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 firstname.lastname@example.org and my name is Karen Hockemeyer)
Chapter 14: Tasks
"A Martian landscape?"
Hayley turned from the window viewer she was programming and found the open door of her office. A smile painted her features. "Morning."
"I see you're settling in."
Hayley gestured at the expanse of her office, the full-length sofa set with reading lamps, wall-to-ceiling simulated oak shelves, now holding antique first editions she had found while scavenging historic book stores with her grandmother on visits to Earth and the Moon, and several frames holding pix and vids of her grandmother, parents, Delores, Bruce, Carol and Tanner, and the large U-shaped plexi-topped desk with its full multimedia station that dominated the near wall. "There's so much room I don't know what to do with myself."
"What did you call your office back at Mars U.?"
"A droid closet."
"Yes, that's right. A droid closet," Christine closed the door, her gaze sweeping the desk and shelves. "Your grandmother?" She studied the silver-framed portrait of Hayley with her beloved mentor.
"Yes," Hayley replied.
"You know I met her. At your sister's wedding, except she wasn't in a wheelchair. "
"She had a series of strokes year before last. The doctors tried to repair the tissue, but nothing took."
"Is that what killed her?"
"No˜her heart stopped."
"Amazing. With all the medical advances at our disposal."
"I guess it was her time," replied Hayley, loss and sadness evident in her voice.
Christine cleared his throat. "I'm sorry. I didn't come in here to cause you any pain."
"Impossible," Hayley didn't want Christine to feel bad. "I miss her, but I believe she is with me, like a guardian angel."
"I didn't know you were religious."
"More philosophical˜I just wish I knew if she would approve of what I'm doing now. Our dream was that I'd follow her steps and eventually become the chief archivist at the university."
"I suppose she was proud of your mother and sister."
"So you have your answer. Besides, she was only the archivist for Mars; you could go on and become the archivist for the entire confederation. That is something you could create. But the purpose of my visit˜Last night was fun."
Hayley agreed. "I don't know the last time I rode on a carnival ride."
"Me neither˜there was something I meant to do."
"Go out for ice cream?" Hayley laughed nervously as Christine took her hand.
"I really let Jeremiah have it. To interrupt us the way he did," she alluded to the call that had interrupted their evening and sent her back to the office. "I swear he can be so helpless at times."
"I doubt that. He is the governor general."
"With more demands then all the presidents, kings, and dictators in history. Listen, my plans last night included walking you home."
Hayley felt her mouth go dry as Christine reeled her close. "Chief˜"
"Hayley, surely you feel it," Christine whispered into her ear.
"You're my boss."
"I'm a woman. You˜," the voice stopped as a pair of full, demonstrative lips brushed lightly, "are so enchanting˜," first once, then a second time. "You're beautiful." Christine smiled and with a quick brush of her lips across Hayley's hand, she turned and sat down on the couch. "So now that I've wished you a proper `Mornin'' or maybe just an extension of last night. Of what should have been." The smile broadened. "Well?"
"Is this how you greet your staff every morning?" Hayley said when she finally found enough air to say something coherent.
"No. Only the one I haven't been able to stop thinking about since a certain walk before a certain fountain in a certain Martian park. You were a vision."
Hayley knew she was blushing.
"You still are."
Now she was certain her cheeks were totally inflamed. "Thank you."
Christine leaned forward, her elbows resting on her knees. "You know, Doctor, flattery becomes you." She pointed to the unoccupied leather chair angled at the sofa's arm rest. "Before you hyperventilate."
"Sorry," Hayley muttered, wanting to hide the nervous embarrassment.
"I gather you haven't been told that often."
"No, not really˜at least not˜"
"By a woman?"
"Not by anyone who wasn't family, my best friend, or some guy simply interested in leering and getting a rise."
"Well, shame on them. However˜now˜besides wanting to see how you're doing and end last night as if should have ended, I guess I should get down to business. In about fifteen minutes I need to have you in my office. I want you to meet Ivan Eisenstatt. I have a small project I want you to do."
"What kind of project?"
Christine glanced down at her wristcom. Made of gold and platinum, Hayley could see it vibrating silently on her arm. "Have one last visit," she quirked a smile as she stood.
