The Happy Woman
The beach front bar was straw roofed, wood floored and crowded. Tables made of gleaming finished local wood packed the floor, and spilled like lily pads in a overfull pond out onto the beach outside. Fires were burning on the sand, and various animals and fish were being cooked over them. Floodlights and the gleaming moon above illuminated the celebration, and the sound of laughter was everywhere. Out in the bay the great bulk of the landed Galileo class planetary exploration vessel John Cabot its massive aerodyne shape gleaming in the moonlight, spotlights sweeping across the water.
James sat by the bar and sipped at a glass of strong local drink, trying not to scratch too much at the drug patch on his neck, even now filling his system with tiny machines which would filter out the heavy metals that where so prevalent here. James was a tall young man of twenty six, physically in prime condition as all the men and women of the stargazer program were. James watched the room and thought that it was almost exactly how he'd dreamed when, armed only with a master's degree in sociology and a clean bill of health he'd decided to join the Stargazer program and see what life was like on the Longshot colonies that had been the greatest and most enduring work that humans had created in the latter part of the twenty first century.
Haraway's World had been one of the first to leave, but they'd gone quite a way, and had been recontacted late. Haraway seemed a pleasant enough planet, for all the heavy metals. It's climate near the south pole was certainly nicer than his native Cardiff, if you liked the heat, and the scenery was beautiful. The John Cabot's biologists were going crazy over the various wildlife, while the male crew were being quietly disappointed by that socialization seemed to have mostly trumped biology on this all female planet. James was more interested in learning about the society and the effects of contact, and so he was watching the room.
The atmosphere was festive but wary. The Harawayans were all smiles but sometimes it seemed forced, some even looked worried. They occasionally whispered to one another, though they seemed courteous enough to the earth people, almost too courteous, as if they were worried a fight might start. Haraway had been isolated for a quarter century, and their culture was pretty out there. James had already heard some mutterings from the rest of the crew about the oppressive nature of their caste system, how a planet full of high level transgenes was a time bomb, and what a terrible waste it was to have a planet of pretty girls who only liked other girls so it cut both ways. It was hard not to share their sentiments, the stargazer program were peaceful explorers, that was drummed into them from training, being welcomed with anything but open arms felt like a smack on the face.
That wasn't what was bothering James at the moment though. Instead his concern was the woman next to him. She was tall, with long blond hair and hard, visible muscles along her arms, practically a Valkyrie. She wore a blue teashirt and blue shorts, and a large and very full glass of honeyed local mead rested in her hand and a bottle of the same on the bar. She, almost alone in the room looked genuinely and radiantly happy. James had been observing her happiness for a while, feeling more and more annoyed at not being in on the joke. Now finally he plucked up his courage, reinforced as it was by the heat rising from the drink in his belly, and spoke "Hey, why is it you're the only Harawayan around here happy to see us?"
The woman lifted her drink and knocked back half of it then looked him over. "What do you know about the caste system?" she asked, lifting the bottle off the bar without looking at it and refilling it.
"Uh, five castes, each good at a different thing. Coded by colour right?" James would be surprised if this woman wasn't a Red, one of the physical caste. She certainly looked the part.
She nodded "Yeah, that's right. I'm a Red." she stretched slightly, long legs lifting off the ground for a moment "we're the heavy lifting caste in simple terms and I'm happy because you guys turning up really saved our bacon."
"Say what?" James blinked, taking another drink.
"Well you see, there's some dangerous critters on Haraway, there's a kind of beasty that's like a squid and a shark on old earth but fifty meters wide from end of its tail to tip of its tentacles. There's nasty land predators too, giant bear sloth things that drop on people, all kinds of stuff." The Red took a slightly more moderate drink and smiled "But eventually we're going to have killed all of those that want to eat humans. There's still a lot of trails to be blazed, physical strength is important there, but Violets have us beat out in the deep bush where its real toxic, and even then, longer term this whole planet will be settled and they'll be less of that."
"So how do we help?" James asked "I mean, are you going to go off planet with us and help do physical things there?"
She laughed loudly and then took another slurp of her drink "Nah, we're going to protect Haraway from you." James blinked, and she looked at his empty glass "Bar! Get my friend here another."
"But well... you know Earth has no bad intentions to you, the stargazer program is all about reaching out, trading ideas, bringing new technology and knowledge to human kind. Why does Haraway need protecting from us?" James felt a little angry, the drink helped as it always does.
"Well, have you eliminated war on Earth yet?" James opened his mouth and she raised a hand "Nah, it doesn't matter. You've seen how worried everyone is about you guys. That worry isn't ever going to go away. Even if you're peaceful, you're not us, and well... we left to escape you know?"
"Yeah, but that was a century ago, men and women are equal now, you don't have anything to worry about!" James protested.
"Maybe that's true, but what about Transgenes, I don't see any transgenes in your crew." She waved the glass "and even if you guys are the nicest people ever, it won't matter. You're not us, so you're a threat. That's how it works, at least, that's how it worked when we left" She looked around at the forced smiles and slightly nervous laughter "And there's a lot of you right? Earth didn't get depopulated by a plague or anything?"
"No, Earth's fine, still got billions people on it... I don't see what your point is though."
"You're pretty drunk Earthman" she smirked and drained her glass "can't hold your liquor, I don't know. Anyway, there's a lot of you so you're never going to go away. You're always going to be a threat to us, one way or another" she refilled the glass and then raised it to her lips as if in toast "And that means they'll always need Reds" her grin widened revealing white teeth "Cheers."