"This is huge," exclaimed Hayley.
"Government employees get the best, especially those on DeBow's staff."
"Look at the yard," Bruce waved her to a large sliding glass door.
With wonder Hayley gazed across the expanse of the rear yard. "Even a lawn—and roses?"
"Enough to satisfy your love for puttering," Bruce said, teasing painting his tone.
Christine added, "You can plant an entire garden if you want."
"I knew the parks had grass, but the apartments?"
"The station's designers worked with human engineering sociologists to construct a habitat to fulfill every psychological need."
"Well, how `bout it Sparks." Hayley opened Sparky's container.
Waking from his long nap and stiff from the cramped confines of his carry-all, Sparky emerged on wobbly legs. Shaking from snout to tail, as if he had just finished a bath, the little dog took several gingerly steps. Sensing he was in new surroundings, he stayed close, but with his nose alternating between testing the air and investigating the laminate faux wood floors he sniffed out his surroundings. As Hayley walked out into the small garden area, the dog followed. Picking up the familiar fragrance of transplanted Kentucky bluegrass, the little dog ran quickly out into the small yard. Finding a lone scraggly yellow dandelion, he lifted his leg and took aim. Bulls-eye, the stream met its target.
Hayley returned to the living room. "This is lovely."
Bruce retrieved his credit chip from the payment slot in the rear of the valedroid, the station's computerized porter system. "All residential quarters are designed for maximum comfort. The station has almost ten thousand residents—permanent employees of the legislative and executive branches of the U.G.C. intergalactic government bureaucracy. You add family members and support agencies, their employees and families, and you have a fairly large population base. The station has its own municipal government and sends a representative to Parliament." He pointed to the large glass window looking over the complex's lawn-covered park and garden. "Look, you have a wonderful view of the central park and plaza."
"The only thing lacking is a fountain." Christine gave Hayley a leering glance.
Sparky, now moving with greater agility, waltzed across the threshold into the apartment.
motioned to the two large suitcases and trunk. "Well, we'll let you get
settled. We'll come back at
should wear one of your grandmother'
"I'll be ready." Hayley escorted Bruce and Christine to the door and waved farewell through the opaque force field of the front entry as they left.
Left alone with the solitude of her new surroundings she sighed and pushed back the pangs of homesickness. Sparky yapped. Picking up the little dog, Hayley gave him a hug. The puppy licked her cheek. "I'm so glad you're here," she said. She kissed his nose and scratched behind his right ear. "We can do this—can't we?"
The air was still, the warmth of the day escaping into the cloudless heavens ruled by Jo'nai. Sitting beneath the willowy Caber, it hid in the shadows until the last of the humans left the alien stone edifice with the pointy tower pushing skyward on the roof. Inside the tower it was sure resided a bell. It had heard it ring on occasion. When it rang humans and a growing number of the Yretan entered. Inside sacred human rituals occurred. Human rituals! The thought angered it.
"Okay, so everything is set for Sunday," said one human as the door to the building closed. All the lights, except for those around the outside perimeter, faded to black.
The second human waited and walked with the first to the "parking lot" where they had left their hovers. "The choir should be lovely."
The two spoke some more. It wished they'd just hurry up and leave. Its stomach was starting to hurt, and looking up into the night sky, the single orb that was their moon and Jo'nai's eye, indicated time was getting late. Someone was bound to miss it. But—but, it had to. Not after what it had seen and the hole left in its heart.
The two entered their vehicles. Engines ignited and the hovers rose and turned where they stood and slipped out onto the road and disappeared into the night.
Taking its pouch with the markers and the stones it had collected, it made its way. At last, it would begin its own campaign. In the name of vengeance, in the name of the Yretan, it would fight for those who had died. With that, it let loose. The projectile, the first of many that night, flew straight and solid. The first window shattered. Then a second and third, the continued volleys struck. Then at the end, just so its mission was clear, with markers it wrote on the pristine white doors of its target: "Death to All Humans! Go Home!"
