Choosing Theo: Chapter 6

Weirdest. Meeting. Ever.

After Meya had come back, given her some beige paste to eat that made Jade long for the green goo, and ran a light-saber-type device over her body, she’d escorted her down a curving hallway to this room.

On their way, Meya had informed Jade they’d located the program that contained the Earthling languages. She told her the meetings attendees were in the process of updating their translators now and that they should be working by the time they reached the meeting room.

How could a room, lightyears away from Earth, in a building that resembled a castle spire, be like every other boring meeting room she’d ever been in? It was truly mindboggling.

A long, rectangular table occupied most of the room, dark black chairs lined either side of the table, and two chairs slightly bigger than the others were positioned at the heads of the table. When Jade entered, six people were already seated and waiting.

Meya motioned for Jade to sit at the head of the table, and then moved to sit on her right.

Jade surveyed the other people in the room. There were two women seated on the left side of the table. They were both quite beautiful and both staring at her with interest.

The woman on the right was very pale and thin. Long seafoam-green hair had been intricately braided with gold thread and swept over her delicate shoulder. What stood out most about the woman were her large eyes. They tilted up more than was normal to Jade, and her irises were a bright, almost glowing red.

The woman next to her was different but no less beautiful. Her hair was cut very short and was bright blond. Her tanned skin shimmered with gold in the light, and Jade could see geometric golden markings running along her bare arms.

Meya leaned in toward Jade and whispered, “Their names are Wiye and Treanne. They’re the two who found you wandering in the hills and brought you here.”

“Thank you!” Jade stammered, feeling shocked and ashamed that she hadn’t attempted to ask about her rescuers until now.

The two women said nothing but smiled broadly at her.

Meya turned to glance at a holographic screen near the wall, then leaned toward Jade again. “Almost, but the translators aren’t quite done yet.”

Jade surveyed the others in the room while she waited. Directly to her left, a small older man waved to her cheerily. He seemed overjoyed at her presence. Jade didn’t know what else to do, so she gave a nervous half smile and then looked away.

On the right side of the table, next to Meya, sat two men. They were both large and heavily muscled. The younger of the two men had sandy brown hair, streaked with blond. When he grinned at her, showing even white teeth, a dimple appeared in his cheek.

If Jade wanted to know whether or not she’d find an alien man attractive, she had her answer. He was more handsome than any man she’d ever seen in person. He looked like he should’ve been running shirtless on some beach in Australia, getting ready to surf.

Light golden designs ran over his arms, neck, and part of his face. They curled delicately around his strong features.

The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. She pulled her attention away from surfer boy and caught the other man staring intently at her with dark eyes. She assumed light tattoos ran over this man’s body as well, but his long-sleeved shirt and shoulder-length mop of brown hair meant she could only see one curving marking winding up his cheek.

He scowled at her. His deep frown contrasted sharply with the dimpled grin of the younger man next to him. He almost appeared angry at her, and she wondered if he and surfer boy were an item.

She quickly glanced away. He’s all yours!

The last person in the room, an ancient woman, sat directly across from Jade. She was dressed in a high-collared lavender jacket that matched the pale purple of her eyes. She sat stiffly with her chin raised, her white hair curling over her shoulders. Everything, from her regal posture to intelligent eyes, told Jade she was in charge here.

Without fail, Meya focused on her and waited until the woman gave a slow nod before speaking.

“I believe we have all been made aware of the current situation.” She eyed each of them and waited for their nods of agreement. She then spoke to Jade. “Our translators have been updated now. Can you please say something so we can be sure?”

“Uh…hello. My name is Jade,” she recited, not knowing what else to say.

Meya smiled. “Hello, Jade. It’s nice to meet you.”

All Jade’s bravado from earlier faded. She’d imagined the bitch fit this group of people would get when she finally was able to speak to them. Now, sitting in front of a group of aliens who all stared at her, she could only manage a weak smile.

Turning, Meya addressed the group. “Jade was abducted from her home world and wound up on Clecania. We need to make sure that measures are taken to right this wrong, but the main focus of our meeting today is to decide where Jade should go now.” Meya paused for a moment then continued, “I’m going to let Jade explain what has happened to her and then we’ll discuss what we should do moving forward.”

Meya fell silent, and all eyes focused on Jade.

Jade had known she’d have to recount what had happened, but she’d thought it would be to someone like a police officer, one on one. Public speaking had always been something she’d dreaded. “Uh…well,” she began shakily. Meya gave her an encouraging nod. Taking a deep breath, she described everything that had happened.

They all stayed quiet and listened intently until she got to the part about being approached in the woods.

“Did you see this being?” one of the women asked, anger etched on her face.

“No. It was dark, and I sprayed behind me and ran. I couldn’t tell you if it was a man or a woman. I don’t even know if it was a Clecanian or some other species.”

