Excerpt from Building The People

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It was barely thirty seconds later that Tellea herself appeared out of one of the satellite personnel portals. She and Asina squealed like a couple teen-age girls from Earth and hugged each other for a good thirty seconds while I told Hunor, "She's here, thank you again for your generosity. We'll try and keep you advised of our plans so that you can forbid anything that doesn't fit your parenting decisions."

"That would be welcome," Hunor said, "Enjoy your time together!" and broke the circuit.

About that time, Asina and Tellea broke their embrace, and it was my turn to get hugged, "Uncle Joe!" She gave me every bit the hug one of my own aunts or sisters would have, too. Maybe once she was a legal adult, I'd be able to arrange a visit between them.

"When can I make arrangements to visit you on Calmena?" was her first question.

"Calmena is still under Interdiction," I told her, "You have to be assigned there or to a mission with transit rights."

"Why would you want to go back there?" Asina asked.

"Because you're there," she said, and then changing into telepathy with both of us, and I want to do something to help the people who weren't as lucky as we were. Even with my minimal exposure to Imperial culture, it was amazing how often a sense of self-imposed duty to others kept cropping up, and how strong it was. Most charities in the Empire had more money than they had real things to spend it on. It really was a qualitative, not merely quantitative difference from the United States of my youth. I'd passed the Imperial adulthood tests, but it seemed I'd be forever outside looking in on this aspect of the Imperial psyche.

Tellea, you're not a legal adult yet, I started.

I can change that in the next few minutes, she replied. She could, too, by passing her remaining adulthood examinations. I wasn't sure if she only needed Implied Responsibility, or if she'd been holding off on Explicit Responsibility as well.

What Joe's trying to say, Asina broke in, is that it's not an easy life. I know I couldn't do it without Joe. I'd wait until you find someone who can join you. Because you'll get awfully lonely on your own for twenty years at a time. Even if you find someone you like among the natives, you can't tell them. You'd be forever apart.

Oh, Mother, she said, it's just sex!

No, isn't just sex, we told her together, like we some old Earth stereo recording. I let Asina continue alone, When you find someone you really belong with, you'll know that sex is sex but love is something so much more. It keeps you going when the universe is against you. The only way to get that on Calmena is to bring it with you. I maybe could have got through my contract without Joe; I was young and not qualified for much and didn't have any better choices. But Joe made all the difference.

I'd put up with worse than Calmena if that was the only way I could be with your mother, I explained. I was having sex with a different woman every few days in Bolthole Base before she got there, living in comfort comparable to the rest of the Empire. Giving that up to be with your mother was the best decision I have ever made.

When you can say the same thing, you might have a partner that will help you survive Calmena, Asina continued.

What I will do, I said, is make arrangements for you to visit the Calmena Sanctuary on Indra once you're adult. You'll be able to learn what it's really like, prepare yourself if you decide it's still something you want to do, and you might even meet someone to partner with. When you're ready, someone will offer you a contract. They need more teams like us.

On our private link, Asina thanked me for thinking of that. Asina had never had a chance to be a child or a teenager. Growing up on Calmena wasn't easy, and my wife had had it worse than most. Orphan, sex slave, slowly dying from internal injuries and malnutrition. But I understood more of the adolescent mindset, having had a typical middle-class American childhood. Flatly tell a teenager "No!" and be prepared for a fight to the death and willful disobedience into the bargain. Tell her you'll help her get ready, and that leaves her room to back down gracefully when it turns out things aren't as they thought. And if they still persist, they will be ready for what follows.

Thank you Uncle Joe! Tellea responded. I had said I'd help her get ready for what she wanted. Never mind that her interpretation of that was different than ours. I'd happily sponsor her at the sanctuary if it meant only that she'd be going in with her eyes open as to the difficulty involved.

I can agree with that, Asina told her daughter, but keep in mind, you have to be an adult first. Ayorsi and Hunor and the rest of your parents want to see you take adulthood in the normal course of things, not rush into it. Haven't they earned that much from all their love? Let her keep her legal childhood the full normal period. Once you were adult in the Empire, there really wasn't any going back. Most Imperials intentionally held off their last test or two until about their thirtieth birthday; the later part of legal childhood was a cherished time to most of the Empire like it had been to pre-contact Earth. Not just the children; the adults too. It was a time for mutual bonding as the relationship between parents and their children shifted.

You're right, mother, Tellea capitulated, They have been wonderful to me. I should show my appreciation to them.

We ourselves probably won't be going back for about a year, I told her, we're hoping for another twenty year contract when we do, so that's plenty of time for you to find a project and a partner. Now, enough of that! Let's plan some fun!

Copyright 2017 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on January 15, 2024 7:00 AM.

Excerpt from Preparing The Ground was the previous entry in this blog.

Excerpt from Setting The Board is the next entry in this blog.

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