Orangel Jose Corral, an intern from the Lunar University School of Law and Public Administration, greeted Bruce and Christine with familiarity.
is the administration'
Hayley shook the intern's hand. "Call me O.J,," he said with a distinctive Spanish accent as he surveyed Hayley with his large Latin eyes. His scrutiny lingered longingly on her curves as he escorted them through the large smoke glass doors into the governor general's office.
Comfortably furnished with oversized black and tan leather couches and chairs, the office had the air of a European hunting lodge. Rich wood-grained paneling and mountings, trophies taken from various hunting forays and fishing trips, mixed with framed certificates, awards, and photographs on the walls. A massive desk of walnut, or some other dark wood, dominated the rear of the room. Behind it, carved into the wall and adorned in gilded leaf, a single planetoid circling the sun, the greater seal of the United Galactic Confederation, left no doubt that this office belonged to the most powerful official in Sol. Below the seal, a built-in bookcase filled with vast volumes lined the wall. A view screen and net terminal rested on the otherwise clutter-free workspace. Instead of the mountains of paper, which had pestered executives in times past, the modern political bureaucrats now littered their work areas with numerous data storage chips. Barely the width of a scouting salute, each micro-storage unit held enough information to fill more than a hundred books. A stack of three such chips sat under the governor general's monitor.
A trim, older man of medium stature rose. Deactivating his display, he rounded the desk and presented an extended hand. "Dr. Genetti."
Voluminous and naturally full, the governor general's voice resonated like the barrel-chested baritones who sang in the Martian Grand Opera.
Wide-eyed, Hayley muted her awe. "Governor General DeBow."
so pleased to meet you." He grabbed her fingertips limply, almost daintily
as if he thought she might break. "I have devoured your book." Her
treatise resided prominently on a shelf directly behind his desk. "Christine
gave me a ROM of the presentation you made at the Martian University Professor's
Book Talk. I have viewed it several times, even shared it with several colleagues.
We are all very excited. Your expertise will benefit our administration.
"I'll do my best, sir." Hayley struggled to untie the knot in her tongue.
"I've met your father several times. I worked with him on the asteroid geological surveys about twenty years ago. Of course, I was simply one of the civil administrators overseeing the project; your father was the one in charge. He guided the entire team—an excellent man. I'm also a fan of your mother. Her work on behalf of the Martian citizenry has been instrumental in maintaining the high standard of living for which Mars has become synonymous, and now I understand your sister is following her example. I bet the family is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the next generation. How is she, Bruce?" DeBow gave Bruce a manly slap on the shoulder. "I still remember when you were interns on the station. You've done well, son ..."
"I'd like to think so," Bruce agreed.
"…and now another Genetti to carry on the family tradition of serving the citizens of this great confederation. Hayley, your family must be very proud."
"Yes, sir," Hayley replied modestly.
"Please, Hayley. Call me Jeremiah. It's an old name—belonged to my great grandfather and my mother's father. You are indeed lovely." He stepped closer. Tilting his head he inspected her more closely, almost as if he was a breeder and she a recently purchase filly.
His brown-green eyes barely met her nose. On the crystal imaging monitors DeBow had always come across as a man of great stature. She would have never guessed he was so short. Self-conscious enough, Hayley was happy she had not worn heels. Christine and Bruce were giants as they flanked him.
our Director of Historical Education, you will report directly to Chief of Staff
Stone," he instructed abruptly. His sudden formality caught her by surprise.
He pointed at one of the overstuffed couches. He sat in one of the matching
chairs. Leaning back, he made himself comfortable. "My chief of staff and
I have already spoken about this administration'
Hayley's head began to spin.
have invited journalists from the major information organizations for a formal
introduction at seventeen hundred hours. I hope you are prepared to deliver
the speech you gave at the university. Christine has fitted our media auditorium
with everything you'll need."
"Jeremiah, Hayley's just arrived," Bruce interceded.
"But this is Dr. Genetti's bread and butter—if you will," DeBow retorted.
"Of course, she's ready!" Christine spouted. "And wait `til you see her in action. You'll be as blown away as me."
