Copyright© 2015 by Gordon Johnson
"Indeed I did, General. And from the other ladies as well, who had similarly borne a Malan child. Were you aware that all the army – uh – "volunteers" – were rewarded with a million dollars for their service to the nation?"
"Umm ... no sir. I was not aware of that fact."
"There was a lady from the RAF who also took part, and she was similarly recompensed by the USA."
"Is that so, sir?"
"It is, General Mackenzie. When it comes to our USAF officer – the one who disappeared to Rehome – she has received no compensation whatsoever, plus was required to bring up the alien child for the last five years as well, under extreme restricted circumstances at air bases.
"No matter how she left your control, General – the "your" being a generic term for the military – she has been ill-used by her service for the past five years. Now that she has come away from USAF control, courtesy of The Personalia who offered to help her, she apparently feels she has a legal case against the USAF.
"I am informed that the Colony of Rehome,, where she now lives, is prepared to cover all her costs of litigation in raising an action against her employers, for a breach of her human rights under the UN Charter.
"As such, I feel I should warn you that the United Nations sees this as an important example, worthy of the UN's support, so we shall be offering any legal assistance that Lieutenant Price requires to bring it to court."
General Mackenzie had begun by being belligerent, then merely upset, than more cautious, so he commented, "Is this a done deal, sir, or is there room for manoeuvre?"
"I see what you are getting at, General. Allow me to explore the possibilities with her and the Governor of Rehome. However, if a financial sum in compensation was offered to the woman, that might go a long way to defuse the situation, and I and the Governor might be able to dissuade her from proceeding with what might be a lengthy and very public case."
The General could see the way things were going. He had endured politicians putting pressure on him, and was savvy about responding.
"Mister Secretary-General, from what you tell me, there has been laxity in the supervision of certain programs within the USAF. If I confirm what you say, I would expect the US Treasury to be generous in compensating the lady for her ill-treatment. Was there anything else?"
"Actually, General, there is the small matter of her departure from military service. It would not be advisable for her to be declared AWOL, or otherwise accused of deserting her post. It would be much preferable for her to have resigned her commission – albeit suddenly – and be granted a good conduct discharge to help her with any future employment she may seek.
"Do you agree that this would be a wise course of events? You see, her daughter may also have a case for abuse of her rights – one cannot call them "human" rights, but rights as the child of her human mother. The various "experiments" conducted on the child over several years were tantamount to abuse. The child is now old enough to be able to talk about what was done to her by scientists under the control of the military. This is another matter which would be best not considered by the courts, General."
"I take your point, sir. It may be that some sort of compensation to the alien child..." Bernhard interrupted, "Her name is Jenny, General, and she is a lovely little girl, born and brought up in the bosom of America, and so entitled to the protections of that nation, rather than being experimented on."
General Mackenzie was by now squirming with embarrassment. "Shall we say that Jenny should be equally considered, in the same way as her mother?"
"I think we are now talking the same language, General. And the discharge?"
"Done, sir. It is just a matter of paperwork. I shall ensure that Lieutenant Price leaves without a stain on her record."
"Excellent. I shall ask her to put her intentions on hold until we hear further from you, General. Farewell for now."
Once he had closed his call, Bob asked, "I only heard half the call, Bernhard. Where do we stand?"
"Pretty good, Bob. I think the General is going to come back with, as a minimum, a million dollars each for Esther and Jenny, and a good conduct discharge for Esther from the USAF. However, we shall see. That is a prediction, nothing more. It is not my decision to make." He remembered something, and said, "Excuse me, Bob." He found Esther again, and said, "Miss Price, I do believe that you will find you have left the USAF with a good conduct discharge. Before too long, I expect we shall hear something about compensation for both Jenny and yourself. We just wait until we hear definitely."
Esther came closer and kissed him gently on the lips. "Thank you, sir, for all your help. You didn't have to do this."
"My dear, if I didn't, I could not live with myself afterwards, and my wife would always remind me of my laxity. It was a pleasure to be able to help in a small way."
Charlie came forward also, and offered her hand in thanks. "Your assistance is very welcome, sir. It will not be forgotten. If I have a son, he shall be named Bernhard."
"Thank you, my dear Charlie. You intend to get the use of a man to father your child, then?"
"Either that, or artificial insemination, sir. We'll work something out, for we intend to be a family, as you have heard."
"Best of luck, anyway, Charlie."
He turned back to speak to the Governor.
"This Colony of yours, Bob, did you plan it to be as it is, or did it just happen?"
"A bit of both, Bernhard, a bit of both. Diane and I decided we should start off the settlement, and invited Ruth as well, but it was a case of one thing leading to another. We did come to the conclusion that minimal laws was a desirable state, with minimal legal complications as a consequence.
