tagSci-Fi & FantasyPenny's Predicament Ch. 01-03

Penny's Predicament Ch. 01-03

byEquilibria©

Chapter 1:

Penny moved through the crowds of the night-cloaked open market, eyes ever shifting as she scanned her surroundings, paying far more attention to the shadows than to the actual faces of those that crowded around her. Ignoring the stares that followed after her as her booted feet moved her through the narrow byways, her nose twitched at the mingled scents that assailed her. . Stares were something she'd grown used to over the last few years.

As she moved, she kept one hand resting almost casually on the butt of the pistol slung in plain sight on her left hip, riding close to the slender dagger. The calls of merchants trying to attract the nighttime patrons to their stalls drifted on the spice-scented air, in a vast panoply of tongues and accents, not a few of which were familiar to the girl.

It happened as she turned down a poorly lit alley between two stalls. Keen as her senses were, she hadn't picked up on the fact that she was being followed, not until an arm whipped around before her and she felt the sharp, cold point of a blade just under her chin.

"What do we have here?" a low voice murmured in her ear. Her body tensed, a soft hiss passing her lips, but it only earned her a chuckle, and a slight pressure on the point of the knife.

"Now, kitten, nothing hasty. Hands behind your back, if you please. We wouldn't want any accidents, would we."

A deep breath was taken, as Penny tried to will her body to untense,, and her hands moved slowly, fingers lacing together at the small of her back, and a moment later, soft clicks marked the sudden presence of metal bands circling her wrists.

"There's a love," murmured the voice, as the knife was turned, the point replaced by the flat of the blade sliding down her throat in something almost like a caress. A lightening at her belt informed her that her captor's free hand had just relieved her of pistol and dagger, and then she felt that same hand running slowly up her belly as the man moved in close behind her.

"Pardon the familiarity, kitten," the voice breathed softly. "But something tells me you've got a few more little treats up your sleeves... not to mention in a few other more... interesting spots."

He took his time about it, finding the blades that, indeed, were strapped to her forearms under the white sleeves of her linen shirt, another riding in each of her knee-high boots, strapped to her thighs, and even the tiny energy weapon concealed in the enhanced cleavage her tightly-laced corset gave her. It was by no means a hasty search, and the man behind her seemed to be enjoying himself just a little too much as his hand roamed her body, the blade still almost absently caressing her throat, face, and the skin exposed by the scooped neckline of her shirt and black leather corset.

He was tall, and the body she was pressed back against felt hard as stone, lean muscle marking what she could see of her captor's arms. Ears laid back against her head, Penny stood still until the last of her weaponry had been taken from her. It was only then that the blade was removed, only to be replaced by the feel of leather circling her throat. Heat flared in her cheeks as Penny realized that a collar had just been placed about her neck, a combination of shame and anger making her tremble as a chain clicked into place between the back of the collar and her shackled wrists, pulling them up to a degree that, while not painful, wasn't entirely comfortable.

Long fingers curled about the thick braid of her hair just at the nape of her neck, slight pressure put against her head. "Now, we go for a little stroll, kitten," came the almost languidly amused voice of the man. "I wouldn't bother with trying to attract attention, though. Around these parts... no one is going to care, and annoying me isn't really all that wise. Now.. march. Captain wants a word with you."

He was right, too. Not one of the eyes that turned towards the pair showed so much as an inkling of concern for her state, only expressions ranging from curiosity to astonishment, and Penny knew that had nothing to do with her predicament, and everything to do with her appearance. She was an attractive young woman, in a curvy sort of way. Standing at 5'6", her face had an impish sort of prettiness to it, intelligent blue eyes framed by sooty lashes. Long, chestnut hued hair was bound into a braid that very nearly reached the curve of her backside, and her style of clothing, shocking in more elegant circles, showed off her legs and the upper swells of her breasts. None of this was what drew attention to her, however. It was the pointed, black-furred feline ears that stood atop her head, pierced with brass studs, one even bearing a chain that connected to her more human ears, and the rather fluffy feline tail that flicked behind her as she walked. Penny had grown used to the looks, though, and even a few bold souls who reached out to try and figure out if the ears and tail were a mere contrivance, or genuine, though this night, the presence of the man behind her kept such gropes at bay.

