Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

Governor: Chapter One

       Last updated: Monday, November 16, 2020 19:08 EST



    "Terry, we're going to be late!" Simron Murphy said.

    "Can't be," Commodore Terrence Murphy said with what could only be described as a smirk. "I'm the guest of honor. They can't start it without me, can they?"

    "Terry!" Simron shook her head and glared at him, but it was a remarkably mild glare.

    "What?" He looked at her innocently. "It's true, isn't it?"

    "No, it is not true," she told him severely. "The limo is already waiting. And they can, and will, start precisely on schedule, whether you're there or not."

    "Oh, give me a break!" He rolled his eyes. "This is your brother and my father-in-law you're talking about, Simmy! Have they ever started a social event 'precisely on schedule' in their lives?"

    She glared up at him. Her father's genetic heritage was obvious in her sandalwood complexion and shining black hair, but her eyes were a startling blue, courtesy of her mother's side of the family. Well, that and a little discrete genetic tweaking a generation or so back. She was a small, compact, gracefully moving woman. Not a great beauty in any classic sense, perhaps — her features were too strong, too sharp for that, especially in an era when biosculpt could transform anyone into a god or goddess. Yet she was astonishingly attractive and stood out in any crowd, largely because she'd chosen to eschew any improvement on nature. That made her almost unique among the Five Hundred, the alliance of families which were the backbone of the Terran Republic's elite society, and uniqueness was always its own cachet. Of course, the fact that a razor-keen intellect and a lively sense of humor dominated those sharp features was another factor.

    Alas, only someone with very poor vision would have called Murphy handsome. At just under two meters, he was almost thirty-eight centimeters taller than his wife, with sandy hair and gray eyes set in a strong-jawed face that seemed to be made out of randomly assembled bony planes. At the moment, those gray eyes sparkled with mischief as he gazed back down at his wife with the insufferable air of someone who knew he'd just scored a telling point.

    "Maybe not," she acknowledged after a moment. "But —" she raised one hand, index finger extended as she made a point of her own "— Dad is in charge tonight. Rajendra loves this sort of thing but he’s off-world on business. And Boyle will be there. That Boyle, and he won’t too impressed if the guest of honor – one of the guests of honor — comes dragging in an hour late."

    "We'll be there in plenty of time," Murphy assured her, turning back to the mirror and adjusting the set of his cuffs. Then he brushed at one of his lapels. The softly shimmering sekyri was a Rishathan import that had cost a small fortune, but it was also the latest fad. Anyone who aspired to the first rank of fashion had to have it. And he had to admit that his coat's dark, cobalt blue did go well with his coloring.

    "Terry, we really are going to be late if we don't get a move on," she said in a rather more serious tone.

    "Personally, I'd rather stay home and not go at all," he said, turning to consider his profile and smoothing the cravat which had come back into fashion. "Politics." He shook his head with a sigh. "You do know how boring this is going to be, don't you?"

    "Boring or not, it's important." She shook her head, her eyes darker. "This is a major step in your career, honey. You can't — we can't — afford to blow it."

    Murphy made a noncommittal sound, and she grimaced. She knew her husband was more than smart enough to understand how important the endorsement of someone like Amadeo Boyle was. Boyle, the New Progress Alliance's party leader, stood at the very pinnacle of the Terran Republic's kingmakers. Although he occupied no office of his own, his NPA held almost a quarter of the Assembly's seats, and it was the NPA and its allies — especially the Future Cooperative Party and Jugoslav Darkovic's Conservative Coalition — who had put Prime Minister Verena Schleibaum into office. There might have been a half dozen people in all of the Sol System who could do as much for someone's political aspirations as Boyle, but there wasn't a single soul who could have done more.

