Don't Write What You Know;
Write What You Care About -- Passionately!
- Dana Bell
Major Larry Henry had never expected to hear those words spoken by an alien race. Let alone one with sharp claws and fangs they used for hunting and from their colony, Larry and the rescue party made the astonishing discovery they weren’t alone on Galilahi.
Yet Kal had hinted there were secrets being kept from the colonists. Both his friend’s sister and Susanna’s husband had been killed in hover accidents. The civilian and military leaders made a show of agreeing in public while Larry knew about the conflicts between them. Susanna had made discoveries about the dark fates of earlier colonies. Not to mention a jump in technology which should have taken centuries of evolution not just a few decades.
Now stranded on Galilahi with no way to relocate or return to Earth, Larry found himself wondering if the human colonists could co-exist with the feline natives or if human history would repeat itself.
Or did the God Larry believed in and trusted, have another plan none of them knew about?
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Why does it always rain at funerals like on the holos? Lawrence wondered as he watched the dark cherry casket slowly lowered into the rain soaked ground. Lightning flashed overhead followed by crackling deafening thunder. He saw his sister flinch at the noise and he reached over to gently touch her shoulder. Susanna gave him a grateful smile as tears ran down her pale face.
Not for the first time, he wondered how God could have been so cruel and taken away the only man who had understood his brilliant sister. Gary Gates had loved her and been willing to marry her despite all the traveling her career demanded. Unfortunately, the two had met while she’d been working in London and the rest of the family had not gotten a chance to get to know him very well.
Water dripped over the edge of the black umbrella he held. Larry shook it glad, because of the damp chill, he’d insisted on wearing his woolen uniform rather than the rented dark suit his mother had tried to convince him was better.
“Do not mourn as unbelievers do,” the pastor began.
At least this preacher didn’t do the usual ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ speech. Larry guessed the man must be from a list provided by the funeral home since he didn’t know him from their regular church.
“Rather remember that we have hope, while others do not,”
Interesting interpretation of Thessalonians, Larry thought. Lightning flashed again, thankfully not overhead as before. The rain began to fall harder and boiling thunder rolled over them echoing against the mountains.
The preacher raised his voice to be heard over the rumbling. “Know that we will not go before the dead. Instead, when Christ returns, we who are still alive will be changed and those buried transformed. Forever will we be with the Lord.” He closed his Bible. “Comfort each other with these words.”
He’d left out many important details in the verses, yet got the gist correct. In all honesty, Larry couldn’t fault the man. Maybe he’d hurried the grave side services because of the downpour.
There was a brief moment before everyone began drifting away from the soon to be covered grave. Susanna knelt down tossing a bit of thick mud on the casket. She held out her hand and allowed the rain to wash it clean.
The other guests hurried across the wet grass and crawled into their round domed hovers. Their faces reflected their relief to get out of the storm.
He envied them. His was coming.
“Thank you, for being here, Larry,” Susanna said. She looked washed out in black. The color did not compliment her fair complexion.
“You know I’ll always be here.”
“All I have to do is ask.” She kissed his cheek. “I haven’t forgotten.”
He’d made her that promise when they’d been children. He was her older brother and felt it was his duty to protect her. It had been one of the many reasons he’d joined the Air Force.
A faint rumble, different from the thunder, shook the ground under their feet, followed by a sharp crack. He frowned.
“It’s getting worse,” Susanna commented before joining their parents at the old fashioned black limo. The wipers were working furiously to keep the front window clear.
Worse? He shuddered. At first, the tremors had been confined to only Wyoming. Now they were spreading. The faint quake they’d just felt confirmed what he’d only been hearing rumors of for weeks in Cheyenne mountain.
“How long do we have, Lord?” he asked, trudging through the soaked grass to join his family.
The four rode in silence back to the Victorian house. His parents lived in what had once been an upscale neighborhood in Colorado Springs. Theirs wasn’t rundown like many had become nor overrun with drifters looking for temporary work as they headed south and hopefully, safer location.
