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Story #2: Down-well Visit

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[5 Word Challenge: gynecologist, Steven Hawking, unicorn, blood pudding, birth]


Regina Windass took a deep breath and sighed as she looked at the Blood Pudding on her plate. There were some things she knew that she would have to face every time she came down-well. Unfortunately, a black mass of ... sausage, with too much Pennyroyal, was one of those things. The housekeeper had served her the plate, just before she dashed off to go to the shops. It was her cousin's house, her cousin's housekeeper, and most likely the vile slice of sausage was her cousin's idea. She always stayed with her seventh cousin on these trips to Earth. They got along like two peas in a pod in person, just as much as they did via email. Except, that is, when it came to breakfast selections. A computer engineer by trade and desire, Regina's breakfast usually consisted of a bagel, sometimes toasted, and a Pepsi. On really, really special days, she might splurge for a bacon & toast at the facilities cafeteria.

Her small bachelor apartment back home only had a kitchenette. To be honest, the kitchenette wasn't much more than a hot-plate with pretentions. It sat, mostly unused, on a small table near a grimy old sink, surrounded by pedestrian beige walls. Regina ate out a lot. Despite the aged and fading building she lived in, it was home. It was what she knew. The large window at the end of the apartment gave her a stunning view of more residential structures, under the small dome of Phrygia Town. She'd had her fill of seeing laundry on balconies; faded Chinese paper lanterns hanging from electrical lines; and cement covered in rust stains, caused by the high humidity of the "city" as they called it. Oddly, though, having been away so long, Regina was missing it. You love what you know.

Things were much different here on Earth. You could breathe without worrying about air system contamination. The death of 4,356 workers at Idaville was a memory that haunted everyone; everyone that lived in the fabricated environments of the Galilean moons. With the levels of humidity in the towns on Ganymede, there was always the risk of Legionnaires' disease or something equally, morbidly, microbial. What Regina loved most about her visits and spent a considerable amount of time doing, was walking around barefoot on the lush green lawn of her cousin's estate. There was no grass on Ganymede.

Her seventh cousin, once removed, flounced into the room. Regina believed Sophie's six years of life in this idyllic setting left her a bit of an airhead, okay, more than just a bit. She greeted the child with a smile and pleasant good morning, as she knew was polite to do. The thought flaming through her mind wasn't so kind: Does she have to be all pixies, elves and fucking unicorns, all the time? The child gave her much older cousin a toothy grin, sans incisors, and headed for the toaster.

The very first time Regina visited her ancestral home on Earth, she thought the gravity was going to kill her. Two years of intense resistance training, weight training, and twice a day cardio workouts had been the core component of her preparation for that visit and each subsequent visit. The regimen was also a mandated requirement by Sun-Star Insurance. The insurance behemoth's underwriters had to be confident in her ability to survive going to Earth, without winding up as a gravity-squashed puddle of biological ooze. They would never insure her for the trip if they weren't. Having been born and raised on Ganymede, with its near-Mars gravity, the puddle-of-ooze scenario wasn't that unrealistic an outcome for an unprepared off-world visitor. Without the ever coveted Sun-Star certificate of travel, however, she wouldn't have been able to book passage. The administrative weenies at LaGrange station would never certify her for the inner planets without it. Of course, those born down-well never had such restrictions placed on them. The term off-worlder was a pejorative to most off-worlders. The term is used for humans born anywhere other than on Earth. In the eyes of the Jovian born, the policy of an insurance certificate for off-worlders objectified the whole second-citizen mindset that the political activists were always prattling on about. She snorted to herself, thinking about it, she wasn't sure which annoyed her more at the moment: the contemplation of second-class citizen status or the little pixie-dust freak finger-drawing faces in the peanut butter that she had just put on her toast.

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