A Piece of my Imagination
Centurion David ap Rhys, his grey uniform distinctive amongst the Marine and Navy uniforms dotted around the room, was greeted by several of the women with happy smiles as he passed and, it must be admitted, by the odd scowl.
He meandered his way through the reclining couches and low tables to the back of the room and the bar, where a tall glass had appeared before he was half way across the room. He slid onto the corner stool and looked around; nothing appeared to be untoward so he returned his attention to the drink, the glass of which was covered in a fine layer of condensation, and the woman behind the bar who was waiting for him to speak.
"How's everything going Mandy?" he asked, his voice just loud enough to be heard over the background music and the chatting of the customers.
"Fine David, no problems at all," said Mandy as she allowed her own eyes to scan the room, noting which girls were hard at it and those that seemed to be coasting.
Like all buildings on the planet Trident this one had started off as several linked pods but in the past eighteen months it had been opened up to create a convivial atmosphere for the customers, predominantly visiting Marines, to go about their business.
In many ways it was typical of similar establishments everywhere, slightly garish colours — but not as loud as some of the more extreme examples in Thailand — muted to a certain extent by hanging swathes of soft fabrics. The background music was really the sound track to the porn films that were being shown on the various screens dotted around the room.
Perhaps the biggest difference was that this brothel was unisex — not a fifty-fifty split admittedly — but there was a selection of males as well as the normal bevy of delectable females from which the customers could take their pick. The sexual composition of the visiting Marine formations and the Navy ships crews had made that essential if the place was to be successful. The other real difference was that the customers didn't have to pay for the sexual services of the establishment. These were provided — on the house — by the Civil Service, though not the food and drinks that were also available.
Mandy leaned onto the bar, displaying her ample cleavage, and asked the Civil Service officer, "Have you heard how Sonia's doing?"
David smiled back at Mandy, who at forty- eight, was one of the oldest women in the building — though you couldn't tell by simply looking at her. Her CAP score of six point four, besides being just below the cut- off point for volunteering, indicated that she had a brain in her pretty head. Back on Earth Mandy had run a catering business and had been extracted by her husband — of all people — on the same colony ship as David. When her husband had been killed in a stupid accident in training she'd become one of the first cases David had been required to deal with.
"Sonia is doing fine," said David, "the medics have got her blood sugars back under control and the baby appears to be fine." He sipped his drink, "They reckon it'll pop out in the next couple of days and I'm sure Sonia will bring him round for everyone to see," David said as he ran his finger through the condensation on the glass.
David had taken advantage of Mandy and her business sense and the need to accommodate about a dozen spare concubines he'd inherited on arrival in the Neptune system and had set up a holding pen, which had morphed — originally — into a guest house. Mandy had run the place with a rod of steel — though often encased in velvet — for David, and he'd had no complaints.
When visiting Marines had started to call on the concubines it germinated an idea and Mandy, who was fond of the occasional frolic herself, had taken that idea and run with it. The result had been beyond their wildest dreams. Now the brothel not only served the purpose of getting concubines pregnant, it also kept Marines out of trouble and turned a profit, so much so that David had recommended the idea to the Civil Service Organisation as one of the first things that CSO's should set up.
His train of thought was interrupted as a big busted, dusky woman undulated into view with only her hips covered by a very fine piece of orange lace. She was leading a young looking Marine off to one of the bedroom compartments at the rear of the establishments and, probably, an hour or two of unadulterated enjoyment for both of them.
"Is there anything else you need Mandy?" David asked, his eyes returning to his brothel manager.
"Not at the moment, though I'm keeping a special eye on a couple of the new girls," she said.
"Problems?" asked David, frowning.
"Not problems, just a little difficulty in attitude adjustment." Mandy shrugged, "It's probably why their sponsor dumped them in the first place, but they'll come round," she smiled at David, "or end up pregnant."
Pregnancy was one way out of the brothel business and David was always happy to remove a woman in that condition. The Civil Service had a barracks set aside to cope with pregnant women and their medical needs as well as a crèche for the newly arrived kids. He'd found that after six months in that madhouse most women were more than happy to come back to work, even if it was on their backs.
"OK, just keep an eye on things and let me know if I need to do something about it for you," he said finishing off his drink.