    "I know it's important," Murphy said now, "but I hate the entire political circuit. I've seen too many people get ulcers dealing with it. I'd really rather be —"

    "Out on the bridge of a starship surveying new star systems somewhere," Simron interrupted, and smiled a bit crookedly when he looked at her. She patted his elbow. "Well, there's always time for that, too, but you said it yourself — you've got to have your ticket punched in more than one way to get where we both want you to get, and you have to get the order right. First you go to New Dublin and get that on the record, then you can go back to Survey. For a while at least. License some colony rights." She squeezed the elbow she'd patted. "I know you'd rather go back to Survey for good, sweetheart, but —"

    She shrugged with an almost apologetic smile and it was Murphy's turn to grimace, but he also nodded. It might have been a bit grudging, that nod, but she decided to settle for it. Much as she loved her husband, there were times his . . . lack of involvement, for want of a better term, could drive her to distraction. Those were the times when he chose to take absolutely nothing seriously beside the far more important matter of how well his new waistcoat fitted or how the shade of his formal jacket's facings complemented his cravat.

    What made it most infuriating was that he was one of the smartest men she'd ever met. He simply chose not to use that intelligence unless it was to get something he wanted, and, unfortunately, he seemed to want the political power that lay within his reach a lot less than he wanted to gallivant around the galaxy discovering new planets. In fact, she was fairly sure he saw the acquisition of that political power mainly as a way to push Survey's budget priorities, even if he didn't get to go play intrepid explorer himself. Yet for all his exquisite tailoring and general detachment, there was a sense of responsibility under that exterior. It was deeply hidden, almost as if he was embarrassed to admit its existence even to her, but it was there. Once he had political power, that responsibility would drive him to use it far better than all too many of the idiots who had it now.

    She only wished he would enjoy it as much as the idiots did. He wouldn't, of course. But he would do his job well, and that was what really mattered.

    Now he finished examining his appearance in the mirror, then turned and flashed her that wide, laughing smile that transformed his bony countenance as he offered her his arm. She shook her head again, eyes laughing back up at him, as she tucked a small hand into his elbow and they headed for the air car landing.




Kanada Thakore placed his palms against a darkly stained wooden rail. He brushed fingertips one way, savoring the feel of small scales against his skin, then moved them the other way and felt glass-like smoothness. Sharkskin wood was rare and scandalously expensive on Earth, imported from the Tesseract System, far beyond the blue line. He flashed a fake smile to a woman passing on the dance floor just below the raised platform he shared with a slightly shorter man. Amadeo Boyle wore a black suit run through with gold lustron threads and held a drink in his pudgy hand.

    Music from a holo quartet carried perfectly over the low hum of conversation in the ballroom, speakers in the ceiling focusing just the right volume from the stringed instruments to Thakore’s ears.

    He swiped his thumb down a finger and tiny sensors in his skin lowered the music for him and him alone as he listened to the dozens and dozens of conversations from his guests. Scions of major corporations, established families, and Terra’s intelligentsia were here. All the right people, and he was well aware of who hadn’t sent their RSVP for the event.

    Waiters—all actual humans—in leggings and-high necked collars moved through the crowd carrying platinum inlaid trays with finger food or flutes of champagne. Droids could have done the job perfectly and cheaply, but paying the outrageous fee Authentic Limited charged to provide flesh and blood waiters to service the event was a flourish that would keep the newsies buzzing about the ball for days.

    Everything was going smoothly. He flicked a nail against his middle finger and the time popped up on his synched contact lens.

    Almost everything.

    “Your boy’s going to be late,” Boyle swished thin black liquid in his glass and took a sip. “Not getting cold feet, is he?”

    “Finish your singularity. His car’s landing now,” Thakore traced a tight circle over one eye.

    “Your invitation said this was an un-linked event,” Boyle held his nearly empty drink to one side and waggled it slightly. A waiter with a tray of a half dozen different potent potables seemed to appear out of nowhere and took the glass. Boyle dismissed him with a wag of his fingers.

    “For the guests; I’m the host,” Thakore said. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed you dipping into your link. What’s her name?”

    “Money,” Boyle sniffed. “She never sleeps. Cruel mistress.” He shrugged, and the gold threads in his suit morphed into a dragon and snapped its teeth at Thakore.

