The Prize (a conclusion)

02Nov13

spankingOur story started here.

Quail took Sara firmly under her wing after that. She supposed that she saw in the girl someone like her who was on the wrong path in life. Maybe if she could save Sara then in a small way she could save herself.

“Is it true you were a pirate?” Sara asked her one day.

They were in the small shed on the far side of the commune sorting out tools. There was a big pile of broken hoes and spades, some of which could be repaired and others that would have to be recycled for scrap.

Sara was stooped over letting her eye scan the pile for any that could still be used and pulling them out. She had spoken idly and without looking up as if the question was either trivial or the most important question of her life and she couldn’t bear to be disappointed.

“Who told you that?” Quail shot back at her angrily.

Sara looked up.

“I heard two of the deputies talking. They say you were real hard case and commanded a ship and everything.” Sara’s eyes were brimming with excitement. “One day I am going to get out of this dumb system and be just like you.”

Quail felt strangely sick, like she was falling and would never stop. Was she really ever as stupid as this kid?

“You get out of here clear and free in two years. You are doing great in your studies and not only will you have some qualifications, but you will have a recognised agricultural apprenticeship. It is more than you could ever have hoped for.” Quail was conscious of the desperation in her voice. “What about being a journalist? You sounded keen before. You could be an agricultural correspondent. It must be all they read about on this planet and then in a few years you could back to the city on your own terms.”

“But I could hook up with some of my own gang and steal a ship maybe…” Sara said excitedly.

Quail wanted to shake her. To tell her that she would be dead in a year if she were lucky and if not she would spend her life as a fugitive. But what was the point? Then she saw the short broken end of plank on the floor. It was tapered down one side as if to form a crude paddle.

Quail snatched it up and then grabbed Sara.

“You little brat, have you really learned nothing,” Quail raged, “If someone had caught me sooner and put me in one of these places…”

Quail was speechless now and tumbled Sara face down over her lap. The skirt was easy to hike up and in a moment Sara’s bottom was bare.

“What did I do?” Sara wailed.

Quail answered with a serious blast of the paddle which landed with a sharp crack across Sara’s exposed bottom. Sara’s legs shot out straight and she bucked her head back with a yowl.

“You are going to go to college,” Quail yelled as she spanked the girl again, “You are going to be a journalist,” and again, “You are going to make something of yourself.”

Quail blasted down her arm three more times drawing mewling squeals from Sara as she bucked up down on the older woman’s lap. There was a mess of hard red rectangles on Sara’s white flesh where the paddle had landed and they looked sore too. But Quail was too angry to care, too angry even to get any satisfaction form spanking her young protégé.

“If you ever, I mean ever, think about a life a crime,” Quail slammed the broken plank-paddle down as hard as she could, “If you… ever…”

Quail was speechless and brought the paddle down again and again.

“I am telling you girl, you won’t ever sit down again,” Quail spat. “If I have to spank you every day for the rest of your sentence, if I have to get us a public caning and loss of remission to keep you here until you see sense…”

“Alright, alright,” Sara wailed.

But Quail was far from done. She was set to spank the girl until someone came and dragged her off the girl, right then Quail would welcome a full paddle-strapping and caning just to clear her head.

Sara began to cry as she kicked her legs in futile protest as she felt her blistered bottom melt. But her only thoughts were of a home she never had and the only friend who ever cared.

Deputy Leader Andros stood at the door of the shed watching. He had come to break up what he had assumed was a fight, but had got there just in time to hear everything. He was the new kid on the block and was still finding his way around.

Andros was a tall and in his mid-50s with steel grey hair that was now thinning on top. He had switched careers after 30 years as a businessman in an effort to put something back. He was motivated in part after his own daughter went through a rough patch and did a short spell in correction.

Well that was what he believed for as an entity he was as fully formed as any and been born, grown-up, lived and loved in his world just like any other. Perhaps he was a copy of someone who had been on a similar journey to Quail’s at some time. Or maybe he was a construct from many such experiences or drawn from something deep in the lost pirate-woman’s consciousness. To the Sphere it was all the same. It dealt in myriad realities all complete within its matrix as it shaped and learned about the universe.

Andros himself would have been fascinated. He loved reading about alternative universes and the philosophical nature of reality. He often spoke on the subject over dinner.

“I think, therefore I am,” he might say with a grin.

“I eat therefore I am,” was the teasing reply his friends usually answered him with.

Andros didn’t care.

He had been watching these two and had assumed that there relationship was an unhealthy one. He had seen enough bull-dykes and their gimps to know. But then he had seen Quail’s eyes checking out the men in the yard and something else. He saw hope. Andros considered for a moment and then he quietly slipped away. He got 80 meters away before he could no longer hear the spanking.

But Sara heard it and the message it imparted. The shed rang with thunderclap spanks that went on and on for a good portion of the hour before Quail was spent. By that time the girl was a sobbing wreck and hugged into Quail with all her strength.

The next day Quail was made a trustee and assigned some admin work and a hip- switch.

*

The years passed in real time for Quail until she forgot that there ever was another world. From time to time she would get into some trouble and Andros would haul her off to the woodshed for a workout that left her standing for supper for days to come. But Quail needed and welcomed these moments of clarity and responded to Andros’s guidance much as Sara had.

Sara herself left the commune after only 18 months on account of diploma she had got in journalism. Initially she had gone to work for the justice system writing a newsletter on judicial communes for the profession, but after a year Sara had written to Quail and told she had been offered a job as a crime reporter in the city.

By then there were other Sara’s to help. Hard cases, some of them, but Quail spanked a measure of respect out of most of them and if that failed she went to Andros and arranged for a healthy portion of birch.

“What will you do when you get out of here?” Andros asked her one day.

“Out of here?” Quail mouthed back at him.

