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.
Karen Hockemeyer

Destiny's Choice
Chapter 22: Rendezvous

Mark Twain had once said that the coldest winter he had experienced was a summer in San Francisco. With the ever-present fog and the winds whipping through the Golden Gate into the canyoned hills of the financial district and along the historic waterfront with its museums, shops, and restaurants the city always required at least two layers of warm clothing. Hayley thought of this as she and Carol spent their first afternoon in San Francisco on the fabled Golden Gateway linking San Francisco to Marin County.

Though it was the first of June and the meteorological updates showed most of the west coast, and North America for that matter, would bask beneath cloudless skies in temperatures ranging from the low eighties to the high nineties, San Francisco, as always, broke the mold. Wearing heavy sweaters, she and Carol shivered as they stood at mid-span and watched the numerous sailing vessels glide beneath them. Luckily, the morning fog that could cling to the low lying hills like dust balls to drapery skirts had dissipated. Looking out beyond the point toward the Pacific, a gray blanket lurked just beyond the horizon, waiting for the late afternoon breezes to push it back over the mainland.

The bay, however, basked beneath a clear sunny sky. Gale force winds racing through the gap between the Presidio and Fort Point to the south and Saucilito to the north tempered the sun's warmth. The bay itself was a magnificent picture book blue. Every island, hill, bridge, and impressive architectural feat crowning the lumpy horizon was vivid and spectacularly breathtaking—just like the holographic postcards she had seen in the Fairmont's not quite little gift shop.

Breathing deeply, the crisp salt breeze invigorated lungs use to synthetic processed air. Pulling back the strands of hair blowing in front of her face, Hayley vision scanned to take in Alcatraz and its complex of museums dedicated to mobsters, mulls, North American justice, and a little known Indian occupation. She scanned Angel and Treasure Islands and followed the lean lines of the Bay Bridge, an impressive display of twentieth century engineering genius. San Francisco's other bridge, famous for its near collapse during one of the region's fabled earthquakes, remained busy with more than a dozen monorails, which moved people to the counties west, north, and south.

"You know," she said contemplatively, "when my father's descendants first moved from Italy to the United States, they sailed aboard a steamship into this bay. Of course, that was before any of the bridges. They settled in the North Beach area, the city's Little Italy—just outside Chinatown."

Carol sighed knowingly.

"I wish Christine could have come," Hayley lamented. "Not that I haven't enjoyed the last week and a half we've had together," she quickly inserted so as not to hurt Carol's feelings.

"I understand." Carol put a hand on Hayley's arms.

"The Governor General has her so busy. Dr. Light Horse's unleashed a Martian sandstorm on the floor of Parliament. The party is factionalizing, breaking down even more. Several more ministers could defect to her cause. I hope not. If she causes Christine and I to postpone our wedding—we have so much to do next week. Damn! I can't believe I'm stuck here!"

Carol remained mute for a minute. "You know, my father's family also came to the United States through San Francisco. They came right after the Korean War. They didn't stay in San Francisco though. Engineers they moved down to Cupertino and what would become Silicon Valley. Until my father, everyone in his family attended Stanford. His forefathers helped actualize the innovations that brought about the cybernetics boom in the last decade of the twentieth century. They worked at all the great companies: IBM, Apple, H-P, Intel, Digital, Silicon Graphics. Now they all have headquarters on Mars. "

Hayley recognized a longing in Carol's words. Like her mother, Carol's father had been a cybernetics analyst. He had died ten years earlier of a rare cancer when Carol was only fifteen. After a decade Carol still missed him.

"I could have been satisfied with my degree in cybernetic structures, but to be stuck programming and debugging software programs just isn't for me. My dream has always been different. Sometimes I feel a little like a traitor—breaking a long held family tradition. I, however, want to design and maintain intergalactic vessels of exploration. To be the first to break the hyperlight factor record and to touch the hem of our galaxy."

"I know," Hayley chuckled. "To go where no woman or man has gone before. I think you always amused your dad with your flights of fantasy, but he was always very supportive. I know he'd be proud with your choices."

A swiftly moving monorail carrying shoppers, entrepreneurs, workers, and tourists across the watery gorge toward the two hundred-year-old Transamerica Pyramid pulled the rushing wind into its wake. The gale's force increased. Carol and Hayley found themselves intuitively grasping the bridge's orange metallic railing until their knuckles turned white. Neither spoke. The roaring rush of the wind would have only muted their shouted word.

Studying Carol's narrowing almond eyes, watery from the whipping wind, the pensive tightness of her drawn lips, and the way her upper teeth bit down on her lower lip, Hayley wondered what thoughts Carol had kept unvoiced. Off and on, periodically during the week they had spent together touring the Pacific Rim, Hayley had noticed several times when Carol had retreated into herself, very atypical. Carol wasn't usually pensive. She always stated what was on her mind. Perhaps it was the various delays that had kept her Mars-bound and away from her new assignment and Tanner. "Is something going on?" Hayley wondered aloud. "Dr. Light Horse is a Moonie?" Carol's statement had an interrogative quality.

