McGee was beginning to appreciate Curtis Greene’s distaste for the Assembly. On the whole, he would rather have been mopping a floor himself right about now.

The finding of the bodies of mother and child outside Valhalla were reported to the Assembly, as were all non-trivial events as required by the Charter, which still served as law of the land while the constitutional process sputtered along. The resulting controversy was as inevitable as it was loud, namely, what exactly was the humanitarian mission of this would-be country?

There was no discord over whether refugees could contribute meaningfully to the greater society; it was a simple matter of capacity. Once that floodgate was opened, how to provide for an influx of people who didn’t speak the operative language of the settlement, or who might not even have adequate clothes on their backs? Hand them all scrub brushes and herd them to the lavatories and dining halls to work? House them in containerized ghettos? Wasn’t this exactly what they were trying to avoid? Moreover, how to perform the background checks on people who were essentially off the grid to start with? Whom would they be welcoming?

The other side of the argument was no less valid, or compelling: since the work-hour was the unit of currency, regardless the work done, everyone had equal economic value. Even a physically-disabled or elderly person with sufficient mental aptitude could do, for instance, administrative work. And what right did they have to turn someone aside who had — perhaps, literally — no place else on Earth to go?

Watching these proceedings, sad and sullen, sat Roos van Rhijn. McGee noticed her dejection, and debated whether to ask her about it or give space. Eventually, as was his way, he chose to err on the side of action. He gently approached and took the empty seat next to her.

“Care to talk about it?” he asked, quietly. She put on a brave smile and nodded, and the two slipped out of the auditorium as inconspicuously as they could. They strolled along the boulevard, and Roos took in a deep breath, eyes closed.

“I hardly know where to begin,” she sighed.

McGee nodded. “I’m sorry to pry. But you’ve been hurting over something. I won’t order you to talk about it, but it might help.”

Roos raised her eyebrows and looked at the darkening sky overhead. Her mouth twisted in an odd way as the words forced their way out. “I was raped. Not long after my arrival.”


“It was someone I knew, and rather liked,” she shrugged. “We were spending lots of time together and were thinking about getting serious. Then, one night, we were watching a football match on satellite and getting pissed-drunk. I passed out… apparently he didn’t. I woke up the next day, naked and with a tummy full of semen.”

“Son of a bitch,” McGee steamed.

“I confronted him, he confessed rather than having me kick the shit out of him, and the Assembly deported him with nothing but the clothes on his back. It’s really the only punishment we have. But I later learned I was pregnant.”

“I’m so sorry, Roos.”

She nodded. “So, what could I do? Carry the child, and be deported myself? I’d put everything into this place; there was nothing to return to. I probably would have chosen to terminate the pregnancy anyway; that’s not the point. The point was that I didn’t get to make that choice; it was made for me.”

“Doesn’t seem like it ought to be a criminal act, does it?” McGee muttered. “Just to be a kid.”

“Or to have one,” Roos added. “How are we ever going to resolve that? Any one of us here could find themselves out the door over something completely outside their control.”

McGee was about to agree when a squawk came over his radio.

“McGee,” he answered into the mic.

“Brigadier, this is Captain Nweke. We’ve got a sighting of a vessel off the coast nearby. Radar confirms.”

“You figure that’s our poachers?”

“Can’t say, sir. Spotters say it’s military. Radar says it’s bloody huge.”


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