Diplomacy, part 8



Cierra entered Quad one to pick up Kiona. Elu spotted her first and rushed up to her for a petting, wagging his tail.

"Hey boy, were you good for aunty Pam?"

"He's always good. Kiona on the other hand..." Pam laughed. Eva was holding little Mel, who was sound asleep but Pam was busy breast feeding Kiona.

"Someone didn't want to wait for mommy, huh?" Cierra grinned.

"Nope, she was hungry and demanded lunch. I hope you don't mind?"

"Nah. She's always a bit greedy and I don't produce that much excess."

Pam laughed. "And I'm Elsie the cow. I swear I could keep care of triplets if need be."

Eva patted the padded bench next to her and asked how the transport went. Cierra joined the slim engineer and told them about everything.

Pam growled. "I swear there are men out there that ought to be gelded."

"Well, he's not on Mother Earth and that's all I can control. I hope the authorities back there look into his past a lot harder than they did before. He should have never been passed on his security check."

"What's scary is that these are the same people who are supposed to be keeping Laura and Kelly safe and screening people before they come near you. I'm just glad you take our people with you most of the time. I know how JP feels every time you jump."

Cierra knew JP would never be relaxed about her trips although she did her best to hide her nervousness.

Tracy poked her head into the building. "Hey, are you all going to draw for the trade or what?"

"I'm coming!" Cierra shouted then turned to the other couple. "Still going to skip this one?"

Eva answered for them. "Yup, maybe the Fall one, when it's cooler."

"Okay. Can you watch Kiona just a little longer?"

Pam shooed the shaman out of the building, promising to look after the baby.


The adults of the community all stood around eagerly as Cierra held the bag of marbles and people drew from it. People were drawing for the chance to go to the trading event and everyone was eligible this time.

Of the people making a second trip, only Sharon and Patricia would go. The rest were new couples or ones who hadn't been lucky enough to attend yet.

JP made a disappointed noise then grinned. "Well, we aren't going this time so maybe we can have our own little party after they leave. Maggie almost has that smoking grill done. What do you say to our first barbecue of the year?"

Cierra almost licked her lips at the thought. "Sounds good to me. We can make a ton of potato salad and smoke all kinds of meat. Hillary and the girls can bake up a bunch of potato bread for buns."

"Now I'm drooling," JP whined. "Can we have it early now?"

Cierra laughed and told her it depended on Maggie.

"I think I'll go and see if she needs any help," JP said, rushing off. She shook her head and headed back to pick up Kiona. It had been a long day and she needed a nap before dinner.


Mary and Sara joined Cierra at her table. Once they greeted everyone and sat down, Mary reached into her jacket pocket. She pulled out an embossed envelope and handed it to Cierra.

"What's this?"

"Open it and see."

The shaman lifted the flap and pulled out a fancy card written in equally ornate writing. She read the words and her hands dropped to the table. "A dinner party?"

Mary Webb nodded. "I think they wanted to make up for the expedition foul up today. That man you singled out was taken to one of the offices in your Embassy. Since he was officially on Mother Earth's territory when he was accused they didn't quite go through US channels to search and seize the evidence in his pack. Laura and Kelly, as your representatives, gave authorization to have his baggage searched. Very interesting reading," the colonel commented with disgust.

Cierra shivered, recalling the images she had picked up from him.

Jenny got Mary's attention next. "What happens now with him?"

"That's up to you all. Mother Earth has the right to punish him according to your laws or you can turn him over to the US authorities."

JP spoke up. "I sure as hell don't want him here. The US can have him and make sure all the evidence is sent along too. If we're lucky they'll lock him up and forget where they put the key."

"Okay, I'll pass along your instructions to your people. In the meantime, do you think you could attend the dinner party? They know they have some major butt-kissing to do with the council."

JP spoke again, irritated. "Is the security going to be better than today's?"

Mary flushed. She knew that they screwed up badly and heads were going to roll. Not only did the scientists get away with arriving in a larger number than agreed upon but they also had sloppy background checks done. Mary read over everyone's bios and personally thought a few of them should have been crossed off the list of potential team members.

The US would be fortunate if Cierra and her friends just didn't throw up their hands and tell them all to go to hell. Mary had given Michael a letter to pass on, informing them of just that. Either the US stopped trying to get around the rules the council issued or face being cut off, perhaps with another country benefiting from the people on Mother Earth. The officer knew how she'd do it if she were Cierra. She'd contact another willing and friendly country or group, then transport a large fancy boat and crew to Mother Earth. And from there, they would take Cierra to an exact location so she could jump to Earth and meet them outside of the US territorial waters.