"Well, yes—but I'm sure her notes?" Bruce's face did not mask his reservations.
"I don't remember looking at her notes."
"No, Bruce, it's fine. I—I am ready," said Hayley, simply wanting the discussion to end.
"Good." Rising DeBow walked over to a small hutch on the far wood-paneled wall. "Then it shall be. Would you like something to drink?"
"No, thank you. Maybe just some water if you have it." Her mouth was dry.
"Some Irish, Christine? Bruce?"
Appreciative of DeBow's hospitality, they quickly accepted.
"So that's how you'll introduce Hayley to the media?" Bruce asked, taking his drink.
Let's simply show them what she can do. O.J.'s sent each net, the major publishers
and editors, and members of the press corps here a copy of her book as a preview.
I've heard the Times,
"Yes," Bruce confirmed after a sip of his whiskey.
"You might also get reviews from Dr. Genetti's colleagues and superiors," suggested DeBow.
done," replied Christine. "I had Elise included excerpts prepared
for this afternoon's introduction.
Hayley caught an unmistakable twinkle as their eyes met.
"With your addition to our staff, we are making a bold move, especially with the increase in Dr. Light Horse's popularity and her recent proposals. Polls show she is a shoe in should Parliamentary elections take place now. We have four years unfortunately until that happens, but if we can counter her propaganda now, she'll be marginalized and hopefully go running back to academia in a short time. You will be instrumental to our campaign. We must counteract the attention their ideas and publications have been receiving. I want the majority position here in the administration to have a sounder academic base. With Dr. Genetti's mainstream background and good looks," DeBow smirked sarcastically, "we should be able to counter Light Horse."
Wondering whether she should resign right away and confess Christine had tabbed the wrong coward for the job, Hayley presented a deceptive smile, a smile she had seen Delores and Bruce wear countless times. Hoisting her drink, she took a sip of the cool water. "I'll do what I can," she vowed. "I promise not to let my government down."
DeBow let the remnants of a
As Hayley finished speaking, the last of her visual images faded from view. The audience of always-skeptical reporters greeted her with applause, those less skeptical loudly. As the lights went up, just as she had done at her first book talk, Hayley found herself mid-stage, a full ten meters away from the security of her podium and the idiot screen. As DeBow ascended the three shallow steps separating her from the audience, the butterflies she had vanquished during the lecture returned and migrated to the renewed gurgling in her stomach. She rubbed her hands together. Her feet did a quick little shuffle looking for an escape route.
DeBow clapped and extended his hand. Taking it, Hayley's eyes darted to the second row where Bruce and Christine, her private little support group, sat watching. Nodding approvingly, they gave her a thumb's up.
DeBow asked for questions.
A hand rose.
Hayley recognized the face. She had seen it on her crystal-imaging screen back on Mars. The face was familiar and the name attached to it probably entered countless numbers of casual conversations. In her current state, her old dreaded malady came back to haunt her. Unlike her classroom at the university where she could simply refer to the seating chart programmed into the activated net system, she had no such luxury here. Happily, DeBow took the cue and called on the extended hand. She listened for the name.
Of course, a small voice in her head reprimanded—Oscar Pendleton, a reporter for the London-based intergalactic division of the BBC. He often reported on the events of the U.G.C.'s executive branch.
"Certainly, Oscar," DeBow responded quickly. "Just a little academic instruction on the historical background to humanity's galactic venture into the cosmos."
"And I might say justification for your more controversial actions," the reporter pressed, wanting less double-speak.
"Not justification, Oscar. Truth never needs justification. But recently, certain members of the legislature have obscured the issues with a political, and historical, revisionism which has been less than honest, but highly divisive. This administration has decided to put out the fires caused by these lies with the truth." DeBow took a breath.
"And Dr. Genetti?" asked another reporter.
impromptu seminar was my way of introducing Dr. Hayley Genetti. She's from the
Several of the journalists stared at her blankly. Some put notes into their PDAs. Others gave her that strange look she had often seen from strangers on the street and in some of her students, especially those with uncontrollable libidos. Only Kimberly Adams bobbed her head with an enthusiastic endorsement. She raised her hand.
