Sunday, January 28, 2018

Political Rookie No More            



]: TAS NEWS SERVICE
]: Narmada (1918 Narmada/Wayhaven)
]: Dispatched 137-1107
          ¶ The thirteenth day of the 1107 Narmada Subsector Moot ended with the selection of ten nobles to accompany His Grace Subsector Duke Darius Ingersoll to the 1108 Wayhaven Sector Moot.  Notable among them are Contessa Chantal Dasani of Narmada, Marquis Dr. Toyama Weston of Narmada and Marquis Renard Solono-Deleon, who is stepping down from being the Imperial Liaison on Nan (2015 Narmada/Wayhaven) at the end of this year.
          ¶ Many observers to this year’s Moot have commented that Her Ladyship Baronet Atopia Kesslering, Defender of the Imperium, has been one of the political movers and shakers this time around.  Fresh off her success in getting nobles in her substantial voting bloc recommended for Imperial Liaison posts for three of the seven openings this session, our sources report that she continues to lobby other nobles ahead of the Presentation and Consideration of Submissions by the Moot the day after tomorrow.
          ¶ By all accounts, Her Ladyship will have more opportunities tonight, during Marquis Dr. Toyama’s first mixer at Arcology Whiskey Amber Oh Seven.  The official guest list is well over two hundred names long as His Excellency and Her Ladyship Baronet Kogura Yanni celebrate the public announcement of the consummation of their wedding last year.

137-1107, Narmada, Red Sun City, Arcology Whiskey Amber Oh Seven

Atopia collapsed onto a padded lounge chair with a groan, allowing her body to conform to its contours as she fought back the all-too-familiar dizziness associated with having too much to drink – again.  “Great Maker,” she sighed, “it’s no wonder they only have these things every other year.  Everybody needs the off year to recover!”

She was dog-tired from keeping up with committee meetings, the wants and needs of the nobles in her voting bloc, the endless messages that needed replies, meetings with nobles heading up other voting blocs to test the waters of various proposals – not to mention dividing what little time she had left between eating, being little Olivia’s mother and the one she missed the most of all, sleep.  Even with twenty-eight hours in a day on Narmada, there still wasn’t enough time for it all.

A masculine chuckle to her left roused her from her musings.  She saw a trim man in an Imperial Navy dress uniform sitting on another lounge chair smiling at her.  He wore his glossy dark brown hair in a short but stylish cut that complemented his light tan complexion and mossy green eyes.  His rank insignia and division patch marked him as a Lieutenant Commander with the Navy’s Medical Corps.  Her eyes strayed to the medical satchel resting on the seat next to him.

“You got any detox tabs in that bag, Commander?” she asked, “If I have to, I’ll play the damsel in distress to get one.”

He opened the satchel, rising from his seat as he did so.  Atopia took in the view as he bent over to rummage in the bag for a moment before producing a tablet for her along with a small bottle of water.  He smiled as he handed them over to her with a nod.

She gratefully washed down the pill, taking a deep breath afterward and closing her eyes.  After a moment, the familiar heartburn signaled the pill taking action.  “Great,” she muttered, “now I’ll need something to eat to make the burn go away.”

Something rattled in front of her face.  She opened her eyes to see the Commander offering a pair of crackers wrapped in clear plastic to her.  She took them, tore the wrapping off and started munching the first.  “Are you always this prepared for a girl in need,” she asked, “or am I a special case?”

He sat back down, choosing a chair that was next to hers.  “The Moot is a special case,” he replied.  “You aren’t the only noble in town that has problems finding the happy medium between being a social drinker and being intoxicated.”

“So this isn’t your first Moot,” Atopia said with a sigh.

“On the contrary,” he said, “it is.  I was here for the last one, but only to get acclaimed, so I wasn’t a participant.”

“I don’t remember you,” Atopia said.  “But then, I was still in the process of mustering out of the Navy as well as keeping tabs on the Moot.”

“You do seem to keep yourself busy,” he said with a smile.  “I can see why Baronet Yunni admires you so.  I may have to start a fan club.”

Atopia chuckled a bit at that.  “You obviously know who I am,” she said, “So who are you?”

He offered a hand to shake.  “Sir Winston Blakely, M.D., Your Ladyship,” he said as she grasped his hand.  “Formerly of the Imperial Navy, but I’ve spent the last year and a half on Kiewa, as part of the Imperial Humanitarian Mission there.  Thank you for your support in extending that mission, by the way.”

