Tom Pfeiffer requested a private meeting with Robert Kempe, Governor of Rehome colony. Asked by the official answering the phone about the subject of the proposed meeting, Tom replied carefully, "It is a discussion of private concern between me and the Governor. I need his advice in a matter of some delicacy."
"Oh." The official was stuck as to what else he could ask, and simply said, "I shall see if we can fit you in. Is the matter urgent, in that it must be today, or can it wait?"
"Not that urgent, but it has to be settled very quickly. It should not take up much of the Governor's time."
"Very well. I will phone you back when we have a time, sir. Can I have your name, please?"
Tom laughed, "You ARE new to Rehome, aren't you? Most of the officials recognise my voice. I am Tom Pfeiffer, editor of the Rehome News online paper."
The man had a sudden mental image of a bad news report about the staff of the department, and revised his stance.
"I shall do what I can for you, Mr. Pfeiffer."
Tom turned to his new boss, Jeannette Reagan, and grinned, "I could hear that new lad starting to panic at what might be said in the paper about him. As if we would be so nasty, darling. I'll guess he will be back to us in ten minutes."
He was wrong. The official was back on the phone in eight minutes.
"Mr Pfeiffer, the Governor says he can fit you in just before lunch time. He says come at ten to one. Is that all right with you?"
"That sounds admirable, thank you. I am pleased that the administration department is as efficient as usual."
"Thank you, sir. I shall confirm that appointment for you." The man sounded relieved.
Tom put down his phone and turned to face Jeannette. "That's it arranged. Let's see what Bob can do for us."
"You think it is that important, Tom my love?"
"I do. You will need anonymity for some time, at least as far as your old name is concerned. I am sure that The Personalia will obscure your face in any visual transmissions back to Earth, and altering voiceprints is nothing to them."
"If you say so, Tom." She leaned forward and kissed him tenderly. He preened, and almost melted with pleasure.
Tom was at the Colony Admin office with time to spare. He announced his name at the door, but it was superfluous as he was recognised by at least half the staff. He was given a chair to wait for the Governor, and two minutes later was ushered in, "Mr. Pfeiffer, Governor."
Bob Kempe welcomed him with outstretched hand. "Come in, Tom. What is bothering you that we need a private meeting?"
Tom waited until the usher had closed the door, and announced, "I am concerned about marrying Jeannette under her correct name."
"You are? Why?"
"A wedding is just too public, especially any wedding of mine. I think Jeannette needs to be kept off Earth's radar for some time yet."
"But, Tom, there is no way they can get access to her on Rehome."
"Not directly, I grant you, but they may try to rubbish her name. You know that she has bought the paper, and is going to start up a publishing business. Well, that will be fine after we are married, because then she will be Mrs Jeannette Pfeiffer, which will not mean anything to the spooks on Earth. Is there any way we can marry without making her present surname public?"
"I see what you are getting at, Tom. You want her to start your marriage as an individual with a clean slate, not being notorious on Earth as one the Malan Mothers who escaped their jurisdiction?"
"That's it exactly. I know the rules, but wondered if they can at least be bent a little, in a good cause."
Bob snorted his laugh. "Bent a little? You know how few rules we have, Tom. However, we do have to have her name on the forms before marriage, and the celebrant has to state the name. What is her name, anyway?"
Tom frowned in surprise, as he was aware that Bob was perfectly cognizant of Jeannette's name. "Jeannette Reagan is her married name, and Nabarro was her maiden surname. But you already know that, Bob."
Bob looked at him intently. "Are you sure, Tom? Could it be that she is Jeannette Pfeiffer, having decided at some point to change the name she wants to be known by? If she now answers only to Jeannette Pfeiffer, or any other surname for that matter, then all the wedding documentation will just call her that. You could also get the previous documentation altered, such as her purchasing the paper and setting up her business, to name her in the same way."
Tom closed his open mouth. "Governor, you have a way of simplifying most problems, and that method never occurred to me. Thank you. I think her problem is now solved. Can I treat you to lunch?"
Bob scowled a trifle as he replied, "Tom! I have a snack lunch prepared by Mary. Do you imagine I would give that up for a canteen lunch, or even one of our new restaurants in the city?"
Tom gulped, as he recalled that Mary Kempe, one of Bob's wives, was the best chef on Rehome. "Sorry, Bob. Mea culpa! Forget I said that. I shall go back to the office and share a sandwich with my boss. At least the company there is better than you!"
