That first day, the Blacks were content to let us wake on our own. Such laxity didn continue. That in itself was a comfort. They couldn be Blacks if they were nice.

The headache had faded by the second day. Maybe they knew that was the effect of the Destroyer. Thats probable. They fed us in the morning, making sure we ate and drank sufficiently. The orders were terse but easily understood.

Then we were put to work. It wasn complicated work. We had to clean up the debris from the battle. It was obvious the Blacks had already done some of it. There were no weapons. There were bodies. Blood spattered around them. We collected them first. The Blacks then disposed of them. They didn object when the Brydon said prayers over their kind who had died. That was a surprise. Thered been several squads of new troops training here from all the species in the Alliance. At least some of each had survived.

I ordered the others to work. There was little point in resisting. Wed be slaved to machines if we did. We worked with the other groups. The Enemy had put us all in the training barracks. Each barrack was a work unit. First, we cleared the bodies. That took half a day. The battle hadn been over a large area.

Then we began on the debris. There weren even any weapons hidden in the debris. In the evening of the first day, the Blacks fed us again and then trooped us back to the barrack. The group settled. A couple of them looked at me. I didn know what to say.

”Just keep working, ” I urged.

”We have to escape, ” one of the Kishne objected in the fading light.

The Blacks were letting us sleep at night. We were locked in. The windows were frosted but in the light you could see the quadruped Blacks stalking around. I was willing to bet they wouldn take prisoners.

”Escape where? ” The Kishne was obviously young. I saw it think in reply to my question. Qaoloe wasn known for its resources. ”This is the only settlement on the planet. The Blacks won let you near their ships. Even if you got on one, you don know how to fly it. They are using translators when they talk. ” I paused, assessing if the message had gotten through.

Most in the barracks were settling down for the night. They were tired. They understood.

”We have to fight! ”

I sighed heavily. ”With what? ” I challenged. ”We have our natural weapons, but they won even scratch Black armour. Have you ever seen someone try to fight without synth claws? It doesn end well. ” I was letting experience speak. I hadn actually seen it, but Id seen enough fighting to know what would happen. ”You want to fight, go ahead. Open the door. But don expect the rest of us to back you up. ”

Most nodded with agreement. The Kishne huffed. I could tell he was offended. I really hoped the Blacks wouldn take the action of one as the action of all. It would be a way of controlling us, of making us turn on each other.

”You are just waiting to be slaved. ”

”Maybe. ” I couldn really say anything else. I didn know what I was waiting for then. Over the next few days, I figured it out. I wanted to see Pickering. She hadn been with any of the groups wed seen today, but we hadn seen everyone.

The answer cost some support. I couldn help it. I wasn going to pretend I had all the answers. ”Well see what they do as time goes on. ” That was the best compromise I could make. It was the most sensible course of action.

Thats what I did. Time went on. The Blacks fed us twice a day and worked us in between. We were cheap. We only cost the food we ate and a bit of supervision. Thats hardly anything at all. The food wasn good but there was enough. The water was clean and fresh. There was enough. The Blacks let us carry some each day.

We cleaned the debris from the facility first. Then, surprisingly, they made us clean the township. The civilians were still there. They were controlled but they were there. They didn know what else was going on. They told us that the Blacks had insisted they continue their lives, as best they could.

Then we began rebuilding. The township and the facility weren large so it didn take that long. Especially not with us all working. I didn know what we would be doing afterwards.

There were those who tried to fight, including the young Kishne. Nothing I said penetrated. He slipped out one night and that was the last we saw of him. Other offenders, the Blacks executed, if they weren killed performing whatever their offense was. I assume thats what happened to the Kishne. They didn make a production out of it though. The offenders were escorted to a particular area, shot, and the bodies removed. It was efficient. I guess they knew that there is a limit to fear. You can only fear so much before it becomes meaningless. They did leave the blood.

I think the efficiency was actually more fearsome. It meant they didn fear us but then they had no reason to. The Alliance wasn going to take the planet back.

Of course, as time went on, questions began arising. Id discovered that Lieutenant Pickering wasn with any of the barracks. I wasn sure if shed been the only Human on the planet but I quickly found out there were no Humans in the barracks.

There was one major change with the barracks in that time. I don know what the Opar was thinking. Most of the Alliance species aren compatible with each other. Those that were here were soldiers, or they were meant to be. One of the Opar got pregnant. That led the Blacks to reorganise the barracks. They introduced gender separation. We didn need a translator to know that the Black who announced it was angry about the situation.

We still saw the other barracks each morning and evening, but as far as possible the male barracks were given separate works from the females, and the neuters. That was an odd point. The separation of male and female happened instantly. The neuters were left in place for a few more days. Not every species has them. The Dranta and the Wymic do, though they work differently.

Someone joked that the Blacks couldn have them. I don know what happened. The rumour mill had that it was a Wymic neuter that was going into a female phase who had been left in the male barracks requested transfer. Dranta neuters don go through gender phases. They are neither. They collect material from male and female and bear the new children. They are honoured though. All Dranta respected them.

The Blacks acted on the information.

Neuters became the third barrack. It was smaller than the rest. They were kept separate as well. Surprisingly the pregnant Opar was left with us. The woman wasn executed. I wondered if the pregnancy had been an elaborate suicide attempt. There seemed to be easier ways. I never got the chance to ask. The Opar fussed over her at each meal. The Blacks allowed that much. She seemed healthy enough. No one else got pregnant.