“You’re welcome,” she said as she flagged down a waiter bearing a tray of glasses.  “How are things going on Kiewa these days?”

“Considerably better now that the Globiovirus Gamma outbreak has been contained,” he said as he plucked a lowball glass containing three fingers of the arcology’s most famous product.  “I’ve already thanked Sir Onnab Sarak and the people of Karakesh for their prompt charity last year.  I believe I owe you a debt of gratitude for delivering it to us.”

“Can’t accept it, I’m afraid,” replied Atopia as she took a tall glass of sparkling water from the waiter’s tray and nodded politely to him.  “Sir Onnab paid me quite well to express that shipment, though I still contribute to the Kiewa Humanitarian Fund on a regular basis – among several others.”

“Well, thank you all the same,” replied Winston as he idly swirled the whiskey in his glass.  “I hope it’s not too personal a question,” he continued after a moment, “but what is it like being a gypsy merchant?”

Atopia took a drink from her own glass before replying.  “Interesting,” she said at last, “and I mean that mostly in a good way, but sometimes in a bad way as well.  There’s been more than one transit where I’ve had to deal with death on a very personal level.  One of my crew very nearly got killed last year because of a decision I made that put us in harm’s way.  Another associate and friend of mine on Moksha wasn’t so lucky.  I’ve also had two dead passengers that I feel responsible for, even if the ITCC has absolved my crew and me of blame in each case.”

Atopia paused for another drink, admiring Winston’s good looks and his ability to listen without looking for an opening to interrupt her.  “On the other hand,” she continued, “my crew and I have made many good friends in our travels and exploits – something that’s now paying dividends at the Moot for me.  Plus, there’s the stowaway who became my adopted daughter last year and helped exonerate a young man and his noble house just the other day.  And, of course, there’s the money – starships are expensive, after all, but business has been exceptionally good of late.  I’ve been able to afford taking time off to attend the Moot and give my crew several extended liberties with a few extra credits to spend, as well.”

Winston nodded in acknowledgement, taking a sip of his whiskey in the process.  “Do you think that being named a Defender of the Imperium will change things for you?” he asked.

Atopia shrugged.  “No telling,” she said.  “I honestly thought that my noble title was just going to be an honorific to hang on a wall, like a high school diploma.  If I had known that just a few weeks later I would be in a life-or-death firefight with both an Imperial war criminal and a rogue noble – and losing – I might have reconsidered the whole thing.”

“And yet,” replied Winston, “you’re smiling about that.  How does that work?”

“It led to better things,” said Atopia.  “Like this moment that I’m spending with you, for example.”

It was Winston’s turn to smile.  He held out his glass to her.  “Here’s to the unexpected outcomes, then,” he said, “They are the spice of life.”

Atopia touched his glass with hers and drank.  The spice of life, indeed, she thought.

139-1107, Narmada, Red Sun City, Arcology Whiskey Amber Oh Seven

-- from the personal journal of Baronet Atopia Kesslering, Defender of the Imperium

Ugh.

Great Maker, preserve me from this Ninth Hell of being exhausted and completely unable to sleep!

Nope.  I’m still wide awake, curse the luck.

Fine, I’ll go over the day just past and perhaps that will allow me the luxury of a few blissfully vegetative hours before things start all over again.  "Just two more days," is what I keep telling myself – a mantra that promises an end to this political slog.  After this, I will no longer look down my nose at Imperial bureaucrats – they are either a specially attenuated breed and deserve admiration, or they are cursed and deserve sympathy.

Sir Winston and I talked nearly until dawn this morning – and with the extra-long days and nights here, that’s saying something.  He’s got that special quality of being able to draw me out and get me talking about whatever I happen to be thinking about.  And here I am, thinking of him and smiling again.  He’s pretty special, that one.  I hope I can spend some more time with him before the Moot comes to an end.

I met with Sir Charles Barlow a lifetime ago when the sun was low in the east.  He’s the son of Baroness Danielle Barlow, the widely-despised lady who owns the planet of the same name.  I initially thought he was paying a visit to rally support for her dead-on-arrival resolution for getting the Imperial Bureau of Planetary Development to fund terraforming efforts there.  I’m happy to declare that I was completely wrong in that regard.

