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NEW WORLD part 2
____Ji woke up some time later on her pallet in her wing of her family’s mansion. She was so happy Colby was back from Hannibal city. She knew it was selfish and if the Council had wanted him for some reason he would have to stay but she couldn’t stand the thought of Colby being Joined with some arranged girl.
B28 saw that she had woken and went about preparing Ji’s things for the day. Ji was very fond of B28 even though she was a robot, another sign of her stature.
“B28, do you believe there is love anymore?” Ji asked the robot as she stood up and went to the wallscreen. Checking the news feeds she saw pollution levels were high
(she cursed the old world angrily) and that it would rain. Leader Boron was traveling near her providence today but the article didn’t give any details.
“Your parents love you,” B28 replied in a high voice that had a subtle hint of metal in it. “Joinings are based upon love.”
“Yes,” Ji said distantly, tying her sari-dress tightly and slipping on thick rainshoes. “But not all Joinings are based on love. I’d bet Sara doesn’t love her Gore.”
B28 didn’t reply but merely walked to the door and held it open for Ji. Breakfast would be in 10 minutes and it took 5 to walk all the way to the main part of the house.
Ji knew she was something very rare in New World. She was a third child. Normally a Joined couple would have one elder boy and one younger girl. Only if you were asked by the Council you could have a third, and then the Council would tell you if it was to be a boy or girl. Most times it was a girl who would be sent off to the Council to be Joined to a man who ordered a girl of high pedigree. Ji was one such child but the council had never told her family the reason why she was born.
Now she got nervous at breakfast every day because she was almost 17, the age girls started to be Joined. Men were Joined at 18, although they were still boyish at this age. She knew her parents would talk about her being Joined to the man of their choice soon. It would be someone advantageous if she wasn’t to be send to the Council in Hannibal city.
She dreaded it, because all she wanted was to be Joined to Colby. But she wasn’t born to one of those kinder families that would allow for choosing so she would be forced into her Joining.
The dining hall was made entirely of Chromatic materials. Large and bright, the room was one of her favorites.
Her parents sat at one end, her brother Hayjay and his wife Kimen at the other with their young son. Ji looked over to Hayjay for support but he and his family were just leaving.
She would have no help if today was the day.
“Ji,” her mother began brightly. “Good morning. Did you have a good sleep?”
Ji nodded and sat across from them gloomily.
“Your birthday is in a month,” her father said slowly. “I suppose you know what that means?”
Ji tried to look excited as she said, “My Joining.”
“Precisely!” Her father and mother beamed.
“We have been thinking…” Her mother said, trailing off and throwing her arms up. “Maybe we could contact Jem and her boy. Or there’s a man called Sony, from the estate up the road.”
“Um,” Ji struggled to find the right words to say what she needed to. “Actually, I have someone in mind already.”
“Oh?” He father leaned forward.
“Um, his name is Colby. He’s 18, and really nice.” Ji cringed inwardly. This was not going well.
“How many mili-bits does he have?” He mother asked sharply.
“Is that really important?” Ji said.
“Yes!” He father bangs his fist on the table. “We have to go with the crowd, Ji. How many mili-bits have he?”
“800,” Ji said quietly, looking down at her hands.
Her parents don’t speak for a long moment. Then her father exploded. “You have been consorting with a boy of only 800 mili-bits?”
Ji tried to reply but just then the door pinged. Someone was there and demanded to be brought in.
Ji was stunned as she stared across the table, looking at Leader Boron. He was sitting, her parents hovering anxiously behind him.
“Ji,” he began in a gravelly voice. “I trust you are well?”
She just nodded. He reaches across the table and strokes the side of her face gently. She can’t make sense of what he just did.
“I know you will be 17 in a month,” he continues. “Do you have a man already lined up to be Joined with?”
She looked over his shoulder at her mother who tells her silently not to mention Colby, so she said slowly, “N-no.”
“No.” Leader Boron’s voice is thoughtful.
He stood up and asked Ji’s father, “Mr. Marken, do you know the purpose of your daughter’s birth?”
