The Body Politic
Book II of The Tribal Wars
by Stella Atrium
Date Published: 1/8/2022
BookLife Editor’s Pick
Brianna Miller returns to Dolvia where tribal women protest the oppressive rule of Rabbenu Ely by self-torchings in the Cylay Square. Brianna re-establishes her tribal schools and takes on assistant Kelly Osborn who is mixed blood and also a poet.
Kelly visits a neighboring planet Cicero where her aunt Carline Bryant takes over her education. While returning to Dolvia, Kelly meets the Australian adventurer Hershel Henry who has signed on for a tour of Dolvia as a photo-journalist. Henry takes an opportunity to interview the khalif on the opposing side of the tribal wars.
FREE FOR A LIMITED TIME – 12/27 – 1/16
Book I of The Tribal Wars is AVAILABLE NOW!
Date Published: 10-08-2022
BookLife Editor’s Pick
On Dolvia, Lt. Mike Shaw demands Dr. Greensboro’s doctoring skills at the hospital, forcing the closure of her bush clinic. She witnesses forced labor, forced migration, and the threat of an epidemic from bad water. She sees how tribal women–often wearing burkas–find solutions for saving the children in a conflict zone, and she commits to the their cause for Home Rule.
Brianna Miller is an isolated girl–a mixed-blood orphan–among the Dolviet tribes. With the lessons from Dr. Greensboro, the abuse from soldiers, the sisterhood among victims, Brianna prepares for a future she will choose for herself. But first she must travel offworld.
FREE FOR A LIMITED TIME – 12/27 – 1/16
Excerpt from The Body Politic
We entered China through Xinjiang province and traversed the high Takli Makan Desert overnight. In the morning, the train stood for several hours in Dunhuang, changing personnel from Russian to Chinese and taking on supplies.
I watched from the window while porters in tunics and baggy pants loaded goods from a cart. They stopped suddenly, and the noise subsided, so I craned my neck to glimpse the source of the interruption. Some Blackshirts were hustling a group of peasant families, tied together with ropes and shuffling in obvious fear, across the tracks and down the causeway toward a holding area. Laborers returned to their work with measured gestures, careful not to attract unwanted attention, and the way closed behind the new arrivals.
I told myself that this repression was not my problem; I was just passing through.
Presently, a detachment of Russian soldiers wearing blue uniforms with red tooling took up positions outside our VIP car at the end of the train. The officer entered with authority and tucked his hat under one arm. Rufus stood squarely in the aisle with his knees bent and a hand on his knife hilt. The officer stopped.
After a moment, he looked past Rufus’s shoulder to me. “You are Brianna Miller of Arim?” he asked in English. “We are assigned.”
“I have security already, as you can see.”
“These, uh, warriors are included in our detail. The train now enters a province with some, uh, social unrest. Daniel Chin is concerned that your group experiences no, uh, in-con-ven-nience.” His hesitant words and rounded accent made me think his English was newly learned, perhaps his third language.
“Nu delaya,” I said, and Rufus relaxed his posture. Kyros placed a big hand on the officer’s shoulder from behind and led him to a seat several paces from me.
“What do you propose?” I asked.
“We will take the adjacent car and establish a presence around your group.”
“The adjacent car is for the students.”
“They may have to move forward.”
“How many in your squad?”
“I cannot provide for twelve. Six only.”
“We brought provisions, and you will be glad for twelve before we reach Beijing. I am Captain Chandliss, and you may direct any questions to me.”
“Captain Chandliss, I assume you are Lithuanian by birth, and your real name has two ‘z’s and three ‘k’s.”
He only smirked.
“Are the soldiers from your same province?” I asked.
“Most of them.”
“Why not provide a Han Chinese detachment to manage our security?”
“My orders were brief,” he said as he twisted to see where Kyros had stationed himself. “I gathered that your Dolviet escort would resent Blackshirts as security.”
I grinned. At least he had the sense to acknowledge what anyone could see.
“And what else did Daniel Chin say in conversation?”
The captain didn’t react to the mention of Daniel Chin’s name.
“Orders from Paris didn’t mention a bevy of students. You do have accommodations for them on the shuttle and the Company yacht?”
