[A character note: in stories written here in The West, we tend to automatically think of characters as white unless otherwise stated. In the following stories, the reverse is true. If you need a visual reference for these future Sisters, Google images of East Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi females and you'll get a good idea of what they look like.]
“Home on The Range” [outline]
Story about a Karaal on the Outland border during the early days of The Sisterhood.
“The Great Grass Plain” [outline]
The Amazon house clan Red Epona rides through the Outlands aka the old Mid-West, encountering some of the wreckage of 'the old America'.
~The city had once been prosperous and beautiful, tall shining towers, broad tree lined boulevards, full of vitality.
Now it was a smashed ruin. Most of that had happened during the Age of Storms, Category Six monsoons scouring those once shining towers, adding their debris to the general destruction of wind and rain.
Battle damage had now been added to that forlorn landscape.
Drajica looked around at the ruins from the wide intersection where she had set up her Tribunal. The helmet of her battle armor was opened 'on the half shell' and would snap shut if the suit detected any incoming threat.
In the distance, she could hear the buzz/hum/hiss of Marine weapons, the snapping of century old ex-Soviet assault rifles, the occasional crump of chemical explosives. The air stank of general decay, with an added undercurrent of burnt flesh.
Her security team had established a perimeter around the intersection. In its center, a hundred or so local males were lined up, kneeling, hands bound at the small of their backs. A stack of black plastic body bags were in an orderly pile a dozen feet behind them.
“Pathetic,” she thought, “But they had been warned.”
As the Age of Storms slowly abated, the Union of Matrilineal Republics had emerged from North America's West Coast. The Sisterhood, as it was colloquially known, spread rapidly into the chaotic aftermath.
In the half century since, it had displaced most of the 'systems' that had survived the Age of Storms in an essentially peaceful process, and then expanded out into near Earth space.
Some pockets of Phallists had resisted with violence. But with limited capacity to reproduce, they faded quickly. Uterine replicator technology seemed set to reverse that, but unaugmented tank babies were almost universally sociopathic, except for the psychotics, of course. Those societies imploded brutally.
This city was one of the very last strongholds of Phallism. The Sisterhood had compiled evidence of genital mutilation, impregnation rape, and foot amputation for the women who tried to escape before it took action.
Two Warnings were issued. Then came an EMP, followed by a Marine Drop Brigade. Mobile Tribunals did the mopping up.
Drajica walked over to the line prisoners, ostentatiously removing the armored glove from her right hand. She'd picked the first one specifically. She knew his type.
He wore a finely knit kufee and a now soiled white robe. His beard was long, but neatly trimmed.
Drajica faced him. “Do you Swear to honor and respect your Sisters?” Her voice was soft, but firm.
He smiled, but his eyes were hard. “There is no God, but God,” he said, “And Mu-”
She pointed at him. An actinic flash burst from her fingertip. A pinhole appeared in his forehead, a thin wisp of smoke puffing upward. He fell over backward, his body jerking. The smell of piss and shit adding to the overall stench.
She sighed. The next in line, a terrified boy no more than seventeen, had already pissed himself. She faced him. “Do you Swear to honor and respect your Sisters?” she repeated in the exact same tone.
“Ye-ye-yes, Mistress,” he blubbered with utter sincerity, “I Swear by my life!”
Two Marine NCO's hauled him away to a waiting ground vehicle. His fate would likely be agricultural resettlement, or possibly servitor augmentation. But that was not for her to determine.
Two other Marines were dragging the mullah's corpse toward the pile of body bags. He would wind up as DNA harvest. His smug face would haunt her dreams for a while.
Drajica sighed again. “It will all be over soon,” she told herself, and moved down the line.
“Apéritif á La Tour Rouge”
Le Tour Rouge a was the premier diplomatic watering hole in Paris, the new head-quarters city of the United Nations. New York was still a shambles and too vulnerable to storms, so the European Union proposed Paris, with the entire Île-de-France as a UN Protected Zone.
This choice was to make up for Berlin becoming the EU capital itself, a deal that was brokered by the Union of Matrilineal Republics.
Miki Nemmera kept track of such things, being First Vice-Minister of External Affairs of the UMR. And most did call her Miki, her given name, Mictecacihuatl – an Aztec vampire Moon Goddess – being far too difficult for most to pronounce.
Le Tour Rouge was an elongated plasteen pyramid perched upon the butte Montmartre, its particular variety of the space manufactured material refracting through the red spectrum, which cause it to shine like a vast ruby during the day, but be a reflective jet black after dark.
At its base was a ring of flagpoles flying those of the UN's members. The oldest, after the UN's sky blue and globe flag, was the deep blue EU banner with its ring of yellow stars. Both predated the Age of Storms. The others were newer.
The Union of Matrilineal Republics' was a field of twilight blue – symbolizing a New Dawn – with a narrow red band at the bottom – paying homage to the old California state flag, the original home of The Sisterhood – and an eight pointed red star imposed upon a white wreath in the upper left canton – indicative of The Sisterhood's expansion out onto the world and beyond.
Some called that The Flag of The Sisterhood, but while the UMR was functionally also The Sisterhood, its flag was not.
The Sisterhood's flag was a solid black – symbolizing the infinite nature of the universe – while in the upper left canton was a white Pentagram – symbol of Witches – with a red V superimposed upon it – representing The Sisterhood's Five Precepts – both inside a white wreath – representing union and triumph. But that was a 'religious' flag and The Sisterhood was wise enough to keep their Politics and their Religion separate, at least outside of their own borders.
The African Federation's flag had a black silhouette of the continent, at its center a large yellow wreath with a crossed yellow spear and spade, imposed upon a field of red and green divided horizontally.
The Siberian Confederacy's flag was three simple horizontal bands of red, green, and brown of equal width.
There were a few dozen more, but those four, Europe, Africa, Siberia, and The UMR, were the 'major players' on the world stage at the moment. And here in Paris is where they played Politics.
Miki poured herself some more Passito, an act that would shock some of The Sisterhood's opponents. Many of them believed no Sister would ever perform any type of 'menial task', but would instead have some servitor do it for her.
She laughed softly at the thought. She'd countered that argument a number of times. “When I was a little girl,” she'd say, “I made my own bed and cleaned my own room,” both true statements and also true for any Sister who grew up in one of The Cults.
Occasionally, she'd bring up Universal Service, but that tended to scare people and remind them that The Sisterhood was not simply a Matriarchy, but also an Amazon society, so she usually did not bring it up unless she wished to intimidate.
Universal Service was the UMR's final Citizenship Ritual, requiring every Sister to provide a contiguous thirty months service in one of Earth Force's three branches – Ground, Sea, and Sky Force – some time between their twentieth and thirtieth birthdays. And then be part of the Ready Reserve essentially for the rest of their lives.
Earth Force was one of the two major components of the Ministry of Force, the other being Space Force. The Ministry, which was generally known as MoF [said Em-Oh-Ef], was actually a paramilitary department and really used very little 'force' at all.
Though Ground, Sea, and Sky Force were somewhat analogous to a army, navy, and air force, the majority of their operations were effectively civil in nature, infrastructure projects, search and rescue, peacekeeping, etc.
For example, the vast archeologies where non-citizens resided were constructed by the Ground Force Corps of Engineers. Now that the non-citizen population was dwindling, the GF/CE was converting them into vast hydroponic towers.
But the GF/CE's pride and glory was the Quito Space Elevator, built in cooperation with Sky Force and Space Force's own separate Corps of Engineers. It was The Sisterhood's main highway into space and the principal instrument by which they had come to dominate near Earth space.
Miki had gone into Sea Force on a Space Force track, the latter being organized upon naval lines, and learned the essentials of large vessel operations. When she completed her Service Contract with Sea Force she went straight to Space Force Academy at the El-Five Complex. That lasted twice as long as Sea Force service.
She served twelve years after that, mostly on the gigantic Loop Ships that ran on long loop shaped orbital patterns out from El-Five to Mars or to the Asteroid Belt and back. The Mars run was eighteen months round trip. The Asteroid Belt run was thirty five months.
Space Force operated all of the UMR's space endeavors, military discipline and organization being a functional prerequisite for operating in that highly unforgiving environment, but it too was largely paramilitary, with the emphasis on the 'para'.
In fact, MoF's name was really a psycho-political euphemism. Except for what had become three of the most terrifying words in the world: Marine Drop Trooper.
The Space Force Marine Corps was a purely military organization and when force was actually required, it was the Marines who provided said, dropping down out of orbit upon whomever had provoked The Sisterhood sufficiently.
Unlike Ground Force, where the majority of personnel were Sisters, in Space Force and its Marine Corp, Sisters were officers and NCO's. The rest were Mandroids, all specialized technical personnel. And Marine Mandroids were specialized in fighting, killing and, occasionally, dying.
Usually no more than a battalion were kept active on Response Status. The rest were kept in storage in a light medical coma, a technique widely used for non-operational Mandriods on long space runs. Marine Drop Troopers were not sociable beings and The Sisterhood kept them on a tight leash.
Like the majority of Space Force officers, Miki had only encountered Drop Troopers during her Academy days as part of an Orientation and Familiarization Course. And even though as an Initiated Sister she was a formidable killer in her own right, like many, they made her shudder a bit.
