Authors: Jonathan P. Brazee
FROM THE UNITED FEDERATION MARINE CORPS
Colonel Jonathan P. Brazee
Copyright © 2015 Jonathan Brazee
Semper Fi Press
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means—graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system—without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
I want to thank all those who took the time to pre-read this book, catching my mistakes in both content and typing. I want to thank Tom Rogers, my content editor, and John Baker, my copy editor, for catching my many typos and mistakes. Any remaining typos and inaccuracies are solely my fault.
Original Cover Art by
Michiko MacCailín slowly took off her ballet shoes, grimacing at the bloody mess her feet had become. These were special order handmade Rostov’s, supposedly the most comfortable
shoes available, and that had cost her almost 150 credits, but her feet had still taken a beating while she practiced her
She started removing the bandages that she had wrapped around each toe and used to pad the other pressure points. With the blood, at least the bandages came off easily. Taking some wipes out of her kit, she cleaned her feet off, wincing as the solution in the wipes hit the raw flesh. She took another can out of her kit, and the cool spray of the NovaSkin was a relief. In another three hours or so, her feet would be healed, ready for the next torture session.
Michi looked up from where she was sitting along the wall of the studio. Melinda and Taro were working on their
press lift, Melinda arching gracefully back as Taro lifted her with one hand. Taro was Michi’s cousin, and the MacCailín family size was an advantage to him as he easily pressed the 38kg Melinda.
The family genes hadn’t done Michi any favors, though. She looked past the two dancers to her reflection in the mirror on the far wall, subconsciously slouching as if to become smaller. It didn’t do much good. At 1.85 meters and 68kg, Michi was not a small girl, and for a female ballet dancer, that was not good. As she had matured from a lithe dancing sprite into a woman, she had taken to wearing loose T-shirts to the studio, but those could not hide the swell of her breasts, the widening of her hips. She had been a budding prima ballerina at twelve years old, the best dancer among the juniors in the company. At 19, she was too big to partner with any of the boys and relegated to dancing alone in the chorus.
Michi watched the petite, breastless Melinda being pressed again and again in the air while Artair, the troupe’s balletmaster observed and critiqued.
It just isn’t fair
, she thought for the thousandth time.
It wasn’t so long ago that Artair spent a good portion of his day critiquing her. Now, he generally ignored her.
It wasn’t as if Michi could no longer dance. Michi also had the MacCailín family athleticism, and she had adjusted well to her changing center of gravity as her body matured. But ballet was a traditional art, and big girls had no place in it. It had been this way for over 600 years, and it wasn’t going to change on some backwater planet in the Federation.
If she weren’t so stubborn, Michi would have taken Artair’s advice to move on. She could have tried ballroom or synchro, two dance forms in which tall girls were accepted. She could have gone into volleyball, five, or mixed martial arts, all sports in which she had dabbled. But ballet was her passion, and she refused to give up.
The fact that her body attracted the attention of most of the men she met was lost on her. To Michi, her body, that very athletic, skilled body that allowed her to complete even the most difficult ballet move, was a traitor.
She sighed and put on her street shoes. Standing up, she gathered her kit. No one said anything as she made her way along the mirrored wall and out of the studio. With winter still hanging on, the day was brisk at about 8 degrees, and that lifted Michi’s spirits. She liked it cold much better than the hot, humid summer days that could stifle Kakurega. She contemplated running home to change, but a quick glance at her PA told her she didn’t have time if she was going to catch the first speech. Sniffing her armpit, she decided she wasn’t too rank, and her tights and sweatshirt would not be totally out of place. She tried to call Franz, but there was no answer. Michi was not surprised. Franz would be focusing on the demonstration, and his PA would probably be refusing incoming calls.
