NOTE: David, Rachel, Sylvia and Mister Bozo have already appeared at the airport in "Of Plates and Heads", Chapter One. It is useful, but not necessary, to have read that first. You can find it here.
Mister Bozo Chapter One – Moving Up
"Whichever one of you is the concubine will have to strip. We only transport naked concubines," the Marine said as the three of them, two clothed and one naked, approached the transporter pad.
Aghast, Rachel froze. She stared at David in a panic, "You said I didn't have to..."
"I'm sorry, Rache," he told his sister. "I don't think we have a choice here."
The Marine confirmed with a slow shake of her head. "Captain's orders. Concubines travel naked. There's a corner over there where she can strip without blocking the transporter."
David took the hint. "Let's all get out of the way first," and he moved towards the messy heap of discarded clothes where the Marine had pointed. Sylvia, already naked, put her arm round Rachel, her blonde hair contrasting with Rachel's brown, "Come on dearie, we have to move," gently urging her to follow David.
David didn't want to embarrass his sister, but there was obviously no alternative for them here. He turned to his second concubine, "Can you help her, Sylvia. I'll turn my back."
"Yes, David." Sylvia, who still had her arm round Rachel, talked quietly to the fourteen year old girl, "David isn't looking, and the Marine is a woman. Do you think you can get undressed now?"
Rachel was still in shock, unable to move, so Sylvia had to start unbuttoning her blouse for her. Once Sylvia had started, Rachel came out of her bewilderment and was able to continue unaided. It was as if she was separate from herself. One of her was taking off her clothes, while the other was looking on, wondering why she was doing it and not panicking, running away as fast as she could. In a daze she finished undressing, leaving her clothes on the floor.
Once Rachel had finished undressing, Sylvia spoke, "David, we're ready. If Rachel walks close behind you, with me close behind her, then nobody will see much."
"That sounds good," David replied without turning his head. "Don't forget to bring our cabin baggage. Rachel wouldn't want to leave Mister Bozo behind."
That horrible thought did get Rachel to react, "Oh no, I couldn't leave him behind." Momentarily forgetting her nakedness, she retrieved her case and held onto it tightly while Sylvia took David's luggage.
David led the trio back to the transporter, where the Marine smiled sympathetically at Rachel. "You can get something for her to wear once you're up there," she told David. Neither David nor Rachel noticed, but Sylvia picked up on the fact that it was up to David whether his sister, or she herself, got any clothes.
After getting the trio's spoken consents to their new status as sponsor and concubines, the Private turned to David and instructed, "Walk onto the transporter and keep moving forward for a few steps. You need to make room for your two concubines coming through behind you. When you're all through, find a place to sit together and follow orders from anyone in a uniform." David nodded his understanding and led the way onto the transporter pad.
Up in orbit, the ship was an organized chaos. David saw they were in a large room with groups of mostly naked people sitting on the floor, or was it the deck? There were Confederacy Marines standing around watching over things, together with some others, closer to normal size and in dark uniforms, whom he took to be Confederacy Navy -- presumably the ship's crew. Looking around, there appeared to be a bit more vacant floor space off to his left, so when he heard Sylvia confirm that she and Rachel were behind him he headed that way. He was glad that Sylvia had realized that he didn't want to look behind him, in order not to embarrass Rachel too much. He had hoped to spare his sister the nudity, but that had not been possible. At least he had reduced her shame to a minimum, and the Marine had assured him that he would be able to get clothes for her soon. As he led the way across the room, it was obvious that many of the naked concubines sitting on the deck were just as unhappy as Rachel about their situation; they were keeping their heads down and covering as much of themselves as possible.
As he passed near one of the ship's crew David confirmed that they were to sit and wait. "Once we have this batch on board, we can start processing you all and get everyone settled. For the moment you just have to wait quietly." After thanking the crewman, David found some space and they all sat down.
Rachel silently scrunched herself up as small as possible, staring down at the deck and trying to be inconspicuous. Her father had not told her anything about what would happen at a Confederacy pickup, so she had come into this not knowing what to expect. It was difficult for her to hold things together; too much was happening at once, and being naked in public was almost the last straw. She had not dared look up as they were crossing the room, but she had seen enough to know that she was far from the only naked woman. Many of them seemed just as unhappy about it as she was.
