NOTE: Part 3 is REALLY short, so here’s part 4 as a bonus for today.
Sometime late in the evening the patrol boat docked in Miami, but Feran and the others still spent the entire night aboard ship in the cages. Around midnight a deckhand brought bowls of water and slid them through feeding slots under the cage doors. There were no bathroom trips.
“That’s why they put sawdust in the corner of your cage,” Feran’s surly neighbor said bitterly.
Dawn broke for the prisoners — that is how Feran thought of them — a dusky gray straining out of the dark shadows around the hold.
Several Recombinant Control officers bulldozed in shortly after the light of day made its timid skulk amongst the gloomy corners. The Recombinants were removed from their cages and strung together single file, neck-to-neck with chains, the reptilian in front and Feran stationed at the rear. The officers marched them out, collared, manacled, and shackled, onto the deck and down a gangway. On the dock, they were ordered to line up side-by-side to await the arrival of a truck to take them to the Resettlement Facility.
The wait was long, and several small clumps of dock workers gathered to stare and jeer. Feran figured the officers arranged it all on purpose. Two of them stood guard off to the side grinning. Feran smiled back at them politely and nodded at the crowd pleasantly and panted happily as if he didn’t understand what they were saying or what was going on. The other prisoners glowered and snarled, baring their teeth, with the effect of delighting the humans and taking the attention off of Feran, so that when the hecklers threw things, they aimed at anyone but him. The poor, dumb beast was terribly boring to pick on when the crowd had the satisfaction of provoking angry humiliation from others as rational as themselves. Cruelty was far more enjoyable than simple brutality.
After about 45 minutes (as Feran reckoned by glances at his chain-mates wristwatch) two Ryder moving trucks arrived. The reptilian was loaded in the back of one and the rest of them, all feline and canine, were herded into the other. The trucks drove away from the port and through the city, and after that Feran wasn’t sure. Judging by the speed they traveled and the sounds of other vehicles, he guessed they were on an Interstate. No one spoke for a long time — the ride was noisy and they were sitting in near perfect darkness, except for a sliver of light that twinkled through a break in the seal along one of the doors. Eventually they exchanged names and a few vital facts, but not much more. Except for Feran, the rest were as sour as his cage neighbor.
At some point they made a stop at a Rest Area and the Recombinants were let out. A canine by the name of Terrence who, like the others, looked to Feran like he’d just as well bite you as say hello, started hesitantly toward the facilities. One of the officers stepped in front of him and barred his way with a rifle.
“Now, where do you think you’re going?” he asked.
“Men’s room,” Terrence replied.
“Now why would you be going there? That there’s for men. You ain’t no man. They’ve got a place for you to go right over there.” The officer indicated a direction behind Terrence with a thrust of his rifle barrel. They all looked in the direction the officer indicated.
“Dog walk,” the sign said. Terrence turned back toward the officer and growled, his ears sharply back and his tail out menacingly behind him. Feran didn’t like where the situation was heading. He slipped up beside Terrence and whined softly to get his attention.
“This may not be the best time,” Feran said quietly. “They’ve got rifles and you’re chained between two cats with two more canids in tow. You go feral on this monkey and we won’t make it 20 yards before we’re all full of lead.”
Terrence hesitated, read Feran’s pleading ears and tail, and backed down. The group made its way to a line of trees and they all did their best to offer one another privacy and some chance at a little dignity. When their business was concluded, they were herded back on the truck and locked in the darkness.
About two and a half hours later the truck rumbled to a stop and they were unloaded in front of a warehouse surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with coils of barbed wire. Inside the fence dozens of mammal/human hybrids, shackled and collared in groups of three, stood or sat in the shade. Many watched the newcomers being unloaded from the truck. Feran and his band were led to a gatehouse where they had to give their names, ages, and places of birth and then taken into the warehouse.
Inside, the building had been converted into a gigantic barracks, each Recombinant supplied with a mattress on the floor and a blanket. Feran and the other new arrivals were passed off to a gray-headed Recombinant Control officer with a square jaw and a stiff disposition.
“Welcome to the Cape Canaveral Recombinant Resettlement Facility. Those of you with exceptional aptitude or applicable experience will be provided training in the event a risk scenario materializes during your migration to TER-1. Your stay here will not be long. How long depends on how quickly you can be trained. It’s all up to you.”
He then went on to explain the Facility’s rules and routine, but Feran didn’t pay attention. He was confused, hungry, and tired, and he needed to go to the bathroom.
END OF PART 4