Grand Arbiter Cirillo paced furiously in the command center of her bunker. The handful of her generals that she’d had accompany her watched her nervously. None of them dared speak, for they knew well the consequences of such insolence when she was enraged. She suddenly went still, like a wildcat, before pouncing on its prey. She was staring at the map of the main continent where the fighting was happening.
After some moments she seemed to have a realization, and brought up an overlay. It was an overlay of the area of effect of nukes that had been buried in strategic positions. As she pondered the maps, the generals turned to each other as one and nodded. They moved to pull their sidearms to the ready. As they did so, The Grand Arbiter snapped her fingers and barked, ‘BETRAYAL.’ Implants wired into each of the generals without their knowledge acknowledged the command and executed their single function. Electricity discharged directly into the spinal column of each of them, and they slumped at their seats, dead.
Elizabeth had known they would turn on her eventually. Everyone did, for humans were inherently untrustworthy. She spared a moment to glance at the husks lying at the table and snorted in derision. Turning back to the strategic display, she initiated the command to detonate the nukes. If she couldn’t rule this world, then no one would.
Rahul sighed as he walked the streets of the new manufacturing dome. He did his best to hide his internal struggle as he walked down the street. He was a hero after all, and he had to look the part. That did nothing to calm the tempest raging in his mind however, as he thought about recent events. The military had given him a medal and honourably discharged him for taking down that raiding fleet. Which, to be fair, was a pretty good deal all things said and done. He was out of the service a year earlier than he thought he’d be.
Unfortunately, all of that came with strings attached, and now he was dancing along like a marionette to the tune of The Avalon’s political machinations. Which was part of the reason he was making an appearance in the new dome. He’d wanted to go for a walk to clear his head, and making random public appearances was on the list of things he was supposed to do, so it worked out. However, the walk was doing little to clear his head as he noticed people staring at him as he passed by.
He couldn’t really blame them, he was a living legend on this planet after all. He looked up only to be greeted by a billboard with his face on it. He suppressed a grimace and trudged on, trying to keep his eyes on the ground floor of the buildings around him. The district he was in currently had been zoned for commerce, and already the first shops were beginning to open up.
A delightful smell reached his nose, and he let his nose guide him to a nearby storefront that had become a small takeout joint. His home planet didn’t have many eateries, but he’d been to places like this on The Avalon when he’d taken shore leave before. He decided to wander in and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not very busy at this time of day.
As he entered, the girl behind the counter greeted him, “Welcome in, what can I get for -,” she suddenly stopped mid-sentence. Clearly, she’d recognized him. “Uh, sorry about that, Mister Bava. How can I help you today? Might I suggest the weekly special? The first food shipments have begun to arrive from out of system so our chef has been able to really pull out all the stops.”, she said after recovering herself.
“Just call me Rahul,” he replied. He didn’t want people calling him mister of all things when he had a perfectly good first name. He took a moment to glance at the special. It was a sandwich featuring real processed meat, a luxury on this planet. “The special sounds good,” Rahul took out his coin chit to pay. The girl took the chit and put in the order, her hands quivering slightly in nervousness. Rahul did his best not to notice, but her being on edge around him was putting him on edge.
When the girl returned Rahul’s coin chit, he put it away and turned to go sit down in the waiting area. Before he could get far, he heard the girl clear her throat, “Uh, this might be a bit much Mist- I mean Rahul, but could I get your autograph?”
Rahul took a moment to compose himself before turning around with a smile on his face. “Of course, I don’t have anything to write with though, so unless you have something on hand..” he desperately hoped she had nothing on hand. He could feel himself dying inside from embarrassment. Giving out autographs felt, wrong somehow.
He watched as she scurried into the back wordlessly. She returned moments later with a marker and a tablet. “If you could sign the back of my tablet, that’d be great,” she said shyly holding out the marker and the tablet.
He looked at her and the tablet. She was quite young, likely only just old enough to be working. Meeting someone with his reputation would be quite the experience for her. He appreciated that asking for his autograph would be quite the intimidating experience. “Of course I can,” he said, taking both the tablet and the marker. He quickly signed it in Deskashi and handed it back. He could read standard, but had never bothered to learn to write it.
She looked at it and smiled. “Is that the language of your homeworld?” she asked.
He nodded in response, “Yes it is, I know how to read standard, but I can’t write in it unfortunately so you’ll have to settle for a signature in Deskashi.”
She smiled, “Thank you so much. I’m going to go put this away now. I’ll check on your order while I’m back there too!” She scampered off to the back, clutching her tablet to her chest tightly.
