strong, firm stomach.

“Oh for Capri’s sake Marra are you trying to kill me?” Ford growled a little, stopping the hand and the cloth before it could go any lower.

“I don’t understand Ford.” The slave offered quietly.

Ford turned around, looking into misty green eyes she sighed. “Marra what your doing is causing certain reactions and feelings in my body. You are arousing me.” Ford paused. “Sexually.”

“And this displeases you. That I arouse you in this way.”

“Oh by Capri no, but you are innocent. You have not been touched. I want to save that for our wedding night. It is a truly beautiful and special thing to share that for the first time. I don’t want it to be anything but perfect for you.”

“Sharing it with you will make it perfect.”

Ford smiled at the soft admission, pulling the small woman into her arms. “And you will, just not right now.” With a determined deep breath Ford, kissed the top of Marra’s head, then climbed out of the tub. “You finish your bath.” She pulled on her robe, without drying off.

“What are you going to do?” Marra asked, leaning back into the water.

“Me?” Ford pointed to her own chest. “Oh me, I’m going to go take a cold shower.”

LOG TEN

Ford settled into her chair, deciding to read the daily reports while Marra dressed. The little blonde had certainly done a job on her in the bath this morning and she needed a few moments to get her thoughts back in order.

She scrolled through the various logs, until one marked “Private. Garron Ford. Top Security Clearance Required” caught her eye. She checked her timepiece against the log discovering that it had actually only arrived a few moments before.

“Open file, Garron Ford, clearance Alpha six, five, three Gamma.”

The screen came to life. Ford was surprised to see Chancellor Trella on the screen. Ford hadn’t spoken to the woman since before her departure to take command of the cruiser.

“Ford. I hope this message finds you well. I know that it’s been a long time since we’ve spoken. I hope all our wounds have healed. When you return to Command, please come to the palace and see me immediately. I have an offer to make you. The council and I need your expertise in certain areas.”

“Oh you do huh?” Ford grumbled aloud, settling back in her chair. “And after what you did to me, why would I want to help you?” Ford sighed, realizing talking to the now frozen frame wasn’t doing her any good. “Well if the Chancellor requests it, far be it from me to argue.” She turned the screen off, sighing hard, allowing her head to come to rest in the palm of her hand.

“Are you okay?”

She looked up to find Marra, looking somewhat concerned from her position in the doorway.

“I’m fine. I’ve been ordered back to the palace for an audience with Chancellor Trella and the council upon my arrival at Command.”

“That’s good isn’t it? I mean it’s not everyday that one is asked to appear before the Chancellor.”

“True.”

“You don’t seem pleased.” Marra crossed over, coming to a stop behind Ford, beginning a massage of very tense shoulders. “You don’t feel pleased.”

“Trella and I have,” Ford paused, taking Marra’s hand, giving it a little kiss. “A history together. Not a pleasant history, but a history.”

“I’m sorry.”

“So am I. I was young. I was stupid.” Ford gave Marra’s hand another kiss, then rose from her seat. “Let’s go see how our serpentines are doing this morning.”

Marra could tell that this conversation was most definitely over.

****

“You,” Ford licked the sticky substance from her own fingers after feeding the last bite to Marra. “Are so bad for me.”

“I’m bad for you? You’re the one who said that the cheesecake was the best thing you’d ever eaten. It’s not my fault you have no will power when it comes to it.”

“You were the first one to give it to me.” She countered as they continued their walk through the market.

“Then I guess I’ll just have to take the blame and learn to live with the guilt.” The blonde chuckled, noticing that she was walking next to Ford and not behind her. She liked this spot much better.

“You do that.”

“Ford?”

“Hmm?”

“Why me?”

“Why you what?”

Marra sighed, taking Ford’s arm as they moved through the crowd. “Why did you save me. Keep me safe and why in the world do you want to marry me? You already have four wives.”

“Would you believe me if I told you that you were a religious quest?”

“Hardly.”

“Well then, I can’t offer you a better explanation, other than I love you too.”

“I just don’t understand.” Marra shook her head, tightening her hold on Ford’s arm.

“You will. You will. When the time is right.” Ford stopped at the platform for the transport. “Just trust me.”

“You know I do.”

“Then everything will be fine.”

Marra reached up, caressing Ford’s cheek, then running a finger down her jaw. “Who are you trying to convince, me or yourself?”

“You,” A dark brow shot up. “Are too smart for your own good.”

****

Neyta was busy shredding bedding and making a nest when Ford and Marra arrived in the stables. Phoenix was curled up in the opposite corner from his mate watching her. His tail thumped impatiently as he snorted from his spot.

“Well, now, what’s this?” Ford inquired, leaning against the stall wall. “Has the great Phoenix finally met his match?”

Marra chuckled a little as she reached over the wall, offering the dejected Phoenix a scratch on his head. “No, he’s just letting her nest. It’s important that the nest be exactly the way she wants it.”

“Would she be upset if I took him for a ride?”

* Please Marra, tell Garron Ford to take him, so I don’t have to listen to him strike his tail any longer *

The blonde held back the laugh. “It will be perfectly all right.” She nodded to Ford.

Ford whistled. Phoenix rose immediately to his hind legs rising high above them. Marra had never considered how big he was until now. She had to admit that he was awe-inspiring. Ford pulled the door open for the serpentine. Phoenix looked back one last time at his mate then followed Ford out of the stall.

* Marra will you stay with me? *

“Ford, may I stay here? Neyta has asked me to.”

“Of course. I won’t be long. I don’t think he’s up to a long ride.”

Marra watched Ford take Phoenix from the stables, smiling the entire time her eyes followed them.

* You are falling in love with Ford *

“Am I? I don’t know. What does love feel like?”

* It feels like you look at this very moment. *

“I only want to make her happy. It is my place. It is what I was meant to do.”

* So you think that you only belong with Ford because you are…were a slave *

“I am still a slave.”

* Only because you believe that you are. Ford doesn’t treat you like one. Ford doesn’t think of you as one *

Marra entered the stall. Neyta settled down into her nest, resting her head on her forelegs, watching the blonde pace back and forth.

“I don’t understand the feelings that I’m having.”

* Of course you don’t. That’s part of being in love. *

“How do you know so much about how we feel when we’re in love?”

* Oh you Two Legs are arrogant. You think you are the only animals to feel emotion and have rational thought? *

Marra stopped her pacing, turning to the serpentine, who lifted her head and cocked it to the side in question.

“No. That’s not what I meant.” The blonde moved to the beast, settling down next to her, she leaned back into the creature. Neyta placed her head in Marra’s lap. “Do you love Phoenix?”

* Yes, I do and he loves me. *

” Hmm. Well, maybe I’ll understand one day.”

* I’m sure you will. Once Ford finally decides to consummate your relationship *

“And how do you know she hasn’t?” Marra’s question was colored with indignation.

Neyta lifted her head, sniffing the air. *She hasn’t *

“Tell me how you know.” Marra turned the beast’s head so they were looking at each other. Neyta almost seemed to have a smile on her face.

*There is no scent. *

“Scent?”

*The scent you always carry after you have mated. *

Marra considered this. It was true she remembered the heavy scent she noticed on Ford after Danella’s visits to their quarters. “But it can be washed away.”

* Most of it, but not all. You always carry a little of it with you. It is what makes you attractive to your mate. *

“What if Ford doesn’t find my scent, ‘attractive’?” Neyta snorted. Marra took it as a laugh. “Thanks so much.”

****

Ford settled on Phoenix’s back taking the reins gently in her hands. “Easy boy. Not too fast.”

The beast rose from his knees, beginning and easy gait around the ring. He extended his wings, flapping them gently to exercise them. Ford used her skill and control over the beast to keep him on the ground.

“You don’t want to do that boy. You’re not ready.” The beast snorted, flapping his wings harder, throwing dirt around from the motion. Ford gave him a thump on the neck. “Oh stop it!”

He snapped his head around, giving her a little growl, baring his teeth.

“Just stop that too. You don’t scare me and you know it. Becoming a father has done nothing for your deposition.”

Phoenix dropped his head, continuing his run around the ring. Ford relaxed, enjoying the ride, wishing they were planet side somewhere, running out in the open. She and Phoenix both always enjoyed that far more than the ring. She slowed him, bringing him to a halt. He pranced a bit, pawing, not quite ready to stop. She slid from his shoulders, removed his harness and turned him loose.

“Go on get it out of your system!” She waved her hand and the beast took off.

She watched as he ran full speed around the ring and then took to the air. His strength and power always amazed her.

“Garron Ford?”

She turned to find a young man, leading a small gray male serpentine. “Yes?”

He extended his hand. “I’m Carron Richards. I am stationed in the ship’s library.”

“Ah good to meet you Richards.” She took his hand, giving it a firm shake then she nodded to the beast. “A new serpentine?”

“My first.” The young man smiled proudly. “I thought I would bring him out for a little training today. I didn’t know you would be exercising yours.”

“Go ahead and turn him loose in the ring with Phoenix. He won’t hurt him, besides he’s about to become a father, it will be good for him to find out how energetic the young ones can be.”

Richards removed his beast’s harness, turning him loose in the ring with the silver serpentine, who glided back to the ground to inspect the new arrival. The younger beast backed up from the larger one, trembling just a bit.

“Phoenix be nice!” Ford commanded, leaning against the wall.

Richards took a position next to the tall woman, working his halter in his hands.

“Oil.” Ford offered.

“Excuse me?”

“New halter. Oil it, it’ll loosen it up.”

“Thank you.” Richards looked over trying to size up his commander. She didn’t seem to be the she demon everyone claimed she was. As a matter of fact she seemed rather pleasant. “Unh…Garron?”

“Yes?” She continued to watch the beasts, speaking to the young man without looking at him.

“You sent a slave to the library the other day…”

“Marra. Yes. Marra isn’t really a slave. I can’t seem to make her understand or believe that, but she’s not.”

“Oh, well, she said…”

“I know what she likely said, but trust me she’s not.”

“Good.” The young man sighed.

Now Ford looked at him, very slowly turning her head and quirking a brow. “Yes? You have an interest in Marra?”

“Well, I unh I mean…she’s very pretty.”

“Very.”

“I was just wondering if it would be all right for me to inquire to her.”

Ford quelled the desire to choke this young man. She cleared her throat before answering. “I have asked Marra to marry me and she has agreed, however I never hold my spouses to my house. If Marra wishes your company then it is fine with me.” She turned to him, straightening to her full height. “But know this, Carron Richards, if she chooses you and you hurt her, I will come take your organs from your body, one by one, through the smallest opening on your body.”

His eyes widened as he swallowed hard. “Yes Garron.”

“And know this as well. She is untouched. If she chooses to share that gift with you, then you will be kind and gentle. If you hurt her, I will see to it that you never enjoy the company of another companion ever again. Do we understand each other?”

“Of course Garron.”

Ford sighed, then whistled for Phoenix. The beast gave one sniff at the little male then joined his Mistress at the ring door. “Come on boy.”

****

Marra looked to Ford who was sullen and quiet. She knew something was terribly wrong, but she hadn’t mentioned anything and Marra didn’t know how to inquire on the tall woman’s dark mood without making it worse.

“What would you like for dinner?” The blonde decided to try another route.

“Whatever you see fit, will be fine.” Ford answered quietly as they continued their walk toward home.

“What have I done Ford?” She couldn’t stand the stress any longer. Something was bothering Ford and Marra sensed that she was at least part of the problem. “Please tell me so I don’t do it again.” The tears began to form in her eyes and even though she tried to hold them back she knew she would fail.

“Oh Marra I’m sorry.” Ford brought her arm up, draping it over Marra’s shoulder. “You haven’t done anything. As a matter of fact, you should be proud. You not only have me interested in you, but there seems to be a young man who is…”

“Who!? Ford I haven’t done anything, I swear, and I don’t want…”

The outburst stunned Ford, who stopped and pulled Marra into her arms. “Shh…I know you haven’t. It’s Carron Richards, from the library…”

“Oh him. I swear to you Ford I didn’t do anything to encourage him…”

The tall woman laughed a bit. “Marra you don’t need to do anything to encourage. You just seem to bring it out in the best of us. Carron Richard just asked for permission to call on you.”

“What did you tell him?” She asked as they resumed their walk.

“I told him the truth. That I had asked you to marry me, but I wouldn’t hold you to my house and if you chose to see him it would be all right.” She didn’t bother to mention the threats of bodily harm to the young man if he hurt the young woman. She didn’t think Marra would react well to that thought either.

“What if I don’t want to?”

“Then tell him no.”

“Is this what has you so upset?”

“I’m not upset.”

“Yes you are.” Marra tightened her grip on Ford. “And I don’t like it.”

“Marra you have a right to experience everything that life has to offer. Don’t tie yourself to me out of some outdated and ridiculous concept of service or ownership. I don’t own you, I could never own you.”

“No, but you love me.”

“Yes and given time and the opportunity, maybe Carron Richards would love you too.”

Maybe I don’t want him to love me. Maybe I don’t want anyone but you to love me.”

Ford stopped, pulling Marra back and tilting her head so their eyes met. “There is nothing in this world or the next I would enjoy more than being the only person to love you, but you don’t have any experience to draw from. Nothing to compare me to. Maybe you need that experience.”

Marra’s brows came together as she tried to take in everything Ford was saying. “Then again,” She grinned, wrinkling her nose just a little. “Maybe I don’t.” She finished before turning and walking ahead of Ford.

LOG ELEVEN

“You are the most frustrating woman!” Ford growled, holding Marra by the shoulders and guiding her to the med labs.

“But, how do you know I’ll be any good at this?”

“How do you know you aren’t?”

“And you call me frustrating.” Marra mumbled, as they approached the Senior Doctor.

The older man smiled at the pair as Ford gave Marra a playful shove his direction.

“Doctor Jenner, I’m Marra, Garron Ford’s,” She paused, looked back to the tall woman who nodded once and winked, then she returned her attention to the doctor. “Garron Ford’s latest victim.” She grinned and winked at the physician.

“Hey!” Ford responded taking a step forward. “She happens to be my future spouse. Unless she keeps this up, then I’m just going to feed her to my serpentine.” Her response was light, almost comical as she wrapped her arms around the little blonde’s waist. “You can just call her ‘lunch’.”

The doctor chuckled as he sized the pair up. “Actually Garron, she doesn’t look like more than an appetizer. Very small.”

“Oh no.” Marra dropped her head, shaking from side to side when she realized she didn’t stand a chance here either.

“She might be small, but she has enough attitude for three wives. I won’t need anymore once I marry this one. In the meantime Doctor, didn’t you say you’d like her to help out in the med labs?”

“If she would like. I’m sure she would do wonders for the spirit of the patients. She certainly seems to have done wonders for our commander.”

“Indeed she has Doctor, indeed she has.”

Ford turned Marra around, giving her a soft kiss and a caress to the cheek. “You have fun. I’ll see you in a few hours. I need to go speak to the Priestess.”

“The Priestess?”

“Yeah, you know the one that’s going to marry us?”

“Shouldn’t I come with you?”

“No, not right now. You stay here. You’ll have to make your visit soon enough. But for now, you have a good time here. I’ll meet you back in our quarters in say, three hours?”

Marra nodded, knowing it would be futile to argue with Ford. She had learned quickly that when the Garron had her mind made up about something you just didn’t argue. It was a waste of breath.

****

Ford finished her prayers. She rose, to make her final offering. When she turned, the Priestess stood before her. She dropped to her knees immediately, lowering her eyes, waiting for the woman to approach her.

“How is one of Capri’s faithful today?’ The question was soft.

“Humble and willing to serve.” Ford kept her eyes down, concentrating on the feeling of awesome power that surrounded her, trying to soak it in.

“You have a request of me Ford?” The Garron felt the woman begin running her fingers through her hair. She felt blessed to have the Priestess touching her in such a manner.

“Yes. I have found a woman. A woman, that is very special. A woman, that Capri has led me to.”

“The one you call Marra?”

“Yes Priestess.”

“She is chosen?”

“So it would seem.”

“What is it you wish?”

“I want to marry her. I want to make her a citizen so that she is free to worship and become one with Capri as it is ordained.”

“That is a long and difficult road Ford. To gain citizenship for one not born to it.”

“I am aware of that Priestess, but it must be done.”

“Capri has told you this? She comes to you during worship and in your dreams?

“Yes.”

“Does Marra know of these things?”

“No Priestess. I have not mentioned it to her.”

“Do not. Marra must follow her heart to Capri. She must be pure enough to find the blessing on her own.”

“She is the purest heart I have ever met in a living soul.”

“She must come to me for her sessions. She must learn what it means to be your wife and a servant of Capri.”

“She will do anything I ask of her.”

“You are sure of this?

“Positive.”

“Seems that you have chosen well Ford.”

“I didn’t chose her Priestess, she was sent by Capri and she chose me.”

Ford heard the woman laugh softly. “You are also blinded by love for this little woman?”

“Yes.” Ford’s head dropped a little further. “I know it’s wrong…”

“It is never wrong to love Ford. Just be prepared for the fact that her passage to Capri might take her from you, both spiritually and physically.”

“I will simply be honored to bring her to Capri. If Capri chooses to take her from me, then my quest will be complete.”

“But will your life? Will it be complete without this woman at your side?”

“It is not my place to challenge Capri. My heart will be empty without Marra’s presence, but to know that she has been chosen to serve will help make up for my loss.”

“You are committed to this course of action?”

“I am.”

“Then so be it. In three days prepare your woman for her first session. Bring her here, offer your prayers for her and then leave us.”

“Yes Priestess.”

When the tall woman opened her eyes and looked up, the Priestess had vanished.

****

Ford felt calm and peaceful after her encounter with the priestess. Her heart and mind committed now more than ever to the course of action that would bring Marra into her own identity.

She continued her walk back toward her quarters, taking the time to consider for just a moment why Trella would want to see her. Surely their past had kept the Garron’s name from being mentioned in polite company. Why would she now be calling her in front of the council? Well, more pressing matters required her attention at the moment and she would know soon enough.

She pulled her timepiece from her pocket. Marra would no doubt be back in an hour or so. She had enough time to give some consideration to a few reports that were lying on her desk. Taking time off to be with Marra was a good choice as far as Ford was concerned, but there were still odds and ends that required her attention.

The reports were of the extremely mundane variety. She found herself yawning through the first two. She hadn’t realized so much time had passed, when the door slid open to her office she smiled. Marra entered, holding a steaming cup of coffee.

“Can you read my mind?” Ford grinned, leaning back in her chair.

“No. I’m just learning what you want and when you want it.” The blonde crossed the room, placing the cup down in front of the Garron. She took a seat on the corner of the desk. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Of course.” Ford sipped her coffee.

“Once we’re married, we will be having sex, right?”

Not expecting that question at all, Ford choked on her coffee. Marra grabbed the cup quickly, placing it on the desk. She then proceeded to rub Ford’s back while the woman tried to catch her breath.

“Ford are you all right?”

She nodded an affirmation, but she still hadn’t managed to catch her breath. After a few minutes of slow and moderate breaths, she finally wiped the tears from her eyes to look at the young woman. “Why do you ask?”

“I was just doing some reading…”

“From what?” Ford asked, choking a couple of more times.

“You do have a couple of books on the subject you know?”

“Yeah I know I do, but…”

“I was curious. So I decided to do a little reading.”

“And what did you discover?”

“Well, I discovered that someone like you,” She moved forward, placing herself in Ford’s lap. “Probably requires a great deal of attention.”

“Ah Marra….”

“No, now I think we should talk about this.”

Ford nodded, realizing as Marra’s lips grazed her neck, that the blonde didn’t plan on talking. “Marra we can’t. Not until we’re married.”

“Not true.”

“Huh?” The Garron was amazed at how strangled her own voice sounded.

“The law states that citizens must be married. I’m not a citizen. I am still legally a slave.” She ended the comment by nipping Ford’s ear.

“Un-huh.”

“And because I am a slave, you are free to do with me anything,” She paused, slowly licking Ford’s neck right behind her earlobe. “You please.”

“I unh…I…”

“I want to make you happy.”

“You do make me happy.”

“I want to make you completely happy.” She tangled her hands in Ford’s hair, holding her by the base of the neck. “I want you to show me what makes you happy.”

I…unh…I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

“Then I’ll just be forced to explore some options on my own.”

“I know that’s a bad idea.”

“Then teach me.”

Ford looked at her. She had never seen more sincerity in another person’s eyes. “I want you.” She whispered leaning in and giving the woman in her lap a gentle kiss.

“I know. Why haven’t you claimed me?”

“Because I want it blessed by Capri. I want our first time to be after our marriage.”

“Why?”

“Marra if you’re treated like a slave. Then you are a slave. If you’re treated like a citizen then you are a citizen.” Ford caressed her cheek. “You’ve remained untouched for so long, under nearly impossible odds…”

“Yes, and you are the first person that I’ve ever want to be with. Of my own free will.”

Ford smiled. “What did you say?”

“That I want to be with you.”

“No, after that.”

Marra looked at her questioningly. “Of my own free will?”

“Yes, yes….” Ford leaned up, capturing the blonde in a sweet and gentle kiss. “Of your own free will.”

Marra resumed the kiss; Ford followed, wrapping her arm around the smaller woman. This kiss went places that no other had. Ford felt a familiar pressure building.

She pulled back, taking a deep, calming breath. “We…ah…we need to stop.”

Marra nodded, the expression on her did little to hide her disappointment.

“I promise you,” Ford kissed her one last time. “It will take them a month to pry me out of your arms, but for now we need to behave.”

“If you say so.” Marra grinned, running her hands gently across Ford’s face and neck.

“I do. So how did you like helping out in the med labs?” Ford captured her wandering hands.

“Trying to change the subject?”

She nodded. “Desperately.”

****

After dinner, Ford settled back with a book in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other and she found Marra’s head comfortably settled in her lap as the little blonde read her own book.

It was a companionable silence in their quarters as they relaxed and read their respective novels. Ford hadn’t realized her hand had dropped into Marra’s hair and was absently combing through it, but Marra most certainly had and she was enjoying it immensely.

The door chime startled them both a bit, Ford grinned as she moved from the couch to the door. “That’s what we get for being so comfortable.”

“Umm, I guess.” Marra offered, as she sat up, wiping the sleep from her eyes that had actually started to settle there.

The door opened to reveal one Carron Richards. Ford sighed. Marra groaned. Richards quirked a brow. “Have I come at a bad time?”

“No.” Ford’s response was deep and barren, revealing none of the emotion she was feeling at the moment. “Come in won’t you?” She stepped back, allowing the young man entrance.

He entered the quarters, taking his eyes from the stern face of his commander, allowing them to wander over to Marra. He gave her a broad smile. “Good evening Marra.”

“Good evening Rick.”

“Umm…I was wondering if you might like to take a walk with me this evening?”

“I don’t think…” She looked at Ford who gave her a questioning glance. “I’m perfectly content staying in tonight Rick. Thank you though, maybe some other time.”

“Of course. Have a good evening Marra.” His eyes shifted nervously back to his commander. “Garron Ford.”

“Carron Richards.” Ford was more than happy to show him the way out.

The door slid shut, she crossed her arms turning back to Marra. “Why didn’t you go?”

Marra patted the couch, inviting Ford back to her previous spot. “Because I didn’t want to.”

The tall woman retook her spot on the couch. “What did I tell you about experience?”

“What’s all this about free will?” Marra settled her head back in Ford’s lap. “If I go with him because you want me to then it is not of my own desire to do so.”

“Oh so you’re going to use my own logic against me?”

“Every chance I get.” Marra giggled a little, taking her book back into her hand.

“You’re going to be a trouble maker. I can just feel it.”

“I’ll be your own fault. You have no one to blame but yourself.” She wiggled her eyebrows at the woman who looked down at her.

“Yup, nothing but trouble.” Ford smoothed out the eyebrows in question.

“Hope you’re up to the challenge.”

“I think I can handle it.”

****

Ford looked at the robes. The long, white gown was most certainly beautiful, but it seemed to be lacking something.

“You don’t like it?” Marra asked, turning once again to allow Ford another view.

“Oh no it’s beautiful. It really is. It’s just,” Ford stood, circling Marra for further inspection. “Missing something.”

“What? It’s a traditional wedding robe.”

“I know, but on you it just looks so,” She paused searching for the right word. “Un-stimulating.”

“Oh thanks so very much!”

“No now that’s not what I meant! You’re just so damn beautiful the gown pales in comparison.”

Marra crossed her arms. “Un-huh. Keep digging, you might get out of the hole you just tossed yourself in.”

Ford’s laughter rang out through the dress shop, causing heads to turn from every direction. She nodded taking Marra into her arms. “You are priceless.”

“I’m am simply trying to find a wedding robe that suits your tastes, oh picky one. I swear Ford, I’ve had on every robe in the place.”

“Then maybe we need to have one custom made.”

“Well, it would help if you knew what you wanted.”

“I want something that accents your hair and your eyes. I want something that is as beautiful as you are. Surely this is not too much to ask for our wedding day.”

LOG TWELVE

Marra sat on the bench in the work out room. She watched Ford perform a series of stretching routines, she was positively beguiled by the woman in front of her. She smiled when the Garron winked at her, even as she continued to stretch and work her muscles. After several minutes, Ford stopped the routine then stepped forward.

“My I have my blade?” She asked with another wink.

Marra had been so busy watching Ford work out she had forgotten that she had been entrusted with holding Ford’s sword and scabbard. “Of course.” She offered the weapon to the tall woman.

“Thanks so much.” She leaned in and whispered. “You can wipe that silly grin off your face now.”

“Don’t think so. You don’t know what I was thinking.”

“Behave.” The Garron growled, giving a little kiss to the blonde’s ear.

“You never said I couldn’t think about it.”

“You don’t even know what it is you’re thinking about.”

“I’m getting a pretty good idea.” Marra turned her head and lowered her voice. “And I’m pretty sure involves the both of us being naked and breathing hard.”

Ford straightened, turned on her heals and headed for the sparring ring. “Capri give me strength.” She tossed her scabbard aside, then began a series of exercises with her blade. Twirling it, cutting through the air, moving in perfectly harmony. She worked the blade for several minutes until her sparring partner entered the room.

“Garron Ford.” The young man smiled at his commander as he pulled his blade from his scabbard. “How are you today?”

“I’m fine Dorian. Looking forward to a hard workout.” She glanced at Marra. “I need it.” She chuckled a bit, stepping into the sparring area. “Lots of stress to relieve.”

“Then let’s do it shall we?” Dorian bowed slightly, stepping into the sparring area.

“Oh yes let’s.” Dorian advanced. His overhead blow blocked quickly and easily by the tall woman.

The blonde watched the two combatants spar. It didn’t take long for them to both work up a heavy sweat as they battled back and forth with the weighty weapons. Marra noticed that Ford’s hair was quickly becoming matted to her face and neck. She also noticed that her muscles were standing out against the fabric of her workout uniform.

She felt a little growl escape. She didn’t know where these feeling were coming from, but they were starting to drive her crazy. It seemed that all she could think about lately was Ford touching her, and if it didn’t happen soon she felt as if she would simply explode. She had even tried that cold shower theory Ford had told her about, it hadn’t worked either.

The clanging of the metal returned her to the workout room, her focus settling back on Ford. This woman had been kind, understanding and patient. She had opened a whole new world up to her. She had allowed her to feel like a person from the moment she met her, treated her as an equal. She knew she owed Ford more than she would ever be able to repay. She hoped she would be a good wife, the type of wife that Ford would be proud to have at her side, for the rest of her life.

The sparring match lasted almost a half hour, Ford finally drove forward, forcing her opponent to surrender. “Yield!” Ford commanded, her breathing labored, hands shaking just a bit.

“I yield to you Garron Ford.” Dorian choked, dropping to his knees from exhaustion.

Ford, blinked then backed up. She took a moment to collect her thoughts, then she dropped her blade to her side and offered the young man her hand. “Thank you Dorian.”

He allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. “As always, it is my pleasure to serve you Garron Ford.” He collected his gear and quietly made his way from the room.

Marra couldn’t help but think about how much that reminded her of the first morning she had seen Danella leave the smaller room. She stood, taking a towel over to Ford.

“Thank you.” The tall woman took the towel, wiping her face and neck.

“Are you married to him too?”

Ford lifted a brow at the question. “Dorian? No I’m not married to him. He’s my son. So to speak.”

“Your son?” Marra was amazed, it seemed every time Ford opened her mouth she learned something new.

“Yes. I was married to his mother. His father was one of my best friends. His parents were killed when rebel fighters blew the shuttle they were traveling in, out of the air. Helena managed to get Dorian in an escape pod. It was rescued by one of our own ships. The boy was returned to me and I raised him.”

“How old was he?”

“Three. He’s seventeen now.”

“You must have been very young.”

“I was. Helena was my first wife. I was stationed at Command when I met her. We married. Turner, her husband was my personal assistant. They married and a year later Dorain was born.”

“Any more spouses or children I should know about?” Marra teased, handing Ford the scabbard for her blade.

“No. I still have two wives you haven’t met though. Reida, who I think you, will like a lot. She had two husbands, Erland and Burke and another wife Milina. So far they haven’t had any children. Then there is Cipora, she’s a quiet one, she recently took another wife named Blair.”

“And you are the head of this family?”

“Yes.” Ford slipped her blade into the scabbard then draped the towel over her neck. “My social status makes me the head of my family.”

“So what if someone takes a spouse of higher social status than yours?”

“They’d have to marry into the Chancellor’s family to do that.”

“Ford do you mean to tell me you are royalty?”

“Well, it depends on how you look at it. I don’t think of myself as royalty.”

“But you are. Ford what is your title?”

The tall woman sighed, taking Marra’s hand in hers, beginning the walk home. “I am Ford Kurrathian, High Lord of the Second House.”

Marra swallowed hard. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because here I am merely Garron Ford, Commander of the battle cruiser Devereux.”

“But you are….”

Ford stopped, turning to Marra, taking her by the shoulders. “I am merely Ford. Someone who loves you a great deal. Do not let this get in the way of that.”

“I just don’t know if I can be your wife Ford. I’m not suited to be the Lady of a fine house.”

“I think you are.”

“Ford. Surely Danella is….”

“Danella is a criminal.” The tall woman drew the blonde into her arms. “Marra you will be a fine addition to my house. If you choose to do so, you will be the First Lady Kurrathian. None of my other wives want or deserve the position. It will be very demanding. I won’t force it on you.”

Marra shook her head. “In a weeks time I have gone from being an insignificant slave to potentially becoming the First Lady of your house. I just don’t understand why this is happening to me.”

“Because you deserve it.” Ford gave her a light kiss. “Now, let’s go home so I can shower.”

“Shower huh?”

“Yes, long, hot and alone.” Ford grinned.

“You’re no fun.”

“Yeah, yeah I know.

****

Marra prepared dinner while Ford showered. The blonde set the table, making sure that it was perfect. All this new information was settling in and she was having a little trouble making it all process.

Wife to a High Lord? A fine wife for a simple Garron maybe, but a High Lord? She didn’t have the education or the training to be a wife to a High Lord and she knew it. She felt a sudden emptiness in her heart when she realized what she had to do.

Ford stepped out of the shower. She dried off quickly, throwing on a robe. The aroma of the meal that had been prepared caused her stomach to growl. She smiled at the thought of having this woman in her life. Her life was good now that Marra had come into it.

Ford entered the living quarters, stopping long enough to give the blonde a kiss. “Hmm smells good. What is it?”

“Travarian casserole and soup.”

“Marra you spoil me.” Ford chuckled taking a seat at the table. “Not that I’m complaining mind you. I find that I rather enjoy being spoiled.”

“I’m glad.” She settled down next to Ford and served dinner. “Ford are you sure you want to marry me?”

The Garron looked to Marra, her glass stopped at her lips, and she slowly lowered it. “Of course I’m sure. Why would you ask such a thing?”

“I must admit. I’m not comfortable with the thoughts of being your wife now.”

Ford’s heart sank. She willed herself not to break down. “I see. Why because you found out I’m a High Lord?”

“Not just a High Lord. You are next in line for Chancellor.”

“Not true. Chancellor Trella has two sons and a daughter. A lot of things would have to happen before I became Chancellor.”

“Still, I know my place in our society Ford and it most certainly is not that of a First wife to a High Lord.”

“Fine, I’ll renounce my title…”

“You can’t.”

“I can and I will. I want you to be my wife and I’ll do whatever I have to, to make you comfortable enough to marry me. I’ll give everything up if I must, my title, my command.” Ford stood and began pacing back and forth. “I’ll give it all up and become a farmer or a serpentine breeder or a catala herder.” She moved back to the table, kneeling down in front of the blonde. “Whatever it takes to keep you in my life Marra. Just tell me.” Her voice cracked and she felt the tears welling in her eyes.

Marra looked down into the face of the woman who seemed to be the strongest person she had ever met; now she saw someone who looked almost terrified. She cupped Ford’s face in her hands. “Don’t get upset. I didn’t mean to upset you Ford. I’m just not sure I can be the kind of wife that someone in your position needs.”

Ford tried to lighten the mood with a little chuckle. “I’m on my knees here Marra. I don’t know what other position to be in.”

An very impish smile spread across the blonde’s face.

“All right, no comments.” Ford joked, reaching up and caressing Marra’s face. “Please just know that I love you. I want to share my life with you.” She grinned again. “Of course, if I give up my title, we’ll be destitute and my life will be all I have to share.”

“That’s all I want from you. I don’t care about any of the other things. I’m just frightened that I’ll fail you.”

Ford retook her seat, never releasing Marra’s hands or her gaze. “You will make mistakes. I make mistakes. We learn from them and we move on. No one, especially me, expects you to be perfect. I just want you to be you.”

“I am a slave.” Marra laid one hand over her own heart, then the other over Ford’s. “You made me more. I’m already more than I ever thought I could be. I was born a slave. I thought I would die a slave. And even if something happens that I do, I will have marvelous memories of being another living soul in the eyes of someone wonderful, if even for a short time.”

“Don’t you talk like that Marra. No matter what happens,” Ford dropped her head just a bit when she realized there was still a chance Marra wouldn’t marry her. “Or doesn’t happen between us. You will never be a slave again. I promise you that. If you choose not to marry me, I will still find a way to make you a citizen. I’m sure if I make a request to the Chancellor…”

“Ford, if you really mean what you said. I’d be crazy not to marry you.”

“I meant every word Marra. Every word.”

The blonde leaned in, kissing Ford with depth and devotion. Ford wrapped her arms around the woman and pulled her to her feet, then picked her up in her arms and walked to the bed.

“Marra?” Ford breathed heavily as they broke from the kiss, she nuzzled Marra’s neck.

“Unh? What?” Marra whined just a bit, grasping Ford’s robe, feeling very warm and very distracted at the moment.

“You want to make a mistake with me? We’ll make out first ones together.”

“I think that’s a grand idea.” Marra nodded against Ford’s neck, grazing her lips along damp skin.

Ford laid the woman down in their bed. She looked down into expectant green eyes. “I love you.” She whispered, while her hand slowly traveled to Marra’s blouse to unfasten the buttons.

“I love you too, Ford. Very, very much.” Her hands traveled to the belt of Ford’s robe. Just as she tugged on it, Ford’s com signal went off.

“Aww no, no, no, no, no.” Ford groaned, dropping her head. “I don’t believe this.”

“You don’t believe it!” Marra grumbled, tying the belt back into place.

Ford pushed off the bed, moving to the com panel. “Please tell me that the ship is about to explode!” She growled after slamming her hand into the panel.

“Garron Ford I’m sorry to interrupt you during your time off, but there is an urgent transmission for you from Chancellor Trella.”

“I’ll take it in my office.” Ford grasped her hand, turned and stalked into her office.

Marra pulled a pillow over her face and screamed.

****

“Yes Trella, I understand. We’ll be there in a week. I’ll make sure that I report to you just as soon as I get there. Now in return, there is something I want you to do for me.”

“What?”

“I’m sending you a request for citizenship for a young woman I want to marry.” Ford sent the file, realizing as she worked the panel that something was very wrong with her hand. “I want you to clear her and authorize it right now.”

“Ford, I can’t do that without reviewing the application.”

“Trella, do you want my help and the support of the Second House?”

“Yes.”

“Then do it.”

“Who is she?”

“Doesn’t matter to you. You’re not the one marrying her, I am.”

“What do you know about her?”

“I know I love her and if you don’t send those documents back in thirty seconds with your authorization you can forget…”

“All right, all right Ford I’m doing it. Calm down. She must really be something. Is she good in bed?”

“I wouldn’t know.” The Garron growled, gripping her injured hand. Ford watched as the documents came back to her completely authorized. “Thank you.”

“Nothing like a little extortion to end the day.”

“Don’t think of it as extortion Trella, think of it as incentive.”

“Right. Well, I look forward to seeing you again and meeting the new Lady Kurrathian.”

“Un-huh.” The doubt in Ford’s voice was clear.

“I’m being truly sincere. I want only good things for you Ford.”

“Glad to hear it. I’ll see you as soon as we get back. Ford out.” She switched off the com link. “Marra!”

She got up from her desk, moving slowly to the door where Marra met her. “Yes Ford?”

“I need to go to the med lab. I think I may have broken my hand.”

“Oh Ford no!”

She gave what was a cross between the grin and a grimace with a little nod. “Yeah I think so.”

“Well, let’s go get it taken care of.” She wrapped her arm around Ford’s waist, taking the injured hand gently into her own. “Oh yeah you’ve got at least one broken finger there.”

“Hey by the way.” Ford stopped, turning Marra in her arms, being careful of her busted hand. She leaned in giving the woman a tender kiss. “Congratulations.”

“For what?”

“You’re a citizen. The Chancellor herself just authorized it.”

LOG THIRTEEN

“Hey!” Ford growled at the med tech. “I came in here with it attached. I’d like to leave that way.”

“I’m sorry Garron Ford.” The young man finished wrapping her hand then made a hasty exit.

She looked at her broken hand then to Marra, who stood leaning against the wall with a little smirk.

“You think this is funny?” She stood up from the bed then stalked over to the blonde, pulling her into an embrace with her good arm. She held up her bandaged hand. “I did this because of you.”

“Noooo you did this because you have a lousy temper.” She cupped the broken hand, giving the bandage a little kiss.

“Actually, I have a good temper. It’s just that the lousy part chooses to manifest itself at the worst possible time.”

“Does it hurt much?”

“It hurts a lot.” Ford gave her a pitiful little smile. “A whole lot.”

“Oh brother.” Marra rolled her eyes. “Well, let’s go home and I’ll see if I can make you feel better.” She took Ford by the arm, leading her from the med lab.

“Cheesecake.” Ford said quietly.

“What?”

“Cheesecake and coffee would make me feel better. Of course, you may have to feed me.”

“You’re a big baby when you’re sick or hurt aren’t you?”

“Un-huh.”

“Well, at least you admit it.”

“Readily.”

****

“It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t my writing hand.” Ford growled again. She picked up her coffee cup, taking a long drink, emptying the cup.

“You should know better than to lead with your left.” Marra laughed, bringing the cheesecake to the couch then pouring Ford another cup of coffee from the carafe on the table.

“I feel off balance.”

“That’s because you are.” She did give the tall woman a bite of the cheesecake from her own fork after sitting down next to her.

“Care to define ‘off balance’?” Ford asked as she swallowed.

“No. You are free to define it anyway you like.” She snickered.

“You are a real trouble maker. I’m going to enjoy being married to you.”

“Will I be taking my own quarters after we’re married?”

“Do you want to?”

“No, but I thought your wives lived separately from you.”

“Only if they want to. If you like, you can be given your own quarters.”

“No, I wouldn’t like.” Marra huffed in a playfully indignant tone. “I like it fine right here, thank you very much.”

“Well, good I’m glad to hear it because I very much enjoy having you here.” Ford settled back on the couch, throwing her arm over Marra’s shoulders. “The first of my wives that I’ve actually wanted to live with.” She turned, kissing Marra very soundly. “The first of my wives that I’ve loved.”

“Better be the last of your wives that you love.” She teased. “I’ll be number five. How many do you need?”

Ford drew back with a truly amused look on her face. “Well now, are we feeling a little possessive my dear?”

“Maybe just a little. I have a theory though.” She offered Ford another bite, which was accepted, with a nod that urged her to continue. “If I make and keep you happy, you won’t need anymore wives.”

“This is true. Plus if you fulfill the position as First Lady Kurrathian, then you have the right to challenge any future spouses I might want to take.”

“Now that is a real perk. I can see using that to my benefit in thirty years when you’re thinking of replacing me with some young thing.”

Ford laughed out loud, which only got another piece of cheesecake shoved in her mouth.

“Don’t you laugh at me Ford Kurrathian. I’ll marry you, take my place as First Lady of your house, give you lots of children, then you’ll find some young woman who makes you sweat and try to marry her. Forget it.”

Ford was nearly choking on the cheesecake from laughing. Marra took pity by handing her the juice she had brought over. Ford sipped from the glass before handing it back. She coughed just a little still not trying to wipe the smile of her face. “You’re very cute when you’re possessive.”

“I’m not possessive. I am merely stating fact.” Marra winked.

“Well, what if you decide you want to take another spouse? Hmm? Am I just suppose to sit back and smile.”

Marra grinned, lifting an eyebrow. “You planning on watching?”

“Oh you are so full of it tonight. What has gotten into you?”

Marra sat her plate on the table, then curled into Ford’s side. “I’m happy. I’m about to be married. I was made a citizen today. I am a most fortunate woman. I feel good.”

Ford let her hand caress up and down Marra’s arm. “Hmm yes you do.”

Marra stilled Ford’s hand. “Behave.”

“Behave? Behave? You’re telling me to behave. Well, this is a switch.”

“One, you have a broken hand and two, now we have to wait.”

Ford groaned laying her head back. “You know if we don’t get this wedding done very soon I’m just going to explode.”

“Trust me, you are not the only one suffering here. I’m just aching to find out what I’ve been missing.”

“Aching being the operative word here.”

“Definitely.” She brought Ford’s hand to her lips.

****

Ford smoothed the fabric of Marra’s robes. “Nervous?”

“Un-huh. I’ve never prayed before.”

“I know. But the Priestess will guide you through it. You’ll be fine.”

“Aren’t you staying.”

“I can’t. This is your time with the Priestess and Capri.”

“What if I do something wrong?”

“Then you atone. Capri is forgiving.”

“You know, when I was a slave I met a few other slaves who actually worshipped. Even though they had no temple, no Priestess, they still prayed. I always wanted too but was afraid of being found out.”

“I understand about being afraid. I know if a slave is found to be worshipping they are put to death right away, but you also don’t need a temple or a Priestess to pray. I do it a lot. If you are faithful in your belief, Capri doesn’t care where you offer your prayers from.”

“Would you do it?”

“What?

“Put a slave to death for praying?”

“No. I believe Capri listens to anyone who truly believes in his or her heart. It doesn’t matter to Capri if your are citizen or slave, as long as you believe and it’s wrong for the citizens to condemn the slaves for believing.”

“If you could, would you do away with slavery?

“Yes. Yes I would.”

“Ooo that’s not a very popular opinion.” Marra smoothed the front of her robes.

“Well, now you know why I’ll never be Chancellor. I believe Earth existed and I’d abolish slavery.”

“But doesn’t Chancellor Trella believe in Earth too?”

Ford chuckled. “Chancellor Trella believes whatever is popular at the moment. That’s how she has managed to maintain the seat for so long.”

Marra took a deep breath before asking her next question. “Are you ever going to tell me why you get so defensive whenever the Chancellor’s name is mentioned?”

Ford considered it. “Well, Trella and I have a history. She wanted to marry me at one point when I was just getting started in my career. My brother ruled the Second House and I headed for the academy. I knew Trella when we were children. We grew up together. She had her father make arrangements with my brother for our marriage. I was fond of her, but I was not ready to be married and I hated arranged marriages anyhow.”

Ford reached into the closet for her own robes, after making sure that Marra was completely ready. She continued as she slipped hers on. “So I had a fit….”

“Naturally.” Marra snickered, sipping from a glass of wine Ford had given her earlier.

“I refused to marry Trella. She didn’t take the news well and set me up. She called me to her quarters, I assumed to talk it over. She had everything perfectly executed to make it look like I tried to force myself on her. She had me arrested and I spent a year in prison.”

Marra’s eyes widened with that revelation. “Ford, I had no idea.”

“Not many people do. My brother managed to piece together what happened and he confronted her, just days before she was about to become Chancellor. He threatened to go to the council and expose her. She ordered my release from prison and saw to it I was admitted into the next academy class.”

“How nice of her.”

“Yeah, my career has always been of great interest to her. Anyhow, about six months after that my brother died a very mysterious death and I was installed as Lord of the Second House.”

“She has hurt you in a lot of ways. Do you think she killed your brother?”

“I’m sure of it, but I’ve never been able to prove it. To try, would only get me thrown back in prison.”

“But now she’s saying she needs your help and you’re giving it to her, why?”

“Because I have more important things to focus on than her.” Ford tied off her robes, smoothing them out. “Like you for instance.” She leaned in, kissing the blonde quite thoroughly. “And your first trip to temple.”

Marra took a deep breath trying to calm her nervous stomach. She smiled at Ford, nodding. “I just hope I don’t embarrass you.”

“Not possible. However, you will be the one walking around with me and my busted hand. I’m feeling fairly stupid at the moment.”

“You look kind of silly too.” She grinned at the tall woman, leaning up to place a kiss on her cheek.

“Well, since I’m not out to impress anyone.” Ford wiggled her eyebrows, “Am I?”

“Better not be.”

The tall woman chuckled. “Let’s go. The Priestess awaits.”

They began a very slow walk through the ship to the temple, arms linked, looking very much like lovers. Laughing softly and talking. The people they encountered smiled at the Garron and her little companion. Seeing the commander seemingly happy for the first time in a very long time.

“You know we will be separated for three days. I’ll offer my prayers first, then I’ll leave you and the Priestess so that you may worship and learn the ways of Capri for the wedding.”

“Okay. Three days without you huh? That’s scary.”

“Marra, you most certainly have been in far scarier situations.”

“I’m sorry Ford. I’m just accustomed to being with you. Even when I go to the med lab to work, I’m a little jittery.”

“Well, we’ll get you over that soon enough. You’re going to have to be strong to be First Lady of the Second House. You will have certain duties to perform that won’t include me.”

