Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
Angzal had met Congressmember Gord Ferrety upon his arrival from Mars two delays earlier , since her duties apparently now included a pickup service at the Malbur spaceport. It was, as Angzal had been told, one of the busiest spaceports on Earth, but coming back for the first time since herself arriving here by orbital shuttle a month earlier, she couldn’t get over how small it seemed. Passengers arrived mostly like herself – descending from the orbital transfer station where large vessels docked to avoid the costs and hassles of atmospheric entry. Ships that were capable of coming down to the surface were also present here, but none of the kind of traffic she was used to – places where one could look up into the sky and pretend they were at the centre of a swarm of insects.
It reminded her of the beach that was across the street from her office, and one that she’d sometimes come down to after a busy day of work. The waves there would break a few feet out into the water, white churn that agitated the sand splashing a few inches up her calf and maybe even up to her knee. And then there were the gentle waves that lapped against the sand, quietly sinking into it and then retreating. This is where she was, the planetary equivalent of the dampened sand at the furthest threshold where the water could touch, the rumble of the waves but a distant sound that hardly rose up over the background noise.
Gord Ferrety had neatly fit into her conception of Humanity’s place in the Known Reaches, arriving as one of a thousand passengers that were brought down in an orbital transport from the transfer station, stepping out of the gate with no entourage, and a single bag in tow. Meanwhile, the Mraboran ambassador travelled with a staff of seven on a surface-landing private vessel that was conspicuously absent from the planet at the moment, the Ambassador seeing fit to do her business from Mars for the time being.
Congressmember Ferrety spotted Angzal first, perhaps noting the one stationary Mraboran in a churning sea of Humans. This was her other complaint about Earth – for a capital planet, it sorely lacked for species other than its native one. As for Ferrety himself, she would not have pegged him for a politician. With loose fitting dark clothing, including an unseasonably warm jacket, and with his jet-black hair nearly coming down to his shoulders in an oily mop, he resembled more a petty thug than a member of the HID Congress. His long nose gave him the appearance of a bird, while his puckered mouth gave him the air of something aquatic, in others words, prey to the core.
“Deputy Consul Angzal gan Mreniyaur?” Ferrety asked, extending his hand in the traditional Human greeting. What was it with Humans and wanting to touch each other the second they just met? An unseemly tradition that made Angzal’s skin crawl very time she was forced to participate in it.
“Congressmember Ferrety. Please, ‘Angzal’ is just fine.”
“Oh, do call me ‘Gord’. This whole ‘Congressmember’ business feels too formal. I’m ‘Gord’ back home and ‘Gord’ here.”
As far as Angzal knew, Mars was no quiet backwater rock, by Human standards anyway. It was Earth’s oldest colony, and Gord Ferrety wasn’t even the only congressmember to represent the planet. Whatever face Congressmember Ferrety was trying to put on, Angzal figured she’d just play along.
“So, Gord, how was your trip?” Angzal asked as she led them to the chauffeured personal transport that the consulate had sent for them.
“Oh, it was fine,” Ferrety answered, hands in the pockets of his jacket. “I’ve made the trip so many times I hardly even notice it these days.”
“So have you lived your whole life on Mars?” She was speaking to Ferrety, but her eyes were flitting around the terminal, picking up on the wide-mouthed stares and the craned necks, realizing in a place like this, she might have actually been some of these people’s first Mraboran that they’d ever seen.
“No, I’m originally from a distant colony world that is now under the control of the Mraboran Protectorate.”
Seeming to catch the expression of concern on Angzal’s face, which was less out of sympathy and more out of worry that her history knowledge had missed this skirmish between the Humans and her own people, Ferrety continued, “Oh it was nothing like that, just some redrawn boundaries. Pure politics. But ever since, I’ve had a special place in my heart for all those periphery worlds that are so easily forgotten when you’re at the core of it all.”
And it was these periphery worlds and the few votes in Congress that they held that would need to carry the day for either side of this debate.
“Are you looking forward to this meeting with Congressmember Reyes?” Angzal asked, looking for someone to dread it together with since Rzena seemed to actually be looking forward to seeing the chaos that it might inflict on Angzal’s life.
“Well,” Congressmember Ferrety answered slowly, “I wouldn’t so much say that I’m looking forward to it, but I am hopeful.”
“You’ve met Congressmember Reyes before?”
“You’d be surprised to know that Congressmember Reyes and I agree on many things. Unfortunately, we seem to have drifted apart on this one.”
They stepped out of the terminal and Ferrety stopped, looked up at the sky, and took a deep breath with his eyes closed.
“Ah, it never does get quite like this on a terraformed planet. How about you, Deputy Consul? What kind of world are you from?”
Angzal flared her own nostrils and found the aromas of home woefully lacking.
“I’ve pretty much spent my entire life on Mrabr.”
“Ha! Well, I bet Mrabr makes Earth look like Mars by comparison. Though I’d wager you’ve never seen anything like the Mer Pacific when you were growing up.”
“No, nothing quite like that.”
Now in the stuffy conference room with congressmembers Reyes and Ferrety going back and forth with each other, Angzal let her eyes wonder to the window and that body of water shimmering under the sun outside the consulate. Of course, this was only a bay, and even though she’d been here a month she still wasn’t sure if it technically opened into the Mer Pacific or one of Earth’s other oceans, but in any case even here the vastness of it was unmistakable. It was a great expanse of unknown that reminded Angzal of the blackness of space, and it must have built in early Humans an unquenchable thirst for exploration. With that kind of spirit, she wondered, what would have happened had their species not set themselves back by two millennia, right around the time of the Thorian Civil War when the Empire was at its weakest. Instead, they were now relegated to bickering in the periphery. She recalled the last conversation she had with Reyes and how Angzal had said that she herself enjoyed no privilege and merely gnawed at the scraps from the big table. But Reyes had been right, here is where the real fight for the scraps was taking place.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.