"Religion gets itself into such bother on Earth, with one religion hating another religion, or one lot condemning every other form of religion, so we felt that monotheism combined with love for one's fellows should be the main criteria for religious observance. That led us to form the Church of Rehome – also known as the Church of Love, with aspects of all the main religions incorporated, as long as these aspects were based on love. Our holy book is The Book of Love.
"We also decided that the economy should be based on hard work, rather than finance, so investment could only be family-type businesses, or financed by Rehome-based investors. Taxation is minimal as well. That is achieved by most of our government employees being direct service personnel, instead of pen-pushers; and the huge saving by not having armed forces to pay for. Instead, the Colony works on other forms of income, such as fees for weddings on Rehome by Earth couples, tourism, and exporting Rehome agricultural products. There is some business taxation but solely at low levels, and no income tax at all."
"I can see why your Colony attracts so many settlers, Governor."
"That is not quite all of it, sir. Every settler gets a land grant, to encourage farming and also establishing villages over a wide area. We expect to be in considerable surplus in agricultural products before long. With Earth's high cost agriculture, we expect to be able to export most of our surplus to Earth. Businesses are springing up everywhere, I am glad to say, so our economy seems to be growing satisfactorily."
Bernhard looked him over, wonderingly. "You never stop, do you, Governor? At every opportunity, you go on about the advantages of your colony. No matter. Bob, I shall be happy to recommend your Colony to people who want to better themselves with hard work."
There was a knock at the front door. Mother Narech went to investigate, prepared for every possibility from welcome to defence. She opened the door, and newspaper editor Tom Pfeiffer stood there.
"Mother Narech, my spies tell me that there is a story here. May I enter?"
"Please wait, Tom Pfeiffer. I shall summon the Governor." She turned her head and called in a loud voice, "Governor! Please come here."
Bob hurried to the door, wondering what had happened. Peering past the mechanoid Malan, he saw Tom waiting patiently.
"Tom! Like a bad penny, you keep turning up. I suppose you want a story?"
"Yes, please, Governor. My prospective new employer expects me to keep sharp. I am told that there is a special meeting for the children today."
Bob swung his head to look at the mechanoid, querulously. "Mother Narech? Did The Personalia have anything to do with this?"
She looked him in the eye, then said, "Is that a fair question, Governor? I am a mere minion, and surely cannot be privy to what my manufacturers are up to?"
Bob sighed. "I'll take that as a yes. Come in, Tom. I suspect some kind of publicity is acceptable. I will guide you on what we will allow."
"Yes, sir. That is fine. The Rehome News always cooperates with the Colony authorities."
Bob stopped, as he suddenly had another thought. "Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the lady who is living with you passed it on, with getting so close to you ... perhaps it was both, for all I know and care."
"Yes, sir, whatever you say. Do I get to interview the participants?"
"Tom, what we have just had is the Malan children meeting their birth mothers from Earth, in the presence of myself and the Secretary-General of the United Nations."
"Wow. High-powered stuff indeed. So is it all about you, or does the other guy merit a "mention in despatches"?"
Bob laughed at his humour. "Tom, you may mention me in passing, but I want the Secretary-General to get top billing. We need the story to be extremely positive, and having him here as an observer backs that up. We want the ladies from Earth to be seen as the heroes, so write the story that way, will you?"
"Governor, as the new boss is one of these ladies, apart from being my fiancée, would I dare to do otherwise?"
"Oh, congratulations, Tom. Enid happy at the idea?"
"Indeed, sir. It was really her idea to begin with, but it grew on me. Jeannette is a wonderful, talented woman, and she knows how to treat a man!"
"Right. Enough bragging, Tom. The story: The birth mothers of the Malan children have all recently arrived on Rehome, courtesy of The Personalia, who located them and invited them to come and meet their Malan children. As far as the story is concerned, the ladies will become permanent residents of Rehome Colony. One is actually an undercover agent for a military organisation, and may return to her work, but I am not certain of that. There is always the possibility that she becomes resident here, and goes back to Earth for specific jobs that need her expertise."
Tom was looking a bit ambivalent. "Governor, I don't want Jeannette to get much publicity as a Malan mother, and you have an undercover agent who won't want to be identified. Is there any other awkwardness involved, that you know of?"
"Well, the fifth Malan mother was a serving officer, and had her Malan child with her. The Personalia did a more strenuous extraction than usual for her, but the Secretary-General and myself are working to sort that out, to make her a legal resident here, in the eyes of the Earth authorities. Another lady has transferred her business operation to another woman, but retains some capital back there, and another has left her husband, so probably doesn't want him to know where she is.