Downtown had become much like Denver. The Springs now had high rise towers filled with not just condos, but shops, hospitals, parks, schools, and anything else a person could want. Many living there never saw anything but artificial light. They were born, raised, lived in, died and were cremated without ever stepping outside. Their pretend ‘safe lives’ saddened Larry.
Of course, some of those living in the mountain weren’t any better. Larry wondered when the idea of isolated lives had become popular and the norm. Some of his college profs, many whose classes he’d taken via the Web, speculated it had started with the advent of personal computers, cell phones, the Internet, and the many inventions complimenting them.
“Larry,” his mother’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Coming?”
He nodded and crawled out of the limo, making the brief dash from the street to the protective porch overhang. His youngest sister, Jeanine, gave him a smile as he entered the house. She’d stayed home to greet anyone coming by to offer their condolences or drop off food.
“Glad I didn’t go,” she commented as the house shook from the storm’s fury.
“You never did like to get wet.”
“Nope.” Her brown eyes lit up as she grinned. “Too much like a cat.”
“Speaking of which, where is Leopaldi?”
“Leli is probably hiding under the bed. That’s what he usually does.”
Leli was his sister’s pet name for the orange tabby who had just ‘moved in’ with his parents. The bedraggled feline had shown up on their front porch and his mother hadn’t had the heart to take him to the animal shelter.
“Anyone leave anything good?” Larry carefully removed his uniform jacket and hung it up in the coat closet.
“Always thinkin’ with your stomach.” Jeanine headed through the archway to the kitchen.
“Why not,” he replied as he followed. “Why do you think I joined the Guard?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” She wrinkled her pug nose at him. “Because you thought the Air Force would be a great place to convert souls.”
“Don’t tease him, Jeanie,” Susanna said as she entered the room. Her eyes scanned the many covered dishes. “At least there’s some fruit salad.”
“Let me get you a bowl,” Jeanine offered, pulling a rose patterned dish from the antique cupboard. “Want a plate, Larry?”
The three siblings filled their bowls or plates, grabbed drinks, and retired to the red rose wall-papered dining room. Their parents soon followed and they ate in near silence. Not something they usually did, as Larry recalled.
“What are you going to do now, Susanna?” he asked to break the quiet.
“I’ve had an offer,” his sister answered, pushing aside her partially eaten salad.
“From whom?” Deep in his gut Larry feared it might be somewhere that would take her far, far from home. He reached over trying to tell her silently she needed to stay close to family right now.
She covered his hand with hers. “Classified.”
“Always the problem,” their father, Lige, spoke up from his normal place at the head of the table. He looked older today, his wrinkles more pronounced, accented by thinning gray hair.
“That’s the way it is, Dad.” She frowned. “I thought I’d explained that.”
“Explained, yes.” Their father scowled. “Still ain’t right.”
“No such word as ain’t,” Jeanie chimed in.
“You mind your manners, girl.”
Their mother, Callie, interrupted before their father went off on the familiar rant about the ill-mannered youth nowadays. “Do you want to take the offer?” Her brown eyes reflected her concern. No doubt she was as worried as Larry was about Susanna leaving her family, just when she really needed them.
“I don’t know. They were going to let me take Gary.” She caught her breath and rapidly blinked her eyes.
He’d been right about the very far away part. When Susanna had spent a year in Germany, the company who had contracted her had allowed her to take her husband along. Another European company had paid either for her flight or Gary’s back and forth to New York every two weeks.
“Do you want to take it?” Larry held his breath afraid of her answer.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” she replied, shakily picking up her glass of water and taking a sip.
“You need your family right now,” their father said.
“Dad,” Larry wanted to stop the tirade he knew was coming. “We can’t stop Susanna from living her life.” Much as he hated to he added, “If this is a wonderful opportunity, we have no right to stop her.”
Susanna gave him a grateful smile while their mother nodded her agreement.
“Always ganging up on me,” their father grumped.
“You live in the really olden days, Dad,” Jeanine piped up with an impish grin.
“They were better.”
Larry shook his head. His father had grown up on a farm in the middle of Kansas, safe from all the violence of first, the Race Riots caused by the rise of Oriental and Hispanic populations producing an abundance of willing low wage workers. The educated working class had rebelled, rioting in the streets and burning government buildings, which had been quelled by force and unfulfilled promises.
