“Are you okay with this?” asked Bethany as they walked back to the conference room.
“No, but apparently it doesn’t matter,” grumbled Danielle. “I really need you to make sure you do as I ask when I ask as we have to deal with this otherwise I can’t be sure I can keep you safe. I am going to have to make decisions on the fly.”
“I will. I get it. That is a lot of people to be in charge of,” said Bethany.
“Yes it is, and I don’t think they are going to enjoy being told what to do either,” said Danielle.
As they entered the conference room, all eyes landed on her. They had all heard her called into the High Commander’s office. Danielle motioned to their previous seats. Bethany nodded and went to sit down. She proceeded to the front of the room.
She looked around at the audience. She blew out a big breath and began the bad news. “Hi. I am Danielle McQuarrie. The High Commander has appointed me the Strategic Manager for Americans and the Strategic Director for all Earthlings. As such, I am your representative and link to what amounts to the government in this fleet. Since we are all Americans, I can say this frankly in a way we all would understand,” she said, making sure she had everyone’s attention. “Brace yourself because we are no longer in a democracy. We cannot return home either, so our only option is to figure out how to survive here.”
“What do you mean we cannot return?” demanded a brunette from the back of the room.
“Just that. The High Commander flat out said that he would not return any female back to a world that guaranteed a death sentence,” said Danielle. “You all heard Iosif explain that the virus was so much more than we had thought.”
“I have elderly parents who depended on me. I have to go back,” she said, her voice catching.
“I fully understand. I am sure everyone in this room had something. I won’t ever see my son again. He may be a grown man now, but it is still a loss to me,” she said as she looked at the brunette. “I understand that is not what you want to hear, but the rescue is to ensure that the humanoid species survives.”
“So we are nothing but breeders and kidnapped breeders at that,” groused another brunette.
Danielle looked at her for several long seconds as she considered the comment against the other things she had heard. “I am going to defer agreeing about being breeders for now based on a few things I heard today. One, they did not want those from a polygamous culture. If they were only worrying about breeding, it seems polygamy would be a benefit. Two, the High Commander specifically told me to advise everyone of you that after the evening meal, we are to retire to our suites and remain there until class tomorrow in this conference room at the second hour. The ratio of unmated males to unmated females in this fleet is more than 3:1, and they do not have what he called pleasure girls. He made it clear that the males are desperate.” She let that hang in the air for several long seconds to make a point. Several women had wide eyes as the realization sunk in.
“He was also very clear that there are customs here that on Earth would seem minor but mean acceptance of a mating here. He said that if a mating were completed, which I took to mean as having sex, even if the female didn’t know what she was agreeing to, they could not undo it. Putting both together, I take it to mean that once a male and a female connect sexually, it is an established relationship. With women being so scare, I doubt if divorce is an option. We will find out tomorrow. He warned us ahead of time, which I take to mean he is thinking beyond breeding, otherwise he would have just left us to the men’s mercy.”
She heard murmurs throughout the room.
“In this unknown world we find ourselves in, I have been told in no uncertain terms that we follow a specific chain of command. If you have issues, you bring them to me,” Danielle said, looking about the room at several shocked faces.
“Why you?” asked a blonde up front, glaring at her.
“Well, I would probably bet my big mouth got me in this fix,” she said.
Chuckles sounded around the room.
“No, I am serious. We did not elect you,” said the blonde as she glared.
Danielle locked eyes with her as she blew out a big breath. “Perhaps I was not clear enough. The High Commander of the Fleet appointed me. I will say it again, democracy does not exist here. He is the highest authority in the fleet. Let me tell you that the man has not one ounce of a sense of humor and will not tolerate insubordination. I get that we are not used to being ordered about, but the rescue irrevocably changed our world today. The fleet is a military hierarchy and the High Commander is the law. We each have a role to play, even if they haven’t told us what ours is yet. They expect each of us to accept it and adapt. I do not doubt that the punishment will be swift if we do not follow the rules Spartak has set out,” she said. She thought for a second and added, “Do I strike you as a person who cowers easily?”
The entire room heard Bethany snort in disagreement.
Danielle just glared at her, and Bethany lifted her hands up in a placating motion. “Well, I am not. I have been a ER Nurse for the last twenty-one years and the charge nurse for more than ten. I don’t get pushed around by anyone. But that man? That is not a man to fuck with. Period,” she said. “I apologize if the language is offensive to some of you, but I am making a point.”
“Actually, I think we appreciate the dose of reality,” said a redhead sitting next to the blonde. “I for one don’t want to get tossed out into space.”
