Ocean, Chapter III

From: Caithness


Ocean, Chapter 3: South Polar Sea (F/m-teen, Non-con, SF, Novella)

The aero transport coursed over the waters' surface. Nathaniel treasured the view from the back of the aero on takeoff; he could see the shock wave trailing behind the vehicle churn the water's surface, overlaying a uniform froth on the waves. As they climbed precipitously, seeming without stop, the gray sky slowly turned to indigo, then just a purple-tinged black, and Nathaniel could have sworn he could see the curvature of the horizon. Sarah was distinctly less interested; she studied her tablet for almost the entire flight, barely glancing up, much less out the window. The three other passengers on board seemed only slightly more involved in the flight, but they appeared to tolerate Nathaniel's eagerness better. Nathaniel figured most of them already knew who he was, so what the hell!

After about ten minutes, Nathaniel felt the seat slowly ease up on the constant push against his still-sore bottom. The easing of gravity felt wonderful, and Nathaniel particularly welcomed the relief of heaviness on his backside. He was not particularly in pain from the prior day's paddling, but the dull ache and occasional tingle he felt in his sit-spot were an unwelcome reminder of, well, what he was hoping to leave behind on this trip.

"We're ballistic!" Nathaniel yelped, without removing his rapped attention from the view port.

"What?" Sarah looked up, slightly irritated at being pulled away from her tablet.

"We must be on a parabolic trajectory now, right?"

"Yeah, the aero's basically skip out of the atmosphere and then dip back in to provide reaction mass for the engines, as needed. I think the trip to the Shakelton will only take one or two more skips," Sarah explained, with a glance to the chronometer on her tablet.

"This is great!"

At the dip back into the atmosphere, gravity returned with a vengeance, and Nathaniel was pushed down deep into his seat, and even turning his head to the viewport was an uncomfortable strain. But the skip off the atmosphere only lasted a few minutes, and then near weightless returned and the vehicle bounded out on its next parabola.

The view as they dropped down onto the Shakelton was as spectacular as Nathaniel had hoped it would be. The transition from ballistic flight to aerodynamic flight and finally to hovering under the power of the vernal thrusters was so smooth and continuous, Nathaniel had the perspective of dropping, and an ever decelerating rate, right onto the deck of the ship.

The Shakelton was a large ship, huge in fact, with decks a haphazard tangle of booms, masts, communication dishes, cable arrays, bristling with spikes whose function Nathaniel could only guess at. The aero settled on a large deck that was clearly designed to accommodate vehicles two to three times its size, judging from the patterns painted on the landing deck. He scanned the observation platform above the deck, one of the highest points on the ship, and saw three figures encased in huge parkas. The faces were barely discernable through the tunnels of the hoods, but he guessed that one of them was Simon.

The co-pilot came back and handed each passenger a mask, and a panel near the exit slid open to reveal parkas, similar to those he had seen the personnel on deck wearing. The mask was required due to the high concentrations of ammonia, carbon dioxide, and other traces of more toxic gases in the atmosphere. It was possible to breathe, and survive, the atmosphere of Ocean, but it was not pleasant. It would probably take tens of minutes to an hour for the concentration of toxics to build up to dangerous levels, so breathing was certainly an option besides just holding your breath. But the first breath you took usually resulted in an uncontrollable fit of coughing that did not stop until you were back to breathing conditioned atmosphere. The masks did an adequate job filtering out most of the undesirable trace gases, and could keep someone alive for days if necessary, but the air still had an ammonia taste. Not that anyone would need to stay alive for days, for at these latitudes, an unprotected individual would die of exposure in minutes, hence, the issuing of parkas.

They stood up to shuffle out of the aero, Nathaniel, who was nearest the exit, picked a parka more or less at random, without paying attention to size. He would only need it for the 20-meter dash to the reception terminal.

"Sorry, folks, no skybridge. This isn't De Gaulle," the Captain announced from the cockpit. Nathaniel appreciated the joke: De Gaulle was the most common name for spaceports, airports, and every other type of transportation terminus in human-occupied space. Probably could be attributed to the fact that most ports consisted of networks of transparent tubes, and recalled the style of the original Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris back on Earth. Nathaniel smiled, smug in the thought that he was probably the only person on Ocean to have seen the original, in person.

The main door was opened and a wall of air as sharp and as cold as ice slammed through the transport. Even with the mask, Nathaniel had difficulty taking in a breath. Passengers behind him were pushing him forward, and he stumbled down the steps, still uneasy in his balance after the roller coaster ride of the skip-transport. Once on deck, he regretted not taking greater care in selecting a better fitting parka. Cold air was forcing its way in through his collar and from around his knees, where the parka ended. He pulled the hood over his head and focused onto the open hatch ahead. Walking as fast as the oversized parka would permit, he made is way across deck without looking back. He did not notice any pitch or roll of the deck. Probably not surprising for a ship of this size, he concluded.