The additions were real enough, to her chagrin, though the modifications she'd been subjected to did give her a few advantages. It had all happened three years ago. She'd been a deck hand on the airship Jade's Black Heart, a vessel of rather dubious trade, when it was captured by one of Her Majesty's frigates some twenty miles off the coast of England. Unfortunately for Penny, that crew had been even more unscrupulous than her own. The male pirates were all turned over to the authorities, but not Penny and the three other women. They'd been, instead, hidden and then shipped to an underground slave market. What happened to the other girls, Penny didn't yet know, though she'd made it her goal to find out.

Penny, though, was purchased by a lean, aging man of science.

Interested in human modifications, this doctor had gone so far as to delve into matters arcane, blending science and the occult in his projects. What he was doing was, of course, strictly illegal, though not unheard of, and Penny became his star subject, and the most successful modifications to date.

The melding of feline into her body's makeup gave her ears and tail, not to mention claws that, when sheathed, were indistinguishable from her fingernails. Increased hearing, smell, and agility also came as a result of the tinkering of one Dr. Cornelius Hastings. What the man hadn't counted on, however, was that Penny's quick mind would enable her to use her new attributes to escape from his laboratory and win back her freedom.

Or, she had been free. Three years had not enabled the doctor to find and recapture her, though Penny knew he'd been trying. Now, though, she was once more a captive. A jerk on her braid snapped her thoughts from the past to the present, and she became aware of the steady thrum of propellers. Glancing up, she got a brief view of a sleek airship tethered to a thick mooring post, before she was spun around and swung off her feet to be cast over her captor's broad shoulder in one easy movement. A hand rested with unwelcome familiarity upon her upturned bottom, and when she squirmed in protest, a stinging slap was her reward.

"None of that, kitten," she was told, as the man began a startlingly agile climb up a rope ladder cast from the deck, apparently unencumbered by her presence on his shoulder. "Squirm too much and I might just drop your winsome self... and that would be such a waste, wouldn't it?"

In short order, Penny found herself aboard. A new voice, somewhat gruff, came from nearby. "Cap'n says stow the bitch in the hold, we're casting off. He'll see to the pretty little piece soon enough."

There was a leer actually audible in that voice and, to her surprise, she felt the man who still carried her tense.

"Watch your mouth, Smith," he growled, before stalking off with Penny, leaving the sound of ribald laughter behind.

"My apologies for the lack of comfortable accommodations, kitten," he told her as he bore her below decks. "Not fitting for a pretty lady like yourself, I'm afraid."

A heartbeat later, she was dropped in a pile of sacks of grain, and a door swung heavily shut, leaving her alone in the dark.

Chapter 2

Penny lay in the darkness of the hold, curled upon her side on a pile of sacks, trying to ignore the fire starting up in her shoulders. She shifted slightly, trying to ease the ache caused by having her arms shackled behind her back, but that only caused the chain attaching her wrists to the stiff collar to tighten, pulling the band more snugly against her throat. Hissing softly in vexation, her black-furred tail thumped against canvas, and she stilled.

A lead on one of her two former female crewmates had led her to Morocco, and the spice-laden night market, only to find herself captured and taken aboard an airship, one now aloft and heading heavens only knew where, and for all she knew, the lead had been nothing more than a ruse.

The sudden click of the door's lock broke through her brooding thoughts, followed by light that seared her dark-adjusted eyes. Squinting against the glare, she saw a dark silhouette standing in the door, though she couldn't make out any of the man's features. Tall, broad of chest and shoulders, he cut an impressive figure as he stood there, his stance confident and at ease.

"The Captain's ready for you, now, kitten," came the low and by now familiar voice of the man who had captured her. He stepped forward and helped her to her feet with a surprisingly gentle hand on her arm. "I'd keep your wits and your temper, kitten," he warned. "He's got a notoriously short fuse."

As she was led through the ship, Penny was finally able to get a sideways glance up at the man's face. Starkly, almost sternly handsome, he had strong features and dark eyes, a very masculine face that somehow had a vaguely familiar cast to it. The hand still wrapped about her arm just above her elbow was strong, roughened by obvious labor, yet the grip continued to be gentle when Penny knew it was likely capable of snapping her arm in two.

