Margo ate oatmeal with blueberry jam and watched the little life she’d built. She surveyed the sprouting herbs on the balcony, poking their heads up from the scrap wood planters. Below that she could see the scrappy little courtyard food forest where the patio used to be. In the center, the old fountain sat growing edible greens. It was already looking picked over, especially the mustard. To the south end a  cherry tree sat, hanging its bud studded branches over a broken bench.

  She frowned. That meant somebody who lived there would need to fix the bench. “Somebody, me probably.” She thought “Out of 14 units and 23 people I’m the only one who really knows my way around a tool kit. Except for Mark upstairs, but he’s getting old and his back bothers him, even if he won’t admit it.” 

  Valeria, her daughter, had a stack of little notecards and was gluing them to the smooth surface of an upcycled box. Their table wobbled a little. Margo kicked the old book holding it steady back in place. She’d have to fix that later too. 

“Are the bees awake yet Mommy?” Valeria asked .Her dark eyes, so much like her Mama Brier’s fixed on filling the blank space in front of her with glue and paper. 

 “ It isn’t quite warm enough yet. They’ll come out when there’s more sun” Margo answered. Valeria was so much like her. They weren’t technically related. Valeria herself was the biological product of Iason and Brier, but Margo had been there since the beginning, working the nightshift. She’d stay up with infant Valeria Maria Alverez Dionosopulous  and feed her boiled bottles of milk as Brier dreamed medicated dreams in their troubled sleep. 

Some of Margo’s personality, her melancholy, her perfectionistic dedication, must have rubbed off in those nights. Valeria looked so serious, even as she put little dollops of glue on the empty formica to peel away when they dried. 

As a child, Margo would do that with her glue too, but only at school. Her homework had been completed on a touch screen in her father’s oak paneled home office and submitted electronically. Semiconductors were more scarce on the planet now. They were needed for space elevators and vertical farms. Most houses had just one screen these days. It may have been for the best. Grandma always said that screen time rotted your brain. Margo ruffled Valeria’s shiny, black hair. 

“What you got there kiddo?” she asked

“Timeline for history class.” Valeria grumbled. “Mama says I can’t go play with Lucy and Jamal until it’s finished.” 

Margot sighed. Brier’s occasional trips did nothing to upset the chain of command.  She’d had to ask her partner to lay down the law about homework over a video chat. At least Valeria would listen to one of them. At least Brier listened to her. 

Valeria glued down a note card that read “Day of Silence: workers on the oil fields peacefully protest for more money, better working conditions and better environments.” 

“Peaceful” was not how Margot remembered it. The oilfield workers were not always in solidarity with their communities. When the protests started in the oil sands mines, some of the workers joined in, others got in their trucks, ready to run down the busy bodies if necessary, scared of losing the only way of life they knew. They were big trucks too, Long as a football field, 2 stories tall. All those people lined against them were organized insects with drum circles and picket signs. When it hit the news, people thought the photos were AI. Those trucks were so far out of proportion. 

Valeria wrote out another card in careful, level pencil print.

 General strike grows to include the garment and shipping industries.

“I remember when this happened.” said Margot,  “Are you going  to say something about the pirates? I met one. When I was at the University of Hawaii, my boyfriend had a boat. We took it right up to the North Star and traded stuff with the pirates.”

Valeria considered this and grabbed a new card, ready to take notes “What kind of things would a pirate trade? Did they have gold?” 

“Probably,” Margo grinned. Her little girl was such a good audience. Especially for the stories her grownup friends had tired of. “Their ship was huge, with tons of containers, each the size of a city bus. Even the crew didn’t know everything that they had. We got some very good steaks for dirt cheap. Literally, we traded them some good volcanic soil for the steaks.”

Valeria screwed up her face in mild disgust. Beef was rare and soil was everywhere. “Why would they trade steak for dirt?” 

Margot answered “We think it’s because they were running out of fuel. The refrigerator needed power so that all the meat and seafood would stay fresh. They needed to use up or trade all of it before their generator ran out of stuff to burn. You see, those guys were trying to make their ship into a floating island and run it like a tiny country. So they needed to grow their own food.People would sail out to them with soil and hydroponic equipment. They even brought some livestock, like pigs and chickens.”

Valeria had more questions. “Would Mama see those pirates on one of their trips?” “Probably not”, Margot explained “The North Star was wiped out in a typhoon. There were a few others, maybe even some that have been going for years are still out there on the ocean. I wouldn’t know. If there are some it can’t be very many. The new ships don’t need as many people and they fly along the water like a big sail so that cuts down on the time to plot a mutiny. They’ve learned to pay people enough to make piracy look like a bad idea anyway.” 

