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Beyond - Legends Annals of the Noble House of Trieste: Volume 11 (AU, OC)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Trieste, Apr 19, 2017.

  1. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 14, 2005
    :p When I am back from the Mountains I looks forward to read on!
  2. DarthUncle

    DarthUncle Jedi Master star 5

    Mar 20, 2005
    Only when it is absolutely needed for the good of the planet, I'm sure O:)
    Trieste and AzureAngel2 like this.
  3. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 10, 2010
    AzureAngel2 DarthUncle jcgoble3 Vehn

    Gesco City, Bakura

    “I swear to you, by whatever you hold holy in this galaxy,” Holly Remizan threatened into her comm, “that you will not so much as get appointedas a dog catcher if you let your delegation leave the camp. Do you understand me? Do you?”

    Similar conversations were unfolding in a cacophony throughout the war room. Some were promising rewards for loyalty, others punishments for desertion. The only rule was “whatever it takes.” Though they had arranged for the most loyal delegates they could get to be selected for the convention, emotions ran high on the floor and even the staunchest partisans could get swept up them.

    “No, no, no!” someone shouted.

    “Hold firm,” Holly ordered in a last order before ending her call. She immediately whipped around to the source of the outburst. “Talk, now.”

    “12 delegates from Atalanta shifting to Angell.”

    “Damn you Ayn!” Holly cursed.

    As Chair of the convention, Ayn Trieste determined who addressed the convention and when. It had been her calculated decision to let Governor Angell be the first of the candidates. She definitely wasn’t going to make it Madsen--that could easily set off a stampede that could lead him to the nomination. She couldn’t give Declan the first shot for fear of accusations of favoritism. Therefore, she had given the third place finisher in the primary vote the podium.

    Angell’s positions were intoxicating to the liberals in Fianna Fail. Her proposals went further than either Declan or Madsen and she was playing to over 1,200 delegates predisposed to like such measures. These policies weren’t viable in a general election, but in the comfort of like-minded beings they seemed downright sensible.

    The next ballot had seen its clear effect: Madsen 450, Trieste 440, Angell 330. It was a strong new coalition to build from--if a shaky one. The numbers had fluctuated since then, but remained relatively stable. It was clear this was a three being fight.

    As Ayn called the next vote at the podium, she got a notice on her datapad.

    Code Teal

    Her head shot up, the voting underway. You couldn’t be party leader without having sources of information, and Ayn had made sure that hers were keeping her updated. Code Teal meant one thing.

    “Are you kriffing kidding me?” Declan shouted at the holoprojector.

    Senator Kirsten Muriel of one of Salis D’aar’s districts was being interviewed by the BBC. She had been bandied about earlier in the campaign as a potential candidate, a good blend of liberal positions to appeal to the base, but moderate ones to win in a general election. She was inexperienced, but looked good on the HoloNet. Ultimately, she had declined to run, saying she could do the most for Bakura as a Senator. But now she was standing on the convention floor, surrounded by delegates with holo projections that proclaimed “DRAFT MURIEL”.

    Declan’s outburst had been prompted by just one sentence, an answer to a question from the convention floor reporter. “If nominated by Fianna Fail, I would serve as their candidate for Prime Minister.”

    “As if she hasn’t arranged this herself!” Declan fumed. “She’s endrunning us! She’s trying to save herself the millions of credits and months of effort I spent to get this nomination! I want comm calls right now with our delegation leaders! They are not leaving us now! Get them on the line now!

    Ayn was not going to allow Muriel anywhere near the speaker’s podium, not with the way she’d coolly scooped up 401 votes, gaining with every ballot. The lesser candidates were out of the race now, pragmatism overtaking loyalty, and only four candidates remained. Declan had 375, Madsen 390, and there were only 104 Angell delegates left hanging on by their fingernails.

    This was a critical moment. She had to stop Muriel’s momentum. But she could also sense that this was not the right time for Declan to take the podium. The next speaker wasn’t going to lock up the nomination. There was too much fight left on the convention floor. The party wasn’t ready to compromise on a candidate yet. If Declan spoke now, he’d peak too early and miss his window.

    That meant she did something she didn’t want to do, but had no other choice but to do.

    “Gentlebeings, it is my pleasure to welcome a colleague and a stalwart member of our party to the podium. I introduce to you Senator Silas Madsen of Arcterra.”
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  4. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 10, 2010
    AzureAngel2 DarthUncle jcgoble3 Vehn
    (Start at 0:42 for best results)​

    Gesco City, Bakura

    Declan was exhausted. The convention had adjourned its third day and a relative calm had descended on Gesco City as delegates and reporters grabbed whatever sleep they could. There would be no more votes until tomorrow morning--but there would be more votes.

    Madsen’s speech had halted Muriel’s run. Ayn had known what she was doing. Whoever wrote Madsen’s speeches was good. The centrist Senator had delivered a heartfelt plea for “good old country compromise,” reprising his campaign themes of wholesome rural living and common sense politics. His earnestness had swayed delegates back to his cause, almost irrespective of his actual policies.

    Silas now sat at 550 votes--86 votes shy of the nomination. He’d stalled out there on the last two ballot. Angell was finished, all her delegates departed for other candidates. They’d mostly moved to Muriel, but Declan had picked up a fair share too. He was sitting at 415. Muriel was now at 305, weakened by Madsen’s surge.

    Declan considered the position of each candidate, himself included, as he observed the glistening cityscape of Gesco City. Yes, Ayn had done her job well.

    The door slid open behind him. He didn’t turn around at the ensuing sound of two pairs of footsteps. He just said. “Well?”

    “Your instinct was right,” Holly reported. “Madsen’s reached out to Muriel to make a deal. I’m still trying to find out what, but my bet is a significant Cabinet post. Exchequer, Defense, State, Attorney General.”


    “She’s rejected it.”

    “It’s only bargaining, not disinterest,” Declan said. “She knows Madsen won’t come to me and she’s going to get her price from Madsen. She might be aiming for the Leader’s seat in the Senate. It’s what I’d do.”

    “Gutsy play,” Holly observed.

    “They’d keep the deal secret. If Madsen wins, then she calls in her chit, gets the PM-elect to back her in the Senate caucus. If she’s lucky, we’ll have flipped the Senate and she becomes Deputy PM. If he loses, no skin off her back and she won’t look disloyal,” Declan reasoned. He paused. “Thank you Holly. Alert me if you learn more.” They both knew that was her cue to leave.

