This is a story about love, but it is not a love story. This is a story of triumph and failures; mostly failures from bad decisions and triumphs through luck. This is also a true story insofar as any story can be true while being fiction.
Like any good story, this one begins with a bang. More accurately an explosion of glorious magnitude. When a complex nuclear reactor is assembled by a unionized work force using parts made by the lowest bidder , these things tend to happen. A slight misalignment of the fission laser striking a fuel pebble and a sensor that failed because QA is something you say you do but really don’t, leads to a spectacular firework show as the reactor drive quickly cascades out of control.
Unfortunately, no one was around to enjoy the show. , They were all occupied with their dreams as they slept away the voyage in cryopods. While space is infinitely large, on a scale we can’t comprehend, the ships we hurl through it always seem to s run into an issue when near planets. Even more convenient, the odds always seem to be in their favor as the planets contain atmospheres the human body can tolerate and gravity that doesn’t crush your bones outright.
These cryopods were not made by the lowest bidder and assembled by a company who believed in the axiom of “Safety First”. They went out of business as their rivals thought that “Profit First” was a better motto to do business under. Thankfully they produced several high quality cryopods that could withstand the rigors of space travel, poor ship builders, and atmospheric reentry. Sadly, they did not awaken their passengers until after all of the excitement of having a ship explode and plummeting through at atmosphere at [FIND REENTRY SPEED].
Three colonist not-by-choice awoke upon a strange site. While they were expecting to find themselves awaken to the soft glow of medical lights and technicians in blue lab coats, they were instead greeted with the bluest of skies and the soft chirp of nearby wildlife. They could also witness the remains of their ships breaking apart in the atmosphere and thus watched the tail end of the spectacle and only ponder how they came to be.
The first pod contained Adrian Jorkvrastead, but she would simply be known as AJ as pronouncing her last name was a chore. Based on her online dating profile she had been an accountant in her previous life, tending to numbers during the day and a small garden she cared for on a roof at night. She also enjoyed long walks on beaches, though where she found beaches on a mega-metropolitan was any one’s guess.
The second pod was occupied by Bud Hayden, though his friends called him “Buddy”. His ex-wife used far more expletive names for him though. She would get a notice later that he died in an accident and would remember him fondly as the “love of my life” while grieving in front of a judge. She would have a good laugh afterwards while drinking on the payout with her friends. Bud was a bit of a handy man, having no real skill set but instead going from small job to small job as needed. This was to be his chance to jump system and start anew away from his long series of bad life choices. He just wasn’t quiet expecting such a restart.
The last pod was inhabited by Jill Hawke. She was known by no other name as she had no family left in the universe for her and no friends to speak of. She set about doing whatever task was required of her in her government job. No one was quite sure which branch of which government she ever really worked for but since she minded the bureaucracy and got work done, no one bothered to ask. She was in the midst of visiting a new facility being setup and someone somewhere decided she would be a good fit there. She received the request, properly filled it away and then left for the day to start work 30 years from then at a new desk.
After watching the fire show in the morning sky the three set about gathering what few supplies they could find. AJ and Bud would spend a few hours debating the best course of action. Neither could remember if the flight attendant had mentioned anything about what to do after you survived the crash, but they had also not paid attention either. They spoke of building beacons and radios, setting fires and drawing HELP on the ground, but in the end came to terms with two facts.
- Space is big and defacing the surface of a planet had been outlawed as being in poor taste after some industrious kids stole a mining laser and drew a cock and balls on the side of a moon as a graduation prank (to be fair they were graduating from the local mining guild).
- None of them was competent or qualified to build a radio of any sort, especially since they lacked anything to make it with.
While the pair argued Jill set about building a fire to stay warm and a house to stay dry. By the time they realized she was not contributing to any of the votes they realized they had not contribute to any of the labour to stay alive. That night they feasted on survival rations, as much as any person can feast upon 200-year-old hard tact and dehydrated water (a miracle of the golden age of technology).
The next few days saw a flurry of additional debates on “how best to not die on this godforsaken lost paradise”. The first makeshift lento became a shack as Bud tore apart the remainders of the cryopod to make tools. Nearby trees were felled and the shacks became small log cabins. AJ found wild flowers and grains in which she swore were edible. After being boiled and mashed they almost passed as something that resembled food. The local wildlife was able to add a bit flovour after Bud figured out how to cook them outside of the “leather” category (his ex-wife forbade him from cooking for her safety).