"So the project." Hayley rose as well.
Christine took Hayley's hand. Squeezing it, she pressed her lips against Hayley's satiny cheek. "If you want to know, don't be late." Giving Hayley's hand one last squeeze, Christine let herself out, closing the door softly behind her as she left.
"Oh, my goodness." Hayley collapsed back into the chair. The butterflies, twitters, and abject swirl of emotions smashed down the shaky façade of confident competence, confidence she had so wanted to display. Closing her eyes for a moment she leaned back and looked up, fully cognizant, of what she felt. "Wow!"
Elise Newcastle, Christine's administrative assistant, wore a light peach skirt and jacket with metallic silver stripes that highlighted narrow shoulders and waist, as well as, the fleshy bosoms threatening to bust the buttons of her ivory cream blouse. A peachy fragrance scented the room with its distinct sweetness.
"Just wanted to be on time," Hayley quirked a smile.
"Take a seat," was the reply, the tone more hostile than inviting.
Hayley glanced back at the couch and chairs opposite Elise's desk and obediently complied and walked to the setting. She sat as instructed. Just then, the door to Christine's office slid open. "Hayley, you're here." Christine said cheerfully. Hayley rose. "Come on in. I'd like you to meet Ivan. Elise, hold all my calls."
Hayley followed Christine into her office.
"I was hoping you'd be a little early. Ivan was early. Ivan," Christine nodded at a slightly rotund, but elfish built man, already seated on the couch. He remained seated as Christine made the introduction. "This is Dr. Genetti."
"Hayley," Hayley extended her hand.
Ivan set down a heavy tumbler filled with orange juice. "If you are half the genius I've heard about as you are beautiful and tall."
"You're very kind." Hayley gave Christine a quick look and grin as she smoothed the skirt of her dress and sat in the proffered chair. "If there's any genius here, it has to be you. Didn't you direct the Jovian Centennial Jubilee last year?"
"Yes," he pushed up a pair of wire rimmed glasses. Part of the Bohemian image so many in the artistic community tried to project. The dark mustache, ragged beard, and the slim twisted queue hanging past his shoulder, punctuated by diamond and jade-like chipped studs decorating the outer rim of his ears perfected the image.
"Ivan's one of the best special/documentarian producer-directors I know. Hayley can I get you some juice." Christine headed toward her bar.
"No thank you," she replied as she took a breath and slid back into her chair. She crossed her legs at the ankle and let her arms rest comfortably on the armrest. "So I guess this little project involves the creation of a vid."
"Actually several," Christine smiled, a mischievous twinkle softening her face as she poured herself some juice. "Next year will be the bicentennial of the U.G.C. DeBow is interested in producing a series of specials to precede and then follow through for the year."
"What kind of specials?" asked Ivan.
Christine joined Ivan on the couch. "Documentaries, maybe some docudramas. Right up your alley, Ivan. I want you to produce and direct, Hayley to write."
"You've written scripts?" Ivan queried Hayley.
"Several," she replied.
Christine leaned forward and placed her juice on the coffee table. "We would like something about the founding and purpose of the government here on Parliamentary."
"You mean the founding of the U.G.C. or Parliamentary?" asked Hayley.
"I'm not quite sure," Christine focused on Hayley. "Maybe both. Neither Jeremiah nor I have been able to nail down the exact topic. We're not sure about the breadth or style."
"Well," Hayley uncrossed her legs and settled herself so she too was leaning forward; her elbows propped on her knees for support. "That would depend on the time allotment and the form the documentary, or docudrama, might take."
"I liked what I saw you doing when I came to your class that day."
"A simulation," that had caught Ivan's attention and now he leaned forward.
"How about a combination?" Hayley said as forty thousand thoughts and ideas converged into one large bottleneck, each wanting attention and light.
"Combination?" Christine and Ivan asked at the same time.
"It would require some time. At least two hours. Perhaps merged with some kind of ROM and a virtual reality chamber. Yes. There are many possibilities." She spoke quickly, each point pricking and pushing. "Yes, yes."
"Yes what, Hayley?" Christine chuckled.
