Destiny's Choice is an original work of fiction, a science fiction thriller
of novel length with über qualities. The plot is layered with romance, political
intrigue, sex, and violence. At times the drama can be intense. Enjoy. Once
completed, I hope to find a publisher. I appreciate comments good and bad, especially
if they are constructive. (For the academy, my email is lifetrekker@
Chapter 10: Dinner
The Bavarian-styled cuckoo clock sent six twirling dancers out on their stage as a series of chimes announced the hour. Hayley put the grade on last essay. She stood and stretched.
"Finished," she yawned.
She went into her bedroom, loosening the sash to her powder blue terry bathrobe. She took the ankle-length Gypsy skirt and the, white blouse hanging on the hook behind the door. Scavenging her jewelry box, she found a pair of gold hoop earrings and two extra gold and ruby studs to fill the holes in her lobes. The ruby red matched the reddish-rose hues of the skirt. She searched through the necklaces hanging on the small rack within the case until she located the gold chain with the pink-red floral locket and fastened it around her neck.
The hair, she pulled it back from her face and fixed a simple gold-plated clip with a swirling rose design to the two opposing ends and brushed them so they lay correctly. After a touch of eye make-up and rose-pink lip-gloss, she nodded her approval.
Caught between a mixture of giddy delight and anxious uncertainty, she wondered why she cared so much. It was just a date—a simple date. But no date was simple. This was monumental—nearly a first—okay her first, a hanging with Carol couldn't count. No, not count. They never really did count. This was so different and tonight her escort was no mere mortal. This was Christine Stone, DeBow's chief of staff—Bruce's friend—a woman of refinement, experience, power. Someone, if she were single and less attracted to men, Delores might pursue. Someone Bruce would pursue and at one time probably did, and here she was primping and worrying. For an instant Hayley fancied herself a temptress, wise and knowing.
A temptress? Come on, she scoffed. She thoughts took her back to Delores and the games she had seen her play in her youth and pre-Bruce days. Hayley had always admired and even envied the ease with which Delores played to and with her many paramours. With beaus for each arm and more always pining away for her in the queues, Delores's flirtatious nature had never lacked a target; and even though she had snared the man of her dream's, Delores had not lost any of the skills she had honed during her wild days of youth. Now she used them to win an entirely new game, politics.
"How can I?" she asked Sparky who laid quietly on the bed. His ears perked. "I'd be terrible. How could anyone entrust me to such an important job? You know I don't like to speak in front of strange groups. I'd have to do that all the time if I say yes."
Hayley returned to the living room and went to the adjacent kitchenette. Sparky jumped from the bed and followed.
"But you know," she continued after ordering a cup of the dog's kibble. "There is just so much tension. Maybe I could make a difference. Help people understand." Sparky ate. Hayley laughed. "You don't care about any of this."
"You would," she spoke to her dog again. "It would mean leaving our home. Mom, Dad, Delores—Carol, but Carol and Tanner will be heading for the moon at the end of the term—maybe—at least that's the plan. To tell you the truth I have no idea what I'm going to do—especially when they leave, and if Carol ever gets her wish."
Now Sparky yapped. He wanted his cookie. Hayley scooped him into her arms and ordered the cookie.
"However, no matter what happens, you go with me. I promise." She removed the cookie. With a kiss, she set Sparky back on the floor with his treat.
The door chime rang. Half munching, Sparky yapped angrily.
"She's here. Ssh," Hayley commanded with only a little success as she opened the door.
"Hi," Hayley greeted her date.
"I see you have a little friend," Christine looked down at the hysterically barking dog. "Hi—" Christine tried to reach down to pet the small centurion. The dog only barked louder, and snapped.
"Sparky!" Hayley scolded. "Come on—behave." She picked him up in her arms. Wiggling about madly, the petite guard dog wanted down, to protect Hayley from the intruder. "Let me just set him outside."
"Go ahead. He's certainly a good watchdog," Christine chuckled only lightly.
"He's never liked strangers very much," she apologized. "My Dad says no one will ever try to break into my apartment with him here. You be a good dog. I'm just going out for a little while," Hayley instructed.
She deactivated the barrier to the small garden and dog run out back. She set Sparky on the grass. Racing to get through the barrier, Sparky whirled quickly around. When Hayley proved too swift, he barked madly.
