A Chapter by Stan

Harold Hardpod is gang-pressed onto the Bursting Button, a spaceship captained by Juzee Softcenter


Harold Hardpod, Stranded in Space

By Stan Morris

Copyright 2014


Chapter One  Taken!


“You… you… pirate!  How dare you attack this ship?”

Captain Juzee Softcenter scowled as she answered the indignant man.  “I didn’t attack this ship. I ordered it to match orbits with mine, so I could attach a transfer tube.  When I get what I came for, I’ll leave.”

“As I said, a pirate.  Do you think you can just take anything you want?”

“Yes, I do, and I have a court order that says so.”

Captain Softcenter was fudging the truth a little.  It’s true she had obtained a judgment against Hardpod Industries, but technically she was supposed to use the legal system to enforce that judgment.  At the very least, she should have tried to seize assets that were on the planet Marl and not in the Hoop asteroid belt.  But the people of Marl were notoriously prejudiced against Hoopers, and it didn’t look like she was going to get relief from their slow moving legal system any time soon.  This chance orbit match had proved too tempting to resist.  The captain and crew of the tourist liner were cooperating, albeit reluctantly, but a pompous male tourist had confronted Juzee.

“A forged court order, no doubt,” the tourist said with a disdainful sniff.

“A legal court order, and who in Saif are you?”

“I’m Harold Hardpod.  I would know if my family’s business was in financial legal trouble.”

“Harold Hardpod?  What are you?  A cousin or something?”

“My father is Nard Hardpod, the Chief Executive Officer and major stockholder of Hardpod Industries.  I’m his son.”


Hah!  An ugly old Hardpod, thought Juzee, ignoring the fact that he was not much older than her.  His ear length hair was a dull brown, and his eyes matched.  The unsightly dent in his chin and his firm thin slips only added to his air of pomposity.  He was taller than her, and she had never liked tall men.

“I don’t care who you are,” she snapped. “Stand aside.”

For the next two hours, her boarding crew moved items from the tourist liner to her ship, while Harold complained.  She was primarily interested in company owned luxury items that could be resold without significant depreciation.  She did not allow her boarding party to appropriate anything belonging to the passengers.

“I hope you left us enough nitrooxy to reach Marl,” Harold said bitterly as they finished their task. “Or do you intend to leave no evidence of your piratical trepidations?”

“We haven’t touched any life support systems,” Juzee retorted, her face flushing in anger, “even though you have triplicate backup systems. We’re taking non-essential items only.”

He snorted.  “A likely story.  I’m probably lucky you don’t consider me a non-essential item.”

Captain Softcenter was normally an easy going person, but she did have a temper and an exploding point, and he had fired it.

“You are a non-essential item,” she exclaimed. “Who knows?  I might have a use for you.  Take him.”  She said the last to a couple of her crew who had finished their lading.  They exchanged glances, shrugged, and grabbed Harold’s shoulders.

“You can’t do this,” he protested as he was hustled out of the elegant dining room. “I’m a Marlen citizen.”

“And I’m a Hooper.  And you know what Marlens say about us Hooper girls.”

Her tone was low and menacing.  Harold, looking over his shoulder, blanched.  Hooper girls were said to have huge and wicked sexual appetites.


“Captain, the confiscated merchandise has been stowed.”

“Well done, First.”

Captain Softcenter was fond of her First Officer, Nuna Sternbottom.  The woman had served with Juzee for five years after having transferred over from a ship captained by Juzee’s sister.  Sternbottom had been employed by the Softcenter family for over twenty years.  Her experience made her practically indispensable, though she did have a tendency to overstep the proper boundaries between a captain and a first officer.

Perhaps it was due to having spanked the captain several times when the captain was a pre-teen.  Juzee was still doubtful whether or not the last spanking was warranted.  It was true she was responsible for the incident, but nobody died. First Officer Sternbottom should have saluted, turned around, and marched back into the ship, but instead she was eying Juzee with a stern eye and tapping her foot on the grabbit carpeted deck.

“We are taking the man as your prisoner?” she asked.

“Not exactly,” Juzee replied.

“You’re not going to sell him?”

“Of course not,” Juzee retorted. “You know me better than that.”

“He’s to be your lover?”

