Monday, December 30, 2013

January 6

I have to make a decision on this kid.  Tep says I need to make my choice within the week for optimal success in removing and freezing my little hitchhiker. 

Clan Dusa won’t return my messages.  I didn’t really think they would.  The guys expect me to move on, to find another trio of men to spend my life with.  It’s just like men to think it’s so freaking easy to do such a thing. 

What if Dusa, Weln, and Esak were the ones I was meant to be with?  I worry that the universe or God or whoever runs this show said, ‘Here’s your happily-ever-after, served to you on a plate.  Enjoy.’  And they won’t even talk to me now. 

Fuck.  I never should have left Earth without them. 

I commed Dad, wanting a sounding board.  Fortunately, it was after shift, Atlanta-time, and he was available to talk to me.  He looked wonderful in his big bear dad way.

We did the obligatory, hi-how-are-you-you look-great-I-miss-you dance.  I know I sound flippant about it here, but I do miss Dad.  So much that dwelling on it too much makes me want to cry.  So I’ll skip to the part where I got cranky with him.

“You are just like a father to meddle in my love life,” I told him.  “You knew I’d never leave Dusa’s clan if I was aware I was pregnant.”

Dad raised an eyebrow at me.  “All the more reason to not tell you.  Besides, Nang was too much of a troublemaker to allow you to remain near him.”  He sighed.  “Shalia, you aren’t even sure that Clan Dusa is the right one for you.  You’ve told me that yourself.  How could I let you stay with them and make a mistake?”

“I’m an adult.  I’m allowed to make mistakes and have to live miserably with them for the rest of my life.”

Background laughter let me know the other two dads were listening.  Nayun darted a fierce glare to one side and went back to me.

“My daughter, you are now a part of my culture.  The child you carry is half-Kalquorian.  You have consented to the lottery.  That means doing things our way.”

I pursed my lips at him.  “I hope the Empire realizes that at some point, we Earther girls are going to demand some pretty significant changes.”

Nayun finally chuckled.  “I have no doubt of that.  With the shackles of your church and government loosened, many of you are taking the new freedoms to heart and demanding even more.”

“Give us an inch—”

“And you’ll take a mile.”  His smile turned sad.  “Shalia, this is not easy for any of us.  For the good of all, we are having to make sacrifices, Earther and Kalquorian alike.”

I looked at him closely.  “I’ve asked you before, and you never gave me an answer.  Who is she?”

That got more laughter from the background.  Bitev walked into the vid shot behind Nayun and smiled.  “Our daughter is quite observant.”

“No fool,” Rak agreed, off-vid.  “She gets it from my side of the family.”

That cracked us all up.  When everyone stopped laughing, I prodded, “So?”

“We clanned a Matara,” Bitev told me.  “A wonderful, wonderful woman named Joelle.”

“Congratulations,” I said, stunned.  I’d fully expected such a good bunch of men to find a lady who would appreciate them, but I was startled they’d clanned so quickly.  “So where’s the lucky woman?”

“On her way to Kalquor,” Nayun said.  His smile faltered.  “She left a week ago.  We miss her terribly even though we speak once a day.  That’s what I meant about making sacrifices.”

Rak walked into view.  “It was too dangerous for Joelle to remain here.  We had to do what was right for her, as Nayun did for you, my daughter.  Do not be too hard on your Imdiko father when all he was doing was taking care of you.”

Bitev added, “We asked Joelle to check on you once she gets to Kalquor.  She’s excited to meet you.  I hope that is acceptable to you?”

“Well, of course.  I was hoping to give my approval before you up and got yourselves clanned.”  I was only half-teasing.  “Sneaky dads.”

They grinned at me.  “She makes us very happy,” Nayun said. 

“I guess that will have to be good enough for me.”  I cocked an eyebrow at them.  I saw an opening to get retribution for my dads clanning a woman behind my back.  “Are you planning to give me little brothers and sisters?  Ooh, a whole bunch of Shalias!  I can teach them all I know about getting into trouble.  Won’t that be fun?”

“Joelle is too old for having babes, thank the ancestors.”  Nayun winked at me.  “I would not trade you for any other child, my daughter, but you are aging this old man very quickly.”

Rak scowled.  “Please do find yourself a good clan, my daughter.  Then allow us to give our approval.”  His expression got that distinctive no man is good enough for my daughter look. 

Bitev added, “And don’t waste time vetting your candidates.  The two years you have will pass quickly, faster than you think it will.”

“But there’s no rush if I have the baby,” I said.  “The mother of a Kalquorian citizen doesn’t have to leave the Empire.”

Nayun’s shoulders drooped as Bitev and Rak exchanged a dark look.  Yep, they all looked like exasperated dads.  I got myself a good bunch to adopt me.  They may not be getting it right, but they care ... and here I am, ready to be weepy again.