Sylvia arranged their luggage behind Rachel to try to give her a little more protection from strange eyes, and sat down next to her. Worried, she asked the young teenager, "Are you going to be all right, dearie?" Rachel nodded, but her response was automatic. Both Sylvia and David could see that she was barely coping with the situation.
David decided that Rachel needed some distraction, so he started talking, "While we're waiting for things to get started, we might as well introduce ourselves. I'm David Harlow, seventeen years old with a 6.6 CAP. This morning I was a student. Now I'm a volunteer for the Confederacy Marines." Indicating Rachel, he continued, "This is my sister Rachel. She's fourteen, with a CAP of six dead, wasn't it Rache?" She nodded to confirm. "She used to be in school, but our father pulled her out just before she turned thirteen and has home-schooled her since. I suspect he kept you pretty sheltered, Sis?" Again Rachel nodded. "We were at the airport with Mum and Dad. He was the bloke who got up and began shouting when the extraction started, the one the Marines zapped."
"I heard the shouting," Sylvia replied, "but I was in the Coffee Bar so I couldn't see anything. He sounded like a bit of a religious nut..." Sylvia stopped talking, suddenly realizing that she might have thoughtlessly offended her new owner. "Sorry, David, I didn't mean anything by that."
David quickly put her mind at rest, "You're right, Sylvia. He is a religious nut. He follows the 'Your neighbor is going to hell' kind of Christianity, rather than the 'Love your neighbor' kind. He was bad enough before, but after the announcement of the Sa'arm coming to Earth he got even worse, and went all apocalyptic. 'The end of the world is coming', and all that stuff. That was when he pulled Rachel out of school. I think the only subjects she learned after that were English, Math and the Bible." His sister nodded in confirmation. "Like I said, she's been pretty sheltered, so all this must be a big shock."
He turned to Rachel and smiled encouragingly. He didn't want to upset her, so he was careful to keep his eyes on her face and not to look at her body, "You're doing fine, Sis." He could see that she wasn't, but he felt that she needed a bit of encouragement. It was obvious that their father hadn't let her know anything at all about what to expect at a pickup, or afterwards, so she was going to have a whole lot of new things to deal with in a very short time. She would need all the help she could get.
Rachel had calmed down a little. She felt less vulnerable sitting down and, being somewhat hidden behind their luggage, she had some protection from prying eyes. She had wanted to get away from her father, but this was not how she had imagined it. He had certainly not helped by forbidding her access to information about how the Confederacy handled extractions. Having actually been in one she now knew why. Sex was definitely not included in her home-schooling curriculum. She managed a quiet, "Thanks, David," in response to her brother.
"So, what about yourself, Sylvia?" David asked.
"I'm Sylvia O'Byrne, twenty five years old with two kids, Patrick is four and Mary just turned three. You will be taking both of them, won't you, David?"
"Of course I will," David reassured her. "If what I hear is correct, they should be here by this evening."
"Thank you. Where was I... Yes, two kids and a husband. Well, a former husband I suppose. Coming with you is an instant divorce isn't it?" David confirmed with a nod. "I was working in the Coffee Bar at the airport when the extraction happened. I had agreed with Des, my husband -- my ex-husband now -- that if either of us got the chance to be extracted, then we should go as long as the sponsor would take the children. We both had jobs and we couldn't afford to give one up to let us stay together all the time. Des didn't have a good enough CAP score either, so even if we were together the chances of us both being picked by the same sponsor were pretty small. The important thing was getting Pat and Mary off Earth.
"What else about me? I'm Irish, as you can probably tell from my accent. I grew up in Ireland and we moved to England about ten years ago. I married Des five years ago."
As Sylvia wound down, David asked her about how her children would cope with moving to their new home. He wanted to keep Rachel distracted, so she wouldn't dwell on her situation too much.
"Pat will probably love it," Sylvia replied, "he's into rockets and spaceships, so it will all be a big new adventure for him. By the time the excitement has worn off he will probably have settled here. Mary will likely find it more difficult. She's nervous away from home and too many strangers can frighten her. She'll be..."