Trident was the third planet of the Neptune system and had been a Confederacy colony world for a mere two years. Prior to that it had been mapped by the Confederacy but was of no interest to any of the member races and so had been ignored, simply being identified by a number. The third planet itself was benign and as such had very little to recommend itself if you wanted any sort of excitement.
It was lacking in the great mountain ranges and wild rivers that gave a planet character, it's weather was so predictable that if it had been set up as a farming world you could have harvested two full crops a year. The oceans were not wide enough or deep enough to cause massive changes to the weather patterns and the almost circular orbit had failed to influence the weather. The planet didn't even have a satellite to provide the tidal surges that so many places on Earth were familiar with.
The system had only one real negative point, and that had proved to be a major hindrance to its growth even as a human colony and that was it's galactic position — it was situated right on the edge of the path that the Sa'arm were following. Why a colony world had been put here was a point that was debated by those who were privy to the information, whenever they got together but no real answer had been forthcoming.
Yes it did have advantages for troop and ship deployments but it had to be expected to be invaded in short order, which probably accounted for the lack of infrastructure development taking place. The Navy had a minimal repair and re-provisioning facility in orbit around Neptune eight, a gas giant way out from the local G2 star. That was all ship based and as such they could pick up and run at the first sign of danger and that was the standing orders the Navy operated under.
... Which is more than can be said for the local Marines...
Trident was the home base for a Marine regiment, each of its three battalions being associated with a township on the planet. These three townships formed a pyramid around the headquarters and spaceport complex, which also housed David ap Rhys and the small Civil Service encampment he represented.
The total human population of the planet had reached twenty five thousand or there abouts and then, well short of the original projections of a hundred thousand, it had stopped growing. The consensus of opinion was that somebody had got sensible and decided that throwing away breeding stock just to feed the Sa'arm was not a good plan and had done something about it.
The three battalions of the Marine Regiment spent most of their time hitting Sa'arm incursions in penny packets, an annoyance to the oncoming aliens rather than a full-blooded attempt to stop their invasion.
When David ap Rhys had been dropped on the planet he'd arranged for his home to be positioned close to the headquarters and not as part of one of the towns. This had originally caused a little hardship for his concubines but had allowed him to be associated with the whole regiment and not any one particular battalion. Over time his own house had grown to five pods, two of which were set up as temporary accommodation for any spare concubines he was forced to look after — concubines who really should have been taken care of by their owners before they went off to battle and not just left to fend for themselves when things went wrong.
David sighed, none too quietly, as he cooled his heels in the administration office of the Second Battalion. His appointment with Major Helios, the newly arrived deputy commander of the Second Battalion, had been for fourteen hundred and he'd already been kept waiting for twenty minutes. His temper, never his best attribute, was starting to fray around the edges and he knew it — petty bureaucracy and empire building had always had this effect on him and it would appear that Major Helios was out to build himself as big an empire as he could manage.
This interview was the same one he had with every battalion commander and his — or her — deputy that came through the place, as well as any other figure he could find in a position of authority. Time had shown that he had the best results when speaking to the non-commissioned officers, rather than those who were supposed to lead, but he felt he had to go through the motions for his own sense of purpose if nothing else.
"Centurion," the desk sergeant called, "Major Helios will see you now." David couldn't help it, his eyes glanced to the wall clock and back to the Sergeant, who had the grace to look embarrassed but could only respond to David's taunts by shrugging his shoulders.
"Thank you, Sergeant." David said, half smiling in apology before rising to his feet and following the man down the corridor to the last office on the left.
"Centurion ap Rhys, Sir," said the Sergeant who stepped aside to let David enter the office.
Major Helios, his dark hair and olive complexion hinting at a Latino background, remained seated as David entered the office, another not-so-subtle snub to the man who had the equivalent rank to the Major. The Sergeant, perhaps sensing an ensuing explosion, beat a hasty retreat, closing the door quietly as he did so.
David, looked around and moved over to a comfortable looking chair against one wall and stood by it and didn't say a word, waiting for the Marine Major to make the next move.
The Major scowled, "Centurion, I really don't have time to be social right now so if you could state your business it will let me get back to running the battalion," he said glancing at the papers strewn across his desk.
David bit back a retort and sat in the seat, taking a moment to control himself before beginning his sales pitch, a pitch he really didn't have any faith in. "Major all I'm after is a little bit of co-operation from yourself in regards to the troops under your command and their concubines."
