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 3: Meetings

            The bed rocked.

"Oh, Gaawwd," came the ragged breath of a woman approaching release.

"Ahuh! Ahuh!" The grunts accented each thrust. "Ahuh!"

The bed rocked.

Then release.

Exhausted, he landed on the woman. In the stillness, his heart raced. Beneath him, he felt the woman's doing the same.

"You haven't lost it," she said.

He said nothing and nuzzled her neck.

"Hungry?" She ran a nail the length of his back.

"I don't know if I have the energy." He sighed feeling sleepy, but not wanting sleep. "I bet you could." He took a nip.

She giggled. "Anything you want lover?"

He raised himself up on his elbows. "You do remember?"

"You know me," she leered and with a thrust of her powerful hips and a wrestling move she had learned from a past lover, she flipped him onto his back. She sat up and positioned herself over his penis.

He reached up, cupping her breasts.

She leaned over. This time she took a nip. "So you want to play?"

"Do you have Dusty?"

"Do I have Dusty?" Her eyes widened in delight. "So you wanna play with Dusty?" She pressed her lips against his ear. He moaned as she spoke. She reached down and stroked him; pleased when like a cobra his manhood had pressed back into her body. "First let me enjoy you a bit." She moved, opening herself so as to swallow him. Her head went back. "Oh," a river of wetness, how much more did she have to give? "Oh!" and he arched.

"Easy, boy. Don't buck yet. Oooohhh," she drew herself up. He was so deep. Perfect. He was exquisite. If she had a choice of lovers to marry, if she had regrets. He was here after all. Who needed marriage? She had the man. The men and women, too. She raised his smooth hands so they covered her ample, yet firm breasts. Immediately, they took hold, squeezing just enough. "Oh, yeeaah," and she urged him on. She rocked her hips, feeling everything within and without. He squeezed. Rocking so did she. "What a fuck!" Now he arched up. His hands she pressed tighter on the twin saddle horns that were he breasts.

"Gaawwd," this time he sighed. He pressed up again.

She down.

"Ride me, baby." He bucked up.

More friction. "Oh, baby." He hadn't lost it. He knew just what she wanted. Let the rodeo begin. Hard and fast. A buckling ride and she holding onto the rein pushing hard within. His hands, ooohhh his hands, as she leaned into him, pressing his ribs at the notch between his hips and his waist with her knees. She was wild and ground down, her hips thrusting.

Using her breasts, his eyes closed, he pulled himself up, wrapping strong arms around her torso. He bit and suckled. She ground harder as held onto his head. "Oh!" He was reaching the point of no return. She was just getting started and greedily maintained control, the liquid pouring from where they were joined, drying like a glue to join them. How long could she keep him? Ride? It was a sport and she would dominate.

His gun fired and as she followed him back onto the bed, his lips fastened to a breast, his hands now playing with the doughy flesh of her ass, she lifted up and opened the small drawer in the headboard above her bed. Opening a slender box, she removed Dusty. Putting the box aside, she found the required belt. Almost without breaking contact, she put it on, sliding the stimulators over her clitoris. She closed the drawer and bent to bite at his ear. "I've got Dusty," she said.

"God, you've got stamina."

"It's my favorite game." She spread his legs, pushing them back to expose his only open orifice. She pressed Dusty into the opening. Her groin contracted, shooting out a natural lubricant. "Time to enjoy the pleasures that make me popular with the ladies."

He smiled.

"I've always enjoyed your many talents."

"And I've missed yours way too much. You're the only man I've ever loved," she leaned over his mouth. Lips meeting in passion, hands squeezing with erotic need, she slipped inside, and immediately lost herself in the reality of who she was.

A smile bloomed on his face. He would need to get his wife one of these, or, no—she wasn't that way at all. Maybe her sister?... oh, never. At home, there were always the bars, but here. No, he had found her again. Perhaps. Damn politics! Well, maybe they made good bedfellows after all. Wasn't that why he had married?


"Care for another martini?" The waitress, a lovely woman with flowing auburn tresses and full lips, painted yellow and red, reached for the empty glass.

"Now, now, now--" A pair of dark eyes verging on ebony laughed. "Martini?" She slurred her words. "I think I'll have two."

