Guardian: Originally a natural state (inoperant) human who undertook an exhaustive course of study and physical preparation intended to prepare them to compete with operants. Now generalized to include various level of operant. Modern usage for natural state humans who qualify via the traditional means is First Order Guardian, but almost nobody bothers with the full course.

Second Order Guardian: born natural state human who has become operant and qualified to a minimum basic level in all operant disciplines including teleportation. As knowledge has expanded and new ways of using operant disciplines more efficiently have been discovered, current operants are all strong enough to learn to teleport. By far the largest group of operants, numbers-wise, well over half of the total number.

Third Order Guardian: born operant to operant parents who has qualified to a minimum basic level in all operant disciplines including teleportation. Being born operant in this fashion is an advantage over Second Order Guardians, but not an insurmountable one. A little more than one sixtieth of the Imperial population.

Fourth Order Guardian: second power tier (counting up) of natural state humans who become operant. Those who advance in raw power past the threshold for Fourth Order report that absolute power requirements drop for the same effect, and that it becomes easier to maintain passive ongoing defenses. Fourth Order Guardians typically continue to claim Second Order status for as long as they practically can. Roughly one sixtieth of the Imperial population is Fourth Order or above, and the vast majority of those are approximately equally split between Fourth and Fifth Order.

Fifth Order Guardian: second power tier (counting up) of born operants. Third Order Guardians become Fifth Order at a slightly higher power threshold (roughly 1 isquare thirty or 1/40th) than Second Order transition to Fourth Order, otherwise they are analogous. Generally pretend to be Third Order as long as they practically can. Roughly equal in numbers to Fourth Order Guardians.

Sixth Order Guardian: third power tier (counting up) of natural state humans who become operant. Rarest of all operant types - a total of nineteen known in the entire Empire. There is a second qualitative change that occurs with increasing power. Capable of producing splinters, an energy based extension of the Guardian's personality. Usually pretend to be Fourth or even Second Order if their publicly known capabilities do not give them away to be Sixth Order.

Seventh Order Guardian: third power tier (counting up) of born operants. Approximately 120 known, all descended of Merphon, the first emperor. All known children of Seventh Order Guardians have been born at Seventh Order power, otherwise the relationship between Seventh, Fifth, and Third Order Guardians is analogous to the relationship between Sixth, Fourth, and Second. Also capable of producing splinters.

Eighth and Ninth Order Guardians: Theorized fourth power tier of those originally natural state humans and those born operant, respectively. No known examples exist.

mindlord (historical): any human who was operant. Still known due to historical means, but rarely used.

operant (historical and current): any human whose mindlord powers have been switched on. Current connotation is an incompletely trained operant, or one that is too weak to teleport, therefore not yet qualified either Second or Third Order Guardian.

predecessor man or predecessor human (historical): one who did not carry any of the genetic markers for operancy. Original meaning now extinct; the markers are universal within Imperial humanity. This term was revived during the Ston Rebellion and Interregnum, applied to those who were inoperant, whether they carried the markers or not. Often used as term of contempt by the stons. Current use is highly frowned upon, and generally results in social ostracism.

natural state human: someone who is not operant, whether they carry the genetic markers for operancy or not.

martsi (historic) a weak operant, born a natural state human but who has had their operancy activated by a subsequent event. Vaguely analogous to Second Order Guardians except only operancy was required to be designated martsi.

nattsi (historic) born operant, albeit weak. In broad, equivalent to a Third Order Guardian without the tests of their ability.

teltsi (historic) operant who was born a natural state human, but is now capable of teleportation. Somewhat analogous to a modern Fourth Order Guardian

tantsi (historic) born operant capable of teleportation. Somewhat analogous to a modern Fifth Order Guardian

pentsi (historic) extremely rare operant born a natural state human, but has hit the power boundary of the third level of operancy. Similar to a modern Sixth Order Guardian.

ultsi (historic) Merphon's descendants of the Fifteen Houses (his fifteen surviving children). The acid test of an ultsi was whether all of their children were born ultsi. It was (is) possible to be born nattsi or tantsi and progress to ultsi, but extremely rare, and the Fifteen Houses were not kind to competition, especially from without. Very similar to a modern Seventh Order Guardian.

cot (historic) operant who became operant through natural means. Usually highly trained, more focused, and more efficient than stons.

ston (historic) operant whose operancy was triggered in utero by specialized treatment. Generally less controlled and less efficient than cots, but vastly outnumbering them for a time, resulting in the Ston Rebellion and Interregnum, during which time the Empire was destroyed as a political unit and the population of humans fell to a point roughly 1/3000th of the former level. As a result, the ston activation treatments are no longer offered and even surviving former rebels agree that they should not be.

