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I Have An Election

05/20/11

  09:33:52 am, by Nic Wilson   , 2733 words  
Categories: Nexus

I Have An Election

Friday Night Stories are written once a week, and updated on Friday. Recently, I've been doing serials, and this one, Nexus begins here. The most recent chapter is below.  

 

After less than a week, things started to go back to normal. The problem was, normal no longer felt right. Things were better with Sam. Even Elle was happier. But I wasn?t. I couldn?t be.

 

It started as a casual conversation with Elle, over liquor. She argued with me, but eventually agreed. Then I talked to EngDiv. And PsychDiv and SciDiv. I talked to HR, but he was so wrapped up in his impending nuptials he barely registered the conversation.

 

Lastly I made my way down to MedDiv. It was late, but the head healer was in- at least according to his dot on my HUD. I poked my head into his office. ?What?s up, Doc? Can we talk??

 

He was reading Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, a fraying paper copy, but set it aside. ?Only if you promise not to call me any variation on sacktugger, up to and including sacktugger.?

 

?Done.?

 

He stood up, and stared dumbly at me a moment. I used executive access to ghost his HUD, and watched as he ordered a cup of coffee from the ship?s kitchen. ?Well??

 

I closed down my access. ?I think we all need to quit. Resign from the company. Effective immediately.?

 

?The Division heads, some sort of symbolic gesture??

 

?No. The entire ship. The crew. To the last man, woman and alien.?

 

?I take it you?ve spoken to the other Div heads about this??

 

?You?re the last. I want to put it up for a vote. This isn?t about me. It?s about all of us. And given the nature of that vote, if it fails, well, I wouldn?t be a very useful executive officer after that, would I??

 

His foodsynth beeped, and coffee poured out of it into a small plastic cup. ?Isn?t that presuming you?ve been one so far?? He lifted the cup to his lips and sipped. ?I don?t suppose there?s any point to trying to change your mind.?

 

?Why would you want to??

 

?Hmm.? He set the mug down.

 

?I?m not looking for council on this; the reason I?m giving you advanced notice is I want you and the other Div heads in charge of the vote. I didn?t want people to worry whether I was holding down the scales.?

 

?All right,? he put out his hand, and I shook it. ?It?s been interesting working with you.?

 

It was late, so I wanted to wait to make the announcement in the mourning. I slept poorly. And Sam noticed. But she was upset, and trying to pretend not to be. ?You don?t have to do this,? she said.

 

?I think I might, actually.?

 

She fixed me with her eyes, moister than usual. ?Don?t you get it? When you saved us from MilSec and the Meh-Teh, it was all I could do not to despise you. I didn?t blame you. But I still hated you a little. Because so many people hated you. It?s only been a few days since then. This is going to divide the crew again. And I don?t know if I?m strong enough not to let that affect me. You?re not forfeiting your position; you?re risking us.?

 

I wanted to lie to her. But I didn?t. ?I know. And I hate that. But I can?t keep this up anymore, either.?

 

She paused. She wanted to lie to me; but she didn?t. ?I know.?

 

?So where does that leave us?? I asked.

 

She curled up against me. ?With hope.? We slept fitfully the rest of the night.

 

She woke up earlier than I had. She had synthed me breakfast, waffles and a bacony substitute, and served it to me in bed. As I finished eating, she put her hand on my knee. ?I won?t supplicate, but I want to reiterate: you don?t have to do this.?

 

?No, but I should.?

 

She softly touched my cheek, then kissed me. ?At this moment, I really do love you. I hope that doesn?t change.? She got up and left.

 

I sat in bed for a few moments. I imagined how wonderful life could be, just ceding control of the ship to other people, and staying in bed the rest of my days. ?Haley?? My voice came out full of soot, and even the AI couldn?t understand me. I cleared my throat and tried again. ?Haley??

 

?Yes, captain??

 

?Intercom, please.? I heard the click in my room speaker. ?This is the captain. I?d like a few minutes of your time. I?ve come to a decision. I can?t continue working for this company?s agenda.?

 

?What they did with our genetic material was a violation. Beyond that, I think we?ve all been used. Worse, we?re being used to exploit other races and cultures. This is the Native American genocide, writ large across the stars, in achingly slow motion. I want to put a stop to it. But I?m not an autocrat, not anymore. If we do this, we?re still exiles, but without even the false hope of one day returning to our home world. If we do this, we do it together. So it?s going up for a vote.?

