The Proposal by N.S. Howard

The Proposal
Praxton, Book 3
by N.S. Howard

Melange Books

eBook ISBN: 9781612350806

Jennifer’s life is in freefall. She hates her job, doesn’t understand men and wonders about her girlfriend’s attempt to seduce her. Then an old boyfriend wants to see her. Melvin had moved to another planet and offers her an outrageous proposition, an offer she would have laughed at a week ago. But now…

Chapter One

Melvin Taylor crossed the living room and into the kitchen, yawning. He still needed to finish dressing, wearing only a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, but needed a coffee before he did much more to get ready for the day.
Helena looked at him as he grunted, “Good morning,” and quickly moved to pour him a cup of coffee.
“Good morning, Master Melvin. How are you today?” She gazed at him with a small smile.
Unlike him, she was wide-awake and fully dressed in her black dress uniform. While her uniform wasn’t as revealing as most Praxton dresses, it was still short. In keeping with Praxton customs she was also braless and wore high heels. Although she was employed as a housekeeper, her collar indicated she had Melvin as a guardian. Helena looked thirty by using therapy drugs, but she was almost twice that age and had decided she would rather do housekeeping duties than be a Master’s female.
“Tired…” He realized the smile may be due to his lack of underwear and the partially open fly of Praxton style pants. He took the cup of coffee from her and looked at the kitchen table and chairs. He heard her give the slightest clearing of her throat and walked out to the dining room with his coffee to sit. Melvin was still learning how to act on Praxton and Helena gave him the hint he needed that the Master did not normally sit in the kitchen. When he became a Praxton citizen, he selected two females to live with him, believing they could take care of his home while he was away and provide companionship when he was home. He quickly learned it was more complicated than that. He followed the advice of his friends and hired a housekeeper who had taught him what he should and should not be doing as a Master.
A minute later Helena brought him toast.
“The females should be getting up soon, Master Melvin. Would you like me to set out some clothes for you to wear before they come downstairs?”
Melvin gave a grin. “In other words, I better be suitably dressed before they see me.”
“It is the Praxton way.”
He nodded. “Thanks for your help.” He recalled some of her other advice that she had quietly given him over the past few months, and some of the more direct advice she had told him.
“The females need discipline, Master Melvin. They must have boundaries and know there are consequences of not behaving.” Later she insisted he set up a discipline room, and though it was rarely used, it had stopped much of their poor behaviour. Helena had asked permission to administer discipline as she saw fit. After he granted her that additional responsibility, he saw a marked improvement in the household.
He finished his toast, and after Helena refilled his coffee, headed upstairs to his room to get dressed, passing the glass walled shower room for the females. He looked in and saw Celestia. The tall blonde was slowly massaging soap over her body. Melvin watched as she slowly turned to face him. She gave him a smile as the soap dripped off her medium sized breasts.
Melvin raised his eyebrows and continued on to his room. He sighed and wondered if leaving today was such a good idea after all. He opened the door to the master bedroom and saw Aatun sitting up in his bed, the bed covers concealing only her knees. The brunette was shorter than Celestia, but still had a curvy body with slightly larger breasts.
“Hi, Aatun.”
“Good morning, Master Melvin.”
“I guess I better let you get up.” He reached the foot of the bed and unlatched the chain to her ankle cuff holding her captive to the bed.
“Thank you. I want to look good before you leave.” She gave him a kiss and walked slowly out of the room, her hips gently swaying.
He looked at the door several seconds after she had left and began to get ready. Melvin was born on Earth; was average in height but muscular, partly due to his work as a geologist. His friends nicknamed him Hairy Hercules. He walked to his washroom and stood in front of the viewscreen, dragging a comb through his black hair. “Last shave for a few days.”
He picked up the electric razor, mentally listing the things he had to do today, knowing he wouldn’t have a second chance to do things out in the Keswick region of Praxton. After he finished dressing he headed downstairs, satisfied he hadn’t forgotten anything.
* * * *
Melvin relaxed in the living room, checking the latest weather reports on his handheld when first Aatun, and then Celestia came to him after walking downstairs.
Aatun was wearing a skirt and an open cloth vest. A chain dangled in the opening that Melvin surmised was attached to a pair of nipple jewellery. Celestia was wearing a dress made of a soft white material that made it obvious she was not wearing anything else. Both women wore a collar that matched their ankle and wrist cuffs, although Aatun left her black metal restraints unattached. Celestia wore blue faux-leather restraints, plus a waist chain where five gold chains went to each cuff and the collar.
“Hello, Celestia, Aatun.”
