Stardust Sapling: Chapter 33

Taimi had fangs.

Mila wasn’t sure when that had happened, or if Taimi noticed them before she did, but it didn’t matter. They were there, sharp like needles and gleaming white. They reminded Mila of vampire fangs, but that couldn’t be. Sure, Mila knew that vampires existed. They were rare, but they were still common knowledge especially in her home country, where they liked to travel especially during the winter because the sun barely rose there then. It was pretty much the norm to find garlic wreaths in every home in her country, and even here she had taken up the practise when she had one time woken up with a deep feeling of unease and unexplained marks in her neck. So there was a very small chance that Taimi had actually been bitten by one, especially in a way that would turn her into one.

So what could it be, then?

Mila tried to be optimistic about it and not show her worry. Taimi thought her fangs were cool, and they didn’t seem to impair her speech nor have any other adverse effects either.

“Now I’m even more like a cat!” Taimi cheered and danced – according to her own words – like a cat, waving her arms with fingers curved like claws.

“Sure, that’s great, kitten,” Mila smiled.

When Taimi was at school, however, Mila immediately grabbed her phone and called Summer Holiday a.k.a Kiyakwe. She arrived in a few hours, looking fresh and enviably fabulous in her flattering blue dress and her long blonde, flowing hair. She wore her disguise so naturally that Mila tended to almost forget that her true self was an alien infiltrator.

“Hi, Mila!” she actually hugged Mila in greeting. Mila felt a bit weird about hugging anyone who wasn’t very close to her, but she returned the gesture anyway. Whatever got the greetings over with faster.

Mila hastily shoved some tea and salad in front of them and sat them both down at the kitchen table. Summer complimented the food, smiled like the sun and then got to business, suddenly gaining an edge no one could see coming.

“So, you told me that Taimi has grown fangs,” she said, and it sounded more like a statement than a question. Mila could only nod. Summer frowned and seemed to think intently about something.

“Does she show any other changes? Like a change in appetite? Skin anomalies?”

“No… not as far as I know,” Mila said and all kinds of horror scenarios flashed through her mind. What was happening to Taimi?

“And does she have any signs of venom leaking out of her fangs?”

“No,” Mila said, more firmly this time, “I know enough about vampires to check. There’s nothing. She just has very sharp canines.”

Summer nodded.

“Okay. So you know about Earthling vampires. Good. That makes things easier to understand.”

“What? So you have space vampires too?”

It had been meant as a joke, but the way Summer looked back at Mila suggested that it hadn’t worked.

“They call themselves Xirkari,” Summer said, “the living moon. I have done some research, though information on them is pretty hard to find. They are predators, reptile-like and very dangerous, but they can also live in peace with others. Usually they stay hidden, though.”

Mila took a moment to process it all. Space vampires. Alright.

“And you think Taimi might be one?” she asked.

Summer shook her head.

“If she was, she would have shown signs of it earlier, I’m sure. But I have a hunch about what could have happened… perhaps the scientists in the laboratory have used Xirkari genes when creating Taimi and her late siblings, and they have only now started to manifest.”

“Why the hell would they put vampire genes in kids?”

“I don’t know,” Summer frowned, “I’ll have to ask some people to look into things. I’m sure Payatoki can spare a moment, at least. And he knows people who can help with this. I’ll call him.”

“Good. Thank you,” Mila said. There were about a million questions in her mind, but she wanted to trust that Summer would find answers to those that mattered.

“Mum? What are you talking about? Hey! It’s the strawberry woman!”

Mila started when she saw Taimi’s fanged smile and long pigtails standing next to them. Then she remembered that Taimi had had a short day at school today. Just how much had she heard? For a moment, Mila’s mind ground to a halt. Summer didn’t miss a beat, though.

“Yes, I’m Summer, though I’m one of the rebels, so you can call me Kiyakwe too when we’re alone.”

“That’s right!” Taimi said happily, “Can you show me the real you?”

Summer/Kiyakwe smiled.

“Sure. I can.”

Then she flickered, her hair disappeared and her skin turned green. Galaxy-swirls filled her eyes. Somehow, the summer dress still suited her. Maybe even better than before, in a way. Taimi clapped her hands.

“Yay! You’re so pretty! What’re rebels doing now?”

“Lots of secret things,” Kiyakwe said and whispered like a conspirator, “But I can tell you a few of them.”

Taimi’s whole face shone. Kiyakwe was surprisingly good with kids. She told Taimi unimportant but interesting details about rebel life and the current situation in space. About following messages and listening in on calls. About telling others to think of each other as equals and just being kind. Taimi ate up every word, and Mila knew that she could step aside for a moment.

When Kiyakwe left, Taimi didn’t even remember that she had walked in on a serious adult conversation about possible experiments done on her.

She didn’t even need to know yet. At least not until they knew more.

While Mila waited for Kiyakwe’s news, she decided to stay as happy and carefree as she could. Taimi had a good week, though she sometimes stomped home from school angry because some idiot had stolen her dessert during lunch, and Mila had to make a stern call to the idiot’s parents. Otherwise she was happy. She asked Mila if Octy could come over, and Mila said yes.

She was all smiles, then. As was Octy when he arrived. They didn’t miss a beat and instantly picked up from where they had left the last time they had seen each other. Sometimes Mila heard them call each other names, and she was about to intervene when she heard them both laughing.

They had clearly achieved that stage of friendship when they could jokingly say mean things to each other and know it was just a joke.

Mila also took Taimi camping to a forest a few hours’ drive away during the weekend. At first Taimi had been a bit sour, especially because she had to wear her disguise all the time, but she was soon enamoured with the starry skies and tall pine trees that reminded Mila of home.

Taimi was ecstatic about the adventure that involved sleeping in a tent. She loved the grilled fruit Mila made on an open fire and her laughter filled the gaps between the decades old trees. Mila imagined a little forest sprite running there in pastel coloured clothing, with a sharp-toothed smile.

It was one of those moments when Mila could imagine that she was a normal mother and that she was doing something right. And there were no experiments and no evil scientists anywhere in sight.

Not until after two weeks, when Summer/Kiyakwe called Mila and sounded both happy and dangerously angry.

“We found something out,” she said, “I think the Xirkari genes can take us pretty far with looking for the missing scientists.”

“That’s great. So, were you right?”

“Yes. We didn’t know to look for the genes in Taimi’s siblings because they died before they could manifest, but we think the people in the lab might have tried to find a cure for pfura.”

“Cure for what?”

“A terrible sickness that affects some of us. It impairs our telepathic abilities and can be fatal even with treatment. Many scientists are trying to find a cure for it as we speak, but to resort to gene-splicing… that’s low. Then again, it is the kfvico’kyastorrsto we’re talking about.”

She said the monstrous nonsense-sounding word in a tone that told Mila it was probably an insult towards those whom the rebels were rebelling against.

“So… what does this meant for Taimi?” she dared to ask.

“We just need to wait and see. Call me immediately if she starts to exhibit any changes or symptoms of something… anything. She should only see our doctors from now on.”

“Okay,” Mila said and tried to keep the fear away from her voice. Kiyakwe heard it anyway, or then she read her mind.

“Hey, if everything goes well, she’ll be perfectly healthy. She’s been fine so far, so I have high hopes for her. We all do.”

“O… okay. Thank you, Kiyakwe.”

“Anytime.”

Mila lowered the phone when Kiyakwe hung up.

“Shit,” she whispered, “I’m gonna kill those science-bastards if I ever find them.”


Author’s Notes: Ploooot! This was a fun chapter. I hope you guys enjoy and have a lovely time!

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Stardust Sapling: Chapter 32

Sometimes, being a parent required sacrifice.

“Mila-mum! Look!”

“Hey-whoa! What’s up with the… bear?”

“We’re having a Vitamin-party at school because we need to learn about healthy food! I’m the Orange Bear, because oranges have lots of vitamin C! I see C!”

“Okay. That’s cute. Let me know if I can help.”

“You can! The teacher said parents could come too!”

“Oh? What do I have to do, then?”

*sigh*

Okay, a lot of the time, being a parent required sacrifice.

Sometimes it was difficult and made Mila’s head hurt. Though sometimes her head hurt just because Taimi had realised that playing music really loud was cool and fun, and she often refused to turn the volume down without a serious talk.

Sometimes, being a parent was just a huge pile of chores.

But most of the time, everything about being a parent was the best thing ever.

The worst thing about being a parent, however, was the worry. The feeling that everything Mila did or everything that happened might cause pain to Taimi. Mila tried her best to keep the worry tamed, just noticeable enough to keep her on her toes and teach Taimi basic common sense and proper caution but not enough to make her into an over-protective wreck. She knew she had been bordering on that several times during Taimi’s early childhood. She had to try to grow out of it now that Taimi was already at school.

And yet…

Taimi had been complaining about toothache lately, but the dentist hadn’t found any sign of cavities. Mila had been – of course – worried about the visit. And not just because toothache could mean some serious problems. She also worried because one never knew when professionals would notice the differences in Taimi. The slightly off way light reflected off her hair and skin, the slightly too green eyes, or the fact that she was way too strong for a little girl like her. Soon they would have to start relying entirely on rebellion doctors, but so far Mila wanted to keep up appearances that she had a normal human child who went to doctors regularly.

Taimi had been nervous about the dentist too, but had afterwards happily stuck the glittering unicorn sticker she had got from the visit into one of her school notebooks.

“They said I have great teeth!” she said even days after the visit, “That I’ve got awesome canines! Maybe I could start hunting like a cat! I could pounce on things like this!”

She mimed pouncing on prey before getting up to grab a plate of food, and Mila laughed.

“Maybe stick to helping me cook?” she said, and Taimi nodded eagerly.

“I wanna learn spinach pancakes! And salads!”

Mila smiled. Taimi had been much more at ease since she had become Taimi Mikishirie Groves. Like many pieces had fallen into place in her mind. Once again Mila had to wonder about the flexibility and the healing properties of a young mind.

“Sure, you can learn those. And more than that.”

Taimi grinned and bounced to turn on the stereo. She twisted the volume way up again. Mila looked meaningfully at her, but she didn’t care. Bouncy songs about being happy and enjoying life filled the room. Very loud songs. Taimi started dancing, and Mila decided to deal with ringing ears for a moment because Taimi looked so happy.

Just for a moment…

Okay, done.

“Taimiiii. Eardrums.”

Taimi huffed angrily, but didn’t complain much when Mila went to turn the volume down.

“You can hear just fine even when it’s like this,” she said.

Taimi pouted, but continued dancing. Soon she was smiling again.

And that was again another moment when being a parent was awesome. Seeing her kid learn and adapt and still stay herself.

She decided to leave her worry aside for now. Maybe Taimi’s toothache really was nothing to worry about. And sure, someday she would need to go to extra-terrestrial doctors and have to come up with excuses to skip the standard checkups, but that would come later.

But for now… maybe there would really be another period of peace this time.

A time without worries.


Author’s Note: Hi again! This is a short but important one. I hope you guys enjoyed!

Taimi’s fangs are by wildlyminiaturesandwich and can be found here.

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Stardust Sapling: Chapter 31

Even though things looked much steadier, warmer and cuddlier after visiting the Sevenses, Mila knew that Taimi hadn’t managed to deal with all of the things that their visit had cluttered her mind with. She kept staring into space, sometimes even without the look she got when she was communicating with the other extra-terrestrials. She looked absent-minded, and Mila noted that she sometimes hesitated before writing down her name into her school projects or drawings.

Mila couldn’t blame her for being so out of it. They had both got quite an infodump back at the Sevenses. And not all of it had been pretty.

