From Home Is Where I Want To Be
Neyu age 4
- The last armistice is declared before current events. It lasts 18 months before collapsing.
- sent with Pukka and Samsithi to live with an aunt (Kaaru) in the highlands; stays for two years until Kaaru sends her back, unable to afford extra mouths, regardless of how hard they work. Neyu doesn’t understand why they’ve been sent off, but her father’s done it to protect them from roving bands of armed men that have started appearing.
- The three girls returns home. Pukka and Neyu stay the house, but Samsithi leaves to seek her fortunes elsewhere. She eventually enlists in the Vaasith military.
- Eneswa takes a job at the regional spaceport; on visits home, he talks about what’s happening on the travel routes that the broadcast news won’t mention — privateering, commandeering. Rumors are that Vaasith is on the back foot, and Pertaman is pressing its advantage against Vaasith holdings.
- Radi starts to suffer; longer raids, more privateering; actual war on Gantu. Money becomes scarce, buyers for Radi goods become scarce. A captain named Vikrannu makes a name for herself by braving the privateer lines and running blockades.
- Surface fights on Radi; raids on farmsteads. Kaaru comes to live with them this time; her highlands fields have either been burned or have been taken over by forces from/sympathetic to Pertaman; it’s not exactly clear and Kaaru is not forthcoming. Eneswa comes home less and less often, but when he does, comments on how desperate the people coming through the port are beginning to look.
- Kaaru goes back up to the highlands to check on her fields; she never returns. Neyu’s father Hazan goes to look for her and comes back a few days later. Nobody tells Neyu directly, but she figures out that Kaaru is dead and something has happened to her fields.
- Neyu’s mother Somannu, along with Pukka, begin investigating getting away from Radi, even abandoning their farm. At one point, Somannu considers indentured servitude to pay off the travel costs. Hazan won’t hear of it.
- regular shipments of staples and necessary goods begin to fail significantly. Black market trading goes up; animals and goods begin to disappear from farms. Hazan coughs up the cash to buy a firearm and enough ammunition to make it worthwhile. Eneswa disappears.
- Hazan and Somannu shift the farm into subsistence mode; barter trade systems go up around the local settlements as money begins to mean less and less, particularly since satellite and throughspace relays are becoming more intermittent.
- Someone steals next crop’s seed. The family begins to ration their harvest and withdraws to a central building, locking everything important up in that building where at least one person can keep an eye on it at all times.
- It becomes clear the rationing won’t last; Hazan goes out to find more seeds, or anything that will keep them alive through the next few seasons, without slaughtering too many goats.
- Hazan returns empty handed and talks about roving bands of either mercenaries or vigilantes or low-grade conscripts, harrassing people on the roads. He had to travel through brush and wood to avoid them.
- Hazan goes out again, but Somannu refuses to let him go alone. They entrust Neyu to Pukka’s care and head out. That is the last Neyu sees of her parents.
- It’s been three months since Neyu has seen her parents. Pukka has done her best to keep things together, but the fear and worry wear on her, and there are more and more sounds of fighting, and of fighting getting closer, every day. She practices with a small pistol her father gave her, but knows she has to preserve ammunition.
- Aircraft are passing over, thundering hard overhead. They’ve never heard them before, but the thumping sounds from far off must be bombs, the girls realise. Pukka begins to devise an escape plan. It revolves around their brother Eneswa still being either at the regional spaceport, or maybe being on Gantu: they meet up with him, then try to find their parents. They try communicating with the spaceport, but it’s impossible to tell if communications relays are down, or if no one is answering on the other end. They start to plan their route to the port, through woods and brush, because they know the roads aren’t safe.
- The girls learn to hide in the basement, the one with the trap door hidden under their parents’ bed, which is just high enough to allow the hatch to open for the girls to squirm through. They’ve been lucky so far in not being found, but when they’re hiding, they can’t protect the farm from thieves and marauders, who have made off with all the goats and any crop that’s managed to grow. They have no other option but to leave.
- The girls lock up the house as best they can and head cross-country to the port. In the night, as they keep hidden as best they can, they can see there’s a pitched battle happening in that same direction; fires, explosions, glowing shells and ammunition thrown into the sky. They know they can’t go back, so they keep going forward.
- There are soldiers in actual uniforms on the outskirts of Hemuntaari (the regional capital and home to the spaceport), Pertaman ones (or at least ones that look like Pertaman uniforms). They generally leave the girls alone, except for one older woman who asks them where they’re going and why they’re out alone. The girls reply that they’re trying to get to the spaceport. The woman laughs harshly and says they’re much better off in the countryside, and that getting off-world right now is a tough ask. She half-heartedly tries to recruit Pukka, who refuses, and the girls move on.
- The girls are within a km of the port; parts of it are in ruins, parts are being desperately defended by locals and some rag-tag Vaasith forces. Pukka asks after Eneswa and is told repeatedly no one knows who he is, or where he might be. The girls end up hiding out in a line of thick-walled warehouses with a large number of other people who are doing the same thing — trying to escape the fighting, and maybe find a way to a safer place.
- The girls stay in the warehouses a couple of weeks as people come and go; Pukka searches for Eneswa while Neyu scavenges and begs for food.
- Neyu stands outside, talking to some soldiers fresh out of the port, with its single functioning landing zone. She begs for anything, scraps, as the sky darkens overhead. She pays it little attention, but suddenly the sound of anti-aircraft guns stops all conversation. She ducks and covers, like most of the others; the soldiers panic behind the concrete barriers and scramble to their battle stations. Suddenly she’s hauled off the ground — Pukka has grabbed her and is running for her life down the street. And then there’s the noise. So much noise, the kind that thumps the chest like a kick. The girls tumble to the ground in the shockwave. The enemy is pulling for that last working landing zone. They both scramble to their feet; Neyu grabs hold of her sister and they run again, anywhere, everywhere. There is no place to hide. No safe place. Another explosion, they’re both on the ground again. Neyu scrambles up first, helps Pukka. There’s blood, but she can’t tell from where. And off they run again. The skies clear, the rumbling fades. People, after moment, stop moving and look around. Destruction. Half the warehouses are gone in smoke and rubble and fire. And then they hear it. The deep, low hum, the darkening of the skies — another bombing run. Pukka and Neyu tear off, anywhere. Wherever the terrain’s not torn up beyond negotiation. They come around the lip of a recent crater, deep, and Pukka looks over her shoulder. The next thing Neyu knows, she’s in the air and over the crest of the crater, falling down into it — before the bomb. Pukka’s thrown her. Pukka’s about to follow Neyu in, but the bomb hits, and a chunk of debris knocks her right out of the air. And now Neyu is alone.
- Neyu stays in that crater for a while, panic-stricken and overrun with grief. The bombs fade away; the last pristine part of the port lies in smoking ruins. But there’s activity there, people moving and running. Life, with some kind of direction, it seems. Neyu emerges from the crater and searches for her sister a little while before giving up, maybe because she knows there’s nothing to be done for Pukka, and maybe because she doesn't have the heart to see Pukka broken and destroyed. She darts into the port through the wreckage of an old gate and looks for the activity she saw before. Some of it is military — she knows they have no time for her. But at least one is civilian, an older woman yelling at technicians and promising in broken Vaasi to take them along if they get the ship up and moving. That’s all the incentive they need. But Neyu knows she’s got nothing to offer the woman; she can’t repair anything, and it’s highly unlikely the ship has a hydroponics pod, and even less likely it has its own goat herd. But the woman says something about Umamet, and Neyu knows this is a major starport on Gantu. So she manages to sneak aboard, hiding in a cramped cargo hold full of scavenged parts and scrap.