“It’s official. All ships have complained about only having fish as an option,” said Evgen.
“I am sure that is why they picked it,” said Spartak. “Any reaction to the list of demands?”
“You could say that,” said Evgen, chuckling over the short list that the females had made into a screen saver on every device in the Fleet. It even scrolled on the bands at the top of every hour. The females wanted the right to choose any job that where they met the same qualifications that already existed for males. They wanted the right to have training in a job they were interested in. They wanted to not be hurt and abused. They wanted a say in who they mated. They wanted to wear whatever they chose after work hours. That was it. “Every ship has weighed in, agreeing to the terms except the Kleponia. Now, the running commentary is they are hoping that they choose not carry out your orders just so we can get rid of them.”
“Well, that is rather telling now, is it?” said Spartak.
“I would say so. Are you willing to have a conversation with the females yet?”
“Not yet. Chatura has one hour eleven minutes to execute Gregorius. If he doesn’t, I will announce they are being expelled from the Fleet. I will then have a vote taken on every ship from every male. I will not have subversive behavior from those who are just trying to get around the females. The males all have to agree,” said Spartak. “Unlike Gregorius’ sentence, this is a social issue rather than military.”
“We wouldn’t be in this mess if the males had listened to begin with. They have had too much social power for too long,” said Evgen.
“You have to be impressed that the females mirrored the conditions that every female in the Fleet has had to suffer,” said Spartak.
“And the males don’t like it,” said Evgen.
“Exactly,” said Spartak. “The females have done everything like we would have, proving they are capable. The even notified us of course changes and why.”
“Adrei said that the choice they made was correct,” said Evgen. “The big question is are you going to expel the Kleponia without control?”
“If they are not part of the Fleet when control is returned, that is their problem,” said Spartak. “And yes, I am that pissed.”
* * *
Danielle watched as the monitor flickered to life. She shuddered seeing his face.
“This is Chatura. Commander of the Kleponia. For violating the prime directive, I will execute Gregorius for the near beating death of his mate and unborn child.” He stepped back out of the camera’s view as it panned to show all the officers a semi-circle and a kneeling man in the center. Thosad stood near the man, holding a sword.
“That’s the guy?” said Erica.
“Yes,” said Danielle.
“Ugh. He is creepy looking,” said Erica.
“Imagine him licking you,” said Danielle, scrunching up her face.
“Who is that with him?” asked Bethany. “They look alike.”
“Thosad, if you will,” said Chatura’s voice through the monitor.
“Ah,” said Danielle. “His brother and second-in-command.”
“So he lets someone else do the dirty work,” said Erica, snidely.
“It appears so,” said Danielle, not at all surprised. Chatura was a small man in so many ways.
Bethany turned her head away from the screen as Thosad swung the sword. Gregorius was no more.
“You would think that three executions in a week’s time would make these idiot men realize that hurting women is bad for their health,” said Erica.
“You’d think, wouldn’t you?” asked Danielle.
“What happens now?” asked Bethany.
“Well, the men have to decide if they are done treating us as second-class citizens,” said Danielle.
The picture on the monitor changed from the flight deck on the Kleponia to Spartak. “We have spent the last nine days being given the same rights that we have given the females. I understand that this results from the cultural history of our worlds and the circumstances of having few females. Our military goal is the protection of the humanoid species. Currently, that is not being threatened, so it is not a military issue,” said Spartak. “The Medical Corps have informed me that the females can bear children from donated sperm that does not require an intimate physical act from the males. What this means, gentlemen, is the females can make this last a very, very long time without violating the prime directive. I will not bring any more rescues aboard the Fleet until we resolve this. So, if you have a mate, you will not have her back until things change. If you do not have a mate, you will not get one until things change.” He let that percolate for a few long seconds.
“Although this is a social issue, I am offering this solution. I expect every male in the Fleet to vote on the five items the females have indicated are not negotiable. One vote for each item. Yes or no. Will will tabulate and record your vote won each item,” explained Spartak. “If you violate any of those five conditions after you have agreed to them, the consequences will be severe. If you choose to vote no against any of the five conditions, which you may do, I am informing you now that your role may change. If you have voted no on any of the five conditions and are unmated, you may have a reduced chance to have a mate because we will make your voting record public. Choose the vote you can live with.” He let that sit for a few more long seconds.
“We will broadcast the voting application in 30 minutes. I expect all voting completed by hour zero. I will treat any unmarked ballots as a no vote. That is all,” said Spartak. He turned off the monitors. “Was I clear enough?” he asked Evgen.
“Do they have a voting application?” asked Bethany.
“Jada?” Danielle asked, looking at her.
“Well,” she started as she scrolled through the server directory. “I, uh, don’t see one,” she said.
“Well. I guess we need to build one,” said Danielle.
“I guess we do,” said Jada as she started typing. “Can someone get me some coffee?”
* * *
Danielle was awake long before her alarm went off. Would today be the end of this siege? She was actually surprised it had gone on this long. Who would have thought they would have held out this long with only fish and red lentils? Maybe the forced celibacy hadn’t been long enough, she mused. She got up and headed to the shower.