    A set of double doors opened and a couple walked in, arm in arm. They stopped just over the threshold, and camera flashes sparked from the scrum of reporters behind a red silk rope.

    Drones would have covered most events, but this wasn't "most events," and there were live reporters behind those flashes. Turn down an invitation from Kanada Thakore to rub elbows, however distantly, with the cream of the Five Hundred? Of course they'd come! And their glowing, firsthand reviews as they gushed over it on the social feeds tomorrow would be worth every penny he'd spent to get them here.

    A potbellied doorman in a pure silver suit rapped a staff against the marble floor.

    “The Honorable Rear Admiral-select Terrance Murphy and Mrs. Simron Murphy!” he announced, and the attendees broke into polite applause.

    "Your boy and your lovely daughter are finally here," Boyle murmured as the new arrivals entered the ballroom and began shaking hands and speaking with guests. Both wore broad smiles that would make any politician proud. "I suppose that means the festivities can commence."

    He removed a small box from his coat and golden lines of flame danced down his arm as the lustron flexed. He squeezed the side and the lid popped up, revealing a pair of twined starburst studs.

    “How’s this Navy nonsense supposed to go? I push the metal pin through his Rishathan silk shirt and beat my fist against it until it hits flesh?” Boyle asked.

    "Don't be a pain in the ass, Amadeo," Kanada Thakore scolded. Aside from his coloring, he didn't look a great deal like his daughter. He was almost as tall as his son-in-law, with the broad shoulders and flat midsection of someone who kept himself fit on the microgravity handball court. His naturally dusky complexion was rather darker than Simron's because of the time he spent at the helm of the Amphitrite, his ninety-meter catamaran. “There’s a representative from Bureau of Personnel in the crowd drinking my best alcohol. Soon as we’re ready, he’ll read some scripted business and then my daughter will hand him the rank. Then he’s a real admiral.”

    “Murphy knows what to do after that? He still remember how to salute? It’s been a while for him, yeah?” Boyle snapped the box shut.

    "Whether or not he chooses to show it, Terrence is a very smart fellow. And don't forget the Murphy family name! He can be very useful to us, down the road."

    Boyle grimaced.

    "I know that — that he can be useful to us, at any rate. I'm not so sure about the 'smart fellow' bit, though. Oh," he waved one hand in a small throwing away gesture, "I know all about his aptitude testing and the Raymond Whoever Award and the rest of his towering scholastic reputation. But it doesn't matter how smart you are if you aren't willing to put that intelligence to work doing something useful. We have plenty of worker bees who can survey new star systems, Kanada!"

    Thakore glanced at the shorter Boyle. There was something much too like disdain in the NPA party leader's expression, but there wasn't a great deal Thakore could do about that. For that matter, he wasn't positive the disdain was as unmerited as he'd like to think, and he hid a sigh as he looked back to watch his daughter and his son-in-law crossing the ballroom floor toward him.

    They were a striking couple, Thakore admitted, and although he knew Murphy would have preferred to be almost anywhere else, no one could have guessed that from his pleasant smile, the way he paused to share pleasantries along the way as he worked through the crowd. One of the more maddening things about Terrence Murphy was that he was just as effortlessly charismatic — in a very different way — as Simron yet seemed blissfully unaware of what a useful weapon that ability to charm people could have been. Indeed, at times Kanada was tempted to agree with Boyle, but he'd worked too long and too hard to put all of the pieces into position. He wasn't about to walk away from it all now!

    And he is a Murphy, Thakore reminded himself. It's been a while, but people remember his grandfather. That name recognition alone will be worth an extra five or six million votes when the time comes!

    Personally, a military career had never appealed to Thakore. Why risk his talents and all the good he could do for the Republic by dying in a deep space fight? There were colonists for that sort of thing, and he had too many other, more important things to do running Venus Futures.