"Can you all be quiet please!" a loud amplified voice interrupted Sylvia. All three of them looked up to see a Marine officer standing and waiting for the buzz of many conversations to die down. When the background noise had reduced enough he continued, at a slightly lower volume, "Welcome aboard the Confederacy Colony Ship Sadi Carnot. I am Lieutenant Charles Legere of the Confederacy Marines. Those of you who have volunteered have just learned your first lesson in military life. There is a great deal of just waiting around for something to happen." That got him a smattering of laughter. "We have a lot of people here after the big extraction at the airport, and plenty of things to do. It will help us to get you all settled into your new homes more quickly, if you keep quiet and listen while I am talking. Please don't start doing anything until I actually tell you to begin." He paused to let his words sink in. "Firstly we need to register all of you. Each sponsor will need to collect details for themselves and all their concubines: CAP cards, serious diseases, details of dependent children..."
At the mention of CAP cards, Rachel's eyes went wide and she gasped. She had messed up badly, her CAP card was back at the airport with her clothes. She lost what little composure she had managed to retain and began to cry quietly. David and Sylvia noticed immediately. Sylvia turned to help her, while David kept listening, with half an eye on his two concubines.
The lieutenant was still speaking, "... have all the details sponsors should bring them up to me, or one of the Marines or Navy crewmen you can see around the room. Please, please remember where your group is sitting, because you're going to have to make your way back to them, and this is a big compartment. Believe you me, I am speaking from experience on this. If you can do all that now, then we can get on to the next stage." The lieutenant turned away and began speaking quietly to one of the ship's crew, his voice no longer amplified.
David turned to Sylvia, "What's the problem?"
"She left her CAP card at the airport with her clothes, and she's worried," Sylvia told him. Rachel was still crying, and had retreated even further into her shell. David decided to leave her alone for the moment, it seemed better to have Sylvia deal with things. He had picked Sylvia for her good motherhood scores, and her mothering instinct seemed to be kicking in with Rachel.
"I'm sure she's not the only one," replied David, "this sort of thing must have happened before. Do you have yours?" Sylvia produced her CAP card from her handbag, which she had kept with her throughout. "I know there are your two children to pick up. Any diseases?"
"Nothing serious enough to interest them. I'm not on anything except the Pill, and I don't think I'll be needing that any more," she said with a smile.
David got up and made his way through the seated groups of naked concubines to the nearest Marine. After telling him about Sylvia's two children, David explained the problem with Rachel's CAP card.
"She isn't the first to have done that," the Marine confirmed, he had 'Shukhov' over his breast pocket. "We'll check her identity in Medical. There will be a record of her DNA from her CAP test. Once the high-priority people have gone through Medical, she'll be scheduled early in the low-priority group. I have to warn you that if she's not who you say she is, then the consequences for both of you could be very serious."
"She's my sister, I've known her all her life," David told him.
"I'm sure you have, but there are some people who try to sneak in ringers claiming a lost CAP card. We have to check, and we have to take action when someone tries it."
"Yes, I can understand that, but you won't have any problem with my sister."
David thanked PFC Shukhov for his explanation, and turned back towards the centre of the room. He could appreciate the lieutenant's warning about remembering where the others were sitting. It was like finding your place on a crowded beach after coming out of the water. He managed to get back to the right general area, and then saw Sylvia waving to him. Sitting down, he spoke softly to Rachel, "The Marine says it's fine, Sis. They just check your DNA in Medical, so they can tell that you're you. He said that this sort of thing happens all the time, so they're used to it."
Rachel was still distraught. All of this was just too much for her, and losing her CAP card had been the icing on the cake. She felt stupid and embarrassed about it. How could she have been such an idiot? Sylvia was helping a lot and David had been reassuring about the lost card, but she was still feeling miserable. She just clung to Sylvia and tried not to think too much about things.
Soon the lieutenant was back on the PA. "OK, all of you. Now what happens next? To start with, I'll give you a short briefing, and then get the high priority people off to Medical while the rest of you get settled into your pods. You all have an Artificial Intelligence, an AI, in your pod, so anything I don't cover now you can ask the pod AI. It has a voice interface, so you can talk to it. Later on today and tomorrow we will call the rest of you for your initial Medical -- your pod AI will let you know your time slot. We will also be collecting dependent children and the AI will let you know when that is happening. By now you should have got the idea that the pod AI can tell you a great deal about most things. If you need to know something, then ask the AI; it's there to help.
