Author : Benjamin Fischer

Alana examines the next child. The young girl dodges her eyes. Alana frowns and gently grabs her by the chin, forcing the little Asian girl to meet her gaze.

“Have you been feeding this one enough?” she asks.

Viktor grinds his teeth.

“Some have no appetite,” he answers.

“And they are all here voluntarily,” Alana sneers.

Viktor swallows.

Alana looks over the eight year old again.

“Not this one,” she says. “Who is next?”

Viktor exhales.

“I will have another shipment arriving from Earth in one week-”

Alana glares at him.

“There is one more,” Victor says.

“Where is she then?” Alana asks, glancing around expectantly at the girls she’s already seen.

“I declined to bring her out,” Viktor says, “because she can be . . . uncooperative.”

Alana’s eyes light up.

“Show me,” she orders.

Viktor snaps his fingers and his lackeys quickly shuttle the six previous girls out of the showroom.

“‘Uncooperative,’” Alana repeats. “Explain.”

“Trust me, you don’t want this one,” Viktor says.

“You have no idea of what I want,” Alana replies. “I’m not here for an idiot clone–I’ve already got one of those.”

“My girls are not idiots,” Viktor says.

Alana laughs, her voice crackling with ire.

“Of course not. They all could have twice the genius of Einstein–and I could have each of them crawling on all fours baa-baa-baaing in five minutes. No, there’s a reason that Earth stays under our stilleto heel, and it’s because they’re all fucking sheep,” Alana spits.

“Show me something different or show me the door,” she says.

Viktor sighs. “The next girl is no sheep. She is . . . dismissive of my authority.”

“I would hope so,” Alana says.

“She actively attempts to undermine my control over the other children, and I’ve been forced to keep her separated in order to avoid using narcotics. She has formed, I think, a low opinion of her prospects up here.”

“And just what are her prospects?” Alana asks.

“If I come down in price any further,” Viktor says, “a Golden Crater brothel. And they will make her behave.”

Alana frowns but then the door to Viktor’s kennels opens and two of his lackeys muscle their way into the showroom. They struggle to keep hold on the hellcat between them, who lashes at their shins and thighs with shoeless feet and scuffed knees. She is whip-thin but nearly Alana’s height, and her unkempt black hair is mussed and a big tear is rapidly developing in the shoulder of her smock.

“Let her go,” Alana commands. Viktor’s men step away, glad to be done with their burden.

The girl’s hazel eyes focus on Alana.

“Who the fuck are you?” she asks with a sneering drawl.

Quick as lightning, Alana slaps the girl across the face.

A pregnant pause, and Alana can see the fury boiling up inside the girl. Sure as thunder, her little hand comes flying at Alana’s head.

Alana catches the blow bare millimeters from her cheek.

“This one will do,” Alana says.

“Who are you?” the girl asks, struggling to pull her hand out of Alana’s grip.

Alana smiles.

“You can call me Mother.”

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