I'd like to thank Mulligan and Steve T for their assistance in turning this into a better story than my initial effort, any errors remaining are of course mine.
Benjamin Brittain parked his car on the drive and entered the semi-detached suburban house he'd worked so hard to keep up over the last five years. The three bedroom house had been his pride and joy when he'd finally taken possession and he'd tried diligently since to make into the perfect family home.
"Pam, I'm home," he called out as he pushed the front door closed behind him.
His bellowed greeting was met by an unusual silence. Unusual considering that even if his wife was out of the house for some reason their two children, William and Gail should both have been home from school by now and they could be relied upon to be making some sort of ruckus.
Benjamin dropped his briefcase beside the mahogany occasional table and tossed his car keys onto its surface as normal and called out again while he hung his crumpled jacket in its usual place on the coat rack next to the front door.
This call was a little louder than his first and may even have carried a hint of irritation.
Still getting no response Ben headed for the kitchen that was his wife's normal hangout at this time of day.
For some reason Ben couldn't understand he started to feel a sense of dread - nothing he could put his finger on - but in the thirty seconds he'd been home he'd begun to feel a sense of loss. Almost unsurprisingly he found that the kitchen was deserted. Looking around he saw nothing amiss but that empty feeling started to grow. Nothing had been amiss but there was no sign of occupation either, no food being prepared or groceries to be unpacked.
Ben left the kitchen and crossed the hallway, looking around for some indication as to the whereabouts of his wife. He entered the living room nervously casting about as though looking for the unexpected.
It too was devoid of human occupation but there was a large grey envelope propped up on the mantelpiece. It was sufficiently large that it would have been almost impossible to miss it when you entered the room.
Swallowing nervously Ben crossed to the mantelpiece and picked up the letter, noting that his own name was typed on the front as he did so. Ripping the envelope open his worst fears were confirmed in simple black on a stark white piece of paper.
It was a standard letter, almost 'the' standard letter if you like confirming that his beloved wife was gone from his life.
'Pamela Alison Brittain, nee Cathcart has agreed to accompany John Frederick Williamson, a volunteer for service in the Marine branch of the Confederacy Armed Forces to the colony of Brakat. Pamela Alison Brittain will be a concubine to the aforementioned volunteer and as such will be unable to communicate with her former relations without the approval of said volunteer.
The above volunteer has agreed to act as a sponsor to the said concubine's dependent minors, William Mark Brittain (male - 11) and Gail Pamela Brittain (female - 9). As such they will be taken to the colony of Brak in the Brakat system and said volunteer will provide for their well being and education until they reach their majority.
In accordance with relevant local, national and planetary laws, all former relationships between Pamela Alison Brittain and others are hereby formally terminated. To see if you are entitled to financial compensation or support, you are advised to seek the advice of your local Confederacy liaison officer.'
Ben stared at the paper before him and wanted to scream, his wife; his children; gone! Just like that, and he knew deep down that there would be nothing he could do about it. It was his turn to live the nightmare that so many men had been put through by the all-powerful Confederacy that was supposed to be here to help the human race!
The microwave meal was almost untouched before the despondent man; a half-empty beer can sat on the table alongside the cold meal getting warm. Ben pushed the insipid peas around the dinner plate and tried not to think about what had happened but it was proving to be impossible.
His wife had effectively run off with another man taking his beloved children with her and he'd had absolutely no say in the matter or any chance to get her back. His feelings were already tending towards violence, which for him was a strange, almost unheard of occurrence.
The letter confirming his fears was spread open just across the table, mocking him in its brevity.
A single sheet of paper cancelled out the previous thirty-four years of his life and informed him that he was 'free' to start again.
'Well, fuck 'em, ' thought Ben as he tossed his fork back onto the plate with a clatter.
Before his anger could take him any further there was a knock at his front door.
Ben glanced towards the door and then returned his attention to the table, intent on ignoring whoever it was.
The knock was repeated more firmly and again Ben ignored it. When it happened for the third time Ben stood up suddenly, his chair falling over behind him and he stormed towards the door.
Yanking the door open he yelled, "What!" without bothering to even look at who was stood there.
The woman in the dark blue police uniform took a step back and bumped into her collegue behind her. As he steadied her the man frowned at Ben and asked firmly, "Are you Mr. Benjamin Brittain?"
"What if I am," snarled Ben ignoring the fact that the two people stood before him were police officers.
The policeman's frown deepened, "I take it, Sir, from your attitude, that you're already aware that your wife has been sponsored to the colonies?"
Ben looked the man in the eye and growled, "Yes, I've received the letter, now what do you fucking want?" The use of profanity was so unlike Ben that it momentarily shocked him, but then the dark feelings of gloom washed his surprise away.
The policewoman had recovered from her initial shock and took a half-step forward. "Sir, we are here to explain what happens next."
"You mean there is a next?" asked Ben sarcastically.
"Let's step inside," said the man, "It'll be easier to explain this if we're all sitting down."
Ben glared at the pair for a moment and then turned away and walked back into his house. Not looking to see if they were following him he pushed the door to the living room open and slumped down on the nearest seat. After the two police officers had found a place to sit the woman began.
"I'm constable Heather Morgan and this is constable Steven Fowler. We, for our sins, are with the Confederacy liaison team for this area," she said by way of an introduction. "May I ask how you found out about your wife's extraction?"
"I found the 'letter' on my mantelpiece when I got home from work," said Ben.
Ben caught sight of the policeman identified as Steven throwing his eyes skywards and asked, "I take it that's not normal?"
"Normal isn't the right word," said Steven, "What's supposed to happen is that we," he indicated his partner, "are supposed to break the news and the official letter acts as a confirmation later."
"And?" prompted Ben.
"Recently the pick up teams have taken to transporting into the person's home and leaving the letter in a convenient spot." Steven scowled, "When you add in the delays that we are experiencing because of the numbers involved we are finding that the majority of people have got the news before we get there."
"Makes your life difficult, does it?" asked Ben, his voice still tinged with sarcasm.
"Yes," admitted Heather, rejoining the conversation. "As you've already found out it is hard for us to offer constructive advice when there is so little that can be done."
"Meaning?" said Ben.
"Well, for instance, if your wife was employed the Confederacy would give you a lump sum that is the equivalent of her annual salary before local taxes," explained Heather. "In addition all of her debts are automatically paid off. Things like credit cards are paid off, hire purchase agreements are completed and what have you."
"So they've bought the slave," said Ben, "lock, stock and barrel."
"It does seem that way to some people," agreed Steven, "but the Confederacy describes it as allowing life to continue with the minimum of disruption to those who remain behind."
"I take it the Confederacy is going to supply me with a maid and children to fill the space that's been left here?" asked Ben.
Heather looked at her shoes and Steven just stared at the angry man and shook his head negatively.
"I didn't think so," said Ben. "I take it there is nothing I can do to change things or get to see them?"
"You can't call them," said Steven, "If your former wife's sponsor allows it, she will be able to call you but that won't normally happen until they reach the colony they're going to."
"When's that likely to be?" asked Ben.
"At least a month," said Heather. "What you have to accept is that they are no longer yours. It is one of the hardest things to understand even though it is well known. If you had been divorced here on Earth, you would still retain some right of access to your children, with an extraction you have none. It's going to seem as though your wife and children had never existed."
"Just like that," said Ben, "and I have to 'accept' that the Confederacy is a good thing."
"Really, yes," said Steven, "anything else will destroy your life and, if you do anything really stupid, you'll end up dead."
"Dead!" gasped Ben wide-eyed.
.... There is more of this story ...