9. Seneca

March 27, 2007

In one conclave of the House iota, an angry mob stormed a water purification plant and devastated the mechanics. The sick and dying suffered doubly when criminal profiteers attacked disaster relief teams and ransomed their members. Elsewhere, Kappa fanatics seized control of a port authority. The ten-day standoff that ensued with Faith and their Knights Templar ended in murdered hostages.

To many Aideenans, especially in the capital Court-at-Columbia, such tragedies are the daily fodder of media reports, but to omegaMarat Seneca they meant much more.

Seneca witnessed firsthand the unrest in the villages and townships of Aideena. She negotiated down the desperate transformed into militant insurgents. She watched hidden demolitions shred children in markets and parkways. She visited morgues with their stacks of rotting carcasses, victims of escalating riots between rival clans.

The good and elevated peoples of Court-at-Columbia had thus far been spared the violence and terror that are a daily specter in Aideena’s provinces. Despite the overcrowding and the clan rivalry, life had always been somehow better, more civil, in the planet’s capital.

Seneca stared across the colonnade of the Acropolis at the thousands who gathered in answer to her call. She surveyed the camp of journalists hungrily working the spectacle. She took in the Templar policing the swarm.

She succeeded in galvanizing world attention on her fast on the steps of The Parliamentary and the vote inside to enact labor rights reforms. Instead of feeling triumphant, Seneca felt terror.

The Parliamentary promised the people a swift and decisive adoption of new legislation, granting tradesmen and their matriarchs the freedom to cross familial boundaries in pursuit of better employment and richer business opportunities. However, nothing even remotely resembling that action had come to pass. Instead, the world government assembly droned on with increasingly ridiculous deliberations.

With each trumpet of the temple crier as the Gaia-hours passed, Seneca saw the patience of her more radical supporters eroding. She knew she was staring down a mob one step away from a riot.

The past several Gaia-months, Seneca worked tirelessly to avoid what she now saw menacing toward her. She rallied the dissident familial factions within the Twelve Great Houses behind her People’s Advocacy and its agenda to bring about peaceful social reform. She calmed smoldering populist anger by promising that The Parliamentary was at last ready to deal directly with the grievances underlying violent clashes across Aideena.

Secretly, omegaMarat Seneca conspired with Edmund etaSade, the chairman of the authoring committee and High Consul to Parliamentary’s largest Guild coalition. Meeting with Faith authorities, they surreptitiously drafted a reform package that satisfied both a suspicious restless public and a self-serving bureaucracy. They carefully worked out every detail for more than a year. Very publicly, Seneca gave up her House omega seat in Parliamentary as part of the deal, to appease her resentful omega sisterhood and assure their favored votes. She carefully manipulated events to delivery what each party wanted most.

Now, just when the world government was sure to ratify their efforts, etaSade maliciously and inexplicably introduced measures that profoundly undermined all their hard work.

With delay after delay in Parliamentary, Seneca’s hopes were unraveling. All she could do was watch and wait—like the thousands of others in the colomnade and the millions more networked across the planet and beyond. Seneca knew that to avert the frustration simmering before her from erupting into bloodshed that the Parliamentary must act as promised.

Then, Seneca saw it.

A wave of new alertness washed through the policing Knights Templar. Media crews were suddenly on the move. Groups of the journalists with their technology in tow dashed toward the government building grounds.

Seneca watched Templar descend on the crowd. Red and black armored uniforms corralled around the demonstrators and press people. A hornets’ nest of excitement broke across the mass of on-lookers. They rushed like locust toward the barricades below the peristyle and toward The Parliamentary. The Templar marshaled, armed with Discipliners, extending energized batons, and forced them backward.

Seneca turned for cover as one of her sister’s affiants rush toward her. He threw himself in front of her as shield.

Horus held a pai. She knew he was in communication with the omega delegates inside The Parliamentary. He’d been mediating her instructions to confederates since he’d arrived.

Horus’ face twisted with confusion and consequence. He struggled to hear the com-link over the surrounding hysteria.

“Tell me The Parliamentary is voting,” Seneca insisted.

He darkened reproachfully. Seneca read that he wished he could tell her what she wanted to hear. Instead, “The Assembly’s panicked,” he answered. “There’s been a disruption.”

Seneca took his arm firmly, “Tell me.”

“The meta-terrestrial, the Fallen Divinity,” he said as he strained to understand what his counterpart in The Parliamentary was reporting, “He’s attacked the delegation!”

Immediately, Seneca let go.

For a moment her mind went blank. She found herself staring past the young man, past the rushing crowds, toward the great building above the colonnade.

With her mind’s eye, Seneca imagined a torrid of forces conspiring against her. She imagined a vote that would never come to pass. She imagined a desperate people succumb to rage and driven to mayhem, to arson, to looting, and to murder.

A woman stepped into her line of vision. She crossed toward her slowly, non-plus by the ensuing mayhem. She smiled reassuringly. Somehow, deep down inside, Seneca felt that smile meant something other than it seemed.

She stared into her sister Daria’s smile and Seneca’s terror turned to horror.

TO BE CONTINUED

Comments

Got something to say?