Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Disaster Visitation

by Travis Perry

Lieutenant MacBane showed up for the meeting just in time, ushered quickly into the building adjoining the mayor’s, taking his seat among half-dozen key players at the conference table. He was too late in fact to hand off his “package” to Mayor Jonzn prior to the disaster-relief committee meeting. This put the mayor in a rather foul mood.

After  what “up abovers” in Avenir, in space, and on Sheba and Quatermain called “The War” (because it had been their only one), which the landsiders and undersea dwellers called “The Great War” (because there had been others on Eclectia), the Peace Council had been established to provide for a common legal system, with common police and military service, throughout all the diverse settlements in the system. Since Avenir had won the war with the help of the spacers, naturally the Peace Council met there and represented Avenir and spacer interests more than any of the people dwelling “down under.” All combined undersea colonies had exactly one representative on the council, the same number all landside colonies had. One.

The Peace Council directly controlled peacekeepers and through them, the enforcers. They also appointed governors to each significant individual location, in all regions: on the ground, underwater, and in space. The governors employed “ministers” to assist them. But these appointees did not replace native local governments and institutions where they had already existed...

“Our first item for the agenda should be the Avenir Gratitude School. Avenir has paid over two hundred thousand credits to establish this groundbreaking institution, yet all we’ve got for our troubles is a floor, four walls with doorways and windows, and a ceiling. We’ve gone through three contractors, and costs keep overrunning—”

“Hey, first off, this is bidness for the education committee, which meets next fiveday,” snarled Jonzn. “Second, maybe if you paid in real coin like everyone else uses, you’d get better results than you do with your useless Avenir credits!”

The governor’s eyes opened wide. “Useless! My dear mayor, any of the over two hundred and thirty merchants and vendors on Avenir will fully redeem all payments made in credits, plus your local money market allows transfer to your backward hard currency, if your contractors insist—”

“At a substantial loss!”

“This is by no means our fault, Mayor. If the Avenir Investment Ministry’s help is of no interest to you, AIM can just as well send monies to other backward areas. Such the Zirconia orphanage, for example—”

“Not that Avenir has an orphan problem,” said MacBane, rolling his eyes, chewing an unlit cigar.

The governor didn’t even glance at the official from Zirconia—his eyes remained fixed firmly on Jonzn’s. “Are you saying I should recommend to the Peace Council that AIM withdraw its assistance?” The governor leaned back in his aluminum frame padded chair that he’d brought with him to the meeting. Apparently the wrought iron chairs around the mayor’s polished brass conference table weren’t good enough for him…

Jonzn hastily changed his sneer into the best smile he could manage. Avenir credits were unfair—they benefitted the up-above economy at the expense of everyone else—and they didn’t amount to all that much real money. But they were a lot better than nothing and his people needed everything he could get for them. “Look, I’m sorry, Gov’ner. Had a bad mornin’. Didn’t get my lava tea this day. Of course we both want and need your help down ‘ere.” In the back of his mind Jonzn was wondering if he could start a rumor that would work its way up to the council and get this skyscrubber of a governor fired.

“In my opinion—” said MacBane. He didn’t finish, because at that moment the tsunami warning siren sounded over the city of Adagio, the signal to close the watergates, the only things protecting the city from certain destruction.

Jonzn squeezed his round belly out from underneath the table and ran for the door to his office. There, panting from the short sprint, he picked up his landline phone and dialed the main engineer house at the gates. Sweat drenched his head for reasons that had little to do with running.

“Tell me you got the gates fixed!”

“No, sir! The west gate is still open and won’t close. I repeat, the west gate is still open!”

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