Marra nodded. “Will you check Neyta for me? I want to make sure she’s nesting properly.”

“Of course sweetheart.” Ford stopped for just a moment. “Hey, what if she isn’t nesting properly what am I suppose to do about it? I’ve never owned a pregnant female before.”

“Just make sure that she is chewing up her bedding and making a good deep nest. If not, put some shredded bedding into the stall with her.”

Ford nodded, making a mental note of the instructions for the female. She rejoined Marra and they continued the walk. “Should we leave Phoenix in there with her?”

“Oh yeah. It would be bad to try and separate them now. They both would be crazed and the last thing we want to do is upset Neyta right now.”

“All right. I’ll see to it.”

They stopped outside the temple doors. Ford pulled Marra into her arms. “I love you Marra.”

The young woman looked into sincere blue eyes and smiled. “I love you too Ford.”

LOG FOURTEEN

Ford caressed Marra’s cheek. The small woman grasped the larger hand, kissing it. “I’m a little scared.” The tall woman admitted quietly.

Marra looked surprised at the admission. “You’re scared? Of what?”

“Being without you for three days.” Ford smiled. “I may starve to death.”

Marra laughed faintly, blushing with Ford’s words. “You will not. You know how to cook.” She played with the belt of Ford’s robe, finding it more interesting at the moment.

“I know how to use the replication unit. So, maybe I won’t starve, but I won’t like it. You’ve spoiled me.” Ford lifted Marra’s chin. “I’m going to miss you.”

“It’s only for three days. I’m sure you’ll survive.”

“Maybe so, but when you’re done here be prepared to go out for the nicest dinner I can find on the ship.”

“I can do that.” She blushed again.

“You’re very cute when you do that. You’re ears go all red.” Ford ran her fingertip over the blonde’s ear.

“They do not.” Marra protested dropping her head again.

The tall woman smiled, leaning in to kiss the ear in question and whispering, “They do to.”

“It’s time Ford.” The Priestess stepped from the shadows where she had been watching the scene. “Say your good-byes to Marra and leave us.”

“Yes Priestess.” Ford drew a deep breath, lifting Marra’s chin again, looking into her eyes. “I love you. I’ll see you in three days. I’ll make sure to look in on Neyta for you.”

Marra nodded. She wanted to kiss Ford but didn’t know if it would be all right in the presence of the Priestess.

“Of course it is Marra.” The woman offered from her position at the altar.

Ford smiled leaning in and whispering. “Don’t you hate it when she does that?”

Marra nodded. Ford pulled back, placing a tender kiss to the blonde’s lips.

“Ford. It is simply time for you to go now. You’ve drug you’re feet long enough.” The Priestess chastised, moving toward them. “Now be a good little commander and go command.”

“Yes Priestess.” She leaned in again stealing a quick kiss before turning and leaving.

“Finally!” The Priestess smiled, holding her hand out to Marra. “I swear, that one is one of the most devout Capri has, but she can be like a child at times.”

“Really? I’ve never found her to be anything but very serious.”

“You will understand when you see what’s ‘inside’ Ford Kurrathian.”

“How will I do that?”

“You,” The woman looped Marra’s hand through her arm, walking her toward the altar. “Have been chosen. It is why you have been brought together with Ford.”

“Chosen for what?”

“That, is what you will learn over the next three days.”

****

Ford lay down in bed. She looked to the pillow where Marra had been sleeping. She knew it was going to be useless. Sighing, she sat up against the headboard of the bed, turning on the light. She sat there looking around the room, drumming her thumb on her leg. She glanced at the timepiece on the wall, it was the middle of the night, she wondered what Marra was doing.

She finally sat up, completely giving up the concept of sleeping. “Ford, you are truly pitiful.” Moving across the room to her cabinet she removed clothes for the stables. “She’s been in your life less than two weeks and you act like you can live without her.”

“You can’t.”

Ford spun quickly, her breath caught as the form took shape. She dropped immediately to her knees, lowering her head, averting he eyes. “Capri.”

“Yes Ford.”

“Have I….”

“Oh Ford, don’t even ask that question. How could you of all souls offend me? You have, from the moment you were born been one of my most treasured.” The deity moved forward placing a hand on top of the Garron’s head. “You have a great challenge ahead. I have brought the two of you together. You must face it united as one. She will be a source of great strength and power for you when the time is right. Until then continue to treat her like the soul she is, worthy of your love and respect.”

“Of course. I do love her. I’ve waited all my life for her to come to me. Just as you said she would. I only hope that I can make her happy.”

“You do make her happy Ford. You treat her better than she has ever been treated before.”

“As you commanded Capri.”

The deity lifted Ford’s head so they are looking at each other. “I guided you Ford. I told you to be kind to the little slave that would be brought to you. The way you have treated her is from your own free will. The fact you fell in love with her was your own doing, not mine. You gave her your heart Ford, I didn’t.”

“I do love her.” Ford whispered. “More than I have ever loved anyone before.”

“Ford, I hate to tell you this, but Marra is the first soul you have ever truly loved. The others were mild distractions of the senses. Why do you think that you could allow them to take other spouses?”

“It is our custom.”

“That may be, however how do you feel when you think of Marra doing it?”

“My heart aches and my stomach hurts.” Ford dropped her head again. “Forgive me, but I don’t want Marra to take any other spouses.”

“But you will let her, if she desires to do so?”

“Who am I to challenge custom?”

“Aren’t you High Lord of the Second House?”

****

Marra lay on the bed with her eyes closed. She had been stripped of her clothes almost immediately upon beginning her training, it had left her feeling exposed and unprotected. She assumed that was the purpose and tried to choke back her nervousness.

“Just relax Marra. You know that no one here will hurt you. It is just you, me and Capri.”

Marra nodded, feeling the hands of the Priestess begin a massage of her body with a warm oil that held a soft scent of roses. She relaxed into the touch, allowing her mind to clear.

“You are about to take a great step Marra. To be chosen by Capri is a great honor. To be chosen to guide someone like Ford, a great challenge. Ford is one of Capri’s blessed ones, but she is very strong-willed and can be difficult at times.” The Priestess leaned over whispering the next words into Marra’s ear. “She is also very passionate.”

Marra refrained from groaning when these words registered in her mind. She took a deep breath, exhaling slowly.

“You think about that a lot don’t you Marra? What is would be like to be with Ford in a passionate, intimate way?”

Keeping quiet, Marra nodded.

“If you were forbidden to do it, would that stop you?”

“Ford and I have waited until our marriage because it is illegal for citizens to be together intimately in advance of the ceremony.”

“But you were a slave, Ford had the right to take you to her bed.” She moved to the head of the bed, kneeling down to face Marra. “She didn’t, because she loves you and she wants your first time to be special.”

“I know that.”

“Do you want that first time to be special for Ford?”

“Yes, very much. I don’t want her to be disappointed in me.”

“Then you will also be taught what will please Ford, so that you may make her happy on you wedding night and every night after that.”

****

Ford awoke in her bed. She didn’t remember going to bed after her visit from Capri. She also didn’t remember removing her clothes, but she was indeed unclothed now and she felt strangely…satiated.

She sat up, knowing full well that she had been with someone, who it was however was a complete mystery to her. She reached for her robe and pulled it on, still feeling a little disoriented.

Moving into the bathing room she removed the robe, flipping on the shower. Her reflection caught her attention. At the base of her throat there was a mark, a tattoo. It was a circle with a triangle inside of that and inside the triangle a single eye peered from it.

“Oh great Capri.” She gasped, realizing that she had been marked with the deity’s personal icon. She ran her fingers over the mark, realizing that she was going to have to tell Marra about this experience too. “Does sex with a spirit count as being unfaithful?” She asked her reflection, which just stared back at her with no answer forthcoming. “I hope not.”

She sighed, then stepped into the shower. Letting it wash over her, very vivid memories of the previous night came flooding back to her. She closed her eyes, bracing her hands against the wall as all of the feeling and the emotion returned full force. She gasped for air, trying to keep from collapsing with the intensity of the sensations.

****

Marra felt like every emotion possible was running through her mind and heart all at once as she prayed for the first time. She had never felt anything so intense in her entire life. She was grateful for the padded bench and armrest in front of the altar where she was kneeling. She was sure it was the only thing that was keeping her upright at the moment.

She felt the sweat breaking out on her face and neck, her breath came in short raspy bursts as the room began to spin. Everything went from light to gray then finally, black.

****

Ford leaned against the stall wall peering in at the serpentines. Neyta was lying in the thick nest, curled into a tight ball. She seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Phoenix was with her, curled next to her with his wing draped over her body. He lifted his head, cocking it from side to side, looking at Ford.

“Hiya boy.” The Garron reached into the sack she had brought with her and pulled out a fresh canna fruit. She held up the large fruit so he could see it. “You want?”

Phoenix allowed his tongue to trace from one side of his mouth to the other when he eyed the treat. He looked back and forth between his mate and his owner. After looking between them several times, he finally huffed and laid his head down. His decision had been made. He wouldn’t leave her side, even for a chance to have his favorite treat.

“Oh, you are beat.” Ford laughed, tossing him the fruit, which he snatched out of the air with one quick snap of his long neck.

Neyta raised her head to Ford. * Marra? *

Ford heard the question in her head. “She’s at temple. For three days. She’ll be back soon.”

The female cocked her head to look at her own mate, who was happily munching on the fruit. He stopped in mid chew when their eyes met. He then proceeded to offer her the part of the fruit that he hadn’t consumed. She accepted it, then placed her head back down as she ate the fruit. Phoenix looked at Ford the Garron looked at him with a grin. It appeared that her serpentine almost seemed to shrug his shoulders as he laid his head back down.

Ford fished another fruit from the sack. She broke it in half before entering the stall. She approached slowly offering the fruit to both of them. They accepted without hesitation. She settled down with them, stroking their heads. Both of them began the soft purring that she had learned was a sign they were both very happy.

“Bet I sound a lot like you two when Marra comes home.”

She continued to sit with the beasts until her attention was distracted by her com signal. She moved from the stall to the closest com panel. “Ford.”

“Garron Ford. Sensors show approaching enemy battle cruiser. Expected time to engagement, four hours.”

“Acknowledged. Put all pilots on alert and ready my own fighter. I’ll be on the bridge in a half-hour. Ford out.” She left the stables, heading for her quarters to change.

****

Marra’s eyes snapped open. She felt in her heart a deep anxiety. “Ford.” She murmured.

“There is an engagement about to take place.” The Priestess offered from behind the woman. “Ford will be engaging the enemy in a few hours.”

“She’s going to be hurt.” It was a statement, not a question.

“You can stop it.”

“How?”

“Use what Capri has given you Marra.”

LOG FIFTEEEN

Marra fingered the mark at the base of her throat. “What if I fail?”

“Ford dies.” The Priestess took Marra by the arms, turning the blonde to face her. “But you won’t fail. Now,” She instructed quietly. “Close your eyes and think of Ford. Open your thoughts and allow your soul to find it’s mate.”

Marra nodded, closing her eyes, she felt a tingling under her fingers. Moving them away, she could indeed see Ford on the command deck of the ship. She was moving around, pacing back and forth watching the vid screen as the enemy battle cruiser approached.

“Weapons ports are open on the cruiser Garron Ford.” A young officer reported from across the deck. “They are preparing to fire.”

Marra could see Ford shake her head. “Why must this insanity continue?” She commented softly before issuing her next order. “Prepare to fire, but try to establish a com link for me first.”

“Yes Garron.”

Ford turned to the screen, waiting.

“Com link established Garron.”

She straightened, bringing her arms tight and straight to her side as she stood to her full height. “This is Garron Ford. My crew and I are on our way home. We have been traveling in the nonaligned sector in an effort to avoid conflict. If you fire on us you are in direct violation of mandate seven fifty-two.”

“Garron Ford. This is Garron Dror.” The opposing commander answered back. “We have been sent to intercept you ship. To make sure you don’t make it back to your command. Lower your shields and prepare to be boarded. Doing so will keep us from destroying you and your ship.”

“I have no intentions of surrendering.”

“Then prepared to fight Garron Ford. Dror out.” The screen went blank.

Ford turned to her weapons officer. “High alert! Launch all fighters. Fire at will.”

Marra staggered at the power of Ford’s words. She took a deep breath thinking intently of Ford. She could feel a warm energy wrap around the tall woman. She watched as Ford turned and left the command deck.

“It’s a trap.” Marra whispered quietly. “A ruse to get Ford off the ship.”

“Tell her.” The Priestess intoned.

“How?”

“Just tell her.”

Marra closed her eyes, picturing the Garron as she walked onto the flight deck. The blonde watched as Ford stopped and examined the cast on her left hand. She grabbed it, crushing it, tearing it from her injured hand. She tossed it away as she flexed the fingers of her injured extremity. Marra took a deep breath then directed her thoughts to Ford.

* Don’t leave the ship *

Ford looked around, for the owner of that very familiar voice as men and women scrambled to their own fighters. “Marra?”

*Yes Ford. Please don’t argue, and just trust in me. Don’t leave the ship, it is simply a trick *

“Marra I must. I don’t send my troops into battle alone.”

* It is their intention to take you hostage Ford. To try and keep you from reaching command *

“Who is behind this Marra?”

* I don’t know yet. I just feel Garron Dror’s deception. It’s a trick. Please believe me. Capri has given me the power to protect you. Let me *

Ford drew a deep breath. She watched as the rest of her troops scramble to their ships. “Marra, I can’t.” She shook her head then proceeded to her own ship. Her flight officer handed her a helmet. She pulled her hair back, giving it a slight twist, she placed the helmet on her head, then climbed the ladder into her fighter.

* Ford please * Marra begged, watching the cover close over her. The blonde turned to the Priestess. “She’s not listening to me.”

“I told you she was stubborn.”

“Now what?”

“You must find a way to stop her.” The Priestess turned Marra toward the altar. “Ask for the power and be guided to it.”

Marra moved quickly to the altar, kneeling before it, beginning her prayers.

****

Ford took another deep breath just before the fighter launched. Relaxing into her seat she tried to shake Marra’s words.

“You are obstinate, Ford Kurrathian.” Capri’s voice reverberated in her head. “Why do you not listen to my chosen?”

The Garron shook her head. “I can offer no explanation.”

“Is it not enough for you, that she tells you I have given her the power to protect you? Since when do you question anything that you are told from my faithful? You have never questioned my Priestess. Why do you question and doubt Marra?”

“I…I…”

“You are by far the most frustrating soul. When you are safely out of this situation and back in the comfort of your command. You will not only spend three days in temple to atone for your disobedience to me, but you will fall to your knees and beg Marra’s forgiveness as well. If you are very lucky she will take pity on you and allow you to do this. You don’t deserve to marry her Ford. You had better hope that she can save your worthless soul from the trap that has been set for you.”

****

Marra moved through the corridors as quickly as she could. As she approached the shuttle bay, she saw a familiar face. “Rick!”

Carron Richards lifted his head. “Marra! What are you doing here? You should be in quarters. We’re going into battle.”

“Yes I know. Do you know how to pilot a shuttle?

“Sure I do, but a shuttle can’t launch right now.”

She grabbed him by the arm, dragging him toward the shuttle bay. “Want a bet? Rick, Garron Ford’s life may depend on this.”

Carron Richards followed the woman to one shuttle. “Not that one.” He yelled over the roar of fighters launching from the next bay. “If we’re going out there, we need something with a little fire power.”

“We need something with a lot of fire power.”

“We’re stuck with this.” Rick moved her toward a moderate sized shuttle. He tapped a few buttons, allowing the boarding ramp to lower. He shook his head as he watched the woman board the shuttle. “I must be losing it.”

****

Ford banked into a small pocket on fighters. She locked on to one of the ships then squeezed the trigger. She closed her eyes as the ship disintegrated before her. She offered her silent prayer for the soul lost.

Turning the ship around, she noticed immediately that the space around her was empty. “Oh this can’t be good.” She didn’t have time to react before a large shuttle was looming in front of her. “Definitely not good.” She tried to turn her ship only to find it not responding. “Bad, very bad.” She hit the com link to her ship. “Ford to Devereux.”

There was no response. She knew for sure now. She was cut off and alone. Marra had been right. Now there would be a price to pay for not listening to her. The ship in front of her locked on, drawing her fighter closer.

****

Marra and Rick settled into the seats of the shuttle. Rick powered up the ship, as soon as the controls came to life so did the com system. They listened as the com officer tried to make contact with Ford to no avail. Marra’s head dropped into her hands. Rick reached out laying a hand to her shoulder. “We’ll find her.”

Marra nodded, raising her head to look at the controls. “Teach me. What can I do to help?”

Rick took a deep breath. “Any ideas how we’re going to get off the ship?”

“Un-huh. Open a com channel.”

He moved his hands over the controls then gestured to them. “Go ahead.”

Marra took a deep breath, trying to figure out how to phrase her next demand.

“Shuttle Carey to Deveruex.” Rick offered to get her started.

“Go ahead Shuttle Carey.”

“Requesting permission to…” Marra faltered, not quite sure how to proceed.

“Launch.” Rick whispered.

“Launch.”

“Request denied.”

“Look, you either give us permission to launch or we do it ourselves anyhow. Your Garron’s life may depend on it. I know you’ve lost contact with her and I intend to find her.”

“A search party has already been launched. Stand down Shuttle Carey.”

Marra tapped the link that she had seen Rick touch to open the com link. “They just don’t get it do they?”

“They are merely following protocol Marra.”

“Protocol can take a long leap.”

“How do you suggest we get past the energy field at the bay door?”

Marra glanced up. “If I can get it down can you launch this thing?”

“Yeah, assuming they don’t lock on and drag us back here.”

“They won’t.” She looked to the field, then closed her eyes, visualizing it. She forced it to dissipate in her mind. She didn’t have to say anything to Rick. She felt the shuttle begin to move. When she opened her eyes, she turned her head and smiled at the young man. “Thanks.”

He just shrugged, running his hands over the controls. “I’m trying to find the Garron’s ship. It’s not registering on the sensors.”

Marra closed her eyes again, feeling for Ford. She saw a debris field, without opening her eyes she pointed. “Ten marks left.” She felt the shuttle turn. She continued to give Rick directions then she finally opened her eyes. “Oh Capri Help us.” She murmured, rising to look out the window. “This is Ford’s ship, isn’t it?”

“The signature is the same.” Rick offered quietly. “I’m not finding any trace of Garron Ford. She must have died in the explosion.”

“She’s not dead.”

“Marra, I’m sorry, but be reasonable. Look at that ship, or what’s left of it. No one could have survived that.”

“She not dead. I would know if she were dead.”

“All right then, where is she?”

The blonde shook her head. “I’m not sure.” She turned to Rick, pointing a stern finger in his face. “But she’s not dead and we’re not going back until we find her.”

“As you wish, Lady Kurrathian.”

“I’m not Lady Kurrathian yet, but I intend to be and that means we don’t give up.”

Rick nodded, extending the sensors as far as the shuttle would allow. He was also very diligent in keeping an eye on the battle that continued to be fought in the space just a few marks away.

****

Ford tried to lift her head. She tried to open her eyes at the same time and realized that both ideas were very bad ones. She lowered her head back to the hard floor with a groan.

She did allow her hands to feel the space around her. A simple smooth deck floor. Cold, hard metal and her body felt like it had been slammed into it several times at high speed from a great distance.

She groaned again. “Capri forgive me.” Rolling on to her side she opened her eyes and sighed. “Marra forgive me.”

She rolled the rest of the way over. Executing a push up, she managed to get to her feet. She stretched her arms above her head, taking inventory of any injuries. She was relieved to discover that other than a headache there didn’t seem to be any permanent damage.

She took the time to survey her surroundings. The cell was empty, she knew from experience that it had to have a door. The next trick would be finding it. She began running her hands over the walls. “I know you’re here somewhere. Now the question is where?”

“Don’t bother looking Lord Kurrathian.” The voice boomed from a speaker above her head. “You don’t get out until we want you out.”

“Who is we?”

“You don’t need to know that until we want you to know that.”

****

Marra paced back and forth. Rick continued to scan the area. She stopped behind him, placing her hands in his shoulders. “Look for a hidden ship.”

“What?”

“A hidden ship. Something camouflaged.”

“Camouflaged as what?”

“Well if I knew that, I’d know what to look for. You’re the soldier here.”

“I work in the library.”

“Why is that by the way? You are obviously a talented pilot.”

“You have to be hand picked by the Garron to fly a fighter on her cruiser.”

“You never tried did you?”

“I could never pass her test. There’s always a long waiting list to try. It’s an honor to fly for Garron Ford.”

“Tell you what, when we get her back, I’ll see to it that you get a chance.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” She pointed out the window again. “What was that?”

“What?” Rick perked up, following the blonde’s finger to the spot indicated.

“It’s looked like a ripple.”

“So it does. Let’s see what it is. Let’s try firing a torpedo at it and see what happens?”

“I’m betting they’ll fire back.”

“Could be. Let’s hope I can out maneuver them.”

“Yes, let’s.”

“Get yourself strapped in. It could get bumpy.”

Rick’s fingers glided over the controls, releasing two torpedoes at the ripples. The impact showed a definite ship, which indeed did return fire on the shuttle.

“Remember that bumpy ride I said we were going to have!?” Rick called, trying to steer the shuttle out of the line of fire.

“Yeah.”

“Here it comes.”

LOG SIXTEEN

Marra held onto the console as Rick did his best to avoid blasts coming at their small shuttle. It was indeed a bumpy ride. The explosions near the ship tossed it around, making Marra feel a tad queasy. She let a small smile cross her lips thinking of the times she had been on the transport with her arms securely wrapped around Ford. “I’ll never let you go again.” She whispered.

Rick watched the larger shuttle in front of them break for open space. He could tell it was headed for the enemy battle cruiser. “They’re making a break for it.”

“They must have Ford aboard that ship. Follow them.”

“We’re going to die.” The young man groaned even as he steered the shuttle to follow.

“No, we’re not, but we may get a little scuffed up in the process.”

“Scuffed I can handle. Dead I’m not so thrilled about.” He grinned. “I’m going to try an old trick and see if it works. If it does we should be able to follow them aboard their ship.”

“What are you going to do?”

“First,” His hands flashed across the control panel. “We vent the engines to make it look like we’ve lost power and can’t follow. Then,” He continued his manipulations. “we give a slight burst of the engines, happens all the time when they fail. That burst, should push us into the wake of the larger shuttle’s energy field. If it works we’ll be able to follow right behind them and no one will notice.”

“Until of course we’re aboard.”

“Right.”

“Then what?”

“Then we need to come up with a second part to this sterling plan because we are most likely going to be taken captive.”

“Captive huh?”

“Yeah.”

“Rick, can you play scared?”

“Who’s playing?”

****

Ford tugged on the collar at her neck, just a little tighter and breathing would be almost impossible. She examined the heavy magnetic cuffs at her wrists and ankles. She certainly hadn’t expected this turn of events when she thought she had found the door. The bolt that had knocked her off her feet had also knocked her unconscious, when she came to she found herself securely shackled.

“Lord Kurrathian,” The voice echoed once again from the speaker above her head. “Stop fighting us and stop trying to escape and you won’t be harmed. If you continue, we will tighten the collar until you pass out and can be subdued more efficiently.”

She rolled from her side to her back. “This,” Ford rasped, her mouth was dry and her throat hurt. “is pointless. I’ll be terminated from my ship as soon as they realize I am missing. You know that.”

“No, you won’t Lord Kurrathian. We have already disabled the termination implant. It is very important that you be kept alive.”

“Just not mandatory I be comfortable?”

“Not at all.”

“You’re doing that part very well.” She mumbled. Rolling over on her side again, she managed to force herself into a sitting position against the wall. Her head felt like it was going to come off her shoulders and now her ribs hurt too. She gave great consideration to the fact that her situation was not improving. She looked to her hands again, twisting the shackles which were held together by the strong magnetic force. No, it was not improving at all.

At least she didn’t have to worry about being terminated, if, of course, her captures were telling her the truth. She wondered who exactly would have the ability to disable the implant. As far as she knew that technology didn’t exist.

****

The shuttle was surrounded the moment it came in for a landing. When the door opened the guards who boarded the shuttle found the small blonde holding a disrupter to the head of a young man who was on his knees.

“Stay back or I’ll kill him!” She growled, giving Rick’s hair a yank to pull his head back.

The guards stopped, certainly not expecting this turn of events. A tall woman stepped forward, lowering her own weapon and motioning to the others in her party to do the same. “Relax. We don’t need for anyone to get hurt.” She offered softly.

Marra smiled on the inside. Outwardly, she just pressed the weapon harder into Rick’s head. “I just want safe passage off of this ship.”

“Who are you?” The woman asked gently, taking a step forward.

“I’m Marra. I was Garron Ford’s slave. I escaped when the battle started.”

The woman smiled. “I’m Sarron Daien. I am the commander of Garron Dror’s personal guard. No one here wants to hurt you. Why don’t you put the weapon down and let us help you?”

“Help me?” Marra asked innocently.

Sarron Daien nodded. “Yes, let us help you. You just need to release the Carron so we can do that.”

“You’re Garron Ford’s enemy. You’ll kill us both.” Marra jerked Rick back by the shoulder of his uniform. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt. I just wanted to get away.”

“We won’t kill you Marra.” The woman took another slow step forward, holding her hand out. “I promise you. We’ll help you both. We’ll help you gain your freedom from Garron Ford.”

“Don’t try to fool me. I’m a slave. I will merely be made a slave to someone on this ship.”

“No. No you won’t. I won’t let anyone take you anywhere. I’ll give you my personal protection until we sort things out.” She looked down at the young man who just swallowed hard, a bead of sweat trickled down the side of his face. “I’ll offer my protection to the both of you.” She returned her attention to the little blonde. “You just have to trust me.”

Marra hesitated for a moment, then dropped the weapon, handing it to Sarron Daien. This might not be the best solution, but it got them aboard. Now all she had to do was figure out part three of this plan.

****

The guard pulled Ford to her feet. As his men held their weapons on her, he slipped the dark sack over her head. “You are being moved to another location Lord Kurrathian. We wish to do this without injuring you further.”

Ford nodded, understanding completely that any resistance would no doubt mean a severe beating. Until things improved for her she didn’t need to purposely upset anyone. Eventually someone would make the mistake that would give her the opportunity she required to escape.

She felt two guards grip her arms, one of them poked a weapon in her ribs. The magnetic field at her feet was released allowing her to walk under her own power. She listened intently to everything around her. It was the only of her senses that was of any use to her at the moment.

She could tell that she was being taken from a smaller transport to a larger ship. She figured that she was being taken aboard Garron Dror’s ship. Now the question was, why? Why was Dror doing every thing in his power to keep her alive? He was certainly following orders from someone very high up in his own command. Maybe his own Chancellor? What was that maniac’s name? She struggled with it trying to recall it, but it wasn’t coming to her.

She listened as they left the transport, stepping out into the launching bay. There were a multitude of voices around her. People coming and going from every direction.

****

Someone, she wasn’t sure who, draped a blanket over her shoulders when they stepped off the shuttle. Marra tried to take in every thing around her. She glanced at Rick who seemed to be doing the same thing. He brought his hand to his mouth, coughing. She noticed he gave a quick point. She looked only long enough to see six heavily armed guards removing someone from the larger shuttle.

Her heart began to pound in her chest when the length of black hair trailing out from under the dark sack gave away the captive’s identity.

*Ford. Ford I’m here. I’m trying to find a way to get you out. *

She hoped that Ford could hear her and knew she was close.

Sarron Daien noticed the look that flashed across Marra’s face. She leaned in and whispered. “Yes, that is Garron Ford.”

“You’ve taken her captive?”

“That was our mission.”

“Why?”

“Because she has to be stopped. She is a truly evil woman. She masks it well. You should know this if you were her slave.”

“She definitely treated me differently than anyone else before her.”

“I’m sure of it.” Sarron Daien offered, placing her arm around Marra’s shoulders. “You’re safe now. She can’t hurt you any longer.”

Marra shuddered, she was sure Daien took it as a sign of relief. It wasn’t.

****

Ford was careful not to respond when she heard Marra’s voice in her head. Great Capri how had Marra gotten aboard the ship and what exactly did she think she would be able to do? Get them both killed maybe? Now she had to worry about the little blonde as well. Not only did she have to find a way out, but now she would have to find Marra and get them both to safety.

She continued to pay attention to as much as possible. She knew she was being escorted into the holding cells of the ship. Once she was taken inside, she felt the manacles being removed from her legs and wrists, then the sack from her head. She let her eyes adjust to the light in the room. Taking in her surrounding she was surprised to find it was a rather ornate and comfortable cell.

“Lord Kurrathian.” The tall guard addressed her as he backed out of the cell. “We don’t want to hurt you. We have our orders. Please don’t makes us do that.”

“Wouldn’t think of it.” She offered dryly as the door closed. She took a deep breath then knelt next to the bunk to begin praying.

****

“You can stay here for the time being.” Sarron Daien said softly, escorting Marra to one door, while Rick was shown quarters a little further down the corridor. “These are comfortable living quarters. You will of course be locked in until Garron Dror has a chance to speak with you. I’m sure you understand.”

“I do.” Marra nodded, hoping for some time alone to gather her thoughts.

“Do you need anything? Food? Drink? Medical attention?”

“No, I’m fine thank you.”

“Marra. You don’t need to be afraid here. I mean it when I say no one will hurt you. Garron Ford can’t get to you here.”

Marra nodded. She really wished that this Sarron would just leave so she could concentrate on finding Ford and getting them out of there.

The woman moved to Marra, reaching toward her neck she took the necklace into the palm of her hand. “Garron Ford’s mark?”

“No.” Marra lied, hoping that the woman wouldn’t take the necklace. “An old family piece. I’m not sure where it comes from.”

“It looks like a mark of royalty.”

“I’ve had it since I was a baby from what I understand. It’s the only thing I’ve ever had that I’ve managed to keep.”

She let the necklace fall back to Marra’s throat. “Then by all means do so now as well.”

“Thank you.” Marra grasped the necklace, tucking it back in her tunic. “The pilot I came here with. I want you to know that I forced him to take me off the ship. He works in the ship’s library. He’s not a soldier.”

“We’ll take that under consideration. He’s still loyal to Ford?”

“I think he could be persuaded otherwise.”

“Let’s hope so. For his sake.”

With this the woman turned and left the room. Marra heard the lock shift into place. “Think Marra, think.” She began pacing the room.

LOG SEVENTEEN

Marra watched the vid screen. The images before her made her stomach turn into knots. Man after man fell at the feet of Garron Ford, as she used both her blade and her disrupter to kill each man that charged her.

The look on her face was wild and untamed, her hair blew about her shoulders as she turned in circles continuing to take down everyone who challenged her. The explosions behind her only seemed to charge through her system encouraging her to continue.

Sarron Daien finally stopped the vid when Marra’s eyes dropped from the screen. “She is a war criminal. She had to be stopped. That was the massacre at Velros Seven. She killed two hundred and fifty men by herself. She is a vicious animal, an animal that must be put down. Don’t you agree?”

Marra looked the woman directly in the face and nodded. “Of course. Someone like that can’t be allowed to live.”

“I’m glad you agree. We want to know how she treated you. We want to know if there is even one redeemable quality to this woman. If there is we might try rehabilitation. There are methods we can use to ‘change her personality’.”

“You want to see what she did to me?” Marra lowered the zipper on her jumpsuit and turned her back, allowing Sarron Daien to view the lash marks across her back. “This is how she treated me.”

Daien moved in, gently touching the marks. “Why?”

“Because she could.” Marra offered. “Because it pleasured her to do so.” She paused, drawing a deep breath. “Like you said, she is a vicious animal.” Marra pulled the jumpsuit back up. “I only wish I could return the favor.”

****

Rick sat in the small room at the table, his nervousness very apparent in his features and body language. He continually rubbed his hands together, he was so nervous they felt like ice.

They had been questioning him for the last five hours. He hoped to Capri, they believed the story that he told him. He and Marra didn’t have long to come up with it before they had been captured.

He was amazed when they had utilized a small scanner to disable the termination unit implanted at the base of his skull. He knew for the moment, he wasn’t going to die. The problem was, he didn’t know if he should be relieved or not.

The door opened once again. He was relieved to see Marra standing before him. He stood quickly and was very surprised when she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him quiet soundly.

“Put your arms around me.” She mumbled through the kiss.

He nodded dumbly, doing as he was told.

She kissed him from his lips, up his jaw to his ear. “We are lovers. We took the opportunity to escape when the battle broke out.” She whispered, her hands running through his hair and up and down his back. “Understand?”

He nodded again.

“Good.” She pulled back, cupping his face in her hands. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Are you?”

“Yes. I’ve been treated very well. I explained everything to them. They have offered us asylum aboard the ship. All we need do is ask for it.”

“We should.”

“Yes,” She gave him a slight smile. “We should. If we do, they’ll allow us to watch the execution of Garron Ford.”

“I know nothing would give you greater pleasure.”

“Only one thing could make me happier and that would be if I could do it myself. I owe her that much after what she did to me. After all the tortures she put me through.”

****

Ford continued to carefully remove the wire from the pant leg seam of her flight suit. She knew she was being watched and she had to make sure her movements were discreet at best.

The door to her cell opened. The blonde stepped in and Ford cocked a brow. “My little slave.” She hissed quite convincingly from her place on the bunk. “I suppose you are behind this.”

“No, I only wish I could have been.” Marra crossed her arms over her chest. “I came to see you before they execute you.”

“Why?”

“To see if you have a repentant bone in your body for the things you’ve done.”

“Such as?”

“Well, I’ve been shown vids of the massacre at Velros Seven…”

Ford threw her head back giving a hearty laugh as she got to her feet. “You know on my home world, it’s considered a great victory and I am thought to be a great hero and was highly decorated for that battle. Guess it just goes to show, it depends on who’s writing history. The victors, see it one way, the defeated, see it another.”

“For the things you’ve done to me?”

“For treating you like the whore and the slave you are? Hardly.” Ford took a step closer.

“Some how I didn’t think you would be.”

“I should have killed you when I had the chance.” The tall woman sneered. “I would have enjoyed choking the life out of you with my bare hands.”

“You are to be executed first thing tomorrow. They have decided that you are just too dangerous to be allowed to live.”

“They’re right!” Ford snapped, drawing back her hand and slapping Marra to the floor. She quickly bent over the woman and jerked her to her feet. “I’ll just do it now then!” She hissed.

The door to the cell opened, two guards charged in, using a stun gun and a stun stick they managed to knock the enraged woman from the smaller female and pulled her from the cell. Marra scooted back from the door of the cell as she watched the men beat Ford down. Leaving her beaten and barely moving on the floor of the cell, they back out and slammed it shut.

Marra was quick to conceal the wire.

“Are you all right?” The guard asked, helping her to her feet.

“I’m fine. I assure you I have been through worse at the hands of that beast.” She ran her tongue over her lip tasting a trickle of blood. “I’m fine.”

* Ford, be strong. I’ll be back. We’ll get out of this. I promise. *

****

Ford groaned, rolling from her side to her back. * That hurt. Gotta remember not to do that again. * “Shit.” She mumbled aloud, getting to her feet. She choked down the slightly nauseous feeling caused by the spinning of the room.

The guard watched the monitor. “Damn.” He mumbled. “She should have been down for at least an hour.”

Marra did a very good job of masking the smile that wanted to cross her lips. “She’s very tough.”

“No kidding.” The guard nodded. “I’m glad I don’t have to deal with her one on one, without weapons.”

“Just be careful that she doesn’t use them against you.” Marra offered before leaving the office.

She took a deep breath, leaning against the wall of the corridor. She could feel Ford’s pain and tried her best to absorb it and relieve her of it. She closed her eyes, offering a small prayer of her own to Capri.

****

Sarron Daien walked toward the quarters that she had arranged for the run away slave and her lover. They seemed to be a nice couple who had met their near defeat at the hands of Garron Ford Kurrathian.

Marra had explained how she had met Rick while she was doing some errand for the Garron. How they had become lovers and decided to try and escape from the woman.

There was something in the story that didn’t quite ring true, but everyone had a secret or two in their past. It wasn’t her job to prove they were lying. It was merely her job to look after them until they got settled.

She rang the bell at the door. She smiled a bit when Rick opened the door. “How are you this evening Rick?”

“We’re fine. I’m trying to get Marra to eat a little something.”

“Is she ill?”

“I think the stress of the last few days are just getting to her.”

“Anything I can do to help?”

Rick shrugged a bit. “I dunno, maybe if you talked to her. Maybe, it’s a woman thing I’m not connecting with.”

She chuckled, stepping inside when he stepped aside. “Anything is possible.”

Sarron Daien moved into the quarters. She looked at the little blonde, tilting her head just a bit when she saw the busted lip. “What happened?”

“One last thing to remember Garron Ford by.” Rick offered, handing the woman a glass of wine. “It happened today when Marra went to see her.”

“I hope the guards put her down.”

“They did.” Marra nodded.

“Does it hurt?” Daien took a seat at the table with Marra, cupping her cheek in her hand.

“No more than any of the others.”

“I can’t believe they considered keeping that animal alive.”

“They did?” Marra questioned, sipping her wine.

“They did. Garron Dror’s original orders were to bring her back to our home base. But those orders were changed earlier today and thank Capri for that. That animal will be executed tomorrow.”

“I can’t wait.” Marra mumbled from behind her glass.

“Well, you should really enjoy it. I’ve made some very special arrangements for you.”

“Really? Such as?”

“Garron Dror has agreed to allow you to, un, ‘return the favor’.”

“Meaning?”

“A little retribution is good for the soul Marra dear. You will have the chance to get a little revenge for the things that were done to you.”

****

They locked Ford’s wrists and ankles in the cuffs at the end of the chains. She was being tethered for a flogging and she knew it. She had seen it done enough times to know what it looked like. What she didn’t understand were the chains. This was most certainly barbaric.

She stared at the guard who moved in front of her and used a small knife to cut away the fabric of her jumpsuit, baring her from the waist up. “Enjoy the view. It’ll be the last thing you see.” She growled.

The guard grinned, resisting the urge to put his hands on her body. His orders were clear. She was merely to be hung out for her punishment.

The door opened, four people entered. Garron Dror, Sarron Daien, Marra and Rick. Dror took a position in front of Ford, crossing his arms in front of him. “My how the mighty have fallen.”

Ford remained quiet. She did however give him a slight smirk. He gave her a slap. She allowed the blood to pool in her mouth before she spit it on his boots.

“You always were to arrogant for your own good Ford. I intend not only to kill you, but to humiliate you too.” He unfastened the whip at his hip. “Seeing your fondness for Earth mythology and things of that nature we thought this was very appropriate.” He unfurled the whip, allowing the leather to snap on the floor. He motioned Marra forward. “Remember her Ford. Remember what you did to her? She’s going to give you a little pay back.”

Dror handed the whip to Marra. She stared into Ford’s eyes as she brought the handle of the whip up under the tall woman’s chin pushing her head higher. Ford managed to maintain eye contact that made it look like a snarl on her face. “I’m sure the stress of the situation will break you.” The blonde offered with a slight shifting of her eyes.

Ford just pushed down on the handle of the whip with her chin. “Get on with it you little whore. When you’re done, I have plans for you.”

“Arrogant to the end.” Sarron Daien murmured to Rick.

“Absolutely.”

Marra moved around behind Ford, snapping the whip to test it. She looked to the other occupants in the room. The guard leaned against the wall, holding his weapon down against his leg. Dror stood between the guard and Rick. Rick stood patiently with his hands behind his back and Sarron Daien stood next to Rick.

“You,” Marra gestured to the Sarron. “May want to move a bit. I’d hate to catch you with this thing.”

The Sarron did as requested. Marra drew her hand back and delivered the first blow.

LOG EIGHTEEN

Marra delivered the fifth blow, watching the flesh tear and the blood begin to pool in little drops as it seeped from the cuts. She also watched Ford’s hands grip around the chains.

“Now!” Ford growled.

Marra snapped the whip back, catching Sarron Daien firmly around the neck. She pulled the woman close to her wrapping the whip around her throat and torso. Rick wrapped the wire firmly around Garron Dror’s throat, choking and cutting him just a bit as he forced him to his knees.

The guard barely had time to respond before he felt the chains that had just been snapped, knock his weapon to the floor then come crashing down to break the bones in his hand. He dropped to his knees looking up helplessly to the tall woman with the dark hair who nonchalantly bent over and picked up the weapon at her feet.

She pointed the barrel directly at his head. “Unlock the ankles.”

He crawled over slowly, unlocking the chains at Ford’s feet. Then the butt of the weapon crashed into the back of his skull.

She turned with a wink and a smile to Marra, who held firm to Sarron Daien. Ford then turned to Rick, and looked down to Garron Dror.

“Ah, the sweet taste of humiliation.” She sneered down at him at the barrel of the weapon came to rest at his temple. “Do you like it Dror? Get used to it. You and your ship have just been captured.”

“You’ll never be able to take the ship Ford.”

“Oh please. You know the rules of engagement, Dror. I’ve got you. I’ve got your ship.” She looked to the young man who held the wire around Dror’s throat. “If he resists you. Kill him.”

“As you wish Garron Ford.” Rick nodded with a big grin and a slight jerk to the wire to remind the enemy commander, exactly who was in charge.

Ford turned to Marra, placing a very gentle hand to her cheek. “Well done, my love.”

“Not so bad yourself there Lord Kurrathian.” Marra grinned.

“I have something I’m suppose to do for you.”

“Yeah, I know. Beg later. Now you take command.”

Ford looked to her two compatriots. “We take command.” She looked to Sarron Daien. “Take your shirt off.”

The Sarron remained silent, but lifted a brow.

“I need a shirt.” She opened her arms, exposing her bare chest. “Yours should fit nicely.”

Marra removed enough of the whip to allow the woman to strip off her shirt. She removed the garment, leaving her in a white undershirt. She started to remove that as well, when Ford shook her head. “No, you keep that. No reason you should be embarrassed and humiliated.”

Ford grimaced a bit when she slid the shirt over her shoulders, allowing it to come to rest on her tender back. Marra reached out, laying a hand on her arm. “I’m so sorry.”

“We did what we had to do Marra. I’ll heal.”

“You most certainly will.” She took the time to give Ford a slight kiss. “I’ll see to that.”

“I’m sure you will.” Ford buttoned up her shirt. “But now he have a ship to take.” The tall woman looked to the Sarron again. “Would you prefer to be left here or taken with us?”

“You may as well kill me. I won’t help you.”

Ford motioned for Marra to drop the whip. When it was released Ford drew back her fist and hit the woman, knocking her unconscious. As her body crumpled to the floor Marra bent over and removed the whip from her throat. She coiled it in her hand and motioned to the door. “Shall we?”

Rick pulled Dror to his feet. Ford made sure the weapon she held was fully charged and ready to be fired. “Hate to go anywhere without a fully charged weapon.”

Marra grinned, rolling her neck and shoulders a bit. “Trust me, I’m fully charged.”

****

Ford moved in behind Dror, placing her weapon firmly in his back. “Try anything I don’t like Dror and I’ll kill you.”

“Does that include breathing?” The man gasped, when the wire was released from his neck.

“No, I’m willing to let you do that for now. If I weren’t,” She growled close to his ear. “You wouldn’t be.”

They moved out into the security area. Several guards snapped to attention then lowered their own weapons on the group.

“Tell them to surrender Dror.” Ford nudged the weapon into his spine.

“Drop your weapons.” Dror ordered. His people complied. Rick and Marra were quick to gather up the discarded weapons, preparing two of them for their own use and slinging the other two over their shoulders.

“Lock them up.” Ford ordered.

The soldiers were all ushered into a small cell and safely locked away. Marra turned to Rick when the door slammed shut. “So far so good. The only blood that’s been spilled has been mine and Ford’s.” She chuckled a bit.

“It could get a lot uglier before this is over. You do know that, right?”

She nodded. “Yes, and I am prepared to do whatever I have to, to make sure that we get out of here alive and intact.”

“That’s always good to hear.”

They returned to the security room where Ford had Dror open a vid line to the rest of his ship. “Do it!” She ordered. “Do it now, or I swear I’ll break your neck.”

He took a deep breath, then opened the vid link. “Attention. This is Garron Dror. The ship is now under the command of Garron Ford. Do not resist her. Obey her orders to the fullest and no one will be hurt. Disobey her and she will start executing crew members,” He paused looking slightly over his shoulder at the woman who had a brow raised in his direction. “Starting with me. She has obeyed the rules of combat and engagement and taking control of this ship according to combat protocol. The ship and the crew are hers. I am her prisoner.”

Ford nodded her approval of Dror’s announcement, then stepped before the vid screen. “This is Garron Ford. All non-essential crew members and civilians are hereby ordered to their quarters for lock down until further notice. All other crew members, will report to and remain at their stations. Any attempt to sabotage the ship will result in its immediate destruction.” She reached over Dror’s shoulder and closed out the vid line. Dror remained seated until Ford pulled him from his chair. “Rick, lock him up too.”

The young man moved the former commander to the back room. Ford took a deep breath closing her eyes then exhaling slowly. When she opened them she smiled to Marra. She lifted her hand, crooking a finger and beckoning the little blonde. Marra was quick to move across the room. The tall woman divested them both of their weapons then took Marra into her arms.

The kiss was long, deep and very passionate. The Garron held the smaller woman’s face firmly between her hands, holding her in place as she continued to devour her. Marra’s own hands wrapped quickly and firmly in Ford’s dark hair as she returned the kiss with just as much passion. Finally, breaking away for need of air they just continued to look at each other, taking in smiles and knowing the other was safe.

“I’m sorry.” Marra was the first to speak. “I hated…”

“Shh…it’s all right. We did what we had to do. We’re going to be just fine. We’re together now.”

“Are we really going to be able to keep control of this ship?”

“Oh yeah.” Her brows came together for a moment. “What’s the old Earth saying? Ah yeah…piece of cake.”

“Cake huh?”

“Yeah.”

“And that means?” Marra asked, stepping back and taking her weapon back into her hands.

“I have no idea, but it sounds easy.” Ford laughed, taking up her own weapon and slinging the other over her shoulder.

“And I had no idea you knew how to destroy this ship.”