“He was bad mannered,” Juzee exclaimed.

“I see.”  The officer sighed. “Very well, Captain.  I’ve ordered him placed in your berth.”

Sternbottom saluted, turned, and marched back to their ship, leaving Juzee sputtering as she tried to think of an objection to the First Officer’s order.  It dawned on the captain that there were no empty beds on her ship, and that her's was the only bed on the ship that would accommodate two persons.


Juzee waited impatiently as the low moving door to her berth slid into the wall.  I really need to get that fixed, she thought.  Hardpod was standing, arms crossed, next to her bed, staring at it with disdain on his face.  He turned to face her when he heard the door open.  They exchanged scowls.

“So,” he said, sweeping his arm in a big arc, until his finger pointed at the gas mattress, “is this where I am to be bound and ravished?”

He isn’t that ugly, she conceded.  The dent in this chin wasn’t so bad, his hair was more like light chocolate, matching his skin tone, and his eyes could better be described as hazel.  For some reason, his pompous manner seemed less threatening, now that he was standing in her berth.  But his words didn’t ease her temper.

“This is as good a place as any, don’t you think?”

His scowl turned to outrage.  “I think I’ve uncovered your insidious plan,” he said in a growl.  “You think to strap me down and mount me.”

Her temper rose, and she stalked forward, until she was toe to toe with him. “You think so much of yourself.  As if having sex with you would be so wonderful.”

“Oh, I don’t make that mistake,” he replied, leaning down until their noses almost touched.  “I know I’m not desirable.  You intend to get a child from me.”

She blinked, confused.  “A child?”

“Don’t act innocent.  A child is exactly your aim.  You think by getting a child from a Hardpod that you can claim her inheritance for yourself.  Hah! You are mistaken.  It would be years before she came into her inheritance.  You would be an old hag.  I will admit it was a good plan.”

“It was?”

“Yes.”  He paused, and when he continued his voice dropped in volume and took on a thoughtful tone.  “It’s true that our child would be quite lovely.  She would probably have your silky black hair.  Reminds me of a delicate succulent I saw on the coast of Marl; all shiny strands waving in the starlight.”  He lifted his hand toward a wayward tress and then hastily dropped it. “And I suppose, she would have your rose-grey eyes, with thick lashes as long as my thumb width.”

Juzee realized her mouth was hanging opened.   She shut it and frowned.  “You think she would be beautiful?”

“Very.  She’ll cause young men’s tongues to hang loose.  I’ll have a shirit of a time keeping them away from her.  They’ll be trying to unite with her when she’s fourteen.” His voice rose. “I won’t have it, do you hear me?  I won’t have it.  I don’t care what your barbaric Hoop customs say.  No child of ours is getting united at fourteen.”

“Only a fraction of Hoop girls get united at fourteen,” she protested, “and only as a means of uniting family fortunes.  Most girls wait until they are at least sixteen.”

“Sixteen?  That is still an outrageous age.”

“It’s Hoop custom,” Juzee replied, raising her nose.  She was not about to tell him that her sisters would have locked her in a storage room if she had even suggested getting united before she was nineteen.

“But no matter,” he said, his tone firmer. “You will not touch our child’s inheritance.”

“I would never touch money belonging to our child,” she retorted, incensed by the accusation.


Furious, she spun and stomped to the door.  She turned and said, “And for your information, it’s unlikely we would have a girl.  I have two sisters, and they have five children.  All boys.”

His scowled faded, surprise and a hint of disappointment replacing it.  “All boys?”

“All boys,” she repeated, satisfaction in her tone.  She slapped the door panel and then gritted her teeth as it crawled on its track until it smugly, er, snuggly shut.


Several hours later, as sleep cycle approached, Juzee reentered the room, using her palm to forcefully help the squeaking, low compliant door to open.  Her gaze found Harold sitting at her desk, in front of her personal rom, typing at the keyboard.

Checking back a screech, she exclaimed, “What do you think you’re doing?”

“I got bored,” he replied in an absent manner.  “You know, you really should not use codeword as your codeword.  Anyone could axe in to your rom.”

She didn’t ask how he got her signon.  The rom provided that automatically.

“So you got on the graph and sent a message to your father?  Asking him to rescue you?”

