Lithe and Lucy Chapter 3, Spaceport Disaster

Chapter 3
Spaceport Disaster

Lucy slept little. It was dark when her mother tapped on her door. “Lucy? It’s time.”
“Okay,” Lucy sighed, gave her bare room a last once-over, and got dressed. She trudged out to the kitchen table.
Her favorite cereal went down hard. Thankfully, her parents were too busy doing last-minute stuff to notice her struggling

to get the cereal down. She felt sick, but she wasn’t sure she was sick enough to throw up. Maybe she shouldn’t bother her

parents, at least till she was sure.
She watched them haul suitcases out the door. Her furs were packed in one of those.
She looked up from the almost-empty bowl. Voices.
“Well, well, if it ain’t little Kimmy Tarr.”
Kim! Lucy rushed outside.
“Why don’t you and Lucy ride in your parents’ car? Ours can’t hold another person.”
Lucy and Kim hugged.
“Hi, Mrs. Tarr,” Lucy said as she crawled into the back seat beside Kim.
“Hi.” Kim’s mom got behind the wheel, keeping her eyes firmly on the road.
“Any more letters from Lithe?” Kim asked.
“Nope. I’m gonna miss you, Kimmy.” The tears trickled.
“Me, too. Ah, Luce, please don’t start crying. I’ve been up half the night, and I’ll get in trouble if I start crying.”
“Gee. And I thought my parents were control freaks. At least I’m allowed to cry, especially for something like this.”
“They’re not.” Kim lowered her voice. “How many beds in Lithe’s room?”
At the spaceport, Kim and Lucy stayed around to finish her part of the paperwork. When the agent lady said she was free to

go, the girls trudged to a nearby cafe. They both ordered milk and a chocolate chip muffin.
“Leaving us, dearies?”
“She is,” Kim said.
The waitress peppered Lucy with questions when she got back with their orders.
“Lithe. What a pretty name. I think I’ll call my baby that, if it’s a girl.”
“And Woo for a boy.” The girls giggled.
“Uh, I don’t think so.”
“Wait. You’re having a baby? Are you crazy?”
“Luce!” Kim looked shocked.
“Oh, it’s okay,” said the waitress. “It happened before the world went to war, dear. What’s your full name?”
“Lucinda Sue Smith.”
“There, that’s done it. My baby’s full name. Lithe Lucinda McWithers.”
Kim grinned. “I love babies. When’s she coming?”
“In about five months.”
“Gee, I hope Earth is still around then.”
“Lucy …”
“It’s okay. You girls want to know what keeps me going?” The waitress sat down. “Hope, that’s what. I’ve got my name into

dozens of planets, and you never know. President Fitzgerald might just pull it off. We women gotta stick together, right.

They nodded, smiling at being called “women”.
“Now we have a woman president. About time, too. She’s got a good head, and a good heart. If anyone can do it, she can.

Somebody’s waving. Gotta go.”
They thanked the waitress for the food. When Lucy pulled out her purse, the waitress shook her head. “Keep it. Give that to

little Lithe, with compliments from Earth, such as it is.”
“When’s your ship leaving?”
“An hour from now I think. Mom and Dad have to go through a bunch of stupid, long paperwork, and then they’re going to pack

our suitcases. Or maybe a porter took the cases.”
“Lucy, I’m nervous.”
“Me, too.”
“No, I mean, see all those people running?” Kim lowered her voice. “Something’s happening.”
Lucy watched. Kim was right. People weren’t exactly running, but it was like they would if they could. They looked scared.
“I don’t like it when grown-ups look scared,” she said to Kim.
They wandered by a lounge and looked at the TV. President Dorothy Fitzgerald was speaking.
“… to inform the American people there’s no good news yet. Emergency evacuation offworld is still advised. But I want you

to know that my cabinet and I are doing everything possible to stop this madness.”
The spaceport exploded!

