First Draft Excerpt from Measure of Adulthood (Politics of Empire 4)

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Luz's office occupied the corner closest to the ocean. The coastline runs closer to westbound than north in that area, but the building had been built so two sides had almost equally good views, and she had the corner between. The floor was the same pseudo-marble as the rest, but the walls were richly paneled in dark hardwood or a converter-produced close facsimile. The chairs might not have been leather, but they looked and felt like it. There was enough mist or fog in the air to limit the visibility, but she still had a view of several miles of the California coast through pristine glassteel. The sun itself was just visible high on my far left as we took seats across the hardwood expanse of her desk. Despite the opulence, the office had a feel of being little-used. My perception showed me seven bugs in various places within the office; I destroyed all of them with matris, not worrying about their provenance.

"This feels like you don't use it much," I remarked.

"I told you Grace, I'm really just a figurehead for Earth. Peter is the general manager; Carmen's husband David does all the real work on the Earth end."

"I've killed the bugs. Are you unhappy about your position?"

"Actually, it suits me well enough. I may look young, but I'm well over two hundred now, and my training never extended to running something this size. A few landscaping crews I can manage, but this is something else. I don't know how Dalia did it."

"Most likely by learning a little bit at a time as it grew."

"Well, yes, but this actually suits Assad and me well. We can take off without worrying if my absence is going to screw up the company."

"Okay, but be warned. I trust David, too. He wouldn't do anything intentionally, but if he makes a mistake, 'I was just a figurehead' cuts no slack with an Imperial Primus. I'd be learning enough to follow the goings-on were I in your shoes."

"I know, I know, but David's been doing a good job for over thirty-five years now... But this isn't why you're here. You said this was family business."

"Yes. You remember what I was like as a teenager?"

"Boy do I! You must have aged Mama and Papi thirty years! But then you pulled yourself together. Always wondered what changed."

"Do you remember Gerry?"

"The ex-Marine, older? Problem with drugs?"

I nodded. "Yeah. He'd been through a lot. PTSD, and he turned to drugs to help. But we were just so right when he was sober, and I thought could save him. Dios, I was a fool." Any Guardian could have saved him - but that was five Earth years before the first Imperial came to Earth.

"Whatever happened?"

"He OD'd. I told myself it was accidental at the time, but later I realized it'd been deliberate. He couldn't fight his demons any longer."

"Oh, Grace, I'm so sorry."

I shook my head. "Old news, even for me, hermana, and I wasn't exactly blameless. I was high, too, when the cops got there. The difference was the hospital saved me. Then they told me I was pregnant."


"Yeah. Dalia and her husband saved me. They persuaded the police they'd put me on what Peter Senior called 'the straight and narrow'. It being my first run-in, and Peter still being a Senior Chief at the time, it worked. They brought me down to live with them. I spent my pregnancy there. I was overweight then..."

"I remember."

"...and the last couple months were winter, so I stayed bundled up. I don't think any of their kids realized."

"Quit. Cold turkey. I decided the day they told me, even before I told Dalia. Peter told me if I relapsed even once he'd kick me out, but it wasn't necessary. I paced, I prayed, I did everything I had to do to break it. Never touched them again. Got a job waitressing. Peter introduced me to a guy he knew, got me started studying chemistry, then I got a better job through him. But I knew I wasn't ready to be a mother, and well, Gerry was..."

"Black. Yes, I remember abuela not liking him because he was black."

"So I knew the family might pretend, but there'd be problems. I understand things have changed now, but this was then." Luz's current husband was descended from Somali refugees. I'd only met him once, when I rescued them from the demonic assault on Los Angeles.

She shook her head. "Papi wouldn't have stood for it. His problem with Gerry was the drugs. Well, that and he thought the man was too old for you. He'd never allow any baby to be blamed for what its father had done."

"But they'd have blamed the baby's mother. It was a cop out, but I didn't make this whole journey overnight, or even in five years. I put the baby up for adoption. Never even held him in the delivery room. Only knew it was a boy because the doctor said so."

"I'm so sorry Grace. But why is this relevant now?"

"Because the Empire notified me that my son has had his adulthood revoked. I'm here to see if I can take custody of him."

"So you're going to have a two hundred year old child?"

"When I'm only seventy-eight by the same measure. He's likely set in his ways, but I owe it to him to try."

"You've got five Seventh Order kids, Grace. From what I remember, all of them well-behaved and above average for their preparation."

"Yes, even by Seventh Order standards Scimtar is happy with them. By the way, Esteban is now adult, and told me he's planning a visit. But kids I was in contact with from the day their minds started working are not the same as someone with two hundred Earth years of set habits."

"I'll be glad to see him again," she said, meaning Esteban. "So do you think you're up to the task of making your other son into a real adult?"

"I'd like to think so, Luz. But I just don't know. I think it will be easier in the Empire, but also more difficult. Asto says we'll do it together."

"That's a bonus. You won't be trying to do it alone."

"But we have four other non-adult children. Even if any of them could pass the adulthood tests tomorrow. And they have special dispensations he won't have."

"The only one without the same privileges as everyone else."


"The only advice I have is to tell him the others have earned those privileges. If he wants them too, he needs to earn them."

"That was my experience, too. There was a time when Ilras was jealous of Esteban, then Imtara had the same problems with Ilora. Alden was easy by comparison when he was too small for what everyone else had done. But someone who's been an adult will present different problems."

"Maybe the people in charge of him now will have some guidance."

The notification from Adulthood Services alarmed. It said the estimate was about six minutes Imperial before my turn. Plenty of time if I didn't waste it. "I could use some. Sorry but I just got notification my turn is soon. Would you rather walk me out or find my own way?"

"I'll walk you out. Not like I have real work to do."

We walked briskly. Luz had to be aware that I had to get there in a certain amount of time, and she knew I was a Guardian, capable of teleporting at least directly to the portal. Not simply teleporting out was a social courtesy. When we reached the elevator, however, she turned to me and said, "Grace..."


"There's no shame in turning this down, if it seems too much once they explain it. It wasn't easy with Shirley; it'll be a lot harder with someone older who used to be an adult. Imperial rules..."

"Imperial rules are something I've been living with for a long time, and I have resources you didn't. I'll be careful. Take care, Luz." And I gave her a quick hug as the elevator opened.

"Take care, Grace!"

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on April 24, 2023 7:00 AM.

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