The colonel looked at me a bit oddly, but nobody said anything, and it was only a couple more minutes before everyone was in and seated. “Gentlemen,” he said. “I’m sure you are all aware of what has happened. We had never done anything like we did here, and never had a reaction like it either.”
“Our psych warfare boys think that what happened was that the human presence… not because it was human but just because it was a large presence of ‘animals’ big enough to be a threat’, triggered an almost automatic response in the aliens, an ‘attack’ response. All over the planet groups of aliens, we think basically any alien near enough to ‘sense’ our presence, hearing, sight, whatever, suddenly got spooked by how many of us there were, and decided to attack.”
“As you know we lost dozens of pathfinders as a result. And that, and the situation which still continues, with the enemy, those that are left, still attacking pretty continuously, has forced us to reexamine our situation here.”
He paused, then said, “We have decided to abandon this planet as a colony.” There was a good deal of noise and he waited till it subsided. “Instead, we are going to make this planet a major soldier training base. Some have suggested that we call it ‘Hell’, and I’m not sure I disagree. Carl aside,” he said, nodding at me, “no one really liked the continual rainfall, and most of us had a hard time adapting to the conditions. As a training base for soldiers, however, it should be ideal. Enemy in basically every direction, primitive conditions, miserable weather… exactly what soldiers like to train in.” He grinned, although I didn’t quite get the joke.
“So where do we go next?” Grant asked. Grant hadn’t gotten caught out, he had arranged his house, and his soldiers, so that the enemy hadn’t even hardly gotten close, and they had killed hundreds.
“Headquarters,” the colonel said. “We are going to be merging with another unit, the three hundred twenty second. They have been having a hard time over the last few years and are down almost as low as we are. Then we will be plunging on even deeper into enemy territory.”
Headquarters! I thought, ignoring the rest of the discussion. I had never been there, but had always wanted to go. I slipped out… it wasn’t like I had to be at the meeting anyway, and hurried back to Bethany.
“Headquarters?” she asked. “I didn’t know… where is it?”
“Oh, it’s totally cool!” I said. “It’s this ice planet, with water on the inside, and the spinning of the planet keeps the inside water, while the outside’s ice.”
“Oh,” she said, looking confused. “And people live on it?”
“In it!” I said. “Like on submarines! Bit submarines that float around under the ice.”
“Why do we have our headquarters there?”
“Because there is no way the enemy will ever settle that planet,” I said.
“Oh,” she said, laying back.
“Tired, love?” I asked, and she nodded, so I just sat with her and stroked her shoulder and all.
“Hey,” Adelphe said from beside me. “How’s Bethany doing?”
“Much better,” I said, slipping under my blankets, with Justina curling up at my feet, like we used to do. Adelphe sat up, her baby at her breast, obviously wanting to talk instead of just nurse while the rest of us fell asleep. Uncle Andrew was laying on the other side of her, watching her nurse, with that silly grin he had so often nowadays. “They think she will be able to get up in about a week. Well, you knew that,” I said, for Adelphe was, of course, in charge of Bethany’s case. “She’s anxious to get up,” I said.
“Did you tell her, yet?” she asked.
“Not yet,” I said, “I don’t want her too excited. I’m thinking maybe tomorrow morning. That will give her all day to adjust. Do you… do you think she’ll be happy?” I asked, nervously.
“Of course!” Adelphe said. “Bethany has always wanted children.”
“Good,” I said. Then, to Andrew, “so, we’re going to headquarters!”
“Yep, to pick up more personell. Not in the normal way, either, not like we were picked.”
“How were we picked, anyway?” Adelphe asked. “I never did understand that.”
“Well, neither did I, until today,” Andrew said. “The colonel explained it all to us.”
We both looked at him and he blushed a bit, but went on, “You see, Carl, almost all our unit were prisoners, or cull married to prisoners. Your sister and I were about the only exceptions. The Colonel told us that that is usual for the special units. That there is usually something unusual in a prisoner, or a cull, that makes us better at the special units.”
“Not that they go by that, but he said it usually turns out that way. What they actually use is a series of rankings that they measure along the way. All sorts of things, from physical things like endurance, to the ability to take advanced training, and even how well the partnership goes. That was the one,” he continued, with a nervous glance at Adelphe, “that almost shot me down, I’m not a very good partner. But, anyway, each of the services is looking for specific traits, and the rankings give them an idea of who to look for. Then, once they have some people picked out, they change their training up a bit and see how they do with various other things. That’s where your sister and I really excelled, apparently, and so how we got picked for Pathfinders.”
“How you excelled,” Adelphe said, switching the baby to the other breast, “I never even got ranked. On our ship none of the girls did. At least, not where we could see,” she added, suddenly, sounding excited. “Were our rankings up in your training room? I always wondered why we could only see the boy’s rankings.”
Andrew’s mouth opened and closed like a fish. He did that, sometimes, and it was always funny to watch. “Those were *our* rankings, love.”
