Monday, December 23, 2013
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.
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.”
“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.