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The Alphabet Gang

By Marian Mendez
Page 2 of 6

Sleer saw to it that her project was funded against any possibly contingency, but she never came back.At first she was kept busy as the news of the massacre on Gauda Prime roused rebels the length of the empire. Then the Federation fell. As all revolutions, it was difficult to say how it truly came about, but there were rumors that Orac masterminded the takeover. Sleer was one of the many who fled and were never properly accounted for in the bloody aftermath. It was assumed that she was killed by one who had personal cause to hate her. Either that, or she had escaped.

The interim head of Earth's new government, Avalon,had her hands too full with a major restructuring of the whole, bloated bureaucratic monstrosity to spend much time worrying over one villain. They had captured enough corrupt officials to keep the trial docket filled for the next twenty years. She had Sleer's identity as Servalan confirmed, and her likeness transmitted to every known world, along with the highest bounty in the history of the human race. There were also lesser rewards posted for information as to her activities before her disappearance. The woman had been involved in so many ingenious and heinous schemes that an entire bank of computers was devoted to sorting them out.

It was not surprising, therefore, that one of the doctors reported Sleer's maternal experiment. It also wasn't surprising that the new bureaucracy lost the report for several months. It wasn't until the doctor called back complaining that he hadn't been paid that the story was investigated. The investigator did not feel qualified to handle the situation and passed the problem on to his superior, who passed it on to her superior. And so on. Until, finally...

Avalon stood, hands on hips, surveying the translucent cylinders. Unmistakably human infants bobbed gently on unseen currents inside the cylinders. "How long?" she asked abruptly.

The same doctor who had been brow-beaten by Servalan sighed. "If you mean how long until they are ready to be decanted- another two weeks."

"Two weeks." Avalon touched the nearest cylinder. It felt warm, and pulsed, in a regular rhythm. "Two weeks until the universe is blessed with Servalan's offspring. There are people who would consider them heirs apparent. It might be wiser to terminate them now."

"I don't think you want to do that." She handed Avalon a sheet of paper. "These are their fathers."

Avalon read, and turned pale. She crumpled the paper in her fist. "You are to tell no one."

The doctor nodded. "I haven't. They are innocent. Let them live and I will say nothing."

"Very well." Avalon gazed at the blurred baby faces, then shook her head. "I will return in two weeks . Once I take them, you will destroy all records, and forget everything."

"What will happen to them?"

"They won't be harmed. That is all you need to know."

Aimee sat very still, afraid to dislodge the hair ribbon Housemother Leona had put on her for visiting day. She looked down, admiring the shine on her new, black shoes, and checked that her socks hadn't fallen down. Her bright red sweater was clean, as was her spotlessly white blouse, and blue plaid skirt. She folded her hands in her lap, and tried very hard not to swing her legs. People liked little girls who were clean, and quiet. And pretty. She glanced at Cecilia, sitting further down the bench. Cecilia was pretty. She had curly blonde hair and big blue eyes, and everyone liked her. Aimee couldn't help scowling.

"Aimee!" Leona scolded, gently. "Now, dear, you remember our little talk."

"Yes, 'm," Aimee said politely and smiled.

"That's better, dear."

Aimee suffered the inevitable pat on the head, still smiling. It was so hard to sit still and smile, but she had to. People who wanted a little girl were coming. Parents. Maybe this time, if she was very good, someone would pick her.

But they didn't. One couple talked to her this time, and she thought maybe they liked her, but after they went into the office, they looked at her sadly, and shook their heads and went to talk to another little girl. No one ever wanted her after they'd been to the office. At least no one took Cecilia, either. She stuck her tongue out at Cecilia. "No one wants you," she whispered, spitefully.

Cecilia's bright smile vanished and she began crying.

Aimee felt bad about that. She'd thought Cecilia would get mad, and then she could get mad at Cecilia. She wanted to fight someone.

"That wasn't nice," Cecilia's friend Beatrice said, while patting Cecilia on the shoulder. "No one wants you because you're mean." All three girls were the same age, but Beatrice was bigger than average, while Aimee was slighter than most. But Aimee was angry, and feeling sorry about hurting Cecilia's feelings, and upset that maybe Beatrice was right and no one liked her because she wasn't a good little girl. So she got up and slapped Beatrice in the face.

Beatrice got very red and hit Aimee back, while the other girls ran around the room, shouting, and Cecilia sat on the bench, big, blue eyes wide, startled.