Nayun said, “Who the hell told you?  Damn it, Shalia, don’t shut your heart off from what could be a wonderful match by waiting for Clan Dusa to come home and claim you.”

“It could be many years before they return to Kalquor,” Bitev reminded me.  “Years your child will not have fathers to look to.”

“I never said I was waiting for Dusa’s clan to make me their Matara,” I pointed out.  “I just think it’s important they get to see their child.”

“It may not be theirs,” Nayun said, trying to be severe and failing at it. 

“It’s not theirs,” Rak interjected.  “The child belongs to the fathers you choose for it.  No other men.”

Bitev nodded his agreement.  “It’s our way, my daughter.  Having another clan intruding on the life of yours is a disastrous course.  And how confusing would it be for the child?”

“Let Dusa, Esak, and Weln go, Shalia.”  Nayun said this very gently.  “I know it hurts.  I know you don’t understand it yet.  But it’s best for them, you, and your child.”

I knew they were trying to advise me as best they could.  I knew they wanted only the best for me.  I’m beginning to understand that Kalquorian men are a bunch of well-meaning macho jerks who we Earther women will have to fix.  They are exasperating, but I happen to love this particular trio too much to take offense. 

I managed a conciliatory smile.  “You make a good case for it.  I have plenty to think about it.”

“You’ll com when you make your decision about the child?” Nayun asked.

“I’ll tell you first.”  I blew the group a kiss.  “Thanks for letting me bend your ears.  I love you guys.  Oh, make sure you give Joelle my com frequency.  I need to get to know my stepmom.”

That earned me some grins.  We yapped about a couple more things before we finally signed off.

Ah, Kalquorians.  We are so similar but light years apart on the important issues sometimes.  I understand they have their beliefs, but I think mine are just as valid.  And I am the one who is pregnant.  I have not changed my mind one iota about making Dusa’s clan a part of their child’s life if I have it.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

January 5

Okay, I know everyone keeps telling me that having a child will only enhance my status with the clans, but this is just ridiculous.

I finished the questionnaire and submitted it a week and a half ago.  Candy stopped by this morning and suggested I check to see if any of the clans had responded.  I rolled my eyes.

“Isn’t there some kind of lag time between here and Kalquor?” I asked.  “They probably only received it yesterday or the day before.”

“Those boys are desperate,” Candy loftily informed me.  “I had over 200 offers for a first appointment in less than 24 hours after my questionnaire went into the system.  Trust me; you’ll want to weed out a few every day or you’re going to fall way behind.”

So I signed into my computer and accessed the offers.  I was actually afraid I wouldn’t have even one.  Not that I wanted to be deluged by 200 eager clans, but I didn’t want to be embarrassed either.  A nice dozen would have suited me fine and kept my ego from being shattered.

The vid in front of me suddenly came to life, filling up with line after line of clan names.  My mouth dropped open.

“Holy cats,” I said.  “There must be fifty clans here!”

Candy’s eyes were huge.  “That’s only the first screen, Shalia.  You’ve got eight more besides.”  She pointed at the indicator in the right hand corner of the free-floating hologram.  “With 72 clans per page that’s – that’s –” her mouth puckered and her eyes rolled as she did the math in her head.  “—648 clans.  And your offer page went live only seven hours ago.”  She pointed at another indicator.

“There has to be some mistake,” I said, my voice wheezing from the lack of air in my lungs.

“Open one and see what it says.”

I clicked the first name on the list, Clan Seot.  Their introduction came up, along with additional files that gave still pics and other information. 

Candy squinted at the words on the screen.  “Greetings, Matara Shalia.  Dramok Seot, Imdiko Cifa, and Nobek Larten wish to express our delight that you have chosen to make Kalquor your home.  We are assured we can offer you and your soon-to-be-born child a comfortable home—”

“Okay, so they got the part where I’m pregnant,” I muttered.  “Jeez, Candy, do you need your eyes checked?  You’re practically snorting that vid.”

“Maybe,” she said.  “Stuff is kind of blurry.  Hey, they’ve got a home by the sea and a mountain retreat on a moon near Kalquor.  Nice.”

“Let’s see some of the others,” I said impatiently.  “I can filter out all the ones that aren’t aware I’m going to drop a hot package in a few months.”

Candy giggled.  “Drop a hot package?  From that description, I don’t know if you’re giving birth or pooping.”

I brought up another offer.  “Pooping?  What are you, seven years old?  Who the hell at your age says poop?”

She ignored me, choosing to read the next introduction through her narrowed eyes.  Someone needs to get her a seeing eye dog.  I decided to rat out her bad eyesight to Betra so he can make her go see Dr. Tep.  That’s what she gets for saying ‘poop’.

