Without hesitation Gard Sebright grabbed the glass cup before it hit the Ashby's station floor. The others in the room, all let out a deep breath, relived that Gard caught the cup in time. Gard smiled, his expressions pleased with himself, and ready for the other servants to congratulate him, or at least smile. But their stone like faces stayed intact as they went back to their work, as if nothing had happened. The smile left Gard's face. Taking hold of the cup with both hands he carefully placed it back on the large oval table. An elderly woman stopped him before his hand was lifted from the cup, coming up from behind him he didn't expect her touch on his hand.
"Line it up with the others." She commanded through stiff lips and wide eyes. Gard obeyed, quickly matching the cup on the left corner of the tablecloth like all the others. The women's grip on his hand tightened, until he turned the leaf design out instead of in. Finely her grip loosened, Gard quickly lifted his hand up and took a step back from her. The jerk in his movement made his long black hair fall slightly from his lose ponytail. Gard quickly brushed it behind his ear, not wanting to get reprimanded again. "You are Gard?" The women asked, her voice less commanding but still stern.
Gard shock his head. "Y-Yes."
The women smiled, pleased with his apparent fear. "I am Lorn. Head housekeeper to the Ashby." Gard extended his sore hand, she didn't take it. "Come, I'll show you to your courtiers." Lorn walked off, fast, with Gard practically sprinting to keep up with her. "Lets get a few things straight." She pressed as she led Gard up a flight of stairs that from sight went on forever. "You serve the Lord Ashby, his wife, and daughter. But you also serve me. If any of the Ashby's ask something of you, you will do it without question. You are to address the Ashby's as Lord, or Lady's, as with any guest that comes in this house. If you do not follow these orders, or brake any of the Ashby rules you will be sent back down to earth."
"What are the rules?" Gard asked, already beginning to pant from the stairs that they climbed, but Lorn seemed to not be affected.
Lorn answered his question. "All that I have just told you. You are always to travel through the stair ways, and never take the elevators."
"Well that doesn't seem too hard."
Lorn stopped, turning her body faster then Gard could react, grabbing his face with her hand, her fingers so tight he could already feel burses forming on his skin. "Know your place child. You are not on Earth anymore. You are no longer free. You belong to another man, and that man can do whatever he sees fit for you. Understand?" Lorn let go, turning forward again faster then Gard could react. Immediately beginning the clime up the stairs again.
The rest of the way was silent until Gard asked, fearfully, and a few steps behind Lorn. "What are the Ashby's like?" Gard braced himself for another attack, but Lorn only continued walking. Then as if waiting for that question all along she spoke freely, and Gard felt like an equal to her.
"Watch out for lord, he favors the women." Lorn hesitated, and Gard could hear her voice crack, as if remembering a sadness deep inside. "If you stay out of his way he may grow to except you. The older Lady is rarely here, don't expect to see her often."
"And the younger Lady?"
Gard could hear a smile forming on Lorn's face "Ellie's not like her parents."
"Ellie?" Gard asked
"She'll insist you call her Ellie, except in her father's presence when it must be Lady. If she's not traveling with her mother, which she does often she'll be here."
Lorn stopped, grabbing a doorknob to one of the doors that surrounded the walls of the stairway. "This door leads to the male courtiers." Lorn opened the door revealing a long stretch of hallway. Gard was glade to be off of the stairs, and on level ground once more.
Gard's new room was one of the last in the hallway, it was a small room, but bigger then the one he had on earth, and he shared it with no one. In it there was a bed, table, and sink. Otherwise it was bare with no window, only a cracked lamp that hung overhead.
"Everything you need is under the bed. Shirt, pants, shoes, and socks. You'll wear the same basic outfit everyday. At the end of the day you'll trade it in the laundry with a clean one."
Gard sat on the bed, testing the lumpy mattress for comfort, as lumpy and lopsided that it was it was still better then the one he had on earth.
"Get dressed, and met me in the kitchen, its trough the door opposite the one at the end of the hall, I'll show you the rest of the house and what your duties will be."
Gard went to say ok but Lorn slammed the door before he could speak. Bowing his head he thought about his new position. Just yesterday he had been a regular earth kid, the only surviving child of the Sebright Clan in the west colony. To survive 15 half year winters, wars, starvation, and death just to have his father sell him to the highest bidder. The image of his mothers face burned a whole in his mind, the tears she hid as he boarded the ship that would take him away from earth, and his fathers stern face as he watched silently as the ship took off.