"Yes?" The governor recognized the extended hand but not the society reporter from Mars.
"Kimberly Adams," she introduced herself. "Intergalactic Press and Martian News Net, Capitol Division."
Hayley shuffled. The sweat in her palms had collected into small pools.
must congratulate you on a brilliant appointment.
Hayley's face melted beneath the lights of the stage and Miss Adams's unexpected praise and lengthy endorsement. She wondered whether the reporter had a point to make or if someone in her family had paid her to puff up the importance of the nonentity ascending the first rung of the political ladder.
"What—" Kimberly finally came to her question.
Above, Hayley heard the high pitch whine of one of the small robotic remote control cams zeroing in on a target for the audiences at home.
"What exactly will be Dr. Genetti's duties?"
DeBow answered with an abbreviated version of his earlier list.
Another reporter questioned her directly when DeBow had finished. "Dr. Genetti, what makes you think you have the qualifications for this job?"
The political game had begun. The media, consumed with its customary suspicions, had begun its challenge and potential feeding frenzy.
believe." Hayley fought back the butterflies battling within. What were
her qualifications? She asked herself. She could not think. She stammered
slightly. "The profile distributed by the executive office lists my academic
"You certainly add a new dimension of good looks," someone called out loudly, just short of giving an obnoxious catcall.
The audience laughed. Hayley blushed and squirmed uncomfortably.
Kimberly asked her a question. "How do you see your position?"
"I see my role as a teacher."
"Governor General, you and Ms. Adams have mentioned that Dr. Genetti is from a political family. I am not familiar with any Genetti's."
Hayley did not recognize the reporter's name as Christine, rising from her seat, fielded the question.
you cover issues that only reflect on the interest of
Dr. Genetti is an imperialist!
"I don't think—" Christine began.
Hayley stepped forward. "I support," she said in a strong, authoritative tone, "the policies of this administration. The human race must look forward, not backwards. We must not back down to what we have begun, to act timidly or with fear. If Christopher Columbus, Lief Erikson, Marco Polo, Lewis and Clark, Zebulon Pike, John Glen, Neil Armstrong, Carl Genetti, Armstrong Karolek, and the rest of my Martian forefathers had done the same, the human race would have remained earthbound—a static society—and as any anthropologist will tell you, static societies never survive. They eventually wither away and die."
"Isn't that a bit extreme, Doctor?
"Absolutely not," Hayley countered.
"What about the problems on Earth?"
"Then Earth should solve them," she replied to the same reporter. "Advocates who propose humanity should stay home do the people of Earth a great disservice. If you look at the success of Spacers, you will see that though we have not established utopias, our societies are far more egalitarian and have higher standards of living. The reason for this is that we look forward. This has forced our societies to stress education and communal engineering, which has maximized the way everyone lives. The technologies, knowledge, and wealth exist for Earthers to create a similar existence for themselves. All Earthers need is the willingness to stop blaming others or saying they need more money. They need to realize nothing comes on a silver platter and that sacrifices must be made. On Mars, my forefathers endured and carved from their primitive beginnings a society based on education, family, and forward thinking. The rewards for Mars have been numerous. We have no poverty, no hunger, and the lowest crime rate in the confederation. Mars, in my opinion, is close to paradise. But Martians have worked hard to create that paradise. The sacrifices have been many. Earthers must do the same. In the end, the dividends will be just as rewarding as those experienced by the Spacers. But don't sacrifice humanity's progress to satisfy the fears of the uneducated and paranoid."
Suddenly, feeling self-conscious, as if she had spoken out of turn in a classroom during a lecture, she quieted. Stepping back from the lip of the stage, she tried to find a place where she could retreat. The audience burst out in applause.
Christine put a hand around her shoulder and squeezed. Hayley only hoped she did not feel her trembling. "You'll make a fine minister," she murmured in a hushed whisper.