Major Helios began fiddling with his pen, clearly not interested in whatever the Centurion had to say.
"To put it simply," David said, barely trying to keep the implication that the Major was simple from his voice, "I would like you to have your troops leave a will stating what is to happen to their concubines when they die."
The Major stopped him, "I do not encourage my soldiers to think of dying and in the event that they should fall doing their duty," he sneered at the grey uniform, "then the battalion will take care of their spouses."
"Wrong!" stated David firmly, "They are not family, they're property and if the sponsor does not leave clear instructions with the colony AI as to their disposal then they become the property of the Civil Service. Major, that includes YOUR concubines, so unless you want them working in the garrison brothel you need to think about what you want done with them!"
"Get out of my office," stormed Major Helios, rising to his feet. "Don't go suggesting that you'll get your filthy hands on my women, I won't let you," he said, gesticulating wildly.
David, shaking his head, more at his own stupidity than the Majors predictable reaction, stood and calmly left the office, restraining himself from slamming the door as he did so. The Major's vilification following him loudly down the corridor, causing various Marines to look away so as not to get involved.
As he was passing an office close to the administration office a voice called out, "Excuse me Sir, do you have a moment?"
David snapped his eyes to his right and recognised the Battalion Sergeant Major, he changed direction and went to the chair the Sergeant Major indicated before dropping down and letting out a huge sigh.
"As bad as that, Sir?"
David raised an eyebrow, "You couldn't hear, Sergeant Major?" he asked. "I think you better get off to the medics and have a check up," he finished with a smile.
"So that was you, I thought someone had fucked up and annoyed the Major."
"Oh I did THAT, Sergeant Major. I allowed my own feelings to get in the way of doing the job properly and that's always a mistake," countered the Centurion.
"Sounded like it, I'll agree Sir, but I wouldn't worry about it too much," consoled the Sergeant Major. "I've had a word with most of the seniors and it seems that just about everyone has left some sort of instructions as to the disposal of their family if they don't get back."
"That's good, and I'm thankful for your help. I just wish I could get the powers-that-be to make it a mandatory requirement for all troops. It would save an awful lot of messing about when things go wrong." David looked the Sergeant Major in the eye, "And no matter how I try to treat the concubines as possessions they're really people and when their sponsor dies they are upset — distraught in some cases — and having to treat them like meat doesn't do a lot to help anyone."
"I know, I've seen what it's like after a bad mission and I wouldn't have your job for all the perks the guys think you've got," agreed the senior non-com.
The pair stood and shook hands before David headed off, mission accomplished, after a fashion.
The voice in his head summoned him, "Centurion," the AI called softly.
David, who'd been totally relaxed in the arms of Megan, his favourite concubine, raised his head. "Yes."
"Your presence is requested at the Regimental Headquarters, as soon as is convenient."
"Who made the request and was any reason given?" David asked.
"The request came from Sergeant Major Osgood who gave no reason for the summons," replied the AI.
Sergeant Major Osgood was the Regimental Sergeant Major, for him to be making the request meant it had to be something significant. That it asked him to report to the Regimental Headquarters rather than somewhere private implied it was official. Big and official did not bode well, thought David as he swung off the bed and reached for his uniform jacket.
Taking one look at his expression Megan started to rise, "Is there a problem, David?"
"Possibly," he replied, "No, make that probably, though I don't know what." He pondered for a moment then, "You'd better get everyone ready for business, just in case," he said.
David had used his own concubines as nurses and agony aunts whenever he'd need the help. The lack of official support for the Civil Service had made this necessary, in the same way that he used Mandy and her business experience in running the brothel — needs must — as they say.
Dressed, David made the short walk from his home to the headquarters building. As he approached he became aware of the number of windows showing lights, far more that you'd expect at this time of night. The guard on the building, looking sombre, just waved him through, clearly affected by what had been going on inside.
As soon as he entered the concourse he became aware of the buzz around the place, that sense that something untoward was happening. An Ensign spotted him and detached himself from the reception desk and approached, coming to attention and saluting. An unusual occurrence for David, who as a non-combatant was largely ignored but one he acknowledged in like manner.