Gard at one point would have had nine brothers and sisters, but they all died before they're fifth birthday's, except for Gard. Unsure of which order they were born in, only that he was somewhere in the middle. He watched his mother bring three sons into this world after himself. He watched the light in her eye's glow as she held them, caressed them, and dreamed of them growing up, only to be crushed when none of them lived a year.
It was like that in the west colony, in all the colonies he assumed. Several children to a family, but only few strong enough to make it through childhood. Gard was one of the lucky ones. Lucky, he thought unbuttoning his brown and ripped trousers and pulling on the slick black one's that fit his measurements perfectly. Lucky to be a slave for the next twenty years paying off my debt to come here, when I didn't even want to come in the first place. His father probably did have his best intentions at heart by doing this. Gard would never see his children wither in the sub zero winters when your body froze from the inside, bones to skin. Or watch them suck the moisture out of long dead plants, or play games amongst the ivory bones of solders who perished in wars long ago and solders recently killed in the latest confrontation.
He could have gone off to fight a war that had no name other then Jihad, and no purpose other then the body count on each side. Gard often left his family's compound at the end of winter to find the near by lands thick with the dead who fought there. On Earth the dead were either eaten, for their meat and protein. Or left where they died in the hopes that their remains might replenish the land so greenery and food could grow again. With plant life perhaps the Ozone could be repaired, and the nine and a half months of winter would lessen letting the sunshine down longer.
Gard tried to clear his mind as he began to button his white shirt, the complex work of the shirt confused him as to which end the buttons went, and how to button the sleeves properly. Gard wasn't used to cloths anything like this. On Earth his cloths were never washed, and there was no need or desire to be this fancy.
Once his shoes were on he moved to the small mirror over the sink. In a drawer under it he found a comb and began to comb all of the rats and snarls out of his hair. Gard had his father's hair, dark black, and long, but his face belonged to his mother. No doubt Lorn would make him cut the hair which he took such pride in. Not sure of how exactly Lorn wanted his hair-up or down. Gard put it up like he always had it, but pulling it tighter then usual, not wanting to offend anyone when it suddenly fell like before with Lorn.
When he was sure he was done, Gard left the room. His feet clicking each time his shoes hit the metal floor. It annoyed Gard, but he had to get used to it.
After getting lost several times and finding no other servant who would help him or even talk to him, he finely found the way to the kitchen where Lorn said she would met him. A few steps away from the door he heard laughter, and then Lorn's voice. He was shocked to hear the combination. He slowly opened the kitchen door; his head bowed feeling that if he came in assured of himself it would somehow offend her.
"Oh." Gard heard, the voice was unfamiliar, light, and happy. Gard raised his eyes but still held his head bowed. Next to Lorn was a beautiful woman. Her cloths told him that she must be Lord Ashby's daughter, and the style of her light brown hair said that she must be wealthy. She had her arm around Lorn's waist; smiles covered both women's faces. Gard watched as the girl stepped away from Lorn. Outstretching her hand toward him, still smiling. "Please." She said beckoning him to raise himself and shake her hand. "I'm Elawease Ashby, but please call he Ellie." She said as their hands touched. Gard could feel the kindness in her touch; a kindness so overpowering that he had to smile.
"Gard Sebright, at your service."
Ellie smiled. "Welcome to my home."
"Come you, I'll show you the rest of the house." Barked Lorn coming up from behind Ellie. Ellie could see the fear forming in his eyes.
"Wait." She said stopping Lorn from pushing the still staring Gard out of the door. "I'll show him." Ellie moved toward the door, but turned before leaving. "Lorn, you and the other servants have the rest of the day off." She said lightly, leaving the room before the women could object. Gard followed Ellie; his eye's still fixed on her delicate beauty. As they moved from the kitchen and servant courtiers into the actual house Gard got a better look at her. Her gown was light blue with gold designs shown into the skirt, and her hair braided in what looked like thousands of small braids, some tide up on her head while others flowed down her back with ease.