"Be good," she blew him a kiss. "Okay, I'm ready."
Christine watched the dog's antics with a grimace. "He's persistent."
"I'm afraid he thinks I'm his servant."
Initiating the main locking mechanism and print command, Hayley left the angry, demanding pup. With Christine by her side, she descended the stairs and went out into the little cul-de-sac created by the circular curve of her complex.
"This is wonderful," Christine commented.
"What?" Hayley asked, happy her date had begun the conversation.
"I love Mars. It's so nice. People walk everywhere."
they take the internal transportation system. Parliamentary'
"Yes, I know," said her companion flatly.
Of course she does Hayley cursed herself.
"I've come to like Parliamentary,
Some of what Christine said, Hayley knew, especially the time spent on Parliamentary as an intern. She had been only a young girl when Delores had left home for then and still could remember how much had missed her big sister. Sure Carol had been there, but Delores had been gone then.
She was glad Christine was doing the talking, giving her a chance to catch
her bearings and think of something to say in reply. But when the time came,
she heard herself say, "Earth's pretty. I especially like the Pacific coast,
the ocean." She grimaced inside at the banality, trivialness of the response.
Gawd, I must be the most boring person on Mars.
"There are many beautiful places, but Earth isn't as planned. Lacks a sense of order. It's dark, too violent."
has crime," Hayley corrected gently. And now I'm sounding like a goddammed
know it all and lecturer.
"Significantly less. No one would walk around like this at night on Earth. It is much too dangerous. I believe the tough immigration requirements initiated by the Spacer worlds have helped to make Mars and many of our extraterrestrial colonies close to paradise."
"Humans will still be humans," Hayley shrugged and bit her lip..
"Maybe," Christine nodded. "Besides," she gestured grandly. "Look at this weather."
"What weather?" Hayley could not keep from laughing. "We're inside a dome."
"No one even needs to wear a sweater. I heard on the Weathernet that the temperature in New York City will hit zero tonight."
probably minus two hundred outside the dome." Hayley smiled. "And
with no oxygen—or at least its negligible existence with the recent terraforming
successes—you need an EVA suit to even survive. I've been outside the dome a
couple of times to work on projects. EVAs aren't easy to get around in."
What the fuck do you think you're doing? You sound like this is a debate.
Keep it casual. God, sound casual. Not a know-it-all intellectual geeky nerd.
Sound human, dammit, Hayley!
"But you would agree Mars is nice?" Christine gazed across at her. Her smile was warm and inviting.
Hayley nodded. "Yes—I love Mars. I'm Martian. This," she gesture with a sweep of a hand, "is my home."
At that Christine laughed out loud and draped, for a moment, an arm around her shoulders to give her a quick hug.
They followed the main pedestrian thoroughfare to the Capitol Mall. Nightfall had fallen. The automated dome sensors slowly diminished the enhancement of the sun's illumination. In the midst of dusk, the old-fashioned hurricane street lanterns glowed orange. Occasionally a tram carrying shoppers loaded down with packages rolled by on the tracks. The ting-a-ling of the bell, much like the fabled cable cars in San Francisco, played rhythmically, its music adding to the hum of voices and the play of children.
They entered a large park. Coming to an arching little bridge, they crossed a tram track and a small lake filled with quacking ducks and large white honking geese. The strains of a circus calliope and the ringing barks of an ice cream vendor caught their ears. The laughter of children rang out as they enjoyed an entertainment of old; a gift from a kinder, gentler time when children gathered in public squares to watch puppet shows.
Wandering over to the square, they stopped. With intense fascination, as when she was young, Hayley enjoyed the antics of two obnoxious marionettes playing the stage. As the puppets now sang tunes to an old nursery rhyme, Hayley tapped her foot in time and sang along. "Surely you know the words?" she asked when Christine did not join along. She clapped as the performance ended.
"Very cute," Christine commented rather dryly as she clapped, too. They renewed their trek. "You know the nursery rhymes?"
my parents, grandmother, and Delores, I guess I received a thorough grounding.
Jack Sprat could eat no fat," she recited, "his wife could eat no
lean. So betwixt them both you see they licked their platters clean. Or,
remember that one," nodded Christine with familiarity. "How about
Peter, Peter Pumpkin-eater? Had a wife and couldn't keep her--."
