The night of the Average Joes special was exciting for most people, but for me it was heartbreaking in too many ways. The main problem was my forty-year-old mother appearing as one of the one hundred candidates that Joey had the opportunity to select. She survived the first cut and was still around when the show switched from broadcast to cable, but to this day I have to thank whatever god of luck she worshipped that she did not become part of the final twenty-five.
I had not watched that night, although I was one of the few people who knew what the special would be about ahead of time. Mother had signed some kind of non-disclosure agreement, but felt that she had to warn my sister and me about what might be shown; as she was positive our friends would talk about it later. I was attending high school and three months away from graduation, while Sara was a sophomore at the same school. As the show was live and being shot in New York City, mother wanted us to be aware of what might happen and ready for phone calls from friends and relatives. As it happened, Sara and I kept quiet about the whole thing so it was definitely a surprise to our grandparents when mother walked into the room as part of the initial group of women.
Some of my friends did see the show and of course, several had to laugh about how attractive my mother was. Many suggested that if she was truly unhappy about being single, they could take care of her, but I just shook my head and ignored them. Mother was actually quite happy working for the television station in our small town, and had never complained about needing more attention. Her appearance in the special had been a favor to an old friend who wanted a few older women to fill out the selections.
After the show, my home life did not change much for the rest of the school year. Mother actually gained a little celebrity status in town, and more than a few of the women in town looking to find a sponsor took the time to talk to her in the evenings. I never heard the advice she gave, but Sara found a sponsor that July while getting coffee at the local café, and on August first there was a pickup at the television station. Just like that I was living alone with my mother and sister both gone to the stars.
The show might not have caused me much grief in town, but the pickups did. Suddenly I was considered a loser by several of my friends. They knew I had a qualifying score and more than a few got in my face about how I should have been the one to take at least Sara off the planet. I always ended up shaking my head at that. Sara and I got along well as siblings, but I had no interest in having her as my lover and she was equally disinterested in being that close to her older brother. However, the bigger issue was that I was the only boy in the graduating class with a qualifying score. I soon discovered that this had changed everything as during the summer just about every girl in our graduating class attempted to seduce me. Sadly, many of them also started to ignore my classmates and seek any man or woman with a CAP score above six point seven and soon my relationships with my former friends were under considerable strain.
It finally came to a head when Chastity, the former girlfriend of our quarterback, and I ran into each other at the mall. I had been sitting at a table eating lunch when she walked up and before I could say more than 'hello' she was sitting in my lap and probing my mouth with her tongue.
Sadly, Chad had been visiting the mall at the same time with a group of his followers. Seeing the woman he considered 'his girl' giving another man a serious French kiss drove him berserk. He charged into the food court, actually ripping one chair from the floor while screaming he was going to kill me.
I am afraid that Chastity was unceremoniously dumped on the floor as I shot to my feet and whirled to see the charging madman that Chad had become. The only certainty at that moment was that I was going to be in the hospital if Chad hit me. He was a good seven inches taller than my five foot seven and probably outweighed me by eighty pounds as well.
My first move was to step back, but Chastity was still lying on the ground stunned and I promptly fell on my ass. It proved to be fortuitous that I had as Chad whipped the chair through the air.
The momentum of Chad's swing was strong enough to make him stumble into a table. I promptly rolled to my hands and knees and looked up to see two of his friends attempting to wrestle him down. One looked at me and screamed. "Run you idiot! I've never seen him this angry. Last time he got mad he fought some redneck and put the man in the hospital. He's madder now than he was then!"
Without really thinking about the fact that I was leaving Chastity behind I crawled a couple feet before bounding up and dashing off at fast as my legs could carry me. Behind me I could hear Chad continuing to scream.
In the end my dash for freedom saved me, but there were consequences. After I escaped Chad had administered several brutal kicks to his former girlfriend. Chastity would spend several weeks in the hospital healing a broken pelvis. Chad had to be wrestled down by three arriving police officers. He was later convicted of multiple counts of assault and sentenced to a long jail term. Unless the Sa'arm took three times the predicted time to arrive, he will still be in jail when they reach Earth.
I did visit Chastity in the hospital about a week after the incident. It took a while because I wanted to meet with her alone, but finally her parents both returned to work and I was able to sneak in. She offered a sorrowful smile as I stepped into the room and pushed the door slightly closed.
"I chose a really bad moment to make my play didn't I?" she said.
I sighed and nodded as I walked over to the one chair in the room and sat down. "It was also a bit more than I wanted right now. The whole concubine thing doesn't feel right to me. It's a lot like slavery."