"Tomorrow there will be longer briefings for sponsors and concubines, but for the moment you just have to remember two things. First, that your sponsor is absolutely in charge. Whatever he or she tells you to do, you do. No arguing, no talking back. You just do it. And second, that all you concubines are basically sex slaves..."
Rachel heard the words 'sex slaves' and stopped listening. Her father had kept her isolated from the news, but she had managed to get a little information from her mother, from David and from looking at headlines. Her father had censored everything else, or just forbidden her to look at it. She knew that leaving with David involved sex -- having babies made that obvious -- but 'sex slave'. Too much was coming at her too quickly, so she just shut it out. Sex slave. She noticed David nodding, as if he already knew much of what the lieutenant was saying. He could explain it all to her later, when she was ready for it. Sex slave. She'd had some sex-ed back when she was in school, but she was younger then, so it was very short on the details. She'd got absolutely nothing on the subject from her father of course. A few quiet discussions with Mum had helped a little, but she knew just enough to know that there were big gaps in her knowledge. A sex slave. Perhaps she could talk to Sylvia about things? Had she made the most horrible mistake coming with David? A sex slave. It was too late now to turn back, so she just sat there paralyzed, sniffling and clinging to Sylvia. She was a sex slave.
The lieutenant finished by reading out a list of the people due in Medical immediately. David listened carefully, but Rachel wasn't called. Marines and ship's crew moved through the crowd, giving out PDAs to sponsors to guide them to their assigned pods. Between the two of them he and Sylvia managed to get Rachel up and moving. David followed the directions displayed on his PDA and led them off to their pod.
Once inside his first thoughts were for Rachel. Remembering that the lieutenant had told them to ask the AI he said, "AI, where are the clothes for my concubines?"
A voice answered, "Recruit Harlow, there are standard issue shifts for concubines in the cupboards in the small bedrooms on this level. It is recommended that all concubines be naked, or in standard issue shifts, while on board ship."
"Sylvia, go and have a look for shifts for yourself and Rachel," he told his older concubine. While she was off searching he dug into Rachel's luggage for her teddy bear. Mister Bozo was a Christmas present back when she was eight years old, and she'd rarely been separated from him since. Naturally, she had packed him for their planned holiday, so he was in her luggage when the extraction happened at the airport. David passed Mister B. to Rachel, and she grabbed her soft toy and clung to it.
"Thanks, David," she whispered, clutching her teddy bear as a young child would a comfort blanket. In effect that's what he was.
Sylvia reappeared, wearing a very short plain grey shift which barely covered her pussy. She handed a second one to Rachel, "Here you are, dearie. You can put this on now."
As Rachel got dressed, David asked Sylvia, "Do you think we should let Rachel lie down for a bit? She doesn't seem to be taking much in at the moment."
"I suppose so. All this seems to have hit her very badly. There are some small bedrooms where I got the shifts. She can have a nap in one of those."
"Better do that then," David told her. As Sylvia coaxed Rachel, still hugging Mister Bozo, off to one of the bedrooms, he watched the two of them go. Rachel was taller and much thinner. She had just finished a growth spurt, so she was still gangly, not yet having had enough time to add the weight to suit her increased height. Sylvia was slightly shorter, with a more rounded shape; almost, but not quite, 'childbearing hips'. She had borne two children and inevitably it showed in her figure. Still, David knew he could change all that if he wanted to. Next he attended to the other main priority, "AI, when will Sylvia's children be picked up?"
"Recruit Harlow, a supplementary pickup for her two children is planned for 15:30 today."
"What about our Medicals?"
"Concubine Rachel Harlow has a slot at 14:45 today, you and concubine Sylvia Harlow both have slots at 17:00 today," the AI responded.
David thought of a problem. "By 17:00 Sylvia's children will be here. I don't think that Rachel will be able to look after them properly in her current state. Can you move either Sylvia or me to a different, non-overlapping, slot. That way one or other of us will always be available to look after them."
