This story takes place in Thinking Horndogs Swarm Cycle universe. You should at least read his Average Joes and possibly Pick Up 18 stories first. It's also probably worth reading Duke Of Ramus' Civil Service before reading this story.
Thanks to Thinking Horndog for letting me play in his universe. Thanks also to Felina Purrsbane, DeGaffer, Duke Of Ramus and probably others for pointing out errors. Any remaining are mine and I claim copyright on them :)
To my left sat my naked mother. Her right hand was on my semi-erect cock where it stuck out of my trousers, while my left was lightly stroking her soaking, furry, crotch. On my right was my younger sister, fifteen-year-old Siân, equally naked. Her left hand was with Mum's on my cock, while the middle and forefingers on my right hand were sawing slowly in and out of her juicy pussy as she writhed her hips in delight at my ministrations. Across the table from me was my eighteen-year-old sister Branwyn, older than me by just twelve minutes. Buried in her crotch were the hands of my father and my sixteen-year-old brother Huw, while she had one hand on each of their erections and was slowly stroking them off. All of us were excited, in fifteen minutes Dad was going to go and be changed, and in just over ten hours we'd all look very different.
Less than forty-eight hours earlier we had all been picked up from a fish and chip restaurant in the centre of Newport in South Wales.
"In from the woolly wilds," Dad laughed as we all slid into the seats and waited for the waitress to come around and take our order. We all smiled but said little as it was his standard 'joke' each time we came into town. Living in the middle of the Black Mountains, the small mountain range that runs along the southern edge of Wales, part of which is famous as the Brecon Beacons, did occasionally feel like being out in the middle of nowhere. Even though it was only three miles away, we couldn't see our nearest neighbour, nor indeed any other signs of human habitation. The nearest village was only eight miles away, we rarely went there more than once or twice in a month, and then only for fleeting visits when absolutely necessary.
The last time we'd been down from the hills we'd been in Cardiff, eleven miles away, and had walked past a Confederacy CAP testing centre that had been opened in an empty shop on St.Mary's street. Standing outside was the hugest woman we'd ever seen. Easily taller than Dad or me, and we were both tall at six foot one. She was also possibly the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. And when I say that I have to be careful as both my sisters are very pretty.
"Do you have CAP cards?" she asked us politely, but with an accent that none of us recognised.
"CAP card?" asked Dad pausing. "What's one of them?"
"You don't know?" the woman asked, obviously very surprised.
"No. Should I?"
"There's been CAP testing for well over a year now. Mostly in Western and Central Europe and North America, couple of places in South America, but also in Australia and New Zealand and a few other places like Japan and South Africa. Generally the more stable parts of the world." She gave a slight smile and I saw Huw's mouth drop open as he stared at her. She really was that beautiful.
Ignoring Huw's look of hero worship, she continued. "It's been mandatory for everybody to get tested on or soon after their fourteenth birthday for almost as long."
"Siân turned fourteen over a year, er, over eighteen months ago." Dad explained. "She's the youngest."
"How come you've not heard of it?" asked the woman puzzled. "It's been all over the TV, the internet, newspapers. The kids should have heard about it at school."
"We were all home schooled once we turned eleven," I said, only marginally less affected than Huw, and wanting to get her to look at me. "And we don't have a telly, and we're too busy to use the internet for much."
Now she stared at me. "You don't have a telly."
"There's never anything on worth watching," Mum said.
There was a minor pause and then all six of us parrotted, "Only the usual crap, soap operas and adverts." Mum looked at us in surprise as we all repeated her frequent words back at her. She burst into laughter and we all joined her.
"So what do you do with your free time?"
"What free time! We farm five hundred head of sheep. We have no farm hands so we do everything ourselves Not much time for anything else. We literally live in the middle of nowhere."
"The Woolly Wilds of Wales," Huw and I said together.
"Llewelyn, Huw, behave," Mum hissed sharply.