Lucy woke screaming in pain and horror. Someone stood over her, shushing and murmuring “there, there”.
“I need to know, are you Lucy Smith? Are you the Smith girl?”
Smith girl? What was that? “Ask. Daddy.”
“Is your name Lucy?”
Lucy. She knew that much. “Yeah.”
“I’m a policeman. Don’t be afraid. Where does it hurt, Lucy?”
“Every. Where.”
She felt something cold wipe across her arm. “I’m Dr. Cook. I’m just giving you something for the pain. Here comes the

needle. Deep breath.”
Lucy took a deep breath. She screamed as more pain hit her hard. She got each word out slowly in a raspy voice she hardly

recognized as hers. “What…  was. that?  … A … nother …  bomb?”
“No. That was just morphine.”
Lucy floated into sleep.
When she was sure the child was asleep, Dr. Cook stood up. She looked around what was once a thriving spaceport.
“Oh God, what a mess. You proud of yourself?” She glared at the policeman. “Don’t tell me you didn’t have something to do

with it.”
“I didn’t plant this one. Not this time.”
The doctor called him several choice names. “Your people sure did.”
“Sticks and stones, doc. It could as easily have been you. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for the little girl. I’ll make

sure she gets on her ship.”
“What were you before you became a rent-a-cop?”
“A porter. What’s it to ya? I said I’d get the kid to the ship and I will.”
“With what for parents? You make me sick!” The doctor spat on the floor at the man’s feet and walked away.
“There’s alot of people dead, doctor! And a lot more to go. Don’t tell me you don’t have blood on your hands!”
She stopped, turned to face him. “We only blow up munitions dumps, not spaceports full of people. You gonna be this kid’s

daddy now? You owe her a family, because I just pronounced them all dead, and it’s your fault. Her parents, and a young

pregnant waitress, and another little girl and her parents,a Mr. and Mrs. Tarr.”
“This is war, doctor.”
“And a little girl,” she emphasized each word, glaring. She looked down at Lucy. “Poor little thing. You rifle through her

suitcases, too?”
“Now, that’s more your style.”
“Only soldiers, and only weapons and money. Some of us have boundaries, you know? Boundaries we won’t cross even during

war. Some of us. Not all of us, of course.”
The doctor marched away.
He looked down at the little girl, a mass of bruises, contusions, and limbs splayed out at weird angles, suggesting broken

bones. “I’ll see you get to Andorpha. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry about the rest. But you don’t care, do you? All you

know is, you’ve been traumatized. Life is trauma, kid.” He’d have to carry her to the ship, but he dared not. How many

bones were broken, he wondered. “Hey, doc! Get back here! You got a patient!”
“Now what?”
“I can’t carry her to the ship. I don’t want to move her.”
“You mean, you’ve screwed her life up enough already. Go on, coward, say it.”
“Just get her to the ship.” He glared.
He had to get rid of the clothes. If the skipper knew about his double life …
But first, he scuttled behind a damaged car and made a quick phone call, giving a name and an address. He silently wished

the doctor luck with her very last patient.

When Lucy woke, she was in a hospital of some sort. “Mommy? Daddy? Kimmy?”
A stranger smiled at her as he walked into the room. “You’re awake. I’m Dr. Kelley, ship’s medical officer. You can call me

Dr. Jim, all right? Can I call you Lucy?”
“Dr. Jim, where are my parents?”
He looked away.
:You’re a mass of broken bones, Lucy. How’s your pain?”
“It’s bad.”
He gave her a shot of morphine. This time, it didn’t hurt.
“You know, sweetheart, we’re going to have to get in a fresh supply of morphine soon. We’ve got a special bunch of Afghani

poppy farmers aboard, just to grow poppies for you.”
The chemical warmth had a hold of Lucy. A fur blanket in a needle, she thought, as it tried to pull her down into blissful

No! She pushed up.
“Dr. Jim, where are my father and mother?” She waited. No answer. ” … My folks! My … progenitors! Where are they?”
He sighed. “They didn’t make it.”
“They died?” Lucy sobbed while the doctor looked on helplessly.
“I’m sorry. The captain told me not to tell you. Not while we’re still trying to patch you up.”
“I hope I die soon.”
“Now, that’s no attitude.” He gave her a game smile.
She gave him every bad word she’d ever heard.
“I don’t have to listen to that.” He walked out.
She got out one last swear word before the morphine took her.