"Oh, sorry. What about this? A combination."
"Yes, a combination," Christine repeated teasing.
"Just like my classroom, but with a CGI interface. We find a group of students, or actors, to enact or simulate the main issues involved in founding the U.G.C. Then as they discuss, the teacher, or facilitator stops the actors and then the actual participants appear. Of course they're CGI and explain their thoughts and the context of the discussion."
"Sounds intriguing," Ivan was nodding.
"We do have a time factor. How long would it take for you to write a treatment?"
"I don't know," Hayley slid back into her chair's leather embrace.
"Could you have it done by the end of the day?"
"Hayley, I have a feeling you could enact the entire debate here as we sit."
"Well," she wanted to brush aside Christine's assertion.
"I know you have perfect memory."
"Really?" Ivan asked, his head swinging between the chief and Hayley.
"Okay," Hayley conceded.
"You're not writing a tome or dissertation. This needs to reach the masses, so nothing technical."
"Remember visuals are what counts," reminded Eisenstatt.
"You'll have about two hours."
"With ads, two fifty?"
"An hour forty," Christine recalculated. "More and we lose our audience. So, Hayley," she returned the conversation to Hayley, who with a slightly slacked jaw, had been listening. "You'll only have an hour forty."
"About a hundred pages or so for the entire script," interjected Ivan. "I worry about the dramatic factor. Instead of having the historical figures simply express themselves˜boring˜you need more story."
"How about one of the students, or perhaps the teacher, who has been teaching the subject for a number of years involved in a crisis of faith, after being caught up by a spellbinder, let's say like, Light Horse, and the lesson provided by the students and a new lover inspires him or her to find faith once again," offered Christine. "Hayley?"
"I think I can do that," she said as after a moment of thought. "I'm not any kind of novelist," she spoke slowly tamping down on the jittery sensation lancing through her inner core. She focused, trying to think of the numerous movies and plays she had attended over the span of her life. "Yes, maybe ∑ I think I see a story, but I might need help with some of the plotting and dialogue."
"I can help there," said Ivan. "I like the idea," he spoke to Christine. A drama with romance."
"But I also like the ROM idea, too," Christine said to Hayley. "That would be more beneficial for students and those who enjoy the history vid networks. A companion piece, supplementary. Some lesson plans and such to go along in accompaniment. I'd like to see a treatment for both by the end of the week."
"That's a detailed synopsis of the master scenes," Ivan explained what he would want to see.
"I can do that," Hayley said letting out a breath.
"You would probably want to start with the ROM first," suggested Christine. "From there rework it with the story elements we've discussed. Do you think you can do that, Hayley?"
"Yes." She nodded, he focus on first the coffee table, then on Christine, who offered her a face filled with support. Then at Ivan, whose mask was one of hesitant tentativeness.
"By the end of the week?" Christine smiled.
Hayley blinked and nodded affirmatively, feeling sure, "I could have the ROM done by the end of the day."
"Really?" Ivan's tone interlaced with disbelief.
"I actually have a work-up for a similar project in my files. Based on my simulations," she spoke first to Ivan, then Christine, whose expression held no suprise. It was as if she already knew the answer. "It's something I've thought of doing. The rest, the longer more theatric,' she suddenly became excited. "As for the other," she felt a smile crease her face. "I have some ideas. Yes! I definitely have a couple of ideas. How about something musical?"
"Don't get carried away, Hayley, we don't have that kind of budget," Christine cautioned with a chortle.
"Yeah, and I'm lousy about music. Love it, but have no skills," she laughed. "But yeah, I'm pretty sure I can get the treatments done, maybe even start the scripts."
"Let me see the treatment first," said Ivan skeptically.
"Yes," agree Christine. "Hayley, let me know when you're done and we'll schedule another meeting."
"I'll email copies," Hayley assented.
"I'm going to be on Europa the rest of the month, and part of next," said Ivan. "I have a production in progress."
"We can vid conference," Christine said amenably. Christine finished the last of her juice and set her glass on the table.
"Excellent," he said. He stood. "Now if you don't mind, I have a Jovian transport to catch. It leaves in less than an hour and I still need to go through the security checks."
