Monday, June 19, 2017

The Islands of Miranda, Part I

This is the first part of a short story draft.

Diego Páez was that most remarkable of things, a citizen of the Insular State of Miranda, which did not exist, and being so gave him access to untold power and wealth. He was even a candidate for the Board. But such things do not constitute invulnerability, and he had already narrowly avoided assassination.

His troubles had begun, as troubles often do, with a meeting. The meeting occurred aboard a boat, docked at the Mirandan seastead of Nuevo Roque in the Pacific, belonging to the Fifth Speaker of the Board of the Miranda Organization, Teddy Chavez. To call it a 'boat' is a bit of an understatement; it was a yacht, so fine as to be perhaps even a little better than the finest that money can buy.

"Tuanís," Diego said under his breath as he came on board. He had spent his last few years as captain of a light corvette with complement of fifty, which, like all ships built for military purposes, had a design inspired by a sardine can. The open space, the wood paneling, the gilt and artwork and grand piano, all took his breath away.

He clinked a glass of bourbon -- also of a kind a little better than mere money could buy -- with Chavez before settling into a comfortable overstuffed chair.

"May the Islands return," said Chavez, taking his own seat across the desk.

"May the Islands return," replied Diego.

They took time to appreciate the bourbon, smooth with a silky finish, then Chavez said, "It's a big day. It has basically been decided. You will be the new Fourth Speaker."

"I had thought that the Council wasn't making a decision until the day after tomorrow."

"Officially, but it's all squared away. The always have to make a decision before the actual deadline so they can draw up the official documentation and deliver it by Courier with minimal delay. The Council of Self-Governance likes their documents, lots and lots of documents. It's their only form of entertainment."

"And the Pontifical Commission?"

"That's a rubber stamp. They want to interview you, but they always do. They have to, to feel like they are doing something. Binaisa will give you a lecture on ancient history and send you on your way; just smile and nod politely and it will all be fine. Will you be here when the Council makes its announcement?"

Diego shook his head. "I fly out to San José tomorrow to visit with friends and family. I told the Courier Office that that's where I'd be when they announced the result."

Chavez nodded. "I'm very excited about this, Diego. I pushed very hard for you with the rest of the Board." He glanced at the clock on the wall, a marble affair shaped like a bear, and stood, "I'm sorry to have to cut this short, but I have to head out. I just wanted to see you before I left, to share the news."

They shook hands. Before Diego left, Chavez said, "By the way, Diego, a word of advice. These aren't the days of the Lion and the Lamb; Board politics is very rough. You'll need to keep a sharp eye out and clear head on your shoulders."

Diego disembarked and walked along the ponte to the South Towers. It was a beautiful day. The sun was just touching the horizon to set, creating a long golden road of waves across the sea. This, combined with the news he had received, put him in a very good mood. This was perhaps a good thing, because he got lost trying to find his hotel, and only finally reached the hotel desk well after it had begun to get dark.

"And how are you paying, sir?" the man at the front desk asked.

"I would like it charged to my account at the Bank of Miranda," Diego replied, handing over his Mirandan passport and banking card.

The man, startled, took the documents and then became very intensely focused on the computer.

"I'm sorry, sir," he said, after it beeped at him twice. "When the reservation was made, they did not note that you were a Mirandan citizen. If you have no objection, I will upgrade your room to one of our luxury suites for no additional charge."

Diego had no objection to this, and briefly wondered whether anyone ever had an objection to such a thing, and so it was done. He took a long ride up an elevator, long enough to watch a news report on claims by Venezuela that several key government systems, including its electrical grid, had been hacked, to a suite large enough to take up almost an entire floor. Even at night, the view was breathtaking -- the stars were shining brightly in the west, while off to the east in the far distance one could see the lightning flashes of a storm. But when he made himself a cup of herbal tea and settled down on the comfortable sofa, it was to the shadows to the north that he looked. Somewhere in that direction, too far away to be in sight even if it were day, was Nuevo Francisqui, the location of the Miranda Space Agency, which was one of the agencies traditionally under the supervision of the Fourth Speaker of the Board.

He raised his cup in a toast to his reflection. "May the Islands return," he said.

to be continued

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