The pretty woman leaned back and pondered this.

“Is that the wording I should use, by the way?” Jade interjected, realizing that even on Earth, gender was more complex than “man” and “woman.” “You all look very similar to humans and I keep thinking of you and referring to you as people or men or women but…you’re not.” Jade glanced around. “Is there some other vocabulary I should be using?”

The kind older man to her left leaned toward her. “Your translator uses context to translate as well as words. You may be saying a word that means a human specifically, but if your intention is to address a group, the word is translated to the word we’d use for that group.”

“Wow.” She peered around nervously. “You guys really are advanced here.” She recalled a question she’d thought of earlier about the translator. “I couldn’t understand them. The lizard people,” she clarified.

“The ones who took you?” Treanne, the blonde woman asked, concern showing on her face. “I don’t know who took you, but I do know your translator was only uploaded with the languages spoken on this planet. They probably didn’t upload their own in order to keep you from hearing any sensitive information.”

The dark-eyed man who still had a scowl on his face interrupted. “Intergalactic law says that she’s to remain on Clecania for a period of one year. Our law says that an off-worlder needs to be put under protection and monitored by a resident for that year. If my understanding of the law is correct,” he said snidely, as if he already knew it was, “we know what to do with her. All we need to decide today is which resident she’ll be placed with.”

Nope, she did not like that guy. Not at all. He was suggesting they throw her together with some stranger? “Why one year?” she interjected.

“A year will provide whichever species encounters a Class 4 species enough time to teach them about the known universe,” the pretty woman with pale-green hair answered in a melodic voice.

“Not everything, obviously.” The woman seated next to her chuckled. “Just enough so you can function outside of the only planet you’ve known. We’re required to help you learn how to build a new life outside of Earth.”

“Before the law was enacted, displaced Class 4 individuals were left on their own with no idea how to survive,” Meya added sadly. “We saw many individuals taken advantage of because of this. It was barbaric.”

Before Jade could once again voice her objection to not simply being returned to Earth, the green-haired woman spoke.

“Who do you suggest watch over her, Xoris?” she asked the angry man who’d suggested she be looked after like some criminal.

He frowned at her coldly. “One of us could take her, I suppose.”

Putting his hand on his heart, the young man leaned toward Jade and said in a rumbling voice, “I would be honored to protect you.” He shot her a wolfish grin that almost made her forget the misery of her situation in order to giggle and blush.

“You’re never home, Kadion,” Xoris growled. “How would you expect to protect her when you’re fighting off Tagion intruders in the north? I’ll take her.”

“No!” Jade blurted out, drawing everyone’s attention. “I mean…” She searched for a compelling argument but found none. “I don’t want to go with some stranger and be ‘monitored’ like some criminal. I was brought here against my will by someone from here!”

“Yes, and you escaped them,” Xoris said coolly. “That means they’ll want you back. You’re here now, which means we’re responsible for you.” Raising his eyebrows, he asked, “Would you rather be left on your own on this alien planet, of which you know nothing? The person who took you could walk up to you on the street, knock you out and drag you away, and you wouldn’t even know to scream until it was too late.”

Losing her temper, she yelled, “I would rather you send me back home!”

“Enough!” the woman at the end of the table said firmly. Everyone quieted. “Young lady,” she began, addressing Jade. “We unfortunately cannot return you to your home planet. It’s against not only our laws, but also the intergalactic laws that keep our worlds at peace. It was decided long ago that Class 4 planets should be allowed to evolve and explore the universe in their own time. We don’t reveal ourselves to them, and if for some reason an individual such as yourself is taken, you may not return. It would be illegal for us to set foot on your planet or even fly near your atmosphere.”

“But—” Jade fell silent at the woman’s harsh expression. Better not piss off the queen bee.

The woman continued, “You will stay here for one year, and you will live with another, but you’ll also have some say as to who that person is.” She shot a stern look at both Xoris and Kadion. “I’ll only require you to live alone with a Clecanian for three months. After that, you may choose where on Clecania you’d like to live. After the year is up, you may leave Clecania if you wish, but we won’t break the law by returning you to Earth.”

Jade mouth fell open at the unfairness of all this.

“Luckily for you, we have a coupling ceremony tomorrow. I believe Zikas is without a female to aid this cycle.” She lifted her eyebrows at the small man next to Jade.

Zikas smiled widely. “You are correct, Madam.”

“Then it’s settled.” She rose from her seat. “Zikas, you will stay with Jade and prepare her for tomorrow. The rest of you will come with me so we can devise a plan to catch the criminals who brought her here.”

Before Jade could formulate an argument, they were gone. Turning to the man named Zikas, she said, “What just happened?”

He smiled and said, “You will become a bride!”


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