The Implicit Denial of Infinity

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Chapter 19: Device

As it turned out, Reese had a ridiculous number of specific questions for someone who claimed to know so little. Her interrogation had gone long into the evening, only stopping briefly for her to fetch their dinners.

The food was far worse than it had been in the compound, Kai noted. That was a shame. It seemed that freedom and terrible food went hand in hand. Regardless, she was more than happy to feast upon old canned soup. It was better than nothing, and better than being held prisoner.

“And the attendants, were they the same each time?”

Kai shook her head, stirring circles into her soup. She was pretty sure it was chicken and wild rice. It was mediocre at best.

“No. Or well, I don’t think so. They all wear coverings.” She paused. “Why was Aster wearing a mask? Is it some sort of modesty thing in their culture? The man I was originally matched to wasn’t wearing anything. But we were sort of alone…” She shrugged. Best to avoid digging into alien culture.

“Oh. Her kind gets sick on new planets, she said. Lots of things here that they’ve never been exposed to. Told me the device told her you’re safe to be around. Weird, I know. I don’t know how it works, but I think somehow she’s getting antibodies or something from the blood. Or from the device.”

It really was troubling how little this doctor knew.

“Okay. So. They get sick really easily. That explains a lot. So, why take the risk with us at all?”

Reese shrugged.

Fair enough.

“Not sold on humans being the ideal spouses for a race of weirdly tall chameleon people from another galaxy?”

Kai snorted. That was funny, and true. “No. Are you?”

“I wish I could be. It’s a nice idea. If the,well, execution of it wasn’t so terrifying.”

“Did they try to take you?”

Reese shook her head, holding up her left hand. A wedding ring glinted on her finger. “Nope. My friend Max and I got married the minute we realized they respected it. Well, actually after we learned states were sending them the records. Guess they don’t have any concept of a fraudulent marriage.”

Kai gave an approving nod. That was actually quite genius. “Smart.”

“Yeah. I thought so too. Ring was my mom’s too. I just wear it because I like it, and to give Max shit about being his wife.”

“Who is Max?”

“Phlebotomist. Worked at the hospital with me. There’s seven of us here all the time now, and more who come and go. This place used to be a hotel.”

“Why are you all here?”

The woman waved a hand, as if dismissing it. “Honestly? Some of us who lost everything thought it’d be good to set up a sort of field hospital. Close to the alien base, in case anyone does something stupid –like trying to bust in – and gets hurt, and the towns around here have mostly been bombed out. Not a lot of formal government control here, much less the funding for an actual hospital.”

“Who funds you?”

“Charity, mostly. Still a lot of rich people hanging around and trying to pretend status means anything anymore.” Reese paused. “I guess you probably haven’t been in cities for a while. Let me summarize. The world is fighting itself again. Trade between countries is pretty much impossible. Militaries are running low on young people that aren’t in hiding. And well, any time you try to group a bunch of young people together out in the open to train them it’s an alien feeding frenzy, so there’s that. A couple countries have tried to fight the aliens and been reminded that us petty little humans are in this position for a reason. A few skirmishes between countries, of course, but I think that there’s at least some awareness that humanity fighting itself is dumb now.”


“Plus, TV’s been shit lately.”

Kai blinked.

“That was a joke. Sort of. Not a lot on these days.”

“Right.” She set her bowl down, slowly leaning back against her stack of pillows. “I’m curious. How many of them do you think there are?”

“Aliens? Probably a lot. A few million, maybe? Just based on how many people they’ve taken.”

“It’s weird, isn’t it? That they want us to be their spouses. Do they not marry each other?”

“Well. For all we know, there could be billions and billions out there. Maybe a few million people marrying another species is just…not that many to them?”

“Aster said she was protesting. It’s weird. There’s probably some big political battle going on about our planet that we have no part in.” Kai sighed, stretching out. “You know how people fight–or fought– about the Amazon rainforest? It’s like being a monkey or whatever the hell lives there. You don’t get a vote in what happens, but you’re also just screwed if people decide to not care.”

Reese blinked, setting her own spoon down. “What?”

“Nevermind. I’m bad at metaphors. Got any more questions about alien jail?”

Thankfully, after the two had finished eating, Kai was left to her own devices. The options of what to do were rather limited, as Reese had tucked her into bed like a child, turned out the lights and put up what looked to be a baby gate at the door. It was this that Kai found both deeply offensive and mildly hilarious. It was clearly to keep her in, as her broken leg was apparently not reason enough for her to rest. Really, the presence of the gate made her want to go for a wander purely out of spite.

She did not, however. The bed was comfortable, and she was almost tired enough to fall asleep. It was strange to sleep alone once more. She’d grown used to the quiet sounds of the other women at night, used to the knowledge that she wasn’t alone. She was alone now, except for at a minimum, seven people and Aster.

She wondered what Aster was doing. Was she asleep? Had she been fed?

She hoped she had. Though she didn’t know what the alien liked to eat, she could only assume there was something here that she would tolerate. Was she frightened, being alone on an alien planet? She didn’t know why, but her heart ached for the creature.

Sighing softly, Kai turned her head toward the window, toward the stars.

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