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Choosing Theo: Chapter 8

Jade stared out through a wall of glass. She’d been dragged here and then placed, quite forcefully, on the far-right end of the long room by her surly guard, Nedas. To her left, there were about twenty beautiful young women looking out through the glass as well. Some of the women were standing in groups and talking while others were on their own, waiting for…something.

Jade looked around, scanning the room for a door, but instead found two angry eyes, one of them swollen and red, staring back at her. It was obvious from his stance and his unwavering gaze that his job was to watch her and make sure she didn’t try to escape. She pointed at his eye and then gave a sarcastic pout. His scowl deepened.

Zikas had been right. Last night she’d stayed up for long hours pondering her situation. She recalled her journey to the city after landing in the pod. It’d been grueling.

When she’d finally relaxed and inspected her room, she’d found food waiting for her. She’d been hoping for fresh ingredients she could identify—that way, if she did escape, she could pick out at least one thing she could eat without getting food poisoning. The green goo she’d been served by the reptile aliens greeted her instead.

Jade hated to admit it but she’d have no way of fending for herself out there. She was delusional to think she could. Even the small, comfortable room in which Zikas had left her had been difficult to navigate.

The round toilet bowl had been simple enough to figure out, but the cleansing unit hadn’t been as straightforward. Peering into the shining white enclosure, she hadn’t spotted any knobs, buttons, or controls of any kind. After wandering around the small room and searching for any hint of a control for the unit, she’d decided maybe the controls were located on the inside of the enclosure’s door.

The door had slid open automatically when she’d approached, but when she’d stepped into the unit and the door had slid closed, foam had spurted from the ceiling, covering her. Apparently, merely being inside the enclosure was enough to activate it.

She’d waited until all the fluffy cleanser had vanished and then once again donned the ugly, but very clean, sack dress. What she wouldn’t give to be back in her small home in a hot bath. The cleansing foam did the job alright, but it was nowhere near as relaxing as hot water.

Her night had been altogether disappointing, and her temper had been made worse when Nedas had entered her room uninvited this morning and dragged her here.

Jade studied the women she saw milling about. All of them had human qualities, but they also had strange features that made it clear they were aliens. What Jade didn’t understand was whether they were all different species or different races of the same species.

Some of the women had pale skin with thin, shining markings running all over their skin. Some had horns or tails. One hypnotizing woman in the corner had midnight-blue skin that was almost translucent and glowed from within. Her golden eyes met Jade’s, and Jade quickly glanced away, feeling a flush of embarrassment that she’d been caught staring.

Jade peered down at the flowing purple jumpsuit Nedas had thrown at her that morning before ushering her here. It fit her well, but after beholding the otherworldly beauty of the alien women gathered in the room, she still felt plain. Maybe no one will want to marry me! she thought hopefully.

Once again, Jade glanced to the door. She felt so frustrated she could scream. This couldn’t be her only option.

Just because Jade had decided not to run away didn’t mean she should have to get married. Maybe she could convince them to let her stay in a room here for three months, before finding some small shack in the woods where she’d be left alone for the rest of the year. This building seemed pretty secure, and she could stay out of everyone’s way.

The next time she saw Zikas, she’d try and convince him of this.

Suddenly the lights in the room dimmed and the other side of the glass was illuminated. All chatter ceased, and everyone turned to look at the plain gray hallway on the other side of the glass. Jade could now see that the hallway continued out of sight in either direction.

The other women in the room were all peering into the left side of the hallway expectantly. Curiosity burning in her, she examined the hallway as well. She’d just managed to spot a door a few feet down the hall when it opened.

A tall, handsome man walked out of the door and stood almost directly in front of her. Instinctively, she took a step back but then she noticed the man wasn’t looking at her. In fact, it didn’t seem like his eyes were focused on anything. Tentatively, she waved her hand in front of the glass. He didn’t react. With a low chuckle, Jade realized this must be some kind of one-way viewing room.

The Viewing, indeed.

