For forty years, Colony 3245.12 has been Ofelia's home. On this planet far away in space and time from the world of her youth, she has lived and loved, weathered the death of her husband, raised her one surviving child, lovingly tended her garden, and grown placidly old. And it is here that she fully expects to finish out her days-until the shifting corporate fortunes of the Sims Bancorp Company dictates that Colony 3245.12 is to be disbanded, its residents shipped off, deep in cryo-sleep, to somewhere new and strange and not of their choosing. But while her fellow colonists grudgingly anticipate a difficult readjustment on some distant world, Ofelia savors the promise of a golden opportunity. Not starting over in the hurly-burly of a new community . . . but closing out her life in blissful solitude, in the place she has no intention of leaving. A population of one.With everything she needs to sustain her, and her independent spirit to buoy her, Ofelia actually does start life over-for the first time on her own terms: free of the demands, the judgments, and the petty tyrannies of others.
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December 31, 1995
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Excerpt from Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon
Sims Bancorp Colony File #3245.12
Between her toes the damp earth felt cool, but already sweat crept between the roots of her hair. It would be hotter today than yesterday, and by noon the lovely spice-scented red flowers of the dayvine would have furled their fragile cups, and drooped on the vine. Ofelia pushed the mulch deeper against the stems of the tomatoes with her foot. She liked the heat. If her daughter-in-law Rosara weren ' t within sight, she would take off her hat and let the sweat evaporate. But Rosara worried about cancer from the sun, and Rosara was sure it wasn ' t decent for an old woman to be outside with nothing on her head but thinning gray hair.
Not that it was so thin. Ofelia touched her temples, as if to tuck an errant strand in place, but really to confirm the thick strands of the braid she wore. Still thick, and her legs still strong, and her hands, though knotted with age and work, still capable. She eyed her daughter-in-law, at the far end of the garden. Scrawny, hair the color of scorched paper, eyes of mud. Thought she was beautiful, with her narrow waist and her pale hands, but Ofelia knew better. She had always known better, but Barto would not listen to a mother ' s wisdom, and now he had Rosara of the narrow body ' like a snake, Ofelia had said once only ' and no children.
She minded that less than the others thought. She could have welcomed a daughter-in-law independent enough to refuse children. No, it was Rosara ' s determination to enforce on her mother-in-law all the petty rules intended to preserve the virtue of virgins . . . that she could not tolerate.
' We should have planted more beans, ' Rosara called. She had said that at planting, knowing that Ofelia could not use all the beans she normally grew. She wanted Ofelia to grow beans to sell, as well as beans to eat.