Chapter 1: The Plan

Hope watched as the Sa'arm threw her mother's corpse onto the growing pile. They seemed to have gathered enough food for the moment, as they were no longer actively searching. They were now all moving back, taking what they'd collected, and getting ready to depart. She stayed still, crouched in the rocks, until she was certain they were gone, at least for the moment. She wanted to cry, but there were more important things to do. Her tears would have to wait. Carefully she moved back to where her younger brother was waiting for her.

"Come on Solomon, the Swarm have gone. We need to get away before they come back. We have to find father."

"Daddy's in the army now," he reminded her.

"I know. We'll find some soldiers and they can tell us where he is."

"Mummy's not coming back, is she?"

"No, Solomon, Mummy's not coming back, nor is little Mercy. That's why we have to find Daddy." Hope took hold of his hand. She knew that the Swarm were to the North and West, so she decided to go East towards the sea. They were sure to find some soldiers there.

Tribune Leo Nevin contemplated the Kindertransport plan displayed in front of him. A finely crafted plan, its many pieces fitting smoothly together so as to deliver a steady flow of children, and a few accompanying concubines, from Earth to the colonies. A necessary plan. With the Sa'arm already established on Earth there was limited time left to evacuate the maximum possible number of people from the planet. Such a wonderful plan. It was named after the pre-World War Two evacuation of Jewish children from Germany, because it had a similar purpose -- to remove children to a safe place away from the fighting. The children and concubines would be flown from their refugee camps to the collection camps offshore. The unsuitable ones would be filtered out and sent back, while the rest would be sent on to transfer camps for extraction to the colonies. Lift capacity had been planned for as well. There were surplus Auroras available and a few Kilopods. A useful pod design had been adapted from the Filles du Roi program. There were also expected to be spare places on the occasional Cube Ship. The pity was that the available capacity was vastly short of what was really needed. There was not enough time left to get even the children away from Earth; hundreds of millions would be left behind.

Of course, whole chunks of the plan were going to have to be scrapped and rebuilt as soon as it met reality, that much Leo knew. His problem was that it wasn't clear in advance which parts would survive reasonably intact and which parts would need major reworking. He would only be able to tell that when he actually put it into action over the next few weeks.

The plan had already been redrafted more than once. The initial version had been very general because at that time nobody had known where the Sa'arm would first land on Earth, or in what numbers. Once they had actually landed in East Africa the plan was quickly revised to account for the specifics of the local environment. In a way Leo was grateful to the Sa'arm for picking Africa. Since that continent contained more human genetic diversity than the rest of the planet put together, the population geneticists were very happy that the new evacuees were going to be carrying that diversity into the Diaspora.

Targeting Africa hadn't been entirely plain sailing. It had been largely omitted from the usual list of extraction locations for good reasons. However, since the Kindertransport program was only going to be extracting children and female concubines, that was agreed to be less of a problem. Children could be educated and concubines didn't have any real influence. A few sponsors would no doubt turn up during testing, but it had been agreed that they would be examined on an individual basis. The acceptable ones would be extracted via the existing channels, while the remainder would be left behind to fight the Swarm.

What Leo had to do now was to sell the plan to the relevant governments on Earth. There had been no problem selling it to the colonies in the Diaspora. The prospect of additional female concubines, all with reasonable motherhood sub-scores and all with actual experience of raising children, was too good an opportunity for them to turn down. The children that would come with them were just a bonus, helping their populations grow faster.

Already it was clear that some elements of the plan were going to work as intended. The civilian population was fleeing from the fighting. A lot of the men were being conscripted for military service against the Swarm. Women and children were being put into refugee camps away from the war zone, often on the coast. All that had been anticipated. Now it was the Tribune's job to implement the plan's second stage: offshore extraterritorial facilities, where the women and children could be tested, sorted and forwarded on for extraction. Leo hoped that the possibility of politicians' families escaping from Earth would help sell the scheme to governments in the region. Until now extractions from Africa had been very rare, just a few Universities or technical companies and the occasional selected individual pre-packs. Offering the bait of getting more of their citizens away from the Sa'arm should ease the path of negotiations.

With limited space available on the ships assigned to the program they would have to be selective. It was envisaged that some women would be sent back as unsuitable and a few would CAP test as sponsors. The rest would be concubines to be extracted as part of the Kindertransport program, together with their accompanying groups of children. Even the children would be screened; boys of eleven and older with a low CAP estimate would be sent back. There was already a surplus of low CAP young males in many colonies.

