Friday: Joanne

I hate Fridays. I hate them. If Friday were a person, I would have him shot for treason. Friday can, in all honesty, fuck right off.

I pulled Ashley close and snuggled into the crook of her neck. Waking up with the woman I loved naked in my bed was possibly the greatest feeling in the world.

“You’re not getting up? Must be Friday,” she said with a sleepy voice.

“I think it’s Sunday. Go back to sleep!” I said, putting a suggestive hand on her stomach.

She slapped my hand away. “No! Go away! You told me not to let you sleep in. You said to throw you out if you tried to procrastinate.”

She was right; I had too much to do to waste a morning in bed. Waste was hardly the right word, but I definitely had more pressing matters to attend to.

“Will you be right here when I get back?” I asked.

“No. Not a chance. You never get in until the middle of the night on a Friday!”

Ash had a dopey grin and hadn’t bothered opening her eyes. She pulled the blanket away from me and rolled away to the edge of our bed with it.

“Really! That’s just mean!” I grumbled.

“Yep. Us elves are known for our mean streak!”

I kissed her little pointy ear and forced myself out of bed.

“I’m going to leave you for a nicer woman!” I yelled in as the shower came on.

“Nope. You can’t leave me. It’s your ship. I need to leave you,” she said, trying to sound more awake.

Ash had been on Mercia for a few days now. She was saying for a few weeks. We had barely seen each other over the last few months. The Thinker war had put me under a lot of stress; I had made a few dubious decisions related to my family and friends. I think I almost lost her back there at one point.

Now we were back to normal, and I wanted nothing more than to stay with her until the end of time. The truth was, though, that I couldn’t just bask in her company for a while yet. I would, as soon as I got the last few things sorted out. I would step down in a few months. Ash didn’t know yet, but I was going to leave politics and ask her to marry me.

But first… Friday.

Shower done, I had to make myself look basically presentable and then get hair and makeup done for the usual Friday nonsense. Honestly, most of the damned morning would be wasted getting ready.

The Vampires had done a lot for humanity. They had shepherded us into galactic society, helped us with the technology we were missing, and shared their culture with us. We owed them a lot for the last hundred years of friendship, but damn, I really wished we would break away from their strange formality and theatre-like idea of what governance should be. I wasn’t sure there was a benefit to dressing like it was the damned dark ages, corsets-and-all, just to talk about politics. I could do that in a T and shorts.

I put my evil, wild hair into an evil, wild ponytail and put on a Mercia branded light-blue jumpsuit.

“You need any help to get around today? I can send some people over if you want,” I offered. While she wasn’t blind in the way that most people assumed. She did have challenges. She had a disorder called Pliant’s Gift. It was rare and hard to understand, but it meant that she couldn’t see things that were stationary relative to herself. If something moved, she saw motion, but not shape or colour. Her world, she had said, was a series of lines between places.

It wasn’t an ocular disorder; it was a brain mutation. There were some theoretical treatments that could use implants to augment her vision, but to the people of the moon where she grew up, the gift was a holy thing. To ‘fix it’ would be considered blasphemy. There had only been a few cases of her condition in all the history of her people and none of them recent.

If she had have stayed on the forest moon where she grew up, she would be able to see so much. It was dense with trees and had constant windstorms. Her vision was actually perfect for there. Ash had left it, to come to Earth and visit the universe. She had chosen Earth as her home because, while it was exotic to her, it was one of the safest places in the galaxy. There would always be someone close by who would help her if she got in trouble. We had done okay with Earth; I think. That said, the obsession with safety had made people go a little strange in recent years.

“I am not someone who needs caring for Joanne!” Ash said sternly. “Stop being such a human. You’re better than that!” She said in anger. She had become a little resentful of humans herself since the Earth-for-Earthlings movement had taken hold. I understood why she felt like that, but unlike my father, I had always thought of myself as a human, just a lucky one. He had always thought of himself as a Bio-static with a human body. Not sure there was a difference, but Ash was right. I did think like humans too much. Especially recently.

“I’m sorry. I just worry, and I’m going to be working all day.”

She stood up and hugged me. “Coffee has a map of the ship, and his communication link has your direct number. I’ll be fine!” she said, with her head against mine.

