Destiny's Choice is an original work of fiction, a science fiction thriller of novel length with uber 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.
Destiny's Choice

Chapter 2: Histories

"Stay here."

She sat on the bench outside the library. "Why? I want to go with you." She looked past the sparse, artificially lit park of Armstrong Lunar Technological University to the crowded road that led to the central government complex. "I want to hear you speak."

"Just do what e-tsi says." A paternal hand roughed her hair.

E-tsi kissed her head and handed her a reader. "Read Kali. This is for adults."

"I am an adult. More adult than child. That's what you say, e-do-da." Determined eyes gazed at one another.

"You are twelve. Do as e-tsi says and when this ends maybe we'll go over to the powwow."

"Strawberry fry bread!" She flicked on the reader and felt a grin pull at her lips. "But what of our ceremonial regalia?"

"There'll be time." E-tsi smiled as she was pulled into her strong embrace. Her fragrance was like the lilies in the gardens surrounding their home. "We'll stop by the apartment."

"So I read."

Her father touched her chin, his smile proud. "Prepare, my prodigy. It will be your turn to speak of the new mythology. You still have much work to do. That is what it means to be an adult. To be responsible."

"Which is why you will speak at the protest?"

"So this oligarchy will end, and it should be as our Constitution says." His earthy brown eyes nodded.

"I still want to go. I could speak," she said with a boastful tone. "Maybe they will listen to a child."

"Yes, but it will not be as it is here at the university. It won't be safe."

"Then I should go. I could help. No one would harm a child."

"That is why you will sit here and prepare. Your time will come."

"For now be safe." Again her mother kissed her head and her father did the same.

"We love you," they said and turned. They joined the crowds and with a wave, which she eagerly returned, disappeared into the multitude as it wound around the bend.

Kali sat and instead of turning on the reader with her notes and the stories she had composed about what Earthers called the lunar lifestyle, her eyes kept to the swarm. Hundreds, no thousands, had jammed and edged themselves along the broad, yet narrow thoroughfare.

The citizens of the moon, they were coming from every city, town, and mining hamlet. Workers, laborers, minor elected officials, scientists, engineers, robotic specialists, and university intellectuals, like her parents, each was going to protest against the oligarchy of the intergalactics and the stranglehold they had on lunar life.

Lunar life, Kali felt the weight of the reader in her hands and flicked it on. Immediately the program came to life on her screen and she forced her eyes to scan the menu and look for the text she would deliver at the next meeting of the Lunar Anthropology Society, she its youngest member. She pulled back the dark bangs that had fallen over her eyes and undertook the responsibility she had been given when the society president, her own father, her beloved e-do-da, had asked her to speak.

Yet, and she looked back up at the road, which had quieted as humanity slowed to a mere trickle. A tram rumbled, pausing to pick up passengers at the stop in front of the park. Lazy, she thought to herself. Or perhaps, she chastised herself, they couldn't. Not all were as fit, or could participate in the walk that had begun in the Central Housing District. That is where she and here parents had joined the flow. That, they had allowed her to do. But something, an unmistakable sense of tense restlessness, she had felt it in their silence over the last couple of days and in the way they had held her hand. It wasn't just their speeches, which she had heard them practice. It was the threats on the nets. Threats and counter threats, the oligarchs had warned the rabble. There would be consequences.

Genius aside, Kali understood the facts, the bits and pieces she had picked up from the mainstream nets and the freer, more radical, as the politicos called them, independents. That she understood, yet she knew she was still a child. A child, more adult, she remembered the many comments she had heard from the adults with whom she had mingled as a result of being a constant at her parents' side. A child, more adult˜the affirmative she turned off the reader. I need to go. She had to.

With that she stood and walked to the road and followed the path she had seen her parents take. They would be angry for sure. She rarely defied them, but for some reason, this time, she felt a pull. Like the river salmon of the People's myths, of those whose ancient blood, now diluted by many others with equally compelling myths and philosophies, ran through her own veins, she had to go.

The walk was long and when a tram approached, she joined the other lazies, now she modified to those running late, she pulled out the pass she always kept in her pocket. The tram moved quickly until it came to a barricade. A set of security officers raised their hands and motioned to the driver who stuck her head out the window. Kali heard something about a demonstration and that no vehicles could enter.