"Two?" a pair of eyebrows shot up.

"Yeah," the woman stumbled. The man next to her caught her. "One for now, another for later."

"Honey, careful." The man looked back at the waitress. "I don't think she needs any more."

"I want my drink and I want it now!"

"Stella." He spoke softly, his voice a soft Spanish trill.

"Don't Stella me, Señor Bernardo Paulo Hypocrite de la Vega!" 

Casting her eye at the couple, the waitress slipped from the brewing storm.

"Hey! Get back here! I want a drink! Dammit, I'm the Vice President of Finance for Monte Enterprises. Get back here!"

Feeling sorry for the woman's obvious companion, another corporate vice president if the snippets of conversation she had overheard during the cocktail hour were correct, she offered an apologetic smile.

"If we were anywhere else in the civilized galaxy," she flung her head toward a delegation of natives, invited to discuss a new compact that would allow mining to begin in the nearby Ullah-li Highlands.

"Vinny," she greeted as she took shelter back at the bar. She set the empty glasses she had gathered into the recycler.

"Real bitch," Vinny nodded at the woman who was turning heads as she ranted.

"I figured you could use a little relief," she said. "You've had to deal with her complaints all evening."


"What do you think of the locals?" She nodded at the small delegation of Trinidians huddled in discussion with the latest entrepreneurs setting up operations on the planet.

"Not much, I guess. Not much to look at."

"That's for sure. Imaging kissing that mouth."

"They're so Neanderthal."

"They've been nice. Good tips." She jingled a pocket in her apron. "Glad they're not having droids run the operation."

"So why did you come. Obviously, you're not enterprising." Vinny pulled a trio of renewed martini glasses from the recycler.

"Adventure. Who knows what an enterprising woman like myself might find? Awful lot of singles settling. Who knows what kind of catch I might reel in? What about you?"

"Travel and leisure."


"Hotels? Human-styled cuisine. You know? This is a ready-made planet. Little need to work like from scratch. I heard that the floodgates have opened. Transports are arriving every week. Needs will need to be satisfied."

She placed the newly poured drinks onto her tray. "Not a bad idea. I know of a lake only couple hours from here. Nice place for a resort. You know? A line of B&Bs. Thanks, Vinny." She looked back out at party. Apparently, someone had come and removed the explosive Stella. Perhaps had taken her to the Ladies Lounge to sleep it off on the couch. That meant—what was his name? Bernardo? "I think I know of a way to get some capital."

"Mr. Bedroom Eyes."

"You noticed?" she quipped coyly.

"Oh, yeah." Vinny reached out and traced a line down the waitress' arm. "I noticed the minute you hired on. Need a partner." A smile played his lips.

"Maybe," she removed the finger, but kept hold of the offending appendage just long enough. "Business partners?"

"Maybe more."

She put his hand back on the bar. "Let me see how Latin Boy plays."

"And?" Vinny wiped the bar with a dish towel.


With tray in hand, the waitress walked back over to the party, her path taking her to her target.

Almost five kilometers north, the new four-story headquarters of Monte Enterprises shook. Windows shattered outward and rained glass onto the street below. A minute later it collapsed in on itself.

In the morning, the hunt would begin to round up the terrorists, or so Tern pledged on the morning broadcast. No stone would go unturned. All dissidents would be questioned and severely dealt with.


Ascending from Martian Rapid Transit Station Number 5, the people mover was crowded, bustling with commuters hurrying home from work or visits to one of the city's sprawling commercial districts. Hayley stepped with resolve, somehow avoiding the perilous tangling maze of legs, feet, swinging arms, and jutting packages of the surging swarm, and entered the southern plaza of Capitol Commons, the largest community park on Mars. Pushed along by the streaming tide, Hayley walked quickly. Slowly, the flow lessened as passengers peeled off to take the thoroughfares radiating outward like the spokes of a gigantic wheel. After a kilometer and some, Hayley left the flow herself. She turned right and walked by a trolley stop. At a couple points, she looked down at the congested bicycle paths that dipped beneath her walk to reemerge fifty meters later. The bicyclists seemed completely unaware of the pedestrians above them as they made their way to who knows where. For a moment, Hayley wished she could take off on a long bicycle ride, to make the circuit. If Carol weren't busy, surely she'd jump at the chance. It had been too long.