I kissed her and left. I did worry and it was pointless too. It’s not like a lot could go wrong on Mercia. Besides, I had the ship’s AI ordered to watch her every move. If she had any problems, a security officer would be close by at all times. I didn’t tell her that part.

Also, her ugly robot monkey, Coffee, would keep her safe. It was his only job.

Because Mercia was undergoing a refit, we had to stay in orbit of Central. Usually, we would be in Sol space for this, but we needed some pretty delicate work done on our computer system and our armour layers were shot to shit. All the things we needed were, either manufactured on Central, or could be delivered there fast. It was just better equipped for this kind of work than Sol was. That was one reason that the new ships were a more modular design. Mercia had been the first and as such was far more complex than it needed to be. Now we had learned so much from running it for a decade, we were better at building them.

I briefly thought about what I knew of my mother and what she had done. Had we really been using Mercia for a decade, or was it still less than a year? My dad, and Libby, had both said I should just act like my memories were real because it didn’t matter, not really, not functionally. Even so, some part of me constantly second guessed everything I knew when I thought of the past.

Showing Mercia being repaired so publicly, in Vampire space, was a solid political move. With the recent completion of the other Kingdom ships, we now had the most powerful military compared to the other Elder races. Until recently, Mercia being out of commission would have been very concerning; now it’s just one of a fleet of such ships.

I entered the parliament chamber. I projected as much confidence as I could muster.

I sat down in the large wooden chair, careful not to ruin the intricate folds of the massive dress. The material was a lot heavier than it looked, in part because there was so much of it.

Today I had opted for a sixteenth century piece. It was blue and had a satin look to it, but the font section and the sleeves were intricately sewn cream coloured silk. Ruffles of the same design were all across the high collar. The chest was a little lower cut than was strictly accurate for the period, but I had the figure for it, and it was important to remember that this was performance, not a history lesson.

I wore a heavy golden necklace which had the Sol alliance insignia engraved into a pendant. My hair was in a high knot with a tiara of flowers made from blue gems. Thankfully, the dress swept the floor so didn’t have to wear painful period accurate shoes. I just had running shoes on, which entertained me a great deal.

The makeup was just as over the top and did not suit me at all. I looked like I could have just popped out of an old romance novel. I hated it. All of it. The look had taken me a couple of hours and five people to accomplish.

I looked across the round hall of the parliament chamber. There were representatives from every planet across the Sol alliance. There were also the usual representatives from Brick, Elf and Vampire space. Everyone dressed like they were from a historical era of their respective worlds.

“Now sits, the president of Earth, ruler of the Sol alliance and queen of the younger races of the old empire. Parliament may now begin,” said the gentleman announcer, who was dressed in a costume that matched the era of my own. I waited patiently while the usual clapping died down.

“What is today’s first point of business?” I asked quietly, letting the microphone in my collar amplify my voice across the massive hall of meeting.

Fridays were when we heard petitions from the younger worlds. It was going to be a long day.

The room was circular, and each row of seats was a level higher than the ones in front. All old wood with blue leather covers.

A man stood. He wore leather armour and exposed his muscular chest. He puffed it out and sucked in his gut as he stood. He was of a younger race, one of the very human-like ones. If it weren’t for the green hue to his skin I would perhaps have been able to mistake him for Earthborn.

“Madam president,” he began with a bow. “I am Sachock of the planet Nelicon. This is the first time my people have felt the need to partition this council. Please forgive me if I do not follow the decorum.” He waited for acknowledgement.

A screen appeared in front of my large chair. It displayed all the information we had about the man’s planet and he himself. I was now expected to pretend to consider his request to speak while I glanced at the notes. The screen was invisible to everyone except me. Everyone knew I was reading the file, but this was part of the performance.

Nothing of note, arid world, heavy gravity, green people who really liked stone buildings. A young race who only gained access to space a few years ago. We had forwarded them all the usual curtesy, technology, Cure-All and the offer of a ‘bail out team’ if they fucked up too much.

They had done well on their own and had started exporting a great deal of historical fiction and art to the rest of the alliance. They were popular, as much minor players were able to be. They had learned Elder-Tongue fast and translated massive amounts of their fiction for us.

