Excerpt from Building the People (Preparations for War, Book Two)

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We landed and the pilot popped the forward hatch. We thanked the pilot on the way out. Once on the tarmac, we accessed the base computer. As expected, now that our contract had expired the only access we had was what any Imperial citizen would have had. Which also meant we weren't authorized quarters even in transit. Our choice was outrageously expensive tourist accommodations on Santa Cruz Island, the same thing down by Pellew Base, or housing somewhere off the Imperial reservations. So we took a portal to Channel Islands Base then from there to the Port of Long Beach, where US Customs was located. At least this time there was no difficulty getting Asina into the country. Once through customs and immigration, we contacted my mother.

It was early morning in California, and the June Gloom hung overhead like usual, a low gray overcast that would burn off late morning. I used to hate it, but now I realized it helped keep the days from getting too hot. Otherwise coastal Southern California would have had as many hundred degree days as Arizona. Mom was in her new office, which I'd forgotten all about. "There's a portal here in Pendleton Free Zone, dear," she told me, "Just use it and you can walk over." We'd still be stuck without a vehicle, but the Pendleton Free Zone occupied all of the old Marine base and what used to be the naval weapons center as well. We stopped only to buy datalink access to Earth's internet for a month, then took another portal. We discovered upon arrival that development was starting at the boundary with San Clemente and moving slowly south. Perhaps there was a DMV in San Clemente we could get to and I'd be able to renew my Driver's License.

Stepping through the portal, we saw the narrow strip between the coast and the high rolling hills to the east had three spires on square bases, obviously Imperial construction. They looked like they were maybe three ifourths on a side by maybe twenty high. After all of this time thinking in Imperial or demonic units, I found it hard to stop. Between them, well-watered grass rolled and fountains gurgled. Amazingly enough, the hills above them were greener than I remembered. Perhaps with the Marines gone and other humans not stressing the water table, the area was returning to something more closely resembling its state when the Europeans arrived. The commercial landscaping would be fed either out of purified sea water or by water out of a converter, so it wouldn't be taking from the water table.

According to the maps, the San Clemente DMV was about two ithirds, and that was on the roads we could walk. We checked in with Mom in her new office overlooking the Pacific. She was only on the sixteenth level, but she didn't need a top floor view nor the bill that presumably came with it. Truth be told, I wasn't certain why she'd moved the Earth Dogs office here, but it wasn't my business, either. She was busy with something, so we waved that we'd be back, and walked the three miles to DMV. It was a pleasant, cool morning. We weren't on the beach, but we were close enough to get the breeze from the ocean as we walked.

We discussed our proposal for our next contract as we walked. No matter how we sliced it, the support was not there for intercontinental trade on Calmena. N'yeschlass the nation was the only area on the planet where there was enough excess for significant trade. Everywhere else was trying not to starve to death and intermittently failing. Even the demon-held areas were short on supplies - not to mention that the only things a human trader could accomplish there would be giving the demons both supplies and dinner. Maybe once a few other groups started improving the situation on the other continents, but for now, any thought of oceangoing vessels like Earth had had by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was doomed to failure.

On the other hand, we believed that there was plenty of opportunity on the coasts of Wimarglr and its offshore islands. Cogs and later carracks to carry the cargo along the coasts and short distances up some of the calmer rivers, perhaps galleys or Viking longboats for the river trade, although I didn't want to introduce anything that would encourage slavery as galleys perhaps would. Yes, steam power was within our reach, but the metal for a steam engine was expensive even by N'yeschlass standards, while sails were cheap. Modern triangular sails and other rigs might enhance the usefulness of sails. We ran through the search results, and contacted a yacht designer to see if we could get more ideas to try. Thanks to our datalinks, the proposal was mostly written before we got to DMV.

Mr. Namibi, the yacht designer turned out to be one of those people who love unusual questions. By the time we were done at DMV, he sent us back pictures of spinnakers to enhance downwind performance and jibs and spankers and sail arrangements that would, in conjunction with a keel, allow sailing to within less than thirty (Earth) degrees of head-on to the wind. It might be even better on Calmena as the sea level atmosphere was about three sixtieths more dense than Earth (I told you it was hard to stop thinking in Imperial terms). He didn't even charge us. We finished the proposal by the time we were back at Mom's office.

There I noticed that my mother had taken my advice seriously enough to arm herself. Just a little disruptor, same as I'd carried myself on Tia Grace's advice. That advice had enabled us to escape being captured on Calmena the first time. These days I carried considerably more firepower, but a disruptor would give her a fighting chance if the demons did make the jump to Earth. I was glad she'd gotten it, but I didn't say anything. Earth humans are still uncomfortable with perception.

"So when am I going to get to hold my grandson?" The first words out of Mom's mouth were precisely what you'd expect from a Mexican mother. To be fair, we had been married fourteen Earth years. To her point of view, it was even more urgent because we already had a son in stasis, waiting for us to have time to raise him.