“We look forward to the opportunity to get to know you and your child when you reach Kalquor...” she droned.

“Well, damn,” I said.  “Is there a faster way of figuring out who mentions my bun in the oven than reading through all of these?”

“That’s a much better euphemism,”  Candy said. 

“I’m so glad you approve.”

“There is a faster way.  Main screen of file.”  The computer obediently went back to the first page of suitors.  “Highlight all files that contain references to child, baby, or pregnancy.”

The whole damned list highlighted.  “You have got to be kidding me,” I said.

We went through all the screens.  Out of nearly 650 clans, only slightly over two dozen had no reference to me having a child as part of the package. 

“Wow,” Candy said.  “I guess Kalquorians like kids.”

“They like knowing the chick they’re spending all their time and energy trying to seduce can have kids,” I sighed.  “I’m a sure thing, apparently.”

Candy smiled at me cheerfully.  “So make out your wish list with every dream and desire, and make them jump through hoops.  What the hell, you’re a proven commodity.  Your womb is your passport to paradise.”

Yeah, I’m going to tell Betra she’s blind as a bat.  Right now.

Monday, December 23, 2013

December 25

Merry Christmas, universe.  Not that anybody but us Earthers care.  Still, we made a pretty good day of it.  The party was a good, if almost non-religious affair.  It was almost as if we were ashamed to be celebrating a major holiday of our world’s faith.  After all, we women are all on our way to Kalquor and debauchery with at least three men each.  I’d say we’ve fallen far short of what we were taught. 

I got one hell of a present.  But I’ll tell that part in its time.

Yet, we did celebrate with alcohol (there was something called leshella from Plasius that I was told was safe for me to drink without harm to my embryo), good food, and even a few presents.  I gave Candy and Katrina matching gold necklaces scavenged from the stores on board.  Each had a clear pendant with a preserved four-leaf clover inside.  I thought we all could use a little luck, no matter what our goals were.  They seemed to like the jewelry, especially since the necklaces represented a piece of Earth, which we will never see again.

Candy got me some chocolates she’d begged Betra to have the kitchen concoct.  They were in the shapes of rattles and baby bottles with colored candy details.

“You don’t hate them, do you?” she asked me.  “I know you haven’t made a decision yet, but I really want to be an aunt.  Plus you have an excuse to eat sweets and get fat.”

I laughed, and her worried expression relaxed.  “Candy, you could have shaped it like dog poo for all I care.  It’s chocolate!  How could I not like it?”

She wrinkled her nose.  “Gee, thanks for comparing my present to shit, Shalia.”

“Sorry!  I didn’t mean for it to sound that way.  I think they did a very good job with these.”

Candy grinned.  “I drew them pictures to go by.  They did do pretty well, didn’t they?”

I admired the artistry of the chocolates.  The chefs on board had captured a cartoonish cuteness with the little pink-nippled bottles and green-and-blue striped rattles. 

“I love them,” I told her.  “I don’t have to share, right?”

Katrina’s smile was full of deviltry as she handed over her presents to us.  We opened the gifts with understandable trepidation, and with good reason it turned out.  True to form, she gave Candy and me big fake penises that vibrated.  I screamed laughter while Candy quickly concealed her brown-colored dick back in its wrapping. 

“Oh my God!” Candy gasped.  She peeked at the fake cock and re-covered it once more.  “Are you mental?”

“Since you two aren’t making yourselves happy with any of these men, I figured you needed some kind of relief,” Katrina snorted, completely unapologetic.  “If you want something bigger, they have a shop in the main concourse.  Candy, since you’re a virgin, I think you should ease into it.  That’s why your dildo is smaller than Shalia’s.”

Betra ventured over to see what all the fuss was about.  He took one look at the dildo in my hand and quickly made his way to the other side of the rec room.  His face was the reddest I’ve ever seen.  Redder than even Candy, who kept sneaking peeks at her toy.

Maybe an hour later, with my new ‘boyfriend’ carefully hidden away, I approached our liaison.  “Hey, Betra.  Thanks for helping us have a nice Christmas.  Here.”  I held out a wrapped gift.

He blinked at me in surprise, and a smile slowly spread over his handsome face.  “A gift for me?  Thank you, Shalia.”  He frowned a little as he took the present.  “I didn’t get you anything.”

I snorted.  “Are you kidding?  You’ve looked out for us.  You’ve put up with me and my crazy life.”  I shrugged.  “Besides, we don’t give gifts with the expectation of getting anything back.  It’s the act of sharing that’s important.”

“Well, I am touched,” Betra said.  He opened the package to find a little book I’d made, one with printed pages.  It had taken some doing to get the materials I needed.  Using paper was so archaic, even for us backwards Earthers.