The Empire of Humanity has a history of over 100,000 years by their reckoning, roughly 80,000 by Earth's. Here are a few major events and the eras they fall into, including major characters.

Roughly 15,000 years before Empire: Human Confederacy defeated by C'Tangi. Some life survives on 21 human worlds within a radius of about 480 light years of the center of human space. Refugees flee in any way they can.

Roughly 200 years before Empire: Arakota conquered on Weircol by Alrassa. Arakotans become subservient to Alrassans, but are prized as servants for their general level of education

Roughly 100 years before Empire: The Rediscovery, when Weircol discovers the lost technology and the reason why the Confederacy fell. Breeding program for what were then known as mindlords began, concentrating on males. The successes are adopted into the Alrassan royal family.

Year Zero: Merphon becomes Emperor. His own surviving children (eventually 15, all male) effectively become princes of the Empire, those descended of other mindlords are cast out of the succession, but Merphon resists naming an actual heir. Second generation mindlords, most notably Baryan, Yokel, Jehob, M'Dorna, and J'Pit.

Year 115: C'Tangi defeated. End of the Rediscovery. Humanity begins expanding in earnest into First Galaxy. Minor wars over the rest of this era, but nothing major. M'Dorna's Hypothesis posited.

Roughly 5000 years: Third generation mindlords begin to be born to Merphon's children. Really the first generation where the powers are mature and more or less fully understood. YokNos is born in this era. Scimtar is also born, of a bastard line from another first generation mindlord.

Roughly 30,000 years: Start of the Outsider Wars. Major wars, running hot and cold over the next 70,000 years. For as long as they run, the central fact of Imperial life. Beginning of the Empire's movement to Vector Drive for interstellar travel, as enough operants become available to make it viable. Mindlords born into this era are generally considered to be Fourth Generation, differentiated from the third in that they grew up waging the Outsider Wars. Important survivors born in this era include Ierd and Antro Baryan, Drashin M'Dorna, Nom Cor, and Sarba JeNor (formerly Jehob). Osh Scimtar was also born into this era

Roughly 100,000 years: Final victory of the Empire in the Outsider Wars. First Galaxy completely under the dominion of Empire. Beginning of significant colonizations outside First Galaxy. Mindlords born into this period are generally considered Fifth Generation

Roughly 103,000 years: First major war since end of Outsider Wars. For the first time since the C'Tangi were defeated, Empire begins 'switching on' operant abilities of new children, resulting in the bifurcation of operants into cots and stons. Cot survivors born in this period are usually considered Sixth Generation, and include Iaren, Amras, Anara, and Anana Scimtar.

104203 (Imperial 28:56:43): Ston Rebellion. Interregnum begins.

105780 (Imperial 29:23:00): Empire Re-declared, Sarba JeNor (formerly Jehob) as Guardian.

105804 (Imperial 29:23:24) Effective resistance to Imperial Re-establishment ends in First Galaxy; aggressive effort to re-acquire territories in other galaxies of Home Instance begins, new expansion efforts both into other galaxies of Home Instance and into other Instances.

109410 (Imperial 30:23:30) Events of The Man From Empire, (Amazon kindle or paperback other e-books) (Rediscovery Book One), followed by A Guardian from Earth (Book Two Amazon kindle or paperbackother e-books) and Empire and Earth (Book Three Amazon kindle or paperbackother e-books)

109412 (Imperial 30:23:32) Preparing the Ground (Preparations for War, Book One Amazon kindle or paperback other e-books)

109417 (Imperial 30:23:37) Working the Trenches (Rediscovery Book Four Amazon kindle or paperback other e-books)

109432 (Imperial 30:23:52) Building the People (Preparations for War Book Two Amazon kindle or paperback other e-books)

109436 (Imperial 30:23:56) Events of The Invention of Motherhood (Politics of Empire, Book One)
Amazon kindle or paperback other e-books

My Author's Brand

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One thing I should try and make clear to you, the reader, is what my author's brand is about.