"By all means," Christine stood with him and offered him her hand. Hayley stood too. "It was so good of you to come."
"Well, anything for the Confederation," he gave her a smile. More seriously, he added, "And Dr. Genetti, it was a pleasure." He handed her a small indent, which she immediately connected to her wristcom. A push of a button downloaded his contact information. She removed it and handed it back.
"As for me," she agreed. "I've been a fan of your work."
"Well, yes," he replied. He stepped by the coffee table. He checked his wristcom. "Christine," he took her hand.
"We'll speak soon," she said exchanging buses on the cheek.
He glanced back at Hayley; nodded and stepped through the hushed swish of the door. For a moment, Hayley stood silently with Christine in her office. Finally, Hayley released a silent breath, "Wow!"
"I didn't think you were the star struck type." Christine chuckled.
"No, it's not that." Hayley turned and looked up into Christine's glittering eyes and gently teasing expression. "I just don't hope I let you down."
"Down? Hayley, you were like a pro just now. I saw no signs of nervousness."
Hayley knew she had just lied, but she didn't mind. "I've put together some short fictions, but never anything like this."
"I have confidence you can do it," Christine stepped close, letting her hands come to rest on Hayley's waist.
For a long moment, neither spoke though Hayley felt her breathing come more difficult. "I'll do my best."
"I know you will," she said.
Slowly, just like at the fountain, Christine dipped her head and pressed her lips against Hayley's. Time stood stereotypically still. Christine was smiling when their lips separated. "You taste good, Doctor."
Hayley bit her lip, unsure of how she should answer.
Hayley didn't have to. "I have several meeting in Armstrong, then Earthside. I leave tomorrow morning and I'll be gone until the end of the week."
"Okay," Hayley suddenly felt disappointment.
Christine picked up her glass a returned it to the recycler behind her bar. "You can send email your work," her tone was light, but business. "I'd like to see you when I return. Go over the treatments with you. Perhaps set up the conference vid with Ivan so you can start on the scripts."
"I'll be ready."
"Afterwards," Christine returned to stand before her, "and more on a personal note, I want to see you."
"Hayley, I know you feel it too," once again her hands found Hayley's waist.
"Ah huh," she replied.
"Our chemistry," Christine pressed on.
Once again Christine pressed her lips lightly against Hayley's. "I have several meetings left today, but I'd like to see you tonight. Perhaps dinner?"
"I'd like that," Hayley swallowed.
"I know of a great place that serves Chinese. Then we can go back to the carnival, or catch a play or movie. Just spend a little time together before I have to leave."
"Yes," Hayley's voice was about to betray her.
"Good," Christine smiled again. "VAS ˆ need Elise," she spoke to the air.
"Chief," Elise answered punctually.
"I need a reservation for two at Tsing Mau's?"
"Thank you. VAS, out. Well," Christine sighed happily. "I am so excited about this project."
"Me, too," said Hayley, feeling a giddiness that came with a looming challenge and her desire to please the woman whose mere look kept catching her breath.
"Well, we've all got jobs to do." Christine escorted her through the yawning doors that took them back into the reception area. "I'll pick you up at your apartment. Nineteen fifty hours?"
"Sure," she nodded as Christine kissed her forehead.
Hayley jumped as Elise's voice shattered the moment.
"Mr. McClurg," Christine gave Hayley's arm a gentle touch. "`Til later."
"I'll have the first treatment on your server by then." Hayley started down the hall away from Christine's secure enclave.
"I wasn't expecting you Warren." All warmth left Christine's voice.
Hayley looked back over her shoulder, hoping to catch the gaze one last time. Instead, she found a smile, but it had none of the affection or good-natured humor she had seen.
"Not like I haven't been trying to gain an audience."
"We've been busy." Christine crossed her arms at her chest. "And I've told you. We can't help. Only the legislature...."
Rounding the corner of the hallway, the voices ebbed. Her newly assigned project skittered across her thoughts, but the burning touch of the lips that had so recently sought out hers and those hands that had held her waist, they battled.
"Hanna, dammit, I need that connection!"
"Not with that tone˜or swearing."