    Once the door shut behind Holly, Declan looked at his wife’s reflection in the transparisteel before he turned around to delve into her deep eyes. It would take a Jedi to discover how she had gotten into the hotel unseen by the press. It was all the work of Holly, who’d made sure Ayn had never been out of touch with her husband during their “separation.”

    “We have to move now,” Ayn said, stepping forward and putting her hands on his waist. “I’ll put you at the podium first thing in the morning. We have the speech to stir their hearts and rally them to us. It’ll start a tidal wave. 121 delegates is all you need. We’ll get them. We’ve been planning for this moment for the four years.”

    “And where will we find the delegates?” Declan asked. “Madsen and Muriel will have told their camps to hold firm, that a deal is in the works. They can keep discipline in the short-term with that knowledge. The speech that can flip them hasn’t been written. It will never be written. Whether we like it or not, we are in the final hours of this convention. There is no more long play.”

    “I refuse to believe that. We will not let the likes of Silas Madsen beat us. Never,” Ayn spat. Though her touch was tender, her voice was venom.

    “My darling,” Declan said, pulling his wife to him, his hands interlocking in the small of her back, “we won’t. I promise you. Not so long as there is life left in me.”

    He kissed her and she returned the affection.

    “But we have to do this your way now,” he finished.

    This is my way,” she insisted.

    “I know. But it’s not our way anymore,” Declan said. “Just like when we were rookie senators and Madsen tried to block us, we found another way, one he didn’t see coming. We will do so again and it shall be all the sweeter for it.”

    Ayn put her head against his chest. “My heart still breaks for you.”

    Declan leaned his cheek against the top of her head. “I know. I love you for it. Just give me the speaking time tomorrow. Then you can come home.”
  5. jcgoble3

    jcgoble3 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Nov 7, 2010
    So Ayn and Declan are staying in very close contact despite the public appearance of being separated. I should have suspected as much.

    At any rate, it is time for Declan to make his move. But will it be enough?
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  6. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 10, 2010
    AzureAngel2 DarthUncle jcgoble3 Vehn

    Gesco City, Bakura

    “Gentlebeings, it is my distinct pleasure to introduce Governor Declan Trieste of Telaan Valley.”

    Declan stepped out of the wings to a raucous reception from his faithful delegates and even some of those supporting other candidates. After all, he had fought the good fight against Trixa Garlant’s agenda in the Senate before he’d run a masterful campaign to oust an incumbent Unionist Governor and revitalize the party in Telaan Valley. Even Madsen’s supporters had to give some begrudging respect to Declan for that. He was one of the most public faces of the party and that counted for something.

    “Thank you, thank you,” Declan said, to calm the crowd and begin his remarks. “You are too kind. Please.

    “My fellow Bakurans, first of all, I thank you for your endurance and your passion. It has not been easy for you all over the last few days, but it is a testament to how much you love our homeworld that you would give of your time and energy to be here with us this week.” There was general applause for the sentiment.

    “This goes right back to the theme of this convention: Planet Before Party.” Declan raised a finger. “This is what it’s all about: the idea that we are stronger together. And make no doubt about it--we are. But that strength comes only through our determination to rise above our differences to find that unity. And believe me, it is there my friends. It is there! But it does not come free and it does not come easy!

    “When we say planet before party, we do not say it because it comes naturally. We say it because we must fight for continuously, daily. Our strength comes from action, not complacency. It comes from the tough decisions where we recognize not what divides us, but what we share.

    “This is our pledge to Bakura: that we shall focus on our bonds, not our differences. That promise, to do what is best for Bakura, begins here. And to that end, it is time for this convention to give Bakura the best candidate that we can.

    “Therefore, I unreservedly and wholeheartedly endorse for the nomination of our party my friend and colleague, Senator Silas Madsen!”

    The convention exploded. There was shock from Trieste supporters and Muriel’s backers, but it soon rolled up into the jubilation of Madsen’s bloc.

    “Madam Chair,” Declan called over the din of the convention, “I motion we begin a new ballot for our nominee of Prime Minister.”

    Declan ceded the speaker’s podium to his wife. “There is a motion on the floor to begin voting. Do I have a second?” A hundred voices or more from the Madsen camp seconded it. “Hearing a second, it is in order.”

    The vote was perfunctory. With Declan’s backing, Madsen secured the nomination in a landslide. Silas was already on hand in anticipation of his deal with Muriel and, when he went over the tipping point to win the nomination, stepped onto the stage with a broad smile. The first being to congratulate him was Declan, in public and on stage.

    “Congratulations, Silas,” Declan said with a broad smile. The eyes of the party and Bakura were on them. “Go get them.”

    “Thank you, Declan,” Silas responded.

    “The convention is yours,” Declan said. “Go accept and put the fear of the Balance in the Unionists.”

    “It’ll be a pleasure.”

    That evening, when the convention was closed and delegates streamed back to their home cities and towns enthused with their new candidate for Prime Minister, when the lights of the convention hall went dark, when Silas Madsen was now being touted as the next leader of Fianna Fail, Ayn Trieste entered her home in Salis D’aar for the first time in weeks. The first thing she did was kiss her sleeping children on the forehead. The second thing she did was join her husband in their private study. He had an open bottle of whiskey and a half full glass in his hand. Without being asked, he poured her a glass. She sat next to him on the couch and tucked her legs beneath her and set her head against his shoulder.

    “I’m so sorry,” she said.

    The last time a Trieste had failed to get the Fianna Fail nomination for Prime Minister after running for it had been his great-grandfather, Lennon Trieste. If he hadn’t fought the Sith in the resistance and died for their world, he probably wouldn’t be remembered at all.

    “This will not be your legacy,” she promised her husband before taking a drink.

    “No,” Declan agreed, “it will not. And you know what? What we do next will be all the sweeter for it.”

    “You say that now.”

    “And I will say it forevermore. Tomorrow I’ll set the meeting,” Declan said.

    “It’s not too soon?” Ayn asked.

    “No one will know. I’ll have Holly run logistics.”

    Ayn sighed. “This still feels like a defeat.”

    “It is,” Declan said. “But not ours. Not by a long shot.”
  7. jcgoble3

    jcgoble3 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Nov 7, 2010
    Well, that was a move, alright. A most unexpected one! :eek:

    But somehow, I think Declan has a plan to somehow wrest the office away anyway. And I'm almost certain that the way he does it will not be legal. :p
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  8. DarthUncle

    DarthUncle Jedi Master star 5

    Mar 20, 2005
    It sounds like Declan is saying it won't be enough and he's going to have a great speech that should have carried the room, but won't due to the dealing, and so Ayn and Declan will be able to go live together as he isn't in the running, but lost (officially). Looking forward to how Ayn plans to turn that situation around!