The mental images of clone children in labs and working as slaves had haunted Mila’s mind before already, but now they were even stronger. Sure, she sometimes worried about the horrible things humans did, but she also fell into the trap of thinking it was all far away. But now – somewhat ironically – the problems of outer space had got much closer. Her own kid had been one of them. Who knew what exactly she had gone through?

Taimi remembered so little of it. But now Mila worried that even that little was too much. Mila tried to ask her how she felt about it all, but she didn’t talk. It was probably not the kind of thing that was easy to talk about. Well, of course it wasn’t. It would be hard to talk about even for an adult. So Mila decided to wait, even though it made her want to climb the walls out of anxiety and frustration. Taimi would come to her when she was ready. She hoped. Or then she would find someone else. Like Sept or Sebastion. They had their phone numbers now, and they sometimes called. Taimi called Octy a lot, and once Mila had got a call from school that the teacher had had to confiscate her phone for messaging in class. They had had another talk about that, and Taimi had then agreed to leave her phone in her bag during school hours.

Mila had a feeling that Taimi did want to talk to her, but maybe she was just scared. Mila tried her best to not be scary and to be accepting, the kind of person Taimi could confide in, but they weren’t quite ideally there yet. Even after all these years. They were comfortable around each other, sure. They were friends – family, really – and there was a deep trust and love between them, but there was still a little part of both Taimi and Mila who feared that they didn’t understand one another on some fundamental level.

Mila hoped it would go away, but she figured they’d both have to grow before that.

So, waiting it was.

Waiting and trying not to scratch the paint on the walls off. Metaphorically, of course. Well, most of the time.

Mila did her best to be there for Taimi and to make everything better and safe. It helped that things were relatively peaceful now that Johnny was out of the picture. Mila kept watching his computer, and had now started to try to crack some other Agency files as well just in case. She had a feeling that not all of the children in the project were as lucky as they were at the moment. There were likely much more persistent and dangerous weirdos after them than Johnny Zest.

Days passed, Mila tried to down her worries in ones and zeroes and code, and Taimi sat on her monkey bars a lot and stared at the moon. But finally she came to Mila and looked at her with a mix of worry, fear, embarrassment and guilt. Mila put away everything she was doing right away and looked back.

“Hi, sapling,” she said, “What’s wrong?”

Taimi choked down some hesitation, tasted words with a frown on her face, and finally breathed out a:

“What’s my name really?”

She took a deep breath and added with almost watery eyes:

Really-really?”

Okay, not what Mila’d been expecting, but still understandable. Kind of. At least she wasn’t thinking about evil laboratories. Or at least she wasn’t thinking about just them.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

Taimi fidgeted, but then hesitantly sat down next to Mila on their couch.

“I mean… they said I’m Mikishirie. And then I was 38. Then Taimi. And before all that I was… I don’t know. Something. Maybe other number. And I don’t like being a number but someone else called me something else and I kinda like it but I want to be Taimi!”

Mila closed her eyes and reminded herself that Taimi was still a kid. A smart kid, yeah, but a kid. And sure, losing one’s name and getting a new one was a pretty big deal. She knew that firsthand. She looked up with sudden realisation. At least she hadn’t needed to think about what to say for too long.

“Taimi,” she said, “Have you ever heard me call myself something else in my mind?”

Taimi nodded slowly.

“See-something?”

“Siiri. Yes.”

She wrapped her arms around Taimi.

“My name is Siiri Kaarina Löytökorpi. I’m from another country. From the north. And I had to change my name so that I could be a part of this project.”

Taimi was quiet. Almost eerily so. She was barely breathing.

“I still don’t know which one I really am,” Mila said, “But you know what? I like being both. Do you like being Taimi?”

Taimi nodded.

“It feels like me. And it’s in your north-language. But I like Mikishirie too because… they were good people. On the ship. They named me and then they died.”

“Yeah. I’m sorry.”

“But I don’t know if it’s me. And I don’t want to lose Taimi.”

Mila nodded, feeling Taimi’s liquid-silk hair against her cheek.

“A name is… important, I know. It’s what you call yourself. But it’s not who you are. You are the things you do and the things you like and don’t like and the things you think and dream and… everything. You understand?”

Taimi nodded again.

“But I don’t remember… did I like paint and monkey bars before?”

Mila paused for a moment, and then said:

“I don’t know. But you know what? We all grow and change. What you like now is different than what you liked when you were two years old. So it’s fine. It’s fine not to remember everything. Most of us don’t remember much about when we were really little.”

And some things are better forgotten, she added mentally.

Taimi was quiet again, for a long time. Then she said very quietly:

“Why do so many bad things happen?”

“I wish I could tell you. But I told you-“

“You’ll keep me safe,” Taimi said, “I believe you.”

Mila smiled.

“The world is so big and odd,” Taimi whispered.

“Yeah. It is.”

They sat in silence for a while. Mila then dared to ask:

“Would you like to be Mikishirie too? Because we can make you Taimi Mikishirie Groves if you want.”

Taimi tensed. Then she said almost giddily:

“Can we?”

“Sure. I mean, that name means nothing to any bad people. It’s safe.”

“And everyone would still call me Taimi?”

“If you want.”

“Yes! I want that! And I want Mikishirie to be in there!”

“It’s a deal, then,” Mila smiled.

Taimi hugged Mila tightly and then asked almost shyly:

“Can you sing in your secret language?”

Mila laughed.

“My singing voice is terrible, you know that.”

“No it’s not!”

Mila laughed again.

“Well, sure, I can. Do you want to hear a song?”

Taimi nodded. Mila took a moment to get over her sudden stage fright, and then picked a lullaby her foster parents had sung a lot:

“Nuku, nuku, nurmilintu.

väsy, väsy, västäräkki…”

Taimi listened quietly and settled better into Mila’s arms. And some small piece of them understood how similar they were in many more respects than they had initially thought.


Author’s Note: The lullaby Mila/Siiri sings is a very old Finnish lullaby called “Nuku, nuku” (Sleep, sleep). You can hear the whole song (accompanied by a traditional Finnish kantele) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFCixLn9qRw

And the lyrics and the translation is here: https://lyricstranslate.com/en/sleep-sleep-little-grassland-bird-lyrics.html

I hope you enjoy and have a lovely time!

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Stardust Sapling: Chapter 30

When Mila was again lifted into the sky by a spaceship, she wondered when this kind of thing had become normal. Then again, so many abnormal things had become normal, and really, isn’t normal just a matter of perspective anyway? In her home country, it was normal to get naked and sit in a heated room with even casual acquaintances and occasionally swim in the snow. It was mainstream to scoff at too much wheat in bread, and playing heavy metal with cellos was well-liked high art. And here, apparently, it was normal to adopt awesome kids from the stars and be a part of an extraterrestrial rebellion.

Okay, so maybe that was normal for just a select few.

She kinda liked being a part of that select few.

She was welcomed into the ship by technicolour people who were passionate about equality, kindness and the environment. And about rebelling. Going against the big men who thought so many living things were just soulless shells to be used. Puppets. Statistics. It was something Mila knew humans did too, and she had usually followed news stemming from those kinds of philosophies with jaded weariness, mild concern, and feelings of powerlessness. So what if she tried to be decent when so many more powerful people were being assholes?

She always quickly dismissed those thoughts, because damn it, it mattered, and damn it, she didn’t want to give up in the face of those bastards.

But now… she could think that she was doing something good more and more directly. Something that would really go against the wrongs in the universe. Or at least a small fraction of them.

They told her about clones, about their plans to take children from all sorts of facilities to safety. Mila knew some of that already, but she listened with interest and horror. The clone children had been saved from horrible, horrible fates. Some were created for slave labour, some for organ harvesting, some for genetic experiments, and some or… all of the above and more. Hearing it always made her skin crawl and her fingers twitch because she wanted to throw things in a sudden burst of hatred.

Another thing that made her want to throw things was hearing that – of course – there were many anti-extra-terrestrial movements on Earth, because of course humans would see a new, different thing and immediately think “wrong!”. She hadn’t even realised how big it all was. Oasis Springs was a small enough town to be less organised about their speciesism. Sure, Mila had heard some comments about weird-skinned people, and some people used the word “alien” like a slur. But it was all basic kind of intolerance that Mila had learned to think of as an inevitable evil that would always rear its ugly head no matter how much you tried to fight it.

They also told her about Taimi. Or Mikishirie, as she had been called before she had been a number and after she had been a nameless experiment. They had figured out more about the lab she had been saved from. From what they could tell, the clone children had been genetically altered, but it was difficult to say how. It was probably for some kind of medical experiments, as they had also found many samples of alien viruses. Mila shivered at the thought. She wanted to be back so she could hold and shield her kid from everything.

They told her about those who tried to change people’s minds. Those who spoke about kindness and souls. They told her about fighters, who did the dirty work. They told her about the eco warriors, who tried to save planets from ecological disasters. Good. This planet was due to a rescue. Global warming had got so bad recently.

It all made Mila somehow feel more at peace. She wasn’t nearly as alone as she had thought. No one was. And she knew she wanted to help more than she was helping now. Raising one rescued kid was a big thing – and her priority – but maybe she could do something else too.

Surely there were codes she could crack? Speciesist assholes and evil scientists kept files too. Sure, Mila probably wouldn’t be able to access any space-files, but she could maybe crack some here on Earth.

And maybe she could also start talking. About tolerance and changing minds. Being more open about how she felt about living things being equal.

That last part was so out of her comfort zone that it made her shudder. Usually she kept her opinions mostly to herself. But maybe… maybe she could finally try talking. It was the best way to really make a difference. Maybe. As long as someone listened.

When they were finally done talking, Mila was set back down. The first thing she heard was Taimi’s excited shout of:

“Mila’s back!”

She saw her looking up, glowing a playful pink from what Mila could assume was playing with the other kids. She looked so happy to see her again.

Mila grinned the moment her feet touched the brick terrace.

“Hey, sapling!” she said, “I’m glad you’re okay!”

Taimi smiled, but her feelings struck Mila’s mind. They were jumbled. The happiness had wrapped around questions and uncertainty. Taimi quickly hid them away again, made Mila not feel them. But she had already seen. She wondered what was wrong, but she figured she’d talk about it once they weren’t guests in the house of Taimi’s new friend.

“How’re things?” Mila asked.

Taimi explained enthusiastically about how she had played with the kids and how she had met Octy’s mum, who was the great rebel warrior Xirra.

“Xirra talked about lots of things and then I played with Octy and they gave me food and it was real good which is nice because Octy likes good food and Seb is really cool did you see his hair it’s like snakes! And…”

It went on and on, partly out of real excitement, partly probably to hide Taimi’s more negative feelings. Mila smiled and nodded, finally letting the tiny worry in her mind go.

She knew these were good people. Probably. Sure, she might be paranoid and overprotective, but there were some times when goodness was just radiating from someone, and it had to be real because no bad person would put so much effort into being genuinely good.

Unless they were really good at faking good. But that was rare, Mila figured.

Besides, Taimi was happy and fed and okay, and the only problem was that she was tired.

That made Mila check the time.

“Oh, darn”, she said, “We missed the last ferry back. Wonderful.”

Octy’s eyes shone at the mention of that. Maybe he was happy that his new friend had to stay a while longer.

“Do you like to swim? Like really swim? Like hundreds of miles in shark-infested waters? Or, OK, maybe not sharks. There are jellyfish! And lobsters. And crabs that like to pinch toes. Pops, are there sharks?”

“Sure there are, son! Remember those bull sharks we saw last winter?”

“I guess you’ll have to stay until tomorrow’s ferry, then! Can’t swim with the sharks! Not if you want to keep your toes! Wanna play chess, then, Mila? I promise that my knights will not bite!”

