This story is by Sandra Moyers and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
From Sandra: “You got matched?”
There was a one in 32 chance I would be matched as mate to a Conqueror. I never thought it would happen to me.
From Sandra: “So, how will you avoid the claiming?”
The claiming is a vaguely described ceremony occurring after a Conqueror has stolen his matched mate away. Their propaganda describes it as “a short period where the Conqueror is physiologically compelled to mate with his new wife.”
From Me: “I already destroyed the evidence.”
From Sandra: “Will you at least look him up? Find out about him?”
I can’t bring myself to tell her he is that jerk on the planet Conquial in charge of IT. I hate him, and how he explicitly excludes me from certain meetings. He includes everyone else from the planet Quarriel’s IT team. Of course, the others are all men.
This just adds to my conspiracy theory that the Conquerors are hiding something from the women of Quarriel.
The Conquerors. More like The Conspirators, if you ask me.
From Me: “I did look him up. Think of him as Kylo Ren.”
From Sandra: “You like Kylo Ren. You’re a Reylo.”
From Me: “I like the redeemable Ben Solo, not the dark Kylo Ren.”
The Earth books and movies are compelling. It’s what we are missing here on my planet. A bit of fantasy just for the fun of it. I’m positive they won’t let us have anything like that. They won’t let us have an “internet” like Earth has, even though they know everything about it and have the technology to duplicate it.
Earth’s internet is top secret, and I don’t know what would happen if he knew I had listened to his secret meetings, much less that I had hacked into Earth’s internet.
From Sandra: “Have you gotten any further in your inter-planetary-net scheme? You could finally find out if your suspicions about the Conquerors are true.”
I tell Sandra everything, even things I won’t tell my own sisters. No one here can know my scheme is to create an inter-planetary-net between Conquial and Quarriel. My plan is to communicate with the claimed women on Conquial and find out what their lives are really like. Life there can’t be as good as shown in the Conquerors’ propaganda.
From Me: “The propaganda specifically states Quarri-brides won’t be able to talk to their families back home on Quarriel, even though an inter-planetary-network would let them. Even more telling that they are hiding something is that Conquial and Quarriel already have real-time communication. They just don’t let anything non-official through.”
From Sandra: “Maybe it’s a bandwidth thing. No room on the highway.”
I don’t want to accept that reasonable argument.
From Me: “I’m not going to be mated to one of them. If I let him take me to Conquial, and I hate it, I won’t be able to escape.”
From Sandra: “The transporter is on Conquial. You could escape to Earth and find me.” I read cajolement in her statements.
From Me: “Finding the transporter would be highly unlikely. It’s the biggest secret they have.”
From Sandra: “I have to go. Can we talk more about this?”
From Me: “My mind is made up.” She knows that’s my hard “no,” so she leaves the chat room.
I’m very fast at my job. This means I have a lot of free time with which to explore Earth’s internet.
I log into Sandra’s Amazon account, going back to reading e-books. I’m currently between novels. I’ve read everything by Linda Howard, so I have to find another author.
A title catches my eye: “Taken by the Conqueror.” The author’s name gives me a sick feeling. I click on the book cover image and read the novel’s description.
Sandra wrote a novel about the true story of Suqi and Ty, who are a couple on Conquial. I told her their story. After I uncovered the truth about a transporter to Earth, I looked up the inventor and found he is married to Suqi. She actually did what Sandra had suggested to me. Suqi went thru the transporter to Earth in order to escape the Conquerors. She’s still missing as far as I can tell.
Sandra’s novel is available on Kindle Unlimited so I pop it open and scan thru the pages. My sick feeling is making me dizzy.
So she wrote the story; it can’t be traced to me, can it? I look around on Sandra’s bio page and see she has a blog.
I feel like I’m going to faint. Sandra has listed my name and how she knows me, including my history of hacking into Earth’s internet. My transgressions are all revealed by her questionably adequate prose.
I open a chat screen.
From Me: “Are you there?”
I stare at the screen, willing Sandra to respond while my eyes burn into the blackness behind the typed words.
From Sandra: “Hey, what’s up?”
From Me: “How could you do this to me?”
From Sandra: “What are you talking about?”
From Me: “You wrote a novel about Ty and Suqi. You included all the events I told you about.”
From Sandra: “I hope you don’t mind. I thought it would make a good story.”
From Me: “You hope I don’t mind!”
From Sandra: “Um, sorry?”
From Me: “Sorry? That’s what you say to me when they could trace this back to me?”
From Sandra: “Wait, how could they trace it back to you?”
From Me: “YOU WROTE ABOUT ME IN YOUR BLOG!” I have to backspace several times due to the typos my shaking fingers create. I slam the backspace button hard enough that I could break the keyboard.
From Sandra: “Oh, no, I wasn’t thinking. I’ll go delete it. I’m so, so sorry.”
I close my eyes. Deleting the blog post won’t be enough.
From Me: “There is a HISTORICAL RECORD of EVERYTHING on the internet.” Why do I need to remind her what she told me?
I look on every archiving site I find. There are indeed a few copies of her blog. It’s only a matter of time before his minions find the blog with their stealth software.
I realize the blog won’t even matter. They would find Sandra’s novel from its description, then stalk her and eventually find me. They are still looking for Suqi and are almost definitely searching Earth’s internet for her name.
I’m shaking my head with a smile of irony or disbelief or hopefulness that this is all a bad dream. But soon tears tingle in my nose. My smile morphs into a grimace of grief. They won’t just find evidence of my hacking. They will find out I destroyed evidence of my match to him.
Betrayed by my best friend. My plans for an inter-planetary-net dead.
Worst of all, he will claim me as mate.
This is the end of my life as I know it.
From Sandra: “Are you there?”
From Me: “You just want to hear more stories so you can write about them.”
From Sandra: “Please don’t let my poor judgment end our friendship.”
I close the chat for the final time.
I close Amazon and her blog. Then, in disgust of all things “Earth,” I break the internet connection.
My tears fall as I spend some time deleting evidence of my hack to Earth’s internet, my actions listless.
When my tears blur the screen, I bow my head. The tears splatter onto my hands, which lie limply in my lap.
I hear the door open to the office space of seven cubes. Hastily I wipe off my cheeks in case the person walks by my desk. I use a napkin to rub the wetness from under my nose. I am just throwing it in the trashcan when I see the person’s feet stop at the entrance to my cube.
I try for a normal-sounding, “Hi,” as I look up.
My chest pulls shakily for breath. He looks down at me, mouth tight-lined. His eyes are mostly possessive but betray a hint of something softer. It can’t be compassion, can it?
The predator takes in my scent, finally saying, “You should come with me before the claiming madness starts, my little hacker.”
He is the end of my life as I know it.