"All right folks," the driver turned to her load. "I can't go any further. If you have business in the Central Business District, you should get off here. I'll be returning to University Central Housing, Districts Red and Green, the Beta Tube Station, and then the Spaceport." She opened the door and more than half the passengers disembarked.

"Whoa, little girl!" A security officer grabbed her arm.

Little? Immediately, she raised her eyebrows in indignation. She looked the pudgy, shorter guard in the eyes.

"Where do you think you're going?" he asked.

"The protest," she answered.

"A little radical?"

"I'm taller than you," she rebuffed.

"You're a child."

She pulled her arm free. "I am an adult!" She huffed. "I know my rights."

"A radical."

"A citizen," she corrected. With that, she joined the other passengers.

Large building facades flanked the thoroughfare as it opened into a large plaza jammed full with the largest collection of humanity she had ever seen on the moon. Soccer tournaments attracted huge crowds, but this, this was by far the largest. Of course, she hadn't counted the numbers she had seen on the trips she had taken to Earth with her parents. They didn't count. After all, Earth was humanity's home and its population had reached 21 billion at the turn of the last century. The moon had only three million. But here, now, with thoroughfares coming in like spokes from every district, how many thousands. How many? And her eyes went wide as she paused to take in the scene and figure out where she might best find her parents.

Large, towering screens rose up at the north and south ends. Images of a woman dressed in a flowing peach colored sari and four or five men dressed in the garb of workers and ordinary citizens like herself, in khakis and tees, appeared. They were speaking to one another. The actual location of the platform˜that was the mystery.

The steps of the Parliament building, she recognized the facade. She had visited many times since her birth˜schooled in the ideals and realities of Lunar and Confederation politics. "You learn to play the game," she still remembered her mother's response when she had led the family to a hearing on the opening of the latest radiation facility being built on the outskirts of the Novae Crater. "You play the game."

"But if common sense refuses to prevail. Novae will become like the facility at the GE-Enlight Facility," she had parroted a concern she had heard many of her parents' friends make.

"Never violence, Kali." Thoroeau, Gandhi, King, the New Nationalist Party.

"But? ˜" Kali wanted to point out the times history showed nonviolence had failed. Japan, Germany, India, South Africa, the United Lunar Colonies, the United States˜nearly every society on Earth.

"Never. Work within and without˜play the game and take advantage of every rule and option. Work to your strength and advantage. Use emotion and logic. It always works in the end. Violence breeds animosity and further violence. Remember Ireland, the Middle East, Africa, Guatemala."

And as she remembered the many lessons she had heard her parents communicate so often, she saw for the first time the ring of security personnel. There were hundreds, each dressed in bright blue uniforms and yellow helmets with GUARD written in black. She shivered when she saw their heavy armor and their weapons. Not just stun guns, but the latest in laser rifles and pistols.

A lump formed in her throat. She couldn't swallow. Frantically, she pressed through the masses. Why were there soldiers? This was a peaceful protest. Speeches and singing. Letters and petitions were going to be read and signed. Had e-do-da and e-tsi known of the soldiers? How? The nets had said nothing? At least nothing, she could recall.

She heard similar comments now that she pushed forward.

"Child, go home," several said as they tried to stop her.

Go home? Why were these people here then? E-tsi, mama, had said, "No violence." E-do-da, papa, had said, "No violence." The smell of impending violence draped the plaza, yet the masses, the speakers˜now she saw them on the large screen. Her parents. They had taken seats directly behind the woman with the sari and the three men.

"The United Lunar Colonies can no longer allow the congloms to operate as if we were just one large company town. We are people. We cannot work for wages that keep dropping so that the housing they furnish and the foodstuffs and the goods they sell, make us like servants. We are not indentured servants. We are human beings with the right to live decent lives. I call for a general strike to begin tomorrow."

She recognized the high pitched tenor of a man with a distinctive Midwestern accent. She looked up at the nearest screen and recognized him as a colleague of her mother from the university. The woman behind him, the woman in the sari, was kneeling, speaking with her parents.