"Don't call me Llewelyn, call me Lew," I hissed back equally sharply. It was odd, sometimes I was proud of my Welsh name, at other times I hated it. All of us kids had traditional Welsh names, but Mum and Dad, both born in Cornwall, and therefore born in England, didn't. They'd moved to Wales to buy the farm in the mid 'naughtys' very shortly after they married, and with Mum already three months pregnant. And when we were born they decided to give us all good traditional Welsh names. We had fun as none of our cousins could properly pronounce my name, and for some reason they all tried to pronounce Siân's name as 'cyan' instead of 'sharn'. Huw and Branwyn usually had their names pronounced correctly, though we were told that Branwyn had been pronounced as Branwine a couple of times early on. At the time we'd been too young to know, so it had never been a problem.
The woman gave herself a little shake. "I'm Corporal Susan Van Der Meer of the Confederacy Marines."
"Dutch?" Dad interrupted.
She shook her head slightly. "South African. By blood I'd be an Afrikaner or Boer, but by political inclination and upbringing I was a liberal, at least for an Afrikaner, and was more than happy for the end of Apartheid."
"But that was thirty five years ago." Dad exclaimed. "How can you remember that?"
"I'm fifty one." She grinned at our shocked looks. "The Confederacy did this for me. The only bit externally that is still the original me is the colour of my eyes. I was five foot four, with mousy brown hair, and a good fifty pounds overweight after having two children, both of whom are now in their early twenties, and now I'm younger than they are. What's even better," she continued with a grin, "is that because I was picked up before my menopause kicked in, that part of me's been rejuvenated as well, and I can have kids for many more years yet."
"But," started Mum.
"The Confederacy took me, and changed me. You cannot be taken if you don't have a CAP card."
"Who are The Confederacy and why did they take you?" asked Mum.
"You've heard of the Sa'arm?"
I've never seen anybody goggle before, even though I'd often read the phrase in books and novels. I now knew what it meant. Susan goggled at us, as all six of us shook our heads.
"Holy fuck," she whispered. She looked up for a few moments, then seemed to nod slightly and looked back at us. "Okay. Come on. Let's get you all tested and I'll explain."
"How long does it take?" Siân asked. "We're going to the theatre. The show starts in about an hour and a quarter."
"We've got four testing pods here, and individually it takes about half to three quarters of an hour. We should get you all in and out in good time."
Three of the pods, looking a lot like over size telephone boxes, were free, the fourth in use. Dad suggested the three men went first, but Susan suggested the three eldest. Mum Dad and Branwyn went into the pods, a technician going in with each of them for a few minutes, then coming out and closing the doors.
I looked at Susan. "What's the Swarm?" I asked her.
"The Sa'arm? Imagine them as the little green aliens coming to eat the planet from all that sci-fi on TV and film. Except that they're not small, and they're not green. They are, however, very dangerous."
"And they're coming here?" asked Huw.
She nodded. "The Confederacy is a, well, a group, a large group, of alien races. And they need our help to protect them from the Sa'arm."
"And presumably help ourselves at the same time?" I asked.
Susan managed to look embarrassed. "It's not quite that straightforwards," she broke off and looked relieved as there was a loud ding from the fourth pod. "Ah. That one's finished. Come on," she indicated me.
A moment later a young woman came out of the pod looking a bit disoriented. Another man, equally as tall as Susan, gently led her away and sat her down. Susan led me into the pod just as I heard the girl burst into tears. I started to look around, but Susan ushered me firmly forwards.
There was a comfortable chair, and what appeared to be a computer screen of some sort in front of me. There was no keyboard, however Susan lifted a helmet off the floor and gently fitted it over my head.
"Comfortable?" she asked.
"Yeah," I nodded, then wished I hadn't as the weight of the helmet was uncomfortable when I moved my head.
"Good. Lie back and relax, and just be yourself."
