Thursday, March 31, 2011

Friday Fiction for April 1, 2011

Welcome to another edition of Friday Fiction, with this week’s charming hostess, Julie at The Surrendered Scribe. Visit Julie’s blog, and enjoy all the great fiction being offered for your weekend reading pleasure.

Considering the auspicious date of this entry, I decided to go with a Challenge Entry from June 4, 2009. The topic that week was “Empty and Full,” and while this entry didn’t place, it did spark my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel, “Empty Threats.” I think this was the last time I entered the Weekly Challenge. I really should get back into it.

Exiled With a Fool

Francesca opened her eyes to artificial lighting, and focused on an unfamiliar ceiling. The air had a processed smell, and a faint hum reached her ears. Coarse fabric covered her body instead of the lightweight, silky clothing she was accustomed to. She sat up and looked around, and saw only a solitary young man seated nearby. “What is this place?” she asked.

“This is Elba Outpost, Mistress Francesca,” he replied.

“Why am I here?”

“You have been exiled by the Revolutionary Council, Mistress. Your parents, in negotiating the surrender of the Adon Keep, secured your safety in exchange for halting the bloodshed of the war.”

“The Rebels won?”

“Yes, Mistress.”

“My parents - ?”

“I’m sorry; they could not save themselves.” He came over and offered his hand to help her up. “Their concern was for you.”

“Are you my jailer, then?”

“No, Mistress. I am your companion. Your parents insisted that you not be alone, so the Council requisitioned me from the Empties to accompany you into exile.”

She took the hand, and allowed him to escort her to the table. “I don’t understand. Requisitioned? Empties?”

“I was an Empty, created and raised in the lab. I was taught only what I needed for communication and basic self-care, and kept isolated from any outside influences. Once I reached maturity, I was placed into stasis until requisitioned, at which time my mind was filled with what is required for my assignment. Specifically, I was given the knowledge and emotions to both care for and about you.”

“So you’re an android?”

“No, Mistress. An android is a mechanical construct resembling a human. An Empty is fully human, awaiting the programmed personality and skills needed for the requisition.”

“But you were programmed to care about me, just like an android would be. Couldn’t they find even one person that cared enough about me to follow me into exile?”

“Perhaps, but the Council wanted no chance that you might have political supporters along to help you. You were allowed to live on the condition that you could never return to rally the loyalists against the new regime. My filling has left me politically neutral; I have no animosity towards you as the daughter of the deposed Adon, nor do I seek the restoration of the old power.”

“So that’s it? I’m stuck with you?”

“If you tire of me, Mistress, you may return me to stasis. I fear, though, you will find it a lonely existence with no one to talk to.”

“If I’m going to be stuck with you, I should at least know your name. What do I call you?”

“I have no name. I was an Empty, and now I am a Full.”

She sighed. “Great; I’m exiled with a fool.” She crossed her arms and regarded him with amusement. “So, am I supposed to just call you ‘Fool’ for the rest of our lives?”

“You may call me what you wish, Mistress. I remember being an Empty, and even a fool is better than that existence.”

The look in his eyes caused the smile to vanish from her lips. “You remember?”

“My filling gave me memories as though we had grown up together, but they cannot eradicate existing memory. Beneath the Full memories, I still remember my life as an Empty.”

She reached an arm across the table, just short of touching his hand. “Was it really that bad?”

“An Empty has no imagination, Mistress. I had neither dreams nor aspirations. I felt no emotions, either good or bad. I did not laugh or play, and only cried if I was hurt. We were kept empty, so that there would be little to conflict with whatever programming our requisitions filled us with. We did not live; we merely were.”

“I’m sorry; I had no idea.”

He smiled. “It doesn’t matter. I am Full now, and whatever you call me, or however you treat me, I would not go back to being Empty.” He bowed his head. “I will be your Fool if that is your wish.”

“It’s funny; now I feel like the Empty,” she said. “All that I’ve ever known is gone, and I don’t know how to live.” She took his hand again. “Will you teach me?”

“Of course, Mistress.”

She thought a moment. “Phil; you should be called Phil.”

“Thank you, Mistress Francesca.”

“Please, just call me Francesca.”

