Of Earth and Ice – Ep5

Of Earth and Ice

a sci-fi web-serial

by Jeremy C Kester

5: A Casual Meeting

“I am concerned that your pursuit of this matter is compromising your judgement.” Chairwoman Urbina sipped a warm cup of tea as she sat across from Gerald. A few hours after the council meeting, Urbina had summoned the Colonial Commander to voice her own concerns privately.

Her office was located near the center of the colony just a few dozen feet from the central council chamber. Like much of the area surrounding them it was ornate, clean, and well maintained. A small computer that looked new by the colony’s standards sat upon the desk and a wall of monitors was too the side. Some flickered with graphs depicting the conditions both inside and outside the colony, energy usage in the different zones, as well as other data that interested the councilwoman. The amount of data was dizzying to Gerald as she looked at it, in part as she had never the stomach to review data at nauseum.

Gerald quietly contemplated her response before saying, “nothing in my actions are for anything other than for the benefit of the colony.”

“That’s the response that I was expecting that you’d tender,” Urbina said as though it were a long exasperated sigh. She paused for a moment and drummed her fingers on her desk. Her eyebrows raised as she asked “do you understand why we have six castes?”

“I’ve never bothered to study the specifics, councilwoman,” Gerald answered honestly. Despite the education afforded to her in the colony, it never included much on the history of why the caste system was set up other than mild allusions to there being a need for segregation to organize the colony based on skill sets. Such information never fit much into her logic, but she ignored those thoughts and never questioned it. Responsibility dictated that she never questioned the reasons offered.

“That’s a shame that you were never given more than whatever nonsense we fill everyone’s head with,” the councilwoman stated. “I would have assumed that your position should warrant such entitlements.” Urbina’s tone was turning almost playful in its exercise of words.

The admission though worried Gerald. Was there something that she wasn’t aware of? What else were they hiding from her?

She opted to reply as unknowing as possible without admitting that she read further into the statement than was intended. “Unfortunately our education is fairly propagandist in that vein, councilwoman.”

Urbina lifted her cup and looked at it disappointingly at it’s lack of liquid. Gerald was sure that the woman wanted to task her with refilling it but thought better of it.

“Very true,” Urbina stated as she walked over to a small container off to the side of the office. She gently picked up the container as though it were a precious, fragile child. She brought the container over to her desk where a small cup sat. The cup was a faint pink with hues of blue that resembled what one might assume to have once been flowers. The cup looked old and worn. Urbina slowly opened a spout from the container and poured a hot liquid from the container before reversing her movements to put the container back onto the shelf on the side of the room.

When the woman sat back down, she inspected her cup by placing both hands around the cylinder and breathing the vapors deeply.

“It is quite a shame that we guard these things so much,” she continued, “but one cannot truly say too much about the true reasons for our excessive layering else we might find ourselves in a predicament.”

“Go on,” Gerald said impatiently. Her eyes narrowed at the woman sitting in the room.

“Well the reason that we placed so many layers was something of a distraction to the other castes. Each group only focuses on the one directly above and the one directly below. We in the Ariledite caste can easily cause discourse among the others with simple actions such as letting an Iradile become an officer.”

Gerald forced herself not to react. She knew that she had to remain as numb as possible to what the councilwoman had just implicated. Did this mean that Evie was simply being used to create discourse within the colony? The scenarios ran through Gerald’s mind in an instant and she knew that it was true.

The desire to leap across the desk and strangle Urbina was overwhelming. How could she put Evie in danger like that? Gerald struggled to remain relaxed. Any display of tension could inadvertently expose Gerald’s feelings for the young girl. Such admissions would wreck her career and likely end her life. She struggled to remain calm. Quakes of struggle rumbled through her body as she fought against it.

But she remained stoic. “I understand the council’s reasons for placing her into that position, but my choice in doing so was as a reward for her duties and a result of displayed attributes. I cannot run the militia in the same manner as the colony. Thusly I need those of skill in certain positions regardless of their standing in our social strata. This is how I choose to separate these two worlds.”