Zikas had explained she’d be viewing a group of males, but she hadn’t thought he’d meant that hunky aliens would be paraded in front of her like beauty pageant contestants. Apparently, on this planet women chose their partners by anonymously ogling them. After a second’s deliberation, Jade found that she was for it.

Just because she didn’t intend on becoming anyone’s bride didn’t mean she couldn’t objectify a few fine aliens. When in Rome!

The man standing before her was beautiful. He was about six feet tall, lean and muscular. His pale blond hair was short, streaked with silver, and tousled a little too perfectly. The loose, sleeveless white shirt he wore appeared almost gauzy and glittered in the dim light. Flowing white pants added to his “naturally gorgeous without trying” look. His icy-blue eyes stared fixedly in front of him, and while he seemed relaxed, Jade noticed he was clenching and unclenching his jaw.

If this guy were on Earth, he’d be a heartthrob, but she could swear he was…nervous?

Stepping closer to the glass, Jade noticed that the light shimmering markings she’d seen on a few of the aliens were also on this man. The luminescent markings twisted and curved all along his arms, hands and neck. It was like someone had tattooed his whole body using ink made from crushed opals. His skin was so pale that, if he were standing far away and the room was dim, she doubted whether she would even be able to see the markings.

Just as she was getting lost in thought as to how much of his body these markings covered, he started moving. Jade’s gaze followed him as he walked a few feet to the left and then stopped to once again stand motionless at the mirror.

When she turned back, there was another handsome man standing in front of her. This new man had decided to not bother with a shirt. Jade had no trouble understanding why. His upper body looked like it had been carved from marble. Like veins of glimmering quartz, his markings stood out beautifully against his darker complexion.

As she’d previously suspected, these strange markings ran all over his exposed chest. The design was slightly different from the first man’s but close enough to make Jade believe they were a species trait rather than just personal preference.

Before long, the shirtless man walked away and was replaced by yet another beautiful specimen. Jade studied each man who came and went appreciatively but couldn’t help getting bored after a while. She managed to find a chair tucked away in a corner and plopped herself down.

How many more men can there be? They all start to look the same after a while, she thought while surveying the guy in front of her.

As he stepped away, a new man came into view who made Jade sit up and take notice. Although he wasn’t as traditionally handsome as the others, he was definitely attractive.

Jade assumed he realized there were tons of attractive men to compete with, because he seemed to be trying to stand out in other ways. His outfit, for one, was ridiculously opulent. Thick gold rings topped with gemstones adorned every finger. An emerald-green vest, embroidered with golden thread, beads and buttons, was crossed and belted at his narrow waist. Various precious stones and gold bands were scattered throughout his disheveled, shoulder-length black hair. On his lower half he wore tight black leather pants and tall black boots. His simple black button-down shirt would’ve been mundane compared to the rest of his extravagant outfit except he had unbuttoned it just enough to show off both his tanned chest and his many gold necklaces.

As she watched him grin roguishly into the glass, displaying perfect white teeth, Jade couldn’t help but smile. Altogether, his ensemble made him resemble a wealthy, rowdy, womanizing, sexy pirate. Without even speaking to him, she could tell he was the kind of guy who could charm almost any woman out of her panties.

“I need to stay away from you. You look like too much fun,” Jade muttered under her breath as he sauntered away.

When another beautiful but bland man stood in front of her, she almost wished for the sexy pirate to come back. Giggling from her left told her that his outfit and cheeky bravado had elicited the desired effect.

Another twenty minutes passed at an unimaginably slow pace. Jade almost considered trying to take a nap when she heard a fearful gasp from one of the women nearest to her. She looked up to see the most powerful man she’d ever laid eyes on.

Slowly, she walked up to the glass to gaze at him. With the exception of the pirate, all the other men could be described as beautiful or handsome. Jade highly doubted if anyone had ever called this man beautiful, though.

Where most of the other men had been pale-skinned with light, shining markings, this man had deeply tanned skin, and his markings were a dark, inky black. The black designs covered his skin in a much more severe way than the others, as well. These weren’t delicate vine-like tattoos. These were more like tribal designs you’d see in the South Pacific. The dark black of his markings matched the color of his hair.