His smile seemed to fill the room, and she felt less empty. “As you wish,” said Phil.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Friday Fiction for March 25, 2011

Catrina is our gracious Friday Fiction Hostess, over at her blog, Speak To The Mountain. The Linky tool is there, along with Part 3 of her story, “The Corpse.”

In “Her Father’s Star,” one of the conflicts the main character deals with, is being torn between her calling as a daughter of a priestess, and her desire to travel to the stars, as her father did. Her first assignment as a priestess is to assist the Priestess B’Tra in the Embassy on Earth. During this service, she follows B’Tra’s daughter to Auckland, when the girl runs away to elope. This scene occurs during that trip. As a reminder, in this series of stories, the people of Epsilon Eridani (Qi'le) are a Matriarchal society, and therefore view God as Mother.

Chapter 10


Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. The most powerful ones are those we can’t even describe and aren’t even aware of.

~ Ellen Goodman

Se’Ana stood on the balcony, facing the direction of the sunrise. When she had started the prayers, morning had been nothing more than the hint of light on the eastern horizon. As she sang the final prayer, the light was full upon her face and her skin grew warm from it. God of my mothers,” she sang. I offer every thought of my mind, and every word of my lips, and every action of my body as a gift to you this day. May my gifts be pleasing to You, and may I serve as a faithful daughter should. God of my mothers, You have ordained me a priestess before You; touch Your people through me.”

Wherever B’Tra was, she would be reciting that same prayer. On the world of Qi’le, every priestess would likewise recite the prayer as the morning light first illuminated their villages. She thought about the scandal of her father reciting that same prayer alongside her mother. It was something few husbands of priestesses would dare request, and even fewer priestesses would agree to. Still, at that moment it seemed to her to be the most natural and beautiful thing she could imagine. The liturgical prayer was said to connect the community of priestesses one with another, and the thought that it also connected her with her father across the void made it all the more special to her.

Reciting her morning prayers in jeans and a t-shirt, however, was only slightly better than reciting them naked. Her robe was scheduled to be returned shortly, and she wondered if she would receive it back from the hotel laundry before B’Tra arrived with the spare robe she’d asked the older priestess to bring her.

She entered the room and closed the door to the balcony. Pulling the sheet back over Elizabeth’s bare leg, she touched her middle and ring fingers to the sleeping woman’s cheek. Would that we could truly be sisters, you and I,” she sang softly. Perhaps then you might understand. It had been a restless night for Liz, judging from the disheveled bed linens. She smiled; were she facing such a meeting with her mother, she would feel a certain nervous restlessness as well.

She settled into the chair with her right leg folded back under her left. While she still wasn’t sure she liked the jeans, she did find the freedom of movement they afforded her a nice change from the flowing priestess robe. She understood why the Terrans preferred that style of dress and why even B’Tra would wear such clothing for certain tasks around the Embassy. Perhaps, she considered, after the day’s events were finally settled she would change back into the jeans and t-shirt and wander the city; it could be interesting to blend in and just be a normal woman rather than a priestess and being treated as a visiting dignitary.

Even as she mulled over the idea, she imagined her mother reminding her that, no matter what she wore, she would still be a priestess. She thought of B’Tra, working in the Embassy gardens wearing dirty jeans and a work shirt, and she knew it was true. It was in the eyes, and in the countenance, and in the bearing of a priestess. The blue robes were merely a symbol, Y’La had once told her and her sisters. What the robes did for the body, God did for the spirit, and that was what truly identified a priestess to any who saw her.

She looked at Elizabeth and knew her mother was right. God’s touch was evident on the woman, but in B’Tra it was far more than a touch; it was an enveloping. It was the same for Y’La, and for Noma, and for Sh’e, and for all the other priestesses she had known. God was wrapped around them, and the evidence of Her influence on their lives was obvious to anyone who looked.

Would others say that about her? she wondered. She stood and went to the mirror, and studied her reflection to see if that same evidence appeared as obvious in her as it did in others. She saw only the face of one who had reluctantly accepted the ordination of God staring back at her, and questioned why God would choose to waste Her embrace on such a one as that.

She flopped down onto her bed and closed her eyes, though she doubted it was acceptable to pray in such a position.

She moved her hand, but rather than bed linens she brushed against the weeds of a meadow. She lay in the shadow of Pisces’ wing, and a hand swept the hair from her forehead.