“Hello, Master Melvin,” they replied in unison. They approached him slowly and knelt in front of him.
Melvin looked at them and then at Helena and raised his eyebrows. “I’m going to miss you two.”
* * * *
The transport arrived in front of his home at the appointed time. The driver, a small, older man helped him haul his belongings to the back of the bus size vehicle. He tightened the straps holding the cartons in place and looked at Melvin.
“Is that all there is?”
“Nope, one more item.” He walked to side of the house where a tool shed was attached. A minute later, he drove a six wheel ATV to the transport. “I think this will use up most of the remaining space.”
The driver nodded. “Looks like you’re planning to head out of civilization. Nice little machine you have there.”
“It has served me well so far.”
The transport lifted off silently, but Melvin felt a vibration through his chair. He sat next to the driver in the cockpit with the eight other seats behind him empty. “Melvin’s my name.” He stuck out his hand.
“Steve.” He shook the offered hand. “I was wondering about one passenger wanting a one ton lift transport. You do this often?”
“No, maybe two or three times a year. You can plan as much as you want in an office, read charts, do analysis and get test results from surveys, but sooner or later you have to get your hands dirty.”
“Gives you a chance for fresh air anyway. You need to make a stop at the Praxton Government Resources and Licensing Building next. It says on the documentation.”
“Yeah, one more item to pick up.”
“Okay, I can land on the roof.”
Melvin took the elevator down to the main floor. A female clerk, wearing the collar of her guardian, greeted him at a reception desk. He signed in and she directed him to the correct office. He took the elevator back up to the thirty-third floor and entered the Office of Licensed Weapons.
“Mr. Taylor, I see you have the necessary documents in order.” The older man with a small beard slid across a long rectangular black case. “Please be advised that you may not open this case until you arrive at your destination. There are two magazine clips inside the case and the memory chip inside the gun will record when each one is inserted. In addition, each round that is fired is recorded as to the exact time, and the orientation of the gun, as well as its location, is also preserved. Each bullet that is fired must be recorded as to the reason in a report. If you were to kill or injure any animal, you must also report why you chose to do so.”
“I understand. It is to be used for protection only.”
“Good. I would rather avoid the reports when guns are fired. In fact, the reports are less complicated if you were to die rather than shoot.”
Melvin chuckled. “I’ll try to keep that in mind.”
He carried the gun case to the waiting transport. “Okay Steve, next stop is the Keswick region.”
“No problem. Can you tell me what’s with all the supplies? Seems like a lot of stuff for a camping trip.”
Melvin laughed. “It wouldn’t be a lot of fun camping out there. I’m a rock hound and doing some exploratory work.”
“Okay, but that’s something I know nothing about, other than rocks are hard when you’re crawling over them.”
“You used to be in the armed forces?”
“Yeah, I retired after the big battle with the Alliance forces.”
“You guys did a hell of a job standing up to them.”
Steve looked over at Melvin. “Well, I have to admit I was old school when it came to military battles. I always thought you hit the enemy as soon as they made an appearance and killed as many as you could. As a soldier, I thought we also had to protect our cities and civilians. But I was wrong.”
“How so?”
“The new commander told us not to engage the enemy in the skies, but wait for them to land first. So we ambushed them when they were on the ground, but we didn’t try to kill them. Commander Jacobs told us to injure them, not to kill them because it took two more soldiers to help carry out the injured. He also told us Alliance forces would only enter the cities if we were there and so we stayed out. Apparently, the Alliance forces were not allowed to attack civilian areas without due cause, so we didn’t give them that. Those buggers sure hated fighting in the desert.” He laughed. “We knew we couldn’t beat them, but if we slowed them down long enough they’d get frustrated, and eventually their leaders would make a compromise.”
“But you left the armed forces afterwards?”
Yeah, got a pension and the new army wasn’t for me. They got females in the army now, and it was time for this old soldier to go away.”
Melvin looked out the front windows at the rolling hills with of clumps of trees and vegetation. “Looks rather peaceful down there.”
“It is, though there are few cuttus to watch out for, as well as, the lupus which travel in packs. But I understand its pretty safe out there if you take a few precautions.” He looked at a monitor. “Odd, another air vehicle in the area. What are the odds of two transports being in this remote area?”
Melvin looked over at the monitor but saw only a small white dot in the blue sky. Numbers next to the dot identified it as privately owned, its present speed and course. “Odds are it’s not a coincidence.”
The transport landed with a jolt in a clearing near a small river. Melvin climbed out and stretched his limbs. “Good to be out in the open again.”
“Yeah, but they’re no females out here.” Steve grinned. “Want some help unloading the supplies?”