Once past the first set of doors, the warm ship-air washed over him, and he turned around, expecting to see the other passengers on his heals. Instead, he could see Sarah, with hood down, standing halfway between the transport and the door, doing a slow turn round to take in the vista from the deck.

"She's made of tougher stuff than I am," Nathaniel said under his breath.

"Hey! Nathaniel!"

Nathaniel turned to see Simon running down the corridor toward him, with his own parka unzipped and billowing out behind him like a cape.

"Simon!" Nathaniel answered, and they grasp hands and pumped each other's arms furiously.

Simon was bubbling over to tell and show Nathaniel everything about the ship, simultaneously. When Sarah finally came in, Nathaniel made the introductions.

"Welcome to the Shakelton," Simon beamed.

"Glad to be here," Sarah said, expressing a genuine curiosity about the environs of the ship.

"Sarah is my Supervisor--kind of like the mentor program we had back at Starfarer's," Nathaniel explained.

"Yeah, I've heard all about Super's," Simon said while nodding. "Sounds like a good idea. Hope she's keeping you out of trouble."

Nathaniel blushed, but was sure his ice-wind burned cheeks hid it. "Well, she's trying," he said, and swallowed hard.

"Thanks for arranging to put us up for a few days," Sarah said. "I've always wanted to make it out to one of these ships, but in my work, never had the excuse."

"Sarah does quantum gravitonics," Nathaniel explained.

"Oh! A 'dark artisan.'" Simon appeared authentically impressed with Sarah's credentials. Both he and Nathaniel would have to invest years of advanced QG study if they wanted too keep a seat on a survey vessel Outbound. QG was the principle behind the Engines, and everyone onboard an Outbound vessel had to be certified on all aspects of Engine theory and operation.

"Well, it is no problem putting you up," Simon said, now completely focused on Sarah and ignoring Nathaniel. Typical, Nathaniel thought. "We had a junior crewman who had to return back to the habs on a health emergency--nothing contagious--so his cabin is available, which conveniently boarders on our only guest cabin. So, you two can have them as adjoining rooms."

"Sounds fine," Sarah said.

"I was afraid Nat would have to share my cabin, and I know what that entails," Simon said with a roll of his eyes, but Sarah refused to bite and did not inquire for details.

Nathaniel was deeply relieved he would have his own room; he was not looking forward to explaining to Simon how he got his butt imprinted with a "plus/minus" sign.

Simon took them to their cabins, prattling on about endless of details of ship's operation as he led them down twisting corridors. The rooms were small, barely more than a closet, but Nathaniel did not imagine he would be spending much time here anyway. Simon then led them to the cafeteria, where they ate a small lunch. Neither Nathaniel nor Sarah's appetite had fully returned from their flight down, and now that they were below deck, a faint pitching motion was just barely detectible. Nathaniel pointed it out, and Simon explained.

"Yeah, the inertia dampers do a pretty good job, but nothing is perfect. For some surface operations, such as launching or deploying a bathyscaph, the dampers are de-tuned, and then you can really feel it."

After lunch, Sarah decided to take a self-guided tour through the tanks of live specimens that filled almost the entire aft cargo hold. With tablet in hand to explain what she was seeing, Sarah said she planned to wander for a few hours through the rows of transparent tanks, seeing close up some of the most exotic and rare inhabitants of her world. She appeared happy to spend some time by herself and was sure that Nathaniel and Simon were glad to have her gone so they could catch up on each other's experiences in the last month.

Simon did indeed have plans for Nathaniel. As he led them deep into the bowels of the ship, Simon started asking about life in the habs, school, Sarah...

"She's hot! A real cutie! She seems nice enough...and doing grad study in QG! I hope you are squeezing her for help on your tutorials."

"Well, I haven't had much time to do any QG. I have to work pretty hard to catch up on Ocean Ecology. Pretty complex stuff, and they are assuming a lot of background knowledge that the other kids have had drilled into them since primary school."

"Yeah, tell me about it. I have to have my tablet running in translation mode full-time just to follow what the 'graphers are talking about." Simon was leading Nathaniel down a tight, spiral staircase.

"There is an elevator, you know, but it doesn't give you a feel for where we are going," Simon explained.

"Or how big this thing really is," Nathaniel added.

"Yeah, well, does she let you do your own thing? Some of the 'graphers speak with not the fondest of memories about their days under their Super."

How much to I tell him, Nathaniel wondered. I am really going to humiliate myself and tell him everything?

"Well, she can be pretty strict about schedules, getting modules done on time, getting to bed on time, and so on."

"Bed on time? Bedtime? You? Come on!" Simon laughed as he gasped to catch is breath. When did this stairway end, Nathaniel thought. As long as we take the elevator back up...