Valeria crumpled a little in disappointment and started to pick at a dry glue blob with her fingernail. “I’d rather be a pirate anyway. Then I could just sail wherever I’d like.” 

She read the next card in the row as it dried.

 

First Multimarket vertical farm is built in Seattle. Now we can have food from the greenhouse and it’s better because we don’t have to ship it. All the food gets picked when it’s ripe. Some of it gets frozen right away for later.

 

“That’s the one where you work isn’t it?” Valeria asked, pointing to it “Can you get me a better picture? I couldn’t find one with the orange tree floor to print.”

“Sure thing.” she said and pulled up a photo on her phone, one with the blossoms, alive with bees, who’s hive the bee keepers moved from floor to floor with the season and another, the same place during the harvest. A motley crew of part timers, students, semi retired old folks, tech workers displaced by one of the routine upheavals or simply taking the day off hauled big cedar baskets loaded with fruit. Margot loved harvest time. There was nothing to it at all if you could get enough people together with a festival mindset. 

Before all the shortages, the only ones who picked fruit were poor people forced into it. Maybe not the only ones, there was the leisure class who could afford to pick fruit for fun. Now we knew how lucky we were to have oranges again, and apples and melons and grapes. The work was maybe not as leisurely as grabbing apples for a pie between pumpkin spice lattes and a family photo op, but it was easy enough when it was shared. What was so bad about work that people had to be forced into it before? Or bribed? What had compelled the old orchard masters, and factory owners and oil companies, to give all those people offers they couldn’t refuse?

 Down stairs the printer buzzed. Picking up the printed photo would be a good excuse for a walk. She’d check out the tool shed on the way down and make sure that they had everything she’d need to fix the bench. 

There came a clatter of keys in the deadlock. “Mama’s back!” shouted Valeria. She popped up to open the door. 

“Heeeey, How’s my girl!” Brier came in for a hug, dropping their massive backpack to the floor. Its’ impact shook the ivy in its little pot and loosened a painting from its hook on the wall.

“Have you been good for Mommy like I asked?” 

“Yeah” Valeria said

“She’s been up doing her homework.” Margot elaborated.

Brier kicked their bag off to the side. There were many things that made Margo suspect that Brier was run by an internal committee. Over packing was one of them. Then there was the ease with which they’d gone from one role to another. Brier Alverez was boyish when they’d first met; a black sheep, partying their way through University to the dismay of long suffering parents who still called them their princess. It was funny that they never corrected them. Margot, back in town for spring break, was Iason’s date at a friend’s party. 

When the party wound down too soon into a night of warm beer and over sharing they all went out for Pho. They’d been a part of each other’s lives ever since. 

“Dad’s coming back from the moon tonight.” Valeria announced. “Did you remember to bring something back for him?”

“Sure, I brought back coffee, I’m going to make some for Mommy right now,” Brier said, rooting through the pack for the beans.

“But Mom hates coffee!” squealed Valeria.

“Not true, she hates the taste of roasted sweet potato and chicory tea. They haven’t had real coffee in Seattle for twenty years now.”

Margot got the percolator from its dusty spot at the back of the kitchenette cupboard. Brier shooed them away “I got it from here sweetheart.”

“You sure?” She asked, “You only just got back?”

They plugged in the hot plate and the grinder.

“I’ve been looking forward to this Margot”

“How’s Costa Rica?”

“Beautiful, The weather was perfect. I can’t wait to show you the VR holograms. I think people will really like them. The smell shot really caught the sea air this time. People on the Stations always appreciate the smell of fresh air. ” 

Margot, set the clear half of the table with their mismatched china and spoons before Brier could protest. Valeria glued the last note card into place

Present day: Humans start to mine the planet Mercury for nickel and iron, these minerals will be used to make mirrors that beam the sun’s light to the power plants on the moon and the space stations  

 

When the coffee was ready, the two adults poured powdered milk and sugar into their cups to even out the forgotten acrid aftertaste. Margot’s mug said “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee.” When she’d bought it, she’d thought that it was very true. She couldn’t live without a cup of joe. But here she was, about a year between this and the previous batch. In between, life went on without coffee. She reflected,  “It was like this with so many things.” 

When the fires came by, they lost their little homestead in the woods, but the rains came after that. All of them together would drive out back to their land there once Iason got back. They’d set up camp among the new flowers and the baby trees and watch the new life come in the way it had been for eight years. When the sun set, they’d huddle against the cold and watch hopeful space settlements speed across the backdrop of the Milky Way.