But most space ops had no need of them. Space Force Mandroid personnel were perfectly disciplined and cooperative and always efficient. That was throughly programed into them.
Miki sighed. Even given the obvious rigorousness and dynamism of The Sisterhood, the regular insinuation of Decadence was a standard Phallist canard, based upon the real fear of the UMR's massive number of Mandroid servitors, a number which grew steadily with each passing day.
Mandroids were really just a type of cyborg, but since the majority of humans these days had some manner of cybernetic augmentation, a separate term had been needed.
Most Mandroids were grown in uterine replicators based upon modified porcine uteri, and were commonly called 'tank babies'. Y-chromosome DNA was used exclusively in that process and was extensively engineered to enhance inclinations and tendencies for the various subtypes.
Tank baby Mandroids were usually of a lesser mental capacity and heavily augmented, Guidance Mechanisms being implanted in the brain's pleasure/pain centers before they were ever hatched. That also solved the problem of 'socialization'.
Experience had shown that the isolating 'non-humanness' of the replicators tended to regularly produce sociopathic and psychotic individuals, which was one of the principle reasons The Sisterhood practiced the live birth of their daughters. Obviously, they did not bear any male offspring and they certainly had the tech to make sure that they never did.
The Sisterhood used a certain amount of purely mechanical/electronic robots, but overall, robots had never reached the level of functional and economic efficiency of Mandroids, either in manufacture or operation. Too many raw materials needed. Basic mechanics too complex and often unreliable.
But it was in 'brain function' that robots really fell behind Mandroids. Ultimately, it was far easier to downgrade the biological that it was to upgrade the cybernetic.
It was the UMR's Ministry of Service that designed and created every variety of Mandroid, and was not only their sole producer, but also their sole legal owner. All Mandriods were leased, not owned, by their end users under a Usufruct Contract and that included every one of them from a single domestic servitor to the tens of millions employed by Space Force from Dirtside to the Asteroid Belt. And the MoS's Rules and Regulations regarding Care and Utilization under that contract were well defined and rigorously enforced.
And so The Sisterhood had finally resolved the ancient and pernicious human problem of social inequality, and permanently solved the issue of Labor Supply, by creating a specialized working class, one which was always happy and productive, and whose members could be stored in a medical coma when not needed or when shipped on long distance runs off planet.
Of course, the entire concept and its mechanisms were an anathema to Humanists and Phallists alike, though for different reasons.
For the latter, it meant that they and their world view were doomed, as who could resist such a society? Essentially, they were fighting a 'rear guard action' and knew it, not that this made them any the less determined to fight.
For the former, it was considered slavery, plain and simple, and was therefore Evil, no matter the details. That they could never come up with a realistic plan for what to actually do with the 'slaves' they wished to liberate was brushed aside. And they were horrified by The Sisters when they said, “Well, we could just space them all,” usually with a predatory grin.
Miki, and The Sisterhood in general, tended to have more contempt for The Humanists than for The Phallists. At least their position was honest. They were overtly committed to Masculine Supremacy and were not at all apologetic about that. The Sisterhood knew The Phallists were wrong - history made that quite clear - but they stood by their position without equivocation.
The Humanists however used all manner of philosophical smokes screens such as Freedom and Individuality to disguise a set of beliefs and practices not particularly different from The Phallists. At its core, Humanism boiled down to Survival of The Fittest, with some 'social welfare' attached to pretty things up.
Liberal Humanism had once been a vital force and had changed human affairs for the better. But it inevitably fell victim to the Cult of The Individual and then fractured into ideological factionalism, individual narcissism and intellectual decadence. Its absolute rejection of Hierarchy doomed it to impotence.
Humans are a social species and Hierarchy comes naturally to all human endeavors. The Sisterhood, The Phallists and The Humanists all existed Hierarchically, but the latter rigorously denied it. Both of the former could then undermine them in detail.
The Phallists had used the Humanists as moral cover to pass laws in several states totally banning Mandriods. This included the EU, Africa, and Siberia. Such laws were meaningless however, as the MoS forbade the exportation of most types of Mandriods outside the UMR itself and of any type to a state that had not entered into a Friendship Treaty with the UMR.
Such a treaty gave the MoS full and unilateral access to their servitors and the authority to take “direct and forceful action to preserve and protect said.” That included calling in Drop Troopers if necessary.
To date, every entity that had signed a Friendship Treaty had been first socially and then legally annexed by The Sisterhood within a decade or so of signing, as male birth rates would plummet and most the local females tended to become fully fledged Sisters.
The relentlessness of this trend forced the improvement of women's status throughout the rest of the world. If a women was unsatisfied with her lot, she could immigrate to The Sisterhood, which had all manner of programs for integrating 'outside' Sisters into the fold. All a woman had to do was apply at any UMR Embassy or Consulate. No woman was ever turned away.
More terrifying to the Phallists however, was the significant number of mostly younger males who also immigrated into the UMR. The MoS maintained a Special Augmentation division to convert these male immigrants into Special Service Mandriods, quite often some type of Pleasure Servitor. These types were highly prized and very well treated and their lives were something of a legend outside of The Sisterhood.
There was a Male Birth Movement, in which men would have a womb surgically implanted and would only have male children. But they were few in number and most Phallists were repulsed by the idea.
And because of the psychological problems inherent in non-augmented 'tank babies', attempts to increase the male population using that technology had been grotesque and horrifying failures. One of them had required the deployment of an entire Marine Drop Brigade to 'clean up the mess'.
Miki had been at Space Force Academy during that little horror. The whole Cadet Corps had been glued to the live feeds for days.
She finished off her second glass of Passito on that memory. She looked again at the night time sky over Paris, the city now fully illuminated and living up to its old title.
Miki was here at Le Tour Rouge to have a private meeting with the Foreign Minister of the Siberian Confederacy, Yulia Prokharovka. And the secure lounges were the next best thing to the UMR's own Embassy, Le Tour Rouge in fact being owned – through about a dozen front companies – by the MoF's General Security Directorate. The GSD handled all The Sisterhood's 'security issues', everywhere.
Siberia had become very powerful in the last decade, the melting of the permafrost opening up access to raw materials and making it an agricultural dynamo. The Confederacy had absorbed Mongolia, Manchuria, and the Korean Peninsula, more with food than with military might, though it possessed that as well.
Kaminov Yao, the Prime Minister for two decades, had been the motivator of this expansion. He smiled out at the world, but kept a tight rein at home. He was not overtly hostile to the UMR: that was suicidal at best. But he quietly resisted its influence as best he could.
However, he had recently 'become ill'. Hence Miki's meeting with Prokharovka. As First Vice-Minister of External Affairs, she handled all the 'delicate' matters. And they had been their respective state's UN Ambassadors at the same time, so she had known Yulia for years...and she was also her GSD contact.
Yulia arrived precisely at the appointed time. They smiled, hugged and kissed. They could be sisters. Tall, solidly built, with jet black hair and 'Asiatic' features. Miki was darker, having Mesoamerican blood and a dozen years of UV in Space Force.
Miki poured her some Passito. They made small talk. And then Miki activated the various dampeners. The air went dead.
“I can never get used to that,” Yulia said. “It's like someone closed my coffin.”
“Only the dead can hear us,” Miki said with a light smile.
Yulia laughed, then turned serious.
“We have Yao on ice. Literally. Stuck him in a Cryo unit. The evil little peen!” she snarled.
“Who is in charge?”
“That would be me,” Yulia said brightly.
Miki smiled. “I was hoping you'd say that.”
“As if the GSD didn't tell you already.”
“They were not absolutely sure. Your security has been excellent.”
Yulia grinned widely. “Now that is a complement!”
“So, tomorrow...?” Yulia was to address the General Assembly.
“Some boilerplate about 'Yao sending his regards etc'. And then the announcement that we're opening negotiations with the UMR vis-a-vis a Friendship Treaty. Just negotiations. Nothing final.” she said with practiced nonchalance.
Miki smiled wolfishly. “Yes, incrementalism is best.”
Yulia nodded. “The dick swingers will be up to their hairy asses in Mandroids before they even realize it!”
Miki raised her glass. “Sisterhood!”
Yulia clinked it with hers. “Sisterhood!”
They upended their glasses.
As Miki refilled them, she said, “So, let me tell you about these new bioforms the MoS has been working on. Detachable penises.”
Yulia leaned in closer, her eyes sparkling.
“Riding The Loop” [outline]
Follow a Loop Ship, a ten million ton vessel operated by Space Force, all the way out to bases near Uranus and then back to near Earth orbit.
~Ahmed Nasiri Yang was nervous, though he really had no reason to be. His upcoming appointment was a simple and very traditional formality, the physical signing of an codicil renewing the African Federation's agreement with the Union of Matrilineal Republics regarding the use of Near Earth Space. The Nairobi Space Elevator was an important part of the Federation’s economy.