Melvin was impressed with the stamina of the older man and decided his armed forces training had made him used to hard work. After they unloaded, they stood watching as an air pump began to lift up the shelter that would serve as a home for Melvin.
“Want a drink?” Melvin offered him a canister of water.
“No thanks, you may need it later. I’ll take off as soon as you declare the shelter is okay and test your radio. Better to make sure you’re safe now than to have a panic later on.”
Melvin carried the last of the supplies through the open door of the shelter. The dome shaped shelter consisted of hard plastic plates that interlocked as the air tubes filled to form a frame. He flicked the main power switch on and checked to see that lights and power were available. He finally tested the emergency radio, in case the normal communications did not work.
“Looks like everything is working…”
“Good. I’ll be off then. If you like, you can ask for me, Steve McKee, to pick you up. I’d like to hear how you made out.”
“Sure. Do me a favour though. If you find anything out about that other flyer, let me know.”
* * * *
Melvin pounded in the stake that held last leg of the tripod in place. He wiped the sweat off his brow with the sleeve of his shirt and then attached the connectors to the laser mounted at the top of the five-foot high tripod. He turned on the power from the controller and set the rest of the controls to “Auto”. Within a few minutes, smoke and steam emerged from the hole in the ground. Sensors detected the different components of the smoke and sent the information to a hand held device attached to his belt.
He took a long drink of water and waited for the laser and the sensors to do their work. He had done his, using a powered auger to dig past the soil until he had reached a solid rock base. Now he needed the laser to go into that rock and find out exactly what was underneath.
The process was slow, hard work. It would also be entirely fruitless if homework and planning weren’t done before to determine where to dig. It was the fourth hole he had dug and he hoped that he had guessed correctly. Despite all the computations he had done, it would still take luck to hit pay dirt. Now he waited under the blazing sun for the laser to slowly push deep into the rock.
An hour later, he looked at the sensors readings and grinned. “Well, how about that? Just what I needed to see.”
He tore apart the tripod, stored it in the bed of his ATV and returned with a small canister. Carefully, he set the timer on it and dropped it in the hole. He hopped into the ATV and drove a short distance away. The concussion device served two purposes. The first was, when it went off, it destroyed the hole, preventing others from having an easy time of taking readings, and second, it sent off vibrations that reflected off the deeper layers in the ground to other sensors he had planted in various locations.
The sensors sent the information to his hand held device and a minute later, it had calculated a result from inputs he had given it. “This just keeps getting better and better.”
He inspected the ground before he left to make sure he left nothing behind and the landscape looked natural. Then he headed back to his camp, guiding the ATV carefully around the rocks and the trees. Once he got to an open area he accelerated, the whine of the six motors increasing as clouds of dirt rose behind him.
His camp looked the same and didn’t show any physical signs of disturbance, but when he checked the perimeter detector it showed that several objects had invaded the security area. That was not unexpected as he was near the river where creatures were likely to migrate to, but he decided he would check the visual later and see who his guests were.
Melvin did his routine check of the equipment and decided he wasn’t hungry yet for dinner. After a long drink of water, he headed to the river with his gun, in case of unexpected wildlife showing up. He stripped off his clothes and plunged into the river. For a few minutes, he dived under the water and swam the width. The water was slow moving and he wasn’t worried about losing his location where he entered from the river bank.
Dripping wet he gathered up his clothes and walked back to his shelter. Melvin sat naked in front of computer eating a bowl of stew as he studied the graphs and then the computer analysis of the results.
The perimeter alarm beeped. He touched the keyboard and saw a ghostly grey image of a creature lurking near the shelter. It was the height of a bear, but looked like a wolf with a long snout. He hesitated a moment and then grabbed his gun and stepped outside.
“Hey!” he shouted at the beast as he levelled his gun.
The creature took one look at him and bounded off.
Melvin lowered his gun and went back inside. “Damn cuttus. At least I might have scared him off from returning.” He put down his gun and pulled on a pair of jeans and then a T-shirt.
The next morning he headed east to do another series of tests. The work was slow partially due to the environment and partly because he didn’t want to make a mistake and have to do it over.
He did finish sooner than he expected and headed back to the camp, pleased he had only one more site to do. As was becoming his custom, he up loaded the data and checked the perimeter alarm, which showed only the usual small creatures had come through the area, except one. The video showed that, as well as the four-legged creatures, a human on an ATV had come within range of the sensors. The ATV, like his own unit, had a roof that supported a solar collection plate for the batteries. The image didn’t show much detail and the head was cut off by the roof, but showed the intruder was on the smaller size wearing nondescript coveralls. He decided it was likely another exploration team that happened across his campsite, but had not invaded his area when it was clear he was not around. He supposed that, since he had figured this was a good area to investigate, maybe someone else had come to same conclusion. Still, it was an odd coincidence that bothered him.