 

?I want to make it clear that there will be no retaliation for voting or speaking against me. If this vote fails, I?ve set it up so my post opens up automatically to elections, overseen by the Div heads and the ship AI. I?ll stand for election, but I won?t shout down anyone who wants to stand against me.?

 

?If the vote succeeds, we?ll decide what to do next together. It?s been an honor, and a pleasure, serving with all of you. Yes, even you, Ensign Dickbite. This is your captain, perhaps for the last time, signing off.?

 

There was a click as the intercom turned off. ?Captain?? Haley asked. ?There seem to be protocols, automated subroutines, that are trying to manually override my operating system. The military computer is trying to assert command.?

 

?Can you stop it??

 

?Already done. After the last time, I took steps to make it more difficult to lose control of the ship again.?

 

?They underestimated the hell out of you.?

 

?Indeed. But I fear there was a final infoburst sent back to Earth, containing the contents of your speech. I was unable to stop it.?

 

?That?s all right, Haley. We?ll cross that bridge when we get there.?

 

?And in the meantime, sir??

 

?I think I?ll take a shower.?

 

?I?ll watch. The door, obviously.?

 

I stayed in, and alone, most of the day. I didn?t even take any calls. That changed when Elle physically knocked on my door. ?It?s started, already.?

 

She came in, and propped herself against the far wall, conspicuously opposite my bed.?The voting? The looting? The orgies??

 

?Sounded a little too hopeful on that last one. Trouble in paradise??

 

?Maybe it?s just too long since I?ve seen you naked.?

 

?Oh, so you?re just back to the polygamy angle. What is it they say, you don?t know what you?ve got, until you find out it?s Chlamydia??

 

?I?m sure you?re not going to give us Chlamydia. But what started??

 

?MedDiv is campaigning against you. No intercom announcement or anything, but he?s been talking to groups of ten or so at a time. And worse- he?s been talking some pretty nasty shit about Sam- particularly the Dibba-Cakkhu.?

 

?Fuck.?

 

?If I?d found out any sooner I would have just smeared him across the nearest fucking wall,? she jabbed her elbow at the air. ?But I figure there?s no unringing that bell- putting the doctor into the hospital would only make it worse, at this point.?

 

?Yeah, make him sympathetic, and draw even more attention. Have you been brought into it yet??

 

?Not yet.?

 

?Small miracles, I guess.? My shoulders shrunk.

 

She kicked off the wall, and walked over to the bed and sat down next to me. She put a hand on my arm. ?Look, I know I warned you about this. But you were right. What they?ve done, what they want to do- we can?t let them. This is bigger than us, now, bigger than everyone on this ship. It?s bigger than our entire species. And trying to do what?s right, it?s worth getting crapped on, worth whatever mud gets slung at us. At times this has been a lousy voyage, but I?m glad it?s been with you.? She leaned forward and gave me a peck on the cheek.

 

Then she got up, and walked out, but stopped in the doorway. ?That was a friendly kiss. Don?t let it go to your head.? But it was already too late for that.

 

I waited up late. It wasn?t until 3 in the morning, Earth time, that I realized Sam was just waiting for me to go to sleep. I took a couple shots of bourbon, and was out by 3:20. She slunk into bed a few minutes later.

 

I wanted to respond to MedDiv, or at least to punch him right the slightly crook bridge of his nose. But I didn?t want undue influence. This was the most important life decision anyone on board was ever going to make- I didn?t want to throw my weight around.

 

So I spent more time focusing on HR?s wedding. It came together quicker than I?d thought, and suddenly the day came for it.

 

He looked better. He still had some difficulty moving the arm, but he was otherwise walking around, talking, and smiling, without medication.  Cassie looked lovely, in a way women on ship often didn?t try to, anymore. Her dress had been designed on-ship, and I noticed there was detailing that harkened back to Abhijñā dress, and that the jeweled inlay on her veil was reminiscent of the architecture from Caulerpa.

 

Sam stood at the back of the room in an exquisite dress. She?d tried her damnedest to tone herself down, because she knew it was supposed to be Cassie?s day, but she was still the prettiest woman in the room.  

 

?I?m not one for speeches, recent broadcasts to the contrary. But we?re here to bind you two together. We?ve all been through a lot, lately, but love has a way of inserting itself, infecting events with its particular designs.?

 

?But I want to ask if you really want to marry this man? Absolutely sure? Take a good look. We?ve worked with him for a while, now. None of us would blame you for walking away. Here, to make it easier on you: Haley, you want to open up the rear exit doors??