"Yes," Hayley confirmed Carol's assertion.

Carol didn't reply right away. Her jaw tightened. Her gaze swept out toward the islands dotting the bay. Hayley didn't interrupt. "I know how you feel about her, about what happened." Hayley allowed Carol time to organize her thoughts. "A couple of weeks ago Dr. Light Horse led a panel discussion at the university in Tranquility City."

"I would expect as much. That's where she has her professorship."

Carol took a deep breath. "I went with Tanner, before he left."

"Scouting out the enemy?" Hayley joshed.

Carol laughed. "Something like that," she replied. "But you know, I really listened to the exchange. Light Horse's not what the mainline press says she is. She's no Green."

"I know. She's a member of the U.G.P."

"No. I think she's a true Republican-Democrat. Have you ever read any of her materials?"

"Not really, but I've heard snippets of her demagoguery. She's just a rabble-rouser!" Hayley did not mince her words or soften the rancor in her tone.

"I know how you feel," Carol replied almost testily.

"But you feel different?" Hayley could read Carol. A disagreement, they'd had so few during their long friendship.

"I'm not sure. Tanner is though. He thinks Light Horse makes a great deal of sense."

"By Mars! Tanner must have his brain clogged with moon dust. I know it isn't Martian dust. No Martian in his right mind would pay any attention to that firebrand. If the Dr. Light Horses of this world had their way our forefathers would have never left here," she said, pointing, "and started a new life on the moon, Mars, or anywhere else in the solar system. Hell, they would have ordered the amino acids in the primordial soup to cease their evolution."

Carol made a gesture of surrender. "Hayl, I know your arguments about the Greens and they make sense."

"But?" Hayley knew by the way Carol ended, her voice lilting just a bit, that she had something, another thought, to add.

"You know me," she chuckled. "I'm an engineer. I'm still synthesizing. I'm hungry." She clapped Hayley's shoulder with her hand. "I understand the wharf has some wonderful restaurants. Let's start back." She took Hayley's arm in her own. "I'm looking forward to the theater tickets Christine got us."

"Yes." Hayley gladly changed the subject of discussion, content to let Carol continue the debate about Dr. Light Horse in her head. "Her way of apologizing. I've seen every galactic touring cast that's ever come to Mars doing Les Miserables. It's my absolute favorite."

Several young men and women their age skated by on air-blades. Side-stepping to avoid a collision, they watched the flock whiz by across the span.

"We have to get some of those," Carol piped up once they had gone by. "Just think of the fun we'd have going down Lombard."

"Think of me crashing into the back of a cable car like a dysfunctional gull." She pointed to a large white gull as it dove into the bay beak first. "Splat!" Hayley slapped her hands together. "Carol, you're crazy. In between, I spied a dress you and Delores might wear."

"A dress?" Carol frowned.

Together they laughed. ##

Two days later, Hayley and Carol returned to the Burlingame spaceport and caught a transport back to Mars. Before racing down the concourse for her flight, she had given Hayley a massive hug. "I'll see you next week." "Delores an' Mom will pick you up." "To get the dress cases. I know." "Don't let Delores scold you. Remind her she approved when we found them." "Thank you for giving me the out an' letting me wear my dress blues." "I know how much you hate dresses. I jus' hope Christine likes them." "Why should she care? She's wearing her government formals." The boarding call chimed. "I love you," Carol said, brushing her lips with Hayley's.

"Love you, too," Hayley replied adding a second bus. "I'll contact you when I get in on Thursday. I can't believe how closely we're cutting all this." "With everything going on you're so calm. I'm proud." "What's too worry. Mom and Delores said they would take care of everything, but the gowns and that's all taken care of. All that's left is the final fitting. Thursday." "Thursday." After one more exchange of kisses, Carol scooted down the gangway to her flight. Hailey waited until the shuttle had more than disappeared over the hills separating the bay from the ocean before returning to the BART station and work.

The next day, Hayley began another round of talks and seminars. She sat for several nets and talked about her book, her work on Parliamentary, and the impending wedding, which had made headlines on every net and newsvid. She shyly showed off the diamond engagement ring adorning her hand.

"Darling, you were wonderful … I love the dress … You and Delores'll look fabulous. Especially you … I wish I could come, but Light Horse."

Hayley's conversations with Christine throughout the week were brief.

"Excuse me, Chief." Elise interrupted. "Your meeting has arrived."

Or, "Sorry love, but I've got to go. Jeremiah needs me. I'm heading out to Titan." Or, "will be off-station all day and in meetings. I'll contact you,' which she didn't.