"Centurion, I've been asked to escort you to the briefing room, if you'll come this way," the new Ensign said. Without waiting for a response the Ensign turned and headed off towards the elevators. David, his mind more on filtering the events around him than on where he was going, followed along. Whatever had happened was substantial that was for sure.
The door before him opened and he entered a briefing room, about a dozen Marines — mostly officers — were standing around, conversing in subdued tones. As soon as he entered the room the Regimental Sergeant Major detached himself from the two people he was talking to and came over.
"David, we may have some work for you," he said by way of greeting.
David raised an eyebrow in question and said, "Some?"
Tom Osgood nodded towards the holographic display in the centre of the briefing room before continuing. "We've been running a series of hit and run operations against a Sa'arm incursion." David nodded, this was common knowledge anywhere on the planet. "Well it looks like one of them has gone sour," the Sergeant Major finished.
David looked around, identifying the officers present and doing some thinking. The Regimental commander and his Operations officer, the Second Battalion commander, his Executive Officer — the same Major Helios that David had had a run in with only a couple of days ago — and their Operations officer but no other battalion staff. Ergo it was a Second Battalion operation that had gone sour.
"Just how bad, Tom?" he asked, bracing himself for the answer.
"We've lost contact with the Sir Agravaine, and the two cruisers that were accompanying the ship, the Munster and Manchester, have both reported taking heavy damage."
The Sir Agravaine was a Lancelot class troop transport designed to carry a full company of Marines. David swallowed, "I take it no one is in position to look for survivors?"
"No, the Navy is to busy running for its life." Tom Osgood glanced once more at the holographic image, "The task force arrived in system at the same time as a Sa'arm hive ship, the vectors were all wrong and they couldn't avoid contact. The Cruisers managed — barely by the sound of it — to smash a way through but the Sir Agravaine didn't make it. Looking at the time scales involved I doubt if they had chance to transport anybody off either." He looked the Civil Service officer in the eye, "It would appear that we've just lost the whole of C Company, all one hundred and fifty four of them, in a single monumental fuck up."
"Oh Shit," muttered David.
The Sergeant Major returned to the small group he'd been with and David drifted to one side of the room. Quietly, sub-vocalising, he consulted the AI, "Subject Charlie Company, Second battalion, how many members of the company had made living wills that are still operable assuming all members of the company are deceased?"
The AI played a hum, the equivalent of the old 'on hold' music as it dealt with his question. "Centurion, allowing that the crew of the Sir Agravaine are also casualties, there are six living wills in effect. This leaves four hundred and fifty-four concubines, along with forty-eight children and eighty-three foetuses that become the property of the Civil Service."
"Fuck!" exclaimed David, which got him a few glares, but unaccounted-for outbursts where common ever since the human race had started talking to AIs and most people just ignored these comments. For the next hour he attempted to get things organised for when the military officially accepted that they'd lost a company and he had to deal with the fall-out.
A concerted movement got the Centurion's attention away from his internal conversations with the AI and he stood up when the Regimental Colonel approached him, flanked by various other officers.
"Centurion," the Colonel greeted David, "I'm making it official, we're posting C Company, Second Battalion as missing in action. Everything points to them being dead so the AIs will hand over the deceased troops' households to you as necessary." The Colonel, looking as though he'd lost his own son, not just a group of men he'd vaguely known, asked, "Is there anything we can do to help?"
David bit his tongue about living wills, now clearly wasn't the time to push the matter. "I've consulted with the AI, Sir, and if you can allocate Hanger G3 to me, along with a couple of the field kitchens and their replicators, I should be OK in the short term." David pushed his fringe out of his eyes, "There may be other things later but not at the moment, Sir."
Major Helios jumped in, by passing his own commander in the process. "Colonel, can't the battalion look after the men's families? At least keep them in their homes for now, if nothing else."
The Colonel turned and looked the Major over, his expression clearly saying that the Major had just stood in it big time. "Major, the Battalion, the Regiment even, does not have the social network that the regular forces back on Earth used to have so there is no way we can look after the 'possessions'," he emphasised, "of our troopers. The pods they're in at the moment, their homes, respond to the commands of the sponsor, not the concubines. With the sponsor dead those pods will shut down over a forty-eight-hour period until they are re-allocated to another sponsor. Nothing can be done about that."