“How are we doing?” Captain James asked.
“I’m no psychologist, sir. I said something I thought would cheer her up, or help, and all I got was a spitting, swearing

“And you expected?” The captain showed no sympathy. “How’d you like to be an orphan, Jim? She’s lost her world, her friends

at school, everything she knows. But at least she had her parents. And now?” He waved an expansive hand.
“We’ve got almost eight weeks with an angry orphan. I’m out of my depth, sir.”
“Then I suggest you study. You might start with how you’d feel if it happened to you.”
“Captain, I’m just a general practitioner.”
“Good. Then make childhood multiple traumas one of your general practices. That’s all.”
The ship’s doctor spent all of his time with Lucy, glad there were no other patients. They’d left the Sol system far behind

by the time she was able to get out of bed.
The girl never gave an inch. It seemed there was nothing he could do to unwrap that angry silence.
“Lucy, did you ever think that, as horrible as it is, what happened to your parents and your best friend … did you ever

stop to think that at least you’re going to someone?”
“I didn’t just read your letter. I’ve contacted the family. We’ll be on Andorpha in a few days. The Dearhearts know about

what happened.”
“Still wish I was dead,” Lucy whispered.
“Okay. I suppose I would too, if I were you. I just want you to think about it, just for a minute. How many kids could say

they’d lost their whole family, and were getting a replacement? You’ve got Mr. and Mrs. Dearheart for parents, their little

girl for a sister and best friend, and a little brother. If you’ll just give them a chance.”
“You can’t replace your folks.”
“You’re right. You can’t. What would your folks want you to do? What would your best friend want you to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think you do.” He offered a weak smile. “Hey. You ever seen ‘Annie’?”
“Then, as ship’s doctor, I prescribe popcorn and a movie. Specifically, ‘Annie’.”

“Neat movie,” was Lucy’s final comment. “Thanks for the popcorn.”
“It’s a classic. Tomorrow same time, same place? I have tons of movies. Till now, I didn’t have anyone to share them with.”
“What else do you have?”
Lucy did her best, though she cried sometimes, and couldn’t always control her moods.
Sometimes, she lapsed into bored silences.
“What’s there to do?” she moaned one morning and couldn’t understand why Dr. Jim grinned.
“Now, that’s what I want to hear! What’s there to do, indeed? How good an artist are you, Lucy?”
“I can draw.”
“Okay, here’s the deal. I want you to pretend. How good are you at that?”
“I’m the highest-paid in the business!”
“Cool. I love celebs. OK, Miss Star, here’s the deal. You’re applying for a job, illustrating fantasy books for kids. Now,

this job is your life. You want it bad.”
“Good money?”
“Oh, yeah. Millions. But there’s a million artists as good as you and better that want the job.”
“What do you want me to draw, Doc Jim?”
“Whatever comes into your head.”
Dr. Kelley watched, feeling close to euphoric. He’d unwrapped one layer, for now at least. He’d found her something to do,

and whatever she drew might help in some way.
“Done, doc.”
“Cool. Let me see.”
“Did I get the job?”
He looked at the drawing: mostly abstract, madcap colors and shapes that didn’t seem to make any sense, except for the same

face that kept coming up in the pattern.
When Lucy was put to bed, he knocked on the captain’s door.
“Sir,” he said, after being invited to come in and sit down. “Any guesses as to why our little friend has drawn our chief

cook’s face?”
The skipper looked up. “Let me see that.”
He swore under his breath. “Have her do some more,”
“What do you think it means, sir?”
“That’ll be all, doctor.”
When the doctor left, Captain Henry James stared and stared. He could swear there were letters, some drawn crookedly on

purpose, some drawn as if on their side, some drawn in cursive or fancy calligraphy. As he deciphered each one, he wrote it

on a plain piece of paper.
“Life is trauma, kid? What the devil.”
he said.

“Just curious, Lucy. Anyone ever tell you that life was trauma, and you’d better get used to it, that kind of thing?”
“Well, I don’t know. Maybe.” The shutter came down over her face.
“Still too hard to talk about, isn’t it?”
Tears trickled. “I know this sounds selfish, but my birthday’s coming up, and I don’t even know what Earth day it is.”
“On Andorpha, they’d be just coming into Vormaj. That’s equivalent to August on Earth.”
“Which day? Which day?”
“The day we land, it’ll be the fourth or fifth. Third, if things go ahead of schedule.”
Two days before she turned nine, they took her to ship’s stores, where she stumbled upon yet another horrible surprise.