Completing her last presentation, seminar, and interview, the long grind and the loneliness of the tour had taken their toll. Tired, Hayley returned to her hotel. She tried to connect with Christine, but found she was off station, somewhere on the moon, again. Hoping for a quiet evening, she planned to catch a quick bite in the lobby restaurant and to do a little reading before bed. In the morning, she would return home to Parliamentary, pack, and head to Mars. For the big day. Not for the first time anxiety and anticipation collided. Hayley jogged down from Nob Hill to Union Square and back. She showered and put on the soft cozy sweatshirt she had bought during her lectures at Berkeley, a pair of black slacks made from the same comfortable cotton material, and her jogging shoes. She grabbed a book and rode the elevator back to the lobby restaurant. She asked for a quiet, private place to enjoy her meal. Her psyche had finally had enough of people. The old reclusive shyness that had dominated her life for so long demanded a little indulgence. Even if she were to remain in her job forever and become the wife of one of the Confederation's most powerful, Hayley concluded, she would always prefer the quiet solace of a private corner and a book. The hostess led her to a booth in the corner. Sliding into the booth, Hayley flipped to her marker and began reading the last installment of Asimov's highly acclaimed Foundation series. Soon she left the loneliness of San Francisco and entered the world of Hari Seldon.

She paused long enough to order the tostada chicken salad and iced tea. When the waiter brought the platter-sized salad and set it before her, she smiled a brief nod of thanks and, with her book in one hand and a fork in the other, she ate slowly, enjoying the respite and quiet she so loved. She barely even noticed the waiter as he set the check next to the glass he had refilled.

"Asimov's Forward the Foundation? The perfect book for someone who believes that the ultimate destiny of humankind is to occupy every habitable planet without keen or care to the indigenous life that might already exist. Or like on Trantor, to do away with everything natural and to cover it beneath an artificial edifice as a final requiem of humanity's superiority."

Dr. Light Horse. She wore her customary buckskin jacket, a light blue denim shirt, a bolo tie, a leather belt with a large buckle made of silver and turquoise, and slightly scuffed cowboy boots. Hayley scowled. What in the hell are you doing here? A voice asked within though she remained silent. She wasn't going to give this bushwhacking intruder an ounce of satisfaction for interrupting her much needed solitude with an unsolicited lecture. She replaced her bookmark and took the check. She began sliding from the booth.

Stepping sideways, Light Horse blocked her way. "No, please," she said, her voice losing its sarcastic edge.

"I've already heard enough," Hayley snapped and tried to push by.

Light Horse's cheeks flushed in anger as her tightly coifed ponytail swung over her right shoulder. "I thought we might talk," she said, her tone conciliatory.

"What? With me? Stone's puppet?" Sarcastically, Hayley chewed the words Light Horse had used at their first meeting.

Light Horse grabbed her left arm and examined the ring on her hand. "And I understand her fiancé as well. Tightening her strings—merging with Mars," she sneered, unable to hide her disdain. "Next week I hear."

Hayley defiantly pulled away. "I am no one's puppet!" she snapped angrily. Her voice seethed. "No one pulls my strings! I do what I want to do! I'm marrying Christine because I love her and she loves me."

Bracing her hands, more like the paws of a grizzly bear, they were unnaturally large, even larger than Christine's, on the table and the back of the booth, she leaned closer and stared with the cunning black eyes of a fox studying its prey. "Then stay. Listen to me. I know you're a bright woman. I've read some of your work, including your book. I've also looked more carefully at the ROM featuring the talk you gave several months ago. Perhaps," her tone softened, "I was a bit overzealous in my judgment. But when I heard a bright, gifted historian—the originator of galactic history—had taken a position with Stone's staff—and then Warren said he'd spoken to you—with no results—well, I hate to see someone of your brilliance being used as a common mouthpiece."

"I'm no one's mouthpiece." Hayley sat back on her bench, but like a spooked cat, her spine remained rigid with mistrust.

"You've said as much," Light Horse gestured that she understood. "Truce?" She slid onto the bench opposite her.

Disgruntled, she agreed. She tipped her head to tell her so.

"I had a hard time tracking you down. I knew you were speaking and doing work here in the Bay Area, but no one knew your hotel arrangements."

"You've been following me?"

"No, just keeping track. Some of my colleagues have been reporting on your work here." Hayley's eyes flamed crimson with viper venom. "Whoa," Light Horse calmed. "Before you go and get all defensive let me say that what I've heard so far has been positive. Your work is good, very accurate. You are a damned good historian . . . a hell of an educator. Probably one of the best."

The compliment took Hayley aback. "Thank you," she muttered with a slight stutter. She moved her book to the side.

"I do disagree with some of your conclusions." Light Horse kept her hands raised in a gesture of calm. Hayley did not interrupt. Patiently, she let the minister finish. "I want to apologize for my rudeness at DeBow's dinner." Her voice softened even more. "I have a tendency to be blunt—straight forward. I will not pull any punches. I have been told that it is not a trait desired by politicians who want to get elected, but somehow, I seem to succeed. I think people want the truth."