Hayley's course continued. Wide and lined with hybrid pines, elms, silvery gingkoes, trees of every manageable type and description, hybrids produced to survive Mars's arid conditions, the pedestrian lane entered the heart of the capital's most popular park.

As usual, the park was crowded. An assortment of hoverboarders and free-line skaters competed with the pedestrians as they whisked by on their craft. Aware of the hazardous daredevils, Hayley moved to the grass buttressing the walk.

Rambunctious packs of frolicking children tore madly across the adjacent lawns; others screamed with delight from the swings, slides, and low-grav climbing apparatuses in the large playgrounds. Many more, trying to mimic their heroes from the Intergalactic Soccer Federation, ran through drills on the expansive fields of durable, extra-high yield, photosynthetic Martian-Kentucky blue-grass. At the far end of the Commons, in the checkerboard quilting of athletic fields set aside and marked for sanctioned competitions, a few teams had already begun the slate of regularly scheduled afternoon games. The cheering of spectators and the shrill of a referee's whistle caught Hayley's attention. She squinted and made a quick survey of the teams and participants. Yellow tops. Forest green shorts. The Demos Hornets? She speculated. Dao Li Tam, a ten-year-old neighbor she had come to know, played and wore the yellow-green play apparel. From this distance, she could hardly tell. The youngsters on the field seemed older, in their teens, perhaps a coed league; she saw the swirl of colorfully attired ponytails. Elsewhere a ponytail might belong to either sex, but not here on Mars, at least among the male populations here in the capital, which some net reporters had labeled as the most conservative humans in the U.G.C. In the outback, among those in the mining communities, men paid a little less attention to their looks, but again that was only among the mech-jocks, those who operated the heavy machinery and the thousands of droids, who did the actual manual labor.

Hayley enjoyed soccer. With more time, she would have enjoyed joining the growing number of spectators, adding her voice and clapping hands to the cheering, which grew as her path wound casually along the fields' outer perimeter.

 If not soccer, she spied a few pick-up games on the hoop courts. Men and women, the players mixed their intensity with good-natured jocularity. "Here, here, here," they shouted to one another. "I'm open! Foul! You got my wrist on that lay up." One tall player, a woman over two meters in height, helped by the Martian gravity, seemed to rise above the twenty-five foot fiberglass bucket. The entertainment bulletin boards had announced a newly scheduled roster of games, the first of many for what would prove to be a long, arduous season.

            Better yet, as she neared the clay and grass courts of the Martian Tennis Club, she grinned. She and Carol had been members since their first days together at the Academy Scholastica. Memories, like an archival vid-file, played as she remembered the titter of their youthful voices. Oh, to chase down and dive after a volley, preventing it from escaping and scoring. Power serves placed with the accuracy of a sharp shooter. The remembered times, not always with perfect accuracy, brought a smile.

Hayley's palm itched. Her right hand practiced a service toss and her left arm mimicked a phantom swing, pretending to strike a perfect overhand serve. This weekend the Club was holding its Amateur-Squared Pro-Am Doubles Tournament. Oh, how she had enjoyed the times she and Carol had played. To be a child again without a care, Hayley wished as she often did, forgetting what she did not want to remember.

A thought sparked. The book talk that was why she couldn't so it; and Carol certainly couldn't take an entire weekend for a sortie. They needed to play tennis. Sweet, sweaty, wonderful tennis. Like they had done in their teens, they needed to join for the doubles. With their long retired rankings, the officials would certainly schedule them to play on the backcourts away from the crowds. Complete anonymity, but then again success, which had snuck up on them their last two years in the tournament, might land them on the main courts. That fear was surely equal to the angst troubling her now.

Hayley took another swing with her phantom racket. She smiled as her mind saw the neon yellow-green felted orb dart across the net and then dive into the corner of the ad serving court, scooting just out of reach of her diving opponent. No, she and Carol didn't need to enter the tournament, but a match or ten sounded wonderful. To simply spend time with her friend, to at least watch others play; the thought was so wonderful. Yet—

Resigned to her fate, Hayley sighed. There was no time. Too many commitments had infiltrated and taken over their lives, her life. Hayley pushed aside the twinge of regret and indulged in another favorite pastime. Turning south Hayley left the park's popular orbicular route and took the route that wound through the botanical gardens.