Chastity giggled for a moment before coughing in pain. "Like? I'd say that the description makes it pretty much a form of slavery for the concubines. But look at the alternatives. Most of the decent men, the ones who will care for a woman and treat her right, are going to have qualifying scores. And worse the Sa'arm are going to arrive. I'm sure that people will say that we can fight them off, and with the billions of humans and our natural fighting instinct I believe them, but the cost will be too high in my opinion."
"Mine too. Honestly, I don't mind the idea of going to the stars and having companions, I just want them to be friends who join in my travels because they like me, and you never gave me a chance to be a friend."
Chastity frowned for a moment, but then nodded. "You're right, I just jumped into your lap and started making out. I'm sorry."
"I am too." Just then we could hear voices in the hallway. Several of Chastity's friends had arrived and I decided it was time to retreat. I stood up and stepped toward the door.
"Seb?" Chastity asked. "Did I have a chance before Chad ruined it for both of us?"
I paused for a moment before offering the faintest of nods. I could hear Chastity stifle a sob as I stepped through the door and immediately ran into Joyce, Chastity's best friend.
Joyce's right hand lashed out and my head rocked back "I see the coward came to see the consequences of not standing and fighting!" she screamed.
I stepped away from her. Joyce was leading a group of seven girls and all of them looked at me like I was lower than dog feces. Rather than defend myself I turned and quickly left the hospital.
I like to think that Chastity defended me to her friends, but my continued refusal to fall for their seduction games turned the ones that knew me against me. Soon the other girls in the region actually took to spitting on me. If a parent was around the excuse they used was that I should have stayed there and fought with Chad to protect Chastity, but it was fairly clear they were more upset that I would not select them as possible concubines.
Even my former friends got in the act, although for a different reason. Most of them had average scores around five and found dates almost impossible to obtain in the post Average Joes world. As I was well known for ignoring the many girls chasing after me they started to envy me and the envy quickly grew into hate. With my status in town in the toilet thanks to my failure to protect Chastity, they took to ambushing me in groups. They never brought weapons so I fought back with punches and kicks, but these attacks were about punishment rather than fighting fair, and while I never had to visit the hospital, I ended up dragging myself through my front door ten nights in a row thanks to boys I had grown up with and played with.
I had suffered enough in town thanks to my well-known CAP score. My high school grades had been solid enough to gain me acceptance to multiple colleges and with my hometown turning against me, I revisited my college applications and enrolled for winter session at San Diego State in California. It was far enough from my hometown that no one would know me and I hoped that I could just blend in and heal emotionally.
For three years my plan worked. I attended classes for a double major of history and civil engineering. The combination had just about everyone at the university annoyed, but the money I had gained by selling the family home provided more than enough money so I was not working and could take the heavy class loads.
I did not live close to the campus. I had lived in the dorms my first year, but the crowded living conditions meant little privacy and too many students would try to ferret out people's CAP scores. The last thing I needed was to be revealed again, so I quickly started looking for a new place. I had finally settled in some older apartments located in El Cajon. It meant a twenty-mile drive to the university or an hour by the local light rail system, but I usually took the trolley and studied.
It was a Saturday in mid-July that my plans finally fell apart. I had joined a local fitness center and had spent more than an hour that morning working out. The center was located in a small outdoor shopping center and as I left I saw a number of young women holding up signs advertising a summer carwash as a benefit for the cheerleading squad of one of the local high schools. One problem with living in the Eastern part of San Diego County is an ever-present dust that seems to cover everything. My car had a coating of the dust so I decided to pull in and get a wash. I had little else to do that day.
It was now about eleven-thirty. I pulled up and one of the cheerleaders, a buxom brunette, came up and guided me to one of two cleared spots in the parking lot and instructed me to raise the windows. I followed her instructions and then stepped out of the car, heading to an awning covered table where several others were currently resting. As I arrived and sat down, I could hear a couple of the parents calling the girls holding signs to come back for lunch.
There was only one other car currently being washed. It was one of the larger SUV's on the road. Most of the passengers from that car were gathered around the table, one older gentleman wearing battered glasses and three women in their late thirties it looked like. I did notice two women in their twenties walking around the SUV and occasionally pointing out a spot they believed needed additional attention. One was a short, buxom blond while the other was an extremely attractive brunette with shoulder-length hair. Every time one of them spoke the one older gentleman sitting at the table winced.
"What's wrong?" I asked him.
