Danielle looked at her band as she stepped off of the transport tube onto the Conference Center floor. “Crap. We are late,” she said, breaking into a jog. Bethany was hot on her heels.
She pulled up short when Spartak was standing outside of the Conference Room with his arms crossed and glaring. “I thought I told you that tardiness was not acceptable.”
“You did. I was sorting out an unexpected mating problem,” she snarled right back. “Apparently one of your men was taken up on his offer to accompany one of the women back to her suite. She was less than pleased to find out she was mated.”
“I told you to tell them what would happen,” he hurled at her, uncrossing his arms and propping them onto his hips.
“I did, and I will be damned before I am responsible for people who cannot follow instructions,” she yelled back at him as she put her free hand on her hip. “And you can quit yelling at me because this was not my fault.”
He growled at her, making her blink.
“Did you just growl at me?” she demanded, raising an eyebrow. When he just continued to glare at her instead of answering her, she took her hand off her hip to poke him in the chest and said, “Well, cut the crap. I will not be growled at by you or anyone.” She then stepped around him and motioned Bethany into the conference room, leaving him standing there. “Go sit,” she told her daughter.
She walked to the front of the room, her heart still pounding in her chest. Damn, why did that man get her so riled? Did he have to smell so good while doing it? “None of that,” she growled at herself. She had already gotten rid of one asshole and would not allow another into her life. She shook her head to clear it and switched gears. “Excuse me? I am sorry that I do not know your name,” she said to the male instructor at the front of the class.
“It’s Wallen,” he said. “You are late. Tardiness is not acceptable.”
Danielle bristled at his snotty comment. “Thank you for that. I’m Danielle. I just need a moment of their time and then you can continue,” she said calmly. She really wanted to throat punch him for his patronizing tone, but she held it in check.
“Good morning, ladies,” she started. “I apologize for being late,” she said, throwing a glare at Wallen before continuing, “But one of our number brought a male back to her suite last night and discovered much to her great upset that she is now mated to her booty call. So let me be as crystal clear as I can so I do not have to deal with this shit again before I finish my coffee. If you have sex with them or any of the many things, this man is about to tell us, your choices disappear. Period.” She watched a few of them whisper to each other, but didn’t get the reaction she had hoped. “Listen, learn, and follow it!” she roared as she glared across the audience. The murmurs stopped as they all stared at her.
She looked at Wallen and said, “Continue.” She went to the back of the room and sat between Erica and Bethany.
God, was this going to be a really long day.
* * *
“As I was saying,” said Wallen, glaring directly at Danielle.
“I knew I should have throat punched him,” muttered Danielle as she glared back.
Erica choked on her coffee, and Bethany giggled behind her hand.
“We have six vessels in this fleet. We grouped them with one for each original planet with a few exceptions. The vessel you are on is the Gliesea, named after the first planet to build the fleet, and it is the second largest ship. The inhabitants are called Glieseans,” Wallen explained.
Danielle glared at him. They weren’t toddlers. His condescending tone was going to get old quickly.
“There are 2,559 unmated males aboard this vessel,” he repeated, meeting her glare. “There are also 1,355 mated males aboard this vessel. Gliesean males are physically large, typically 1.9 to 2.1 meters tall. It is a good time to remind you all that we use metric units for everything. I will do the conversion for you today. In American height that is six foot four to six foot ten. They typically are rather muscular and weigh between 113 and 160 kilograms. In American weight, that is 250 to 350 pounds. All Glieseans have dark hair and most have green or brown eyes. On screen are a few pictures of some of our eligible Glieseans.”
A few of the women sighed. Danielle felt like retching. This was a meat market in all but name.
“The largest vessel is the Keplonia which hails from Keplar,” Wallen continued. “This was the third planet we rescued. There are over 3,000 unmated males aboard, plus an additional 1,402 who are mated. The males are typically 1.5 to 1.5 meters or five feet to five feet four inches tall. They weigh about 53 to 63 kilograms or 120 to 150 pounds. They are not as muscular as Glieseans. The also have black hair, have little body hair, and have what Americans would call an Asian or Indian appearance. Here are a few pictures of some of our eligible Keplonians,” explained Wallen as several male faces popped on screen.
“The next largest group is the Vanamurian on the Wunanmoor. They have over 2,450 unmated males and 230 mated males aboard. The Vanamurians are larger, typically 1.7 to 1.9 meters or five foot ten inches to six feet four inches. They usually weigh about 180-225 pounds or 81 to 102 kilograms. Their hair and eye colors vary. Their culture is very close to Earth’s Russia. Here are some of our eligible Vanamurians,” said Wallen. More women sighed.
“What’s the catch?” whispered Erica as she leaned over towards Danielle.
“There has to be something. He is only giving physical descriptions,” agreed Danielle. Bethany just looked at the two of the with a fearful expression.
“The three remaining ships, the Tau Ceti, the Registaria, and the Nondoria have much smaller populations. We can explain those at a later date. We are a military hierarchy. Each vessel has a Commander and a senior staff which includes the officers, the navigators, security, technology, engineering, and our warriors. We easily identify them because we dress them in black. Warriors are in unremitting black and military support staff are in black with red cuffs and collar.”