"I remember in School, you were the master at pulling off all-nighters! Remember you wrote that entire term paper on pre-QG extrasolar colonization in one night, and then did a nonlinear differential equations exam the next afternoon? You didn't sleep for almost 48 hours!"

"Yeah, I remember. I remember passing out as I walked out of the exam, too."

"Oh yeah! Goddamn, that was funny!"

"Well, not anymore. I'm a changed man." Being put over someone's knee and having your backside spanked can do that too you, Nathaniel added silently.

"Ah, we're here," Simon's eyebrows twitched with excitement. He released a hatch that gave an audible sigh as the seal cracked. Past the opening, Nathaniel saw...

"Goddamn! Sweet!" Nathaniel gazed upon the supercavitating submarines hanging in the hanger bay with awe. The long, needle-like cones looked too slender to have room for a pilot or crew.

"So, where do you sit?" Nathaniel asked.

"You don't. You lie down. With the g-loads, you need to." Simon was beaming with pride.

"G-loads? For a submarine? Goddamn!" Nathaniel pulled a face.

"Well, remember, you aren't really traveling through water--not directly. You are sitting inside a bubble of vapor left behind when the spike rips the water open."

"Yeah, cavitation, I know. Remember I did Fluids for my tech elective last year."

"Oh yeah, that's right. You know all this, then. So, wanna go for a ride?" Simon touched the access panel on the nearest sub with his thumb, and with an even softer sigh than the hatch to the bay, the lower portion of the sub dropped open. Nathaniel had not even seen the seam before the section revealed itself to be articulated.

"A ride?" Nathaniel swallowed.

"Yeah, this sub is a trainer--two seats. Hop in!" Simon motioned to the hammock-shaped foam pocket that hung from the open sub.

"Sure, I'll sit in the seat, but..."

"No, no! We're going for a ride, right?" Simon was already sliding into the second pocket that was further back along the sub.

"Like this?" Nathaniel pointed to his ostensibly inadequate clothes--the same ones he put on when he woke up back in the habs that morning.

"Sure! Hypo suits and breathing equipment are useless. Only thing that can go wrong is the cavity collapses or we hit something--either way, were dead regardless." Simon loved this, but when Nathaniel started backing away from the sub, he realized he went too far.

"Just kidding! Come on--these things are perfectly safe and the best ride on Ocean." Simon was strapping himself in and began to power up the controls. Nathaniel awkwardly climbed into the foam envelope hanging just a meter in front of Simon's position.

"You in?" Simon asked impatiently.

"Yeah. So, you can just take this thing out, underwater, anytime you like?" Nathaniel felt like he might become queasy, but things were moving to fast for him to have time to get sick, or so he hoped.

"No, no. I had to book it days ago, when I knew you were coming. We are allowed, encouraged, in fact, to take these things out when we are on station, in order to keep our pilot skills sharp."

Nathaniel thought back to a seemingly eternal 25 hours earlier, when another friend pushed him to go along on an unauthorized undertaking, with consequences... At least Rebecca was cute, he counseled himself, what power has Simon got over me?

"And I'm allowed to come along?" Nathaniel tried not to sound too parochial.

"Sure, as long as you are basic-instrumentation certified, which you have been since you were twelve, right?" Simon's fingers danced on the wrist-level controls, and Nathaniel began to feel himself, strapped into a cocoon of form-molding foam, being slowly pulled up and into the jet-black sliver of the sub.

"Well, I'm certified, but you're sure we're, ah, I'm not going to get in trouble for this?"

"Come on Nat, when has that stopped you?" Simon's voice was coming from the foam itself now that they were retracted into the sub and the lower clamshell was closing in on them.

Nathaniel could not bear to tell Simon the reason he was beginning to take rules more seriously. Instead, he let blackness envelop him as the sub sealed light-tight around them. Then Simon powered up the projection, and a panorama of the sub hanger leapt into clarity around him.

Nathaniel looked down to see a long, narrow airlock door--from its outline, obviously designed to admit the sub--split in two below them. The entire sub dropped precipitously into the hatch, and before it could impact the lower door it also opened, admitting a geyser of ocean water upward. Nathaniel glanced anxiously above, fearing that they had just breached the double hull of the ship, but was relieved and awed to see the upper door slamming shut just as the water level reached it.

The view around him burst into microbubbles as they hit the water. In the next instant, Simon must have engaged the thrusters, for Nathaniel was slammed back into his seat. The view turned to a translucent froth for a moment, then slowly came back into focus, although a shimmer to the image remained. They were looking through the surface of the cavitation bubble that surrounded the sub. The hulk of the ship's hull loomed above them, and unfathomable ocean spread out below. His only sense of speed and acceleration (beside the force pushing him back into the form-fitting foam seat, was the surface of the ships hull, whipping past them at an ever-increasing rate. Then, in an instant, they were past the bow of the ship, and he had to crane his neck to see it receded into the murky distance.

