When Lieutenant Carol Door stepped off the space ship she was carrying her laser knife, her unloaded rifle and the broken micro-cam that held the pictures of her family. She carried her starched grey uniform, and though it had never seen her home, it reacted to the change in climate as it would on any planet, adjusting its system to provide the optimum temperature for alertness.
The ground was soft, and the smell around her was green and light. Carol could have taken a transport home, back to the glade where her mothers raised her, but she wanted to walk. Her world had been manufactured from a craterous moon. The biggest trade was tourism, rich merchant families would travel there to be served by centaurs or get their hair braided by sprites. Her world had little white bubbles of technical connection but this was just for tourists, the inhabitants shunned the outward use of technology, preferring illusions. When Carol was growing up, a little girl with long red hair, she thought it was all magic.
She carried her personal force-field in her pack, a silver cylinder which had saved her life from gas and falling debris, from the people and machines that had tried to kill her.
Carols mothers were a fairy and a witch, and she was taught how to fight by a vampire who lived in a spiral castle over the hills. Her mothers owned a large cottage, with a wheel on the side where water fell from one level to another falling, ever falling. They had a pool out front, and a giant swing. They would host families for a high fee, give them adventure, a quest, and a purpose.
The grenades had been confiscated when she was debriefed, but she still had the keys sitting in the bottom of her back, 17 keys from thrown grenades. Her ammo was taken from her rifle, but she carried that shell. She had not been able to put it down for six years.
Carol walked across the rolling hills, past a shepherd who looked at her with his mouth open. She was too afraid to wave, too afraid that he would run away. She imagined the way she looked, with her newly patched face and her short hair. She was worse than any monster on this planet, and she wondered if anyone could see.
There was a metal implant in her leg, a metal bone and plastic flesh, to replace the one that had been lost, left on the field. She walked towards the distant waterfall, left at the giant willow tree where the cake making elves lived, past the dragon cave where Ella, the old dam, slept.
Carol looked at her silver gleaming shoes, and she turned from home and walked for a mile to the Cliffside, the great ravine with the stone bridge. Carol threw her pack over the edge. She stripped from her uniform, the medals, the stripes that showed where she had gone, the silver shoes, and tossed them over the edge. She looked at her new leg and decided that she could carry it a little further.
She walked, naked, to the house of her mothers. Inside she heard a fiddle playing. There was a fire burning and meat roasting. Somewhere else, no one dared to sleep without a force-field. Somewhere else.
Carols mother, the witch, threw open the door and ran down the path, crying out and waving her hands. She grabbed Carol in her arms and pulled her down to the grass and rocked her, crying.
â€œThis is my daughter!â€ she cried. â€œThis is my daughter!â€
Carols mother, the warrior, leapt out of the house and bounded across the lawn. She was almost a giant and wore leather and bronze chains. She swept her naked daughter and her wife up in her giant arms and carried them both into the house.