© 2017 Randolph Lalonde
In a small apartment in the city of Celeste on the Tamber Moon…
Listening to the buzz and clamor of the street beneath her window, Shauna wrapped herself around her favourite pillow. The seat beside that window had been her bed and her day seat since they found the small appartment. Until recently she shared it with her brother, Amel, but he just got his own mattress so she had more room than she knew what to do with.
She kicked her small feet on the thin mattress, stretched then curled her toes before pulling her legs back up. Her brother was on the floor, playing ships and soldiers, the toy fighter pshew-shewing invisible bolts at the animated toy men who scrambled about, their little cries just loud enough to encourage him.
The noise was less irritating than her rumbling empty stomach. As long as he was playing with the only automaton style toy set he had, he wasn’t asking her where Dad was, and if he’d have dinner.
She puffed a lock of blonde hair out of her face and watched as five young men noticed a gentleman who carried a bag close to his chest. Shauna wished she could call down, tell him that he was about to be robbed. If she was older she might be able to do something, but at the age of seven she wouldn’t be much help.
Like a pack, the grinning boys in matching jackets they surrounded the gentleman with tall white hair. “No, don’t,” Shauna said under her breath as the older man fought to keep the silver case in his hands.
One of the boys, Jerrod with the fat arms, punched him while another drew a big gun. They got the case, and the man had no choice but to put his hands up, then back away. A shot exploded at his feet and he turned, stumbling into a run.
Amel stood and came to her side, looking for the action outside. “What happened?”
“No one got shot, just the Charons and their friends stealing again. Whose winning?” she asked, looking to the floor where her brother’s dozen four centimeter tall soldiers huddled behind the cover of small rocks and old kitchen utensils.
“The Eden ship’s got ‘em pinned down, but Rangers are about to rally. They just need a plan.”
“You know all the Eden ships are gone,” she told him.
“I know,” he said, slinking back down to the floor, his toy ship poised to resume its attack run on the soldiers. “When’s Dad back?”
“He told us both when,” she replied. “Sun down, when work’s over. The sun’s still high up.”
“Think we can go outside?”
Shauna looked through the window and down. The street was busy, there was barely enough room for all the people as they jostled past each other. Predatory eyes stared from dark corners and doorways. She was happy to be two floors up. “Not today,” she told him, not looking in his direction so she could avoid his disappointment.
Taking care of her twin was easy, he was more well behaved since they were attacked in orbit, since their mother was killed. Their father said the Eden Virus was responsible, not one of the Eden ships, but to her brother it was all the same. He was nearly killed, and when they finished healing him, there was something wrong with his head. Something his father couldn’t afford to fix, so he was simpler. She was the smart one.
The apartment their father found was tiny, just enough room for the three of them to sleep in, it was all they could afford. No one bothered them while they were there, and they had as much water as they wanted, but it was boring. Getting stuck in Celeste meant that their father had to work for food doing everything from manual labour to things that he wouldn’t talk about.
With a sigh she rested her chin on her knee and watched the people below. A group of soldiers moved down the street. They wore black armour, walking in a double column. “Amel,” she said. “Look, come up and look.”
He retreated from his little war and crawled up on the window seat, looking through the open window so eagerly that she was momentarily afraid that he’d fall out onto the awning below. “Who are they?” he asked.
“I’m not sure, let’s count them,” she replied, pointing.
“One, two, three, four, um,” he huffed frustration.
“Five,” she pointed at the next one and he joined her in counting to fourteen.
“That’s a lot,” he said, staring down at the soldiers, mesmerized. “They’re Rangers,” he said in awe. “Dad told me about the Rangers.”
Shauna knew well enough after listening to her brother tell her about them, ask her about them, and babble about them over and over again. Her father explained to both of them that there were still good people on Tamber, but they were on the other side of the moon. They helped people, but they were far away, so the three of them had to help themselves.
The soldiers stopped just up the street. “What are they doing?” Amel asked.
From the way he was fidgeting she could tell he was moments away from running down so he could get a closer look, but the street was dangerous. The people were dangerous. “Getting ready to leave. If you run down there, you’ll miss it, so watch from up here, okay?”
“Okay,” he replied. “Okay,” he repeated with a sigh.
They didn’t do anything, just stood there, she couldn’t even tell if they were talking to anyone with their helmets on. She pulled her bead bag from where it was wedged in the corner of the window seat and took a half woven bracelet out. Shauna was just starting to string a hematite bead when she heard a faint buzzing. As she looked up a small white and blue disc flew into the window and past them, stopping to hover in the middle of their small apartment. A bag hung from it, packed with something that looked too heavy for it to lift.
