Copyright© 2015 by Gordon Johnson
"Yes, I reckon I did say that."
"You were quite correct in your analysis. The software did not have The Personalia identified as allies, so that the terms "alien" and "Personalia" set off the alarms. I have ordered a software upgrade, not just on this base, but everywhere that the same software is in use. Thank you again for your help with this, Colonel. Your restriction is of course immediately lifted."
"Thank you, sir. I am most grateful for your quick attention to the problem."
"Fine. Here is your phone returned in perfect condition. You can get back to sorting out your vacation. It will be authorised by me without delay, when you have your dates and travel arrangements fixed."
"Again, thank you, sir. I am most grateful."
"Right. Dismissed. Oh. I had better leave your room, hadn't I?"
He came to attention, nodded to her, came about, turned the handle, and walked smartly out the door. Once outside, he instructed the soldier, "Lieutenant Price's detention has been lifted. You may return to normal duties."
"Yes, sir." The soldier marched off.
Colonel Reid ambled off, relieved to have seen that scene sorted satisfactorily.
Esther sat down, finding her body still tense with the pressure of the last while, as she had waited for what might have been a court martial offence. She had actually forgotten the watching electronic ears that monitored all calls. She cursed herself for that lapse: this was an intelligence squadron, after all. She should have been more aware of the security precautions.
This was the time to sit and let her body relax; to return her metabolism to a more serene level, before she contacted The Personalia once more. She ought to speak to Charlie, to check that she could get vacation time off. What did they call it here? Holidays. Yes. And, confirm that Charlie was happy to come with her and Jenny. She presumed she would.
This was the first time there was an alarm about HER, instead of about her child. Anything unusual about Jenny's metabolism over these nearly five years had brought swift attention, but not a security alarm. This was different, and her entire body was still shivering with the adrenalin surge.
She tried the calming exercises she had been taught before Jenny was born. These had the desired effect.
Later in the day, Jenny returned from her school class on the base. She was very quiet. Her mother asked her, was there anything wrong?
"Mummy, some of the other children looked at me in a funny way. The ones that I went to nursery school with were fine, but some of the ones I was meeting for the first time; they seemed afraid of me. Is there something wrong with me? I know I look a bit different from them, but there are black children and brown children there, and they didn't get that kind of look. One of the girls even said, "You are strange!", and I didn't like that.
"I am not strange, am I Mommy?"
Esther sighed inwardly. "No, darling, you are not strange. You are different, but we are all different from each other. Being different isn't the same as strange. You have to be careful in what you eat, so that is different; and in my position as an officer, we have to spend most of our time in our own quarters, so your life experiences are rather limited. Don't let it bother you, Jenny."
Esther thought this might be a good time to pass on some news. "By the way, Jenny, I am planning for us to have a vacation soon. I hope that Aunt Charlie will be coming with us. Won't that be fun?"
"Oh, yes. I like Aunt Charlie; she is fun. Are we going to the seaside? I have never been to the seaside. I like the idea of beach sand."
"I hadn't really thought about it, Jenny. I shall try to ensure we are close to the seaside for you."
"Thank you, Mommy."
With Margo and her girls gone, Jeannette was unsure about what she should be doing in the Pfeiffer home. Was she supposed to move back to her "own" bedroom? Was she supposed to continue sleeping with Enid and Tom? What?
She decided that Enid would make the decision on that matter, and went to find her. She was in the kitchen, humming to herself as she prepared the evening meal.
"Enid, dear? Can I have a word?"
"Hi, Jeannette. Is it about sleeping arrangements, now that Margo has moved?"
"Yes. It is your home and family, so I must defer to you, my dear friend."
"Why, thank you, Jeannette. You do feel like a good friend already. I haven't had time to change the bedclothes and tidy the bedroom, so for tonight, you stay with us again. Actually, I want to get Tom into a routine of making love to you, so that he gets rid of the embarrassment he feels.
Jeannette understood. "I know. He is such a considerate husband to you."
"He is that. I find that it doesn't bother me, sharing him, and that surprises me. I thought I would feel bad about using him as a stud to get you pregnant, but I felt nothing but pleasure at helping you!"
"You are a wonderful girl yourself, Enid. Not many women would even contemplate such a gesture, never mind go through with it."
"True enough. Do you think it is because I am pregnant again? Might that have swayed my judgment?"
"In my opinion, Enid, NOTHING sways your judgment, You are a hard-headed, practical woman. You look at a problem, work out the answer, and go ahead with implementing the solution, because, for you, it is the right thing to do; the best answer you can find.
"You make most of the decisions in your marriage, and Tom hardly notices that fact. He goes along with you, quite happily – except for the present situation: that did disturb him somewhat. But that disturbance of his equanimity was from a fear of causing you harm, emotionally or mentally. The guy loves you so much, he puts your feelings above everything else.