Yang was a mid level functionary in the Interior Ministry, the Sub-Deputy Secretary for Space Based Commercial Affairs. He was also a Melonzhay, the racial mixture of Old Chinese, Arabs and American Creoles that had been the traditional ruling class of the Federation since they had 'inherited' the wreckage of Africa from its devastated and depleted tribal peoples in the early Twenty Second Century. And all members of his class knew they were superior beings.
He utterly hated the UMR. His second wife had left him to join The Sisterhood a quarter century ago, followed by their daughter two years later. However he knew this was good for his career – and he was a patriot after all – so he 'sucked it up'.
His first wife had merely divorced him when he was a minor clerk and married a Senior Minister. He had actually introduced them. Her new husband then became obliged to her ex and had been his political patron ever since. They were friendly and moved in the same social circles. Such was the nature of their class.
But there had been great shame in what his second wife had done. It reflected upon him as a Man. His daughter had not mattered that much as her action was thought an extension of her mother's. But that had hurt him personally. He had loved her.
His third and present wife however was considered a great prize, a pure blood Chinese girl he'd contracted to marry out of the Fukienese Republic, one of the fragmentary successor states of Old China. What no one knew – except Yang and the 'contractors' – is that his 'wife' had been born male. He'd become a female through a complex and expensive process.
It was UMR bio-tech of course. No one was better at that than The Sisterhood. A semi-pubescent male was needed. The body was required to already be in 'hormonal flux'. The young male would be put into a medical coma and then immersed in a vat of nanonutrients. That broth would interpenetrate his entire body down to the molecular level and transform all of it. The whole thing took about five months, but the being that emerged was a fully functional female.
The young man's family would be very well compensated and the young man would have some idea of what he was getting into. But better to be the pampered wife of a rich man in Africa than a poor dirt farmer in the 'rump' of Old China.
It was a quietly booming market. Yang knew that sooner or later a scandal would break, but he didn't care. His pretty new bride had salved his ego. And the possibility that the UMR's General Security Directorate could be behind the 'contractors' he totally put out of his mind.
The codicil signing was to take place in a small conference room in the Nairobi Space Port. The UMR rep would take the Elevator down both as a courtesy and to pretend that the Federation was an equal in Near Earth Space.
The UMR rep went by the name of Deng Quan Yin and had the title of Assistant Councilor with their External Affairs Ministry. She was small by Sisterhood standards, barely six feet tall. But she looked as solid and tough as any of them. He rose as she entered and they nodded to each other politely.
“Councilor,” he said.
“Secretary,” she replied.
The paper documents were laid out in front of their respective seats. Each signed a copy, then slid it across the table. The whole thing took three minutes. Then they stood up, nodded politely, and she left with her copy.
Yang went to the men's room and vomited. The idea that he had ever fucked that...creature
He washed his face and looked in the mirror. He felt vindicated. Now he would go home and fuck his pretty young wife very hard and all would be right in his world. made him shake with disgust. But enduring this would give him substantial face. The Ministry had known whom the URM was sending and he had requested this assignment when he found out.
“The Miracle of Birth Version 2.0”
~Tatti Ducett had scheduled her labor to begin within a half an hour. This was her first Daughter, named Parvati, and she was nervous.
But Murphy, her own Womb Mother, and Lalanna, her lover, Partner and Seed Mother of this child, were attending as her Midwives. Together they had saged and Blessed the Birthing Chamber, invoking various Birthing Goddesses; Hathor, Ilithyia, Meskhent, Tlazolteotl, Ajysyt, Pi-hsia-yuan-chun, Nintur, and of course, Isis and Artemis.
The Birthing Pool was running at correct temperature, seventy eight degrees, its water pure and filtered. All close family who were on world or in near Earth space had gathered, except for Selena, her Seed Mother, who was supervising a mining operation out in the Asteroid Belt, but had sent a very loving vid.
Tatti's physiocomp softly 'chimed' in her head. It was time. She was linked to all present, so they heard that too. Murphy and Lalanna took off her thin white chemise, guided her down the steps into the Birthing Pool. When she was hip deep, they each grasped one of her breasts, gently squeezing spurts of milk into the swirling water as a final Blessing.
Tatti slipped herself between the padded armrests and relaxed against the Pool's wall. She then focused on Parvati, her daughter stirring within her womb in anticipation. Tatti had spent ten and half months monitoring and shaping her child, guiding nanites here and there. In the last two months basic verbal communication had become possible, though Parvati herself could still only send feelings.
Tatti smiled at all gathered, kissed Murphy and Lalanna. “I'm ready,” she said, took a deep breath, and sent the Birthing Command to her physiocomp.
The first thing it did was flood her with endorphins. Then it blocked most, though not all, pain sensation in her lower body. It would monitor all body functions, which both Murphy and Lalanna would follow via link. Tatti knew she'd be sore later, but that mattered not in this moment.
She was semi-delirious as her brain swam in pleasure inducing hormones. She gathered what focus she could and talked to Parvati, who was also bathed in her mother's endorphins, dampening any fear she had.
The physiocomp handled all the 'heavy lifting'; regulating contractions, dilating the cervix, and the 'push-push-push'. All Tatti had to do was guide Parvati down and out.
Parvati 'crowned' within five minutes and then popped out into the water in seconds. It gave her a slight shock as it was twenty degrees cooler than her mother's womb, but that sharpened her senses and she bobbed about below the surface, blinking her eyes open.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of nanites rushed into Tatti's womb and birth canal, repairing damaged tissues and breaking down the placenta for reabsorbtion or excretion, all guided by her physiocomp.
Lalanna submerged and took hold of Parvati, lifting her to the surface. She spat and coughed a bit, making faces as Lalanna wiped off the afterbirth. She then looked directly at her mother for the first time, smiled and mumbled, “Tatti.”
Everyone laughed with joy. Lalanna handed Parvati to Tatti, where the child latched quickly onto a nipple and began to suckle. Her mother sighed deeply, as did everyone else. All present murmured, “Blessed Be.”
After a moment, Parvati mumbled, “Bessibee,” around her mother's nipple. And The Sisterhood grew that much stronger.
“Last Days At Coconino Seven”
~The mag-lev car to 'The Nines', the nine Coconino Towers, was empty except for Jane Mimsdottor. It was clean and well maintained, but shabby with age. “Rides empty a lot these days,” Jane thought.
Just at that moment she 'heard/felt' a soft chime deep in her temporal lobe, the standard message alert from her neural nanonics, the CompNet embedded throughout her cerebral tissues.
A pleasant voice whispered, “This is a reminder from the Electoral Directorate. Voting in the General Plebiscite regarding the question of the admission of the Siberian Confederacy into the Union of Matrilineal Republics will be closing in two hours. If you have not yet voted, please do so now. Thank you.”
Jane could have turned the Alert Function off, but like many Sisters, she was closely following this GP, though its outcome was almost certain. And also, like most of The Sisterhood, she could easily determine that Yulia Prokharovka, the Siberian Prime Minister, had done an excellent job of preparing Siberia for annexation and integration into the UMR.
Jane had voted Yes, for admission, two weeks ago when the Loop Ship she served aboard, the SFS Maathai, was still on approach to the El Five Complex.
It was easy to tell Jane was a 'spacer'. After decades in service under unfiltered UV, her reddish blonde hair had been bleached white and her fair skin tanned a honey brown. However, her eyes were still the same sparkling green they'd been the day she was born in a deer hide tent in the Outlands.
She was wearing her Space Force Walking Out Dress uniform, a black one piece with white trim and soft boots, with the trio of six pointed silver stars of a Senior Lieutenant on each side of her collar.
She also wore a Mark VII impeller on her hip, a mini railgun with two thousand frangible ferroresin darts. They'd ruin flesh, but powder against a pressure hull.
These days one did not go into Tower Seven unarmed.
She could see the Coconino Towers a few miles away looming in the afternoon sun-shine. Nine arcologies, each over a half mile high, a quarter mile wide at their base.
Once they had housed a half million people each, non-citizens who would not, or could not, become Initiated Sisters. Many were originally Ferals from the Outlands, with some immigrants from beyond The Union. The Sisterhood housed and fed them, provided clothing, basic medical care, and entertain-ment systems. In perpetuity.
In exchange, the residents gave up the ability to reproduce.
When The Towers were first being built and occupied over seventy years ago, a vibrant and exciting culture began to grow up 'in the Nines'. Many Sisters would also pass through to participate and study. It was a golden age that lasted nearly a half a century.
Jane spent her 'shore leaves' there and had known some of her happiest days back then.
But non-citizens did not get the type of advanced life extending augmentation received by Initiated Sisters. That would have defeated the entire purpose of The Sisterhood and The Union of Matrilineal Republics. The most advanced augmentation was reserved for those who Participated and Served.
Jane was going to be ninety two in a few months and in all probability had only lived roughly a tenth of her total possible life span. The Sisterhood did not yet know the upper limits of their augmentation technology.
Many Ferals were prematurely aged by their upbringing and even with the high quality base line health care they received, they died 'young', on average in their mid to late eighties. And with their deaths, the Nines began to empty.
Ten years ago Tower Five had been the first to empty and be converted into an agricultural tower, a hydroponic megafarm. Its produce was flash frozen in its massive basement and shipped off world. It would be another few decades before a fully terraformed Mars could begin suppling the food needs of the central and outer system.