Those around her applauded. She did, too. "Yes strike!" Many around her shouted.

A strike. She had read about strikes˜the Pullman, Homestead, 1980 air traffic controllers, Boston and New York police, those that had occurred in the Weimar Republic of pre-Nazis Germany, by Gandhi, those in South Africa, Tiananmen Square, by educators, students, assembly line workers, Farm Workers, the ones that had preceded the Revolt for Lunar Independence, so many causes, consequences, some successful, some failures, some peaceful, but too many had turned to violence. No violence. Never violence. If not the protesters, then˜and again she caught site of the guards.

"STRIKE!" The crowd roared back more loudly like spectators at the lunar and galactic cup.

All at once, the guards raised their weapons and from their positions on the outer perimeter, they pushed into the crowds. A terrible rumbling came from the far end of the plaza.. The ground shook. Was it a quake?

Kali looked back up at the screen.

"Tanks!" A cry rose up from the farthest perimeters and a wave engulfed the plaza.

Tanks? Tanks? Kali's head whipped around.

Balls of brilliant light thundered off the government buildings surrounding the plaza and the shielding dome above. Screams of agony and anguish, many broke in panic. Many pulled weapons hidden in the clothing.

"We call a strike!" A bolt of light pierced the one speaking.

"E-tsi! E-do-da!" She screamed as she saw her parents pull the still body in front of them back from the dais where he had been standing. Her father rose and shouted into the microphone, "This is a peaceful assembly. The congloms are as much controlling your thoughts and actions as they try to control ours. Put down your weapons and join us. This is a strike for the rights of all free˜""

Just then, several bolts and the thrum from a cannon shattered the entire stage..

"E-tsi! E-do-da!" In a panic, flaying with her arms and swearing as she had heard the miners her parents had studied swear, Kali screamed. Tears raced down her face. "E-tsi! E-do-da!"


"To hell with your New Jerusalem! Your stupid hill city! This is life! Not some holy crusade!"

"Then why did you come?"

"I didn't. I'm Martian born˜bred."

"A snob."

"You can call me that," replied Adita Patel as she circled the tables, staring coldly at the classmates assigned to undertake the identities of The Famous Thirty, the name given to those men and women who had battled over Mars' decision to declare independence from Earth. "My great-great-great grandfather˜"

"To hell with your great-great-great grandfather˜or anyone else in your family, Karolek! That's all we ever hear about from you. `In memory of my great great great grandfather, Colonel Armstrong Karolek, who arrived with the first settlers and who terraformed--!'" Sadmir Bartok glanced at Adita, a blush painting his solid Serbo-Croatian features. "Bah!"

"And well you should! Without him, or his colleagues˜or others of his vein you wouldn't be sitting here right now flapping your mouth like some Johnny Dickinson˜"


"I'd think an ancestor of yours?" Adita cocked her head and shot him a crooked smile. "Like you he argued during the vote for American independence against independence! He sought reconciliation."

"Who cares about the United States! It's passé! We're talking Mars!"

"That's right!"

"Except that the ideals and the shortcomings of what we fight for and against start there and with the Western ideologies of the eighteenth century."

Hayley sat back, crouching, evaluating, and enjoying the play and interaction as the class became their assigned roles. Of course, she had chosen Adita Patel, the most outspoken in this course on the Founding of the Republic of Mars, to play Marla Karolek, the John Adams of Martian Independence and her great-great grandmother. So far, she had been pleased by the selection. Not that the two women looked anything alike. Bronze and admiringly dark, Adita was slim and short, much more so than the Amazonian built Marla Karolek. Still the stubborn bull-headedness and passionate devotion to the fundamental ideals of the U.G.C. and its less powerful predecessor, the United Nations, would have made the two friends, or so she thought. Even now, almost 120 years later, Hayley wondered about that spark and the familial connections that still so politicized her family.

She hid her grin as Adita parried with Sadmir, who had the role of Jerome Glucksenheim, the John Dickerson of his day. He had insisted that Martians could never handle any kind of independence. "We need the United Galactic Confederation for guidance, for money," he argued from the risers where the classroom's built-in VAS workstations rimmed the classroom. He brushed back his curly jet-black hair. Like Adita and several others in the room, he wore the bright orange jumpsuit of Defense Force Cadets.