Light Horse ran her hand through the tangles of her mop. "I'm sorry," she mumbled, properly humbled. "You know I love you."
"Okay," the large Polynesian woman chuckled. "Please stop pouting before I have to draw you over my knee and paddle you like the disruptive child you can be."
"I know. It would've been so much quieter back at home."
The VAS on Hanna's desk beeped. "Well, well, well. Patience wins again and your subspace connection is open."
"Thank you." Light Horse kissed the top of Hanna's head and disappeared into her office.
"Your welcome," replied the administrative assistant with an amused smile as she watched the door to her boss's office glide shut.
"Mrelx˜Ta Li," Light Horse's face pulled grim. "I've heard. Why didn't you contact me? I could've done something. I have some clout now," she continued in flawless Yretan.
"Daughter," the bearish jaw opposite her pulled back in the Yretan equivalent of a solemn smile as dark Neanderthal-cut eyes sparkled with tempered delight. "It is so good to see you. It's been so long."
"Ta li?" Light Horse broke down.
"Child˜beloved child. There was nothing you could've done. Nothing."
"You say that as an absolute. But you're wrong!"
"No, child. A realist. Besides, everything happened so quickly. The arrest˜execution."
"What of the trial?"
"There was none."
"None?" she snarled, her tone incredulous.
"Emergency powers. The Council approved them a month ago."
"How can you be so calm? They were your children?"
"They were my family."
"I know, so now is your turn. Grieve child. Go ahead and grieve."
Light Horse broke down, deep, though barely audible sobs wracking her. "I wish I was home," she mumbled. "Ta li, I want to be with you."
"I know, child. I know. Feel my spirit. It embraces you."
Light Horse closed her eyes, tear-filled eyes flowing freely. Her lips trembled. Bringing her knees to her chest, she wrapped her arms around them. She felt a warmth. Whether it was some form of psychosomatic illusion, she felt the emotion, her ta li's love just the same. "I loved them. I would've protected them."
"You would have tried."
"I hate crying."
"It's okay to grieve."
"How are you?" She looked up and pushed back the emotional avalanche that had overtaken her."
"I have grieved, will continue in my own way."
" In the study writing. Always writing, meditating."
"I want to be there for you."
"You are. In spirit. I can feel it." Ta li put a hand to its chest.
"What of Orn'a?"
"Lives with us, spending time with Char'taa. Still young and will survive."
"That is difficult. Sometimes I can still see my own parents."
"But you are better than when you first came to the clan."
"Better," Light Horse acknowledged with a tip of her head.
"As will Orn'a. As will this clan. We will survive, just as you my child."
"Yes, Ta li," the human acknowledged. But how many more will I lose? She thought.
"Now tell me about the petition?"
"I plan to bring it up at the start of the session, but I don't expect much support. The nets here only tell the story the congloms want heard. I will probably end up buried, shot down, dead," sadness, anger, and frustration coloring her tone.
"I can't!" Light Horse slammed her hand against the top of her desk. Bowing her head, she ran edgy fingers through her mane. "If I can't get it passed, I fear what will happen to Yreta. Tagk't and his damn cell!"
"Tagk't told you it was not them."
"Do you believe?" Light Horse looked up, her hair in complete disarray as she looked up at the monitor.
Light Horse pushed back and absently stared ahead. "I question my government˜yours˜my peers˜humanity."
"I haven't heard this in a long time."
"Whoever committed that assassination completely stalled the momentum we had started here against the U.G.C.'s Yretan policies˜against the congloms. Now the riots."
"Peaceful assemblies of protest, just like your Gandhi and King. It is how we must respond to the executions. We cannot forget."
"I know. Still, we've lost support. Public policy, the Nets, the constant images; everything is slanted˜twisted. Sometimes I just want to give up. Join Tagk't."
"I know you don't believe that."
Light Horse looked back into the face she had so needed to see. "No, I don't˜and, no I don't think Tagk't or any of the cells did it. I know it was Tern, Tern with the support of DeBow."
"But no proof."
"No. Not here and I guess not there."
"So I guess it's time that I stop wallowing in self-pity, pick my butt up from my chair, and return to the task at hand."
