Aphelion Issue 244, Volume 23
October 2019
 
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Founding Fathers

by Daniel C. Smith


Cyril McGreevy had but one purpose in life: to make money. And make money he did, lots of it, and rarely did he ever spend any. His only indulgence was collecting antique currencies, the kind you could hold in your hand, like the gold dollar he so nimbly passed over and between his fingers whenever he mulled over a new plan to make money. He flipped the coin between each pair of fingers then used his thumb to slide it back under his palm and back to the beginning, over and over.

He could do this for hours at a time with all the dexterity of a magician -- appropriately enough, because making money, real money, in any age, always required a little sleight-of-hand.

Unfortunately for Cyril, fate placed him in an era when technology had moved society beyond the need for cash. In today's world computers tracked all accounts utilizing biometric scanning! He hated that and longed for the days when a man could hold a fistful of dollars in his hand and know he had something. Still, even in its modern, ethereal, digitalized state, he could smell money. When he saw the newsvid reports of the new frontier on Mars and the discovery of a new transuranic element (possibly the key to cold fusion!) in the asteroid belt, well, he smelled so much money he thought he might have to buy a second nose.

Even now, some bubblehead on the vidscreen was clumsily interviewing some idiot who just quit his job and sold everything he owned to buy a spaceship and go mining in the asteroid belt.

What a moron, he thought, the United Nations hasn't even opened up the belt to independent prospecting...

But then he thought, Not yet, but it can only be a matter of time.

The UN really didn't have a choice. The world body and what was left of national governments simply lacked the resources to mine the belt. If the new element (asterium, if the rumor mills had it right) and anything Mars had to offer were to flow back to Earth, it would take the efforts of individuals like McGreevy himself, as wealthy as any corporation, but not so heavily committed to existing enterprises. The corporate world had its hands full managing all the various industrial platforms and its fleet of freighters hauling goods between Earth and the moon as well as their Earth-bound obligations.

McGreevy wondered how many others were preparing to stake a claim in the belt -- certainly enough to make an adventure of it!

The bubblehead finished up her report, "... so for those with a sense of adventure the new frontiers of Mars and the asteroid belt beckon..."

I've got a sense of adventure, he thought, and there's no bigger adventure than making money.

He kicked into action. After all, time is money, and he needed to buy some time.

He dialed his brother, United States Senator Seamus McGreevy.

An old debt needed collecting.

####

Eighteen months later Cyril McGreevy (Captain Cyril McGreevy) and a small flotilla of thirty-seven ships hung in a stationary orbit above the asteroid Ceres, a magnificent hunk of rock and ice over seven kilometers in length, and three point five in the middle. With ice constituting a third of the asteroid's mass, the two main obstacles to survival (and profit), finding water and oxygen, evaporated, and with recycling technology at its current level, the complement would reach self-sufficiency within two months, tops.

Of the thirty-seven ships, more than a dozen would be dismantled in space and reassembled down on (or within) the asteroid providing the foundation of McGreevy's dream. The power generators of those ships would eventually feed the facilities energy needs, and their graviton plating would eventually line the floors. Anything left over would go into storage; McGreevy felt certain that a market in spare parts would open up in the near future.

Three days ago the UN opened up the belt to private prospecting (as expected), giving McGreevy eighteen months or so to prepare. His brother did an excellent job tying up the bills in the US Senate that supported various members of the UN and their pet projects (who consequently moved the issue of mining in the belt to the backburner) for about... well, long enough for McGreevy and his ships to get here first.

Now, staring out the portal at Ceres, the cornerstone of his empire, McGreevy drooled as figures and credits danced in his head.

"It takes a special breed to do something like this, Cyril," said Clayton Morris, McGreevy's oldest (and only real) friend.

"Yeah, crazy," muttered his son, Thomas.

McGreevy turned around and sighed. He had been so proud of Thomas when he graduated top of his class in med school, and so disappointed when the boy signed on with the United Nation's 'Bleeding Heart Corp' as he called it, offering his services for free to people who would never pay up.