Bob grinned. "Go ahead and give my love to Jeannette and Enid."
Tom went on his way, a happy man. Getting back to the office, where Jeannette had their lunch laid out on the office table, he told her, "Darling, it turns out it is simpler than I expected. Call yourself Jeannette Pfeiffer from now on, then get your official documents relating to your business deals altered the same way, and we have you safely hidden."
"Tom, that is wonderful. So simple, but effective! That deserves another kiss, my man." She proceeded to kiss him, with her arms round him and pressing herself to him. Tom responded happily, until Jeannette pulled back. "Darling, our tea will be getting cold, so we must stop this for now ... or perhaps in a little while ... mmmmm."
Usgar, Jeannette's Malan son, was enjoying his lunch break at infant school, where he was in his first year. The green-skinned Malan children – all of roughly the same age – had elected to sit with their various human friends rather than sit as a clique. They had all been enjoined to act and behave as normal human beings, not as half aliens. Their classmates appreciated the gesture and treated them the same as their human friends.
This approach had been assisted by the teachers, who had explained to the school assembly that, boys and girls, Malans and Humans, they were all children together. The head teacher had spoken to the pupils at that morning assembly at the beginning of term, saying, "Children, now that you are in my school, let me make this clear: you are not Americans, British, French, or Earth children any more. No matter where you were born, or on which planet, you are now all residents of Rehome Colony, so you all have that in common.
Apart from that, you are all different!
People are all different from each other, as individuals, and our Malan children are just the same in that way.
There are children here from communities all over Earth, many of whom originally spoke different languages and have had to learn English as the official language of Rehome. The Malan children, who I should remind you are the children of human mums, are much the same as these children from other countries.
In fact, they all speak perfect English, as well as the Malan language, so in many ways the Malan children are better prepared for learning in English than many of your fellow pupils. Do not be surprised if therefore they do better than you in class. It is up to you to display what abilities or talents you yourself have, and not be jealous of others who have different talents.
Introduce yourselves to any Malan children in your class, and get to know them. They can tell you a lot about what the planet Mala used to be like before it was destroyed by invaders. Your Malan fellow pupils are the sole survivors of their race, so as our special guests we want them to integrate well with us."
He continued, "I should also mention that some of your fellow pupils who attended nursery school with the Malan children are able to speak Malan. I am telling you so that you need not be surprised to find some pupils chatting in Malan to them. You might find it useful to pick up some Malan during your time here, so that you don't feel left out. I shall be doing exactly that myself, so that I will know what you are all talking about, and what you are up to, whether you speak in English or Malan: you have been warned!
That is all I have to say today. I expect you all to integrate as a Rehome community in this school. Please do not disappoint me. I am not a happy bunny if I am disappointed, I warn you!"
Usgar was telling his pals that he now had THREE mummies, one Malan (she was a mechanoid, he explained), and two human Mummies, one his birth mother and the other the wife of the man whom his birth mother was going to marry.
One of his pals, Trevor, commented, "Lucky you. I only have one Mum, and most of the time she is busy with my other brothers and sisters."
Usgar said he understood. "My third Mummy, Mummy Enid, has a daughter named Beatrice. She is just three, so I am her big brother now. It is weird, being responsible for a younger sister, isn't it?"
"Yeah," said Trevor. "I have two younger sisters. They get in the way of me doing what I want to do. I have to keep an eye on them all the time, to make sure they don't get hurt, or lost when we are out as a family. I don't enjoy it."
"But don't you enjoy being part of a family group, Trevor?"
Trevor grudgingly assented. "I suppose so. I like it when Mum gives me a cuddle, and Dad is good at teaching me boy things. They both read me bedtime stories before I go to sleep, but now that I am learning to read, I'll have to read the stories for myself, they tell me. That sounds like hard work."
Usgar told him, "I am just starting to get used to being part of a human family: Two Mummies, my Daddy and my little sister. Before, it was just us Malan children being brought up together. I am told by Mother Narech that it was so that we would learn how to be a Malan. I expect that was the best idea at the time, but now I have to learn all about being part of a human family."
"And what do you think of that?" asked Trevor.
"I am quite enjoying the experience," said Usgar. "I have not had so many cuddles before now, but getting cuddles from Mummy has been a fun experience for me. Humans are so soft but strong. Mother Narech was so hard, that a cuddle from her was simply a gesture. My new family make me feel that they love me."
