Caught by Menace(2)

By: Lolita Lopez


“You’re late.” He tucked away the eerie red chem-

light and replaced it with one in bright-yelow that more

light and replaced it with one in bright-yelow that more

clearly iluminated his face.

“The rumors of the Grab have already hit the streets.

People are talking about rioting. I couldn’t take my usual

route.”

Dankirk laughed, the sound so bitter and resigned.

“Yeah, because the food riots in The City last month did

so much good, right? Hel, people always talk about

rioting over the Grabs but they do nothing. They’l serve

up their daughters like lambs to the slaughter rather than

risk the wrath of The City’s secret police or the sky

warriors.”

Humming in agreement, Naya glanced around the

warehouse. “Where’s the alderman?”

“He’s coming. Probably delayed the same way you

were.” Dankirk slipped the glowing stick into the holder

attached to a lanyard dangling from his neck. His

iluminated face showed his disbelief. “Are you sure

about this, Naya?”

“Not realy,” Naya admitted, “but I can’t let those sky

monsters take Jennie.”

He snorted with amusement. “Monsters? Shit, Naya,

look no further than Harper’s Wel if you want to see real

monsters. Naw,” he said, his low, country drawl dragging

monsters. Naw,” he said, his low, country drawl dragging

out the word, “those Harcos men aren’t that bad. They

keep us safe here on Calyx. Besides, they turn a blind

eye to us sneaking folks off this helhole of a planet to the

colonies. They haven’t stopped a single smuggling ship or

medicine or technology shipment from landing here in

over a year. They’re doing a good thing for us.”

She couldn’t argue with him there. The Harcos were

the dominant race in this solar system. Like her Earth

ancestors, the Harcos were human but much larger and

more terrifying. But she’d seen enough of them in the

Free Market section of Connor’s Run to know she

didn’t want one of them catching her in the Grab, the

archaic chase organized every quarter to provide brides

to these sky warriors.

Though they had women of their own on their home

planet of Harcos Prime, they were tens of thousands of

light years away. In exchange for policing the solar

system, the sky warriors took payment in natural

resources like minerals and food—and in women.

Unmarried women aged eighteen to thirty were eligible

for the Grab. The officials from The City, the government

center of Calyx, picked a town or vilage to host the

Grab every quarter and calculated the quota required

based on the number of sky warriors approved for the

list by their superiors. This time it was nineteen young

women who would be caled. The mayor of Connor’s

Run had chosen them by lottery that afternoon. By

sunrise, the list would be posted throughout the town.

But unlike the girls trying desperately to get their

names off the list, Naya was wiling to do everything in

her power to get her name on that list.

“You know the odds of you puling off this plan are

like, zero, right?”

Naya glanced at Dankirk. “That’s what we say every

time we smuggle a family off Calyx to Jesco colony or

Safe Harbor, Danny. We stil try.”

He slipped his hand into the front pocket of his jacket

and produced the passports and travel permits she’d

requested. “They’re not as good as the old ones, but the

Artist is long gone.”

Naya tugged his chem-light closer so she could see

better and quickly thumbed through the forged traveling

papers. Here on Calyx everything was low-tech. Al

official correspondence was paper and ink. Only in the

colonies did the Earth descendants embrace superior and

colonies did the Earth descendants embrace superior and

more efficient technologies. When she and Jennie

reached Safe Harbor in a few days, they’d meet with

Dankirk’s contacts and upgrade their papers to the

implanted tags favored there.

“These are good. Good enough to get us through

customs on the colonies,” she added and stuffed them

into the inner pocket of her jacket. “What happened to

the Artist?”

Dankirk pointed up. “They Grabbed her.”

Naya grimaced. “That’s terrible.”

“Not from what I’ve heard,” he replied. “Besides, she

came from Harper’s Wel. I don’t know about you, but

I’d rather take my chances on a sky ship than live in that

backwards swamp. Maybe it’s not so bad up there on

their alien ships.”

“How would you know? There’s a communication

blackout once you’re taken. You never get to see or talk

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