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 7: Tintinnabulation
A tintinnabulation of crystal rang clearly as rims touched and then tilted to salute the triumphant author. Another round of applause and boisterous "huzzahs" mixed with the fizzing champagne. The recalcitrant honoree was almost giddy. Unaccustomed to such notoriety, she couldn't hide the reddish blossom on her face.
"To my brilliant daughter!" Dr. Donald Genetti, her father, pulled her close.
Slightly rotund with a barrel chest and a double chin, the family's seventy-year-old patriarch was not quite Bunyanesque. A well-manicured Romonov beard buried the dark, soulful eyes and Mediterranean complexion that gave his eldest daughter such grace. His voluminous bass voice resonated and easily filled his crowded living room with jocularity and good will. Like his wife and Delores, his words were concise and well measured for effect, and though no one would have known any different, tonight he was not playing the seasoned public servant. Tonight, he was merely the proud papa of his youngest, an extraordinary daughter who had, in his opinion, just made history with her hagiographic defense of the U.G.C. and its mission to spread humanity throughout the galaxy.
"And," he cleared his throat. He gestured for his eldest and her consort to join the already assembled trio on the elevated landing at the base of a grand sweeping stairway. "My wife and I received wonderful news on our way back to the house."
Hayley noticed Delores's well-concealed shrug, her way of apologizing. But Hayley didn't mind.
"My other beautiful daughter." He wrapped a burly arm around Delores and kissed her with unabashed affection. "Yes, indeed my wife and I are proud to announce that Delores and her husband, Parliamentary Minister Bruce Sharpleton, will be making us grandparents."
"Well done!" came the cheers. Another symphony of ringing crystal played melodiously as everyone toasted the news.
"You need to be careful now," Hayley said as her glass touched Delores's.
"Just this once," Delores winked.
"You don't know how happy you've made your mother and me. To see our lines continue." Their father kissed Delores again, and then reaching around her, he gave Bruce a solid handshake. "Our family was lucky the day you asked my daughter for her hand."
"Dad, you know it was I who asked Bruce." Delores gave her husband a kiss.
"To two wonderful daughters—what more could make a father as proud?"
"Or mother." Hayley's mother gave her a hug. "I was so proud of you today, Darling." She planted a dry kiss on Hayley's cheek. "Your grandmother," she spoke of her mother, "would have been so proud of you."
Hayley beamed and returned her mother's affection.
With the toasts completed, the quintet drifted apart. Hayley watched as her parents, sister, and brother-in-law quickly blended into the throng. No longer protected by the buffer provided by her family, Hayley froze. The crowd of mere acquaintances, all somehow connected by politics or business to her parents, Delores, and Bruce, blended together until Hayley could not distinguish one face from another. Strangers all, a paralysis took hold of her brain. What would she have to say to any of them? And if she were confronted with someone wanting to make small talk, how should she hold her hands? The thousand details Delores, Bruce, and her parents never seemed to worry about increased the shroud of anxiety blanketing her.
Hayley glanced back toward the kitchen where the head caterer oversaw the work of her parents' three droids. The living room had grown unbearably warm. She was hot. A glass of water sounded enticing.
The robotic-maid droids were plain-faced with anatomical features not quite human. They had spindly arms, skeletal fingers, strange stiff-kneed legs, and feet of smooth-rolling casters hidden by a pair of gray spats. Two of the droids were still rearranging the various platters on the buffet table. A third was finishing the preparations for another set of trays filled with antipasti, canapés, and chocolate covered fruits.
"Miss Hayley," a third droid greeted her in its tinny, mechanical mimic of human speech patterns. "May I get anything for you?"
"A glass of water—I'll get it," replied Hayley.
Hayley watched the RM remove a carafe of melted chocolate from the recessed food processor. The droid began dipping non-processed strawberries into the dark liquid.
"Drinking water—cold," she spoke to the computer. A second later she slid open the panel to the processor and removed a tumbler containing three ice cubes and the cool, sparkling liquid her thirst craved. "Chocolate covered strawberries?" Her mouth watered.
"Have one, Miss," the droid offered, motioning to the cooling delicacies.
"Thank you." Hayley took a large plump berry. Holding it by the stem end, she bit into the rich red fiber. Juice ran down her chin. She wiped it away with a finger and chewed. Her tongue intertwined with the sweet-tart tingle of the citric pulp and the hard, smooth, sweet milk chocolate covering. "Good," she nodded realizing the droid could care less.
