What you will find here

This is a place to examine plans filled with hope; plans which promise a refuge from chaos; plans which will shape our futures. Veterans with and without PTSD, Pentecostal Presbyterians, Adjudicated Youth, and Artists-Musicians-Writers: I write what I know. ~~~ Evelyn

Friday, January 17, 2014

Excerpt From Bedina's War - Lazy Eight Ladies Chapter One


The air-handling system did not work properly. The snoring man

next to Sally had eaten something hideous recently. The baby squirming

in its mother’s arms across from Sally desperately needed changing. But

then again, she had not bathed in two weeks herself, so she guessed she

should not complain. The other seat in the compartment was empty.

There were nine similar compartments on this shuttle. Jacob would

have said something appropriate right about this time, but Jacob was

not here. Sally rubbed the wedding band on her finger; a comforting

habit she had picked up since his disappearance.

“I had to sell mine.” The mother across from Sally spoke softly.

“I’m sorry?”

“My wedding ring.” She smiled tentatively. “I had to sell mine to

pay for this trip.”

“You didn’t look like you were on holiday.” Sally’s words were

sometimes harsher than she meant them to be. “Have you come far?”

The mother was younger than she looked. Grimy oil exaggerated

the lines in her face and neck. Bitterness had begun to etch vertical lines

in her bottom lip. “I guess you’d probably not think so.” She reddened

and looked at her baby. “I mean — you look like a Spa’Lab — not that

I’ve met any Spa’Labs — but you have red hair and blue eyes and you’re

very short. You look like —”

The baby spit up and the mother busied herself with cleaning it up.

“What’s his name?” Sally asked.

“Gaia. She’s a girl, aren’t you, my darling?”

“She’s beautiful. You don’t hear too many Old Earth names this far


“I’m from Earth.”


“You have come a long way, then. I’m from New Phoenix.”

The young mother began to cry. Just a tear or two at first, nothing

to call attention to, but finally, unable to hold back her sorrow, she

sobbed and buried her face in her baby’s blanket.

When she had dried her eyes, Sally offered her a chunk of bread.

“No water, sorry.”

“Water, Mother yes!” She laughed. “I remember when I could

turn on the taps and water would flow for as long as I liked. I bathed

everyday! My father has a recycling system on his sphere that … Well,

I never thought I’d miss water so much!”

“Is your father a former?”

“My father, a terraformer? No. He’s an Earther to the bone. He’d

never leave Earth. But he helped design a lot of the systems terraformers

use, like his water recycler.”

“I don’t think we’ll need to worry about water on Orchidea. It rains

there every day.”

“It isn’t supposed to do that, is it?”

“It’s an old form; one of the first this side of Talmedia. The formers

got the methane mixture wrong and the planet developed GHS.”

“What’s geyaches?”

“G. H. S. Greenhouse syndrome.”

Her blank stare encouraged Sally to add, “Too much carbon

dioxide built up, too much heat, not enough oxygen.”

“Oh.” Her confusion had not been erased.

“Orchidea is a very hard place to live, not more than a ghostform,

really, with a couple of squatters trying to raise oolongs.”

“What are squatters?”

“Anyone that won’t swear allegiance to the New Alliance is

forbidden to own land. So, those people who still claim land but refuse

New Alliance citizenship are considered squatters.”

“I didn’t know you could refuse to be a part of us. What are


“Lizards. Great, gigantic lizards. They are not indigenous, but they

do well in Orchidea’s climate. On some planets, they’re sold for meat

and leather goods.”


“People eat them?!”

“You haven’t been away from Earth long, have you.”

“A year and a half. But I’ve never eaten meat. I couldn’t!”

Sally tried really hard not to say something curt to this selfrighteous

child who still believed one could pick and choose food. She

glared at the air vent, wishing it fixed. But Sally never was gifted at


“Are you from Orchidea? I know you said you were from New

Phoenix, and my daddy told me that Spa’Labs are known to travel a

lot.” She had noticed Sally’s expression and spoke softly.


“Have you been there before?”


“How do you know so much about it?”

“I read about it.”

“You can read?” Admiration shone in her eyes. Then she fussed at

herself. “Of course you can read. I knew you were a Spa’Lab! I never

met anyone who could read except my daddy!”

It always surprised Sally that this one fact — being able to read —

miraculously changed her image from ballast tubing to copper pipes.

She would not have mentioned it, if it had not been for the Earther’s

attitude about meat.

“We ought to get some rest,” the young mother said, looking at her

wrist. “We should be arriving any time now.”


“Yes. It’s a Subdermal Normal Digital. My father had it implanted

on my tenth birthday.”

“The day these shuttles run on time — I’ll get a sub-diggy

implanted, too.”

