On this newscast, a male commentator in a blue suit sat at a sleek table. To his left was a menacing-looking aged man with an aquiline nose wearing a uniform decked out with military ribbons. To the commentator’s right was a dark brown woman, of West African heritage, in her mid years. She had prominent facial features framed by waist-high locs decorated with colorful beads. Her attire for this interview consisted of a tall headdress and a purple robe patterned with multicolored abstract designs.
Looking into the camera, the commentator said, “Here with me to discuss the turmoil plaguing the Commonwealth are two representatives of the Parliament. First we have Chairman Cornelius Gould.” The camera panned to the man. The expression on his pallid face remained stoic. “He also holds the third highest position of government (Deputy Chief being the second), Secretary of Defense, and is a decorated war veteran.” He also had a well-deserved reputation for being known as a master of manipulation, intimidation, and torture tactics. “He shuns the Independent Movement and favors the use of military force to terminate it.”
The camera panned from the hard-faced combat guru to the colorfully dressed brown woman—a woman born from struggle, a woman who had toiled away in the agricultural fields of Colony Two. “Next we have with us Chairwoman Oviereya Amaechi,” the commentator said. Oviereya’s full lips stretched into a light smile. “Just like Chairman Gould, she wears two hats. She is also Chancellor of the Supreme Judiciary, the fourth highest position of government. She opposes separatism but says she understands the viewpoints of colonists who desire independence. And she believes the Independent Movement was warranted because of government neglect of the seceding colonies’ plights.”
Election year was ahead. There were rumors that Oviereya and Cornelius might be vying for the Chief Executive’s seat. People across the Commonwealth were tuned in to this interview, as it might serve as a sample of debates, between the two, to come.
“Increase audio by two,” Stacie said. The sound system’s volume rose two decibels. Oviereya had been her mother’s midwife. Though Stacie, apolitical, didn’t always agree with Oviereya’s politics, she was glad to see that someone with morals and a generous spirit had been elected to Parliament.
Oviereya, in a voice of assertion, spoke. “Inadequate housing, minimal access to health systems, unequal resource distribution, economic deterioration, rising poverty levels, and a lack of industrial development are what incited the civil unrest that gave rise to the Independent Movement. And who is responsible? The Chief Executive and the Parliament.
“The governors of the seceding colonies sat at the parliamentary meetings every cycle. Time after time they aired their people’s grievances, with little ability to do anything else. They had no law-making power. All they could do was advocate for their colonies’ welfare and submit proposals to the Chief Executive and Parliament regarding possible solutions. And those proposals were ignored. Two-fifths of the human population is living in today’s Dark Ages.”
Cornelius countered, in a snide tone. “A new genesis for humanity isn’t an easy feat to accomplish. That is common sense. There were bound to be setbacks to intergalactic migration. Yes, the colonies’ people are in need of aid, but to say they’re living in today’s ‘Dark Ages’ is barbarous.” He let loose an unsympathetic chuckle.
Oviereya’s dark brows dipped. “No, quite the contrary.” She began to recount events that had led to the rebellion, in a play to give her critics context behind her perspective—and to perhaps persuade voters for the coming election. Also, because the majority of Eden inhabitants had never been to a colony, she knew they needed to hear an accurate portrayal of the colonies’ dilemma, from a notable public figure who was once a colony inhabitant, as she was a beneficiary of the lottery. This interview provided a platform to deliver that portrayal to a massive Eden audience. “This stratification of humanity began when we had to abandon Earth, a world that had fallen to pieces, to migrate to a new planetary habitat.” Humanity’s expansion into intergalactic arms importation during Earth Era ignited an arms race that put alien weapons of mass destruction into the hands of warlords, despots, and tyrannical regimes, sparking an apocalypse. “With assistance from the Union Worlds and other intergalactic governments, we established the Commonwealth. But the Commonwealth’s mecca, Eden, with only a single continental landmass, wasn’t sizable enough to harbor all humanity.
“Rather than leave the conceptualization of humanity’s future to human bias, the Omni-system (a super-exascale AI) was invented to formulate the best strategy for survival, based on logical computation and impartial inference.” AIs couldn’t show favoritism or have hidden agendas, so the Omni-system—which was downloaded and preserved in case future computation was needed—seemed to be the best solution to devising a path forward for humanity. However, that didn’t mean human bias couldn’t be interjected into the Omni-system’s plan, or that its plan couldn’t be flawed. “Utilizing census data from every nation, it determined who would inhabit Eden and who would inhabit the abject, substandard habitats of Satellite One, which were mainly settlements of manufactured housing units (MHUs). The AI stratified humanity into upper and lower-level classes. Those identified as being the most capable of pioneering the New Humanity were selected to inhabit Eden, as if they were the crème de la crème of the human race.