“Wise words,” Urbina said, her eyes narrowing just enough for Gerald to take note. She was searching for anything from the commander, but ultimately found nothing. Urbina placed the cup on the table and leaned back on her chair. “But we cannot separate them as you appear to be able to, and our ability to bank on this scenario is beginning to falter. We are losing support across the Ariledites, Geraldine. This iradile’s predicament has compromised her standing.and eroded the support she once had.” There was a brief pause as the woman sat contemplatively chewing over her words. She licked her lips once and it reminded Gerald of a stray cat enjoying it’s meal.

Urbina continued with an almost gleeful change to her tone’s inflection. “I was going to ask you to discontinue your support for the young lady to save your career and to save the face of the council, but I think it might prove an even better spot for us were you to throw your full weight into it.”

Gerald while continuing to avoid any other posture narrowed her eyes inquisitively. “I am not sure that I am following any longer.”

“What do you think would happen if we were successful in allowing her to retain her rank?”

Gerald knew what the answer was. Having a disabled officer who was an Iradile would undoubtedly cause even further dissent within the castes. Evie would become a target undoubtedly being murdered for being nothing more than a capable young lady. The murder would allow for the Urbina and the council to force further restrictions on the rest of the colony as a result.

It meant placing Evie into danger.

Gerald cursed herself that she hadn’t seen it before. Had she not defended Evie in the first place and solely recommended some honorable discharge as recognition for her service, none of this would be in play. Evie would have become a neutral component of the colony, no longer a threat to anyone involved. Now, no matter what scenario would come to fruition, Evie was going to suffer.

Gerald focused on her breath trying to expel any urge to react to the assumption. But she needed to get control of the conversation. Though she answered to the council as a whole, she was supposed to be the single most powerful political figure in the colony. The realization was that she needed to appear that she was in control.

And that this was her own plan all along.

The words almost spill out of her effortlessly. “The unrest will deepen. They won’t focus on a soldier having earned her position. They will see a crippled Iradile who had been given a rank she shouldn’t have. She’ll become the target, the scapegoat for the other castes’ lack of power. It’ll leave them vulnerable to our own plans.”

Watching Urbina she allowed a small smirk to show on her face. It was a lie, but the effect is what fed it. “And that’s what my intention was, Councilwoman,” she said letting the bitter taste of her words flow like sweet sugar. “It’s what I’ve been planning for.”

Now more than ever she had to convince Evie to quit.

 

Previous Episode: 4 – Decision

Next Episode due April 18, 2015

Weekly Update: 03.08.2015

The General Update

It has been another week balancing between being utterly unproductive and overly productive. Trying not to read into the missteps too much, I have only resolved to keep moving ahead rather than risk losing momentum. As with trying to change any habit, it takes time and high resolve. I am working to wedge each forward progression to keep from backsliding. And the comic from Zen Pencils I put down in the Motivational Message further ummm… illustrates the value of determination.

Music of the week

I like Ariana Grande.

And this cool, campy sci-fi style video:

 

WIP it (status of work in progress)

I assigned myself a deadline to get the first draft of “The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle.” I am aiming for roughly 80,000 words which should cover part 1 of the story. The aim is 5 total books, and after book 2 is written, it will be more apparent as to why I am looking at 5. The main plot through the 5 books is written, it’s all of the subplots and details I need to work on.

As far as the deadline, I’d rather not say quite yet when that is.

Next, chapter 2, part 4 of my noir serial “The Vigil” was posted earlier this week. For my other web serial, the sci-fi dystopic saga “Of Earth and Ice,” I am rewriting, errrr… adding a new part 5. The old parts 5, 6, 7, etc were just pushed back. The reason for this is that I felt a small piece needed to be written in between the parts I had already completed. It is mainly to give a little more detail behind the caste system as well as the intentions of the colony’s leaders.