"Gesture? Experience?" Trevor was amazed at Usgar's vocabulary. "You sure know some big words, Usgar?"
"I suppose I do, Trevor, but it is simply that English is a second language for me, so I study it more intensely."
"There you go again: intensely. You sure have picked up a lot of words, Usgar."
Usgar grinned. "Words can be very strong in conveying meanings more exactly, Trevor. As I learned Malan first, as a baby, English was more a matter of translation, except that the way words are strung together is different. It doesn't bother me, as I learned a lot from speaking with human friends. My first human friends were the children of the Governor; and they soon picked up Malan as well. We used Malan at the nursery school for all our lessons. We used English when we were away from the Nursery school."
Then Usgar looked puzzled. "Trevor, can you tell me why people from Earth speak so many different languages? Mala had just the one language; why didn't Earth have the same?"
Trevor grimaced. "I don't know, Usgar. I grew up speaking both English and French. That was because my Dad was an English speaker and my Mum was French. She could always speak English, but she insisted on us children being able to speak French too. She seemed to think it was important. Je ne sais pas pourquoi. C'est la vie."
After getting the French explained to him, Usgar decided, "I'll ask my Daddy about Earth languages tonight, when he gets home. He knows an awful lot. I know something as well: some grown-ups here have been learning Malan, so it is not just Malans that use the language. My Mummy has been learning it since she came to Rehome from England, and is gradually getting the hang of it. She is a lovely Mummy."
Trevor quizzed him, "I thought you Malans didn't have real Daddies and Mummies? At least that was what I was told."
Usgar was nonchalant about it. "Yes, that was true at the time, but we all had Earth mothers that we didn't know about, and my Mummy is here with me now. She and Daddy are getting married, so he becomes my real Daddy when that happens. Of course, he says he is already my Daddy, in every other way, so he is no longer "Mister Tom", but "Daddy" to me."
"That's great, Usgar. You are the same as everybody else, now!"
"I suppose I am, Trevor, but that is not important. Being myself is more important than having a Mum and a Dad, Mummy says, and so does Mother Narech."
"Hey, that sounds about right, Usgar. Your Mums seem to know what they are talking about."
"I expect so. Mummy Jeannette has a got a new business that she has to work at, she says, so I suppose that means less time for me..."
"Naaah, don't work on that idea, Usgar. Just tell her you need more hugs and cuddles from her, and she will give in to you. Mums like to think they are needed, you see."
"Hey, that's neat, Trevor. You are clever as well."
"Mebbe. You going to teach me some Malan?"
"If you want. What do you want to speak Malan for, Trevor?"
"I dunno. Seems a cool idea. We could say things to each other that most of the adults wouldn't know! Just like using a code."
"Hmmm. I heard one grown-up saying they had to learn Malan in case we were saying nasty things or using bad words. I don't even KNOW any bad words, Trevor, at least, as far as I know. The only bad ones I have ever heard were all used by grown-ups, anyway, so I tried to use them myself. I got a telling-off for that. It surprised me, for if it was fine for them to use these words, why is it not fine for me? Adults are peculiar people."
"Wow! What words were they, Usgar? And there you go again: peculiar!"
"I forget now. It was a while ago. I just noticed that other grownups thought they were naughty words, by the way they looked at me after saying them, as if I shouldn't have heard them. Then I was told not to use them. That was more interesting in itself than the words they used."
"Pity," said Trevor. "I would like to know what words are bad words. I would like to try them some time, just to see what happened!" He returned to his other remark, "What does 'peculiar' mean?"
"Peculiar: unusual, unexpected, sort of odd. It is difficult to say exactly. You can look it up in an online dictionary, Trevor. As to bad words, well, that is why adults want to learn Malan: so they can stop us using such words. As I said: peculiar."
Marjory Phelan was surprised at the ease with which she was able to join the colony on Rehome. Being only sixteen, alone and pregnant, she thought she would get a hard time from the customs people when she arrived. She was wrong. They welcomed her, and even granted her farming land and the wherewithal for building a home on it, unless she preferred a home in the city.
Not having any farming background, she took up the option of a flat in the city. When she did so, she was informed that her ownership of the farm land would still stand, but without a farm house. She could, though, negotiate with neighbouring farmers for its utilisation by them for an annual fee. This would guarantee her an income for herself. She asked what that fee should be, but was told it depended on the quality of the land, whether it was level or hilly, and whether there was water readily accessible on it. They suggested a range of fees that she could work from, in her negotiations.
