“You have some alien on you,” she says with a little smile which almost comes across as embarrassed.
“I need a shower,” I say. In truth, a shower is the least of what I need.
I need guards. Loyal soldiers. We are still very much in danger. My power is new and therefore limited. An uprising of some kind is almost inevitable, and Lucky is still in danger because of that. I do so wish she was able to be even slightly obedient. She could have remained innocent of my violent capabilities. Now she has seen too much, and may very well see more before the journey is through.
“Building an empire is a bloody task,” I tell her.
“I mean, I guessed as much. They were talking about eating me. You don’t need to apologize for killing them. They came across space, where we were all minding our own business, and threatened the entire ship, which included a pregnant lady. They deserve what they get.”
“Yes,” I agree, somewhat surprised that we are in such easy accord. “They do.”
“We’re not trapped on this ship with them. They’re trapped on it with us, etcetera.”
She gets it. She gets me.
She is actually an excellent assistant. That is the greatest surprise in all of this. This human I did not want to take, the human I have spent most of our association together trying to resist, believing she was innately beneath me, she has become an unexpectedly loyal ally.
Humans have value, simply not in the sense I understood. I thought because they were physically weak, overly fleshy, completely without interstellar capacity for travel themselves that they were no better than the average beast. Their capacity for basic speech seemed like a party trick which just barely made them seem sentient. But Lucky is not stupid. She is also far braver, bolder, and resilient than I had ever given her credit for.
“Sooo…” she says, performing a slight twisting motion where she stands. “I guess you’re gonna punish me for stowing away.”
She’s asking me to whip her. Figuratively and literally. There is a little smile on her face which tells me she would be disappointed if I didn’t.
She will not be disappointed. Once I have secured this room to ensure that we are not going to be ambushed by some foolish soldiers wishing to reclaim their ship and take revenge for the deaths of their erstwhile captain and crew, I will attend to her most thoroughly.
I ensure that the room is fully secured, and then I use the captain’s quarters to take a shower. She joins me, showing absolute trust in me and my power over these hostile aliens. We could not be more vulnerable than we are, wet and naked. They could be doing absolutely anything out there. But I believe they are flying straight home, as I commanded them to do. I believe that, because I believe in the power of my authority, and so does she.
“Now, to deal with you,” I say when I am clean and she is wet and pink and squirming in a way I find most appealing.
“You can’t materialize things off the Essence ship, can you? You're not magical, are you?”
“I cannot. I will have to make do with what I have here.”
The room as it turns out, is full of things you could whip someone with. I assemble a small selection, put her facedown on the bed, and begin with something vaguely resembling a bare tree branch. The EnD might use it for decoration, but it has practical application when applied to the bare flesh of a deserving human.
There was always satisfaction in punishing her before this moment, a righteousness. But this doesn’t feel righteous. It feels intimate, and necessary. It feels like the thread of connection we both hold onto, something I give her because she needs it.
I pause, for a moment, to consider the full rashness and impulsivity of her decision to stowaway on my shuttle — and also my role in allowing it to happen. I have been forever changed by her. When we first met, I would have smelled her out immediately if I had stepped into a new ship. Now her scent clings to me at all times, and I find myself bathed in it to the extent it simply feels like home.
“You should not have come after me. You should have stayed safe with the king and his mate.” I may as well say the words, though they feel remarkably redundant.
She makes no reply, and I am certain that she does not agree. But I do not understand why she felt compelled to throw her life away to be with me at the end of mine.
“You could have died.”
I am addressing her bare rear, but the back of her body can be as expressive as the front if you know how to read it. And I do. There is a little curl of her toes, a tightening of her cheeks. She knew better.