    And now to read the next update, exciting!

    ... and I was sort of right, though hadn't quite anticipated Declan going full on into supporting his opponent - smart move, better a gracious defeat where you will be remembered for pulling the party together after a long and exhausting marathon of voting rounds than for being the candidate that couldn't win.
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  9. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 10, 2010
    Precisely his thinking, my friend! ;)
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  10. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 14, 2005
    Dang, my husband DarthUncle managed to say something clever before I could. So, I can just freely quote from Declan himself: “Thank you, thank you,” You are too kind.
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  11. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @Vehn

    (One no-no word, hence the regular link for music today)

    Salis D’aar, Bakura

    “You certainly pick the most charming spots for meetings,” Silas Madsen commented dryly, looking around the Core Hotel kitchen, deserted now that dinner service had concluded.

    “You know what my mother said about being Prime Minister? You never get to go in the front door of any place. You see a lot of speeder garages, back hallways, kitchens, and stairwells,” Declan said.

    They were alone, Holly and Madsen’s aides waiting outside, along with his federal Marshal protection. Both politicians wanted this meeting to be completely private, even at the minor indignity of subjecting Declan to a body scan before the Marshals departed.

    “Small price to pay,” Madsen allowed. “So I assume we’re here to talk about what went down at the convention. A gesture like that doesn’t come for free.”

    “It does if you’re a member of the public,” Declan pointed out. “After all, there were no stories of any collaboration or dealmaking between us throughout any of the convention. Quite the opposite, in fact. Therefore, how could I have done it out of anything but patriotism and putting the best being the party could offer forward?”

    “I’ll believe that when I see gundarks fly,” Madsen said flatly.

    “But if you mean the cost inside this room?” Declan asked brightly. “We have accounts to settle. See, after today, I’m going to start campaigning for you across the planet. Garlant’s going to have her surrogates out, but none of them have the name recognition of a former candidate and her Cabinet officers have to be careful about campaigning on official business thanks to our great campaign laws. The voters you can’t get, I will. And in exchange for that and my selfless endorsement at the convention, I’m going to get the same deal you offered Muriel. Big three cabinet post.”

    “No. Cabinet post, but I won’t narrow it down more than that,” Madsen immediately countered.

    “Then I’ll sit at home and the liberal base you need to win a general will be there with me. You’re not going energize them. You’ve voted too many times in your career with the Unionists to please voters in Arcterra, who you and I both know probably should have just dumped you for a Unionist,” Declan stated. It wasn’t quite a threat, just a fact.

    “You think too highly of yourself. The party will rally to my candidacy after your inspiring convention speech highlighting the need for unity and planet above party.” Madsen smiled.

    “Perhaps, but it’d be a shame if someone like the Times reported that there was a deal for my convention support. Promises of patronage, position, influence in your prime ministry,” Declan said. “The public can be all too willing to believe the worst of its leaders. It’d be different if you had won outright at the convention, but you didn’t. All the easier for rumors like that to stick.”

    “That splashes back on you too after all those noble words about raising the tenor of the conversation.”

    “And I’ve got two more years in the Governor’s mansion, regardless of whether you win or lose. Two years is a long time to remember such details--especially if we don’t retake Marian Square and the party is desperate for a candidate who can win--which, needless to say, won’t be you.”

    Madsen knew the time had come to make a decision. He eyes Declan suspiciously. “Big five. Attorney General and Interior on the table.”

    “Good luck in the general, Silas,” Declan said, ending the conversation and turning to go.

    “Big four. State, Defense, Exchequer, and Justice,” Madsen countered.

    Declan paused. “It’s a good starting point,” he replied with a smile.

    “Then we have a deal?” Silas asked, extending his hand.

    “We have a deal,” Declan said, clasping it, “Future Prime Minister Madsen.”
  12. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 10, 2010
    AzureAngel2 DarthUncle jcgoble3 Vehn


    If there was one thing Declan Trieste knew how to do, it was work a crowd. It could be two beings, 200, 2,000, or even 20,000. It didn’t matter. When he got in front of them there was an instant connection. For most of his career, others had chalked it up to personal magnetism, that Bakuran voters liked the smooth, earnest scion of a family their parents and grandparents had voted for. The Noble House was more than a moniker to many Bakurans--it was a comforting truth that unlike other Houses of Bakura, who coasted along on their colonial heritage, the Triestes kept pressing themselves to live up to ideals of service and public good. “Just look at Declan’s cousins” they might say, “voyagers, peacemakers, athletes, Marines, charity workers, environmentalists, doctors, and public servants.” Because the Noble House chose from among its members the best to lead them, it kept spurring to them to great things while other Houses had become little more than social clubs.

    But now Bakura was awakening to the fact that Declan Trieste couldn’t just sell himself to voters: he could sell anything. He was crisscrossing the planet on behalf of Silas Madsen and Fianna Fail, delivering speeches to rouse citizens to vote for his party’s nominee. Depending on where he was at a given moment, he played up a different part of Madsen’s agenda, but everywhere he went he always made the same request: “No matter what your opinions, no matter what kind of future you want for Bakura, I ask that you vote. I know, deep in my heart, that the future that Silas Madsen sees is one where we all prosper, where we face our challenges together and are better for it. Whatever this election’s outcome, let it reflect the will of all Bakura, not just an engaged minority. Let the government we select truly represent us--not just some of us.”

    Declan traveled so incessantly that it was almost hard to keep track of him. The Governor sometimes had to be reminded where he was. He placed himself entirely in Holly Remizan’s hands. She kept the master calendar and knew exactly where he had to be, when he had to be there, whose names to remember this time, what this crowd cared about most, what not to say--and that was just what she told Declan. The Hapan had been carefully compiling a mental catalogue over the last year of information that might one day be useful: who owed whom, what secrets did someone wish kept, what grudges simmered below the surface, who was old and powerful, who was young and ambitious. All of this might one day be useful. For now, Remizan just filed it away.

    There a reason for the frenetic activity. It wasn’t just to hit as many cities as Declan could on behalf of Madsen. It was to conceal the method that underpinned the whole campaign.

    Salis D’aar, Bakura
    Weeks ago

    Declan, Ayn, and Holly looked at the holographic globe of Bakura, delineated into 80 districts, each representing the bailiwick of a senator. Some were green, some were orange, and some were a bright, brilliant gold. It was the last category that occupied the attention of the trio.

    “These are the most vulnerable districts--Fianna Fail and Unionist,” Ayn explained, “based on data from the campaign committee. We’re looking at 20 districts, all told. With 46 seats in their hands, we’ve got to flip 7 seats to win control of the Senate. The Unionists have 14 districts in these 20.”