The outcome later spawned the Class Wars because the privileged wealthy had no intention of giving up what they thought they were ‘entitled’ to. Companies had continued to produce only low wage, dead end jobs. Resentful workers had again rioted, storming mansions and killing entire families.
It had taken the election of President Malcolm Smith, a strong, principled Christian leader to stop the violence. Instead of calling out the National Guard, he had forced through legislation, with much opposition from Congress, forcing employers to adhere to what they considered ‘archaic’ ideas on how to treat workers. The result had been a sudden booming economy and happy, productive workers.
Smith had been called both a visionary and a nut case, yet none could argue with the outcome. He’d been the first of many Christian leaders, pulling the country back to the foundation on which it had been founded and dedicated.
After Smith’s re-election, Lige Henry had moved his family from the farming community in Kansas to Colorado Springs. Larry’s life had been made easier by what had happened in DC and he was very grateful to their leaders.
What threatened everything which had been accomplished were the quakes creeping farther
and farther south and the impending blast from the Yellowstone super volcano. Estimations from the nation’s scientists kept changing, but all agreed it could be within just a few years.
And that made Larry wonder how much his sister really knew about the threat hanging over them all.
“I’m going to go lie down,” Susanna announced, pushing back her chair and getting up.
“I put you in your old bedroom,” their mother told her. A smile touched the older woman’s lips and for just a second, Larry got the image of what Susanna might look like at the same age, with white hair and laugh wrinkles around her mouth and eyes.
“Thanks, Mom,” she said. Larry knew Susanna had arrived very early from her latest assignment and probably hadn’t had any sleep.
“Has been a long day,” Larry agreed, gathering up his dishes and grabbing his sister’s as well.
“Learned some things in the military, have ya?” Jeanine teased.
He grimaced remembering his younger days when he’d left all the ‘household duties’ to the women of the family. “Could say that,” he mumbled, going back into the kitchen. He set the dishes in the washer, making a mental note to help his father repaint the room over the weekend, and ambled upstairs to change out of his uniform. Meticulously he put them back on the hanger reminding himself to retrieve the jacket downstairs. Grabbing sweats he threw them on and tucked his feet into an old pair of slippers his mother kept trying to find and throw out.
“You decent?” Susanna called as she knocked.
“Thought you were going to lie down?” He opened the door and leaned on the jamb.
“I am.” Nervously she bit her lip. “I have a question for you.” He nodded for her continue. She took a deep breath. “You have security clearance right?”
“Mid-level.” He wondered why she was asking. “Have to, in order to prepare meals for the brass. That your question?”
His sister gave him a half smile. “No. What I’d like to know,” she paused. “If you had your choice of assignments, where would it be?”
“Susanna, I’m lucky to have what I do. Puts me close to my family and my church.”
“That wasn’t my question.”
“I’ve got my reasons.”
“I’m perfectly happy with how things worked out.”
Her golden brown eyes met his dirt tinged ones. “But if it were possible?”
“God made the decision for me.” He’d asked for what he’d really wanted and had been assigned to Cheyenne Mountain instead. Larry had been disappointed at first, yet after being there for awhile and being close to his folks and younger sister, he’d decided God knew best.
“Sometimes, and you taught me this, God makes us wait for what we want.”
“I’m fine with how things worked out.” He leaned over and kissed Susanna’s forehead. “Go lie down, sis. You’ve had a long day.”
She nodded, giving him a curious look before ducking into her old room. He shook his head wondering what she had been talking about. No doubt it had to do with whatever her new offer was, or maybe not. Susanna did at times go off on tangents that were hard to follow—came with the territory of her high IQ.
He closed his bedroom door and grabbed his Bible. The storm rattled overhead and he could hear the rain plopping against his bedroom window. Larry dropped down on his bed and opened to Psalms. He couldn’t concentrate on the words. The day’s funeral played through his mind and although he hadn’t known Gary well, he mourned for his sister’s loss.
Dear Father, why?