"I think many people are mere patsies who will flock to the latest fad or passing fancy," Hayley countered sternly.

Light Horse nodded in agreement. "Even some of the finest historians in the solar system have that failing."

Hayley flared. "I love my government."

"That's the problem," Light Horse agreed again. Hayley's expression said she was lost. "If it's the government you love, then I understand why you are so naive."

Hayley's face reddened. "Naive?"

Light Horse did not let her finish. The raised hand worked wonders again preventing the ebbing storm of Hayley's argumentative retort. "Is it the government you love—those who rule or the principles and the citizenry?"


She cut Hayley off again. "I remember your speech at the dinner. I believe you cherish the latter, just like me. At first I thought your talk was a simple political ploy, good for PR, but as I read some of your scholarly work and the educational units you prepared while on Mars before joining the government—in fact, even your current units," she acknowledged with honesty, "I came to realize that your words were genuine, that you truly believe in the principals of freedom, democracy, human rights, dignity, and progress." She nodded. "I believe the same thing."

"Then why advocate the end to human exploration and colonization? Why support a revisionist, reactionary position?"

"But I don't Dr. Genetti. That is what our party wants everyone to believe. They want everyone to think that I'm a Green—a radical—well, I am a radical," she diverted for an instant, "but only in the party," he added. "Dr. Genetti, have you ever listened to any of my speeches or read any of my books or position papers?"

Hayley began to say she had, but upon reflection, she guessed she had never read an entire tract. "Only bits and pieces." She shook her head, no.

"Probably only what the Martian and Parliamentary nets broadcast. They are highly biased. DeBow is a master with the media, or I should say Stone." "Christine—," "Please hear me out, Doctor. I know the truth isn't always pleasant, especially regarding someone you love. Dr. Genetti, what do you know of me?" She tapped a passing waiter and asked for a cup of coffee. "You were born on Tranquility City thirty-eight years ago. Your parents died when you were young and your maternal grandmother in Santa Cruz raised you. You have a doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. Before entering politics you were an associate professor there. Then transferred to Tranquility where you're a full professor. Then you were elected minister to Parliament. You have a strong following on the moon and here in the Pacific region." She waited when the waiter arrived and poured Light Horse a cup of coffee. "I'd like more tea please?"

Taking a sip of her coffee, Light Horse laughed. "You obviously know about as much about me as I did about you," she said when the waiter had gone.

"And what did you know of me?" Hayley played with the condensation on her glass.

"That you were a Martian. A child prodigy with a photographic memory for the printed word. Your family has a long standing, proud connection with the greatness of Martian history. The Genettis are a political dynasty on Mars, and that you were the youngest associate professor in the one hundred-year history of Martian University. You are the founding mother, so to speak, of galactic history, a field a number of other universities have become interested in, including Oxford, Berkeley, Stanford, and my school, Tranquility, I might add."

"In other words the administration's press release?"

Light Horse laughed. "Yes, I'm afraid I'm as guilty as you. I guess learning about one's perceived enemy, learning that he or she is human, takes away a bit of the anger. Might even learn the enemy is not an enemy after all, just a misguided apostle of a government that has learned to manipulate idealists," she added the last without any bitterness as she took a sip of her coffee.

"I don't see myself as manipulated. An idealist perhaps, but no one manipulates me," Hayley tempered her disagreement. "How am I manipulated?"

When Light Horse did not answer immediately, Hayley remained patient. She allowed the returned waiter to replenish her tea and offer Dr. Light Horse a third cup of coffee. When the waiter finished filling the cup with the hot liquid, Light Horse wrapped her hands around the ceramic, completely engulfing the china. "I hate summer in San Francisco. The fog's come in and the wind is just whipping outside," she chuckled. "Santa Cruz can be just as bad, except maybe the wind. No skyscrapers, so fewer wind tunnels. Your Martian winters are probably warmer."

"Probably," she chuckled. "It's so chilly here, but it was so hot in Palo Alto."

"It's like two entirely different continents exist and we're only about eighty kilometers away." Light Horse sipped her coffee. "Hayley," she tested. Hayley didn't object. Light Horse answered her earlier question. "I don't think you'd want to hear my answer."

"Why not?" Hayley said, measuring her words and keeping her annoyance in check. Still she was curious.

"Your fiancé, the administration's esteemed chief of staff and I have never been on good terms." Light Horse watched Hayley as she spoke, measuring the effect of her words. "For someone like you to accept a proposal of marriage, you must love Stone very much," she said without judgment.

"Yes," she nodded. "She means everything to me."

"Then you would not see my point or want to believe me. Let me just ask you a question that is very important to me. The reason I sought you out."

"Go ahead," she said cautiously. Talk about manipulating. Light Horse was a politician, too, she reminded herself.