He stood with his head down so his face was shadowed. Jade found herself wishing he’d lift his head so she could see his eyes.

As if he’d read her mind, he raised his head. If she didn’t know any better, she would’ve thought he was looking at her. Dark eyelashes framed the most beautiful eyes she’d ever seen. They were an unnaturally light shade of green flecked with warm gold, a stark contrast to the rest of his rough appearance.

His lips looked like they’d be full and soft even though they were, at present, thinned in a hard, tense line.

Jade wasn’t short by any means, but this man towered over her. He had to be over six and a half feet, at least. His massive biceps were tensed, and the silky fabric of his simple black shirt strained over his broad chest. She was right. “Beautiful” didn’t fit. “Devastatingly sexy god of war” seemed more accurate.

Jade continued to watch him as he stalked toward the other women. For a moment, she couldn’t comprehend what she was seeing. Her attention had shifted away from tall, dark, and sexy to the women watching him. Half of the women appeared terrified; the other half looked…disgusted?

What am I missing here? He must be some kind of asshole. That’s unfortunate.

Jade was so busy contemplating what she’d seen that she didn’t notice the last man leave the hallway until Zikas appeared in front of her.

“Did you see any male you liked?” he asked with gray eyebrows raised.

Did. I. Ever. “I didn’t see any human men so…no,” Jade lied. “Can you take me home now, please?”

The hopeful expression Zikas had been wearing a second ago vanished. He looked at her sadly and said, “I’m sorry, but no, you cannot go home. You must choose at least one of those males.”

“What happens if I don’t?”

“I’ll be forced to choose for you.”

Her anger rising, Jade spun and glared at Zikas. “And what happens then? Huh? What happens if you choose but I refuse? Will he drag me to his house? Force himself on me? Lock me up? What kind of fucked-up planet forces abducted women to marry strange alien men?”

Yelling at Zikas didn’t have the effect Jade was hoping for. He smiled at her. “Please sit down,” he said, gesturing to her chair. “Please let me try to explain.”

What is it about nice old men that makes them so hard to be angry at? Jade thought as she tried to decide whether to stand her ground or sit and listen. Finally, she sat down, concluding that stalling was better than facing whatever came next.

“Your planet is a Class 4 planet. That means that they don’t know about life on other planets and their technology isn’t advanced enough to venture outside of their own galaxy yet,” Zikas explained calmly. “It’s against the law for any Class 1, 2, or 3 planet citizens, or their inhabitants, to contact or otherwise interfere with these planets.”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed bu—”

Zikas held up his hand for silence. Jade sat back in her chair, folding her arms across her chest in silent protest. “There are always those who want to break laws. So, of course, we occasionally find ourselves in situations like this. A long time ago, The Galaxy Supervision Federation and The Intergalactic Alliance signed a treaty, The Planetary Sanctuary Treaty, that outlines what we’re required to do in these instances. Whichever species rescues or otherwise encounters a being from a Class 4 planet is responsible for the welfare of that being for a period of one year. We’re also required to report the species that exposed themselves to the planet in question, which we’ll do as soon as we figure out who took you.”

“The last time I checked, welfare does not include forced marriage,” Jade said pointedly.

“Ah, yes, well that is a law only on Clecania.” Zikas sighed. “As you may have noticed, the Clecanian males on this planet outnumber the females 20 to 1.”

“You don’t say,” Jade commented, feigning disinterest.

“It wasn’t always that way. There used to be an equal number of males and females. I believe the acts of courting and marriage were very similar to Earth—if what I read was accurate, that is.”

Annoyed at her own curiosity, Jade asked, “What happened? Why did it change?”

“About three hundred years ago, there was a plague. We don’t know how it started. Some think enemy species contaminated the water somehow, but we haven’t found any evidence of that. Some blame their gods.” Zikas shrugged. “They think we’re being punished for irreparably damaging our original home planet, also called Clecania. Either way, the plague ended up killing about twenty percent of our men and seventy percent of the Clecanian females. Young and old alike.”