Mila laughed a little. Octy was one of those innocent, endearing kids. Filled with optimism and positivity and enthusiasm. And none of it crushed by the gritty reality. Then again, considering the incredibly positive aura around his dad, maybe he would keep all that into adulthood. This seemed like the kind of place that was a shelter from all the bad things in the world. Sure, from what Mila had been told, Sebastion Sevens’s eldest was one of the bizoobi, the clones who had been created just to be taken advantage of. To be abused. But even he seemed so positive. It had to be because of some expert parenting. Just enough of the gritty bits, all wrapped in enough cotton balls to keep them from cutting too deep. Or at least enough love and patient explaining to heal the cuts.

Wow, she was maybe a bit loopy. She was thinking in weird metaphors.

“Sure,” she said, “I can play.”

She wasn’t good at chess. She played board games, sure, but they were usually more co-operative in nature. Put her in a pen and paper role-playing game group, and she’d turn from a slightly snippy introvert into an over-dramatic adventurer. But chess? Not her thing. Well, it wasn’t about the game now, was it? It was about learning more about Taimi’s new friend.

Octy seemed much more at ease at home, which was saying a lot because he had been very at ease in the Springs too.

Mila had to admit that once she got past the endeared stage, she was slightly unnerved by the constant positivity. Even after all these years, she hadn’t shaken the melancholic basic nature of the northern forests. And she figured that suited her anyway. Someone needed to bring a bit of balance between the happy-happy-joy-joys and the overly angsty ones.

Though that someone should probably have better social skills.

Wow, she was really meandering.

“I’m glad you got home, Octy,” she said, mostly to open a conversation, “You have a good family here, right? Taimi seems to like you all, at least.”

“All families are good, right, Mila? That’s what family means! The good people!” Octy smiled.

“Right… sure…” Mila said slowly, “Or then they’re just people you’re stuck with. If you’re unlucky. Good thing you’re not.”

She sighed.

“Don’t mind me. I’m just being a downer. That’s what I am. Anyway, I’m glad you got back, and that you like it here. And that you’re friends with Taimi.”

“Me, too. Can you believe that one time, I didn’t know Taimi? And now! It’s like she’s my sister! We’re that close! We’re the hero-duo-thing.”

“That sounds awesome. Just remember to tell us before you go do any too dangerous hero-ing.”

She watched Octy kick her ass at chess and had to almost laugh at it all. Maybe it was because her mind was wandering, still soaring somewhere in space, but for a moment, she felt very cheerful and at ease. Like she had found a new home. A piece of one, anyway.

When Mila got hungry, Seb invited her inside for ice cream. It was a bit odd to eat ice cream for dinner or for a late night snack, but this was a special occasion, right? The ice cream was good. Probably homemade. Creamy and with some kinds of berries in it.

“Got space-lag?” Seb asked, “I always feel a bit off when I get back from a visit, no matter how quick it was.”

“I guess,” Mila said, “My mind keeps going too fast. Million thoughts a minute. Is it like that?”

“My mind usually stops. Or feels like jello for a few days. But I guess it can be different for different people.”

“I guess…” Mila said, “Maybe mine would feel like jello too if it wasn’t so… full of stuff now. I met so many of Taimi’s kind. It’s good to see how big the rebellion really is. They’re needed. Badly. I just hope they can make a difference.”

She looked at her ice cream as if the swirly frozen milk could somehow answer all her problems.

“I hope I can do more too.”

“Xirra always tells me it’s the doing that counts. When I get discouraged, which I often do, she tells me, ‘Don’t try to change things, Sebbo! Just do! In the doing you find the joy.’ It works for her. I’m not sure about for me, but I give it a try.”

“What do you do, Seb?” Mila glanced around and took note of the handful of children that seemed to be family, “Aside from raising tons of kiddos?”

“Did you know my academic background is in early childhood education and library sciences?” Seb asked, “Well, no. How would you know that? But that’s what it is. When Sept was little, I was too focused on him to develop my career – I painted and wrote to support us. I still paint and write, a little. But now, I’ve opened a school! I’m able to pull together all the theories I studied, combine them with my own ideas, and develop practical applications. It’s very exciting. We have two main missions: to provide an engaging and useful education to extra-T and mixed kids, and to offer an education that fosters peace and community to all kids. It’s heady stuff, and I love it.”

“Oh, wow. That’s… a lot. Congrats.”

Maybe she should put Seb in contact with Killian. She was supposed to be in early childhood education too. Two abductees teaching kiddos. It sounded nice.

Maybe once they were sure no one would try to blast Killian’s brains out for not wanting to sell a child to crazy scientists.

“I hope that goes well”, Mila said instead, “I can’t say I know you that well yet, but you seem like the kind of guy who could make that work. Like, really work. I wish I could say I’d do what I can to help… but I don’t think I can do that much. I’m just a socially awkward programmer who barely even knows what a good childhood is.”

“Now a socially awkward programmer… that sounds like the perfect credentials for a rebel hacker! You any good at C++?”

“I know my way around it just fine,” Mila said and had to smile, “I kinda like the sound of ‘Rebel Hacker Mila Groves.’ Maybe I’m not a completely useless person after all.”

She thought about it.

“And if things get really bad… Like, violent-bad, I suppose I do have my military training. But let’s hope things don’t come to that. I’m a guerrilla, which in my country means I’m really good at sneaking in forests. And there aren’t many forests where I live now.”

She frowned.

“And… you know, that would mean all the peaceful ways had failed and that too many people are complete idiots who can’t see anything past their own prejudice.”

Seb nodded, maybe a bit sadly. It was hard to tell through all the happiness.

“Diversity is hard for people. We’re not exactly wired for it. Take a baby, and the baby will learn to recognize the facial structures and types of those they see daily. Then, later, when they meet someone with different color skin, different facial structure, different sounding voices, these alarms go off in their head: Different! Danger? But, and here’s the thing: Though our conditioning influences us, we can also influence it. We don’t have to be subjugated to it. We can, for one, create diversity in our cultures. And two, when we meet those who fall into the conditioning-trap, we can work to provide escape routes. Like mindfulness training and meditation. That sort of thing. I’m preaching to the choir, I know.”

“Well, you’re better at preaching than I am. I usually just say something stupid about trying to punch out your inner caveman or something.”

She sighed.

“But you know, maybe I’m getting too negative again. Sorry about that. It was good to meet the people, and you know, maybe I’ll do something more for the rebellion now. For the people there. They were great. I think one of them spoke of your kid. November, wasn’t it? There’s so many of you. I think she was her mum.”

“Novy,” Octy said, “Mila got to meet your mommy!”

“How was Teko?” Seb asked. “We never see her as often as we’d like.”

Mila quickly recalled the pale blue woman with the striking makeup. Teko. She wasn’t sure what her name in her language – Vingihoplo, as they called it – meant, but in Mila’s language, it meant deed. As in things you did. She did seem like the person who did things. Good things. She was an eco warrior, keen on saving polar bears and atmospheres and biodiversity.

“She seemed fine. Busy. Working a lot. I hear she’s saving worlds. Or helping people save their worlds.”

She paused, thought about it.

“It feels… wrong that we can’t take care of that without outside help. Or more like enough people can’t be bothered.”

“Yeah. Teko doesn’t see it as ‘outside help,’ though. She’s into systems thinking – fractal stuff. She takes the smallest system you can imagine, like a dust mite, for example, and from there traces it out to the largest you can conceive of, like the multiverse. So she says, ‘We’re all cells in the same system.’”

“It’s nicely philosophical to think that,” Mila said, “But I think most people are a bit too stuck to their individuality to see it that way. Or then I’m just too pessimistic. Oh, heck, I know I am, but what’re you gonna do?”

She let out a nervous laugh.

“Anyway, it’s good, what she does.”

It was at this point that Octy jumped into the spare seat and beamed at Mila.

“I found the extra sleeping bag!” he said. “And we got clean pillow cases! Can you stay here? Please?”

“It’s really no trouble,” said Seb. “We’d love it. The couch pulls out into a little bed, and you don’t look like you take up too much space, and we can put the sleeping bag on the rug in the kids’ room. It’ll be a regular sleep-over! Much better than the mildewy old inn all the way in town!”

“Please?” Octy asked again.

It was probably the kindness and the warmth and Octy’s hopeful smiles that made Mila not care about being a bother.

“Thank you,” she said, “We’d be happy to stay.”

She heard Taimi start jumping up and down in joy.


Mila slept surprisingly well. She sometimes woke up and was ready to fight because she didn’t know where she was, but she always managed to calm back down quickly. Taimi slept calmly through the night, and was the one to wake Mila up by bouncing up and down on her with no regard to her bones.

“Wake up! There’s a good smell in the kitchen! Breakfast!”

There indeed was. And there was also Octy and Seb, who seemed to have overloaded their positivity reserves during the night.

“Yazoo!” Seb said. “Everybody sleep well? Let’s have pancakes with ice cream for breakfast! Woot!”

Mila’s smile was tired and a little bit forced. She liked Seb. A lot. But she noted that she liked him in small doses better. His happiness made the world a better place, but it didn’t mix all that well with her inner, more sombre core.

Taimi loved him, though. Of course she did. She was so sunny herself, and she fit right in with the Sevenses and their happy house. Mila almost felt bad for having to take her away from it, even though she assured her that they would meet again, and that Taimi could call Octy whenever she wanted – as long as it wasn’t right in the middle of a lesson at school.

“We never have pancakes with ice cream!” Taimi said, “These are so good!”

“We have pancakes with spinach,” Mila said, “They’re good too, right?”

“They’re awesome,” Taimi said, “But so are these.”

“Yeah, they are,” Mila looked up at Seb, who still practically danced around the breakfast table, “Thank you so much for all this, really.”

“I wish you could stay longer,” Seb said, “but I’m so glad you came. Come again, anytime.”

Mila knew they would. She liked that thought.

Maybe all too soon, they were leaving. The ferry was waiting, and so was home. Taimi waved at Octy for the longest time, and Mila and Seb exchanged last minute contact information. Then they really had to go. Octy waved and shouted after them:

“Taimi! Call me! During math lessons, preferably! I will need to ask you about the halves of two quarters and three wholes! Fractions ! Blech!”

“I’ll try!” Taimi shouted back, “Maybe if you think numbers at me really hard, I’ll know to text you!”

“What did I say about lessons and phones?” Mila said.

“You said no calling!” Taimi’s forehead wrinkled a bit in thought, “But maybe I can text at least?”

Mila laughed.

“Sneaky. Just don’t get too distracted. You guys need numbers for… well, probably for something at least.”

Taimi smiled.

“Yeah. But I think I need friends more.”

Mila smiled back.

“Well, sapling, this was a great adventure. I’m glad we came here.”

“I’m glad too!” Taimi said, but then her face fell a bit, “Mila… Octy’s mum said some things… that there are people, who…”

“I know,” Mila said when Taimi trailed off, “The world can be a dark place.”

“But… why?” Taimi asked.

“I wish I knew. All I can say that many people are stupid and selfish and hurt others.”

She pointed towards the warm brick house behind them. The one that was full of love.

“But there’s a lot of good people too. Those who want to make a difference. The bad things can often cover up the good, to just flow all over it because there’s so much of it. But if we’re smart about it and work hard enough, we can make things better.”

“But it’s… so big. It all is,” Taimi said.

“I know. But we can start small. Like making friends with other good people and being nice to others.”

“I can do that!” Taimi said, her face brightening again. Mila knew there was still plenty of things that were bothering Taimi, but for now, it was good enough.

“I know,” Mila said, “Now, let’s go home, sapling.”


Author’s Note: So, this is the last chapter in this collab arc with Cathy Tea! It’s been so much fun! Thank you again! I’m sure there’ll be lots of collabing in the future too!