First and foremost, I want to entertain you. I will happily give up everything else in order to entertain. If you don't come away from the book with a sense of "That was fun!" and wanting to read the next book, I've failed. I am trying to entertain you, and if I don't do that, you shouldn't give me any more of your money. Since I want you to buy more of my books and tell your friends I'm an entertaining writer, I'm going to try to entertain you. I don't try to have flippant smart-asses tossing off one-liners every three words, but I do try to slide a few in.

Second, I want the characters to think. I want you to come away from the book thinking that everyone did what they did for rational reasons or at least motivations real people have. Nobody in my books is evil because it says so on their character card. The antagonists are pursuing their own best interests as best they see them. Sometimes the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Similarly, I try really hard to avoid violations of the Evil Overlord's Principles. If it were possible to game the antagonist with a cheap shot, someone would already have done it. I want you to have the feeling that it took some real thought to plot this story - that all the characters all thought and worked for their chosen ends, and that the resolution reflects this.

Third, I want the ending to be something good that the characters have earned. I'm not going to promise that they all live to get there, but all that work and risk should earn them a better place than they started from according to what they value. I'm also not going to promise it's the place they thought they were going in the first place. But if the work and risk wasn't going to earn them a better place, why should they bother? Even if it's just saving other people from a disaster, the characters should get something out of it. The ones who survive and persevere, anyway.

Fourth and finally, I'd like to think that I maybe gave you a little bit of a different way to think about things. I'm not looking to preach at you like a tenured professor, I just want to illustrate that there are different ways of looking at the same issue. I don't think I'm going to change your mind. But maybe - just maybe - I can induce you to have a thoughtful conversation with someone who doesn't agree with you. There's far too little of that these days.

Official Launch Day!

Graciela Juarez di Scimtar and her husband Asto have decided it is time to start their family. For many thousands of years, Imperial women have used artificial gestation to free themselves from nine months of discomfort. But Grace was born on barbarian, pre-contact Earth. She can't call herself a mother in front of her sisters without doing it once the hard way. And she discovers that however troublesome the process, there are compensations. There may even be actual benefits to both her unborn son and herself. But neither one eliminates the dangers from rival families.

The results will change the Empire forever.

$2.99 e-book from your favorite retailer! (For paperback, see Amazon)

Book One of Politics of Empire
Invention of Motherhood Amazon

Invention of Motherhood Books2Read (Apple, Barnes and Noble, etcetera)

fetal development cracked open.jpg

Now Available for pre-order on Amazon or other fine retailers. Official launch October 2, 2017. Only $2.99 in e-book form!

It really was no mystery what I had to do. I was pregnant with a Seventh Order child that would put a target on my back if others knew or found out. The only course of action that made any sense was to blend in and do absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. I sent notification that I was ready to take more work before I was even done with the startup checklist. No, I didn't restrict myself to cargos within the Imperial Home Instance - I'd already removed that restriction, as expected.

I tried thinking like an enemy. If you know you have a Second Order Guardian like me protecting a potentially valuable thing like a Fifth Order child belonging to one of the Great Houses, and you know she's a pilot but you can't penetrate her graycode, what do you do? You look for something a little out of the ordinary that a person in such a situation might do. The alternative is setting up scans of literally every pilot module you have access to.

My pilot module was a little out of the ordinary, but not as much as you might think given Earth practices. There really hadn't been a reason why I'd ordered one with so much space. Yes, I had room for several kids plus dogs plus visitors, where most pilots really only had room for themselves in a standard module. But there really wasn't a reason for me not to have already obtained such a module, and there weren't any ties between the graycode I'd used to order the module and the graycode I was using as a pilot. The graycode I'd used to buy it was a plain simple 'cash only' graycode. It would be more fruitful checking to see which pilots were posting part or all of their own cash bond to lessen insurance costs - and I didn't stand out there. Matter of fact, because I wasn't posting a full value bond personally despite the fact I could well afford to do so might well throw off someone looking to find us via data mining. You didn't look for pilots who should have kids in school because that wasn't the way things were done. Imperial children get their schooling from automation and their parents. You didn't look for homeschoolers because everyone homeschooled. In fact, it was routine for children not to be registered at all until they were ready for their first adulthood exam. No birth records, no pre-natal care that could be tracked because the Empire didn't keep records and even if they had, I was a healer myself. There was nothing to indicate to the Empire at large that I was pregnant.

