Rain, rain go away…well, this evening it’s sunny and nice, but rain is predicted for the whole of next week (!) Hubby ensconced in front of the Euro soccer games – thank goodness France won its match last night – Go France! (I am hopelessly un-patriotic and want little Iceland to win – dream on!) Got home from work and fell asleep – just too tired – was glad to get home and crawl in bed. August ate too much grass yesterday and threw up last night – guess who got up to clean it up and couldn’t fall back asleep? For some reason, I just lay awake and listened for the sound of the first train of the morning. We had our window open, so there was a nice breeze and the sound of rain – and still I couldn’t sleep.

Retribution for a Change

author: Jennifer Macaire
genre: SF
words: 1000

““He’’s changing.” Sara whispered, but I heard her. She grew pale, but to her credit, she didn’’t flinch. She held the syringe steady while I filled it with morphine.

““He’’s going to need more”,” I said.

““There is no more.””

I nodded to her and she injected the last of the morphine into David’’s right leg. Then she drew the needle out. Afterwards, she fell apart. The syringe clattered to the floor. On her knees, she stared at me and her teeth chattered. I made sure David was securely strapped to the bed, and I knelt by Sara. “”We had to do it”,” I said. I wished my voice held more conviction, but most of them died. We were still in the early days of the program. For each one that lived, ten or more didn’t make it.

Sara was tougher than she looked. She smoothed her red hair back into a tight bun and, with hands that shook just a little, picked up the syringe. Bruises like purple plums ran up and down her arms. David hadn’’t wanted to go quietly. The police escort had pried him off Sara, and she’d stood there, rubbing her arms. Then she’’d nodded towards the bed and said, “”Put him there. Then leave. We’’ll take care of the rest”.”

The guards did their duty in silence and left as quickly as possible. I tried not to notice their wary looks and the way they stayed at least a meter away from us at all times. If we brushed up against one, he would stiffen. Thinking of the way the men had looked at me, I grew still.

“”We’’re doing the right thing.”” Sara spoke from across the room.

I looked past the sparkling expanse of white tiles and chrome tubes, to the now still form of David. My eyes followed the up and down movement of the glowing lines on the screen above his head. My reflection was in every mirror surface of the silver-tiled monitor. Fifty faces stared back at me; fifty doctors in a white coat, black hair cut short around an angular face, blue eyes behind steel-rimmed glasses, and a generous mouth made red with lipstick. Before, the men would have made a pass at me. Now they shuddered if they got too close.

““I hope so,”” I murmured.

“”Are you Catholic? You look Irish.””

I was surprised. We never spoke about things like that. I felt a warm flush spread across my cheeks. “”Is that why you think I do this?”” I asked.

She shook her head. ““I just wanted to know.””

““No. I started this program before the war, because I was against the death penalty. It had nothing to do with religion. Then, after, when we found out we were all sterile, the program became even more important.”

““I’’m Catholic.”” Her pale skin changed color like a chameleon, white and red washing over it in turn. “”What we’’re doing here, in this room, is not at odds with my convictions. I want to know something though.”” She stopped and licked her lips. ““How long can we keep going?””

I’d been thinking about that. “”I wanted the death penalty be abolished. I started the research that led to this project. Now that it’s the law, I have to keep going as long as I can.”

““What frightens me is not so much the ones that die,”” said Sara. ““I’’m terrified of the ones who survive.””

““I know how you feel. It’s not natural, is it?””

“No, but it’s better than death and “I’’m not afraid of those who oppose us,”” she said.

I smiled at Sara. She had been my assistant for three months now and I had come to rely on her. I appreciated her support and honesty. “You should be afraid. They can be violent. They bombed the last clinic.””” I stood next to David and touched his hand. It felt like touching a live wire. I jerked back.  My gaze was fastened on his face. It was getting blurry, the skin melting like wax.

“Sara spoke defiantly. “We’’re a federal program now. They have to protect us, it’s their only chance.””

I shook my head. ““I don’’t think that matters to them. They see it as an attack on their manhood.””

“They’ll just have to get used to it. How is he?”

““In ten minutes we’ll know if he’ll make it or not.”” I pointed to a frantically pulsing green line. “”His heart is strong. Maybe we’ll get lucky this time.””

““We should have had more morphine.””

I shook my head. ““The law decides how much we could have.””

“”What did he do?””

“My guess would be manslaughter or rape.” The lesser the crime, the more the morphine.” For some reason I thought it was funny and started to laugh.

Sara’ gave a faint grin. ““Do you think he really knew what he was getting into?””

I shook my head. “”Of course not. He only wanted to save his skin.”” I sobered and glanced at the monitor again. “”He’’ll be wishing he were dead in a few minutes. The morphine will start to wear off.””

““I’’ll call the guards.””

“”The straps will hold. Anyway, they won’’t want to watch. They hate us enough already.””

““They hate us,”” Sara said slowly, ““because they’’re afraid.””

“”They should be. It could happen to one of them.””

“”They couldn’’t have known, no one could have known what would happen.””

“”Sterile women, all the girls growing up sterile. They should never have started that war. They never should have played God with weapons they didn’t understand. A whole generation of sterile women. If the breeding program doesn’t work…in thirty years it will be too late.””

““It opened the way to your program.””

“We’ll never get volonteers. It will always be criminals trying to get out of a death penalty.”

Sara took a deep breath. “”Look, it’s almost done.””

David moaned, then started to scream. He thrashed, pulling uselessly against the straps, arching his back and all the while screaming as if he were being dismembered.
Which, in a way, he was. I waited until the screams died to hoarse gasps. Now he was awake. His eyes were bloodshot and pain made his face gray.

““Is it over?”” His voice was shattered.

I nodded. “It worked,” I said, then started to shiver.

““Help me,”” he said. “Oh God, help me.”

I wasn’t sure what help he meant, or what kind of god would listen to any of us now. I waited, watching until the monitors stabilized. When I was sure he would live, I nodded to Sara. “You can call the guards,” I said.

They filed in, shuffling. They gave a horrified glance at David, then at me, then away. Afterwards, they looked out the window, at the floor. Anywhere but at me, at Sara, or at the naked, sweat-slicked woman lying firmly strapped to the bed in the center of the room.

““Take her away now. She’s ready for the breeding program,”” I said.