"What do you know about the indigenous inhabitants of Trinidia?" she asked.

She gave an abbreviated history of what she knew.

"Is that all?" Light Horse asked, trying to force her to confess the limitations of her knowledge.

Hayley accepted the challenge and continued with a longer dissertation. "It's the second planet orbiting G 51-15," she said with almost cocky assurance. "A star about twelve light years from Earth. It was discovered by the Voyager 50DX, one of our first hyperlight probes. Traveling at three times the speed of light, it entered the system after a four-year voyage. It spent almost seven months surveying the outer three planets, which are all composites of carbon, ammonia ice, and frozen methane. Nearing the center of the system, the on-board sensors detected a planet with a nitrogen-carbon-oxygen-based atmosphere. Two weeks later, the probe dropped into orbit and began relaying data. Prior to establishing orbit, the ADI XSER-123, the probe's digital imager, confirmed the existence of a vast ocean covering approximately sixty-seven percent of the planet's surface. The ETM 85X, the unit's thematic cartographic analyzer, established the existence of a large, single continent, running laterally east-west between what on Earth would be the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, covering approximately 32 percent of the planet's surface. Numerous islands dot the continent's periphery. Many are volcanic in nature. Several spinal column-like mountain chains run through the continent in a north-south direction. The largest tend to run through the west-central uplands. These early finds were reported by Dr. Carlton Moth, the project's eccentric leader. He loved cats—never married. I had the opportunity a couple of years ago of obtaining a copy of his original journals. He was quite fascinating, but you don't want to know about him." Hayley prodded herself back on course. "Trinidia was only the fourth class-M type planet located outside Sol, perfect for human colonization and resource exploitation."

"What of the Trinidians?" asked Light Horse. She sipped her coffee.

"Their discovery came when the probe entered orbit. It was then the sensors made the discovery that unequivocally challenged every fundamentalist belief and ended man's skepticism about intelligent life outside Sol. The sensors sent back high resolution digital images of roads, towns, several small cities along the western coast, farms, villages, sailing boats—proof of sentient life. It was then, eight years after the probe's initial launch, that the U.G.C. authorized the Challenger II mission, led by Colonel Joseph McDonald."

"Go on," Light Horse encouraged after she had ordered a hot fudge brownie decadent.

Handing her check to the waitress, Hayley order the same, and another iced tea.

"The Challenger II was the first hyperlight graviton drive long-range exploration craft. It took only two years to reach Trinidia."

"Yreta-Cuta," corrected Light Horse. "What?" "Yreta-Cuta is the proper name of the planet . . . the inhabitants, they are called Yretan," she corrected without any judgment.

Hayley stared at Light Horse's face. She noticed it was lined, almost weathered in appearance, but at the same time youthful. Her hair was nearly black, especially in the lighting of the restaurant. She guessed out of its throng, it would hang somewhere below her shoulder blades. It was probably as long as her own, maybe a little coarser.

"Whatever," she replied, refraining from her impulse to add a sarcastic lilt to her voice. "Yreta-Cuta," she repeated the name Light Horse had used, not quite replicating the strange clip she had used on the final two syllables.

Light Horse grinned, letting her know she was happy with the attempt.

Hayley continued, "After the two year journey, McDonald and his crew—," she named the thirty biologists, geologists, chemists, astrophysicists, meteorologists, geographers, socio-anthropologists, linguists, and engineers under McDonald's command, "set about their task of substantiating the probe's findings. Their first task was to recover the probe and download its permanent memory. One team was sent to establish a base on the largest of the planet's five moons."



"The largest moon. It represents the Lord of Water, one of the Five Lords in Yretan mythology. The remaining four moons are Tloctl, Zhenz, Armenee, and Diegen," she said without any arrogance, but like a teacher filling in blanks with details.

Hayley found the information interesting. "Cutata," she confirmed the incorporation of the new facts into her lesson. "As you know," she said, deciding to be less cocky in her delivery. Light Horse obviously knew quite a bit about Trinidia— Yreta-Cuta. "McDonald and his team created a long term base on Cutata."

"Yes, the U.G.C. still operates several facilities from that moon," she said as a matter of fact. Hayley thought she could detect her resentment.

"A transport facility and several mining operations."


"Well," Hayley paused when the waitress arrived with their dessert.

Two simple white ceramic bowls overflowed with a moist cake brownie, dark fudge ice cream, chocolate syrup, nuts, whip cream, and a bright red maraschino cherry.

"Thank you," they said in chorus.

Hayley took a bite of her dessert. She would need several hours to work off the effects, she realized, thinking of the pleasurable indulgence titillating her tongue and the options she might employ for a good physical workout. Christine came to her mind first. Several hours in the VRC, some jogging, and when she got home at least a day in bed indulging in her favorite form of arobics.

"Well?" Light Horse asked, savoring a spoonful of her dessert.