That didn't mean that nobody knew, however. I knew. Asto knew. My Earth family knew, and the Scimtars knew. Everyone but my Earth family understood the stakes and could be trusted to keep it secret. Trying to pry it out of any of the Scimtars would be next to impossible as well as insanely dangerous for anyone under Sixth Order. But my Earth family would never understand if I could indoctrinate them for a thousand years each. Worse, they were Mexicans by culture. Children were a reason to celebrate in any sane culture, but for Mexicans, babies were something to tell the whole world about. More so if a member of the family they're particularly proud of is having one - and my family was proud of me. I'd considered not telling them even though it would mean dealing with relatives being angry and offended at not being told when they did find out. But I'd decided against that course of action because the odds were that someone would figure it out anyway. The Scimtars were important within the Empire, and their rivals could be expected to devote some noteworthy resources to watching them. Given the capabilities of Imperial technology, any special attempt to shield from their intelligence apparatus would more likely signal them that there was something here worth going to a bit more trouble for than that it would manage to succeed completely unremarked.

Thanks to Draft2Digital, my fiction is rolling out on multiple new channels this week. Apple Store, Barnes and Noble, Inkster, Kobo, Scribd, Indigo, Angus and Robertson, etcetera

The Man From Empire, Rediscovery book one, on sale for 99 cents e-book!

A Guardian From Earth Rediscovery book two, still only $2.99 e-book!

Empire and Earth Rediscovery book three, still only $2.99 e-book!

Working the Trenches Rediscovery book four, still only $2.99 e-book!

Preparing the Ground Preparations for War book one, still only $2.99 e-book!

Building The People Preparations for War book two, still only $2.99 e-book!

The nonfiction is still in the process of timing out of an exclusive distribution program. It will follow as soon as that is complete.

This is early on in the story, just after she's been mustered out of the military.

It had been a while since I was on Indra, and twenty years since I'd been through Fulda. Instead of teleporting, I caught a portal to Sumabad, several thousand kilometers south and west, where it was still the middle of planetary night. Overhead shone the span of Indra Habitat One, the closer of two annular habitats encircling Indra's star. When I'd first been here, the framework was just going up, now it was rapidly filling with people. It was so close, it felt like you could reach out and touch it - the six Indra Rosette Worlds orbited only two Imperial seconds (just over a million kilometers) inside the huge band - less than half the width of the habitat, close enough to watch storms and identify seas and major cities. It didn't really get dark on the Rosette Worlds any more, with the habitat shining more brightly than a dozen full moons on Earth. It looked like we'd be passing in front of Habitat Two, orbiting perpendicular to Habitat One ten seconds further out, in a few more days.

Fulda was a small town by Imperial standards - only a few million people. The spires of Sumabad, by comparison, held somewhere over a billion, facing the Sumabad Strait. Sumabad was literally older than the Empire; it had grown up as a port city during the dark ages of Imperial prehistory. When the Empire reached Indra, it had already been the largest city on the planet. It hadn't been one of the Empire's largest cities in a long time, but it was impressive for what it was. Twenty kilometer high arcologies, each five to eight kilometers on a side, each separated from the others by about five kilometers of jungle style greenbelt studded with berths for the great spherical ships that were the largest freighters. Scimtar's former flagship Response In Will was permanently grounded in front of the closest, an eighteen hundred meter radius sphere of dark gray metal looming over the jungle but in turn miniaturized by the spires around it.

I turned and entered the arcology. I wasn't strong enough to teleport twenty-three kilometers straight up in one jump, but the arcology's portal system could handle it just fine. It had been a while since I'd been back; caution seemed called for. I chose a destination just outside the official Residence, and emerged into a brightly lit corridor. It wasn't packed by any means, but there were people moving along it, moving with the air of those on their way somewhere. I left the receiving portal platform as I accessed Residence security and submitted my identity for scan.