She was left with one major drawback. Being on her own, she had no friends or relatives here to help her find her feet in this community. Her parents had rejected her when she disobeyed them and persisted in going out with her boyfriend whom they thought too old for her. She loved him, and that was more important to her than what her parents wanted.
His rejection of her, once she told him she was pregnant, had come as a great shock. She had thought he loved her in turn, and would stand by her. Instead, he told her he had two other girls that he was fucking regularly, and he had no intention of settling down with one girl at the moment.
That disastrous revelation was the last straw. She wanted to get as far away as possible from her old life. Discovering that Rehome was still accepting emigrants, she went online to ask about this. The response was that, yes, emigrants were welcome, and especially female emigrants, due to a shortage of women in the colony.
She remained apprehensive about this and was prepared to be rejected when she arrived. It was a great relief to find that she was genuinely welcome; and to be given land and a home as well!
Still awestruck by the attitudes prevailing in this new community, she took to wandering the streets of this alien city that had become home to thousands of humans. The weird, alien-designed architecture of all the buildings curiously made her feel more at home. It was not one those run-down towns and cities on Earth. It all seemed new, here.
The residents all seemed to be busy with their own lives, and she was ignored by the passers-by as she strolled around. It did not seem to be the studious ignoring by people in Earth cities, where there was a feeling that they did not want to have anything to do with you. Here, the feeling was that of simply being too busy to stop.
The logical design of the city streets, with a circular pattern, enabled her to keep track of how far she was from the centre. All she had to keep track of where she was, was know her relative position on the circle where her flat was located.
This turned out to be easier than expected. Her phone was loaded with her new address, and she discovered a welcome app installed in the phone. By turning on the city map in her phone, her residence was displayed as a flashing dot, and her current location with a slower-flashing dot, so she could see at a glance how to find her way home.
She found that there were many small businesses in the city, so she wondered whether she could find a job in one of these. At random, she walked into a few, and made enquiries. None had vacancies. It seemed all the vacancies that occurred were quickly taken up by girls looking for a husband. Being visible in a shop was a simple method of increasing one's prominence. Men could easily stop to chat about items on sale, and offer opportunities for more interpersonal relations later.
She gave up for the moment, and walked into a small café for a hot drink, seeing it was mid-afternoon. The climate here was cooler than at home, but not by more than a few degrees. She still was unsure about what it would be like in winter.
Getting a coffee at the counter, she sought a vacant seat at the tables, and elected to join a lady who looked to be about thirty; an innocuous choice, she decided.
"Hi," she said to the lady. "You been in the city long? I'm new here myself."
The lady smiled gently, and replied, "Not very long. I am waiting for my daughter to come out of her school. She is in her first year at school, so I like to meet her, even though she already has friends at the school."
Marjory decided to introduce herself, to appear friendly. "My name's Marjory. What is it like, having a baby?"
"What an odd question, Marjory. My name's Ruth, and I have no idea about dealing with a baby. My baby was born by caesarean section, and I never saw her at the time of the birth. I met my child for the first time a few days ago."
"Really?" Marjory was flummoxed. "What an odd answer!", she thought, but simply said, "That seems unusual". She smiled as she said this, to show she was not being cheeky.
Ruth gave a small laugh. "I suppose it must seem so. I was a surrogate mother, and have only got my daughter back now, after five year's absence."
Marjory was sympathetic to the story. "How sad. The parents presumably got tired of her, and handed her back to you?"
"Oh, no. It was nothing like that. Amech was a test-tube baby, a clone of her deceased mother, you could say."
"Even so, why did you miss the first few years of her life? I am expecting a baby myself: that's why my interest. I am all alone here, so I have no-one to ask about such matters."
"It is a long and tedious story, Marjory, not fit for a nice young lady like you to worry about, so we shall skip that episode, if you don't mind."
"Sure, if you feel that way." She added, inwardly, "I sense a feeling of loss, so I won't push it."
"What about yourself, girl ... Marjory I think you said? How come you are here on your own? Does the baby not have a father?"
"It does, but he is not interested in being a father, just having sex with girls, as I discovered too late."
"Oh, that is a shame, Marjory. At least here you have a better chance of finding a nice man to marry. Even being pregnant is not a barrier, if you find the right man – or woman, for that matter, as I have found is the case in this Colony."
"Oh, yes, you have lots of leeway over marriage here, don't you? Minimal laws, is the theme, I have been told."