Nathaniel felt the nose of the sub tip down, and they headed into deep water. The only sense they had reached cruise speed was when the pressure of the seat back against him eased; now that they were beyond site of the Shakelton, Nathaniel had lost all visual reference.

"We are only in about 400 m of water here, but we are heading to deeper water tonight for an expedition with the bathyscaph tomorrow, so I wanted to take you out today. These things are only rated for 1 km."

"Uh-huh," Nathaniel said, relieved they were coming nowhere near the safety rating of the sub.

"Of course, we can only cavitate down to a hundred meters or so, so I'm taking us into even shallower water so we can have some fun. There's not much we can do in deep water. We're in luck; there is a shallow atoll only a few minutes ride from here."

The eerie silence was disconcerting to Nathaniel. He was certain that the active noise dampers were pumping out a lot of power to eradicate the noise of the metafuel engine and the sound of the nose of the sub, ripping the water into vapor as they plowed through at--he looked at the velocimeter display--500 km/hour. The water looked absolutely uniform in all directions.

"Below!" Simon spat in a short breath. Clearly he was concentrating on the controls, although Nathaniel doubted he was directly piloting the vehicle. "Hold on!"

As Nathaniel parted his knees to look below, he saw a sandy bottom coming rapidly up to meet them. As it looked like they would hit, he reflexively pulled up his knees, but before he could complete the motion, he was slammed into the left side of the sub as they banked hard, to the right. The level of the bottom had passed over the sub, but they had diverted into a small canyon, and were now racing down a ravine, alternately passing within meters of the bottom and sides. Straining to see what was approaching, it looked to Nathaniel that they were heading to a dead end.

"Simon!" Nathaniel called out.

"Your harness on tight?" Simon called back.

Before he could answer, he felt the shoulder straps yank down hard as the seat fell away from him.

"Ow!" He felt the wind knocked out of his lungs. When he looked forward again, he could see lights from the sub splayed out on the walls of a cave, though which they were plunging at impossible speed. Several times, rocky protuberances from the walls appeared to reach out and scrape across the surface of the sub, but every time a jerk in the opposite direction spared them, with seemingly millimeters to spare.

"Ohhh..." Nathaniel let out a long, continuous moan, even as he exhausted his lungs of air.

"It's OK. We're headed into the atoll. We just have to get there via a series of caves." Simon's voice sounded reassuring, but he clipped his phrases short as the sub pulled left, away from particular outcropping of rock, then down to avoid an overhang.

"Are you directly controlling this thing?" Nathaniel asked incredulously.

"Yeah, but the override is primed to takeover. I could intentionally aim for the wall and we still wouldn't hit!" Simon said quickly.

Nathaniel could not believe his friend would try such a feat with so expensive a piece of equipment.

"They let you do this?" Nathaniel's voice sounded weak and high-pitched.

"Well, keeps my skills--Oph!" Simon's lungs were expelled as he slammed forward into his harness. Nathaniel, sitting in front of him, felt as though his eyes might pop out, the stop was so sudden. He reopened his eyes to see the bubble had collapsed around them. They floated dead in the water.

"Ouch!" Simon said as he rubbed his shoulder. "Guess we couldn't negotiate this part at speed, so the AI's safety override kicked in and stopped us." With a few taps to the controller on the end of his arms rest, Simon engaged the low speed magneto pumps, and they began crawling along the cave again.

"Ok with me!" Nathaniel said, sounding reassured for the first time. "Gives me a chance to see what is down here." The walls of the cave were covered with what appeared to be single species of a large version of what would be sea anemone back on Earth.

"Sure, we can take our time--only these caves aren't terribly interesting, to be frank. On Ocean, the more complex life and ecologies are found in deeper water, almost opposite of Earth. You don't see the diversity of a coral reef here, as you would in the shallows on Earth."

"No coral? How did you get an atoll then?" Nathaniel asked.

"It's not a coral atoll, purely volcanic. The caldera has sunk back to below sea level, only the crater rim is above water now, and even it is eroding at such a rate that nothing will be above sea level in a few decades. There is no permanent dry land here, you know--that's why it's called 'Ocean.'"

"Yeah, I've heard that," Nathaniel replied with mock enthusiasm. Simon could always find a way to aggravate him.

"Ah! We've got a go-ahead to supercavitate for the rest of the way in...Hold on!"

Before Nathaniel could answer, he was slammed back into the foam and the walls of the cave became a blur again. After what seemed like only a few more seconds, the walls of the cave fell away, and they emerged from a hole in the sand bottom. Ahead, Nathaniel could see crimpled silver curtain approaching at high speed. It took him a moment to realize that he was looking at the surface from underneath, and they were headed upward toward it. Then through it...