“I don’t, but it sounded good didn’t it.” Ford chuckled again.

“It sounded very good.” Marra agreed with a nod.

****

Ford paused outside the doors of the command deck. “May as well let that whole ‘massacre at Velros Seven’ thing work for me here.” She grinned before triggering the door.

When she entered she was quick to draw her weapon to the right and fire, knocking the man waiting in ambush into the wall, before he slumped to the floor. She just shook her hand before speaking.

“I have command of this ship. Anyone else who challenges me will be executed. Open a vid link to the Devereux.”

Carron Richards was quick to accent Ford’s order with a poke in the ribs of the com officer. “Do it.” He growled. The young woman nodded nervously then opened the link.

“Ford to Deveruex.”

“Deveruex to Garron Ford. Commander how…”

“That’s not important right now. Send your coordinates to this ship and then prepare to meet up with us. Also, put in place all security protocol to take command of this vessel by remote control if you have to.” Ford looked to Rick, who nodded. “All systems are available for scanning.”

“Yes, Garron Ford.”

“Have troops ready to board this ship upon our arrival.”

“Yes, Garron Ford.”

“We’ll see you soon. Ford out.” She took another deep breath. “Is there a Priestess of Capri on this ship?” She glanced around the room waiting for an answer. “Oh come on people, that was not a difficult question.”

The com officer nodded. “Yes, Garron Ford there is a Priestess aboard.”

“Good. Have her brought to my office.” Ford looked to Carron Richards. “Congratulations, you just received a field promotion Sarron Richards. You have command. If anyone disobeys you, kill them.”

“Yes Garron Ford.”

The tall woman held out her hand to Marra. “Come on.”

****

Once inside her new office, Ford dropped down to the couch, closing her eyes. Marra stood before her watching her. “How did you know?”

“Know what?” Ford asked wearily.

“That there would be somebody ready to attack you?”

“There always is.” She answered with a slight lift of her hands.

“How did you know they would be to your right?”

“They always are.” She shrugged. She got to her feet, taking Marra’s hands in her own she dropped to her knees, but she never lost eye contact with the blonde. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you and I’m sorry I got you into this mess. Please forgive me.”

Marra smiled, shaking her head slightly. “Of course I forgive you. You were only doing what you had to do.” She combed her fingers through Ford’s hair. “And I only did what I had to do by following you.”

Ford’s eyes dropped as she nodded her head. “I know and I love you for it. Marra it’s not exactly what I wanted for us, but when the Priestess gets here I’m going to have her marry us. Is that all right?”

“That,” Marra leaned over, kissing Ford quite thoroughly. “Is more than all right.”

“I promise you the wedding you deserve as soon as we get home, but I need this. I need you.”

Marra cocked her head, looking at Ford carefully. “Is that a leer I see on your face Ford Kurrathian?”

“Un-huh.” She nodded with an evil little grin.

“And to the victor goes the spoils of war?”

“Something like that.”

****

Marra looked over the replication unit. It only had a few minor differences from the ones she had become accustomed to on the Devereux. While Ford washed up quickly in the small bathing chamber off the office she replicated a proper uniform for her.

“Jumpsuit?” She called into the bathing chamber.

“Yes please. Preferably in one piece with no blood on it.”

“Oh very funny. Stress really does bring out your humorous side doesn’t it?”

“Actually,” Ford stepped out of the room, dressed in a robe, rubbing a towel over her face. “It does.”

“You must be a laugh a minute in combat.”

“Not really, but I’ve been known to play a practical joke or two when it’s over.”

Marra removed the uniform and handed it to Ford. “Get dressed and I’ll get us some food.”

“Cheesecake and coffee.” Ford mumbled, struggling into her jumpsuit.

“Hmm.” Marra considered the unit before her. “Can’t do that here. They aren’t programmed in to this system.”

Ford grumbled a bit, then moved to the desk. “Sarron Richards?”

“Yes Garron Ford.”

“Get me a com only link to the Devereux.”

“Yes Garron Ford.” There was a slight pause. “Link established.”

“Ford to Devereux.”

“Yes Garron Ford? We are standing by awaiting your arrival. We have established remote command capabilities.”

“Good. In the meantime send me the replicator files for coffee and strawberry cheesecake.”

“Commander?”

“Just do it.” She rolled her eyes at Marra who just giggled a bit.

“Yes, Garron Ford.” Another pause was accent by Ford drumming her fingers impatiently on the desk. “Transfer complete Commander.”

“Thank you. Ford out.” She simply raised her hands, gesturing to Marra, who proceeded to get the requested items.

LOG NINETEEN

Ford barely heard the last words the Priestess spoke. Her world was filled with visions of the woman who had just become her wife. A single tear tracked down Marra’s cheek. Ford was quick to wipe it away, a concerned look falling over her features. “Marra?”

“Happy.” The little blonde sniffed a bit, falling into Ford’s strong embrace.

“I’m glad. You had me worried there for a second.”

“No, I’m fine, I swear.”

Ford released Marra then turned to the Priestess. “Thank you.”

The Priestess took a deep breath, regarding the woman in front of her. “You are not the person everyone has made you out to be Lord Kurrathian. I am honored to have performed your ceremony. Even if it was a little less than traditional.”

Ford nodded. “I know and I am very grateful to you. I promise you, just as soon as we can, we will have a traditional ceremony.”

“Good.” The Priestess caressed Marra’s cheek. “Capri’s chosen deserves no less.”

“I agree.” The tall woman hugged Marra very close to her. “She will have a wedding that won’t soon be forgotten when we return home.”

“Lord Kurrathian, what will happen to us when we get back to your home world?”

“Military prisoners will be taken into custody. Civilians will be given the choice of asylum or returning to their own home worlds.”

“You are not the monster we’ve been led to believe you are.”

“Thank you.” Ford’s smile was sincere. She glanced down to Marra who still held on to her, running her hand up and down Ford’s broad back very slowly. “Now, if you will excuse us.”

She nodded, looking at the couple. “Of course.” She bowed, backing out of the room. “May you have a long, happy and fruitful marriage Lord and Lady Kurrathian.”

****

Ford made one last check with Rick and found him to be handling everything very well. He had found several of Dror’s officers were less than thrilled with the way they had been treated and commanded and were more than willing to help him with the functions of the ship until they docked with the Devereux.

“Always nice to find unexpected allies.” She gave him a little slap on the back. “But be careful, make sure they are just not trying to gain your trust.”

“Of course Garron Ford. I have made very sure they are sincere.”

“Good. If you need me I’ll be in my quarters.” She put her arm around his shoulders, pulling him close, whispering in his ear. “Just make sure that it’s really something you need me for.”

“Yes Garron Ford. Congratulations.”

“Thank you Sarron Richards. I’ll see you in the morning.”

****

She stood outside the door of the quarters that Marra had chosen for them. Shifting nervously from one foot to the other, she even caught herself polishing her boots on the back of her pant legs just a bit. * Oh for Capri’s sake Ford get in there. You’re not a virgin. You’ve been married five times now. Why are you feeling so nervous? Maybe because you really love her? Because you don’t want to disappoint her? Go on you big coward. Go face that mere slip of a woman who has such a firm hold on your
heart. *

She opened the door, stepping inside she found the room dimly lit. Soft music, and the aroma of roses permeated the room. She shifted a bit as she took in the atmosphere. “Marra?”

The blonde stepped out of the shadows, holding two glasses of wine, wearing a silky, very tight fitting night gown that showed off the things Ford had tried so very hard not to think about. She groaned just a bit as she stepped forward, taking the wineglass.

“See something you like?” Marra smiled from behind her own glass, turning around to give Ford a much better view.

“Oh yeah.” Ford nodded, taking a long, quick drink from her glass

“Glad to hear it. Anything else I can show you?” She sat her glass down on a small table, then moved to Ford. She ran her hands up and down the front of her jumpsuit, apply pressure in all the proper places and pausing, waiting for a response. “Well?”

Ford was busy trying to find her voice and her tongue. She nodded again while the search continued. Marra was definitely amused by the fact that Ford was finding speech difficult.

“You’re very cute when you’re speechless.” Marra leaned forward, brushing her lips against Ford’s.

“Un-huh.” She brushed her lips over Marra’s again. “Adorable.” Her hands began a slow caress of the body before her. The kiss deepened, they began to melt into each other. Ford felt the zipper coming down on her jumpsuit. Her head dropped to Marra’s neck, exploring, tasting, testing.

“Oh that’s good.” Marra moaned a bit, tugging harder at the zipper. She began pushing the jumpsuit from Ford’s shoulders. “I like that.” She whispered, taking Ford’s earlobe into her mouth giving it a little nip. She was rewarded with a deep growl.

Before anything else could happen, Marra felt herself being swept into Ford’s arms, then carried into the bedchamber. She could feel being lowered to the bed, Ford’s hands gently pulling the thin straps of her gown from her shoulders while soft lips continued to lick and explore her skin. She could literally feel her heart trying to beat through her chest. She had never experienced anything quite like this before.

She wrapped her hands in Ford’s hair, amazed at the sounds escaping her own body and the feelings building within. She thought she knew what she was in for when they finally came together. She was wrong. She felt the fabric slide from her body, leaving her totally naked and exposed before Ford.

Ford drew back, smiling, looking down at Marra. “Beautiful.” The tall woman whispered, pulling the jumpsuit from her shoulders, kicking off her boots. She stripped out of the suit stepping out of it, she finished undressing and lowered herself gently to the bed with Marra.

“I love you.” She whispered, taking the small woman into her arms.

“Love you too.” Marra moved closer, absorbing the heat from Ford’s own body. “Teach me.” She whispered, kissing a spot on a shoulder that she just couldn’t resist. “Now teach me how to ‘make love’ to you.”

“Oh I will my love, never fear. I will.” Ford very slowly rolled over, placing Marra on her back, looking down at her, caressing her cheek. “You will know many things by morning.”

She brought her lips down, softly, gently. Kissing the woman with so much tenderness Marra almost found herself in tears from the frustration of it. She was torn between wanting it to be so slow and tender and the desire for Ford just to take her and make her scream with pleasure.

She felt Ford flinch when her hands came to rest on the broad back. She remembered that Ford’s back was injured and raw. She didn’t want anything to interfere with this night. She closed her eyes, allowing her head to drop back so Ford could explore there to her hearts content. She began a slow, gentle massage of the tender skin. She felt the transfer of pain for the briefest of moments. Allowing herself to cry out just a bit when it happened, she felt Ford pause.

“Marra?”

“Don’t stop.” She moaned, shaking her head a bit. “Please.”

Ford nodded against her neck, continuing her explorations. She let her hand slide down the blonde’s body, feeling the slight sheen of sweat that was already beginning to form there. “So lovely, so nice.” Her hand slipped between their bodies, down to Marra’s legs.

A very gentle nudge was all it took before Ford found herself laying blissfully between them. She felt Marra’s breathing catch when she settled down with her, beginning a slow, rhythmic grind of their bodies. She smiled when she felt fingertips dig into her shoulders.

Ford opened her eyes, taking in the sight of Marra’s face as they began making love. Her eyes were closed, her lips damp from their kisses, a flush was slowly creeping over her skin, and her breathing was short and thick. Soft moans escaped her throat as her body tensed and relaxed with Ford’s gentle loving of her body.

She turned her head, feeling Ford’s eyes on her and opened her own. Green met blue as their passion continued to build. She felt a firm hand settle between their bodies and begin soft, soothing caress of her most intimate place. She was surprised at her own body’s reaction, which was to thrust her hips toward Ford’s hand and body as a deep growl escaped her chest.

“Relax.” Ford instructed, kissing her forehead. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

She just shook her head. Forming words right now was almost impossible. She managed to get her message across, the same way they had communicated their plans to take the ship, even one-sided telepathic communication was better than nothing, Marra made her desires quite clear.

She felt the discipline in Ford’s body take over as she was entered for the first time. It was easy and gradual, slow and compassionate, loving and tender. The initial pain transformed into something else entirely almost immediately. She felt the rush of pleasure sweep through her body.

“Ohhh yes…” She moaned, her back arching into Ford. “Yes.” She pushed her body into the tall woman groaning and writhing in her own pleasures and desire.

“Oh sweet Eternity.” Ford groaned in her own time, feeling Marra moving under her was pushing her to her limits. Feeling this woman that she loved and adored, so very unsteady from her arousal and pushing into her, trusting her so completely, was like nothing she had ever experienced before.

She was careful with the small woman, being as tender and kind as possible. She knew she was holding back quite on purpose. There would be a lifetime for exploration and formation of other pleasures, but for now and for tonight, Ford would be the gentlest of lovers.

Their eyes met again. Marra’s lips parted as if she wanted to say something, then it happened. Her eyes snapped shut, her breathing stopped and her hands pushed against Ford’s shoulders as absolute ultimate pleasure swept through her body, leaving her a quaking, shuddering mass in the bed. Tears fell from her eyes as she felt Ford leave her and pull her into her arms.

“Marra? Did I hurt…”

“Shh…no. Hold me.” She begged through her tears, molding her body into the larger one next to her. Her own body still trembled with aftershocks. Her breathing slowed with her tears. Finally, she opened her eyes to find a very concerned set of blue peering back at her. She laughed a little, wiping her cheeks. “Wonderful.” She whispered. “Simply overpowering darling.”

She relaxed in Ford’s arms as exhaustion tried to overtake her. She felt the soft kisses being placed on her forehead and temple. She took a deep breath, running her hands over Ford’s body. “Teach me how to satisfy you.”

“Marra, we have plenty of time…”

Her words were cut off by the insistent kiss being delivered by the little blonde. She felt her bottom lip captured by demanding teeth. “Teach me.” She growled.

Ford moaned. Her body certainly agreed with Marra’s idea even if her mind wanted to argue. Sometimes it was just better not to think. She rolled on her back, pulling Marra on top of her, allowing her to come to rest in the same spot she had been earlier with the blonde.

Marra pushed up a bit and looked into passion filled blue eyes. “Here?” She began a very slow, deliberate motion with her hips. She tried to hide the grin when Ford could only nod and groan. “Oh you like this don’t you?”

“Un-huh.” Another nod and another groan.

Marra watched Ford’s face. Her eyes were closed, head tilted back slightly, lips parted as she breathed through her mouth. The features of her face moved and twitched with pleasure while Marra’s hands explored her body. “Oh yeah…” She moaned with a slight nod.

The little woman lick her own lips, enjoying immensely watching Ford give over to pleasure. She took one last look then dropped her lips to Ford’s skin. She gave a slow, lingering lick from her neck to her shoulder.

Ford was simply amazed at the things Marra was doing to her. All the pleasures she was feeling. Her body tingled with every touch, burned with her kisses. Then simply soared with the gratification it finally found at the hands of her new wife.

She curled up instinctively around Marra, feeling her own body shiver through the end of the climax. She held the woman close, while they both found peace and contentment in each other’s arms.

****

Ford stretched, smiling and feeling very satisfied. There was however, one thing missing and that was Marra. She sat up quickly scanning the room. When she didn’t see her she was on her feet immediately, pulling on her jumpsuit. “Marra!” She called, pulling the zipper up then reaching for her boots.

“Ford relax.” Marra’s voice was soft from the doorway.

The commander turned to see her wife holding a tray with their breakfast on it. She released a deep, relieved breath. Then she moved, quickly to her side, taking the tray and setting it aside before pulling Marra into her arms. “Until this is over, you stay with me at all times. I won’t risk losing you.”

“You’re not going to lose me Ford. We’re together….”

Ford’s response was to kiss her. “Don’t care.” She mumbled past the kiss. “We stay together.”

LOG TWENTY

Ford stood on the command deck, watching the Devereux come into view. She glanced to Marra who stood tall and proud next to her. A smile crossed her lips as she simply held out her hand to her wife. “Shall we go back aboard our own ship, my dear?”

“As you wish Ford.” She agreed, laying her hand in Ford’s palm.

The Garron stopped, looking to her other compatriot. “Sarron Richards, once the troops are aboard and this ship is totally secured report to me on the Devereux right away.”

“Yes Garron Ford.”

“And ah,” She gave him a little wink. “Well done.”

“Thank you Garron Ford.” The young man smoothed the front of his jumpsuit with a great deal of pride as Lord and Lady Kurrathian left the command deck.

****

Ford took a seat behind the desk in her office aboard the Devereux. She looked up to Marra with a grin. “You know what you need to do?”

“Yes love, and I’ll go see to all of it now.”

“Good. You know marrying you was the second best thing I’ve ever done.”

“Second best?” Marra crossed her arms, tapping her foot. “What was the first best?”

“That was the wedding night.” Ford smirked. “But I had to marry you first. Now give me a kiss then get to it.”

“Oh yes Lord Kurrathian.” Marra teased sarcastically, before placing a kiss to Ford’s lips.

“Now go on.” Ford turned her around, giving Marra’s backside a little slap. “I have a lot of work to do.”

Marra winked before leaving the office. “Don’t work to hard. Save some of your strength for me. You’re going to need it.” She waved her fingers at Ford, before the door slid shut she heard a little groan.

****

“Come on now Neyta. Don’t be so difficult.” Marra grumbled at the serpentine as she tried to get the halter on her.

The beast tossed her head to keep it from being enclosed in the harness. * No. *

“Neyta please? Look at Phoenix. He has his harness on and is ready to go.” She gestured to the male who was tethered outside the stall.

* That’s because he is an idiot. *

Marra chuckled. It would seem that serpentines felt the same angst and mood swings that other females did when they were pregnant. “Neyta, we have to be ready when Ford is. Now, I have everything else done. Moving you and Phoenix is the last thing I need to do.”

* No halter. I’ll follow you. I’m uncomfortable enough without being in a halter. *

“All right you win. No halter. Come on.” The blonde opened the gate. The beast picked herself up, moving slowly in behind Marra. The woman turned around giving her serpentine a loving rub across the nose. “I’m sorry you are uncomfortable.”

* Carrying multiple young effects our kind faster. *

“Multiple young? Neyta there’s more than one baby?”

* There are three. *

“Three! That’s wonderful.”

* I wish it was Marra, but with multiple young only one usually lives. The strongest of my young will survive. The others will die. I can only care for one. I must let two of my babies die. *

“No Neyta. Ford and I won’t let that happen. We’ll find a way to save the other two.”

* Young serpentines need their mother. I don’t know if they can be saved Marra. *

“We’ll find a way. I promise.”

The beast gave her mistress a loving nuzzle.

****

Ford looked up from the information pad when the door to her office slid open. Sarron Richards stepped in. He moved forward, stopping at attention in front of her desk.

“At rest Sarron.”

The young man shifted his position, but remained respectful to his commander. She stood, smoothing her uniform and moving to a window. “You broke all kinds of regulations by taking that shuttle and taking Marra off ship during combat.”

“Yes Garron Ford. I know.”

“You both could have been killed.” She kept her back to him, watching his reflection in the window. She was pleased that he maintained his stance.

“Yes, Garron Ford, I know. I’m sorry, but Lady Kurrathian…”

“Lady Kurrathian doesn’t command my ship or my troops.” She growled, still watching him in the window.

“No, Garron Ford.”

“You took a huge chance.”

“Yes, Garron Ford.”

“You will be fined two weeks pay, put on report and you will present yourself to my personal transport to take your place as the new commander of my personal guard. You new duties now included getting my transport ready for departure immediately. I’ll be traveling back to command on it. We’ll be flying my diplomatic banner.”

Sarron Richards smiled, never taking his eyes off the wall in front of him. “Yes, Garron Ford.”

“Once I step foot on the transport, you will be in command. I will merely be Lord Kurrathian.” She concluded by turning around and giving him a final appraisal. “Do you have anything to say?”

He turned to face her, coming to attention again. “You will never, ‘merely be Lord Kurrathian’.”

She smiled and shook her head. “You’re dismissed. Report to your new post.”

“Yes, Garron Ford.”

****

Marra continued to stroke Neyta’s head as it rested in her lap. She would take a break occasionally to toss Phoenix another piece of fruit, which he devoured without hesitation. She wanted to make sure that both of them would be happy in the stall aboard the transport before she left them.

“He’s got quite an appetite.” Marra chuckled, watching the beast lick it’s lips before offering a satisfied little burp.

Neyta only snorted, rolling on her side. Marra looked her beast over, making sure she still looked healthy. It was during this cursory examination that she noticed something moving under the beast’s wing.

“Neyta, let me see.” She pushed the wing back to see further movement in the beast’s belly. “Is that the babies?”

* Yes. They are being very combative in there tonight. I think they are all males. *

“May I?” The blonde’s hand hovered over Neyta’s stomach.

* Of course you may. *

Marra placed her hand gently on the stomach of the serpentine. She smiled, feeling the young moving about inside. “That’s amazing.”

“What’s amazing?”

Ford’s deep voice took her by surprise. She turned quickly to find her standing, leaning against the stall.

“Come in here and feel this.” The blonde ordered.

Ford chuckled, entering the stall then dropping down next to Marra. “I figured I’d find you here.” She placed a soft kiss to Marra’s temple. “So what’s so amazing?”

“This.” Marra took Ford’s hand and placed it on Neyta’s stomach.

Ford nodded. “This is very interesting, I’ve never felt a serpentine move around in the birthsac before.”

“Oh come on Ford! This is wonderful. This is new life.”

“Un-huh.” The tall woman offered dryly then settled down next to her wife. “Well, I’m glad you are enjoying yourself my love. We’ll be departing for command in about an hour.”

“Is it best to leave the Devereux right now? In light of everything that happened?”

“I have a very capable command staff Marra. Besides they’ll be four days behind us.”

“Why the rush to get us there?”

“I want to find out who sent Dror to stop me.”

“You think it was someone from your own command?”

“I’m sure of it.”

“What makes you think that?”

Ford moved across the stall to Phoenix, stretching out, she laid her head on his leg. He sniffed her then put his head back down with a huff. She looked at him, her brows knitting together. “Don’t you huff at me. If you can do it, I can do it.”

Marra cocked her head, watching them.

* He knows that you and Ford have mated. * Neyta offered. * Your scent lingers on her skin. *

The blonde just shook her head. “Ford, how do you know someone from your own command gave the order?”

“I found the residue of a transmission from Chancellor Trella to Dror in his ship’s communication logs.”

“So, Chancellor Trella is trying to have you captured and murdered?”

“I don’t know that it was Trella. Could have been someone trying to set her up too. Someone who knows that we have a history.” She shifted to her side, resting her head in her palm. “Someone who wants us both out of the way. Remember that Trella leads the first house. I lead the second. We are the two most powerful people in the empire.”

“How many houses are there?”

“Last time I was home, there were five.”

“Or it could be someone from the rival empire altogether.”

Ford smiled at Marra’s insight into the situation. “Very true.”

“So why doesn’t Capri give us the answers?”

“Oh my love she already has.” Ford sat up, moving to the blonde, drawing her into her arms. “She gave me you.”

“That’s very romantic of you, but I think in this case I think I’d really like the name of the person who ordered you killed.”

“Capri guides, Marra. She’s doesn’t give answers. It’s up to us to find those.”

****

Ford removed the long coat from the closet. She looked it over, inspecting it very carefully. She placed it on the bed then moved to the dresser, retrieving a black box. She opened the box, taking out several medal and decorations.

Marra watched from the doorway as Ford placed the citations on the coat. She shook her head, moving in to look at it once it was done. She stopped behind Ford, wrapping her arms around her waist. “It’s very impressive.”

“Thank you.”

“What are they for?”

Ford shrugged. “Valor. Courage. Being wounded in battle. Lots of things.”

“You know you never seem to be very proud of the things you have accomplished while in the service.”

“That’s not entirely true. I’m just not proud of the lives that have been taken over a petty argument. I’ve won medals for killing people. I’m not proud of that.”

Marra rubbed Ford’s back, trying to soothe her. “I can understand that.”

The tall woman turned around, embracing Marra. “However, I do have other things to be proud of.”

“Such as?” The blonde teased, batting her eyelashes.

“My beautiful wife for one. Who distracts me from the things that don’t matter and makes me so very umm…”

Marra could tell that Ford was searching for another Earth word. “Horny?” She offered with a giggle. She took Ford’s coat from the bed and re-hung it in the closet

“And where did you learn that word?” Ford put her hands on her hips, a brow quirked as lips twisted into a smirk.

“Are you going to deny it?” Marra returned, placing her hands firmly on Ford’s shoulders.

“No. I just wanted to know where you got that word from?”

“An old dictionary, I found in the other room.”

“Do you read all the time?”

Marra gave Ford a gentle push, causing her to tumble back to the bed. Then the blonde licked her lips, smiling an evil little smile, when she straddled Ford’s hips. “Not any more.”

LOG TWENTY-ONE

Marra nibbled a soft patch of skin, she found close to her lips when she began to awaken. She smiled when she heard a low moan.

“Nice.” Ford groaned quietly.

“Un-huh.” She slid her hands over Ford’s arm and stomach. “Any reason to get up?”

Ford listened for a moment. The engines of the transport hummed contentedly. Sarron Richard had report that all was well and they were headed back to command under her diplomatic banner.

“Nope can’t think of a reason.”

“Good ‘cause I can think of a lot of reasons to stay in bed.”

Ford rolled over to face Marra. “Really? Tell me one.”

“I want you to make love to me.”

“Yeah,” Ford nodded. “That’s a good one all right.”

“Glad to see you’re so agreeable.” She chuckled, looking over Ford’s body, taking note of a slow blush creeping over her skin and nipples that were tight.

“Very,” She lowered her head, beginning a slow lick of Marra’s neck, tempered with tender bites. “Very agreeable.”

“Ahh that’s nice.” The blonde moved closer to her wife. “I like that.”

Ford stopped and took a look for herself. “Yup.” She was very smug about it. “You sure do.”

“You’re not going to get away with teasing me like you did last night.”

“I’m not?”

“Nope. You’re not going to get away with stringing me along for hours like you did last night.”

“I,” Ford rolled onto her back. “Rather enjoyed that.”

“You did?”

“Un-huh. It was fun to listen to you whimper and beg. You do that really well.”

Marra propped herself up on her elbow, tracing the outline of Ford’s breast with the tips of her fingers, allowing nails to graze over that rigid nipple. Ford whimpered. “Maybe, just maybe, I should play that little game with you this morning.”

“You don’t know how.”

“Oh I bet I could figure it out.” Marra challenged, pushing up just a bit more to lean against the headboard of the bed, crossing her arms

Ford, rolled over once again, taking notice that Marra no longer showed any shame about her body and did nothing to cover it. “Is that so? Would you really like to make a bet on it?”

“Let’s hear the terms first.”

“Coward.”

“Hardly. I just want a chance to counter offer.”

“Ooo spoken like the wife of a diplomat.”

“So, Lord Kurrathian,” Marra quirked a brow. “Would you like to serve to first volley?”

“Why, of course, Lady Kurrathian it would be my pleasure, hmm let’s see,” The tall woman interlaced her fingers, placing her hands behind her head. “How about, I do all the cooking for a month if you can get me to say, “I give”?

“Real cooking? Not dispensed food?”

“Real cooking. At least two meals a day.”

Marra seemed to be considering the offer on the table. She glanced at Ford out of the corner of her eye, who was looking at her with a smug little smirk on her face.

“I can do anything to you I like?”

“Yes. We’ll put a safe word into place and if I say that then you have to stop whatever you’re doing and I don’t lose.”

“Do I?”

“No. You just have to stop that particular thing because it means I don’t like it.”

“Okay. Do I get to tell you what I want for those two meals?”

“Sure, but if I choose to do a third I get to decide.”

“Oh a whole month of cheese cake and coffee for a third meal. I’ll require a shuttle of my own just to get around.”

“Nah, we’ll work them off on the Makti court.” Ford grinned, wiggling her eyebrows.

“All right, what do I have to do to lose?”

“Simply give up trying to make me say ‘I give’.”

“And once you say ‘I give’?”

“Then I want you to make me so weak from the release I’ll need, that it’ll take ‘em a week to get the smile off my face.” She laughed, propping herself up against the headboard as well.

“And if I lose, what do I have to do?”

“Brush up on your technique.”

“Come on now! Be serious.”

Ford crossed her arms over her chest. “Oh I am serious.”

“Well, you know, practice does makes perfect.”

It was truly and evil, evil chuckle that left Ford’s chest as Marra, moved over her, straddling her hips and kissing her deeply. They moaned into each other’s mouths as strong hands found purchase on her slender body. Hungry mouths explored, lips nibbled and tongues licked.

Ford drew a deep breath, pushing Marra back by the shoulders a bit. “Do we have a bet?”

Marra smiled, pursing her lips she nodded. “Yeah, but I want to change one little thing.” She leaned in, placing her hands over Ford’s breasts, rubbing small circles with her palms. She whispered in the tall woman’s ear. “I want you to say, ‘I surrender’.”

Ford moaned and nodded. “All right, since it’ll never happen, whatever you want.”

Marra pulled back, grinning. “Okay, I need time to prepare for my attack. Why don’t we have a little breakfast and a shower and then,” She traced a fingertip from hollow of throat to bellybutton, finding all the interesting spots on the way down to pinch and scratch.

As she dashed from the bed to avoid the playful lunge from the tall woman, her laughter could be heard clear through their quarters.

“Oh this is gonna be fun.” Ford murmured, climbing out of bed. She quirked a brow when she noticed that Marra’s robe was still laying across the bottom of the bed. She threw on her own robe, taking Marra’s with her.

In the outer room she found her smirking and very naked wife, rooting around in the food preparation area.

“Excuse me, Lady Kurrathian, you seem to have forgotten your clothes.” She dangled the robe from her finger.

Marra peeked over the top of the refrigerator unit. “Oh I didn’t forget them. I left them.”

“Why?”

She straightened, presenting her body to the tall woman. “This doesn’t please you?”

* I surrender. I surrender. * Ford rolled the words around in her mind. She glanced at her timepiece. Too early.

****

Breakfast consisted of a very naked Marra, straddled across Ford’s lap, feeding her fresh fruit from her fingertips and giving her sips of juice from a tall glass. The rules were simple. Ford had to keep her hands on the top of the table. She was doing really well, leaving her hands flat against the tabletop, until Marra opened her robe and drizzled a little juice down her front. When she cleaned it off with a few bold strokes of her tongue, Ford found gripping the edge of the table an advantageous thing to do.

Marra smirked a bit when she felt the slight tremors run through her wife’s body. “Problem?”

“Nooooo.” Ford, shook her head. “Go on.”

“All right. I will.” She leaned in finishing the clean up of the juice. An errant drop had been left on a dark nipple. She decided that remaining there for a minute was not a bad thing. Her tongue licked and pushed the flesh, her lips nipped and pulled gently.

Ford shifted in the chair. The table shook just a bit more.

When the last piece of fruit had been shared in a kiss, Marra leaned back, running her hands slowly, seductively over Ford’s torso. “Shower?” She asked with a quirked, playful brow.

“Together?”

“Oh you bet.”

“Rules?”

“Keep your hands to yourself.”

“You know you never said…” Ford started to protest.

The blonde took a nipple between her thumb and finger, giving it a little squeeze. “You want to change the way the game is played Lord Kurrathian? What’s the matter? Can’t take it? All you have to say is ‘I surrender’.”

“I won’t.” Ford croaked out her refusal.

“Then so be it.” Marra held onto that nipple as she rose from the chair, bringing the tall woman with her. “Come along, dear.”

Ford groaned.

****

Standing in the shower as told, Ford enjoyed the water rushing over her face and head. Her hands were flat against the wall of the shower. She ducked and craned her head, allowing the water to wash away some of the tension in her body. Dropping her head she let the water run down her back and through her hair. She always enjoyed the sensation of water running down her back. She wasn’t sure why, but she always had.

She was about to give up this ordered position in the shower, when she felt Marra join her in the stall. “Ooo you’ve been good. Standing there, just like I told you.”

Ford nodded. “Yes. I’m a military officer, remember. I do know how to follow orders.”

“We’ll see.” She grinned, lathering her hands with a rich, aromatic soap.

“Oh, I like that.” Ford whispered when Marra’s hands began a slow, firm massage of her body. First up and down her back, in long hard strokes. Very relaxing. Very nice.

Then around to her stomach and sides, still firm and hard. The rich aroma of the soap and the warm water relaxing the tense muscles in her body. Of course she suspected the tension she felt there now, was nothing to the tension she would be feeling there later. She was grateful for this small reprieve; it would help her reinforce her resolve not to surrender later.

She sputtered through the water when those small and insistent hands began an exploration of her body. The left hand traveled up, between and then over each breast. Lightly touching and teasing, to the base of her throat, across her shoulders. The right hand traveled down, fingers roamed through dark curls, nails barely grazing aroused flesh, then between her legs to each thigh.

Her legs trembled a little, her hips jerk just a bit, she groaned a little louder.

“Did you just surrender?” Marra teased, bringing that right hand back up through those curls with fingertips just barely finding their way inside.

“No!” Ford growled deep and hard, shaking her head.

“Are you sure?” She tormented some more. This time accenting her question with very firm pinch to a nipple and allowed the fingers of her right hand to dip just a bit further.

“Positive!” The denial was growled through clenched teeth this time.

“Okay, okay don’t get so grumpy. I was just checking.” Marra removed her hands from Ford’s body. “Rinse off and turn around.”

With a deep breath, which resulted in a mouth and nose full of water, Ford stepped under the water rinsing the soap and watching it go down the drain. She pulled a hand over her face to wipe away the excess water as she turned to face the little blonde.

“Oh Ford,” Marra let her hands dance lightly over the torso in front of her. “Your eyes certainly are an amazing shade of blue right now.”

“It’s from the pressure of keeping them in my head.”

“Really? Well two little words can end all that.” From behind her back she produced a pair of golden clips connected by a chain. “But first give me that safe word.”

Ford eyed the clips and smirked. “We don’t need one for those.”

“Give me the word Ford.” Marra remained steadfast in her request.

****

With the word in place, Marra reached up placing the clips on Ford’s nipples. She noticed the slight twitch in the knees that looked like it might be the start of buckling. “You okay?” Her question was sincere and colored with concern for her partner.

“Oh yeah, I’m fine.” The tall woman swallowed hard as the little bolt of pleasure from the clips settled firmly between her legs. “Please continue.”

“My aren’t you polite?”

“I tend to get that way when I have clamps and chains on my nipples.”

Marra gave the chain a little tug. “Down.”

LOG TWENTY-TWO

Marra leaned against the wall of the shower. Regaining her breath, waiting for her pulse to slow. She looked down at the dark hair of her wife, her head, still nestled between her legs, kissing and nibbling the inside of her thighs. She threaded her hands through the wet, dark tresses, pulling back a bit she looked into Ford’s eyes. She licked her lips as Ford smirked.

“Enjoying yourself down there?” Marra inquired feeling just a tad breathless yet.

“Very much. Thank you. And you?” A dark brow shot up.

“I’m good.” Marra nodded her agreement. “You’re umm, very talented, you know that?”

Ford just smiled and did something with her head that was a cross between a shake and a nod, shrugging just a bit. The tall woman figured a comment like, ‘Yeah, so I’ve been told’, might not be the best thing to say, given her current position and situation.

The blonde reached down, pulling Ford up by her chin until their faces met. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Ford leaned in for a kiss from the sweet, soft lips before her.

She was stopped by soft fingers at her lips. “Ask first.” Marra whispered.

“Please?” Ford whispered back, kissing the fingers for good measure.

Marra moved her hand and allowed the kiss. She pulled Ford closer meshing their bodies together. Ford was quick to place a firm thigh between Marra’s legs and pull her hips down to settle her there as the kiss continued.

The small woman returned the favor and soon they were pushing against each other. Marra enjoyed the taste and the flavor of the kiss. It was the first time she had that experience and she enjoyed it immensely. She made her enjoyment quite clear by sucking Ford’s tongue into her mouth and taking as much as she could from it. Ford groaned as her hips began to find a rhythm and her breathing increased.

“Stop, stop…” Marra broke the kiss, pushing Ford back.

Ford looked at her, breathing hard, licking her lips and shaking almost uncontrollably. “What do you mean stop?” She growled.

A quick pull on that chain reminded her of who was in charge. She continued to breath harder and stare at Marra in quiet challenge. She was feeling very charged now and the smaller woman knew she had better do something and do it fast.

Marra took the chain in hand gingerly, lifting a brow. “Are you going to be good?”

The tall woman stared just a moment longer, then nodded with quick, jerky movements. “Yes, yes I promise. I’ll be good.”

“Okay then.” Marra reached around Ford, shutting the water off. As she did, she took a moment to run her hand between Ford’s legs and check on the situation for herself. “Oh that’s nice. Is all that for me?”

“Oh yeah, please, please take it!”

“I will, once you say those two little words. In the meantime,” she removed her hand with a nice, firm little wiggle of her fingers that caused a deep growl. Then she slapped a very wet backside. “Get out and get dried off. Then go to our room and wait for me.”

****

Ford sat down on the bed with the towel in her hands and her head down, wondering where Marra had become so good at these little games. She hook her head a bit trying to get her heart to stop racing when she remembered the night that Capri had come to her.

“Maybe I should just surrender now. With that kind of knowledge I don’t stand a chance.” She mumbled, tossing the towel over her head to push the water out of her hair. Then she smiled to herself. “Nah!”

“Talking to yourself Lord Kurrathian?”

Ford pulled the towel from her head then looked to the door. Marra stood there with a shiny black box in her hands and nothing on her body.

“Un…” The commander nodded dumbly, again wondering why the sight of this woman naked struck her mute. She had seen naked women before, lots of naked women, but this one was so very special. She cocked her head a bit, her fingers traveled to the base of her own throat and she touched Capri’s mark there. Then she saw it, she didn’t understand why she hadn’t seen it before, Marra had the same mark.

She stood without a word. Turned to Marra, took two steps forward then dropped to her knees. She looked up at her wife, taking one of her hands in her own, she whispered, “I surrender.”

Marra looked stunned. “Well, okay.” She really was at a loss for words. “I wasn’t expecting that.”

Ford held her hand, kissing the back of it tenderly. “I surrender, because I love you.” She reached up, letting the tips of her fingers touch Marra’s own mark. “I love you because we are one.” She felt a great deal of emotion building up, she choked it back with a smile. “Doesn’t mean we can’t keep playing?” She wiggled her eyebrows.

“Hmm, do I get dinner tonight?”

“Oh you bet. You name it.”

Marra smirked. “Ford.” She gestured to the bed. “Now move it!”

“Oh yes ma’am.”

****

“Marra, darling I hate to disagree with you here.” Ford looked at the thin black bands wrapped around her wrists and ankles. “I’ve had a little experience in this and this isn’t going to work.”

“Trust me.”

“Oh honey, I trust you, but for this to work you need to tie your victim down.”

Marra tilted her head just a bit, holding up a small device with a red button in the center of it. She gave Ford a totally bored look and pushed the button. “Go ahead, get up.” She challenged.

The tall woman tried to move but couldn’t. Her hands and feet felt as if they were weighed down. She struggled, but there was no way she was getting up from the bed. She finally dropped her head back to the bed, breathing hard from trying. She felt a happy, warm familiar rush settle over her body.

“You were saying?” Marra dialed down the device. This allowed her to position Ford any way she liked. And she decided that an appendage at each corner of the bed was a good place to start.

“I’ve basically decided just to lay here and be quiet, because it’s clear I have no idea what I’m talking about.”

She looked to her left hand, trying again to lift it. She wondered where Marra got these little toys and what else her inventive little spouse had planned. It had most certainly been an interesting morning so far.

The release of the clamps on her nipples and the feel of Marra’s mouth and tongue replacing them certainly got her attention away from her hand. “Oh yeah that’s good.” She nodded, licking her lips.

“Certainly is.” The blonde agreed, pulling back, watching the reaction in Ford’s body. “So wonder what else I can find to do to you?”

“Anything you desire my love.”

“Oh, you have no idea how much trouble you have just bought for yourself Lord Kurrathian.”

Ford grinned. “You going to torture me?

Marra looked in the box on the bed, pursing her lips and nodding. “Looks that way.”

“Un, Marra, what’s in the box?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” She raised her eyebrows as she leered at Ford.

“Actually I would, thanks.” She raised her head trying to see in the box.

“Ah, ah, ah,” Marra gave a little push to Ford’s forehead, sending it back to the pillow. “Play nice.” She retrieved from the box a small black disk then placed it in the tall woman’s forehead. “That should help keep you in your place.”

Ford growled on protest at not being able to lift her head now that the disk had been introduced. “How long before you gag me too?”

“As long as what you say what pleases me, you don’t have to worry about that.” The blonde retorted.

Ford did her best to keep her eyes on Marra while the blonde one again went into

the box. “Now what in the name of Blackguard are you digging out of there?”

“Ford Kurrathian! Watch your language.”

“Sorry.”

“I will gag you if you keep that up.”

“I said, I was sorry.”

“Hmmm.” She murmured.

Ford felt two cold disks being place on either side of her waist, now holding her hips in place. She was for all purposes totally immobile. “Un Marra…darling…”

“If you’re uncomfortable just say our word. The bonds are programmed to accept it as a shut off command.”

She was told this, just before a warm kiss was placed on the inside of her right thigh. “Never mind.” She offered quietly. “You go right ahead. I’ll just lay here and be quiet again.”

“Not too quiet. I like it when you groan.” Another kiss and she was rewarded with a groan. “That’s the one.”

Marra stretched out on the big bed, lying on her stomach right between Ford’s legs and very much enjoying the view. She considered where to start and exactly what to do to her captive lover. She gave the thigh closest to her a firm scratch with her nails.

“Uggg…Marra please! You’re killing me here.”

“Oh you don’t look like you’re hurting.”

“You have no idea. I’m hurting in places you can’t even imagine.”

“From my point of view, I can imagine.” The blonde leaned forward offering a little kiss exactly to the right spot. “Hmm sweet.”

“Yeah, I’m a big old dessert tray. Dig in.”

Marra got to her knees, untying her robe and dropping it on the bed. Then she crawled up Ford’s long, lean body until she completely covered the woman. Their noses met. “You in a hurry? Got a better offer somewhere else?”

“No, not me. I’m happy as a serpentine with a ripe canna fruit.”

“Oh, the juices jokes I could make from that, but I won’t.”

“Marra I have a request.”

“Yeah? Do you really see yourself in the requesting position here?”

A quick hand slid between their bodies and then right between Ford’s splayed legs, staying there, playing and trifling with the large woman under her, causing short gasps and little groans.”

“So? Do you?”

“What,” Ford licked her lips, fighting for words. She could feel the tremors beginning in her body “What was the question again?”

“Do you think you’re in a position to make requests?”

Ford was in the process of trying to form words when she felt herself touched, firmly, deeply. A long moan escaped deep from her chest. The field holding her in place, keeping her body still seemed to be absorbing the tremors from her body, magnifying them and sending them back. “Ohhh Marra I….” Her throat closed, her eyes snapped shut and her scream was swallowed by the long-lasting, profound kiss from her wife as the climax reached it’s zenith and began to subside.

Marra pulled back allowing Ford to draw a long, deep breath.

“End session.” Marra said quietly.

Ford felt the field give way. Her arms automatically wrapped around Marra. “Thank you my love.”

“It was my pleasure.” The blonde rested comfortably on top of Ford, making no attempt to move, enjoying the sensation of being held and loved.

“You are truly amazing.”

“I had a good teacher in what would bring you pleasure and make you happy.”

“You might have had some instruction, but you’re the one who made it happen.” They shared another searing kiss. “It was your hands, mouth and body that gave me that pleasure.””

“I’m glad I make you happy.” The blonde offered quietly, yawning a bit.

“Tired?”

“I could take a nap.”

“Then I think we should do that.” Ford moved Marra to the bed, curling tightly behind her then wrapping an arm around her stomach to hold her close.

Snuggling back, the blonde sighed allowing her eyes to slip closed. “You sure you don’t have anything to do?”

“Nothing that’s more important than this.” Ford answered, pulling a cover over their bodies.

“Ford?”

“Hmmm?”

“I want roast dalig for dinner tonight.”

“Right.” She was confident in her answer. Now all she needed to do was find out what exactly dalig was and how it should be roasted.

LOG TWENTY-THREE

Drawing a deep breath, Marra rolled over. Ford was gone from their bed, but the aroma rolling through their quarters was wonderful.

“Well, what do you know.” She laughed softly, retrieving her robe as she sat up.

Running her fingers through her hair, she found the restraint bands and disks lying on the bedside table. She smiled with the memory. Moving into their living quarters, she found Ford sipping a glass of wine, staring intently at a book on the counter. The blonde took another deep breath.

“Is that my dinner I smell?”

Ford looked up with a grin. “No, I’m drying my boots in the cooking unit.”

“Well it’s not what I asked for, but they smell good.”

“Very funny. Yes, my dear, it’s your roasted dalig. I had to break out a preparation book to figure out how to cook it.” She didn’t bother to tell her she had to call Sarron Richards and ask him what it was and to have one sent down from the ships own food storage.

She crossed her arms, offering Ford a slight smile. “You don’t have a clue how to cook do you?”

“Nope. But I’m willing to fake it.”

“Hmm. I see. So, I may have agreed to a month worth of meals that can’t be eaten?”

“There is a slight chance a few of them won’t be tolerable, but I can always take you out.”

“Un huh, and you can always hope I’m going to let you off the hook out of a mere instinct to survive.”

Ford poured another glass of wine, moving across the room, she flashed a brilliant smile at her wife. “That apparent huh?” She offered the glass to the blonde.

“Yes, but forget it. It’s,” She delivered a playful poke to the tall woman’s chest. “not going to work.”

Marra watched Ford shrug while she sipped her wine. “I tried.” The tall woman resigned herself back to the food preparation area to check on the meal. “After we eat, would you like to go see Phoenix and Neyta?”

“Yes. Speaking of which,” She took a seat on a stool on the opposite side of the counter from Ford. “Neyta is carrying three young.”

“Really? Well, let’s hope the strongest one is a handsome one.”

“Well, actually, I promised Neyta that we’d try to save all of them.”

“And how do you expect us to do that?” Ford removed the pan from the cooking unit to check the meal.

“I’m not sure. I thought you might have some ideas.”

Ford shook her head. “Never known multiple young to survive before.” She replaced the lid on the pan, returning it to the unit. She hoped that she was doing it right. Stupid bet to make. Next time she’d have to give it more thought.

