First Draft Excerpt from The End of Childhood

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There was one thing I hadn't been able to do without forcing Asto to choose between his family and me: Take our kids home to Earth to meet all their cousins. My niece Tina had helped me with them and my pilot module, and they'd met her older brother Peter Junior who ran the Imperial end of Earth Dogs, and once their brother Joe and his wife Asina. That was it as far as meeting my relatives. My siblings alone had about three prime descendants now in the time since I'd left. Start including my uncles' and aunts' descendants, and it was probably three or four times that. I'd been back exactly once in the last twentyeight Imperial years - about eighty of their longer years on Earth with the time differential - and that was when I was only a couple days pregnant with Esteban. Since putting Asto in a 'no win' situation wasn't concern at the moment, I was going take advantage of the opportunity. A plan was already forming in my mind. Perhaps not a very smart plan, but it could take advantage of some excellent distractions.

I knew the reasons why the Scimtars kept their children mostly sequestered. I even agreed with those reasons. But my kids also needed to get out and see how the rest of the Empire lived - not just the completely tamed major system that was Indra. My children ranged from ten to almost seventeen Imperial years of age - seven to eleven and a half Earth years - and they'd never visited their Earth cousins. It was past time to change that. The war had begun; I was on a sabbatical to allow me to look for Asto - time to take advantage of that while everyone else was distracted, too.

As soon as we emerged into the Imperial Home Instance, I sent Asto's splinter a message Please meet me in the park with the children in an hour. Bring Mischief and Scarecrow as well. I knew Asto had constrained the splinter to do whatever I said regarding the children. The little dogs would be perfect camouflage for what I intended. It would be a dirty trick to take the kids away from them, but it couldn't be helped..

When we were on landing queue, I used a graycode to buy a cutter. Cutters were small, cheap, little craft reminiscent of NASA's old space shuttles, delta wings to either side of a central tube for passengers and cargo. They were capable of seating four in the cockpit and up to about twelve in the cargo bay, depending upon configuration. This was a standard model right out of the catalog, already sitting in a parking garage across the Straits from Sumabad. Soon as we touched down and I finalized the rent for the Explorer Cruiser with TorGethaz, thanked the crew, and teleported directly to the nearest portal. A quick jump to a shopping area in a nearby arcology, and took less than ten minutes to purchase a few extra things, just in case. They were a little more expensive than usual due to the recent invasion, but not a significant difference for me. Then I dropped my package off and took possession of my newly purchased cutter, linked my datalink to it and began a security and readiness check while taking care of the physical inspection. I had up to four days to move it out of their garage; that would be plenty.

The whole idea was not to draw any suspicion from the other Scimtars, especially Anara. Asto's mother was at home in the apartment right next to ours the majority of the time, and strong as she was, her perception radius was big enough to cover our entire apartment. Soon as I walked through the door, she'd want to know how the search had gone, and then she'd want me to go back to work finding covert traitors. But if her son's splinter took the kids to the park while I was still out, that was simple daily routine. Particularly if the dogs were involved. Mischief was Queen of the Park by virtue of attitude, and Scarecrow was a crazed ball dog whose favorite locale for the game was the park where he could play with other ball dogs.

The first rule for plans is to keep them simple. Complex plans that depend upon multiple factors all going in metronomic precision are going to fail. They seemed awesome in mass media when I lived on Earth, but despite my in-laws' predilection for planning, one thing I'd noticed was all of their plans were simple, with no more than a few steps to the goal. If that goal was reached, there would be a second plan to reach a second goal. Maybe the individual goals were small steps, but add them up, and they became overwhelming. I needed a ship they didn't control, and I needed a few minutes away from direct observation by their grandmother to get the kids away. Simple, easy goals, put together in sequence. This most especially applied to my military experience. The good commanders were the ones who had simple goals that built on advantages to the point where they were overwhelming.

When I arrived at the park, I simply collected the children, told them we were going on an outing, and asked Asto's splinter to cover for me. "Stay here with the dogs another fortyfive minutes before returning home. Don't try and obstruct anything, just don't help. We'll be back in a few days." I wasn't kidding myself it would take the Scimtars long to figure out where we'd gone - I'd bet Earth would be the very top of their list - but it's easier to get forgiveness than permission. They knew I wouldn't keep the kids out more than a few days, and Earth's roughly four to one time differential meant maybe only a day or so was likely to pass in the main part of the Empire.

This was the key part of the whole thing. "We're going on an excursion," I told the kids, "But we've got to keep it secret. No telling anyone except Daddy's splinter. Not Grandmother Anara, not Grandfather Gilras, and definitely not Grandfather or Grandmother," meaning Scimtar or Helene.

We walked out of the nearest exit to avoid the park's portal having an obvious record, then portaled to the garage on the far side of the Straits. Into the cutter by teleportation - the days of the kids being more hindrance than help in teleportation were behind us. I told Alden and Imtara to strap into the third and fourth seats in the control cabin, where I could keep an eye on them, and tell the three oldest to find seats in the back and keep their hands off anything. "The trip should be over in a five minutes, unless you do something to make it take longer!"

For their part, the kids were excited. They never got to leave the Residence except for trips to the alternate Residence, over on Major Habitat Two. Who they interacted with in either place was controlled. All of their play friends were children of important House Scimtar employees, who also lived in the Residence. The older ones remembered our occasional excursions back when I'd had the pilot module, when they might meet anyone. "I'm taking you to meet your Earth cousins," I told them, and they actually cheered! The Great Houses were all built on the idea of 'family', but the paranoid isolation of the children cut off more than half of theirs.

Then it was time to maneuver out of the parking garage, get clearance for lift with immediate Vector, which was approved.

Blink

We emerged in interstellar space, halfway across First Galaxy, nobody nearby on sensors. We were away clean. I set an Interstitial Vector for Earth's Instance below the plane of the ecliptic about as far out as Saturn, double checked that my interrogatory was functional and programmed correctly, then fed the energy in for the jump.

Blink

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on July 5, 2021 1:42 PM.

Blurb and Excerpt from The Man From Empire was the previous entry in this blog.

First Draft Excerpt from 'Moving The Pieces' is the next entry in this blog.

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