Christmas in space?
That was the challenge that was presented to me by fellow author, TT Linse, just last month. She was putting together a collection of short science fiction stories that were set in space and related to Christmas. "Do you have anything for me?" she said.
I pondered this intriguing idea and wound up pitching the second concept I came up with. She loved the pitched and asked if I could get it to her in a week.
Now that's a fast turnaround, but I felt so intrigued by the concept her request had inspired that I figured I should at least give it try. So I got to work. The result wound up being published on her site on Christmas Day. It will also be included in an anthology book of short stories about Christmas in space.
If you would like to give it a read, I invite you to check out the first scene from the story bellow and head over to TT Linse's site to read the whole thing.
Lissy Avila cracked the knuckles on her short fingers for the fourth time as she swallowed back her nerves at being summoned by the new Secretary-General for the Council of Earth Nations, or CEN. Her thoughts wandered down paths she did not wish to tread, so she took a deep breath and practiced emptying her mind, separating her awareness from her fleeting emotions. The door slid open and Jack Anderson, tall and blond, strode in. Avila stood, ready to welcome him. A tall young woman followed him in.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, reverend,” Anderson said and smiled as he reached out a hand.
“No apology necessary.” Avila shook his hand. “And no one around here calls me reverend. I’m simply Lissy.”
“I see. You’ll have to forgive my propensity for formalities. This is my lead administrator, Ms. Gwen Martin.” He indicated the young woman. The woman brushed back a lock of red hair and nodded slightly, and the three of them took their seats around the conference table.
“I’m going to be forthright with you, reverend—or … Ms. Avila,” Anderson said. “I’ve been led to believe you appreciate someone who gets right into … things of substance.”
“You’re not wrong,” Avila said, raising her eyebrows.
“I’m new to this position. Barely a month in. And … things are far from ideal between the Ossil and the CEN. In fact, the delicate peace we’ve enjoyed these past five years is on shaky ground.” He smiled. “You’ll have to forgive me—I’m afraid my metaphors are still quite Earth-based. I’ve been told the ground in Alliance does not shake.”
“Not usually,” Avila said. “It just spins.”
He laughed. “Thankfully, my inner ears have finally adjusted. Though, I must admit the higher levels are not for me. I like to stick as close to 1 G as I can.”
“I can relate,” Avila said. “So, tell me, why do you want to talk to a lowly chaplain when obviously there are more pressing issues on your mind.”
He flashed a broad smile. “You’ve made a friend.”
Avila took a breath in and back out before responding. “Ekrahm,” she said. “Yes, he is a friend.”
“Wonderful. Friendship between humans and Ossil is rare. And especially at a time like this, it is important that we hold those closely. I want to learn from you, Ms. Avila. I want to better understand the Ossil.”
“Is this quest for understanding … done in the name of peace?”
“That is my goal,” Anderson said.
“Since we are being forthright, Mr. Secretary-General,” Avila said, “I want to remind you that my role here is neutral. My allegiance is to truth, peace, and prosperity for all people. I’m here as a servant of love, not of war.”
He raised his manicured eyebrows. “An admirable position. I mean that. My responsibility is to represent the best interest of humanity. The Ossil have come into our solar system. They mine our asteroid belt, harvest elements from Jupiter’s atmosphere, and now seek to journey closer to Earth to reach Venus, though they won’t share with us what they want with Venus. They possess technology and scientific knowledge that makes both interstellar travel and life extension possible. How they power their ships is a complete mystery to us. Could their energy source be made into a weapon against humanity? My aim is the protection of our people.”
You mean, what if it could be exploited by humanity, she caught herself thinking. But Avila reminded herself to pause, to not react. Reaction is the enemy of free will, she repeated to herself. She looked into the effectively earnest eyes of the Secretary-General. Was he sincere?
“I’m happy to share with you what I have learned of Ossil culture if it will help you better understand them, appreciate their point of view, and be open to constructive dialogue.”
He pursed his lips and nodded once.
Wonder who they have lined up to replace me, Avila thought.
“I appreciate your position, reverend. All I ask is that you keep in mind your duty to protect your fellow humans. To protect your homeworld. Ideals are a wonderful thing. But don’t let those ideals cloud your judgment.”
He stood, and the administrator stood as well.
“Thank you for your time, Ms. Avila. I hope we can speak again soon.”