“She’ll fetch a fine price,” the Slave Hunter said to his V’thakian customer.
The Slave Hunter was human, a collaborator with the V’thak, a man who would hunt and sell his own kind to inhuman butchers and conquerors.
Megan was only twenty years old. Pale skin and fiery red hair matched her temperament and spirit. She thought she could push the limit and remain in the countryside outside the shelter a little while longer than the others.
Her fourteen year old brother’s broken arm was still healing and she wanted to bring home some extra roots and berries for him as a treat.
Instead she was caught by Galn, the Slave Hunter. He stripped her bare once he’d gotten her to the V’thakian compound, but he didn’t rape her. The V’thakians don’t like their slaves sullied, but neither do they tolerate them clothed.
The V’thakian Seller paid Galn. “She will indeed, Galn. You did well.”
Megan, like most humans, had learned to hear V’thak public telepathic communications. Their spoken language was impossible to learn, but their thought-speak was another matter.
She was shivering now, crouched on the slaver’s platform. The buyers were gathering. Mostly they were V’thakian, but there were also a few humans present wealthy enough to afford slaves.
The V’thak, she understood. They were aliens, monsters, they cared nothing for the human race. They exterminated billions when they invaded Earth a generation ago. Only a remnant of humans survived by hiding in underground shelters, using stealth cloaks to conceal themselves from sensors when they went out at night to search for food.
But the humans, the ones like Galn and the other collaborators, Megan didn’t understand. She thought, “We are all human. We belong together. The V’thak are the enemies. Why join yourself to the invaders?”
The buyers had gathered, the doors to the hall were shut, a spotlight centered on Megan, and two V’thakian herders grasped Megan and pulled her upright. She wailed with terror, embarrassment, and shame as she was ogled at from every conceivable angle.
The V’thakians didn’t find humans sexually appealing or compatible, but they sometimes liked to torture humans in a number of different ways, including what was once referred to as “tentacle porn”.
Her stomach abruptly soured and she tried to vomit, but she hadn’t eaten since breakfast and only some sour bile dribbled down her chin and onto her breasts.
“Twenty ~`~`~`~` for the female.”
“Forty-five ~`~`~`~` for the human.”
“Sixty for the girl.”
The last bid was spoken, not thought-speak. A human female, middle-aged. She might want Megan for anything from a housekeeper to a sex slave.
The bidding went on. She didn’t know who she wanted to buy her, if she had to be purchased at all. She might be able to appeal to a human owner for mercy. The V’thakians had no mercy.
“I hear Ninety-nine ~`~`~`~’ for the female. She’s a fine prize. Any more bids?”
Megan heard a mix of vocal and thought-speak murmurs from the crowd. She guessed that ninety-nine must be a high price, but V’thak economics were a mystery to her.
“Sold to Chlxtu Raen for Ninety-nine ~`~`~`~`. Herders, take the female to the loading dock. Get her cleaned up and ready for delivery.”
Megan was vaguely aware of the disappointment of the crowd of would-be buyers as they filed out of the hall. Chlxtu Raen was escorted to her vehicle and accompanied to the back of the building where the slave was to be delivered.
The herders fitted her with plastic wrist bands, handcuffs really, and a plastic hobble around both ankles to keep her from running, not that it would have done her any good. She was in the middle of a V’thak compound. If she tried to escape, she’d be recaptured in minutes. There was no way out.
One herder wiped her down with a damp cloth, taking what seemed to be lascivious pleasure at lingering in cleansing both of her breasts. It was sadistic not sexual, but the effect on the young girl was the same.
The herders walked her down the steps to the waiting van. Chlxtu Raen was standing by the open back doors. For the first time, Megan saw she was a female. Female V’thakians had paler skin around their breathing flaps and slightly rounder torsos.
“Put her in the back. My attendants will receive her.”
The herders mutely obeyed as the buyer paid off the Seller.
“A pleasure doing business with you. I hope you enjoy her. She really is top rate merchandise.”