"A good observation, Recruit Harlow. Your slot has been moved to 15:30, concubine Sylvia's slot remains at 17:00."
David was surprised at the speed with which the appointments had been reorganized. The AI explained that the Medical slots were not confirmed until the sponsor had agreed them, so his slot had just been swapped with someone who had not yet confirmed. Simple when you thought about it.
As Sylvia returned David asked her how Rachel was doing.
"She's lying down and hugging her teddy. She's a bit too anxious about things to sleep, but the quiet and the rest may help. The lie-down should help relax her a bit. Can we get her anything to help her sleep?"
"Good idea, Sylvia. AI, what can we get?"
The AI responded to David, "Recruit Harlow, sleep medication for short term problems can be provided if required, but it is currently contraindicated as concubine Rachel Harlow will need to go to Medical at 14:45. Once she has returned from Medical, some light medication can be provided if it is still required."
Turning to Sylvia David said, "That reminds me. Your kids are being picked up at three-thirty today, and you're due to be in Medical at five o'clock."
"Half three? That's late," Sylvia pointed out. "On today's shift I would normally have picked them up from my Mam's by three at the latest. Can I get a message to her to let her know I'll be late?"
The AI was reluctant to allow a direct phone call before the Marines arrived to collect the children. It didn't want her mother to realize that Sylvia had been extracted. Given that the TV news bulletins had already reported on the big extraction at the airport, it did agree to David's suggestion of allowing a short text message, citing the resultant confusion as an excuse for the delay.
"And now some food," David said. "Sylvia, can you go and rustle up something in the kitchen, and I'll carry on exploring the pod." He was looking at the master bedroom, obviously intended for the sponsor, with its very large bed and en-suite bathroom, when he heard Sylvia calling him.
"David! Nothing in the kitchen is working, and the AI isn't responding either."
It quickly became clear that the AI ignored Sylvia because David hadn't told it to accept any orders from her. He told the AI to follow basic orders from both Sylvia and Rachel and mentally kicked himself. The lieutenant had mentioned this in his quick briefing, but it had slipped his mind with his worries about his sister.
They decided to let Rachel rest, so it was just the two of them eating. As they ate, Sylvia could see the resemblance between David and his absent sister. Both were slim, though Rachel was more so. David's hair was a slightly darker shade of brown, and cut shorter. Despite the slight differences it was easy to tell that they were brother and sister.
Once they had cleared up after the meal, it was almost time for Rachel to go to Medical. Sylvia went to get her up, while David changed into his green Marine uniform. He thought that it would be better if he went with Rachel, just in case there were any further issues with her missing CAP card. He wanted to be there to resolve them on the spot. He didn't think that Rachel would be able to cope with any more problems in her current state.
As Rachel followed Sylvia back to the main room she was worried what David would do to her. She had messed up badly by losing her CAP card, and she knew that she hadn't coped well with being naked earlier. She was sure David would be angry with her. Their father would certainly have been very angry indeed.
David emerged from his bedroom into the lounge, where Rachel and Sylvia were waiting for him. "Are you going to punish me now?" Rachel asked him nervously.
David was shocked. "No, Rache, I'm not father. This is a new situation for us all, and we've both made mistakes. I wanted to get both of us away from Dad, so there's no point in me behaving like him now we're off Earth." He felt really angry with their father at that moment, had the man really so terrified Rachel that she expected punishment for the slightest mistake? "We're just going for your initial medical. I think that's where you get your basic set of nanites. No punishment at all."
Rachel felt relieved. Father had been very strict, but David obviously wanted to be different. She quietly followed David out of the pod. The rest in her room had helped her to calm down somewhat, though she was still nervous about the future. Sometime soon David was going to take her virginity.
In the medical bay David confirmed with the medic that Rachel's identity would be checked. Once she was in the med-tube and could no longer hear him, he asked the medic to program the nanites to weaken her hymen so her first sex with him would be neither too painful nor too bloody. She would have enough to deal with, having sex for the first time with her brother, without having that added on top.
The medic checked the tube readouts, "She seems pretty stressed at the moment; I'll take the edge off that. I'll set the nanites to take a couple of days to work on her hymen. If you could hold off the sex for that long, then that should help reduce her stress as well."
David nodded his agreement. He had been thinking along those lines himself.