Normal Digital was pretty much useless anywhere but Earth. It

divided the Earth day into ten equal movietimes, and each movietime

was divided into ten sitcoms, which were each divided into ten

comshells. But on New Phoenix, the solar day was fourteen movietimes

long, and on Dersdarina, the solar day was eight movietimes. Space

Labs were Earth-normal but only because the Spa’Labs did not orbit

any stars. Very few other planets — Alliance or Commonwealth had

exactly ten movietime solar days.

She was staring at the back of her wrist with a look of pride. Pride

in obsolescence, that was a good way to describe most Earthers, but

not to their face. There was never a need to be rude. Rudeness is a

poisonous wound inflicted only to fester. That was a NewPhee scripture

that Sally’s housekeeper Turna said often — usually as a false apology

following a searingly rude comment directed at one of the staff.

Sally took a deep breath. Subdermal digital and veggie-snobbery,

too; she was a long way from home.


The landing ports on all planets are kept up by the New Alliance.

The port on Orchidea looked just the same as any other Sally had seen.

Someone somewhere got a terrific buy on sea foam green paint and

tangerine orange fabric. Every port she had ever been in since the war

was decorated that way. It is supposed to suggest to the travelers that

all ethnicities are the same people now, no matter where they are: One

Earth, One Mother, One Family.

The War for Unification; that’s its name now. Not the War of the

Allied Aggression, as the Commonwealth called it, or the Mother War,

as the Alliance called it, not even Bedina’s War, even though it was her

idea. No, historians now refer to it as the War for Unification. Well, at

least the shuttle ports are all unified.

The shuttlers who were continuing their journey were shown

the communal dorm and got to eat. Depending on their fortune,

they could buy rations, exercise on gravity machines, or sleep in a

hammock. They were kept isolated from the rest of the shuttle station

within hermitically sealed tunnels.

The three who had chosen to stop at Orchidea were blasted with

anti-fungus powder before the shuttle door opened. They blinked in the

light of the customs room. One frumpy-looking guard pointed them to

the customs machine which asked each one to show their travel visas.

Sally placed the aluminum card in the appropriate slot.

Her vital statistics were stored on that card.



Spousal: Chervok

Clan: Gensveria

Familial: Salacious.

Age: 87

Child-bearing Discount: Yes

Occupation: Botanical scout

Communal Status: Monogamous wife, three biological children

Ethnicity: OrionLab native, New Phoenix citizen

Before the war, Alliance citizens could expect to live one hundred

years; Commonwealth members and Mission orphans, one hundred

fifty. Space Lab Nationals often saw two hundred years. The war hadn’t

changed this. So, out of a life-expectancy of two hundred years, Sally

was still of child-bearing years, and eligible for discount travel rates. She

did not mind that. There was one thing that did bother her: Ethnicity.

Anthropologists believe that humans developed into separate races

after their first journey into space. Sally did not consider herself a

Spa’Lab, never did, anymore than she thought of Jacob as a NewPhee

or that lost child as an Earther. All came from the same root stock.

But these millennia of interplanetary emigration and colonization

have hybrid humans. Sally was born and raised on a space lab. She

never ran in open fields, weighted by gravity, so her limbs and muscles

never elongated. She was short and muscular, with bright red hair and

translucent skin that freckled when given the chance. Her parents were

the same, as were their parents before them. The hair and coloring,

previously a recessive gene on Earth, seemed to establish itself firmly

in colonial Spa’Lab DNA. Sally’s Papa used to laugh and say, “Red

heads, like the Vikings of Old Earth, are the true conquering heroes

of space.” Ethnicity was one concept that the late President Lityerses

Bedina had encouraged before and during her two terms in office.

She was the queen of manipulation and “divide and conquer” had its

charm. By pointing out the genetic differences between the Alliance

and Commonwealth worlds and specifically the Space Lab Nations,

she gave the impression that humans were about to split irreconcilably


and only war could bring them back as one people. The concept of

separate races did not disappear after the war’s end.

“Is your visit on Orchidea business or personal?” The customs

computer’s voice sounded exactly the same here as anywhere else.


“Next.” It spit out Sally’s visa and swallowed the man’s next to her.

The three shuttlers staying on Orchidea stepped through the airlock

into steam; pure, wonderful, suffocating steam. Everywhere Sally looked

she saw green: trees soared hundreds of meters above her head, ferns

thick as hills sprawled along the paths, grass and ground cover squished

where ever she placed her feet. Among all the different greens were

browns and whites and touches of yellow, splashes of reds, and a hint of

purple. Watermelon on a hot winter’s day in New Phoenix; that was the

smell. And the scent of real chocolate, like the small cubes of chocolate

Jacob used to bring home to the children. High pitched whirring noises

echoed around her. A locust, larger than her foot, shiny black with stripes

of red and yellow boinged onto the grass in front of her. Orchidea was

beautiful; everything here was wet and vibrant.

How Jacob must have hated it.

