So I was typing out this long, rambling post about how a playwright never knows if their play is going to suck because it is read differently by every single actor. I had something going there, because, well, nobody reads a book the same way. This applies to scripts as well. But then I looked over and realized that this is Shiny Book’s 100th post.
I double-checked that, because I sure don’t remember being around here that long.
So in celebration of our 100th post (it’s not that big of a deal, I know, but give me some credit here…) I’m going to just say “Have a good weekend” and enjoy this little tease of a snippet from Wraithkin:
“I’m telling you that there are checks and balances for a reason,” Laird Christophe McCarroll of-the-High, Senator of Ceres argued as he stormed angrily down the spacious hall, his voice echoing off the marbled walls. He looked over his shoulder at his aide, who was following behind at a respectable distance. He shifted his gaze to the man struggling to keep up with him on his left. His dark eyes narrowed in annoyance as he looked at the obese man. “The Emperor is set on destroying the checks protecting the Dominion from tyranny!”
“Come now Christophe,” the larger man wheezed as he struggled to keep up, his heavy robes making progress difficult. “I’m sure the Emperor has his reasons for expanding the Wraiths.”
“To subvert the will of the Upper House to that of his Lower House cronies through force and threats, even stooping to violence,” Christophe ground out through clenched teeth, furious. “He’s proving that he doesn’t need us to create laws, that the Dominion will be run by his hand alone. He needs his thugs, those damned Wraiths-” Christophe spat onto the tiled flooring of the hall at the name of the Emperor’s protectors “-to run around, unchecked, fighting wars with whomever his jollies feel like.”
“The War Powers Act allows as such,” his counterpart interjected mildly, small beads of sweat beginning to form upon his bald brow. He unfolded his arms from the thick, red robes. “Be mindful of this hallway, Laird. Many ears can be listening.”
“Blast them all!” Christophe exploded vehemently, throwing his arms out wide. “If we cannot speak about the Emperor in anything but loving tones, then who will be the voice of dissent when he dissolves the Houses? Who will speak in defiance when he desires to rule the Dominion from his thumb? Tell me, Senator, who will dare oppose him?”
“It is not about who opposes him, Laird,” the elderly senator from Corus argued with his deceased friend’s eldest son. “It is about who can actively thwart his schemes while staying loyal to the Dominion. Your father was excellent at this, young Christophe. His love was for the Dominion first, his planet second and the Emperor last. He remembered his duties up to the very end.”
“I know that, Duncan,” Christophe sighed wearily, his anger evaporating at the mention of his late father. “Dad always swore that the power resided in the Upper House, no matter what. It is us who writes the Law. I’m just glad my brother Philippe didn’t get his hands on the seat. He worships every breath the Emperor makes. Who knows what damage he would have done if that addled-brained fool took up the chair.”
“Indeed,” Duncan, Senior Senator of Corus, chuckled softly as he slowed down from the frantic pace the younger man had set. He wiped the sweat off his brow with one of his long sleeves, his face red from the exertion of keeping pace with the much healthier man. “It is fortunate that your father had his affairs in order.”
“Well, what do we do?” Christophe asked, the exhaustion and weariness heavy in his tone. “I’m the junior senator here, now that my father died. Laird Hunt is quite content with the way things are. Bastard won’t even argue in favor of the increased royalty tax the Lower House is opposing. And don’t get me started on Higgins or Boothe.”
“The filthy rich usually are content with the status quo,” Duncan quipped, conveniently ignoring the fact that both he and the man before him were in the upper five percent of wealth in the entire Dominion.
“Hunt’s love of Imperfects also disgusts me,” Christophe muttered darkly.
“That is something that disgusts everyone,” Duncan observed. “I’ve talked with his daughter, Lady Meredith von Hapsburg, about this and she is in total agreement. She thinks her father’s poor health has taken a toll on his mental facilities and believes that he may be forced to retire his seat soon. Lady Meredith is a firm believer that the recent push for more rights for the cursed Imperfects is exactly what the Dominion doesn’t need to be distracted with at this time.”
“I must reacquaint myself with her,” Christophe said, his mood brightening. “I haven’t seen her since we were both children at primary school. Back then, all she did was pick her nose and punch boys in the gut. A tempestuous bitch, if I recall. Sounds as though little has changed.”
“Very pleasant upon the eyes as well, Laird,” Duncan smirked. Christophe looked at the older man and grinned.
“You lecherous old man,” Christophe laughed and patted Duncan’s shoulder. “I wonder just how poor her father’s health really is.”
“With her around and the desire for power fueling her?” Duncan thought for a moment before shrugging his shoulders. “I’d say his health is in imminent decline.”
“So what do we do about the Emperor, and more importantly, about his massive power grab?” Christiophe asked after a few moments reflection.
“Well,” Duncan began, holding out his open palm. “We control the funding of the war machine. If the Wraiths don’t have funding, they can’t train replacements. Usually the Lower House tries to tack Wraith funding onto a bill we’ve already written and passed, but this year, with all the turnovers that have happened, their funding slipped through the cracks. So no new Wraiths for a year, minimum, after the last class about to go through. That is a small blessing.”