"—so he put her in a pumpkin shell, and there he kept her very well," Hayley added her voice. Then they giggled, the giggles turning into laughter.
"Nursery rhymes. I haven't thought about nursery rhymes in—I don't know how long," Christine confessed.
"I did a paper once on the political allegories found in the old nursery rhymes. Mind you, I did nothing original. Most of the information was quite common place, but I remember that as one of my first big history projects. I must have been five or six."
"Bruce told me that you were something of a child prodigy. When you graduated from the Academy Scholastica, I understand you had already earned your bachelor's degree."
"Yes, and I had begun work on the graduate courses for my doctorate," Hayley added without bragging.
"What are you going to do next?"
"I thought I do something along the line of a historical analysis of early science fiction."
"Yes. Reading science fiction has always been one of my ways to relax. I know it's been done before, to some degree, but I thought I'd pick several of the premier futurists from the twentieth century and do something. I don't know, or with today's writers and work on current futuristic predictions. Of course, that's only one of about five or six other projects I've been thinking about."
"You're a regular workaholic."
"Why science fiction?"
wanted to do something fun and light, and I've always liked science fiction.
Carol and I use to watch all of the old Star Wars movies. You know the
triadic trilogy? The ones by George Lucas? He was a motion picture director
and producer?" Christine nodded. "Carol loved them because the characters
rode around in these fantastic spacecraft. Star Wars, Babylon 5, The Delta-Epsilon
Factor, I, Robot, Battle Star Galactica, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon in the
Twenty-fifth Century, The Mariner Questers, Journey through Time, Star Trek,
all of the space operas. Well—anyway, we'd always get into these protracted
discussions about the way these programs portrayed the future and reality. When
I was working on my book and outlines for galactic history, I started to think
about those conversations.
"How old were you then?"
"I started thinking about science fiction when I was about eight. Have you ever seen any of the old Star Trek programs?"
"The communicators in the original program—I think it ran between 1965 and 1967—well," she described and demonstrated how the small hand-held rectangular object flipped open. "Anyway, by 1993, the miniaturization of technology had come so far that the portable telephones had the same design. I'm sure the physics differed. I don't even know if the writers understood the theory behind the electronics they had fabricated. But my point is, within a span of just thirty years portions of the technology were no longer fiction. Look at the wristcoms we wear," she said, tapping the communication device on her wrist. "Dick Tracy wore them. So did the characters on Babylon Five and Delta Epsilon. In fact they seem standard throughout much of the genre's literature.
anyway, the predictions concerning technology have been fairly accurate. Perhaps
slower than expected, but then reality is usually the tortoise to fiction's
hare. But look at the innovations, they've come true nonetheless. Like when
Yen Shen Wang and the Mitsubishi-J.
"Then hyperlight speed—" Thunderstruck by her date's amusement, which seemed to mock her excitement, the easy flow of words stopped in mid-utterance. "I'm prattling—"
"You're such a delight." Christine took Hayley's hand in hers. Patting it, she smiled. "I just love your enthusiasm."
Idiot look what you've done now. Wait `til she tells Bruce and Delores about this. Her thoughts spun. Embarrassment painted her expression. She could only lick her lips. She felt thirsty.
Christine kept her hand. "Come. I'm hungry and interested in exploring the epicurean delights of your sister's Mama Mia. She says they make the best pizza on Mars."
Hayley could not ignore the lock she had on her hand, but she did not pull away. For a reason she could not explain, she liked the way she held it. So following her, they left the park and entered the main mall.
"Like a garbage pizza?" Christine had asked before ordering.
"That would be fine. No anchovies, but have them add the Feta cheese and artichoke hearts."
"Feta cheese? Artichoke hearts?" Christine questioned with skepticism.
hearts are quite Roman and they add a wonderful taste and texture."
"You are quite the gourmet," she commented when the waitress left with their order.
"Just a family tradition," Hayley shrugged.
"Well, what do you think?"
Hayley frowned uncertain. "About what?"
The waitress returned with a beer and Hayley's iced tea.
still don't know how to respond." Hayley picked up her tea and sipped at
it. "The opportunity? The idea of serving my government? But I am no politician.
I'm a simple teacher, and I have responsibilities.
"May I make a suggestion?"
"Sure," Hayley sipped her tea.
"This term here ends in three weeks?" Hayley nodded. "Then you have about eight weeks off?"
