“Momma, I want to go home, I don’t like it here anymore.” A slight young girl with a squashed round nose, with dark hair and eyes, tugged on her mother’s skirt.
The mother knelt down, wrapping her arms around the girl shaking. “You can’t come home with us yet. We need to talk to the Slavery Protection Board. After daddy and I talk to him, you can come home.” Her eyes glistened.
A man shambled up to her into the cold, sterile room. “Meira, we need to talk to SPB, now. They are summoning us.” He pats the head of the little girl. The woman started to sob. “Meira, enough. We have to go.” His tone grew hard.
Meira let go of the girl. She rubbed her eyes, and ran her hands down her pale green dress. “I’m ready.”
The man didn’t respond, and walked out into a hallway.
The woman rushed behind him, her hands wringing. No one spoke until they saw a large metallic, double doors. “Joni, do you think they will let her stay with us?”
The man’s eyes became slits, and his brows flattened. “If you hadn’t been funneling your time, and money to the movement, it wouldn’t be a problem. But, you believe in Gulla’s Blue Rose, our family is only a secondary concern.” He grabbed her shoulders, and gave her a hard shake.
Tears poured down her cheeks. “I gave them money to help our family.” She pushed against him, but he didn’t let go. “Joni every few generations one of us goes to be a slave. I’m tired of it. I want our family to be free.”
A push sent her sprawling on the pristine white tiles. “Ko you, Meira. You’ve destroyed us.” He marched away from her, as the doors clicked, and slowly opened inward.
He stood at the entrance surrounded by black floors, wooden benches, and seven floating wood chairs filled with people, with precise, chiseled faces. Joni tapped his foot, as Meira made it beside him.
Together they strode forward to stand in front of the board. As one they dropped to their knees.
The man who occupied the middle seat, sneered at them. “And, now Meira comes before the SPB, begging for favors, after smearing our reputation.”
Meira lifted her head. “First Chair Bivn. I only make a request that any citizen is allowed to make. Would you not even give me the comfort of family?” Her eyes still wet with tears, but fierce.
“Allowing families to take in relatives who are deemed to be slaves, is not a law, or mentioned anywhere in the SORD handbook. It is a merely a courtesy. You have spent all of your life fighting against the SPB, in addition to undermining the authority of the Nobles.” He pointed a finger at her. “You are a disgrace to Alaget, Citizen Meira.”
She shot up, her nose an inch from the end of his finger. “You are the disgraces. You allow our own race to use, and abuse itself. You sell children to whoever wants them, and condemn them to a life of slavery. You mock the other races, when they call us barbaric. We are savages. I fight for our people.” All her age, and imperfections washed away with the power of her words, the power of her conviction.
First Chair Bivn eyes widened, and he slapped her. She fell back. “You will kneel before your betters, Citizen.”
“I would, if I knew of any. I will not bow for my child. I will do as I was taught.” She smiled, even as the bruise on her face darkened. “Use politics, and underhanded tricks to win. For the Blue Rose!”
As the echo of her shout died, the doors swung open. A woman dressed in a flowing robe with pure white hair walked in. Her eyes were wide, and blue. “Greetings, Slavery Protection Board. I have come here on behalf my ward. I assume that is no trouble for you.”
“Grand Lady Rillian, you are welcome anywhere.” He bowed his head, even though his lips were a straight line.
She let out a giggle. “Oh, surely not, First Chair Bivn. You resent me, and you resented Gulla Valik. However, I recently did purchase the employ of this fine citizen. And, if you are not foolish.” Her face dropped the happy facade, to sneer at him, as she advanced down the pathway. “You will give her the child, and leave them be. Otherwise, I will be forced to be hard on you. I detest brutal methods, but I will employ them if necessary.”
All the other chairs turned to look at First Chair Bivn. He swallowed as the blood drained from his face, and he shook a little. “As you wish, Queen of Amon.”
Grand Lady Rillian snapped two fingers, and Meira and Joni stood up. She swept out, as they followed.
The door closed as Joni fell to his knees. “Thank you for saving my daughter.”
“She is no longer your daughter, Citizen Joni. Citizen Meira is no longer your wife. She will live with me, and you will never see her again.” Her hand shot down, as she hauled the man up. “Do you understand? I exposed myself, in order to prevent this. And, it is your fault it happened. I will not allow you to compromise, my retainer, or my position. Now, go.”
Joni faced Meira he opened his mouth.
Grand Lady Rillian shoved him back. “Don’t speak to her. Don’t apologize. Go.” She shoved him again. “Ko, go!”
He let out a cry, and took off running.
“It is his fault?” Meira asked in a quiet voice.
“Indeed.” Grand Lady Rillian kept her eyes in the direction Joni ran. “He gave evidence about your anti-slavery activities to avoid a charge. He tried to assault an off worlder with citizen status.” Her head twisted around to face Meira. “Our standing in the Intergalactic Council is already weak. He would have made it weaker. Come on, let’s get your daughter.”
Meira ran down the hall, her feet pounding. The door to her daughter’s room flew open. “Sweetheart, come here!”
“Are we going home mama?” The little girl wrapped her arms around her mother’s legs. “No, we are going someplace much better.”