Jade leaned forward and put her hand over her mouth. It’s a wonder this planet is functioning at all. If seventy percent of Earth women were wiped out, I can’t even imagine what would happen. Wars, slavery, rape. We’d destroy ourselves in a matter of decades. She looked up at Zikas, nodding for him to continue.

“After some time had passed and they were certain the plague was gone, people started to try and lead normal lives again. They all knew that having more children, especially girls, was a priority, so they did what they could to ensure our species had a future.” Zikas’ eyes grew sad as he continued, “Mating was decreasing as well as conceptions.”

“Mating? People weren’t having sex anymore?”

Zikas stared at her quizzically. “No, mating. Two beings who are drawn to one another and stay together forever. Do humans not have mates?”

“Sure, I guess. We just call it getting married.”

“Marriage and matehood are two different things here. Marriage is common, matehood is not. It cannot be chosen. It’s a blessing.” A dreamy smile appeared on his face. “When a Clecanian meets a potential mate, someone who could possibly turn out to be their true mate, they feel it. They’ll change, and their body will awaken in a way it doesn’t for others.”

His eyes traveled to the floor, the dreamy expression disappearing. “There hasn’t been a record of a mating in one hundred fifty years.”

Jade frowned. His tone was so wistful. She felt that although Zikas was a psychopath who was trying to pimp her out to some alien, he was also a romantic and was describing something he would always wish for and never have. “How would you know that you had a mate and weren’t just really attracted to someone?”

He looked up at her. “When a Clecanian recognizes their true mate, mate markings will appear on their bodies, and both the individuals will become stronger and faster in order to better protect each other and their offspring.”

What he was telling her sounded more like a fairy tale. …and then the prince broke her curse with true love’s kiss. It would be unsurprising to see tiny whistling birds perch on his shoulder.

Jade did not for one minute believe in soulmates, and the fact that the Clecanians had “stopped” finding their soulmates just proved to her this was some old wives’ tale that was passed down to make their current circumstances seem more bearable.

Zikas cleared his throat hastily. He must have noticed that Jade remained unmoved by his words. “Anyway…it’s always been much easier for a mated couple to conceive than an unmated one. Even so, the rate of success for an unmated couple to conceive has dropped so dramatically that we’ve had to adapt.”

“Why can mated couples conceive more easily? You haven’t been able to use artificial insemination or grow babies in test tubes?” Jade asked, thinking through other ways of having a baby.

“No one knows for sure how or why mating works, just that it does. While some races on our planet believe mated couples are spiritually bound, the more scientifically minded of us continued to study mated pairs in order to find some tangible reason. Now that mates have become so rare, it’s hard for our research to continue. As for artificial insemination, we’ve tried, but natural conception continues to yield the most successful births. Artificial insemination can be used if the couple cannot conceive on their own, but unfortunately it’s rare for couples who cannot conceive to stay together for very long.”

Jade scoffed. “That’s ridiculous! What if two women or two men want to be together? You’re telling me they’d leave their partners and sleep with someone of the opposite sex just to become pregnant?”

Zikas looked at her sadly. “At one point that wasn’t the case, but you have to understand that in a way, we’ve devolved. The threat of extinction has caused our priorities to change. Females, males, and those who identify as neither are free to be with whomever they want, but most of our citizens understand that continuing our species is our top priority. I know of many Clecanian females who choose to be in marriages in order to procreate but return home to their female partners after their marriage is complete.”

Jade stood and started to pace. She was beginning to feel a tug of compassion. Housing, safety, and food in return for a wife. Forced prostitution! That was what he was offering. She needed to remember that and not be suckered in by the sweet old man trying to pull on her heart strings.

“Infertility isn’t our biggest problem, though.”

“How can that not be the biggest problem?” Jade said with thinned lips.

“When females do become pregnant and give birth, eighty of the children born are males,” Zikas said with a look of desperation. “Finding another species that’s compatible with us would be an invaluable discovery. One we’ve been searching for, for hundreds of years. One that might save our people from extinction.” With that, he gazed earnestly into Jade’s eyes.