    “That’s what happens when they reach beyond their base. They become exposed in the next cycle,” Declan observed.

    “Very much. We’re going to hit all 20 of these hard. Hold our ground, pick up theirs,” Ayn said.

    “So let’s say we run the table. That means Fianna Fail sits at 50-30 in the Senate. That’s over 60%,” Holly stated.

    “A lot of flexibility in a majority like that,” Ayn confirmed. “If we play this right, we can win all 20--but only if we keep Garlant distracted so she doesn’t campaign in these districts to give a bump to her senators.”

    “How do we do that?” Declan asked.

    “Keep her out of these districts as much as possible. The campaign committee is going to coordinate with Madsen’s campaign to cover the planet as broadly as possible with all of our speakers, Declan included. I’m going to use them to herd him to competitive markets outside these districts,” Ayn said with a motion, “especially ones where he’s going to have to force Garlant to play defense. It’ll force her to shore up her base. Meanwhile, we’re going to blanket our 20 target districts with Declan. He’s going to be the primary campaigner appearing for Fianna Fail and boosting our candidates.”

    “And when they win, they’re going to thank us, not Madsen,” Declan said.

    “Exactly as we want it to be,” Ayn confirmed.

    Even though every event included a call to support Madsen for Prime Minister, it also included just as prominent a push for their local Senate candidate, who always appeared at the rally with Declan.

    “We don’t just need Silas Madsen in Salis D’aar,” Declan would say, “We need good senators who will support his plan for Bakura!” And with that, Declan would extol the virtues of the being to his left and give the crowd all sorts of reasons to vote for Fianna Fail’s candidate in that district.

    After every rally, there was a final handshake with the candidate and a promise from Declan: “You need anything, and I mean anything, you call me. I know the FFFC chair. We will get you whatever you need. You are our top priority.”

    In that, at least, Declan Trieste wasn’t lying.
  13. Vehn

    Vehn Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 14, 2009
    Finally caught up after a whirlwind few weeks for me. Declan is playing a great game here and Madsen is totally being suckered into it...
  14. DarthUncle

    DarthUncle Jedi Master star 5

    Mar 20, 2005
    So, I previously typed a smart and short comment, but forgot to save it :p Glad that Vehn got the gist of what I wanted to say!

    So, there we see the first part of the plan revealed, neat, and clever. Still very glad this is all for the good of Bakura (I am sure it is, right?)
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  15. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 14, 2005
    Sorry for having missed two great updates, but there is much going on in my new job. As for Declan Trieste and "his personal magnetism". He is by far more dangerous than your usual death sticks dealer. For his trade are dreams, the dreams of his voters.
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  16. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 10, 2010
    Oh man. Declan as a death stick dealer! He better look out for the next Jedi that he meets or he might get persuaded to give him his trade and reconsider his life choices. :D
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  17. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 10, 2010
    AzureAngel2 DarthUncle jcgoble3 Vehn

    Atalanta, Bakura
    Two weeks to the election

    Another day was over. Declan had been in four time zones that day. The time between his rising and now had actually lasted longer than a planetary rotation of Bakura as he’d figuratively chased the sun across the world to grandstand for Fianna Fail candidates. He downed honeyed drinks to soothe his throat between appearances, soaked his hands in water to relieve the pressure of so many handshakes, and draped wet towels over his tired eyes. He had campaigned hard in the primary, but then he’d been fresh. Now he’d been at it for months--and he wasn’t even promoting himself directly.

    He allowed himself one release at the end of each hard day when he checked into his hotel room, his appearances complete. He poured himself one tumbler of whiskey, slouched into an armchair with pillows supporting his tired lower back, and put his feet up, looking into the night, the lights off in his hotel room. After the frenetic activity of day, the peace of night with all its secrets calmed him.

    But not so tonight. The twinkling lights of the skyscrapers of Atalanta brought no relief. He barely registered them. Instead, he looked past them into the blackness of a night. The faint light of the city illuminated his ghostly reflection back at him on the transparisteel windows. For the first time in his life, he felt like he was on the verge of turning 40.

    And what did he have to show for it? A few terms in the Senate where he’d had to claw his way off the back bench. He’d only succeeded thanks to his wife’s rapid rise. There was less than a full term as governor, where he had compromised his principles to get things done with a hostile legislature that he’d bullied and divided into supporting a moderate agenda, far less than he wanted to achieve. And now a failed candidacy for Prime Minister.

    That last part stung more than the whiskey in his throat. His mother and grandfather had never been rejected by the party their ancestor, Fionn Cormac Trieste, had built. Fionn Dunross Trieste had cruised to the nomination en route to becoming the “Second Father of Bakura,” the nomination his if he deigned to pick it up. His mother had won her contested convention in 252, the prelude to four terms of greatness. And she’d only been 33 when she’d done it, six years younger than Declan was today.

    Even though everyone from the leaders to the rank-and-file members had praised him as a great party loyalist to have so selflessly set aside his ambitions for the good of Fianna Fail, even though other plans were underway, Declan suddenly found himself exposed to the raw, aching hurt that the convention failure had inflicted upon him. Despite what he’d told Ayn, the convention had been his way. It had been more than that: it had been his dream. To win like his mother and grandfather had. To be part of the great tradition of Trieste Prime Ministers. It was everything he had ever aspired to, living in Marian Square, watching his mother run Bakura for his entire childhood. He had wanted that life for Niall Fionn and Shenandoah--to show them what they would inherit as Triestes.

    It was only when he saw the faint tracks on his face in the reflection that Declan realized he had been crying. The realization caused him to start sobbing.

    He didn’t notice Holly Remizan come in. She said nothing. She just sat on the armrest of Declan’s chair and eased his head into her lap, running one hand through his hair. She had been waiting for this to happen and she knew it never would as long as Ayn was around. He loved her too much to reveal the depths of his despair.

    “It’s all right,” Holly whispered. “It’s just another way forward. Always forward. Never backwards. Always forward.”

    Declan kept crying.

    “I can help,” Holly said gently. “It’s okay. You know I like both. She’d understand.”

    The tears continued to flow, but they didn’t wrack him like the had at first. He considered the prospect of comfort that Holly extended. He knew that she was right. Ayn would understand. She would forgive him. He took Holly’s hand.

    “If there were two of me...” he breathed.

    Holly smiled, even though Declan couldn’t see. She knew that whatever else Declan did, he would always be loyal to his wife: professionally, personally, maritally, in every way.