Currently Reading

2903736I completed “Captain’s Fury” and am now moving onto “Princeps’ Fury” by Jim Butcher. I have been flat out loving the Codex Alera series. I would suggest anyone reading it. Once I finish that, I will be moving onto the last chapter: “First Lord’s Fury.”

And once I finish that… I don’t know what I am going to go after.

My Fitness Week

Two things negatively impacted me this week in regards to my fitness: weather and sleep.

Tuesday, we had a surprise snowstorm (a surprise to me in that I didn’t know it was happening) and as my car does not handle the snow well, I opted to go straight to work rather than risk the trip to the gym.

Friday and Saturday my lack of sleep caught up to me and I overslept both days. Though Saturday I could have made time, I opted to relax instead and take the hint my body was giving me.

Besides this, I have been struggling with me eating. Frankly, I need nearly 4000 calories a day with the workout intensity, my size, and my general activity level. I maybe hit 3000 a day. Some might think, “Oh that should help you lose a lot of weight!” No. It doesn’t. What it does do is not sufficiently fuel my muscle growth while promoting my body to hold onto fat… because I am not grossly overweight. I am not really overweight at all and really am trying to build mass. So I need better planning on my meals to help with this. It will take time.

Motivational Message

Determination is key.

2012-04-24-coolidge

The Vigil: 02.04

The Vigil

Chapter 2 part 4

The Straining Sounds of Silence

As the echo of the gunshot abated, I was left alone in the silence.  Before me was the limp, partially dismembered body of Shakes.  Blood, piss, and shit was everywhere.  Not only was I surprised that he lived as long as he did, but it just bothers the shit out of me that he didn’t say anything.

He never said a goddamn thing.

I sat down and smoked a cigarette trying to calm my nerves.  It was covered in blood. Blood stained cigarettes seemed to be a favorite of mine anymore. The smoking barely took any edge off though.

I never liked torture.  They always speak so quickly once they realize it won’t be just punching. The few times I cut off anything they immediately spilled the information I was after. If I smashed their fingers, they gave up everything. Pain loosened their tongues. Everyone had a point where it worked. Shakes just took it all and never said a fucking thing.

That scared me almost as much as what I found myself capable of.

I was shaking.  The ashes from the cigarette shook off easily.  I tried to picture my child.  The images didn’t help.  Everything was foggy.  It wasn’t even close to the same.  I threw up as the stress was overwhelming and I began to tremble and cry.

I fell asleep crying and vomiting.  It was for at least a few hours.

It wasn’t until Daria arrived back and woke me up.

“Jesus Christ you look like shit,” she said angrily.  “You are going to fuck everything up for yourself. Why didn’t you wait for me?”

“He never said anything,” I explained ignoring her question. The fact was that I couldn’t trust her, but she couldn’t know that. “Not a goddamn thing.” My voice felt like it was torn up with razor wire and tasted like stale vomit.  Rather than deal with it, I stood. My legs wobbled as though I were a toddler as I walked over to the partial bottles of booze. I poured myself a small glass and downed it.  It stung worse, but the numbness would take over soon enough.  Right after, I lit another cigarette. My hands were shaking still.

“I know how much you don’t handle our little exercises very well.  I can tell by the puddle of vomit too far from Shakes to be his that this was no different.”

“So what do you suggest now?” I said as I ignored a glass and poured the rest of the bottle down my throat.  There wasn’t enough left even to fill a small glass, but at least it was a couple of shots’ worth.

“You’ll need to bury him,” Daria said plainly. “We can’t have evidence of the body ever having been here.”

“Obviously,” I replied.

“Did he talk?”

“Didn’t you listen?” I said sharply. “Not a word.  I was hoping that he would speak before I even got into it, but he stayed quiet the entire time.”  I paused.  “Except for the screams of course.”

Daria turned to me slightly.  She had a look of concern.  “Are you OK?”