Jade’s eyes widened as she realized what this guy ultimately wanted from her. “Oh, no! I see what you’re getting at, and I’m truly sorry for you and your people but I’m not going to have alien babies! If the sci-fi movies taught me anything, it’s not to get pregnant with an alien. It claws its way out—”


“—and then it looks like a cockroach or an octopus beetle—”


“—and if you’re lucky, it’ll leave you alone and not eat you after it’s born! But most of—”


“What?” Rage boiled in her gut. So much had happened to her in the last week. In all her life, she’d never felt the pull to have a child. They seemed fine but not something that interested her very much. Now on this alien planet, she was being asked—no, not asked—told. She was being told to pick a guy to marry and then have his alien baby.

“I don’t understand what you’re talking about. Please let me finish. No one will force you to have a child.”

Narrowing her eyes at Zikas, she gestured impatiently for him to explain.

“You have to understand, females are the most precious thing on this planet. Females are treasured, worshipped even. They can create life! More than once!” Zikas added, looking exasperated, “On Earth, marriage means you stay with that person forever, correct?”

“It’s supposed to,” Jade said. “Doesn’t mean anybody follows through with that though.”

“Well, here, a marriage only has to last three months. Matehood is forever, but marriage is more of a…” Zikas scanned the ceiling, trying to find the right words, “a trial.”

“What?” Confusion now warred with her anger. Jade glared at him suspiciously. “How long in Earth days is three months?” For all Jade knew, three months could really be thirty years on this planet.

Zikas tapped his ear. “The translator uses the amount of time I intended to mean and translates it based on information from your planet. The amount of time you need to be married for is equivalent to three months in Earth time.”

“Why three months?” Jade asked placing her hands on her hips.

“Clecanian females decided that three months would be a long enough amount of time to assess whether the male they’ve chosen is worthy of raising a child.” Zikas stepped closer. “I’m not trying to deceive you, Jade. You have to understand, females on this planet can do whatever they want. Choose to marry whomever they want. They also choose whether they want to have sex with their husband during their marriage or not. When a female chooses a male to marry, she’s gifting that male an opportunity, not a right. He’ll do whatever he can to make his wife happy. It’s a Clecanian husband’s job to satisfy his wife in every way. If he does this, then she may choose to have sex with him. If she wants more time with the male, she can choose to extend her marriage or she can go live somewhere else. Often, females choose to live in The Pearl Temple with other unwed females.”

Jade stared open-mouthed at Zikas.

Zikas continued, “If a male ever did anything to hurt a female in any way, the female has the right to mete out his punishment.”


“And the reason we have a law that requires Class 4 planet females to marry,” Zikas quickly added, “is because we want all females who may have been brought here under very unpleasant circumstances to understand our customs and give them a chance. We want to show them, and you, how treasured you’d be here. The creators of that law believed, as I do, that if you experience how good life can be on Clecania, that you, and females like you, will decide not to leave after a year.”

Zikas moved to stand across from Jade as she considered everything he’d told her. Finally, she looked at him and asked, “So I pick any of those guys to marry.”

“As long as someone else hasn’t picked them first. In which case, the male will choose who his bride will be,” Zikas answered happily, sensing Jade was softening to the idea.

“Uh-huh. And whoever I do marry,” she said, raising her eyebrows, “is not allowed to rape me, beat me, lock me up, etcetera?”

“Any of those behaviors will most likely result in the male’s death,” Zikas said, almost bouncing in his chair with joy.

“And he’ll do anything I want? Happily? And get nothing in return?”

“Well, you’d live in his house in return,” Zikas said, confusion etched across his face. “In a separate bedroom, of course!” he quickly added.

“I don’t even have to sleep in the same bed as him?”

“That’s your choice, but it would be highly irregular for a husband and wife to sleep in the same room,” he said, shaking his head absently.

“Huh.” Jade faltered at that. This was such a huge departure from what she was used to. She could pick any of the hunks she’d just seen, have them lavish her with adoration for a few months, get her own clean room and bed to sleep in and then just walk away? “How do the men feel about doing all of this stuff?” Jade asked, knowing that if the roles were reversed, she’d be rebelling.