He looked up, startled. “Uh, no, that never occurred to me.  I saw this stack of receipts and billings next to your rom.  I didn’t have anything to do, so I decided to enter them into your accounting system.  I was quite surprised when I realized you are still using a spreadsheet instead of an accounting program.”

Juzee rounded the desk and peered over his shoulder.  “That’s not my spreadsheet.”

“No.  I downloaded an accounting program from the graph and imported your data.  It didn’t take long.  I think you’ll find this program much easier to establish profits and losses than did your old spreadsheet.”

“I’ve been meaning to do that,” Juzee muttered. “My sisters have been harassing me.  I can’t believe you used your own funds to get this.”

“I didn’t.  I used your GoodFriends account to pay for it.”

“What!”  This time she couldn’t hold back the screech.

“And it’s a good thing I did, considering what I found.”

“And what was that?”  She swiveled her head to glare at him.

“Well…” his face reddened. “Well, you were right.  Hardpod Industries did overbill you.”

“I knew it,” she exclaimed, virtuous satisfaction in her tone.

“What you didn’t get right was how much we overbilled you.”

“Huh?”  The satisfaction disappeared.

“Look here,” he said, bending so his face was next to hers as they perused the screen.  “They not only took the charge as a debit in the miscellaneous account, they took a depreciation for it.  They overbilled you twice.”

“Twice?” Juzee moaned.  “I’ve already got a judgment in the original amount.  I’ll never get the court to double it.”

“Yes,” Harold replied, his tone sympathetic.  “You’re out of luck as far as the depreciated amount.  Too bad you didn’t know that before you stopped our spaceship.”

“You don’t stop a spaceship, Harold, you match orbits.”


Juzee turned her head slightly to stare into his eyes. “You’re certainly an intelligent Hardpod, I’ll give you that.  You must be a big rock in Hardpod Industries.”

His face reddened again, and he straightened.  “No,” he replied stiffly.  “My sister got the entrepreneurial brains, I’m afraid.  Marketing skills, financial projection skills.  She’s the smart one.  I’m a big disappointment to my father.  I’m a mere accountant in one of our smaller offices.”

“A mere accountant?  Hey, don’t sell yourself short.  I wish I could figure out this stuff.”

“My sister travels all over the solar system,” he said with a wistful sigh. “She’s been to all the major asteroids.  I was lucky to talk my father into letting me take this round trip to First Rock.”

She grimaced.  “Sisters are like that. They’re always smarter, prettier, and more capable.”

“Sorry,” he replied with a gallant smile, “but I find that impossible to believe in your case.”

Juzee stared at him.  He was much better looking than she had first thought.  The dimple in his chin was positively charming.  She wondered what his luscious thick hair would feel like.  She wondered what his body looked like.  She wondered what his…  She cleared her throat.  Back to business.

“I appreciate that you set up this program.  I suppose I could deduct the cost of your services from the amount your company owes me, but I’m still farther in the red.”

He grinned, and her heart fluttered.  “You never know.  I might be high priced.  Maybe you owe us money.”

They laughed together, and just like that, the idea stuck Juzee.

Bemused by the thought, she said, “You want to see the asteroid belt, huh?”

He nodded. “It’s been a fantasy of mine as long as I can remember.”

She stared at him for a long moment, and then she said, “I have a proposition for you.”

His eyes widened.  He stuttered, “What… what… kind of proposition?”  He suddenly remembered the reputation Hoop girls had.  “I…I’m not that experienced,” he added with a slight stammer.

“No problem.  You know the basics, right?”

He gulped.  “Yes.”  He wondered if he could download a sex manual.

“Serve as my accountant for a year.  Our next trip will take us that long to reach our farthest customer and return to Marl.  You get to see the Hoop.  I get an accountant.  Your services will pay off your company debt, and my sisters will be overjoyed.”

He was confused.  “Your accountant?”

“Right.”  She waited expectantly, as he regained his composure.

“Not to boast,” he protested, “but my yearly salary is twice what the additional overbilling amount comes to.  And I came aboard with nothing to my name.  How can I visit the Hoop if I’m penniless?”

She frowned, considering his words.  They were somewhat justified.  “All right, I pay you a stipend.  Enough to make us break even.”

Harold’s eyes widened even farther.  “You would really let me travel with you to the Hoop?”