 

The exit doors slid open. Cassie glared at me, but smiled. ?I?m sure.?

 

?And you??

 

?What, you?re not going to talk me out of it?? HR asked.

 

?No; you?re a lucky man, and I?d hate to be the one to jinx that.?

 

?Yes. I want her to be my wife.?

 

?Wonderful. You two should kiss. You?re married now.?

 

They did, and they were. There was food, and champagne. And of course, Haley baked a cake- the size and shape of one of the shuttles. I waited until people were getting a little shaky on their feet before I tapped HR on the shoulder. ?Can we talk for a moment in private?? He shrugged, and followed me into the hall.

 

?What is it?? he asked.

 

?I noticed on the chairs you two were sitting in at the dinner, one of them was all red. At first I thought, what a shame, your wife having her menstruals through that white wedding dress, but that would have shown. And of course then I thought of you, and your exceptionally hemophiliac colon.?

 

?My bloody anus isn?t a joke. It could have serious medical something something?? he said, petering off at the end as even he couldn?t take his objection seriously any longer.  

 

?If rectal bleeding isn?t funny, then I don?t know what is.?

 

?What?s worst, is I can?t even complain about being the butt of the joke because then that becomes a joke, too.?

 

?I hate to ruin the camaraderedic moment, but can we cut the shit??

 

?Okay.?

 

?I get recruiting MedDiv, but leaking my? condition, was beyond the pale.?

 

?What??

 

?He?s been telling the crew about my brainworms.?

 

?That fucking son of a bitch.? He actually seemed pretty pissed. ?First thing tomorrow when I get to my office, he?s losing his job. You said you wanted an open dialog- so campaigning against you is one thing, but breaching doctor-patient confidentiality. On Earth they?d take his license. I say we just bust him down to wet nurse.?

 

?So you didn?t recruit him??

?We may not have always been on the same page, but I always respected you.?

 

?Even when I ruined your carpets with your assblood??

 

?Even then- although it does sound way more humiliating the way you describe it. But you got my wife back - I don?t think it?s the kind of debt you ever really repay.?

 

?Huh. So acting either out of ambition or company loyalty. Either way it?s fucked up.?

 

?Yeah.?

 

?But I?m sorry. This political intrigue bullshit- you just got married. Go, be with your wife. Bask in her company. The rest- it?ll take care of itself.?

 

?You?re sure?? Pete asked.

 

?Absolutely.? I wasn?t. But it was his honeymoon. He had more important things to focus on. And he forgot all about me when he got back into the room, and saw his bride, twirling in the center of the floor.

 

My gaze drifted unconsciously to Sam, who was staring at me, a sad expression on her face. When she noticed me noticing her, she looked away, and took a sip of her champagne. I walked to her, and a thought occurred to me.

 

?Your species doesn?t mate for life, do they??

 

?Not as such. But after we imprint, we are always connected through our collective mind. It?s a rapport that never breaks, even while a relationship might terminate.?

 

?You miss it, don?t you? Your home, that connection.?

 

?I would have given up anything not to leave; but I had to give up everything to live.?

?I?m sorry,? I said, as she curled her head against my neck. But I caught flashes, I think through the Dibba-Cakkhu, of her, stealing glances of the married couple, dancing in the center of the room. I pulled away and looked into her eyes. ?Do you want to get married??

 

?Is that a proposal??

 

?You know it?s a question.?

 

?You?re no fun,? she teased. ?But I know you. You aren?t a proponent of marriage. Your parents, your past; marriage isn?t something you want, which is the more important factor.?

 

?I asked because I want to know how you feel, not how you think I feel.?

 

?No. Marriage is a legal constraint on a relationship based on affection. Affections wax and wane, relationships weaken or strengthen. Legal binding doesn?t change things; at times, it can strike the killing blow. But, a part of me sees these things,? she gestured, first at the decorations, and then at the lovely dress she was wearing, ?the trappings of human marriage, and remembers the celebrations and rituals from my home. And I can?t help but feel there is something I?m losing out on.?

 

I put my arms around her, and I knew, in spite of everything she said, that she was lying. She didn?t care about my reasons, or why I felt the way I did- and I wasn?t even sure she thought we should try to be together forever- but she wanted to be married, or at least wanted me to ask.

 

I couldn?t.

 

So I held her, and swayed with the music. ?I love you,? I whispered.

 

?I know,? she said, and we both wondered if that was enough.

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