Dropnauts is arriving in just two more weeks, so I thought I’d tease you a bit with another excerpt. 🙂 This one starts a century after The Stark Divide, and reveals what happened back on Earth.
This week, Chen Tien, the medic:
Her family was been enjoying a picnic on the Chinese side of Riverside Park.
Tai had climbed up onto the bright red rail of the bridge. She perched on top, watching the clear water flow over the round pebbles below. It glistened and sparkled, murmuring its secrets to her.
“Tai, get down from there!” Her mother’s strong arms pulled her down. “What did I tell you about climbing up on the bridge railing? You boys are always getting into trouble.”
“Sorry, Mamma.” Tai started to cry. She hated making her mother angry.
I’m not a boy. Why couldn’t they see that?
The last time she’d said it, she’d been spanked and sent to her room. Now she kept it to herself.
Chen Yun’s features softened. “I only scolded you because you scared me, Tai. You could have fallen into the river and been swept away before I could save you.”
Tai looked down at the water coursing through the river channel next to them as her mother carried her back to the family. It didn’t look all that deep. Or fast.
Tai looked up, wiping her tears away with the back of her hand.
On the far side of the bank, a little girl about her age waved at her. Behind her, a group of kids about the same age were playing tag.
Tai waved back, staring at the little girl’s pink dress with envy. “How come I never get to go play with the creche kids?”
“You’re only four. When you go to school next year, you’ll meet them.”
Tai stared forlornly at her peers. “They don’t have any parents to tell them what to do.”
Mamma stared at her. “Who told you that?”
“Lin Chen. She said they all live in a big house, with no Mamma and no Papa.”
Mamma knelt next to her, her serious face on, the one that meant someone was going to get a talking to. Tai hoped it was Lin Chen. “Lin Chen doesn’t know what she is talking about. Each creche has one to three creche parents. Sometimes they are all mommies, or all daddies, or somewhere in-between. But they are all parents to those kids.”
Tai considered that. “Okay.” The other little girl had gone back to play with her friends. “Why don’t I live in a creche?”
Mamma Yun kissed her on the forehead. “Because we wanted you here with us. That’s always been our family’s way.” She squeezed Tien and stood, shooing her away. “Go play with your cousins.”
Tai hugged her, and then ran off to find the others, but the little girl in her pink dress across the river stayed on her mind for days.
A shudder brought her back to the present.
None of that mattered anymore. She was a grown woman now, and Tai was little more than a memory.
What mattered now was what Mamma Yun had said to her, the last night before she left for Earth.
“We are proud of you, Tien. My beautiful daughter. We don’t want you to go into such danger with doubt in your mind.”
Tien flushed with warmth. She looked out of her portal.
Hera had synched the little jumper with the station’s hangar, and the ship had risen into the landing dock. The thick metal hangar doors clanged closed below them, and the jumper touched down with a barely perceptible thunk. Tien whistled. “Nice job!”
Hera sighed, her shoulders slumping.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean—”
“It’s not you.” The pilot unbuckled herself and slipped past Rai to hug her. “I’m just on edge. It was a rough flight.”
Tien nodded and sent her a private em to em message. –Still—I’m sorry.-
–Really, it’s okay.- Hera tagged her response with a hug, and warmth spread through her. “Come on. Let’s get out of this tin can.” The pilot retrieved her bag from under her seat and tapped her temple. “Dek, is the dock pressurized?”
“Affirmative.” The station mind’s voice came out of the jumper’s speakers for their benefit. “Welcome to the Launchpad.”
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