Friday, August 17, 2012

Guest Post: Terms of Service by Cindy Koepp


The shuttle landed on the space station with a thud that had an emotional impact like the crash Sora had lived through as a child. Eyes artificially widened, Sora paid the pilot and led Pashan out to the hangar. He kept his pace slow for her little legs and joined the end of the security line.
The hangar was a huge, box-like structure decorated with safety and instruction signs in English and Aolanian. He'd read each one in both language twelve times before they reached the front of the line.
The security console had a scanner port and a screen.
After a soft chime, a hyper-polite female voice came on. "Please hold your ID card in front of the scanner." The instructions repeated in Aolanian.
Sora pulled out his ID and followed directions. A red light passed over the card.
"Thank you." The voice spoke Aolanian only now. "Please select the reason and duration of your visit from the list. If your reason and duration are not available, select 'Other' and a security agent is with you shortly."
Probably not. They are human, so they are tall.
The screen showed two columns. The left column gave times ranging from less than an hour to over a year. Sora selected four hours or fewer. If they stayed any longer than that, Pirien would have his scales for missing dinner. The right column gave a list of reasons for the trip. He tapped on the one marked "I visit a friend."
"Thank you. Enjoy your stay," the system said.
The green light came on, and Sora helped Pashan present her ID card. Once she was allowed through, he led the way through the winding corridors. As they neared Kirsten's quarters, his stomach went into a flat spin and his hands shook.
He took a deep breath and blew it out. The last time he'd felt like this, he'd been trying to glue together the courage to ask Pirien's family if they would consent to him as a her husband. He could only hope this meeting turned out as well.
One hundred twelve point six two meters from the checkpoint marking the beginning of the military sector, Sora reached Kirsten's door and stopped.
"–any idea what this is about?" Peter's deep voice came through the door.
"None." Kirsten's voice was harder to make out. "He just asked if–"
Pashan jumped up and triggered the door chime. "They are easier to hear if we are inside."
"Yes, little one." But then I have to be brave, and I do not wish to be.
The door opened. Kirsten stood there wearing slacks and a buttoned shirt that was practically her uniform when off duty.
She smiled and stepped back. "Come in. Can I get you anything?"
Sora gestured Pashan in ahead of him. He mentally swapped languages to English for Peter's sake. "No, no, we eat before we come over." Besides, if I put anything in my stomach right now, I guarantee it does not stay there.
Pashan raced into Kirsten's apartment and went straight to the cardboard toy box Kirsten had stocked with puzzle books and pencils.
She is happy for hours. His eyes widened.
Sora climbed up onto Kirsten's solid blue fabric couch and looked up at the far corner of the room. Meeting the eyes of his friends was too hard. He waited for Kirsten to settle at the other end of the couch and turn to face him more directly.
"You're the one who brought the agenda, Sora." Peter, in his own uniform of tan cargo pants and a green t-shirt, sat in a squashy armchair and sipped a fizzy, purple soda. "What's up?"
Sora drew a deep breath and blew it out. "I do not know how to ask."
"Just go for it." Kirsten's smile melted some of the ice lining his intestines.
"How do I get into the military?" His words tumbled out as if in a race.
Kirsten exchanged a look with Peter. "Why would you want to do that?"
"Yeah, I can't think of anyone less suited." Peter set his drink on the end table next to him. "You can't join up and then refuse to pick up or handle weaponry, y'know."
"To be Christian, I must, yes?" Sora glanced at each of them.
Peter leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. "What gave you that idea?"
"Well, I go to the church Kirsten tells me about, the one that meets on the freighter near my home ship." Sora clasped his hands in his lap to hide their shaking. "They are very nice people. When the service starts, they sing 'Onward Christian Soldier' and 'Battle Hymn of the Republic.'"
Peter looked at Kirsten. "'Battle Hymn?'"
"'Mine eyes have seen the glory–'" she began.
"'–of the coming of the Lord.' Got it. Go on, Sora."
"Yes, yes, and then the preacher speaks of David, a great warrior, and God says David is a man after His own heart."
"And so you concluded that–" Peter laughed.
Sora's eyes narrowed. He turned to Kirsten. "I am wrong?"
She chuckled. "You are confused, my very good friend. When a church puts together a worship service, they sometimes align the music and the preacher's message on the same theme."
"Yeah, and David was described as a man after God's own heart, but not because he was a warrior." Peter took another sip of his soda. "Whenever David messed up – and he did a phenomenal job of messing up now and then – he sought God's forgiveness and put his trust in God in some really dark times."
Kirsten rested her elbow on the back of the couch and her head on her hand. "In fact, David wanted to build a temple for God, and God sent a prophet to tell David to back away from that plan because he had been a warrior."
"So, Christians do not have to be in the military?" Sora asked.
Peter shook his head. "Nope. In fact, I didn't become a believer until after I was discharged."
Sora looked up at the ceiling. "My two greatest teachers are in the military, so when the preacher speaks of David, I think this is a requirement."
He blew out another breath. All the tension building up since church that morning drained away.

2 responses:

Laura Elizabeth said...

Hmm... I liked this :) But what is Sora? The way some of this was written made me think he wasn't human. I almost thought he was a reptile.

Heather, I've tagged you on my blog. You don't have to do the tag if you don't want to, but it's up to you :)

H. A. Titus said...

Laura: OK, thanks. I'll go look at it. :) And your guess was correct! Sora is a reptilian alien known as an Aolanian. Glad you enjoyed Cindy's post.

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