“My arrangements are made,” I said tolerantly. “Thank you for your interest. The students will remain where they are, and you will take the next car. Since you have twelve men and provisions, I expect that the students will remain as safe as I am safe.”
Captain Chandliss watched me for a moment. “Well. The train leaves in twenty minutes, so I’ll excuse myself to put all in good order.”
He stood and nodded, unable to break military training. “Ah, how may I address these warriors?”
“Rufus, the son of Cyrus the ketiwhelp killer,” I said with a hand gesture.
“And behind you is Kyros rabbe Sudl of Southeast Arrivi.”
He nodded to each warrior. “Ma’am,” he said and left.
Kyros looked at Rufus and mouthed “ma’am” with humor. Rufus covered his mouth with one hand to hide his response.
# # #
Later, I was called into the student car, I assumed due to the presence of soldiers. But the issue was trivial; something about a stolen item and whom to punish. The boys waited in a silent row, cynical and without gestures. The oldest girl Bernice was in tears, as were two eight-year-olds. I sighed, regretting my decision to include them in my travel plans.
Leah approached with submissive gestures. “These ones need daily lessons to keep their minds off homesickness. They need a common goal.”
I immediately thought of an old method Hakulupe Le had used in the Somule schools to bind students as a group, a method she had learned in prison, in fact. I spoke to the group. “Not all of you will board the shuttle to engage in space travel. I have accommodations for only seven, including the boys, so I must choose who is most worthy. To make this choice, we will devise a test.
You will each share your history with the others, and at track’s end in three days’ time, you will each write the biographies of all the others, including the boys. After reading those papers, I will decide who remains with the clutch and who will return to their province. That is all.”
Leah quickly spoke. “May we have writing paper?”
“I will ask Captain Chandliss.”
“May we take our meals in the dining car?”
“What difference does that make?”
“Captain Chandliss manages your safety now. I’ll ask him.”
“Thank you, Rularim. Thanks again.” Leah knew when to flatter.
“I am not Rularim. I’m Brianna Miller.”
“We all thank you.”
“Yes, well. No more complaining and no crying.” I left before she could make another request.
Less than an hour later, Captain Chandliss came into my car. Kyros stopped him at the door but let him pass after a tense moment. “The students want their meals in the dining car. I have no authority for this.”
“Negotiate with the porters,” I instructed, “so the group can take a meal after the other diners have left, twice a day. Ask for a set menu with bland dishes because they have to board the shuttle soon. No sweets from the dessert tray but maybe rice pudding for each.”
His posture emphasized his disbelief. “Do you understand the expense?”
“Rufus will pay from the treasure of Kyle Rula.”
The disbelieving look on the captain’s face wandered to the warrior who was seated at a laptop with his back to us. Rufus turned slowly to fix me with a level stare. He opened the pouch at his belt and extracted a single uncut emerald as big as my thumb knuckle and placed it next to me.
The gem was opaque with a sandpaper texture. Without glancing at the captain, Rufus turned back to the computer screen.
I saw the eyes of Captain Chandliss grow large at the sight of the gem.
“Have it assayed at the next stop,” I said. “Then pay the porters for their trouble and distribute the remainder among your soldiers.”
The captain stood tall and looked at each of us, perhaps taking a moment to assess the opportunity. “My detachment will bear the current expense. I will have the gem appraised in Beijing where its value is far greater. I will subtract a commission for our service with the students and return the remainder to Rufus before your party boards the shuttle. We will take eight percent.”
“Four percent,” I said.
“Four point five percent, and no gratuity.”
“Done.” The captain scooped up the gem and turned on his heel.
He left hurriedly, passing through the door that Kyros was holding open, just as though he needed to escape before I changed my mind.
Kyros said, “Much is learned about a man when he resists temptation.”
About the Author
Stella Atrium is an award-winning writer who presents otherworld stories about female protagonists of diverse ethnicity who encounter obstacles relatable to our lives today. How do women in a war zone gain voice in the marketplace using the few tools available to women?
Stella Atrium teaches at university in addition to online writing courses.
She lives in Chicago, Illinois.