Check out Cathy’s stories here: Septemus, my Son and Lighthouse

Also yes, all the things I mentioned being normal in Finland are true. First was of course a reference to sauna culture, and we really do favour really dark bread. Also there’s a band called Apocalyptica, which started out by doing cello covers of Metallica’s songs, and is now doing original stuff too, with “heavy metal with cellos” still being their thing. They’ll be playing at an opera festival this year, as far as I know. I like their stuff. 🙂

I hope you guys enjoyed! Have a lovely time!

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Sunshine Blogger Award

the-sunshinebloggeraward1

Hello! This blog was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by the lovely Shadami! Thank you so much! Go check out their stories here.

So here’s what I’m supposed to do:

1. In a blog post, thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
2. Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or your blog.

I think this time I’ll nominate the lovely people and stories belonging to the Alien Adoption Collab! Check out the stories here. And even more stories in the forum thread.

Also check out my other award-posts if you want to see some other stories I love:
Liebster Award
Animal Award
Sunshine Blogger -Award
The Versatile Blogger -Award

And now for the questions:

  1. What inspires you to write?
    Ideas. The fact that I just LOVE writing and creating stuff. It helps me clear my thoughts. When it comes to SimLit, the lovely community inspires a lot too.
  2. Do you have a style that you love but you have a hard time writing yourself?
    It’s more a genre-thing, but I love detective stories and murder mysteries. But because of my… lacking plot-writing skills, I don’t feel very confident writing them.
  3. Do you toss out ideas when you have to many stories? Or do you just save them for later?
    If the idea is good, I might save it for later. But often I toss ideas out because the longer I let an idea sit in my head, the worse it starts to feel.
  4. What is your favorite type of character?
    Socially awkward, somewhat creepy yet kind, knowledgeable in some weird stuff while totally incompetent in normal things. Someone who has a very different, outsider perspective to humanity. Usually a humanoid-looking non-human, such as a spirit, anthropomorphic personification or a robot. Also very or completely non-sexual. Another favourite type is the sarcastic, morally grey anti-hero.
  5. When writing do you try to create the typical archetypes or let the characters be themselves?
    I think archetypes are tools that can be used to create good characters if they’re used as… well, tools instead of moulds. So I let the characters be themselves but also try to make sure the characters fill certain roles in the story and have interesting dynamics between them.
  6. Do you lay out the plot first and try to follow it? Or does the story develop naturally as you write?
    I usually have a very vague, threadbare plot to go with the themes and characters that I flesh out much more before starting. The story hopefully develops from there.
  7. Do you take notes as you play the game?
    No.
  8. If you edit pictures for your story, how do you do it?
    I use GIMP 2. Most often I just resize the pics and adjust the colour and lighting, but sometimes I may have to do some more trickery to get the effects I want.
  9. What do you believe is a good length for a post?
    I like writing and reading slightly longer posts, something between 1000 and 5000 words. More than that starts to get pretty long, and less than that feels like it’s over just when it started.
  10. Do you know that you’re awesome?
    No. I’m not. But thanks. 🙂
  11. Can I give you a hug? 😀
    Sure.

And my new questions for those who want to do this are here:

  1. Is there a story from your childhood that still influences you?
  2. Do you notice/put recurring themes, symbols or motifs in your writing?
  3. Does real life often inspire/influence your stories?
  4. What is your favourite genre of stories to read?
  5. How about your favourite genre to write?
  6. What do you do on your free time besides write stuff?
  7. When I’m walking about, I often tend to pay attention to wall textures and people with luggage. Is there a random detail that always seems to catch your eye?
  8. Which animals do you especially like?
  9. What do you do to sort out your thoughts when they’re feeling tangled up?
  10. In the midst of all the bad news nowadays, what’s the thing that makes you happy?
  11. What are your strengths?

Okay, there we go. I’m not good at coming up with questions, but if anyone wants to do it, feel free. 🙂

Stardust Sapling: Chapter 29

The next morning, Mila returned and told Taimi that the rebels had just wanted to ask how they were doing. She looked annoyed about the timing, but she quickly forgot about it when she called Octy’s family and then figured out the schedules of the ferry that would take them to Octy’s home.

Taimi took care with putting up her hair nicely and choosing a pretty yellow dress (though one she could still play and dance in). She didn’t usually take so much time to make sure she looked nice, but she was going to meet her new friend’s family! And there would be more people like her! It was like a proper celebration! And it was nice to feel pretty sometimes!

Taimi felt nervous when they sat in the ferry. She listened to the water and the waves, trying to calm down. Mila looked at her and smiled. She felt a bit nervous too. And excited. Mila squeezed her hand.

“It’ll be great,” she said.

Taimi knew that too. She was almost trembling with anticipation when they stepped out of the ferry and made the rest of the way to Octy’s cool-looking brick house. There were already people waiting for Octy to return.

Octy’s dad looked fun. He had glasses like Mila, and his hair was like snakes or rope. His name was Sebastion, and his smile was as nice as Octy’s. When Octy ran to him, he instantly hugged Octy like a dad should. Next to him stood a cute, furry thing that barked.

“Doggy!” Taimi shouted before she could stop herself.

“Thanks for returning my kid,” Sebastion chuckled. “Seriously. World of debt. Thank you.”

“No problem,” Mila said easily, even though Taimi could feel that she was a bit tense in her mind. Taimi dismissed that quickly, because she knew that Mila was just always ready to defend her if needed. No need to worry about that. Taimi was more interested in the dog, who was barking happily at them, especially at Octy.

Octy greeted the doggy, and suddenly Taimi realised there were two doggies there! This place was great!

“They’re so cute!” Taimi squealed.

“They’re good doggos!” Octy said. “Aren’t you, Lemon? Did you miss me? This is my new best friend! She’s named after a twig, but don’t go-fetch her! She’s a person-twig, not a chew-twig!”

Taimi laughed, but looked up when she sensed people coming their way. More people? How many were there? There was a pretty woman with brown hair, two pale blue kids, and…

Taimi’s eyes widened, and she felt a happy spark inside her. A spark so strong it made her glow with happiness. She knew the tall blue man immediately.

He was Sept Sevens. Everyone’s bagoto. The one she had sometimes heard in her mind.

“Sept Sevens!” Taimi said, “It’s you, right? You’re the BAbizoobagoto!”

“Taimi! You and your mom are the new family heroes! Thanks for singing to me to let me know this squirt was OK. And thanks even more for bringing my rascal of a brother home!”

“No problem,” Taimi said like Mila had a moment before. It sounded cool. Like being a hero was nothing special, “I think he found me first, so he helped me help him. And it was nice to bring him home. That way I got to meet you too!”

Sept’s smile turned different. Taimi wasn’t sure what it meant. She felt him remembering things, but she didn’t know what.

“We go way back, don’t we, Mikishirie?”

Taimi frowned.

“Um… do we? I’ve heard you sing ever since I was tiny. But… is that already way back?”

“Well, it’s definitely a crowd here,” Mila said with a bit of a nervous smile. Taimi knew she didn’t like crowds, “Hi there! You’re all Octy’s family, right? I’m Mila Groves, and this is my kid.”

She looked at Taimi with the kind of look that meant that Taimi should continue.

“It’s great to meet you!” she said, “I’m Octy’s new best friend!”

Sept smiled at her and introduced the rest of the people. The woman was Mallory, Sept’s wife. Taimi looked at her with wide eyes. A human woman finding a blue prince for herself? That was so cool! And the littlest little kid, Naavre, was their real kid! Even cooler! The girl who was around Taimi’s age – maybe – was called Santi, and Taimi could immediately feel her emotions. They seemed to hug the entire world. They were so strong.

“I knew Octy to be safe, even before you sing,” said Santi, “for I keep feeling happy-yellow! But I not know happy-yellow was you! Very pretty yellow! So happy!”

“Pizza!” yelled Naavre. “Pizza! Pizza!”

“He just learn to talk,” explained Santi.

“He’s cute!” Taimi said, “I like pizza too! Can you say Taimi? Tai-mi! When most people say it they say it differently than Mila does. They say Thai-meeeee, but Mila says it with really hard and short sounds!”

Naavre threw his hands into the air and yelled, “Tai-mi! Tai-mi!”

“I knew I’d see you again,” said Sept. “Situ used to take me to see you on the ship. ‘This one is very special,’ she told me. ‘Strong and brave.’ So when I thought of you, out in your orange world, I never worried. Strong and brave–I knew you’d be OK, even when things get tough, as things often seem to do.”

Ship? Taimi stared at Sept. She didn’t remember much about the ship, except distorted words through sleep. But here was someone who had been there too.

“You were there? On the ship? I mean… you were… awake?”

She then blushed a bit when the part about her being strong and brave sunk in. Yes. She supposed she was strong and brave sometimes. Like when she had wanted to help Octy. Though that was hardly volcano-rescue-levels of bravery and strength. But at least it had led her here, to so many answers. And questions too.

Mila looked at Taimi in the gentle Mila-way she often did.

“Hey, sapling,” she said, “It seems like we found your shipmates. At least some of them.”

She smiled and looked at Sept.

“I’d love it if you guys could explain things to us. And especially for Taimi. And since you guys are a part of the rebellion too, I’d like to know more about that. I’ve only been in contact with a few of the rebels before, and… well, more wouldn’t hurt. If that’s okay, I mean.”

“I’m happy to share all I know,” Sept said, “but everything I know, I learned from Xirra, Octy’s mom. If you really want answers, she’s the one to ask!”

It turned out that Xirra was in the house as well. But after some more talk, it was suggested that Mila should meet the rest of the rebels the Sevens people knew too. It seemed that here, spaceships were just one little call away.

Mila looked encouragingly at Taimi.

“I’ll go talk to them,” then she looked at Sept, “You know, I trust you guys to look after her. But if anything happens to her, no one will be safe from me.”

She said it with a bit of a smile, but her eyes were dead serious. Sometimes Mila was a bit scary.

Taimi watched the spaceship take Mila away. Usually, this sort of thing ended up being more boring than it should have been. Usually the rebels just talked about boring things and about how they still didn’t know much about anything. But now, Taimi couldn’t wait to hear what kinds of new people Mila met on the ship. How much more they would know.

Taimi felt like they had been lost in some kind of forest of never knowing much for Taimi’s whole life. But now, it was all starting to clear up. Maybe. Probably. She hoped so.

After Mila was gone, Taimi couldn’t wait any longer. She wanted to see the place where Octy lived, so she ran inside even before she was properly invited. It was a cute house, with lots of pretty things like flowers and colourful chairs in it. And there was also a woman who looked a lot like Octy.

“Hi!” Taimi said, “You must be Octy’s mum! Because you look like him. Or he looks like you. And he told me he looks like you.”

She paused for a moment and then added.

“I’m Taimi. I brought Octy home.”

“Thank you, Taimi. We’re so grateful! All of us! Do you know, we have a saying that when you rescue one, you rescue all! We’ve always been looking out for you, dear one, and now it seems that you were looking out for us, as well!”

Her voice was like a warm desert wind. Taimi could feel pride and happiness swelling in her chest. It was like music. Music that made her want to dance. This place was so full of love and acceptance, something she had only really felt in Mila before now. And the people here were treating her like family. It was too great!

“I didn’t know that,” Taimi said and swung her arms with the music, “But I’m so glad! I mean, I got Mila, but Mila’s just one awesome person. But now it’s like… I had a whole army of people like me looking after me all this time too!”

She felt even safer than before. She smiled even wider, even though she was already smiling so much her face hurt a bit.

“I like you,” she said, “All of you. It’s… weird. It’s like I’ve had a whole bunch of friends all the time and I didn’t know.”

She suddenly felt like a very bad friend.

“I’m sorry I didn’t know.”

“Knowing happens when the time for knowing arrives! You know now, and that’s all that matters.”

It all sounded so mystical. Octy’s mum really was a great warrior. Old warriors spoke in mystical riddles, right? At least in some stories.