The man looked over at one of the women and shook his head. "Just Jeannette and Miranda being entirely too vigilant again. I can understand them wanting the SUV to look good, but they tend to go a bit overboard."
I looked back over at the duo that were now standing next to each other and glaring at me. "I sense I'm about to be visited by them." I observed. "Are they expecting to somehow clean me up?" I asked.
The man's companions started laughing. One middle-aged woman looked at me and winked. "Don't worry son. They won't bite too hard."
I shrugged and looked over at my car. One of the few adult males in the area had picked up a hose and was spraying down my old sedan. As he did this, a group of girls in tank tops and gym shorts stood by holding sponges. I noticed a couple of additional girls arriving as they waited for the man to finish.
The man who had been wincing sighed. I was turning back to ask him a question when I saw a gray field appear behind him. I spun around in my chair to see that the field encircled the parking lot, capturing the two vehicles being cleaned as well as the cleaners. Shock kept me in my seat as a huge man walked up to the table.
"Professor Garry Nolan," the man said, looking at the older gentleman. "You always said that you'd come along should a pickup occur where you were. This is a pickup, so will you hold to your word?"
The three women were bouncing in their seats. Surprisingly the man smiled. "Not quite true. I also said that all six of my promised companions had to be in attendance. Kelly is not here."
Just then we could hear shouting behind the man. It was an angry female voice with a faint British accent. "Let me go! Bloody hell! You really needed him this bad? Grabbing a woman while she was enjoying a quiet bath at home! I'm surprised you gorillas bothered to let me dress."
The professor turned around as I looked around him. There was a redheaded woman of about twenty years struggling in the grip of a female marine. The woman's red face and flashing eyes made it clear she was livid at being held. She was wearing an extremely light sundress and obviously had no underwear underneath. Once again I saw the professor sigh as the marine let go of the woman.
The woman stormed forward to the marine standing next to the professor and slugged him. The marine's head rocked to the side, but I noticed a smirk on his face when it came to a stop with his eyes looking over his right shoulder. He slowly turned back to the professor. "As you can see, we brought your daughter along. So once again, will you keep your word?"
The professor looked at the marine. "Why? What did I do to deserve this kind of treatment?"
The female marine who had been holding the professor's daughter walked up. "We don't get told the whole story," she said. "All we know is that there is a research project on one of the colonies that claims you are the one scientist who can help them. Central Command even ordered one of our K'treel ships for this pickup."
"K'treel?" the redheaded woman asked.
"One of the alien races we are supposed to be protecting," the male marine said. "They have some very fast small freighters that they provided to us. The ships have been used as exploration ships mostly, but they can carry colony pods so one was brought here to carry the professor here to the research station on Konat. We'll be teleporting to the Aurora Australis first, but the pod you are given will transfer to the K'treel ship, sorry I don't know which one is here, no one told me."
It appeared one of the cheerleaders had wandered over because a voice called out from behind me. "What's special about him?" I turned to find a girl of about sixteen with long black hair, standing and pointing at the professor.
I could hear the man sigh, but as I turned back to the conversation the older woman on his right smiled and put her hands around him. "He's only one of the best entomologists on the planet. Knows more about ants than anyone."
"Ants?" I asked.
I could see the professor shaking his head. "What I know is going to be useless. I know that some people think that the Sa'arm are insects, but they aren't. I've seen the evidence from other studies. They are cold-blooded like insects and do have six limbs, but that's about it. The carapace they have is much lighter than any insect of their size would have. In fact, I don't think they have a true exoskeleton, which helps explain how they grew so large."
"What?" the cheerleader said. She was clearly confused and the professor sighed.
"Look, I'm sure you don't want to hear a lecture today. But think about the largest insects you see today. They are so small because their bodies don't have bones they way ours do and without bones to help hold them together, the air pressure would crush them if they were larger. The Sa'arm are bigger than any human, which pretty much proves they aren't some alien equivalent to ants, no matter how ant-like some of their behavior is," the professor said.
"This is about Sa'arm behavior?" I asked.
The professor nodded and looked at me. "Since the beginning some Earth scientists have been trying to predict how the Sa'arm might communicate. Since their method of communication would then affect how they react in certain situations, this research is considered vital by the military."
The female marine slapped the back of his head. "You mean you know what the Confederation wants you for and tried to avoid doing your duty?" she screeched.