Still, a doctor could make a good deal of money out here, and so could the guy who rented him his office space.

"What can I do for you gentlemen?" he asked. "I'm busy looking over..."

Thomas spoke up, "Mom's reviewed some of the ships manifests since we've arrived... she's concerned about the folks in deepsleep aboard the Valley Forge..."

McGreevy grew perturbed, "Yeah, what about 'em?"

"Some of them... have criminal records for prostitution, and some even have work histories as 'companions'. Mother's afraid that you're going to add pimping to your long list of vocations."

"I understand your mother's concern -- Tommy -- she's a good Christian woman..."

"She's an ordained Universalist minister, dad..."

"I know that... I married her didn't I? Her hologram performed the ceremony... sometimes I think she performed the ceremony and I married the hologram..."

Both McGreevy and Morris burst into laughter.

Finally, McGreevy told his son, "Just tell your mom to worry about settin' up a church and get some tithe-payers lined up so she can pay rent, and you worry about settin' up your office, and I'll worry about everything else. Okay, son?"

Thomas started to protest, but then realized the futility of it and hastily retreated from his father's office.

McGreevy said, "Clayton, pull up a file, Project Slingshot. That's your baby, get it done."

Morris asked, "Slingshot?"

"Slingshot, Clayton. That's our real moneymaker," McGreevy said. He pulled his lucky gold piece from his pocket and waved it under Morris' nose for emphasis. "My brother just spent his entire fortune buying up the 'sea of dust' on the moon's darkside -- everyone says he's a fool -- but we're going build a slingshot, two kilometers long through the core of that very rock, and we'll hurl, for a price, all the ore the folks mine on a trajectory straight for the moon where it'll harmlessly splash down in the dusty sea that sits right beside the refinery my brother's gonna build! That slingshot'll be the equivalent of a pipeline like in the old oil days, Clay, a virtually maintenance free pipeline I might add! The right magnetic boost to get a load moving, then gravity does all the work!"

Morris just smiled. McGreevy had all the angles figured and he was going to be the richest man in the solar system, and Morris would be the second.

"I'll get right on it Cyril."

"Great... oh yeah, one more thing. You're also the president of the asteroid workers union -- there's a file on that too."

"President? Are there any perks to being president of the union?"

McGreevy smiled, "Yeah, you don't have to pay any union dues."

McGreevy stared out the portal for hours after they left, passing the antique gold piece between his fingers, envisioning the empire he would carve out of that rock dangling so carelessly in space.

He had all the angles figured.

####

McGreevy weaved his personal cruising vessel, the Razzle Dazzle (he had wanted to watch the launch of the first ore canister to the moon from space), in and out of the asteroids like a pilot unconcerned with the restrictive regulations of any authority.

Out here a pilot can dare to pilot, he thought.

He brought the ship to a standstill, just a few thousand meters out from Ceres.

The transformation of the asteroid within the last six months proved nothing short of miraculous -- a real testament to human ingenuity and perseverance and the profit motive! Working round the clock crews carved through the rock like so much cheese and already they had several hydro and aeroponic gardens established.

McGreevy had even carried livestock all the way from Earth (just the DNA -- the animals would be cloned as needed).

Cyril McGreevy had no intention of becoming a vegan as most space farers.

And the slingshot proved a success; three days ago he witnessed the first barrel of ore as the slingshot hurled it on its way to his brother's refinery on the moon, on a perfect trajectory.

On Earth things went just as McGreevy predicted -- thousands of individuals and families were leaving their home world for the uncertain prospects of life in the belt; ships would start arriving in about nine months.

McGreevy grew warm inside thinking about it. Thousands of people, all with needs they couldn't even imagine -- but he could, and did. And more importantly, he offered a way for them to ship their product to Earth that would make their efforts and sacrifices even more profitable, making their lives more rewarding than could ever be possible on Earth.