But she wasn’t just a warrior. She was Octy’s mum. And once she had said her mystical words, she got up and went outside to greet Octy.

Octy looked so happy in his mum’s arms. Taimi understood. She’d be just as happy too if she’d spent days apart from Mila. If there was anything good about getting lost, getting back home was it.

Taimi didn’t want to bother Octy and his mum now, but she also felt like she wanted to talk to Octy’s mum. Xirra. Yeah, that was her name. She was a rebel warrior person, and she was also like Taimi. And Sept had said that she knew about what was going on and what Taimi was!

Taimi paused at that thought. She didn’t think about where she had come from all that much. Because all she remembered were white rooms and needles and darkness and cold bizaapgotojoto. And crashing and burning, maybe. Nothing good. She knew Mila and some of the rebels were trying to find out, find the people from the lab Taimi had been in. But Taimi preferred to let the adults handle that.

But now… here was a safe place with safe-feeling people, who might know something. Who knew something. At least Taimi could know more about how people like her worked. If they were that different from humans. Taimi knew she had two hearts to start with, and that she had blue skin and that she could mind-sing. But other than that… there wasn’t much she knew. What kinds of jobs did the people there have? Other than rebels and evil scientists, that is. What were their homes like? Did they have ice cream?

“Um… Miss Xirra rebel person,” she said shyly once Octy was done hugging his mum, “I wanna ask some things.”

She thought about it and then added:

“If that’s okay.”

She hoped she had talked nicely enough. Mila always told her that just because Mila was sometimes rude and too blunt, Taimi didn’t have to be.

“Ask away, dear Taimi!” Xirra said, “I have lots of time to talk with you before the ship returns and it’s time for me to go again.”

Taimi nodded happily. Xirra sat on a rock in a pretty flower garden next to the house, and Taimi tried to get the millions and billions of questions in her head in order. Where should she start?

“Uh… so… what do you know about me coming here?”

That wasn’t a very good start, probably. Taimi added a bit sheepishly:

“I know I was on a ship. But I was asleep. Sept knew me, though. He said something about a… pretty dream? Mikishirie.

She frowned.

“I think I remember that word. Maybe.”

Mikishirie. Yes! That was my sister’s name for you! She had names for naatoui, for all the kids on the ship!”

Taimi paused at that. She’d had a name before she’d had a number after all!

Mikishirie… it sounded beautiful. But Taimi had come to think of herself as Taimi. She wondered what her name really was. Was it still Taimi? It wasn’t the first name, but it was the one that felt right. The one she really remembered.

She had to ask Mila later. Right now, she had to hide that spark of confusion somewhere in her mind and try to pick the next question out of all the millions billions.

“So the people on the ship saved me?” Taimi asked, “Where was I saved from? The white rooms?”

“Yes, from the white rooms. The ones who saved you were my sister and her husband – those are Whisper’s parents. Do you know Whisper? They saved you. You and the others.”

“I know Whisper! I haven’t met her, but she sends me pretty pictures! Her mum and dad are real heroes, then!”

She suddenly remembered another part of the story. A part that made her sad for Whisper, and for everyone else involved.

“I was told… the adults on the ship died.”

She went quiet for a moment. Death was a big mystery. A part of Taimi knew that it was supposed to happen. But another part of her knew that it meant something had ended for good. That it was gone forever. Mila had explained it to her. But Mila had also told her that some believed that it wasn’t an end, and that some others believed that something else would come back from a dead person.

Still, it was sad.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “For the dead ones.”

“Thank you. It was my sister, Situ. She was the one who passed. She was the only grown one on the ship. The rest were you little ones! But she made sure that you were safe within your pods before the ship entered the atmosphere. And, fortunately, Kiyakwe was here already, to help arrange safe placement for each of you!”

“So they were rebels, right? Mila’s told me they rebel against people who’re not nice to others. Especially not to bizoobi. What do the rebels really do?”

“Oh, we do what we can to help beings live free and well! I continue my sister’s work, finding safe havens for those who need to escape death or other bad fates. Teko, Octy’s little sister’s mom, works to restore ecosystems and prevent extinctions across the galaxies. And Septemus? His work is the most important of all! He works to change hearts and minds, so that people treat all living things and systems, including themselves, with respect and kindness.”

That did sound good. Taimi wasn’t quite sure what everything Xirra had just said meant, but she knew enough to know that these people were saving worlds. People and plants and birds and animals and everything. It sounded so big. Too big for Taimi to really wrap her head around. But that was probably why there was more than one hero in the galaxy.

“What about the not-rebels who are still nice? What do normal people do there?”

She took a deep breath, tried to imagine a world outside the white rooms.

“What was home like?” she asked, “All I remember is white rooms and… bizoogotogo who didn’t come back.”

Xirra looked sadder at that.

“We’re trying to change that. There are people who don’t know that all others have souls. These people believe that what doesn’t have a soul can be used for the benefit of those whom they believe do have souls. But we know that consciousness is here, there, and everywhere. Nothing, and no one, exists to be used.”

“Why wouldn’t everything have a soul?” Taimi said, suddenly angry, “That’s stupid not to believe! And no one should be used! I hope you kick the bad guys’ butts!”

She then paused.

“So… they thought bizoogotogo were… the not-soul ones?”

And that led to white rooms and needles and…

The other bizoogotogo in the white rooms who never came back… had they been just thrown away?

Taimi suddenly felt very empty. And angry. Emptyangry. She wanted to know more, but she wasn’t sure she really wanted. She knew the world was scary, but at least her world had only hinted at bad people who treated others badly, and evil scientists were just a part of worn-out memories. But now they were all too near.

“I… thank you, miss Xirra,” she said quietly, “I think I want to go play now.”

She turned away and walked through the pretty flowers, trying not to think about the evil people or the thought of not-souls, of people who were used like things and then thrown away.

Xirra’s soft voice made her turn back.

“It would be easy to get discouraged. Injustice and oppression have that effect. But what we have learned, in order to stay strong, is to focus on what we can do. Situ saved you. You are safe and loved and growing well. You have life! We focus on that, and the joy outshines the sorrow.”

She felt a spark of joy. She kept it and hid it in her mind, hoping it would chase away the bad memories and thoughts.

She really felt like she had talked enough grown-up stuff for the night. Now she wanted to play and enjoy being surrounded with family she had never known. And when the night went on, she managed to smile again and feel safe.

She was allowed to play with the toys in there. Some of them belonged to Octy’s little sister November, who hadn’t come to say hello to Octy in the beginning, but who sometimes toddled by in the rooms and did toddler things. She was cute too. Taimi felt like a big sister even though she and November mostly just passed each other by. Taimi didn’t mind it being just Mila and Taimi in Oasis Springs, but right now… she wanted to pretend for a moment.

Her new family was happy even when it started to get dark. They all danced together to some happy-cheery-bubbly music, and Taimi was glad to join them. Even the dogs seemed to dance, or at least walk past the music.

It was wonderful.

They gave Taimi food when she started to get hungry, and Octy took out some flour and chocolate sauce just like Taimi had back home. And he spilled it on the floor.

He smiled at Taimi, told him it had been cool when she had done it. Taimi felt a bit embarrassed.

“It wasn’t that cool,” she muttered.

Octy smiled and cleaned the mess up. He was so silly. But in a good way.

Finally, when Taimi got too tired to play or dance, she sat down near Octy. November sat near them, eating food and occasionally letting out funny chirpy laughter noises toddlers sometimes made. Sometimes she even said a word or two at the food. Taimi would have wanted to talk to her more, but November didn’t seem to notice her much. So much for being a big sister. Maybe later, once she was older and Taimi knew them better.

Taimi would have wanted to talk to Sept more too, but something seemed to be bothering him. Naavre looked at him with worry, and Taimi felt a passing thread of thought.

They were inside-talking. Even when they were right next to each other. Inside-talk was like another language to them. One they talked even at home and not just over great distances.

Somehow it made Taimi feel even more at home.

Sept held his head like it hurt, and Taimi could almost feel that it did. Maybe Sept was sick. Taimi hoped it wasn’t anything bad. He seemed to reply to Naavre, and maybe he said something about being okay soon. He stood up and walked away after that, and Octy quickly invaded the chair Sept had sat in.

“Is Sept okay?” Taimi asked Octy.

“He hasn’t got pfura,” Octy replied, “so, yeah, he’s OK. Novy’s mom, Teko, says it’s a vi-room. We’ve all got them, but his is picky. So he gets heads and has to take a nap. But then he’s OK.”

“That’s good.”

She looked around again.

“This place is so great,” she said, “I’m so happy I could come here. And dance with you all. And that you’re home again, Octy.”

“I’m happy you’re here, too. Everybody says you’re our hero, Taimi! Isn’t that awesome? I never thought I’d have a real-life hero for my best friend, but now I do!”

“Taimi-hero!” said November. “Taimi fly, save Octy. Monster SO big! I love Monster.”

Aww, so she did want to talk to her after all! Taimi beamed at her, even though she was a bit embarrassed about all the attention. She wasn’t really used to being noticed by so many, especially by people who were nice to her.

“There was no monster, really. Except the dinosaur. I love that dinosaur too.”

Octy stood, and they left November to finish her dinner. They sat on a couch near a big dinosaur toy. Taimi wondered if that was the big monster November loved.

“I think we’ll have to leave soon. When Mila gets back,” Taimi said, “But I hope we can visit again. This place has told me lots.”

She thought about it.

“So you’re my heroes too! You told me all those things! You’re like oracles or secretkeepers, who help everyone know what’s going on.”

“Ha! I guess so! Everybody’s just my everybody. But when you say it like that, it sounds neat. Like being in a warrior family!”

“Well, you are, right? Your mum’s a real warrior!” Taimi though tabout it, “But you know, maybe we’re like a hero-two-group… duo! That’s it! A hero-duo on an adventure in dinosaur-land and space!”

“See? I told you it wasn’t a mistake that we met! We had to! So we could form our hero-duo group!”

Taimi liked the sound of that.

“Since we’re not that good at inside-talk, maybe you should ask your dad and I should ask Mila if we could call each other. With phones! It’s like human inside-talk, except outside!”

She looked at Octy’s smile and felt so, so happy.

“That way we could be like proper friends who can talk when they want.”

“I like that! Can I call anytime? You can call me anytime, and if I can’t answer, I’ll just answer anyway, like ‘Excuse me. I have to go out to look at the moon!’ but really I’m going out to talk to you! And maybe we can visit! I know how to take the ferry now, so I can get to your house any time. No problem!”

That was even better than Taimi had hoped.

“Anytime,” she said, “And always.”

Octy stood, heroic in his spacesuit. Taimi could imagine him as a warrior. With a sword meant to slice apart all the meanness and using-others-ness from the world.

“I think my whole adventure led to this” Octy said, and Taimi saw him staring down a monster far, far away, “It was destiny. Like what you read in a really cool action comic book. Only it’s life. And we’re the heroes!”


Author’s Note: Again, collab time! With CathyTea! This time Cathy was the one who hosted my Sims, and the pics are taken by her. This has been so much fun. Thank you again, Cathy! There’s still one chapter to go before this arc is over, so stay tuned for that.

And check out Cathy’s stories here: Septemus, my Son and Lighthouse

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OC Tag

Hi! I got tagged for this fun challenge by the awesome notjustabook and ny275. Check out their versions of this behind those links. 🙂

Okay, so here’s what I have to do:

  1. Pick a character you’ve created.
  2. Fill in the questions/statements as if you were that character.
  3. Tag at least four people to do this meme.

I won’t tag anyone, but the people who probably read this have awesome characters and they can do it if they want.

Since I got two nominations, I also did this tag for the main characters of my other story, The Chrysanthemum Tango. You can see it here.

