First Draft Excerpt from Politics of Empire book 4.

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It's looking more and more like a fifth book will be required, so using "Measure Of Adulthood" as a working title. It may change before publication.


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, not expecting a reply. But Luz called almost immediately.


"Grace! It is you! So glad to hear you're on Earth!"

"Only for a few hours, waiting for my turn to talk to a government agency." Imperial hours were 1.7 of Earth's old measure, but still. "I'll be leaving after. Sorry but I have to get back."

"What brings you back to Earth but not long enough to see family?"

I realized she didn't know - Dalia had never told her. "I'll tell you when I get there. Where are you?"

"At the Earth Dogs office. I'm the Dog Lady figurehead for Earth now. David does all the real work. It won't matter if I step out for a while, and he can find me if he needs me."

"Where is the new office?" The Pendleton Zone had been wrecked in the first days of the war, but that was fiftyone Imperial years ago here.

"Same place it was when Dalia ran things. We moved back in as soon as the building could take us. We've got three floors now. I'll meet you at reception."

I set the portal and stepped through, found myself in front of a significantly larger tower than I remembered - probably closer to thirty ifourths than twenty in height, and a larger footprint as well. Other towers of similar size showed to the south and east. I surmised the landlord had decided the demand would support the bigger buildings. Earth Dogs was listed as being on the fifteenth floor; I called an elevator and rode up. The buildings may have been larger than before, but they still weren't big enough to support a portal on every level, let alone multiple portals per level as the much bigger arcologies on Indra and other core Imperial worlds did.

The elevator opened on a lobby looking out over the Pacific Ocean from a height of perhaps three ifourths, which gave plenty of height to see San Clemente Island and Catalina further north. Dalia had never wanted the upper levels of the tower, just something high enough for a little bit of view. The tower might have been rebuilt, but Earth Dogs was about the same height as it had been before the invasion.

Luz was waiting at reception - she looked exactly like she had as a young mother, all those years ago. Maybe three isixths shorter than me, same shoulder-length wavy dark hair, just a shade or two from black.


"Grace! So good to see you!" We hugged, and she asked, "Can I have Brenda take our picture? It'll be good for the newsletter and some other places."

I saw a young-looking woman with her red hair in curls. "Brenda is...?" I expected her to be a family member I didn't recognize. It had been fiftyone years here since my last visit.

"Brenda is our receptionist. Sorry Grace. There wasn't enough family left after..."

"I'm not upset about that. I'm upset that four prime thirtysix of our relatives died. I should have expected you'd have to hire more from outside the family. You've done well, though. Earth Dogs is actually an increasing share of my income."

"Give David the credit for whatever our Earth office has achieved. Peter is the big boss these days, but he's out in the Empire. I'm here because even though David's been married to Carmen for almost two centuries, he's still a spouse." She was talking Earth years; it was approaching five prime Imperial years. I owned a quarter of Earth Dogs, but I hadn't been involved in management since I left Earth. My remaining siblings and other surviving family owned the rest. If they wanted a blood relative as official head or public face of the company, their wishes would prevail. "Did you want a tour?"

"Not really. Just wanted to do what catching up I could in whatever time I have here. Are the Lees still here?"

"Sorry, Grace, none of them survived the demons."

Damn. "Where do you get Chinese food these days, then?"

"Haven't really found anywhere in particular. The younger generation doesn't seem to be as good."

Understandable. They'd grown up with converters and programming rather than meat and vegetables and spices. "What do you recommend, then?"

"Not really hungry, Grace; we just had lunch here." It was noon by the sun or maybe a bit after. "Want to come back to my office and talk? I'll order you something."

"No, that's okay. How about a walk? I think I need to talk to someone." I didn't need to eat. I'd been hoping for good Chinese food while I was on Earth. Now that I knew the Lees were gone, I wasn't hungry.

"Really? You haven't asked to talk to anyone for a couple centuries now. Why not your husband?"

"Because he already knows, and he's not here. Please Luz, I need to tell someone in the family. Dalia knew, but she's gone now."

"The only walk is the memorial along the beach. Too depressing."

I had one of my para pull up the information. It was paved with the pictures of people who'd died in the demonic invasion. The two fourths who'd died in Los Angeles had been the lowest casualty count of the seven major assault points, but they'd included more than four fifths of my Earth family. "Then how about just through the streets of the industrial park? It's not like we're going to get lost or assaulted." I just wanted a plausible illusion of privacy.

"Grace, my private office is what I'll offer. Take it or leave it."

Her private office would be bugged by everyone and their great-aunt Zelda. I doubted Earth Dogs kept someone on staff to keep it clear - it would be a major expense on an Earth where Guardians - or even partly trained operants - were rare. But I supposed I could do something about it for now. "I'll take it."

She led me back through the offices of Earth Dogs. Unlike the cube farms of my youth, the people who worked on-site would have reason to offer guests at least the illusion of privacy. Accordingly, they were corridors lined with small private offices, doors open. Offices on my left had an actual window to the outside and most were larger than the offices on my right, which were internal and barely big enough for the occupant and a couple of human guests and perhaps a furry one or two. Floors were tiled in something that might have been travertine by the look of it, but perception told me it was thicker and more durable. Perhaps it was marble, now that everything came out of a converter anyway. Being the company Earth Dogs was, there were a sprinkling of dogs in with the workers, from some teacup toy mix I wasn't sure of to a big Rottweiler in one of the offices on the interior side.

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.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on April 3, 2023 7:00 AM.

Excerpt from The End Of Childhood (Politics of Empire Book 3) was the previous entry in this blog.

Excerpt from 'The Fountains Of Aescalon is the next entry in this blog.

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