Turns out that Sir Charles fell pretty far from the family tree, and actually has both compassion and a conscience.  Long story short, Barlow (the planet) has a transient problem – like eleven percent of the seventy-odd thousand people living there.  The baroness doesn’t want anyone shipped out on hers or anyone else’s credits because (publically) she says that would only encourage more people to come there looking for work without the means to return home.

Privately, there are a number of credible reports that she’s in cahoots with a number of criminal syndicates, possibly even heading one of her own, and needs desperate warm bodies willing to do anything for a credit to make it affordable.  Sir Charles is very, very quietly making arrangements to smuggle the most vulnerable among the transients there to Narmada.  So, while my ship will be chartered to haul the baroness, Sir Charles, their staff for the Moot and about seventy d-tons of terraforming equipment – the sort of stuff the baroness wants the Imperium to pay for – to Barlow when the Moot’s over.  Then, we'll take whatever cargo Sir Charles can put together while smuggling ten people through customs that I have to hide aboard my ship until we can clear port and put them in low berths for the rest of the trip back.  If it’s possible, I might take on a dozen more and fill the passenger cabins, too.

Sir Charles is paying for the passengers with opals that are mined on Barlow.  When he showed them to me, they took my breath away.  I can honestly say they are the most beautiful stones of the type I have ever seen – cobalt blue with rich veins of silver running through each.  I’m thinking about getting a full set of jewelry made with them – after I get back to Narmada, that is.

I already knew that His Grace Sector Duke Wymark wanted me to accompany him to the Grand Imperial Moot in 1110.  I managed to rally my bloc behind Marquis Dr. Toyama’s bid to go as well – so not only is he going to be at Belaya next year, but he will also take the long haul with me across the eighty-odd parsecs that lie between here and Capital the year after.  The good news is that the marquis has a very competent staff that can handle things in his absence, since I am sure he would not want to be parted from Baronet Yanni or their newborn child for any length of time.

Sir Winston officially joined my voting bloc today and asked if he could accompany me to The Honors that night – a formal dinner for the vast majority of nobles in the subsector like me who have no fief to go with their titles.  I fired off a quick message to Terrance, Duke Darius’ personal aide, about my suddenly having a date to bring to dinner – kind of a problem since I was going to be sitting at His Grace’s table.  I shouldn’t have worried.  Terrance made the arrangements before the first round of voting in the Moot was completed.

Olivia answered the door when Sir Winston dropped by my apartment at the arcology to pick me up.  I had already told her about the knight, and she was every bit the perfect hostess, as she and he got along splendidly while I primped and double-checked everything in my bedroom before emerging in my best formal gown.  It had the desired effect; there was about ten full seconds of awed expression before he found his voice and complimented me rather copiously for the rest of the trip over to His Grace’s residence.

And I’m smiling again.  Wow.

Duke Darius looked troubled at dinner, though.  I thought I might have committed some faux pas or maybe didn’t know Sir Winston’s history as well as I should.  His Grace pulled me aside during his glad-handing session with nobles that were getting their sole opportunity to bend his ear, saying that I needed to meet him early this morning for a continental breakfast and coffee.  I’m guessing it’s going to be bad news – maybe something else about war breaking out on the frontier for… what would this be – the fifth time, I think?  I’ll just have to see.

And now sleep seems like a possibility, so good night.

]: TAS NEWS SERVICE
]: Narmada (1918 Narmada/Wayhaven)
]: Dispatched 139-1107
          ¶ 50-year-old General Uzuri Sumari of Narmada’s Autonomy Defense Force (ADF) announced his retirement at a media briefing early this morning.  General Sumari has headed the ADF since 1099 and is generally well-regarded by the nobles and citizenry of the Autonomy.  No reason was given for his sudden announcement, but his resignation was accepted by His Grace Subsector Duke Darius Ingersoll.
          ¶ General Sumari’s replacement, 34-year-old Colonel Cassandra Mutabe, has been on detached duty off-world for the past seven cycles.  She was a member of the Imperial Army for twelve years before joining the ADF in 1103.  A spokesman for the ADF stated that Colonel Mutabe will be promoted to the rank of General in a ceremony to precede the Transfer of Command ceremony on 142-1107.  Colonel Mutabe could not be immediately reached for comment.

