Okay, so I’m getting close to finishing a first draft of the sequel to The Darkest Hour, and it’s really getting me excited. I want everyone to read it! (But you can’t because it’s a first draft and is way too long and probably horrendous.) This story is written from the perspective of one of the side characters in the sequel. His name is Meelo. I wrote it after Meelo’s part in the sequel (Raymond’s story) was over because I just couldn’t leave him in the situation that Raymond was forced to. Meelo could have an entire book to himself, but for now, we’ll both have to be satisfied with this snapshot of one of the most important moments in his life. It’ll take a few weeks to post his whole story, so stay tuned.
The weary indentureds rubbed their hands together for warmth as they waited for the truck to come to a stop. Meelo couldn’t wait to get to second meal. He’d gotten almost nothing at first meal this morning and had shared that with some late arrivals. At least he wasn’t on snow clearing duty. Thank heaven for the little bit of seniority they’d earned. The canning factory wasn’t pleasant, but it at least had warm areas. Smelling the hot fruit as it made its way into the cans did nothing to abate his hunger though. He could no longer remember what it felt like to not be hungry.
It was clear from the number of trucks still absent in the yard as they staggered out of theirs, that they’d beat enough of the other indentured crews back to guarantee a full plate at second meal. Meelo’s stomach twisted in anticipation. But as they all moved toward the dining hall, half a dozen citizens blocked their way.
“Is this the LQ crew?” the lead citizen asked to anyone and everyone.
“Yes,” Bennett answered cautiously.
“All of you come with me.” The leader turned and walked–away from the dining hall, Meelo realized. The other citizens waited until the truck load of indentureds started to follow, and flanked the hungry men on both sides. You could hear the disappointment of the group in the sorry shuffle of feet. It was stronger than any fear at where they were going. Meelo didn’t really care where they were going. Wherever it was, it meant no food tonight.
They were led into the government building, down a hall and into a large room, empty except for two men. The first man was a citizen, identifiable by the olive color of his suit. He held an electronic tablet in his hand. The second man was dressed smartly in a grey suit, his shoes polished to a shine.
The two men watched the LQ indentureds shuffle into the room silently. Both were impassive. The foreigner in grey scrutinized each of them. When the last of them had entered and a citizen guard closed the door, the citizen with the tablet—an administrator of some sort—said, “This is the group we were speaking of. Look around, do you see something that will meet your needs?”
The man in grey walked slowly down the line of indentureds staring at each coldly. But when he got to Meelo, he stopped. “Show me this one,” he said. Meelo felt like livestock, but he knew better than to speak up.
“You don’t want him, sir,” Bennett said humbly. “Too young. Inexperienced. Trust me.”
The administrator glared at Bennett, and Meelo suppressed a shiver. Bennett had just gotten himself a whole stack of deductions—maybe worse—to try and convince this man not to take Meelo. Whatever the man wanted, it couldn’t be good.
The man in grey looked hard at Bennett as if he was trying to recall something, and when he was satisfied with his thoughts, he nodded to himself. “And that one too,” he said tilting his head toward Bennett. He continued down the line, pointing out a couple more men before retreating back to the administrator’s side. The administrator handed him the tablet, and the man scanned whatever was on it, glancing up at the indentureds and down again as he did. His eyes kept returning to Meelo.
Meelo knew that sometimes indentureds were bought by slave traders. It didn’t happen often. Slaves were a risky endeavor, but anyone could come and pay down an indentured’s debt. Once they did, you belonged to them. None of the micro-nations Meelo had heard of allowed slavery, but there were a lot he hadn’t heard of, and then there were NML’s with no laws, and black markets that could get you anything, even if the laws said it was impossible. If this man was looking for slaves, Meelo did not want to go with him. At least as an indentured he had a chance of freedom someday.
“This one seems a bit expensive, given his age,” the man said pointing to the tablet and glancing quickly at Bennett.
The administrator shrugged. “It’s not based on age. It’s based on the price paid and how much debt they still owe. Let me see something…” he took the tablet and tapped it a few times. “Ah. This explains that one.”
He handed the tablet back to the man in grey who said, “I see.”
“I doubt that’s what you are looking for.”
The man looked up at Bennett and said, “Probably not,” but under the coldness, Meelo thought he heard something of regret too.
“What about the others? Anything?”
“Possibly,” The man said handing the tablet back absently. “But since I’m here, I am thinking maybe I want a woman too. I don’t see any here. Aren’t there some in this indenture bracket?”
The administrator nodded. He was the perfect salesman. “Many of the women are unable to sustain full work duty for more than a year or two,” the administrator explained.
“They have babies.”
The man turned away from the administrator, and Meelo thought he saw anger in his eyes for just an instant. “I see. What do you do with them?”
“They are separated from their original work crews and put with other ‘families’. We give them easier tasks and of course, they are paid less.”
“So are they available? Can I see them or not?” the man said impatiently.
“I can show you some newer ones. I would recommend you choose a woman that is fresh,” the administrator said.
The man glared at him. “I want them from the same time period.”
The administrator sighed and began tapping on his tablet. Beside Meelo, Bennett shifted. Meelo ventured a glance in his direction. He was studying the man in grey carefully. The administrator called a guard over and showed him the tablet. The guard left the room. There was a heavy silence. The administrator cleared his throat. “May I ask why you are so interested in the indentureds from this time period?”
The man turned on him with cold eyes. Colder, Meelo thought, than he had used when inspecting the indentureds. “I don’t see how it’s your business, but if you must know, after two or three years as an indentured, they are all used up. They’re not worth the food I’ll feed them. Too fresh and they think they own the world. Newly indentureds always cause problems.”
“You seem very knowledgeable about our indentureds, yet I don’t recall seeing you come for purchases before,” the administrator accused.
“I have not been here before—myself—but rest assured, I am very familiar with your…product,” the man said. His tone shut the administrator up, and they waited in silence. Meelo’s stomach twisted and he thought of second meal. It would be too late for food by now.