I wasn't quite sure what she meant by 'be yourself', and it worried me a little. She closed the door and a few moments later I heard a voice saying "Welcome to the Confederacy CAP testing process. The first few questions are just to identify yourself and to get a level of brain activity."
"What?" I asked almost automatically, then silently chided myself. This was a machine I was talking to. It wouldn't understand me.
The reply had an amused timbre. "Brains are all unique. No two people will have exactly the same brain wave patterns for the same question and answer. By asking some standard questions, we can get a standardised reading of your brainwave patterns," the voice replied in an accent that I now recognised had faint American overtones. "Does that answer your question?"
"Uh. Yes. Uh. Are you a person?"
There was a fractional pause before the voice came back. "No. I am the Artificial Intelligence, the AI, that controls this test. Do not worry. Please relax and just answer all the questions as simply and as best you can."
It started off by asking what day today was, what the date was, and even what colour the sky was. It asked me a little bit about myself and my family, and then asked me three simple questions, telling me that I had to lie on one of them and tell the truth on the other two, but not say which was which. After those three it paused, and then told me that I was lying when I'd told it I'd not seen my twin sister naked in the last year. Blushing, I had to agree. Then it went on to my name, age, date of birth, national insurance number, where I lived what I did for a living, for hobbies etc. It asked about my education. What I'd liked. What I'd hated. What I'd had difficulties with, and what I'd found easy. This seemed to go on for quite a long time, and some of the questions seemed really weird. It even asked me whether I was still a virgin. I wasn't, but no one else in the family knew that. I don't think.
I think I was hypnotised next, because I seemed to be in some very odd situations. Looking back I can vaguely remember a burning building, an old lady, a baby and a dog. Or was that two dogs? Then I seemed to be playing three dimensional chess. Except that somehow I knew there was no such thing. Then I seemed to be having a chat with someone who might have been King William. Except that didn't make sense either, Prince Charles had been taken Ill recently, but neither he nor the old Queen Elizabeth the Second, now almost a hundred, had died. Suddenly it was all over.
"Thank you Mister Carter. You may now take off the helmet. I have finished your test. Please wait while I calculate your final score." I reached up to remove it, and found I was remarkably stiff. Probably less than a minute later, though it was hard to tell, there was a ding and the door popped open a few inches.
"Congratulations," said Susan handing me a card that looked exactly the same size as a credit card, but seemed a bit thinner. I looked at it. My name, my photo, something that looked a bit like an embedded chip of some sort, but much smaller than usual, and a large 8·9 were all that were on the card.
"Is that good?" I asked, bemused.
"Very. The average is five. Maximum ten, though to the best of my knowledge no one has ever got that, and you have to have six point five or better to be selected by the Confederacy."
I staggered a little in exhaustion. I suddenly felt like I'd run a hill marathon, and I'd thought I was very fit. "Here," she handed me a cup of warm chocolate." You've been in there nearly two hours, your body needs the energy."
"Two hours?" I exclaimed. "What happened."
"The CAP tester wanted to make very sure. When he thinks you are going to have a high score like that, and especially when it's right on the border as yours is, it takes longer as he has to ensure there is no error."
"Oh. Yeah. I guess. Why do you say 'he'? Are AI's always referred to as 'he' rather than 'it'?
Susan looked at me oddly. "You worked out you were talking to an AI?"
"I asked it."
"Riiiiight." She said slowly. "Not many people realise. Most assume they're talking to a human. It's designed that way." I nodded. Looking around I saw that none of the rest of the family were there. "Where's everybody else?"
"Your youngest sister, Siân?" I nodded, "finished her test twenty minutes ago, and they decided to go the the coffee shop next door to wait for you." She shook my hand. "Congratulations on your score."
I nodded, still slightly bemused, and left the shop, looking left then right to spot the coffee shop. The rest of the family saw me almost as soon as I saw them, and came boiling out to meet me.
"Everything okay?" asked Dad. I nodded dumbly. "Good." He looked at Siân. "I'm sorry poppet. We've missed the theatre. We'll come again next month when it's in Newport. Okay?"