Once again Cyril McGreevy had thought of everything, and everything was all going according to plan.

He turned off the gravity and floated aimlessly in front of the observation port, King of all he could see. He gave his lucky gold piece a flip and watched as it tumbled in mid-air without any apparent intention of stopping, sort of like all the money that was about to start pouring in.

The screeching of an incoming communiqué -- emergency code -- interrupted his reverie.

Thomas sounded frantic, "Dad, you better get back to port -- we're picking up some strange telemetry... we're trying to confirm with the Martians but Port Lowell's apparently on blackout..."

"Confirm what son?"

Thomas choked, "War. World war... on Earth... all hell's breaking loose... you better get in here."

####

An explosion rocked the prisoner transport, knocking the tram-car off its track and sending it tumbling down a rocky cliff just outside of Denver, Colorado. As the car finally came to a rest, the shaken passenger, United States Senator Seamus McGreevy exclaimed to no one in particular, "I'm getting too old for this kind of thing."

Still, he wasn't the type to wait and see if the guards had survived and would come to his aid. An opportunity for escape had presented itself, and Seamus McGreevy, as an old soldier, knew enough not to look a gift-horse in the mouth.

The geo-political situation on Earth had changed over-night -- governments with centuries of history collapsed, replaced by a cartel of seemingly anonymous multi-national conglomerates.

McGreevy replayed the events of the last forty-eight hours in his head: nuclear detonations all over the surface of the Earth, especially within the United States, world leaders being arrested or just disappearing, and then he was arrested yesterday on the moon, his refinery, all of his property in fact, seized by the new world government, and then brought to Earth for trial the guards told him, on what charge they did not know.

The door of the prison compartment opened from the outside and he was greeted by the sight of a young woman, smiling broadly, dressed scantily and heavily armed.

My kind of girl, he thought.

She saluted and said, "Welcome home, Mr. President."

"What did you say, young woman?"

"Line of succession. Once the legitimate governments of the world are restored, and we'll see to that, you'll be properly inaugurated..."

McGreevy mumbled, "I'm retiring..."

The young lady snapped, "With all do respect, sir, duty calls. We need you."

The door swung open even wider, revealing a military contingent -- actually a bunch of ordinary people with guns in their hands -- about five hundred strong from what he could see.

And he could see more than a few children.

He extended his hands, "I'd find it easier to lead without these handcuffs."

With a grin the woman aimed and fired her weapon, separating the chain that held his hands bound with the neat slice of a laser.

"We'll cut the cuffs off back at base, right now we need to high tail it out of here... the mercs'll figure out the diversion in the city once they hear about this."

She shouted "Move!" and the entire throng moved in unison into the forest.

Definitely my type of woman, McGreevy thought, as a squad of men swept him away into the woods.

####

From the look on his son's face McGreevy could tell that the situation was serious.

Clayton sat at a blank monitor station, his face buried in his hands, obviously overcome with grief.

Thomas delivered the news, "Several cities on Earth were hit with nukes, not from above... it was all home-grown -- there's no satellite imagery of anybody firing anything -- D.C., London, all the centers of major governments... and even more cities in the US...Dad, I think Uncle Seamus is in trouble, he's been arrested..."

"Arrested? By whom? For what?"

Morris stood up, "They finally took over Cyril, the corporations... greedy bastards... all the countries of Earth finally united under one government, united the hard way."

Thomas continued, "Most government officials have been arrested, those still alive anyway. They took Uncle Seamus from the moon to the George Raburn Spaceport in Denver -- we don't know anything after that except..."

"Except what?"

"His transport... there's a rumor it was hijacked," Thomas said.

The monitors came alive. A declaration was being delivered.

The new Earth government now declared hegemony over the entire solar system, and all people within its confines were now subject to the authority of the new United Earth Council.

The message continued on and on while Cyril McGreevy's head swam with realization of what was happening.

Now McGreevy sank into a chair and buried his face in his hands.