“No Leader,” Ji’s father said. “I was hoping you could tell us.”
“Well,” Leader Boron said, pacing slowly in circles. “I want to be Joined to Ji. I want her to be my wife.”
Ji’s stomach went crashing to the floor and she felt her body slip away. Ji’s mother and father are stunned but pleased by the look of their self-satisfied faces.
“I want a young girl of high pedigree to mother the next Leader,” Leader Boron continued. I want Ji.”
“Well, um, that’s very good,” Ji’s father said, clearly struggling to grasp the situation.
“NO!” Ji shouted suddenly. She doesn’t want to give the rest of her life to this older man, even if he is the Leader.
The room falls silent. “But Ji,” Leader Boron said silkily. “You must go along with the crowd, that’s what the New World is built upon.”
“No,” she said, backing away slowly. “I don’t want to.”
Then she turned around and began to run, crying, to her room. After throwing some things into a small bag she ran through the rain to Colby’s house.
Leader Boron doesn’t try to follow her. He just works out the details with her parents. Besides, he loves challenges, and this one is very good. He will chase her across the four countries if needed.
______ “He wants to Join you to him?” Colby said incredulously for the 5th time. He was pacing around and around the main part of his mother’s house while Ji and Daly, his mother, looked on.
“Yes,” Ji said miserably. Her eyes were a pinkish red and she sniffled once or twice.
Colby sat down on a chair and buried his face in his hands.
“Well, you do know what you have to do, right?” Daly’s voice was determined though sad.
“What?” Ji sighed.
“You need to flee. Tonight, because he probably knows where you are. Colby will keep you safe.”
Colby looked up and said tiredly, “I will probably be sold to the Graveturners if we don’t leave. I just wonder how much he knows.”
Chills went up Ji’s spine at the mention of the bloodthirsty Graveturners, possibly the way the Council dealt with prisoners. You were sold to them for millions of mili-bits and were part of the games that left you dead when they had their fun. Then you were “turned” over and over until only your bones remained, which were in turn sold. It was disturbing, but there was no proof that the Council ever knew what happens for that would be going against the law and the motto. For all Ji knew Leader Boron thought he was sending them to a death row camp.
Ji stood up and took Colby’s hand. “I’m not going to let you die.”
He smiled just a bit then went into his room to pack.
Ji was left with Daly who took her in and gave her a hug. Ji leaned against her. Ji knew she was being very, very bad and that she would have no mili-bits left. She had once admired Leader Boron but now she was frightened of the horrible man. He was merely like so many other itchy-finger men whom Colby had had to protect her from since she had been 14 and they had started sneaking out together. Colby had been the first to understand Ji and nurture the doubt of having the Council control every aspect of her life.
Colby came back with a set face. He had shaved and changed his clothes and was carrying a wickedly sharp pair of scissors. Ji wondered what the blood was from. Then Ji noticed the slow trickle of bright red blood that came down from his ear.
“What the…?” Ji said wonderingly.
Colby grimaced at said, “I’m sorry, Ji, I have to cut out your locator.”
Ji backed away against the wall and shook her head.
“Come on, Ji, it’ll only hurt a bit.”
She sighed. Ji did not want to cut out her locator but it would be necessary if she was to get away with Colby. It was so important that she keep away from Leader Boron and Colby away from the Graveturners.
So she let him pierce the top of her ear and pull out the wire and capsule. The warm blood made her dizzy as he stepped over and over on the device.
“He knows where you are now and I’m surprised he hasn’t come storming in here to arrest me and take you to Hannibal city,” Colby remarked.
Ji put her hands over her ears and remembered she was bleeding. Taking her hands off she asked, “Daly? Do you have a cloth or something I could wipe my ear with?”
“Sure?” Daly replied and handed her a quick absorb towel.
Later Ji dreaded the time ahead as she ate the diet that was specially designed for her. (Another gift of the Council) Daly always kept it in the house for her because she often snuck out of her house and ate dinner with Colby, generally staying the night also.
She was frightened. There was no denying it, she thought as she went into the night with Colby. I don’t know what to think anymore, because the world is suddenly so wrong.