He paged through it, exclaiming with delight to find pictures of each of the ten women he is liaison for.  Each was labeled with the lady’s name and a individual thank you for some kindness he’d done.  His grin stretched wide across his face, especially when he reached my picture and the caption, Thanks for not choking me all the times I know you wanted to.

“I have never wanted to choke you, Shalia,” Betra laughed.  “I’ve come close to shaking you a few times—”

“Just a few?” I asked.  “I’m losing my touch.”

“Thank you.”  Betra’s face shone with joy.  “This is a treasure.”

Since I had put him in a good mood, I decided to sound him out on some of the ideas I was wrestling with.  “Look, I know this is taboo for you Kalquorians, but I can’t shake this crazy need to make Clan Dusa a part of their child’s life.  That’s assuming it is their baby I’m carrying.”

To his credit, Betra didn’t seem ready to dive into a Shalia-shaking mood.  “This is really bothering you, isn’t it?” he asked, his expression understanding.

“I know I should just let it go like you all keep telling me to,” I said.  “But it just seems so wrong.  My heart screams against it.”  I had to swallow hard to get past the sudden lump in my throat.

“What if it’s Nang’s, Shalia?” Betra asked.  “If you want to give Dusa’s clan the right to see the child, don’t you have to also extend that courtesy to Dramok Nang?”

“You know I can’t stand the thought of that,” I scowled.  “If only I had longer than two years to select a clan!  If I could wait for Dusa, Esak, and Weln to return to Kalquor, then we could have a chance to see if our union would work.”

Betra looked at me for several seconds.  His lips tightened, as if he debated something.  Finally, he blew out a breath.

“You can.”

I blinked, sure I had not heard him correctly.  “What?  What do you mean, I can?”

Betra gave me a half-smile.  “If you keep the child and carry it to term, it is a citizen of the Empire.  Your baby is half-Kalquorian, Shalia, which means it has a permanent home.  You, as the child’s mother, share in that.  With the birth of your baby, you become a Kalquorian citizen as well.  You do not have to leave the Empire at the end of the two-year lottery limit.”

I stared at him, flabbergasted.  “I don’t have to clan?”


“And I can stay on Kalquor?”


I felt a buzz of excitement course through me.  “I don’t even have to enter the lottery?  I can skip that part?”

Betra held up his hand.  “You can, but I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Shalia.”

“Why not?”

“Because the government-provided housing, while livable, doesn’t allow for many luxuries.  It’s just the basics of shelter, clothing, food, and medical care ... plus the small allowances that won’t amount to much more than a few toys for the babe.  You’ve looked at what’s going into your account, haven’t you?”

I nodded.  I was beginning to see what he was getting at.

“You won’t be able to afford splurges like a dinner out more than once every couple of weeks.  You’ll have to save to buy nonessentials.  The Empire provides the basics for living, but nothing fancy.”

“Which is why you’re all so hung up on rank and promotions,” I guessed.

Betra nodded.  “Along with the need to contribute to the good of all.  Actively seeking a clan and having our children is seen as a major contribution, which is why you’ll get much more as a Matara in the lottery.  You’ll live in the much nicer complex being built with a lot of amenities.  It will also provide your child with a state-of-the-art facility, given to all the mothers who enter the lottery.”

I mused over that.  Candy and I had gone over the admittedly nice indulgences provided by the complex Kalquor was building for us.  It was like a two-year vacation at a resort, with the stipulation we go on dates.  I hate to sound shallow, but it was hard for me to imagine living anywhere else, especially when it would be nicer for the baby too.

My choices were clear:  I could live in the lap of luxury with extras for my bundle of joy while evaluating would-be suitors, or I could live like a charity case while waiting for a clan that might not come home for years. 

Despite the spike of excitement, I made myself be realistic about the situation.  Clan Dusa might not prove compatible for me in the long term.  Even I was willing to admit my torrid affair with my three sweeties might not have the longevity it needed.  We’d fallen in love, but that love had not had ample time to be nurtured.  It wasn’t a given that it would mean happily ever after.

Yet, I really wanted Dusa, Esak, and Weln to have the opportunity to know their baby.  I now had the option to wait for either a clan that would allow Clan Dusa to be a part of their child’s life or to wait for Clan Dusa itself.

Fighting the urge to squeal in glee, I gave Betra a composed smile that betrayed none of my racing thoughts.  “Thank you for telling me my options.  I appreciate it.”

He sighed.  “I’ll probably regret it, but you do deserve to know it all.  Just don’t toss aside a good, loving clan for a dream, Shalia.”

“I won’t,” I reassured him.  Meanwhile, I thought how I would carefully plan a message to Dusa.  I could tell him I would still be on Kalquor, waiting for the day he and the other two returned home ... and they would be welcome to meet their son or daughter.