"So, having thought about it, we don't really want the ladies to be formally identified in your story. You could either use their given names, or call them Mother A, B, and so on. I'll leave you to say why they are not fully identified: possibly, to protect the Malan children, if the children go and live with their mothers? We have not got that point clarified yet. Perhaps it is time we did."
They had been talking in the vestibule, with the mechanoid standing mute, so Bob turned to her. "Mother Narech, is it the view of The Personalia that the children should remain together, or that they should live with their mothers?"
Narech responded at once. "There are two considerations, Governor. If the children remain living together, they will enhance the Malan background that we have developed, but will not be so good at integration with humanity. If they live with their human mothers, that will be good for integration, but not so helpful in maintaining their distinctiveness as Malans.
"Perhaps the solution is a combination of both. We could maintain this house as a Malan base, where the children visit regularly to work on Malan educational subjects; but become resident with their mothers, enhancing the bonding with the mother. In addition, should there be any problems in a human family situation, the child can return here for a break until the problem is sorted out. I will remain on duty here for any eventuality, and will be available to come to the child's family home if desired. Do you wish me to outline to the mothers and children this proposed pattern?"
Bob was grateful. "Mother Narech, that is an excellent suggestion. I shall leave you to it."
"I shall do that, Governor. By now, the children should be handing out the snacks and drinks to our visitors. Let us go in, and Tom Pfeiffer can circulate and collect his story data."
They re-entered the living room, where the children were busy distributing the drinks: tea or coffee for the adults, soft drinks for the children, and canapes for everyone. Jenny was noticeably cooperating with the other children in these tasks, following their lead, and they seemed to welcome her assistance.
Tom ignored the food and drink, refused all offers politely, and concentrated on gathering his stories. When he came to where Jeannette was chatting to Esme and Mary Kempe, Tom was grabbed by Jeannette, and introduced. "Girls, this is the man I am going to marry here: Tom Pfeiffer, local newsman. His wife, Enid, acted as matchmaker, and it worked. She is a wonderful girl, and I think we will be happy together as a threesome. What Usgar will think of having two mummies and one daddy, and a younger step-sister, we shall find out in due course. I love this man!" She plastered a kiss on Tom's lips. He did not know whether to be embarrassed or gratified, so he just smiled benignly.
Once Tom had completed his interviewing, he asked Jeannette if she was ready to come home. She said, "In a few minutes, dear. I have to say my goodbyes to the girls.
Bob reminded Bernhard of his bed and board at the Mansion. "If you have to wait until tomorrow for that return call from the General, you will continue to be made welcome."
"Thank you, Bob. Your ladies have made me feel very comfortable, and your children are delightful. I will be happy to accept your continuing offer."
While they had been in discussion, Mother Narech had been talking to the Earth ladies about where their Malan children might live, so they had missed the talk with Earth. What they heard was the result, and they all congratulated Esther.
Having heard from Esther about living with one's alien child, they all decided to start in the same fashion, but they were also aware of the need for the Malan children to have close contact, and so approved regular visits to the Malan House.
Mother Narech authorised the children to go with their mothers to the mother's new apartment, to test out the facilities and other social arrangements. What size of bed was suitable, chairs and other furniture for a five-year-old, and so forth; all had to be settled in each household. The mothers agreed to return next day for an assessment of how things had progressed. Ruth and Jeannette had no experience of dealing with children as mothers, so it was all new to them. Margo had a daughter and baby girl to be introduced to their alien brother, so that was a new and frightening experience for the girls.
Jeannette had the experience of dealing with Enid's daughter Beatrice to draw on, but her own son was a boy, with all the differences that a boy brings to a family dynamic. The meeting of Usgar with Beatrice would be interesting, she thought, hoping against hope that it would not be a disaster.
She told Tom he had two passengers for home, startling him, and more so when Usgar appeared with her at the car.
Bernhard had the best of it. He returned to the Governor's Mansion, to good food, good company, and a comfortable bed. He was having breakfast with the Governor next morning when his phone rang. It was General Mackenzie.
"Sir, I have a report for you. After some contentious discussions, we came to certain conclusions. Firstly, Miz Price ought to have been compensated in the same way as the other women, so she will be granted a million dollars, plus five years interest, compounded. A similar sum is on offer to Jenny, with similar additions, if she and her mother are agreeable. Finally, Lieutenant Price leaves the USAF with a good conduct discharge to her name. The date of her discharge is the day that she left the air base where she was stationed. Her pay will be made up to that date, and added to the larger sum. Does she have an account to which this accumulated amount can be credited?"