Filled with flora familiar to Earth, the gardens also contained a large number of the hybrids bred to thrive in Mars' cooler, more arid climate. Transparent irises, holly berry roses, thorny pansy bushes, prism hyacinths, fern roses, and the blue-red Arctic jade paid living testimony to the ingenuity of Martian horticulture and botanical engineering. However, the greatest monuments to Martian genius were the large stands of trees and wide-leafed shrubs, which covered so much of the domed city. Designed not only for color, the colony's botanists, including an ancient ancestor, had altered their photosynthesis processes to increase the rate at which they absorbed carbon and released oxygen. These perfect atmosphere factories had ended Mars's reliance on artificially produced air, a method still used in the more remote mining communities.

Familiar with the scientific underpinnings and the historical time lines involved in the various discoveries, Hayley paid little heed to either as she enjoyed her walk beneath the canopy of broad-leafed purple-scarlet evergreens. Away from the crowds of the city's Commons and the more popular pedestrian thoroughfares leading to the canyons of sleek, techno-modern classically designed prefab condominiums, Hayley relished the quiet. The sun's pink hued rays filtered through the city's solar shield. The warmth massaged her tired brain.

Hayley barely noticed as she left the long winding fjord of greenery and entered the massive hanging gardens that gave the familiar block of ziggurat-styled condominiums where her sister lived in an air of exclusivity.

"Hayley," a frail palsied voice croaked from above.

Tilting her head up at the upper levels of the complex, Hayley spied the stooping shoulders of the short, silver-haired centenarian, one of her grandmother's oldest friends, a long-retired professor of Cyber-Library Systems.

"Good afternoon, Dr. Landers." Hayley gave a quick wave.

"Visiting your sister?"


"I understand you're speaking tomorrow afternoon?"

"Ah, you've heard the rumors."

"I've got my ticket. See you at your parents' for the soiree?"

Hayley forced a smile. "I'll look forward to hearing what you think."

"I've already read your book—very good, insightful. I know your grandmother would be so proud of you."

"Thank you." Hayley shuffled her feet and rubbed her barren wrist. "I've got to go," she said with a large, strained smile. "Delores is expecting me."

"Best not keep her waiting." The woman waved a good-bye.

Rounding one more canyon-like corridor, Hayley finally came to the mock-colonial-Egyptian styled portico of the Genetti-Sharpleton residence. Pressing the door buzzer, she placed her hand on the identification scanner.

"Come in, Hayley," Delores's voice seeped through the porch's exterior speaker. The door opened automatically and then closed when Hayley had entered. "I'm upstairs. I'll be down in a moment. Make yourself comfortable."

Hayley looked about the large living space. As always, the home was immaculate. The clean classic-deco design of post-modern Scandinavian black and white dominated, beginning with the checkerboard tile in the vestibule. Stepping down onto a charcoal gray carpet, Hayley looked up at the gracefully curved stairway to her left and walked into the living room. Roomy for entertaining, large plush ivory sofas and chairs formed an intimate grouping around a smoke-black, circular glass coffee table. Thin, black metallic lamps, like modern human sculpture, offered lighting. To the far right, a cast iron on brick pseudo-fireplace gave the room a warm, cozy feel. To the left, the seldom-used kitchen and large dining room were decorated in the same sleek black and white design. Except for the thin micro-crystalline video screen on the near wall, all was quiet. The soothing voice of a reporter provided a low hum.

Hayley turned to watch.

The images playing behind the talking head displayed an aerial view of Europa Central, the main Jovian colony. "Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the first Jovian settlement." A montage of visuals presented historical highlights while the colony's governor described the activities planned for the commemoration.

"A Daedalus Deuterium Tanker," Hayley mumbled recognizing the interstellar vessel used to take the first team of scientists and engineers to the icy Galilean satellite. "In operation from 2095 to 2189. Some old models are still in use today for intra-Jovian and Marian transport. However, they were displaced in 2175 with the hyperdrive warp engine designed by engineers from the Lockheed-Martin Spacefaring Agency and the United Space Exploration and Colonization Cooperative of the U.G.C.," she mumbled a brief monologue quoting the nav-con history she had just given a Galactic History Class a semester back. She giggled. "Not now," she said to herself.