The Colonel nodded towards David, "The Civil Service, here, will ensure that the concubines are housed and fed, albeit at a basic level, until such time as their disposal can be arranged. This may not be the ideal solution but it is the one that applies and it was clearly stated in your position brief when you joined the Regiment, so you should have been aware of it." With that the Colonel turned his back on the red faced Major and addressed David.
"That hanger is yours, as are the kitchens. Look after these people, Centurion, please," the Colonel said.
David, feeling only a slight tinge of enjoyment at the discomfort heaped upon Major Helios, saluted the Colonel and prepared himself for a very busy, and fraught, time to come.
David took in the appearance of the hanger with a grimace, its grey concrete walls and the metal decking that made up the mezzanine floor were as depressing as the Centurion's feelings. So far the concubines hadn't been informed of their sponsors' disappearance, though rumours had started to circulate through the Regiment. He and the work party the Regiment had provided were working to produce a space that was at least habitable, if not comfortable, in the minimal time available.
Already the field kitchens had been assembled and positioned at either end of the hanger space and sufficient field sanitation had been piped in to accommodate the five hundred plus people who would soon be calling this desolate grey building home.
What David was going to do with them was another matter, and one he could only think of in moments of idleness for now. His sombre mood was lightened by the arrival of his own concubines, with Megan in the lead as usual. They gathered around him and waited to see what he wanted them for.
"Morning," he said by way of greeting, and even that sounded sombre to his ears. "I don't know if any of you have heard, but there has been a glitch out on operations," He paused, "No, not a glitch, more of a fucking disaster." His concubines started at his sudden use of bad language.
"The whole of C Company, the Second battalion is being reported as missing," again he paused, "which is another way of saying they're dead but we haven't got the bodies."
David waited as the shock of his announcement rippled through his concubines, then watched as slowly they all looked back at him. "That's the bad news, the really bad news is that very few of the company had made provision for their concubines which means I get the lot of them. Very soon this," he waved his arm around, "will be home to five hundred and two men, women and children who have just lost everything they thought they had."
"We've been through this every time someone dies — but never on this scale — and whilst we've been able to offer extras to those who we've looked after in our own home we won't be doing anything like that here. That means the concubines here are going to be on basic rations, minimal entertainment and only getting the bare essentials replaced." He paused, "I'm sure you're all aware of what sort of shock that this is going to be to most of these people and how they're likely to react."
David took a breath to calm down and lowered his voice, which had begun to rise. "I'm not going to be able to be very forgiving," he stated, holding their attention. "In fact I'm fairly sure that before the week is out I'm going to have to kill someone to maintain discipline." That simple statement was greeted with shock, they knew that a sponsor could do this if he wished but they'd never consciously accepted that David could do it to any concubines in his care.
"You," said David indicating all of his family, "are going to be acting as the interface between the concubines and me. I want you to deal with any problems they have in the same way that we have before but if anyone — and I do mean anyone — gives you trouble you send them to me to deal with, do you understand?"
An affirmative chorus greeted that statement; everyone understood his message loud and clear and if they didn't do as he'd said then it would be them that were in trouble and they knew it.
"Megan, there's an old store room over in the far corner, I want you to use that as an improvised classroom and keep all the kids in there while we deal with the initial fallout."
David half turned, "Daniella, you take the kitchen at that end, Jodie you've got the other one," he said to the two former waitresses. "As soon as you can hand over responsibility to one of the concubines do so and get out of the way."
"Sylvia, Fliss, Charlotte, you three are the front people. Divide the place up into three and each of you run a section. Kathy, you're momma-in-chief for anything that these three can't handle, it comes to you and you stomp on it, only passing it on to me if it really can't be handled. Stew, you're the riot control force, get a stinger and stun anyone who gets out of hand," David glanced upwards, "AI, acknowledge that instruction and my authorisation to proceed," he said.
David paused until the AI had agreed to his highly unusual command and then gathered his family together. "This is not going to be much fun, they're going to be upset at losing loved ones and then angry at being thrown out of their homes. We are going to be the easiest target to hit out at, especially when they can't have everything they want. So stay alert and at the slightest sign of trouble get out of the way and scream for help, literally if need be. Everyone understand?"
The family all nodded their understanding, "Good, now go home and put on the grey uniforms, grab a meal and get back here," he said dismissing them for the moment. The uniform he'd told them to put on was a replica of his own but fitted with Warrant Officer insignia, totally unofficial and with no authority but as no on really knew what the Civil Service was all about no one would know. David had figured that the uniforms would help keep some of the concubines in line and his own family safe, which was all that mattered when he'd had the uniforms made; now he'd find out if they were of much use.