"Whoa!" Simon let out a roar as they burst through the surface, arching high into the air, and then plunging back in, like a dolphin.

"Wow!" Nathaniel was still blinking his eyes after they came to rest in the water. The burst of sunlight was intense as they cleared the surface. Sunlight...

"Oh, my, it is a nice day. A nice day on Ocean. I didn't think they got these."

"Well, it's summer in the southern hemisphere, and the cloud cover does occasionally part and the sun can burn off the fog." Simon was still studying his controls. Apparently, he had not intended to pop the sub out of the water upon emerging into the atoll.

"Yeah, I'm going to have a time explaining why the sortie log states 'Minimum depth: -3.8 m'" Simon reported.

"Negative 4 m of depth? You mean we jumped almost 4 m into the air?" Nathaniel was sitting up from his foam couch, looking around at the surrounding atoll as they bobbed in the waves.

"Yeah. Well, let's see if we can make 5 m!"

Simon spent the next three quarters of an hour racing the supersub around the inside of the atoll and exploring various other caves and passages, checking for another route out. He was disappointed to find the sub's preprogram internal maps were highly accurate. The only way out was back the way the came in.

"You know," Simon told Nathaniel, as they headed back down the cave system, clearly disappointed he did not find a hidden passageway, "there really isn't that much exploring left to do on Ocean. Except for the deep trenches--which is where we're headed tomorrow--they've got this place mapped down to nearly centimeter resolution."

"Well, of course," Nathaniel said. "It's a colony world...they have to thoroughly map them before they settle here."

The sub was slowly crawling through the same narrow passage in which the safety override had kicked in on their way in.

"Yeah, I know." Simon let a long pause pass. "We got to get Out. Outbound. Where the action is."

Nathaniel's silence was recognition of his agreement. He let the moment pass, then said, "Yeah, well, you gotta get Out, and I gotta get back. I'm not going to get out of the 10th grade, much less a seat Outbound, if my Supervisor catches me sneaking out."

"You got it." Simon engaged the main thrusters, and did not disengage them again until, seventeen minutes later, they pulled up beneath the Shakelton's hull.

As they passed beneath the airlock external doors, Simon handed off control to the ship's AI, and they were quickly propelled up into the embrace of the opening outer door with perfect timing. The second set of doors opened and they saw water splash out onto the floor of the sub bay as a robotic coupler took hold of the sub.

The clamshell lower surface of the sub dropped open, and Nathaniel quickly undid his harness and rolled out.

"Whew! I'm wet with sweat!" Nathaniel was pulling his sticky clothes away from his body.

"Yeah, these things have adequate climate control, but they can't compensate for the adrenaline rush!" Simon was powering down the sub. "Let's get cleaned up and head for dinner!"

As promised, they took the elevator back to the deck that the crew quarters were located on. As they approached the guest cabins that Nathaniel and Sarah were staying in, Nathaniel said, "Actually, I think I'm going to crash for a few hours. We got a really early start this morning and not much sleep last night."

Simon replied, "No problem. Cafeteria is open until 22h. You can snooze now and then I'll introduce you to nightlife on the Shack!" Simon feigned a mysterious look, "'Shack-after-Dark' we call it."

Simon slipped into the small workstation table in Nathaniel's room and began to explore the drawers--"Why don't I have one of these in my cabin?"--while Nathaniel slipped into the small bathroom to jump in the shower. He stripped down and showered in under a minute. He really wanted to get into bed fast, figuring that if Sarah came back and found him asleep, he figured she would not ask any questions about where he had been all afternoon. If she found out he went for an un-authorized ride on a sub, it could only mean, well, he did not want to think about that.

As he toweled off, he gave a quick glance over his shoulder to the mirror, and was relieved to see that the pink lines across is butt had almost completely faded from the day before. He had his pajama bottoms half on when he remembered, just as a precaution, to slip them off and pull his underwear back on, and then pulled the pajama bottoms back on over the underwear. He gave himself an experimental tap on the backside and thought out loud, "Well, a little extra protection couldn't hurt, just in case."

When he stepped back into his cabin, while pulling on a clean t-shirt, Simon was at the door. "Look, mate, just buzz me when you're up." As Simon turned to go, he stopped abruptly and then stepped back into the cabin. Nathaniel's heart sank as he saw Sarah pushing him back into the cabin with a long index finger pointed at his chest.

"You," she addressed Simon sternly, "Sit down." Simon complied without a word, and slumped deep into the chair at the workstation with raised eyebrows.

"And you," she turned to Nathaniel for the first time, as he was pulling back the covers to his bed. "Damn," he was thinking, "just a few more minutes and..."

"Do you have any idea what has been going though my mind, ever since I could not find you, and asked the ship's AI where you were? Do you know what it said?" Sarah was not waiting for answers to the questions she was firing at Nathaniel.