“Look!” her brother said as he started for it.
She caught him before he made it off the seat. “Wait! We don’t know what it is yet.”
He fell back against her. “But it could be from the Rangers.”
“Let’s see what it does, okay?”
The disc buzzed over to them and stopped to hover in front of their faces. “It’s got little prop, prop-“
“Propellers,” she finished for him.
It gently dropped the bag in her brother’s lap. The thin cloth fell open to reveal a green-yellow apple and a few dark skinned plums along with a pair of wrapped rectangular bars. “What’s that?” her brother asked, pointing at the large apple.
“It’s a Tamber sour apple, you like those, remember?”
He picked it up, not indicating whether or not he remembered before sinking his teeth in. His groan of pleasure was proof enough that he had his reminder. She knew what the plums looked like, but never had one, so she tried it. The sweet juice burst from the fruit, and she couldn’t help but giggle at herself.
The holographic image of a young man appeared, projected by the small white disc that brought the bounty. “Hello, I’m Officer Fisher with the Haven Shore Immigration. Our Rangers were called to Celeste when there was an industrial accident a few hours ago. Timothy, your father is safe and recovering after treatment. He was one of the workers we rescued. As soon as he was well, he told us about both of you. Are you safe?”
“We’re okay,” her brother replied. “Is Dad okay?”
“He’s all right, you’re Amel, right?”
“Yeah,” he said, chomping half a mouthful of apple.
“And you’re Shauna,” the young man said, turning to her. “Haven Shore Immigration agents, our people, are on their way to Celeste so we can give you a ride here to be with your father. All the worker’s families are being brought here. We’re going to start with the youngest people in your neighborhood first, and that means you. Is that all right?”
“Dad’s not coming home?” Amel asked.
Sometimes Shauna couldn’t understand how her brother’s mind worked. After everything the Officer said, that was all he seemed to care about. She was more than a little stunned, but she replied for them both. “We’re going to see Dad. The Rangers are going to come for us and bring him to him.”
“That’s right, Shauna, a shuttle will pick you up. Your father said the roof is stable enough, so it’ll land there.”
“We can’t leave the apartment for long, someone will break in,” Shauna said. “But okay.”
“Shauna,” her father’s voice said. The perspective of whatever was recording things on the other side turned so her father’s face appeared. “Get the box from under my bed, the locked one, and your bag so you’re ready. When their rescue team saved me they offered us a place in Haven Shore.”
“Dad! You’re okay?” Amel asked.
“I’m fine. Do you think you can follow your sister onto the shuttle?”
“I’m going on a shuttle?”
“You and your sister. I know you don’t like flying, but follow her, okay?”
“Okay,” he said, resigned.
“Now go gather your soldiers,” her father said.
Leaving half his apple uneaten, Amel rushed to the floor and started recovering his toy soldiers.
“Shauna,” her father said at a lower volume. “They say they have medicine here that can help him. They’re going to help us, and we won’t be going back to Celeste. Most of your friends in the neighborhood are coming too, everyone who had someone working in that plant. What do you think of that, sweetie?”
“Are you really okay? Is it really safe there?”
“I’m fine, they took good care of us, and it’s completely safe. Can you get the box I told you about and make sure your brother and you are ready when they knock on the door?”
“Yeah, um,” Shauna hesitated, having a hard time believing that she and her brother were about to leave Celeste forever. “Yeah, Dad.”
“See you soon,” her father said.
She rushed across the apartment, it was a short run, and slid under her father’s bed hands first. The metal box he talked about was where she expected it to be. All the family keepsakes – mostly things belonging to her mother – were in there. Unsure of what else to do, she returned to the window and picked up her bag. She was wearing her favourite clothes, and her brother was wearing the only outfit he hadn’t outgrown. Shauna had a thought then, and hopped from he bed onto the counter. Above the shelves they had a can of Poulto, chicken preserved in jelly. The stuff was awful, but it was the emergency food, just in case her father didn’t make it home until morning. She put it in her bag and filled a water bottle just in case the journey would take a long time.
The buzzing white disc was gone, and at a glance she could see more white discs than she could count drifting through windows. Her brother joined her, breathless with his soldiers in a bag in one hand, and taking her hand in the other. “Dad’s coming?”
“We’re going to him on a shuttle,” Shauna replied patiently. He sometimes had trouble remembering things he just heard.
A knock at the door made her smile. “Now.” As a last thought she stuffed her bead and string kit then the plums into her bag. “C’mon.”
Here is the link for the next story: https://www.patreon.com/posts/haven-shore-2-3-8657028