“Commander Gordon,” Robert Frost, captain of the Sharp Claws appeared not just on the command audio feed but came up on the video feed to Gordon too. That indicated he had something more than routine to discuss.
“Captain Frost,” Gordon acknowledged and nodded, a human gesture many of them had assimilated.
“We have the first case of an infection from an alien life form. I just finished speaking with my medical officer about it. The crew woman who reported to sick-call tried to treat it herself but it didn’t improve.”
“Well, I guess all those protocols put in place by the Earth powers were not entirely without merit as our recent hosts implied.”
“Oh, we’ve known there are things one can catch already. Thorn has a whole list of them, mostly various amoebas and parasites. The people who keep an embassy open on the Elves’ world just in case they ever want to have anything to do with us get something called Blue Dot. They feel tired and get little blue bumps that go away in about three days. Nobody has ever isolated an organism causing it or documented a human to human transmission. I don’t think they’ve ever had a Derf on world to see if they catch it. The thing Earth worries about isn’t that sort of thing. They are fearful of something deadly like the flu or smallpox.”
“I take it this isn’t such a devastating disease or you’d be more upset?” Gordon prompted him.
“Yes, it another irritating thing that I’m pretty sure we can deal with, but it still seemed worth a word of warning.”
“Good, I’m putting our medial guy on the circuit. He’s our environmental officer too. Would you describe how you became aware of this and we’ll send the recording to our other vessels too.”
“The young Human woman is a previous Fargone missile tech who left their service before we recruited her. She’s twenty seven Fargone years old, a bit more than twenty eight T-years. She got a patch of white and itching to the inside of her little toe on her right foot. Thinking it common Athlete’s Foot she asked our medic for a tube of anti-fungal cream and she prophylactically applied it to the other gaps between her toes with clean hands , and then applied it to the afflicted area last. It didn’t improve, indeed it got worse, appeared on the other foot, and changed color to a yellowish hue. That’s when she returned to medical and sought help.”
“What is this Athlete’s Foot?” Gordon asked, puzzled. It seemed like an athletic foot should be a good thing.
“It’s a common fungal infection in humans. It is often spread in communal areas where people go bare footed. But it is incubated in the dark and moisture between their toes. The more so because shoes and socks keep the foot in the dark and limit drying air circulation. This is a Badger analog of a fungus, but the medical tech was smart enough to scan a swab and see there is alien genetic material present. Indeed it returned an error message because there are sequences not common to any Earth organisms.”
“How did you confirm it is a Badger organism?”
“We have some sequencing of Badger and Badger planet organisms from trading items. There were short sequence matches once the medical scanner was supplied a wider database. But we showed photographs of her foot to Badgers on the Dart and they immediately said: ‘Oh yeah, boot rot.’ It seems it is an occupational hazard to those who have to wear boots for their work such as caring for herd animals and working in industrial settings. Most Badgers avoid wearing an enclosing shoe unless absolutely necessary.”
“Then I assume they know how to treat it?” Thor asked on the audio feed.
“Yes, but their cure is to crush a sort of common weed that looks like a succulent and stuff the sticky mass in the toe of the boot. The other folk remedy is to find a source of mud near a natural body of water and coat the foot liberally with it, getting it between the toes thoroughly, and allow it to remain and dry out for a few days before washing it away. Apparently there are naturally antagonistic organisms in such mud. Since neither cure is available here my medic cut the upper section away from the toes on a pair of cloth shoes. We are coating one foot with a disinfectant wash we use for surgical prep and the other foot with a dilute solution of iodine.”
“Thank you. Keep me appraised if this becomes a bigger problem or doesn’t respond to treatment,” Gordon requested. He appeared ready to end the discussion but Lee spoke up.
“Gordon? Captain Frost? Just a thought here. Most Human laundry is vacuum tumbled. A freeze dried fungus may be dormant but not dead. You might make sure her socks get wet washed in chlorine bleach or something similar or they may just re-infect her.”
“That’s interesting,” Frost said looking surprised. “I’ll mention it to my medic right now.”
“How did you know that?” Gordon asked Lee after Frost was gone.