He smiled at her enthusiasm and went to sit down. He realized quite suddenly that it had been his first genuine smile of the day. Perhaps he could get used to the whole being famous thing if it meant making people happy he thought to himself.
After a few minutes, the girl came out with his sandwich. He grabbed it, thanking her. She gave a little bow and asked him to come again soon. He nodded in response before leaving. He felt very overloaded from the day and quickly made his way to the small apartment he’d been allocated for his stay in the dome. Luckily nobody stopped him on his way home. That might not be the case going forward once word got out that he was willing to give autographs. He had a feeling his next outing would be much more eventful.
Bridget awoke with a start, letting out an undignified snort as her head jerked back suddenly. She stared at the terminal in front of her that had made the offending noise to awaken her. There was a message from the community work association. That was strange, from what she’d been told, nobody was allowed to make job offers to technical trainees until they had finished out their two years of training, and she was still a month off from that.
She shrugged and yawned, a strand of her dark brown, nearly black hair coming loose and marring her vision with its presence. She tied her hair back again and opened the message. It was apparently a job offer from a researcher freshly arrived from Avalon who had just recently arrived and was opening up a lab. It looked like an automated request, so the system must have noted that she checked all the boxes and sent it to her. The fact that it did that when she still had a month to go on her training was unusual, though, a glitch maybe?
Bridget thought about ignoring it, but getting to be a research assistant fresh out of technical training was tempting. Even if it essentially amounted to being a grunt based on the contents of the job description. She clicked the accept button and, after making sure she knew when now was, selected a time she could actually show up for an interview. She’d never been good at keeping track of the time. If alarms, timers, and calendar dates didn’t exist, she would never be able to function in normal society.
She got up and quietly grabbed a stim-juice from the fridge in the common room, careful not to wake her family. Stim-juice was one of the few non-alcoholic drinks that could be found on Hephaestus besides water. Though apparently, with trade opening back up again, that would be changing. She’d been too young when the trade networks had fallen apart to remember what it was like when goods flowed into the colony. Her parents had told her about it, but it all seemed so strange to her. So many choices for food and drink just seemed so...alien, and somewhat unnecessary to her.
She dismissed the thought and returned to the assignment she’d been working on before she fell asleep at her desk. It was the final assignment for her final chemistry class, she was ahead by about a month, but she wanted to just get it finished and done so that she could stop thinking about it. She would need to provide practical examples, so she grabbed the virtual rig, taking a long swallow of her juice before she did so.
Luckily her parents had owned a virtual rig from before, so she didn’t have to borrow from the education system. The idea of plugging into equipment that hundreds of other people had used before just creeped her out. She slipped the device onto her head, and her body went limp in the chair as she entered her virtual lab. She took a moment to relish in her personal domain and then dove into solving the problems set forth by the assignment taking great joy in demolishing each one.
After an hour, she exited the lab and immediately remembered why it was she wasn’t supposed to enter a virtual space while sitting. Her body had flopped into a very uncomfortable position, and her back had developed a sharp pain. She hobbled out of her room, juice in hand, and scrabbled for the bottle of pain relievers in the aid kit. She took two and hobbled back towards her room to try and stretch a little bit while her body worked out the pain.
As she was on her way back to her room, her father exited her parent’s room, yawning as he did so. The beard attempting to grow on his face overnight made him look unkempt. He was a tall man in contrast to both Bridget and her mother, who were both only slightly above one and a half meters. He quickly noticed Bridget even in his half-asleep state, and his eyes narrowed as his face went from sleepy to stern. “You were using the virtual rig in the chair again, weren’t you?” he accused, clearly noting Bridget’s crooked posture and look of obvious pain.
“I know, I know, I don’t need the lecture again dad. I’d just woken up from a nap and wasn’t thinking about it, I’m going to go stretch and try to get the kink worked out of my back. I’ll be fine.” Bridget vainly attempted to ward off the lecture she’d already heard several times before. She just wanted to try and fix the problem she’d created for herself, not stand there and hear about why she shouldn’t have created the problem in the first place.
Luckily her father seemed to be more interested in going about his daily routine and just shook his head harumphing lightly before saying, “Well try and remember next time.”
She nodded in response and retreated to her room. The painkillers would take more time to kick in, but in the meantime, she began doing some light stretching and, after a few minutes, was rewarded with a light ‘pop’ that immediately relieved most of the tension in her muscles. She’d be right as rain in a few hours. She dove back into her assignment, this time just making lab notes, it was the more boring part, but it was necessary. Her mind lost focus as her hands danced across the keys and drifted to the interview she’d scheduled earlier. She wondered what kind of research it would be for, and more importantly, if she’d get the position.