There were known unknowns in the plan of course. To what extent were the Sa'arm likely to interfere? How many men would present themselves, hoping for extraction? How many people would try to make their own way to the offshore collection camps by boat or plane? All those known unknowns had been thought about, and there were estimates and contingencies in the plan to deal with them. What worried the Tribune more were the unknown unknowns, where there weren't any contingencies allowed for in the plan because nobody had even thought of them. Those would only become clear when the plan was put into action.

Leo's thoughts were interrupted by his secretary, "Sir, the African Union delegation from the UN has arrived."

"Show them in please, Pat." He took a deep breath to calm himself. The plan was about to become a reality.

Hope heard a noise behind them. It sounded like an engine, though it was still distant. She looked round and saw a plume of dust approaching. Quickly she and Solomon hid near the road. It sounded like an ordinary engine, but she didn't want to be caught unawares just in case it was the aliens. As it came round the corner into view she saw, to her relief, that it was a dusty old lorry that had definitely seen better days.

Quickly she stepped out into the road and flagged the driver down. The truck slowed down and stopped next to her.

The driver leaned out of his window, "What are you doing all the way out here, girl? Don't you know it's dangerous?"

"We want to find some soldiers," Hope told him, ignoring his question. Of course she knew it was dangerous here. Everybody did.

"I can drop you at an Army base down the road a way. Will that do?"

"Thank you very much, sir," Hope replied politely. She called Solomon out of hiding and they went round to the other side of the truck and climbed in.

The driver was a talker. He rattled on about this and that as his truck bounced over the dirt road. He wasn't going particularly fast, the road wouldn't allow any great speed, but it was much quicker than the two children could walk. Hope managed to pick a few details out of his barrage of words; it would take all of today and part of tomorrow to get to the Army base. She thought that he probably spent a lot of time with nobody to talk to, and was making the most of his audience while he could. Because of the Swarm there weren't many people left round here any more. They had been lucky to come across him and his truck at all.

As it was getting dark, they pulled into a bar on the edge of a small town. From what Hope could see in the fading light, there weren't as many people around as she thought there should be for a town this size. Perhaps the locals were starting to leave ahead of the Swarm. The bar didn't seem very busy either. The place did have food for all three of them though, together with beer and women for the driver. The driver kindly paid for their meals. Hope thanked him, as she had been taught, and tried not to shovel her food down too quickly. She had no hope of slowing Solomon down. At eight years old, he was impatient to fill his empty belly.

"Look at her!" a woman interrupted their meal, "No tits. You want a real woman with real tits." The woman speaking to the driver certainly had tits. Her blouse was half open so everyone could check that hers were indeed real. Hope didn't mind her comment. Her breasts were still very small, so she looked younger than her twelve years. She knew that looking so young had likely saved her from having to do something bad to pay the driver. He probably thought she was about ten and she hadn't corrected him.

Hope knew that her breasts would grow in time. She did think that her legs looked good. They were long and athletic, having matured earlier than the rest of her. Their Pastor would have called that thought prideful, so she remembered that her teeth were too large for her mouth to try and counteract her pride.

The driver nodded to the woman, "Come back when I've finished eating."

When the driver finished his meal he got up to leave. Hope started to stand as well, but he told her to stay sitting. Worried, she asked him, "You're not going to leave us here are you?"

"No, girl," he told her. "I've just got some business with a lady. I promised to take you and I always keep my promises."

Hope felt herself blush. She had suddenly realised what the woman was, and what the driver would be doing with her.

He went outside with the prostitute. On his way out he asked 'Grandma' behind the bar to look out for the two children until he got back.

"Only for two minutes then?" she cackled at him.

"Hey, Grandma, I'm good for three," he parried, and he followed his partner of the moment outside, still laughing. This wasn't the first time he had visited this bar on his travels.

Grandma only had to dissuade one rather drunken customer who made his unsteady way in their direction, "You sit your sorry ass right back down, Abel Majinge. Leave those two alone, you hear me?"

Grandma favoured the two of them with a smile. Hope smiled back at her, thankful for her protection. Looking round the bar she could see that one of the women was breast-feeding a small baby. She had to look away from the scene. She couldn't let herself be reminded of her little sister Mercy, killed by the Swarm along with their mother. Memories and tears would have to wait until they found Daddy; only then could she let herself remember.

