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.
Chapter 4: Allies
Bruce Sharpleton thanked the waiter and, sliding his credit identification through the processor, he pressed his thumb against the scanner. The light blinked green. The waiter nodded with satisfaction and returned to the bar leaving Bruce and his guest at the small cocktail table.
Lifting the squat, sweating tumbler, Bruce tilted his glass in a mock toast. Like weak tea, their bourbon and branch, with more bourbon than branch, had a lustrous brown-yellow sheen. Each took a sip. The burning sensation of the liquid slid smoothly in their throats.
"Lord, it's been so long, Christine!" Bruce still could not believe his luck. "What? Almost four years—the bicentennial of the first Martian settlement? Delores will get such a kick seeing you again."
"Are you sure she won't mind?"
"Mind? You need a place to stay and Delores would never forgive me. Now don't get me wrong, Mars has some excellent hotels, but I know Delores would love to spend some time reminiscing."
"How is she?"
"Busy. Sometimes I believe fate has made us passing shadows in an eclipse."
"As beautiful as ever?"
"How are her polls?"
"Luring Digitizing Production Industries to Mars to produce the new molecular transformer certainly enhanced her reputation. That breakthrough in technology is going to revolutionize the way people live for centuries to come. They've already lined up contracts for Europa, Titan, Frail's 12, Andromeda Pieces, Pegasi Dwarf, and Xena 2."
"I see, you've kept up with her career?"
"Both your careers, but to be honest DPI's a sound investment for Mars and on the IG Stock Exchange" his acquaintance said, nursing her drink. "Now as for you, election as a parliamentary minister at—what—thirty-one?"
"I'd just turned thirty-two," Bruce corrected. "It sure seems you know much more about our careers than I know about yours. After your internship, I know you went back to Earth and did party work. I've caught snippets of news . . . rising to head the North American Central Committee . . . and then orchestrating DeBow's campaign and coming on to head his administration as Chief of Staff. Rumor has it you'll he plans to have you replace Sandoval, the lieutenant governor, when she retires, and ultimately take over as governor general once DeBow steps down."
"Every little girl's dream. That's if the party doesn't splinter any further." Her broad lips drew together to form a line. "But you're right; I've been busy on Earth. I ran damage control out of the Chicago office. Then my duties expanded and for the last three years I've supervised DeBow's operations in the North American Conglomeration, especially the Pacific districts."
"Putting dampers on the Greens?"
"The Greens, but Light Horse in particular. Her momentum has been snowballing lately. She's constantly on the Nets, their latest messiah. I've managed to keep control for our faction in the southern and central regions, but New York and much of the northern eastern seaboard, the Pacific, South American Alliance , and New Zealand—"
"Those regions have always been more radical."
"Light Horse's also proving successful in other zones. Her colleagues have found recent success in the Pan-African League Congress, Australia, and the smaller nations of the Pan-Pacific Federation. The South Asian States Consortium might fall in the next election."
"That could prove dangerous."
"Yes, but those consortiums are still relatively weak. Even more dangerous is the way the movement is growing in the EEC. I am afraid the United Nations World Parliament may soon follow her lead, and that would prove most unfortunate. You've seen what we've had to do to combat Light Horse's latest petition. I fear she could stir up enough trouble to disrupt our plans. That's why DeBow decided to bring me in as his chief of staff and move Sandervol to LG. she simply didn't have the guts to do what was needed."
"He's made a good choice."
"I'd like to think so."
"Why are you coming to Mars?"
"First, I missed you, my old friend. I'd hoped to drop in for a visit."
"I couldn't be more honored."
"Too bad we're mature politicos. Sure would be fun to kick up our heels, make a little ruckus."
"Just like in college. Those were the days. I couldn't have had a better roommate."
"Yes, Delores ... The Musketeers, three budding politicians."
"To destiny." Christine offered a toast. "Funny the way life plays its hand. Think of the partnership we'd have if you and Delores had followed me after law school."
"Not a good idea for Martian politics. Conservative as it is, Martians hate lawyers."
"I understand beautiful Delores being successful then, but how did you ever make it?"
"Ah hah," Bruce took a drink. "You know for the longest time I was so jealous."
"I know. So was I. Delores—you. If I could'a only made up my mind and foregone the menegrie troi and all of the games we played. But you did it right. Martians don't go in for polygamous or open relationships."
"In that regard, you'd a thought that they were fuckin' Puritans."
"Well, you did the right thing. Both of you did."
"I've been lucky."
"Yes, but with Mama's endorsement."
"True. It's helped, but Delores and I like to think we're on our own. No one tells us, especially me, left from right or pulls my strings. So what'cha doing on Mars?"