“Doesn’t mean they can’t. Just means that no one has ever tried.”

“And you’re suggesting we should?”

“Absolutely. Anything less is just plain wrong.”

“Well we have a few weeks before the babies come. We’ll be home and hopefully settled by then. I’m sure we can come up with something.”

“Then we’ll try?”

“If it makes you happy, of course we’ll try.”

“Thank you.” She sipped her wine. “So if after dinner and a trip to the stables I tell you I want you to come back here and ravish me, you’d do it?”

“Can I use your little black box?”

“No. That’s my little black box.”

“Yeah, I noticed I couldn’t get it open despite the fact it doesn’t seen to have a lock.” She shrugged. “Okay then, I’ll just bring out my own brand of justice.” She leered, wiggling her eyebrows.

Marra swallowed her wine with a loud gulp. “Your own brand of justice?”

“Un-huh.” Ford leaned on the counter, tracing her finger down Marra’s cheek. “You’ll love it.”

Marra shivered at the thought. “I’m sure of it.”

They met half way across the counter, sharing a very sweet kiss.

****

Neyta lay on her back, wings folded under her, while Phoenix nuzzled her midsection, purring loudly.

Ford leaned on the stall watching them. “What is he doing?”

* Talking to the babies. Trying to soothe them for me. *

“He’s trying to soothe the babies for Neyta.” Marra leaned on the rail next to Ford, holding the tall woman’s hand as they watched the beasts.

“Really? He can do that?”

“Apparently.”

“Well, what do you know. It’s very interesting, this.”

“What?”

“Watching a pregnancy progress. I’ve never really been around anything or anyone long enough to watch it develop.”

“None of your wives have had children for you?”

“No. I have no heirs.”

Marra turned to Ford. “Why not? Certainly you want them.”

Ford nodded. “I do, but it’s complicated. I’ll explain one of these days.”

This was another very direct, ‘end of conversation’, signal from Ford. The blonde turned back to face the stall. “When you’re ready.”

“Hmm.” Ford nodded.

“Do you think we’re going to be able to stay at command long enough for Neyta to give birth?”

“That is my hope. I don’t like that fact we’re moving her around so much.”

* Neither do I. * Neyta gave a little growl, baring her teeth to get her message across to Ford.

“Be nice!” Marra chastised her serpentine, which blinked at her a couple of times, then curled into a tight ball on her side effectively trapping Phoenix’s head. The silver beast gave a muffled yelp and pulled away.

“Oh yeah that’ll calm the little ones right down.” Ford chuckled. “Hearing, their father decapitated.”

Marra slapped Ford on the arm. “Now you be nice!”

“I was being nice. I was concerned about moving her around so much. Your serpentine is the one who growled at me. Grouchy isn’t she?”

“You’d be grouchy if you had three little ones competing for limited space too.”

“True. I suppose I would.”

****

Ford interlaced her fingers with Marra’s, holding her hand while they strolled back to their quarters. “So,” She brought their hands to her lips, giving the small hand a kiss. “Was dinner reasonable?”

“Actually, it was very good.”

“So, how long would it take you to get bored with roast dalig? Apparently, I do that pretty well.”

“You worry too much. You’re doing just fine. Can’t wait to find out what’s for breakfast in the morning.”

“Same thing you gave me today. Fresh fruit and juice.” She gave her hand a little squeeze. “Only you’re going to be totally naked, tied to the bed and fed very slowly.”

Now it was Marra’s turn to groan. Ford chuckled, wrapping her arm around the blonde’s shoulders as they continued to walk. “Can I make one request?”

Ford looked down at her wife “After the way you treated me this morning? I think not.”

“Hmm. You’re gonna make me pay for that aren’t you?”

“Why yes. Yes I am.”

“Oooo I’m in so much trouble.”

“Why yes. Yes you are.”

Marra stopped. Playfully she pulled back from Ford. She tried to take a few steps back. “You know I think I’ll go back down to the stables, just to make sure…”

Ford lunged, scooping Marra up and placing her over her shoulder. “Oh no! No way!” The tall woman turned, continuing a slow leisurely walk through the corridors.

“I’m really glad we’re not aboard the cruiser at this moment. This could be really embarrassing if we were.” Marra remarked as she allowed her hands to come to rest on Ford’s backside so she could push up a bit.

“Get your hands off my ass.”

“Make me.”

A very firm slap to her own backside sent Mara back down into a slump.

“Now behave, or I’ll give you another.” Ford growled.

For just a moment Marra looked at her hands, then Ford’s backside, then her hands again. She decided not to do it. The corridors were still to public for her tastes.

“Good eve…ning…”

Marra slumped further when she heard a familiar voice. It was apparent that her current placement over Ford’s shoulder was causing the speaker great pause.

“Lord…Kurrathian.”

“Good evening Sarron Richards.”

Marra groaned. Ford turned so Marra could see the young man. “Say hello to Rick, Marra.”

The blonde looked up, pushing hair out of her eyes she grinned a little. “Hi Rick.”

He smiled, scratching his head a bit. “I’m not even going to ask.”

“Thanks.” Marra nodded. “I appreciate that.”

Ford turned around once again. “She was being difficult. Sometimes you have to take them in hand when they’re being difficult. You’ll learn when you get married. I have been married five times. I have a system.”

“Apparently, a very effective system.”

“We’ll see about that.” Marra mumbled, making sure however, Ford didn’t hear her.”

“Well I’ll leave you to, un, well…” The young man stumbled over the words. He pointed nervously. “I’m just going to go back to the command deck.”

“All right.” The tall woman agreed. “Lady Kurrathian and I are going back to our quarters.”

“Enj…” He stopped himself before he stuck his foot all the way in his mouth. “I’m just going to go now.” He stammered, side stepping the pair and making his way around them and disappearing down the corridor.

****

The door slid closed. Ford carried Marra directly to their bedchamber, where she tossed the little woman to the bed. “Don’t move!” She commanded.

She crossed the room, pulling open a cabinet door as she kicked her boots off. Marra remained on the bed, but her eyes followed Ford’s every movement. She didn’t even try to contain the gasp when she looked in that cabinet.

Ford stood there for a moment. Trying to decide which of her toys to play with first. “Do I need to tie you down?”

Marra shook her head.

Without turning around Ford added. “I can’t hear you shaking your head. Tell me.”

“No.” It came out as a squeak.

“Okay. I really prefer not to do that, but I will if I have to.”

“No.” Another squeak

“All right then.” Ford unzipped her jumpsuit removing it in one fluid movement. “Take off your clothes.”

“Huh?”

Ford removed several items from the cabinet, tossing them to the bed. Then she moved next to it, staring Marra down. “What didn’t you understand, dear? Take…off…your…clothes.”

Marra let out a shuttering breath, taking in the sight of Ford tall, strong and naked made her breathless anyhow. This commanding presence only made it worse. Her hands were shaking as they began working the clasps on her shirt.

“Need help?” Ford reached down, taking the shirt by the front, she efficiently ripped it open then pushed it off Marra’s shoulders. She tossed it across the room before grabbing the waist of the small woman’s pants. She pulled Marra flat to her back. She removed the small woman’s boots and pants, they found very nearly the same future as her shirt, as a rag.

“Oh well…” Marra hummed, rather enjoying this experience.

“Now. On your hands and knees, facing away from me.” Ford gestured to the opposite wall.

Marra obeyed immediately.

Ford smiled, licking her lips appreciatively. “Nice. Very nice.” She murmured, running her hand over Marra’s bare backside.

LOG TWENTY-FOUR

Marra rolled over, feeling a bit sore, but very sated and extremely happy. Ford had utilized several of the items in her cabinet and they had made love for most of the night. The blonde rolled to her back, shocked to find that it was rather early. She most certainly hadn’t expected to be wake this soon and was also surprised to find Ford was up and about already.

She could smell breakfast cooking and she smiled. She pulled Ford’s pillow on top of her body, hugging it as close as she could get it. She wondered since she obviously hadn’t been given the chance to place her order for breakfast, what the chances were for getting it served to her in bed. She just felt so good that she didn’t want to get up. The truth of the matter entirely was, she didn’t want to get out of the bed ever again and she wanted Ford to come back real soon too.

She rolled over on her stomach allowing her hands to run all over the sheets of the bed. “Hmmm so good. Good, good bed.” She praised it lovingly, continuing to caress the sheets.

“I’m not sure it’s that fond of us. I think I felt a support give last night.” Ford chuckled from the doorway.

“Well,” the blonde purred, rolling over and arching her back. “We did give it quite a workout.”

“That we did, my love.” The tall woman entered with a small bowl of food. She placed herself right at the edge of the bed. “Taste this.” She offered a utensil full of a green substance to the blonde.

“What is it?”

“Never mind just try it.”

“No way.”

Ford looked hurt. “Come on Marra don’t you trust me?”

“With my life, just not with my stomach. Ford look at that, it’s green.”

“It’s supposed to be green. Come on Marra, try it.” She watched with great amusement as Marra slowly took the food into her mouth.

The look as she swallowed made it quite clear that it wasn’t good. “Oh Ford,” She shook her head in revolt, her eyes closing automatically as she grimaced. “That is so bad. I’m sorry love it’s awful.”

“I was afraid of that.”

The blonde looked up. “You mean you didn’t try it first?”

“No. Why would I put it in my mouth if I thought it was going to be bad?”

“You brat!” Marra grinned.

Ford moved off the bed quickly, backing up, grinning and holding up a hand defensively. “Now Marra….”

“Oh no!” The smaller woman followed, grabbing her robe and tossing it on quickly. “Come’re you.”

“I’m many things my love. Daft isn’t among them.” The tall woman continued to smile, backing up from the blonde.

“You can run, but you can’t hide Ford.” She approached menacingly. “Give me that bowl.”

“No.” Ford held it high over her head, far out of Marra’s reach. Or so she thought.

The smaller woman watched as Ford made a tactical error and backed herself against a counter, holding the bowl over her head. She shook her head, disapprovingly, took a deep breath then proceeded to grab Ford in a very sensitive spot, which brought her arm down. Marra then took the bowl from her hand and released her grasp. “Thank you.”

Ford coughed a bit. “You don’t play fair.”

“I play just fine. Feeding me this, wasn’t fair.”

“I’m sorry?” She shrugged with a wink.

“Yes you are. Now taste this.” She pushed the utensil toward Ford’s lips.

A very tight-lipped Lord Kurrathian shook her head.

Marra nodded, pressing closer. She sat the bowl on the counter. Holding the utensil in one hand she allowed her other hand to travel under Ford’s robe. Ford groaned, her body jerked in response, but she clamped her jaw down, refusing to open her mouth. Her eyes twinkled as Marra’s hand tortured her in an effort to make her open her mouth.

“Come on I know you want to.” Marra teased, increasing the pressure. “You want to let out that long, deep moan. You know the real breathy one that always signals when you’re…”

Ford groaned again. Gripping the counter with both hands to keep from falling to the floor or sinking into Marra.

“That’s it. You’re almost there.” She smiled, leaning forward offering small delicate kisses to the sensitive flesh along the base of the tall woman’s throat. She knew from her own experience that the area around Capri’s mark was especially sensitive. “Come on Ford.” She growled, “don’t be so stubborn. Let go.”

A long groan, then the moment Marra was waiting for. The moment that Ford opened her mouth Marra fed her the substance. Ford’s only course of action at that point was to swallow, then slide to the floor.

The blonde stepped back, looking down at the dark haired woman. Ford grimaced, swallowing hard, shaking her head to make it go down. She looked up, the look on her face was split between pure disgust and humor. “That was really sneaky.”

“Whatever works.” Marra shrugged, tossing the utensil into the bowl.

“That had to be one of the most delightful and the most disgusting experiences of my life.”

Marra offered her hand. “My pleasure. What do you say we take a bath? Then have a real meal?”

“You cooking?” Ford asked, accepting the hand, getting to her feet.

“My survival instinct is pretty high at the moment. So I guess so.”

***

Settled back in the tub, Marra relaxed against Ford, who continued to drizzle warm water over Marra’s arms and shoulders. She also placed tender kisses to the blonde’s neck.

“I love you. Have I told you that lately?”

“Not lately. I don’t think you’ve said it since last night. Then it was just kind of a groan as you collapsed on top of me.”

Ford could feel a blush rising up her neck. She had been pretty rough with Marra, but she certainly hadn’t protested or asked for it to stop. If she remembered right when she tried to move, Marra wouldn’t let her. “I’m sorry.”

“Did I say you had anything to be sorry for? No, I don’t recall saying that. Last night was truly a unique learning experience. I enjoyed it immensely. I didn’t realize those kinds of things were possible.”

“That was just a sample of the things I know.”

“Oooo I hope we’re married for a very long time.” She let her hand travel back and caress Ford’s cheek. “And, I hope it’s me that you desire from now on.” She felt a shiver run down her spine at the thought of not being at Ford’s side.

“I promise you. From this point forward in my life, there will be only you. Marra I’ve waited my entire life for you.” Her hands moved up to the small woman’s throat, the fingers of both hands tickled over Capri’s mark. “We are meant to be together forever. There will be no more wives.”

“And what of the ones you already have.”

“All of them are otherwise occupied.”

“Danella’s not. She’s bound to turn up again. I don’t imagine she’ll be happy.” Marra squirmed around a bit in the water, enjoying the relaxing feeling of the hot bath and being so close to Ford.

“You needn’t worry about Danella. She won’t be back.”

Marra turned to face Ford. “Why?”

“Danella is in jail.”

“Why? Because of what she did to me when I was a slave. Oh Ford, you can’t imprison her for that?”

“No, because she was unfaithful to me. I can imprison her for than, and I did.”

“Is it really necessary?”

“Yes Marra. She disgraced my house and me by taking someone not her spouse to her bed. It wasn’t as if I had turned my back on her where sex was concerned, I hadn’t. There was no excuse.”

“Ford, did you make love to her or did you have sex with her?”

“What?”

“Did you make her feel the way you make me feel or did you just do what you thought you needed to, to keep her satisfied.”

“Well, I certainly never made her feel the way I make you feel, but then again she never made me feel the way you do.”

“But maybe the other person did make her feel that way.”

“Then she should have married him. It’s a closed issue Marra. She’s in jail and she’s staying there.”

“Nothing I can say or do to change your mind?”

“No.”

Marra sighed and nodded, returning to her previous spot. “Fine. She is your wife.”

***

“Now this is real food.” Ford hummed happily as she put the second huge helping on her plate.

Marra chuckled, sipping juice, watching her spouse enjoy the meal she had prepared. “I’m glad you approve. You need to keep your strength up.” She wiggled her eyebrows.

“This is very true.”

“So tell me, what kinds of things will we be doing when we get home?”

“Hmm. I’ve got to go see Trella very first thing. I was hoping that you would take charge here and get us settled planet side at the house. You know, making sure our things are moved and taking care of Phoenix and Neyta.”

“Of course. I’ll do whatever you need me to do.”

“I knew I could count on you. When you get there you’ll need to pick a staff for yourself.”

“A staff?”

Ford nodded, sipping from her glass. “Un-huh the First Lady of the house always has a staff. A personal staff to help you out at the house and a personal assistant that will travel with us. The house already has a staff as do I.”

“They aren’t slaves are they?”

“No. They are paid staff. Hired freely and they can be dismissed.”

“All right.”

“I’ve never had a slave in my house and I never plan to. I’ll burn it to the ground first.”

“No need for that my love. No need for that.”

“Not now that I have a wonderful wife to take charge of my house. Right?”

“Right. Are we going to be able to stay there or are we going to have to go back out?”

“I don’t know yet. But regardless I intend to take some time off. I’ve been out here a long time. The fighting will continue whether I am there or not. The dying will continue and I have had enough of that for a while. I have many things I want to show you and share with you. They can fight without me for awhile. As High Lord of the Second House I only have to take my seat on the council. I don’t have to be in the middle of all of this and now I have no desire to be.”

“You know,” Marra stood and began clearing the dishes. “We need to go to temple. We’ve been remiss.”

Ford considered it, nodding her agreement. “True, but I think Capri understands.”

“I’m sure she does. But you still owe her three days of attrition for being stubborn.” Marra placed the dishes in the sink.

“Don’t suppose you’d be willing to put in a good word for me first?” Ford chuckled a bit. “I have a feeling I could use it. There’s a big difference between being Capri’s chosen and her favored. Chosen is a much better position.”

“Is that so?”

“So it would seem.” Ford gathered her own plates. “Don’t think I didn’t notice the fact that you healed my back merely by touching it.”

“Did I?” She gave Ford a sly look, taking the plates from her hands.

“You know you did.”

“Maybe it was Capri.”

“Umm no. It was not Capri.” The tall woman leaned over, leering and whispering. “It was not Capri running her hands over my back that night.”

“I got it, thanks.” Marra blushed.

LOG TWENTY-FIVE

Ford looked in the mirror. She was not pleased with what she saw. Something about her uniform was bothering her but she couldn’t put her finger on it. She tugged at the sleeves, trying to convince herself that was where the problem was.

Marra pulled the long dark cloak from the closet, moving in behind Ford, she draped it over her shoulders. The red lining served to make the tall, powerful woman look only more powerful and bigger than life.

“That’s what you needed.” Marra said softly, moving around her spouse to brush and straighten the uniform as needed. “You look magnificent.”

“I feel ridiculous. This whole thing is a charade and we all know it.”

“Ford, like it or not, you are a war hero in the eyes of your people.” She smoothed the cloak a little more. “Trella is going to want to take advantage of that.”

“Someone always does.” The tall woman mumbled, shifting her sword and gun rig just a bit, so it would lay a little lower on her hips.

Marra stopped in front of her wife and placed her hands on either side of her face, pulling her head down so their eyes met. “You worry too much. Everything is going to be fine.”

“I hope so. I don’t have any desire to play these silly little political games with Trella or the council.”

“Well, I guess you’ll know soon enough won’t you?”

Ford glanced at her timepiece. “Soon enough.” She mumbled, nodding her agreement.

Once again, the tall woman felt her attention being pulled back to the small blonde, this time for a kiss. She wrapped her arms around Marra and delved deeply into it. It was the ringing of the com signal that finally separated them.

“Ford here.” She answered, her eyes never leaving her spouse, her thumb tracing lightly over the lips before her.

“Lord Kurrathian,” Sarron Richards voice was calm and cool. “Chancellor Trella has sent an armed escort to take us the rest of the way in. She also requests a vid link to you.”

“Open link.” Ford sighed, stepping back from Marra and turning to the vid panel.

Marra stayed near Ford, waiting to be sent off. To her great surprise Ford pulled her close as the screen came to life.

“Ford. Welcome home.” The woman offered with a smile and a nod.

“Thank you Trella. It’s good to be here.”

“This must be Marra?”

Ford smiled, standing up very straight. “It is. Chancellor Trella, may I introduce the First Wife of the Second House, Lady Marra.”

“Lady Marra,” Trella nodded lowering her eyes respectfully for a moment. “It is indeed a pleasure to meet the woman who Ford finally accepts as First Wife of her fine house. I know you must be very special.”

“Thank you Chancellor. I am honored to meet you. Hopefully, we will meet in person very soon.”

“Surely you will be coming with Ford when you dock later today?”

Ford cocked her head a bit. “I thought you wanted a private meeting Trella.”

“It’s nothing your First Wife can’t be privy too. Unless of course you don’t trust her.”

“Of course I trust her.” Ford growled. “I trust her with my very life and for good reason too.”

“Yes. I read the report you sent back regarding the incident and the captured ship. Well done.”

“It was most definitely a team effort. My troops performed well in securing the ship.”

“Like there was ever any doubt in my mind as I read the report. You are the best Ford and you know it. Even if you won’t admit it.”

“My troops…”

“Your troops, are what they are, because of your rigorous training standards. And because you only accept the best.”

Ford nodded, closing out yet another conversation. “Marra and I will come to the palace as soon as we dock.”

“I look forward to it Ford. Until then, safe journey.”

Ford rolled her eyes a bit, closing out the vid link. “She’s such a politician.”

“Yes she is, isn’t she?” Marra nodded, understanding for the first time why Ford wouldn’t want to marry this woman. “She has a true understanding of how to speak out of both sides of her mouth.” She clutched Ford’s arm. “Do be careful with her. I get a bad feeling.”

Ford laughed hard and loud, kissing Marra’s forehead. “You don’t even have to be Capri’s chosen to know that. Now you need to go change if you want to go with me. Something long and flowing and very formal.”

“Care to help me look?”

“It would be my pleasure.”

***

When the door of the ship opened, Marra certainly wasn’t expecting the crowd of people that where there. Ford held her hand lightly in her own, glancing over, lifting a brow. “Are you okay?”

“Fine.” Marra nodded.

“Ready?”

“As ready as I can be.”

Ford smiled, remembering this same reaction from Marra when they went out to dinner for the first time. This crowed was a whole different type. These were Ford’s people, here to welcome home the ‘hero’.

The moment they stepped outside the ship, the crowd roared with applause and whistles. Soldiers came to sharp attention, citizens bowed and remained so until Ford and Marra made their way past. At the end of the runway Ford stopped a few paces away from an older man in long, ornate robes. He bowed, remaining bent at the waist until Ford spoke.

“Allston, please. We’ve known each other far too long for such formalities.”

The man graced them with an endearing smile as he straightened. “Lord Kurrathian, it is good to have you home.” His eyes shifted to Marra. “And this lovely woman is?”

“The First Wife of the Second House, Lady Marra.”

Allston, nodded, lowering his eyes reverently. “Lady Marra. It is indeed a pleasure.”

Marra nodded with a smile. In this situation where she wasn’t sure what to say, she somehow figured silence and a smile were best.

“Marra, Allston is my advisor. He handles diplomatic matters here at home for me while I am away. He holds my seat on the council when I can not. He’s been a trusted advisor in my family for a very long time. He served my grandmother and my father when they held the title of High Lord of the Second House.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you Allston. I look forward to getting to know you better.”

“And I you, Lady Marra.” The advisor turned to Ford. “Lord Kurrathian, Chancellor Trella awaits your arrival at the palace. We should go.”

“Of course.” She tightened her grip on Marra’s hand, leaning over to her wife. “Nothing like being in demand.” She chuckled.

“Depends on who’s demanding what darling.” Marra grinned up at her spouse as they followed Allston to the small transport that would take them from the station to the palace on the surface.

“This is very true.” Ford sighed, flipping back one side of the cloak, holding it back to keep it out of her way.

“Show off.” Marra smirked.

***

The transport landed with a soft thud. Marra looked to Ford with a grin. Ford smile back. “It’s on the ground, with dirt beneath it rather than metal. When we get out of here, take a deep breath. You’ll be amazed at the difference in the air too.”

The doors opened. Allston disembarked first, followed by Ford who turned and offered her hand to Marra to help her out of the craft. Marra’s first reaction was to shield her eyes from the bright natural light. She was caught so off guard by it, Ford had to actually steady her.

“Are you all right darling?”

“It’s very bright. It hurts my eyes.” She whispered, not wanting to sound as if she were complaining.

Ford turned to the older man. “Allston please see to it that Lady Marra is fitted with a pair of darkened buffers for her eyes.”

“Of course Lord Kurrathian. I have a pair here she may borrow for the time being.” He retrieved the buffers from a pocket in his robes. He smiled a bit, handing them to Ford. “Old eyes don’t do well in the light some days either.”

“Thank you.”

Ford placed the buffer over Marra’s eyes. “Better?”

“Much. Thank you. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be love. There will be lots of adjustments to be made while we’re here. Don’t be surprised by anything that you will need. The light is brighter, the air,” Ford drew a deep breath. “Is so much fresher, your lungs may actually hurt a bit because you’re not breathing anything that has been refreshed or recycled.”

Marra nodded. “All right. We should get inside. I’m sure the Chancellor is waiting for you.”

“Yes, I’m sure she is, but she is the one asking for my help so let her wait. I want to show you something.”

Ford looped Marra’s arm through her own. She turned to Allston. “Tell Trella that she may either join us in the garden or she can wait a half hour for me.”

“As you wish Lord Kurrathian.”

The advisor left to do as commanded. Ford began walking to the side of the palace, down a wide path that was trimmed in plant life and flowers, the likes of which Marra had never seen. She stalled a bit when a group of flowers caught her eye.

“Ford, what are these?”

“I think those are pansies.”

“They’re very pretty.”

“Yes they are and apparently tasty too. Phoenix devours them every time we find them on a planet.” She chuckled, tugging on Marra’s hand. “You haven’t seen anything yet. Come on.”

They walked slowly down the path, with Marra pausing every so often to look at another plant that caught her eye. She had enjoyed the gardens aboard the battle cruiser, but they were nothing compared to these. She also took the time to take several deep breaths. Ford was right the air was much crisper, cleaner and cooler than she was accustomed to. Her lungs didn’t hurt, but she was feeling a bit light headed.

They rounded the corner into the formal garden. Marra stopped suddenly as she looked it over, pulling Ford to a halt unexpectedly. She smiled when she turned to find Marra lowering her buffers to have a better look.

“For the love of Capri Ford! It’s beautiful.”

“Told you.”

“And so grand. I’ve never seen anything so wonderful in my life. Look at the trees, how big they are, so tall and thick and so many kinds.” She dropped Ford’s hand, replaced the buffers over her eyes and moved on her own into the garden. Ford remained at the top of the steps and just watched as her spouse took great delight in exploring the formal garden.

Ford crossed her arms over her chest, waiting for Marra, just watching the young woman and enjoying the sight of her. She couldn’t wait to get back to their own home. The gardens there weren’t as large, but they were impressive and there was this little spot that Ford wanted to show her wife privately. It had been a long time since she had made love outside and she was certainly looking forward to it. Her thoughts, which were turning quite lurid at the moment, were unceremoniously interrupted by the arrival of Trella.

“Ford!” She rushed forward, grasping the tall woman in a warm hug. “It is so good to see you again.”

Ford gave a small growl, trying not to be annoyed by the attention she was receiving from the Chancellor. She pulled away, holding the woman at arms length. “Trella, thank you. It’s good to be home and it’s good to feel the ground under my feet once again.”

“Oh I’m sure of it.” Trella moved past Ford to look into the garden. “Is that Marra?”

“It is.”

“I did some checking on her.”

“You did? Why?”

“Well, I mean you demand citizenship for her, marry her and make her First Wife of your house in just a few weeks. It’s very odd.”

“I’m very odd.”

“Ford you are many things. Odd has never been one of them.”

“My relationship with my wife is none of your business.”

“Oh but it is. Ford, Marra isn’t exactly what she appears to be.”

“What?”

“She was presented to you as a slave correct?”

“Yes. She has lived her life as a slave.”

“Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure?”

Ford drew a deep breath, holding it and her anger she stepped forward. “What are you trying to say Trella?”

“Marra’s real name is Leandra. She was kidnapped from Lord Hadrain’s house almost four years ago.” As Ford swung around to look at her spouse, Trella continued, “You have unknowingly married the eldest daughter of a Lord of a rival house Ford. You have married the enemy.”

LOG TWENTY-SIX

Ford turned to face Trella. “You’re sure of this?”

“I’m positive. You know I’m going to have to take her into custody?”

Ford drew her side arm. “No. No I don’t think so Trella. No one comes near her until I check this for myself and try to figure out what is going on.”

“Don’t be unreasonable Ford.”

The tall woman leveled off the sidearm under her cloak so it was pointing directly at the Chancellor. “I said no!” She growled. “You won’t breathe a word of this to anyone Trella. So help me if you do, it will be the last thing you say.”

“You dare threaten me?”

“I dare. So help me Trella, I’ll kill you with my bare hands if you try to hurt Marra.”

“Ford this is treason.”

“And it is no worse than anything else you’ve done to keep your position as Chancellor, Trella. I know where you’ve buried a lot of the bodies. I don’t intend to let my wife be one of them.”

“Ford she is the enemy.”

“She is a victim. You said yourself she was kidnapped.” Ford motioned with her sidearm. “Inside now. I want to see this file.”

Trella glanced down at the gun. “Could you put that thing away Ford? You know you should never pull it unless you’re prepared to use it.”

Ford’s thumb dropped to the charge switch and Trella heard it hum. “I am prepared to use it Trella. Don’t tell me how to be a soldier.” She motioned with the sidearm. “Move.”

***

Ford sent a palace guard to fetch Marra and bring her to Trella’s office. She tossed away her cape and unbuttoned the top button of her uniform. She continued to hold the gun on Trella.

“Show me!”

Trella settled into her chair and pulled up the security file on the young blonde woman. She glanced back nervously at Ford who stood behind her with the sidearm pointed in the back of the Chancellor’s chair.

“Ford this isn’t necessary. I won’t do anything to harm the woman, I promise. If you believe this strongly that she is innocent I’ll try to help you prove it. I just didn’t want you to be in a position where you’ve divulged sensitive information to the enemy.”

“It’s a little late for that don’t you think? Marra and I’ve shared many things already. She was responsible for helping me take over Dror’s ship.”

“Doesn’t that strike you as a little odd and easy to do.”

“You’re not the one who had to be whipped first. Marra got me out of there. Dror was going to kill me.”

“If you say so.”

“I do.” The tall woman scrolled over the file.

The door opened and Marra stepped in. “Ford?”

She looked up from the com link. “Marra we have a problem and we need to talk.”

“What? What’s wrong?”

“Does the name Leandra mean anything to you?”

Marra gave it consideration, then shook her head. “No. Should it?”

“Apparently so.” Ford tried not to be upset with Marra, but she couldn’t help let a disturbed tone edge her voice.”

“Ford what’s wrong?” The blonde stepped forward. It was all the tall woman could do to keep from leveling her sidearm on her. All her training as a soldier told her to do it. It was only her love for the woman that kept her from it.

“Stay there Mara. Just stay there. I’m trying to sort out some very disturbing information here.”

“Let me help.”

“You can’t.”

Trella watched the blonde during the exchange. She looked back at Ford, then gently laid a hand over the long, slender fingers that were working the con panel. “Ford the information may be correct, but my first conclusions were wrong. We need to get Lady Marra to a doctor.”

“A doctor?” Marra took a step back. She was obviously confused and quickly becoming more uncomfortable. “Ford what’s going on?”

Ford holstered her sidearm, then stepped out from behind the desk. “Marra, sweetheart. We have a problem. A big problem.”

***

Marra gripped Ford’s hand as the doctor scanned her. “I swear to you Ford I didn’t know.” The sound of the panic in the young woman’s voice nearly broke Ford’s heart.

“I believe you Marra.”

“Will you divorce me now? Am I a prisoner?”

“No. You are my wife. I don’t care who they say your father is or what house you belong to.” Ford leaned over and kissed her temple. “I love you Marra. Capri brought us together for a reason. I won’t let anyone tear us apart.”

“Excuse me Lord Kurrathian. Your biorhythms are interfering in the scan.” The doctor was gentle when he laid a hand on Ford’s shoulder. “I’m almost done.”

“Of course.” Ford sat up, but continued to hold Marra’s hand. “Just relax sweetheart. Everything will be fine.”

Marra nodded, worried green eyes moved to the doctor. “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I remember any of this?”

“I’m not sure.” The doctor sighed. “I wish I were. You appear to be perfectly healthy and you show no signs of a memory sweep. Because you show no sign of a sweep, there must be another reason for your memory loss. Either that, or you are a truly convincing liar.”

Ford was on her feet, grabbing the doctor by the throat, cutting off his air as she pushed him against the wall. “My wife is not a liar!” She growled, slowly crushing his throat in her hand. “Something has been done to her, but she is not a liar!”

Marra rose from the table immediately, moving to Ford, laying a hand on her arm. “Ford.” She rubbed her arm soothingly. “Let him go. I’m sure he didn’t mean it. Please, please don’t hurt him.”

The tall woman sneered and shuddered. Then she opened her hand, letting the man drop to the floor. “If you say anything in public about this I will come back and finish the job. Do you understand?”

“Yes, yes Lord Kurrathian, of course. I am sorry.” The doctor groaned, coughing a bit, getting to his feet. He looked to the little woman standing next to the fuming Ford. “Thank you Lady Kurrathian.”

Marra nodded. She took Ford’s hand, leading her away from the doctor. “Ford. I don’t know what’s going on, but I want you to know I love you. That will never change, no matter what the outcome. Even if we are separated.”

Ford grabbed her in her arms, holding her tight. “That won’t happen. I promise you that Marra. If I have to give up everything and we have to go on the run from both governments. We will not be separated.”

***

Ford read and reread the file. Marra paced about the office waiting to be told the results of her spouse’s investigation. Their homecoming was supposed to be a wonderful experience for Ford. It was not supposed to be plagued by more problems.

“Darling,” The blonde leaned on the desk. “Do we have a prayer room here in the house? I’d like to go meditate. Maybe Capri will offer some guidance.”

“Of course.” Ford buzzed for a servant.

It didn’t take long for someone to enter. The woman stopped before Ford’s desk, she smiled, but kept her eyes lowered respectfully. “Lord Kurrathian. Welcome home. It’s nice to have you back in the house. It seems far too empty without you.”

Ford glanced up, then dropped her head back to the com panel. “Thank you. It is nice to be home Judith. Can you please show Lady Kurrathian to the meditation room?”

“Of course.” She turned to the new lady of the house. “Lady Kurrathian, I am Judith. I am the head of the house staff. If you will come with me I will be happy to show where you need to go.”

Marra crossed to Ford. She laid a tentative hand on her shoulder. Ford took the hand, giving it a soft kiss. “It’s okay darling, go ahead. I’ll be all right.” She looked up to be given a soft kiss on her forehead, then her cheek and finally her lips.

“I love you Ford. I can’t seem to tell you that enough right now.”

“I love you too Marra and I don’t care how many times you tell me that. I never tire of hearing it.”

“All I ask is that you never doubt it.”

“Never for a moment.”

***

Marra knelt, lighting the candles and making the appropriate offerings. She bowed her head, falling almost immediately into a deep meditation.

The light came to her, she opened her eyes. “Capri?”

“Marra?”

“We need your help. What is this? This story that they have told Ford.”

“It’s not a story Marra. It is the truth. You are Leandra, eldest daughter of Lord Hadrain of the Second House. Your family is Ford’s enemy.”

“Why? Why then have Ford and I been brought together?”

“Too many of my people have died. I don’t care what house you belong to or what government you live under. They are all my people. So many have died. The killing needs to stop.”

“You believe by uniting Ford and I, we can stop a war that has been raging for so many years?”

“There is great power in the number of two. And even greater power in the number of one. Which you and Ford are, you are one. Can you deny it? Your minds, hearts and souls are joined.”

Marra nodded, knowing the words to be true.

“You and Ford face many great challenges. By being united and remaining that way you will succeed in ways that you can never imagine.”

“Why don’t I remember? Why don’t I remember being Leandra?”

“I took those memories from you. I made you a nameless, faceless slave so that Ford would be willing to open her heart and her mind to you. I will return them if you wish, but I will warn you. They are not pleasant.”

“I would like to know.”

“So be it.”

The light faded. The visions began.

***

Marra wiped her cheeks on her sleeve as she made her way back to Ford’s office. As she moved through the halls of their home, she looked at it’s grandeur and it’s beauty. She realized that only people who loved Ford would bother to keep the house intact and so well cared for during a time of war when so many other houses where falling plague to thieves and marauders.

She met Judith once again as the woman carried a food laden tray back to Ford’s office. “Lady Kurrathian, I hope meditation went well.”

“It did.” She gestured to the tray. “Is that for Ford?”

“For the both of you. She said you would be returning soon.”

“I’ll take it, if it’s all right. Ford and I need some time alone.”

“Of course Lady Kurrathian, whatever you wish.” She transferred the try to the blonde’s hands. She took notice of her mistresses tear stained face. “Are you all right My Lady? Is there anything I can do.”

“Thank you for asking Judith. I’m fine really. There’s nothing you can do. Unfortunately this is for Ford and I to sort out.”

“As you wish.” Judith’s last act was to open the doors to Ford’s office and then close it quietly behind her.

“Ford?” Marra placed the tray on a low table near a fireplace. Taking a seat on a soft couch she patted it, calling the tall woman to her. “I may have some answers. Come over here and join me.”

Ford did as Marra requested. She dropped down to the couch next to her spouse. Marra was quick to prepare a plate for Ford. She could tell she was tired and frustrated. “I think I have the answer Ford.”

“Then clue me in.” Ford gave a halfhearted smile, taking the plate.

“Capri brought us together in an effort to stop the war.”

“Stop the war? Isn’t this more likely to escalate it? If what the file says is true, then your father is most certainly put a price on my head to get you back.”

“The file is true Ford, but the only way I will go back to my father’s house is dead. Capri wiped my memories so that you would more readily accept me into your life. Those memories have been returned to me. My father is not a kind man. I won’t go back there without a fight.”

Ford snorted a bit. “So, what? You and I are peacemakers for the entire galaxy?”

“So it would seem.” Marra poured a cup of coffee for Ford.

“What do I call you? I don’t know now.”

“My name is Marra Kurrathian.” She turned, handing Ford the cup. “I am the First Wife of the Second House. I love you and nothing is going to change that.”

***

“Marra?”

“Yes Ford.” The blonde joined her spouse in their bedroom where they were preparing to go see the Chancellor and the council.

“I want you to carry this.” Ford held up a small side arm. “Can you use it?”

“I think I can handle it.” The blonde grinned.

“Good.” Ford stuffed it in a holster, then handed the belt to Marra. “If you feel threatened by anyone, use it.”

Marra snapped the holster into place over her jumpsuit, letting it settle on her hip. “How do I look?”

Ford sighed. “As always my love, you’re beautiful. I had hoped never to see you with another weapon. I’m sorry it has ended up like this. I wanted our homecoming to be so much different.”

Marra moved to Ford, caressing her cheek. “I’m sorry too, but the fact that we are still together is all that matters. Times of war are unpredictable. We both know and accept that.”

“This is true. I just want you to promise me one thing.”

“What?”

“If something should happen to me. I want you to find Sarron Richards and get away as fast as you can.”

Marra shook her head. “No, I won’t make that promise.”

“Marra…”

“No Ford. No I won’t promise that. We are in this. Together. Forever. Where you go I go.”

LOG TWENTY-SEVEN

“Lord Kurrathian!” The voice called out even as Ford and Marra descended the front steps of their home headed for the transport that would take them back to the palace. Ford turned to find Allston and an assistant coming down the stairs with two boxes. “Don’t forget these.” Allston stopped, opening the box to reveal a jeweled headpiece.

“Oh Allston.” Ford groaned and rolled her eyes.

“No! Now you know…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Ford growled, taking the piece from the box, settling it on her head.

Allston traded the now empty box for the one that his assistant carried. “And for Lady Kurrathian. We estimated the size based on records from the Devereux. It should be close.” He opened the box to reveal a headpiece that matched Ford’s.

Ford was quick to retrieve it and settle it on Marra’s head, offering her a kiss on the cheek after doing so. “It suits you.”

The smaller woman’s hand traveled to the headpiece. “Are you sure?”

“Without a doubt in my mind.” She offered her arm to her spouse. When Marra looped her hand through it, Ford held it tight against her arm. “Together?”

“Together.” Marra agreed.

***

When they arrived the Chancellor and the council was seated and waiting. Ford’s seat was empty. She stared at it for a long moment, but decided not to take it. She had been gone for far too long to do it justice.

“You requested my presence upon my arrival Chancellor Trella?” Ford found a seat for Marra, leading her to it before turning to face them again.

“We did. Ford,” Trella’s hand smoothed the cover on the table. “We need your expertise on a very important issue.”

“And that would be?”

“The existence of Earth.”

Ford stood fast. Not revealing anything to the council. “How can I be of assistance?”

One of the elder councilmen cleared his throat. “We know you are a believer Ford. We came to accept that fact about you a long time ago.”

Another member of the council, a middle aged woman, smiled down at the tall warrior. “You are not the only one you know.”

Ford remained quiet.

“Ford we want to send you on a diplomatic mission to find Earth.” Trella grinned a bit. “It’s time to end this war and the only way to do that is to prove that it either does or did exist.”

“And if I find it and it does exists? What if it is inhabited by people who have no desire to be apart of our conflict? By looking for it, I may lead our enemy directly to it. Anyone who in habits Earth may not be happy about being made part of a war that they didn’t start and have no place in.”

“Ford. If it does exist, it’s in ruin.” Trella shrugged.

“You don’t know that for sure. The legend merely says our people, our ancestors, left Earth because there was a threat of global disaster. We don’t even know what kind. Those records were lost centuries ago.”

Trelle poured from a pitcher, glancing to Marra as she drew the cup to her lips. “I am assuming from your rather intense defense of the current inhabitants of a mythical place, that you’re willing to look for it?”

“I am willing to take whatever assignment my people need in order to bring this conflict to an end. I am tired of the killing. I am tired of adding new blood to my hands.”

Another member of the council smiled down at the woman. “Then so be it. However, Ford this mission is of the highest security. No one is to know what your mission is. You will simply be given a new ship and you will fly your diplomatic banner.”

“Then I will need time to prepare and hand pick a new crew. Not to mention putting my house in order before departure.”

“You have three weeks Ford. We can’t give you longer than that.” Trella placed her cup off to the side; she sat back in her chair. We believe over the course of the next few months, that our enemy will be attempting a major offensive against us. We need you to begin as soon as possible.”

“As you wish.” Ford gave a slight bow. “Now if you don’t mind I have several matters I need to attend to.”

“Of course.” Trella gave a slight nod. “Welcome home. It is good to see you again.”

Ford rolled her eyes as she extended her hand to Marra. The small woman took her spouse’s hand while attempting to hide a small grin.

“And Lady Kurrathian?”

Marra turned to the council. “Yes?”

“Welcome to the Second House. We’re sure you will do everything required of a First Wife to ensure the strength and safety of Ford’s fine legacy.”

“I will do whatever Ford requests or requires of me.”

“Some things won’t be left to Ford.”

Marra heard a little growl and looked back to Ford who was shooting dirty looks at the councilmen who spoke. “Marra will only do that which she wishes to do. No more, no less. She will not be forced into anything be some archaic rules of conduct.”

“Ford.” Trella grinned. “You should tell her and see if she wants to. You know it was something I was willing to do for you.”

Marra looked back and forth between the two. She could see the anger getting the best of her spouse. She pulled Ford close and whispered, “Let’s go home. We can talk later.”

The tall woman nodded. Together they turned their backs and left the council hall.

***

Marra woke early in the morning. She rolled over to face Ford who was still sleeping soundly. Slipping carefully from their bed, she moved to the immense bathing chamber and began preparing a bath. She was looking forward to a good long, hot soak.

Ford had refused any conversation about the remarks made in the council hall. This has served to make the evening a tense one, but once they had eaten and shared a bottle of wine, they both felt much better. By the time they had made it to bed they found comfort in each other.

Marra sank into the tub, relaxing, lying her bed back and closing her eyes. So there was something expected of her. The question now was, what? She guessed that she might be able to ask Allston, but he might make mention of her inquiry to Ford and right now she didn’t want to add to Ford’s stress.

So now, who to talk to in this house to find out about ‘archaic rules of conduct’ with the First Wife in mind? She sighed as she gave it further consideration. She smiled when she heard the soft footfalls crossing the floor. Very soon she found her arms full of dark haired, sleepy wife. Who was now content to curl into her, rest her head on her shoulder, and doze in the tub.

“Un, excuse me? Do I look like a pillow?”

“Umm.” Ford nodded, curling tighter against Marra.

“We can’t stay here all day. Are you sure you wouldn’t like a bath?”

***

Marra sat behind the desk in the office that Ford had given her. She got in touch with the staff of the diplomatic transport and arranged for Phoenix and Neyta to be brought to the stables as soon as possible.

With that done she called for someone else. Then she moved to a bookshelf to pick a new book to read and she waited. It wasn’t a long wait, Judith entered Marra’s office with a ready smile.

“Good morning Lady Kurrathian. How may I be of service?”

“Judith how would you like to take on the position of my personal assistant. Ford tells me I’m required to take one.”

The woman seemed surprised, but her smile widened. “I would like that very much Lady Kurrathian.”

“Good. Well, the first thing is, my name is Marra. I would prefer you call me that when we are alone.”

Judith nodded.

“Second. We have some research to do, unless you can answer a question for me.”

Judith wondered about the glint in Marra’s eyes. “I’ll try.”

“What do you know of the customs of the Second House?”

“I know all the customs of the house.”

“Oh well, now that’s going to make things much easier.” Marra grinned, taking a seat on a long sofa and patting it. “Come tell me a few.”

Judith took a seat next to her new Mistress. “Where shall I start?”

Marra tried to remember exactly what had been said in the meeting the day before. “Tell me about things I’m expected to do that Ford might not have control over. Anything that would ensure the strength and legacy of the house.”

Judith smiled. “That’s an easy one Marra. You’re expected to give Lord Kurrathian heirs.”

Marra laughed a bit. “I figured eventually either Ford or I would have children.”

“Oh no Marra. Lord Kurrathian is a soldier, a warrior. Forbidden by tradition to have children. You must bear the children. More importantly you must carry her children.”

“And I’m supposed to do this how?” Marra sighed.

***

Ford walked along the decks of the ship she had captured with Sarron Richard’s trailing behind her.

“They have some very interesting technology here don’t they?”

“Yes, Lord Kurrathian.”

“Has anyone else been aboard this ship? Anyone from Command or the Council?”

“No, Lord Kurrathian.”

“Good.” It escaped her lips as almost a purr. “Keep this ship secure on my orders and strip everything out of it that you have never seen before.”

Rick grinned a bit. “As you wish.”

“And keep it to yourself.” Ford stopped, turning to the young man she grinned. “Rick I have a new assignment and I need a new staff. This will include a Garron for my new ship. Would you like the job?”

“I would be honored, Lord Kurrathian.”

“Good. I need someone I can trust and I like the way you treat Marra. You will command my new ship.” Ford began walking again.

“Lady Kurrathian will be going with us?”

“Oh yes. I have no intention of leaving her here.” Ford stopped suddenly and turned to the young man. “Do you have some designs on my wife Rick?”

“Un.” He didn’t know how to answer. He took a deep breath and decided the truth was the best. “I was wondering if she will be taking any other spouses.”

