Copyright 2000 by Paul S. Gibbs. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, reuse, reposting or alteration of this work, without the express written permission of the author, is strictly prohibited.


Volume One

August 21, 2380--On the shuttle

It's no fun being separated from your bond-mate--even if it is only temporary.

We made quite a scene, Tom and I, right there on the Main Concourse of the San Francisco Spaceport. If I wasn't already immune to being stared at, I would have been embarrassed half to death. Neither of us could bring ourselves to let go, and I came within a minute or less of missing my shuttle--which would have pleased me, but not my parents. They are rather counting on me going to college, having already paid the tuition.

I knew it would be hard, leaving him--but never imagined how hard. It isn't as if we're formally mated, not yet. He lives in Pacific Grove, and (up until this morning) I lived in San Francisco, more than a hundred and fifty kilometers north. We saw each other as often as we could, these last two years--but all our visits ended in good-byes. We endured all those little partings, though they did hurt. So why was this one so much worse? Do I really need to answer that?


Later--aboard the SDS Matriarch

Well, here I am--alone in a cabin for one, a little grey box with a bunk, a desk, a dresser, a closet and a bathroom. Excuse me, a "head." I haven't found the strength yet to unpack: everything I brought with me is still in my travel cases, on the floor just inside the door. I can hear my mother speaking in my ear: "You really should hang up your clothes, dear, so they won't get wrinkled. You are an ambassador's daughter, after all--we can't have you looking like a vagrant." As if I even care…I guess I should be honest and say that not everything is still in my suitcases. I did get one thing out: a holo. It's of Tom and me at Asilomar Beach; his sister took it. Just before Tom picked me up and dumped me in the surf. Someday I have to get back at him for that…I still own that white one-piece swimsuit, and it even still fits--but I didn't bother packing it. Not where I'm headed.

The shuttle ride was short, and uncrowded, and fortunately none of my fellow passengers showed the slightest interest in talking to me. As usual, I think they were a little over-awed. With my credentials it was a "wave-through," and I was able to board the ship immediately. The Matriarch is a Sah'aaran Diplomatic Corps vessel. A courier, though, not the fancy Ambassadorial packet that brought me to Terra two and a half years ago. They've tried to decorate it ("tart it up," my future father-in-law would say--whatever that means) but it's very obvious that the ship was built as a CF Navy destroyer--a long, long time ago. It's still armed: I saw the particle-beam emitters and the torpedo tubes from the shuttle's viewport as we pulled into the Orbital Docking Facility. The ship is a huge cylinder, with a spherical engine hull and a titanic fusion-drive bell. The actual livable space is very small, though. Most of the main hull is taken up with armor and fuel tanks. Who exactly they expect to attack I don't know--but if anybody does, they'll probably lose. I guess that ought to make me feel safe. The ship isn't very fast, though, and I have an eight-day trip to look forward to--lucky me.

We encountered our first hypertunnel about two hours after we left the ODF. I was in my cabin, and I didn't feel the jump, not exactly. But even so, it was as if someone had clawed me--because all of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, more than a dozen light-years lay between Tom and me. Over the next week we'll jump four more times. I imagine every one will hurt just as badly.

I really am going to have to get over this, the Goddess knows, or I'm in for an uncomfortable and unproductive four years. It could have been otherwise; but Tom and his sister have their hearts set on Stanford (their father went there) and I've been dreaming of Sah'salaan University since I was a naked kit playing Dodge-and-Pounce in the grass. And since neither of us was willing to "give," we will, for a while at least, have to be apart. I will get over this aching loneliness eventually; everybody says I will. But right now it doesn't seem likely.

Captain Ehm'aasfah is nice enough, if a bit preoccupied. She's not CF; her commission is actually from the Sah'aaran Planetary Militia. She told me to contact her directly if I needed anything--but of course she was just being polite. Obviously she's far too busy to bother with the likes of me. Being who I am--or maybe what I am--I was invited to have dinner at her table tonight--but I begged off. I told them I wasn't feeling up to it…and I was telling the truth, too.

Well, it's late, and I've had a long and trying day. If you'll excuse me, I suppose I ought to turn in. It's times like these I almost wish I was human--so I could cry myself to sleep without shame.

To Be Continued...

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