A soft beeping emanated from the apartment's internal comm-link.

"Hayl, could you get that?" Delores called down.

"Sure," she answered, wondering what could be keeping her usually prompt sister. "VAS, on screen," she spoke to the Visual-Audio System.

The wall monitor's display cut to a larger than life image of the perfect corporate executive. With painstakingly sculpted brown hair, much lighter than his wife's, a cleanly shaven face, except for the long tapered sideburns, serious blue eyes, a complexion free of any imperfections, not even a freckle, every portion of his staid appearance was designed to make the proper impression. He wore the uniform popularized by many on Parliamentary: a dark, midnight blue blazer and slacks each accented with gold piping. Beneath the blazer was a long-sleeve pale yellow shirt. A three centimeter-wide tie hung loosely, the only mar.

"Hayley?" Bruce Sharpleton did not hide his surprise.

"Bruce," Hayley greeted her brother-in-law with genuine affection.

"Is Delores there?" he scanned the background for his mate.

"Upstairs," replied Hayley.

"That's right," he remembered. "She's taking you shopping—to get something for your performance tomorrow."

"I really wish you wouldn't call it that." Hayley swallowed.

"Hang tough kid, you'll do fine. Could you tell my dearly beloved that I'll be returning on the 2200 transport?"


"I'll be bringing company. She'll need to get the guest room ready."

Hayley saw a tall woman the same age as her brother-in-law and sister lounging in a chair in the background. Like Bruce, she wore a suit, only hers was a dark forest green. This made her gold piping and ribbons even bolder, which enhanced her eyes, which Hayley could tell were brown. The woman seemed oddly familiar. Somewhere in her past, she had seen, possibly even had met her, but she couldn't really say for sure. One thing was sure, and Hayley only hoped she wasn't blushing, the woman was outstandingly gorgeous, the kind of gorgeous she thought Tom Watson would appreciate.

"I'll tell her," she answered.

"See you tomorrow. Who knows? Maybe you'll enjoy the limelight and enter politics like the rest of your family?"

"I doubt it," Hayley smirked.

He chuckled, his expression showing she had spoken the truth. "Until tomorrow."

The screen went blank. The newscast returned showing highlights of a soccer game.

Hayley watched for a minute. Impatient with her sister's tardiness, she went to the foot of the stairs. "Del, are you coming?" she called, trying not to sound too annoyed.

"I'll be right there," Delores's response was a bit anemic.

"Are you all right?" Hayley mounted the first two steps.

"I'm fine," Delores replied. "I'll be right down."

Shrugging her shoulders, Hayley returned to the living room and the monitor.

"This is the Martian News Network," the reporters had changed, "bringing you news 1425 minutes each and every day."

Folding her arms, Hayley leaned against the couch's armrest and watched as the image shifted to a mass demonstration of shrieking protesters.

"Today, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in many of Earth's largest cities to protest the U.G.C.'s announcement that it will be sending General Althea Franklin to provide the Trinidian government with technical assistance in its attempt to quell the recent rise in terrorism." The video display shifted between mobs in Berlin, London, Paris, Sydney, Beijing, Tokyo, Moscow, New York, San Francisco, and the Lunar cities of Armstrong and Orion.

"Speaking in Parliamentary Square in the Lunar city of Armstrong,  before a crowd of seventy-five thousand, Parliamentary Minister Dr. Kaliska Light Horse called for everyone to jam the Net and Vid lines of the governor general's office in support of her petition protesting the involvement of Defense Force in the internal affairs of the Trinidian people."

"We must come to the aid of all oppressed people. The U.G.C. must abandon its current policies of subjugation and enslavement—"

Tall with the lines of a lean athlete, a runner, or so the Nets had reported, Dr. Kaliska Light Horse looked more like a medieval warrior in her attire than a renown professor of modern cultural and historical anthropology and the acknowledged political leader of the radical fringe in Armstrong and the outer Lunar settlements. As she railed against current U.G.C. policies, the reddish hues in her complexion face intensified with anger. Her eyes darkened.