"Shortcomings! Blazes, Adita!" Peter Jones, a former Bahamian, slammed his dark brown hands on his desk. "There you go again! Disparaging the government you have sworn to defend and protect."

"I am not!"

"Karolek never brought up this goddammit line about the correctness of U. G. C. culture!"

"She did, too! I found this letter in the archives˜"

"Patel, face it. Your argument is dead and buried. No one wants to hear˜"

"For heaven's sake, Adita!" Tom Watson exploded. A toe-head with a strict military buzz, his dark khaki slacks and black shirt made him seem almost albino. His gray eyes burned red as he confronted his similarly clad colleague. "How can you question DeBow or the U.G.C.? You sound like a damn Earth-Firster. Doesn't the oath you took for the corps mean anything?"

Flush highlighted Adita's South Asian complexion crimson. She walked towards Tom, "My oath doesn't mean I have to act like a blind jarhead! I have the same right as any other citizen to question the political tenets and actions of my government."

"You owe the U.G.C. your loyalty!" demanded Sadmir. Several centimeters shorter than Tom, his wide shoulders squared to fight, his hands contracted into hammers ready to ram his opinion down the throat of anyone who would defy him.

"Now, you're questioning my loyalty!" Accustomed to the intensity of these debates, and personal opinions they often touched upon, the class flinched.

"If the shoe fits˜!" Tom pointed accusingly.

"Whoa!" Hayley moistened her lightly painted lips and gestured for calm. "Loyalty is not the issue."

"But?" Peter and Sadmir wheeled in unison.

"But nothing!" A stronger, more authoritarian voice projected itself from the doorway at the top of the arena. Instantly, a dozen or so orange clad bodies straightened to attention. "Your instructor asked you to cease this line. The argument is old, tedious, and at this moment mute."

"Yes, sir!" The cadets replied in unison.

The civilian students, the remaining members of the class, snickered.

"I guess that," Hayley smiled at the first lieutenant in the doorway, "means the end of class." The various individuals reached for their attaches. Please review today's session and the diaries and notes of your respective ministers. Many of you were too silent. As I said on the outset, everyone is required to participate."

"Maybe if fewer cadets were in this class," grumbled one of the civilians.

"Dr. Genetti's the best historian on this campus," trumpeted Tom, who was tilting his brows flirtatiously in her direction. "Who wouldn't want to be in her classes? This is my third."

"I'm afraid my grandmother has me beat."

"Didn't she die last term?" asked Sadmir before he could censor himself.

"Sadmir!" Adita hissed.

Hayley swallowed. "Yes," she choked on her reply, but smiled, hoping to camouflage the pain she had lived with since that horrible day.

"I'm sure Sadmir˜," Adita immediately apologized.

"I've just got this damned'ed mouth."

"Yes you do," Lieutenant Carol Chang said evenly with each step she took coming down the steps, her eyes boring into the offending cadet.

"Sorry, ma'am," Sadmir stuttered.

"Perhaps your lieutenant," the civilian nodded to Chang who stopped to speak with Sadmir.

"Come on, Jack," Tom teased.

"Or," and here Jack tilted his rainbow, spiked hair back at the professor, his voice lower, "is it the fact she's got an entertaining ass?"

"To tell you the truth," Tom followed up the stairs, stopping on the third step to look back, "I'm more of a breast man."

"See you at the book talk, Saturday," said Adita as she headed for the exit."

"I do apologize," repeated Sadmir.

"It's okay," Hayley smiled after them as he left, her sparkling hazel eyes, sad and soulful.

"Yes," Tom grinned. "The lecture, Hayley." His smile dying quickly as his playful expression met Chang's disproving frown. "Sir!"

"Mister˜you're going to be skating on the polar caps very soon˜without a tank."

Tom cleared his throat and clapped Sadmir's shoulder when he reached him on the stairs. He looked back at Jack, "Want to join us?"

They and the rest of the class filtered out the door.