“What?!” she said, startling the baby into stopping nursing. “But they only had… oh, no. You mean… oh, I was such an idiot!”
Andrew and I both stared at her. Adelphe was the smartest woman I had ever known, and a brilliant doctor. How could she have been an idiot?
Apparently she wasn’t going to tell us, either, or not me, anyway, because she just said, “So, you say we won’t be getting new members in that same way?”
“No, we’ll be joining with another unit, one that has been hit about as hard as us.”
Adelphe’s eyes teared up. Andrew had told me, privately, just how bad she had taken the death of so many of her friends, and warned me to try not to talk about it.
“What unit?” I asked.
“The two hundred and second,” he said, and I gasped,
“But what?” Andrew said.
“But they’re from Hargrave!”
“Ok…?” Adelphe said, and Andrew just looked at me. Didn’t they understand? Of course, they were from New Texas.
“They’re… they’re New Catholics!” I said.
“Well, that might be a bit awkward…” Adelphe said.
“Awkward?” I said, sitting up. “Impossible!”
I had said that last a bit loud and Andrew said, “We’d better get to sleep, now.” Meaning me, of course, since Adelphe needed to finish nursing, Justina was asleep already, and Andrew would, no doubt, stay awake with her. I rolled over. Didn’t they understand?
“Impossible!” Justin said, echoing my thoughts. We were all down in our ‘work’ area. I had visited Bethany already, but she had been asleep so I had avoided the big new and come back to ‘work’ where we were discussing the merger. “What of our girls?”
Many of the New Texas men were standing around looking rather bemused, even Andrew. “I don’t understand,” Grant said, echoing the faces of the rest of the New Texans.
“I will explain the problem,” the Colonel said, “And then I will explain why it will not be a problem.”
“The problem,” he said, “Is that, for the most part, Catholics are not believers in Christ; not even New Catholics. New Catholics have made some serious improvements over Catholic doctrine, including a rejection of celibate priesthood and the authority of the Pope… or, at lease, the authority of the current Popes.”
“But they still reject, or seem to reject, the exclusive role of Christ in salvation. This makes their theology anathema to us. We are not dramatically pleased with much of what comes out of New Texas, but we have managed to reconcile us to marriages with them.”
“But marriages with Catholics is a far, far different thing. We are loath to put our sons in the position of having to lead a Catholic in marriage; and even more loath to put our daughter in the position of having to obey someone we consider a non-Christian.”
“However,” he said, looking at the NG men, “We will live through this. We have to. First of all, we are under orders. Just as Haddassah was given to a pagan king, our daughters may need to be given to pagan boys. Just as Joseph and Moses married pagan girls, so our sons may have to raise children in that environment.”
“We will have, you will have, about two weeks to prepare our widow, widowers, and children for meeting and, in many cases marrying, these Catholics.”
“Can I ask a question?” Grant said, and all eyes turned toward him. “What is marriage? I mean, what is the difference between being married and having a partner.”
There were about fifty people in the room, and, except for a couple of toddlers and nursing babes, everyone grew still. The colonel glanced at Trenton, a soldier who served largely as the local NG elder. “It’s been hanging over us since the beginning, Pastor,” the colonel said, and the pastor nodded his head and got up. I sat down, as did a lot of other people, with couple sitting together including Andrew and Adelphe. A couple of the girls hurriedly put on their headcoverings.
“First of all,” the pastor said, “I need to let all of our friends from New Texas know that I’m not going to preach about anything new. What I am going to talk about today is what the church has always taught, including the church in New Texas, although in recent days the teaching has been somewhat suppressed.”
“Let me read from John Calvin,” he said, opening up his comp, “where he writes about the very beginning of marriage. Speaking of Genesis chapter 2 verse 22 Calvin says:
22.And brought her, etc Moses now relates that marriage was divinely instituted, which is especially useful to be known; for since Adam did not take a wife to himself at his own will, but received her as offered and appropriated to him by God, the sanctity of marriage hence more clearly appears, because we recognize God as its Author. The more Satan has endeavored to dishonor marriage, the more should we vindicate it from all reproach and abuse, that it may receive its due reverence. Thence it will follow that the children of God may embrace a conjugal life with a good and tranquil conscience, and husbands and wives may live together in chastity and honor. The artifice of Satan in attempting the defamation of marriage was twofold: first, that by means of the odium attached to it he might introduce the pestilential law of celibacy; and, secondly, that married persons might indulge themselves in whatever license they pleased. Therefore, by showing the dignity of marriage, we must remove superstition, lest it should in the slightest degree hinder the faithful from chastely using the lawful and pure ordinance of God; and further, we must oppose the lasciviousness of the flesh, in order that men may live modestly with their wives. But if no other reason influenced us, yet this alone ought to be abundantly sufficient, that unless we think and speak honorably of marriage, reproach is attached to its Author and Patron, for such God is here described as being by Moses.