Yes, but it is not "you", Marjory. It is "us" and "we", for you are now part of the community. You have to adapt your thinking to the new circumstances. There are a lot of differences between Earth and Rehome, you will find."
"I know. I was surprised to find they gave me a tract of land, even though I will be living in the city. I thought that was very generous, Ruth."
"It isn't really, Marjory. The land, in practice, doesn't cost anything to give to you, and the city was already here, so the only costs were the conversion of the accommodation for human use.
It is the state of society on Rehome that is so amazingly different. One all-encompassing church, that everyone has to adhere to, if they are religious; simple laws, simple legal procedures; a very basic economic structure, aimed primarily at keeping the economy local – no investment from financiers on Earth, for example. They try to keep businesses locally owned and run, even the bigger ones. The rail network is a company mostly owned by the Colony, but part of it is owned by The Personalia.
Now that is a wonder in itself.
That alien spaceship race are masters of any sort of calculations, so they own businesses on Earth, and are the largest auditing firm on that planet. They are great ones for investing in new Colonies, not just Rehome, but New Eden, and I understand they are underwriting future colonies on a couple of other planets.
They design and build new machines for the colonies. For example, they developed a machine to build new rail lines; laying the track bed, ballasting it and then putting down the track, and the technical matters involved with that, while keeping the whole rail line exactly on the route selected by the company.
I am told they are open to investment in new companies on Rehome, if the financial outlook is worthwhile. They are the biggest single investor in Rehome."
She paused, and checked her phone for the time.
"Oh-oh, time I was off to collect Amech. Would you like to meet her?"
"Yeah, sure. She won't mind me tagging along?"
"Gosh no. She loves meeting new people."
Ruth and Marjory left their table and exited the café. Ruth pointed out the direction for the school, and they walked along, still chatting about new things Marjory was discovering about the Colony.
When they got to the school, other mothers were hanging around, waiting for their offspring. Ruth said hello to some of them that she had met earlier, and was similarly greeted in return.
Soon the children started to stream out of the doors, heading for the school gates. Marjory thought nothing of it, as the chattering children came through the gates, heading for their mothers, until a weird-looking boy came out, looking around for his mother.
He saw Ruth, and waved to her, calling, "Hi, Aunt Ruth. Amech has been delayed."
She responded, "Thanks, Usgar. There is no rush. Your Mum is around somewhere."
Just then a voice called, "Usgar!", and he rushed to be hugged by a woman and taken away. Marjory looked at Ruth and said, "He looks a bit ... alien ... Ruth."
"Of course, Marjory. He is a Malan."
"A Malan? What's that?"
"Oh, you don't know about the Malans? You soon will; here comes Amech."
A green-skinned alien girl came running and launched herself at Ruth. "Hi, Mum! Sorry I was late. I had to collect my homework from the teacher and was last in the queue."
Marjory stared at Amech. She was very similar to the boy in looks, but spoke perfect English like any normal educated human being. In fact, she spoke far better English that a normal five-year-old would be expected to know. Ruth performed introductions.
"Amech, this is a new resident of the colony. Say hello to Marjory." Facing Marjory, she smiled and said, "Marjory, this is my beautiful and clever daughter, Amech."
Both girls declared "Hi!" To each other. Marjory went on, "I didn't know you were a Malan, Amech. Your mum hadn't mentioned it before."
Amech beamed at her. "Yes, there are five of us – all the Malans in the universe. Of course, our Mums are honorary Malans, once they can speak the language. Mum is coming along with that, but she will need some time yet to become fluent."
Marjory declared, "My goodness! Your English is perfect, Amech. How did you become so proficient in English?"
"We were taught English by Mother Narech as a second language, and she insisted we learn it completely, to adult level. Sometimes I think Mother Narech forgets that we are not mechanoids, and treats us all like mechanoids!"
Ruth explained, "When the Malan children were brought to Rehome, The Personalia built Mother Narech, a mechanoid made to look like a Malan lady, to act as their mother during their infancy. She taught them to be Malans, and later introduced them to English and interacting with humans. The Malan household was kept isolated for a long while during that initial period. More recently, we birth mothers were found and brought to Rehome, to be reunited with our children. It was marvellous!"
Marjory looked intently at Ruth, becoming aware of the intense bond between a mother and the child she had borne, that could exist without any pressure. She suddenly saw her own unborn child in a new light, and smiled to herself. She had just learned something important about becoming a mother.
