Title: Red Letter Law
Entry Nickname: Mars Bars and Snickers
Word Count: 68k
Genre: YA Space Opera #ownvoices
On Mars in 2038, people are selling other people. Those who run this trade call it indentured servitude, but fifteen-year-old Lonnie Freeman doesn’t buy it. When her mom and stepdad lose a Mars-ton of money, they sign Lonnie and her sister Chelle up for servitude, assuring them that everything will be fine and it’s only two Mars years – 45 months. Lonnie sees this as diet slavery – fewer calories and less guilt, but it’s still bad for you.
While Chelle runs away to Earth, Lonnie is patronized (bought) by a wealthy family. She cares for a pair of adorable three-year-old twins, and becomes friends with her patrons’ teenage son Amir. She doesn’t feel like a slave.
But everything changes when Amir’s classmate rapes Lonnie, claiming he wants to “borrow” her from Amir. Infuriated, Amir throws the rapist out of the house. Lonnie’s existing anxiety progresses to frequent panic attacks. She learns that the rape of servants is a common occurrence and well-kept secret; most servants are afraid to say anything about it. She resolves to get her rapist put on trial, but the rapist’s father makes a threat: if his son is implicated for rape, he will tell the police that Amir was complicit. Lonnie’s patrons don’t want to take that chance.
Meanwhile, Chelle bonds with other servants on her spaceship to Earth. They teach her songs about spinning textiles. She soon comes to realize that these songs have hidden messages about finding shelter after escaping servitude, and they give hints as to the crooked business practices causing the servitude industry to thrive.
If Chelle fails to decipher the textile songs, her new friends may be on the run forever. If Lonnie doesn’t find a way out of the system that oppresses her, she can’t heal from her trauma.
“You forgot the tampons?” I stare at my sister in disbelief.
Rochelle stares back, confirming my fear.
“Oh, frack!” she says, pulling her gaze away and starting to dig. She points down, reminding me to help.
Red dust flies up toward me as my shovel pierces the ground. We’re surrounded by a vast expanse of a desert drier than my Uncle Davis’s jokes. I glance at the cracks in the ground, which look blue through my mask, and wish I could go home to the blue planet.
“Frack nothin’,” I snap. “We have to go back to the store.”
“Lonnie, we can’t. Mom said not to use any more solar power.”
“Chelle! We have to go back to the store.”
She purses her full lips.
“Let’s just finish this first,” she says, “and then we can walk or rent a velo, okay?”
A velomobile! Pedal power. Now she’s speaking my language.
“Okay, but hurry!” I grin. “And do I get to drive?”
“Good, ‘cause the way you pedal, we’ll be lucky to get halfway out of the parking lot before the dust storm—“
We stop when the hole is three feet deep. From the front pocket of my jumpsuit, I take a multi-faceted silver ball a little bigger than my palm. It looks just like something they used to hang from the ceiling during parties when my grandma was my age. But this is no funky ornament; it’s our family’s most valuable possession.