In the morning they set off again. As the driver had promised, by mid-afternoon they arrived at an Army base with lots of soldiers. It came more quickly than Hope had expected. The roads weren't quite so rough closer to the base so they were able to make better time.

The driver waved them goodbye as he left. Not a bad man, but not one that their Pastor would have described as good either. However he had fed them and he had kept his promise.

Sonia Chibueze strapped herself into her crew seat ready for landing. She was almost there! No more having to fuck Andwele, her boss, to make sure he assigned her to the cabin crew on these Confederacy flights. No more having to smile her way through a crowd of anxious women and their attached hordes of children, many of whom had never flown before. No more having to placate VIPs' wives who expected First Class service on what was basically a cattle truck. She smiled at her son Kwanza, five years old, seated opposite her. He would be safe as well. That made it all worthwhile.

Finally, the last of the passengers left the aircraft and started down the steps. She turned to her fellow cabin crew. "Goodbye Karama, only a few more flights to go for you."

Karama hugged her, "Eight more and I'll reach my thirty one. Then I'm off to the stars like you."

Sonia knew that Karama was having to make her thirty one flights the hard way; like herself, she was probably fucking that bastard Andwele to keep her place. Dafina, the third stewardess, was the niece of one of the airline's senior managers, so she had probably managed to avoid Andwele's attentions. "Goodbye, Dafina, good luck."

"And to you Sonia."

Sonia took Kwanza's hand and hurried down the steps to catch the last bus to the terminal. There were still a few empty seats left so she was able to sit next to her son. Thirty one flights: fifteen returns and a one-way. All very hard work and all worth it for the chance to get the two of them away from the Swarm. The one-way flight would take them both to the stars.

Inside the terminal building, the arrivals hall was like a bare shed with no seats. Sonia could see a crowd of women, each with her clump of children gathered round her. Confederacy people dressed in plain grey were moving through the crowd and seemed to be organising something. Small parties of about half a dozen women, with their accompanying cloud of children, were being lead off further into the complex.

Sonia was surprised to recognise one of the grey uniformed Confederacy staff. Rukiya had been a fellow stewardess. She had completed her thirty one trips a few weeks earlier, so Sonia had assumed she had already left Earth. She waved to attract Rukiya's attention.

Rukiya smiled broadly as she noticed them. "Sonia! Kwanza! You both made it. Good for you. You're looking well, Sonia."

"Wonderful to see you, Rukiya." Sonia noticed that Rukiya had put on some weight since they'd last met. The airline required stewardesses to keep their weight within limits. Like Rukiya, Sonia had found that difficult as she naturally tended towards plumpness, and after Kwanza had been born, it was a constant battle for her to keep her weight down. "At least there's one familiar face here," she continued. "Why aren't you off to the stars? They aren't leaving you behind, are they?" Sonia had a sudden fear that she herself might be left behind, like her friend.

"Oh no, nothing like that," Rukiya reassured her. "I'll definitely be going, but they want me to help around here for a bit first. I wouldn't be surprised if they get you to do the same. Us cabin crew have the experience to help them deal with the crowds when each planeload arrives." Sonia could see the sense in that; it was something she should be able to do.

Rukiya continued, "We can talk more in a minute or two once I get you out of this bedlam. You and Kwanza join those three over there, with the tall woman in the red and blue. Talk to you soon."

Once she had gathered two more women into the group, Rukiya led the six of them out of the arrivals hall, and down a corridor to a comfortable waiting room with seats and a children's play area in one corner. Addressing the whole group, Rukiya announced, "You will shortly be going to medical for check-ups and testing," repeating everything in both Swahili and English. "Three of you will go first, together with your children. Then you will change over and the rest of you will go." She briefly demonstrated the replicator and pointed out the toilets. Three of the women and their children followed Rukiya to medical, leaving Sonia waiting with the other two. Kwanza made a beeline for the play area.

When Rukiya returned, Sonia asked her, "Looks like we don't have to watch our weight so much here."

Rukiya grimaced, "With the replicators it's too easy just to pick up something to eat. Far too easy. I want to keep looking good so a sponsor will select me, but it's so difficult."

"I know," Sonia sympathised. At only 5' 5" she quickly showed almost every pound she put on, and her hips had never recovered from having Kwanza. "That replicator does look tempting, though. Can it really make anything at all?"