Prosperity Square was normally only a ten minute walk from the studio, but as she got closer, the mass of people streaming in made the going slower. Michi was surprised at the turnout. Each demonstration had pulled more and more people, but this looked like a huge jump. Maybe the Workers’ Rights Party was beginning to find a message that resonated. That, or maybe Propitious Interstellar Fabrication, Inc.’s ability to cow their indentureds and other employees was finally fading.
As both a Highland Clan member and a
, Michiko was a free citizen. Both of her families had come to Kakurega long before the charter was granted to Propitious Interstellar. The Kaitakusya had left Tanda for a new beginning on Kakurega about at the same time as the Highlanders came to farm the lush planet, and both groups easily mixed. When the charter was granted to the company, both groups stayed, and now, most of the First Families provided services for Propitious Interstellar. They were dependent on the corporation for their livelihoods, but not under its yoke.
Michi was aware of the issues the indentured, or Class 4
employees, had with Propitious Interstellar. She couldn’t very well be in a relationship with one of the Workers Rights Party’s leading figures and not be aware. Franz Galipili was only 25, but he had quickly taken a position of leadership in the party, his ability to arouse emotions as he spoke a vital asset. Franz was an indentured, so technically, he was breaking the law by speaking out, but throughout history, all revolutionaries were criminals in the minds of their masters.
As a free citizen, Michi didn’t feel oppressed. But she wanted to support Franz, so she showed up at each of his rallies.
Michi made it into the square and slowly worked her way forward to the platform that had been erected in front of the 10 meter-tall statue of the Propitious Interstellar corporate logo. This wasn’t really the most logical spot from which to address the crowd in the square, but the symbolism was not lost on Michi. That had to be the work of Tamberlain Jaderon. The old man had finally worked off his indenture and was a free citizen, but his keen mind was an asset as he continued to support the party.
Tamberlain saw Michi approach the platform and gave her a smile and a nod. He nudged Franz who turned and saw her. Despite the hubbub, Franz quickly came to the edge of the platform and leaned down for a quick kiss.
“Hey, Chipper, glad you could make it,” he told her, reaching out to stroke her long black hair.
Franz was the only person to call her that. The two had met at an All Hallows party, and Michi had been dressed as some sort of oversized chipmunk. She had originally intended on being a squirrel, but when Yuzuki, her little sister told her she looked like a trinocular, she added stripes to set her off. Ever since, Franz had called her “Chipper.”
“Good turnout,” she said, sweeping an arm to take in the still growing crowd.
“Even the jacks
came out to play,” Franz said, tilting his head over his shoulder.
Michi hadn’t seen the jacks when she walked up. There had to be close to 50 of them, blocking B Street, the main route from the square to corporate headquarters at One Propitious Interstellar. They had on riot gear and looked oppressive to her.
“Are they going to cause trouble?” she asked.
“I doubt it. What are they going to do? The people are just gathered to listen to our message. I think they just want to make sure we don’t make an impromptu march up to One Propitious Interstellar.”
“As if anything you do is impromptu,” Michi said with a laugh.
“Well, you know how it is,” Franz said. “Impromptu, planned, it all comes out in the wash. Glad you made it, Chipper. With my beautiful muse here, I will be inspired.”
Franz’ compliments were always over-the-top, Michi thought, but she still liked them. Franz could have his pick of fiancés. He was handsome, charismatic, and while an indentured, he was one with his own type of power. The fact that he had picked Michi was a mystery to her, but one she appreciated. She had even broached the subject with her father about buying out Franz’ contract. She didn’t know if Franz would even accept, even if her father broke down and agreed, but if they ever set a date for their wedding, it would be far easier if he was a free citizen.
Someone called for Franz’ attention, and with a quick kiss on the top of her head, he stood back up and went to take care of whatever emergency had arisen. Michi made her way slowly to the side of the platform where she could watch. For once, her height was an advantage. If Melinda had been there, she would need Taro to lift her if she was to see anything. The thought of Taro, lifting Melinda in a graceful
press lift while Franz and the other speakers railed against Propitious Interstellar struck Michi as funny, and she laughed out loud. An older man standing in front of her looked around at her as she laughed, his expression disapproving. Michi stuck out her tongue at the man, who grimaced and turned away, ignoring Michi’s louder laughter at his reaction.