Amech wanted to speak, but didn't want to interrupt her mother. That would be rude. She waited until there was a gap in the discussion, and jumped in.
"Mommy, Nargo had some fun this morning. There was a new girl in her class, who didn't know her, and this girl was trying to bully the other girls! She came over and said to Nargo: "You are ugly, girl!"
Nargo responded at once, "No, I am beautiful. My mother says so. You are the one who is ugly; not your face, that's nice - but you are ugly inside!"
The girl was taken aback and tried again, saying, "You are an alien here!"
Nargo said, quite rightly, "No, I am not an alien. I am a Malan, and Malans are special people!!
The girl tried for the third time. "Yes, you are alien. You are not one of us."
This spurred Nargo even more. "My dear girl, I am an Earthwoman. I was born on Earth and my Mummy is an Earthwoman. That makes me "one of us", but if you insist on being different from the rest of us, acting as a bully, you are then NOT one of us."
Mummy, all the other girls laughed loudly at this, and the new girl went red in the face. Her final attack was to say, "But you have green skin!"
That was perfect for Nargo. She looked around the class and retorted, "That's funny. I can see people with white skin, black skin, brown skin, and even yellow skin. So we all have different skin colours; what's new?"
The girl turned and ran at that point. Nargo found herself being clapped on the back by her classmates; they were delighted to see a bully get her comeuppance. It was a great time for Nargo, Mummy!"
Ruth burst into laughter at the tale. "Terrific, Amech! You must let Nargo know that I really appreciated that."
Marjory's head was spinning at what she was seeing and hearing. A human mother with an alien daughter who was attending school with other children, both human and alien, and everyone delighted with it? But how many Malans were there? Didn't she say there were five? Were they all here, at the one school, or scattered over Rehome, or what?
Her partial confusion registered with Ruth, who said to her, "Why don't you come and visit with us, Marjory? I can introduce you to several other ladies who have Malan children. That assumes that you have the time to do so."
Marjory admitted that she had no other pressing engagements on her schedule, and agreed to come along. "Is it a long way away?" she asked.
"Not at all," Ruth assured her. "We don't live far from here; about ten minutes walk or so."
As they walked along, they were caught up by another mother and child. It was another Malan girl who greeted them.
"Hi, Amech, Hi, Aunt Ruth. Did you hear what I did today?"
"Oh, hello, Nargo ... Hi, Esme. This young lady is Marjory. She is new here and is coming to see our home." She returned her attention to Nargo. "Yes, Nargo, I had heard. You were quite an amazing girl, with your repartee! Well done."
Esme looked, puzzled. "Where are Jenny and the two boys? I haven't seen them."
Amech responded, "Oh, the boys were out like a shot, today. They wanted to show Jenny something on the way home."
Esme was still not convinced. "But weren't their mothers expecting them home shortly?"
"Ruth explained, "Jeannette was busy with her new business, and Enid of course has her young daughter, and Margo has her kids, so Esther was taking charge of the three. You know she likes to keep a low profile, even more than I do. She was happy to get away smartish, before the crowd. I got a quick wave from her as she vanished with them in the direction of the station.
You know Usgar: always wants to be the leader. He will be wanting to show off to Jenny, I expect."
Marjory raised a query. "Ruth? Jenny is not a ... it is a human name, is it not? ... So is Jenny a human?" She felt embarrassed to be asking this, but Ruth just laughed it off.
"No, Jenny is a Malan, too. She was named by her birth mother, and was brought up by her on Earth. She is starting to pick up the Malan language now, and learn how to be a Malan."
"Ruth, maybe I am stupid, but I don't understand how this came to be. By the sound of them, all the others have Malan names, don't they? Why?"
"Yes, that is so. The four of them were given their names by The Personalia, as that race were our fount of knowledge for all things Malan. The children were all born on Earth, but Jenny was hidden away, and it is only recently that she was found and rescued, along with her two mothers. So, no opportunity to give her a Malan name. Her mother, Esther, called her Jenny, and so she remains Jenny."
Marjory tentatively examined Ruth's face for signs of duplicity, before asking her next question. "O.K., I'll bite. Why has Jenny got two mothers?"
"Oh. Easy. Her birth mother, Esther, had a female lover named Charlotte, and would not leave Earth without her lover. So, once they all got here, Esther and Charlotte got married, and so Jenny has two mothers, just like Usgar."
"Usgar has two mothers as well?"