The professor put a hand to the back of his head and rubbed it cautiously. "Please don't do that," he said absently. "Of course I knew why I was approached. You don't really think that I was just asked out of the goodness of someone's heart. I've studied ants and their behaviors for years, so of course once people started to notice the similarities of the Sa'arm to ants I was approached. But I wanted to remain here and teach, not get locked into some lab studying the Sa'arm."
The redhead gave the professor a hug. "Besides, the day after the special he said he'd take me with him no matter what and I was studying at Oxford for the next two years."
I could see the other three ladies smiling at the professor. The professor just reached around to take one of the redhead's hands and bring it to his lips for a kiss. "I couldn't leave my daughter, Kelly, to the Sa'arm. Although you could have found another to take you, I would have understood that."
Kelly giggled. "I have an Electra Complex. There wasn't a man I met at Oxford that could compare to you, Daddy. Even if you already had promised four other women that they could come with you should you ever be picked up."
One of the other women giggled. "And when Miranda became his lab assistant this semester that became a full half-dozen women he's going to bring along."
The female marine giggled. "At least he won't need Viagra to keep up with all of you once he's had the medical work done."
The four women sitting and standing around the professor all giggled. He just nodded and looked at the male marine. "Very well," he said with a sigh. He then leaned back and looked at the two women who were still walking around the SUV and examining each inch. "Jeanette, Miranda, forget the SUV! Our next journey is being measured in light years, not miles."
The two women glanced up from the tire they had been examining. They paused for a moment staring at the table. Then the blond gasped and pointed at the male marine. Immediately both women jumped to their feet and ran forward with screams of joy. The brunette wrapped up the male marine in a hug while the other stopped in front of the professor. "Is it real? Does this mean we finally get to have you?"
The brunette relaxed her grip on the marine and stood in front of the professor. Then before anyone could react she unsnapped the button holding her jeans on and pushed them off her hips and to the ground. As the professor gave a squeak of protest her t-shirt joined the jeans on the ground. She had been wearing no underwear and was naked in front of us all. "Garry, will you finally take me?" she pleaded as she stood in front of everyone
The professor gasped and stared for a moment. Finally, he spoke. "Miranda, I can't do that to you?"
It was Kelly who replied, by kissing her father on the cheek. "Why not? She wants it, as do I. I'm sure the others would say the same thing. You are an honorable and caring man and we trust you to do your best to give us many orgasms."
The blond was now kneeling and trying to get the professor to stand up so she could remove his pants, but he sat there, holding the table and uncooperative. "And besides," the blond continued as she struggled to get the man to stand. "We know the terms of concubinage. We owe you all the orgasms you can take every day in exchange for you taking us off Earth. I'm thinking I'll put a couple in the bank the instant you stand up."
The professor kept protesting and even gave a pleading look at the other ladies, but they merely smiled at him and began their own disrobing. They would have continued, but the female marine coughed. "I'm sure you wouldn't mind having the usual pickup orgy, but the interdiction field will start attracting too much attention soon." She put a gentle hand on the professor's shoulder. "Normally we'd say they have to arrive naked, but in this case, you can handle that. You do understand that once you leave the planet your concubines own nothing and you own anything you allow them to keep or use."
"We understand that!" all six women replied in an exasperated tone.
Kelly continued. "Daddy kept using that as an excuse to try to avoid every possible pickup location. He said it would stifle us and prevent us from reaching our potential."
The blond giggled. "My potential always was as a slut for the right man. I just had to convince Garry here that he's the man for me."
The other women gave off slightly pained giggles, but began to stand up. As did Professor Nolan looked around. "You all have your CAP cards correct? I believe I'm supposed to be holding them once we reach the ship."
The female marine snorted. "If they don't it shouldn't be a problem. The names of your concubines aren't exactly a surprise since you clearly told Central Command who they were months ago. I'm sure the AI has all the information it needs filed away. But it would make things easier."
The man's concubines all giggled and moments later six hands were holding out CAP cards for him to take. I was shaking my head when I heard the male marine start to mutter.
"Wait, repeat that ... AI, you told us that not one of the cheerleaders or their parents had a qualifying CAP, what do you mean there is another sponsor within the field?" the marine said.
I found myself sliding down in the chair, thinking to hide under the table. I had not quite got my ass out of the chair when the marine turned and grabbed me pulling me to my feet.
"You are Sebastian Timkins? You really have a seven point four?" he asked me.
Behind me I heard gasps. I closed my eyes for a moment and stood silently in the marine's grasp until I felt his hand tighten up. "Yes," I finally admitted.