“Sachock. Welcome. Please speak freely,” I said after a few seconds. I was allowed as long as I wanted to review the information in front of me; it seemed rude to keep the man waiting. Ba’an was always better at this part. He knew every race on sight and didn’t even look at the screen. Though even he never turned it off.

A light above Sachock gained brightness and everyone else’s dimmed slightly. It was subtle, but everyone knew it was his turn to speak. Interrupting the recognised speaker was considered an insult. Even I would have to wait until he was done.

“My people. We have been working hard to be part of the alliance. My people have not been cleared for direct trade with Earth. We have not been cleared for travel to the prime world either.” He paused. And surveyed the room. He was good at this. “As you may be aware, we are on the border of Brick territory. Even though Sol is a wonderful alliance and has treated us with great respect. We believe that our race would be better suited to be a part of their cooperative. They trade with us and allow us passage in all their worlds freely without even being a member. If we align with them, then we may have access to their unexplored space; we can make our own mark in the galaxy.” He bowed to show that he was done speaking.

This wasn’t good. It was the fourth world this month to ask to be absorbed by the Brick people. I could see why. Sol law prevented Younger races from exploring un-mapped space. We were concerned that they may stumble across a threat and get themselves in trouble. Not every race in the galaxy was friendly, and some were quite powerful. We saw it as our job to protect life by gaining an understanding with these races before we let the children play.

They all wanted to explore on their own, and with the current state of space since the end of the war, it was very tempting. For those on the border, the Bricks offered a good deal. They let them do whatever they wanted so long as they shared the information they gained. They were reckless. Eventually a tiny Young explorer ship would end up flying into something they weren’t ready for.

Some of the races in space even claimed that they had their own alliances and territory. They usually changed their mind when they saw Mercia.

I needed to make them want to stay, just for political kudos, but I also understood their reasons. We took adventure away from them and they just wanted to feel like they had control over their own destiny. This was especially true of the races that had a complicated history before space travel.

I was considering the point when the Brick representative stood. A tall man with wonderfully thick silver beard. He wore a form fitting all in one with metal armour pieces strapped to it. Typical brick outfit, even their historical clothes were fashion over form.

Being of an Elder race, he did not introduce himself. It was assumed that the Elder representatives were known to all. I waved to recognise him as speaker.

“The Brick cooperative had recently had a tough time. We cannot guarantee the safety of the people in our space as securely as we once could. Do not mistake this for a lack of desire, we simply have a lot to do at home. If you understand this. We welcome you with open arms, as we welcome all.”

He bowed to me and sat. His light dimmed.

I was expected to speak now. I wanted to tell him to go. It’s not like the alliance would be weaker without his little world; but if we just let his people go, and something happened it would be our fault. Or at least that was how the council saw things.

“Sachock,” I said. He was already looking at me. I just needed to say his name for the record. “At this time, I can’t in good conscience allow you to leave our protection. I am sorry. When the Brick people are better equipped to protect you, we will speak about this again.”

The light above him lit. “Then, may my people embrace this decision and request free passage on the prime world? For people and trade?”

Clever, Sachock! This wasn’t about leaving; this was about coming to Earth. His world was prosperous. They must be integrating with civilization fast. They wanted to visit the culture of the universe already. This was a good thing; they understood the value. I liked how he was making this play.

The pillars of need in the universe were Excitement, Learning, Progress and Joy. These were the four things that everyone wanted once you gave them security and prosperity. The only way to get this was to push yourself, new places, new learning, and new people.

“I have no problem with this. What says the council?” I asked.

The people on the closest, curved row of seats were the council of Earth. While my vote carried a lot of weight, they were ultimately the deciding factor.

They tapped the invisible screens in the air, sending messages between themselves. Two of the twelve people whispered to each other. One stood. A heavy-set older man who had a cane with him. “The last thing we need is more of the lesser races on Earth. There are already many visitors from the Elder races. This is not a good time to add more to the visitation list.”

“Younger,” I said as he made to sit down.

“I’m sorry, Madam president?” he asked, confused.

“You said Lesser races. You misspoke. You meant to say Younger. Not Lesser.”

I saw the anger flash across his face. “If you say so.”

He sat down.

Sachok was not happy with the result. I can’t say I blamed him. The next step for him was to partition the Brick people to request his sector of space. They would happily make the request and they would eventually get it, but it would take quite a while. Right now, it was the last thing they had time to deal with. The space they were interested in would be fully mapped by the time they were given access.

