AS THEY WALKED DOWN THROUGH the corridor, Abby noticed that, though everyone spoke English, the accents seemed wrong. Words seemed slurred. And worse, all the Kiposi still had insipid smiles plastered upon their faces. She tried hard to listen, catching only snippets of conversation. The plan had changed the two centuries that the transports had been away. She discovered that, once the ships were filled with Earthlings, names and test scores were sent ahead and relatives of children paid no bonds, assuming that they would pay for their higher education and assimilate them into gentle society. Other children would be adopted, but the adoption bonds were expensive.
Abby didn’t understand. The Kiposi said nothing of bonds or taxes when they were encouraging them to leave their lives behind and journey across the galaxy.
They crossed a sky bridge and down a flight of stairs to where there were seven buses, the tops of which were covered by what looked like might be solar panels. Abby looked for the two suns, but it was a cloudy day.
What was most disconcerting to her was that there were still no sign of the males. No Jin or Rory. Sadie looked afraid as they entered the bus, but Orchid said, “Of course, you will sit by me.”
The three squished together on the bench seat meant for two. From what she had seen of it, Abby was most surprised at how much the New Alexandria Aerospace Port looked like Seatac International Airport. Long tarmacs surrounded by cement buildings and trees. A few radio towers. Most looked similar to those they had on Earth. There were even airplanes. Only the spaceships looked different.
The bus stopped in front of a building and a list of names was read. Sadie Cho Jeffers was one of them.
“Abigail and Orchid Boyd Lei,” she whispered, “maybe my aunt will allow me to write to you once we are settled.”
“Jacob and Danielle Blackwell. Sadie Cho Jeffers,” Orchid said.
They hugged once more. Sadie got off the bus.
Abby looked out the tinted window and watched the Kiposi technician introduce the girl to her new relatives. Danielle embraced her. She looked truly happy. Jacob looked a little more pensive as he patted her shoulder, but that was to be expected. He had just become a first time father to a thirteen year-old girl. Sadie looked a little frightened; she waved once more as the bus pulled away. Orchid waved back. Abby doubted Sadie could see them through the tinted glass.
The bus stopped a few more times. Names were read; women and girls got off. Families were quickly introduced and the bus moved on.
The Kiposi seemed efficiently organized. Some found comfort in that. Abby did not. The bus stopped in front of a large concrete building. As they disembarked, Abby heard male voices and shouts. She hoped to see her brother and the other men, but they could see only more Kiposi. Their faces held contempt and lechery. Abby wished they were still smiling.
Though sensing something was wrong, Abby tried to reassure her sister, “It’s okay. I guess it’s like a commune for those who don’t have Kiposi families.”
There was nothing to do except follow the crowd. Inside the building was a maze of female technicians, a dentist, and a doctor. A laser shower burned off the topmost layer of their skin, a second beam burned off excess body hair. The hair on their heads was washed, oiled, and perfumed. By the time they hit the dryer, Orchid was in tears.
They were both given their clothing, hot unsweetened tea, and tiny sandwiches. Abby did not know what to do. She sat down on a nearby sofa with her arms around Orchid. Something about this was very wrong. She pushed terrible thoughts out of her head by focusing on one point: No matter what happens to me, nothing will happen to my little sister.
They sat huddled together for about an hour until Orchid fell asleep with her head in Abby’s lap. Once she did, a Kiposi immediately brought over a blanket and another cup of tea.
While Orchid slept, Abby watched for some clue of exactly what was going on. Needs were met quickly. If someone cried, a woman comforted her. If they were hungry, they were fed.
Lost, Abby prayed to her ancestors for guidance and bravery.
She witnessed men enter individually or in small groups. They would be introduced to women and then they would each take one away. Abby also saw a man get on one knee to offer marriage to a twenty-five year old woman. He gave the woman a laundry list of reasons why she should accept; the woman did. The others clapped to show their approval.
Abby saw one woman tell a girl that she was her new daughter. The girl could refer to the woman as “Mother” or “Mom” as she preferred. The girl did not seem too excited, but called the woman “Mother.” The woman wept happily and kissed her.
Abby had snuggled up to her sister when a woman led a group of five men into the room. Three were dressed identically in uniforms. The one dressed in a gray suit was quite a bit older. The other, a thirtyish year old man with a brown suit and dull eyes, looked over a list of test scores and abilities and spoke to one of the Kiposi technicians. He didn’t look at the women at all.
The party crossed the room and stood in front of them. Abby sat up and shook Orchid awake. Looking down on her, the dull-eyed man said, “Miss Bodlay, come with me.” It was an order given by a man who was used to getting his way.
Abby did not bother to correct him; instead, she glanced at Orchid. “And my sister?”
The man said, “I don’t need two.”
Abby did not stand up, but tightened the grip on her sister’s arm. “I promised not to leave her!”
One of his men reached out and grabbed Abby by the shoulder and yanked her to her feet. She momentarily lost her grip on Orchid. She clutched at her sister again and cleaved her to her chest. Other women began to take notice. Some cried. Others told the men to leave the girls alone. The Kiposi tried to calm them.
“ABBY!” Orchid screamed.
Suddenly, her sister was still. Abby could not hold her dead weight and Orchid slipped away as two of the men ripped them apart.
Abby elbowed her captor in the face. He loosened his grip and she tried to get to her sister. Another man grabbed her by the hair.
She cried out. “Orchid! What have you done?”
No one answered. She tried pushing the man away, but her scalp felt as if it might rip. His other fingertips seemed to drill themselves into her neck. The dull-eyed man picked Orchid up and put her on the sofa. “Let the woman go.”
The two men complied, but Abby felt no sense of relief. She was so angry and frightened she could barely focus.
“Abigail Bodlay, according to testing, you have a fine mind and the needed genetic structure. This can be pleasant or not. You’re mine now, a member of my household,” the dull-eyed man said.
“Please, my sister…”
The man’s mouth turned into a smile, but his eyes did not. He leaned down to her and she felt his soft manicured finger against her cheek as he spoke in the slightest of whispers: “She has been sedated. Obey or I will kill her.”
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