Zikas furrowed his brows at her question. “What do you mean?”

“I can’t imagine most men want to dote on some needy woman endlessly. Isn’t it a bit cruel to use them like that?”

Zikas still looked confused but smiled absently. “If a male is unable to be sexually interested in females, then he’s exempt from marriage unless he’d like to try and have a child. I can’t think of any other circumstances in which a male wouldn’t be happy about being chosen for a marriage.”

No matter how many times she went through it in her head, she couldn’t find any downsides. The men would happily take care of her, according to Zikas. She didn’t even have to have sex with them. She grinned inwardly. But I could. Only two weeks ago, had Jade gotten her birth control shot. That meant she had three months of protection.

Having a few fun months of sex with a gorgeous guy and then leaving? This could end up being a hell of a vacation. Just one possible catch. “Zikas, what happens in three months if I don’t want to be married anymore? Do I have to get married again to someone else because I’m human?” She studied his face, searching for any signs of deception.

“No. You can either live in The Pearl Temple with other single females and do what you please, or you can get married again. We only require that you meet with someone weekly so you can learn more about the workings of our world.”

“The Queen told me I could live somewhere else on the planet. Is that right?” Jade didn’t like the idea of bunking with a bunch of alien women for months at a time.

“You could, but I’d advise against it until you become more familiar with our people and our planet.”

She’d see about that. “And then in one year I can leave Clecania?”

Zikas looked disappointed as he said, “Yes, but as I said before, you cannot go back to Earth. Any space craft landing there or even being near there would be a breach of The Planetary Sanctuary Treaty I told you about.”

“Of course. I meant just leaving this planet.” So I can find some unscrupulous group to take me back, anyway. Jade’s mind rebelled against the idea that she’d never be going back to Earth. She would find a way. If there was a way to be taken from Earth, then it would be possible to return there.

Zikas nodded solemnly and inclined his head toward her.

She knew he was waiting for her decision. Would she be stubborn and be dragged every step of the way? Or was she about to make his life easier and do what he asked?

Jade reminded herself that if she didn’t choose a man, Zikas would pick for her.

An image of that tattooed warrior flashed in her mind. It wasn’t likely that Zikas would choose him for her. He probably would assume she’d be as scared of him as the other women were. If she wanted to go home with Mr. Sex-on-a-Stick, she’d have to pick him herself. “Okay, I’m in then.”

Zikas exhaled a breath of relief. He glanced behind him to Nedas, who was still glowering at her from near the exit. “If I can trust you not to run away again, I’ll send your guard away.”

Jade nodded quickly, relieved she’d no longer have to be watched by an angry linebacker.

“Wonderful! We’d better hurry,” Zikas exclaimed as he sped away, motioning for Jade to follow.

When they reached the door, he said something quietly to Nedas. The sour guard glared at her for a moment before nodding stiffly and stalking away.

Turning to Jade, he continued to speak quickly. “What happens now is you’ll pick three to five males you liked. I’ll give you their file, and that’ll tell you everything you need to know about their abilities.”

Zikas ushered Jade out of The Viewing room they’d been in and down a much more lavishly decorated hall she hadn’t noticed before.

Well, I had been a little angry, I guess, she thought as she now admired her surroundings. Deep magenta walls complemented the dark wood floors. Along the wall, golden lamps in the shape of large flying creatures were illuminated.

Something Zikas had said earlier finally registered. “Abilities? Am I marrying one of the X-Men?”

Zikas wasn’t paying her much attention when he answered, “Yes. What? No. I don’t know what that is. I can explain everything to you while you get ready.” The fact that Jade had finally relented and agreed to willingly go through with this marriage seemed to overjoy him.

“I can’t wait to see who you’ve chosen.” Zikas suddenly stopped to look at her. “I’d be more than happy to make some suggestions or give you a little background about the males. I’ve known most of them since they were children.”

“Uh. Okay, thanks. I’ll probably take you up on that.”

Zikas continued walking quickly down the hallway until he reached a tall, arched wooden door. He faced Jade and with a grin, he said, “Ready?”


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