I felt bad that I couldn’t help him.

The meeting went on with more minutia. There was a lot of interest from the Earth Council regarding the new Kingdom class ships. They were pushing to get another wave of production on them. We had enough power. It was madness to make more. I only commissioned those four because I expected a long war. I had no idea my dad would go and end it two months in.

A few races were concerned about the amount of patrols in their space, and a few more were unhappy with recent proposals for influencing their legal systems to unify things across the alliance. All valid concerns but also things that the council and the planetary congress were pushing for. I could hold things up and reject them a few times for review, but eventually these laws would go through. I had concerns.

The meeting ended at five in the afternoon. I got changed out of my maddening dress and found those shorts and that T-shirt I had been lusting after all day. I sat at a large conference table in the government room on Mercia. It had been the war room, until recently. Advisors, secretaries, and a couple of politicians sat down, most still in formal attire. I opened my Circlet and tapped out a quick message to Ash. She wouldn’t be able to read it from the Screen but I knew Coffee would relay it to her. It read, “Parliament was terrible. Now I have to deal with fallout. Fuck Fridays. Love you!”

I asked one of my assistants to deliver me a plate of chicken wings. A large plate of chicken wings. There was no chance that I was going to be breaking for food any time soon and now that my biology was better publicised, there was little point in pretence_. Thanks dad_, I grumbled to myself.

“Why the fuck is the council stopping Young races from getting Earth clearance? And why was I not warned?” I demanded as my chicken arrived.

“Well, Jo, truth is, they haven’t official stopped. They just started rejecting applications about two weeks ago,” Said one of the politicians. Shit. I couldn’t remember his name. There were just so many of them now.

“Why?” I asked, picking up a chicken wing.

“Officially, they are now being more selective because of numbers of visitors. Unofficially, the Earth-for-Earthling’s movement has made it so public opinion is swaying away from the open-door policy of old.”

This was something I considered for a few seconds. “I looked like an idiot out there. I need to be told about these things,” I said sternly.

“Well,” began the other political. He was very new. Started about three days ago and I already didn’t like him. He was the new minister of culture. Which was a bullshit job to begin with. “We didn’t want to bother you with these matters while you are so distracted with your disabled Elven friend visiting.” His tone was condescending, and his words were insulting. I wasn’t pleased, but a large part of politics was choosing your battles.

“My girlfriend, partner, and future fiancé, Ashley. Is not distracting me. I also do not think her species needs to be pointed out. I am well aware of her species. Also, she has no disability that you need to concern yourself with.” I had more to say. I had a lot more to say, but it would not be useful right now.

“As cultural minster, I should point out that you can’t publicly marry this woman.”

“And what do you mean by that comment, minister?” I asked. Now a little fired up. My poker face slipped just a little.

“I mean, it’s bad enough that it has become public knowledge that you are not a pure Earthling. Announcing your intention to marry an Elf would be politically unwise with the current social trends on the mother world.”

He had made two mistakes. Firstly, only racists said ‘Earthling’ in that way. They had dropped the term Human because they felt it had lost meaning. They thought Earthling was better, for reasons that made quite literally no sense to me at all. It was more likely so they could identify each other easier in conversation.

The second mistake wasn’t even the term ‘mother world’ which was another signal that he was a prick. It pissed me off that he thought that I would change my mind about the woman I loved based on political feedback. A little part of me wanted to quit this job right now. That would have been dumb. But I wanted to.

“Well, minister, I will take this under advisement. Thank you. The matter of my genetic purity is really not a topic we need to go into. I took over this job from a Vampire. At least your leaders are getting closer to Earthlings with each changing of the guard. Huh?”

I wanted to have him shot. I was pretty sure I had the authority. That would be a lot of paperwork, and I wanted to get home before Friday was Saturday.

As soon as this meeting was over, I would have someone dig up as much dirt as possible about this man. If he became a real problem, I would have it leaked to the media.

The meeting went on, reports, edicts, actions, more reports, things to sign, security updates, so many security updates. These people had become obsessed with security.

I would put in a governmental motion to ‘chill the fuck out and calm down’ as soon as I figured out how to word it, so it didn’t read like that.