The medic continued, "I'll also program them not to start tweaking her sex drive for two days."
"You can do that? Make her feel randy?" David asked. That thought gave him pause. He was going to be making love to his sister soon, sometime in the next few days. In theory he could get someone else to do it for him, but he didn't think Rachel would like that. He was the only man she knew on board, so it would have to be him. He wasn't quite sure how he would cope with actually having to do that with his own sister.
The medic answered his question, "Yeah. It's part of the standard package for concubines, to help them bond with their sponsor. You'll get a boost as well to help you keep up with her," he smiled. "I'll also reduce her gag reflex for you. Anything else, like bigger tits, will have to wait for later. Do you want her to get pregnant now or delay for a bit?"
"Probably best to wait for a few months," David replied. "She's got a lot to take in, and getting pregnant immediately might be too much for her. Can the block be reversed easily?"
"Sure," the medic replied, "takes just a couple of minutes. You can even do it in the sleep-trainer in your pod. Your AI can explain."
Meanwhile, back in their pod, Sylvia was getting annoyed with the AI. It told her that it could change the color of the walls, and that it had a full range of colors to pick from, but it would not make any changes. It wanted the sponsor's assent to alter the pod setup. When David and Rachel got back a very frustrated Sylvia asked David if they could change the grey color on the walls. "The AI says it can change the color, but it needs your permission first. I could strangle it, if it had a neck."
Once David gave permission, Sylvia started planning color schemes with the AI's help, while Rachel grabbed a quick sandwich from the kitchen and went to lie down some more. She thought that if she kept out of David's way he might not want to have sex with her immediately. She didn't think she could cope with that right now. She snuggled up with Mister Bozo and tried to doze off.
David was watching a Marine orientation video when the AI chimed in, "Fifteen minutes until your medical appointment, Recruit Harlow."
"AI, does Sylvia need to go to collect her kids, or can it be done without her?"
"Her presence is not required. However, since violence is not expected, it is likely to help things go more smoothly if she is present. The children should be calmer if they see someone they recognize."
"I'll do that then. It'll give her a chance to say goodbye to her mother as well."
He went to get Sylvia, "You need to get to the transporter room to help them collect your kids. It will be easier for them with you there." Noticing that she was barefoot he asked, "AI, are there any shoes for concubines?"
"Recruit Harlow, Flip-flops are available in the cupboards in the small bedrooms." Sylvia quickly got herself a pair and they left the pod together for their different destinations.
When he got to medical he found that there was a delay. A backlog had built up because a sponsor with a previously undetected cancer was blocking one of the tubes while he was fixed. David began to appreciate that the lieutenant's joke about learning to wait was good advice.
Down on Earth, Sylvia knocked on her mother's kitchen door. When she opened it, Orlaith took in the big Marine standing behind her daughter. "Come in both of you. Maggie said you'd been picked up. The children are getting ready. We went back to your place to pick up some more toys and stuff for them. That's a really ugly dress you're wearing, Sylvia, and very short! Would you like some tea?"
"I'm afraid we don't have time for that, ma'am," the Marine answered, getting his words in quickly. "We still have other dependants to pick up today."
"You talked to Maggie?" Sylvia asked.
"When the news showed the big pickup at the airport, I tried your mobile but it was switched off. I phoned your work number instead, and Maggie answered. She said you'd gone off with a toy boy."
"What a tattle-tale she is. He's seventeen and he'll be a good sponsor." Sylvia didn't want either her parents or Des to worry about her having made a mistake. David was certainly trying his best, and his heart was in the right place.
"Seventeen! You cradle snatcher you!"
"He has his fourteen year old sister with him as well," Sylvia told her.
"His sister! Mary Mother of God! What times we live in... And only fourteen you say? You're going to have four children to look after. No rest for you with that lot."
Just then they were interrupted by Sylvia's two, "Mam, Mam, are we going in a rocket ship? Can we? Can we?" Pat shouted excitedly as he rushed into his mother's arms. Mary followed quietly behind him, looking nervously at the big Marine towering in the background.
"We need to be going," reminded the Marine.
Sylvia hugged her mother, "Say goodbye to Des for me, Mam, and look after yourself and Da."