Jacob hated traveling anywhere that was different from his home

world. Orchidea was nothing like New Phoenix except that they were

both terraformed planets that had gone wrong. New Phoenix was a

desert world with a lot of water, but not enough microbes in the soil to

support vegetation. A desert world that bred a fierce race of man.

“Oh, Mother! Please say this is an unusually hot summer day!”

Sally’s seating companion took out a huge white cloth and mopped

at his face. “Mother, look at this! My jumpsuit’s already soaked right


“Actually, Mr. Ignacio, it is autumn now in this part of Orchidea.”

A man suddenly appeared before them. Dressed to match his

environment, he seemed to step from out of a tree, like a nymph.

“Ah, and you must be Your Majesty Benjamin Haskell!”

“Mr. Ignacio, we follow Commonwealth traditions on Orchidea.

Haskell is my clan name, Benjamin is my familial, so you may address

me as Mr. Haskell or Haskell Benjamin.”

“So, I should not refer to your eminence’s title?”

The Orchidean’s repetition was soft but firm, “Mr. Haskell or

Haskell Benjamin. Either will do.”

The two men clapped the palms of their hands above their heads

in an ancient sign of peace.

“Excuse me, Mr. Haskell.” He turned to face Sally. “Where’s your

Talking Wall?”

He didn’t answer; he just looked at her, like she was an apple

blossom on an African violet. Sally held his gaze and let him think

what he pleased. She watched him as his eyes took her in. He began

by cataloging her hair, eyes and skin. Sally had a lot of freckles, so

Haskell — if he knew much about Spa’Labs — knew she’d spent most

of her life dirt-bound. His gaze moved from her face to her blue and

green striped jumpsuit. He didn’t linger in a leering way, but hesitated

appreciatively. He looked her in the eyes again, acknowledging her

presence, but then his focus dipped to her neckline. Sally could feel the

songbox pulsing against her throat, dangling on a heavy sterling chain.

Haskell knew what a Songbox was — she could see it in his expression.

He had recognized her as a Space Lab National. Sally expected some

prejudicial remark — something born of fear or ignorance. But he

smiled instead and slightly inclined his head. He was being respectful,

reserved, but he said nothing.

His sandy-colored hair was wiry. His nose was big with a shallow

cleft down from the tip to the place it touched his upper lip. His lips

were almost the color of his hair and were surrounded by a closetrimmed

beard and mustache, slightly more golden than the hair

creeping out of his toga. He was head and shoulders taller than Sally.

His well-proportioned body was a pleasing sight.

“The little Spa’Lab was asking about your Talking Wall, Mr.

Haskell.” Mr. Ignacio’s voice seemed to break Benjamin’s observation

and he looked at the ground.

“There isn’t one. Veggies took it over a few decades back. Most

who come here don’t need directions. They were invited.” He turned

his back and led Mr. Ignacio away to the waiting vehicle.

Gaia began to cry as her mother stood at Sally’s side. “Are they


going to just leave us here?” she whispered.

“We’ll be a’right.” Sally slipped her arm around her waist and glared

after the receding vehicle. “Why don’t you change and feed Gaia and

then we’ll be on our way.”


“Honey, we’ll follow the road. Orchidea City must be along it

somewhere. It’s the only road from here.” Sally watched a butterfly the

size of her hand lift off from a bromeliad.

“He was supposed to meet me here. He promised he would.”

“Now look!” Sally put her hands on her hips. “I don’t have any

patience with people who cry, and you seem to cry at the drop of a

helmet. You’ve got things to do, now get them done. I’m going to find

that Talking Wall, veggie-covered or not, and then we’ll be on our


Unable to speak through her tears, the young woman nodded

vigorously as Sally walked away.

There was a thin trail that led from the shuttle port into the forest.

Sally unsnapped her walking stick from her pack and squared her

shoulders. The walls surrounding the port were solid steel, like all

the ports in the New Alliance. Although vines and creepers covered

the ground, none of them dared the wall’s cold surface. A power grid

surged across the metal, too, to discourage foliage encroachment.

If there was a Talking Wall, it would be within walking distance

of the port. A Talking Wall’s purpose was to communicate directions

for travelers. They were programmed in Alliang (Alliance Military

Language — at one time, the most common language spoken thorough

out the universe) but for a fee, could translate into any of the dozen or

so more popular languages: various Commonwealth, Mission, probably

even Earther. Sally didn’t hope it could communicate in Spa’Lab. That

language was a closely guarded secret. She’d taught it to her children of

course, but never spoke a word of it to Jacob.

Spider webs drew her out of her contemplation. She followed the

path as it wove through the jungle around the port and wound up at a

bungalow nestled between the roots of a huge magnolia.

Excerpt from

Bedina’s War

© Evelyn Rainey

Comfort Publishing

ISBN 9781936695881

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