“Colony selectees were unfairly labeled as inferior, by the Omni-system, based on socioeconomic factors, IQ, preexisting medical conditions, genetic predisposition, and other biases. They were determined to be the most expendable and told they were best suited to serve humanity as manual laborers, just resource harvesters for . . .”
Cornelius spoke over her. “There you progressionists go again, using manipulative, sympathy-inducing terms such as ‘expendable’ to further your agendas. Nor I or any other government leader has described colony inhabitants, our own human brethren, as ‘expendable.’”
The chairwoman raised a hand. “Quiet, I’m not finished.” Cornelius grunted. Oviereya reformulated her thoughts and continued her bid for people’s hearts and minds. “And so the lower-level classes were assigned, by the Omni-system, to be resource harvesters on Satellite One, a planet where the difficulty of surviving was much greater than Eden, due to the planet’s hazardous or unforgiving biospheres and the subpar living facilities built. The majority of time and assets were relegated to developing Eden’s utopias, to give the upper-level classes—the chosen pioneers of the New Humanity—the best chance at persevering.
“Some people questioned the fairness of the Omni-system’s socioeconomic design but not enough. Most were just glad to have the chance to escape Earth and get a shot at survival. And most opponents of the Omni-system, during a time of strife, didn’t have the willpower or wherewithal to oppose Earth’s highest orders. So they became compliant with the exodus directives designating them the lesser of humanity. But they were hopeful; the low-grade living conditions were to be only temporary, a stepping stone, and their world was to eventually become a mecca too, once or if the Eden migrants made it through their transition period successfully and became established. Maybe that was the intention at first, but this promise got thrown by the wayside.
“Over time, the migrants of Eden gave birth to the next generation of homo sapiens. Their children underwent genetic editing and they genetic enhancement.” For gains in immunity, healing, pain tolerance, reflex, physical strength, and other attributes. “No such human-performance augmentation was administered to the children and people of the colonies.” She looked riled, remembering friends who had perished in her birth-colony, Colony Two, waiting for inoculations from pandemic ailments Eden inhabitants were immune to contracting. “It seemed Eden’s people were being molded to be a sort of neohuman. The disparities between Eden and Satellite One grew as infrastructural development and life quality accelerated here but slowed in the colonies. The years of colony progression that did happen appeased inhabitants at the time. Individual governments and an economy were established, the net was set up, infrastructural growth was happening. But when the progression suddenly plateaued, appeasement ended. The colonies’ once-hopeful people were left with semiconstructed urban districts and deteriorating MHUs.
“Colony inhabitants seemed to become a subclass of the New Humanity. They were being excluded from mankind’s evolution—technologically, genetically, and industrially. It was the people of Eden, the Omni-system’s chosen ones, who were prospering and becoming the new leaders of mankind, while colony inhabitants remained relegated to being manual laborers, primarily as government-employed resource harvesters or as private-sector employees for mega corporations here on Eden.” Many of those corporations were owned by the Eight Elite. “Humanity became divided somehow, creating a privileged class and a sort of servant class. As more time went by without the central government resuming colony development, Eden-born became referred to as ‘Highborn’ by their colony brethren.
“Eventually, colony governors rallied protests. They even launched polls surveying their peoples’ opinions on separating from the Commonwealth. The exodus polls, as they were called, were a means of sending a wake-up call to the central government. Those ‘illegal’ polls garnered an eighty-four percent ‘yes’ in colonies One, Four, and Six. The central government slapped the governors with fines or reduced their colonies’ resources to silence them. Some governors were even impeached for their outward opposition of the central government, sending a harsh message to others. Eden’s progression, after so many years, was still top priority, in an evolving developmental plan that continued to discriminate against the colonies.” Cornelius listened on, looking apathetic. “Colony inhabitants felt like they were being dismissed. They felt like the Omni-system’s blueprint for humanity was being exploited to maintain a socioeconomic hierarchy keeping them at the bottom of the totem poll. Their anger grew.
“And sure, the colonies were given governors and even a yearly lottery that allows twenty or so people to become registered Eden citizens a year, but that was just a minuscule step in the right direction. Don’t get me wrong, though, I’m indeed grateful the lottery exists; I myself was a beneficiary of it.” She became an icon to the colony peoples. She was the first and only of them to be elected to Parliament. She was their homeworld heroine. “However, colony inhabitants have started to believe the governors and the lottery are just ruses, pacifiers to keep them somewhat happy and hopeful. They were to believe their governors gave them a voice and would have influence within the central government; they didn’t. The status quo is being intentionally maintained because it’s believed that colony inhabitants are best suited to be manual laborers, according to an AI.”