“Exactly,” agreed Danielle. “Okay, a few other things. You must wear the wrist band they provided at all times, even in the shower. Every person in the fleet wears them,” she said. She then explained everything it did. “I suspect it also helps them keep track of us as well.” She looked at her band and tapped it. She then said, “Time.” The watch displayed an eight with two zeros following the colon in a bold numbers. “This must somehow tie in to our cochlear transplants. It says it is the eighth hour. The ship shifts to nighttime in two hours or two hundred minutes. I know that it is going to take us a bit to get used to this new time tracking. Anyway, after eating, we are all to go directly to our suites for the night. The band will lead your there. I will say it again. There are a lot of desperate males on this ship. We do not know how they think or what they expect yet. If you mate one, even by accident, you are stuck. Does anyone have any questions?”
There were no hands or voices. “Please check your wrist band by asking it to take you to the Dining Hall on Deck 7a. If yours does not work, find me before you leave. Let’s go eat.”
* * *
Danielle walked to the back of the room where her daughter sat next to the woman they had met earlier, Erica. She was tall, thin, and had a head of long gray hair even though she looked like she was only in her early forties.
“Hi. Sorry we didn’t have time to talk earlier,” said Danielle.
“No worries. Sounds like you had your hands full,” chuckled Erica.
“If you only knew,” groused Danielle, wiping her hand down her face.
“Spartak is the first person I have ever seen who won and argument with mom. I did not think it was possible for her to lose,” said Bethany is awe.
“He is that tough, huh?” asked Erica.
“Yeah. I was actually weighing the likelihood of getting tossed into space there for a while. He is definitely ’a my way or the highway and there is no highway option’ kind of guy,” said Danielle, using air quotes.
“Wow,” commiserated Erica.
Danielle looked at the other woman before asking, “What do you do for a living?”
“Education,” she laughed. “You?”
“ER Nurse,” she chuckled.
“I bet you loved the guys in the hazmat suits,” said Erica.
“To say I was less than thrilled to have them suddenly appear in my living room is an understatement,” groused Danielle.
“Two appeared in my garage after I got out of my car. I had no time to react,” Erica explained. “I am from Nashville, by the way.”
“I figured that or Kentucky based on the accent,” Danielle chuckled. “We’re from outside Philadelphia.”
“Really? You sound like you are for California,” Erica said.
“I am. My husband is from Philly,” she said.
“You’re married?” asked Erica, looking at her naked ring finger.
“Technically. We have been on a break for a bit,” said Danielle.
Bethany snorted and said, “Like ever since she caught him screwing the next-door neighbor.”
“Hush,” said Danielle said to Bethany. “Mid-life crisis, apparently. Hair implants, sports car, and to round out the checklist, a girlfriend,” she explained to Erica.
“No worries. Mine didn’t even wait for middle-age,” chuckled Erica. “Bounced to the curb well, though.”
“Mine cried all the way to his sports car,” said Danielle. “Probably not as much as when he had to sell it because he couldn’t afford it any longer.”
“Well, no one stayed behind, so I guess everyone’s band is working. Let’s go eat,” suggested Danielle.
Erica said, “Dining Hall” into her device. The wrist band led Danielle, Bethany and Erica towards a transport tube. The door automatically opened for them. Then nothing happened. She tried saying, “Dining Hall.” They still sat there. Erica then tried, “Dining Hall 7a” and the tube moved upward.
“Specific little thing,” laughed Danielle.
“Apparently,” chuckled Erica. “You okay with the great and exalted leader moment?” Erica smiled.
“Hell, no,” grumbled Danielle. “It’s not like he gave me a choice.”
“She even told him she didn’t want it. His response? I command and you do,” chuckled Bethany, mimicking the High Commander as she rasped out his growly orders. “The man seriously needs to rent a sense of humor.”
“Bethany, enough. We do not know who is listening,” Danielle chastised.
* * *
“You got that right,” chuckled Spartak, clicking off the monitor. He knew she was a smart one. He looked at his second-in-command, Iosif and asked, “Are the animals chained for the night?”
“Yes. The normal threats and two pulled out of mate rotation because they just wouldn’t stop fighting over who got a woman,” said Iosif.
“Bet that was received well,” Spartak chuckled.
“As well as you would think,” smiled Iosif. “This is the third time Lev has been pulled. You would think he would figure it out by now.”
Spartak sighed. “He does tend to act before thinking.”
“Yes. You ready for food? The Officers Dining Hall is staying open late and accommodating the non-officers so the men stay off of 7a,” said Iosif.
“Yes. Let’s go. Who has the Con tonight?” he asked, getting up from his chair.
“Cullen has it,” said Iosif.
“Good. I can get some sleep tonight. I have a feeling that this latest batch of females is going to be a challenge,” said Spartak.
“Oh, they can’t be as bad as the group from Brasik VI,” laughed Iosif.
“Who would have thought pheromones would wreck such havoc?” Spartak chuckled. “It took days to recycle the air enough to calm the men down,” he said, shaking his head.
“We looked for it in their internet, just in case,” said Iosif. “I wasn’t explaining that a second time.”