    “Then let me give you this,” Holly told him. “Only this.”
  18. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 10, 2010
    AzureAngel2 DarthUncle jcgoble3 Vehn

    Cape Suzette, Bakura
    Election Night 288

    For the first time in their history as husband-and-wife politicians, Ayn and Declan got to spend federal election night together. In years past, they would wait for the vote in their respective campaign headquarters. Cape Suzette, which housed Ayn’s district, was in an early time zone and once everything was sewn up on her end she race across the planet to Telaan Valley to join Declan in his district. Thanks to the Telaan Valley governorship being decided in an off-year election, Declan now got to spend this evening with his wife.

    Though they both sported impressive political operations, Ayn’s set a new level for the couple. As Minority Leader in the Senate, her headquarters was the nucleus of the entire Senatorial campaign for Fianna Fail. Her own election was a foregone conclusion—in a solidly liberal district she was all but assured of a victory. It was almost as a formality that the Unionists recruited a candidate to run against her. As a result, she spent most of her time watching the returns from the other 79 districts—in particular the 20 districts that were the centerpiece of her electoral plan.

    Some of them had been called already by the Federal Election Commission, the bureau responsible for tallying all votes in Senatorial elections. Of the 20 targeted seats, Fianna Fail had secured 7 while the Unionists had 1. Taking into account the secure seats like Ayn’s, Fianna Fail looked to have 37 seats already, just four short of the majority that would make Ayn Deputy Prime Minister, the second highest post in the federal government. All they needed were four seats out of the remaining 12.

    Declan and Ayn knew winning a third of the remaining seats was more than possible and waited with a hopeful set of nerves for further returns. They didn’t speculate as to what might happen—they only wanted facts. In fact, their conversation didn’t deal with the vote counts at all. In between calls to thank supporters and key party members, most of their discussion revolved around what they would do with their children (who were napping in another room so they could be fresh for the victory celebration downstairs later that night) tomorrow to celebrate the end of election season.

    It was at the end of one holo call that Holly bent down between them. “You have a visitor,” she announced softly, “from Redwood Creek.”

    “We’ll take her,” Declan said. “See that we’re not disturbed?”

    “Of course.”

    The pair stepped into an office where they could have privacy, passing the plain clothes bodyguard waiting at the door.

    “To what do we owe the unexpected pleasure?” Declan asked with a smile.

    “It’s been a long time since I’ve been at one of these,” Kerry Trieste said, referring to an election night vigil for vote counts, “and since you were both here I thought I’d extend my congratulations in person.”

    “We’re flattered,” Ayn said, kissing Kerry lightly on the cheek, “but you can wait until the returns are in. Nothing’s for certain until the FEC calls it.”

    “I was in this business a long time,” the former Supreme Chancellor said, “and I’ve read a lot of exit polls. This is going to be a very good night for Fianna Fail. The party is going to remember it for a lot of years to come—and they’ll remember that the two of you were instrumental in it.”

    “You are too kind. I believe Silas Madsen will get most of the credit,” Declan said.

    “Publicly,” Kerry conceded, “but inside the party? Everyone will know what you accomplished. You—” this was directed at Ayn, “—will now be one of the leaders of the party. If I have one piece of advice, it’s to work hand-in-glove with Madsen. If you hold up his agenda, that won’t look good for you.”

    “I look forward to a fruitful relationship that respects the separation of powers as defined in the Constitution of Bakura,” Ayn replied.

    Kerry gave a brief laugh. “You know, your grandmother and I wouldn’t have gotten so much done if she’d taken that attitude. Then again, we shared a vision for Bakura. Find what you can agree with Madsen on first and do that. Hash out the rest later.”

    “There is much to do,” Declan said. “Starting with what unites us will help build momentum and consensus between both branches of government.”

    “A comment like that might make someone think you plan on being involved in the coming administration,” Kerry pointed out slyly.

    “It might,” Declan said.

    “I thought so when you started stumping for him. You’re a party loyalist, but I know that you only do something when there’s a benefit in it for you,” Kerry said. She held up a hand preemptively. “That’s not meant as a criticism. Sabé was that way and I respected her. Just don’t let everyone else see it, especially Madsen.”

    “Of course,” Declan promised.

    Kerry smiled. “All right, I’ve imparted enough old politician wisdom on you,” she admitted and put her hands up. “You two know what you’re doing. I’ll let you enjoy the night.”

    “Thank you for coming,” Ayn said. “Will you stay? Shenandoah and Niall would love to see you?”

    “You mean the real reason I came?” Kerry asked, still smiling. “I would have just used a holoprojector if all I’d wanted to do was congratulate you.”

    “They’re in the other room, Mom,” Declan said, pointing the way before giving her a hug. “Seriously, though. Thank you for coming. It means a lot.”

    “Do some good with this, Declan,” Kerry told her son. “It’s your time.”

    When the two politicians were alone again, the door shut behind Kerry, Ayn looked at her husband. “If that wasn’t a passing of the torch, I don’t know what is.”

    Declan took his wife in his arms. “She’s right. It is our time.”
  19. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 10, 2010
    AzureAngel2 DarthUncle jcgoble3 Vehn

    Salis D’aar, Bakura
    Morning after Election Night

    The applause began from the moment Ayn stepped through the doors of the Senate Building. An aide caught sight of her and began it before others picked it up. Before long it was preceding Ayn as she strode down the halls of the Senate. Through open office doors, she caught snippets of the morning news coverage.

    “—Prime Minister-elect Silas Madsen, who took 52% of the vote across Bakura—”

    “—Fianna Fail recaptured the Senate—”

    “—a flawless planet-wide campaign—”

    “—48 seats, a 16 seat majority in the Senate—”

    “—the presumptive Deputy Prime Minister—”

    That was who Ayn was now. Unless the party caucus bucked her (and she would ensure they didn’t), Ayn Trieste was set to become Deputy PM and leader of the majority in the Senate. Her electoral plan had succeeded fantastically: Fianna Fail took 18 of the 20 targeted districts. It was an impressive margin of victory that ran ahead of Madsen’s vote total. Ayn’s party had found votes exactly where they’d needed them through a blend of national and local politics. Even if Madsen’s seat in Arcterra, which would go up for a special election after he resigned it to become Prime Minister, flipped to the Unionists (and it likely would: only Madsen’s personal magnetism had kept it in Fianna Fail’s camp all these years) she would still have 47 votes in the Senate, more than enough to run whatever legislative agenda she wanted.

    Ayn acknowledged the praise with smiles, shaking a few select hands of key allies and supporters on her way. When she reached her office, she bestowed personal thanks on each staffer.