Leona pulled the fighters apart, and took all three of them to the quiet room; Cecilia still crying, Beatrice sullen, and Aimee in a high- flying rage, kicking and screaming until the woman lost patience and dumped a paper cup of water over her head. "Now sit there and be still!"

Aimee wiped the water off her face and sat down, as far from the other two as she could. The woman nodded and left the room, leaving the door open so she could look in and see that they didn't move.

Cecilia stopped crying after a while and Beatrice stared at Aimee. "It's all your fault," she whispered, and Aimee didn't dare say anything back because the housemother was watching her.

They sat there a very long time, until Leona came for them. "You are going to the Headmaster's office. Behave yourselves!" She fussed over the three of them for a minute, straightening their clothes and making them as presentable as possible. She took Beatrice and Aimee by the hands, herding Cecilia in front of them.

They had never been to the office, and hung back as they approached the door. "He's a very busy man, so you girls listen to him, and don't talk back." Leona pried their hands off her skirts and pushed them forward. "Go on, now. Don't be afraid, he doesn't bite."

Beatrice and Cecilia clung together. Aimee sniffed, trying not to cry. She wouldn't be a baby like Cecilia. Even though everyone hated her. The office was big, and had one wall full of pictures of children, smiling children with smiling grown-ups holding them, or just looking at them as if they were wonderful. Aimee was sure they were all children who'd gotten new homes. Looking at the pictures made her throat hurt worse than ever. She looked the other way, and was surprised to see another little girl she knew already in the office, huddled on a bench. Dee Dee was a blonde, like Cecilia, but her hair was only a little wavy and her eyes were muddy hazel. She looked even more frightened than Aimee felt, which made her feel better.

The Headmaster rose from behind his desk to point out the new girl. "When your Housemother told me what happened, I thought Dee Dee should be here, too." He looked very serious, but not angry. "There has been a mistake. None of you ought to be in the visiting group. You can't be adopted."

"I'm sorry," Aimee cried. "I didn't mean to be bad."

The Headmaster shook his head. "Your Housemother thought she was being kind, by letting you four join the group each week on visiting day. She was wrong. Do you understand why children come here?"

"Because no one wants them," Dee Dee said, surprising Aimee. She didn't think Dee Dee would say anything.

"No. Children are sent here for many reasons, but that's not one of them. Sometimes parents can't care for their children properly and they send them to us. Sometimes parents die. We try to find the right families for each of our children. But we have to know the birth mother and father won't ever try to take the children back."

Aimee didn't understand. She knew what being an orphan was and why they were there. Dee Dee was right. If no one adopted you, it was because you weren't good enough. She'd been here all her life, and so had the other three. There must be something wrong with them, maybe they were sick and no one wanted to tell them. Maybe that was why no one would take them, because they were going to die. She didn't really believe it, but the thought pleased her. At least that wouldn't have been her fault.

The Headmaster sighed. "I know this is hard for you to understand. The law says that we need proof that your parents are dead, or for them to sign a form that says they want you to have new homes, before you can be adopted."

"Aren't our parents dead?" Beatrice asked, puzzled.

"Well..." The Headmaster paused, and wiped a cloth over the top of his head, which was very bald and very sweaty. "We think they are. But we don't know. We can't send you to a new family, only to have your parents show up and fight over you."

"If they cared about us, they would have come for us," Aimee said. "They won't ever come."

He nodded slowly. "That is very likely. But we can't break the law."

"Why not?" Dee Dee asked. "We won't tell anyone."

Aimee thought that was very sensible. "We won't ever tell anyone, " she added.

Cecilia and Beatrice agreed, readily. Anything had to be better than living here.

"I'm sorry. It's out of the question." He did look sorry, but that didn't help. He sat down behind his desk, and began shuffling computer disks. "If we ever get proof..." his voice faded as if he didn't think that would ever happen.

"Who were my parents?" Cecilia asked. "Do you know?"

The Headmaster looked uncomfortable. "No. That's the problem," he said finally. "All four of you were foundlings, left on our doorstep as newborn infants on the same day. The odd thing was, each of you had a note pinned to your blanket. Just 'A', 'B', 'C', and 'D'. That was why you were named Aimee, Beatrice, Cecilia, and Dee Dee. After the letters."

The girls puzzled that one out. "Does that mean we're sisters?" Aimee asked, excited. Having sisters wasn't as good as having parents, but it would be a kind of family.

"It is possible," he admitted. He cleared his throat. "But I doubt it, after all, you don't look like each other." He dismissed them with that, calling Leona to take them back to the dormitory.

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