"And you too, dear. I'll tell Des, and God Bless."
Quickly, before she started crying, Sylvia hurried after the Marine, a child holding onto each hand.
When he emerged from the med-tube David was disappointed not to be over six feet tall. The medic told him that because of time pressure on tube use, rather than an instant upsizing, he had a shorter time in the tube and would grow to his new size over the next two weeks. The nanites would mostly do their work at night. "It'll be like an adolescent growth spurt," she explained. "You'll be clumsy until your brain gets used to your new body size. You'll also have a bigger appetite; the AI can help with suggestions in the kitchen. You'll ache a bit, though the nanites can keep that down to tolerable levels. If you'd gotten the whole thing in one hit, it would've really hurt."
Coming back from medical, David could hear voices in the corridor as he got near their pod. Sylvia and two young children were sitting on the floor outside the hatch, with toys scattered around, "David! At last! The idiot AI won't open the door for us!"
"The door is silly," confirmed the young boy, presumably Pat. "It won't open. Stupid door."
"Sorry, my fault," said David, embarrassed, "I should have remembered to tell the AI to let you in."
Sylvia was ready to tear David off a strip, but quickly swallowed her anger, hoping that he hadn't noticed. Best not to antagonize him this early on. He seemed like a nice boy, and was obviously trying to do his best in a new situation for all of them. She helped the children repack their toys into their backpacks before going into the pod, Mary holding tightly onto her hand.
Pat stuck his tongue out at the door as he went through, and was admonished by his mother. David understood how he felt. He chalked up another mistake against himself; he was not having a good day. Once in the pod, he ordered the AI to give both Rachel and Sylvia the maximum allowed privileges inside the pod, and to let them, and the children, enter the pod at any time. At the AI's suggestion, he restricted their ability to leave the pod to essential business and when accompanying him. He could review that in a couple of weeks, after things on board ship had settled down.
Rachel was half dozing when she heard voices, so she came out of her room to investigate. Pat was rushing around looking at things and trying to find a window, so he could see the stars. Mary was in her mother's arms looking very uncertain. Sylvia did the introductions, and David got the AI to display a view of the curve of the Earth and the stars beyond, which kept Pat quiet for a bit. He told the AI to let Pat see the view whenever he wanted, so the young boy didn't have to bother one of the adults.
As Rachel moved to sit next to Sylvia, she was still hugging Mister Bozo. The battered bear caught Mary's eye. Encouraged by a smile from Rachel, Mary reached out to stroke him. "He's called Mister Bozo," Rachel explained. "He's a boy, and boys are silly, so I called him Mister Bozo." Mary nodded silently, while Sylvia smiled.
Pat, meanwhile, had decided to run up and down the corridor. Each time he got to the far end, by the main hatch, Sylvia could hear him say something and then a muffled thump. Knowing what he was like she began to get up to see what was going on. Then she thought to use the AI, and sat back down. "AI, what is Pat doing at the end of the corridor?"
"Concubine Sylvia, he says, 'Stupid door,' and kicks the hatch. Then he runs back to the main room."
The next time Pat came back, Sylvia stopped him, "Pat, don't kick the front door. If you kick the door again you'll have to sit in the naughty corner for two minutes."
A quick, "Yes, Mam," and he ran back down the corridor. Everyone could hear the thump as he kicked the door. As soon as he reappeared, trying -- and failing -- to look innocent, Sylvia pointed to a corner behind her, "Two minutes, Pat. I told you what would happen if you kicked the door again."
Pat's face fell, "But..."
"Two minutes," Sylvia cut him off abruptly. "Now go to the corner and sit down, Pat. You know what happens if you don't listen to my warnings." Looking miserable he walked slowly towards the corner, shoulders slumped. Turning to the others she said, "Don't look at him. We ignore him until the two minutes are up." They all turned away, ignoring the quiet sniffles from the corner.
David was impressed by the way Sylvia had handled things. He had picked her for her mothering experience and skills, and she was obviously capable of being strict when needed. He'd already seen her caring side when she was helping Rachel earlier, and she was showing it again with Mary, trying to coax the three year old out of her nervousness. At least, by picking Sylvia as his concubine, he had managed to make one good decision today.
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