Other towers followed quickly as the population shrank. Now only Tower Seven still remained occupied, surrounded by her converted sisters, and even she was barely at half capacity.
The car pulled up to the base of Tower Seven, stopped. The doors opened smoothly.
At the station exit was a Ground Force Military Police check point. It was added about ten years ago, just before Jane shipped out for the Asteroid Belt. They checked Jane's ID. These were not 'greenies' doing their Universal Service, but long term professionals.
The sergeant in command noted Jane's Mark VII, nodded approval.
“If you get in trouble it will take us about five to seven minutes to get to you,” she said.
“Roger,” Jane responded.
They exchanged salutes and Jane passed through into the lift lobby. She was not afraid of course. Having been born Feral herself, this was just passing from her new life back into her old one.
Not that any of that mattered. She was here to visit Susan, her kid sister, one last time, and she would not let any type of danger stop her from doing so.
Mim, their mother, was around ten when she had been 'acquired' by the clan of The Brute, who styled himself The King of Oklahoma, and who may or may not have killed her parents. That was never clear. What was clear was that Mim was pretty and become one of The Brute's 'wives' two summers later.
Her first child was Jane. The Brute was pleased that she had borne him a child. Four more summers passed, then came Susan. The Brute was not pleased with another daughter. Mim and her children were banished to 'the dog tent', with the old and the 'odd'.
They spent three summers there...until one night, for no apparent reason, The Brute hacked Mim to death with an axe in full view of her daughters.
Jane gathered her sister up and fled. She knew where the Amazon Horse Clans traveled. After ten days they were found by the Sisters of Red Epona, big, rough, weathered women, full of scars and tattoos. They were quite familiar with The Brute's clan and welcomed these ragged children warmly.
After a few weeks with Red Epona, Jane and Susan were dropped off at a Karaal of the Cult of Hathor. Those Sisters fed them many wonderful cheeses and yogurts and then they sent the two still under-weight but now less malnourished children to SoCal, the heartland of The Sisterhood.
Decades later Jane anonymously received an old photo showing some of the Sisters of Red Epona holding up a severed male head and grinning broadly. Even in death, she recognized The Brute's face. She showed it to Susan, who looked at it quietly for a while, then just said, “Thank you.”
Jane took to The Sisterhood with ferocious enthusiasm and flourished.
But Susan never seemed comfortable. Maybe she never really recovered from the trauma of Mim's murder. When she reached what had been decided was her fifteenth birthday, The Sisterhood's Age of Majority, she declared herself a 'non-citizen' and became one of the first residents of Coconino Tower Seven.
Jane was away at the time doing her Universal Service with Sea Force and was very hurt by her sister's choice. But when she visited Susan, it was obvious that she felt more comfortable among 'her own kind' and and gave her blessing freely.
That was over sixty years ago, or Solannums as Space Force was beginning to call them.
Jane visited at least once a year until she joined Space Force and then would still visit every time she made planet fall. When Jane had Ostera she was taken to see her Aunt Susan as well.
Susan became an accomplished jewelry maker, working with leather and ceramic beads she made herself. Even now, as she ascended in the main lift to Level 816, Jane was wearing a bracelet Susan gave to her thirty years ago, thin brown shammy with bright blue beads, that had traveled as far as the moons of Neptune and back.
The lift stopped and the door opened. There were a dozen men in the lobby, 'middle aged', rough looking and shabby, each carrying a weapon made from construction material. They automatically moved toward her...then stopped dead when they saw who and what she was.
“What do you want here, spacer?” half snarled the largest of the group, his eyes carefully avoiding any glance at her impeller.
The combat programs in her neural nanonics had already tracked and targeted the lot of them. Even without the impeller, her muscle and bones being at least triple the density of these Ferals, she could most likely kill all of them in under a minute. And they had to know that.
“I'm Jane Mimsdottor and I'm here to see my sister Susan,” she stated firmly.
One of them in the back laughed and said, “Who sells seashells down by the seashore.” That got all of them laughing in what seemed a good natured fashion.
Her combat program told her their heart rates were going down. She smiled brightly.
The Large One stepped back and bowed slightly. “Welcome to Eight One Six, Jane, sister of Susan.” He gestured as if ushering her into a palace. The others all followed suit in their own way.
“Thank you,” she said with soothing undertones pushed into her voice box. For good measure she added a mix of pregnancy/breastfeeding pheromones to her natural scent. That would re-enforce their feelings of protectiveness.
She walked through the lobby, smiling serenely, and down the corridor to Susan's quarters. From the lobby she could overhear whispered appreciations of her ass. The biocontrols that had kept her heartbeat normal logged off.
Jane was heading clockwise, so the central shaft wall was to her right and the residential ring was to her left. The Towers were really 'tubes', hollow in the middle, with all the apartments facing outward.
The shaft wall was covered with beautiful murals, both paint and mosaic, done by the many artists who lived, or had lived, here in Tower Seven. Jane recognized some of their work, had known a few of them. She was pleased to see that even the gangs had respected them and tagged their turf with markings on the corridor's floor.
The floor tagging had become a chaotic art form itself, tagging over tagging, in some places painted over entirely, and then more tagging on top of that.
The corridor itself was in decent shape, Eight One Six being almost fully occupied. The motto of The Nines from the beginning was “Sweep in front of your own door.”
Jane was recording all of this with a neural program and would upload it into the Main Archive when her visit was done.
About a dozen doors down from Susan's, the tagging trailed off, replaced by a subtle wavy/swirly texture that she knew was her sister's signature style. She'd used a thin layer of concrete as her medium, etching the pattern into it while it was still wet. It complemented the overwhelming patterns of bright colors upon both walls and the ceiling, millions of ceramic beads that rushed and twisted and curled, each placed by hand over many years.
Even the gangs knew this was Susan's turf.
The apartment door's biometrics identified Jane, and opened. “Susan?” she called as she entered.
“Living room,” her sister's voice came back.
The apartment was a standard Tower Single, two thousand square feet with ten foot ceilings. Susan had filled it with the paintings and sculptures of her friends and lovers, floor to ceiling shelves full of hard copy books, gorgeous hand made rugs, large comfortable furniture. The place was always welcoming, even now.
Jane found her sitting in her 'thinking chair', a plush recliner that faced the floor to ceiling living room window with a prefect view of Tower Eight. She wasn't surprised at how Susan looked. She watched her weight loss on the vids she regularly sent her while she was on the Maathai . But here, in the same room, Susan's impending death was palpable.
Jane knelt by her, gave her a hard hug and a kiss. “I'm glad you waited for me,” Jane said softly.
Susan made a mischievous face. “Gave me an excuse to experiment with various opiate compounds.”
“As if you needed an excuse.”
“Ah, nothing is better than a guilty pleasure indulged in without guilt.” She turned serious. “I know what you've been planing.”
Jane's control of her facial expression was absolute. Her neural nanonics could create a perfect poker face.
“Now don't give me that Gorgon face,” Susan said with a hint of petulance.
“It's the right thing to do,” Jane said flatly.
Susan grinned like a loon. “Of course it's the right thing to do!”
Jane relaxed. “I was concerned you'd be embarrassed.”
“One cannot embarrass the dead. And a museum with my name on it is also a museum with our mother's name on it and I could never object to that.”
“We're taking the entire corridor, too,” Jane said, “Just removing the panels themselves.”
“You're not going to make some kind of a shrine out of my apartment, are you?”
Jane smiled. “No, just the corridor and the exhibits of your work. We've been gathering the pieces for a while now.”
“You Sisters are a morbid lot.”
Jane shrugged. “We think in the long term about everything. It's our nature.”
Susan laughed. “I can hear the caps in 'long term'.” She patted the broad arm of her chair. “Come. Sit down. It's almost time.”
Jane sat on the arm, took her sister's hand, leaned against her. She'd seen the Medi-Patch on her other arm. It could administer a lethal cocktail at a set time or be triggered manually.
They looked out the window at Tower Eight. Susan had carefully picked this apartment those sixty plus years ago. During certain times of the year, the sunset reflected an amazing array of reds and golds off of Tower Eight. They and her friends had watched that show so many times.
All of those friends were gone now and this would be the last time for both of them.
“Jane, I have one last favor to ask of you. In my desk you'll find about six hundred hand written pages,” she made a little laugh. “You're probably the only human who can read my scribble.”
“What do you need?” Jane said, holding her sister's hand a bit tighter.
“They're notes for a history of the horse clans. I started with Red Epona, but got carried away. I never finished because it needs field research and...well, you know.”
“Yes,” Jane kissed her sister's hair. “I've missed them anyway.”
“Thank you,” Susan whispered.
At that moment, the setting sun slashed across Tower Eight and the room was filled with a reddish golden cascade of light.
Jane held Susan's hand even after it went limp, held it until that light faded to a soft glow.
Later, as she emerged from the lift on the ground level, she 'heard/felt' a soft chime deep in her temporal lobe.
A pleasant voice whispered, “This is an announcement from the Electoral Directorate. Voting in the General Plebiscite regarding the question of the admission of the Siberian Confederacy into the Union of Matrilineal Republics had been concluded. Admission has been approved. The tally is as...”