"It said you were not on board the Shakelton. I spent ten minutes trying to convince anyone I could find that we needed to turn around and go back, looking for you. They kept trying to tell me we weren't underway, and that Simon here," she punctuated with a stab of the finger in Simon's direction, "had taken out a two-seat submarine. Wasn't that the more likely explanation? No, I replied, because Nathaniel would not have dared to take off on some joyride without asking my permission first!"

"Well, we did have permission," Nathaniel implored to Sarah, and then turned to Simon, "Didn't we?"

"Keep me out of this, man," Simon begged off mockingly, and turned to his tablet.

"You did not have my permission, and you are my responsibility, no matter where we are." Sarah was barely controlling her anger. Nathaniel began cursing himself for not at least trying to ask Sarah before he went on the sub, but Simon didn't give him any time. They were gone before he knew what they were doing. But he knew that would hardly matter to Sarah.

"Nathaniel, you know what happens when you violate safety precautions, don't you?" Sarah said in that schoolteacher tone that Nathaniel had come to dread. His stomach turned over, sickeningly. He could not believe he was going to be humiliated like this in front of his friend.

"Yeah, I guess," Nathaniel stammered.

"You guess what?"

"Well, I guess I get punished."

Sarah sat down on the other end of bed and beaconed Nathaniel to her side with an index finger.

"And how do you get punished?"

"Sarah, please, can't we deal with this some other way?"

Sarah's eyes narrowed, "Kid, you know the drill by now. Get over my knees."

Nathaniel held his ground while Simon's attention was slowly drawn from his tablet to the exchange between them. Nathaniel could see that he was slowly piecing together what was going to happen.

"Now," Sarah said so slowly and grimly and with such finality that Nathaniel felt himself being propelled toward her side, as if by an invisible force. When he reached her thighs, he stopped, with his arms as his side. Sarah took him by the hips, and began pulling him across her lap. When he could no longer maintain his balance, Nathaniel began to fall and put out his arms to arrest himself, but Sarah guided his descend into the proper position over her lap. She lifted his thighs and located them along the edge of the bed.

Simon, who just a moment earlier appeared as though he was trying to tune out the entire episode, began to study the proceedings with rapt attention. "Ah, Nat, aren't you a little old to still be getting spanked?"

Nathaniel looked back at Sarah, over his left shoulder, hoping in vain she would concede the merit of Simon's point.

"Simon, you know, you are exactly correct," Sarah addressed him formally, her left hand resting on Nathaniel's shoulders. "Nathaniel is too old to be treated like a child. But if he continues to behave like a child, putting himself in foolishly reckless situations, then he will continue to be punished like one."

"Well, I'm not the best sub driver, but I don't know about 'foolishly reckless...'" Simon bit off his sentence as Sarah gave him a cold stare. She then slowly returned her attention to Nathaniel.

"Sarah, please, I guess I had this coming, but please not in front of Simon," Nathaniel pleaded.

"Why not?" Simon asked innocently, sitting up in a chair opposite the bed and folding his hands in his lap. God, Nathaniel thought, he is loving this.

"I think he is entitled to see how much trouble you two got yourself into." Sarah spoke with such finality, Nathaniel resigned himself to his fate, and instead focused on trying to keep is composure, not to start sniveling in front of his friend. He burrowed his head into the covers, and awaited the inevitable. He felt her grip tighten, her muscles tense...



The first two blows landed on that familiar spot of Nathaniel's right cheek. Then he was pushed a few centimeters out across her lap...

Simon's eyes widened. He gazed in awe as Sarah's hand bounced off Nathaniel's upturned bottom. He felt a pang of guilt for not pitying his friend, but he was enthralled by the sight of Sarah's well-developed, muscular arm slicing down so fast, the sound so sharp as she hit...



Nathaniel felt her start to shift him back in place to line up on his right side again, when he suddenly felt her release the lock-tight grip.


"Um, yeah," he said muffled through covers.

"Is that underwear under your pajamas?"

Nathaniel felt Sarah's finger trace out the line of the leg-band of his underwear, which was probably painfully obvious through the shear fabric of his pajamas pulled tight across his bottom.

"Oh, shit," Nathaniel thought, but replied with, "Ah, well, I guess."

"Didn't I tell you not to wear underwear with your pajamas?"

Nathaniel really did not know what to say; he knew he had been caught.

"Well, how about it, Nat?" Simon asked. He was obviously anxious for the action to start again.

"Quiet!" Sarah spat in Simon's direction without looking. "Nathaniel, you knew this was coming, didn't you? You knew when you went with Simon, you were going to get in trouble, get a spanking, and so you put underwear on under your pajamas, didn't you?"

"She's got you there, old man!" Simon loved providing the running commentary. Sarah's eyes burned at Simon: "Out!"