My sister nodded, disappointment writ large on her face. I hugged her, and she looked up at me a resigned smile on her face.
"Does anybody know what's supposed to happen next?" I asked, my mind still full of the testing.
Dad obviously assumed I was talking about just todays plan, because for a moment his answer made no logical sense. "Cash and carry then home."
"What? Oh. No. I meant with these." I waved my card, still in my hand.
Both Mum and Dad shook their heads. "Dunno," answered Dad, his mind obviously elsewhere. "Come on, back to the car."
In my mind I tagged the "don't care," onto the end of the first part of Dad's answer. Dad really did have a one track mind. Sheep, and sheep farming.
"Oh. That woman, Susan, gave us a data chip to plug into a pad..."
"PDA," interrupted Huw.
Mum just waved her hand dismissively, "to read about the swarm and the Confederation."
Since we didn't have any PDA's apart from the one that Dad used to register and log all newborn lambs, and to then follow their health and breeding, shearing and eventual disposal, and Dad only ever let us use it for work purposes, the chip got put into one of the kitchen drawers and forgotten about.
Since it didn't seem important at the time, not only did I not follow it up, it never even occurred to me to ask what anybody else's CAP scores were.
Now, five weeks later, we were in Newport, about eleven miles east of Cardiff, for the show Siân had wanted to see, and which was now showing here. We'd come down a bit earlier than the previous month, and had decided to have a good fish and chip lunch before going to the theatre.
We'd just started to eat when the light outside went a flat grey. There were a few screams, and then a loud voice spoke up.
"Ladies and Gentlemen. I am Sergeant Paul Morris of the Confederacy Marines. You should all know what's happening by now, so please all be calm. We are here to pick up seven volunteers. You all know who you are, so please make your way down here to the front. Everybody else please just stay where you are for the moment."
The six of us just looked at each other in bemusement and shrugged. We watched what was happening with interest, but continued to eat.
A few moments later, the loud voice spoke up. "According to our scans there are seven volunteers in here. Only six have identified themselves, where's the seventh?"
Everybody looked around in bemusement, even the four or five huge marines that were now obvious due to their size. This was obviously something new, to them as well.
I watched him move along the row of six people, asking them their names, and checking them off on some device in his hands. He pointed at a name and then turned to face the rest of the room again.
"Will," the loud voice started, and then got quieter, but we could still hear him as he said, "oh fuck, how do you pronounce that?" He shoved something in front of one of the six volunteers and said again, "how do you pronounce that?"
We didn't hear what she said, but heard him again as he stuffed something else in front of her face and told her to say it loud and clear.
I blinked in surprise and all the rest of the family looked at me.
"When did you volunteer, and what did you volunteer for?" asked Mum startled.
"And why?" asked Dad.
"I haven't volunteered for anything," I told them. "God's honest truth." Dad frowned but I knew he believed me.
"Will. This. Person. Please. Get. Forwards." Yelled the marine, obviously quite angry now. "I know he's in here, our AI is telling us that. Will you get your fucking sorry ass down here or you will be arrested and charged with desertion."
I hesitantly raised my hand, and all eyes turned to me. "I think that's me, but I haven't volunteered for anything."
He came over to us, a look of barely suppressed fury on his face. "What the fuck did you think you were doing? Why didn't you get down the front with the others?"
I shook my head. "I didn't know you were talking about me. I haven't volunteered for anything."
"Are you, or are you not Lewelyn Carter?" I ignored the fact that he'd mispronounced my name. In Welsh you don't pronounce a double 'L' the same way you'd pronounce a single 'L'.
"I am Llewelyn Carter."
"Then according to this you have volunteered for the Confederacy marines."
"It's lying to you," I said calmly. "I haven't volunteered for anything."
He raised his eyes for a moment, and then lowered them again. "Yes you did. Five weeks ago when you got CAP tested."
