Summary of Part 10: Tandra and Uki finally land and are welcomed by the colonists, who later explain that they fear an attack.
Summary of Part 10: Tandra and Uki finally land and are welcomed by the colonists, who later explain that they fear an attack. The next morning Tandra is having breakfast with Raquel, a member of the colony, when a mutant shows up.
Tandra didn't want to meet anyone, but she didn't dare contradict Raquel. Though she feigned a smile in anticipation, she was prepared for the worst.
The newcomer was around 5 feet 10 and had a human figure, two legs, and three arms, one of them shorter than the others. The extra limb protruded from his or her right shoulder (Tandra couldn't tell at first sight if the newcomer was male or female). At the end of the 10-inch arm was a perfectly shaped hand with short, clean, well-kept nails. The skin was creamy and smooth. A simple brown tunic covered the body to the calves and had openings for the three arms and the head.
The head! Tandra made an effort to conceal her uneasiness when she saw that only one eye covered most of the forehead. The iris was green and the pupil, by contrast, dark as coal. Thankfully, the nose and the mouth were humanlike. The hair, dark and long, brushed the creature's chest, so Tandra had no way of noticing if there were ears or not. She wondered if the newcomer could ,hear when she finally spoke and said,
"Nice…nice to meet you."
The extra arm moved toward Tandra. Hesitantly, she shook the hand. It was harder and firmer than she expected. During the brief handshake she understood why the regular arms had been kept away from her--they ended in four long, unfriendly-looking claws. She looked the other way.
The creature replied in a rich and crystalline voice. Tandra recognized a few words like happy, baby and born.
"Pisces says they are very happy to have you here," Raquel interpreted. "Yours will be the first baby born to an outsider in El Yermo. You are special to them."
"Really? Well, I am glad to hear that," Tandra answered.
She wasn't that glad but figured that it was the proper thing to say.
Pisces spoke again.
"They will help you when the time comes," Raquel said.
Pisces winked at Tandra. The eye had no eyelashes or eyebrow, just a pale eyelid.
"Thank you," she answered.
Pisces smiled and walked toward the kitchen.
Tandra waited until she was alone with Raquel to ask, "Is that what radiation did to the people who stayed outside the boroughs?"
She was thinking of her baby, hoping her pregnancy was advanced enough for all the body parts to have been formed already. Raquel seemed to guess what was worrying her.
"The effects of the fallout vanished many years ago," she said. "People like Pisces are simply suffering the result of generational mutations."
"So they are mutants."
"Yes," Raquel admitted after a brief hesitation. "But the term has been used for so many years against them as an insult that we'd rather avoid it. In any case, they are as healthy as you and me. The fear of radiation is used as a pretext to keep people obedient and confined in the cities."
Tandra nodded though she wasn't convinced. But she didn't want to argue. Instead, she chose to ask,
"Is Pisces a man or a woman?"
Raquel cocked her head slightly to one side.
"Does it matter?"
"I'm just curious."
"Some of them have two genders. It's kind of a personal issue, and it's considered impolite to ask."
"And that name, Pisces, where does it come from?"
"It is a constellation. These folks know a lot about all things astronomical. Hey, would you like to help Pisces make lunch? We all need to do something here. And if you like to cook…"
"I love to cook!"
After finishing breakfast Tandra, outfitted with a white apron and brown gloves, stood in front of a wood stove stirring a pot with meat and vegetables. Next to her was Pisces, who immediately launched into a long speech, moving the three arms excitedly. Again, Tandra recognized a few words: star, preparations, ready and Navidad.
She frowned. Yes, she had heard of Christmas. She had seen manger scenes where tiny androlls performed the main roles.
Religion wasn't forbidden in the boroughs, but it wasn't encouraged either. The general feeling was that none of the assorted gods and goddesses that people used to worship had done anything useful. In fact, their alleged existence had led to the last war, where mankind had almost annihilated itself trying to prove that their god was the only true one.
People were free to worship in private, but their first allegiance was to the government, the social structure that kept them fed, clothed, sheltered and safe. Sometimes the structure got too intrusive, like the parent test. But the assumption was that all happened for the common good, to prevent another catastrophe like the one that had almost swept people from the face of the earth.
Tandra had never given much thought to the issue. Her parents and the man who had fathered her child didn't care about it either. What was Pisces saying? She listened carefully, trying to make sense of the few familiar words.
The Spanish version of this story is here.
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