“Thank you, I shall.” Megan thought Chlxtu Raen’s thought-speak response communicated a hint of disdain, as if she did not particularly like having dealings with the Seller.
If the Seller picked that up, he showed no indication. After all, business is business.
The van doors were closed by the herders. Two more V’thakians were inside sitting on benches, one on the left and one on the right. She was made to sit on the floor between them.
Megan heard the driver’s door slam shut, the engine being fired up, and felt a lurch as they moved forward. Raen herself was driving.
Megan had stopped crying but she was still shivering. The back of the van wasn’t heated and while the V’thak don’t mind cold, nude young women barely out of their teens certainly did.
Her bladder was full but there was no telling how long the trip would take or when she’d be allowed to relieve herself.
The V’thakian to her left “spoke”.
“We’re out of the compound now and on the main road.” He quickly stood up and opened the top of his bench.
Pulling out a large blanket, he closed the lid. “You are freezing, poor dear. Allow me.”
Megan was speechless with shock. The V’thak took what looked like a small knife off of his belt and removed her wrist and ankle bindings. Next, he wrapped her in the blanket and then sat her on the bench beside him.
She looked up and the other alien had pulled a bag of dried fruit and a bottle of water from under his seat.
“You must be hungry and thirsty. Here.”
Megan hesitated thinking this was some sort of trick. Then hunger and thirst took over and she greedily set upon what was offered her.
“It’s going to be alright, little one. We won’t hurt you.”
Megan finished the fruit and water and the V’thak across from her took the empty containers and put them back under his bench.
They drove for another hour and then the van turned, and the rougher ride told Megan that they were travelling across uneven terrain. Fifteen minutes later, the van pulled over and stopped. Megan knew from the bumpy ride that they must be in the Wilderness. It was a vast area considered too dangerous for either humans or V’thak. Why would these V’thakians bring her here?
The back of the van was opened by her owner.
“Come with me, human.” Chlxtu Raen’s thought-speak seemed almost kind.
She followed Raen some distance from the van through sand and sagebrush, and then Raen turned her back to Megan and walked a few meters away. Megan was embarrassed but the pressure to relieve herself was immense. She lifted her blanket so as not to wet it and squatted down.
V’thakians were repulsed by human eliminations and Megan had been terrified that she would urinate involuntarily in front of her guards in the van, if guards they were.
Megan stood when she finished and wrapped the blanket around her body again.
As she was escorted back to the van, Chlxtu Raen spoke to her. “We apologize for these primitive conditions. Just smuggling a blanket and human food into a V’thak compound is a great danger. I wish we could have brought you proper clothing.”
Normally, a human captive is never to look directly at any V’thak, but Megan felt she could trust her.
“Who are you? Why are you doing this?”
“We will tell you more once we are at the Sanctuary, but there are groups of civilian V’thakian colonists who do not condone making sentient beings into slaves. We have dedicated ourselves, at great risk, to rescuing as many of you as we can.”
They reached the van. Megan’s feet hurt from stepping on rocks and thorns, but having lived in hardship all her life, she had learned to tolerate these small discomforts.
“Will you take me home?” As she uttered the words, she questioned the wisdom of letting even these apparently friendly V’thakians know where her clan was hiding.
“No. We dare not take the chance. The V’thak guard patrols all but the wildest environments, which is why we have created a sanctuary for liberated humans in the Wilderness.”
“Then I’ll never see my family again.”
Megan felt hot tears streaming down her face. What was her brother Ryan going to do without her?
“I cannot answer that, child. Perhaps someday, there will be a revolt, humans and sympathetic V’thakians against the military leadership. Someday.”
Megan was helped back up into the van. The journey took several days, but they stopped at a small outpost the next morning for more food and proper clothes for the girl. She began to relax a bit around her alien benefactors.
In the months and years to come, the growing population of liberated humans would become Megan’s new family, and Sanctuary would become her home.
I got the idea for this story on my drive home yesterday, when I misread a sign saying “Homes for Sale” as “Humans for Sale.” The image at the top of the story is the one most associated with Irish Slaves in America. I thought it somehow appropriate.