As the days dragged on Bud found himself watching Jill as she set about her work of chopping wood, creating hemp rope from the local grass, and especially when she was mending their clothes since she didn’t bother to hide while she did so. Very little seemed to phase her and the uncaring cold shoulder made her even more desirable. One night while eating rice paste he asked AJ her opinion. “She is a nice enough person I guess, if you’re into that strong and silent type. I don’t think she cares much for us though, maybe it’s the lack of beaches to walk on while being sullen?”
Bud lacked his normal liquid encouragement but AJ was close enough to a friend to be encouragement to try. He approached Jill and asked if she would like to share a meal with him, though she was eating hers at the time, which made the conversation an awkward start. She looked up at him “If you wish to share a bed with me I’m good with that.”
Apologies, this isn’t a story about love, but about lust without all of the needless drama that gets in the way of the drama between the sheets.
The two made a mess of things that night while AJ slept in her corner trying to ignore the world. In the morning she would complain about the sleeping arrangements. Bud was a new man and had his spirit again. “Well then, why don’t we build a new house for the two of us? We could also use a shed to store some of our supplies to keep them out of the rain.”
AJ argued “Why should I have to help build you a house if I’m not going to live in it?”
Bud grinned “Well then you can listen to our passionate love making every night!”
AJ sighed. Relationships were hard. Jill had already set about the task of collecting lumber for the new house while the two argued about the size and living arrangements. By the time they had come to a consensus on what should be built as “fair and equal housing” Jill had completed the walls and was at work on a door.
The days slowly became weeks and the weather warmed from a cool spring to the start of a warm summer. AJ’s field of questionable rice grass and corn stalks had begun to bloom. Bud had convinced a small mammalian critter with six legs to stick around, though that had less to do with Bud and more to do with the availability of easy food. One warm summer breeze while the trio set around the fire after finishing off meat and rice paste sew, Bud dropped to one knee and produced a small gasket recovered from one of the cryopods. He had found a small green stone in the nearby water and had done his best to polish it. “While this ring is not the one you deserve and neither am I the man you deserve; will you marry me?” A moment passed as Jill looked upon the man kneeling before her. The moment almost became uncomfortable before she responded “Yes”.
Lust and love go hand in hand, this is a story about love after all.
The next few days were spent with Bud building a small alter and trellis and AJ collecting flowers from the nearby fields. Jill spent the time doing the work that would need to be done to keep them alive. Lumber to harvest, rope to repair, mud to patch walls. Three days after the proposal Jill kicked Bud out of bed and pointed to a nearby ridge. “We are being watched.”
Bud excitedly woke AJ. “We have guest!”
AJ and Bud hastily gathered a few things and started to walk towards the being watching over them on the ridge. Jill grabbed one of the hunting bows and walked behind them “This is a bad idea.”
AJ snarled “Were not alone on this planet. There could be civilization, they could have air conditioning, hot showers and net access. Don’t be so dour.”
As the trio approached the ridge they could see their watcher was humanoid of roughly human height with tan to dark skin tone. It seems that on all of the inhabitable planets you find in the infinite expanse of the universe evolution was only ever smart enough to make human looking beings. This is in no part due to the lack of imagination on the story writers part.
Their watcher was not alone either. He, they assumed it’s a he since he was only wearing a loin cloth and nothing to cover the chest which is fairly standard clothing affair for the industrially challenged humanoids of the cosmos. He let out a shout and the two other humanoids fired arrows at the group. They beat a hasty retreat back to their little homestead with the locals quickly on their tail. One of the advantages to crash landing on a strange habitable (yet mostly uninhabited) planet is you get lots of exercise. Hefting an axe builds arm strengths, lifting lumber helps with your back and core, and running from the natives is great cardio.
As they made it back to the homestead Bud ducked around a corner and screamed at AJ “I don’t think they are going to let us use their showers.” AJ was breaking into hysterics, crash landing on a planet that tries to passively kill you is acceptable. That’s mother nature just being herself. When someone disagrees with your existence with force, well that’s something her mind just wasn’t going to accept or comprehend. Now seemed like as good as any to fall to pieces. Bud fumbled with his bow, he could hunt because he had to but he was terrible at it. Jill did most of the hunting because she was good at it, like most things she did.