“My daughter Se’Ana; what are you doing here?”

“I heard you had come home, and I wanted to see you and father.”

“You are in your first year of priestess training; you know you cannot leave the school.”

“I just needed to see you both and hear your voices before you returned to the Temple city.”

“Se’Ana, we would not have left without seeing you. We were waiting until this evening, after the lessons for the day were finished. You should have stayed for your lessons, and now they will have others out looking for you. What could be so important that you could not wait until we came to you tonight?”

“Mother, what if I am not supposed to be a priestess? I do not act like the other students, and I do not think like the other students. They delight in their studies, and yet all I can think about is coming out here and working on Pisces. They dream of service and B’selai, and I dream of traveling to the stars like father did.”

“You are Se’Ana, daughter of Y’La, of the family T’Cha. I knew from the first time I blessed you at my breast that you would be a priestess, and I knew when we gave you your name that you would also go to the stars as your father did.”

“But priestesses do not go to the stars, mother. All the other students say this.”

Her mother laughed. “I think these other students have not spoken to the priestess K’Mi, then, for her daughter B’Tra went to the stars as a priestess. They have not spoken to the priestess Alice, for she both went to the stars as a priestess, and returned to us again as a priestess.”

“But that is only two of all the priestesses of Qi’le.”

“God showed me that you would go to the stars, Se’Ana, and if that is what She intends, then that is what She will bring about. You do not need to trust me on this; trust God and follow Her call for you.”

The t-shirt was gathering under her breasts and making her uncomfortable. “Mother?”

“Yes, honored priestess?”

“I was remembering a conversation we had many years ago, and now I am here as an adult. I cannot be here, though.”

“You are not here, Se’Ana. God is there, and She knows you are doubting Her calling on you.”

“Am I dreaming then?”

These are the robes of the priestess,” her mother said, ignoring the question. The robes do not honor us; we honor the robes, for they have been given to us by God as a reminder of all that She has commanded us.” It was what the priestess elder had said when she and the other new priestesses had first donned their robes after their ordination. A priestess does not rule; a priestess serves, and God has chosen you to serve as Her voice and Her hands to the people. The priestess is honored only when the priestess obeys God’s command on her life, for when you cease to serve, you will cease to be honored.”

They were standing in the Council chambers; Pisces had vanished without warning. Her mother stood in front of her once again, holding the folded blue robe in her arms. “Honored priestess,” she said. “Your robes.”

She stared at the robe. When her mother had presented it to her before, she had accepted it without emotion. Tears filled her eyes as she regarded it again, but she did not reach for it.

“Honored priestess; your robes.”

She wanted to reach out and take it, and to put it on with the kind of reverence she should have felt the first time she wore it; the kind of reverence and respect the other priestesses showed so readily as they accepted their first robes from their mothers. Her arms, however, did not respond to her command.

“Honored priestess; your robes,” Elizabeth repeated again.

Se’Ana sat up with a start. Elizabeth stood before her, wrapped in a bath robe and holding the priestess robe in her arms.

“I don’t know how you managed to sleep through the attendant beating on the door; I can usually sleep through almost anything, and he still woke me up. He brought your robes and undergarments back from the laundry.”

She stood up from the bed and touched the material of the robe with one hand. These are the robes of a priestess,” she said. The robes do not honor us; we honor the robes, for they have been given to us by God as a reminder of all that She has commanded us.

“Yeah, I know; mother has explained the priestess robes to me more times than I care to count.” She lifted the robe a bit higher to accent her impatience. “Wait; are you crying? What’s the matter?”

Without answering, she pulled the t-shirt off and took the sash, wrapping it in the way she had done since she had first started developing breasts. She undid the jeans and stepped out of them, and then removed the ridiculous panties. She slipped into her normal undergarment, heedless of any modesty issues that changing in front of the other woman might present. She paused before taking the robe, remembering the real ordination ceremony and the dream she had just experienced. With tears flowing down her cheeks, she lifted it and wrapped herself in it.

“Se’Ana? Are you all right?”

“I think I am all right for the first time in my life.”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Friday Fiction for March 11, 2011

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Karlene again, only this week on her Dancin’ In the Rain, Splashin’ in His Love blog. Dance on over and splash right into the Linky, for this week’s reading fun.