Quietly, trying to look unflustered, Hayley snatched her valises and an indigo blazer she had set on the podium at the back of the room's lecture pit.

"Sorry about that," Carol patted Hayley's back as she gathered her belongings. "Sometimes they don't think."

Nearly five centimeters shorter than herself, Hayley glanced down at her friend and leaned into the touch. "Don't worry about it," she lied. She knew Carol could see through her facade.

"You know, they really love you."

"You my friend are very persuasive."

Carol led Hayley up the stairs to the upper exit. "No. No one takes an advanced level course in Martian history without cause and since only Sadmir, Adita, and Achombe have any designs outside engineering and the hard sciences, the only explanation is you.

Hayley sighed and turned back to look at her friend as she turned off the lights and closed the door. She swiped the red-auburn strands of her hair back from her face, wondering for the umpteenth time whether she should mimic her friend and cut it off. Carol's hair, shiny and black beneath the corridor's florescent lights, was cut short. It hung at her earlobes.

"What are you doing here? I thought you had flight training at thirteen thirty."

"Canceled," Carol answered flatly. "Do you have time to get lunch?"

"Yes˜I'm glad Tanner set you free," said Hayley. "I really didn't want to spend another afternoon reviewing my notes."

They found the closest mover and settled into a cab.

"Is Watson giving you any problems? You know, he has a crush on you."

Hayley blushed and checked the buttons on her blouse, worried that one of them might have popped open.

"Hayley, the Temptress." Carol chuckled.

Hayley's cheeks heated to crimson. "I think not."

Carol laughed almost too loudly. "Since when?" She gave Hayley's lips a brush. "Face it, Hayl, you've got a mug to love."

"Yeah, yeah. I'm almost twenty-seven going on fourteen."

"Nah," Carol tilted her head as she gave Hayley is quick once over. "More like sixteen," she smirked. "Hayl, you're the most beautiful woman I know."

"You're biased, and taken."

"But at one time. Hey!" Carol turned Hayley so they were eye to eye. Roasted almond brown to soft emerald. "You know I love you?"

"Always," Hayley swallowed and pushed back at the emotion ready to engulf her.

"Always." Carol pulled her close again, this time embracing her as she had numerous times during their childhood.

"I love Tanner, too."

"I know you do, buddy. I know, and he loves you so much˜so do I. That has never changed. Never will˜and someday, you'll meet that special someone. And I'll be the one to offer the toast."

"I'll hold you to that." Hayley tried to smile.

"I'll always be here for you." Again, Carol leaned in and bussed Hayley's soft, trembling lips.

"You always have." Hayley caught a lone tear tracking down her right cheek.

"Better, buddy?"

Hayley smiled. Draping her arm over the shoulder of her best friend, she pulled Carol close. "You make me better."

The mover angled off the main track and slowed as it reached the Main Commons track. It stopped long enough for Hayley and Carol to exit. Walking hand-in-hand, they joined the flowing tide of hungry students, faculty, staff, and assorted visitors. Overlapping tiers filled with spacious study nooks, galleries, stores, offices, serpentine people movers and escalators, and glass encased elevator lobbies spread outward like a hundred spokes in a gigantic web.

Hayley stepped up to a vacant prep station. "Vegetarian Delight on whole nut grain bread˜lemonade, slightly tart˜full glass ice, crushed," she ordered and slid her credit identification through the payment slot and pressed her thumb against the scanner. She waited a few moments. The processing light changed from red to yellow and then green. When the door opened, Hayley reached in and removed a tray.

She joined Carol, who with her tray already in hand, led Hayley with programmed effortlessness away from the banks of food processors out to the main dining patio, which was littered with a noisy accumulation of Martian humanity. Weaving through the narrow corridors between the expanse of tables, chairs, briefcases, and outstretched legs, Carol intuitively, as if guided by the newly engineered navigational sensors she had helped with while working on her second doctorate, found the only empty table.

Sitting and setting her tray down on the transparent polymer tabletop, Hayley snickered and shook her head in disbelief. "You could find a red igneous scarab in the dunes of Utopia Planitia."