After who knows how long someone whispered, "Cyril, you'll want to see this."

A video feed came on showing the heavy cruisers of the new Earth government moving to intercept the ore barrels that McGreevy had watched launch only seventy-two hours ago. A handful of independent ships had moved to block the cruisers access to the ore and were promptly, without warning, blown out of the sky. The cruisers proceeded to collect the ore barrels as if everything was standard operating procedure.

The video-stream was on a loop, and it was being beamed directly to McGreevy's headquarters on Ceres.

The message could not be any clearer.

World war, a major shift in geo-political alignment followed by the emergence of a one-world government, held together by corporate ties.

A government aggressive enough to claim all that it could imagine, a government that would seize property and imprison a man without due process and a government that was willing to kill entire families of innocent people just to make a point.

And a government that already wanted what he and his people had built.

Cyril McGreevy hadn't counted on any of that.

####

It had taken days of hiking but the rag-tag group of militants finally arrived at a series of ancient caves once inhabited by the Anasazi and took up residence. Guards took up a perimeter and several groups headed out into the woods to forage for food, all without being ordered; McGreevy couldn't help but be impressed by the military precision with which these 'ordinary people' performed their duties. As it turned out, only McGreevy and the young woman whose face had shown him the way to freedom had any real military experience.

He couldn't help but smile -- something about it all seemed so quintessentially... American.

Her name: Sarah Castillo, a schoolteacher and former Marine. If you asked her, she would have told you that she could've used some tougher training before beginning her career in the public schools of Denver.

But that was as close to a complaint as you would ever get from her.

Finally joining McGreevy by the fire near the river, she offered a chunk of jerky followed by a flask of Irish whiskey.

McGreevy took a long pull. Definitely my kind of woman!

"So, Sarah, what the hell happened?"

"Corporations finally made their move. They've been planning and laying the groundwork for a long time, probably as far back as the industrial revolution. This last week just saw the culmination of their great plan... money slowly overtook the democratic process, not just in the US but everywhere, and when the governments had all borrowed enough money to prop up their economies they left themselves teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, then the corporations started stepping in... privatization -- they took over government functions and absorbed most of the worlds military into its security forces, the mercs, as we like to call them. And now they've combined all their shipping freighters into a militarized space force. They control everything, they've got a lock on all the data flowing and anything that moves. They control the food supply, the water sources... the power grid, basically, they've got us by the short hairs. But the fallout from the nukes've mucked up the spy-satellites for a while, so we can hide for a while, and people are fighting back, resisting. All the kids in my school went on strike when they took the American flag down... nobodies going to work -- people're making it tough for 'em, but it won't be long before the new Council turns to more forceful methods to persuade the masses."

"I suppose you told all these people you have a plan?" McGreevy asked.

She smiled, "I did. I did indeed."

After a minute McGreevy pressed, "Which was?"

She took a long pull on the flask, then told him, "I told 'em once we freed the legitimate President of the United States, to reiterate, sir, that's you, he'd lead us to victory over our enemies and establish a new era of peace and freedom."

McGreevy said, "And they bought that?"

"Everybody needs something to believe in. Mr. President."

She stood up, dusted herself off, and said, "Everybody's waiting to hear what you have to say tomorrow morning. Make it good, both our futures depend on it."

She tossed McGreevy the flask and then left him alone to formulate his plan to save the world.

####

Cyril McGreevy hadn't left his office for almost two weeks; what little information they received from Port Lowell was all bad and the Martians were understandably concerned.

The United Earth Council continually broadcast its message to submit to the new authority or else. Additionally, the data-stream now contained a multitude of codes and regulations under which all 'subjects' would operate, as well as instructions for the payment of taxes already being levied.

McGreevy felt certain that within a few days the fleet would launch.

Trouble is on the way, he thought.

He wondered why he never saw it coming.

