Mila wiped down the counter and glared at the alien on the other side of the Formica. “No.”
The shock in the black eyes was understandable, even if the recruiter’s features were not usually the ones seen at this tiny truck stop in the middle of nowhere.
“Miss Carter. Why would you not wish to join the Volunteer Project?”
Mila tossed aside the rag and glared at the small creature. “I am to damned old for the project.”
The creature blinked several times. “Ah. Yes. How old are you, precisely?”
“Thirty-eight. Eight years past your highest available age.”
She washed out the coffeepots and glanced at the two security officers by the door.
“There would be a special dispensation made in your case.”
She turned back to him and narrowed her eyes. “Why?”
“You are descended from a crashed ship and one of five survivors. You recently submitted your DNA for an ancestry scan?”
Mila crossed her arms. “How do you know that?”
“We received authorization to check it. Two of those found have already been sent off to the world in desperate need for a new injection of genetic material.”
“And I will be an injection? That is why you are here?”
He shrugged. It was a very human gesture. “Yes. I am sorry. This is not something I have had to engage in before.”
She snickered. “Well, if they are looking for genetic material, they had better be looking for skin and blood samples. My ovaries bit the dust a year ago.”
He waved that away. “Not a problem. Regeneration technology can replace and repair any damage to your body. As long as you are not completely dead, we can restore you.”
“I am not sure I want them back. I have gotten used to the menopause.” She frowned.
“What can we offer you to convince you that this is a good idea?”
“Why do I get the feeling that if I don’t agree, I am just going to be hauled along anyway?”
Norz sighed. “Because you are a very smart woman. Your government has sold you to the Lrrko.”
She wanted to say that they couldn’t do that, but she had lived long enough to know that folks could simply disappear.
“Because they are desperate and on the edge of extinction. The humans found with the matching genetics are a lifeline that they were not expecting but will not ignore.”
“What happens if I run?”
“They will come here and get you. They do not hold human life in high regard, and they will plow through the population to find you.”
“They don’t sound very pleasant.”
Norz didn’t touch that one. “They will give you whatever you demand. Make a list of what you want in your new life, and they will make it happen.”
“What is the catch?”
“You need to leave tonight. With us. You have one hour to make up your mind, but if you try to run, we will find you.”
She made a face, and when Norz was outside, she grabbed a notepad and pencil. She made a wish list of what she wanted her life to be. Education in whatever she chose to study, languages, adventure, living rent-free, clothing allowance, communication with friends and that was about it.
She took her list to Norz and returned to shutting down the building for the night. It was two in the morning, and the day shift would be arriving in three hours.
She wrapped the place up for the night and got herself a bottle of water, playing out the clock.
At the one-hour mark, Norz returned. “Agreed to. All are very reasonable.”
He fired up a tablet and handed it to her. “These are the demands of the Lrrko.”
“They have demands of me?”
He nodded and rocked one hand from side to side. “Yes and no. They are more like requirements that will fully qualify you for the position as a citizen of the Lrrko.”
She flicked through the display and frowned. “They can really regenerate what was removed?”
“Yes. Despite their normal occupations, the nature of their species has required an expertise in the reproductive sciences.”
Mila flicked back and forth. “It doesn’t describe the nature of what the Lrrko do or are.”
“They are compatible with you. That is the larger picture.”
She laughed. “That leaves a whole lot open for the imagination. Silicone casts are compatible with my physiology.”
Norz looked uncomfortable. “That is true, but the Lrrko men are not so different from the human body structure.”
“Oh. Good. What about the women?”
“There aren’t any.”
Mila blinked. “Aren’t any.” She said it just to confirm it. “Aren’t any women?”
“Well, there are the five located here on Earth. This is why you are so important. They know you are here now. They will come for you.”
“If they have agreed to all my terms, there isn’t any need to threaten. I am going.”
Norz’s shoulders slumped in relief. Mila grabbed her keys. “I will just lock up.”
They left the rest stop together. She locked up, wrapped the keys in her apron and stuck them inside the hollow brick kept for such moments.
She would have someone call Antonia in the morning. She had a feeling that the world would be behind her by then.
Her heart pounded as they drove down the highway. Her pulse was rapid and her palms were sweaty.
Norz turned to her. “You seem nervous.”
“I am petrified.”
“Why? They won’t hurt you.”
“You are kidding, right? This is bizarre even for me. I swear if I had any pets or family, I would have laughed in your face.”
“So, there is nothing to keep you here?”
“If there was, I would have excused myself and gone out the escape hatch.”
Norz paused before chuckling. “Escape hatch?”