"No Sergeant, I didn't." I said calmly.
"Give me your CAP card."
I fished it out and handed it over. He slipped it into a reader of some sort. "Yes. You are the one I want." He grabbed my hand and put the reader into my palm, holding it there tightly. "According to this you volunteered."
"Well it's wrong."
He snatched the reader away and looked at it, his eyebrows crawling up his face as he registered both surprise and confusion. "What the fuck." He looked up. "AI, what the fuck's going on here?"
"He volunteered five weeks ago. He is telling the truth when he says he did not," came a disembodied voice. "This does not make sense. I will have to investigate."
"Maybe he volunteered without realising he was volunteering," offered Siân slowly.
The marine looked at her, then raised his eyes again. "AI?"
"That is very possible. Please place the PDA into lieutenant Carters hand again." It of course pronounced it lootenant. Dad, who had been, briefly, a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery, until he'd lost most of his left leg below the knee, snapped.
"Lef-tenant. Not Loo-tenant. If you can't pronounce it properly, fuck off and let us eat in peace."
"Dad," I said calmly, placing my free hand on his shoulder. "Let it be. The sergeant is American, to him it's correct."
"Actually Canadian," said the sergeant distractedly.
I shrugged and took the reader from his outstretched hand.
"Please state your name," came the soft disembodied voice.
I spoke my name.
"Jackson," yelled the sergeant, ignoring us for the moment. "Get this cluster fuck sorted over there while I deal with this..." he broke off and glared at me.
I slowly, calmly, raised a single eyebrow, but otherwise my expression remained completely neutral. I knew from personal experience that this could seriously disconcert many people. After a few moments he turned from me and looked out over the rest of the room. The rest of us just looked at the PDA on my hand.
After a few moments it asked, "did you go for CAP testing five weeks ago?"
There was another brief silence. "Did you knowingly volunteer for the Confederacy Marines?"
Another brief silence. "Accepted. Do you wish to volunteer?"
It was my turn to pause. "What does that involve?"
"Are you not aware?"
I shook my head, then guessing that the PDA or the AI, or whatever, wouldn't be able to see me, "No."
"Of the Sa'arm?"
There was yet another silence "Please give the PDA back to the sergeant, and take your card back."
Morris obviously heard as he turned to take the PDA out of my hands. "There's someone coming to talk to you. Please sit here for a moment."
"Holy hell fire," gasped Huw suddenly. We all looked at him and saw that he was looking out into the rest of the room.
"What the fuck?" said Dad.
They were my sentiments exactly, but I couldn't voice them, I was too astonished at what I was seeing. Almost everyone in the room, was naked, or partly naked. And many of them were participating in various sex acts.
I watched in some amazement as a woman in her mid to late thirties tried to force an older man, probably in his mid forties, to have sex with an apparent teenage girl, both of them looked very unhappy, but appeared to accept the situation. Next to them a thin redheaded youth was standing behind, and obviously shafting, a slightly overweight forty something woman. Both appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. There were a couple of girls rolling around on one of the benches in a sixty nine, and as I watched, one of them screeched in orgasm. There were two girls kneeling in front of another guy, and though I couldn't see, knew they were giving him a blow job.
Turning back to the first pair I'd seen, the woman standing over them had her hand up her skirt and appeared to be stroking her crotch as she watched the couple in front of her slowly fucking. I saw him say something, and squinted my eyes to concentrate on his lips. I had partial deafness in my left ear and often resorted to lip reading.
"I'm sorry, baby," he was saying. "I'm so sorry." He said something else which took me a while longer to translate. "I just want you safe," I think he was saying. Just then a voice interrupted our viewing.
We all turned to see the woman who had steered us through the CAP testing five weeks earlier. "Shwmae," I answered automatically, then turned to look at her.
She had a puzzled look on her face. "Sh my what?"
"Oh, my apologies. It's Welsh for hello, well, close enough. It was just automatic."