He pushed it from his mind and stripped down for a swim in the river, again taking his gun with him. The cool water felt good and he decided to linger a bit longer in the water. He floated on his back and let the minutes seep away from him.
“Are you going to stay in there all evening?”
Melvin dropped under water and came back out sputtering as he trod water. He looked at the shore and saw a woman with long dark hair smiling at him. She was wearing coveralls with a crest on the upper left pocket.
“Where the hell did you come from?” He looked at the slim woman. She had an oval face with mischievous blue eyes.
She pointed behind her. “Somewhere from over there. I was wondering if we can talk.”
“Sure.” He began to swim his way to the shore and stopped when his feet found the sandy bottom of the river. He stood up in the river with the water up to his waist.
“What did you want to talk about?”
“I think it’s better if we talk inside your shelter rather than shouting back and forth.”
He shrugged. “Sure. How about if you go away for a bit so I can get out of the water, and put some clothes on?”
She crossed her arms and pursed her lips as if in thought. “No, I don’t think so. I spied on you last evening so you’re not going to show me anything new. All the same I want to wait here.” She grinned.
Melvin sighed and then muttered to himself “You’re obviously not a Praxton female, absolutely no obedience.” He began to walk out of the water and hesitated as the water reached his groin.
“Don’t be shy. I know what being in the water does to the male ego.” “Funny.” He walked out of the water and looked closer at her. She looked amused as he picked up his rifle.
“Can I say: my, what a big gun you have?”
“No, you can say nothing.” He walked away.
“Is that a Praxton male order?” She laughed as she followed him.
Feeling annoyed Melvin quickly put on a pair of pants and a shirt in the shelter, noting she followed him inside without asking.
“Okay, now tell me what you want.” He looked at her again. She was wearing a collar, but he knew that was probably because it was difficult for a woman to travel around Praxton without one. She was without cuffs or the usual chains that most women on Praxton wore as fashion accessories, which confirmed to him she was not from Praxton nor had even been on the planet long.
“What I want to do, Mr. Taylor, is to make you a very generous offer for the mineral rights you hold in this area.” She gave him a friendly smile.
“Really now?” He looked at the crest on her pocket. “Now what would Provost Minerals and Resources consider a very generous offer?”
“You have the rights to almost five hundred square kilometres. We would be willing to pay you eight hundred Alliance standard dollars per square kilometre.”
“What is your name?”
“Donna Straus, I’m the executive director of resource acquirements.”
“Well Donna, and since you got to see me naked, I feel we can be a bit more personal here, your definition of a very generous offer is not the same as mine.”
“Melvin, I would be open to a counter offer of course. I have the power to negotiate a fair value for the rights. Please make me an offer and let’s see if we can conclude the transaction right now.”
“Twenty million dollars.”
She opened her mouth in surprise. “You can’t be serious.”
“As serious as you were with your low ball offer. Now why don’t you run along and talk it over with your boss?”
Her jaw clenched. “You’re acting this way because I’m a woman.”
“No, I’m acting this way because you’re acting like an arrogate jerk. You thought by catching me nude I’d be at a disadvantage and more receptive to accept your offer. You enter my campsite without an invitation and now you think I’m this way because you’re a female? No, I treat all assholes this way. Gender doesn’t matter.”
She stood several seconds without replying. “I apologize if I upset you then. Perhaps I acted too aggressively. I understand that Praxton males prefer the females to be a little more reserved and I’m sorry I didn’t follow the customs here.” She smiled. “But you’re a good looking man and I couldn’t resist meeting you this way.”
“Okay, apology accepted. But your offer isn’t. I suggest, strongly suggest, that you come up with an offer that I can seriously look at. I don’t like my time being wasted by a conglomerate that believes it can get something for nothing from some poor sap.”
“Very well, you have made your point. I will be in touch later.”
He watched her leave and drive off on an ATV. A second person, also wearing coveralls sat next to her. That passenger was much bigger than she was and Melvin assumed he was there for her protection in case the Praxton male got too aggressive. Melvin shook his head and went back inside the shelter.
The next day he completed his survey and tests. Once again, he came back to his camp feeling dirty. He thought it was likely they were observing him, but decided he was not going to change his ways because of their intrusion. He stripped drown and had his usual end of the day swim. Then he returned to his shelter and requested a pickup for the following morning, specifically to be piloted by Steve.
