Wisdom is gained by learning from those around us. A fool believes there is nothing left to learn. - Lord Mykel Vasilios, Protector of the Isidorian Throne
Reagan woke suddenly in his cryogenic chamber, and realized that decompression and climatization had started. Finally, the ship was close enough to its destination to trigger the thaw.
He felt groggy as he awoke. A month in a stasis pod would do that to you. As he stretched, he felt wobbly, as if trying out his legs for the first time. Another effect of deep space travel. As sensation returned to his limbs, he contracted and released his muscles to familiarize his body with movement.
Reagan was anxious to prepare for his first major assignment offworld, at the Galactic Investigations Bureau outpost, known as the GIB. Quadrant 3 was comprised of corporations and colonists who were constantly in conflict, and he was to help manage the disputes. Reagan had been assigned to this position to gain experience in one of the most difficult regions of the empire.
Reagan used the console to tilt his pod from sixty degrees to an upright position, then extended his leg, putting his full weight down on it. Now able to weight-bear, he stepped forward, grabbed a towel and set of dry clothes from a locker, and changed. He then walked to the bridge.
“Greetings, Governor Vasilios.” The android on the bridge was monitoring systems, as he did several times daily. It was strange to Reagan to hear his father’s title directed at him.
“Good morning, Lincoln. Anything I should know?” Reagan ran his hand through his short, damp, chestnut hair.
“Just a routine flight, some turbulence on the way due to an asteroid storm and solar flares, but otherwise smooth sailing.”
“Any repairs necessary?” asked Reagan.
“All done during your cryo-sleep,” answered the android. “Those new bots on the hull were a wise improvement. They repaired a breach within seconds.”
“Something breached the hull?” Reagan was surprised.
“Yes, one of the larger asteroid pieces during the storm. The sensor array had already been damaged, and didn’t pick it up in time to outmaneuver it. In all fairness, it was as big as the ship, traveling at incredible speed.”
“What part of the hull was breached?” asked Reagan.
“Just the cargo bay, nothing lost. It was good to finally see the new bots in action,” the android commented.
Reagan assumed position in the captain’s chair, and tapped his fingers on the console to see their current position. A large holographic map popped up between the room's other consoles, above the emitter in the center of the floor. The ship was built to accommodate an entire crew, or it could be run by one android, synched with the ship.
“A few hours until we get there,” Reagan declared with renewed energy. “I'm looking forward to getting started."
“Nice to see you again, Governor Vasilios.” Deputy Governor Tarek Shaw was shaking Reagan’s hand. “Your father was a fine leader and mentor. It was a loss for us all when he left for Isidore, so it’s good that you are here in his stead. Although your father will no longer be working directly with our unit, we’ll still be taking orders from him.”
“It’s good to see you as well, Deputy Governor Shaw. My father has always spoken highly of you. He thought of all of you as brothers-in-arms, not just as your governor. I’ve heard many stories of your work together over the years.”
Shaw laughed. “No doubt your father exaggerated our role in some of the stories he told you.” The other men smiled. “He always downplayed his own role and gave more credit to others than was due.”
Reagan smiled. As he and Shaw walked towards the briefing room while the other men followed, he was glad to be with this unit that was so loyal to his father. His goal now was to ease into his role, learning what he could from these men.
During the debriefing, Deputy Governor Shaw was proud of Reagan for immersing himself immediately, asking questions about each situation. Reagan had grown from the young boy he had known on Isidore, into this fine young man. He was receptive and keen to learn from those more experienced. Reagan would be a great governor. Shaw would ensure that.
“So there are current investigations into this rumor of slavery on Reimus 5?” asked Reagan.
“Yes, we’ve uncovered what may just be a few isolated incidents of enslavement, but we are continuing to investigate in case there is more going on underground,” answered Officer Marshall Jennings.
“Good, let’s continue to investigate. Keep informant ears open at space stations and on planets close to Reimus 5. We need to nip it in the bud, to avoid repeating history,” Reagan said.
The Secretary of Bureau Investigations recorded “Action Required” on the console that fed to the large screen. He then made a note of what actions were required and by who.
“Next, there’s a minor issue that may need some routine follow up,” said Deputy Governor Shaw, who was chairing the briefing. He looked over at Officer Slate Beckett. Reagan nodded for Beckett to proceed.
“One month ago, a group of colonists complained that working conditions in the mining operations had deteriorated. They stated that the corporations aren’t following through with terms of their contracts. We started investigating the complaints, but were then told that conditions had improved.
“The three companies we received the most complaints about were the Aurora, Leo, and Asher Corporations. We contacted the corporations as well as the colonists who filed the complaints. The corporations and some colonists said the conditions had improved, but many of the colonists were unreachable. It’s possible the conditions have improved,” Beckett sounded doubtful, “or the corporations may have paid people off.”
“And no additional complaints have come in since then?” asked Reagan.
“No. No more complaints have come in,” said Beckett.
“But you question if the conditions have truly improved. Why so?” wondered Reagan.