The tall woman choked back the feeling that rushed forward from the pit of her stomach. “Rick I’m going to be honest with you because I respect you. It is Marra’s right to take other spouses, but I sincerely hope she doesn’t.”

“I see.” He dropped his eyes, his voice betrayed his crestfallen hopes as well.

“However, if she does decide to do so. I would be pleased if she chose you.”

The young man gave a small snort, then lifted his head with a small smile crossing his lips. “Thank you Lord Kurrathian.”

LOG TWENTY-EIGHT

Neyta flapped her wings and stretched her body. Phoenix ran huge fast circles in the enclosure. Marra stood at the fence, reaching over and stroking Neyta.

“How does it feel to be off the ship and out in the open?”

* Wonderful. Especially now with the little ones moving around so fiercely *

“I’ll bet. How long do we have be fore they arrive?”

* A few weeks yet. Young ones come when they come *

“That was very non committal.” Marra laughed. “Thank you.”

* It is the best answer I can give. Unfortunately, my kind has no regular birth and death cycle like you two legs. It happens when it happens. Some grow and die faster than others *

Marra watched Phoenix continue to romp and play. “Is he all right?”

Neyta snorted. To Marra it sounded almost like a laugh. * He’s fine. He’s been aboard ship for too long. On the times he got to leave, it was for battle. It’s been a long time since he could just run *

” He looks very silly.”

“Yes he does.” Her deep voice sent shivers down Marra’s spine. She turned to find Ford coming up behind her.

The tall woman positioned herself directly behind the little blonde grabbing the posts of the corral capturing her spouse between her own body and the fence. Ford lowered her head and placed a tender kiss to Marra’s neck.

“Have I told you recently how much I love you?” She kissed the palm of the small hand that came to rest on her cheek.

“I don’t think you’ve made mention of it recently.”

“Hmm.” Ford nibbled on an earlobe. “Maybe I should take you away from all this and show you the true beauty of the outdoors.”

Marra turned in her spouse’s arms. “Why Lord Kurrathian what are you suggesting?”

“I’m suggesting….”

* You’re going somewhere and have sex. * Neyta offered to her Mistress.

* Yeah I got that. I just like to hear her say it *

* Sorry *

***

Marra grinned when Ford led her into a grove of trees. She held gently to her hand allowing herself to be led freely. This spot was truly beautiful. It was secluded, with a small brook running nearby.

The tall woman removed her cloak laying it out on the ground over a patch of thick soft, foliage. Then she dropped to her knees and drew Marra to her. “I adore you.” She whispered. “I love you. I want us to be happy. I’m sorry all of this is happening to us.”

“I’m not.”

She looked up, surprised. “What?”

“Ford we have a chance to save the lives of a lot of people. We can end this war.”

“We’re only two people Marra. How can we do what hundreds, thousands before us have not been able to do?”

“We have faith and we have each other.”

“I’m grateful for both.”

The blonde grinned, a mischievous grin. “Prove it.”

“Ah a challenge.”

Marra began unfastening her own top. “Not really.”

“Hmm,” Ford reached up, sliding the top from her spouse’s shoulders. It dropped to the ground with a soft rustle. The blonde was wearing delicate black underclothes that didn’t hide all that much. Ford grinned as her thumb grazed over a very pert nipple through the fabric. “Maybe I’m in a mood for a challenge.” She looked up into playful green eyes.

“Okay then!” Marra gave Ford a shove, knocking her back and allowing the little blonde to charge further into the grove.

By the time Ford was on her feet Marra had a good lead and was doing a fine job of hiding from her.

“Oh you are in so much trouble when I get my hands on you!” She called into the tree line, knowing Marra wasn’t far. She stopped, cocking her head to listen. She was after all a patient warrior she could stand here for hours, waiting for even the slightest sound. “Doesn’t it bother you at all that you are running through the woodland without your top?”

Somewhere from Ford’s left, Marra’s trousers hit her in the head, wrapping slightly around her face as they did. She drew a deep breath un-wrapping them slowly. The scent she found there served to inflame the feeling in the pit of her stomach. She groaned as a picture of Marra clad only in her underclothes and boots ran through her mind.

Marra took full advantage of the distraction and moved behind the warrior.

Ford heard the movement, but didn’t turn around. She was after all enjoying the game. She merely cocked her head and listened, a slight smile playing across her lips. She tossed the trousers over her shoulders and crossed her arms against her chest. “If you want these back, you’re going to have to come get them.”

“Who says I want them back?” The voice came from Ford’s right.

* Oh she’s good. I didn’t hear her move. * “You’re gonna get awfully cold without your clothes.”

“No, actually I’m feeling quite warm at the moment. Aren’t you?”

“I’m certainly feeling a little something.” She grinned.

“If you’d quit standing there like a statue, you could be feeling all kinds of things. All kinds of warm…wonderful…things.”

Ford realized Marra was in front of her again and that she hadn’t heard the woman move. * All kinds of perks to being Capri’s chosen. * “You are a brat!” The tall woman yelled, taking a step forward. This time it was the black brassiere that hit her in the face. She plucked it away from her eyes and held it up on the tip of one finger. “Aren’t you afraid you’re gonna get scratched up out here?”

“Nah,” The voice drifted in from the right. “You’ll kiss it and make it better if I do. And think of all the places that might need kissing.

Ford groaned again.

***

The cloak had indeed served as a very warm, soft bed once the soldier had made her capture and carried Marra’s very nearly nude form over her shoulder, back to the place it had all started.

Ford gave serious consideration to exactly how sexy Marra was in her knee high black boots and nothing else. It didn’t take her long to tell Marra to leave them on while they made love. The sight of it truly excited the tall woman in a way she had never thought possible.

Now they lay together, exhausted and sated with Ford’s cloak pulled around their damp bodies. Marra ran her hand over Ford’s stomach, up between her breasts to her lips, her thumb tracing a light pattern across them as she watched her mate sleep.

“Love you.” She whispered, settling in for a peaceful nap of her own. She felt so safe in the strong arms that held her it didn’t take her long to drift off as well.

Ford woke when a cool wind crossed her face. As she became more aware she realized a storm was moving in. She drew a deep breath, kissing Marra on the forehead. “Time to wake up my love. We need to get back.”

“No.” Came the petulant answer, a blonde head shook and the body it was attached to snuggled closer, causing Ford to lose her frame of thought for just a moment.

“We’re gonna get wet if we stay here.”

“Too late.” The blonde mumbled.

“Not that kind of wet. Really wet. As in rain wet. Storm wet. It’s going to storm soon, we need to get back to the house.”

She sighed. “If you say so.”

“I do. Can you hand me my shirt?”

A small hand crept out from the warmth of the cover and searched for the last place she remembered seeing Ford’s shirt. “Hmm can’t seem to find it. You may have to go without it.”

“Might I remind you Lady Kurrathian, that it’s my cloak you are all snuggled down in. I can always wear that home. I on the other hand, am still in possession of all your clothes and you don’t have a cloak.”

Marra’s head came up. “You wouldn’t?”

“Try me.” She grinned.

Marra reached behind her again. “Well, would you look at what I found.” She tossed the requested garment at Ford.

“Somehow I figured that would be your answer.”

“Extortion works wonders.”

Don’t I know it.” Ford mumbled, sitting up to put her shirt on. “I’m nearly a master of the art.”

Marra sat up. Concerned at the tone in Ford’s voice. She laid a hand on her back rubbing small circles. “Ford?”

She shook her head, taking a deep breath. “It’s nothing Marra. I’m sorry.” She glanced up at the trees. The leaves were beginning to turn and the wind was picking up. “Come on sweetheart let’s get going before this gets ugly.”

They dressed quickly, but the rains started before they could make it back to the house. Then the storm began to gather strength, winds roared and streaks flashed across the sky that made the hair stand up on the back of Marra’s neck. A bolt flashed then struck the ground not too far away from them. Ford removed her cloak, wrapping it around Marra’s shoulders. She grabbed the woman by the arms, turning her so they faced each other because it was becoming necessary to yell above the storm.

“Marra can you find your way back?”

She nodded.

“Go then and stay inside! I’ve got to get Phoenix and Neyta to the stables!”

“I’ll help!” She pulled the cloak tighter against her body. The storm was coming harder and faster with every passing second.

“No! Get back to the house and wait for me there.” She laid a hand on Marra’s cheek. “I’ll be fine love. Go on!”

Ford turned her, giving her a little shove to make her move. Marra fought a heavy head wind, she had to keep her head down and her eyes nearly closed so the wind couldn’t cut into them. It howled all around her. The sky was nearly completely darkened now and the bolts came harder and faster. The rains were so hard Ford’s cloak was nearly soaked through. She looked up long enough to get her bearings. She could see the lights of the house in the distance. She didn’t have far to go.

LOG TWENTY-NINE

As Marra made her way up the front stairs of the house the door opened immediately. Judith ushered her in then two guards used the weight of their own bodies to slam the door against the storm.

“My Lady you are soaked!” She stripped the cloak away, draping the garment over her arm. “Let’s get you out of those wet things.”

“Lord Kurrathian is…”

The pounding on the door interrupted her comment.

Judith smiled. “At the door?”

Marra cocked a brow. “Sounds like her.”

The door opened. A bolt flashed, lighting up the tall figure as she stumbled inside. Ford actually found herself on her hands and knees at Marra’s feet, having been blown from her own by the storm. She rose to her knees and looked up with a grin, her dark hair matted to her face, rain dripped off her nose. “Hello beautiful.”

Marra let out a healthy laugh, running her hands over Ford’s face, pushing her hair back. “You look like a drowned catala.”

“Nah, I’m much cuter and not nearly as wild when I’m wet.”

Marra let a multitude of comments go. This was no place to say them.

“Lord and Lady Kurrathian, I must insist that we get you into dry, warm clothing.” Judith reminded them, as she retrieved towels from a servant and draped them over the two soaked women.

Ford got to her feet, then used the towel to push more water from her long hair. “What a nasty storm. By the time I got to the corral, Phoenix and Neyta had already taken shelter in the stables. Phoenix kicked the door in to get them inside.”

“Protecting his family?”

“Apparently.” She chuckled. “Now we’re going to have to repair the door to the stable. But for the time being they are safe, warm and dry.”

“That’s more than I can say for us.” Marra gestured to their sopping clothes that were now clinging to their bodies, leaving puddles on the floor where they stood.

“True.” Ford wiggled her toes in her boots. “My socks are squishy.”

“Yuck.” Marra wrinkled her nose. “That’s not good. Let’s go get you some dry ones.”

“Or just out of these.” Ford looked down at her boots, wiggling her feet. “It’s not a pleasant sensation. I hate wet socks and boots.” She sighed. “They remind me of combat. I hate it when my feet get cold.”

Marra took Ford’s hand and tugged her toward the large, spiral staircase of their home. “Judith, would you please prepare a very hot bath for Lord Kurrathian?”

“Of course, My Lady.”

“Make that for two!” Ford called, without looking back. She kept her focus solidly on the movement of the wet clothing and the backside it covered.

“Of course, Lord Kurrathian.” Judith shook her head, smiling and trying to keep the dripping cloak from leaving a trail on the polished floors of the house as she went to do their bidding.

* * *

While Marra finished in the bathing chamber, Ford pulled the mattress from the bed and drug it over by the fireplace. Then she proceeded to pile it full of thick, warm blankets and fluffy pillows. She was spreading the coverings when Marra emerged.

Ford gave her a rather embarrassed grin. “I thought it might be romantic to sleep over here tonight.”

“Very.” Marra nodded, making her way across the room, dropping her robe and then dropping her body on top of the covers.

Ford just shook her head, staring down at her spouse. “Boy, when you learn something you really learn it.”

“Now what’s that suppose to mean?” The blonde purred, rolling around on the covers and giving Ford a very innocent look.

“Oh please.” Ford rolled her eyes, lowering herself down to the bed she rolled her playful spouse over, straddling her, holding her hands above her head. Meeting her nose to nose she grinned. “You’re a tease.”

“I am no such thing Ford! I never do anything I don’t mean to do.”

“Then you mean to tease me?”

“Ummm…” Marra couldn’t quite figure a way around Ford’s logic on that one. So she kissed her. “No, but I meant to do that.” She whispered in Ford’s ear, giving the lobe a little nibble too. “And that.” She wrapped her hands, in dark hair, pulling an expanse of neck closer for biting. “And that.”

Ford groaned.

“Are your feet warm?” Marra chuckled, remembering her spouse’s complaints about her cold socks.

“My feet, among other things. You know, for Capri’s chosen, you are a wicked woman.” Ford managed to struggle the words past her lips even as Marra continued to nuzzle and nip her neck.

“You must have me confused with someone else.”

“No. No one has ever made me feel the way you make me feel.” She pulled back from the delightful lips pressed against her skin, to look into Marra’s eyes. She slowly allowed her fingers to trail over the blonde’s cheek, down her jaw. “Alive.” Her thumb trailed over Marra’s lips. “Truly alive.”

The kiss that followed was long and passionate. The passion that followed the kiss was long and exhausting.

***

Ford rubbed her temple. Her head hurt. If one more thing problem arose for her this morning she was going to scream. Long and loud. Then she was going to find something or someone to kill.

She opened her eyes and looked at the vid link. “I will not go on this mission on an unarmed ship.”

The council member on the other end of the link sat back in her chair. “Lord Kurrathian, this is a diplomatic mission.”

“Yes, but I am going through a war zone in the process. To ask me to take an unarmed ship you are asking me to commit suicide.” Ford leaned in on her desk. “Or is that the plan? Why don’t you just ask me to fall on my blade? It would be quicker.”

“Lord Kurrathian the mere concept is ridiculous. The council and the Chancellor only want you to have a safe and prosperous journey.”

“Then outfit me with what I need to do so. A ship with only my diplomatic banner to protect me is a signed, sealed and delivered death warrant.”

“Ford,” The council member leaned forward. “I have long been a supporter of you and your house. I wish no harm to you and yours. I will see to it that you have what you need to complete this mission safely.”

“Thank you. It’s nice to know at least one person is looking out for me.”

“Lots of people are looking out for you Ford. The question is, do they have your best interest at heart?”

“Well, I hope you do.” Ford quirked a brow.

“I assure you. I do.” The nod, as the response, was somber.

“Your sincerity is astounding. Ford out.” She tapped the link ending the session. Then she leaned beck in her chair and closed her eyes. She dropped her head briefly to her desk when someone knocked. Taking a deep breath she sat back in her chair and called, “Come in.”

Garron Richards entered the room. He gave her a polite nod, then took a position at the front of her desk standing at attention. “Lord Kurrathian.”

“Relax Rick. I’m so very not in the mood for protocol today. So what did you find?”

He grinned. “That ship is truly amazing. It has things on it I’ve never seen before. It may take our scientists years to figure it all out.”

“Guess that depends on how things go for us as our new assignment develops. I’ll tell you more about that later though. You said our men found something interesting aboard?”

Rick dug in his pocket and tossed four chips down on the table. “Thought these might interest you.”

Ford leaned forward, picking up one of the chips she examined it, letting her fingers travel to the base of her skull. “Termination chips?”

“Yes. They were removed from us when we were captured.”

Dark brows drew together in complete confusion. “We’re only suppose to have one. Why did we have two?”

“We didn’t. You did. The one you’re holding is mine. These two are yours.” Rick pushed two aside and picked up the fourth. “This one is Lady Kurrathian’s.”

“Marra? She’s not a soldier. She never should have had a termination chip.”

“A soldier no.” Rick pulled a small data chip from his pocket and placed it on Ford’s desk. “I had a friend of mine analyze the chip. These are his findings.”

“You want to give me the short version or should I read this?” Ford lifted the chip and placed it in the data reader.

“The short version is that Lady Kurrathian is or was, prior to that chip being removed, an assassin. There’s a phrase buried deep in that chip designed to trigger her training. After her mission was complete she would have been terminated automatically.”

Ford drew a deep breath. “Her target?”

“You and then Chancellor Trella.”

Ford nodded. “Somehow, I knew you were going to say that.”

“Lord Kurrathian in light of this information, maybe….”

Ford was on her feet, leaning across the desk growling at her commander. “Don’t! Don’t even suggest it! Don’t say anything that will give me reason to cut your throat. I’d rather not ruin that rug you’re standing on. It’s been in my family for a long time.”

“I’m only thinking of your safety Lord Kurrathian.”

“Rick, if Marra were going to kill me don’t you think she’s had more than enough opportunity to do so? She’s had me at my absolute most vulnerable. She could have killed me in my sleep dozens of times.”

“It’s possible the trigger phrase was never said.”

“True.” Ford conceded with a nod. “I seriously doubt anything I’ve whispered, groaned or yelled in the privacy of our bed chamber was designed to have her kill me.” She leered. “Torture me endlessly, but not kill me.”

Rick shifted a bit. “I meant no disrespect Lord Kurrathian. It’s just that my duty is to serve and protect you from everything.”

“Even my wife?”

“Even your wife.”

Ford moved around her desk and met the young man eye to eye. “The very same woman you have made overtures to? The very same woman you have hoped would show you attention and affection? You could hurt her?”

“If she tried to do you harm, of course I could.”

“Then you don’t love her as much as you think you do.”

“Perhaps you love her too much.”

Ford drew her hand back, slapping the man down to the floor. He brought his hand to his busted lip, turning to face her, but not trying to get to his feet. She bent over him, grabbing him by the front of his shirt and hauling him to his feet. “Don’t you ever,” She shook him hard, so hard the blood pouring from his mouth splattered them both. “Ever, tell me I love my wife too much!”

She shoved him back. The young man stumbled, but maintained his footing and stayed on his feet. “I meant no disrespect.”

“Get out! Get out before I decide to kill you!” She turned her back to him giving him time to make a hasty exit. When she heard the door open and close she returned to her seat. Scooping up the chips, she dropped them to the floor and crushed them under the heel of her boot.

LOG THIRTY

Lord Hadrin entered the Chancellor’s private chamber. He took a deep breath as the tall man turned to face him. “You lied to me!” Hadrin growled.

“Did I?” The Chancellor moved away from the window, taking a seat behind his desk. “How did I lie to you Hadrin?”

“You told me that Leandra was dead!”

“She is.”

“No she’s not. She’s in the hands of Ford Kurrathian.”

“Trust me, Leandra is dead. The woman that Ford has is not your daughter. Your daughter was kidnapped by Trella’s people and killed.”

“You lying magdan!” Hadrin charged across the room, throwing a picture of his daughter and Ford on the desk. “That is my Leandra with The Butcher of Velros Seven!”

“It may look like Leandra.” The Chancellor looked at the image briefly then tossed it to the side. “But let me assure you, that by the time Trella’s people were done with your daughter and reprogramming her mind, nothing of your daughter remained.”

“But she is alive! I want her back. I demand that the council help me get my daughter back.”

The Chancellor leaned back in his chair, looking to the upset father. “And if I can convince the council to help you get Leandra back, will I have the full support of your House?”

“Yes.” Hadrin recognized the request for what it really was, pure extortion.

***

Ford moved slowly around the practice facility. She needed to work off some stress and she had a lot to work off. That’s why her three opponents circled her slowly. They were in no hurry to have their senses knocked into the next quadrant. They had already been at it for more than an hour and they had the bruises to prove it. Ford, however only now appeared to be breaking a sweat.

“Are we going to fight or dance?” Ford growled, twirling her staff in her hands.

As a woman moved forward, a young man attempted an attack from the back. He raised his staff and prepared to deliver a blow to the back of Ford’s head. She tossed her staff back to block the blow. Stepping back, without turning around, she dropped her own staff. She grabbed the one her attacker still held and used it to send him flying over her head. She jerked the staff free as the young man went crashing into the young woman who was advancing. Ford turned quickly on the third opponent and swept his feet out from under him. She advanced, delivering one blow after another from side to side, forcing him to push away from her using his hands and feet while rolling from side to side.

Deciding that this man had probably had enough she turned to the other two, who were picking themselves up, she didn’t give either of them time to get up before she started beating them back down with the end of the staff. She halted suddenly when she heard the door to the room open and close. She turned to see who was disturbing her exercise. She smiled a little, breathing heavily, watching as Marra leaned against the wall.

“Please, continue.” She gestured. “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

Ford ran a hand across her soaked forehead, looking at the moisture collected on her palm, then to her exercise partners, who remained on the floor, groaning and holding various bruised and beaten part of their bodies. “Nah, I think we’re done here. I’m pretty sure I’ve done all the damage I can without killing them.”

Marra chuckled a bit, moving across the room and offering a hand to the young woman, who was holding her shoulder. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, Lady Kurrathian. It’s an honor to train with Lord Kurrathian. I’ll take great delight in this pain for a few days.”

“Go see a doctor, just in case.” She smiled, offering her hand to the other young man.

Ford assisted the last man to his feet. “You’re all right?”

“I’m fine Lord Kurrathian. Thank you for this chance to spar with you.”

“It was my pleasure. Thank you all for being willing to spar with me. You’re dismissed.”

The trio left the room, comparing injuries as they did. Marra just shook her head laughing softly as she looked to Ford. “You should be ashamed. Beating those children like that.”

“They are not children.” Ford picked up a few pieces of gear, hanging them back on the wall. “They are Guards of the Second House and perfectly suited for that sparring session.”

“If you say so.”

Ford cocked a brow. She took a cloth from a bench and began drying her face neck and arms. “And you, dear wife, what have you been up to today?”

“I’ve been finding a diplomatic staff to go with us and taking the time to get a check up by your private doctor.”

“Marra,” She dropped the cloth, turning immediately to her spouse. “Are you all right? Is there something wrong?” She embraced the little woman, gently running her hands over her body, as if she could tell if there was something wrong.

“Ford, relax I’m fine. I just wanted a check up. Everything is okay, I swear to you.”

She tightened her hold on the smaller body. “Thank Capri for that. I’m afraid I wouldn’t do well if something happened to you.”

Marra sighed, sinking into the body next to her. “I feel the same way.” She looked up with an evil glint in her eye. “I wouldn’t do well if something happened to me either.” She teased before placing a little kiss to the base of Ford’s throat. “Ewww you need a bath.”

“That bad huh?”

“You have no idea. You smell like you’ve been in the stables all day.”

“Oh now it’s not that bad!” Ford pouted a bit, releasing Marra, continuing to wipe the sweat from her face with her sleeve.

“Yes, yes it is. Come on, tall dark and stinky. I’ll give you a hand, or two.”

“Oh, well now, how can I refuse an offer like that?”

“It would be a very silly move on your part.”

“Yeah,” Ford nodded, wrapping an arm around Marra’s waist. “I think it would.”

***

Ford stretched a bit. It did indeed feel good to be sleeping in a real house, in a real bed again. She rolled on her side to watch Marra sleep. “I wish we could stay here forever my love. Things could be so different for us here.” She sighed, then began running her fingers through Marra’s hair. “But duty calls.”

“Huh?” Marra opened a sleep eye. “Did you say something?”

“No.” Ford whispered. “I’m sorry. Go back to sleep.”

Marra curled closer. “Do I have to?”

Ford grinned. “Noooo you don’t have to. What have you got in mind?”

“Who me?” Marra looked up innocently. “What makes you think I have something in mind?”

“Could be because you have your hand half way down my pants.”

“Are those your pants?”

“And whose pants did you think they were?”

“Would you believe me if I said, I thought they were mine?”

“And you didn’t notice that your hand wasn’t…”

“You talk too much. This is what I get for marrying a diplomat.” Marra ended Ford’s question with a long deep kiss.

Lord Kurrathian, not to be out done by her small spouse, rolled the little woman onto her back. “And you stop other things far too soon.” She resumed the kiss. Then she let her hands begin an exploration of the body under her.

By mid day Ford considered letting Marra get up. Then she looked over at the very playful face of her spouse and decided that was a really bad idea.

***

“I demand to speak to Lord Kurrathian right now!” The man stormed past both Allston and Judith, pushing his way into to the house.

“Lord Ballen, Lord Kurrathian is unavailable to receive visitors at this time.” Allston offered quietly, closing the door. “Perhaps tomorrow.”

“Now!” Ballen growled, pulling off his gloves. “Tell Lord Kurrathian I want to see her now.”

“Lord Ballen, if I may,” Judith started gently. “I mean no disrespect, but you are Lord of the Third House and you have no right to demand anything of Lord Kurrathian. Lord and Lady Kurrathian are simply not available today.”

“Make them available.” He growled again. “If you don’t get Ford down here right now, I’ll start a room by room search until I find…”

Before his remarks were complete, there were four house guards in the foyer with them. Allston smiled, tuning back to the door and opening it. “As we said, perhaps tomorrow. If you call first I can notify Lord Kurrathian of your desire to see her.”

“It’s all right Allston,” Ford called from above, tying off her robe. “Show Lord Ballen to my office. I’ll be down as soon as I get dressed.”

“Don’t bother to get dressed Ford and I don’t need to be shown to your office…”

“Lord Ballen, you will either go to my office and wait for me, or I will have my guards show you off my property. If you want to speak with me…”

“Fine.” Ballen turned to Allston. “To Lord Kurrathian’s office it is then.”

Allston looked up to Ford who nodded her consent. Ford drew a deep breath gripping the railing and watching him walk away with her assistant. She turned her head, feeling Marra’s hand come to rest on the small of her back. She smiled down at her spouse. “The plot thickens, as they used to say on Earth.”

“Who was that?”

“Lord Ballen of the Third House. The man, I believe, Trella used to kill my brother.”

“Be careful.”

“Oh I will.” Ford moved down the winding staircase. Judith passed her going up to be with Marra. Ford smiled at the woman and sighed. “Some days, it just doesn’t pay to get up.”

Judith chuckled softly, nodding, continuing her walk to Marra.

***

Ford entered her office with one armed guard right behind her. She closed the door, the guard blocked it with his body making his presence very well known to Ford’s guest.

“Really Ford,” Ballen smirked. “Don’t you trust me?”

“No.” Ford’s reply was as dry as her throat. She moved to the replication unit and requested a glass of juice. She’d have to remember to drink more fluids now that she was married to Marra. She sighed, turning to Ballen. “What do you want?”

“You do remember how to get directly to the point, don’t you Ford?”

“That was always best with you Ballen, it goes so well with the one at the top of your head.”

“And such a dry sense of humor too.”

“You didn’t come here to discuss my sense of humor. What do you want?”

“Why did you agree to look for Earth?”

“Oh I don’t know, something different to break up the monotony of my day.”

“You realize, if you find it. This war will then become for the control of that worthless little rock.”

Ford smirked. “Actually, if I find it, I’m hoping to unite our people and prove that we all come from the same place.”

“Like anyone cares after all these centuries. This will just fuel the fighting Ford!” He slammed his hand down on her desk. “You can’t do this!”

Ford let the glass drop from her hand, crashing to the floor, she crossed the room in two long strides. Before he knew it, Ballen was being lifted from the floor by the throat. “Don’t!” She growled at him. “Don’t storm into my home. Disturb my time with my wife and then try to dictate to me what I can or can not do!”

He grasped at her wrist, trying to pry her fingers from his throat. “Killing me…” He gasped. “Can’t breath…”

“Just like you killed my brother! Only you didn’t do it with your own hands did you Ballen! You had one of your little minions do it for you, so my brother’s blood wouldn’t dirty your hands!”

“Ford!” He choked again his eyes began to fade, losing focus on her.

She sneered, then tossed him to the floor. “Get out! Get out of my home!”

***

“Are you going to tell Lord Kurrathian?” Judith asked from the other side of the desk in Marra’s private office.

“Eventually I’ll have to.” Marra smiled at Judith as they looked over the lists of supplies and staff that would be accompanying them on their journey. “But not for a while.”

“All right.” Judith looked over the list of supplies. “I’ll need to add a few things to this list.”

“Okay.” Marra nodded, not exactly getting Judith’s meaning.

“Lady Kurrathian, Lord Kurrathian has to okay this list before it can be loaded aboard ship.”

Marra looked up, her nose crinkling just a little. “That’s bad.” She drummed her fingers on the desk. “List it as my personal belongings. No details beyond that.”

“As you wish Lady Kurrathian.”

LOG THIRTY-ONE

Ford roamed through the corridors of her new ship. It was certainly impressive. Large enough to accommodate her staff and her guards, but small enough to be very maneuverable in flight. She liked that.

She looked over the weapons system earlier in the day, with a few minor adjustments they too, would be up to her standard.

Making her way to the command deck she stepped onto the bridge, finding the senior staff busy going over their stations, calibrating equipment and reporting to Garron Richards.

The young man stood from his chair immediately when the door closed behind the tall woman. “Ambassador Ford. I wasn’t expecting you today.”

“That’s why they call them surprise inspections Rick.”

He smiled and nodded. “Yes, I suppose it is Ambassador.”

“And how is everything coming along?”

“Fine. We’ll be ready to launch in three days.”

“Good. Once the ship is ready to go, give the crew the rest of the remaining days off. It may be a long time before any of us see solid ground again.” She tossed a data chip to Rick, who caught it smoothly in one hand. “These are the changes I want made to this ship. They shouldn’t put you behind schedule.”

“Yes Ambassador, right away.” Richards handed the chip to one of his senior officers who immediately began dealing with the information contained on it.

“Also,” Ford sighed hard. “Given the nature of this mission, I want you to offer the crew the opportunity to resign. Anyone who doesn’t want to go with us doesn’t have to. They can request reassignment without fear of retribution.”

“Yes, Ambassador.” Richards nodded, making a note in his log.

***

“Where is Lady Kurrathian?” Ford inquired the moment she got home.

“The stables Lord Kurrathian. Her serpentine seems to be in labor.”

Ford opened the door, taking off at a run for the stables. She continued at a full run until she hit the door. Skidding to a halt, she entered the stables slowly when she heard Phoenix roar.

Marra was standing well back from the stall watching the big male roam and stretch his wings. He was clearly very agitated. He craned his neck and growled, baring his teeth and swishing his tail.

Ford moved in behind Marra, placing her hands on the small woman’s shoulders. “What’s going on?”

“Neyta is giving birth. But I can’t get close enough to see anything because Phoenix is being very protective of her.”

“Yes he is.” The tall woman sighed, wondering if she could coax him out of the stall or if in his current state he would merely make a snack out of her and be done with it. “How is she doing?”

“Well, I can’t tell much from her thoughts but she seems to be all right.”

“Then until we’re needed I suggest we just settle down here and relax. Phoenix might just calm down too.”

Marra agreed. The pair set about to preparing a place in another stall in case they were going to have an extended stay with their beasts. Ford called to the house, requesting that dinner be brought to them. Then they settled down in a soft pile of straw holding each other close.

“How is the ship?” Marra settled her head on Ford’s shoulder.

“It’s a very nice ship. Brand new. It’s requiring a few adjustments to make it up to my standard, but we’ll be very comfortable on it.”

“I never had a doubt about that.”

Neyta gave a little growl from deep with the stall. Marra was on her feet immediately, trying once again to get close to her serpentine. “Ford can’t you do something with him?” She gestured to Phoenix who once again lifted his head and gnashed his razor sharp teeth.

“Yeah, I could feed him my arm. That’s what would happen if I tried to get close to him right now.” She was once again behind her spouse looking at the beast in the stall. “He’s protecting his mate and his offspring. There’s nothing more dangerous than a parent protecting a child.”

Marra sighed. “I just wish I could get close enough to see them. I want to know how Neyta is doing. She blocking me or can’t communicate with me right now.”

“Maybe I can distract him long enough for you to get a quick peek.” Ford moved toward the stall with Marra right behind her.

Phoenix eyed Ford, watching her very intently. He hissed trying to warn her off, but continued to approach, drawing his attentions to the right. He followed her growling and hissing. It was working, while Ford kept him busy, Marra move to the edge of the stall. Looking over she saw Neyta with two small babies next to her. The first looked like its father, the second like Neyta. They both were moving about and seem healthy enough.

Then something caught Marra’s eye. Another little foot, golden in color. This beast was smaller than the other two. “Ford keep him busy. I’ve got to get in there.”

“Marra no!” Ford called but it was too late. The blonde entered the stall.

Phoenix reared back from Ford, whipping around to hiss and growl at the intruder. He was making his way back to her when a rope caught him firmly around the neck.

“Marra! What ever in the name of Capri you’re doing, hurry! I can’t hold him for long!” Ford tugged back on the rope, trying to get it to a tie down post and not having a lot of luck doing it. “Hurry up! This rope isn’t going to hold long.”

Marra reached down taking the tiniest of the creatures into her hands. Neyta looked at her with tired, pleading eyes then she lowered her head and nudged the black creature at her as well. The blonde scooped up the babies and left the stall just as the rope snapped.

Phoenix lunged, but Ford was faster than her beast. She managed to slam the stall door shut. Once it was closed he seemed content to go back to pacing and sniffing around his mate.

Marra staggered, nearly loosing her balance, catching herself in time to keep from loosing her footing and hurting her tiny passengers. Ford’s hand found her waist and steadied her further.

The tall woman peered over her spouse’s shoulder. “Well, now, what do we have here?”

“Babies.” Marra looked back with a grin.

“And what are we gonna do with them, hmm?” Ford arched an eyebrow.

“Try to keep them alive?”

“Marra, do you have any idea how much work that will be?”

“We have to try. Ford look at this one.” She moved her arms just slightly to give Ford a better view of the two little creatures and especially of the one that was golden in color.

“Marra…”

“Please?”

Okay, this battle was lost. One well placed please was all it took and Marra knew it. She had used this one well. “All right. But they are your responsibility, not mine. If you need help you get Judith to help you.”

“Yes Ford.” She nodded her agreement.

“And don’t think for one moment that you’re going to guilt me into helping you because it won’t work.”

“Yes Ford.”

Ford turned and started for the house. Marra caught up quickly, cradling her new foundlings close to her. There was a tiny squeak, which caused her to look down at them. The little dark one was craning its neck searching for it’s Momma.

“It’s hungry.” Ford said quietly, opening the door for her spouse.

As they stepped in, they met Judith who was obviously on her way with their dinner. “I…” Her comment was cut short by the very amused look on the tall woman’s face.

Ford relieved Judith of the basket that had been prepared and started up the stairs, leaving the two women standing in the foyer. “Have fun.”

***

“Wait just a moment. What exactly do you think you’re doing?” Ford asked of Marra who was now busily setting up a small bed in the corner near the fireplace.

Ford dropped her book to her lap, cocking a brow and waiting for an answer.

“I have to keep them close, so I can get up and feed them.”

“And you think our room is the place to do this?”

“Yes I do, and you’re not going to tell me it’s not.” She stood and turned to her wife. “You used the important word, Ford, ‘our’ room. Meaning yours and mine. Which means I have rights in it too.”

“I never said you didn’t.” Ford protested holding up a hand to stall a further rant. “I was just making sure of your intentions.”

“It is my intention to keep them alive and I’ll do what ever I have to, to make sure that they get that chance.”

“Fine, fine. I’m not arguing with you.” Ford returned to her book, trying not to look as interested as she really felt in how the little beasts might be fairing. “Where are they?”

“Judith is bathing them and feeding them while I get the nest ready.”

“Are you going to sleep down there with them?”

“I wasn’t planing on it.”

“They do better if they have a heartbeat to listen to and the warmth of a parent.”

“Is that so?”

“Umm hmm.” Ford nodded still peering at her book.

“And how would you know this?”

“I raised Phoenix, remember?”

“So basically you know a few tricks?”

“Basically.”

“Care to share?”

“I just did. You’d better make that a big nest. You’re a mommy now.”

“And you’ll be sleeping where?”

“In ‘our’ bed.” Ford smirked from behind the book.

“Un-huh.” Marra rolled her eyes. “We’ll see how long that lasts.”

Ford was about to offer comment, when a knock stalled her. “Come!”

Judith entered carrying a bundle in her arms. She smiled at Ford then proceeded to Marra. Ford listened to the growling and the chirping coming from the corner and she knew she was in for it too. She wondered how long it would take her darling spouse to get her involved in the survival of the little beasts too.

LOG THIRTY-TWO

Ford rolled over, opening a weary eye to the bundle near the fireplace. The chirping and growling disturbed her peaceful slumber.

“Shhh…” Marra whispered, trying to get both her little charges to stop fussing and eat. “You wake tall, dark and grumpy and you’re baby serpentine soup.”

“Oh, I’m not that heartless.” Ford yawned, climbing out of bed, crossing the room to help her spouse with the middle of the night feeding. She knew when she went to bed this would no doubt happen. She settled down behind Marra. “Give me one and a bottle.”

Marra turned first, rewarding Ford with a long, sweet kiss. “Thank you.”

“I’m not doing it for you. I’m doing it for me, I’d like to get some sleep tonight.”

The little woman didn’t buy it for a moment. She reached into the nest and pulled out the hatchlings. “Which one do you want?”

“I don’t care. Which one seems the most attached to you?”

“The black one.”

“Then give me the other one.”

Ford gently took the baby then stretched out on the floor near the fire lying on her back. She placed the little beast in the middle of her chest, offered it the bottle, which it took readily and began nursing. The tall woman closed her eyes and the pair seemed quite content.

Marra watched, her own attempts weren’t going as well so she decided to follow Ford’s lead. Stretching out, she placed her own little one then offered it the bottle. She was amazed when it took the nipple in its mouth and began an eager attempt to eat. “Well I’ll be damned.” She mumbled.

“Be careful doing that.” Ford opened her eyes, glancing down to Marra.

“Why?”

“Occasionally they will start rooting around for something a…”

Before she could complete her sentence, Marra yelped and bolted upright, holding on to her hatchling and rubbing her breast.

“Little more natural.” Ford finished with a snicker.

Marra continued to rub her breast, wondering if she had been left with a mark. “Your little teeth hurt.” She scolded, offering the bottle again.

“Yup, and those are just its baby teeth. Wait ‘til they get a little bigger.” Ford settled deeper into the blankets that were a combination bed and nest.

“Excuse me, there wife?” Marra lifted a brow. “You planning on staying here tonight? You’re taking up a lot of room for someone who’s not.”

“I dunno.” Ford yawned. “Let’s see how things go.”

* * *

Marra rolled over with a grumble when her little foundling woke her for the third time. She gave an annoyed look to Ford and the tiny golden beast curled contentedly on top of the tall woman. Both continued to sleep quite soundly, as they had done all night after the first feeding.

“You got something against sleep?” She groused, settling down close to the fire and giving it yet another bottle.

“Come’re…” Ford’s voice was thick with sleep when she reached out to Marra. She pulled the woman close to her. Carefully she moved herself and her own little charge placing it in the blankets next to her. When Marra moved closer, Ford pulled her into her arms. “Put it between us with its nest mate.”

“We’ll crush them.”

“No we won’t, just do it.”

Marra did as instructed, then found herself enfolded in Ford’s arms and remarkably content.

“This is what their parents do with them.” Ford whispered, kissing the crown of Marra’s head. They’ll dig around and nest under us.”

Within moments Marra giggled when she felt them crawling around to nest under her body and Ford’s. “That tickles.”

“Un-huh.” Ford mumbled, her voice once again heavy with sleep. “Tomorrow night, you bring them to bed in a hatchling sack.”

“What’s a hatchling sack?”

“Buy a book.” That was Ford’s last word on the subject. She pulled Marra close to her and within moments soft snoring could be heard emanating from her.

* * *

Ford sipped her coffee as she sorted through a stack of books from her private library. Several of the items here would be packed up and taken aboard the new ship. While flying the diplomatic banner there would be very little for her to do, unless a conflict arose, which was unlikely. Generally, diplomatic status guaranteed any ship safe passage through any neutral territory. So far, Ford’s flight plan was entirely through neutral territory or space held by her own people. She just hoped that it stayed that way.

She pulled down a very old, dusty volume which was titled Earth Geography. She returned to her desk, taking her seat she very carefully opened the text. The pages were badly oxidized and the binding was tenuous at best.

She rested her cheek on the palm of her hand as she paged through the book. Looking at the aged maps she contemplated the best way to approach the planet based on this ancient information. Of course, she realized that if the planet did indeed exist, there was no guarantee it would even resemble the maps in her book.

Carefully, she thumbed back to the front of the book. “Copyright, nineteen ninety two. All most a thousand years ago, I must be out of my mind.”

“No, you’re not.” Marra’s voice was soft. Ford looked up to find her spouse standing in the doorway.

She sat back and watched the small woman approach. “Are you sure?”

“I’m positive. You’re confident and you’re devout in your beliefs. You are not out of your mind.”

Ford chuckled, motioning for Marra to join her. “I dunno about that.” She pulled the blonde into her lap. “I’m about to pack up my family and start through a war zone in search of a planet that may not exist. That doesn’t sound very sane to me.”

“Ah, my love, it’s just your true adventurers spirit coming out.”

“Capri help us if it’s just now starting to surface.”

Marra laughed a bit, kissing Ford’s neck. “Actually I’m quite fond of your adventurers spirit.”

Ford groaned. “You keep that up and you’re gonna get adventure, right here on top of my desk.”

Marra not only continued, but also intensified her explorations.

“Last chance.” Ford offered, closing her eyes and licking her lips, hoping that Marra was ignoring her.

“Mmm.” The blonde began unbuttoning Ford’s shirt. “Let the adventure begin.”

* * *

“Within three weeks we will be able to make an attempt to get your daughter back Lord Hadrin. Lord Kurrathian’s flight plan will bring her on the edge of our space at these coordinates.” A young man pointed to a spot in the tri-dimensional grid. “We will have two of our best war ships there to intercept them. If all goes well we will board the ship, liberate your daughter and take Lord Kurrathian prisoner.”

“No.” Hadrin leaned back in his chair. “I want Kurrathian dead.”

“But Lord Hadrin, taking Lord Kurrathian prisoner would be a great victory for our people. It will encourage our troops to continue the fight.”

“That animal has had my daughter in her possession. It’s hard telling what horrible things have been done to her. I want Kurrathian dead. Her death will be just as good for our people.”

“But she will be a martyr to her own people.”

“It’s a chance I’m willing to take.”

“Yes, Lord Hadrin. I understand.” The officer looked at the older man and shifted nervously. “You know there are rumors that your daughter has actually taken up with Lord Kurrathian romantically and may even be married to her. What if she refuses to leave with us?”

“You will simply take her.”

“Yes, Lord Hadrin.”

* * *

Marra’s nails dug deep into Ford’s shoulder and back, her own body, responding to the one over her. She listened to her spouse’s erotic sounds, soft moans that were almost groans but not quite, timed with the movement of their bodies.

They had indeed started on the desk, then moved to the floor. Not entirely happy there either, Ford had moved them to the couch. They had spent the last two hours taking and giving, Giving and receiving, but never reaching the ultimate crowning point, taking each other away from it so they could enjoy each other to the fullest.

The perspiration on their skin made their movements easy and all that more satisfying to both, but now Marra could tell it was time. Time for both of them, she could no longer control the shaking of her own body, the trembling that begin deep within and slowly worked it’s way out, causing muscles to clench and nails to dig deep.

She felt the quiver in Ford’s body as well, as the hum turned to a groan and then a growl. They rose together, to the height they had been approaching for sometime. The blonde couldn’t stop her nails from pulling across the broad back she held onto as her body rose to meet her partner and Ford’s own body pressed into hers.

They were suspended there for a moment in time, nothing else existed, just them, their breath and their heartbeats hammering with each other as they slowly fell back to reality. Marra closed her eyes, smiling and listening to Ford whisper words of love and devotion.

Slowly they both shifted, Marra lay back allowing Ford to come to rest in her arms. She knew this to be a simple act of surrender on the soldier’s part and she accepted it with the love and trust that it was offered. Her lips grazed a dark, damp brow. “I love you.”

Ford hummed a bit, then lifted her head just enough to place a soft kiss to Marra’s jaw. “I can’t ever make you understand what you mean to me. I love you just isn’t enough.” She tucked her head back down onto the shoulder before her and sank further into the arms that held her. “When my time comes, and Capri comes to claim me. Right here is where I want to be.”

Marra tightened her hold, feeling Ford slipping into sleep. She would keep the soldier safe this night and she hoped, for many more after this. Her own body now demanded rest and her eyes fell shut as she listened to the soft snoring of her mate.

* * *

Phoenix opened one annoyed eye as the hatchling chewed on his left ear. He growled, tossing his head just enough to make the little serpentine let go of the tender flesh. The little one backed up, eyeing his father in a playful manner and growled back.

The male lifted a front paw, about to send the little one sprawling across the stall, when Neyta lowered her head and drew the baby close to her body with her own paw. The look she offered her mate, told him this was not an acceptable response to the playfulness of their offspring and that he would have to be more patient.

He snorted, then brought his head down to rest across his legs and watched the little one as it found its mother’s nipple and began nursing. He was up in an instant when he heard the stable door open. Rearing and growling, challenging anyone who might dare come close to his mate and their offspring.

“Save it.” Ford chuckled. “I’m not going to hurt them. I just came to give you food and water.”

Marra approached slowly. * Neyta? Is the little one all right? *

*Yes Marra he is fine. Very strong and healthy. How are the other two? Did they survive?*

* They did. And they are doing very well. Should I return them to you? *

* No. I can’t care for them. They will only fight among themselves for what I can offer and the weaker of the three will be
killed. *

* Then I’ll keep them with me. Do you have names you would like me to give them? *

* You are caring for them, you should name them. *

“Behave!” Ford commanded, giving her serpentine a light thwack on the snout when he shoved her, causing her to spill water down the front of her jumpsuit. “What has gotten into you?”

Marra held back a giggle as she watched Ford prepare another bucket of water and Phoenix prepared another attack.

*To think, * Neyta offered while nosing her little hatchling. * He was growling at the little one for acting the same way just a few minutes ago. *

Marra watched Ford, hold a hand in the middle of Phoenix’s head to keep him at arms length while she dumped a bucket of water with the other. She wondered what her own spouse’s reaction would be in a few weeks.

LOG THIRTY-THREE

Ford tended the scratches on her shoulder, before slipping into her tunic. “Gotta get that woman to cut her nails.” She mumbled, fastening up the shirt. It always felt really good when she got scratched, but taking care of them after was painful.

The tall woman continued around their bedchamber preparing to go to the ship and check equipment and cargo being loaded. She considered wearing her weapons, then decided against it. “You’re a diplomat now.” She snorted, re-hanging her weapons rig. “Try to remember that.”