Reaching a sturdy door embellished with carvings about the lintel, her guide knocked twice, then opened it and ushered her into the cabin beyond. Almost garishly opulent, it had been decorated with what must have been the plunder of a dozen or more different cultures, and all the various styles had in common was extravagance. Seated behind a sturdy desk of finest mahogany was a grossly fat man, his booted feet up on the desk and a mug of ale in his hand. Small, shrewd eyes turned to rake slowly over her, lingering on the ample cleavage exposed by her black corset and low-cut white linen shirt, before dropping to the swelling flare of her hips, and finally back up to her face.

"Well, well. Miss Penelope O'Rourke," he said, his voice gravelly. His feet thumped to the floor before he rose ponderously from the chair. "You're one bit of pussy that's been hard to find, sweetling. Worth it, though."

At a signal from the captain, the man at penny's side let go of her and stepped back, though he remained in the room, watching as the fat man slowly circled Penny a few times. A low growl rose from Penny's throat as a meaty hand fondled her rear just below her tail, only to be rewarded by a vicious shove that sent her spilling to her knees. In fact, she'd have landed face first if that same hand hadn't grabbed her by the braid to pull her up short.

"Mind your manners, wench," the Captain barked into her ear, filling her delicate nose with alcoholic fumes. "You ain't nothing but a runaway slave to me. One that someone's willing to pay dearly to reclaim, mind, but he only said you had to be alive... not what state you had to be in. If you're not careful, you'll spend the voyage entertaining the crew."

The hand pulled harder on her braid, so that Penny had no choice but to arch spine and neck back to relieve the tension, knees sliding apart just a bit for better balance, and in so doing, she caught a glimpse of her original captor. The man was staring at her, his expression an odd mix of shock and hope, then a burning anger that wasn't directed at her at all, but the back of the captain's head.

"Penelope... O'Rourke," he repeated slowly, almost flatly.

"Eh?" the captain asked, his free hand pausing just above one of the breasts that threatened to pop free of Penny's corset. "What of her."

"You didn't tell me her name. Or have you forgotten what I'm looking for? A convenient... slip... was it?"

Abruptly, Penny felt herself released, and this time, she did fall, though onto her side, not her face.

The captain turned to his officer, his florid face reddening as his piggish eyes narrowed. "You challenging me, Jameson?" he demanded.

"I rather think I am," came the cool response, and Penny started to have an inkling of just why the man seemed so familiar. Winnifred Jameson was the name of one of those two other girls taken from the crew of the pirate airship Jade's Black Heart and illicitly sold into slavery along with her, and in the short few seconds Penny had to study the tableau of captain and apparent first mate, she knew that his features had been a more masculine version of the stocky girl that had been the airship's medic.

Then the tableau was broken. Even as the Captain's hand flicked to his belt, Jameson's was faster, and there was a small, brief retort and the scent of ozone, followed by a thud. When the not so proverbial smoke cleared, the captain lay on the floor and Jameson stood holding the tiny energy pistol he'd taken off of Penny herself just a few hours before, one eyebrow raised.

"Efficient," he noted, as the sound of running feet approached. Turning, he faced the door just in front of Penny herself as that door crashed open, the pistol only half raised.

"What the...," the first sailor started, then stopped, jaw half dropped.

"Change in command, boys," was the smooth reply of Jameson. "Get rid of this trash and inform the crew. Anyone who doesn't like it are free to leave, of course... We're a good thousand feet up, though."

Penny, peering through Jameson's legs, saw their expressions, and realized then that the former captain hadn't been universally liked, given the grins on the two faces.

"Aye, Cap'n. And the wench?"

"Spoils of war, Cohen. Think I'll keep this one. Oh, and change course. We'll be heading home."

Within moments, the two men had removed the body, leaving Penny alone with the new Captain, and apparent relative of her missing friend. Silence filled the cabin as the man turned to stare down at where she lay on the floor, before he crouched and pulled her almost roughly onto her belly, one of his knees coming down between her thighs.

"I'd not planned on doing that for another two months, at least, kitten," came the low voice. "When I'd had time to win the entire crew's loyalty. There'll be trouble, now... so you'd best be who I think you are, or we'll be finding other ways for you to prove worth the trouble this will cause." His fingers slid beneath the leather of the collar at the back of her neck and began to pull, half lifting her by it so that her back was once again arched. "Name my sister."

