Brigit’s Flame December of Minis entry three-
“Moonstones and Guilt”
Speculative Future Fiction
Part of the previous series, but not directly. This is set in the same world, but represents a different time, place, and a new character.
The dazzling skyline of level 150 Amazonia reached for the horizon like chorus lines of showgirls kicking their rhinestone-spangled shoes to the stars. A luminous moon worked to steal their spotlight, but the girls never stopped trying.
Saran shifted her focus to the viewscreen on her glasses. “I cannot intervene, Roland. We must respect the natural order of things. We exist in a world of duty and sacrifice. Our first thought of the day is to our Mother Moon who sees all even when we cannot see her. Our second is to the Corp who provides our food, our shelter, and our law. Children will rebel, and as the Moon guides us so should we guide them. A parent is the beacon and the teacher. Do you not agree?”
“Of course I do Lady Saran, but my daughter…Jesse is still a child and they want to punish her as an adult. I will lose her. I came to you because I thought you would understand. Doesn’t the loss of your daughter haunt you daily?”
Saran stiffened and counseled her face not to snarl. She answered tensely, irritation crawling under every word “You speak of my daughter and my loss as though it were comparable to your own situation. I understand sacrifice for the greater good. I live my duty every day. I gave the burden of that loss to our vibrant Mother long ago so that I might be light enough to counsel others.
“We have birth laws for a reason, Roland. Every life is the responsibility of the Corp, second only to the individuals which bore it. Each new light we bring into this world is born into contract. Do you believe that the Corp should be obliged to accept every new hire thrust upon it without having a say in the stock and character of its employees?
“Your daughter was schooled in the law when she first came into flower. Jesse took the classes and signed the consent to be implanted with the preventative. Now she’s thrown it all away. She ignored the established protocol when she unwisely decided to engage in a relationship with an unlisted man, paid some charlatan hack to remove her implant, and entered into unsanctioned pregnancy without applying for a birth permit. Those are some very adult decisions. Do you not agree, Roland?”
“They will send her to prison,” the man whispered, head in hands.
“Jesse broke the law, Roland. Have you considered how the Corp will view you in light of this action?”
“I’ve been demoted and my wife was transferred to housekeeping,” he admitted.
“Yet you cry for this criminal and make pleas in her favor. Jesse has ruined your life.”
“Thank you for your time, Lady Saran. I regret having offended you with my petition.”
Saran softened into her public persona. “Our Mother forgives you a parent’s love. Look to the Moon and she will bring you peace. I will have one of my disciples at the jail administer Blessing to Jesse to ease her pain of loss as well.”
The man bowed in deference and the transmission ended.
Saran checked that the record light was no longer glowing before she barked, “Are we done yet? I cannot talk to another pathetic supplicant tonight.”
“Your shift has been terminated early,” replied the ‘droid serving as her personal assistant. “I have cleared the queue and rescheduled ten callers for private appointments tomorrow.”
Saran missed the young, adoring flesh of human assistants.
“Not that I’m not grateful, but why was the shift cut off?” she asked.
“You have an emergency meeting with the program director. He has asked me to put you through to him immediately.”
“Excellent,” Saran murmured to herself, “ratings drama. I need a vacation.”
Saran smoothed her vestments and put on a bright smile as the viewscreen sparked back to life.
“Cheers, Shane. How does the night find you?”
“Is this an encrypted channel?” Shane asked abruptly.
Saran mouthed unformed words in confusion until the ‘droid cut in with, “Yes, I dialed up a level 27 encryption channel as instructed.”
Saran turned to look at the ‘droid over her shoulder. She had no idea what level 27 encryption was. Then she settled her attention back on her viewing glasses.
“The glowstick assures me it is. Level 27; whatever that means. What’s going on Shane?”
“You are being temporarily reassigned as a military liaison. Saran I need you to get to a physical meeting A.S.A.P. to be briefed on your mission.”
She laughed. “How bad are the ratings that you’ve lowered yourself to punking me? Level 27 – that was a nice touch.”