DeBow patted her shoulder and in a loud voice, almost as if he were at a pep
rally, he repeated, "Ladies and gentlemen, my administration'
Hayley followed Christine and Bruce through the double glass doors grandly announcing in bold black stenciled-print, "EXECUTIVE OFFICES—CHIEF OF STAFF CHRISTINE STONE," as they parted with a barely discernible swish. An attractive young woman in her mid-twenties sat in a circular island.
"You're here, Elise?" Christine greeted her. "This is my executive assistant, Elise Newcastle." Christine introduced her to Hayley. "This is Dr. Genetti—"
"Our Director of Historical Education," Elise rose. Her head remained several centimeters below Hayley's shoulder. She wore a gray metal skirt and jacket, and a white blouse, the proper attire of a bureaucratic executive. The top buttons on the blouse were undone showing off cleavage. No one could avoid seeing the display of flesh.
Instead of the fashionably tight coifed bun, Elise had teased her dyed platinum hair and pulled it back with a large black comb. The comb matched the color painted on her eyelids and lips. The look was one Hayley had seen sported by fashion models on the net.
"We just stopped by to give Hayley a tour of the office and show her where she'll be working," said Christine.
Hayley extended her hand, eager to make another acquaintance. Elise did not, or not so quickly. "Dr. Genetti." Her tone was restrained, professionally cold, and though a smile cracked, brightening her face, Hayley thought she detected a bit of insincerity. Maybe she was simply a bit weary of anyone new entering her domain.
"Warren McClurg is on his way here. He's asked to see you about Ceta Bine's petition." Taking Christine by the arm, Elise led her off to the side.
Christine interrupted. "Excuse me," she said. "Bruce, why don't you take Hayley back and show her where my office is? I'll follow in just a moment."
"Come on, Hayley." Bruce guided her. "You'll just love these offices. They're much better than the ones down in the legislative tier—though granted, I have made mine most passable," he chuckled.
Hayley could see Christine and Elise return to their discussion as they went down the hall.
The hall was only about twenty meters in length. Several corridors intersected at various intervals. Two led off to the left and one to the right.
"I think your office will be down there somewhere." Bruce pointed to the second intersection, but then turned right.
walk far before they entered a large outer lobby of some kind. A large desk,
replete with the standard net, communication terminals, private conn buttons
surrounded an expansive, but neatly kept work area. Several chairs flanked the
far wall. A nameplate decorated the front portion of the desk. Hayley read:
Bruce reached over across and then under the desk. He pressed a switch. The door to Christine's office slid open. "Come on." He led Hayley into the office.
This office was almost as large as DeBow's. Similar to DeBow's, it had a large desk with a comfortable executive's chair, a net set up, a leather-upholstered couch, several large leather chairs, and a nearly empty bookcase. The bookcase held only one book, hers. Otherwise, several miniature female and male nudes created by contemporary sculptors covered the three shelves. A large crystal image display hung next to the door. The U.G.C. emblem adorned the back wall. Several framed certificates and the latest in mirror-laser art—or so, Hayley thought— decorated the remaining walls.
"I'm sorry to keep you waiting," Christine said as she entered. She stopped next to Hayley brushing up against her shoulder. "Do you like it?" she asked.
"It's nice," Hayley pointed at the squared frames of multi-colored glass. "Mirror-laser art?"
Christine swallowed, beaming proudly. "I picked them up when I lived in
She passed a hand in front of an activation censor. "Activate." Colored hues danced in the five-framed mirrors. They changed into various random patterns. Then igniting, five beams of light shot out into the room. Within the converging starburst, a smoky alluring image of an erotically posed nude woman appeared.
"Frujlan?" Bruce smiled, recognizing the artist.
The style of the holographic nude had the same characteristics as the statues.
Christine smiled. "Yes."
always uses the most gorgeous models—such verisimilitude,
"You're not a devotee of modern art?" Christine asked.
"No," Hayley replied, sure she was blushing. "I'm not fond of this new trend in explicit art."