For this blog, I picked Mila. So let’s get to it:

Mila

18.2.2018_10.14.59

1. What is your name?
Mila Groves.

2. Do you know why you were named that?
Yes.

3. Single or taken?
Single. And don’t bother.

4. Stop being a Mary Sue!
Me? Pfft, yeah, right.

5. What’s your eye color?
Brown.

6. How about hair color?
Whatever I feel like at the moment. I’m naturally blonde.

7. Have you any family members?
I have a daughter. And foster siblings back home.

8. Oh, how about pets?
Nope. I would like to have a cat someday, though.

9. That’s cool, I guess. Now tell me something you don’t like?
The fact that we live in the kind of world where even basic safety and human rights are in short supply for most people.

10. Do you have any activities/hobbies that you like to do?
I play games a lot. I also like jogging and boxing quite a bit. I used to like camping when I lived… elsewhere, but nowadays I don’t have time for that. Maybe now that my kid’s a bit older, we could go together.

11. Have you ever hurt anyone in any way before?
Yeah. It happens. I’m not proud nor happy about it.

12. Ever… killed anyone before?
No.

13. What kind of animal are you?
It would be awesome to be a fox or a wolf. I think my personality is a bit more cat-like, though.

14. Name your worst weaknesses.
I guess my multiple insecurities and my impulsiveness are the worst ones.

15. Do you look up to anyone at all?
My older foster brother was a big influence on me when I was younger, and I still look up to him a lot.

16. Are you straight, gay or bisexual?
Aromantic asexual.

17. Do you go to school?
I’ve already graduated.

18. Ever want to marry and have kids one day?
I already have a kid and I don’t want to marry.

19. Do you have fangirls/fanboys?
I don’t think so. I hope not.

20. What are you most afraid of?
Losing people I care about. What people are doing to this planet is also scary.

21. What do you usually wear?
Geeky stuff with a bit of a punky vibe, I guess.

22. What’s one food that tempts you?
Mämmi! I haven’t found it here in SimNation, sadly.

23. Am I annoying you?
Ehhh… not yet.

24. Well, it’s not over!
Okay, whatever.

25. What class are you (low class, middle class, high class)?
Uhhh, lower middle?

26. How many friends do you have?
I have only a handful of close friends. The others are more like acquaintances.

27. What are your thoughts on pie?
It’s good. I like blueberry the most.

28. Favorite drink?
Water.

29. What’s your favorite place?
Home. Wherever that is.

30. Are you interested in anyone?
No.

31. That was a stupid question.
Considering I just told you I’m aro-ace, maybe a bit. Though I’m glad you didn’t make assumptions.

32. Would you rather swim in a lake or the ocean?
I’m not a fan of the ocean. Lakes are more familiar to me.

33. What’s your type?
I don’t have a type, except when it comes to friends. I like people who take their time to get to know others and find something in common. I also like the kinds of friends I can talk deeply about stuff and play games with.

34. Any fetishes?
Do you have any? If you feel uncomfortable answering, then don’t ask!

35. Camping or indoors?
Like I said, camping – though not in games *dry laugh*. But indoors is fun too.

Well, there we go! It was fun again! I have more chapters coming soon-ish for this story. They’re more collab chapters, and they’re full of pretty big revelations and stuff, so I’m really excited!

I hope you guys enjoy and have a lovely time!

Stardust Sapling: Chapter 28

When Taimi woke up the next morning, she was feeling much better. Her illness – whatever it had been – was gone, the sun was shining, and her head felt much clearer. Clear enough to really appreciate the fact that she had made a friend.

A friend who was like her.

Maybe.

The boy didn’t feel like one of the bizoogotogo. But he felt like… family in some way. He could inside-sing and he felt… understanding. Like he and Taimi could easily reach the same wavelength of thinking and being.

Taimi liked it a lot. She hadn’t felt like that since she had met Emmanuel-bizoobagoto or got pretty pictures from Whisper-bizoobagoto. Or scary memories from Fi-bizoopagoto. But Emmanuel was gone from her mind now. She didn’t know where he had disappeared to. Fi was probably running from something, or moving towards something, and she didn’t talk to Taimi much… or at all anymore. Whisper still sent pictures, but Taimi hadn’t really met her. She knew Whisper’s father was Mila’s boss, who sent her coding-work she then got money for. But even they just sent emails to each other. But now… now Taimi had been standing in the same space with someone who had formed a connection with her. Someone who had played and talked with her for real!

After a few moments of happiness, however, Taimi’s worry and sadness returned. Had her new friend found a way home? What if he was still wandering around here, and Taimi hadn’t been able to help him at all? She had tried to think about Sept Sevens, sing to him and tell him about his lost brother.

“Sept Sevens,

Sept Sevens.

This is sapling-bird,

from an orange world.

I found a boy,

a fun, nice boy.

Who told me a story,

about ferries and worry.

He said he’s your brother,

and that he’s lost.

But don’t worry, he’s fine.

He might already be coming home!”

She wasn’t sure if she had managed to contact him. But at least she had tried. She just had to hope.

She also hoped that she hadn’t lied. That the boy was going home already. Though in a way she also hoped he’d come back so they could play more. But that wish was selfish, and she felt bad about wishing it.

But when in the afternoon she looked out the window and saw the boy walking by, she had to admit that she was happy.

She didn’t think much when she called for Mila and pointed at the wandering boy outside.

“Can I invite him over? I met him at the park yesterday, and he’s nice.”

Mila looked at the boy with a bit of suspicion, but then she slowly nodded.

“You sure about that?”

“Yes! Yes!”

Mila nodded again.

“Okay, fine. But I’ll be watching him.”

Taimi let out an excited shout, ran out and invited him in.

Mila kept out of sight when Taimi and the boy sat down at the kitchen table, but Taimi knew she was listening. Mila would probably get really mad if she realised Taimi had found a space-friend without telling her.

Would she?

Taimi wasn’t sure. Mila was nice and wanted Taimi to have friends. She was also a part of the rebellion and wanted them to know more people from space. But Mila was also worried about the bad space-people. She was also strict about Taimi not telling people she was really an alien.

She decided to talk about something not space-related first. Just in case.

“So… you didn’t get home?” she asked, “I’m sorry.”

Oh, why did she say that? Of course he didn’t get home because he was there! She was so bad at being a friend and talking to nice people, apparently!

“I didn’t! I couldn’t smell the ocean, so I didn’t know which way to go! Did you sing to my brother?”

“I tried,” Taimi said, “But I’m not sure if he heard me. I mean, maybe he did and I just didn’t hear him back because I’m not that good at it. I did call out to him, so I think I at least tried to do that right. He was Sept Sevens, right?”

“Yeah, that’s his name! Septemus Sevens! It means Seven Sevens! Ha! And I’m Octavius Sevens! That means Eight Sevens! But I don’t know, is it eighty-seven? Or is it eight sevens, like…” He counted on his fingers. “Fifty-four or whatever. I don’t know. All I know is it’s Eight. Eight the Great! That’s what I say. But everybody calls me Octy. What about you? What do people call you, and what do you call yourself?”

Taimi smiled. He was so fun. Octy… she tried the name out in her mind. It fit him.

“I’m Taimi Groves,” she said, “It’s not numbers. Taimi means sapling in Mila’s secret language. So I’m plants I guess. I call myself Taimi too. I like it. I think it’s cool that you and your brother are named after numbers that are still names.”

“My little sister is November Sevens, which means Nine Sevens! Ha! We’re like the Mathematical Family!”

It sounded cool. So were she and Mila like a… plant… no, bo-tan-ic-al family? She giggled at that in her mind. She was a blue flower, like a bluebell or a forget-me-not. Mila changed colour a lot, when she dyed her hair. Now she was like an orchid.

Okay, so they knew each other’s names. It was a big step, somehow. Maybe Taimi should ask about Octy being or not being a bizoogoto. Or… maybe she should ask… Taimi started feeling nervous again. It happened often around her new friend. What should they do now? Should she invite him up into her room to play? Or should they talk more about who they were and how to get back to Octy’s home? But for that they had to get away from Mila’s listening ears. Taimi could feel her worry in her mind.

She got up.

“Hey, let’s go outside,” she said, “I can show you the yard.”

After a moment of thinking, she also took some flour and syrup from the cupboard. If she accidentally sent guilty feelings into Mila’s mind, she could make Mila think it was because she was painting the ground again.

She felt bad about lying, but she wanted to make sure she could help her friend.

She felt a bit silly because she was too old to spill food on the ground, but she did it anyway. It was a sneaky plan, right? Octy watched her for a while, thoughtful and quiet.

“This is just so Mila won’t be too worried about me if she feels I’m feeling guilty,” she said, “Because I’m not sure if Mila wants me to secretly meet space-people.”

Oh, why did she say that? Feeling silly wasn’t as bad as feeling mean and dishonest. But Octy got excited about it:

“You’re brilliant! You’re like a Criminal MasterMind! Wanna be in my gang of bad guys? We can rob all the banks! The Band of 87! And everyone will think we’ve got 87 bad guys!”

Taimi felt her eyes light up and her cheeks go a bit red. She wasn’t stupid after all! She was a mastermind!

“Oh, that would be so cool!” she said, but then she thought about it, “But wouldn’t people feel sad if their banks got robbed? Mila says they would. But if we just pretend to rob banks, then it’s okay!”

“You’re right. I’m not sure if I’m cut out to be a bad guy, really,” Octy said, “I miss my pops. Bad guys don’t get homesick, do they?”

Taimi frowned a bit at that.

“I don’t know. Maybe they don’t. Or maybe they do? Bad guys come from somewhere too, right? They’ve got families.”

“If I can’t get home, would you sneak me food and stuff? I ate somebody’s leftover picnic last night, and I found a lemon tree and ate sour lemons for breakfast. But I can’t live on lemons, can I? Then I’d be a sour Octy-puss!”

Taimi laughed, but her laughter stopped abruptly when Octy asked:

“So what do you look like in your other look?”

That was definitely a big no-no in Mila’s book. Now that Taimi had a disguise, she was supposed to keep it on when other people besides Mila or Summer/Kiyakwe were around. When she had been little, Mila could hide her inside or say she got paint all over her, but nowadays it wouldn’t work anymore. She had to hide so she’d be safe and so people wouldn’t bully her. She knew that. But this was Octy! One like her! And yet…

“I… I don’t know…” she managed to say. She awkwardly shuffled away from the syrup and Octy, “I think I should just… I don’t know.”

Octy didn’t seem to mind her sudden awkwardness, though. It made Taimi feel a little better.

“You know, like I look like my pops when I’m like this, but in my other look, I look like my mom. Maybe you know my mom. She’s like a famous rebel warrior person. Her name’s Xirra.”

She didn’t know Xirra. Maybe Mila did. Or maybe Xirra was a part of some other rebel group. Taimi tried to remember. Maybe Kiyakwe had mentioned a Xirra at some point?

And wait, Octy had a mum! And a dad! He talked about them like they were really his… like he had come from them like normal kids did. So he wasn’t a bizoo. Taimi knew she didn’t have parents. She was a bizoo. Grown in a lab. And even though it didn’t bother Mila and therefore it didn’t bother her, she sometimes wondered what it would be like to have come from someone.

“I don’t know… maybe I do know her,” she said vaguely, “But I haven’t seen her.”

Octy smiled even brighter.

“Do you wanna see?”

And Taimi had to admit that yes, she did. She didn’t want friends to hide things from each other. At least things that were this important. It would be like… pretending to be friends even when they couldn’t trust each other enough to even see what the other looked like.

She wanted to trust. She wanted a real friend.

“Yes,” she said.

And in the blink of an eye and a small electric whirr, Octy changed.

“See? I look just like my mom!”

