"They owe us" The fellow recently-retired soldier standing by Isaac's side told him. "We fought for their freedom, we won their war for them."
"This is our payment: the least they can do is show their gratitude, am I right?"
Isaac didn't reply, but the other man didn't seem to take a hint. He kept going on.
"Have you chosen yours yet?"
"Yes." Isaac finally relented, if only to get the man to stop talking. He looked over at the big folder they had been given the soldiers that morning, and pointed at a petit-looking brunette. "That one"
"Really?" His brother-in-arms asked, clearly amused "I went for a blonde one, with a kicking body!"
Isaac found it unseemly: They had chosen these girls from a catalog.
Officers justified it as being an organized way of showing them potential suitors, but he saw it for what it was:
These women were being exhibited as if they were nothing but products in a market shelf.
He stared at the photograph one last time before closing the folder. She was pretty, but then again they all were. They were supposed to be beautiful, being the soldiers' prizes.
Isaac felt sick to his stomach.
The planet was filled with intellectuals, men and women who dedicated their lives to studying the universe, but had no real army of their own.
So when they had been invaded, they had basically signed over their soul for protection.
And now the interplanetary war was over and the foreign soldiers were leaving. Peace was restored, but at what cost?
10.000 soldiers, 10.000 wives. A new planet to be inhabited by these brave men, and enough credits to live the rest of their lives comfortably, working the newfound land. Everyone won, right?
Except for the women selected. Isaac felt a pang of guilt as he followed the rest of the soldiers in his group.
Soon they would be going their separate ways, to their assigned pieces of land in that far-off, utopic new planet they'd help repopulate.
But before they left they had to meet their wives-to-be, and Isaac dreaded this moment as he stepped through the door
and saw the group of pretty, impeccably dressed women waiting in the other room.
He inhaled sharply and approached the petite brunette. She wore glasses, just as she did in the photographs.
She had been studying for almost as long as he had been fighting.
Smart, far smarter than him, and yet here she was, his prize.
She nodded. Didn't look too pleased to meet him. Isaac couldn't really blame her.
Did she want to escape? He couldn't be sure. Running away from this duty was punishable by law and the guilty girls were always caught.
The government needed to make sure these girls waiting for their supposed prince charmings understood the consequences of avoiding their duty.
"Why did you pick me?" She asked, suddenly, and Isaac stared at her surprised.
Eventually, though, he smiled. This was better than fake pleasantries, idle small talk and a fiancee he barely knew at all.
"You seemed genuine, different from all those other pictures. I hoped I'd be able to make you happy."
Alyssa smiled. She seemed relieved by his answer. Not happy, no. How could she be when she was being forced to marry a complete stranger?
"It's a good start"
A good start, Isaac repeated to himself. It was something. Perhaps fighting this war had been worth it after all.