I was going to work on my research. The university likes its professors to keep
"So would DeBow. You could continue with your research. As Director of Historical Education, you'll have access to every important library and archival collection available to man."
"With my position at the university, I already have that. Besides, tenured professorships don't come along every day."
"Hayley, take my offer—temporarily during your break. If you do well and find the work to your liking, then the government might propose the university put you on an indefinite sabbatical, keeping your position open until such time your work for us has concluded. The government, of course, would pay your salary."
The suggestion intrigued Hayley. Hesitantly, she searched for an argument she could use to counter.
Christine did not wait for a comment. "Let me be honest, Hayley. I've already spoken with Dr. Joseph."
"Dr. Joseph? You went to the university chancellor?"
"Of course," she replied with matter-of-fact casualness. "She has agreed to my proposals. The university would hire a temporary instructor until such time as you return, perhaps giving your courses to graduate students going through the program. Besides, after a stint on my staff working as a minister in the executive office you could probably write a ticket to teach at any university in the system. The prestige of serving in a ministerial post would allow you to do anything you want."
Hayley fingered the lip of her glass. Her mind whirled. Christine had answered her every question. But I already have what I want. "What about my family? My dog?" She heard herself ask.
"I would think your family would be overjoyed."
"A bit shocked perhaps?" Hayley shrugged, anticipating the responses they would give her.
"Perhaps," Christine did not hide her amused grin.
"What about Sparky? I couldn't just leave him. He's like my baby."
"After a two week quarantine and a vet's certification of health, he could follow you. I would never expect you to give up your pet or family. I'm not inviting you to enter a monastery or the priesthood."
The waiter set a large thin-crust pizza on a small cast iron trivet in the middle of the red and white checkered tablecloth. Next to the pie, the waiter placed two plates, a couple of forks, and a spatula.
With dinner, the conversation shifted from the proposal. Non-threatening, light-hearted banter took over and then continued as they walked to a nearby theater for a revival of Two Martians and the Moonie, a screwball comedy.
Afterwards, still giggling to the absurdities of the play, Hayley, her arm in Christine's, led her into a well-known ice cream shop where she treated the Earther to the Martian version of strawberry decadent delight.
Walking through the park, they ate quietly. With the hour growing late, the children they had seen earlier had all disappeared. Now only small groups and couples like themselves wandered along the walks through the trees.
Quietly, they discussed the play; Christine admitting that she had enjoyed it. Hayley, of course, had loved every minute. Lost in the nuances of the plot and acting, her mind preferred to analyze the fiction of the stage than the currents tugging at her lifeline.
"Well?" Christine asked, finishing the last crunch of her cone.
Christine's way of returning to the proposition, Hayley recognized the subtlety of the prompt. "This is the hardest decision I've ever had to make," she said savoring the large chunks of strawberry. Her teeth sank into the frosted cookie cone. Its crunch echoed in her ears as she chewed.
Silently, she took another bite. Stopping on top of a hill, she looked out over the tree-lined walkways. The daintily drooping lights cast their soft, moon-like glow on the paths ahead. Deimos hung pregnantly above casting its irregular glow through the dome. In the distance, she could see the colorful play of light from the park's fountain. Sometimes, aided by an elaborate computer program, the fountain performed, spraying water in a kaleidoscope of color to lush melodies collected from centuries of popular and classical music. Hayley strained her eyes and ears hoping for a performance, something to delay her answer just a bit more.
Hayley finished her ice cream. Licking her fingers, removing the last sprinkles of sugar, she wiped her hands and tossed the soiled napkin into a recycling receptacle.
Following the path down the hill, they stopped before the fountain. Hayley commented on its beauty, even though it was not putting on any magnificent display. "I love to come here at night. It's so peaceful and beautiful. The sound of the water is like poetry. It speaks. If you look carefully you can see the descendants of the great coy fish brought from Japan over two hundred years ago. They're so graceful. I guess if credits weren't used, you'd see the glint of coins in the water. But no one is crazy enough to throw their idents into the pool." Suddenly, she stopped speaking. She knew her decision, the path she would choose.
"I've never been a risk-taker. I've always been content with the known. I guess I'm a rather dull person. I don't know whether I'm really the right person for the job you've asked of me, but if I didn't take the opportunity, I'd always find myself wondering, what if? I don't think I would ever forgive myself."
