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Copyright ©2013 Marteeka Karland
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"Look at all these people! We're going to be here for days just to make it to the testing process. Do we really have time for this?"
"Gabby, there's free food while we're here. Besides, we're unemployed. What else do we have to do?"
"Look at this." Gabrielle thumped the questionnaire they were both working on. "Last employer. Reason for leaving. Ahh... computer hackers. Got busted for insider trading when the great investment firm of Jackson, Jackson, and Lee went under in the great crash. Never mind we were doing what we were hired to do. Now no one will touch us."
"Shh! Try for something more... diplomatic. We've got degrees from MIT -- ought to be good for something. We list ourselves as cyber investigators. We never got arrested, and no one's working in this economy."
"I suppose you're right. But do we really want to do this? I mean, what if these Cluath people are horrible? Once we're off the planet -- even under the jurisdiction of Earth on the moon or Mars -- what protection do we really have?"
"Would you rather stay here and starve? If I have a choice, I'd rather meet death on my own terms." Lyra had that hard look Gabby remembered from their trader days. Gabrielle might worry, but Lyra could manage on her own.
Then Lyra grinned, looking devilish and mischievous. "Besides, have you heard the rumors?"
"You mean about the sex?"
"I've heard they can give a woman multiple orgasms. A few of the women who've come back for visits have let it be known they've never had a human lover to compare," Lyra whispered, like it was a big secret or something.
The rumor was widely known and was probably the main reason most of the women in the Georgia Dome were there. "For a computer geek, you think about sex more than any woman I've ever known." Gabrielle tried to sound stern, but she was on the verge of a really good belly laugh, and it was hard to chastise her friend.
"Hey! Geeks need love too. Personally, I plan to find out what all the fuss is about. Besides, look at where the men of Earth have gotten us. Nowhere. We've both dated just about every type of guy a woman could conceive of. Tell me even one of them really satisfied you."
Gabrielle sighed. "I'll admit my sex life hasn't exactly been cream of the crop lately."
"I'm not just talking about sex. I'm talking about every single man either of us has ever dated has turned out to be a complete shithead. Tell me you've met even one man you even thought about spending the rest of your life with. Ever."
"Well, there was Brad. I was completely in love with him."
"And he was already married. Something he neglected to tell you."
That had been a particularly dark time for Gabrielle. From that point on, she'd used every one of the considerable computer resources at her fingertips to vet any man she dated. Unfair? Probably. But if one of them was going to try to play her again, she'd damned well know about it before she fell in love. "Good point. Just promise me, if we make it past the selection process, we'll try to stay together. I don't want to do this alone. I'm not as brave as you are."
Lyra flashed her a quick smile, dispelling the mantle of ice as quickly as it had formed. "Don't worry. We'll make it a condition. Surely we can find some kind of binding solution with these guys. Every advanced society has its own values of what crosses the line of trust. We just have to find it and use it to our advantage."
Gabrielle hoped Lyra was right.
* * *
"Those two." Worr indicated on the monitor. "Zoom in. Amplify."
"Would you rather stay here and starve to death? If I have a choice, I'd rather meet death on my own terms."
"Good point. Just promise me, if we make it past the selection process, we'll try to stay together. I don't want to do this alone. I'm not as brave as you are."
In the months since the selection process had begun, Worr had seen every male and female physical type this planet had to offer. Diverse as it was, their overall psychic make up was relatively limited. Everyone wanted something. The reasons anyone would volunteer for the undertaking the Cluath were asking of them were usually one of three. Wealth. Power. Desperation. These women seemed to fall into the latter, but not quite.
Especially the one called Lyra. That woman had a vicious streak. Maybe not physically, but just the look in her eyes could cut a man to shreds if he wasn't careful. No. She was more Kil's style. His brother would enjoy the challenge. Worr was more interested in the other one.
She wore typical fashion for the area -- jeans and a loose-fitting blouse. But she was curvy where many of the women here were thinner. Even her friend wasn't as generously built as "Gabby." Somehow, that name didn't fit her. He frowned. Would she be strong enough?
His mind lingered on their conversation and the man she'd named "Brad." If the man had played with her heart -- and it sounded very much like he had -- winning her trust wouldn't be easy. Looking at the woman, with her large, dark eyes and wealth of chestnut curls, Worr couldn't imagine anyone intentionally hurting her. Especially when she smiled. Something Worr had thought long dead seemed to melt and puddle at his feet like so much goo when he saw that smile. Then he looked at all that hair and thought about what it would feel like sliding through his fingers...
Great Mother! He needed to get a grip. But the more he watched her the more fascinated he became.