Nadine Loren is a character. You cannot get comfortable around her. She keeps you on your toes and does so ruthlessly. At the same time, she is a sweetheart. Nadine is Ambassador Ashley Loren’s mother, though she does not look like it. Not anymore. Cooperative medicine is miraculous. I look forward to seeing how I look when I hit the seventies.
I bumped into her at the Apartment Embassy, and she invited me to her house on Legracia. That was a nice change of pace. Normally I have to track them down and sit with them wherever they were to interview them. She preferred the comfort of her own home.
Her house is a houseboat that was plugged into an existing lake community on Legracia. Steven Crow brought her house from Seattle and just plopped it by a floating walkway, and the rest is history. Her neighbors live in trunk cavities of thick trees that grow from the lake bed. Some live on floating islands in living homes that look like tightly woven brambles sealed indoors with some sort of ceramic material. It was really nice touring them. Decks and walkways are thick mats of growing plants that float on the surface of the lake near the shore. They’re a little spongy, but still amazingly firm to walk on.
But I digress…
~ ~ ~
Nadine: They don’t have fleas, do they?
ME: [Looks at Ma’ya and Eve] Um…
Nadine: I don’t want fleas in my house.
Eve: [Looks at the fur on her arm and picks at it]
ME: I don’t think…
Nadine: Do they have collars?
ME: Flea collars?
Nadine: No, stupid. Turtle collars. What other collars would they wear?
ME: [Probably looking like a deer in the headlights] Um…
Nadine: [laughs so hard she doubles down] I did that to Steven. You greenhorns are just too easy.
Nadine: In or out, your choice.
Nadine: [Waves us into her house] Don’t just stand there gawking then.
Ma’ya: [Places hand on Nadine’s cheek briefly] Peace to you, Nadine.
Nadine: Oh you are just so sweet. Peace to you too, honey.
ME: What did she show you?
Nadine: Nosey, much?
ME: I am a journalist.
Nadine: Yeah, that’s not a good thing in my book, twinkle-toes.
ME: I am not a pap, if that’s what you’re inferring.
Nadine: Same difference. Let’s get this over with.
ME: If you don’t want to do this, it’s okay.
Nadine: Ashley said I should. So…
ME: Wow. This house is amazing. Steven brought it here?
Nadine: Nice save. Yes.
ME: They even made your lights look like the originals.
ME: Stove? Ooh, one from Dherring. I love those.
Nadine: Why don’t you make yourself at home? I have a toilet too. Couch here. A firebox over there.
ME: [Ignores sarcasm] You still have your old fridge.
Nadine: Doesn’t get used much anymore. Unless I want chilled tea.
ME: Sure, I’d love a glass.
Nadine: You’re just a handful, you know that?
ME: Don’t get me started. No sugar, please.
Nadine: You two look like Bilomba flower tea girls, right?
Ma’ya: [looks at Eve] That is accurate. Eve is more familiar with Terran teas, however.
Nadine: Here you go, Mark. With ice.
ME: Thanks, hon.
ME: When in Rome, right? What was it like? The change from Earth to this?
Nadine: Not as radical as one would think. I still have my house.
ME: True. I bet that softened the blow.
Nadine: Here you go. And you, dear. Eve, right?
Eve: Yes ma’am.
Nadine: You are a cutie. No, Mark. It wasn’t as radical as I would have thought.
ME: It blew my mind. Sci-fi became reality.
Nadine: Sweetheart, I have lived in the age that went from barely flying to men walking the Moon. Captain Kirk’s communicator to our fancy smartphones. Landlines to wireless. Sci-fi has already become reality for me. This… this is just a continuation of that.
ME: Profound. I’ve been spoiled. So, being on an alien planet…
Nadine: I’ve been on several. Mark, George and I used to travel for a living. We’ve been to nearly every landmass on Earth. George even vine jumped on Vanuatu.
Nadine: They tie vines around your ankles and you jump off a rickety tower made of sticks. He face-planted in the dirt, but wasn’t hurt. We’ve lived the life. Coming here is just more of that. The people look different. But they’re still people.
ME: It actually looks rather domesticated here.
Nadine: I was tired when they brought me over. This was where I was going to get old and die. This house. This was the only reason I agreed to come. Bringing this here. Home, right? Now, I don’t know. This is the first time I’ve been back to this place in a month.
ME: Kinda like your home became a lot bigger.
Nadine: [laughs] Preach it, brotha. I’m a resident of wherever I go. Just pick a family to visit and stay a few nights. I feel like I got my youth back.
ME: You look it. You’re looking really good. Ashley showed me your Earthling pictures. Big change.
Nadine: Aren’t you sweet. But I’m already seeing someone.
ME: Engaged. Purely a platonic observation.
Nadine: Sure. They all say that. More tea?
Nadine: Yeah. Um. Girls bring your cups and I’ll top them off.
Eve: I’m fine.
Nadine: Sweetheart, you sucked that down in a second flat. I know you want more.
Ma’ya: I’ll get hers.
ME: You seemed to like Mor’ite.
Nadine: They have a marvelous hot-pot there. Can’t remember what they call it, but it’s basically a hot-pot.
ME: Sure. Your fella must like it too. He’s a Leif?
Nadine: Nosy much, Gossip Gertie?
ME: Meh. It’s what I do. I am just… you seem to have found a new life here.
Nadine: Well, if you must know… too bad. Not your business. Here you go, Ma’ya. I put a little honey in Eve’s.
Ma’ya: I will try some too.
Nadine: Right here… yeah. That’s it. Native stingless bee honey.
ME: They have those here?
Nadine: Not quite like South America’s, but yep. Delicious honey. Stir this in.
ME: Thanks! Yum.
Nadine: When you travel, go native. You will be amazed at what you experience.
ME: I’ve done a bit of traveling.
Nadine: Hunkering down with locals in war-zones while bombs are dropping is not exactly the native experience, fella.
ME: Hey, I’ve been in the Cooperative for several months. It’s been an eye-opener, that’s for sure.
Nadine: Hmph, I think you need more time out in the field.
ME: Trying. Venda raids have restricted my travels a bit.
Nadine: Yeah, those are… I mean why? We have plenty of resources to go around. They’re not occupying. Just… terrorists. Just doesn’t make sense. Thought I escaped that when I left Earth.
ME: You and me, sister. It’s nuts. But you’re safe here, right?
Nadine: Nowhere is truly safe. But I feel better here. Small community on a well defended world.
ME: One can hope. But you’re not here much, are you?
Nadine: Sherry lets me tag along when she’s surveying accidents. She’s enjoying letting me gawk at all the new sites. And we stay with random families. Just invite ourselves in wherever we go. It’s their culture.
ME: Sherry. That’s an Earthling name.
Nadine: Consonants and vowels, cupcake. She’s a sweetie. When her responsibilities on the Council expire this year, we plan on doing even more traveling. It’s a whole new universe out there, Mark.
ME: I see an adventurous spirit breaking out there. Visiting worlds, staying with strangers.
Nadine: Adventurous? Try space-diving with me sometime, tenderfoot.
Nadine: Skydiving, but from space. Full re-entry. It’s a blast.
ME: I think I’ll pass.
~ ~ ~
Well, she’s more intimidating in person than on paper. But wow, what a woman. I can imagine her putting on a pith hat and slogging through the jungles of the Congo. And she doesn’t take crap from anyone.
And no… I am still not going to space-dive. Just… no.
Who’s my next victim?