"Take it out," ordered the owner of the catering service when she entered. The droid picked up the trays and left to put them on the table. "Your family has good droids. They follow orders well," she commented to Hayley.
father keeps them in good repair. These strawberries are delicious."
"Hydroponics has been producing some wonderful produce lately. If you ever need a caterer?"
"If I should ever have a need for such a service," Hayley knew never, "I'll call." The caterer walked out of the kitchen.
"If I remember right you're not much for parties."
Hayley spun around. Christine. Christine Stone. They had shaken hands in the receiving line at the foyer. An imposing woman, a good two meters in height, especially in her sling heels, she had been sitting when Bruce had contacted Delores from Parliamentary. Now here she stood. Smack dab in the middle of her mother's kitchen, holding a recently acquired strawberry.
"Hate them," she confirmed, wanting to look away.
"I don't know why." Holding her hand beneath the berry, the chief of staff bit into the berry. "Oh," she laughed as juice squirted through the creases of her lips and dribbled down her chin.
"Here." Hayley quickly reached for a towel.
"These are great," she chuckled again as she tossed the stem into the sink, and taking the towel from Hayley, wiped her chin and mouth.
"Yes, they are," replied Hayley, feeling inane as her tongue and brain could come up with nothing clever to say.
"From what I've seen this evening you are really quite lovely, and intelligent to boot. The young men must follow you everywhere."
Hayley blushed. "Not really."
"Your beauty should be seen often." The taller woman continued to smile. The smile softened the oval-shaped face giving it a sensuous curve, perfectly highlighting the dusty rose lips and the brown eyes, which twinkled with green highlights, highlights made more lustrous by the viridescent silk pantsuit and the tiger-brown scarf she wore looped around her neck. "I enjoyed your talk. Well done."
"I read your book on the transport from Parliamentary to Mars. I must admit, I was never a great student of history—"
"Not many are," Hayley knew the come on.
"I enjoyed it immensely. I certainly hope your publisher...?
"Martian University Press..."
"Martin University Press, yes. I certainly hope they make it available for a wider distribution."
"Probably not—the book is too subject specific."
"I think you'd be surprised by the reception. True, it was very technical, but you wrote with such a flowing, narrative style. Like an epic story. I found the text easy to follow."
"My grandmother's legacy. Composition was important to her and I guess, now, me," she admitted. "I'm glad you enjoyed it." Hayley noticed the half-filled glass in her hand; she took a long sip.
"Here you are!" Delores said with surprise as she entered the kitchen. "Elgin Houghton, the Deputy Director for the United Mining Consortium, has just arrived. He wants to speak to you." Delores intertwined her arms around Christine's.
"Probably wants to know about the negotiations to open mining operations in the Trinidian Alpine Highlands. The geological survey has discovered large deposits of aluminum-5 there. The Consortium and Alcoa-Kaiser have been in a bidding war."
Taking a second look at Hayley with her glass of water, Delores stopped. "Christine, I'll be with you in a minute. I think they're by the piano. Just look for the proud papa and grandparents to be."
Hayley asked the computer for a second glass of water.
"Are you coming?" Delores asked when Christine had gone.
"I'll be right there."
"Are you okay?"
"I hope you're okay with Dad making the announcement?"
"I think it was great—took the attention off me."
"Too bad Carol couldn't make it." Delores was sympathetic. "I know her presence would've made this more bearable."
Hayley drank a few gulps. "I'm glad the university made a recording of the talk. I hope she'll have a chance to see it later."
"I'm sure she will. You did a tremendous job. I never realized what a fine lecturer you are. Your students are lucky to have you. If I'd had you for my history professor, I might have taken more than the basic requirements."
Hayley gulped down the rest of water.
"You know you can't stay in here drinking water forever," Delores jested lightly. "You'll float away, or spend the rest of the evening in the bathroom."
"I'm so dry. The lights were so hot—and out there—I don't see how you do it." Hayley set the glass in the dish recycler.
Delores placed a hand on Hayley's shoulder. "You get use to it. I know you were depending on Carol for your security blanket. If you'd like, you can stay with me."
Hayley sighed. "I hate that I just can't do this."
"Come on." Delores took Hayley's arm in hers. Together, they left the kitchen. "You know, everyone is simply raving about your talk."
