Saturday, December 1, 2018

Brooke’s Battles: Business (Part IX)

After the captain disappeared, the rest of the crew of the Sharice Davids started brainstorming where she could have gone. The general consensus was that the white monster teleported to standard limit, and stayed in dark mode. They spent two weeks hanging out in the immediate vicinity, sending search probes in various directions, hoping to find evidence of the vessel. They then left a proximity buoy, and ventured deeper into the solar system to continue the search grid. They spent several months on this mission, declining to take on any other until Ecrin could be found. Meanwhile, the interplanetary police agency fleet grew to decent numbers, and no longer really needed the Sharice anymore anyway. In all this time, they never found any evidence of where the Maramon and Ecrin had gone. The only reason they eventually found her was because the buoy worked as planned. She was exactly where they had left her, but upon arrival, she straight up refused to tell them where she had been. She claimed she was fine, but that they didn’t need to know where she went. Holly Blue had her suspicions, but was unable to prove anything. The IPA didn’t conduct an internal review of the matter, because again, they were all but done with the Sharice.
Their ship still had its uses, however, so once Ecrin was back in command, she continued requesting assignments for work. At the moment, they were parked in the L4 Sun-Mars Lagrangian point. They weren’t investigating a crime, or hunting for terrorists. Instead, they were hosting a meeting. A small but growing group of people were interested in regressing the solar system back to full capitalism, the likes of which hadn’t seen since the mid-21st century, back when Mars was nothing more than a semi-permanent settlement. System leadership was dispatched to essentially negotiate with this group, ultimately hoping to convince them to end their plans. Humanity tried capitalism for centuries, and history was littered with war, inequality, and all kinds of death. Only when the nations united, and money was abolished, did true progress begin to take shape. Life in the solar system was not utopian, but there was a reason the introduction of the IPA was such a big deal. For a long time, no significant interplanetary law enforcement organization was necessary. Despite there now being tens of billions of independent intelligent entities, over a much greater jurisdiction, crime was almost at zero. The Sharice Davids really only stayed in business because people like the Freemarketeers occasionally sought to deliberately upset the peace.
This was not their first encounter with the Freemarketeers either. They had been around ever since Brooke accidentally create unregulated artificial intelligence, and Holly Blue began to invent temporal manipulation technology. These developments sparked a sense of greed amongst a few. They quickly created a capitalistic underbelly that the historical figures who envisioned a world without inequality failed to predict. They didn’t realize that a black market is an inevitable institution when privateers are faced with limitations. If a product or service has intrinsic value, it will have a market, in some form or another. The only difference now was that it was the only true market in the whole system. Most people in these modern times were happy with their allotted provisions. Food, shelter, and basic amenities were provided for every citizen with no expectations whatsoever. Access to the network, virtual reality, and transhumanistic upgrades were optional additions that came with conditions of positive contribution. That is, if you wanted to participate, you had to support society’s needs. The Northwest Forest circlers rejected these advances, so they were left to fend for themselves. The more work an individual put into bettering the community, the more they could potentially get out of it. But there was still no money. There was never any money. If the Freemarketeers wanted to go back to a world of money, they were in for a fight.
Ecrin Cabral was currently in the negotiation room serving two purposes. She was there in her capacity as captain of this ship, and also for everyone’s protection. She was a generally well-liked individual, with even more experience in police work than most people knew. If negotiations went bad, she could be there to protect the innocent, and if they were attacked by an outside force, she could protect anyone and everyone. She really was responsible for everyone, because though the system leadership was once infiltrated by a rogue faction of the Freemarketeers, it was those infiltrators whose lives were in danger when the anarcho-primitivists escalated to violence.
Being of little use to the process, Brooke was left sitting around with a good book, but something suddenly stopped her midsentence. Over time, she and Sharice had grown closer, each one learning to anticipate each other’s moves. Sharice was about to say something in the meeting room, and Brooke didn’t know why. “Shari, what are you doing?”
I was going to help.
“You can’t help.”
Sure, I can.
“This is not our business. You are just the vessel today. Think of it like a vacation.”
I don’t do vacations.
“Neither do I, but here I am with this book.”
Why is it taking you so long to read that thing?
“I’m thirty pages in, I started two minutes ago.”
I can read a book instantly. Surely you can do it only a little bit slower.
“I’m not reading so I know what happens. I’m reading to feel the joy of experiencing every sentence, one at a time.”
That’s stupid.
Youre stupid.”
I’m the smartest entity in the solar system, and beyond.
I have an idea of how to save these talks, so I’ma do it.
“Don’t do it.”
I’m doing it.
“Goddamnit.” Brooke tapped behind her ear. “Holly Blue, jump me to the meeting room immediately.”
Bungula,” Brooke heard Sharice say after jumping into the room. Her voice inflection indicated she was repeating herself.
“We heard you the first time,” Ecrin said. “Why did you say it?”
I’m suggesting that the Freakmarketeers be moved to Bungula.
“What did she just call us?” the apparent leader of the Freemarketeers asked, offended.
I apologize,” Sharice said. “That is internal nomenclature. I meant Freemarketeers.
“Miss Prieto, please control your daughter.”