“I’ll be fine,” I waved dismissively. It was a blatant lie and I am sure that she knew that it was.

Daria had brought me a cup of coffee and some food.  She was holding it and I hadn’t even noticed. I thanked her for it. Truthfully I was more hungry than I had realized.  The booze was only doing so much for me.  I needed something to help keep it down.

“He was scared about something more than he was scared about the pain,” I admitted as I bit down on the hoagie.  It didn’t have peppers.  I fucking hated that.  Daria would refuse to allow me to eat the peppers as she said that she suffered the most while we drove to our various leads and crime scenes.  “There was something that he knows but he was refusing to tell me.”

Daria leaned against the table still looking at the pile of flesh, bone, and blood before us.  I could tell that she was getting nauseated looking at it.  “Are you sure that he just didn’t know anything, John?  Can you believe that this is all some elaborate scheme that you’ve dreamed up in your own head?”

Looking at her knowingly, I retorted, “have you ever known any suspect that we’ve done this to ever not say anything?”  She shook her head slowly as she was processing that information.  “No one ever stays quiet.  There’s always begging for mercy and then the bastards always start to talk.  Even if it’s a fucking lie, they talk.  Anything to stop the pain.”

Daria remained quiet.  It was the only way that I knew for sure that she say what I was saying.

“So now what?” I asked aloud.

“You bury the body and we see if there’s anything we can find on his dealings.” I am glad she at least said we on the second part. Wish she’d help me with the grunt work though.

Previous episode (02.03)| Next episode (02.05) – Coming April 3rd 2015

Weekly Update – 03.01.2015

The General Update

I am trying a new tool this week in a way to help me out. It isn’t new per say, but I only recently had the gumption to try Evernote. So far so good. I like it. Maybe the cross-functionality will aid in keeping my thoughts and tasks straight.

Insofar as this site, I have been looking at a new blogging topic. Being as I struggle with topics in general that I can pop out, it came to me this week that maybe I should write about my fitness journey over the last seven months. More on that below.

Music of the week (song or band that’s been this week’s playlist)

Juventa – Move Into Light (Koven mix)

This is a dubstep that I discovered as it was the first song on a melodic dubstep mix on the youtube channel Mrmommusic. I love this song and the vocals are just beautifully haunting.

WIP it

I have been working on tightening up the next installments of both “The Vigil” and “Of Earth and Ice” (click on the links and READ them!) while dabbling a little bit with the rest of my stories. “Tunnel Rats,” a fantasy/erotic short story (yes, erotic… I am trying something new and making it an absolute integral part of the plot) has moved the furthest along. It is a good learning venture too expanding my writing skills in areas I wouldn’t consider myself comfortable with.

Other works are slowly moving along. I am really trying to at least keep the web serials above going on a consistent basis while I finish the major stories I am working on hoping for a release this year.

Currently Reading

alera_codex___nasaug_by_sandara-d3j50puI finally finished “Academ’s Fury” by Jim Butcher and then I blazed through “Cursor’s Fury,” the next installment of Codex Alera. Where books 1 and 2 were a little slow at times, book 3 just ignited. It is an incredible fantasy saga built around the Roman Empire and elemental powers called Furies. I consider it a little mix of Avatar (of Legend of Korra and Airbender fame, not blue aliens) and pokemon. Next I am picking up “Captain’s Fury” where I expect to get through that in a week’s time. I recommend the saga to anyone with even a tolerance for fantasy epics or Roman-based fiction. It is a great saga.

codex-alera-jim-butcher

Motivational Message

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” – Unknown

My Fitness Week

This will be a new addition to the weekly update. I will be starting to write blogs on health, fitness, and motivation as I move forward. It is birthed out of a need for blog topics coupled with my own 7 montht-rex-hates-pushups-t-shirt journey to get into shape again. Being 36 and looking for a more functional style of fitness, I feel that there is a chance that my perspective might help others like me who don’t see a super-athlete-like shape in their future, but want to get healthy.