“This is not a joke. I need you to hear me.” Shane stage whispered as he leaned in close to the camera,”I don’t have any of the details, but the head of the network just called me into his office. We are getting the exclusive on a developing story of worldwide significance and you were requested by the military to be their spokesperson.”
A slow smile spread across Saran’s face. “Naturally,” she said smugly. “Where will the meeting take place? It’s a shame they didn’t give me more notice. The new designer my stylist found has not had time to deliver even one set of my new robes. What goes best with worldwide significance? White robes maybe, with hints of grey to make the white pop.”
“I would go with variegated blues,” Shane advised. “It is the blue planet.”
“Blue isn’t a very dramatic color though, and if we do any of the broadcasts against a sky backdrop I’ll blend in like a chameleon. Well I am the liaison, I suppose I can make it work. Who is the DP? What crew will I be working with?”
“The only information I have at this time is that you need to get to the meeting right now. I sent the location details to your assistant.”
Saran mentally pressed pause on her inner newsreel. “Am I going alone? It is it a planning meeting?”
Shane nodded with a shrug. “I guess it is. I have no instruction for anyone but you. Alonso would be the most logical choice for DP and I know he’s currently filming Underside. I have no instruction to call him back. Did you know those liberation people have discovered an Earth 2.0 and have claimed it solely for their Corp?”
Saran felt her stomach flip. “Which liberation people?” she asked breezily.
“Quantum Migration.” Shane gestured to someone offscreen.
“I only vaguely recognize the name,” Saran said a few octaves too high. She hoped Shane couldn’t hear her heart banging against her ribcage. “Let me guess – they believe Corp-life is evil and that we should go back to the old way of life with corrupt governments and full-support aid packages?”
Shane chuckled distractedly, “I’m sure it’s something like that. It always is. Listen, Maribel is waving like a fool outside my office. I guess there’s a fire somewhere. Check your planner and get to that meeting. They want you there yesterday.”
“Of course they do,” Saran quipped. “I’ll get changed and go. Thanks, Shane.”
He was already gone.
Twenty minutes later a freshly scrubbed Saran was standing before an antique mirror layering her garb. The robes of her position were designed to be impenetrable by bullets, fire, and any manner of fluid a psycho might try to douse her with. Fashionable security is what her stylist had called it.
Saran also wore a protective veil in public, unless she was speaking publicly. An Entertainer was a beacon of hope for her own people, but to those who followed another Entertainer’s path she might sometimes be seen as a symbol at odds with their beliefs. This mentality could lead to violence. Though in her experience the zealots were more likely to harm their own Reverent than the opposing Entertainer.
Saran shook off thoughts that would lead to her long-lost family and refocused on her own reflection. The base layer of garments were for hygiene and protection from chafing. The second was support to counteract the effects of age and gravity. The next three offered various degrees of protection against external forces. Over the years, Saran had sought out makers of protective fabrics that were effective yet lightweight and beautiful.
Saran stroked a scaled, iridescent shawl hanging over her dressing rack. There was soft rasp as her fingers smoothed the silken surface and left faint traces of color from her body heat. This silk – enhanced through synthesis to absorb all impact away from the wearer – was the finest body armor ever created. It was also flexible, lightweight, and cool to the touch.
Before wrapping the shawl around her head and torso, Saran clipped a fresh clove and citrus sachet to a particulate respirator, then slipped the elastic bands over her ears. The droid helped with the shawl, wrapping it tight enough to guard against gusting winds and human interference but not too tight to move.
Saran primly smoothed her curves for the mirror. She liked the way the wrappings accentuated her figure and presented the illusion of a larger bustline. Her frosted jade eyes were lined with kohl as a final touch before Saran clipped on the veil.
She glanced at the time just as the ‘droid announced that her lift had arrived.
Zerospace – the slab floor of every Skydeck Mass – had not been designed for inhabitants. It was a machine floor on every blueprint ever conceived and Amazonia was no exception despite being the first of all the concrete continents. Long before the Green Wars and the subsequent establishment of the Interplanetary Corporate Collective, there was a retail company in need of more undeveloped land for warehouse space than could be found in one place on the planet.