“When I lived with my relatives in Michigan for awhile their kids got Athlete’s Foot at the community pool and quickly spread it to everybody else at home. I remember my cousin’s wife putting bleach in the wash to get rid of it.”
“So you did learn some practical things on Earth,” Gordon said, amused.
“Just all kinds of skills,” Lee assured him, scowling. “I know how to form a jail gang to keep safe. I know how to get back in line quickly to get a second serving in the jail mess, and I know how to slowly eat a candy bar in tiny little nips and make it fill you up if they have you on lock-down and aren’t feeding you. I learned how to sit in the sun where there is a breeze to keep the mosquitoes from leaving you a mess of welts. I even know how to suck-up to a bureaucratic negative tax official so you get your case moved forward while the angry combative folks don’t get what they need. Doesn’t mean I want to live on a planet where I need those sort of skills,” she said, firmly.
There was a lot Lee still hadn’t told him about her time on Earth Gordon reflected.
April slouched deep down in the oversized Hardoy chair. She’d bought two in this larger size thinking they would be more comfortable for Gunny and other big men. It turned out she preferred them. The back went up high enough for her to lean her head back and the extra width spread the heavy ballistic cloth flatter than a smaller chair with light rip-stop fabric. It supported her legs clear out to the rolled over padded edge under her knees.
In the half G apparent gravity that her apartment was kept at the chair was as comfortable as a hammock and almost as hard for her to lever herself from its depths. It was low enough she could safely sit her coffee mug on the floor beside her and plenty of room on each side to tuck snacks or reading material. She had her comp-pad laying screen down on her stomach at the moment paused on the newsfeed she was reading while she gazed out her view port.
The commonest size of apartment on Home wasn’t any bigger than a cheap motel room in North America and every square meter had to do double or triple duty. Kitchen tables and beds that folded up against the wall when not needed were common. They used the sort of appliances and fixtures common to travel trailers and motor homes on Earth. She had a huge apartment by local standards. So much so it embarrassed her on occasion as a visitor would freeze for an instant with surprise on their face when they stepped inside the door.
Her bodyguard Gunny had immediately rated it a four-car apartment upon stepping in the first time, since he had an annoying habit of comparing every place he saw in Home to the size of a garage you’d expect on a North American home. He was of the opinion what he called the half-car model might drive people crazy from confinement, but he had a skewed view of things having lived most of his life on Earth. April knew that some of the Japanese found the local accommodations compared very favorably to what they had lived in back home.
She’d been spoiled rotten growing up because her family was relatively well-to-do. Her grandfather had helped in the construction of Mitsubishi 3 and put all his money in both spun residential cubic and zero G industrial space. Also her father was the resident manager for Mitsubishi with a generous housing allowance.
As a child she had her own bedroom that was the size of a walk-in closet on Earth. Even more of a luxury was her own square meter all-in-one unit bath that became a shower stall with the door sealed. By orbital standards that was a palace. So she might have found the very smallest apartment oppressive herself. They were barely more than hot slots, but she’d never admit that to Gunny.
Behind her there were two sofas facing each other across a table on a rug that defined a formal living area. In smaller apartments they would be wall hung fold-downs from the wall. They were IKEA super light hide-a-beds in case she needed to put up guests. She had enough wall space for both a fairly large 32K video monitor and some big pieces of art. There was also room by the cooking area for a real table that could seat six which she left set up. It looked sturdy enough but the legs could be folded inside the drop apron and set to the side if the floor area was needed.
The kitchen against the inside bulkhead had a simple two burner stove and a microwave. April had the luxury of a small refrigerator too. A few folks didn’t bother with even that much, taking all their meals at the cafeteria. It was decent food too. Mitsubishi saw to that. If you had a stove that meant you needed dishes, pans, utensils and things like spices and volume to store them. It soon escalated to the status of a cooking hobby rather than any necessity. You easily could keep a few cans of self heating stuff like soup or stew for when you felt sick or were just too tired to trek down to the cafeteria. The cafeteria also would pack take away and there were cheap courier services to deliver it.
Further from the entry behind the kitchen and dining area the end of her space was divided into two small bedrooms with a bath between them. Each had a private section but a shared shower stall between them with lockout doors so only one side would open at a time. That was all framed off in temporary wall panels that jammed in place between overhead and deck with locking vertical seams.