The United States would be cut out of the deal and Cierra would be in danger of being nabbed. Neither prospects were acceptable. Mary sighed but felt somewhat guilty for not telling her superiors how Cierra and the council could circumvent the US to get what they wanted. As much as she loved her country, she knew that those in charge of America were not as interested in the common people as much as themselves. She would be retiring in a few months and intended to live on Mother Earth. She would have to have its interests at heart when she left the Old World behind to live with Sara.

Cierra took the spoon that Mary was twirling in her fingers, allowing her walls to drop at the same time. She placed the utensil on the table and let out a relieved breath. The brief contact told her that Mary would side with them if things came to a head. She bit back a giggle at Mary's thoughts. The officer could be quite devious at times and would make a good tactician.

"Don't worry about it," Cierra advised, locking eyes with the older woman. "Oh, I was wondering if I could possibly see that list you've been keeping?" she casually mentioned.

"List?" Mary paused then realized Cierra knew about her list of things she kept. A list of things ME could always use. "Oh, that list. Okay, but promise not to laugh? Some items I wrote very early."

"Okay, I promise."

Cyd looked confused. "What list is she talking about?" she asked Mary.

The Lt. Colonel answered sheepishly, telling the others what it was for.

"Read it out loud," Jenny told Cierra.

"Okay, here goes. 'pizza oven and accessories, toilet seats, solar powered walkie talkies, carrier pigeons, equipment to make pressurized beer, sailing ships for BOC, olive presses, pedal powered micro light gliders, llamas--"

"One we don't need now," Cyd grinned.

"...bathtubs, baby equipment and furniture, rice cuttings for growing, bayberry bushes for wax, peanut plants, metal sheeting, kites, threshing machine, maple trees for syrup, sugar cane, coconut trees for BOC, springs made for wagons, pineapple plants, swing sets, bolts of fabric, McCormick reaping machine, canoes and rafts, athletic equipment, spear throwers (atlatls), more sheep, wood cooking stoves, carving tools, rice flour for mortar, cob house expert to teach, discuss painted pony relocation--"

Paul held up his hand. "What's that?"

"Bringing in wild horses. The states have to thin the wild population of mustangs by either adopting them or putting them down. We thought with all clans here they might take in mustangs."

"It could cause damage to the existing ecology. We'd have to talk about that," JP told everyone. She knew without enough predators the horses could easily over breed.

Cierra glanced at the list. "Not much more but Mary certainly has ideas. Peanut plants?"

Mary laughed. "I'd miss peanut butter. I already have a stash at home."

"I was wondering what that huge sack was full of," Carey muttered.

"Well, we could use having a few experts come in and teach us stuff. We don't want the items handed to us on the most part. We want to be independent from buying crap on Earth," Cyd told Mary. "Maybe someone who knows how to make birch bark canoes and show us other ways to hunt. The cob house expert sounds promising. We just learn as we go."

"Okay, I'll set that up. Warm weather is approaching and its a good time to start building." Mary looked at Cierra and noticed an odd expression on her face. "Uh oh, Cierra, that is one dangerous look. What's on your mind?"

Cierra held up the invitation. "I thought about it and I have to decline. You see, we're going to have our own little party at that time. Now, the people back home seem to think we live in some sort of holiday resort and don't have a clue how we really live. I think it's time a few of them found out and walked in our shoes."

Mary knew at that moment that Cierra had been furious at what happened today and she had a little sweet revenge in mind.

"We have twenty-four people going to the trading event and will be gone for at least a week. I want the twenty-four various people who happen to have anything to do with my security or public relations to come here and live for that week. And I don't mean underlings either. They can rough it and work along side of the people living here. Is that understood?"

Mary nodded. She could see Cierra's point of view. People she's never met were placed in charge of her welfare and they didn't really see her and the others as real. They were just an assignment in their daily grind. They didn't know how the people in the village feared Cierra jumping to Earth, wondering if she'll return or be killed because of someone's carelessness. Maybe this experience would make those supervisors take a good look at their methods and attitudes.

"Oh my, Cierra, you are evil at times. I can just see their expressions the day after the party when you wake them up at dawn."

The council members all laughed then JP suggested she and Cierra still attend the swanky VIP party.

Cierra lifted an eyebrow and asked why.

"Cuz, the people who do the grunt work that will be coming here won't be the same people at the party. I think every ambassador that can make it will be there and eager to win your friendship. Besides, I have a hankering to see you in some slinky little black dress and high heels," JP winked.

"Will you wear a silk pantsuit that shows off your cute buns?"

JP managed to blush and agreed.

Cierra clasped her hands in delight. "You have a deal." She turned to Mary. "Tell Kelly and Laura to arrange a clothing designer to meet with us on Friday. We have a fancy dinner to attend and want the works."

to be continued

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