My UK editor sent me a “hot off the press” copy of COLD WELCOME. Remember embossed titles? This one isn’t, but my name at the top and the title at the bottom are in shinier ink. Very classy. This book-ended the week beautifully, since I had sent INTO THE FIRE to my US editor on Monday. Even though free for the moment of any book-related deadlines, the week was not devoid of writing work: edited (again) a couple of the Paksworld stories for the new collection, wrote an introduction for the planned 30th anniversary reissue of the three original volumes that make up The Deed of Paksenarrion, poked at a couple of other things to see if they were just sleeping or had gone completely dead in the time I hadn’t messed with them.
At any rate, it seems like it’s more than time for another Universes Interlude…right. The entire cast of all the Vatta books is free right now…nobody’s tied up in the author’s head. So of course the happier and more sociable ones start agitating for a party. And so, by chance is the entire cast of the Paksworld universe, in advance of that 30th anniversary re-issue. What could possibly go wrong?
……………………………………………………………………… CAST PARTY ………………………………………………………………….
Justin Vatta shifted from foot to foot as Helen Stamarkos Vatta tried to get his tie straight. “I don’t see why we have to go along. I’d rather go to the bonfire with our class–”
“So would I,” Shar, his twin, said. She yanked a little at the collar of the party dress Helen had insisted on. “It’s a grownup thing–”
“Everyone wants to see you, and you’re going,” Helen said. Shar’s hair, she noticed, had already come out of its carefully controlled curls and was headed for the wild mop that defied hairdressers unless glued into place. Justin’s, being shorter, merely looked windblown all the time. “Surely you want to see Aunt Ky again.”
One twin looked at the other and both shrugged. “It will be boring. She won’t have time to talk to us.”
“You’re going, and that’s that. And you will behave.” Helen wished that annoying Author had ended the Vatta books early enough that she didn’t have to deal with the twins at this age, at least in public. “You can have anything on the menu that’s legal for your age.”
Helen was never really comfortable on Waystation Huygens, but Grace had reserved the entire Universes facility for the Vatta Reunion, so she probably wouldn’t see anyone she didn’t know, and they were all off the clock, so the bad Vattas didn’t have to be bad, and usually got out of character without a hitch. She and the twins rode up with Stella and Rodney and Rodney’s father; the arrival lounge was already full of busy, talkative Vattas.
“There’s Toby!” Stella said, waving at the rather gangly young man and the striking young woman beside him. “And Zori!”
“Toby’s the smart one,” Justin said, eyeing Toby. “Aunt Stella says smarter than anybody.”
Shar flipped her fingers in their private language.
“I guess we’ll find out,” Justin said aloud.
“Please continue to the Main Concourse…” Waystation staff were trying to get Vattas moving smoothly and uncrowd the arrival lounge before the fire code kicked in, but Vattas in general did not respond well to herding. They clumped, talking and gesturing, and found ways to block the flow of traffic without appearing to notice.
“Can we go on to Universes?” Shar asked Helen, who had been snagged by friends she hadn’t seen in the story in years. “We’re thirsty; we can get a fruity.”
“Just follow the staff,” Helen said, and the twins took off down the corridor, following the slow blinks of signal lights on the floor. Nobody questioned them; they always seemed to be with some adult close enough that the staff, concentrating the general movement, ignored them. By the time Helen had reminisced with the mother of the girl who fell off the roof of the old Vatta house on Corleigh during one of Ky’s birthday parties (whatever had those girls been thinking, to climb that tree!) as they meandered slowly on down the corridor, the twins were long out of sight. It took Helen a moment to remember that she had told them they could go on…but after all, why not? There were Vattas all over the Waystation; someone would keep an eye on them.
Toby and his parents, and Zori and her mother, strolled along with Stella. “No, I don’t mind I wasn’t in the new stories much,” Toby said. “All that action stuff was fun, but now I enjoy living my own life. Fewer interruptions.”
Stella looked ahead, up the curving corridor, and recognized her mother’s back. “There’s my mother, up there–that sort of beige suit. But where are the twins?”
“I wouldn’t worry,” Toby’s father said. “This place is stuffed with Vattas, and a lot of them will have looked at the holos we all sent in so our reunion badges would match us. Jo’s twins. People will know them; they’ll be safe as houses.”
………………………………………………………………………………………… (to be continued)