If she let her body guard, Gunny, go it would be easy to remodel by removing the panels. Neither had brought idea up the idea of him leaving in some months now. His one month gig had turned into open ended employment, although less than full time. His status now was more ‘on call’, especially since Home was further from Earth and trouble now. He could take short security jobs with other associates.
The reason she pulled her chair over by the port was to enjoy the view. Right now the moon was in a thin crescent on the edge to her right. From this side there was no light reflected off the Earth so it was utterly dark on the left portion. You were made aware of it more by the absence of brighter stars than any illumination of the surface at all.
The sun was directly visible to the right of the moon and she had the port darkened until it was bearable. They were at that point in their orbit around the L2 point where the Earth disappeared behind the moon. In a couple hours the thin slice of moon would have the sun just barely shining past the edge of it and the blue marble of the Earth would rise from behind the opposite dark horizon of the moon to the left. It would display a crescent to the same side as the moon but a bigger section. They were much too far away to see the lights of cities in the dark section by eyeball.
Neither were there any lights to be seen from here on the dark portion of the moon. All the settlements of humankind were on the other face of the moon that stayed pointed to the Earth. The few places with any people or surface structures on this side were barely visible with a very good telescope when they were in sunlight. The headlamps of a rover or floods outside a habitat entry were insignificant.
April could still call her friend Heather at Central on the other side of the moon or anywhere on Earth for that matter. There were plenty of satellites in lunar orbit to relay the call. There were now several such systems so you couldn’t be cut off easily. It was on the one hand still conveniently close here. Hardly any further than Low Earth Orbit in terms of propellant cost. Being at L2 only cost about ten percent more it in freight costs over lifting from Earth to LEO. Unless you were in a hurry. On the other hand it was just distant enough from Earth to enhance their safety. The Earthies had never seemed able to resist the occasional pot shot at Home when they had been in LEO and the added distance was sufficient to give them warning of hostile approach.
That was all background however which all slowly turned every few minutes as the habitat rotated. Their current orientation kept the sun in view although it looped back and forth. Dominating the close view that stayed fixed was the nearby strut tapering from the ring in which April’s home was to the hub above. The same ring extended horizontally across the bottom of her view with another spoke extending to the far side of it a third of the way around. The view was dramatic with massive elements one rarely saw in Earth architecture. The only dynamic aspect of the close view was the slow dance of shadows back and forth as Home rotated.
The glass curved from knee level to almost straight overhead, and most of the new ring being built was visible by looking up. The spoke to the new ring were positioned at the same angles off the hub. April had wondered briefly if there was some reason for that but forgot to ask anyone.
There were only a few panels missing from the skin of the new ring and some gaps where ports like her own were not fitted yet. A few places scaffolding hung off the outside of the ring and two bright yellow lines and hand rails temporarily marked the inside limit on which suited workers could walk without danger of sliding down the curved surface. The ring wasn’t a perfectly circular cross section. There were center sections top and bottom that were flat before it started to curve.
Only a couple months ago there had been a lot more machinery, materials, and scooters floating two hundred meters or more back which was the closest safety zone in which material and equipment could be parked that would be used that shift. Construction was winding down.
Some items could be brought in by scooter by matching speed with the ring and side-slipping onto the inside surface. That was fun to watch. Her pilot friend Easy could do that as slick as catching an egg on a plate. Some were too massive and had to be lowered from the hub on a tensioned cable and slowly nudged up to matching rotational speed without over torquing the hub.
There was talk of extending the hub and putting a third ring on, but she’d read that would be the last as after that the calculations said a forth ring would be unstable in too many situations. It would make moving the habitat as they had from LEO an impractically slow operation to avoid over stressing a long thin hub. Nobody wanted to give up their mobility since it had proved so vital to their safety.
If they wanted to build a similar habitat it wouldn’t be difficult to park it in a slightly different halo orbit around L2 such that they both danced around the same point in space but never crossed over the center at the same time. A necessity that had made Gunny smile and explain to her the Earth custom of a figure eight race or demolition derby. She thought he was pulling her leg until she did a net search.
