Location: Savannah City, New Savannah, United Commonwealth of Colonies
On a normal world, the setting sun would have brought about some relief from the strangling humidity on New Savannah, but as Ben walked through one of the city’s many parks, he felt no such relief. New Savannah had three moons, one was occupied as the system defense force and Commonwealth Fleet’s main anchorage in the system. The second belonged to none other than Gold Technologies, and the third was split between a few other defense contractors.
The moons were crucial to defense and industry in the system. It gave the defensive units a hundred million kilometer buffer between any invading force and the planet full of civilians. As for the corporations, while their headquarters might be on New Savannah, all the real work got done up on the moons. Operational security dictated that a lot of the testing of new weapons and equipment couldn’t be done around populated areas, so a barren moon was the best option. Although, Gold Technologies’ moon wasn’t quite barren. It had a small, domed city with nearly a hundred thousand people living in it, and if projections continued to hold steady, there was even talk about terraforming the moon into a livable home.
As Ben walked the street of New Savannah, he didn’t care about any of that. He was concerned with the extra light the three moons threw off and the hell it played with the circadian rhythm that humanity was forced to evolve beyond as it spread from planet to planet, none of which lined up exactly with Earth.
“So…who are you voting for?” Ben turned to his companion for the evening.
Jacobi Wentworth was dressed just like Ben, to impress. Both were in their CMUs on the dress setting. Those were their orders for the evening. Both might have thought it was a slight conflict of interest to be dining at the behest of a corporation, but RADM Stillwater had told them to go. Although Ben and Jacobi didn’t really like the ranking Commonwealth officer on the planet, they still had to follow his orders. It made it just that more awkward that the person inviting them was Ben’s dad.
“The way I always do: Progressive,” Jacobi answered nonchalantly.
The response stopped Ben in his tracks, and she continued to walk a few steps before realizing he’d dropped behind. “Seriously?” Ben couldn’t stop the word from coming out condescendingly. “You want Mackintosh to stay in power?”
Jacobi frowned at him, and placed her hands on her hips. Her single platinum stripe caught one of the moon’s light, which also highlighted the intensity in her eyes. “I believe in the party platform, Ben. The Commonwealth should be doing more. We shouldn’t just be confined to matters of security, trade, and taxation. I think some other common principles between the Commonwealth’s member systems should be explored more.” Her hands went from her hips to crossed across her chest in a classic defensive cue. “So, I suppose you’re an Eagle supporter.”
“I do not think the current administration has managed the Commonwealth well over the last several years.” Ben didn’t back down, but he held any bite out of his tone. “The Prime Minister pushed this big education reform, spent billions on it, and it never gained any traction. That’s just one example. The Commonwealth was designed the way it was, to only deal with matters of security, trade, and taxation, because our founders knew that anything else wasn’t going to work out. The differences between New Washington and Asgard, New Lancashire and New Savannah, even Earth and Mars, make trying to shove everyone into a single way of doing things impossible and dangerous.”
“I’m not saying that everyone should have to do everything the same,” Jacobi countered.
“But that isn’t the way humans and power act,” Ben interrupted. “Once they get one thing, especially if it is something as contentious as education, across the Commonwealth, they’re going to want another, and another. Soon, they’re going to demand everyone think the way they do, and anything other than that mindset is deemed inferior or even hateful.”
“I think that’s taking it too far.” Jacobi frowned.
“History says otherwise,” Ben was ready to list off half a dozen examples from Ancient Rome to pre-expansion America, but she waved him off.
“So, I bet you think the Eagles way of outsourcing everything to corporations is the best way to do it.” Now it was her turn to fight back.
“It’s a little hard for me to be objective about what you’re asking because of who I am, but in general I do agree with aspects of it.” Ben pondered his response for a second. “It’s like a range. The Commonwealth is range control, the safety officer, and the trainers. They provide the left and right limits, correct, or punish anyone if they do anything wrong. The corporations are the soldiers on the firing line. They know their limits and need to act within them to meet whatever the objective is; whether that’s an individual systems educational curriculum, or trade routes.”
“Thanks for dumbing it down for us stupid grunts,” Jacobi glared and started to stomp off.
“You know I didn’t mean it that way,” Ben hurried after her, and his long legs allowed him to get in front of her quickly. “I just thought it was a good analogy.”
“An analogy that completely sidesteps the growing corporate influence on our government; influence that will only grow if an Eagle prime minister gets into power.” Jacobi stopped when Ben’s hand touched her shoulder.
“We’re completely in agreement there.” Ben nodded, while Jacobi looked a little surprised at the admission. “I’ve seen those high-level good old boys and girls rub each other’s backs for favors, promises, and to get ahead. Hell, I had an old girlfriend do it to me.” Ben cringed a little bit when Sarah came to mind. “But it comes down to a simple risk assessment for me. We’re in the middle of a war on two, hell, maybe even three fronts. We’ve got the ongoing feud with the Blockies, the Windsors bashing in our back door, and now we’ve got aliens whose intentions we don’t know. Carol seems fine enough, but you heard her, they aren’t trading with the Windsors, so who is?” Ben knew he’d scored a few points when Jacobi looked thoughtful. “So, my risk assessment tells me I’d like someone like Admiral Simons in charge of this instead of Mackintosh, who’s never worn a uniform or served on anything except a corporate board of directors.