* * * *
The transport arrived on schedule, and with Steve’s help, Melvin was able to quickly load up everything. He was careful not to leave any traces behind in case an environment official checked afterwards for any disturbance to the local fauna.
“So was your work successful?”
“Yup, found what I hoped to see, even had a visitor from Provost Minerals.”
“Yeah, that reminds me. I did some checks and found that flyer was owned by the Seaview Group. They’re also into minerals.”
“Interesting… Well, it’s good to be going home. I’ve had enough of reheated packages for food and swimming in the river to bathe.”
Steve chuckled. “Yeah, but in a few months you’ll probably be longing to go camping again.”
Melvin laughed. “You know, you’ve got a good point there.”
* * * *
When Melvin entered the front door, Celestia and Aatun hurried from the living room to greet him, showering him with hugs and kisses. Helena stood behind them smiling, but with her hands on her hips.
Melvin noticed both were wearing dresses and a full compliment of cuffs and collars on with various light chains. Celestia was wearing a thick belt around her waist where the various chains were attached, while Aatun had the chains joining her cuffs together.
“You both look beautiful. I hope you didn’t cause Helena any trouble?” Helena answered for them. “Only the first evening, after that they didn’t dare misbehave.”
“Good. I’m hungry for some real food. Let me wash up and we can talk over dinner.”
Later, at the dining room table, Melvin told his tale. “So, I look up from the river and there is this off world woman staring at me from the shore.”
Aatun listened to Melvin relate the events and then put down her fork with a clatter. “What a rude, rude female. Doesn’t she have any manners? She isn’t supposed to look at you naked unless she’s wearing your collar. She was wearing a collar wasn’t she?”
“Yeah, but I suspect it was only so she could do business on Praxton.” “She might as well be a freelancer then.”
Celestia agreed. “These off world females don’t understand what is to be civilized. They should all take lessons on how to properly act.”
Helena cleared her throat. “I’m glad you two now recognize that.” She stood up. “Dessert everyone…?”
Melvin grinned. “Man it’s good to be back home.”
Celestia smiled. “It’s good to have you back. Helena really punished us for past indiscretions. I could hardly sit the next day, and poor Aatun was put in the cage overnight.”
“Maybe you needed that.”
Celestia pouted for a moment and then grinned. “I know we did. Helena told us we had taken advantage of your kindness and that was to stop.”
Aatun agreed. “We’ll be better behaved, though it would be nice if you would take the time to discipline us a bit now and then anyway. We like to have your attention.”
Helena brought in a tray holding four bowls of a brown and yellow mixture. She placed a bowl for Melvin first and then the others.
Celestia looked at Melvin. “Master Melvin, may I ask how your exploration trip went?”
“Of course, it went very well. The readings confirm there are considerable deposits underneath.”
“So what do you do now?”
“Probably sell the rights to some big exploration company.”
“Can I ask why exploration companies didn’t do what you did and find the deposits themselves? That way they wouldn’t have to pay you.”
“Couple of reasons… One, they didn’t look or do enough work to find out which parcel of land to buy the rights for. It’s expensive to buy the rights to a piece of land, and the requirement is to actively survey the land. That adds even more expense. So, the result is exploration is done conservatively. Two, once I obtain the rights to a parcel of land, they can’t use invasive methods to find out where and what the deposits are, such as drilling or setting off explosives. So they can’t find out how big the deposit is and if it extends into neighbouring parcels of land. The Ministry of Environment and Resource Management is unlikely to grant permits on the surrounding the area. They don’t want to cause excessive disturbance of the natural environment, especially since the Alliance Worlds are carefully monitoring what we do.”
“So they’re handcuffed what they can do.”
“Yup, I’m holding all the cards as far as what’s down there.”
Aatun took a final bite of her desert. “But why that parcel of land? It sounds like they were following you.”
“They were.” He frowned. “I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but the fact is I have a reputation for finding areas worth digging for. When they got wind that I bought the rights to it, they decided to follow me. They think it will be cheaper to buy the rights from me than to have their own crews do a hit and miss.”
“So are you going to sell to them?”
“I will sell, but maybe not to them. They’ve got to ante up the offer a whole bunch first.”
Celestia stood and reached for his hand. “May I ask you to sit with us in the entertainment room? One of our favourite programs is on.”
“Sure. What show is it?”
“Fashion Time and Places…”
He groaned. “I’m here only a few hours and you’ve already tricked me.” Aatun giggled. “Oh come on. There’s lots of nudity in the show. I’m sure you can survive that.”
“Nudity? Now that’s a fashion statement I like.

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