The area behind April had head room to stand but the glass overhead curved down until it met metal shell about knee high. Her chair was pulled forward close enough to the glass she had to be careful standing up. That low area helped make the room feel bigger but was rather limited in how you could use it. She had some storage cabinets made to fit up to the edge of the glass with castors so they could be pulled out of the low overhead. Heather’s mom had a similar lay-out and raised tomatoes and a few herbs in the narrow space along the port. April intended to do that too… someday. Now she just had a few green plants that helped keep the air pure. Most people had one or two even if they didn’t have exterior ports and needed to illuminate them. They were just nice to look at beside making the apartment smell better – something natural for the eye that wasn’t man made.
There was a pattern of light in the corner of the port she hadn’t noticed before, a little dappled splash of light from internal reflections in the port maybe… April squinted at it. But it looked odd. It wasn’t something her mind recognized as a familiar pattern. She levered herself out of the chair to investigate leaning over closer… and jumped back.
“Gunny!” she called out horrified. Gunny appeared from his room looking rattled from her tone with a pistol in hand. He scanned the empty apartment looking hard for something like a Ninja army hidden behind the sofas.
“Not there, here.” She said, pointing at the corner of the port.
He came over and leaned close as she had, but didn’t jump back. Then eased back a couple steps so he didn’t hit his head when he stood straight. He tried to look neutral but didn’t manage it to hide his irritation at alarming him.
“You want him shot? Most folks just pick a spider up in a tissue and flush him down the toilet.”
“I’ve never seen a spider on Home before. Aren’t they venomous?”
“A few. The really bad ones are big hunters and jumpers like tarantulas. Not little web weavers. None of them are deadly unless you have a sensitivity, but I have to admit some of the little house spiders can give you a nasty bite if you roll on them in your sleep. I’ve had a couple nip me but it didn’t even wake me. Down below nobody makes a house air tight to keep everything out. I’m just happy leave the mosquitoes behind on Earth. They really bother me. The filthy little things carry disease.”
“Just do the tissue thing would you? It doesn’t belong here.”
“OK,” Gunny agreed, but stopped after a few steps and pursed his lips, looking back thoughtfully.
“What?” April demanded.
“Nothing, I’ll get rid of him for you. I just have to ask. What has he been living on?”
That question didn’t make April happy at all.
Sarah Hoyt and Amanda Green started this exchange of posts where you meet a character from their writing. More writers have been added each week. They introduce the writer briefly and then link to the writers blog where a few basic questions are listed about the character. Then other authors are linked at the end. The writer I tagged hasn’t responded so it may end here. This is my post about my main character in “Famiy Law” a young girl named Lee Anderson.
1.) Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
Fictional person. (Without arguing about the validity of the infinite parallel universes.)
2.) When and where is the story set?
In the future. No hard dates given. But most Earth cultures and governments can still be recognized or their successors. There are separate nations both in the Solar System and at other stars. The story opens on a new found world and then moves on to other worlds including Earth.
3.) What should we know about her?
Lee is neither typical of her era or ours. She has an unusual, perhaps unique childhood growing up on a family owned exploration starship. Except for a few very brief return visits to civilization for resupply and to file discovery claims, she grows up with her parents and their business partner who is not human. She has a lot more practical skills than your average planet bound child but is utterly unsocialized and has no idea what is acceptable or safe behavior in a Human city. She never had to deal with classmates or neighbors or the bureaucracy of schools and local governments. Her parent’s alien business partner is far more familiar and lovable to her than Earth Humans with whom she shares few desires or fears. She is both more and less mature than normal children in different areas.
4.) What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?
The death of her parents on the habitable planet that was their ultimate prize to find as explorers completely disrupts everything she has known. The alien tribe to which her ‘uncle’ Gordon belongs is not thrilled at him accepting his partners mandate to adapt Lee. Neither are Humans accepting of the idea. None of which would have mattered to Lee or Gordon if the Humans hadn’t kidnapped her under color of authority when they visited Earth. Gordon’s tribe wasn’t immediately accepting. But once they agreed to her adaption they viewed snatching their children with even less favor. The Humans horribly underestimate both their resolve and capacity to do something about it. Red Tree Clan has not fought a war in over a thousand years. They haven’t forgotten how.
