Liberty. Oh, how sweetly the word rolled off the tongue, how beautifully it sounded; unfortunately, as anyone could testify, those were the only qualities linked with it. 'Freedom' meant great many things in the human ghetto she lived in, none of them particularly pleasant. Of course, the government liked to use the mainstream definition that proudly boasted they weren't subject to daily spying via hidden cameras, but the residents saw it rather differently. First and foremost there was the freedom to die in any way that possibly seemed appealing to you; the variety would satisfy even the greatest connoisseur. Starving to death? No problem. Catching some exotic disease? No worries, the ghetto was a veritable paradise for bacterias with its nonexistent canalization and lack of fresh water! Or would you fancy something more personal, like a bullet between eyes? Nothing would be easier than try and climb over the fence separating the world of obscenely wealthy from those born in mud. The guards would be overjoyed to grant you your wish, provided the almighty electricity wouldn't take care of your little problem first. Doesn't everyone love surprises, though? The freedom the ghetto dwellers enjoyed had a lot of forms and nuances. For example, when the authorities called you for a public meeting, you technically didn't have to go if you preferred having your eyes gouged out instead with a rusty fork. The ability to choose was almost overwhelming; the old philosophers had been right in their assessment that free will loaded a great burden on our loins. Siana, however, didn't need to ponder over her possibilities for too long. She loved to read in her spare time and absence of her eyes would have made that task exceedingly difficult. The girl was standing in a small crowd of similarly old women obediently, her expression revealing nothing but apathy. Outright sorrow irritated the guards for it signified disgusting ingratitude to their lords who had mercifully decided to let the savages humans live despite possessing the power squish them easily. Happiness, on the other hand, attracted unwanted attention of her comrades who were all too eager to frame some unlucky fool as a collaborator and vent their helpless anger on them. Siana still remembered tortured cries of the teenage boy who had forgotten himself circa month ago. No, it was better to remain blank, to wear hide of a human chameleon capable of changing according to its environment. The Xenolian guards circled their little group at a leisure pace, apparently measuring them up. Not a word had been uttered since start of this gathering and worm of nervousness began to feast at her innards. The heat wasn't helping her at all; summers had always been unbearably hot here and Siana was bathing in her own sweat. The cheap fabric of her dress got stuck to her back, irritating her skin. Unwashed bodies around her smelled even worse than usual and awoke her desire to just run away. Don't think. Don't feel. There's nothing you can do. Just endure, she repeated her mantra inwardly. They will probably make a speech about how blessed we are to live in this glorious age of enlightenment, threaten to behead any traitors and ride off into the sunset. They're just building up the tension... One of the men suddenly grabbed her chin roughly and stared in her green eyes; it took all her self-control to refrain from spitting in his arrogant face. He turned her head around as a mineralogy expert trying to spot some blemish on a sapphire. The long nails scraped her cheeks, yet she remained silent, quietly wondering what the hell was going on. "Open your mouth, girl." Siana ignored the new question marks popping into existence and did as instructed; when a guard commanded you to jump, you didn't inquire why. You merely asked how high your leap should be. "Rather healthy," he noted with a visible contentment and finally let go of her face. "Alright, lass, it's your lucky day. A respectable family wishes to train one of you animals as their servant. You've got the job. I don't see the appeal, but maybe they'll go as far with your education to teach you not to pee on furniture," the man smirked. A wave of contradictory emotions rose in her chest. The dominant feeling was anger; wild, almost uncontrollable anger over her destiny as an underling of those who had brought human race to their knees. There was also humiliation over being judged like a dog on an exhibition and disdain for monsters who could put another sentient being through such ordeal. Yet underneath the wounded pride crouched relief she would actually leave this rat-infested hell-hole. She didn't know who to hate more; the Xenolians or herself for betraying her principles so easily. "Are you mute, girl? What are you gonna say to your saviors?" Poisonous comments were burning a hole into her tongue, yearning to be unleashed on the guards. "Thank you for this opportunity, mister," she heard herself saying, yet it didn't sound like her voice at all. "Good." A pair of strong hands caught her around her shoulders and yanked her forward. "Come with me. The rest of you is dismissed." Siana followed mechanically, her eyes glued to the ground, when a desperate female scream pierced the silence. "No!" A young blonde threw herself to the guard's knees and hugged them with all her might. "Please, please take me as well. I'll... I'll be the best slave you've ever seen, I promise. Just don't force me to live here anymore," she sobbed. The man looked to be thoroughly repulsed, as if he had stepped into something gross which ruined his new boots. He reached for his pistol calmly and kept shooting at her face until it was nothing but a large, bloody chunk of meat. The poor woman didn't even have time to feel pain. Siana bit her lip to stop herself from shrieking. "Anyone else wishes for a release from this ghetto?" The crowd did its best to ignore the cooling corpse on the ground that used to be a breathing, living person mere seconds ago. Not a single one of them moved or even acknowledged its existence; only empty, shell-shocked stares suggested they had witnessed something out of ordinary. "That's awesome to know. And as for you, let's get this over with," he said to Siana and escorted her to a nearby car. A strange buzz was eradicating all her thoughts as she went to meet her destiny.