This had to be my battle alone. Asina was still on eggshells with Mom. They'd gotten off to a rocky start, and we'd had precisely one short visit in all the time we'd been married. "Mom, we've already submitted another proposal for a contract on Calmena. If we don't get it, fine. Otherwise, we're going back and it's not going to be a good place to raise children."

"I'm not getting any younger. I'd like to have grandchildren before I die."

"Mom, you have eight grandchildren already, and you're barely sixty. You have at least ten times that in front of you." Due to operant healers, even natural state humans lived hundreds of years if they took care of themselves. Nobody knew how long operants like Asina and I could last if we used the healing discipline correctly. There were living operants over 80,000 Earth years old, and the techniques and knowledge had massively improved. The last known operant death for natural causes was almost 120 Imperial years previous - and there were roughly twenty twelfths operants in the Empire.

"You never know how long you have. That's in the hands of God."

"Yes, Mom. We're going to do one more contract period if we can. After that, we'll discuss getting some sort of regular job for a while so we can raise some kids."

"I don't know why you can't get a job running cargo like your aunt did. It pays good money, too."

"It pays good money because Tia Grace has the money to post most of her cargo bond herself. Not only do we not have that, but neither one of us has Vector or Interstitial qualification. We're thinking about it, but training is expensive and wouldn't serve any purpose if we get our new contract. We're going to take a semi-vacation. I'm going to get my credential as a full Second Order Guardian, Asina's going to work on some technical subjects where she can't get hands on practice on Calmena." Well, not practice where we could afford mistakes, anyway. "We'll probably need to go to Indra to get all the teachers we need. And in a few months when we're done, we'll head back to Calmena for another contract."

"Alright, I'm sure you think you know what you're doing. But you know you've got a job here any time you want it."

"Thanks, Mom." Okay, that was intended to be a little bit double edged. "But we're making good money doing what we do, we're both moderately well off, and we're doing something we believe in that will make a difference to millions of lives. We've already made a difference to millions of lives, and we're looking to improve things at least that much again, planet-wide."

"You know this dog business won't last forever. Maybe another eighty to a hundred years before the market is saturated." She was talking Earth years.

"And this vacation plus the next contract will be fifteen of that," I replied, "If we need a job, it will be after our next contract period. Speaking of which, do you know any good investment managers? We've got three cubes we can put to work for us, and twenty points each." Renting out your service points to a civil contractor could be lucrative. Pretty much all the soldiers did it. Renting your points allowed contractors to bid contracts they otherwise might not have enough points to guarantee. You could lose them (which was the point of requiring them), but the income from twenty points would likely be another thirty or forty prime per year. Each. Not nearly what we were making for our labor, but you could live pretty decently on less, and there were generally penalty clauses for large monetary rewards if a contractor who rented them lost your points for failure to perform to standards. You could rent them out for more without the penalty clauses, of course, but that was a sucker's game.

Mom gave us the name of one investment manager, but it was an American firm. They might have been decent at managing the money; they wouldn't have the client base to manage the service points. We could go down into Mexico, or wait until we got to Indra. I sent Tia Grace a message asking if she had a recommendation on Indra; that's where she was based. It wouldn't go out until the shuttle run, and wouldn't be back until the one after that.

"How's Dad doing?" I figured she'd have news more recent than mine.

"He's still a Team Private, but he's hoping to get a promotion soon, or transfer to Space, probably Strategic Space. He's stationed at some place called Trune, out at the rim of First Galaxy. He's working a homecoming leave into his re-enlistment in a few months. Earth still only gets one class two run per week, which really means seventeen of our days with the time differential. That's fine for the dog business, but not when he's coming home on a short leave."

"Meneas still doing those in Earth and Indra? When's the next run?"

"Joey you just got here. You can't be leaving already!"

"If you tell me when it is, we might be persuaded to wait until the next one. When is it, Mom?"

"Six days."

"Sorry, but we can't afford to wait twentythree days, Mom. Six days is going to have to be enough!"
Asina interrupted me, Joe, she's your mother. You haven't seen her in twenty Imperial years. Enough with the tough guy act - we can wait until the second run. If she'll pay us to work the dog farm, that is, since I presume she wants you to spend time with family.

Okay, I told her, I just thought you wanted to get with Tellea sooner than that. Her biological daughter Tellea was now an almost adult young woman, and her adoptive parents were off in Second Galaxy. We hadn't been able to see her the entire time of our contract on Calmena - it would have been too dangerous to leave our home there unattended more than a few hours. We got regular messages to and from, but it wasn't the same thing. "Change of plans, Mom, looks like Asina is taking your side. We'll stay until the second shuttle run if you'll pay us for working the dog farm on the days we do." That Asina was taking her side wouldn't hurt Mom's opinion of Asina at all.

"I don't have any problem with that," she said. And since most of the family that was still on Earth worked in one or the other of her dog facilities on Earth, that gave her everything she wanted.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on December 31, 2017 4:27 PM.

Excerpt from Preparing the Ground (Preparations for War Book One) was the previous entry in this blog.

The Military in the Empire of Humanity - Branches is the next entry in this blog.

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