The ladies all gathered in Danielle’s suite shortly before zero hour. Everyone had coffee and danishes and waited for the monitor screen to awaken. It didn’t take long for Spartak’s face to appear. “I will get right to it. Out of 9569 males aboard the Fleet, 9548 males voted and eleven abstained. I will count those eleven in the no votes. On the Gliesea, 3904 voted yes on all five, ten voted no on all five. One the Tau Ceti, 995 voted yes on all five and one voted no on all five. On the Kleponia, 3904 voted no on all five and one voted yes. On the Registeria, all 1023 males voted yes on all five. On the Nandoor, 1113 voted yes on all five and one voted no. On the Vanamur, all 254 voted yes.”
“Given this, the twenty-one who voted no from the Gliesea, the single no from the Tau Ceti, and the single no from the Nandoor, will be immediately reassigned to the Kleponia. The one yes vote from the Kleponia will have the option to transfer to the Gliesea. Additionally, no female will be returned to the Kleponia unless she agrees fully to accept that they will not enforce the five conditions. I will not assign new rescued females to the Kleponia unless they agree they will not enforce the five conditions. Evgen will interview the 1648 remaining females on the Kleponia as to the acceptance of the conditions they will fall under. I will take these results and decisions to the females. That is all,” he finished. He turned off the screen.
“Now the hard part,” he muttered.
“Danielle?” chuckled Evgen.
“Yes,” Spartak grumbled. “I am sure groveling will be involved.”
“Mom, does that mean this is over?” asked Bethany.
“Almost, sweetheart. Now comes the hard part,” said Danielle.
“Spartak?” Bethany asked.
“Yes,” said Danielle.
“Make him grovel,” said Erica.
Danielle just glared at her.
“Well, at least a little,” chuckled Erica.
* * *
“Okay, Jada,” sighed Danielle into her band.
Spartak appeared in the hallway outside Danielle’s door, momentarily surprised since he had no advanced warning he would be teleported. He turned his head when he heard a soft giggle to find Bethany and Erica smiling at him from across the hall.
“Here,” said Bethany, handing him a dozen red roses.
“Will these help?” he asked, shifting his eyes between her and the roses he held.
“They won’t hurt,” chuckled Erica, pulling Bethany into her suite.
Spartak sighed and knocked on the door.
Danielle stood there trying to secure enough courage to open the door. Finally giving up, she pressed the button. Spartak stood on the opposite side, his hand poised to knock again. Danielle gasped at the sight of him. He was so much more handsome in person.
He looked her over slowly, finally locking eyes with her.
She stood there ensnared in his gaze for several long seconds. Finally realizing she was standing there like an idiot, she said, “Come in please,” motioning for him to enter as she stepped aside.
“Ah, these are for you,” he said hurriedly as he thrust the roses at her.
“Thanks,” she stammered. “You didn’t have to do this. I am actually surprised you did.”
“Why?” he asked, confused.
“I figured you would be very angry with me,” said Danielle, looking up at him through her lashes.
He stared at her for several long seconds, not saying a word. He then stepped into her space so there were only a few inches between them. “I have many feelings for you, but anger is not one of them,” he said, his voice hitting her like a caress. He took the roses for her hands and set them on the kitchen counter as he stepped closer. He then reached up with his hands, wrapped them around her face, and lowered his lips down to hers. Their lips met gently at first, but then the kiss quickly became a tangle of tongues, and lips, and teeth as they tried to become one with the other. Danielle wrapped her hands around his muscular forearms, trying to ground herself as her feelings overwhelmed her. Spartak dropped his left hand and slid it around her back, pulling her closer to him as he slid his right hand around her neck to pull his mouth closer. Danielle wrapped her free arm over his shoulder, tangling her fingers in his hair.
Several minutes later, they separated, each panting as Spartak pressed his forehead to hers. “I do not want another minute to go by without you as mine. You can do anything you want. As long as you come home to me every night, I do not care,” he breathed.
“The issue was never that, Spartak,” Danielle said. “At least between us.”
He pulled back. “Please explain what it is?” he requested.
“Let’s sit,” Danielle suggested.
He walked ahead of her and sat down on the couch. She tried to sit down next to him, but he guided her onto his lap. He then settled his hands on her hip and thigh to hold her in place when she tried to get up.
“Spartak, I am too heavy for this,” she scolded.
“How? I weigh nearly two-hundred pounds more than you do. This is nothing,” he said, scoffing. “Quit stalling.” He saw her expression and added, “Please?”
She looked at his face and sighed. He really deserved an answer. “There are two reasons that cause my hesitancy,” she started.
“Only two?” he chuckled. “That isn’t insurmountable.”
She sighed again.
“Start the simple one first,” he said, watching her face.
“Neither are simple,” said Danielle.
“Pick one,” he said, rubbing his hand in small circles on her hip.
“Okay,” she started. “Trusting someone again scares the hell out of me.”
He silently watched her face as he decided how to respond. Deciding, he said, “You are worried that I would cheat on you.”
“It’s more like I can’t choose someone who won’t. You have been honorable. It really isn’t you as much as,” she trailed off.
“I think I have to pay better attention to how Wallen teaches the introductory class. He explained about the mating mark, right?” he asked.
“Yes, the two black marks on the neck,” she said.
“Anything else?” he asked.
“That matings were permanent, but that wasn’t anything more than what you said,” groused Danielle.
“There was a piece he missed. A big piece. No wonder you have been resisting,” Spartak said.