"Pretty much. It certainly covers all the basics." With a smile she whispered, "It can even make sweets for the children."

Curious as to what was going to happen to her and Kwanza, Sonia enquired, "What happens to us in medical?"

"You'll get checked for diseases and so on. They can fix anything here." Rukiya paused and asked, "Have you been CAP tested Sonia?"

"Not yet, I was never able to get onto flights to Europe."


Sonia nodded, "Andwele." Just like Sonia, Rukiya had also had to fuck him in order to earn her place here.

"So, they'll do a quick CAP test while you're in the med-tube."

"Quick?" Sonia asked doubtfully. "Dafina said it took over two hours to test her."

"That was probably a full test then. She had it done in Paris, didn't she?"

"I think so. Her uncle got her onto some of the Europe flights."

"Well," Rukiya explained, "with a whole planeload of people to process quickly, here they just give most of you a preliminary test. If they can see you're going to be high enough for them to accept, but below 6.5, then they'll pop you out early and give you a provisional score. You'll get called back for a full test in a day or two, in between flights when there's space in the med-tubes. If this first CAP test takes a long time, then it means they're doing the full test and you might be a sponsor."

"That would be too much to hope for. I'll be content with just getting away."

"You should be fine. You're fertile," Rukiya glanced at Kwanza playing happily with the other children, "and you're a good mother. They'll only reject you if you score really, really low on your CAP test. Even if you aren't a good mother, they'll still take you if you get a decent CAP score. They'll just send you to the Moon to be an ordinary concubine. With lots of kids for us each to look after, they don't want any bad mothers here," Rukiya laughed.

As her friend was laughing, Sonia noticed that she had a collar round her neck. It wasn't jewellery, appearing functional rather than decorative. "What's the collar for?" she asked.

"This?" Rukiya put her hand to her neck. "It lets us talk to the AIs, the big computers they have here. They seem to organise a lot of the stuff that goes on and keep track of everyone. Very helpful they are too." Rukiya paused, "Enough about me, what have you been doing since we last saw each other, Sonia?"

Hope told the soldier at the gate, "Our father is in the Army, we want to find him please."

"You two refugees?" he asked sharply.

"Yes," she told him, as if it wasn't obvious. "How do we find our father?"

The soldier didn't answer them. He just called to a woman walking by inside the base, "Hey, you! Take these two to the refugee hut."

The hut was full of old men, women and children, all the older boys and men had been conscripted straight into the Army. Nobody there knew anything about her father; like Hope and Solomon they were all refugees driven from their homes by the aliens. She settled down to wait for something to happen. At least there was some food here, not much and not very good, but it was still welcome.

The next day, most of them were loaded into the back of an Army truck which set off towards the coast. The old men were left behind, Hope noticed, just the women and children were on the truck. Some of the women seemed apprehensive about the three soldiers in the cab. She soon discovered why. The truck stopped in the middle of nowhere and one of the three came round, stuck his head into the back and demanded three women volunteers. The women looked at each other, while Hope tried to make herself inconspicuous. Luckily, she was at the opposite end from the soldier. When only two women reluctantly moved, he got in and grabbed a third. He dragged her, screaming, out of the truck.

"What's happening?" Solomon asked his sister.

"Do you remember what Amnon did to Tamar in the Bible?"

"Sort of, but I didn't really understand that part, and Pastor didn't explain it clearly."

"Well it's like that," Hope told her brother. "Those three women are going to be unhappy, like Tamar was." She was sad for the three women. If her father had been with the soldiers, he wouldn't have allowed that to happen. He was a good man.

When the three women returned, the two comforting the one, the truck set off again. Hope knew that the war wasn't going well; the Swarm were advancing and the Army was retreating. Some of the soldiers were angry about that and, since they couldn't take it out on the aliens, they took their frustration out on easier targets.

Soon they were onto a good road where they had a smoother ride and were able to go faster. They were let off at the gates of another camp. Not an Army base this time, though there were a few soldiers about. This camp had lots of refugees in it. It was dustier, with more tents and not as many huts as the Army base they had come from. Hope could make out "Kindertransport" on some of the signs. She wondered what that meant, not having seen the word before.

Major Oliver Truman opened his next message; a request from Copernicus Base for 120 unattached concubines to top up their pool of spares ready for the impending departure of the Cube Ship Nirvana. Well, he certainly had plenty of concubines available for them here in the camp.

"AI, how many female concubines do we currently have in the 'unsuited for motherhood' category?" he asked.