Residence security agreed that I was cleared for the Residence and admitted me. I got about two steps before my perception said someone was there and I was swept up in a big bear hug by Scimtar himself.
"Welcome home, daughter!" Scimtar was the definition of larger than life - a full seven feet tall, wearing the uniform of his own family - gold trimmed with blue, reversing the Imperial colors. I'd never seen him anything other than in complete control of a situation. Scimtar was Asto's grandfather, the head of the family, a legend throughout the Empire, and, at nearly thirty square (108,000 Imperial or 75,000+ Earth years) one of its oldest citizens.

I hugged him back, "Good to be home, grandfather!" then stepped back and saluted. He returned it, twinkle in his eye.

About then Anara - Asto's mother - also zoomed in for a hug. "Congratulations! Asto told me you already started!" She was in civilian dress, but she was wearing the gray triangle of an Octus-in-fact. She was much younger than her father, barely past her first square (3600 Imperial years or 2500 Earth). My baby was her first grandchild. Not far behind, her husband Gilras was more restrained in his hug. I noticed he was wearing a uniform with three purple stars of rank - a First General - but white staff epaulets rather than the black of active command. Unusual as First General was a command grade, not staff, but I was no connoisseur of what went on at those exalted ranks.

Asto's Aunt Anana was close behind, and Helene, Scimtar's wife, his grandmother, then Ononi and Imre, Scimtar and Helene's youngest children, screaming "Aunt Grace!" Well, technically, they were my aunt- and uncle-in-law, but they'd been children when I met them. Now, they were the family's youngest adults. "Lady and More are waiting in your apartment!" they told me, a reference to the two dogs Asto and I had adopted. I was tempted to let the dogs out to greet me, but first I wanted to get the family under control. Parnit was the last of the adults to join the gathering, together with his brood of four children ranging from ten year old (7 Earth) Imar up to twenty-one year old (15 Earth) Anesto, with two girls, Urona and Anosha, in between the boys. Anesto had been just over a year old when Asto and I enlisted; we didn't know the kids well. That would have to change. I had plenty of practice being 'Aunt Grace'.

Earth natives wouldn't have thought any of them were related to each other. Scimtar was tall, dark-skinned like some Earthly South Asians and hawk-faced, like his grandson Asto. Anara looked like a fair-skinned Celt with fiery red hair and was a foot and a half shorter, the same height as me. Anana could have passed for my sister, medium-dark brown hair and skin of that shade that can be found on tanned Anglos, Mediterranean people, or lighter-skinned Mexicans. I was slightly darker, but close enough. Helene always reminded me of a young Katherine Hepburn with the grace and dignity of the same actress much later in life. Imre was tall with skin the color of dark chocolate, while his fraternal twin Ononi was my height and fair, like her older sister Anara except blonde. None of Anana and Parnit's kids looked especially like either one of their parents. But they were a family. Imperials, especially Guardians, could easily determine their own appearance. I was at the lower end of the modification scale - all I'd added was a couple inches of height and about sixty pounds of dense, augmented muscle. I think Scimtar himself was fairly close to what nature had given him, but there was no way to know other than asking him.

Scimtar's two older sons, Iaren and Amras, Amras' wife Corella, and the other four grandchildren were elsewhere. The family was one of the most active in both government and military circles, but they'd earned what they had. There were pictures in the family archives of all of them (except Scimtar) freshly graduated from initial military training, wearing the single black disc of a brand-new Trained Private. They had commercial interests and businesses that they all took turns running; Anana was about halfway through her sixty year turn, and Ononi and Imre were her current assistants. But Asto's elder sister Anri was a Squadron Corporal somewhere, Amtre was a First Staff Corporal, and youngest brother Etonas (whom I mostly remembered as an overly brash teenager) was already a Squad Private, having served a little under three years of his first enlistment contract. Their cousin Anosh, intermediate in age between Asto and Etonas, was a Platoon Private, senior to me despite less time in service. But that was okay; he'd agreed to the longer hitch while I hadn't, and he had a more capable mind.

"Grace, it's good to have you back, but Gilras and I were in the middle of something," Scimtar said, "I look forward to catching up over dinner."

Most of the others followed suit pretty quickly. In a few minutes, I was left alone with Anara and Helene. "I have a performance in an hour and a half," Helene said to Anara, "Make sure she knows what she's letting herself in for."

"I will, mother." Anara said, and Helene strode out, saying, "Welcome back, Grace. We'll do more catching up over dinner, but make certain to listen closely to what Anara has to say."