She looked in the mirror. Trading a military jumpsuit for clothing she hadn’t worn in a long time she felt somewhat off her mark. The non-combative attire did not agree with her own vision of self-being.

“Do you know what you need?”

She smiled, never turning around to face Marra. It seemed that her spouse always knew when she was needed most. “No. Tell me, my love. What do I need?”

“You need to meditate and spend some time with Capri. You haven’t been to worship since we got here.”

“You,” Ford turned, raising a brow. “Are very correct. I think it may be time for a meditation walk as well. I don’t feel centered. My balance and concentration are off.”

“Then, now might not be the best time for a meditation walk.” Marra half grinned, remembering the first time she had prepared those coals and watched Ford walk over them. “Maybe just the meditation and worship for the moment.” She paused, moving to her spouse and caressing her cheek. “You look tired.”

Ford nodded, then sighed, closing her eyes and leaning into the palm that warmed her face. “I am tired my love.”

“You’ll make yourself sick if you don’t…”

A dark brow went up, eyes narrowed, Marra dropped the subject. “I promise to be in bed early tonight.”

“And I promise to let you sleep.” Marra chuckled.

That brow went up again. “I’ll sleep better if I’m properly relaxed, you know.” Ford wrapped her arm around Marra’s waist, turning her for the door. They strolled out of their room and down the hall toward the staircase.

“By the time we get back, you’ll be so tired I’m sure you will manage just fine without my help.

“We’ll see.” She huffed a bit in a mock tone. “So, how are the hatchlings?”

“They are fine, but I think the little gold one misses you. It is eating, but not like it does when you feed it. The black one has a voracious appetite and has almost doubled in size in just a few days.”

“I’ll feed the little gold one tonight before I go to bed.”

“Thank you darling. I was hoping you would volunteer for that.”

“Well, you and Judith have done a tremendous job of taking care of them. I can at least offer to help once in a while.” Ford gave Marra a little nudge with her hip as they descended the staircase.

As they stopped in the landing Ford watched out the window as the transport landed on the pad, waiting to take her to the ship. She kissed Marra’s temple. “Would you like to go with me and see what will shortly become our home for the next several months?”

“I’d like that very much.” She smiled at her spouse, noticing for the first time the small lines that seemed to have formed around her eyes almost over night. This only served to enhance the look of fatigue she had noticed earlier. “Ford, are you feeling all right?” The blonde was becoming increasingly worried about her partner.

“I’m fine darling. As you said before, just a little tired and in need of an early bedtime tonight.” She pulled Marra’s cloak down from the hook near the door, draping it over her shoulders. “Shall we? Our ride is here.” She winked at her spouse, pulling the door open for her.

* * *

While Ford checked the cargo and the rest of the ship, Marra checked their living quarters. She was happy to find them large and well appointed. She was pleased that the entire deck had been designed as living quarters for them and the staff they would bring aboard. She wondered if any of Ford’s other wives would be joining them.

Realizing, that as First Wife, it was her responsibility to know these things without asking, she sat down at the desk in the office of their personal quarters and pulled up the passenger list on the data link. Indeed, the entire family would be traveling with them. She made a mental note that it was time to get to know some of Ford’s other wives.

It was going to be a long trip and they would expect to interact with Ford during the journey. She would make sure that Ford had nothing to be ashamed of by choosing her as First Wife. So far, she had fulfilled all of her obligations to the royal house. She was grateful to have such a remarkable and trustworthy assistant in Judith. The woman had the answers to all of Marra’s questions and if she didn’t know them, she certainly knew where to find them.

“Lord Kurrathian to Lady Kurrathian.” Ford’s voice over the com panel nearly startled her out of her skin.

She tapped the com link. “Yes?”

“Would you please join me in the cargo hold?”

“Of course. I’ll be there in a few moments.”

* * *

“And this is?” Ford waved her hand at a stack of cargo containers, marked Lady Kurrathian – Personal

Marra scratched her throat, pursed her lips and tried to think of a really good explanation. “Umm, furnishings for our quarters.”

“Our quarters are furnished.”

“Yeah, but these are things meant to just make us more comfortable and to…”

Ford held up her hand. “Don’t. When you were brought to me as a slave I told you I always expected you to tell me the truth. Why would you lie to me now that you are my wife? I’ve had members of my own society try to tell me you were here to sabotage and hurt me and I’ve refused to believe them and I have defended you at every turn, and now you lie to me?”

Marra took a deep breath. Ford’s words, hitting her squarely in the chest, made her heart hurt.

“It’s not like that. I swear to you.”

“Then what is it? Don’t make me open the containers.”

“It’s furniture for the baby.”

“What baby?” Ford’s voice was strong, thick and frightening to Marra.

“The baby that I’m carrying.”

“That can’t be. You were pure when you came to me. I took that gift myself after we were married.” She took a step back when Marra stepped forward. “Have you been with someone else? Garron Richards perhaps?”

“No! Ford, by Capri, no! Never. This is your baby.”

“I am capable of many things Marra, but impregnating you, isn’t one of them.”

The blonde nodded, knowing now was a time to employ her ability to soothe with words. “Ford, my love.” She spoke slowly and quietly. “I am fulfilling my obligation to the Second House by providing you with an heir. This is one of your own children. I am merely doing my duty by carrying it and giving it life.”

The tall woman straightened, glaring around the room refusing to let her eyes settle on her spouse. She was trying to control her anger before it blew up around them both. She took a deep breath before speaking. “Did I ask you to do that?”

“No. But as I understand it, I am required to do it.”

“That custom is archaic. I had no intention of holding you to it. It’s ridiculous to bring a child into this mess. We are at war. What kind of life can I offer a child on a military cruiser?”

“Ford, we can offer a child many things and you can teach a child anywhere.”

“I’d rather not teach my child how to abandon ship or kill those who would challenge you.” She began pacing around the room. She ran a very irritated hand through her hair. “You have put me in a very difficult position Marra. I should make you stay behind now. You’ll be safer here than on a ship.”

“Safer here, without your protection, than with you on a ship flying a diplomatic banner?” Marra’s heart began to beat double time and her stomach lurched at the thought of being left behind. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I thought you would be happy.”

“I am decidedly unhappy right now.” Ford growled.

“Yes Ford, I can see that. I can feel that. I am sorry I’ve made you unhappy, but I’m begging you not to leave me behind.” She took a step forward, gently laying a hand on Ford’s arm. “Do you really not want to be here when your child is born?”

The tall woman closed her eyes, dropping her head. “I don’t know what I want right now.”

“Let’s go back to the house. You sleep and rest tonight. Tomorrow you can go to temple and meditate. Maybe Capri will give you guidance.”

“All right.” She looked at her spouse, seeing the tears that Marra was desperate to holdback made her heart hurt too. She palmed the smaller woman’s cheek. “We’ll work it out.” She offered softly. “Don’t get upset. It’s bad for the baby.” She leaned in, placing a very soft kiss to Marra’s cheek.

* * *

Marra returned from feeding the hatchlings. Even though Ford had once again offered to feed the gold one, she declined the second offer and just asked Ford to go to bed and rest.

She changed her clothes then moved to the bed. A soft light from the window broke across the bed, allowing her to see Ford lying on her side, covers pulled firmly around her shoulders. Marra slipped into bed. She curled up against Ford’s back, when she didn’t feel and resistance she put her arm around her spouse’s waist. “I love you. I only wanted to make you happy. Make the Second House stronger by giving you an heir. If something happens to you, your line ends, and that’s just not right. There is too much nobility that would be lost. These are the things you can teach your child. It doesn’t matter where you are.” She snuggled closer. “Please don’t leave me here. I need you. This baby will need you.”

Ford closed her eyes, allowing a single tear to escape.

The tall woman woke a short time later. Marra was still tucked tightly against her, but listening told Ford that her spouse was indeed sound asleep. Slowly, so she wouldn’t wake Marra, Ford rolled over and looked into the serene face that met her.

“You little fool.” She offered in hushed tones. “Why would you do this to us? A baby will only make a difficult trip more so. It’s going to be hard enough as it is, without having to be concerned about you and a child.” She ran her hand through Marra’s hair, brushing it back from her face. “I love you so much, but I don’t want children. I can’t have them in my life. I’m a warrior, not a mother. I’ve regretted the day they took me to the clinic. I knew this would happen eventually, but I figured it would be after my death. I never thought I would be faced with a child of my own.”

* * *

“Which of you did this!” Ford demanded, as she made her way into to the clinic.

The entire staff froze in place when the angry voice cut through the air. They all turned very slowly toward the tall angry woman. No one offered an answer. Of course, it was hard to give an answer if one did not know the question first.

“Which of you,” Ford walked slowly past each person, looking them all directly in the eyes. “Took it upon yourself, to use the harvested material and impregnate the First Wife of the Second House, Lady Kurrathian?”

The senior doctor stepped forward. “As is required by custom Lord Kurrathian. Lady Kurrathian must give you an heir within a year. She came to me requesting my assistance and I performed the procedure. She carries your child within her. She is very healthy and in a few months I’m sure she will present you with a fine heir.”

“I do not want or need an heir!” Ford’s clenched fist slammed into an exam table, leaving the metal dented and sending instruments flying off to the floor.

The doctor backed up from the irate woman. “Lord Kurrathian, Lady Kurrathian was only doing what all the First Wives before her have done. She is doing what your own mother did. She is providing your house with fine heirs. They are your own children Lord Kurrathian. Your place as a warrior forbids you the chance to have children, your spouse is doing what is required of her to support you and your family.”

“I didn’t ask her to do this!” Ford growled.

“This is one of the few things that does not require your permission Lord Kurrathian, it is custom.”

“It is an obsolete custom of a by gone era and Lady Kurrathian and I should not by bound by it.”

“But you are.” The doctor stepped forward. “The lines of the houses have been engineered to be leaders of the people. Lady Kurrathian carries the next Lord of the Second House, the child who will succeed you. Quite possibly the next Chancellor is growing within Lady Kurrathian. The next great leader of our people, is gaining strength and life from the woman you chose to be your First Wife. It is duty and for Lady Kurrathian it is also a great honor. She was very excited when she learned that the implant had been successful. She even went, as far to ask me if it would be considered her child too and was disappointed when I told her no. That it was your child and your child alone.”

“She gives it life, carries it and gives birth to it and then is expected to give it up to me and have no say in how it is raised? Well, I may not be able to change the custom that has created this life, but I can certainly change a custom that would deprive it of the love and understanding of a soul as pure as Lady Kurrathian’s.”

“How your heir is raised is entirely up to you Lord Kurrathian.”

“Thank Capri for that small favor.” She glared at the doctor then pointed a stern finger at him. “You! You prepare to leave with us when we depart. You will be solely responsible for the health of my wife and child. Capri help you if anything happens to them.”

With that, she turned and left the clinic.

LOG THIRTY-FOUR

Marra sat in silence, watching Ford across the expanse of their dinner table. She waited for her spouse to say something other than to request a food item. It was going to be a long wait.

They both continued to eat in silence, stealing glances at each other when they thought the other wasn’t looking. The staff came in and out, serving and clearing without a word. They tension between the Lord and Lady of the house was enough to make them want to be out of the room as quickly as possible.

At the close of the meal, Ford found her coffee and desert placed in front of her. She looked up to Marra and smiled. “Cheesecake?”

“I thought you might enjoy it.” She offered quietly, sipping her tea.

“Thank you.” Ford sat back in her chair. She pulled her napkin from her lap and dropped it to the table. “Why don’t you come down here and join me.”

“Are you sure you want to be that close to me?”

Ford drew a deep breath, removed the verbal dagger from her chest, and picked up her plates then moved to take a seat next to Marra. “I am very sure.” She held open her hand, offering it to Marra. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I got angry at you.”

“I didn’t mean to make you angry.” Marra placed her hand in Ford’s. “I thought you would be happy to have an heir.”

“In time, I’m sure I will get accustomed to the concept.”

“But you’re still not happy about it?”

“Marra, having an heir forces me to take on responsibilities that I’m not capable of.”

“Such as?”

“Caring for an infant for one thing. I don’t have a clue how to do anything for a baby.”

“If you would allow it,” Marra dropped her eyes, a tear splashing on the table, reducing Ford’s view of herself by another notch. “I would very much like to help with this child when it arrives. I had hoped to be important in it’s life as well.”

“Oh yes, you will be very important in this child’s life. You give it life you will have a say in how it is raised. You’re going to have to teach me how to do it also.” She sighed, knowing she had to make the admission. “Marra, I’m scared because I’m a fighter, not a mother. I’ll probably hurt the poor little thing if I even try to hold it.”

“Nonsense. These hands are capable of great gentleness and this heart,” Her hand found its way to Ford’s chest. “Knows nothing but tenderness. You have nothing to be frightened of. You’re going to be a wonderful mother.”

“With your help?”

“All that you desire.”

Ford’s head dropped, shaking slightly. “I’m going to be so bad at this.”

* * *

Ford watched Marra fuss with the little gold beast. It twisted it’s head from side to side refusing the bottle that it was offered.

“Come on now. You want it, you know you want it.” She griped at it, trying to hold it a little firmer in her grasp.

“Let me try.” The tall woman held out her hands. Marra eagerly passed off the beast. Ford allowed it to wrap it’s tail around her forearm then she let it hang upside down by holding her arm out. After a moment she offered it the bottle and it began eating.

“And you’re concerned about getting a baby to eat? Please.” Marra rolled her eyes.

“Babies do not hang by the tail of their own accord. You have to cuddle them and be tender with them. Sometimes the best way to get a serpentine to eat is to be rough with it.”

“The point is, my dear, that you are a caregiver. You’ve just never thought of yourself that way because it was for the serpentines and not another of your own kind.”

“Huh, whaddya know.” A crooked smile broke across Ford’s features while she held the bottle for the little beast. “But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re going to have to help me. Speaking of which, come here.”

Marra moved closer, Ford placed her hand on the smaller woman’s shoulder for support while the beast continued to eat. “We make a pretty good team.”

“We make a great team, Ford Kurrathian and don’t you forget it.” The blonde teased, leaning in a bit to give her spouse a kiss.

“No Ma’am. I won’t. Although I think you might be a better warrior than I will be a mother.”

“Together, we’ll be fine.”

The serpentine finished the bottle then folded it’s wings around it’s body, hiding behind them and falling promptly asleep hanging from Ford’s arm.

“Oh no you don’t.” The tall woman pried the tiny golden tail from her arm, placing the beast into the nest with it’s gathering mate. She noticed the gold one was still very small in comparison to the black one, which had almost tripled in size and was nearly the same size as the one that had been left with Phoenix and Neyta. “It seems healthy enough, but it’s very small isn’t it?”

“Yes. It doesn’t seem to be growing at all. Have you ever seen such a thing?”

“Never. I’m glad we got two healthy ones out of the mating, because this little gold one is worthless.”

“No life is worthless Ford.” She turned, smiling at her spouse and caressing Ford’s cheek. “You taught me that. You taught me that when you took me from Danils ship and made me a part of your life. We just need to figure out where this little one belongs in the scheme of things.”

“I’m pretty good at figuring out what to do with the little ones of the litter.” Ford grinned down at her wife.

* * *

The transport stopped in front of the ship. Ford took a deep breath, glancing at Marra, “Ready my dear?”

“Absolutely.”

Ford waited for the door to open then stepped out of the transport, offering her hand to Marra. Then entire staff and crew of the Exploration Ship Odyssey stood at the ready, prepared to welcome Lord and Lady Kurrathian to what would be their home, no doubt for some time to come.

Garron Richards, stepped forward. “Ambassador, we are honored to have you and the First Wife aboard. We hope to serve you both with dignity and honor.”

“You already have Garron. I’m sure that our journey and our mission will be blessed by Capri and we shall indeed find that which we seek.” She smiled at the young man, offering him her hand.

“Thank you Ambassador.” The young commander shook the tall woman’s hand, nodding slightly, then glancing to Marra with a smile. “Your quarters are ready and we are at your command for departure. Just give the word Ambassador.”

“The word is given Garron. We depart at your leisure.”

Ford retook Marra’s hand and the couple was escorted onto the ship. Ford inquired quietly. “Odyssey? What an odd name, darling. What made you choose it?”

“From one of the books I read while we where home. From Earth, from a poem by a Greek poet named Homer. It seemed appropriate. I was honored when you asked me to name the ship. I wanted to give it a name that was worthy of you and your explorer spirit.”

“I wish I had half of your strength, courage and wisdom.”

Marra blushed at her spouse’s praise. “Funny, I think the same thing about you every morning when I wake up next to you.”

***

Ford groaned, hanging her cloak on a hook. She rolled her shoulders, then her head, listening to the bones crack and pop. “It has been a long day.” She grumbled, heading for the couch where she promptly tossed her body, letting it fall limply into the cushions.

“Yes, it has been.” Marra agreed, following Ford’s lead. She sat close to her wife and pulled her head into her lap.

“Should we have something to eat or should we just go to bed?”

“Well I…”

Before Marra could finish, Ford shot up. “How stupid was that?” She turned to Marra. “We should eat. You and the baby need to…”

Marra tried to stifle the chuckle, but couldn’t.

“What?” Ford threw her hands up.

“I was just about to suggest we do both. We could take something to bed with us.”

“Then let’s do so, because my love, I am exhausted. Between the introductions of the crew and staff and the inspections of the ship I had to do today I’m so tired I am about to collapse.”

***

Ford held Marra gently against her. The blonde fed the tall woman another piece of fruit, which was accepted eagerly. “Hmm that is so good. This was a wonderful idea.”

“I’m glad you approve.” Marra slipped a piece of the fruit between her lips, then climbed on top of Ford.

The offer was made and taken without hesitation. Ford captured the fruit, taking half of it. Then the kiss began, slowly. It worked itself into a slow, deep exploration. Ford brought her hands up, cupping Marra’s face holding her gingerly through the kiss.

Marra sighed when the kiss finally ended, looking into dark blue eyes that were now clearly projecting Ford’s arousal. “Thought you were tired.”

“I was. Now I’m something else. My right to change my mind. Besides, you can’t lay here on top of me like this and not expect me to get a little charged up.”

The small woman ran her hand up and down Ford’s chest. “Just a little charged up? I’m doing something so totally wrong.” She smirked, leaving her palm over a breast, rubbing gentle circles.

“No, you’re not.” Ford’s voice was strained, when she closed her eyes and licked her lips. “Trust me, you’re doing everything just right.”

“Glad to hear it Lord Kurrathian.”

“Enough talk.”

***

Ford kissed Marra’s brow as their bodies settled down together in the softness of their bed. Between their rather heated exchange and the fact the environmental controls on the ship were just a bit out of whack, it was far too warm for covers. So they lay there together, just relaxing with the covers tossed as far across the room as Ford could get them.

“You know,” Marra caressed the valley between Ford’s breasts, pushing aside the dampness she found there. “If the temperature should happen to go to the other end of the scale at some point tonight, we’re going to regret that fact our blankets are all the way over there.”

“If we need them I’ll get them later.” Ford sighed, pulling Marra closer. She was quiet for a long time, trying the best way to figure to ask her next question. “Marra?”

“Yes.”

“Is the baby a boy or a girl?”

“Yes.” Marra chuckled.

The tall woman looked down at the head lying on her shoulder. “You know what I mean. Did the doctor give me a son or a daughter?”

“I didn’t ask.”

“Oh.”

“Does it matter?”

“No.”

“You were just curious?”

“Yes.”

“We can ask him if you really want to know.” She pulled Ford’s hand to her lips, placing a kiss to her knuckles.

“Do you want to know?”

“No. I thought it would be fun to find out when it arrives. But if you want to know I will ask the doctor.”

“No. If I want to know, I’ll ask the doctor. No need for you to know if you don’t want to.”

Marra smiled to herself then turned her face to her spouse. “You do care.”

“I love you. Of course I care.” Ford huffed a little, uncomfortable with being caught.

LOG THIRTY-FIVE

Ford held the little gold beast while Marra introduced its much larger nest mate to Phoenix, Neyta and the nest mate it had been taken from at birth. The little black beast sniffed and licked at Neyta and was given a very motherly nuzzle in return. Then he turned and growled at his father, rearing up and bearing its fangs, Phoenix just appeared to roll his eyes and lay down for a nap. Turning to his nest mate he drew his head back and flapped its wings before charging across the stall, tackling its sibling. Soon the serpentine parents found themselves part of the playing field for their two offspring.

Marra left the stall when she was sure that the black beast would be all right with its parents. She leaned on the door and continued to watch them romp and play.

Ford joined her, still holding the smaller gold beast. “I doubt this one will ever be big enough to be reintroduced.”

“I’m afraid not.” Marra sighed, feeding the littlest beast a piece of fruit from a pouch at her hip. He took it from her, then scampered up Ford’s arm to perch on her shoulder. His tail wrapped around her neck, while front claws held the treat, which he chewed contentedly. Marra couldn’t hold back the laugh.

“And what’s so funny?” Ford straightened, crossing her arms, staring at her spouse.

“Never thought of you as a serpentine perch.”

“Well good or bad, the little beast seems to have bonded with me.” Ford turned her head to eye the little beast. It turned its head to look at her, as it did it slowly stopped chewing the fruit, and then it looked at the rest in its claws and tried the shove it in Ford’s mouth. “Oh well yuck!” Ford yelled, spitting the fruit to the ground and looking desperately for something to drink.

The beast took to the air, just long enough to glide into the protective arms of Marra. For her part, Marra was nearly hysterical with laughter, watching her spouse spit and sputter trying to get the last of the fruit from her mouth.

“That was totally disgusting! Not to mention just plain wrong!”

Marra stepped back, still laughing and wondering if Ford was going to take to licking her sleeve to get her tongue clean.

“Oh, you think that’s funny do you?” The tall woman gave a mock glare to her spouse, advancing menacingly.

“I do see a certain amount of humor in this situation, yes.”

Ford looked to the ground and retrieved a piece of the fruit that had been so unceremoniously jammed in her mouth by the beast. “Then maybe you’d like a bite.”

“No, no I don’t think that’s really a good idea. I mean, that’s been on the ground.” She pointed at the fruit in Ford’s hand.

“Un-huh. But I think you should sample its delicate flavor, my love.” Ford continued to advance, while Marra continued to retreat.

The blonde quickly reached for her pouch, withdrawing another piece of fruit. “I have some, thanks.”

“Yes, but it doesn’t have serpentine drool on it. It ads a certain,” Ford paused. ” tang, you really should experience, just once.”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

“No, I really think you should try it for yourself.” Ford lunged, grabbing Marra’s sleeve. The little beast squealed, taking to the air once again, to perch on the stall door.

Just as Ford prepared to ‘give’ Marra a bite of the fruit in her hand, the blonde slipped the piece she held, into her own mouth, offering Ford half and lifting her brows. Ford knew she had been beaten at her own game. She let the fruit drop from her hand and captured Marra in a very sweet kiss.

***

Ford leaned back into the couch, with Marra straddled over her lap, facing her. Looking up into the face of her spouse that reflected a lot more than love at the moment. She glanced down briefly to watch as Marra’s hands worked quickly unbuttoning her shirt, getting stuck on one particularly stubborn button. “Would you like some help with that?”

“No!” The smaller woman growled, simply slipping her hands inside Ford’s shirt and ripping it open.

“Okay I can see you’ve got it handled. But I don’t think my wardrobe can handle much more of this.” She placed her hands on the sides if Marra’s face to get her attention. “Darling, I didn’t mean to get you so worked up.”

“Well, you did. Now do something about it!”

Ford nodded. “Yes dear.” She brought their lips together in a delicate kiss, designed to soothe her spouse. “Let’s go to bed.” She offered quietly after the kiss.

“Oh yes. Let’s, right now.” She quickly removed herself from Ford’s lap, tugging on her spouse’s hand. “Now.” She demanded again.

“I’m coming, I’m coming.”

“Not yet, but you will be.”

***

Ford rolled over, draping her arm over Marra, she tucked herself in closer to her wife, who still slumbered contentedly. She was preparing to go right back it sleep as well, when she felt something at the foot of the bed. She waited for a moment, anticipating more movement, when she felt nothing she chalked it up to the fact that she was still half-asleep. She drew her legs up, so they fit snugly with Marra’s and took a deep, relaxing breath.

Then she felt something brush her foot. She opened her eyes again. This time something nipped her foot. She jerked it away, firmly kneeing Marra in the backside and sending her spouse crashing to the floor.

Marra turned sleepy, confused eyes up to the bed. “What?” She groaned, trying to find wakefulness.

“Something bit me.”

“I didn’t hear you complaining earlier.”

“I’m not talking about earlier. I’m talking about right now.” She leaned up on her elbow, offering her hand to Marra, while lifting the covers to peer under and try to find out what had nipped her foot.

Marra got up from the floor, rubbing her eyes, reaching for her robe at the end of the bed.

Then it sneezed.

“Oh yuck!” Ford groaned, dropping back to the bed. “Mystery solved.”

Wrapping her robe around her body and tying it off quickly, she pulled the covers back from the bottom of the bed to find the gold beast. “Now how did you get down there?”

Ford, who was now on her feet and using what was left of her shirt to wipe off her foot, glared at the tiny serpentine. “Grilled. I hear they’re really good grilled.”

“Ford!” Marra cuddled the small beast. “It must have a cold.”

“It’s got something. I’d call it a death wish if it had two legs.”

The little beast whimpered, curling in close to Marra. “Ford, I think it’s really sick.” She tried to get a good look, but the tiny serpentine merely burrowed deeper into her robe.

The tall woman huffed, tossed down the shirt, then pulled on her own robe. As soon as she approached Marra, the little beast fled the blonde’s arms in favor of the brunette. It curled tight against Ford, shivering and whimpering. “Easy little one, easy.” Ford soothed, despite herself. She held the tiny serpentine up closely inspecting its eyes and face. “Yup, it’s sick.”

“What can we do?”

“Hmm, let’s get dressed and take it down to the stables. We can put it in an accelerator and see if that helps.”

Marra moved to a cabinet and began removing clothes for them both. “What’s an accelerator?”

“It’s a cellular accelerator, used to assist in the growth process. During times of war, young serpentines are some times accelerated to replace adults lost in battle.”

“Do you think it’ll help?”

“Well, it certainly can’t hurt. All we’ll do is accelerate it a couple of days and see if we can get it past this illness.” She bent; retrieving her torn shirt then wrapped the tiny beast up in it while she dressed. She placed it on the bed; it burrowed into the cloth.

“Maybe the fruit I fed it this morning was bad.” Marra looked to Ford, who had not appreciated that last comment at all.

“Let’s hope not. We had some of that fruit too.”

“Oh yeah, we did, didn’t we?”

“Yeah, we did.”

***

Ford placed it in the accelerator, then stepped out and closed the door.

Marra watched through the observation glass. She could tell the little beast was scared, it was shaking and trying to scratch its way out of the chamber. “Are you sure this won’t hurt?”

“It won’t hurt it as long as whatever illness it has isn’t fatal. If the illness is fatal, it could die, but we wouldn’t be able to save it anyhow.”

“Oh Ford.” Marra felt a lump form in her throat at the thought of loosing the little beast. Even in the short time that she had had them, she had become quite fond of this one and she loved to watch it play with Ford, even when Ford didn’t realize she was being played with.

“Don’t worry darling. If we find out it’s really serious, I’ll make sure it doesn’t suffer.”

The tiny beast continued to try and scratch its way out of the chamber. Ford moved to the control panel. Her hands worked the controls, the chamber filled with a light mist. At first the tiny beast seemed to be frightened, then it settled down and curled up, looking as if it were sleeping.

Ford watched the display, alternating her attention between the display and the beast. “He’s not growing.”

“Now we know it’s a he? When did that happen?”

“The accelerator tells me that. But he’s not growing, at least not his physical size.”

“Is he maturing in other ways?”

“Yes. His mind and body are maturing, but his body size isn’t changing in the least.”

“Have you ever seen a small serpentine like this before?” Marra drew even closer to the observation glass, her own curiosity now getting the best of her.

“Never. I’ve heard stories of them this small before, but I’ve never seen one.”

“That settles it then.”

Now Ford was really confused. “Settles what?”

“We should name him Earthling. We’ve heard stories about them, but we’ve never actually seen one.”

“Earthling, it is then darling.” The tall woman nodded. She certainly couldn’t argue with the logic.

“Is he going to live?”

“Yes, I think he’s going to be just fine. I’ve advanced him by about six months actually. The illness has cleared from his system. You can get him out if you like.”

Marra opened the door, stepping inside she slowly gathered up her little friend. “Come on Earthling, let’s go home.”

* * *

Ford sat on the couch, reading her historical text. One hand held the book, the other hand idly tickled the stomach of the beast that was rolled on its back, its little eye closed, wings spread, legs relaxed, tail flipping around slightly and it was purring.

Marra smiled at the picture when she entered with the tray that held their evening repast of coffee and cheesecake. “Find anything interesting in that new book about Earth?”

“They seemed to love to fight. Even from their earliest historical documents and mythos they were constantly in conflict with each other.”

“Maybe we are more like them than we should ever want to admit then.” The blonde offered taking a seat on the other side of Earthling and pouring Ford’s coffee.

“So it would seem. Or maybe it is just the nature of an intelligent beast to fight.”

“Then why don’t serpentines fight among themselves?”

Ford glanced up from her book, accepting her coffee. “Good question. Other than to watch males battle for a mate, I’ve never actually seen them fight. Or at least not to injure each other.”

Earthling, who was now miffed that both of Ford’s hands were occupied, crawled up on her lap, curling into a little ball. The dark haired woman looked down at her little companion. “I think he likes me.”

“I think he loves you.” Marra leaned over, planting a kiss to her spouse’s cheek. “It’s easy to do.”

“Hmm.” Ford sounded unconvinced as she sipped her coffee. “I think my lap is just soft.”

“Why, yes it is.” Marra replied with a smirk, “Another reason to love you.”

“Care to expound all the reason you love me?”

Marra licked her lips to hide her grin, then she lifted her tea cup and offered, “First, would be your sense of modesty, and the fact that you’re secure enough in who you are, not to need your ego stroked.”

Ford turned to her spouse and smiled. “That had to be one of the most articulate ways of calling someone a jerk I have ever heard. Would have been better if I hadn’t been on the receiving end of it, but remind me my love, that should we need to negotiate with anyone while enroute, to have you at my side. Not only are you beautiful, but you have a simply eloquent harmony with words.”

Marra looked amused as she continued to sip her tea. “You do pretty good yourself, Lord Kurrathian.”

LOG THIRTY-SIX

The conference room was immense. Marra was truly impressed when she entered. She smiled pleasantly to her spouse who looked up from one of her many maps. “Are you having fun?” The blonde inquired, moving slowly across the room.

“Ummhmm.” Ford nodded, her eyes dropping back to the maps in front of her. She looked through them shuffling them back and forth.

“What exactly are you looking at?” Marra moved around the room, inspecting the maps that were hanging on the walls and placed on various other tables.

“Charts.” Ford mumbled, flipping one of the large pieces of parchment for another.

“Actually, I can see that, darling. What kind of charts?”

“Hopefully charts that will guide us to Earth.”

“I see.” Marra said softly, dropping the outer shirt she was wearing to the floor. “You know it’s been three days since you’ve been back to our quarters? Have I done something to upset you?”

“Of course not. I’ve just been busy trying to get a reasonable estimation together.”

“Hmm.” The blonde continued around the room, dropping her skirt as she did.

Ford still hadn’t noticed that her own wife was slowly stripping off her clothes. She just shuffled the maps around a bit more. Marking one and moving to the another. She felt hand land on her shoulders.

“You’re all stiff.” Marra rubbed the muscles in question.

Ford nodded.

“Have you had any sleep?”

“A few hours.”

“A few hours in three days?”

“Un-huh. I’ve been very busy.”

“How about eating?” Marra continued the massage, feeling the muscles relax.

“I’ve been eating from the replication unit.”

“Why didn’t you come home?”

Ford sighed, shaking her head slightly. “I don’t know.”

Marra moved around to put herself in Ford’s line of sight. “Enough of this for now.” She took a seat on the table, moving directly in front of her spouse.

A grin broke across Ford’s face when she took in the sight of her mostly naked wife. “You have other ideas?”

“Lots of them. Including making you eat and rest.”

“Is that all?” Dark brows raised in questions as large, warm hands came to rest on Marra’s thighs.

“Well, I had hoped for a little personal attention from you Lord Kurrathian, but I think you need to rest and get something to eat.”

“What if I said, I think I could find the energy for all of your ideas?” Her hands began caressing Marra’s legs.

“I think I’d love you forever. I can’t explain it but I’m feeling, uh,…”

Ford stood up. Standing between Marra’s legs, she pulled their torsos together, rubbing her hands up and down the smaller woman’s back. “You feel very good.” She whispered into her wife’s ear.

Marra moaned. Her stomach dropped, her body tingled and she moaned again. “Ford…” Her hands tangled in long dark hair as her spouse’s lips and mouth kissed and nipped the flesh of her neck and shoulders. “Oh Ford…we should…should…” The blonde was beyond words. Her body simply to flooded with desire for her brain to function properly. She allowed herself to be laid back on the table.

“Is this what we should do, my love?” Ford knew it was a rhetorical question when she posed it. The way Marra was responding to her touch and her kisses was confirmation enough that this was indeed what her wife wanted.

Ford felt her tunic being unfastened then slipped from her shoulders. She shrugged out of it while Marra tugged on the belt of her trousers. “Off!” Marra grumbled. “Naked now.”

The ambassador chuckled, then stood up long enough to assist with the removal of all barriers that stood between them. “Marra are you sure you want to do this here?”

Nails digging in and pulling her down answered her question. Their lips came together and the searching began. Hands, mouths, and bodies once again came together for them in a loving, erotic rhythm. “Here…good.” Marra simply groaned in Ford’s ear. “Now.”

“Easy love.” Ford whispered again, trying to get some control over her very amorous spouse. “We have no rush…” She tried to give Marra a soft kiss.

The kiss was accepted, but quickly turned rough and hungry, the blonde simply tried to devour her partner, pulling Ford as tight against her as she could. She moaned and growled to vocalize her arousal. Her body arched, legs wrapped around Ford’s thighs so she could grind herself into her mate. Marra’s hip rocked driving her hard into the body over her.

Ford pushed up on her hands to look at Marra as they pushed their bodies together. “Tell me what you want Marra?” The ambassador watched her spouse, who wouldn’t or couldn’t speak.

The blonde’s eyes were closed, her head tossed slightly, her face twitched, tongue darted out very briefly to wet lips dried from so much panting and heavy breathing. Her moans came in deep heavy gasps every time she exhaled. “Oh yes…”

When Ford dropped her head and took a tight nipple between her lips, nipping it lightly, Marra’s back arched hard. “Oh…” She held the arch, forcing herself deeper into Ford’s mouth and harder into her stomach. Her hands wound themselves into Ford’s hair, pulling it just enough to make the tall woman join her in a chorus of growls that spoke of delicious pain and the most sensual pleasure.

One of Ford’s hands traveled between their bodies, seeking her spouse’s most treasured offering, there she found the silky evidence of Marra’s desire.

“Please Ford…you know…”

“I do know, but I want you to say it.” Ford, rumbled deep as she began to get lost in the feelings flowing between them.

“What? What?” Marra’s tone was pleading, her body was burning. Her nerves were so raw and sensitive that when Ford touched her in one spot she could feel her everywhere all at once.

For Ford it was almost euphoric the reaction she was getting from Marra, it seemed to be purely passionate. To the warrior, turned diplomat, this was turning into another conquest. Not a battle that would be fought with a blade or a sidearm, but one that need to be won with a touch and a word. “Tell me.” Ford coaxed softly, biting into Marra’s shoulder with the very edge of her teeth.

“Yes…that…” The blonde nodded when Ford took another little bite.

“Rough?” Even as she asked the question, her touch was nothing less than kind and gentle as her fingers stroked Marra’s passions even higher.

“Please…” It was almost a hiss when it escaped her lips. Her body quivered at the mere thought of Ford’s loving caresses touching her entire being from the inside out.

“Hard?” But it wasn’t hard it was soft and even though the blonde tried to force it to be hard, Ford backed off, making it soft again and frustrating her spouse.

“Oh yes…” She threw her head back, biting her bottom lip, before nodding and digging her nails into Ford’s shoulders. “Please…”

“Fast?” Of course it was excruciatingly slow and deliberate as well.

“Go…in…please Ford…”

The warrior drew her head up, arching a brow as a smirk crossed her lips. They were nearly there, she had nearly won, but not quite yet. She allowed the tips of her fingers to play at the spot where Marra wanted her most, her thumb rubbing against swollen flesh, creating a delightful friction that sent jolts speeding through the body under her, causing it to jerk and writhe.

“Tell me Marra,” Her voice was dark and seductive in the blonde’s ear. Her body pressed hard into her spouse, while lips, teeth and tongue worked together nipping, biting and licking overheated flesh, nearly ready to explode with carnal desire. Ford’s own body was trembling with barely controlled lust.

“Take me Ford, make me yours.” With that plea Marra cried out, nails scratched the length of Ford’s back when she felt her body being taken to new heights by the powerful entrance of her spouse. “Ohhhh yes…more.”

That was when Ford knew she had won. She allowed herself the freedom to take the woman under her. To make love to her in the way that had been asked of her. It was indeed everything Marra desired and much, much more. Her body ached, her nerves flared under her skin as she and Ford found a perfect rhythm together.

The sounds of their lovemaking drove them higher. Erotic pleas to each other for release and the groans of frustration as they approached the edge but were drawn back from it mingled with the scent of sweat and passion spent.

They finally crashed into each other relentlessly for what felt like an eternity, until they fell into each other, exhausted and sated. Ford took deep, even breaths, trying to recover the use of her muscles. Marra whimpered when Ford moved away from her, she reached out with a heavy hand to try and grasp her spouse.

“Easy love.” Ford soothed. The tall woman pulled her chair back to the table then brought Marra into it with her. The small blonde curled into the body that held her, while her body recovered. She whispered words of love and devotion to the woman she held in her arms. Marra melded into the arms and body that comforted her, then quietly fell asleep.

* * *

She remembered falling asleep in Ford’s arms in a chair. Waking in their quarters, in their bed came as quite a shock. She rolled over to find Ford sleeping soundly next to her. The tall woman was lying on her stomach, with an arm tucked under her pillow and the other draped over the side of the bed.

She smiled, taking a moment to rub Ford’s back and inspect the scratches. They were long, but they weren’t as deep as she feared. Her spouse hummed a bit at the touch and opened one eye.

“Evening.” Ford mumbled past her pillow.

“Good evening.” Marra agreed, moving a lock of dark hair behind Ford’s ear.

“Will be if I don’t have to get out of this bed.”

“Can’t think of one logical reason why you should.”

“Food?”

“No. I can bring you food.”

“Well then,” Ford stretched and rolled over. “There is only one reason why I should have to get up and you can’t to that for me no matter how hard you might try.” With that she got up and moved to the bathing room.

Marra rose from the bed, stretched her arms high and hard above her head, allowing every muscle to benefit from it. “Oh yes.” She sighed, then laughed a bit to herself as all the memories of the conference room settled around her again.

Ford was returning to bed when she caught an eyeful of her spouse exercising her muscles. “By Capri, Marra, are you trying to kill me?”

The blonde turned to face her mate. “No, not at all. I was just about to put on a robe and go fix you some food.”

Ford’s eyes turned hungry, but it wasn’t for food. “I’m not ready for that yet. Come back?” She gestured to the bed.

“Well since you asked so nicely, how could I refuse?”

They returned to bed. Ford pulled Marra into her arms. “This is nice.”

“Yes it is.” She agreed cuddling closer. “How did we get here by the way?”

“I walked. You got a lift.”

“I was, un, out of it huh?”

“Yeah, you were pretty sound asleep by the time I decided I could walk and move again. I tried to wake you, but you were not into that concept.”

She laughed a bit, kissing Ford’s neck. “You wore me out.”

“Thought that’s what you wanted.” Ford tilted her head, allowing Marra to continue.

“It was.” The blonde mumbled from her spot at Ford’s neck.

“Good. I would have hated to have read your body language all wrong.”

“You did just fine.”

Ford laughed out loud. “Glad to hear it.”

“Want to move into the next chapter of that book?” Marra’s eyes met Ford’s and they were filled with a playful intent.

“Oh yeah,” The dark haired woman sighed, “I want to read that one from, cover to cover over and over again.”

LOG THIRTY-SEVEN

Ford looked up from the charts. Earthling sat on the table, watching her. He perked up straight, stretching his little wings, flapping them slightly, and causing a draft, which made the charts shift a bit.

“Stop it!” Ford shook a finger at the little beast. Earthling sniffed the air, eyeing the tall woman playfully, the little beast lowered its head and growled while it shook its hindquarters and swished its tail. “You don’t scare me. So just stop trying.”

The little beast huffed and marched proudly across the table to sit in front of Ford. The ambassador stopped what she was doing long enough to move him from the table and place him on the floor. “Go play.” She told him with a little swat to his backside. “Find your Mom.”

Earthling ran across the floor wings spread, growling and making little clicking noises. Ford could only smile and shake her head as the little beast disappeared somewhere into their quarters in search of Marra.

“OUCH!” Marra yelped from the direction of their sleeping quarters. “Bad Earthling!”

“I said find your Mom, not bite your Mom.” Ford called with a chuckle.

“He didn’t bite me.” Marra corrected, entering the room, with the now purring Earthling tucked in her arms. “He climbed up the front of my nightgown. We need to clip his claws.”

“Feel free to give it a try. I’ll standby with the bandages.”

“Ford, if we’re going to keep him here with us we need to do something about them.” She held the little beast up to her face. He scrunched his nose up then licked Marra’s nose. “Well, yuck.” She waved away a rather offending odor as well. “Suppose brushing his teeth is out of the question.”

“Not if you don’t mind the thought of a few less fingers.” Ford looked up to her spouse with an evil smirk. “I have to tell you darling, the thought of you with a few less than you have now does not make me happy at all. They’re all so…talented.” A dark brow rose as that smirk intensified.

“Behave!” Marra blushed. She wasn’t sure how it was that Ford could make her do that but she managed it quite nicely

* * *

“Give that back!” Ford growled, crawling around on her hands and knees, chasing the little serpentine.

Earthling dashed under the bed, stopping directly in the center, so that he couldn’t be easily reached from any direction. He lay down, staring at Ford, holding a piece of parchment in his teeth.

“Don’t you dare eat that!” Ford grumbled, trying to reach under the bed to snag the little beast.

The golden serpentine just scooted one direction and then the next, staying just slightly out of the woman’s grasp.

“Earthling, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll give me back my map.”

The beast made a noise that, to Ford, sounded like an insult.

Ford got upon her knees and leaned against the bed. “Marra!”

When Marra and Judith entered the bedchamber they found Ford on her knees with her head down. It looked almost as if she were in prayer.

“Ford?”

The tall woman looked up at her wife and her assistant. “Would you please see if you get my map back from Earthling, before he chews it to pieces?”

Marra glanced to Judith, who hid a smile behind her hand. “How did he get one of your maps?”

“He flew up on the table, bit into my chart, ripping it in half and then he took off with it.”

“He just wants to play.”

“I’ll get him a ball or a bone or whatever he wants. Just make him give me back my map.”

Judith tried to hold back the snort, quite unsuccessfully which earned her a glare from the ambassador. “Forgive me, Lord Kurrathian.”

“You can just come over here and help her.” Ford gestured to Marra who was now trying to coax the little beast out.

“Yes, Lord Kurrathian.” Dutifully the assistant joined the small blonde at the end of the bed.

“Judith, please go fetch a piece of fruit. Maybe we can coax him out with that.” Marra kept a careful eye on Earthling. He still held the parchment between his teeth. “Don’t you dare chew that up. You’ll be just more Earth history if you do.” Marra glanced up at Ford as Judith exited the room to get the requested food. “If this fails to get him out, can you lift the bed?”

“Let’s just forgo the fruit and I’ll do that.”

“No. Let’s try the fruit first. I’d rather he release your map in favor of the fruit rather than scaring him and having him take off with it.”

“After we get this little situation settled Marra, I want some kind of restraint put on him. He needs to be caged or harnessed or something. I can’t have him tearing up the charts.”

“Yes Ford.”

* * *

“You did this to yourself.” Marra told the little beast as she tightened the tiny halter around his head. “You just can’t expect to get away with those things.”

Judith handed her mistress a small chain. Marra snapped one end to the halter and the other end to a hook in the wall. She made sure that food, water, a soft bed and a few toys were within reach of Earthling. She gave him a scratch to his head behind the ears then stood up, turning to her assistant. “Well, let’s get back to work shall we?”

“Of course.” Judith nodded, taking her seat next to Marra’s desk.

When the blonde walked away, Earthling tried to follow, but found the end of the tether. He pulled, to no avail trying to get further across the room. Marra took her seat behind her desk, watching as the little golden beast turned and tried backing up, continuing too tug at the chain. This action was compounded with a whimpering and growling. Marra just looked to Judith and shook her head.

“He’ll adjust soon enough Lady Kurrathian.”

“I know. He only wanted to play with Ford. He didn’t know that chewing up the map was a bad thing.”

“He’s like a child My Lady, he has to learn his limits.”

Marra smiled, laying her hand on her stomach. “Speaking of which, I’d like to start decorating a nursery.”

“A what?” The assistant cocked her head a bit.

“A nursery. It’s a delightful little custom I found in one of Ford’s Earth history books. It’s a room for a baby. Most generally in the parents quarters and close to their own bed chamber.”

“You mean you won’t be leaving the child in the care of the medtechs?”

“No. Ford has said that I’ll be allowed to care for the baby and I want to do that.”

“So what kinds of items go in this nursery?”

“Everything that will be required to care for the baby. Everything I brought aboard.”

“All right. When would you like to do this?”

“Seems like a nice little project we can start on in the next few days. I want to do more research and find out what kind of traditional things go in an Earth type nursery. Can you help me do that?”

“Of course.”

“I hope to have Ford help us as well, but I’m not sure she’s going to want to do that. She’s not very happy about this baby.”

Judith could hear the sadness in the woman’s voice. She took her mistresses hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. “I’m sure once the child arrives she will be delighted.”