It was another five minutes before the scratchy recording of the Propitious Interstellar anthem started blasting out over the crowd. It was Propitious Interstellar policy that for any gathering of over 20 company personnel, the anthem had to be played. Many people thought that this should be ignored at the rallies, but Tamberlain had convinced the rest to adhere to the requirement. First, it served to leave the jacks with one fewer reason to take action, and second, the way they sang the anthem was a protest itself. With a terribly scratchy recroding playing, people took to trying to outdo each other in singing as off-key as possible. It was getting to be a highlight of any rally. So far, with the letter of the regulations being followed, Propitious Interstellar had chosen to ignore the farcical singing.
Michi joined in the singing. As graceful as she was physically, her singing voice left a lot to be desired, and if she sang off-key, well, who was to say that it wasn’t purposeful? As a free citizen, she didn’t even have to sing, but it was fun, and she got into the counter-spirit of it.
. . . for the good of all mankind, Propitious Interstellar Fabrication!
What a joke, Michi thought as the final strains died away. Propitious Interstellar was a corporation beholden to its shareholders. “For the good of all mankind” was not in their corporate policies.
Getting to be a regular revolutionary, aren’t we
, she thought as she caught her criticism of the company.
Her father would not approve. As a First Family, the MacCailíns made a very good living off of Propitious Interstellar. Her father had a small fitting company that repaired the nozzle valves on fabricators, and he charged the company the going rates for the work. It was enough to make the family quite comfortable. Except for her Uncle Delwyn—who imported luxury food goods for sale to other free citizens, including Propitious Interstellar management—all her many uncles and aunts worked providing services to the mighty corporate giant.
The corporation needed the free citizens other than its employees to provide goods and services, and all free citizens were not limited for their own purchases to the corporate stores. They could spend their money pretty much anywhere they pleased, and given the outrageous prices at the corporate stores, no sane person would buy anything from them.
The corporate store model was one of the major complaints of the WRP. Given the wages allotted to the indentureds, it was difficult for them to work off their indenture as long as they kept piling up debt at the stores. But people had to eat, they had to get clothed, they had to sleep somewhere. Only 31% of Propitious Interstellar’s indentureds ever worked off their servitude, a rate far below that of most Federation corporations.
With the anthem over, Franz took the stage to welcome the people. This was just a quick warm-up. He would give his real speech later. But he introduced two other indentureds, “regular” people who had sad stories to tell about how they’d been treated by Propitious Interstellar. This had become part and parcel of each rally. Tamberlain said it was to personalize the issue, to remind people that this affected each and every one of them.
The first person to talk was a middle-aged lady who had been close to paying off her indenture when she contracted a respiratory condition, one that was common among the granular fabricators. The medical treatment, even though the condition was undoubtedly caused by her work, was not covered by Federation regulations, so she had to pay for the treatment, setting her freedom calendar back at least five years.
The Federation did have regulations that protected workers, including indentureds, but there always seemed to be a loophole, and indentureds didn’t have the funds to hire lawyers to fight for them. Job-related injuries and illnesses were supposed to be treated at no charge to the workers, but unlike the workers, the corporations did have lawyers on staff, and in this woman’s case, they argued that her disease was a precondition. The Federation advocate found for Propitious Interstellar, to no one’s surprise.
While Michi could feel for her, she was not as impressed with the next guy, a young man who seemed to rail at the very concept of the indentureds. Michi was not going to bring it up, not to anyone in the crowd and not to Franz later that evening, but she wondered why the guy was complaining. No one forced him to sign on with Propitious Interstellar, after all. It was his choice, and his contract with Propitious Interstellar explicitly stated that he had to pay off his indenture. That seemed pretty cut and dry to her.