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