Deputy Governor Shaw noticed that Reagan was perceptive, and was quick to address issues. Shaw smiled.
“The Miners’ Guild originally allowed us to set up imaging as part of the investigation. Visuals haven’t shown any new equipment or machinery delivered, which was part of the complaint.” Beckett shuffled papers and read, “Lack of safety equipment and updated machinery.”
“I’ll look into it personally, since I need to acquaint myself with the corporate leaders and colonists,” said Reagan. Secretary Cohen put “Action Required” on the screen. He made a note that Reagan would be following up with the complaints.
“Any other issues to add before we close?” asked Shaw. No response.
Back in his office, with Deputy Governor Shaw standing by, Reagan attempted to reach the Aurora Corporation.
“Ah, it’s the new governor, finally arrived,” said the director of the Aurora Corporation. “Welcome to Quadrant 3.”
“Greetings, Director Finley, and thank you,” said Reagan.
“What prompts you to give us a call?” Director Rowan Finley asked.
Reagan answered diplomatically, “I’m doing routine follow up of some complaints that were made against your corporation one month ago. It’s our responsibility to investigate each complaint that comes in.”
“Ah, yes, we were able to come to terms with the Miners' Guild, and conditions have improved for them.” The director smiled, but it looked like he was gritting his teeth. It was apparent that he was an impatient man, used to getting his way.
“That’s great to hear,” said Reagan with a genuine smile. “I’d like to close this case, so will be investigating. I wanted you to be aware of the reason.”
“Well, thank you for the notice. When you interview the miners, you’ll see conditions have improved since our talks," said Director Finley.
“That would be the best result in this situation. You wouldn’t want tensions to disrupt the daily flow of your business profits,” said Reagan.
“Well hopefully you’ll be able to close the case quickly.” Director Finley changed the subject. “How has your trip been so far? You must miss family and friends from back home. Too bad the distance is so far.”
“Well, it’s my first out-journey, so not too bad, and I would like to explore the quadrant. I’d like to discover how life here compares with life back home, and what our people could learn from those in Quadrant 3,” Reagan said in a friendly manner.
“Well, that’s great to hear. I have many contacts. I’ll let them know of your wishes to see more of the quadrant. Perhaps you will receive invitations from some,” said Director Finley.
“They would be well received,” said Reagan.
“We’ll be in touch,” said the director. “Transmission end.”
Those who obsess over wealth and power climb over others, forcing them down in the process. They attract others with the same obsession who will do the same to them when opportunity arises. It is a road of emptiness and betrayal that many young Vitaari have embraced. - Lord Bartholomew Sullivan, Owner of the Nicos Trading Company
K’vaal Ianov, of the reptilian race known as the Vitaari, thought so highly of himself that he had built a fantasy world inside his mind where the lovely Lady Isla was with him because she actually chose to be. As a result, he acted more as a suitor than her captor. He gave her special freedoms and indulgences, believing she would eventually fall in love with him.
He looked at his scaly face in the mirror and attempted a smile, but all it did was bare his teeth into a type of snarl. He would have to keep practicing.
He straightened his purple plaid bowtie so it sat properly over his white shirt with the lacy sleeves. He donned his long, fancy, purple dinner jacket to complete his outfit. His tailor had ensured his black pants and purple jacket sat properly over his thick tail without bunching up. His previous tailor had been “dismissed” due to ineptitude.
He thought of the Lady Isla, her beautiful elven form. She was of the Elanisse race, a beautiful and powerful group of beings.
K’vaal didn’t like the idea of using Lady Isla for her abilities, so he put that out of his mind. He was taking her to the party as his companion. If she chose to use her power to benefit him, that was a sign of her devotion.
Gone were the days when she had been kept on a pretty golden leash attached to the necklace with jewels. He had enjoyed parading her for private audiences as his newly acquired pet. It wouldn’t do to take her out like that, since he might be accused of slavery. But to own one of the Elanisse, and one of the royal family at that -- that was true power.
Months ago, he had surprised her and purchased her younger sister to live as a Lady on his estate, in his care. Lady Isla was speechless, and showed her appreciation by gently planting a kiss on the right side of his snout.
This evening, K’vaal was hoping the new governor would be introduced to Vitaari society. The young Governor Vasilios would be an important ally, if they could forge a bond. However, if he was anything like his father, he wouldn’t be susceptible to bribes. But there had to be a way he could be distracted to look past some of their practices, K’vaal thought.
Suddenly, K’vaal had an idea. He would have Lady Isla’s beautiful younger sister, Lady Cia, join the party as the governor’s companion. Lady Isla would be absolutely delighted by the arrangement. This would be a major step, he thought, not just in gaining the governor’s favor, but in winning his Lady Isla’s love.
The first of the invitations came a few hours after Reagan’s conversation with Director Finley. Reagan was sitting back in his chair at his cherry wood desk, hands behind his head. He was studying a smaller holographic projection of the planets of the Antares system, watching them revolve and rotate in fast time. He and Shaw had been discussing the current tensions between the Vodyanyov and the Kitsuine dynasties.