"Twenty seven, sir. Nineteen with insufficient CAP motherhood sub-scores and eight with insufficient experience." Oliver knew that the last group was likely to be younger concubines, teenagers.

"Are there any dependent siblings or children with them?" The Confederacy wanted to keep siblings together because many of the children here were war orphans, so their siblings were often the only family they had left.

"Five dependent siblings and twelve of their own children are attached to the group, sir," the AI responded.

"List their own children and siblings to accompany them.

"Yes, sir."

"Bring the number of concubines up to ninety by adding further females from the general pool, taking those with the lowest motherhood sub-scores," Oliver told it. "Also include twenty females with dependants estimated most likely to become sponsors. All assigned children to accompany, of course. Make up the numbers with ten males who would make a good concubine for a high scoring male sponsor." New sponsors found at the camp were overwhelmingly female, so male concubines who wouldn't do well with a female sponsor were not much use to him here. If he didn't ship them off to Copernicus Base they would just be sent back to their home countries to fight the Swarm.

"There are only eight unattached male concubines meeting that criterion presently available, sir."

"Add in two more of the low motherhood sub-score females then." Concubines on a Kindertransport ship had an average of seven children each to look after. Oliver knew that it was better if women who were less suited to looking after kids travelled on a normal colony ship, where they would have at least one other concubine available to help them carry the load.

"Done, sir."

Oliver quickly scrolled through the list the AI provided. Copernicus would probably complain about the few males he had included, but the men he sent them were generally better quality than those garnered at random in pickups. He was able to filter out any real duds who turned up and send them straight back on the next flight out. He told the AI, "Attach the list to the original message from Copernicus Base, and forward to Commander Tolstova. Tell her to liaise with Copernicus over timing for the delivery."

"Yes, sir."

Oliver was checking the provisional timetable of Kindertransport departures for the following quarter, when he was interrupted by his assistant, Lieutenant Daiva Kaukenas. Like many of the Confederacy staff here, she was a woman; over six feet tall with the standard Marine body, but still a woman. Given that the great majority of their 'customers' were women and children, it made sense to have a mostly female staff. Oliver himself was one of the exceptions. "Sir, we have a small private jet inbound, asking for permission to land."

"I assume that this is not a regular transport flight Lieutenant?"

"No, sir, it isn't," she confirmed. "The pilot says it's a General Adobora and his party. No further details."

"Any other flights in the offing?"

"No sir, the runway is clear and they could land safely. They have flight clearance from the mainland, so they are fitting in nicely between the scheduled transport flights."

"OK, let them land and we'll see what the General wants," Oliver decided. "Hold them for checks, and ask the General for a brief explanation of why they're here. I'm sure we can guess, but we need to confirm. I'll want some time to work out how to handle him. If he asks, tell him I'm in a meeting for however long you think he'll put up with. That should give us time to be prepared."

"Yes sir. I'll put him and his party in the VIP lounge."

"The VIP lounge? I didn't know we had one." This was the first Oliver had heard of any VIP Lounge in the camp.

"We don't," Daiva explained, "but we will as soon as I can get a sign replicated for one of the holding rooms, sir. I can ask the AI to route his plane to a remote parking bay, and delay sending the bus out to it. That should give me enough time. He did arrive unannounced, after all. We can always apologise to him afterwards if we have to."

"Good thinking Lieutenant. Keep the sign, it may come in useful for future VIP arrivals."

Sometimes Oliver wished he were in charge of one of the floating collection camps, converted container ships carrying pods instead of containers. They didn't have a runway, like this camp on its island, so only helicopters or Confederacy shuttles could land on them. They had far fewer uninvited arrivals.

When Daiva returned she explained the situation, "Sir, the General has a CAP of 6.6. He's with his two wives, both with CAP scores below 6.5, who he says are also his concubines. He wants to be extracted, together with his family. No surprises there. He has two young kids, who are not a problem, and a third alleged child, who is."

The Major cocked an eye to elicit further explanation.

"She's called Ajabu. The General claims that she's his thirteen year old daughter. The AI says that she's probably sixteen and his third wife. He's trying to get her extracted as part of his family. I had a look at her birth certificate which says that her fourteenth birthday is in three weeks time."