"What are you saying, Hayley?"
"I guess, I'm saying yes," she answered.
The lights from the fountain danced against Christine's face. Her lips parted into a wide smile. Her teeth gleamed, and though she could not see the beauty of her polished wood grained irises, her eyes shimmered. Reaching out, Christine took her hand. "I'm glad."
For a long time they just stood by the fountain, the lights flickering and reflecting against their skin. Their faces, half in silhouette and half awash in the gilded radiance, seemed to glow.
Slowly, Hayley noticed a strange, warm sensation taking hold. She wanted to run, but spellbound, she could only look up into the mesmerizing eyes that held her captive. Christine's hand tightened and, slowly, she pulled her close. She was tall, but so was she. Putting her arms around her, Christine bent just a little and, pulling her even closer, she placed her full sensuous lips softly against her own. She felt the kiss. It was soft. Christine adjusted her arms and Hayley could feel their breasts as they pressed firmly against one another. Almost before the kiss ended, Christine kissed her again, this time with more force. Then Hayley felt herself respond, almost instinctively. She wrapped her arms around Christine's neck and kissed her back with passion and a sensuousness she had never known before or ever conceived of knowing.
With deep sighs, they kissed again. A mouth parted, pushing into hers with a tongue. As if their souls were joining as one, the taller woman pulled her even tighter. Sensation exploded in a slow rolling boil. At first taken aback, Hayley found her body responding, knowing what to do. Her mouth opened. She pulled Christine just as tightly. Christine moaned and caressed her back as for several long, passionate minutes until a single hand strayed. Taking an erotic turn, it brushed up and grabbed the fleshy fruits of a breast.
Hayley uttered softly, pushing back. "No." I can't, she heard
within. It's me.
The embrace broke. Awkwardly, dizzily, she stepped back. Almost stumbling, Christine caught her arm.
"No?" Her date did not hide her frustration. "You're a beautiful woman."
can't." Hayley was flushed—hot. "It's late." She wanted to run
away, to retreat, but Christine's gaze held her fast. I have got to get out
of here. Get away. Why?
"All right then. I'll take you home," came the gentle reply, the gaze sheepishly watching her. Christine took her hand and slowly, they turned from the fountain and strolled from the park back to Hayley's apartment. "I'm so glad you agreed to accept my proposal. We'll be able to see one another."
Hayley knew she wanted a response. Lord, what am I doing? "I'd like that," she replied temperately. Her stomach fluttered. She wished she hadn't replied so positively. Damn that book talk, she swore in her mind. Where was the old life she had loved? As Christine's hand held hers affectionately, she could feel everything she had known and cherished fading from view.
Having walked in silence, they stopped at her landing. Hayley turned. She looked up into Christine's shimmering, dark eyes. Lustily, they looked back into hers. She knew what they wanted. She hoped Christine did not notice her shaking. She feared what she might try to do. She feared her response even more. No, Christine. No. Oh please, inside she pleaded knowing that she hoped they would kiss. She wanted to experience again the arousing sensations, the shivers as they ran up and down her spine. She wanted to relive the tension and passion that had ignited before the fiery glow of the magic fountain. She wanted to enjoy and fulfill the insatiable longings that frightened her so.
Still keeping her hand in hers, Christine smiled. It was endearing, like a little girl, youthful and mischievous. Pulling her close, she placed a platonic kiss on her cheek. "This evening was fun."
was," Hayley agreed demurely. You idiot. You spoiled it! Everything!
"I need to leave tomorrow for the station. Maybe I can come by and we can go for another walk before I leave?"
like that," she answered, barely keeping her jitters at bay. But please
don'e. Please. What if she does?
"Until tomorrow?" Christine gave her one last peck.
"Until tomorrow," Hayley replied. She pressed her thumb against the lock on her door. It swished open. "Good night," she added.
"Good night, Hayley."
She waved as Christine turned and walked away. She touched the close panel. The door swished back along its track. For several moments, lost in her thoughts and emotions, Hayley stared blankly at the closed door.
Sparky scratched at the back door. Instinctively, Hayley went over to let him in. As he jumped up, demanding attention, Hayley scooped the little dog into her arms and sank into a kitchen chair.
"Oh, what am I doing?" she sighed, scratching behind the pup's ears. "What have I done?" She started to cry.
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