Hayley sniggered. "Enslavement? Doesn't she know anything about the United Galactic Confederation's Declaration of Freedoms? There's no slavery on Trinidia."

The visual shifted back to the MNN's anchor. "The U.G.C. Defense Command reported that it would not back down on its policies to aid the Trinidian government."

Bruce's friend was standing in the Press Room of the Governor General addressing a group of reporters. According to the graphic superimposed on the screen, she was Christine Stone, Executive Chief of Staff. She remembered the name. She had seen something on the nets about her appointment; a rising hotshot and wonderling who had organized and run Jeremiah DeBow's successful campaign run. Hayley wasn't too surprised to find Bruce's friend was a member of the government. All of Bruce's friends were in the government. Yet, there was something else familiar about the cool brown eyes and gorgeous exterior. For some reason, she was certain they had met before.

She listened as Stone explained the government's position. "The Trinidian Tribunal signed the Alliance Accords—." This was old, familiar history to anyone following the current events on Trinidia. "The accords granted corporations duly chartered by the U.G.C. permission to encourage trade, cultural exchange, and settlement on Trinidia. For the last fifty-five years, this mutual arrangement has proven very beneficial to all involved, especially the Trinidians. Prior to the accords, the people of Trinidia lived in utter poverty without any of the benefits of advanced technology. Disease was rampant, so was famine. The U.G.C. has done much to help the Trinidian government eliminate both. Now with Prime Minister Rlak Tern's government threatened by a growing rebel movement—a movement hostile to the U.G.C., and humans in general—we have a moral obligation to offer whatever support we can."

"Christine!" Delores said with delight.

Hayley's head jerked back to watch Delores enter the room.

Delores had changed. Instead of the blue kimono, she now wore a sleek pantsuit of green cashmere-blend. Her make-up was fresh.

Hayley gave Delores a quick glance. Her chocolate eyes sparkled. Hayley quirked a smile. "What?" she giggled.

Delores chuckled cynically, nodding at the image of Christine Stone. "Stop drooling. I saw the way you were looking at her. She's way out of your league."

Hayley sniggered with sarcasm. "Yeah, yeah."

"You don't remember her do you?"

"She seems familiar."

"I swear, Hayl. For a certified super genius, you have absolutely the worst memory for living names and faces. Christine was Bruce's best at our wedding. Oh, of course, after the ceremony and your requisite appearance at the reception you and the space jockey skedaddled back to the library."

"That was nearly eight years ago."

"How does that encyclopedia you have as a noggin work?" Delores picked at Hayley's scalp. They laughed. Delores kissed Hayley's brow, taking a moment when her lips left the smooth skin marred, to clean the dark strawberry smudge with a moistened thumb. "Don't worry about it," Delores's grin did not fade. "I won't tell." Her head bobbed toward the monitor. "Rlak Tern—such a shame. The assassination of his wife."

"I hear they'd been married more than fifteen years. They look so odd—like those old accounts of Sasquatch."

Tern's face was distinctly round with massively grotesque brows jutting over his black eyes. Speaking stilted English, his twin rows of sharply spiked teeth protruded slightly. They were pitted and in some places blackened with decay.

"Looks like he needs a good dentist," said Delores with continued good humor. "But you know what he reminds me of even more?"

"No," said Hayley.

"That teddy bear you had. The one Grandma Hayley gave you. That bear had coarse brown fur everywhere."

"I don't think so," said Hayley. "The only thing they have in common is the two ear lobes. They're round. Maybe a little cuddly, but no. No, Duncan was cute."

"To his wife, he was probably cute."

They listened as Tern spoke. The enunciation, impaired by the alien's protruding snout and his physiological inability to form a proper S, T, D, L, N, or Th, mixed with odd little nuances fundamental in the diction of the Trinidian language. Combined with his fractured English syntax, Hayley could barely understand the alien leader's comments. "Good thing the net has captioning," she said.

"Trinidian government welcomes the assistance provided by Governor General DeBow and the United Galactic Confederation. Terrorist actions are on the rise, murdering at will. The rebels threatening to destroy my government and end the friendship between Earther Humans and us must not succeed. We are most grateful for your aid."

"Not all in the Confederation have been as generous," said the voice of a young male announcer.

The visuals shifted to a montage showing more demonstrations on Earth: protesters in Hyde Park, protesters outside Tiananmen Square, and finally the former United Nations. Many carried placards proclaiming "Earth First!" and "No More Reservations!"

Delores lamented loudly, "I'm so tired of these naysayers."

Hayley found herself in agreement. "The protesters know nothing about the policies of the U.G.C. I bet none have ever left Earth. Earthers have always had such parochial minds!"

"Earther ignorance is disturbing," Delores sighed.

"I don't think they will ever understand," Hayley gave voice to her greatest peeve. "Most Trinidians are happy to have the U.G.C. on their planet. Look at everything we've brought. Medicines, my God! They were just industrializing when Colonel McDonald first made contact. We've brought that planet's entire civilization into the modern age!"

"Dr. Light Horse." Delores pointed to the monitor where the famed scholar was answering a reporter's questions. "She and her faction have filed another petition to force DeBow to abort our treaty with Trinidia and remove all human influence. That's why Bruce had to stay later than he thought. He's been helping coordinate the public relations campaign for the United Galactic Party and the Governor General's Office."

"Isolationists!" Hayley growled. Thinking of Carol and how the maneuvers would keep her away from the dreaded book talk, a wall of self-pity increased her contempt. Hayley remembered Bruce's message. "Oh, that was Bruce on the vid "she said." He'll be on the 2200 transport."

A nervous grin creased Delores' sculpted face.             

"He says you should get the guest room ready. He'll be bringing company."

"Great!" Delores swore.

"What's wrong with that?" Delores usually loved guests. "I'm sure everything is already. If not, with the RMs, I could—" Hayley looked about for the two robotic maids that kept the Sharpleton house in perfect order. They were nowhere in sight. Probably in their closet, a simple request to VAS would make them appear.

"It's not that." Delores walked back to the kitchen and ordered a glass of water from the food dispenser. She took a sip and then stared at the glass.

Hayley followed her. "Is something wrong?"

"I wanted some time alone with Bruce tonight." She became quiet.

"What is it, Del?"

"I'm pregnant," she muttered angrily.

"What?" Hayley thought she'd heard wrong.

"Now don't get me wrong," she said taking Hayley's arm. "It's just I had made plans on how I wanted to deliver the news." Her face softened with regret. "We've been talking about children for some time. The timing is right. I know he'll be thrilled, but I wanted the droids to prepare a special dinner. You know, Hayl? Candle light? Some Rachmoninov? A little jazz?" Hayley could read the disappointment in her sister's face. "Well, little sister, what do you think? You're going to be an aunt?" Delores blinked back a tear. "I'm going to be a mother," she sniffed.

"I think it's great," Hayley threw her arms around her shorter sibling. "I think it's great. Have you told Mom and Dad?"

"They're going to be grandparents!" They gasped together with the realization.

"Oh, they'll be so thrilled," Hayley proclaimed.

"That's true," agreed Delores. "They're still young. They'll be able to spoil him or her rotten. Daddy's parents were already in their nineties when you were born."

"And I don't even remember them. I've always heard stories about how they loved to play with me. Grandpa'd throw me up in the air and catch me."

"I've always enjoyed that pix Mom and Dad have of Grandma Genetti holding you at your baptism."

"I know the one you mean. Mama said she was so tickled when they named me for her. What do you think? Are you really thrilled?" Delores asked with uncertainty.

"Sure—I get to be an aunt." Hayley gave Delores another hug.

"I'm going to lose my figure," Delores began to cry. "I'm going to get fat."

"No, you're going to look maternal," Hayley corrected.

Delores laughed.

"Have you told Mom and Dad, yet?"

"No—you're the first to know. I wanted to break the news to Bruce first, but with company."

"There's always the bedroom. Your walls are soundproof," Hayley smiled slyly.

"Hayley!" Delores almost blushed. Hayley did. "Sometimes, you're just too smart for your own good." Delores straightened. "Of course, you're absolutely right. I know what I'll do now." Her smile turned wicked as she wiped away the remnants of her tears with the back of her hand. "Let's get going. I've got some shopping to do."

"I thought we were going to get me a dress."

Hayley mocked a pout and then laughed as her sister winked and said, "Oh, we will. But I need a little something for tonight."

Part 4

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