Lucy looked around in shocked horror. No orderly suitcases like Mom had worked so hard to pack. No toys. No princess

bedspread. Some of the layered clothing had gone missing. A full-blown temper tantrum rose within her. The only thing she

could do was let it out, tear by tear.
“Come on, sweetie. I know it’s a shock, but we’re doing our best.”
“Well, so am I!” she shot back. That tantrum monster pushed hard against thin seams of self-control.
“Um, guys?” Dr. Jim stepped in. “Lucy’s been through a lot, and she’s trying hard not to jump us all for the death of her

world and everything she knows. I can see she’s trying hard. Let’s not comment on every stray tear, shall we?”
Lucy sighed, the tantrum monster started to shrink, the cage around him started to thicken. “Thanks, doc. I appreciated

It wasn’t easy, going through her late parents’ things, seeing the great big “not therenesses” of things that should have

been there.Lucy sobbed again. “That’s Mommy’s coat! Where’s mine? Where’s mine?”
“Hold on. Is this yours?”
“Yes. But where’s …”
“Let’s just give her everything we have here,” the doctor mouthed to the purser.
“Where’s my suitcase?”
“It blew up, honey. Look. I know you’re upset, Lucy. I know everything’s not here.”
“You’re damn right it’s not!” she shouted. “Where are my toys?”
“They’re on the planet, Lucy, in your new sister’s room.”
“How’d they get there?”
“They didn’t. The toys you know are gone. I’m sorry. Whatever your new sister has is yours to share.”
“I don’t want those!”
“Yeah, I know,” the doctor said, resigned to another fit.
Lucy noticed the lines around his eyes, and tried to control the enlarging, fire-breathing tantrum monster. That was what

Daddy had called it, and though she was old enough to know better, she felt that it was a good thing to hold onto, just

now. The tantrum monster was her dragon. She had to hold on to it. It wasn’t their fault her parents were dead.
“Lucy,” said the purser, “let’s try everything on. You can have everything that fits.”
The night before they made planet fall, Lucy looked at the pile of clothes disconsolately. One of the hands must have

packed them for her. She mustered up the best thank you she could. It was hard, between the sobs.
“My books. My princess bedspread.”
After dinner, the captain taught her to play poker. Texas Hold’em he called it.
She went to bed, aching all over. Her head throbbed.  She called for the doctor.
“Can I have some more of that stuff?”
“What stuff?”
“You know, the stuff you gave me for a while when I came aboard.”
“Ah. Morphine.”
“Yeah, that.”
“But you’ve been off that for two weeks.”
“Well, I’m aching all over, and my head hurts.”
“All right. Let’s try something a little less potent, but still get the job done.”
She looked at him, expectantly.
“I’ll tell you a bed time story.”
She looked at him like he’d lost his mind.
He chuckled. “A really, really boring bedtime story. I tell this story to people who don’t respond to strong drugs.”
After a while, she sighed. “I think I’d respond better to strong drugs.”
“Okay. Let’s try a mild sleeping medicine.”
She woke up crying in the middle of the night. She wondered for a second where Mom and Dad were. Then, it hit her all over

again. They weren’t coming back, ever, except in her dreams. She supposed she was stuck for life. She tried to go to

sleep.She booted up the computer in her room. She clicked on the clock, and pointed it at Andorpha.
Six hours and fifteen minutes, the screen read. They’d be landing there in six hours.
Local Andorphian time? The computer came back with several time zones, while at the same time correcting her.
It was Andorphan, not Andorphian. She put in the address. 4 AM.
She shut the computer down. No help there. She might have sneaked out to the ship’s phone and called the Dearhearts. Not

that she’d know what to say if she did get one of them on the phone.
She booted up the computer again. Might as well play a game. Something niggled in the silent early morning, and she

couldn’t put a finger on it.
What day is it? she wrote.
“Month: Vormaj; Day: 4. Local day name: ThalVendra.
What’s the day on Earth?
August 4.
A thrill snaked down her arms, her back, her legs. She was nine years old today!