"That's what I want to hear from my human daughter?"
"I've been way too bitchy lately."
"It is okay to grieve."
"I need to act!"
"Well, you've never been one to simply sit back."
"No, but I am tired. Today, I'm tired."
"Then go to bed and sleep, or do I need to send you a ticket to come home? I'll have the family help me tie you to a bed if I have to."
A chirp emanated from the VAS console on the desk.
"Excuse me... Hanna?"
"Now?" Light Horse gave her annoyance rein.
"Sorry, Doctor," a deep Scottish brogue seeped through the comm-line.
"Daughter, you have a guest."
"Just a minute," Light Horse spoke to Mrelx and her comm-line. She switched off the later. "I don't think I can handle any guests."
"Yes, still," she knew what was expected, not from her ta li, but from herself. She had wallowed enough. She took a tissue and blew her nose. "Later, in private."
"Or with a friend."
"I don't have friends. Only colleagues."
"That nice Hanna."
"Okay, Hanna. But she's more like you, a second mother."
"Maybe that's what you need to do."
"A friend. A partner to help share your grief."
"No one would ever put up with me˜my moodiness."
"You'll never know if you don't look. Now, you have a guest."
"I have a guest."
"I love you, my child."
"So much," Light Horse blinked, catching an unshed tear before it could slide down her nose. "Ta Li."
"Go with the blessing of Jon'ai."
"And you˜all of you," she sniffed. She stared, watching as Mrelx reached up and disconnected their link.
"Good-bye," Light Horse mumbled, staring at the vid.
She stared a few more moments, then taking the sides of her hands she wiped her face and eyes. She combed back her ebony mop with her fingers and stood, slipping into an adjoining suite to quickly rinse her face. Feeling fresher, she gathered up the soft spots she could not let too many others see, and locked them in the deepest recesses of her being.
"Come," she swallowed down the last of her emotions. She moved to greet Warren McClurg as he entered hesitantly through her door.
"Dr. Light Horse?"
"Yes," she greeted with a bravado that was her trademark.
"I was hoping we might speak."
"About what?" she gestured to a chair positioned in front of her desk. "Would you like something to drink?"
"Some water if you have it?"
"Of course," Light Horse chuckled gently. "I've heard the situation has begun to escalate on Ceta Bine Two."
"You are aware of the recent contracts signed by DeBow and˜"
"The Arythium Consortium?"
"Besides the Borax and Carbonate Combines last year. The government is selling off our birthright without due process or even considering what we, the inhabitants, want to see happen to our home."
Light Horse handed him a glass and took the chair next to him instead of at her desk. "I know, without Parliament oversight."
"We need your help. DeBow and Stone won't even give us an audience. Neither will most of your colleagues. They say they won't break the contracts, although the citizens of my world don't want to see the wealth and beauty of our home destroyed in the name of conglom profits. I know the Greens will support us, but we want someone more controversial." Light Horse's left brow tilted towards her hairline. "We plan to petition for independence."
"Like Titan, Io, Europa, Mars, and the Lunar Colonies˜like Parliamentary itself˜yes. My people want independence. Will you support us? Present our petition at the start of the next session?"
"Someone more controversial you say?"
"No," Light Horse laid a hand on McClurg's arm. "No. Controversial is good. That I am. Tell you what," she heard her stomach growl. "I missed lunch today and am hungry, and to be honest I don't know as much about Ceta Bine Two as I would like. Join me for dinner."
"Always makes for a more enjoyable conversation."
"Good." Light Horse clapped her hand and stood. "What are you in the mood for?"
"A new administration." McClurg followed.
The door opened into Light Horse's waiting room. "Unfortunately, that election is too many years away. Hanna?" The administrative assistant looked up from her work. "It's late. Whatever that is can wait. Go home. Be with your family. Take them out; do something."
"Feeling better I see."
"Yes, now scoot! Mr. McClurg and I are off for a dinner meeting. I'll see you tomorrow before I head Earthside."
"Will do, boss. Have fun."
"Patience," she winked. "I will. Tomorrow we have a war and battle strategies to plan. I want to contact the Greens."
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