The change was quick. Too quick.
The Gray space men ordered us into lines and columns. "Stand dans une ligne! Pas de bavardage!" I didn't understand the tongues. I understood the beatings and the shootings. I stood in a line, obeying like mindless cattle. The joy of life was burned from me.
"Toi! Hé toi!" I looked up. A unnaturally beautiful woman wearing a buttoned white uniform walked up to our formation. She was wearing her long, blonde hair in a ponytail down her back. Her burning, marble-like emerald eyes scanned through my element. She pointed in my vicinity. "Oui toi! Hors de la formation, maintenant! Je ne ai pas de patience pour la pêche racaille comme vous, la saleté!" It wasn't for me, but for a boy child standing next to me. Couldn't have been older than 14. He did not speak. He shuffled out of formation, and stood in front of the woman. She coolly looked him over, then smirked. The smirk blossomed into a full smile. She called for one of the guards to come over to her.
"Prenez ce dégénéré à mon laboratoire. Je cherche un remplaçant pour mes expériences pharmaceutiques." She held the clipboard close, smiling. She clipped her lavish, gold and platinum pen to the board. Behind her, orderlies dressed in similar uniforms dumped a deformed, glowing corpse into a ditch. The guards standing over it covered faces. One of them blankly stared at his geiger counter. The commander of our formation barked orders to continue moving.
* * *
Our brisk pace ended at processing. There, we were split by gender, age, etc. I suspect the younger children and the elderly met their deaths in ways different than ours. For whatever reason, our captors despised the sight of our bare skin. Mercs forced us to strip, and then handed us full body gray uniforms. They were completely blank, except for the "SITE 19" scrawled across our backs. Then the torrent of fresh slaves billowed from the processing compound and into the fields. The view now was much clearer: the entire shore of the lake alive with moving, laboring, suffering grey bodies. I could not make them out from under the millions of cotton plants, grape vines, orchards, and various grains. I knew at once this is what was left of my people. There were sobs in the crowd around me. Only a single tear escaped me.
Days, weeks, months passed. They are all the same: painful, hot, dry days carefully plucking cotton and fruits and harvesting various crops. Little if any food was issued. It was typically the very fruits and grains we harvested.
* * *
The constant and repeated actions of the day hardened my hands. The constant battle for food, space, and clothes hardened my body. The constant death and suffering hardened my mind and heart. The constant hunger and primal greed hardened my eyes. They were blue once. A kind of deep pond. Dark. They had light in them. Willpower. That light faded. They had become blue gems, imbedded in my skull. I wondered how long into my oppressors tore them out to embed in a necklace. They had taken others very like me to places unknown. My guess was the various scientific facilities scattered around Site 19.
My first year transformed me from an emotionless wanderer and into a monster. I watched entire armies die, and seized their assets. It seemed that my antics pleased my masters. Bottles of the wine that the grapes my fingers extracted from their protective guardians made exchanged hands often in my presence. I desired a taste of that wine - the literal fruit of my labor. I wonder it was naturally that red.
* * *
The summers around that lake were brutal. The monotonous tasks of the years spent at Site 19 erased from my mind all memories. I lived only for the present. I was an animal.
The only shade to be had was in the orchards. I would sit there when I had some time to myself and watch the yachts flying black banners with a single white stripe down the middle float around the lake. I would bite into the succulent flesh of the green apples given to us for consumption while I watched that flag fluttered. These people are fleeting - and rare.