“I hope so. This child will need us both. I’d hate to think that Ford is so upset by the idea that she won’t want any of the responsibility of raising the child.”

Judith took a deep breath. “By tradition she must take responsibility for the child.”

“Ford’s not the most traditional person.”

“This is very true My Lady, but Lord Kurrathian loves you very much. And this is her own child that you carry within your body. How can she not feel something for it?”

* * *

Ford rolled over, reaching out for Marra only to find her side of the bed empty. “Lights soft.” The illumination filtered softly into the room. The dark haired woman lifted up on her elbows, looking around the room for her mate. Her eyes were drawn to the bathing chamber door, which was closed, but a brighter light filtered out from under it.

She rose from the bed, fetching her robe from the foot of it. She slipped the robe around her body as she crossed the room. Knocking on the door she called softly. “Marra?”

A low moan could be heard before Marra tried to say Ford’s name.

“Marra are you all right?”

“Fine. I’ll be out in a moment. Go back to bed.”

The ambassador could tell by the timber of Marra’s voice that she definitely was not all right. “Marra please tell me what’s wrong.”

“I’m fine, really. I’ll be back to bed soon.”

Ford opened the door, to find Marra leaning over the sink basin. She looked pale and a slight perspiration coated her face and arms. It was very clear she had been ill. “Marra?”

“I’m sorry I woke you.” The blonde offered, taking a deep breath.

“Darling what’s wrong with you. Do you need a doctor?”

Marra chuckled a bit, shaking her head. “No. This is one of the effects of being with child.”

“It makes you sick?”

“Ford. how many pregnant women have you been around?”

“You’re my first. I know nothing about this process. I’m a warrior Marra, I’ve never been concerned with finding out anything about this.”

“This is just an early effect. It will pass in a few weeks.”

“A few weeks? Oh my poor Marra.” Ford was quick to wrap her arms around her spouse.

Marra sank into the embrace. She put her arms around Ford’s waist.

“Is there anything I can do to make it better?” The tall woman whispered.

“You’re doing it.” Marra tightened her hold on the ambassador.

“Are you ready to go back to bed?”

Marra gave a weak nod against Ford’s chest. “I…I think so. I think this round is over.”

Ford gently lifted Marra into her arms and carried her back to bed. She lay the woman down, covering her, then taking a seat and running her fingers through blonde hair. “How long has this been going on?”

“A few days.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You’ve been busy. I don’t want this child to interfere with your work. Besides, there really isn’t anything you can do. It is natural, it will pass.”

Ford lowered her eyes, taking stock of her own emotions at the moment. Finally, she drew a deep breath and looked to her spouse. “Marra, I love you. Let me be a part of this.” She smiled, placing her hand on the blonde’s stomach.

“Are you sure?”

“I’ll admit, I’m scared. I don’t know anything about being a parent and I certainly don’t know anything about what it means to carry another life within your body, but if there is anything I can do to help you and make it easier, you only need ask.”

“I want you to be happy about this.”

“Are you happy about it?”

“Other than this extremely unpleasant side effect, I am very happy about it.”

Ford placed a tender kiss to Marra’s temple. “Then I’m happy too.”

“Haven’t any of your other wives had children? What about Lauren and Conner?”

“Well, yes, of course, but those are their children. Not mine, well not mine in the sense…ah never mind.” She shook her head, then gently massaged Marra’s stomach. “This is our child. Mine and yours.”

“Mine?” She smiled when she looked to Ford.

“Of course. You’re doing all the work here. I was just a gene donor. You will be more of a mother to this child than I will be and it deserves that. It deserves every chance, you my love, will give it everything it needs.”

Marra took Ford’s hand, interlacing their fingers. “So will you.”

“Your faith in me is astounding.”

* * *

Marra looked at the book. Then she looked at the room. “Do you think we can make it look like this?” She handed the book to her assistant.

Judith studied the picture. “I’m sure we can My Lady, but what are all these little things?” She pointed to various objects in the picture.

“They’re called ‘stuffed animals’.”

“We don’t have anything like that.”

“Perhaps we can replicate them.”

“Why? What purpose do they serve?”

“I’m not sure, but I think they’re meant to bring the child some sort of joy and happiness.”

“How odd.”

“The book says that a brightly colored nursery with lots of things for the baby to look at will stimulate it.”

“Well it seems that they do the same thing in the bio rooms.”

“No. They see to the basic needs of the children. I want my child to have more. I don’t want it handled by a medical staff that has no connection to it.”

Ford cleared her throat gently to get Marra and Judith’s attention. Both women turned at the same time to find the tall woman leaning against the door frame with a silly grin on her face.

“How long have you been standing there?” Marra questioned, closing the distance between them.

“Since the great debate began.” Ford took her hands from behind her back. “These are for you.” She offered a bouquet of flowers to Marra. “And this is for the baby.” She offered Marra a small, brown, soft object.

“What is it?”

“One of those elusive ‘stuffed animals’, it’s called a teddy bear.”

LOG THIRTY-EIGHT

Ford yawned, leaning back in her chair she scrubbed her face to try and rub away the overwhelming feeling of being tired. She glanced over to the bed, where Marra slumbered peacefully. She leaned forward again closing the ancient text. She moved from the chair, taking her robe she left their quarters.

Being late, the corridors of the ship were empty. She listened to the hum of the engines and felt an old familiar rush, course through her veins. Some part of her longed for battle. She missed the blaring of the alert sirens that sent her troops rushing for fighters and transports. She missed taking Phoenix planet side and engaging the enemy in hand to hand combat. She missed the power that came with the kill.

She stopped just outside the entrance to the temple, taking a deep breath she prepared to go in. She hit the lock, the door hissed open. “Lights soft.” She whispered. The room began to glow softly. She stepped out of her shoes and removed her clothes before taking her place at the altar.

“Capri, please guide me. I’m so unsure of my journey. Not just the one that takes us to Earth, but also of the one I’m on with Marra. And now she has taken it upon herself to bring a child into this life. This terrifies me more than I can believe. I had decided never to have children. I never asked any of my wives to grace me with children. The mere thought of it…”

“Relax Ford.” Capri stepped down from the altar, standing next to her favored. “It’s is not a difficult thing to love a child. You will lose your heart to the little one. Just as you lost your heart to its mother.”

“Yes Capri. Marra is this child’s mother, isn’t she?”

“She is. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be as well.”

“I am a warrior, not a mother. I am a soldier I know nothing of being able to raise children.”

The deity smiled at her favored, caressing her cheek. “Do you think anyone who becomes a parent for the first time is ever prepared for it? You need an heir; you can’t be the last of your line. You are too important to the survival of my people. Marra recognizes this fact. Now it’s time for you to recognize it as well.”

“At least the child will have Marra.”

“Yes, you and your child are very fortunate.”

****

Ford grumbled a bit, straightening her belt while appraising her appearance in the mirror. “I hate these things.”

Marra chuckled, straightening her gown. “You look wonderful.”

The Ambassador turned to face her spouse. Her breath was literally stolen from her body when she saw her. “Marra, you are the most beautiful creature I have ever laid my eyes on.”

Again a somewhat nervous hand smoothed the fabric of the formal gown. “I’m glad you’re pleased.”

Ford took the smaller woman into her arms, giving her a kiss on the top of the head. “You have no idea.” She drew a deep breath looking down at her spouse. “Do we have to go?”

“It’s a dinner in your honor. I really think we should go.”

“I’m still trying to figure out why my command staff and members of my own family are having a dinner in my honor. They all know me. A few of them hate me. Why they want to have dinner with me is beyond me.”

“Ford, I suspect it is more for them than you. We’re going to be on this ship by a long time. It’s a chance to be in a social setting. We should try to encourage that.”

The tall woman groaned, resting her cheek on Marra’s head. “Do you always have to be right?”

“I don’t have to, but it’s nice.” Marra giggled a bit. “Now my dear, let me finish getting ready.”

“You already look good enough to eat. What more is there to do?”

“Just a few things that will make a subtly presentable First Wife of the Second House.”

“You could wear a bag and you would be subtly presentable.”

“Ah, you are sweet. Silly, but sweet.” Marra gave her tall spouse a pat on the chest. “Now let me finish getting ready.”

Ford reluctantly relinquished her hold on the small woman. “Very well. Do I have to wear my uniform?”

“No.”

Dark brows shot up. “No?”

The blonde turned once again. “Seems to me that since you are the Lord of the Second House you should be able to wear whatever you desire.”

“My pajamas?”

“You might try something a little more formal than that. Besides, I don’t think I’ve seen your pajamas since we got married. Do you even have any onboard?”

“Very funny, very funny.” She took another look in the mirror. “Well then this will just have to do. I’m not wearing the cloak or the medals. They’re both just silly decorations.”

“Only meant to impress and you’re impressive enough as it is.” Marra snickered, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear as she looked in the mirror. She finished fixing the hair piled on top of her head. She literally squeaked when firm, insistent lips began kissing her bare neck. “Behave!” She growled. “We are going to this dinner Ford Kurrathian and I won’t let you distract me.”

“Oh no?” She mumbled her question, even as her mouth continued its assault on the skin in front of her.

Marra squirmed away, turning to face Ford, she grinned playfully, putting up her hand. “No, now behave.”

“You know,” Ford advanced slowly, pretending to look at various parts of the room. “I really think we could have more fun here.”

“Now Ford, I mean it! We are going to this dinner. We are going to have a good time and you’re going to behave.”

“Yes Lady Kurrathian.” Ford bowed deeply at the waist.

***

Ford leaned back in her chair, watching the people gathered in the room. Her command staff and her other spouses along with their other spouses all mixed and mingled together. There were also several members of her ambassadorial staff. Marra managed to fit in quite nicely, taking her duties as First Wife very seriously.

The Ambassador wondered if maybe some element of this, was a show of possessiveness on Marra’s part. It certainly seemed to be, by the way that the blonde kept staring at her from across the room. Ford just picked up her wineglass and hid her smile behind it as she sipped.

The soft clearing of a throat made her look right. Garron Richards stood there, hoping to be invited to sit with her. She made the gesture, he took the seat next to her.

“Thank you for coming tonight Ambassador.”

Ford chuckled. “My wife insisted.”

“Which one?”

“The one that counts.” Ford grinned. “The one I live and sleep with. Something tells me I would have spent a couple cold and lonely nights in another sleeping chamber if I have refused.”

“I understand congratulations are in order.” The young man offered, even as his eyes tracked Marra across the room. “Lady Kurrathian is with child.”

“Yes she is. Thank you.” Ford turned to the young man. “You still have feelings for her don’t you?”

“I’m sorry Ambassador I shouldn’t have…” The young man’s head dropped a bit.

“No, Rick, it’s okay. I understand completely. While I don’t expect it to happen, should Marra ever decide to take a husband I think she would choose well to take you.”

“Thank you Ambassador. I appreciate that, but in the meantime I think I should begin looking for someone else to spend my life with. I think Lady Kurrathian is most decidedly a single spouse type.”

“I hope so.” Ford mumbled, even as she watched Marra in conversation with a small group in the corner.

***

“So,” Ford took Marra’s hand and pulled her into her arms, beginning to dance with her as the rest of the guests at the function allowed them the honor of the first dance together. “Do you by any chance fancy yourself a matchmaker?”

“No. Why?”

“My Garron is a very lonely young man and I really would prefer that he stop staring at you.”

“So you want me to find him a companion?”

“I think it would be nice, yes.”

“Why don’t you do it?” Marra was completely amused by the jealous streak that Ford was showing at the moment.

“Because I have lousy taste in women.”

“Oh thanks so much!” The blonde gave Ford a firm slap to the shoulder.

Ford grimaced. “Oh, that didn’t come out quite right.”

“No kidding.”

“I mean for other people. I discovered that a few years ago when I tried to fix one of my wives up with another prospective spouse. It was a total disaster from the beginning. I vowed I would never do it again.”

“Un-huh.” Marra rolled her eyes. “Never mind. Don’t even try to get out of this. There is no graceful way for you to dig your way out.”

Ford sighed.

Marra giggled then gave her frustrated spouse a kiss on the cheek. “I love you.”

“Umm-hmm. It’s a good thing too. Since I have a big mouth and no sense what so ever.”

The assembled group watched the Ambassador and the First Wife dance together and there was no doubt by anyone in the room how deeply they loved each other. The way they held each other and looked into the other eyes were evidence enough. Never mind that Lord Kurrathian had decided to give her wife a rather intense little kiss that seemed to make the smaller woman weak in the knees.

“You are being very bad Lord Kurrathian, stop it.” Marra growled when she had recovered her breath. “I told you to behave.”

Ford arched a brow, pointing innocently at herself. “Me? I’m being good. I merely gave my beautiful wife a kiss.”

“Un-huh. That’s as good an excuse as any.” The smaller woman played with the lapel of Ford’s coat. “I personally think you’re just being evil with me because you know you can.”

“Maybe just a little.” Ford admitted with a smirk.

***

“Open a channel to Lord Hadrain.” The commander of the battle cruiser tapped his fingers on the arm of his chair.

The communications officer’s hands flew over the links quickly. “Channel open Garron Beagin.”

Hadrain turned to face the screen. “You have news for me?”

“I do, Lord Hadrain. We are closing in on Lord Kurrathian’s ship. We should be able to make contact in the next few days. Your orders are?”

“Take the ship, get my daughter back and kill Ford Kurrathian.” The older man sneered a bit. “Not necessarily in that order. I’m sure you will have to kill Ford before you can get my daughter. I also want proof of Ford’s death.” He paused as he considered his last order. “Bring me her head.”

“I’ll see to it the body is returned to you.”

“I didn’t ask for the body, just the head.”

“As you wish, Lord Hadrain. And if Leandra puts up a fight?”

“Don’t hurt my daughter Beagin, you’ll regret it. But if she gives you any trouble do what you must to secure her return.”

“Yes, Lord Hadrain. And the ship and its crew?”

“Destroy it. Don’t leave any trace of it.”

“Yes, Lord Hadrain. I’ll be in touch once we have dealt with these issues.”

“Very well.” Hadrain paused, once again before looking to his commander. “Beagin?”

“Yes, Lord Hadrain?”

“If you fail and for some reason Kurrathian allows you to live, don’t come back here because your life will be forfeit. Hadrain out.”

The screen darkened. Beagin looked to his second in command. “He’s always such a pleasure first thing in the morning.”

LOG THIRTY-NINE

The battle alarm ringing nearly sent Ford through the ceiling when it pulled her out of her very sound slumber. It was the last alarm she ever expected to hear on this ship. It was a well-marked diplomatic ship, no one should be trying to engage it.

“Ford to the bridge!” She yelled, jumping from bed and rushing to her cabinet, pulling a jumpsuit out.

Marra sat up quickly, watching the warrior respond out of habit. She climbed out of bed and moved to Ford’s side. “You can’t.” She said softly, grabbing Ford’s hand as she brought the zipper up. “Ambassador Kurrathian.” It was a soft reminder of Ford’s current assignment.

“Marra…”

“Ford, here you are the diplomat…”

“Ambassador, this is Garron Richards, please do not be alarmed. We have encountered a small cluster of fighters. They have not assumed an aggressive flight pattern yet. The alarm was merely to scramble our pilots to their fighters. We are standing by at alarmstat Alpha.”

Ford looked to Marra who arched a pale brow. The tall woman sighed. “All right Garron. If circumstances change, make sure to let me know.”

“Of course, Ambassador. Garron Richards, out.” The link clicked off.

Marra smiled and began lowering the zipper on Ford’s jumpsuit. “Now come back to bed.”

“Everything in my body tells me I should be getting ready for battle Marra. Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to do nothing?”

“I know, Ford. Trust me, I know.” She rubbed her spouse’s back. “Let me fix you something to help you calm down and get back to sleep.”

Ford shook her head. “No, Sweetheart, I’ll be just fine. I’m sorry.” She rubbed up and down Marra’s biceps. “I just want to go back to bed.”

“But you want to get your sidearm and put it in the table next to the bed don’t you?”

“Nah,” Ford wrapped her arm around Marra’s shoulders as they headed back to the bed. “I all ready have one there, and my blade is under the bed.”

***

Marra and Judith looked at the unusual bed. Marra knelt down to look though the bars. “Looks like a form of prison doesn’t it?”

“It does, My Lady, but there is no covering to seal the top, which means the child could escape from it.”

“Not for some time though,” The blonde stood back up and circled the object. “Perhaps by that time it is moved to another bed. What is this called again?”

“A crib.”

“A crib?”

“Yes, My Lady. If you don’t like it, we can always bring down an envirobed for the little one.”

“No, I like it. I’ve just never seen anything like it before.”

“I had it recreated from the texts we’ve been using.”

Marra ran her hand over the rich, deep red wood crib. “It’s beautiful. I’m sure our baby will be very happy here.”

Judith smiled, as she folded a blanket and handed it to Marra. “That’s the first time you’ve said that.”

“What?”

“Our baby. You’ve always referred to the child as ‘the baby’ or ‘Ford’s baby’. You’ve even said my child once I believe, but it’s the first time you’ve said ‘our baby’.”

Marra ran her hand across her stomach. She had put on a tiny bit of weight but she still hadn’t begun to show yet. She looked to her assistant. “Well, I finally feel like it is our baby.” She blushed, a bit, before continuing. “I think Ford is finally starting to come to terms with the idea. Sometimes at night while we’re lying in bed, she’ll talk about how much it all scares her, but the way she caresses my stomach…”

“She loves you very much and I know she’ll love this child too.”

“She’s very difficult to understand sometimes. Her words and actions don’t always match.”

“That’s the way it is when you’re in love.”

***

Ford tried to make her visit to the bridge as nonchalant as possible. More of a diplomatic function than a strategic move to find out more about the fighters that had been following them for the last two days.

“Ambassador?” Rick jumped to his feet the moment the doors closed behind her. “Is everything all right?”

“Fine, fine.” She motioned for him to sit. Slowly she strolled around the bridge. Stopping and looking at each station and acknowledging each crew member in turn. “I just thought I’d drop by and see how things were going.”

“As well as can be expected.” The young officer followed the tall woman to a view screen that held the images of the fighters. “They haven’t made any furtive movements Ambassador. They only seem to be observing us.”

“Maybe we’re getting a little to close to something for their liking.”

“Well we are only two sectors away from their airspace.”

“Maybe,” She scratched her chin. “But something tells me it’s more than that. They’re waiting for something. Or someone.”

“Reinforcements?”

“More than likely.” She sighed. “Be on the lookout for anything unusual. We know that they have developed some rather interesting technology.”

The Garron smiled, crossing his arms over his chest. “Yes, which they will get a taste of if they try to engage this ship. The ‘modifications’ you ordered will come in very handy if they do decide to attack.”

“Unless they manage to catch us unprepared.” She turned a serious eye on her officer. “Make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“You know I’ll do my best Ambassador.”

“Of course you will Rick. I know that.”

The young man grinned and tipped his head just a bit. “But you’ll be ready just in case?”

“You know I will.”

“I would have been disappointed otherwise.”

***

Marra settled down at the table with Ford, who had her nose tucked in another text. The blonde reached over and gently tugged the book away. “Eat.” She closed the book, setting it aside. “There’s plenty of time for Earth later.”

Ford smiled. Then raising a brow she looked to the floor. He sat there in all his little gold glory, waiting. “No.” Ford growled. “You know not from the table. You go lay down and if there is anything left over, I’ll bring you a piece.”

Earthling chirped then turned and ran to his bed. He circled around in it a few times then proceeded to lay down and stare at Ford.

“He has you wrapped around his tail.” Marra chuckled, taking a bite of her dinner.

“Just like you do.”

“I don’t have a tail.”

“No,” Ford took Marra’s free hand, giving it a little kiss. “But you do have the most delightful fingers.”

Marra groaned at the double meaning. “That was not nice.”

The tall woman leaned over, gently brushing her lips against her spouse’s. “I thought it was.”

“You are just in a mood aren’t you? Tell me, what did you do today that has put you in such a mood?”

“Do I have to do anything to desire my wife, other than merely desire her?”

Marra nearly choked on the seductive quality of these words. “No.” Her answer was quick. She could feel the heat rising in her body.

Ford stood, taking Marra by the hand and pulled her to her feet. “Let’s go to bed.”

“Oh yes.” Marra was now completely lost in the rush of lust she was feeling. “Why don’t we do that.” She picked up a nice fresh piece of fruit and dropped it in front of Earthling as Ford tugged her into their sleeping chamber.

***

Marra wondered, as she lay securely in Ford’s embrace, how it was possible to be so happy. She looked to her mate, who slumbered so peacefully.

They had been thrown together with circumstances that were less than conducive to the harmonious loving relationship they now shared. But Ford had been kind, so kind and tender.

Her mind was an absolute blur about the things they had learned. She wasn’t who she thought she was. She wasn’t a slave, she was a noble’s daughter. The daughter of a rival house. But yet, they refused to be parted from each other.

Even as she watched the rise and fall of Ford’s chest, she could feel it between them. They simply belonged together. She knew it, Ford knew it and that’s all that mattered. The fact that Capri blessed them both only made their bond stronger.

She closed her eyes and remembered her father. He was a harsh man. Cold and uncaring. A man who had ordered her own mother executed for disobeying him. All he cared about was gaining power and favor in his own court. She vaguely remembered begging him not to let them take her away for their experiments.

She tried to choke back the sob, but failed. Ford’s eyes opened immediately.

“Marra?” Her embraced tightened. “Darling what’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I’m sorry I woke you.”

Ford shifted so she could see Marra better. She wiped the tears away. “Have I done something?”

“No!” Marra pressed her face into the warm palm that covered her face. “I was just thinking about my father.”

“Miss him?” Ford was feeling a bit confused now.

“No.” Marra sighed. “I can’t believe he was so callous. So uncaring that he turned his own flesh and blood over so they could…” She choked back another sob.

“Shhh…” Ford held her close. “I’ve got you. No one will ever hurt you again.”

“I know.” She wiped her tears away and settled into the warm body that held and comforted her. She placed a small kiss to Ford’s collarbone. “I just can’t imagine giving up our baby to anyone for any reason.”

“We never will. No matter what happens this child will always remain with us. No one will ever take our child.” She pulled the woman closer. “We will be a family. No matter where that has to be.”

“Have I mentioned to you lately how much I love you?” Marra pushed dark locks behind Ford’s ear so they wouldn’t obscure her view of her partner.

“You tell me every day with your actions, even if we forget the words sometimes. With you, my life is complete.”

The kiss was sweet and gentle. As was the next round of making love that followed.

***

Earthling skittered across the floor, into the sleeping chamber. Using his claws he scaled into the bed. Looking up from the foot at the occupants he cocked his head deciding it was safe to move forward. Carefully he climbed over the bigger of the two, cuddled together under the covers.

“Hmmm?” Ford’s sleepy hand reached out from under the covers and pulled Earthling up and placed him at her back, where he snuggled down next to her, giving her a little lick on the neck. “Don’t do that.” She grumbled. Just go to sleep, you little troublemaker.” She lay still while he rustled around behind her, nesting deep into her pillow and taking several strands of her hair with him.

Ford considered Marra, tucked with her back to her. She held her close and Marra had drawn her hand between her breast and was holding it as she slept. * You trust me with everything don’t you, my love?*

She made yet another silent vow always to love and protect this precious life that had been brought to her. This woman who touched her in ways that no one had before and never could again. This woman who helped soothe her soul.

LOG FORTY

Ford tapped the star chart. “Here Garron. This is were we’re headed.”

“You think that’s where Earth should be?”

“My best guess. Yes. Old texts talk of nine planets and several large stars. One of the stars was called ‘the sun’ it apparently burned out some time ago. But when it was burning it served as a light and a heat source for Earth. Earth was often referred to as the third rock from the sun.”

“So if we find this ‘sun’ or any trace of it, then finding Earth shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Well, I don’t know about that. There have apparently been several cataclysmic changes to the system. I’m not even sure about how accurate these records are.”

“What I don’t understand is how so many people could deny what is right before their very eyes.”

“Some people see what they want to see. The rest they explain away because it upsets them. The existence of Earth and the concept that our people came from there means that we didn’t come into our own because of our deities or our abilities. We were apparently nothing more than space gypsies.”

“Is it possible our people fled Earth in an effort to save our race?”

“That’s always been my belief. And if these stories of this sun are true, that would make sense. Without the benefit from the sun, the planet Earth surely would have died. Rather quickly too I would think. But so many of our own early records were lost and are inaccurate…” She shook her head in total frustration.

“You’re quite the historian aren’t you Ambassador?”

“Quite by default I assure you. My family line was at one time the keeper of all the records after a disaster some five generations ago. The first born of every house is expected to be the Lord of the House. The second born was expected to be the historian, the third born the warrior and the fourth would go to the religious cast. I was the third born, the warrior. My eldest brother died young, so the next eldest took his place as heir to the Lordship. I moved to the position of historian. My mother died giving birth to what would have been my younger sister. My father never really recovered from their deaths and he died shortly after. I’m not so sure about exactly how. This left my eldest brother and I alone. He was Lord of the second House and I found myself doing fulfilling two positions.”

“Historian and warrior.”

“Exactly.” She nodded. “It seemed that our house was crumbling. Then my brother was murdered. And I was alone. That was when Capri came to me in a dream and told me to surround myself with those I trusted to take care of my House. It was important that I should return to my duty as warrior. That once I did that I would find what I would need to lead my house and my people to a far greater glory than I could ever imagine.”

The Ambassador stood up straight and popped her neck and shoulders, which were cramped and sore from leaning over the charts. “That would be when I met Marra.” She moved to the service unit and ordered her coffee, then took a seat on the couch. “I knew immediately when I saw her she was the reason I was there. It was the face I had begun dreaming about right after I took command of the Devereux. It took six years, but I finally found her.”

“Perhaps Ambassador.” The young officer took a seat across from her. “She found you.”

Ford took a deep breath, holding it for a long moment. “There is a lot of truth to those words Rick.” She scratched her jaw. “She was sent to me to assassinate me.”

“Then the rumors were true?”

She nodded solemnly.

“Then why didn’t she do it?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps the trigger mechanism failed or the chip was defective.”

“Or perhaps Ambassador, her love for you kept her from it.”

“A very romantic notion Rick.”

“Yeah, well, you weren’t with her when we had to come get you off Dror’s ship. Nothing was going to stop her in that quest.”

“The First Wife is very determined isn’t she?”

Rick nodded. “Very. Especially when it comes to you.”

***

Ford stroked Phoenix’s long face. “How goes it boy? Ready for a little break from the wife and kiddies?” She placed his halter over her face, carefully buckling it into place. Marra had taken Neyta to the ring earlier in the day to exercise, leaving him to keep their young in the stall. They were getting big enough now, their wings were getting stronger and they were managing to get a little lift, which could be dangerous. They didn’t seem to understand they couldn’t really fly around the ship.

He snorted and nuzzled her. She scratched behind his ear. “Shall we take your saddle and have a ride a well? Would you like that?” He nuzzled her again. “I’ll take that as an yes.”

Ford slid into the saddle. Phoenix rose from his knees and the game was afoot. The beast tried to throw her and she continued to hold on. For them it was fun and games. In battled it was a matter of survival. The faster and harder he could fly without fear of losing his rider, then their chances of survival increased dramatically. Even now in their practice ring, he would fake one direction and then cut sharply another.

The warrior enjoyed the ride. Enjoyed the power of the beast. Enjoyed the thought of maybe someday having a good long ride with him on a planet where no one would be shooting at them. She took control of the ride, making him follow her commands. He rose and crested near the ceiling then she put him in a dive pulling back just before they hit the floor. She pulled back and he glided to a stop, landing gently. She jumped from his back, tossing his reins back onto the saddle. “Go for it boy!” With a wave of her hand he was off, zooming around the ring like a maniac. Ford just shook her head.

She allowed him to run himself out before leading him back to the stables, where she found Marra feeding fresh fruit to Netya and the babies. “Ah look boy you’re just in time for treats too.” She removed his tack and put him in the stall with his family, then she took a position behind Marra and wrapped her arms around the small woman. “How about I take you back to our quarters and give you a treat of my own?”

Marra looked up, giving a chuckle as she did. “Well now Ambassador. Are you propositioning me?”

“Absolutely. It’s been a long day. I want to take you back to our quarters have a nice meal and relax.”

***

Ford stopped mid way down her spouse’s form that lay under her. She placed a very tender kiss on Marra’s stomach. “I think maybe our little one is getting a bit bigger?” She inquired, running her hand over a slight bulge.

“Very diplomatic way of saying I’m getting fat. Now I know why you’re an ambassador.” The blonde ran her hands through dark hair, scratching the scalp it was attached to.

Ford chuckled, shaking her head. “You’re not getting fat. You’re beautiful. I never realized how beautiful a woman was when she was with child until now.” She gave another kiss to the same spot. “Sometimes you just have to stand back and see what is really before you. So you can truly appreciate its beauty.”

“You say that now. Wait a few weeks.”

“Hmm…” Ford was now so wrapped up in letting her mouth and lips nibble at the warm, sweet flesh she had lost interest in talking. Her slowly glided over Marra’s skin, feeling it’s silky smoothness. From her hips up her sides to her full firm breasts, this woman satisfied her in every way possible. Intellectually she was Ford’s equal. Spiritually they had both been touched and blessed by Capri. Ford might be bigger than Marra physically, but the ambassador felt sorry for any fool who underestimated her little mate. And as far as intimate matters were concerned, they never failed each other.

And tonight, Ford had decided would be no different. It didn’t take long for them to find each other and hum their pleasure at the discovery. The one thing Ford adored about being with Marra was the way they both continually used their hands. Not just to touch aroused areas, but to calm each other to extend the sensations. She had never been with anyone who made her feel the way her spouse did. She considered, every time they came together they made love. And it was the most wonderful, satisfying sensation imaginable.

Pulling Marra into arms, the smaller woman snuggled so close, the ambassador wondered if it were possible for them to become one person. She tightened her hold, hoping it would be, to her being a part of this woman could only make her stronger in her own right. “I love you Marra.”

“I love you too Ford.”

“I want to ask you a question. You should be told that it could be considered treason and by answering me you become a part of it.”

“You know you can ask me anything, my love.”

“If we find Earth and it is capable of supporting life. Would you consider going planet side with me and staying there until the end of our days?”

“I will follow you anywhere Ford, anywhere. But how would we do that without…”

“No,” She covered Marra’s lips with the tips of her fingers. “Don’t ask me that. You don’t want or need to know. Please.”

Marra simply nodded and kissed the fingers covering her mouth. “Anywhere. Remember that if you need strength.”

“It is my strength.”

***

The Garron examined his elite troops. Dressed in fully armored battle gear. They sat there on the benches, silent, respectful waiting for him to say something. They didn’t have to wait long.

“We will be encountering the ship of the war criminal very soon. We will come out of hyperdrive and immediately begin the attack. When it begins you will board the ship. Kill anyone who gets in your way, except the daughter of Lord Hadrin. She is to be taken alive. The official order is that Ford Kurrathian is to be killed.” He lifted his hand. “But, I will personally pay any warrior who can take her and bring her to me alive, fifty thousand credits.”

Nothing was said, but they all looked at each other. Some of them wondering if they could take the infamous warrior. The others ‘knew’ they could do it. Or at least thought they could.

“Garron what happens if Lord Hadrin’s daughter is accidentally killed in the fire fight?”

“If you do your job properly, there shouldn’t be much of a fire fight. If his daughter is killed and you are responsible you had better pay someone to kill you. Your life will be forfeit.”

“Garron.” The comlink buzzed a bit. “We will be leaving hyperdrive in five minutes. The fighter escort it ready to begin attack.”

“Two minutes before we arrive. I want them taken by surprise.”

“Yes Garron.”

“All right troops. Move out.” The tall man waved his hand and then turned and left the flight deck.

***

Ford braced her hands against the walls of the lift, feeling the jolt that rocked the ship. “What in the name of…” The ship rocked again, she realized then, “Attack. We’re under attack. Change destination to: bridge: command deck.”

“Yes Ambassador.”

“Lord Kurrathian to Lady Kurrathian.”

“Ford what’s going on? Was that what I think it was?”

“Yes. We’re under attack. Take Judith and get to my escape pod and stand by.”

“Surely it can’t be…”

“Marra just do as I say.”

“I won’t leave you!”

“Now is not the time to argue Marra. I’ll be there as soon as I can!” Ford felt another jolt run thought the ship. The lack of sound made her realize that the engines were being targeted. “Now go on!”

The doors opened. She started for the command deck, rushing headlong down the corridor when two troopers materialized in front of her. Her firearm cleared the holster at her back, but not before one of the troopers fired and Ford collapsed to the floor.

The trooper looked at his companion. “I had to do it!” He defended. “I know the Garron wanted her live but I had to do it. It was her or us!”

His companion nodded, giving a slight kick to the body at his feet. “Yes it was. Let’s find Lord Hadrin’s daughter.”

The troopers continued down the corridor in search of their prize.

LOG FORTY-ONE

Ford rolled over slowly, bringing her hand to her chest and thumping soundly the blast plate under her tunic. She coughed as she sat up and reached for her firearm. She closed her eyes taking a deep breath and hoping, for once in her stubborn little life, Marra was doing what she had been told. It wasn’t possible to open a com link with her now.

Pushing up from the floor she stumbled slightly, the jolt of the hit she had taken shook her to her core. While obviously not deadly, it still offered quite the sting. She cleared her throat and shook her head as she started down the corridor.

She felt the ship rock with another blast. The alarms had finally started going off and the entire crew now knew what she had known for several minutes. They were under attack. She ducked into an alcove when she heard the thundering of boots coming her direction. She let a deeply relieved breath when she found it to be her own troops. Stepping out of the shadows, she held up her hand to the young man leading the pack.

“Report!”

“Ambassador, we’re under attack…”

“No kidding. Now tell me something I don’t.”

“We’ve been boarded.”

She pointed to the singed fabric of her tunic. “Try again. We’ve been boarded and I’ve been shot. Seems I’m one ahead of you.”

“The Garron has ordered the ships scrambled and the escape pods readied. He had sent a team to your quarters.”

“Good. They’ll see to it that Marra makes it out safely. Carry on.”

“Yes Ambassador.”

She watched the troops continue to their duty. “Capri protect you.” She whispered before moving further down the corridor.

* * *

“Lady Kurrathian please!” The young soldier looked to the woman with pleading eyes.

“I won’t leave Ford behind!”

“My Lady, the Ambassador will find her way out I’m sure. But it is my job to get you to safety!”

The ship was rocked by another blast, causing the lights to dim and flicker before coming back up to only about half strength.

“I’m not going to argue with you! I will not leave this ship without the Ambassador.” Marra turned on her heals heading for the bridge. She knew Ford would be headed there first, since she didn’t have a fighter of her own aboard ship.

“Lady Kurrathian,” The young guard took Marra by the arm and pressed a note into her hand. “The Ambassador told me to give that to you should a situation like this arise.”

The blonde unfolded the note, sucking in a deep breath at its simple words:

Protect yourself and our child Marra. I’ll be all right and we’ll be together soon. Go with the guard. I love you. Now and always. Love, Ford.

Her shoulders slumped. She folded the note back up and turned to the guard. “Let’s go.”

“Thank Capri.” The young man sighed and led Marra toward the shuttles that were being used to evacuate the civilians aboard.

* * *

The communication officer listened to the transmission then blinked before even attempting to relay the message to the Ambassador who stood next to her at the weapons console. “Your shuttle is safely away Ambassador. Lady Kurrathian is aboard.”

“Good.” Ford breathed a relieved sigh. “I’m sure she went kicking and screaming, but at least she went.” Ford’s attention was soon drawn to the view screen and the battle cruiser that was now headed for them. “Well, I wasn’t expecting that.”

The Ambassador looked to Garron Richards. Every fiber of her warrior being, telling her to get involved and take command, but knowing that to do so would undermine the young man’s command ability after this crises had passed, so she remained silent.

Her eyes tracked the battle cruiser and its weapons systems. She waited for the gun ports to open. Every moment that they didn’t, she began to realize what a horrible mistake she had made.

She searched the space around the ship with frantic eyes. They landed on the shuttle that carried Marra then quickly carried back to the battle cruiser. “It’s not me they want…” She realized quickly. “Carry on Richards. Do what you must to keep this ship safe and make a retreat as rapidly as possible. You know the coordinates that we’re headed for. Do whatever you must to get this ship there.”

“Yes Ambassador. You will be?”

“Trying to save my wife’s life.”

Ford bolted from the command deck. Carefully making her way to the fighter bays, avoiding the skirmishes with the troops that had boarded by listening to the tactical reports over the com links.

As she neared the flight deck she realized that getting in the front door wasn’t going to be possible at all. At the last possible moment she headed for a ladder that would allow her to climb into a service corridor and make a rather stealthy approach to the bay area. She listened intently hoping for a piece of good luck that would allow her to make it to a fighter.

Opening the hatch slowly she watched as a few troops had a final look around and left he bay, securing the door from the outside and declaring it secure.

“Yeah, that’s what you think.” She grumbled as she dropped to the floor below and moved to a remaining fighter.

She climbed aboard and placed the helmet on her head then pulled the hatch shut preparing for a fast launch. Ford knew she only had a short time to intercept her shuttle and serve as escort and protection for it. She was mentally kicking herself for not realizing what was happening sooner. If any harm came to Marra because of her own preoccupation she would never be able to forgive herself.

Ford eased the fighter out of the bay, using her own override code to open the bay doors. She trusted Richards to do his best from his position on the bridge to protect her on her departure and she set the fighter locating systems to find and lock on to her shuttle signal. Then she let the ship go and waited for the shuttle to come into view.

She opened a secure com link to the shuttle and tried to raise the pilot. There was no answer and as she approached she could see the hull had been breached and the shuttle had been boarded. Her heart sank when she glanced to the battle cruiser several thousand feet to her right. She knew deep down inside that’s where Marra was at this very moment.

“Capri protect my wife and child.” It was a short prayer, but it was the most heartfelt one Ford had ever uttered.

Taking a deep breath she guided her fighter directly for the battle cruiser. She knew she’d have to do something to get their attention.

“Okay, where is the plasma vent on this thing?” She made a quick reconnaissance flight around the ship. She smiled when she found the port she was looking for. “This is going to be close.”

* * *

Marra struggled against the chains and the hands that led her. “Let go of me!”

Her ‘escorts’ ignored her protests entirely and tightened their grip on the little blonde, half walking her, half dragging her down the corridor. They finally stopped and opened the doors to the cell, roughly pushing her inside before sealing it.

She stumbled a bit, barely catching herself before she hit the corner of the small bed with her belly. An action she was more than concerned would have hurt the baby. She rubbed her stomach and spoke very softly. “It’s all right little one. Your mother will come get us. We’ll be all right.”

She settled down on the bunk and began examining her shackles. Her mind tried to focus and not think about the fact that she had been removed from the shuttle so quickly she hadn’t had time to react. She had no idea what had become of her staff or of…Ford.

She snorted and refocused on the shackles. “If Ford were dead I’d know it. I’d feel it.” She realized in very short order, as she tugged on the shackles, that for the moment, all she could do was wait.

* * *

The crash was hard and fast, as most crashes were expected to be. Ford hadn’t been able to maintain the control she would have like and her ship had ended up on its side, skidding to a halt. She heard the alarms and knew she only had a few minutes at best to free herself from the wreckage. She tore her helmet off using its hard shell to bust out the hatch. Pushing the debris clear, she pulled the harness from her body and started to pull herself out. That’s when she felt the pain in her hip and leg.

“Oh no,” She groaned, looking down at the bloodstained material of her jumpsuit. “Wonderful, just wonderful.”

She gritted her teeth against the pain and pulled herself free. But even as she attempted to stand upright she knew that if she could walk, she couldn’t run and if she walked, she would be leaving a bright red trail that could be followed by a blind man with a reasonable sense of smell.

She decided to make an attempt to move further into the battle cruiser, ripping the sleeves from her jumpsuit she made a field bandage for her thigh. “Women,” She muttered as she tied off the bandage good and tight. “Didn’t have this problem before I fell in love.”

Ford move cautiously along the wall of the small corridor, finally finding a hatch. With some effort on her part, she put her shoulder to it and pushed it open. Slowly, painfully climbing out she dropped into a main corridor of the cruiser, ducking quickly into a doorway to allow herself a moment the regain her breath and hopefully a bit of her equilibrium.

* * *

Marra’s arms were tired and the shackles were heavy, string to bite into her flesh, causing it to rub raw and bleed. She tried to hold her hands still, but her nervousness made that almost impossible.

She lifted her head and stared at the tall man who filled the doorway when the cell door slid open.

“I’m Garron Beagin.”

She dropped her eyes and stared at the floor. She was determined not to respond to anything he said.

“You will be taken to the med lab for an exam to make sure you are in good health before I take you home to your father. Then you will tell us what you know of Kurrathian’s mission.”

She remained seated and silent. Beagin entered a little further and gestured. “Please, don’t make this harder on yourself than need be. You can walk or we can carry you. It doesn’t matter to us.”

Marra raised her hands. “Is this really necessary for the daughter of Lord Hadrin?”

“The daughter of Lord Hadrin, no. The First Wife of Ford Kurrathian, yes.” He gestured to the door once again. “Please.”

She stood and slowly approached the door. Beagin followed her out, taking her lightly by the elbow and guiding her down the hall. “What will happen to me now?”

“After we destroy Kurrathian’s ship we will return you to your father. Those are his orders.”

“Why would you destroy the ship? It is basically unarmed and loaded only with civilians and the barest of crew. It is on a diplomatic mission.”

“Our orders are to see to it that Ford Kurrathian dies.”

Marra’s stomach turned in knots. She had to find a way to keep them from destroying the ship. Not just for Ford but for the family and crew. “Why haven’t you done it yet?”

“That is not your concern.” He nudged her down another corridor toward the med lab. “Your only concern should be returning to your father and your family.”

“The same father who gave me over for experiments and slavery?”

“He did what was in the best interests of our people. He did what was required. Your father is a patriot.”

“My father is a beast.”

Beagin led her into the lab and turned her over to a med tech. “Complete physical. Make sure there are no transmitters or termination devices implanted anywhere.”

“Yes Garron. And if we find anything unusal?”

“Remove it and try not to kill her in the process. Lord Hadrin would be very upset.”

LOG FORTY-TWO

Ford closed her eyes against the pain and took a deep breath. “Capri help me. Tell me if Marra is alive. Please guide me.”

Images floated into Ford’s mind. Images of Marra and their child, of a tiny, precious little life. Held in Marra’s arms, her tired eyes looking to Ford as she cuddled the baby.

“Your daughter.” Capri’s voice joined the images. “Your daughter that you must save. Even now her life is being threatened.”

“My daughter?” Ford heard her own voice, full of wonder and awe. “A daughter?” She felt something break free in her own chest as she said the words aloud again. She shook her head and looked down the corridor.

“Go to them Ford. Just go. You’ll know when you’ve found them. You have my protection. You always have had. Believe Ford, it will see you through.”

She closed her eyes and had one last look at the tiny life and knew she had to do whatever would be required to save it. “I’m coming.” She whispered, before setting off down the corridor.

* * *

Marra felt the room spin as the sedative began to take her. “Please…please…don’t…”

“It everything ready?” The med tech looked at the groggy woman, to judge her level of awareness.

“Yes sir.” His young assistant moved a tray of instruments closer.

“My baby…” Marra tried to make eye contact. She tried to beg him. “Please…don’t…”

The med tech moved to the end of the table to prepare for what he was about to do. “Somehow I don’t think Garron Beagin or Lord Hadrin were expecting us to find this.”

She felt the tears creep down her cheeks. She tried to lift her hand, but between the leather straps and the sedatives, she was helpless. All she could do was beg them. And know the whole time that she did it, they didn’t care.

“Please…please…don’t…”

* * *

Garron Beagin stood in front of the vid screen looking into the unhappy face of Lord Hadrin.

“What do you mean pregnant?” Hadrin demanded from his position behind his desk

“Your daughter was with child. Kurrathian’s genetic material no doubt, that your daughter was forced to carry to provide an heir for the house.”

Hadrin waved a dismissive hand. “No doubt. My daughter lives?”

“She does, but is heavily sedated. The med techs tell me they believe it’s best to leave her that way for the time being.”

Lord Hadrin nodded his approval of that, then he sighed. “What of the child? Does it still live?”

Beagin shifted in his chair. “I didn’t ask. I told them of your orders to destroy anything of foreign origin they found. I assume the child no longer lives.”

“Make sure of that.”

“Yes, Lord Hadrin.”

* * *

Ford waited patiently for him. She stilled her breathing and flexed her hands as she hid in the shadows. Once the young man walked past her, she stepped out, took him by the head and snapped his neck. His lifeless body slumped back into her and she drug him into the small alcove where she took his uniform and his weapons.

She hoped that the disguise, even one this ridiculous would be helpful. She knew she had a better chance of getting to Marra if she blended in better. While not perfect by any means, this was better than nothing. She left her hair tucked into the back of the jumpsuit, adjusted the weapons and stepped into the corridor. She closed her eyes for just a moment and by instinct turned left, feeling like it was the proper direction to go.

She kept her head down as she walked, nodding to a few people she passed. They didn’t pay her anymore attention than they would any other crew member and didn’t seem particularly affected by the fact that the cruiser had engaged her ship. In reality she was particularly grateful for that fact. As she continued she realized that she was nearing where she had made her entrance and there was a small security detail there now, inspecting the area. She move with just a little more speed and tried desperately not to let her injury show as she passed them.

“I don’t care what he thinks. I think she dead in there somewhere and one of us is going to get to be the lucky Sugra who gets to go find her worthless body.” A tall officer commented as he lifted a light into the hatch.

“Garron Beagin thinks she survived the crash.” A younger man stated. “And he’s not happy that the crash took the weapons off line. It’s going to take at least twelve hours to get them back on line.”

“Well if he had taken the recommendation of his weapons officer and rerouted the system like it had been suggested we wouldn’t be in this mess. We can only hope that Ford is dead because if she’s alive and finds out how vulnerable this ship is we’ll all be saying hello to Capri face to face in the morning.”

“If you’re lucky.” Ford mumbled as she walked past them.