“You do know that Deja Simons was an Infantry Admiral not Fleet?” A smile pulled a Jacobi’s lips, and that made Ben grin back. “Unlike some Fleet officers, I’m fond of a few infantry grunts.”
“Oh…really…” Jacobi chuckled and threw her hands around the back of Ben’s neck. At 178 centimeters, she was tall for a woman, but she still had to crane her neck up so Ben could lean down and kiss her.
“You know I was talking about Sergeant Cooper…right.”
“Asshole,” Jacobi slapped him in the chest but smiled.
Ben pretended it hurt, before his hand found hers, and they continued walking toward the voting center. What had just occurred was the mark of a healthy relationship in Ben’s opinion. People could have different worldviews, different beliefs, sometimes even radically so; but what really mattered was how those arguments ended. Not in screaming and punches, but in laughter and kindness.
“At least we’re not Blockies,” Jacobi added as they climbed the steps. This voting center was located at some type of local theater. “If we were we’d all have to toe the party line or be labeled as undesirables.”
Ben couldn’t agree more as he held up his GIC to be scanned at the reception booth. Ben’s GIC matched with a registered voter in the Commonwealth’s database, so he was allowed to pass. He gave a small nod to the two soldiers flanking the entrance in Dragonscale armor before heading inside.
Unlike younger members of the military, Ben had met the minimum obligation in an approved suffrage service, and earned the privilege of voting in Commonwealth-level elections. He waited in line for a few minutes before he was waved forward and into one of the privacy booths. It was very similar to testing cubes used throughout the Commonwealth, just not as intrusive. He had to crouch down a little to enter the booth, but it opened to allow him to pass instead of him having at wiggle through it. When he emerged on the other side it was brightly lit and almost homey.
“Welcome to the 2433 Commonwealth Election!” A cheery female voice announced. “Please scan your GIC on the device at the center of the room, and confirm your information. If the information is incorrect in any way, please notify an election official.”
Ben scanned his GIC and took a seat in the comfortable chair at the center of the booth. He dutifully studied his information as it sprang to life in the air in front of him.
Name: Benjamin Gold
Genetic Identification Code: NY0511240650671
Physical Health: Superior
Mental Health: [Authorized Personnel Only]
Education: Doctorate in Intergalactic Relations from Oxford University
Occupation: Lieutenant Commander, United Commonwealth of Colonies Fleet
Criminal History: N/A
Citizen Status: Confirmed
Voting Status: Eligible
Ben was glad to see that his education and occupation had updated. The last thing he wanted to do today was have to sit with election officials for hours while they figured out how to update his information in the voter registration system.
“The information is correct.” Ben’s voice command caused a green light to blink, and then the information disappeared. What appeared in its place was his first voting option.
Due to the expansive nature of the Commonwealth election day, it could take up anywhere from twenty minutes to a few hours of a voter’s time, which was why the voting booths were so accommodating. Ben’s registration had him as a citizen of Aurum, the corporate homeworld of Gold Technologies. It didn’t matter that he’d been born, and lived most of his life on Earth, Ben’s father made sure each of his children were registered as a citizen of Aurum for legal reasons. In fact, Ben believed they held foreign dignitary status as representatives of Aurum, but that was true of most majority shareholders from corporate worlds. Thus, the first round of voting considerations was for local Aurum proposals and candidates in the city he was registered in: Dinas Aur. Ben didn’t know the people, so he watched short holos of their platforms before making a decision. He also read the ordinance proposals carefully before voting yes or no.
Uneducated voting was a downfall of pre-expansion societies, and as someone who’d studied these things very carefully, Ben was doing his part not to repeat the mistakes of the past. After he’d gone through all of Dinas Aur’s voting subjects he moved on to Aurum’s candidates and proposals. Because he’d had a healthy conversation with Jacobi, he watched the platform videos, and archived campaign footage, on the candidates to represent Aurum on the Council of Representatives. Aurum had five seats, and ten real total candidates, five from each major party. Ben didn’t pay much attention to the minor party candidates. After listening to what the politicians had to say, Ben went four for five on Eagle Party candidates. The last candidate he voted Progressive because of the guy’s view on the New Lancashire incident. The fact that he didn’t call it a debacle, like the Eagle Party candidate, won the guy Ben’s vote. Lastly, were Commonwealth level initiatives.
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth was not elected directly by the people. They were elected by the majority party, or a coalition of parties in the Council of Representatives. In-depth research by the Commonwealth founders had chosen this system over the American Presidential System. That meant, Ezekiel Mackintosh’s reelection or Admiral Simons’ election would be up to the Council when it gathered after the election results were tallied in several months.
In total, it took Ben about an hour to vote, and when he was done, he still had to wait another twenty minutes for Jacobi. Since she was from East Newfoundland, he had no idea what proposals that system had put to the voters, and she didn’t really want to discuss it when she emerged. Not because she wanted to hide anything, but because they had more important things to consider.
“That was the easy part of the night.” Ben held out his arm and she took it.
Considering they’d just voted on items whose ramifications would ripple across the Commonwealth for the better part of a decade, told you just how hard a dinner with Thomas Gold was going to be.