"I'm scheduled for a series of interviews with reporters on the local news nets and a visit with some of our party leaders, especially Quail in the Legislative Council. Since Mars is such a stronghold for DeBow, I want to make sure those ties remain well watered."
"You shouldn't have any problems."
"Good—I wish the Moonies had the Martian sensibilities."
"Moonies!" Bruce could not help, but laugh at the silliness of the term used to describe the citizens of the United Lunar Colonies. But then, it was certainly better than the Loonies, although, if they were also beginning to follow Light Horse, the term might prove more suitable.
"The movement has made substantial in-roads. In the last lunar elections, they pulled more than twenty-five percent of the votes."
"Damned suicide." Bruce shook his head
"She's what the people want. She has an ability to not only strike at the emotional heart, but her record and ties with academia has given her views an air of legitimacy."
"But the Moon? The Lunar Colonies are much more akin to Martian sensibilities than Earth? Light Horse should have no ties at all."
"Except among the academics and the anti-conglom faction. Her ties there are strong. Her parents. After the next Lunar election the Lunar Assembly might have a Prime Minister that has her okay."
"You don't think she'll want the PM?"
"And leave Parliamentary? No chance. She'll lose her influence. When Maggie Chisolm died I thought we'd broken her back."
"Did more than cut out a major cancer, but they were lovers."
"Really?" Bruce sipped his nectar."
"She's such a loner. Who would have thought?"
"Chisolm was her mentor. Taught her how to step out from the shadows of her university post and play what she calls the game. She taught her how to build coalitions. I have a feeling, we might have made a mistake eliminating her. We'd hoped Light Horse would run back to Armstrong."
"Unfortunately, she didn't. So what does DeBow have in mind for countering her propaganda."
"We need to cut off her access, her forum."
"There are some ideas being bounced about."
"You know, I want in."
"A patriot through and through." Stone slapped Bruce on the back
"Mars has too many interests tied to DeBow." Bruce spied a server and pointed at his empty tumbler. "You?" Christine nodded. "Why doesn't the party simply pull Light Horse's membership."
"Can't appear non-inclusive. It took over a decade for DeBow to break that stereotype."
"Yeah, the United Galactic Party is not an Earth only interest party. We have you, everyone, from Earth to Saturn, in our hearts. We work for everyone," Christine mimicked the voice that had spoken the party line during the last interplanetary election.
"I know, but Light Horse's wing doesn't trust DeBow's ambitions, his moves to centralize the colonial administrations or to reinforce Tern's administration on Trinidia," explained Stone. "They worry DeBow and his faction has developed some kind of grandiose scheme to forge a new empire at the expense of solving humanity's problems at home."
"Most are the crackpots, isolationists."
"Light Horse is not. Her arguments are subtler, no dire warnings of Armageddon. Listen to and read her arguments. She focuses on constitutional and natural law issues, and on the erosion of rights, the growth of the U.G.C.'s military arm under the executive branch. That's how she's gaining the support of the moderates. " Christine drained the last of the tumbler as the server finally approached. "The governor general could be in serious trouble. DeBow sees Light Horse as the greatest threat to his administration. He's ordered me to preserve his power base at all costs."
"You have my full support."
"After this afternoon, I knew I could count on you." Her eyes sparked. She tweaked the collar of his shirt, inspecting it for a bit of unwanted lipstick.
"You know, we'll have to be good."
Her expression said she wasn't too sure if she could. She kissed the tip of her two forefingers and pressed them to his lips. "Delores still as robust?"
"I'm afraid she's not as adventurous as she used to be."
"Too bad," she sighed. "We could have fun. What about your in-laws?"
"You've got to be kidding?" his eyes went wide.
"For De Bow, Bruce. De Bow."
"Oh," he sipped his drink.
"They're firm. You know, in fact, there's going to be a big gathering at their home tomorrow evening. You should come. I have a feeling most of the Martian elite's been invited."
"Hayley—she's presenting a talk at the university tomorrow afternoon."
"Delores' kid sister."
"That skinny little toothpick of a girl who was always hanging around with that skyjockey want-to-be?"
Bruce laughed. "Yes, on both counts. That skyjockey want-to-be is now a first lieutenant in the U.G.C. Defense Force and Hayley's Dr. Hayley Genetti."
"Not medicine. History, like her grandmother. She teaches at the University of Mars, does research, your basic hermit."
"Well good for her." Christine handed the waitress her empty glass. She was gorgeous. A wolfish grin spread as Christine finished a precursory survey of her assets.
The waitress smiled back. Her voice was sultry. "I was hoping you'd be back. Last weekend was fun."
