Commander Charles Tucker III stood at attention, a distant memory of an earlier life on a starship where he had been third in the chain of command. But that had all ended in 2157, when he and Beth, with the help of the old man, had gotten out. It was now April ninth of 2160.
The old man was, maybe, dead. They had no real way of knowing. As for the Empress Hoshi Sato, she was gone but there was always the risk that she’d return to the Lafa System. To get them back, perhaps. Or to just do damage. She enjoyed doing damage, and rarely needed an excuse to indulge her whims.
But now it was 2160, and Charles stood, with Beth, who was holding their son, Charlie. And he, Charles, was mustering up every bit of respect he had, even though their old unis had, long ago, turned to rags and the baby was wrapped in swaddling that was courtesy of the kind charity of the Calafan people, the natives of that star system.
Beth kept the baby as quiet as she could, but he was a little fussy. That was, perhaps, to be expected. After all, what interest did a minor government functionary’s office hold for one so small?
The functionary was a Calafan man, perhaps about fifty years of age, with coppery red hair and complicated copper-colored scrollwork up and down his arms. He spoke. “Names.”
“Elizabeth Kelly Cutler Tucker and I’m holding Charles Tucker IV.”
“Charles Tucker III, sir.”
“We don’t have surnames,” explained the official, “And we do not repeat first names. I cannot make a record for both you and your son. The first names must differ somehow.”
The baby, perhaps in response, cried a little. “Shh, Charlie,” Beth said.
“Sir,” Charles said, “we’re not Calafans. So your namin’ rules shouldn’t apply to us.”
“They don’t,” replied the functionary, “This is, rather, for our records. You can see what a problem it would be if a Charles was assigned to a local school in a few years, and the Head Mistress came looking for you.”
“Huh, yeah, I guess so,” he allowed, “But can’t you just add the numbers, or somethin’?”
“There is only one space on the form, see?” The functionary turned his desktop so that the screen could be seen more readily. “If you want an extra space, you’ll need to petition the court.”
“Court?” Beth asked, “Charlie’ll be twenty by the time that’s all done.”
“Charlie? Can you use Charlie for your son’s name? Your wife has referred to him that way several times.”
“I, uh, I s’pose so. We’ll be Charles and Charlie, then.”
“Very well,” said the official, entering the information. “Occupations?”
“Huh.” He had been the Chief Engineer on the Defiant, and Beth had been the babysitter to the Empress’s bratty son. But aside from a few odd jobs bartered for food or medical care or meager goods, he hadn’t worked in any sort of an official capacity since ’57. When times had been really bad, they’d been poachers.
“Wife and mother,” Beth said.
“Uh, unemployed engineer,” Charles said.
“There is an Unemployment Office on Lafa III,” said the functionary, “The free transports are slow, but they do get there eventually. You’ll need to register there and then you can collect benefits and they can look for a job for you. Address?”
Beth and Charles looked at each other. That was another tricky one. When they’d arrived on Lafa II, they’d had little more than the clothes on their backs. There was no house for them, and no apartment. “We, uh,” Beth said, “We’ve been living in a cave not too far from Fep City, with our friend, Jennifer Crossman. She’s another Terran. And, uh, and with Treve.”
“Ah, yes, I heard about that,” the official said, “If this Jennifer wishes to become a citizen, she will have to go through this same process, wife to the brother of the High Priestess or now. Now, there is a Housing Office; it’s also on Lafa III. Try there; they might have something for you, although I doubt it’ll be fancy. Still, I imagine it would be a step up from a cave.”
“Thank ya; that’s real helpful of you,” Charles said.
“Are you ready for the ceremony?” asked the functionary.
“Yes,” Charles said. Beth nodded.
“First, state your names. The mother will say the baby’s name for him.”
“Charles Tucker III.”
“Elizabeth Kelly Cutler Tucker and Charlie Tucker IV.”
“Charles, Elizabeth and Charlie, do you hereby swear your allegiance to the High Priestess Yimar?”
“We do,” Beth said, “including Charlie.”
“Do you further swear to defend the Lafa System and her people, and our way of life, against any and all intruders?”
“All three of us do,” Charles replied.
“Do you further relinquish all claims held by any foreign or alien government, on your persons, your labor or your allegiances?”
“We do,” they answered together.
“Then I do hereby welcome you as the three newest citizens of the Lafa System. On behalf of the Calafan people and the High Priestess, Yimar, you are hereby declared full citizens, with all the rights, privileges and obligations appertaining thereto. May I be the first to congratulate you?”