A couple of weeks later, I don know what came over me. I approached the Black that was watching us. It was one of the bipeds with several of the quadrupeds. I guess thats what was common behind the lines. Its not like the Alliance told us. The quadruped Blacks growled when I came close. The other Black, the biped, waved one appendage at them. They stilled. I took the warning though and didn approach further.

”Where is Lieutenant Pickering? ” I thought my heart would explode. I expected the Black to shift, to level its weapon at me. It just looked down. It was silent. I knew it had a translator, but I still felt stupid. Why would it know who Pickering was? ”The Human? ”

I don know if it was going to answer. There was a cry from behind us. The Blacks gun levelled at me. The noise could be a deliberate distraction. What I did next wasn the smartest thing. I turned, exposing my back. It at least displayed to the Black this wasn the beginning of a trap.

A Zarthan had collapsed. His name was Enite. It was actually something much longer. Like Tiro, he had given a nickname that was easier for the rest of us to use. Enite was shivering. The Black stayed where it was. It didn approach. Approaching would put it in the middle of us. That was dangerous. Never let it be said the Blacks, even the lower ranks, were stupid.

One of the quadrupeds went forward. I went to do what I could. I had no idea what that would be. The quadruped seemed to sniff at Enite. I was a bit more direct.

”Are you okay? ”

”Water, ” Enite gasped. Several small flasks were offered. I snagged one and held it to Enites mouth.

He sipped, but then spat it out. ”Salts. ” His voice was weak. I didn understand.

”Salts? ”

One of the other Zarthan heard. ”He needs salt water, ” they explained.

That triggered the memory. Tiro had always drunk water that was salty. The Zarthan needed it. The Blacks had only given us fresh. The Zarthan that had explained didn look the best either. I guess they all needed the extra salts.

I turned back to the Black. The quadruped had shifted back. ”He needs salt water. ” My concern about Pickering was lost in the more immediate need.

The Black again said nothing. I knew it could speak. It gave us instructions every morning, telling us in a terse, but translated voice what we were to do each day.

”All of you, pick him up. Take him back to your barracks. ” The order was still terse.

We obeyed. The Blacks escorted us past the other work groups. They looked curious but didn get a chance to question us. We made it back to the barrack. There was water waiting. Salt water. That was a surprise. The Black had obviously communicated with the others. They had left the provisions. The Black locked us in. For the moment we didn care.

Enite drank. So did the other Zarthan. They perked up immediately.

The rest of us settled down but we had questions. I knew we did. I had them. The others had to have at least some. The Enemy made no sense. They had let the Opar live. They now provided provisions for the Zarthan. That wasn the actions of the vicious, brutal species we had been told about. They seemed to care. At least peripherally.

I could sort of understand their actions with the civilians. They hadn fought. They were not a risk. We were soldiers. We knew the risks. We had fought. I had at least. I had killed them. Yet they were providing necessary resources.

We were let out for the evening meal. There was now fresh and saltwater. Zarthan from the other barracks drank greedily. I guess Enite had just been the first to collapse.

It still made no sense. They had no obligation to care for us. And as far as I knew, no one had been taken and slaved to a machine.

I didn go all mushy. I couldn . I still remembered the Destroyer. That was a Bright One. It was obviously slaved. I could still remember the pain of its screams. But the Blacks were taking care of us. There was enough food and water. They kept us in reasonable conditions. We had to work but there was no other abuse. It made no sense.

My confusion gave me courage. I ate quickly, then walked up to one of the other Blacks. Again, the quadruped Blacks growled. I took that as the distance I was allowed. I stopped.

”Thank you for the water for Enite, ” I said. I figured I could be polite.

The Black just glared.

I swallowed. This one was different from the others. It seemed much more aggressive. I don know how I knew that. I plowed on. Id made the approach, it would stick with it. ”Where is Lieutenant Pickering? The Human. ” I asked the same question as earlier. The guard had obviously communicated with someone. Maybe it had communicated my question as well.

I became aware of the others watching. At least some of them remembered Pickering. They would have been trained by her.

The Black continued to glare. I felt stupid but I remained in position. I wanted an answer. ”She has been taken to Earth. ”

I didn expect that answer. ”Her homeworld? ” That was surprising.

”Her homeworld, ” the Black repeated. It sounded almost amused.

I didn know how to reply to that. I mean, on one hand I felt happy for her. She would see her species homeworld, something the Alliance never deemed possible. On the other hand, she was being taken to the centre of the Enemys territory. The first system lost had been Sol. Their possession of it had never been challenged. We had no idea what was happening there.

They were taking Pickering there.

”Why? ” I froze when the question slipped out. So did the tables behind me. I could sense that some were curious for the answer. Others thought I was a traitor. I ignored that sentiment. I was asking about one of us.

”Where else would we take a Human? ” the Black replied. It then dismissed me. It didn turn away, but I definitely got the impression I was to leave. It was in the way the quadrupeds shifted. Some things didn need translation.

I heaved a deep breath. I turned away. I had a lot to think about.

点击屏幕以使用高级工具 提示:您可以使用左右键盘键在章节之间浏览。

You'll Also Like