Ch. I: The Punishment Fits the CrimeMature

          "Please, Mother, don't- I- I couldn't control myself!" A dirty man bound in iron chains writhed on a white stone floor, begging for his life.

          The woman he begged sat elegantly upon a cushioned throne.  She studied her perfect nails with indifference as he squirmed and pleaded before her.  She was The Great Mother, queen of this world, and she dressed like a woman who had it all.  Her long white robe was shear over a pale blue gown embroidered with golden designs; her slippers were a gold that matched them perfectly.  She had her long, thick black hair pulled over one shoulder, bound down its length with golden ties, some locks adorned with blue and gold beads.  Her light brown face was painted perfectly; her full lips were red, and black eyeliner accented her golden green eyes.

          "The punishment for rape is death," she said calmly.

          The man whimpered.  "Please, don't," he begged.

          "We could remove a few...parts..." she trailed off and raised an eyebrow at him.  "It's what you think, and a few more."

          He swallowed, thinking rapidly.  "What other parts?"

          "In addition to removing the source of your faults, we will remove one finger for every mark on the girl's body.  If they exceed ten, you have a grace of one, after that, we start on toes," she said coldly, standing.  The man was silent and terrified.  "No anesthetic, and you will stitch the wounds on your first three fingers yourself.  If the number has extended to removal of your toes, they will be taken first, and you will stitch those up before we take your fingers."  He winced and she blinked at him.  "We save the 'best' for last, of course."

          "I didn't hit her," he said, trying to think while he trembled.  "I think I'd only have to lose a few- you won't tell me how many marks, will you?"

          Niamh just looked at him dispassionately, not a thing written on her face.

          "I'll take the maiming," he choked.  She waved a hand and two women in armor grasped his arms and dragged him away.

          "How many was it, Bastiana?" she asked her closest advisor and friend.

          The older woman's nostrils flared.  "He left bruises on her neck and arms where he held her down.  I estimate four fingers at least, probably more."

          "I will never understand their need to hurt and destroy," Niamh said with disgust.

          Bastiana smiled.  "They're not all bad, Mother.  My Roman is rather dashing, and very sweet.  You'll be choosing your own soon- your eighteenth birthday is tomorrow.  Do you have any idea who you're interested in?"

                                                                                ~*~

          Niamh studied her reflection in the mirror as Dylan, her hairdresser, braided it into a fishtail.  "Beautiful as ever," he declared, adding blue and gold ornaments to some strands.

          "Thank you, Dylan.  Any advice?  I go to pick my suitor to accompany me to the ball tonight, and possibly forever," Niamh sighed.

          "You've got to pick one like me," Dylan said boldly.  "Tall, dark, handsome!  I think you would do well with one who speaks his mind and doesn't fear you."

          "So why don't we just go together?" the Queen Mother joked.

          Dylan smiled.  "Should I just leave my dear Anette?  Only for you, my Queen, for only you mean more to me than her."

          "Stick to the tiny blondes, Dylan, they won't give you so much grief as I will."  The Queen stood and left the room to be greeted by her closest friends and trusted advisor.

          There were four of them who would accompany her into the Underground.  Her advisor stood there, the tall brunette Bastiana just an inch under her majesty's height of five feet nine inches.  She would turn thirty soon.  Her best friends, Lolita and Brigitta, ginger twins barely scraping past five feet, were there too, standing on either side of Pyotr.  Pyotr was five foot eleven with blonde hair and blue eyes, her oldest advisor at the age of forty-three.  He held out his arms.

          "You look beautiful!" he said, hugging her.

          She hugged him back.  "I can't believe you're going with us- most men hate to go back down there, even if it's just for a visit."

          "Anything for you, Great Mother," he said.  "I need to make sure you don't pick the wrong one, anyway."

          Lolita tugged her hand.  "The boat is at the gate, ready to depart."

          "Are you nervous?" Brigitta asked with concern.

          Bastiana shot her a look and they walked out in a silence that was tense with nervous excitement.