* * *

Marra opened her eyes and tried to focus. She could see the bio bed. She knew her baby was there. Her body felt heavy and she found breathing difficult, but she knew she had to do something or her child…Ford’s child would die.

First, she tried lifting her hand, barely remembering at one time it had been held down with straps. She was relieved to find that she seemed to be free now but very dazed. Her body protested slightly as she forced herself up into a sitting position, swaying even as she sat there trying to get her balance before attempting to put her feet on the floor. The room was spinning and her stomach was not in much better shape.

She wanted to cry, she felt so helpless. She wasn’t even sure what she could do to help the poor child and she wasn’t sure that it wasn’t already dead. But she knew of she didn’t try she surely would be a failure to Ford. That, in her mind, would never be an option. Taking a deep breath she took her first step away from the bed she had been lying on.

Blinking her eyes rapidly she tried to focus and look to see if there were others around who would stop her even before she made the four or five feet to the tiny bed that held her child. She coughed slightly when she had to choke back the natural feeling that threatened to make her throw up. With the room spinning, she took one shaky step after another until finally she could see into the little bed.

* * *

Ford took a moment to rub her injured hip. Grateful for the fact that it had stopped bleeding, but still frustrated at the pain it caused her. It was slowing her down and she certainly didn’t like that at all. She wiped her brow on her sleeve and continued down the corridor. Following only her heart and her instincts. Not very warrior like and that fact disturbed her a great deal too.

She stopped briefly, to take a deep breath and rest her leg. When she looked up a smile crossed her lips. The sign on the door indicating the med lab was the most beautiful thing she had seen all day. She took a step forward and the door slid open. It was late, the room was dark except for a small office light where a single med tech sat working at a lab station.

Ford moved quietly until she was directly behind the young woman. She slipped her firearm up, pressing it to the back of the tech’s neck very gently. “Where is the young woman that was brought aboard today?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She woman’s hands stopped all motion and she sat very still.

“I’ve not had a very good day. I’m hurt and I’m tired and I’m protecting my mate and our child, so like a serpentine with a very bad temper I’m more prone to kill you than talk to you right now. So why not try to save your own life by answering my question?”

“Because I swear to you, I do not know what you’re talking about.”

“Do you have any patients in here?”

“One. The daughter of Lord Hadrin, but it my understanding that she had been aboard all along. That she fell ill last night and was brought in.”

“Where is she?”

“In the back room. In the private chamber.”

“Show me.” Ford ordered, pressing the barrel of the firearm into the woman’s neck. “And please don’t make me kill you.”

* * *

Hadrin, rubbed his eyes, trying not to succumb to the frustration he felt. His mind swirled with the things that had come to pass in his life and in a moment’s notice he realized that he had truly been an evil man.

His only daughter, a beautiful little girl with golden hair and lively eyes the color of a spring meadow, he had allowed them to take her. He watched as she cried and begged him not to let them take her away. He listened as she called for her papa to protect her and he did nothing.

Almost immediately he realized that he would never hear a child’s innocent laughter again. That no one would ever call him Papa again and that he would never see any grandchildren. All because they convinced him to give her up…for the ‘greater good’ they told him. To help their people, they told him.

They had been wrong. Nothing good had come of it. His wife had taken her own life shortly after he had let them take their little girl and he had been alone since. Told not to ask what had become of her and ordered to remove all traces of her from his life. They told him it would ease the pain.

He removed the last thing he had retained from his coat pocket. It was of the three of them. His little girl, her mother who looked exactly like their daughter and him. They were happy in this picture. They were a family. How could so much go wrong?

No answer came to him. He barely had time to focus on the picture through his tears before the blast ripped his skull in half.

* * *

Marra pushed the last button then she felt herself slowly collapsing to the floor. She rolled slowly to her right, watching and praying. Even if she were to die now she would know she had done all she could do to save the child’s life and if by some miracle it lived, she would hope that Ford would never stop searching for it.

“Your daughter lives Ford.” Marra whispered as her eyes closed against her will and her breathing slowed. “Capri, bring them together.” Marra used what she was sure was the last of her breath to give a happy sigh when she heard the baby cry. “My child.”

Ford rushed into the room. She drew a deep painful breath as her eyes adjusted once again to the dim lighting, she heard the soft mewing cries and knew they belonged to an infant. Her eyes darted around the room until she found what she was looking for; lying on the floor partially obscured by the control panel.

Rushing over, Ford pulled the blonde into her arms. “Marra! Open your eyes! Open your eyes!” Tears formed in her own eyes when there was no response. “Don’t you leave me! Don’t you dare leave me!” Frantically she cradled the woman for just a moment as her mind puzzled through what she needed to do.

* * *

“Marra, it is not your time.” Capri’s voice carried into the darkness. “You must hold on. You have a baby daughter who needs you. Ford needs you. I will not accept you here. You must go back.”

“So dark…” The woman felt as if she were floating in a thick fog, not knowing what to believe or what was real anymore.

“Yes, there is always darkness just before the light Marra. You and Ford are about to break into the light. You must believe and you must go back and take your child into the light. She and others like her will be the beginning.”

Marra opened her eyes and the deity waited before her. The blonde swallowed hard. “The beginning?”

Capri nodded. “Yes, the beginning. But she can not survive without you. You must be willing to return to your daughter. Only you can save her. Even Ford will not be able to give her what she needs when the light comes.”

* * *

Ford knelt down, tears streaming down her cheeks as she carefully slipped her hands under the tiny form. “Oh you’re so beautiful.” She gasped as a smile came unbidden to her lips and she gazed at the little girl with the blue eyes and the blonde hair.

The child was so very small. Obviously it was also not very strong as a result of being placed in a generator rather than being allowed to continue to grow naturally in her mother’s womb. Ford looked up at the med tech. “Give me something to wrap her in.” In an instant, a soft warm blanket found its way to Ford’s hands and she wrapped her tiny daughter securely.

Then, while holding the small form close to her, her gaze turned to the tech. “You’re going to help us get off this ship.” The tall woman glared at the tech as she stood and moved to the biobed that held Marra’s body. She held her tears in check as she placed the baby next to her mother and made sure they were both secure. She leaned over, placing tender kisses on them both before turning back to the young woman. “Aren’t you? Or do you want to be the one to explain why Lord Hadrin’s daughter died in your care?”

The young woman looked to the bed that held the infant and the body of its mother. “I’ll help you.”

LOG FORTY-THREE

The young officer looked to the chair that held the Garron. He wasn’t sure he wanted to deliver this news. “Sir a medical shuttle is taking off from bay three. The tech on board states she is on a humanitarian rescue mission to search for members of Kurrathian’s ship that may be hurt or injured as a result of abandoning ship.”

Garron Beagin glanced down at the pad in his hands with the communication from the home world. “It doesn’t matter.” He looked up and watched as the shuttle made a turn for Ford’s ship. “None of it matters now. Let them go.”

“Them?”

“Scan the ship young man. How many people on that shuttle?”

“I read three life signs.”

The Garron nodded. “Let them go. They’ll die before they ever reach that dead space anyhow. Even if they do make it, there’s nothing there.”

* * *

Ford lifted the baby from the bed where it was crying loudly. A knot settled in her stomach when she realized she had no idea what to do to help the child’s distressed state. She tried settling it in the crook of her arm and holding it close to her body. She was tense and she just knew that the baby could feel it as well. “Little one I wish I knew how to help you.” She whispered.

The tech put the shuttle on auto and moved to the back of the ship where the Ambassador stood with what remained of her family, the body of her wife and a sickly child that would most likely die in a few hours. She chewed on the inside of her lip for a moment then moved to the cabinet that held the medical supplies for the ship. She readied a tray and returned to Marra’s side.

Ford caught her hand as she raised an injection device. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“If you’re very lucky I’m saving her life.”

“She’s dead. Leave her alone. You’ve done enough. If you want to help me, help me by figuring out what I need to do for this child.”

“You need to let me tend to it’s mother. There maybe a chance I can save her. She may be heavily dosed with sedatives. I’ll give her this and we’ll see if it works.” She looked down at the blonde on the table then back to Ford who continued to cuddle the mewing infant. “What do you have to lose?”

“Nothing and everything.” Ford nodded her consent. “Go ahead.”

The Ambassador looked down at her daughter. Tiny hands lifted listlessly and Ford knew the baby probably wouldn’t survive. It hurt far more than she thought it would. In the few hours that she had found this child, something had come to life in her and she was terrified at the prospect of loosing both Marra and the baby. She offered the infant her finger and little fingers made a vain attempt to curl around it. The little one succeeded in the effort and for the first time Ford felt as if the child had decided to try and fight to live.

“That’s right little one. You fight. You come from good fighting stock. Come on.” She encouraged the baby as the tech continued to work over Marra. Very soon Ford’s head snapped up from the impossibly blue eyes of her daughter when she heard a sound from Marra. The low moan made her heart skip a beat. It was the sweetest sound she had ever heard. “Marra?”

Her head turned slightly and her eyes opened slowly. “Ford?”

“Oh my love.” Ford felt near collapse with relief. “Welcome back.” She leaned over placing a very tender kiss to her wife’s lips.

“Baby…” Marra felt tears creeping down her cheeks. She was sure their baby was dead. She had tried so hard to save it.

Ford smiled and tried to hold the child so she could see. “She’s here. She’s small and she needs you very much, but she’s here.”

“Thank Capri…” Marra’s eyes closed as the medicine continued to work it’s way through her body. She licked dry lips and cleared her throat. “She…she needs to be fed. You’ll need a bottle with milk.”

The room brightened suddenly, Ford and the tech had to shield their eyes. The Ambassador automatically guarded the face of her daughter.

Capri stepped from the light, moving slowly toward the bed that held Marra she extended her hand and gave a simple command. “Take it.”

Marra’s hand lifted sluggishly until she finally held the hand of the deity. Very slowly she was pulled upright and regained her senses. She let go of a deep breath and look to Ford. “Hi.” She grinned even as her eyes traveled straight to the baby in the crook of Ford’s arm.

“Ford. Give the child to Marra.”

Without a moments hesitation Ford handed the child over. Tears flowed down Marra’s cheeks as she cuddled their daughter in her arms. She had been afraid that this moment would never come. She raised her eyes to Capri. “Will she live? She’s so small.”

“With that which you give her, the child will grow, strong and healthy. But you must see to that. Allow the child to suckle from your own breast. I have seen to it that you have that which is required to sustain her life.” The deity palmed Marra’s cheek for a brief moment, then was gone.

Marra needed no further instruction. She shrugged out of the gown that she had been changed into and brought the baby to her breast. She sucked in a deep breath at first at the sensation, then she smiled when she realized her daughter was eating and taking nourishment. “She’s doing it.” She smiled at Ford who watched in amazement as the scene unfolded before her.

“So she is.” Ford reached out to touch her daughter’s cheek, but pulled her hand back, realizing that Marra might not want this moment interrupted.

The blonde took the Ambassador’s hand and returned it to its destination. She watched as long, trembling fingers gently stroked a very small face. “What should we name her?” Marra looked to her spouse, lifting a questioning brow.

“I…I…don’t know. I hadn’t thought about that. It never occurred to me she would need a name.” Ford was embarrassed at the admission, but smiled when she realized this was indeed an important moment in their lives.

“Of course she’s going to need a name Ford. We can’t call her ‘hey you’.”

The tall woman actually laughed a bit. “True.” She watched her daughter for a moment, then she whispered softly, “Mary.”

“Mary? It’s a beautiful name. Where is it from?”

“From an Earth text called The Bible. Mary is the mother of Jesus. He was the savior of man. He gave them a new beginning.” Ford’s gaze became more intent as she continued to let her fingertips stroke soft pink cheeks. “This is a new beginning for us Marra. It’s only fitting she should have a name that celebrates that.”

“Mary it is then.”

Ford looked at the tech with a very silly grin. “My daughter, Mary Kurrathian, First Daughter of the Second House. Isn’t she beautiful?”

“She is indeed.” The tech agreed. She couldn’t help it. The women before her were her enemies and two of the most wanted in the sector, but right now they were just new parents. And these two were enjoying the birth of a child in a way she had never experience before and it filled her heart with a joy she had never really experienced before. “You’re a very fortunate woman.”

Ford stood up very straight and looked adoringly at her family. “I am indeed.” Then she remembered their surroundings. “And I need to get my family back to my ship. If you help me I’ll allow you to return to your own ship.”

“I’ve already helped you. I’m sure they know it. My life is forfeit there. Either you kill me or they do. It doesn’t matter now. I’m dead for sure.”

Ford shook her head. “No, no the killing stops right here, right now. If you wish, you may stay aboard my ship and continue with us on our journey.” Ford watched as Marra rocked their little one. She couldn’t even be bothered to wipe the silly grin from her face. “I’m not sure what the future hold for us, but I intend to make it the best that I can.” She looked to the young woman. “For my family and anyone willing to follow me.”

“I’ll follow you.” She extended her hand. “My name is Lytle.”

Ford chuckled and the woman tilted her head in question. “Your name, it means ‘to free’. You most certainly are that.” She took the woman’s hand. “And so are we thanks to you.”

“Ford,” Marra coaxed gently. “I’m growing rather tired, I need…”

The two women assisted the blonde with returning to bed, making sure that both mother and child were warm and content. Then they secured the bed for the rest of the flight. Lytle returned to the flight controls, while Ford remained behind until she was sure that both Marra and Mary were sleeping peacefully. Once she was certain they were comfortable she joined the other woman, taking the co-pilot’s seat.

“Do we have any idea where my ship is?”

Lytle’s fingers glided over the touch pad. “Scanning now. Trying to locate it. We had a visual when we left the ship but I’ve lost it now. I’m looking for an engine signature.”

“I told Garron Richards to continue without us. I can always count on him following orders.”

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” Lytle gave a small grin to the tall woman next to her.

“In this instance I’m not sure.” Ford drummed her fingers on the control panel and glanced back over her should to the compartment that held her wife and daughter.

“There’s nothing you can do here.” The tech said casually. “Why don’t you go back and sit with them.”

With a nod, the tall woman moved to the back of the shuttle and pulled a chair up next to Marra’s bed. Marra was sleeping again, but Mary was awake, lying quietly in her mother’s arms.

Ford reached out slowly and gently stroked a very small hand and stared in amazement as once again tiny, fragile fingers curled around her own finger. She took in every detail of the little hand, from the fine lines in pink skin to the little fingernails. As she watched her daughter she couldn’t help but smile when the child yawned and a pink tongue poked out for just a moment before disappearing behind ruby lips.

The Ambassador gave serious consideration to her child and had to take a second glance when she realized that her daughter’s hair was blonde like Marra’s. “That’s not possible.” Her hand slowly, carefully ran over the child’s head. “Without a miracle from Capri that’s just not possible.”

* * *

“They’re looking for us.” A young security offer told Garron Richards.

Richards stood, his arms crossing his chest. “I would have expected as much. How many fighters?”

“Not fighters sir. Just one ship. A medical shuttle is scanning for us.”

“A medical shuttle?”

“Yes sir. And sending out a coded message stating that the Ambassador and the First wife are aboard and safe and sound.”

“Could be a trick.”

“The authorization code on the message matches the Ambassador’s.”

Richards scrubbed his hand over his face. He knew there’d be days like theses and he hated them with a passion. “Bring them aboard, but make sure a full security detail meets the shuttle in the docking bay.”

“As you wish Garron. The transmission also requests a medical team for Lady Kurrathian and her child.”

Richards eyebrows crawled up his forehead. He knew she was with child, but also knew she was several months from delivery. He chewed on his lip for a moment. “Send one as well.”

* * *

When the shuttle finally docked and the doors opened Ford was not surprised to find the security detail. As a matter of fact she was delighted that Richards had taken no chances. The moment her identity become clear weapons were dropped and the medical team rushed forward to take Marra and the baby to the med lab.

Lytle, stepped off slowly, with her hands in the air just slightly to show she was unarmed. She just waited to be taken in to custody.

Ford turned to her and offered her her own hand. “I told you. You won’t be a prisoner here. Go with the med team and let one of my doctors look you over and make sure you’re all right.”

“Yes Amabassador Kurrathian.” The woman smiled. “Thank you.”

Ford nodded slightly, watching the woman follow the team out. She turned to find Richards standing among the remaining member of the security team. “Hi Honey, I’m home.” She gave him a grin.

He laughed as he moved forward to take her hand. “I don’t know how you do it Ambassador. You’re luck continues to amaze me.”

“Yes well, you can imagine how I feel. I just hope it holds out until we reach Earth space. Are we still on course?”

“We are. Following the flight plan you gave me. We are trying to round up the escape shuttles that were launched when we had our encounter. It’s not going to be an easy task. There will no doubt be some souls lost. Some shuttles may make it to Earth space because those coordinates were fed into the data banks before they left the ship. It’s going to be entirely hit and miss Ambassador.”

“Then we must hope and pray they make it or we find them along the way. Keep me posted. Right now I need to be with my wife and child.”

“Yes, congratulations. Is it a boy or a girl?”

“A beautiful baby girl named Mary. After we are resettled you will need to come see my daughter.”

“It will be my honor.” Richards cleared his throat, then looked to Ford. “We intercepted a message to the cruiser Ambassador. It seems that Lord Hadrin is dead.”

“That explains it then. I wondered how our escape was so easy. What is the cruiser doing?”

“They seemed to have turned back. Apparently they are unwilling to follow us into unknown space.”

“It seems my life is truly blessed by Capri this day. Continue on course and let me know when we reacquire any shuttles. How many to be picked up?”

“Just over fifty Ambassador. With approximately five hundred on board among them.”

She took the information in and stored it away. She would deal with it later. “Keep me posted. I’ll be in the med lab.”

“As you wish Ambassador. It’s good to have you home.”

“We’re not home yet Rick. But if we are very lucky we will find a new one soon.”

LOG FORTY-FOUR

Ford grumbled as the doctor cut her free from her own clothing. “I’m fine!” She growled, straining to see into the next room that held Marra and the baby.

“Of course you are Ambassador. That’s why your own clothes are covered in blood. This,” He held up the garment for the tall woman to see. “Didn’t come from your wife or your daughter, so just lay down and let me work.”

“Anyone ever tell you…” She growled at him.

“All the time. Lay down!” He pushed her back by the shoulders then began a serious examination of her hip.

“How are they?” Ford tried her best to see around the staff members who were tending to her own injuries.

“They are currently in better shape than you are. They don’t have any holes in them that are leaking badly needed bodily fluid.”

“Could you please just fix it and let me get to my family? And I would thank you to keep your comments to yourself doctor.”

“I’m am trying but your fussing around and refusal to lay still are not making it easy. Now if you’d like to cooperate a little more I’m sure I could have you in there with your family in a matter of minutes.”

The tall woman scowled at the doctor then laid back on the table. “Fine, fine, but hurry it up.”

* * *

Marra watched as Ford very carefully lifted their little girl from her bed. She had to bite her lip to keep a full-blown smile from crossing her lips. In the week they had been back aboard Ford had been very busy reading everything she could find on taking care of an infant and had patiently or not so patiently watched Marra as she cared for the child. The one thing Marra was sure of was that Ford had indeed bonded with this child and was as proud of her as any parent should be.

Ford cuddled the tiny form in the crook of her arm and slowly crossed back to the bed, still limping slightly from her own wounds. “Are you hungry my sweet Mary? Is it time to be with your mother?” She slowly, carefully placed the child with Marra then returned to bed herself and propped her back up against the head board so Marra could rest in her arms while she fed the baby.

This was something both mothers had to get accustomed to very quickly, was their daughter’s need for nourishment. She seemed to require it every couple of hours. Ford had learned the hard way that her own bare chest was also fair game when she picked her little girl up to deliver her to Marra’s always waiting arms and from that point forward she made sure to have a shirt on. She also came to admire her wife’s ability to feed the baby regularly without complaint or embarrassment. She seemed at ease and to truly enjoy the experience.

“Did the father have blond hair?” Marra asked quietly, even as her hand gently stroked the baby’s tiny head, letting her hair tickle the palm of her hand.

“I never met him.” Ford hugged Marra close to her. She drew a deep breath, releasing it slowly, she placed her finger down for the baby to grip onto, which the child took with just a slight pause in her nursing. “But I doubt it. I was told that the babies had been given markers from the father that would compliment my own looks so there would be no question of their parentage.”

“Then how?”

“I think Capri has blessed us in some small way by making this child a part of us both Marra. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I can’t explain this.” She brushed the tip of her finger through the baby’s hair. “It should be dark like mine.”

“We have most definitely been blessed. I’m grateful that she survived. I’m sorry I couldn’t do more to protect her.”

“Marra, you saved her life. She certainly would have died if you hadn’t put her in the accelerator.” She gently cupped Marra’s cheek and turned her so they were facing each other. “You acted exactly like a mother would. You protected our baby, and you alone saved her life. She’s only here with us because of what you did.” Ford leaned over placing a tender kiss to her wife’s lips. “Thank you for this wonderful gift.”

Marra looked back to the baby. “You sound more sure now. Are you happy now that she is here?”

Ford nodded. “In ways I could never imagine and some I’ll never be able to explain. To know that this little life is somehow a part of me is amazing. I never considered the power of life renewing itself. I had been surrounded by death for so long I had forgotten that life still went on.”

Marra sighed, leaning further and deeper into Ford’s arms as the baby continued to enjoy her middle of the night meal. While Marra was relaxed Ford knew her mate well enough to know something was amiss. She leaned in and whispered, “Aren’t you happy?” Tightening her hold on the woman and wondering how she would handle a negative answer Ford waited.

“I’m very happy. I’m happy that we have her and that she is growing stronger and bigger everyday.”

“Then what’s wrong my love?”

“It’s silly.” Marra shrugged, moving Mary from one breast to the other so that she could finish. The baby fussed for a moment then began to fall into a peaceful slumber in her mother’s arms.

“If it has you upset it’s not silly. What is it?”

“I wanted to give birth. I wanted to carry her and give birth. I wanted to experience that, but he took that away from me like he took everything else.”

Ford knew Marra was speaking of her father. She also knew that someday she would have to tell Marra her father was dead. But right now, at this moment it didn’t matter. Now was not the time. Marra needed to be reminded of the life she had brought into the world, not the death of a man who had done horrible things to his family.

“You gave her life. Without you, she wouldn’t be here now.” The tall woman hugged the blonde closer. “You had the courage to do something I never would have done. Even if I had been allowed I never would have done it because it frightened me so much. I didn’t think myself capable of this kind of love. It’s so different from anything else I’ve ever experienced.” She shifted so that her family was lying in the bed with her. Marra lay with her head and Ford’s shoulder and little Mary lay between them, now content, well fed and sound asleep. Protected by the bodies of both her mothers. “You may not have given birth, but you gave her life. Just as you gave me life.” Ford brushed her lips against the top of Marra’s head. “We have both been blessed to have been touched by you.”

Marra couldn’t say anything in response to her spouses beautiful, touching words. She mearly smiled and closed her eyes, deciding for the time being that this was the most perfect place she could be and that she was the most fortunate woman ever to have lived.

* * *

She was startled out of a sound sleep when she realized that the baby was gone. Marra sat up quickly, then relaxed almost right away when she realized Ford was gone too and that she no doubt had the baby.

She shook her head to clear it of the remaining sleep, then climbed from bed to head for the bathroom. She began preparing a hot bath, scenting it with the rose oil Ford had given her when they were married. It made her relax and she knew Ford always enjoyed it. She stripped from her gown and settled into the water. A long sigh of relief escaped her as the water warmed and relaxed her. She rolled her head and shoulders and began truly enjoying the heat and stream of the bath. She was settled nicely when a quiet chuckle caused one green eye to open and glance at the door. She smiled when she saw Ford and Mary standing there.

“And where have you two been this morning?”

“I have been showing my daughter off this morning and taking a count of who is missing from the ship now.”

Marra wanted to smile at the thought of Ford showing Mary off, bragging about her and doting over her, but the thought of members of the ships crew, not to mention members of the family still being in danger kept her from it. “How many are there?”

“Richards’ first estimates were to low. There are nearly seven hundred souls that we need to find. We’ve sent out fighters and scout ships.” Ford sat on the edge of the tub and settled Mary comfortably in her blankets in her lap. Marra leaned up to check on their daughter.

Ford grinned. “I assure you she is fine. I haven’t broken her yet.”

Marra huffed a bit then settled back into the tub, shooting Ford an annoyed look that only caused the tall woman to laugh a bit harder. “You think you know me so well Ford Kurrathian.”

“You are an over protective mother. Just like I am.” She conceded with a grin.

* * *

Ford stroked Earthling’s tail, which was wrapped around her neck as the little beast sat on her should chewing on a treat. The tall woman was once again engrossed in the study of old texts and maps. She reached over without looking and wrapped long fingers around her coffee cup. Lifting her head she stared at the cup and then looked into it realizing she had been studying for so long it was now long cold. She held the cup up to Earthling. “You want a drink before I get a hot cup?”

The little gold beast stuck his snout in the cup and took a long satisfying drink, smacking what little lips he did have as a long forked tongue worked its way around the edge of his mouth to get the rest of the coffee.

“That’s probably not good for him.” Marra chuckled a bit as she entered Ford’s office. “And you know it’ll make him impossible to deal with later.”

“He’s always impossible to deal with.” She looked up and smiled as Marra set the carrier holding Mary on a table. “How are my girls today?”

“Well, your daughter is being a very good girl. She is sleeping very regularly now and the doctor says she’s getting bigger and stronger everyday.”

Ford got to her feet and headed over to them to begin to reach for the baby only to have her hands slapped away. “Hey!”

“Don’t even think about it. She just fell asleep.”

“Okay then,” The tall woman wrapped her arms around her wife’s waist. “Then I guess you’ll have to do.” She smirked a bit.

“Oh is that so?” Marra fingered the lapel of Ford’s tunic. “I remember a time when I wasn’t a replacement.”

“You’re not a replacement now. Just a substitute.”

“You are not helping your case.” Marra lifted a brow. Earthling slid from Ford’s shoulder to Marra’s.

Ford looked to the beast. “Traitor. And after I gave you coffee.”

Earthling sniffed Marra, then left her perch on the shorter woman’s shoulder and floated down to the table where the baby was sleeping.

“Get away from there!” Marra shooed at the tiny serpentine. “Don’t you dare wake her. I’ll skin you myself.”

Earthling made a slight gulping noise and jumped form the table, running across the floor to his bed in the corner, where he began chewing on a toy of his own.

“Good choice.” Marra slid closer to Ford. “So what have you determined today?” She gestured to Ford’s desk, which was a mess.

“I need a bigger desk.” The tall woman quipped before taking a seat on the couch and pulling Marra down into her lap.

The blonde looked to her spouse with serious eyes and said quietly, “We’re never going back are we?”

“No.”

“I didn’t think so.”

“I won’t take you and Mary back there. I’m done fighting and I won’t ask anyone else to die. Even if Earth isn’t viable we’ll find someplace that is.”

Marra nodded, then leaned into Ford and sighed. “It will be for the best. But somehow I feel like we’re…”

Ford placed her fingers over Marra’s lips cutting off her line of thinking. “Don’t say it. I’ve had this argument with myself a thousand times. If we do find Earth and bring them here the fighting will only continue. Let them fight with each other there, far away from us. I’ve given them all I can.” She gestured with her chin to the slumbering baby. “We have more important things to consider now.” Ford drew a deep breath and knew now was the time to tell her spouse. “Marra, you should know that right before our rescue Garron Richards intercepted a message that your father is dead.”

The blonde remained quiet for a moment, then sighed. “Good. He deserved no less.”

Ford closed her eyes against Marra’s cold, and unfeeling response, but she could understand it after all the young woman had been through at his hand. Still, she said a silent prayer for his soul and held her wife closer. “I love you Marra.”

“I love you too Ford.”

LOG FORTY-FIVE

Garron Richards and the Ambassador made their way to the shuttle bay to welcome back another group of survivors rescued over the course of the last three weeks. Ford knew Marra would be thrilled with the rescue of this escape shuttle. It contained the First Wife’s most trusted aide, Judith.

Ford was pleased to see that in her own right, Judith had taken her duties to the Second House very seriously and seemed to be leading this small group. She was the last one off the shuttle, making sure that all those aboard were safely off loaded first.

“Judith, welcome back.” The Ambassador stepped forward, offering the woman a hug.

“Thank you Ambassador. It’s good to be aboard once again.” She glanced back to the shuttle. “It was a little crowded in there.”

“How is everyone?”

“I believe is well. No doubt in need of a few good meals and hot baths, but other than that they are fine. You would be proud of them. They did very well under very difficult circumstances.”

“I am very proud, of them and of you. I want you to go tend to the things you need to get settled. Then you must go see Lady Kurrathian and our little girl.” Ford’s eyes lit up as she spoke to the woman.

“The baby has arrived already? But it’s far too early. Is she all right?”

“It was unusual and very unexpected, but she lives and is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.” The tall woman turned to the ship’s commander. “Isn’t she Rick?”

The Commander nodded vigorously biting back the smirk. “Absolutely Ambassador.”

Judith looked to the young man and smiled with him at Ford’s obvious delight in her daughter. She remembered the many nights Marra worried over the fact the Ambassador had been less than pleased at the announcement that the First Wife was expecting.

“I am delighted for you and Lady Kurrathian. I’ll make sure I go see her as soon as possible.” Judith looked over her shoulder at the other shuttles in the docking bay. “How many more to recover?”

Ford shook her head. “Too many. We find one or two every few days, but at this rate we’ll never find them all. We can only hope that they can link up with us or follow us under their own power.”

“I’m sorry Ambassador.”

“So am I.” Ford sighed. “But we are fortunate to have rescued a few shuttles and I know Lady Kurrathian is very much looking forward to your return.”

“I’m honored.” She took a deep breath, then gave a slight bow. “If you’ll excuse me Ambassador I’d like to get freshened up and go see the First Wife and the new addition to your fine house.”

“Of course. Rick, you’ll see to Judith’s needs personally?”

The young captain smiled at the First Wife’s assistant. They had gotten to know each other because of Marra’s not so gentle nudging in that direction in the weeks before the encounter. Rick was more relieved than he was letting on that the woman had been returned safe and sound. “I’ll be happy to Ambassador.”

Ford chuckled. “I figured as much.” The Ambassador was many things, blind was not among them and she was impressed the conversation had gone on that long.

* * *

Ford rolled over, groaning from the pain and discomfort in her head. She had caught what the doctor had called a cold. And she was miserable. Not only did she not feel good, but also she couldn’t risk infecting Marra and the baby so she had been forced into isolation in the med lab. She wondered as she rolled over in her bed if the doctor was enjoying this a little too much.

He seemed to be enjoying it when her told her that he believed she had picked up a germ from someone who had returned on one of the rescued shuttles and that until he could run further tests there was nothing he could do for her. She coughed and tried to sit up only to find that to be a most unpleasant experience.

She was distracted from her misery by a tapping on the window. She rolled over to find Marra, holding the baby so she could see her. “How do you feel today?” Her wife asked through the intercom.

“How do I look?”

Marra sucked air through her teeth, bit her lip and tried to come up with an answer worthy of a diplomat’s wife.

“Yeah, that’s pretty much how I feel.” Ford laughed a bit which only made her cough again.

“The doctor is doing everything he can.”

“That man hates me.”

“That’s because you’re a lousy patient. If you’d learn not to argue with him you wouldn’t have these problems.”

“How is my girl today?”

“Our daughter is just fine. But she misses you.”

“Hmm I miss you both. I’m hoping to be home soon. I feel better today than I did yesterday, but then again that’s not saying much.”

“Well, rest as much as you can. Rick says we should be leaving known space in a day or so.”

Ford nodded. “I know. Another reason I want to get back on my feet. Once we leave known space, we can seriously begin our search for Earth and its satellites. I’d rather not try to do that from here. I may need to take out a scout ship…” Ford stopped in mid sentence realizing almost right away this was not going to be a popular plan.

“Excuse me?”

For the moment the tall woman was glad the blonde was on the other side of the glass. “Un…well…I mean think of it logically Marra.”

“I am. You have many officers who can do that for you.”

“You know that I would never ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.”

“I know that and so do they. I also know you have single officers with no families who would be better suited to take the risk and who would consider it a great honor to perform such a mission for you.”

“Marra…” Ford’s voice was low, almost a growl.

“Ford…” The blonde growled back

The doctor chuckled as he entered the room. “Should I come back later? Sounds to me like Lady Kurrathian has a few choice words for you Ambassador.”

“Don’t suppose you’ve brought anything to help me out with this cold have you?”

“Actually, I think I may have found something that might help, yes.” The man placed a mask over his face and entered the room. He removed an injection device from his pocket and made a motion for Ford to turn over. “It’ll be more effective if I give it to you in your backside.”

“You’re joking.”

“I never joke.”

* * *

Ford stood on the command deck with Marra next to her and Mary in her arms. Her command staff surrounded her as the screen buzzed and the link they were trying to establish faded in and out.

“Come on.” She growled under her breath, but still managed to brush her lips over the downy hair forming on her daughter’s head. The baby was slumbering through what might prove to be one of the most important moments in her young life, but Ford also knew that if this was successful she wouldn’t be asleep for long.

The screen finally came to life and the vid was that of a small solar system. Ford looked carefully and sighed. “Where’s the sun?”

“Ford?” Marra laid her hand on her spouse’s arm, recognizing the distress in her spouse’s voice.

“It was a star. Called the sun. It was vital to the survival of the planet Earth. It’s not there. It has either burned out or been destroyed somehow.” Her shoulders slumped a little and she kissed her daughter’s head again without taking her eyes from the screen. “Take the baby.”

Once the transfer was made Ford took a seat at a console and began shifting the vid link to scan the system. Her hopes dropping away with every second she looked at the dead planets before them. “Without the Sun, Earth would never be able to survive. But there should be some evidence of it some where a star that big doesn’t just disappear without a trace.”

“So there is no place safe for us to go here?”

Ford looked up to Marra; her dark brows drawn together and a worried look clearly written on her face. “No. No I don’t think there is.” She returned her gaze to the panel. “I’ll have to take some more readings and compare them to some old star charts. But this system is long dead.”

“Ambassador, maybe there is something on the other side of it.” Rick offered as he too studied the vid screen and glance over the Ford’s shoulder at the coordinates she was inputting into the computer.

“Maybe, but look here,” she pointed to a smaller screen at her fingertips. “There’s a huge debris field. The magnetic forces would make it impossible to get through and it’ll take weeks to get around.”

“Do we really have a choice at this point?”

“I don’t.” Ford sighed, looking at her Commander. “But you do.” She stood up and smoothed her tunic. “Let take this discussion in your office shall we?”

* * *

“Marra please see reason…”

Marra shook her head fiercely even as she took the time to carefully place the baby down on the couch and place pillows next to her to cushion her in. Then she turned on her spouse and marched across the room pointing an angry finger. “Then don’t say ridiculous things.”

“It’s not ridiculous. It’s the only reasonable thing to do.”

The blonde looked to Rick who was leaning against his desk with his arms crossed against his chest. “She has obviously lost control of her senses, wouldn’t you say so Garron?”

Rick just put up a palmed hand and shook his head. He wasn’t going to get in on this one.

“I can’t go home.” Ford said softly. “But you can. You can take Mary and go back to the house and…”

“Not another word like that Ford Kurrathian or I swear I’ll make you regret it for the rest of your natural life. I’m not leaving you. You can give the other the choice and they are free to do as they please but I am the First Wife. More importantly I am your wife and I won’t leave you.”

Marra seethed, Ford sighed and Rick cleared his throat and scratched his cheek, wishing he were anywhere else but in that room.

The shorter woman gestured wildly. “From the very book that you got our own child’s name from, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.’” She stepped forward and she and Ford clasped hands. “And even…”

“In death, I will never leave you.” They finished together in a whisper, their eyes locked firmly on each other. Ford nodded, realizing this argument was over and the one who owned her heart had defeated her.

“But we still owe the others the chance…”

Marra nodded her agreement.

They shared a brief kiss, then Ford drew a deep breath and turned to face Rick. “We should…”

“I all ready have Ambassador. Your people are not leaving you. We will follow your orders, but we will not abandon you. You have never abandoned us in our time of need. We will stand with you now as you have always stood with us.”

Ford bit the inside of her lip to force back the tears she felt brimming in her eyes. Marra squeezed her hand to reinforce the feeling of solidarity that the words had spoken of. Ford’s people loved and trusted her, a true leader could ask for nothing more than that.

She cleared her throat again. “All right then. Let’s set a course and see what happens. We’re truly flying blind now Rick.”

He smiled at her. “Well, then let the adventure begin.”

* * *

The alarm rattled Ford out of a sound sleep. She sat up quickly, pulling on her robe and activating the com link. “Ford here. What’s going on?”

“Ambassador, a large piece of space debris has impacted the ship, jolting us off course.”

Marra sat up, running her fingers through her hair and waiting to see how bad things were before she prepared her next move.

“Are you going to be able to correct?”

“Unable to determine that at this time Ambassador. Navigation is off line.”

“I’ll take that as a no.” Ford mumbled. She crossed to her wardrobe and removed a soft tunic and trousers. She looked to Marra as she dressed. “Why can’t they ever just say no?”

Marra chuckled and joined Ford at the cabinet, removing her own clothing. “That, would be too easy. I’ll get Mary ready in case this turns into a problem.”

“All right love. I’ll be on the command deck with Richards.” She gave Marra a soft kiss before departing.

* * *

Richard was rubbing his eyes as he and the Ambassador met on the way to the command deck. They looked to each other with tired, bleary eyes and Ford grinned. “I look this way because I have a newborn baby daughter who is very demanding of my time. Why do you look this way?”

“As Garron I can refuse to answer that question can’t I?” The young man bit the inside of his lip to keep from smiling.

“Could it have something to do with Lady Kurrathian’s personal assistant? Is she keeping you out late Commander?” The tall woman teased, watching him slowly turn red.

Rick rocked back and forth on his heels wishing that the transport were moving a little faster.

Both warrior’s were not prepared for the sound of the impact and the jolt that threw Ford into the wall and Rick into Ford. She wrapped her arms around him to keep him from falling, then she smiled at him. “I won’t tell my wife if you don’t.”

Rick righted himself and smiled back. “I’m not gonna tell her, she’d kill me.”

Ford smirked as the doors opened. “True.” She gestured to Rick allowing him to take the lead and enter his command deck first.

“Report!” Rick moved to his command chair and Ford moved to a science station.

“The ship seems to be attracting pieces of debris out of the field Garron Richards.”

“They must be pretty good sized pieces of debris to be knocking us around like this.” Rick commented, looking at his own information station.

“Yes Garrron.” The young officer grimaced, then then turned around to face his commander. “And the biggest one yet is headed right for us. If it hits us sir, well be seriously damaged.”

“Can we fire on it and try to break it up before impact.?”

“We can try Garron.”

“Then prepare to fire on it.”

“Ready to fire Garron.”

Ford’s shoulders arched and she was about to order that command belayed, but before she could say anything, Richards gave the order and the explosion ripped through the debris field. The ship was tossed back severally, the angle, sending the ship into a spin, directly into the debris field and the rippling aftershocks of the explosion.

“Not good!” Rick yelled, forcing himself upright the command chair.

“Ya think?!” Ford’s voice rang out as she joined him, holing onto the rails to get to his chair. “We ignited a pocket of gas within the field.”

“Garron, Ambassador!” The young officer pointed to the screen as a something began to take form in front of the ship, swirling before them and drawing them in.

“This would be even worse!” Richards pushed out of his chair and to the navigation panels. “Reverse engines!”

“Can’t sir! All systems off line we’re going in!”

Ford’s hand hit the ship wide com link on the arm of the command chair. “All personnel prepare for impact!”

* * *

Marra felt the ship right itself and the spinning stop. She looked down at her daughter, tucked securely in her travel seat and fixed between Marra’s feet in the small impact shelter. “Guess we made it huh?”

The baby looked up at her mother with watery, frightened eyes before the tears really started flowing. Marra pulled her baby from the chair and held her close. “Shhh it’s okay sweetheart we made it. We made it. We’re okay.” It didn’t take long to get the child calmed and when she could she opened the hatch of the shelter and extracted them both carefully. She quickly took in the disarray that had formally been her home. The ship had been tossed around for what seemed like hours before it finally felt like it was settling.

The barest of lighting illuminated the ship and Marra knew they were on emergency power. She scooped Mary up and headed out for the command deck.

* * *

Ford picked herself up from the floor and looked to the vid screen. “Where are we?” She carefully studied the view outside the ship that cracked and faded in and out.

Crew members groaned and picked themselves up returning to they’re stations. “Unknown Ambassador. They only thing that we know for sure is that we’re planet side and mostly in one piece.”

“Mostly?”

“We lost a section of the ship, just before impact.”

“Which section?”

“The living quarters.”

Ford turned immediately, forcing the doors open and heading into the remnants of her destroyed ship and the sections that should hold her family. Crew members were starting to move around and get their bearings. Ford knew she should be helping them and assisting Richards, but she had to see for sure. She had to find out how badly the ship was damaged and she needed to know if Marra and Mary were alive.

Moving through the debris and the wreckage. She stopped when she reached the spot where the living quarters should start. The emergency force fields were in place protecting those inside the wrecked ship, but the entire living section was missing.

Ford felt tears stinging her eyes as her stomach rolled and her mouth watered. Her eyes took in the lush green grass and the rolling meadows of the planet. What, in reality should be a very happy moment for her was the worst of her life because that which had become the most important thing was gone. She had survived, but Marra and Mary and most of the rest of her family were gone.

She turned and headed for the place she knew she should be able to exit the ship. As she pushed the emergency doors open she angrily wiped tears from her eyes, almost hoping that the atmosphere of this place would destroy her the second she stepped clear of the protective field.

Once clear of the ship, Ford’s boots sank into soft mud; the air smelled of fresh rain despite the lingering odor associated with the crash of the ship. She moved around taking in the wreckage and trying to figure out where the rest of the ship was. She knew she wasn’t thinking clearly at the moment and there were far better ways to do these things, but she couldn’t seem to focus. For the first time in her life Ford felt lost and unsure.

* * *

Marra pushed open the doors to their quarters and stepped out into the corridor. She was relieved to see others coming into the corridor as well. She carefully removed Mary from her seat and shouldered her, realizing it would be easier to move with the baby only.

Judith moved quickly to Marra’s side. “My Lady. This ship is no longer in space.” She held her hands out and took the baby, allowing Marra to get a better sense of what was happening.

“You’re right. I need to get to Ford. Take Mary back to my quarters and wait for me there.”

“Yes, My Lady.”

Marra waited until she was sure Judith and Mary were safe before she headed for the command deck. At the lift doors, her head slowly turned to the left to reveal the fact that half the ship was missing. “This has disaster written all over it.”

She scratched her cheek as she tried to comprehend exactly what had happened. Then she realized that the command deck and the forward sections of the ship were missing. “Ford.” She shook her head and cleared her mind. Relief washed over her when she felt Ford was still alive. She took a deep breath and began putting a plan together in her mind. It took her to the remaining lower decks.

* * *

Ford, Richards and other members of the crew had begun assisting others from the wreckage of the ship. They were both relieved beyond measure that despite the severe damage to the ship a lot of the equipment would be salvageable and that they would be able to use the ship as building material to make temporary shelter.

Ford took a moment to wipe the sweat from her face and look up into the blue sky. The bright yellow light source hurting her eyes and forcing them closed as they teared up. She rubbed them again and cleared her throat before going back to work.

“We need to locate the rest of the ship and try to determine if there were any survivors.” She said it quietly, refusing to believe that Marra and their daughter were dead.

“As soon as we can rig a power supply we’ll try to get a reading of sensors before the ship split, maybe that will give us some idea of what happened and where the other section may have landed.”

Ford nodded and assisted another woman from the wreckage.

“We’ll find them Ambassador.”

“I shouldn’t have left them.”

* * *

Marra was very relieved to find Neyta and Phoenix shaken, but all right. “Yes, it’s okay.” She soothed both beasts.

The ship has run a ground. Neyta stuck her long face right in front of Marra. We are out of time.

“Yes, Neyta, the ship is planet side but we have survived and we are fine.”

No Marra, you don’t understand. We are out of time. We are out of our time. Our time and place in space and time. The serpentine looked to her own offspring. Did the little one survive the crash?

“I’m not sure. But I’m grateful the four of you did and right now we need to leave the ship and find Ford. The ship is badly damaged and we have been separated.” Marra found a long bar and placed it in the jammed stall door, starting to pry on it.

From the other side Netya nudged Phoenix and he put his body into pushing from the other side. Together it didn’t take long for them to get it open.

* * *

Ford settled down under a tree and took a drink of the water that Richards had brought to her from the emergency rations. It was hot on this planet. It was something she’d have to get used to. And that bright light source amazed her.

Suddenly the sky darkened briefly and she looked up. Rising up from behind the hill she heard the familiar sound of wings cutting through the air. She got to her feet right away and moved to the sight.

The relief flooded her entire body as she watched Marra and Neyta with Phoenix behind them fly over the top of the hill. She actually began to laugh at the sight as they slowly landed and Marra slid from Neyta’s shoulders. She shook her head and moved swiftly to her spouse scooping her up into her arms. “I should have known you were all right!” She practically yelled as she spun Marra around before kissing her soundly. “Where’s Mary? Is she okay?”

“Mary’s fine, Ford. She’s with Judith on the other side of the hill. In the other section of the ship.”

“Thank Capri.”

“Ford do you know where we are?”

“No, no I don’t, but as soon as we get everyone settled and get a camp set up I’ll start working on figuring that out.”

“Neyta says we have been thrown out of our own place in space and time.” She looked around and gestured. “Is it possible that this is Earth? Before it was destroyed?”

Ford chewed the inside of her lip for a moment running the explosion and the vortex through her mind. “Yes, yes it possible. Not likely, but possible.”

Marra hugged Ford close. “Doesn’t matter to me where we are. We are alive and we are safe and most of our people are safe and sound. That’s all that matters.”

The tall woman held tight to her mate, nodding slowly as she rested her cheek on top of the smaller woman’s head and closing her eyes. “It certainly is. We are about to begin a new life are you ready for that?”

Marra looked up into eyes the same color blue as the beautiful new sky they would be sleeping under tonight. “With you? Absolutely. Let the adventure begin my love.”

The End

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s