In the large galley, Jim grabbed a coffee. “Today’s the day, isn’t it?” the head cook asked.
“Yeah. Lucy goes, like a pup, to a new home where she doesn’t know a soul. Sometimes I think it’d be better if she were a

puppy. They love everyone, and their memories aren’t that long.”
“Well, she’s suffered one heck of a trauma.”
“Well, you know what they say, Lee. Life is trauma. Better get used to it.”
The cook’s lips turned white while the doctor watched.
“You ever met our little friend before? Before she came aboard?”
The chief cook shook his head.
“Why would I have?”
“Oh, no reason. Except there’s a few hours we can’t account for you the day that bomb went off, the day our little friend’s

world went poof.”
“She’s getting another world, ain’t she?”
“Well, yeah, if you don’t count alien climate and alien people, and not a familiar face among ’em. And she barely nine

years old.”
“Oh, spare me! All sorts of kids nine and younger are going through hell.”
“I see. You got drafted, pulled away from your family. So now fair’s fair, is it?”
The chef had him by the collar before Jim had realized he’d moved.
“Not another word. I like you, Jim, but only to a certain point.”
“Did you tell Lucy that trauma was a normal part of life?”
He released him and went back to his flapjacks. He turned one rather more violently than the recipe called for.
“Do you give a damn whether the kid gets better or not? Or do you want her to grow up to feel nothing but anger, and learn

how to get a kick out of making people suffer.”
“You better leave me alone.” The head cook was shaking. “Just leave me alone, Jim.”
“Sure, Lee. Wouldn’t want to spoil Lucy’s birthday. After everything else that’s been spoiled for her.” He leaned back,

savoring the air. “The place smells like pancake Tuesday around here.
“Whatever else you think, Kelley, I like the kid. I thought Lucy’d like it. What little girl doesn’t like fresh flapjacks

with syrup?”
“Other than a mom and dad to enjoy it with? I can’t think of anything she’d rather have.”
Jim Kelley poured himself another cup of coffee, took it to his office, and waited for Lucy.
“Guess what, Dr. Jim?” She skipped into the hospital wing with the first gleam in her eye that he’d seen. He wanted to cry.
“What, punkin?”
“I’m nine years old today.”
“Well, happy birthday. And a prettier, sweeter nine, I have never seen. Why, you’re the epitome of nine-year-old birthday

girlness, the absolute essence of. Got you a present, too. It’s a little old for you, but it’s a book.”
“Is it good? Are there pictures?”
“Tons of pictures. But in order to see them, you’d have to be good at pretending. In fact, you’d have to be the highest-

paid in the business.”
“It’s a doctor book, right?”
“Nope. But it’s my favorite. Ever hear of a fella called John Keats?” Her hair shone, sleek as a cat’s, when she shook her

head. “He was a poet, wrote alot of lovely things. Give him a shot. You’ll like him. He’ll grow on you, just like

Jim was proud, watching her try valiantly to hide her disappointment. At that moment, he’d have sold his soul for a doll,

an etch a sketch, anything nine-year-old girl-like.
“Let’s go into breakfast. You like flapjacks? Giant pancakes?”
She did, though her stomach roiled. She was too excited, too scared, and too sad to eat. Dr. Jim gave her an encouraging

“I’ve been reading up on Andorpha. If you don’t like it there, you write me, and I’ll come and take your place.”
“What will I do?”
“Be ship’s doctor, of course.”
Lucy didn’t even feel them landing at the spaceport. “I’m scared. What if there’s another b-bomb?”
Dr. Jim patted her hand. “There’s not, honey. This world isn’t stupid like Earth.”
Somewhere on the ship, a comm officer tried to raise Andorpha’s Immigration Office, Refugee Department. Lucy heard the

radio crackle to life. “We have the little girl,” the officer said. “She’s alone.”
The voice at the other end started to say something. The officer jammed a pair of headphones on so Lucy couldn’t hear.
“I know what they’re talking about,” she said. “That guy’s probably asking about my parents.”
“Maybe not. Maybe it’s just technical stuff.”
The door irised open. Dr. Jim stepped out onto Andorphan soil with Lucy. “Do you have pictures of the people you’re coming

to live with?”
Lucy shook her head. She wished she’d had a diary. It was exactly 10:31 AM, on her ninth birthday.
The spaceport was smaller than Earth’s, and alot colder.
“Warm enough?”
Lucy shivered.
Ice had formed on the windows. The wind howled outside.Lucy held herself tight inside both her, and her mother’s coat. Dr.