By the late twentieth century the incestuous relationship between the corporate world and democratic governments should have been painfully obvious even to the most casual observer. The continued centralization through mergers and buyouts and the concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands should have been harbingers of doom.

Should have been?

Now he sat waiting for the fleet from Earth to show up and take everything that he and thousands of others had sacrificed everything for.

He tried to pin it down in his mind -- the single precursor to this entire chain of events. What could have lead to the downfall of some of the most powerful and historically stable governments on Earth overnight?

As a businessman, he knew the answer was all too simple: debt.

Not even governments can borrow indefinitely; the ferryman always wants his toll in the end. His own country, the United States, had become the largest debtor nation in the world by 2100.

Then again, maybe the government shouldn't have allowed private interests to co-opt the development of outer space, he thought wrily.

The corporations weren't beholden to the international treaties that forbid countries to militarize the skies. Such technicalities had allowed for the construction of the armed space fleet now orbiting Earth, capable of destroying a planet, and aimed at his colony.

The 'council' had demanded an uninterrupted flow of ore from the belt in addition to everything else they had demanded, and from what McGreevy remembered from the vidclip of the fleets first attempt to conscript the ore, they would stop at nothing to get it.

The door slid open and his son glided in, unannounced.

"Didn't I ask you to knock Thomas?"

"You never let me in. I've got something I think will interest you -- news from Mars."

McGreevy arched an eyebrow.

Thomas continued, "There's some pretty strong resistance groups causing a lot of trouble on Earth, especially in the US. General strikes, schools, factories and plants, the media, you name it, and there's a group in Colorado..."

Now McGreevy's interest piqued; he and Seamus had grown up in Colorado.

"They call themselves the Children of Liberty -- they claim to have, alive, the legitimate President of the United States."

"DC got wiped out -- I thought they got everybody..."

Thomas smiled, "There was one senator... on the moon..."

"Seamus? Alive?"

"Maybe... dad, we don't really know anything, just that these claims are being made by... well we don't really even know who. His transport got hijacked just outside the George Arthur Raburn Spaceport in Denver -- the point is, the longer the new Council takes to find him the more people get fired up, not just in the US either. It's happening everywhere. People are fighting back..."

"But the people can't hold out forever, someone's got to slay that dragon."

"Dragon?"

"The fleet, son, the fleet. Without that fleet, the Council isn't a threat. Not to us -- not to anyone, not even the people on Earth. Without the threat of destruction raining down from above... maybe...I don't know Tommy, but I'm not going to stand still and surrender all our hard work to some government that as far as I am concerned has no right to exist."

Thomas grew uneasy. "What do you want me to do?"

McGreevy smiled, "Send a communiqué, tell 'em we're ready to start shipping the ore with the slingshot, but we want... no, we demand that the fleet pull back... tell them to stay away. Or no ore."

"That doesn't sound too smart, Dad -- do you really think that'll work?"

McGreevy smiled even wider. "Hell no."

Realization hit Thomas and he started to leave when his father asked, "How's your mother doing with all this?"

"Have you thought of asking her?"

"Yes, and after following that train of thought to its only conclusion, I've decided to ask you."

"Not too good, especially... spiritually. I've never seen her so depressed..."

"Tell her... tell her I'll call later."

After Thomas left McGreevy paged Morris and within seconds his now-heavily bearded face filled the monitor.

"Clayton, we got work to do."

####

Over the last three weeks the rag-tag group of militants lead by Castillo and Seamus McGreevy migrated northwest and what was left of their number (about 600) had now taken refuge in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. An arduous journey by foot and along the way Castillo and McGreevy grew closer -- and they did what they could to wreak havoc with the monorails and powergrid.

But the resistance, and the people's will to resist, had steadily faded.

Cells like theirs most often only succeeded in preventing desperately needed supplies from reaching their destination.

All over the United States (as well as the rest of the world) people began returning to work and to school, seemingly accepting the change in power.