"Darlings, I'd wondered where you'd gone. There are so many people who want to meet you," she said to Hayley as she parted the two clasped arms and forged a new link. "I'd wondered if you had performed one of your disappearing tricks."
"I was thirsty," Hayley replied.
"Then," her mother said enthusiastically, "you must try some of this wonderful punch, and then I want you to meet Kimberly Adams. She reports for the Galactic Press and the Martian News Net. She's just raving about your presentation. I hear she's asked Dr. Miranda for rights to show several clips of your talk in one of her segments."
Elgin Houghton's nasal, choirboy, voice became hushed. His gnomic face wrinkled as he pressed his point. "My people want you to know just how much we've invested."
"I know," Bruce followed as Christine led the diminutive Consortium director to a more secluded area of the expansive living room. "DeBow knows what's at stake."
"The support of the Consortium," pressed Houghton. His eyes glanced over at the banquet table set up along the wall. His tongue caressed his lips.
Christine tugged on his sleeve. "That's why DeBow is expanding our presence. With the promotion of General Franklin and the transfer of Delta Squadron to the base, Tern knows he has DeBow's full support. The obstructionists will be taken care of. The mineral rights will go to you. Alcoa's going to receive concessions to mine the fourth moon."
"That should placate them." Houghton's attention returned to the banquet table. "Your in-laws," he spoke to Bruce, "certainly set a great table. I must have some of those lovely chocolate covered strawberries. You know," he continued, his voice squeaking as he spoke, "they are such decadent fruits, aphrodisiacs. Excuse me."
"Can you imagine that body and voice in bed," Christine imitated quickly, hiding her laughter. "He's such an odd little man."
"But very good at what he does." Bruce followed Houghton with his eyes. "Elgin has a way of insuring the success of the Consortium's dictums—and as for sex, I understand he has a string of paramours of all sexes lined up between Earth and Titan."
"Really?" Christine chuckled. "Who'd have ever guessed?" Her gaze returned to the gathered throng, searching for her next target.
Looking about, Bruce realized he had lost his wife. He guessed she was making the rounds, keeping current on the political fancies and foibles of their allies and foes. In other words, she was somewhere playing politician. Yet, he thought aloud, "I haven't seen Delores?"
"She's over there with the society reporter from Galactic News," Christine answered, staring at the mentioned group.
"Do you know our Ms. Adams?" Bruce spied the three Genetti women and the reporter speaking together. Concentrating only on his wife, he wished the evening would soon end.
"Only by reputation," Christine spoke as if entranced.
"What are you staring at?" Bruce followed Christine's gaze.
Who could it be? Surely, it wasn't his mother-in-law, Sophia Karolek-Genetti. Though the model of sophistication, no one would mistake her for one of her daughters. At sixty-eight, she had retained much of her slim attractive figure, but a lifetime of pasta had finally begun to make some headway. Even her light, cherry brown hair, which she wore more simply, possessed a few touches of gray.
Delores? A flash of seething jealousy grabbed him as he eyed his wife. Christine still wanted Delores. Bruce had seen the lust the minute they had spotted Delores at the spaceport. He could easily understand the wolfish attraction. Yet—he turned his gaze back to the woman at his side and moistened his lips. Yet, Kimberly Adams's sprightly physique might also attract Christine's radar. Imbibed with the qualities of an Irish elf, she was neither tall, nor short. She had shoulder length reddish-blonde hair, more red than blonde, and mischievous blue eyes that danced in the lights. Her radiant face glowed whenever she smiled, which was often.
"She certainly has grown into a beautiful woman," Christine said under her breath. "The last time I saw her she was so scrawny, and gangly."
Bruce stared at Hayley. Standing almost a head above her mother and sister, she wasn't statuesque, and though she was thin, she wasn't gangly—nicely rounded, with all the right curves. Her delectable breasts protruded ever so nicely, perfect for someone to accidentally stumble and brush up against, cup them, and perhaps even give an excitable squeeze. Bruce fixated on them as he spoke. "I'm not quite sure when the transformation took place, she's so understated, but one day, wow! Of course, she's remained oblivious to the entire phenomenon."
"She's still so shy," Christine noted.
"Even with Delores and Sophia right there."
"She's interesting—a challenge. I think she's what I've been looking for."
"Your sister-in-law," Christine replied. "She's the one I need."
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