At this point the AI broke in, "Indications are that the birth certificate was issued under false pretences. It is likely that the General brought pressure to bear in the Ministry of the Interior to issue a genuine Birth Certificate containing a false date of birth. News reports from four months ago carried pictures of the General marrying his third wife. The alleged daughter appears to match images of the new wife. Putting her in a medical tube would confirm her age. The two concubines in the party are indeed the General's first and second wives. The three of them were CAP tested in Milan almost two years ago."

"Replicate copies of those news reports for me," Major Truman told the AI. "Ensure that they include clear images of the third wife. I'll probably need to show them to the General."

While Daiva went over to the replicator to retrieve the pictures, Oliver confirmed with the AI that the General was indeed still on active service. 'Looks like he's going to be out of luck, ' he thought. Turning to his assistant, he told her, "We'll have to separate out this Ajabu and get her into a med-tube to confirm our suspicions. I'll leave you to do that, Lieutenant."

"Yes, sir."

"What about the crew?" he asked.

"The stewardess is childless, so she doesn't have the motherhood experience we need. The flight crew both already have CAP cards, though neither is suitable for extraction. The co-pilot has a 6.3 CAP and the Captain has a 6.6 but the AI doesn't want him -- insufficient loyalty to the Confederacy, it said." They both knew that was AI-speak for 'he is corrupt and demands or offers bribes'. "It's right. He must have some pretty good sub-scores somewhere to scrape a score like that. Even on a short acquaintance I can tell he's a real asshole, sir, pardon my Lithuanian."

Oliver grinned at that, it was an old joke between them. "Just as well they're available to take the plane back. We don't want a repeat of the other time." They both remembered the case he was referring to. One of the flight crew on a private jet had been accepted for extraction. The owners had arranged to send in a replacement pilot to fly their plane back. He had arrived on the largest airliner the company possessed, accompanied by practically the entire board of directors, together with their spouses, children, relatives, friends and servants; all expecting to be extracted.

"No, sir, we definitely don't want a repeat of that," Daiva said. "Some of the servants did make pretty good concubines though."

"True, but I'd rather not have to put up with being shouted at by a plane-load of people who think they can tell the Confederacy what it should do. Anyway, looking at the immediate issues, what are the CAP scores of the General's first two wives like?"

"Well, sir,..."

Hope talked to every soldier she could find in the camp. Some were kind, some weren't, while most basically ignored her. But none of them knew where her father was. Still she kept looking. There had to be a soldier somewhere who would know where Daddy was.

She was pleased that there was enough for them both to eat in the camp. They had these magic machines called replicators, which made food for everyone. All they made was mealie porridge, but it was enough. She and Solomon had to queue for it every day, not that there was much else for them to do. Hope spent most of her spare time asking soldiers about her father while Solomon played between the tents with the other young children. The older women in their tent were good about helping look after him when she wasn't there. They sympathised with her search, but she got the impression they thought she was wasting her time -- a lot of men had died fighting the Swarm. She ignored them, she had to find Daddy.

It was all women and children here. The only men were the soldiers, who were just there to keep order and help organise things. Most of them were good. A few were like the three soldiers on the lorry. All the women and girls quickly learned who those were and avoided them as much as they could. None of the soldiers stayed for long, so the bad ones were eventually moved on elsewhere. Most of them had been wounded in the war and were assigned here while they finished recovering. That kept Hope's spirits up, there were always new soldiers arriving in the camp that she could ask about her father. Eventually one of them would have to know something.

Ajabu walked beside Daiva on their way to medical. It was unusual for her to find another woman taller than herself; at 5' 10" she was usually the tallest woman in the room. She spoke in her limited English, "Sorry, I English bad. I no child. I wife three." She knew it would be better for her if she told this tall blond Confederacy woman the truth as soon as she could. This was her first opportunity, having just left her husband the General, and her two fellow wives, back in the VIP Lounge.

The Lieutenant nodded and smiled at her. "Yes, Ajabu. We know. It's OK."

"Thanks you," Ajabu said and, reassured, lapsed back into silence. She had known that her husband's scheme would have little chance of success. At least now she might have a better chance to get away from him. Getting off Earth would be a bonus, but her main purpose was to escape from the General and Subira, his principal wife. The General had been her father's choice of husband, not her own. That, and the attitude of Subira, had not made her time in the General's household a happy one.

At the medical centre the Lieutenant passed her over to the female medic. With so many women still retaining the modesty taboos from their local cultures, the camp medics were female to save unnecessary arguments and delays. "This is Ajabu," Daiva told her. "She needs an initial medical and a CAP test."

