Author: Rick Tobin

Nondescript gray gruel drifted over the worn stainless spoon stirring in a prisoner’s brown wooden bowl. Two ragged, worn men sat facing each other, heads bent down toward a stained wooden picnic bench, one lifting a metal water cup to dilute rancid flavors from his throat.

“Miguel. Quietly,” the larger man whispered across the meal. “They’re listening. Two months. News from the Brazilian?” Anderson pulled his drifting, greasy locks past his eyes while making brief hand gestures on the table, indicating where guards were standing. Miguel put one finger out, tapping it lightly.

“La sangre,” he whispered. Miguel pulled his worn sleeve back, exposing his scars from constant IVs.

“You mean, blood?” Anderson’s eyes widened as he pointed, slowly, to his heart.

“Si, es la verdad, sangre oro.”

“Maybe to make sure those women aren’t infecting us. God knows why they force us on them. Get that fat kiwi broad again?” Anderson choked back some stew, thinking about cramped mating pens with guards prodding, forcing coupling.

“Muy horrible…you call…nightmare?” Miguel rubbed his neck, rolled back his shirt collar, exposing bite marks.

Anderson sat back quickly, as if struck by an invisible hand. “You said oro…you mean gold…like golden blood?”

“Si, Anderson. I have the golden blood. You?”

“For God’s sake, that’s it. They took us because we have no antigens. Why…why would they?”

His questioning stopped as guards descended on them. Soon, a feeding area door opened to exude a man in a doctor’s uniform with military epaulets.

“So, Anderson, always the curious one. We’ve watched you. If this one figured it out,” he pointed at Miguel, “It won’t be long before everyone knows, even the women. You can let them go, guards.” The doctor waved thugs off two seated men.

“Explain, asshole!” Anderson turned. A machine gun barrel pushed into his face.

“No, we can’t have that, sergeant. Step back. They’ll settle down. I’m Doctor Evans of Space Command. You, and Mr. Hernandez, are some of our treasured guests. You’ve guessed half the reason, but not all.”

“Treasured guests?” Anderson growled.

“I assure you; my superiors ordered these Spartan conditions after our failures with genetic alterations and artificial insemination. Your kind has complicated reproduction issues. We couldn’t afford to lose a single rare golden blood donor, so…this last alternative. Those pitiful women are just like you—here against their will. We need offspring with dominant genes, ensuring a continual breeding stock.”

“You Nazi bastard…” Anderson reached out before a baton slapped his hands.

“This is about species, not race, Anderson. You see, gentlemen, we have a narrow six-year window. We’re moving an army to Mars to neutralize recent Chinese incursions. Dominance battles are coming. Casualties need universal donor blood supplies from available healthy sources on Mars… babies you’ll make. There are only fifty of you left on Earth. We can’t have that resource wasted.”

“There’s no pit in hell deep enough for what you’re doing…and those women!” Anderson spit at Evans.

“Really? Such bravado. Consider your eventual benefits. Apophis is a planet killer. That asteroid got close last pass, then changed course, so we stepped up Mars migrations. If you aren’t on Mars by 2036, you’ll die. Be assured, you assets will continue mating there, and eventually be crowned heroes. For now, get used to that bitch from Auckland. We need her. She tends toward twins.”