Marriage, as an institution, has always been under attack, even back in Calvin’s time, and Christ’s time, and before. Satan hates marriage.
He paused, and seemed to take a deep breath. “Marriage is the institution by which a man and a woman become one flesh, in imitation of the great and glorious relationship of Christ and the church. Marriage is a sexual union, a sexual relationship, and one that produces children. But it is much, much more than that…”
He talked more, in the same vein, and all stuff I knew, for several minutes before winding down. He looked out over the crowd, which was still silent. “Any questions?” he asked, looking particularly at Grant.
“Why do they not call it marriage on New Texas?” Grant asked. “I hardly ever went to church before, back home, and all of this is new to me, or new since we got on ship. Why do we say ‘partnére’ and you say ‘wife’? What is the difference?”
“In God’s eyes, none,” the pastor said, causing a bit of a stir. He held up his hand, “let me explain. In God’s eyes you partners have exactly the same responsibility as we husbands. You don’t get out of them by calling what you are doing something different.”
“But, to answer your question, the reason that the name is different is because, back on New Texas, some people were most upset when marriages began to be ‘forced’.”
Forced? Oh, perhaps he meant like Adelphe and Andrew. That was kind of ‘forced’, wasn’t it?
“You see, back in the time before colonization, and especially before the war, couples married not only who they wanted to, as many people do still today, but when they wanted to. There was a bizarre relationship dance called ‘dating’ that these people engaged in to help them figure out who they wanted to marry, and when.”
“But we still do that,” Grant protested. “A boy will come to a girl that he wants to partner with and ask her to partner!”
The pastor laughed. “Not quite what I meant. What they would do is, when a boy was interested in a girl, he would ‘ask her out’.”
“Like to go to some event together, or go to a resteraunt together.”
“Before they were partnered?”
“Yes. And they would talk about this and that, and maybe he would kiss her, or even go farther than that.”
“Before they were partners? Did they have to register after this?”
“Oh, no. They would do this with girl after girl until, finally, he found one that he was willing to partner with, or ‘marry’, and he would ask her. And if she wanted to too… then they would marry.”
“Several girls? And everybody would know about it?”
“Yes. It was called ‘dating’. And they would often date until they were 27 or 28 years old.”
“What?” Grant said. “Past final choice?”
“They didn’t have final choice back then. That was part of the whole change. Once we instituted final choice, and culling, and all, people began to complain that these weren’t ‘real’ marriages, because they didn’t ‘pick’ each other.”
“But, you on New Geneva, you still call them marriages?”
“Yes. When we look at Scripture, we don’t see God valuing how our wife or husband is picked, we see Him valuing the relationship itself. When we become one flesh with a woman, we have certain blessing and obligations, and we call those ‘marriage’.”
There was another rather loud silence, and then Grant said, “Well, so, you’re OK with it if I call my Jane my wife?”
“We would be very ‘OK’ with it,” the pastor said. We’ve already seen the way you, most of you, treat your ‘partnéres’ and it is very much as we would have you treat your ‘wives’.”
“And these Catholics,” YYY asked. “Do they have ‘wives’ or ‘partners’?”
“They call them ‘wives’, as we do, as most of the colonies do. Only Newtonia and New Texas regularly use the word. Some of the other planet actually use both words, with the couple able to choose which kind of relationship they want.”
“But you said there was no difference,” Grant protested.
“No, I said that we didn’t see the blessings or responsibilities as any different. But people treat them as different, obviously. Even people that use the same name treat the relationship as different. Some couples believe that the wife should obey the husband, others don’t. Some have the wife take her husbands name. Their relationship in bed is different.”
“Some of the differences died with the war. It used to be, and I know you’ve been told this, that some couples would deliberately not have children, or not many, or not right away….”
Blushing, I realized that Bethany might be awake and, as quietly as I could, I hurried off. I noticed Adelphe grinning at me from the corner where she sat, nursing.
“Hey, love,” Bethany said from her bed. “Missed you.”
“Me too,” I said, coming up for a kiss and a rather more intimate cuddle than we had managed in the last few days. For one thing the soldier medic was not here, and it always bothered Bethany to cuddle in front of her. “I have news for you, love,’ I said, when we pause din our cuddle.
“Yes. Really great news. Although maybe you already know it, and haven’t told me?”
She blushed. “I didn’t know, but I hoped. I didn’t want you to be disappointed. And then I got wounded… and I was worried that you might have to lose two of us.”
I kissed her, and we cuddled some more, stopping when we heard a discreet cough. “Adelphe!” I said, straightening up from the cuddle.
“So, have you two told each other your news?” she asked.
“You knew!” Bethany and I both exclaimed.
“Yes,” Adelphe said. “And I knew that it was for you to share, not me. Doctors can be officious at times.
“Thank you,” Bethany said, squeezing my hand.
“I try,” Adelphe said.