"Yes. His birth mother, Jeannette, fell in love with Tom and Enid, and they with her, so she has not long married them – it was just the other day - and now they are three; four, counting Usgar. That's why the two mothers, in that case."
"Oh. I see." Marjory decided to go for the jugular. "How come these odd marriages? I thought these were illegal in most countries."
"True, but Rehome is not "most countries". The law here allows anyone to marry anyone, as long as they love each other enough to commit to a lifelong partnership. I really mean "lifelong", because anyone who wants to leave a marriage without just cause – which means something severe – leaves with NOTHING of the marriage; no assets, children, NOTHING."
"No divorce settlement at ALL?"
"Nothing. No settlement, if you leave. It concentrates the mind wonderfully when you contemplate marriage. You have to be prepared to put your life into it, or don't bother starting. Mind you, there are a few cases of instant divorce. These are where a spouse commits a major crime and is convicted. He, or she, is usually banished to live permanently alone on a distant part of the planet. Less major crimes usually result in banishment to Earth. Both instances are regarded as instant divorces from their spouses. Otherwise, the family goes back to Earth with the perpetrator."
"Wow! Pretty Draconian, isn't it?"
"Yes. Would you prefer it otherwise, for a murderer, rapist or other major crime?"
"Not really, now that I think about it. Don't they have to spend a lot of time in jail before the trial comes to court? They have to go through due process, don't they?"
"Marjory, you are still thinking Earth style, with all the history that has built up over the centuries. On Rehome, they started from scratch, keeping laws to the minimum. Lawyers are in court purely to advise the jury on what the law says or permits. The jury are given all the facts in written reports, they examine the accused, and can call witnesses to answer any questions they have, but that is all. No legal quibbles, no loopholes in the law being exploited by defence lawyers, as there are NO defence lawyers; and NO lawyers for the prosecution. It is just the facts as presented by experts, and legal advice, then the jury deliberates and makes the decision.
It is the court working as it was originally intended to do so. The constraints on the jury are the limited range of penalties, and the legal advice, to which they have to pay heed. The jury are genuinely sometimes making life or death decisions, except that there is no actual death penalty. The banished criminal might be retrieved if later found to be innocent, provided he or she had survived their lonely post. I have never heard of one being returned, but the possibility is there, in case of an injustice."
"Good grief! That certainly is different. It is all that quick?"
"Most cases last less than a day; a couple of days is usually considered extreme."
The group drew up at a two-storey block of flats. "Here we are," declared Ruth. "Home."
Having had a tour of Ruth and Esme's flats, Marjory was invited to stay for their evening meal. Having nothing to go home for, she agreed, and asked to help with the preparation. Ruth refused, saying, "You don't know where things are stored, Marjory."
As she sat there, her phone attracted her attention. She was surprised, having no-one she could think of who would phone her, but answered.
"Hi, Marjory. I want to apologise for my behaviour."
It was Derek, her ex-boyfriend and father of her baby. She was astounded, and said, "Okay, you have apologised. So?"
"It is more than that, Marjory. I have been thinking of how I behaved. I love you, my girl. I don't want to give up my other two girls, but if you would be prepared to put up with that, I am willing to marry you and take responsibility for our baby."
"Derek, why are you not willing to give them up? Are you so addicted to sex?"
"No. It is more complicated than that..." he hesitated, then blurted out, "I love them too, Marjory! My life has become so involved and complicated. At first, it was just fun and games, then gradually it became more serious. I thought you were all on birth control – most girls are - so it all seemed simple, and I didn't think too deeply about what was happening to me."
"Derek, this is all so..."
"Hear me out, please, Marjory. I know you have rejected me, but I still love you intensely, so desperately. I also love Gemma and Grace, but I have just now decided to tell each of you about the others, to get it off my chest once and for all. All three of you might tell me to get lost, but I hope that at least one of you will accept me as the man that I am, with all my failings. Whichever one that is, I am prepared to marry.
There! I have said it. I am sorry for all the trouble I have brought you, Marjory. At least, if nothing else, will you forgive me? I will support our child; I will do that at least, as I want to feel that I am an honourable man, deep down."
She became aware of Ruth and Esme staring at her, wonderingly. She needed to think.
"Derek, I will ring you back in a while. I need to think. You are still at the same number?"
"Yes, my darling Marjory. You do forgive me?"
"I am thinking about it, Derek. I told you. Don't rush me. Bye for now."
She closed her phone, decisively.