She nodded. "Okay. Sit down. You might as well finish your meal while we talk." We all looked down at our plates. None of us had eaten more than half of our meal, and it was slowly going cold. Fortunately while fish and chips is best piping hot, it is a meal that doesn't spoil by being slightly cool.
We sat, and slowly tucked in. Susan sat down next to Huw, and then reached out and stole a chip off his plate. He blushed slightly and moved his plate towards her, subtly telling her to tuck in as well.
"Did you read that chip I gave you?"
"Chip?" We all looked blank, until Mum suddenly remembered.
"Oh god, that computer chip you gave us?"
Susan just nodded.
"No. We've no way of reading it."
"You are joking," exclaimed Susan in voice that mixed desperation and surprise. "How..." she waved off what she'd been about to say. "Never mind. Quick precis. In about seven to eight years an alien race known as the Sa'arm are expected to reach Earth. Think of them a bit like locusts when they swarm in Africa. The locusts eat every bit of plant life in their path. The Sa'arm are sort of similar, except they eat everything, animal and vegetable, and strip the planet of all its resources, leaving it a barren rock much like the moon. We haven't worked out how to talk to them, and we haven't found a way to stop them. We can kill millions of them, have killed millions, but they just keep coming and once they get onto a planet there doesn't seem to be a way to stop them. Not without destroying the planet."
"So if I volunteered I'd be going to fight them?" I asked hesitantly.
"Yes. Maybe. Possibly. I don't know what the AI has in mind for you, but put that to one side for a moment. The Confederacy is an ancient alliance of many species out in the galaxy. They are pathologically peaceful. Even to the extent that they would rather die than try to defend themselves by fighting. At least four species within the Confederacy have been totally destroyed, and probably more for all I know. One however, the Darjee, who I believe are an avian species, bird like," she added as both Huw and Branwyn looked puzzled at the word avian.
They nodded and she continued. "The Darjee are sort of helping as many as possible to get off planet, to try and save the human race. They said that we would be able to get thirty percent of Earths population off, but after two years, nearly, we still haven't moved even one percent. Only certain people can go. Sponsors have to be fertile and have a CAP score of over 6·4. Concubines are those with a CAP score lower than 6·5 but most importantly are still fertile. Once a woman is more than about six months past her menopause, she becomes ineligible as by then her reproductive system has shut down irrevocably. Most illnesses, injuries and medical problems can be fixed easily, so that's usually not a bar." That made me think of the artificial limb that went from the middle of Dad's calf. "Children under fourteen are automatically taken if a parent is taken and the sponsor accepts them, if you have a CAP score less than two you are ineligible, unless that is down to problems that can be fixed medically.
"The way it works, is that during a collection like this, each sponsor gets to pick a number of consorts or concubines, to go with them, that number being determined by his or her CAP score. Anybody else, who doesn't get picked, or doesn't want to go, gets left behind." She looked at me. "Your CAP score was quite high wasn't it?"
She nodded. "You get to take six people to safety," she looked up suddenly. "Oh fuck. Something's happening. We're going to have to bug out." She stood to leave and then turned and looked down at me. "If you're still here when the Sa'arm arrive, you will be eaten. Almost guaranteed. Get out. Go." She dashed off, pulling something out of her pocket.
"Wait," I called after her.
She turned her head slightly, but didn't stop. "Six people," she called back. "Go. Now."
"Where?" I called, but she didn't hear me.
When I turned back to the table, everybody was looking at each other in shock, and not a little fear as well. "Well," said Dad slowly. "So that's what the cards are for."
"Everybody here got 6·5 or better didn't they?" I asked. I was shocked to see all of them shaking their heads.
"5·2," said Mum.
One by one they all announced their CAP scores. Dad had 5·9, Huw 5·5 Branwyn had the lowest at 4·8 and Siân the highest at 6·4.
