In our last excerpt, our heroine Gina (a.k.a. Jinetta-d'Elous) was tasked with inspecting the toilets that would be used aboard interstellar spacecraft. That's one of her many hassles as head of the International Aerospace Council. Ironically, she's not even from Ghoupallesz, but she'll never tell. They need her and she likes to have a purpose in life, no matter where life takes her.
Now, however, disaster has struck the Evacuation Program in advance of the approaching comet, with great set-backs. Add to that the onset of menopause and a rebellious teenage daughter and you know she is ready for a vacation....
When Gina returned to Kobarêl, making her way wearily from the airship terminal through the dirty streets to her high-rise apartment in the Third Ward compound where many administrators and scientists lived, guarded and safe from the mindless masses sucking bôb and laboring for a steady fix, she was surprised to find her daughter Zaura lounging at home. Gina was also surprised to find her sitting naked on the learning chair, wearing only the white scarf that marked her status as an approved fertility club member with a seat on a vessel.
“You really must wear some clothing, my dear,” said Gina, dropping her bags on the floor.
“Nobody was here,” Zaura replied, not looking up from her tablet, quickly dabbing the stylus on colorful buttons on the screen. The learning chair was more like a chaise-longue with embedded computer interfaces. They had been allowed for space cadets whenever the environment was on alert for high pollution levels or there was a riot of the mindless hordes; school lessons could be maintained that way. “Besides, it’s the trendy thing for us youth to do.” She glanced back over her shoulder at Gina. “Headmistress Dero says there’s no harm in looking. We need to get used to it for such a long journey. Besides, it’s only Latol. You already said he was allowed to sit in our family one day.”
“I did?” She regarded the screen set into the wall and saw there a naked boy, sitting on his own learning chair, playing with his stylus and apparently unaware that Zaura’s mother had returned home. “Hello, Latol.”
He startled. “Greetings to you, Mother of Zaura,” said Latol, not at all embarrassed.
“Yes. You will be a grandmother for us someday, true?”
Gina grinned. “Not too soon, I hope.”
“Mama, we’re discussing the coupling specifications for the residential pods’ docking assembly and we discovered that if they started Design Protocol 431 precisely when Design Protocol 394 was 55.5% completed, the teams could save 14.33 peth in time, which translates into 1,815 merin in cost savings—and that would allow purchase of 45 more food processor units, for example, enough to outfit 86.2% of one V-100 military cruiser—”
“I’m relieved you are actually studying.” She laughed for the first time since she had left for the conference in Debrêk. “I worried about pre-marital sex, like my mother always did, yet I know there’s no marriage now, only state-authorized coupling to maximize fertility and produce the best of the species. Eugenics returns. I approve if only ten-thousand can be saved from doom.”
“Mama, you are so dour. Did the conference go well?”
“No, it certainly did not.”
“I have sorry feelings.”
“You didn’t learn the latest news?”
Zaura looked up. “We have been manning the Calculus orb, Mama, not slinking the news channel.”
Gina pursed her lips, amused at the youthful slang, then took a seat by the dining loft.
“My dear, there was an accident.” She tried to laugh. “I mean, after my keynote address. The launch of the first residential capsule from the Debrêk spaceworks went bad. There was an imbalance in the chemical rockets which sent the capsule off trajectory and it crashed nearby. There were five crew aboard. Fortunately. They were only sending it up to dock with the transport frame already in orbit.”
“That’s horrible!” Zaura turned to Latol poised on the screen. “Did you hear my mother?”
“Yes,” he said. “Let me eye the news channel for video food. Communicate after an interval.” He blinked out and the screen returned to a static picture of a green valley that could be somewhere in Switzerland—or Sogoê.
“We stood on the observation platform,” Gina continued, “and everyone was happy, excited, waiting to see this momentous event. I cheered for them when the engines ignited. It was only a little way into the air when it spun sideways and went nose-first into a rocky hillside. The fire was horrible and everyone ran. Someone threw a fire-cover over me and held me down. When it was clear, two medical staff helped me up but I was not injured in anyway.”
“I feel pain in my chest for you. What an experience!” Zaura went to her mother, embraced her. “Take a black-bôb.”
“Then everyone began accusing me of setting them up! I did not make the vessel crash. I had nothing to do with it, nor the Debrêk spaceworks. They have an outstanding work record. They said I wanted everyone to go onto the vessels so they would be killed and I and ‘my friends’ could take over the planet. How ridiculous! Evacuation is the only way to survive the coming catastrophe. I even offered to take a seat on a vessel, if they wished it, so they would know I had not booby-trapped it.”
“Buubii-turapt?” asked Zaura with a smirk. “Who would want to design a trick for breasts?”
“An English word,” said Gina in English and continued in that archaic language: “Like if a bomb were set to go off. Ah, daughter, you must not forget the language of your ancestral homeland.”
“I was born in Kipzon,” she replied in English. “You said it like a truth.”
“But your mother and father were born on a planet far, far away and long, long ago. The planet is called Earth. Well, some call it Terra. Others no doubt call it Shithole. It doesn’t matter unless we go back to it.”
“It exists still?” asked Zaura.
Gina wiped a tear from her cheek. “I think it does. We need to find it. Staying here is not a good idea. Going aboard a spacecraft for the rest of your life isn’t much better.”
“You feel distraught, Mama,” said Zaura, returning to Ghoupallêan. “Pop a black-bôb and sleep deep.”
“I don’t need any drugs!” she snapped in English.
She threw her hands to her face as the tears came fast. Many years ago she was happy to take drugs—purely for recreational purposes, of course. Anything to get through the days and nights of college life, hanging out with other druggies when it was all so counter-everything. Now the drug culture had gone mainstream and she was the old-fashioned witch-mom denying the youth their pleasures.
“You need a vacation, Mama.”
Gina lowered her hands, her eyes red. “I certainly do. So I quit the council. I promised to stay on to the end of the year but I did resign at the conference. Right before we watched the residential capsule crash. If it had launched full, there would have been five hundred people dead instead of only five.” She teared up again.
“Mama, cut an interval.”
“You should come with me. I don’t want to go alone.”
“I have cadet training. I cannot quit or cut an interval from the schedule.”
Gina nodded, realizing that she had little control over anything now. Only herself. And that was becoming so maddening as the planet was trying hard to turn its years over into months. They would soon be under a decade until the end.
“I’ll go then,” she said. “Be good. Resist the bôb. Stay as happy as you can. And dream. Everything is perfect in your dreams, daughter.”
Kids, those future days! I can reveal and hope it is no spoiler that Zaura gets herself into trouble, thus adding to Gina's grief. Will all work out in the end? Will she stay on the doomed planet or grab the last seat aboard the evacuation spacecraft? Only THE DREAM LAND Book III will tell!
Hey, check this out: a report of an approaching comet! Freaky!
AND this one on impact craters!
(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.