"Tom, have you got a minute," David asked, using the AI controlled communications net to place the call.
"Sure Centurion, what can I do for you?" the Sergeant Major asked.
"Do you happen to know if C Company had a social organisation of any sort, you know, a wives' club or entertainment committee, that sort of thing?"
"Hang on a sec, I've got Bob Oldendorf here, he's Second Battalion's Sergeant Major, he should know."
The line in his head went quiet for a short while then, "David, Bob tells me that they did and the First Sergeant's senior bitch ran it, her name's Wendy."
"Great Tom," David paused for a moment before asking, "Have they been told yet?"
"About half an hour ago," replied the Sergeant Major, "we're just waiting for the fallout to start. Are you ready over there?"
"It looks like it but we'll only find out when we have to start dealing with the concubines. See you later," David finished the call.
Glancing around at his family and David nodded, "They've been told," was all he said.
"Stew," David said, singling out the only other male in his family, "Get on to the AI and find out where the C Company First Sergeant lived. Get over there and grab one of his women by the name of Wendy and get her back over here as quick as you can will you."
David turned to the women, "OK, I'm hoping that we only get a steady trickle but if things go pear-shaped just push people into corners and make them sit down, and remember what I said — stay safe, I don't want to have to replace you."
The only one who had anything to do was Megan, who had the families' children in the improvised classroom already, the rest of the concubines just stood around and worried as they waited for something to happen.
Stuart entered the hanger quietly accompanied by a tall brunette in a short, charcoal grey skirt and white blouse and, given the way her more than ample bust moved, it was clear that she wasn't wearing a bra.
Stuart pointed to the group and stopped by the door letting the brunette cross the hanger on her own under the eyes of David and his family. As she drew near it was obvious from the puffiness around her eyes that she'd been crying but her face also held a hint of determination, a strength of character that could prove useful in the coming few days.
"Wendy?" asked David as she reached his group, stepping forward.
"Yes Sir," the brunette answered.
"I assume you have some idea of what's going to happen now?" he asked, hoping that he wouldn't have to go into too many of the gory details.
"Yes Sir, I belong to you until I'm reassigned," she said with total resignation and a little sadness.
"Wendy, it would be bad enough if it was just you, but it's not. It's every concubine and child that belonged to C Company, that's over five hundred of you," he paused, letting the enormity of the event sink in through her own sadness, "Wendy, you ran the families group for the company, you're someone the others will recognise and respond to," said David. "I want you to help us get everyone through this as easily as possible. Will you do that for me, please — help us to help everyone else?"
Wendy looked around, pondering who knows what, before returning her eyes to the man in the grey uniform before here. "How bad is it going to be?" she asked.
"Very," the stern looking man said, clearly pulling no punches in his assessment.
"Do you really think I can make a difference?" she asked, a hint of hope in her voice.
"I'd like to think so," the man said, "In truth I really hope that you can. The last thing we all need is for some of the concubines to get hurt because of things that really should have been avoidable."
Wendy considered a little longer before nodding slowly, "I'll help," she said. "What do you want me to do?" she asked.
David let out a huge sigh, "Get together with Kathy here and her girls and identify who the concubines are that people listen to. We'll split everyone up into smaller groups and put those you identify in charge — that way we won't need eyes in the back of our heads to spot trouble." David looked around, "Then we'll pull in small groups of concubines, brief them and then allocate them a space within the hanger and, hopefully, get everyone relocated before they explode on us."
Wendy looked at David and frowned, "You're really expecting trouble, aren't you?" she asked.
"Unfortunately I'm working from experience," said David, "You tend to find that concubines think they belonged with a sponsor and when that relationship breaks down, for whatever reason, they become a free person, able to do what they want, when they want. Unfortunately this isn't the case."
He looked Wendy in the eye and saw her nod slowly as she began to see where he was going. "That, as I'm sure they know intellectually at least, isn't the case but that doesn't stop a few of them, especially those with low CAP scores, from being stupid. Normally I can deal with the odd concubine going off the rails when there's only a couple of other concubines involved but I cannot let anything like that go in a situation like this with so many people involved."