"Eh?" Simon tried to act contrite.

"Get out! Now!"

"But you said I could stay." Simon sounded genuinely disappointed.

She held him with a cold stare, and he decided to stand up and start moving to the door, but obviously taking as much time as he could.

"Nathaniel, do you recall how you were supposed to get you next spanking?" Sarah inquired in the schoolteacher voice.

"Your next spanking? How many times have you been through this, Nat?" Simon asked, incredulous.

"Out!" she barked at Simon, then returned her attention back to Nathaniel, who had raised his head out of the bed coverings.

"Yes," Nathaniel said weakly.

"Well, what was it?"

"I was supposed to get spanked...bare."

"Now this, I have to see!" Simon turned and slumped back into his chair. Sarah again snapped her attention his way.

"Simon, you are leaving this room, right now. If I am not mistaken, you are still under sixteen standard years, and, Oceanographer or not, are still eligible to end up in the same position as your friend here," Sarah said, with a gesture to the boy splayed out across her lap. "Now, you are probably wondering whether I have the authority or the physical strength to do this to you, and unless you want to find out the answers the hard way, I suggest you leave...now."

"I'm going, I'm going..." Simon said with his hands up in surrender above his head.

"Now, Nathaniel, I was going to give you one last exemption from getting spanked on your bare bottom, but since you played this little game with your underwear..." And with that, Sarah grasped the waste band of his pajamas and pulled them down, stopping mid-thigh.

Simon glanced back, wide-eyed over his shoulder has he passed through the doorway, anxious to absorb every last detail he could as he closed the door. His last image was Nathaniel's white underwear-clad butt sticking up from Sarah's lap, framed by the hem of his t-shirt on top and the bunched-up material of his pulled-down pajama bottoms below. Nathaniel himself was propped up on his elbows, craning his head around to make sure Simon was really gone. With that image burned in his retina, Simon pulled the door shut behind him. He hovered outside for a moment, tempted to lean his ear to the door, but figured it would be difficult to explain if someone walked past in the corridor. So, Simon turned an traced a path back to his own cabin.

Meanwhile, Sarah's frustration was mounting. "These underpants are three times as thick as your pajamas! Did you really think I wasn't going to notice something like this? Take these down."

Confession time, Nathaniel thought about owning up: "It was worth a try," but instead just whimpered out, "I'm sorry." But he did not comply with her request to take his underpants down.

"Well, now you are going to pay the price." She took the waistband of his underwear in both hands, and began to tug down. Nathaniel pressed his hips into her thighs, making the task of getting his underwear down impossible, buying him some time.

"Sarah, you're right and I'm sorry. It was stupid. Please, let me just take them off myself and put my PJ's back on, OK?"

"Too late! Lift up your hips!" Sarah was struggling with him now.

"Sarah, no, please!"

But Sarah was having none of his protests. She released the waistband of his underwear, and cupped his hipbones in each hand, and heaved his entire mid-section about five centimeters off her lap. Nathaniel gasped at the display of raw power. Then, pulling him toward her belly, she pinned his hip just above her navel. That freed her right hand to return to the waistband of his underwear, and in a single sharp yank, pulled it down to join his pajamas at mid-thigh. Nathaniel turned his head back to see the globes of his bare bottom levitating just centimeters below Sarah's breasts. Nathaniel realized what she was doing, and shot both his hands back to retrieve his underwear, but it was too late. They were beyond his reach now, and she plopped him back down on her lap.

"Nathaniel, you're just making it worse on yourself!" she admonished.

His hands were desperately groping to cover his backside, but she seized both of them with her left hand and pinned them against the small of his back.

"Now, we can get back to business..."


"The only 'butt' I want to hear now is this one!" And in a streak, her right hand went up high in the air and came down hard and fast on his right cheek.


"Oooh!" Nathaniel gasp. His backside stung so bad he could not believe it came from a single blow. What a difference getting it bare makes! And that was only one smack bare so far, he thought, in addition to the earlier four.

"That's one," Sarah said.

"No! Five!" Nathaniel hollered into the mattress.

"No, we are starting over. You want me to go on, or we continue with 'one'?"

Nathaniel kept quite, until the next "SMACK" landed on his right cheek again. He could feel the individual outline of Sarah's fingers imprinted on his bottom. The burn was already spreading into the crevice between cheeks, down, and across that tender spot behind his sack.



His buttocks were already burning worse than after finishing the full fifteen of his prior hand spanking. The sensation of his bottom being used as a pincushion for hundreds of red-hot needles was inescapable. He tried to turn his attention to something else. His eyes clenched shut; he started to think about his member, free from underwear and pajamas, lost in the furrows and folds in the lap of Sarah's jumpsuit. He could feel his sack compressed against her thigh, and a wave of nausea swept over him as he felt his testicles being squeezed.