Before I started working in politics, I liked Fridays. Now they were a nightmare. All of this end of week crap was just pointless. An AI could take care of about half of it, but the council had voted to reduce the influence that AI had over the alliance. Even though every other Elder race had let them take over most of the day-to-day stuff. They just checked its decisions and voted on things that mattered. I doubted Elves bothered telling their president that public opinion was against his choice of wife.

I walked into my apartment at ten fifty-five. “Aha!” I yelled as I entered, “Not midnight!” I was triumphant. For the first time in weeks.

Ash was sitting on the floor with a blanket under her and some music playing. Coffee was sitting next to her; he had been reading to her, I guessed. Ash loved stories, but she wasn’t able to read them herself.

“Wait, isn’t it only about eleven?” she said excitedly. Coffee quietly told her the time.

“Oh, wow! Jo, you actually did it! You got home before Saturday! Good going girl!” she laughed at me.

I threw off my shoes and sat myself next to her on the blanket. “You know, we have a sofa. You don’t have to sit on the floor,” I said as I kissed her.

“I like the floor. I can’t fall off the floor if your stupid war ship gets in a fight!”

“We’re in dock around Central. Who would shoot at us?” I asked.

“I’ve heard that before!” she said with a smile that I hesitantly wanted to describe as ‘cheeky’

“Did you have a good day, my love?” I asked, realising that I may have picked up a turn of phrase from my father and Libby.

“I did, actually. Libby and Kay visited me. They brought me this,” she said, holding up a little box with a piano key on top of it.

“Oh, I’m sorry I missed them. Everything okay with them? Also, what is this?” I asked.

“It’s called a Pee and yes. Or something.”

“Okay, but what is it?” I asked, pressing the piano button.

The box exploded into light. I would have worried it was dangerous had I not known that Libby and Kay delivered it. The room spun. I smelled fresh oranges. The light settled down and showed me an image of Ash, she was standing in a forest. She looked amazing, like a warrior or an angel or something in between. She was running and jumping between trees in a way I had once seen Elven hunters do in a documentary video. The camera followed her. I grinned. She ran out of forest and rolled to a halt as the camera panned up. There were Kingdom ships in orbit and they were fighting something… the camera flew towards it and I saw Basilica for a moment before it was all obscured by a blanket, no, it wasn’t a blanket, the image, the surrounding space was a cloak, it was my mother. She whisked away the images inside the cloak and turned to me with white eyes. “They will destroy all you love,” she said in musical tones before the image blinked out.

“What the fuck was that?” I asked, mouth open in shock.

“It’s supposed to take a snapshot of your mind, show your feelings. Was that me in yours?” Ash asked.

“You could see that?”

“Oh, yeah! Libby made them with this smart gas she invented. It copies the holograms form. I can see it just fine. It’s weird,” she said with a missive grin across her beautiful face. “I’ve been playing with it since they left. Once you know what it does, you can force images by focusing really hard. It’s fun to see, and it smells nice too!” 

“What did you see in your first whatever that was?” I asked, still shaken up by the images I had seen. Was this really my own fear or was it something else?

Ash took the little device off me and placed it next to her. She took hold of me with both hands, one each side of my face. She had done this a few times when she had important things to say and wanted to make sure I was listening. Since she couldn’t really see me, it made sense.

“It doesn’t matter what I saw! Joanne Michaels. Will you marry me?”

I was stunned. My eyes grew wide like saucers. I was going to ask her; I was going to leave politics and ask her next year. I loved her but I wouldn’t ask her now and expect her to commit to the mad life I had, with all my responsibility and fear and stress and, let’s be honest, danger.

“Did you really just ask me that?” I needed to be sure it wasn’t the vision still.

“Yeah, I did. Is that okay?” she asked.

“Is it okay? Ash! I love you! I want to marry you more than anything in the entire universe!” I said, feeling myself tearing up.

“To be clear, that’s a, yes?” she asked.

“Yes!” I said, now sobbing. Both of us were.

She kissed me. She kissed me as my fiancé. No matter what happened now. No matter what shit the galaxy threw at me, no matter what madness my mother had planned out ahead for me. No matter what mad adventure my dad would pull me along on. I would love this woman until the end of time.

Tales from the Denoumeverse – ‘Week.’ The end.

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