The Love Market: (Part 3) Chapter Fifteen

“I guess I always wanted a child, but no one does that anymore. I thought, I guess when I was younger, I thought it was because no one wanted to grow up like me, clutching my stuffed pup so tight no one could tell I was trying to stop breathing, but I don’t think it’s like that, not for everyone,” Piper muttered quietly into the girl’s ear. She could only have been twelve, and where she likely had every last unspeakable act done on her before being sent to the base, this may have been the most traumatic. Where most clients would only violate her, use her physically, abuse her verbally, or play mental games with her, these confessions were beyond her. There was no way for such a young mind to empathize with a grown woman in mourning for the life never lived. The thoughts only served to confuse and frustrate. 

Clasping the larger and infinitely more rough hand in her own, the girl asked, “So did you want to use any of your time for…”

“No, I just..,’ the thought rebounded in Piper’s head, but she knew herself well enough. Where she may have fancied pretty women now and again, this was neither a woman in her clutches nor a pretty one.

From what Piper could assume, the girl had been used and sent away after reaching a certain age. Even years off from adulthood, the girl could be found useless to whoever had originally seen her as Market goods. The military often was the easiest buyer to extort a decent sum from when unloading ex-Market workers. From what Piper had heard, it was the second most popular means of disposal. There were those that would be bought by a private collector, base bound as this child was, suicide, and of course, the Wilderness, which was tantamount to suicide.

Not much longer after Piper and the girl had gone silent, the alarm on the bedside stand sounded into the humid and sticky room. Piper released her grip on the girl and shimmied her way out of bed before replacing her fatigues. For a time she stood, gazing at the child, someone she found to be infinitely complex as herself, her situation equally as sedentary but rife with internal contradictions and contrivances.

Though her time was up, Piper admired the darling child a moment longer. Had a knock at the door resounded through the room, she might have not tarried, but today there was a minute for it. She could have requested the nameless daughter to be dressed in any sort of attire she liked. The open closet revealed the tops and accessories of outfits ranging from that typical of a young girl to those a high-priced prostitute would feel scandalized wearing. Yet, despite that ability, Piper asked her only to dress in comfortable clothes, which turned out to be a rabbit-themed one-piece pajama set. The absolute innocence of such a childish choice made Piper’s heart sink and sickened her stomach.

She fled the room without another word, not as though the poor dear was expecting a final sweet nothing from her oddest of clients. Piper held back tears and bile, not only for the state of the child, raised in a world where she was an object first before a person but for her own losses. It wasn’t long ago, she could remember, that someone the girl’s age was off-limits save for those who had enough money to conceal themselves in the shadows. Instead, when she was that age, Piper recalled the various forms of conditioning she and her peers had gone through.

The girls with a natural beauty were encouraged to exploit the effects of desire on those who would give them the time of day. With such direct contact still illegal, they were not simply told to beguile every last person that took a liking to them, nor did every one of them want for such things. Some were very casual, willing to give preferential treatment to a child more pleasant on the eyes than others. However, there were those who would make their furtive desires a quiet favor until finally, the veil was lifted, and the age to enter the Market lowered. It served the objectively beautiful more than it victimized them, at least from Piper’s position.

Girls like herself, just on the cusp of beauty, were told instead of exploitation, which may come of body types of specific quality or features just strange enough to entice, to invest in a good surgeon. If a girl didn’t want to have themselves cut into pieces, they were told their odds in the workforce. The schools weren’t turning people out to fill jobs, only space, which painted a poor qualification level on any application. It was at that point a score of girls from each class might join the co-ed classrooms that served as early vetting for military services.

Piper hadn’t joined the fray that had likely gone overseas years before and either died, been discharged, or entrenched themselves so deep in the organization that there was no way out. Her newly appointed staff sergeant was one such individual. He was a few years older than her and had been part of the military since his graduation. Perez wasn’t the kind of haggard-looking man Piper expected to see with any rank in the army, but a swarthy, clean-shaved, and well-built man that looked like a father might in times past. In just that manner, he was both stern yet fair with those beneath him. He wasn’t a fan of people using the ‘human resources’ on base but only reprimanded those who overindulged, damaged equipment, or allowed that time to interfere with activity. However, there was little to say of activity at any of the sites they had been stationed at in the past year.

War wasn’t the gruesome portrait painted by filmmakers of decades past, some few of which still had works surviving to that day. There was no glory in their occupation either; no fights that weren’t fisticuffs between privates, no raids, and very little time with a rifle in hand with the intention of firing on a live target. For all the pain and misery spared her, Piper figured she should have been happy, but the interminable wait for any kind of development was its own hell.

As it was, very few nations, and typically only the smallest ones, pursued active ground war anymore. With so many world powers holding the codes for nuclear devices and those few minor nations forming into conglomerate states amassing their own armaments, no one felt safe enough to strike. Yet, every last leader was gnashing their teeth in threat with mere inches separating the launch button from compression. All that there was for infantry now was a waiting game.

Perez had been blunt with Piper as he took command of her regiment. Orders from the top were clear and meant to be followed to the letter. If there were an attack directly on allied forces, they were to deploy and neutralize any significant threat. If the bombs were loosed, they were to invade the nearest country yet to fire their payload in an effort to sabotage their arsenal. Here, Staff Sergeant Perez gave up ground on his given orders, conceding that the act was to force another country’s hand and therefore have a scapegoat. Any contact with another force was prohibited for fear of what one match near the storehouse of powder kegs might do. Piper had to wonder if all the other countries, locked in this dreaded stalemate had passed down similar orders to their standing armies.

Any sense of wonder was broken as a pair of boots marched their way around the corner of the ‘equipment barracks,’ and Perez was before Piper. She saluted, but her superior was quick to dispense the formalities, “Private Dauring, we have our orders. We need to be out before dusk and settled by dawn at the next fortification.”

“Why’s that, sir?”

“The situation in Israel has intensified, and orders from the top say that we’re to dig in there and hope to serve as a deterrent.”

“As for here?”

“We’re looking at all-out nuclear war if the situation doesn’t cool there. If we leave here, there will probably be a land war, a couple thousand dead at worst. Is the little miss decent?”

“Should be, sir.”

“Alright, you get back to the barracks, help with break down, and load the transports,” the staff sergeant ordered before entering the accommodations for the child.

Piper stopped and stared blankly at the dull maroon door, wondering just what Perez had in mind. She hadn’t seen the man ever take any of his off hours with those types, but Piper couldn’t quite say she focused too much on the man. It confounded her to see him so quickly vanish into the room after being informed by multiple reputable sources that he was, in fact, asexual. The tangent broke off into the considerable notion that he spent that time in the same way she did, waxing poetic about a life unlived. However, any suspicion Piper had was cast out as the dull overcast light of day was sent sprawling into the room. Through the window, she saw Perez instructing the girl at ease but looking no less authoritative by that means. He carried himself as the career soldier, the picture they’d put on recruitment posters. And, despite what shortcomings might be seen in his figure and other such standings, Perez was precisely the type Piper longed for.

Crimson flesh washes down our streets

from purchased flesh so indiscreet

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