First Draft Excerpt from Politics of Empire book 4

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I'm starting to lean towards "Measure Of Adulthood" as a title, especially if I end up having to go to a fifth book to finish the series.


I had basically no information on my other son beyond his name, identification number, and the fact he was operant. I was pretty sure he hadn't been born operant, but I had no idea how long he'd been operant. The Empire was better equipped to recognize and enable it than Earth had been, pre-contact. Given the fact that time on Earth ran about four times faster than in the Imperial Home Instance where I'd spend most of the last prime twelve years of my personal duration, he was likely five prime of age while I was just under two, so I'd be trying to mother a son who was considerably older than I was. Assuming I really did decide to take the job on. Theoretically, failing to do so was a clear failure of implied responsibility, but the Empire had been forced to realize there were practical limits. My son must have managed to pass the adulthood examinations at some point, demonstrating he had a mental understanding of the requirements.

Why was I responsible at all? The Empire allowed responsibility to be delegated, but never avoided. Even taking into consideration that I'd been an irresponsible fool at the time, I was adult now. Adults took responsibility for past deeds. I'd given him up for adoption, but I couldn't break the chain of responsibility. Only an Imperial Viceroy sitting in judgment could do that. Maybe there was a little bit of gray in that the adoption had taken place before Imperial contact with Earth, but adults didn't plead technical details. The only thing shielding me from responsibility was that my son had demonstrated mental understanding by passing the adulthood tests at some point. Because he'd passed those tests, the law required that he be treated as a responsible adult until he demonstrated he wasn't, and therefore nobody else could be held responsible for his actions between the two events.

Sitting around Indra wasn't going to get the situation resolved. I considered requesting a cutter - maybe my son would have stuff to haul - then rejected it. Siphons and converters meant anything bulky could be duplicated easily, and if there were health issues I could heal them myself. A two-seat Starbird would be plenty, and if I were wrong, I could afford to ship whatever it was. I borrowed the aforementioned Starbird from the Residence pool, went through the checklist, and requested departure. Asto wished me luck as I applied thrust to the impellers. Two minutes and one Interstitial Vector later, I was contacting Solar System Traffic Control.

It had been thirteen Imperial years since my last visit, four times as long on Earth. Earth wasn't home any more, but it would always be where I was from, and my eyes got a little misty when I made the Vector assigned to a height of about an iprime above surface - evidently I'd hit a moment of peak traffic for the area, and I was number seven in the arrival queue. Few Imperial ships had windows, but knowing the camera feed is live was still something. It would have filled forty-five or fifty (Earth) degrees of the sky had I been outside to look - but not close enough to see anything beyond continents and oceans. I found the beacon path and my traffic, and turned to follow the beacon path Earthwards.

Once I'd landed in a parking level and paid, I bought access to Earth's internet and looked up Adulthood Services. After the fractal demons destroyed the Los Angeles basin in the opening days of the war, the political and social center of the area had moved southward. South of the old border had been solidly built up long before the United States voted to disband, so the new development had centered on the northern side of the border in what had been rough terrain south and east of the historical suburbs of San Diego. The arcologies were small by the standards of the core worlds, but they were still two or three ithirds in height by six or ten ifourths square, each one housing ten or twenty square people, with portals and parking garages for Starbirds and Cutters, and freestanding berths for everything bigger on the ground in between. I'd never been in this area before, but I imagined the hills had been steep and rugged once upon a time. They'd now been contoured for surface conservation and hardened, but it looked like the ravines and arroyos were still five or six ifourths below the level of the ridgelines. The arcologies themselves tended to follow the ridgelines more or less, even though most residents wouldn't have an outside window. Some of them were sunk thirty levels or more deeper into the ground on one side than the other. There were streams everywhere, and thriving vegetation. I took a portal to my destination.

I'd never dealt with Adulthood Services from this angle before. The various Primuses I'd been working with and Secundus Yeriala herself had put a stream of people into Adulthood Services, but I'd never wanted to pry someone loose from their custody before. My electronic query hadn't gotten much of a response - just 'all inquiries about individuals committed to our care must be handled in person.' I inquired about an appointment, and discovered the soonest available was over a week out - but 'walk ins' were accepted at all times. The estimated wait was currently just over an (Imperial) hour. I checked in, received a spot in the queue, and was told I would be notified when I was third in line, but that I must present myself in person at their office promptly upon that notification. So the obvious thing was to portal in to set the location in my mind, then occupy myself with something until notified. I sealed the Starbird on anti-tamper, walked to the nearest portal, and instructed it to deliver me to the portal closest to my destination.

Adulthood Services was an unassuming office in the interior of one of the arcologies just north of the old border. It was more than an ifourth in from the outer walls, far from any real windows, but it still had artificial ones, looking out over what had once been the town of Tecate to the southeast. It was a satellite office as the Secundus for North America was based in Mexico City. Over five prime Imperial since the Empire had taken over Earth, and it still had more than double its share of failed adults. Most of it was because life expectancy was now something like twelve prime, but a significant amount was younger people refusing to let go of self-serving rationalizations created by power-hungry demagogues and spread by official propaganda for decades before the Empire arrived. Earth may not have been the planet with the highest rate of adulthood failure in the Empire, but it was up there. You could educate the masses and require them to use the correct answers on the adulthood tests or in court, but you couldn't force them to internalize those answers.

As far as what to do in the interim, I was kind of regretting not bringing the dogs. Given that I'd have to cut it short whenever I got the notification I was third in line, it seemed rude to me to just show up unannounced with family and expect them to make time for me. Still, I sent messages to Luz and Esperanza and to Carmen and David. But Luz called almost immediately.

Copyright 2023 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on February 27, 2023 7:00 AM.

Excerpt from Moving The Pieces (Book 4 of Preparations For War) was the previous entry in this blog.

Excerpt From 'The Invention Of Motherhood' is the next entry in this blog.

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