"Wi...Winnie," she managed to get out, though her air was being gradually cut off, leaving her writhing before him. Nor did he let go immediately, almost as though distracted. After a moment, though, the pressure was released, and she collapsed back to the deck. Another moment, and she felt the chain connecting her shackles to her collar release, though her wrists remained bound behind her, if free to drop to a more comfortable level.

Strong hands dropped to her shoulders, then, and to her surprise began to knead the cramped muscles, rubbing circulation back into them, and her upper arms.

"Smart girl," he said. "I wasn't sure if you'd caught on. Do you know where she is?"

Shaking her head, then turning it to the side so that her cheek rested on the edge of an elaborately embroidered oriental rug, Penny whispered, "No. Not for sure. She was sold at the same market as I was, though. In Marrakesh. It's taken me this long to find out the location... I was on my way to meet someone that I thought knew who had purchased her when you caught me, but he'll be gone by now."

Silence came from above her for a long moment, then a sigh. "Damn that fat bastard to hell. He knew I was looking for you ever since I heard rumours you were on the loose. Still... closer than I was. Now... for you. I'm afraid I had to act precipitously, kitten. Some of the crew aren't going to be so friendly to me, and if they think you mean much to me, they'll use you. Those two that just left think I'm keeping you as some sort of exotic bed warmer. So I'm afraid we'll have to keep them thinking just that." She felt his leg shifting, strongly muscled thigh pressing a bit higher between her own as his hands came down to settle upon her upturned bottom.

"Besides," he added, his voice deepening, becoming more growl than speech. "They know my type, kitten... and you're it." Then, the pressure was gone, and with a sharp slap that made her squeal, his hands left her rump and moved to unshackle her wrists. "Think you can play the part?"

Penny lost no time in squirming away, rolling over and then scooting back to glare at him, even while aware of the heat in her cheeks, and a more humiliating one pulsing between her legs. "In front of them? Yes. But in private..." She lifted her hands and flexed her fingers as long, wicked looking claws extended. "You can never disarm me entirely. If you'd not gotten the knife to my throat so fast in that alley...." Penny left the statement, and the threat, unfinished, notching her chin up a few inches.

To her annoyance, though, Jameson merely threw his head back and laughed, climbing to his feet. "My type in more than just body. Now, kitten, I suggest you get some rest. You'll have to be sharing my cabin for this to work." He nodded to the huge bed bolted against one wall, then wrinkled his nose at the gaudy silks festooning it. "I'll see to some changes in here tomorrow. For now, though... I've feathers to unruffled."

Turning, he left the room, shutting and locking the door behind him. 'So, still a prisoner,' Penny thought as she tugged at her collar, discovering it still bound in place with a heavy lock at the nape of her neck. 'Just of a different sort.'

As she climbed into the garish bed and settled down to sleep, her thoughts returned to the man who had captured her, saved her, and then turned her into a captive of a different sort. He disturbed her more than she cared to admit, and she had a feeling that it wasn't going to get any better over the next few weeks.

Chapter 3

The sound of bells roused Penny from sleep, tiny little jingling that must have spoken to the inner feline with the way it instantly riveted her attention. Cracking an eye open, she immediately flung an arm up to shield her eyes against the light streaming in through the window.

"Awake, kitten?" came a familiar voice, one that brought memories of the day before rushing back.

"We've docked, and I thought I'd just pick up a few things. After all, if you're going to seem to be my little doxy, you really should dress the part."

One of the new Captain's hands reached to grasp her by the arm, gently but firmly hauling her up from the bed, and out of the room. Still blinking fuzzily, Penny tried in vain to see what was causing the jingling, but couldn't make out what was in the bundle Jameson was carrying under one arm. Another door was opened, and Penny felt herself propelled into a steam-filled room.

"We're just above the boiler room," his husky voice explained. "Captain's private bathing chamber. Well... mine, now."

Before she knew what was happening, both her wrists were caught and pulled above her head. Soft clicks let her know that she'd once more been shackled, keeping her arms stretched straight. Growling, she turned a glare on the Captain, but all she got was a look of amusement, no matter how she laid her ears back and bared her teeth.

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