Scattered pockets of resistance persisted, especially in the smaller towns of the north and southwest where folks considered Castillo and her troop's heroes. The supplies given by townsfolk such as these had kept them alive, and the Council had decided, in one last effort to root out the last of the resistance fighters and find Seamus McGreevy, to take an entire town on the fringe of Wyoming hostage and were threatening mass execution unless the senator and the rest of the 'terrorists' turned themselves into the authorities.

Now, to make matters worse, Castillo had received a report that McGreevy's brother in asteroid belt had agreed to start shipping ore to the new Council.

"I can't explain it, Sarah. I can't believe Cyril would just roll over for those bast..."

"Their fleet represents more power than we thought I guess..." Castillo teetered on despondence.

Inside the cave where they had taken refuge the fire dimmed, the flames flickered in futility and the shadows they cast on the wall shrank in significance as darkness crept in.

"People are giving up, Sarah, and I can't let those people in that town die on my account. Winter's setting in, the satellite network'll be online soon -- we can't hold out much longer."

"What else can we do?"

McGreevy said, "It's over, Sarah. They've won."

He gave her a while to reply and when she didn't he offered, "Maybe I can make a deal for the rest of you. My life for yours. It seems only fair..."

Castillo left without another word.

Apparently she would sleep somewhere else tonight.

####

If Cyril McGreevy had learned one thing as a teenager hustling pool in some of the seedier areas of Denver it was this: in the end it all comes down to one shot, and you've got to line it up.

For weeks as the Corporate ships lumbered towards Ceres, McGreevy's crews dutifully launched barrel after barrel of mineral ore on a trajectory towards the moon -- and constantly broadcast a plea for the ships to turn around, the colonists were complying.

But the fleet just kept advancing.

And occasionally, as smaller asteroids are wont to do, some of the smaller rocks would fall from grace within the belt and tumble towards the sun.

Nothing to cause alarm, nothing bigger than a bowling ball, just the normal space debris that would bounce off of the magnetic shields of the large cruisers like the ones headed for the asteroid belt.

And as the ships got closer and closer, a few nuclear devices were interspersed with the regular ore barrels and launched on the same trajectory for the moon, right past the mighty corporate armada.

Or, if McGreevy's timing proved perfect, not quite past.

Thomas whispered in his father's ear, "If this doesn't work, they'll kill every one of us."

McGreevy said, "Live free or die, son. Those are more than just words -- and the new Council is about to learn that -- the hard way!"

Morris transmitted the codes into the ether toward their rendezvous with mass destruction just as the fleet could be seen beginning to spread its formation. Distance meant a delay of three minutes for the mines to receive their activation codes and another three minutes for satellite imagery to reach home base.

For the first time in his life Cyril McGreevy felt uncertain, both of himself and of his situation. Life and death was an awesome responsibility to assume for himself and his own family, let alone all of the people who had followed him to the belt.

Cyril McGreevy had gambled, and now he had to endure what would prove to be the longest six minutes of his life as he waited to see if he had won or lost.

The stakes had never been higher, but risk was all that Cyril McGreevy had ever lived for. Now as the seconds slowly melted away he wondered if perhaps there wasn't something more.

####

Sarah found McGreevy in the kitchen of the farmhouse where they had taken their last refuge, where they had intended to surrender to the new corporate order.

"If you can pull your head out of that refrigerator you'll be getting sworn in soon. There's a federal judge on her way from Cheyenne," Castillo said. "Another hour or so and I'll have to call you Mr. President. I read your speech, as you asked."

Between mouthfuls McGreevy mumbled, "And?"

"I made some changes."

She tossed the hard-copy on the table and moved in closer.

"You can read 'em later."

She kissed him long and hard, then rested her head on his shoulder.

"So Sarah, what do you intend to do next? With yourself I mean?"

She smiled softly, 'You're making out with the new leader of the opposition party."

McGreevy laughed, "There is no opposition party..."

"There is now."

"Sarah, you can't be serious..."