"Well," Hayley continued. "After a four month observational period, using small tether probes, McDonald led a team to reconnoiter the planet's surface. At first they chose areas deemed less inhabitable. After six such missions with no incidents, the decision was made to make contact. The problem was how?" Hayley paused to lick her spoon. "According to his journals," which Hayley then recited verbatim, a task she could tell impressed the parliamentary rebel, "the decision was not easy. After all the Trinidians—,"

"The Yretan," Light Horse smiled between bites.

"Yretan." Hayley did not mind this correction. "The Yretans were as parochial in their beliefs—I mean religion—as many humans. To have gods ascend from high—"

"In this case, not gods. The Yretan do not believe in gods but in a council of lords, who oversee the running of their world for Jon'ai, the embodiment of the creator and great prophet. But you are correct. The observance of strangers descending from the sky did have a big impact. Though not necessarily for the reasons you might assume."

"What then?" Hayley asked.

"The Yretan agreed that the humans were no more divine than they. What intrigued them was the technology."

"I'd suppose so since they were in the midst of an accelerated growth period in their technologies. They were beginning a period of mechanized industrialization."

"That's a misconception—academic lies."

"I don't believe you," Hayley thought aloud.

"You can believe what you want, but that's a major problem with our current relationship with the Yretan. Most of the scholarly accounts from Yreta-Cuta are almost all ethnocentrically biased. I did my doctoral studies on the Yretan, and when I read the treatises of record, I couldn't believe the number of blatantly pro-human orientations I found. The same kind of biases that tainted the work of many anthropologists who studied my Native American ancestors and other tribal people."

"But isn't that expected. We can't deny who we are?"

"But a good social scientist, especially an anthropologist, must not view societies through the lens of their culture. If they do, it's like viewing a clear blue sky through yellow tinged glasses. The sky is no longer blue. It's green. See?"

"Yes," she agreed.

"So to use western human tinted glasses when viewing the Yretan is just as wrong."

"Sure, but doesn't a good anthropologist take into account their prejudices and factor out those biases in their analogies?"

Light Horse smiled broadly. "You are a bright lady," he said. "Of course you do, but if you look at the record, that's not what happened."

"The reports were purposely falsified?"

She nodded. "To a degree."



"What about the Challenger anthropologists—Drs. Jorgensen and Douglas? They were considered the best in their field?"

"They wrote three books, all superficial . . . all highly inaccurate . . . they were new to the world."

"They stayed three years."

"I've lived on Yreta-Cuta, off and on, for nearly twenty years— ten years continuously. I still don't understand all the nuances of the language. Yretan is like English, a very difficult language to master in pronunciation, inflections, syntax, and in word meaning. Neither Jorgensen nor Douglas was on the planet long enough to become experts. They misunderstood much of what they saw. Their interpretations were incorrect. For instance, they were the ones who wrote about the poverty of the planet—about the backwardness of the inhabitants. All lies. The Yretan were and are not poor. True, many made their living farming. Their roads were not paved and their homes lacked our technological advantages. But do you realize they had in-door plumbing and electricity? They used a mode of transportation called a steamer."

"Yes, like the early steam powered cars that were invented at the end of the nineteenth century and were refined in the twenty-first century."

"And the Yretan had them."

"But their manufacturers?"

"They had quite a few advanced technologies—electricity, the steam engine, turbines, and quite a few factories, but they were all hydro-powered. Most of their production centers were on the coast for that reason. Especially the west coast, which was pocketed with many natural harbors and a long gradual coastline, which was perfect for their hydro-wave technologies. But the Yretan culture has always had pride in hand-made products, so their finest products come from old shops where everything was done by hand. They also have a deep love and respect for learning and a theoretical knowledge that is unparalleled. Science and medicine were quite advanced, much more so than the industrial powers of Europe or the Americas at the turn of the twentieth century; and they, the Europeans and Americans, never thought of themselves as either primitive or uncivilized, though they certainly acted uncivilized and did their best to destroy those races and societies they deemed inferior."

"While I agree with you there, the U.G.C. has no such designs planned for the Yretans."

"Hayley, in the last two decades I've watched as western humanism, just as it did and still continues to do on Earth, has steadily eroded the very fabric of Yretan society. Our twenty-third century technologies have had a cascade reaction. There has been a loss of identity—of the cultural self. What were once a democratic people replete with a constitution and fairly egalitarian respect to rights and wealth has deteriorated to where rights have been eroded and the best lands and the planet's mineral wealth have been transferred into just a few hands. The Yretan experience has been similar to what other indigenous populations experienced in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Cultural genocide is beginning all over again."

