Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
Her forearms throbbed as she picked up the Governor’s letter. The prospect of having to comb through Fainreshlin’s invisible branches to get at the fruits she wanted to pluck led her to indulge in a moment of daydreaming – about a future where everything she had been building would come together, and the Anthar Kai would wield the power of near-instantaneous communication, ready to deploy a pliable workforce at a moment’s notice from the High Commissary.
She set the data pad in the recess in her desk with the camera facing towards her, and dabbed the sweat from her cranial bumps. Once the interaction commenced it was treated like a regular conversation, and any expression, pause, or aside was dutifully recorded and sent back with the response. Once she was confident that she resembled her portrait that hung with the other High Commissaries in the cavernous lobby of the tower, she turned on the recording.
Fainreshlin’s somewhat melted face appeared on screen and did a half-turn to face the camera as if he was caught doing something far more important than having this conversation.
“High Commissary, always a pleasure.”
“It’s been a long time, Governor,” she replied, knowing that the observation would hit just the right nerve.
“I trust things are keeping you busy, High Commissary.”
“Toiling under a hundred suns, as always, Governor.”
“I’m sure you must have heard the news by now. I admit it had come to us as quite as a shock. The Governor’s seat out of Chiartries has administered this corner of Thorian space for six hundred years. Under the Treaty of Krevali, we were assigned the former Iastret colonies in this region, and it was our understanding that this would include Krevali if ever the protection order over it was lifted or otherwise handled. To have our latest conquest now go to general Senate rule is unprecedented, and an insult to the Anthar Kai’s status and central role in the Empire. I trust that everything is being done at your disposal to rectify the situation.”
Kalirit kept her face flat even as she cycled through all the things she could have been doing instead of enduring this unnecessary history lesson.
“The Senate’s actions are as much a consternation to us as they are to you. But I think it’s important for all of us to remember that we all ultimately serve at the leisure of the Presidium, and they’re the stewards of what’s good for the Empire as a whole. Vice Commissary Seshathirlin is putting all his not insubstantial experience into resolving matters to everyone’s satisfaction.”
“I would like to know what is being done on our behalf to resolve this crisis.” Kalirit bet that he had assumed she would come out cagey and therefore would have devoted most of his planned responses to badgering her for information, which meant that the reason for this somewhat repetitive response was because he couldn’t imagine that she could be straight with him from the start.
“An audience with the Presidium is a desired outcome. But as I’m sure you understand with the crisis coalescing around turbulent Krevali, the Presidium’s time is in short supply, and our options with respect to that are quite limited.”
“For centuries since this governorship has been established it was understood that the moment the Krevali become a space-faring race they would be ushered into civilization by the Anthar Kai and their territory would be subsumed to the governorship.”
“The governorship would not be in a bad position to have access to the ample resources of Krevali,” Kalirit responded, making an effort to not herself get lost in the negatives and superlative adjectives of her tangled sentences. “On our end, productivity is not at all at a standstill. Preparations are underway to ensure that we’re not caught administratively flatfooted when we discover that Krevali has been brought into the fold and the situation is not unsalvageable, with the resources coming into your disposal.”
“I demand to know what is going to be done.”
“Discounting the significant efforts of Vice Commissary Seshathirlin, and the great burdens placed on my support personnel to resolve the potential rectification of this oversight, in absolute terms, nothing has been approved at the moment.”
Fainreshlin paused, his brow twitching every few seconds as the recording looped while the algorithm tried to process Kalirit’s response. Finally, the Governor spoke, “I will kindly remind you that our voting block was quite instrumental in extending your term as High Commissary and it would be in your best interest to ensure our vote does not change.”
It may have nearly fried her brain, but it worked – the major problem with dialogue trees was that through vagaries of language, you could trespass into branches without legitimately prompting them. Few attempted to do so with the same vigour as Kalirit, because success made the other look like a fool, but failure would have made you an even bigger one. Governor Fainreshlin must have really been feeling the heat if he was willing to so openly threaten the High Commissary of the Anthar Kai, but even if his estimation of his influence over his supposed voting block and its sway was erroneous, having his cards laid bare on the table ought to serve to subdue him.
With a faint smile, she responded, “I could exert my finest efforts to pretend that a conversation of this nature had never occurred, I’m sure that would suit you well.”
“That would be a start. But we expect an appearance by you in front of the Presidium to be most influential.”
“Of course, that is an option that can be considered. I could appear personally in front of the Presidium and inform them that there are some sovereignty concerns in the Chiartries governorship , that I’m sure could be resolved with an increased military presence and a reconsideration of the appointments at the highest levels of the governorship. They would be happy to hear it and I would be happy to deliver it.”
Fainreshlin’s face returned to the twitching loop, as Kalirit kept the rising emotion from her face. Did she push it too far walking into a rebuke, or would the recording spit out a response that would all but legitimize this conversation? Her anxiety had begun to morph into regret, a feeling that was a rare visitor in Kalirit’s mind, when Fainreshlin’s recording responded, “I am glad we are in agreement.”
Swallowing a sigh of relief, Kalirit could feel the throbbing recede from her forearms. Even if Fainreshlin thought that this was all put together to embarrass him, part of him would wonder how just how serious her threat was, which should keep him too preoccupied to make any lasting damage while the interstellar navies of a half-dozen species congealed around his territory.
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.