“Your sentence must be up soon, less than I year I make it,” Andros said happily. “You have been with us 10 years now, your remission has really piled up, and in a way we will be sorry to lose you.”

“Ten years,” Quail said absently.

A single tear rolled down her cheek.

*

Quail did not so much as wake but more came back to herself.

She was standing on a whirlpool of molten steel that spun beneath her feet as if it would swallow her, but never quite did. The room around and beyond her was made of opaque glass or so it appeared and it was this that lit the room, a hall really, with cool blue light.

Somewhere inside she knew she had full access. But she was calm. She no longer needed it.

“You have your prize now,” said a gentle female voice, “Don’t you?”

The woman was standing about 10 meters from her and directly ahead. Quail couldn’t think how she had not noticed her at once and she smiled. The woman was almost Jane from home-world and the house with the garden so, so many years ago.

“I am not sure what I have,” Quail whispered then she thought of something. “How… how long have I been…?”

She looked around and then back at the woman.

“Here?”

“Time is of no relevance to us,” Jane said, for Quail was sure it was a ‘Jane’ now. “Subjectively from your point of view you have been here 56 days.”

Quail opened her mouth to reply but found she had nothing to say to that.

The Wayward Girl has docked and from here you can get a liner home,” Jane told her.

“Home?” Quail was puzzled, she didn’t even bother to ask who or what The Wayward Girl was.

“The ship you tried to rob,” Jane said in answer to her thoughts.

Quail nodded. She remembered now.

“There is a residential commune-college on home-world where you born,” Jane said casually, “You are enrolled there. They are expecting you in 43 days by your reckoning.”

“Redemption,” Quail whispered, she wondered how she could not think on home-world’s name for so many years, not even in her deepest thoughts.

“Yes Redemption,” Jane said brightly, “It is waiting for you.”

“The planet,” Quail looked at the woman sharply.

“All of it,” Jane replied.

“But…” Quail thought about Cutie and all the others she had harmed.

“Sometimes a line must be drawn,” Jane said in answer again. “The one you call cutie, Katherine Harrison, was redeemed by e-cheque 40 days ago and is now on route to her home. The funds were drawn from selling your ship and similar sources.”

“You can do that?” Quail gasped.

“We can access your… forgive me, primitive systems easily,” Jane smiled. “Similar arrangements have made where possible with other victims of yours.”

“But…” there must be some who could not be so easily helped. “I have to pay.”

“You have,” Jane said, “You judged yourself and served an 11 year prison sentence after helping dozens of others.”

“But it wasn’t real, none of it,” Quail insisted.

“Sara has just been made an editor and Andros has just got word, he has a third grandchild,” Jane tilted her head.

Quail opened her mouth again and then closed it.

“I don’t understand. Who are you?”

Jane shrugged.

“Yes you do,” she said.

Quail drew in a long slow breath. Well now she had no ship and… how could she go to college on Redemption, there she thought it. She was assailed with images of Cloudhaven and the cool green forests of Tannamere.

“Okay I am reformed, but…”

“You are now physically 19 again, your DNA altered by just enough to be consistent with being your own daughter. There is just enough from your ill-gotten gains, the lawful interest actually, to provide for your fees and an apartment when you are ready. The money is held in trust for you.”

Quail frowned. On Redemption she could not be a full adult until she was 25; one of the reasons she had left. Now she welcomed the situation.

“Who…?”

“A guardian has been appointed, he will suit you I think,” Jane explained.

“You know me so well,” Quail said sarcastically.

“Yes we do,” Jane stated it as fact.

“You even chose a new name for yourself,” Jane said brightly.

Quail nodded as new information was realised in her head.

“Tell me about this commune-college place I am going to.” Quail allowed herself some hope.

“It is very like the commune you now know in various uncomfortable ways, but you need that, don’t you?” Jane was actually smirking, “But they also have flyers for the crops and to get around the extensive lands they manage.”

Quail blushed.

“Goodbye Quail,” Jane said and then she was gone.

*

Quail stood at the end of a long blue-grey slate road that wound its way up the broad valley to the distant mountains. The nearer peaks were chiselled from blue stone and still held snow in the crannies sheltered from the sun. Overhead the sky was cobalt and crystal clear, although far across the hills were some great towers of white, like milk in water billowing into the sky. She knew that beyond the hills was another mountain range that led up to Cloudhaven and her heart swelled. Perhaps she would have a holiday there.

On either side of the road were dark-green Goya trees, their twisted grey-brown trunks curving out of the ground like umbrella handles. Here and there were signs of cultivation and there were even some vineyards on the far south-facing slopes.

She was still admiring the view when a tractor-hauler came up behind her and came to a halt. On top in a red bucket seat, which like the rest of the vehicle, was open to the elements, sat a young man of around 30.

He had sandy blonde hair and his white shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows to reveal heavily tanned arms. These thick limbs were dotted with dark blonde hair, but not too much, just enough to set off his manly rustic aspect, Quail thought.

“You heading up to the commune?” he called down.

Quail shifted her small pack on her back and grinned at him.

“Yes I am,” she called up.

“The main house is still six kilometres up the road, as for the rest you are looking at it,” he grinned, “The name’s Tony Nichols, come on I’ll give you a ride.”

“Thanks,” Quail beamed, “Quail, Sara Quail.”

She had always wanted a daughter called Sara and maybe now, one day she would have one.

Quail jumped onto a low platform in back of the tractor and shuffled her tail to get comfy.

“Ready when you are,” she called and the tractor pulled away.

Up in the sky a flyer turned circles and seemed to wave at her so she waved back.

The end.



2 Responses to “The Prize (a conclusion)”

  1. 1 paul1510

    Damian,
    thanks, I love a positive end, must be growing soft in my old age. 😀
    Paul.


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