"This is the sitting room." She announced showing Gard into the biggest room that he had ever seen in his whole life. Just the room itself was the size of his entire house on Earth. Gard was taken aback, with his mouth hanging open as he stepped further into the room. Further aghast as he saw the wall length windows that looked out onto the vast area of space all around them. Gard approached it, his hand lightly touching the cold glass. His eye's mesmerized by the deep darkness as well as the lemons light of the stars. Gard looked further seeing the red glow of Mars up ahead. Letting out a deep breath he turned to Ellie who watched him with a smile.
"Its amazing isn't it." She assured him. Gard turned back to the scene unable to look away.
"Oh ya." He breathed, squinting his eyes, trying to see further and deeper into the space that surrounded him.
"Come." She said. "There's more."
Gard tore himself away, not in all his years had he ever seen anything so breath taking, besides Ellie who now led him out of the sitting room and down another hall. A hall devoid of windows just like the rest of the house.
Ellie led him to a large metal door, different from the wooden doors that led him into the sitting room or his own room. "What's this?" He asked
"The elevator." She stated, pushing one of the many red buttons next to the door.
"Wait that was a rule." He persisted, searching his mind for what exactly Lorn had said. "Don't go up the elevator always use the stairs."
Ellie saw the nervousness on his face. "Its Ok Gard, you're with me."
Gard smiled but still uneasy about going in, Ellie took his hand and led him inside the Box like room made of metal. Before stepping completely inside Gard looked both ways down the hall making sure that Lorn wasn't watching, when he decided that it was clear he stepped in all the way. Standing next to Ellie his hand still in hers. The ride up was silent until Gard asked. "Were you born on the stations?"
"Yes, as were both my parents. Were you born on earth?"
"Ya, my parents too."
"What's it like?" Her eye's widened, curious to what he might say.
"Nothing like this."
"Lorn wasn't too terrible to you was she?"
"Not too terrible."
Ellie turned to him. "She's not that bad, she's only ruff on the first day. She only does it so you won't talk back when she orders you around tomorrow."
"Has she been in your service long?"
"Lorn is free, she worked off her debt long ago, but she stayed as my nurse when I was a baby."
The metal doors slashed open with a click. Ellie led Gard out; their hands still intertwined. "This is the 7th floor of the house."
Gard found himself in another long hallway Ellie pointed out that the bedrooms were to the left then she led him to the right. "Theirs something you must see." Ellie led him to a wooden door near the end of the hallway. "This is my favorite place in the whole world." Gard was still smiling at her enthiazum when she opened the door.
Inside was a lush green room with exotic flora and tall tree's everywhere. "Oh my god." Gard breathed touching a moist leaf on one of the trees and looking down at the grass-carpeted room.
"It's one of the only ones on the stations."
"On earth we always hoped, but never."
"The first one's who built the stations planted it."
"And it just grew like this?"
Ellie shock her head. "Yes."
Gard looked subdued. "Iv never seen anything like this."
"Not even on earth?"
"No part of Earth is like this anymore."
Gard went further into the room, taking in everything that was so knew to him. Ellie followed, but kept her distance. Herself also mesmerized by the plants even though she had seen them hundreds of times before. Gard walked further, imagining how his family, his friends, all the people still on earth would react to this. Wars would stop, peace could be held longer. Or something this powerful could start more wars. Gard banished these depressing thoughts from his mind, and breathed in the warm air with ease.
The air was smooth in this room, smoother then the air on earth and the air in the rest of the house. Thick exotic smells filled his lungs and relaxed him. His fingers stroking the vibrant colors of the plants. His mind trying to capture every color, every sent. Ellie took a seat on one of the bench's near Gard, saying. "Gard, as far as I'm concerned this place belongs to everyone, and you are welcome here anytime. But my father doesn't always see it that way, so be carefully."
Gard looked at her, trapped in her hazy green eyes filled with concern for his well being. "Why are you so kind to me?" He asked taking a seat beside her on one of the bench's. "Iv never been treated with such kindness."
Ellie bowed her head, as if in deep meditation then raised it again. "You and I are no different Gard." Gard was silent, not expecting a Lady to ever say such a thing to him. Ellie smiled, and expecting no reply she stood preparing to walk away. "I'll be leaving tomorrow when my mother returns, it'll just be you and my father. Be careful." Ellie smiled again before leaving. Gard watched her go, listening to the sway of her blue gown as it brushed the grass growing from beneath their feet.