Cornelius’ fingers drummed the desktop idly. He was bored of listening to Oviereya’s opinionated historical recap. “Thank you for your overblown, overly grim narrative the progressionists within the Parliament usually conjure for political gain.”
“My tale of events is no exaggeration. And Chief Executives and the Parliament assured the colonies of change time after time, yet nothing happened. Zilch. Denialists within the central government claim we’re an inclusive society and that the colonies have not been forgotten, that they will receive restoration. At the moment, we are not an inclusive society. Colony inhabitants can’t even enlist into the CDF unless they become lottery beneficiaries.” Oviereya’s inflection turned spiteful. “That doesn’t sound fair to me.
“There were hopes that Chief Executive Jared Kerner would be different, but he’s done little to alter the course set forth by his predecessors, which includes his father.
“For too many years it’s been ‘Eden first.’ After being neglected for so long, it’s understandable why the governments of colonies One, Four, and Six became seditious and requested autonomy. They wanted to become their own self-governing entity and apply to be a Union member independent of the Commonwealth. That way they could directly engage in commerce transactions with other Union planets and external partners, not having to wait for hand-me-down resources from the central government—some which never come. Chief Executive Kerner was obviously not going to allow this. It is his failings and the failings of prior Chiefs before him that allowed the colonies’ people to become disaffected. Frustrated, the governments of colonies One, Four, and Six declared independence, with the majority of their colonies’ population in full support, as indicated by the ‘illegal’ exodus polls.
“Discontent with the central government is rising amongst the population of the other three colonies, and there are now rumors that Governess Hayley of Colony Five is providing support to the Coalition of Rebel Factions; after all, her daughter lived in Colony Four and died in combat fighting for its independence in the Three-week War. Governor Rich of Colony Two has been suspected of forming back-door alliances with outer worlds for economic progression and self-sufficiency, fed up with the central government’s inertia. It may be only a matter of time before the other three colonies start pressing for independence themselves.
“I believe that if we don’t end martial law, restore the imprisoned governors to power, and undertake drastic revitalization initiatives in the colonies, there will be more rebellion to come. Then what? We send more troops to engage in more homicide? We’re already in jeopardy of violating Article II. This mercurial mess could easily implode if the central government doesn’t develop an action plan to address the colonies’ poor state of affairs. And remember, the eyes of the entire Interplanetary Union are watching us more closely than ever. When the leaders of the Union meet for the emergency summit next week, including our Chief Executive, the Commonwealth can be penalized or, worse, ousted by vote, if in violation of Article II (which governs the use of force against a Union member’s own people) or even Article VI (which mandates sound ethics).
“The Union Charter’s articles have to be adhered to, to join the Union and maintain incorporated status. They’re the criteria and guidelines that must be followed or else. And if we’re exorcised from the Union, times will get difficult. The Union Worlds are crucial trading partners for us. And in regards to defense, the Union Worlds are crucial as well. Without the Union, in this vast galaxy by humanity’s lonesome self, we’d be at the mercy of so many technologically superior foreign powers, such as planet plunderers like the Inkriex. The only reason hostile forces are cautious about striking the Commonwealth directly is because the Union is too great an alliance to oppose, but if exorcised, no one is coming to the Commonwealth’s aid if attacked.
“We have indeed grown, maybe not societally but technologically, economically, and militarily; however, we have not grown enough in those areas to do without the Union. Even if we could fend for ourselves without them, we’re always stronger and better off together than we are apart. And if exorcised, the other three colonies might have even more of a reason to declare sovereignty, so they can attempt to be reintegrated into the Union’s coprosperity sphere, for its protection and benefits.”
“Mr. Gould, your response?” the commentator requested, now that Oviereya’s lengthy retrospective analysis was done.
“Humanity is steadily rebuilding its entire civilization here in this new galaxy, and that takes time. And for some reason people forget that we’re just a few years removed from the Bhalkran and Phazharian wars, which diminished a considerable amount of our assets. Those wars stagnated growth here on Eden and in the colonies,” Cornelius replied in a shrewd manner. “Not to mention the Commonwealth has an astronomical amount of debt to settle, with the intergalactic governments that helped us build our republic, which includes the Union Worlds. And yes, more funds have been devoted to developing Eden than Satellite One, but we all know why: Eden is the heart of humanity’s intergalactic republic, and without the heart, all else dies. Now, I’m not saying that more can’t be done to alleviate the colonies’ conditions. But taking ‘drastic revitalization initiatives’ is implausible right now. I’m a man who gives people the reality of a situation, not what they want to hear or what simply sounds good, like the chairwoman here.” Oviereya grunted. “An aid package would suffice and help to stabilize things.”