"Well, mother, I'm all ears," I told her.

The Set-Up

This is evidently the first in a series.

Emily is kidnapped from our Earth (or a reasonable facsimile) by a necromancer in order to sacrifice her to the dark powers because she is a Child of Destiny. She's rescued by a sorceror who finds she has some magical talent and sends her to Whitehall, this world's school for those with magical talent.

The Good:

I like the set-up. Whitehall is not Hogwarts as far as learning environment goes. The learning environment includes the very real possibility of doing real harm or killing yourself. True to the vaguely medieval setting, corporal punishment is a possibility.

There are real world politics involved. Nor are the 'good guys' all saints. Emily's benefactor spells loyalty onto his retainers, dulling their minds.

Finally, there is real character development in the course of the story. Emily starts out as pretty much a useless victim, and step by step learns to take control of what's happening around her. She also learns about consequences of actions.

The Need Improvement:

Both The World's Only Perfect Woman and I agreed that the story went on way too long. By two-thirds of the way through, we were both thinking "Get On With It!" increasingly stridently. That was really the only major complaint, though.

Being the first of a series, it has to do a fair amount of lifting to introduce the world, and that impacts the enjoyability. It's understandable, even inevitable, as I've learned to my chagrin, but you can't have something different without introducing it.

This book is aimed at the teen market, obviously enough. The language is mild and the situations and descriptions are within carefully set limits. There's nothing about this book that would be inappropriate for a child of ten.

I would rate this book a seven out of ten. By Amazon's standards, a four star book.

If you want me to review your book, contact me via my facebook page My schedule can mean it sometimes takes a while, and it definitely wouldn't hurt your chances to review one of mine. I do not do puff pieces - real reviews only - but neither do I do hack jobs in vengeance.

Finished the first draft of the Invention of Motherhood last night. I'm proud of that climactic scene - it pulled me in emotionally and I know it's just a story I was writing. Sent it off to the beta readers. When it comes back, I'll look at revisions they suggest. Should be ready within about thirty days!

I'm hoping to have this to the beta readers by the end of September. It is currently roughly 65,000 words in length

Grace I would like to ask you about extending.

The telepathic message was not unexpected. I had twelve days - three Imperial weeks - to go in my twenty year commitment to the Imperial military. In our capacity as Merlon's Eyes, Asto and I had been all over the Empire in that time, from the thinly human Thirtyfifth Galaxy where the aliens were barely more advanced than the Earth where I'd been born, to the Second and Fourth Galaxies, where humans had a more substantial presence for much longer, and the alien species inhabiting them were therefore technologically competitive with the Empire.

I was, and had been, for several years, a Staff Private. The Eyes recruited closely bonded husband and wife operant teams (or the equivalent), valuing the rapport that made such teams work more like two fingers of the same hand. But Merlon's Eyes still had to work within their roles in the Imperial military. An Eye who was a Section Private was a Section Leader with additional duties, as I had been for three years prior to making Staff Private. I would have made Platoon Private by now, except that I was getting close to timing out of the military. Officers selecting for promotion wanted someone with more time left on their contract than I did.

My husband Asto had just made Staff Corporal, three grades above me, but his commitment was not expiring. Asto had agreed to a sixty year commitment when he signed up. I'd initially agreed to ten, extending ten more to justify our selection as Eyes, but that was it. I wasn't making a big deal about my - our - plans, but I'd done my share of pulling the wagon for a while. I wanted to start our family, so I was letting my contract expire.

Which was what First Corporal Whelsed wanted to talk to me about. But that didn't mean I wanted to talk to her about it. I have other plans. In fact, I've already made promises. I'm here for another twelve days, then I'm going home for a visit. Twenty Imperial years was the same duration as fourteen Earth years, but time on Earth ran about four times faster than the Imperial Home Instance. It had been nearly sixty years on Earth since my last visit.

Earth wasn't really home any longer, but it was where I was from. I might not even recognize it any more. Fifty years before I was born, Riverside had been mostly citrus groves. The advent of the Empire was certainly no less of a change than the urbanization of California after World War II.

So go home for a visit, but give me a contract to extend first. We'll write leave of whatever duration you want into the new contract.