So they built their own in the ocean – towering above the height of any potential seismic sea waves and wide enough in area to warrant their own postal code. It took a century for it to grow into the Skydeck Mass it was today. It was slightly after that 100-year anniversary that it was needed to house millions.
The natural continents had become vast wastelands of radical Nature and immense radiation. There were very few reasons to visit the Underside and all of them involved vaccination, specialized radiation suits, and very large guns.
It wasn’t long after civilization was relocated to the various concrete continents that population control and the indolent became problems. Amazonia had been expanded to the limits engineers found advisable for the strength of the ocean floor beneath. Birth laws were enacted first, consigning the able-bodied who refused to work to main slab followed.
The first of those exiled to the lowest deck did as expected and jumped off after a few weeks with no food or water. Problem solved. But eventually survival instincts kicked in and the pariahs began to string together a life for themselves on the bottom floor. Earning enough for a single meal was harder and more work than anywhere else on Amazonia, but the Zero’s were willing to do more to not die than they were to exist on an upper level.
Unfortunately, everything they were willing to do involved truly disgusting smells, foul puddles that glowed yellow in the street lights, and questionable protein sources.
Saran followed the navigator murmuring in her ear, from the secure lift plate station to the warehouse district where her meeting would take place. Once she was in the rows of warehouses, he navigator stopped directing her and kept insisting that she had arrived at her destination. Saran was standing between two long rows of decrepit warehouses that had been scavenged to skeletal remains.
“I assure you I have not reached my destination,” she informed the nav voice in her ear. Saran delicately adjusted the sleeve of her robes to expose her Cuff. Directions to the meeting were the most recent viewed so they popped up quickly. She glances around to get her bearings then strode confidently through the debris to the last building in the row.
Poised to knock, the door opened and she was shuffled inside without a greeting or a glance at her ID.
Moments later she found herself standing in front of the second-to-last man on Earth she ever wanted to see again.
“Greaves,” she hailed coldly, “I should have expected that any event of worldwide significance would involve you. I see you’re a General now. Impressive.”
“Lady Saran,” he replied evenly, as though she had been civil. “I’m so glad you made the time to join us. You won’t be disappointed. Where are your things?”
“What things?” Saran asked.
“This is not the location of our meeting, merely a waypoint.” Greaves gestured to a small shuttle.
“I was not told we were leaving the slab. Where is the meeting?” Saran asked, notably flustered.
“Off world,” he said vaguely as two MPs with rifles on their shoulders offered to escort her to the waiting shuttle. “It’s just a precaution,” General Greaves explained. “This journey is top secret. No one can know where you are.”
“Not even me?” Saran asked haughtily.
“You will know when you get there. Our scans indicate that you are transmitting – or were. This is too important, do not attempt to undermine the mission again.”
“That’s General Greaves and I have to insist you use it.”
“General Greaves,” Saran sang with an unctuous smile, “I’m not going anywhere with you without the backup of a video record. You proved yourself the boldest, lying snake at my custody hearing. You and that spineless husband of mine conspired to steal all three of my girls from me, but Aryal was the biggest loss. She was my first-born, my Moonchild.”
“That first was not a custody hearing, it was about competency and gross negligence. You used her in your act like a sideshow freak. Even after the attempted kidnapping you kept her on display. When one of your followers threatened to kill her over a prophecy you invented, you took Aryal with you on tour. I testified against you as a mother who would continue to put a self-made religion before her child’s safety.”
“Now as then you fail to admit that you were the security officer who advised me to keep Aryal in the spotlight.”
“I was wrong to suggest it and you were an idiot to go along with it.”
Saran seethed in silence, all thoughts of worldwide significance had fled.
“We were both trying to bolster our careers, Saran. I’m sorry about Aryal, but if you let me I can make up for a small corner of that loss.”
“How?” she hissed.
“Get on the shuttle, see it through to the end.” Greaves held up a hand to halt any questions. “I can’t tell you more than that, but you won’t have long to wait for answers.” He pointed to the shuttle and cocked an eyebrow at Saran.
She gritted her teeth and pulled her robes tighter.
Saran stalked purposefully to the shuttle and ducked inside.