"I don't agree," Hayley interjected not trying to be rude. "Cultural genocide? Isn't that a bit harsh? Even simplistic? I mean," she clarified when she recognized a scowl forming on the bronze face staring at her. "Isn't one theme we see in history the story of people coming together and through the process of diffusion, acculturation, and assimilation adding, adapting, and discarding cultural characteristics. I mean history is filled with examples. Take the Europeans you keep vilifying. Prior to the Crusades, they built lousy fortifications. Their ships leaked and could only go in one direction. They knew nothing about science, mathematics, or medicine. Contact with the Arabs improved all that. Contact brought a renewal in education, the opening of universities, interest in the sciences and philosophy. There was improvement in maritime and military technologies. I could go one," she searched Light Horse's blank face for a hint that she understood her point. "Life for the Europeans improved."

"And in return the Europeans during the Crusades sought to annihilate the Arab people and their culture." Light Horse shrugged and then took a sip of her coffee. She pushed her empty bowl off to the side of the table.

"Yes. You are right. The arrogance of western cultural superiority brought about countless wars and misunderstandings that lasted well into the twenty-second century." Light Horse's lips curled upwards in triumph. "But then that is even a simplicity." She nodded. "You know the causes of war are many, more than a sense of cultural superiority. You must factor in economic, political, ideological, religious, and other social elements as well."

"It seems then Doctor that you and I are in agreement," Light Horse complimented.

"So you can't simply condemn the U.G.C. I don't think anyone wants to destroy the Yretan way of life. There are no statutes or mandates calling for the assimilation of the Trinidians. We haven't told them that they can't believe their creation stories. We haven't tried to impose our political institutions and societal norms," she said with certainty. "I understand polygamy is still in practice."

Light Horse nodded. "As a matter of official policy you are correct." Hayley's mouth creased in satisfaction. "However, missionaries have spent the last four decades roaming the streets of the major cities telling Yretan inhabitants that their entire belief structure is wrong. They are telling them that their polygamous social structure is an abomination and sin in God's eyes and that they are doomed for damnation."

"Well, then the Yretans should simply ignore them. I do."

"Hayley, I'm sure you are secure in your beliefs, but you are not living in a society undergoing major flux. With the trade agreements and the heavy importation of Terran industries and business and humans to Yreta-Cuta, along with our technologies, like many of Earth's less technological societies during the age of imperial expansion, the Yretan are faced with enormous pressures. Yreta-Cuta, for all purposes, could become the U.G.C.'s first banana republic. I mean, the U.G.C. is not interested in the Yretans for who they are, or for the unique cultural contributions and insights that they might provide. The U.G.C. is only interested in the planet's resources, the wealth of cheap labor, and in our citizens, who have seen Yreta-Cuta as a desirable location for colonization. I mean, unlike our other colonies which were not inhabited by sentient beings prior to settlement and are far more rustic—like the moon and Mars were when our ancestors first arrived—the Yretan colonists see a planet ready and waiting with many of the creature comforts they have enjoyed here in Sol. There are already rumblings among the humans on Yreta-Cuta for the U.G.C. to annex the planet and DeBow is not turning a deaf ear."

"Like Hawaii," Hayley studied her glass. The ice cubes had completely melted. "I understand," she said. "I'd never thought of our relationship in those terms. I have always discounted the calls for annexation. They don't come from the government mainstream. Neither DeBow nor Christine have made any overt gestures in that direction."

"I agree—no overt gestures, but they are interested. I know of secret talks. Not only that, but Hayley, Rlak Tern and others at the top of Yretan society have discovered the enormity of the power and wealth that comes with cooperating with the U.G.C. There is a great deal of wealth exchanging hands on both sides. The average Yretan suffers as a result. Civil rights, which had been common place when McDonald first arrived, have eroded. As in twentieth century Belfast, most Yretans do not want the U.G.C. to augment the presence of our Defense Force in an attempt to keep Tern in power. Why do you think DeBow and your fiancé are so interested in keeping Tern in office?"

Light Horse let Hayley think a moment.

Hayley flagged down a waitress and asked for more tea.

"Hayley, I'm not for the elimination of humankind's exploration of the stars. I'm even in favor of colonization, but the U.G.C. must develop policies to deal with other sentient life forms and even our colonies. Proxima Prime and Ceta Bine Two are entitled to independence and full partnership within the Confederation. I know you believe so. Warren McClurg told me so. He's a friend of mine and a big fan of your work."

"He seemed like a nice man," she agreed, remembering Christine's angry outburst at hearing the same words.

"Hayley, I see Yreta-Cuta, Proxima Prime, and Ceta Bine Two as failures of our current policy. The administration has abrogated its responsibility by refusing to acknowledge the inherent civil rights the Constitution and our oaths have sworn us to protect. Civil rights do not end at the cosmic border of Sol. In order for the U.G.C. to continue and succeed as its framers had intended, we must make sure that those rights apply to humans who colonize other star systems and the sentient life forms that we come across during our travels. Humanity cannot create a universe that mimics the universe described by Asimov in his Foundation series." She gave Hayley's book a tap with a finger. "If that happens then humanity will be damned by the Great Spirit or whatever god or gods you believe in."

