Authors: Yamila Abraham
“He raped her?” Lysanter thought aloud.
“Look at the word key, master.
Harassment doesn’t sound like rape to me.”
Indeed, if it was rape it would have said ‘assault.’
Still, the definition of harassment didn’t give him much indication of what had happened.
was dropped a full rank as punishment and Lenora was transferred to a different unit away from him.
A few months later, just before the end of the war, a document showed that
had had Lenora placed back into his unit.
Then there was the invasion of the Instajants, an invulnerable parasitic alien that the Dak-Hiliah had unleashed on Earth.
More than ninety percent of the planet’s population was essentially killed when they were turned into Instajant hosts and marched to ships that would take them to the Instajant home worlds.
Earth finally surrendered to the Dak-Hiliah in exchange for the Instajant vaccine.
Lysanter was struck once again by how stubborn Earth’s leaders had been.
If his people hadn’t needed the Earth females so desperately they could have ended the war sooner with greater violence.
Their robots battled for two decades with the imperative not to kill any women.
It was clear this tactic wasn’t leading Earth toward surrender.
The Dak-Hiliah then warned that the Instajants were headed for Earth and they were the only ones with a vaccine.
Earth chose to call their bluff, leading them to a hideous tragedy that had harmed both their societies.
According to the documents Lenora had hidden in the sewers for close to a year during the Instajant invasion.
She was discovered by Dak-Hiliah robots with none other than Sergeant Everett Hastings.
The two managed to avoid capture for several months.
’ remains were later found in a drainage pipe.
Lenora was caught soon after and brought to the mostly useless military deprogramming prison before being placed in the slave colony.
man obviously wanted Lenora.
When the planet devolved into further chaos he must have positioned himself to run with her.
I wonder if they’d mended their relationship by then?”
Hester pointed to the tab documenting Lenora’s transfer with one of his three digits.
The document showed Lenora had vehemently protested past transfer attempts that would have put her back in
Lysanter’s brow furrowed.
’ photo showed a stocky man close to twice Lenora’s age with a deep-set forehead.
“Lenora’s beautiful and this man outranked her.
I’ll bet he thought he was entitled to her.”
“It must have been an uncomfortable situation for her, surviving with him,” Hester said.
“I imagine it was worse than uncomfortable.”
The scenarios that played out in Lysanter’s head were far less pleasing than before.
How could he get through to a woman who’d endured such trauma?
Before landing the boxy robots herded Lenora and four other women into a secure seating area on the ship.
That’s when she saw Vivian and felt as if the floor had opened up beneath her.
For a moment all she could do was stare in white-faced horror.
Then the woman behind her said something belligerent in Russian and Lenora took her seat.
They were strapped into a long bench.
She looked at the younger girl with an aching pang of regret.
Of course she’d be competing also.
Lenora should have guessed this.
Vivian sent her a gigantic smile.
The women sitting between them were strangers.
Vivian looked glad to see Lenora’s familiar face.
They disembarked in a noisy spaceport where six-limbed alien creatures in bright orange uniforms were directing traffic.
Lenora wanted to get a good look at one of them, but the robots brusquely corralled her and the other women into a shuttle.
This time they weren’t strapped in and there were windows.
Lenora went to Vivian’s side.
Vivian took both Lenora’s hands in hers.
“You’re going to play these games, too?
Holy shit, this is awesome.”
Lenora couldn’t fathom her friend’s easy-going happiness.
Vivian was a lanky seventeen-year-old with a mix of Asian and Spanish heritage.
She wore her bushy black hair short.
“Did you agree to this?” Lenora said.
Vivian wet her lips.
Well, they said you were going, and I was like, bullshit.
But then I was like, hey, maybe?
But anyway, if we win we can go back to the woods and summer’s coming.
I mean, the only thing that sucked about camping with you last time was the cold.
I bet we’d kick ass if we tried roughing it in summer.”
Lenora’s stomach felt like it clenched.
You little fool.
But then…wasn’t she thinking the same thing?
“Vivian, what if we lose?”
“Then we got to marry one of those blue assholes, right?”
She glanced out the window.
A futuristic city of pale glistening domes intersected by iridescent highways spread out as far as they could see.
“Elentinus is pretty hot, I guess.
I mean, if he wasn’t a fucking dickhead.
And they may be blue with horns and shit, but they still look like people.
I don’t know, whatever.
I’m not going to worry about all the other shit we heard about them.
I mean, what the fuck can you do?”
Lenora’s heart sank.
The same reasoning had occurred to her, but now it was much more dire.
Vivian’s life was going to be ruined now also.
