SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS – snippet 40:
The populations of space habitats differ, as does their societal structure. Take for instance the low-tech environment of the Society of Brethren. The initial nine thousand occupants, scattered in individual holdings, farming their land ,was very different from the habitat of their neighbors, the Matriarchy of Diana. Diana, with a high degree of technical sophistication and mechanization, had some 70,000 occupants, and still had room to grow. That's the difference between urbanization with mechanization and a primitive lifestyle.
BASIC SOCIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING, Herne, G. & Weaver, A. Oxbridge VoxPress, New Britain, 2307
The painted Jezebel who had assaulted and arrested him had a rather puzzled expression on her face. "I didn't expect to even have my bid considered." she said. "I don't know how I am going to afford this. I wish I hadn't done it, to be honest."
She looked… well, less of a virago now, and quite troubled. That found a chink in Howard's armor which her aggression had failed to.
"I think she did it to punish me," he said, humbly.
His new mistress looked at him in puzzlement. "Why? She just let you off scot-free. She's been drooling all over you for the whole hearing. I thought she was going to take you right there on her desk at one stage."
Howard blushed to roots of his hair.
"Oh," she said, scowling. "That's it. She's punishing me, not you. You can't get it up, can you?"
Howard's mouth fell open as he grasped what she was saying. He shook his head furiously. "No. It's just that I would not lie with a woman I was not married to. It is a sin!"
It was her turn to gape at him. "You mean you turned Judge Garanet down? You wouldn't let her have it?"
Howard nodded, almost dying of embarrassment. "I'm afraid that it is true. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."
His new Mistress shook her head incredulously. And then began to giggle. And then to laugh until the tears ran down her face. She had to hold onto the wall for support. "So, I am supposed to make your life a misery?"
"I would guess that that is correct," said Howard uncomfortably.
Lani bared her teeth in a savage grin. "She really is forcing me to be nice to you. Let's take a walk up past her office. You can put your arm around me," she said with the air of someone giving him an enormous privilege.
"It would not be seemly," he said, folding his arms hastily.
She turned her basilisk look on him, muscles tensing… and then shook her head at him. "Now I really do believe you turned her down. It must be a weird place, this New Eden of yours. I'll just have to remember that. Keeping my temper with you is going to be hard, but worth it, just to get up her nose. Look, it's a big privilege for a man to be allowed touch a woman in the street. You should walk a little behind me."
"But you all take such short steps," said Howard, desperate to talk about anything else.
"That's because you're too big," she said with her normal scowl. "Now, take my hand at least. Look, I'm not going to bite you! I just want to make the old bat turn green. She made me look like a fool in that hearing."
Howard had to admit, with the vision of hindsight, that the judge had gone out of her way to make the young woman look foolish. He extended a nervous hand. His palm sweated as he took her hand gently in his. "The path to redemption lies in forgiveness. It is better to forgive than to seek revenge."
She closed her eyes briefly. Took a deep breath. "Good. So we're giving old Judge Garanet a change to take the path to redemption. Isn't that kind of us? Now walk, and try not to look like you think I'm going to bite you. I won't, not yet, anyway."
That was almost more worrying.
They did a little promenade and then walked to her odd two-wheeled vehicle. Howard eyed it with trepidation. "What pulls it?" he asked, as she swung herself onto the saddle.
She shrugged. "It's electrically powered. Get onto the pillion."
"What is a pillion?" he asked.
She looked at him, and shook her head. "You really don't know anything do you? I'll have to try to remember that. This bit." She patted a narrow pad behind her.
It looked very small and very close. "Er. Can't I just run behind? I'm afraid my weight might break it," he added ingeniously.
She snorted. "Don't be ridiculous. Get on."
So he did, painfully aware of his nakedness and her closeness.
It got worse. "Hold onto my waist," she said.
Riding back to her home Lani had time to wonder what sort of a mess her impulsive behavior had gotten her into this time. The one thing she was determined on was to prove that old harridan wrong. Still, there was an exotic fascination to her man. She just had to accept that he really didn't know anything.
And then, within sight of home, they hit a bump. There was an alarming crack, a high-pitched squeal, and the scoot stopped dead.
They didn't. The two of them landed—at some speed—in a heap in the wall-growth. Lani was totally winded by the steering bar being crunched into her midriff, not only by her own forward momentum but by the weight of Howard as well. She lay there struggling for breath, with a warm wetness trickling down from her hair, feeling shocked and stunned.
The next part was even more shocking. Her new man got up off her, looked down at her and said, "Are you all right?"
She had too little breath to spare to reply. So he picked her up and carried her at a run, to her own door.
He managed to knock thunderously, and hold her—without quite dropping her. Of course there was no reply. "It's my house. You can put me down," she said. She seemed to be in the habit of saying that.
This time he didn't drop her hard, but set her down as if she were porcelain. Fragile porcelain, at that. It didn't help. She still swayed and he caught her just before she fell. Somehow, he managed to open her door, while supporting her, and then picked her up again and carried her inside. He took her to the couch and put her down. "How do I call someone to help?"
"I'll be fine. Really. Just let me lie back for a bit."