"Oh but I am. Don't get me wrong, we're all very grateful, you gave the people something legitimate to rally around, but we can hardly follow one man's vision into the future..."

"But without you I wouldn't be president..."

"Without me," she moved in closer, "you'd have been executed."

She kissed him again and then abruptly pulled away. "We're holding a Constitutional Convention, you'll announce it in your speech, new representatives from all over the US, there'll be some changes."

"I see," McGreevy was confused. "I'm only doing what I think is best, Sarah."

"We all are. We are all... patriots. And you and I, well, politics makes strange bedfellows."

"Yes well, just what sort of 'changes' are we talking about -- Constitution-wise I mean? What exactly are you talking about?" McGreevy seemed anxious.

"The power structure that dominated on Capitol Hill for the last three hundred years is gone -- you can't expect the people not to take advantage of that. The days of the parties and the PAC's are over -- we're going to get back to a more constructionist approach, first thing you'll do is get rid of the house of lords, propose a uni-cameral legislature where the executive branch will execute the will of the legislative branch, not vice-versa. So many of the problems we have today, including the violence and the deaths the world has witnessed in the past few months, all of it was because somewhere along the line we let the executive branch to become to powerful..."

"Hmmm... I think perhaps you hoodwinked me..."

"No! Not at all, without you there wouldn't have been any resistance, without your brother the Council would be ruling with an iron fist -- still, this country hasn't ever been under a single ruler -- why start now? Besides, isn't democracy about change?"

He knew she was right. And he knew that he could not chart the destiny of hundreds of millions, and potentially billions, of lives, alone.

McGreevy had wanted the United States to take the lead in the world again, to rise like a Phoenix from radioactive ashes.

But it was indeed truly time to turn the page, and to start over. But his vision was one forged by an enchantment with the past, not hope for the future.

Cyril had tried to tell him as much in his earlier communiqué. Seamus had felt certain that his little brother would see the logic of the situation -- that Cyril would agree to statehood for the belt bringing Cyril's entire operation under the aegis of the US government; instead Cyril chose independence, leaving the US, and President Seamus McGreevy, without a monopoly on the ore that would have given him such a juicy ace in the hole, politically speaking, both on the world stage and at home for any future...

He silently cursed himself; he was already thinking of his political future.

He wasn't even sworn in and the sharks already circled -- he felt crowded, and a little resentful.

He hadn't expected a bed of roses, but still, as the new president he had expected some sort of honeymoon period.

Even his own brother had deserted him... no, that wasn't right and he knew it.

Still, somehow Cyril had changed. Perhaps it was being out there in that god-forsaken chain of rocks that he was so excited about.

Perhaps he would never know.

The only thing Seamus McGreevy felt certain of now was that it wasn't going to be business as usual in American politics anymore.

Of course, that could only be a good thing.

As he read over the changes in his speech it occurred to him that he would seem quite a bold leader, suggesting bold changes in the new government.

All for the greater good, of course.

History will remember me alongside George Washington...

And, with the office of the presidency defanged, he would have time to pursue Sarah.

Perhaps this wouldn't be so bad after all -- he just needed to remind himself to look at all the angles, like Cyril always told him.

####

Cyril McGreevy had sent his reply to his brother the President earlier in the morning and now sat in his office, his lucky gold piece passing between his fingers, the gravity of the situation beginning to wipe away the exuberance of their earlier victory over the fleet.

The new Council had folded when news of the fleet's destruction spread (the few ships that escaped the destruction were too wounded to survive their encounters with the Martian ships as they scrambled back to Earth) -- general strikes reached such proportion as to cripple the new authorities; legitimate governments were being restored on Earth; people were being held accountable for some of the greatest crimes ever committed -- and the colonies had all declared independence.

Luna One, the Martian colonies, Armstrong Station, even the Hawking Observatory Platform were toying with the idea of sovereignty -- all following the example set by McGreevy when he declared the asteroid belt free.

Independent. Free.

On their own.