Jane shut off the link. She knew it was a wide margin. And The Sisterhood had just absorbed nearly a quarter of the Eurasian landmass. She and the GF/MP's smiled knowingly at each other. They all were conscious of the threshold that had just been crossed.
She heard Susan's laughter in her head; “I can hear the caps in 'long term'.” Jane's smile got just a little bit deeper.
~Junior Lieutenant Menat Borsa, Space Force Marines, had the Third Watch on Barracks Platform 2/26 [2nd Regt/26th Batt] because, bluntly put, she was a 'noob', barely four months out of the Academy. And she was fine with that Tradition from 'beyond the mists of time'. The Sisterhood was ever conscious of not throwing out the practical baby with the Patriarchal bathwater.
Besides, the view was gorgeous, a five by ten transparent plasteen window in High Earth Orbit. Menat spent a significant portion of the watch simply staring out that window. The rest of the time she read books, Mimsdottor's “Concise History of The Horse Clans, Vol 1” at the moment. Electronic media were forbidden on Watch.
Oh, and she checked the systems, a swirl of intermeshing holograms. Systems that never failed. Ever. And every time she thought that, she heard her Tech Instructor, Captain Haduri, saying emphatically, “Something. Always. Fails.” Which was why her warm body was here on Third Watch.
A proximal danger alarm activated.
“Shit,” she muttered, letting “Horse Clans” float away.
An impact alarm flared/squealed.
“Shit!” she barked. That was too quick for space junk. Data flows informed her that a micrometeorite had pierced the platform, damaging Drop Troopers in their Sleep Pods. One set of life signs flat lined and others were 'unhappy'.
A hologram coalesced, Senior Chief Warrant Officer Mwera. “El Tee, I'm on my way to Hold Seven.”
“Roger that, Chief.” Technically, she was a 'superior officer', but Mwera, born a True Male, had, at the age of fifty three, become a Space Force Mandriod. That was over three decades ago, so Menat fully deferred to him.
“Chief, be advised that Corporal El Em One Two Seven is up and about.” Mwera blanched. “But he has exited Hold Seven,”
“Roger that, El Tee,” he said flatly.
Sensors showed the Corporal heading for the mess bay.
“Can't be hungry,” she thought. He'd been hooked up to bleeder/feeder tubes in his Sleep Pod.
“Maybe he wants one of those nasty Drop Trooper candy bars,” the ones that tasted like vulcanized cowshit laced with cinnamon and fruit compote.
“Junior Lieutenant Menat Borsa exiting the Command Center,” she said.
Menat found him floating in front of the mess bay's window, naked, eight feet tall, seven hundred pounds, pink as a baby pig, a dozen gray caps covering his battle armor plug-in points.
She turned off her neural implanted combat programs. At six two, three hundred pounds, and heavily augmented, she might be able to take him. As an Initiated Sister, she was a weapon herself.
But he was a fellow Marine.
“Corporal?” she said softly.
He turned to look at her somberly. She wondered if he ever looked anything but somber.
“One of my Troopers died.” He looked out the window again. “I wanted to see the sky.”
She had no trouble whatsoever radiating Empathy at him.
“I'll have Chief Mwera program sky dreams for you.”
He looked at her with what seemed a smile.
She held out her hand. He took it gently in his massive fingers and allowed her to lead him back to Hold Seven.
"A Day In The Life"
~The fluffy little sheep pranced around the lush green meadow. Simon felt deep Pleasure. He awoke in a good mood. As always.
The sleeping cradle's prosthetics detached the bleeder/feeder tubes from their respective nozzles on his lower abdomen. His neural nanonics gave him a mild surge of adrenaline. He was ready for a New Day.
He put on his sleeveless coverall and house slippers and went to prepare breakfast for his Mistress. Life here On Assignment was much simpler than back at the Karaal.
At the Ninth Karaal of Ma'at – Simon shuddered in Fear/Awe every time he heard, spoke or even thought of of any Goddesses' Name – there were so many Sisters and Servitors it could get very confusing. It was the Karaal's Master Servitor who had guided Simon when he first arrived from the Ministry of Service creche. That memory, sense of Belonging, which he had at the start of every New Day, gave him Pleasure.
Simon's intellect was that of a Baseline Human seven year old, so it was largely through repetition and the programming in his neural nanonics that he had the capacity to be of Service. Of course he had never met a Baseline Human. He knew only Sisters, who were born above Baseline, and Servitors, who were mostly born below it. Simon didn't even know if any Baseline Humans still existed and had never really thought about it so far in his short life.
This morning's breakfast was three medium poached eggs and four well done pork sausages with two pieces of wholewheat bread, lightly toasted, each with two teaspoons of butter spread evenly upon their surface within forty five seconds of the end of toasting. Simon knew this was a favorite of his Mistress and prepared it with an extra amount of his usual precision.
He had already put out food and water for Tristabel, his Mistress' cat, who would come out into the kitchen area when she heard Simon moving about. She would purr and rub his ankles, but have her face in the bowl before he took breakfast to his Mistress' bedroom.
Marinel, his Mistress, was stretching and yawning in her bed, her own neural nanonics having awoken her a few moments before. She smiled sleepily at him, her usually wide green eyes still narrow with sleep, the chocolate brown skin of her shaved head softly radiant in the morning light. Simon missed brushing her long luxuriant black hair, but here On Assignment, that hair was Non-Regulation.
“Good morning, Simon.” He felt Love/Awe
“Good morning, Mistress,” he said in the soft pleasant tone she liked at this hour. He knew that because, as her Body Servant, his neural nanonics were Bonded to hers.
He paused as she leaned her face back and a small nozzle emerged from the head board – that was a personal modification of her own – giving her face a quick fine mist. She wiped her face with the small towel Simon placed upon her nightstand every evening before she went to bed. It became a 'napkin' with breakfast.
Simon placed the tray before her.
“Ah, my favorite,” she said with a grin, then tousled his short blond hair. The feeling of Love/Pleasure went deep into his core. He bowed and withdrew.
While his Mistress showered he returned to retrieve the breakfast tray and then laid out her Service Skin Suit upon the bed. Tristabel promptly draped herself on top of it. She could be conditioned not to, but Marinel found it endearing.
Marinel emerged from the shower naked and knelt before the small altar in a corner of her bedroom. It held numerous small statues, many images on the wall above. candles, bowls, incense holders and various Majickal tools. She prayed quietly for a few minutes. Simon stood utterly still, while Tristabel watched from the bed, purring softly. She had been conditioned to stay off the altar and to not disturb Marinel when she knelt there.
And then Marinel was suited up and ready to go out the door.
Even if he was not programmed to feel so, Simon would have been Awed by his Mistress, towering over him – he was only five feet tall, she was six plus – her black Skin Suit alternatively matte and glossy depending upon how the light hit it, fitting her finely muscled body like..well, skin. Over her right breast were two six pointed silver stars denoting a Lieutenant. Beneath them lines of code. Simon's neural nanonics read them; Savastri-Nemmara, Marinel: Space Force/Corps of Engineers.
“I'll be back in about a week,” she said, kissing him on the top of his head, and then was out the door, off to The Project. He had a few seconds of Fear and Loneliness before his neural nanonics gave him a quick surge of endorphins. Refreshed, he stripped her bed and put the bed clothes in the washer. He also Messaged Maintenance to confirm a General Servicing in forty three hours.
And then he put on his outside shoes and went for a walk.
When his Mistress first brought him out here to Chang-Ngo Sixteen Simon had been very disoriented. Though it had been explained that this was a Gaeome, a small world that was 'inside out', living on land inside of a sphere was rather confusing, especially the river that flowed in a circle all the way around the middle.
He had looked at it flowing down toward what appeared to be a wall yet then flowing up that 'wall' and then around and over his head and then back down behind and it gave him such terrible vertigo that his neural nanonics had to work very hard to restore his equilibrium. Six months in a medical coma for the trip here by Loop Ship didn't help.
But now, a over a year later, even though he never did quite grasp the concept of gravity, Simon was perfectly at home. Now his favorite thing to do was walk along the bank of that circular river, the Fiumeanello, which meant 'ring river' in some old language he'd never heard of before.
He started off on the 'south' bank, which was the 'lower' half of the sphere where the residential area was located. The 'north' bank was full of farm land, being closer to the translucent lens at the end of 'upper' half of the sphere where sunlight came in. Simon tried not to think too hard about all that up/down-north/south stuff or he'd get dizzy again.
He walked slowly as usual, taking in the wonderfully odd vista of the Gaeome. The crops to the 'north' were ready to be harvested, their bright hues changing the very light itself. There were Sisters rowing on the Fiumeanello in both single and team sculls, their diaphanous athletic singlets soaked to their bodies with the sweat of going against the current.
And 'above', in the empty center, two Sisters on hang gliders dipped and swooped in an aerial dance that could be mating or fighting or a combination of both. They wore broad feathery flippers that alternately pumped furiously to push them forward or held still and straight to guide a dive or turn.
Simon took all this in and felt Awe/Pleasure/Belonging on an organic level that his neural nanonics merely reinforced.