Carol sat. She drew her legs up under her medium frame and flashed that knowing, almost cocky, grin that at times could drive Hayley crazy. "You put yourself in the hands of a top-notch pilot and I'll get you anywhere." Carol removed the cap to her bottle of berry-flavored water and took several gulps. Then she took a ravenous bite from her sandwich and opened a package of potato crisps. "Your classes go well?" she inquired after swallowing.

Hayley nodded an affirmative as she opened a bottle of lemonade and poured the contents into the glass. "Yours?"

A graduate student in propulsion engineering and systems design, on her third doctorate, Carol also taught in the United Galactic Confederation's Defense Force flight officer's program. "Aah," her answer was noncommittal. "I was glad you were free for lunch. I needed to talk to you."

"Why?" Hayley took a bite of her sandwich. It crunched.

"Tanner and I won't be able to attend the book talk Saturday."

"No!" Hayley put down her sandwich and stared in horror. Her stomach almost leapt into her throat. "Carol, you know I need your support. You were the one who talked me into getting up there and making a complete fool of myself! You've got to be there! You just said˜"

"I'm sorry, Hayl, but we can't." Carol's lips curled apologetically. "Orders. We're leaving at 0530 tomorrow morning."


"Taking the entire cadet corps on maneuvers to the Alpha Centari system. We'll be gone all weekend." Carol laughed when Hayley shook her head. "Come on, Hayley. You don't need me. You'll be great. You lecture every day."

Hayley grumbled her stomach agitating. "It's not the same."


"I'm not up on a stage."

"No, you're down on a stage. And Saturday, you'll just have a larger audience, except for my students who can no longer come. So," she said cheerfully, "you should think of this as a blessing in disguise. No Tom."

Hayley snickered at the logic. "What about the reception? You know how I hate parties. I'm always so tongue-tied, claustrophobic. I really don't trust Delores, or my mother."

"They're just proud of you," consoled Carol. "Hayley, have courage. You'll be great. You always are."

Nodding, Hayley emitted a weak smile. She picked up her sandwich, but found the gymnastic exercises taking place in her stomach had dulled her appetite. So, putting it down, she emptied the contents of her glass and listened as Carol described her morning and the new hyperlight PSOL six engines, a new propulsion system she had been dissecting and troubleshooting as a part of her latest doctoral dissertation. "Right now there are so many bugs in the system˜it could take a decade to make it practical for current applications," she went on with enthusiasm. "Of course, the applications ∑" Carol's wristcom beeped. "Excuse me," she said, and then activated her wristcom.

It was Tanner. There was a crisis, one of the cadets. Carol said nothing else. She had to leave.

Seeing Carol go off to mother her cadets, Hayley, no longer hungry, returned to the confines of her cluttered office, or as she liked to joke, her converted house-droid storage cabinet. Old books, discs, scraps of information, and a hundred other little odds-and-ends lay scattered on top of her desk and shelves. She took a few minutes and tidied the mess, making the small space a little more functional. "VAS on," she sat in front of her workstation. The screen flickered on and she called up her notes for the book talk. Sensing their familiarity, she perceived a growing awareness that she had of late. She realized that if she looked at her notes one more time, her brain would overload and explode. She wanted to scream and throw up her hands in total frustration.

Her eyes drifted to a small photograph on the narrow shelf above her monitor. Taking it she fingered the smooth, cool detail of the silver framing her namesake, her maternal grandmother, Dr. Hayley Karolek. Attired in the long black robes and white and purple cowl of academia, the steely-eyed face stared back as if she knew Hayley were looking at her. Hayley swallowed. A small tear leaked from beneath her fair lashes. It had come so fast, Hayley shuddered. The thick silver hair had thinned and turned ice-gray hair. Her strong body had shriveled, relegating her to a self-propelling, and then a manually pushed air-glider. A year and a half that was all it took.

Grandma, Hayley mouthed and finally acknowledged the hand the older woman held with consanguineous pride. Adorned in the same accouterments of scholarly achievement, Hayley looked forward, mirroring the pride she felt in the grasp. It was the day the U.G.C. had announced the prizes for research and scholarly writing. The prize had been for the tome of Martian history she and the older Hayley had spent more than a decade researching and writing; it was also the day the university had bestowed on her the full rank of professorship. Heaving a lonesome sigh, her heart as heavy as the day of the woman's death, Hayley fought back against the depression she knew resided within her being. "Grandma˜my light. Help me." It was her prayer, the only one she ever uttered.