There was a brief scream from off behind the counter somewhere, following by some sizzling noises, a bit like bacon being fried on a griddle, and some shouting. I couldn't make out what was being said, but then we heard a very distinct shotgun blast. Being farmers we all knew a shotgun when we heard one: we'd all shot at foxes enough times during lambing season. We ducked, then since there were no more, quickly headed towards where the marines were clustering.
I don't think Susan even recognised us. She just threw us all at this funny glowing green pad on the floor. There was a moment of extreme disorientation, followed by a bit of mild nausea, but then I realised I was somewhere else. I didn't get chance to gawp, as someone grabbed my arm to pull me out of the way just as Branwyn appeared behind me, almost landing on top of me.
The next twenty minutes or so was quite hectic, but then the last of the marines, Susan, appeared, and the red pad on floor went dark. A moment later it went green again, she stepped onto it and vanished before it went dark again.
"It's a transporter, like in Star-Trek," breathed Dad in awe.
"Right," yelled an artificially amplified voice, "settle down and shut up. Everybody. Sit." He paused for a moment to make sure that everybody obeyed him.
"Good. My name's Lieutenant Chuck Reilly. I was a Texas Ranger, now, for my sins, I'm in charge of this cluster fuck. Those who have just come from the debacle in Newport in South Wales, move towards the red wall on my left. The rest, stay put." About fifty people moved over, and I was surprised to find that I recognised a number of them from the restaurant. I saw Sergeant Morris standing by the wall.
"Right, follow me," ordered the sergeant. He walked off and the rest of us followed, along a short corridor and into what turned out to be a canteen of some sort. It seemed to be closed for service as no one else was there.
When we were all there, he turned to face us with a grim look. "Okay. Sit," he paused for a moment to give us all time to find chairs. "My apologies for this. We didn't realise there were underground tunnels into that building. It turned out that part of that building is older than my country. It goes back to at least the fifteenth century. A number of people outside discovered what was happening inside, found the underground tunnels, and were in the process of sneaking in. Unfortunately one of my marines was very seriously injured, and is now in the medical centre."
"Will he live?" someone asked.
"She'll be up and about in three days or so, back on duty in about in five," he answered.
The sergeant obviously knew what we were thinking: Three days and she'd be on her feet? Obviously not very serious. He promptly disabused us of that notion. "She had half her gut blasted out, and lost her left hand. The Darjee medical pods will take thirty hours to fix that, then she'll need at least another thirty of rest before she's allowed out of bed. She would now be dead if it wasn't for those pods.
"Now. Sponsors. All seven of you. Get here."
I stood and moved forwards along with six others, two women and four men. He ranged us in an arc behind where he'd been standing. "Have you got all your people?"
I nodded, as did a number of others, but one of the men said no.
"How many you short?"
"Two of four."
He nodded and turned back to the rest.
"How many of you have been picked?"
A number put their hands up. I guessed about twenty or so. "Okay. Come find your sponsors, and stand behind them."
There was more shuffling, and the rest of my family ended up behind me, with most of the other sponsors having just two. I was at one end of the line. The Sergeant started at the other and walked slowly down the line. He appeared to be taking the sponsors CAP card and then checking something. When he got to me he looked at it, then behind me at the family.
"You're one short. Pick another." He looked behind me again and frowned. "You need another female."
"I don't really want any more. Do I have to have another?"
The sergeant frowned. "I suppose, technically, no. But it's a bit selfish," he paused and frowned at me and then looked at my card again. "Oh. Fuck. It's you. Did Corporal Van Der Meer explain what was going to happen?"
"Only in general. About the Sa'arm coming, and the Confederation taking us away."
"She didn't explain further?"
"There wasn't time."
"Fuck. You are going to be the death of me." He handed me my card back and stalked back along the line to the man who had already told him he was short of two people. "Had you made a decision before we bugged out."
"Yeah. Sorta. It was going to be two out of those three." He pointed at three youngish girls.