Soon he came to his first destination, one of the service tunnels that ran under the river connecting 'north/upper' and 'south/lower'. Bridges were not ergonomically practical in this small a Gaeome. The passage was wide and well lit, the floor a soft, firm materiel, the walls and ceiling raw gray metal.
Not far from the northern exit Simon could see a flower garden, his next destination. The garden was rectangular, oriented 'north', with rows of flower beds on either side of a central path which led from the gated entrance to a stone monument. About Simon's height, it was made from compressed stone tailings, highly polished, with a holographic embed of a smiling Sister with a big nose and an inscription in a cursive writing that Simon didn't recognize. His neural nanonics could have translated the writing, but his friend Bobby said her name was Ghuljaan. This was simply Mistress Ghuljaan's garden and that was good enough for him.
In the thirty one years that Chang-Ngo Sixteen had so far been in operation, seven Sisters had been killed while On Assignment. Space was not at all a forgiving environment. And, like Simon's own Mistress, each of those Sisters had a Body Servant who had accompanied then out here. Two of those surviving Servitors were so distressed by the loss of their Mistresses that they had to be put to sleep. Being this far out their bodies were Rendered and Recycled on site. Nanonics and physio-comps extracted and sent to Fabrication. Tissues and viscera sent to the Meat Vat [were those pork sausages came from]. Bones powered and spread on the 'northside' fields. Four others had fared better and been placed in a medical coma to be shipped back to Mother on the next Loop Ship.
And then there was Bobby. He had been with his Mistress for over three decades when she died, nearly all of that time in space, with the last eleven when she was CO of Chang-Ngo Sixteen. She had loved to garden and had started the memorial gardens for the Sisters who died In Service. And Booby was her assistant gardener.
When she was killed – a freak head strike by a non-ferrous slag micropartical while on EVA – Bobby requested that he be allowed to stay and tend the gardens. He was too old to be Bonded with another Mistress, but wasn't mentally destroyed by his Mistress' death. And the gardens were good for everyone's morale, Sister and Servitor.
His Mistress was a Spacer through and through, so her Will stated that her body also be Rendered and Recycled. The new CO had her bone dust given to Bobby for the gardens. At the time he said with a happy grin, “Chang-Ngo Sixteen is now my Mistress.” He parceled it out carefully as knew enough to realized that in time more gardens would be needed. In the decade since, two more were planted.
Simon found Bobby rummaging around in one of the beds in back by the river bank. He seemed old to Simon, though his Mistress was likely twice Bobby's age. Sisters and Servitors aged differently.
He smiled at Simon. “Hello, friend Simon.”
“Hello, friend Bobby.” He felt Pleasure/Belonging again.
“You just missed friend Sil.” Sil was another Body Servant whose Mistress let him tend to the gardens when she was off at The Project.
“Ah,” said Simon.
Bobby looked at him thoughtfully. “Your Mistress is off to The Project?”
“Yes,” said Simon softly.
“Ah.” Bobby stood up, brushed soil from from his apron. “That's good for now.” He rinsed his hand under a motion activated water spigot, splashed some on his face, wiped himself with a small rag he pulled from his jumpsuit pocket.
He smiled at Simon. “Let's take a stroll.” Simon nodded and they walked out of the garden. A little was down the river bank they came to a Service Kiosk. It had a spiral staircase heading all the way down, past various access tunnels, to the Outer Shell. From there they went a few yards along a walkway to a glazed surface embedded in the 'floor'.
Bobby opened an access panel on the floor and tapped in a code. He was one of the few Servitors who was allowed to have that particular code. Underneath the glazing a metal shutter slowly slid open, revealing the stars and the blackness of space.
Simon always felt Fear/Awe upon seeing that vastness, like hearing a Goddess Name. His Mistress had once told him that it was the True Face of all The Goddesses, which was why the Sisterhood was out here. Bobby had nodded sagely when he repeated that.
Bobby peered out for a moment, then pointed. “There,” he said. Simon switched on his Enhanced Vision. A large number of dull red spheres popped into view, the infrared heat signatures of other Gaeomes. Then he saw the tiny blue/white pulsing of a plasma drive; Mistress Marinel's transport heading out to The Project.
And beyond was The Project itself, a half dozen crescents, the sun reflecting off of naked metal, curving ramps of an incomprehensible massiveness, all orbiting around each other in a circular formation. His mind still rebelled at its size.
Mistress Marinel had explained The Project to him as being like the Fiumeanello, that the force of its spinning would keep the air inside of the ring, together with high walls along each edge, its 'banks' so to speak. She also said that it was encompass an area over ten thousand times larger that all of Mother's surface combined when finished.
The entire concept scared him deeply as it made his Mistress and her Sisters seem like Goddesses themselves and he was certain he could not live with such a constant state of Fear/Awe. Therefore, like so many billions of humans before, he simply chose to ignore the idea.
He watched the pin point of the transport's plasma drive for a few moments, then looked at Bobby, who smiled gently. “Mistress Kalley's garden needs a bit of work,” he said softly. Simon nodded and Bobby closed the shutter.
Several hours later Simon returned to quarters. He was tired and dirty, but happy and content. He stripped off his coveralls and sat naked on the floor while Tristabel excitedly searched both them and him for new smells. Then he fed her and took a shower.
Clean and relaxed, Simon climbed into his sleeping cradle. Its prosthetics attached the bleeder/feeder tubes to the nozzles on his lower abdomen and he began to drift off. He was vaguely aware of Tristabel climbing onto his chest and curling up to sleep.
He smiled slightly...and then those fluffy little sheep once again began their dance upon that lush green meadow and Simon went down past them into a deep and restful sleep.
“Alta Kalifornia” [outline]
Rotating the Orbital [a mini-ring world] for the first time. Still bare metal inside. 81 years of construction. Half a century to go. But once it's spinning, there is gravity.
“Res Publica” [This story is to be edited and expanded]
~Jammala Bokarina, Senator for North West Upper America, was nervous, a condition that had been largely unknown to her for decades. But the New Admissions Plebiscite in progress was her first piece of legislation to be voted upon.
It was essentially Pro Forma, the well prepared admission of the Luang Prabang Semi-Urban Polity into South Asia, a little gift from the Senior Senators to the 'new kid'. But, unlike some of the Specialist Categories, nearly all Sisters had qualified to vote in the New Admissions Category, so this was also a major debut.
Jammala had never wanted to be a member of The Sisterhood's Senate. But that was how it worked. Only the reluctant could be nominated and then they had to sing the praises of their opponent, which most did enthusiastically, as they were, well...reluctant. Those who really didn't want the job would be try to be tepid in their praise, thereby hinting that they did want the job, but Voting Sisters had gotten pretty good at sniffing out that trick.
Jammala was actually an Elder, having been born in the early days of The Sisterhood and had managed to avoid being tapped for The Senate by being in crucial jobs in Space Force and The Ministry of External Affairs. Of course, once she was eligible, such made her all the more qualified. She accepted her fate when it came.
Nominations were regional, but voting was general. The Senate did represent the entire Sisterhood after all. Jammala had won with a significant plurality.
She had served only one year of her twelve year term. Advise and Consent mostly. The Senate crafted legislation and then submitted it to a Plebiscite voted upon by Sisters who qualified for that Category. The Sisterhood itself was 'the lower house'.
Direct download via neural nanonics was the only thing that made such a system workable. Full Immersion programs on the issue at hand were prepared by several working groups, carefully vetted by all the others. Download and Review determined Voting Qualification. Except for a few truly complex Specialist Categories, most Sisters could qualify with a modest amount of focus.
Jammala sat in the Senate Chamber. Because this was her first time, there was a Full Quorum, all twenty six Senators, the Four Ministers – Service, Force, Internal Affairs, External Affairs - and the President of The Senate. In other words, the entire government of The Union of Matriarchal Republics, aka The Sisterhood, was physically present.
It was a wonderful and terrifying show of support.
Over an hour had passed since the soft chime inside everyone's head, both in the Senate Chamber, and throughout The Sisterhood, with a pleasant voice whispering, “This is a reminder from the Electoral Directorate. Voting in the General Plebiscite regarding the question of the admission of the Luang Prabang Semi-Urban Polity into the Union of Matrilineal Republics will be closing in two hours. If you have not yet voted, please do so now. Thank you.”
There had been smiles and a polite round of applause. Jammala had smiled and nodded at her colleagues. Then other legislation was discussed, but all were really just killing time.
Finally, after what seemed an eon, came another soft chime. The pleasant voice spoke. “This is an announcement from the Electoral Directorate. Voting in the General Plebiscite regarding the question of the admission of the Luang Prabang Semi-Urban Polity into the Union of Matrilineal Republics had been concluded. Admission has been approved. The tally is as follows.”
The admission was by a wide margin, over ninety percent. The Chamber erupted in loud applause and cheers. Jammala felt as if she had survived a war. She thought, “Childbirth was easier than that,” but did not say so. She knew her eight Daughters would tease her mercilessly if she did.
So she just smiled brightly.
Serious gender bending in in the Male Birthing subculture in Cape Town, Euro-African Sodality, the successor state to the European Union and the African Federation, and the last non-Sisterhood state on Earth.