She’s my mother, not my slavemaster,” Sharice defended. “I’m here to help.
“Sharice, we’re leaving,” Brooke tried to order.
No,” Sharice defied.
Ecrin sighed. “Signups have already begun for the first colonization wave to Bungula.”
Not technically,” Sharice corrected her. “An interest gauging survey was sent out, but formal registration proceedings have not yet begun. There is still time to scrap it.
“We have no interest in being exiled to Bungula,” the Freemarketeer leader said. “That goes against—”
Shut up,” Sharice said.
“I beg your pardon?” the Freemarketeer questioned.
The Futurology Administrator, who was there mostly to provide perspective to all parties, stood up. “At current technology, it’s unrealistic to manage an interplanetary empire.”
The Mediator turned to him. “Admin Montagne, what does that have to do with anything?”
“When the colonizers left for Proxima Doma,” Admin Montagne continued, “they were informed that contact with Sol will be complicated. They will be expected to fend for themselves when they arrive, forming their own form of government. They will live and die by their choices, and the home system will be unable to help them.”
“Again, what’s your point?” Mediator Fenning asked him.
Admin Montagne addressed the Freemarketeer leader. “President Treacy, there is no way we are going to conform to your capitalistic ideals. Comparatively few people who experienced any bit of our species’ long history of inequality are still alive today. We’re not going backwards, and I think you know that. We’ve built something here, and we look to the future, which is even better. We won’t let you destroy that, no matter how hard you try. If you would like to go to war, we’ll do that too, and we’ll win. We’ll win, because we share our technology, and innovate on its intrinsic value. We aren’t hindered by low-balling, and corner-cutting, and selfish agenda. When we do something, we do it right, because we put everything we have into the effort.” He was showing a fierceness unbecoming of a system administrator. She didn’t even know his given name, but Brooke couldn’t help but be attracted to him in this moment. “This is our system, and you can’t have it!” He took a breath, and composed himself. “However, we are not without our empathy. We are willing to give you an entire solar system of your own. Well, not the entire thing, I guess. You’ll have the colonizers of Proxima d to contend with, but that’s not our problem. You can call it exile, or you can just say you’re moving. You can stay here, and be good little boys and girls, but if you want money, it’s on Bungula.”
There was silence for a good long while.
“I suggest we separate for internal deliberations,” Mediator Fenning said. “I must reach out to the rest of the system leadership, as the administrator does not technically speak for all of us.”
President Treacy nodded delicately. “Very well.”
The mediator stood up smiling as the Freemarketeers left the room. Her demeanor changed dramatically as she faced Ecrin. “I need to speak personally with the captain, and the Prietos. Goswin, you come too. We’ll convene in the executive meeting room.” She walked out briskly.
Brooke closed her eyes and shook head. “I’m sorry,” she whispered to Ecrin.
“She’s your daughter, but this is my ship, and I’m responsible for everyone on it, including her. She may have ruined this for everyone.” Ecrin tapped her fingers sequentially with her thumb, from pinkie to index, which activated a command that prevented Sharice from being able to hear a private conversation. “Or she saved it.”
They walked down the corridor, and into the executive room, where Mediator Fenning and Administrator Montagne was already waiting.
“What in the worlds was that?” Mediator Fenning asked.
“Mediator, I would like to express—” Brooke started to apologize.
“I want her to answer,” Fenning interrupted.
I stand by my actions,” Sharice replied bluntly. “Your discussion was failing, and you were getting nowhere. I had to give them something. You may think you would win the war, but capitalists are ruthless. They don’t care about life. You would end them quickly, but not before suffering a number of casualties.
“I agree with her,” Montagne said.
“Of course you do,” Fenning snapped. “You were so far over the line, you would have needed an emergency teleporter to get back to it by the end of your lifetime. What the hell were you thinking?”
“I stand by my actions. Our discussion was failing, and we were—” he tried to echo Sharice’s answer.
“Oh, goddammit, just save it!” The Mediator centered herself. “What’s done is done. I have to go start the phone tree. This isn’t over yet, but it better work. The people are going to be livid that we gave up Alpha Centauri. I don’t know how we can spin this. You may be out of a job.”
Montagne wasn’t perturbed by the prospect. He just nodded to her cordially, and smiled as she left. “Sharice, where did you come up with this idea?”
It worked for the Fosteans in that old TV show, The Light of Day.”
“No,” Ecrin said, “it didn’t.” She walked out of the room as well.
Admin Montagne smoldered at Brooke. They weren’t quite alone yet. He lifted his hand, and ran his thumb from pinkie to index, just like Ecrin had. “My name’s Goswin. What’s your sign?”
Brooke blushed, or rather she would have if her transhumanistic upgrades didn’t precisely regulate blood flow at all times. “I was born on a planet millions of light years from here. The constellations were wildly different, and as far as I know, did not have names.” She stepped closer to him, and smoldered back. “And one more thing.”
She stepped even closer, so that their faces were centimeters away. She spoke softly, “only crew can do the tetra-tap. It requires an implant. Sharice can still hear us.”
“Hiya, Goswin!” Sharice laughed.
“Oh.” Goswin took Brooke by the wrist, and manipulated her fingers for the tetra-tap. “Now, where were we?”
Brooke smiled knowingly, and whispered again, “wrong hand.”
“Still here!” Sharice exclaimed.
The senior administration opened the door. “The Freemarketeers came back.”
“That was quick,” Goswin noted. “Did they agree to the initial proposal?”
“Yeah, but they want the Sharice to take them there.” He was about to leave, when he remembered one more thing. “Oh, and you’re fired.”

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