“To be honest, it’s not that exciting,” Juzee admitted.  “A lot of rocks are as boring as a trip to the gas giant.”

“I wouldn’t mind seeing the gas giant either.  If you’re serious, you’ve got a deal.”

Sudden excitement surged through Juzee Softcenter.  She was certain this was one of her best ideas ever.  Impulsively, she grabbed his shoulders, rose to her tiptoes, and kissed him, momentarily slipping her tongue into his mouth.  By the time she dropped back to her feet, she was blushing wondering what had possessed her to do such a brazen thing.

“What was that for?” he asked, bewildered.

“That’s how we finalize deals in the Hoop,” she lied.

They exchanged stares for a moment, and then he said, “I’m afraid I’ll need to add an addendum to our deal.”

“What kind of addendum?” she asked, suddenly cautious.

“I’ll need my own desk and rom,” he explained.

“Oh.  Yes, that makes sense.  I’ll have one moved in here.”

“It’s a deal,” he said, and he took her head between his hands and kissed her mouth.

They exchanged another stare.

“I have an addendum, too,” she blurted.

“What is it?”

Her mind worked furiously.  “You have to sign a non-disclosure form, Harold.”

He nodded.  “Call me Haree.  Excellent idea, Captain Softcenter.”

They exchanged kisses to seal the deal, and then another one just for the heck of it.

When they broke apart, breathing heavily, he said, “I have a codicil to our addendums.”

“And that is?”

“I want to be paid in Marlen dollars rather than in Hooper dollars.  Better change rate.”

“Very clever, Haree Hardpod,” she said, admiration oozing from her voice.


For the next ten minutes, they added addendums, codicils, and kisses to their agreement.  As they finished kissing, he took her head, gently turned it, and slid the tip of his tongue into her ear.  She gasped loudly.

“Good Spirit!” she panted. “That was a strange feeling.”

“My father told me that if I ever found myself kissing a woman, I should do that,” Haree confessed. “He said it would be quite stimulating.”

“Let me try it.”  She grabbed his head and stuck her tongue in his ear.  His gasp was even louder than hers.  They exchanged nervous laughs.

“My father was correct,” he said with amorous shudder.  “It is stimulating.”


At that moment her rom emitted a soft tone, indicating that her wake cycle had finished, and that her sleep cycle was beginning.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t have any place for you to sleep, except for in my bed,” she said. “We’ll have to share. I hope you won’t mind.”

“Not at all,” he replied graciously.


Captain Juzee Softcenter was not a maiden, but she had never had a man spend a night in her bed.  She tossed and turned for a long time, and against her back, the ship’s new accountant tossed and turned also.  In the middle of the night, she thought of a new addendum and so, since he was obviously awake, she thought it perfectly natural to turn and explain the new condition.  It took a fairly long time.  Afterwards, she slept the sleep of the happily exhausted, as did her accountant.



Captain Softcenter woke, feeling more rested than she had in a long time.  Beside her, Haree stirred.  She slid off the bed, searched in vain for her clothing, and then grabbed his long shirt.  It covered her to mid-thigh.  After using the viver, she returned to the bed.

“Good waking,” Haree said, rubbing sleep debris from his eyes.

“Good waking,” Juzee replied, feeling a little awkward.

Haree sat up and yawned.

“I was wondering about something,” Juzee said, trying for casual conversation. “What did you mean when you asked if you were to be bound in this room?  Did you think I was going to tie you to a chair or something?”

“No, I was asking if you intended to tie me to your bed.”

Juzee frowned.  “The bed?  Where would I sleep?”

“I don’t mean at night.  I was asking if you intended to tie me to your bed and have sex with me without my consent.”

“Oh.”  Her jaw dropped. “Oh!”  She crawled onto the bed and knelt next to him.  “I hope you understand that you had every right to say no to me last night.  I wouldn’t want you to feel coerced.”

“I do.  I don’t.  I mean, it was entirely consensual on my part.”

“And I want you to understand that I totally respect you as a person,” she said earnestly.  She hesitated and then added, “And I apologize for forcing you to come aboard my ship.  I did that in the heat of anger, and that was wrong of me.”