The story of a young True Male from an insane Eastern Orthodox state in the Urals, a fringe member of the Euro-African Sodality, and how then he journeys into The Sisterhood to become a pleasure server.
“The Endless Grass Plain” [outline]
Red Epona debarks onto Alta Kalifornia led by Jane Mimsdottor...
~Iris Nemmera-Shimizu was ready to make history. She could feel it in her core. So she was mildly annoyed at being distracted by this mysterious side trip.
Everything in her bones demanded that she focus her full attention on The Williamina. For Iris, this mission was the reason for her entire life, all the two hundred and forty three Solanums since she was born on a Karaal in sight of The Quito Space Elevator.
Growing up she'd watched it every day, watched the Sun's light shift through endless shades at rising and setting as it reflected off The Stalk's polished metal sections, and knew her Fate was 'out there'.
But Admiral Kaur said that was an important meeting and if The Sisterhood taught any Lesson, it was Patience, So here she sat, on a shuttle heading toward one of the dozens of Gaeomes clustered around Point C.
Out of a portal she could see the old Point B, the faint sparkling of Alta Kalifornia. The Orbital was about twenty two million miles away. That had been her home for nearly a century now. Roughly a million miles closer was the newer Orbital, Gaea Nova, already far more massive even though barely half complete.
A third of the way around the orbital path of Mother Herself, Point B had been the primary destination for raw materials from all over the Solar System for more than four centuries now. And for a substantial portion of Space Force personnel as well.
That made it easy to siphon off a small amount of both to Point C and Project Skylark. Operational Security was high, though most Space Force officers above the rank of Senior Lieutenant knew 'something was cooking' out there. But, by habit, they kept their moths shut.
The small clique of Phallists left on Mother became more desperate as their numbers dwindled and their final extinction came closer. If any of them ever got wind of what was really going on at Point C, who could tell how insane their reaction might be?
Not even the extremely faint possibility that they could reach out here and sabotage Skylark was to be chanced. If the project succeeded, well, The Sisterhood would burn that bridge when they came to it. Success would truly Change Everything Forever.
The first time Iris had been brought out to Point C to see The Williamina she thought she was the ugliest ship she'd ever seen, a lumpy looking sphere stuck in the middle of a pair of toroidal structures at an odd angle to each other, all a raw dull gray. But what she represented was the most beautiful thing possible for any Spacer: a practical faster-than-light spaceship. A theoretical one, at least.
And Captain Iris Nemmera-Shimizu would be her Pilot/Commander...and her entire physical crew, as well. There was Williamina's Ship Mind, but that was The Ship Itself, the cluster of integrated tank grown brains that were needed to run any serious space vessel.
Like any other type of Mandriod, Ship Minds were grown from male DNA and Bonded to their Mistress, in this case the ship's CO. Iris was an experienced Flag Captain and had been a Pilot/Commander of a dozen Loop Ships before this assignment.
A promotion from Commander to Captain had also come with the job. Admiral Kaur had said, “You were due for this anyway, but the captain of The Williamina needs to actually BE a Captain,” grinning as she pinned the trio of seven pointed stars to Iris' collar.
The shuttle docked and Iris debarked. Most Gaeomes looked the same from the outside unless one made a detailed examination. But once you exited from the shuttle bay they were fairly easy to classify. This one was a Demeter, Three Fifty Seven by the bulkhead number. They were a 'residential' version of the Chang-Ngo model, the latter basically 'barracks ships', albeit very cushy ones.
The first sign was the large amount of forest, about a third of the ground area. The second were the foot bridges over the river that flowed through and around the middle of the sphere. These bespoke Luxury, something a purely operational Gaeome eschewed.
Then she heard the cries of various exotic birds. That was positively decadent for a small closed bio-system like this. “Oh, yes,” she thought. “Someone Important was in residence here.” Maybe even an Original Elder.
She was glad she wore her Class B's, a black tunic and pants with silver piping on the collar, the cuffs, on the front seam of the tunic and along the side seam of the pants. Upon her shaved head she wore a black envelope cap with silver trim along the top edge and her Captain's rank insignia - made of solid silver - on one side..
A Sister in an elegant turquoise pantsuit approached her. She was clearly an Elder and the material simmered has she moved. On her left lapel she wore the ancient and rarely seen Inner Temple symbol. Iris was impressed, which was likely the point.
“Greetings, Captain,” she said. “Please follow me.”
At that she turned and started walking. Iris followed. Their route was a stone paved path – more Luxury – that led through part of the forest, which then exited into a flower garden, beyond which was a large single story adobe house.
Another Elder Sisters waited for them outside the house in a patio area. She wore a cream colored robe of pure silk. Iris recognized her at once: Aisha Genscher, the Governor of Alta Kalifornia and an Original Elder, which made her over eight hundred Solanums old. For a moment Iris thought this was who she had been summoned to meet, but the Governor's body language didn't say that. She was just another guide.
“Greetings, Governor.” She nodded her head to indicate a 'salute'.
The Governor smiled. “Greetings, Captain.” She looked at Iris intently. “Before we go in, regarding protocol, it has been decided that addressing him as 'Grandfather' is the simplest.”
“Him?” Iris thought. “Grandfather?” If she'd had any hair on the back of her neck, it would have stood up. But her Neural Nanonics kicked in and leveled her.
“Yes, Mistress,” she said calmly. The Governor turned and went into the house. Iris followed.
The house was high ceilinged and simply furnished. Hard wood floors with lots of rugs. The various pieces of art work, small sculptures and oil paintings – most of an ancient naval variety – all seemed very ancient themselves, giving the place the feel of a lived-in museum.
Her Nanonics kept working to level her, though she was aware of her underlying emotions. The last time she'd felt this eerily detached calmness was as an Ensign on her first Loop Ship run. She'd been Off Watch, but still awake when they got hit by a huge micro-meteor swarm. The ship rattled with thousands of impacts and the alarms screamed with dozens of penetrations. Three Sisters and seventeen Mandriod crew died, but they managed to save the ship, though only just.
“Haven't thought of that in decades,” she mused.
Then they were out into a smaller back garden. And then she saw him, the Old Man. That name came to her unbidden. She was quite certain he was a True Man and he was obviously very old. He sat in some sort of Med-Chair dozing. A pink blanket with pale blue flowers was thrown over his lap. He was totally hairless and looked like he had once been a large man, though now he seemed hollowed out.
As they approached, he looked up sharply, suddenly alert, eyes alive with vitality. He smiled.
“Ah, Captain, I am so very glad to me you. Forgive me for not rising, but I'm hooked up to bleeder/feeder tubes like some agricultural Mandroid taking his afternoon nap.” He grinned broadly. Iris liked him at once, even though, as a True Man, he was The Enemy.
“Greetings, Grandfather,” she said smiling and nodding her head.
“Yes, yes.” He patted the very comfortable chair next to him. “Come, sit with an old fool for a while.” His Standart was perfect, but his accent was very odd. She didn't run an analysis because it would distract her and be impolite.
She sat and then looked at him closer...and saw The Pendant. Her Nanonics hiccuped a bit.
“Goddess!” she blurted. He just laughed.
“Yes, it's me. And yes, I'm still alive, though I'm hanging on by my fucking fingernails.” He looked at her with great intensity. “That's why I wanted to see you, grand daughter.” He looked at the Governor, who hovered nearby. “Which is she, daring?”
“Captain Nemmera-Shimizu is your fourteenth great daughter,” Aisha said with a hint of amusement.
Iris looked at her blankly, then back at the Old Man.
“Now don't think this is nepotism, young lady,” he said, then leaned forward. “You are the best for the job. But the Nemmera Clan has always been the best gens, so that only makes sense.”
She had never heard the expression 'young lady' used outside of historical theatrical productions.
He sat back. “Eh, bad manners.” He looked at her with tenderness. “Would you like some tea, Captain?”
“Yes, Grandfather,” she said genuinely. “That would be very nice.”
There was a cart with a teapot, ceramic cups and a plate of cookies standing near the garden door. To her utter astonishment, the Governor poured two cups, place them on a tray with the cookies and served them both.
The Old Man cackled. “No Mandroids in this house. Security risk. And my existence tends to confuse them.” He looked at the Governor, smiled warmly. “Aisha has taken care of me, on and off, since just after the dawn of time.”
“So,” he said, turning back to Iris, “You're a go in two days I understand.”
“Yes, Grandfather.” Think of Skylark calmed her immensely. “We've tested everything half to death and back and it's time to simply just make the leap.”
“Good. This is what we've all been working toward since the very beginning.” He looked out at the spherical landscape. “It was a close run thing.”
He looked back at her. “You younglings don't truly realize how close my brothers came to extermination the whole blessed species. For some of those lunatics that was the goal, to take us all to their fucking psychotic Father God.”
He shuddered slightly “The Sisterhood stopped all that, but we're not truly secure until we can escape the Solar System.” He smiled. “But I'm not telling you anything you don't know that regard.”
Iris leaned forward, grasped his hand. “There's knowing, Grandfather. And then there's Knowing. You have just given me that gift.”