Hayley sat in silence.

"You're troubled?"

"Why should I believe you?"

Light Horse's head bobbed. "The truth can be difficult to ascertain. After all, who should you believe? The government which we have been taught to trust? One's fiancé?" Her head tilted slightly to the side. "Or the enemy?" She gave Hayley a beat to think. "Hayley, earlier I asked you what you knew about the history of the Yretan."

"And I was giving you their history."

"No, you were giving me an outline of our history—the history of the U.G.C."

Hayley thought a minute. She licked the last remains of her chocolate from her spoon and then, putting it in the bowl, she pushed it to the side. The waitress, returning with the ice tea pitcher, poured her glass full, and took the short stack of dessert dishes. When the waitress had disappeared into the kitchen where the droids worked the dishwashers, Hayley returned to Light Horse's comment. She had been right. She had been giving a synopsis of the U.G.C.'s history.

"Do you know anything about the Yretan?"

Hayley thought. "They, the Yretan, live on the planet's single continent, and on many of the islands. The have a mostly capitalistic economy and a parliamentary styled government, though Rlak Tern, their prime minister has accumulated a great deal of power in the last decade."

"He's a dictator. Don't mince words, Hayley."

For a second, Hayley said nothing. Light Horse remained quiet as she watched her. "I have to admit. I don't know much about Tern." She thought. "The people live in communal units headed by joint matriarchs and patriarchs." "Not quite," Light Horse motioned for Hayley to continue. "They follow the philosophical teachings of Jon'ai, but you say he's like a god. Like Buddha?"

"God no, prophet yes. So far, all you're giving me is a sociological synopsis. What about the history?"

"History?" She shook her head in defeat. "Iguess I don't know any."

"Don't feel ashamed," Light Horse said as if she were giving her a condolence for winning second. "Not many do. Do you realize no one in the U.G.C. has ever had the interest to do a history of the Yretan? Not even an article for the nets!"

"Really?" Hayley was surprised.

"Really," she sighed.

"Hayley, have you ever considered doing a history of Yreta-Cuta?"

"Me? Well, no," she answered.

"Why don't you? Maybe go there? Learn a little about their history."

"I'm getting married next week end. Why me?" Her eyes narrowed with suspicion.

"You are the government's chief historian and the mother of galactic history. "

"I'm getting married," she said slowly, thinking over the proposal. "Christine and I want a family."

"The ultimate merger," Light Horse grumbled under her breath. "Dr. Light Horse, I love Christine. She's not the ogre you believe her to be. May be if you sat down to talk, like you're doing with me?"

"Hayley, she's not the hero you think she is."

"She's my white knight."

"I can see that," Light Horse motioned to a passing waiter droid. "I'm done," she said to the droid. The droid's flat screen showed the bills for both. Light Horse passed her ident through the scanner, marked both bills, and pressed her thumb before Hayley could speak.

"You don't," Hayley tried to stop Light Horse from paying her bill.

"Consider it a wedding present." Light Horse started to slide from the booth. "I have friends who speak a English. Chart'aa is a Prophet of Jon'ai, a wise one. Mrelx, his partner, is a former teacher, an elder of stories. I know you would like them, and I think they would like you. I could put you in touch with them. It's not as good as going to their world, but perhaps you could start a conversation." A broad, yet slightly cynical, smile made the anthropologist's expression youthful and less severe. "You're a very pleasant woman."

She snickered and mulled over the invitation. "I don't know—but Christine said I would have time to do my own research." She thumbed the worn pages of her book. "The Yretan? And no one has even touched the subject. I'd be the first. Definitely a part of galactic history. I'd love the challenge. It would have to be after the wedding."

"Of course," Light Horse agreed. "You can let me know."

She enjoyed Light Horse's self-mocking grin. "I need to talk to Christine," she said.

"She probably won't agree," Light Horse warned.

"With all due respect, you don't know my fiancé as well as you think you do," Hayley swallowed. "She's a good person."

"As you say." Light Horse surrendered, her hands raised as if he were meeting a masked robber on the streets of Dodge. She said nothing else.

"I'll let you know. After the wedding." Light Horse slid from the booth. "I will be on Parliamentary by the time you return. You can reach me at my offices." She stuck out her hand.

"I'll think about everything you've said and give you my answer." She took the proffered hand. It was strong, the grip, even powerful, but soft.

"I knew you would." Light Horse's grasp lingered. "Take care, Hayley, and I'll see you on the station. It's been a pleasure talking to you." Light Horse pumped her hand one last time, and left.

Turning back to her half-filled glass of tea, Hayley took a drink and picked up her book. She read a couple of pages, then stopped. Unable to concentrate, she asked the passing waitress where she might find the nearest bookstore.

Chapter 23

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