    “The credit is all yours,” she told them. “You worked tirelessly to take us across the finish line and the results show it. Now, get packing. We’ve got a new office to take over in a few weeks!”

    Later this morning she would make a victory speech on behalf of the Fianna Fail Senators. Her speechwriters had been working on it ever since they took their 41st Senate seat last night. She had already delivered her acceptance speech for her seat by then. It worked out well: this morning’s speech would be delivered on the steps of the Senate Building and she could project an image of being in command, just like she wanted the planet to view her. For now, however, she would spend her time in further thank you calls and personal congratulations to her fellow Senators.

    Or she would have if she’d been given a moment alone.

    “Senator, the Deputy Prime Minister for you,” her receptionist announced.

    “Send him in,” Ayn allowed.

    It had been a brief four-year tenure for this Deputy PM and Ayn greeted him cordially. “Congratulations, Ayn,” he said. “I’m not happy about the result, but that was a heck of a campaign. You brought your A game.”

    “I’m sure you will in 292.”

    The Deputy PM shook his head. “You know how these things go. A loss like this…someone has to be held accountable. They haven’t asked yet, but they don’t have to. I’ll be announcing my resignation from the leadership later this week.”

    “That’s a shame. I was hoping for a productive working relationship,” Ayn told him.

    “As productive as ours?” the Deputy PM asked with a smile. They both knew that Ayn had stymied him by picking apart his majority with tactical maneuvers throughout his leadership.

    “I think you would have been more reasonable than whoever succeeds you,” Ayn said.

    The Deputy PM chuckled. “That’s a safe bet.” He sighed. “Well, I know what this morning was like for me four years ago. You have plenty to do. I’ll leave you to it.” He turned to go, but stopped and turned back, as if making up his mind to say something. “If you’ll allow the defeated to provide one parting thought?”

    “Of course,” Ayn allowed.

    “You have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into, Ayn,” he said. “It’s much harder to lead than it is to tear down someone else’s agenda.”

    “But don’t you see?” Ayn replied sweetly. “You can’t build a house until you’ve cleared the land—and I’d say it’s wide open now, wouldn’t you?”

    Her predecessor departed in simmering silence.
  20. DarthUncle

    DarthUncle Jedi Master star 5

    Mar 20, 2005
    Smooth as silk, well executed!
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  21. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 10, 2010
    AzureAngel2 DarthUncle jcgoble3 Vehn

    Madsen Transition Team Headquarters, Salis D’aar

    Declan Trieste hesitated for only half a second, a pause so brief it was imperceptible…but it was still there.

    “I’m flattered, Silas,” he told the Prime Minister-elect.

    “I know we agreed on a top four post, but you’re going to be a valuable part of my Cabinet. You’d be wasted as Attorney General,” Madsen said. They were sharing a drink as they discussed Declan’s compensation for his whole-hearted support during the victorious campaign. “You showed during your time in the Senate that you were able to get in deep with a system and learn it backwards and forwards. It’s how you pulled off your coup in the Rules Committee. Beyond that, your work in the last two years in the Valley has shown that you can take a bureaucracy in hand. That’s why you’re going to be the perfect Chancellor of the Exchequer.”

    “Like I said, I’m flattered, but I’m no economist,” Declan replied.

    “You’ll have an entire department of them. Find the smartest ones and listen to them,” Silas advised. “But you won’t have to worry understanding that part. What I want you for is your rhetorical skills. I’m going to make a major tax reform push. The Exchequer will be key to that and I’m going to need your leadership to get it done. You’re going to have to be out in front for it and that’s where you do your best work.”

    Declan smiled. “Now you’re talking my language, Silas.”

    “Then we announce tomorrow?” Madsen suggested. However, Prime Ministers-elect didn’t suggest; they ordered. Declan knew it too.

    “The sooner the better,” Declan agreed.

    The Plaza, Salis D’aar
    The same day

    “Chancellor of the Exchequer!” Declan fumed. His mother had been known to throw glassware when she was particularly upset and he was considering adopting the practice. “The Exchequer! He’s burying me!”

    “Clever. On the face of it, a prestigious Cabinet post. Significant influence in the government. However, nobody likes the Exchequer when they’re submitting their taxes,” Ayn agreed. She admired Madsen’s move.

    “Force forbid he put me in at Defense,” Declan continued. “No, can’t have me getting near the armed forces, can he? And then there’s State, a position I’m eminently qualified for. It’s not like two of my direct ancestors held the post. It’s not like I meet foreign leaders all the time through limmie.” The sarcasm was evident. “Oh no. Couldn’t let me have anything that high profile. And Attorney General, as if it was beneath me.”

    “He’s afraid that you’d start an investigation into him,” Ayn told her husband.

    “Well I damn well would now!” Declan protested. Ayn decided against bringing up the fact that he was not a lawyer, which might be a good qualification for Attorney General, politics aside.

    “Darling,” Ayn placated him, putting her hand on her husband’s shoulder as she spoke into his ear, “we knew that Madsen would try something like this. We planned for it. Don’t worry.”

    “Of course we did,” Declan said crossly. “But I’m going to have to stand there and look happy while he insults me.”

    “No, you are going to stand there and be happy, because you know what’s coming,” Ayn said, patting Declan on the side. “Now, has Madsen decided on his other nominees for the Cabinet?”

    “He’s got the other major nominees, but he’s fleshing out the lower offices,” Declan said.

    “Good. That’s all we need,” Ayn said, stepping away.

    “Where are you going?” he asked.

    “To call one of our future in-laws. It’s time we did the right thing as leaders of this family and got to know them,” Ayn called over her shoulder. As she rounded the corner, she opened a door down the hallway. “Holly.”

    Her husband’s chief of staff turned around at her desk. “Yes?”

    “I need to borrow you for a couple of days,” Ayn informed her.

    “Of course,” Remizan said.

    “Don’t worry,” Ayn promised. “This is going to be fun.”
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  22. jcgoble3

    jcgoble3 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Nov 7, 2010
    I knew Silas would turn around on Declan eventually.

    Oh, and the family? This story has recently been missing the rest of the Noble House. Glad to see them back in the mix! :D
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  23. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 10, 2010
    But did he? He gave him exactly what he asked for--a major Cabinet post. ;)
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  24. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 10, 2010
    DarthUncle jcgoble3 Vehn

    Club 33, Salis D’aar, Bakura

    “Oh no, I couldn’t,” Ayn protested at the sight of the offered dessert menu. “Not with the hen party starting today. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since marrying into the Noble House, it’s that there’s always too much food at the hen party.”