This was Lenora’s fault.
Elentinus had just made it clear the troublemakers were going to be the first ones given to husbands.
If Vivian had just behaved she might have had a few more years in the colony.
Lenora’s influence had placed her on the fast track to Hell.
“It’ll probably be okay,” Vivian said, as though her thoughts had continued during the brief silence.
“We can win, right?”
Lenora became stoic.
“They don’t play fair.”
“Well at least we’re out of that fucking colony.
God, what a pain in the ass that place was.
Dugan was such a fucking dickhead.”
At least if they both won Lenora could look after her.
They had much better survival odds if they started out in warm weather.
They could dry fish and suck on crabapples.
Maybe they could even save up acorns.
There was some hope.
If they lost she felt there was none.
Vivian would end up like those poor ex-wives who’d ended up at the colony.
Shock collars…rape…though even when it wasn’t rape the women warned her that female human bodies were incompatible with Dak-Hiliah men.
One Russian woman named Inga put it in the least delicate terms:
They are built like horses and can’t control their appetites.
When they’re aroused they must ejaculate or they get sick.
They’re too desperate to be careful with you.
She may profess a dozen other reasons for needing to run, but wasn’t that the most pressing one?
Wasn’t that the issue that caused her to risk getting shocked just to get away?
The shuttle landed in front of one of the largest of the white domes they’d seen through the windows.
Its scope couldn’t be fathomed until they stood dwarfed in front of it.
The building had a honeycomb shape with each cell as tall as some of the smaller domes.
As they went through the decorated entrance Lenora struggled to read a holographic sign pulsing with more colors than what was visible to humans.
The main language was unreadable, but a Dak-Hiliah translation appeared in smaller characters below it.
“Downtown Canopania Arena.”
“You can read that?” Vivian said, while gaping at the boxy letters and pictograms.
“They put a bunch of languages in my head when I was in that deprogramming prison.
I guess it’s finally become useful.”
“They better language me up too if they want me to marry one of them.”
Lenora eyed her sharply.
“What are you talking about?”
Lenora ground her teeth.
You’ve already lost, haven’t you?
She understood the appeal of giving in.
This would be a breeze if winning were inconsequential.
All the stress would be gone.
Vivian refused to see what losing really meant.
Lenora clenched her teeth and grabbed her.
You have to play like your life depends on it.”
She shook her.
“Do you understand me?”
Vivian’s face blanched.
One of the six robots surrounding their group rolled near her.
Lenora let go.
The girl’s face finally reflected the gravity of their situation.
Lenora could hear her swallow.
The entryway of the arena led into a lavish mall and food court.
It was crowded with the six-limbed aliens.
Lenora stared at them as vehemently as they did her.
Their shape reminded her of llamas, but with an extra small set of limbs to provide them arms.
They were different shades of green or brown, hairless, with long oval faces, nostril holes, small lip-less mouths, and huge bulbous black eyes.
Their clothes struck her as very human, at least pre-Instajant human.
There were vibrant colors to the four legged pants, skirts, dresses, and tunics.
Most hung on their bodies loosely with shimmering fabric.
She saw family units composed of two adults (presumably male and female though she couldn’t tell them apart) and multiple children, some in strollers.
They were shorter than even Vivian.
The adults averaged only four feet.
“What the fuck are these things?” a blonde Russian woman in their group said.
“Dornovonians,” Lenora said.
(She’d chosen not to speak to her competitors prior to this so they couldn’t gauge her for weaknesses.)
“This is one of the Dak-Hiliah’s slave worlds.”
Vivian gawked at them.
“They don’t look like slaves.”
This wasn’t what she’d imagined when Elentinus said ‘slave world.’
They were guided up to a mezzanine that was not infiltrated by the mall customers.
After a quarter mile walk they went down another set of stairs and then entered a large athletic changing room.
There were sets of clothes neatly arranged on a long white bench going down the middle.
One wall was pockmarked with circular cubby holes.
Across it was an open shower area with sleek showerheads hanging from the white molded ceiling and no visible controls.
The wall in front of them was lined with squatting toilets with unusually large basins (designed for the Dornovonians, she presumed).
“Change into these Bride Game uniforms,” one of the robots said in its deeply muffled electronic voice.
The women waited.
Lenora wasn’t sure if the other four girls were from their colony (though she vaguely recognized one) but the robots stayed out of their quarters.
She was unused to dressing in front of them.
For a moment she thought they should at least turn around.
Then her foolishness struck her.
The Dak-Hiliah robots had no backs, just two fronts.
Both of their sides were identical.
They never had to turn around whether they moved forwards or backwards.