139-1107, Narmada, Red Sun City, The Grand Assembly Hall

Atopia gnawed on her dataslab stylus as she watched the tally for the vote run up on the central holographic display.  “I say, this one’s got the Moot nearly split,” commented Baron Eldon von Haas as he sat beside her at her table.  “Wouldn’t have thought that the week before the Moot, given the mood of what nobles and His Grace were then.”

What was it that His Excellency, Marquis Toyama had said last year, she wondered as she watched the display.  “You no longer have anything to fear from SuSAG.”  But what in Nine Hells did you do that made you so confident, Your Excellency?  How many laws did you break?  How many lives did you end to exact your vengeance for the life of Baron Alton Richards?

“Bloody Hells!” exclaimed Baron Eldon, “There’s less than a score of votes to count and it’s tied at eighty-all!”

Atopia glanced down at her dataslab.  She could read the title of the resolution currently before the Moot – Formal Request by the Government of Teleajen for Interstellar Investigation Resources.  The planet’s Imperial Liaison, Dame Lydia Harcourt, had put forth a measured, reasoned argument in favor of the resolution – formulated, no doubt, by the best lawyers the plutocratic government of that world could hire.  Atopia had listened to that speech, parroted perfectly by a noble who’d studied at the legendary Performing Arts Academy of Landor, refusing to be swayed; but only because she suspected what it would really mean for Marquis Toyama if the resolution passed.

She knew he was capable of these things.  “I’ve killed a dozen people this year to protect the Duke, this world and the Empire,” is what he’d said to her when they first met nearly two years ago.  He was proud of what he’d done because he knew the reasons why such things had to be done.  But at what point do such things cross the line?

Atopia knew that she wasn’t pure, either.  She’d willingly helped Baronet Fletcher Willow bury his criminal past by chucking a cargo container full of incriminating evidence into jump space.  She’d done it to protect the man who had protected her friend, Baron Harper Willow, for decades – much in the same way the marquis had for her.

She glanced over her shoulder at Baroness Olivia Servantes, seated in the row behind her.  Olivia wore the same hard expression she had when they first met on Moksha.  Olivia didn’t bother mincing words for the Atopia, at that time a newly-minted noble.

“Every noble in the Peerage is one kind of son-of-a-bitch or another,” Baroness Olivia had said then.  Most of them slap on a thin veneer of civility in public while they make life-and-death decisions on a daily basis that will potentially affect the welfare, futures and lives of billions of people.  They have to decide who lives, who dies or who isn’t worth the effort of saving.”

A chime sounded softly but clearly, precisely the right tone to cut through the rising murmurs of the two hundred simultaneous conversations taking place within the hall – the final tally was up.  Baroness Selene stepped up to the podium and gaveled the hall back to order.  “On Resolution Number Eleven-Oh-Seven-dash-Six, the yeas number eighty-six, the nays number ninety-three.  The Resolution is not adopted by this body.”

Atopia didn’t realize she’d been holding her breath.  She gasped involuntarily and focused on breathing until the sudden overwhelming dizziness passed.  When she looked back up at Baroness Olivia, the noble still wore the same expression while looking straight at Atopia.  She nodded.  So did Atopia.  The matter was resolved.

Baroness Selene was gaveling the body to order again.  “The Moot shall now consider Resolution Eleven-Oh-Seven-dash-Seven, titled: Acclamation of Olivia Miller, nee Verne, including declaration of inheritance of future title from Baronet Atopia Kesslering, Defender of the Imperium, et al.  In support of the resolution, the chair recognizes Baronet Atopia Kesslering, Defender of the Imperium, for an allotted time of ten minutes.”

“Right,” said Baron Eldon as he rose with her.  “I’ll fetch the little lady.”  He chuckled at his own joke as he caught her gaze.

Atopia smiled as she moved to the aisle and began her descent to the floor of the chamber.  “Let’s hope,” she said.

139-1107, Narmada, Red Sun City, Arcology Juliette Azure Oh Nine

Atopia handed the man a small card.  He read through it carefully, his lips moving as he silently practiced saying the words in his mind.  He nodded to Atopia, gesturing for them to proceed.

“Announcing,” called the Herald, “the arrival of Baronet Atopia Kesslering, Defender of the Imperium; Sir Winston Blakely, M.D.; and the Lady Olivia Verne!”

All three of them smiled as a cheer rose from the assembled throng at Armando's Restaurant.  Yup, thought Atopia, the spice of life.


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