Jill stood at the building calm and focused. A flurry of arrows later the screams of a sentient being turned into a porcupine could be heard. Bud stared in fascination as this warrior woman stood in the face of oncoming death without flinching and was handing out her own in return. It also helped that she hadn’t put on a top outside of the cloth scrap she used as support before they foolishly went to greet their visitor. In his momentary daze he stepped from behind his corner and felt his world explode in fire. Looking down he couldn’t quite figure out why there was a spear in his leg or why his ex-wife was screaming gibberish at him.
As his world faded into black he saw his goddess of war attacking his ex-wife. His Valkyrie waging war with the mistakes of his life.
Days would go by after the attack. AJ eventually recovered her senses enough to help Jill, who would be known a Valkyrie from then on, dispose of the two savage’s corpses. The third savage had survived the attack but not after a savage beating administered by Valkyrie with a nearby rock. At first Valkyrie intended to burn the corpses as a quick and efficient way to dispose of the bodies but AJ complained that wasn’t civilized. They settled on graves though Valkyrie had to do most of the digging. After a day she forced the captured savage to finish the digging. This led to another bout of complaints that prisoners shouldn’t be forced to do unfair work. Valkyrie eventually stopped listening to AJ.
AJ tended to Buds wounds as a nasty infection set in. It was several weeks before he was up and moving but from that day forward he would always walk with a limp. As time carried forward summer bloomed into full heat. The days were spent in the heat building walls around their homestead. The supply shack was extended to accommodate the additional grain the field nearby was expected to harvest. At night AJ spent her time talking to the native (she refused to use the term savage). During one of their sessions she removed her bindings to allow her to eat, that was what civilized people do. While attempting to converse her prisoner leaped up and screamed “You foolish Star Walker!” and punched AJ in the throat. The savage turned native turned freedom fighter fled into the night.
Valkyrie let the savage flee. Later that night while in bed with Bud he inquired about a new date for the wedding. “Clearly we need to reevaluate the guest list.” Valkyrie looked down at him “I can share a bed with you but I cannot share my heart.”
Bud felt like he was punched in the stomach and his world slipping away again. Valkyrie finished up and went to sleep. Bud did not sleep that night but set awake staring at their door. He was in the same spot when Valkyrie woke the next morning and started the day’s task. By days end a new house was mostly constructed. AJ had spent the day apologizing for losing their native but after Valkyrie made no effort to console or reprimand her, she just fell into justifying the native was better off being released back into the wild. She spent the rest of the day putting extra effort into the wall.
That night Bud set by himself at the fire eating rice paste. Valkyrie set in her usual silence. While AJ had been uncomfortable with being the groups third wheel the sullen silence was worse. She felt this is when someone does something inspiring that brings everyone together for a good laugh. “We’ve been here quite a while. I think we should give this place a name.”
After a few long silence. “It’s very green here.”
More silence broken up by the occasional spoon meeting mash meeting mouth.
“We didn’t really move very far from where we landed. Maybe we call it Green Landing?”
Her suggestion was met with the noise from the local wildlife going about its business at night. Valkyrie looked over “It’s as good a name as any.”
Time in Green Landing went on. Bud slowly started working in the community once more. The outer fence became a full wall. A proper gate was built though AJ and Bud would argue how large a gate was needed. They had no domesticated animals for hauling, and for the most part had found no large animals which could be used as beast of burdens. AJ debated that the planet has some sort of civilization, what if they come by to trade at some point? A small door wouldn’t be very inviting. Bud didn’t have the heart to argue.
As the crops started to come in AJ began to complain the local wildlife was starting to eat away at the crops. Valkyrie pointed out that they would be less inclined to be about if she would stop feeding them. Their six-legged mascot was now twice as heavy then when he arrived. It also now had a mate that hung around. Bud knew what he needed to do to win back his Valkyrie.
He set about honing his skill with the bow and spear. He spent his nights drafting trap designs on makeshift paper and charcoal. When he wasn’t creating new ways to trap local creatures (and the natives) or hunting he would lay in the middle of the settlement and stare at the sky and remember his nights with Valkyrie. She would eventually see he was not a coward and could do battle alongside her and she would love him once more.
