022. The Future’s Price. Lacie Semenovich

She arrived on a Wednesday. The agency arranged her transport, filed the marriage license, and provided a minister to perform the ceremony two hours after her arrival. A full service organization.

She was a little fatter than her pictures, but so was my son. Already three months pregnant, she had good reason to be. My son is ugly, I know. Her child will be less ugly and more intelligent. And the next generation more so if she follows my plan.

I paid extra for an orphan from the first weather-controlled settlement. They planned well before the weather patterns changed, accounted for genetic diversity in humans, animals, and crops. They survived the darkness with ease, well fed while others starved and cobbled together settlements like this one with scavenged and stolen materials.

“Outsiders are too delicate,” my late husband’s sisters objected, forgetting that they didn’t like me at first. But orphans are strong. I know from experience. And cheaper than a purebred with a mother to miss her.

A light layer of sweat covered her brow as they said their vows. She looked around at the strangers filling the shared common space of the settlement. Isolated for generations during the darkness, these people all look the same. They might even frighten her as they did me.

She met my eyes. I nodded. We spoke via videophone before she signed the contract. I showed her pictures of my son. I made promises, most of which I can keep. She still doesn’t trust me but I am the only person she knows.

After the ceremony my son’s friends slapped him on the back and ogled the girl. She looked to me. There is always risk, but these men are not clever. And she is strong.

She and my son walked around the settlement as is custom. No doubt these people stared at her red hair, but did not notice her almond eyes and full lips. Without sunlight we are all pale, fading lifeforms holding onto the planet our ancestors destroyed.

I waited for them in the marriage chamber. The eagerness in my son’s eyes as he led her into the room disgusted me. “You will not touch her while she is with child,” I said to him. He hung his head without protest. How weak were his nine dead siblings? “Go rut with a cousin if you must.” He left the room without a sound.

I led the girl to my rooms where the others waited with swollen bellies or babies at their breasts. The girl relaxed when she saw these women from all over the continent. My first promise fulfilled. “Girls, meet Breegan. Trained in building Ionosphere tech.”

My girls smiled and introduced themselves and the skills they brought from their own settlements. Tara, Bio-forming. Paisley, Dome Architect. Shonda, Water Filtration. And so on.

I am patient. Soon enough the colony will be ours. The first female controlled colony. No woman or child will ever be sold from these walls.

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