5.) What is the personal goal of the character?
Lee is far too young and inexperienced to have complicated goals. Most of the time she is dealing with the moment life hands her. Like any child she just wants to grow up with what family she has left. She tries to get along with everybody, but doesn’t fit in the society most planet dwellers find normal. Even Human videos are confusing and alien since she doesn’t have context. When she figures that planets aren’t her cup of tea then her goal becomes to remain in space.
6.) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
“Family Law” is published DRM free on Amazon for kindle devices. A sequel “The Long Voyage of the Little Fleet” is also released. Within the year there will be paper editions. The link for the Amazon sales page is: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006GQSZVS/?tag=kindleboards-20
A long slow burn across their entry vector revealed nothing surprising behind the star during the off shift. The radar had time for them to get returns from two thirds of the system and they’d see most of the rest on their run to jump. Everyone had a chance for hot meals and restful sleep that you couldn’t do at higher acceleration. The second shift crew retired to enjoy their off time and Gordon and his bridge crew came back on duty.
“Do you have a target star picked for our next jump, Brownie?” Gordon asked.
“Yes, there were three good candidates close to our intended route. I picked this one because it has an unusual spectrum and I’d like to see if it has a different planetary system too.”
“Very good. Inform the other ships and send them your data set. You may alter our course and set acceleration to suit your planned jump when you please.”
“Our oversized friend apparently whizzed right through, Lee,” Thor said.
“Yes I noticed. I wonder if we couldn’t develop sensors that could read the drive residues a ship leaves behind and reconstruct the line it took to leave the system?”
“Ask engineering,” Gordon suggested. “I wouldn’t mind having such a thing.”
“You could buy back your bet with me if you’d rather not have it hanging over your head,” Thor suggested.
“I wasn’t thinking about it. I’m certainly not concerned,” Lee said. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see them again. How much of a discount were you going to offer me to settle early?”
“Discount? Just the peace of having it settled.”
“In your dreams! I’ll offer you the same deal so you don’t have to keep thinking about it.”
“These Fargoers are a bad influence,” Gordon declared. “I never knew how crazy they are about gambling on anything.”
“You really think they could find us again after we transit this system?” Thor asked her. “I should ask you if you want to double down on the bet.”
“Thor, you were the one who said at first that we shouldn’t bet because I have so much more money than you it wouldn’t matter to me if I lost. I admit I suggested five percent of our worth as a equitable bet. But do you really want to lose ten percent of everything you own over a bet? I could lose half and still have more than I could ever spend. I don’t want to lose you as a friend over some stupid pointless bet.”
“The little one is wise beyond her years,” Ho-bob-bob-brie said from his seat. He positively gushed.
Thor looked like he was going to say something in anger, calmed himself and looked at the alien. “Yeah, you’re right. I don’t suppose you want a piece of the action?”
“You do not want to bet with Hin,” Ho-bob-bob-brie warned Thor, waggling a single digit in a gesture he’d picked up from Humans. “In our society there has never been such a thing as what the Fargoers describe to me as a friendly bet. Before Humans came, long before there was even a world government on Hin, our regional rulers would bet each other extravagantly. The losing side might be a impoverished for a generation to pay it off – or simply decide going to war was cheaper. Betting has always been a form of aggression on Hin.”
“Yeah, that’s what we’d call a poor loser,” Thor said. “I’ll be sure to remember that story.”
“The Derf have no tradition of gambling?” Ho-bob-bob-brie inquired.
“We are a tribal society. It wasn’t common for individuals to use money until very recently. Money was exchanged between tribes. Copper was our most common money but often weighed and not coined. Trade was as often in other goods or food,” Thor said. “About the only bets I heard as a child were for covering somebody’s chores or ribald bets directed at somebody by a disgruntled suitor who still had a grudge. We did have a cub who would bet his desserts. He was skinny.”
“And keeping everyone broke kept them under the Mother’s thumbs,” Gordon added. “When I left the clan keep I had to walk to town and find work to get the first cash money I’d ever held, before I could go on to a bigger town.”
