When Abram got drafted to search for ghouls in the Aramean camp, Sari moped around for a while. Finally, her mother yelled at her. She had to check the sheep pen. It was her job to make sure the pen was secure all the way around so the sheep did not escape in the night and get into the gardens. Alexis though that was hardly a proper task for a young girl at dark, all things considered, but then she realized Abram normally kept her company, and quite possibly young people from all over the settlement.
Leah got to clean the dishes. Nebo showed up after dark, and Rebecca only needed to point. He looked grateful. “Leah is nineteen and should be married, so there is no excuse and no shirking her duty,” Rebecca said to Boston and Katie as she walked to the house.
“Isn’t nineteen kind of young?” Boston asked. “I couldn’t even dream of such a thing when I was nineteen.”
“Not in this age and culture,” Rebecca said. “Maybe you can wait when you live into your eighties, but here most people only live to their early sixties, if they are lucky. Early seventy something, like Tera’s mother-in-law is unusual. I think she is seventy-two, and no, you may not know how old I am.”
“I was more worried about Abram and Sari being cousins,” Katie admitted.
“They share a great-grandfather,” Rebecca said. “They are like third cousins, and that is generally far enough apart.” Rebecca smiled for them. “Okay, I have to work on the sensors for the Blob’s ship. You get your tent set up, maybe next to Lincoln and Alexis in Tera’s yard, and then you can come and see what Martok and I are working on.”
Boston’s face said, oh-boy, but she kept her mouth from saying it.
Rebecca entered the house where she had all sorts of equipment spread around the table. She also had some pots on the floor in several strategic places for the rain, when it rained. But her first concern on entering the house was for Elder Stow, who was poking around the equipment like a person stalling for time, waiting for her to show up.
“Can I help?” Rebecca asked. “You do not seem happy.”
“I am not,” Elder Stow admitted. Rebecca flipped a switch on the table and a dim light came on in the room.
“That is too bad,” Rebecca said. “Because everyone is needed if the group hopes to get home. I wish things in the future were not so confused, but there is no way I can send you back quickly. You just have to return to the future the hard way.”
Elder Stow shook his head. “These humans started out just fine without me. I only seem to get in the way.”
Rebecca stopped what she was poking at and sat down on the steps that lead to the upper room. “You arrived at the right time. There are no accidents, you know. God put you there when you were needed, and you will be needed more the further you go into the future. There will be more people, with more, deadlier weapons, and not necessarily friendly. These people are still your family, are they not?”
“Sometimes I am not sure.”
“I have accepted them as family, such as they are,” Elder Stow said. “But they do not seem to appreciate what I do or what I can do. I am made to feel like it is never enough.”
“I know the feeling,” Rebecca said, and to Elder Stow’s questioning face, she explained. “I have lived as one of the gods, you know. Junior comes to mind in this part of the world.”
“Yes. Amun Junior, but you know there is almost nothing a god cannot do. Yet the gods are limited to what they are authorized to do. Astarte, Hebat and Ishtar are all in their way, love goddesses. On top of that, Ishtar also oversees war, Hebat oversees fertility, and Astarte oversees the family and the home—marriage, you might say. Now, Astarte could make everything fertile, but that is not her job. Hebat can fight like a hellcat, I know from personal experience, but she is not authorized to oversee war. Ishtar could make the home and family bright, but she would be bored to tears. You see? As long as they stick to what they are authorized for, they do well, and leave it at that.”
“But what is my authority.”
“That is what I ask myself every day. You see, I once lived as a god, but I cannot just snap my fingers and let Junior fix everything for me. He isn’t authorized for that. And worse, in this life I am just a plain, ordinary, human woman with no special powers or anything at all.”
“That is not true,” They heard Mingus’ voice come down from the upper room, and they waited while he came downstairs to join them. “You have a very warm and loving heart in this life which makes me feel like a useless cad.”
“No,” Rebecca objected and reached out to gently touch Mingus’ hand. “I don’t want to hear that from you either. To explain it in Gott-Druk terms, your family has a mother and father. They will make some decisions, regardless. But then the family has three elders. You two are elders and Decker, but Major Decker has his mission. He knows what he is authorized for. It is a bit harder for you two, but basically you have three youngsters, Alexis, Lincoln and Boston. Mingus, you need to understand they are all family. They need to be watched over and taught, the way you are teaching Boston. Maybe Alexis and Lincoln don’t need as much watching over, but you get the idea. The Gott-Druk don’t coddle their youngsters. They expect them to do their jobs well.”
“All this is true,” Elder Stow admitted. Mingus preferred to keep his thoughts to himself. “But then I am trapped in this human world…”
“As am I,” Mingus verbalized his agreement.
“But Elder Stow, you are human too. You may be a slightly, and I mean very slightly different branch of the human race, but you are still human. I know the Gott-Druk have created millennia of prejudice to pretend it is otherwise, but I am sure you have seen with your own eyes how you are almost exactly the same. Be honest. Most of the differences are cultural, not genetic. They are nurture, including your prejudice against the Homo Sapiens. The are not natural. Believe me. I know what I am talking about. I am Aramean in a world run by the Kaldu, and some of the Kasdim people are very prejudiced, indeed.”
Rebecca stopped talking as Katie and Boston came in.
“Do a good job, Mary Riley,” Mingus said as he escaped out the back door.
“Yes,” Elder Stow turned to the equipment on the table so it was not possible to know what he was saying yes about. “I am guessing this has something to do with the sensors.”
“Very good,” Rebecca said as Katie and especially Boston butted up for a closer look. “I corrected the obvious faults in the main ships systems, and I saw where the ship was coming down anyway. It seems there was a firefight in space much closer to earth than should be. But there was still a fault showing, and I spent most of the last ten years tearing every system apart to find the fault. The last thing I checked was the sensors, of course. I realized the ship crashed because the blob thought the whole time he was twenty feet or so higher above the ground than he really was. He landed too fast and hit the ground twenty feet too soon. Stupid. Obvious.”
“I won’t say you should have checked that first,” Elder Stow smiled ever so slightly, but it was enough to make Boston want to hug the Neanderthal. She paused. They heard a scream from the backyard. Something was in the yard, or in the main tent. They ran.