But no one could truly be own their own anymore. The Earth's resources were too depleted for them to be able to survive without off-world products, everything from ore to ice to replace the poisoned water supply. And none of the colonies, for various reasons, could survive without Earth and the things the planet and people could still offer to the rest of the solar system.

People had to truly learn together at the dawn of this new era, or it would come to a rapid, and possibly violent, close.

He had to turn down his brother's offer of statehood, for the sake of his former country as well what he had begun here in the belt.

Things could not be like they were before, no matter how frightening that thought could be.

Change is the only true constant in the universe.

Thomas had called him a 'founding father', but all that that meant to McGreevy was that he had become that thing that he had never quite hated but certainly resisted and preferred to keep at arms length -- a governmental authority.

An authority with thousands and thousands of people depending on him, looking to him for leadership, looking at him with far more faith in their eyes than he felt comfortable with.

And more on the way -- they had received over fifty-thousand applications for citizenship once the NewsNet announced the belts declaration of independence.

McGreevy's reply: Staking a claim in the belt is citizenship.

Where will it all end?

He had wanted to build an empire, but instead he would be founding a society -- literally from scratch.

His door buzzed and Thomas and Morris walked in.

McGreevy wondered what they had to smile about.

Morris said, "I would've liked to have seen the look on your brother's face when you turned down his offer of becoming the fifty-fifth state..."

McGreevy interrupted, "Still, that's our heritage, the Constitution of those United States, that's the foundation we build on..."

After a moment McGreevy added, "Still, we can do some things differently. We can't ignore history, or repeat it. No trying to pass off a republic as a representative democracy, no federal reserve banks loaning it's own government money with debt already attached -- debt, boys, debt, that's what wrought the destruction of our homeworld -- debt is the root of all evil, we won't forget that!"

They all nodded in silent unison and silence hung in the air until finally Morris worked up the nerve to say what was on his mind, "We're going to have to set some things up..."

"What do you mean?" Thomas asked.

"He means," McGreevy sounded glum, "some sort of bureaucracy... some sort of centralized authority with a bunch of button-pushers sittin' around thinking way too highly of themselves. That's what he means, and that's just for starters."

They sat in silence a while longer until Thomas spoke, "Mom wanted me to tell you..."

McGreevy cut him off, "Son, tell your mother that she an' I need to start talking face to face again. Or for once. Tell her I'll stop by about seven, in time for dinner. Tell her we're going to learn how to communicate -- I'm tired of you playing the middle-man."

Thomas started to say something, and then chose to take the bigger victory -- silently.

After Thomas left Cyril McGreevy glumly sat contemplating his new role in the grand scheme of things, as always passing the gold coin from an apparently not forgotten era nimbly between his fingers: there would be no Empire as he understood it -- still, the term 'Founding Father' carried a certain amount of prestige.

And if he remembered his history, and he did, Founding Father's often had their faces imprinted upon the currency of the new nation they had just forged. After all, they would to have to develop an economic system separate from Earth or the other colonies -- and he never did care for the unitary credit system of the United Nations.

His colony would need to develop a currency, something a change in government couldn't just wipe out with a few keystrokes, something a man could hold in his hand and know he had something... something real, not just worthless paper stamped 'legal tender'.

But something tangible, nevertheless.

A society that don't deal in cash is... uncivilized.

Cyril McGreevy smiled for the first time in months.

Perhaps there were some angles to his new role that he had not considered yet.

THE END


© 2008 Daniel C. Smith

Bio: Daniel C. Smith has published over seventy poems and stories in publications such as Bare Bone, AlienSkin, Tales of the Talisman, The Leading Edge, and The Martian Wave. He recently received an Honorable Mention in the 18th Annual Year's Best Fantasy and Horror anthology for one of his poems. A number of Mr. Smith's poems and stories have appeared in Aphelion, including The Myth of Rain (April 2007; originally published in 2002 by Black Petals).

E-mail: Daniel C. Smith

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