    “And I assume there’s too much alcohol at the stag party?” Sevan Hull asked with a smirk. He was a handsome human, which helped in his line of work. Beings were more likely to trust a good looking journalist with their secrets and admissions than they were an ordinary looking one. He’d gone into war zones for The Salis D’aar Times, the planet’s most respectable reporting service, just as often as he’d traveled into the rural countryside of the planet to bring attention to issues there. It had been a piece on safety in high school limmie that had introduced him to May Trieste as a member of the Miners’ training staff. One quote had blossomed into an engagement and a wedding in the near future, as evidenced by the twin events for males and females in the family.

    “Unfortunately, I can’t help you there,” Ayn said as she folded her napkin and placed it on the table. “You boys must sign a blood pact to never talk about it. Declan certainly doesn’t. I think there are blasters involved though, so I just ask him to promise that they do that before the drinking so nobody shows up to the wedding with a prosthetic. We’ve got one too many of them in the family already, thank you very much.”

    “Any other advice for someone shortly to be inducted into the ranks?” Sevan asked. He’d been pleasantly surprised when the Deputy Prime Minister-elect had personally called and asked if he wanted to have lunch at Club 33, one of the capital’s exclusive social clubs. The Triestes had been members for generations and it was one of the main gathering centers of Fianna Fail politicians. (He was astute enough to know these things were not a coincidence.) Even in all his reporting he’d never had the opportunity to come inside the elite bastion with its plush upholstery, stained glass, waxed wood floors, first class food, deep carpets, and other sumptuous trappings of luxury. He had heard the membership fee was astronomical, but then again the Triestes could afford it.

    “Be yourself,” Ayn assured him. “Contrary to popular opinion, we’re not a syndicate bent on galactic domination. At least we’re not anymore now that Kerry’s finished her tenure as Taoiseach.” The pair shared a laugh over that. “No, what you should know is that we’re a family, even if you just marry into it like us. Heck, look at Corrie. I don’t think she’s even talked marriage with Quentin and we basically treat her as part of the clan already. We are fiercely loyal. That can only help you. Never hesitate to come to the Taoiseach if you need something. That’s what he’s there for.”

    “So you mean if I need a scoop for my next story, all I have to do is ask?” Sevan smiled.

    “Within the bounds of reason,” Ayn cautioned him playfully.

    “Would asking about the upcoming confirmation hearings be reasonable?”

    Ayn waved a hand dismissively. “I’ll do you a favor right now. Find something else, anything else to write about. It’s going to be an absolute bore. I’m sure Declan would be happy to give an interview, especially as his hearings are coming up in a couple of days, but there isn’t going to be any drama in the confirmation hearings. Everyone’s going to sail through. It’s why I don’t mind being out of town for the hen party while they get underway. I’ve talked with all the incoming committee chairs. Madsen’s put together an excellent slate.”

    “It looked like it, but you never know. This is a new level of scrutiny for most of his nominees, Declan excluded,” Sevan said. “Sometimes beings aren’t prepared for a committee of senators to do the investigating.”

    “Madsen’s vetting team did an excellent job. They’re not going to get surprised. Everything they found was proper. Thankfully everything lined up with Sinjin-Smythe, so Collabrand won’t even have to ask about it. We’ll be able to focus on getting our legislative agenda underway. There’s a lot of work after eight years of Unionists in Marian Square. In particular I’m—”

    “Senator Trieste,” a uniformed member of the staff said, coming discreetly up to the table. “My apologies, but your speeder has called up. You need to be headed to the spaceport now.”

    “Thank you very much, Anjon,” Ayn said. She was on a first name basis with the staff at Club 33. “Forgive me, Sevan. That’d be my ride for the hen party. So glad we could talk further. Please, take your time, have another drink if you need to steel yourself for the stag party tonight. I probably could have used one before I got inducted into the House. Besides, you should enjoy the Noble House tab, seeing as you’re just about family now.”

    They hugged and parted. Though it wasn’t his nature, Sevan took Ayn up on the offer of another drink at the table. It wasn’t to enjoy the lap of luxury or to grit himself for whatever this stag party was going to be. Far from it—as wonderful as it was to get a taste of this life and to ponder marrying May, Sevan’s mind was turning something over. His journalistic instinct had perked up during the lunch.

    Ayn had been a little too calm and confident about the confirmation hearings. If there was one thing that he had seen, it was that there was no such thing as a totally uneventful confirmation. And what was that about Sinjin-Smythe, Madsen’s nominee for Minister of State? There had been something worth talking to Senator Collabrand about…but what…

    Sevan turned his comlink on, even though that was frowned on at Club 33, and called Jax Ralter, the police officer husband of Elfie. As the most recent male to marry in the Noble House, he was in charge of organizing the stag party.

    “Jax, it’s Sevan…” Hull said softly so as to not get kicked out of the club. “Can you stall the gang for a few hours? As a favor to me? There’s something I need to look into.”
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  25. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 10, 2010
    DarthUncle jcgoble3 and especially Vehn though with a special call out for CPL_Macja if he's about. ;)


    “May, are you sure this is really what you want to do for your hen party?” Ginny Harlow asked. “I mean…it’s your party…but really?”

    “I’m absolutely sure,” May assured her. She was in the copilot’s chair, guiding Swann Lynd who had borrowed Cillian’s and her freighter to take the ladies to Roon for the party. They had entered the atmosphere and were on descent to the surface.

    “It’s just…a barn raising? Manual labor doesn’t sound like the most fun for a hen do,” Ginny continued. “Besides, Elfie could have hooked us up with a charity where we could have built a home for someone who needed it on Bakura if that’s what you were after.”

    “Stuff it Gin,” Swann said as she flipped a couple of switches to her left. “Just because you got hammered at your hen party doesn’t mean that other beings don’t want to remember theirs too.” She directed a covert smile at May over the zinger.

    “I, for one, think it’s great that we’re finally having one of these somewhere other than Bakura for a change,” Sierra said, stepping into the cockpit to watch the descent. She had taken her veil off once she had rendezvoused with the freighter en route and sworn everyone, her plainclothes guards included, to silence on the matter. She might be Queen Mother, but she wasn’t going to ruin May’s hen party by distracting everyone with her royal status.

    “Roon is where I grew up,” May explained. “Nothing makes me happier than coming back here with all of you. There!” She pointed to Swann through the viewscreen of the cockpit. “That’s where we’re headed. Take her down.”