    There'd been suggestions, over the years, that Venus should be renamed, christened with some new and exciting title more relevant to humanity's expansion into the galaxy. Thakore had shot them all down, because some intangibles were more valuable than simple relevancy. As the very name suggested, Venus Futures predated the Terran Republic itself. For that matter, it predated even the internal development of the Sol System, far less humanity's sprawling outreach to the stars. And the originally modest little corporation whose highest ambition had been to place a habitat in Venus orbit all those centuries ago had become one of the dozen most powerful transtellar corporations in the galaxy. VF had led the way in penetrating the Rishathan Sphere's internal markets and continued to dominate the Republic's trade with the Sphere, and it showed in its hefty bottom line.

    More than that, it was poised to grow more powerful still, thanks to its position as one of the Terran Navy's primary suppliers. The endless, dragging war with the lunatics in the League was a terrible thing, no doubt, but there was that old proverb about ill winds blowing no one good, and there was no point pretending the war — and all those government contracts — hadn't done wonderful things for Venus Futures. Of course, other proverbs about war being good for business weren’t lost on him. And when the Navy officially ordered the first of the Cormoran-class carriers . . . .

    Thakore rubbed his hands together.

    That was one reason to put Terrence Murphy's face front and center during the appropriations process. Very few people were likely to forget that Terrence’s grandfather, Admiral Henrik Murphy, had been directly responsible for the Navy's transformation from a batch of simple peacekeepers — little more than the "Coast Guard in space" old Henrik had called it in his more disparaging moments — into the genuine war-fighting force the Republic had needed so desperately when the League launched its war of aggression. Nor had they forgotten Commander Henrik Murphy's role in pushing the Republic's frontiers steadily outward before rising to such high command.

    A few bribes paid to the right news organizations and the algorithms would link stories of the new Cormorans to Murphy, and his obvious need to have the best ships out there to fight the League. So what if the ships ran into cost overruns during production?

    Terrence was a throwback to that earlier point in Henrik's career. Everyone knew his true interest lay in exploration and survey, just as Henrik's had, which had made the string pulling to get him his new command a bit more difficult than usual. He even looked quite a bit like the old man, and as was the Murphy family tradition, he'd graduated from the Academy and gone into naval service when it was his turn. And despite his personal preference for survey work, he'd actually done fairly well at the Battle of Steelman's Star. Better than his father had at the Brin Gap, at least. Probably best not to mention that part of his heritage and concentrate on Steelman's, instead. Oh, the odds had been nowhere near as unfavorable as Thakore's PR machine had suggested, but he hadn't done badly. And with his name, "not badly" was easily transformed into "brilliantly" in the public's mind.

    That would be worth the odd hundred thousand votes, even though the war was scarcely a burning issue here in the Sol System or among the other Heart Worlds. It was too distant, and after over half a century, it had been going on too long for that. It had turned into little more than background noise for the important things in their lives. Still, there were those, even right here in the Sol System, who followed the war news. They might not be among the Five Hundred, but they did have votes, and the fact that Terrence had "distinguished himself in combat" wouldn't be lost on them.

    And won't Madison eat her heart out when we land the primary contracts for the Cormorans, Thakore thought now. Maybe she should have tried a little higher for Terrence when he was still on the market!

    Madison Dawson, the CEO of Astro Engineering, had a daughter about Simron's age, but she'd clearly failed to grasp the significance of a family connection to the Murphys in the midst of humanity's longest, bloodiest, and most destructive war. It was, perhaps, fortunate that twenty-five-year-old Simron hadn't realized just how assiduously her father had thrown her and then-Lieutenant Murphy together, of course. She was a stubborn young woman, his daughter, and if she'd realized how hard he was pushing, her auto response would have been to push back.

    A valuable asset, my son-in-law, he thought. I wish he gave a damn for anything besides his wardrobe and getting a ship's deck under his feet again, but still a valuable asset. He's a little too much[/i] like his grandfather in some ways, but it's probably just as well he doesn't have the old man's stubbornness.[/i]

    Managing the career of someone as smart as Murphy could get tricky, and there'd been a time or two — especially right after he'd come back from Steelman's Star — when he'd seemed a bit . . . restive. A bit prone to resist his father-in-law's advice and counsel. In fact, there'd been a time there when Thakore had been afraid he'd pushed too hard. He hadn't counted on how Terrence had taken his own war experience to heart or how that experience might shape his response to the sorts of opportunities which naturally came the way of a man with his pedigree and connections. He'd even been critical of Venus Futures' pursuit of the military contracts which were its corporate life's blood, at least until Thakore sat him down and explained some cold, hard facts of life.