Nathaniel released a whimper: "Hmmmmp..."

He squirmed forward to get his sack into the open space between her slightly spread thighs. If anything, moving forward raised his bottom higher up in the air, making it an even more vulnerable target for...


...but at least his testicles were no longer being pinched. The burn was spreading up his back now, up to where Sarah had his hands pinned, and down his thighs to where his underpants and pajama bottoms were bunched up. He could even feel burn moving further inside, up into....


...his mind kept returning to his member, still riding in the rough folds of the canvas of her jump suit. The rubbing motion reminded him of the feeling of coarse bedding when he would wake up, in the middle of the night, his member engorged and swollen....


...he had lost count now, but knew he was less than half way done. How could he be thinking about the sensation of his wet dreams now, like this? But, try as he might, he could not quell the butterflies-in-the-tummy sensation as his member slid back and forth across Sarah's lap, rubbing with each squirm and buck of his hips, thrust forward with each...


...his backside was now a continuous noise of pain. He no longer even felt the individual blows, only the flow of the burn further away from the impact point. He was afraid that his member was being rubbed raw, like it was when he was thirteen and he discovered how to...


...how could he keep thinking about getting an erection? The thought of Sarah's steady gaze fixated on his backside did give him that chill-up-the-spine that occurs whenever anyone stares at you too long. Like when she came into the bathroom when he was preparing for a shower. She had commented on his...


"Hmmm..." was all he could blubber out, not that the individual spanks hurt anymore, but rather to denote that the uninterrupted pain would continue as long as she kept on spanking him. Couldn't be too many more, now, could it?


...His member seemed to be burrowed into a particular wrinkle in the fabric of her jumpsuit, and it wasn't coming out. Again, his thoughts returned to an erection. What if he became stiff, here, now? He returned to the last thing he had seen before he buried his head in the sheets: his bottom, pulled up against her abdomen, just below her breasts. If he had bucked his hips then, as he was now, his bottom would have brushed against...


...If he did get an erection, it would be just about the only thing that could possibly be more embarrassing that what he was already enduring, unless she decided to administer his spanking on deck, in front of the entire crew, his crimson ass on view for everyone to...


...OK. Nathaniel was now definitely concerned that he was developing an erection. He just hoped that Sarah would spare him the tiniest modicum of decorum and allow him to pull his underwear and pajamas back up when...


...Oh, god, Nathaniel's mind screamed, how much more? He wanted to reach around and grab his member, to relieve himself, and let all the burning that was building up inside out...


For a moment, Nathaniel though he might loose control, and leave more than just tears and snot behind on the blanket. But, he was pulled back from the precipice when Sarah released her grip on his hands. They shot down to take his underwear up, but he still could not reach. He pulled his knees in, shamefully raising his flaming bottom even higher into the air. His stiff member was pulled out of the folds of Sarah's jumpsuit as well. He was terrified she would see his arousal. He grabbed and tugged savagely at the elastic waistband of his pajamas with this left hand, underwear with his right. Both rode up unevenly, but his sole concern was covering his bottom and his member.

"Get up," she said gently, gently lifting him by the armpits.

"And don't worry about modesty. I've seen plenty of little boys naked before, I know what all the parts look like."

"Maybe not like this, you haven't," Nathaniel thought, feeling his swollen member through this pajamas and underwear as he struggled to straighten them out. But Nathaniel did not say anything, instead launching himself tummy-down onto the bed. It dawned on him that the burn in his buttocks was not abating. He buried his brow into his elbow and sobbed.

Sarah addressed him from over his bed. "You are staying in bed tonight, and tomorrow morning we will discuss what, if anything, you are going to be allowed to do for the rest of your stay here. You have anything to say?"

Nathaniel did not. He just shook his head.

"Well, good night." And with that, Sarah went out through the door Simon had exited moments ago...an eternity ago.

When he was sure she wasn't coming back, he could not bear the sensation of fabric being pulled against this bottom, and for the second time in five minutes, his pajamas and underwear were pulled down, nearly to his knees, but this time by his own hand. As he lay still on his belly, he could feel the heat radiate out from his butt, like it was incandescent. With his right hand, he reach underneath and verified that his member was still firm. "Oh, god, what is this?" he asked. He knew he had fanaticized about Sarah since the first night he spent with her in the hab. He would not be surprised if, some night, he woke up having a mischievous dream about her inspecting him, touching him, caressing him, positioning him over her lap...maybe. But the actual spanking? Well, that hurt! Like hell! How could that turn him on? But it did. He reached back and caressed his smoldering backside, but in his mind's eye, it was Sarah's hand--not his own--that was caressing and soothing, working the heat away. Then, he just held himself for a few moments, then pulled his hand away, feeling ridiculous. The strangeness of all these feelings careened round his mind as he drifted to sleep.

End of Chapter III


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