Five years ago, my daughter and I were enrolled in a writing course at the local college, for advanced writers working on novel length projects. “Cardan’s Pod” was already a finished story, but I wanted critique feedback on it, and this class was a good place to get that. One week, someone made the comment that she could not imagine why the main character, Josh, had ended up married to a woman that wanted to kill him in the first place.

I thought, ‘Haven’t you ever read the news? People get married to someone who intends to kill them much too often in real life.’ I initially dismissed the question, but before long, thought about it some more and decided there could be a good scene in the answer. This excerpt, from Chapter 13, was the result of that question.

In Love With the Idea

Marta was stretched out on her belly, her left arm bent beneath her head and face turned toward where Josh rested. It was a strange experience to enjoy casual conversation with a normal man, as Dr. Marcel had rarely just talked with them. Most of the time his interaction had been to teach, and there had always been some task pressing on him and cutting their time short.

Though the ladder was just a few feet away, Josh, on the other hand, appeared in no hurry to leave her. She pursued her subject, even though he sounded uneasy with it.

“What I don’t understand is why a person would do that. Why would she leave you to die?”

“The only reason I can think of is that she wants what I have, Marta.”

“I still don’t understand. If she is your wife, doesn’t that make your relationship similar to the Pod; you share what you have for the good of the whole?”

“For some things, yes, but I own a company, and much of what I have is tied up in corporate stock and other such assets.”

“But you both share that, right?”

“Think about the pantry upstairs and all the canned food in it. It’s been here all along, right?”

“I guess so. We didn’t even know about it until you found it and brought some back.”

“But even if you had known about it, it wouldn’t have done you any good; you couldn’t access it. It’s the same with a good portion of my wealth. Cynthia knows about it, but as long as I refuse to sell it, she can’t access it.”

“But why try to kill you if she can’t access it unless you agree to sell it?”

“Because with me dead, she then becomes the one who controls whether the company is sold or not. I won’t sell the company because it’s been the family business since my grandfather founded it. It was important to Granddad that my father took over the business after him, and it was important to my father that I took over when he died. If I ever have children, I want the company to stay in the Cardan family as well.” He grunted as he shifted positions, and his arm brushed her hand.

She responded with a tentative touch. “You want children, then?”

“I’d hoped Cynthia and I would start a family soon, though she’d never expressed much interest in it. I guess now I know why.” Josh gave a grim laugh. “She made sure I knew that’s not going to happen at all.”

“So why did you end up with her?”

“I loved her, and I thought she loved me.”

“But you couldn’t tell?”

“Looking back, it seems so obvious now, but at the time, no, I couldn’t tell. My dad had died shortly before I met her, and I was completely lost in trying to take over the company. I met Cynthia at a trade show, and she was just so smart and so pretty that I couldn’t believe how lucky I was when she invited me to join her for dinner.” He sniffed and then coughed. “Now that I think about it, I wanted so much to be as happy as Diego and Sally that I never looked beyond the surface of what Cynthia was like. I was in love with the idea of being in love, Marta. Does that make any sense?”

“I don’t know,” she said, glad that the darkness hid her face from his view. Whether it made sense or not, she knew what it felt like.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Friday Fiction for March 4, 2011

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Karlene, at Homespun Expressions. This is where you should find the Linky tool.

I decided to revisit “The Ericson Exigency,” my NaNoWriMo novel for 2010, for this week’s excerpt. As a recap, since it’s been a few months since I last posted anything from this story, the Ericson has suffered a catastrophic mishap, which has sent it far off course and stranded it some eighty light years from Earth. In order to try and survive without the equipment needed to begin the agricultural part of converting a planet into a habitable colony, the lead Scientist on the mission, Artemis Wulf, has bio-engineered pigs with the necessary intelligence and physical traits to perform work. However, the food synthesizing equipment the Ericson brought was intended for the human population of the mission, not a large number of porcine laborers. Tensions have been growing as the fledgling colony struggles with constant hunger, and resentment towards the pigs has been festering.

Chapter 25


Wilbur waited while Wulf considered what he had just said.

“How many weanlings are missing?” Wulf asked.