    “We’ll take the north and east walls!” May volunteered. The tenth generation of the Noble House ladies consisted of Ayn, Falene, Vesper, Ginny, Swann, Sierra, Elfie, Corrie, Trixie, Henrietta, Jane Serena, Eleanor, and May. Elza and Avie, members of the eleventh generation, had been drafted into their first Noble House hen party, taking their number to 15. “We’ve got enough to do two between us.”

    “She assumes I can use this thing,” Henrietta Trieste mumbled as she looked at the tool in her hand.

    “Pound with the flat end,” Trixie Penn suggested, though Henrietta wasn’t sure how helpful her cousin in-law was actually trying to be with the comment.

    “Elza, Avie, you do much building on Kitokaime?” May asked. “Can you lead things for the east wall while we do the north?”

    “You kidding?” Avie shouted across the gaggle of Noble House women. “We didn’t even have karking nails on Kitokaime. This is gonna be a breeze!”

    They had landed at one of the many family farms found on Roon. Even though it was the seat of an interstellar alliance, many of its families still made their living in Roon’s soil. Large construction projects were beyond the means of even a family with a droid workforce. The labor required would take too much away from planting and harvesting to create the silos and barns needed to store crops until it was time to go to market.

    To solve the dilemma, communities gathered whenever their neighbor needed to erect a structure. This was the genesis of barn raisings on Roon. May had labored on several in her childhood. The Vehn household had never held themselves above community service. Though she wasn’t that skilled in working with her hands, she still reveled in the labor because of that community spirit. As a child, barn raisings were one of the few things that could make her forget the scars on her face.

    “And before you all get started, Leia here has put one of her famous razzleberry pies up for the first team that gets their wall up!” one of the organizers shouted.

    Trixie’s head whipped around. “This is a competition? Why didn’t somebody say so? Let’s go go go!”

    The hammering, buzzing, and humming of tools surrounded the construction site. The barn wasn’t a massive structure, but it was still a respectable size. Though no one had a formal engineering degree, there were enough veterans to make sure that everything was done right. Besides, who was going to overrule Eleanor Vehn, Federation high official and maid of honor, on municipal building codes?

    “You know Trixie, your wall actually has to stand up and be functional to win the pie,” Jane Serena called from the other team.

    “Just think about Horst and you’ll make a great wall. That’s all he does every Primeday playing defense!” Swann joked to her teammate Trixie.

    “Not when I played against him,” Vesper chuckled as she hammered away.

    “Let’s get that brace ready!” Elza called out, captaining her wall’s labor.

    “I have to hand it to you,” Ayn said as she worked side-by-side with May measuring timber for cutting. “This is probably the best hen party I can remember.”

    “Bakura doesn’t have a monopoly on a fulfilling life,” May said with a smile.

    “It’s nice to not have one of these things be all about dancing,” Corrie observed from the competing team.

    “About that…” May began.

    “I take it all back! This is the greatest!” Ginny said before she spun away in the arms of one of the Roon locals.

    The barn was standing, looking sturdy and new in a coat of paint. It would serve a couple generations of this family, if not more depending on upkeep and weather. Even though there were no crops to harvest, the barn was far from empty. Inside, lights had been strung from the rafters and the wood floor had become a dance floor for everyone who had participated in the construction. This was the second part of a good old Roon barn raising: the party when the structure was finished.

    With none of the Noble House males around, the ladies got treated to the talents of new partners from the surrounding community. May knew all the dances and the rest had to be taught. Jane Serena, no stranger to choreography, had been the first to get the hang of them. The rest followed and, now that they were an hour deep and twilight had given way to night, everyone had a partner and were putting their skills into practice. The offworlders had no shortage of offers and were limited only by their ability to stand the heat inside the barn.

    It was while May took one such break to cool down that Ginny had made her observation as she passed. May had always belonged on Bakura thanks to her family and beings like Ginny…but Roon would always be home. Her past would always be here, even if her future was on the other side of the galaxy. She stepped outside to do the one other thing that she’d promised herself she’d don on her stag party.

    May craned her neck backwards to look at the stars. Bakura had its wide open places, but Salis D’aar was not one of them. Beautiful city it might be, but you couldn’t see the galaxy when you looked up at night. Only the brightest stars stood out against the light pollution. Here, though…the entire universe unfurled itself before you. As a light breeze ran across her face, she gazed at galaxies far, far away and wondered what they were doing there out there.

    “I always loved this view.”

    “Yeah,” May said, before realizing she knew that voice. She looked back to earth and found Phil Kol’sin, agent of the Surveillance, Protection, Enforcement, and Apprehension Regiment (better known as S.P.E.A.R.) standing next to her. “Phil.” There was surprise, but not exclamation in her voice.

    “I hope this isn’t intruding, but I wanted to congratulate you,” Phil said, still looking at the night sky. “You and Sevan are going to be great.”

    “Phil…please don’t,” May said, looking away. “You know why I left.”

    “I do. And you were right. S.P.E.A.R. is my life. It’s the one thing I’ll always put first, and I know you can’t,” he said. “I’ve accepted what that means for me—in every regard.”

    “I meant what I said though. If S.P.E.A.R….” She paused to correct herself. “If you need me, just ask.”

    Phil finally brought his gaze down from the sky. “Things are better now. Rydonni Prime has a long way to go, but we’re closer, thanks to you and everyone else. But there is one thing you can do for me.”

    “Of course,” May said with a smile.

    “I didn’t study the Roon Two Step for three weeks to not come here and use it.” He offered May his arm. It was so very like Phil.

    “Don’t you think you’ll stand out a bit in there?” May asked skeptically.

    “I blend in wherever I go,” Phil said confidently, even though his suit was at odds with the casual clothing of the rest of the barn raising attendees.

    May took his arm and grinned. “Tough luck, because I’m going to swing you around that dance floor and everybody’s going to see. You’re on my turf, Kol’sin.”

    Despite plans to the contrary, the hen party lasted an extra day. After a long day of manual labor and a longer night of dancing, nobody (especially their pilot Swann) could bring themselves to hit hyperspace the next morning. They needed a full day of recuperation planetside by a pool. Thankfully, Eleanor had been able to help with that in Nime.

    “Corrie…Jane Serena…Elza…Avie…I don’t know which of you is going to get married first,” Ayn sighed, “but you’re going to have a great hen party with May putting it together.”

    “When I get married, we’re going to go shooting for mine,” Avie promised from behind sunglasses as she lay in the sun.

    “Blasters are fun,” Sierra agreed. “I’d be down.”

    “I meant with bows and arrows,” Avie corrected. “Or spears.”

    “Sounds great. I know a little something about spears,” May said. She might be getting married, but she was never going to forget a certain Agent of S.P.E.A.R. It really had been a good hen party.
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