Jim wore her daddy’s. “You can keep it,” she said.
“I think not. You need it.” He placed her dad’s coat around her.
Lucy gaped. Everyone she saw was covered from head to toe in layers and layers of fur.
Three such people detached themselves from the crowd, and ran toward the ship.
“Lucindelah!” a little girl came hurtling toward Lucy. A furry little girl. Lucy had the strange feeling that wasn’t a

coat. Lithe, she assumed, was so covered in fur, Lucy couldn’t see any skin.
“Oh, Lucindelah, you’re here!”Lucy’s eyes widened. Lithe’s voice was dainty as chimes, daintier. Her big, gold eyes were

all lit up like Christmas.
“Lithelah, no. Not so fast,” a similarly-furred woman laughed. “She isn’t used to our ways.”
But Lithe had thrown her arms around Lucy and was frantically rubbing her face against Lucy’s. No one seemed to hear Lucy

crying, “Aaaaaaaah, thaaaaaat!”
When Lucy looked up, her face still tingling from the unbearable fur of Lithe’s face, Dr. Jim was gone. The ship’s doors

irised shut. She was surrounded by furry Andorphans touching, caressing, trying to hug.
“Everyone, widen,” Mrs. Dearheart shouted over the musical hubbub.
The circle around Lucy widened.
“Hero, let’s get Lucinda home. Come, Lithe.”
“See you, Corsh.” Lithe waved at a furry girl around her age. Best friends, Lucy thought, with a pang.
“See you, Lithey. Rub Wooey’s forehead for me.”
They went out into the endless snow and started walking. Lucy’s furs weren’t keeping her nearly warm enough, but the

Andorphans were chatting like it was a spring day. Snow clung to their fur, but it didn’t bother them.
Lucy heard a sharp flapping sound.
“What was that?”
“That was my ears.” Mr.  Dearheart’s voice was textured like velvet. He turned around. Atop his head, two ears stood

straight up, culminating in thin, rounded flaps. They quivered, then made a sharp flap as a snowflake tried to enter his

“What … what are you? Are you people?” Lucy suddenly felt very alone and very frightened.
“We’re Thakthulls,” Lithe said, looking into Lucy’s eyes. The girl was literally starry-eyed. Lucy wondered what her

parents would have thought. She knew what Kim would have thought. She would have gushed over the pretty beings with their

soft fur and their hugs. She would have ooh’d and aaah’d over their delight-filled eyes.
“Is today a holiday?”
“No more than any other,” Lithe said. “Come on. We still have a way to walk.”
“You have got to be kidding,” Lucy whispered.
They all stopped. “I take it you are not used to walking in this cold, Lucinda?”
“No, sir, Mr. Dearheart. I’m f-freezing.”
He came back, picked her up, and wrapped his arms around her neck, snuggling her into him. “What is this ‘aaaaah thaaaat’?”
“It means, oh my gosh, you guys are so soft I can’t stand it. Can I just melt into your so cuddly fur?”, though she said

“cuddly” more like “cuttelly”.
“You’re cuttelly, too,” he said. She laid her head down in the soft warmth, and they continued to walk. “Today’s my

birthday,” she said, muffled in the fur.
“How many years have you?” Lithe asked, in her little feather voice.
“Nine. Dr. Jim says I’m the absolute picture of happy birthday, nine-year-old girlness.”
“Oh, lovely! We shall have cake, shall we not, Mama?”
“Yes, of course, darling.”
“And Courtia. May I invite Courtia and Adore?”
“I don’t know. Humans don’t bond like we do, dear. It might be too much–”
“No, it won’t,” Lucy said, knowing instinctively that her dad was looking down from Heaven, calling “go for that good

attitude, princess”.
“You know what keeps me going?” the waitress’s voice echoed in her head. “Hope, that’s what.”
“I wish I was going there,” Kim had whispered.
Except for the cold, Lucy reckoned she could like Andorpha. She laid her head on Mr. Dearheart’s chest, snuggled into his

so cuttelly fur, and closed her eyes.