“Six,” Wilbur said.

“You are sure they are missing, and not simply in another sty?”

“Yes. I have looked, and the sows have looked for them. The sows, especially, would recognize the scent of their piglets.”

“Might they have wandered off, and gotten lost?”

He thought about that for a minute. “Maybe, but not likely. If they had all wandered away at the same time, they might have been playing, and ran too far to find their way back. They went missing one at a time, several days apart.”

“Hmmm, yes. That does seem odd. I will have the Lead Officers ask their people if anyone has seen them, and we will go from there.”

“We need to look for them.”

“I understand your concern, but if you and their mothers could not find them, then I’m not sure what you expect us to do. I really cannot afford to take people away from their work, to duplicate an effort you have already done. The greatest likelihood is that one of my people has seen them, and the best way to find that out is by passing along the information through the Lead Officers. Now, if there is nothing else, I need to get back to work myself.”

Wilbur turned away from the front of the module, and dropped back to all fours. Once again, Wulf had chosen to meet with him outside, rather than in the office like they used to meet. Have I done something to displease him, somehow? He does not seem happy to see me anymore. If this were not so important, I would not have disturbed him, but he appeared more concerned by the visit than by the missing piglets.

Something must be very wrong, for him to not care as much about the piglets.

He arrived back at the sty, to be met by several of the sows. “What did Wulf say?” Charlotte asked. “Will he help find our weanlings?”

Wilbur grunted. “Things must be going very poorly for the humans,” he said. “Wulf cannot call any of the humans away to help us look.”

“Are things so poor for them, that they do not care that we have lost piglets?”

“I do not know. Wulf has always cared for us, and watched over us. He must care about the missing ones, even if he cannot do anything.”

Charlotte snorted. “Maybe he is becoming like the other humans. We should have asked Miss Violet. She would take the time to help us, somehow.”

“Wulf has spoken,” Wilbur said. Those three words brought any discussion to a close. “He thinks they may have wandered off and gotten lost. We will look farther than we have, and we will not defy Wulf by asking for help from any other humans.”

The sows signaled their submission by their postures, even if their expressions showed they were not happy with the decision.

“We will help ourselves, though. Let the word be passed, that all piglets, whether suckling or weanling, and even up to half-grown, are not to be anywhere in groups smaller than five. Sucklings and weanlings are to have at least one adult watching over them at all times. Even groups are not to go anywhere that they cannot see their sty clearly. These are my orders for the herd.”

Each sow spoke their acceptance of the instructions, and then headed off to the various sties to convey the message.

Wilbur went outside the sty, and stood on his hind legs. Looking towards the Colony, he gave a low grunt. You speak, when you think we cannot hear. When you speak to us, your words tell us one thing, while your scent tells us another. You give us the work you need to have done, and begrudge us the food we need to do this work. Do any of you care about our missing piglets, or do you think of them only as competition for food?

I have spoken for you, Wulf, to the pigs. Will you speak for us to the humans? We serve, as you created us to, and we recite your laws to each other and to our piglets. I have taught the pigs to trust you and the humans, but I fear their trust is weakening, for they say that you no longer care for us.

I wonder, Wulf, if it had been human young that were missing, if you would have pulled your people away from their work. I do not need to wonder, though, if you would have asked for us to help find the missing, that I would have sent word that every available pig was to search with the humans.

He held his front hooves up, and looked at them. I remember the others. I remember the sow that suckled me, and that she never stood on two legs. I remember when I first spoke to her, and she only squealed at me in reply. I remember that she could not hold things with her hooves, and how pleased you were that we, her piglets, were so different from her.

You and the other humans do not think we remember, Wulf, but we do. We know where we came from, and the value of the gift you have given us. We owe you for the ability to think and to speak, and for the promise that humans and pigs will share this world when we have made it into the home you have described to us. How will we share this world, though, when humans still see us the way my mother was?

You have not said it, Wulf, but others of your people have. We are ‘just pigs,’ and I hope this isn’t why you will not help us find the missing piglets. Maybe to you humans, they are ‘just piglets,’ but to us, they are as your young are to you.

If you make us choose between your laws and our young, I do not know how we will choose. I can speak for you, Wulf, but I cannot make this herd listen, if the humans have given them reason not to.