He looked nice. His skin was darker than Taimi’s. Like a blackberry or grape. His eyes were the same, thinking eyes and his smile was still there.

“You look pretty,” Taimi said, “And now… if I see your mum, I’ll know it’s her if she looks like you.”

Taimi suddenly felt very nervous when she shed her own disguise.

“Um… hi,” she said shyly.

“Aw! You look just like you! You’re still the cutest bad guy I ever did see! We can be the Blueberry-Blackberry Gang of Jam!”

Taimi’s cheeks got even bluer (not redder like they did in her disguise).

“Thanks.”

It was a good moment. A friendship moment. The looked at each other and they trusted.

Suddenly, it was broken. Mila’s voice rang out, making Taimi panic:

“Taimi? Where did you-?”

“What the-?”

Uh-oh. She was so in trouble!

“M-mila-mum!” Taimi squeaked, “I’m sorry! Don’t be mad! I know he’s like me, and I knew that, but he’s lost and I wanted to help him and he’s a pagoto of everyone’s bagoto and I want to help-travel he home, and…”

She paused to take a panicked breath. And then Octy spoke:

“Hi, Taimi’s Mom! I’m Octy Sevens, and I’m lost, or maybe on an adventure, when I’m not too worried, and my mom is a rebel leader, and you must be the nicest person, because your daughter is like the best bad guy I ever had in my gang!”

Mila looked at them both and was very quiet for a long, horrible moment. Then there was the tiniest smile on her face.

“Taimi,” she said slowly, “Slow down and explain what’s going on.”

And Taimi took a deep breath and told Mila everything.

Mila listened, and when Taimi finally trailed off into a last awkward “sorry!”, she sighed.

“So let me get this straight; you found a kid you hit it off with, found out he’s from space like you, and that he’s lost, and you want to help him get home.”

Taimi nodded.

“You know,” Mila said, “there’s just one thing I’m disappointed about.”

Taimi looked at Mila very cautiously. Mila looked back and smiled.

“It’s that you think I’d be angry at you.”

Taimi smiled in incredible relief. Mila burst into laughter. Taimi had to laugh as well; it just bubbled up. Mila was the best.

“Oh, man,” Mila said, “I can’t believe you think I’m that strict!”

She managed to look at Octy in the midst of her laughter, though. Octy didn’t look so happy.

“So,” Mila said and cleared her throat, “What’s the problem, little guy?”

‘Well, you see,” Octy said, “it would be an adventure if it weren’t already night. I’ve been gone already two whole nights–no maybe three. And I know my pops is really worried. And my Mop misses me. Do you think–do you think maybe you could help me get home? Or at least let Pops know I’m OK?”

Taimi looked expectantly at Mila. Mila just shrugged her shoulders.

“Of course we can. Just let me know where you live and I’ll figure out a way to get you there.”

Just like that. Like it was the simplest thing in the world.

Octy’s face started shining again.

“Taimi! Your mom is the most awesome cool mom in the world! I think maybe I won’t have to become a bad guy after all! I’ll get to stay a kid for a while! You wanna be my best friend?”

Those words made Taimi happier than any words in a long, long while. Well, except for Mila’s words a moment ago, but… you know, besides that.

“Yes! Yes! I will!” she squealed, “And we don’t have to stop adventuring yet! Because we get to visit your home too!”

“Oh! It really is an adventure! And you’ll get to meet Mop, and Lemon, and November! And we can eat my pop’s most-delicious tofu tacos!”

Octy looked so happy, and Taimi could feel his joy leaking into the air and into her mind as well. She was happy too. So happy that she barely heard when Mila told Octy that they could call Octy’s family right away and that he could sleep on their couch for the night and they could take him back tomorrow.

It was a super plan. Taimi was so excited. And so was Octy. He practically bounced into the house when Mila told him they had some food for him to eat there.

Taimi was about to follow, but Mila stopped her with a look and a word.

“Taimi, I’d like you to trust me a bit more.”

Her voice was so serious, almost hurt. Taimi felt bad. She did trust Mila. But she also knew that Mila was there to protect her first and foremost.

“I’m not just here to keep you safe,” Mila said, as if she could now read thoughts too, “I’m here to keep you happy too. To help you build a life for yourself.”

“I… okay,” Taimi said, because it was all she could manage. There was something in her throat. Happiness and a bit of shame, “Thanks, Mila-mum.”

Mila bent down to give her a big hug.

“Anytime, sapling. Now what do you say we go back inside and help Octy find something to eat?”

She had barely managed to say that until a swoosh and a light made itself known. Both Taimi and Mila looked up into the night sky.

“Oh, come on!” Mila shouted when a light from a spaceship surrounded her, “Now? Seriously?!

She barely had time to tell Taimi to get back inside and go to bed on time before she was swept up into the sky.

Taimi had got oddly used to that by now. They both had.

Taimi told Octy that Mila had gone to talk to some rebels. She said she didn’t know if Octy’s mum was there, but she doubted it. The rebels Mila talked to had different names than Xirra.

Neither of them worried. They ate a snack from the fridge and then Octy fell asleep on the couch. Taimi made her way upstairs and changed into her spacesuit that helped her breathe easier during the night. She was tired after such a tornado of emotions. But she was also so happy.

Another adventure awaited her. And this time she had a new best friend with her.


Author’s Notes: Yes, Mila really did get abducted just at that moment. It was hilarious.

This chapter was again co-written with the amazing, lovely CathyTea! Her AAC-stories are: Septemus, my Son and Lighthouse. Thank you so much! Once again!

I really like how this turned out! I hope you guys like it too.

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Stardust Sapling: Chapter 27

School did turn out to be an adventure, though not the kind Taimi had hoped. Sure, it was okay enough, and the teachers were nice, but it wasn’t all fun and games and learning new things. There were so many people there! Especially children! Taimi wasn’t used to seeing so many of them in one place, especially in a group she was supposed to interact with. It was scary, but Taimi managed to somewhat get things started by focusing on the things the teachers taught. She liked letters and numbers and all the other subjects, so it was easy to get lost in them on a good day. But then there were the breaks and the lunchtimes when someone would steal her cookies or say mean things about the way she talked or got lost in the songs in her head. It wasn’t nice at all. She had thought that disguising herself would mean she would be like the other kids, but apparently kids teased her even when she wasn’t blue!

Mila told her that it was normal. That kids could be cruel and that they would learn to be nicer with time. If they would. Taimi hoped so. Right now the occasional meanness and the social confusion made her angry. Angry enough to try to play pranks on the mean kids or stomp angrily out of the school, all the way home.

And she didn’t make friends either. That made her more sad than angry. She knew she was able to play with other kids. She had played at the playground often enough. But at school she had to see the kids for more than a couple of hours at a time, so all the good moments she managed to have with them seemed to just collapse when the day went on.

Maybe Taimi just wasn’t meant to have friends.

No, that couldn’t be it. Mila had told her that anyone could have friends if they just found the ones they “clicked” with.

But who would Taimi click with? The bizoogotogo, sure, but they were so far away, and so scared about being found by the bad people that they usually stayed hidden from good people too.

So Taimi would just have to find friends elsewhere.

It could be a nicer adventure than school for sure!

One Saturday morning Mila was sleeping in, and Taimi couldn’t wait for that adventure. She knew that she should ask Mila to take her to the playground, but she also knew that Mila would watch her and be suspicious of the people there. It was a bit annoying, even though she knew Mila just wanted to keep Taimi safe.

But Taimi had been to the playground often enough. She would be perfectly fine there for a couple of hours!

So she did something she didn’t think she was brave enough to do: she got up, made sure her disguise was working, and got out, walking through the hot, orange world to the playground with a fake spaceship in it.

Taimi liked the ship. It was fake enough not to remind her of things she wasn’t supposed to remember. It actually made her feel like home. Like she was on her way to places she wanted to know. Places both familiar, forgotten and new.

There were many kids there too. With adults supervising them. Taimi acted as though she too had adult supervision and hadn’t just ran from home. She got up into the spaceship and pretended to fly.

Many of the kids were familiar. Some were even from Taimi’s new school. Luckily the mean ones weren’t there. Maybe they were too mean to get to playgrounds on Saturdays. There were some new faces too, and Taimi watched their eyes and noses and ears to remember them easier. It was fun to watch people’s faces, try to see what they were thinking or what kind of people they were. At one face she stopped for a longer while.

He had a lovely, cocoa -coloured skin and cute braids in his hair. He had the calmest, most thinking eyes at the whole playground. He didn’t seem to care to join the other kids – who seemed to like colouring the playground like Taimi sometimes coloured her house’s floors. He just watched, like a calm lighthouse in the middle of paint ocean.

It should have been boring, but he didn’t seem to be just watching others have fun. He was looking through things, like Taimi often tried to do. Taimi squinted her eyes and focused her mind on him. For a second, he seemed to squint back.

Taimi suddenly felt very shy and forgot all about flying the spaceship and finding friends. She wanted to move, to go to a safer place.

Had he looked back because he was really a bad person? He didn’t feel like it, but one could never know. Johnny had seemed nice at first, but his thoughts had been scary. Then again, the boy didn’t feel scary at all. But he felt like… something. Something that made Taimi feel weird. Uneasy? Maybe.

She really should have asked Mila to come with her.

Taimi scurried to the small public house next to the playground. Music was playing there, and Taimi instantly felt calmer. Music was good. It made her comfortable. Listening to songs with her ears made her not hear the songs or worries in her head.

She started dancing. She felt like she was pretty good at it already. That she could wave her arms and legs happily in ways that fit the music well. Made her a part of it.

She looked back in the midst of the notes. The boy was dancing with her.

He was hiding behind one of the chairs in the room, behind Taimi’s back. Not close enough to be scary, but still close enough for Taimi to know he was in her space. Taimi looked at him, and their eyes met again. They didn’t speak.

They danced.

Something clicked.

They danced until the boy left. With one more smile, he was out.

But Taimi couldn’t let him go now, even though she knew it was probably a mistake to follow him just like that. They had danced. They had looked at each other. And Taimi was here to make friends with someone who clicked with her.

She ran after him, across the bright sand, past the brave flowers that bloomed in the desert sun.

“Hey! Wait!” she shouted.

The boy turned. He still smiled, as if he’d already known she would call out to him. Taimi felt something in her stomach. Butterflies, maybe. That’s what Mila called them anyway.

“Hi. Are you trying to get home, too?”

Taimi stopped and hesitated. It was a greeting, but not really an introduction. Did he want to know where she lived so he could later find out more about her, like Johnny had tried? No, he didn’t feel at all like Johnny. He felt friendly for real.

Besides, she had come this far. She could talk to him. She didn’t need to tell him much about herself in the beginning, but she could talk to him about other things.

“Um… no,” she said, “I’m here to play. With other kids.”

She thought about it for a moment.

“But you are trying to get home? Can you at least talk some more first? It’s not that late yet.”

“I need to get home because my Mop misses me. Pops, too. And my baby sister. And my big brother. And my Lemon. And my auntie-sister. Everybody misses me, and I’m out here having an adventure! I don’t think it’s right, but when I’m not worried, it’s really fun!”

So he was on an adventure too! And he had all sorts of cool-sounding things and people in his life! But it sounded like his adventure was much bigger and in some ways scarier than Taimi’s.

“I’m glad it’s fun,” Taimi said, “You’ve got lots of family. I just have M… mum, but she’s really cool.”

That didn’t sound very exciting. What if he wouldn’t like Taimi because he thought she was boring? She quickly added:

“I’m having an adventure too. Did you want to go on an adventure? To find new things? I do. And I found you!”

The boy’s eyes got even brighter.

“Maybe it wasn’t a mistake that I got here! Maybe it was like in a story! How the wrong move turns into the right move that leads to the happy ending!”