"Hayley's more into the classics—Picasso, Raphael, DaVinci, Teischer, Brummond," Bruce said.
"You're just an old-fashioned girl all the way around." Christine's youthful ingenuousness sparked as she teased.
the closest mirror. "Are these programmable?
"Yes," Christine said. "Off." The image of the nude disappeared. The mirrors reverted to their abstract, static patterns. "I'm constantly updating the programs. They're fun little toys," she smirked. "Come, let me show you your office." Christine took Hayley's arm in hers and, with Bruce following from behind wearing a broad mischievous grin, led her on the rest of their tour.
The waitress refilled the etched water goblet. Small round cubes of ice splashed and tinkled against the crystal. As the waitress set the goblet back on the table, a beam of light from one of the recessed lamps above penetrated through the condensation gathering on the sides. Caught in the liquid prism, the beam split creating a faint rainbow of red, orange, and yellow.
Christine spoke with concern. "You haven't touched your meal."
Hayley looked up from the water glass, mindful that her fork had been playing with her food.
"I'm sorry," she apologized.
"This has been a big day. You bowled over the Parliamentary press corps, a bunch of old cynics, and that includes the fresh pups just out of journalism school. You had them eating out of your hands, even DeBow. He was impressed. That's hard to do."
Hayley pushed her plate aside. "I guess I'm not hungry."
Her thoughts traveled to the station's spaceport where only an hour earlier she had bid Bruce good-bye. He had wanted to spend the night with Delores. Hayley understood, or so she had said.
"I know." Christine wiped her mouth with the corner of her napkin. "It's way too subdued in here. Let's get out of here—have some fun."
She pushed back her chair and rounded the table, gallantly helping Hayley with hers. Taking her arm, she stopped to pay the bill and then led her from the restaurant.
As they walked, Christine pointed out many of the facilities available on the station. Theaters, live and digitized, offered a wide variety of musical, comedic, and dramatic presentations. She pointed out a sign advertising the arrival of a touring company bringing a revival of MacBeth. Another advertisement invited amateur thespians to attend auditions for a more recent play, "The Old Ladies of Titan," a comedy by Silisian Joes.
Passing the community's small symphonic center, they heard a slightly out-of-tuned community orchestra rehearsing a bit of Holst. Christine pointed out a roller rink large enough to accommodate a few fans for hockey and then a large gymnasium complex with several Olympic-sized pools for play and serious lap swimmers, and courts for every enthusiast: basketball, racquetball, squash, handball, volleyball, and tennis. Hayley's eyes brightened a bit, but without her doubles partner her palm did not itch. "Bruce says you're a pretty decent tennis player."
"Some," Hayley acknowledged.
"We'll have to play." She pointed to a track.
"I also run," Haley said.
"Ooh, too much work," Christine giggled.
"Then how do you keep in shape."
"A do a little yoga, tennis when I can, and I love golf. Do you play? Believe it or not, the station has a complete eighteen-hole course." They were nearing the station's fields. Several soccer matches were in progress and a couple of teams were involved in rugby match. Softball and baseball fields surrounded a complex of small and one not so small stadium. "That's where the Parliamentary Rocketeers play," she pointed at the larger stadium. "The Rocketeers, the name for all the professional teams from the station; and, over there,"Hayley followed Christine's hand. A large traveling carnival, complete with tents, games, and rides, extended beyond the complex. "Want to go?"
"Sure," Christine said, a youthful gleam sparking her eyes.
"Our dress." Hayley pointed at the professional navy blue silk suit she had worn to meet DeBow and address the press.
come on. Get adventurous!
tug on the arm and they were off. A quick walk later, Hayley found herself
seated next to Christine as they tumbled blindly through an anti-grav fun house,
glad the space-sickness medicine was having a residual effect and well aware
of Christine's arm, which had slipped around her shoulders. Go with it, girl.
A small voice in her head spoke to her. Little ripples of laughter gurgled up
from within, and for the first time since forever, except when she was with
Carol, abandon claimed her spirit.
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