“It’s okay,” Haree hastened to say.  “Truly, this is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me.  And honestly, I know you wouldn’t have got satisfaction in a Marlen court.”

“Well then,” she gave him a brilliant smile and settled back on her heels.

“Of course, it might have been an interesting experience if you had tied me to your bed.”

She giggled, looked around, and spotted an errant stocking.  “You mean like this?”

She draped the stocking around his wrist and tied it lightly to the bedpost.  His irises darkened in response, causing her body to flush with expectation.

He stared at the binding and then lay down.  “You would have needed to tie both hands,” he said, his tone a little hoarse.

She found the other stocking, tied his other hand to the other post, and then leaned back.  Their eyes met and caught.  She heard a dinging and wondered if it was from blood rushing to her head, or perhaps rushing to other parts of her body.  It was a second before she realized that the dinging was from her rom.

“Oh, shirit,” she muttered.  She rolled off the bed and grabbed the intruding device. “Yes?” she inquired gruffly.

“Captain,” the comm officer replied, “you’ve received a private message from a family member, but the ship’s transfer software is not connecting with your personal rom.  It’s a glitch.”

“Understood,” she grumbled.

She marched to the door, slapped the palm panel, and waited impatiently as the disgruntled door slowly began to open.  It suddenly occurred to her that it might be better to be more appropriately dressed.  She turned and spied her pants folded neatly on the desk chair, their usual spot.

As she about to grab the trousers, Haree said, “Captain, if you don’t mind?”  He jerked his head toward a tied wrist.

“Yes, sorry,” she said.  She sprang onto the bed and straddled his body.  As she leaned forward to release his binds, she felt his shirt slide up her back, exposing her naked bottom.

“Captain.”  The disapproving voice of First Officer Sternbottom caused her to sit up and turn, thereby giving Sternbottom a good view of Haree’s upper torso and his bound wrists. “Captain!”  The officer’s tone changed from disapproving to shock.

Seeing her First Officer standing in the doorway, Juzee asked, “Is something wrong, First?”  She followed her officer’s gaze to the man tied to her bed.  “It’s not what you think.  We were just playing.”

Sternbottom let out a harrumph and said stiffly, “Your oldest sister has requested an explanation as to why you kidnapped a member of the Hardpod family.”



Was mix-up.  Haree hired as accountant.

Smiling, Juzee pushed the send icon and pocketed her rom, hoping the text would satisfy her sisters.  Perhaps, now that she had an accountant, they would not inquire too closely into the circumstances that had led him to her employment.  Personally, she thought her actions nothing short of dazzling.  She would recoup the monies owed by Hardpod Industries and her finances would finally be under control.

Her smiled dimmed a bit when she remember how First Officer Sternbottom had found Haree and her this morning.  She suspected that her First Officer was secretly in league with her sisters, probably reporting on her activities from time to time.  Hah!  She would show them.  She knew she was a capable captain.  She glanced at the door, wondering where Haree had gotten to.  He had asked and had been given permission to take a tour of her ship, The Bursting Button.  At that moment the door slid open, remarkably fast, but as Haree was about to step over the threshold, it tried to close, causing Haree to smack his nose on it.

“Owww!” he exclaimed, pushing the door aside and rubbing his schnozzle.  “What’s wrong with this thing?”

“Sorry, sorry.  Are you hurt?  It’s got some kind of glitch.”

“It’s these damnable AI’s,” he grumbled. “You know what Dr. Fiercebird says.”  He was referring to Marl’s most famous scientist. “He thinks these AI’s are going to kill all of us some day.”

“Oh, they would never do that,” Juzee replied with a rueful shake of her head.  “It’s much more fun to torment us.”

“Quite.  Lovely ship you have here, Captain.  Since I am to tour the Hoop, may I ask where we are headed?”

“We were going to put into First Rock, but that might prove to be awkward since your father’s ship would be there, too.  Our ship’s rom has calculated a transit to Hard Rock Carafe.  We don’t normally stop there, because it’s got a shady reputation as a place where lots of illicit deals take place, but we took a contract to move a shipment of old gems from Hard Rock to Silica.”

“I’ve heard of Silica.  They have a big market place.”