“Then there is the simple matter that Wraiths are expensive,” Duncan continued, closing his hand into a tight fist. “If we can convince a few of the Lower House members to agree with us, then we can stall their funding again for another year. Meanwhile, with the loss of Ptolemy and Catal Huyuk, the Navy’s going to be screaming for new ships and personnel. We go to bat for the Navy, they’ll return the favor by choosing our planets to construct the Eleventh Fleet. More jobs for our constituents.”
“It’s an idea…” Christophe murmured, thoughtful.
“And then, Laird, when the Wraiths begin to retake the lost planets, they begin to lose bodies,” Duncan smiled savagely. “Bodies they can’t immediately replace. Rather, suits they can’t replace. We make a good enough case to the Lower House, again, and we can convince them to send in the Marienes. They are far more reliable than those maniacs in the Wraith Corps, and they answer to the citizens of the Dominion. Wraiths go back to their job of being Praetorian guards, and the Emperor’s power is temporarily checked. Meanwhile, the Marienes go about securing the border planets and reapplying to the Houses. We gain more favorable votes with newer Lower House members once they gain admittance, which helps us a great deal.”
“There are a lot of ifs to your plan, Senator,” Christophe observed after a quiet pause. “How do you propose we work past these ifs?”
“Oh, I already have an eye on five incoming parliamentarians who would easily agree with us,” Duncan’s eyes were wide with amusement. “All of them are young, idealistic and impressionable. The best part? I think I have that young Espinoza bastard in my pocket.”
“Espinoza?” Christophe’s face filled with shock. He knew, as did the other Senators, that the powerful family from Belleza Sutil was not one to generally work with the ruling elite from the Core worlds. To have one of them on their side before he was even officially sworn in… “How did you get through to him?”
“Believe it or not, his wife,” Duncan pursed his lips and tapped his ring. The platinum ring, encrusted with a single large ruby, was a reminder of the powerful status his clan held on his home world of Corus. “She is related to me, distantly, and I simply suggested through family that an incoming member of the Lower House might need a friend in the Upper. Word was passed, and she contacted me three weeks ago after he won the election. She was disgusted at the thought that there is now an Imperfect in the family.”
“Wait,” Christophe interrupted, his expression curious. His day was improving dramatically by the moment. “There’s an Imperfect Espinoza now?”
“Joel’s youngest boy, I forget his name,” Duncan waved his hand dismissively. “Some anomaly in his genetic pattern. Doesn’t matter. Parliament-elect Espinoza is going to face some ridicule from his fellow members in the Lower. As I mentioned before, he’ll need a friend or two. He- and in extension, us- are fortunate the results of the gene test of his younger brother weren’t leaked until after the election. It could have tanked him. And us.”
“You think he believes that the Emperor is overstepping his bounds?” Christophe queried. Duncan shrugged again.
“The Espinoza’s are loyal to the Dominion, Christophe,” Duncan reminded his young protégé. “I doubt that the boy… Kevin, I believe, is going to stray from his father’s beliefs much. And Joel, despite his faults and arrogance, believes in a strong and stable Dominion. A power-hungry Emperor does not make a stable Dominion. Even one of them would agree.”
“So we…” Christophe’s voice trailed off.
“We wait, cut the budget so the Emperor bows to the will of the people, and move forward with the proposed Boxley Act,” Duncan stated. He looked back over his shoulder as Christophe’s aide coughed slightly. His eyes narrowed as he focused on the aide, who had been silently staring at the floor nearby. “You trust him?”
“Darius,” Christophe called out to his new aide, who had been one of his father’s favorite aides in the months leading up to his death. “What did you think of the conversation? Or of the plans we spoke of?”
“Conversation, Laird? Plans?” Darius asked quietly, his brown eyes confused as he looked up from the floor. “I heard no conversation, nor any plans. I wasn’t aware that any took place, in fact. I was about to remind you, though, that you have a meeting in ten minutes with Senator Stephens of Juno about the new trade tariffs on goods from the Domai Republic. Then you have a meeting an hour after with the esteemed Justice of the Lord regarding… items of interest.”
“Totally trusted,” Christophe answered Duncan’s question with a quick nod. “And efficient, too. It’s no wonder my father hired him.”
“As you say, Laird,” Duncan nodded. He cocked his head to the side and looked back to the young Senator. “The Justice of the Lord? What are you doing with that old relic? He barely comes out of his crypt anymore.”
“Paying my respects, Senator,” Christophe said as patted Duncan’s shoulder. “One can never have too many allies. Something my father taught me.” The two men turned and continued down the hall, followed closely by the silent aide.
He’s not insane, he’s entirely reasonable and persuasive, “Darius” thought as he followed, mentally writing his latest intelligence brief as he trailed behind his current employer. The younger is going to be worse than his father was. His father was selfish and a traitor, but this Christophe is a zealot, a true believer. I wonder how Chief Gan is going to handle this… The Dominion Intelligence agent kept his head down and his ears open as he kept a respectable distance between him and his new boss.
And my father taught me something as well, young Laird, “Darius” recalled with inner delight. Something that you would never understand. Sobre todo, la familia permanece.