“I saw a man this morning as we came in wearing black with a gold insignia, and the man on-screen yesterday did as well. What does that mean?” asked Janice.
“Ah, yes,” said Wallen. “They show the High Commander and his staff. They have authority over everyone and every vessel. A gold insignia means a Fleet rank. A silver insignia means a ship rank. Does that make sense?”
There were nods around the room.
“Military uses squares. Administration uses triangles. Medical uses circles. We do not have as many ranks as you use on Earth. Only the High Commander has a four square insignia. Three of any insignia is the highest authority whether in the military, administration or medical, and there will only be one of those in each discipline. Two of any insignia is the middle rank and there will only be a few of those. One of any insignia is a team leader. It is rare to see anyone with more than one set of insignias. So the more of any one shape someone has, the more authority they have. Any questions so far about what I have covered?”
The room remained quiet.
“Okay then,” he said, changing the screen picture before continuing. “Medical and health personal wear royal blue. Our culinary personal wear tan. Manufacturing and janitorial wear dark gray. Hydroponics and Vinters wear dark green. Teachers, historians, archivists, and childcare personnel wear pale blue. And finally, our craftsmen, artisans, and musicians wear dark brown,” he explained. “This will become second nature to you over time.”
Danielle felt her mind numbing already. Couldn’t he just hand out a cheat sheet?
“Over the next week, your Strategic Director will assign you certain roles. It is necessary that everyone in the fleet contribute. Although most of you are assigned here to the Gliesea, not all of you will stay here.”
The blond from yesterday shot her hand up in the air.
“Yes?” asked Wallen, looking at her.
“Do we have any say in our role or our location?” she asked.
Danielle groaned internally. The simp just wasn’t getting that the world she knew was gone. She thought about making a dumb blonde joke, but she doubted the woman would get it.
“We decided your role before we selected you based on our needs. The only one who could change your designation is the Fleet Strategic Director, who we call the SD, the High Commander, or rarely, your mate. Does that answer your question?” he asked.
“Yes. Thank you,” said the blonde.
Danielle smiled in satisfaction when she didn’t turn around and look at her.
* * *
“We are going to cover the ship structure, which applies to every vessel, and then you are going to take a break,” said Wallen. He flashed a diagram on the screen. “As you can see, the flight deck is at the center of each ship. Our fighter jets are what keeps us safe from external threats. It is three decks high. On the same deck is Emergency Medical and a transporter pad to enable external transport. This would be between vessels and from the vessels to a planet surface,” he said, flipping two more screen shots.
“One deck below is Engineering. Everything that is takes to run the ship is on that deck. Only certain people are allowed on that deck. One deck below that is is the Training Center. Flight Qualification, mapping, training, and the squadron gym are all on that deck. We also restrict this deck,” said Wallen. He looked around the room before continuing. “One deck above the Flight Deck is the Command Deck, the Archives, and the Officers’ Dining Hall. We restrict this deck as well. One deck up from there is where we are now. The two decks above us and two decks below the Training Center are the barracks for unmated males. These are off limits to all females, regardless of role. On either side of the barracks are the hydroponics and manufacturing levels. This is where we make things or grow things on these levels. There will then be two floors of family suites after the hydroponics and manufacturing, which is where you ladies reside. The reason for this is that once the male mates, they will join their female in her suite.”
“Well, that explains why you had your own,” whispered Danielle.
“I’m not ready to mate,” whispered Bethany, panic in her voice.
Danielle squeezed her hand as she whispered back, “Don’t worry.”
Wallen continued to drone on, “Then there will be a level with a gym, a playground, a Dining Hall, a Trading Post, a School, and a Medical Clinic. Following the same theme, there are three floors of family suites and the outside floors are for storage. Any questions?”
Everyone was quiet.
“All right, then. Please take a break and return in 30 minutes,” said Wallen.
As Danielle, Bethany, and Erica left the conference room, the young man who sat outside Spartak’s office met them. “Hi,” said Danielle.
“The High Commander would like for you to join him for lunch in the Officer’s Dining Room. It is on the same floor as the Command Deck. Your band will allow you access,” he said.
“What is your name?” Danielle asked, smiling up at the tall, thin man.
He seemed taken aback that she asked at first. “Jareth,” he finally responded. “I am his Ensign.”
“Nice to meet you, Jareth. We will be there,” she said.
“Uh, I think he just wanted you,” stammered Jareth.
“That may be the case, but I have made it quite clear that I am not leaving my daughter anywhere until I am comfortable that she is safe,” said Danielle.
He looked like he would rather cut his own throat than pass on such a message.
“Tell you what, I will let you off the hook. Just tell him I will be there,” she told him, and had to stifle a chuckle over how relieved he looked.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said and practically ran towards the transport tube.
“Mom, am I going?” asked Bethany.
“Of course. It is sometimes easier to ask for forgiveness than ask permission,” said Danielle. “I need coffee. I cannot deal with him again without it.”