“Right.  It’s called the Great Mall of Silica.  Hard Rock used to be called Second Time, but a company headquartered in the Pebbles purchased it and changed the name.  It’s become a cultural hangout.  A lot of artists and progressive musicians make their home on the rock.”

Haree lowered his voice and said, “Please, don’t mention this to anyone, but I rather enjoy progressive music.  It has a strange effect on the senses.”

“I’ve noticed that.  The entertainment companies on Octive rock have installed speakers in every room.  They say piping in progressive music results in longer short term room rentals.”

He gave her a puzzled frown. “Why would anyone rent a room for a short time?”

Her brown face pinked as she replied. “Octive is closer to Marl than most rocks, but the normal services spaceships require were mostly covered by other rocks, before it was settled.  In order to enhance revenues, the authorities have allowed a number of entertainment options that have historically not been acceptable to polite society.”

“Ah,” Haree replied.  “You mean like gambling.”

“That too.  And dancing girls are everywhere.  Shops, restaurants, you’ll even find them dancing on the tables of fast food establishments.  Very disconcerting, if you ask me, trying to eat a sandwich with an almost naked dancer inches away.”

“But wouldn’t that add to the business costs?”

“Yes, well you see, they don’t just dance.”

Enlightenment hit Haree.  He blushed.  “Oh.  They’re prostitutes.” A thought occurred. “Great Captain’s Spirit!  Do they have dancing boys as well?”


Both coughed in embarrassment and looked away.  Her rom dinged.  She answered and heard, “Captain, we’re outside your berth.  We have the desk you ordered.”

“Good.  You may enter.”

The door opened, sliding smoothly into the wall.  Haree watched as a shipmate placed a pole between the edge of the door and the opposite door post.

“Is that necessary?” Juzee asked, somewhat embarrassed for the door’s sake.

The crewman started to reply and then flinched when the door buzzed angrily as bumped into the pole.  It buzzed again and then subsided.  Two men lifted a wood desk and maneuvered it through the opening.   They sat it in the spot Juzee indicated and left the room.  A crewman yanked the pole from the doorway, and then jumped back when the door tried to smack him.

“So, this is my new desk,” Haree said.

“Yes, but I can’t give you a rom until we transfer its data and reformat it.”

“I suppose I could try dancing on the desk,” he joked. “If my accounting skills don’t measure up, I might need a backup job.”

“Oh, I would love to see that,” Juzee exclaimed, grinning mischievously.

“Would you?”

Haree gaze was speculative, and he raised his eyebrows.  Juzee emitted a giggling snort.

“Naked?” he asked.

“It’s traditional.”

He unbuttoned his shirt.  Juzee quickly palmed the door lock, and then watched with increasing excitement as he finished disrobing.  He crawled onto the desk and stood.

“Good Spirit!” she whispered, staring at his nude body.

She raised her hands and clasped them under her neck.  Her breathing deepened, and her blood throbbed in private parts of her body.  She watched with wondrous appreciation as he slowly shuffled his feet, almost tripping, flailing his arms in as awkward a manner as a man ever had.

“Magnificent,” she whispered, utterly captivated.

The door opened smoothly, First Officer Sternbottom entered, and after one outraged look, exclaimed, “Captain!”


Captain Softcenter’s efforts to convince her First Officer, that what Sternbottom had seen was merely an attempt at levity, fell on deaf ears.

“I’m afraid she is determined to misinterpret what she saw,” Juzee said, emitting a soft sigh once her indignant First Officer left the room.

“No matter,” Haree replied. “We understand each other, and that is what is important.”

“Yes.  Oh, Haree, we’re going to have so much fun together.”

“I’m certain of it, my dear.  So, where to now?”

“As I said, I’ve been offered a contract to carry a top secret cargo of gems.  We have to pick it up at a saloon I’d rather not be caught dead in.  But since you will be there to watch my back, we’ll have no trouble.”

“Then lead on, my dear.  It’s off to adventure for Captain Juzee Softcenter and her accountant, Harold Hardpod.”

© 2016 Stan

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Added on January 18, 2016
Last Updated on January 18, 2016
Tags: Science Fiction, Humor, Romance



Kula, HI

Speculative Fiction writer. Born and raised in California, Educated and married in New Mexico, Lived in Texas before moving to Maui, Hawaii. Operated a computer assembly and repair business before r.. more..