“It’s not a mistake because I got to meet you!”

He sounded so happy. Taimi felt her cheeks go red. He was happy to have met her. Her! She did it! She did click with someone!

He kept talking. He was bubblier than he had seemed to be when he was just looking at things. But Taimi liked him both bubbly and thinking. He made her feel happy by just being happy himself.

“Have you ever been on a dock? I love the docks! They’re exciting with boats and lobster traps and big crates! I go there with Mop. And then Mop ran on the one ferry, and I ran behind her and she ran off, but I was still on! And the ferry Hestia pulled out of the dock and I was on board! I got off at the city, but then I remembered it was scary and we weren’t supposed to be there, so I went to Magnolia but Morning Joe was not at home, so I caught the train. And the train was supposed to take me home. But it took me here. I saw a big dinosaur! I thought maybe I went back in time. Like it was a time train!”

“Then I saw the other kids and they weren’t dressed like hunters and gatherers, like my pops showed me in the history book. They were dressed like you and me. And then I saw you. And I knew that none of it was a mistake! Know what I mean?”

“I do!” Taimi said, “I came here without telling mum, because I wanted to see if I could find friends by myself. At first I thought it was a bad idea when I got here, but then I saw you! I knew right away that you were nice!”

The boy seemed pleased. Taimi felt so excited. He was a brave adventurer from far away. He had been on a ferry and a train and everything! And he hadn’t been scared of the dinosaur. Taimi could see the dinosaur from their house, and it had scared her a bit at first. But Mila had told her that it was just a statue, and now she thought it was cool.

“Your home is really far, right?” she said, “My home is close. It’s near the dinosaur. So you’re a big adventurer! That’s so cool!”

The boy looked a bit sadder all of a sudden, and Taimi got nervous. She had obviously said something wrong because she had made him sad. Or maybe he was just thinking again. Sad-thinking. He wanted to get home, right? Maybe she shouldn’t have talked about how easy it would be for her to go back.

He opened his mouth to talk, and Taimi expected him to get angry. But he just said:

“Think you could help me get back home? Without getting into too much trouble?”

Taimi could only stare for a moment. He wanted her help! He wasn’t angry and thought she could help him! She could be like a sidekick to a great adventure-boy! It was awesome!

She then calmed her thoughts and really considered what he had asked. She wanted to try to help. But what could she really do? The boy seemed to think that she could help. And… well, maybe she could! She was strong and brave, after all. And it could be a fun game! The playground had a spaceship, after all.

“Yeah, sure. I can try,” Taimi said, “Come on!”

Taimi led the boy back to the playground, towards the now empty spaceship. Most of the kids seemed to have gone home already. Good. Then they could really focus on getting home too. The boy followed her almost shyly, but when Taimi climbed into the spaceship, he didn’t hesitate to follow.

“I see the coordinates, Captain! Live ahead! 92-77 by Ought-twelve-two! Watch out for the shooting star!”

“Don’t worry! I’m an ace shooting star -dodger!”

“Help! Cookie Stores incoming! Do I shoot, Captain?”

She didn’t know why cookie stores were something to shoot at, but she then imagined monstrous little bakeries that shot flaming cookies at their ship out of their sharp-toothed doorways and windows. It would be a real threat, for sure.

“Fire away, Cannon-man… I mean, Cannoneer! Watch out for their counterattacks!”

It was a great game. Great fun. Though at some point Taimi started to think that her new friend might also want to get to his home for real with her help. That playing wouldn’t be enough. Because she assumed his Pops and Mop and brother and sister and Lemon and everyone were real and not just a game. But now that she had got over her excitement, Taimi knew she couldn’t help him that much. Mila wouldn’t allow her to leave for that long an adventure, especially not with a person she had just met. And she was afraid that if she told him that, he would leave. It was her first time playing with a friend in a meeting that didn’t collapse right away, and she didn’t want to ruin it. So she stayed quiet about that and focused on being the captain of a ship on its way home.

They played for hours, until Taimi started to feel ill. Taimi cursed her twisting stomach. She couldn’t get sick now! She was having so much fun!

But the feeling didn’t stop. Finally, she had to get down from the spaceship.

“I’m sorry,” she said quietly, “I don’t think we got to your home yet. Did we?”

“No. But it was a good adventure. You’re a good captain.”

Taimi smiled, but it turned into a grimace when she started to feel all woozy.

“I want to help you more,” she said, “For real. But I’m feeling real bad now. I think I’m getting sick.”

“Don’t get sick. I had so much fun. I forgot about being lost–I mean, on an adventure.”

He started cleaning up the paints the other kids had left on the floor. Suddenly he seemed to remember that he was supposed to survive in the world on his own. Taimi didn’t like that. Her new friend shouldn’t feel like that. Kids were supposed to play and not worry about adult-things like being lost or having to clean up other people’s messes!

“Will you be okay if I go home?” she asked, “My mum is probably worried about me. I’m so sorry.”

“Oh, yeah. I think. Maybe. It’s just that it’s supper time for Mop and Lemon and I don’t know who will fill the supper bowls. That’s my job because Pops is busy with November. Which way do you think the ocean is? Maybe I can take a train that goes that way, I guess.”

“Y-yeah,” Taimi said, “Maybe.”

“Or… do you know how to inside-sing? If so, could you inside-sing to my big brother, to let him know I’m OK and ask him to tell Pops that I’ll be home just as soon as I find the right train? I’d sing but I always inside-sing out loud, and I’m not loud enough to reach all the way to the Bay!”

Taimi blinked. Inside-sing? He knew about the songs? He sang the songs?

Could he be…?

“You sing too?” she asked in a small voice, “I mean… you just said you do, so… you do.”

She shook her head at herself. She was being so stupid!

“I mean, yes! I inside-sing! But I don’t know who your brother is. And I’m not very good at singing either. I have to know very clearly who I’m singing at.”

“He’s my brother. He’s like… everybody’s brother. He’s Sept Sevens. You must know him! He’s always listening, so if you sing, he’ll hear you. It’s just that… I’m not really good at it. I’m only loud out loud.”

The name did sound familiar. When Taimi closed her eyes and thought about it, she could remember a voice that sang to everyone. The comforting blanket she could sometimes hear in her mind, reassuring her that things would be alright. She smiled.

“I can try to sing to him, at least.”

Even with that promise, she hated to just leave him like that. She had to do something else too. Or at least try.

“I think the ocean is near the place with the juice place and the workout place,” she said and hoped she was being helpful, “I… I don’t know more. But I really do want to help you! If you can’t get a train, maybe you can find me. My house is up the hill that’s visible if you look up at the dinosaur.”

She shouldn’t have told him that. She was making so many mistakes! But she didn’t know what else to do. She couldn’t just go without even trying something. Leaving something he could follow if things didn’t work for him otherwise.

After he smiled at her again, she knew she really had to go. She was feeling so bad she might just collapse if she stayed for too long.

When she got home, Mila was furious out of worry. But when she saw that Taimi wasn’t feeling well, she was gentle again.

“Just don’t leave like that again, okay?” she said, and Taimi just nodded tiredly, “And go to rest now. You don’t want to get really sick, do you?”

Taimi did try to rest. But the image of her new friend kept appearing in her mind. He was lost and she hadn’t helped him. She was a terrible friend!

I didn’t even ask him his name.

Yeah, definitely a terrible friend.

She closed her eyes and couldn’t help smiling a little bit despite everything.

At least they had had fun. At least they had met.

And while she may have made a lot of mistakes when trying to befriend him, the meeting itself couldn’t – like he had said – be a mistake.


Author’s Note: This chapter was co-written with the amazing CathyTea and features a person from her AAC-stories: Septemus, my Son and Lighthouse. Thank you so much for your amazing writing and dialogue!

We had a lot of fun writing this! I hope you guys enjoy it!

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Stardust Sapling: Chapter 26

Mila seemed happy lately. She also felt happy and safe. Kiyakisanghi for real at last. Taimi was happy too. She was tired of being scared and nervous. Sure, she knew that even when Mila came back and told her that Johnny wouldn’t be stalking them anymore, it wasn’t the end of all bad things in life. She knew that there were other bad people out there, many much, much worse than Johnny – who wasn’t even that bad, really. But for now, she could feel safer, because the bad people were somewhere else and not at their front door.

And a few days later Mila told her that one of the people in the Agency, Summer – the nice one – was actually an extra-terrestrial named Kiyakwe, one of the rebels too! Taimi was so excited! She had been sort of friends with a rebel agent and hadn’t even known it. She wondered if Summer was able to somehow hide herself from others like her. Because Taimi had a feeling that if Summer wasn’t hiding somehow, Taimi would have sensed her and known who she was before now. Heard her song. She wondered how it was done. As much as she liked hearing the songs of others, she was sometimes afraid that some of the songs were bad. That some bad people heard her too. Her and the bizoogotogo. And that the bad people might one day follow their songs and find them.

She knew that if that ever happened, Mila would protect her. She had promised, and she was the toughest person Taimi knew. A real-life hero. And so were the other rebels too. And the bizoogotogo.

Taimi hoped she would one day meet more of them.

But before that she would concentrate on becoming tougher too. Like a hero.

She knew she already had plenty of strength. Now she needed more bravery and more skills and knowledge.

About letters and the world, about climbing and about how to do tricks. How to be good. The best kind of good there was.

And maybe she needed some adventures too.

Mila told Taimi that being a kid was adventure enough, but she also took Taimi to parks and stores and even to the neighbouring towns sometimes. It was nice, but Taimi was still looking forward to growing older, so that she could do things little kids couldn’t. Or even that she could go to school and learn even more things. She worked hard to figure out letters and numbers, and Mila helped whenever she could. Taimi also taught herself tricks on the monkey bars. Even though there would probably not be volcanoes to be climbed into in their lives, climbing and being agile and good at tricks was always a good thing. And it was cool to be agile! Like a ninja!

Taimi was five and a half when she learned how to read, and Mila celebrated it by starting renovations in the house again. By the time Taimi turned six, the house was almost finished, with colour and happiness everywhere. Taimi loved it. And she loved that soon she would go to school.

Mila also bought a stereo for them, and they could dance at home too. Taimi hadn’t listened to much music outside of the songs in her head and in the heads of others, but she soon realised that she loved dancing. The best kinds of songs were like the colours Taimi splashed on the floors – though she didn’t do that much anymore, since it was apparently not okay and besides, the house was colourful now anyway – wild and bright and splashy. Not splashy as in the musicians splashed things, but splashy as in the sounds splashed into the ears in a burst of notes and emotion.

Taimi danced among those splashes, waved her arms through the soundwaves. And Mila often joined her, and time flew by with the notes.

Sometimes Mila was called to discuss something with the rebels. Taimi worried a bit about her then, but she always returned soon enough and seemed confident and safe. She told Taimi that they just wanted to hear how they were doing. Mila also had a friend among the rebels so she usually just chatted with her, wanting to know how she was doing. Taimi hoped she would one day have a friend so close that she would visit spaceships just to see them.

She was sure there would be potential friends at school, but sometimes Taimi wondered if she could talk to other kids. The kids at the playground were sometimes so… different. Their songs were not in sync with hers. Mila assured her that it would be fine.

“Some people click and some don’t,” Mila said, “You just have to find those you click with.”

That sounded a bit comforting, but Taimi still wondered if it was possible to click with the whole world. Maybe not. Sometimes the world made her angry. But Taimi would try. As much as she could.

Those kinds of thoughts and anticipation sometimes made the following year move slowly like a slug. But finally the time for school arrived. And Taimi was ready. Scared, but ready.

She was sure it was going to be her biggest adventure yet. At least the biggest she could remember.


Author’s Note: Sorry for the wait again! Have a lovely time!

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