Oviereya was outraged. “An aid package? That’s like putting a bandage on a gunshot wound and hoping the bleeding stops. Again, a proposition that does zero to actually resolve the problem. We’re spending billions of G-credits on military proliferation. I say we redirect funds from defense and use them to revitalize the colonies. Once the colonies’ people start experiencing progress, this internecine war will cease.”
Cornelius shook his head. “Weakening the capability of the CDF’s mission-essential functions would be detrimental to the Commonwealth’s safety and the Union’s, as I believe we’re fundamental to the Union’s defense capacity, which is why, even if I believed we violated Article II, I don’t buy into the hysteria of us getting exiled. Without us, the Union would’ve fallen to the Phazharians or Bhalkrans, or some other fiend. And we need to continue to expand our military’s ability to track down and annihilate the intergalactic sex traffickers, marauders, and other scourge terrorizing our great republic.”
Cornelius actually thought the Commonwealth had progressed enough for it to survive without the Union and that the Charter’s strict mandates regarding the use of military force were a nuisance preventing the Commonwealth from delimiting the CDF. He also thought planetary-partner approval should be in the hands of the central government and that waiting for Union approval was needless red tape. In its infancy, the Commonwealth needed the Union, but like a child that matures into adulthood and no longer needs their mother, he believed the Commonwealth had outgrown its dependency on the Union. The prior Chief, Jared Kerner’s father, Thom Kerner, concurred. He and Cornelius were military colleagues at one time and saw eye to eye on many affairs. Together, they set in motion a secret plan for Commonwealth self-sufficiency, and military proliferation was a grave part of that plan, which is why Cornelius was hellbent on continuing to funnel G-credits into the defense industrial complex instead of the colonies.
Leaving the Union to extricate from the Charter was also part of the plan. Thom and Cornelius saw the Commonwealth becoming its own intergalactic Super Power, its own union of worlds of sorts, as other governments were becoming quasi members of the Commonwealth as protectorates. So having the Commonwealth’s incorporated status revoked would only be a positive to Cornelius. But the people of the Commonwealth, many of his colleagues in the Parliament, and Chief Executive Jared Kerner were opposed to leaving the Union; so while on camera, he had to placate to popular opinion, just to save face.
Cornelius went on. “Right now, we cannot make grand promises to the colonies that we cannot keep, which is why I say, again, an aid package must do for now.” For Oviereya, Cornelius was spouting more of the same dogma she had heard all her life, to keep the colonies down longer. “If we make promises and end up being unable to deliver, there will be a second wave of transgression to combat, and that might launch another worrisome investigation by the Union, for us to prove our innocence against. Instead of giving in to terrorist demands, to end this internal conflict and keep the Union off our backs we need to magnify our efforts to wipe out the Coalition and other rebel groups. That is another reason to continue increasing military funding. Crushing these terrorists is the best way to end the tiresome bid for independence by the inhabitants of colonies One, Four, and Six—and to prevent further secession by the other colonies. We must make an example out of the Coalition and the other terrorist outfits to deter more rebellion.”
Oviereya didn’t like what she was hearing, at all, and her face showed it. “So you believe more force is the only way to end the insurrection and that there are no nonmilitary solutions?”
“Correct,” Cornelius said with finality. “I also believe that to ensure the other colonies don’t follow suit, additional . . . preventive measures are needed.”
“Such as?” Oviereya asked calmly, camouflaging her disdain under the guise of professionalism.
“Routine inspections and audits of Two, Three, and Five’s government operations. Permit mass surveillance of those entire colonies if necessary. In this State of Emergency, the Chief Executive has the power to do that. We need to keep tabs on everything. If we suspect any of the governments or citizens of those colonies are providing assistance to the Coalition or other rebel groups, then we launch investigations.”
“More military-power expansion? Spoken like a power-hungry overlord,” Oviereya said.
“No, spoken like someone who cares about his military and government too much to let them be beaten into passivity by terrorists and their backers.”
Due to time restraints, the commentator ended the debate, proceeding to his next question. “Election year is coming. The Chief Executive and Parliament seats are all up for grabs. And the political climate is very pretentious. Some want a more aggressive solution to the internal strife, such as Chairman Gould’s; some want a peaceful one. But all are tired of it. People are seeking a new direction—a new vision. There are rumors that both of you might be running for the Chief Executive seat.” He looked left and right. “Any truth to that?”
“I have no comment at this time,” Oviereya said.
Same for Cornelius. “Neither do I.”
“Off,” Stacie said. The holoscreen dematerialized into pixels and dissolved. “Maximum shade, please.” The windows polarized, masking the sun’s rays. “Set alarm for three minutes till landing.”
“Alarm time logged,” the flyer’s computer said.
Stacie closed her eyes for a catnap and dozed off.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish