Valor’s Child, Snippet Two

Here’s the second snippet for Valor’s Child.  You can read the first snippet here.  Again, Valor’s Child comes out on the 30th of June, 2017:

Dad had offered to fly us, but Mom had said that she needed to do it.  I would have preferred to fly with Dad.  He, at least, would have kept up a conversation to distract me.  Mom just operated the settlement’s skimmer in silence.

I wanted to talk at that point, to try to reason with her, but I knew it would just end up with another argument.  Besides, setting in silence might give her the opportunity to realize what a mistake she and Dad had made.  They couldn’t send me to live with the Admiral.  For one thing, Mom only talked to her twice a year.  Once on Christmas and once on Easter.  It was pretty much the only times I’d ever seen them talk and even then, about half the time their conversations turned into drawn-out arguments.  Sort of like our conversations, of late, I silently admitted.  Mom never called her ‘mother’ or referred to her as anything other than ‘the Admiral.’  I’d taken to doing the same thing, mostly because I couldn’t very well call her Grandmother.  That would be too weird if I tried to compare her to Grandma Effy.  Grandma Effy baked delicious chocolate chip cookies and displayed pictures of her children and grandchildren.  Grandma Effy ran the archeological department at Nelson’s University.  The Admiral… well, I really didn’t know what she did.  Military stuff, I assumed.

I didn’t really know much about Mom’s mother.  Sure, I knew the history book stuff, she’d single-handedly saved Century and all that.  Well, not really single-handedly, and really, some folks argued that we’d be better off as part of the Dalite Hegemony.  Still, she did some heroic stuff.  She was one of the oldest officers still in service in the Century Planetary Militia.   She still served as a reserve commander of a unit, if I remembered right, and she also served as the commander for the Century Military Academy.  Mom didn’t seem to find military service all that heroic or maybe she just didn’t want to live in her own mother’s shadow.  Either way, she hadn’t had anything to do with the militia from the day that she graduated her secondary school.  She’d gone into archeology, instead, which was why our family had ended up at Basalt Mesa Outpost, about as far from civilization as anyone could be on Century, which was saying a lot for a desert planet on the frontier of human space with a population just under a billion.

It seemed dreadfully unfair to me that Mom was so critical about my desire to go into another field when she did the same thing.  Still, I kept quiet.  I could tell that Mom was conflicted about this whole plan that Dad had put forth.  I had to hand it to him for being devious, but that didn’t mean I had to appreciate it.  Oddly enough, it made Mom and I allies, both trying to figure out a way to avoid what was coming.  Silence was my best gambit in that, I knew.  If I gave her long enough to stew about it, she would see how ridiculous it was to send me to live with the Admiral.

Mom managed the first hour in silence, before she finally spoke.  “This is ridiculous,” she said, in an unwitting echo of my own thoughts.  I waited, hopeful that she would turn around.  She glanced over at me and shook her head.  “You know, I think this would be easier if you didn’t remind me so much of her.”  I blinked at that.  I reminded Mom of the Admiral?  That was an odd thought.  “You’re too darned stubborn for your own good and once you take it into your head to do something there’s no stopping you.”  She sighed, “I know you thought you were doing the right thing, Jiden, but this time you really went too far.”

I kept stubbornly silent.  I knew I’d crossed a line when I forged her signature.  Still, it was her stupid “bargain” that drove me to it.   That and the fight with Dad when he refused to sign it.  At least my rebellion had paid off.  I had been accepted to Champion Enterprises Internship Program.  So what if I had broken her bargain?  It wasn’t like she had made it so I could keep it, not and still be able to get the job I wanted with Champion Enterprises and to be with Tony.  And as far as Dad… well I’d shown him, too.

That part about Tony almost made me blush to admit… even to myself.  We really weren’t more than friends.  Close friends.  He hadn’t even tried to kiss me or anything.  Still, he had encouraged me to apply and he seemed excited when I let him know I was accepted.  As if Mom could read my mind, she asked, “This is about that Tony kid, isn’t it?”

I definitely didn’t want this conversation headed down that route.  Mom and Dad thought Tony was a bad influence.  Alright, so there was the time we skipped classes and went riding in his father’s skimmer, it wasn’t his fault that sandstorm came up and grounded us.  Besides, the adults came along soon enough to pick us up, right after the storm.  My mom glanced at me suspiciously and I could see her thinking about it.  “Was it his idea to forge my signature?”

I couldn’t help a retort at that, “You think I couldn’t think that up on my own?  I’m not stupid, you know.”  Still, I could privately admit that he had encouraged me to forge her signature.  He had pretty much predicted how my parents would react about it all, too.  Well, he’d said they wouldn’t know what to do so I’d get off basically without a hitch and he’d also assumed my dad would lose his temper.  But I was secretly relieved that Dad had kept his calm and not even Tony could have predicted the Admiral.

“I know you’re not stupid,” Mom said.  I could recognize her tone of exaggerated patience.  “But you are impulsive.  It would be just like him to suggest something like that… especially since he doesn’t have to face the consequences.  He’s nice and cozy out at Duncan City with Champion Enterprises.”

I grimaced, but I couldn’t argue there.  Century’s capital was an awesome place, from what Tony and his father had told me.  Lots of things to do, no water rationing, and I was sure Tony was living pretty comfortably.  I hadn’t had a chance to call him, not with all privileges revoked by my parents.  I was pretty sure what his response would be, though.  I could almost see his confident smirk and him shaking his head and rolling his eyes at the injustice.

My mom waited, almost as if she expected me to suddenly repent and blame it all on Tony.  As if I’d do something like that.  You didn’t turn on your friends, I knew.  Finally she spoke, “Well… you have all your coursework?”

I nodded.  The embarrassment burned on that though.  My parents had deactivated my net access.  Which meant I had to get them to authorize me to download the preparation classes for the internship.  They had only authorized that, which meant I couldn’t even update any of my friends on what had happened.  I clenched my jaw in anger.  That had been overboard, I thought, for all they knew, I could be dead or grounded and the worst part is that I couldn’t get any sympathy from them over the unfairness of it all.

“Well, depending on what the Admiral has planned, you should have plenty of time to do your coursework,” Mom said. I caught a tone of uncertainty in her voice though.  I wished I’d been able to overhear the conversation between her and the Admiral.  My brother, Will, was there, but he said it was pretty calm.  Just a quick call, some pleasantries, and then Mom told the Admiral what had happened and asked if she’d be open to having me stay there for the five months until my internship started.

I was pretty sure it would be awful.  Tony and his whole family had poked fun at the Century Planetary Militia, with good reason.  I mean, sure, they defended the planet and all that.  But they also wore their funny tan and brown uniforms and their shiny black boots and followed such weird traditions.  Tony’s dad had a hilarious impression of them that set us both just rolling with laughter.  Granted, I hadn’t understood most of it, but Tony’s family and some of their friends seemed to think it was great.

I was certain that the Admiral would be arrogant and tyrannical.  I mean, Mom had done everything she could to get out from under her and basically didn’t talk to her; she had to be some kind of petty tyrant.  Four months, twenty-two days, I thought, and then I can start my internship.

We continued the rest of the flight in silence.  Mom settled the skimmer on the edge of the airfield.  I noticed a low black form of a ground car at the edge of the tarmac.  Mom started the shutdown procedures on the skimmer and I listened to the turbines whine down.   A moment later an older-looking fellow in a suit climbed out of the vehicle and walked towards us.

Mom released her safety harness and stepped into the back and dropped the stairs.  I grabbed my bags from the small cargo bay and followed her as she stepped down.  To my surprise, she gave a big smile, “James, you’re looking good.”  She stepped forward and gave the older man a big hug.  “How’s things?”

The man gave her a smile and returned the hug, “Not bad, miss.  Hip gives me a bit of pain when we get a pressure change, but not bad.”  He released her and stepped back to look her over, “You’re looking good, miss.”

“Thanks, James.  How is the Admiral?” Mom asked.

“Busy, as usual,” James said.  “This is the young miss?”  He nodded at me.  His behavior was peculiar and left me wondering what planet he came from.

“Yes, this is my daughter, Jiden,” Mom said.

“Well, it’s nice to not have to crane my neck looking up at someone for once,” James said good-naturedly.  He was referring to the fact that my mom was tall, right at two meters.  I got my dad’s height in my last growth spurt, but I had the feeling that I wouldn’t be getting any taller.

I just gave him a nod.

“Your bag, young miss?” he asked.

Before I could do more than nod, he took it off my shoulder and led the way to the ground car.  I was confused and glanced at my mother, but she just walked to the back of the ground car.  Before she had arrived, James held the door open for her.  Mom thanked him and got in.  I was still confused, but I followed her.  James shut the door behind us.

As the ground car started up, my mom gave me a sharp look.  She saw the confusion on my face.  “James served with the Admiral in the war.  He was her steward, now he looks after things at home.”

“Ah,” I said.  I hadn’t realized that the Admiral was loaded.  I guess that made sense, though it seemed silly to have a servant.  Tony’s family had robots and house automation to do things for them.  Their skimmer was even an automated job, which was how Tony and I were able to slip away with it, neither of us knowing how to fly one, after all.

James lowered the partition window.  “Good to have visitors, miss.  The house has been very empty of late.”

“The Admiral hasn’t had many guests?” Mom asked.

“Young miss Melanie and master Rawn came in on ship last month.  Not a one since them,” James said.  I guess that he meant my cousins, Mel and Rawn. Uncle Hans and Aunt Anne Marie, their parents, had been killed in some kind of terrorist attack off-world, and Mel ran their freighter.  They’d visited us last month as well.  Mel was much older than me, but she was nice enough.  Rawn was younger than me, but he’d seemed pretty interested in some of the classes I was taking.  I guess he had a more limited selection aboard their freighter.  I’d enjoyed some of their other visits better, especially when I got the opportunity to go aboard their ship.

“I thought the Admiral was still in service, you haven’t had any military functions?” Mom asked.

“Yes, but typically we hold those on Academy grounds.  The Admiral is there most of the time, anyway,” James said.  “Old house seems quiet.”

They talked for a few minutes about places and people I didn’t know or hadn’t heard of and I just tuned them out.  I was confused by this odd man that seemed so familiar with Mom.  She’d never mentioned him, but she talked to him like an old friend.  He seemed nice enough; the situation just felt odd.  He didn’t even behave like a servant should, he told jokes (none of which I understood) and even teased my mother about rebellious teenagers.

That last part irritated me.  I knew I wasn’t rebellious.  It wasn’t like I was drinking and going to wild parties.  I’d just hadn’t told my parents that I didn’t apply to other schools and forged one signature.  Well, I admitted, there was the couple times I went out with Tony…

I just sat in silence, right up until the ground car pulled up in front of a big, stone house.  It wasn’t a mansion, just a large house, three stories of carved blue sandstone.  It looked like it was from Founding, crafted from available resources and designed to last.  I’d read in some of my history courses that early on the first settlers had built houses so that whole families would live under one roof.  Now, with more technology and equipment available, there was more room to spread out.

I shuddered at the thought of having to live with not just Mom, but also the Admiral, Dad, and my cousins in the brooding pile of stone.  Thank God that I don’t have to live like that, I thought.  Tony had mentioned Champion Enterprises provided their interns with their own private apartments.  That would be ever so much better than living here.

James opened the door and Mom climbed out.  I followed, though I couldn’t help a nervous glance upward at the house as we walked in the front door.  James paused, “Miss June, the Admiral is in her office.  Perhaps young Miss Jiden can wait in the library?”

My mother nodded, “That will work, thank you, James.”

He just gave her a smile before he turned to me, “I’ll put your bag up in the guest room.”


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