A minute later, a communication was hailing him.
“Transmit on screen,” said Reagan.
Reagan saw a lizard-creature, ridiculously overdressed, in a gaudy purple coat with embroidery and white lace at the end of the sleeves.
“Good afternoon,” said the creature. “I am K’vaal Ianov of the Vitaari Community. We wish to invite you to join us thisss evening on Vitaaria to meet sssome local dignitaries.”
“Why, thank you,” replied Reagan. “I will be sure to attend. Please transmit details. Thank you,” he ended.
“Transmission end,” said the Vitaari.
“Interesting,” said Reagan to Shaw, “I wonder where this will go.”
“Dealing with the Vitaari is like dealing with a nest full of vipers,” said Shaw. “They are vain and self-serving.”
“Then this will be a good introduction for me,” said Reagan. “I’ll join them tonight, and when I’m out that way will try to get hold of the Miners’ Guild in that sector. I want to be able to make arrangements to discuss issues with them over the next few days.”
Reagan slowed down the holographic projection and zoomed in on the planet Vitaaria.
“Good idea, Governor.” Shaw stood and shook Reagan’s hand. “I’ll let you prepare then.”
The Antares system was a binary system with two suns, a large, older red giant and a small, young greenish-blue sun. The small blue sun, Vampirica, was amassing energy from Antares and was the source of heat for the solar system. The system contained seven planets, Vitaaria, Kitsuine, Vodyanyov, Colonist Planets Aleph, Bethel, and Gamuel, and a Z-Class planet insufficient to sustain life.
As Reagan approached Planet Vitaaria’s surface in his shuttle that night, it was nearly as bright as day, due to the artificial lighting. The Vitaari seemed to have a very busy night life.
There was movement everywhere, traffic, shuttles coming and going. There were lighted entertainment novelties on top of buildings and in the open squares. Everywhere you looked, there was light in different shapes and colors.
He made his final approach, docking at the coordinates he had been given. He exited the shuttle, bracing himself, expecting he was about to walk into the lion’s den.
He was led down several corridors to a fancy ballroom, the like of which he’d never seen. He took in the beautiful chandeliers, the elaborate crimson window dressings, dark antiques, classic paintings and tapestries. They all complimented a gold and crimson theme with deep purple highlights. His host, or his decorator at least, seemed to have good taste.
Although the colors were warm, Reagan shivered as he entered the room, as if he could sense malevolence in the air. These creatures were cold, very cold and calculating. He could see it in the glittering eyes that gave him piercing glances, apparent even under the low lighting. Some glanced up momentarily from their drinks or away from their companions to take in the newcomer. Calculating, those eyes were, always calculating.
At the same time, the creatures were almost comical to Reagan. All fancied up, stuffed into elaborate costumes. But Reagan kept a straight face and focused on the undercurrents, subtle torrents he knew could pull him under if he wasn’t cautious.
The Vitaari had a sinuous way of almost slithering over to him, undulating in rhythm with the low tones in the background music. Reagan’s presence was announced in an amplified voice to all those in the room:
“Governor Reagan of Houssse Vasssiliossss.” Some gave a cursory glance at the man in dress uniform, others didn’t break eye contact with those they were conversing with, still others stared.
Reagan stepped forward, ready to mingle with this hungry crowd, and stopped short. His eyes locked with the most beautiful creature he had ever seen.
Apart from her delicately pointed ears, Reagan would have thought she was from his own home world. Her eyes were large pools of purple, the shape of almonds, and she had the most beautifully shaped mouth. Her nose was straight, and her looks indicated an ancestral link to Isidore. She looked to be his own age. Next to her stood a lady with similar features but with darker hair, that Reagan surmised was her older sister.
Her sister’s arm was held by a Vitaari with snake-like eyes, with an upturned sneer. Or perhaps he was attempting to smile. Reagan recognized him as the host of the gathering, the one who had sent him the invitation. He had been deep in conversation with another Vitaari, no doubt calculating and plotting. The majority at this gathering clearly had a lust for power, and were lobbying to gain more.
K’vaal Ianov was trying to pull himself free, as he kept glancing up at Reagan. “Pardon me,” Reagan heard K’vaal say, hurriedly. “I mussst attend to our newessst guessst. We can continue thisss conversssation later.”
The Vitaari and the two ladies walked up to Reagan. He received a bow and curtsies, as K’vaal introduced “his” Lady Islanda, and the younger Lady Cianna. Reagan extended his arm to K’vaal to shake his hand, (Or is it a paw? Reagan thought to himself), thanking him for the invitation.
"You are very welcome," K'vaal replied. "Lady Cccianna will be happy to be your companion for the evening."
Although regal Lady Isla exuded a dignity possessed by no other in that room, it was the younger Lady Cia who captured Reagan’s eye. “Such a beautiful...party,” he almost gulped with embarrassment, as he’d lost himself for a moment.
Reagan was slightly flushed as he held out his arm for Lady Cia. She gave him a shy smile, delicately placing her arm in his.