“The Hin also can be very controlling,” Ho-bob-bob-brie admitted. “but even as a young child I had coins almost as soon as I could name them. Our close family has more control over you than the tribe or trade groups. They, or at least the nest sitter, often have your whole life planned out while you are still in the egg. If you let them.”
“I never experienced that side of Human culture,” Lee said. “I see similar things in Human videos though. Domineering parents who want to relive their childhood to better effect through their children, and mothers who manipulate their children with guilt. But who knows how much is true and how much is dramatic license? When I lived briefly with my cousins on Earth it wasn’t anything like the videos. But then I’ve recently seen a few videos set on space ships, and they are so ridiculous I thought it was deliberate comedy when it wasn’t. We all seem similar in little ways, but the new folks in the big ships, I wonder if we will find any similarities? They seem so different.”
“Well, Captain Fenton assured me they saw rank displayed in their actions. The one who seemed junior was physically shorter too. Now whether that is a mark of age or being of a different sex or even a sub-species is open to question. But that individual had fewer segments in the body. It would be interesting to see if it will add one and how,” Gordon said.
“Entry burst!” Brownie interrupted, surprised. “A big one and deep in system.” He read the numbers and let the computer work, everyone waiting for the solutions, casual conversation forgotten.
“They are crossing our nose on the far side of the star before we’ll clear it. It doesn’t appear they are slowing so they will exit before us. Emissions indicate they are our Caterpillar escort. They had to change vector completely in this system and then double back, or make a loop to reenter on this heading. That would require even better acceleration than what we’ve seen them do.”
“Might this not be a different Caterpillar ship than the one who blew through ahead of us?” Thor asked.
“It could be,” Brownie agreed, “but besides doing a radar sweep they transmitted audio. Not that we have any idea what they are saying yet, but it was the exact same transmission sequence they sent when they accelerated ahead of us leaving the Badger world. And it wasn’t a general broadcast. Signal strength from our other ships indicates they guessed where we would be and their transmission was directed right at us.”
Ho-bob-bob-brie broke the silence. Lee had never heard him speak dead flat with no inflection at all. “Hmm… Is there still a piece of the action on the table if one wants it?” he asked, carefully not looking at Thor.
“I believe I’ll just stand pat on that, thank you,” Thor said.
Lee thought of a whole salvo of snarky things to say, but she was maturing and just treasured thinking them.
A number of authors, including yours truly, have gotten together to offer some of their work for $2.99 or less over the Labor Day Weekend. You’ll find everything from science fiction to fantasy, mystery to romantic suspense, historical fiction to Musketeers Mysteries to even some non-fiction. Please take a few minutes to check out the titles and, if you see something of interest, support the author by buying a copy. Thanks!
Please note that the sale starts this Friday, although some of these titles are already listed at $2.99 or under. Will be adding Friday as I didn’t know that was their intent.
A group of writer friends I often chat with in the evening invited me to join them in a group sale. We are all offering some of our work for $2.99 over the holiday weekend. Sept 1 is Labor Day in the US for those of you in other countries. It will be Sat. / Sun. / Mon. I’m contributing “April” and my collection of shorts that is normally at $2.99 anyway. I will post an URL to it when I get it. These are science fiction and Fantasy. Not all are my cup of tea, but they are all set at $2.99 and you might find something you like. I’m not much on fantasy or horror. They are a fun bunch of people.
Apparently if you delete a book from your kindle device while your account is set to no updates it doesn’t restore the ability to update after you change it. Anything deleted while in that status is just – gone.
So be sure your updates aren’t turned off before deleting a book.
If anybody got caught by this send me a note and your e-mail and I’ll renew your copy without you needing to buy it again.
Other countries may take a bit to update. They should all be up by tomorrow.
If you have an original edition you should be able to delete it and force a new download from your online kindle list of books purchased.
“Down to Earth” will be edited next.
This is the same manuscript that will be released in paper editions.
I’m busy painting but as soon as I can I will read through this copy and have it posted to Amazon. I know it had a lot of errors. I appreciate those who could enjoy the story without being too horrified at the mistakes and typos.
The rest will be done one by one also.