"Yes, sir," the med-tech acknowledged. She turned to Ajabu and started explaining the procedure to her in Swahili as they went in.

As Daiva was returning to the General's party, Major Truman contacted her via their internal AI links, «I'm ready to see the General now. Bring him to my office once you get back from medical. Oh yes, the AI has already confirmed that Ajabu is sixteen, and pregnant as well.»

«Not unexpected. I'll have the General with you in a couple of minutes, sir.»

Oliver was waiting as the Lieutenant showed General Adobora in. As soon as he was seated, the Major told him, "We will not be able to extract you General. You are a serving member of your country's armed forces and so are ineligible for extraction." The General didn't react much to the news. He had been half expecting it; the Confederacy policy was well known.

Major Truman continued, "However we are prepared to accept your children and, if she wishes, your second wife, Busara, into the Kindertransport program. Ajabu is being CAP tested as we speak and, subject to a satisfactory result, we will be able to accept her as well."

"How can you CAP test her? She is only a child of thirteen!" the General blustered.

The Major merely slid the news reports of their recent marriage across the desk.

The General grimaced ruefully, accepting that his plan had failed. "What of yourself, Major," he asked, "is there anything I can do for you? I have three obedient wives, and I am in a position to assist your work financially."

Major Truman looked at the General silently, his face expressionless. Equally silently he linked to the AI, «How competent is the General in fighting the Sa'arm?»

«He is considered one of his Army's more effective Generals, sir, » the AI replied through the link.

So the General would live, Oliver decided. Had he been less competent he wouldn't have left the island alive. Oliver was mildly disappointed that his choice of bribes was so unimaginative. There were hundreds of concubines passing through the island and a replicator could produce gold bars on request. Oliver spoke, "Naturally, General, you would never attempt to bribe an officer of the Confederacy. That is a capital offence."

"Of course not Major. I was merely trying to be friendly." The General had immediately recognised his error and made a strategic withdrawal. "My apology if I gave a mistaken impression and offended you."

"Apology accepted, General." Oliver was prepared to take the General's apology, given that he had decided not to execute the man. Let the Swarm do that in a few years time. In the meantime the General could help slow them down.

"What of Subira?" the General asked. "You didn't mention her." He wanted to steer the conversation back into safer waters.

"It is our opinion that your first wife would not do well as a concubine. Her CAP scores indicate that she very much prefers to be in control. I suspect that she is in charge of the servants and of your other wives at home?"

The General nodded his confirmation.

"We anticipate that she would not be able to adjust quickly enough to being a subordinate wife, and effectively a servant, herself. It is probable that she would be executed within a few weeks of leaving Earth."

The General started on hearing that. He knew that the Confederacy had a reputation for harsh punishments, but to hear it put so bluntly was a shock.

Oliver continued, "Given that we have limited space on our colony ships, it doesn't really make sense for us to take her. Frankly, she has a better chance of surviving for longer if she stays here on Earth."

The General nodded at that, "She would not find it easy to be a servant."

"Exactly," Oliver agreed. "We think it is in her best interest to stay here." He was relieved that the General was taking his disappointment so calmly. Some VIPs would have been on their feet and shouting at him by this point. Still, the General had got one of his wives and his two children extracted, with a good possibility of his third wife going as well. Maybe he was content with that and didn't want to risk it by further antagonising the Major. He obviously realised that he had already made one mistake by offering a bribe; no doubt he wanted to avoid making a second mistake to compound his error.

"You are aware of our policy if you or Subira return here after not being selected, General?" Oliver asked.

"You have made it abundantly clear to those you have already sent back. You won't see either of us here again, Major."

"I am glad to see that our message is getting across. I suggest that you inform your family of the result of our discussion."

The General sighed, "I will go and talk to them. When will Ajabu be finished in medical?"

"I'm afraid I don't know," Oliver told him. "The AIs are a law unto themselves when it comes to the timing of CAP tests."

After the General left, Oliver mused that his party had been an almost perfect miniature of the work the Confederacy was doing here. It didn't really matter how people got here, anyone who wanted to get off Earth was looked at. The men had been sent back while most of the women and children had been accepted, typical of many arrivals. Women who wouldn't take well to life as a concubine were rejected as well as a few with very low CAP scores. That still left most of the women and almost all of the children to be extracted. Very few adult men were ever accepted.

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