Morris looked up and appeared to be thinking, but I now knew he was somehow communicating with someone, or maybe something. He looked down again. "Right. For now. You've got all three if you want them. This may change later, but assume that they are all yours until told otherwise." He waved at the three partially dressed girls who skipped towards their new sponsor with a grin, all of them giving him a hug and a kiss.
He turned back to the remaining unchosen people. "Right. Who out of you lot does not want to be here? Who wants to go home? You were brought here against the will of some of you, so you get the option to go home again, but that option only remains open for the next few minutes. So. Move this way," he indicated to his left. "if you want to go home, move the other way," now he indicated his right, "if you want to stay."
Just over half, say about fifteen, moved right, a smaller group of about ten moved left. Another marine led the ten off a short distance and then paused, waiting.
"They are being sent home now," announced the sergeant, addressing the remaining fifteen people. "For you. We will give you forty-eight hours to get picked up, either here or elsewhere on board. After that you will be sent home. You have no choice. Under normal circumstances you would be recycled, but since you are here through no fault of your own, and the Isaac Newton will be in orbit at least that long, you will be sent home." He signalled the three males in the group. "You guys, I strongly suggest you head home now. The chances of you being picked up here in those forty eight hours are slim to none. You'd be better off going home now, and trying to either improve your CAP score, or find some other way of getting off. Here, today, it's almost certainly a no-no."
Two of the three nodded and joined the group of ten being sent home, which resumed its trip out of the room. I quickly counted and came up with ten women and one man remaining.
"Right. You six," he said pointing at me, "wait here. The rest of you follow corporal Taylor over there. He'll take you to where you need to be next."
A minute later there was just the seven of us in the room. "Okay. Sit," sighed the sergeant. "This is going to take some explaining." He walked over to a hatch in the wall, said something, a few minutes later it opened to reveal a tray with steaming mugs on it. He brought it over to the table and put it down, sitting down next to us. The tray contained seven cups of black tea, some sugar cubes, milk and lemon, and a couple of dozen biscuits.
"Help yourselves, this is going to take some time explain, and I suspect that most of you are not going to like it."
We all got some tea and biscuits and settled in to listen.
"Right. Well. First off, under the circumstances it might actually have been better if you hadn't volunteered this time, but learned what is happening, and volunteered at some other time. The most important thing to understand right now, is that these five are your slaves."
When almost everyone except Siân started to speak, he held up his hand to stall them. "Let's start from the beginning. This is going to be very simple and very quick, you can get the details from the various briefings later, as well as from the training booth in your pod. The Sa'arm are a race of giant seven foot lizard like beings, but they are very insect like in their behaviour. No one has ever been able to communicate with them, and the few bodies we've been able to capture and dissect seem to imply that they have no hearing ability. The top brass believe they must communicate telepathically, though no one has ever been able to prove that. As far as they are concerned, we are simply food and raw materials for their continuing expansion through the galaxy. They'll reach Earth in something like seven and a half years. Give or take. The Confederacy is a very large group of alien races that," he paused for a moment, "well, lets just say they are expecting us as the only other fighters in the galaxy to save their asses. Unfortunately their help is very limited, and on the whole not all that useful. We can't stop the swarm. Not yet anyway. As such it's been decided to get as many higher CAP people off the planet and onto other planets to colonise and breed as fast as possible. Here is where it gets awkward. The Darjee, the only Confederacy race that is willing to help us, along with their AI's, have set some rules about how this works, who can be extracted and who cannot. They are not very good rules, they're certainly not ideal and they're very definitely not fair, but maybe, one day, when we have time, we'll make them more humane. Until then however, these are the rules we are working to. These new colonies are as much about breeding new humans as they are about fighting the dickheads."
He stopped when he saw both Mum and Dad start to protest at his apparent rudeness. "Oh. Sorry. Due to the domed shape of their heads, the Sa'arm are often referred to as 'dickheads', you'll come across that name regularly. I wouldn't worry about it."