          "Don't forget we can take him back if you don't like him," Brigitta said, patting her hand as the boat departed.

          Niamh remained silent, trailing a hand in the clear waters of a city now called Venus.  They passed garden after garden, a gym, a coffee shop, a small solar powered plant that produced pipes locally for indoor plumbing, and a bakery before they stopped the boat at a small dock.

          "There it is," Lolita whispered, nodding at the entrance to a tunnel.

          "Let's go to the underground," Pyotr said solemnly.

          The five clambered off the boat and nodded to the bowing attendant at the tunnel entrance.  They descended the cement staircase and emerged in a wide tunnel.  The walls and floor were solid white, as were the rooms.  The cells were made up of a living area (that included a desk and chair, sofa, armchair, and computer,) a bathroom, and a bedroom with twin bunk beds.  There was a middle area comprising of a kitchen between two cells with food provided so the men could care for themselves.  The living room was fitted with a wide pane of glass beside the locked door so the men could see into the tunnel and present themselves to whichever woman came down looking for a suitor.  They were all standing before the glass as was required, many of them looking eager to see the Great Mother, hoping to be chosen and to sit in the lap of luxury for the rest of their lives.

          They passed cell after cell, the queen doing her best to smile and say hello to the men behind the glass, but she was drawn to none.  She paused in front of the door to a cell and read the description on it.

Male 04170958A:  Janus Carpenter
mathematics degree
job experience and SH upon request
Born Feb. 17th 725 a.p.

Male 04170959A(V):  Ronald Carpenter
gamer
job experience upon request
Born Feb. 17th 725 a.p.

Male 04170960A:  Conquest Carpenter
writer/graphic novelist
job experience and SH upon request
Born Feb. 17th 725 a.p.

Male 04170961A:  Erstan Carpenter
computer engineering
job experience and SH upon request
Born Feb. 17th 725 a.p.

NOTE:  These four men are quadruplets, sons of the late Ilina and Nolan Carpenter, and have requested to remain together, in or out of the Underground.

          "What is 'SH?'" Niamh asked with a frown.

          Brigitta and Lolita looked at each other.  "Um, well," they began.

          Bastiana cleared her throat.  "It's 'sexual history,'" she explained, blinking her aquamarine eyes and pursing her lips.  "The 'V' in parenthesis after their number indicates their virginity is still intact."

          Niamh raised her eyebrows and moved on.  They began in tunnel A but found themselves in tunnel H before Niamh stopped again.  She had walked past a cell and blushed, pausing a few down from it.

          "What's wrong?" Pyotr asked.

          "That one back there- he just looked at me like I was nothing-" she stammered, slightly irate and confused.  "Everyone else looks excited or nervous, but he just looked bored.  It irked me."

          "Do you want to read his description?" Lolita asked.  "He may have a criminal history."

          Niamh walked back to the door without looking through the window.  "What number is on his arm?  He's the really tall black-haired one with grey eyes.  I don't want to look yet."

          Bastiana walked up to the window and pressed the speaker button.  "You sir, on the couch, please come here."  She paused.  "Now, boy!"  She tapped her foot impatiently.  "His short-reference number is 198- look at the last digits on the door."

Male 07839198H(U):  Paniten Benson
martial arts instructor
job experience upon request
Born April 9th 728 a.p.

NOTE: Male 07839198H is considered dangerous due to his chosen career path and is not considered a viable candidate for a house-husband due to a volatile nature.

          "What does 'U' stand for?" Niamh asked.

          "Unknown. It means he refused to discuss personal details. Some of the men are either embarrassed they are no longer virgins or prefer to discuss details more intimately with whoever chooses them," Bastiana answered, tapping her tablet.

          "Where's the attendant?" the Queen said, looking around.

          "Your majesty, I advise against this-"

          "He will make an excellent body guard, Bastiana, and he's attractive enough to take out in public," the queen argued.

          Pyotr shook his head.  "This is foolish, Niamh, he could hurt you-"

          "Enough.  Attendant!"

The End

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