This is a story of love and lust and these types of stories underneath are tragedies. Valkyrie was not a mean or vindictive person. She did not set out at the start of her days to see how much harm she could inflict upon others. Her problem was she simply did not care about others feelings. At a young age her parents had difficulties connecting with their own daughter. She would smile when others smiled and laugh when others laughed but she never seemed to have emotions of her own. She was later diagnosed as a psychopath which gravely upset her parents but meant little to her. The government however loved people who had little care for the emotions of others, they made the best workers who could survive the bureaucracy and nuisances of citizens who didn’t understand how to work with the bureaucracy.
These qualities made her excellent while working at the Department of Starship Registration (or was it the Starship Trade Collection Bureau?) but a terrible companion outside of entertainment between the sheets.
As the summer was cooling and the first whispers of fall began to hum Green Landing would find a new resident. In the middle of one day as the trio was breaking from their work a shout was heard on the horizon. Valkyrie and Bud took to the wall while AJ ran to the door. She would not dare open it however fearing any response from Valkyrie. Over the same ridge their last “visitors” came from a tall and scraggly man scrambled. He had been running towards the smoke trail coming from Green Landing for the last day since his escape. He came running down the hill arms flailing. At the bottom he lost his footing and unceremoniously fell on his face before the wall.
He looked up at Valkyrie and Bud and attempted to scream. He had been running the better part of the morning and was out of breath so it was more of a harsh whisper. No one could make out what he said but one could guess it was akin to “Help me!” or perhaps “Save me!”. There’s also the possibility that he was trying to say “Let me in they are going to eat me and use my entrails to make sausage out of the left overs and I am firmly a vegetarian.” The last is unlikely as Hoyt liked bacon.
He could also have just been trying to sell used vacuum cleaners since he was wearing the tattered remains of blue overalls with the “VacuSuc” logo (bringing galaxy class suck to a system near you). They would never know since he passed out. Valkyrie ordered the door opened and AJ brought him inside. A band of natives / savages / unpleasant locals who don’t know how to share appeared upon the ledge and looked down at the settlement. The leader of this war band was unimpressed with walls as he saw them as a challenge to be overcome. Ideally he would overcome them with a pile of bodies which helps the climb up. He was also a conniving sort who used young upstarts as the base of that pile. He would never get a chance to order the young bastard who was currently trying to stab him in the back and take his place as an arrow blossomed from his eye. The war band scattered.
On the wall of Green Landing Valkyrie looked over at Bud and his impressive shot. It was intended as a warning shot, just so that he could show off that he wasn’t afraid of them and worthy of Valkyrie heart. She only nodded and went down to see their new guest. That night while they ate Bud spilled himself to Valkyrie, his unrequited love, his desire to be the man that she wants him to be, his willingness to walk into the fire of hell for the slightest approval from her. She smiled her false smile she had learned from the government “We can always share a bed but I cannot share with you my heart.”
It was too much for Bud. Something broke inside and he gave into his lust as his heart died. That night they trashed the place but by the morning he was spent emotionally and physically. Valkyrie awoke and went about the task of the days.
AJ tended to Hoyt, who had crashed some time ago. While the group of Green Landing had the luck to land in a hospitable area him and another landed in the mountains. They were set upon by locals and used as slave labour. His co-crash-landing-survivor fell ill and the slavers decided to eat him as a cure. It didn’t work well and the slavers weren’t overly impressed with the flavour. He was traded to farmers at the base of the mountains for better tasting meals. The slavers, being an upstanding sort of folk, later returned and decided to take another payment via the “rape and pillage” method of trade. Hoyt had recovered by then and had been fleeing the group since.
Bud wandered that day through the camp aimlessly that day and by night fall had found himself laying shirtless in a field outside the wall staring at the clouds. Some would remind him of bunnies, other of his ex-wife (who was at this time feeling very sad while standing in front of officials lightyears away), but most would look like his beloved Valkyrie and he would black out, to down trodden to feel bad for himself. By next morning Bud had lost his trousers as well and was found sleeping under a tree.