 

Of Earth and Ice – Ep4

Of Earth and Ice

a sci-fi web-serial

by Jeremy C Kester

edited by Beth Townsend-Smith

4: Decision

“Why do you have such an interest in this girl?”

The question was unceremoniously blunt, but Gerald was prepared.  Calmly, she stared straight ahead and answered, “She is a soldier on unquestionable skill and unwavering determination.  Despite being Iradile, she has proven remarkable capabilities.  I cannot afford to lose that.”

“Even though she’s crippled now?  I worry about you growing an attachment to this scum.”  The councilman’s words were dribbling out slow and thick like blood from the tooth of a feral dog feasting on a carcass.  Gerald sat still and tried to remain completely emotionless, to explain to the council in the most logical of terms why someone in Evie’s caste should continue to be afforded rehabilitation, never mind retain an officer’s rank. “Do you understand the repercussions that we continue to face given what we’ve already given this blight?”

“I cannot commit to saying that she is anything less than an officer in the militia.  Her rank defines her now,” Gerald stated dryly ensuring that her eyes were emotionally dead as she glared at the councilman. “And as such, she has been one of the most decorated and successful in recent memory.  I agree that those of her kind should not be encouraged to follow the same path, but we cannot be so foolish as to deny her better treatment after what she has done for this colony.”

“Yes, yes, Geraldine,” a woman cut in.  It was councilwoman Urbina, an Ariledite and chairperson of the council.  She, along with Gerald, was one of the two highest ranking individuals in the colony.  Though Urbina was also a working co-member of the council, she carried the group as a leader and instructed them.  Gerald was the Colonial Commander, the highest military official and executor of the colony.  It was a form of presidency, but the position remained under council directive.

Urbina had been the one deciding vote that originally granted Evie her officership.  It passed 6 to 5, with only 1 dissenting vote from another Ariledite member of the council.  Each member of the other 4 castes voted against an Iradile gaining any rank.

“You know that I fully support this young lady’s position, but, considering this defeat as well as her injuries, I cannot say that the same level of confidence I had in her before endures.”

“Madam,” Gerald said, “she was the highest ranking survivor of that mission.  Actually, her squad was the only one that survived━”

“A squad she left to die!”  The first councilman angrily interjected.  As in every conference previously, councilman Torrence did not support Evie in any manner.

“Her squad says differently,” was Gerald’s poised rebuke.

“Commander,” the Xepes delegate cut in, “we all read the mission reports.  Every squad member, of course, spoke very highly of your Evie, as has been the case countless times before.  The fact remains, she is still an Iradile.  Any concessions we gave her before are void.  She is a cripple and useless to us.  She should join the rest of her caste now and be left to die.”

“The Iradiles are the only thing that keep your kind’s bellies off of the ground, councilman,” Gerald shot back.  A few of the higher caste members chuckled and coughed.

“Let’s keep this on task,” Urbina urged the group.

Gerald composed herself and faced forward again.  “Council, until Evie can be evaluated on the field, we need to abstain from a decision.  I agree, it is difficult to support a continuance of her position in her current state, but even after being deprived of the same treatments as an Ariledite, she has persevered and continues to improve.  She is a tough soldier and I insist that we recess until I can decide whether she could be cleared for combat again. If she cannot be reasonably cleared, then I will relent my opinion on this matter and defer to the council’s wishes.”

“I think that we can agree to that, at least,” Urbina said.

Most of the council nodded in agreement, though the two who protested continued to do so.  This minority grew increasingly quiet in their defeat, however, as the remaining members sided with Urbina.

“Don’t make us regret this decision, Gerald,” Urbina instructed.  “I don’t want to have to find a new Colonial Commander.  You and your officer will continue to be under heavy scrutiny.  Tread softly.”

Previous Episode: 3 – Steadied

Next Episode: 5 – A Casual Meeting

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