"That is awesome: to find a man who has that strong a commitment. I wish I had the same kind of man. My own Tom was a great guy, but I often felt his commitment was not one hundred per cent. It was not that I didn't trust him, but that when push came to shove, his needs had priority over mine. With your Tom, it is the other way round.
Enid cleared her throat. "Jeannette dear, I wonder if you would consider staying with us for longer, perhaps a few months, to see how you would fit in with me and Tom in the longer term?"
"Perhaps, Enid, but on what basis?"
"On the basis that we treat you as being Tom's second wife."
Jeannette's eyes opened wide in surprise. "As a wife? Not just as a fuck-buddy until I get pregnant?"
"As a wife, Jeannette. I am getting used to you being with us, and I get the impression that Tom likes you a lot more than he is willing to admit, even to himself. Do you feel that, when he is making love to you now?"
Jeannette said, carefully, "Yes. That is a fact, Enid, a difficult fact. His initial reluctance has turned into enthusiastic participation. Of course, he claims that this is just to make the pregnancy more likely, but that argument is bullshit. Pregnancy is mechanical: sperm meets egg; nothing more. However, it gives him a raison d'etre for keen participation in fucking me.
"So I agree with your assessment. He feels more for me than he lets on. I didn't want to mention that to you, Enid, for obvious reasons, but as you seem to have come to the same conclusion, I can agree with you now."
"My plan, Jeannette, is that if you and we can demonstrate that we can all get along together, like a family group, we invite you to marry us eventually; assuming you feel the same way."
Enid stopped abruptly, having said enough.
Jeannette stepped forward, clasped Enid to her, and burst into tears. She shuddered with emotion for a while. Enid just held her, allowing the emotion to subside. When Jeannette finally stopped, Enid spoke gently.
"O.K. now, Jeannette?"
"Yes, thanks, Enid. I don't really know what to say. You have staggered me by offering what would be my heart's desire, but I thought I could never have. I will do my best to live up to your expectations, darling Enid."
"One thing, Jeanette. We say nothing about this to Tom for now."
"I want him to come to me, as he eventually will, and make the suggestion that you become our wife. That way, it will be HIS idea that is being implemented, and that will make him feel in control again. Your revelation that I make most of the decisions rather undermined his self-esteem, so this will allow him to regain the initiative, in his own eyes. Shall we allow that to happen, Jeannette?"
"You are such a clever woman, Enid. You are under-estimated all the time. I completely agree with you, so we will do things your way."
Tom was more ahead of the women's estimation than they suspected. At his office, he had been spending all his free time thinking about Jeannette and her relationship to him and Enid. One or two things were bothering him, though, and needed answers. He phoned the Colony Administration Office, and asked for someone who could speak about marriage laws in detail.
"Hello. This is Robert Pullman. I gather you need some help?"
"Yes. In Rehome marriage laws, if a woman joins a marriage, and she owns a considerable sum in investments, what happens if the marriage doesn't work out and she leaves? Does she lose her assets? I understood that a person choosing to leave a marriage cannot take anything out. That is the question."
"Ah, I see what you mean. Actually, it is quite simple, like most of our laws. If the assets remain in her name, they are her personal possessions, and not subject to marriage breakup rules. Only if she had transferred ownership to include one or more of the marriage partners would such assets be assessed as part of the marriage assets. What size of assets are we talking about, sir?"
"At least a million dollars."
There was a discernible pause at the other end of the connection, then Mr Pullman said cautiously, "That is a sizeable amount, indeed. I would recommend that the assets remain in her personal ownership, to protect them from being subject to any calculation of marriage assets. A similar consideration applies to bank accounts. Those in the name of the family as a group, are marriage assets; those kept in her own name are personal property, not liable to consideration. However, I would not suggest that such calculations be made, for it presupposes a marriage break-up. That is not a high standard to take into a new marriage, sir."
"Oh, I wasn't thinking of it in that way. I was wanting to ensure that she has her assets protected in any future that transpired, so that she would not be deterred from joining the marriage by financial considerations. Joining the marriage should be all about love and compatibility."
"Indeed, sir. I applaud your perspicacity. Was there anything else?"
"Well, I have a curious question to ask. If she is the surrogate mother of a Malan child, has that child any legal right of inheritance from her, despite her not being the source of any parental genes?"
"Now, there you have me, sir. I do not believe such a subject has ever been raised here, and so I do not know if there is a definitive answer to your question. I can make enquiries of our legal team, and see what the consensus is. Do you wish me to implement such research? There is no charge for such an enquiry, as it is relevant for future enquiries. If you give me your number, I shall phone you back with our response. If you do not give your name, you can use a code word instead."
"Fine. Make it Paperboy."
"That is duly noted, sir. Goodbye for now."
Robert Pullman took the question to the legal team in the department. They were happy to get their teeth into such a new aspect of law. There was a tendency to refer back to Earth law and practice in major countries and jurisdictions where possible. This helped to make judgments more consistent with past usage, provided that past usage applied the same generic reasoning that now applied at Rehome.