"Absolutely. Perhaps when I get back from Mars. Another work-out?"
"I'm breathless with anticipation. Another bourbon?"
"And one for my friend." Christine gestured.
Sharing one last silent exchange, the waitress left to get their drinks.
Bruce's smile was envious. "Christine, you haven't changed. I bet in the four months you've been on the station you've already bedded every eligible woman. I should be jealous."
"And half the men." Christine did not hide her conceit. "You know if Mars wasn't looming so quickly, and I didn't have to be good—" Christine slid a hand up Bruce's thigh.
"I'd like that, but –aren't you ever going to get serious?"
"You mean monogamous? And choose?"
"It's not too bad. You should try it."
"After this afternoon?" Christine shook her head. "Not yet. I'm not ready to give up my favorite sport. Besides," she said more seriously, "I haven't found the right political alliance. You were lucky, Bruce. You hit the jackpot. Intrigue, beauty, and Genetti patronage—all in one package."
Shaking his head, Bruce chuckled. "Christine, you're jaded."
"But, you can't tell me I'm wrong. Though you've probably never admitted it, Bruce, you and I are too much alike. Now tell me about this party. You say it's for Hayley?"
"Yes. She was the one I spoke with on the videocom back in my office?"
"That woman was gorgeous, not the gangly, shy introvert—"
"Gangly, not any more. But she's still, Hayley. None of her phobias have changed."
"So what's the party for?"
"She's giving a book talk tomorrow afternoon. That's why I'm getting my ass home tonight," he said with implied sarcastic annoyance. "Delores's family is making a big to do. But then," his voice softened a bit, "if Hayley can make it through the presentation, she should probably get a gold medal. What's the one characteristic that stands out in your mind about that skinny little toothpick?" The waitress returned with their drinks. Bruce reached into his breast pocket.
"No." Christine stopped him and removed her credit identification from its sheath. After several more lingering sensual exchanges, she thanked the waitress, giving her tush a flirtatious spank, and then took a sip of the fresh elixir. Her eyes continued to feast on the server's behind as she returned to the bar. "She's a great fuck," she shared, moistening her lips. "Let me see," she returned to Bruce's earlier question. "To tell you the truth her friend—"
"Lieutenant Carol Chang."
"Chang? Well, I remember her more. She had a model FDT-124 that she had built and was flying around the large commons. Some kind of school project."
"That would be her. She has several engineering degrees and is working on her third doctorate while serving as one of the flight instructors for the Officer's Training Program at the university. She's very outgoing, very loud, athletic. It's hard to imagine that she and Hayley are friends, but then it's hard to imagine that Hayley's a Genetti."
"Well, I remember she was one of Delores bride's maids, but really she didn't make much of an impression."
"I'm not surprised. Hayley's just the opposite of the lieutenant and every Genetti I've ever met. Give Hayley a book and a chair in a quiet corner, and you'll have one happy lady. She hates crowds. She hates being the center of attraction."
"But she's a teacher?"
"And according to my contacts at the university a damned good one."
"How can that be?"
"I've asked her about that. She says teaching is something like acting, but I know she's real nervous about this book talk. That's why Delores had her over. Earlier today when I called, she'd said something about taking Hayley out to get a new dress and making her relax."
"Well, you've got my interest piqued. What is this book talk going to be on?"
Bruce opened his briefcase and produced a leather bound book. Wrapped in a standard academic cover, the red jacket only contained the book's title and the author's name.
"An actual book?" he handed her the book.
"Damn the things heavy. No ROM?"
"Can't autograph a ROM or Smart."
"You carry a copy with you?" Christine thumbed through the slightly worn pages. She looked at the inner cover and read, "To Bruce, the best brother-in-law ever. With love, Hayley. Aah. Signed by the author. Impressive."
"It's really very good." Bruce took a long drink of his bourbon, relishing the effect of the alcohol.
"Where No Man Has Gone Before," Christine read the title inscribed on the jacket cover. She shook his head. "That's so cliché. Every old science fiction writer has used that phrase."
"I think Hayl was trying to be ironic. The title fits the point she's trying to make."
"So you've read it?"
"Would you mind?"
"You're interested in history?"
"It's becoming an interest," Christine replied, scanning a page. "Can anyone come to this book talk?"
"Sure, but I'm sure you have something better to do with a Saturday afternoon."
"No, not really. Besides, I want to have something to say when I compliment the author at the party—but you're sure the Genetti's won't mind another guest.
"They'd love to see you again."
Christine grinned. Turning the book over in her hands, she studied the cover. "This weekend's going to prove very productive."
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