The female marine sighed. "Wonderful, here we thought this would be a quick pickup of one scientist and now we get to sit through a one man orgy."
"Never!" I screamed out as I looked up in fury. "I saw what happens to a woman who attempts to get picked up and is left behind if her boyfriend decides to take offense. I don't know these cheerleaders and I'm sure that more than a few have boyfriends who won't appreciate discovering that they acted like sluts just to get off this planet."
There was a moment of silence and then the professor spoke up. "You must not blame yourself for the actions of others. I understand this is a stressful moment, but it's for the greater good, and what if the women are willing."
"It doesn't change the result if one of them has a boyfriend with anger issues," I muttered.
The professor reached out and put his hand on the one I had left on the table. "Did something happen to someone you knew?" he asked.
I nodded. "She was a classmate and friend who tried to seduce me and her then boyfriend happened to see the attempt. He put her in the hospital."
"You cannot blame yourself for that," the professor said.
"Why not?" I cried. "She came up to me in the mall and gave me a kiss. Chad saw her and went berserk. I didn't even try to throw a single punch, just ran away, leaving her behind. I later learned he put in her in the hospital with a broken pelvis."
The professor nodded. "Sounds like he was a big man."
I nodded as well. "Over six feet and at least two-hundred twenty pounds and all of it muscle."
"He was an athlete?" the professor asked almost absently.
"Starting quarterback for the football team for our senior year, and I think he went out for wrestling as well. He also had at least a brown belt in some martial art, or at least that is what everyone claimed," I admitted.
"So if you had stayed and fought, what would have happened?" the professor asked.
I was silent for a moment and then sighed. "If I had survived, I would have been in the hospital bed next to Chastity. Chad would have still kicked her after beating on me. I have had no martial arts training and Chad was swinging a metal chair when I ran. In fact one of his friends pretty much ordered me to run saying that he had never seen Chad that mad as they tried to wrestle him to the ground."
The professor just smiled. "So why do you still blame yourself? You just admitted you could not have saved her."
I shook my head in resigned agreement. "I know, but if she had not known my CAP score and approached me like she did, it never would have happened. I have always regretted that."
The female marine spoke up. "Do you really want to leave four women to face the Sa'arm if you could save them?"
I tried to shake my head, but as I turned it to the left two hands spun me around and I found a pair of very kissable lips attached to my own. My hands waved wildly for a moment before I could reach out. I found my hands holding a pair of thin yet muscular arms and I pushed them away.
The lips separated from mine. As they did I leaned back a little and found myself starting into a pair of sky blue eyes on the face of an angel. For a moment I could not find my voice and then the angel spoke.
"Do you really have the score to take four of us away from here?" she asked.
I sighed and nodded. Her reaction was a squeal of pure joy. Her arms wrapped around my waist as she turned back towards my car where the other cheerleaders were still standing silently. "Jill, Vi, Laura! This guy here gets four!"
I struggled to get out of her grip. "Now wait one minute! Who says I'm taking you? I don't even know you!"
The girl giggled as I fought out of her embrace. She turned to three other teenage girls who had dashed up to her. The quartet quickly put their heads together and started whispering as I tried to slide around the table.
I was about halfway around the table when a hand on my shoulder brought me to a halt. I turned around to find the male marine standing there. His expression spoke of pity and impatience at the same time, but he offered a stiff smile. "Son, I think you realize you have an interesting situation here. You are the only sponsor and I see probably sixteen teenage girls who are probably all eager to get off this planet and escape the Sa'arm. I can't make the selections for you, but I can offer you some advice. First, check their sub-scores."
"What?" I responded semi-intelligently. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the two father's had set down their hoses and were walking towards me with purposeful steps.
The male marine took a moment and shoved some strange metal box into my chest. "Put their cards under that and read the screen. It will display the various categories that the CAP score is based on and how the owner of that card scored in each area. Trust me, the scores matter. You don't want to take someone with low intelligence and high aggressiveness or an overall lack of patience. The sub-scores show all of that."
I struggled to nod as I cast a worried look at the two fathers. Just then the female marine sped by me on my right side, almost running to cut off the men. She halted their advance far enough away that I could not hear the hushed conversation as the male marine took a breath and continued. "Now second, don't take anyone who is too eager, or who you don't think will mesh with the others you have taken. You need to be able to take charge in your pod and if you can't the situation will likely end up with you having to trade or terminate one of your concubines, and trust me, that's enough to cause a lot of anguish in a man with your empathy and compassion scores."
"You know my scores?" I hissed.