That's not the only plan I have, sir. Technical ang was unisex, but English "sir" captured the connotations better than other alternatives. Whelsed was in my direct chain of command - operations deputy for the squadron I was attached to. Roughly the equivalent of a one-star general in the disbanded US Army.

So what are your plans?

With respect, sir, none of your business and you know it. I agreed to twenty years. In twelve days, I will have met that commitment and what I do then is my own business.

Someone wants to select you for Platoon Private but with twelve days left, it's pointless.

People have been declining to select me for Platoon Private for about three years, sir. I've been aware of it the whole time. If I wanted to be a Platoon Private bad enough to extend, I'd have already done it.

The Eyes are stretched too thin. They don't want to lose one of their better pairs.

I've already extended once for the Eyes, because my husband wanted us to be Eyes. Now it's time for what I want, which is out. For at least sixty years.

By which time your husband will be too senior for the Eyes. Asto was something pretty special, even among Guardians. He would be well into the sergeant grades before I considered rejoining the military. Commanders of forty-odd thousand troops or more really couldn't take off for Eyes work. The Empire's command structure was too steep to allow it. In the Planetary Surface troops, any rank other than staff grades went with a specific command assignment. Asto might transfer to Tactical Space or Strategic Space command, but the situation there was no different. You might technically be an Eye forever, but above Company Corporal, only staff grades got actual Eye assignments.

As I said, sir, the Eyes got their pound of flesh.


Sorry, local Earth idiom. I honored my contract, even though I wanted something else. Now are you going to waste my last twelve days trying to persuade me to do something I'm not going to do, do you have an assignment for us, or do I go back to scheduling personnel shuttles?

We have an assignment. It might take more than twelve days.

Then you'd better get them to assign someone else. Because you know as well as I do what happens if you try to hold me over involuntarily. The Imperial military knew full well people took time out between military tours, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of Imperial years. They didn't want to give people an incentive not to come back by holding them past their contract expiration. Officers at grades where they commanded multiple systems could be involuntarily extended, but that pointedly didn't include me, Asto, or even Whelsed. The lowest grade subject to that was thirty-odd promotions away.

They're having trouble finding someone else.

If you assign us the mission, I'll do my best for twelve days. Not thirteen. And that assumes you have transport standing by. I'm even willing to pilot my own way back, if I can leave the ship there. We'd formally enlisted at Fulda Base on Indra. The rule was the military was responsible for returning us there for separation by the time the contract expired.

Grace, work with me here!

I am working with you. I've been working with you these last twenty years. I've honored every last bit of my contract, but you're assuming you're entitled to more of my life than I've contracted to give you. You're not. I might point out that I'm entitled to nearly two prime days of leave I haven't taken. That was 120 days - half an Imperial year - that I hadn't taken because Asto and I had been so much in demand as Eyes. The Empire didn't really do terminal leave like Earth's bureaucracies, where people used untaken leave to take their last several months off. I'd be paid for it on separation, but they had a contractual right to my services up until the moment my contract expired. It's just that most people did get at least a few days because there wasn't assignment to fit the time remaining. You are entitled to my best efforts until the end of the Imperial day on one-fortyfour. Not one moment longer, and the fact that I have one-fiftyeight (118 in base 10) days of leave accrued and untaken is evidence I've been more than willing to do my part under the contract. Total leave for twenty years was 240 days; I still had almost half of it.

I can't change your mind?

No, you can't, Corporal Whelsed. Tell whomever tasked you with trying that I've been looking forward to this day since the moment I agreed to be an Eye. I've done what I agreed, or at least in twelve days I will have done it. I need to be doing something else after.

Well, I can't force you, so how long do you think you'll need with the shuttle schedule?

I'll be done with it tomorrow, sir. Truth be told I'm mostly fiddling at the edges, anyway. Division will need to make more changes in reaction to events than I will to be happy with it in the theoretical state.

Alright, Grace, we'll be damned sorry to lose you, but you're right. You have shuttle runs on the current schedule through one-thirtynine; I'll cut orders sending you to Indra on one-forty. The commander's staff at Fulda base might have something for me to do the last four days, or they might let me go early. Make that probably would; their shuttle schedule would be as settled as ours was, and it was unlikely they'd find other work for only four days.

Thank you sir!

Thank you, Grace. Whelsed wasn't really a friend, but I was pretty certain she liked me. And good luck.

Copyright 2005-2017 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved


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