The university's voice modulator activated and filtered through the office's comm-system. "Dr. Genetti."


"Council-Representative Delores Genetti-Sharpleton is on-line."

Hayley grimaced. "Put her through."

A new window spread like a virus, blotting out the text on her screen. A darker, more regal version of herself , sans freckles, appeared.

Unlike Hayley, Delores had acquired the Mediterranean features of the Genetti bloodline. Her eyes were brown with darker flecks of chocolate sprinkled throughout. Meticulously painted and outlined with pencil and other highlights, Hayley thought her sister deliciously rich. Porcelain, cherry-red lips parted exposing perfectly sculptured teeth. Delores's charcoal-brown hair hung short, curling just slightly along her velvety cheeks in the contemporary fashion popularized by the women forming the Martian elite. She wore a tight, cerulescent kimono-styled dress.

"Fast at work, little sister?" Delores joked, letting just a hint of condescension slip.

More than nine years older, Delores shared almost none of Hayley's personality traits. Delores was a complete extrovert. She loved to mingle and dicker with bureaucrats, technocrats, physiocrats, and anyone else of influence in the Terran solar system. The tussle and gambits that could be won on the Parliamentary Space Station, which hung midway between Earth and the Lunar colonies, or in the Legislative Council of the Martian Colonies, where she currently served as a representative from District Three of Martian Central, brought her unending satisfaction. In short, Delores was a politician; and like her husband, the renowned Minister Bruce Sharpleton, and their mother, former Governor Pro Tempore Sophia Karolek -Genetti, a damn good one.

"Hello, Delores." Hayley thought her sister beautiful. She idolized her, but--.

"I tried to contact you earlier. Did you forget your wristcom?"

"No˜the imaging receptors haven't been working. I took it in for repairs. I forgot to get a loner. Sorry."

"No matter. I thought your last class ended at thirteen hundred hours?"

"It did. Carol came by. We had lunch."

"The irrepressible Lieutenant Chang˜and how is your favorite space jockey, cadet nursemaid?"

"She's leaving on a mission this evening."

"No security blanket," Delores tisk-tisked, seeming to take almost a perverse pleasure in Hayley's disappointment. "That's too bad." Hayley wondered whether the lamentation had any truth or whether Delores simply echoed the sentiment she thought she wanted to hear.

"I'm sure the Faculty Literary Board will make an AV-ROM so Carol can catch a replay. Have you been working on your presentation? ... You're so compulsive," Delores chided when Hayley nodded an affirmative. "Hayley, it was perfect last week."

"I was just double checking˜making sure the visuals were properly aligned and that I remembered my cues."

"Hayley, you need to get away from the office. That's why I called. Bruce has a meeting on Parliamentary and won't be home until late. I thought maybe you and I could go out for a bite and a bit of shopping. That's what you need˜a new dress or suit for the presentation."

"I've already decided what I'm going to wear." Hayley declined Delores's suggestion. She wanted to wear the simple dress Grandma Hayley had helped her pick out on their last excursion to the Lunar Markets several years earlier. Granted, it wasn't new or in fashion, but it fit and she liked it. Besides, Hayley rationalized, she needed to wear something to remind her that the spirit of her mentor was still close and watching over her. She recognized the fallacy of her metaphysical beliefs. Yet, like an athlete who went through a set of pre-ordained rituals prior to a big tournament, Hayley wanted to keep to her superstitions.

"The green dress is a good choice," Delores agreed. "Come over anyway. You need a diversion."

"In about an hour?" The thought of spending time with Delores somehow sounded nice.

"Then I'll see you˜and bring your credits˜just in case."

The screen went blank. The text of her talk returned. Hayley looked at it. Her stomach jumped. Oh no, she thought to herself, not again. Grimacing, she gave her abdomen a pat.

To be continued in Chapter 3

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