    Someone had to build the Navy's ships, he'd pointed out, and it would be best for everyone if the "someone" in question had the resources, the engineering talent, and the proven ability to deliver that Venus Futures had demonstrated over the last several decades. And, inevitably, that meant Venus Futures — and thus Terrence's own family — would make a lot of money in the process. It wasn't profiteering, though! In fact, Thakore had been shocked — shocked! — that anyone would accuse him of that. But there was nothing wrong with making money, of being paid for delivering what the Navy needed when, where, and as it was needed. And it required a healthy cash flow to maintain the physical plant and human capital Venus Futures had amassed in the Republic's service.

    Fortunately, Murphy had recognized the voice of reality when he heard it. He might be more focused on getting back into space — and on his wardrobe — than he was in driving Venus's opportunities, but Thakore could work with that. He'd been more than a little irritated, initially, by Murphy's insistence on adding another deployment to the pot, but he'd gotten over it, especially when the arguments Murphy advanced in favor of it had demonstrated that he understood — now, at least — the importance of political power.

    He was the one who'd reminded his father-in-law that the Emergency War Powers Act had "temporarily" waived the constitutional requirement that federal system governors be civilian appointees approved by the local legislature and given the federal government the power to appoint them, instead. Olympia was still supposed to consult with the local government whenever possible, but the slowness of interstellar communications had clearly made that impractical in a wartime situation. And so, for the last fifty-odd years, the federal government had been routinely appointing those governors. And since the constitutional restrictions had been set aside, Olympia had taken to combining the office of governor with that of the system's military commander whenever possible. Especially in the systems closest to League space. So if he was on the list for deployment and Thakore could find one of those systems, preferably one that was a bit more important than the others, and get him appointed to it . . . .

    Thakore had to admit he hadn't thought of that possibility. He'd actually been focused on keeping Murphy off the active deployment list and right here in the Core Worlds. And he knew damned well that the political angle wasn't the only part of it — to Murphy, at least. Thakore was pretty sure he wouldn't want to surrender his upcoming task force command and come home again on schedule. But he'd do it, and however much the delay irritated Thakore, he'd been forced to admit Murphy had a point. It would look good on his résumé, especially with the added gravitas of a system governorship in his pocket. In fact, Thakore had been a bit chagrined to realize it had taken Murphy to point out to him that a survey mission punctuated by a battle was an insufficient influence-buyer, even for someone named Murphy. Tickets had to be punched and merit badges had to be earned, and successful command assignments were the currency that mattered to a military establishment whose members had been at war their entire adult lives.

    Thinking back on it, Thakore was confident that for all his apparent disinterest in politics, Murphy had also grasped just how far someone with the Murphy name could hope to rise, especially when that name was backed by Amadeus Boyle's political blessing and Kanada Thakore's enormous wealth. And he'd been right. With a second deployment — this time, as a task force commander, not simply a squadron commander — on his list of qualifications, there was no limit on the political career waiting for him when he returned to Terra. The premiership itself would probably be within his reach, after five or ten years in the Assembly's trenches, and that had to be a dazzling prospect for anyone. Of course, even someone as smart as Murphy might not notice who was pulling the strings behind his premiership if it was done adroitly. And Kanada Thakore knew very few people more adroit than he was or —

    "Good evening, Papa," Simron said, smiling affectionately as she and Terrence reached him and she laid her free hand on his arm. "Sorry we're late. Someone had to be sure his cravat was straight."

    "Really?" Thakore cocked his head at his son-in-law. "Any idea who that might have been, Terry?"

    "Haven't got a clue," Terrence Murphy replied, and smiled.

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image