His eyes misted up and he clutched her hand with both of his. “Thank you, grand daughter. Thank you.” Tears began to stream from his eyes.
The Governor stepped close. “I think that's enough for now.” He let go of Iris' hands and wiped his tears.
“Yes, I need to last a couple, three more days at least.” He smiled at Iris. “Captain, thank you for taking the time to come and see me.”
Iris stood up. “Thank you for inviting me.” She leaned down and kissed his still moist cheek. “I know your prayers will guide me, Grandfather.”
He was dozing again as the Governor led her back through the house.
Fifty three hours later she was firmly ensconced in the Pilot/Commander's main operations pod on board The Williamina.
“All of my systems are nominal, darling,” the Ship Mind's semi-masculine voice whispered in her head.
“Thank you, love,” she replied sweetly. Iris felt that a deep intimacy was best for this mission. “Control, you copy that?”
“We copy that, Skylark,” said the External Mission Commander. “Light her up whenever even you're ready.”
“Affirmative, Control.” Iris sent the non-verbal command to the Ship Mind. Systems began to ramp up and the ship began to vibrate. That quickly built to a peak and then...
...Iris found herself suspended in some sort of limbo...vaguely aware of Ship Mind 'somewhere'...floating...no sense of physicality...endless...endless...endles
Iris was slammed back into physical space but in total darkness. Her Neural Nanonics had crashed. All of The Williamina's systems were off line. She knew the utter terror of absolute aloneness. Her mouth dry as desert stone. She could barely breath. Her bladder and bowels voided. She wondered if she was dead.
Then her Nanonics rebooted, followed quickly by the ship's systems.
“That was very disconcerting,” rasped the Ship Mind.
“Tell me about it,” croaked Iris. Her Nanonics were leveling her and her Ship Suit was absorbing her waste.
“Nothing seems physically damaged. All systems are coming back on line. Nominal in approximately seven minutes.”
“Visual and passive already working.” Iris took a reading and determined no immediate threat. She sighed deeply and slumped into the pod cushioning.
“Any idea where we are?”
“Wait one.” There was a pause that went on forever. “Ah,” came a happy tone. “Given the star readings, we are approximately two point four seven light years out from Sol. Well within the target zone.”
Iris screamed with joy. “So, I expect that means we have a good chance at making it back to Point C.”
“Yes, darling,” the Ship Mind cooed. “Very good. Certainly within the Solar System.” The pod could put her into a medical coma if the recovery time was extensive.
“Okay, let's do a full diagnostic and then subject ourselves to that unpleasantness again.”
“I was afraid you were going to say that.
Ninety seven minutes later The Williamina jumped once again.
Now that she knew what to expect the 'coming out' was not so terrifying. In fact everything rebooted quite fast when you knew that it would.
Mission Command's voice faded in. “...do you copy? Skylark, this is Mission Command. Do you copy?”
“This is Skylark, Mission Command. We copy.” She could hear the cheering in the back ground.
“Goddess Bless, Skylark. Welcome back.”
“Glad to be back, Mission Command.
“Status please, Skylark.”
“All systems nominal. But the jump knocks everything out for a few seconds. However we did reach the target zone...” More cheering “...and the mission duration was...two hours, five minutes, twelve seconds, ship time”
Mission Command got quiet. “Well, Skylark, that's interesting. By our count, you were gone seventeen hours, thirty one minutes, forty five seconds.”
“Yes, interesting indeed,” Iris laughed. “Guess we're all going to be very busy these next few years.”
The Old Man had been listening in on all of this. He relaxed and sat back.
“Now I can get some real rest.” Aisha was sitting next to him. “Give my pendant to that young lady, will you, my dear.”
She smiled. “Of course. I'll take care of that myself.”
“Give me a kiss.” She kissed him softly on the lips. “I love you all,” he said, then closed his eyes.
Once he stopped breathing, she carefully took the pendant from around his neck, then just sat with him for a while.
“A Final Step” [unfinished]
~The shuttle lifted off smoothly and almost silently from the First Karaal's landing field, then zipped away into the sky, its Tesla drive powered by, and flying along, Mother's own layers of electromagnetic fields. Inside, Sarah felt no acceleration at all. Inertial dampeners completely canceled out any G-effects.
She did not look out the port until they were well into the upper atmosphere. The sudden dropping away of the ground tended to give her vertigo and she wanted this trip to go without any unpleasantness.
Even though it was a very very long time ago, Sarah clearly remembered when she first made this journey, back when it was eleven hours from the British Isles to SoCal. Today, going in the other direction, it would taken barely forty minutes.
That time she traveled by herself with strangers. This time she had...
.....When she took delivery of Smith sixty two years before, Sarah had decided he would be her last Body Servant, and that when he expired, she would let go as well. She was already over a thousand years old at the time and a bit tired. Her health was fine and ReJuve could give her a few more centuries at the very least. But her world was now mostly past and her Work largely done.
Mother was almost empty these days, maybe three million Sisters still living upon her surface. The rest of The Sisterhood, nearly half a billion, were Off World, many never having ever even set foot on Gaea Herself. Most of them lived on the Orbitals, Alta Kalifornia, and her big sister, the massive Gaeanova. The rest were scattered throughout the solar system and in footholds in three other nearby star systems.
Sarah was an Original Elder, one of the First Hundred Sisters from when The Sisterhood began back in the Time of Men. About a dozen others were still alive, but she was the only one left upon Mother. That is where she always felt at home. “Old fashioned,” she would say to herself with a wistful smile.
And now Smith had passed....con't
"Visit To A World Called Dirt"
~About a million miles out from the planet, space began to quiver and distort.
After a few seconds, the Susapan scoutship Illaun dropped into normal space. It was small by Susapan standards, twenty six miles on its axis, a bit over seven at its widest diameter, its smooth ovoid surface a mother-of-pearl swirling.
But only a half dozen Triads called Illaun home, so there was plenty of room.
Noseemateemah, voted Captain for this voyage, checked the instruments, wrinkled zir's massive brow.
“No electromagnetic activity whatsoever,” zee beamed to zir's shipmates. Zee received collective Dismay/Confusion.
“There should be at least a basic technology available,” beamed Kashiatosopate, Illaun's XO. A collective Sigh went through the ship.
“Blind landing,” was the Group Thought. An atmospheric shuttle was activated.
“I'm going down myself,” beamed Noseemateemah. All knew zir well enough not to waste time debating the matter.
Close in, biosigns were detected. Noseemateemah chose a spot nearest the largest grouping, a community of about six hundred or so clustered on a temperate coastline.
Saamerah looked up from reweaving her fishing net to watch the spherical shuttle land upon the beach. She kept sewing while observing.
A seam in the sphere opened and out came this huge being, somewhat pyramid shaped, with six flexible looking arms around its thick midriff and walking on..Saamerah counted, 'seven, eight'...ten legs. She estimated the creature weighed a quarter ton at least, though it moved quite gracefully.
It stopped in front of her, held up all its arms, palms out.
“Universal sign of friendship,” she thought. She stopped sewing and responded in kind.
The creature looked at her with a pair of wide green eyes, made squawking sounds with its lipless mouth.
“I do not understand what you're saying,” said Saamerah.
“Ah, thank you,” said the creature in Saamerah's tongue. “I am Noseemateemah. Is this Dirt?”
“Dirt?” she said. “Not sure what you mean.”
“Is this the world called Dirt?” Noseemateemah said.
Saamerah thought for a moment, then laughed.
Noseemateemah recognized amusement. “Why is that funny?” zee asked.
“Earth,” said Saamerah. “This world is called Earth, which granted is a word for 'dirt'”
Noseemateemah turned a bright purple. Saamerah though it a lovely shade.
“Deity, I feel like a fool.” Zee bowed slightly. “My apologies, friend.”
“No worries, Noseemateemah,” Saamerah smiled, “It's an obvious semantic mistake.”
She extended her hand. “My name's Saamerah, by the way.”
Noseemateemah gently grasped Saamerah's hand. “Greetings, Saamerah.”
Zee then looked around. “What happened here?” zee asked.
“What do you mean?”
“The cities? The civilization? Where did it all go?”
Saamerah heard some distress in Noseemateemah's tone and felt a kinship for this odd looking being.
“Got rid of all of it,” she said.
Noseemateemah's eyes got even wider, which actually amazed Saamerah, and zee's mouth hung open. “Got rid of it?”
Saamerah laughed again, felt a bit guilty about that.
“Oh, we have buckets of tech, just not here.” She gestured around. “Only a few hundred thousand Small Earthers like me live here. The rest, about two billion or so, live on the Orbitals on the other side of Sol.”
Noseemateemah made a trilling sound that Saamerah swore was laughter.
“Deity Bless, I nearly had a stroke.” Zee huffed a great sigh. “I was worried.”
“So, what brings you to these parts, friend Noseemateemah?”
Zee's lipless mouth curled up in an actual smile.
“This was our home world once, about twenty thousand Solanums ago,” zee said, “Some of us got nostalgic and wanted to see what was going on with the old place...”
Noseemateemah looked straight into Saamerah's eyes, “Cousin.”
It was now Saamerah's turn to gawp.
Her Prophet Explains: Part Seven “Summation”