AJ took to caring for Bud while his mind wandered (along with the rest of him). She ensured he stayed feed and prevented him from wandering too far. She did suffer from a brief internal battle with her conscious on trying to keep him mostly clothed but in the end decided mostly nude Bud was easier to handle. Hoyt recovered over the next few weeks and took to working the fields. His time with the farmers had taught him winters on this planet would be cold and bitter, nothing would grow and the wildlife would scurry off. He also took to calling Bud MadBud. AJ disapproved but the name stayed. All the while Valkyrie continued her task of keeping the building maintained, supplies sorted, and everyone safe. Deep within her a seed of doubt began to take root.
As the nights began to grow longer, colder, and Hoyt had put his brush with death behind him, the embers of lust began to glow. He looked longingly on AJ who spent her time either tending to the local vermin or caring for MadBud. He could not fathom why she would dote over a mad man and share a bed with him when there was a perfectly good, sane and rational man available. It didn’t help his state of mind that she was also the only woman he had seen since crashing on the planet outside of the one they called Valkyrie, and she scared the piss out of him.
During one dinner as the four set around, Valkyrie staring at the settlements cooking fire in her stoic fashion, and AJ feeding MadBud, Hoyt had enough of the crazy. He stood up and marched over to the pair. He grabbed MadBud by his arm and lifted him to his feet. “Why do you want after this shell of a man?” he cried to her.
“He cannot provide for you, or keep you safe from the harshness of this world where I would do anything for you.”
AJ responded with tears in her eyes, “He’s the only man who has ever listened to me. How can I not love him?”
This is a story of love and losses. Hoy looked his rival in the eyes and for a brief moment it would appear his sanity was fighting to regain hold. He looked at Valkyrie and just as sanity was about to win its fight for freedom, Hoyts fist knocked it back into the dark recesses it had been banished too. A fight erupted, fist were thrown, teeth and nails used as weapons. Briefly one of the six legged vermin joined into the fray but quickly decided the spilled food was not worth the current commotion. All the while Valkyrie set back and watched the melee.
At some point during the confusion the ring of stones that was used to contain the communal fire was bridged and the fire caught hold. The melee dissolved into a mad dash to contain the fire as it started to wrought destruction on the wooden shacks. The four community members took to battling the blaze and by morning had it defeated at the cost of one of the shacks, a part of the communal area, and all the six legged creatures as evolution had not quite taught them that flaming food was bad for survival. AJ, MadBud, and Hoyt laid as a group arm in arm nearby as they drifted off to sleep in each other’s company.
As dawn rose Valkyrie gathered her simple supplies, and a portion of the food and set out. She would not be seen by the residents of Green Landing again.
Summer surrounded its last hold and gave to fall. The survivors of Green Landing began to rebuild what had been taken by the flames. AJ realized that the movie dramas had it all wrong, people weren’t brought together from speeches. They were brought together by fire and passion, and the surviours had plenty of that. Shortly after this revelation Hoyt figured out that the rice paste they ate for food could be mixed in with water and left out for a few days to become slightly alcoholic. His concoction would not win any medals for taste (or looks, it was in fact barely palatable) it was the first beer he had in quite some time. The surviours partied straight through until morning, surviving the drink and enjoying each other’s company. They had such a great time that they decided to do it again the next night as well.
Fall rolled on and turned dark and cold. The surviours turned to merriment to keep warm but in turn the settlement fell into disarray. The lush fields of grass began to turn yellow, then amber, and finally dark brown. As the days waned on the harvest was left to rot on the field uncollected. The chorus of merriment would turn to grumbles of discontent as the survivours of Green Landing would battle the elements for the right to live.
By mid-winter a silence had fallen over Green Landing.
Sometime later two figures would look down from the nearby ridge at the settlement. Its walls still stood and a fire was going inside inviting traders to stop by and share a bench. The two travelers though would not enter the settlement and instead walked a path around to a single tree at a small bend in the creek. There they would stand and look down at a plain gravestone.
The smaller of the two would ask “What does it read?”
The taller of the two looks down but does not need to read the inscription to know what it says. Her hand touches a small gasket she keeps on a rope hidden under her shirt.
Here Lies Bud Hayden
The young boy looks at the older woman. “Who was he?”
She smiles, a genuine smile. “He taught me to love by giving me you.”
This is a story about love, and in so becomes a love story.