Pravin Lal was comatose again. This was the third time this week that I had found him sprawled on the couch in his office, with an empty glass held in his fingers. ‘Fungal Gin’ he called it – a potent brew distilled from the fungal growth that abounded on Planet. When I challenged him after the last bout he said that he was drinking to forget – forget the bitter memories of his wife’s death; forget the ‘voices ‘in his mind that he claimed were Planet’s way of speaking to him; forget the utter failure of the UN mission ideals for the journey to the stars.
What drove him over the edge was last night’s Planet Council vote that removed him from office as Governor, installing Lady Deirdre in his place. He saw this as an act of treachery – wasn’t she a Pact Sister to him? Hadn’t we been exchanging research findings over the past twenty or thirty years? Weren’t some of the Gaian troops currently quartered in some of our bases, and our needlejet pilots on training programs in Gaian territory? He had wanted to break pact immediately after the vote, but we dissuaded him from acting too hastily. The lady had obviously done her politicking well, as she had secured the votes of both CEO Morgan and Provost Zakharov, both erstwhile allies under a treaty arrangement. Only the Spartans voted for Dr Lal – hardly surprising as they were a relatively insignificant faction now having lost two bases to our Psi-mindworm brigades during a border skirmish.
In his more lucid moments, Dr’ Lal is like a man possessed. He is driving Mother crazy with a push to complete a Special Project that he has dubbed “The Cloning Vats”, and at every executive meeting wants funds diverted to complete that project. I’ve overheard him murmuring in his drunken stupor that he will be re-united with Pria – it seems he has carried a hair with him these 150 years and believes that we will be able to clone a new Pria once the vats are operational. If successful, I hope he gives up drinking that awful fungal gin.
Oh, some news. I am now Minister of the Interior, having progressed from a humble serving girl position in Dr’ Lal’s household through to managing his household, to City Governor and now responsible for Drone control and civic building maintenance throughout our region of influence. Mother is still Chief Science Officer – now we pass as sisters after her visits to the regeneration tanks, and Dad is in charge of a fleet of 30 or so mineral crawlers that are freeing up various base citizens for more worthwhile work. Chandra is a needlejet pilot, and Javed commands our Psi-mindworm brigades. He took over that responsibility after the unfortunate death of Sarita in a Spartan attack. Javed had covered himself with glory, capturing two Spartan bases before the Iron Lady Santiago sued for peace. (With typical bluster and nerve she demanded a level 7 tech gift to sign a truce – I voted to continue the onslaught to wipe her off Planet, but Dr. Lal was more magnanimous and bought peace with the gift).
The sea we landed beside isn’t a sea at all, but a large lake, which we have named “Freshwater Lake”. Our territory surrounds the lake, with overlapping bases, and we share this small continent with the Morganites to the north and the Spartans to the east. It was touch and go for a while whether we could encircle the lake, as the Morganites had a base established on the Eastern Shore. Conveniently the Spartans destroyed that base, and our pod moved in establishing our zone of control.
We now have 27 bases, five of them offshore (two in the lake itself). Dr. Lal has talked fondly of moving our headquarters to one of these moated cities, reckoning them to be invulnerable, but hasn’t brought it up at executive meetings as we are a relatively peaceful faction. We were dragged into a vendetta with the Believers by pacting with the Gaians, but our peacekeeping skills were much in evidence as Dr. Lal was successful in getting the two ladies to sign a truce.
It is now MY 2320, and we have both our research teams engaged on building Special Projects – the Cloning Vats, as mentioned earlier, and a project that Mother is spearheading that she calls ‘The Universal Translator”. She reckons that if we are successful with the latter it will generate a huge burst of scientific research for us peacekeepers.
I sat in the protected bunker observing. Ignition. We saw the power being unleashed before we heard the reverberating noise or felt the tremor run through the ground towards us. The space vehicle rose through planet’s sky into the atmosphere above. We had launched Alpha Centauri’s first satellite.