"You mean... ?" she said.
"Yes," David said, nodding, "If someone goes trundling down that route and you lot," he waved his hand to include all of his concubines as well as Wendy, "can't stop them, then I will have to. And that will probably mean killing them," he finished bluntly.
Wendy swallowed hard then turned towards the other concubines, "Kathy, I think you need to get hold..." The group of women slowly drifted away leaving David stood there all alone, surrounded by an air of melancholy.
It had been a day and a half and so far things had been going reasonably well, all things considered. David — once he'd done the initial briefing — had managed to avoid being involved in the decision making process by the simple expedient of using his concubines and the committee members of the families club to run things. He'd actually been forced to slap down a couple of the older lads — one of them physically — when they'd objected to being put in the classroom with the other kids but that was the most serious incident to date.
It appeared, judging by the noise coming from the group surrounding Kathy and Wendy, that things were taking a turn for the worse. David slowly drifted across the hanger floor — making his way towards the noisy group — listening as he did so, his approach cautious, ready for trouble.
"Look you stupid bitch," a raised male voice in the middle of the group said, "you're not my sponsor, you're not even a volunteer, so don't go telling me what I can and can't do."
"Sir," said Kathy, her voice sounding calm but David — who knew her well — could clearly tell she was under pressure. "As a concubine, you are not entitled to alcoholic drink; that is one of the luxuries that only a sponsor can provide and as you don't have a sponsor at this time it is not available to you."
"Fuck off cunt," the man said with a snarl, "if I can't get a drink then I quit," he stated.
Looking at Kathy he demanded, "What are you going to do about that?" Although the man didn't actually do it David could sense the arms being folded across the chest and a look of disdain crossing the face.
David chose that moment to join in the argument, "She won't do anything," he stated, "I will."
On hearing his voice a pathway cleared between the Centurion and the angry man. "You are entitled to quit — as you so quaintly put it — but if you do you will be surplus to requirements and will then be recycled." The nasty grin David fastened on the man clearly gave him a clue that something untoward was happening.
"What d'you mean, recycled?" the man asked, nervously.
"Precisely that," said David, still smiling, "you will be added to the other compost and be recycled through the ecological system. Your body will be of some use to the colony even if you're not."
As they were talking David saw Stuart arrive on the opposite side of the crowd, his stinger in plain sight. "So make a decision asshole, shut up and do as you're told or quit, I really don't care which."
David waited, his eyes never leaving the loudmouth's face, almost daring him to call the bluff. In many ways David did want that, his assessment was that the gene pool wouldn't really miss this guy and it would be a clear example to anyone else who was feeling a little rebellious of what would happen if they got out of line.
'Bingo!' thought David as the guy's eyes narrowed, "Fuck you," he said, "I quit."
"Stew," was all David said, and the loudmouth was quivering and dropping to the floor, hit from behind by the stinger; he didn't even have time for a final scream, which is more than can be said for the surprised women in the group.
"Help me get him up," David said and a dozen hands dragged the unconscious man upright. David stooped slightly and dropped the unconscious body over his shoulder before heading off to the nearest kitchen area and, everyone was sure, the recycling machines that handled food waste.
David didn't like killing a defenceless man, even if he'd bought it upon himself, but he'd been steeling himself for this task ever since the destruction of the company had become common knowledge. The recycling bins fed the replicators with the raw materials used in the replication process, the nearer the raw material was to the finished product the simpler and more energy efficient the process was. On the small machines the recycling bin was an opening the size of a mans hand, on these industrial size machines it was a hole three metres on a side.
David rested the body on the lip of the hopper and fished out the man's ID card, then without any ceremony, pushed him backwards and let him drop into the machinery. Nothing was heard as the man was sliced and diced as the whole machine was surrounded by a damping field.
Tucking away the ID card with the name of Paul Knowles on it, the grey clad Centurion returned to a very subdued hanger. No one watching could tell what he felt as his thoughts where hidden behind an impassive mask; one thing was for sure though — nobody was going to be calling his bluff any time soon.
David ushered the family into their pod based home for the first time in three days, all of them exhausted from the physical hard work and emotional trauma they'd been through. Stuart — as he usually did — headed straight for the bar, which had been one of the first things that David had had installed, and started pouring drinks, knowing what each member of the family would want from long experience.