Glori brushed one of the fuzzy pink flowers with the toe of her shoe as she marched out onto the playground field, following the rest of her class in line. The playground was covered with them, little pink puff-balls, where there used to be dandelions. A few spots of yellow still remained, but they looked like they were having a hard time of it. It had only been a year since the Sera had come, but already those fuzzy pink flowers they had brought were everywhere.
Most of the school was already out there, all the younger grades seated in rows. Glori’s heart skipped to see the silver bulk of a small Sera ship resting in the grass, out in the middle of the baseball diamond. There was a Sera standing next to the open hatch, looking about as human as Glori had ever seen one. His hair was still brilliantly white, but his face wasn’t glowing and he was wearing an ordinary human business suit. Glori wondered where he’d gotten one large enough. He was so tall he would have bumped his head on the ceiling of her classroom if he’d come inside the school.
The principal didn’t have a microphone, but her voice was being magnified somehow anyway. Sera technology. “Please be seated everyone, I have an important announcement to make.” She sounded excited, nervous, and sort of fake happy. Like she always did at an assembly.
Glori sat down in the grass next to her friend Birema. Birema was scowling. “I know what they’re going to do,” she said. “My daddy told me this morning. It happened yesterday in some other countries.”
“What are they doing?” Glori asked.
Birema shook her head as the principal’s voice boomed out over the assembly.
“Our friends the Sera have generously offered to take some of our best students in order to educate them. If you choose to go, you will be leaving immediately. You will have no need for anything, everything will be provided for you. All you need to do is get on board the shuttle. Once again, this is an invitation. No one will be compelled to go. When I call you, you may come forward.”
No one moved at first, then several students raised their hands. “When are we coming back?” “What about our families?”
“No questions, please,” said the principal, and started reading off names.
One by one, a few children stood up and moved toward the front.
I whispered to Birema. “Those little kids, do they understand they’re not coming back?”
“If they call you, go,” Birema said. “Daddy told me everyone who stays behind is going to be burned.”
I stared at her. Her brown eyes were dead serious, her face a hard crust over soft, sick despair. How did her father know that? Was it true?
“Glori Pace” the principal called my name.
I didn’t move. I didn’t care what happened. I wasn’t going anywhere with the Sera.